Etext scanned by Aaron Cannon of Paradise, California
The Lost House
by Richard Harding Davis
It was a dull day at the chancellery. His Excellency the American
Ambassador was absent in Scotland, unveiling a bust to Bobby Burns,
paid for by the numerous lovers of that poet in Pittsburg; the
First Secretary was absent at Aldershot, observing a sham battle;
the Military Attache was absent at the Crystal Palace, watching a
foot-ball match; the Naval Attache was absent at the Duke of
Deptford's, shooting pheasants; and at the Embassy, the Second
Secretary, having lunched leisurely at the Artz, was now alone, but
prepared with his life to protect American interests. Accordingly,
on the condition that the story should not be traced back to him,
he had just confided a State secret to his young friend, Austin
Ford, the London correspondent of the New York REPUBLIC.
"I will cable it," Ford reassured him, "as coming from a Hungarian
diplomat, temporarily residing in Bloomsbury, while en route to his
post in Patagonia. In that shape, not even your astute chief will
suspect its real source. And further from the truth than that I
refuse to go."
"What I dropped in to ask," he continued, "is whether the English
are going to send over a polo team next summer to try to bring back
"I've several other items of interest," suggested the Secretary.
"The week-end parties to which you have been invited," Ford
objected, "can wait. Tell me first what chance there is for an
international polo match."
"Polo," sententiously began the Second Secretary, who himself was
a crackerjack at the game, "is a proposition of ponies! Men can be
trained for polo. But polo ponies must be born. Without good
James, the page who guarded the outer walls, of the chancellery,
appeared in the doorway.
"Please, Sir, a person," he announced, with a note for the
Ambassador says it's important."
"Tell him to leave it, said the Secretary. "Polo ponies----"
"Yes, Sir," interrupted the page. "But 'e won't leave it, not
unless he keeps the 'arf-crown."
"For Heaven's sake!" protested the Second Secretary, "then let him
keep the half-crown. When I say polo ponies, I don't mean----"
James, although alarmed at his own temerity, refused to accept the
dismissal. "But, please, Sir," he begged; "I think the 'arf-crown
is for the Ambassador."
The astonished diplomat gazed with open eyes.
"You think--WHAT!" he exclaimed.
James, upon the defensive, explained breathlessly.
"Because, Sir," he stammered, "it was INSIDE the note when it was
thrown out of the window."
Ford had been sprawling in a soft leather chair in front of the
open fire. With the privilege of an old school-fellow and college
classmate, he bad been jabbing the soft coal with his
walking-stick, causing it to burst into tiny flames. His cigarette
drooped from his lips, his hat was cocked over one eye; he was a
picture of indifference, merging upon boredom. But at the words of
the boy his attitude both of mind and body underwent an instant
change. It was as though he were an actor, and the words "thrown
from the window " were his cue. It was as though he were a dozing
fox-terrier, and the voice of his master had whispered in his ear:
For a moment, with benign reproach, the Second Secretary regarded
the unhappy page, and then addressed him with laborious sarcasm.
"James," he said, "people do not communicate with ambassadors in
notes wrapped around half-crowns and hurled from windows. That is
the way one corresponds with an organ-grinder." Ford sprang to his
"And meanwhile," he exclaimed angrily, "the man will get away."
Without seeking permission, he ran past James, and through the
empty outer offices. In two minutes he returned, herding before him
an individual, seedy and soiled. In appearance the man suggested
that in life his place was to support a sandwich-board. Ford
reluctantly relinquished his hold upon a folded paper which he laid
in front of the Secretary.
"This man," he explained, "picked that out of the gutter in Sowell
Street, It's not addressed to any one, so you read it!"
I thought it was for the Ambassador!" said the Secretary.
The soiled person coughed deprecatingly, and pointed a dirty digit
at the paper. "On the inside," he suggested. The paper was wrapped
around a half-crown and folded in at each end. The diplomat opened
it hesitatingly, but having read what was written, laughed.
"There's nothing in THAT," he exclaimed. He passed the note to
Ford. The reporter fell upon it eagerly.
The note was written in pencil on an unruled piece of white paper.
The handwriting was that of a woman. What Ford read was:
"I am a prisoner in the street on which this paper is found. The
house faces east. I think I am on the top story. I was brought here
three weeks ago. They are trying to kill me. My uncle, Charles
Ralph Pearsall, is doing this to get my money. He is at Gerridge's
Hotel in Craven Street, Strand. He will tell you I am insane. My
name is Dosia Pearsall Dale. My home is at Dalesville, Kentucky, U.
S. A. Everybody knows me there, and knows I am not insane. If you
would save a life take this at once to the American Embassy, or to
Scotland Yard. For God's sake, help me."
When he had read the note, Ford continue to study it. Until he was
quite sure his voice would not betray his interest, he did not
raise his eyes.
"Why," he asked, "did you say that there's nothing in this?"
"Because," returned the diplomat conclusively, "we got a note like
that, or nearly like it, a week ago, and----"
Ford could not restrain a groan. "And you never told me!"
"There wasn't anything to tell," protested the diplomat. "We handed
it over to the police, and they reported there was nothing in it.
They couldn't find the man at that hotel, and, of course, they
couldn't find the house with no more to go on than----"
"And so," exclaimed Ford rudely, "they decided there was no man,
and no house!"
"Their theory," continued the Secretary patiently, "is that the
girl is confined in one of the numerous private sanatoriums in
Sowell Street, that she is insane, that because she's under
restraint she IMAGINES the nurses are trying to kill her and that
her relatives are after her money. Insane people are always
thinking that. It's a very common delusion."
Ford's eyes were shining with a wicked joy. "So," he asked
indifferently, "you don't intend to do anything further?"
"What do you want us to do?" cried his friend. "Ring every
door-bell in Sowell Street and ask the parlor-maid if they're
murdering a lady on the top story?"
"Can I keep the paper?" demanded Ford. "You can keep a copy of it,"
consented the Secretary. "But if you think you're on the track of
a big newspaper sensation, I can tell you now you're not. That's
the work of a crazy woman, or it's a hoax. You amateur
Ford was already seated at the table, scribbling a copy of the
message, and making marginal notes.
"Who brought the FIRST paper ?" he interrupted.
"A hansom-cab driver."
"What became of HIM? " snapped the amateur detective.
The Secretary looked inquiringly at James. "He drove away," said
"He drove away, did he?"' roared Ford. "And that was a week ago! Ye
gods! What about Dalesville, Kentucky? Did you cable any one
The dignity of the diplomat was becoming ruffled.
"We did not!" he answered. "If it wasn't true that her uncle was at
that hotel, it was probably equally untrue that she had friends in
"But," retorted his friend, "you didn't forget to cable the State
Department that you all went in your evening clothes to bow to the
new King? You didn't neglect to cable that, did you?"
"The State Department," returned the Secretary, with withering
reproof, "does not expect us to crawl over the roofs of houses and
spy down chimneys to see if by any chance an American citizen is
"Well," exclaimed Ford, leaping to his feet and placing his notes
in his pocket, "fortunately, my paper expects me to do just that,
and if it didn't, I'd do it anyway. And that is exactly what I am
going to do now! Don't tell the others in the Embassy, and, for
Heaven's sake, don't tell the police. Jimmy, get me a taxi. And
you," he commanded, pointing at the one who had brought the note,
are coming with me to Sowell Street, to show me where you picked up
On the way to Sowell Street Ford stopped at a newspaper agency, and
paid for the insertion that afternoon of the same advertisement in
three newspapers. It read: "If hansom-cab driver who last week
carried note, found in street, to American Embassy will mail his
address to X. X. X., care of GLOBE, he will be rewarded."
From the nearest post-office he sent to his paper the following
cable: "Query our local correspondent, Dalesville, Kentucky,
concerning Dosia Pearsall Dale. Is she of sound mind, is she
heiress. Who controls her money, what her business relations with
her uncle Charles Ralph Pearsall, what her present address. If any
questions, say inquiries come from solicitors of Englishman who
wants to marry her. Rush answer.
Sowell Street is a dark, dirty little thoroughfare, running for
only one block, parallel to Harley Street. Like it, it is decorated
with the brass plates of physicians and the red lamps of surgeons,
but, just as the medical men in Harley Street, in keeping with that
thoroughfare, are broad, open, and with nothing to conceal, so
those of Sowell Street, like their hiding-place, shrink from
observation, and their lives are as sombre, secret, and dark as the
Within two turns of it Ford dismissed the taxicab. Giving the
soiled person a half-smoked cigarette, he told him to walk through
Sowell Street, and when he reached the place where he had picked up
the paper, to drop the cigarette as near that spot as possible. He
then was to turn into Weymouth Street and wait until Ford joined
him. At a distance of fifty feet Ford followed the man, and saw
him, when in the middle of the block, without apparent hesitation,
drop the cigarette. The house in front of which it fell was marked,
like many others, by the brass plate of a doctor. As Ford passed it
he hit the cigarette with his walking-stick, and drove it into an
area. When he overtook the man, Ford handed him another cigarette.
"To make sure," he said, C4 go back and " drop this in the place
you found the paper. For a moment the man hesitated.
"I might as well tell you," Ford continued, "that I knocked that
last cigarette so far from where you dropped it that you won't be
able to use it as a guide. So, if you don't really know where you
found the paper, you'll save my time by saying so." Instead of
being confused by the test, the man was amused by it. He laughed
appreciatively admitted. "You've caught me out fair, governor," "I
Want the 'arf-crown, and I dropped the cigarette as near the place
as I could. But I can't do it again. It was this way," he
explained. "I wasn't taking notice of the houses. I was walking
along looking into the gutter for stumps. I see this paper wrapped
about something round. 'It's a copper,' I thinks, 'jucked out of a
winder to a organ-grinder.' I snatches it, and runs. I didn't take
no time to look at the houses. But it wasn't so far from where I
showed you; about the middle house in the street and on the left
Ford had never considered the man as a serious element in the
problem. He believed him to know as little of the matter as he
professed to know. But it was essential he should keep that little
"No one will pay you for talking," Ford pointed out, "and I'll pay
you to keep quiet. So, if you say nothing concerning that note, at
the end of two weeks, I'll leave two pounds for you with James, at
The man, who believed Ford to be an agent of the police, was only
too happy to escape on such easy terms. After Ford had given him a
pound on account, they parted.
From Wimpole Street the amateur detective went to the nearest
public telephone and called up Gerridge's Hotel. He considered his
first step should be to discover if Mr. Pearsall was at that hotel,
or had ever stopped there. When the 'phone was answered, he
requested that a message be delivered to Mr. Pearsall.
"Please tell him," he asked, "that the clothes he ordered are ready
to try on."
He was informed that no one by that name was at the hotel. In a
voice of concern Ford begged to know when Mr. Pearsall had gone
away, and had he left any address.
He was with you three weeks ago," Ford insisted. "He's an American
gentleman, and there was a lady with him. She ordered a
riding-habit of us: the same time he was measured for his clothes."
After a short delay, the voice from the hotel replied that no one
of the name of Pearsall had been at the hotel that winter.
