Captivating Mary Carstairs
Henry Sydnor Harrison
Part 4 out of 6
cut into the air, drowning out conversation; and it rang on and on and
on as though Central had had her orders.
"I suppose I'll have to answer that to shut them up," he said. "Excuse
me for the merest second, won't you?"
He passed through into the brightly-lit business office beyond, and
found the telephone, still ringing away on a desk at the farther end.
Behind him the door swung shut, a circumstance for which he later had
reason to be glad.
"Well?" he called impatiently.
"You, Larry?" asked a familiar voice.
"Yes. What's the matter?"
"Matter enough," said Peter in a guarded undertone. "Hammerton's loose."
"It's a fact. God knows how he did it; but he's just phoned in here from
a house a long way down the road. Wanted to let the city editor know he
was flying in with the one best bet of the year. Luckily he gave no
Varney's lips tightened; he spoke in a low voice. "He mustn't
arrive--not till I've seen him first. Did you find out how he's
coming--river or road?"
"Trust Uncle Dudley. He's borrowed a bicycle and is burning up the River
road with it."
"Good. How soon will you be through?"
"About three minutes."
"You've hired a motor, you said? Get it and run back here as soon as you
can, will you?"
He rapidly explained the situation, though making no mention of
Higginson: how somebody had plotted to get them together in the darkness
of Main Street, how Miss Carstairs and her friend had kindly stopped to
warn them, and how he had humored her by promising to take all sorts of
"Right-O," said Peter. "I'll be in the alley at the back in no time.
Come quick when I honk three times."
Varney came back into the little office where Mary Carstairs waited,
fresh from more cheap plotting in which she was the innocent central
figure; and faced her, uncomfortable, ill at ease, disquieted inwardly
as a conspirator taken red-handed.
"It was Maginnis--upstairs," he explained awkwardly.
"Yes?" she said indifferently, and resumed the buttoning of her glove.
"And will you tell me something now? It has been on my mind since last
"Who was it that spoke of me to you and made you think that I was a
He was entirely taken aback by the question; but he could have parried
it easily, and he knew it. However, he was heartily sick of subterfuge
for that night.
"It was your father," he said bluntly.
"My father!" She stood silent a moment, slim hands interlocked before
her, heavily fringed eyes lowered. "So you know them both--my mother and
my father. Then--the mistake--about my age," she added with something of
an effort, "was natural enough. I have not seen my father for many
"I see him," said he, "constantly. Your father and I are great chums." A
sudden insane hope overwhelmed him, and he went on with a rush: "You
know, or rather probably you don't know, that he and my mother were old
friends; and I am proud to have fallen heir to the friendship. You say
that you have not seen him for some time? He is growing older very fast
this last year or two; he is much changed of late. And then, Miss
Carstairs, he is desperately lonely, all by himself in that great house
"_Stop_!" cried Mary Carstairs, with quick passionateness. "Stop! You
are trying to make me feel sorry for my father."
"Well," he said, as stormy as she, "_you ought to_! But your friends are
waiting. I must not detain you any longer."
At the curtness of his speech a very faint wave of color ran up her
cheek; and when he saw this he was sorry and glad in a single breath. At
least, she could not say afterwards that he had ever tried to make
himself falsely civil and lyingly agreeable. "Yes, I have stayed very
much too long already. You've promised that you will be careful, haven't
you? I'm really too sorry," she said, from the door, "that your visit to
Hunston should have been made disagreeable in all these ways."
"In the name of heaven," he said, stung into momentary recklessness,
"you don't suppose that I came here expecting any _fun_!"
"Why--I had understood that it was purely a pleasure-trip that brought
He made no answer to this, but stepped forward and swung open the door
"Maginnis," he said, "is to call for me immediately in a motor. We
shall leave by the unobtrusive back alley. Two men, a motor, and a dark
rear exit. You will scarcely imagine that there is any danger now. But
may I thank you again for giving us warning when there _was_, perhaps,
"So you think there is a 'perhaps'? If you take precautions, it is only
to humor a--"
"I withdraw that 'perhaps,'" he broke out in a rush. "I blot it out,
annihilate it. Who am I to catch at tatters of self-respect? Are you
blind? Can't you see that every fiber of me is tingling with the
knowledge that there was real danger, and that you saved me from it?"
The quick bitterness in his voice, which there was no missing, was the
last straw, breaking through her reserve, demolishing her dainty
aloofness. She shook the swinging gray veil back out of her eyes and
looked up at him, openly and frankly bewildered, looking very young and
"Will you tell me why you speak in that way? Will you tell me why it is
the worst thing that has happened to you in Hunston to have been helped
a little by me?"
They faced each other at the open door, not an arm's length between
them; and the moment of his reckoning for the quarter of an hour he had
spent with her that night was suddenly upon him. He met her eyes, which
were darkly blue, stared down into them; and as he did so, the spell of
her beauty treacherously closed round him, piping away his self-control,
deadening him to the iron fact of who she was and who he was, shutting
out all knowledge except that of her fragrant nearness.
"It is absurd," he answered her suddenly, "but to save my life I can't
decide whether you are tall or short."
The front door came open with a bang; the noise brought him sharply to
himself; and the next moment a pleasant impatient masculine voice called
"I say, Miss Carstairs! Er--everything all right?"
"Oh!--yes, Mr. Richards!" she called penitently. "I'm coming this
minute. No, please don't go out with me, Mr. Varney. Don't let anybody
see that you are here."
"Certainly not," said he, struggling for a poise which he could not
quite recapture. "Then will you be good enough to convey my gratitude to
Mr. Higginson and say that I hope to have the opportunity of thanking
him personally to-morrow?"
"Yes, of course. Good-night once more--and good luck!"
But he detained her long enough to put the plain business question which
had been torturing his soul for the last twenty-four hours.
"We shall see you at luncheon to-morrow?"
He strove to give his remark the air of a mere commonplace of farewell;
but at it, he saw her look break away from his and the warm color stream
into her face.
"Why--I--I'll come with pleasure. We don't get the chance to lunch on
yachts every day in Hunston. Oh, but please," she exclaimed, her
embarrassment suddenly melting in a very natural and charming
smile--"never let my mother _dream_ that we've _not been introduced!_"
He bowed low so that she might not see the burlesque of polite pleasure
on his face.
* * * * *
The back alley exit proved all that the most timorous could have
desired. Peter approached it by an elusive detour; Varney appeared
promptly at the sound of his three honks; and the rendezvous was
effected in a black darkness which they seemed to have entirely to
themselves. Not a hand was raised to them, not a threatening figure
sprang up to dispute their going, not a fierce curse cursed them. The
would-be assassins, if such there were, presumably still lurked in some
Main Street cranny, patiently and stupidly waiting, entirely unaware
that they had been neatly outwitted by the clever strategies of Miss
The car rolled noiselessly out of the alley, skimmed off through the
southern quarter of the town and bowled into the rough and rutty River
road toward the yacht. Once there, since a sharp lookout for the
reporter was necessary, they slowed down and down until the smooth
little car, with all lights out, crawled along no faster than a vigorous
man will walk.
"What're you going to do when we catch him?" asked Peter. "Want to haul
him on back to the yacht?"
"No. I'm--only going to talk to him a little. Go on with the story."
"Well," resumed Peter, taking one hand from the driving-wheel to remove
a genuine Connecticut Havana, "the first thing was a wire from the
_Daily_ firing Hammerton. That assisted a little, of course. Then, they
asked us to give them a new, good man at once, and meantime to push
along all the story we had. We answered with a wire that was a beauty,
if I do mention it myself, telling them exactly how they'd been sold a
second-hand gold brick by a corrupt paper which was trying to play
politics. It simply knocked the pins from under them. It took 'em quite
a while to come back with inquiries about the name off the yacht,
Varney's air of mystery and all that line of slush. My response was
vigorous, yet gentlemanly, straining the truth for all she'd stand, and
even bu'sting her open here and there, I gravely fear. However, it was a
clincher. It crimped them right. Not a peep have we had from 'em since."
"I suppose they'll run four lines on the thirteenth page to-morrow
explaining it was all a mistake."
"But that wasn't the serious part of the thing--not by a mile-walk,"
continued Peter, the shine of victory in his honest eyes. "Am I still in
the road? Sing out if you see me taking to the woods, will you? The more
I think of what you and I have missed by a shave, the more I'm likely to
feel sick in the stomach. You know those rascals had already begun
asking for orders all over the country--they were so sure they'd have a
hot story to send out. Not only that, but a lot of papers wired for it
without being asked. It looked as if every newspaper office in America
that had got a glimpse at the _Daily_ this morning instantly got dead
stuck on that story. I stood at the telegraph desk and watched the
accursed things come in, like this: '500 words story involving Stanhope,
Rochester _Tribune_.' 'No. 3.--' That was the number of our story on the
query list.--'No. 3.--Full details, Chicago _Ledger_.' 'No. 3--1000
words, Philadelphia _Journal_.' And so on and on. It looked uncanny, I
tell you--all those far-away people calling for information about our
affairs just like old friends. Will you kindly let your mind play about
that a minute, Laurence? Will you kindly think of a situation like that
with Ryan and Coligny Smith handling it as their little whimseys
"I'd rather not. You wired those papers that the story was a canard and
all that, I suppose?"
"No!" roared Peter, "I did something a whole lot better than that. I had
one of the men write a hot political story about the _Gazette_ and the
change of management and the sudden rise of Reform. There's _news_ in
that, don't you see?--and it was the Stanhope-Varney story, too--the
real one. When I left the office, they were selling it like hot cakes,
all over the country--all over the world--"
"Hold on!" said Varney, sharply. "Here's Hammerton, I think--bringing in
a whole lot better story than yours!"
