The Breaking Point
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 4 out of 8
Dick had found it hard to leave Elizabeth, for she clung to him in
her grief with childish wistfulness. He found, too, that her family
depended on him rather than on Leslie Ward for moral support. It
was to him that Walter Wheeler looked for assurance that the father
had had no indirect responsibility for the son's death; it was to
him that Jim's mother, lying gray-faced and listless in her bed or
on her couch, brought her anxious questionings. Had Jim suffered?
Could they have avoided it? And an insistent demand to know who and
what had been the girl who was with him.
In spite of his own feeling that he would have to go to Norada
quickly, before David became impatient over his exile, Dick took a
few hours to find the answer to that question. But when he found
it he could not tell them. The girl had been a dweller in the shady
byways of life, had played her small unmoral part and gone on,
perhaps to some place where men were kinder and less urgent. Dick
did not judge her. He saw her, as her kind had been through all
time, storm centers of the social world, passively and unconsciously
blighting, at once the hunters and the prey.
He secured her former address from the police, a three-story brick
rooming-house in the local tenderloin, and waited rather
uncomfortably for the mistress of the place to see him. She came
at last, a big woman, vast and shapeless and with an amiable loose
smile, and she came in with the light step of the overfleshed, only
to pause in the doorway and to stare at him.
"My God !" she said. "I thought you were dead!"
"I'm afraid you're mistaking me for some one else, aren't you?"
She looked at him carefully.
"I'd have sworn - " she muttered, and turning to the button inside
the door she switched on the light. Then she surveyed him again.
"What's your name?"
"Livingstone. Doctor Livingstone. I called - "
"Is that for me, or for the police?"
"Now see here," he said pleasantly. "I don't know who you are
mistaking me for, and I'm not hiding from the police. Here's my
card, and I have come from the family of a young man named Wheeler,
who was killed recently in an automobile accident."
She took the card and read it, and then resumed her intent scrutiny
"Well, you fooled me all right," she said at last. "I thought you
were - well, never mind that. What about this Wheeler family? Are
they going to settle with the undertaker? Because I tell you flat,
I can't and won't. She owed me a month's rent, and her clothes
won't bring over seventy-five or a hundred dollars."
As he left he was aware that she stood in the doorway looking after
him. He drove home slowly in the car, and on the way he made up a
kindly story to tell the family. He could not let them know that
Jim had been seeking love in the byways of life. And that night he
mailed a check in payment of the undertaker's bill, carefully
leaving the stub empty.
On the third day after Jim's funeral he started for Norada. An
interne from a local hospital, having newly finished his service
there, had agreed to take over his work for a time. But Dick was
faintly jealous when he installed Doctor Reynolds in his office,
and turned him over to a mystified Minnie to look after.
"Is he going to sleep in your bed?" she demanded belligerently.
She was only partially mollified when she found Doctor Reynolds
was to have the spare room. She did not like the way things were
going, she confided to Mike. Why wasn't she to let on to Mrs.
Crosby that Doctor Dick had gone away? Or to the old doctor? Both
of them away, and that little upstart in the office ready to steal
their patients and hang out his own sign the moment they got back!
Unused to duplicity as he was, Dick found himself floundering along
an extremely crooked path. He wrote a half dozen pleasant,
non-committal letters to David and Lucy, spending an inordinate time
on them, and gave them to Walter Wheeler to mail at stated intervals.
But his chief difficulty was with Elizabeth. Perhaps he would have
told her; there were times when he had to fight his desire to have
her share his anxiety as well as know the truth about him. But she
was already carrying the burden of Jim's tragedy, and her father,
too, was insistent that she be kept in ignorance.
"Until she can have the whole thing," he said, with the new
heaviness which had crept into his voice.
Beside that real trouble Dick's looked dim and nebulous. Other
things could be set right; there was always a fighting chance. It
was only death that was final.
Elizabeth went to the station to see him off, a small slim thing
in a black frock, with eyes that persistently sought his face,
and a determined smile. He pulled her arm through his, so he
might hold her hand, and when he found that she was wearing her
ring he drew her even closer, with a wave of passionate possession.
"You are mine. My little girl."
"I am yours. For ever and ever."
But they assumed a certain lightness after that, each to cheer the
other. As when she asserted that she was sure she would always
know the moment he stopped thinking about her, and he stopped, with
any number of people about, and said:
"That's simply terrible! Suppose, when we are married, my mind
turns on such a mundane thing as beefsteak and onions? Will you
simply walk out on me?"
He stood on the lowest step of the train until her figure was lost
in the darkness, and the porter expostulated. He was, that night,
a little drunk with love, and he did not read the note she had
thrust into his hand at the last moment until he was safely in his
berth, his long figure stretched diagonally to find the length it
"Darling, darling Dick," she had written. "I wonder so often how
you can care for me, or what I have done to deserve you. And I
cannot write how I feel, just as I cannot say it. But, Dick dear,
I have such a terrible fear of losing you, and you are my life now.
You will be careful and not run any risks, won't you? And just
remember this always. Wherever you are and wherever I am, I am
thinking of you and waiting for you."
He read it three times, until he knew it by heart, and he slept
with it in the pocket of his pajama coat.
Three days later he reached Norada, and registered at the Commercial
Hotel. The town itself conveyed nothing to him. He found it
totally unfamiliar, and for its part the town passed him by without
a glance. A new field had come in, twenty miles from the old one,
and had brought with it a fresh influx of prospectors, riggers,
and lease buyers. The hotel was crowded.
That was his first disappointment. He had been nursing the hope
that surroundings which he must once have known well would assist
him in finding himself. That was the theory, he knew. He stood at
the window of his hotel room, with its angular furniture and the
Gideon Bible, and for the first time he realized the difficulty
of what he had set out to do. Had he been able to take David into
his confidence he would have had the names of one or two men to go
to, but as things were he had nothing.
The almost morbid shrinking he felt from exposing his condition
was increased, rather than diminished, in the new surroundings.
He would, of course, go to the ranch at Dry River, and begin his
inquiries from there, but not until now had he realized what that
would mean; his recognition by people he could not remember, the
questions he could not answer.
He knew the letter to David from beginning to end, but he got it
out and read it again. Who was this Bassett, and what mischief
was he up to? Why should he himself be got out of town quickly
and the warning burned? Who was "G"? And why wouldn't the simplest
thing be to locate this Bassett himself?
The more he considered that the more obvious it seemed as a solution,
provided of course he could locate the man. Whether Bassett were
friendly or inimical, he was convinced that he knew or was finding
out something concerning himself which David was keeping from him.
He was relieved when he went down to the desk to find that his man
was registered there, although the clerk reported him out of town.
But the very fact that only a few hours or days separated him from
a solution of the mystery heartened him.
He ate his dinner alone, unnoticed, and after dinner, in the writing
room, with its mission furniture and its traveling men copying
orders, he wrote a letter to Elizabeth. Into it he put some of the
things that lay too deep for speech when he was with her, and
because he had so much to say and therefore wrote extremely fast,
a considerable portion of it was practically illegible. Then, as
though he could hurry the trains East, he put a special delivery
stamp on it.
With that off his mind, and the need of exercise after the trip
insistent, he took his hat and wandered out into the town. The
main street was crowded; moving picture theaters were summoning
their evening audiences with bright lights and colored posters,
and automobiles lined the curb. But here and there an Indian with
braids and a Stetson hat, or a cowpuncher from a ranch in boots
and spurs reminded him that after all this was the West, the horse
and cattle country. It was still twilight, and when he had left
the main street behind him he began to have a sense of the familiar.
Surely he had stood here before, had seen the court-house on its
low hill, the row of frame houses in small gardens just across the
street. It seemed infinitely long ago, but very real. He even
remembered dimly an open place at the other side of the building
where the ranchmen tied their horses. To test himself he walked
around. Yes, it was there, but no horses stood there now, heads
drooping, bridle reins thrown loosely over the rail. Only a muddy
automobile, without lights, and a dog on guard beside it.
He spoke to the dog, and it came and sniffed at him. Then it
squatted in front of him, looking up into his face.
"Lonely, old chap, aren't you?" he said. "Well, you've got
nothing on me."
He felt a little cheered as he turned back toward the hotel. A few
encounters with the things of his youth, and perhaps the cloud
would clear away. Already the court-house had stirred some
memories. And on turning back down the hill he had another swift
vision, photographically distinct but unrelated to anything that
had preceded or followed it. It was like a few feet cut from a
moving picture film.
He was riding down that street at night on a small horse, and his
father was beside him on a tall one. He looked up at his father,
and he seemed very large. The largest man in the world. And the
It began and stopped there, and his endeavor to follow it further
resulted in its ultimately leaving him. It faded, became less real,
until he wondered if he had not himself conjured it. But that
experience taught him something. Things out of the past would come
or they would not come, but they could not be forced. One could not
will to revive them.
He stood at a window facing north that night, under the impression
it was east, and sent his love and an inarticulate sort of prayer
to Elizabeth, for her safety and happiness, in the general direction
of the Arctic Circle.
Bassett had not returned in the morning, and he found himself with
a day on his hands. He decided to try the experiment of visiting
the Livingstone ranch, or at least of viewing it from a safe
distance, with the hope of a repetition of last night's experience.
Of all his childish memories the ranch house, next to his father,
was most distinct. When he had at various times tried to analyze
what things he recalled he had found that what they lacked of normal
memory was connection. They stood out, like the one the night
before, each complete in itself, brief, and having no apparent
relation to what had gone before or what came after.
