Part 5 out of 6
Stefani Gregor was eating his heart out. It did not matter that
this queer old eagle whom everybody called Cutty had promised to
bring Stefani home. It might be too late. Stefani was old, highly
strung. Who knew what infernal lies Karlov had told him? Stefani
could stand up under physical torture; but to tear at his soul, to
twist and rend his spirit!
The bubble in the champagne died down - as it always will if one
permits it to stand. He felt the old mood seep through the dikes
of his gayety. Alone. A familiar face - he would have dropped on
his knees and thanked God for the sight of a familiar face. These
people, kindly as they were - what were they but strangers?
Yesterday he had not known them; to-morrow he would leave them
behind forever. All at once the mystery of this bubbling idea was
bared: he was going to risk his life in the streets in the vague
hope of seeing some face he had known in the days before the world
had gone drunk on blood. One familiar face.
Of course he would never forget - at any rate, not the girl whose
courage had made possible this hour. Those chaps, scared off
temporarily, might have returned. What had become of her? He was
a1ways seeing her lovely face in the shadows, now tender, now
resolute, now mocking. Doubtless he thought of her constantly
because his freedom of action was limited. He hadn't diversion
enough. Books and fiddling, these carried him but halfway through
the boredom. Where was she? Daily he had called her by telephone;
no answer. The Jap shook his head; the slangy boy in the lift shook
She was a thoroughbred, even if she had been born of middle -class
parentage. He laughed bitterly. Middle class. A homeless,
countryless derelict, and he had the impudence to revert to
comparisons that no longer existed in this topsy-turvy old world.
He was an upstart. The final curtain had dropped between him and
his world, and he was still thinking in the ancient make-up. Middle
class! He was no better than a troglodyte, set down in a new
He heard the curtain rings slither on the pole. Believing the
intruder to be Kuroki he turned belligerently. And there she stood
- the girl herself! The poise of her reminded him of the Winged
Victory in the Louvre. Where there had been a cup of champagne in
his veins circumstance now poured a magnum.
"You!" he cried.
"What has happened? Where are you going in those clothes?" demanded
"I am running away - for an hour or so."
"But you must not! The risks - after all the trouble we've had to
"I shall be perfectly safe, for you are going with me. Aren't you
my guardian angel? Well, rather! The two of us - people, lights,
shop windows! Perfectly splendiferous! Honestly, now, where's the
harm?" He approached her rapidly as he spoke, and before the spell
of him could be shaken off Kitty found her hands imprisoned in his.
"Please! I've been so damnably bored. The two of us in the streets,
among the crowds! No one will dare touch us. Can't you see? And
then - I say, this is ripping ! - we'll have dinner together here.
I will play for you on the old Amati. Please!"
The fire of him communicated to the combustibles in Kitty's soul.
A wild, reckless irony besieged her. This adventure would be
exactly what she needed; it would sweep clear the fog separating
one side of her brain from the other. For it was plain enough
that part of her brain refused to cooperate with the other. A
break in the trend of thought: she might succeed in getting hold
of the puzzle if she could drop it absolutely for a little while
and then pick it up again.
She had not gone home. She had not notified Bernini. She had
checked her luggage in the station parcel room and come directly
here. For what? To let the sense of luxury overcome the hidden
repugnance of the idea of marrying Cutty, divorcing him, and
living on his money. To put herself in the way of visible
temptation. What fretted her so, what was wearing her down to
the point of fatigue, was the patent imbecility of her reluctance.
There would have been some sense of it if Cutty had proposed a
real marriage. All she had to do was mumble a few words, sign
her name to a document, live out West for a few months, and be
in comfortable circumstances all the rest of her life. And she
She would run the streets with Johnny Two-Hawks, return, and dine
with him. Who cared? Proper or improper, whose business was it but
Kitty Conover's? Danger? That was the peculiar attraction. She
wanted to rush into danger, some tense excitement the strain of
which would lift her out of her mood. A recurrent touch of the wild
impulsiveness of her childhood. Hadn't she sometimes flown out into
thunderstorms, after merited punishment, to punish the mother whom
thunder terrorized? And now she was going to rush into unknown
danger to punish Fate - like a silly child! Nevertheless, she would
go into the streets with Johnny Two-Hawks.
"But are you strong enough to venture on the streets?"
"Rot! Dash it all, I'm no mollycoddle! All nonsense to keep me
pinned in like this. Will you go with me - be my guide?"
"Yes!" She shot out the word and crossed the Rubicon before reason
could begin to lecture. Besides, wasn't reason treating her shabbily
in withholding the key to the riddle? "Johnny Two-Hawks, I will go
as far as Harlem if you want me to."
"Johnny Two-Hawks!" He laughed joyously, then kissed her hands.
But he had to pay for this bending - a stab that filled his eyes
with flying sparks. He must remember, once out of doors, not to
stoop quickly. "I say, you're the jolliest girl I ever met! Just
the two of us, what?"
"The way you speak English is wonderful!"
"Simple enough to explain. Had an English nurse from the beginning.
Spoke English and Italian before I spoke Russian."
He seized the wooden mallet and beat the Burmese gong - a flat piece
of brass cut in the shape of a bell. The clear, whirring vibrations
filled the room. Long before these spent themselves Kuroki appeared
on the threshold. He bobbed.
"Kuroki, Miss Conover is dining here with me to-night. Seven
o'clock sharp. The best you have in the larder."
"Yes, sair. You are going out, sair?"
"For a bit of fresh air."
"And I am going with him, Kuroki," said Kitty. Kuroki bobbed again.
"Dinner at seven, sair." Another bob, and he returned to the
kitchen, smiling. The girl was free to come and go, of course, but
the ancient enemy of Nippon would not pass the elevator door. Let
him find that out for himself.
When the elevator arrived the boy did not open the door. He noted
the derby on Hawksley's head.
"I can take you down, Miss Conover, but I cannot take Mr. Hawksley.
When the boss gives me an order I obey it - if I possibly can. On
the day the boss tells me you can go strolling, I'll give you the
key to the city. Until then, nix! No use arguing, Mr. Hawksley."
"I shan't argue," replied Hawksley, meekly. "I am really a prisoner,
"For your own good, sir. Do you wish to go down, Miss Conover?"
The boy swung the lever, and the car dropped from sight.
"I'm sorry," said Kitty.
Hawksley smiled and laid a finger on his lips. "I wanted to know,"
he whispered. "There's another way down from this Matterhorn. Come
with me. Off the living room is a storeroom. I found the key in
the lock the other day and investigated. I still have the key. Now,
then, there's a door that gives to the main loft. At the other end
is the stairhead. There is a door at the foot of the first flight
down. We can jolly well leave this way, but we shall have to return
by the lift. That bally young ruffian can't refuse to carry us up,
Kitty laughed. "This is going to be fun!"
They groped their way through the dim loft - for it was growing dark
outside - and made the stairhead. The door to the seventeenth floor
opened, and they stepped forth into the lighted hallway.
"Now what?" asked Kitty, bubbling.
"The floor below, and one of the other lifts, what?" Twenty minutes
later the two of them, arm in arm, turned into Broadway.
"This, sir," began Kitty with a gesture, "is Broadway - America's
backyard in the daytime and Ali Baba's cave at night. The way of
the gilded youth; the funnel for papa's money; the chorus lady; the
starting point of the high cost of living. We New Yorkers despise
it because we can't afford it."
"The lights!" gasped Hawksley.
"Wreckers' lights. Behold! Yonder is a highly nutritious whisky
blinking its bloomin' farewell. Do you chew gum? Even if you
don't, in a few minutes I'll give you a cud for thought. Chewing
gum was invented by a man with a talkative wife. He missed the
physiological point, however, that a body can chew and talk at the
same time. Come on!"
They went on uptown, Hawksley highly amused, exhilarated, but
frequently puzzled. The pungent irony of her observations conveyed
to him that under this gayety was a current of extreme bitterness.
"I say, are all American girls like you?"
"Heavens, no! Why?"
"Because I never met one like you before. Rather stilted - on their
good behaviour, I fancy."
"And I interest you because I'm not on my good behaviour?" Kitty
"Because you are as God made you - without camouflage."
"The poor innocent young man! I'm nothing but camouflage to-night.
Why are you risking your life in the street? Why am I sharing
that risk? Because we both feel bound and are blindly trying
to break through. What do you know about me? Nothing. What do
I know about you? Nothing. But what do we care? Come on, come on!"
Tumpitum - tump! tumpitum - tump! drummed the Elevated. Kitty
laughed. The tocsin! Always something happened when she heard it.
"Pearls!" she cried, dragging him toward a jeweller's window.
"No!" he said, holding back. "I hate - jewels! How I hate them!"
He broke away from her and hurried on.
She had to run after him. Had she hesitated they might have become
separated. Hated jewels? No, no! There should be no questions,
verbal or mental, this night. She presently forced him to slow down.
"Not so fast! We must never become separated," she warned. "Our
safety - such as it is - lies in being together."
"I'm an ass. Perhaps my head is ratty without my realizing it. I
fancy I'm like a dog that's been kicked; I'm trying to run away
from the pain. What's this tomb?"
"The Metropolitan Opera House."
As they were passing a thin, wailing sound came to the ears of both.
