Out of the Ashes
Ethel Watts Mumford
Part 2 out of 4
for what she felt must seem lack of faith. "I felt as if the house were
filled with dangerous people. I wanted to see how much they really knew.
I never heard mother speak of the safe in the library. I didn't want to
speak to Tante Lydia. I--"
Gard's heart stood still. "You went to the library and located the
"The combination they give is the right one--I opened it with that. Then
I was so terrified that anyone--a wicked person like that--could know so
much about things in our house--I slammed it shut and ran away. I could
not stay in the house another minute. I felt as if I were suffocating."
The sigh that he drew was one of immeasurable relief. "Well, you are
awake now, my dear, and the goblin sha'n't chase you any more. But I'm
greatly troubled about what you tell me, about your having opened the
safe. I want you to come with me now. Is your aunt home? Yes? Well, I'll
telephone my sister to call for her and take her out somewhere. Then
we'll return, and I will take all the responsibility of what I think
it's best to do. One thing is quite evident: your mother's valuables are
not safe, if they haven't already been tampered with and stolen. You
see--well, I'll explain as we go. I'll get rid of Mrs. Mellows first."
A few telephone calls arranged matters, and a message brought his motor
from its neighboring waiting place. "You see," he continued, as the
machine throbbed its way northward, "there are several possibilities.
One is, that this anonymous person is mad. In that case, we can't take
too many precautions. The ingenuity of the insane is proverbial. Then,
this may be a vicious vengeance; someone who hates your splendid mother,
and would hurt her through you. You can see that if you had believed
this detestable story it would have broken her heart. Now such a person,
hoping that you would investigate, would have been quite capable of
stocking your mother's secret compartment with stuff that at the first
glance would have seemed to substantiate the story. You see, they knew
all about the combination and the inner compartment, and they must have
had access to your home. They probably took you for a silly little fool,
full of curiosity, and counted on the shock of falling into their trap
being so great that you would be in no condition to reason matters out;
that you and your mother would be hopelessly estranged, or at least that
you would so hurt and distress her that they could gloat over her
unhappiness. You know you are the one thing she loves in all the world,
He had talked looking straight ahead of him, striving to give his words
judicial weight. Now he glanced down at Dorothy's face. It was calm, and
a little color was returning to her cheeks. She pressed his hand
"But it's so wicked!" she repeated. "It frightens me to think of such
viciousness so near to us, and we don't know and can't guess who it is."
"We'll find a clew. I'll have detectives to watch the house, and to
trace the messenger who brought that letter, if possible. Say nothing to
anyone, not even to Tante Lydia. Perhaps it would be best not to worry
your mother at all about it. She's not well, you see. In the meantime,
I'm going to take everything out of the safe, and transfer it to my own.
I'll make a list. Then we'll change the combination."
"Oh, I wish I'd come to you the very first minute," sighed Dorothy.
"You're such a tower of strength, and you make everything so easy and
simple. I'm ashamed of my fright, and my crying like a baby. You are so
good to me--I--I just love you."
For a second she rested her head on his shoulder with an abandon of
childlike confidence, and his heart thrilled. His inner consciousness,
however, warned him that a deeper motive than his desire to save Dorothy
actuated him--he must shield the mother from the danger that had
threatened the one vulnerable point in her armor of indifference, the
love and respect of her child.
At the apartment, inquiry for Aunt Lydia elicited the information that
the lady had that moment left in company with Miss Gard, and the two
conspirators proceeded alone to the library.
Gard closed the door, drew the heavy leather curtain, and turned
questioningly to Dorothy. With slow, reluctant movements she approached
the wall, released the panel and exposed the front of the safe. With
inexpert fingers, she set the combination and pulled back the door.
"Where is the spring?" demanded Gard. He could not bear to have her
touch what might lie behind the second partition. "Here, dear, take out
these jewel cases and see if they are all right." He swept the velvet
and morocco boxes into her hands, and felt better as he heard their
clattering fall upon the table. He paused, listening for an instant to
the beating of his own heart. He pressed the spring, and with swimming
eyes looked at what the shelves revealed. "Dorothy," he called, and his
voice was brittle as thin glass, "take a pencil and make a list as I
dictate: One package of government bonds; a sheaf of bills, marked
$2,000; two small boxes, wrapped and sealed; three large envelopes,
sealed; two vouchers pinned together. Have you got that? I'll take
possession for the present. Make a copy of that list for me." He snapped
fast the inner door, and turned as he thrust the last of the packets
into an inner pocket. "Now, thank you, my dear; and how about the
"There's nothing missing," said Dorothy, handing him a written slip,
"except things I know mother took with her. So robbery wasn't the
motive. I think you must be right. It's some crank. But, oh, if you only
knew how afraid I am to stay here! I'm afraid of my own shadow; I'm
afraid of the clock chimes; when the telephone rings I'm in a panic.
Don't you think I could go away somewhere, with Tante Lydia--just go
Gard grasped at the suggestion. He could be sure that she would be
beyond the reach of Mahr and his poisonous vengeance until he had time
to crush him once and for all.
"Yes," he nodded, "you should go away. This crank may be dangerous. We
know he is cunning. You should go with your chaperon--say nothing about
where to anyone, not to a soul, mind; not to the servants here, not even
to Teddy Mahr. Just run down incognito to Atlantic City or Lakewood, or
better still, to some little place where you are not known. Write your
polite little notes, and say your first season has been too strenuous,
and run away. When can you go? To-night? To-morrow morning?"
"Yes, I could be ready to-night; but what shall we say to Tante Lydia?"
"Half the truth," he answered. "I'll take the responsibility. I'll tell
her I've been informed by my private people that an anonymous person has
been threatening you; that they are trying to locate him; and that as he
is known to be dangerous, I've advised your leaving at once and quietly.
I'll tell her a few of my experiences in that line, that will make her
believe that 'discretion is the better part of valor.'" He laughed
bitterly. "The kind attentions I've had in the way of infernal machines
and threats by telephone and letter. And I see only a few, you know.
What my secretaries stop and the police get on to besides would exhaust
one. It's the penalty of the limelight, my dear. But don't take this too
seriously. I'll have everything in hand in a day or two. Now I'm off to
put your mother's valuables in a place of safety. Let's stow those jewel
cases in a handbag. Can you lend me one?" She left the room and returned
presently with a traveling case, into which Gard tossed the elaborate
boxes without ceremony. "I've been thinking," he said presently, "that
my sister's place in Westchester is open. She goes down often for week
ends. There's a train at eight that will get you in by nine-thirty, and
I can telephone instructions to meet you and have everything ready. If
you motored down, you see, the chauffeur would know and you must be
quite incognito. It'll be dead quiet, my dear, but you need a rest, and
we can keep in touch with one another so easily."
Dorothy leaned forward and gazed at him with burning eyes. "You are so
good," she murmured. "Of course I'll go. I know mother would want me
to--don't you think so?"
He smiled grimly. "I'm certain she would. Now here are your directions;
I'll attend to all the rest. All you have to do is pack. I'll send for
you." He wrote for a moment, handed Dorothy the slip and began a note of
explanation for Mrs. Mellows. "There," he said, as he handed over the
missive for Dorothy's approval, "that covers the case. And now, my dear,
the rest is my affair, and whoever he is--may God have mercy on his
* * * * *
Early on the morning following Dorothy's hurried departure, Marcus Gard,
having dismissed his valet, was finishing his dressing in the presence
"I tried to get you last night," he rasped; "anyhow, you're here. What
have you to report to me?"
Brencherly shook his head. "As far as I can learn, sir, there's nobody
slipped in the Marteen place, sir. All the information about the safe
they have they got from the manufacturers and the people who installed
it--only a short time ago."
Gard frowned. "Well, I happen to know they got what they were after in
the way of information. But I took the liberty of being custodian of the
contents of that strong box--with Miss Marteen's permission, of
course--so there is nothing more to be done in that direction. Now, have
you had a man trailing Mahr? What I want is an interview with him in
informal and quiet surroundings, with a view to clearing the matter up,
you understand. But I'd rather not ask him for a meeting. All I know
about his mode of life is: Metropolitan Club after five, usually; the
Opera Monday nights. Neither of these habits will assist me in the
least. I want by to-morrow a pretty good list of his engagements and a
general map of his day--or perhaps you know enough now to oblige me with
Brencherly cast an inquisitive look at Gard. He had never accepted
Gard's explanation of his interest in Mahr's affairs.
"Well," he began slowly, "I put our men on the other end of the
case--Balling, the Essex Safe Company and all that, and I went after
Mahr myself. I think I can give you a fair idea of his daily life. He's
at the office early--before nine, usually--and by twelve he's off,
unless something unusual happens. He lunches with a club of men, as I
guess you know. He goes for an hour to Tim McCurdy's, the ex-pugilist,
for training. Then he's home for an hour with his secretary, going over
private business and correspondence. Then he goes to the club for
bridge, and in the evening he's usually out somewhere--any place that's
A1 with the crowd. His son he has tied as tight to the office as any
tenpenny clerk; doesn't get off till after five, and then he makes a
beeline for the Marteens' or goes wherever he'll find the girl. I
think--but, perhaps you know best." He paused, with one of his
Gard noted the sign and interpreted it correctly.
"If you've got a good idea, it's worth your while," he said shortly.
Brencherly blushed as guilelessly as a girl. "Oh, it's nothing, only I
think--perhaps if you want to see him alone, you might pretend some
business and go to his house about the time he's there every afternoon."
"And discuss our affairs before a secretary?" sneered Gard. "You can bet
Mahr'd have him in the office--I know his way."
"Well, his den is pretty near sound-proof, like yours, sir. And besides,
I could arrange with Mr. Long, the secretary, to have a headache, or a
bad fall, or any little thing, the day you might mention--he's a
personal friend of mine."
"Well, just now I don't much care how you manage it. What I want is that
interview. Is your friend, Mr. Long, a confidential secretary?"
"I don't think," said Brencherly demurely, "that Mr. Mahr is very
confidential even to himself."
"Could you reach him--Mr. Long, I mean--at any time?" asked Gard--he was
The detective nodded toward the telephone.
"Well," growled his employer, "could your man suggest to Mahr that he
had had wind of something in Cosmopolitan Telephone? I'll see that
there's a move to corroborate it by noon to-day, if Long gets in his tip
early. And suggest, too, that I'm sore because he bought the Heim
Vandyke; but that if he asked me to come and see it, I'd go, and he
might have a chance to pump me. I happen to know that Mahr is in the
telephone pool up to his eyes, and he'd do anything to get into quick
communication with me. He is probably going to the club to-day, and I'll
not be there--see?"
Brencherly shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, if things turn
out--um--fishy, Long loses his job. But he's a good man to have well
placed. I guess we could land him a berth."
Gard sickened. He could read the detective's secret satisfaction in the
association of that "we" in a shady transaction. Naturally, to have a
man on whom they "had something" in a place of trust might be a great
"Long will be taken care of," he snapped, replacing his scarf pin for
the twentieth time, and making an unspoken promise to himself to send
the secretary so far away from the scene of Brencherly's activities that
he would at least have a chance to begin life anew without fear of the
"May I?" queried Brencherly, with a jerk of his head toward the
"Rather you didn't--from here. Go out, get your man and tell me when he
will tip Mahr. That means my orders in the Street. Tell him there is
news of federal action. I drop out enough stock to sink the quotations a
few points--it's the truth, too, hang it! But it won't get very far."
