The Adventures of Jimmie Dale
Frank L. Packard
Part 2 out of 9
"Convict ME!" Clayton's lower jaw hung loosely; but still he made an
effort at bluster. "You haven't a thing on me--not a thing--not a
Jimmie Dale smiled again--unpleasantly.
"You are quite wrong, Clayton. See--here." He took a sheet of paper
from the drawer of his desk.
Clayton reached for it quickly. "What is it?" he demanded.
Jimmie Dale drew it back out of reach.
"Just a minute," he said softly. "You remember, don't you, that in
the presence of Carruthers here, of myself, and of half a dozen
reporters, you stated that you had been alone with Metzer in his
room at three o'clock yesterday, and that it was you--alone--who
found the body later on at nine o'clock? Yes? I mention this
simply to show that from your own lips the evidence is complete that
you had an OPPORTUNITY to commit the crime. Now you may look at
this, Clayton." He handed over the sheet of paper.
Clayton took it, stared at it, turning it over from first one side
to the other. Then a sort of relief seemed to come to him and he
"Nothing but a damned piece of blank paper!" he mumbled.
Jimmie Dale reached over and took back the sheet.
"You're wrong again, Clayton," he said calmly. "It WAS quite blank
before I handed it to you--but not now. I noticed yesterday that
your hands were generally moist. I am sure they are more so now--
excitement, you know. Carruthers, see that he doesn't interrupt."
From a drawer, Jimmie Dale took out a little black bottle, the
notebook he had used the day before, and the photograph Carruthers
had sent him. On the sheet of paper Clayton had just handled,
Jimmie Dale sprinkled a little powder from the bottle.
"Lampblack," explained Jimmie Dale. He shook the paper carefully,
allowing the loose powder to fall on the desk blotter--and held out
the sheet toward Clayton. "Rather neat, isn't it? A very good
impression, too. Your thumb print, Clayton. Now don't move. You
may look--not touch." He laid the paper down on the desk in front
of Clayton. Beside it he placed the notebook, open at the sketch--a
black thumb print now upon it. "You recall handling this yesterday,
I'm sure, Clayton. I tried the same experiment with the lampblack
on it this morning, you see. And this"--beside the notebook he
placed the police photograph; that, too, in its enlargement, showed,
sharply defined, a thumb print on a diamond-shaped background. "You
will no doubt recognise it as an official photograph, enlarged,
taken of the gray seal on Metzer's forehead--AND THE THUMB PRINT OF
METZER'S MURDERER. You have only to glance at the little scar at
the edge of the centre loop to satisfy yourself that the three are
identical. Of course, there are a dozen other points of similarity
equally indisputable, but--"
Jimmie Dale stopped. Clayton was on his feet--rocking on his feet.
His face was deathlike in its pallor. Moisture was oozing from his
"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" he cried out wildly. "My God, I
tell you, I DIDN'T do it--and--and--that would send me to the
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale coldly, "and that's precisely where you're
going--to the chair."
The man was beside himself now--racked to the soul by a paroxysm of
"I'm innocent--innocent!" he screamed out. "Oh, for God's sake,
don't send an innocent man to his death. It WAS Stace Morse.
Listen! Listen! I'll tell the truth." He was clawing with his
hands, piteously, over the desk at Jimmie Dale. "When the big
rewards came out last week I stole one of the gray seals from the
bunch at headquarters to--to use it the first time any crime was
committed when I was sure I could lay my hands on the man who did
it. Don't you see? Of course he'd deny he was the Gray Seal, just
as he'd deny that he was guilty--but I'd have the proof both ways
and--and I'd collect the rewards, and--and--" The man collapsed
into the chair.
Carruthers was up from his seat, his hands gripping tight on the
edge of the desk as he leaned over it.
"Jimmie--Jimmie--what does this mean?" he gasped out.
Jimmie Dale smiled--pleasantly now.
"That he has told the truth," said Jimmie Dale quietly. "It is
quite true that Stace Morse committed the murder. Shows up the
value of circumstantial evidence though, doesn't it? This would
certainly have got him off, and convicted Clayton here before any
jury in the land. But the point is, Carruthers, that Stace Morse
ISN'T the Gray Seal--and that the Gray Seal is NOT a murderer."
Clayton looked up. "You--you believe me?" he stammered eagerly.
Jimmie Dale whirled on him in a sudden sweep of passion.
"NO, you cur!" he flashed. "It's not you I believe. I simply
wanted your confession before witnesses." He whipped the three
written sheets from his pocket. "Here, substantially, is that
confession written out." He passed it to Carruthers. "Read it to
Carruthers read it aloud.
"Now," said Jimmie Dale grimly, "this spells ruin for you, Clayton.
You don't deserve a chance to escape prison bars, but I'm going to
give you one, for you're going to get it pretty stiff, anyhow. If
you refuse to sign this, I'll hand you over to the district attorney
in half an hour, and Carruthers and I will swear to your confession;
on the other hand, if you sign it, Carruthers will not be able to
print it until to-morrow morning, and that gives you something like
fourteen hours to put distance between yourself and New York. Here
is a pen--if you are quick enough to take us by surprise once you
have signed, you might succeed in making a dash for that door and
effecting your escape--without forcing us to compound a felony--
Clayton's hand trembled violently as he seized the pen. He scrawled
his name--looked from one to the other--wet his lips--and then,
taking Jimmie Dale at his word, rushed for the door--and the door
slammed behind him.
Carruthers' face was hard. "What did you let him go for, Jimmie?"
he said uncompromisingly.
"Selfishness. Pure selfishness," said Jimmie Dale softly. "They'd
guy me unmercifully if they ever heard of it at the St. James Club.
The honour is all yours, Carruthers. I don't appear on the stage.
That's understood? Yes? Well, then"--he handed over the signed
confession--"is the 'scoop' big enough?"
Carruthers fingered the sheets, but his eyes in a bewildered way
searched Jimmie Dale's face.
"Big enough!" he echoed, as though invoking the universe. "It's the
biggest thing the newspaper game has ever known. But how did you
come to do it? What started you? Where did you get your lead?"
"Why, from you, I guess, Carruthers," Jimmie Dale answered
thoughtfully, with artfully puckered brow. "I remembered that you
had said last week that the Gray Seal never left finger marks on his
work--and I saw one on the seal on Metzer's forehead. Then, you
know, I lifted one corner where the seal overlapped a thread of
blood, and, underneath, the thread of blood wasn't in the slightest
disturbed; so, of course, I knew the seal had been put on quite a
long time after the man was dead--not until the blood had dried
thoroughly, to a crust, you know, so that even the damp surface of
the sticky side of the seal hadn't affected it. And then, I took a
dislike to Clayton somehow--and put two and two together, and took a
flyer in getting him to handle the notebook. I guess that's all--
no other reason on earth. Jolly lucky, don't you think?"
Carruthers didn't say anything for a moment. When he spoke, it was
"You saved me twenty-five thousand dollars on that reward, Jimmie."
"That's the only thing I regret," said Jimmie Dale brightly. "It
wasn't nice of you, Carruthers, to turn on the Gray Seal that way.
And it strikes me you owe the chap, whoever he is, a pretty emphatic
exoneration after what you said in this morning's edition."
"Jimmie," said Carruthers earnestly. "You know what I thought of
him before. It's like a new lease of life to get back one's faith
in him. You leave it to me. I'll put the Gray Seal on a pedestal
to-morrow that will be worthy of the immortals--you leave it to me."
And Carruthers kept his word. Also, before the paper had been an
hour off the press, Carruthers received a letter. It thanked
Carruthers quite genuinely, even if couched in somewhat facetious
terms, for his "sweeping vindication," twitted him gently for his
"backsliding," begged to remain "his gratefully," and in lieu of
signature there was a gray-coloured piece of paper shaped like this:
Only there were no fingerprints on it.
THE MOTHER LODE
It was the following evening, and they had dined together again at
the St. James Club--Jimmie Dale, and Carruthers of the MORNING NEWS-
ARGUS. From Clayton and a discussion of the Metzer murder, the
conversation had turned, not illogically, upon the physiognomy of
criminals in general. Jimmie Dale, lazily ensconced now in a
lounging chair in one of the club's private library rooms, flicked a
minute speck of cigar ash from the sleeve of his dinner jacket, and
smiled whimsically across the table at his friend.
"Oh, I dare say there's a lot in physiognomy, Carruthers," he
drawled. "Never studied the thing, you know--that is, from the
standpoint of crime. Personally, I've only got one prejudice: I
distrust, on principle, the man who wears a perennial and pompous
smirk--which isn't, of course, strictly speaking, physiognomy at
all. You see, a man can't help his eyes being beady or his nose
pronounced, but pomposity and a smirk, now--" Jimmie Dale shrugged
Carruthers laughed--and then glanced ludicrously at Jimmie Dale, as
the door, ajar, was pushed open, and a man entered.
"Speaking of angels," murmured Jimmie Dale--and sat up in his chair.
"Hello, Markel!" he observed casually, "You've met Carruthers, of
the NEWS-ARGUS, haven't you?"
Markel was fat and important; he had beady black eyes, fastidiously
trimmed whiskers--and a pronounced smirk.
Markel blew his nose vigorously, coughed asthmatically, and held out
"Of course, certainly," said he effusively. "I've met Carruthers
several times--used his sheet more than once to advertise a new bond
The dominant note in Markel's voice was an ingratiating and
unpleasant whine, and Carruthers nodded, not very cordially--and
Markel went back to the door, closed it carefully, and returned to
"Fact is," he smiled confidentially, "I saw you two come in here a
few minutes ago, and I've got something that I thought Carruthers
might be glad to have for his society column--say, in the Sunday
He dove into the inside pocket of his coat, produced a large morocco
leather jeweller's case, and, holding it out over the table between
Carruthers and Jimmie Dale, suddenly snapped the cover open--and
then, with a complacent little chuckle that terminated in another
fit of coughing, spilled the contents on the table under the
electric reading lamp.
Like a thing of living, pulsing fire it rolled before their eyes--a
magnificent diamond necklace, of wondrous beauty, gleaming and
scintillating as the light rays shot back from a thousand facets.
For a moment, both men gazed at it without a word.
"Little surprise for my wife," volunteered Markel, with a debonair
wave of his pudgy hand, and trying to make his voice sound careless.
