Part 2 out of 4
She had now drawn her chair so close to the gilded grille that, hands
resting upon it, she could look down into the car where sat the scion of
the Vanderdynks on a flimsy Louis XV chair.
"I can't express to you how sorry I am," she said. "Is there anything I
can do to--to ameliorate your imprisonment?"
He looked at her in a bewildered way.
"You don't expect me to remain here until after New Year's, do you?" he
"I don't see how you can avoid it. Nobody seems to want to work until
after New Year's."
"Stay in a cage--two days and a night!"
"Perhaps I had better call up the police."
"No, no! Wait. I'll tell you what to do. Start that man, Ferdinand, on a
tour of the city. If he hunts hard enough and long enough he'll find some
plumber or locksmith or somebody who'll come."
She rang for Ferdinand; together they instructed him, and he went away,
promising to bring salvation in some shape.
Which promise made the young man more cheerful and smoothed out the
worried pucker between Sacharissa's straight brows.
"I suppose," she said, "that you will never forgive my maid for this--or
He laughed. "After all," he admitted, "it's rather funny."
"I don't believe you think it's funny."
"Yes, I do."
"Didn't you want to go to Tuxedo?"
"I!" He looked up at the pretty countenance of Sacharissa. "I _did_ want
to--a few minutes ago."
"And now that you can't your philosophy teaches you that you _don't_ want
They laughed at each other in friendly fashion.
"Perhaps it's my philosophy," he said, "but" I really don't care very
much.... I'm not sure that I care at all.... In fact, now that I think of
it, why should I have wished to go to Tuxedo? It's stupid to want to go
to Tuxedo when New York is so attractive."
"Do you know," she said reflectively, "that I came to the same
"Oh, yes," she said rather hastily, "before you came----"
She broke off, pink with consternation. What a ridiculous thing to say!
What on earth was twisting her tongue to hint at such an absurdity?
She said, gravely, with heightened color: "I was standing by the window
this morning, thinking, and it occurred to me that I didn't care to go to
Tuxedo.... When did you change _your_ mind?"
"A few minutes a--that is--well, I never _really_ wanted to go. It's
jollier in town. Don't you think so? Blue sky, snow--er--and all that?"
"Yes," she said, "it is perfectly delightful in town to-day."
He assented, then looked discouraged.
"Perhaps you would like to go out?" he said.
"I? Oh, no.... The sun on the snow is bad for one's eyes; don't you think
"Very.... I'm terribly sorry that I'm giving you so much trouble."
"I don't mind--really. If only I could do something for you."
"Yes; you are being exceedingly nice to me. I am afraid you feel under
obligations to remain indoors and----"
"Truly, I don't. I was not going out."
She leaned nearer and looked through the bars: "Are you quite sure you
"I feel like something in a zoo!"
She laughed. "That reminds me," she said, "have you had any luncheon?"
He had not, it appeared, after a little polite protestation, so she rang
Her own appetite, too, had returned when the tray was brought; napkin and
plate were passed through the grille to him, and, as they lunched, he in
his cage, she close to the bars, they fell into conversation, exchanging
information concerning mutual acquaintances whom they had expected to
meet at the Delancy Courlands'.
"So you see," she said, "that if I had not changed my mind about going to
Tuxedo this morning you would not be here now. Nor I.... And we would
never have--lunched together."
"That didn't alter things," he said, smiling. "If you hadn't been ill you
would have gone to Tuxedo, and I should have seen you there."
"Then, whatever I did made no difference," she assented, thoughtfully,
"for we were bound to meet, anyway."
He remained standing close to the grille, which, as she was seated,
brought his head on a level with hers.
"It would seem," he said laughingly, "as though we were doomed to meet
each other, anyway. It looks like a case of Destiny to me."
She started slightly: "What did you say?"
"I said that it looks as though Fate intended us to meet, anyhow. Don't
you think so?"
She remained silent.
He added cheerfully: "I never was afraid of Fate."
"Would you care for a--a book--or anything?" she asked, aware of a new
constraint in her voice.
"I don't believe I could see to read in here.... Are you--going?"
"I--ought to." Vexed at the feeble senselessness of her reply she found
herself walking down the landing, toward nowhere in particular. She
turned abruptly and came back.
"Do you want a book?" she repeated.
"Oh, I forgot that you can't see to read. But perhaps you might care to
"Are you going away?"
"I--don't mind your smoking."
He lighted a cigarette; she looked at him irresolutely.
"You mustn't think of remaining," he said. Whereupon she seated herself.
"I suppose I ought to try to amuse you--till Ferdinand returns with a
plumber," she said.
He protested: "I couldn't think of asking so much from you."
"Anyway, it's my duty," she insisted. "I ought."
"Because you are under my roof--a guest."
"Please don't think----"
"But I really don't mind! If there is anything I can do to make your
"It is easy. I rather like being here."
"It is very amiable of you to say so."
"I really mean it."
"How can you _really_ mean it?"
"I don't know, but I do." In their earnestness they had come close to the
bars; she stood with both hands resting on the grille, looking in; he in
a similar position, looking out.
He said: "I feel like an occupant of the Bronx, and it rather astonishes
me that you haven't thrown me in a few peanuts."
She laughed, fetched her box of chocolates, then began seriously: "If
Ferdinand doesn't find anybody I'm afraid you might be obliged to remain
"That prospect," he said, "is not unpleasant. You know when one becomes
accustomed to one's cage it's rather a bore to be let out."
They sampled the chocolates, she sitting close to the cage, and as the
box would not go through the bars she was obliged to hand them to him,
one by one.
"I wonder," she mused, "how soon Ferdinand will find a plumber?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
She bent her adorable head, chose a chocolate and offered it to him.
[Illustration: "Are you not terribly impatient?" she inquired]
"Are you not terribly impatient?" she inquired.
Their glances encountered and she said hurriedly:
"I am sure you must be perfectly furious with everybody in this house.
I--I think it is most amiable of you to behave so cheerfully about it."
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I'm feeling about as cheerful as I ever
felt in my life."
"Cooped up in a cage?"
"Which may fall at any--" The idea was a new one to them both. She leaned
forward in sudden consternation. "I never thought of that!" she
exclaimed. "You don't think there's any chance of its falling, do you?"
He looked at the startled, gray eyes so earnestly fixed on his. The sweet
mouth quivered a little--just a little--or he thought it did.
"No," he replied, with a slight catch in his voice, "I don't believe it's
going to fall."
"Perhaps you had better not move around very much in it. Be careful, I
beg of you. You will, won't you, Mr. Vanderdynk?"
"Please don't let it bother you," he said, stepping toward her
"Oh, don't, don't move!" she exclaimed. "You really must keep perfectly
still. Won't you promise me you will keep perfectly still?"
"I'll promise you anything," he said a little wildly.
Neither seemed to notice that he had overdone it.
She drew her chair as close as it would go to the grille and leaned
"You _will_ keep up your courage, won't you?" she asked anxiously.
"Certainly. By the way, how far is it to the b-basement?"
She turned quite white for an instant, then:
"I think I'd better go and ring up the police."
"No! A thousand times no! I couldn't stand that."
"But the car might--drop before----"
"Better decently dead than publicly paragraphed.... I haven't the least
idea that this thing is going to drop.... Anyway, it's worth it," he
added, rather vaguely.
"Worth--what?" she asked, looking into his rather winning, brown eyes.
"Being here," he said, looking into her engaging gray ones.
After a startling silence she said calmly: "Will you promise me not to
move or shake the car till I return?"
"You won't be very long, will you?"
"Not--very," she replied faintly.
She walked into the library, halted in the center of the room, hands
clasped behind her. Her heart was beating like a trip hammer.
"I might as well face it," she said to herself; "he is--by far--the most
thoroughly attractive man I have ever seen.... I--I _don't_ know what's
the matter," she added piteously.... "if it's that machine William made I
can't help it; I don't care any longer; I wish----"
A sharp crack from the landing sent her out there in a hurry, pale and
"Something snapped somewhere," explained the young man with forced
carelessness, "some unimportant splinter gave way and the thing slid down
an inch or two."
"D-do you think----"
"No, I don't. But it's perfectly fine of you to care."