The road here was straight as a string stretched tight. Far down it,
they saw a single small light, dancing towards them a foot or two above
Peter threw off his clutch, clapped on his brakes and stopped short.
Varney slid out of the seat and stood waiting in the black inkiness
beside the unlighted car. In the sudden stillness they could hear the
rattle of the bicycle chain and even the crunch of the hard-blown tires,
spinning rapidly over the road. Now the light was perhaps a hundred
"Blow!" hispered Varney.
The horn's honk cut the silent air hoarsely. Instantly the speed of the
oncoming light was checked. It advanced steadily, but much more slowly,
as though the rider sensed that his road might be blocked, but could not
yet determine where the hidden obstacle might be.
"Hello!" called a lusty young voice suddenly. "Who's there?"
There was no answer. The light came on more slowly still. Now it was
fifty yards away, now twenty, now ten. Varney stepped out of the
blackness, directly in front of it, and seized both handle-bars in
fingers that gripped like a vise. The shock of the sudden stopping all
but cost the rider his seat.
"May I detain you one moment, please, Mr. Hammerton?"
The little light of the bicycle lamp was all concentrated downward.
Above that round yellow ray, faces were unrecognizable in the pitchy
blackness. The voice, however, was unmistakable. Hammerton was off the
back of his wheel in the wink of an eye, on a sudden desperate bolt for
Peter, still on the driver's seat, and seeing neither his friend nor his
enemy, saw the light with the bicycle behind it go over with a crash.
That was when Varney's hands let go of the handle-bars. The next instant
they fell upon Hammerton's withdrawing figure and brought it up with a
Peter heard the ensuing struggle, but saw nothing. He paid Varney the
tribute of sitting still in his seat and saying not a word. The contest
was bitter, but brief. Hammerton fought wildly, but Varney's arms
presently closed round him, squeezing the life out of him. Locked fast
in each other's arms, they fell heavily, Hammerton underneath. Varney
freed his legs with a swift wrench, swung round and came up riding upon
the other's chest.
Charlie Hammerton was beaten and knew it. His body lay along the rocky
road, inert and unresisting. He breathed in convulsive gasps, but apart
from that, now that he was down, he never moved. He was as tired as a
man well could be. Varney sitting closely upon him, holding him fast,
felt that the reporter's clothes were wringing wet. However, he had him,
and the _Cypriani's_ great secret was once more in captivity.
The eyes of the two men strained into the dark where each other's faces
must be, but they saw nothing.
"It's all up with you, Hammerton," said Varney presently. "The _Daily_
fired you an hour ago."
"Thanks to you," said Hammerton doggedly. "But if you think that lets
_you_ out, you're a bigger fool than I thought."
"That is not all," said Varney slowly. "The _Gazette_ has fired you,
The reporter swore bitterly beneath his breath: curiously enough, he
did not seem to question the statement for a moment. "What of it?" he
cried. "You don't think that'll stop my mouth, do you--you _devil_!"
"There is still something more. Maginnis has bought the _Gazette_. He
and I own the news of this town now. Coligny Smith is fired, too. The
_Gazette_ starts an honest life to-morrow, and the old dirty regime is
"Liar!" cried Hammerton, hoarsely. "Liar!" but there was no conviction
in the mad resentment of his voice.
"No," said Varney, without anger. "I am telling you the truth and you
"Well--there are other papers,--other towns," cried Hammerton
passionately. "What I've got on you will sell anywhere. Why, damn you,
_damn you, damn you_--don't you know you'll have to kill me to hush this
"No," said Varney, "I'm going to do better than that. I'm going to make
a friend of you. I'm going to make you editor of the _Gazette_ in
Smith's place with double your present salary and an interest in the
There was black silence, more thrilling than any speech.
"Will you take it?" asked Varney.
Then the boy's overstrained self-command snapped like a bow-string and
his breast shook with sudden hysteria. "Will I take it?" he cried with a
gasping laugh that was rather more like a sob. "Will I take the Court
of St. James? Will I take money from home? Oh, my God, will I take it!"
"Hooray!" rang Peter's great voice out of the gloom. "Hip, hip, hooray
for Editor Hammerton!"
Peter's tribute, in reality, was not so much for Hammerton's acceptance
as for the astonishing neatness with which Varney had disposed of the
editorship of _his_ paper. But to Varney, rising limply from Hammerton's
chest at the edge of the dark road, that cheer meant only that he had
kicked the last obstacle out of his path and that he and Mary were going
to New York to-morrow.
A LITTLE LUNCHEON PARTY ON THE YACHT "CYPRIANI"
The expectation appeared thoroughly conservative: not a cloud so large
as a man's hand any longer darkened the horizon. At two o'clock next day
Mr. Carstairs's _Cypriani_ rode gayly at her old anchorage. At the rail
stood Varney and Maginnis, hosts of pleasant and guileless mien, their
eyes upon the trim gig which came dancing over the water toward them. In
the gig sat J. Pinkney Hare and his sister, Mrs. Marne, blithely coming
to lunch aboard with their two new friends.
The yacht's return to Hunston had been in all ways different from her
going. She had slipped away like the hunted thing she was, running to
cover with a hold full of fears, shying at every craft that passed, and
yelled after from the shore by a stoutish young man with inimical
opinions in his eye. She had steamed back, early this morning, not
merely without fear, but proudly, her whistle screaming for the
lime-light, her fore-truck flying, so to say, the burgee of vindication;
and the stoutish and inimical young man had come aboard for breakfast
with his new employer at nine o'clock sharp. Such was the measure of the
whitewashing work accomplished by three columns in Mr. Maginnis's
_Gazette_ that morning.
Of the "news value" of those astonishing columns, "the author's double"
(as the _Gazette's_ converted reporters felicitously dubbed him) had had
abundant evidence in the many glances that followed him upon the streets
of Hunston that morning. Varney's errand in town had had to do with
Tommy Orrick. Some search was needed to find the transient tenant of
Kerrigan's loft; but when he was finally located the matter of homes in
New York was discussed and settled in the most satisfactory way in the
world. It was decided that Tommy should remove his Penates to the city
that very evening, where he was to be met at Forty-second Street by a
Mr. Horace O'Hara, an interesting personage who had once been a burglar
but was now in the fish and vegetable way at Fulton Market. Together
they would make their way to the Home. Future plans had to do with an
educative course at the graded schools and other matters so strange and
exalted that one could not hear them mentioned without experiencing the
most benumbing abashment.
The two good friends parted with a handshake, enforced by the young
man--a unique ceremonial which filled the small breast of Thomas with a
conflict of strange emotions; and Varney, having dispatched a telegram
to Mr. O'Hara, and another to Mrs. Marie Duval, who had the home with no
boys in it on 117th Street, had at once turned his face back to the
yacht. He chose the woodland path for his walk, which struck straight
down from the handsome residence street and skirted the river at a
point near the _Cypriani's_ anchorage; and here an incident of interest
befell him. As he sauntered down the path, conscious of a sudden curious
loss of spirits, his attention was caught by the blurred sound of voices
from the street, some fifty yards behind him; and presently the vague
rumble crystallized into something like this:
"... Infernal absence of livery ... Far ... station-master fellow say
it was, Henry?"
The voice was masculine, carefully modulated, decidedly elegant. A
different sort of voice gave answer:
"'E said, sir ... mile, but knowing the hodd way they count distances
away from the cities, sir, I'm 'ardly 'oping to see it under two
Varney idly turned. The woods were thick just ahead of him, cutting off
all view of the street; but further on, to the north, there was a break
in the leafy wall, revealing a small slit of patent cement sidewalk.
Soon, as he watched, two pedestrians stepped into view within this frame
of foliage: a tall immaculate-looking man swinging a trim cane, and
behind him a stocky, middle-sized, black-garbed fellow struggling along
under two suit-cases and a roll of umbrellas. In three steps they had
passed across the little open space and were again lost behind the
trees, their voices running once more into an indistinguishable rumble.
Varney, halting in the path, had little doubt who the tall man was. It
was Ferris Stanhope, returning to the home of his boyhood and sublimely
unaware of the nature of the reception which awaited him.
Cordially as Varney loathed the great author, he had no wish to see him
taken by surprise and beaten to a pulp by mob-law. Moreover, if anything
like that happened, he and Peter would be largely responsible, since the
present excitement of feeling had been largely worked up for their
benefit. He had half a mind to go straight after the _insouciant_
visitor now, unpleasant as it would be to have to speak to him, and give
him the fair warning he was entitled to. But he dismissed the impulse as
plainly overdoing his duty: the man was in no possible danger in broad
daylight, and Peter had already promised that he would attend to the
warning business himself.
Now, as they stood calmly chatting at the rail under the brilliant sky,
he told Peter of the author's arrival, and dutifully reminded him of
that promise. Peter renewed it, without enthusiasm. His eyes rested on
the approaching gig with a kind of fascination; and Varney followed his
"Isn't Hare dressy, though! Frock-coat and all that ..."
"Yes ... He'll add a needed touch of elegance to the somber setting of
"By the way," said Varney presently, "how did Hammerton get away last
night? I believe Ferguson's been dodging me all day, but the fact is
I've never given it a thought."
"He's sharp as a tack, that boy is. He played dead till old Ferguson got
first interested, then nervous, and lastly careless. Lay there two hours
without moving; breathed as little as he could do with, and at long
intervals fluttered one eyelid and took a peep how the land lay. After a
while there came a time when the door was left wide open and only one
deckhand in sight. Hammerton floored him with a chair from behind, and
jumped over the rail. She happened to be moving close inshore at the
time, and he was in the woods before the fatheads even got a boat down."
