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The Face And The Mask by Robert Barr

Part 5 out of 5

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the gods, I'll teach you a lesson in the detective business!"

Athlete as young Brown was, the suddenness of the attack, and the fact
that Staples clutched both hands round his neck and had his knee on his
breast, left him as powerless as an infant. Even then he did not
realize what had caused the robber to guess his position.

"For God's sake, let me up!" gasped Brown.

"We'll be into an air-hole and drowned in a moment."

"I'll risk it, you dog! till I've choked the breath out of your body."
Brown wriggled his head away from the rudder iron, hoping that the boat
would slew around, but it kept its course. He realized that if he was
to save his life he would have to act promptly. He seemed to feel his
tongue swell in his parched mouth. His strength was gone and his throat
was in an iron vice. He struck out wildly with his feet and one
fortunate kick sent the rudder almost at right angles.

Instantly the boat flashed around into the wind. Even if a man is
prepared for such a thing, it takes all his nerve and strength to keep
him on an iceboat. Staples was not prepared. He launched head first
into space and slid for a long distance on the rough ice. Brown was
also flung on the ice and lay for a moment gasping for breath. Then he
gathered himself together, and slipping his hand under his coat, pulled
out his revolver. He thought at first that Staples was shamming, but a
closer examination of him showed that the fall on the ice had knocked
him senseless.

There was only one thing that young Mr. Brown was very anxious to know.
He wanted to know where the money was. He had played the part of
private detective well in Toronto, after the very best French style,
and had searched the room of Staples in his absence, but he knew the
money was not there nor in his valise. He knew equally well that the
funds were in some safe deposit establishment in the city, but where he
could not find out. He had intended to work on Staples' fears of
imprisonment when once he had him safe on the other side of the line.
But now that the man was insensible, he argued that it was a good time
to find whether or not he had a record of the place of deposit in his
pocket-book. He found no such book in his pockets. In searching,
however, he heard the rustling of paper apparently in the lining of his
coat. Then he noticed how thickly it was padded. The next moment he had
it ripped open, and a glance showed him that it was lined with bonds.
Both coat and vest were padded in this way--the vest being filled with
Bank of England notes, so the chances were that Staples had meditated a
tour in Europe. The robber evidently put no trust in Safe Deposits nor
banks. Brown flung the thief over on, his face, after having unbuttoned
coat and vest, doubled back his arms and pulled off these garments. His
own, Brown next discarded, and with some difficulty got them on the
fallen man and then put on the clothes of mammon.

"This is what I call rolling in wealth." said Brown to himself. He
admitted that he felt decidedly better after the change of clothing,
cold as it was.

Buttoning his own garments on the prostrate man, Brown put a flask of
liquor to his lips and speedily revived him. Staples sat on the ice in
a dazed manner, and passed his hand across his brow. In the cold gleam
of the moonlight he saw the shining barrel of Brown's revolver
"covering" him.

"It's all up, Mr. Staples. Get on board the iceboat."

"Where are you going to take me to?"

"I'll let you go when we come to the coast if you tell me where the
money is."

"You know you are guilty of the crime of kidnapping," said Mr. Staples,
apparently with the object of gaining time. "So you are in some danger
of the law yourself."

"That is a question that can be discussed later on. You came
voluntarily, don't forget that fact. Where's the money?"

"It is on deposit in the Bank of Commerce."

"Well, here's paper and a stylographic pen, if the ink isn't frozen--
no, it's all right--write a cheque quickly for the amount payable to
bearer. Hurry up, or the ink will freeze."

There was a smile of satisfaction on the face of Staples as he wrote
the check.

"There," he said, with a counterfeited sigh. "That is the amount."

The check was for 480,000 dollars.

When they came under the shadow of the American coast, Brown ordered
his passenger off.

"You can easily reach land from here, and the walk will do you good.
I'm going further up the lake."

When Staples was almost at the land he shouted through the clear night
air: "Don't spend the money recklessly when you get it, Walker."

"I'll take care of it, Staples," shouted back young Brown.

* * * * *

Young Mr. Brown sprang lightly up the steps of the Temple mansion,
Rochester, and pressed the electric button.

"Has Mr. Temple gone to the bank yet?" he asked the servant.

"No, sir; he is in the library."

"Thank you. Don't trouble. I know the way."

Mr. Temple looked around as the young man entered, and, seeing who it
was, sprang to his feet with a look of painful expectancy on his face.
"There's a little present for you," said Mr. Brown, placing a package
on the table. "Four hundred and seventy-eight thousand: Bank of England
notes and United States bonds." The old man grasped his hand, strove to
speak, but said nothing.

* * * * *

People wondered why young Mr. and Mrs. Brown went to Toronto on their
wedding tour in the depth of winter. It was so very unusual, don't you


She was in earnest; he was not. When that state of things exists
anything may happen. The occurrence may be commonplace, comic, or
tragic, depending on the temperament and experience of the woman. In
this instance the result was merely an appointment--which both of them

Hector McLane came to Paris with noble resolutions, a theory of color,
and a small allowance. Paris played havoc with all of these. He was
engaged to a nice girl at home, who believed him destined to become a
great painter; a delusion which McLane shared.