"C-care? I'm a little frightened, of course.... Anybody would be.... Oh,
I wish you were out and p-perfectly safe." "If I thought you could ever
really care what became of a man like me----"
Killian Van K. Vanderdynk's aristocratic senses began gyrating; he
grasped the bars, the back of his hand brushed against hers, and the
momentary contact sent a shock straight through the scion of that
She seated herself abruptly; a delicate color grew, staining her face.
Neither spoke. A long, luminous sunbeam fell across the landing, touching
the edge of her hair till it glimmered like bronze afire. The sensitive
mouth was quiet, the eyes, very serious, were lifted from time to time,
then lowered, thoughtfully, to the clasped fingers on her knee.
Could it be possible? How could it be possible?--with a man she had never
before chanced to meet--with a man she had seen for the first time in her
life only an hour or so ago! Such things didn't happen outside of short
stories. There was neither logic nor common decency in it. Had she or had
she not any ordinary sense remaining?
She raised her eyes and looked at the heir of the Vanderdynks.
Of course anybody could see he was unusually attractive--that he had that
indefinable something about him which is seldom, if ever, seen outside of
fiction or of Mr. Gibson's drawings--perhaps it is entirely confined to
them--except in this one very rare case.
Sacharissa's eyes fell.
Another unusual circumstance was engaging her attention, namely, that his
rather remarkable physical perfection appeared to be matched by a
breeding quite as faultless, and a sublimity of courage in the face of
destruction itself, which----
Sacharissa lifted her gray eyes.
There he stood, suspended over an abyss, smoking a cigarette, bravely
forcing himself to an attitude of serene insouciance, while the basement
yawned for him! Machine or no machine, how could any girl look upon such
miraculous self-control unmoved? _She_ could not. It was natural that a
woman should be deeply thrilled by such a spectacle--and William Destyn's
machine had nothing to do with it--not a thing! Neither had psychology,
nor demonology, nor anything, with wires or wireless. She liked him,
frankly. Who wouldn't? She feared for him, desperately. Who wouldn't?
"Oh--_what_ is it!" she cried, springing to the grille.
"I don't know," he said, somewhat pale. "The old thing seems--to be
"Mr. Vanderdynk! I _must_ call the police----"
"Cr-rackle--crack-k-k!" went the car, dropping an inch or two.
With a stifled cry she caught his hands through the bars, as though to
hold him by main strength.
"Are you crazy?" he said fiercely, thrusting them away. "Be careful! If
the thing drops you'll break your arms!"
"I--I don't care!" she said breathlessly. "I can't let----"
"Crack!" But the car stuck again.
"I _will_ call the police!" she cried.
"The papers may make fun of _you_."
"Was it for _me_ you were afraid? Oh, Mr. Vanderdynk! What do I care for
ridicule compared to--to----"
The car had sunk so far in the shaft now that she had to kneel and put
her head close to the floor to see him.
"I will only be a minute at the telephone," she said. "Keep up courage; I
am thinking of you every moment."
"W-will you let me say one word?" he stammered.
"Oh, what? Be quick, I beg you."
"It's only goodbye--in case the thing drops. May I say it?"
"Y-yes--yes! But say it quickly."
"And if it doesn't drop after all, you won't be angry at what I'm going
"N-no. Oh, for Heaven's sake, hurry!"
"Then--you are the sweetest woman in the world!... Goodbye--Sacharissa--
She sprang up, dazed, and at the same moment a terrific crackling and
splintering resounded from the shaft, and the car sank out of sight.
Faint, she swayed for a second against the balustrade, then turned and
ran downstairs, ears strained for the sickening crash from below.
There was no crash, no thud. As she reached the drawing-room landing, to
her amazement a normally-lighted elevator slid slowly down, came to a
stop, and the automatic grilles opened quietly.
As Killian Van K. Vanderdynk crept forth from the elevator, Sacharissa's
nerves gave way; his, also, seemed to disintegrate; and they stood for
some moments mutually supporting each other, during which interval
unaccustomed tears fell from the gray eyes, and unaccustomed words,
breathed brokenly, reassured her; and, altogether unaccustomed to such
things, they presently found themselves seated in a distant corner of the
drawing-room, still endeavoring to reassure each other with interclasped
They said nothing so persistently that the wordless minutes throbbed into
hours; through the windows the red west sent a glowing tentacle into the
room, searching the gloom for them.
It fell, warm, across her upturned throat, in the half light.
For her head lay back on his shoulder; his head was bent down, lips
pressed to the white hands crushed fragrantly between his own.
A star came out and looked at them with astonishment; in a little while
the sky was thronged with little stars, all looking through the window at
Her maid knocked, backed out hastily and fled, distracted. Then Ferdinand
arrived with a plumber.
Later the butler came. They did not notice him until he ventured to cough
and announce dinner.
The interruptions were very annoying, particularly when she was summoned
to the telephone to speak to her father.
"What is it, dad?" she asked impatiently.
"Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes," she answered, carelessly; "we are all right, dad. Goodbye."
"We? Who the devil is 'We'?"
"Mr. Vanderdynk and I. We're taking my maid and coming down to Tuxedo
this evening together. I'm in a hurry now."
"Oh, it's all right, dad. Here, Killian, please explain things to my
Vanderdynk released her hand and picked up the receiver as though it had
been a live wire.
"Is that you, Mr. Carr?" he began--stopped short, and stood listening,
rigid, bewildered, turning redder and redder as her father's fluency
increased. Then, without a word, he hooked up the receiver.
"Is it all right?" she asked calmly. "Was dad--vivacious?"
The young man said: "I'd rather go back into that elevator than go to
Tuxedo.... But--I'm going."
"So am I," said Bushwyck Carr's daughter, dropping both hands on her
lover's shoulders.... "Was he really very--vivid?"
The telephone again rang furiously.
He bent his head; she lifted her face and he kissed her.
After a while the racket of the telephone annoyed them, and they slowly
moved away out of hearing.
"IN HEAVEN AND EARTH"
_The Green Mouse Stirs_
"I've been waiting half an hour for you," observed Smith, dryly, as
Beekman Brown appeared at the subway station, suitcase in hand.
"It was a most extraordinary thing that detained me," said Brown,
laughing, and edging his way into the ticket line behind his friend where
he could talk to him across his shoulder; "I was just leaving the office,
Smithy, when Snuyder came in with a card."
"Oh, all right--of course, if----"
"No, it was not a client; I must be honest with you."
"Then you had a terrible cheek to keep me here waiting."
"It was a girl," said Beekman Brown.
Smith cast a cold glance back at him over his left shoulder.
"What kind of a girl?"
"A most extraordinary girl. She came on--on a matter----"
"Was it business or a touch?"
"Not exactly business."
"Ornamental girl?" demanded Smith.
"Yes--exceedingly; but it wasn't that----
"Oh, it was not that which kept you talking to her half an hour while
I've sat suffocating in this accursed subway!"
"No, Smith; her undeniably attractive features and her--ah--winning
personality had nothing whatever to do with it. Buy the tickets and I'll
tell you all about it."
Smith bought two tickets. A north bound train roared into the station.
The young men stepped aboard, seated themselves, depositing their
suitcases at their feet.
"Now what about that winning-looker who really didn't interest you?"
suggested Smith in tones made slightly acid by memory of his half hour
"Smith, it was a most unusual episode. I was just leaving the office to
keep my appointment with you when Snuyder came in with a card----"
"You've said that already."
"But I didn't tell you what was on that card, did I?"
"I can guess."
"No, you can't. Her name was not on the card. She was not an agent; she
had nothing to sell; she didn't want a position; she didn't ask for a
subscription to anything. And what do you suppose was on that card?"
"Well, what was on the card, for the love of Mike?" snapped Smith. "I'll
tell you. The card seemed to be an ordinary visiting card; but down in
one corner was a tiny and beautifully drawn picture of a green mouse."
"Pea green.... Come, now, Smith, if you were just leaving your office and
your clerk should come in, looking rather puzzled and silly, and should
hand you a card with nothing on it but a little green mouse, wouldn't it
give you pause?"
"I suppose so."
Brown removed his straw hat, touched his handsome head with his
handkerchief, and continued:
"I said to Snuyder: 'What the mischief is this?' He said: 'It's for you.
