Out of the Ashes
Ethel Watts Mumford
Part 3 out of 4
effort, and sank, gasping, upon a bench. It faced toward the darkened
residence of the murdered man. A few stragglers stood grouped on the
pavement before the house, of asked questions of the policeman stationed
near by. The electric lights threw lace patterns that wavered over the
unfrequented paths. She leaned back, staring at the dark bulk of the
mansion with the darker streak at the doorway, which one divined to be
the sinister mark of death. Suddenly she sat erect, her aching weariness
forgotten. She knew, past peradventure, that _she had sat there upon
that very seat the night before_. The memory was but a flash. Already
delirium was returning. She was powerless to move. Hours passed, and
still she sat staring, unseeing, straight before her. Once a policeman
passed and turned to look at her, but her evident refinement quieted his
suspicions, and he moved on.
She was roused at last by a movement of the bench as someone took a
place beside her. She looked up and vaguely realized that it was a
woman, darkly dressed and heavily veiled like herself. She, too, leaned
back and seemed lost in contemplation of the house opposite. Presently
she raised the veil, as if it obstructed her vision too greatly,
revealing a withered face, narrow and long, with a singularly white
skin. She had the look of a respectable working woman, and her
black-gloved hands were folded over a neat paper package. Her curious
glance turned toward the lady beside her, and seemed to find
satisfaction in the elegance that even the darkness could not quite
conceal. She moved nearer, and with a birdlike twist of the head, leaned
forward and frankly gazed in her companion's face. The other did not
resent the action.
The woman slowly nodded her head. "Don't know what she's doin', not she.
She's one of the silly kind." She put out a hand like a claw, and
touched Mrs. Marteen's shoulder. Mrs. Marteen turned her flushed and
troubled face toward the woman with something akin to intelligence in
her eyes. "What are you settin' here fur, lady?" asked the woman
harshly. "Watchin' his house? Well, it's no use; he won't come out again
for you or your likes--never again, never again," and she chuckled.
"I was here last night. I sat here last night," said Mrs. Marteen, her
mind reverting to its last conscious moment.
The woman peered at her closely, striving to see through the meshes of
the veil where the electric light touched her cheek.
"You did? What fur? Was he comin' out to ye, or did ye want to be let
The insult was lost on the sufferer.
The woman shifted her position, and changed her tone to one of cunning
"Goin' to the funeral?" she inquired, and without waiting for an answer,
continued to talk. "I am. I won't be asked, of course--they don't know
I'm here; but I'm goin'. I wouldn't miss it--no, not for--nothing. I
ought to have some crape, I know, but I don't see's I can. It would be
the right thing, though. I'll ride in a carriage," she boasted. "I
suppose they'll have black horses. I haven't seen anything back where I
come from, so's I'd know just what _is_ the fashionable thing. It'll be
a fashionable funeral, won't it? He's a great big man, he is. Everybody
knows him--and everybody _don't_ know him; but I do--he's a devil I And
women love him, always did love him, the fools! Why, _I_ used to love
him. You wouldn't think that now, would you? Well, I did." She laughed a
broken cackle, and seemed surprised that her listener remained mute.
"Did you love him?" demanded the crone sneeringly.
"Love him--love him?" exclaimed Mrs. Marteen, her emotions responding
where her mind was unreceptive. "I hated him--I hated him!"
"Of course you hated him. How could a lady help hating him?" murmured
the questioner. "But would _you_ have the courage to kill him--that's
what I want to know!"
Under the inquisition Mrs. Marteen half roused to consciousness. She was
in the semi-lucid state of a sleepwalker.
"Kill him!" She held up her hands and looked at them as she had done
after reading the account of the murder. "I'm not sure I didn't kill
him; perhaps I did--I can't remember--I can't remember," she moaned more
and more faintly.
"Don't you take the credit of _that_!" shouted the woman, so loudly that
a young man who had been aimlessly walking up and down as if intent upon
some rendezvous, stopped short to gaze at them keenly.
The older woman, with a movement so rapid that it seemed almost
prestidigitation, lifted and threw back her companion's veil. The young
man gave a start and approached hastily, amazement in every feature. But
the two women were unaware of his presence, and what he next heard made
him pause, turn, and by a slight detour come up close behind the bench.
"Keep your hands off. Don't you say you killed him. What right have
_you_ to take his life, I'd like to know! Don't let me hear you say that
again--don't you dare! Just remember that killing him is _my_ business.
You sha'n't try to rob me--it's my right!" She leaned forward
A hand closed over her wrist. The woman screamed.
"Hold on, Mother, none of that." The young man, still retaining his
hold, came from behind the seat and stood over her.
She began to whimper and tremble. "Don't hit me," she begged pitifully.
"Don't hit me, and I'll be good, indeed, I will."
Mrs. Marteen had taken no notice of her providential protector. Her head
was sunk upon her breast and her hands hung limp in her lap.
The young man whistled twice, never relaxing his hold. A moment later a
form detached itself from the group before the door of the house
opposite, crossed the street and joined them quickly, yet with no
impression of hurry.
"What's up?" the newcomer asked quietly.
"Here, take hold. Don't let her get away from you." With a glance round,
he took a hypodermic needle from hi" pocket, and a quick prick in the
wrist instantly quieted the struggling, captive. "Get a cab," he
ordered, "and bring her over to my rooms. The utmost importance--not a
sound to anybody. I've got my job cut out for me--no police in this,
He turned, his manner all gentleness. "Mrs. Marteen--Mrs. Marteen," he
repeated. She raised her head slightly. "Will you come with me? My name
is Brencherly, and Mr. Gard sent me for you. Come."
She rose obediently. The name he had spoken seemed to inspire
confidence, trust and peace, like a word of power; but her limbs refused
to move, and she sank back again. Brencherly took her unresisting hand
in his, felt her pulse and shook his head.
"Long!" he called. "Get a cab. I'll take Mrs. Marteen; stop somewhere
and send a taxi back for you; it might look queer to see two of us with
When his subordinate turned to go, Brencherly leaned toward the drugged
woman, took the bundle from her listless hands and rapidly examined its
contents. A coarse nightdress, a black waist and a worn and ragged empty
wallet rewarded his search. He tied them up again, put the package in
its place and turned once more to Mrs. Marteen. "She's a mighty sick
woman," he murmured. "Well, it's home for hers, and then me for the old
A taxi drove up, and his assistant descended. With his help Brencherly
half supported, half carried his charge to the curb.
Directing the chauffeur to stop at a nearby hotel before proceeding to
Mrs. Marteen's apartment, he climbed in beside the patient, and as the
machine gathered headway, murmured a fervent "Thank God!"
Mrs. Marteen lay back upon the cushioned seat inert and passive. In the
flash of each passing street-light her face showed waxen pale, a cameo
against the dark background; so drawn and pinched were her features,
that Brencherly, in panic, seized her pulse, in order to assure himself
that life had not already fled. Obedient to his orders the cab ran up to
an hotel entrance, and Brencherly, leaning out, called the starter.
"Here!" he snapped, "send a taxi over to the park--the bench opposite
No. --, and pick up a man with an old lady. She's unconscious."
For an instant the light glinted on his metal badge as he threw back his
coat. The starter nodded. Brencherly settled back again in his place
with a sigh of relief. It was only a matter of moments now, and he would
have brought to an unexpectedly successful close the task he had set
himself. He began to build air castles; to construct for himself a
little niche in his own selected temple of Fame. He was aroused from his
revery by a voice at his side. Mrs. Marteen was speaking, at first
indistinctly, then with insistent repetition.
"I can't remember--I can't remember."
He turned to her with gentle questioning, but she did not heed him.
Slowly, with infinite effort, as if her slender hands were weighted
down, she lifted them before her face. She stared at them with growing
horror depicted on her face. He was suddenly reminded of an electrifying
performance of Macbeth he had once witnessed. A red glare from a ruby
lamp at a fire-street corner splashed her frail fingers with vivid color
as they passed it by. She gave a scream that ended in a moan, and
mechanically wiped her hands back and forth, back and forth, upon her
coat. Brencherly's heart ached for her. Over and over he repeated
reassuring words in her deafened ears, striving to lay the awful ghost
that had fastened like a vampire on her heart. But to no avail. She was
as beyond his reach as if she were a creature of another planet. Never
in his active, efficient life had he felt so helpless. It was with
thanksgiving that at last he saw the ornate entrance of Mrs. Marteen's
"Watch her!" he ordered the chauffeur, as he leaped up the steps and
into the vestibule to prepare for her reception.
A message to her apartment brought the maid and butler in haste. With
many exclamations of alarm and sympathy they bore her to her own room
once more, and laid her upon the bed. She lay limp and still, while they
hurried about her with restoratives.
Brencherly was at the telephone. Almost at once, in answer to his ring,
Doctor Balys' voice sounded over the wire in hasty congratulations and
promises of immediate assistance. Hanging up the receiver, he turned
again to his patient.
Through the silent apartment the sound of the doorbell buzzed with
sudden shock. The butler stood as if transfixed.
"It's Miss Dorothy!" he exclaimed in consternation. "She went out to
walk a little, with young Mr. Mahr. She was nervous and couldn't rest,
and telephoned for him to come--in spite of--in spite of--" He
hesitated. "Anyway, Mr. Mahr--young Mr. Mahr--came for her, sir.
Mr.--Mr.--I think you'd better break it to her, sir. She mustn't see her
mother like this--without warning!"
Brencherly ran down the hall, the servant preceding him. As the door
swung wide, Dorothy, followed by Teddy Mahr, entered the hallway. She
stopped suddenly, face to face with a stranger.
"Who are you? What do you want?" she asked, sudden fear and suspicion in
Brencherly explained quickly.
"Mr. Gard employed me, Miss Marteen, to find your mother, if
possible--and--she is here. Don't be alarmed."
Dorothy sank into a chair, weak with relief. Teddy put forth his hand to
help her. Instinctively she remained clasping his arm as if his presence
gave her strength.
"And she's all right--she isn't hurt--or--or anything?" she implored
"She's very ill, I'm afraid," said Brencherly. "I think you--had better
not go to her till the doctor comes. I've sent for him."
"Oh! but I must--I must!" she cried, tears in her voice.
In the rush of happenings no one had thought of Mrs. Mellows. Hers was
not a personality to commend itself in moments of stress. Now she
suddenly appeared, her eyes swollen with sleep, her ample form swathed
in a dressing gown.