A crafty smile curled the detective's lips as he rose to go. "Very good,
sir. We'll pull it off all right. I suppose the office will find you?"
"Yes," said Gard. "And I see you intend to take a flier on your inside
information. Well, all I say is, don't hang on too long. Get busy now;
there's no time to waste."
He rang for his valet to show the man out, descended to the dining room,
dispatched his simple breakfast and turned his face and thoughts
officeward. With that move came the thought of Washington. He cast it
from him angrily, yet when the swirl of business affairs closed around
him he experienced a certain pleasure and relief in stemming its tides
and battling with its current. True, the current was swift and boded the
whirlpool, but the rage that was in him seemed to give him added
strength, added foresight. At least in this struggle he was gaining,
mastering the flood and directing it to his will. Would his mastery be
proven in this other and more personal affair? He set his teeth and
redoubled his efforts, intent on proving his own power to himself. Even
as Napoleon believed in his star, Gard trusted in his luck, and it was
with a smothered laugh of sardonic satisfaction that news of the first
move in his campaign came over the wire.
"My man has tipped his hand," came Brencherly's voice. "The other one is
more than interested--excited. Make your cast and you get a bite on your
Gard telephoned his orders to several brokers to sell and sell quickly
and make no secret of it, then returned to work with a laugh upon his
Contrary to his habit he remained in his office during the luncheon
hour, having a tray sent in. He was to remain invisible. Mahr would
doubtless make every effort to find him by what might appear accident.
Later a message, asking him to join a bridge game at the Metropolitan
Club, caused him to chuckle. His would-be host was a friend of Mahr's.
He answered curtly that he was sick of wasting his time at cards, and
had decided to drop it for a while, hanging up the receiver so abruptly
that the conversation ceased in the midst of a word. An hour later Mahr
addressed him over the wire.
"Ah, Gard, is that you? I called you up to tell you the Heim Vandyke has
just been sent up to me. I hear you were interested in it yourself,
though you saw only the photograph. Don't you want to stop in on your
way uptown and see it? It's a gem. You'll be sorry you didn't bid on it.
But, joking aside, you're the connoisseur whose opinion I want. I don't
give a continental about the dealers; they'll fill you up with
anything." Gard growled a brief acceptance. "I'll be glad to see you.
Abruptly he terminated his interviews and conferences, adjourning all
business till the following day. Mentioning an hour when, if necessary,
he might be found in his home, he dismissed his officials, slipped into
his overcoat, secured his hat, turned at the door of his private office,
muttering something about his stick, and, quickly crossing the room,
opened a drawer of his writing table and drew forth a small, snub-nosed
revolver. He hesitated a moment, tossed it back, and squaring his
shoulders strode from the room.
Half an hour later he entered the spacious lobby of Victor Mahr's
"Mr. Mahr is expecting you, sir," said the solemn servant, who conducted
him to a vast anteroom, hung with trophies of armor, and bowed him into
a second room, book-lined and businesslike, evidently the secretary's
private office, deserted now and in some confusion, as if the occupant
had left in haste. The servant crossed to a door opposite, and having
discreetly knocked and announced the distinguished visitor, bowed and
retired. The lackey would have taken Gard's overcoat and hat, but he
retained his hold upon them, as if determined that his stay should be
Mahr rose to greet him, his hand extended. Gard's impedimenta seemed to
preclude the handshake, and the host hastened to insist upon his guest
Gard shook his head. "I have only a moment to inspect your picture,
Mahr," he said coldly.
"Oh, no, don't say that. Have a highball; you will find everything on
the table. What can I give you? This Scotch is excellent."
"No," said Gard sternly. "Excuse me; I am here for one purpose."
Mahr was chagrined, but switched on the electric lights above the canvas
occupying the place of honor on the crowded wall. The portrait stood
revealed, a jewel of color, rich as a ruby, mysterious as an autumn
night, vivid in its humanity, divine in its art, palpitating with life,
yet remote as death itself. The marvelous canvas glowed before them--a
thing to quell anger, to stifle love, to still hate itself in an impulse
Suddenly Marcus Gard began to laugh, as he had laughed that day long
ago, at his own discomfiture.
"What is it?" stuttered Mahr, amazed. "Don't you think it genuine?"
There was panic in his tone.
Gard laughed again, then broke off as suddenly as he had begun; and
passion thrilled in his voice as he turned fierce eyes upon his enemy.
"I am laughing at the singular role this painting has played in my life.
We have met before--the Heim Vandyke and I. If Fate chooses to turn
painter, we must grind his colors, I suppose. But what I intend to grind
first, is you, Victor Mahr! You--you cowardly hound! No--stand where you
are; don't go near that bell. It's hard enough for me to keep my hands
off you as it is!"
The attack had been so unexpected that Mahr was honestly at a loss to
account for it. He looked anxiously toward the door, remembered the
absence of his secretary and gasped in fear. He was at the mercy of the
madman. With an effort he mastered his terror.
"Don't be angry," he stammered. "Don't be annoyed with me; it's all a
mistake, you know. Are you--are you feeling quite well? Do let me give
you something--a--a glass of champagne, perhaps. I'll call a servant."
Gard's smile was so cruel that Mahr's worst fears were confirmed. But
the torrent of accusation that burst from Gard's lips bore him down with
the consciousness of the other's knowledge.
"You scoundrel!" roared the enraged man. "You squirming, poisonous
snake! You would strike at a woman through her daughter, would you! You
would send anonymous letters to a child about her mother! You would hire
sneaks for your sneaking vileness!--coward, brute that you are! Well, I
know it all--_all_, I say. And as true as I live, if ever you make one
move in that direction again, I shall find it out, and I will kill you!
But first I'll go to your boy, Victor Mahr, and I shall tell him: 'Your
father is a criminal--a bigamist. Your mother never was his wife. Sneak
and beast from first to last, he found it easier to desert and deceive.
You are the nameless child of an outcast father, the whelp of a cur.'
I'll say in your own words, Victor Mahr: 'Obscurity is best, perhaps,
even exile.' Do you remember those words? Well, never forget them again
as long as you live, or, by God, you'll have no time on earth to make
Mahr's face was gray; his hands trembled. He looked at that moment as if
the death the other threatened was already come upon him. There was a
moment of silence, intense, charged with the electricity of emotions--a
silence more sinister than the noise of battles. Twice Mahr attempted to
speak, but no sound came from his contracted throat. Slowly he pulled
himself together. A look awful, inhuman, flashed over his convulsed
features. Words came at last, high, cackling and cracked, like the voice
"It's you--it's _you_!" he quavered. "So she told you everything, did
she? So you and she--"
The sentence ended in a hoarse gasp, as Mahr launched himself at Gard
with the spring of an animal goaded beyond endurance.
Gard was the larger man, and his wrath had been long demanding
expression. They closed with a jar that rocked the electric lamp on the
desk. There was a second of straining and uncertainty. Then with a jerk
Gard lifted his adversary clear off his feet, and shook him, shook him
with the fury of a bulldog, and as relentlessly. Then, as if the
temptation to murder was more than he could longer resist, he flung him
Mahr fell full length upon the heavy rug, limp and inert, yet conscious.
Gard stooped, picked up his hat and gloves from where they had fallen
and turned upon his heel.
At that moment the outside door of the secretary's office opened and
closed, and footsteps sounded in the room beyond.
"Get up," said Gard quietly, "unless you care to have them see you
The sound had acted like magic upon the prostrate man. He did not need
the admonition. He had already dragged his shaking body to an upright
position, ere he slowly sank down into the embrace of one of the huge
A quick knock was followed by the appearance of Teddy Mahr. The room was
in darkness save for the light on the table and the clustered radiance
concentrated upon the glowing portrait, that had smiled down remote and
serene upon the scene just enacted, as it had doubtless gazed upon many
another as strange.
"Father!" exclaimed the boy, and as he came within the ring of light,
his face showed pale and anxious.
Gard did not give him time for a reply. "Good evening," he said. "I have
been admiring the Vandyke. A wonderful canvas, and one thing that your
father may well be proud of."
At the sound of the voice the young man turned and advanced with an
exclamation of welcome. "Mr. Gard, the very one I most wanted to see.
Tell me--what is the matter? Where has Dorothy gone? I've been to the
house, and either they don't know or they won't tell me. She didn't let
me know. I can't understand it. For heaven's sake, tell me! Nothing is
wrong, is there?"
"Why, of course, you should know, Teddy." For the first time he used the
familiar term. "I quite forgot about you young people. You see, Dorothy
received threatening letters from some crank, and as we weren't sure
what might occur I sent her off. _Mahr, shall I tell your son?_"
He turned to where the limp figure showed huddled in the depths of red
upholstery. There was a question and a threat in the measured words.
"Of course, tell him Miss Marteen's address," and in that answer there
was a prayer.
"Then here." Gard wrote a few words on his card and gave it into the
boy's eager hand. "Run up and see her. She's with her aunt. I can bring
her home any time now, however. We've located the trouble and got the
man under restraint. Good-night."
* * * * *
Though the heat in the Pullman was intense the tall woman in the first
seat was heavily veiled. She had come out from the drawing room to allow
more freedom to her maid, who was packing a dressing-case and rolling up
steamer rugs. Her fellow travelers eyed her with curiosity. She was
doubtless some great and exclusive personage, for she had not appeared
in public, not even in the diner. She sank into the vacant seat with an
air of hopeless weariness, yet her restless hands never ceased their
groping, her slim fingers slipped in and out, in and out of the loop of
her long neck chain, or nervously twined one with another in endless
The long journey north was over at last. The weary days and nights of
hurried travel. Only a moment more and the familiar sights and sounds of
the great city would greet her once again. She was going home--to what?
Mrs. Marteen did not dare to picture the future. Pursued, as if by the
Furies themselves, she had been driven, madly, blind with suffering,
back to the scene of disaster--to know--to know--the worst, perhaps--but
Day and night, night and day, her iron will had fought the fever that
burned in her veins. Silent, self-controlled, she had given no sign of
her suffering and her terror, though her eyes were ringed with
sleeplessness and her mouth had grown stiff with its effort to command.
The tension was torture. Her heart strings were drawn to the snapping
point; her mind was a bowstring never relaxed, till every fiber of her
resistant body ached for relief.
At last they had arrived. At last the hollow rumble of the train in the
vast echoing station warned her of her journey's end. Instinctively she
gave her orders, thrusting her baggage checks into the hands of her
"I'm going on at once," she said. "Attend to everything. Give me my
little necessaire. I don't feel quite well, and I want to get home as
quickly as possible."
She hurried away before the servant could ask a question, and was
directed to the open cab stand. As she stepped in, she reeled.
Trepidation took hold upon her, but with enforced calm, she seated
herself, and gave the address to the starter. As the motor drew away
from the great buildings, she threw back her veil for the first time,
and opened a window. The rush of cool air revived her somewhat, but her
heart beat spasmodically, her blood seemed a thin, unliving stream.