And there's an exceedingly pretty girl outside who expects you to receive
her for a few moments.' I said: 'But what has this card with a green
mouse on it got to do with that girl or with me?' Snuyder said he didn't
know and that I'd better ask her. So I looked at my watch and I thought
"Yes, you did."
"I tell you I did. Then I looked at the card with the green mouse on
it.... And I want to ask you frankly, Smith, what would _you_ have done?"
"Oh, what you did, I suppose," replied Smith, wearily. "Go on."
"I'm going. She entered----"
"She was tall and squeenly; you probably forgot that," observed Smith in
his most objectionable manner.
"Probably not; she was of medium height, as a detail of external
interest. But, although rather unusually attractive in a merely
superficial and physical sense, it was instantly evident from her speech
and bearing, that, in her, intellect dominated; her mind, Smithy, reigned
serene, unsullied, triumphant over matter."
Smith looked up in amazement, but Brown, a reminiscent smile lighting his
face, went on:
"She had a very winsome manner--a way of speaking--so prettily in
earnest, so grave. And she looked squarely at me all the time----"
"So you contributed to the Home for Unemployed Patagonians."
"Would you mind shutting up?" asked Brown.
"Then try to listen respectfully. She began by explaining the
significance of that pea-green mouse on the card. It seems, Smith, that
there is a scientific society called The Green Mouse, composed of a few
people who have determined to apply, practically, certain theories which
they believe have commercial value."
"Was she," inquired Smith with misleading politeness, "what is known as
"She was not. She is the president, I believe, of The Green Mouse
Society. She explained to me that it has been indisputably proven that
the earth is not only enveloped by those invisible electric currents
which are now used instead of wires to carry telegraphic messages, but
that this world of ours is also belted by countless psychic currents
which go whirling round the earth----"
"_What_ kind of currents?"
"Which circle the earth?"
"Exactly. If you want to send a wireless message you hitch on to a
current, don't you?--or you tap it--or something. Now, they have
discovered that each one of these numberless millions of psychic currents
passes through two, living, human entities of opposite sex; that, for
example, all you have got to do to communicate with the person who is on
the same psychical current that you are, is to attune your subconscious
self to a given intensity and pitch, and it will be like communication by
telephone, no matter how far apart you are."
"Did she go to your office to tell you that sort of--of--information?"
"Partly. She was perfectly charming about it. She explained to me that
all nature is divided into predestined pairs, and that somewhere, at some
time, either here on earth or in some of the various future existences,
this predestined pair is certain to meet and complete the universal
scheme as it has been planned. Do you understand, Smithy?"
Smith sat silent and reflective for a while, then:
"You say that her theory is that everybody owns one of those psychic
"I am on a private psychic current whirling around this globe?"
"And some--ah--young girl is at the other end?"
"Then if I could only get hold of my end of the wire I could--ah--call
"I believe that's the idea."
"And--she's for muh?"
"So they say."
"Is--is there any way to get a look at her first?"
"You'd have to take her anyway, sometime."
"But suppose I didn't like her?"
The two young men sat laughing for a few moments, then Brown went on:
"You see, Smith, my interview with her was such a curious episode that
about all I did was to listen to what she was saying, so I don't know how
details are worked out. She explained to me that The Green Mouse Society
has just been formed, not only for the purpose of psychical research, but
for applying practically and using commercially the discovery of the
psychic currents. That's what The Green Mouse is trying to do: form
itself into a company and issue stocks and bonds----"
"Certainly. It sounds like a madman's dream at first, but when you come
to look into it--for instance, think of the millions of clients such a
company would have. As example, a young man, ready for marriage, goes to
The Green Mouse and pays a fee. The Green Mouse sorts out, identifies,
and intercepts the young man's own particular current, hitches his
subconscious self to it, and zip!--he's at one end of an invisible
telephone and the only girl on earth is at the other.... What's the
matter with their making a quick date for an introduction?"
Smith said slowly: "Do you mean to tell me that any sane person came to
you in your office with a proposition to take stock in such an
"She did not even suggest it."
"What did she want, then?"
"She wanted," said Brown, "a perfectly normal, unimaginative business man
who would volunteer to permit The Green Mouse Society to sort out his
psychic current, attach him to it, and see what would happen."
"She wants to experiment on _you?_"
"So I understand."
"And--you're not going to let her, are you?"
"Because it's--it's idiotic!" said Smith, warmly. "I don't believe in
such things--you don't, either--nobody does--but, all the same, you can't
be perfectly sure in these days what devilish sort of game you might be
Brown smiled. "I told her, very politely, that I found it quite
impossible to believe in such things; and she was awfully nice about it,
and said it didn't matter what I believed. It seems that my name was
chosen by chance--they opened the Telephone Directory at random and she,
blindfolded, made a pencil mark on the margin opposite one of the names
on the page. It happened to be my name. That's all."
"Wouldn't let her do it!" said Smith, seriously.
"Why not, as long as there's absolutely nothing in it? Besides, if it
pleases her to have a try why shouldn't she? Besides, I haven't the
slightest intention or desire to woo or wed anybody, and I'd like to see
anybody make me."
"Do you mean to say that you told her to go ahead?"
"Certainly," said Brown serenely. "And she thanked me very prettily.
She's well bred--exceptionally."
"Oh! Then what did you do?"
"We talked a little while."
"Well, for instance, I mentioned that curiously-baffling sensation which
comes over everybody at times--the sudden conviction that everything that
you say and do has been said and done by you before--somewhere. Do you
"And she smiled and said that such sensations were merely echoes from the
invisible psychic wire, and that repetitions from some previous
incarnation were not unusual, particularly when the other person through
whom the psychic current passed, was near by."
"You mean to say that when a fellow has that queer feeling that it has
all happened before, the--the predestined girl is somewhere in your
"That is what my pretty informant told me."
"Who," asked Smith, "is this pretty informant?"
"She asked permission to withhold her name."
"Didn't she ask you to subscribe?"
"No; she merely asked for the use of my name as reference for future
clients if The Green Mouse Society was successful in my case."
"What did you say?"
Brown laughed. "I said that if any individual or group of individuals
could induce me, within a year, to fall in love with and pay court to any
living specimen of human woman I'd cheerfully admit it from the house-
tops and take pleasure in recommending The Green Mouse to everybody I
knew who yet remained unmarried."
They both laughed.
"What rot we've been talking," observed Smith, rising and picking up his
suitcase. "Here's our station, and we'd better hustle or we'll lose the
boat. I wouldn't miss that week-end party for the world!"
"Neither would I," said Beekman Brown.
A CROSS-TOWN CAR
_Concerning the Sudden Madness of One Brown_
As the two young fellows, carrying their suitcases, emerged from the
subway at Times Square into the midsummer glare and racket of Broadway
and Forty-second Street, Brown suddenly halted, pressed his hand to his
forehead, gazed earnestly up at the sky as though trying to recollect how
to fly, then abruptly gripped Smith's left arm just above the elbow and
squeezed it, causing the latter gentleman exquisite discomfort.
"Here! Stop it!" protested Smith, wriggling with annoyance.
Brown only gazed at him and then at the sky.
"Stop it!" repeated Smith, astonished. "Why do you pinch me and then look
at the sky? Is--is a monoplane attempting to alight on me? _What_ is the
matter with you, anyway?"
"That peculiar consciousness," said Brown, dreamily, "is creeping over
me. Don't move--don't speak--don't interrupt me, Smith."
"Let go of me!" retorted Smith.
"Hush! Wait! It's certainly creeping over me."
"What's creeping over you?"
"You know what I mean. I am experiencing that strange feeling that all--
er--all _this_--has happened before."
"All what?--confound it!"
"All _this!_ My standing, on a hot summer day, in the infernal din of
some great city; and--and I seem to recall it vividly--after a fashion--
the blazing sun, the stifling odor of the pavements; I seem to remember
that very hackman over there sponging the nose of his horse--even that
pushcart piled up with peaches! Smith! What is this maddeningly elusive
memory that haunts me--haunts me with the peculiar idea that it has all
occurred before?... Do you know what I mean?"