In apparent great disgust Ford rang off, and took a taxicab to his
rooms in Jermyn Street. There he packed a suit-case and drove to
Gerridge's. It was a quiet, respectable, "old- established" house
in Craven Street, a thoroughfare almost entirely given over to
small family hotels much frequented by Americans.
After he had registered and had left his bag in his room, Ford
returned to the office, and in an assured manner asked that a card
on which he had written "Henry W. Page, Dalesville, Kentucky,"
should be taken to Mr. Pearsall.
In a tone of obvious annoyance the proprietor returned the card,
saying that there was no one of that name in the hotel, and added
that no such person had ever stopped there. Ford expressed the
"He TOLD me I'd find him here," he protested., "he and his niece."
With the garrulousness of the American abroad, he confided his
troubles to the entire staff of the hotel. "We're from the same
town," he explained. "That's why I must see him. He's the only man
in London I know, and I've spent all my money. He said he'd give me
some he owes me, as soon as I reached London. If I can't get it,
I'll have to go home by Wednesday's steamer. And, complained
bitterly, "I haven't seen the nor the Tower, nor Westminster
In a moment, Ford's anxiety to meet Mr. Pearsall was apparently
lost in a wave of self-pity. In his disappointment he appealing,
Real detectives and rival newspaper men, even while they admitted
Ford obtained facts that were denied them, claimed that they were
given him from charity. Where they bullied, browbeat, and
administered a third degree, Ford was embarrassed, deprecatory, an
earnest, ingenuous, wide-eyed child. What he called his "working"
smile begged of you not to be cross with him. His simplicity was
apparently so hopeless, his confidence in whomever he addressed so
complete, that often even the man he was pursuing felt for him a
pitying contempt. Now as he stood uncertainly in the hall of the
hotel, his helplessness moved the proud lady clerk to shake her
cylinders of false hair sympathetically, the German waiters to
regard his predicament with respect; even the proprietor, Mr.
Gerridge himself, was ill at ease. Ford returned to his room, on
the second floor of the hotel, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
In connecting Pearsall with Gerridge's, both the police and himself
had failed. Of this there were three possible explanations: that
the girl who wrote the letter was in error, that the letter was a
hoax, that the proprietor of the hotel, for some reason, was
protecting Pearsall, and had deceived both Ford and Scotland Yard.
On the other hand, without knowing why the girl believed Pearsall
would be found at Gerridge's, it was reasonable to assume that in
so thinking she had been purposely misled. The question was, should
he or not dismiss Gerridge's as a possible clew, and at once devote
himself to finding the house in Sowell Street? He decided for the
moment at least, to leave Gerridge's out of his calculations, but,
as an excuse for returning there, to still retain his room. He at
once started toward Sowell Street, and in order to find out if any
one from the hotel were following him, he set forth on foot. As
soon as he made sure he was not spied upon, he covered the
remainder of the distance in a cab.
He was acting on the supposition that the letter was no practical
joke, but a genuine cry for help. Sowell Street was a scene set for
such an adventure. It was narrow, mean- looking, the stucco
house-fronts, soot-stained, cracked, and uncared-for, the steps
broken and unwashed. As he entered it a cold rain was falling, and
a yellow fog that rolled between the houses added to its
dreariness. It was now late in the afternoon, and so overcast the
sky that in many rooms the gas was lit and the curtains drawn.
The girl, apparently from observing the daily progress of the sun,
had written she was on the west side of the street and, she
believed, in an upper story. The man who picked up the note had
said he had found it opposite the houses in the middle of the
block. Accordingly, Ford proceeded on the supposition that the
entire east side of the street, the lower stories of the west side,
and the houses at each end were eliminated. The three houses in the
centre of the row were outwardly alike. They were of four stories.
Each was the residence of a physician, and in each, in the upper
stories, the blinds were drawn. From the front there was nothing to
be learned, and in the hope that the rear might furnish some clew,
Ford hastened to Wimpole Street, in which the houses to the east
backed upon those to the west in Sowell Street. These houses were
given over to furnished lodgings, and under the pretext of renting
chambers, it was easy for Ford to enter them, and from the
apartments in the rear to obtain several hasty glimpses of the
backs of the three houses in Sowell Street. But neither from this
view-point did he gather any fact of interest. In one of the three
houses in Sowell Street iron bars were fastened across the windows
of the fourth floor, but in private sanatoriums this was neither
unusual nor suspicious. The bars might cover the windows of a
nursery to prevent children from falling out, or the room of some
timid householder with a lively fear of burglars.
In a quarter of an hour Ford was again back in Sowell Street no
wiser than when he had entered it. From the outside, at least, the
three houses under suspicion gave no sign. In the problem before
him there was one point that Ford found difficult to explain. It
was the only one that caused him to question if the letter was
genuine. What puzzled him was this: Why, if the girl were free to
throw two notes from the window, did she not throw them out by the
dozen? If she were able to reach a window, opening on the street,
why did she not call for help? Why did she not, by hurling out
every small article the room contained, by screams, by breaking the
window-panes, attract a crowd, and, through it, the police? That
she had not done so seemed to show that only at rare intervals was
she free from restraint, or at liberty to enter the front room that
opened on the street. Would it be equally difficult, Ford asked
himself, for one in the street to communicate with her? What signal
could he give that would draw an answering signal from the girl?
Standing at the corner, hidden by the pillars of a portico, the
water dripping from his rain-coat, Ford gazed long and anxiously at
the blank windows of the three houses. Like blind eyes staring into
his, they told no tales, betrayed no secret. Around him the
commonplace life of the neighborhood proceeded undisturbed.
Somewhere concealed in the single row of houses a girl was
imprisoned, her life threatened; perhaps even at that moment she
was facing her death. While, on either side, shut from her by the
thickness only of a brick wall, people were talking, reading,
making tea, preparing the evening meal, or, in the street below,
hurrying by, intent on trivial errands. Hansom cabs, prowling in
search of a fare, passed through the street where a woman was being
robbed of a fortune, the drivers occupied only with thoughts of a
possible shilling; a housemaid with a jug in her hand and a shawl
over her bare head, hastened to the near-by public- house; the
postman made his rounds, and delivered comic postal-cards; a
policeman, shedding water from his shining cape, halted, gazed
severely at the sky, and, unconscious of the crime that was going
forward within the sound of his own footsteps, continued stolidly
into Wimpole Street.
A hundred plans raced through Ford's brain; he would arouse the
street with a false alarm of fire and lead the firemen, with the
tale of a smoking chimney, to one of the three houses; he would
feign illness, and, taking refuge in one of them, at night would
explore the premises; he would impersonate a detective, and insist
upon his right to search for stolen property. As he rejected these
and a dozen schemes as fantastic, his brain and eyes were still
alert for any chance advantage that the street might offer. But the
minutes passed into an hour, and no one had entered any of the
three houses, no one had left them. In the lower stories, from
behind the edges of the blinds, lights appeared, but of the life
within there was no sign. Until he hit upon a plan of action, Ford
felt there was no longer anything to be gained by remaining in
Sowell Street. Already the answer to his cable might have arrived
at his rooms; at Gerridge's he might still learn something of
Pearsall. He decided to revisit both these places, and, while so
engaged, to send from his office one of his assistants to cover the
Sowell Street houses. He cast a last, reluctant look at the closed
blinds, and moved away. As he did so, two itinerant musicians
dragging behind them a small street piano on wheels turned the
corner, and, as the rain had now ceased, one of them pulled the
oil-cloth covering from the instrument and, seating himself on a
camp- stool at the curb, opened the piano. After a discouraged
glance at the darkened windows, the other, in a hoarse, strident
tenor, to the accompaniment of the piano, began to sing. The voice
of the man was raucous, penetrating. It would have reached the
recesses of a tomb.
"She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore," the vocalist wailed. "The
shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure."
The effect was instantaneous. A window was flung open, and an
indignant householder with one hand frantically waved the musicians
away, and with the other threw them a copper coin.
At the same moment Ford walked quickly to the piano and laid a
half-crown on top of it.
"Follow me to Harley Street," he commanded. "Don't hurry. Take your
time. I want you to help me in a sort of practical joke. It's worth
a sovereign to you."
He passed on quickly. When he glanced behind him, he saw the two
men, fearful lest the promised fortune might escape them, pursuing
him at a trot. At Harley Street they halted, breathless.
"How long," Ford demanded of the one who played the piano, "will it
take you to learn the accompaniment to a new song?"
"While you're whistling it," answered the man eagerly.
"And I'm as quick at a tune as him," assured the other anxiously.
"I can sing----"
"You cannot," interrupted Ford. "I'm going to do the singing
myself. Where is there a public-house near here where we can hire
a back room, and rehearse?"
Half an hour later, Ford and the piano-player entered Sowell Street
dragging the piano behind them. The amateur detective still wore
his rain-coat, but his hat he had exchanged for a cap, and, instead
of a collar, he had knotted around his bare neck a dirty kerchief.
At the end of the street they halted, and in some embarrassment
Ford raised his voice in the chorus of a song well known in the
music-halls. It was a very good voice, much too good for "open-air
work," as his companion had already assured him, but, what was of
chief importance to Ford, it carried as far as he wished it to go.
Already in Wimpole Street four coins of the realm, flung to him
from the highest windows, had testified to its power. From the end
of Sowell Street Ford moved slowly from house to house until he was
directly opposite the three in one of which he believed the girl to
be. "We will try the NEW songs here," he said.
Night had fallen, and, except for the gas-lamps, the street was
empty, and in such darkness that even without his disguise Ford ran
no risk of recognition. His plan was not new. It dated from the
days of Richard the Lion-hearted. But if the prisoner were alert
and intelligent, even though she could make no answer, Ford
believed through his effort she would gain courage, would grasp
that from the outside a friend was working toward her. All he knew
of the prisoner was that she came from Kentucky. Ford fixed his
eyes on the houses opposite, and cleared his throat. The man struck
the opening chords, and in a high barytone, and in a cockney accent
that made even the accompanist grin, Ford lifted his voice.
"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home," he sang; "'tis
summer, and the darkies are gay."
He finished the song, but there was no sign. For all the impression
he had made upon Sowell Street, he might have been singing in his
chambers. "And now the other," commanded Ford.
The house-fronts echoed back the cheering notes of "Dixie." Again
Ford was silent, and again The silence answered him. The
accompanist glared disgustedly at the darkened windows.
"They don't know them songs," he explained professionally. "Give
'em, 'Mollie Married the Marquis.'"
"I'll sing the first one again," said Ford. Once more he broke into
the pathetic cadences of the "Old Kentucky Home." But there was no
response. He was beginning to feel angry, absurd. He believed he
bad wasted precious moments, and, even as he sang, his mind was
already working upon a new plan. The song ceased, unfinished.
"It's no use!" he exclaimed. Remembering himself, he added: "We'll
try the next street."
But even as he spoke he leaped forward. Coming apparently from
nowhere, something white sank through the semi-darkness and fell at
his feet. It struck the pavement directly in front of the middle
one of the three houses. Ford fell upon it and clutched it in both
hands. It was a woman's glove. Ford raced back to the piano.
"Once more," he cried, "play 'Dixie'!"
He shouted out the chorus exultantly, triumphantly. Had he spoken
it in words, the message could not have carried more clearly.
