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Blindfolded by Earle Ashley Walcott

Part 5 out of 6

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beckoning to us."

We hastened forward eagerly.

"What is it?" I asked.

"There's no one here," said Abrams, with a puzzled look.

"Well, this car didn't come alone," I returned. "Have you asked the


"And the fireman?"


"And they say--"

"That it's against the rules to talk."

"Nonsense; I'll see them myself." And I went forward to the engine.

The engineer was as close-mouthed as though words were going at a
dollar apiece and the market bounding upward. He declined dinner, could
not be induced to come and take a drink, and all that could be got out
of him was that he was going back to Niles, where he would stop until
he got orders from the superintendent.

When I tried to question the fireman, the engineer recovered his
tongue, and had so many orders to be attended to that my words were
lost in a rattle of coal and clang of iron.

And the engine, having drunk its fill, changed its labored breathing to
a hissing and swishing of steam that sent the hot vapor far on both
sides, and then gathering speed, puffed its swift way back the road by
which it had come, leaving the car deserted on a siding.

"Here's a go!" cried Fitzhugh. "A regular puzzler!"

"Guess it's none of the gang, after all," said Lockhart.

Abrams shook his head.

"Don't you fool yourself," he said. "They've landed below here, and
maybe they're in town while we've got our mouths open, fly-catching
around an empty car."

"Good boy, Abrams," I said. "My opinion exactly."

"And what's to be done, then?" he asked anxiously.

"For the first thing, to visit the telegraph office at once."

The operator was just locking his little room in the station as we came

"No, sir, no telegrams," he said; "none for anybody."

"This is a new way of running trains," I said with a show of
indifference, nodding toward the empty car.

"Oh, there was a party came up," said the agent; "a dozen fellows or
more. Bill said they took a fancy to get off a mile or more down here,
and as they were an ugly-looking crew he didn't say anything to stop

"I don't see what they can be doing up in this part of the country," I
returned innocently.

"I guess they know their business--anyway, it's none of mine," said the
agent. "Do you go in here, sir? Well, it will save you from a wetting."

We had been walking toward the hotel, and the chatty agent left us
under its veranda just as the light drops began to patter down in the
dust of the road, and to dim the outlines of the distant hills.

"I reckon that's the gang," said Fitzhugh.

"I told you so," said Abrams. "I knew it was one of Tom Terrill's
sneaky tricks."

"Shall we take a look for 'em?" asked Lockhart.

"There's no need," I replied.

The home guard of our party received the news calmly.

Wainwright had established a _modus vivendi_ with his young
charge, and I saw that he managed to get a word out of him now and
then. I had to abandon the theory that the boy was dumb, but I
suspected that it was fear rather than discretion that bridled his

"Do you think the gang have got into town?" asked one.

"They'll have wet jackets if they are on the road," I returned, looking
at the rain outside.

"Hadn't we better find out?" inquired Wainwright.

"Are you in a hurry?" I asked in turn. "The landlord has promised to
send up a good dinner in a few minutes."

"But you see--"

"Yes, I see," I interrupted. "I see this--that they are here, that
there are a dozen or more of them, and that they are ready for any
deviltry. What more can we find out by roaming over the country?"

Wainwright nodded his agreement with me.

"And then," I continued, "they won't try to do anything until after
dark--not before the middle of the night, I should say--or until the
townspeople have gone to bed."

"You're right, sir," said Abrams. "A dark night and a dear field suits
that gang best."

"Well, here's the dinner," said I; "so you can make yourselves easy.
Porter, you may keep an eye on the stairway, and Brown may watch from
the windows. The rest of us will fall to."

In the midst of the meal Porter came in.

"Darby Meeker's in the office below," he announced.

"Very good," I said. "Just take Fitzhugh and Wilson with you, and ask
Mr. Meeker to join us."

The men looked blank. Porter was the first to speak.

"You don't mean--"

"I mean to bring him up here," I said blandly, rising from the table.
"I suppose, though, it's my place as host to do the honors."

"No--no," came in chorus from the men.

"Come on, Porter--Fitzhugh--Wilson," I said; and then added sharply,
"sit down, the rest of you! We don't need a regiment to ask a man to

The others sank back into their seats, and the three I had named
followed me meekly down the hall and stairs.

I had never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Meeker face to face, but I
doubted not that I should be able to pick him out. I was right. I knew
him the moment I saw him. He was tall and broad of shoulder, long of
arm, shifty of eye, and his square jaw was covered with a stubby red
beard. His color heightened as we walked into the office and cut off
the two doors of retreat.

"An unexpected pleasure," I said, giving him good day.

His hand slipped to the side pocket of his sack coat, and then back
again, and he made a remark in an undertone that I fear was not
intended for a pleasant greeting.

"There's a little dinner of a few friends going on up stairs," I said
politely. "Won't you join us?"

Meeker scowled a moment with evident surprise.

"No, I won't," he growled.

"But it is a sad case for a man to dine alone," I said smoothly. "You
will be very welcome."

"No, sir," said he, looking furtively at my men drawing near, between
him and the doors.

"But I insist," I said politely. Then I added in a lower tone meant for
him alone: "Resist, you hound, and I'll have you carried up by your
four legs."

His face was working with fear and passion. He looked at the blocked
way with the eye of a baited animal.

"I'll be damned first!" he cried. And seizing a chair he whirled
around, dashed it through a window, and leaped through the jagged panes
before I could spring forward to stop him.

"Round in front, men!" I cried, motioning my followers to sally through
the door. "Bring him back!" And an instant later I leaped through the
window after the flying enemy.

There was a fall of six feet, and as I landed on a pile of broken
glass, a bit shaken, with the rain beating on my head, it was a few
seconds before I recovered my wits. When I looked, no one was in sight.
I heard the men running on the porch of the hotel, so the enemy was not
to be sought that way. I set off full speed for the other corner, fifty
yards away, half suspecting an ambush. But at the turn I stopped. The
rain-soaked street was empty for a block before me. Far down the next
block a plodding figure under an umbrella bent to the gusts of the wind
and tried to ward off the driving spray of the storm. But Darby Meeker
had disappeared as though the earth had swallowed him up.

"Where is he?" cried Porter, the first of my men to reach my side.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I haven't seen him."

"He didn't come our way--that I'll swear," panted Fitzhugh.

"He was out of sight before I got my feet," said I. "They must have a
hiding-place close by."

"He must have jumped the fence here," said Wilson, pointing to a
cottage just beyond the hotel's back yard. "I'll see about it." And he
vaulted the pickets and looked about the place.

He was back in a minute with a shake of the head.

"Well, it's no great matter," I said. "We can get along without another
guest for the afternoon. Now get under cover, boys, or you'll be soaked

The landlord met us with an air half-anxious, half-angry.

"I'd like to know who's to pay for this!" he cried. "There's a sash and
four panes of glass gone to smithereens."

"The gentleman who just went out will be glad to pay for it, if you'll
call it to his attention," I said blandly.

"I'll have the law on him!" shouted the landlord, getting red in the
face. "And if he's a friend of yours you'd better settle for him, or it
will be the worse for him."

"I'm afraid he isn't a friend of mine," I said dubiously. "He didn't
appear to take that view of it."

"That's so," admitted the landlord. "But I don't know his name, and
somebody's got to settle for that glass."

I obliged the landlord with Mr. Meeker's name, and with the bestowal of
this poor satisfaction returned to the interrupted meal.

"Well, I reckon he wouldn't have been very pleasant company if you'd
got him," said one of the men consolingly, when we had told our tale of
the search for a guest.

"I suspect he would be less disagreeable in here than out with his
gang," I returned dryly, and turned the subject. I did not care to
discuss my plan to get a hostage now that it had failed.

The gray day plashed slowly toward nightfall. The rain fell by fits and
starts, now with a sudden dash, now gently as though it were only of
half a mind to fall at all. But the wind blew strong, and the clouds
that drove up from the far south were dark enough to have borne threats
of a coming deluge.

As the time wore on I suspected that my men grew uneasy, wondering what
we were there for, and why I did not make some move. Then I reflected
that this could not be. It was I who was wondering. The men were
accustomed to let me do their thinking for them, and could be troubled
no more here than in San Francisco. But what was I expected to do?
Where could my orders be? Had they gone astray? Had the plans of the
Unknown come to disaster through the difficulty of getting the
telegraph on Sunday? The office here was closed. The Unknown, being a
woman, I ungallantly reflected, would have neglected to take so small a
circumstance into consideration, and she might even now be besieging
the telegraph office in San Francisco in a vain effort to get word to

On this thought I bestirred myself, and after much trouble had speech
with the young man who combined in his person the offices of telegraph
operator, station master, ticket seller, freight agent and baggage
handler for the place. He objected to opening the office "out of office

"There might be inducements discovered that would make it worth your
while, I suppose?" I said, jingling some silver carelessly in my

He smiled.

