Part 4 out of 6
him to understand. I say, you know, I'm going to love that old
thoroughbred! He's fine. Fancy his carrying me on his shoulders
and eventually bringing me up here among the clouds! Americans....
Are you all like that? And you!"
Kitty's brain began to make preparations to alight, as it were.
Cutty. That gave her a touch of earth. She heard herself say
faintly: "And what about me?"
"You were brave and kind. To help an unknown, friendless beggar
like that, when you should have turned him over to the police!
Makes me feel a bit stuffy. They left me for dead. I wonder - "
"If - it wouldn't have been just as well!"
"You mustn't talk like that! You just mustn't! You're with friends,
real friends, who want to help you all they can." And then with a
little flash of forced humour, because of the recurrent tightening
in her throat - "Who could be friendless, with all that money?"
Instantly she felt like biting her tongue. He would know nothing
of the sad American habit of trying to be funny to keep a wobbly
situation on its legs. He would interpret it as heartlessness. "I
didn't mean that!" With the Irish impulsiveness which generally
weighs acts in retrospection, she reached over and gripped his
"I say, you two!" Hawksley closed his eyes for a second. "Wanting
to buck up a chap because you re that sort! All right. I'll stick
it out! You two! And I might be the worst scoundrel unhung!"
He drew her hand toward his lips, and Kitty had not the power to
resist him. She felt strangely theatrical, a character in a play;
for American men, except in playful burlesque, never kissed their
women's hands. The moment he released the hand the old wave of
hysteria rolled over her. She must fly. The desire to weep,
little fool that she was! was breaking through her defences.
Loneliness. The two of them all alone but for Cutty. She rose,
crushing the wallet in her hand.
Ah, never had she needed that darling mother of hers so much as
now. Tears did not seem to afford relief when one shed them into
handkerchiefs and pillows. But on that gentle bosom, to let
loose this brimming flood, to hear the tender voice consoling!
"Oh, I say, now! Please!" she heard Johnny Two-Hawks cry out.
But she rushed on blindly, knocking against the door jamb and almost
upsetting the nurse, who was returning. Somehow she managed to
reach the living room, glad it was dark. Alter sundry reaching about
she found the divan and flung herself upon it. What would he think?
What would the nurse think? That Kitty Conover had suddenly gone
stark, raving crazy! And now that she was in the dark, alone, the
desire to weep passed over and she lay quietly with her face buried
in the pillow. But not for long.
She sat up. Music - violin music! A gay waltz that made her think
of flashing water, the laughter of children. Tschaikowsky. Thrilled,
she waited for the finale. Silence. Scharwenka's "Polish Dance,"
with a swing and a fire beyond anything she had ever heard before.
Another stretch of silence - a silence full of interrogation points.
Then a tender little sketch, quite unfamiliar. But all at once she
understood. He was imploring her to return. She smiled in the dark;
but she knew she was going to remain right where she was.
"Miss Conover?" It was the voice of the nurse.
"Yes. I'm over here on the divan."
"Good gracious, no! I'm overtired. A little hysterical, maybe.
The parade to-day, with all those wounded boys in automobiles, the
music and colour and excitement - have rather done me up. And the
way I rushed up here. And not finding Cutty "
"Anything I can get for you?"
"No, thanks. I'll try to snatch a little sleep before Cutty returns."
"But he may be gone all night!"
"Will it be so very scandalous if I stay here?"
"You poor child! Go ahead and sleep. Don't hesitate to call me if
you want anything. I have a mild sedative if you would like it."
"No, thanks. I did not know that Mr. Hawksley played."
"Wonderfully! But does it bother you?"
"It kind of makes me choky."
"I'll tell him."
Kitty, now strangely at peace, snuggled down among the pillows.
Some great Polish violinist, who had roused the bitter enmity of
the anarchist? But no; he was Russian. Cutty had admitted that.
It struck her that Cutty knew a great deal more than Kitty Conover;
and so far as she could see there was no apparent reason for this
secrecy. She rather believed she had Cutty. Either he should tell
her everything or she would run loose, Bolshevik or no Bolshevik.
Sheep. She boosted one over the bars, another and another. Round
somewhere in the thirties the bars dissolved. The next thing she
knew she was blinking in the light, Cutty, his arms folded, staring
down at her sombrely. There was blood on his face and blood on his
Karlov moodily touched the shoulder of the man on the cot. Stefani
Gregor puzzled him. He came to this room more often than was wise,
driven by a curiosity born of a cynical philosophy to discover what
it was that reenforced this fragile body against threats and thirst
and hunger. He knew what he wanted of Gregor - the fiddler on his
knees begging for mercy. And always Gregor faced him with that
silent calm which reminded him of the sea, aloof, impervious,
exasperating. Only once since the day he had been locked in this
room had Gregor offered speech. He, Karlov, had roared at him,
threatened, baited, but his reward generally had been a twisted
He could not offer physical torture beyond the frequent omissions
of food and water; the body would have crumbled. To have planned
this for months, and then to be balked by something as visible yet
as elusive as quicksilver! Born in the same mudhole, and still
Boris Karlov the avenger could not understand Stefani Gregor the
fiddler. Perhaps what baffled him was that so valiant a spirit
should be housed in so weak a body. It was natural that he, Boris,
with the body of a Carpathian bear, should have a soul to match.
But that Stefani, with his paper body, should mock him! The
The quality of this unending calm was understandable: Gregor was
always ready to die. What to do with a man to whom death was
release? To hold the knout and to see it turn to water in the
hand! In lying he had overreached. Gregor, having accepted as
fact the reported death of Ivan, had nothing to live for. Having
brought Gregor here to torture he had, blind fool, taken away the
fiddler's ability to feel. The fog cleared. He himself had given
his enemy this mysterious calm. He had taken out Gregor's soul and
No. Not quite dissipated. What held the body together was the iron
residue of the soul. Venom and blood clogged Karlov's throat. He
could kill only the body, as he had killed the fiddle; he could not
reach the mystery within. Ah, but he had wrung Stefani's heart there.
There were pieces of the fiddle on the table where Gregor had placed
them, doubtless to weep over when he was alone. Why hadn't he
thought to break the fiddle a little each day?
"Stefani Gregor, sit up. I have come to talk." This was formula.
Karlov did not expect speech from Gregor.
Slowly the thin arms bore up the torso; slowly the legs swung to the
floor. But the little gray man's eyes were bright and quick to-night.
"Boris, what is it you want?"
"To talk" - surprised at this unexpected outburst.
"No, no. I mean, what is it all about - these killings, these
Karlov was ready at all times to expound the theories that appealed
to his dark yet simple mind - humanity overturned as one overturned
the sod in the springtime to give it new life.
"To give the proletariat what is his."
"Ha!" said the little man on the cot. "What is his?"
"That which capitalism has taken away from him."
"The proletariat. The lowest in the human scale - and therefore
the most helpless. They shall rule, say you. My poor Russia!
Beaten and robbed for centuries, and now betrayed by a handful of
madmen - with brains atrophied on one side! You are a fool, Boris.
Your feet are in strange quicksands and your head among chimeras.
You write some words on a piece of paper, and lo! you say they are
facts. Without first proving your theories correct you would ram
them down the throat of the world. The world rejects you."
"Wait and see, damned bourgeoisie!" thundered Karlov, not alive to
the fact that he was being baited.
"Bourgeoisie? Yes, I am of the middle class; the rogue on top and
the fool below. I see. The rogue and the fool cannot combine
unless the bourgeoisie is obliterated. Go on. I am interested."
"Under the soviet the government shall be everything."
"As it was in Prussia."
Karlov ignored this. "The individual shall never again become rich
by exploiting the poor."
Karlov strove to speak calmly. Gregor's willingness to discuss the
aims of the proletariat confused him. He suspected some ulterior
purpose behind this apparent amiability. He must hold down his fury
until this purpose was in the open.
"Well, that is good," Gregor admitted. "But somehow it sounds
ancient on my ear. Was there not a revolution in France?"
"Fool, it is the world that is revolting!" Karlov paused. "And no
man in the future shall see his sister or his daughter made into a
loose woman without redress."
"Your proletariat's sister and daughter. But the daughter of the
noble and the daughter of the
bourgeoisie - fair game!"
Sometimes there enters a man's head what might be called a sick idea;
when the vitality is at low ebb and the future holds nothing. Thus
there was a grim and sick idea behind Gregor's gibes. It was in his
mind to die. All the things he had loved had been destroyed. So
then, to goad this madman into a physical frenzy. Once those
gorilla-like hands reached out for him Stefani Gregor's neck would
"Be still, fiddler! You know what I mean. There will be no upper
class, which is idleness and wastefulness; no middle class, the
usurers, the gamblers of necessities, the war makers. One great
body of equals shall issue forth. All shall labour."
"The common good."
"Your Lenine offered peace, bread, and work for the overthrow of
Kerensky. What you have given - murder and famine and idleness. Can
there be common good that is based upon the blood of innocents? Did
Ivan ever harm a soul? Have I?"
"You!" Karlov trembled. "You - with your damned green stones! Did
you not lure Anna to dishonour with the promise to show her the
drums, the sight of which would make all her dreams come true? A
child, with a fairy story in her head!"
"You speak of Anna! If you hadn't been spouting your twaddle in
taverns you would have had time to instruct Anna against
guilelessness and superstition."
"How much did they pay you? Did you fiddle for her to dance? ... But
I left their faces in the mud!"
A madman, with two obsessions. A pitiable Samson with his arms round
the pillars of society to drag it down upon his head because society
had defiled his sister! Ah, how many thousands in Russia like him!
A great yearning filled Gregor's heart, because he understood; but he
suppressed expression of it because the sick idea was stronger.
"Yes, yes! I loved those green stones because it was born in me to
love beautiful things. Have you forgotten, Boris, the old days in
Moscow, when we were students and I made you weep with my fiddle?
There was hope for you then. You had not become a pothouse orator
on the rights of the proletariat - the red-combed rooster on the
smouldering dungheap! Beauty, no matter in what form, I loved it.