The case lay open--patently displaying the name of the most famous
jewelry house in America. Jimmie Dale's eyes fixed on Markel's
whiskers where they were brushed outward in an ornate and fastidious
"By Jove!" he commented. "You don't do things by halves, do you,
"Two hundred and ten thousand dollars I paid for that little bunch
of gewgaws," said Markel, waving his hand again. Then he clapped
Carruthers heartily on the shoulder. "What do you think of it,
Carruthers--eh? Say, a photograph of it, and one of Mrs. Markel--
eh? Please her, you know--she's crazy on this society stunt--all
flubdub to me of course. How's it strike you, Carruthers?"
Carruthers, very evidently, liked neither the man nor his manners,
but Carruthers, above everything else, was a gentleman.
"To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Markel," he said a little
frigidly, "I don't believe in this sort of thing. It's all right
from a newspaper standpoint, and we do it; but it's just in this way
that owners of valuable jewelry lay themselves open to theft. It
simply amounts to advising every crook in the country that you have
a quarter of a million at his disposal, which he can carry away in
his vest pocket, once he can get his hands on it--and you invite him
Jimmie Dale laughed. "What Carruthers means, Markel, is that you'll
have the Gray Seal down your street. Carruthers talks of crooks
generally, but he thinks in terms of only one. He can't help it.
He's been trying so long to catch the chap that it's become an
obsession. Eh, Carruthers?"
Carruthers smiled seriously. "Perhaps," he admitted. "I hope,
though, for Mr. Markel's sake, that the Gray Seal won't take a fancy
to it--if he does, Mr. Markel can say good-bye to his necklace."
"Pouf!" coughed Markel arrogantly. "Overrated! His cleverness is
all in the newspaper columns. If he knows what's good for him,
he'll know enough to leave this alone."
Jimmie Dale was leaning over the table poking gingerly with the tip
of his forefinger at the centre stone in the setting, revolving it
gently to and fro in the light--a very large stone, whose weight
would hardly be less than fifteen carats. Jimmie Dale lowered his
head for a closer examination--and to hide a curious, mocking little
gleam that crept into his dark eyes.
"Yes, I should say you're right, Markel," he agreed judicially. "He
ought to know better than to touch this. It--it would be too hard
to dispose of."
"I'm not worrying," declared Markel importantly.
"No," said Jimmie Dale. "Two hundred and ten thousand, you said.
Any special--er--significance to the occasion, if the question's not
impertinent? Birthday, wedding anniversary--or something like
"No, nothing like that!" Markel grinned, winked secretively, and
rubbed his hands together. "I'm feeling good, that's all--I'm going
to make the killing of my life to-morrow."
"Oh!" said Jimmie Dale.
Markel turned to Carruthers. "I'll let you in on that, too,
Carruthers, in a day or two, if you'll send a reporter around--
financial man, you know. It'll be worth your while. And now, how
about this? What do you say to a little article and the photos next
There was a slight hint of rising colour in Carruthers' face.
"If you'll send them to the society editor, I've no doubt he'll be
able to use them," he said brusquely.
"Right!" said Markel, and coughed, and patted Carruthers' shoulder
patronisingly again. "I'll just do that little thing." He picked
up the necklace, dangled it till it flashed and flashed again under
the light, then restored it very ostentatiously to its case, and the
case to his pocket. "Thanks awfully, Carruthers," he said, as he
rose from his chair. "See you again, Dale. Good-night!"
Carruthers glared at the door as it closed behind the man.
"Say it!" prodded Jimmie Dale sweetly. "Don't feel restrained
because you are a guest--I absolve you in advance."
"Rotter!" said Carruthers.
"Well," said Jimmie Dale softly. "You see--Carruthers?"
Carruthers' match crackled savagely as he lighted a cigar.
"Yes, I see," he growled. "But I don't see--you'll pardon my saying
so--how vulgarity like that ever acquired membership in the St.
"Carruthers," said Jimmie Dale plaintively, "you ought to know
better than that. You know, to begin with, since it seems he has
advertised with you, that he runs some sort of brokerage business in
Boston. He's taken a summer home up here on Long Island, and some
misguided chap put him on the club's visitor's list. His card will
NOT be renewed. Sleek customer, isn't he? Trifle familiar--I was
only introduced to him last night."
Carruthers grunted, broke his burned match into pieces, and began to
toss the pieces into an ash tray.
Jimmie Dale became absorbed in an inspection of his hands--those
wonderful hands with long, slim, tapering fingers, whose clean, pink
flesh masked a strength and power that was like to a steel vise.
Jimmie Dale looked up. "Going to print a nice little story for him
about the 'costliest and most beautiful necklace in America'?" he
Carruthers scowled. "No," he said bluntly. "I am not. He'll read
the NEWS-ARGUS a long time before he reads anything about that,
But therein Carruthers was wrong--the NEWS-ARGUS carried the "story"
of Markel's diamond necklace in three-inch "caps" in red ink on the
front page in the next morning's edition--and Carruthers gloated
over it because the morning NEWS-ARGUS was the ONLY paper in New
York that did. Carruthers was to hear more of Markel and Markel's
necklace than he thought, though for the time being the subject
dropped between the two men.
It was still early, barely ten o'clock, when Carruthers left the
club, and, preferring to walk to the newspaper offices, refused
Jimmie Dale's offer of his limousine. It was but five minutes later
when Jimmie Dale, after chatting for a moment or two with those
about in the lobby, in turn sought the coat room, where Markel was
being assisted into his coat.
"Getting home early, aren't you, Markel?" remarked Jimmie Dale
"Yes," said Markel, and ran his fingers fussily, comb fashion,
through his whiskers. "Quite a little run out to my place, you
know--and with, you know what, I don't care to be out too late."
"No, of course," concurred Jimmie Dale, getting into his own coat.
They walked out of the club together, and Markel climbed importantly
into the tonneau of a big gray touring car.
"Ah--home, Peters," he sniffed at his chauffeur; and then, with a
grandiloquent wave of his hand to Jimmie Dale: "'Night, Dale."
Jimmie Dale smiled with his eyes--which were hidden by the brim of
"Good-night, Markel," he replied, and the smile crept curiously to
the corners of his mouth as he watched the gray car disappear down
A limousine drew up, and Benson, Jimmie Dale's chauffeur, opened the
"Home, Mr. Dale?" he asked cheerily, touching his cap. "Yes,
Benson--home," said Jimmie Dale absently, and stepped into the car.
It was a luxurious car, as everything that belonged to Jimmie Dale
was luxurious--and he leaned back luxuriously on the cushions,
extended his legs luxuriously to their full length, plunged his
hands into his overcoat pockets--and then a change stole strangely,
slowly over Jimmie Dale.
The sensitive fingers of his right hand in the pocket had touched,
and now played delicately over a sealed envelope that they had found
there, played over it as though indeed by the sense of touch alone
they could read the contents--and he drew his body gradually erect.
It was another of those mysterious missives from--HER. The texture
of the paper was invariably the same--like this one. How had it
come there? Collusion with the coat boy at the club? That was
hardly probable. Perhaps it had been there before he had entered
the club for dinner--he remembered, now, that there had been several
people passing, and that he had been jostled slightly in crossing
the sidewalk. What, however, did it matter? It was there
mysteriously, as scores of others had come to him mysteriously, with
never a clew to her identity, to the identity of his--he smiled a
little grimly--accomplice in crime.
He took the envelope from his pocket and stared at it. His fingers
had not been at fault--it was one of hers. The faint, elusive,
exquisite fragrance of some rare perfume came to him as he held it.
"I'd give," said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself--"I'd give
everything I own to know who you are--and some day, please God, I
Jimmie Dale tore the envelope very gently, as though the tearing
almost were an act of desecration--and extracted the letter from
within. He began to read aloud hurriedly and in snatches:
"DEAR PHILANTHROPIC CROOK: Charleton Park Manor--Markel's house is
the second one from the gates on the right-hand side--library leads
off reception hall on left, door opposite staircase--telephone in
reception hall near vestibule entrance, left-hand side--safe is one
of your father's make, No. 14,321--clothes closet behind the desk--
probably will be kept in cash box--five servants; two men, three
maids--quarters on top story--Markel and wife occupy room over
library--French windows to dining room on opposite side of the
house--opening on the lawn--get it TO-NIGHT, Jimmie--TO-MORROW WOULD
BE TOO LATE--dispose of it--see fit--Henry Wilbur, Marshall
Building, Broadway--fifth story--"
Through the glass-panelled front of the car, Jimmie Dale could see
his chauffeur's back, and the hand that held the letter dropped now
to his side, and Jimmie Dale stared--at his chauffeur's back. Then,
presently, he read the letter again, as though committing it to
memory now; and then, tearing the paper into tiny shreds, as he did
with every one of her communications, he reached out of the window
and allowed the little pieces to filter gradually from his hand.
The Gray Seal! He smiled in his whimsical way. If it were ever
known! He, Jimmie Dale, with his social standing, his wealth, his
position--the Gray Seal! Not a police official, not a secret-
service bureau probably in the civilised world, but knew the name--
not a man, woman, or child certainly in this great city around him
but to whom it was as familiar as their own! Danger? Yes. A
battle of wits? Yes. His against everybody's--even against
Carruthers', his old college chum! For, even as a reporter, before
he had risen to the editorial desk, and even now that he had,
Carruthers had been one of the keenest on the scent of the Gray
Danger? Yes. But it was worth it! Worth it a thousand times for
the very lure of the danger itself; but worth it most of all for his
association with her who, by some amazing means, verging indeed on
the miraculous, came into touch with all these things, and supplied
him with the data on which to work--that always some wrong might be
righted, or gladness come where there had been gloom before, or hope
where there had been despair--that into some fellow human's heart
should come a gleam of sunshine. Yes, in spite of the howls of the
police, the virulent diatribes of the press, an angry public
screaming for his arrest, conviction, and punishment, there were
those perhaps who even on their bended knees at night asked God's
blessing on--the Gray Seal!
Was it strange, then, after all, that the police, seeking a clew
through motive, should have been driven to frenzy on every occasion
in finding themselves forever confronted with what, from every angle
they were able to view it, was quite a purposeless crime! On one
point only they were right, the old dogma, the old, old cry, old as
the institution of police, older than that, old since time
immemorial--CHERCHEZ LA FEMME! Quite right--but also quite
purposeless! Jimmie Dale's eyes grew wistful. He had been "hunting
for the woman in the case" himself, now, for months and years
indefatigably, using every resource at his command--quite
Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders. Why go over all this to-night--
there were other things to do. She had come to him again--and this
time with a matter that entailed more than ordinary difficulty, more
than usual danger, that would tax his wits and his skill to the
utmost, not only to succeed, but to get out of it himself with a
whole skin. Markel--eh? Jimmie Dale leaned back in his seat,
clasped his hands behind his head--and his eyes, half closed now,
were studying Benson's back again through the plate-glass front.