Varney echoed his laugh absently. All morning, since his return from
Hunston, he had felt himself enfolded by a mysterious despondency, which
he had seemed unable either to account for or to shake off. But now, as
the final climax of his business drew near to summon him, he felt his
spirits inexplicably rising again. A certain excitement possessed him;
he was glad that at last his hour had come.
Hardly listening to Peter, he was running over in the most business-like
way the little scheme, mapped out and rehearsed together that morning,
by which the two superfluous guests, the mere "sleepers" in the
orchestra, were to be detached at the proper moment. Yes, certainly; it
was sound and would hold water. So would everything else. Peter's things
had gone ashore two hours before, for he was to remain in Hunston.
Everything had been provided for; the last detail systematically
arranged. A surer scheme and a clearer coast could not possibly have
been contrived or desired.
"At breakfast," continued Peter, "Hammerton suddenly blurted out that,
while he wasn't crazed with conscientiousness as a rule, one thing had
kept him awake last night. Demanded whether we had the nerve to think
that we had simply bought him off with a job. 'Perish the thought,
Charlie,' said I, looking kind of hurt at the bare suggestion. 'Thank
you, Maginnis,' said he, dignified as the President. 'It's an honest
fact that I gave up the chase because I felt all along that you two
fellows couldn't possibly be mixed up in anything underhanded.' Aha!
thinks me to myself ... Eh, Laurence?"
"Well, cheer up. It's done every day by our best families. And speaking
of doing underhanded things," said Peter, "our guests approach rapidly.
Up, guards, and at them!"
He took off his terrible Panama and waved it in a friendly manner.
"How-de-do, Mrs. Marne! Morning, candidate! Welcome aboard."
The sister and brother came up the stair, and were cordially greeted by
"Ashore again!" ordered Varney over the side. "There is another guest."
"So we have not kept you waiting after all," cried Mrs. Marne, flashing
a triumphant eye upon her brother. "Mary is not here yet--the prinker!"
She was dark, vivacious for a chaperon, easily on the correct side of
thirty, and arrayed in very light mourning indeed. She had a will: for
it was she who had baited J. Pinkney Hare with sociology and politics to
abandon the law in New York, at which he was doing rather well, and
follow her to Hunston. This was when her husband, a member of Hunston's
oldest family--for there was aristocracy in the town--had left her
widowed the year of their marriage.
"Three times," Hare elucidated to Varney, "did she tell me, 'I'll be
ready in a minute.' And a ten-minute interval elapsed each time, by my
grandfather's trusted chronometer."
"Oh, well," said Varney, "who'd put any trust in a woman who was ready
when she said she'd be? Let's get into the shade."
"Pinky," said Mrs. Marne, sister-wise, as she turned with Varney, "gets
his ideas about women from the comic weeklies."
They sauntered aft, Peter and Hare in the rear.
"Committee meeting at five-thirty?"
"Precisely. And by the bye," began Hare....
The candidate, in his tiny frock coat, with pale gray spats and scarf to
match, looked overdressed in the brilliant sunshine. Yet probably Peter,
whose purple tie blossomed too gorgeously above a blue silk "fancy vest"
of a cut a good deal affected in the early nineties, looked the more
striking of the two.
"He's a fool," declared Peter presently. "The chances are that Ryan has
a barrel of votes salted down where we'll have the devil's own time
tapping them. You can't smoke out a skunk in a minute, I tell you."
Mrs. Marne, in a cushioned chair, was being markedly agreeable to her
"It's my _début_ on a yacht," she was rattling away. "Is there any
special etiquette? Coach me from time to time when you see me fumbling,
won't you? And if there _is_ a code, there is one thing that I move
shall go into it, here and now. Politics is--or are--_barred_ for the
day! Will you make it a rule that whoever mentions it--or them--forfeits
butter, Mr. Varney?"
Varney laughed. "A rank outsider myself," said he, "I'm absolutely
willing. But I fear that in a division the nays would have it."
"You and I," she said, "against Mr. Maginnis and Pinky. A tie. Mary
would have the deciding vote."
"Then you'd lose out," said her brother, whose social manner, it was
developing, differed somewhat from that of his official moments.
"I know women," said Mrs. Marne. "I could lobby Mary over in exactly two
minutes, Mr. Varney. Besides, she is absent at roll-call, you know."
"The point is well taken," said Varney, to whom the thought was anything
but a novelty.
"There she is now," said Peter over their shoulders.
Varney turned and looked ashore at the point where the gig was patiently
waiting. There was no sign of anybody there.
"Upstream," added Peter, and the sudden honk of a motor-horn punctuated
the observation like a full stop.
Two hundred yards above them, a narrow driveway circled down to the
river to an ancient boat-house, and here the gaze of the little party
turned. Where the road curved at the water's edge, there stood a great
white touring-car, shining in the sun like a new pin. Upon the driver's
seat sat a bare-headed young man with a brown face and light sunburned
hair, brushed back. On the farther side of him, gloved hand holding to
the seat back, stood a young girl in a blue linen dress and a rather
conspicuously large hat, also of blue. Both of them were looking off
toward the _Cypriani_. Now the horn tooted again in salutation; and the
girl, catching their eyes, waved her hand and smiled, making a little
gesture indicative of her lack of equipment to navigate the intervening
stretch of water.
Mrs. Marne answered the salute in kind. Reassuring gesticulations were
duly wafted ashore.
"Who's the new swain, Pinky?" demanded Mrs. Marne thoughtfully.
Pinky did not know. The sailing-master, at a word from Varney, hurled an
order to the gig ashore. Then he swept his megaphone upstream, pointing
it straight at the motor:
"The gig is on the way to you now, Miss."
"That's an awfully sweet hat she's wearing," said Mrs. Marne. "I wonder
where she found that shape."
Miss Carstairs nodded her thanks to the sailing-master. The bare-headed
young man sprang down, assisted her to descend, waited with her at the
water's edge, assisted her most thoroughly into the _Cypriani's_ gig. He
was a handsome boy. He stood on the shore looking after the departing
boat, laughing and calling out something.
"We wanted to have luncheon on deck," said Varney, abruptly, to Mrs.
Marne, "as the day is so uncommonly fine. But about noon there came up a
little cloud no larger than a man's hand--it took a telescope to see
it--and the steward, a pronounced conservative, begged us not to trifle
with our luck. It seems too bad to go indoors on such a glorious day."
"But if we were to stay outdoors," she laughed, "would it have been such
a glorious day? These are the questions that make cynics of us all. I am
unhappy, Mr. Varney, because I have to fly the moment luncheon is over.
The Married Women's Culture Club meets at four o'clock. Only fancy!--I
am to read a paper on Immanuel Kant."
Peter, who had known no women in his life and was oppressed with the
thought that Hare's sister was his personal responsibility for the day,
was strolling moodily about the deck, hands thrust deep in his trousers
pocket. Hare hung at the rail, his neat glasses turned upstream.
The gig came alongside and Miss Carstairs mounted the steps, the party
gathered at the head of them to meet her. Peter, as it chanced, greeted
her first. He had been introduced to her, in passing, the night of the
meeting, but now he was dimly conscious that he had rather
underestimated her appearance.
"I am dreadfully sorry to be late," she said. "We went for the shortest
little drive, and all at once it was two o'clock and we were three miles
"You must have done something to the speed-limit, madam," said Peter in
his stiffest manner, "for you are in ample time."
"How do you do, Mr. Hare?"
"Excellently well, thank you, Mary. It is supererogatory to ask you."
"Pinky," said Mrs. Marne, "have that word and I met? I don't seem to
"Good-morning, Mr. Varney." Mary offered him her hand; but, greeting
her, he had turned to pull a chair out of her way, and so missed seeing
"It is a great pleasure to welcome you aboard the yacht, Miss
"If I seem at all addicted to melancholia to-day," said Mary, "you won't
be surprised, will you? My mother isn't well--really! When I left her an
hour ago, you might have supposed that we were parting for a year. And
then, besides I had an omen--a mysterious warning...."
Varney's gaze became fixed. "A warning?"
She laughed. "A rather queer and scary one! I'll tell you presently."
"My dear," said Mrs. Marne, when Varney had turned to explain the
working of the boat-falls to Hare, "_who_ is he? He is simply
Mary laughed. Hare, who was listening to boat matters with one ear only,
thought it was rather a conscious laugh.
"Only John Richards. He came up in his car yesterday to spend a day with
us. How do you like my hat?"
"It's a love," said Mrs. Marne. "A great big love."
"I trimmed it myself. You recognize the feather, of course?"
They went down to luncheon. The ladies cried out with pleasure at the
prettiness of the little saloon.
The room was darkened, through half-drawn shades, to a pleasant
dimness. The table was round, red, and bare. It was a splendid mass of
flowers. In the center was a great blossoming thing in a silver
basket-frame, so large and high that when they were seated, Hare, who
was neither, could just see Mary over the top of it. About it were four
tall vases of cut roses, two of white, two of red. Button-holes in white
and red lay at three covers, gigantic American Beauties, red, with
flowing white ribbons, at two. And napery, silver, iridescent glass, all
the materialities, were well worthy of so pretty a floral setting.
In short, it was a most alluring bait that Uncle Elbert's yacht had
flung out for Uncle Elbert's daughter.
"These roses," said Mary, raising hers to her lips, "were never grown in
"I want to explain a rule that Mr. Varney and I adopted just now, Mr.
Maginnis," said Mrs. Marne. "Did you hear it? It concerns the two
subjects of butter and politics."
Hare lifted a glass of the _Cypriani's_ excellent sherry and caught his
host's eye. "Mr. Varney! By a pleasant coincidence, we happen to be
gathered here within a day or two of the birthday of one member of our
charming party. The little discrepancy of date is immaterial--am I
right? Why may I not propose the health and great happiness of Miss
"Standing!" cried Mrs. Marne, pushing back her chair. "Bravo!"