Street after street slipped by like a panorama on a screen, familiar,
yet unreal. The world, her world, had changed in its essence, in its
At last the taxi drew up before the door of her home--was it home still?
she wondered. Her hand trembled so she could not unfasten the latch, and
the chauffeur, descending from his seat, came to her assistance.
"Wait," she said in a strangled voice. "Wait; I may want you."
At the door of her apartment she had to pause, before she rang, to
gather courage, to obtain control of her whirling brain. At last the
ornate door swung inward and her butler faced her with welcoming eye.
"Mrs. Marteen! Pray pardon the undress livery! No word had been
She took note of the darkened rooms. Only one switch, whose glow she had
seen turned on as the servant came to the door, gave light. The place
was hollow and unlived in as an outworn shell.
"Miss Dorothy?" she said, striving to give her voice a natural tone.
The butler h'mmed. "Miss Dorothy has gone, Madam, with Madam's
sister--since yesterday. They left no address, and said nothing about
when they might be expected. Mr. Gard had been with Miss Dorothy in the
Mrs. Marteen caught hold of the broad and solid back of a carved hall
chair and stood motionless, leaning her full weight on its ancient oak
"That's all right, Stevens," she said at length. "You needn't notify the
other servants that I have returned--for the present. I'm going right
out again. I just stopped in for some important papers I may have need
of. Just light the hall and the library, will you?"
With the falling of the sword that severed her last hope a new
self-possession came to her--the quiet of despair. Her brain cleared,
her fevered pulse became normal, the weariness that had racked her frame
passed from her. She only asked to be alone for a little--alone with her
love and her memories. She quarreled no more with Fate.
The butler preceded her, lighting the way. At the door of the library,
she dismissed him with a wave of her hand. Calmly she entered and softly
closed the door behind her. In the blaze of the electrics she saw every
nook and corner of the room--photographically--every tone and color,
every glint and gleam, but her mind fastened itself with remorseless
logic to one thing only--the sliding panel. In her distracted vision it
seemed to move, to slip back even as she gazed. The grain of the wood
appeared to writhe, to creep up and down and ripple as if with the evil
life of what lay behind. She forced herself to walk across the room to
lay her weakened fingers, from which all sense of touch seemed to have
withdrawn, upon that vibrating panel. The face of the safe stood
revealed. Slowly with growing fear she turned the numbers of the
combination and paused--she could not face the ordeal, but with the
releasing of the clutch, the weight of the door caused it to open
slowly, as if an invisible force drew it outward and Mrs. Marteen saw
before her the empty shelves within. As if in a dream she pressed the
spring, and realized that the carefully planned hiding place, was hiding
place no more. She stood still with outstretched arms, as if crucified.
The mute evidence of that opened door was not to be refuted. Her enemy
had triumphed; her own sin had found her out. No self-pity eased the
awful moments. Hot pity poured in upon her heart, but not for herself in
this hour of misery--but for her daughter, for the innocent sweet soul
of truth, whose faith had been shattered, whose deepest love had been
betrayed, whose belief in honor had been destroyed. Where had she fled?
Into whose heart had she poured the torrent of her grief and shame?
Could there be one thought of love, of forgiveness? Ah, she was a mother
no longer. She had sold her sacred trust. She had no rights, no
privileges. She must go--go quickly, efface herself forever. That was
her duty, that was the only way. Like a mortally wounded creature, she
thought only of some small, cramped, sheltered corner, some lair wherein
With an effort she turned from the room, closed the door, and stood
uncertain where to turn. Down the corridor, at its far end, was
Dorothy's room. The thought drew her. She turned the knob, found the
switch, and hesitated on the thresh-hold. Should she go in? Should she,
the sin-stained soul, dare profane the sanctuary, the virginal altar of
the pure in heart! Yes--ah, yes!--for this last time! She was a mother
She entered, and cast herself on her knees by the little pink and white
bed. She had no tears--the springs of relief were dried in the flame of
her heart's hell. She found Dorothy's pillow, a mass of dainty
embroidery and foolish frills. She laid her hot cheek on its cool linen
surface. In a passion of loss she kissed each leaf and rose of its
Then she rose to her feet. She must go, she must disappear--now, and
forever from the world that had known her. She would send one message
when the time came--one message--to the one man she trusted, to the one
man who would fulfill her wish--that in the years to come, his watchful
care should guard her child from further harm. But that, too, must wait.
She rose to her feet, and crossed to the dressing-table. There was
Dorothy's picture--her little girl's picture, the one she preferred to
all the others. She slipped it from its silver frame, and clasped it to
her breast. She could not bear to look upon the room as she left it. She
turned off the light, and crept away like a thief. She was trembling
now. The calmness that had been hers as she heard her death sentence,
was gone. Her overtaxed body and mind rebelled. It was with difficulty
that she made her way through the deserted rooms and stumbled to the
street and the waiting cab.
"Where to?" the chauffeur asked.
She gave the name of one of the large hotels. Yes, once in some such
caravanserai, she might elude all pursuit. In one door and out of
another--and who was to find her trace in the seething mass of the
city's life? The simple transaction of paying her fare, and entering the
hotel became strangely difficult. Words eluded her, she was conscious
that the chauffeur eyed her oddly as he handed her her bag.
Then came a blank. She found herself once more out-of-doors, in an
unfamiliar cross street. She saw a number on a lamppost, and realized
that she had walked many blocks. She imagined that she was
pursued--someone was lurking behind her in the shadow of an
area--someone had peeped at her from behind drawn blinds. She started to
run, but her bursting heart restrained her. She tried to still its
beating; it seemed loud, clamorous as a drum; everyone must hear it and
wonder what consciousness of guilt could make a heart beat so loudly in
one's breast. She began walking again as rapidly as she dared. She must
not attract attention. She must not let the shadows that followed her
know that she feared them. If they guessed her panic they would lurk no
longer; they would crowd close, rush upon her in vaporous throngs,
stifling her like hot smoke.
She paused for breath in her painful flight. The glare from the entrance
of a moving picture show fell upon her. Somehow, in that light she felt
safe. The shadows could not cross its yellow glare. She breathed more
easily for a moment, then became tense. A man was coming out of the
white and gold ginger-bread entrance, like a maggot from some huge cake.
The man was small, middle-aged, dark, with unwieldy movements and evil,
predatory eyes--"Like Victor Mahr!" she said aloud; "like Victor Mahr!"
The man passed before her and was gone from the circle of light into the
darkness of the outer street. She gave a gasp, and her mad eyes dilated.
The suggestion had gripped her. Sudden furious hate entered her soul.
Victor Mahr--her enemy! The cause of all her heart break. She had
forgotten how or why this was the case; but she knew herself the
victim--he, the torturer. She wanted vengeance, she wanted relief from
her own torment. It was he who held the key to the whole trouble. She
must find him out. She must tear it from him. She strove to think
clearly, to remember where she might find him. She started walking
again; standing still would not find him, that was certain.
Unconsciously she followed the directions her subconscious mind offered.
As she walked, there came a sense of approval. She was on the right
track now. Her footfalls became less dragging and aimless. She was going
somewhere--to a definite place, where she would find something vastly
necessary, imperative to her very life.
She neared a church; passed it. Yes, that was right. It was a landmark
on her road. A white archway loomed before her in the gloom. Her
journey's end--her journey's end! With that realization fatigue mastered
her. She must rest before making any further effort, or she could not
accomplish anything. Her limbs refused to do her bidding. The weight of
her traveling case had become a crushing burden. But before she rested
she must find something important that she had come so far to see--a
house, a large house--what house?
She looked about her at the stately mansions fronting the square. Then
recognition leaped into her eyes, and she sank upon a bench facing the
familiar entrance. Now she could afford to wait. Her enemy could not
escape while she sat watching. He--could--not--escape--
* * * * *
As Marcus Gard stood upon the steps of Mahr's residence, and heard the
soft closing of its door behind him, he shut his eyes, drew himself
erect and breathed deep of the keen, cold air. A rush of youth expanded
every vein and artery. He experienced the physical and mental exultation
of the strong man who has met and conquered his enemy. The mere personal
expression of his anger had relieved him. He felt strong, alert, almost
happy. He descended to the street and turned his steps homeward. At last
something was accomplished. The serpent's fangs were drawn. He
experienced a cynical amusement in the thought that the path of true
love had been smoothed by such equivocal means. Neither of the children
would ever know of the shadows that had gathered so closely around them.
But, Mrs. Marteen--what of her? Again the longing came upon him--to know
her awake to herself and to her own soul; to know the predatory instinct
forever quieted, that upsurging of some remote inconscience of the
race's history of rapine in the open, and acquisition by stealth,
forever conquered; to know her spirit triumphant. The momentary joy of
successful battle passed, leaving him deeply troubled. All his fears
returned. The sense of impending disaster, that had withdrawn for the
moment, overwhelmed him once more.
He entered his own home absently, listened, abstracted, to the various
items Saunders thought important enough to mention, dismissed him, and
turned wearily to a pile of personal mail. His eye caught a familiar
handwriting on a thick envelope.
From Mrs. Marteen evidently--postmarked St. Augustine. He broke the
seal, wondering how her letter came to bear that mark. What change had
been made in her plans? He hesitated, panic-stricken, like a woman
before an unexpected telegram. He withdrew the enclosure, noting at a
glance a variety of papers--the appearance of a diary.
"Dear, dear friend," it began, "I must write--I must, and to you,
because you know--you know, and yet you have made me your friend--to
you, because you love my little girl. They are killing me, killing me
through her. I'm coming home, as fast as I can; I don't yet know how,
for I'm heading the other way, and I can't stop the steamer, but I'm
coming. I received a message, the second day out. It had been given to
the purser for delivery and marked with the date--that's nothing
unusual; I've had steamer letters delivered, one each day, during a
whole crossing. I never gave it a thought when he handed it to me, I
never divined. It seems to me now that I should have sensed it. I read
it, and--but how to tell you? I have it here; I'll send it to you."
A sheet of notepaper was pinned to the letter. Sick at heart, Gard
unfastened it. Mahr's name appeared at the bottom. Gard read: "Dear
lady, you forgot to give your daughter the combination of the jewel safe
and its inner compartment before you sailed. I am attending to that for
you, and have no doubt that she will at once inventory the contents. We
are always glad to return favors conferred upon us."
Gard's heart stood still. A sweeping regret invaded him that he had not
slain the man when his hands were upon him. He threw the note aside and
turned again to Mrs. Marteen's letter.
"You see," he read, "there is nothing for me to do. A wireless to
Dorothy? She has doubtless had the information since the hour of my
departure. What can I do? I have thought of you; but how make you, who
know nothing of Victor Mahr, understand anything in a message that would
not reveal all to everyone who must aid in its transmission? That at
least mustn't happen. I am praying every minute that she will go to
you--you, who know and have tolerated me. I can't bear for her to
know--I can't--it's killing me! My heart contracts and stops when I
think of it."
Further down the page, in another ink, evidently written later, was a
"I've left a message with the wireless operator, a sort of desperate
hope that it may be of some use--to Dorothy, telling her to consult you
on all matters of importance. I've written one to you, telling you to
find her. The man says he'll send them out as soon as he gets into touch
A still later entry:
"Two P.M.--I'm in my cabin all the time. I think that I shall go mad.