Seated with his back to the wall was a blind fiddler with a tin cup
strapped to a knee. He was out of bounds; he had no right on
Broadway; but he possessed a singular advantage over the law. He
could not be forced to move on without his guide - if he were
honestly blind. Hundreds of people were passing; but the fiddler's
"Last Rose of Summer" wasn't worth a cent. His cup was empty.
"The poor thing!" said Kitty.
"Wait!" Hawksley approached the fiddler, exchanged a few words with
him, and the blind man surrendered his fiddle.
"Give me your hat!" cried Kitty, delighted.
Carefully Hawksley pried loose his derby and handed it to Kitty.
No stab of pain; something to find that out. He turned the
instrument, tucked it under his chin and began "Traumerei." Kitty,
smiling, extended the hat. Just the sort of interlude to make the
adventure memorable. She knew this thoroughfare. Shortly there
would be a crowd, and the fiddler's cup would overflow - that is,
if the police did not interfere too soon.
As for the owner of the wretched fiddle, he raised his head, his
mouth opened. Up there, somewhere, a door to heaven had opened.
True to her expectations a crowd slowly gathered. The beauty of
the girl and the dark, handsome face of the musician, his picturesque
bare head, were sufficient for these cynical passers-by. They
understood. Operatic celebrities, having a little fun on their own.
So quarters and dimes and nickels began to patter into Cutty's
ancient derby hat. Broadway will always contribute generously toward
a novelty of this order. Famous names were tossed about in
Entered then the enemy of the proletariat. Kitty, being a New
Yorker born, had had her weather eye roving. The brass-buttoned
minion of the law was always around when a bit of innocent fun was
going on. As the policeman reached the inner rim of the audience
the last notes of Handel's "Largo" were fading on the ear.
"What's this?" demanded the policeman.
"It's all over, sir," answered Kitty, smiling.
"Can't have this on Broadway, miss. Obstruction." He could not
speak gruffly in the face of such beauty - especially with a
Broadway crowd at his back.
"It's all over. Just let me put this money in the blind man's cup."
Kitty poured her coins into the receptacle. At the same time
Hawksley laid the fiddle in the blind man's lap. Then he turned to
Kitty and boomed a long Russian phrase at her. Her quick wit caught
the intent. "You see, he doesn't understand that this cannot be
done in New York. I couldn't explain."
"All right, miss; but don't do it again." The policeman grinned.
"And please don't be harsh with the blind man. Just tell him he
mustn't play on Broadway again. Thank you!'
She linked her arm in Hawksley's, and they went on; and the crowd
dissolved; only the policeman and the blind man remained, the one
contemplating his duty and the other his vision of heaven.
"What a lark!" exclaimed Hawksley.
"Were you asking me for your hat?"
"I was telling the bobby to go to the devil!"
They laughed like children.
"March hares!" he said.
"No. April fools! Good heavens, the time! Twenty minutes to
seven. Our dinner!"
"We'll take a taxi.... Dash it!"
"Not a bally copper in my pockets!"
"And I left my handbag on the sideboard! We'll have to walk. If
we hurry we can just about make it."
Meantime, there lay in wait for them - this pair of April fools - a
taxicab. It stood snugly against the curb opposite the entrance to
Cutty's apartment. The door was slightly ajar.
The driver watched the south corner; the three men inside never took
their gaze off the north corner.
"But, I say, hasn't this been a jolly lark?"
"If we had known we could have borrowed a dollar from the blind man;
he'd never have missed it."
Champagne in the glass is a beautiful thing to see. So is water,
the morning after. That is the fault with frolic; there is always
an inescapable rebound. The most violent love drops into humdrum
tolerance. A pessimist is only a poor devil who has anticipated the
inevitable; he has his headache at the start. Mental champagnes have
their aftermaths even as the juice of the grape.
Hawksley and Kitty, hurrying back, began to taste lees. They began
to see things, too - menace in every loiterer, threat in every alley.
They had had a glorious lark; somewhere beyond would be the piper
with an appalling bill. They exaggerated the dangers, multiplied
them; perhaps wisely. There would be no let-down in their vigilance
until they reached haven. But this state of mind they covered with
smiling masks, banter, bursts of laughter, and flashes of wit.
They were both genuinely frightened, but with unselfish fear. Kitty's
fear was not for herself but for Johnny Two-Hawks. If anything
happened the blame would rightly be hers. With that head he wasn't
strictly accountable for what he did; she was. A firm negative on her
part and he would never have left the apartment. And his fear was
wholly for this astonishing girl. He had recklessly thrust her into
grave danger. Who knew, better than he, the implacable hate of the
men who sought to kill him?
Moreover, his strength was leaving him. There was an alarming
weakness in his legs, purely physical. He had overdone, and if need
rose he would not be able to protect her. Damnable fool! But she
had known. That was the odd phase of it. She hadn't come blindly.
What mood had urged her to share the danger along with the lark?
Somehow, she was always just beyond his reach, this girl. He would
never forget that fan popping out of the pistol, the egg burning in
The apartment was only three blocks away when Kitty decided to drop
her mask. "I'd give a good deal to see a policeman. They are never
around when you really want them. Johnny Two-Hawks, I'm a little
fool! You wouldn't have left the apartment but for me. Will you
"It is I who should ask forgiveness. I say, how much farther is it?"
"Only about two blocks; but they may be long ones. Let's step into
this doorway for a moment. I see a taxicab. It looks to be standing
opposite the building. Don't like it. Suppose we watch it for a few
Hawksley was grateful for the respite; and together they stared at
the unwinking red eye of the tail light. But no man approached the
cab or left it.
"I believe I've hit upon a plan," said Kitty. "Certainly we have
not been followed. In that event they would have had a dozen
chances. If someone saw us leave together, naturally they will
expect us to return together. We'll walk to the corner of our block,
then turn east; but I shall remain just out of sight while you will
go round the block. Fifteen minutes should carry you to the south
corner. I'll be on watch for you. The moment you turn I'll walk
toward you. It will give us a bit of a handicap in case that taxi
is a menace. If any one appears, run for it. Where's the cane you
"What a jolly ass I am! I remember now. I left the stick against
the wall of the opera house. Blockhead! With a stick, now! ... I'm
"Never mind. Let's start. That taxi may be perfectly honest. It's
our guilty consciences that are peopling the shadows with goblins.
What really bothers us is that we have broken our word to the
kindliest man in all this world."
Hawksley wondered if he could walk round the block without falling
down. He saw that he was facing a physical collapse, hastened by
the knowledge that the safety of the girl depended largely upon
himself. What he had accepted at the beginning as strength had
been nothing more than exhilaration and nerve energy. There was now
nothing but the latter, and only feeble straws at that. Oh, he
would manage somehow; he jolly well had to; and there was a bare
chance of falling in with a bobby. But run? Honestly, now, how
the devil was a chap to run on a pair of spools?
Arriving at the appointed spot they separated. He waved his hand
airily and marched off. If he fell it would be out of sight, where
the girl could not see him. Clever chap - what? Damned rotter!
For himself he did not care. He was weary of this game of hide and
seek. But to have lured the girl into it! When he turned the
first corner of his journey he paused and leaned against the wall,
his eyes shut. When he opened them the sidewalk and the street
lamps were normal again.
As soon as he disappeared a new plan came to Kitty. She put it
into execution at once, on the basis that yonder taxicab was an
enemy machine. She left her retreat and walked boldly down the
street, her eyes alert for the least suspicious sign. If she
could make the entrance before they suspected the trick, she could
obtain help before Johnny Two-Hawks made the south turn. She
reached her objective, pushed through the revolving doors, and
turned. Dimly she could see the taxi driver; but he appeared to
be dozing on the seat.
As a matter of fact, one of the three men in the taxi recognized
Kitty, but too late to intercept her. Her manoeuvre had confused
him temporarily. And while he and his companions were debating,
Kitty had time to summon Cutty's man from Elevator Four.
"Step into the car!" he roughly ordered, after she had given him a
gist of her suspicions. He turned off the lights, stepped out, and
shut the gates with a furious bang. "And stick to the corner! I'll
attend to the other fool."
He rushed into the street, his automatic ready, eyed the taxicab
speculatively, wheeled suddenly, and ran south at a dog-trot. He
rounded the south corner, but he did not see Hawksley anywhere. The
dog-trot became a dead run. As he wheeled round the corner of the
parallel street he almost bumped into Hawksley, who had a policeman
"Officer," said the man with the boy's face, "this is Federal
business. Aliens. Come along. There may be trouble. If there
should be any shooting don't bother with the atmosphere. Pick out
a real target."
"About the size of it."
"Miss Conover?" asked Hawksley.
"Safe. No thanks to you, though. I'd like to knock your block off,
if you want to know!"
"Do it! Damned little use to me," declared Hawksley, sagging.
"Here, what's the matter with you?" cried the policeman, throwing
his arm round Hawksley.
"They nearly killed him a few days gone. A crack on the bean; but
he wasn't satisfied. Help him along. I'll be hiking back."
But the taxicab was gone.
Before Cutty's lieutenant opened the gate to the apartment he spoke
to Hawksley. "The boss is doing everything he can to put you
through, sir. Miss Conover's wit saved you. For if you hadn't
separated they'd have nailed you. I've been running round like a
chicken with its head cut off. I forgot that door on the
seventeenth floor. I tell you honestly, you've been playing with
death. It wasn't fair to Miss Conover."
"It was my fault," volunteered Kitty.
"Mine," protested Hawksley.