"Well, I don't care if I do," he replied. "Whatever you think is fair,
of course."

It was more than I thought fair, but the agent thawed into friendship
at once, and expressed his readiness to "call San Francisco" till he
got an answer if it took till dark.

I might have saved my trouble and my coin. San Francisco replied with
some emphasis that there was nothing for me, and never had been, and
who was I, anyhow?

There was nothing to be done. I must possess my soul in patience in the
belief that the Unknown knew what she was about and that I should get
my orders in due time--probably after nightfall, when darkness would
cover any necessary movement.

But if I could shift the worry and responsibility of the present
situation on the Unknown, there was another trouble that loomed larger
and more perplexing before my mind with each passing hour. If the
mission of to-day were prolonged into the morrow, what was to become of
the Omega deal, and where would Doddridge Knapp's plans of fortune be
found? I smiled to think that I should concern myself with this
question when I knew that Doddridge Knapp's men were waiting and
watching for my first movement with orders that probably did not stop
at murder itself. Yet my trouble of mind increased with the passing
time as I vainly endeavored to devise some plan to meet the difficulty
that had been made for me.

But as I saw no way to straighten out this tangle, I turned my
attention to the boy in the hope of getting from him some information
that might throw light on the situation.

"He's as shy as a young quail," said Wainwright, when my advances were
received in stubborn silence.

"You seem to be getting along pretty well with him," I suggested.

"Yes, sir; he'll talk a bit with me, but he's as close-mouthed a chap
as you'll find in the state, sir, unless it's one of them deef and

I made another unsuccessful attempt to cultivate the acquaintance of my

"You've got a day's job before you if you get him to open his head,"
said Wainwright, amused at the failure of my efforts as an infant-

"What has he been talking about?" I inquired, somewhat disgusted.

"The train," chuckled Wainwright. "Blamed if I think he's seen anything
else since he started." "The train?"

"Yes; the one we come on. He's been talking about it, and wondering
what I'd do with it and without it till I reckon we've covered pretty
near everything that could happen to a fellow with a train or without

"Is that the only subject of interest?"

"Well, he did go so far as to say that the milk was different here, and
that he wanted a kind of cake we didn't get at dinner."

I attacked the young man on his weak point, and got some brief answers
in reply to my remarks on the attractiveness of locomotives and the
virtues of cars. But as any venture away from the important subject was
met with the silence of the clam, I had at last to give up with a wild
desire to shake the young man until some more satisfactory idea should
come uppermost.

As darkness came on, the apprehensions of danger which had made no
impression on me by daylight, began to settle strongly on my spirits.
The wind that dashed the rain-drops in gusts on the panes seemed to
whistle a warning, and the splash of the water outside was as the
muttering of a tale of melancholy in an unknown tongue.

I concealed my fears and depressions from the men, and with the
lighting of the lamps made my dispositions to meet any attack that
might come. I had satisfied myself that the rear bedroom, that faced
the south, could not be entered from the outside without the aid of
ladders. The parlor showed a sheer drop to the street on the west, and
I felt assured we were safe on that side. But the front windows of the
parlor, and the front bedroom which joined it, opened on the veranda
roof in common with a dozen other rooms. Inside, the hallway, perhaps
eight feet wide and twenty-five feet long, offered the only approach to
our rooms from the stairs. The situation was not good for defense, and
at the thought I had a mind even then to seek other quarters.

It was too late for such a move, however, and I decided to make the
best of the position. I placed the boy in the south bedroom, which
could be reached only through the parlor. With him I placed Wainwright
and Fitzhugh, the two strongest men of the party. The north bedroom,
opening on the hallway, the veranda roof and the parlor, looked to be
the weakest part of my position, but I thought it might be used to
advantage as a post of observation. The windows were guarded with
shutters of no great strength. We closed and secured those of the
parlor and the inner bedroom as well as possible. Those of the north
bedroom I left open. By leaving the room dark it would be easy for a
sentinel to get warning of an assault by way of the veranda roof. I
stationed Porter in the hall, and Abrams in the dark bedroom, while
Lockhart, Wilson, Brown and I held the parlor and made ourselves
comfortable until the time should come to relieve the men on guard.

One by one the lights that could be seen here and there through the
town disappeared, the sounds from the streets and the other parts of
the house came more infrequently and at last were smothered in silence,
and only darkness and the storm remained.

I thrust open the door to the bedroom to see that the boy and his
guards were safe, and this done I turned down the light, threw myself
on the floor before the door that protected my charge, and mused over
the strange events that had crowded so swiftly upon me.

Subtle warnings of danger floated over my senses between sleeping and
waking, and each time I dropped into a doze I awoke with a start, to
see only the dimly-lighted forms of my men before me, and to hear only
the sweep and whistle of the wind outside and the dash of water against
the shutters. Thrice I had been aroused thus, when, on the borderland
between dreams and waking, a voice reached my ear.

"S-s-t! What was that?"

I sprang up, wide-awake, revolver in hand. It was Lockhart who spoke.
We all strained our ears to listen. There was nothing to be heard but
the moan of the wind and the dash of water.

"What was it?" I whispered.

"I don't know."

"I heard nothing."

"It was a coo-hoo--like the call of an owl, but--"

"But you thought it was a man?" Lockhart nodded. Brown and Wilson had
not heard it.

"Was it inside or outside?"

"It was out here, I thought," said Lockhart doubtfully, pointing to the
street that ran by the side of the hotel.

I opened the door to the dark bedroom in which Abrams kept watch. It
swung noiselessly to my cautious touch. For a moment I could see
nothing of my henchman, but the window was open. Then, in the
obscurity, I thought I discovered his body lying half-way across the
window-sill. I waited for him to finish his observations on the
weather, but as he made no move I was struck with the fear that he had
met foul play and touched him lightly.

In a flash he had turned on me, and I felt the muzzle of a revolver
pressing against my side.

"If you wouldn't mind turning that gun the other way, it would suit me
just as well," I said.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" said Abrams with a gulp. "I thought Darby Meeker
and his gang was at my back, sure."

"Did you hear anything?" I asked.

"Yes; there was a call out here a bit ago. And there's half a dozen men
or more out there now--right at the corner."

"Are you sure?" "Yes; I was a-listening to 'em when you give me such a

"What were they saying?"

"I couldn't hear a word."

"Give warning at the first move to get into the house. Blaze away with
your gun if anybody tries to climb on to the porch."

Porter had heard nothing, but was wide awake, watching by the light of
the lamp that hung at the head of the stairway. And after a caution to
vigilance I returned to my chair.

For half an hour I listened closely. The men were open-eyed but silent.
The storm kept up its mournful murmur, but no sound that I could
attribute to man came to my straining ears.

Suddenly there was a cry from the hall.

"Who's there?" It was Porter's voice.

An instant later there was a crash of glass, an explosion seemed to
shake the house, and there was a rush of many feet.

I leaped to the door and flung it open, Lockhart, Wilson and Brown
crowding close behind me. A body of men filled the hallway, and Porter
was struggling in the hands of three ruffians. His revolver, whose shot
we had heard, had been knocked from his hand and lay on the floor.

The sudden appearance of four more weapons in the open doorway startled
the enemy into pausing for a moment. I sprang forward and gave the
nearest of Porter's assailants a blow that sent him staggering into the
midst of his band, and with a wrench Porter tore himself loose from the
other two and was with us again.

"What does this mean?" I cried angrily to the invaders. "What are you
here for?"

There were perhaps a dozen of them altogether, and in the midst of the
band I saw the evil face and snake-eyes of Tom Terrill. At the sight of
his repulsive features I could scarce refrain from sending a bullet in
his direction.

Darby Meeker growled an answer.

"You know what we're here for."

"You have broken into a respectable house like a band of robbers," I
cried. "What do you want?"

"You know what we want, Mr. Wilton," was the surly answer. "Give us the
boy and we won't touch you."

"And if not?"

There was silence for a few moments.

"What are you waiting for?" growled a voice from beyond the turn of the

At the sound I thrilled to the inmost fiber. Was it not the growl of
the Wolf? Could I be mistaken in those tones? I listened eagerly for
another word that might put it beyond doubt.