But the ranch house had been different. The pictures were mostly
superimposed on it; it was their background. Himself standing on
the mountain looking down at it, and his father pointing to it;
the tutor who was afraid of horses, sitting at a big table in a
great wood-ceiled and wood-paneled room; a long gallery or porch
along one side of the building and rooms added on to the house so
that one had to go along the gallery to reach them; a gun-room
full of guns.
When, much later, Dick was able calmly to review that day, he found
his recollection of it confused by the events that followed, but one
thing stood out as clearly as his later knowledge of the almost
incredible fact that for one entire day and for the evening of
another, he had openly appeared in Norada and had not been
recognized. That fact was his discovery that the Livingstone ranch
house had no place in his memory whatever.
He had hired a car and a driver, a driver who asserted that this
was the old Livingstone ranch house. And it bore no resemblance,
not the faintest, to the building he remembered. It did not lie
where it should have lain. The mountains were too far behind it.
It was not the house. The fields were not the proper fields. It
was wrong, all wrong.
He went no closer than the highway, because it was not necessary.
He ordered the car to turn and go back, and for the first and only
time he was filled with bitter resentment against David. David had
fooled him. He sat beside the driver, his face glowering and his
eyes hot, and let his indignation burn in him like a flame.
Hours afterwards he had, of course, found excuses for David.
Accepted them, rather, as a part of the mystery which wrapped him
about. But they had no effect on the decision he made during that
miserable ride back to Norada, when he determined to see the man
Bassett and get the truth out of him if he had to choke it out.
Bassett was astounded when he saw Dick's signature on the hotel
register. It destroyed, in one line, every theory he held. That
Judson Clark should return to Norada after his flight was
incredible. Ten years was only ten years after all. It was not
a lifetime. There were men in the town who had known Clark well.
Nevertheless for a time he held to his earlier conviction, even
fought for it. He went so far as to wonder if Clark had come back
for a tardy surrender. Men had done that before this, had carried
a burden for years, had reached the breaking point, had broken.
But he dismissed that. There had been no evidence of breaking in
the young man in the office chair. He found himself thrown back,
finally, on the story of the Wasson woman, and wondering if he
would have to accept it after all.
The reaction from his certainty in the cabin to uncertainty again
made him fretful and sleepless. It was almost morning before he
relaxed on his hard hotel bed enough to sleep.
He wakened late, and telephoned down for breakfast. His confusion
had not decreased with the night, and while he got painfully out
of bed and prepared to shave and dress, his thoughts were busy.
There was no doubt in his mind that, in spite of the growth of the
town, the newcomer would be under arrest almost as soon as he made
his appearance. A resemblance that could deceive Beverly Carlysle's
brother could deceive others, and would. That he had escaped so
long amazed him.
By the time he had bathed he had developed a sort of philosophic
acceptance of the new situation. There would be no exclusive story
now, no scoop. The events of the next few hours were for every man
to read. He shrugged his shoulders as, partially dressed, he
carried his shaving materials into the better light of his bedroom.
With his face partially lathered he heard a knock at the door, and
sang out a not uncheerful "Come in." It happened, then, that it
was in his mirror that he learned that his visitor was not the
waiter, but Livingstone himself. He had an instant of stunned
amazement before he turned.
"I beg your pardon," Dick said. "I was afraid you'd get out before
I saw you. My name's Livingstone, and I want to talk to you, if
you don't mind. If you like I'll come back later."
Bassett perceived two things simultaneously; that owing probably to
the lather on his face he had not been recognized, and that the
face of the man inside the door was haggard and strained.
"That's all right. Come in and sit down. I'll get this stuff off
my face and be with you in a jiffy."
But he was very deliberate in the bathroom. His astonishment grew,
rather than decreased. Clearly Livingstone had not known him. How,
then, had he known that he was in Norada? And when he recognized
him, as he would in a moment, what then? He put on his collar and
tied his tie slowly. Gregory might be the key. Gregory might have
found out that he had started for Norada and warned him. Then, if
that were true, this man was Clark after all. But if he were Clark
he wouldn't be there. It was like a kitten after its tail. It
whirled in a circle and got nowhere.
The waiter had laid his breakfast and gone when he emerged from the
bathroom, and Dick was standing by the window looking out. He
"I'm here, Mr. Bassett, on rather a peculiar - " He stopped
and looked at Bassett. "I see. You were in my office about a
month ago, weren't you?"
"For a headache, yes." Bassett was very wary and watchful, but there
was no particular unfriendliness in his visitor's eyes.
"It never occurred to me that you might be Bassett," Dick said
gravely. "Never mind about that. Eat your breakfast. Do you mind
if I talk while you do it?"
"Will you have some coffee? I can get a glass from the bathroom.
It takes a week to get a waiter here."
The feeling of unreality grew in the reporter's mind. It increased
still further when they sat opposite each other, the small table
with its Bible on the lower shelf between them, while he made a
pretense at breakfasting.
"First of all," Dick said, at last, "I was not sure I had found the
right man. You are the only Bassett in the place, however, and
you're registered from my town. So I took a chance. I suppose
that headache was not genuine."
"No" he said at last.
"What you really wanted to do was to see me, then?"
"In a way, yes.
"I'll ask you one more question. It may clear the air. Does this
mean anything to you? I'll tell you now that it doesn't, to me."
>From his pocketbook he took the note addressed to David, and passed
it over the table. Bassett looked at him quickly and took it.
"Before you read it, I'll explain something. It was not sent to me.
It was sent to my - to Doctor David Livingstone. It happened to
fall into my hands. I've come a long way to find out what it means."
He paused, and looked the reporter straight in the eyes. "I am
laying my cards on the table, Bassett. This 'G,' whoever he is,
is clearly warning my uncle against you. I want to know what he is
warning him about."
Bassett read the note carefully, and looked up.
"I suppose you know who 'G' is?"
"I do not. Do you?"
"I'll give you another name, and maybe you'll get it. A name that
I think will mean something to you. Beverly Carlysle."
Bassett had an extraordinary feeling of unreality, followed by one
of doubt. Either the fellow was a very good actor, or -
"Sorry," Dick said slowly. "I don't seem to get it. I don't know
that 'G' is as important as his warning. That note's a warning."
"Yes. It's a warning. And I don't think you need me to tell you
"Concerning my uncle, or myself?"
"Are you trying to put it over on me that you don't know?"
"That's what I'm trying to do," Dick said, with a sort of grave
The reporter liked courage when he saw it, and he was compelled to
a sort of reluctant admiration.
"You've got your courage with you," he observed. "How long do you
suppose it will be after you set foot on the streets of this town
before you're arrested? How do you know I won't send for the
"I know damned well you won't," Dick said grimly. "Not before I'm
through with you. You've chosen to interest yourself in me. I
suppose you don't deny the imputation in that letter. You'll grant
that I have a right to know who and what you are, and just what you
are interested in."
"Right-o," the reporter said cheerfully, glad to get to grips; and
to stop a fencing that was getting nowhere. "I'm connected with
the Times-Republican, in your own fair city. I was in the theater
the night Gregory recognized you. Verbum sap."
"This Gregory is the 'G'?"
"Oh, quit it, Clark," Bassett said, suddenly impatient. "That
letter's the last proof I needed. Gregory wrote it after he'd seen
David Livingstone. He wouldn't have written it if he and the old
man hadn't come to an understanding. I've been to the cabin. My
God, man, I've even got the parts of your clothing that wouldn't
burn! You can thank Maggie Donaldson for that."
"Donaldson," Dick repeated. "That was it. I couldn't remember her
name. The woman in the cabin. Maggie. And Jack. Jack Donaldson."
He got up, and was apparently dizzy, for he caught at the table.
"Look here," Bassett said, "let me give you a drink. You look
But Dick shook his head.
"No, thanks just the same. I'll ask you to be plain with me,
Bassett. I am - I have become engaged to a girl, and - well, I
want the story. That's all."
And, when Bassett only continued to stare at him:
"I suppose I've begun wrong end first. I forgot about how it must
seem to you. I dropped a block out of my life about ten years ago.
Can't remember it. I'm not proud of it, but it's the fact. What
I'm trying to do now is to fill in the gap. But I've got to,
somehow. I owe it to the girl."
When Bassett could apparently find nothing to say he went on:
"You say I may be arrested if I go out on the street. And you
rather more than intimate that a woman named Beverly Carlysle is
mixed up in it somehow. I take it that I knew her."
"Yes. You knew her," Bassett said slowly. At the intimation in
his tone Dick surveyed him for a moment without speaking. His face,
pale before, took on a grayish tinge.
"I wasn't - married to her?"
"No. You didn't marry her. See here, Clark, this is straight goods,
is it? You're not trying to put something over on me? Because if
you are, you needn't. I'd about made up my mind to follow the
story through for my own satisfaction, and then quit cold on it.
When a man's pulled himself out of the mud as you have it's not my
business to pull him down. But I don't want you to pull any bunk."
"Out of the mud!" he said. "No. I'm telling you the truth, Bassett.
I have some fragmentary memories, places and people, but no names,
and all of them, I imagine from my childhood. I pick up at a cabin
in the mountains, with snow around, and David Livingstone feeding me
soup with a tin spoon." He tried to smile and failed. His face
twitched. "I could stand it for myself," he said, "but I've tied
another life to mine, like a cursed fool, and now you speak of a
woman, and of arrest. Arrest! For what?"