"I've just admitted to you that everybody has that sort of fidget
occasionally, and there's no reason to stand on your hindlegs about it.
Come on or we'll miss our train."
But Beekman Brown remained stock still, his youthful and attractive
features puckered in a futile effort to seize the evanescent memories
that came swarming--gnatlike memories that teased and distracted.
"It's as if the entire circumstances were strangely familiar," he said;
"as though everything that you and I do and say had once before been done
and said by us under precisely similar conditions--somewhere--sometime."
"We'll miss that boat at the foot of Forty-second Street," cut in Smith
impatiently. "And if we miss the boat we lose our train."
Brown gazed skyward.
"I never felt this feeling so strongly in all my life," he muttered;
"it's--it's astonishing. Why, Smith, I _knew_ you were going to say
"Say what?" demanded Smith.
"That we would miss the boat and the train. Isn't it funny?"
"Oh, very. I'll say it again sometime if it amuses you; but, meanwhile,
as we're going to that week-end at the Carringtons we'd better get into a
taxi and hustle for the foot of West Forty-second Street. Is there
anything very funny in that?"
"I knew _that_, too. I knew you'd say we must take a taxi!" insisted
Brown, astonished at his own "clairvoyance."
"Now, look here," retorted Smith, thoroughly vexed; "up to five minutes
ago you were reasonable. What the devil's the matter with you, Beekman
"James Vanderdynk Smith, I don't know. Good Heavens! I knew you were
going to say that to me, and that I was going to answer that way!"
"Are you coming or are you going to talk foolish on this broiling
curbstone the rest of the afternoon?" inquired Smith, fiercely.
"Jim, I tell you that everything we've done and said in the last five
minutes we have done and said before--somewhere--perhaps on some other
planet; perhaps centuries ago when you and I were Romans and wore
"Confound it! What do I care," shouted Smith, "whether we were Romans and
wore togas? We are due this century at a house party on this planet. They
expect us on this train. Are you coming? If not--kindly relax that
crablike clutch on my elbow before partial paralysis ensues."
"Smith, wait! I tell you this is somehow becoming strangely portentous.
I've got the funniest sensation that something is going to happen to me."
"It will," said Smith, dangerously, "if you don't let go my elbow."
But Beekman Brown, a prey to increasing excitement, clung to his friend.
"Wait just one moment, Jim; something remarkable is likely to occur! I--I
never before felt this way--so strongly--in all my life. Something
extraordinary is certainly about to happen to me."
"It has happened," said his friend, coldly; "you've gone dippy. Also,
we've lost that train. Do you understand?"
"I knew we would. Isn't that curious? I--I believe I can almost tell you
what else is going to happen to us."
"_I'll_ tell _you_," hissed Smith; "it's an ambulance for yours and ding-
dong to the funny-house! _What_ are you trying to do now?" With real
misgiving, for Brown, balanced on the edge of the gutter, began waving
his arms in a birdlike way as though about to launch himself into aerial
flight across Forty-second Street.
"The car!" he exclaimed excitedly, "the cherry-colored cross-town car!
Where is it? Do you see it anywhere, Smith?"
"What? What do you mean? There's no cross-town car in sight. Brown, don't
act like that! Don't be foolish! What on earth----"
"It's coming! There's a car coming!" cried Brown.
"Do you think you're a racing runabout and I'm a curve?"
Brown waved him away impatiently.
"I tell you that something most astonishing is going to occur--in a
cherry-colored tram car.... And somehow there'll be some reason for me to
get into it."
"Into that cherry-colored car, because--because--there'll be a wicker
basket in it--somebody holding a wicker basket--and there'll be--there'll
be--a--a--white summer gown--and a big white hat----"
Smith stared at his friend in grief and amazement. Brown stood balancing
himself on the gutter's edge, pale, rapt, uttering incoherent prophecy
concerning the advent of a car not yet visible anywhere in the immediate
"Old man," began Smith with emotion, "I think you had better come very
quietly somewhere with me. I--I want to show you something pretty and
"Hark!" exclaimed Brown.
"Sure, I'll hark for you," said Smith, soothingly, "or I'll bark for you
if you like, or anything if you'll just come quietly."
"The cherry-colored car!" cried Brown, laboring under tremendous emotion.
"Look, Smithy! That is the car!"
"Sure, it is! I see it, old man. They run 'em every five minutes. What
the devil is there to astonish anybody about a cross-town cruiser with a
red water line?"
"Look!" insisted Brown, now almost beside himself. "The wicker basket!
The summer gown! Exactly as I foretold it! The big straw hat!--the--the
And shoving Smith violently away he galloped after the cherry-colored
car, caught it, swung himself aboard, and sank triumphant and breathless
into the transverse seat behind that occupied by a wicker basket, a filmy
summer frock, a big, white straw hat, and--a girl--the most amazingly
pretty girl he had ever laid eyes on. After him, headlong, like a
distracted chicken, rushed Smith and alighted beside him, panting,
"Wha'--dyeh--board--this--car--for!" he gasped, sliding fiercely up
beside Brown. "Get off or I'll drag you off!"
But Brown only shook his head with an infatuated smile.
"Is it that girl?" said Smith, incensed. "Are you a--a Broadway Don Juan,
or are you a respectable lawyer with a glimmering sense of common decency
and an intention to keep a social engagement at the Carringtons' to-day?"
And Smith drew out his timepiece and flourished it furiously under
Brown's handsome and sun-tanned nose.
But Brown only slid along the seat away from him, saying:
"Don't bother me, Jim; this is too momentous a crisis in my life to have
a well-intentioned but intellectually dwarfed friend butting into me and
running about under foot."
"Intellectually d-d--do you mean _me?_" asked Smith, unable to believe
his ears. "_Do_ you?"
"Yes, I do! Because a miracle suddenly happens to me on Forty-second
Street, and you, with your mind of a stockbroker, unable to appreciate
it, come clattering and clamoring after me about a house party--a common-
place, every-day, social appointment, when I have a full-blown miracle on
"What miracle?" faltered Smith, stupefied.
"What miracle? Haven't I been telling you that I've been having that
queer sense that all this has happened before? Didn't I suddenly begin--
as though compelled by some unseen power--to foretell things? Didn't I
prophesy the coming of this cross-town car? Didn't I even name its color
before it came into sight? Didn't I warn you that I'd probably get into
it? Didn't I reveal to you that a big straw hat and a pretty summer
"Confound it!" almost shouted Smith, "There are about five thousand
cherry-colored cross-town cars in this town. There are about five million
white hats and dresses in this borough. There are five billion girls
wearing 'em----!" "Yes; but the _wicker basket_" breathed Brown. "How do
you account for _that?_... And, anyway, you annoy me, Smith. Why don't
you get out of the car and go somewhere?"
"I want to know where you are going before I knock your head off."
"I don't know," replied Brown, serenely.
"Are you actually attempting to follow that girl?" whispered Smith,
"Yes.... It sounds low, doesn't it? But it really isn't. It is something
I can't explain--you couldn't understand even if I tried to enlighten
you. The sentiment I harbor is too lofty for some to comprehend, too
vague, too pure, too ethereal for----"
"I'm as lofty and ethereal as you are!" retorted Smith, hotly. "And I
know a--an ethereal Lothario when I see him, too!"
"I'm not--though it looks like it--and I forgive you, Smithy, for losing
your temper and using such language."
"Oh, you do?" said Smith, grinning with rage.
"Yes," nodded Brown, kindly. "I forgive you, but don't call me that
again. You mean well, but I'm going to find out at last what all this
maddening, tantalizing, unexplained and mysterious feeling that it all
has occurred before really is. I'm going to trace it to its source; I'm
going to compare notes with this highly intelligent girl."
"You're going to _speak_ to her?"
"I am. I must. How else can I compare data."
"I hope she'll call the police. If she doesn't _I_ will."
"Don't worry. She's part of this strange situation. She'll comprehend as
soon as I begin to explain. She is intelligent; you only have to look at
her to understand that."
Smith choking with impotent fury, nevertheless ventured a swift glance.
Her undeniable beauty only exasperated him. "To think--to _think_," he
burst out, "that a modest, decent, law-loving business man like me should
suddenly awake to find his boyhood friend had turned into a godless
votary of Venus!"