"What _is_ the matter?" she complained. "I told you, Dorothy, that I
thought it very bad form, indeed, for you and Mr. Mahr to go out. In
bereavements, such as yours, sir, it's not the proper thing for you to
be making exhibitions of yourself. Like as not the reporters have been
taking pictures. And at any time they may find out that my poor dear
sister is ill and wandering. I don't know _what_ to say! The papers will
be full of it. And you!" she exclaimed, having for the first time become
aware of the detective's presence. "Who are you. How did you get in? I
hope and pray you're not a reporter!--Dorothy, don't tell me you've
brought a reporter in here--or I shall leave this house at once!"
"No, Aunt, no!" cried Dorothy. "This--this gentleman, has brought my
mother home. She's in her room now--she's--"
Mrs. Mellows turned and made a rush down the corridor. Four pairs of
hands stayed her in her flight.
"No--no!" begged Dorothy. "This gentleman says she is very ill. We
mustn't disturb her--Aunt--please--the doctor is coming."
As if the name had conjured him, a ring announced Doctor Balys' arrival.
He entered hastily, his emergency bag in his hand.
"Mr. Brencherly, come with me, please," he ordered. "You can tell me the
details as I work. Miss Marteen and Mrs. Mellows, wait for me, and I'll
come and tell you the facts just as soon as I know them myself." He
nodded unceremoniously and followed Brencherly.
As they neared Mrs. Marteen's room the silence was suddenly broken by a
cry. Balys strode past his guide and threw open the door.
Mrs. Marteen, sitting erect in the bed, held out rigid arms as if in
desperate appeal. The terrified maid stood by, wringing her hands.
"Gard!" she called. "Marcus Gard! help me! Tell me--I'll believe
you--I'll believe you--will you tell me the truth!" Her strength left
her suddenly, and as the physician placed a supporting arm about her,
she sank back, her eyes closed wearily. As he laid her gently back upon
the pillows, she sighed softly, her heavy lids unclosed a moment. "I
knew you'd come," she murmured. "You'll take care of--of Dorothy--you
will--" Her voice trailed off into nothingness; then "Marcus"--she
The two men turned away. Brencherly coughed. "Is there any hope?" he
asked, breaking the tense silence that seemed suddenly to have entered
the room like an actual presence.
The doctor nodded without speaking. "Yes--hope," he said at length, as
he opened his leather satchel.
* * * * *
It was well into the small hours of the morning when Brencherly sought
his own rooms in an inconspicuous apartment hotel, where he, his
activities and, at times, strange companions, were not only tolerated,
but welcomed. He was weary, but too excited and elated to desire sleep.
He nodded to the friendly night clerk, and received a favorable response
to his request, even at that unwholesome hour, for coffee and scrambled
eggs to be served in his rooms.
He found Long, his assistant, slumbering sonorously in an armchair in
the living-room of his modest suite. The open door to the chamber
beyond, sufficiently indicated where his charge had been placed.
Long awoke, and stretched himself with a yawn.
"Three o'clock," he observed, with a glance at the mantel clock. "Made a
good haul, hey? Well, your kidnapped beauty is in there, dead to the
world. I tied her feet together before I went to sleep. You can't tell
when they're going to come to, you know, and I thought it would be
safer. Now, tell a feller, what's the dope?"
Brencherly entered the adjoining apartment without deigning an answer,
switched on the lights and approached the bed. The wizen little woman,
with her disheveled white hair and tumbled garments looked pitifully
weak and helpless; her thin, claw-like hands clutching at the pillow in
a childish pose. Her captor stared at her intently, his brain crowded
with strange thoughts. Who was she? What was her history? He had his
suspicions, but they all remained to be verified.
He took one of the emaciated wrists in his hand. How frail and small it
was, and yet, perhaps, an instrument in the hands of Fate. She moved
uneasily, and, glancing down, he noticed how securely she was bound.
Leaning over, he loosened the curtain cord with which she had been
secured. She sighed as if relieved, and, turning, he left her, as a
discreet tapping at his door announced the coming of the meal he had
A night watchman in shirt sleeves brought in the tray softly and set it
upon the table, with a glance of curiosity at the adjoining room. There
was usually an interesting story to be gleaned from the guests that the
"Come on," said the host eagerly, "fall on it, I'm starved."
"Anything I can do?" inquired the night watchman hopefully.
But Brencherly was still uncommunicative. "Nope, thanks."
"Yes. Good-night--or good-morning. Tell 'em down stairs I'm much
obliged, as usual."
The two men ate heartily and in silence. It was not till the plates were
scraped that either spoke. With the last sip of the soothing beverage
Brencherly closed his eyes peacefully.
"Old man," he said, "this night's work is the best luck I've ever had.
Now, tell me, did the lady say anything at any time? or did she remain
as she is?"
"She didn't say much. Grumbled a little at being moved around; in fact,
I thought she was coming out of it for a minute when we first got her in
here. Then she straightened out for another lap of sleep. Here's her
He rose as he spoke, and took from the mantel the package she had clung
to during all her enforced journey. He untied the parcel, and both men
bent over its meager contents. Though Brencherly had seen them under the
wavering arc lights of Washington Square, he now gave each article the
closest scrutiny. Nothing offered any clew, except the wallet. That,
worn as it was, showed its costly texture, and the marks of careful
mountings. It was unmistakably a man's wallet, and its flexibility
denoted constant use. Brencherly set it on one side.
"Anything else?" he asked.
The other nodded. He had the most important find in reserve.
"These," he said, and drew from his pocket a bunch of newspaper
clippings. He laid each one on the table. "Now, _what_ do you think of
_that_?" His lean, cadaverous face took on a look of satisfied cunning.
If his colleague had not chosen to take him into his confidence, he
could show him that he was quite capable of drawing his own inferences
and making his own conclusions. He sat back and nonchalantly lit a
There were at least twenty cuttings, of all sizes, from a half page from
a Sunday supplement to a couple of lines from a financial column. But
all bore the name of Victor Mahr more or less conspicuously displayed.
Two scraps showed conclusively that they had been cherished and handled
more than all the others. One was a sketch of the millionaire's country
estate; the other, a reproduction from a photograph of his old-fashioned
and imposing city residence.
"H'm!" said Brencherly. "It's pretty clear that she had a reason for
occupying that park bench, hey? And she certainly has patronized the
news bureau, or been a patient collector herself. See that?" He pushed
forward the largest of the clippings. "That's three years old. I
remember when that came out. It was after Teddy's sensational playing at
the Yale-Harvard game. They had the limelight well turned on then, you
remember. And that"--he smoothed another slip--"that announcement of his
purchase of 'Allanbrae' is at least five years old. She's been
treasuring all this for a long time. Where did you find them?"
"When I put her on the bed," Long replied, "her collar seemed to be
choking her, so I loosened it, and a button or two. There was a pink
string around her throat and a little old chamois bag--like you might
put a turnip-watch in. I took it in here and found--that stuff--what do
"I think that we're getting near the answer to something we all want to
know," said Brencherly. "But it means a lot to a lot of people to keep
the police off--for the present. I want to be sure."
"How do you suppose she got in?" said Long, insinuatingly.
"Don't know yet--but we'll find that out. Meantime, don't use the
telephone for anything you have to say to anybody. And the other woman,
let me tell you, has nothing to do with this case. I'll tell you now,
before your curiosity makes you make a fool of yourself--she's been
hunted for high and low, because she's had aphasia--forgets who she is,
and all that, every once in a while, and her people have been offering a
reward. Just happened to make a double haul, that's all. But you don't
get in on the first one. Now are you satisfied?" Brencherly looked at
his companion quizzically.
Long grunted. He was rather annoyed at having the occurrence so simply
"Oh, well," he yawned, "you're on this case, and I'm only your lobbygow;
so I suppose I've got to let it go at that. But, say, I'm tired. Let's
turn in, or, if you don't want me in your joint, I'll go down stairs and
get them to bunk me somewhere in the dump." He rose. "I suppose they'll
fix me up?"
Brencherly went to the telephone and spoke for a moment. "All right," he
said; "they'll give you number seventy-three on this floor. I want you
to do something for me to-morrow, so set the bellboy for eight o'clock,
will you?" A moment later he turned his assistant over to the hotel
roundsman, and turned to his own well earned rest. Making a neat packet
of the clippings, he stowed them away once more in their worn
receptacle--he hesitated, then nodded to himself, having decided to
replace them. He must gain this woman's confidence. She must not be made
suspicious. Above all, her anger must not be roused. She might become
stubborn and uncommunicative. He stepped into the adjoining room and
turned on the electrics. The quick flash of the light made him shut his
eyes. When he opened them he gave a cry of dismay. The tumbled bed was
empty--the window stood wide open. It flashed into his mind, that as he
had talked with Long over the incriminating bits of paper, he had felt a
draft of air; but his knowledge that his captive was securely tied had
eliminated from his mind any idea of the possibility of an attempt at
escape. Then, cursing himself, he recalled how he had loosened the cords
about her ankles. With a bound he was at the window, looking down at the
spidery threads of fire escape ladders, leading down to the utter dark
of the service alley.
"My God!" he exclaimed aloud. "My God!" He feared to find a crushed and
broken little body at the foot of those steep iron ladders. It seemed
impossible for such a frail and aged woman to have, unaided, made her
way down the sides of that inky precipice. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed
again, "if only she isn't killed!" He stood looking out, leaning as far
over the iron railing as he dared, waiting till his eyes should become
accustomed to the darkness. Gradually the details of the structure
became clear to his vision. No ominous dark mass took shape on the
pavement, far beneath. He could vaguely make out the contours of an ash
can or two and an abandoned wheelbarrow. But the alley from end to end
held no human form. She had succeeded in making her escape! Then at all
costs he must find her; and the police must not get hold of her. The
evidence of the clippings, her angry words as she prepared to attack
Mrs. Marteen--all outlined a possible solution to the tragedy in
He hesitated a moment. His first impulse was to descend the fire escapes
in turn and look below for further trace of her going. But he realized
that he could reach the alley quicker by going through the house. He
cursed himself for a careless fool. How could he have allowed this to
He turned quickly, intent on losing no further moments, when he was
frozen into immobility by a sound, the most curiously unexpected of all
sounds--a laugh, a faint treble chuckle! It seemed to come from the
outer air, from nowhere, to hang suspended in the damp air of the shaft.
It was eerie, ghostly. Was the spirit of the dead man laughing at his
folly? The detective stepped back on the grating, flattening himself
against the outer sill of his window. Again the chuckler--now an
unmistakable laugh floated to his ears. With a smothered exclamation he
stepped forward again, and looked upward. There, against the violet-gray
of the star-sprinkled sky, bulked a crouching shape, cuddled on the
Brencherly held his breath. It seemed that the woman must fall from her
perch, so insecure it seemed. He controlled himself, thinking rapidly.
Then he laughed in return.