"Well, they know where you roost now, for a fact. You've spilled
the beans. I'm sorry I lost my temper. The devil fly away with
you both!" The boy laughed. "You're game, anyhow. But darn it
all, if anything had happened to you the boss would never have
forgiven me. He's the whitest old scout God ever put the breath
of life into. He's always doing something for somebody. He'd give
you the block if you had the gall to ask for it. Play the game
fifty-fifty with him and you'll land on both feet. And you, Miss
Conover, must not come here again."
"I'll tell you a little secret. It was the boss who sent you out
of town. He was afraid you'd do something like this. When you are
ready to go home you'll find Tony Bernini downstairs. Sore as a
crab, too, I'll bet."
"I'll be glad to go home with him," said Kitty, thoroughly chastened
"That's all for to-night."
Kitty and Hawksley stepped out into the corridor, the problem they
had sought to shake off reestablished in their thoughts, added too,
"How do you feel?"
"Top-hole," lied Hawksley. "My word, though, I wobbled a bit going
round that block. I almost kissed the hobby. I say, he thought I'd
been tilting a few. But it was a lark!"
"Dinner is served," announced Kuroki at their elbows. His expression
was coldly bland.
"Dinner!" cried Hawksley, brightening. "What does the American
"Eats!" answered Kitty.
All tension vanished in the double laughter that followed. They
approached dinner with something of the spirit that had induced
Hawksley to fiddle and Kitty to pass the hat in front of the
Metropolitan Opera House. Hawksley's recuperative powers promised
well for his future. By the time coffee was served his head had
cleared and his legs had resumed their normal functions of support.
"I was so infernally bored!"
"And now?" asked Kitty, recklessly.
"Fancy asking me that!"
"Do you realize that all this is dreadfully improper?"
"Oh, I say, now! Where's the harm? If ever there was a young
woman capable of taking care of herself - "
"That isn't it. It's just being here alone with you."
"But you are not alone with me!"
"Kuroki?" Kitty shrugged.
"No. At my side of the table is Stefani Gregor; at yours the man
who has befriended me."
"Thank you for that. I don't know of anything nicer you could say.
But the outside world would see neither of our friends. I did not
come here to see you."
"No need of telling me that."
"I had a problem - a very difficult one - to solve; and I believed
that I might solve it if I came to these rooms. I had quite
Instantly, upon receiving this blunt explanation, he determined that
she should never cease to remember him after this night. His vanity
was not touched; it was something far more elusive. It was perhaps
a recurrence of that inexplicable desire to hurt. Somehow he sensed
the flexible steel behind which lay the soul of this baffling girl.
He would presently find a chink in the armour with that old Amati.
Blows on the head have few surgical comparisons. That which kills
one man only temporarily stuns another. One man loses his identity;
another escapes with all his faculties and suffers but trifling
inconvenience. In Hawksley's case the blow had probably restricted
some current of thought, and that which would have flowed normally
now shot out obliquely, perversely. It might be that the natural
perverseness of his blood, unchecked by the noble influence of
Stefani Gregor and liberated by the blow, governed his thoughts in
relation to Kitty. The subjugation of women, the old cynical
warfare of sex - the dominant business of his rich and idle
forbears, the business that had made Boris Karlov a deadly and
implacable enemy - became paramount in his disordered brain.
She had forgotten him! Very well. He would stir the soul of her,
play with it, lift it to the stars and dash it down - if she had a
soul. Beautiful, natural, alone. He became all Latin under the
pressure of this idea.
"I will play for you," he said, quietly.
"Please! And then I'll go home where I belong. I'll be in the
When he returned he found her before a window, staring at the myriad
"Sit here," he said, indicating the divan. "I shall stand and walk
about as I play."
Kitty sat down, touching the pillows, reflectively. She thought of
the tears she had wept upon them. That sinister and cynical thought!
Suddenly she saw light. Her problem would have been none at all if
Cutty had said he loved her. There would have been something sublime
in making him happy in his twilight. He had loved and lost her
mother. To pay him for that! He was right. Those twenty-odd years
- his seniority - had mellowed him, filled him with deep and tender
understanding. To be with him was restful; the very thought of him
now was resting. No matter how much she might love a younger man he
would frequently torture her by unconscious egoism; and by the time
he had mellowed, the mulled wine would be cold. If only Cutty had
said he loved her!
"What shall I play?"
Kitty raised her eyes in frank astonishment. There was a fiercely
proud expression on Hawksley's face. It was not the man, it was the
artist who was angry.
"Forgive me! I was dreaming a little," she apologized with quick
understanding. "I am not quite - myself."
"Neither am I. I will play something to fit your dream. But wait!
When I play I am articulate. I can express myself - all emotions.
I am what I play - happy, sad, gay, full of the devil. I warn
you. I can speak all things. I can laugh at you, weep with you,
despise you, love you! All in the touch of these strings. I warn
you there is magic in this Amati. Will you risk it?"
Ordinarily - had this florid outburst come from another man - Kitty
would have laughed. It had the air of piqued vanity; but she knew
that this was not the interpretation. On the streets he had been
the most amusing and surprising comrade she had ever known, as
merry and whimsical as Cutty - young and handsome - the real man.
He had been real that night when he entered through her kitchen
window, with the drums of jeopardy about his neck. He had been real
that night she had brought him his wallet.
Electric antagonism - the room seemed charged with it. The man had
stepped aside for a moment and the great noble had taken his place.
It was not because she had been reared in rather a theatrical
atmosphere that she transcribed his attitude thus. She knew that
he was noble. That she did not know his rank was of no consequence.
Cutty's narrative, which she had pretended to believe, had set this
man in the middle class. Never in this world. There was only one
middle class out of which such a personality might, and often did,
emerge - the American middle class. In Europe, never. No peasant
blood, no middle-class corpuscle, stirred in this man's veins. The
ancient boyar looked down at her.
"Play!" said Kitty. There was a smile on her lips, but there was
fiery challenge in her slate-blue eyes. The blood of Irish kings
- and what Irishman dares deny it? - surged into her throat.
We wear masks, we inherit generations of masks; and a trivial
incident reveals the primordial which lurks in each one of us.
Savages - Kitty with her stone hatchet and Hawksley swinging the
curved blade of Hunk.
He began one of those tempestuous compositions, brilliant and
bewildering, that submerge the most appreciative lay mentality
- because he was angry, a double anger that he should be angry
over he knew not what - and broke off in the middle of the
composition because Kitty sat upright, stonily unimpressed.
Tschaikowsky's "Serenade Melancolique." Kitty, after a few
measures, laid aside her stone hatchet, and her body relaxed.
Music! She began to absorb it as parched earth absorbs the tardy
rain. Then came the waltz which had haunted her. Her face grew
tenderly beautiful; and Hawksley, a true artist, saw that he had
discovered the fifth string; and he played upon it with all the
artistry which was naturally his and which had been given form by
the master who had taught him.
For the physical exertions he relied upon nerve energy again.
Nature is generous when we are young. No matter how much we draw
against the account she always has a little more for us. He forgot
that only an hour gone he had been dizzy with pain, forgot
everything but the glory of the sounds he was evoking and their
visible reaction upon this girl. The devil was not only in his
heart, but in his hand.
Never had Kitty heard such music. To be played to in this manner
- directly, with embracing tenderness, with undivided fire - would
have melted the soul of Gobseck the money lender; and Kitty was
warm-blooded, Irish, emotional. The fiddle called poignantly to the
Irish in her. She wanted to go roving with this man; with her hand
on his shoulder to walk in the thin air of high places. Through it
all, however, she felt vaguely troubled; the instinct of the trap.
The sinister and cynical idea which had clandestinely taken up
quarters in her mind awoke and assailed her from a new angle, that
of youth. Something in her cried out: "Stop! Stop!" But her lips
were mute, her body enchained.
Suddenly Hawksley laid aside the fiddle and advanced. He reached
down and drew her up. Kitty did not resist him; she was numb with
enchantment. He held her close for a second, then kissed her - her
hair, eyes, mouth - released her and stepped back, a bantering smile
on his lips and cold terror in his heart. The devil who had
inspired this phase of the drama now deserted his victim, as he
generally does in the face of superior forces.
Kitty stood perfectly still for a full minute, stunned. It was that
smile - frozen on his lips - that brought her back to intimacy with
cold realities. Had he asked her pardon, had he shown the least
repentance, she might have forgiven, forgotten. But knowing mankind
as she did she could give but one interpretation to that smile - of
which he was no longer conscious.
Without anger, in quiet, level tones she said: "I had foolishly
thought that we two might be friends. You have made it impossible.
You have also abused the kindly hospitality of the man who has
protected you from your enemies. A few days ago he did me the honour
to ask me to marry him. I am going to. I wish you no evil." She
turned and walked from the room.
Even then there was time. But he did not move. It was not until
he heard the elevator gate crash that be was physically released
from the thraldom of the inner revelation. Love - in the blinding
flash of a thunderbolt! He had kissed her not because he was the
son of his father, but because he loved her! And now he never
could tell her. He must let her go, believing that the man she
had saved from death had repaid her with insult. On top of all
his misfortunes, his tragedies - love! There was a God, yes, but
his name was Irony. Love! He stepped toward the divan, stumbled,
and fell against it, his arms spread over the pillows; and in
this position he remained.
