Part 1 out of 6
The Drums Of Jeopardy
A fast train drew into Albany, on the New York Central, from the
West. It was three-thirty of a chill March morning in the first
year of peace. A pall of fog lay over the world so heavy that
it beaded the face and hands and deposited a fairy diamond dust
upon wool. The station lights had the visibility of stars, and
like the stars were without refulgence - a pale golden aureola,
perhaps three feet in diameter, and beyond, nothing. The few
passengers who alighted and the train itself had the same nebulosity
of drab fish in a dim aquarium.
Among the passengers to detrain was a man in a long black coat.
The high collar was up. The man wore a derby hat, well down upon
his head, after the English mode. An English kitbag, battered and
scarred, swung heavily from his hand. He immediately strode for
the station wall and stood with his back to it. He was almost
invisible. He remained motionless until the other detrained
passengers swam past, until the red tail lights of the last coach
vanished into the deeps; then he rushed for the exit to the street.
Away toward the far end of the platform there appeared a shadowy
patch in the fog. It grew and presently took upon itself the shape
of a man. For one so short and squat and thick his legs possessed
remarkable agility, for he reached the street just as the other man
stopped at the side of a taxicab.
The fool! As if such a movement had not been anticipated. Sixteen
thousand miles, always eastward, on horses, camels, donkeys, trains,
and ships; down China to the sea, over that to San Francisco, thence
across this bewildering stretch of cities and plains called the
United States, always and ever toward New York - and the fool thought
he could escape! Thought he was flying, when in truth he was being
driven toward a wall in which there would be no breach! Behind and
in front the net was closing. Up to this hour he had been extremely
clever in avoiding contact. This was his first stupid act - thought
the fog would serve as an impenetrable cloak.
Meantime, the other man reached into the taxicab and awoke the
"A hotel," he said.
"Any one will do."
"Yes, sir. Two dollars."
"When we arrive. No; I'll take the bag inside with me." Inside
the cab the fare chuckled. For those who fished there would be no
fish in the net. This fog - like a kindly hand reaching down from
Five minutes later the taxicab drew up in front of a hotel. The
unknown stepped out, took a leather purse from his pocket and
carefully counted out in silver two dollars and twenty cents, which
he poured into the chauffeur's palm.
"Thank you, sir."
"You are an American?"
"Sure! I was born in this burg."
"Like the idea?"
"The idea of being an American?"
"I should say yes! This is one grand little gob o' mud, believe me!
It's going to be dry in a little while, and then it will be some
grand little old brick. Say, let me give you a tip! The gas in
this joint is extra if you blow it out!"
Grinning, the chauffeur threw on the power and wheeled away into
His late fare followed the vehicle with his gaze until it reached
the vanishing point, then he laughed. An American cockney! He
turned and entered the hotel. He marched resolutely up to the
desk and roused the sleeping clerk, who swung round the register.
The unknown without hesitance inscribed his name, which was John
Hawksley. But he hesitated the fraction of a second before adding
his place of residence - London.
"A room with a bath, if you please; second flight. Have the man
call me at seven."
"Yes, sir. Here, boy!"
Sleepily the bellboy lifted the battered kitbag and led the way to
"Bawth!" said the night clerk, as the elevator door slithered to
the latch. "Bawth! The old dear!"
He returned to his chair, hoping that he would not be disturbed
again until he was relieved.
What do we care, so long as we don't know? What's the stranger to
us but a fleeting shadow? The Odysseys that pass us every day, and
we none the wiser!
The clerk had not properly floated away into dreams when he was
again roused. Resentfully he opened his eyes. A huge fist covered
with a fell of black hair rose and fell. Attached to this fist was
an arm, and joined to that were enormous shoulders. The clerk's
trailing, sleep-befogged glance paused when it reached the newcomer's
face. The jaws and cheeks and upper lip were blue-black with a
beard that required extra-tempered razors once a day. Black eyes
that burned like opals, a bullet-shaped head well cropped, and a
pudgy nose broad in the nostrils. Because this second arrival wore
his hat well forward the clerk was not able to discern the pinched
forehead of the fanatic. Not wholly unpleasant, not particularly
agreeable; the sort of individual one preferred to walk round rather
than bump into. The clerk offered the register, and the squat man
scratched his name impatiently, grabbed the extended key, and trotted
to the elevator.
"Ah," mused the clerk, "we have with us Mr. Poppy - Popo - " He
stared at the signature close up. "Hanged if I can make it out! It
looks like some new brand of soft drink we'll be having after July
first. Greek or Bulgarian. Anyhow, he didn't awsk for a bawth.
Looks as if he needed one, too. Here, boy!"
"Take a peek at this John Hancock."
"Gee! That must be the guy who makes that drugstore drink - Boolzac."
The clerk swung out, but missed the boy's head by a hair. The boy
stood off, grinning.
"Well, you ast me!"
"All right. If anybody else comes in tell 'em we're full up. I'll
be a wreck to-morrow without my usual beauty sleep." The clerk
dropped into his chair again and elevated his feet to the radiator.
"Want me t' git a pillow for yuh?"
"No back talk!" - drowsily.
"Oh! boy, but I got one on you!"
"This Boolzac guy didn't have no baggage, and yuh give 'im the key
without little ol' three-per in advance."
"Nix. Not a toot'brush in sight."
"Well, the damage is done. I might as well go to sleep."
It was not premeditated on the part of the clerk to give the squat
man the room adjoining that of Hawksley's. The key had been nearest
his hand. But the squat man trembled with excitement when he noted
that it was stamped 214. He had taken particular pains to search
the register for Hawksley's number before rousing the clerk. He
hadn't counted on any such luck as this. His idea had been merely
to watch the door of Room 212.
He had the feline foot, as they say. He moved about lightly and
without sound in the dark. Almost at once he approached one of the
two doors and put his ear to the panel. Running water. The fool
had time to take a bath!
A plan flashed into his head. Why not end the affair here and now,
and reap the glory for himself? What mattered the net if the fish
swam into your hand? Wasn't this particularly his affair? It was
the end, not the means. A close touch in Hong-Kong, but the fool
had slipped away. But there, in the next room, assured that he had
escaped - it would be easy. The squat man tiptoed to the window.
Luck of luck, there was a fire-escape platform! He would let half
an hour pass, then he would act. The ape, with his British
mannerisms! Death to the breed, root and branch! He sat down to
On the other side of the wall the bather finished his ablutions.
His body was graceful, vigorous, and youthful, tinted a golden
bronze. His nose was hawky; his eyes a Latin brown, alert and
roving, though there was a hint of weariness in them, the pressure
of long, racking hours of ceaseless vigilance. His top hair was
a glossy black inclined to curl; but the four days' growth of
beard was as blond as a ripe chestnut burr. In spite of this mark
of vagabondage there were elements of beauty in the face. The
expanse of the brow and the shape of the head were intellectual.
The mouth was pleasure-loving, but the nose and the jaw neutralized
After he had towelled himself he reached down for a brown leather
pouch which lay on the three-legged bathroom stool. It was patently
a tobacco pouch, but there was evidently something inside more
precious than Saloniki. He held the pouch on his palm and stared at
it as if it contained some jinn clamouring to be let out. Presently
he broke away from this fascination and rocked his body, eyes closed
- like a man suffering unremitting pain.
"God's curse on them!" he whispered, opening his eyes. He raised
the pouch swiftly, as though he intended dashing it to the tiled
floor; but his arm sank gently. After all, he would be a fool to
destroy them. They were future bread and butter.
He would soon have their equivalent in money - money that would bring
back no terrible recollections.
Strange that every so often, despite the horror, he had to take them
out and gaze at them. He sat down upon the stool, spread a towel
across his knees, and opened the pouch. He drew out a roll of cotton
wool, which he unrolled across the towel. Flames! Blue flames, red,
yellow, violet, and green - precious stones, many of them with
histories that reached back into the dim centuries, histories of
murder and loot and envy. The young man had imagination - perhaps
too much of it. He saw the stones palpitating upon lovely white and
brown bosoms; he saw bloody and greedy hands, the red sack of towns;
he heard the screams of women and the raucous laughter of drunken
men. Murder and loot.
At the end of the cotton wool lay two emeralds about the size of
half dollars and half an inch in thickness, polished, and as vividly
green as a dragonfly in the sun, fit for the turban of Schariar,
spouse of Scheherazade.
Rodin would have seized upon the young man's attitude - the limp
body, the haggard face - hewn it out of marble and called it
Conscience. The possessor of the stones held this attitude for
three or four minutes. Then he rolled up the cotton wool, jammed
it into the pouch, which he hung to his neck by a thong, and sprang
to his feet. No more of this brooding; it was sapping his vitality;
and he was not yet at his journey's end.
He proceeded to the bedroom, emptied the battered kitbag, and began
to dress. He put on heavy tan walking shoes, gray woollen stockings,
gray knickerbockers, gray flannel shirt, and a Norfolk jacket minus
the third button.
Ah, that button! He fingered the loose threads which had aforetime
snugged the button to the wool. The carelessness of a tailor had
saved his life. Had that button held, his bones at this moment
would be reposing on the hillside in far-away Hong-Kong. Evidently
Fate had some definite plans regarding his future, else he would not
be in this room, alive. But what plans? Why should Fate bother
about him further? She had strained the orange to the last drop.
Why protect the pulp? Perhaps she was only making sport of him,
lulling him into the belief that eventually he might win through.
One thing, she would never be able to twist his heart again. You
cannot fill a cup with water beyond the brim. And God knew that
his cup had been full and bitter and red.
His hand swept across his eyes as if to brush away the pictures
suddenly conjured up. He must keep his thoughts off those things.
There was a taint of madness in his blood, and several times he
had sensed the brink at his feet. But God had been kind to him
in one respect: The blood of his glorious mother predominated.