"That _was_ a good joke you played on me," he said. "How did you ever
think of it?"
"Oh," came the answer, punctuated by smothered peals of laughter.
"That's the way I got away from the Sanatorium. I just went up instead
of down, and stayed there, till they'd hunted all the place over. Then
when I saw where they weren't, I just went down and walked out."
"That was clever," he exclaimed. "But you can't be comfortable up there.
Won't you come down, and I'll get something for you to eat. You must be
hungry, and cold, too."
"No," came the response. "I sort of like it here. It reminds me of the
way I fooled them all back there; and they thinking themselves that
sharp, too. It's sort of nice, too, looking at the stars--sort of feels
like a bird in a nest, don't it?"
"I hope to goodness, she don't take it into her head she can fly,"
thought Brencherly. Aloud he said: "Say, do you mind if I come up there
and sit with you a while? I'm sort of lonesome here myself." He had
already moved silently forward, and was slowly mounting the iron
ladder--very slowly, a rung at a time, talking all the while in a
cordial, friendly voice. He feared she might take fright and precipitate
herself to the stones below. But her mood was otherwise.
"I don't mind," she said. "I don't seem to know just how I got here, and
perhaps you can tell me. I just woke up and found myself sleepin' on
somebody's bed. I thought at first that I was back in the ward, when I
found my feet was tied up. Then when I got loose and had time to feel
around, I saw 'twas some strange place. Then the fire escapes sort of
looked nice and cool, so I came out."
By this time her visitor had climbed beside her and had seated himself
on the landing in such fashion that no move of hers could dislodge
either of the strange couple. He noted with relief that they were
outside of a door instead of a window, as was the case on all the floors
below. The drying roof of the hotel only was above them. He did not wish
this extraordinary interview to be interrupted. His airy nest-mate
seemed amenable to conversation.
"Well, well!" he resumed, "so _that_ was the way you worked it. Wouldn't
that make the doctor mad, though--what was the old duffer's name,
anyway? You did tell me, but I've got such a poor memory--now, yours is
good, I'll bet a hat."
"Well," she said, "'tain't what it used to be, but I'll never forget old
Malbey's name as long as I live, nor what he looks like, either. He
looks like a potato with sprouts for eyes."
Brencherly laughed. He had a very clear, if unflattering, picture of the
"But, say," she cried suddenly, "you're not trying to get me, are you?"
"Oh, _I'm_ no friend of the doctor's," he said easily. "Why, I brought
you up here to hide you away safely. That was one of my rooms you woke
up in. You see, I found you on a bench in the park out there, and you
went to sleep so suddenly right while I was talking to you, that I
thought you must be tired out."
She leaned forward, peering at him through the dusk. Her white pinched
face looked skull-like in the faint light.
"Yes," she said slowly, "seems to me that I remember some woman saying
she killed Victor Mahr, and me getting angry about it--and then I don't
seem to know just _what_ happened. Well, young man, I'm much obliged to
you, I'm sure. 'Tain't often an old woman like me gets so well taken
"But why," he questioned softly, "were you so annoyed with the other
lady? She had just as much right as you had, I suppose, to kill the
"She had not!" she shrilled. "She had not!" Then lowering her voice to a
whisper, she murmured confidentially: "_My_ name ain't Welles!"
"Why, Mrs. Welles," he exclaimed, "how can you say so? If you aren't
Mrs. Welles, who are you?"
"Just as if you didn't know!" she retorted scornfully.
"Well, perhaps," he admitted. "But never mind that now. Do you know that
you lost your bag of clippings?"
Her hand flew to her breast. "Now, gracious me! How could I?"
"Oh, don't worry about them," he soothed. "I've got them all in my room.
You shall have them again. Don't you want to come down and get them?" He
was cramped and chilled to the bone; moreover, the stars had paled, and
a misty fog of floating, impalpable crystal was slowly crossing the
oblong of sky left visible by the edifices on both sides of the alley.
He waited anxiously for her to reply, but she seemed lost in thought. He
looked at her closely. She was asleep, her head resting against the
blistered paneling of the door. He shifted his position slightly, and
gazed at the coming of the dawn. Gradually the crystal white gave place
to faintest violet, then flushed to rose color. The details of the
coping above them became sharply distinct. Below them the canyon was
full of blue shadow, but already the depths were becoming translucent.
He looked at his strange companion. Should he wake her, he wondered.
Softly he tried the door. It was locked from within. If he allowed her
to slumber in peace, she might, on awakening, be terrified at the
visible depths below. Now, all was vague in the blue canyon.
Very gently he pressed her hand and called her. "Mrs. Welles."
She awoke with such a violent start that for an agonized instant he felt
his hold slipping. He held her firmly, however, and steadied her with
voice and hand.
"Let's go indoors," he said quite casually. "You see if we sit here much
longer, it's growing light, and people will see us. Then it won't be
easy for me to keep you hidden. Now, if you'll just turn about and let
me go first, I'll get you down quite easily and nobody the wiser for our
She looked at him for a moment as if puzzled, then her brow cleared.
"Very well, young man," she said. "I must have had a nap. Now, how do
you want me to turn?"
He showed her, and with his arms on the outside of the ladder, her body
next the rungs--as he had often seen the firemen make their rescues, he
slowly steadied her to the landing below and assisted her in at the
With a sigh of relief he closed the window behind them and drew down the
"Now! that's all right, Mrs. Mahr. You're quite safe."
She turned on him her beady eyes and laughed her shrill chuckle. "There,
didn't I tell you, you knew all the time? I guess you'll own up that
it's the wife who's got the right to kill a husband, won't you?"
"Sure," he said. "I'll see that nobody else gets the credit, believe
* * * * *
With Dorothy clinging to his hand, Marcus Gard watched the door of Mrs.
Marteen's library with an ever-growing anxiety. Only the presence of the
child, who clasped his hand in such fear and grief, kept him from giving
way. The long reign of terror that had dragged his heart and mind to the
very edge of martyrdom had worn thin his already exhausted nerves, and
now--now that the lost was found again, it was to learn by what a
slender thread of life they held her with them.
Every moment he could spare from the demands of his responsibilities was
spent in close companionship with Dorothy in the house where only the
sound of soft-footed nurses, the clink of a spoon in a medicine glass or
the tread of the doctor mounting the stairs broke the waiting silence.
For many days she had not known them. Now came intervals of
consciousness and coherence, but weakness so great that the two anxious
watchers, unused to illness, were appalled by the change it wrought. Now
for the twentieth time they sat longing for and yet fearing the moment
when Dr. Balys, with his friendly eyes and grim mouth, would enter to
them with the tale of his last visit and his hopes or fears for the
The lamps were lighted, the shades drawn; the fire crackled quietly on
the hearth. The room was filled with the familiar perfume of violets,
for Dorothy, true to her mother's custom, kept every vase filled with
Silently Gard patted the little cold hand in his, as the sound of
approaching footsteps warned them of the doctor's coming. In silence
they saw the door open, and welcomed with a throb of relief the smile on
the physician's face.
"A great, a very great improvement," he said quickly, in answer to
Dorothy's supplicating eyes. "Quite wonderful. She is a woman of such
extraordinary character that, once conscious, we can count on her own
great will to save the day for us--and to-morrow you shall both see her.
To-night, little girl, you may go in and kiss her, very quietly--not a
word, you know. Just a kiss and go."
"Now?" whispered Dorothy, as if she were already in the sick room. "May
I go now?"
"Yes. No tears, you know, and no huggings--just one little kiss--and
then come back here."
Dorothy flew from the room, light and soundless as blown thistledown.
The doctor turned to his friend.
"There is something troubling her," he said gravely, "something that is
eating at her heart. Ordinarily I wouldn't consent to anyone seeing her
so soon; but she called for you in her delirium; and now that she is
conscious, she whispers that she must consult you. Perhaps you can
relieve her trouble, whatever it is. I'm going to chance it; after
Dorothy has seen her, you may. I don't know exactly what to say,
but--well, answer the question in her eyes, if you can--but only a
moment--only give her relief. She must have no excitement."
"I think I know," he said slowly.
The doctor nodded in understanding, as the girl appeared, her face drawn
"Oh, poor mother!" she gasped. "She seemed--so--I don't know
why--grateful--to me--thanked me for coming to her--_thanked_ me, Dr.
Balys, as if I wasn't longing every minute to be with her! She is not
quite over her delirium yet, do you think?"
Balys smiled. "Of course she is grateful to see you. Your mother has
been very close to the Great Divide, and she, more than any of us,
realizes it. Now," he said, turning to Gard, "go in and make your little
speech; and, mind you, say your word and go. No conversation with my
Gard stood up, excitement gripping him. He was to see her eyes again,
open and understanding. He was to hear her voice in coherent tones once
more! The realization of this wonder thrilled him. He went to her
presence as some saint of old went to the altar, where, in a dream, the
vision of miracle had been promised him. All the pain and torture of the
past seemed nothing in the light of this one thing--that she was herself
again, to meet him hand to hand and eye to eye. He entered the quiet
room and crossed its dimly lighted spaciousness to the bed. The nurse
rose tactfully and busied herself among the bottles on the distant
At last, after the ordeal that they had gone through, in the lonely,
hollow torture chamber of the heart, they met, and knew. With a sigh of
understanding, she moved her waxen fingers, and, comprehending her
gesture, he took her hand and held it, striving to impart to her
weakness something of his own vigor. For a moment they remained thus.
Then into her eyes, where at first great repose had shone, there came a
gleam of questioning. He leaned close above her to catch her whispered
"She doesn't know?"
"No," he answered. "Dorothy came to me with his letter. I got everything
from the safe, and I sent her away so no further messages might reach
her. Now do you see?"
She looked up at him.
Again he took her hand in his and strove to give it life, as a
transfusion of blood is given through the veins.
There was silence for a moment. Then her white lips framed a request.
"Bring them--all the things from the inner safe--bring them to-morrow to
me." Her eyes turned toward the fire that glowed on the hearth.
He comprehended her intention.
"To-morrow," he murmured, and, turning, softly left the room. With a few
words to Dorothy he hurried from the house.
Instinctively he turned to seek the sanctuary of his library, but paused
ere he gave the order to his chauffeur. No, before he could call the day
complete, there was something else to do. He gave the address of the
house on Washington Square. The mansion, as the limousine drew up before
it, looked dark, almost deserted. He mounted the steps slowly, his mind
crowded with memories--with what burning hatred in his heart he had come
to face the owner of that house, to disarm Victor Mahr of his revengeful
power. With what primeval elation he had stood upon that topmost step
and drawn long breaths of satisfaction at the thought of the encounter
in which, with his own hands he had laid his enemy low! Its thrill came
to him anew. Again he recalled the hurried purposeful visit that had
ended with his finding the enemy passed forever beyond his reach.