For a while his thoughts were broken, inconclusive; he was like a
man in the dark, groping for a door. Principally, his poor head
was trying to solve the riddle of his never-ending misfortunes.
Why? What had he done that these calamities should be piled upon
his head? He had lived decently; his youth had been normal; he
had played fair with men and women. Why make him pay for what his
forbears had done? He wasn't fair game.
He! A singular revelation cleared one corner. Kitty had spoken of
a problem; and he, by those devil-urged kisses, had solved it for
her. She had been doddering, and his own act had thrust her into
the arms of that old thoroughbred. That cynical suggestion of his
the other morning had been acted upon. God had long ago deserted
him, and now the devil himself had taken leave. Hawksley buried
his face in the pillow once made wet with Kitty's tears.
The great tragedy in life lies in being too late. Hawksley had
learned this once before; it was now being driven home again. Cutty
was to find it out on the morrow, for he missed his train that night.
The shuttles of the Weaver in this pattern of life were two green
stones called the drums of jeopardy, inanimate objects, but perfect
tools in the hands of Destiny. But for these stones Hawksley would
not have tarried too long on a certain red night; Cutty would not
now be stumbling about the labyrinths into which his looting
instincts had thrust him; and Kitty Conover would have jogged along
in the humdrum rut, if not happy at least philosophically content
with her lot.
Decision is always a mental relief, hesitance a curse. Kitty,
having shifted her burdens to the broad shoulders of Cutty, felt
as she reached the lobby as if she had left storm and stress
behind and entered calm. She would marry Cutty; she had published
the fact, burned her bridges.
She had stepped into the car, her heart full of cold fury. Now she
began to find excuses for Hawksley's conduct. A sick brain; he was
not really accountable for his acts. Her own folly had opened the
way. Of course she would never see him again. Why should she?
Their lives were as far apart as the Volga and the Hudson.
Bernini met her in the lobby. "I've got a cab for you, Miss
Conover," he said as if nothing at all had happened.
"Have you Cutty's address?"
"Then take me at once to a telegraph office. I have a very important
message to send him."
"All right, Miss Conover."
"Say: 'Decision made. It is yes.' And sign it just Kitty."
Without being conscious of it her soul was still in the clouds,
where it had been driven by the music of the fiddle; thus, what
she assumed to be a normal sequence of a train of thought was only
a sublime impulse. She would marry Cutty. More, she would be his
wife, his true wife. For his tenderness, his generosity, his
chivalry, she would pay him in kind. There would be no nonsense;
love would not enter into the bargain; but there would be the
fragrance of perfect understanding. That he was fifty-two and she
was twenty-four no longer mattered. No more loneliness, no more
genteel poverty; for such benefits she was ready to pay the score
in full. A man she was genuinely fond of, a man she could look up
to, always depend upon.
Was there such a thing as perfect love? She had her doubts. She
reasoned that love was what a body decided was love, the
psychological moment when the physical attraction became irresistible.
Who could tell before the fact which was the true and which the false?
Lived there a woman, herself excepted, who had not hesitated between
two men - a man who had not doddered between two women - for better
or for worse? What did the average woman know of the man, the
average man know of the woman - until afterward? To stake all upon
She knew Cutty. Under her own eyes he had passed through certain
proving fires. There would be no guessing the manner of man he was.
He was fifty-two; that is to say, the grand passion had come and
gone. There would be mutual affection and comradeship.
True, she had her dreams; but she could lay them away without any
particular regret. She had never been touched by the fire of
passion. Let it go. But she did know what perfect comradeship was,
and she would grasp it and never loose her hold. Something out of
"A narrow squeak, Miss Conover," said Berumi, breaking the long
"A miss is as good as a mile," replied Kitty, not at all grateful
for the interruption.
"We've done everything we could to protect you. If you can't see
now - why, the jig is up. A chain is as strong as its weakest link.
And in a game like this a woman is always the weakest link."
"You're quite a philosopher."
"I have reason to be. I'm married."
"Am I expected to laugh?"
"Miss Conover, you're a wonder. You come through these affairs with
a smile, when you ought to have hysterics. I'll bet a doughnut that
when you see a mouse you go and get it a piece of cheese."
"Do you want the truth? Well, I'll tell it to you. You have all
kept me on the outer edge of this affair, and I've been trying to
find out why. I have the reportorial instinct, as they say. I
inherited it from my father. You put a strange weapon in my hands,
you tell me it is deadly, but you don't tell me which end is deadly.
Do you know who this Russian is?"
"Honestly, I don't."
"I don't know that, either."
"Did you ever hear of a pair of emeralds called the drums of
"Nope. But I do know if you continue these stunts you'll head the
whole game into the ditch."
"You may set your mind at ease. I'm going to marry Cutty. I shall
not go to the apartment again until Hawksley, as he is called, is
"Well, well; that's good news! But let me put you wise to one fact,
Miss Conover: you have picked some man! I'm not much of a scholar,
but knowing him as I do I'm always wondering why they made Faith,
Hope, and Charity in female form. But this night's work was bad
business. They know where the Russian is now; and if the game lasts
long enough they'll reach the chief, find out who he is; and that'll
put the kibosh on his usefulness here and abroad. Well, here's home,
and no more lecture from me."
"Sorry I've been so much trouble."
"Perhaps we ought to have shown you which end shoots."
If Kitty had any doubt as to the wisdom of her decision, the cold,
gloomy rooms of her apartment dissipated them. She wandered through
the rooms, musing, calling back animated scenes. What would the
spirit of her mother say? Had she doddered between Conover and
Cutty? Perhaps. But she had been one of the happy few who had
guessed right. Singular thought: her mother would have been happy
with Cutty, too.
Oh, the relief of knowing what the future was going to be! She
took off her hat and tossed it upon the table. The good things
of life, and a good comrade.
Food. The larder would be empty and there was her breakfast to
consider. She passed out into the kitchen, wrote out a list of
necessities, and put it on the dumb waiter. Now for the dishes
she had so hurriedly left. She rolled up her sleeves, put on the
apron, and fell to the task. After such a night - dish-washing!
She laughed. It was a funny old world.
Pauses. Perhaps she should have gone to a hotel, away from all
familiar objects. Those flatirons intermittently pulled her eyes
round. Her fancy played tricks with her whenever her glance touched
the window. Faces peering in. In a burst of impatience she dropped
the dish towel, hurried to the window, and threw it up. Black
emptiness! ... Cutty, crossing the platform with Hawksley on his
shoulders. She saw that, and it comforted her.
She finished her work and started for bed. But first she entered
the guest room and turned on the lights. Olga. She had intended
to ask him who Olga was.
A great pity. They might have been friends. The back of her hand
went to her lips but did not touch them. She could not rub away
those burning kisses - that is, not with the back of her hand.
Vividly she saw him fiddling bareheaded in front of the Metropolitan
Opera House. It seemed, though, that it had happened years ago. A
great pity. The charm of that frolic would abide with her as long
as she lived. A brave man, too. Hadn't he left her with a gay wave
of the hand, not knowing, for want of strength, if he could make the
detour of the block? That took courage. His journey halfway across
the world had taken courage. Yet he could so basely disillusion her.
It was not the kiss; it was the smile. She had seen that smile
before, born of evil. If only he had spoken!
The heavenly magic of that fiddle! It made her sad. Genius, the
ability to play with souls, soothe, tantalize, lift up; and then to
smile at her like that!
She shut down the curtain upon these cogitations and summoned Cutty,
visualized his handsome head, shot with gray, the humour of his
smile. She did care for him; no doubt of that. She couldn't have
sent that telegram else. Cutty - name of a pipe, as the Frenchmen
said! All at once she rocked with laughter. She was going to marry
a man whose given name she could not recall! Henry, George, John,
William? For the life of her she could not remember.
And with this laughter still bubbling in a softer note she got into
bed, twisted about from side to side, from this pillow to that, the
tired body seeking perfect relaxation.
A broken melody entered her head. Sleepily she sought one channel
of thought after another to escape; still the melody persisted. As
her consciousness dodged hither and thither the bars and measures
joined.... She sat up, chilled, bewildered. That Tschaikowsky
waltz! She could hear it as clearly as if Johnny Two-Hawks and the
Amati were in the very room. She grew afraid. Of what? She did
And while she sat there in bed threshing out this fear to find the
grain, Cutty was tramping the streets of Washington, her telegram
crumpled in his hand. From time to time he would open it and reread
it under a street lamp.
To marry her and then to cheat her. It wasn't humanly possible to
marry her and then to let her go. He thought of those warm, soft
arms round his neck, the absolute trust of that embrace. Molly's
girl. No, he could not do it. He would have to back down, tell
her he could not put the bargain through, invent some other scheme.
The idea had been repugnant to her. It had taken her a week to
fight it out. It was a little beyond his reach, however, why the
idea should have been repugnant to her. It entailed nothing beyond
a bit of mummery. The repugnance was not due to religious training.
The Conover household, as he recalled it, had been rather lax in
that respect. Why, then, should Kitty have hesitated?
He thought of Hawksley, and swore. But for Hawksley's suggestion
no muddle like this would have occurred. Devil take him and his
infernal green stones!
Cutty suddenly remembered his train. He looked at his watch and
saw that his lower berth was well on the way to Baltimore. Always
and eternally he was missing something.
Not unusually, when we burn our bridges, we have in the back of our
minds the dim hope that there may be a shallow ford somewhere. Thus,
bridges should not be burned impulsively; there may be no ford.