How many were after him, and who? He had not been able to recognize
the man that night in Hong-Kong. That was the fate of the pursued:
one never dared pause to look back, while the pursuers had their man
before them always. If only he could have broken through into Greece,
England would have been easy. The only door open had been in the
East. It seemed incredible that he should be standing in this room,
but three hours from his goal.
America! The land of the free and the brave! And the irony of it
was that he must seek in America the only friends he had in the
world. All the Englishmen he had known and loved were dead. He
had never made friends with the French, though he loved France. In
this country alone he might successfully lose himself and begin life
anew. The British were British and the French were French; but in
this magnificent America they possessed the tenacity of the one and
the gayety of the other - these joyous, unconquered, speed-loving
He took up the overcoat. Under the light it was no longer black but
a very deep green. On both sleeves there were narrow bands of a
still deeper green, indicating that gold or silver braid had once
befrogged the cuffs. Inside, soft silky Persian lamb; and he ran
his fingers over the fur thoughtfully. The coat was still
impregnated with the strong odour of horse. He cast it aside, never
to touch it again. From the discarded small coat he extracted a
black wallet and opened it. That passport! He wondered if there
existed another more cleverly forged. It would not have served
an hour west of the Hindenburg Line; but in the East and here in
America no one had questioned it. In San Francisco they had
scarcely glanced at it, peace having come. Besides this passport
the wallet contained a will, ten bonds, a custom appraiser's receipt
and a sheaf of gold bills. The will, however, was perhaps one of
the most astonishing documents conceivable. It left unreservedly
to Capt. John Hawksley the contents of the wallet!
Within three hours of his ultimate destination! He knew all about
great cities. An hour after he left the train, if he so willed,
he could lose himself for all time.
>From the bottom of the kitbag he dug up a blue velours case, which
after a moment's hesitation he opened. Medals incrusted with
precious stones; but on the top was the photograph of a charming
girl. blonde as ripe wheat, and arrayed for the tennis court.
It was this photograph he wanted. Indifferently he tossed the case
upon the centre table, and it upset, sending the medals about with
a ring and a tinkle.
The man in the next room heard this sound, and his eye roved
desperately. Some way to peer into yonder room! But there was no
transom, and he would not yet dare risk the fire escape. The young
man raised the photograph to his lips and kissed it passionately.
Then he hid it in the lining of his coat, there being a convenient
rent in the inside pocket.
"I must not think!" he murmured. "I must not!"
He became the hunted man again. He turned a chair upend and placed
it under the window. He tipped another in front of the door. On
the threshold of the bathroom door he deposited the water carafe
and the glasses. His bed was against the connecting door. No man
would be able to enter unannounced. He had no intention of letting
himself fall asleep. He would stretch out and rest. So he lit his
pipe, banked the two pillows, switched out the light, and lay down.
Only the intermittent glow of his pipe coal could be seen. Near
the journey's end; and no more tight-rope walking, with death at
both ends, and death staring up from below. Queer how the human
being clung to life. What had he to live for? Nothing. So far as
he was concerned, the world had come to an end. Sporting instinct;
probably that was it; couldn't make up his mind to shuffle off this
mortal coil until he had beaten his enemies. English university
education had dulled the bite of his natural fatalism. To carry on
for the sport of it; not to accept fate but to fight it.
By chance his hand touched his spiky chin. Nevertheless, he would
have to enter New York just as he was. He had left his razor in a
Pullman washroom hurriedly one morning. He dared not risk a barber's
chair, especially these American chairs, that stretched one out in
a most helpless manner.
Slowly his pipe sank toward his breast. The weary body was
overcoming the will. A sound broke the pleasant spell. He sat up,
tense. Someone had entered through the window and stumbled over the
chair! Hawksley threw on the light.
When the day clerk arrived the night clerk sleepily informed him
that the guest in Room 214 was without baggage and had not paid in
"Lave a call?"
"No. I thought I'd put you wise. I didn't notice that the man had
no grip until he was in the elevator."
"All right. I'll send the bell-hop captain up with a fake call to
see if the man's still there."
When the captain - late of the A.E.F. in France - returned to the
office he was mildly excited.
"Gee, there's been a whale of a scrap in Room 212. The chambermaid
let me in."
"Murder?" whispered the clerks in unison.
"Murder your granny! Naw! Just a fight between 212 and 214,
because both of 'em have flown the roost. But take a peek at what
I found on the table."
It was a case of blue velours. The boy threw back the lid
"If they are I never piped 'em before. They ain't French or
British." The captain of the bell-boys scratched his head
ruminatively. "Gee, I got it! Orders, that's what they all 'em.
Kings pay 'em out Saturdays when the pay roll is nix. Will you pipe
the diamonds and rubies? There's your room rents, monseer."
The day clerk, who considered himself a judge, was of the opinion
that there were two or three thousand dollars tied up in the
stones. It was a police affair. Some ambassador had been robbed,
and the Britisher and the Greek or Bulgarian were mixed up in it.
"I thought the war was over," said the night clerk.
"The shootin' is over, that's all," said the captain of the bellboys,
What had happened in Room 212? A duel of wits rather than of
physical contact. Hawksley realized instantly that here was the
crucial moment. Caught and overpowered, he was lost. If he shouted
for help and it came, he was lost. Once the police took a hand in
the affair, the newspaper publicity that would follow would result
in the total ruin of all his hopes. There was only one chance - to
finish this affair outside the hotel, in some fog-dimmed street.
There leaped into his mind, obliquely and queerly, a picture in one
of Victor Hugo's tales - Quasimodo. And there he stood, in every
particular save the crooked back. And on the top of this came the
recollection that he had seen the man before.... The torches! The
red torches and the hobnailed boots!
There began an odd game, a dancing match, which the young man led
adroitly, always with his thought upon the open window. There
would be no shooting; Quasimodo would not want the police either.
Half a dozen times his fingers touched futilely the dancing master's
coat. Bank and forth across the room, over the bed, round the stand
and chairs. Persistently, as if he understood the young man's
manoeuvres, the squat individual kept to the window side of the room.
An inspiration brought the affair to an end. Hawksley snatched up
the bedclothes and threw them as the ancient retiarius threw his net.
He managed to win to the lower platform of the fire escape before
There was a fourteen-foot drop to the street, and the man with the
golden stubble on his chin and cheeks swung for a moment to gauge
his landing. Quasimodo came after with the agility of an ape.
The race down the street began with about a hundred yards in between.
Down the hill they went, like phantoms. The distance did not widen.
Bears will run amazingly fast and for a long while. The quarry cut
into Pearl Street for a block, turned a corner, and soon vaguely
espied the Hudson River. He made for this.
To the mind of Quasimodo this flight had but one significance - he
was dealing with an arrant coward; and he based his subsequent acts
upon this premise, forgetting that brave men run when need says must.
It would have surprised him exceedingly to learn that he was not
driving, that he was being led. Hawksley wanted his enemy alone,
where no one would see to interfere. Red torches and hobnailed
boots! For once the two bloods, always more or less at war, merged
in a common purpose - to kill this beast, to grind the face of him
into pulp! Red torches and hobnailed boots!
Presently one of the huge passenger boats, moored for the winter,
loomed up through the fog; and toward this Hawksley directed his
steps. He made a flying leap aboard and vanished round the
deckhouse to the river side.
Quasimodo laughed as he followed. It was as if the tobacco pouch
and the appraiser's receipt were in his own pocket; and broad rivers
made capital graveyards. They two alone in the fog! He whirled
round the deckhouse - and backed on his heels to get his balance.
Directly in front, in a very understandable pose, was the intended
victim, his jaw jutting, his eyelids narrowed.
Quasimodo tried desperately to reach for his pistol; but a bolt of
lightning stopped the action. There is something peculiar about a
blow on the nose, a good blow. The Anglo-Saxon peoples alone
possess the counterattack - a rush. To other peoples concentration
of thought is impossible after the impact. Instinctively Quasimodo's
hands flew to his face. He heard a laugh, mirthless and terrible.
Before he could drop his hands from his face-blows, short and
boring, from this side and from that, over and under. The squat
man was brave enough; simply he did not know how to fight in this
manner. He was accustomed to the use of steel and the hobnails on
his boots. He struck wildly, swinging his arms like a Flemish mill
in a brisk wind.
Some of his blows got home, but these provoked only sardonic laughter.
Wild with rage and pain he bored in. He had but one chance - to get
this shadow in his gorilla-like arms. He lacked mental flexibility.
An idea, getting into his head, stuck; it was not adjustable. Like
an arrow sped from the bowstring, it had to fulfill its destiny.
It never occurred to him to take to his heels, to get space between
himself and this enemy he had so woefully underestimated. Ten feet,
and he might have been able to whirl, draw his pistol, and end the
The coup de grace came suddenly: a blow that caught Quasimodo full
on the point of the jaw. He sagged and went sprawling upon his
face. The victor turned him over and raised a heel.... No! He
was neither Prussian nor Sudanese black. He was white; and white
men did not stamp in the faces of fallen enemies.
But there was one thing a white man might do in such a case without
disturbing the ethical, and he proceeded about it forthwith: Draw
the devil's fangs; render him impotent for a few hours. He
deliberately knelt on one of the outspread arms and calmly emptied
the insensible man's pockets. He took everything - watch, money,
passport, letters, pistol, keys - rose and dropped them into the
river. He overlooked Quasimodo's belt, however. The Anglo-Saxon
idea was top hole. His fists had saved his life.
Hawksley heard the panting of an engine and turned his head. Dimly
he saw a giant bridge and a long drab train moving across it. He
picked up the fallen man's cap and tried it on. Not a particularly
good fit, but it would serve. He then trotted round the deckhouse
to the street side, jumped to the wharf, and sucking the cracked
knuckles of his right hand fell into a steady dogtrot which carried
him to the station he had left so hopefully an hour and a half gone.