Yes, I was mad about those emeralds. I was always stealing in to
see them, to hold them to the light, simply because they were
beautiful." Gregor's hands flew to his throat, which he bared. "I
lured her there! Twas I, Boris! ... Those beautiful hands of yours,
fit for the butcher's block! Kill me! Kill me!"
But Karlov shrank back, covering his eyes. "No! I see now! You
wish to die! You shall live!" He rushed toward the far wall, a
huge grotesque shadow rising to meet him - his own, thrown upon the
wall by the wavering candlelight. He turned shaking, for the
temptation had been great.
At once Gregor realized his failure. The tenseness went out of him.
He spoke calmly. "Yes, I wanted to die. I no longer possess
anything. I lied, Boris; but it is useless to tell you that. I knew
nothing of Anna until it was too late. I wanted to die."
Karlov began to pace furiously, the candle flame springing after him
each time he passed it.
There was a question in Gregor's mind. It rushed to his lips a dozen
times but he dared not voice it. Olga. Since Karlov could not be
tempted to murder, it would be futile to ask for an additional burden
of mental torture. Perhaps it had not happened - the terrible picture
he drew in his mind - since Karlov had not boasted of it.
"Come, Boris. There is blood on your hands. What is one more daub
Karlov stopped, scowled, and ran his fingers through his hair.
Perhaps some ugly memory stirred the roots of it. "You wish to die!"
Gregor bent his head to his hands and Karlov resumed his pacing.
After a while Gregor looked up.
"Private vengeance. You begin your rule with private vengeance."
"The vengeance of a people. All the breed. Did France stop at
Louis? Do we tear up the roots of the poisonous toadstool that
killed someone we loved and leave the other toadstools thriving?"
"To cure the world of all its ills by tearing up the toadstools and
the flowers together - do you call that justice? The proletariat
shall have everything, and he begins by killing off noble and
bourgeoisie and dividing up the loot! Even with his oppression the
noble had a right to live. The bourgeoisie must die because of his
benefactions to a people. The world for the proletariat, and
damnation for the rest!"
"Let each become one of us," cried Karlov, hoarsely. "We give
them that right."
"You lie! You have done nothing but assassinate them when they
surrendered. But tell me, have not you, Lenine, and Trotzky
"What?" Karlov was vaguely grateful for this diversion. The lust
to kill was still upon him and he was fighting it. He must remember
that Gregor wished to die. "What have we overlooked?"
"Human nature. Can you tear it apart and reconstruct it, as you
would a clock? What of creative genius in this proletariat
millennium of yours?"
"The state will carefully mother that."
Gregor laughed sardonically. "Will there be creative genius under
your rule? Will you not suffocate it by taking away the air that
energizes it - ambition? You will have all the present marvels of
invention to start with, but will you ever go beyond? Have you read
history and observed the inexorable? I doubt it. What is progress?
A series of almost imperceptible steps."
"Which capitalism has always obstructed," flung back Karlov.
"Which capitalism has always made possible. Curb it, yes; but
abolish it, as you have done in unhappy Russia! Why do you starve
there? Poor fool, because you have assassinated those forces which
created food - that is to say, put it where you could get it. Three
quarters of Russia are against you. You read nothing in that? The
efficient and the inefficient, they shall lie down together as the
lion and the ass, to paraphrase. They shall become equal because
you say so. What is, fundamentally, this Bolshevism? The revolt
of the inefficient. The mantle of horror that was Germany's you
have torn from her shoulders and thrown upon yours. Fools!"
The anarch's huge fists became knotted; wrinkles corrugated his
forehead; but he did not stir. Gregor wanted to die.
Gregor pointed with trembling hand toward the brown litter on the
table. "To destroy. You shattered a soul there. You tore mine
apart when you did it. For what? To better humanity? No; to rend
something, to obliterate something that was beautiful. Demolition.
Go on. You will tear and rend until exhaustion comes, then some
citizen king, some headstrong Napoleon, will step in. The French
Revolution taught you nothing. You play 'The Marseillaise' in the
Neva Prospekt and miss the significance of that song. Liberty?
You choose license. Equality? You deny it in your acts.
Fraternity? You slaughter your brothers."
"Be silent!" roared Karlov, wavering.
But Gregor continued with a new-found hope. He saw that his jeers
were wearing down the other's control. Perhaps the weak side was
the political. Karlov was a fanatic. There might yet be death
in those straining fingers.
"To seize by confiscation, without justice, indiscriminately all
that the group efficient laboriously constructed. I enter your
house, kill your family and steal your silver. Are your acts
fundamentally different from mine? Remember, I am speaking from
the point of view as three quarters of Russia see it, and all the
other civilized nations. There may be something magnificent in
that soviet constitution of yours; but you have deluged it in
blood and folly. Ostensibly you are dividing up the great estates,
but actually you are parcelling them out and charging rent. You
will not own anything. The state shall own all the property. What
will be the patriotism of the man who has nothing? Why defend
something that is only his government's, not his own? You are
legalizing women as cows. The sense of motherhood will vanish when
a woman may not select her mate. What is the greatest thing in the
world? The human need of possession. To own something, however
little. The spur of creative genius. Human beings will never be
equal except in lawful privileges. The skillful will outpace the
unskillful; the thrifty will take from the improvident; genius will
overtop mediocrity. And you will change all this with a scrape of
your bloody pen!"
Karlov's body began to rock and sway like an angry bear's; but
still he held his ground. Gregor wanted to die, to cheat him.
"What of power?" went on his baiter. "Capitalism of might. Lenine
and Trotzky; are they - have they been - honest? Has Russia
actually voted them into office? They sit in the seats of the mighty
by the capitalism of force. For the capitalism of money, which is
progress physical and moral, you substitute the capitalism of force,
which is terror. You speak of yourselves as internationalists.
Bats, that is the judgment day of God - internationalism! For
only on the judgment day will nations become a single people."
A short silence. Gregor was beginning to grow weak. Presently he
picked up the thread of his diatribe.
"I have lived in England, France, Italy, and here. I am competent
to draw comparisons. Where you went to distill poison I went to
absorb facts. And I found that here in this great democracy is the
true idea. But you will not read the lesson."
Sweat began to drop from Karlov's beetling eyebrows.
"You will fail miserably here. Why? Because the Americans are the
greatest of individual property owners. The sense of possession is
satisfied. And woe to the fool who suggests they surrender this.
Little wooden houses, thousands and thousands of them, with a small
plot of ground in the rear where a man in the springtime may dig his
hands into the soil and say gratefully to God, 'Mine, mine!' I, too,
am a Russ. I thought in the beginning that you would take this
country as an example, a government of the people, by the people,
for the people. Wrongs? Yes. But day by day these wrongs are
being righted. No lesson in this for Trotzky, a beer-hall orator
like yourself. Ten million men drafted to carry arms. Did they
revolt? Shoulder to shoulder the selected millions marched to the
great ships, shoulder to shoulder they pressed toward the Rhine.
No lesson in that!
"Capitalism, seeking to save its loans, you rant! Capitalism of
blood and money that asked only for simple justice to mankind. The
ideal of a great people - a mixture of all bloods, even German! No
lessons in these tremendous happenings! And you babble about your
damned proletariat who represents the dregs of Russia. What is he?
The inefficient, whining that the other man has the luck, so kill
him! Russia, the kindly ox, fallen among wolves! You cannot tear
down the keystone of civilization - which took seven thousand years
to construct - insert it upside down, and expect the arch to stand.
You have your chance to prove your theories. Prove them in
Petrograd and Moscow, and you will not have to go forth with the
torch. And what is this torch but the hidden fear that you may be
wrong? ... To wreck the world before you are found out! You are
idiots, and you have turned Russia into a madhouse! Spawns from
"Damn you, Stefani Gregor!" Karlov rushed to the cot, raised his
terrible fists, his chest heaving. Gregor waited. "No, no! You
wish to die!" The madman swung on his heels and dashed toward the
door, sweeping the pieces of the violin to the floor as he passed
Gregor feebly drew himself back upon his cot and laid his face in
"Ivan - my violin - all that I knew and loved - gone! And God will
not let me die!"
>From a window in one of the vacant warehouses, twenty-odd feet away
Cutty, from an oblique angle, had witnessed the peculiar drama
without being able to grasp head or tail to it. For two hours he
had crouched behind his window, watching the man on the cot and
wondering if he would ever turn his face toward the candlelight.
Then Karlov had entered. Gregor's ironic calm - with the exception
of the time he had bared his throat - and Karlov's tempestuous exit
baffled him. To the eye it had the appearance of a victory for
Gregor and a defeat for Karlov, but Cutty had long ago ceased to
believe his eyes without some corroborative evidence of auricular
He had recognized both men. Karlov answered to Kitty's description
as an old glove answers to the hand. And no man, once having seen
Gregor, could possibly forget his picturesque head. The old chap
was alive! This fact made the night's adventure tally one hundred
per cent. How to get a cheery word to him, to buck him up with,
the promise of help? A hard nut to crack; so many obstacles.
Primarily, this was a Federal affair. Yonder hid the werewolf and
his pack, and it would be folly to send them scattering just for the
sake of advising Gregor that he was being watched over.
Underneath the official obligation there was a personal interest in
not risking the game to warn Gregor. Cutty was now positive that
the drums of jeopardy were hidden somewhere in this house. To
perform three acts, then: Save Gregor, capture Karlov and his pack,
and privately confiscate the emeralds. Findings were keepings. No
compromise regarding those green stones. It would not particularly
hurt his reputation with St. Peter to play the half rogue once in
a lifetime. Besides, St. Peter, hadn't he stolen something himself
back there in the Biblical days ; or got into a scrape or something?
The old boy would understand. Cutty grinned in the dark.
Any obsession is a blindfold. A straight course lay open to Cutty,
but he chose the labyrinthian because he was obsessed. He wanted
those emeralds. Nothing less than the possession of them would, to
his thinking, round out a varied and active career. Later, perhaps,
he would declare the stones to the customs and pay the duty; perhaps.
Thus his subsequent mishaps this night may be laid to the fact that
he thought and saw through green spectacles.