The idea of retreat pushed forward in Kitty's mind the moment she
awoke; but she pressed it back in shame. She had given her word,
and she would stand by it.
The night had been a series of wild impulses. She had not sent that
telegram to Cutty as the result of her deliberations in the country.
Impulse; a flash, and the thing was done, her bridges burned. To
crush Johnny Two-Hawks, fill his cup with chagrin, she had told him
she was going to marry Cutty. That was the milk in the cocoanut.
Morning has a way of showing up night-gold for what it is - tinsel.
Kitty saw the stage of last night's drama dismantled. If there was
a shallow ford, she would never lower her pride to seek it. She
had told Two-Hawks, sent that wire to Cutty, broke the news to
But did she really want to go back? Not to know her own mind, to
swing back and forth like a pendulum! Was it because she feared
that, having married Cutty, she might actually fall in love with
some other man later? She could still go through the mummery as
Cutty had planned; but what about all the sublime generosity of
the preceding night?
A queer feeling pervaded her: She was a marionette, a human
manikin, and some invisible hand was pulling the wires that made
her do all these absurd things. Her own mind no longer controlled
her actions. The persistence of that waltz! It had haunted her,
broken into her dreams, awakened her out of them. Why should she
be afraid? What was there to be afraid of in a recurring melody?
She had heard a dozen famed violinists play it. It had never
before affected her beyond a flash of emotionalism. Perhaps it
was the romantic misfortune of the man, the mystery surrounding
him, the menace which walled him in.
Breakfast. Human manikins had appetites. So she made her
breakfast. Before leaving the kitchen she stopped at the window.
The sun filled the court with brilliant light. The patches of
rust on the fire-escape ladder, which was on the Gregor side of
the platform, had the semblance of powdered gold.
Half an hour later she was speeding downtown to the office. All
through the day she walked, worked, talked as one in the state of
trance. There were periods of stupefaction which at length roused
"Kitty, what's the matter with you? You look dazed about something."
"How do you clean a pipe?" she countered, irrelevantly.
"Clean a pipe?" he repeated, nearly overbalancing his chair.
"Yes. You see, I may make up my mind to marry a man who smokes a
pipe," said Kitty, desperately, eager to steer Burlingame into
another channel; "and certainly I ought to know how to clean one."
"Kitty, I'm an old-timer. You can't sidetrack me like this.
Something has happened. You say you had a great time in the
country, and you come in as pale as the moon, like someone
suffering from shell shock. Ever since Cutty came in here that
day you've been acting oddly. You may not know it, but Cutty
asked me to send you out of town. You've been in some kind of
danger. What's the yarn?"
"So big that no newspaper will ever publish it, Burly. If Cutty
wants to tell you some day he can. I haven't the right to."
"Did he drag you into it or did you fall into it?"
"I walked into it, as presently I shall walk out of it - all on my
"Better keep your eyes open. Cutty's a stormy petrel; when he
flies there's rough weather."
"What do you know about him?"
"Probably what he has already told you - that he is a foreign agent
of the Government. What do you know?"
"Everything but one thing, and that's a problem particularly my own."
"Alien stuff, I suppose. Cutty's strong on that. Well, mind your
step. The boys are bringing in queer scraps about something big
going to happen May Day - no facts, just rumours. Better shoot for
home the shortest route each night and stick round there."
There are certain spiritual exhilarants that nullify caution,
warning the presence of danger. The boy with his first pay envelope,
the lover who has just been accepted, the debutante on the way to her
first ball; the impetus that urges us to rush in where angels fear
At a quarter after five Kitty left the office for home, unaware that
the attribute designated as caution had evaporated from her system.
She proceeded toward the Subway mechanically, the result of habit.
Casually she noted two taxicabs standing near the Subway entrance.
That she noted them at all was due to the fact that Subway entrances
were not fortuitous hunting grounds for taxicabs. Only the unusual
would have attracted her in her present condition of mind. It takes
time and patience to weave a good web - observe any spider - time in
finding a suitable place for it; patience in the spinning. All that
worried Karlov was the possibility of her not observing him. If he
could place his taxicabs where they would attract her, even casually,
the main difficulty would be out of the way. The moment she turned
her head toward the cabs he would step out into plain view. The girl
was susceptible and adventuresome.
Kitty saw a man step out of the foremost taxicab, give some
instructions to the chauffeur, and get back into the cab,
immediately to be driven off at moderate speed. She recognized the
man at once. Never would she forget that squat, gorilla-like body.
Karlov! Yonder, in that cab! She ran to the remaining cab; wherein
she differed from angels.
"Are you free?"
"See that taxi going across town? Follow it and I will give you ten
"You're on, miss."
Karlov peered through the rear window of his cab. If she had in
tow a Federal agent the manoeuvre would fail, at a great risk to
himself. But he would soon be able to tell whether or not she was
As a matter of fact, she was not. She had returned to New York a
day before she was expected. Her unknown downtown guardian would
not turn up for duty until ordered by Cutty to do so. She entered
the second cab with no definite plan in her head. Karlov, the man
who wanted to kill Johnny Two-Hawks, the man who held Stefani
Gregor a prisoner! For the present these facts were sufficient.
"Don't get too near," said Kitty through the speaking tube. "Just
keep the cab in sight."
A perfectly logical compensation. She herself had set in motion
the machinery of this amazing adventure; it was logically right
that she should end it. Poor dear old Cutty - to fancy he could
pull the wool over Kitty Conover's eyes! Cutty, the most honest
man alive, had set his foot upon an unethical bypath and now found
himself among nettles. To keep Johnny Two-Hawks prisoner in that
lofty apartment while he hunted for the drums of jeopardy! Hadn't
he said he had seen emeralds he would steal with half a chance?
Cutty, playing at this sort of game, his conscience biting whichever
way he turned! He had been hunting unsuccessfully for the stones
that night he had come in with his face and hands bloody. Why
hadn't he kissed her?
Johnny Two-Hawks - bourgeois? Utter nonsense! Of course it did
not matter now what he was; he had dug a bridgeless chasm with that
smile. Sometime to-morrow he and Stefani Gregor would be on their
way to Montana; and that would be the last of them both. To-morrow
would mark the fork in the road. But life would never again be
humdrum for Kitty Conover.
The taxicabs were bumping over cobbles, through empty streets. It
was six by now; at that hour this locality, which she recognized as
the warehouse district, was always dead. The deserted streets, how
ever, set in motion a slight perturbation. Supposing Karlov grew
suspicious and turned aside from his objective? Even as this
disturbing thought took form Karlov's taxicab stopped. Kitty's
stopped also, but without instructions from her. She had intended
to drive on and from the rear window observe if Karlov entered that
old red-brick house.
"Go on!" she called through the tube.
The chauffeur obeyed, but he stopped again directly behind Karlov's
taxicab. He slid off his seat and opened the door. His face was grim.
Tumpitum-tump! Tumpitum-tump! She did not hear the tocsin this time;
she felt it on her spine - the drums of fear. If they touched her!
"Come with me, miss. If you are sensible you will not be harmed. If
you cut up a racket I'll have to carry you."
"What does this mean?" faltered Kitty.
"That we have finally got you, miss. You can see for yourself that
there isn't any help in sight. Better take it sensibly. We don't
intend to hurt you. It's somebody else we want. There's a heavy
score against you, but we'll overlook it if you act sensibly. You
were very clever last night; but the game depends upon the last
"I'll go sensibly," Kitty agreed. They must not touch her!
Karlov did not speak as he opened the door of the house for her.
His expression was Buddha-like.
"This way, miss," said the chauffeur, affably.
"You are an American?"
"Whenever it pays."
Presently Kitty found herself in the attic, alone. They hadn't
touched her; so much was gained. Poor little fool that she was!
It was fairly dark now, but overhead she could see the dim outlines
of the scuttle or trap. The attic was empty except for a few pieces
of lumber and some soap boxes. She determined to investigate the
trap at once, before they came again.
She placed two soap boxes on end and laid a plank across. After
testing its stability she mounted. She could reach the trap easily,
with plenty of leverage to spare. She was confident that she could
draw herself up to the roof. She sought for the hooks and liberated
them, then she placed her palms against the trap and heaved. Not
even a creak answered her. She pressed upward again and again. The
trap was immovable.
Light. She turned, to behold Kariov in the doorway, a candlestick
in his hand. "The scuttle is covered with cement, Miss Conover.
Nobody can get in or out."
Kitty got down, her knees uncertain. If he touched her! Oh, the
fool she had been!
"What are you going to do with me?" she asked through dry lips.
"You are to me a bill of exchange, payable in something more precious
to me than gold. I am going to keep you here until you are ransomed.
The ransom is the man you have been shielding. If he isn't here by
midnight you vanish. Oh, we shan't harm you. Merely you will
disappear until my affairs in America are terminated. You are
clever and resourceful for so young a woman. You will understand
that we are not going to turn aside. You are not a woman to me; you
are a valuable pawn. You are something to bargain for."
"I understand," said Kitty, her heart trying to burst through. It
seemed impossible that Karlov should not hear the thunder. To
placate him, to answer his questions, to keep him from growing
"I thought you would." Karlov set the candle on Kitty's impromptu
stepladder. "We saw your interest in the affair, and attacked you
on that side. You had seen me once. Being a newspaper writer -
the New York kind - you would not rest until you learned who I was.