"I'm not a votary of Venus!" retorted Brown, turning pink. "I'll punch
you if you say it again. I'm as decent and respectable a business man as
you are! And my grammar is better. And, thank Heaven! I've intellect
enough to recognize a miracle when it happens to me.... Do you think I am
capable of harboring any sentiments that might bring the blush of
coquetry to the cheek of modesty? Do you?"
"Well--well, _I_ don't know what you're up to!" Smith raised his voice in
bewilderment and despair. "I don't know what possesses you to act this
way. People don't experience miracles in New York cross-town cars. The
wildest stretch of imagination could only make a coincidence out of this.
There are trillions of girls in cross-town cars dressed just like this
"But the basket!"
"Another coincidence. There are quadrillions of wicker baskets."
"Not," said Brown, "with the contents of this one."
Smith instinctively turned to look at the basket balanced daintily on the
He strove to penetrate its wicker exterior with concentrated gaze. He
could see nothing but wicker.
"Well," he began angrily, "what _is_ in that basket? And how do _you_
know it--you lunatic?"
"Will you believe me if I tell you?"
"If you can offer any corroborative evidence----"
"Well, then--there's a cat in that basket."
"How do you know?"
"I don't know how I know, but there's a big, gray cat in that basket."
"Why a _gray_ one?"
"I can't tell, but it _is_ gray, and it has six toes on every foot."
Smith truly felt that he was now being trifled with.
"Brown," he said, trying to speak civilly, "if anybody in the five
boroughs had come to me with affidavits and told me yesterday how you
were going to behave this morning----"
His voice, rising unconsciously as the realization of his outrageous
wrongs dawned upon him, rang out above the rattle and grinding of the
car, and the girl turned abruptly and looked straight at him and then at
The pure, fearless beauty of the gaze, the violet eyes widening a little
in surprise, silenced both young men.
She inspected Brown for an instant, then turned serenely to her calm
contemplation of the crowded street once more. Yet her dainty, close-set
ears looked as though they were listening.
The young men gazed at one another.
"That girl is well bred," said Smith in a low, agitated voice. "You--you
wouldn't think of venturing to speak to her!"
"I'm obliged to, I tell you! This all happened before. I recognize
everything as it occurs.... Even to your making a general nuisance of
Smith straightened up.
"I'm going to push you forcibly from this car. Do you remember _that_
[Illustration: "The lid of the basket tilted a little. Then a plaintive
voice said 'Meow-w'."]
"No," said Brown with conviction, "that incident did not happen. You only
threatened to do it. I remember now."
In spite of himself Smith felt a slight chill creep up over his neck and
inconvenience his spine.
He said, deeply agitated: "What a terrible position for me to be in--with
a friend suddenly gone mad in the streets of New York and running after a
basket containing what he believes to be a cat. A _Cat!_ Good----"
Brown gripped his arm. "Watch it!" he breathed.
The lid of the basket tilted a little, between lid and rim a soft, furry,
six-toed gray paw was thrust out. Then a plaintive voice said, "Meow-w!"
THE LID OFF
_An Alliance, Offensive, Defensive, and Back-Fensive_
Smith, petrified, looked blankly at the paw.
For a while he remained stupidly incapable of speech or movement, then,
as though arousing from a bad dream:
"What are you going to do, anyway?" he asked with an effort. "This car is
bound to stop sometime, I suppose, and--and then what?"
"I don't know what I'm going to do. Whatever I do will be the thing that
ought to happen to me, to that cat and to that girl--that is the thing
which is destined to happen. That's all I know about it."
His friend passed an unsteady hand across his brow.
"This whole proceeding is becoming a nightmare," he said unsteadily. "Am
I awake? Is this Forty-second Street? Hold up some fingers, Brown, and
let me guess how many you hold up, and if I guess wrong I'm home in bed
asleep and the whole thing is off."
Beekman Brown patted his friend on the shoulder.
"You take a cab, Smithy, and go somewhere. And if I don't come go on
alone to the Carringtons'.... You don't mind going on and fixing things
up with the Carringtons, do you?"
"Brown, _do_ you believe that The Green Mouse Society has got hold of
you? _Do_ you?"
"I don't know and don't care.... Smith, I ask you plainly, did you ever
before see such a perfectly beautiful girl as that one is?"
"Beekman, do you believe anything queer is going to result? You don't
suppose _she_ has anything to do with this extraordinary freak of yours?"
"Anything to do with it? How?"
"I mean," he sank his voice to hoarser depths, "how do you know but that
this girl, who pretends to pay no attention to us, _might_ be a--a--one
of those clever, professional mesmerists who force you to follow 'em, and
get you into their power, and exhibit you, and make you eat raw potatoes
and tallow candles and tacks before an audience."
He peeped furtively at Brown, who did not appear uneasy.
"All I'm afraid of," added Smith, sullenly, "is that you'll get yourself
into vaudeville or the patrol wagon."
He waited, but Brown made no reply.
"Oh, very well," he said, coldly. "I'll take a cab back to the boat."
No observation from Brown.
"So, _good_-by, old fellow"--with some emotion.
"Good-by," said Beekman Brown, absently.
In fact, he did not even notice when his thoroughly offended partner left
the car, so intent was he in following the subtly thrilling train of
thought which tantalized him, mocked him, led him nowhere, yet always
lured him to fresh endeavor of memory. _Where_ had all this occurred
before? When? What was going to happen next--happen inexorably, as it had
once happened, or as it once should have happened, in some dim, bygone
age when he and that basket and that cat and this same hauntingly lovely
girl existed together on earth--or perhaps upon some planet, swimming far
out beyond the ken of men with telescopes?
He looked at the girl, strove to consider her impersonally, for her
youthful beauty began to disturb him. Then cold doubt crept in; something
of the monstrosity of the proceeding chilled his enthusiasm for occult
research. Should he speak to her?
Certainly, it was a dreadful thing to do--an offense the enormity of
which was utterly inexcusable except under the stress of a purely
impersonal and scientific necessity for investigating a mental phase of
humanity which had always thrilled him with a curiosity most profound.
He folded his arms and began to review in cold blood the circumstances
which had led to his present situation in a cross-town car. Number one,
and he held up one finger:
As it comes, at times, to every normal human, the odd idea had come to
him that what he was saying and doing as he emerged from the subway at
Times Square was what he had, sometime, somewhere, said and done before
under similar circumstances. That was the beginning.
Number two, and he gravely held up a second finger:
Always before when this idea had come to bother him it had faded after a
moment or two, leaving him merely uneasy and dissatisfied.
This time it persisted--intruding, annoying, exasperating him in his
efforts to remember things which he could not recollect.
Number three, and he held up a third finger:
He _had_ begun to remember! As soon as he or Smith said or did anything
he recollected having said or done it sometime, somewhere, or recollected
that he _ought_ to have.
Number four--four fingers in air, stiff, determined digits:
He had not only, by a violent concentration of his memory, succeeded in
recognizing the things said and done as having been said and done before,
but suddenly he became aware that he was going to be able to foretell,
vaguely, certain incidents that were yet to occur--like the prophesied
advent of the cherry-colored car and the hat, gown, and wicker basket.
He now had four fingers in the air; he examined them seriously, and then
stuck up the fifth.
"Here I am," he thought, "awake, perfectly sane, absolutely respectable.
Why should a foolish terror of convention prevent me from asking that
girl whether she knows anything which might throw some light on this most
interesting mental phenomenon?... I'll do it."
The girl turned her head slightly; speech and the politely perfunctory
smile froze on his lips.
She held up one finger; Brown's heart leaped. _Was_ that some cabalistic
sign which he ought to recognize? But she was merely signaling the
conductor, who promptly pulled the bell and lifted her basket for her
when she got off.
She thanked him; Brown heard her, and the crystalline voice began to ring
in little bell-like echoes all through his ears, stirring endless little
mysteries of memory.
Brown also got off; his legs struck up a walk of their own volition,
carrying him across the street, hoisting him into a north-bound Lexington
Avenue car, and landing him in a seat behind the one where she had
installed herself and her wicker basket.