He entered with great zest into the life of a Parisian art student, but
somehow the experience did not equal his anticipations. What he had
read in books--poetry and prose--had thrown a halo around the Latin
Quarter, and he was therefore disappointed in finding the halo missing.
The romance was sordid and mercenary, and after a few months of it he
yearned for something better.

In Paris you may have nearly everything--except the something better.
It exists, of course, but it rarely falls in the way of the usually
impecunious art student. Yet it happened that, as luck was not against
the young man, he found it when he had abandoned the search for it.

McLane's theory was that art had become too sombre. The world was
running overmuch after the subdued in color. He wanted to be able to
paint things as they are, and was not to be deterred if his pictures
were called gaudy. He obtained permission to set up his easel in the
Church of Notre Dame, and in the dim light there, he endeavored to
place on canvas some semblance of the splendor of color that came
through the huge rose window high above him. He was discouraged to see
how opaque the colors in the canvas were as compared with the
translucent hues of the great window. As he leaned back with a sigh of
defeat, his wandering eyes met, for one brief instant, something more
beautiful than the stained glass, as the handiwork of God must always
be more beautiful than the handiwork of man. The fleeting glimpse was
of a melting pair of dark limpid eyes, which, meeting his, were
instantly veiled, and then he had a longer view of the sweet face they
belonged to. It was evident that the young girl had been admiring his
work, which was more than he could hope to have the professor at
Julien's do.

Lack of assurance was never considered, even by his dearest friend, to
be among McLane's failings. He rose from his painting stool, bowed and
asked her if she would not sit down for a moment; she could see the--
the--painting so much better. The girl did not answer, but turned a
frightened look upon him, and fled under the wing of her kneeling
duenna, who had not yet finished her devotions. It was evident that the
prayers of the girl had been briefer than those of the old woman in
whose charge she was. Where the need is greatest the prayer is often
the shortest. McLane had one more transitory glimpse of those dark eyes
as he held open the swinging door. The unconscious woman and the
conscious girl passed out of the church.

This was how it began.

The painting of the colored window of Notre Dame now occupied almost
all the time at the disposal of Hector McLane. No great work is ever
accomplished without unwearied perseverance. It was remarkable that the
realization of this truth came upon him just after he had definitely
made up his mind to abandon the task. Before he allowed the swinging
door to close he had resolved to pursue his study in color. It thus
happened, incidentally, that he saw the young girl again, always at the
same hour, and always with the same companion. Once he succeeded,
unnoticed by the elder, in slipping a note into her hand, which he was
pleased and flattered to see she retained and concealed. Another day he
had the joy of having a few whispered words with her in the dim shadow
of one of the gigantic pillars. After that, progress was comparatively

Her name was Yvette, he learned, and he was amused to find with what
expert dexterity a perfectly guileless and innocent little creature
such as she was, managed to elude the vigilance of the aged and
experienced woman who had her in charge. The stolen interviews usually
took place in the little park behind Notre Dame. There they sat on the
bench facing the fountain, or walked up and down on the crunching
gravel under the trees. In the afternoons they walked in the secluded
part of the park, in the shadow of the great church. It was her custom
to send him dainty little notes telling him when she expected to be in
the park, giving the number of the bench, for sometimes the duenna
could not be eluded, and was seated there with Yvette. On these
occasions McLane had to content himself with gazing from afar.

She was so much in earnest that the particular emotion which occupied
the place of conscience in McLane's being, was troubled. He thought of
the nice girl at home, and fervently hoped nothing of this would ever
reach her ears. No matter how careful a man is, chance sometimes plays
him a scurvy trick. McLane remembered instances, and regretted the
world was so small. Sometimes a cry of recognition from one on the
pavement to a comrade in the park, shouted through the iron railings,
sent a shiver through McLane. Art students had an uncomfortable habit
of roaming everywhere, and they were boisterous in hailing an
acquaintance. Besides, they talked, and McLane dreaded having his
little intrigue the joke of the school. At any moment an objectionable
art student might drop into the park to sketch the fountain, or the
nurses and children, or the back of the cathedral at one end of the
park, or even the low, gloomy, unimposing front of the Morgue at the

He was an easy-going young fellow, who hated trouble, and perhaps,
knowing that the inevitable day of reckoning was approaching, this
accounted for the somewhat tardy awakening of his conscience.

He sometimes thought it would be best simply to leave Paris without any
explanation, but he remembered that she knew his address, having
written to him often, and that by going to the school she could easily
find out where his home was. So if there was to be a scene it was much
better that it should take place in Paris, rather than where the nice
girl lived.