That sounds conventional, doesn't it--reminiscent of melodrama! I assure
you it's worse than real. I feel as if for years and years I've been
asleep, and now've wakened up into a nightmare. I _can_ write to you;
that's the one thing that gives me relief. Your kindness seems a shield
behind which I can crawl. I can't sleep; I can only--not think--no, it
isn't thinking I do--it's realizing--and everything is terrible. The
sunlight makes ripples on my cabin ceiling; they weave and part and
wrinkle. I try to fix my attention on them, and hypnotize myself into
lethargy. Sometimes I almost succeed, and then I begin realizing again.
And in the night I stare at the electric light till my eyes ache, and
try to numb my thoughts. Must my little girl know what I am? Can't that
be averted? I know it can't--I know, and yet I pray and
Another sheet, evidently torn from a pad: "The wireless is out of order;
they couldn't send my messages. You don't know the despair that has
taken hold of me. My mind feels white--that's the only way I can
describe it--cold and white--frozen, a blank. My body is that way, too.
I hold my hands to the light, and it doesn't seem as if there was even
the faintest red. They are the hands of a dead person--I wish they were!
But I must know--must know. We are due in Havana to-morrow. I shall take
the first boat out--to anywhere, where I can get a train, that's the
quickest. Oh, you, who have so often told me I must stop and think and
realize things! Did you know what it _was_ you wanted me to do? Have you
any idea what torture _is?_ You couldn't! I don't believe even Mahr
would have done this to me--if he had known; nobody could--nobody could.
Now, all sorts of things are assailing me; not only the horror that
Dorothy should _know_, but the horror of having _done_ such things. I
can't feel that it was I; it must have been somebody else. Why, I
couldn't have; it's impossible; and yet I did, I did, I did! Sometimes I
laugh, and then I am frightened at myself--I did it just then; it was at
the thought that here am I, _writing letters_--I, who have always
thought letters that incriminate were the weakness of fools, the blind
spot of intelligence--I, who have profited by letters--written in anger,
in love, in the passion of money-getting--everything--I'm
writing--writing from my bursting heart. Ah, you wanted me to realize;
I'm fulfilling your wish. Oh, good, kind soul that you are, forgive me!
I'm clinging to the thought of you to save me; I'm trusting in you
blindly. It's five days since I left."
The sheet that followed was on beflagged yachting paper:
"What luck! I happened on the Detmores the moment I landed. They were
just sailing. I transferred to them. I'm on board and homeward bound. We
reach St. Augustine to-morrow night; then I'm coming through as fast as
I can. I've thought it all over now. Since the wireless messages weren't
sent, I shall send no cable or telegram. I shall find out what the
situation is, and perhaps it will be better for me just to disappear. It
may be best that Dorothy shall never see me again. I shall go straight
home. I'm posting this in St. Augustine; it will probably go on the same
train with me. When you receive this and have read it, come to me. I
shall need you, I know--but perhaps you won't care to; perhaps you won't
want to be mixed up in an affair that may already be the talk of the
town. It's one thing to know a criminal who goes unquestioned and
another to befriend one revealed and convicted. Don't come, then. I am
at the very end of my endurance now. What sort of a wreck will walk into
that disgraced home of mine? And still I pray and pray--"
Gard stood up. A sudden dizziness seized him. Go to her! Of course he
must, at once, at once; there was not a moment to be lost. He calculated
the length of time the letter had taken to reach him since its delivery
in the city--hours at least. And she had returned home to find--what? He
almost cried out in his anguish--to find Dorothy gone, no one at the
house knew where. What must she think?
He snatched up the telephone and called her number, his voice shaking in
spite of his effort to control it.
The butler answered. Yes; madam had returned suddenly; had gone to the
library for something; had asked for Miss Dorothy, and when she heard
she was away, had made no comment, and left shortly afterwards. Yes, she
appeared ill, very ill.
"I'm coming over," Gard cut in. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
He rang, ordered the servant to stop the first taxi, seized his coat and
hat, left a peremptory order to his physician not to be beyond call,
tumbled into his outer garments and made for the street. The taxi
sputtered at the curb, but just as he dashed down the steps a limousine
drew up, and Denning sprang from its opened door. His hand fell heavily
upon Gard's shoulder as he stooped to enter the cab. Gard turned, his
overwrought nerves stinging with the shock of the other's restraining
Denning's hand fell, for the face of his friend was distorted beyond
recognition. The words his lips had framed to speak died upon his
tongue, as with a furious heave Gard shook him off, entered the cab and
slammed the door. Denning stood for a moment surprised into inaction,
then, with an order to follow, he leaped into his own car and started in
When Gard reached the familiar entrance, his anxiety had grown, like
physical pain, almost to the point where human endurance ceases and
becomes brute suffering. He felt cornered and helpless. At the door of
Mrs. Marteen's apartment a sort of unreasoning rage filled him. To ring;
the bell seemed a futility; he wanted to break in the painted glass and
batter down the door. The calm expression of the butler who answered his
summons was like a personal insult. Were they all mad that they did not
"Where is Mrs. Marteen?" he demanded hoarsely.
The servant shook his head. "She left two hours ago, at least," he
answered, with a glance toward the hall clock.
"What did she say--what message did she leave?" Gard pushed by him
impatiently, making for the stairs leading to the upper floor and the
The butler stared. "Why, nothing, sir. She asked for Miss Dorothy, and
when none of us could tell her where she went, or why--which we all
thought queer enough, sir--she didn't seem surprised; so I suppose she
knows, sir. Madam just went upstairs to the library first, and then to
Miss Dorothy's room--the maid saw her, sir--and then she came down and
went out. She had on a heavy veil, but she looked scarce fit to stand
for all that, and she went--never said a word about her baggage or
anything--just went out to the cab that was waiting. Then about a half
hour later, Mary, her maid, came in with the boxes. I hope there's
nothing wrong, sir?"
Gard listened, his heart tightening with apprehension. "Call White
Plains, 56," he ordered sharply. "Tell Miss Dorothy to come at once and
then send for me, quick, now!" he commanded; and as the wondering flunky
turned toward the telephone, he sprang up the stairs, threw open the
library door and entered. The electric lights were blazing in the heat
and silence of the closed room. The odor of violets hung reminiscent in
the stale air. The panel by the mantelpiece was thrust back, and the
door of the safe, so uselessly concealed, hung open, revealing the empty
shelves within and the deep shadow of the inner compartment. He saw it
all in a flash of understanding; the frantic woman's rush to the place
of concealment,--the ravaged hiding place. What could she argue, but
that all that her enemy had planned had befallen? Her child knew all,
and had gone--fled from her and the horror of her life, leaving no sign
of forgiveness or pity.
Sick, and faint, Gard turned away. One door in the corridor stood open,
left so, he divined, by the hurried passing of the mother from the empty
nest, Dorothy's room, all pink and white and girlish in its simplicity.
One fragrant pillow, with its dainty embroidered cover, was dented, as
if still warm from the burning cheek that had pressed it in an agony of
loss. Nothing about the chamber was displaced; only an empty photograph
frame lying upon the dressing table told of the trembling, pale hands
that had bereft it of its jewel. She had taken her little girl's picture
with the heartbroken conviction that never again would she see its
original, or that those girlish eyes would look upon her again save in
fear and loathing. The empty case dropped from his hands to the
silver-crowded, lace-covered table; he was startled to see in the
mirror, hung with its frivolous load of cotillion favors and dance
cards, his own face convulsed with grief, and turned, appalled, from his
own image. His resourceful brain refused its functions. He could not
guess her movements after that silent, definitive leave taking. He could
but picture her tall, erect figure, outwardly composed and nonchalant,
as she must have stood, facing the outer world, looking out to what--to
what? A mad hope rose in his breast. Would she turn to him? Would her
instinctive steps lead her to seek his protection.
Yes. He must be where she could find him; he must be within reach. It
could not be that she would pass thus silently into some unknown
life--or-- He would not concede the other possibility.
Turning blindly from the room, he descended to the lower floor, where
the butler, with difficulty suppressing his curiosity, informed him that
Miss Dorothy had answered that she would return to town at once.
Gard hesitated, then turned sharply upon the servant. "Your mistress has
been ill, as you know. We have reason to believe that she is not quite
herself. If you learn anything of her, notify me at once. No matter what
orders she may give, you understand, or no matter how slight the
clew--send for me."
Once again in the street, he paused, uncertain. His eye fell upon
Denning's limousine drawn up behind his waiting cab. Fury at this
espionage sent him toward it. Thrusting his face In at the open window,
he glared at his pursuer.
"What are you here for?" he snarled.
Denning looked at him coldly. "To see that you keep faith, that's all.
Your personal concerns must wait. Have you forgotten that you are to
take the midnight train to Washington? I'm here to see that you do it."
Gard wrenched open the door of the car. "You are, are you? Let the whole
damned thing go!" he cried. "Send your proxies. This is a matter of life
"I know it," said Denning; "it is--to a lot of people who trust you; and
you are going to do your duty if I have to kidnap you to do it. You have
two hours before your train leaves. My private car is waiting for you.
Make what plans you like till then; but I'll not leave you; neither will
Langley--he's following you, too. Come, buck up. Are you mad that you
desert in the face of shipwreck?"
Gard turned suddenly, ordered his taxi to follow and got in beside
Denning. His mood and voice were changed. "I've got to think. Don't
speak to me. Get me home as soon as you can."
He leaned back, closed his eyes and concentrated all his energies. In
the first place, Denning was right--he must not desert, even with his
own disaster close upon him. He owed his public his life, if necessary.
As a king must go to the defense of his people in spite of every private
grief or necessity, so he must go now. The very form of his decision
surprised him. He realized that his yearning for another soul's
awakening had awakened his own soul. He had willed her a conscience and
developed one himself. But, his decision reached with that sudden
precision characteristic of him, his anxious fears demanded that every
possible precaution be taken, every effort made that could tend to save
or relieve the desperate situation he must leave behind him. First of
all his physician--to him he must speak the truth, and to him alone.
Brencherly should be his active tool. Mahr must be impressed.
Springing from the motor at his own door, he snapped an order to his
butler, and sent him with the cab to bring the doctor instantly. Once in
the library, he telephoned for the detective. He then called up Victor
Mahr, requested that however late he might call, a visitor be admitted
at once, on a matter of the first importance and received the assurance
that his wishes would be complied with; he asked Denning, who had
followed him, to wait in another room, thrust back the papers on his
table and settled himself to write.
"No one knows anything," he scrawled, "neither Dorothy nor anyone else."
With succinct directness he covered the whole story--explained,
elucidated. Through every word the golden thread of his deep devotion
glowed steadily. Would the letter ever reach her? Would her eyes ever
see the reassuring lines? He refused to believe his efforts useless. She
must come. He sealed and directed the letter, as Brencherly was
admitted. Gard turned and eyed the young man sharply, wondering how
much, how little he dared tell him.
"Brencherly," he said slowly, "I'm giving you the biggest commission of
your life. You've got to take my place here, for I'm going to the front.