Ford now believed he had found the house, found the woman, and was
eager only to get rid of his companion and, in his own person,
return to Sowell Street. But, lest the man might suspect there was
in his actions something more serious than a practical joke, he
forced himself to sing the new songs in three different streets.
Then, pretending to tire of his prank, he paid the musician and
left him. He was happy, exultant, tingling with excitement.
Good-luck had been with him, and, hoping that Gerridge's might yet
yield some clew to Pearsall, he returned there. Calling up the
London office of the REPUBLIC, he directed that one of his
assistants, an English lad named Cuthbert, should at once join him
at that hotel. Cuthbert was but just out of Oxford. He wished to
become a writer of fiction, and, as a means of seeing many kinds of
life at first hand, was in training as a "Pressman." His admiration
for Ford amounted to almost hero-worship; and he regarded an
"assignment" with his chief as a joy and an honor. Full of
enthusiasm, and as soon as a taxicab could bring him, he arrived at
Gerridge's, where, in a corner of the deserted coffee-room, Ford
explained the situation. Until he could devise a way to enter the
Sowell Street house. Cuthbert was to watch over it.
"The number of the house is forty," Ford told him; "the name on the
door-plate, Dr. Prothero. Find out everything you can about him
without letting any one catch you at it. Better begin at the
nearest chemist's. Say you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown,
and ask the man to mix you a sedative, and recommend a physician.
Show him Prothero's name and address on a piece of paper, and say
Prothero has been recommended to you as a specialist on nervous
troubles. Ask what he thinks of him. Get him to talk. Then visit
the trades-people and the public-houses in the neighborhood, and
say you are from some West End shop where Prothero, wants to open
an account. They may talk, especially if his credit is bad. And, if
you find out enough about him to give me a working basis, I'll try
to get into the house to-night. Meanwhile, I'm going to make
another quick search of this hotel for Pearsall. I'm not satisfied
he has not been here. For why should Miss Dale, with all the hotels
in London to choose from, have named this particular one, unless
she had good reason for it? Now, go, and meet me in an hour in
Cuthbert was at the door when he remembered he had brought with him
from the office Ford's mail and cablegrams. Among the latter was
the one for which Ford had asked.
"Wait," he commanded. "This is about the girl. You had better know
what it says." The cable read:
"Girl orphan, Dalesville named after her family, for three
generations mill-owners, father died four years ago, Pearsall
brother-in-law until she is twenty-one, which will be in three
months. Girl well known, extremely popular, lived Dalesville until
last year, when went abroad with uncle, since then reports of
melancholia and nervous prostration, before that health
excellent--no signs insanity--none in family. Be careful how handle
Pearsall, was doctor, gave up practice to look after estate, is
prominent in local business and church circles, best reputation,
For the benefit of Cuthbert, Ford had been reading the cable aloud.
The last paragraph seemed especially to interest him, and he read
it twice, the second time slowly, and emphasizing the word
"A doctor!" he repeated. "Do you see where that leads us? It may
explain several things. The girl was in good health until went
abroad with her uncle, and he is a medical man."
The eyes of Cuthbert grew wide with excitement.
"You mean poison!" he whispered. "Slow poison!"
"Beware libel," laughed Ford nervously, his own eyes lit with
excitement. "Suppose," he exclaimed, "he has been using arsenic? He
would have many opportunities, and it's colorless, tasteless; and
arsenic would account for her depression and melancholia. The time
when he must turn over her money is very near, and, suppose he has
spent the money, speculated with it, and lost it, or that he still
has it and wants to keep it? In three months she will be of age,
and he must make an accounting. The arsenic does not work fast
enough. So what does he do? To save himself from exposure, or to
keep the money, he throws her into this private sanatorium, to make
away with her."
Ford had been talking in an eager whisper. While he spoke his cigar
had ceased to burn, and to light it, from a vase on the mantel he
took a spill, one of those spirals of paper that in English hotels,
where the proprietor is of a frugal mind, are still used to prevent
extravagance in matches. Ford lit the spill at the coal fire, and
with his cigar puffed at the flame. As he did so the paper
unrolled. To the astonishment of Cuthbert, Ford clasped it in both
hands, blotted out the tiny flame, and, turning quickly to a table,
spread out the charred paper flat. After one quick glance, Ford ran
to the fireplace, and, seizing a handfull of the spills, began
rapidly to unroll them. Then he turned to Cuthbert and, without
speaking, showed him the charred spill. It was a scrap torn from
the front page of a newspaper. The half- obliterated words at which
Ford pointed were DALESVILLE COUR ----
"His torn paper!" said Ford. "The DALESVILLE COURIER. Pearsall HAS
been in this hotel!" He handed another spill to Cuthbert.
"From that one," said Ford, "we get the date, December 3. Allowing
three weeks for the newspaper to reach London, Pearsall must have
seen it just three weeks ago, just when Miss Dale says he was in
the hotel. The landlord has lied to me."
Ford rang for a waiter, and told him to ask Mr. Gerridge to come to
As Cuthbert was leaving it, Gerridge was entering it, and Ford was
"It seems you've been lying to the police and to me. Unless you
desire to he an accessory to a murder, You had better talk quick!"
An hour later Ford passed slowly through Sowell Street in a
taxicab, and, finding Cuthbert on guard, signalled him to follow.
in Wimpole Street the cab drew up to the curb, and Cuthbert entered
"I have found Pearsall," said Ford. "He is in No. 40 with
He then related to Cuthbert what had happened. Gerridge had
explained that when the Police called, his first thought was to
protect the good name of his hotel. He had denied any knowledge of
Pearsall only because he no longer was a guest, and, as he supposed
Pearsall had passed out of his life, he saw no reason, why, through
an arrest and a scandal, his hotel should be involved. Believing
Ford to be in the secret service of the police, he was now only too
anxious to clear himself of suspicion by telling all he knew. It
was but little. Pearsall and his niece had been at the hotel for
three days. During that time the niece, who appeared to be an
invalid, remained in her room. On the evening of the third day,
while Pearsall was absent, a call from him had come for her by
telephone, on receiving which Miss Dale had at once left the hotel,
apparently in great agitation. That night she did not return, but
in the morning Pearsall came to collect his and her luggage and to
settle his account. He explained that a woman relative living at
the Langham Hotel had been taken suddenly ill, and had sent for him
and his niece. Her condition had been so serious that they had
remained with her all night, and his niece still was at her
bedside. The driver of a four-wheeler, who for years had stood on
the cab-rank in front of Gerridge's, had driven Pearsall to the
Langham. This man was at the moment on the rank, and from him Ford
learned what he most wished to know.
The cabman remembered Pearsall, and having driven him to the
Langham, for the reason that immediately after setting him down
there, and while "crawling" for a fare in Portland Place, a whistle
from the Langham had recalled him, and the same luggage that had
just been taken from the top of his cab was Put back on it, and he
was directed by the porter of the hotel to take it to a house in
Sowell Street. There a man- servant had helped him unload the
trunks and had paid him his fare. The cabman did not remember the
number of the house, but knew it was on the west side of the street
and in the middle of the block.
Having finished with Gerridge and the cab-man, Ford had at once
gone to the Langham Hotel, where, as he anticipated, nothing was
known of Pearsall or his niece, or of any invalid lady. But the
hall-porter remembered the American gentleman who had driven up
with many pieces of luggage, and who, although it was out of
season, and many suites in the hotel were vacant, had found none to
suit him. He had then set forth on foot, having left word that his
trunks be sent after him. The address he gave was a house in Sowell
The porter recalled the incident because he and the cabman had
grumbled over the fact that in five minutes they had twice to
handle the same boxes.
"It is pretty evident," said Ford, what Pearsall had in mind, but
chance was against him. He thought when he had unloaded his trunks
at the Langham and dismissed the cabman he had destroyed the link
connecting him with Gerridge's. He could not foresee that the same
cabman would be loitering in the neighborhood. He should have known
that four-wheelers are not as plentiful as they once were; and he
should have given that particular one more time to get away. His
idea in walking to the Sowell Street house was obviously to prevent
the new cabman from seeing him enter it. But, just where he thought
he was clever, was just where he tripped. If he had remained with
his trunks he would have seen that the cabman was the same one who
had brought them and him from Craven Street, and he would have
given any other address in London than the one he did.
"And now," said Ford, "that we have Pearsall where we want him,
tell me what you have learned about Prothero?"
Cuthbert smiled importantly, and produced a piece of paper
scribbled over with notes.
"Prothero," he said, "seems to be THIS sort of man. If he made your
coffee for you, before you tasted it, you'd like him to drink a cup
of it first."
"Prothero," said Cuthbert, "is a man of mystery. As soon as I
began asking his neighbors questions, I saw he was of interest and
that I was of interest. I saw they did not believe I was an agent
of a West End shop, but a detective. So they wouldn't talk at all,
or else they talked freely. And from one of them, a chemist named
Needham, I got all I wanted. He's had a lawsuit against Prothero,
and hates him. Prothero got him to invest in a medicine to cure the
cocaine habit. Needham found the cure was no cure, but cocaine
disguised. He sued for his money, and during the trial the police
brought in Prothero's record. Needham let me copy it, and it seems
to embrace every crime except treason. The man is a Russian Jew. He
was arrested and prosecuted in Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, Belgrade;
all over Europe, until finally the police drove him to America.
There he was an editor of an anarchist paper, a blackmailer, a
'doctor' of hypnotism, a clairvoyant, and a professional bigamist.
His game was to open rooms as a clairvoyant, and advise silly women
how to invest their money. When he found out which of them had the
most money, he would marry her, take over her fortune, and skip. In
Chicago, he was tried for poisoning one wife, and the trial brought
out the fact that two others had died under suspicious
circumstances, and that there were three more unpoisoned but
anxious to get back their money. He was sentenced to ten years for
bigamy, but pardoned because he was supposed to be insane, and
dying. Instead of dying, he opened a sanatorium in New York to cure
victims of the drug habit. In reality, it was a sort of high-priced
opium-den. The place was raided, and he jumped his bail and came to
this country. Now he is running this private hospital in Sowell
Street. Needham says it's a secret rendezvous for dope fiends. But
they are very high-class dope fiends, who are willing to pay for
seclusion, and the police can't get at him. I may add that he's
tall and muscular, with a big black beard, and hands that could
strangle a bull. In Chicago, during the poison trial, the
newspapers called him 'the Modern Bluebeard."'
For a short time Ford was silent. But, in the dark corner of the
cab, Cuthbert could see that his cigar was burning briskly.
"Your friend seems a nice chap," said Ford at last. " Calling on
him will be a real pleasure. I especially like what you say about
"I have a plan," began the assistant timidly, "a plan to get you
into the house-if you don't mind my making suggestions?"
"Not at all!" exclaimed his chief heartily.
"Get me into the house by all means; that's what we're here for.
The fact that I'm to be poisoned or strangled after I get there
mustn't discourage us.'"
"I thought," said Cuthbert, "I might stand guard outside, while you
got in as a dope fiend."
Ford snorted indignantly. "Do I LOOK like a dope fiend?" he
The voice of the assistant was one of discouragement.