You would not forget me. You were too well guarded uptown. You
have been out of the city for a week. We could not find where.
You were reported seen entering your office this morning; and here
you are. My one fear was that you might not see me. Personally
you will have no cause to worry. No hand shall touch you.
"Thank you for that."
"Don't misunderstand. There is no sentiment behind this promise.
I imagine your protector will sacrifice much for your sake. Simply
it is unnecessary to offer you any violence. Do you know who the
man is your protector is shielding?"
Kitty shook her head.
"Has he played the fiddle for you?"
Karlov smiled. "Did you dance?"
"Dance? I don't understand."
"No matter. He can play the fiddle nearly as well as his master.
The two of them have gone across the world fiddling the souls of
women out of their bodies."
Kitty sat down weakly on the plank. Terror from all points.
Karlov's unexcited tones - his lack of dramatic gesture - convinced
her that this was deadly business. Terror that for all the promise
of immunity they might lay hands on her. Terror for Johnny
Two-Hawks, for Cutty.
"Has he injured you?" she asked, to gain time.
"He is an error in chronology. He represents an idea which no
longer exists." He spoke English fluently, but with a rumbling
"But to kill him for that!"
"Kill him? My dear young lady, I merely want him to fiddle for me,"
said Karlov with another smile.
"You tried to kill him," insisted Kitty, the dryness beginning to
leave her throat.
"Bungling agents. Do know what became of them - the two who invaded
"They were taken away the police."
"So I thought. What became of the wallet?"
"I found it hidden on the back of my stove."
"I never thought to look there," said Karlov, musingly. "Who has
"The emeralds? You haven't them!" cried Kitty, becoming her mother's
daughter, though her heart never beat so thunderously as now. "We
thought you had them!"
Karlov stared at her, moodily. "What is that button for, at the
side of your bed?"
Kitty comprehended the working of the mind that formulated this
question. If she answered truthfully he would accept her
statements. "It rings an alarm in the basement."
Karlov nodded. "You are truthful and sensible I haven't the
"Perhaps one of your men betrayed you."
"I have thought of that. But if he had betrayed me the drums would
have been discovered by the police.... Damn them to hell!" Kitty
wondered whether he meant the police or the, emeralds.
"Later, food and a blanket will be brought to you. If your ransom
does not appear by midnight you will be taken away. If you struggle
we may have to handle you roughly. That is as you please."
Karlov went out, locking the door.
Oh, the blind little fool she had been! All those constant warnings,
and she had not heeded! Cutty had warned her repeatedly, so had
Bernini; and she had deliberately walked into this trap. As if this
cold, murderous madman would risk showing himself without some grim
and terrible purpose. She had written either Cutty's or Johnny
Two-Hawks' death warrant. She covered her eyes. It was horrible.
Perhaps not Cutty, but assuredly Two-hawks. His life for her
"And he will come!" she whispered. She knew it. How, was not to
be analyzed. She just knew that he would come. What if he had
smiled like that! The European point of view and her own
monumental folly. He would come quietly, without protest, and
give himself up.
"God forgive me! What can I do? What can I do?"
She slid to the floor and rocked her body. Her fault! He would
come - even as Cutty would have come had he been the man demanded.
And Karlov would kill him - because he was an error in chronology!
She sensed also that the anarchist would not look upon his act as
murder. He would be removing an obstacle from the path of his sick
Comparisons! She saw how much alike the two were. Cutty was only
Johnny Two-Hawks at fifty-two - fearless and whimsical. Had Cutty
gone through life without looking at some woman as, last night,
Two-Hawks had looked at her? All the rest of her life she would
see Two-Hawks' eyes.
Abysmal fool, to pit her wits against such men as Karlov! Because
she had been successful to a certain extent, she had overrated her
cleverness, with this tragic result... He had fiddled the soul out
of her. But death!
She sprang up. It was maddening to sit still, to feel the approach
of the tragedy without being able to prevent it. She investigated
the windows. No hope in this direction. It was rapidly growing
dark outside. What time was it?
The door opened. A man she had not seen before came in with a
blanket, a pitcher of water, and some graham crackers. His fingers
were stained a brilliant yellow and a peculiar odour emanated from
his clothes. He did not speak to her, but set the articles on the
floor and departed.
Kitty did not stir. An hour passed; she sat as one in a trance.
The tallow dip was sinking. By and by she became conscious of a
faint sound, a tapping. Whence it came she could not tell. She
moved about cautiously, endeavouring to locate it. When she
finally did the blood drummed in her ears. The trap! Someone was
trying to get in through the trap!
Cutty! Thus soon! Who else could it be? She hunted for a piece of
lumber light enough to raise to the trap. She tapped three times,
and waited. Silence. She repeated the signal. This time it was
answered. Cutty! In a little while she would be free, and Two-Hawks
would not have to pay for her folly with his life. Terror and
remorse departed forthwith.
She took the plank to the door and pushed one end under the door
knob. Then she piled the other planks against the butt. The moment
she heard steps on the stairs she would stand on the planks. It
would be difficult to open that door. She sat down on the planks to
wait. From time to time she built up the falling tallow. Cutty
must have light. The tapping on the trap went on. They were
breaking away the cement. Perhaps an hour passed. At least it
seemed a very long time.
Steps on the stairs! She stood up, facing the door, the roots of
her hair tingling. She heard the key turn in the lock; and then
as in a nightmare she felt the planks under her feet stir slightly
but with sinister persistence. She presently saw the toe of a boot
insert, itself between the door and the jamb. The pressure increased;
the space between the door and the jamb widened. Suddenly the boot
vanished, the door closed, and the plank fell. Immediately
thereafter Karlov stood inside the room, scowling suspiciously.
Cutty arrived at the apartment in time to share dinner with Hawksley.
He had wisely decided to say nothing about the escapade of Hawksley
and Kitty Conover, since it had terminated fortunately. Bernini
had telegraphed the gist of the adventure. He could readily
understand Hawksley's part; but Kitty's wasn't reducible to
ordinary terms of expression. The young chap had run wild because
his head still wobbled on his shoulders and because his isolation
was beginning to scratch his nerves. But for Kitty to run wild with
him offered a blank wall to speculation. (As if he could solve the
riddle when Kitty herself could not!) So he determined to shut
himself up in his study and shuffle the chrysoprase. Something
might come of it. Looking backward, he recognized the salient,
at no time had he been quite sure of Kitty. She seemed to be a
combination of shallows and unfathomable deeps.
>From the Pennsylvania Station he had called up the office. Kitty
had gone. Bernini informed him that Kitty was dining at a caf‚ on
the way home. Cutty was thorough. He telephoned the restaurant
and was advised that Miss Conover had reserved a table. He had
forgotten to send down the operative who guarded Kitty at that end.
But the distance from the office to the Subway was so insignificant!
"You are looking fit," he said across the table.
"Ought to be off your hands by Monday. But what about Stefani
Gregor? I can't stir, leaving him hanging on a peg."
"I am going into the study shortly to decide that. Head bother you?"
"Ryan easy to get along with?"
"Rather a good sort. I say, you know, you've seen a good deal of
life. Which do you consider the stronger, the inherited traits or
"Environment. That is the true mould. There is good and bad in
all of us. It is brought into prominence by the way we live. An
angel cannot touch pitch without becoming defiled. On the other
hand, the worst gutter rats in the world saved France. Do you
suppose that thought will not always be tugging at and uplifting
those who returned from the first Marne?"
"There is hope, then, for me!"
"Yes. You know that my father, my uncle, and my grandfather were
"Under their influence you would have been one, too. But no man
could live with Stefani Gregor and not absorb his qualities. Your
environment has been Anglo-Saxon, where the first block in the
picture is fair play. You have been constantly under the tutelage
of a fine and lofty personality, Gregor's. Whatever evil traits
you may have inherited, they have become subject to the influences
that have surrounded you. Take me, for instance. I was born in a
rather puritanical atmosphere. My environments have always been
good. Yet there lurks in me the taint of Macaire. Given the wrong
environment, I should now have my picture in the Rogues' Gallery."
Hawksley played with his fork. "If you had a daughter would you
trust me with her?"
"Yes. Any man who can weep unashamed over the portrait of his
mother may be trusted. Once you are out there in Montana you'll
forget all about your paternal forbears."
Handsome beggar, thought Cutty; but evidently born under the opal.
An inexplicable resentment against his guest stirred his heart. He
resented his youth, his ease of manner, his fluency in the common
tongue. He was theoretically a Britisher; he thought British;
approached subjects from a British point of view. A Britisher
- except when he had that fiddle tucked under his chin. Then
Cutty admitted he did not know what he was. Devil take him!
There must have been something electrical in Cutty's resentment,
for the object of it felt it subtly, and it fired his own. He
resented the freedom of action that had always been denied him,
resented his host's mental and physical superiority. Did Cutty
care for the girl, or was he playing the game as it had been
suggested to him? Money and freedom. But then, it was in no
sense a barter; she would be giving nothing, and the old beggar
would be asking nothing. His suggestion! He laughed.
"What's the joke?" asked Cutty, looking up from his coffee, which
he was stirring with unnecessary vigour.
"It isn't a joke. I'm bally well twisted. I laugh now when I
think of something tragic. I am sorry about last night. I was
mad, I suppose."
"Tell me about it."