They stood, glasses raised, turned toward Miss Carstairs, bowing,
saluting her according to their several kinds; and she sat, looking up
at them, laughing, flushed, prettily pleased by the little rite. For
Varney, conscious of the mockery of his felicitations, there had been no
escape. But Hare, who noticed everything, observed that he did not touch
his glass to his lips.
The luncheon progressed merrily. It was evident from the beginning that
it was to be a pronounced success. Only Peter was stiff and bored; and
even he grew somewhat enlivened before the ceremonies ended. There was
Scotch and soda for the gentlemen, and he did not spurn it when the
decanters passed. Varney, whose want of appetite pained McTosh, was a
conversational tower of strength. But his talk was false-faced talk, his
mirth was lying mirth, his smile a painted smile. Uncle Elbert's
daughter sat at his left, as befitted a guest of honor. Her eyes, when
she looked at him, were kind and friendly, but it early became his habit
not to meet them; for he always saw behind that--saw them changed as he
was destined to see them within the hour....
"So you're quite alive and well to-day!" she said to him presently.
"Will you believe that I picked up the _Gazette_ this morning with fear
"Oh--thank you--yes! We eluded Mr. Hackley's well-meant attentions with
marvelous dexterity and success."
"Ah, you still don't take it seriously, I see. I'm going to make one
more effort to frighten you to-day--but I'm afraid you are one of these
terribly reckless people who think being safe is too tame to be
interesting. What do you think of our poor little city, Mr. Varney?"
"I? I assure you," he said, turning a gay face toward her, "I think it
positively the most exciting town I ever saw in my life. But then, of
course, I 've had unusual privileges. What is much more important--what
do you think of it?"
"Of course, I love it. My mother went here to boarding school a great,
great many years ago. No, not that--some years ago. She fell in love
with the place on account of the scenery, and the air, which she says is
fresher than you can get in other places. Personally, I believe that the
same quality can be had elsewhere, but she says not at all. So when
we--left New York, nothing would do for her but to come straight here."
"But don't you find it a little dull?"
"Dull! Why," she cried, after a moment, "you talk exactly the way she
"May I offer you an olive?"
She took it daintily in her fingers, bit it and resumed: "I suppose your
metropolitan idea is that a person would be buried alive in Hunston?"
A sunny shaft broke in from without and became entangled with her hair,
which was in some ways so curiously like it. McTosh, whose eye was
everywhere, promptly lowered a shade two inches--the one blunder he made
"That would depend altogether on the person."
"I do think so, decidedly."
"Really you and my mother would be very congenial."
"McTosh, the bread," said Peter's cool voice.
Mrs. Marne, who had been interested by Peter's taciturnity and
fascinated by his waistcoat, had been leading that ordinarily masterful
man something of a conversational dance. Detached for the moment by his
demand for provender, she called across the table: "Mary, I herewith
invite you to attend the Culture Club meeting at four o'clock this
afternoon, to lead the applause for my paper on Immanuel Kant. Pinky
wrote it and--"
"Before any court in the land," said Hare, lifting his glance above
squab _en casserole_, "I am prepared to establish my innocence of this
"If he positively will not take no for an answer," continued Mrs. Marne,
"you may bring John Richards along. No claret, thank you, Mr. Maginnis.
Men, it is true, are not admitted to the sacred mysteries, but I will
arrange to have him seated on the piazza where he may eavesdrop the
whole thing through the long French window."
"Unfortunately," said Mary, "he has to go to Albany this afternoon, I
"To resume our conversation, Mrs. Marne," said Peter.
"I shouldn't if I were you," Hare recommended. "If memory serves, it was
hardly worth it. Why not, instead, permit me to tell the story of the
seven fat men of Kilgore?"
McTosh, of the gum-shoe tread, shuffled courses dextrously. An
under-steward assisted in the presentation of the viands, another
manipulated dishes in the hidden precincts of the pantry. The service
was swift and noiseless, but not more so than the passage of time. The
hands of the little clock fastened against the forward bulkhead already
stood at quarter after three.
Mary's eyes, which had been resting on the candidate, turned back to
Varney, and they were shining. "Seriously, Mr. Varney," she said in a
lowered voice--"how could any one possibly be buried in a town where
Mr. Hare is?"
She nodded. "Because he is so _alive_! Why just to live in the same town
with him is an inspiration. To be friends with him--well, that is all
you ever need to keep from feeling buried alive! He isn't listening, is
"No," said Varney, "he is, I believe, telling the story of the seven fat
men of Kilgore."
"If you wish to hand bouquets to Pinky for a while," called Mrs. Marne,
aside, "I will see that you are not disturbed, Mary."
"Thank you, Elsie, but it's your sisterly duty to listen to the story.
Mr. Hare," she presently went on, to Varney, "had a great career ahead
of him in New York--Judge Prentiss told me so--and he kicked it over
without a quiver and came up here where there isn't any glitter or
fireworks, but only plain hard work. Politics is only an incident with
him. No one will ever understand all that he has done for Hunston,
without any thought of return--working with all his heart and his head
and his hands."
"Ha! Ha!" said Peter down the table. "That reminds me--"
"You have known him a long time, I suppose?" asked Varney.
"Yes," she laughed, "but he has known me longer--ever since I was a
very little girl. That is why he calls me by my name, which gives him a
great moral advantage. I call him Mister because I didn't know him when
he was a very little boy. I have figured it all out, and I couldn't
have, because he was thirteen when I was born. Besides, you can't begin
to know people till you have reached a certain age. Can you?"
"Not to say know, I should think."
"Say six," said Miss Carstairs. "That's liberal, I think. Well, he was
nineteen _then_, and I never even saw him till seven years afterwards,
anyway. That made him twenty-six, which was much too late. Now he says
that I should call him by his name, but of course I'm not going to do
"It is hard to change an old habit in a thing like that."
"Oh, I don't mind the hardness of it. But whoever heard of calling a
Mayor by his first name? Call a Mayor Pinky! The thought is ridiculous.
Isn't it, Mr. Hare?"
But Hare was engrossed with a conversation of his own, now turned upon
"Everything in the world that goes up must come down," he was saying
didactically, "except prices. They alone defy the laws of gravity."
Peter challenged the aphorism, wordily. Mrs. Marne smiled at Mary across
the flower-sweet table.
"No," answered Hare presently. "Money isn't everything, but it is most.
It makes the mare go; also the nightmare. It talks, it shouts, and in
the only language that needs no interpreter. I may describe it, without
fear of contradiction, as the Esperanto of commerce."
"Clever, Pinky!" called his sister, derisively. "Confess that you
rehearsed this before a mirror."
The luncheon ended. If anything had been wanting to prove how agreeable
it had been, it appeared now in the pretty reluctance with which the
ladies rose. There was the customary pushing back of chairs, smoothing
down of garments, recovering of handkerchiefs from beneath the board.
The room and the table were the objects of new compliments, given in
"Who would have dreamed," said Mary, looking back from the door at her
father's perfectly appointed room, "that yachts were as nice as this?"
"And to think," said Mrs. Marne, "that it was all done by a Mere Man."
McTosh, the mere man in question, blushed violently behind his deft
They stepped up on deck into the shade of a great striped awning, and
loitered along the side, caught by the beauty of the late summer scene.
Sky and water and green wood blended into practised perfectness. The
rippling water was blue as the heavens, which was very blue indeed. The
sun kissed it like a lover.
"Will some one kindly tell me," demanded Hare, referring to his sister's
remark, "how the superstition arose that men have no taste?"
"I have read," said Mary idly, her back against the rail, "that it was
invented by the authority who started the slander about women's having
no sense of humor."
"Why, they haven't, have they?"
"You're wrong there, Hare," said Peter, out of his fathomless ignorance.
"For my part I think that women are often more amusing than men."
"Of course, Maginnis, of course. The point is that it never dawns on
They were strung out along the after deck, a gay and friendly company,
exactly as Varney had pictured them in his thoughts. From the hatch
emerged the stewards, in stately processional, bearing coffee and
cigars, their paraphernalia and appurtenances. Twenty feet away, on the
other side, was to be seen the sailing-master's wife, sitting under
orders, sedate, matronly, knitting a pale blue shawl and giving to the
bright scene an air of indescribable domesticity.
"Women," said Mrs. Marne to Varney, "have a splendid sense of humor. I
am a woman and I know. True, we keep a tight grip on our wit when we are
with men, because, whatever men may say in moments like these, they do
loathe and despise a comical woman. But when we are alone together--ah,
dearie me, what funny things we do say! Don't we, Mary?"
Varney, to show himself how cool he was, was lighting a cigarette, and
had just perceived with annoyance that his hand shook.
"At least," he answered easily, "no man will ever disprove that, since
no man has ever had the pleasure of being present when women are alone
together. I can recommend the Invincibles, Hare."
Peter, as one sensitive to the duties of host, now begged Mrs. Marne to
let him show her something of the yacht. He mentioned the crew's
quarters and the--er--butler's pantry as points which he particularly
desired to bring to her attention.
"I'd _love_ to see them! Oh--I must take just one peep before I fly."
The trio started forward in a whirl of her animated talk, Peter leading
with a dutiful face, Hare strutting solemnly along in the rear. Mary
glanced at Varney.
"Aren't you going to show me your butler's pantry, too?"
"Rather!" he said, starting with her up the deck. "But I want you to see
the whole ship, you know, much more thoroughly than Mrs. Marne has time
for--and to take a little spin--"
He was interrupted by an exaggerated cry from the lady last mentioned,
who, happening to glance down at her watch, had stopped short at the
cabin-hatch in great dismay.
Now she turned back to Varney crying: "Oh! oh! Mr. Varney, it's _twenty
minutes to four_! I must fly to my Culture _this instant_!"