"You certainly do not," he exclaimed regretfulIy. "But it's the
only plan I could think of."
"It seems to me," said his chief testily, "that you are not so very
healthy-looking yourself. What's the matter with YOUR getting
inside as a dope fiend and MY standing guard?"
"But I wouldn't know what to do after I got inside," complained the
assistant, "and you would. You are so clever."
The expression of confidence seemed to flatter Ford.
"I might do this," he said. "I might pretend I was recovering from
a heavy spree, and ask to be taken care of until I am sober. Or I
could be a very good imitation of a man on the edge of a nervous
breakdown. I haven't been five years in the newspaper business
without knowing all there is to know about nerves. That's it!" he
cried. "I will do that! And if Mr. Bluebeard Svengali, the
Strangler of Paris person, won't take me in as a patient, we'll
come back with a couple of axes and BREAK in. But we'll try the
nervous breakdown first, and we'll try it now. I will be a naval
officer," declared Ford. "I made the round-the-world cruise with
our fleet as a correspondent, and I know enough sea slang to fool
a medical man. I am a naval officer whose nerves have gone wrong.
I have heard of his sanatorium through----" "How," asked Ford
sharply, "have I heard of his sanatorium?"
"You saw his advertisement in the DAILY WORLD," prompted Cuthbert.
"'Home of convalescents; mental and nervous troubles cured.'"
"And," continued Ford, "I have come to him for rest and treatment.
My name is Lieutenant Henry Grant. I arrived in London two weeks
ago on the MAURETANIA. But my name was not on the passenger-list,
because I did not want the Navy Department to know I was taking my
leave abroad. I have been stopping at my own address in Jermyn
Street, and my references are yourself, the Embassy, and my
landlord. You will telephone him at once that, if any one asks
after Henry Grant, he is to say what you tell him to say. And if
any one sends for Henry Grant's clothes, he is to send MY clothes."
"But you don't expect to be in there as long as that?" exclaimed
"I do not," said Ford. "But, if he takes me in, I must make a bluff
of sending for my things. No; either I will be turned out in five
minutes, or if he accepts me as a patient I will be there until
midnight. If I cannot get the girl out of the house by midnight, it
will mean that I can't get out myself, and you had better bring the
police and the coroner."
"Do you mean it?" asked Cuthbert.
"I most certainly do!" exclaimed Ford.
Until twelve I want a chance to get this story exclusively for our
paper. If she is not free by then it means I have fallen down on
it, and you and the police are to begin to batter in the doors."
The two young men left the cab, and at some distance from each
other walked to Sowell Street. At the house of Dr. Prothero, Ford
stopped and rang the bell. From across the street Cuthbert saw the
door open and the figure of a man of almost gigantic stature block
the doorway. For a moment he stood there, and then Cuthbert saw him
step to one side, saw Ford enter the house and the door close upon
him. Cuthbert at once ran to a telephone, and, having instructed
Ford's landlord as to the part he was to play, returned to Sowell
Street. There, in a state nearly approaching a genuine nervous
breakdown, he continued his vigil.
Even without his criminal record to cast a glamour over him, Ford
would have found Dr. Prothero, a disturbing person. His size was
enormous, his eyes piercing, sinister, unblinking, and the hands
that could strangle a bull, and with which as though to control
himself, he continually pulled at his black beard, were gigantic,
of a deadly white, with fingers long and prehensile. In his manner
he had all the suave insolence of the Oriental and the suspicious
alertness of one constantly on guard, but also, as Ford at once
noted, of one wholly without fear. He had not been over a moment in
his presence before the reporter felt that to successfully lie to
such a man might be counted as a triumph.
Prothero opened the door into a little office leading off the hall,
and switched on the electric lights. For some short time, without
any effort to conceal his suspicion, he stared at Ford in silence.
"Well?" he said, at last. His tone was a challenge.
Ford had already given his assumed name and profession, and he now
ran glibly into the story he had planned. He opened his card-case
and looked into it doubtfully. "I find I have no card with me," he
said; but I am, as I told you, Lieutenant Grant, of the United
States Navy. I am all right physically, except for my nerves.
They've played me a queer trick. If the facts get out at home, it
might cost me my commission. So I've come over here for treatment."
"Why to ME?" asked Prothero.
"I saw by your advertisement," said the reporter, "that you treated
for nervous mental troubles. Mine is an illusion," he went on. "I
see things, or, rather, always one thing-a battle-ship coming at us
head on. For the last year I've been executive officer of the
KEARSARGE, and the responsibility has been too much for me."
"You see a battle-ship?" inquired the Jew.
"A phantom battle-ship," Ford explained, "a sort OF FLYING
DUTCHMAN. The time I saw it I was on the bridge, and I yelled and
telegraphed the engine-room. I brought the ship to a full stop, and
backed her. But it was dirty weather, and the error was passed
over. After that, when I saw the thing coming I did nothing. But
each time I think it is real." Ford shivered slightly and glanced
about him. "Some day," he added fatefully, it WILL be real, and I
will NOT signal, and the ship will sink!"
In silence, Prothero observed his visitor closely. The young man
seemed sincere, genuine. His manner was direct and frank. He looked
the part he had assumed, as one used to authority.
"My fees are large," said the Russian.
At this point, had Ford, regardless of terms, exhibited a hopeful
eagerness to at once close with him, the Jew would have shown him
the door. But Ford was on guard, and well aware that a lieutenant
in the navy had but few guineas to throw away on medicines. He made
a movement as though to withdraw.
"Then I am afraid," he said, "I must go somewhere else."
His reluctance apparently only partially satisfied the Jew.
Ford adopted opposite tactics. He was never without ready money.
His paper saw to it that in its interests he was always able at any
moment to pay for a special train across Europe, or to bribe the
entire working staff of a cable office. From his breast-pocket he
took a blue linen envelope, and allowed the Jew to see that it was
filled with twenty- pound notes. "I have means outside my pay,"
I would give almost any price to the man who can cure me." The eyes
of the Russian flashed avariciously.
"I will arrange the terms to suit you," he exclaimed. "Your case
interests me. Do you See this-mirage only at sea?"
"In any open place," Ford assured him. "In a park or public square,
but of course most frequently at sea."
The quack waved his great hands as though brushing aside a curtain.
"I will remove the illusion," he said, "and give you others more
pretty." He smiled meaningfully--an evil, leering smile. "When will
you come?" he asked. Ford glanced about him nervously.
"I shall stay now," he said. " I confess, in the streets and in my
lodgings I am frightened. You give me confidence. I want to stay
near you. I feel safe with you. If you will give me writing-paper,
I will send for my things."
For a moment the Jew hesitated, and then motioned to a desk. As
Ford wrote, Prothero stood near him, and the reporter knew that
over his shoulder the Jew was reading what he wrote. Ford gave him
the note, unsealed, and asked that it be forwarded at once to his
"To-morrow," he said, "I will call up our Embassy, and give my
address to our Naval Attache.
"I will attend to that," said Prothero.
From now you are in my hands, and you can communicate with the
outside only through me. You are to have absolute rest-- no books,
no letters, no papers. And you will be fed from a spoon. I will
explain my treatment later. You will now go to your room, and you
will remain there until you are a well man."
Ford had no wish to be at once shut off from the rest of the house.
The odor of cooking came through the hall, and seemed to offer an
excuse for delay.
"I smell food," he laughed. "And I'm terrifically hungry. Can't I
have a farewell dinner before you begin feeding me from a spoon?"
The Jew was about to refuse, but, with his guilty knowledge of what
was going forward in the house, he could not be too sure of those
he allowed to enter it. He wanted more time to spend in studying
this new patient, and the dinner-table seemed to offer a place
where he could do so without the other suspecting he was under
"My associate and I were just about to dine," he said. "You will
wait here until I have another place laid, and you can join us."
He departed, walking heavily down the hall, but almost at once
Ford, whose ears were alert for any sound, heard him returning,
approaching stealthily on tiptoe. If by this maneuver the Jew had
hoped to discover his patient in some indiscretion, he was
unsuccessful, for he found Ford standing just where he had left
him, with his back turned to the door, and gazing with apparent
interest at a picture on the wall. The significance of the incident
was not lost upon the intruder. It taught him he was still under
surveillance, and that he must bear himself warily. Murmuring some
excuse for having returned, the Jew again departed, and in a few
minutes Ford heard his voice, and that of another man, engaged in
low tones in what was apparently an eager argument.
Only once was the voice of the other man raised sufficiently for
Ford to distinguish his words. "He is an American," protested the
voice; "that makes it worse."
Ford guessed that the speaker was Pearsall, and that against his
admittance to the house he was making earnest protest. A door,
closing with a bang, shut off the argument, but within a few
minutes it was evident the Jew had carried his point, for he
reappeared to announce that dinner was waiting. It was served in a
room at the farther end of the hall, and at the table, which was
laid for three, Ford found a man already seated. Prothero
introduced him as "my associate," but from his presence in the
house, and from the fact that he was an American, Ford knew that he
Pearsall was a man of fifty. He was tall, spare, with closely
shaven face and gray hair, worn rather long. He spoke with the
accent of a Southerner, and although to Ford he was studiously
polite, he was obviously greatly ill at ease. He had the abrupt,
inattentive manners, the trembling fingers and quivering lips, of
one who had long been a slave to the drug habit, and who now, with
difficulty, was holding himself in hand.
Throughout the dinner, speaking to him as though, interested only
as his medical advisers, the Jew, and occasionally the American,
sharply examined and cross-examined their visitor. But they were
unable to trip him in his story, or to suggest that he was not just
what he claimed to be.
When the dinner was finished, the three men, for different reasons,
were each more at his ease. Both Pearsall and Prothero believed
from the new patient they had nothing to fear, and Ford was
congratulating himself that his presence at the house was firmly
"I think," said Pearsall, "we should warn Mr. Grant that there are
in the house other patients who, like himself, are suffering from
nervous disorders. At times some silly neurotic woman becomes
hysterical, and may make an outcry or scream. He must not think
"That's all right!" Ford reassured him cheerfully. " I expect that.
In a sanatorium it must be unavoidable."
As he spoke, as though by a signal prearranged, there came from the
upper portion of the house a scream, long, insistent.
It was the voice of a woman, raised in appeal , in protest, shaken
with fear. Without for an instant regarding it, the two men
fastened their eyes upon the visitor. The hand of the Jew dropped
quickly from his beard, and slid to the inside pocket of his coat.
With eyes apparently unseeing, Ford noted the movement.
"He carries a gun," was his mental comment, "and he seems perfectly
willing to use it." Aloud, he said: "That, I suppose is one of
Prothero nodded gravely, and turned to Pearsall. "Will you attend
her?" he asked.
As Pearsall rose and left the room, Prothero rose also.
"You will come with me," he directed, "and I will see you settle in
your apartment. Your bag has arrived and is already there."
The room to which the Jew led him was the front one on the second
story. It was in no way in keeping with a sanatorium, or a
rest-cure. The walls were hidden by dark blue hangings, in which
sparkled tiny mirrors, the floor was covered with Turkish rugs, the
lights concealed inside lamps of dull brass bedecked with crimson
tassels. In the air were the odors of stale tobacco-smoke, of cheap
incense, and the sickly, sweet smell of opium. To Ford the place
suggested a cigar-divan rather than a bedroom, and he guessed,
correctly, that when Prothero had played at palmistry and
clairvoyance this had been the place where he received his dupes.