The idea that the jewels were hidden near by made it imperative that
he should handle this affair exclusively. Coles, the operative he
had sent to negotiate with Karlov, was conceivably a prisoner
upstairs or down. Coles knew about the drums, and they must not
turn up under his eye. Federal property, in that event.
If ever he laid his hands upon the drums he would buy something
gorgeous for Kitty. Little thoroughbred!
Time for work. Without doubt Karlov had cellar exits through this
warehouse or the other. The job on hand would be first to locate
these exits, and then to the trap on the roof. With his pocket lamp
blazing a trail he went down to the cellar and carefully inspected
the walls that abutted those of the house. Nothing on this side.
He left the warehouse and hugged the street wall for a space. The
street was deserted. Instead of passing Karlov's abode he wisely
made a detour of the block. He reached the entrance to the second
warehouse without sighting even a marauding tom. In the cellar of
this warehouse he discovered a newly made door, painted skillfully
to represent the limestone of the foundation. Tiptop.
Immediately he outlined the campaign. There should be two drives
- one from the front and another from the roof - so that not an
anarchist or Bolshevik could escape. The mouth of the Federal sack
should be held at this cellar exit. No matter what kind of game he
played offside, the raid itself must succeed absolutely. Nothing
should swerve him from making these plans as perfect as it was
humanly possible. He would be on hand to search Karlov himself.
If the drums were not on him he would return and pick the old
mansion apart, lath by lath. Gay old ruffian, wasn't he?
Another point worth considering: He would keep his discoveries under
cover until the hour to strike came. Some over-zealous subordinate
might attempt a coup on his own and spoil everything.
He picked his way to the far end of the cellar, to the doors. Locks
gone. He took it for granted that the real-estate agent would not
come round with prospective tenants. These doors would take them
into the trucking alley, where there were a dozen feasible exits.
There was no way out of the house yard, as the brick wall, ten feet
high and running from warehouse to warehouse, was blind. Now for
the trap on the roof.
He climbed the three flights of stairs crisscrossed and festooned
with ancient cobwebs. Occasionally he sneezed in the crook of his
elbow, philosophizing over the fact that there was a lot of deadwood
property in New York. Americans were eternally on the move.
The window from which he intended dropping to the house roof was
obdurate. Only the upper half was movable. With hardly any noise
at all he pulled this down, straddled it, balanced himself, secured
a good grip on the ledge, and let himself down. The tips of his
shoes, rubber-soled, just reached the roof. He landed silently.
The glare of the street lamp at the corner struck the warehouse,
and this indirect light was sufficient to work by. He made the
trap after a series of extra-cautious steps. The roof was slanting
and pebbled, and the least turn of the foot might start a cascade
and bell an alarm. A comfort-loving dress-suiter like himself,
playing Old Sleuth, when he ought to be home and in bed! It was all
of two-thirty. What the deuce would he do when there were no more
thrills in life?
He stooped and caught hold of a corner of the trap to test it - and
drew back with a silent curse. Glass! He had cut his hand. The
beggars had covered the trap with cement and broken glass, sealing
it. It would take time to cut round the trap; and even then he
wouldn't be sure; they might have nailed it down from the inside.
The worst of it was he would have to do the work himself; and in the
meantime Karlov would have a fair wind for his propaganda gas, and
perhaps the disposal of the drums to some collector who wasn't above
bargaining for smuggled emeralds. Odd, though, that Karlov should
have made a prisoner of Coles. What lay behind that manoeuvre?
Well, this trap must be liberated; no getting round that.
Hang it, he wasn't going to be dishonest exactly; it would be simply
a double play, half for Uncle Sam and half for himself. The idea
of offering freely his blood and money to Uncle Sam and at the same
time putting one over on the old gentleman had a novel appeal.
He stood up and wiped a tickling cobweb from his cheek. As the
window from which he had descended came into range he stared,
loose-jawed. Then be chuckled, as thoroughbred adventurers generally
chuckle when they find themselves at the bottom of the sack, the
mouth of which has subitaneously and automatically closed. Wasn't
he the brainy old top? Wasn't he Sherlock Holmes plus? Old fool,
how the devil was he going to get back through that window?
The drums of jeopardy - even to think of them was unlucky! Not to
have planned a retreat; to have climbed down a well and cut the
bucket rope! For in effect that was precisely what he had done.
Only wings could carry him up to that window. With sardonic humour
he felt of his shoulder blades. Not a feather in sight. Then he
touched his ears. Ah, here was something definite; they had grown
several inches during the past few hours. Monumental ass!
Of course there would be the drain. He could escape; but, dear Lord!
with enough noise to wake the dead. And that would write "Finis" to
this particular adventure. The quarry and the emeralds would be
gone before he could return with help. When everything had gone so
smoothly - a jolt like this!
A crowded day, and no mistake, as full of individual acts as a bill
at a vaudeville, trained-animal act last. Was it possible that he
had gone fiddle hunting that morning, netting an Amati worth ten
thousand dollars? Hawksley - no, he couldn't blame Hawksley. Still,
if this young Humpty-Dumpty hadn't been pushed off his wall he,
Cutty, would not now be marooned upon this roof 'twixt the devil
and the deep blue sea. To remain here until sunrise would be
impossible; to slide down the drain was equally impossible - that
is, if he ever wanted to see Boris Karlov again. The way of the
transgressor was hard.
He sat on his heels and let his gaze rove four-square, permitting
no object to escape. He saw a clothes pole leaning against the
chimney. Evidently the former tenants had hung up their laundry
here. There was no clothesline, however. Caught, jolly well,
blooming well caught! If ever this got abroad he would be laughed
out of the game. He wasn't going to put one over on Uncle Sam after
all. There might be some kind of a fire escape on the front of
the house. No harm in taking a look; it would serve to pass the
There was the usual frontal parapet about three feet in height.
Upturned in the shadow lay a gift from the gods-a battered kitchen
chair, probably used to reach the clothesline in the happy days when
the word "Bolshevism" was known to only a select few dark angels.
Cutty waved a hand cheerfully if vaguely toward his guiding star,
picked up the chair, commandeered the clothes pole, and silently
manoeuvred to the wall of the warehouse. Standing on the chair he
placed the tip of the pole against the top of the upper frame and
pushed the frame halfway up. He repeated this act upon the obdurate
lower half. He heaved slowly but with all his force. Glory be,
the lower half went up far enough to afford ingress! He would eat
his breakfast in the apartment as usual. To-morrow night he would
establish his line of retreat by fetching a light rope ladder.
There was sweat at the roots of his hair, however, when he finally
gained the street. He was very tired. He observed mournfully that
the vigour which had always recharged itself, no matter how
recklessly he had drawn upon it, was beginning to protest.
Well, his troubles were over for the night. So he believed.
Arriving home, dirty and spent, he had to find Kitty asleep on the
"Kitty," he said, breaking the tableau, "what are you doing here?"
"You've been hurt! There is blood on you!"
"A trifling cut. But I'm hurt, nevertheless, that you should be so
thoughtless as to come here against my orders. It doesn't matter
that Karlov has given up the idea of having you followed. But for
the sake of us all you must be made to understand that we are
dealing with high explosives and poison gas. It's not what might
happen to me or to Uncle Sam's business. It's you. Any moment
they may take it into their heads to get at me and Hawksley through
you. That's why we watch over you. You don't want to see Hawksley
done in, do you? It's real tragedy, Kitty, and nobody can guess
what the end is going to
Kitty's lip quivered. "Cutty, if you talk like that to me I shall
"Good Lord, what about?" - bewildered.
"About everything. I've been on the verge of hysterics all day."
"Kitty, you poor child, what's happened?"
"Nothing - everything. Lonesome. When I saw all those mothers and
wives and sisters and sweethearts on the curb to-day, watching their
boys march by, it hit me hard. I was alone. Nobody. So please
don't be cross with me. I'm on the ragged edge. Silly, I know.
But we women often go to pieces over nothing, without any logical
reason. Ready to face murder and battle and sudden death; and then
to blow up, as you men say it, over nothing. I had to move, go
somewhere, do something; so I came here. But I came on - what do
you call it? - official business. Here!" She offered him the
"Belongs to Johnny Two-Hawks. He hid it that night behind my
flatirons on the range. Why, Cutty, he's rich!"
"Did he show the contents?"
"Only the money and the bonds. He said if he had died the money
and bonds would have been mine.
"Providing Gregor was also dead." Cutty looked into the wallet, but
disturbed nothing. "I imagine these funds are actually Gregor's."
"He told me to give the wallet to you. And so I waited. I fell
asleep. So please don't scold me."
"I'm a brute! But it's because you've become so much to me that
I was angry. You're Tommy and Molly's girl, and I've got to watch
out for you until you reach some kind of a port."
"Thank you for the flowers. You'll never know just what they did
for me. There was somebody who gave me a thought."
"Kitty, I honestly don't get you. A beauty like you, lonesome!"
"That's it. I am pretty. Why should I deny it? If I'd been homely
I shouldn't have been ashamed to invite my friends to my shabby home.
I shouldn't have cold shouldered everybody through false pride. But
where have you been, and what have you been doing?"
"Official business. But I just missed being a fine jackass. I'll
look into the wallet after I've cleaned up. I'm a mess of gore and
dust. Is it interesting stuff?" dreading her answer.
"The wallet? I did not look into it. I had no right."
"Ah! Well, I'll be back in two jigs.
He hurried off, relieved to learn that the secret was still beyond
Kitty's knowledge. Of course Hawksley wouldn't carry anything in
the wallet by which his true identity might be made known. Still,
there would be stuff to excite her interest and suspicion. Hawksley
had shown her some of that three hundred thousand probably. What
He would say nothing about his own adventures and discoveries. He
worked on the theory that the best time to tell about something was
after it had become a fact. But no theory is perfect; and in this
instance his reticence was going to cost him intolerable agony in
the near future.
Within a quarter of an hour he was back in the living room. Kitty
was out of sight; probably had curled up on the divan again. He
would not disturb her. Hawksley's wallet! He drew a chair under
the reading lamp and explored the wallet. Money and bonds he rather
expected, but the customs appraiser's receipt was like a buffet.