"Well, are you going to give him up?" asked the hoarse voice of Meeker.

"There has got to be some better reason for it than your demand," I

"Well, we've got reasons enough here. Stand ready, boys."

"Look out!" I said to my men, with a glance behind. As I turned I saw
without noting it that Wainwright and Fitzhugh had come out of the
boy's room to take a hand in the impending trouble. Lockhart and Wilson
slipped in front of me.

"Get back and look after the boy," whispered the former. "We can hold
'em here."

"Move ahead there!" shouted a fierce voice that again thrilled the ear
and heart with the growl of the Wolf. "What are you afraid of?"

"Stand fast, boys," I said to my men. "Wainwright, keep close to the
bedroom." Then I shouted defiance to the enemy. "The first man that
moves forward gets killed! There are eight revolvers here."

Then I saw that Wainwright had come forward, despite my bidding, eager
to take his share of the onslaught. And by some freak of the spirit of
the perverse the boy, who had shown himself so timid during the day,
had now slipped out of his room and climbed upon a chair to see what
the excitement was about, as though danger and death were the last
things in the world with which he had to reckon.

I caught a glimpse of his form out of the tail of my eye as he mounted
the chair in his night-dress. I turned with an exclamation to
Wainwright and was leaping to cover him from a possible bullet, when
there was a roar of rage and the voice of Terrill rang through the

"Tricked again!" he cried with a dreadful oath. "It's the wrong boy!"



The wrong boy!

For a moment I could not understand nor believe; and when the meaning
of the words came to me, I groped in mental darkness, unable to come in
touch with the significant facts by which I was surrounded. The solid
earth had fallen from under me, and I struggled vainly to get footing
in my new position.

But there was no time for speculation. Half in a daze I heard a roar of
curses, orders, a crash of glass as the lamp was extinguished, and over
all came the prolonged growl of a wolf-voice, hoarse and shaken with
anger. There was a vision of a wolf-head rising above the outline of
faces a few yards away, dark, distorted, fierce, with eyes that blazed
threats, and in an instant I found myself in the center of a
struggling, shouting, swearing mass of savage men, fighting with naught
but the instinct of blind rage. Shots were fired, but for the most part
it was a hand-to-hand struggle. The clearest picture that comes to me
out of the confused tangle is that of Wainwright handling his pistol
like a bowie knife, and trying to perform a surgical operation
extensive enough to let a joke into Darby Meeker's skull.

I doubt not that I was as crazy as the rest. The berserker rage was on
me, and I struck right and left. But in my madness there was one idea
strong in my mind. It was to reach the evil face and snake-eyes of Tom
Terrill, and stamp the life out of him. With desperate rage I
shouldered and fought till his white face with its venomous hatred was
next to mine, till the fingers of my left hand gripped his throat, and
my right hand tried to beat out his brains with a six-shooter.

"Damn you!" he gasped, striking fiercely at me. "I've been waiting for

I tightened my grip and spoke no word. He writhed and turned, striving
to free himself. I had knocked his revolver from his hand, and he tried
in vain to reach it. My grip was strong with the strength of madness,
and the white face before me grew whiter except where a smear of blood
closed the left eye and trickled down over the cheek beneath. A trace
of fear stole into the venomous anger of the one eye that was
unobscured, as he strove without success to guard himself from my
blows. But he gave a sudden thrust, and with a sinuous writhe he was
free, while I was carried back by the rush of men with the vague
impression that something was amiss with me. Then a great light flamed
up before me in which the struggling, shouting mob, the close hall and
room, and the universe itself melted away, and I was alone.

The next impression that came to me was that of a voice from an
immeasurable distance.

"He's coming to," it said; and then beside it I heard a strange wailing

"What is it?" I asked, trying to sit up. My voice seemed to come from
miles away, and to belong to some other man.

"That's it, you're all right," said the voice encouragingly, and about
the half of Niagara fell on my face.

I sat up and beheld the room whirling about, the walls, the furniture,
and the people dancing madly together to a strange wailing sound that
carried me back to the dens of Chinatown. Then the mists before my eyes
cleared away, and I found that I was on the floor of the inner bedroom
and Wainwright had emptied a water-jug over me. The light of a small
kerosene lamp gave a gloomy illumination to the place. Lockhart and
Fitzhugh leaned against the door, and Wilson bent with Wainwright over
me. The boy was sitting on the bed, crying shrilly over the melancholy

I tried to stagger to my feet.

"Wait a bit," said Wainwright. "You'll get your head in a minute."

I felt acutely conscious already that I had my head. It seemed a very
large head that had suffered from an internal explosion.

"What is it?" I asked, gathering my scattered wits. "What has

"We've been licked," said Wainwright regretfully. "The rest of the boys
got took, but we got in here. Fitz and me seen the nasty knock you got,
and dragged you back, and when we got you here the parlor was full of
the hounds, and Porter and Abrams and Brown was missing. We found you
was cut, and we've tried to fix you up."

I looked at my bandaged arm, and put one more count in the indictment
against Terrill. He had tried to stab me over the heart at the time he
had wrenched free, but he had merely slashed my arm. It was not a
severe wound, but it gave me pain.

"Only a scratch," said Wainwright.

I envied the philosophic calm with which he regarded it.

"It'll heal," I returned shortly. "Where is the other gang? Are they

"No; there's half a dozen of 'em out in the parlor, I reckon."

"You'd better tell him," said Fitzhugh, shifting an unpleasant task.

"Well," said Wainwright, "we heard orders given to shoot the first man
that comes out before morning, but before all to kill you if you sticks
your nose outside before sun-up."

The amiable intentions of the victors set me to thinking. If it was
important to keep me here till morning, it must be important to me to
get out. There was no duty to keep me here, for I need fear no attack
on the boy who was with us. I looked at my watch, and found it was near
one o'clock.

"Tie those blankets together," I ordered, as soon as I was able to get
my feet.

The men obeyed me in silence, while Wainwright vainly tried to quiet
the child. I was satisfied to have him cry, for the more noise he made
the less our movements would be heard. I had a plan that I thought
might be carried out.

While the others were at work, I cautiously raised the window and
peered through the shutters. The rain was falling briskly, and the wind
still blew a gale. I thought I distinguished the dark figure of a man
on guard within a few feet of the building, and my heart sank.

"How many are in the parlor, Wilson?" I asked.

Wilson applied his eye to the keyhole.

"Can't see anybody but that one-eyed fellow, Broderick, but there might
be more."

A flash of memory came to me, and I felt in my pocket for Mother
Borton's mysterious scrawl. "Give that to a one-eyed man," she had
said. It was a forlorn hope, but worth the trying.

"Hand this to Broderick," I said, "as soon as you can do it without any
one's seeing you."

Wilson did not like the task, but he took the envelope and silently
brought the door ajar. His first investigations were evidently
reassuring, for he soon had half his body outside.

"He's got it," he said on reappearing.

A little later there was a gentle tap at the door, and the head of the
one-eyed man was thrust in.

"It's as much as my life's worth," he whispered. "What do you want me
to do?"

"How many men are in the street below here?"

"There's one; but more are in call."

"Well, I want him got out of the way."

"That's easy," said Broderick, with a diabolical wink of his one eye.
"I'll have him change places with me."

"Good! How many men are here?"

"You don't need to know that. There's enough to bury you."

"Have Meeker and Terrill gone?"

"Tom? He's in the next room here, and can count it a mercy of the
saints if he gits out in a week. Meeker's gone with the old man. Well,
I can't stay a-gabbin' any longer, or I'll be caught, and then the
divil himsilf couldn't save me."

I shuddered at the thought of the "old man," and the shadow of
Doddridge Knapp weighed on my spirits.

"Are you ready for an excursion, Fitzhugh?" I whispered.

He nodded assent.

"Well, we'll be out of here in a minute or two. Take that overcoat.
I've got one. Now tie that blanket to the bedpost. No, it won't be long
enough. You'll have to hold it for us, boys."

I heard the change of guards below, and, giving directions to
Wainwright, with funds to settle our account with the house, I blew out
the lamp, quietly swung open the shutter and leaned over the sill.

"Hold on to the blanket, boys. Follow me, Fitz," I whispered, and
climbed out. The strain on my injured arm as I swung off gave me a
burning pain, but I repressed the groan that came into my throat. I
half-expected a bullet to bring me to the ground in a hurry, for I was
not over-trustful of the good faith of Mother Borton's friend. But I
got to the ground in safety, and was relieved when Fitzhugh stood
beside me, and the improvised rope was drawn up.