But the American expressed himself pleased with his surroundings,
and while Prothero remained in the room, busied himself with
unpacking his bag.
On leaving him the Jew halted in the door and delivered himself of
a little speech. His voice was stern, sharp, menacing.
"Until you are cured," he said, "you will not put your foot outside
this room. In this house are other inmates who, as you have already
learned, are in a highly nervous state. The brains of some are
unbalanced. With my associate and myself they are familiar, but the
sight of a stranger roaming through the halls might upset them.
They might attack you, might do you bodily injury. If you wish for
anything, ring the electric bell beside your bed and an attendant
will come. But you yourself must not leave the room."
He closed the door, and Ford, seating himself in front of the coal
fire, hastily considered his position. He could not persuade
himself that, strategically, it was a satisfactory one. The girl he
sought was on the top or fourth floor, he on the second. To reach
her he would have to pass through Well- lighted halls, up two
flights Of stairs and try to enter a door that would undoubtedly be
locked. On the other hand, instead of wandering about in the rain
outside the house, he was now established on the inside, and as an
inmate. Had there been time for a siege, he would have been
confident of success. But there was no time. The written call for
help had been urgent. Also, the scream he had heard, while the
manner of the two men had shown that to them it was a commonplace,
was to him a spur to instant action. In haste he knew there was the
risk of failure, but he must take that risk.
He wished first to assure himself that Cuthbert was within call,
and to that end put out the lights and drew aside the curtains that
covered the window. Outside, the fog was rolling between the
house-fronts, both rain and snow were falling heavily, and a
solitary gas-lamp showed only a deserted and dripping street.
Cautiously Ford lit a match and for an instant let the flame flare.
He was almost at once rewarded by the sight of an answering flame
that flickered from a dark doorway. Ford closed the window,
satisfied that his line of communication with the outside world was
still intact. The faithful Cuthbert was on guard.
Ford rapidly reviewed each possible course of action. These were
several, but to lead any one of them to success, he saw that he
must possess a better acquaintance with the interior of the house.
Especially was it important that he should obtain a line of escape
other than the one down the stairs to the front door. The knowledge
that in the rear of the house there was a means of retreat by a
servants' stairway, or over the roof of an adjoining building, or
by a friendly fire- escape, would at least, lend him confidence in
his adventure. Accordingly, in spite of Prothero's threat, he
determined at once to reconnoitre. In case of his being discovered
outside his room, he would explain his electric bell was out of
order, that when he rang no servant had answered, and that he had
sallied forth in search of one. To make this plausible, he
unscrewed the cap of the electric button in the wall, and with his
knife cut off enough of the wire to prevent a proper connection. He
then replaced the cap and, opening the door, stepped into the hall.
The upper part of the house was, sunk in silence, but rising from
the dining-room below, through the opening made by the stairs, came
the voices of Prothero and Pearsall. And mixed with their voices
came also the sharp hiss of water issuing from a siphon. The sound
was reassuring. Apparently, over their whiskey-and-soda the two men
were still lingering at the dinner-table. For the moment, then--so
far, at least, as they were concerned --the coast was clear.
Stepping cautiously, and keeping close to the wall, Ford ran
lightly up the stairs to the hall of the third floor. It was lit
brightly by a gas-jet, but no one was in sight, and the three doors
opening upon it were shut. At the rear of the hall was a window;
the blind was raised, and through the panes, dripping in the rain,
Ford caught a glimpse of the rigid iron rods of a fire-escape. His
spirits leaped exultantly. If necessary, by means of this scaling
ladder, he could work entirely from the outside. Greatly elated, he
tiptoed past the closed doors and mounted to the fourth floor. This
also was lit by a gas-jet that showed at one end of the hall a
table on which were medicine-bottles and a tray covered by a
napkin; and at the other end, piled upon each other and blocking
the hall-window, were three steamer- trunks. Painted on each were
the initials, "D. D." Ford breathed an exclamation.
"Dosia Dale," he muttered, "I have found you!" He was again
confronted by three closed doors, one leading to a room that faced
the street, another opening upon a room in the rear of the house,
and opposite, across the hallway, still another door. He observed
that the first two doors were each fastened from the outside by
bolts and a spring lock, and that the key to each lock was in
place. The fact moved him with indecision. If he took possession of
the keys, he could enter the rooms at his pleasure. On the other
hand, should their loss be discovered, an alarm would be raised and
he would inevitably come under suspicion. The very purpose he had
in view might be frustrated. He decided that where they were the
keys would serve him as well as in his pocket, and turned his
attention to the third door. This was not locked, and, from its
position, Ford guessed it must be an entrance to a servants'
Confident of this, he opened it, and found a dark, narrow landing,
a flight of steps mounting from the kitchen below, and, to his
delight an iron ladder leading to a trap-door. He could hardly
forego a cheer. If the trap-door were not locked, he had found a
third line of retreat, a means of escape by way of the roof, far
superior to any he might attempt by the main staircase and the
Ford stepped into the landing, closing the door behind him and
though this left him in complete darkness, he climbed the ladder,
and with eager fingers felt for the fastenings of the trap. He had
feared to find a padlock, but, to his infinite relief, his fingers
closed upon two bolts. Noiselessly, and smoothly, they drew back
from their sockets. Under the pressure of his hand the trap door
lifted, and through the opening swept a breath of chill night air.
Ford hooked one leg over a round of the ladder and, with hands
frees moved the trap to one side. An instant later he had scrambled
to the roof, and, after carefully replacing the trap, rose and
looked about him. To his satisfaction, he found that the roof upon
which he stood ran level with the roofs adjoining its to as far as
Devonshire Street, where they encountered the wall of an apartment
house. This was of seven stories. On the fifth story a row of
windows, brilliantly lighted, opened upon the roofs over which he
planned to make his retreat. Ford chuckled with nervous excitement.
"Before long," he assured himself, I will be visiting the man who
owns that flat. He will think I am a burglar. He will send for the
police. There is no one in the world I shall be so glad to see!"
Ford considered that running over roofs, even when their pitfalls
were not concealed by a yellow fog, was an awkward exercise, and
decided that before he made his dash for freedom, the part of a
careful jockey would be to take a preliminary canter over the
course. Accordingly, among party walls of brick, rain-pipes,
chimney-pipes, and telephone wires, he felt his way to the wall of
the apartment house; and then, with a clearer idea of the obstacles
to be avoided, raced back to the point whence he had started.
Next, to discover the exact position of the fire-escape, he dropped
to his knees and crawled to the rear edge of the roof. The light
from the back windows of the fourth floor showed him an iron ladder
from the edge of the roof to the platform of the fire-escape, and
the platform itself, stretching below the windows the width of the
building. He gave a sigh of satisfaction, but the same instant
exclaimed with dismay. The windows opening upon the fire-escape
were closely barred. For a moment he was unable to grasp why a
fire-escape should be placed where escape was impossible, until he
recognized that the ladder must have been erected first and the
iron bars later; probably only since Miss Dale had been made a
But he now appreciated that in spite of the iron bars he was nearer
that prisoner than he had ever been. Should he return to the hall
below, even while he could unlock the doors, he was in danger of
discovery by those inside the house. But from the fire-escape only
a window-pane would separate him from the prisoner, and though the
bars would keep him at arm's-length, he might at least speak with
her, and assure her that her call for help had carried. He grasped
the sides of the ladder and dropped to the platform. As he had
already seen that the window farthest to the left was barricaded
with trunks, he disregarded it, and passed quickly to the two
others. Behind both of these, linen shades were lowered, but, to
his relief, he found that in the middle window the lower sash, as
though for ventilation, was slightly raised, leaving an opening of
a few inches. Kneeling on the gridiron platform of the fire-escape,
and pressing his face against the bars, he brought his eyes level
with this opening. Owing to the lowered window-blind, he could see
nothing in the room, nor could he distinguish any sound until above
the drip and patter of the rain there came to him the peaceful
ticking of a clock and the rattle of coal falling to the fender.
But of any sound that was human there was none. That the room was
empty, and that the girl was in the front of the house was
possible, and the temptation to stretch his hand through the bars
and lift the blind was almost compelling. If he did so, and the
girl were inside, she might make an outcry, or, guarding her, there
might be an attendant, who at once would sound the alarm. The risk
was evident, but, encouraged by the silence, Ford determined to
take the chance. Slipping one hand between the bars he caught the
end of the blind, and, pulling it gently down, let the spring draw
it upward. Through an opening of six inches the room lay open
before him. He saw a door leading to another room, at one side an
iron cot, and in front of the coal fire, facing him, a girl seated
in a deep arm-chair. A book lay on her knees, and she was intently
The girl was young, and her face, in spite of an unnatural pallor
and an expression of deep melancholy, was one of extreme beauty.
She wore over a night-dress a long loose wrapper corded at the
waist, and, as though in readiness for the night, her black hair
had been drawn back into smooth, heavy braids. She made so sweet
and sad a picture that Ford forgot his errand, forgot his damp and
chilled body, arid for a moment in sheer delight knelt, with his
face pressed close to the bars, and gazed at her.
A movement on the part of the girl brought him to his senses. She
closed the book, and, leaning forward, rested her chin upon the
hollow of her hand and stared into the fire. Her look was one of
complete and hopeless misery. Ford did not hesitate. The girl was
alone, but that at any moment an attendant might join her was
probable, and the rare chance that now offered would be lost. He
did not dare to speak, or by any sound attract her attention, but
from his breast- pocket he took the glove thrown to him from the
window, and, with a jerk, tossed it through the narrow opening. It
fell directly at her feet. She had not seen the glove approach, but
the slight sound it made in falling caused her to start and turn
her eyes toward it. Through the window, breathless, and with every
nerve drawn taut, Ford watched her.
For a moment, partly in alarm, partly in bewilderment, she sat
motionless, regarding the glove with eyes fixed and staring. Then
she lifted them to the ceiling, in quick succession to each of the
closed doors, and then to the window. In his race across the roofs
Ford had lacked the protection of a hat, and his hair was plastered
across his forehead; his face was streaked with soot and snow, his
eyes shone with excitement. But at sight of this strange apparition
the girl made no sign. Her alert mind had in an instant taken in
the significance of the glove, and for her what followed could have
but one meaning. She knew that no matter in what guise he came the
man whose face was now pressed against the bars was a friend.
With a swift, graceful movement she rose to her feet, crossed
quickly to the window, and sank upon her knees.
"Speak in a whisper," she said; "and speak quickly. You are in
That her first thought was of his safety gave Ford a thrill of
shame and pleasure.
Until now Miss Dosia Dale had been only the chief feature in a
newspaper story; the unknown quantity in a problem. She had meant
no more to him than had the initials on her steamer- trunk. Now,
through her beauty, through the distress in her eyes, through her
warm and generous nature that had disclosed itself with her first
words, she became a living, breathing, lovely, and lovable woman.