The emeralds belonged honorably to his guest! All his own plans
were knocked galley-west by this discovery.
An odd sense of indignation blazed up in him, as though someone had
imposed upon him. The sport was gone, the fun of the thing; it
became merely official business. To appropriate a pair of smuggled
emeralds was a first-class sporting proposition, with a humorous
twist. As it stood now, he would be picking Hawksley's pocket; and
he wasn't rogue enough for that. Hang the luck!
Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, and diamonds! No doubt many of
them with histories - in a bag hung to his neck - and all these
thousands of miles! Not since the advent of the Gaekwar of Baroda
into San Francisco, in 1910, had so many fine stones passed through
that port of entry.
But why hadn't Hawksley inquired about them? Stoic indifference?
A good loser? How had he got through the customs without a lot of
publicity? The Russian consul of the old regime probably; and an
appraiser who was a good sport. To have come safely to his
destination, and then to have lost out! The magnificent careless
generosity of putting the wallet behind Kitty's flatirons, to be
hers if he didn't pull through! Why, this fiddling derelict was
a man! Stood up and fought Karlov with his bare fists; wasn't
ashamed to weep over his mother's photograph; and fiddled like
Heifetz. All right. This Johnny Two-Hawks, as Kitty persisted in
calling him, was going to reach his Montana ranch. His friend Cutty
would take it upon himself to see to that.
It struck him that after all he would have to play the game as he
had planned it. Those gems falling into the hands of the Federal
agents would surely bring to light Hawksley's identity; and Hawksley
should have his chance.
Cutty then came upon the will. Somehow the pathos of it went deep
into his heart. The poor devil! - a will that hadn't been witnessed,
the handwriting the same as that on the passport. If he had fallen
into the hands of the police they would have justifiably locked him
up as a murder suspect. Two-Hawks! It was a small world. He
returned the contents to the wallet, leaving out the will, however.
This he thrust into a drawer.
"Coffee?" said Kitty at his elbow.
"Kitty? I'd forgotten you! I thought I smelt coffee. Just what I
wanted, too, only I hadn't brains enough left to think of it. Smells
better than anything Kuroki makes.... Tastes better, too. You're
going to make some lucky duffer a fine wife."
"Is there anything you can tell me, Cutty?"
"A whole lot, Kitty; only I'm twenty years too old."
"I mean the wallet. Who is he?"
Cutty drained the cup slowly. A good coherent lie, to appease
Kitty's curiosity; half a truth, something hard to nail. He set
down the empty cup, building. By the time he had filled his pipe
and lit it he was ready.
Something bored up through the subconscious, however - a query. Why
hadn't he told her the plain truth at the start? Wasn't on account
of the drums. He hadn't kept her in the dark because of the drums.
He could have trusted her with that part of it - his tentative
piracy. That to divulge Hawksley's identity would be a menace to
her peace of mind now appeared ridiculous; and yet he had worked
forward from this assumption. No answer to the query. Generally
he thought clearly enough; but somewhere along this route he had
made a muddle of things and couldn't find the spot. The only point
clearly defined was that he should wish to keep her out of the
affair because there were elements of positive danger. But somewhere
inside of him was a question asking for recognition, and it eluded
him. Nothing could be solved until this question got out of the fog.
Even now he might risk the whole truth; but the lie he had woven
appeared too good to waste.
Human frailty. The most accomplished human being is the finished
liar. Never to forget a detail, to remember step by step the
windings, over a ticklish road. And Cutty, for all his wide
newspaper experience, was a poor liar because he had been brought
up on facts. Perhaps his lie might have passed had he not been so
fagged. The physical labours of the night had dulled his
"Ab, but that tastes good!" - as he blew forth a wavering ring of
"It ought to have at least one merit," replied Kitty, wrinkling her
nose. What a fine profile Cutty had! "Now, who and what is he?
I'm dying to know."
"An odd story; probably hundreds like it. You see, the Bolsheviki
have driven out of the country or killed all the nobles and
bourgeoisie. Some of them have escaped - into China, Sweden, India,
wherever they could find an open route. To his story there are many
loose ends, and Hawksley is not the talking kind. You mustn't repeat
what I tell you. Hawksley, with all that money and a forged English
passport, would have a good deal of trouble explaining if he ran
afoul the police. There is no real proof that the money is his or
Gregor's. As a matter of fact, it is Gregor's, and Hawksley was
bringing it to him. Hawksley is Gregor's protege."
Kitty nodded. This dovetailed with what Johnny Two-Hawks had told
her that night.
"How the two came together originally I don't know. Gregor was in
his younger days a great violinist, but unknown to the American
public. Early in his career he speculated with his concert earnings
and turned a pot of money. He dropped the professional career for
that of a country gentleman. He had a handsome estate, and lived
sensibly. He sent Hawksley to England to school and spent a good
deal of time there with him, teaching him how to play the fiddle,
for which it seems Hawksley had a natural bent. He had to Anglicize
his name; for Two-Hawks would have made people laugh. To be a
gentleman, Kitty, one does not have to be a prince or a grand duke.
Gregor was a polished gentleman, and he turned Hawksley into one."
Again Kitty nodded, her eyes sparkling.
"The Russ - the educated Russ - is a queer biscuit. Got to have a
finger in some political pie, and political pies in Russia before
the war were lese-majesty. The result - Gregor got in wrong with
his secret society and the political police and was forced to fly
to save his life. But before he fled he had all his convertible
funds transferred. Only his estate was confiscated. Hawksley was
in London when the war broke out. There was a lot of red tape,
naturally, regarding the funds. I shan't bother you with that,
Hawksley, hoping to better his protector's future, returned to
Russia and joined his regiment and fought until the Czar abdicated.
Foretasting the trend of events, he tried to get back to England,
but that was impossible. He was permitted to retire to the Gregor
estate, where he remained until the uprising of the Bolsheviki.
Then he started across the world to join Gregor."
"That was brave."
"It certainly was. I imagine that Hawksley's journey has that of
Ulysses laid away on the shelf. Karlov was the head of the
society which had voted Gregor's death. So he had agents watching
Hawksley. And Karlov himself undertook the chase across Russia,
China, and the Pacific."
"I'm glad I gave him something to eat. But Gregor, a valet in a
hotel, with all that money!"
"The red tape."
"What a dizzy world we live in, Cutty!"
"Dizzy is the word." Cutty sighed. His yarn had passed a very shrewd
censor. "Karlov feels it his duty to kill off all his countryman
who do not agree with his theories. He wanted these funds here, but
Hawksley was too clever for him. Remember, now, not a word of this
to Hawksley. I tell you this in confidence."
"You'll have to spend the night here. It's round four, and the power
has been shut off. There's the stairs, but it would be dawn before
you reach the street."
"I do. I don't believe you're in a good mood to send back to that
garlicky warren. I wish to the Lord you'd leave it!"
"It's difficult to find anything desirable within my means. Rents
are terrifying. I'll sleep on the divan. A rug or a blanket. I'm
a silly fool, I suppose."
"You can have a guest room."
"I'd rather the divan; less scandalous. Cutty, I forgot. He played
"What? He did?"
"I had to run out of the room because some things he said choked me
up. Didn't care whether he died or not. He was even lonelier than
I. I lay down on the divan, and then I heard music. Funny, but
somehow I fancied he was calling me back; and I had to hang on to
the divan. Cutty, he is a great violinist."
"Are you fond of music?"
"I am mad about it! I'm always running round to concerts; and I'd
walk from Battery to Bronx to hear a good violinist."
Fiddles and Irish hearts. Swiftly came the vision of Hawksley
fiddling the heart out of this lonely girl - if he had the chance.
And he, Cutty, was going to fascinate her - with what? He rose and
took her by the shoulders, bringing her round so that the light was
full in her face. Slate-blue eyes.
"Kitty, what would you say if I kissed you?" Inwardly he asked:
"Now, what the devil made me say that?"
The sinister and cynical idea leaped from its ambush. "Why, Cutty,
I - I don't believe I should mind. It's - it's you!" Vile wretch
that she was!
Cutty, noting the lily succeeding the rose, did not kiss her. Fate
has a way of reversing the illogical and giving it logical semblance.
It was perfectly logical that he should not kiss her; and yet that
was exactly what he should have done. The fatherliness of the
salute - and he couldn't have made it anything else - would have
shamed Kitty's peculiar state of mind out of existence and probably
sent back to its eternal sleep that which was strangely reawaking
in his lonely heart.
"Forgive me, Kitty. That wasn't exactly nice of me, even if I was
trying to be funny."
She tore away from him, flung herself upon the divan, her face in
the pillows, and let down the dam.
This wild sobbing - apparently without any reason terrified Cutty.
He put both hands into his hair, but he drew them out immediately
without retaining any of the thinning gray locks. Done up, both of
them; that was the matter. He longed to console her, but knew not
what to say or how to act. He had not seen a woman weep like this
in so many years that he had forgotten the remedies.
Should he call the nurse? But that would only add to Kitty's
embarrassment, and the nurse would naturally misinterpret the
situation. He couldn't kneel and put his arms round her; and yet
it was a situation that called for arms and endearments. He had
sense enough to recognize that. Molly's girl crying like that, and
he able to do nothing! It was intolerable. But what was she
Covering the divan was a fine piece of Bokhara embroidery. He drew
this down over Kitty and tucked her in, turned off the light, and
Kitty's sobs died eventually. There was an occasional hiccup. That,
too, disappeared. To play - or even think of playing - a game like
that! She was despicable. A silly little fool, too, to suppose
that so keen a mind as Cutty's would not see through the artifice!
What was happening to her that she could let such a thought into her
By and by she was able to pick up Cutty's narrative and review it.
Not a word about the drums of jeopardy, the mark of the thong
round Hawksley's neck. Hadn't she let him know that she knew the
author of that advertisement offering to buy the drums, no
questions asked? Very well, then; if he would not tell her the
truth she would have to find it out herself.