An accommodation train eventually deposited him in Poughkeepsie,
where he purchased a cap and a sturdy walking stick. The stubble
on his chin and cheeks began to irritate him intensely, but he could
not rid himself of the idea that a barber's chair would be inviting
danger. He was now tolerably certain that from one end of the
continent to the other his presence was known. His life and his
property, they would be after both. Even now there might be men in
this strange town seeking him. The closer he got to New York, the
more active and wide-awake they would become.
He walked the streets, his glance constantly roving. But apparently
no one paid the least attention to him. Finally he returned to the
railway station; and at six o'clock that evening he left the platform
of the 125th Street Station, and appraised covertly the men who
accompanied him to the street. He felt assured that they were all
Americans. Probably they were; but there are still some stray fools
of American birth who cannot accept the great American doctrine as
the only Ararat visible in this present flood. Perhaps one of these
accompanied Hawksley to the street. Whatever he was, one had upon
order met every south-going train since seven o'clock that morning,
when Quasimodo, paying from the gold hidden in his belt, had sent
forth the telegraphic alarm. The man hurried across the street and
followed Hawksley by matching his steps. His business was merely to
learn the other's destination and then to report.
Across the earth a tempest had been loosed; but Ariel did not ride
it, Caliban did. The scythe of terror was harvesting a type; and
the innocent were bending with the guilty.
Suddenly Hawksley felt young, revivified, free. He had arrived.
Surmounting indescribable hazards and hardships he walked the
pavement of New York. In an hour the mutable quicksands of a great
city would swallow him forever. Free! He wanted to stroll about,
peer into shop windows, watch the amazing electric signs, dally;
but he still had much to accomplish.
He searched for a telephone sign. It was necessary that he find
one immediately. He had once spent six weeks in and about this
marvellous city, and he had a vague recollection of the
blue-and-white enamel signs. Shortly he found one. It was a
pay station in the rear of a news and tobacco shop.
He entered a booth, but discovered that he had no five-cent pieces
in his purse. He hurried out to the girl behind the cigar stand.
She was exhibiting a box of cigars to a customer, who selected
three, paid for them, and walked away. Hawksley, boiling with
haste to have his affair done, flung a silver coin toward the girl.
"Will you take them with you or shall I send them?" asked the girl,
"I beg pardon!"
"Any particular kind of ribbon you want the box tied with?"
"I beg your pardon!" repeated Hawksley, harried and bewildered.
"But I'm in a hurry - "
"Too much of a hurry to leave out the bark when you ask a favour?
I make change out of courtesy. And you all bark at me Nickel!
Nickel! as if that was my job."
"A thousand apologies!" - contritely.
"And don't make it any worse by suggesting a movie after supper.
My mother never lets me go out after dark."
"I rather fancy she's quite sensible. Still, you seem able to
take care of yourself. I might suggest -"
"With that black eye? Nay, nay! I'll bet somebody's brother gave
it to you."
"Venus was not on that occasion in ascendancy. Thank you for the
change." Hawksley swung on his heel and reentered the booth.
A great weariness oppressed him. A longing, almost irresistible,
came to him to go out and cry aloud: "Here I am! Kill me! I am
tired and done!" For he had recognized the purchaser of the cigars
as one of the men who had left the 125th Street Station at the same
time as he. He remembered distinctly that this man had been in a
hurry. Perhaps the whole dizzy affair was reacting upon his
imagination psychologically and turning harmless individuals into
"Hello!" said a man's voice over the wire.
"Is Mr. Rathbone there?"
"Captain Rathbone is with his regiment at Coblenz, sir."
"Yes, sir. I do not expect his return until near midsummer, sir.
Who is this talking?"
"Have you opened a cable from Yokohama?"
"This is Mr. Hawksley!" The voice became excited.
"Oh, sir! You will come right away. I alone understand, sir. You
will remember me when you see me. I'm the captain's butler, sir
- Jenkins. He cabled back to give you the entire run of the house
as long as you desired it. He advised me to notify you that he had
also prepared his banker against your arrival. Have your luggage
sent here at once, sir. Dinner will be at your convenience."
Hawksley's body relaxed. A lump came into his throat. Here was a
friend, anyhow, ready to serve him though he was thousands of miles
When he could trust himself to speak he said: "Sorry. It will be
impossible to accept the hospitality at present. I shall call in
a few days, however, to establish my identity. Thank you. Good
"Just a moment, sir. I may have an important cable to transmit to
you. It would be wise to leave me your address, sir."
Hawksley hesitated a moment. After all, he could trust this perfect
old servant, whom he remembered. He gave the address.
As he came out of the booth the girl stretched forth an arm to
detain him. He stopped.
"I'm sorry I spoke like that," she said. "But I'm so tired! I've
been on my feet all day, and everybody's been barking and growling;
and if I'd taken in as many nickels as I've passed out in change the
boss would be rich."
"Give me a dozen of those roses there." She sold flowers also.
"The pink ones. How much?" he asked.
He laid down the money. "Never mind the box. They are for you.
The girl stared at the flowers as Ali Baba must have stared at the
cask with rubies.
"For me!" she whispered. "For nothing!"
Her eyes blurred. She never saw Hawksley again; but that was of
no importance. She had a gentle deed to put away in the lavender
Outside Hawksley could see nothing of the man who had bought the
cigars. At any rate, further dodging would be useless. He would
go directly to his destination. Old Gregor had sent him a duplicate
key to the apartment. He could hide there for a day or two; then
visit Rathbone's banker at his residence in the night to establish
his identity. Gregor could be trusted to carry the wallet and the
pouch to the bank. Once these were walled in steel half the battle
would be over. He would have nothing to guard thereafter but his
life. He laughed brokenly. Nothing but the clothes he stood in.
He never could claim the belongings he had been forced to leave in
that hotel back yonder. But there was loyal old Gregor. Somebody
would be honestly glad to see him. The poor old chap! Astonishing,
but of late he was always thinking in English.
He hailed the first free taxicab he saw, climbed in, and was driven
downtown. He looked back constantly. Was he followed? There was
no way of telling. The street was alive with vehicles tearing
north and south, with frequent stoppage for the passage of those
racing east and west. The destination of Hawksley's cab was an
old-fashioned apartment house in Eightieth Street.
Gregor would have a meal ready; and it struck Hawksley forcibly
that he was hungry, that he had not touched food since the night
before. Gregor, valeting in a hotel, pressing coats and trousers
and sewing on buttons! Groggy old world, wasn't it? Gregor,
pressing the trousers of the hoi polloi! Gregor, who could have
sent New York mad with that old Stradivarius of his! But Gregor
was wise. Safety for him lay in obscurity; and what was more
obscure than a hotel valet?
He did not seek the elevator but mounted the first flight of stairs.
He saw two doors, one on each side of the landing. He sought one,
stooped and peered at the card over the bell. Conover. Gregor's
was opposite. Having a key he did not knock but unlocked the door
and stepped into the dark hall.
"Stefani Gregor?" he called, joyously. "Stefani, my old friend, it
Silence. But that was understandable. Either Gregor had not
returned from his labours or he was out gathering the essentials
for the evening meal. Judging from the variety of odours that swam
the halls of this human warren many suppers were in the process of
making, and the top flavour was garlic. He sniffed pleasurably.
Not that the smell of garlic quickened his hunger. It merely sent
his thought galloping backward a score of years. He saw Stefani
Gregor and a small boy in mountain costume footing it sturdily
along the dizzy goat paths of the rugged hills; saw the two sitting
on some ruddy promontory and munching black bread rubbed with garlic.
Ambrosia! His mother's horror, when she smelt his breath - as if
garlic had not been one of her birthrights! His uncle, roaring out
in his bull's voice that black bread and garlic were good for little
boys' stomachs, and made the stuff of soldiers. Black bread and
garlic and the Golden Age!
After he had flooded the hall with light he began a tour of
inspection. The rooms were rather bare but clean and orderly.
Here and there were items that kept the homeland green in the
recollection. He came to the bedroom last. He hesitated for a
moment before opening the door. The lights told him why Gregor had
not greeted his entering
The overturned reading lamp, the broken chair, the letters and
papers strewn about the floor, the rifled bureau drawers - these
things spoke plainly enough. Gregor was a prisoner somewhere in
this vast city; or he was dead.
Hawksley stood motionless for a space. And he must remain here at
least for a night and a day! He would not dare risk another hotel.
He could, of course, go to the splendid Rathbone place; but it would
not be fair to invite tragedy across that threshold.
A ball of crushed paper at his feet attracted his attention. He
kicked it absently, followed and picked it up, his thought on other
things. He was aimlessly smoothing it out when an English word
caught his eye. English! He smoothed the crumpled sheet and read:
If you find this it is the will of God. I have been watched
for several days, and am now convinced that they have always
known I was here but were leaving me alone for some unknown
purpose. I roll this ball because anything folded and left
in a conspicuous place would be useless should they come for
me. I understand. It is you, poor boy. They are watching
me in hopes of catching you, and I've no way to warn you not
to come here. It was after I sent you the key that I learned
the truth. God bless you and guard you!
Hawksley tore the note into scraps. Food and sleep. He walked
toward the kitchen, musing. What an odd mixture he was!
Superficially British, with the British outlook; and yet filled with
the dancing blood of the Latin and the cold, phlegmatic blood of the
Slav. He was like a schoolmaster with two students too big for him
to handle. Always the Latin was dispossessing the Slav or the Slav
was ousting the Latin. With fatalistic confidence that nevermore
would he look upon the kindly face of Stefani Gregor, alive, he went
in search of food.