I've got to rely on you, and if you fail me, well, you know me--that's
enough. Now, I want discretion first, last and all the time. Then I want
foresight, tact, genius--everything in you that can think and plan. Here
are the facts: Mrs. Marteen has come back--suddenly. She's been ill. Her
mind, from all I can learn, is affected. She has delusions; she may have
suicidal mania. She has disappeared, and she must be found--as secretly
as possible. Her delusions and illness must not become a newspaper
headline. I needn't tell you it would make 'a story.' There's one chance
in fifty that she may come here, or telephone for me. You are not to
leave this room. Answer that telephone--you know her voice, don't you?
You are to tell her that I have her letter and she has nothing to worry
about; that I have had charge of all her affairs in her absence; that
her daughter knows of her return and wants her at once. Tell her that I
have left a letter for her--this one. When Miss Marteen calls up, tell
her to go to her home; that her mother has come back, but has left
again, and is ill; that I'm doing all in my power to find her. Tell her
to call me at once on the long distance telephone to Washington, at the
New Willard. Wherever I have to be I'll arrange that I can be called at
once. Do you understand?
"Dr. Balys will be here in a few moments. He will have the hospitals
canvassed. If you locate her, Brencherly, send my doctor to her at once.
Get her to her own apartment, and don't let her talk. I want you to pick
a man to watch the morgue; to look up every case of reported suicide
that by any chance might be Mrs. Marteen--here or in other cities." Gard
felt the blood leave his heart as he said the words, though there was no
quaver in his voice. "If they should find her, don't let her identity be
known if there is any chance of concealing it, not until you reach me.
Don't let Miss Marteen know. Put another man on the hotel arrivals. She
left St. Augustine--Here--" He--jotted down times and dates on a slip.
"Work on that. Keep the police off. I'll have Balys stay here, unless he
locates her in any of the hospitals. My secretary is yours; and there
are half a dozen telephones in the house; you can keep 'em all going.
But, mind, there must be no leak. Watch her apartment, too. Question her
maid up there. Of course that letter on the table there might interest
you, but I think I had better trust you, since I make you my deputy.
This is no small matter, Brencherly. Honesty is the best policy--and
there _are_ rewards and punishments."
The strain of grief and anxiety had set its mark on Gard's face. His
deadly earnestness and evident effort at self-control sent a thrill of
pitying admiration through the detective's hardened indifference. A rush
of loyalty filled his heart; he wanted to help, without thought of
reward or punishment. He felt hot shame that his calling had deserved
the suspicion his employer cast upon it.
"I'll do my honest best," he said with such dear-eyed sincerity that
Gard smiled wanly and held out his hand.
"Thank you," he said simply.
The interview with the doctor lasted another half-hour. Time seemed to
fly. Another hour and he must leave to others the quest that his soul
demanded. Unquestioning and determined, Denning took him once more in
the limousine. They were silent during the drive to Victor Mahr's
address. Gard descended before the house, leaving Denning in the car.
"Don't worry," he said as he closed the door of the automobile. "I'll
not be long; I give you my word."
Denning smiled. "That's all that's wanted in Washington, old man. You've
got a quarter of an hour to spare."
Denning switched on the electric light and, taking a bundle of papers
from his inside pocket, began to pencil swift annotation.
Gard ran lightly up the steps. It was quite on the cards that Mrs.
Marteen in her anguish and despair might make an effort to see and
upbraid the man whose hatred and vengeance had wrecked her life. Mahr
must be warned of all that had taken place, and schooled to meet the
situation--to confess at once that his plans had been thwarted, that his
tongue was forever bound to silence and that his intended victim was
free. He, Marcus Gard, must dictate every word that might be said,
foresee every possible form in which a meeting might come, and dictate
the terms of Mahr's surrender. Words and sentences formed and shifted in
his mind as he waited impatiently for his summons to be answered. The
butler bowed, murmuring that Mr. Mahr was expecting Mr. Gard, and
preceded him across the anteroom to the well-remembered door of the
inner sanctum, which he threw open before the guest, and retired
Closing the door securely behind him, Gard turned toward the sole
occupant of the room. Mahr did not heed his coming nor rise to greet
him. The ticking of the carved Louis XV clock on the mantel seemed
preternaturally loud in the oppressive silence.
Suddenly and unreasonably Gard choked with fear. In one bound he crossed
the room and stood staring down at the face of his host. For an instant
he stood paralyzed with amazement and horror. Then, as always, when in
the heart of the tempest, he became calm, and his mind, as if acting
under some heroic stimulant, became intensely clarified. Mahr was dead.
He leaned forward and lifted the head; the body was still warm, and it
fell forward, limp and heavy. On the left temple was a large contusion
and a slight cut. The cause was not far to seek. On the table lay an
ancient flintlock pistol, somewhat apart from a heap of small arms
belonging to an eighteenth century trophy.
Murder! Murder--and Mrs. Marteen! His imagination pictured her beautiful
still face suddenly becoming maniacal with fury and pain. Gard
suppressed an exclamation. Well, he would swear Mahr was alive at half
after eleven, when he had seen him. If anyone knew of her coming before
that, she would be cleared. No one knew of his own feud with Mahr; no
one suspected it. His word would be accepted.
Mahr's face, repulsive in life, was hideous in death--a mask of
selfishness, duplicity and venomous cunning from which departing life
had taken its one charm of intelligence. He looked at the wound again.
The blow must have been sudden and of great force. Acting on an impulse,
he tiptoed to one of the curtained windows, unlocked the fastening and
raised it slightly. A robbery--why not? Silently moving back into the
room, he approached the corpse and with nervous rapidity looted the dead
man of everything of value, leaving the torn wallet, a wornout crumpled
affair, lying on the floor. He opened and emptied the table drawers, as
if a hurried search had been made. Slipping the compromising jewels into
his overcoat pocket, he turned about and faced the room like a stage
manager judging of a play's setting. The luxurious furnishings, the long
mahogany table warmly reflecting the lights of the heavily shaded lamp;
the wide, gaping fireplace; the lurking shadows of the corners; the
curtain by the opened window bellying slightly in the draught; above, in
the soft radiance of the hooded electrics, the glowing, living, radiant
personality of the Vandyke; below, the stark, evil face of the dead,
with its blue bruised temple and blood-clotted hair.
Gard strove to reconstruct the crime as the next entrant would judge
it--the thief gliding in by the window; the collector busy over the
examination of his curios; the blow, probably only intended to stun; the
hasty theft and stealthy exit.
His heart pounded in his breast, but it was with outward calm that he
crossed the threshold, calling back a "Good-night," whose grim irony was
not lost upon him. In the hall, as he put on his hat, he addressed the
"Mr. Mahr says you may lock up and go. He does not want to be disturbed,
as he has some papers that will keep him late. Remind Mr. Mahr to call
me at the New Willard in the morning; I may have some news."
As he left the house he staggered; he felt his knees shaking. With a
superhuman effort he steadied himself--Denning must not suspect anything
unusual. He descended the steps with a firm tread, and pausing at the
last step, twisted as if to reach an uncomfortably settled coat
collar--his quick glance taking in the contour of the house and the
probability of access by the window. The glimpse was reassuring. By
means of the iron railing a man might readily gain the ledge below the
first floor windows. He entered the limousine and nodded to Denning.
"All right," he said. "On to Washington."
* * * * *
Through the long, hours of the night Gard lay awake, living over the
gruesome moments spent in the ill-omened house on Washington Square. The
ghastly face of the dead man seemed to stare at him from every corner of
the luxurious room.
Had he done wisely, Gard wondered, in setting the scene of robbery? Had
he done it convincingly? That he could become involved in the case in
another character than that of witness, occurred to him, but he
dismissed it with a shrug. He was able, he felt, to cope with any
situation. Nevertheless, the valuables he had taken from the corpse
seemed to take on bulk. He thanked his stars that his valet was not with
him--at least he would not have to consider the ever present danger of
discovery. He had hoped to dispose of the compromising articles while
crossing the ferry, but when, on his suggestion of the benefits of cool
night air, he had descended from the motor and advanced to the rail,
Denning had accompanied him and remained at his elbow, discussing future
moves in their giant financial game. Once on board the private car, he
had considered disposing of the jewels from the car window or the
observation platform, but abandoned that scheme as worse than useless.
The track walkers' inevitable discovery would only bring suspicion upon
someone traveling along the line--and who but himself must eventually he
There was nothing for it but to break up the horde piece by piece and
lose the compromising gems in unrecognizable fragments. The impulse was
upon him to switch on the electrics and begin the work of destruction
here in his stateroom at once. But he feared Denning; he feared Langley.
Then his thoughts reverted to Mrs. Marteen. Where was she? Where was she
hiding? Had she made away with herself after her desperate deed? His
heart ached and yearned toward her while his senses revolted in horror
of the crime. His world was torn asunder. The awful discovery he had
made had once and for all precluded a change of plans. Sudden resistance
on his part would have been enigmatical to Denning--or he must confess
the state of affairs in the silent house he had just left. At least by
his ruse he had gained time for her, perhaps even protection.
Her letter, her frantic record of pain and misery, was in his pocket. He
found it, and feeling that even if he were observed to be absorbed in
reading, it could only appear natural in view of his mission, he propped
himself with pillows and reread the tear-blistered pages. His spirit
rebelled. No, no; the woman who had written those searing, bitter lines
of awakening could not be guilty of monstrous murder. He hated himself
that his mind had accused her. He cursed himself that by his
intervention he had perhaps thrown investigation upon the wrong scent,
while the truth, he assured himself, must exonerate her and bring the
real criminal to justice. What could have made him be such a fool? The
next instant he thanked his stars that he had been cool enough to plan
the scene. As he read the throbbing pages, tears rose to his eyes again
and again; he had to lay the letter down and compose himself. Ah, he was
wrong, always at fault. By his well-intended interference, he had
arranged Dorothy's flight, with results he trembled to foresee. And
Dorothy! What was he to tell the child? How was he to prepare her to
bear the present strain and the knowledge of what might come?
The fevered hours passed slowly. It was with a wrenching effort that he
forced his mind to concentrate on the business in hand for the coming
day. Yet, for his own honor and the sake of his people, it must be done,
and well done. Moreover, there must be no wavering on his part, nothing
to let anyone infer an unusual disturbance of mind. He must be prepared
to play shocked surprise when the tragic news reached him.
Utter exhaustion finally overpowered his fevered brain and he fell into
a troubled sleep, from which he was aroused by Denning's voice. The car
was not in motion, and he divined that it had been shunted to await
their pleasure. He dressed hastily, his heart still aching with dread
As he faced himself in the mirror he noted his sunken eyes and ghastly
color, and Denning, entering behind him, noted it, too, with a quick
thrill of sympathy. He had come to accept as fact his fear, expressed in
the directors' room. Gard must be suffering from some deadly disease.
"You look all in, Gard," he said regretfully. "I'm sorry I had to drive
you so." He hesitated. "Has--have the doctors been giving you a scare
Gard divined the other's version of his strange actions, and jumped at
an excuse that explained and covered much.
"Don't talk about it," he said gruffly. "You know it won't do to have
rumors about my health going round."
Denning took the remark as a tacit acquiescence. His face expressed
genuine sympathy and compassion.
"I'm sorry," he said slowly.
Gard looked up and frowned, yet the kindliness extended, though it was
for an imaginary reason, was grateful to him.
