Part 5 out of 7
suitcase, and putting the rest in a money belt about his waist. After
that he took up his hat and Jim slipped away to a broom closet at the
upper end of the hall.
From here the Chinaman saw his quarry come out of the room and go down
the stairs. At the desk Mayer stopped, told the clerk he had vacated
No. 19, but would wait in the office for a while as his train was not
due to leave till the afternoon. From the stairhead Jim watched him
take a seat by the window, and, the suitcase at his feet, pick up a
paper and begin to read.
It was a rule of the Whatcheer House that a vacated room was subjected to
a "thorough cleaning." Translated this meant a run over the floor with a
carpet sweeper and a change of sheets. The door of No. 19 had been left
unlocked, and while Mayer sat in the office conning the paper, Jim with
the necessary rags and brooms was putting No. 19 in shape for the next
tenant. An inside bolt on the door made him secure against interruption,
and the bed drawn to the middle of the floor was part of the traditional
rite. Carpet and boards came up easily; his cache empty Mayer had not
troubled to renail them. In the space between the rafters and the
flooring Jim had found no more money, only a bunch of canvas sacks, and a
dirty newspaper. With the Chinaman's meticulous carefulness he had
brought these back to his employers; in proof of which he laid a small,
neatly tied package on Crowder's knee. For the rest his work was done.
He had paid the Whatcheer room boy and seen him reinstated, had followed
Mayer to the depot, viewed his transformation there, and ridden with him
on the night train back to San Francisco.
To Crowder's commending words he murmured a smiling deprecation. What
concerned him most was his "prize money," which was promised on Mark's
return. Then, nodding sagely to the young man's cautioning of secrecy, he
rose, and uninterested, imperturbably enigmatic and bland, passed out of
sight around the laurels.
Crowder, on the bench, slipped down to a comfortable angle and thought.
There was no doubt now--but what the devil did it mean? A concealed
hoard hidden under the floor of a men's lodging house--that could only
be stolen money. Where had he stolen it from? Was he some kind of
gentleman burglar, such as plays and novels had been built around? It
was a plausible explanation. He looked the part so well; lots of
swagger and side, and the whole thing a trifle overdone. _What_ a
story! Crowder licked his lips over it, seeing it splashed across the
front page. At that moment the parcel Jim had given him slipped off his
knee to the ground.
He had forgotten it, and a little shamefaced--for your true detective
studies the details before formulating his theory--picked it up and
opened it. Inside a newspaper, its outer sheets mud-stained and torn,
were six small bags of white canvas, marked with a stenciled "W. F. &
Co." Crowder sat erect and brushed back his pendent lock of hair. He knew
what the stenciled letters stood for as well as he knew his own initials.
Then he spread out the paper. It was the _Sacramento Courier_ of August
25. From the top of a column the heading of his own San Francisco letter
faced him, the bottom part torn away. But that did not interest him. It
was the date that held his eye--August 25--that was last summer--August
25, Wells Fargo--he muttered it over, staring at the paper, his glance
glassily fixed in the intensity of his mental endeavor.
Round date and name his memory circled, drawing toward a focus, curving
closer and closer, coming nearer in decreasing spirals, finally falling
on it. With the pounce a broken sentence fell from his lips: "The tules!
Knapp and Garland!"
For the first moment of startled realization he was so surprised that he
could not see how Mayer was implicated. Then his mind leaped the gap from
the holdup in August to that picturesque narrative still fresh in the
public mind--Knapp's story of the robbed cache. The recollection came
with an impact that held him breathless; incidents, details, dates,
marshaling themselves in a corroborating sequence. When he saw it clear,
unrolled before his mental vision in a series of events, neatly fitting,
accurately dovetailed, he sat up looking stupidly about him like a person
emerging from sleep.
He had work to do at the office, but on the way there stopped at the
Express Company for a word with Robinson, one of the clerks, whom he
knew. He wanted information of any losses by theft or accident sustained
by the company since the middle of the preceding August. Robinson
promised to look up the subject and let him know before the closing hour.
At six Crowder was summoned to one of the telephone booths in the city
room. Robinson had inquired: during the time specified Wells Fargo and
Company had suffered but one loss. This was on the twenty-sixth of
August, when Knapp and Garland had held up the Rocky Bar stage and taken
thousand dollars in coin consigned to the Greenhide Mine at Antelope.
It was Crowder's habit to dine at Philip's Rôtisserie at half past six.
They liked him at Philip's. Madame at her desk, fat and gray-haired, with
a bunch of pink roses at one elbow and a sleeping cat at the other,
always had time for a chat with "Monsieur Crowdare." Even Philip himself,
in his chef's cap and apron, would emerge from the kitchen and confer
with the favored guest. But tonight "Monsieur Crowdare" had no words for
anyone. He did no more than nod to Madame, and Gaston, the waiter,
afterward told her he had hardly looked at the menu--just said bring
anything, he didn't care what. Madame was quite worried over it, hoped
"_le cher garçon_" wasn't sick, and comforted herself by thinking he
might be in love.
Never before in his cheery existence had Crowder been so excited. Over
his unsavored dinner he studied the situation, planning his course. He
was resolved on one point--to keep the rights of discovery for the
_Despatch_. He could manage this, making it a condition when he laid his
knowledge before the Express Company people. That would be his next move,
and he ought to do it soon; Mayer's withdrawal of the money might
indicate an intention of disappearing. He would go to Wells Fargo and
tell them what he had found out, asking in return that the results of
their investigation should be given to him for first publication in the
It was a pity Mark wasn't there--he didn't like acting without Mark. But
matters were moving too quickly now to take any chances. There was no
telephone at the ranch, or he could have called up long-distance, and a
telegram, to be intelligible, would have to be too explicit. He would
write to Mark tomorrow, or perhaps the next day--after he had seen the
To be secret as the grave was the charge Crowder laid upon himself, but
he longed to let loose some of the ferment that seethed within him, and
in his longing remembered the one person to whom he dared go--Pancha.
Hers were the legitimate ears to receive the racy tale. She was not only
to be trusted--a pal as reliable as a man--but it would cure her of her
infatuation, effectually crush out the passion that had devastated her.
PANCHA WRITES A LETTER
Pancha had been much alone. Crowder had seen her several times, the
doctor had come, the chambermaid, one or two of her confreres from the
theater. But there had been long, dreary hours when she had lain
motionless, looking at the walls and thinking of her wrongs. She had
gone over and over the old ground, trodden the weary round like a
squirrel in a cage, asked herself the same questions and searched,
tormented, for their answers. As the days passed the weight of her
grievance grew, and her sick soul yearned to hit back at the man who had
so wantonly wounded her.
Gradually, from the turmoil an idea of retaliation was churned into
being. It did not reach the point of action till Monday evening. Then it
rose before her imperious, a vengeance, subtle and if not complete, at
least as satisfying as anything could be to her sore heart. It was that
expression of futile anger and poisoned musings, an anonymous letter. She
wrote it on the pink note paper which she had bought to write to Mayer
on. It ran as follows:
This letter is to warn you. It comes from a person friendly to you and
who wants to put you wise to something you ought to know. It's about Boyé
Mayer, him that goes to your house and is after your sister. Maybe you
don't know that, but _I_ do--it's truth what I'm telling you every word.
He's no good. Not the kind to go round with your kind. It's your sister's
money he wants. If she had none he'd not trouble to meet her in the
plaza opposite the Greek Church. Watch out for him--don't let her go with
him. Don't let her marry him or you'll curse the day. I know him well and
I know he's bad right through.
Wishing you well,
FROM A FRIEND.
She had written the letter to Lorry as the elder sister, whose name she
had seen in the papers and whom Crowder had described as the intelligent
one with brains and character. Her woman's instinct told her that her
charges might have no weight with the younger girl, under the spell of
those cajoleries and blandishments whose power she knew so well. With the
letter in her hand she crept out to the stairhead and called to the clerk
in the office below. Gushing had not come on duty yet, and it was the day
man who answered her summons. She asked him to post the letter that
night, and he promised to do so. The lives of the group of which this
story tells were drawing in to a point of fusion. In the centripetal
movement this insignificant incident had its importance. The man forgot
his promise, and it was not till the next day at lunch that he thought of
the letter, posting it on his way back to the hotel.
In her room again, Pancha dropped on the sofa, and lay still. The
exertion had taxed her strength and she felt sick and tremulous. But she
thought of what she had done with a grim relish, savored like a burning
morsel on her tongue, the bitter-sweet of revenge.
Here an hour later Crowder found her. She was glad to see him, and told
him she was better, but the doctor would not let her get up yet.
"And even if he would," she said, "I don't want to. I'm that weak,
Charlie, you can't think. It's as if the thing that made me alive was
gone, and I was just the same as dead."
Crowder thought he understood his friend Pancha even as he did his friend
Mark. That she could have complexities and reservations beyond his simple
ken had never occurred to him. What he saw on the surface was what she
was, and being so, the news he was bringing would be as a tonic to her
"You'll not stay that way long, Panchita," he said. "You'll be on the job
soon now. And what I've come to tell you will help on the good work. I've
got a story for you that'll straighten out all the creases and bring you
up on your feet better than a steam derrick would."
"What is it?" She did not seem especially interested, her glance
listless, her hand lying languid where he had dropped it.
"It's about Mayer."
He was rewarded by seeing her shift her head on the pillow that she might
command him with a vivid, bird-bright eye.
"What about him?"
"Every thing, my dear. We've got him coming and going. We've got him dead
to rights. He's a rogue and a thief."
With her hands spread flat on either side of her she raised herself to a
sitting posture. Her face, framed in its bush of hair, had a look of
strained, almost wild, inquiry.
"Thief!" she exclaimed.
"Yes. It's a honeycooler of a story. Burst out all of a sudden like a
night blooming cereus. But before I say a word you've got to promise on
everything you hold sacred that you won't breathe a word of it."
"It's only for a little while. It'll be public property in a day or
two--Thursday or Friday maybe."
"I'm on. How is he a thief?"
Crowder told her. The story was clear in his head by this time, and he
told it well, with the journalist's sense of its drama. As he spoke she
drew up her knees and clasping her hands round them sat rigid, now and
then as she met his eyes, raised to hers to see if she had caught a
point, nodding and breathing a low, "I see--Go on."
When he had finished he looked at her with challenging triumph.