Meanwhile, Cutty sat on the edge of his bed staring blankly at the
rug, trying to find a pick-up to the emotions that beset him. One
thing issued clearly: He had wanted to kiss the child. He still
wanted to kiss her. Why hadn't he? Unanswerable. It was still
unanswerable even when the pallor of dawn began slowly to absorb the
artificial light of his bed lamp.
When Cutty awoke - having had about two hours' sleep - he was
instantly conscious that the zest had gone from the adventure. It
had resolved itself into official business into which he had
projected himself gratuitously; and having assumed the offices of
chief factor, he would have to see the affair through, victim of
his own greediness. It did not serve to marshal excuses. He had
frankly entered the affair in the role of buccaneer; and here he
was, high and dry on the reef.
The drums of jeopardy, so far as he was concerned, had been shot
into the moon two hundred thousand miles out of reach. He found
himself resenting Hawksley's honesty in the matter of the customs.
But immediately this sense of resentment caused him to chuckle.
Certainly some ancestor of his had been a Black Bart or a Galloping
He would put a few straight questions to Hawksley, however. To have
lost all those precious stones and not to have inquired about them
was a bit foggy, wasn't normal, human. Unless - bang on the plexus
came the thought! - the beggar had hidden them himself. He had been
exceedingly clever in hiding the wallet. Come to think of it, he
hadn't mentioned that, either. Of course he had hidden the stones
- either in Gregor's apartment or m Kitty's. Blind as a bat. Now
he understood why Karlov had made a prisoner of Coles. The old
buzzard had sensed a trap and had countered it. The way of the
transgressor was hard. His punishment for entertaining a looter's
idea would be work when he wanted to loaf and enjoy himself.
Arriving at Hawksley's door he was confronted by a spectacle not
without its humorous touch: The nurse extending a bowl and Hawksley
staring at the
sky beyond the window, stonily.
"But you must!" insisted Miss Frances.
"Chops or beefsteak!"
"It will give you nausea."
"Permit me to find out. Dash it, I'm hungry!" Hawksley declared.
"I'm no fever patient. A smart rap on the head; nothing more than
that. Healthy food will draw the blood down from there. Haven't
lost anything but a few hours of consciousness, and you treat me
as though I'd been jolly well peppered with shrapnel and gassed.
Touch that stuff? Rather not! Chops or beefsteak!"
"Let him have it, Miss Frances," advised Cutty from the doorway.
"But it's unusual," replied the nurse as a final protest.
"Give it a try. Is he strong enough to sit up through breakfast?"
"He's really not fit. But if he insists on doing the one he might
as well do the other."
"Righto!" - from the patient.
"Will you tell Kuroki to make it a beefsteak breakfast for four?
I know how Mr. Hawksley feels. Been through the same bout." Cutty
wanted Miss Frances out of the room.
"Very well. Only, I've warned him." Miss Frances left, somewhat
"Thanks," said Hawksley, smiling. "She thinks I'm a canary."
"Whereas you're an eagle."
"Or a vulture."
Cutty chew up a chair. "Frankly, I believe a good breakfast will
put you a peg up."
"A beefsteak!" Hawksley stared ecstatically at the ceiling. "You
see, I'm naturally tough. Always went in for rough sports - football,
rowing, boxing. Poor old Stefani's idea; and not so bad, either. Of
course he was always worrying about my hands; but I always took great
care to keep them soft and pliant. Which sounds rummy, considering
the pounding I used to give and take. My word, I used to go to bed
with my hands done up in ointments like a professional beauty! Of
course I'm dizzy yet, and the bally spot is sore; but solid food
and some exercise will have me off your hands in no time. I don't
fancy being coddled, y'know. I've been trouble enough."
"Don't let that worry you. I'll bring some togs in; flannels and
soft shirts. We're about the same height. Anyhow, the difference
won't be noticeable in flannels. I've had to tell Miss Conover a
bit of fiction. I'll tell you, so if need arises you can back me up.
When Cutty finished his romance Hawksley frowned. "All said and
done, if I'm not that splendid old chap's protege, what am I? But
for his patience and kindness I'd have run true to the blood. He
was with me at the balancing age, when a chap becomes a man or a
rotter. He actually gave up a brilliant career because of me. He
is a great musician, with that strange faculty of taking souls out
of people and untwisting them. I have the gift, too, in a way; but
there's always a bit of the devil in me when I play. Natural bent,
I fancy. And they've killed him!"
"No," said Cutty, slowly. "But this is for your ear alone: He's
alive; and one of these days I'll bring him to you. So buck up."
"Alive! Stefani alive!" whispered Hawksley. He stretched out his
hand rather blindly, and Cutty was surprised at the strength of the
grip. "Makes me feel choky. I say, are all Americans good
Cutty put this aside because he did not care to disillusion Hawksley.
"I found an appraiser's receipt in your wallet. You carried some
fine jewels. Did you hide them or did Karlov get them? It struck
me as odd that you haven't inquired about them." The change that
came into Hawksley's face alarmed Cutty. The rich olive skin became
chalky and the eyes closed. "What is it? Shall I call Miss Frances?"
"No." Hawksley opened his eyes, but looked dully straight ahead.
"The stones! I was trying to forget! My God, I was trying to forget!"
"But they were yours?" Cutty was mystified beyond expression.
"Yes, mine, mine, mine!" - panting. "Damn them! Some day I'll tell
you. But just now I can't toe the mark. I was trying to forget
them! Against my heart, gnawing into my soul like the beetle of the
Spanish Inquisition!" Silence. "But they were future bread and
butter - for Gregor as well as for myself. They got them, and may
they damn Karlov as they have damned me! I had no chance when I
returned to Gregor's. They were on me instantly. I put up a fight,
but I'd come from a lighted room and was practically blind. Let
them go. Most of those stones came out of hell, anyhow. Let them
go. There is an unknown grave between those stones and me."
The level despair of the tone appalled Cutty. A crime somewhere?
There was still a bottom to this affair he had not plumbed? He rose,
"I'll fetch those togs for you. Miss Conover will breakfast with us,
and the sight of her will give you a brace. I'm sorry. I had to
"Beefsteak and a pretty girl! That's something. I suppose she was
trapped by the lift not running." Hawksley was trying to meet Cutty
halfway to cover up the tragedy. "I say, why the deuce do you let
her live where she does?"
"Because I'm not legally her guardian. She is the daughter of the
man and woman I loved best. All I can do is to watch over her. She
lives on her earnings as a newspaper writer. I'd give her half of
all I have if I had the least idea she would accept it."
"Fond of her?"
"Fond of her!" repeated Cutty. "Why, of course I'm fond of her!"
There was a touch of indignation in his tone.
"Is she fond of you?"
"I suppose so." What was the chap driving at?
"Then marry her," suggested Hawksley with a cynical smile; "make a
settlement and give her her freedom. Simple enough. What?"
Cutty stepped back, stunned and terrified. "She would laugh at me!"
"You never can tell," replied Hawksley, maintaining the crooked
smile. The devil was blazing in his eyes now. "Try it. It's being
done every day; even here in this big America of yours. From the
European point of view you have compromised her - or she has
compromised herself, by spending the night here. Convention has
been disregarded. A ripping good chance, I call it. You tell me
she wouldn't accept benefits, and you want to help her. If she's
the kind I believe her to be, even if she refuses you she will not
be angry. You never can tell what woman will or won't do."
An old and forgotten bit of mental machinery began to set up a
ditter-datter in Cutty's brain. Marry Kitty? Make a settlement,
and then give her her freedom? Rot! Girls of Kitty's calibre were
above such expediencies. He tried to resurrect his interest in the
drums of jeopardy, which he might now appropriate without having to
shanghai his conscience. The clitter-clatter smothered it; indeed,
this new racket upset and demoralized the well-ordered machinery of
his thinking apparatus as applied daily. Marry Kitty!
"I'm old enough to be her father."
"What's that to do with it so long as convention is satisfied?"
Cutty was so shaken and confused that he missed the tragic irony of
the voice. All the receptive avenues to his brain seemed to have
shut down suddenly. He was conscious only of the clitter-clatter.
"You can't settle money on her," went on Hawksley, "without scandal.
You can't offer her anything without offending her. And you can't
let her go to rust without having her bit of good times."
"Utterly impossible," said Cutty, to the idea rather than to his
"Oh, of course, if you have an affair - No, God forgive me, I don't
mean that! I'm a damned ingrate! But your bringing up those stones
and knocking off the top of all the misery piling up in my heart! I
was only trying to hurt you, hurt myself, everybody. Please have a
little patience with me, for I've come out of hell!" Hawksley turned
aside his head.
"Buck up," said Cutty, his blazing wrath dropping to a smoulder.
"I'll fetch those togs."
What had the boy done to fill him with such tragic bitterness? Was
he Two-Hawks? Cutty dismissed this doubt instantly. He recalled
the episode of the boy's conduct when confronted by the photograph
of his mother. No human being could be a play actor in such a
moment. The boy's emotion had been deep and real. Cutty recognized
the fact that he had become as a block in the middle of a Chinese
puzzle; only Fate could move him to his appointed place.
But offer marriage to Kitty so that he could provide for her!
Mechanically he rummaged his clothes press for the suit he was to
take to Hawksley. Well, why not? He could settle five thousand a
year on her. His departure for the Balkans - he might be gone a
year or more - could be legally construed as desertion. And with
pretty clothes and freedom she would soon find some young chap to
her liking. But would a girl like Kitty see it from his point of
view? The marriage could take place an hour or two before he went
aboard his ship. Hang it, Hawksley wasn't so far off. Kitty
couldn't possibly be offended if he laid the business squarely on
the table. To provide for Molly's girl!
When Kuroki announced that breakfast was ready, Cutty went into the
living room for Kitty, whom he bad not yet seen. He found her by a
window fascinated by the splendour of the panorama as seen in the
morning light. Not a vestige of the tears and disorder in which
he had left her. What had been behind those tears? Dainty and
refreshing; to the eye as though she had stepped out of a bandbox.
Compromised? That was utter rot! Wasn't Miss Frances here?
Clitter-clatter, clitter-clatter. But Cutty was not aware that it
was no longer in his head but in his heart.