Vividly he saw before him the silent room--soft lighted, remotely quiet;
the waxen hand of a man contrasting with the scarlet damask of a huge
winged chair, that hid the face of its owner. And more distinct than all
else, staring from the surrounding darkness of the walls, the glorious,
palpitating semblance of a warrior of long ago. The strangely living
lips, the dusky hollows where thoughtful eyes gleamed darkling. The
glint of armor half covered by velvet and fur. A gloved hand that seemed
to caress a sword hilt, that caught one crashing ruby light upon its
pommel--the matchless Heim Vandyke--the silent, attentive watcher who
had seen his sacking of the dead; who seemed, with those deep eyes of
understanding, to realize and know it all--the futile clash of human
wills, the little day of love and hate, the infinite mercy, and the
Gard paused, his hand upon the bell. Now at last he could enter this
house, and wish it peace. His errand, even the all-comprehending eyes of
the dead and gone warrior could look upon without their half-cynic
As he entered the great silent hall, where the footfalls of the servant
were hushed, as if overawed by tragedy, he seemed to leave behind him,
as distinctly as he discarded the garment he gave into the lackey's
hands, the bitterness of the past. He was ushered into a small and
elaborate waiting room to the right. And a moment later Teddy Mahr
entered to him, with extended hands.
The boy had aged. His face was white and drawn, but the eyes that looked
into Gard's face were courageous and clear.
"Thank you for coming," he said frankly. "Shall we sit here, or--in
Father's room?" His mouth twitched slightly. "It really must be part of
the house, you know. It was his workshop--and I want it to be mine in
the future. I haven't been in there since, and, somehow, if you don't
mind, sir, I'd like you to come with me--to be with me, when I first go
Gard nodded and smiled rather grimly. "Yes, boy--I'd like to myself. I
would have asked it of you, but I feared to awaken memories that were
too painful for you. Let us go in. What I have to talk over with you
concerns him, too."
They crossed the hall, and Teddy unlocked the heavy door and paused to
find the switch. The anteroom sprung into light. In silence they crossed
the intervening space to the inner door, which was in turn unlocked.
As the soft lights were once more renewed, Gard started, so vividly had
he reconstructed the scene as he had last looked upon it, with that
hasty yet detailed scrutiny of the stage manager. He was almost
surprised to find the great damask-covered easy chair untenanted, and
order restored to the length and breadth of the library table.
Involuntarily his eyes sought the wall behind the desk, where the
panoply of ancient arms glinted somberly, then scanned the polished
surface of the wood in search of what?--of the stiletto that was a foil
in miniature. Somehow, though he knew that it, along with other relics
of that dreadful passing, were in charge of the officials of the law, he
had expected to see it there. Something of the impermanence of life and
the indifferent, soulless permanence of things, flashed through his
mind. "Art and art alone, enduring, stays to us," he quoted the words
aloud unconsciously. "The bust outlasts the throne, the coin--Tiberius."
His eyes were fixed upon the picture, which, though thrown in no relief
by the unlighted globes above it, yet in its very obscurity, dominated
the room with its all but unseen presence.
"Oh, no, not that alone," Teddy Mahr objected. "Don't you think we live
on, in what we have done, in what we have been, in what we desire to
Gard was silent. The words seemed irony. "I believe," he said slowly,
"that the end is not yet. I believe that we are each accountable for our
individual being. I believe that every one of us is his brother's
keeper." He was silent. His own short, newly evolved credo, surprised
Teddy crossed to the great armchair, and laid his hand on it reverently.
"It was here his Fate found him," he said with quiet self-control.
"Where will Fate find me--or you--I wonder?"
"Fate _has_ found me," said Gard. "Death isn't the only thing that Fate
means, but Life also; and it's of Life I came to speak to you--as well
as the Past, that we must realize _is_--the Past. Of course, you know
what has been learned--something about what happened here. Now, I want
to tell you of my plans. I want, if possible, to keep things quiet--Oh,
it's only comparatively speaking--but we can avoid a great deal of
publicity, if you will let me handle the matter. It's for your sake, and
I'm sure your father would desire it--and--pardon me, if I presume on
grounds I'm not supposed to know anything of--but for Dorothy's, too.
Dorothy may have to face bereavement too. Publicity, details, the nine
days' wonder--it's all unpleasant, distressing. I have arranged to see
the District Attorney to-morrow night. He can, if he will, materially
aid us. This poor insane woman has delusions that it would be painful
for you to even know. It would certainly be most unfortunate if she were
tried or examined in public. I'd rather you didn't come--did not even
see her at any time. Will you trust me? You have a perfect right to do
otherwise, I know--but--will you believe me when I say I've given this
my best thought, and I believe I am giving you the best advice?"
He stood very erect, speaking with formality, with a certainly stilted,
"learned by rote" manner, very different from his usual fiery
Teddy respected his mood and bowed with courtly deference. "You were my
father's friend," he said. "You were the last to be with him. I know you
are giving me the wisest advice a wise man can give, and I accept it
gratefully, Mr. Gard--for myself, and father and for Dorothy, too."
The older man held out his hand. Their clasp was strong and responsive.
There were tears in Teddy's eyes, and he turned his head away quickly.
"Then," said Gard briskly, "it is understood. You also know and realize
why I have kept the whole matter under seal. Why I have secreted this
poor demented creature, have kept even you in ignorance of her
whereabouts. Oh, I know I have had your consent all along; I know you
have given me your complete trust long before this; but to-night I
wanted your final cooperation in the hardest task of all--to acquiesce,
while in ignorance, to permit matters that concern you, and you alone
most truly and deeply, to be placed in the hands of others. I thank you
for your faith, boy. God bless you."
Teddy saw his guest to the door, stood in the entry watching him descend
to the street and his car, and turned away with a sigh. He reentered the
room they had left, and stood for a moment in grave thought. He sighed
again as he plunged the apartment in darkness and, leaving, locked the
doors one after the other. Something, some very vital part of his
existence was shut behind him forever. There were questions that he
might not ask himself--there were veils he must not lift--there was a
door in his heart, the door to the shrine of a dead man--it must be
locked forever, if he would keep it a sanctuary.
In the hall once more, he turned toward the entrance; his thoughts again
with the strong, kindly presence of the man who had just left him. He
wondered why he had never realized the vast, unselfish human force in
Gard. "What an indomitable soul," he said softly. "I must have been very
* * * * *
The following day found Marcus Gard at the usual morning hour in
conference with Dorothy. The girl was radiant. The nurses had reported a
splendid sleep and a calm awakening. She had been allowed a moment with
her mother, whose voice was no longer faint, but was regaining its old
The doctor entered smiling and grasped Gard's extended hand.
"You said it," he laughed. "Whatever it was, you said it, all right.
Mrs. Marteen slept like a child, and there's color in her face to-day.
See if you can do as well again. I'll give you five minutes--no, ten."
Preceded by the doctor, he once more found his way through the
velvet-hushed corridors to the softly lighted bedroom, where lay the
woman who had absorbed his every thought. Her eyes, as they met his,
were bright with anxiety, and her glance at the doctor was almost
resentful. But it was not part of the physician's plan to interfere with
any confidence that might relieve the patient's mind. With a casual nod
to Mrs. Marteen, he called to the nurse and led her from the room, his
finger rapidly tapping the sick-room chart, as if medical directions
were first in his mind.
Left alone, Gard approached the bed, and in answer to the unspoken
question in her eyes, fumbled in his pocket and brought forth the thin
packets of letters and the folded yellow cheques. One by one he laid
them where her hands could touch them. He dared not look at her. He felt
that her newly awakened soul was staring from her eyes at the mute
evidence of a degrading past.
A moment passed in silence that seemed a year of pain; then, without a
sob, without a sigh, she slowly handed him a bundle of papers,
withholding them only a moment as she verified the count; then, with a
slight movement she indicated the fireplace. He crossed to it and placed
the papers on the coals, where they flared a moment, casting wavering
shadows about the silent room, and died to black wisps. Again and again
he made the short journey from the bed to the grate; each time she
verified the contents of the envelopes before delivering them to his
Last of all the two yellow cheques crisped to ashes. He stood looking
down upon them as they dropped and collapsed into cinders, and from
their ashes rose the phoenix of happiness. A glow of joyful relief
lighted his spirit. There, in those dead ashes, lay a dead past--a past
that might have been the black future, but was now relinquished forever,
voluntarily--gone--gone! He realized a supreme moment, a turning point.
Fate looked him in the eyes.
He turned, and saw a face transfigured. There was a light in Mrs.
Marteen's eyes that matched the glow in his own heart. Very reverently
he raised her hand and kissed it; two sudden tears fell hot upon her
cheeks and her lips quivered.
He had never seen her show emotion, and it went to his heart. He saw her
gaze at her hands with dilating eyes, and divined before she spoke the
question she whispered:
"Who killed Victor Mahr?"
He bent above her gravely. "His wife. The wife he had cruelly
wronged--his wife, who escaped at last from an asylum. She is quite
mad--now. She is in our hands, and to-night, at eleven o'clock, the
district attorney will be at my house to see her and have the evidence
laid before him--to save Teddy," he added quickly.
She looked at him wildly. "His wife--the wife that I--"
He took her hand quickly. He feared to hear the words that he knew she
was about to say.
"Yes," he nodded. "Yes--she killed him."
Mrs. Marteen sank slowly back upon her pillows and lay with closed eyes.
A heavy pulse beat in the arteries at her throat, and a scarlet spot
burned on either cheek.
"Nemesis," she murmured. "Nemesis." She lay still for a moment. "Thank
God!" she said at length, and let her hands fall relaxed upon the
counterpane. She seemed as if asleep but for the quick intake of her
Gard gazed upon her with infinite tenderness, yet with sudden bitter
consciousness of the isolation of each individual soul. She was remote,
withdrawn. Even his eager sympathy could not reach the depths of her
self-tortured heart. But now at last he knew her, a completed being. The
soul was there, palpitant, awake. The something he had so sorely missed
was the living and real presence of spirit. It came over him in a wave
of realization that he, too, had been unconscious of his own higher self
until his love had made him feel the need of it in her. They two, from
the depths of self-satisfied power, had gone blindly in their paths of
self-seeking--till each had awakened the other. A strange, retarded
He looked back over his long career of remorseless success with
something of the self-horror he had read in her eyes as he had placed
the incriminating papers in her frail hands. And as she had cast
contamination from her, so he promised himself he would thrust predatory
greed from his own life. They were both born anew. They would both be
true to their own souls.