"Well--isn't it all I said it was?"
Already she showed the effect of it. There was color in her face, a dusky
red on the high cheek bones.
"Yes--more. I didn't think--" She stopped and swallowed, her
"Did you have the least idea, did he ever say a word to suggest he had
anything as juicy as that in the background?"
"No. I can't remember all in a minute. But he never said much about
himself; he was always asking about me." She paused, fixedly
staring; then her glance, razor-sharp, swerved to the young man.
"Will he go to jail?"
"You bet he will. I'm not sure on just what count, but they'll find one
that'll fit his case. He's as much a thief as either Knapp or Garland. He
knew it wasn't Captain Kidd's treasure; he saw the papers. He can't play
the baby act about being ignorant. The way he hid his loot proves that."
"Yes," she murmured. "He's a thief all right. He's bad every way."
"That's what I wanted you to see. That's why I told you. You can't go on
"No." Her voice was very low. "It puts the lid on that."
"You can thank God on your bended knees he threw you down."
"Oh, yes," she rocked her head slightly from side to side with an air of
morose defiance, "I _can_."
"_Do_ you?" said the young man, leaning closer and looking into her face.
He was satisfied by what he saw. For a moment the old pride flamed up, a
spark in the black glance, a haughty straightening of the neck.
"A common thief like him for my lover? Say, you know me, Charlie. I'd
have killed myself, or maybe I'd have killed him."
Crowder had what he would have called "a hunch" that this might be true.
From his heart he exclaimed:
"Gee, I'm glad it's turned out the way it has!"
"So am I. Only I'm sorry for one thing. It's _you_ that have caught him,
"You Indian!" he said. "You red, revengeful devil!"
"Oh, I'm _that_!" she answered, with biting emphasis. "When I get a blow
I want to give one. I don't turn the other cheek; I strike back--with a
knife if I have one handy."
"Well, don't you bother about knives now. The hitting's going to be done
for you. All you have to do is to sit still, like a perfect lady, and
"Um." She paused, mused an instant, and then said: "You're sure you can't
"Positive. Funny, isn't it? It was the paper that gave me the lead. Sort
of poetic justice his being landed by that--the paper that had the
article about you in it."
She looked at him, struck with a sudden idea:
"Perhaps it was that article that made him come to see me in the
"I guess he wasn't bothering about articles just then. He'd used it to
wrap the money in. It was all muddy and ragged, the lower half of the
letter gone--the piece about you--got torn out by accident I guess. As I
see it he happened to have the paper and when he got the sacks out of the
ground, put some of 'em in it. Then when he was in the Whatcheer House he
stuffed it in the hole under the floor. It was the handiest way to get
rid of it."
Soon after that Crowder left, feeling that he had done a good work. The
news had had the effect he had hoped it would. She was a different girl.
The last glimpse of her, sitting in that same attitude with her hands
clasped round her knees, showed her revitalized, alive once more, with
something of the old brown and red vividness in her face.
When he had gone she remembered her letter. It was of no use now. She
would have liked to recall it, but it was too late; the clock on the
table marked eleven. Through the fitful sleep of her uneasy night it came
back, invested by the magnifying power of dreams with a fantastic
malignity; in waking moments showing as a bit of spite, dwindled to
nothing before the forces gathering for Mayer's destruction.
Old Man Haley's shack stood back from a branch road that wound down from
Antelope across the foothills to Pine Flat. Commercial travelers,
staging it from camp to camp, could see his roof over the trees, and
sometimes the driver would point to it with his whip and tell how the
old man--a survival of the early days--lived there alone cultivating his
vegetable patch. In the last four or five years people said he had gone
"nutty," had taken to wandering down the stream beds with his pickax and
pan, but he was a harmless old body and seemed able to get along. He
said he had a son somewhere who sent him money now and again, and he
always had enough to keep himself in groceries and tobacco, which he
bought at the general store in Pine Flat. Maybe you'd see him straying
along, sort o' kind and simple, with his pick over his shoulder, smilin'
up at the folks in the stage.
On that Sunday when Mayer had made his last trip to Sacramento Old Man
Haley had risen with the sun. While the rest of the world was slumbering
on its pillow he was out among his vegetables, hoe in hand.
It was one of those mornings that deck with a splendor of blue and gold
the foothill spring. The air was balmy, the sky a fleckless vault, where
bird shapes floated on aerial currents or sped in jubilant flight. From
the chaparral came the scents of sun-warmed foliage, the pungent odor of
bay, the aromatic breath of pine, and the sweet, frail perfume of the
chaparral flower. This flecked the hillside with its powdery blossom, a
white blur among the glittering enamel of madrona leaves.
Old Man Haley, an ancient figure in his rusty overalls, paused in his
labor to survey the sea of green from which he had wrested his garden.
His eye traveled slowly, for he loved it, and had grown to regard it as
his own. Leaning on his hoe he looked upward over its tufted density and
suddenly his glance lost its complacent vagueness and became sharp and
fixed. Through the close-packed vegetation a zigzag movement descended as
if a fissure of earth disturbance was stirring along the roots. After a
moment's scrutiny he turned and sent a look, singularly alert, over the
shack and the road beyond. Then, pursing his lips, he emitted a whistled
bar of bird notes.
The commotion in the chaparral stopped, and from it rose a wild figure.
It looked more ape than man, hairy, bearded to the cheekbones,
sunken-eyed and staggering. It started forward at a run, branches
crashing under its blundering feet, and as it came it sent up a hoarse
cry for food.
Some years before Old Man Haley had built a woodshed behind the cabin.
When he bought the planks he had told "the boys" in Pine Flat that he was
getting too old to forage for his wood in winter, and was going to cut it
in summer, and have it handy when the rains came. He had built the shed
well and lined it with tar paper. Adventurous youngsters, going past one
day, had peeped in and seen a blanket spread over the stacked logs as if
the old man might have been sleeping there; which, being reported, was
set down to his craziness.
Here Garland now hid, ate like a famished wolf, and slept. Then when
night came, and all wayfarers were safe indoors, stole to the shack,
and with only the red eye of the stove to light their conference,
exchanged the news with his confederate. Hunger had driven him back to
the settlements; four days before his last cartridge had been spent, and
he had lived since then on berries and roots. Old Man Haley, squatting
in the rocking-chair made from a barrel, whispered cheering
intelligence: they'd about given up the hunt, thought he had died in the
chaparral. Someone had seen birds circling round a spot off toward the
hills behind Angels.
The next day when Garland told his intention of moving on to San
Francisco, the old man was uneasy. He was the only associate of the
bandit who knew of the daughter there, and he urged patience and caution.
He was even averse to taking a letter to her when he went into Pine Flat
for supplies. The post office was the resort of loungers. If they saw Old
Man Haley coming in to mail a letter, they'd get curious; you couldn't
tell but what they might wrastle with him and grab the letter. In a day
or two maybe he could get into Mormons Landing, where he wasn't so well
known, and mail it there. To placate Garland he promised him a paper; the
man at the store would give him one.
When he came back in the rosy end of the evening he was exultant. A
woman, hearing him ask the storekeeper for a paper, had told him to stop
at her house and she would give him a roll of them. There they were, a
big bundle, and not local ones, but the _San Francisco Despatch _almost
to date. He left Garland in the woodshed, reading by the light that fell
in through the open door, and went to the shack to cook supper.
Presently a reek of blue smoke was issuing from the crook of pipe above
the roof, and wood was crackling in the stove. Old Man Haley, mindful of
his guest's dignities and claims upon himself, set about the
preparation of a goodly meal, part drawn from his own garden, part from
the packages he had carried back from Pine Flat. He was engrossed in it,
when, through the sizzling of frying grease, he heard the sound of
footsteps and the doorway was darkened by Garland's bulk. In his hand he
held a paper, and even the age-dimmed eyes of the old man could see the
pallid agitation of his face.
"My daughter!" he cried, shaking the paper at Haley. "She's sick in
Francisco--I seen it here! I got to go!"
There was no arguing with him, and Old Man Haley knew it. He helped to
the full extent of his capacity, set food before the man, and urged him
to eat, dissuaded him from a move till after nightfall, and provided him
with money taken from a hiding-place behind the stove.
Then together they worked out his route to the coast. The first stage
would be from there to the Dormer Ranch where he had friends. They'd
victual him and give him clothes, for even Garland, reckless with
anxiety, did not dare show himself in the open as he now was, a figure to
catch the attention of the most unsuspicious. He would have to keep to
the woods and the trails till he got to Dormer's, and it would be a long
hike--all that night and part of the next day. They would give him a
mount and he could strike across country and tap the railroad at some
point below Sacramento, making San Francisco that night.
The dark had settled, clearly deep, when he left. There were stars in the
sky, only a few, very large and far apart, and by their light he could
see the road between the black embankment of shrubs. It was extremely
still as he stole down from the shack, Old Man Haley watching from the
doorway. It continued very still as he struck into his stride, no sound
coming from the detailless darkness. Its quiet suggested that same tense
expectancy, that breathless waiting, he had noticed under the big trees.
CHRYSTIE SEES THE DAWN
No shadow of impending disaster fell across Mayer's path. On the Monday
morning he rose feeling more confident, lighter in heart, than he had
done since he met Burrage. It had been a relief to put an end to the
Sacramento business; Chrystie had been amenable to his suggestion; the
weather was fine; his affairs were moving smoothly to their climax. As he
dressed he expanded his chest with calisthenic exercises and even warbled
a little French song.
He was out by ten--an early hour for him--and he fared along the street
pleasantly aware of the exhilarating sunshine, the blueness of the bay,
the tang of salty freshness in the air. The hours till lunch were to be
spent in completing the arrangements for the flight. At the railway
office he bought the two passage tickets to Reno, his own section and
Chrystie's stateroom, and even the amount of money he had to disburse did
not diminish his sense of a prospering good fortune.
From there he went to the office of the man who owed him the gambling
debt and encountered a check. The gentleman had gone to the country on
Friday and would not be back till Wednesday morning at ten. A politely
positive clerk assured him no letter or message had been left for Mr.
Mayer, and a telegram received that morning had shown his employer to be
far afield on the Macleod River.