"Suppose," Bassett said after a moment, "suppose you let that go
just now, and tell me more about this - this gap. You're a medical
man. You've probably gone into your own case pretty thoroughly.
I'm accepting your statement, you see. As a matter of fact it must
be true, or you wouldn't be here. But I've got to know what I'm
doing before I lay my cards on the table. Make it simple, if you
can. I don't know your medical jargon."
Dick did his best. The mind closed down now and then, mainly from
a shock. No, there was no injury required. He didn't think he had
had an injury. A mental shock would do it, if it were strong enough.
And fear. It was generally fear. He had never considered himself
braver than the other fellow, but no man liked to think that he had
a cowardly mind. Even if things hadn't broken as they had, he'd
have come back before he went to the length of marriage, to find
out what it was he had been afraid of. He paused then, to give
Bassett a chance to tell him, but the reporter only said: "Go on.
you put your cards on the table, and then I'll lay mine out."
Dick went on. He didn't blame Bassett. If there was something that
was in his line of work, he understood. At the same time he wanted
to save David anything unpleasant. (The word "unpleasant" startled
Bassett, by its very inadequacy.) He knew now that David had built
up for him an identity that probably did not exist, but he wanted
Bassett to know that there could never be doubt of David's high
purpose and his essential fineness.
"Whatever I was before." he finished simply, "and I'll get that
from you now, if I am any sort of a man at all it is his work."
He stood up and braced himself. It had been clear to Bassett for
ten minutes that Dick was talking against time, against the period
of revelation. He would have it, but he was mentally bracing
himself against it.
"I think," he said, "I'll have that whisky now."
Bassett poured him a small drink, and took a turn about the room
while he drank it. He was perplexed and apprehensive. Strange
as the story was, he was convinced that he had heard the truth.
He had, now and then, run across men who came back after a brief
disappearance, with a cock and bull story of forgetting who they
were, and because nearly always these men vanished at the peak of
some crisis they had always been open to suspicion. Perhaps, poor
devils, they had been telling the truth after all. So the mind
shut down, eh? Closed like a grave over the unbearable!
His own part in the threatening catastrophe began to obsess him.
Without the warning from Gregory there would have been no return to
Norada, no arrest. It had all been dead and buried, until he
himself had revived it. And a girl, too! The girl in the blue
dress at the theater, of course.
Dick put down the glass.
"I'm ready, if you are."
"Does the name of Clark recall anything to you?"
"Judson Clark? Jud Clark?"
Dick passed his hand over his forehead wearily.
"I'm not sure," he said. "It sounds familiar, and then it doesn't.
It doesn't mean anything to me, if you get that. If it's a key,
it doesn't unlock. That's all. Am I Judson Clark?"
Oddly enough, Bassett found himself now seeking for hope of escape
in the very situation that had previously irritated him, in the
story he had heard at Wasson's. He considered, and said, almost
"Look here, I may have made a mistake. I came out here pretty well
convinced I'd found the solution to an old mystery, and for that
matter I think I have. But there's a twist in it that isn't clear,
and until it is clear I'm not going to saddle you with an identity
that may not belong to you. You are one of two men. One of them
is Judson Clark, and I'll be honest with you; I'm pretty sure you're
Clark. The other I don't know, but I have reason to believe that
he spent part of his time with Henry Livingstone at Dry River."
"I went to the Livingstone ranch yesterday. I remember my early
home. That wasn't it. Which one of these two men will be arrested
if he is recognized?"
"I'm coming to that. I suppose you'll have to know. Another
drink? No? All right. About ten years ago, or a little less, a
young chap called Judson Clark got into trouble here, and headed
into the mountains in a blizzard. He was supposed to have frozen
to death. But recently a woman named Donaldson made a confession
on her deathbed. She said that she had helped to nurse Clark in a
mountain cabin, and that with the aid of some one unnamed he had
"Then I'm Clark. I remember her, and the cabin."
There was a short silence following that admission. To Dick, it
was filled with the thought of Elizabeth, and of her relation to
what he was about to hear. Again he braced himself for what was
"I suppose," he said at last, "that if I ran away I was in pretty
serious trouble. What was it?"
"We've got no absolute proof that you are Clark, remember. You
don't know, and Maggie Donaldson was considered not quite sane
before she died. I've told you there's a chance you are the other
"All right. What had Clark done?"
"He had shot a man."
The reporter was instantly alarmed. If Dick had been haggard before,
he was ghastly now. He got up slowly and held to the back of his chair.
"Not - murder?" he asked, with stiff lips.
"No," Bassett said quickly. "Not at all. See here, you've had
about all you can stand. Remember, we don't even know you are
Clark. All I said was - "
"I understand that. It was murder, wasn't it?"
"Well, there had been a quarrel, I understand. The law allows for
that, I think."
Dick went slowly to the window, and stood with his back to Bassett.
For a long time the room was quiet. In the street below long lines
of cars in front of the hotel denoted the luncheon hour. An Indian
woman with a child in the shawl on her back stopped in the street,
looked up at Dick and extended a beaded belt. With it still
extended she continued to stare at his white face.
"The man died, of course?" he asked at last, without turning.
"Yes. I knew him. He wasn't any great loss. It was at the Clark
ranch. I don't believe a conviction would be possible, although
they would try for one. It was circumstantial evidence."
"And I ran away?"
"Clark ran away," Bassett corrected him. "As I've told you, the
authorities here believe he is dead."
After an even longer silence Dick turned.
"I told you there was a girl. I'd like to think out some way to
keep the thing from her, before I surrender myself. If I can
protect her, and David - "
"I tell you, you don't even know you are Clark."
"All right. If I'm not, they'll know. If I am - I tell you I'm
not going through the rest of my life with a thing like that
hanging over me. Maggie Donaldson was sane enough. Why, when I
look back, I know our leaving the cabin was a flight. I'm not
Henry Livingstone's son, because he never had a son. I can tell
you what the Clark ranch house looks like." And after a pause:
"Can you imagine the reverse of a dream when you've dreamed you are
guilty of something and wake up to find you are innocent? Who was
Bassett watched him narrowly.
"His name was Lucas. Howard Lucas."
"All right. Now we have that, where does Beverly Carlysle come in?"
"Clark was infatuated with her. The man he shot was the man she
Shortly after that Dick said he would go to his room. He was still
pale, but his eyes looked bright and feverish, and Bassett went
with him, uneasily conscious that something was not quite right.
Dick spoke only once on the way.
"My head aches like the mischief," he said, and his voice was dull
He did not want Bassett to go with him, but Bassett went,
nevertheless. Dick's statement, that he meant to surrender himself,
had filled him with uneasiness. He determined, following him along
the hall, to keep a close guard on him for the next few hours, but
beyond that, just then, he did not try to go. If it were humanly
possible he meant to smuggle him out of the town and take him East.
But he had an uneasy conviction that Dick was going to be ill.
The mind did strange things with the body.
Dick sat down on the edge of the bed.
"My head aches like the mischief," he repeated. "Look in that grip
and find me some tablets, will you? I'm dizzy."
He made an effort and stretched out on the bed. "Good Lord," he
muttered, "I haven't had such a headache since - "
His voice trailed off. Bassett, bending over the army kit bag in
the corner, straightened and looked around. Dick was suddenly
asleep and breathing heavily.
For a long time the reporter sat by the side of the bed, watching
him and trying to plan some course of action. He was overcome by
his own responsibility, and by the prospect of tragedy that
threatened. That Livingstone was Clark, and that he would insist
on surrendering himself when he wakened, he could no longer doubt.
His mind wandered back to that day when he had visited the old house
as a patient, and from that along the strange road they had both
come since then. He reflected, not exactly in those terms, that
life, any man's life, was only one thread in a pattern woven of an
infinite number of threads, and that to tangle the one thread was
to interfere with all the others. David Livingstone, the girl in
the blue dress, the man twitching uneasily on the bed, Wilkins the
sheriff, himself, who could tell how many others, all threads.
He swore in a whisper.
The maid tapped at the door. He opened it an inch or so and sent
her off. In view of his new determination even the maid had become
a danger. She was the same elderly woman who looked after his own
bedroom, and she might have known Clark. Just what Providence had
kept him from recognition before this he did not know, but it could
not go on indefinitely.
After an hour or so Bassett locked the door behind him and went
down to lunch. He was not hungry, but he wanted to get out of the
room, to think without that quiet figure before him. Over the
pretence of food he faced the situation. Lying ready to his hand
was the biggest story of his career, but he could not carry it
through. It was characteristic of him that, before abandoning it,
he should follow through to the end the result of its publication.
He did not believe, for instance, that either Dick's voluntary
surrender or his own disclosure of the situation necessarily meant
a conviction for murder. To convict a man of a crime he did not
know he had committed would be difficult. But, with his customary
thoroughness he followed that through also. Livingstone acquitted
was once again Clark, would be known to the world as Clark. The
new place he had so painfully made for himself would be gone. The
story would follow him, never to be lived down. And in his
particular profession confidence and respect were half the game.
All that would be gone.
Thus by gradual stages he got back to David, and he struggled for
the motive which lay behind every decisive human act. A man who
followed a course by which he had nothing to gain and everything
to lose was either a fool or was actuated by some profound
unselfishness. To save a life? But with all the resources Clark
could have commanded, added to his personal popularity, a first
degree sentence would have been unlikely. Not a life, then, but
perhaps something greater than a life. A man's soul.