"Well, I can take all the extra sympathy anyone has just now," he
answered in a tone that carried conviction. "I've had a good deal to
struggle against recently--but I'm not whipped yet."
"Oh, you'll be all right," Denning encouraged. "You're a young man
still, and you've got the energy of ten young bucks. I'll back you to
win. Cheer up; you've got a hard day ahead." Gard nodded. How hard a day
his friend little guessed. "We'll go on to the hotel when you are ready.
Your first appointment is at nine thirty. Jim is making breakfast for us
"All right," said Gard; "I'll join you in a minute. Go ahead and get
your coffee." Left alone, he hurriedly pocketed Mahr's jewelry, paused a
moment to grind the stone of the scarf pin from its setting--among the
cinders of the terminus the gem and its mangled mounting could both be
easily lost. His one desire now was to put himself in telephonic
communication with New York, but he did not dare to be too pressing.
However, once at the hotel, he made all arrangements to have a call
transferred, and opened connection with Brencherly. He was shaking with
nervousness. "Any news?" he asked.
"None, Mr. Gard, I'm sorry," the detective's voice sounded over the
wire, "except that I've followed your instructions with regard to the
young lady. I've not left the 'phone, sir; slept right here in your
armchair. The hospitals have been questioned, and there is nothing
reported at police headquarters that could possibly interest you. I've
looked over the morning papers carefully to see if there was anything
the reporters had that might be a clew. There's nothing. I took the
liberty of sending Dr. Balys over to the young lady this morning--she
seemed in such a state; he'll be back any minute, though. I've got every
line pulling on the quiet. I've done my best, sir."
Brencherly's voice ceased, and Gard drew a sigh of relief. At least
there was no bad news, and as yet nothing in public print concerning the
tragedy. The discovery had probably been made early that morning by the
servant, whose duty it was to care for the master's private apartments.
The first afternoon papers would contain all the details, and perhaps
the ticker would have the news before. He realized that all the haggard
night he had been fearing that the morning would bring him knowledge of
Mrs. Marteen's death--drowned, asphyxiated, poisoned--the many shapes of
the one terrible deed had presented themselves to his subconscious mind,
to be thrust away by his stubborn will. Dorothy, summoned to the
telephone, had nothing to add to Brencherly's information, but seemed to
derive comfort and consolation from Gard's assurances that all would be
well. She would call him again at noon, she said.
He came from the booth almost glad. His step was light, his troubled
eyes clear once more. He was ready to play his part in every sense,
grateful for the respite from his pain. His confidence in himself
returned, and he went to the trying and momentous meetings of the
morning with his gigantic mental grasp and convincing methods at their
Dorothy's message did not reach him till after midday had come and gone.
Once Larkin had left the conclave and returned with his face big with
consternation and surprise. Gard divined that the news of the murder was
out, but nothing was brought up except the business of the corporation.
When at last he left the meeting he motored back to the hotel, refusing
the hospitality cordially extended to him, his one desire to be again in
touch with events transpiring in New York. He had hardly shown himself
in the lobby when a page summoned him to the telephone.
It was Dorothy, her voice faint with fright.
"It's you," she cried--"it's you! Have you learned anything about
mother? We haven't any news--nothing at all. Mr. Brencherly and the
doctor tell me that everything's being done. But I'm almost wild--and
listen; something awful has happened. It's your friend, Mr. Mahr,
Teddy's father--he's been murdered!"
"What!" exclaimed Gard, thankful that she could not see his face.
"Yes, yes," she continued, "murdered in his own room--they found him
this morning--they say you were the last person to see him before it was
done. Oh, Mr. Gard, aren't you coming home soon? It seems as if terrible
things happen all the time--and I'm frightened. Please, come back!"
The voice choked in a sob, and her hearer longed to take her in his arms
and comfort her, shield her from the terrible possibilities that loomed
big on their horizon.
"My darling little girl, I'm coming, just as fast as I can. I wouldn't
be here, leaving you to face this anxiety alone, if I could possibly
help it--you know that, dear," he pleaded. "I've one more important,
unavoidable interview; then my car couples on to the first express. Give
Teddy all my sympathy. I can hardly realize what you say. Why, I saw him
only last night just before I took the train. Keep up your courage, and
don't be frightened."
"I'll try," came the pathetic voice; "I will--but, oh, come soon!"
Gard excused himself to everyone, pleading the necessity of rest, and
once alone in his room, set about ripping and smashing the incriminating
evidence, until nothing but a few loose stones and crumpled bits of gold
remained. He broke the monogrammed case of the watch from its fastening
and crushed its face. Now to contrive to scatter the fragments would be
a simple matter. He secreted them in an inner pocket, and his pressing
desire of their destruction satisfied, he telephoned to Langley to join
him in his private room at a hurried luncheon. Next he sent for the
afternoon papers. Not a line as yet, however; and Langley and Denning
having evidently decided it to be unwise to deflect his thoughts from
matters in hand, did not mention Mahr. Even when he brought up the name
himself with a casual mention of the possibility of acquiring the Heim
Vandyke, there was nothing said to give him an opportunity to speak and
he was breathless for details, to learn if his ruse had succeeded. At
last he called Brencherly, both Denning and Langley endeavoring to
divert him from his intention.
"Yes, yes," snapped Gard; "what's the news?"
His companions exchanged dubious glances.
"Nothing learned yet about the matter, sir, on which you engaged me,
nothing at all. But--there's something else--I think you ought to
know--Victor Mahr is dead!"
"Dead! How? When?" Gard feigned surprise.
"Murdered last night," came the reply. "Found this morning. Our man
watching the house learned it as soon as anyone did. A case of robbery,
they say--but the coroner's verdict hasn't been given yet. He was hit in
the head with a pistol--but--I think, sir, they'll want you; you saw him
last night, they say--after you left me. Have you any instructions to
give me, sir?"
Gard reflected. "I don't know," he wavered. "Hold all the good men in
your service you can for me--and remember what I told you." He turned to
the two men. "Mahr's dead--murdered!" he blurted out, as if startled by
They nodded. "Yes, we knew. But," Denning added, "we didn't want to
upset you any further. It came out on the ticker at eleven. How are you
feeling?" he asked with friendly solicitude. "I wish you'd eat
something--you've not touched anything but coffee for nearly twenty-four
"I can't," said Gard grimly. "Let's go to the Capitol and get it over
with. Have you 'phoned Senator Ryan? I'm all right," he assured them, as
he caught sight of Langley's dubious expression. "I want to get through
here as quickly as possible and get back. I suppose you realize that
I'll be wanted in the city in more ways than one. I was the last person,
except the murderer, to see Mahr. Come on."
As they came from the Capitol at the close of their conference, Langley
and Denning fell behind for a moment.
"What a wonder the man is!" exclaimed Denning with enthusiasm. "Sick as
he is, and with all these other troubles on him, he's bucked up and
buffaloed this whole thing into shape. He forgets nothing!"
Gard entered the motor first, and, as he leaned forward, dropped from
the opposite window a fragment of twisted gold. An hour later, in the
waiting room they had traversed, a woman picked up a pigeon blood ruby,
but the grinding wheels of trains and engines had left no trace of the
trifles they had destroyed. In the yard near the private siding, a
coupling hand came upon a twisted gold watch case, so crushed that the
diamond monogram it once had boasted was unrecognizable.
"At every stop, Jim," said Gard, as he threw himself wearily into a
lounging chair in the saloon end of the car, "I want you to go out and
get me all the latest editions of the New York papers."
The negro bowed, disappeared into the cook's galley and returned with
glasses and a bottle of champagne. He poured a glass, which Gard drank
Gard heard Langley and Denning moving about their stateroom. The noise
of the terminal rang an iron chorus, accompanied by whistles and the
hiss of escaping steam. The private car was attached to the express, and
the return journey began. His irritated nerves would have set him
tramping pantherwise, but sheer weariness kept him in his chair.
Presently his fellow travelers joined him, but he took little or no heed
of their conversation. Once he drank again, a toast to the successful
issue of their combined efforts. He lay back, striving to control his
rising anxiety. What would the story be that would greet him from the
heavy leads of the newspapers?
"Baltimore--Baltimore--Baltimore"--the wheels seemed to pound the name
from the steel rails; the car rocked to it. By the time they reached
that city the New York afternoon editions would have been distributed.
At last they glided up to the station and the porter swung off into the
waiting room. Gard rose and stood waiting, chewing savagely on his
"It's Mahr," he apologized to Denning. "I want to learn the facts." His
hand shook as he snatched the smudgy sheets from the negro.
In big letters across the front page he caught the headline:
MURDER OF VICTOR MAHR
FAMOUS CLUBMAN AND FINANCIER
STABBED TO DEATH IN HIS OWN LIBRARY
EVIDENCE OF ROBBERY
WOMAN SUSPECTED OF THE CRIME
"Stabbed to death ... Woman suspected." His brain reeled. How "stabbed
to death"? He himself had seen--"Woman suspected." Then all his
despairing efforts to save her had been in vain! The train, starting
suddenly, gave him ample excuse to clutch the back of the chair for
support, and to fall heavily upon its cushions. He could not have held
himself upright another moment. An absurd scheme flashed through his
brain. He would, if necessary, take the blame upon himself--anything to
shield her. He would say they had quarreled over the Vandyke.
He became aware that Denning was asking for one of the three papers he
was clutching. He gave it to him, suddenly realizing that he was not
alone. He knew his face was deathly, and he could feel his heart's slow
pound against his ribs. If they did not believe him a sick man, they
must believe him a guilty one. To control his agitation seemed
impossible. The page swam before his eyes, and it was some moments
before he could focus upon the finer print of the sensational article.
The gruesome discovery was made by a servant, entering the library at
eight that morning. She found her master lying in the chair and thought
him asleep. She knew that the night before he had dismissed the butler,
declaring his intention to sit up late over some important business. He
might have been overcome by weariness. She tiptoed out and went in
search of the valet. His orders had been to call his master at nine and
he hesitated about waking him earlier, but at last decided to do so, as
it was nearing the hour. On entering the apartment he had noticed the
disorder of the room. He put out the electric light from the switch by
the door, drew the curtains and raised the blind. At once he realized
that death confronted him. Terrified, he had rushed to the hall calling
for the servants. Theodore Mahr, Victor Mahr's only son, who was on his
way to breakfast, rushed at once upon the scene.
There was a cut and contusion on the temple of the victim, evidently
inflicted by a weapon lying upon the table, which was believed to be the
cause of death, until the arrival of the coroner and Mr. Mahr's own
physician, when it was discovered that the victim's heart had been
pierced by a very slender blade or stiletto. The wound was so small and
the aperture closed by the head of the weapon in such a manner that no
blood had issued.
An enterprising reporter had gained access to the chamber of death, and
described in detail the rifling of the drawers, the partially open
window; he had picked up a small gold link, evidently torn from the
sleeve buttons of the deceased. Mr. Mahr was last seen alive by his
friend, Marcus Gard, who called to see him on important business before
taking his departure to Washington. Just prior to this, however, a
strange woman, heavily veiled, had sent in a note and been admitted to
Mr. Mahr. This woman was not seen to leave the house; in fact, the
servant had supposed her present when Mr. Gard called, and a party to
the business under discussion; it was now believed that she might have
remained concealed in the outer room until after the great financier had
taken his departure. Of this, however, there was no present evidence.