Not a crust did he find. In the ice-chest there was a bottle of
milk - soured. Hungry; and not a crumb! And he dared not go out
in search of food. No one had observed his entrance to the
apartment, but it was improbable that such luck would attend
him a second time.
He returned to the bedroom. He did not turn on the light because
a novel idea had blossomed unexpectedly - a Latin idea. There might
be food on some window ledge. He would leave payment. He proceeded
to the window, throwing up both it and the curtain, and looked out.
Ripping! There was a fire escape.
As he slipped a leg over the sill a golden square sprang into
existence across the way. Immediately he forgot his foraging
instincts. In a moment he was all Latin, always susceptible to the
The distance across the court was less than forty feet. He could
see the girl quite plainly as she set about the preparation of her
evening meal. He forgot his danger, his hunger, his code of ethics,
which did not permit him to gaze at a young woman through a window.
Alone. He was alone and she was alone. A novel idea popped into
his head. He chuckled; and the sound of that chuckle in his ears
somehow brought back his resolve to carry on, to pass out, if so he
must, fighting. He would knock on yonder window and ask the
beautiful lady slavey for a bit of her supper!
Kitty Conover had inherited brains and beauty, and nothing else but
the furniture. Her father had been a famous reporter, the admiration
of cubs from New York to San Francisco; handsome, happy-go-lucky,
generous, rather improvident, and wholly lovable. Her mother had
been a comedy actress noted for her beauty and wit and extravagance.
Thus it will be seen that Kitty was in luck to inherit any furniture
Kitty was twenty-four. A body is as old as it is, but a brain is as
old as the facts it absorbs; and Kitty had absorbed enough facts to
carry her brain well into the thirties.
Conover had been dead twenty years; and Kitty had scarcely any
recollections of him. Improvident as the run of newspaper writers
are, Conover had fulfilled one obligation to his family - he had kept
up his endowment policies; and for eighteen years the insurance had
taken care of Kitty and her mother, who because of a weak ankle had
not been able to return to the scenes of her former triumphs. In
1915 this darling mother, whom Kitty loved to idolatry, had passed on.
There was enough for the funeral and the cleaning up of the bills;
but that was all. The income ceased with Mrs. Conover's demise.
Kitty saw that she must give up writing short stories which nobody
wanted, and go to work. So she proceeded at once to the newspaper
office where her father's name was still a tradition, and applied
for a job. It was frankly a charity job, but Kitty was never to
know that because she fell into the newspaper game naturally; and
when they discovered her wide acquaintance among theatrical
celebrities they switched her into the dramatic department, where
she had astonishing success as a raconteur. She was now assistant
dramatic editor of the Sunday issue, and her pay envelope had four
crisp ten-dollar notes in it each Monday.
She still remained in the old apartment; sentiment as much as
anything. She had been born in it and her happiest days had been
spent there. She lived alone, without help, being one of that
singular type of womanhood that is impervious to the rust of
loneliness. Her daily activities sufficed the gregarious
instincts, and it was often a relief to move about in silence
Among other things Kitty had foresight. She had learned that a
little money in the background was the most satisfying thing in
existence. So many times she and her mother had just reached the
insurance check, with grumbling bill collectors in the hall, that
she was determined never to be poor. She had to fight constantly
her love of finery inherited from her mother, and her love of good
times inherited from her father. So she established a bank account,
and to date had not drawn a check against it; which speaks well for
her will power, an attribute cultivated, not inherited.
Kitty was as pleasing to the eye as a basket of fruit. Her beauty
was animated. There was an expression in her eyes and on her lips
that spoke of laughter always on tiptoe. An enviable inheritance,
this, the desire to laugh, to be searching always for a vent to
laughter; it is something money cannot buy, something not to be
cultivated; a true gift of the gods. This desire to laugh is found
invariably in the tender and valorous; and Kitty was both. Brown
hair with running threads of gold that was always catching light;
slate-blue eyes with heavy black fringe-Irish; colour that waxed
and waned; and a healthy, shapely body. Topped by a sparkling
intellect these gifts made Kitty desirable of men.
Kitty had no beau. After the adolescent days beaux ceased to
interest her. This would indicate that she was inclined toward
suffrage. Nothing of the kind. Intensely romantic, she determined
to await the grand passion or go it alone. No experimental
adventures for her. Be assured that she weighed every new man she
met, and finding some flaw discarded him as a matrimonial
possibility. Besides, her unusual facilities to view and judge
men had shown her masculine phases the average woman would have
discovered only after the fatal knot was tied. She did not suspect
that she was romantical. She attributed her wariness to common
If there is one place where a pretty young woman may labour without
having to build a wall of liquid air about her to fend off amatory
advances that place is the editorial room of a great metropolitan
daily. One must have leisure to fall in love; and only the office
boys could assemble enough idle time to call it leisure.
Her desk faced Burlingame's; and Burlingame was the dramatic editor,
a scholar and a gentleman. He liked to hear Kitty talk, and often
he lured her into the open; and he gathered information about
theatrical folks that was outside even his wide range of knowledge.
A drizzly fog had hung over New York since morning. Kitty was
finishing up some Sunday special. Burlingame was reading proofs.
All day theatrical folks had been in and out of this little
ten-by-twelve cubby-hole; and now there would be quiet.
But no. The door opened and an iron-gray head intruded.
"Will I be in the way?"
"Lord, no!" cried Burlingame, throwing down his proofs. "Come along
The great war correspondent came in and sat down, sighing gratefully.
Cutty was a nickname; he carried and smoked - everywhere they would
permit him - the worst-looking and the worst-smelling pipe in
Christendom. You may not realize it, but a nickname is a round-about
Anglo-Saxon way of telling a fellow you love him. He was Cutty, but
only among his dear intimates, mind you; to the world at large, to
presidents, kings, ambassadors, generals, and capitalists he is
known by another name. You will find it on the roster of the Royal
Geographical; on the title page of several unique books on travel,
jewels, and drums; in magazines and newspapers; on the membership
roll of the Savage in London and the Lambs in New York. But you will
not find it in this story; because it would not be fair to set his
name against the unusual adventures that crossed his line of life
with that of the young man who wore the tobacco pouch suspended from
Tall, bony, graceful enough except in a chair, where his angles
became conspicuous; the ruddy, weather-bitten complexion of a
deep-sea sailor, and a sailor man's blue eye; the brow of a thinker
and the mouth of a humourist. Men often call another man handsome
when a woman knows they mean manly. Among men Cutty was handsome.
Kitty considerately rose and gathered up her manuscript.
"No, no, Kitty! I'd rather talk to you than Burly, here. You're
always reminding me of that father of yours. Best comrade I ever
had. You laugh just like him. Did your mother ever tell you that
old Cutty is your godfather?"
"Fact. I told your dad I'd watch over you."
"And a fat lot of watching you've done to date," jeered Burlingame.
"Couldn't help that. But I can be on the job until I return to the
Kitty laughed joyously and sat down, perhaps a little thrilled. She
had always admired Cutty from afar, shyly. Once in a blue moon he
had in the old days appeared for tea; and he and Mrs. Conover would
spend the balance of the afternoon discussing the lovable qualities
of Tommy Conover. Kitty had seen him but twice during the war.
"Every so often," began Cutty, "I have to find listeners. Fact. I
used to hate crowds, listeners; but those ten days in an open boat,
a thousand miles from anywhere, made me gregarious. I'm always
wanting company and hating to go to bed, which is bad business for
a man of fifty-two." Cutty's ship had been torpedoed.
To Kitty, with his tired eyes and weather-bitten face, his bony,
gangling body, he had the appearance of a lazy man. Actually she
knew him to be a man of tremendous vitality and endurance. Eagles
when they roost are heavy-lidded and clumsy. She wondered if there
was a corner on the globe he had not peered into.
For thirty years he had been following two gods - Rumour and War.
For thirty years he had been the slave of cables and telegrams.
Even now he was preparing to return to the Balkans, where the great
fire had started and where there were still some threatening embers
Cutty was not well known in America; his reputation was European.
He played the game because he loved it, being comfortably fortified
with worldly goods. He was a linguist of rare attainments,
specializing in the polyglot of southeastern Europe. He came and
went like cloud shadow. His foresight was so keen he was seldom
ordered to go here or there; he was generally on the spot when the
He was interested in socialism and its bewildering ramifications,
but only as an analytical student. He could fit himself into any
environment, interview a prime minister in the afternoon and take
potluck that night with the anarchist who was planning to blow up
the prime minister.
Burlingame, an intimate, often exposed for Kitty's delectation the
amazing and colourful facets of Cutty's diamond-brilliant mind.
Cutty wrote authoritatively on famous gems and collected drums.
He had one of the finest collections of chrysoprase in the world.
He loved these semi-precious stones because of their unmatchable,
translucent green - like the pulp of a grape. From Burlingame
Kitty had learned that Cutty, rather indifferent to women, carried
about with him the photographs - large size - of famous professional
beauties and a case filled with polished chrysoprase. He would lay
a photograph on a table and adorn the lovely throat with astonishing
necklaces and the head with wonderful tiaras, all the while his
brain at work with some intricate political puzzle.
And he collected drums. The walls of his apartment - part of the
loft of a midtown office building - were covered with a most
startling assortment of drums: drums of war, of the dance, of the
temples of the feast, ancient and modern, some of them dreadful
looking objects, as Kitty had cause to remember.
Though Cutty had known her father and mother intimately, Kitty was
a comparative stranger. He recollected seeing her perhaps a dozen
times. She had been a shy child, not given to climbing over
visitors' knees; not the precocious offspring of the average
theatrical mother. So in the past he had somewhat overlooked her.
Then one day recently he had dropped in to see Burlingame and had
seen Kitty instead; which accounts for his presence here this day.