"Where now?" whispered Fitzhugh.

"To the stable."

As we slipped along to the corner a man stepped out before us.

"Don't shoot," he said; "it's me,--Broderick. Tell Mother Borton I
wouldn't have done it for anybody but her."

"I'm obliged to you just the same," I said. "And here's a bit of drink
money. Now, where are my men?"

"Don't know. In the lockup, I reckon."

"How is that?"

"Why, you see, Meeker tells the fellows here he has a warrant for you,--
that you're the gang of burglars that's wanted for the Parrott murder.
And he had to show the constable and the landlord and some others the
warrant, too."

"How many were hurt?"

"Six or seven. Two of your fellows looked pretty bad when they was
carried out."

We turned down a by-street, but as soon as the guard had disappeared we
retraced our steps and hastened to the Thatcher stables.

The rain was whipped into our faces as we bent against the wind, and
the whish and roar of the gale among the trees, and the rattle of loose
boards and tins, as they were tossed and shaken behind the houses, gave
a melancholy accompaniment to our hasty march.

"Hist!" said Fitzhugh in my ear. "Is that some one following us?"

I drew him into a corner, and peered back into the darkness.

"I can see no one."

"I thought I heard a man running."

"Wait a minute. If there is any one after us he must lose us right

We listened in silence. Only the plash of water and the voice of the
storm came to our ears.

"Well, if they are looking for us they have gone the other way. Come
along," I said.

We nearly missed the stable in the darkness, and it was several minutes
before we roused Thatcher to a state in which he could put together the
two ideas that we wanted to get in, and that it was his place to get up
and let us in.

"Horses to-night?" he gasped, throwing up his hands. "Holy Moses! I
couldn't think of letting the worst plug of the lot out in this storm."

"Well, I want your best."

"You'll have to do it, Dick," said Fitzhugh with a few words of
explanation. "He'll make it all right for you."

"Where are you going?" said Thatcher.


He threw up his hands once more.

"Great Scott! you can't do it. The horses can't travel fifty miles at
night and in this weather. You'd best wait for the morning train. The
express will be through here before five."

I hesitated a moment, but the chances of being stopped were too great.

"I must go," I said decidedly. "I can't wait here."

"I have it," said Thatcher. "By hard riding you can get to Niles in
time to catch the freight as it goes up from San Jose. It will get you
down in time for the first boat, if that's what you want."

"Good! How far is it?"

"We call it eighteen miles,--it's a little over that by the road.
There's only one nasty bit. That's in the canyon."

"I think we shall need the pleasure of your company," I said.

The stableman was moved by a conflict of feelings. He was much
indisposed to a twenty-mile ride in the storm and darkness; yet he was
plainly unwilling to trust his horses unless he went with them. I
offered him a liberal price for the service.

"It's a bad job, but if you must, you must," he groaned. And he soon
had three horses under the saddle.

I eyed the beasts with some disfavor. They were evidently half-mustang,
and I thought undersized for such a journey. But I was to learn before
the night was out the virtues of strength and endurance that lie in the
blood of the Indian horse.

"Hist! What's that?" said Fitzhugh, extinguishing the light.

The voices of the storm and the uneasy champing of the horses were the
only sounds that rewarded a minute's listening.

"We must chance it," said I, after looking cautiously into the
darkness, and finding no signs of a foe.

And in a moment more we were galloping down the street, the hoof-beats
scarcely sounding in the softened earth of the roadway. Not a word was
spoken after the start as we turned through the side streets to avoid
the approaches to the hotel. I looked and listened intently, expecting
each bunch of deeper darkness in the streets to start into life with
shouts of men and crack of revolvers in an effort to stay our flight.
Thatcher led the way, and Fitzhugh rode by my side.

"Look there!" cried Fitzhugh in my ear. "There's some one running to
the hotel!"

I looked, and thought I could see a form moving through the blackness.
The hotel could just be distinguished two blocks away. It might well be
a scout of the enemy hastening to give the alarm.

"Never mind," I said. "We've got the start."

Thatcher suddenly turned to the west, and in another minute we were on
the open highway, with the steady beat of the horses' hoofs splashing a
wild rhythm on the muddy road.

The wind, which had been behind us, now whipped the rain into our faces
from the left, half blinding us as the gusts sent the spray into our
eyes, then tugged fiercely at coats and hats as if nothing could be so
pleasing to the powers of the air as to send our raiment in a witch's
flight through the clouds.

With the town once behind us, I felt my spirits rise with every stroke
of the horse's hoofs beneath me. The rain and the wind were friends
rather than foes. Yet my arm pained me sharply, and I was forced to
carry the reins in the whip hand.

Here the road was broader, and we rode three abreast, silent, watchful,
each busy with his own thoughts, and all alert for the signs of chase
behind. Thrice my heart beat fast with the sound in my ears of
galloping pursuers. Thrice I laughed to think that the patter of
falling drops on the roadway should deceive my sense of sound. Here the
track narrowed, and Thatcher shot ahead, flinging mud and water from
his horse's heels fair upon us. There it broadened once more, and our
willing beasts pressed forward and galloped beside the stableman's till
the hoofs beat in unison.

"There!" said Thatcher, suddenly pulling his horse up to a walk. "We're
five miles out, and they've got a big piece to make up if they're on
our track. We'll breathe the horses a bit."

The beasts were panting a little, but chafed at the bits as we walked
them, and tossed their heads uneasily to the pelting of the storm.

"Hark!" I cried. "Did you hear that?" I was almost certain that the
sound of a faint halloo came from behind us. I was not alone in the

"The dern fools!" said Fitzhugh. "They want a long chase, I guess, to
go through the country yelling like a pack of wild Injuns."

"I reckon 'twas an owl," said Thatcher; "but we might as well be
moving. We needn't take no chances while we've got a good set of heels
under us. Get up, boys."

The willing brutes shot forward into the darkness at the word, and
tossed the rain-drops from their ears with many an angry nod.

Of the latter part of the journey I have but a confused remembrance. I
had counted myself a good rider in former days, but I had not mounted a
horse for years. I had slept but little in forty-eight hours, and,
worst of all, my arm pained me more and more. With the fatigue and the
jar of the steady gallop, it seemed to swell until it was the body and
I the poor appendage to it. My head ached from the blow it had got, and
in a stupor of dull pain I covered the weary miles. But for the
comfortable Mexican saddle I fear I should have sunk under the fatigue
and distress of the journey and left friends and enemies to find their
way out of the maze as best they might.

I have a dim recollection of splashing over miles of level road,
drenched with water and buffeted by gusts of wind that faced us more
and more, with the monotonous beat of hoofs ever in my ears, and the
monotonous stride of the horse beneath me ever racking my tired
muscles. Then we slackened pace in a road that wound in sharp descent
through a gap in the hills, with the rush and roar of a torrent beneath
and beside us, the wind sweeping with wild blasts through the trees
that lined the way and covered the hillside and seeming to change the
direction of its attack at every moment.

"We'll make it, I reckon," said Thatcher, at last. "It's only two miles
farther, and the train hasn't gone up yet."

The horses by this time were well-blown. The road was heavy, and we had
pressed them hard. Yet they struggled with spirit as they panted, and
answered to the whip when we called on them for the last stretch as we
once more found a level road.

There was no sign of life about the station as we drew our panting,
steaming horses to a halt before it, and no train was in sight. The
rain dripping heavily from the eaves was the only sound that came from
it, and a dull glow from an engine that lay alone on a siding was the
only light that was to be seen.

"What's the time?" asked Thatcher. "We must have made a quick trip."

"Twenty minutes past three," said I, striking a match under my coat to
see my watch-face.

"Immortal snakes!" cried Thatcher. "I'm an idiot. This is Sunday

I failed to see the connection of these startling discoveries, but I
had spirit enough to argue the case. "It's Monday morning, now."

"Well, it's the same thing. The freight doesn't run to-night."

I awoke to some interest at this announcement.

"Why, it's got to run, or we must take to saddle again for the rest of
the way."

"These horses can't go five miles more at that gait, let alone twenty-
five," protested Thatcher.

"Well, then, we must get other horses here."

"Come," said Fitzhugh; "what's the use of that when there's an engine
on the siding doing nothing?"

"Just the idea. Find the man in charge."

But there did not appear to be any man in charge. The engineer and
fireman were gone, and the watchman had been driven to cover by the
foul weather.

We looked the iron horse over enviously.