* * * * *
The softened electric light suffused a glamour of glowing color over the
rich brocade of the walls of Marcus Gard's library, catching a glint
here and there on iridescent plaques, or a mellow high light on the
luscious patine of an antique bronze. The stillness, so characteristic
of the place, seemed to isolate it from the whole world, save when a
distant bell musically announced the hour.
Brencherly sat facing his employer, respecting his anxious silence,
while they waited the coming of the district attorney, to whose clemency
they must appeal--surely common humanity would counsel protective
measures, secrecy, in the proceeding of the law. The links in the chain
of evidence were now complete, but more than diplomacy would be required
in order to bring about the legal closing of the affair without
precipitating a scandal. Gard's own hasty actions led back to his fear
for Mrs. Marteen, that in turn involved the cause of that suspicion. To
convince the newsmongers that the crime was one of an almost accidental
nature, he felt would be easy. An escaped lunatic had committed the
murder. That revenge lay behind the insane act would be hidden. If
necessary, the authorities of the asylum could be silenced with a golden
gag--but the law?
Neither of the two men, waiting in the silent house, underestimated the
importance of the coming interview.
The night was already far spent, and the expected visitor still delayed.
At length the pale secretary appeared at the door to announce his
Gard rose from his seat, and extended a welcoming hand to gray-haired,
sharp-featured District Attorney Field.
Brencherly bowed with awkward diffidence.
Gard's manner was ease and cordiality itself, but his heart misgave him.
So much depended upon the outcome of this meeting. He would not let
himself dwell upon its possibilities, but faced the situation with grim
"Well, Field," he said genially, "let me thank you for coming. You are
tired, I know. I'm greatly indebted to you, but I'm coming straight to
the point. The fact is, we," and he swept an including gesture toward
his companion, "have the whole story of Victor Mahr's death. Brencherly
is a detective in my personal employ." Field bowed and turned again to
his host. "The person of the murderer is in our care," Gard continued.
"But before we make this public--before we draw in the authorities,
there are things to be considered."
He paused a moment. The district attorney's eyes had snapped with
"You don't mean to tell me," he said slowly, "that you have the key to
that mystery! Have you turned detective, Mr. Gard? Well, nothing
surprises me any more. What was the motive? You've learned that, too, I
"Insanity," said Gard shortly.
"Revenge," said the detective.
"Suppose," said Gard, "a crime were committed by a totally irresponsible
person, would it be possible, once that fact was thoroughly established,
to keep investigation from that person; to conduct the matter so quietly
that publicity, which would crush the happiness of innocent persons,
might be avoided?"
"It might," said the lawyer, "but there would have to be very good and
sufficient reasons. Let's have the facts, Mr. Gard. An insane person, I
take it, killed Mahr. Who?"
"His wife." Gard had risen and stood towering above the others, his face
set and hard as if carved in flint.
Field instinctively recoiled. "His wife!" he exclaimed. "Why, man alive,
_you_ are the madman. His wife died years ago."
"No," said Gard. "Teddy Mahr's mother died. His wife is living, and is
in that next room."
"What's the meaning of this?" Field demanded.
"A pretty plain meaning," Gard rejoined. "The woman escaped from the
asylum where she was confined. According to her own story, she had kept
track of her husband from the newspapers. Mahr couldn't divorce her, but
he married again, secure in his belief that his first marriage would
never be discovered. Mad as she was, she knew the situation, and she
planned revenge. Dr. Malky, of the Ottawa Asylum, is here. We sent for
him. The woman has been recognized by Mahr's butler as the one he
admitted. There is no possible doubt. And her own confession, while it
is incomplete in some respects, is nevertheless undoubtedly true.
"But, Field, this woman is hopelessly demented. There is nothing that
can be done for her. She must be returned to the institution. I want to
keep the knowledge of her identity from Mahr's son. Why poison the whole
of his young life; why wreck his trust in his father? Convince yourself
in every way, Mr. Field, but the part of mercy is a conspiracy of
silence. Let it be known that an escaped lunatic did the killing--a
certain unknown Mrs. Welles--and let Brencherly give the reporters all
they want. For them it's a good story, anyway--such facts as these, for
instance: he happened by in time to see an attack upon another woman on
a bench opposite Mahr's house, and to hear her boast of her acts. But I
ask as a personal favor that the scandal be avoided. Brencherly, tell
The detective looked up. "There was an old story--our office had had
it--that Mahr was a bigamist. In searching for a motive for the crime, I
hit on that. I had all our data on the subject sent up to me. I found
that our informant stated that Mahr had a wife in an asylum somewhere.
That gave me a suspicion. I found from headquarters that there were two
escapes reported, and one was a woman. She had broken out of a private
institution in Ottawa. I got word from there that her bills had been
paid by a lawyer here--Twickenbaur. I already knew that he was Mr.
Mahr's confidential lawyer. But all this I looked up later, after I'd
found the woman. You see, Mr. Gard is employing me on another matter,
and after he returned from Washington, I gave my report to him here.
"Then I went over to Mahr's house. I had a curiosity to go over the
ground. It was quite late at night, and I was standing in the dark,
looking over the location of the windows, when I saw a woman acting
strangely. She was threatening and talking loudly, crying out that she
had a right to kill him. I sneaked up behind just in time to stop her
attack on another woman who was seated on the same bench, and who seemed
too ill to defend herself. Well, sir, I had to give her three hypos
before I could take her along. Then I got her to my rooms, and when she
came around, she told me the story. Of course, sir, you mustn't expect
any coherent narrative, though she is circumstantial enough. Then I
brought over the butler, and he identified her at once. Mr. Gard advised
me not to notify the police until he had seen you. We got the doctor
from the asylum here as quickly as possible. He's with her in there
The attorney sat silent a moment, nodding his head slowly. "I'll see
her, Gard," he said at length. "This is a strange story," he added, as
Brencherly disappeared into the anteroom.
Field's eyes rested on Gard's face with keen questioning, but he said
nothing, for the door opened, admitting the black-clad figure of a
middle-aged woman, escorted by a trained nurse and a heavily built man
of professional aspect.
"This is--" Field asked, as his glance took in every detail of the
"Mrs. Welles, as she is known to us," the doctor answered; "but she used
to tell us that that was her maiden name, and she married a man named
Mahr. We didn't pay much attention to what she said, of course, but she
was forever begging old newspapers and pointing out any paragraphs about
Mr. Victor Mahr, saying she was his wife."
Field gazed at the ghastly pallor of the woman's face, the maze of
wrinkles and the twinkling brightness of her shifting eyes, as she stood
staring about her unconcernedly. Her glance happened upon Brencherly.
Her lips began to twitch and her hands to make signals, as if anxious to
attract his attention. She writhed toward him.
"Young man," she whispered audibly, "they've got me--I knew they would.
Even you could not keep me so hidden they couldn't find me." She jerked
an accusing thumb over her shoulder at the corpulent bulk of her
erstwhile jailer. "They've been trying to make me tell how I got out;
but I won't tell. I may want to do it again, you see, and you won't
"But," said Brencherly soothingly, "you don't want to get out now, you
know. You've no reason to want to get out."
She nodded, as if considering his statement seriously.
"Of course, since I've got Victor out of the way, I don't much care. And
I had awful trouble to steal enough money to get about with. Why, I had
to pick ever so many pockets, and I do hate touching people; you never
can tell what germs they may have." She shook out her rusty black skirt
as if to detach any possible contagion.
"But, why," the incisive voice of the attorney inquired, "did you want
to kill Victor Mahr?"
"Why?" she screamed, her body suddenly stiffening. "Suppose you were his
wife, and he locked you up in places, and made people call you Mrs.
Welles, while he went swelling around everywhere, and making millions!
What'd you do? And besides, it wasn't only _that_, you see. _I_ knew,
being his wife, that he was a devil--oh, yes, he was; you needn't look
as if you didn't believe it. But I soon learned that when I said I was
'Mrs. Victor Mahr' in the places he put me into, they laughed at me, the
way they do at my roommate, who says she's a sideboard and wants to hold
"Tell these gentlemen how cleverly you traced him," suggested
"Oh, I knew where he lived and what he was doing well enough." She
bridled with conscious conceit; "I read the papers and I had it all
written down. So when I got out and stole the money, I knew just where
to go. But he's foxy, too. I knew I'd have to _make_ him see me. So I
stole some of the doctor's letterhead paper, and I wrote on it,
'Important news from the Institution'--that's what he likes to call his
boarding house--an institution." She laughed. "It worked!" she went on
as she regained her breath. "I just sent that message, and they let me
go right in. 'Well, what is it--what is it?' Victor said, just like
that." Her tones of mimicry were ghastly. She paused a moment, then
"Now you won't believe it, but I hadn't the slightest idea what I was
going to kill him with when I went in there--I really didn't. The doctor
will tell you himself that I'm awfully forgetful. But there, spread out
before him, he had a whole collection of weapons, just as if he should
say, 'Mamie, which'll you have?' I couldn't believe my eyes; so I said
first thing, 'Why, you were expecting me!' He heard my voice, and his
eyes opened wide; and I thought: 'If I don't do it now, he'll raise the
house.' So I grabbed the big pistol and hit him! I'm telling you
gentlemen all this, because I don't want anyone else to get the credit.
There was a woman I met on a bench, and I just was sure she was going to
take all the credit, but I told her that was _my_ business. I hate
people who think they can do everything. There's a woman across my hall
who says she can make stars--" She broke off abruptly as for the first
time she became aware of Gard's presence in the room. "Why, there you
are!" she exclaimed delightedly. "Now, that's good! You can tell these
people what _you_ found."
"But Mr. Mahr was stabbed, Mrs. Welles," Gard interrupted. "You said you
struck him with a pistol."
"Oh, I did _that_ afterward." She took up the thread of her narrative.
"I selected the place very carefully, and pushed the knife way in tight.
I hate the sight of blood, and I sort of thought that'd stop it, and it
did. Then, dear me, I had a scare. There's a picture in that room as
live as life, and I looked up, and saw it looking at me. So I started to
run out, but somebody was coming, so in the little room off the big one
I got behind a curtain. Then this gentleman went through the room where
I was, and into the room where _he_ was. But he shut the door, and I
couldn't see what he thought of it. After a while he came out and said
'good-night' to me, though how he knew I was there I can't guess. So I
waited a very long time, till everything was quiet, and then I went back
and sat with him. It did me good just to sit and look at him; and every
little while I'd lift his coat to see if the little sword was still
there. The room was awful messy, and I tidied it up a bit. Then when
dawn about came, I got up and walked out. I had a sort of idea of
getting back to the institution without saying anything, because I was
afraid they'd punish me."