Neither Kitty nor Burlingame suspected the true attraction. The
dramatic editor accepted the advent as a peculiar compliment to
himself. And it is to be doubted if Cutty himself realized that
there was a true magnetic pole in this cubbyhole of a room.
Kitty, however, had vivid recollections. Actually the first strange
man she had ever met. But not having been visible on her horizon,
except in flashes, she knew of the man only what she had read and
what Burlingame had casually offered during discussions.
"Well, anyhow," said Burlingame, complacently, "the war is over.
Cutty smiled indulgently. "That's the trouble with us chaps who
tramp round the world for news. We can't bamboozle ourselves like
you folks who stay at home. The war was only the first phase.
There's a mess over there; wanting something and not knowing exactly
what, those millions; milling cattle, with neither shed nor pasture.
The Lord only knows how long it will take to clarify. Would you
mind if I smoked?"
"Wow!" cried Burlingame.
"Not at all," answered Kitty. "I don't see how any pipe could be
worse than Mr. Burlingame's."
"I apologize," said the dramatic editor, humbly.
"You needn't," replied the girl. She turned to the war correspondent.
"Any new drums?"
"I remember that day. You were scared half to death at my walls."
"Small wonder! I was only twelve; and I dreamed of cannibals for
"Drums! I wonder if any living man has heard a greater variety
than I? What a lot of them! I have heard them calling a jehad in
the Sudan. Tumpi-tum-tump! tumpitum-tump! Makes a white man's
hair stand up when he hears it in the night. I don't know what it
is, but the sound drives the Oriental mad. And that reminds me
- I've had them in mind all day - the drums of jeopardy!"
"What an odd phrase! And what are the drums of jeopardy?" asked
Kitty, leaning on her arms. Odd, but suddenly she felt a longing
to go somewhere, thousands and thousands of miles away. She had
never been west of Chicago or east of Boston. Until this moment
she had never felt the call of the blood - her father's. Cocoanut
palms and birds of paradise! And drums in the night going
"I've always been mad over green things," began Cutty. "A wheat
field in the spring, leafing maples. It's Nature's choice and mine.
My passion is emeralds; and I haven't any because those I want are
beyond reach. They are owned by the great houses of Europe and
Asia, and lie in royal caskets; or did. If I could go into a mine
and find an emerald as big as my fist I should be only partly happy
if it chanced to be of fine colour. In a little while I should lose
interest in it. It wouldn't be alive, if you can get what I mean.
Just as a man would rather have a homely woman to talk to than a
beautiful window dummy to admire. A stone to interest me must have
a story - a story of murder and loot, of beautiful women, palaces.
"Br-r-r!" cried Burlingame.
"Why, I've seen emeralds I would steal with half a chance. I
couldn't help it. Fact," declared Cutty, earnestly. "Think of
the loot in the Romanoff palaces! What's become of all those
magnificent stones? In a little while they'll be turning up in
Amsterdam to be cut - some of them. Or maybe Mister Bolsheviki's
inamorata will be stringing them round her neck. Loot."
"But the drums of jeopardy!" said Kitty.
"Emeralds, green as an English lawn in May after a shower, Kitty.
By the way, do you mind if I call you Kitty? I used to."
"And I've always thought of you as Cutty. Fifty-fifty."
"It's a bargain. Well, the drums to my thinking are the finest two
examples of the green beryl in the world. Polished, of course, as
emeralds always should be. I should say that they were about the
size of those peppermint chocolate drops there."
"Have one?" said Kitty.
"No. Spoil the taste of the pipe."
"You ought to spoil that taste once in a while," was Burlingame's
observation. "But go on."
"I suppose originally there was a single stone, later cut into
halves, because they are perfect matches. The drums proper are
exquisitely carved ivory statuettes, of Hindu or Mohammedan drummers,
squatting, the golden base of the drums between the knees, and the
drumheads the emeralds. Lord, how they got to me! I wanted to run
off with them. The history of murder and loot they could tell!
Some Delhi mogul owned them first. Then Nadir Shah carried them off
to Persia, along with the famous peacock throne. I saw them in a
palace on the Caspian in 1912. Russia was very strong in Persia at
one time. Perhaps they were gifts; perhaps they were stolen - these
emeralds. Anyhow, I'd never heard of them until that year. And I
travelled all the way up from Constantinople to get a glimpse of
them if it were possible. I had to do some mighty fine wire-pulling.
For one of those stones I would give half of all I own. To see them
in the possession of another man would be a supreme test to my honesty."
"You old pirate!" said Burlingame.
"But why the word jeopardy?" persisted Kitty, who was intrigued by
"Probably some Hindu trick. It is a language of flowery metaphors.
It means, I suppose, that when you touch the drums they bite. In
journeying from one spot to another they always leave misfortune
behind, as I understand it. Just coincidence; but you couldn't
drive that into an Oriental skull. This is what makes the study of
precious stones so interesting. There is always some enchantment,
some evil spell. To handle the drums is to invite a minor accident.
Call it twaddle; probably is; and yet I have reason to believe that
there's something to the superstition."
"I can prove it," Cutty declared. "I held those drums in my hands
one day. I carried them to a window the better to observe them.
On my return to the hotel I was knocked down by a horse and laid
up in bed for a week. That same night someone tried to kill the
man who showed me the emeralds. Coincidence? Perhaps. But these
days I'm shying at thirteen, the wrong side of the street, ladders,
and religious curses."
"An old hard-boiled egg like you?" Burlingame threw up his hands
in mock despair.
"I laugh, too; but I duck, nevertheless. The chap who showed me
the stones was what you'd call the honorary custodian; a privileged
character because of his genius. Before approaching him I sent him
a copy of my monograph on green stones. I found that he was quite
as crazy over green as I. That brought us together; and while I
drew him out I kept wondering where I had seen him before. Both his
name and his face were vaguely familiar. lt seems a superstition
had come along with the stones, from India to Persia, from there to
Russia. A maid fortunate enough to see the drums would marry and
be happy. The old fellow confessed that occasionally he secretly
admitted a peasant maid to gaze upon the stones. But he never let
the male inmates of the palace find this out. He knew them a little
too intimately. A bad lot."
"And this palace?" asked Kitty.
"Not one stone on another. The proletariat rose up and destroyed
it. To mobs anything beautiful is offensive. Palaces looted, banks,
museums, houses. The ignorant toying with hand grenades, thinking
them sceptres. All the scum in the world boiling to the top. After
the Red Day comes the Red Night."
"Whatever will become of them - the little kings and princes and
dukes?" After all, thought Kitty, they were human beings; they would
not suffer any the less because they had been born to the purple.
"Maybe they'll go to work," said Cutty, dryly. "Sooner or later,
all parasites will have to work if they want bread. And yet I've
met some men among them, big in the heart and the mind, who would
have made bully farmers and professors. The beautiful thing about
the Anglo-Saxon education is that the whole structure is based upon
fair play. In eastern and southeastern Europe few of them can play
solitaire without cheating. But I would give a good deal to know
what has happened to those emeralds - the drums of jeopardy. They'll
probably be broken up and sold in carat weights. The whole family
was wiped out in a night.... I say, will you take lunch with me
"All right. I'll drop in here at half after twelve. Here's my
telephone number, should anything alter your plans. If I'm going
to be godfather I might as well start right in."
"The drums of jeopardy; what a haunting phrase!"
"Haunting stones, too, Kitty. For picking them up in my hands I
went to bed with a banged-up leg. I can't forget that. We
Occidentals laugh at Orientals and their superstitions. We don't
believe in the curse. And yet, by George, those emeralds were
"Piffle!" snorted Burlingame. "Mush! It's greed, pure and simple,
that gives precious stones their sinister histories. You'd have
been hit by that horse if you had picked up nothing more valuable
than a rhinestone buckle. Take away the gold lure, and precious
stones wouldn't sell at the price of window glass."
"Is that so? How about me? It isn't because a stone is worth so
much that makes me want it. I want it for the sheer beauty; I want
it for the tremendous panorama the sight of it unfolds in my mind.
I imagine what happened from the hour the stone was mined to the
hour it came into my possession. To me - to all genuine collectors
- the intrinsic value is nil. Can't you see? It is for me what
Balzac's La Peau de Chagrin would be to you if you had fallen on it
for the first time - money, love, tragedy, death."
An interruption came in the form of one of the office boys. The
chief was on the wire and wanted Cutty at once.
"At half after twelve, Kitty. And by the way," added Cutty as he
rose, "they say about the drums that a beautiful woman is immune to
"There's your chance, Kitty," said Burlingame.
"Am I beautiful?" asked Kitty, demurely.
"Lord love the minx!" shouted Cutty. "A corner in Mouquin's."
"Rain or shine." After Cutty had departed Kitty said: "He's the
most fascinating man I know. What fun it would be to jog round the
world with a man like that, who knew everybody and everything.
As a little girl I was violently in love with him; but don't you
ever dare give me away."
"You'll probably have nightmare to-night. And honestly you ought
not to live in that den alone. But Cutty has seen things,"
Burlingame admitted; "things no white man ought to see. He's been
shot up, mauled by animals, marooned, torpedoed at sea, made
prisoner by old Fuzzy-Wuzzy. An ordinary man would have died of
fatigue. Cutty is as tough and strong as a gorilla and as active
as a cat. But this jewel superstition is all rot. Odd, though;
he'll travel halfway round the world to see a ruby or an emerald.
He says no true collector cares a cent for a diamond. Says they
"Except on the third finger of a lady's left hand; and then they
are just perfectly splendid!"
"Oho! Well, when you get yours I hope it's as big as the
"Thank you! You might just as well wish a brick on me!"