Mayer left the office with a set, yellowish face. The disappointment
would have irritated him at any time; now coming unexpected on his eased
assurance it enraged him. For an hour he paced the streets trying to
decide what to do. Of course he could go and leave the money, write a
letter to have it sent after him. But he doubted whether his creditor
would do it, and he needed every cent he could get. His plan of conquest
of Chrystie included a luxurious background, a wealth of costly detail.
He did not see himself winning her to complete subjugation without a
plentiful spending fund. He had told her they would go North from Reno
and travel eastward by the Canadian Pacific, stopping at points of
interest along the road. He imagined his courtship progressing in
grandiose suites of rooms wherein were served delicate meals, his
generous largesse to obsequious hirelings adding to her dazzled approval.
He had to have that money; he couldn't go without it; he had set it aside
to deck with fitting ceremonial the conquering bridal tour.
He stopped at a telegraph office and wrote her a note telling her to meet
him that afternoon at three in the old place opposite the Greek Church.
This he sent by messenger and then he pondered a rearrangement of his
plans. He would only have to shift their departure on a few hours--say
till Wednesday noon. He had heard at the railway office there was a slow
local for Reno at midday. They could take this, and though it was a day
train there would be little chance of their being noticed, as the
denizens of Chrystie's world and his own always traveled by the faster
As he saw her approaching across the plaza his uneasy eye discerned from
afar the fact that she was perturbed. Her face was anxious, her long
swinging step even more rapid than usual. And, "Oh, Boyé!" she grasped
as they met and their hands clasped. "Has anything happened?"
It was not a propitious frame of mind, and he drew one of her hands
through his arm, pressing the fingers against his side as they walked
toward the familiar bench. There gently, very gently, he acquainted her
with the version of the situation he had rehearsed: a business
matter--she wouldn't understand--but something of a good deal of
importance had unfortunately been postponed from that afternoon till
Wednesday morning. It was extremely annoying--in fact, maddening, but he
didn't see how it was to be avoided. She looked horrified.
"Then what are we to do--put it off?"
"Yes, until Wednesday at noon. There's a slow train we can get. There's
no use waiting till evening."
She turned on him aghast.
"But the Barlows? What am I to do about them? I've told Lorry I was going
there on Tuesday."
"Darling girl, that's very simple. You've had a letter to say they don't
want you till Wednesday."
"But, Boyé," she sat erect, staring distressfully at him, "I've told
Lorry the party was on Tuesday night. That's what they've asked me for.
Now how can I say they don't want me?"
He bit his lip to keep down his anger. Why had he allowed her to do
_anything_--why hadn't he written it all down in words of one syllable?
"We'll have to think of some reason for a change in their plans. Why
couldn't they have postponed the party?"
"Even if they did they wouldn't postpone _me_. I go there often, they're
old friends, it doesn't matter when I come."
Her voice had a quavering note, new to him, and extremely alarming.
"Dearest, don't get worked up over it," he said tenderly.
"Worked up!" she exclaimed. "Wouldn't any girl be worked up? It's _awful_
for a person in my position to elope. It's all very well for you who just
go and come as you please, but for me--I believe if I was in prison I
could get out easier."
He caught her hand and pressed it between his own.
"Of course, it's hard for you. No one knows that better than I, and that
you should do it makes me love you more--if that's possible." He raised
the hand to his lips, kissed it softly and dropped it. "I know how you
can manage--it's as easy as possible. Say you have a headache, a
splitting headache, and can't take the railway trip, but rather than
disappoint them you'll go down the next day."
She drew her hand out of his, and said in a stubborn voice:
"No. I don't want to."
"Why? Now why, darling? What's wrong about that?"
"I won't tell any more lies to Lorry."
He looked at her, and saw her flushed, mutinous, tears standing in her
She cut him off, her voice suddenly breaking:
"I can't do it. I didn't know it was going to be so dreadful. But I can't
look at Lorry and tell her any more lies. I _wont_. It makes me sick.
It's asking too much, Boyé. There's something hateful about it."
Her underlip quivered, drew in like a child's. With a shaking hand she
began fumbling about her belt for her handkerchief.
"Sometimes I feel as if I was doing wrong," she faltered. "I love you,
I've told you so--but--but--Lorry's not like anybody else--anyway to me.
And to keep on telling her what isn't true makes me feel--like--like--a
The last words came on a breaking sob, and the handkerchief went up to
her face. Mayer was frightened. A quick glance round the plaza showed him
no one was in sight, and he threw him arm about her and drew the weeping
head down to his shoulder. Though the green paradise plume was in the way
and his fear of passersby acute, he was still sufficiently master of
himself to soothe with words of beguiling sweetness.
While he did it, his free hand holding the paradise plume out of his
face, his eye nervously ranging the prospect, his mind ran over ways to
meet the difficulty. By the time Chrystie had conquered her tears, and,
with a creaking of tight-drawn silks, was sitting upright again, he had
hit on a solution and was ready to broach it.
"Well, then, we'll rule out any more lies as you call them. You won't
have to say another word to Lorry. We can go on just as we'd planned."
"How?" she asked, in a stopped-up voice, dabbing at her eyes with the
"You can leave on Tuesday afternoon at the same time and go to a hotel."
"A hotel!" She stopped dabbing, extremely surprised, as if he had
suggested going to something she had never heard of before.
"Yes, not one of the big ones; a quiet place where you're not liable to
run into anyone who may recognize you. I know of the very thing, not
long opened, in the Mission. You leave for the train as you intended, but
instead of going to the ferry, you go there. I'll take the rooms for you.
All you'll have to do will be to write your name in the book--say, Miss
Brown--and go up to your apartment. Order your dinner up there and your
breakfast the next morning. I'll have a cab sent round for you at
half-past eleven that'll take you straight to the ferry, and I'll send
your tickets and trunk check to your rooms before that. There'll be
nothing for you to do but cross on the boat and go into your stateroom on
This was all very smooth and clear. It was proof of Chrystie's
unpractical trend of thought that her comment was an uneasy,
"A hotel in the Mission?"
"Yes, a new place, very quiet and decent. I heard of it from some people
who are living there. I'll not come to see you, but I'll phone over in
the evening and find out how you're getting on. And the next morning I'll
be on the platform at Oakland, watching out for you."
"But you won't speak to me?"
"Not then. In the train we might meet--just accidentally run into one
another. And you'll say, 'Why, there's Mr. Mayer! How odd. How d'ye do,
Mr. Mayer.'" He bowed with a mincing imitation of Chrystie's best society
manner. "'I didn't expect to see _you_ here.'"
She laughed delightedly, nestling against his shoulder.
"Will that be all? Can I say any more?"
"Not much. It will be only a greeting as we pass each other: 'So glad to
see you, Miss Alston. Going up to Reno for a short stay. See you in town
soon again, I hope.' And then you to your stateroom and me in my section,
both of us looking out of the window as if we were bored."
They both laughed, lovers again. He was as relieved as she was. After all
it might turn out the better plan. He could keep his eye on her, watch
for signs of distress or mutiny and be ready with the comforting word. He
had to take some risk, and it was better to take that of being seen than
that of leaving her a prey to her own disintegrating musings. Chrystie
thought it was a great deal better than the other way. She saw herself in
the train, conscious of him, knowing he was there, and pretending not to
care. She felt uplifted on the wings of romance, heard the air around her
stirred by the beating of those rainbow pinions.
The thrill of it lasted until dinner, then began to die away. Her home
and the familiar surroundings pressed upon her attention like live things
insisting on recognition. The trivial talk round the table took on the
poignancy of matters already in the past. The night before Fong, on his
way back from Chinatown, had found a deserted kitten and brought it home
announcing his intention to adopt it and call it George Washington. Lorry
and Aunt Ellen made merry over it, but Chrystie couldn't. The kitten
would grow from youth to maturity, and she not be there to see. It took
its place in her mind as something belonging to a vanished phase, having
the cherished value of a memory.
Finally, Lorry noticed her silence, and wanted to know if anything was
the matter. She was pale and had hardly eaten a bite. Aunt Ellen
arraigned the Spring as a malign influence, and suggested quinine.
Chrystie snapped at her, and said she wouldn't take quinine if she was
dying. Thus warned away, Lorry and Aunt Ellen left her alone and made
Summer plans together. Lake Tahoe for July and August was taking shape in
Lorry's mind. July and August! Where would _she_ be? Boyé had said
something about Europe, and at the time it had seemed to her the _ultima
Thule_ of her dreams. Now it looked as far away as the moon and as
The inner excitement of the next day carried her over qualms and
yearnings--the beating of the rainbow pinions was again in her ears.
In the morning she went to the bank and drew five hundred dollars. She
must have some money of her own, and when she reached New York she would
want clothes. It was unfortunate that while she was making holes in her
trunk to pack it, Lorry should have come in and seen more than half of it
stacked on the bureau. That necessitated more lies, and Chrystie told
them with desperation. It was to pay people, of course, milliners and
dressmakers--she owed a lot, and as she was passing the bank she'd drawn
it in a lump.
Lorry was disapproving--her sister's carelessness about money always
shocked her--and offered to take charge of it till Chrystie came back.
There had to be another crop of lies, and Chrystie's face was beaded with
perspiration, her voice shaking, as she bent over her trunk. She'd lock
it in her desk, it would be all right--and please go away and don't
bother--the expressman might be here any minute now.
She had a hope that Lorry would go out in the afternoon, and she could
get away unobserved, but the faithful sister persisted in staying to see
her off. That was dreadful. Bag in hand, a lace veil--to be lowered
later--pushed back across her hat, she had tried to get the good-by over
in the hall, but Lorry had followed her out to the steps. There in the
revealing daylight the elder sister's smiles had died away, and
scrutinizing the face under the jaunty hat, she had said sharply:
"Is anything the matter, Chrystie? You know, you look quite ill. Are you
sure you feel well?"
It brought up a crowding line of memories--Lorry concerned, vigilant,
always watching over her with that anxious tenderness. A surge of emotion
rose in the girl and she snatched her sister to her, kissed her with a
sudden passion, then ran.
"Good-by, good-by," she called out as she flew down the steps to the
Her eyes were blinded, and she was afraid to look back for fear Lorry
might see the tears. She waved a hand, then crouched in the corner of
the seat and spied out of the little rear window. She could see Lorry on
the top step watching the carriage, her face grave, her brows low-drawn
in a frown.
The thrill came back when she dismissed the cab at the door of the hotel.