At that, for Varney, the little party lost the last traces of its false
good-fellowship and stood out for what it was. Mrs. Marne's hurried
departure slightly dislocated his carefully-laid plans; it was evident
that her brother had no intention of going with her. Over her
unconscious head, his eye caught Peter's in a faint sweep which
indicated the little candidate.
"Oh--must you, Mrs. Marne?" said Varney, with civil regret.
"I _must_! I wish--oh, how I wish!--that culture had never been
invented. The world lasted a long time without it, I'm sure. I detest to
eat and run, yet what else can possibly be done by the author of
'_Ideals of Immanuel Kant_'?"
"It is too bad," said Varney, "but if duty really calls, I suppose there
is nothing for it but to have your boat ready at once."
"I ought to go, too," said Mary.
A chorus of protests annihilated the thought. Mrs. Marne declared that
she would never, no, never, forgive herself if she broke up so
delightful a party. It was unanimously decided that the other guests
were to remain long enough to be shown something of the yacht. Mention
of a little spin down the river was once more casually thrown out.
Events moved swiftly. The gig was manned, waiting. Varney under cover of
issuing orders, found opportunity to say a hurried word to Peter. Mrs.
Marne approached Mary, who was discussing yachts with Hare, to make
adieu. Suddenly the large face of Maginnis loomed over her shoulder.
"Good-bye, Miss Carstairs--you'll excuse me, won't you?" said he,
briefly. "I--I thought perhaps I'd just walk in with Mrs. Marne."
Mary repressed an inclination to smile. "Certainly, Mr. Maginnis.
Good-bye. I've enjoyed it a great, great deal." And to Pinkney Hare she
added: "You are going over the yacht with us, of course?"
Mrs. Marne embarked in a shower of farewells. Peter, however, loitered
at the head of the stairs, and the gig waited at the foot of them.
Varney stood at Miss Carstairs's elbow, cool, smiling, controlling the
situation with entire and easy mastery.
"It occurs to me, Miss Carstairs," he said, "that I should begin our
tour by showing you our sailing-master's wife, Mrs. Ferguson--decidedly
the cultured member of the ship's household. She reads Shakespeare. She
recites Browning. I dare say that she even sings a little Tennyson. You
would enjoy meeting her, I am sure. Will you step around the other side
for a moment?"
"How exceedingly interesting," murmured Hare, falling in beside them.
"Years ago, I used to read quite a bit of poetry myself."
The gig still waited at the foot of the stairs. Mrs. Marne, waving
upward last adieus to Mary and Varney, called: "Do hurry, Mr. Maginnis.
I'm outrageously late."
But Peter, who had more important matters than Kant on his mind at that
moment, answered in a low, hurried voice: "Don't be alarmed, Mrs.
Marne--but I _must_ see your brother at once about--a critical matter.
Oh, I say, Hare."
The candidate, now some distance up the deck with the others, stopped
and looked back.
"May I have a word with you, please?"
Hare turned, with only a polite show of reluctance to his host and Miss
Carstairs, and drew near. Politics interested him far more than the
staunchest ship that ever sailed.
Five minutes later when Varney, having launched Miss Carstairs and the
sailing-master's wife upon a strictly innocuous conversation, came
around the deck-house again, neither the candidate nor his sister was
anywhere to be seen. Peter--he who had engaged to accompany the
lady--stood alone on the sunny deck, staring off at the returning gig,
his great hands clenched in his coat-pockets. He met his friend with a
"It's all over but the shouting," he said. "They've just landed. I told
Hare that there was a plot on against your life--which is very likely
true by the way--said he and I must have a conference at once without
alarming Miss Carstairs. I had to draw it pretty strong, you can bet, to
make him go without telling her good-bye."
"You've got the letters," said Varney hurriedly. "Go to see Mrs.
Carstairs the first thing--make the explanations. Call up Uncle Elbert
and tell him six-thirty for the carriage at the dock. Be sure to explain
to Hare and Mrs. Marne at once--prearranged visit to her father, kept
quiet for--any good reason."
"Of course," said Peter. "Well, I must hurry along. I promised to
overtake them in the woods. Oh, the lies I've told in this ten minutes!"
He turned and picked up his hat and cane to go.
To Varney, the simple act drove home with great force the stark fact
that he was face to face with his business at last. Peter, holding out
his hand to say good-bye, was struck to speculation by the look of that
"Well, good luck, Larry!"
"In heaven's name--what does that mean?"
"Hanged if I know," said Peter, frankly. "I'll see you in New York--if
not sooner." With which cryptic observation he clattered down the stairs
to the gig.
Varney beckoned the sailing-master from the quarter-deck.
"I am returning to New York, as I told you, Ferguson, with the young
lady, Mr. Carstairs's daughter. Start as soon as possible."
The sailing-master stared at the deck. "Ready at once, sir."
Mrs. Ferguson's fondness for classical poetry was no part of any stage
make-believe. Varney, having found her the day before sitting on a coil
of rope with Mr. Pope's _Odyssey_ from the ship's library, had conceived
a veneration for her taste. Now, as he drew near them again, she was
telling Mary that though Tennyson was fine for the purty language, it
was really Browning who understood the human heart. And down in the
engine room they had everything ready for the bell.
"Have you two settled the poets' hash yet?" asked Varney. "I hope you
didn't make the mistake of preferring Tennyson to Browning, Miss
Carstairs? Thank you very much for entertaining our guest so nicely,
"What a wonder that woman is!" said Mary, looking back at her as they
walked away. "I had thought that I was rather good at liking poetry, but
she leaves me feeling like the dunce at the kindergarten."
She turned and looked out over the water, caught anew by the shining
landscape. They stood side by side in the shade of the wide low awning.
Half a mile to their left huddled the town, whither the others were
already on their way; a few hundred yards behind them stood the big
white Carstairs house, handsomely cresting the hill. From many miles to
the northward a breeze danced down the river, and played capriciously
over their faces, and so whisked on about its business. All the world
looked smiling and very good.
Suddenly a bell tinkled. There was a slight splash, a faint rumble and
Varney laughed. "The passion for poetry," said he, "is a curious and
complex thing. Its origin is shrouded in the earliest dawn of
civilization. It appears in man's first instinctive gropings toward
"Why," said Mary, in sudden surprise, "_we are going!"_
So Elbert Carstairs's dream had come true, and his daughter was going
home to him at his desire. She stood on his yacht, as truly a prisoner
as though she wore a ball and chain; and the beat of the engines,
already gathering speed, was driving her straight toward that dock in
Harlem whither he, within a very short time, would be driving down to
"Going? Of course we are," said Varney.
He leaned against the rail and, looking at Mary, almost laughed at the
thought of how easy and simple it was.
"The point of being on a yacht, Miss Carstairs, is to see her go.
Otherwise, one might as well sit in the den at home and look at pictures
of them in the encyclopedia."
"But I--didn't expect to go," she said, gazing at him doubtfully--"only
to look around a little. I'm really afraid I haven't time for a sail."
"Well, you know," he said cheerfully, "as far as looking around is
concerned, going doesn't necessarily take any longer than staying. In
one case, you stay and look around: in the other you go and look around.
That is really all the difference, isn't it?"
"Well, then, it must be a little go and a short look around. Where does
one begin, in looking around a yacht?"
It would have been plain to a far duller plotter that they should be
fully clear of Hunston before he explained the situation to her more
"Suppose," said Varney, "we begin with a few general remarks of a
descriptive nature. This vessel, Miss Carstairs, is what is known as a
schooner-rigged steam-yacht. She stands a good bit under a hundred tons.
She is ninety feet long, eighteen feet in the beam and she draws ten
"I don't understand a word of that except ninety feet long, but it all
has a perfectly splendid sound! But where can Mr. Hare be? Please send
for him like a good host, and begin back at the beginning again. He just
told me that yachts interested him intensely."
"But, unfortunately, Mr. Hare is no longer with us."
"Not with us? Why--did he _get off_?"
"He certainly did. He and Maginnis are a great pair, aren't they? Not a
minute to give to pleasure or anything of that sort. I believe they
slipped off to Hare's house for another of their eternal private talks."
"But--" Mary stared astoundedly. "He _said_ he was going around with us!
I asked him and he accepted. And besides," she went on, rolling up the
count against the unhappy candidate, "he's got my parasol!"
"We detached that from him before he left. It's around on the other
side. I'll send for it at once."
But her puzzled frown lingered. "I have known Mr. Hare well for six
years," she said, "and this is the first time I ever knew him to do such
an uncivil thing."
"It wasn't his fault, depend upon it. Maginnis called him back, you
know, and no doubt hauled him off bodily, positively refusing to let him
pause for good-byes. A man of ruthless determination, is Maginnis."
She glanced up the deck with vague uneasiness, disquieted by the
unexpected situation. Forty feet away sat the sailing-master's wife
still placidly knitting at her pale blue shawl, the perfect portrait of
secure propriety. The sight of her there was somehow reassuring.
"So is Mr. Hare, I always believed. But never mind. How fast we are
"Yes, the _C_--this yacht goes fast."
"What is considered fast for a yacht? How long would it take us to get
to New York?"
"Three hours. Why not go?"
A white-clad steward noiselessly approached with her parasol. She took
it and smiled at Varney's idle pleasantry.
"Thank you, I have too many responsibilities this afternoon. First of
all, we--have a guest at home. Then I simply must go to Mrs. Thurston's
to see about some sewing at five. Last obstacle of all--my mamma! What
would she think had happened?"
"Don't you suppose that she would guess?"
"Do you think I'm the daughter of a clairvoyant, Mr. Varney? No, she
would not guess. She would simply stand at the front window in a Sister
Ann position all the afternoon, crying her pretty, eyes red. But--this
is a schooner-something steam-yacht, ninety feet long, I believe you
said. What comes after that?"