Kitty left the office at a quarter of six. The phrase kept running
through her head - the drums of jeopardy. A little shiver ran up
her spine. Money, love, tragedy, death! This terrible and wonderful
old world, of which she had seen little else than city streets,
suddenly exhibited wide vistas. She knew now why she had begun to
save - travel. Just as soon as she had a thousand she would go
somewhere. A great longing to hear native drums in the night.
Even as the wish entered her mind a new sound entered her ears. The
Subway car wheels began to beat - tumpitum-tump! tumpitum-tump!
Fudge! She opened her evening paper and scanned the fashions, the
dramatic news, and the comics. Being a woman she read the world
news last. On the front page she saw a queer story, dated at Albany:
Mysterious guests at a hotel; how they had fought and fled in the
early morning. There had been left behind a case with foreign orders
incrusted with several thousand dollars' worth of gems. Bolsheviki,
said the police; just as they said auto bandits a few years ago when
confronted with something they could not understand. The orders had
been turned over to the Federal authorities from whom it was learned
that they were all royal and demi-royal. Neither of the two guests
had returned up to noon, and one had fled, leaving even his hat and
coat. But there was nothing to indicate his identity.
"Loot!" murmured Kitty. "All the scum in the world rising to the
top" - quoting Cutty. "Poor things!" as she thought of the gentle
ladies who had died horribly in bedrooms and cellars.
Kitty was beginning to cast about for more congenial quarters.
There were too many foreigners in the apartments, and none of them
especially good housekeepers. Always, nowadays, somebody had a
washing out on the line, the odour of garlic was continuously in
the air, and there were noisy children under foot in the halls. The
families she and her mother had known were all gone; and Kitty was
perhaps the oldest inhabitant in the block.
The living-room windows faced Eightieth Street; bedrooms, dining
room, and kitchen looked out upon the court. From the latter windows
one could step out upon the fire-escape platform, which ran round
the three sides of the court.
Among the present tenants she knew but one, an old man by the name
of Gregory, who lived opposite. The acquaintance had never ripened
into friendship; but sometimes Kitty would borrow an egg and he
would borrow some sugar. In the summertime, when the windows were
open at night, she had frequently heard the music of a violin
swimming across the court. Polish, Russian, and Hungarian music,
always speaking with a tragic note; nothing she had ever heard in
concerts. Once, however, she had heard him begin something from
Thais, and stop in the middle of it; and that convinced her that
he was a master. She was fond of good music. One day she asked
Gregory why he did not teach music instead of valeting at a hotel.
His answer had been illuminative. It was only his body that
pressed clothes; but it would have torn his soul to listen daily
to the agonized bow of the novice. Kitty was lonely through pride
as much as anything. As for friends, she had a regiment of them.
But she rarely accepted their hospitality, realizing that she could
not return it. No young men called because she never invited them.
All this, however, was going to change when she moved.
As she turned on the hail light she saw an envelope on the floor.
Evidently it had been shoved under the door. It was unstamped. She
opened it, and stepped out of the humdrum into the whirligig.
DEAR MISS CONOVER:
If anything should happen to me all the things in my apartment
I give to you without reservation.
She read the letter a dozen times to make sure that it meant exactly
what it said. He might be ill. After she had cooked her supper she
would run round and inquire. The poor lonely old man!
She went into the kitchen and took inventory. There was nothing
but bacon and eggs and coffee. She had forgotten to order that
morning. She lit the gas range and began to prepare the meal. As
she broke an egg against the rim of the pan the nearby Elevated
train rushed by, drumming tumpitum-tump! tumpitum-tump! She
laughed, but it wasn't honest laughter. She laughed because she
was conscious that she was afraid of something. Impulse drove her
to the window. Contact with men - her unusual experiences as a
reporter - had developed her natural fearlessness to a point where
it was aggressive. As she pressed the tip of her nose against the
pane, however, she found herself gazing squarely into a pair of
exceedingly brilliant dark eyes; and all the blood in her body
seemed to rush violently into her throat.
Kitty gasped, but she did not cry out. The five days' growth of
blondish stubble, the discoloured eye - for all the orb itself was
brilliant - and the hawky nose combined to send through her the
first great thrill of danger she had ever known.
Slowly she backed away from the window. The man outside immediately
extended his hands with a gesture that a child would have understood.
Supplication. Kitty paused, naturally. But did the man mean it?
Might it not be some trick to lure her into opening the window? And
what was he doing outside there anyhow? Her mind, freed from the
initial hypnosis of the encounter, began to work quickly. If she ran
from the kitchen to call for help he might be gone when she returned,
only to come back when she was again alone.
Once more the man executed that gesture, his palms upward. It was
Latin; she was aware of that, for she was always encountering it in
the halls. Another gesture. She understood this also. The tips
of the fingers bunched and dabbed at the lips. She had seen Italian
children make the gesture and cry: "Ho fame!" Hungry. But she could
not let him into the kitchen. Still, if he were honestly hungry
- She had it!
In the kitchen-table drawer was an imitation revolver - press the
trigger, and a fluted fan was revealed - a dance favour she had
received during the winter.
She plucked it out of the drawer and walked bravely to the window,
which she threw up.
"What do you want? What are you doing out there on the fire escape?"
she instantly demanded to know.
"My word, I am hungry! I was looking out of the window across the
way and saw you preparing your dinner. A bit of bread and a glass
of milk. Would you mind, I wonder?"
"Why didn't you come to the door then? What window?" Kitty was
resolute; once she embarked upon an enterprise.
"Where is Mr. Gregory?" Kitty recalled that odd letter.
"Gregory? I should very much like to know. I have come many miles
to see him. He sent me a duplicate key. There was not even a crust
in the cupboard."
Gregory away? That letter! Something had happened to that poor,
kindly old man. "Why did you not seek some restaurant? Or have you
"I have plenty. I was afraid that I might not be able conveniently
to return. I am a stranger. My actions might be viewed with
"Indeed! Describe Mr. Gregory."
Not of the clinging kind, evidently, he thought. A raving beauty
- Diana domesticated!
"It is four years since I saw him. He was then gray, dapper, and
erect. A mole on his chin, which he rubs when he talks. He is a
valet in one of the fashionable hotels. He is - or was - the only
true friend I have in New York."
"Was? What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid something has happened to him. I found his bedroom
things tossed about."
"What could possibly happen to a harmless old man like Mr. Gregory?"
"Pardon me, but your egg is burning !"
Kitty wheeled and lifted off the pan, choking in the smother of smoke.
She came right-about face swiftly enough. The man had not moved; and
that decided her.
"Come in. I will give you something to eat. Sit in that chair by
the window, and be careful not to stir from it. I'm a good shot,"
lied Kitty, truculently. "Frankly, I do not like the looks of this."
"I do look like a burglar, what?" He sat down in the chair meekly.
Food and a human being to talk to! A lovely, self-reliant American
girl, able to take care of herself. Magnificent eyes - slate blue,
with thick, velvety black lashes. Irish.
In a moment Kitty had three eggs and half a dozen strips of bacon
frying in a fresh pan. She kept one eye upon the pan and the other
upon the intruder, risking strabismus. At length she transferred
the contents of the pan to a plate, backed to the ice chest, and
reached for a bottle of milk. She placed the food at the far end
of the table and retreated a few steps, her arms crossed in such a
way as to keep the revolver in view.
"Please do not be afraid of me.
"What makes you think I am?"
"Any woman would be."
Kitty saw that he was actually hungry, and her suspicions began to
ebb. He hadn't lied about that. And he ate like a gentleman.
Young, not more than thirty; possibly less. But that dreadful
stubble and that black eye ! The clothes would have passed muster
on any fashionable golf links. A fugitive? From what?
"Thank you," he said, setting down the empty milk bottle.
"Your accent is English."
"Which is to say?"
"That your gestures are Italian."
"My mother was Italian. But what makes you believe I am not English?"
"An Englishman - or an American, for that matter - with money in
his pocket would have gone into the street in search of a restaurant."
"You are right. The fundamentals of the blood will always crop out.
You can educate the brain but not the blood. I am not an Englishman;
I merely received my education at Oxford."
"A fugitive, however, of any blood might have come to my window."
"Yes; I am a fugitive, pursued by the god of Irony. And Irony is
never particular; the chase is the thing. What matters it whether
the quarry be wolf or sheep?"
Kitty was impressed by the bitterness of the tone. "What is your
"But that is English!"
"I should not care to call myself Two-Hawks, literally. It would
be embarrassing. So I call myself Hawksley."
A pause. Kitty wondered what new impetus she might give to the
conversation, which was interesting her despite her distrust.
"How did you come by that black eye?" she asked with embarrassing
Hawksley smiled, revealing beautifully white teeth. "I say, it is
a bit off, isn't it! I received it" - a twinkle coming into his
eyes - "in a situation that had moribund perspectives."
"Moribund perspectives," repeated Kitty, casting the phrase about
in her mind in search of an equivalent less academic.
"I am young and healthy, and I wanted to live," he said, gravely.
"I am curious to know what is going to happen to-morrow and other
Somewhere near by a door was slammed violently. Kitty, every muscle
in her body tense, jumped convulsively, with the result that her
finger pressed automatically the trigger of her pistol. The fan
popped out gayly.
Hawksley stared at the fan, quite as astonished as Kitty. Then he
broke into low, rollicking laughter, which Kitty, because her basic
corpuscle was Irish, perforce had to join. For all her laughter she
retreated, furious and alarmed.
"Fancy! I say, now, you're jolly plucky to face a scoundrel like
me with that."
"I don't just know what to make of you," said Kitty, irresolutely,
flinging the fan into a corner.
"You have revivified a celestial spark - my faith in human beings.