She seemed to be having some difficulty with the wicker basket;
beseeching six-toed paws were thrust out persistently; soft meows pleaded
for the right of liberty and pursuit of feline happiness. Several
Trouble increased as the car whizzed northward; the meows became wilder;
mad scrambles agitated the basket; the lid bobbed and creaked; the girl
turned a vivid pink and, bending close over the basket, attempted to
soothe its enervated inmate.
In the forties she managed to control the situation; in the fifties a
frantic rush from within burst a string that fastened the basket lid, but
the girl held it down with energy.
In the sixties a tempest broke loose in the basket; harrowing yowls
pierced the atmosphere; the girl, crimson with embarrassment and
distress, signaled the conductor at Sixty-fourth Street and descended,
clinging valiantly to a basket which apparently contained a pack of
firecrackers in process of explosion.
A classical heroine in dire distress invariably exclaims aloud: "Will
_no_ one aid me?" Brown, whose automatic legs had compelled him to
follow, instinctively awaited some similar appeal.
It came unexpectedly; the kicking basket escaped from her arms, the lid
burst open, and an extraordinarily large, healthy and indignant cat flew
out, tail as big as a duster, and fled east on Sixty-fourth Street.
The girl in the summer gown and white straw hat ran after the cat.
Brown's legs ran, too.
There was, and is, between the house on the northeast corner of Sixty-
fourth Street and Lexington Avenue and the next house on Sixty-fourth, an
open space guarded by an iron railing; through this the cat darted, fur
on end, and, with a flying leap, took to the back fences.
"Oh!" gasped the girl.
Then Brown's legs did an extraordinary thing--they began to scramble and
kick and shin up the iron railing, hoisting Brown over; and Brown's
voice, pleasant, calm, reassuring, was busy, too: "If you will look out
for my suitcase I think I can recover your cat.... It will give me great
pleasure to recover your cat. I shall be very glad to have, the
opportunity of recovering--puff--puff--your--puff--puff--c-cat!" And he
dropped inside the iron railing and paused to recover his breath.
The girl came up to the railing and gazed anxiously through at the corner
of the only back fence she could perceive.
"What a perfectly dreadful thing to happen!" she said in a voice not very
steady. "It is exceedingly nice of you to help me catch Clarence. He is
quite beside himself, poor lamb! You see, he has never before been in the
city. I--I shall be distressed beyond m-measure if he is lost."
"He went over those fences," said Brown, breathing faster. "I think I'd
better go after him."
"Oh--_would_ you mind? I'd be so very grateful. It seems so much to ask
"I'll do it," said Brown, firmly. "Every boy in New York has climbed back
fences, and I'm only thirty."
"It is most kind of you; but--but I don't know whether you could possibly
get him to come to you. Clarence is timid with strangers."
Brown had already clambered on to the wooden fence. He balanced himself
there, astride. Whitewash liberally decorated coat and trousers.
"I see him," he said.
"W-what is he doing?"
"Squatting on a trellis three back yards away." And Brown lifted a
blandishing voice: "Here, Clarence--Clarence--Clarence! Here, kitty--
kitty--kitty! Good pussy! Nice Clarence!"
"Does he come?" inquired the girl, peering wistfully through the railing.
"He does not," said Brown. "Perhaps you had better call."
"Here, puss--puss--puss--puss!" she began gently in that fascinating,
crystalline voice which seemed to set tiny silvery chimes ringing in
Brown's ears: "Here, Clarence, darling--Betty's own little kitty-cat!"
"If he doesn't come to _that_," thought Brown, "he _is_ a brute." And
aloud: "If you could only let him see you; he sits there blinking at me."
"Do you think he'd come if he saw me?"
"Who wouldn't?" thought Brown, and answered, calmly: "I think so.... Of
course, you couldn't get up here."
"I could.... But I'd better not.... Besides, I live only a few houses
away--Number 161--and I _could_ go through into the back yard."
"But you'd better not attempt to climb the fence. Have one of the
servants do it; we'll get the cat between us then and corner him."
"There are no servants in the house. It's closed for the summer--all
"Then how can you get in?"
"I have a key to the basement.... Shall I?"
"And climb up on the fence?"
"Yes--if I must--if it's necessary to save Clarence.... Shall I?"
"Why can't I shoo him into your yard."
"He doesn't know our yard. He's a country cat; he's never stayed in town.
I was taking him with me to Oyster Bay.... I came down from a week-end at
Stockbridge, where some relatives kept Clarence for us while we were
abroad during the winter.... I meant to stop and get some things in the
house on my way back to Oyster Bay.... Isn't it a perfectly wretched
situation?... We--the entire family--adore Clarence--and--I-I'm so
Her fascinating underlip trembled, but she controlled it.
"I'll get that cat if it takes a month!" said Brown. Then he flushed; he
had not meant to speak so warmly.
The girl flushed too. I am so grateful.... But how----"
"Wait," said Brown; and, addressing Clarence in a softly alluring voice,
he began cautiously to crawl along the fences toward that unresponsive
animal. Presently he desisted, partly on account of a conspiracy engaged
in between his trousers and a rusty nail. The girl was now beyond range
of his vision around the corner.
"Miss--ah--Miss--er--er--Betty!" he called.
"Clarence has retreated over another back yard."
"How far down do you live?"
She named the number of doors, anxiously adding: "Is Clarence farther
down the block? Oh, please, be careful. Please, don't drive him past our
yard. If you will wait I--I'll let myself into the house and--I'll manage
to get up on the fence."
"You'll ruin your gown."
"I don't care about my gown."
"These fences are the limit! Full of spikes and nails.... Will you be
"The nails are rusty. I--I am h-horribly afraid of lockjaw."
"Then don't remain there an instant."
"I mean--I'm afraid of it for you."
There was a silence; they couldn't see each other. Brown's heart was
"It is very generous of you to--think of me," came her voice, lower but
"I ca-can't avoid it," he stammered, and wanted to kick himself for what
he had blurted out.
Another pause--longer this time. And then:
"I am going to enter my house and climb up on the fence.... Would you
mind waiting a moment?"
"I will wait here," said Beekman Brown, "until I see you." He added to
himself: "I'm going mad rapidly and I know it and don't care.... _What_--
While he waited, legs swinging, astride the back fence, he examined his
injuries--thoughtfully touched the triangular tear in his trousers,
inspected minor sartorial and corporeal lacerations, set his hat firmly
upon his head, and gazed across the monotony of the back-yard fences at
Clarence. The cat eyed him disrespectfully, paws tucked under, tail
curled up against his well-fed flank--disillusioned, disgusted,
Presently, through the palings of a back yard on Sixty-fifth Street,
Brown saw a small boy, evidently the progeny of some caretaker, regarding
"Say, mister," he began as soon as noticed, "you have tore your pants on
"Thanks," said Brown, coldly; "will you be good enough to mind your
"I thought I'd tell you," said the small boy, delightedly aware that the
information displeased Brown. "They're tore awful, too. That's what you
get for playin' onto back fences. Y'orter be ashamed."
Brown feigned unconsciousness and folded his arms with dignity; but the
next moment he straightened up, quivering.
"You young devil!" he said; "if you pull that slingshot again I'll come
over there and destroy you!"
At the same moment above the fence line down the block a white straw hat
appeared; then a youthful face becomingly flushed; then two dainty,
gloved hands grasping the top of the fence.
"I am here," she called across to him.
The small boy, who had climbed to the top of his fence, immediately
joined the conversation:
"Your girl's a winner, mister," he observed, critically.
"Are you going to keep quiet?" demanded Brown, starting across the fence.
"Sure," said the small boy, carelessly.
And, settling down on his lofty perch of observation, he began singing:
_"Lum' me an' the woild is mi-on._"
The girl's cheeks became pinker; she looked at the small boy appealingly.
"Little boy," she said, "if you'll run away somewhere I'll give you ten
"No," said the terror, "I want to see him an' you catch that cat."
"I'll tell you what I'll do," suggested Brown, inspired. "I'll give you a
dollar if you'll help us catch the cat."
"You're on!" said the boy, briskly. "What'll I do? Touch her up with this
"No; put that thing into your pocket!" exclaimed Brown, sharply. "Now
climb across to Sixty-fourth Street and stand by that iron railing so
that the cat can't bolt out into the street, and," he added, wrapping a
dollar bill around a rusty nail and tossing it across the fence, "here's
what's coming to you."