"Why did you rob Mr. Mahr?" asked Mr. Field.
"Rob nothing!" she retorted.
"But his jewels, his watch," the attorney continued, his eyes riveted on
her face with compelling earnestness. The woman gave an inarticulate
growl. "But," interposed Brencherly, "I found his wallet in your
package." He took from his pocket a worn and battered leather pocketbook
and held it toward her.
"Oh," she answered indifferently, "I just took it for a souvenir. In
fact, I came back for it--last thing."
Brencherly shrugged his shoulders expressively. Gard sat far back in his
chair, his face in shadow.
"How long has it been, Mrs. Welles, since you--accomplished your
purpose?" he asked slowly.
"You know as well as I do," she cried angrily.
"You were there. It was yesterday--no, the day before."
"It was just a week ago we found her," Brencherly said in a low voice.
"I had to look up everything and verify everything."
"You don't think I did it?" she burst out angrily. "Well, I'll prove it.
I tell you I did, and I thought it all out carefully, although the
doctor says I can't think connectedly. I'll show him." She fumbled in
the breast of her dress for a moment, and brought out her cherished
handful of newspaper clippings, which she cast triumphantly upon the
table. "There's all about him from the papers, and a picture of the
house. Why, I'd 'a' been a fool not to find him, and I had to. Oh, yes,
I suppose, as the doctor says, I'm queer; but I wasn't when he first
began sending me away--no, indeed. I wasn't good enough for him, that
was all; and I was far from home, and hadn't a friend, and he had money.
Oh, he was clever--but he's the devil. He used to file his horns off so
people wouldn't see, but I know. So, I'll tell you everything, except
how I got away. There's somebody else I may want to find." She glanced
with infinite cunning at Brencherly, and began her finger signals as if
practicing a dumb alphabet of which he alone knew the key.
"Where did you receive her from, Doctor?" Field asked.
"From Ogdensburg, sir. Before that they told me she was found wandering,
and put under observation in Troy. All I knew was that somebody wanted
her kept in a private institution. She'd always been in one, I fancy."
There was a pause as Field seemed lost in thought. Then he turned to
"May I ask you to clear one point?" he asked "You gave evidence that he
was alive when you entered the room. According to her story--"
"I lied," said Gard, his pale face suffused with color. "I had to--I was
most urgently needed in Washington. I would have been detained, perhaps
prevented altogether from leaving. Who knows--I might even have been
accused. I plead guilty of suppressing the facts."
There was silence in the room. The attorney's eyes were turned upon the
self-confessed perjurer. In them was a question. Gard met their gaze
gravely, without flinching. Field nodded slowly.
"You're right; publicity can only harm," he said at last. "We will see
what can be done. I'll take the proper steps. It can be done legally and
verified by the other witnesses. The butler identifies her, you say.
It's a curious case of retribution. I can't help imagining Mahr's
feelings when he recognized her voice. Is your patient at all dangerous
otherwise?" He addressed himself to the nurse.
"No," she answered. "We've never seen it. Irritable, of course, but not
vicious. I can't imagine her doing such a thing. But you never can tell,
sir--not with this sort."
Field again addressed Gard, whose admission seemed to have exhausted
him. "And the son--knows nothing?"
"Nothing," answered Gard. "He worships his father's memory. He is
engaged, also, to--a very dear little friend of mine--the child of an
old colleague. I want to shield them--both."
"I understand." He nodded his head slowly, lost in thought.
The woman, childishly interested in the grotesque inkwells on the table,
stepped forward and raised one curiously. Her bony hands, of almost
transparent thinness, seemed hardly able to sustain the weight of the
cast bronze. It was hard to believe such a birdlike claw capable of
delivering a stunning blow, or forcibly wielding the deadly knife. She
babbled for a moment in a gentle, not unpleasant voice, while they
watched her, fascinated.
"She's that way most of the time," said the nurse softly. "Just like a
ten-year-old girl--plays with dolls, sir, all day long."
Suddenly her expression changed. Over her smiling wrinkles crept the
whiteness of death. Her eyes seemed to start from her head, her lips
drew back, while her fingers tightened convulsively on the metal
inkstand. The nurse, with an exclamation, stepped forward and caught
There was a gleam of such maniacal fury in the woman's face that Mr.
Field shuddered. "Hardly a safe child to trust even with a doll," he
said. "I fancy the recital has excited her. Hadn't you better take her
away and keep her quiet? And don't let anyone unauthorized by Mr. Gard
or myself have access to her. It will not be wise to allow her delusion
that she was the wife of Victor Mahr to become known--you understand?"
Mr. Gard rose stiffly. "I will assume the expense of her care in future.
Let her have every comfort your institution affords, Dr. Malky. I will
see you to-morrow."
"Thank you, sir." The physician bowed. "Good night. Come, Mrs. Welles."
Obediently the withered little woman turned and suffered herself to be
As the door closed, Field came forward and grasped Gard's hand warmly.
"It is necessary for the general good," he said, his kindly face grown
grave, "that this matter be kept as quiet as possible. Believe me, I
understand, old friend; and, as always, I admire you."
Gard's weary face relaxed its strain. "Thanks," he said hoarsely. "We
can safely trust the press to Brencherly. He," and he smiled wanly,
"deserves great credit for his work. I'm thinking, Field, I need that
young man in my business."
Field nodded. "I was thinking I needed him in mine; but yours is the
prior claim. And now I'm off. Mr. Brencherly, can I set you down
Confusedly the young man accepted the offer, hesitated and blushed as he
held out his hand. "May I?"
Gard read the good-will in his face, the congratulation in the tone, and
grasped the extended hand with a warm feeling of friendly regard.
"Good-night--and, thank you both," he said.
* * * * *
Spring had come. The silvery air was soft with promises of leaf and bud.
Invitation to Festival and Adventure was in the gold-flecked sunlight.
Nature stood on tiptoe, ready for carnival, waiting for the opening
measures of the ecstatic music of life's renewal.
The remote stillness of the great library had given place to the faint
sounds of the vernal world. A robin preened himself at an open casement,
cast a calculating eye at the priceless art treasures of the place,
scorned them as useless for his needs, and fluttered away to an antique
marble bench in the walled garden, wherefrom he might watch for worms,
or hop to the Greek sarcophagus and take a bath in accumulated
Marcus Gard, outwardly his determined, unbending self again, sat before
his laden table, slave as ever to his tasks. Nine strokes chimed from
the Gothic clock in the hall; already his busy day had begun.
Denning entered unannounced, as was his special privilege, and stood for
a moment in silence, looking at his friend. Gard acknowledged his
presence with a cordial nod, and continued to glance over and sign the
typewritten notes before him. At last he put down his pen and settled
back in his chair.
"Well, old friend, how goes it?" he inquired, smiling.
Denning nodded. "Fine, thank you. I thought I'd find you here. I was in
consultation with Langley last night, and we have decided we are in a
position now to go ahead as we first planned over a year ago. The
opposition in Washington has been deflected. Besides, Langley dug up a
point of law."
Gard rose and crossed to Denning. His manner was quietly conversational,
and he twirled his _pince-nez_ absently.
"My dear man," he said slowly, "you will have to adjust yourself to a
shock. We will stick to the understanding as expressed in our interviews
of last February, whether Mr. Langley has dug up a point of law or not.
In short, Denning, we are not in future doing business in the old way."
"But you don't understand," gasped the other. "Langley says that it lets
us completely out. They can't attack us under that ruling--can't you
"Quite so--yes. I can imagine the situation perfectly. But we entered
into certain obligations--understandings, if you will--and we are going
to live up to them, whether we could climb out of them or not."
Denning sat down heavily.
"Well, I'll be--Why, it's no different from our position in the river
franchise matter, not in the least--and we did pretty well with that, as
Gard nodded. "Yes, we are practically in the same position, as you say.
The position is the same--but _we_ are different. I suppose you've heard
a number of adages concerning the irresponsibility of corporations?
Well, we are going to change all that. I fancy you have already noticed
a different method in our mercantile madness, and you will notice it
still more in the future."
Denning pulled his mustache violently, a token with him of complete
"H'm--er--exactly," he murmured. "Of course, if that's the way you feel
now--and you have your reasons, I suppose--I'll call Langley up. He'll
be horribly disappointed, though. He's pluming himself on landing this
quick getaway for you. He's been staking out the whole plan."
Gard chuckled. "Do you remember, Denning, how hard you worked to make me
go to Washington--and how my 'duty to our stockholders' was your
favorite weapon? Where has all that noble enthusiasm gone--eh?"
Denning blushed. "But we were in a very dangerous hole. Things are
"Yes," said Gard with finality, "they are--don't forget it."
"Well," and Denning rose, discomfited, "I'm going. Three o'clock, Gard,
the directors' meeting. I'll see you then."
He shook hands and turned to the door, paused, turned again as if to
reopen the subject, checked himself and went out.
As the door closed Gard chuckled. "I bet he's cracking his skull to find
out my game," he thought with amusement. "By the time he reaches the
office, he'll have worked it out that I'm more far-sighted than the rest
of them, and am making character; that I'm trying to do business by the
Ten Commandments will never occur to him." He returned to the table and
resumed his task, paused and sat gazing absently at the contorted
His secretary entered quietly, a sheaf of letters in his hand.
"Saunders," said Marcus Gard, not raising his eyes from their absorbed
contemplation, "did you ever let yourself imagine how hard it is to do
business in a strictly honest manner, when the whole world seems to have
lost the habit--if it ever _had_ the habit?"
Saunders looked puzzled. "I don't know, sir. Mr. Mahr is in the hall and
wants to see you," he added, glad to change the subject.
"Is he? Good. Tell him to come in." Gard rose with cordial welcome as
There was an air of responsibility about the younger man, calmness,
observation and concentration, very different from his former
light-hearted, easy-mannered boyishness. Gard's greeting was
affectionate. "Well, boy, what brings you out so early? Taking your
responsibilities seriously? And in what can I help you?"
Teddy blushed. "Mr. Gard," he said, hurrying his words with
embarrassment, "I wish you'd let me _give_ you the Vandyke--please do. I
don't want to _sell_ it to you. Duveen's men are bringing it over to you
this morning; they are on their way now. I want you to have it. I--I--"
He looked up and gazed frankly in the older man's face, unashamed of the
mist of tears that blinded him. "I know father would want you to have
it. And I know, Mr. Gard, what you did to shield his memory. If you
hadn't gone to Field--if you hadn't taken the matter in charge--" He
choked and broke off. "I don't _know_ anything--but you handled the
situation as I could not. Please--won't you take the Vandyke?"