It came to him, then, in a great light of comprehension, the thing
David had tried to do; to take this waster and fugitive, the slate
of his mind wiped clean by shock and illness, only his childish
memories remaining, and on it to lead him to write a new record.
To take the body he had found, and the always untouched soul, and
from them to make a man.
And with that comprehension came the conviction, too, that David
had succeeded. He had indeed made a man.
He ate absently, consulting his railroad schedule and formulating
the arguments he meant to use against Dick's determination to give
himself up. He foresaw a struggle there, but he himself held one
or two strong cards - the ruthless undoing of David's work, the
involving of David for conspiring against the law. And Dick's own
obligation to the girl at home.
He was more at ease in the practical arrangements. An express went
through on the main line at midnight, and there was a local on the
branch line at eight. But the local train, the railway station,
too, were full of possible dangers. After some thought he decided
to get a car, drive down to the main line with Dick, and then send
the car back.
He went out at once and made an arrangement for a car, and on
returning notified the clerk that he was going to leave, and asked
to have his bill made out. After some hesitation he said: "I'll
pay three-twenty too, while I'm at it. Friend of mine there, going
with me. Yes, up to to-night."
As he turned away he saw the short, heavy figure of Wilkins coming
in. He stood back and watched. The sheriff went to the desk,
pulled the register toward him and ran over several pages of it.
Then he shoved it away, turned and saw him.
"Been away, haven't you?" he asked.
"Yes. I took a little horseback trip into the mountains. My knees
are still not on speaking terms.''
The Sheriff chuckled. Then he sobered.
"Come and sit down," he said. "I'm going to watch who goes in and
out of here for a while."
Bassett followed him unwillingly to two chairs that faced the desk
and the lobby. He had the key of Dick's room in his pocket, but he
knew that if he wakened he could easily telephone and have his door
unlocked. But that was not his only anxiety. He had a sudden
conviction that the Sheriff's watch was connected with Dick himself.
Wilkins, from a friendly and gregarious fellow-being, had suddenly
grown to sinister proportions in his mind.
And, as the minutes went by, with the Sheriff sitting forward and
watching the lobby and staircase with intent, unblinking eyes,
Bassett's anxiety turned to fear. He found his heart leaping when
the room bells rang, and the clerk, with a glance at the annunciator,
sent boys hurrying off. His hands shook, and he felt them cold and
moist. And all the time Wilkins was holding him with a flow of
"Watching for any one in particular?" he managed, after five
minutes or so.
"Yes. I'll tell you about it as soon as - Bill! Is Alex outside?"
Bill stopped in front of them, and nodded.
"All right. Now get this - I want everything decent and in order.
No excitement. I'll come out behind him, and you and Bill stand by.
Outside I'll speak to him, and when we walk off, just fall in behind.
But keep close."
Bill wandered off, to take up a stand of extreme nonchalance inside
the entrance. When Wilkins turned to him again Bassett had had a
moment to adjust himself, and more or less to plan his own campaign.
"Somebody's out of luck," he commented. "And speaking of being out
of luck, I've got a sick man on my hands. Friend of mine from home.
We've got to catch the midnight, too."
"Too bad," Wilkins commented rather absently. Then, perhaps feeling
that he had not shown proper interest, "Tell you what I'll do. I've
got some buisness on hand now, but it'll be cleared up one way or
another pretty soon. I'll bring my car around and take him to the
station. These hacks are the limit to ride in."
The disaster to his plans thus threatened steadied the reporter,
and he managed to keep his face impassive.
"Thanks," he said. "I'll let you know if he's able to travel. Is
this - is this business you're on confidential?"
"Well, it is and it isn't. I've talked some to you, and as you're
leaving anyhow - it's the Jud Clark case again."
"Sort of hysteria, I suppose. He'll be seen all over the country
for the next six months."
"Yes. But I never saw a hysterical Indian. Well, a little while
ago an Indian woman named Lizzie Lazarus blew into my office. She's
a smart woman. Her husband was a breed, dairy hand on the Clark
ranch for years. Lizzie was the first Indian woman in these parts
to go to school, and besides being smart, she's got Indian sight.
You know these Indians. When they aren't blind with trachoma they
can see further and better than a telescope."
Bassett made an effort.
"What's that got to do with Jud Clark?" he asked.
"Well, she blew in. You know there was a reward out for him, and
I guess it still stands. I'll have to look it up, for if Maggie
Donaldson wasn't crazy some one will turn him up some day, probably.
Well, Lizzie blew in, and she said she'd seen Jud Clark. Saw him
standing at a second story window of this hotel. Can you beat that?"
"Not for pure invention. Hardly."
"That's what I said at first. But I don't know. In some ways it
would be like him. He wouldn't mind coming back and giving us the
laugh, if he thought he could get away with it. He didn't know fear.
Only time he ever showed funk was when he beat it after the shooting,
and then he was full of hootch, and on the edge of D.T.'s."
"A man doesn't play jokes with the hangman's rope," Bassett
commented, dryly. He looked at his watch and rose. "It's a good
story, but I wouldn't wear out any trouser-seats sitting here
watching for him. If he's living he's taken pretty good care for
ten years not to put his head in the noose; and I'd remember this,
too. Wherever he is, if he is anywhere, he's probably so changed
his appearance that Telescope Lizzie wouldn't know him. Or you
"Probably," the Sheriff said, comfortably. "Still I'm not taking
any chances. I'm up for reelection this fall, and that Donaldson
woman's story nearly queered me. I've got a fellow at the railroad
station, just for luck."
Bassett went up the stairs and along the corridor, deep in dejected
thought. The trap of his own making was closing, and his active
mind was busy with schemes for getting Dick away before it shut
It might be better, in one way, to keep Livingstone there in his
room until the alarm blew over. On the other hand, Livingstone
himself had to be dealt with, and that he would remain quiescent
under the circumstances was unlikely. The motor to the main line
seemed to be the best thing. True, he would have first to get
Livingstone to agree to go. That done, and he did not
underestimate its difficulty, there was the question of getting
him out of the hotel, now that the alarm had been given.
When he found Dick still sleeping he made a careful survey of the
second floor. There was a second staircase, but investigation
showed that it led into the kitchens. He decided finally on a
fire-escape from a rear hall window, which led into a courtyard
littered with the untidy rubbish of an overcrowded and undermanned
hotel, and where now two or three saddled horses waited while their
riders ate within.
When he had made certain that he was not observed he unlocked and
opened the window, and removed the wire screen. There was a red
fire-exit lamp in the ceiling nearby, but he could not reach it,
nor could he find any wall switch. Nevertheless he knew by that
time that through the window lay Dick's only chance of escape. He
cleared the grating of a broken box and an empty flower pot, stood
the screen outside the wall, and then, still unobserved, made his
way back to his own bedroom and packed his belongings.
Dick was still sleeping, stretched on his bed, when he returned
to three-twenty. And here Bassett's careful plans began to go awry,
for Dick's body was twitching, and his face was pale and covered
with a cold sweat. From wondering how they could get away, Bassett
began to wonder whether they would get away at all. The sleep was
more like a stupor than sleep. He sat down by the bed, closer to
sheer fright than he had ever been before, and wretched with the
miserable knowledge of his own responsibility.
As the afternoon wore on, it became increasingly evident that
somehow or other he must get a doctor. He turned the subject over
in his mind, pro and con. If he could get a new man, one who did
not remember Jud Clark, it might do. But he hesitated until, at
seven, Dick opened his eyes and clearly did not know him. Then
he knew that the matter was out of his hands, and that from now
on whatever it was that controlled the affairs of men, David's God
or his own vague Providence, was in charge.
He got his hat and went out, and down the stairs again. Wilkins
had disappeared, but Bill still stood by the entrance, watching the
crowd that drifted in and out. In his state of tension he felt
that the hotel clerk's eyes were suspicious as he retained the two
rooms for another day, and that Bill watched him out with more than
casual interest. Even the matter of cancelling the order for the
car loomed large and suspicion-breeding before him, but he
accomplished it, and then set out to find medical assistance.
There, however, chance favored him. The first doctor's sign led
him to a young man, new to the town, and obviously at leisure. Not
that he found that out at once. He invented a condition for
himself, as he had done once before, got a prescription and paid
for it, learned what he wanted, and then mentioned Dick. He was
careful to emphasize his name and profession, and his standing
"I'll admit he's got me worried," he finished. "He saw me registered
and came to my room this morning to see me, and got sick there. That
is, he said he had a violent headache and was dizzy. I got him to
his room and on the bed, and he's been sleeping ever since. He looks
pretty sick to me."
He was conscious of Bill's eyes on him as they went through the
lobby again, but he realized now that they were unsuspicious.
Bassett himself was in a hot sweat. He stopped outside the room
and mopped his face.
"Look kind of shot up yourself," the doctor commented. "Watch this
sun out here. Because it's dry here you Eastern people don't
notice the heat until it plays the deuce with you."
He made a careful examination of the sleeping man, while Bassett
watched his face.
"Been a drinking man? Or do you know?"
"No. But I think not. I gave him a small drink this morning, when
he seemed to need it."
"Been like this all day?"
"Since noon. Yes."
Once more the medical man stooped. When he straightened it was to
deliver Bassett a body blow.