All of the young man's chivalry leaped to the call. He had gone
back several centuries. In feeling, he was a knight-errant rescuing
beauty in distress from a dungeon cell. To the girl, he was a
reckless young person with a dirty face and eyes that gave
confidence. But, though a knight-errant, Ford was a modern
knight-errant. He wasted no time in explanations or pretty
"In two minutes," he whispered, " I'll unlock your door. There's a
ladder outside your room to the roof. Once we get to the roof the
rest's easy. Should anything go wrong, I'll come back by this
fire-escape. Wait at the window until you see your door open. Do
The girl answered with an eager nod. The color had flown to her
cheek. Her eyes flashed in excitement. A sudden doubt assailed
"You've no time to put on any more clothes," he commanded.
"I haven't got any!" said the girl.
The knight-errant ran up the fire-escape, pulled himself over the
edge of the roof, and, crossing it, dropped through the trap to the
landing of the kitchen stairs. Here he expended the greater part of
the two minutes he had allowed himself in cautiously opening the
door into the hall. He accomplished this without a sound, and in
one step crossed the hall to the door that held Miss Dale a
Slowly he drew back the bolts. Only the spring lock now barred him
from her. With thumb and forefinger he turned the key, pushed the
door gently open, and ran into the room.
At the same instant from behind him, within six feet of him, he
heard the staircase creak. A bomb bursting could not have shaken
him more rudely. He swung on his heel and found, blocking the door,
the giant bulk of Prothero regarding him over the barrel of his
"Don't move!" said the Jew.
At the sound of his voice the girl gave a cry of warning, and
"Go back!" commanded Prothero. His voice was low and soft, and
apparently calm, but his face showed white with rage.
Ford had recovered from the shock of the surprise. He, also, was in
a rage--a rage of mortification and bitter disappointment.
"Don't point that gun at me!" he blustered.
The sound of leaping footsteps and the voice of Pearsall echoed
from the floor below.
"Have you got him?" he called.
Prothero made no reply, nor did he lower his pistol. When Pearsall
was at his side, without turning his head, he asked in the same
"What shall we do with him?"
The face of Pearsall was white, and furious with fear.
"I told you----" he stormed.
"Never mind what you told me," said the Jew. "What shall we do with
him? He knows!"
Ford's mind was working swiftly. He had no real fear of personal
danger for the girl or himself. The Jew, he argued, was no fool. He
would not risk his neck by open murder. And, as he saw it, escape
with the girl might still be possible. He had only to conceal from
Prothero his knowledge of the line of retreat over the house-tops,
explain his rain-soaked condition, and wait a better chance.
To this end he proceeded to lie briskly and smoothly.
"Of course I know," he taunted. He pointed to his dripping
garments. "Do you know where I've been? In the street, placing my
men. I have this house surrounded. I am going to walk down those
stairs with this young lady. If you try to stop me I have only to
blow my police-whistle----"
"And I will blow your brains out!" interrupted the Jew. It was a
most unsatisfactory climax.
"You have not been in the street," said Prothero. "You are wet
because you hung out of your window signalling to your friend. Do
you know why he did not answer your second signal? Because he is
lying in an area, with a knife in him!"
"You lie!" cried Ford.
"YOU lie," retorted the Jew quietly, "when you say your men
surround this house. You are alone. You are NOT in the police
service, you are a busybody meddling with men who think as little
of killing you as they did of killing your friend. My servant was
placed to watch your window, saw your signal, reported to me. And
I found your assistant and threw him into an area, with a knife in
Ford felt the story was untrue. Prothero was trying to frighten
him. Out of pure bravado no sane man would boast of murder.
But--and at the thought Ford felt a touch of real fear--was the man
sane? It was a most unpleasant contingency. Between a fight with an
angry man and an insane man the difference was appreciable. From
this new view-point Ford regarded his adversary with increased
wariness; he watched him as he would a mad dog. He regretted
extremely he had not brought his revolver.
With his automatic pistol still covering Ford, Prothero spoke to
"I found him," he recited, as though testing the story he would
tell later, "prowling through my house at night. Mistaking him for
a burglar, I killed him. The kitchen window will be found open,
with the lock broken, showing how he gained an entrance. "Why not?"
"Because," protested Pearsall, in terror, "the man outside will
Ford shouted in genuine relief.
Exactly !" he cried. "The man outside, who is not down an area with
a knife in him, but who at this moment is bringing the police -he
As though he had not been interrupted, Prothero continued
"What they may say he expected to find here, I can explain away
later. The point is that I found a strange man, hatless,
dishevelled, prowling in my house. I called on him to halt; he ran,
I fired, and unfortunately killed him. An Englishman's home is his
castle; an English jury----"
"An English jury," said Ford briskly, "is the last thing you want
to meet---- It isn't a Chicago jury."
The Jew flung back his head as though Ford had struck him in the
"Ah!" he purred, "you know that, too, do you?" The purr increased
to a snarl. "You know too much!"
For Pearsall, his tone seemed to bear an alarming meaning. He
sprang toward Prothero, and laid both hands upon his disengaged
"For God's sake," he pleaded, "come away! He can't hurt you-- not
alive; but dead, he'll hang you--hang us both. We must go, now,
this moment." He dragged impotently at the left arm of the giant.
"Come!" he begged.
Whether moved by Pearsall's words or by some thought of his own,
Prothero nodded in assent. He addressed himself to Ford.
"I don't know what to do with you," he said, "so I will consult
with my friend outside this door. While we talk, we will lock you
in. We can hear any move you make. If you raise the window or call
I will open the door and kill you--you and that woman!"
With a quick gesture, he swung to the door, and the spring lock
snapped. An instant later the bolts were noisily driven home.
When the second bolt shot into place, Ford turned and looked at
This is a hell of a note!" he said
Outside the locked door the voices of the two men rose in fierce
whispers. But Ford regarded them not at all. With the swiftness of
a squirrel caught in a cage, he darted on tiptoe from side to side
searching the confines of his prison. He halted close to Miss Dale
and pointed at the windows.
"Have you ever tried to loosen those bars?" he whispered.
The girl nodded and, in pantomime that spoke of failure, shrugged
"What did you see?" demanded Ford hopefully.
The girl destroyed his hope with a shake of her head and a swift
"Scissors," she said; "but they found them and took them away."
Ford pointed at the open grate.
"Where's the poker?" he demanded.
"They took that, too. I bent it trying to pry the bars. So they
The man gave her a quick, pleased glance, then turned his eyes to
the door that led into the room that looked upon the street.
"Is that door locked?"
"No," the girl told him. "But the door from it into the hall is
fastened, like the other, with a spring lock and two bolts."
Ford cautiously opened the door into the room adjoining, and,
except for a bed and wash-stand, found it empty. On tiptoe he ran
to the windows. Sowell Street was deserted. He returned to Miss
Dale, again closing the door between the two rooms.
"The nurse," Miss Dale whispered, "when she is on duty, leaves that
door open so that she can watch me; when she goes downstairs, she
locks and bolts the door from that room to the hall. It's locked
"What's the nurse like?"
The girl gave a shudder that seemed to Ford sufficiently
descriptive. Her lips tightened in a hard, straight line.
"She's not human," she said. "I begged her to help me, appealed to
her in every way; then I tried a dozen times to get past her to the
The girl frowned, and with a gesture signified her surroundings.
"I'm still here," she said.
She bent suddenly forward and, with her hand on his shoulder,
turned the man so that he faced the cot.
"The mattress on that bed," she whispered, rests on two iron rods.
They are loose and can be lifted. I planned to smash the lock, but
the noise would have brought Prothero. But you could defend
yourself with one of them."
Ford had already run to the cot and dropped to his knees. He found
the mattress supported on strips of iron resting loosely in sockets
at the head and foot. He raised the one nearer him, and then, after
a moment of hesitation, let it drop into place.
"That's fine!" he whispered. "Good as a crowbar.'" He shook his
head in sudden indecision. "But I don't just know how to use it.
His automatic could shoot six times before I could swing that thing
on him once. And if I have it in my hands when he opens the door,
he'll shoot, and he may hit you. But if I leave it where it is, he
won't know I know it's there, and it may come in very handy later."
In complete disapproval the girl shook her head. Her eyes filled
with concern. "You must not fight him," she ordered. I mean, not
for me. You don't know the danger. The man's not sane. He won't
give you a chance. He's mad. You have no right to risk your life
for a stranger. I'll not permit it----"
Ford held up his hand for silence. With a jerk of his head he
signified the door. "They've stopped talking," he whispered.
Straining to hear, the two leaned forward, but from the hall there
came no sound. The girl raised her eyebrows questioningly.
"Have they gone?" she breathed.
"If I knew that," protested Ford, "we wouldn't be here!"
In answer to his doubt a smart rap, as though from the butt of a
revolver, fell upon the door. The voice of Prothero spoke sharply:
"You, who call yourself Grant!" he shouted.
Before answering, Ford drew Miss Dale and himself away from the
line of the door, and so placed the girl with her back to the wall
that if the door opened she would be behind it. "Yes," he answered.
"Pearsall and I" called Prothero, "have decided how to dispose of
you--of both of you. He has gone below to make preparations. I am
on guard. If you try to break out or call for help, I'll shoot you
as I warned you!"
"And I warn you," shouted Ford, "if this lady and I do not
instantly leave this house, or if any harm comes to her, you will
hang for it!" Prothero laughed jeeringly.
"Who will hang me?" he mocked.
"My friends," retorted Ford. "They know I am in this house. They
know WHY I am here. Unless they see Miss Dale and myself walk out
of it in safety, they will never let you leave it. Don't be a fool,
Prothero!" he shouted. "You know I am telling the truth. You know
your only chance for mercy is to open that door and let us go
For over a minute Ford waited, but from the hall there was no
After another minute of silence, Ford turned and gazed inquiringly
at Miss Dale.
"Prothero!" he called.
Again for a full minute he waited and again called, and then, as
there still was no reply, he struck the door sharply with his
knuckles. On the instant the voice of the Jew rang forth in an
"Keep away from that door!" he commanded.
Ford turned to Miss Dale and bent his head close to hers.
"Now, why the devil didn't he answer?" he whispered. "Was it
because he wasn't there; or is he planning to steal away and wants
us to think that even if he does not answer, he's still outside?"
The girl nodded eagerly.
"This is it," she whispered. "My uncle is a coward or rather he is
very wise, and has left the house. And Prothero means to follow,
but he wants us to think he's still on guard. If we only KNEW!" she
As though in answer to her thought, the voice of Prothero called to
"Don't speak to me again," he warned. "If you do, I'll not answer,
or I'll shoot!"
Flattened against the wall, close to the hinges of the door, Ford
replied flippantly and defiantly:
"That makes conversation difficult, doesn't it?" he called.
There was a bursting report, and a bullet splintered the panel of
the door, flattened itself against the fireplace, and fell tinkling
into the grate.
"I hope I hit you!" roared the Jew.
Ford pressed his lips tightly together. Whatever happy retort may
have risen to them was forever lost. For an exchange of repartee,
the moment did not seem propitious.
"Perhaps now," jeered Prothero, "you'll believe I'm in earnest!"