He was still sitting in that position as the car approached his
residence on Riverside Drive--but, as it came to a stop, and Benson
opened the door, it was a very alert Jimmie Dale that stepped to the
"Benson," he said crisply, "I am going downtown again later on, but
I shall drive myself. Bring the touring car around and leave it in
front of the house. I'll run it into the garage when I get back--
you need not wait up."
"Very good, sir," said Benson.
In the hallway, Jason, the butler, who had been butler to Jimmie
Dale's father before him, took Jimmie Dale's hat and coat.
"It's a fine evening, Master Jim," said the privileged old man
Jimmie Dale took out his silver cigarette case, selected a
cigarette, tapped it daintily on the cover of the case--and accepted
the match the old man hastily produced.
"Yes, Jason." said Jimmie Dale, pleasantly facetious, "it a fine
night, a glorious night, moon and stars and a balmy breeze--quite
too fine, indeed, to remain indoors. In fact, you might lay out my
gray ulster; I think I will go for a spin presently, when I have
"Yes, sir," said Jason. "Anything else, Master Jim?"
"No; that's all, Jason. Don't sit up for me--you may go to bed
"Thank you, sir," said the old man.
Jimmie Dale went upstairs, opened the door of his own particular den
on the right of the landing, stepped inside, closed the door,
switched on the light--and Jimmie Dale's debonair nonchalance
dropped from him as a mask instantly--and it was another Jimmie
Dale--the professional Jimmie Dale.
Quick now in every action, he swung aside the portiere that
curtained off the squat, barrel-shaped safe in the little alcove,
opened the safe, took out that curious leather girdle with its kit
of burglar's tools, added to it a flashlight and an automatic
revolver, closed the safe--and passed into his dressing room. Here,
he proceeded to divest himself rapidly of his evening clothes,
selecting in their stead a suit of dark tweed. He heard Jason come
up the stairs, pass along the hall, and mount the second flight to
his own quarters; and presently came the sound of an automobile
without. The dressing room fronted on the Drive--Jimmie Dale looked
out. Benson was just getting out of the touring car. Slipping the
leather girdle, then, around his waist, Jimmie Dale put on his vest,
then his coat--and walked briskly downstairs.
Jason had laid out a gray ulster on the hall stand. Jimmie Dale put
it on, selected a leather cap with motor-goggle attachment that
pulled down almost to the tip of his nose, tucked a slouch hat into
the pocket of the ulster, and, leaving the house, climbed into his
He glanced at his watch as he started--it was a quarter of eleven.
Jimmie Dale's lips pursed a little.
"I guess it'll make a night of it, and a tight squeeze, at that, to
get back under cover before daylight," he muttered. "I'll have to
do some tall speeding."
But at first, across the city and through Brooklyn, for all his
impatience, it was necessarily slow--after that, Jimmie Dale took
chances, and, once on the country roads of Long Island, the big,
powerful car tore through the night like a greyhound whose leash is
A half hour passed--Jimmie Dale's eyes shifting occasionally from
the gray thread of road ahead of him under the glare of the dancing
lamps, to the road map spread out at his feet, upon which, from time
to time, he focused his pocket flashlight. And then, finally, he
slowed the car to a snail's pace--he should be very near his
destination--that very ultra-exclusive subdivision of Charleton Park
On either side of the road now was quite a thickly set stretch of
wooded land, rising slightly on the right--and this Jimmie Dale
scrutinised sharply. In fact, he stopped for an instant as he came
opposite to a wagon track--it seemed to be little more than that--
that led in through the trees.
"If it's not too far from the seat of war," commented Jimmie Dale to
himself, as he went on again, "it will do admirably."
And then, a hundred yards farther on, Jimmie Dale nodded his head in
satisfaction--he was passing the rather ornate stone pillars that
marked the entrance to Charleton Park Manor, and on which the
initial promoters of the subdivision, the real-estate people, had
evidently deemed it good advertising policy to expend a small
Another hundred yards farther on, Jimmie Dale turned his car around
and returned past the gates to the wagon track again. The road was
deserted--not a car nor a vehicle of any description was in sight.
Jimmie Dale made sure of that--and in another instant Jimmie Dale's
own car, every light extinguished, had vanished--he had backed it up
the wagon track, just far enough in for the trees to screen it
thoroughly from the main road.
Nor did Jimmie Dale himself appear again on the main road--until
just as he emerged close to the gates of Charleton Park Manor from a
short cut through the woods. Also, he was without his ulster now,
and the slouch hat had replaced the motor cap.
Jimmie Dale, in the moonlight, took stock of his surroundings, as he
passed in at a businesslike walk through the gates. It was a large
park, if that name could properly be applied to it at all, and the
houses--he caught sight of one set back from the driveway on the
right--were quite far apart, each in its own rather spacious grounds
among the trees.
"The second house on the right," her letter had said. Jimmie Dale
had already passed the first one--the next would be Markel's then--
and it loomed ahead of him now, black and shadowy and unlighted.
Jimmie Dale shot a glance around him--there was stillness, quiet
everywhere--no sign of life--no sound.
Jimmie Dale's face became tense, his lips tight--and he stepped
suddenly from the sidewalk in among the trees. They were not thick
here, of course, the trees, and the turf beneath his feet was well
kept--and, therefore, soundless. He moved quickly now, but
cautiously, from tree to tree, for the moonlight, flooding the lawn
and house, threw all objects into bold relief.
A minute, two, three went by--and a shadow flitted here and there
across the light-green sward, like the moving of the trees swaying
in the breeze--and then Jimmie Dale was standing close up against
one side of the house, hidden by the protecting black shadows of the
But here, for a moment, Jimmie Dale seemed little occupied with the
house itself--he was staring down past its length to where the woods
made a heavy, dark background at the rear. Then he turned his head,
to face directly to the main road, then back again slowly, as though
measuring an angle. Jimmie Dale had no intention of making his
escape by the roundabout way in which he had been forced to come in
order to make certain of locating the right house, the second one
from the gates--and he was getting the bearings of his car and the
wagon track now.
"I guess that'll be about right," Jimmie Dale muttered finally.
"And now for--"
He slipped along the side of the house and halted where, almost on a
level with the ground, the French windows of the dining room opened
on the lawn. Jimmie Dale tried them gently. They were locked.
An indulgent smile crept to Jimmie Dale's lips--and his hand crept
in under his vest. It came out again--not empty--and Jimmie Dale
leaned close against the window. There was a faint, almost
inaudible, scratching sound, then a slight, brittle crack--and
Jimmie Dale laid a neat little four-inch square of glass on the
ground at his feet. Through the aperture he reached in his hand,
turned the key that was in the lock, turned the bolt-rod handle,
pushed the doors silently open--wide open--left them open--and
stepped into the room.
He could see quite well within, thanks to the moonlight. Jimmie
Dale produced a black silk mask from one of the little leather
pockets, adjusted it carefully over his face, and crossed the room
to the hall door. He opened this--wide open--left it open--and
entered the hall.
Here it was dark--a pitch blackness. He stood for a moment,
listening--utter silence. And then--alert, strained, tense in an
instant, Jimmie Dale crouched against the wall--and then he smiled a
little grimly. It was only some one coughing upstairs--Markel--in
his sleep, perhaps, or, perhaps--in wakefulness.
"I'm a fool!" confided Jimmie Dale to himself, as he recognised the
cough that he had heard at the club. "And yet--I don't know. One's
nerves get sort of taut. Pretty stiff business. If I'm ever
caught, the penitentiary sentence I get will be the smallest part of
what's to pay."
A round button of light played along the wall from the flashlight in
his hand--just for an instant--and all was blackness again. But in
that instant Jimmie Dale was across the hall, and his fingers were
tracing the telephone connection from the instrument to where the
wires disappeared in the baseboard of the floor. Another instant,
and he had severed the wires with a pair of nippers.
Again the quick, firefly gleam of light to locate the stair case and
the library door opposite to it--and, moving without the slightest
noise, Jimmie Dale's hand was on the door itself. Again he paused
to listen. All was silence now.
The door swung under his hand, and, left open behind him, he was in
the room. The flashlight winked once--suspiciously. Then he
snapped its little switch, keeping the current on, and the ray
dodged impudently here and there all over the apartment.
The safe was set in a sort of clothes closet behind the desk, she
had said. Yes, there it was--the door, at least. Jimmie Dale moved
toward it--and paused as his light swept the top of the intervening
desk. A mass of papers, books, and correspondence littered it
untidily. The yellow sheet of a telegram caught Jimmie Dale's eye.
He picked it up and glanced at it. It read:
"Vein uncovered to-day. Undoubtedly mother lode. Enormously rich.
Put the screws on at once. THURL."
Under the mask, Jimmie Dale's lips twitched.
"I think, Markel, you miserable hound," said he softly, that God
will forgive me for depriving you of a share of the profits. Two
hundred and ten thousand, I think it was, you said the sparklers
cost." A curious little sound came from Jimmie Dale's lips--like a
Jimmie Dale tossed the telegram back on the desk, moved on behind
the desk, opened the door of the closet that had been metamorphosed
into a vault--and the white light travelled slowly, searchingly,
critically over the shining black-enamelled steel, the nickelled
knobs, and dials of a safe that confronted him.
Jimmie Dale nodded at it--familiarly, grimly.
"It's number one-four-three-two-one, all right," he murmured. "And
one of the best we ever made. Pretty tough. But I've done it
before. Say, half an hour of gentle persuasion. It would be too
bad to crack it with 'soup'--besides, that's crude--Carruthers would
never forgive the Gray Seal for that!"
The light went out--blackness fell. Jimmie Dale's slim, sensitive
fingers closed on the dial's knob, his head touched the steel front
of the safe as he pressed his ear against it for the tumblers' fall.
And then silence. It seemed to grow heavier, that silence, with
each second--to palpitate through the quiet house--to grow pregnant,
premonitory of dread, of fear--it seemed to throb in long
undulations, and the stillness grew LOUD. A moonbeam filtered in
between the edge of the drawn shade and the edge of the window. It
struggled across the floor in a wavering path, strayed over the
desk, and died away, shadowy and formless, against the blackness of
the opened recess door, against the blackness of the great steel
safe, the blackness of a huddled form crouched against it. Only now
and then, in a strange, projected, wraithlike effect, the moon ray
glinted timidly on the tip of a nickel dial, and, ghostlike,
disclosed a human hand.