They had left the town dock behind and were scudding swiftly. There was
no longer any reason, even any pretext, for waiting. Every pulse of the
_Cypriani's_ machinery was beating into his brain: "Tell her now! Tell
But all at once he found it very hard to speak.
"There is time enough for that. There is something that I must tell you
first--in fairness to Hare. The fact is that I--I made Peter take him
away because I wanted to be alone with you."
The crude speech plainly embarrassed her; she became suddenly engrossed
in examining the carved handle of her parasol, as though never in her
life had she seen it before.
Varney turned abruptly from her and looked out at the flying shore.
"Last night," said he, "you may remember that you asked me a question.
You asked me why I objected to accepting help from you."
"Yes, but that was last night," she interrupted, her instinct instantly
warning her away from the topic--"and you didn't tell me, you know!
Really--we must turn around in two minutes, and so I haven't time to
talk about a thing but yachts."
"I fear that you must find time."
"Must, Mr. Varney?"
"Must. This is a matter in which you are directly concerned."
She faced him in frank wonderment. "Why, what on earth can you mean?"
"Now you must! Now you must!" sang the _Cypriani's_ staunch little
But he made the mistake of looking at her, and this move betrayed him.
There was no doubt of him in her upturned, perplexed face, no shadow of
distrust to give him strength. His earlier dread of this moment,
strangely faded for a while, closed in on him once more with deadly
"Don't you see that I am trying to tell you and that I am finding
it--hard?" he said quietly.
There was a moment's silence; then she said hurriedly: "Of course I am
all in the dark as to what you--are talking about--but tell me another
time, won't you? Not now, please. And oh--meantime," she sped on, with
the air of hailing a new topic with acclaim, "I have something to tell
you, Mr. Varney!--mystery seems to be in the air to-day. You _must_
hear the strange thing that happened to me this morning. I haven't had a
chance to tell you before."
"Ah, yes! That mysterious warning."
He clutched at the respite like a drowning man at straws, though no
drowning man would have felt his sudden rush of self-contempt.
"Who gave it to you, and what was it about?"
Free of his hidden restraints, she had quite thrown off the
embarrassment which she had felt settling down upon her a moment
before, and laughed lightly and naturally.
"It was about coming to this beautiful luncheon to-day--about _not_
coming, I mean--and it was given to me--don't be angry--by Mr.
Higginson, the old man, you know, who helped you last night."
"Ah!... Mr. Higginson."
"Tell me!" she said impulsively, her eyes upon his face--"I saw last
night that you distrusted him--_do_ you know anything about him?"
With an obvious effort he wrenched his thought from his present urgency,
and brought it to focus upon a puzzle which now seemed oddly like an
echo from a distant past.
"Not yet," he said, with an impassive face. "But I trust--"
"Oh, I don't like the way you say that! I don't see how you _can_ be so
suspicious of such a patently well-meaning old dear. And yet--"
"Well, then, tell me what he said to you and convert me."
"I suppose I must--I have had it on my mind a little, and you have a
right to know. Yet I don't want to at all! For I must say it seems just
a little to--to support your view. Well, then," she said, some
perplexity showing beneath her smile, "it happened about eleven o'clock
this morning as I was going down the street to see Elsie Marne--never
dreaming of mysteries. I met Mr. Higginson walking towards our house,
and we stopped, so I thought, for a friendly word. For he and I made
friends last night. Oh, you have a right to think I am too free, too
easy, in the way I--I make friends with strangers, and yet really
this--is not like me at all. And there is something very winning about
this old man. Well, he asked me point-blank--begged me--not to come to
your lunch-party to-day. What have you to say to that?"
He continued to look at her as from a distance, not answering her little
laugh. Behind the grave mask of his face he cursed himself heartily for
his self-absorption of the morning, which had led him entirely to lose
sight of Mr. Higginson's activities last night. He had fully meant to
search out that "winning" old man on his excursion to the town, but in
his engrossment over the more important duty of the day, the matter had
dropped completely from his mind. That the old spy had somehow ferreted
out their secret was now too plain to admit a doubt. But what
conceivable use did he mean to make of it? To interfere with the
_Cypriani's_ homegoing was beyond his power now. Did it better suit his
mysterious purpose to hold back until the thing was done, in order to
raise the dogs of scandal afterwards?...
For the moment his mind attacked the problem with curiously little
spirit; but one thing at least was instantly clear. He must return to
Hunston to-night, by the first train after his arrival in New York, find
Higginson and call him to his well-earned reckoning. Meantime ... here
was this girl, this daughter of Uncle Elbert, whom the old sneak had for
the second time failed to bend to his mean uses....
"But what reason," he said mechanically, "did he give for his rather
"He wouldn't give any! That's what makes it all so ridiculous--don't you
see? Naturally I asked, but he only said in his nervous apologetic way
that he wasn't at liberty to tell, but that after last night I ought to
consider whether you--your surroundings were likely to be quite safe. I
said: 'But oughtn't you to give me some idea and, if there is any
danger, warn Mr. Varney and Mr. Maginnis? You can't mean that there is
another plot, involving the yacht this time--the likelihood of a naval
battle on the Hudson?' And then he wrung his hands and said that he
couldn't tell me what he meant, but that I'd certainly regret it if I
came. There! Oh, I _know_ he thought he was doing somebody a
kindness--you and me both, I believe! And yet--that was just a little
creepy, wasn't it?"
He made no answer to this; hardly heard what she said. Mr. Higginson,
his works and ways, had once more slipped wholly from his mind.
Something in the look of her face, its young trustfulness, its utter
lack of suspicion, had already laid paralyzing hold upon him. Now a new
thought possessed him; and all at once his breast was in a tumult.
"And yet," he said, with sudden fierce exultation, "_you came_!"
She colored slightly under his look and tone and, to cover it, gave a
"Oh, yes.. dauntless person that I am! Have you the remotest idea what
he was talking about?... But oh, really we must turn around now! Indeed
we must--I hadn't noticed how far we have come. And you can show me
things as we go back, can't you?"
He started at her speech; asked himself suddenly and wildly what was
wrong with him. A better opening for his crushing announcement could not
have been desired. Yet he stood dumb as a man of stone. One blurted
phrase would commit him irrevocably, but his lips would not say it. And
he was glad.
He stared over the water thinking desperately what this might mean.
In that first meeting, radiant as it had somehow seemed to him, he knew
that, given this chance, he could have carried his business through
without a quiver. Even last night when, he thought, things to make it
harder had piled one on another like Ossa on Pelion, it would not have
been impossible. Now his lips appeared sealed by a new and overwhelming
reluctance; a resistless weakness saturated him through and through,
seducing his will, filching away his very voice.
The _Cypriani_ rattled and wheezed, and her speed sharply slackened, but
he did not notice it. His mind fastened on the stark fact of his
impotence like a key in a lock: his heart leapt up to meet it. He turned
slowly and looked at her.
She leaned lightly upon the rail, her eyes on the water, her lashes on
her cheek like a silken veil. At her breast nodded his favor, the
_Cypriani's_ perfect rose. In her youth, her beauty, and, most of all,
her innocent helplessness, there was something indescribably wistful,
indescribably compelling: it sprang at him and possessed him. Even in
permitting him her acquaintance, she had trusted him far past what he
had any right to expect; and now, with his own sickening game at the
touch, she gave this crowning proof of confidence in him--dashing it
full in the face of the whispering and hinting Higginson, full in his
own face too. Could anything in all the world matter beside the fact
that this girl believed in him, that she had trusted him not only
against convention, not only against his cowardly enemy, but last and
biggest, _against himself?_
And she should not be disappointed. His pledge to her father was a
Jephthah's oath, honorable only in the breaking. His mission, all his
hours in Hunston, took changed shape before the eye of his whirling
mind, monstrous, accusing, unbelievably base. Reward that trust with
treachery, that faith with betrayal? Never while he lived.
Out of his turmoil came peace and light, flooding the far reaches of his
In crises thought moves with the speed of light. The young man's mental
revolution was over and done with in a second's time; the pause was
infinitesimal. Almost as she finished her last remark, Mr. Carstairs's
daughter turned from the rail and took a step forward upon the deck, as
though to jog her host toward that promised tour of the yacht which had
now flagged so long.
"I thought you ought to know this," she was saying, apparently quite
unaware of his descent into the psychological deeps, "though perhaps you
will think it not worth repeating. But before we go on, do tell me
--won't you?--is Mr. Higginson merely--_seeing things_--a sort of
he-Cassandra, you know--or really do you think there is any danger?"
"No!" answered Varney, so promptly as to give the air of having waited
long for just that question. "There is no danger now, thank God!"
A heavy step sounded near, approaching. Starting to speak, he broke off,
turned and saw the sailing-master coming towards him. Over the
intervening stretch of deck the two men looked at each other, the master
nervously, Varney victoriously.
It was one of those critical moments whose importance no one can gauge
until after the time for guaging is past. However, as it fell out, it
was the master who spoke first.
"Very sorry, sir, indeed," he began, with a curiously uneasy and
hang-dog expression. "The gear's broke down again--in another place.
Couldn't possibly have been foreseen, sir. We can--hem--manage to beat
about without any trouble, but I fear it would not be safe to try to
push on to New York."
"To New York!" said Mary Carstairs, looking at Varney and laughing at
the man's stupidity. "It certainly would not be safe at all!"
Even the furtive-glancing sailing-master was conscious of the tide of
gladness that had broken into his young master's eyes.
"_Put about this instant, man_!" he cried imperiously. "Miss Carstairs
wishes to return to Hunston as soon as possible."
