The Mystery of Murray Davenport
Robert Neilson Stephens
Part 2 out of 4
"I have certainly wished myself out of my own shoes," replied Davenport,
almost with vehemence. "I have hated myself and my failures, God knows!
I have wished hard enough that I were not I. But I haven't wished I were
any other person now existing. I wouldn't change selves with this
particular man, or that particular man. It wouldn't be enough to throw
off the burden of my memories, with their clogging effect upon my life
and conduct, and take up the burden of some other man's--though I
should be the gainer even by that, in a thousand cases I could name."
"Oh, I don't exactly mean changing with somebody else," said Larcher.
"We all prefer to remain ourselves, with our own tastes, I suppose. But
we often wish our lot was like somebody else's."
Davenport shook his head. "I don't prefer to remain myself, any more
than to be some man whom I know or have heard of. I am tired of myself;
weary and sick of Murray Davenport. To be a new man, of my own
imagining--that would be something;--to begin afresh, with an
unencumbered personality of my own choosing; to awake some morning and
find that I was not Murray Davenport nor any man now living that I know
of, but a different self, formed according to ideals of my own. There
_would_ be a liberation!"
"Well," said Larcher, "if a man can't change to another self, he can at
least change his place and his way of life."
"But the old self is always there, casting its shadow on the new
place. And even change of scene and habits is next to impossible
"I must admit that New York, and my present way of life, are good enough
for me just now," said Larcher.
Davenport's only reply was a short laugh.
"Suppose you had the money, and could live as you liked, where would
_you_ go?" demanded Larcher, slightly nettled.
"I would live a varied life. Probably it would have four phases,
generally speaking, of unequal duration and no fixed order. For one
phase, the chief scene would be a small secluded country-house in an old
walled garden. There would be the home of my books, and the centre of my
walks over moors and hills. From this, I would transport myself, when
the mood came, to the intellectual society of some large city--that of
London would be most to my choice. Mind you, I say the _intellectual_
society; a far different thing from the Society that spells itself with
a capital S."
"Why not of New York? There's intellectual society here."
"Yes; a trifle fussy and self-conscious, though. I should prefer a
society more reposeful. From this, again, I would go to the life of the
streets and byways of the city. And then, for the fourth phase, to the
direct contemplation of art--music, architecture, sculpture,
painting;--to haunting the great galleries, especially of Italy,
studying and copying the old masters. I have no desire to originate. I
should be satisfied, in the arts, rather to receive than to give; to be
audience and spectator; to contemplate and admire."
"Well, I hope you may have your wish yet," was all that Larcher
"I _should_ like to have just one whack at life before I finish,"
replied Davenport, gazing thoughtfully into the shadow beyond the
lamplight. "Just one taste of comparative happiness."
"Haven't you ever had even one?"
"I thought I had, for a brief season, but I was deceived." (Larcher
remembered the talk of an inconstant woman.) "No, I have never been
anything like happy. My father was a cold man who chilled all around
him. He died when I was a boy, and left my mother and me to poverty. My
mother loved me well enough; she taught me music, encouraged my
studies, and persuaded a distant relation to send me to the College of
Medicine and Surgery; but her life was darkened by grief, and the
darkness fell over me, too. When she died, my relation dropped me, and
I undertook to make a living in New York. There was first the struggle
for existence, then the sickening affair of that play; afterward,
misfortune enough to fill a dozen biographies, the fatal reputation of
ill luck, the brief dream of consolation in the love of woman, the
awakening,--and the rest of it."
He sighed wearily and turned, as if for relief from a bitter theme, to
the book in his hand. He read aloud, from the sonnet out of which they
had already been quoting:
'Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising--
Haply I think on thee; and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love--'
He broke off, and closed the book. "'For thy sweet love,'" he repeated.
"You see even this unhappy poet had his solace. I used to read those
lines and flatter myself they expressed my situation. There was a silly
song, too, that she pretended to like. You know it, of course,--a little
poem of Frank L. Stanton's." He went to the piano, and sang softly, in a
'Sometimes, dearest, the world goes wrong,
For God gives grief with the gift of song,
And poverty, too; but your love is more--'
Again he stopped short, and with a derisive laugh. "What an ass I was! As
if any happiness that came to Murray Davenport could be real or lasting!"
"Oh, never be disheartened," said Larcher. "Your time is to come; you'll
have your 'whack at life' yet."
"It would be acceptable, if only to feel that I had realized one or two
of the dreams of youth--the dreams an unhappy lad consoled himself with."
"What were they?" inquired Larcher.
"What were they not, that is fine and pleasant? I had my share of diverse
ambitions, or diverse hopes, at least. You know the old Lapland song, in
_'For a boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.'"_
THE NAME OF ONE TURL COMES UP
A month passed. All the work in which Larcher had enlisted Davenport's
cooperation was done. Larcher would have projected more, but the
artist could not be pinned down to any definite engagement. He was
non-committal, with the evasiveness of apathy. He seemed not to care any
longer about anything. More than ever he appeared to go about in a dream.
Larcher might have suspected some drug-taking habit, but for having
observed the man so constantly, at such different hours, and often with
so little warning, as to be convinced to the contrary.
One cold, clear November night, when the tingle of the air, and the
beauty of the moonlight, should have aroused any healthy being to a sense
of life's joy in the matchless late autumn of New York, Larcher met his
friend on Broadway. Davenport was apparently as much absorbed in his
inner contemplations, or as nearly void of any contemplation whatever, as
a man could be under the most stupefying influences. He politely stopped,
however, when Larcher did.
"Where are you going?" the latter asked.
"Home," was the reply; thus amended the next instant: "To my room, that
"I'll walk with you, if you don't mind. I feel like stretching my legs."
"Glad to have you," said Davenport, indifferently. They turned from
Broadway eastward into a cross-town street, high above the end of which
rose the moon, lending romance and serenity to the house-fronts. Larcher
called the artist's attention to it. Davenport replied by quoting,
"'With how slow steps, O moon, thou clim'st the sky,
How silently, and with how wan a face!'"
"I'm glad to see you out on so fine a night," pursued Larcher.
"I came out on business," said the other. "I got a request by telegraph
from the benevolent Bagley to meet him at his rooms. He received a 'hurry
call' to Chicago, and must take the first train; so he sent for me, to
look after a few matters in his absence."
"I trust you'll find them interesting," said Larcher, comparing his own
failure with Bagley's success in obtaining Davenport's services.
"Not in the slightest," replied Davenport.
"Then remunerative, at least."
"Not sufficiently to attract _me_," said the other.
"Then, if you'll pardon the remark, I really can't understand--"
"Mere force of habit," replied Davenport, listlessly. "When he summons, I
attend. When he entrusts, I accept. I've done it so long, and so often, I
can't break myself of the habit. That is, of course, I could if I chose,
but it would require an effort, and efforts aren't worth while at this
With little more talk, they arrived at the artist's house.
"If you talk of moonlight," said Davenport, in a manner of some
kindliness, "you should see its effect on the back yards, from my
windows. You know how half-hearted the few trees look in the daytime;
but I don't think you've seen that view on a moonlight night. The yards,
taken as a whole, have some semblance to a real garden. Will you come
Larcher assented readily. A minute later, while his host was seeking
matches, he looked down from the dark chamber, and saw that the
transformation wrought in the rectangular space of back yards had not
been exaggerated. The shrubbery by the fences might have sheltered
fairies. The boughs of the trees, now leafless, gently stirred. Even the
plain house-backs were clad in beauty.
When Larcher turned from the window, Davenport lighted the gas, but not
his lamp; then drew from an inside pocket, and tossed on the table,
something which Larcher took to be a stenographer's note-book, narrow,
thick, and with stiff brown covers. Its unbound end was confined by a
thin rubber band. Davenport opened a drawer of the table, and essayed
to sweep the book thereinto by a careless push. The book went too
far, struck the arm of a chair, flew open at the breaking of the
overstretched rubber, fell on its side by the chair leg, and disclosed a
pile of bank-notes. These, tightly flattened, were the sole contents of
the covers. As Larcher's startled eyes rested upon them, he saw that the
topmost bill was for five hundred dollars.
Davenport exhibited a momentary vexation, then picked up the bills, and
laid them on the table in full view.
"Bagley's money," said he, sitting down before the table. "I'm to place
it for him to-morrow. This sudden call to Chicago prevents his carrying
out personally some plans he had formed. So he entrusts the business to
the reliable Davenport."
"When I walked home with you, I had no idea I was in the company of so
much money," said Larcher, who had taken a chair near his friend.
"I don't suppose there's another man in New York to-night with so much
ready money on his person," said Davenport, smiling. "These are large
bills, you know. Ironical, isn't it? Think of Murray Davenport walking
about with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket."
"Twenty thousand! Why, that's just the amount you were--" Larcher checked
"Yes," said Davenport, unmoved. "Just the amount of Bagley's wealth that
morally belongs to me, not considering interest. I could use it, too, to
very good advantage. With my skill in the art of frugal living, I could
make it go far--exceedingly far. I could realize that plan of a
congenial life, which I told you of one night here. There it is; here am
I; and if right prevailed, it would be mine. Yet if I ventured to treat
it as mine, I should land in a cell. Isn't it a silly world?"
He languidly replaced the bills between the notebook covers, and put them
in the drawer. As he did so, his glance fell on a sheet of paper lying
there. With a curious, half-mirthful expression on his face, he took this
up, and handed it to Larcher, saying:
"You told me once you could judge character by handwriting. What do you
make of this man's character?"
Larcher read the following note, which was written in a small, precise,
"MY DEAR DAVENPORT:--I will meet you at the place and time you suggest.
We can then, I trust, come to a final settlement, and go our different
ways. Till then I have no desire to see you; and afterward, still less.
"Francis Turl," repeated Larcher. "I never heard the name before."
"No, I suppose you never have," replied Davenport, dryly. "But what
character would you infer from his penmanship?"
"Well,--I don't know." Put to the test, Larcher was at a loss. "An
educated person, I should think; even scholarly, perhaps. Fastidious,
steady, exact, reserved,--that's about all."
"Not very much," said Davenport, taking back the sheet. "You merely
describe the handwriting itself. Your characterization, as far as it
goes, would fit men who write very differently from this. It fits me,
for instance, and yet look at my angular scrawl." He held up a specimen
of his own irregular hand, beside the elegant penmanship of the note,
and Larcher had to admit himself a humbug as a graphologist.
"But," he demanded, "did my description happen to fit that particular
"Oh, more or less," said Davenport, evasively, as if not inclined to give
any information about that person. This apparent disinclination increased
Larcher's hidden curiosity as to who Francis Turl might be, and why
Davenport had never mentioned him before, and what might be between the
two for settlement.
Davenport put Turl's writing back into the drawer, but continued to
regard his own. "'A vile cramped hand,'" he quoted. "I hate it, as I have
grown to hate everything that partakes of me, or proceeds from me.
Sometimes I fancy that my abominable handwriting had as much to do with
alienating a certain fair inconstant as the news of my reputed
unluckiness. Both coming to her at once, the combined effect was too
"Why?--Did you break that news to her by letter?"
"That seems strange to you, perhaps. But you see, at first it didn't
occur to me that I should have to break it to her at all. We met abroad;
we were tourists whose paths happened to cross. Over there I almost
forgot about the bad luck. It wasn't till both of us were back in New
York, that I felt I should have to tell her, lest she might hear it first
from somebody else. But I shied a little at the prospect, just enough to
make me put the revelation off from day to day. The more I put it off,
the more difficult it seemed--you know how the smallest matter, even the
writing of an overdue letter, grows into a huge task that way. So this
little ordeal got magnified for me, and all that winter I couldn't brace
myself to go through it. In the spring, Bagley had use for me in his
affairs, and he kept me busy night and day for two weeks. When I got
free, I was surprised to find she had left town. I hadn't the least idea
where she'd gone; till one day I received a letter from her. She wrote as
if she thought I had known where she was; she reproached me with
negligence, but was friendly nevertheless. I replied at once, clearing
myself of the charge; and in that same letter I unburdened my soul of the
bad luck secret. It was easier to write it than speak it."
"And what then?"
"Nothing. I never heard from her again."
"But your letter may have miscarried,--something of that sort."
"I made allowance for that, and wrote another letter, which I registered.
She got that all right, for the receipt came back, signed by her father.
But no answer ever came from her, and I was a bit too proud to continue a
one-sided correspondence. So ended that chapter in the harrowing history
of Murray Davenport.--She was a fine young woman, as the world judges;
she reminded me, in some ways, of Scott's heroines."
"Ah! that's why you took kindly to the old fellow by the river. You
remember his library--made up entirely of Scott?"
"Oh, that wasn't the reason. He interested me; or at least his way of
"I wonder if he wasn't fabricating a little. These old fellows from the
country like to make themselves amusing. They're not so guileless."
"I know that, but Mr. Bud is genuine. Since that day, he's been home in
the country for three weeks, and now he's back in town again for a 'short
spell,' as he calls it."
"You still keep in touch with him?" asked Larcher, in surprise.
"Oh, yes. He's been very hospitable--allowing me the use of his room to
"Even during his absence?"
"Yes; why not? I made some drawings for him, of the view from his window.
He's proud of them."
Something in Davenport's manner seemed to betray a wish for reticence on
the subject of Mr. Bud, even a regret that it had been broached. This
stopped Larcher's inquisition, though not his curiosity. He was silent
for a moment; then rose, with the words:
"Well, I'm keeping you up. Many thanks for the sight of your moonlit
garden. When shall I see you again?"
"Oh, run in any time. It isn't so far out of your way, even if you don't
find me here."
"I'd like you to glance over the proofs of my Harlem Lane article. I
shall have them day after to-morrow. Let's see--I'm engaged for that day.
How will the next day suit you?"
"All right. Come the next day if you like."
"That'll be Friday. Say one o'clock, and we can go out and lunch
"Just as you please."
"One o'clock on Friday then. Good night!"
At the door, Larcher turned for a moment in passing out, and saw
Davenport standing by the table, looking after him. What was the
inscrutable expression--half amusement, half friendliness and
self-accusing regret--which faintly relieved for a moment the
indifference of the man's face?
The discerning reader will perhaps think Mr. Thomas Larcher a very dull
person in not having yet put this and that together and associated the
love-affair of Murray Davenport with the "romance" of Miss Florence
Kenby. One might suppose that Edna Hill's friendship for Miss Kenby, and
her inquisitiveness regarding Davenport, formed a sufficient pair of
connecting links. But the still more discerning reader will probably
judge otherwise. For Miss Hill had many friends whom she brought to
Larcher's notice, and Miss Kenby did not stand alone in his observation,
as she necessarily does in this narrative. Larcher, too, was not as fully
in possession of the circumstances as the reader. Nor, to him, were the
circumstances isolated from the thousands of others that made up his
life, as they are to the reader. Edna's allusion to Miss Kenby's
"romance" had been cursory; Larcher understood only that she had given
up a lover to please her father. Davenport's inconstant had abandoned
him because he was unlucky; Larcher had always conceived her as such a
woman, and so of a different type from that embodied in Miss Kenby. To
be sure, he knew now that Davenport's fickle one had a father; but so
had most young women. In short, the small connecting facts had no such
significance in his mind, where they were not grouped away from other
facts, as they must have in these pages, where their very presence
together implies inter-relation.
In his reports to Edna, a certain delicacy had made him touch lightly
upon the traces of Davenport's love-affair. He may, indeed, have guessed
that those traces were what she was most desirous to hear of. But a
certain manly allegiance to his sex kept him reticent on that point in
spite of all her questions. He did not even say to what motive Davenport
ascribed the false one's fickleness; nor what was Davenport's present
opinion of her. "He was thrown over by some woman whose name he never
mentions; since then he has steered clear of the sex," was what Larcher
replied to Edna a hundred times, in a hundred different sets of phrases;
and it was all he replied on the subject.
So matters stood until two days after the interview related in the
previous chapter. At the end of that interview, Larcher had said that
for the second day thereafter he was engaged; Hence he had appointed
the third day for his next meeting with Davenport. The engagement for
the second day was, to spend the afternoon with Edna Hill at a
riding-school. Upon arriving at the flat where Edna lived under the mild
protection of her easy-going aunt, he found Miss Kenby included in the
arrangement. To this he did not object; Miss Kenby was kind as well as
beautiful; and Larcher was not unwilling to show the tyrannical Edna
that he could play the cavalier to one pretty girl as well as to another.
He did not, however, manage to disturb her serenity at all during the
afternoon. The three returned, very merry, to the flat, in a state of the
utmost readiness for afternoon tea, for the day was cold and blowy. To
make things pleasanter, Aunt Clara had finished her tea and was taking a
nap. The three young people had the drawing-room, with its bright coal
fire, to themselves.
Everything was trim and elegant in this flat. The clear-skinned maid who
placed the tea things, and brought the muffins and cake, might have been
transported that instant from Mayfair, on a magic carpet, so neat was
her black dress, so spotless her white apron, cap, and cuffs, so clean
her slender hands.
"What a sweet place you have, Edna," remarked Florence Kenby, looking
"So you've often said before, dear. And whenever you choose to make it
sweeter, for good, you've only got to move in."
Florence laughed, but with something very like a sigh.
"What, are you willing to take boarders?" said Larcher. "If that's the
case, put me down as the first applicant."
"Our capacity for 'paying guests' is strictly limited to one person, and
no gentlemen need apply. Two lumps, Flo dear?"
"Yes, please.--If only your restrictions didn't keep out poor father--"
"If only your poor father would consider your happiness instead of his
own selfish plans."
"Edna, dear! You mustn't."
"Why mustn't I?" replied Edna, pouring tea. "Truth's truth. He's your
father, but I'm your friend, and you know in your heart which of us would
do more for you. You know, and he knows, that you'd be happier, and have
better health, if you came to live with us. If he really loves you, why
doesn't he let you come? He could see you often enough. But I know the
reason; he's afraid you'd get out of his control; he has his own
projects. You needn't mind my saying this before Tom Larcher; he read
your father like a book the first time he ever met him."
Larcher, in the act of swallowing some buttered muffin, instantly looked
very wise and penetrative.
"I should think your father himself would be happier," said he, "if he
lived less privately and had more of men's society."
"He's often in poor health," replied Florence.
"In that case, there are plenty of places, half hotel, half sanatorium,
where the life is as luxurious as can be."
"I couldn't think of deserting him. Even if he--weren't altogether
unselfish about me, there would always be my promise."
"What does that matter--such a promise?" inquired Edna, between sips of
"You would make one think you were perfectly unscrupulous, dear," said
Florence, smiling. "But you know as well as I, that a promise is sacred."
"Not all promises. Are they, Tommy?"
"No, not all," replied Larcher. "It's like this: When you make a bad
promise, you inaugurate a wrong. As long as you keep that promise, you
perpetuate that wrong. The only way to end the wrong, is to break the
"Bravo, Tommy! You can't get over logic like that, Florence, dear, and
your promise did inaugurate a wrong--a wrong against yourself."
"Well, then, it's allowable to wrong oneself," said Florence.
"But not one's friends--one's true, disinterested friends. And as for
that other promise of yours--that _fearful_ promise!--you can't deny you
wronged somebody by that; somebody you had no right to wrong."
"It was a choice between him and my father," replied Florence, in a low
voice, and turning very red.
"Very well; which deserved to be sacrificed?" cried Edna, her eyes and
tone showing that the subject was a heating one. "Which was likely to
suffer more by the sacrifice? You know perfectly well fathers _don't_ die
in those cases, and consequently your father's hysterics _must_ have been
put on for effect. Oh, don't tell me!--it makes me wild to think of it!
Your father would have been all right in a week; whereas the other man's
whole life is darkened."
"Don't say that, dear," pleaded Florence, gently. "Men soon get over such
"Not so awfully soon;--not sincere men. Their views of life are changed,
for all time. And _this_ man seems to grow more and more melancholy, if
what Tom says is true."
"What I say?" exclaimed Larcher.
The two girls looked at each other.
"Goodness! I _have_ given it away!" cried Edna.
"More and more melancholy?" repeated Larcher. "Why, that must be Murray
Davenport. Was he the--? Then you must be the--! But surely _you_
wouldn't have given him up on account of the bad luck nonsense."
"Bad luck nonsense?" echoed Edna, while Miss Kenby looked bewildered.
"The silly idea of some foolish people, that he carried bad luck with
him," Larcher explained, addressing Florence. "He sent you a letter about
"I never got any such letter from him," said Florence, in wonderment.
"Then you didn't know? And that had nothing to do with your giving him
"Indeed it had not! Why, if I'd known about that--But the letter you
speak of--when was it? I never had a letter from him after I left town.
He didn't even answer when I told him we were going."
"Because he never heard you were going. He got a letter after you had
gone, and then he wrote you about the bad luck nonsense. There must
have been some strange defect in your mail arrangements."
"I always thought some letters must have gone astray and miscarried
between us. I knew he couldn't be so negligent. I'd have taken pains to
clear it up, if I hadn't promised my father just at that time--" She
stopped, unable to control her voice longer. Her lips were quivering.
"Speaking of your father," said Larcher, "you must have got a subsequent
letter from Davenport, because he sent it registered, and the receipt
came back with your father's signature."
"No, I never got that, either," said Florence, before the inference
struck her. When it did, she gazed from one to the other with a helpless,
wounded look, and blushed as if the shame were her own.
Edna Hill's eyes blazed with indignation, then softened in pity for her
friend. She turned to Larcher in a very calling-to-account manner.
"Why didn't you tell me all this before?"
"I didn't think it was necessary. And besides, he never told me about
the letters till the night before last."
"And all this time that poor young man has thought Florence tossed him
over because of some ridiculous notion about bad luck?"
"Well, more or less,--and the general fickleness of the sex."
"General fick--! And you, having seen Florence, let him go on thinking
"But I didn't know Miss Kenby was the lady he meant. If you'd only told
me it was for her you wanted news of him--"
"Stupid, you might have guessed! But I think it's about time he had some
news of _her_. He ought to know she wasn't actuated by any such paltry,
"By George, I agree with you!" cried Larcher, with a sudden energy. "If
you could see the effect on the man, of that false impression, Miss
Kenby! I don't mean to say that his state of mind is entirely due to
that; he had causes enough before. But it needed only that to take away
all consolation, to stagger his faith, to kill his interest in life."
"Has it made him so bitter?" asked Florence, sadly.
"I shouldn't call the effect bitterness. He has too lofty a mind for
strong resentment. That false impression has only brought him to the
last stage of indifference. I should say it was the finishing touch to
making his life a wearisome drudgery, without motive or hope."
Florence sighed deeply.
"To think that he could believe such a thing of Florence," put in Edna.
"I'm sure _I_ couldn't. Could you, Tom?"
"When a man's in love, he doesn't see things in their true proportions,"
said Larcher, authoritatively. "He exaggerates both the favors and the
rebuffs he gets, both the kindness and the coldness of the woman. If he
thinks he's ill-treated, he measures the supposed cause by his
sufferings. As they are so great, he thinks the woman's cruelty
correspondingly great. Nobody will believe such good things of a woman
as the man who loves her; but nobody will believe such bad things if
matters go wrong."
"Dear, dear, Tommy! What a lot you know about it!"
But Miss Hill's momentary sarcasm went unheeded. "So I really think,
Miss Kenby, if you'll pardon me," Larcher continued, "that Murray
Davenport ought to know your true reason for giving him up. Even if
matters never go any further, he ought to know that you still--h'm--feel
an interest in him--still wish him well. I'm sure if he knew about your
solicitude--how it was the cause of my looking him up--I can see through
all that now--"
"I can never thank you enough--and Edna," said Florence, in a tremulous
"No thanks are due me," replied Larcher, emphatically. "I value his
acquaintance on its own account. But if he knew about this, knew your
real motives then, and your real feelings now, even if he were never to
see you again, the knowledge would have an immense effect on his life.
I'm sure it would. It would restore his faith in you, in woman, in
humanity. It would console him inexpressibly; would be infinitely sweet
to him. It would change the color of his view of life; give him hope and
strength; make a new man of him."
Florence's eyes glistened through her tears. "I should be so glad," she
said, gently, "if--if only--you see, I promised not to hold any sort of
communication with him."
"Oh, that promise!" cried Edna. "Just think how it was obtained. And
think about those letters that were stopped. If that alone doesn't
release you, I wonder what!"
Florence's face clouded with humiliation at the reminder.
"Moreover," said Larcher, "you won't be holding communication. The
matter has come to my knowledge fairly enough, through Edna's lucky
forgetfulness. I take it on myself to tell Davenport. I'm to meet him
to-morrow, anyhow--it looks as though it had all been ordained. I really
don't see how you can prevent me, Miss Kenby."
Florence's face threw off its cloud, and her conscience its scruples, and
a look of gratitude and relief, almost of sudden happiness, appeared.
"You are so good, both of you. There's nothing in the world I'd rather
have than to see him made happy."
"If you'd like to see it with your own eyes," said Larcher, "let me send
him to you for the news."
"Oh, no! I don't mean that. He mustn't know where to find me. If he came
to see me, I don't know what father would do. I've been so afraid of
meeting him by chance; or of his finding out I was in New York."
Larcher understood now why Edna had prohibited his mentioning the Kenbys
to anybody. "Well," said he, "in that case, Murray Davenport shall be
made happy by me at about one o'clock to-morrow afternoon."
"And you shall come to tea afterward and tell us all about it," cried
Edna. "Flo, you _must_ be here for the news, if I have to go in a hansom
and kidnap you." "I think I can come voluntarily," said Florence, smiling
through her tears.
"And let's hope this is only the beginning of matters, in spite of any
silly old promise obtained by false pretences! I say, we've let our tea
get cold. I must have another cup." And Miss Hill rang for fresh hot
The rest of the afternoon in that drawing-room was all mirth and
laughter; the innocent, sweet laughter of youth enlisted in the generous
cause of love and truth against the old, old foes--mercenary design,
false appearance, and mistaken duty.
Larcher had two reasons for not going to his friend before the time
previously set for his call. In the first place he had already laid out
his time up to that hour, and, secondly, he would not hazard the
disappointment of arriving with his good news ready, and not finding his
friend in. To be doubly sure, he telegraphed Davenport not to forget the
appointment on any account, as he had an important disclosure to make.
Full of his revelation, then, he rang the bell of his friend's
lodging-house at precisely one o'clock the next day.
"I'll go right up to Mr. Davenport's room," he said to the negro boy at
"All right, sir, but I don't think you'll find Mr. Davenport up there,"
replied the servant, glancing at a brown envelope on the hat-stand.
Larcher saw that it was addressed to Murray Davenport. "When did that
telegram come?" he inquired.
"It must be the one I sent. And he hasn't got it yet! Do you mean he
hasn't been in?"
Heavy slippered footsteps in the rear of the hall announced the coming
of somebody, who proved to be a rather fat woman in a soiled wrapper,
with tousled light hair, flabby face, pale eyes, and a worried but kindly
look. Larcher had seen her before; she was the landlady.
"Do you know anything about Mr. Davenport?" she asked, quickly.
"No, madam, except that I was to call on him here at one o'clock."
"Oh, then, he may be here to meet you. When did you make that
"On Tuesday, when I was here last! Why?--What's the matter?"
"Tuesday? I was in hopes you might 'a' made it since. Mr. Davenport
hasn't been home for two days!"
"Two days! Why, that's rather strange!"
"Yes, it is; because he never stayed away overnight without he either
told me beforehand or sent me word. He was always so gentlemanly about
saving me trouble or anxiety."
"And this time he said nothing about it?"
"Not a word. He went out day before yesterday at nine o'clock in the
morning, and that's the last we've seen or heard of him. He didn't carry
any grip, or have his trunk sent for; he took nothing but a parcel
wrapped in brown paper."
"Well, I can't understand it. It's after one o'clock now--If he doesn't
soon turn up--What do you think about it?"
"I don't know what to think about it. I'm afraid it's a case of
mysterious disappearance--that's what I think!"
MR. LARCHER INQUIRES
Larcher and the landlady stood gazing at each other in silence. Larcher
"He's always prompt to the minute. He may be coming now."
The young man went out to the stoop and looked up and down the street.
But no familiar figure was in sight. He turned back to the landlady.
"Perhaps he left a note for me on the table," said Larcher. "I have the
freedom of his room, you know."
"Go up and see, then. I'll go with you."
The landlady, in climbing the stairs, used a haste very creditable in a
person of her amplitude. Davenport's room appeared the same as ever.
None of his belongings that were usually visible had been packed away or
covered up. Books and manuscript lay on his table. But there was nothing
addressed to Larcher or anybody else.
"It certainly looks as if he'd meant to come back soon," remarked the
"It certainly does." Larcher's puzzled eyes alighted on the table drawer.
He gave an inward start, reminded of the money in Davenport's possession
at their last meeting. Davenport had surely taken that money with him on
leaving the house the next morning. Larcher opened his lips, but
something checked him. He had come by the knowledge of that money in a
way that seemed to warrant his ignoring it. Davenport had manifestly
wished to keep it a secret. It was not yet time to tell everything.
"Of course," said Larcher, "he might have met with an accident."
"I've looked through the newspapers yesterday, and to-day, but there's
nothing about him, or anybody like him. There was an unknown man knocked
down by a street-car, but he was middle-aged, and had a black mustache."
"And you're positively sure Mr. Davenport would have let you know if he'd
meant to stay away so long?"
"Yes, sir, I am. Especially that morning he'd have spoke of it, for he
met me in the hall and paid me the next four weeks' room rent in
"But that very fact looks as if he thought he mightn't see you for some
"No, because he's often done that. He'll come and say, 'I've got a little
money ahead, Mrs. Haze, and I might as well make sure of a roof over me
for another month.' He knew I gener'ly--had use for money whenever it
happened along. He was a kind-hearted--I mean he _is_ a kind-hearted man.
Hear me speakin' of him as if--What's that?"
It was a man's step on the stairs. With a sudden gladness, Larcher turned
to the door of the room. The two waited, with smiles ready. The step came
almost to the threshold, receded along the passage, and mounted the
"It's Mr. Wigfall; he rooms higher up," said Mrs. Haze, in a dejected
The young man's heart sank; for some reason, at this disappointment, the
hope of Davenport's return fled, the possibility of his disappearance
became certainty. The dying footsteps left Larcher with a sense of chill
and desertion; and he could see this feeling reflected in the face of
"Do you think the matter had better be reported to the police?" said
she, still in a lowered voice.
"I don't think so just yet. I can't say whether they'd send out a general
alarm on my report. The request must come from a near relation, I
believe. There have been hoaxes played, you know, and people frightened
without sufficient cause."
"I never heard that Mr. Davenport had any relations. I guess they'd send
out an alarm on my statement. A hard-workin' landlady ain't goin' to make
a fuss and get her house into the papers just for fun."
"That's true. I'm sure they'd take your report seriously. But we'd better
wait a little while yet. I'll stay here an hour or two, and then, if he
hasn't appeared, I'll begin a quiet search myself. Use your own judgment,
though; it's for you to see the police if you like. Only remember, if a
fuss is made, and Mr. Davenport turns up all right with his own reasons
for this, how we shall all feel."
"He'd be annoyed, I guess. Well, I'll wait till you say. You're the only
friend that calls here regular to see him. Of course I know how a good
many single men are,--that lives in rooms. They'll stay away for days at
a time, and never notify anybody, and nobody thinks anything about it.
But Mr. Davenport, as I told you, isn't like that. I'll wait, anyhow,
till you think it's time. But you'll keep coming here, of course?"
"Yes, indeed, several times a day. He might turn up at any moment. I'll
give him an hour and a half to keep this one o'clock engagement. Then,
if he's still missing, I'll go to a place where there's a bare chance
he might be. I've only just now thought of it."
The place he had thought of was the room of old Mr. Bud. Davenport had
spoken of going there often to sketch. Such a queer, snug old place might
have an attraction of its own for the man. There was, indeed, a chance--a
bare chance--of his having, upon a whim, prolonged a stay in that place
or its neighborhood. Or, at least, Mr. Bud might have later news of him
than Mrs. Haze had.
That good woman went back to her work, and Larcher waited alone in the
very chair where Davenport had sat at their last meeting. He recalled
Davenport's odd look at parting, and wondered if it had meant anything
in connection with this strange absence. And the money? The doubt and
the solitude weighed heavily on Larcher's mind. And what should he say
to the girls when he met them at tea?
At two o'clock his impatience got the better of him. He went
down-stairs, and after a few words with Mrs. Haze, to whom he promised
to return about four, he hastened away. He was no sooner seated in an
elevated car, and out of sight of the lodging-house, than he began to
imagine his friend had by that time arrived home. This feeling remained
with him all the way down-town. When he left the train, he hurried to the
house on the water-front. He dashed up the narrow stairs, and knocked at
Mr. Bud's door. No answer coming, he knocked louder. It was so silent in
the ill-lighted passage where he stood, that he fancied he could hear the
thump of his heart. At last he tried the door; it was locked.
"Evidently nobody at home," said Larcher, and made his way down-stairs
again. He went into the saloon, where he found the same barkeeper he had
seen on his first visit to the place.
"I thought I might find a friend of mine here," he said, after ordering a
drink. "Perhaps you remember--we were here together five or six weeks
"I remember all right enough," said the bar-keeper. "He ain't here now."
"He's been here lately, though, hasn't he?"
"Depends on what yuh call lately. He was in here the other day with old
"What day was that?"