"I don't like his condition, or that twitching. If these were the
good old days in Wyoming I'd say he is on the verge of delirium
tremens. But that's only snap judgment. He might be on the verge
of a good many things. Anyhow, he'd better be moved to the
hospital. This is no place for him."
And against this common-sense suggestion Bassett had nothing to
offer. If the doctor had been looking he would have seen him make
a gesture of despair.
"I suppose so," he said, dully. "Is it near? I'll go myself and
get a room."
"That's my advice. I'll look in later, and if the stupor continues
I'll have in a consultant." He picked up his bag and stood looking
down at the bed. "Big fine-looking chap, isn't he?" he commented.
"Well, we'll get the ambulance, and later on we'll go over him
properly. I'd call a maid to sit with him, if I were you." In the
grip of a situation that was too much for him, Bassett rang the
bell. It was answered by the elderly maid who took care of his
Months later, puzzling over the situation, Bassett was to wonder,
and not to know, whether chance or design brought the Thorwald
woman to the door that night. At the time, and for weeks, he laid
it to tragic chance, the same chance which had placed in Dick's
hand the warning letter that had brought him West. But as months
went on, the part played in the tragedy by that faded woman with
her tired dispirited voice and her ash colored hair streaked with
gray, assumed other proportions, loomed large and mysterious.
There were times when he wished that some prescience of danger had
made him throttle her then and there, so she could not have raised
her shrill, alarming voice! But he had no warning. All he saw was
a woman in a washed-out blue calico dress and a fresh white apron,
raising incurious eyes to his.
"I suppose it's all right if she sits in the hall?" Bassett
inquired, still fighting his losing fight. "She can go in if he
"Right-o," said the doctor, who had been to France and had brought
home some British phrases.
Bassett walked back from the hospital alone. The game was up and
he knew it. Sooner or later - In a way he tried to defend himself
to himself. He had done his best. Two or three days ago he would
have been exultant over the developments. After all, mince things
as one would, Clark was a murderer. Other men killed and paid the
penalty. And the game was not up entirely, at that. The providence
which had watched over him for so long might continue to. The
hospital was new. (It was, ironically enough, the Clark Memorial
hospital.) There was still a chance.
He was conscious of something strange as he entered the lobby.
The constable was gone, and there was no clerk behind the desk.
At the foot of the stairs stood a group of guests and loungers,
looking up, while a bell-boy barred the way.
Even then Bassett's first thought was of fire. He elbowed his way
to the foot of the stairs, and demanded to be allowed to go up, but
he was refused.
"In a few minutes," said the boy. "No need of excitement."
"Is it a fire?"
"I don't know myself. I've got my orders. That's all." Wilkins
came hurrying in. The crowd, silent and respectful before the law,
opened to let him through and closed behind him.
Bassett stood at the foot of the stairs, looking up.
To Elizabeth the first days of Dick's absence were unbelievably
dreary. She seemed to live only from one visit of the postman to
the next. She felt sometimes that only part of her was at home
in the Wheeler house, slept at night in her white bed, donned its
black frocks and took them off, and made those sad daily
pilgrimages to the cemetery above the town, where her mother tidied
with tender hands the long narrow mound, so fearfully remindful of
Jim's tall slim body.
That part of her grieved sorely, and spent itself in small
comforting actions and little caressing touches on bowed heads and
grief-stooped shoulders. It put away Jim's clothing, and kept
immaculate the room where now her mother spent most of her waking
hours. It sent her on her knees at night to pray for Jim's
happiness in some young-man heaven which would please him. But the
other part of her was not there at all. It was off with Dick in some
mysterious place of mountains and vast distance called Wyoming.
And because of this division in herself, because she felt that her
loyalty to her people had wavered, because she knew that already
she had forsaken her father and her mother and would follow her
love through the rest of her life, she was touchingly anxious to
comfort and to please them.
"She's taking Dick's absence very hard," Mrs. Wheeler said one
night, when she had kissed them and gone upstairs to bed. "She
worries me sometimes."
Mr. Wheeler sighed. Why was it that a man could not tell his
children what he had learned, - that nothing was so great as one
expected; that love was worth living for, but not dying for. The
impatience of youth for life! It had killed Jim. It was hurting
Nina. It would all come, all come, in God's good time. The young
did not live to-day, but always to-morrow. There seemed no time
to live to-day, for any one. First one looked ahead and said, "I
will be so happy." And before one knew it one was looking back and
saying: "I was so happy."
"She'll be all right," he said aloud.
He got up and whistled for the dog.
"I'll take him around the block before I lock up," he said heavily.
He bent over and kissed his wife. She was a sad figure to him in
her black dress. He did not say to her what he thought sometimes;
that Jim had been saved a great deal. That to live on, and to lose
the things one loved, one by one, was harder than to go quickly,
from a joyous youth.
He had not told her what he knew about Jim's companion that night.
She would never have understood. In her simple and child-like
faith she knew that her boy sat that day among the blessed company
of heaven. He himself believed that Jim had gone forgiven into
whatever lay behind the veil we call death, had gone shriven and
clean before the Judge who knew the urge of youth and life. He
did not fear for Jim. He only missed him.
He walked around the block that night, a stooped commonplace figure,
the dog at his heels. Now and then he spoke to him, for
companionship. At the corner he stopped and looked along the side
street toward the Livingstone house. And as he looked he sighed.
Jim and Nina, and now Elizabeth. Jim and Nina were beyond his care
now. He could do no more. But what could he do for Elizabeth?
That, too, wasn't that beyond him? He stood still, facing the
tragedy of his helplessness, beset by vague apprehensions. Then
he went on doggedly, his hands clasped behind him, his head sunk
on his breast.
He lay awake for a long time that night, wondering whether he and
Dick had been quite fair to Elizabeth. She should, he thought,
have been told. Then, if Dick's apprehensions were justified, she
would have had some preparation. As it was - Suppose something
turned up out there, something that would break her heart?
He had thought Margaret was sleeping, but after a time she moved
and slipped her hand into his. It comforted him. That, too, was
life. Very soon now they would be alone together again, as in the
early days before the children came. All the years and the
struggle, and then back where they started. But still, thank God,
hand in hand.
Ever since the night of Jim's death Mrs. Sayre had been a constant
visitor to the house. She came in, solid, practical, and with an
everyday manner neither forcedly cheerful nor too decorously
mournful, which made her very welcome. After the three first days,
when she had practically lived at the house, there was no necessity
for small pretensions with her. She knew the china closet and the
pantry, and the kitchen. She had even penetrated to Mr. Wheeler's
shabby old den on the second floor, and had slept a part of the
first night there on the leather couch with broken springs which
he kept because it fitted his body.
She was a kindly woman, and she had ached with pity. And, because
of her usual detachment from the town and its affairs, the feeling
that she was being of service gave her a little glow of content.
She liked the family, too, and particularly she liked Elizabeth.
But after she had seen Dick and Elizabeth together once or twice
she felt that no plan she might make for Wallace could possibly
succeed. Lying on the old leather couch that first night, between
her frequent excursions among the waking family, she had thought
that out and abandoned it.
But, during the days that followed the funeral, she was increasingly
anxious about Wallace. She knew that rumors of the engagement had
reached him, for he was restless and irritable. He did not care to
go out, but wandered about the house or until late at night sat
smoking alone on the terrace, looking down at the town with sunken,
unhappy eyes. Once or twice in the evening he had taken his car
and started out, and lying awake in her French bed she would hear
him coming hours later. In the mornings his eyes were suffused and
his color bad, and she knew that he was drinking in order to get
On the third day after Dick's departure for the West she got up
when she heard him coming in, and putting on her dressing gown and
slippers, knocked at his door.
"Come in," he called ungraciously.
She found him with his coat off, standing half defiantly with a
glass of whisky and soda in his hand. She went up to him and
took it from him.
"We've had enough of that in the family, Wallie," she said. "And
it's a pretty poor resource in time of trouble."
"I'll have that back, if you don't mind."
"Nonsense," she said briskly, and flung it, glass and all, out of
the window. She was rather impressive when she turned.
"I've been a fairly indulgent mother," she said. "I've let you
alone, because it's a Sayre trait to run away when they feel a
pull on the bit. But there's a limit to my patience, and it is
reached when my son drinks to forget a girl."
He flushed and glowered at her in somber silence, but she moved
about the room calmly, giving it a housekeeper's critical
inspection, and apparently unconscious of his anger.
"I don't believe you ever cared for any one in all your life," he
said roughly. "If you had, you would know."
She was straightening a picture over the mantel, and she completed
her work before she turned.
"I care for you."
"Very well, then. I cared for your father. I cared terribly. And
he killed my love."
She padded out of the room, her heavy square body in its blazing
kimono a trifle rigid, but her face still and calm. He remained
staring at the door when she had closed it, and for some time after.
He knew what message for him had lain behind that emotionless
speech of hers, not only understanding, but a warning. She had
cared terribly, and his father had killed that love. He had drunk
and played through his gay young life, and then he had died, and
no one had greatly mourned him.