Cutty listened intently and smiled occasionally. Mad as hatters,
both of them. He and Kitty couldn't have gone on a romp like this,
but Kitty and Hawksley could. Thereupon his resentment boiled up
"Have you any idea why she took such a risk? Why she came here,
knowing me to be absent?"
"She spoke of a problem. I fancy it related to your approaching
marriage. She told me."
Cutty laid down his spoon. "I'd like to dump Your Highness into
the middle of East River for putting that idea into my head. She
has consented to it; and now, damn it, I've got to back out of it!"
Cutty rose and flung down his napkin.
"Why?" asked the bewildered Hawksley.
"Because there is in me the making of a first-rate scoundrel, and
I never should have known it if you and your affairs hadn't turned
Cutty entered his study and slammed the door, leaving Hawksley prey
to so many conflicting emotions that his head began to bother him.
Back out of it! Why? Why should Kitty have a problem to solve over
such a marriage of convenience, and why should the old thoroughbred
want to back out?
Kitty would be free, then? A flash of fire, which subsided quickly
under the smothering truth. What if she were free? He could not
ask her to be his wife. Not because of last night's madness. That
no longer troubled him. She was the sort who would understand, if
he told her. She had a soul big with understanding. It was that
he walked in the shadow of death, and would so long as Karlov
was free; and he could not ask any woman to share that.
He pushed back his chair slowly. In the living room he took the
Amati from its case and began improvising. What the chrysoprase
did for Cutty the fiddle did for this derelict - solved problems.
He reviewed all the phases as he played. That dish of bacon and
eggs, the resolute air of her, that popping fan! [Allegretto.]
She had found him senseless on the floor. She had had the courage
to come to his assistance. [Andante con espressione.] What had
been in her mind that night she had taken flight from his bedroom,
after having given him the wallet? Something like tears. What
about? An American girl, natural, humorous, and fanciful. Somehow
he felt assured that it had not been his kisses; she had looked
into his eyes and seen the taint. Always there, the beast that old
Stefani had chained and subdued. He knew now that this beast would
never again lift its head. And he had let her go without a sign.
[Dolorosomente.] To have gone through life with a woman who would
have understood his nature. The test of her had been last night in
the streets. His mood had been hers. [Allegretto con amore.]
"Love," he said, lowering the bow.
"Love," said Cutty, shifting his chrysoprase. There was no fool
like an old fool. It did not serve to recall Molly in all her
glory, to reach hither and yon for a handhold to pull him out of
this morass. Molly had become an invisible ghost. He loved her
daughter. Double sunset; the phenomenon of the Indian Ocean was
now being enacted upon his own horizon. Double sunset.
But why should Kitty have any problem to solve? Why should she
dodder over such a trifle as this prospective official marriage?
It was only a joke which would legalize his generosity. She had
sent that telegram after leaving this apartment. What had happened
here to decide her? Had Hawksley fiddled? There was something
the matter with the green stones to-night; they evoked nothing.
He leaned back in his chair, listening, the bowl of his pipe
touching the lapel of his coat. Music. Queer, what you could do
with a fiddle if you knew how.
After all there was no sense in venting his anger on Hawksley. He
was hoist by his own petard. Why not admit the truth? He had had
a crack on the head the same night as Hawksley; only, he had been
struck by an idea, often more deadly than the butt of a pistol. He
would apologize for that roaring exit from the dining room. The
poor friendless devil! He bent toward the green stones again.
In the living room Hawksley sat in a chair, the fiddle across his
knees. He understood now. The old chap was in love with the girl,
and was afraid of himself; couldn't risk having her and letting her
go.... A curse on the drums of jeopardy! Misfortune followed their
wake always. The world would have been different this hour if he -
The break in the trend of thought was caused by the entrance of
Kuroki, who was followed by a man. This man dropped into a chair
without apparently noticing that the room was already tenanted, for
he never glanced toward Hawksley. A haggard face, dull of eye.
Kuroki bobbed and vanished, but returned shortly, beckoning the
stranger to follow him into the study.
"Coles?" cried Cutty delightedly. Here was the man he had sent to
negotiate for the emeralds, free. "How did you escape? We've combed
the town for you."
"They had me in a room on Fifteenth Street. Once in a while I got
something to eat. But I haven't escaped. I'm still a prisoner."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I am here as an emissary. There was nothing for me to do but
accept the job."
"Did he have the stones?" asked Cutty, without the least suspicion
of what was coming.
"That I don't know. He pretended to have them in order to get me
where he wanted me. I've been hungry a good deal because I wouldn't
talk. I'm here as a negotiator. A rotten business. I agreed
because I've hopes you'll be able to put one over on Karlov. It's
"Karlov has her. The girl wasn't to blame. Any one in the game
would have done as she did. Karlov is bugs on politics; but he's
shrewd enough at this sort of game. He trapped the girl because he'd
studied her enough to learn what she would or would not do. Now they
are not going to hurt her. They merely propose exchanging her for
the man you've been hiding up here. There's a taxi downstairs. It
will carry me back to Fifteenth; then it will return and wait. If
the man is not at the appointed place by midnight - he must go in
this taxi - the girl will be carried off elsewhere, and you'll never
lay eyes on her again. Karlov and his gang are potential assassins;
all they want is excuse. Until midnight they will not touch the girl;
but after midnight, God knows! What message am I to take back?"
"Do you know where she is?"
Cutty spoke without much outward emotion.
"Not the least idea. Whenever Karlov wanted to quiz me, he appeared
late at night from some other part of the town. But he never got
"You saw him this evening?"
"Yes. It probably struck him as a fine joke to send me."
"And if you don't go back?"
"The girl will be taken away. I'm honestly afraid of the man. He's
too quiet spoken. That kind of a man always goes the limit."
"I see. Wait here."
At Cutty's approach Hawksley looked up apathetically.
"You are pale. Anything serious?"
"Yes. Karlov has got Kitty."
For a minute Hawksley did not stir. Then he got up, put away the
Amati, and came back. He was pale, too.
"I understand," he said. "They will exchange her for me. Am I
"Yes. But you are not obliged to do anything like that, you know."
"I am ready."
"You give yourself up?"
"You're a man!" Cutty burst out.
"I was brought up by one. Honestly, now, could I ever look a white
man in the face again if I didn't give myself up? I did begin to
believe that I might get through. But Fate was only playing with
me. May I use your desk to write a line?"
"Come with me," said Cutty, unsteadily. This was not the result of
environment. Quiet courage of this order was race. No questions
demanding if there wasn't some way round the inevitable. Cutty's
heart glowed; the boy had walked into it, never to leave it. "I'm
ready." It took a man to say that when the sequence was death.
"Coles," said Cutty upon reentering the study, "tell Karlov that His
Highness will give himself up. He will be there before midnight."
"That's enough for me. But if there's the least sign that you're
not playing straight it will be all off. Two men will be watching
the taxi and the entrance. If you appear, it's good-night. They
told me to warn you."
"I promise not to appear."
Coles smiled enigmatically and reached for his hat. He held his hand
out to Hawksley. "You're a white man, sir."
"Thanks," said Hawksley, absently. To have it all over with!
As soon as the captive Federal agent withdrew Hawksley sat down at
the desk and wrote.
"Will this hold legally?" he asked, extending the written sheet to
Cutty saw that it was a simple will. In it Hawksley gave half of
his possessions to Kitty and half to Stefani Gregor. In case the
latter was dead the sum total was to go to Kitty.
"I got you into a muddle; this will take you out of it. Karlov will
kill me. I don't know how. I am his obsession. He will sleep
better with me off his mind. Will this hold legally?"
"Yes. But why Kitty Conover, a stranger?"
"Is a woman who saves your life a stranger?"
"Well, not exactly. This is what we might call zero hour. I gave
you a haven here not particularly because I was sorry for you, but
because I wanted those emeralds. Once upon a time Gregor showed
them to me. Until I examined your wallet I supposed you had
smuggled in the stones; and that would have been fair game. But
you had paid your way in honestly. Now, what did you do to Kitty
Conover last night that decided her to accept that fool proposition?
She sent her acceptance after she left you.
"I did not know that. I played for her. She became music-struck,
and I took advantage of it - kissed her. Then she told me she was
going to marry you."
"And that is why you asked me if I would trust you with a daughter
"Conscience. That explains this will."
"No. Why did you accept my suggestion to marry her?"
"To make her comfortable without sidestepping the rules of convention."
"No. Because you love her - the way I do."
Cutty's pipe slipped from his teeth. It did not often do that. He
stamped out the embers and laid the pipe on the tray.
"What makes you think I love her?"
"What makes me tell you that I do?"
"Yes, death may be at the end of to-night's work; so I'll admit that
I love her. She is like a forest stream, wild at certain turns, but
always sweet and clear. I'm an old fool, old enough to be her father.
I loved her mother. Can a man love two women with all his heart, one
years after the other?"
"It is the avatar; she is the reincarnation of the mother. I
understand now. What was a beautiful memory takes living form again.
You still love the mother; the daughter has revived that love."
"By the Lord Harry, I believe you've struck it! Walked into the
fog and couldn't find the way out. Of course. What an old ass I've
been! Simple as daylight. I've simply fallen in love with Molly all
over again, thinking it was Kitty. Plain as the nose on my face.
And I might have made a fine mess of it if you hadn't waked me up."