He nerved himself up many times to make the explanation and bring down
the avalanche, but when the time came he postponed it. But the
inevitable ultimately arrives. He had some difficulty at first in
getting her to understand the situation clearly, but when he at last
succeeded there was no demonstration. She merely kept her eyes fixed on
the gravel and gently withdrew her hand from his. To his surprise she
did not cry, nor even answer him, but walked silently to and fro with
downcast eyes in the shadow of the church. No one, he said, would ever
occupy the place in his heart that she held. He was engaged to the
other girl, but he had not known what love was until he met Yvette. He
was bound to the other girl by ties he could not break, which was quite
true, because the nice girl had a rich father. He drew such a pathetic
picture of the loveless life he must in the future lead, that a great
wave of self-pity surged up within him and his voice quavered. He felt
almost resentful that she should take the separation in such an
unemotional manner. When a man gets what he most desires he is still
unsatisfied. This was exactly the way he had hoped she would take it.

All things come to an end, even explanations.

"Well, good-bye, Yvette," he said, reaching out his hand. She hesitated
an instant, then without looking up, placed her small palm in his.

They stood thus for a moment under the trees, while the fountain beside
them plashed and trickled musically. The shadow of the church was
slowly creeping towards them over the gravel. The park was deserted,
except by themselves. She tried gently to withdraw her hand, which he

"Have you nothing to say to me, Yvette?" he asked, with a touch of
reproach in his voice.

She did not answer. He held her fingers, which were slipping from his
grasp, and the shadow touched her feet.

"Yvette, you will at least kiss me goodbye?"

She quickly withdrew her hand from his, shook her head and turned away.
He watched her until she was out of sight, and then walked slowly
towards his rooms on the Boulevard St. Germain. His thoughts were not
comfortable. He was disappointed in Yvette. She was so clever, so
witty, that he had at least expected she would have said something
cutting, which he felt he thoroughly deserved. He had no idea she could
be so heartless. Then his thoughts turned to the nice girl at home.
She, too, had elements in her character that were somewhat bewildering
to an honest young man. Her letters for a long time had been infrequent
and unsatisfactory. It couldn't be possible that she had heard
anything. Still, there is nothing so easy as point-blank denial, and he
would see to that when he reached home.

An explanation awaited him at his rooms on the Boulevard. There was a
foreign stamp on the envelope, and it was from the nice girl. There had
been a mistake, she wrote, but happily she had discovered it before it
was too late. She bitterly reproached herself, taking three pages to do
it in, and on the fourth page he gathered that she would be married by
the time he had the letter. There appeared to be no doubt that the nice
girl fully realized how basely she had treated a talented, hard-
working, aspiring, sterling young man, but the realization had not
seemingly postponed the ringing of the wedding-bells to any appreciable

Young McLane crushed the letter in his hand and used strong language,
as, indeed, he was perfectly justified in doing. He laughed a hard dry
laugh at the perfidy of woman. Then his thoughts turned towards Yvette.
What a pity it was she was not rich! Like so many other noble, talented
men, he realized he could not marry a poor woman. Suddenly it occurred
to him that Yvette might not be poor. The more he pondered over the
matter the more astonished he was that he had ever taken her poverty
for granted. She dressed richly, and that cost money in Paris. He
remembered that she wore a watch which flashed with jewels on the one
occasion when he had seen it for a moment. He wished he had postponed
his explanation for one more day; still, that was something easily
remedied. He would tell her he had thrown over the other girl for her
sake. Like a pang there came to him the remembrance that he did not
know her address, nor even her family name. Still, she would be sure to
visit the little park, and he would haunt it until she came. The
haunting would give additional point to his story of consuming love.
Anyhow, nothing could be done that night.

In the morning he was overjoyed to receive a letter from Yvette, and he
was more than pleased when he read its contents. It asked for one more
meeting behind the church.

"I could not tell you to-day," she wrote, "all I felt. To-morrow you
shall know, if you meet me. Do not fear that I will reproach you. You
will receive this letter in the morning. At twelve o'clock I shall be
waiting for you on the sixth bench on the row south of the fountain--
the sixth bench--the farthest from the church."

McLane was overjoyed at his good luck. He felt that he hardly merited
it. He was early at the spot, and sat down on the last bench of the row
facing the fountain. Yvette had not yet arrived, but it was still half
an hour before the time. McLane read the morning paper and waited.-At
last the bells all around him chimed the hour of twelve. She had not
come. This was unusual, but always possible. She might not have
succeeded in getting away. The quarter and then the half hour passed
before McLane began to suspect that he had been made the victim of a
practical joke. He dismissed the thought; such a thing was so unlike
her. He walked around the little park, hoping he had mistaken the row
of benches. She was not there. He read the letter again. It was plain
enough--the sixth bench. He counted the benches beginning at the
church. One--two--three--four--five. There were only five benches in
the row.

As he gazed stupidly at the fifth bench a man beside him said--"That is
the bench, sir."

"What do you mean?" cried McLane, turning toward him, astonished at the

"It was there that the young girl was found dead this morning--
poisoned, they say."

McLane stared at him--and then he said huskily--

"Who--was she?"

"Nobody knows that--yet. We will soon know, for everybody, as you see,
is going into the Morgue. She's the only one on the bench to-day.
Better go before the crowd gets greater. I have been twice."

McLane sank on the seat and drew his hand cross his forehead.

He knew she was waiting for him on the sixth bench--the furthest from
the church!

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