She had left the decanter on its stand, and he made a movement
toward it. Then, with a half smile, he picked it up and walked to
the window with it. He was still smiling, half boyishly, as he put
out his light and got into bed. It had occurred to him that the
milkman's flivver, driving in at the break of dawn, would encounter
By morning, after a bad night, he had made a sort of double-headed
resolution, that he was through with booze, as he termed it, and
that he would find out how he stood with Elizabeth. But for a day
or two no opportunity presented itself. When he called there was
always present some grave-faced sympathizing visitor, dark clad
and low of voice, and over the drawing-room would hang the
indescribable hush of a house in mourning. It seemed to touch
Elizabeth, too, making her remote and beyond earthly things. He
would go in, burning with impatience, hungry for the mere sight of
her, fairly overcharged with emotion, only to face that strange new
spirituality that made him ashamed of the fleshly urge in him.
Once he found Clare Rossiter there, and was aware of something
electric in the air. After a time he identified it. Behind the
Rossiter girl's soft voice and sympathetic words, there was a
veiled hostility. She was watching Elizabeth, was overconscious
of her. And she was, for some reason, playing up to himself. He
thought he saw a faint look of relief on Elizabeth's face when
Clare at last rose to go.
"I'm on my way to see the man Dick Livingstone left in his place,"
Clare said, adjusting her veil at the mirror. "I've got a cold.
Isn't it queer, the way the whole Livingstone connection is
"Hardly queer. And it's only temporary."
"Possibly. But if you ask me, I don't believe Dick will come back.
Mind, I don't defend the town, but it doesn't like to be fooled.
And he's fooled it for years. I know a lot of people who'd quit
going to him." She turned to Wallie.
"He isn't David's nephew, you know. The question is, who is he?
Of course I don't say it, but a good many are saying that when a
man takes a false identity he has something to hide."
She gave them no chance to reply, but sauntered out with her
sex-conscious, half-sensuous walk. Outside the door her smile
faded, and her face was hard and bitter. She might forget Dick
Livingstone, but never would she forgive herself for her confession
to Elizabeth, nor Elizabeth for having heard it.
Wallie turned to Elizabeth when she had gone, slightly bewildered.
"What's got into her?" he inquired. And then, seeing Elizabeth's
white face, rather shrewdly: "That was one for him and two for
you, was it?"
"I don't know. Probably."
"I wonder if you would look like that if any one attacked me!"
"No one attacks you, Wallie."
"That's not an answer. You wouldn't, would you? It's different,
"Yes. A little."
He straightened, and looked past her, unseeing, at the wall. "I
guess I've known it for quite a while," he said at last. "I didn't
want to believe it, so I wouldn't. Are you engaged to him?"
"Yes. It's not to be known just yet, Wallie."
"He's a good fellow," he said, after rather a long silence. "Not
that that makes it easier," he added with a twisted smile. Then,
boyishly and unexpectedly he said, "Oh, my God!"
He sat down, and when the dog came and placed a head on his knee
he patted it absently. He wanted to go, but he had a queer feeling
that when he went he went for good.
"I've cared for you for years," he said. "I've been a poor lot,
but I'd have been a good bit worse, except for you."
"Only last night I made up my mind that if you'd have me, I'd make
something out of myself. I suppose a man's pretty weak when he
puts a responsibility like that on a girl."
She yearned over him, rather. She made little tentative overtures
of friendship and affection. But he scarcely seemed to hear them,
wrapped as he was in the selfish absorption of his disappointment.
When she heard the postman outside and went to the door for the
mail, she thought he had not noticed her going. But when she
returned he was watching her with jealous, almost tragic eyes.
"I suppose you hear from him by every mail."
"There has been nothing to-day."
Something in her voice or her face made him look at her closely.
"Has he written at all?"
"The first day he got there. Not since."
He went away soon, and not after all with the feeling of going for
good. In his sceptical young mind, fed by Clare's malice, was
growing a comforting doubt of Dick's good faith.
When Wilkins had disappeared around the angle of the staircase
Bassett went to a chair and sat down. He felt sick, and his knees
were trembling. Something had happened, a search for Clark room
by room perhaps, and the discovery had been made.
He was totally unable to think or to plan. With Dick well they
could perhaps have made a run for it. The fire-escape stood ready.
But as things were - The murmuring among the crowd at the foot of
the stairs ceased, and he looked up. Wilkins was on the staircase,
searching the lobby with his eyes. When he saw Bassett he came
quickly down and confronted him, his face angry and suspicious.
"You're mixed up in this somehow," he said sharply. "You might as
well come over with the story. We'll get him. He can't get out
of this town."
With the words, and the knowledge that in some incredible fashion
Dick had made his escape, Bassett's mind reacted instantly.
"What's eating you, Wilkins?" he demanded. "Who got away? I
couldn't get that tongue-tied bell-hop to tell me. Thought it
was a fire."
"Don't stall, Bassett. You've had Jud Clark hidden upstairs in
three-twenty all day."
Bassett got up and towered angrily over the Sheriff. The crowd had
turned and was watching.
"In three-twenty?" he said. "You're crazy. Jud Clark! Let me
tell you something. I don't know what you've got in your head, but
three-twenty is a Doctor Livingstone from near my home town. Well
known and highly respected, too. What's more, he's a sick man, and
if he's got away, as you say, it's because he is delirious. I had
a doctor in to see him an hour ago. I've just arranged for a room
at the hospital for him. Does that look as though I've been
The positiveness of his identification and his indignation resulted
in a change in Wilkins' manner.
"I'll ask you to stay here until I come back." His tone was
official, but less suspicious. "We'll have him in a half hour.
It's Clark all right. I'm not saying you knew it was Clark, but I
want to ask you some questions."
He went out, and Bassett heard him shouting an order in the street.
He went to the street door, and realized that a search was going on,
both by the police and by unofficial volunteers. Men on horseback
clattered by to guard the borders of the town, and in the vicinity
of the hotel searchers were investigating yards and alleyways.
Bassett himself was helpless. He stood by, watching the fire of
his own igniting, conscious of the curious scrutiny of the few hotel
loungers who remained, and expecting momentarily to hear of Dick's
capture. It must come eventually, he felt sure. As to how Dick
had been identified, or by what means he had escaped, he was in
complete ignorance; and an endeavor to learn by establishing the
former entente cordiale between the room clerk and himself was met
by a suspicious glance and what amounted to a snub. He went back
to his chair against the wall and sat there, waiting for the end.
It was an hour before the Sheriff returned, and he came in scowling.
"I'll see you now," he said briefly, and led the way back to the
hotel office behind the desk. Bassett's last hope died when he saw
sitting there, pale but composed, the elderly maid. The Sheriff
lost no time.
"Now I'll tell you what we know about your connection with this
case, Bassett," he said. "You engaged a car to take you both to
the main line to-night. You paid off Clark's room as well as your
own this afternoon. When you found he was sick you canceled your
going. That's true, isn't it?"
"It is. I've told you I knew him at home, but not as Clark."
"I'll let that go. You intended to take the midnight on the main
line, but you ordered a car instead of using the branch road."
"Livingstone was sick. I thought it would be easier. That's all."
His voice sharpened. "You can't drag me into this, Sheriff. In
the first place I don't believe it was Clark, or he wouldn't have
come here, of all places on the earth. I didn't even know he was
here, until he came into my room this morning."
"Why did he come into your room?"
"He had seen that I was registered. He said he felt sick. I took
him back and put him to bed. To-night I got a doctor."
The Sheriff felt in his pocket and produced a piece of paper.
Bassett's morale was almost destroyed when he saw that it was
Gregory's letter to David.
"I'll ask you to explain this. It was on Clark's bed."
Bassett took it and read it slowly. He was thinking hard.
"I see," he said. "Well, that explains why he came here. He was
too sick to talk when I saw him. You see, this is not addressed
to him, but to his uncle, David Livingstone. David Livingstone is
a brother of Henry Livingstone, who died some years ago at Dry
River. This refers to a personal matter connected with the
The Sheriff took the letter and reread it. He was puzzled.
"You're a good talker," he acknowledged grudgingly. He turned to
"All right, Hattie," he said. "We'll have that story again. But
just a minute." He turned to the reporter. "Mrs. Thorwald here
hasn't seen Lizzie Lazarus, the squaw. Lizzie has been sitting in
my office ever since noon. Now, Hattie."
Hattie moistened her dry lips.
"It was Jud Clark, all right," she said. "I knew him all his life,
off and on. But I wish I hadn't screamed. I don't believe he killed
Lucas, and I never will. I hope he gets away."
She eyed the Sheriff vindictively, but he only smiled grimly.
"What did I tell you?" he said to Bassett. "Hell with the women
- that was Jud Clark. And we'll get him, Hattie. Don't worry.
She looked at Bassett.
"When you left me, I sat outside the door, as you said. Then I
heard him moving, and I went in. The room was not very light, and
I didn't know him at first. He sat up in bed and looked at me, and
he said, 'Why, hello, Hattie Thorwald.' That's my name. I married
a Swede. Then he looked again, and he said, 'Excuse me, I thought
you were a Mrs. Thorwald, but I see now you're older.' I recognized
him then, and I thought I was going to faint. I knew he'd be
arrested the moment it was known he was here. I said, 'Lie down,
Mr. Jud. You're not very well.' And I closed the door and locked
it. I was scared."
Her voice broke; she fumbled for a handkerchief. The Sheriff
glanced at Bassett.
"Now where's your Livingstone story?" he demanded. "All right,
Hattie. Let's have it."
"I said, 'For God's sake, Mr. Jud, lie still, until I think what
to do. The Sheriff's likely downstairs this very minute.' And then
he went queer and wild. He jumped off the bed and stood listening
and staring, and shaking all over. 'I've got to get away,' he said,
very loud. 'I won't let them take me. I'll kill myself first!'