Upstairs, Markel coughed again. Then from the safe a whisper,
heavy-breathed as from great exertion:
The dial whirled with faint, musical, little metallic clicks; then
began to move slowly again, very, very slowly. The moonbeam, as
though petulant at its own abortive attempt to satisfy its
curiosity, retreated back across the floor, and faded away.
Time passed. Then from the safe again, but now in a low gasp, a
pant of relief:
The ear might barely catch the sound--it was as of metal sliding in
well-oiled grooves, of metal meeting metal in a padded thud. The
massive door swung outward. Jimmie Dale stood up, easing his
cramped muscles, and flirted the sweat beads from his forehead.
After a moment, he knelt again. There was still the inner door--but
that was a minor matter to Jimmie Dale compared with what had gone
Stillness once more--a long period of it. And then again that cough
from above--a prolonged paroxysm of it this time that went racketing
through the house.
Jimmie Dale, in the act of swinging back the inner door of the safe,
paused to listen, and little furrows under his mask gathered on his
forehead. The coughing stopped. Jimmie Dale waited a moment, still
listening--then his flashlight bored into the interior of the safe.
"The cash box, probably," quoted Jimmie Dale, beneath his breath--
and picked it up from where it lay in the bottom compartment of the
The lock snipped under the insistent probe of a delicate little
blued-steel instrument, and Jimmie Dale lifted the cover. There was
a package of papers and documents on top, held together with elastic
bands. Jimmie Dale spent a moment or two examining these, then his
fingers dived down underneath, and the next minute, under the
flashlight, the morocco leather case open, the diamond necklace was
sparkling and flashing on its white satin bed.
"A tempting little thing, isn't it?" said Jimmie Dale gently. "It
was really thoughtful of you, Markel, to buy that this afternoon!"
Jimmie Dale replaced the necklace in the cash box, set the cash box
on the floor, closed the inner door of the safe, and swung the outer
door a little inward--but left it flauntingly ajar. Then from a
pocket of the leather girdle beneath his vest he produced his small,
thin, flat, metal case. From this, from between sheets of oil
paper, with the aid of a pair of tweezers, he lifted out a gray,
diamond-shaped seal. Jimmie Dale was apparently fastidious. He
held the seal with the tweezers as he moistened the adhesive side
with his tongue, laid the seal on his handkerchief, and pressed the
handkerchief firmly against the safe--as usual, Jimmie Dale's
insignia bore no finger prints as it lay neatly capping the knob of
He reached down, picked up the cash box--and then, for the second
time that night, held suddenly tense, alert, listening, his every
muscle taut. A door opened upstairs. There came a murmur of
voices. Then a momentary lull.
Jimmie Dale listened. Like a statue he stood there in the black,
absolutely motionless--his head a little forward and to one side.
Nothing--not a sound. Then a very low, curious, swishing noise, and
a faint creak. SOMEBODY WAS COMING DOWN THE STAIRS!
Jimmie Dale moved stealthily from the recess, and noiselessly to the
desk. Very faintly, but distinctly now, came a pad of either
slippered or bare feet on the stairway carpet. Like a cat,
soundless in his movements, Jimmie Dale crept toward the door of the
room. Down the stairs came that pad of feet; occasionally came that
swishing sound. Nearer the door crept Jimmie Dale, and his lips
were thinned now, his jaws clamped. How near were they together, he
and this night prowler? At times he could not hear the other at
all, and, besides, the heavy carpet made the judgment of distance an
impossibility. If he could gain the hall, and, in the darkness,
elude the other, the way of escape through the dining room was open.
And then, within a few feet of the door, Jimmie Dale halted
abruptly, as a woman's voice rose querulously from the hallway
"You are making a perfect fool of yourself, Theodore Markel! Come
back here to bed!"
Jimmie Dale's face hardened like stone--the answer came almost from
the very threshold in front of him:
"I can't sleep, I tell you"--it was Markel's voice, in a disgruntled
snarl. "I was a fool to bring the confounded thing home. I'm going
to take the library couch for the rest of the night."
It happened quick, then--quick as the winking of an eye. Two sharp,
almost simultaneous, clicks of the electric-light buttons pressed
by Markel, and the hall and library were a flood of light--and
Jimmie Dale leaped forward to where, in dressing gown and pajamas,
blankets and bedding over one arm, a revolver dangling in the other
hand, Markel stood full before the door in the hallway without.
There was a wild yell of terror and surprise from Markel, then a
deafening roar and a spit of flame from his revolver--a bitter,
smothered exclamation from Jimmie Dale as the cash box crashed to
the floor from his left hand, and he was upon the other like a
With the impact, both men went to the floor, grappled, and rolled
over and over. Half mad with fear, shock, and surprise, Markel
fought like a maniac, and his voice, in gasping shouts, rang through
A minute, two passed--and the men rolled about the hall floor.
Markel, over middle age and unheathily fat, against Jimmie Dale's
six feet of muscle--only Jimmie Dale's left hand, dripping a red
stream now, was almost useless.
From above came wild confusion--women's voices in little shrieks;
men's voices shouting in excitement; doors opening, running feet.
And then Jimmie Dale had snatched the revolver from the floor where
Markel had dropped it in the scuffle, and was pressing it against
Markel's forehead--and Markel, terror-stricken, had collapsed in a
flabby, pliant heap.
Jimmie Dale, still covering Markel with the weapon, stood up. The
frightened faces of women protruded over the banisters above. The
two men-servants, at best none too enthusiastically on the way down,
stopped as though stunned as Jimmie Dale swung the revolver upon
Then Jimmie Dale spoke--to Markel--pointing the weapon at Markel
"I don't like you, Markel," he said, with cold impudence. The only
decent thing you'll ever do will be to die--and if those men of
yours on the stairs move another step it will be your death warrant.
Do you understand? I would suggest that you request them to stay
where they are."
Cold sweat was on Markel's face as he stared into the muzzle of the
revolver, and his teeth chattered.
"Go back!" he screamed hysterically at the servants. "Go back! Sit
down! Don't move! Do what he tells you!"
"Thank you!" said Jimmie Dale grimly. "Now, get up yourself!"
Markel got up.
Jimmie Dale backed to the library door, picked up the cash box,
tucked it under his left armpit, and faced those on the stairs.
"Mr. Markel and I are going out for a little walk," he announced
coolly. "If one of you make a move or raise an alarm before your
master comes back, I shall be obliged, in self-defence, to shoot--
Mr. Markel. Mr. Markel quite understands that--I am sure. Do you
not, Mr. Markel?"
"Helen," screamed Markel to his wife, "don't let 'em move! For
God's sake, do as he says!"
Jimmie Dale's lips, just showing beneath the edge of his mask,
broadened in a pleasant little smile.
"Will you lead the way, Mr. Markel?" he requested, with ironic
deference. "Through the dining room, please. Yes, that's right!
Markel walked weakly into the dining room, and Jimmie Dale followed.
A prod in the back from the revolver muzzle, and Markel stepped
through the French windows and out on the lawn. Jimmie Dale faced
the other toward the woods at the rear of the house.
"Go on!" Jimmie Dale's voice was curt now, uncompromising. "And
They passed on along the side of the house and in among the trees.
Fifty yards or so more, and Jimmie Dale halted. He backed Markel up
against a large tree--not over gently.
"I--I say"--Markel's teeth were going like castanets. "I--"
"You'll oblige me by keeping your mouth shut," observed Jimmie Dale
politely--and he whipped the cord of Markel's dressing gown loose
and began to tie the man to the tree. "You have many unpleasant
characteristics, Markel--your voice is one of them. Shall I repeat
that I do not like you?" He stepped to the back of the tree.
"Pardon me if I draw this uncomfortably tight. I don't think you
can reach around to the knot. No? The trunk is too large? Quite
so!" He stepped around to face Markel again--the man was thoroughly
frightened, his face was livid, his jaw sagged weakly, and his eyes
followed every movement of the revolver in Jimmie Dale's hand in a
sort of miserable fascination. Jimmie Dale smiled unhappily. "I am
going to do something, Markel, that I should advise no other man to
do--I am going to put you on your honour! For the next fifteen
minutes you are not to utter a sound. Do you understand?"
"Y-yes," said Markel hoarsely.
"No," said Jimmie Dale sadly, "I don' think you do. Let me be
painfully explicit. If you break your vow of silence by so much as
a second, then to-morrow, or the next day, or the day after, at my
convenience, Markel, you and I will meet again--for the LAST time.
There can be no possible misapprehension on your part now--Markel?"
"N-no,"--Markel could scarcely chatter out the word.
"Quite so," said Jimmie Dale, in velvet tones. He stood for an
instant looking at the other with cool insolence; then: "Good-night,
Markel"--and five minutes later a great touring car was tearing New
Yorkward over the Long Island roads at express speed.
It was one o'clock in the morning as Jimmie Dale swung the car into
a cross street off lower Broadway, and drew up at the curb beside a
large office building. He got out, snuggled the cash box under his
ulster, went around to the Broadway entrance, glanced up to note
that a light burned in a fifth-story window, and entered the
The hallway was practically in darkness, one or two incandescents
only threw a dim light about. Jimmie Dale stopped for a moment at
the foot of the stairs, beside the elevator well, to listen--if the
watchman was making rounds, it was in another part of the building
Jimmie Dale began to climb.
He reached the fifth floor, turned down the corridor, and halted in
front of a door, through the ground-glass panel of which a light
glowed faintly--as though coming from an inner office beyond.
Jimmie Dale drew the black silk mask from his pocket, adjusted it,
tried the door, found it unlocked, opened it noiselessly, and
stepped inside. Across the room, through another door, half open,
the light streamed into the outer office, where Jimmie Dale stood.
Jimmie Dale stole across the room, crouched by the door to look into
the inner office--and his face went suddenly rigid.
"Good God!" he whispered. "As bad as that!"--but it was a
nonchalant Jimmie Dale to all outward appearances that, on the
instant, stepped unconcernedly over the threshold.
An elderly man, white-haired, kindly-faced, kindly-eyed, save now
that the face was drawn and haggard, the eyes full of weariness, was
standing behind a flat-topped desk, his fingers twitching nervously
on a revolver in his hand. He whirled, with a startled cry, at
Jimmie Dale's entrance, and the revolver clattered from his fingers
to the floor.
"I am afraid," said Jimmie Dale, smiling pleasantly, "that you were
going to shoot yourself. Your name is Wilbur, Henry Wilbur, isn't
Unmanned, trembling, the other stood--and nodded mechanically.