As she walked up the entrance hall it was as if she was walking into the
first chapter of a novel--a novel of which she was the heroine. And as
Boyé had said, it was all very easy--she was expected, everything was
ready. A bellboy snatched her bag, and the elevator whisked her up to her
rooms, suite 38, third floor rear.
They seemed to her very uninviting; a parlor with crimson plush
furniture, smelling of varnish and opening into a bedroom. The blinds
were down, and when the boy had left she went to the window and threw it
up, letting light and air into the stuffy, unfriendly place. That was
better and she leaned out, breathing in the balmy freshness, catching a
whiff from gardens blooming bravely between the crowding walls.
She stayed there for some time, staring about, to the left where the bay
shone blue beyond the roofs, to the right where on the flanks of the
Mission hills she could see the city's distant outposts, white dottings
of houses, and here and there the gleam of a tin roof touched by the low
sun. The nearby prospect was not attractive--what one might expect in the
Mission. Only a narrow crevice separated the hotel wall from the next
house, whose yard stretched below her, crossed with clothes lines, the
plants and shrubs showing a pale green, elongated growth in their efforts
to reach the sunlight. Her down-drooped glance ranged over it with
disfavor, and she idly wondered what kind of people lived there. It had
once been a sort of detached villa; she could trace the remains of walks
and flower beds, and the shed in the back had a broken weather vane on
the roof--it must have been a stable.
She leaned out on her folded arms till the flare of sunset blazed on the
westward windows, then sank through a burning decline into grayness and
the night. The fiery windows grew blank and chains of lamps marked the
lines of the streets. Then she turned back to the room, dark behind her,
yawning like a cavern. She lighted the lights and sat in a stiff-backed
rocking-chair, the hard white radiance beating on her from a cluster of
electric bulbs close against the ceiling as if they had been shot up
there by an explosion. It was half-past six, but she did not feel at all
hungry. She felt--with a smothered exclamation she jumped up, ran to the
telephone and ordered her dinner.
At eight o'clock Mayer's voice on the phone brought back a slight, faint
echo of the thrill. What he said was matter-of-fact and colorless--he
had warned her that it would be--just if she was comfortable and
everything Was all right. She tried to answer it with debonair brevity;
show the right spirit, bold and undismayed, of the dauntless woman to the
companion of her daring.
Then came the slow undrawing of the night, the noises of the house dying
down, car bells and auto horns less frequent in the streets below. The
bedroom was at the back of the building, with windows that looked across
a paved court to the rear walls of houses. There were lights in many of
them, glimpses of bright interiors, people chatting in friendly groups.
The sight brought a stabbing memory of the drawing-room at home, and in
the dark she undressed and slipped into bed.
But sleep would not come--her mind would not obey her; slipped and slid
away from her direction like an animal racing for its goal. At home at
this hour the door between her room and Lorry's would be open and they
would be calling back and forth to one another as they made ready for
bed. They had done that as far back as she could remember, back to the
time when there had been a nurse in her room and Lorry had worn her hair
in braids. She lay still, almost breathless, her eyes fixed on the yellow
oblong of the transom, recalling Lorry in those days, in stiff white
skirts and a wide silk sash, very grave, a little woman even then. She
groaned and turned over in the bed, digging her head into the pillow and
closing her eyes.
After an hour or two she rose and put on her wrapper and slippers. The
turmoil within her was so intense that she could not keep still, and
prowled, a tall, swathed form, from one room to the other. It seemed then
that there never had been a thrill--nothing but this repulsion, this
repudiation, nothing but a desire to be back where she belonged. She
fought it, less for love of Mayer than for shame at her own backsliding.
She saw herself a coward, lacking the courage to take her life boldly,
renouncing the man who had her promise. That held her closer to her
resolve than any other consideration; her troth was plighted. Could she
now--the wedding ring almost on her finger--turn and run crying for home
like a child frightened of the dark?
But she didn't want to, she didn't want to! She seemed to see Mayer with
a new clearness; glimpsed, to her own dread, his compelling power. He was
her master, someone she feared, someone who could make her at one moment
feel proud and glad, and at another small and trivial and apologetic. A
majestic figure, a woman built on the grand plan, poor Chrystie paced
through the silent rooms, weeping like a lost baby.
When the dawn began to grow pale she went to the bedroom window and
pulled up the blinds. Like a place of dreams the city slowly grew into
solidity through the spectral light. It was as gray as her mood, all
color subdued, walls and roofs and chimneys an even monochrome, above
them in the sky an increasing, thin, white luster. The air stole in chill
as the prospect and from the street beyond rose the sound of a footfall,
enormously distinct, echoing prodigiously, as if it was the only footfall
left in the world and the sound of the others--refused individual
existence--had concentrated in that one to give it volume.
Chrystie drew up a chair and sat down. There with swollen eyes and leaden
heart she waited for the day.
LORRY SEES THE DAWN
Chrystie's manner on her departure had disturbed Lorry. As she dressed
for the opera that night she pondered on it, and back from it to the
change she had noticed in the girl of late. She hadn't been like the old,
easy-going Chrystie; her indolent evenness of mood had given place to a
mercurial flightiness, her gay good-humor been broken by flashes of
temper and morose silences.
Rustling into her new white dress Lorry reproached herself. She should
have paid more attention to it. If Chrystie wasn't well or something was
troubling her she should have found out what it was. She had been
negligent, engrossed in her own affairs--thinking of a man, dreaming like
a lovesick girl. That admission made her blush, and seeing her face in
the mirror, the cheeks pink-tinted, the eyes darkly glowing, she could
not refrain from looking at it. She was not so bad, dressed up that way
with a diamond spray in her hair, and her shoulders white above the
crystal trimming of her bodice. And so--just for a moment--she again
forgot Chrystie, wondering, as she eyed the comely reflection, if Mark
would be at the opera.
But when she was finished and had called in Aunt Ellen to look her over,
the discomforting sense of duties shirked came back. As she slowly turned
under Aunt Ellen's inspecting gaze and drooped her shoulders for the blue
velvet cloak that the old lady held out, her thoughts were full of
self-accusal. On the stairway they took the form of a solemn vow to
pledge herself anew to the accustomed watchful care. In the cab they
crystallized into a definite resolution: as soon as Chrystie came back
from the Barlows' she would have an old-time, intimate talk with her and
find out if anything really was the matter with the child.
At the opera it was so exciting and so wonderful that everything else was
wiped out of her mind. In the front of the box she sat--its sole
ornament--against a background of Mrs. Kirkham's contemporaries, withered
and sere in contrast with her lily-pure freshness. In the entr'actes the
hostess recalled the opera house in its heyday when the Bonanza Kings
occupied their boxes with the Bonanza Queens beside them, when everyone
was rich, and all the women wore diamonds. The old ladies cackled over
their memories, their heads together, forgetful of "Minnie's girl," who
swept the house with her lorgnon searching for a familiar face.
Mrs. Kirkham was going to make a night of it, and afterward took her
party to Zinkand's for supper. Here, too, it was very exciting, too much
claiming one's attention for private worries to intrude. The opera crowd
came thronging in, women in beautiful clothes, men one's father had
known, youths who had come to one's house. Some of the ladies who had
been Minnie Alston's friends stopped to have a word with Lorry and then
swept on making murmurous comment to their escorts--the Alston girls were
coming out of their shells, beginning at last to take their places; it
was a pity they went about with fossils of the Stone Age like Mrs.
Kirkham, but they had a queer, old-fashioned streak in them--ah, there's
a vacant table!
It was past midnight when Mrs. Kirkham dropped Lorry at her door and
rolled off with the rest of her cargo. The joy of the evening was still
with the girl as she entered the hall. She stood there for a moment,
pulling off her gloves and looking about with the prudent eye of a
proprietor. In its roving her glance fell on a letter in the card tray.
It was addressed to her and had evidently come after she had left.
Standing under the single gas jet that was all Fong's thrifty spirit
would permit, she opened it.
Anonymous and written in an unknown hand it struck upon her receptive
mood with a staggering shock.
It came, a bolt from the blue, but a bolt that fell precise on a spot
ready to accept it. It was like a sign following her troubled
premonitions, an answer to her anxious queries. If its author had known
just how Miss Alston's thoughts had been engaged, she could not have
aimed her missile better or timed it more accurately.
During the first moment she saw nothing but the central fact--the
concealed love affair of which the writer thought she was cognizant. Her
mind accepted that instantaneously, corroborating memories coming quick
to her call. They flashed across her mental vision, vivid and detached
like slides in a magic lantern--glimpses of Chrystie in her unfamiliar
brooding and her flushed elation, and the walks, the long walks, from
which she returned withdrawn and curiously silent--the silence of
Then quick, leaping upon her, came the recollection of Chrystie's
departure that afternoon--the clinging embrace, the rush down the steps,
the absence of her face at the carriage window. Lorry gave a moan and her
hands rose, clutched against her heart. It was proof of how her lonely
life had molded her that in this moment of piercing alarm, she thought of
no help, of no outside assistance to which she could appeal. She had
always been the leader, acted on her own initiative, and the will to do
so now held her taut, sending her mind forces out, clutching and groping
for her course. It came in a low-breathed whisper of, "The Barlows," and
she ran to the telephone, an old-fashioned wall instrument behind the
stairs. As she flew toward it another magic lantern picture flashed into
being--Chrystie boring down into her trunk and the pile of money on the
bureau. That forced a sound out of her--a sharp, groaned note--as if
expelled from her body by the impact of a blow.
She tried to give the Barlows' number clearly and quietly and found her
voice broken by gasping breaths. There was a period of agonized waiting,
then a drowsy "central" saying she couldn't raise the number, and Lorry
trying to be calm, trying to be reasonable--it _must_ be raised, it was
important, they were asleep that was all. _Ring_--_ring_--ring till
It seemed hours before Roy Barlow's voice, sleepy and cross, came
growling along the wire:
"What the devil's the matter? Who is it?"
Then her answer and her question: Was Chrystie there?
That smoothed out the crossness and woke him up. He became
"Chrystie? Here--with us?"
"Yes--staying over till Friday. Went down this afternoon."
"No. _She's _not here. What makes you think she is?"