"Breakfast is served, Your Highness," he announced with a grave
Kitty pirouetted. For some reason she could not explain to herself
she wanted to laugh, sing, dance. Perhaps it was because she was
only twenty-four. Or it might have had its origin in the tonicky
awakening among all these beautiful furnishings.
She assumed a haughty expression - such as the Duchess of Gerolstein
assumes when she appoints the private to the office of generalissimo
- and with a careless wave of the hand said: "Summon His Highness!"
Between Cutty's heart and his throat there was very little space at
that moment for the propelment of sound. Kitty Conover had
innocently - he understood that almost immediately and recovered
his mental balance - Kitty had innocently thrown a bomb at his feet.
It did not matter that it was a dud. The result was the same. For
a second, then, all the terror, all the astounding suspension of
thought and action attending the arrival of a shell on the
battlefield were his. As an aftermath he would have liked very
much to sit down. Instead, maintaining the mock gravity of his
expression, he offered his arm, which Kitty accepted, still the
Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. Pompously they marched into the
dining room. But as Kitty saw Hawksley she dropped the air
confusedly, and hesitated. "Good gracious!" she whispered.
"What's the matter?" Cutty whispered in turn.
"What's the matter with 'em?"
"I slept in them!"
If that wasn't like a woman! It did not matter how she might look
to an old codger, aetat. fifty-two; he didn't count. But a handsome
young chap, now, in white flannels and sport shirt, his head
bound picturesquely -
"Don't let that bother you," he said. "Those duds of his are mine."
Still, Cutty was grateful for this little diversion. As he drew
back Kitty's chair he was wholly himself again. At once he dictated
the trend of the conversation, moved it whither he willed, into
strange channels, gave them all a glimpse of his amazing versatility,
with vivid shafts of humour to light up corners.
Kuroki, who had travelled far with his master these ten years,
sometimes paused in his rounds to nod affirmatively.
Hawksley listened intently, wondering a bit. What was the dear old
beggar's idea, throwing such fireworks round at breakfast? He stole
a glance at Kitty to see how she was taking it - and caught her
stealing a glance at him. Instantly both switched back to Cutty.
Shortly the little comedy was repeated because neither could resist
the invisible force of some half-conscious inquiry. Third time,
they smiled unembarrassedly. Mind you, they were both hanging upon
Cutty's words; only their eyes were like little children at church,
restless. It was spring.
Without being exactly conscious of what he was doing, Hawksley began
to dress Kitty - that is, he visualized her in ball gowns, in sports,
in furs. He put her on horses, in opera boxes, in limousines. But
in none of these pictures could he hold her; she insisted upon
returning to her kitchen to fry bacon and eggs.
Then came a twisted thought, rejected only to return; a surprising
thought, so alluring that the sense of shame, of chivalry, could not
press it back. Cutty's words began to flow into one ear and out of
the other, without sense. There was in his heart - put there by
the recollection of the jewels - an indescribable bitterness, a
desperate cynicism that urged him to strike out, careless of friend
or foe. Who could say what would happen to him when he left here?
A flash of spring madness, then to go forth devil-may-care.
She was really beautiful, full of unsuspected fire. To fan it into
white flame. The whole affair would depend upon whether she cared
for music. If she did he would pluck the soul out of her. She had
saved his life. Well, what of that? He had broken yonder man's
bread and eaten his salt. Still, what of that? Hadn't he come from
a race of scoundrels? The blood - he had smothered and repressed
it all his life - to unleash it once, happen what might. If she
were really fond of music!
Once again Kitty's glance roved back to Hawksley. This time she
encountered a concentration in his unwavering stare. She did not
quite like it. Perhaps he was only thinking about something and
wasn't actually seeing her. Still, it quieted down the fluttering
gayety of her mood. There was a sun spot of her own that became
visible whenever her interest in Cutty's monologue lagged. Perhaps
Hawksley had his sun spot.
"And so," she heard Cutty say. "Mr. Hawksley is going to become
an American citizen. Kitty, what are some of the principles of good
"To be nice to policemen. Not to meddle with politics, because it
is vulgar. To vote perfunctorily. To 'let George do it' when there
are reforms to be brought about. To keep your hat on when the flag
goes by because otherwise you will attract attention. To find fault
without being able to offer remedies. To keep in debt because life
here in America would be monotonous without bill collectors."
Cutty interrupted with a laugh. "Kitty, you'll 'scare Hawksley off
"Let him know the worst at once," retorted Kitty, flashing a smile
at the victim.
"Spoofing me - what?" said Hawksley, appealing to his host.
This quality of light irony in a woman was a distinct novelty to
Hawksley. She had humour, then? So much the better. An added
zest to the game he was planning. He recalled now that she was
not of the clinging kind either. A woman with a humorous turn of
mind was ten times more elusive than a purely sentimental one.
Give him an hour or two with that old Amati - if she really cared
for music! She would be coming to the apartment again - some
afternoon, when his host was out of the way. Better still, he
would call her by telephone; the plea of loneliness. Scoundrel?
Of course he was. He was not denying that. He would embark
upon this affair without the smug varnish of self-lies. Fire - to
play with it!
He ate his portion of beefsteak, potatoes, and toast, and emptied
his coffee cup. It was really the first substantial meal he had
had in many hours. A feeling of satisfaction began to permeate
him. He smiled at Miss Frances, who shook her head dubiously. She
could not quite make him out pathologically. Perhaps she had been
treating him as shell-shocked when there was nothing at all the
matter with his nerves.
Presently Kuroki came in with a yellow envelope, which he laid at
the side of Cutty's plate.
"Telegrams!" exploded Cutty. "Hang it, I don't want any telegrams!"
"Open it and have it over with," suggested Kitty.
"If you don't mind."
It was the worst kind of news - a summons to Washington for
conference. Which signified that the Government's plans were
completed and that shortly he would be on his way to Piraeus.
A fine muddle! Hawksley in no condition to send upon his way;
Kitty's affair unsettled; the emeralds still in camera obscura;
Karlov at liberty with his infernal schemes, and Stefani Gregor
his prisoner. Wild horses, pulling him two ways. A word, and
Karlov would come to the end of his rope suddenly. But if he
issued that word the whole fabric he had erected so painstakingly
would blow away like cardboard. If those emeralds turned up in
the possession of any man but himself the ensuing complications
would be appalling. For he himself would be forced to tell what
he knew about the stones: Hawksley would be thrust conspicuously
into the limelight, and sooner or later some wild anarch would
kill him. Known, Hawksley would not have one chance in a
thousand. Kitty would be dragged into the light and harassed
and his own attitude toward her misunderstood. All these things,
if he acted upon his oath. Nevertheless, he determined to risk
suspension of operations until he returned from Washington. There
was one sound plank to cling to. He had first-hand information
that anarchistic elements would remain in their noisome cellars
until May first. If he were not ordered abroad until after that,
no harm would follow his suspension of operations.
"Bad news?" asked Kitty, anxiously.
"Aggravating rather than bad. I am called to Washington. May be
gone four or five days. Official business. Leaves things here a
bit in the air."
"I'll stay as long as you need me," said Miss Frances.
"I'd rather a man now. You've been a brick. You need rest. I've
a chap in mind. He'll make our friend here toe the mark. A
physical instructor, ex-pugilist; knows all about broken heads."
"I say, that's ripping!" cried Hawksley. "Give me your man, and
I'll be off your hands within a week. The sooner you stop fussing
over me the sooner the crack in my head will cease to bother me.
"Kuroki will cook for you and Ryan will put you through the necessary
stunts. The roof, when the weather permits, makes a good exercising
ground. If you'll excuse me I'll do some telephoning. Kuroki, pack
my bag for a five-day trip to Washington. I'll take you down to the
"I don't fancy I ever will quite understand you," said Hawksley,
leaning back in his chair, listlessly. "Honestly, now, you'd be
perfectly justified in bundling me off to some hotel. I have funds.
Why all this pother about me?"
Cutty smiled. "When I tackle anything I like to carry it through.
I want to put you on your train."
"To be reasonably sure that I shan't come back?"
"Precisely" - but without smiling. With a vague yet inclusive nod
Cutty hurried off.
"It is because he is such a thorough sportsman. Mr. Hawksley," Kitty
explained. "Having accepted certain obligations he cannot abrogate
them off. hand."
"Did I bother you last night? I mean, did my fiddling?"
"Mercy, no! From the hurdy-gurdy of my childhood, down to Kubelik
and his successors, I have been more or less music-mad. You play
- wonderfully!" Sudden, inexplicable shyness.
Hawksley smiled. An hour or two with that old Amati.
"I am only an unconventional amateur. You should hear Stefani
Gregor when the mood is on. He puts something into your soul that
makes you wish to go forth at once to do some fine, unselfish
Stefani Gregor! He thought of the clear white soul of the man who
had surrendered imperishable fame to stand between him and the curse
of his blood; who had for ten years stood between his mother and
the dissolute man whom irony had selected for the part of father.
Ten years of diplomacy, tact, patience. Stefani Gregor! There was
the blood, predatory and untamed; and there was the spirit which
the old musician had moulded. He could not harm this girl. Dead
or alive, Stefani Gregor would not permit it.
Hawksley rose slowly and without further speech walked to the
corridor door. He leaned against the jamb for a moment, then went
on to his bedroom.
"I'm afraid that breakfast was too much for him," the nurse ventured.
"An odd young man."
"Very," replied Kitty, rather absently. She was trying to analyze
that flash of shyness.
Meantime, Cutty sat down before the telephone. He wanted Kitty out
of town during his absence. In her present excitable mood he was
afraid to trust her. She might surrender to any mad impulse that
stirred her fancy. So he called up Burlingame. Kitty's chief, and
together they manufactured an assignment that was always a pleasant
recollection to Kitty.
Next, Cutty summoned Professor Billy Ryan to the wire, argued and
cajoled for ten minutes, and won his point. He was always dealing
in futures - banking his favours here and there and drawing checks
against them when needed.