I beg of you not to be afraid of me. I am quite harmless. I am
very grateful for the meal. Yours is the one act of kindness I have
known in weeks. I will return to Gregor's apartment at once. But
before I go please accept this. I rather suspect, you know, that
you live alone, and that fan is amusing and not particularly
suitable." He rose and unsmilingly laid upon the table one of those
heavy blue-black bull-dogs of war, a regulation revolver. Kitty
understood what this courteous act signified; he was disarming
himself to reassure her.
"Sit down," she ordered. Either he was harmless or he wasn't. If
he wasn't she was utterly at his mercy. She might be able to lift
that terrible-looking engine of murder, battle, and sudden death
with the aid of both hands, but to aim and fire it - never in this
world! "As I came in to-night I found a note in the hall from Mr.
Gregory. I will fetch it. But you call him Gregor?"
"His name is Stefani Gregor; and years and years ago he dandled me
on his knees. I promise not to move until you return."
Subdued by she knew not what, no longer afraid, Kitty moved out of
the kitchen. She had offered Gregory's letter as an excuse to reach
the telephone. Once there, however, she did not take the receiver
off the hook. Instead she whistled down the tube for the janitor.
"This is Miss Conover. Come up to my apartment in ten minutes....
No; it's not the water pipes.... In ten minutes"
Nothing very serious could happen inside of ten minutes; and the
janitor was reliable and not the sort one reads about in the comic
weeklies. Her confidence reenforced by the knowledge that a friend
was near, she took the letter into the kitchen. Apparently her
unwelcome guest had not stirred. The revolver was where he had
"Read this," she said.
The visitor glanced through it. "It is Gregor's hand. Poor old
chap! I shall never forgive my self."
"For dragging him into this. They must have intercepted one of my
telegrams." He stared dejectedly at the strip of oilcloth in front
of the range. "You are an American?"
"God has been exceedingly kind to your country. I doubt if you will
ever know how kind. I'll take myself off. No sense in compromising
you." He laid a folded handkerchief inside his cap which he put on.
"Know anything about this?" - indicating the revolver.
"Permit me to show you. It is loaded; there are five bullets in the
clip. See this little latch? So, it is harmless. So, and you kill
"It is horrible!" cried Kitty. "Take it with you please. I could
not keep my eyes open to shoot it."
"These are troublous times. All women should know something about
small arms. Again I thank you. For your own sake I trust that we
may never meet again. Good-bye." He stepped out of the window and
Kitty, at a mental impasse, could only stare into the night beyond
the window. This mesmeric state endured for a minute; then a gentle
and continuous sound dissipated the spell. It was raining.
Obliquely she saw the burnt egg in the pan. The thing had happened;
she had not been dreaming.
Her brain awoke. Thought crowded thought; before one matured another
displaced it; and all as futile as the sparks from the anvil. An
avalanche of conjecture; and out of it all eventually emerged one
concrete fact. The man Was honest. His hunger had been honest; his
laughter. Who was he, what was he? For all his speech, not English;
for all his gestures, not Italian. Moribund perspectives. Somewhere
that day he had fought for his life. John Two-Hawks.
And there was the mysterious evanishment of old Gregory, whose name
was Stefani Gregor. In a humdrum, prosaic old apartment like this!
Kitty had ideas about adventure - an inheritance, though she was not
aware of that. There had to be certain ingredients, principally
mystery. Anything sordid must not be permitted to edge in. She had
often gone forth upon semi-perilous enterprises as a reporter,
entered sinister houses where crimes had been committed, but always
calculating how much copy at eight dollars a column could be squeezed
out of the affair. But this promised to be something like those
tales which were always clear and wonderful in her head but more or
less opaque when she attempted to transfer them to paper. A secret
society? Vengeance? An echo of the war?
"Johnny Two-Hawks," she murmured aloud. "And he hopes we'll never
There was a mirror over the sink, and she threw a glance into it.
Very well; if he thought like that about it.
Here the doorbell tinkled. That would be the faithful janitor. She
ran to the door.
"Whadjuh wanta see me about, Miz Conover?"
"What has happened to old Mr. Gregory?"
"Him? Why, some amb'lance fellers carted him off this afternoon.
Didn't know nawthin' was the matter with 'im until I runs into them
in the hall."
"He'd been hurt?"
"Couldn't say, miz. He was on a stretcher when I seen 'im. Under
"But he might have been dead!"
"Nope. I ast 'em, an' they said a shock of some sort."
"Gee, I forgot t'ast that!"
"I'll find out. Good-night."
But Kitty did not find out. She called up all the known private and
public hospitals, but no Gregor or Gregory had been received that
afternoon, nor anybody answering his description. The fog had
swallowed up Stefani Gregor.
The reportorial instinct in Kitty Conover, combined with her natural
feminine curiosity, impelled her to seek to the bottom of affair.
Her newspaper was as far from her as the poles; simply a paramount
desire to translate the incomprehensible into sequence and
consequence. Harmless old Gregor's disappearance and the advent of
John Two-Hawks - the absurdity of that name! - with his impeccable
English accent, his Latin gestures, and his black eye, convinced her
that it was political; an electrical cross current out of that broken
world over there. Moribund perspectives. What did that signify save
that Johnny Two-Hawks had fought somewhere that day for his life?
Had Gregor been spirited away so as to leave Two-Hawks without
support, to confuse and discourage him and break down his powers of
resistance? Or had there been something of great value in the Gregor
apartment, and Johnny Two-Hawks had come too late to save his friend?
A word slipped into her mind like a whiff of miasma off an evil swamp.
As she recognized the word she felt the same horror and repugnance
one senses upon being unexpectedly confronted by a cobra.
Internationalism. The scum of the world boiling to the top. A
half-blind viper striking venomously at everything - even itself! A
destroyer who tore down but who knew not how or what to build. Kitty
knew that lower New York was seething with this species of terrorism
- thousands of noisome European rats trying to burrow into the
granary of democracy. But she had no particular fear of the result.
The reacting chemicals of American humour and common sense would
neutralize that virus. Supposing a ripple from this indecent eddy
had touched her feet? The torch of liberty in the hands of Anarch!
Johnny Two-Hawks. Somehow - even if she never saw him again - she
knew she would always remember him by that name. Phases of the
encounter began to return. Fine hands; perhaps he painted or played.
The oblong head of well-balanced mentality. A pleasant voice.
Breeding. To be sure, he had laughed at that fan popping out.
Anybody would have laughed. Never had she felt so idiotic. He had
gravely expressed the hope that they might never meet again because
his life was in danger. What danger? Conceivably the enmity of a
society - internationalism. The word having found lodgment in her
thoughts took root. Internationalism - Utopia while you wait!
Anarchism and Bolshevism offering nostrums for humanity's ills! And
there were sane men who defended the cult on the basis that the
intention was honest. Who can say that the rattlesnake does not
consider his intentions honourable?
The attribute lacking in the ape to make him human is continuity of
thought and action in all things save one. He often starts out we11
but he never arrives. His interest is never sustained. He drops
one thing and turns to another. The exception is his enmity, savage
and cunning, relentless and enduring.
Kitty was awake to one fact. She could not venture to dig into this
affair alone. On the other hand, she did not want one of the men
from the city room - a reporter who would see nothing but news. If
Gregor was only a prisoner publicity might be the cause of his death;
and publicity would certainly react hardily against Johnny Two-Hawks.
To whom might she turn?
Cutty! - with his great physical strength, his shrewd and alert
mentality, and his wide knowledge of peoples and tongues. There was
the man for her - Kitty Conover's godfather. She dumped the contents
of her handbag upon the stand in the hallway in her impatience to
find Cutty's card with his telephone number. It was not in the
directory. She might catch him before he went out for the evening.
A Japanese voice answered her call.
"'Souse, but he iss out."
"No tell me."
"How long has he been gone?"
Kitty heard the click of the receiver as it went down upon the hook.
But she wasn't the daughter of Conover for nothing. She called up
the University Club. No. The Harvard Club. No. The Players, the
Lambs; and in the latter club she found him.
"Who is it?" Cutty spoke impatiently.
"Oh! What's the matter? Can't you have lunch with me?"
"Something very strange is happening in this old apartment house,
Cutty. I'm afraid it is a matter of life and death. Otherwise I
shouldn't have bothered you. Can you come up right away?"
"As soon as a taxi can take me!"
Kitty then went through the apartment and turned out all the lights.
Next she drew up a chair to the kitchen window and sat down to watch.
All was dark across the way. But there was nothing singular in this
fact. Johnny Two-Hawks would have sense enough to realize that it
would be safer to move about in the dark. It was even probable
that he was lying down.
Tumpitum-tump! Tumpitum-tump! went the racing Elevated; and Kitty's
heart raced along with it. Queer how the echo of Cutty's description
of the drums calling a jehad - a holy war - should adapt itself to
that Elevated. Drums! Perhaps the echo clung because she had been
interested beyond measure in his tale of those two emeralds, the
drums of jeopardy. Mobs sacking palaces and museums and banks and
homes; all the scum of the world boiling to the top; the Red Night
that wasn't over.
She uttered a shaky little laugh. She would tell Cutty. The real
drums of jeopardy weren't emeralds but the roll of warning that
prescience taps upon the spine, the occult sense of impending danger.
That was why the Elevated went tumpitum-tump! tumpitum-tump! She
would tell Cutty. The drums of fear.
He over there and she here, in darkness; both of them waiting for
something to happen; and the invisible drumsticks beating the tattoo
of fear. If he were in her thoughts might not she be a little in
his? She stood up. She would do it. Convention in a moment like
this was nonsense. Hadn't he kept his side of the line scrupulously?
Nonchalance. It occurred to her for the first time that there must
be good material in a man who could come through in a contest with
death, nonchalant. She would fetch him and have him here to meet
Cutty, this rather forlorn Johnny Two-Hawks, with his unshaven face,
his black eye, and his nonchalance. She would fetch him at once.