She did not know what to say; the instinct to protect her sister was part
of her being, strong in a moral menace as a physical. She fumbled out an
explanation--she'd been out of town and in her absence Chrystie had
gone to the country without leaving word where. It was all right of
course, she was a fool to bother about it, but she couldn't rest till she
knew where the girl had gone. It was probably either to the Spencers or
the Joneses; they'd been teasing her to visit them all winter. Roy, now
wide-awake, showed a tendency to ask questions, but she cut him off,
swamped his curiosity in apologies and good-bys and hung up the receiver.
She was almost certain now, and again she stood pressing down her
terrors, urging her faculties to intelligent action. She did not let them
slip from her guidance; held them close as dogs to the trail. A moment of
rigid immobility and she had whirled back to the telephone and called up
a near-by livery stable. This answered promptly and she ordered a cab
sent round at once.
While she waited she tried to keep steady and think clearly. Prominent
in her mind was the necessity not to move rashly, not to do anything
that would react on Chrystie. There might yet be a mistake--a blessed,
unforseen mistake. She clung to the idea as those about a deathbed
cling to the hope that a miracle may supervene and save their loved
one. There _was_ a possibility that Chrystie had gone on some
mysterious adventure of her own, was playing a trick, was doing
anything but eloping with a man that no one had ever thought she cared
for. The only way to find out whether Mayer had any part in her
disappearance was to go directly to him.
She sat stiffly in the cab holding her hands tight-clenched to control
their trembling. Her whole being seemed to tremble like a substance
strained to the point of a perpetual vibration. She was not conscious of
it; was only conscious of her will stretching out like a tangible thing,
grasping at a fleeing Chrystie and dragging her back. And under that lay
a substratum of anguish--that it was _her_ fault, _her_ fault. The wheels
repeated the words in their rhythmic rotation; the horse's hoofs hammered
them out on the pavement.
The night clerk at the Argonaut Hotel, drowsing behind his desk, sat up
with a start when he saw her. Ladies in such gala array were rare at The
Argonaut at any hour, much more so at long past midnight. That this one
was agitated even the sleepy clerk could see. Her face was nearly as
white as the dress showing between the loosened fronts of her cloak. The
voice in which she asked if Mr. Mayer was there was a husky undertone.
The clerk, scrambling to his feet, said yes, as far as he knew Mr. Mayer
was in his room. He had come in about ten and hadn't gone out since.
A change took place in her expression; the strained look relaxed and the
white neck, showing between the cloak edges, lifted with a caught breath.
"Where is he?" she said, and before the man could answer had turned and
swept toward the stairs.
"Second floor--two doors from the stairs on your right--No. 8," he
called, and watched her as she ran, her skirts lifted, the rich cloak
drooping about her form as it slanted forward in the rush of her ascent.
Mayer was still up and sitting at his desk. Everything was progressing
satisfactorily. An excellent dinner had exerted its comforting influence
and the telephone message to Chrystie had shown her to be reassuringly
uncomplaining and tranquil. Elated by a heady sense of approaching
success he had packed his trunk in the bedroom and then come back to the
parlor and added up his resources and coming expenses. He had calculated
what these would be with businesslike thoroughness, his mind, under the
process of addition and subtraction, cogitating on a distribution of
funds that would at once husband them and yield him the means of
impressing his bride. Through the word "jewelry" he had drawn his pen,
substituting "candy and flowers," and was leaning back in gratified
contemplation when a knock fell on the door. He rose to his feet,
frightened, for the first moment inclined to make no answer. Then knowing
that the light through the transom would betray his presence, he called,
Lorry Alston, in evening dress, pale-faced and alone, entered.
His surprise and alarm were overwhelming. With the pen still in his hand
he stood speechless, staring at her, and had she faced him then and there
with her knowledge of the facts, admission might have dropped, in scared
amaze, from his lips.
But the sight of him, peacefully employed in his own apartment, when she
had suspected him of being somewhere else, nefariously engaged in running
away with her sister, had so relieved her, that, in that first moment of
encounter, she was silent. Bewilderment, verging toward apology, kept her
on the threshold. Then the memory of the letter sent her over it, brought
back the realization that even if he was here by himself he must know
something of Chrystie's whereabouts.
Closing the door behind her she said:
"Mr. Mayer, I'm looking for my sister."
If that told him that she did not know where Chrystie was, it also told
that she connected him with the girl's absence. He controlled his alarm
and drew his shaken faculties into order.
"Looking for your sister!" he repeated. "Looking for her _here_?"
"Yes." She advanced a step, her eyes sternly fixed on him. He did not
like the look, there was question and accusation in it, but he was able
to inject a dignified surprise into his answer.
"I don't understand you, Miss Alston. Why should you come to _me_ at this
hour to find your sister?"
He did it well, wounded pride, hostility under unjust suspicion, strong
in his voice.
"Chrystie's gone," she answered. "She told me she was going to friends,
and I find she isn't there. She deceived me and I had reason--I heard
something tonight that made me think--" She stopped. It was horrible to
state to this man, now frankly abhorred, what she suspected. There was a
slight pause while he waited with an air of cold forbearance.
"Well," he said at length, "would it be too much trouble to tell me what
She had to say it:
"That she had gone to you."
"To _me_?" He was incredulous, astounded.
"Yes. Had run away with you."
"What reason had you for thinking such a thing?"
She made a step forward, ignoring the question.
"She isn't here--I can see that--but where is she?"
"How should I know?"
"Because you must know something about her, because you _do_ know.
Chrystie of herself wouldn't tell me lies; someone's made her do it,
_you've_ made her do it."
"Really, Miss Alston--"
But she wouldn't give him time to finish.
"Mr. Mayer, you've got to tell me where she is. I won't leave here
till you do."
He had always felt and disliked a quality of cool reasonableness in
this girl. Now he saw a fighting courage, a thing he had never guessed
under that gentle exterior, and he liked it even less. Had he followed
his inclination he would have treated her with the rough brutality he
had awarded Pancha, but he had to keep his balance and discover how
much she knew.
"Miss Alston, we're at cross-purposes. We'd come to a better
understanding if I knew what you're talking about. You spoke of finding
out something tonight. If you'll tell me what it is I'll be able to
answer you more intelligently."
She thrust her hand into her belt, drew out a folded paper and handed
it to him.
"_That._ I found it when I came back from the opera."
He recognized the writing at once, and before he was halfway through his
rage against Pancha was boiling. When he had finished he could not trust
his voice, and staring at the paper, he heard her say:
"I've known for some time Chrystie was troubled and not herself, and this
afternoon when I saw her go I _knew_ something was wrong. She looked ill;
she could hardly speak to me. And then _that_ came, and I telephoned to
the Barlows'--the place she was going. She wasn't there, they'd never
asked her, never expected her. She's gone somewhere--disappeared." She
raised her voice, hard, threatening, her face angrily accusing, "Where is
she, Mr. Mayer? Where is she?"
He knew it all now, and his knowledge made him master.
"Miss Alston, I'm very sorry about this--"
"Oh. don't talk that way!" she cried, pointing at the letter. "What does
"I think I can explain. You've given yourself a lot of unnecessary
trouble and taken this thing," he scornfully dropped the letter on the
table, "altogether too seriously. Sit down and let me straighten it out."
He pointed to the rocker, but she did not move, keeping her eyes with
their fierce steadiness on his face.
"How _could_ I take it too seriously?" she said.
"Why"--he smiled in good-natured derision--"what is it? An anonymous
letter, evidently by the wording and the writing the work of an
uneducated person. It's perfectly true that I've seen your sister several
times on the streets, and once I _did_ happen upon her when she was
taking a walk in the plaza by the Greek Church. But there's nothing
unusual about that--I've met and talked with many other ladies in the
same way. The writer of that rubbish evidently saw us in the plaza and
decided--to use his own language--that he'd have some fun with us, or
rather with me. The whole thing--the expression, the tone--indicates a
vulgar, malicious mind. Don't give it another thought, it's unworthy of
He saw he had made an impression. Her eyes left him and she stood gazing
fixedly into space, evidently pondering his explanation. In a pleasantly
persuasive tone he added:
"You know that I've not been a constant visitor at your house. You've
seen my attitude to your sister."
She made no reply to that, muttering low as if to herself:
"Why should anyone write such a letter without a reason?"
"Ah, my dear lady, why are there mischief makers in the world? I'm
awfully sorry; I feel responsible, for the person who'd do such a thing
is more likely to be known by me than by you. It's probably some servant
I've forgotten to tip or by accident given a plugged quarter."
There was a pause, then she turned to him and said:
"But where's Chrystie?"
He came closer, comforting, very friendly:
"Since you ask me I'd set this down as a prank. She's full of high
spirits--only a child yet. She's gone somewhere, to some friend's house,
is playing a joke on you. Isn't that possible?"
"Yes, possible." She had already found this straw herself, but grasped it
anew, pushed forward by him.
He went on, his words sounding the note of masculine reason and
"You'll probably hear from her tomorrow, and you'll laugh together over
your fears of tonight. But if you take my advice, don't say anything
outside, don't tell anyone. You're liable to set the gossips talking, and
you never know when they'll stop. They might make it very unpleasant for
you both. Miss Chrystie doesn't want her schoolgirl tricks magnified into
She nodded, brows drawn low, her teeth set on her underlip. If he had
convinced her of his innocence he saw he had not killed her anxieties.
"Is there any way I can help you?" he hazarded.
She shook her head. She had the appearance of having suddenly become
oblivious to him--not finding him a culprit, she had brushed him aside as
"Then you'll go home and give up troubling about it?"
"I'll go home," she said, and with a deep sigh seemed to come back to the
moment and his presence. Moving to the table she picked up the letter.
Now that he was at ease, her face in its harassed care touched a
vulnerable spot. He was sorry for her.
"Don't take it so to heart, Miss Alston. I'm convinced it's going to turn
out all right."
She gave him a sharp, startled look.
"Of course it is. If I thought it wasn't would I be standing here
She walked to the door, the small punctilio of good-bys ignored as
she had ignored all thought of strangeness in being in that place at
"I wish I could do something to ease your mind," he said, watching her
"You can't," she answered and opened the door.
"Have you a trap--something to take you home?"
She passed through the doorway, throwing over her shoulder:
"Yes, I've a cab--it's been waiting."
In spite of his success he had, for a moment, a crestfallen sense of
feeling small and contemptible. He watched her walk down the hall and
then went to the window and saw her emerge from the street door, and
enter the cab waiting at the curb.