All this gentle irony went over Hawksley's head. "When do you wish
me to go down to the taxi?"
"Son, I'm beginning to like you. You shall have your chance. In
fact, we'll take it together. There'll be a taxi but I'll hire it.
I'm quite positive I know where Kitty is. If I'm correct you'll
have your chance. If I'm wrong you'll have to pay the score. We'll
get her out or we'll stay where she is. In any event, Karlov will
pay the price. Wouldn't you prefer to go out - if you must - in a
"Fighting?" Hawksley was on his feet instantly. "Do you mean that?
I can die with free hands?"
"With a chance of coming out top-hole."
"I say, what a ripping thing hope is - always springing back!"
Cutty nodded. But he knew there was one hope that would never warm
his heart again. Molly! ... Well, he'd let the young chap believe
that. Kitty must never know. Poor little chick, fighting with her
soul in the dark and not knowing what the matter was! Such things
happened. He had loved Molly on sight. He had loved Kitty on sight.
In neither case had he known it until too late to turn about. Mother
and daughter; a kind of sacrilege, as if he had betrayed Molly! But
what a clear vision acknowledged love lent to the mind! He
understood Kitty, who did not understand herself. Well, this night's
adventure would decide things.
He smiled. Neither Kitty nor the drums of jeopardy; nothing. The
gates of paradise again - for somebody else! Whoever heard of a
prompter receiving press notices?
"Let's look alive! We haven't any time to waste. We'll have to
change to dungarees - engineer togs. There'll be some tools to
carry. We go straight down to the boiler room. We come up the ash
exit on the street side. Remember, no suspicious haste. Two
engineers off for their evening swig of beer at the corner groggery.
Through the side door there, and into my taxi. Obey every order I
give. Now run along to Kuroki and say night work for both of us.
He'll understand what's wanted. I'll set the machinery in motion
for a raid. How do you feel? I want the truth. I don't want to
turn to you for help and not get it."
Hawksley laughed. "Don't worry about me. I'll carry on. Don't
you understand? To have an end of it, one way or the other! To
come free or to die there!"
"And if Kitty is not where I believe her to be?"
"Then I'll return to the taxi outside."
To be young like that! thought Cutty, feeling strangely sad and
old. "To come free or to die there!" That was good Anglo-Saxon.
He would make a good American citizen - if he were in luck.
At half after nine the two of them knelt on the roof before the
cemented trap. Nothing but raging heat disintegrates cement. So
the liberation of this trap, considering the time, was a Herculean
task, because it had to be accomplished with little or no noise.
Cold chisels, fulcrums, prying, heaving, boring. To free the under
edge; the top did not matter. Not knowing if Kitty were below -
that was the worst part of the job.
The sweat of agony ran down Hawksley's face; but he never faltered.
He was going to die to-night, somehow, somewhere, but with free
hands, the way Stefani would have him die, the way the girl would
have him die. All these thousands of miles - to die in a house he
had never seen before, just when life was really worth something!
An hour went by. Then they heard Kitty's signal. Instinctively the
two of them knew that the taps came from her. They were absolutely
certain when her signal was repeated. She was below, alone.
"Faster!" whispered Cutty.
Hawksley smiled. To say that to a chap when he was digging into
When the sides of the trap were free Cutty tapped to Kitty again.
There was a long, agonizing wait. Then three taps came from below.
Cutty flashed a signal to the warehouse windows. In five minutes
the raid would be in full swing - from the roof, from the street,
from the cellar.
With their short crowbars braced by stout fulcrums the two men
heaved. Noise did not matter now. Presently the trap went over.
"Look out for your hands; there's lots of loose glass. And together
when we drop."
"Right-o!" whispered Hawksley, assured that when he dropped through
the trap the result would be oblivion. Done in.
Karlov, upon forcing his way past Kitty's barricade, stared at her
doubtfully. This was a clever girl; she had proved her cleverness
frequently. She might have some reason other than fear in keeping
him out. So he put a fresh candle in the sconce and began to prowl.
He pierced the attic windows with a ranging glance; no one was in
the yard or on the Street. The dust on the windows had not been
To Kitty the suspense was intolerable. At any moment Cutty might
tap a query to her. How to warn him that all was not well? A scream
would do it; but in that event when Cutty arrived there would be no
Kitty Conover. Something that would sound unusual to Cutty and
accidental to Karlov. She hit upon it. She seized a plank from her
barricade, raised it to a perpendicular position, then flung it
down violently. Would Cutty hear and comprehend that she was warning
him? As a matter of fact, Cutty never heard the crash, for at that
particular minute he was standing up to get the kinks out of his
Karlov whirled on his heels, ran to Kitty, and snatched her wrist.
"Why did you do that?"
Kitty remained mute. "Answer !" - with a cruel twist.
"You hurt!" she gasped. Anything to gain time. She tried to break
"Why did you do that?"
"I was going to thrust it through a window to attract attention.
It was too heavy."
This explanation was within bounds of reason. It is possible that
Karlov - who had merely come up with a fresh candle - would have
departed but for a peculiarly grim burst of humour on the part of
Tap - tap - tap? inquired the unsuspecting man on the roof -
exactly to Kitty like some innocent, inquisitive child embarrassing
the family before company.
Karlov flung her aside roughly, stepped under the trap, and cupped
an ear. He required no explanations from Kitty, who shrank to the
wall and remained pinned there by terror. Karlov's intuition was
keen. Men on the roof held but one significance. The house was
surrounded by Federal agents. For a space he wavered between two
desires, the political and the private vengeance.
A call down the stairs, and five minutes afterward there would be
nothing on the spot but a jumble of smoking wood and brick. But
not to see them die!
His subsequent acts, cold and methodical, fascinated Kitty. He
took a step toward her. The scream died in her throat. But he
did not go beyond that step. The picture of her terror decided
his future actions. He would see them die, here, with the girl
looking on. A full measure. Well enough he knew who were
digging away the cement of the trap. What gave lodgment to this
conviction he did not bother to analyze. The man he had not yet
seen, who had balked him, now here, now there, from that first
night; and who but the last of that branch of the hated house
should be with him? To rend, batter, crush, kill! If he were
bound for hell, to go there with the satisfaction of knowing that
his private vengeance had been cancelled. The full reckoning for
Anna's degradation: Stefani Gregor, broken and dying, and all
the others dead!
He would shoot them as they dropped through the trap. Not to
kill, but to maim, render helpless; then he would taunt them and
grind his heels in their faces. Up there, the two he most hated
of all living men!
First he restored Kitty's barricade - to keep assistance from
entering before his work was completed. The butt of the first
plank he pushed under the door knob. The other planks he laid flat,
end to end, with the butt of the last snug against the brick
chimney. The door would never give as a whole; it would have to
be smashed in by axes. He then set the candle on the floor,
backed by an up-ended soapbox. His enemies would drop into a pool
of light, while they would not be able to see him at once. The
girl would not matter. Her terror would hold her for some time.
These manoeuvres completed, he answered the signal, sat down on
another box and waited, reminding Kitty of some grotesque
Kitty saw the inevitable. Thereupon her terror ceased to bind her.
As Cutty flung back the trap she would cry out a warning. Karlov
might - and probably would - kill her. Her share in this night's
work - her incredible folly - required full payment. Having decided
to die with Cutty, all her courage returned. This is the normal
result of any sublime resolve. But with the return of her courage
she evolved another plan. She measured the distance between herself
and Karlov, calculating there would be three strides. As Cutty
dropped she would fling herself upon the madman. The act would at
least give Cutty something like equal terms. What became of Kitty
Conover thereafter was of no importance to the world.
Sounds. She became conscious of noises elsewhere in the house. The
floor trembled. There came a creaking and snapping of wood, and she
heard the trap fall. Karlov stood up, menacing, terrible. She saw
where Cutty would drop, and now understood the cunning of the
manoeuvre of placing the candle in front of the soapbox. Cutty
would be an absolute mark for Karlov, protected by the shadow. She
set herself, as a runner at the tape.
Karlov was not the type criminal, which when cornered, thinks only
of personal safety. He was a political fanatic. All who opposed
his beliefs must not be permitted to survive. There was a touch of
Torquemada of the Inquisition in his cosmos. He could not kill
directly; he had to torture first.
He knew by the ascending sounds that there would be no way out of
this for him. To the American, Russia was an outlaw. He would be
treated as a dangerous alien enemy and locked up. Boris Karlov
should never live to eat his heart out behind bars.
Unique angle of thought, he mused. He wanted mud to trample them
in, Russian mud. The same mud that had filled the mouth of Anna's
He was, then, a formidable antagonist for any two strong men; let
alone two one of whom was rather spent, the other dizzy with pain,
holding himself together by the last shreds of his will. They
dropped through the trap, Cutty in front of the candle, Hawksley
a little to one side. The elder man landed squarely, but Hawksley
fell backward. He crawled to his feet, swaying drunkenly. For a
space he was not sure of the reality of the scene.... Torches
and hobnailed boots!
"So!" said Karlov.
The torturer must talk; he must explain the immediate future to
double the agony. He could have maimed them both, then trampled
them to death, but he had to inform them of the fact. He pointed
the automatic at Cutty because he considered this man the more
dangerous of the two. He at once saw that the other was a
negligible factor. He spoke slowly.
"And the girl shall witness your agonies," he concluded.
Cutty, bereft of invention, could only stare. Death! He had faced