Then he tackled his men and issued orders suspending operations
temporarily. He was asked what they should do in case Karlov came
out into the open. He answered in such an event not to molest him
but to watch and take note of those with whom he associated. There
were big things in the air, and only he himself had hold of all the
threads. He relayed this information to the actual chief of the
local service, from whom he had borrowed his men. There was no
protest. Green spectacles.
Quarter to nine he and Kitty entered a subway car and found a corner
to themselves, while Karlov's agent was content with a strap in the
crowded end of the car.
Karlov for once had outthought Cutty. He had withdrawn his watchers,
confident that after a day or so his unknown opponent would withdraw
his. During the lull Karlov matured his plans, then resumed
operations, calculating that he would have some forty-odd hours'
His agent was clever. He had followed Kitty from Eightieth Street
to the Knickerbocker Hotel. There he had lost her. He had loitered
on the sidewalk until midnight, and was then convinced that the girl
had slipped by. So he had returned to Eightieth Street; but as late
as five in the morning she had not returned.
This agent had followed the banker after his visit to Kitty. He had
watched the banker's house, seen Cutty arrive and depart. Taking a
chance shot in the dark, he had followed Cutty to the office
building, learned that Cutty was the owner and lived in the loft.
As Kitty had not returned home by five he proceeded to take a second
chance shot in the dark, stationing himself across the street from
the entrance to the office building, thereby solving the riddle
uppermost in Karlov's mind. He had found the man in the dress suit.
"Cutty, I'm sorry I was such a booby last night. But it was the best
thing that could have happened. The pentupness of it was simply
killing me. I hadn't any one to come to but you - any one who would
understand. I don't know of any man who has a better right to kiss
me. I know. You were just trying to buck me up."
Clitter-clatter! Clitter-clatter! Cutty stared hard at the cement
floor. Marry her, settle a sum on her, and give her her freedom.
Molly's girl. Give her a chance to play. He turned.
"Kitty, do you trust me?"
"Of all the foolish questions!" She pressed his arm. "Why shouldn't
I trust you?"
"Will you marry me? Wait! Let me make clear to you what I have in
mind. I'm all alone. I loved your mother. It breaks my heart that
while I have everything in the way of luxuries you have nothing. I
can't settle a sum on you - an income. The world wouldn't
understand. Your friends would be asking questions among themselves.
This telegram from Washington means but one thing: that in a few
weeks I shall be on my way to the East. I shall be mighty unhappy
if I have to go leaving you in the rut. This is my idea: marry me
an hour or so before the ship sails. I will leave you a comfortable
income. Lord knows how long I shall be gone. Well, I won't write.
After a year you can regain your freedom on the grounds of desertion.
Simple as falling off a log. It's the one logical way I can help
you. Will you?"
Station after station flashed by. Kitty continued stare through the
window across the way. by and by she turned her face toward him, her
eyes shining with tears.
"Cutty, there is going to be a nice place in heaven for you some day.
I understand. I believe Mother understands, too. Am I selfish? I
can't say No to you and I can't say Yes. Yet I should be a liar if
I did not say that everything in me leaps toward the idea. It is
both hateful and fascinating. Common sense says Yes; and something
else in me says No. I like dainty things, dainty surroundings. I
want to travel, to see something of the world. I once thought I had
creative genius, but I might as well face the fact that I haven't.
Only by accident will I ever earn more than I'm earning now. In a
few years I'll grow old suddenly. You know what the newspaper game
does to women. The rush and hurry of it, the excitements, the
ceaseless change. It is a furnace, and women shrivel up in it
quicker than men."
"There won't be any nonsense, Kitty. An hour before I go aboard my
ship. I'll go back to the job the happiest of men. Molly's girl
taken care of! Just before your father died I promised him I'd keep
an eye on you. I never forgot, but conditions made it impossible.
The apartment will be yours as long as you need it. Kuroki, of
course, goes with me. It's merely going by convention on the blind
side. To leave you something in my will wouldn't serve at all,
I'm a tough old codger and may be marked down for a hale old ninety.
All I want is to make you happy and carefree."
"Cutty, I'd like to curl up in some corner and cry, gratefully. I
didn't know there were such men. I just don't know what to do. It
isn't as if you were asking me to be your wife. And as you say, I
can't accept money. There is a pride in me that rejects the whole
thing; but it may be the same fool pride that has cut away my
friends. I ought to fall on your neck with joy: and here I am
trying to look round corners! You are my father's friend, my
mother's, mine. Why shouldn't I accept the proposition? You are
alone, too. You have a perfect right to do as you please with your
money, and I have an equally perfect right to accept your gifts.
We are all afraid of the world, aren't we? That's probably at the
bottom of my doddering. Cutty, what is love?" she broke off,
"Looking into mirrors and hunting for specks," he answered, readily.
"I mean seriously."
"So do I. Before I went round to the stage entrance to take your
mother out to supper I used to preen an hour before the mirror. My
collar, my cravat, my hair, the nap on my stovepipe, my gloves
- terrible things! And what happened? Your dad, dressed in his
office clothes, came along like a cyclone, walked all over my toes,
and swooped up your mother right from under my nose. Now just look
the proposition over from all angles. Think of yourself; let the
old world go hang. They'll call it alimony. In a year or so you'll
be free; and some chap like Tommy Conover will come along, and bang!
You'll know all about love. Here's old Brooklyn Bridge. I'll see
you to the elevator. All nonsense that you should have the least
Fifteen minutes later he was striding along Park Row. By the swing
of his stride any onlooker would have believed that Cutty was in a
hurry to arrive somewhere. Instead, one was only walking. Suddenly
he stopped in the middle of the sidewalk with the two currents of
pedestrians flowing on each side of him, as a man might stop who
saw some wonderful cloud effect. But there was nothing ecstatical
in his expression; on the contrary, there was a species of bewildered
terror. The psychology of all his recent actions had in a flash
become vividly clear.
An unbelievable catastrophe had overtaken him. He loved Kitty,
loved her with an intense, shielding passion, quite unlike that
which he had given her mother. Such a thing could happen! He
offered not the least combat; the revelation was too smashing to
admit of any doubt. It was not a recrudescence of his love for
Molly, stirred into action by the association with Molly's daughter.
He wanted Kitty for himself, wanted her with every fibre in his
body, fiercely. And never could he tell her - now.
The tragic irony of it all numbed him. Fate hadn't played the
game fairly. He was fifty-two, on the far side of the plateau,
near sunset. It wasn't a square deal.
Still he stood there on the sidewalk, like a rock in the middle of
a turbulent stream, rejecting selfish thoughts. Marry Kitty, and
tell her the truth afterward. He knew the blood of her - loyalest
of the loyal. He could if he chose play that sort of game - cheat
her. He could not withdraw his proposition. If she accepted it he
would have to carry it through. Cheat her.
Kitty hung up her hat and coat. She did not pat her hair or tuck
in the loose ends before the mirror - a custom as invariable as
sunrise. The coat tree stood at the right of the single window,
and out of this window Kitty stared solemnly, at everything and at
Burlingame eyed her seriously. Cutty had given him a glimmer of
the tale - enough to make known to him that this pretty, sensible
girl, though no fault of her own, was in the shadow of some actual
if unknown danger. And Cutty wanted her out of town for a few
days. Burlingame had intended sending Kitty out of town on an
assignment during Easter week. An exchange of telegrams that
morning had closed the gap in time.
"Well, you might say 'Good morning.'"
"I beg your pardon, Burly!" In newspaper offices you belong at
once or you never belong; and to belong is to have your name
sheared to as few syllables as possible. You are formal only to
the city editor, the managing editor, and the auditor.
"What's the matter?"
"I've been set in the middle of a fairy story," said Kitty, "and
I'm wondering if it's worth the trouble to try to find a way out.
A Knight of the Round Table, a prince of chivalry. What would
you say if you saw one in spats and a black derby?"
"Why," answered Burlingame, "I suppose I'd consider July first as
the best thing that could happen to me."
Kitty laughed; and that was what he wanted.
What had that old rogue been doing now - offering Kitty his
eighteen-story office building?
"It's odd, isn't it, that I shouldn't possess a little histrionic
ability. You'd think it would be in my blood to act."
"It is, Kitty; only not to mimic. You're an actress, but the Big
Dramatist writes your business for you. Now, I've got some fairly
good news for you. An assignment."
"Work! What is it?"
"I am going to send you on a visit to the most charming movie queen
in the business. She is going to return to Broadway this autumn,
and she has a trunkful of plays to read. I have found your judgment
ace-high. Mornings you will read with her; afternoons you will
visit. She remembers your mother, who was the best comedienne of
her day. So she will be quite as interested in you as you are
in her. I want you to note her ways, how she amuses herself, eats,
exercises. I want you to note the contents of her beautiful home;
if she likes dogs or cats or horses. You will take a camera and
get half a dozen good pictures, and a page yarn for Easter Sunday.
Stay as long as she wants you to."
Burlingame jerked his thumb toward a photograph on the wall.
"Oh! This will be the most scrumptious event in my life. I'm
wild about her! But I haven't any clothes!"
Burlingame waved his hands. "I knew I'd hear that yodel. Eve
didn't have anything to speak of, but she travelled a lot. Truth
is, Kitty, you'd better dress in monotones. She might wake up to
the fact that you're a mighty pretty young woman and suddenly
become temperamental. She has a husband round the lot somewhere.
Make him think his wife is a lucky woman. Here's all the dope
- introduction, expenses, and tickets. Train leaves at two-fifty.
Run along home and pack. Remember, I want a page yarn. No
flapdoodle or mush; straight stuff. She doesn't need any
advertising. If you go at it right you two will react upon each
other as a tonic.
Kitty realized that this little junket was the very thing she needed
- open spaces, long walks in which to think out her problem. She
hurried home and spent the morning packing. When this heartrending
business was over she summoned Tony Bernini.
"I am going out of town, Mr. Bernini. I may be gone a week."
"All right, Miss Conover." Bernini hid a smile. He knew all about
this trip, having been advised by Cutty over the wire.
"Am I being followed any more?"