Alone, faced by this new complication, the sting of her disparaging
indifference was forgotten. There was no sleep for him that night, and
lighting a cigarette he paced the room. He would have to let the gambling
debt go; there could be no delay now. By the afternoon of the next day
Lorry would be in a state where one could not tell what she might do. He
would have to leave on the morning train, call up Chrystie at seven, go
out and change the tickets, and meet her at Oakland. In the sudden
concentrating of perils, the elopement was gradually losing its
surreptitious character and becoming an affair openly conducted under
the public eye. But there was no other course. Even if they were seen on
the train they would reach Reno without interference, and once there he
would find a clergyman and have the marriage ceremony performed at once.
After that it didn't matter--he trusted in his power over Chrystie. In
the back of his mind rose a discomforting thought of an eventual
"squaring things" with Lorry, but he pushed it aside. Future difficulties
had no place in the present and its desperate urgencies. The thought of
Pancha also intruded, and on that he hung, for a moment, his face evil
with a thwarted rage, his hands instinctively bent into talons. Had he
dared he would like to have gone to her and--but he pushed that aside too
and went back to his plans and his pacings.
Lorry went home convinced of Mayer's ignorance. Finding him at the hotel
had done half, his arguments and manner the rest. And during the drive
back his explanation of Chrystie's disappearance had retained a consoling
plausibility. She held to it fiercely, conned it over, tried to force
herself to see the girl impishly bent on a foolish practical joke.
But when she was in her own room, the blank silence of the house about
her, it fell from her and left her defenseless against growing fears. It
was impossible to believe it--utterly foreign to Chrystie's temperament.
She racked her memory for occasions in the past when her sister had
indulged in such cruel teasing and not one came to her mind. No--she
wouldn't have done it, she couldn't--something more than a joke had made
Chrystie lie to her. A sumptuous figure in her glistening dress, she
moved about, rose and sat, jerked back the curtains, picked up and
dropped the silver ornaments on the bureau. Her lips were dry, her heart
contracted with a sickening dread; never in all the calls made upon her
had there been anything like this; finding her without resources,
reducing her to an anguished helplessness.
If in the morning there was no word from Chrystie she would have to do
something and she could not think what this should be. Mayer had not
needed to warn her against giving her sister up to the tongue of gossip.
The most guileless of girls living in San Francisco would learn that
lesson early. But what could she do? To whom could she go for help and
advice? She thought of her mother's friends, the guardians of the estate,
and repudiated them with a smothered sound of scorn. They wouldn't care;
would let it get into the papers; would probably suggest the police. And
would she not herself--if Chrystie did not come back or write--have to go
to the police?
That brought her to a standstill, and with both hands she pressed on her
forehead pushing back her hair, sending tormented looks about her. If
there was only someone who would understand, someone she could trust,
someone--she dropped her hands, her eyes widening, fixed and startled, as
a name rose to her lips and fell whispered on the stillness. It came
without search or expectation, seemed impelled from her by her inward
stress, found utterance before she knew she had thought of him. A deep
breath heaved her chest, her head drooped backward, her eyelids closing
in a relief as intense, as ineffably comforting, as the cessation of an
She stood rigid, the light falling bright on her upturned face, still as
a marble mask. For a moment she felt bodiless, her containing shell
dissolved, nothing left of her but her longing for him. Like an audible
cry or the grasp of her hand drawing him to her, it went out from her,
imperious, an appeal and a summons. Again she whispered his name; but
she heard it only as the repetition of a solace and a solution, was not
aware of forces tapped in lower wells of being.
After that she felt curiously calmed, her wild restlessness gone, her
nightmare terrors assuaged. If she did not hear from Chrystie by midday
she would call him up at his office and ask him to come to her. She
seemed to have found in the thought of him not only a staff to uphold,
but wisdom to guide.
She drew the curtains and saw the first thin glimmering of dawn,
pearl-faint in the sky, pearl-pale on the garden. The crystal trimmings
of her bodice gave a responsive gleam, and looking down she was aware of
her gala array. She slipped out of it, put on a morning dress, and
denuded her hair of its shining ornament. It seemed long ago, in another
life, that she had sat in Mrs. Kirkham's box, rejoicing in her costly
trappings, glad to be admired.
Then she pulled a chair to the window and sat there waiting for the light
to come. It crept ghostly over the garden, trees and plants taking form,
the walks and lawns, a vagueness of dark patches and lighter windings,
emerging in gradual definiteness. The sky above the next house grew a
lucid gray, then a luminous mother-of-pearl. She could see the glistening
of dew, its beaded hoar upon cobwebs and grassy borders. There was no
footstep here to disturb the silence; the dawn stole into being in a deep
and breathless quietude.
MARK SEES THE DAWN
That same Tuesday afternoon Mark sat in the doorway of the cowshed
looking at the road.
It was the first period of rest and ease he had had since his arrival. He
had found the household disorganized, his father hovering, frantic, round
the sick bed, and Sadie distractedly distributing her energies between
her mother's room and the kitchen. It was he who had driven over to
Stockton and brought back a nurse, insisted on the doctor staying in the
house and made him a shakedown in the parlor. When things began to look
better he had turned his hand to the farm work and labored through the
week's accumulation, while the old man sat beside his wife's pillow, his
chin sunk on his breast.
Today the tension had relaxed, for the doctor said Mother was going to
pull through. An hour ago he had packed his kit and driven off to his own
house up the valley, not to be back till tomorrow. It was very peaceful
in the yard, the warm, sleepy air full of the droning of insect life
which ran like a thin accompaniment under a low crooning of song from the
kitchen where Sadie was straightening up. On the front porch, the farmer,
his feet on the railing, his hat on his nose, was sunk in the depths of a
Astride the milking stool Mark looked dreamily at the familiar prospect,
the black carpet of shade under the live oak, the bright bits of sky
between its boughs, beyond the brilliant vividness of the landscape.
This was crossed by the tall trunks of the eucalyptus trees, all ragged
bark and pendulous foliage, the road striped with their shadows. He
looked down its length, then back along the line of the picket fence, his
glance slowly traveling and finally halting at a place just opposite.
Here his imagination suddenly restored a picture from the past--the
tramp asking for water. His senses, dormant and unobserving, permitted
the memory to attain a lifelike accuracy and the figure was presented to
his inward eye with photographic clearness. Very still in the interest
of this unprovoked recollection, he saw again the haggard face with its
lowering expression, and remembered Chrystie's question about
recognizing the man.
He felt now that he could, even in other clothes and a different
setting. The eyes were unmistakable. He recalled them distinctly--a very
clear gray as if they might have had a thin crystal glaze like a watch
face. The lids were long and heavy, the look sliding out from under them
As he pictured them--looking surlily into his--a conviction rose upon
him that he had seen them since then, somewhere recently. They were not
as morose as they had been that first time, had some vague association
with smiles and pleasantness. He was puzzled, for he could only seem to
get them without surroundings, without even a face, detached from all
setting like a cat's eyes gleaming from the dark. Unable to link them to
anything definite he concluded he had dreamed of them. But the
explanation was not entirely satisfactory; he was left with a tormenting
sense of their importance, that they were connected with something that
he ought to remember.
He shook himself and rose from the stool--no good wasting time chasing
such elusive fancies. The tramp had brought to his mind the money found
in the tules and he decided to walk up the road and try to locate the
spot described to him that morning by Sadie.
On the hillock, where eight months earlier Mayer had sat and cursed the
marshes, he came to a stand, his glance ranging over the long, green
floor. By Sadie's directions he set the place about midway between where
he stood and the white square of the Ariel Club house. If it _was_ the
tramp he had gone across from there, which would argue a knowledge of the
complicated system of paths and planks. It was improbable--from his
childhood he could remember the hoboes footing it doggedly round the head
of the tules.
His thoughts were broken into by a voice hailing him, a fresh,
"Hello, Mark--what you doin' there?"
It was Tito Murano returning from the Swede man's ranch up the trail,
with a basket of eggs for his mother. Tito had become something of a hero
in the neighborhood. In the preceding autumn he had developed typhoid,
nearly died, and been sent to a relative in the higher land of the
foothill fruit farms. From there he had only recently returned with the
_réclame_ of one who has adventured far and seen strange lands.
Barelegged, his few rags flapping round his thin brown body, he charged
forward at a run, holding the egg basket out at arm's length. His face
was wreathed in happy smiles, for the encounter filled him with delight.
Mark was his idol and this was the first time he had seen him.
They sat side by side on the knoll and Tito told of his wanderings. At
times he spit to show his growth in grace, and after studying the long
sprawl of Mark's legs disposed his own in as close an imitation as their
length would permit. It was when his story was over and the conversation
showed a tendency to languish that Mark said:
"I was just looking out over there and trying to locate the place where
the bandits had their cache."
Tito raised a grubby hand and pointed.
"Right away beyont where you see the water shinin'. It's a sort of
island--I was out there after I come back but the hole was all washed
away and filled up."
"_You_ were out there? Do you know the way?"
Tito spit calmly, almost contemptuously.
"_Me? _I bin often--there ain't a trail I don't know. I could lead you
straight acrost. I took a tramp wonct; anyways I would have took him if
he'd let me."
"A tramp!" Mark straightened up. "When?"
The episode of the tramp had almost faded from Tito's mind. What still
lingered was not the memory of his fear but the way he had been swindled.
Now in company with one who always understood and never scolded, he was
filled with a desire to tell it and gain a tardy sympathy. He screwed up
his eyes in an effort to answer accurately.
"I guess it was last fall. Yes, it was, just before school commenced. I
wouldn't 'a done it--Pop'd have licked me if he'd 'a known--but he
promised me a quarter."
"Who promised you a quarter?"
"Him--the tramp. And I was doin' it, but he got awful mean, swore
somethin' fierce and said I didn't know. And how was he to tell and us
only halfway acrost?"
"You mean you only took him halfway?"
"It was all he'd let me," said Tito, on the defensive. "I tolt him it was
all right, but he just stood up there cursin' me. And then he got to
throwin' things, almost had me here"--he put his hand against his
ear--"like he was plumb crazy. But I guess he wasn't, for he wouldn't
give me the quarter."
"Did you leave him there?"