"Right, sir," stammered the astonished Ferguson, backing away. "At once,
Varney met the man's amazement steadily, laughed into it, and so turned
again to his old friend's daughter. She was conscious of thinking that
this was the first _happy_ smile she had seen on his face since the
night when he lit the lamp at Mr. Stanhope's.
"He seemed nearly stupefied because you weren't going to scold him, did
you notice? I wonder if you are usually very cross with him. But on with
our sightseeing! What is the name of this such-and-such a kind of
"Miss Carstairs," said Varney, struggling against his sudden exaltation
for calmness and self-control--"we are both conscious that I owe you an
explanation for--for what of course you must think my very extraordinary
behavior. Believe me, you shall have it very soon. There is nothing in
the wide world--ah--that is, I'd like very much to give it to you now.
But--no, no--it wouldn't be quite right--no--not fair--"
"You think I am eaten up with feminine curiosity about Mr. Higginson!"
she said, a little hastily. "Oh, I'll show you. Look! Look! We're
turning around already."
"Don't look there. Look in this general direction now and then, and tell
me what you see."
"I see," she said, looking anywhere but at him, "the strangest, the
most _volatile_ and--_not_ excepting Mr. Higginson--the most
_mysterious_ man in Hollaston County!"
"Where are your eyes, Miss Carstairs? You are standing within two feet
of the happiest man in America, and you don't even know it."
IN WHICH MR. HIGGINSON AND THE SAILING-MASTER BOTH MERIT PUNISHMENT, AND
BOTH ESCAPE IT
Passing the town-wharf laggingly like the maimed thing she was, limping
nearer and nearer the spot whence she had set out three-quarters of an
hour before, Mr. Carstairs's _Cypriani_ slowed down at an abandoned
private landing--the same one by which Peter's trunk had been conveyed
ashore that morning--and ran out her stairs.
As the two on board stood watching the yacht make fast, conversing, if
the truth be known, somewhat disjointedly, they were astonished to see
the great form of a man rise from a grassy bed a little way back from
the river-bank and advance towards them.
"Why, look!" said Mary. "There's Mr. Maginnis! I thought he'd gone to
town long ago."
Varney did not answer her. His eyes were glued upon Maginnis, and he
called in a strange voice:
"You have been waiting for us."
"Haven't budged a step," answered Peter, moving out upon the landing.
And he added what seemed an odd remark to Miss Carstairs: "I knew you
were coming back."
He greeted Mary at the foot of the stairs, cordially, and begged the
privilege of escorting her to any destination it might be her fancy to
name. But she stoutly declined his good offices, as she had Varney's a
moment before, declaring that she could not think of troubling so busy
and important a man.
"But where did you spirit Mr. Hare off to, if I might ask?" she said.
"On a very important mission I assure you, madam,--that is, Miss
Carstairs," said Peter, diplomatically, having no idea how matters
stood. "He begged me to let him go back and say good-bye to you, but I
told him I'd make it a personal matter."
"I am awfully glad that you have stopped calling me 'madam,'" said Mary,
rather inconsequently. "I _did_ hate it so!"
And she walked off up the woodland path, swinging her recovered parasol,
and finding herself with a good deal to think about.
Peter, coming on deck, found his friend waiting for him, taut as a
"Well, old horse!" said Maginnis. "Welcome back to jolly little
"The machinery broke down on me," said Varney, turning away to light a
"Sure," said Peter cheerfully. "You knew it was going to do it when you
started. I read it in your eye when we said farewell forever."
"You are quite mistaken," said Varney. "Ask Ferguson."
"Oh! Then you'll do it to-morrow morning, when the machinery is all
"No," said Varney, "nor at any other time."
The two men looked at each other steadily, unwinkingly. As the look
lengthened, each face gave way to a slow reluctant smile.
"I won't pretend," said Peter, "that I am disappointed in you. I never
dreamed that I hated this thing till the time came, and hang me if I
don't rather like that little girl."
"It was a thing," said Varney, "that simply couldn't be done. We were a
pair of asses not to see that all along." He glanced hurriedly at his
watch and started for the companionway. "Jove! I'll have to hustle."
"Hustle! Where the devil to?"
"I'm off to New York by the five o'clock train to tell Uncle Elbert that
I've resigned. I'll feel mighty mean doing it, too."
"Well, don't anticipate trouble," called Peter dryly. "You can't feel
mean by the five o'clock train, however much you may deserve--"
"There isn't any. She goes through at four-seven. You'll have to compose
yourself to wait till eight-ten, unless you want to walk."
Varney halted at the head of the companionway, surprisingly
disappointed. From the moment when the _Cypriani_ had put about, he had
been insistently conscious that his first duty now was to see Mr.
Carstairs, beg absolution from his promise, and formally surrender his
commission. So only, he had felt, could he go on with clean hands.
"Well, don't look so glum over it," said Peter. "You're not any sorrier
about your prolonged stay in our midst than I am."
Varney turned an inquiring eye upon him, and he began walking rather
restlessly up and down the deck.
"Oh, this same old rot!" he broke out impatiently. "I'll never be easy
in my mind till you are back in New York, and _stay_ there--"
"Well, well, Peter! Stick it out for three hours more--"
"Not long after you and Miss Carstairs steamed off," continued Peter,
"Hare blew back down here, tired of waiting and a little excited. He had
just heard some passing whispers about you and me. He says there seems
to be a little suppressed excitement in town this afternoon."
"Why, I thought your paper had kicked all that nonsense into a cocked
"A lot of people don't believe the paper, though," said Peter. "On the
contrary they believe that you are Stanhope and that you bought the
_Gazette_ to disown yourself and save your hide. A foolish idea, but it
has doubtless been helped out by whispers from higher up. Smith's
selling out has made Ryan see red. Smith's still in town, by the way,
which argues a good deal of cool nerve on his part. Hare hears that Ryan
is in a murdering humor--"
"You seem to forget entirely that Stanhope--the real, the genuine,
double-extry-guaranteed--has appeared, to bear his own--"
"But Hunston doesn't know it yet!" exclaimed Peter. "Kindly get that
well into your head. All these Hackleys and Orricks still think that
you're their meat--Where're you going?"
Varney, pausing at the hatch, deliberated whether he should say anything
to Peter about Mr. Higginson's latest and most daring intrusion, and
declared for the negative. "There's no reason," he mused, "why I should
let him in on this. And besides--"
"To town," he said aloud. "I've got to send a telegram to Uncle Elbert.
He's very much on my conscience--poor old chap!"
"I'll go with you. Got a Reform Committee meeting at five-thirty. And
some other business."
But Varney had already disappeared below. Peter picked up his splendid
guitar and, sprawling upon the transom, gave himself up to soft humming
and, presently, to the work of composition. Soon, after some little
painstaking effort, he produced the following, to be rendered to the
tune of "Yankee Doodle":
The tale of crime is at an end,
For little Laurence Va-arney
Declines to swipe his loidy friend
Upon the _Cypria-a-ani_!
Peter tried this over to himself with considerable satisfaction. He
possessed a remarkably sweet tenor and pleasurably anticipated singing
his ditty to its hero, and doubtless getting a cushion pitched at his
head for his pains. But it happened that Varney was to go to his grave
without ever hearing that small chanson.
He came on deck again in five minutes with a face which drove all
thoughts of melody from Peter's head. In fact, at sight of it, he came
instantly to a sitting position and his guitar slid unheeded to the
Varney did not answer immediately. He stood at the rail and stared into
the woods with fixed eyes which saw nothing. Peter rose and came towards
"Out with it!" he said encouragingly. "I'm full partner here. You want
to murder somebody. Well and good! Now who is it?"
Varney turned towards him, half-reluctantly, and spoke in a quiet voice.
"I told you just now that the machinery broke down. I was mistaken. It
was broken down."
"When I went below," continued the younger man, "it occurred to me to
look in the engine-room and see how bad the damage was. It was very bad
indeed. I'm no mechanic, Lord knows, but a child could make no mistake
here. The effect is about as if somebody had jammed a crowbar in the
works while she was running full-tilt. Probably that is just what
somebody did. It'll be some days before she'll run again."
Peter's bewilderment deepened. "What in the world does this mean?"
"Treachery," said Varney calmly. "Somebody on board has been bought."
The two men stared at each other. Varney read on Peter's face the swift
unfolding of precisely his own thought. He was rather surprised at
Peter's quickness, in view of the fact that he knew nothing of the
episode of the morning.
"Yes," he said. "That's the man."
He told concisely of Mr. Higginson's attempt to break up the lunch-party
by keeping the guest of honor away. Peter's face, as he listened,
underwent a curious change. It first slowly gained color, then slowly
lost it; and all of it, from the top of his forehead to the end of his
chin, seemed subtly to contract and tighten up.
His comment at the end was: "Excuse me a minute."
Upon which he vanished below to see with his own eyes and judge with his
own brain. He was back in less than two minutes, with a tiny spot of red
in the corner of his eye, and his manner unwontedly calm.
"You're right. Pretty clumsy treachery that," he said, standing and
staring at Varney, who had dropped into a chair. "What was the man
thinking about to ... I don't begin to see bottom on this."
Varney's eyes were on the sailing-master, who sat far forward, feet on
the rail, apparently engrossed in a magazine. The young man had just
recalled the master's curious manner when he notified him of the
accident to the machinery.
"Larry--you meant to turn around anyway?"
"But Higginson, you see, couldn't predict that."
"The immediate cause of your turning--"
"Was the little mishap to our gear."
He raised his voice: "Ferguson! I'd like a word with you if you please."
The sailing-master jumped at the sound of the voice as though it had
shot a projectile into his back. However, he rose at once and came
forward in his usual, brisk, stiff way, halting before the two men with
a salute. Varney eyed him inscrutably.
"I believe you were in town for a while this morning, Ferguson?"