When I put my hand on his arm he threw it off, and he made for the
door. I saw then that he was delirious with fever, and I stood in
front of the door and begged him not to go out. But he threw me
away so hard that that I fell, and I screamed."
"And then what?"
"That's all. If I hadn't been almost out of my mind I'd never have
told that it was Jud Clark. That'll hang on me dying day."
An hour or so later Bassett went back to his room in a state of
mental and nervous exhaustion. He knew that from that time on he
would be under suspicion and probably under espionage, and he
proceeded methodically, his door locked, to go over his papers.
His notebook and the cuttings from old files relative to the Clark
case he burned in his wash basin and then carefully washed the
basin. That done, his attendance on a sick man, and the letter
found on the bed was all the positive evidence they had to connect
him with the case. He had had some thought of slipping out by the
fire-escape and making a search for Dick on his own account, but
his lack of familiarity with his surroundings made that practically
At midnight he stretched out on his bed without undressing, and
went over the situation carefully. He knew nothing of the various
neuroses which affect the human mind, but he had a vague impression
that memory when lost did eventually return, and Dick's recognition
of the chambermaid pointed to such a return. He wondered what a
man would feel under such conditions, what he would think. He
could not do it. He abandoned the effort finally, and lay frowning
at the ceiling while he considered his own part in the catastrophe.
He saw himself, following his training and his instinct, leading
the inevitable march toward this night's tragedy, planning, scheming,
searching, and now that it had come, lying helpless on his bed while
the procession of events went on past him and beyond his control.
When an automobile engine back-fired in the street below he went
sick with fear.
He made the resolution then that was to be the guiding motive for
his life for the next few months, to fight the thing of his own
creating to a finish. But with the resolution newly made he saw
the futility of it. He might fight, would fight, but nothing could
restore to Dick Livingstone the place he had made for himself in
the world. He might be saved from his past, but he could not be
given a future.
All at once he was aware that some one was working stealthily at
the lock of the door which communicated with a room beyond. He
slid cautiously off the bed and went to the light switch, standing
with a hand on it, and waited. The wild thought that it might be
Livingstone was uppermost in his mind, and when the door creaked
open and closed again, that was the word he breathed into the
"No," said a woman's voice in a whisper. "It's the maid, Hattie.
Be careful. There's a guard at the top of the stairs."
He heard her moving to his outer door, and he knew that she stood
there, listening, her head against the panel. When she was
satisfied she slipped, with the swiftness of familiarity with her
surroundings, to the stand beside his bed, and turned on the lamp.
In the shaded light he saw that she wore a dark cape, with its
hood drawn over her head. In some strange fashion the maid, even
the woman, was lost, and she stood, strange, mysterious, and
dramatic in the little room.
"If you found Jud Clark, what would you do with him?" she demanded.
>From beneath the hood her eyes searched his face. "Turn him over
to Wilkins and his outfit?"
"I think you know better than that."
"Have you got any plan?"
"Plan? No. They've got every outlet closed, haven't they? Do
you know where he is?"
"I know where he isn't, or they'd have him by now. And I know Jud
Clark. He'd take to the mountains, same as he did before. He's
got a good horse."
"Listen. I haven't told this, and I don't mean to. They'll learn
it in a couple of hours, anyhow. He got out by a back fire-escape
- they know that. But they don't know he took Ed Rickett's black
mare. They think he's on foot. I've been down there now, and she's
gone. Ed's shut up in a room on the top floor, playing poker. They
won't break up until about three o'clock and he'll miss his horse
then. That's two hours yet."
Bassett tried to see her face in the shadow of the hood. He was
puzzled and suspicious at her change of front, more than half
afraid of a trap.
"How do I know you are not working with Wilkins?" he demanded. "You
could have saved the situation to-night by saying you weren't sure."
"I was upset. I've had time to think since."
He was forced to trust her, eventually, although the sense of some
hidden motive, some urge greater than compassion, persisted in him.
"You've got some sort of plan for me, then? I can't follow him
haphazard into the mountains at night, and expect to find him."
"Yes. He was delirious when he left. That thing about the Sheriff
being after him - he wasn't after him then. Not until I gave the
alarm. He's delirious, and he thinks he's back to the night he
- you know. Wouldn't he do the same thing again, and make for the
mountains and the cabin? He went to the cabin before."
Bassett looked at his watch. It was half past twelve.
"Even if I could get a horse I couldn't get out of the town."
"You might, on foot. They'll be trailing Rickett's horse by dawn.
And if you can get out of town I can get you a horse. I can get
you out, too, I think. I know every foot of the place."
A feeling of theatrical unreality was Bassett's chief emotion
during the trying time that followed. The cloaked and shrouded
figure of the woman ahead, the passage through two dark and empty
rooms by pass key to an unguarded corridor in the rear, the descent
of the fire-escape, where they stood flattened against the wall
while a man, possibly one of the posse, rode in, tied his horse and
stamped in high heeled boots into the building, and always just
ahead the sure movement and silent tread of the woman, kept his
nerves taut and increased his feeling of the unreal.
At the foot of the fire-escape the woman slid out of sight
noiselessly, but under Bassett's feet a tin can rolled and
clattered. Then a horse snorted close to his shoulder, and he was
frozen with fright. After that she gave him her hand, and led him
through an empty outbuilding and another yard into a street.
At two o'clock that morning Bassett, waiting in a lonely road near
what he judged to be the camp of a drilling crew, heard a horse
coming toward him and snorting nervously as it came and drew back
into the shadows until he recognized the shrouded silhouette
"It belongs to my son," she said. "I'll fix it with him to-morrow.
But if you're caught you'll have to say you came out and took him,
or you'll get us all in trouble."
She gave him careful instructions as to how to find the trail, and
urged him to haste.
"If you get him," she advised, "better keep right on over the range."
He paused, with his foot in the stirrup.
"You seem pretty certain he's taken to the mountains."
"It's your only chance. They'll get him anywhere else."
He mounted and prepared to ride off. He would have shaken hands
with her, but the horse was still terrified at her shrouded figure
and veered and snorted when she approached. "However it turns out,"
he said, "you've done your best, and I'm grateful."
The horse moved off and left her standing there, her cowl drawn
forward and her hands crossed on her breast. She stood for a
moment, facing toward the mountains, oddly monkish in outline and
posture. Then she turned back toward the town.
Dick had picked up life again where he had left it off so long
before. Gone was David's house built on the sands of forgetfulness.
Gone was David himself, and Lucy. Gone not even born into his
consciousness was Elizabeth. The war, his work, his new place in
the world, were all obliterated, drowned in the flood of memories
revived by the shock of Bassett's revelations.
Not that the breaking point had revealed itself as such at once.
There was confusion first, then stupor and unconsciousness, and out
of that, sharply and clearly, came memory. It was not ten years
ago, but an hour ago, a minute ago, that he had stood staring at
Howard Lucas on the floor of the billiard room, and had seen
Beverly run in through the door.
"Bev!" he was saying. "Bev! Don't look like that!"
He moved and found he was in bed. It had been a dream. He drew a
long breath, looked about the room, saw the woman and greeted her.
But already he knew he had not been dreaming. Things were
sharpening in his mind. He shuddered and looked at the floor, but
nobody lay there. Only the horror in his mind, and the instinct
to get away from it. He was not thinking at all, but rising in him
was not only the need for flight, but the sense of pursuit. They
were after him. They would get him. They must never get him alive.
Instinct and will took the place of thought, and whatever closed
chamber in his brain had opened, it clearly influenced his physical
condition. He bore all the stigmata of prolonged and heavy
drinking; his nerves were gone; he twitched and shook. When he
got down the fire-escape his legs would scarcely hold him.
The discovery of Ed Rickett's horse in the courtyard, saddled and
ready, fitted in with the brain pattern of the past.
Like one who enters a room for the first time, to find it already
familiar, for a moment he felt that this thing that he was doing
he had done before. Only for a moment. Then partial memory ceased,
and he climbed into the saddle, rode out and turned toward the
mountains and the cabin. By that strange quality of the brain which
is called habit, although the habit be of only one emphatic
precedent, he followed the route he had taken ten years before.
How closely will never be known. Did he stop at this turn to look
back, as he had once before? Did he let his horse breathe there?
Not the latter, probably, for as, following the blind course that
he had followed ten years before, he left the town and went up the
canyon trail, he was riding as though all the devils of hell were
One thing is certain. The reproduction of the conditions of the
earlier flight, the familiar associations of the trail, must have
helped rather than hindered his fixation in the past. Again he
was Judson Clark, who had killed a man, and was flying from himself
and from pursuit.
Before long his horse was in acute distress, but he did not notice
it. At the top of the long climb the animal stopped, but he kicked
him on recklessly. He was as unaware of his own fatigue, or that
he was swaying in the saddle, until galloping across a meadow the
horse stumbled and threw him.
He lay still for some time; not hurt but apparently lacking the
initiative to get up again. He had at that period the alternating
lucidity and mental torpor of the half drunken man. But struggling
up through layers of blackness at last there came again the
instinct for flight, and he got on the horse and set off.
The torpor again overcame him and he slept in the saddle. When the
horse stopped he roused and kicked it on. Once he came up through
the blackness to the accompaniment of a great roaring, and found
that the animal was saddle deep in a ford, and floundering badly
among the rocks. He turned its head upstream, and got it out safely.