"Sure I did. I run, I was scairt. Pop and Mom'd always be tellin' me to
have nothin' to do with tramps. And it was awful lonesome out there and
him swearin' and firin' rocks."
Tito did not receive that immediate consolation he had looked for. His
friend was silent; a side glance showed him studying the tules with
meditative eyes. For a moment the little boy had a dreary feeling that
his confidence was going to be rewarded by a reprimand, then Mark said:
"Do you remember what the man looked like?"
"Awful poor with long whiskers all sort 'er stragglin' round. He'd a
straw hat and a basket and eyes on him like he was sleepy."
Again Mark made no response, and Tito, feeling that he had not grasped
the full depths of the tragedy, piped up plaintively:
"I'd 'a stood the swearin' and I could 'a dodged the rocks if he'd given
me the quarter. But I couldn't get it off him--not even a dime."
That had a good effect, much better than Tito's highest hopes had
"Well, he treated you mean, old man. And, take it from me--don't you go
showing the way to any more tramps. They're the kind to let alone. As for
the quarter I guess that's due with interest. Here it is." And a half
dollar was laid on Tito's knee.
At the first glance he could hardly believe it, then seeing it immovable,
a gleaming disk of promise, his face flushed deep in the uprush of his
joy. He took it, weighed it on his palm, wanted to study it, but instead
slipped it mannishly into the pocket of his blouse. His education had
not included a training in manners, so he said nothing, just straightened
up and sent a slanting look into Mark's face. It was an eloquent look,
beaming, jubilant, a shining thanks.
They walked back together, or rather Mark walked and Tito circled round
him, curvetting in bridling ecstasy. Mrs. Murano's temper being historic,
Mark took the egg basket, and Tito, all fears of accident removed,
abandoned himself to the pure joys of the imagination. He became at once
a horse and his rider, pranced, backed, took mincing sidesteps and long,
spirited rushes; at one moment was all steed, mettlesome and wild; at the
next all man, calling, gruff-voiced, in quelling authority.
Mark, the eggs safe, was thoughtful. So it must have been the tramp as he
had suspected. But the eyes--he could not shake off that haunting fancy
of a second encounter. All the way home his mind hovered round them,
strained for a clearer vision, seemed at moments on the edge of
illumination, then lost it all.
That night in his room under the eaves he did not sleep till late. The
house sank early into the deep repose following emotional stress, the
nurse's lamp brightening one window in its black bulk. Outside the night
brooded, deep and calm, with whispers in the great oak's foliage, open
field and wooded slope pale and dark under the light of stars. Mark, his
hands clasped behind his head, looked at the blue space of the window and
dreamed of Lorry. He saw her in various guises, a procession of Lorrys
passing across the blue background. Then he saw her as she had been the
last time and that Lorry had not passed with the rest of the procession.
She had lingered, reluctant to follow the fleeting, unapproachable
others, had seemed to draw nearer to him, almost with her hands out,
almost with a shining question in her eyes. Holding that picture of her
in his heart he finally fell asleep.
Some hours later he woke with the sound of her voice in his ears. She was
calling him--"Mark, Mark," a clear, thin cry, imploring and urgent. He
sat up answering, heard his own voice suddenly fill the silence loud and
startling, "Lorry," and then again lower, "Lorry." For a moment he had no
idea where he was, then the starlight through the open window showed him
the familiar outlines, and, looking stupidly about, he repeated, dazed,
certain he had heard her, "Lorry, where are you?"
The silence of the house, the large outer silence enfolding it,
He was fully awake now and rose. The reality of the cry in its tenuous,
piercing importunity, grew as his mind cleared. He could not believe but
that he had heard it, that she might not be somewhere near calling to him
in distress. He opened the door and looked into the hall--not a sound. At
the foot of the stairs the light from his mother's room fell across the
darkness in a golden slant. He turned and went to the window. His
awakening had been so startling, his sense of revelation so acute, that
for the moment he had no consciousness of prohibiting conditions. When he
looked out of the window he would have felt no surprise if he had seen
Lorry below gazing up at him.
After that he stood for a space realizing the fact. He had had no dream,
the voice had come to him from her, a summons from the depths of some
dire necessity. He knew it as well as if he had heard her say so, as if
she _had_ been outside the window calling him to come. He knew she was
beset, needed him, that her soul had cried to his and in its passionate
urgency had broken through material limitations.
He struck a match and consulted his watch--a quarter to four. Then, as he
dressed and threw some clothes into a bag, he thought over the quickest
route to the city. A stage line to Stockton crossed the valley eight
miles to the south. By making a rapid hike he could catch the down stage
and be in San Francisco before midday. He scrawled a few lines to Sadie,
stood the note up across the face of the clock, and, his shoes in his
hand, stole down the stairs and out of the house.
The country slept under the hush that comes before the dawn. There was
not a rustle in the roadside trees, a whisper in the grass. Farmhouse
and mansion showed in forms of opaque black, muffled in black foliage
and backed by a blue-black horizon. Above the heavens spread, vast and
far removed, paved with stars and mottlings of star dust. The sparkling
dome, pricked with white points and blotted with milky stains, diffused
a high, aerial luster, palely clear above the land's dense darkness.
Mark looked up at it, unaware of its splendors, mind and glance raised
in an instinctive appeal to some remote source of strength in those
As his glance fell back to the road he suddenly knew where he had seen
the eyes. There was no jar of recognition, no startled uncertainty. He
saw them looking at him from the face of Boyé Mayer, standing in Lorry's
drawing-room with his hands resting on the back of a chair.
He stopped dead, staring ahead. Lorry's summons, the tramp, the man in
evening dress against the background of the rich room--all these drew to
a single point. What their connection was he could not guess, was only
aware of them as related, and, accepting that, forged forward at a
swinging stride. The beat of his feet fell rhythmic on the dust; his
breath came deep-drawn and even; his eyes pierced the dark ahead, fixed
on landmarks to be passed, goals to be gained, stations to leave behind
him in his race to the woman who had called.
Unnoted by him a pale edge of light stole along the east, throwing out
the high, crumpled line of the Sierra. The landscape developed from
nebulous shadows and enfoldings to hill slopes, tree domes, the clustered
groupings of barns. A stir passed, frail and delicate, over the earth's
face, a light tentative trembling in the leaves, a quiver through the
grain. Birds made sleepy twitterings; the chink of running water came
from hidden stream beds; plowed fields showed the striping of furrows on
which the dew glistened in a silvery crust. The day was at hand.
While Lorry was still queening it in the front of Mrs. Kirkham's box,
while Chrystie was tossing in her strange bed, while Boyé Mayer was
packing his trunk, while Mark was thinking of Lorry in his room under the
eaves, Garland, one of the actors in this drama now drawing to its
climax, stood against the chain of a ferry boat bumping its way into the
Market Street slip.
He was over it first, racing up the gangway and along the echoing passage
to the street. People growled as he elbowed them, plowed a passage
through their slow-moving ranks, and ran for the wheeling lights of the
trolleys. He made a dash for one, leaped on its step, and holding to an
upright, stood, breathing quickly, as the car clanged its way up the
great thoroughfare. He had to change by the Call Building, and his heart
was hammering on his ribs as he dropped off the second car at the corner
of Pancha's street.
Up its dim perspective he could see the two ground glass globes at the
Vallejo's steps. He wanted to run but did not dare--the habits of the
hunted still held--and he walked as fast as he could, sending his glance
ahead for her windows. When he saw light gleaming from them his head
drooped in a spasm of relief. All the way down the fear that she might
be in a hospital--a public place dangerous for him to visit--had
Cushing, behind the desk, yawning over the evening paper, roused at the
sight of him and showed a desire to talk. At the sentence that "Miss
Lopez was gettin' along all right," the visitor moved off to the stairs.
He again wanted to run but he felt Cushing's eyes on his back and made a
sober ascent till the turn of the landing hid him; then he rushed. At her
door he knocked and heard her voice, low and querulous:
"Who is it now?"
"The old man," he whispered, his mouth to the crack. It was opened by her
and he had her in his arms.
Joy at the sight and feel of her, the knowledge that she was not as he
had pictured in desperate case, made him speechless. He could only press
her against him, hold her off and look into her face, his own working,
broken words of love and pity coming from him. His unusual display of
emotion affected her, deeply stirred on her own account, and she clung to
him, weak tears running down her cheeks, caressing him with hands that
said what her shaking lips could not utter.
He supported her to the sofa and laid her there, covering her, soothing
her, his concern finding expression in low, crooning sounds such as women
make over their sick babies. When she was quieted he drew the armchair up
beside her, and, his hand stroking hers, asked about her illness. He had
read in the paper that it was a nervous collapse caused by overwork, and
he chided her gently.
"What did you keep on for when you were so tuckered out? Why didn't you
let up on it sooner? You could 'a stood the expense, and if you didn't
want to use your own money what's the matter with mine?"
"I didn't want to stop," she murmured. "Every day I kept thinking I'd be
"Oh, hon, that don't show good sense. How can I keep up my lick if I
can't trust you better? You've pretty near finished me. I come on it in a
paper up there in the hills-God, I didn't know what struck me. It's
tore me to pieces."
His look bore testimony to his words. He was old, seamed with lines,
fallen away from his robust sturdiness. She suddenly seemed unable to
bear all this weight of pitifulness--his, hers, the world's outside
them. At first she had resolved to keep the real cause of her illness
secret. But now his devastated look, his pathetic tenderness, shattered
her. She was a child again, longing to creep into the arms that would
have held her against all harm, droop on the rough breast where she had
always found sympathy. As the truth had come out under Growder's
kindness, the truth came again. But this time there were no
reservations; the rich girl took her place in the story. Others might
see in that a mitigating circumstance but not the man who valued her
above all girls, rich or poor.
Garland listened closely, hardly once interrupting her. When she finished
his rage broke and she was frightened. Years had passed since she had
seen him aroused and now his lowering face, darkened with passion, his
choked words, brought back memories of him raging tremendously in old
dead battles with miner and cattleman.
"Pa, Pa," she cried, stretching her hands toward him, "what's the
use--what can you do? It's finished and over; getting mad and cursing
won't make it any better."
But he cursed, flinging the chair from him, rumbling out his wrath,
beyond the bounds of reason.
"Don't talk so," she implored and slid off the sofa to her feet. "They'll
hear you in the next room. I can't afford to let this get around."