"Yes, sir, I was."
"While there did you chance to see anything of an elderly gentleman, a
stranger here, by the name of Higginson?"
Though he had the look of being braced for trouble, the man changed
color at the direct question, and his eyes instantly shifted. With an
evident effort he recaptured something like his usual steadiness and
spoke in a voice of elaborate thought fulness.
"Higginson? No, sir. I know no one of that name."
"Ah? I thought not. I asked on the mere chance. And oh, Ferguson."
"I have just been down to look at the damaged machinery. Ignorant of
these matters myself, I can naturally make little of it. You will
prepare a written report for Mr. Carstairs, explaining in detail the
nature of the accident, and in particular just how it took place."
"Very good, sir."
"As the--er--mishap appears to be so serious, I think it best to have an
expert from town advise with me before the work of repairing begins. You
will therefore leave matters just as they are until I instruct you
"Oh--very good, sir."
Peter turned his dissatisfied eyes from the back of the retreating
sailing-master to Varney.
"What better proof d'you want than the rogue's face? Why didn't you fire
him on the spot?"
"I neither hire nor fire here," said Varney. "These are Mr. Carstairs's
employees. He will have to deal with them as he thinks best."
He rose immediately and put on his hat.
"With Mr. Higginson, however," he mused, starting for the stair, "the
case is altogether different."
"Exactly," said Peter with great heartiness.
As one man they descended the stairs, crossed the battered landing and
struck rapidly up the woodland path for Remsen Street and the town. As
they walked, Varney silently condemned the unfailing genius of the Irish
for intruding themselves into all the trouble that hove upon the
horizon. It was with acute pleasure that he recalled, before long, his
friend's engagement for half-past five. For he himself had but three
hours left in Hunston that day, and he had an urgent use for
them--beyond even Mr. Higginson.
"I confess once more," said Peter, tramping heavily, "that this chap is
too many for me. I don't seem to grasp his game."
"And you call yourself a conspirator, Peter! Why, this is ABC."
"All right. I'm listening. Spell it out for me."
"Suppose the gang here is deep enough, as you think, to plan a little
rough-house, ostensibly for my benefit, but really to get you into it
and thus wipe you out. Doesn't it occur to you that my fading away to
New York at the critical moment would rather knock the bottom out of the
scheme? Why, it's as clear as noonday! Higginson, learning somehow that
I expected to fly off immediately after the lunch-party, first tries to
break up the party, and failing that, he bribes Ferguson to break up the
machinery. Thus he hopes to make it impossible for me to get away--me
whom he needs in his business as the red rag for his little old mob."
They had emerged from the woods and walked a block up Remsen Street
before Peter replied.
"By Jove! That does seem to explain everything! That's it! It's
Higginson, not Smith, who has been pulling all these wires from the
beginning. I suspected the man the first minute I ever clapped eyes on
him. But where do you suppose he got his hint?"
"Never. That boy is trustworthy, or I'll eat my hat."
"Well, I think so too. Then he simply corrupted Ferguson and wormed the
whole thing out of him. Pretty clever, the whole thing, wasn't it? How
much Ferguson may really know, or suspect, I have no idea. Of course,
there is only one thing to fear now, and that is scareheads in the New
York papers to-morrow--attempted kidnapping foiled, and so on. It would
break Uncle Elbert's heart if anything of that sort should come out--"
"Don't you worry. It won't. I'll close his trap--tight."
Once more Varney was slightly annoyed by Peter's presence.
"If we find him," he began, as they came to the square, "you--"
"We must try not to be brutal, Larry," warned Peter soberly. "I remind
myself that he is an elderly man--"
"If we find him," began Varney again, "you will please remember that he
belongs to me. Higginson is strictly my pickings."
Peter grunted, looking rather annoyed too.
They crossed the square, two determined-looking men, and entered the
Palace Hotel. Behind the desk a bored clerk sat paring his nails with a
pair of office scissors. He looked up with a certain resentfulness.
"Excuse my interruption," said Varney. "Is Mr. Higginson in?"
The clerk's glance lowered tiredly. "Naw. Left town on the four-seven."
"I don't believe it," said Peter instantly.
There followed a silence. So stern were the gazes fastened upon the
clerk that, looking hastily up at Peter's word, he promptly lost
something of his lordly demeanor and became for the moment almost human.
"Well, sir, he's left _us_. _Said_ he was takin' the four-seven."
"Where did he go?" demanded Varney.
"Don't know, sir, but I think to New York."
"You must know where he checked his baggage to."
"Didn't have any baggage, sir," protested the clerk. "Only his
"Did he leave no address for the forwarding of his mail?"
"Naw, sir. He did not."
"Of course not. Why on earth should he?" said Peter.
Desisting from the absent but fierce stare with which he was transfixing
the clerk, he drew Varney hurriedly aside.
"All bluff!" he stated positively. "Is it likely, after _his_ day's
work, that he'd be lolling around the lobby waiting for us to call? He's
_moved_! But depend on it, he's got more work to do, and he _hasn't left
"If that's so, where do you recommend looking?"
Peter made a large gesture. "That's a horse of another color. I told you
he had a faculty for disappearing into a hole and pulling the hole in
after him. If anybody besides Ryan knows where he is, I should say that
it might be Miss Carstairs. She seems to be his only friend on our side
of the fence, since I tipped Hare off."
Varney all but jumped. "I'll ask her!" he offered almost precipitately.
"The very thing!"
"It is quite possible," continued Peter, tensely thoughtful, "that the
old rascal has sneaked to her since the luncheon, to try to pump
something out of her about our movements--even within the bounds of
possibility that he is with her at this moment--"
"A great suggestion!" said Varney cordially. "You certainly have a head
on you, Peter. Of course, on the other hand, it is quite possible that
he _has_ skipped--made a bee-line for Newspaper Row. In that case, I'll
see if she--Miss Carstairs, you know--if she knows his address in New
York, and I'll hunt him up to-night."
Peter, glancing at his watch, discovered that he was already fifteen
minutes late for his committee meeting.
"For this afternoon, then," he said, unwillingly, "you can have him, if
you can find him. After to-day, though, he belongs to me. Wherever he is
now, he'll certainly be back on the job to-morrow. Well--I'll leave you,
then. Er--Larry. It's just as well not to be prowling around after dark
by yourself, you know. I'll be back at the yacht early and we'll have
dinner together before your train. Say six-thirty, eh?"
"I'll be there."
Peter hurried off for Hare's house with a mingled sense of unjustly
baffled vengeance and vague uneasiness. Varney, drawing a long breath of
relief, headed for the telegraph office, whence he dispatched the
following telegram to Mr. Carstairs:
"Plan permanently abandoned. Arrive in New York
by train 9.20 to-night. Expect me ten minutes later."
That done, he started rapidly down Remsen Street with a steadily
VARNEY, HAVING EMBARKED UPON A CRIME, FINDS OUT THAT THERE IS A PRICE TO
There was a fine old hedge of box bordering the Carstairs lawn, old
rosebushes inside it and many flowering shrubs. Splendid oaks curtained
the big white house on either side, shading the expanse of close-clipped
turf. At the left, a fountain-sprayer now whirled a mist of water over
the trim grass, and far to the rear a man in rubber boots was hosing off
a phaeton before a carriage house. On the back porch, an elderly cook
was peeling potatoes and gently crooning some old ballad of Erin.
It was a serene and reassuring scene. Yet upon the spacious piazza,
which undeniably contributed to the pervading air of all's well, the
stunning information came to Varney that the lady of his quest was not
at home. Nor could the maid at the door say where her young mistress had
gone, or with whom, or when she would return. Possibly Mrs. Carstairs
knew, but Mrs. Carstairs was unwell and could not be disturbed. Miss
Carstairs would be sorry to miss him, the kind-hearted girl opined, and
would he please leave his name?
The young man descended the steps in a state of the flattest depression.
Disappointment, he reflected bitterly, crowded upon the heels of
disappointment on this anticlimactic afternoon which yet should have
been, in a bigger sense, so gloriously climactic. He had missed his
train, and with it his honorable confession to Mr. Carstairs; missed
Higginson; last and worst of all--it seemed to him now that this was all
that mattered in the least--he had missed Miss Carstairs. In sooth, the
world was all awry.
But at the gate, a thought came to him, radiant as a heavenly messenger.
Miss Carstairs was at her seamstress's on the Remsen road. Had she not
told him with her own lips that she was to be there at this hour?
He made a _Te Deum_ of the click of the gate, and turned northward a
face which bore record of an inner splendor.
He had set out to see Miss Carstairs in order to ask of her if she knew
the whereabouts, in Hunston or New York, of the fair-spoken yet elusive
Higginson. But with every step he found the force of this errand
weakening within him. The memory of that gentleman's villany, so burning
a moment since, grew steadily fainter and more inconsequential. Failing
to locate him, he would of course make a precautionary round of the
newspaper offices in New York that night. At the worst, he told himself
with the swift fading of his anger, there was only a remote risk of any
unpleasant aftermath. Why, the thing was over and done with--let
by-gones be by-gones. As for those other matters supposed to be upon his
mind--hints of approaching trouble for himself, and the knowledge of Mr.
Carstairs's bitter disappointment over the collapse of his all but
triumphant scheme--he could not for the life of him give them any
A far nearer and more vital matter was pressing upon his mind and heart.
To tell her everything at the moment when the yacht had swung back and
he had thrown up his commission forever had been his first strong
impulse. He had crushed it down only because he saw that to speak then
was to take her at an ungenerous disadvantage. Now Fortune had sent him
this new meeting, to be untrammeled by any such restraints. No grim duty
governed his movements now; no consciousness of secret chicanery any
longer enfolded him like a pall. Already the thought of what he had
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