It would save a good deal of time.
There were but ten apartments in the building, two on a floor. The
living room formed an L. Kitty's buttressed Gregor's. The elevator
shaft was inside, facing the court; and the stair head was on the
Gregor side of the elevator. The two entrances faced each other
across the landing.
As Kitty opened her door to step outside she was nonplussed to see
two men issue cautiously from the Gregor door. The moment they
espied her, however, there was a mad rush for the stair head. She
could hear the thud of their feet all the way down to the ground
floor; and every footfall seemed to touch her heart. One of them
carried a bundle.
She breathed quickly, and she knew that she was afraid. Neither
man was Johnny Two-Hawks. Something dreadful had happened; she was
sure of it. Reenforcing her sinking courage with nerve energy she
ran across to the Gregor door and knocked. No answer. She knocked
again; then she tried the door. Locked. The flutter in her breast
died away; she became quite calm. She was going to enter this
apartment by the way of the fire escape. The window he had come out
of was still up. She had made note of this from the kitchen. In
returning he had stepped on to the springe of a snare.
She hurried back to her kitchen for the automatic. She hadn't the
least idea how to manipulate it; but she was no longer afraid of it.
Bravely she stepped out on to the fire escape. To reach her
objective she had to walk under the ladder. Danger often puts odd
irrelevancies into the human brain. As she moved forward she
wondered if there was anything in the superstition regarding ladders.
When she reached the window she leaned against the brick wall and
listened. Silence; an ominous silence. The window was open, the
curtain up. Within, what? For as long as five minutes she waited,
then she climbed in.
Now as this bedroom was a counterpart of her own she knew where the
light button would be. She might stumble over a chair or two, but
in the end she would find the light. The fingers of one hand
spread out before her and the other clutching the impossible
automatic, she succeeded in navigating the uncharted reefs of an
unfamiliar room. She blinked for a moment after throwing on the
light, and stood with her back to the wall, the automatic wabbling
at nothing in particular. The room was empty so far as she could
see. There was evidence of a physical encounter, but she could not
tell whether it was due to the former or to the latter invasion.
Where was he? From where she stood she could not see the floor on
the far side of the bed. Timidly she walked past the foot of the
bed - and the transient paralysis of horror laid hold of her. She
became bereft of the power to grasp and hold, and the automatic
slipped from her fingers and thudded on the carpet.
On the floor lay poor Johnny Two-Hawks, crumpled grotesquely, a
streak of blood zigzagging across his forehead; to all appearances,
Twice before in her life Kitty had looked upon death by violence;
and it required only this present picture to convince her that she
would never be able to gaze upon it callously, without pity and
terror. Newspaper life - at least the reportorial side of it - has
an odd effect upon men and women; it sharpens their tragical
instincts and perceptions and dulls eternally the edge of tenderness
and sentimentality. It was natural for Kitty to possess the keenest
perceptions of tragedy; but she had been taken out of the reportorial
field in time to preserve all her tenderness and romanticism.
Otherwise she would have seen in that crumpled object with the
sinister daub of blood on the forehead merely a story, and would
have approached it from that angle. But was he dead? She literally
forced her steps toward the body and stared. She dropped to her
knees because they were threatening to buckle in one of those
flashes of physical incoordination to which the strongest will must
bow occasionally. She was no longer afraid of the tragedy, but she
feared the great surging pity that was striving to express itself
in sobs; and she knew that if she surrendered she would forthwith
become hysterical for the rest of the evening and incompetent to
carry out the plan in her head.
A strong, healthy young man done to death in this fashion only a few
minutes after he had left her kitchen! Somehow she could not look
upon him as a stranger. She had given him food; she had talked to
him; she had even laughed with him. He was not like those dead she
had seen in her reportorial days. Her orbit and Johnny Two-Hawks'
had indeterminately touched; she had known old Gregory, or Gregor,
who had been this unfortunate young man's friend. And he had hoped
they might never meet again!
The murderous scoundrels had been watching. They must have entered
the apartment shortly after he had entered hers. Conceivably they
would have Gregor's key. And they had watched and waited, striking
him down it may have been at the very moment he had crossed the
sill of the window.
Her hand shook so idiotically that it was impossible for a time to
tell if the man's heart was beating. All at once a wave of hot
fury rushed over her - fury at the cowardliness of the assault - and
the vertigo passed. She laid her palm firmly over Johnny Two-Hawks'
heart. Alive! He was alive! She straightened his body and put a
pillow under his head. Then she sought water and towels.
There was no cut on his forehead, only blood; but the top of his
head had been cruelly beaten. He was alive, but without immediate
aid he might die. The poor young man!
There were two physicians in the block; one or the other would be
in. She ran to the door, to find it locked. She had forgotten.
Next she found the telephone wire cut and the speaking tube battered
and inutile. She would have to return to her own apartment
to summon help. She dared not leave the light on. The scoundrels
might possibly return, and the light would warn them that their
victim had been discovered; and naturally they would wish to
ascertain whether or not they had succeeded in their murderous
As she was passing the first-landing windows she saw Cutty emerging
from the elevator. She flew across the fire-escape platform with
the resilient step of one crossing thin ice.
Probably the most astonished man in New York was the war
correspondent when the door opened and a pair of arms were flung
about him, and a voice smothered in the lapel of his coat cried:
"Oh, Cutty, I never was so glad to see any one!"
"What in the name of - "
"Come! We'll handle this ourselves. Hurry!" She dragged him along
by the sleeve.
"But - "
"It is life and death! No talk now!"
Cutty, immaculate in his evening clothes, very much perturbed, went
along after her. As she passed through the kitchen window and
beckoned him to follow he demurred.
"Kitty, what the deuce is going on here?"
"I'll answer your questions when we get him into my apartment. They
tried to murder him; left him there to die!"
Cutty possessed a great art, an art highly developed only in
explorers and newspaper reporters of the first order - adaptability;
of being able to cast aside instantly the conventions of civilization
and let down the bars to the primordial, the instinctive, and the
natural. Thus the Cutty who stepped out beside Kitty into the drizzle
was not the Cutty she had admitted into the apartment. She did not
recognize this remarkable transition until later; and then she
discovered that Cutty, the suave and lackadaisical in idleness, was
a tremendous animal hibernating behind a crackle shell.
Ordinarily Cutty would have declined to come through this shell,
thin as it was; he liked these catnaps between great activities.
But this lovely creature was Conover's daughter, and she would
have the seventh sense-divination of the born reporter. Something
big was in the air.
"Go on!" he said, briskly. "I'm at your heels. And stoop as you
pass those hall windows. No use throwing a silhouette for somebody
in those rear houses to see." . . . Old Tommy Conover's daughter,
sure pop! . . . There you go, under the ladder! You've dished the
whole affair, whatever it is.... No, no! Just spoofing, Kitty. A
long face is no good anywhere, even at a funeral.... This window?
All right. Know where the lights are? Very good."
When Cutty saw the man on the floor he knelt quickly. "Nasty bang
on the head, but he's alive. What's this? His cap. Poughkeepsie.
By George, padded with his handkerchief! Must have known something
was going to fall on him. Now, what's it all about?"
"When we get him to my apartment."
"Yours? Good Lord, what's the matter with this?"
"They tried to kill him here. They might return to see if they had
succeeded. They mustn't find where he has gone. I'm strong. I can
take hold of his knees."
"Tut! Neither of us could walk backward over that fire escape. He
looks husky, but I'll try it. Now obey me without question or
comment. You'll have to help me get him outside the window and in
through yours. Between the two windows I can handle him alone. I
only hope we shan't be noticed, for that might prove awkward. Now
take hold. That's it. When I'm through the window just push
his legs outside." Panting, Kitty obeyed. "All right," said Cutty.
"I like your pluck. You run along ahead and be ready to help me in
with him. A healthy beggar! Here goes."
With a heave and a hunch and another heave Cutty stood up, the limp
body disposed scientifically across his shoulders. Kitty was quite
impressed by this exhibition of strength in a man whom she considered
as elderly - old. There was an underthought that such feats of
bodily prowess were reserved for young men. With the naive conceit
of twenty-four she ignored the actual mathematics of fifty years of
clean living and thinking, missed the physiological fact that often
men at fifty are stronger and tougher than men in the twenties. They
never waste energy; their precision of movement and deliberation of
thought conserve the residue against the supreme moment.
As a parenthesis: To a young woman what is a hero? Generally
something conjured out of a book she has read; the unknown, handsome
young man across the street; the leading actor in a society drama;
the idol of the movie. A hero must of necessity be handsome; that
is the first essential. If he happens to be brave and debonair,
rich and aristocratic, so much the better. Somehow, to be brave and
to be heroic are not actually accepted synonyms in certain youthful
feminine minds. For instance, every maid will agree that her father
is brave; but tell her he is a hero because he pays his bills
regularly and she will accept the statement with a smile of tolerant
Thus Kitty viewed Cutty's activities with a thrill of amazed wonder.
Had the young man hoisted Cutty to his shoulders her feeling would
have been one of exultant admiration. Let age crown its garnered
wisdom; youth has no objections to that; but feats of physical
strength - that is poaching upon youth's preserves. Kitty was not
conscious of the instinctive resentment. At that moment Cutty was
to her the most extraordinary old man in the world.
"Forward!" he whispered. "I want to know why I am doing this movie
stunt." The journey began with Kitty in the lead. She prayed that
no one would see them as they passed the two landing windows. Below
and above were vivid squares of golden light. She regretted the
drizzle; no clothes-laden lines intervened to obscure their progress.
Someone in the rear of the houses in Seventy-ninth Street might
observe the silhouettes. The whole affair must be carried off