"Not that we know of. Still, you never can tell. What's your
destination?" Kitty told him. "Better not go by train. I can get
a fast roadster and run you out in a couple of hours. Right after
lunch you go to the boss's garage and wait for me. I'll take care
of your grips and camera. I'll follow on your heels."
"Anybody would consider that Karlov was after me instead of Hawksley."
Bernini smiled. "Miss Conover, the moment Karlov puts his hands
on you the whole game goes blooey. That's the plain fact. There
is death in this game. These madmen expect to blow up the United
States on May first. We are easing them along because we want the
top men in our net. But if Karlov takes it into his head to get you,
and succeeds, he'll have a stranglehold on the whole local service;
because we'd have to make great concessions to free you."
"Why wasn't I told this at the start?"
"You were told, indirectly. We did not care to frighten you."
"I'm not frightened," said Kitty.
"Nope. But we wish to the Lord you were, Miss Conover. When you
want to come home, wire me and I'll motor out for you."
Another fragment. Karlov's agent sought his chief and found him in
the cellar of the old house, sinisterly engaged. The wall bench
was littered with paraphernalia well known to certain chemists. Had
the New York bomb squad known of the existence of this den, the
short hair on their necks would have risen.
"Well?" greeted Karlov, moodily.
"I have found the man in the dress suit."
"He and the Conover girl left that office building together this
morning, and I followed them to Park Row. This man uses the loft
of the building for his home. No elevator goes up unless you have
credentials. Our man is hiding there, Boris."
Karlov dry-washed his hands. "We'll send him one of the samples if
we fail in regard to the girl. You say she arrives daily at the
newspaper office about nine and leaves between five and six?"
"Every day but Sunday."
"Good news. Two bolts; one or the other will go home."
About the same time in Cutty's apartment rather an amusing comedy
took place. Professor Ryan, late physical instructor at one of
the aviation camps, stood Hawksley in front of him and ran his
hard hands over the young man's body. Miss Frances stood at
one side, her arms folded, her expression skeptical.
"Nothin' the matter with you, Bo, but the crack on the conk."
"Right-o!" agreed Hawksley.
"Lemme see your hands. Humph. Soft. Now stand on that threshold.
That's it. Walk t' the' end o' the hall an' back. Step lively."
"But "began Miss Frances in protest. This was cruelty.
"I'm the doctor, miss," interrupted Ryan, crisply. "If he falls
down he goes t' bed, an' you stay. If he makes it, he follows my
When Hawksley returned to the starting line the walls rocked, there
were two or three blinding stabs of pain; but he faced this unusual
Irishman with never a hint of the torture. A wild longing to be
gone from this kindly prison - to get away from the thought of the
"All right," said Ryan. "Now toddle back t' bed."
"Yep. Goin' t' give you a rub that'll start all your machinery
Docilely Hawksley obeyed. He wasn't going to let them know, but
that bed was going to be tolerably welcome.
"Well!" said Miss Frances. "I don't see how he did it."
"I do," said the ex-pugilist. "I told him to. Either he was a
false alarm, or he'd attempt the job even if he fell down. The
hull thing is this: Make a guy wanta get well an' he'll get well.
If he's got any pride, dig it up. Go after 'em. He hasn't lost
any blood. No serious body wound. A crack on the conk. It
mighta killed him. It didn't. He didn't wabble an' fall down.
So my dope is right. Drop in in a few days an' I'll show yuh."
Miss Frances held out her hand. "You've handled men," she said,
with reluctant admiration.
"Oh, boy! - millions of 'em, an' each guy different. Believe me!
Make 'em wanta."
Cutty attended his conferences. He learned immediately that he was
booked to sail the first week in May. His itinerary began at
Piraeus, in Greece, and might end in Vladivostok. But they detained
him in Washington overtime because he was a fount of information the
departments found it necessary to draw upon constantly. The
political and commercial aspects of the polyglot peoples, what they
wanted, what they expected, what they needed; racial enmities. The
bugaboo of the undesirable alien was no longer bothering official
heads in Washington. Stringent immigration laws were in the making.
What they wanted to know was an American's point of view, based upon
long and intimate associations.
Washington reminded him of nothing so much as a big sheep dog. The
hazardous day was over; the wolves had been driven off and the sheep
into the fold; and now the valiant guardian was turning round and
round and round preparatory to lying down to sleep. For Washington
would go to sleep again, naturally.
Often it occurred to him what a remarkable piece of machinery the
human brain was. He could dig up all this dry information with the
precise accuracy of an economist, all the while his actual thoughts
upon Kitty. His nights were nightmares. And all this unhappiness
because he had been touched with the lust for loot. Fundamentally,
this catastrophe could be laid to the drums of jeopardy.
The alluring possibility of finding those damnable green stones - the
unsuspected kink in his moral rectitude - had tumbled him into this
pit. Had not Kitty pronounced the name Stefani Gregor - in his
mind always linked with the emeralds - he would have summoned an
ambulance and had Hawksley carried off, despite Kitty's protests;
and perhaps he would have seen her but two or three times before
sailing, seen her in conventional and unemotional parts. At any
rate, there would have been none of this peculiar intimacy - Kitty
coming to him in tears, opening her young heart to him and
discovering all its loneliness. If she loved some chap it would
not be so hard, the temptation would not be so keen - to cheat her.
Marry her, and then tell her. This dogged his thoughts like a
murderer's deed, terrible in the watches of the night. Marry her,
and then tell her. Cheat her. Break her heart and break his own.
Fifty-two. Never before had he thought old. His splendid health
and vigorous mentality were the results of thinking young. But now
he heard the avalanche stirring, the whispering slither of the
first pebbles. He would grow old swiftly, thunderously. Kitty's
youth would shore up the debacle, suspend it indefinitely. Marry
her, cheat her, and stay young. Green stones, accursed.
Kitty's days were pleasant enough, but her nights were sieges. One
evening someone put Elman's rendition of Schubert's "Ave Maria" on
the phonograph. Long after it was over she sat motionless in her
chair. Echoes. The Tschaikowsky waltz. She got up suddenly,
excused herself, and went to her room.
Six days, and her problem was still unsolved. Something in her
- she could not define it, she could not reach it, it defied
analysis - something, then, revolted at the idea of marrying Cutty,
divorcing him, and living on his money. There was a touch of
horror in the suggestion. It was tearing her to pieces, this hidden
repellence. And yet this occult objection was so utterly absurd.
If he died and left her a legacy she would accept it gratefully
enough. Cutty's plan was only a method of circumventing this
Comforts, the good things of life, amusements - simply by nodding
her head. Why not? It wasn't as if Cutty was asking her to be
his wife; he wasn't. Just wanted to dodge convention, and give her
freedom and happiness. He was only giving her a mite out of his
income. Because he had loved her mother; because, but for an
accident of chance, she, Kitty, might have been his daughter. Why,
then, this persistent and unaccountable revulsion? Why should she
hesitate? The ancient female fear of the trap? That could not be
it. For a more honourable, a more lovable man did not walk the
earth. Brave, strong, handsome, whimsical - why, Cutty was a catch!
Comfy. Never any of that inherent doubt of man when she was with
him. Absolute trust. An evil thought had entered her head; fate
had made it honourably possible. And still this mysterious
Romance? She was not surrendering her right to that. What was a
year out of her life if afterward she would be in comfortable
circumstances, free to love where she willed? She wasn't cheating
herself or Cutty: she was cheating convention, a flimsy thing at
Windows. We carry our troubles to our windows; through windows we
see the stars. We cannot visualize God, but we can see His stars
pinned to the immeasurable spaces. So Kitty sought her window and
added her question to the countless millions forlornly wandering
about up there, and finding no answer.
But she would return to New York on the morrow. She would not
summon Bernini as she had promised. She would go back by train,
And in his cellar Boris Karlov spun his web for her.
Hawksley heard the lift door close, and he knew that at last he was
alone. He flung out his arms, ecstatically. Free! He would see
no more of that nagging beggar Ryan until tomorrow. Free to put
into execution the idea that had been bubbling all day long in his
head, like a fine champagne, firing his blood with reckless
Quietly he stole down the corridor. Through a crack in the kitchen
door he saw Kuroki's back, the attitude of which was satisfying.
It signified that the Jap was pegging away at his endless studies
and that only the banging of the gong would rouse him. The way was
as broad and clear as a street at dawn. Not that Kuroki mattered;
only so long as he did not know, so much the better.
With careful step Hawksley manoeuvred his retreat so that it brought
him to Cutty's bedroom door. The door was unlocked. He entered
the room. What a lark! They would hide his own clothes; so much
the worse for the old beggar's wardrobe. Street clothes. Presently
he found a dark suit, commendable not so much for its style as for
the fact that it was the nearest fit he could find. He had to roll
up the trouser hems.
Hats. Chuckling like a boy rummaging a jam closet, he rifled the
shelves and pulled down a black derby of an unknown vintage. Large;
but a runner of folded paper reduced the size. As he pressed the
relic firmly down on his head he winced. A stab over his eyes. He
waited doubtfully; but there was no recurrence. Fit as a fiddle.
Of course he could not stoop without a flash of vertigo; but on his
feet he was top-hole. He was gaining every day.
Luck. He might have come out of it with the blank mind of a newborn
babe; and here he was, keen to resume his adventures. Luck. They
had not stopped to see if he was actually dead. Some passer-by in
the hall had probably alarmed them. That handkerchief had carried
him round the brink. Perhaps Fate intended letting him get through
- written on his pass an extension of his leave of absence. Or she
had some new torture in reserve.
Now for a stout walking stick. He selected a blackthorn, twirled it,
saluted, and posed before the mirror. Not so bally rotten. He would
pass. Next, he remembered that there were some flowers in the
dining room - window boxes with scarlet geraniums. He broke off a
sprig and drew it through his buttonhole.
Outside there was a cold, pale April sky, presaging wind and rain.
Unimportant. He was going down into the streets for an hour or so.
The colour and action of a crowded street; the lure was irresistible.
Who would dare touch him in the crowd? These rooms had suddenly
He leaned against the side of the window. Roofs, thousands of them,
flat, domed, pinnacled; and somewhere under one of these roofs