Gard's hand fell on the boy's shoulder with impressive kindliness. "No,"
he said quietly, "I can't do that, much as I appreciate your wanting to
give it to me. I have a sentiment, a feeling about that picture. It
isn't the collector's passion--I want it to remind me daily of certain
things, things that you'd think I'd want to forget--but not I. I want
that picture 'In Memoriam'--that's why I asked you to let me have it;
and I want it by purchase. Don't question my decision any more, Teddy.
You'll find a cheque at your office, that's all." He turned and
indicated a space on the velvet-hung wall, where a reflector and
electric lights had been installed. "It's to hang there, Teddy, where I
can see it as I sit. It is to dominate my life--how much you can never
guess. Will you stay with me now, and help me to receive it?"
Teddy was obviously disappointed. "I can't--I'm sorry. I ought to be at
the office now; but I did so want to make one last appeal to you.
Anyway, Mr. Gard, your cheque will go to enrich the Metropolitan
"That's no concern of mine," Gard laughed. "You can't make me the donor,
you know. How is Dorothy--to change the subject!"
"What she always is," the boy beamed, "the best and sweetest. My, but
I'm glad she is back! And Mrs. Marteen, she's herself again. You've seen
them, of course?"
Gard nodded. "I met them at the train last night. Yes--she is--herself."
"She had an awful close call!" Teddy exclaimed, his face grown grave.
There was reminiscent silence for a moment. With an active swing of his
athletic body, Dorothy's adorer collected his hat, gloves and cane in
one sweep, spun on his heel with gleeful ease, smiled his sudden sunny
smile, and waved a quick good-by.
* * * * *
Teddy Mahr paused for a moment before descending to the street. He was
honestly disappointed. He had hoped with all his heart to overcome
Gard's opposition. Not that he was over anxious to pay, in some degree,
the debt of gratitude that he owed--he had come to regard his benefactor
as a being so near and dear to him that there was no question of the
ethics of giving and taking, but he had longed to give himself the keen
pleasure of bestowing something that his friend really wanted. There was
just one more chance of achieving his purpose--the intervention of
Dorothy; her caprices Gard never denied. If he could only induce
Dorothy--Early as it was he determined to intreat her intercession.
Walking briskly for a few blocks, he entered an hotel and sought the
telephone booth. The wide awake voice that answered him was very unlike
the sweet and sleepy drawls of protest his matutinal ringings were wont
to call forth when Dorothy had been a gay and frivolous debutante. The
enforced quiet of her mother's prolonged illness, and the sojourn in the
retirement of a hill sanitarium, had made of her a very different
creature from the gaudy little night-bird of yore. The experiences
through which she had passed, their anxiety and pain, had left her
nature sweetened and deepened; had given her new sympathies and
understandings. Now her laugh was just as clear--but its ring of light
coquetry was gone.
"Of course, I'll take a walk with you," came her answer,--"if you'll
stop for me. I'm quite a pedestrian, you know. I _had_ to take some sort
of a cure in sheer self-defense, up there in the wilds, so I decided on
fresh air--and now it's a habit. I'll be ready."
Teddy walked rapidly, his heart singing. He had quite forgotten his
errand in the anticipated joy of seeing her. If he thought at all of the
painting, it was an unformulated regret that no living artist could do
Dorothy justice, or ever hope to transfer to canvas any true semblance
of her many perfections.
She joined him in the hallway of her home, called back a last happy
good-by to her mother, and passed with him into the silver and crystal
morning light. She was simply dressed in a dark tailor suit, with a
little hat and sensible shoes--a very different silhouette from that of
the girl who left her room only in time to keep her luncheon
appointments. He looked at her with approval and laughed happily.
"Hello, Country!--how are the cows to-day?"
"Fine," she answered. "All boiled and sterilized, milked by electricity,
manicured by steam and dehorned by absent treatment, sir, she said--sir,
"May I go with you into your highly sanitary barnyard, my pretty maid?"
he asked seriously.
"Not unless you take a bath in carbolic solution, are vaccinated twice,
and wear a surgeon's uniform, sir, she said."
"But, I'm going to marry you, my pretty maid." The words were out before
he could check them. He blushed furiously. To propose in a nursery rhyme
was something that shocked his sense of fitness. He was amazed to find
that he meant what he said in just the very way he had said it.
But Dorothy took his answer as part of their early morning springtime
"Nobody asked you to be farm inspector, sir, she said," she replied
But he was silent. His own words had choked him completely. She looked
at him quickly, but his head was turned away. Her own heart began to
beat nervously. She felt the magnetic current of his emotion vibrating
through her being. Her eyes opened wide in wonder. She had for so long
accustomed herself to the idea that Teddy was her own peculiar property,
and that, of course, she intended to marry him, that but for his
half-distressed perturbation, she would have thought no more of the
momentous "Yes" than of voicing some long-formed opinion. Now his
throbbing excitement had become contagious. She found herself fluttering
and tongue-tied. Though she realized suddenly that their ridiculous
child's-play had turned to earnest, she could not find word or look to
ease the strain. They walked on in silence, step for step, in a sort of
mechanical rhythmic physical understanding. Suddenly he spoke.
"Dolly, I wish you'd punch old Marcus!"
The remark was so unexpected that Dorothy slipped a beat in her step and
shuffled quickly to fall in tune.
"Good Gracious!--what for?" Her surprise was unfeigned.
"Because he won't let me give him the Heim Vandyke--wants to buy it,
insists on buying it. Asked me to let him have it--and then won't accept
it. Now, do me a favor, will you? You _make_ him take it. You're the
only person who can boss him--and he likes to have you do it. Will you
see him to-day, and fix it?"
"Well of all!--Why, _I_ can't make him do anything he doesn't want to
do. Of course, he ought to take it, if you want to give it to him; but I
really don't see--I wonder--" She meditated for a full block in silence.
"I'm going to lunch with him and Miss Gard and Mother. If I can,
I'll--no, I _can't_. It's none of my business. It's up to you. How can I
say--'You ought to do what Teddy says'? He'd tell me I was an
impertinent little girl, and that he knew how he wanted to deal with
little boys without being told by their desk-mates."
Teddy scowled. He wanted to get back to the barnyard he had left so
abruptly, impelled by his new and unaccountable fright. But having
hitched himself to his new subject of conversation, he felt somehow
compelled to drag at it. It was up-hill work. To be sure, he had come to
Dorothy for the purpose of soliciting her help, but Gard and Vandyke had
both lost interest. Against his will he kept on talking.
"Well, I've done everything I can to make him see my point of view. I've
told him I owe it to him; that Father would want him to have it; that
I'll give his money away if he sends it; that I've already shipped the
thing to him; that I don't want it; that it's unbecoming to my house--he
won't listen. Just says he's sent his cheque and we'll please change the
"Well, you don't have to _cash_ his cheque, do you?" she inquired
"I know that," Teddy scoffed. "But if I don't, he'll send it in my name,
in cash, to some charity, and that'll be all the same in the final
addition. He's so confoundedly resourceful, you can't think around him."
"No, you can't," she agreed. "That's one of the wonderful things about
him. He thinks in his own terms, in terms of you or me, or the janitor,
or the President. He isn't just himself, he's everybody."
"He isn't thinking in terms of _me_," Teddy complained.
She shook her head. "No," she smiled wisely, "he's thinking in terms of
himself, this time, and we aren't big enough to see that, too, and
They had reached the entrance to the Park and crossed the already
crowded Plaza to its quieter walks. The tender greens of new grass
greeted them, and drifts of pink and yellow vaporous color that seemed
to overhang and envelop every branch of tree and shrub, like faint
spirits of flower and leaf, clustering about and striving to enter the
clefts of gray bark, that they might become embodied in tangible and
fragile beauty. Sweet pungent smells of damp earth rose to their
nostrils,--fragrance of reviving things, of stirring sap, of diligent
seeds moling their way to light and air. Mists shifted by softly, now
gray, now rainbow-hued, now trailing on the grass, now sifting slowly
through reluctant branches that strove to retain them.
Dorothy sighed happily. The restraint that had troubled them both slowly
metamorphosed itself into a tender, dreamy content. Why ask anything of
fate? Why crystallize with a word the cloudland perfection of the mirage
in which they walked? They were content, happy with the vernal joy of
young things in harmony with all the world of spring. They were silent
now--unconscious, and one with the heart of life, as were Adam and Eve
in the great garden of Eternal Spring--isolated, alone, all in all to
each other, and kin with all the vibrant life about them, sentient and
inanimate. For them the rainbow glowed in every drop the trailing mists
scattered in their wake; for them the pale light of the sun was pure
gold of dreams; every frail, courageous flower a delicate censor of
fragrance. There was crooning in the tree-tops and laughter in the
confidential whisper of the fountains--as if Pan's pipes had enchanted
all this ruled-and-lined, sophisticated, urban _pleasaunce_ into a dell
Teddy looked down at his companion, trudging sturdily by his side. How
sweet and dear were her eyes of violet, how tender and gentle the slim
curves of her mouth, how wholly lovely the contour of cheek and chin,
and the curled tendrils of her moist, dark hair!
She was conscious of his gaze. She felt an impulse to take his arm--that
strong, strong arm; to walk with him like that--like the old, long
married couples, who come to sun themselves in the warm light of the
young day, and the sight of passing lovers. A Judas tree in full blossom
arrested her attention, and they came to a halt before its lavish
"There's nothing in the world so beautiful as natural things," she said
slowly, breaking the enchanted silence.
Teddy was master of himself again. "I know," he said, "and I want to get
back again to the barnyard we left so suddenly. I said something then--I
want to say it over again."
It was Dorothy's turn to become frightened and confused.
"Oh," she said with an indifference she was far from feeling. "Barnyard!
It's such a commonplace spot after all. Don't you like the garden
But Teddy was determined. "My pretty maid," he began in a tender voice.
But she moved away suddenly down a tempting path, and, perforce, he
"I've been thinking," she said hurriedly, "about Mr. Gard. I'm sure, if
he felt he was hurting your feelings, he wouldn't think _all_ his own
way. Now, if you want me to, I'll try and make him understand it. I'll
tell him that you came to me in an awful huff--all cut up. I'm sure I
can put it strongly enough."
"And I shall go to him, and complain that when I want to talk with you,
you put me off--won't listen to me. I'll ask him to make you listen to
reason. I'll tell him to put it to you. I'll show him that I _am_ cut
up, all around the heart. Perhaps he can put it to you strongly
Dorothy stopped short and wheeled around to face him.
"Oh, very well, then," she smiled, "if you are going to get someone else
to do your love making for you, _I_ apply for the position. Teddy Mahr,
will you marry the milkmaid?--Honest and true, black and blue?"
