Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Red Cross Girl by Richard Harding Davis

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the banker; but it seems Smedburg is a friend of Meyer's, and he
called him hard! It was a silly ass thing to do," protested the
purser. "Everybody knows Meyer hasn't a brother, and if he hadn't
made THAT break he might have got away with the other one. But
now this Smedburg is going to wireless ahead to Mr. Meyer and to
the police."

"Has he no other way of spending his money?" I asked.

"He's a confounded nuisance!" growled the purser. "He wants to
show us he knows Adolph Meyer; wants to put Meyer under an
obligation. It means a scene on the wharf, and newspaper talk;
and," he added with disgust, "these smoking-room rows never
helped any line."

I went in search of Talbot; partly because I knew he was on the
verge of a collapse, partly, as I frankly admitted to myself,
because I was sorry the young man had come to grief. I searched
the snow-swept decks, and then, after threading my way through
faintly lit tunnels, I knocked at his cabin. The sound of his
voice gave me a distinct feeling of relief. But he would not
admit me. Through the closed door he declared he was "all right,"
wanted no medical advice, and asked only to resume the sleep he
claimed I had broken. I left him, not without uneasiness, and the
next morning the sight of him still in the flesh was a genuine
thrill. I found him walking the deck carrying himself
nonchalantly and trying to appear unconscious of the
glances--amused, contemptuous, hostile--that were turned toward
him. He would have passed me without speaking, but I took his arm
and led him to the rail. We had long passed quarantine and a
convoy of tugs were butting us into the dock.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Doesn't depend on me," he said. "Depends on Smedburg. He's a
busy little body!"

The boy wanted me to think him unconcerned, but beneath the
flippancy I saw the nerves jerking. Then quite simply he began to
tell me. He spoke in a low, even monotone, dispassionately, as
though for him the incident no longer was of interest.

"They were watching me," he said. "But I knew they were, and
besides, no matter how close they watched I could have done what
they said I did and they'd never have seen it. But I didn't."

My scepticism must have been obvious, for he shook his head.

"I didn't!" he repeated stubbornly. "I didn't have to! I was
playing in luck--wonderful luck--sheer, dumb luck. I couldn't
HELP winning. But because I was winning and because they were
watching, I was careful not to win on my own deal. I laid down,
or played to lose. It was the cards they GAVE me I won with. And
when they jumped me I told 'em that. I could have proved it if
they'd listened. But they were all up in the air, shouting and
spitting at me. They believed what they wanted to believe; they
didn't want the facts."

It may have been credulous of me, but I felt the boy was telling
the truth, and I was deeply sorry he had not stuck to it. So,
rather harshly, I said:

"They didn't want you to tell them you were a brother to Adolph
Meyer, either. Why did you think you could get away with anything
like that?"

Talbot did not answer.

"Why?" I insisted.

The boy laughed impudently.

"How the devil was I to know he hadn't a brother?" he protested.
"It was a good name, and he's a Jew, and two of the six who were
in the game are Jews. You know how they stick together. I thought
they might stick by me."

"But you," I retorted impatiently, "are not a Jew!"

"I am not," said Talbot, "but I've often SAID I was. It's
helped--lots of times. If I'd told you my name was Cohen, or
Selinsky, or Meyer, instead of Craig Talbot, YOU'D have thought
I was a Jew." He smiled and turned his face toward me. As though
furnishing a description for the police, he began to enumerate:

"Hair, dark and curly; eyes, poppy; lips, full; nose, Roman or
Hebraic, according to taste. Do you see?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"But it didn't work," he concluded. "I picked the wrong Jew."

His face grew serious. "Do you suppose that Smedburg person has
wirelessed that banker?"

I told him I was afraid he had already sent the message.

"And what will Meyer do?" he asked. "Will he drop it or make a
fuss? What sort is he?"

Briefly I described Adolph Meyer. I explained him as the richest
Hebrew in New York; given to charity, to philanthropy, to the
betterment of his own race.

"Then maybe," cried Talbot hopefully, "he won't make a row, and
my family won't hear of it!"

He drew a quick breath of relief. As though a burden had been
lifted, his shoulders straightened.

And then suddenly, harshly, in open panic, he exclaimed aloud:

"Look!" he whispered. "There, at the end of the wharf--the little
Jew in furs!"

I followed the direction of his eyes. Below us on the dock,
protected by two obvious members of the strong-arm squad, the
great banker, philanthropist, and Hebrew, Adolph Meyer, was
waiting.

We were so close that I could read his face. It was stern, set;
the face of a man intent upon his duty, unrelenting. Without
question, of a bad business Mr. Smedburg had made the worst. I
turned to speak to Talbot and found him gone.

His silent slipping away filled me with alarm. I fought against a
growing fear. How many minutes I searched for him I do not know.
It seemed many hours. His cabin, where first I sought him, was
empty and dismantled, and by that I was reminded that if for any
desperate purpose Talbot were seeking to conceal himself there
now were hundreds of other empty, dismantled cabins in which he
might hide. To my inquiries no one gave heed. In the confusion of
departure no one had observed him; no one was in a humor to seek
him out; the passengers were pressing to the gangway, the
stewards concerned only in counting their tips. From deck to
deck, down lane after lane of the great floating village, I
raced blindly, peering into half-opened doors, pushing through
groups of men, pursuing some one in the distance who appeared to
be the man I sought, only to find he was unknown to me. When I
returned to the gangway the last of the passengers was leaving
it.

I was about to follow to seek for Talbot in the customs shed when
a white-faced steward touched my sleeve. Before he spoke his look
told me why I was wanted.

"The ship's surgeon, sir," he stammered, "asks you please to
hurry to the sick-bay. A passenger has shot himself!"

On the bed, propped up by pillows, young Talbot, with glazed,
shocked eyes, stared at me. His shirt had been cut away; his
chest lay bare. Against his left shoulder the doctor pressed a
tiny sponge which quickly darkened.

I must have exclaimed aloud, for the doctor turned his eyes.

"It was HE sent for you," he said, "but he doesn't need you.
Fortunately, he's a damned bad shot!"

The boy's eyes opened wearily; before we could prevent it he
spoke.

"I was so tired," he whispered. "Always moving me on. I was so
tired!"

Behind me came heavy footsteps, and though with my arm I tried to
bar them out, the two detectives pushed into the doorway. They
shoved me to one side and through the passage made for him came
the Jew in the sable coat, Mr. Adolph Meyer.

For an instant the little great man stood with wide, owl-like
eyes, staring at the face on the pillow.

Then he sank softly to his knees. In both his hands he caught the
hand of the card-sharp.

"Heine!" he begged. "Don't you know me? It is your brother
Adolph; your little brother Adolph!"

Book of the day: