The Breaking Point
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 5 out of 8
"A war!" he said. "And I've missed it!"
But soon after that he got up, and moved to the door.
"I'm going back," he said.
"They're after me, aren't they?"
"You're forgetting again. Why should they be after you now, after
"I see. I can't get it, you know. I keep listening for them."
Bassett too was listening, but he kept his fears to himself.
"Why did you do it?" he asked finally.
"I was drunk, and I hated him. He married a girl I was crazy about."
Bassett tried new tactics. He stressed the absurdity of surrendering
for a crime committed ten years before and forgotten.
"They won't convict you anyhow," he urged. "It was a quarrel, wasn't
it? I mean, you didn't deliberately shoot him?"
"I don't remember. We quarreled. Yes. I don't remember shooting him."
"What do you remember?"
Dick made an effort, although he was white to the lips.
"I saw him on the floor," he said slowly, and staggered a little.
"Then you don't even know you did it."
"I hated him."
But Bassett saw that his determination to surrender himself was
weakening. Bassett fought it with every argument he could summon,
and at last he brought forward the one he felt might be conclusive.
"You see, you've not only made a man's place in the world, Clark,
as I've told you. You've formed associations you can't get away
from. You've got to think of the Livingstones, and you told me
yesterday a shock would kill the old man. But it's more than that.
There's a girl back in your town. I think you were engaged to her."
But if he had hoped to pierce the veil with that statement he
failed. Dick's face flushed, and he went to the door of the cabin,
much as he had gone to the window the day before. He did not look
around when he spoke.
"Then I'm an unconscionable cad," he said. "I've only cared for
one woman in my life. And I've shipwrecked her for good."
"You mean - "
"You know who I mean."
Sometime later Bassett got on his horse and rode out to a ledge
which commanded a long stretch of trail in the valley below. Far
away horsemen were riding along it, one behind the other, small
dots that moved on slowly but steadily. He turned and went back
to the cabin.
"We'd better be moving," he said, "and it's up to you to say where.
You've got two choices. You can go back to Norada and run the
chance of arrest. You know what that means. Without much chance
of a conviction you will stand trial and bring wretchedness to the
people who stood by you before and who care for you now. Or you
can go on over the mountains with me and strike the railroad
somewhere to the West. You'll have time to think things over,
anyhow. They've waited ten years. They can wait longer."
To his relief Dick acquiesced. He had become oddly passive; he
seemed indeed not greatly interested. He did not even notice the
haste with which Bassett removed the evidences of their meal, or
extinguished the dying fire and scattered the ashes. Nor, when
they were mounted, the care with which they avoided the trail. He
gave, when asked, information as to the direction of the railroad
at the foot of the western slope of the range, and at the same
instigation found a trail for them some miles beyond their starting
point. But mostly he merely followed, in a dead silence.
They made slow progress. Both horses were weary and hungry, and
the going was often rough and even dangerous. But for Dick's
knowledge of the country they would have been hopelessly lost.
Bassett, however, although tortured with muscular soreness, felt
his spirits rising as the miles were covered, and there was no sign
of the pursuit.
By mid-afternoon they were obliged to rest their horses and let
them graze, and the necessity of food for themselves became
insistent. Dick stretched out and was immediately asleep, but the
reporter could not rest. The magnitude of his undertaking obsessed
him. They had covered perhaps twenty miles since leaving the
cabin, and the railroad was still sixty miles away. With fresh
horses they could have made it by dawn of the next morning, but he
did not believe their jaded animals could go much farther. The
country grew worse instead of better. A pass ahead, which they
must cross, was full of snow.
He was anxious, too, as to Dick's physical condition. The
twitching was gone, but he was very pale and he slept like a man
exhausted and at his physical limit. But the necessity of crossing
the pass before nightfall or of waiting until dawn to do it drove
Bassett back from an anxious reconnoitering of the trail at five
o'clock, to rouse the sleeping man and start on again.
Near the pass, however, Dick roused himself and took the lead.
"Let me ahead, Bassett," he said peremptorily. "And give your
horse his head. He'll take care of you if you give him a chance."
Bassett was glad to fall back. He was exhausted and nervous. The
trail frightened him. It clung to the side of a rocky wall,
twisting and turning on itself; it ran under milky waterfalls of
glacial water, and higher up it led over an ice field which was a
glassy bridge aver a rushing stream beneath. To add to their
wretchedness mosquitoes hung about them in voracious clouds, and
tiny black gnats which got into their eyes and their nostrils and
set the horses frantic.
Once across the ice field Dick's horse fell and for a time could
not get up again. He lay, making ineffectual efforts to rise, his
sides heaving, his eyes rolling in distress. They gave up then,
and prepared to make such camp as they could.
With the setting of the sun it had grown bitterly cold, and Bassett
was forced to light a fire. He did it under the protection of the
mountain wall, and Dick, after unsaddling his fallen horse, built
a rough shelter of rocks against the wind. After a time the
exhausted horse got up, but there was no forage, and the two
animals stood disconsolate, or made small hopeless excursions,
noses to the ground, among the moss and scrub pines.
Before turning in Bassett divided the remaining contents of the
flask between them, and his last cigarettes. Dick did not talk.
He sat, his back to the shelter, facing the fire, his mind busy
with what Bassett knew were bitter and conflicting thoughts. Once,
however, as the reporter was dozing off, Dick spoke.
"You said I told you there was a girl," he said. "Did I tell you
"All right. Go to sleep. I thought if I heard it it might help."
Bassett lay back and watched him.
"Better get some sleep, old man," he said.
He dozed, to waken again cold and shivering. The fire had burned
low, and Dick was sitting near it, unheeding, and in a deep study.
He looked up, and Bassett was shocked at the quiet tragedy in his face.
"Where is Beverly Carlysle now?" he asked. "Or do you know?"
"Yes. I saw her not long ago."
"Is she married again?"
"No. She's revived 'The Valley,' and she's in New York with it."
Dick slept for only an hour or so that night, but as he slept he
dreamed. In his dream he was at peace and happy, and there was a
girl in a black frock who seemed to be a part of that peace. When
he roused, however, still with the warmth of his dream on him, he
could not summon her. She had slipped away among the shadows of
He sat by the fire in the grip of a great despair. He had lost ten
years out of his life, his best years. And he could not go back to
where he had left off. There was nothing to go back to but shame and
remorse. He looked at Bassett, lying by the fire, and tried to fit
him into the situation. Who was he, and why was he here? Why had
he ridden out at night alone, into unknown mountains, to find him?
As though his intent gaze had roused the sleeper, Bassett opened
his eyes, at first drowsily, then wide awake. He raised himself
on his elbow and listened, as though for some far-off sound, and
his face was strained and anxious. But the night was silent, and
he relaxed and slept again.
Something that had been forming itself in Dick's mind suddenly
crystallized into conviction. He rose and walked to the edge of
the mountain wall and stood there listening. When he went back to
the fire he felt in his pockets, found a small pad and pencil, and
bending forward to catch the light, commenced to write...
At dawn Bassett wakened. He was stiff and wretched, and he grunted
as he moved. He turned over and surveyed the small plateau. It
was empty, except for his horse, making its continuous, hopeless
search for grass.
David was enjoying his holiday. He lay in bed most of the morning,
making the most of his one after-breakfast cigar and surrounded by
newspaper and magazines. He had made friends of the waiter who
brought his breakfast, and of the little chambermaid who looked
after his room, and such conversations as this would follow:
"Well, Nellie," he would say, "and did you go to the dance on the
pier last night?"
"Oh, yes, doctor."
"Your gentleman friend showed up all right, then?"
"Oh, yes. He didn't telephone because he was on a job out of town."
Here perhaps David would lower his voice, for Lucy was never far
"Did you wear the flowers?"
"Yes, violets. I put one away to remember you by. It was funny
at first. I wouldn't tell him who gave them to me."
David would chuckle delightedly.
"That's right," he would say. "Keep him guessing, the young rascal.
We men are kittle cattle, Nellie, kittle cattle!"
Even the valet unbent to him, and inquired if the doctor needed a
man at home to look after him and his clothes. David was
"Well," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll tell you how I
manage now, and then you'll see. When I want my trousers pressed I
send them downstairs and then I wait in my bathrobe until they come
back. I'm a trifle better off for boots, but you'd have to knock
Mike, my hired man, unconscious before he'd let you touch them."
The valet grinned understandingly.
"Of course, there's my nephew," David went on, a little note of
pride in his voice. "He's become engaged recently, and I notice
he's bought some clothes. But still I don't think even he will
want anybody to hold his trousers while he gets into them."
David chuckled over that for a long time after the valet had gone.
He was quite happy and contented. He spent all afternoon in a
roller chair, conversing affably with the man who pushed him, and
now and then when Lucy was out of sight getting out and stretching
his legs. He picked up lost children and lonely dogs, and tried
his eye in a shooting gallery, and had hard work keeping off the
roller coasters and out of the sea.
Then, one day, when he had been gone some time, he was astonished
on entering his hotel to find Harrison Miller sitting in the lobby.
David beamed with surprise and pleasure.
"You old humbug!" he said. "Off on a jaunt after all! And the
contempt of you when I was shipped here !"
Harrison Miller was constrained and uncomfortable. He had meant
to see Lucy first. She was a sensible woman, and she would know
just what David could stand, or could not. But David did not
notice his constraint; took him to his room, made him admire the
ocean view, gave him a cigar, and then sat down across from him,
beaming and hospitable.
"Suffering Crimus, Miller," he said. "I didn't know I was homesick
until I saw you. Well, how's everything? Dick's letters haven't
been much, and we haven't had any for several days."
Harrison Miller cleared his throat. He knew that David had not
been told of Jim Wheeler's death, but that Lucy knew. He knew too
from Walter Wheeler that David did not know that Dick had gone west.
Did Lucy know that, or not? Probably yes. But he considered the
entire benevolent conspiracy an absurdity and a mistake. It was
making him uncomfortable, and most of his life had been devoted to
He decided to temporize.
"Things are about the same," he said. "They're going to pave
Chisholm Street. And your Mike knocked down the night watchman
last week. I got him off with a fine."
"I hope he hasn't been in my cellar. He's got a weakness, but
then - How's Dick? Not overworking?"
"No. He's all right."
But David was no man's fool. He began to see something strange in
Harrison's manner, and he bent forward in his chair.
"Look here, Harrison," he said, "there's something the matter with
you. You've got something on your mind."
"Well, I have and I haven't. I'd like to see Lucy, David, if she's
"Lucy's gadding. You can tell me if you can her. What is it? Is
it about Dick?"
"In a way, yes."
"He's not sick?"
"No. He's all right, as far as I know. I guess I'd better tell
you, David. Walter Wheeler has got some sort of bee in his bonnet,
and he got me to come on. Dick was pretty tired and - well, one or
two things happened to worry him. One was that Jim Wheeler - you'll
get this sooner or later - was in an automobile accident, and it
did for him."
David had lost some of his ruddy color. It was a moment before he
"Poor Jim," he said hoarsely. "He was a good boy, only full of
life. It will be hard on the family."
"Yes," Harrison Miller said simply.
But David was resentful, too. When his friends were in trouble he
wanted to know about it. He was somewhat indignant and not a little
hurt. But he soon reverted to Dick.
"I'll go back and send him off for a rest," he said. "I'm as good
as I'll ever be, and the boy's tired. What's the bee in Wheeler's
"Look here, David, you know your own business best, and Wheeler
didn't feel at liberty to tell me very much. But he seemed to
think you were the only one who could tell us certain things. He'd
have come himself, but it's not easy for him to leave the family
just now. Dick went away just after Jim's funeral. He left a young
chap named Reynolds in his place, and, I believe, in order not to
worry you, some letters to be mailed at intervals."
"Went where?" David asked, in a terrible voice.
"To a town called Norada, in Wyoming. Near his old home somewhere.
And the Wheelers haven't heard anything from him since the day he
got there. That's three weeks ago. He wrote Elizabeth the night
he got there, and wired her at the same time. There's been nothing
David was gripping the arms of his chair with both hands, but he
forced himself to calmness.
"I'll go to Norada at once," he said. "Get a time-table, Harrison,
and ring for the valet."
"Not on your life you won't. I'm here to do that, when I've got
something to go on. Wheeler thought you might have heard from him.
If you hadn't, I was to get all the information I could and then
start. Elizabeth's almost crazy. We wired the chief of police
of Norada yesterday."
"Yes!" David said thickly. "Trust your friends to make every
damned mistake possible! You've set the whole pack on his trail."
And then he fell back in his chair, and gasped, "Open the window!"
When Lucy came in, a half hour later, she found David on his bed
with the hotel doctor beside him, and Harrison Miller in the room.
David was fighting for breath, but he was conscious and very calm.
He looked up at her and spoke slowly and distinctly.
"They've got Dick, Lucy," he said.
He looked aged and pinched, and entirely hopeless. Even after his
heart had quieted down and he lay still among his pillows, he gave
no evidence of his old fighting spirit. He lay with his eyes shut,
relaxed and passive. He had done his best, and he had failed. It
was out of his hands now, and in the hands of God. Once, as he lay
there, he prayed. He said that he had failed, and that now he was
too old and weak to fight. That God would have to take it on, and
do the best He could. But he added that if God did not save Dick
and bring him back to happiness, that he, David, was through.
Toward morning he wakened from a light sleep. The door into Lucy's
room was open and a dim light was burning beyond it. David called
her, and by her immediate response he knew she had not been sleeping.
"Yes, David," she said, and came padding in in her bedroom slippers
and wadded dressing-gown, a tragic figure of apprehension,
determinedly smiling. "What do you want?"
"Sit down, Lucy."
When she had done so he put out his hand, fumbling for hers. She
was touched and alarmed, for it was a long while since there had
been any open demonstration of affection between them. David was
silent for a time, absorbed in thought. Then:
"I'm not in very good shape, Lucy. I suppose you know that. This
old pump of mine has sprung a leak or something. I don't want you
to worry if anything happens. I've come to the time when I've got
a good many over there, and it will be like going home."
Lucy nodded. Her chin quivered. She smoothed his hand, with its
high twisted veins.
"I know, David," she said. "Mother and father, and Henry, and a
good many friends. But I need you, too. You're all I have, now
that Dick - "
"That's why I called you. If I can get out there, I'll go. And
I'll put up a fight that will make them wish they'd never started
anything. But if I can't, if I - " She felt his fingers tighten
on her hand. "If Hattie Thorwald is still living, we'll put her
on the stand. If I can't go, for any reason, I want you to see
that she is called. And you know where Henry's statement is?"
"In your box, isn't it?"
"Yes. Have the statement read first, and then have her called to
corroborate it. Tell the story I have told you - or no, I'll
dictate it to you in the morning, and sign it before witnesses.
Jake and Bill will testify too."
He felt easier in his mind after that. He had marshalled his forces
and begun his preparations for battle. He felt less apprehension
now in case he fell asleep, to waken among those he had loved long
since and lost awhile. After a few moments his eyes closed, and
Lucy went back to her bed and crawled into it.
It was, however, Harrison Miller who took the statement that morning.
Lucy's cramped old hand wrote too slowly for David's impatience.
Harrison Miller took it, on hotel stationery, covering the carefully
numbered pages with his neat, copper-plate writing. He wrote with
an impassive face, but with intense interest, for by that time he
knew Dick's story.
Never, in his orderly bachelor life, of daily papers and a flower
garden and political economy at night, had he been so close to the
passions of men to love and hate and the disorder they brought
My brother, Henry Livingstone, was not a strong man," David
dictated. "He had the same heart condition I have, but it
developed earlier. After he left college he went to Arizona and
bought a ranch, and there he met and chummed with Elihu Clark,
who had bought an old mine and was reworking it. Henry loaned
him a small amount of money at that time, and a number of years
later in return for that, when Henry's health failed, Clark, who
had grown wealthy, bought him a ranch in Wyoming at Dry River, not
far from Clark's own property.
"Henry had been teaching in an Eastern university, and then taken
up tutoring. We saw little of him. He was a student, and he
became almost a recluse. I saw less of him than ever after Clark
gave him the ranch.
"In the spring of 1910 Henry wrote me that he was not well, and I
went out to see him. He seemed worried and was in bad shape
physically. Elihu Clark had died five years before, and left him
a fair sum of money, fifty thousand dollars, but he was living in
a way which made me think he was not using it. The ranch buildings
were dilapidated, and there was nothing but the barest necessities
in the house.
"I taxed Henry with miserliness, and he then told me that the money
was not his, but left to him to be used for an illegitimate son of
Clark's, born before his marriage, the child of a small rancher's
daughter named Hattie Burgess. The Burgess girl had gone to Omaha
for its birth, and the story was not known. In early years Clark
had paid the child's board through his lawyer to an Omaha woman
named Hines, and had later sent him to college. The Burgess girl
married a Swede named Thorwald. The boy was eight years older than
Judson, Clark's legitimate son.
"After the death of his wife Elihu Clark began to think about the
child, especially after Judson became a fair-sized boy. He had
the older boy, who went by the name of Hines, sent to college, and
in summer he stayed at Henry's tutoring school. Henry said the boy
was like the Burgess family, blonde and excitable and rather
commonplace. He did not get on well at college, and did not
graduate. So far as he knew, Clark never saw him.
"The boy himself believed that he was an orphan, and that the Hines
woman had adopted him as a foundling. But on the death of the
woman he found that she had no estate, and that a firm of New York
attorneys had been paying his college bills.
"He had spent considerable time with Henry, one way and another,
and he began to think that Henry knew who he was. He thought at
first that Henry was his father, and there was some trouble. In
order to end it Henry finally acknowledged that he knew who the
father was, and after that he had no peace. Clifton - his name
was Clifton Hines - attacked Henry once, and if it had not been
for the two men on the place he would have hurt him.
"Henry began to give him money. Clark had left the fifty thousand
for the boy with the idea that Henry should start him in business
with it. But he only turned up wild-cat schemes that Henry would
not listen to. He did not know how Henry got the money, or from
where. He thought for a long time that Henry had saved it.
"I'd better say here that Henry was fond of Clifton, although he
didn't approve of him. He'd never married, and the boy was like a
son to him for a good many years. He didn't have him at the
ranch much, however, for he was a Burgess through and through and
looked like them. And he was always afraid that somehow the story
would get out.
"Then Clifton learned, somehow or other, of Clark's legacy to
Henry, and he put two and two together. There was a bad time, but
Henry denied it and they went upstairs to bed. That night Clifton
broke into Henry's desk and found some letters from Elihu Clark
that told the story.
"He almost went crazy. He took the papers up to Henry's and
wakened him, standing over Henry with them in hand, and shaking
all over. I think they had a struggle, too. All Henry told me
was that he took them from him and them in the fire.
"That was a year before Henry died, and at the time young Jud
Clark's name was in all the newspapers. He had left college after
a wild career there, and although Elihu had tied up the property
until Jud was twenty-one, Jud had his mother's estate and a big
allowance. Then, too, he borrowed on his prospects, and he lost
a hundred thousand dollars at Monte Carlo within six weeks after
"One way and another he was always in the newspapers, and when he
saw how Jud was throwing money away Clifton went wild.
"As Henry had burned the letters he had no proofs. He didn't know
who his mother was, but he set to work to find out. He ferreted
into Elihu's past life, and he learned something about Hattie
Burgess, or Thorwald. She was married by that time, and lived on
a little ranch near Norada. He went to see her, and he accused
her downright of being his mother. It must have been a bad time
for her, for after all he was her son, and she had to disclaim him.
She had a husband and a boy by that husband, however, by that time,
and she was desperate. She threw him off the track somehow, lied
and talked him down, and then went to bed in collapse. She sent
for Henry later and told him.
"The queer thing was that as soon as she saw him she wanted him.
He was her son. She went to Henry one night, and said she had
perjured her soul, and that she wanted him back. She wasn't in
love with Thorwald. I think she'd always cared for Clark. She
went away finally, however, after promising Henry she would keep
Clark's secret. But I have a suspicion that later on she
acknowledged the truth to the boy.
"What he wanted, of course, was a share of the Clark estate. Of
course he hadn't a chance in law, but he saw a chance to blackmail
young Jud Clark and he tried it. Not personally, for he hadn't any
real courage, but by mail. Clark's attorneys wrote back saying
they would jail him if he tried it again, and he went back to Dry
River and after Henry again.
"That was in the spring of 1911. Henry was uneasy, for Clifton was
not like himself. He had spells of brooding, and he took to making
long trips on his horse into the mountains, and coming in with the
animal run to death. Henry thought, too, that he was seeing the
Thorwald woman, the mother. Thorwald had died, and she was living
with the son on their ranch and trying to sell it. He thought
Hines was trying to have her make a confession which would give him
a hold on Jud Clark.
"Henry was not well, and in the early fall he knew he hadn't long
to live. He wrote out the story and left it in his desk for me to
read after he had gone, and as he added to it from time to time,
when I got it it was almost up to date.
"Judson came back to the Clark ranch in September, bringing along
an actress named Beverly Carlysle, and her husband, Howard Lucas.
There was considerable talk, because it was known Jud had been
infatuated with the woman. But no one saw much of the party,
outside of the ranch. The Carlysle woman seemed to be a lady, but
the story was that both men were drinking a good bit, especially Jud.
"Henry wrote that Hines had been in the East for some months at
that time, and that he had not heard from him. But he felt that
it was only a truce, and that he would turn up again, hell bent
for trouble. He made a will and left the money to me, with
instructions to turn it over to Hines. It is still in the bank,
and amounts to about thirty-five thousand dollars. It is not mine,
and I will not touch it. But I have never located Clifton Hines.
"In the last entry in his record I call attention to my brother's
statement that he did not regard Clifton Hines as entirely sane on
this one matter, and to his conviction that the hatred Hines then
bore him, amounting to a delusion of persecution, might on his
death turn against Judson Clark. He instructed me to go to Clark,
tell him the story, and put him on his guard.
"Clark and his party had been at the ranch only a day or two when
one night Hines turned up at Dry River. He wanted the fifty
thousand, or what was left of it, and when he failed to move Henry
he attacked him. The two men on the place heard the noise and ran
in, but Hines got away. Henry swore them to secrecy, and told them
the story. He felt he might need help.
"From what the two men at the ranch told me when I got there, I
think Hines stayed somewhere in the mountains for the next day or
two, and that he came down for food the night Henry died.
"Just what he contributed to Henry's death I do not know. Henry
fell in one room, and was found in bed in another when the hands
had been taking the cattle to the winter range, and he'd been alone
in the house.
"When I got there the funeral was over. I read the letter he had
left, and then I talked to the two hands, Bill Ardary and Jake
Mazetti. They would not talk at first, but I showed them Henry's
record and then they were free enough. The autopsy had shown that
Henry died from heart disease, but he had a cut on his head also,
and they believed that Hines had come back, had quarreled with him
again, and had knocked him down.
"As Henry had in a way handed over to me his responsibility for the
boy, and as I wanted to transfer the money, I waited for three
weeks at the ranch, hoping he would turn up again. I saw the
Thorwald woman, but she protested that she did not know where he
was. And I made two attempts to see and warn Jud Clark, but failed
both times. Then one night the Thorwald woman came in, looking
like a ghost, and admitted that Hines had been hiding in the
mountains since Henry's death, that he insisted he had killed him,
and that he blamed Jud Clark for that, and for all the rest of his
troubles. She was afraid he would kill Clark. The three of us,
the two men at the ranch and myself, prepared to go into the
mountains and hunt for him, before he got snowed in.
"Then came the shooting at the Clark place, and I rode over that
night in a howling storm and helped the coroner and a Norada doctor
in the examination. All the evidence was against Clark, especially
his running away. But I happened on Hattie Thorwald outside on a
verandah - she'd been working at the house - and I didn't need any
conversation to tell me what she thought. All she said was:
"He didn't do it, doctor. He's still in the mountains."
"He's been here to-night, Hattie, and you know it. He shot the
"But she swore he hadn't been, and at the end I didn't know. I'll
say right now that I don't know. But I'll say, too, that I believe
that is what happened, and that Hines probably stayed hidden that
night on Hattie Thorwald's place. I went there the next day, but
she denied it all, and said he was still in the mountains. She
carried on about the blizzard and his being frozen to death, until
I began to think she was telling the truth.
"The next day I did what only a tenderfoot would do, started into
the mountains alone. Bill and Jake were out with a posse after
Clark, and I packed up some food and started. I'll not go into the
details of that trip. I went in from the Dry River Canyon, and I
guess I faced death a dozen times the first day. I had a map, but
I lost myself in six hours. I had food and blankets and an axe
along, and I built a shelter and stayed there overnight. I had to
cut up one of my blankets the next morning and tie up the horse's
feet, so he wouldn't sink too deep in the snow. But it stayed
cold and the snow hardened, and we got along better after that.
"I'd have turned back more than once, but I thought I'd meet up
with some of the Sheriff's party. I didn't do that, but I stumbled
on a trail on the third day, toward evening. It was the trail made
by John Donaldson, as I learned later. I followed it, but I
concluded after a while that whoever made it was lost, too. It
seemed to be going in a circle. I was in bad shape and had frozen
a part of my right hand, when I saw a cabin, and there was smoke
coming out of the chimney."
>From that time on David's statement dealt with the situation in the
cabin; with Jud Clark and the Donaldsons, and with the snow storm,
which began again and lasted for days. He spoke at length of his
discovery of Clark's identity, and of the fact that the boy had
lost all memory of what had happened, and even of who he was. He
went into that in detail; the peculiar effect of fear and mental
shock on a high-strung nature, especially where the physical
condition was lowered by excess and wrong-living; his early attempts,
as the boy improved, to pierce the veil, and then his slow-growing
conviction that it were an act of mercy not to do so. The
Donaldsons' faithfulness, the cessation of the search under the
conviction that Clark was dead, both were there, and also David's
growing liking for Judson himself. But David's own psychology was
interesting and clearly put.
"First of all," he dictated, in his careful old voice, "it must be
remembered that I was not certain that the boy had committed the
crime. I believed, and I still believe, that Lucas was shot by
Clifton Hines, probably through an open window. There were no
powder marks on the body. I believed, too, and still believe, that
Hines had fled after the crime, either to Hattie Thorwald's house
or to the mountains. In one case he had escaped and could not be
brought to justice, and in the other he was dead, and beyond
"But there is another element which I urge, not in defense but in
explanation. The boy Judson Clark was a new slate to write on.
He had never had a chance. He had had too much money, too much
liberty, too little responsibility. His errors had been wiped
away by the loss of his memory, and he had, I felt, a chance for a
new and useful life.
"I did not come to my decision quickly. It was a long fight for
his life, for he had contracted pneumonia, and he had the drinker's
heart. But in the long days of his convalescence while Maggie
worked in the lean-to, I had time to see what might be done. If
in making an experiment with a man's soul I usurped the authority
of my Lord and Master, I am sorry. But he knows that I did it for
"I deliberately built up for Judson Clark a new identity. He was
my nephew, my brother Henry's son. He had the traditions of an
honorable family to carry on, and those traditions were honor,
integrity, clean living and work. I did not stress love, for that I
felt must be experienced, not talked about. But love was to be the
foundation on which I built. The boy had had no love in his life.
"It has worked out. I may not live to see it at its fullest, but
I defy the world to produce today a finer or more honorable
gentleman, a more useful member of the community. And it will last.
The time may come when Judson Clark will again be Judson Clark. I
have expected it for many years. But he will never again be the
Judson Clark of ten years ago. He may even will to return to the
old reckless ways, but as I lie here, perhaps never to see him, I
say this: he cannot go back. His character and habits of thought
"To convict Judson Clark of the murder of Howard Lucas is to convict
a probably or at least possibly innocent man. To convict Richard
Livingstone of that crime is to convict a different man, innocent
of the crime, innocent of its memory, innocent of any single impulse
to lift his hand against a law of God or the state."
For a month Haverly had buzzed with whispered conjectures. It knew
nothing, and yet somehow it knew everything. Doctor David was ill
at the seashore, and Dick was not with him. Harrison Miller, who
was never known to depart farther from his comfortable hearth than
the railway station in one direction and the Sayre house in the
other, had made a trip East and was now in the far West. Doctor
Reynolds, who might or might not know something, had joined the
country club and sent for his golf bag.
And Elizabeth Wheeler was going around with a drawn white face and
a determined smile that faded the moment one looked away.
The village was hurt and suspicious. It resented its lack of
knowledge, and turned cynical where, had it been taken into
confidence, it would have been solicitous. It believed that
Elizabeth had been jilted, for it knew, via Annie and the
Oglethorpe's laundress, that no letters came from Dick. And
against Dick its indignation was directed, in a hot flame of
mainly feminine anger.
But it sensed a mystery, too, and if it hated a jilt it loved a
Nina had taken to going about with her small pointed chin held
high, and angrily she demanded that Elizabeth do the same.
"You know what they are saying, and yet you go about looking crushed."
"I can't act, Nina. I do go about."
And Nina had a softened moment.
"Don't think about him," she said. "He isn't sick, or he would
have had some one wire or write, and he isn't dead, or they'd have
found his papers and let us know."
"Then he's in some sort of trouble. I want to go out there. I
want to go out there!"
That, indeed, had been her constant cry for the last two weeks.
She would have done it probably, packed her bag and slipped away,
but she had no money of her own, and even Leslie, to whom she
appealed, had refused her when he knew her purpose.
"We're following him up, little sister," he said. "Harrison Miller
has gone out, and there's enough talk as it is."
She thought, lying in her bed at night, that they were all too
afraid of what people might say. It seemed so unimportant to her.
And she could not understand the conspiracy of silence. Other men
went away and were not heard from, and the police were notified and
the papers told. It seemed to her, too, that every one, her father
and Nina and Leslie and even Harrison Miller, knew more than she did.
There had been that long conference behind closed doors, when
Harrison Miller came back from seeing David, and before he went
west. Leslie had been there, and even Doctor Reynolds, but they
had shut her out. And her father had not been the same since.
He seemed, sometimes, to be burning with a sort of inner anger.
Not at her, however. He was very gentle with her.
And here was a curious thing. She had always felt that she knew
when Dick was thinking of her. All at once, and without any warning,
there would come a glow of happiness and warmth, and a sort of
surrounding and encircling sense of protection. Rather like what
she had felt as a little girl when she had run home through the
terrors of twilight, and closed the house door behind her. She was
in the warm and lighted house, safe and cared for.
That was completely gone. It was as though the warm and lighted
house of her love had turned her out and locked the door, and she
was alone outside, cold and frightened.
She avoided the village, and from a sense of delicacy it left her
alone. The small gaieties of the summer were on, dinners, dances
and picnics, but her mourning made her absence inconspicuous. She
could not, however, avoid Mrs. Sayre. She tried to, at first, but
that lady's insistence and her own apathy made it easier to accept
than to refuse. Then, after a time, she found the house rather a
refuge. She seldom saw Wallie, and she found her hostess tactful,
kindly and uninquisitive.
"Take the scissors and a basket, child, and cut your mother some
roses," she would say. Or they would loot the green houses and,
going in the car to the cemetery, make of Jim's grave a thing of
beauty and remembrance.
Now and then, of course, she saw Wallie, but he never reverted to
the day she had told him of her engagement. Mother and son, she
began to feel that only with them could she be herself. For the
village, her chin high as Nina had said. At home, assumed
cheerfulness. Only at the house on the hill could she drop her pose.
She waited with a sort of desperate courage for word from Harrison
Miller. What she wanted that word to be she did not know. There
were, of course, times when she had to face the possibility that
Dick had deliberately cut himself off from her. After all, there
had never been any real reason why he should care for her. She was
not clever and not beautiful. Perhaps he had been disappointed in
her, and this was the thing they were concealing. Perhaps he had
gone back to Wyoming and had there found some one more worthy of
im, some one who understood when he talked about the things he did
in his laboratory, and did not just sit and listen with loving,
rather bewildered eyes.
Then, one night at dinner, a telegram was brought in, and she knew
it was the expected word. She felt her mother's eyes on her, and
she sat very still with her hands clenched in her lap. But her
father did not read it at the table; he got up and went out, and
some time later he came to the door. The telegram was not in sight.
"That was from Harrison Miller," he said. "He has traced Dick to
a hotel at Norada, but he had left the hotel, and he hasn't got in
touch with him yet."
He went away then, and they heard the house door close.
Then, some days later, she learned that Harrison Miller was coming
home, and that David was being brought back. She saw that telegram
from Mr. Miller, and read into it failure and discouragement, and
something more ominous than
"Reach home Tuesday night. Nothing definite. Think safe."
"Think safe?" she asked, breathlessly. "Then he has been in danger?
What are you keeping from me?" And when no one spoke: "Oh, don't
you see how cruel it is? You are all trying to protect me, and you
are killing me instead."
"Not danger," her father said, slowly. "So far as we know, he is
well. Is all right." And seeing her face: "It is nothing that
affects his feeling for you, dear. He is thinking of you and loving
you, wherever he is. Only, we don't know where he is."
But when he came back on Tuesday, after seeing Harrison Miller, he
was discouraged and sick at heart. He went directly upstairs to
his wife, and shut the bedroom door.
"Not a trace," he said, in reply to the question in her eyes. "The
situation is as he outlined it in the letter. He elaborated, of
course. The fact is, and David will have to see it, that that
statement of his doesn't help at all, unless he can prove there is
a Clifton Hines. And even then it's all supposition. There's a
strong sentiment out there that Dick either killed himself or met
with an accident and died in the mountains. The horse wandered
into town last week. I'll have to tell her."
Over this possibility they faced each other, a tragic middle-aged
pair, helpless as is the way of middle-age before the attacks of
life on their young.
"It will kill her, Walter."
"She's young," he said sturdily. "She'll get over it."
But he did not think so, and she knew it.
"There is a rather queer element in it," he observed, after a time.
"Another man, named Bassett, disappeared the same night. His stuff
is at the hotel, but no papers to identify him. He had looked after
Dick that day when he was sick, and he simply vanished. He didn't
take the train. He was under suspicion for being with Dick, and
the station was being watched." But she was not interested in
Bassett. The name meant nothing to her. She harked back to the
question that had been in both their minds since they had read, in
stupefied amazement, David's statement.
"In a way, Walter, it would be better, if he..."
"My little girl, and - Judson Clark!"
But he fought that sturdily. They had ten years of knowledge and
respect to build on. The past was past. All he prayed for was
Dick's return, an end to this long waiting. There would be no
reservations in his welcome, if only -
Some time later he went downstairs, to where Elizabeth sat waiting
in the library. He went like a man to his execution, and his
resolution nearly gave way when he saw her, small in her big chair
and pathetically patient. He told her the story as guardedly as
he could. He began with Dick's story to him, about his forgotten
youth, and went on carefully to Dick's own feeling that he must
clear up that past before he married. She followed him carefully,
bewildered a little and very tense.
"But why didn't he tell me?"
"He saw it as a sort of weakness. He meant to when he came back."
He fought Dick's fight for him valiantly, stressing certain points
that were to prepare her for others to come. He plunged, indeed,
rather recklessly into the psychology of the situation, and only
got out of the unconscious mind with an effort. But behind it all
was his overwhelming desire to save her pain.
"You must remember," he said, "that Dick's life before this
happened, and since, are two different things. Whatever he did
then should not count against him now."
"Of course not," she said. "Then he - had done something?"
"Yes. Something that brought him into conflict with the authorities."
She did not shrink from that, and he was encouraged to go on.
"He was young then, remember. Only twenty-one or so. And there
was a quarrel with another man. The other man was shot."
"You mean Dick shot him?"
"Yes. You understand, don't you," he added anxiously, "that he
doesn't remember doing it?"
In spite of his anxiety he was forced to marvel at the sublime
faith with which she made her comment, through lips that had
"Then it was either an accident, or he deserved shooting," she said.
But she inquired, he thought with difficulty, "Did he die?"
He could not lie to her. "Yes," he said.
She closed her eyes, but a moment later she was fighting her valiant
fight again for Dick.
"But they let him go," she protested. "Men do shoot in the West,
don't they? There must have been a reason for it. You know Dick
as well as I do. He couldn't do a wrong thing."
He let that pass. "Nothing was done about it at the time," he said.
"And Dick came here and lived his useful life among us. He wouldn't
have known the man's name if he heard it. But do you see,
sweetheart, where this is taking us? He went back, and they tried
to get him, for a thing he didn't remember doing."
"Father!" she said, and went very white. "Is that where he is?
He tried to steady his voice.
"No, dear. He escaped into the mountains. But you can understand
his silence. You can understand, too, that he may feel he cannot
come back to us, with this thing hanging over him. What we have to
do now is to find him, and to tell him that it makes no difference.
That he has his place in the world waiting for him, and that we are
When it was all over, her questions and his sometimes stumbling
replies, he saw that out of it all the one thing that mattered
vitally to her was that Dick was only a fugitive, and not dead.
But she said, just before they went, arm in arm, up the stairs:
"It is queer in one way, father. It isn't like him to run away."
He told Margaret, later, and she listened carefully.
"Then you didn't tell her about the woman in the case?"
"Certainly not. Why should I?"
Mrs. Wheeler looked at him, with the eternal surprise of woman at
the lack of masculine understanding.
"Because, whether you think it or not, she will resent and hate
that as she hates nothing else. Murder will be nothing, to that.
And she will have to know it some time."
He pondered her fiat statement unhappily, standing by the window
and looking out into the shaded street, and a man who had been
standing, cigar in mouth, on a pavement across withdrew into the
shadow of a tree box.
"It's all a puzzle to me," he said, at last. "God alone knows how
it will turn out. Harrison Miller seems to think this Bassett,
whoever he is, could tell us something. I don't know."
He drew the shade and wound his watch. "I don't know," he repeated.
Outside, on the street, the man with the cigar struck a match and
looked at his watch. Then he walked briskly toward the railway
station. A half hour later he walked into the offices of the
Times-Republican and to the night editor's desk.
"Hello, Bassett," said that gentleman. "We thought you were dead.
Well, how about the sister in California? It was the Clark story,
"Yes," said Bassett, noncommittally.
"And it blew up on you! Well, there were others who were fooled,
too. You had a holiday, anyhow."
"Yes, I had a holiday," said Bassett, and going over to his own
desk began to sort his vast accumulation of mail. Sometime later
he found the night editor at his elbow.
"Did you get anything on the Clark business at all?" he asked.
"Williams thinks there's a page in it for Sunday, anyhow. You've
been on the ground, and there's a human interest element in it. The
last man who talked to Clark; the ranch to-day. That sort of thing."
Bassett went on doggedly sorting his mail.
"You take it from me," he said, "the story's dead, and so is Clark.
The Donaldson woman was crazy. That's all."
David was brought home the next day, a shrivelled and aged David,
but with a fighting fire in his eyes and a careful smile at the
station for the group of friends who met him.
David had decided on a course and meant to follow it. That course
was to protect Dick's name, and to keep the place he had made in
the world open for him. Not even to Lucy had he yet breathed the
terror that was with him day and night, that Dick had reached the
breaking point and had gone back. But he knew it was possible.
Lauler had warned him against shocks and trouble, and looking back
David could see the gradually accumulating pressure against that
mental wall of Dick's subconscious building; overwork and David's
illness, his love affair and Jim Wheeler's tragedy, and coming on
top of that, in some way he had not yet learned, the knowledge that
he was Judson Clark and a fugitive from the law. The work of ten
years perhaps undone.
Both David and Lucy found the home-coming painful. Harrison Miller
rode up with them from the station, and between him and Doctor
Reynolds David walked into his house and was assisted up the stairs.
At the door of Dick's room he stopped and looked in, and then went
on, his face set and rigid. He would not go to bed, but sat in his
chair while about him went on the bustle of the return, the bringing
up of trunks and bags; but the careful smile was gone, and his
throat, now so much too thin for his collar, worked convulsively.
He had got Harrison Miller's narrative from him on the way from the
station, and it had only confirmed his suspicions.
"He had been in a stupor all day," Miller related, "and was being
cared for by a man named Bassett. I daresay that's the man Gregory
had referred to. He may have become suspicous of Bassett. I don't
know. But a chambermaid recognized him as he was making his escape,
and raised an alarm. He got a horse out of the courtyard of the
hotel, and not a sign of him has been found since."
"It wasn't Bassett who raised the alarm?"
"No, apparently not. The odd thing is that this Bassett disappeared,
too, the same night. I called up his paper yesterday, but he hasn't
And with some small amplifications, that is all there was to it.
Before Harrison Miller and Doctor Reynolds left him to rest, David
called Lucy in, and put his plea to all of them.
"It is my hope," he said, "to carry on exactly as though Dick might
walk in to-morrow and take his place again. As I hold to my belief
in God, so I hold to my conviction that he will come back, and that
before I - before long. But our friends will be asking where he is
and what he is doing, and we would better agree on that beforehand.
What we'd better say is simply that Dick was called away on business
connected with some property in the West. They may not believe it,
but they'll hardly disprove it."
So the benevolent conspiracy to protect Dick Livingstone's name was
arranged, and from that time on the four of them who were a party
to it turned to the outside world an unbroken front of loyalty and
courage. Even to Minnie, anxious and red-eyed in her kitchen, Lucy
gave the same explanation while she arranged David's tray.
"He has been detained in the West on business," Lucy said.
"He might have sent me a postcard. And he hasn't written Doctor
Reynolds at all."
"He has been very busy. Get the sugar bowl, Minnie. He'll be back
soon, I'm sure."
But Minnie did not immediately move.
"He'd better come soon if he wants to see Doctor David," she said,
with twitching lips. "And I'll just say this, Mrs. Crosby. The
talk that's going on in this town is something awful."
"I don't want to hear it," Lucy said firmly.
She ate alone, painfully remembering that last gay little feast
before they started away. But before she sat down she did a touching
thing. She rang the bell and called Minnie.
"After this, Minnie," she said, "we will always set Doctor Richard's
place. Then, when he comes - "
Her voice broke and Minnie, scenting a tragedy but ignorant of it,
went back to her kitchen to cry into the roller towel. Her world
was gone to pieces. By years of service to the one family she had
no other world, no home, no ties. She was with the Livingstones, but
not one of them. Alone in her kitchen she felt lonely and cut off.
She thought that David, had he not been ill, would have told her.
Lucy found David moving about upstairs some time later, and when
she went up she found him sitting in Dick's room, on a stiff chair
inside the door. She stood beside him and put her hand on his
shoulder, but he did not say anything, and she went away.
That night David had a caller. All evening the bell had been
ringing, and the little card tray on the hatrack was filled with
visiting cards. There were gifts, too, flowers and jellies and
some squab from Mrs. Sayre. Lucy had seen no one, excusing
herself on the ground of fatigue, but the man who came at nine
o'clock was not inclined to be turned away.
"You take this card up to Doctor Liviugstone, anyhow," he said.
He wrote in pencil on the card, placing it against the door post to
do so, and passed it to Minnie. She calmly read it, and rather
defiantly carried it off. But she came down quickly, touched by
some contagion of expectation from the room upstairs.
"Hang your hat on the rack and go on up."
So it was that David and the reporter met, for the first time, in
David's old fashioned chamber, with its walnut bed and the dresser
with the marble top, and Dick's picture in his uniform on the mantle.
Bassett was shocked at the sight of David, shocked and alarmed. He
was uncertain at first as to the wisdom of telling his startling
story to an obviously sick man, but David's first words reassured him.
"Come in," he said. "You are the Bassett who was with Doctor
Livingstone at Norada?"
"Yes. I see you know about it."
"We know something, not everything." Suddenly David's pose deserted
him. He got up and stood very straight, searching eyes on his
visitor. "Is he living?" he asked, in a low voice.
"I think so. I'm not certain."
"Then you don't know where he is?"
"No. He got away - but you know that. Sit down, doctor. I've got
a long story to tell."
"I'll get you to call my sister first," David said. "And tell her
to get Harrison Miller. Mr. Miller is our neighbor, and he very
kindly went west when my health did not permit me to go."
While they waited David asked only one question.
"The report we have had is that he was in a stupor in the hotel,
and the doctor who saw him - you got him, I think - said he appeared
to have been drinking heavily. Is that true? He was not a
"I am quite sure he had not."
There was another question in David's mind, but he did not put it.
He sat, with the patience of his age and his new infirmity, waiting
for Lucy to bring Harrison Miller, and had it not been for the
trembling of his hands Bassett would have thought him calm and even
During the recital that followed somewhat later David did not move.
He sat silent, his eyes closed, his face set.
"That's about all," Bassett finished. "He had been perfectly clear
in his head all day, and it took headwork to get over the pass. But,
as I say, he had simply dropped ten years, and was back to the Lucas
trouble. I tried everything I knew, used your name and would have
used the young lady's, because sometimes that sort of thing strikes
pretty deep, but I didn't know it. He was convinced after a while,
but he was dazed, of course. He knew it, that is, but he couldn't
"I was done up, and I've cursed myself for it since, but I must
have slept like the dead. I wakened once, early in the night, and
he was still sitting by the fire, staring at it. I've forgotten
to say that he had been determined all day to go back and give
himself up, and the only way I prevented it was by telling him
what a blow it would be to you and to the girl. I wakened once
and said to him, 'Better get some sleep, old man.' He did not
answer at once, and then he said, 'All right.' I was dozing off
when he spoke again. He said, 'Where is Beverly Carlysle now?
Has she married again?' 'She's revived "The Valley," and she's
in New York with it,' I told him.
"When I wakened in the morning he was gone, but he'd left a piece
of paper in a cleft stick beside me, with directions for reaching
the railroad, and - well, here it is."
Bassett took from his pocket-book a note, and passed it over to
David, who got out his spectacles with shaking hands and read it.
It was on Dick's prescription paper, with his name at the top and
the familiar Rx below it. David read it aloud, his voice husky.
"Many thanks for everything, Bassett," he read. "I don't like to
leave you, but you'll get out all right if you follow the map on
the back of this. I've had all night to think things out, and I'm
leaving you because you are safer without me. I realize now what
you've known all day and kept from me. That woman at the hotel
recognized me, and they are after me.
"I can't make up my mind what to do. Ultimately I think I'll go
back and give myself up. I am a dead man, anyhow, to all who might
have cared, but I've got to do one or two things first, and I want
to think things over. One thing you've got a right to know. I
hated Lucas, but it never entered my head to kill him. How it
happened God only knows. I don't."
It was signed "J. C."
Bassett broke the silence that followed the reading.
"I made every effort to find him. I had to work alone, you
understand, and from the west side of the range, not to arouse
suspicion. They were after me, too, you know. His horse, I heard,
worked its way back a few days ago. It's a forsaken country, and
if he lost his horse he was in it on foot and without food. Of
course there's a chance - "
His voice trailed off. In the stillness David sat, touching with
tender tremulous fingers what might be Dick's last message, and
gazing at the picture of Dick in his uniform. He knew what they
all thought, that Dick was dead and that he held his final words
in his hands, but his militant old spirit refused to accept that
silent verdict. Dick might be dead to them, but he was living.
He looked around the room defiantly, resentfully. Of all of them
he was the only one to have faith, and he was bound to a chair.
He knew them. They would sit down supinely and grieve, while time
passed and Dick fought his battle alone.
No, by God, he would not be bound to a chair. He raised himself
and stood, swaying on his shaking legs.
"You've given up," he said scornfully. "You make a few days'
search, and then you quit. It's easy to say he's dead, and so you
say he's dead. I'm going out there myself, and I'll make a search - "
He collapsed into the chair again, and looked at them with shamed,
appealing eyes. Bassett was the first to break the silence, speaking
in a carefully emotionless tone.
"I haven't given up for a minute. I've given up the search, because
he's beyond finding just now. Either he's got away, or he is - well,
beyond help. We have to go on the hypothesis that he got away, and
in that case sooner or later you'll hear from him. He's bound to
remember you in time. The worst thing is this charge against him."
"He never killed Howard Lucas," David said, in a tone of conviction.
"Harrison, read Mr. Bassett my statement to you."
Bassett took the statement home with him that night, and studied it
carefully. It explained a great deal that had puzzled him before;
Mrs. Wasson's story and David's arrival at the mountain cabin. But
most of all it explained why the Thorwald woman had sent him after
Dick. She knew then, in spite of her protests to David, that Jud
Clark had not killed Lucas.
He paced the floor for an hour or two, sunk in thought, and then
unlocked a desk drawer and took out his bankbook. He had saved a
little money. Not much, but it would carry him over if he couldn't
get another leave of absence. He thought, as he put the book away
and prepared for bed, that it was a small price to pay for finding
Clifton Hines and saving his own soul.
Dick had written his note, and placed it where Bassett would be
certain to see it. Then he found his horse and led him for the
first half mile or so of level ground before the trail began to
descend. He mounted there, for he knew the animal could find its
way in the darkness where he could not.
He felt no weariness and no hunger, although he had neither slept
nor eaten for thirty-odd hours, and as contrasted with the night
before his head was clear. He was able to start a train of thought
and to follow it through consecutively for the first time in hours.
Thought, however, was easier than realization, and to add to his
perplexity, he struggled to place Bassett and failed entirely. He
remained a mysterious and incomprehensible figure, beginning and
ending with the trail.
Then he had an odd thought, that brought him up standing. He had
only Bassett's word for the story. Perhaps Bassett was lying to
him, or mad. He rode on after a moment, considering that, but
there was something, not in Bassett's circumstantial narrative but
in himself, that refused to accept that loophole of escape. He
could not have told what it was.
And, with his increasing clarity, he began to make out the case for
Bassett and against himself; the unfamiliar clothing he wore, the
pad with the name of Livingstone on it and the sign Rx the other
contents of his pockets.
He tried to orient himself in Bassett's story. A doctor. The
devil's irony of it! Some poor hack, losing sleep and bringing
babies. Peddling pills. Leading what Bassett had called a life
of usefulness! That was a career for you, a pill peddler. God!
But underlying all his surface thinking was still the need of
flight, and he was continually confusing it with the earlier one.
One moment he was looking about for the snow of that earlier escape,
and the next he would remember, and the sense of panic would leave
him. After all he meant to surrender eventually. It did not matter
if they caught him.
But, like the sense of flight, there was something else in his mind,
something that he fought down and would not face. When it came up
he thrust it back fiercely. That something was the figure of Beverly
Carlysle, stooping over her husband's body. He would have died to
save her pain, and yet last night - no, it wasn't last night. It was
years and years ago, and all this time she had hated him.
It was unbearable that she had gone on hating him, all this time.
He was very thirsty, and water did not satisfy him. He wanted a
real drink. He wanted alcohol. Suddenly he wanted all the liquor
in the world. The craving came on at dawn, and after that he kicked
his weary horse on recklessly, so that it rocked and stumbled down
the trail. He had only one thought after the frenzy seized him,
and that was to get to civilization and whisky. It was as though
he saw in drunkenness his only escape from the unbearable. In all
probability he would have killed both his horse and himself in the
grip of that sudden madness, but deliverance came in the shape of a
casual rider, a stranger who for a moment took up the shuttle, wove
his bit of the pattern and passed on, to use his blow-pipe, his
spirit lamp and his chemicals in some prospector's paradise among
When Dick heard somewhere ahead the creaking of saddle leather and
the rattle of harness he drew aside on the trail and waited. He
had lost all caution in the grip of his craving, and all fear. A
line of loaded burros rounded a point ahead and came toward him,
picking their way delicately with small deliberate feet and walking
on the outer edge of the trail, after the way of pack animals the
world over. Behind them was a horseman, rifle in the scabbard on
his saddle and spurs jingling. Dick watched him with thirsty,
feverish eyes as he drew near. He could hardly wait to put his
"Happen to have a drink about you, partner?" he called.
The man stopped his horse and grinned.
"Pretty early in the morning for a drink, isn't it?" he inquired.
Then he saw Dick's eyes, and reached reluctantly into his saddle
bag. "I've got a quart here," he said. "I've traveled forty miles
and spent nine dollars to get it, but I guess you need some."
"You wouldn't care to sell it, I suppose?"
"The bottle? Not on your life."
He untied a tin cup from his saddle and carefully poured a fair
amount into it, steadying the horse the while.
"Here," he said, and passed it over. "But you'd better cut it out
after this. It's bad medicine. You've got two good drinks there.
Dick took the cup and looked at the liquor. The odor assailed him,
and for a queer moment he felt a sudden distaste for it. He had a
revulsion that almost shook him. But he drank it down and passed
the cup back.
"You've traveled a long way for it," he said, "and I needed it, I
guess. If you'll let me pay for it - "
"Forget it," said the man amiably, and started his horse. "But
better cut it out, first chance you get. It's bad medicine."
He rode on after his vanishing pack, and Dick took up the trail
again. But before long he began to feel sick and dizzy. The
aftertaste of the liquor in his mouth nauseated him. The craving
had been mental habit, not physical need, and his body fought the
poison rebelliously. After a time the sickness passed, and he
slept in the saddle. He roused once, enough to know that the horse
had left the trail and was grazing in a green meadow. Still
overcome with his first real sleep he tumbled out of the saddle and
stretched himself out on the ground. He slept all day, lying out
in the burning sun, his face upturned to the sky.
When he wakened it was twilight, and the horse had disappeared.
His face burned from the sun, and his head ached violently. He
was weak, too, from hunger, and the morning's dizziness persisted.
Connected thought was impossible, beyond the fact that if he did
not get out soon, he would be too weak to travel. Exhausted and
on the verge of sunstroke, he set out on foot to find the trail.
He traveled all night, and the dawn found him still moving, a mere
automaton of a man, haggard and shambling, no longer willing his
progress, but somehow incredibly advancing. He found water and
drank it, fell, got up, and still, right foot, left foot, he went
on. Some time during that advance he had found a trail, and he
kept to it automatically. He felt no surprise and no relief when
he saw a cabin in a clearing and a woman in the doorway, watching
him with curious eyes. He pulled himself together and made a final
effort, but without much interest in the result.
"I wonder if you could give me some food?" he said. "I have lost
my horse and I've been wandering all night."
"I guess I can," she replied, not unamiably. "You look as though
you need it, and a wash, too. There's a basin and a pail of water
on that bench."
But when she came out later to call him to breakfast she found
him sitting on the bench and the pail overturned on the ground.
"I'm sorry," he said, dully, "I tried to lift it, but I'm about
"You'd better come in. I've made some coffee."
He could not rise. He could not even raise his hands.
She called her husband from where he was chopping wood off in the
trees, and together they got him into the house. It was days
before he so much as spoke again.
So it happened that the search went on. Wilkins from the east of
the range, and Bassett from the west, hunted at first with furious
energy, then spasmodically, then not at all, while Dick lay in a
mountain cabin, on the bed made of young trees, and for the second
time in his life watched a woman moving in a lean-to kitchen, and
was fed by a woman's hand.
He forced himself to think of this small panorama of life that
moved before him, rather than of himself. The woman was young, and
pretty in a slovenly way. The man was much older, and silent. He
was of better class than the woman, and underlying his assumption
of crudity there were occasional outcroppings of some cultural
background. Not then, nor at any subsequent time, did he learn the
story, if story there was. He began to see them, however, not so
much pioneers as refugees. The cabin was, he thought, a haven to
the man and a prison to the woman.
But they were uniformly kind to him, and for weeks he stayed there,
slowly readjusting. In his early convalescence he would sit paring
potatoes or watching a cooking pot for her. As he gained in
strength he cut a little firewood. Always he sought something to
keep him from thinking.
Two incidents always stood out afterwards in his memory of the
cabin. One was the first time he saw himself in a mirror. He
knew by that time that Bassett's story had been true, and that he
was ten years older than he remembered himself to be. He thought
he was in a measure prepared. But he saw in the glass a man whose
face was lined and whose hair was streaked with gray. The fact
that his beard had grown added to the terrible maturity of the
reflection he saw, and he sent the mirror clattering to the ground.
The other incident was later, and when he was fairly strong again.
The man was caught under a tree he was felling, and badly hurt.
During the hour or so that followed, getting the tree cut away,
and moving the injured man to the cabin on a wood sledge, Dick
had the feeling of helplessness of any layman in an accident. He
was solicitous but clumsy. But when they had got the patient into
his bed, quite automatically he found himself making an
investigation and pronouncing a verdict.
Later he was to realize that this was the first peak of submerged
memory, rising above the flood. At the time all he felt was a great
certainty. He must act quickly or the man would not live. And
that night, with such instruments as he could extemporize, he
operated. There was no time to send to a town.
All night, after the operation, Dick watched by the bedside, the
woman moving back and forth restlessly. He got his only knowledge
of the story, such as it was, then when she said once:
"I deserved this, but he didn't. I took him away from his wife."
He had to stay on after that, for the woman could not be left
alone. And he was glad of the respite, willing to drift until he
got his bearings. Certain things had come back, more as pictures
than realities. Thus he saw David clearly, Lucy dimly, Elizabeth
not at all. But David came first; David in the buggy with the
sagging springs, David's loud voice and portly figure, David, steady
and upright and gentle as a woman. But there was something wrong
about David. He puzzled over that, but he was learning not to try
to force things, to let them come to the surface themselves.
It was two or three days later that he remembered that David was
ill, and was filled with a sickening remorse and anxiety. For the
first time he made plans to get away, for whatever happened after
that he knew he must see David again. But all his thought led him
to an impasse at that time, and that impasse was the feeling that
he was a criminal and a fugitive, and that he had no right to tie
up innocent lives with his. Even a letter to David might
Coupled with his determination to surrender, the idea of atonement
was strong in him. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
That had been his father's belief, and well he remembered it. But
during the drifting period he thrust it back, into that painful
niche where he held Beverly, and the thing he would not face.
That phase of his readjustment, then, when he reached it, was
painful and confused. There was the necessity for atonement,
which involved surrender, and there was the call of David, and the
insistent desire to see Beverly again, which was the thing he
would not face. Of the three, the last, mixed up as it was with
the murder and its expiation, was the strongest. For by the very
freshness of his released memories, it was the days before his
flight from the ranch that seemed most recent, and his life with
David that was long ago, and blurred in its details as by the
passing of infinite time.
When Elizabeth finally came back to him it was as something very
gentle and remote, out of the long-forgotten past. Even his image
of her was blurred and shadowy. He could not hear the tones of her
voice, or remember anything she had said. He could never bring her
at will, as he could David, for instance. She only came clearly
at night, while he slept. Then the guard was down, and there crept
into his dreams a small figure, infinitely loving and tender; but
as he roused from sleep she changed gradually into Beverly. It
was Beverly's arms he felt around his neck. Nevertheless he held
to Elizabeth more completely than he knew, for the one thing that
emerged from his misty recollection of her was that she cared for
him. In a world of hate and bitterness she cared.
But she was never real to him, as the other woman was real. And
he knew that she was lost to him, as David was lost. He could
never go back to either of them.
As time went on he reached the point of making practical plans.
He had lost his pocketbook somewhere, probably during his
wanderings afoot, and he had no money. He knew that the obvious
course was to go to the nearest settlement and surrender himself
and he played with the thought, but even as he did so he knew that
he would not do it. Surrender he would, eventually, but before he
did that he would satisfy a craving that was in some ways like his
desire for liquor that morning on the trail. A reckless, mad, and
irresistible impulse to see Beverly Lucas again.
In August he started for the railroad, going on foot and without
money, his immediate destination the harvest fields of some distant
ranch, his object to earn his train fare to New York.
The summer passed slowly. To David and Elizabeth it was a long
waiting, but with this difference, that David was kept alive by
hope, and that Elizabeth felt sometimes that hope was killing her.
To David each day was a new day, and might hold Dick. To Elizabeth,
after a time, each day was but one more of separation.
Doctor Reynolds had become a fixture in the old house, but he was
not like Dick. He was a heavy, silent young man, shy of intruding
into the family life and already engrossed in a budding affair with
the Rossiter girl. David tolerated him, but with a sort of
smouldering jealousy increased by the fact that he had introduced
innovations David resented; had for instance moved Dick's desk
nearer the window, and instead of doing his own laboratory work
had what David considered a damnably lazy fashion of sending his
little tubes, carefully closed with cotton, to a hospital in town.
David found the days very long and infinitely sad. He wakened
each morning to renewed hope, watched for the postman from his
upper window, and for Lucy's step on the stairs with the mail.
His first glimpse of her always told him the story. At the
beginning he had insisted on talking about Dick, but he saw that
it hurt her, and of late they had fallen into the habit of long
The determination to live on until that return which he never ceased
to expect only carried him so far, however. He felt no incentive to
activity. There were times when he tried Lucy sorely, when she felt
that if he would only move about, go downstairs and attend to his
office practice, get out into the sun and air, he would grow
stronger. But there were times, too, when she felt that only the
will to live was carrying him on.
Nothing further had developed, So tar as they knew. The search had
been abandoned. Lucy was no longer so sure as she had been that
the house was under surveillance, against Dick's possible return.
Often she lay in her bed and faced the conviction that Dick was
dead. She had never understood the talk that at first had gone on
about her, when Bassett and Harrison Miller, and once or twice the
psycho-analyst David had consulted in town, had got together in
David's bedroom. The mind was the mind, and Dick was Dick. This
thing about habit, over which David pored at night when he should
have been sleeping, or brought her in to listen to, with an air of
triumphant vindication, meant nothing to her.
A man properly trained in right habits of thinking and of action
could not think wrong and go wrong, David argued. He even went
further. He said that love was a habit, and that love would bring
Dick back to him. That he could not forget them.
She believed that, of course, if he still lived. But hadn't Mr.
Bassett, who seemed so curiously mixed in the affair, been out
again to Norada without result? No, it was all over, and she felt
that it would be a comfort to know where he lay, and to bring him
back to some well-loved and tended grave.
Elizabeth came often to see them. She looked much the same as ever,
although she was very slender and her smile rather strained, and
she and David would have long talks together. She always felt
rather like an empty vessel when she went in, but David filled her
with hope and sent her away cheered and visibly brighter to her
long waiting. She rather avoided Lucy, for Lucy's fears lay in her
face and were like a shadow over her spirit. She came across her
one day putting Dick's clothing away in camphor, and the act took
on an air of finality that almost crushed her.
So far they had kept from her Dick's real identity, but certain
things they had told her. She knew that he had gone back, in some
strange way, to the years before he came to Haverly, and that he
had temporarily forgotten everything since. But they had told her
too, and seemed to believe themselves, that it was only temporary.
At first the thought had been more than she could bear. But she
had to live her life, and in such a way as to hide her fears.
Perhaps it was good for her, the necessity of putting up a bold
front, to join the conspiracy that was to hold Dick's place in the
world against the hope of his return. And she still went to the
Sayre house, sure that there at least there would be no curious
glances, no too casual questions. She could not be sure of that
even at home, for Nina was constantly conjecturing.
"I sometimes wonder-" Nina began one day, and stopped.
"Oh, well, I suppose I might as well go on. Do you ever think that
if Dick had gone back, as they say he has, that there might be
"Another girl, you mean?"
"Yes. Some one he knew before."
Nina was watching her. Sometimes she almost burst with the drama
she was suppressing. She had been a small girl when Judson Clark
had disappeared, but even at twelve she had known something of the
story. She wanted frantically to go about the village and say to
them: "Do you know who has been living here, whom you used to
patronize? Judson Clark, one of the richest men in the world!"
She built day dreams on that foundation. He would come back, for
of course he would be found and acquitted, and buy the Sayre place
perhaps, or build a much larger one, and they would all go to
Europe in his yacht. But she knew now that the woman Leslie had
sent his flowers to had loomed large in Dick's past, and she both
hated and feared her. Not content with having given her, Nina,
some bad hours, she saw the woman now possibly blocking her
ambitions for Elizabeth.
"What I'm getting at is this," she said, examining her polished
nails critically. "If it does turn out that there was somebody,
you'd have to remember that it was all years and years ago, and
"I only want him back," Elizabeth said. "I don't care how he comes,
so he comes."
Louis Bassett had become a familiar figure in the village life by
that time. David depended on him with a sort of wistful confidence
that set him to grinding his teeth occasionally in a fury at his
own helplessness. And, as the extent of the disaster developed,
as he saw David failing and Lucy ageing, and when in time he met
Elizabeth, the feeling of his own guilt was intensified.
He spent hours studying the case, and he was chiefly instrumental
in sending Harrison Miller back to Norada in September. He had
struck up a friendship with Miller over their common cause, and
the night he was to depart that small inner group which was fighting
David's battle for him formed a board of strategy in Harrison's
tidy living-room; Walter Wheeler and Bassett, Miller and, tardily
taken into their confidence, Doctor Reynolds.
The same group met him on his return, sat around with expectant
faces while he got out his tobacco and laid a sheaf of papers on
the table, and waited while their envoy, laying Bassett's map on
the table, proceeded carefully to draw in a continuation of the
trail beyond the pass, some sketchy mountains, and a small square.
"I've got something," he said at last. "Not much, but enough to
work on. Here's where you lost him, Bassett." He pointed with his
pencil. "He went on for a while on the horse. Then somehow he must
have lost the horse, for he turned up on foot, date unknown, in a
state of exhaustion at a cabin that lies here. I got lost myself,
or I'd never have found the place. He was sick there for weeks, and
he seems to have stayed on quite a while after he recovered, as
though he couldn't decide what to do next."
Walter Wheeler stirred and looked up.
"What sort of condition was he in when he left?"
"Very good, they said."
"You're sure it was Livingstone?"
"The man there had a tree fall on him. He operated. I guess that's
He considered the situation.
"It's the answer to more than that," Reynolds said slowly. "It
shows he had come back to himself. If he hadn't he couldn't have
"And after that?" some one asked.
"I lost him. He left to hike to the railroad, and he said nothing
of his plans. If I'd been able to make open inquiries I might
have turned up something, but I couldn't. It's a hard proposition.
I had trouble finding Hattie Thorwald, too. She'd left the hotel,
and is living with her son. She swears she doesn't know where
Clifton Hines is, and hasn't seen him for years."
Bassett had been listening intently, his head dropped forward.
"I suppose the son doesn't know about Hines?"
"No. She warned me. He was surly and suspicious. The Sheriff had
sent for him and questioned him about how you got his horse, and I
gathered that he thought I was a detective. When I told him I was
a friend of yours, he sent you a message. You may be able to make
something out of it. I can't. He said: `You can tell him I didn't
say anything about the other time.'"
Bassett sat forward.
"The other time?"
"He is under the impression that his mother got the horse for you
once before, about ten days before Clark escaped. At night, also."
"Not for me," Bassett said decisively. "Ten days before that I
was - " he got out his notebook and consulted it. "I was on my way
to the cabin in the mountains, where the Donaldsons had hidden Jud
Clark. I hired a horse at a livery stable."
"Could the Thorwald woman have followed you?"
"Why the devil should she do that?" he asked irritably. "She didn't
know who I was. She hadn't a chance at my papers, for I kept them
on me. If she did suspect I was on the case, a dozen fellows had
preceded me, and half of them had gone to the cabin."
"Nevertheless," he finished, "I believe she did. She or Hines
himself. There was some one on a horse outside the cabin that night."
There was silence in the room, Harrison Miller thoughtfully drawing
at random on the map before him. Each man was seeing the situation
from his own angle; to Reynolds, its medical interest, and the
possibility of his permanency in the town; to Walter Wheeler,
Elizabeth's spoiled young life; to Harrison Miller, David; and to
the reporter a conviction that the clues he now held should lead
him somewhere, and did not.
Before the meeting broke up Miller took a folded manuscript from
the table and passed it to Bassett.
"Copy of the Coroner's inquiry, after the murder," he said. "Thought
it might interest you..."
Then, for a time, that was all. Bassett, poring at home over the
inquest records, and finding them of engrossing interest, saw the
futility of saving a man who could not be found. And even Nina's
faith, that the fabulously rich could not die obscurely, began to
fade as the summer waned. She restored some of her favor to Wallie
Sayre, and even listened again to his alternating hopes and fears.
And by the end of September he felt that he had gained real headway
with Elizabeth. He had come to a point where she needed him more
than she realized, where the call in her of youth for youth, even
in trouble, was insistent. In return he felt his responsibility
and responded to it. In the vernacular of the town he had "settled
down," and the general trend of opinion, which had previously
disapproved him, was now that Elizabeth might do worse.
On a crisp night early in October he had brought her home from
Nina's, and because the moon was full they sat for a time on the
steps of the veranda, Wallie below her, stirring the dead leaves
on the walk with his stick, and looking up at her with boyish
adoring eyes when she spoke. He was never very articulate with
her, and her trouble had given her a strange new aloofness that
almost frightened him. But that night, when she shivered a little,
he reached up and touched her hand.
"You're cold," he said almost roughly. He was sometimes rather
savage, for fear he might be tender.
"I'm not cold. I think it's the dead leaves."
"Dead leaves?" he repeated, puzzled. "You're a queer girl,
Elizabeth. Why dead leaves?"
"I hate the fall. It's the death of the year."
"Nonsense. It's going to bed for a long winter's nap. That's all.
I'll bring you a wrap."
He went in, and came out in a moment with her father's overcoat.
"Here," he said peremptorily, "put this on. I'm not going to be
called on the carpet for giving you a sniffle."
She stood up obediently and he put the big coat around her. Then,
obeying an irresistible impulse, he caught her to him. He released
her immediately, however, and stepped back.
"I love you so," he stammered. "I'm sorry. I'll not do it again."
She was startled, but not angry.
"I don't like it," was all she said. And because she did not want
him to think she was angry, she sat down again. But the boy was
shaken. He got out a cigarette and lighted it, his hands trembling.
He could not think of anything to say. It was as though by that
one act he had cut a bridge behind him and on the other side lay
all the platitudes, the small give and take of their hours together.
What to her was a regrettable incident was to him a great dramatic
climax. Boylike, he refused to recognize its unimportance to her.
He wanted to talk about it.
"When you said just now that you didn't like what I did just then,
do you mean you didn't like me to do it? Or that you don't care for
that sort of thing? Of course I know," he added hastily, "you're
not that kind of girl. I - "
He turned and looked at her.
"You know I'm still in love with you, don't you, Elizabeth?"
She returned his gaze frankly.
"I don't see how you can be when you know what you do know."
"I know how you feel now. But I know that people don't go on
loving hopelessly all their lives. You're young. You've got"
- he figured quickly - "you've got about fifty-odd years to live
yet, and some of these days you'll be - not forgetting," he
changed, when he saw her quick movement. "I know you'll not forget
him. But remembering and loving are different."
"I wonder," she said, her eyes on the moon, and full of young
tragedy. "If they are, if one can remember without loving, then
couldn't one love without remembering?"
He stared at her.
"You're too deep for me sometimes," he said. "I'm not subtle,
Elizabeth. I daresay I'm stupid in lots of things. But I'm not
stupid about this. I'm not trying to get a promise, you know.
I only want you to know how things are. I don't want to know why
he went away, or why he doesn't come back. I only want you to face
the facts. I'd be good to you," he finished, in a low tone. "I'd
spend my life thinking of ways to make you happy."
She was touched. She reached down and put her hand on his shoulder.
"You deserve the best, Wallie. And you're asking for a second best.
Even that - I'm just not made that way, I suppose. Fifty years or
a hundred, it would be all the same."
"You'd always care for him, you mean?"
"Yes. I'm afraid so."
When he looked at her her eyes had again that faraway and yet
flaming look which he had come to associate with her thoughts of
Dick. She seemed infinitely removed from him, traveling her lonely
road past loving outstretched hands and facing ahead toward - well,
toward fifty years of spinsterhood. The sheer waste of it made
"You're cold, too, Wallie," she said gently. "You'd better go home."
He was about to repudiate the idea scornfully, when he sneezed!
She got up at once and held out her hand.
"You are very dear to feel about me the way you do" she said, rather
rapidly. "I appreciate your telling me. And if you're chilly when
you get home, you'd better take some camphor."
He saw her in, hat in hand, and then turned and stalked up the
street. Camphor, indeed! But so stubborn was hope in his young
heart that before he had climbed the hill he was finding comfort
in her thought for him.
Mrs. Sayre had been away for a week, visiting in Michigan, and he
had not expected her for a day or so. To his surprise he found
her on the terrace, wrapped in furs, and evidently waiting for him.
"I wasn't enjoying it," she explained, when he had kissed her.
"It's a summer place, not heated to amount to anything, and when
it turned cold - where have you been to-night?"
"Dined at the Wards', and then took Elizabeth home."
"How is she?"
"She's all right."
"And there's no news?"
He knew her very well, and he saw then that she was laboring under
"What's the matter, mother? You're worried about something, aren't
"I have something to tell you. We'd better go inside." He followed
her in, unexcited and half smiling. Her world was a small one, of
minor domestic difficulties, of not unfriendly gossip, of occasional
money problems, investments and what not. He had seen her hands
tremble over a matter of a poorly served dinner. So he went into
the house, closed the terrace window and followed her to the library.
When she closed the door he recognized her old tactics when the
servants were in question.
"Well?" he inquired. "I suppose - " Then he saw her face.
"Sorry, mother. What's the trouble?"
"Wallie, I saw Dick Livingstone in Chicago."
During August Dick had labored in the alfalfa fields of Central
Washington, a harvest hand or "working stiff" among other migratory
agricultural workers. Among them, but not entirely of them.
Recruited from the lowest levels as men grade, gathered in at a
slave market on the coast, herded in bunk houses alive with vermin,
fully but badly fed, overflowing with blasphemy and filled with
sullen hate for those above them in the social scale, the "stiffs"
regarded him with distrust from the start.
In the beginning he accepted their sneers with a degree of
philosophy. His physical condition was poor. At night he ached
intolerably, collapsing into his wooden bunk to sleep the
dreamless sleep of utter exhaustion. There were times when he
felt that it would be better to return at once to Norada and
surrender, for that he must do so eventually he never doubted.
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