Mahr had dismissed the butler and told him to lock up--yet the woman had
not been seen to leave. Of course she could have let herself out, or Mr.
Mahr could have opened the door for her--no one seemed to recall whether
the chain was on in the morning or not.
Was the crime one of anger or revenge? Why, then, the robbery? The
appearance of the table drawers would seem to indicate someone in search
of papers, yet the dead man's valuables appeared to have been removed by
force--the cuff link had been broken, the watch snatched from its pocket
with such violence that the cloth had been torn. At present the mystery
that surrounded the crime was impenetrable. The dead man's son was
prostrated with grief.
Gard finished reading and rose, crushing the paper in his hand. "It's a
horrible thing--horrible! I hope you gentlemen will excuse me. I am not
well, and this--has affected me--unaccountably." He turned to his
stateroom. "I'm going to rest, if I can."
The two men looked at each other in deep concern.
"I hope we don't lose him," muttered Denning.
Alone in the silence of his swaying room, Gard threw himself face down
upon the bed. He could not reason any longer. His whole being gave way
to a voiceless cry. He shook as if with cold, and beat his hands
rhythmically on the pillows. He rolled over at last, and lay staring at
the curved ceiling of the car. One thought obsessed him. She had been
there, in that room, hidden--watching him, doubtless, as he committed
the ghastly theft. Even in the awful situation in which she found
herself, what must she think of _him_? Criminal, blackmailer, murderess,
perhaps--but what could she think of him? The blood tingled through his
veins and his waxen face flushed scarlet with vivid shame. In his
weakened, overwrought condition, this aspect of the case outranked all
others. He forgot the horrible publicity that threatened not only
Dorothy and her mother but Victor Mahr's son--when the motive of the
crime was learned. He forgot the yearning of his soul for the saving of
its sister spirit. He forgot the dread vision of the chair of death in
the keen personal shame of the creature she must believe him to be.
Suddenly a new angle of the case presented itself--Brencherly! He sat up
gasping. Brencherly must have guessed--the inevitable logic of the
situation led straight to the solution of the enigma. The detective knew
of Mahr's efforts to obtain the combination of Mrs. Marteen's safe; he,
himself, had told him that those efforts had been successful. Brencherly
knew of Mrs. Marteen's sudden return, her visit to her home and her
mysterious disappearance. The motive of the murder was supplied, the
disappearance accounted for. Already the detective's trained mind had
doubtless pieced together the fragments of these broken lives. It was
Brencherly who had told him of Mahr's former marriage. Everything,
everything was in his hands. Would the man remain true to him? What
wouldn't one of the great newspapers pay for the inside story! Could
Brencherly be trusted? His well seasoned dislike of the whole detective
and police service made him sure of treachery. But before him rose the
vision of the boyish, candid face, as the detective had taken the Great
Man's proffered hand, the honesty in his voice as he had given his
word--"I'll do my best, sir," and into Gard's black despair crept a pale
ray of hope.
Gard had not been mistaken when he surmised that Brencherly must
inevitably connect the murder with the sequence of events. But the
conclusion reached with relentless finality by that astute young man was
far from being what Gard had feared. To the detective's mind the answer
was plain--his employer was guilty.
The motive obviously concerned Mrs. Marteen. It was evident, from Mahr's
efforts to gain access to that lady's safe, that she possessed something
of which Mahr stood in fear or desired to possess. It was possible that
she had obtained proof against Mahr. Perhaps she opposed young Teddy's
attentions to her daughter. Perhaps Mahr was responsible for the
disappearance. At any rate, Gard had been the last person to see Mahr as
far as anyone knew; and a bitter feud existed, which no one guessed.
Brencherly did not place great reliance in the woman theory. Doubtless
one had called, but she had probably left. That she had gone out unseen
was no astonishing matter. A servant delinquent in his hall duty was by
no means a novelty even in the best regulated mansions. The robbery in
that case could have been only a blind for an act of anger or revenge.
The search for papers might have a deeper significance.
He intended to "stand by the boss," Brencherly told himself. Gard was a
great man and a decent sort; Mahr was an unworthy specimen. Brencherly
decided that at all Costs Marcus Gard must be protected. He cursed the
promise that kept him at his post. He longed to get into personal touch
with every tangible piece of evidence, every clew, noted and unnoted.
His men were on the spot and reporting to him; but that could not make
up for personal investigation. In view of these new developments, what
would be Mrs. Marteen's next move? Some secret bond connected the
three--Mahr, Gard and Mrs. Marteen.
Brencherly, alone in Gard's library, rose and paced the room, glancing
at the desk clock every time his line of march took him past the table.
His employer was coming home fast as steam could bring him. He longed
for his arrival and the council of war that must ensue; longed to be
relieved of the tedium of room-tied waiting. He no longer looked for any
communication from Mrs. Marteen. She had her reasons for concealment, no
doubt, and he felt assured that neither hospital nor morgue would yield
her up. It was with genuine delight that he at last heard the familiar
voice on the telephone, though it was but a hurried inquiry for news.
Half an hour later, haggard and worn beyond belief, Gard hurried into
the library and held out his hand.
The young man looked at his face in astonishment as Gard threw himself
into the chair and turned toward him.
"You'll pardon me," he faltered. "There's nothing that can't wait, and
you need rest, sir."
"Not till I can get it without nightmares," he snapped. "Now give me
this Mahr affair--all of it. I've seen the papers, of course, but I
imagine you have the inside; then I want to hear what you think."
The detective gave a start and colored to the roots of his hair. No
doubt about it, Gard was a great man, if he could meet such a situation
in such a manner and get away with it.
"Well, sir, the papers have it straight enough this time, as it happens.
There's nothing different."
"What was the weapon?"
"A stiletto paper cutter, that he always had on his table. It had a top
like a fencing foil; in fact, that's what it was in miniature, except
that it was edged. It was that top, flattened close down, that stopped
any flow of blood, so that everyone thought at first it was the blow on
the temple that killed him. There's this about it, though: I'm told they
say he was stunned first and stabbed afterward. That doesn't look like
the work of a common thief, does it?"
His hearer could not control a shudder. "Why not?" he parried. "He may
have known the knockout was only temporary, and he was afraid he'd come
to; or the man might have been known to Mahr, and he'd recognized him."
Brencherly shook his head incredulously.
"And the woman? What description did the servants give?" There was a
perceptible pause before he asked the question.
"The woman? The description is pretty vague--dressed in black, a heavy
veil, black gloves; nothing extraordinary. The servant did say he
thought her hair was gray, or it might have been light. He caught a
glimpse of the back of her head when he showed her into the room. She
sent in a note first; just a plain envelope; it wasn't directed."
"Did they find any letter or enclosure that might explain why she was
"No, sir, nothing."
The two men eyed each other in silence. Each felt the other's reticence.
"And what do you advise now?" Gard inquired.
Brencherly's gaze shifted to the bronze inkwells.
"If I knew just how this event affected you, sir, I might be able to
It was his employer's turn to look away.
"I know absolutely nothing about the cause of Mahr's death. I do know
that there was no love lost between us; also that I was the last person
known to have been with him. Isn't that enough to show you how I am
"And the motive of your quarrel?" The detective felt his heart thump and
wondered at his own daring.
"We were rival competitors for the Heim Vandyke--he got it away from
"Does that answer my question, sir?" Again Brencherly gasped at his own
"Young man," bellowed Gard, half rising from his chair, "what are you
trying to infer?"
Brencherly stood up. "Please, Mr. Gard, be frank with me. I want to help
you; I want to see you through. It can be done--I'm sure of it. No one
knows about your trouble with Mahr. What he wanted with the combination
of that safe I can't guess, but it was for no good; and you told me
yourself that he had secured it. But everything may work out all right
if you let me help you. I'm used to this cross-examination business, and
I can coach you so they won't get a thing. I don't pretend to be in a
class with you, sir; don't think I'm so conceited. I'm just specialized,
that's all. I want to help, and I can if you'll let me."
Gard's face underwent a kaleidoscopic series of changes; then
astonishment and relief finally triumphed, and were followed by
hysterical laughter. Brencherly was disconcerted.
"Oh, so you think _I_ did it!" he said at last. "I wish I had!" he
added. "That wouldn't worry me in the least."
"Mrs. Marteen!" Brencherly exclaimed, and stood aghast and silent.
"No!" thundered Gard, and then leaned forward brokenly with his head in
Slowly the detective's mind readjusted itself, and the look in his eyes
fixed upon Gard's bowed figure was all pitying understanding. Then he
shook his head.
"No, she didn't do it," he said--"never! I don't believe it!"
The stricken man looked up gratefully, but his head sank forward again.
"He had done a horrible thing to her," he said. "You're right; you must
have my confidence if you are to help--us. He had tried to estrange
Dorothy from her mother. I--happened to be able to stop that. I used
what you told me to quiet him. I threatened to tell his son the whole
story. It was bluffing, for we knew nothing positive. But the story is
all true. He was putty in my hand when I held that threat over
him--putty. I went to him that night to dictate what he was to do in
case he obtained any clew of Mrs. Marteen. I thought she might try to
see him--to--reproach him. We knew she was very ill, had been when she
went away, and then--nerve shock. I went to him--and found him already
dead. You understand--Mrs. Marteen--I couldn't but believe--so I set the
stage for robbery. I bluffed it off with everyone. I gave the message to
lock up and leave Mahr undisturbed. I wanted an alibi for her--or at
least to gain time."
Brencherly remained silent. A man's devotion to another commands awed
respect, however it may manifest itself. But he was thinking rapidly.
"You know District Attorney Field, don't you?" he asked at length.
Gard nodded. "An old personal friend; but I can't go to him with that
story. I'd rather a thousand times he suspected me than give one clew
that would lead to her. I'll stick to my story. Field wouldn't cover up
a thing like that--he couldn't."
"I know," returned Brencherly; "there's got to be a victim for justice
first, or else prove that nothing, not even the ends of justice, can be
gained before you can get the wires pulled. But that's what I'm setting
out to do. I don't believe, Mr. Gard, that Mrs. Marteen committed that
murder--not that there may not have been plenty of reason for it, but
the way of it--no! I've got an idea. I don't want to say too much or
raise any hopes that I can't make good; but there's just this: when I
leave the house it will be to start on another trail. In the meantime,
everything is being done that is humanly possible to find Mrs. Marteen.
There's only one other way, and that, for the present, won't do--it's
newspaper publicity, photographic reproductions and a reward. I think
she is somewhere under an assumed name. But there are two lodestones
that will draw her if she is able to move. One is the house of Victor
Mahr, and the other her own home. There is love and hate to count on,
and sooner or later one will draw her within reach. I'll have the
closest watch put about that I can devise. There's nothing you can do,
sir--now. If you'll rest to-night, you'll be better able to stand
to-morrow, and if I can verify my idea in the least I'll tell you. Let
your secretary watch here; and good night, Mr. Gard."
* * * * *
The woman in the narrow bed tossed in a heavy, unnatural sleep. Her lips
were swollen and cracked with fever, her cheeks scarlet and dry. She was
alone in a narrow, plain room, sparsely but newly furnished. On a
dressing table an expensive gold-fitted traveling bag stood open. Over a
bent-wood chair hung a costly dark blue traveling suit, and the garments
scattered about the room were of the finest make and material. On the
floor lay a diamond-encrusted watch, ticking faintly, and a gold mesh
bag, evidently flung from under the pillow by the movements of the
sleeper. This much the landlady noticed as she softly opened the
unlocked door and stood upon the threshold.
"Dear, dear!" she murmured, and, habit strong upon her, she gathered up
the scattered garments, folded them neatly, and hung up the gown in the
scanty closet, having first examined the tailor's mark on the collar.
"Dear, dear!" she said again. "It's noon; now whatever can be the
matter? Is she sick? Looks like fever." Again she hesitated and paused
to pick up a sheer handkerchief-linen blouse, upon the Irish lace collar
of which a circle of pinhead diamonds held a monogram of the same
material. "H'm," ruminated the landlady. "Martin! Yes, there's an 'M,'
and a 'Y' and a 'J'--h'm! She said she's a friend of Mrs. Bell's, but
Mrs. Bell has been in Europe six months. Wonder who her friends are, if
she's going to be sick?"
She moved toward the bed to examine her guest more closely, but her
attention was distracted by the luxuriousness of the objects in the
dressing case. She fingered them with awe and observed the marking. She
stooped for the purse and watch, which she examined with equal
attention. Once more her eyes turned to the flushed face on the tumbled
pillow. The sleeper had not awakened. The woman leaned over and took one
of the restless hands in hers. "It's fever, sure," she said. At the
touch and sound of her voice the other opened her eyes, wide with sudden
astonishment. "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Martin," said the visitor, "but
it's after twelve o'clock, and I began to get anxious--you a stranger
and all. I think, ma'am, you've a fever. Better let me call the doctor;
there's one on the block."
The woman sat up in bed. "Mrs. Martin?" she said faintly. "Yes--I've--My
head hurts--and my eyes--" She stared about her with a puzzled
expression that convinced her observer that delirium had set in. "A
doctor? Do I need a doctor? Why? What was it the doctor said? That my
nerves were in--in--what was it? And I must travel and rest--yes, that
was it; I remember now."
"Well," the other woman commented, "he doesn't seem to have done you a
world of good, and you better try another."
"No," said Mrs. Marteen with decision, "no, I don't want one--not now,
anyway. It's a headache. May I have some tea? Then I'll lie quiet, if
you'll lower that blind, please."
"I'm sorry Mrs. Bell's away, or I'd send for her," ventured the
"Mrs. Bell?" the sick woman echoed with the same tone of puzzled
surprise. "Why, she's away--yes--she's away." She sank back among the
pillows and waved a dismissing hand.
Still the landlady waited. She deemed it most unwise not to call a
doctor, but feared to make herself responsible for the bill if her guest
refused. But she had seen enough to convince her that the lady's visible
possessions were ample to cover any bill she might run up through
illness, provided, of course, it were not contagious. She turned
reluctantly and descended to the kitchen to brew the desired tea.
Left alone, the patient sat up and looked about her with strained and
frightened eyes. Then she began to wring her hands, slowly, as if such a
gesture of torment was foreign to her habit. Her wide, clear brow
knitted with puzzled fear. Her lips were distorted as one who would cry
out and was held dumb. Presently she spoke.
"Where am I?" There was a long pause of nerve-racking effort as she
strove to remember. "_Who_ am I?" she cried hysterically. She sprang out
of bed and ran to the mirror over the dressing table. The face that
looked back at her was familiar, but she could not give it its name. A
muffled scream escaped her lips, and she held her clenched fists to her
temples as if she feared her brain would burst. "Martin!" she said at
last. "Martin--she called me Mrs. Martin. Who is she? When did I come
She seized her dressing case and went through its contents. Each article
was familiar; they were hers; she knew their faults and advantages. The
letter case had a spot on the back; she turned it over and found it
there. Letter case--the thought was an aspiration. With trembling
eagerness she clutched at the papers in the side pocket. Yes, there were
letters. She read the address, "Mrs. Martin Marteen"--yes, that was
herself. How strange! She had forgotten. The address was a steamer--that
seemed possible. There was a journey, a long journey--she vaguely
recalled that. But why? Where? She read the notes eagerly; casual _bon
voyage_ and good wishes; letters referring to books, flowers or bonbons.
The signatures were all familiar, but no corresponding image rose in her
brain. The last she read gave her a distinct feeling of affection, of
admiration, though the signature "M.G." meant nothing. She reread the
few scrawled sentences with a longing that frightened her. Who was
M.G.--that her bound and gagged mentality cried out for? She felt if she
could only reach that mysterious identity all would be well. M.G. would
bring everything right.
Suddenly the idea of insanity crossed her mind. She sat down abruptly.
The room began to sway; her head ached as if the blows of a hammer were
descending on her brow. She clutched the iron foottrail to keep from
being tossed from the heaving, rocking bed. The ceiling seemed to lower
and crush her. Then an enormous hand and arm entered at the window and
turned off the sun which was burning at the end of a gas jet in the
room. All was dark.
She recovered consciousness slowly, aware of immeasurable weakness. She
lay very still, lying, as it were, within her body. She felt that should
she require that weary body to do anything it must refuse. Through her
half-closed lids she saw the woman who had first aroused her enter the
room with a tray.
"Dear, dear!" she heard her say. "You must cover up. Don't lie on the
outside of the bed; get under the covers."
To Mrs. Marteen's intense inner surprise, the weary body obeyed,
crawling feebly beneath the sheets. She had not realized that she had
lain where she had fainted, at the foot of the bed.
"Now take some tea," the controlling will ordered; "you'll feel better;
and a bit of dry toast. Sick headaches are awful, I know, and tea's the
Once more the body obeyed, and sat up and drank the steaming cup to the
great comfort of the inner being. So reviving was its influence that
Mrs. Marteen decided to try her own will and speak.
"Thank you--" her lips spoke, and she felt elated. She made another
effort. "Thank you very much; it's most refreshing. No--no toast
now--but is there some more tea?"
She drank it greedily and lay back upon the pillows with a sigh. Images
were forming; memories were coming back now--scraps of things. There was
a young girl whom she loved dearly. She had brown hair, very blue eyes
and a delicious profile. She was tall and slender. She wore a blue serge
suit. Her name--was--was Dorothy. She spread her palms upon the sheet
and felt it cool and refreshing.
"I'm afraid I've had a fever," she said slowly. "I think I have it
still. I--I have such nightmares when I sleep--such nightmares." She
"Well," said the landlady cheerfully, "you'll feel better now. Take it
from me, tea's the thing." She gathered up the napkin, cup and saucer
and placed them on the tray. "Well, I'll let you be quiet, and I'll drop
in again about five."
Now another memory came, a conscious thought connection. She remembered
that Mrs. Bell had told her of her faithful landlady, Mrs. Mellen, with
whom she always stopped when she came North; she remembered calling
there many times for Mary, her smart motor waking the quiet,
unpretentious street. Now she remembered recalling the boarding house
and seeking shelter there in her fear and pain. Fear and pain--why, what
was it? There was something cataclysmic, overpowering, that had
happened. What could it be? Something was hanging over her head, some
dreadful punishment. Her struggle to clear the mists from her brain
rendered her more wildly feverish, then stupefied her to heavy sleep.
When she awoke again it was to see the kindly fat face of Mrs. Mellen
beaming at her from the foot of the bed.
"That's it," she nodded approvingly; "you've had a nice nap. Head's
better, I'm sure. Here's another cup of tea, and I brought you up the
evening paper; thought you might want to look it over. And if you'll
give me your trunk checks, I'll send the expressman after your baggage."
"My trunk checks--what did I do with them? Why, of course, I gave them
to my maid."
A sudden instinct that she did not wish to see her maid, or be followed
by her baggage, made her stop short in her speech.
"Oh, your maid!" said Mrs. Mellen. "I'm glad you told me--I'll have to
hold a room. You didn't say anything about her last night, so I hadn't
made any provision. Dear, dear! And when do you calculate she's liable
to get here?"
Mrs. Marteen took refuge in her headache. "I don't know," she said
wearily; "perhaps not to-day."
"Oh, well, never mind. I dare say I can manage," Mrs. Mellen assured
her. "If you've got everything you want, I'll have to go. Do you think
you'll be able to get down to dinner--seven, you know; or would you
rather have a plate of nice hot soup up here? Here, I guess. Well, it's
no trouble at all, and you're right to starve your head; it's what I
She backed smiling out of the door, which she closed gently.
Mrs. Marteen lay back with closed eyes for a moment, then restlessness
seizing her, she sat bolt upright and firmly held her own pulse. "I'm
certainly ill," she said aloud. "I wonder where Marie is? Of course I
left her at the station, and told her to bring the baggage on. But that
was long ago; what has kept her? But this isn't my home," she argued to
herself. She was too weak to trouble with further questioning.
Instinctively she put out her hand and drew the newspaper toward her.
She raised it idly.
"Murder of Victor Mahr"--the big headlines met her eyes.
She felt a shock as if a blinding flash of lightning had enveloped her;
She sat as if turned to stone, staring at the ominous words. Her nerves
tingled from head to foot; her very life seemed a strained and vibrating
string that might snap with any breath. Slowly, as if the Fates had
decided not as yet to break that attenuated thread, the tingling,
stinging shock passed. She found strength to read the whole article,
almost intelligently, though at times her mind would wander to
inconsequent things, and the beat of her own heart seemed to deaden her
understanding. She remembered now everything, nearly everything, till
she turned from her own door, a desperate, homeless outcast. She
recalled a cab going somewhere, and then after what appeared to be an
interval of unconsciousness, she was walking, walking, instinctively
seeking the darkened streets, a satchel in her hand. Somewhere, footsore
and exhausted, she had sat upon a bench. Then came the inspiration to go
to the quiet house where her friend had stayed. The friend was far away;
she could remain there and not be found--stay until she had courage to
do the thing that had suggested itself as the only issue--to end it all.
But who had killed Victor Mahr? She gave a gasp of horror and held up
her hands--was there blood upon them? But how--how? Try as she would, no
answering picture of horror rose from her darkened mind. There was a
long, long period she could not account for--not yet; perhaps it would
come back, as these other terrible memories had returned to assail her.
She rolled over, hiding her face in the pillow, and groaned. The
twilight deepened; the shadows thickened in the room.
Suddenly she rose and began dressing in frenzied haste, overcoming her
bodily weakness with set purpose. Habit came to her rescue, for she was
hardly conscious of her movements. Her toilet completed, she began
hastily packing her traveling case, the impulse of flight urging her to
trembling speed. But when she lifted the bag its weight discouraged her.
Setting it down again upon the dressing table, she lowered her veil and
staggered into the dark hallway. Economy dictated delayed illumination
in the Mellen household. All was quiet. Somewhat reassured, she
descended the stairs, leaning heavily on the rail. The fever which had
relaxed for a brief interval renewed its grip, and filled with vague,
indescribable fears, she fled blindly. Something in her subconscious
brain suggested Victor Mahr, and it was toward Washington Square that
she bent her hurried steps.
She entered the park, forcing her failing strength to one supreme
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