"It's really not a nice thing to do," said Jimmie Dale
confidentially. "Makes a mess, you see, too"--he was pulling off
his motor gauntlet, his ulster, his jacket, and, having set the cash
box on the desk, was rolling back his sleeve as he spoke. "Had a
little experience myself this evening." He held out his hand that,
with the forearm, was covered with blood. "A little above the
wrist--fortunately only a flesh wound--a little memento from a chap
named Markel, and--"
"MARKEL!" The word burst, quivering, from the other's lips.
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale imperturbably. "Do you mind if I wash a
bit--and could you oblige me with a towel, or something that would
do for a bandage?"
The man seemed dazed. In a subconscious way, he walked from the
desk to a little cupboard, and took out two towels.
Jimmie Dale stooped, while the other's back was turned, picked up
the revolver from the floor, and slipped it into his trousers
"Markel?" said Wilbur again, the same trembling anxiety in his
voice, as he handed Jimmie Dale the towels and motioned toward a
washstand in the corner of the room. "Did you say Markel--Theodore
"Yes," said Jimmie Dale, examining his wound critically.
"You had trouble--a fight with him? Is he--he--dead?"
"No," said Jimmie Dale, smiling a little grimly. " He's pretty
badly hurt, though, I imagine--but not in a physical way."
"Strange!" whispered Wilbur, in a numbed tone to himself; and he
went back and sank down in his desk chair. "Strange that you should
speak of Markel--strange that you should have come here to-night!"
Jimmie Dale did not answer. He glanced now and then at the other,
as he deftly dressed his wrist--the man seemed on the verge of
collapse, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Jimmie Dale swore
softly to himself. Wilbur was too old a man to be called upon to
stand against the trouble and anxiety that was mirrored in the
misery in his face, that had brought him to the point of taking his
Jimmie Dale put on his coat again, walked over to the desk, and
picked up the 'phone.
"If I may?" he inquired courteously--and confided a number to the
mouthpiece of the instrument.
There was a moment's wait, during which Wilbur, in a desperate sort
of way, seemed to be trying to rally himself, to piece together a
puzzle, as it were; and for the first time he appeared to take a
personal interest in the masked figure that leaned against his desk.
He kept passing his hands across his eyes, staring at Jimmie Dale.
Then Jimmie Dale spoke--into the 'phone.
"MORNING NEWS-ARGUS office? Mr. Carruthers, please. Thank you."
Another wait--then Jimmie Dale's voice changed its pitch and
register to a pleasant and natural, though quite unrecognisable
Mr. Carruthers? Yes. I thought it might interest you to know that
Mr. Theodore Markel purchased a very valuable diamond necklace this
afternoon. . . . Oh, you knew that, did you? Well, so much the
better; you'll be all the more keenly interested to know that it is
no longer in his possession. . . . I beg pardon? Oh, yes, I quite
forgot--this is the Gray Seal speaking. . . . Yes. . . . The Gray
Seal. . . . I have just come from Mr. Markel's country house, and
if you hurry a man out there you ought to be able to give the public
an exclusive bit of news, a scoop, I believe you call it--you see,
Mr. Carruthers, I am not ungrateful for, I might say, the eulogistic
manner in which the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS treated me in that last
affair, and I trust I shall be able to do you many more favours--I
am deeply in your debt. And, oh, yes, tell your reporter not to
overlook the detail of Mr. Markel in his pajamas and dressing gown
tied to a tree in his park--Mr. Markel might be inclined to be
reticent on that point, and it would be a pity to deprive the public
of any--er--'atmosphere' in the story, you know. . . . What? . . .
No; I am afraid Mr. Markel's 'phone is--er--out of order. . . .
Yes. . . . And, by the way, speaking of 'phones, Mr. Carruthers,
between gentlemen, I know you will make no effort under the
circumstances to discover the number I am calling from. Good-night,
Mr. Carruthers." Jimmie Dale hung the receiver abruptly on the
"You see," said Jimmie Dale, turning to Wilbur--and then he stopped.
The man was on his feet, swaying there, his face positively gray.
"My God!" Wilbur burst out. "What have you done? A thousand times
better if I had shot myself, as I would have done in another moment
if you had not come in. I was only ruined then--I am disgraced now.
You have robbed Markel's safe--I am the one man in the world who
would have a reason above all others for doing that--and Markel
knows it. He will accuse me of it. He can prove I had a motive. I
have not been home to-night. Nobody knows I am here. I cannot
prove an alibi. What have you done!"
"Really," said Jimmie Dale, almost plaintively, swinging himself up
on the corner of the desk and taking the cash box on his knee,
"really, you are alarming yourself unnecessarily. I--"
But Wilbur stopped him. "You don't know what you are talking
about!" Wilbur cried out, in a choked way; then, his voice
steadying, he rushed on: "Listen! I am a ruined man, absolutely
ruined. And Markel has ruined me--I did not see through his trick
until too late. Listen! For years, as a mining engineer, I made a
good salary--and I saved it. Two years ago I had nearly seventy
thousand dollars--it represented my life work. I bought an
abandoned mine in Alaska for next to nothing--I was certain it was
rich. A man by the name of Thurl, Jason T. Thurl, another mining
engineer, a steamer acquaintance, was out there at the time--he was
a partner of Markel's, though I didn't know it then. I started to
work the mine. It didn't pan out. I dropped nearly every cent.
Then I struck a small vein that temporarily recouped me, and
supplied the necessary funds with which to go ahead for a while.
Thurl, who had tried to buy the mine out from under my option in the
first place, repeatedly then tried to buy it from me at a ridiculous
figure. I refused. He persisted. I refused--I was confident, I
KNEW I had one of the richest properties in Alaska."
Wilbur paused. A little row of glistening drops had gathered on his
forehead. Jimmie Dale, balancing Markel's cash box on one knee,
drummed softly with his finger tips on the cover.
"The vein petered out," Wilbur went on. "But I was still confident.
I sank all the proceeds of the first strike--and sank them fast, for
unaccountable accidents that crippled me both financially and in the
progress of the work began to happen." Wilbur flung out his hands
impotently. "Oh, it's a long story--too long to tell. Thurl was at
the bottom of those accidents. He knew as well as I did that the
mine was rich--better than I did, for that matter, for we discovered
before we ran him out of Alaska that he had made secret borings on
the property. But what I did not know until a few hours ago was
that he had actually uncovered what we uncovered only yesterday--the
mother lode. He was driving me as fast as he could into the last
ditch--for Markel. I didn't know until yesterday that Markel had
any thing to do with it. I struggled on out there, hoping every day
to open a new vein. I raised money on everything I had, except my
insurance and the mine--and sank it in the mine. No one out there
would advance me anything on a property that looked like a failure,
that had once already been abandoned. I have always kept an office
here, and I came back East with the idea of raising something on my
insurance. Markel, quite by haphazard as I then thought, was
introduced to me just before we left San Francisco on our way to New
York. On the run across the continent we became very friendly.
Naturally, I told him my story. He played sympathetic good fellow,
and offered to lend me fifty thousand dollars on a demand note. I
did not want to be involved for a cent more than was necessary, and,
as I said, I hoped from day to day to make another strike. I
refused to take more than ten thousand. I remember now that he
seemed strangely disappointed."
Again Wilbur stopped. He swept the moisture from his forehead--and
his fist, clenched, came down upon the desk.
"You see the game!"--there was bitter anger in his voice now. "You
see the game! He wanted to get me in deep enough so that I couldn't
wriggle out, deeper than ten thousand that I could get at any time
on my insurance, he wanted me where I couldn't get away--and he got
me. The first ten thousand wasn't enough. I went to him for a
second, a third, a fourth, a fifth--hoping always that each would be
the last. Each time a new note, a demand note for the total amount,
was made, cancelling the former one. I didn't know his game, didn't
suspect it--I blessed God for giving me such a friend--until this,
or, rather, yesterday afternoon, when I received a telegram from my
manager at the mine saying that he had struck what looked like a
very rich vein--the mother lode. And"--Wilbur's fist curled until
the knuckles were like ivory in their whiteness--"he added in the
telegram that Thurl had wired the news of the strike to a man in New
York by the name of Markel. Do you see? I hadn't had the telegram
five minutes, when a messenger brought me a letter from Markel
curtly informing me that I would have to meet my note to-morrow
morning. I can't meet it. He knew I couldn't. With wealth in
sight--I'm wiped out. A DEMAND note, a call loan, do you
understand--and with a few months in which to develop the new vein I
could pay it readily. As it is--I default the note--Markel attaches
all I have left, which is the mine. The mine is sold to satisfy my
indebtedness. Markel buys it in legally, upheld by the law--and
acquires, ROBS me of it, and--"
"And so," said Jimmie Dale musingly, "you were going to shoot
Wilbur straightened up, and there was something akin to pathetic
grandeur in the set of the old shoulders as they squared back.
"Yes!" he said, in a low voice. "And shall I tell you why? Even
if, which is not likely, there was something reverting to me over
the purchase price, it would be a paltry thing compared with the
mine. I have a wife and children. If I have worked for them all my
life, could I stand back now at the last and see them robbed of
their inheritance by a black-hearted scoundrel when I could still
lift a hand to prevent it! I had one way left. What is my life? I
am too old a man to cling to it where they are concerned. I have
referred to my insurance several times. I have always carried heavy
insurance"--he smiled a little curious, mirthless smile--"THAT HAS
NO SUICIDE CLAUSE." He swept his hand over the desk, indicating the
papers scattered there. "I have worked late to-night getting my
affairs in order. My total insurance is fifty-two thousand dollars,
though I couldn't BORROW anywhere near the full amount on it--but at
my death, paid in full, it would satisfy the note. My executors, by
instruction would pay the note--and no dollar from the mine, no
single grain of gold, not an ounce of quartz, would Markel ever get
his hands on, and my wife and children would be saved. That is--"
His words ended abruptly--with a little gasp. Jimmie Dale had
opened the cash box and was dangling the necklace under the light--a
stream of fiery, flashing, sparkling gems.
Then Wilbur spoke again, a hard, bitter note in his voice, pointing
his hand at the necklace.
"But now, on top of everything, you have brought me disgrace--
because you broke into his safe to-night for THAT? He would and
will accuse me. I have heard of you--the Gray Seal--you have done a
pitiful night's work in your greed for that thing there."
"For this?" Jimmie Dale smiled ironically, holding the necklace up.
Then he shook his head. "I didn't break into Markel's safe for
this--it wouldn't have been worth while. It's only paste."