"Why, this is the engine that came up with the special this noon," said
Fitzhugh. "I remember the number."

"Good! We are ahead of the enemy, then. They haven't had a chance to
get the wire, and we beat them on the road. We must find the engineer
and get it ourselves."

"I've got an idea," said Fitzhugh. "It's this: why not take the machine
without asking? I was a fireman once, and I can run it pretty well."

I thought a moment on the risk, but the need was greater.

"Just the thing. Take the money for the horses to your friend there.
I'll open the switch."

In a few minutes Fitzhugh was back.

"I told him," he chuckled. "He says it's a jail offense, but it's the
only thing we can do."

"It may be a case of life and death," I said. "Pull out."

"There's mighty little steam here--hardly enough to move her," said
Fitzhugh from the cab, stirring the fire.

But as he put his hand to the lever she did move easily on to the main
track, and rested while I reset the switch.

Then I climbed back into the cab, and sank down before the warm blaze
in a stupor of faintness as the engine glided smoothly and swiftly down
the track.



The gray pall of the storm hung over San Francisco. The dim light of
the morning scarcely penetrated into the hallways as we climbed the
stairs that led to our lodgings, leaving behind us the trail of
dripping garments. I heaved a sigh of relief as Trent opened the door,
and we once more faced the pleasing prospect of warmth, dry clothing
and friends.

We had made the run from Niles without incident, and had left the
engine on a siding at Brooklyn without being observed. If the railroad
company still has curiosity, after all these years, to know how that
engine got from Niles to Brooklyn, I trust that the words I have just
written may be taken as an explanation and apology.

"Where's Barkhouse?" I asked, becoming comfortable once more with dry
clothes, a warm room and a fresh bandage on my arm.

"He hasn't shown up, sir," said Trent. "Owens and Larson went out to
look for him toward evening yesterday, but there wasn't a sign of him."

"Try again to-day. You may pick up news at Borton's or some of the
water-front saloons."

"Oh, there was a letter for you," said Trent. "I near forgot."

I snatched the envelope, for the address was in the hand of the
Unknown. The sheet within bore the words:

"Where is the boy? Have you removed him? Send the key to Richmond. Let
me know when you return, for I must see you as soon as it is safe."

I read the note three or four times, and each time I was more
bewildered than before. I had left the boy in Livermore, but certainly
he was not the one she meant. He was the "wrong boy," and my employer
must be well aware that I had taken him at her orders. Or could that
expedition be a jest of the enemy to divert my attention? I dismissed
this theory as soon as it suggested itself.

But where was the "right boy"? I had for a moment a sinking feeling of
terror in the thought that the enemy had captured him. Mother Borton's
warning that they had found his place of hiding returned to confirm
this thought. But in an instant I remembered that the enemy had
followed me in force to Livermore in chase of the wrong boy, and had
attacked me in pure chagrin at the trick that had been played on them.
That showed me beyond question that they had not obtained possession of
the right boy. And the "key" that I was to send to Richmond, what was

The closing portion of the note set my heart beating fast. At last I
was to have the opportunity to meet my mysterious employer face to
face. But what explanation was I to make? What reception would I meet
when she learned that Henry Wilton had given up his life in her
service, and that I, who had taken his place, could tell nothing of the
things she wished to know?

I wrote a brief note to Richmond stating that I had no key, inclosed
the Unknown's note, with the remark that I had returned, and gave it to
Owens to deliver. I was in some anxiety lest he might not know where
Richmond was to be found. But he took the note without question, and I
lay down with orders that I was to be called in time to reach the
opening session of the stock market, and in a moment was fast asleep.

The Stock Exchange was a boiling and bubbling mass of excited men as I
reached it. Pine Street, wet and sloppy, was lined with a mob of
umbrellas that sheltered anxious speculators of small degree, and the
great building was thronged with the larger dealers--with millionaires
and brokers, with men who were on their way to fortune, and those who
had been millionaires and now were desperately struggling against the
odds of fate as they saw their wealth swept away in the gamblers'

I shouldered my way through the crowd into the buzzing Board-room as
the session opened. Excitement thrilled the air, but the opening was
listless. All knew that the struggle over Omega was to be settled that
day, and that Doddridge Knapp or George Decker was to find ruin at the
end of the call, and all were eager to hasten the decisive moment.

Wallbridge came panting before me, his round, bald head bobbing with

"Ready for the fray, eh? Oh, it's worth money to see this. Talk of your
theaters now, eh? Got any orders?"

"Not yet," I returned, hardly sharing the little man's enjoyment of the
scene. The size of the stakes made me tremble.

I could see nothing of Doddridge Knapp, and the uneasy feeling that he
was at Livermore came over me. What was my duty in case he did not
appear? Had he left his fortune at the mercy of the market to follow
his lawless schemes? Had he been caught in his own trap, and was he now
to be ruined as the result of his own acts? For a moment I felt a
vengeful hope that he might have come to grief. But when I remembered
that it was Luella who must suffer with him, I determined to make an
effort to save the deal, even without authority, if the money or credit
for buying the remaining shares was to be had.

I might have spared my worry. The call had not proceeded far, when the
massive form of Doddridge Knapp appeared at the railing. The strong
wolf-marks of the face were stronger than ever as he watched the scene
on the floor. I looked in vain for a trace upon him of last night's
work. If he had been at Livermore, he showed no sign of the passions or
anxieties that had filled the dark hours.

He nodded carelessly for me to come to him as he caught my eye.

"You have the stock?"

"All safe."

"And the proxies?"

"Just as you ordered."

The King of the Street looked at me sharply.

"I told you to keep sober till this deal was over," he growled.

"You are obeyed," I said. "I have not touched a drop."

"Well, you look as though you had taken a romp with the devil," he

"I have," I returned with a meaning look.

His eyes fell before my steady gaze, and he turned them on the noisy
throng before us.

"Any orders?" I asked at last.

"Be where I can call you the minute I want you," he replied.

"Now, my boy," he continued after a minute, "you are going to see what
hasn't been seen in the Boards for years, and I reckon you'll never see
it again."

"What is it?" I asked politely. I was prepared for almost
any kind of fire-works in that arena.

Doddridge Knapp made no reply, but raised his hand as if to command
silence, and a moment later the call of Omega was heard. And, for a
marvel, a strange stillness did fall on the throng.

At the word of call I saw Doddridge Knapp step down to the floor of the
pit, calm, self-possessed, his shoulders squared and his look as proud
and forceful as that of a monarch who ruled by the might of his sword,
while a grim smile played about his stern mouth.

The silence of the moment that followed was almost painful. In that
place it seemed the most unnatural of prodigies. Brokers, speculators
and spectators were as surprised as I, and a long-drawn "Ah-h!"
followed by a buzzing as of a great swarm of bees greeted his
appearance. The stillness and the buzzing seemed to take an hour, but
it could not have been as much as a minute when the voice of Doddridge
Knapp rang like a trumpet through the Boardroom.

"Five hundred for Omega!"

This was a wild jump from the three hundred and twenty-five that was
marked against the stock at the close on Saturday, but I supposed the
King of the Street knew what he was about.

At the bid of Doddridge Knapp a few cries rose here and there, and he
was at once the center of a group of gesticulating brokers. Then I saw
Decker, pale, eager, alert, standing by the rail across the room,
signaling orders to men who howled bids and plunged wildly into the
crowd that surrounded his rival.

The bids and offers came back and forth with shouts and barks, yet they
made but a murmur compared to the whirlwind of sound that had arisen
from the pit at the former struggles I had witnessed. There seemed but
few blocks of the stock on the market. Yet the air was electric with
the tense strain of thousands of minds eager to catch the faintest
indication of the final result, and I found it more exciting than the
wildest days of clamor and struggle.

"This is great," chuckled Wallbridge, taking post before me. "There
hasn't been anything like it since Decker captured Chollar in the
election of seventy-three. You don't remember that, I guess?"

"I wasn't in the market then," I admitted.

"Lord! Just to hear that!" cried the stout little man, mopping his
glistening head frantically and quivering with nervous excitement.
"Doddridge Knapp bids fifteen hundred for the stock and only gets five
shares. Oh, why ain't I a chance to get into this?"

I heard a confused roar, above which rose the fierce tones of Doddridge

"How many shares has he got to-day?" I asked.

"Not forty yet."

"And the others?"

"There's been about two thousand sold."

I gripped the rail in nervous tension. The battle seemed to be going
against the King of the Street.

"Oh!" gasped Wallbridge, trembling with excitement. "Did you hear that?
There! It's seventeen hundred--now it's seventeen-fifty! Whew!"