"I will!" he cried ecstatically, and caught her in his arms.
Two wrens upon a neighboring branch, tilted forward to watch them, the
business of nest building for the moment forgotten. A gray squirrel,
with jerking tail and mincing gate, approached along the path. A florid
policeman, wandering aimlessly in this remote arbor, stopped short,
grinned, stuck his thumbs in his belt, and contemplated the picture,
then wheeled about and stole out of sight in fashion most unmilitary.
Across the lake the white swans glided, and two little "mandarin" ducks
sidled up close to shore, regarding the moveless group of humans with
bright and beady eyes.
Dorothy disengaged herself from his arms with a happy little gurgle, set
her hat straight upon her tumbled hair, and glanced at the ducks.
"There," she said softly, "that's a lucky sign. In China they always
send the newlyweds a pair. They are love birds; they die when
separated--which means, I'm a duck."
"You are," he agreed, and kissed her again.
"Now," she said seriously, "I've found a way to clear all difficulties."
He looked at her, troubled. "I didn't know there were any," he said
anxiously. "I think your mother likes me, and I don't see--I can keep
you in hats and candy; and Miss Gard is the only person who has seemed
to disapprove of me."
"All wrong," she said. "I don't mean that at all. I mean about the
picture. I have thought it all out while you were kissing me."
He grinned. "Did you, indeed? I'm vastly flattered, I'm sure. In that
case I shall go to kissing school no later than to-morrow. However,
since you work out problems in that way, I'll give you another to Q.E.D.
When will the wedding be?" He folded his arms about her rapturously.
The ducks waddled up the bank; the squirrel climbed to the back of the
bench; one wren captured a damaged feather from Dorothy's hat that had
fallen to earth, and made off with his nest contribution.
"Now," Teddy demanded as he released her. "Did you work _that_ out?"
She gasped. "If you act like that, I'll not tell you anything. I'll
leave you guessing all the rest of your life."
"I expect that," he laughed. "Who am I to escape the common lot?"
She frowned. "As I was saying before you interrupted me so rudely, I
have found a way to overcome the arguments and refusals of 'Old
Marcus'--by the way, if he heard you call him that, he'd beat you up,
and perfectly right. He isn't old, and I wish you had half his sense."
"Dolly, we are _not_ married yet, and I object to unfavorable
comparisons. Kindly get down to business."
"Well," she said, "I was thinking just this. We can give it to him as a
wedding present--we've got him there, don't you see?"
"No, I _don't_ see," he replied. "Will you kindly show me how you work
that out. He'll probably want to give you a Murillo and a town house and
a Cellini service, and a motor car upholstered in cloth of gold, a
Florentine bust and an order on Raphael to paint your portrait. If you
ask me if I see him accepting the Vandyke as a wedding present from
"Goose!" she said with withering scorn.
He laughed. "Oh, very well, I'm back in the barnyard, so I don't mind.
Just a minute ago and you had me a duck. I've lost caste--I was a
"I didn't say a wedding present for _our_ wedding, did I?" she inquired
loftily. "Why don't you stop and think a minute. They don't teach
observation in college, evidently."
Teddy was nonplussed. "You've got me," he said, his brows drawn together
in a puzzled frown.
She tapped her foot impatiently. "Well, how else could we be giving him
a wedding present?" she inquired.
"That's just what I don't see," he replied emphatically.
"When _he_ gets married, of course--heavens! you are dense!"
Teddy was stunned. "When he--why--what nonsense!--he's a confirmed old
bachelor. There! I knew you couldn't think out problems when I was
kissing you. I'm glad you didn't answer my second question, if that's
the way you work things out. Who in the world would he marry!"
"How would you like him for a step-father-in-law?" She looked at him
with an amused smile.
"Good gracious!" he exclaimed. "Why, I never thought of that! Your
mother!--Oh, by golly! that's great, that's great! Of course, of course.
Here, I'll kiss you again--you can answer my second question." He
embraced her with hysterical enthusiasm. "Oh, when did it happen?" he
begged. "How did you know? Since when have they been engaged? My! I have
been a bat! Where were my eyes? Of all the jolly luck!" he leaped from
the bench and executed a triumphal war dance.
"You act just like the kids--I mean, the baby goats, up in the Bronx,"
she laughed. "Teddy, stop, somebody might see you, and they'd send us
both to an asylum. Stop it! And besides, my step-father hasn't proposed
Teddy ceased his gambols abruptly. "What in the world have you been
telling me, then?" he demanded, crestfallen. "Here I've been celebrating
an event that hasn't happened."
"Well, it's going to," she affirmed with an impressive nod of her head.
"_I_ know. Why, even Mother hasn't the slightest idea of it yet. Poor,
dear Mother, she's so really humble minded, she wouldn't let herself
realize how he loves her. But she leans on him, on the very thought of
him. When we were away recuperating, she used to watch for his
letters--like--like--I watched for yours, Teddy; and when I'd hand her
one, she had such a look of calm, of rest. I've found her asleep with
one crushed up in her hand. I'm sure she used to put them under her
pillow at night, just as--well--just as I used to put yours, Teddy,
under mine. Don't you know, that when two women are in love, they know
it one from another, without a word. Of course, Mother knew all about
how _I_ felt, I used to catch her looking at me, oh, so wistfully--but
she never dreamed that wise little daughter had guessed her secret--oh,
no--mothers never realize that their little chick-children have grown to
be big geese. But, _I_ know, and, well, Teddy, as you know, if he
doesn't ask her pretty soon, I'll go and ask him myself--and he never
refuses me anything. I shall say, 'Dear old Marcus, Teddy and I wish
you'd hurry up and ask Mother to marry you. We have set our hearts on
picking out our own "steps." We think of being married in June, and we
want it all settled.' There," she said with a radiant blush, "I've
answered all your questions--have you another problem?"
* * * * *
Left alone before the empty space reserved for the masterpiece the
expression on Gard's face changed. Grave and purposeful, he continued to
regard the blank wall, then, turning, he caught up the desk telephone,
gave Mrs. Marteen's private number and waited.
A moment later the sweet familiar voice thrilled him.
"It's I--Marcus," he said. "I am coming for you this morning. Yes, I'm
taking a holiday, and I'm going to bring you back to the library to see
a new acquisition of mine--that will interest you. Then you and Dorothy
will lunch with Polly. Dorothy can join us at one o'clock. This is a
private view--for you alone.... You will? That's good! Good-by."
Noises in the resonant hall and the opening of the great doors announced
the arrival of the moving van and its precious contents, before
Saunders, his eyes bulging with excitement, rushed in with the tidings
of the coming of the world famous Heim Vandyke. With respectful care the
great canvas was brought in, unwrapped and lifted to its chosen hanging
Seated in his armchair, Gard with mixed emotions watched it elevated and
straightened. The pictured face smiled down at him--impersonal yet
human, glowing, vivid with color, alive with that suggestion of eternal
life that art alone in its highest expression can give. Card's smile was
enigmatical; his eyes were sad. His imagination pictured to him Mrs.
Marteen as she had sat before him in her self-contained stateliness and
announced with indifferent calm that the Vandyke had been but a ruse to
gain his private ear.
Gard rose, approached the picture, and for an instant laid his fingers
upon its darkened frame. The movement was that of a worshiper who makes
his vow at the touch of some relic infinitely holy.
Then he returned to his seat and for some time remained wrapped in
thought. These moments of introspection, of deep self-questioning, had
become more and more frequent. He had made in the past few months a new
and most interesting acquaintance--himself. All the years of his
over-hurried, over-cultivated, ambitious life he had delved into the
psychology of others. It had been his pride to divine motives, to
dissect personalities, to classify and sort the brains and natures of
men. Now for the first time he had turned the scalpel upon himself. He
was amazed, he was shocked, almost frightened. He could not hide from
himself, he was no longer blind, the searchlight of his own analysis was
inexorably focused on his own sins and shortcomings--his powers misused,
his strength misdirected, his weaknesses indulged, because his strength
protected them. In these hours of what he had grown to grimly call his
"stock taking," he had become aware of a new and all-important group of
men. Where before he had reckoned values solely by capacities of brain
and hand, he found now a new factor--the capacity of heart. Ideals that
heretofore had borne to his mind the stamp of weakness, now showed
themselves as real bulwarks of character. The men who had fallen by the
wayside in the advance of his pitiless march to power, were no longer,
to his eyes, types of the unfit, to be thrust aside. Some were men,
indeed, who knew their own souls, and would not barter them.
In his mind a vast readjustment had taken place. Words had become
bodied, the unseen was becoming the visible--Responsibility, Honesty,
Fairness, Truth! they had all been words to conjure with--for use in
political speeches, in interviews--because they seemed to exercise an
occult influence upon the gullible public. "Law," "Peace," "Order," "The
Greatest Good to the Greatest Number," he had used them all as an Indian
medicine-man shakes bone rattles, and waves a cow's tail before the
tribe, laughing behind his gaping mask at the servile acceptance of his
prophecies. One and all these Cunjar Gods he had believed to be only
bits of shell and plaited rope, had come to life--they _were_ gods, real
presences, real powers. He had invoked them only to deceive others--and,
behold! he it was who knew not the truth.
The high tower of his heaven-grasping ambitions seemed suddenly insecure
and founded upon shifting sands. The incense the sycophant world burned
before him became a stench in his nostrils. The fetishes he had tossed
to the crowd now faced him as real gods; and they were not to be blinded
with dust, nor bought with gold. The specious and tortured verbiage of
twisted law never for one moment deceived the open ears of Justice, even
though it tied her hands, and her voice was the voice of condemnation.
Honor--he had sold it. Faith--he had not kept it. Truth--he had
distorted to fit whatever garb he had chosen for her to wear. And,
withal, he had hailed himself conqueror; had placed his laurels himself
upon his head, ranking all others beneath him. The clamor of the mob he
had interpreted as acclaim. Now he heard above the applause the hoarse
chorus of disdain and fear. It had been his pride to see men fall back
and make way at the very mention of his name. Now he felt that they
shrank from him--not before his greatness, but from his very contact. He
had driven his fellow creatures from him, and in return, they withdrew
If they came to him fawning, they but showed their lower natures. He had
not called forth the power for good, from these the necromancy of his
personality had touched. He had conjured evil, he had pandered to base
The realization had not come easily. His habits of thought would return
and blind him as of old. He had laughed at himself; he had derided the
new gods, he had disobeyed them and their strange commands--only to
return crestfallen, contrite, feeling himself unworthy. He became aware
that he had run a long and victorious race for a prize he had
craved--only to find that the goal to which it brought him was not that
Back to Full Books