For the first time in her knowledge of him he was deaf to the claims of
"Who is this fancy gentleman?" he cried. "Where is he?"
"Oh, why did I tell you?" she wailed. "What got into me to tell you! I
can't fight with you--I won't let you go to him. There's no use--it's all
over, it's done, it's ended. _Can't_ you see?"
He made no answer and she went to him, catching at his arm and shoulder,
staring, desperately pleading, into his face.
"You talk like a fool," he said, pushing her away. "This is my job.
Where is he?"
As she had said, she was unable to fight with him. Her enfeebled body was
empty of all resistant force. Now, as she clung to him, she felt its
sickly weakness, its drained energies. She wanted peace, the sofa again,
the swaying walls to steady, the angry man to be her father, quiet in the
armchair. She forgot her promise to Crowder, her pledged word,
everything, but that there was a way to end the racking scene. Holding to
the hand that thrust her aside she said softly:
"There's a punishment coming to him that's better than anything _you_
His glance shifted to hers, arrested.
"What you mean?"
"He's done something worse than the way he's treated me--something the
law can get him for."
"Sit down quiet here and I'll tell you."
She pointed to the overturned chair and made a step toward the sofa. He
remained motionless, watching her with somberly doubting eyes.
"It's true," she said; "every word. It comes from Charlie Crowder. When
you hear it you'll see, and you'll see too that you'll only mix things up
by butting in. They're getting their net ready for him, and they'll have
him in it before the week's out."
This time the words had their effect. He picked up the chair and brought
it to the sofa. She sat there erect, her legs curled up beside her, and
told him the story of Boyé Mayer and the stolen money.
The light was behind him and against it she saw him as a formless shape,
the high, rounded back of the chair projecting above his head. The
silence with which he listened she set down to interest, and feeling that
she had gained his attention, that his wrath was appeased by this
unexpected retribution, her own interest grew and the narrative flowed
from her lips, fluent, complete, full of enlightening detail.
Once or twice at the start he had stirred, the rickety chair creaking
under his weight. Then, slouched against its back, he had settled into
absolute stillness. To anyone not seeing him, it might have seemed that
the girl was talking to herself, pauses that she made for comment passed
in silence, questions she now and then put remained unanswered. Peering
at him she made him out, a brooding mass, his chin sunk into his collar,
his hands clasped over his waist, his eyes fixed on the floor.
When she was done he stayed thus for a moment apparently so buried in
thought that he could not rouse himself.
"Well," she said, surprised at his silence, "isn't it true what I said?
Hasn't fate rounded things up for him?"
The chair creaked as he moved, heavily as if with an effort. He laid his
hands on the arms and drew himself forward.
"Yes," he muttered, "it sounds pretty straight."
"Would anything you could do beat that?"
He sat humped together looking at the floor, his powerful, gnarled hands
gripping at the chair arms. She could see the top of his head with a bald
place showing through the thick, low-lying grizzle of hair.
"Nup," he said, "I guess not."
He heaved himself up and walked across the room to the window.
"It's as hot as hell in here," he growled as he fumbled at the sash.
"Hot!" she exclaimed. "Why, it's cold. What's the matter with you?"
"It's these barred-up city places; they knock me out. I smother in
'em." He threw back the window and stood in the opening. "I'll shut it
in a minute."
She pulled up the Navajo blanket and cowering under it said with
"I guess there won't be a more surprised person in this burg than Mr.
Boyé Mayer when they come after him."
"Do you know when they're calculatin' to do it?"
"Thursday or Friday. Charlie said he was going to give the Express people
his information some time tomorrow and after they'd fixed things he'd
spring the story in the _Despatch_."
"If he gives it in tomorrow they'll have him by evening."
"I don't think they'll be in any rush. Mr. Mayer's not going to skip;
he's too busy with his courting."
There was no reply, and pulling the blanket higher, for the night air
struck cold, she went on in her embittered self-torment:
"I wanted to give him a jolt myself and I tried, but I might as well have
stayed out. You and me show up pretty small when the law gets busy.
That's the time for us to lie low and watch. And he thinking himself so
safe, drawing out all the money. Maybe it was to buy her presents or get
his wedding clothes. I'd like--"
The voice from the window interrupted her.
"That paper--the one he had under the floor--Crowder said a piece was
"Yes, part of his correspondence letter--the last paragraph about me.
Don't you remember it? It was that one after 'The Zingara' started, way
back in August. I showed it to you here one evening. I thought maybe
Mayer had read it and that was what brought him to see me--got him sort
of curious. But Charlie thinks he wasn't bothering about papers just
then. He had it on him and used it to wrap up the money and that piece
got torn out someway by accident."
"Um--looks that way."
The current of air was chilling the room, and Pancha, shivering under the
"Say, Pa, aren't you going to shut that window? It's letting in an awful
draught." He made no movement to do so, and, surprised at his
indifference to her comfort, she said uneasily, "You ain't got a fever,
"Let me alone," he muttered. "Didn't I tell you these het-up rooms
knock me out."
She was silent--a quality in his voice, a husky thinness as if its
vigor was pinching out, made her anxious. He was worn to the bone, the
shade of himself. She slid her feet to the floor, and throwing off the
"Looks like to me something is the matter with you. The room ain't hot."
"Oh, forget it. For God's sake, quit this talk about me."
He closed the window and turned to her. As he advanced the lamp's glare
fell full on him and she saw his face glistening with perspiration and
darkened with unnatural hollows. In that one moment, played upon by the
revealing side light, it was like the face of a skeleton and she rose
with a frightened cry.
"Pop! You _are_ sick. You look like you were dead."
She made a step toward him and before her advance he stopped, bristling,
fierce, like a bear confronted by a hunter.
"You let me alone. You're crazy--sit down. Ain't I gone through enough
without you pickin' on me about how I _look_?"
She shrank back, scared by his violence.
"But I can't help it. The room's like ice and you're sweating. I saw it
on your forehead."
He almost roared.
"And supposin' I am? Ain't I given you a reason? Sweating? A Chihuahua
dog 'ud sweat in this d----d place. It's like a smelting furnace." With a
stiff, uncertain hand he felt in his pocket, drew out a bandanna and ran
it over his face. "God, you'd think there was nothin' in the world but
the way I _look_! I hiked down from the hills on the run to see you and
you nag at me till I'm almost sorry I come."
That was too much for her. The tears, ready to flow at a word, poured out
of her eyes, and she held out her arms to him, piteously crying:
"Oh, don't say that. Don't scold at me. I wouldn't say it if I didn't
care. What would I do if you got sick--what would I do if I lost you?
You're all I have and I'm so lonesome."
He ran to her, clasped her close, laid his cheek on her head as she
leaned against him feebly weeping. And what he said made it all right--it
was his fault, he was ugly, but it was because of what she'd told him.
That had riled him all up. Didn't she know every hurt that came to her
made him mad as a she-bear when they're after its cub?
"Will you be back tomorrow?" she said when he started to go.
"Yes, in the morning. Eight be too early?"
"No--but--" her eyes were wistful, her hands reluctant to loose his.
"Will you have to leave the city soon?"
"I guess so, honey."
"Maybe--but we'll get a line on that in the morning."
"I wish you could stay, just for one day," she pleaded.
"I'll tell you then. What you want to do now is rest. Sleep tight and
don't worry no more. It's going to be all right."
He gave her a kiss and from the doorway a farewell nod and smile.
THE VOICE IN THE NIGHT
When Garland passed through the lobby the hall clock showed him it was
after midnight. Cushing, roused from a nap, looked up at the sound of his
step, and asked how Miss Lopez was. "Gettin' on first rate," he called
back cheerily as he opened the door and went out.
His immediate desire was for silence and seclusion--a place where he
could recover from the stunned condition in which Pancha's story had left
him. Before he could act on it he would have to get back to a clearness
where coordinated thought was possible. He walked down the street in the
direction of his old lodgings; he had a latch-key and could get to his
room without being heard. On the way he found himself skirting the open
space of South Park, an oval of darkness, light-touched at intervals and
encircled by a looming wall of houses. Here and there on benches huddled
figures sat, formless and immovable, less like human beings than ghosts
come back in the depths of night to find themselves denied an entrance
into life, and drooping disconsolate. His footsteps sounded abnormally
loud, thrown back from the houses, buffeted between their frowning
fronts, as if they were maliciously determined to reveal his presence,
wanted him to know that they too were leagued against him. He stumbled
over the sidewalk's coping to the grass and stole to a bench under the
shade of a tree.
There he burrowed upward toward the light through the avalanche that had
fallen on him.
At first there was only a gleam of it, a central glow. About this his
thoughts circled like May flies round a lamp, irresistibly attracted and
seemingly as purposeless.
"Hello, Panchita! Ain't you the wonder. Your best beau's proud of
you"--that was the glow. He saw the words traced at the end of the
column, saw a hand tearing the piece out, saw into the mind that directed
the hand, knew its conviction of the paper's value.
It was some time before he could get away from it; divert his mental
energies to this night, the hour and its necessities, and the next day,
the formidable day, now so close at hand.
From a clock tower nearby two strokes chimed out, dropping separate and
rounded on the silence. They dropped on him like tangible things, calling
him to action. He sat up, his brain-clouds dispersed, and thought. Any
information of the lost bandit would gain clemency for Mayer, and Mayer
had a clew. Knapp would remember the paper taken from his partner's coat
and buried with the money. That would lead them to Pancha. Years before
in Siskiyou he had witnessed the cross-examination of a girl, daughter of
an absconding murderer, and the scene in the crowded courtroom of the
wild mountain town rose in his memory, with Pancha as the central figure.
They would badger and break her down as they had the murderer's daughter.
She would know everything. There would be no secrets from her any more.
In an uprush of despair his life unrolled before him, all, it now seemed,
progressing to this climax. Step by step he had advanced on it, builded
up to it as if it were the goal of his desire. Wanting to keep her in
ignorance he had created a situation that had worked out worse for her
than for him. He could fly, leave her to face it alone, enlightenment
come with shame and ignominy. It wasn't fair, it wasn't human. If it had
only been himself that he had ruined he wouldn't have cared, he would
have been glad to end the whole thing. But under the broken law of his
conduct he had held to the greater law of his love. It was that he would
sacrifice; be untrue to what had sustained him as his one ideal. He could