Toward dawn some of the confusion was gone, but he firmly fixed in
the past. The horse wandered on, head down, occasionally stopping
to seize a leaf as it passed, and once to drink deeply at a spring.
Dick was still not thinking - there was something that forbade him
to think-but he was weak and emotional. He muttered:
"Poor Bev! Poor old Bev!"
A great wave of tenderness and memory swept over him. Poor Bev!
He had made life hell for her, all right. He had an almost
uncontrollable impulse to turn the horse around, go back and see
her once more. He was gone anyhow. They would get him. And he
wanted her to know that he would have died rather than do what
he had done.
The flight impulse died; he felt sick and very cold, and now and
then he shook violently. He began to watch the trail behind him
for the pursuit, but without fear. He seemed to have been wandering
for a thousand black nights through deep gorges and over peaks as
high as the stars, and now he wanted to rest, to stop somewhere and
sleep, to be warm again. Let them come and take him, anywhere out
of this nightmare.
With the dawn still gray he heard a horse behind and below him on
the trail up the cliff face. He stopped and sat waiting, twisted
about in his saddle, his expression ugly and defiant, and yet
touchingly helpless, the look of a boy in trouble and at bay.
The horseman came into sight on the trail below, riding hard, a
middle-aged man in a dark sack suit and a straw hat, an oddly
incongruous figure and manifestly weary. He rode bent forward,
and now and again he raised his eyes from the frail and searched
the wall above with bloodshot, anxious eyes.
On the turn below Dick, Bassett saw him for the first time, and
spoke to him in a quiet voice.
"Hello, old man," he said. "I began to think I was going to miss
you after all."
His scrutiny of Dick's face had rather reassured him. The delirium
had passed, apparently. Dishevelled although he was, covered with
dust and with sweat from the horse, Livingstone's eyes were steady
enough. As he rode up to him, however, he was not so certain. He
found himself surveyed with a sort of cool malignity that startled
"Miss me 1" Livingstone sneered bitterly. "With every damned hill
covered by this time with your outfit! I'll tell you this. If I'd
had a gun you'd never have got me alive."
Bassett was puzzled and slightly ruffled.
"My outfit! I'll tell you this, son, I've risked my neck half the
night to get you out of this mess."
"God Almighty couldn't get me out of this mess," Dick said somberly.
It was then that Bassett saw something not quite normal in his face,
and he rode closer.
"See here, Livingstone," he said, in a soothing tone, "nobody's
going to get you. I'm here to keep them from getting you. We've
got a good start, but we'll have to keep moving."
Dick sat obstinately still, his horse turned across the trail, and
his eyes still suspicious and unfriendly.
"I don't know you," he said doggedly. "And I've done all the
running away I'm going to do. You go back and tell Wilkins I'm
here and to come and get me. The sooner the better." The sneer
faded, and he turned on Bassett with a depth of tragedy in his eyes
that frightened the reporter. "My God," he said, "I killed a man
last night! I can't go through life with that on me. I'm done, I
"Last night!" Some faint comprehension began to dawn in Bassett's
mind, a suspicion of the truth. But there was no time to verify
it. He turned and carefully inspected the trail to where it came
into sight at the opposite rim of the valley. When he was satisfied
that the pursuit was still well behind them he spoke again.
"Pull yourself together, Livingstone," he said, rather sharply.
"Think a bit. You didn't kill anybody last night. Now listen,"
he added impressively. "You are Livingstone, Doctor Richard
Livingstone. You stick to that, and think about it."
But Dick was not listening, save to some bitter inner voice, for
suddenly he turned his horse around on the trail. "Get out of
the way," he said, "I'm going back to give myself up."
He would have done it, probably, would have crowded past Bassett
on the narrow trail and headed back toward capture, but for his
horse. It balked and whirled on the ledge, but it would not pass
Bassett. Dick swore and kicked it, his face ugly and determined,
but it refused sullenly. He slid out of the saddle then and tried
to drag it on, but he was suddenly weak and sick. He staggered.
Bassett was off his horse in a moment and caught him. He eased
him onto a boulder, and he sat there, his shoulders sagging and
his whole body twitching.
"Been drinking my head off," he said at last. "If I had a drink
now I'd straighten out." He tried to sit up. "That's what's the
matter with me. I'm funking, of course, but that's not all. I'd
give my soul for some whisky."'
"I can get you a drink, if you'll come on about a mile," Bassett
coaxed. "At the cabin you and I talked about yesterday."
"Now you're talking." Dick made an effort and got to his feet,
shaking off Bassett's assisting arm. "For God's sake keep your
hands off me," he said irritably. "I've got a hangover, that's all."
He got into his saddle without assistance and started off up the
trail. Bassett once more searched the valley, but it was empty
save for a deer drinking at the stream far below. He turned and
He was fairly hopeless by that time, what with Dick's unexpected
resistance and the change in the man himself. He was dealing with
something he did not understand, and the hypothesis of delirium
did not hold. There was a sort of desperate sanity in Dick's eyes.
That statement, now, about drinking his head off - he hadn't looked
yesterday like a drinking man. But now he did. He was twitching,
his hands shook. On the rock his face had been covered with a cold
sweat. What was that the doctor yesterday had said about delirium
tremens? Suppose he collapsed? That meant capture.
He did not need to guide Dick to the cabin. He turned off the
trail himself, and Bassett, following, saw him dismount and survey
the ruin with a puzzled face. But he said nothing. Bassett waiting
outside to tie the horses came in to find him sitting on one of the
dilapidated chairs, staring around, but all he said was:
"Get me that drink, won't you? I'm going to pieces." Bassett found
his tin cup where he had left it on a shelf and poured out a small
amount of whisky from his flask.
"This is all we have," he explained. "We'll have to go slow
It had an almost immediate effect. The twitching grew less, and a
faint color came into Dick's face. He stood up and stretched
himself. "That's better," he said. "I was all in. I must have
been riding that infernal horse for years."
He wandered about while the reporter made a fire and set the coffee
pot to boil. Bassett, glancing up once, saw him surveying the
ruined lean-to from the doorway, with an expression he could not
understand. But he did not say anything, nor did he speak again
until Bassett called him to get some food. Even then he was
laconic, and he seemed to be listening and waiting.
Once something startled the horses outside, and he sat up and
"They're here!" he said.
"I don't think so," Bassett replied, and went to the doorway. "No,"
he called back over his shoulder, "you go on and finish. I'll watch."
"Come back and eat," Dick said surlily.
He ate very little, but drank of the coffee. Bassett too ate almost
nothing. He was pulling himself together for the struggle that was
to come, marshaling his arguments for flight, and trying to fathom
the extent of the change in the man across the small table.
Dick put down his tin cup and got up. He was strong again, and the
nightmare confusion of the night had passed away. Instead of it
there was a desperate lucidity and a courage born of desperation.
He remembered it all distinctly; he had killed Howard Lucas the
night before. Before long Wilkins or some of his outfit would ride
up to the door, and take him back to Norada. He was not afraid of
that. They would always think he had run away because he was afraid
of capture, but it was not that. He had run away from Bev's face.
Only he had not got away from it. It had been with him all night,
and it was with him now.
But he would have to go back. He couldn't be caught like a rat in
a trap. The Clarks didn't run away. They were fighters. Only the
Clarks didn't kill. They fought, but they didn't murder.
He picked up his hat and went to the door.
"Well, you've been mighty kind, old man," he said. "But I've got
to go back. I ran last night like a scared kid, but I'm through
with that sort of foolishness."
"I'd give a good bit," Bassett said, watching him, "to know what
made you run last night. You were safe where you were."
"I don't know what you are talking about," Dick said drearily. "I
didn't run from them. I ran to get away from something." He turned
away irritably. "You wouldn't understand. Say I was drunk. I
was, for that matter. I'm not over it yet."
Bassett watched him.
"I see," he said quietly. "It was last night, was it, that this
"You know it, don't you?"
"And, after it happened, do you remember what followed?"
"I've been riding all night. I didn't care what happened. I knew
I'd run into a whale of a blizzard, but I - "
He stopped and stared outside, to where the horses grazed in the
upland meadow, knee deep in mountain flowers. Bassett, watching
him, saw the incredulity in his eyes, and spoke very gently.
"My dear fellow," he said, "you are right. Try to understand what
I am saying, and take it easy. You rode into a blizzard, right
enough. But that was not last night. It was ten years ago."
Had Bassett had some wider knowledge of Dick's condition he might
have succeeded better during that bad hour that followed.
Certainly, if he had hoped that the mere statement of fact and its
proof would bring results, he failed. And the need for haste, the
fear of the pursuit behind them, made him nervous and incoherent.
He had first to accept the incredible, himself - that Dick
Livingstone no longer existed, that he had died and was buried deep
in some chamber of an unconscious mind. He made every effort to
revive him, to restore him into the field of consciousness, but
without result. And his struggle was increased in difficulty by
the fact that he knew so little of Dick's life. David's name meant
nothing, apparently, and it was the only name he knew. He described
the Livingstone house; he described Elizabeth as he had seen her
that night at the theater. Even Minnie. But Dick only shook his
head. And until he had aroused some instinct, some desire to live,
he could not combat Dick's intention to return and surrender.
"I understand what you are saying," Dick would say. "I'm trying to
get it. But it doesn't mean anything to me."
He even tried the war.
"War? What war?" Dick asked. And when he heard about it he groaned.
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