I echoed the exclamation.

"Oh, why haven't I got ten thousand shares?" he groaned.

"Who is getting them?"

"Knapp got the last lot. O-oh, look there! Did you ever see the like of

I looked. Decker, hatless, with hair disheveled, had leaped the rail
and was hurrying into the throng that surrounded Doddridge Knapp.

"There was never two of 'em on the floor before," cried Wallbridge.

At Decker's appearance the brokers opened a lane to him, the cries
fell, and there was an instant of silence, as the kings of the market
thus came face to face.

I shall never forget the sight. Doddridge Knapp, massive, calm,
forceful, surveyed his opponent with unruffled composure. He was
dressed in a light gray-brown suit that made him seem larger than ever.
Decker was nervous, disheveled, his dress of black setting off the
pallor of his face, till it seemed as white as his shirt bosom, as he
fronted the King of the Street.

The foes faced each other, watchful as two wrestlers looking to seize
an opening, and the Board-room held its breath. Then the crowd of
brokers closed in again and the clamor rose once more.

I could not make out the progress of the contest, but the trained ear
of Wallbridge interpreted the explosions of inarticulate sound.

"Phew! listen to that! Two thousand, twentyone hundred, twenty-one
fifty. Great snakes! See her jump!" he cried. "Decker's getting it."

My heart sank. Doddridge Knapp must have smothered his brain once more
in the Black Smoke, and was now paying the price of indulgence. And his
plans of wealth were a sacrifice to the wild and criminal scheme into
which he had entered in his contest against the Unknown. I saw the
wreck of fortune engulf Mrs. Knapp and Luella, and groaned in spirit.
Then a flash of hope shot through me. Luella Knapp, the heiress to
millions, was beyond my dreams, but Luella Knapp, the daughter of a
ruined speculator, would not be too high a prize for a poor man to set
his eyes upon.

The clang of the gong recalled me from the reverie that had shut out
the details of the scene before me.

"There! Did you hear that?" groaned Wall-bridge. "Omega closes at two
thousand six hundred and Decker takes every trick. Oh, why didn't you
have me on the floor out there? By the great horn spoon, I'd 'a' had
every share of that stock, and wouldn't 'a' paid more than half as much
for it, neither."

I sighed and turned, sick at heart, to meet the King of the Street as
he shouldered his way from the floor.

There was not a trace of his misfortune to be read in his face. But
Decker, the victor, moved away like a man oppressed, pale, staggering,
half-fainting, as though the nervous strain had brought him to the edge
of collapse.

Doddridge Knapp made his way to the doors and signed me to follow him,
but spoke no word until we stood beside the columns that guard the

The rain fell in a drizzle, but anxious crowds lined the streets,
dodged into doorways for shelter, or boldly moved across the walks and
the cobbled roadway under the protection of bobbing umbrellas. The news
of the unprecedented jump in Omega in which the price had doubled
thrice in a few minutes, had flown from mouth to mouth, and excitement
was at fever heat.

"That was warm work," said Doddridge Knapp after a moment's halt.

"I was very sorry to have it turn out so," I said.

A grim smile passed over his face.

"I wasn't," he growled good-humoredly. "I thought it was rather neatly

I looked at him in surprise.

"Oh, I forgot that I hadn't seen you," he continued. "And like enough I
shouldn't have told you if I had. The truth is, I found a block of four
thousand shares on Saturday night, and made a combination with them."

"Then the mine is yours?"

"The directors will be."

"But you were buying shares this morning."

"A mere optical illusion, Wilton. I was in fact a seller, for I had
shares to spare."

"It was a very good imitation."

"I don't wonder you were taken in, my boy. Decker was fooled to the
tune of about a million dollars this morning. I thought it was rather
neat for a clean-up."

I thought so, too, and the King of the Street smiled at my exclamations
over his cleverness. But my congratulations were cut short as a small
dark man pressed his way to the corner where we stood, and whispered in
Doddridge Knapp's ear.

"Was he sure?" asked the King of the Street.

"Those were his exact words."

"When was this?"

"Not five minutes ago."

"Run to Caswell's. Tell him to wait for me."

The messenger darted off and we followed briskly. Caswell, I found, was
an attorney, and we were led at once to the inner office.

"Come in with me," said my employer. "I expect I shall need you, and it
will save explanations."

The lawyer was a tall, thin man, with chalky, expressionless features,
but his eyes gave life to his face with their keen, almost brilliant,

"Decker's playing the joker," said the King of the Street. "I've beaten
him in the market, but he's going to make a last play with the
directors. There's a meeting called for twelve-thirty. They are going
to give him a two years' contract for milling, and they talk of
declaring twenty thousand shares of my stock invalid."

"How many directors have you got?"

"Two--Barber and myself. Decker thinks he has Barber."

"Then you want an injunction?"


The lawyer looked at his watch.

"The meeting is at twelve-thirty. H'm. You'll have to hold them for
half an hour--maybe an hour."

"Make it half an hour," growled Doddridge Knapp. "Just remember that
time is worth a thousand dollars a second till that injunction is

He went out without another word, and there was a commotion of clerks
as we left.

"How's your nerve, Wilton?" inquired the King of the Street calmly.
"Are you ready for some hot work?"

"Quite ready."

"Have you a revolver about you?"


"Very good. I don't want you to kill any one, but it may come in
handy as an evidence of your good intentions."

He led the way to California Street below Sansome, where we climbed a
flight of stairs and went down a hall to a glass door that bore the
gilt and painted letters, "Omega Mining Co., J. D. Storey, Pres't."

"There's five minutes to spare," said my employer. "He may be alone."

A stout, florid man, with red side-whiskers and a general air of good
living, sat by an over-shadowing desk in the handsome office, and
looked sourly at us as we entered. He was not alone, for a young man
could be seen in a side room that was lettered "Secretary's Office."

"Ah, Mr. Knapp," he said, bowing deferentially to the millionaire, and
rubbing his fat red hands. "Can I do anything for you to-day?"

"I reckon so, Storey. Let me introduce you to Mr. Wilton, one of our
coming directors."

I had an inward start at this information, and Mr. Storey regarded me
unfavorably. We professed ourselves charmed to see each other.

"I suppose it was an oversight that you didn't send me a notice of the
directors' meeting," said Doddridge Knapp.

Mr. Storey turned very red, and the King of the Street said in an
undertone: "Just lock that door, Wilton."

"It must have been sent by mail," stammered Storey. "Hi, there! young
man, what are you doing?" he exclaimed, jumping to his feet as I turned
the key in the lock. "Open that door again!"

"No you don't, Storey," came the fierce growl from the throat of the
Wolf. "Your game is up."

"The devil it is!" cried Storey, making a dash past Doddridge Knapp and
coming with a rush straight for me.

"Stop him!" roared my employer.

I sprang forward and grappled Mr. Storey, but I found him rather a
large contract, for I had to favor my left arm. Then he suddenly turned
limp and rolled to the floor, his head thumping noisily on a corner of
the desk.

Doddridge Knapp coolly laid a hard rubber ruler down on the desk, and I
recognized the source of Mr. Storey's discomfiture.

"I reckon he's safe for a bit," he growled. "Hullo, what's this?"

I noted a very pale young man in the doorway of the secretary's office,
apparently doubtful whether he should attempt to raise an alarm or

"You go back in your room and mind your own business, Dodson," said the
King of the Street. "Go!" he growled fiercely, as the young man still
hesitated. "You know I can make or break you."

The young man disappeared, and I closed and locked the door on him.

"There they come," said I, as steps sounded in the hall.

"Stand by the door and keep them out," whispered my employer. "I'll see
that Storey doesn't get up. Keep still now. Every minute we gain is
worth ten thousand dollars."

I took station by the door as the knob was tried. More steps were
heard, and the knob was tried again. Then the door was shaken and
picturesque comments were made on the dilatory president.

Doddridge Knapp looked grim, but serene, as he sat on the desk with his
foot on the prostrate Storey. I breathed softly, and listened to the
rising complaints from without.

There were thumps and kicks on the door, and at last a voice roared:

"What are you waiting for? Break it in."

A crash followed, and the ground-glass upper section of the door fell
in fragments.

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," I said, as a man put his hand through
the opening. "This revolver is loaded, and the first man to come
through there will get a little cold lead in him."

There was a pause and then a storm of oaths.

"Get in there!" cried Decker's voice from the rear. "What are you
afraid of?"

"He's got a gun."