"PASTE!" exclaimed Wilbur, in a slow way.
"Paste," said Jimmie Dale placidly, dropping the necklace back into
its case. "Quite in keeping with Markel, isn't it--to make a
sensation on the cheap?"
"But that doesn't change matters!" Wilbur cried out sharply, after a
numbed instant's pause. "You still broke into the safe, even if you
didn't know then that the necklace was paste."
"Ah, but, you see--I did know then," said Jimmie Dale softly. "I am
really--you must take my word for it--a very good judge of stones,
and I had--er--seen these before."
Wilbur stared--bewildered, confused.
"Then why--what was it that--"
"A paper," said Jimmie Dale, with a little chuckle--and produced it
from the cash box. "It reads like this: 'On demand, I promise to
"My note!" It came in a great, surging cry from Wilbur; and he
strained forward to read it.
"Of course," said Jimmie Dale. "Of course--your note. Did you
think that I had just happened to drop in on you? Now, then, see
here, you just buck up, and--er--smile. There isn't even a
possibility of you being accused of the theft. In the first place,
Markel saw quite enough of me to know that it wasn't you. Secondly,
neither Markel nor any one else would ever dream that the break was
made for anything else but the necklace, with which you have no
connection--the papers were in the cash box and were just taken
along with it. Don't you see? And, besides, the police, with my
very good friend, Carruthers at their elbows, will see very
thoroughly to it that the Gray Seal gets full and ample credit for
the crime. But"--Jimmie Dale pulled out his watch, and yawned under
his mask--"it's getting to be an unconscionable hour--and you've
still a letter to write."
"A letter?" Wilbur's voice was broken, his lips quivering.
"To Markel," said Jimmie Dale pleasantly. "Write him in reply to
his letter of the afternoon, and post it before you leave here--just
as though you had written it at once, promptly, on receipt of his.
He will still get it on the morning delivery. State that you will
take up the note immediately on presentation at whatever bank he
chooses to name. That's all. Seeing that he hasn't got it, he
can't very well present it--can he? Eventually, having--er--no use
for fake diamonds, I shall return the necklace, together with the
papers in his cash box here--including your note."
"Eventually?" Uncomprehendingly, stumblingly, Wilbur repeated the
"In a month or two or three, as the case may be," explained Jimmie
Dale brightly. "Whenever you insert a personal in the NEWS-ARGUS to
the effect that the mother lode has given you the cash to meet it."
He replaced the note in the cash box, slipped down to his feet from
the desk--and then he choked a little. Wilbur, the tears streaming
down his face, unable to speak, was holding out his hands to Jimmie
Dale. "I--er--good-night!" said Jimmie Dale hurriedly--and stepped
quickly from the room.
Halfway down the first flight of stairs he paused. Steps, running
after him, sounded along the corridor above; and then Wilbur's
"Don't go--not yet," cried the old man. "I don't understand. How
did you know--who told you about the note?"
Jimmie Dale did not answer--he went on noiselessly down the stairs.
His mask was off now, and his lips curved into a strange little
"I wish I knew," said Jimmie Dale wistfully to himself.
THE COUNTERFEIT FIVE
It was still early in the evening, but a little after nine o'clock.
The Fifth Avenue bus wended its way, jouncing its patrons,
particularly those on the top seats, across town, and turned into
Riverside Drive. A short distance behind the bus, a limousine
rolled down the cross street leisurely, silently.
As the lights of passing craft on the Hudson and a myriad
scintillating, luminous points dotting the west shore came into
view, Jimmie Dale rose impulsively from his seat on the top of the
bus, descended the little circular iron ladder at the rear, and
dropped off into the street. It was only a few blocks farther to
his residence on the Drive, and the night was well worth the walk;
besides, restless, disturbed, and perplexed in mind, the walk
appealed to him.
He stepped across to the sidewalk and proceeded slowly along. A
month had gone by and he had not heard a word from--HER. The break
on West Broadway, the murder of Metzer in Moriarty's gambling hell,
the theft of Markel's diamond necklace had followed each other in
quick succession--and then this month of utter silence, with no sign
of her, as though indeed she had never existed.
But it was not this temporary silence on her part that troubled
Jimmie Dale now. In the years that he had worked with this unknown,
mysterious accomplice of his whom he had never seen, there had been
longer intervals than a bare month in which he had heard nothing
from her--it was not that. It was the failure, total, absolute, and
complete, that was the only result for the month of ceaseless,
unremitting, doggedly-expended effort, even as it had been the
result many times before, in an attempt to solve the enigma that was
so intimate and vital a factor in his own life.
If he might lay any claims to cleverness, his resourcefulness, at
least, he was forced to admit, was no match for hers. She came, she
went without being seen--and behind her remained, instead of clews
to her identity, only an amazing, intangible mystery, that left him
at times appalled and dismayed. How did she know about those
conditions in West Broadway, how did she know about Metzer's murder,
how did she know about Markel and Wilbur--how did she know about a
hundred other affairs of the same sort that had happened since that
night, years ago now, when out of pure adventure he had tampered
with Marx's, the jeweller's strong room in Maiden Lane, and she had,
mysteriously then, too, solved HIS identity, discovered him to be
the Gray Seal?
Jimmie Dale, wrapped up in his own thoughts, entirely oblivious to
his surroundings, traversed another block. There had never been
since the world began, and there would never be again, so singular
and bizarre a partnership as this--of hers and his. He, Jimmie
Dale, with his strange double life, one of New York's young bachelor
millionaires, one whose social status was unquestioned; and she,
who--who WHAT? That was just it! Who what? What was she? What
was her name? What one personal, intimate thing did he know about
her? And what was to be the end? Not that he would have severed
his association with her--not for worlds!--though every time, that,
by some new and curious method, one of her letters found its way
into his hands, outlining some fresh coup for him to execute, his
peril and danger of discovery was increased in staggering ratio.
To-day, the police hunted the Gray Seal as they hunted a mad dog;
the papers stormed and raved against him: in every detective bureau
of two continents he was catalogued as the most notorious criminal
of the age--and yet, strange paradox, no single crime had ever been
Jimmie Dale's strong, fine-featured face lighted up. Crime! Thanks
to her, there were those who blessed the name of the Gray Seal,
those into whose lives had come joy, relief from misery, escape from
death even--and their blessings were worth a thousandfold the risk
and peril of disaster that threatened him at every minute of the
"Thank God for her!" murmured Jimmie Dale softly. "But--but if I
could only find her, see her, know who she is, talk to her, and hear
her voice!" Then he smiled a little wanly. "It's been a pretty
tough month--and nothing to show for it!"
It had! It had been one of the hardest months through which Jimmie
Dale had ever lived. The St. James, that most exclusive club, his
favourite haunt, had seen nothing of him; the easel in his den, that
was his hobby, had been untouched; there had been days even when he
had not crossed the threshold of his home. Every resource at his
command he had called into play in an effort to solve the mystery.
For nearly the entire month, following first this lead and then
that, he had lived in the one disguise that he felt confident she
knew nothing of--that was, or, rather, had become, almost a dual
personality with him. From the Sanctuary, that miserable and
disreputable room in a tenement on the East Side, a tenement that
had three separate means of entrance and exit, he had emerged day
after day as Larry the Bat, a character as well known and as well
liked in the exclusive circles of the underworld as was Jimmie Dale
in the most exclusive strata of New York's society and fashion. And
it had been useless--all useless. Through his own endeavours,
through the help of his friends of the underworld, the lives of half
a dozen men, Bert Hagan's on West Broadway, for instance, Markel's,
and others', had been laid bare to the last shred, but nowhere could
be found the one vital point that linked their lives with hers, that
would account for her intimate knowledge of them, and so furnish him
with the clew that would then with certainty lead him to a solution
of her identity.
It was baffling, puzzling, unbelievable, bordering, indeed, on the
miraculous--herself, everything about her, her acts, her methods,
her cleverness, intangible in one sense, were terrifically real in
another. Jimmie Dale shook his head. The miraculous and this
practical, everyday life were wide and far apart. There was nothing
miraculous about it--it was only that the key to it was, so far,
beyond his reach.
And then suddenly Jimmie Dale shrugged his shoulders in consonance
with a whimsical change in both mood and thought.
"Larry the Bat, is a hard taskmaster!" he muttered facetiously.
"I'm afraid I'm not very presentable this evening--no bath this
morning, and no shave, and, after nearly a month of make-up, that
beastly grease paint gets into the skin creases in a most intimate
way." He chuckled as the thought of old Jason, his butler, came to
him. "I saw Jason, torn between two conflicting emotions, shaking
his head over the black circles under my eyes last night--he didn't
know whether to worry over the first signs of a galloping decline,
or break his heart at witnessing the young master he had dandled on
his knees going to the damnation bowwows and turning into a
confirmed roue! I guess I'll have to mind myself, though. Even
Carruthers detached his mind far enough from his editorial desk and
the hope of exclusively publishing the news of the Gray Seal's
capture in the MORNING NEWS-ARGUS, to tell me I was looking seedy.
It's wonderful the way a little paint will metamorphose a man!
Well, anyway, here's for a good hot tub to-night, and a fresh start!
He quickened his pace. There were still three blocks to go, and
here was no hurrying, jostling crowd to impede his progress; indeed,
as far as he could see up the Drive, there was not a pedestrian in
sight. And then, as he walked, involuntarily, insistently, his mind
harked back into the old groove again.
"I've tried to picture her," said Jimmie Dale softly to himself.
"I've tried to picture her a hundred, yes, a thousand times, and--"
A bus, rumbling cityward, went by him, squeaking, creaking, and
rattling in its uneasy joints--and out of the noise, almost at his
elbow it seemed, a voice spoke his name--and in that instant
intuitively he KNEW, and it thrilled him, stopped the beat of his
heart, as, dulcet, soft, clear as the note of a silver bell it fell--
and only one word:
He whirled around. A limousine, wheels just grazing the curb, was
gliding slowly and silently past him, and from the window a woman's
arm, white-gloved and dainty, was extended, and from the fingers to
the pavement fluttered an envelope--and the car leaped forward.
For the fraction of a second, Jimmie Dale stood dazed, immovable, a
gamut of emotions, surprise, fierce exultation, amazement, a strange
joy, a mighty uplift, swirling upon him--and then, snatching up the
envelope from the ground, he sprang out into the road after the car.