The small boy scrambled over nimbly, ran squirrel-like across the
transverse fence, dipped, swarmed over the iron railing and stood on
"Say, mister," he said, "if the cat starts this way you and your girl
start a hollerin' like----"
"All right," interrupted Brown, and turned toward the vision of
loveliness and distress which was now standing on the top of her own back
fence holding fast to a wistaria trellis and flattering Clarence with low
and honeyed appeals.
The cat, however, was either too stupid or too confused to respond; he
gazed blankly at his mistress, and when Brown began furtively edging his
way toward him Clarence arose, stood a second in alert indecision, then
began to back away.
"We've got him between us!" called out Brown. "If you'll stand ready to
seize him when I drive him----"
There was a wild scurry, a rush, a leap, frantic clawing for foothold.
"Now, Miss Betty! Quick!" cried Brown. "Don't let him pass you."
She spread her skirts, but the shameless Clarence rushed headlong between
the most delicately ornamental pair of ankles in Manhattan.
"Oh-h!" cried the girl in soft despair, and made a futile clutch; but she
could not arrest the flight of Clarence, she merely upset him, turning
him for an instant into a furry pinwheel, whirling through mid-air,
landing in her yard, rebounding like a rubber ball, and disappearing,
with one flying leap, into a narrow opening in the basement masonry.
"Where is he?" asked Brown, precariously balanced on the next fence.
"Do you know," she said, "this is becoming positively ghastly. He's
bolted into our cellar."
"Why, that's all right, isn't it?" asked Brown. "All you have to do is to
go inside, descend to the cellar, and light the gas."
"There's no gas."
"You have electric light?"
"Yes, but it's turned off at the main office. The house is closed for the
summer, you know."
Brown, balancing cautiously, walked the intervening fence like an amateur
on a tightrope.
Her pretty hat was a trifle on one side; her cheeks brilliant with
excitement and anxiety. Utterly oblivious of herself and of appearances
in her increasing solicitude for the adored Clarence, she sat the fence,
cross saddle, balancing with one hand and pointing with the other to the
barred ventilator into which Clarence had darted.
A wisp of sunny hair blew across her crimson cheek; slender, active,
excitedly unconscious of self, she seemed like some eager, adorable
little gamin perched there, intent on mischief.
"If you'll drop into our yard," she said, "and place that soap box
against the ventilator, Clarence can't get out that way!"
It was done before she finished the request. She disengaged herself from
the fencetop, swung over, hung an instant, and dropped into a soft flower
Breathing fast, disheveled, they confronted one another on the grass. His
blue suit of serge was smeared with whitewash; her gown was a sight. She
felt for her hat instinctively, repinned it at hazard, looked at her
gloves, and began to realize what she had done.
"I--I couldn't help it," she faltered; "I couldn't leave Clarence in a
city of five m-million strangers--all alone--terrified out of his senses--
could I? I had rather--rather be thought--anything than be c-cruel to a
Brown dared not trust himself to answer. She was too beautiful and his
emotion was too deep. So he bent over and attempted to dust his garments
with the flat of his hand.
"I am so sorry," she said in a low voice. "Are your clothes quite
"Oh, I don't mind," he protested happily, "I really don't mind a bit. If
you'll only let me help you corner that infern--that unfortunate cat I
shall be perfectly happy."
She said, with heightened color: "It is exceedingly nice of you to say
so.... I--I don't quite know--what do you think we had better do?"
"Suppose," he said, "you go into the basement, unlock the cellar door and
call. He can't bolt this way."
She nodded and entered the house. A few moments later he heard her
calling, so persuasively that it was all he could do not to run to her,
and why on earth that cat didn't he never could understand.
_In Which the Remorseless and Inexorable Results of Psychical Research
Are Revealed to the Very Young_
At intervals for the next ten minutes her fresh, sweet, fascinating voice
came to him where he stood in the yard; then he heard it growing fainter,
more distant, receding; then silence.
Listening, he suddenly heard a far, rushing sound from subterranean
depths--like a load of coal being put in--then a frightened cry.
He sprang into the basement, ran through laundry and kitchen. The cellar
door swung wide open above the stairs which ran down into darkness; and
as he halted to listen Clarence dashed up out of the depths, scuttled
around the stairs and fled upward into the silent regions above.
"Betty!" he cried, forgetting in his alarm the lesser conventions, "where
"Oh, dear--oh, dear!" she wailed. "I am in such a dreadful plight. Could
you help me, please?"
"Are you hurt?" he asked. Fright made his voice almost inaudible. He
struck a match with shaking fingers and ran down the cellar stairs.
"Betty! Where are you?"
"Oh, I am here--in the coal."
"I--I can't seem to get out; I stepped into the coal pit in the dark and
it all--all slid with me and over me and I'm in it up to the shoulders."
Another match flamed; he saw a stump of a candle, seized it, lighted it,
and, holding it aloft, gazed down upon the most heart rending spectacle
he had ever witnessed.
The next instant he grasped a shovel and leaped to the rescue. She was
quite calm about it; the situation was too awful, the future too hopeless
for mere tears. What had happened contained all the dignified elements of
a catastrophe. They both realized it, and when, madly shoveling, he at
last succeeded in releasing her she leaned her full weight on his own,
breathing rapidly, and suffered him to support and guide her through the
flame-shot darkness to the culinary regions above.
Here she sank down on a chair for one moment in utter collapse. Then she
looked up, resolutely steadying her voice:
"Could anything on earth more awful have happened to a girl?" she asked,
lips quivering in spite of her. She stretched out what had once been a
pair of white gloves, she looked down at what had been a delicate summer
gown of white. "How," she asked with terrible calmness, "am I to get to
He dropped on to a kitchen chair opposite her, clasping his coal-stained
hands between his knees, utterly incapable of speech.
She looked at her shoes--once snowy white; with a shudder she stripped
the soiled gloves from elbow to wrist and flung them aside. Her arms and
hands formed a starling contrast to the remainder of the ensemble.
"What," she asked, "am I to do?"
"The thing to do," he said, "is to telephone to your family at Oyster
"The telephone has been disconnected. So has the water--we can't even
w-wash our hands!" she faltered.
He said: "I can go out and telephone to your family to send a maid with
some clothes for you--if you don't mind being left alone in an empty
house for a little while."
"No, I don't; but," she gazed uncertainly at the black opening of the
cellar, "but, please, don't be gone very long, will you?"
He promised fervidly. She gave him the number and her family's name, and
he left by the basement door.
He was gone a long time, during which, for a while, she paced the floor,
unaffectedly wringing her hands and contemplating herself and her
garments in the laundry looking-glass.
At intervals she tried to turn on the water, hoping for a few drops at
least; at intervals she sat down to wait for him; then, the inaction
becoming unendurable, musing goaded her into motion, and she ascended to
the floor above, groping through the dimness in futile search for
Clarence. She heard him somewhere in obscurity, scurrying under furniture
at her approach, evidently too thoroughly demoralized to recognize her
voice. So, after a while, she gave it up and wandered down to the pantry,
instinct leading her, for she was hungry and thirsty; but she knew there
could be nothing eatable in a house closed for the summer.
She lifted the pantry window and opened the blinds; noon sunshine flooded
the place, and she began opening cupboards and refrigerators, growing
hungrier every moment.
Then her eyes fell upon dozens of bottles of Apollinaris, and with a
little cry of delight she knelt down, gathered up all she could carry,
and ran upstairs to the bathroom adjoining her own bedchamber.
"At least," she said to herself, "I can cleanse myself of this dreadful
coal!" and in a few moments she was reveling, elbow deep, in a marble
basin brimming with Apollinaris.
As the stain of the coal disappeared she remembered a rose-colored
morning gown reposing in her bedroom clothespress; and she found more
than that there--rose stockings and slippers and a fragrant pile of
exquisitely fine and more intimate garments, so tempting in their
freshness that she hurried with them into the dressing room; then began
to make rapid journeys up and downstairs, carrying dozens of quarts of
Apollinaris to the big porcelain tub, into which she emptied them,
talking happily to herself all the time.