"Well, get in, three or four of you at once. He can't shoot you all."

This spirited advice did not seem to find favor with the front-rank
men, and the enemy retired for consultation. At last a messenger came

"What do you want?" he asked.

"I want you to keep out."

"Who is he?" asked Decker's voice.

"There's another one there," cried another voice. "Why, it's Doddridge

Decker made use of some language not intended for publication, and
there was whispering for a few minutes, followed by silence.

I looked at Doddridge Knapp, sitting grim and unmoved, counting the
minutes till the injunction should come. Suddenly a man bounded through
the broken upper section of the door, tossed by his companions, and I
found myself in a grapple before I could raise my revolver.

We went down on the floor together, and I had a confused notion that
the door swung open and four or five others rushed into the room.

I squirmed free from my opponent, and sprang to my feet in time to see
the whole pack around Doddridge Knapp.

The King of the Street sat calm and forceful with a revolver in his
hand, and all had halted, fearing to go farther.

"Don't come too close, gentlemen," growled the Wolf.

Then I saw one of the men raise a six-shooter to aim at the defiant
figure that faced them. I gave a spring and with one blow laid the man
on the floor. There was a flash of fire as he fell, and a deafening
noise was in my ears. Men all about me were striking at me. I scarcely
felt their blows as I warded them off and returned them, for I was
half-mad with the desperate sense of conflict against odds. But at last
I felt myself seized in an iron grip, and in a moment was seated beside
Doddridge Knapp on the desk.

"The time is up," he said. "There's the sheriff and Caswell with the

"I congratulate you," I answered, my head still swimming, noting that
the enemy had drawn back at the coming of reinforcements.

"Good heavens, man, you're hurt!" he cried, pointing to my left sleeve
where a blood stain was spreading. The wound I had received in the
night conflict at Livermore had reopened in the struggle.

"It's nothing," said I. "Just a scratch."

"Here! get a doctor!" cried the King of the Street. "Gentlemen, the
directors' meeting is postponed, by order of court."



"You are a very imprudent person," said Luella, smiling, yet with a
most charming trace of anxiety under the smile.

"What have I been doing now?" I asked.

"That is what you are to tell me. Papa told us a little about your
saving his life and his plans this morning, but he was so very short
about it. Let me know the whole story from your own mouth. Was this the
arm that was hurt?"

I started to give a brief description of my morning's adventure, but
there was something in my listener's face that called forth detail
after detail, and her eyes kindled as I told the tale of the battle
that won Omega in the stock Board, and the fight that rescued the
fruits of victory in the office of the company.

"There is something fine in it, after all," she said when I was
through. "There is something left of the spirit of the old adventurers
and the knights. Oh, I wish I were a man! No, I don't either. I'd
rather be the daughter of a man--a real man--and I know I am that."

I thought of the Doddridge Knapp that she did not know, and a pang of
pity and sorrow wrenched my heart.

She saw the look, and misinterpreted it.

"You do not think, do you," she said softly, "that I don't appreciate
your part in it? Indeed I do." I took her hand, and she let it lie a
moment before she drew it away.

"I think I am more than repaid," I said.

"Oh, yes," said she, changing her tone to one of complete indifference.
"Papa said he had made you a director."

"Yes," I said, taking my cue from her manner. "I have the happiness to
share the honor with three other dummies. Your father makes the fifth."

"How absurd!" laughed Luella. "Do you want to provoke me?"

"Oh, of course, I mean that your father does the thinking, and--"

"And you punch the head he points out to you, I suppose," said Luella

"Exactly," I said. "And--"

"Don't mind me, Henry," interrupted the voice of Mrs. Knapp.

"But I must," said I, giving her greeting. "What service do you

"Tell me what you have been doing."

"I have just been telling Miss Luella."

"And what, may I ask?"

"I was explaining this morning's troubles."

"Oh, I heard a little of them from Mr. Knapp. Have you had any more of
your adventures at Borton's and other dreadful places?"

I glanced at Luella. She was leaning forward, her chin resting on her
hand, and her eyes were fixed on me with close attention. "I should
like to hear of them, too," she said.

I considered a moment, and then, as I could see no reason for keeping
silent, I gave a somewhat abridged account of my Livermore trip,
omitting reference to the strange vagaries of the Doddridge Knapp who
traveled by night.

I had reason to be flattered by the attention of my audience. Both
women leaned forward with wide-open eyes, and followed every word with
eager interest.

"That was a dreadful danger you escaped," said Mrs. Knapp with a
shudder. "I am thankful, indeed, to see you with us with no greater

Luella said nothing, but the look she gave me set my heart dancing in a
way that all Mrs. Knapp's praise could not.

"I do hope this dreadful business will end soon," said Mrs. Knapp. "Do
you think this might be the last of it?"

"No," said I, remembering the note I had received from the Unknown on
my return, "there's much more to be done."

"I hope you are ready for it," said Mrs. Knapp, with a troubled look
upon her face.

"As ready as I ever shall be, I suppose," I replied. "If the guardian
angel who has pulled me through this far will hold on to his job, I'll
do my part."

Mrs. Knapp raised a melancholy smile, but it disappeared at once, and
she seemed to muse in silence, with no very pleasant thought on her
mind. Twice or thrice I thought she wished to speak to me, but if so
she changed her mind.

I ventured a few observations that were intended to be jocose, but she
answered in the monosyllables of preoccupation, and I turned to Luella.

She gave back flashes of brightness, but I saw on her face the shadow
of her mother's melancholy, and I rose at an early hour to take my

"I wonder at you," said Luella softly, as we stood alone for a moment.

"You have little cause."

"What you have done is much. You have conquered difficulties."

I looked in her calm eyes, and my soul came to the surface.

"I wish you might be proud of me," I said.

"I--I am proud of such a friend--except--" She hesitated.

"Always an 'except,'" I said half-bitterly.

"But you have promised to tell me--"

"Some day. As soon as I may." Under her magnetic influence, I should
have told her then had she urged me. And not until I was once more
outside the house did I recall how impossible it was that I could ever
tell her.

"What shall I do? What shall I do?" was the refrain that ran through my
brain insistently, as the battle between love and duty rose and
swelled. And I was sorely tempted to tell the Unknown to look elsewhere
for assistance, and to bury the memory of my dead friend and the feud
with Doddridge Knapp in a common grave.

"Here's some one to see you, sir," said Owens, as I reached the walk,
and joined the guards I had left to wait for me. The rain had ceased,
but the wind, which had fallen during the day, was freshening once more
from the south.

"Yes, sor, you're wanted at Mother Borton's in a hurry," said another
voice, and a man stepped forward. "There's the divil to pay!"

I recognized the one-eyed man who had done me the service that enabled
me to escape from Livermore.

"Ah, Broderick, what's the matter?"

"I didn't get no orders, sor, so I don't know, but there was the
divil's own shindy in the height of progression when I left. And Mother
Borton says I was to come hot-foot for you, and tell you to come with
your men if ye valued your sowl."

"Is she in danger?"

"I reckon the thought was heavy on her mind, for her face was white
with the terror of it."

We hastened forward, but at the next corner a passing hack stood ready
for passengers, and we rolled down the street, the horses' hoofs
outstripped by my anxiety and apprehensions.

One of the men was sent to bring out such of my force as had returned,
and I, with the two others, hurried on to Borton's.

There was none of the sounds of riot I had expected to hear as we drew
up before it. The lantern blinked outside with its invitation to
manifold cheer within. Lights streamed through the window and the half-
opened door, and quiet and order reigned.

As I stepped to the walk, I found the explanation of the change in the
person of a policeman, who stood at the door.

"Holy St. Peter! the cops is on!" whispered Broderick.

I failed to share his trepidation in the presence of the representative
of law and order, and stepped up to the policeman.

"Has there been trouble here, officer?" I asked.

"Oh, is it you, sor?" said Corson's hearty voice. "I was wondering
about ye. Well, there has been a bit of a row here, and there's a power
of broken heads to be mended. There's wan man cut to pieces, and good
riddance, for it's Black Dick. I'm thinking it's the morgue they'll be
taking him to, though it was for the receiving hospital they started
with him. It was a dandy row, and it was siventeen arrists we made."

"Where is Mother Borton?"

"The ould she-divil's done for this time, I'm a-thinking. Whist, I
forgot she was a friend of yours, sor."

"Where is she--at the receiving hospital? What is the matter with her?"