It was the one chance he had ever had, the one chance she had ever
given him, and he had seen--a white-gloved arm! He could not reach
the car, it was speeding away from him like an arrow now, but there
was something else that would do just as well, something that with
all her cleverness she had overlooked--the car's number dangling on
the rear axle, the rays of the little lamp playing on the enamelled
surface of the plate! Gasping, panting, he held his own for a yard
or more, and there floated back to him a little silvery laugh from
the body of the limousine, and then Jimmie Dale laughed, too, and
stopped--it was No.15,836!
He stood and watched the car disappear up the Drive. What delicious
irony! A month of gruelling, ceaseless toil that had been vain,
futile, useless--and the key, when he was not looking for it,
unexpectedly, through no effort of his, was thrust into his hand--
Jimmie Dale, the gently ironic smile still on his lips, those slim,
supersensitive fingers of his subconsciously noting that the texture
of the envelope was the same as she always used, retraced his steps
to the sidewalk.
"Number fifteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six," said Jimmie
Dale aloud--and halted at the curb as though rooted to the spot. It
sounded strangely familiar, that number! He repeated it over again
slowly: "One-five-eight-three-six." And the smile left his lips,
and upon his face came the look of a chastened child. She had used
a duplicate plate! Fifteen thousand eight hundred and thirty-six
was the number of one of his own cars--his own particular runabout!
For a moment longer he stood there, undecided whether to laugh or
swear, and then his eyes fastened mechanically on the envelope he
was twirling in his fingers. Here, at least, was something that was
not elusive; that, on the contrary, as a hundred others in the past
had done, outlined probably a grim night's work ahead for the Gray
Seal! And, if it were as those others had been, every minute from
the moment of its receipt was precious time. He stepped under the
nearest street light, and tore the envelope open.
"Dear Philanthropic Crook," it began--and then followed two closely
written pages. Jimmie Dale read them, his lips growing gradually
tighter, a smouldering light creeping into his dark eyes, and once
he emitted a short, low whistle of consternation--that was at the
end, as he read the post-script that was heavily underscored: "Work
quickly. They will raid to-night. Be careful. Look out for Kline,
he is the sharpest man in the United States secret service."
For a brief instant longer, Jimmie Dale stood under the street lamp,
his mind in a lightning-quick way cataloguing every point in her
letter, viewing every point from a myriad angles, constructing,
devising, mapping out a plan to dove-tail into them--and then Jimmie
Dale swung on a downtown bus. There was neither time nor occasion
to go home now--that marvellous little kit of burglar's tools that
peeped from their tiny pockets in that curious leather undervest,
and that reposed now in the safe in his den, would be useless to him
to-night; besides, in the breast pocket of his coat, neatly folded,
was a black silk mask, and, relics of his role of Larry the Bat, an
automatic revolver, an electric flashlight, a steel jimmy, and a
bunch of skeleton keys, were distributed among the other pockets of
his smart tweed suit.
Jimmie Dale changed from the bus to the subway, leaving behind him,
strewn over many blocks, the tiny and minute fragments into which he
had torn her letter; at Astor Place he left the subway, walked to
Broadway, turned uptown for a block to Eighth Street, then along
Eighth Street almost to Sixth Avenue--and stopped.
A rather shabby shop, a pitiful sort of a place, displaying in its
window a heterogeneous conglomeration of cheap odds and ends, ink
bottles, candy, pencils, cigarettes, pens, toys, writing pads,
marbles, and a multitude of other small wares, confronted him.
Within, a little, old, sweet-faced, gray-haired woman stood behind
the counter, pottering over the rearrangement of some articles on
"My word!" said Jimmie Dale softly to himself. "You wouldn't
believe it, would you! And I've always wondered how these little
stores managed to make both ends meet. Think of that old soul
making fifteen or twenty thousand dollars from a layout like this--
even if it has taken her a lifetime!"
Jimmie Dale had halted nonchalantly and unconcernedly by the curb,
not too near the window, busied apparently in an effort to light a
refractory cigarette; and then, about to enter the store, he gazed
aimlessly across the street for a moment instead. A man came
briskly around the corner from Sixth Avenue, opened the store door,
and went in.
Jimmie Dale drew back a little, and turned his head again as the
door closed--and a sudden, quick, alert, and startled look spread
over his face.
The man who had entered bent over the counter and spoke to the old
lady. She seemed to listen with a dawning terror creeping over her
features, and then her hands went piteously to the thin hair behind
her ears. The man motioned toward a door at the rear of the store.
She hesitated, then came out from behind the counter, and swayed a
little as though her limbs would not support her weight.
Jimmie Dale's lips thinned.
"I'm afraid," he muttered slowly, "I'm afraid that I'm too late even
now." And then, as she came to the door and turned the key on the
inside: "Pray Heaven she doesn't turn the light out--or somebody
might think I was trying to break in!"
But in that respect Jimmie Dale's fears were groundless. She did
not turn out either of the gas jets that lighted the little shop;
instead, in a faltering, reluctant sort of manner, she led the way
directly through the door in the rear, and the man followed her.
The shop was empty--and Jimmie Dale was standing against the door on
the outside. His position was perfectly natural--a hundred passers-
by would have noted nothing but a most commonplace occurrence--a man
in the act of entering a store. And, if he appeared to fumble and
have trouble with the latch, what of it! Jimmie Dale, however, was
not fumbling--hidden by his back that was turned to the street,
those wonderful fingers of his, in whose tips seemed embodied and
concentrated every one of the human senses, were working quickly,
surely, accurately, without so much as the wasted movement of a
A faint tinkle--and the key within fell from the lock to the floor.
A faint click--and the bolt of the lock slipped back. Jimmie Dale
restored the skeleton keys and a little steel instrument that
accompanied them to his pocket--and quietly opened the door. He
stepped inside, picked up the key from the floor, inserted it in the
lock, closed the door behind him, and locked it again.
"To guard against interruption," observed Jimmie Dale, a little
He was, perhaps, thirty seconds behind the others. He crossed the
shop noiselessly, cautiously, and passed through the door at the
rear. It opened into a short passage that, after a few feet, gave
on a sort of corridor at right angles--and down this latter, facing
him, at the end, the door of a lighted room was open, and he could
see the figure of the man who had entered the shop, back turned,
standing on the threshold. Voices, indistinct, came to him.
The corridor itself was dark; and Jimmie Dale, satisfied that he was
fairly safe from observation, stole softly forward. He passed two
doors on his left--and the curious arrangement of the building that
had puzzled him for a moment became clear. The store made the front
of an old tenement building, with apartments above, and the rear of
the store was a sort of apartment, too--the old lady's living
Step by step, testing each one against a possible creaking of the
floor, Jimmie Dale moved forward, keeping close up against one wall.
The man passed on into the room--and now Jimmie Dale could
distinguish every word that was being spoken; and, crouched up, in
the dark corridor, in the angle of the wall and the door jamb
itself, could see plainly enough into the room beyond. Jimmie
Dale's jaw crept out a little.
A young man, gaunt, pale, wrapped in blankets, half sat, half
reclined in an invalid's chair; the old lady, on her knees, the
tears streaming down her face, had her arms around the sick man's
neck; while the other man, apparently upset at the scene, tugged
vigorously at long, gray mustaches.
"Sammy! Sammy!" sobbed the woman piteously. "Say you didn't do it,
Sammy--say you didn't do it!"
Look here, Mrs. Matthews," said the man with the gray mustaches
gently, "now don't you go to making things any harder. I've got to
do my duty just the same, and take your son."
The young man, a hectic flush beginning to burn on his cheeks, gazed
wildly from one to the other.
"What--what is it?" he cried out.
The man threw back his coat and displayed a badge on his vest.
"I'm Kline of the secret service," he said gravely. "I'm sorry,
Sammy, but I want you for that little job in Washington at the
bureau--before you left on sick leave!"
Sammy Matthews struggled away from his mother's arms, pulled himself
forward in his chair--and his tongue licked dry lips.
"What--what job?" he whispered thickly.
"You know, don't you?" the other answered steadily. He took a
large, flat pocketbook from his pocket, opened it, and took out a
five-dollar bill. He held this before the sick man's eyes, but just
out of reach, one finger silently indicating the lower left-hand
Matthews stared at it for a moment, and the hectic flush faded to a
grayish pallor, and a queer, impotent sound gurgled in his throat.
"I see you recognise it," said the other quietly. "It's open and
shut, Sammy. That little imperfection in the plate's got you, my
"Sammy! Sammy!" sobbed the woman again. "Sammy, say you didn't do
"It's a lie!" said Matthews hoarsely. "It's a lie! That plate was
condemned in the bureau for that imperfection--condemned and
"Condemned TO BE destroyed," corrected the other, without raising
his voice. "There's a little difference there, Sammy--about twenty
years' difference--in the Federal pen. But it wasn't destroyed;
this note was printed from it by one of the slickest gangs of
counterfeiters in the United States--but I don't need to tell you
that, I guess you know who they are. I've been after them a long
time, and I've got them now, just as tight as I've got you. Instead
of destroying that plate, you stole it, and disposed of it to the
gang. How much did they give you?"
Matthews' face seemed to hold a dumb horror, and his fingers picked
at the arms of the chair. His mother had moved from beside him now,
and both her hands were patting at the man's sleeve in a pitiful
way, while again and again she tried to speak, but no words would
"It's a lie!" said Matthews again, in a colourless, mechanical way.
The man glanced at Mrs. Matthews as he put the five-dollar note back
into his pocket, seemed to choke a little, shook his head, and all
trace of the official sternness that had crept into his voice
"It's no good," he said in a low tone. "Don't do that, Mrs.
Matthews, I've got to do my duty." He leaned a little toward the
chair. "It's dead to rights, Sammy. You might as well make a clean
breast of it. It was up to you and Al Gregor to see that the plate
was destroyed. It WASN'T destroyed; instead, it shows up in the
hands of a gang of counterfeiters that I've been watching for
months. Furthermore, I've got the plate itself. And finally,
though I haven't placed him under arrest yet for fear you might hear
of it before I wanted you to and make a get-away, I've got Al Gregor
where I can put my hands on him, and I've got his confession that
you and he worked the game between you to get that plate out of the
bureau and dispose of it to the gang."
"Oh, my God!"--it came in a wild cry from the sick man, and in a
desperate, lurching way he struggled up to his feet. "Al Gregor
said that? Then--then I'm done!" He clutched at his temples. "But
it's not true--it's not true! If the plate was stolen, and it must
have been stolen, or that note wouldn't have been found, it was Al
Gregor who stole it--I didn't, I tell you! I knew nothing of it,
except that he and I were responsible for it and--and I left it to
him--that's the only way I'm to blame. He's caught, and he's trying
to get out of it with a light sentence by pretending to turn State's
evidence, but--but I'll fight him--he can't prove it--it's only his
word against mine, and--"
The other shook his head again.