"If he returns I can talk to him over the banisters!... He's a nice
boy.... Such a funny boy not to remember me.... And I've thought of him
quite often.... I wonder if I've time for just one, delicious plunge?"
She listened; ran to the front windows and looked out through the blinds.
He was nowhere in sight.
Ten minutes later, delightfully refreshed, she stood regarding herself in
her lovely rose-tinted morning gown, patting her bright hair into
discipline with slim, deft fingers, a half-smile on her lips, lids
closing a trifle over the pensive violet eyes.
"Now," she said aloud, "I'll talk to him over the banisters when he
returns; it's a little ungracious, I suppose, after all he has done, but
it's more conventional.... And I'll sit here and read until they send
somebody from Sandcrest with a gown I can travel in.... And then we'll
catch Clarence and call a cab----"
A distant tinkling from the area bell interrupted her.
"Oh, dear," she exclaimed, "I quite forgot that I had to let him in!"
Another tinkle. She cast a hurried and doubtful glance over her attire.
It was designed for the intimacy of her boudoir.
"I--I _couldn't_ talk to him out of the window! I've been shocking enough
as it is!" she thought; and, finger tips on the banisters, she ran down
the three stairs and appeared at the basement grille, breathless,
radiant, forgetting, as usual, her self-consciousness in thinking of him,
a habit of this somewhat harebrained and headlong girl which had its root
in perfect health of body and wholesomeness of mind.
"I found some clothes--not the sort I can go out in!" she said, laughing
at his astonishment, as she unlocked the grille. "So, please, overlook my
attire; I was _so_ full of coal dust! and I found sufficient Apollinaris
for my necessities.... _What_ did they say at Sandcrest?"
He said very soberly: "We've got to discuss this situation. Perhaps I had
better come in for a few minutes--if you don't mind."
"No, I don't mind.... Shall we sit in the drying room?" leading the way.
"Now tell me what is the matter? You rather frighten me, you know. Is--is
anything wrong at Sandcrest?"
"No, I suppose not." He touched his flushed face with his handkerchief;
"I couldn't get Oyster Bay on the 'phone."
"The wires are out of commission as far as Huntington; there's no use--I
tried everything! Telegraph and telephone wires were knocked out in this
morning's electric storm, it seems."
She gazed at him, hands folded on her knee, left leg crossed over, foot
"This," she said calmly, "is becoming serious. Will you tell me what I am
"Haven't you anything to travel in?"
"Not one solitary rag."
"Then--you'll have to stay here to-night and send for some of your
friends--you surely know somebody who is still in town, don't you?"
"I really don't. This is the middle of July. I don't know a woman in
He was silent.
"Besides," she said, "we have no light, no water, nothing to eat in the
house, no telephone to order anything----"
He said: "I foresaw that you would probably be obliged to remain here, so
when I left the telephone office I took the liberty of calling a taxi and
visiting the electric light people, the telephone people and the nearest
plumber. It seems he is your own plumber--Quinn, I believe his name is;
and he's coming in half an hour to turn on the water."
"Did you think of doing all that?" she asked, astonished.
"Oh, that wasn't anything. And I ventured to telephone the Plaza to serve
luncheon and dinner here for you----"
"And I wired to Dooley's Agency to send you a maid for to-day----"
"That was perfectly splendid of you!"
"They promised to send one as soon as possible.... And I think that may
be the plumber now," as a tinkle came from the area bell.
It was not the plumber; it was waiters bearing baskets full of silver,
china, table linen, ice, fruits, confections, cut flowers, and, in
warmers, a most delectable luncheon.
Four impressive individuals commanded by a butler formed the
processional, filing solemnly up the basement stairs to the dining room,
where they instantly began to lay the table with dexterous celerity.
In the drying room below Betty and Beekman Brown stood confronting each
"I suppose," began Brown with an effort, "that I had better go now."
Betty said thoughtfully: "I suppose you must."
"Unless," continued Brown, "you think I had better remain--somewhere on
the premises--until your maid arrives."
"That might be safer," said Betty, more thoughtfully.
"Your maid will probably be here in a few minutes."
"Probably," said Betty, head bent, slim, ringless fingers busy with the
sparkling drop that glimmered pendant from her neckchain.
Silence--the ironing board between them--she standing, bright head
lowered, worrying the jewel with childish fingers; he following every
movement, fascinated, spellbound.
After a moment, without looking up: "You have been very, very nice to me--
in the nicest possible way," she said.... "I am not going to forget it
easily--even if I might wish to."
"I can never forget _you!_... I d-don't want to."
The sparkling pendant escaped her fingers; she picked it up again and
spoke as though gravely addressing it:
"Some day somewhere," she said, looking at the jewel, "perhaps chance--
the hazard of life--may bring us to--togeth--to acquaintance--a more
formal acquaintance than this.... I hope so. This has been a little--
irregular, and perhaps you had better not wait for my maid.... I hope we
"I hope so, too," he managed to say, with so little fervor and so
successful an imitation of her politely detached interest in convention
that she raised her eyes. They dropped immediately, because his quiet
voice and speech scarcely conformed to the uncontrolled protest in his
For a moment she stood, passing the golden links through her white
fingers like a young novice with a rosary. Steps on the stairs disturbed
them; the recessional had begun; four solemn persons filed out the area
gate. At the same moment, suave and respectful, her butler pro tem.
presented himself at the doorway:
"Luncheon is served, madam."
"Thank you." She looked uncertainly at Brown, hesitated, flushed a
"I will stay here and admit the plumber and then--then--I'll g-go," he
said with a heartbroken smile.
"I suppose you took the opportunity to lunch when you went out?" she
said. Her inflection made it a question.
Without answering he stepped back to allow her to pass. She moved
forward, turned, undecided.
"_Have_ you lunched?"
"Please don't feel that you ought to ask me," he began, and checked
himself as the vivid pink deepened in her cheeks. Then she freed herself
of embarrassment with a little laugh.
"Considering," she said, "that we have been chasing cats on the back
fences together and that, subsequently, you dug me out of the coal in my
own cellar, I can't believe it is very dreadful if I ask you to luncheon
with me.... Is it?"
"It is ador--it is," he corrected himself firmly, "exceedingly civil of
you to ask me!"
"Then--will you?" almost timidly.
"I will. I shall not pretend any more. I'd rather lunch with you than be
President of this Republic."
The butler pro tem. seated her.
"You see," she said, "a place had already been laid for you." And with
the faintest trace of malice in her voice: "Perhaps your butler had his
orders to lay two covers. Had he?"
"From me?" he protested, reddening.
"You don't suspect _me_, do you?" she asked, adorably mischievous. Then
glancing over the masses of flowers in the center and at the corners of
the lace cloth: "This is deliciously pretty. But you are either
dreadfully and habitually extravagant or you believe I am. Which is it?"
"I think both are true," he said, laughing.
And a little while later when he returned from the basement after
admitting Mr. Quinn, the plumber:
"Do you know that this is a most heavenly luncheon?" she said, greeting
his return with delightfully fearless eyes. "Such Astrakan caviar! Such
salad! Everything I care for most. And how on earth you guessed I can't
imagine.... I'm beginning to think you are rather wonderful."
They lifted the long, slender glasses of iced Ceylon tea and regarded one
another over the frosty rims--a long, curious glance from her; a straight
gaze from him, which she decided not to sustain too long.
Later, when she gave the signal, they rose as though they had often dined
together, and moved leisurely out through the dim, shrouded drawing-rooms
where, in the golden dusk, the odor of camphor hung.
She had taken a great cluster of dewy Bride's roses from the centerpiece,
and as she walked forward, sedately youthful, beside him, her fresh,
young face brooded over the fragrance of the massed petals.
"Sweet--how sweet!" she murmured to herself, and as they reached the end
of the vista she half turned to face him, dreamily, listless, confident.
They looked at one another, she with chin brushing the roses.
"The strangest of all," she said, "is that it _seems_ all right--and--and
we _know_ that it is all quite wrong.... Had you better go?"
"Unless I ought to wait and make sure your maid does not fail you....
Shall I?" he asked evenly.
She did not answer. He drew a linen-swathed armchair toward her; she