"Aisy, aisy, sor. It may be nothing. She's up stairs. A bit of a cut,
they say. Here, Shaughnessy, look out for this door! I'll take ye up,

We mounted the creaking stairs in the light of the smoky lamp that
stood on the bracket, and Corson opened a door for me.

A flickering candle played fantastic tricks with the furniture, sent
shadows dancing over the dingy walls, and gave a weird touch to the two
figures that bent over the bed in the corner. The figures straightened
up at our entrance, and I knew them for the doctor and his assistant.

"A friend of the lady, sor," whispered Corson.

The doctor looked at me in some surprise, but merely bowed.

"Is she badly hurt?" I asked.

"I've seen worse," he answered in a low voice, "but--" and he completed
the sentence by shrugging his shoulders, as though he had small hopes
for his patient.

Mother Borton turned her head on the pillow, and her gaunt face lighted
up at the sight of me. Her eyes shone with a strange light of their
own, like the eyes of a night-bird, and there was a fierce eagerness in
her look.

"Eh, dearie, I knew you would come," she cried.

The doctor pushed his way to the bedside.

"I must insist that the patient be quiet," he said with authority.

"Be quiet?" cried Mother Borton. "Is it for the likes of you that I'd
be quiet? You white-washed tombstone raiser, you body-snatcher, do you
think you're the man to tell me to hold my tongue when I want to talk
to a gentleman?"

"Hush!" I said soothingly. "He means right by you."

"You must lie quiet, or I'll not be responsible for the consequences,"
said the doctor firmly.

At these well-meant words Mother Borton raised herself on her elbow,
and directed a stream of profanity in the direction of the doctor that
sent chills chasing each other down my spine, and seemed for a minute
to dim the candle that gave its flickering gloom to the room.

"I'll talk as I please," cried Mother Borton. "It's my last wish, and
I'll have it. You tell me I'll live an hour or two longer if I'm quiet,
but I'll die as I've lived, a-doin' as I please, and have my say as
long as I've got breath to talk. Go out, now--all of you but this man.

Mother Borton had raised herself upon one elbow; her face, flushed and
framed in her gray and tangled hair, was working with anger; and her
eyes were almost lurid as she sent fierce glances at one after another
of the men about her. She pointed a skinny finger at the door, and each
man as she cast her look upon him went out without a word.

"Shut the door, honey," she said quietly, lying down once more with a
satisfied smile. "That's it. Now me and you can talk cozy-like."

"You'd better not talk. Perhaps you will feel more like it to-morrow."

"There won't be any to-morrow for me," growled Mother Borton. "I've
seen enough of 'em carved to know when I've got the dose myself. Curse
that knife!" and she groaned at a twinge of pain.

"Who did it?"

"Black Dick--curse his soul. And he's roasting in hell for it this
minute," cried Mother Borton savagely.

"Hush!" I said. "You mustn't excite yourself. Can't I get you a
minister or a priest?"

Mother Borton spat out another string of oaths.

"Priest or minister! Not for me! Not one has passed my door in all the
time I've lived, and he'll not do it to-night. What could he tell me
that I don't know already? I've been on the road to hell for fifty
years, and do you think the devil will let go his grip for a man that
don't know me? No, dearie; your face is better for me than priest or
minister, and I want you to close my eyes and see that I'm buried
decent. Maybe you'll remember Mother Borton for something more than a
vile old woman when she's gone."

"That I shall," I exclaimed, touched by her tone, and taking the hand
that she reached out to mine. "I'll do anything you want, but don't
talk of dying. There's many a year left in you yet."

"There's maybe an hour left in me. But we must hurry. Tell me about
your trouble--at Livermore, was it?"

I gave her a brief account of the expedition and its outcome. Mother
Borton listened eagerly, giving an occasional grunt of approval.

"Well, honey; I was some good to ye, after all," was her comment.

"Indeed, yes."

"And you had a closer shave for your life than you think," she
continued. "Tom Terrill swore he'd kill ye, and it's one of the
miracles, sure, that he didn't."

"Well, Mother Borton, Tom Terrill's laid up in Livermore with a broken
head, and I'm safe here with you, ready to serve you in any way that a
man may."

"Safe--safe?" mused Mother Borton, an absent look coming over her
skinny features, as though her mind wandered. Then she turned to me
impressively. "You'll never be safe till you change your work and your
name. You've shut your ears to my words while I'm alive, but maybe
you'll think of 'em when I'm in my coffin. I tell you now, my boy,
there's murder and death before you. Do you hear? Murder and death."

She sank back on her pillow and gazed at me with a wearied light in her
eyes and a sibyl look on her face.

"I think I understand," I said gently. "I have faced them and I ought
to know them."

"Then you'll--you'll quit your job--you'll be yourself?"

"I can not. I must go on."

"And why?"

"My friend--his work--his murderer."

"Have you got the man who murdered Henry Wilton?"


"Have you got a man who will give a word against--against--you know

"I have not a scrap of evidence against any one but the testimony of my
own eyes," I was compelled to confess.

"And you can't use it--you dare not use it. Now I'll tell you, dearie,
I know the man as killed Henry Wilton."

"Who was it?" I cried, startled into eagerness.

"It was Black Dick--the cursed scoundrel that's done for me. Oh!" she
groaned in pain.

"Maybe Black Dick struck the blow, but I know the man that stood behind
him, and paid him, and protected him, and I'll see him on the gallows
before I die."

"Hush," cried Mother Borton trembling. "If he should hear you! Your
throat will be cut yet, dearie, and I'm to blame. Drop it, dearie, drop
it. The boy is nothing to you. Leave him go. Take your own name and get
away. This is no place for you. When I'm gone there will be no one to
warn ye. You'll be killed. You'll be killed."

Then she moaned, but whether from pain of body or mind I could not

"Never you fear. I'll take care of myself," I said cheerily.

She looked at me mournfully. "I am killed for ye, dearie."

I started, shocked at this news.

"There," she continued slowly, "I didn't mean to let you know. But they
thought I had told ye."

"Then I have two reasons instead of one for holding to my task," I said
solemnly. "I have two friends to avenge."

"You'll make the third yourself," groaned Mother Borton, "unless they
put a knife into Barkhouse, first, and then you'll be the fourth

"Barkhouse--do you know where he is?"

"He's in the Den--on Davis Street, you know. I was near forgetting to
tell ye. Send your men to get him to-night, for he's hurt and like to
die. They may have to fight. No,--don't leave me now."

"I wasn't going to leave you."

Mother Borton put her hand to her throat as though she choked, and was
silent for a moment. Then she continued:

"I'll be to blame if I don't tell you--I _must_ tell you. Are you

Her voice came thick and strange, and her eyes wandered anxiously
about, searching the heavy shadows with a look of growing fear.

The candle burned down till it guttered and flickered in its pool of
melted tallow, and the shadows it threw upon wall and ceiling seemed
instinct with an impish life of their own, as though they were dark
spirits from the pit come to mock the final hours of the life that was
ebbing away before me.

"I am listening," I replied.

"You must know--you must--know,--I must tell you. The boy--the woman

On a sudden Mother Borton sat bolt upright in bed, and a shriek, so
long, so shrill, so freighted with terror, came from her lips that I
shrank from her and trembled, faint with the horror of the place.

"They come--there, they come!" she cried, and throwing up her arms she
fell back on the bed.

The candle shot up into flame, sputtered an instant, and was gone. And
I was alone with the darkness and the dead.



I sprang to my feet. The darkness was instinct with nameless terrors.
The air was filled with nameless shapes. A spiritual horror surrounded
me, and I felt that I must reach the light or cry out. But before I had
covered the distance to the door, it was flung open and Corson stood on
the threshold; and at the sight of him my courage returned and my
shaken nerves grew firm. At the darkness he wavered and cried:

"What's the matter here?"

"She is dead."

"Rest her sowl! It's a fearsome dark hole to be in, sor."

I shuddered as I stood beside him, and brought the lamp from the
bracket in the hall.

Mother Borton lay back staring affrightedly at the mystic beings who
had come for her, but settled into peace as I closed her eyes and
composed her limbs.

"She was a rare old bird," said Corson when I had done, "but there was
some good in her, after all."

"She has been a good friend to me," I said, and we called a servant
from below and left the gruesome room to his guardianship.

"And now, there's another little job to be done. There's one of my men
a prisoner down on Davis Street. I must get him out."

"I'm with you, sor," said Corson heartily. "I'm hopin' there's some
heads to be cracked."

I had not counted on the policeman's aid, but I was thankful to accept
the honest offer. In the restaurant I found five of my men, and with

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