"It's no good, Sammy," he said, a touch of sternness back in his
tones again. "I told you it was open and shut. It's not only Al
Gregor. One of the gang got weak knees when I got him where I
wanted him the other night, and he swears that you are the one who
DELIVERED the plate to them. Between him and Gregor and what I know
myself, I've got evidence enough for any jury against every one of
the rest of you."
Horror, fear, helplessness seemed to mingle in the sick man's
staring eyes, and he swayed unsteadily upon his feet.
"I'm innocent!" he screamed out. "But I'm caught, I'm caught in a
net, and I can't get out--they lied to you--but no one will believe
it any more than you do and--and it means twenty years for me--oh,
God!--twenty years, and--" His hands went wriggling to his temples
again, and he toppled back in a faint into the chair.
"You've killed him! You've killed my boy!" the old lady shrieked
out piteously, and flung herself toward the senseless figure.
The man jumped for the table across the room, on which was a row of
bottles, snatched one up, drew the cork, smelled it, and ran back
with the bottle. He poured a little of the contents into his cupped
hand, held it under young Matthews' nostrils, and pushed the bottle
into Mrs. Matthews' hands.
"Bathe his forehead with this, Mrs. Matthews," he directed
reassuringly. "He'll be all right again in a moment. There, see--
he's coming around now."
There was a long, fluttering sigh, and Matthews opened his eyes;
then a moment's silence; and then he spoke, with an effort, with
long pauses between the words:
The words seemed to ring absolute terror in the old lady's ears.
She turned, and dropped to her knees on the floor.
"Mr. Kline, Mr. Kline," she sobbed out, "oh, for God's love, don't
take him! Let him off, let him go! He's my boy--all I've got!
You've got a mother, haven't you? You know--" The tears were
streaming down the sweet, old face again. "Oh, won't you, for God's
dear name, won't you let him go? Won't--"
"Stop!" the man cried huskily. He was mopping at his face with his
handkerchief. "I thought I was case-hardened, I ought to be--but I
guess I'm not. But I've got to do my duty. You're only making it
worse for Sammy there, as well as me."
Her arms were around his knees now, clinging there.
"Why can't you let him off!" she pleaded hysterically. "Why can't
you! Why can't you! Nobody would know, and I'd do anything--I'd
pay anything--anything--I'll give you ten--fifteen thousand
"My poor woman," he said kindly, placing his hand on her head, "you
are talking wildly. Apart altogether from the question of duty,
even if I succeeded in hushing the matter up, I would probably at
least be suspected and certainly discharged, and I have a family to
support--and if I were caught I'd get ten years in the Federal
prison for it. I'm sorry for this; I believe it's your boy's first
offence, and if I could let him off I would."
"But you can--you can!" she burst out, rocking on her knees,
clinging tighter still to him, as though in a paroxysm of fear that
he might somehow elude her. "It will kill him--it will kill my boy.
And you can save him! And even if they discharged you, what would
that mean against my boy's life! You wouldn't suffer, your family
wouldn't suffer, I'll--I'll take care of that--perhaps I could raise
a little more than fifteen thousand--but, oh, have pity, have mercy--
don't take him away!"
The man stared at her a moment, stared at the white face on the
reclining chair--and passed his hand heavily across his eyes.
"You will! You will!" It came in a great surging cry of joy from
the old lady. "You will--oh, thank God, thank God!--I can see it in
"I--I guess I'm soft," he said huskily, and stooped and raised Mrs.
Matthews to her feet. "Don't cry any more. It'll be all right--
it'll be all right. I'll--I'll fix it up somehow. I haven't made
any arrests yet, and--well, I'll take my chances. I'll get the
plate and turn it over to you to-morrow, only--only it's got to be
destroyed in my presence."
"Yes, yes!" she cried, trying to smile through her tears--and then
she flung her arms around her son's neck again. "And when you come
to-morrow, I'll be ready with the money to do my share, too, and--"
But Sammy Matthews shook his head.
"You're wrong, both of you," he said weakly. "You're a white man,
Kline. But destroying that plate won't save me. The minute a
single note printed from it shows up, they'll know back there in
Washington that the plate was stolen, and--"
"No; you're safe enough there," the other interposed heavily.
"Knowing what was up, you don't think I'd give the gang a chance to
get them into circulation, do you? I got them all when I got the
plate. And"--he smiled a little anxiously--"I'll bring them here to
be destroyed with the plate. It would finish me now, as well as
you, if one of them ever showed up. Say," he said suddenly, with a
catch in his breath, "I--I don't think I know what I'm doing."
Mrs. Matthews reached out her hands to him.
"What can I say to you!" she said brokenly, "What--"
Jimmie Dale drew back along the wall. A little way from the door he
quickened his pace, still moving, however, with extreme caution.
They were still talking behind him as he turned from the corridor
into the passageway leading to the store, and from there into the
store itself. And then suddenly, in spite of caution, his foot
slipped on the bare floor. It was not much--just enough to cause
his other foot, poised tentatively in air, to come heavily down, and
a loud and complaining creak echoed from the floor.
Jimmie Dale's jaws snapped like a steel trap. From down the
corridor came a sudden, excited exclamation in the little old lady's
voice, and then her steps sounded running toward the store. In the
fraction of a second Jimmie Dale was at the front door.
"Clumsy, blundering fool!" he whispered fiercely to himself as he
turned the key, opened the door noiselessly until it was just ajar,
and turned the key in the lock again, leaving the bolt protruding
out. One step backward, and he was rapping on the counter with his
knuckles. "Isn't anybody here?" he called out loudly. "Isn't any--
oh!"--as Mrs. Matthews appeared in the back doorway. "A package of
She stared at him, a little frightened, her eyes red and swollen
with recent crying.
"How--how did you get in here?" she asked tremendously.
"I beg your pardon?" inquired Jimmie Dale, in polite surprise.
"I--I locked the door--I'm sure I did," she said, more to herself
than to Jimmie Dale, and hurried across the floor to the door as she
Jimmie Dale, still politely curious, turned to watch her. For a
moment bewilderment and a puzzled look were in her face--and then a
sort of surprised relief.
"I must have turned the key in the lock without shutting the door
tight," she explained, "for I knew I turned the key."
Jimmie Dale bent forward to examine the lock--and nodded.
"Yes," he agreed, with a smile. "I should say so." Then, gravely
courteous: "I'm sorry to have intruded."
"It is nothing," she answered; and, evidently anxious to be rid of
him, moved quickly around behind the counter. "What kind of
cigarettes do you want?"
"Egyptians--any kind," said Jimmie Dale, laying a bill on the
He pocketed the cigarettes and his change, and turned to the door.
"Good-evening," he said pleasantly--and went out.
Jimmie Dale smiled a little curiously, a little tolerantly. As he
started along the street, he heard the door of the little shop close
with a sort of supercareful bang, the key turned, and the latch
rattle to try the door--the little old lady was bent on making no
mistake a second time!
And then the smile left Jimmie Dale's lips, his face grew strained
and serious, and he broke into a run down the block to Sixth Avenue.
Here he paused for an instant--there was the elevated, the surface
cars--which would be the quicker? He looked up the avenue. There
was no train coming; the nearest surface car was blocks away. He
bit his lips in vexation--and then with a jump he was across the
street and hailing a passing taxicab that his eyes had just lighted
"Got a fare?" called Jimmie Dale.
"No, sir," answered the chauffeur, bumping his car to an abrupt
"Good!" Jimmie Dale ran alongside, and yanked the door open. "Do
you know where the Palace Saloon on the Bowery is?"
"Yes, sir," replied the man.
Jimmie Dale held a ten-dollar bank note up before the chauffeur's
"Earn that in four minutes, then," he snapped--and sprang into the
The taxicab swerved around on little better than two wheels, started
on a mad dash down the Avenue--and Jimmie Dale braced himself grimly
in his seat. The cab swerved again, tore across Waverly Place,
circuited Washington Square, crossed Broadway, and whirled finally
into the upper end of the Bowery.
Jimmie Dale spoke once--to himself--plaintively.
"It's too bad I can't let old Carruthers in on this for a scoop with
his precious MORNING NEWS-ARGUS--but if I get out of it alive
myself, I'll do well! Wonder if the day'll ever come when he finds
out that his very dear friend and old college pal, Jimmie Dale, is
the Gray Seal that he's turned himself inside out for about four
years now to catch, and that he'd trade his soul with the devil any
time to lay hands on! Good old Carruthers! 'The most puzzling,
bewildering, delightful crook in the annals of crime'--am I?"
The cab drew up at the curb. Jimmie Dale sprang out, shoved the
bill into the chauffeur's hand, stepped quickly across the sidewalk,
and pushed his way through the swinging doors of the Palace Saloon.
Inside leisurely and nonchalantly, he walked down past the length of
the bar to a door at the rear. This opened into a passageway that
led to the side entrance of the saloon on the cross street. Jimmie
Dale emerged from the side entrance, crossed the street, retraced
his steps to the Bowery, crossed over, and walked rapidly down that
thoroughfare for two blocks. Here he turned east into the cross
street; and here, once more, his pace became leisurely and
"It's a strange coincidence, though possibly a very happy one," said
Jimmie Dale, as he walked along, "that it should be on the same
street as the Sanctuary--ah, this ought to be the place!"
An alleyway, corresponding to the one that flanked the tenement
where, as Larry the Bat, he had paid room rent as a tenant for
several years, in fact, the alleyway next above it, and but a short
block away, intersected the street, narrow, black, and uninviting.
Jimmie Dale, as he passed, peered down its length.
"No light--that's good!" commented Jimmie Dale to himself. Then:
"Window opens on alleyway ten feet from ground--shoe store, Russian
Jew, in basement--go in front door--straight hallway--room at end--
Russian Jew probably accomplice--be careful that he does not hear
you moving overhead"--Jimmie Dale's mind, with that curious faculty
of his, was subconsciously repeating snatches from her letter word
for word, even as he noted the dimly lighted, untidy, and disorderly
interior of what, from strings of leather slippers that decorated
the cellarlike entrance, was evidently a cheap and shoddy shoe store
in the basement of the building.
The building itself was rickety and tumble-down, three stories high,
and given over undoubtedly to gregarious foreigners of the poorer
class, a rabbit burrow, as it were, having a multitude of roomers
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