Ford still resisted any temptation to reply. He grinned
apologetically at the girl and shrugged his shoulders. Her face was
white, but it was white from excitement, not from fear.
"What did I tell you?" she whispered. "He IS mad--quite mad!"
Ford glanced at the bullet-hole in the panel of the door. It was on
a line with his heart. He looked at Miss Dale; her shoulder was on
a level with his own, and her eyes were following his.
"In case he does that again," said Ford, "we would be more
comfortable sitting down."
With their shoulders against the wall, the two young people sank to
the floor. The position seemed to appeal to them as humorous, and,
when their eyes met, they smiled.
"To a spectator," whispered Ford encouragingly, "we MIGHT appear to
be getting the worst of this. But, as a matter of fact, every
minute Cuthbert does not come means that the next minute may bring
"You don't believe he was hurt?" asked the girl.
"No," said Ford. "I believe Prothero found him, and I believe there
may have been a fight. But you heard what Pearsall said: 'The man
outside will tell.' If Cuthbert's in a position to tell, he is not
down an area with a knife in him."
He was interrupted by a faint report from the lowest floor, as
though the door to the street had been sharply slammed. Miss Dale
showed that she also had heard it.
"My uncle," she said, "making his escape !"
"It may be," Ford answered.
The report did not suggest to him the slamming of a door, but he
saw no reason for saying so to the girl.
With his fingers locked across his knees, Ford was leaning forward,
his eyes frowning, his lips tightly shut. At his side the girl
regarded him covertly. His broad shoulders, almost touching hers,
his strong jaw projecting aggressively, and the alert, observant
eyes gave her confidence. For three weeks she had been making a
fight single-handed. But she was now willing to cease struggling
and relax. Quite happily she placed herself and her safety in the
keeping of a stranger. Half to herself, half to the man, she
murmured: "It is like 'The Sieur de Maletroit's Door."'
Without looking at her, Ford shook his head and smiled.
"No such luck," he corrected grimly. "That young man was given a
choice. The moment he was willing to marry the girl he could have
walked out of the room free. I do not recall Prothero's saying I
can escape death by any such charming alternative." The girl
"No," she said; "you are not at all like that young man. He
stumbled in by chance. You came on purpose to help me. It was fine,
"It was not," returned Ford. "My motive was absolutely selfish. It
was not to help you I came, but to be able to tell about it later.
It is my business to do that. And before I saw you, it was all in
the day's work. But after I saw you it was no longer a part of the
day's work; it became a matter of a life time."
The girl at his side laughed softly and lightly. "A lifetime is not
long," she said, "when you are locked in a room and a madman is
shooting at you. It may last only an hour."
"Whether it lasts an hour or many years, said Ford, "it can mean to
me now only one thing----" He turned quickly and looked in her face
boldly and steadily: "You," he said.
The girl did not avoid his eyes, but returned his glance with one
as steady as his own. "You are an amusing person," she said. "Do
you feel it is necessary to keep up my courage with pretty
"I made no pretty speech," said Ford. "I proclaimed a fact. You are
the most charming person that ever came into my life, and whether
Prothero shoots us up, or whether we live to get back to God's
country, you will never leave it."
The girl pretended to consider his speech critically. "It would be
almost a compliment," she said, "if it were intelligent, but when
you know nothing of me--it is merely impertinent."
"I know this much of you, " returned Ford, calmly; "I know you are
fine and generous, for your first speech to me, in spite of your
own danger, was for my safety. I know you are brave, for I see you
now facing death without dismay."
He was again suddenly halted by, two sharp reports. They came from
the room directly below them. It was no longer possible to pretend
to misinterpret their significance.
"Prothero!" exclaimed Ford, "and his pistol!"
They waited breathlessly for what might follow: an outcry, the
sound of a body falling, a third pistol-shot. But throughout the
house there was silence.
"If you really think we are in such danger," declared Miss Dale,
"we are wasting time!"
"We are NOT wasting time," protested Ford; "we are really gaining
time, for each minute Cuthbert and the police are drawing nearer,
and to move about only invites a bullet. And, what is of more
importance," he went on quickly, as though to turn her mind from
the mysterious pistol-shots, "should we get out of this alive, I
shall already have said what under ordinary conditions I might not
have found the courage to tell you in many months." He waited as
though hopeful of a reply, but Miss Dale remained silent. "They
say," continued Ford, "when a man is drowning his whole life passes
in review. We are drowning, and yet I find I can see into the past
no further than the last half-hour. I find life began only then,
when I looked through the bars of that window and found YOU!"
With the palm of her hand the girl struck the floor sharply. "This
is neither the time," she exclaimed, "nor the place to----"
"I did not choose the place," Ford pointed out. "It was forced upon
me with a gun. But the TIME is excellent. At such a time one speaks
only what is true."
"You certainly have a strange sense of humor," she said, "but when
you are risking your life to help me, how can I be angry?"
"Of course you can't," Ford agreed heartily; "you could not be so
"But I AM conventional!" protested Miss Dale. "And I am not USED to
having young men tell me they have 'come into my life to
stay'--certainly not young men who come into my life by way of a
trap-door, and without an introduction, without a name, without
even a hat! It's absurd! It's not real! It's a nightmare!"
"The whole situation is absurd!" Ford declared. "Here we are in the
heart of London, surrounded by telephones, taxicabs, police--at
least, hope we are surrounded by police and yet we are crawling
around the floor on our hands and knees dodging bullets. I wish it
were a nightmare. But, as it's not"--he rose to his feet--"I think
He was interrupted by a sharp blow upon the door and the voice of
"You, navy officer!" he panted. "Come to the door! Stand close to
it so that I needn't shout. Come, quick!"
Ford made no answer. Motioning to Miss Dale to remain where she
was, he ran noiselessly to the bed, and from beneath the mattress
lifted one of the iron bars upon which it rested. Grasping it at
one end, he swung the bar swiftly as a man tests the weight of a
baseball bat. As a weapon it seemed to satisfy him, for he smiled.
Then once more he placed himself with his back to the wall. "Do you
hear me?" roared Prothero.
"I hear you!" returned Ford. "If you want to talk to me, open the
door and come inside."
"Listen to me," called Prothero. "If I open the door you may act
the fool, and I will have to shoot you, and I have made up my mind
to let you live. You will soon have this house to yourselves. In a
few moments I will leave it, but where I am going I'll need money,
and I want the bank-notes in that blue envelope." Ford swung the
iron club in short half-circles.
"Come in and get them!" he called.
"Don't trifle with me!" roared the Jew, "I may change my mind.
Shove the money through the crack under the door."
"And get shot!" returned Ford. "Not bit like it!"
"If, in one minute," shouted Prothero, "I don't see the money
coming through that crack, I'll begin shooting through this door,
and neither of you will live!"
Resting the bar in the crook of his elbow, Ford snatched the
bank-notes from the envelope, and, sticking them in his pocket,
placed the empty envelope on the floor. Still keeping out of range,
and using his iron bar as a croupier uses his rake, he pushed the
envelope across the carpet and under the door. When half of it had
disappeared from the other side of the door, it was snatched from
An instant later there was a scream of anger and on a line where
Ford would have been, had he knelt to shove the envelope under the
door, three bullets splintered through the panel.
At the same moment the girl caught him by the wrist. Unheeding the
attack upon the door, her eyes were fixed upon the windows. With
her free hand she pointed at the one at which Ford had first
appeared. The blind was still raised a few inches, and they saw
that the night was lit with a strange and brilliant radiance. The
storm had passed, and from all the houses that backed upon the one
in which they were prisoners lights blazed from every window, and
in each were crowded many people, and upon the roof-tops in
silhouette from the glare of the street lamps below, and in the
yards and clinging to the walls that separated them, were hundreds
of other dark, shadowy groups changing and swaying. And from them
rose the confused, inarticulate, terrifying murmur of a mob. It was
as though they were on a race-track at night facing a great
grandstand peopled with an army of ghosts. With the girl at his
side, Ford sprang to the window and threw up the blind, and as they
clung to the bars, peering into the night, the light in the room
fell full upon them. And in an instant from the windows opposite,
from the yards below, and from the house-tops came a savage,
exultant yell of welcome, a confusion of cries' orders, entreaties,
a great roar of warning. At the sound, Ford could feel the girl at
his side tremble.
"What does it mean?" she cried.
"Cuthbert has raised the neighborhood!" shouted Ford jubilantly.
"Or else"--he cried in sudden enlightenment-- "those shots we
The girl stopped him with a low cry of fear. She thrust her arms
between the bars and pointed. In the yard below them was the
sloping roof of the kitchen. It stretched from the house to the
wall of the back yard. Above the wall from the yard beyond rose a
ladder, and, face down upon the roof, awry and sprawling. were the
motionless forms of two men. Their shining capes and heavy helmets
proclaimed their calling.
"The police!" exclaimed Ford. "And the shots we thought were for
those in the house were for THEM! This is what has happened," he
whispered eagerly: " Prothero attacked Cuthbert. Cuthbert gets away
and goes to the police. He tells them you are here a prisoner, that
I am here probably a prisoner, and of the attack upon himself. The
police try to make an entrance from the street--that was the first
shot we heard--and are driven back; then they try to creep in from
the yard, and those poor devils were killed."
As he spoke a sudden silence had fallen, a silence as startling as
had been the shout of warning. Some fresh attack upon the house
which the prisoners could not see, but which must be visible to
those in the houses opposite was going forward.
"Perhaps they are on the roof,"' whispered Ford joyfully. "They'll
be through the trap in a minute, and you'll be free!"
"No!" said the girl.
She also spoke in a whisper, as though she feared Prothero might
hear her. And with her hand she again pointed. Cautiously above the
top of the ladder appeared the head and shoulders of a man. He wore
a policeman's helmet, but, warned by the fate of his comrades, he
came armed. Balancing himself with his left hand on the rung of the
ladder, he raised the other and pointed a revolver. It was
apparently at the two prisoners, and Miss Dale sprang to one side.
"Standstill!" commanded Ford. "He knows who YOU are! You heard that
yell when they saw you? They know you are the prisoner, and they
are glad you're still alive. That officer is aiming at the window
BELOW us. He's after the men who murdered his mates."
From the window directly beneath them came the crash of a rifle,
and from the top of the ladder the revolver of the police officer
blazed in the darkness. Again the rifle crashed, and the man on the
ladder jerked his hands above his head and pitched backward. Ford
looked into the face of the girl and found her eyes filled with
"Where is my uncle, Pearsall?" she faltered. "He has two
rifles--for shooting in Scotland. Was that a rifle that----" Her
lips refused to finish the question.
"It was a rifle," Ford stammered, "but probably Prothero----"
Even as he spoke the voice of the Jew rose in a shriek from the
floor below them, but not from the window below them. The sound was
from the front room opening on Sowell Street. In the awed silence
that had suddenly fallen his shrieks carried sharply. They were
more like the snarls and ravings of an animal than the outcries of
"Take THAT!" he shouted, with a flood of oaths, "and THAT, and
Each word was punctuated by the report of his automatic, and to the
amazement of Ford, was instantly answered from Sowell Street by a
scattered volley of rifle and pistol shots.
"This isn't a fight," he cried, "it's a battle!"
With Miss Dale at his side, he ran into the front room, and,
raising the blind, appeared at the window. And instantly, as at the
other end of the house, there was, at sight of the woman's figure,
a tumult of cries, a shout of warning, and a great roar of welcome.
From beneath them a man ran into the deserted street, and in the
glare of the gas-lamp Ford saw his white, upturned face. He was
without a hat and his head was circled by a bandage. But Ford
recognized Cuthbert. "That's Ford!" he cried, pointing. "And the
girl's with him!" He turned to a group of men crouching in the
doorway of the next house to the one in which Ford was imprisoned.
"The girl's alive!" he shouted.
"The girl's alive!" The words were caught up and flung from window
to window, from house-top to house-top, with savage, jubilant
cheers. Ford pushed Miss Dale forward.
"Let them see you," he said, "and you will never see a stranger
Below them, Sowell Street, glistening with rain and snow, lay
empty, but at either end of it, held back by an army of police,
were black masses of men, and beyond them more men packed upon the
tops of taxicabs and hansoms, stretching as far as the street-lamps
showed, and on the roofs shadowy forms crept cautiously from
chimney to chimney; and in the windows of darkened rooms opposite,
from behind barricades of mattresses and upturned tables, rifles
appeared stealthily, to be lost in a sudden flash of flame. And
with these flashes were others that came from windows and roofs
with the report of a bursting bomb, and that, on the instant,
turned night into day, and then left the darkness more dark.
Ford gave a cry of delight.
"They're taking flash-light photographs" he cried jubilantly. "Well
done, you Pressmen!" The instinct of the reporter became
compelling. "If they're alive to develop those photographs
to-night," he exclaimed eagerly, "Cuthbert will send them by
special messenger, in time to catch the MAURETANIA and the REPUBLIC
will have them by Sunday. I mayn't be alive to see them," he added
regretfully, "but what a feature for the Sunday supplement!"
As the eyes of the two prisoners became accustomed to the darkness,
they saw that the street was not, as at first they had supposed,
entirely empty. Directly below them in the gutter, where to
approach it was to invite instant death from Prothero's pistol, lay
the dead body of a policeman, and at the nearer end of the street,
not fifty yards from them, were three other prostrate forms. But
these forms were animate, and alive to good purpose. From a
public-house on the corner a row of yellow lamps showed them
clearly. Stretched on pieces of board, and mats commandeered from
hallways and cabs, each of the three men lay at full length,
nursing a rifle. Their belted gray overcoats, flat, visored caps,
and the set of their shoulders marked them for soldiers.
"For the love of Heaven!" exclaimed Ford incredulously, "they've
called out the Guards!"
As unconcernedly as though facing the butts at a rifle-range, the
three sharp-shooters were firing point-blank at the windows from
which Prothero and Pearsall were waging their war to the death upon
the instruments of law and order. Beside them, on his knees in the
snow, a young man with the silver hilt of an officer's sword
showing through the slit in his greatcoat, was giving commands; and
at the other end of the street, a brother officer in evening dress
was directing other sharp-shooters, bending over them like the
coach of a tug-of-war team, pointing with white-gloved fingers. On
the side of the street from which Prothero was firing, huddled in
a doorway, were a group of officials, inspectors of police, fire
chiefs in brass helmets, more officers of the Guards in bear-skins,
and, wrapped in a fur coat, the youthful Horne Secretary. Ford saw
him wave his arm, and at his bidding the cordon of police broke,
and slowly forcing its way through the mass of people came a huge
touring-car, its two blazing eyes sending before it great shafts of
light. The driver of the car wasted no time in taking up his
position. Dashing half-way down the street, he as swiftly backed
the automobile over the gutter and up on the sidewalk, so that the
lights in front fell full on the door of No. 40. Then, covered by
the fire from the roofs, he sprang to the lamps and tilted them
until they threw their shafts into the windows of the third story.
Prothero's hiding-place was now as clearly exposed as though it
were held in the circle of a spot-light, and at the success of the
maneuver the great mob raised an applauding cheer. But the triumph
was brief. In a minute the blazing lamps had been shattered by
bullets, and once more, save for the fierce flashes from rifles and
pistols, Sowell Street lay in darkness.
Ford drew Miss Dale back into the room.
"Those men below," he said, "are mad. Prothero's always been mad,
and your Pearsall is mad with drugs. And the sight of blood has
made them maniacs. They know they now have no chance to live.
There's no fear or hope to hold them, and one life more or less
means nothing. If they should return here----"
He hesitated, but the girl nodded quickly. I understand," she said.
"I'm going to try to break down the door and get to the roof,"
explained Ford. "My hope is that this attack will keep them from
"No," protested the girl. "They will hear you, and they will kill
"They may take it into their crazy heads to do that, anyway,"
protested Ford, "so the sooner I get you away, the better. I've
only to smash the panels close to the bolts, put my arm through the
hole, and draw the bolts back. Then, another blow on the spring
lock when the firing is loudest, and we are in the hall. Should
anything happen to me, you must know how to make your escape alone.
Across the hall is a door leading to an iron ladder. That ladder
leads to a trap-door. The trap- door is open. When you reach the
roof, run westward toward a lighted building."
"I am not going without you," said Miss Dale quietly; "not after
what you have done for me."
"I haven't done anything for you yet," objected Ford. "But in case
I get caught I mean to make sure there will be others on hand who
He pulled his pencil and a letter from his pocket, and on the back
of the envelope wrote rapidly: "I will try to get Miss Dale up
through the trap in the roof. You can reach the roof by means of
the apartment house in Devonshire Street. Send men to meet her."
In the groups of officials half hidden in the doorway farther down
the street, he could make out the bandaged head of Cuthbert.
"Cuthbert!" he called. Weighting the envelope with a coin, he threw
it into the air. It fell in the gutter, under a lamp-post, and full
in view, and at once the two madmen below splashed the street
around it with bullets. But, indifferent to the bullets, a
policeman sprang from a dark areaway and flung himself upon it. The
next moment he staggered. Then limping, but holding himself erect,
he ran heavily toward the group of officials. The Home Secretary
snatched the envelope from him, and held it toward the light.
In his desire to learn if his message had reached those on the
outside, Ford leaned far over the sill of the window. His
imprudence was all but fatal. From the roof opposite there came a
sudden yell of warning, from directly below him a flash, and a
bullet grazed his forehead and shattered the window-pane above him.
He was deluged with a shower of broken glass. Stunned and bleeding,
he sprang back.
With a cry of concern, Miss Dale ran toward him.
"It's nothing!" stammered Ford. "It only means I must waste no more
time." He balanced his iron rod as he would a pikestaff, and aimed
it at the upper half of the door to the hall.
"When the next volley comes," he said, "I'll smash the panel."
With the bar raised high, his muscles on a strain, he stood alert
and poised, waiting for a shot from the room below to call forth an
answering volley from the house-tops. But no sound came from below.
And the sharp-shooters, waiting for the madmen to expose
themselves, held their fire.
Ford's muscles relaxed, and he lowered his weapon. He turned his
eyes inquiringly to the girl. "What's THIS mean?" he demanded.
Unconsciously his voice had again dropped to a whisper.
"They're short of ammunition," said the girl, in a tone as low as
his own; "or they are coming HERE."
With a peremptory gesture, Ford waved her toward the room adjoining
and then ran to the window.
The girl was leaning forward with her face close to the door. She
held the finger of one hand to her lips. With the other hand she
beckoned. Ford ran to her side.
"Some one is moving in the hall," she whispered. "Perhaps they are
escaping by the roof? No, "she corrected herself. "They seem to be
running down the stairs again. Now they are coming back. Do you
hear?" she asked. " It sounds like some one running up and down the
stairs. What can it mean?"
From the direction of the staircase Ford heard a curious creaking
sound as of many light footsteps. He gave a cry of relief.
"The police!" he shouted jubilantly. "They've entered through the
roof, and they're going to attack in the rear. You're SAFE!" he
He sprang away from the door and, with two swinging blows, smashed
the broad panel. And then, with a cry, he staggered backward. Full
in his face, through the break he had made, swept a hot wave of
burning cinders. Through the broken panel he saw the hall choked
with smoke, the steps of the staircase and the stair-rails wrapped
"The house is on fire!" he cried. "They've taken to the roof and
set fire to the stairs behind them!" With the full strength of his
arms and shoulders he struck and smashed the iron bar against the
door. But the bolts held, and through each fresh opening he made in
the panels the burning cinders, drawn by the draft from the
windows, swept into the room. From the street a mighty yell of
consternation told them the fire had been discovered. Miss Dale ran
to the window, and the yell turned to a great cry of warning. The
air was rent with frantic voices. "Jump!" cried some. "Go back!"
entreated others. The fire chief ran into the street directly below
her and shouted at her through his hands. "Wait for the life- net!"
he commanded. "Wait for the ladders!"
"Ladders!" panted Ford. "Before they can get their engines through
Through the jagged opening in the door he thrust his arm and jerked
free the upper bolt. An instant later he had kicked the lower panel
into splinters and withdrawn the second bolt, and at last, under
the savage onslaught of his iron bar, the spring lock flew apart.
The hall lay open before him. On one side of it the burning
staircase was a well of flame; at his feet, the matting on the
floor was burning fiercely. He raced into the bedroom and returned
instantly, carrying a blanket and a towel dripping with water. He
pressed the towel across the girl's mouth and nostrils. "Hold it
there!" he commanded. Blinded by the bandage, Miss Dale could see
nothing, but she felt herself suddenly wrapped in the blanket and
then lifted high in Ford's arms. She gave a cry of protest, but the
next instant he was running with her swiftly while the flames from
the stair-well scorched her hair. She was suddenly tumbled to her
feet, the towel and blanket snatched away, and she saw Ford hanging
from an iron ladder holding out his hand. She clasped it, and he
drew her after him, the flames and cinders pursuing and snatching
But an instant later the cold night air smote her in the face, from
hundreds of hoarse throats a yell of welcome greeted her, and she
found herself on the roof, dazed and breathless, and free.
At the same moment the lifting fire-ladder reached the sill of the
third-story window, and a fireman, shielding his face from the
flames, peered into the blazing room. What he saw showed him there
were no lives to rescue. Stretched on the floor, with their
clothing in cinders and the flames licking at the flesh, were the
bodies of the two murderers.
A bullet-hole in the forehead of each showed that self- destruction
and cremation had seemed a better choice than the gallows and a
grave of quick-lime.
On the roof above, two young people stood breathing heavily and
happily, staring incredulously into each other's eyes. Running
toward them across the roofs, stumbling and falling, were many
blue-coated, helmeted angels of peace and law and order.
"How can I tell you?" whispered the girl quickly. "How can I ever
thank you? And I was angry," she exclaimed, with self- reproach. "I
did not understand you." She gave a little sigh of content. "Now I
think I do."
He took her hand, and she did not seem to know that he held it.
"And," she cried, in wonder, "I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOUR NAME!"
The young man seemed to have lost his confidence. For a moment he
was silent. "The name's all right!" he said finally. His voice was
still a little shaken, a little tremulous. "I only hope you'll like
it. It's got to last you a long time!"