"Let's see, I guess it was--naw, it was Monday, because it was the day
before Mr. Bud went back to his chickens. He went home Toosdy, Bud did."
It was on Tuesday night that Larcher had last beheld Davenport. "And so
you haven't seen my friend since Monday?" he asked, insistently.
"That's what I said."
"And you're sure Mr. Bud hasn't been here since Tuesday?"
"That's what I said."
"When is Mr. Bud coming back, do you know?"
"You can search _me,_" was the barkeeper's subtle way of disavowing all
knowledge of Mr. Bud's future intentions.
Back to the elevated railway, and so up-town, sped Larcher. The feeling
that his friend must be now at home continued strong within him until he
was again upon the steps of the lodging-house. Then it weakened somewhat.
It died altogether at sight of the questioning eyes of the negro. The
telegram was still on the hat-stand.
"Any news?" asked the landlady, appearing from the rear.
"No. I was hoping you might have some."
After saying he would return in the evening, he rushed off to keep his
engagement for tea. He was late in arriving at the flat.
"Here he is!" cried Edna, eagerly. Her eyes sparkled; she was in high
spirits. Florence, too, was smiling. The girls seemed to have been in
great merriment, and in possession of some cause of felicitation as yet
unknown to Larcher. He stood hesitating.
"Well? Well? Well?" said Edna. "How did he take it? Speak. Tell us your
good news, and then we'll tell you ours." Florence only watched his face,
but there was a more poignant inquiry in her silence than in her friend's
"Well, the fact is," began Larcher, embarrassed, "I can't tell you any
good news just yet. Davenport couldn't keep his engagement with me
to-day, and I haven't been able to see him."
"Not able to see him?" Edna exclaimed, hotly. "Why didn't you go and
find him? As if anything could be more important! That's the way with
men--always afraid of intruding. Such a disappointment! Oh, what an
unreliable, helpless, futile creature you are, Tom!"
Stung to self-defence, the helpless, futile creature replied:
"I wasn't at all afraid of intruding. I did go trying to find him; I've
spent the afternoon doing that."
"A woman would have managed to find out where he was," retorted Edna.
"His landlady's a woman," rejoined Larcher, doggedly, "and she hasn't
managed to find out."
"Has she been trying to?"
"Well--no," stammered Larcher, repenting.
"Yes, she has!" said Edna, with a changed manner. "But what for? Why is
she concerned? There's something behind this, Tom--I can tell by your
looks. Speak out, for heaven's sake! What's wrong?"
A glance at Florence Kenby's pale face did not make Larcher's task easier
"I don't think there's anything seriously wrong. Davenport has been away
from home for a day or two without saying anything about it to his
landlady, as he usually does in such cases. That's all."
"And didn't he send you word about breaking the engagement with you?"
"No. I suppose it slipped his mind."
"And neither you nor the landlady has any idea where he is?"
"Not when I saw her last--about half an hour ago."
"Well!" ejaculated Edna. "That _is_ a mysterious disappearance!"
The landlady had used the same expression. Such was Larcher's mental
observation in the moment's silence that followed,--a silence broken by
a low cry from Florence Kenby.
"Oh, if anything has happened to him!"
The intensity of feeling in her voice and look was something for which
Larcher had not been prepared. It struck him to the heart, and for a time
he was without speech for a reassuring word. Edna, though manifestly awed
by this first full revelation of her friend's concern for Davenport,
undertook promptly the office of banishing the alarm she had helped to
"Oh, don't be frightened, dear. There's nothing serious, after all. Men
often go where business calls them, without accounting to anybody. He's
quite able to take care of himself. I'm sure it isn't as bad as Tom
"As I say!" exclaimed Larcher. "_I_ don't say it's bad at all. It's your
own imagination, Edna,--your sudden and sensational imagination. There's
no occasion for alarm, Miss Kenby. Men often, as Edna says--"
"But I must make sure," interrupted Florence. "If anything _is_ wrong,
we're losing time. He must be sought for--the police must be notified."
"His landlady--a very good woman, her name is Mrs. Haze--spoke of that,
and she's the proper one to do it. But we decided, she and I, to wait
awhile longer. You see, if the police took up the matter, and it got
noised about, and Davenport reappeared in the natural order of
things--as of course he will--why, how foolish we should all feel!"
"What do feelings of that sort matter, when deeper ones are concerned?"
"Nothing at all; but I'm thinking of Davenport's feelings. You know how
he would hate that sort of publicity."
"That must be risked. It's a small thing compared with his safety. Oh, if
you knew my anxiety!"
"I understand, Miss Kenby. I'll have Mrs. Haze go to police headquarters
at once. I'll go with her. And then, if there's still no news, I'll go
around to the--to other places where people inquire in such cases."
"And you'll let me know immediately--as soon as you find out anything?"
"Immediately. I'll telegraph. Where to? Your Fifth Avenue address?"
"Stay here to-night, Florence," put in Edna. "It will be all right,
"Very well. Thank you, dear. Then you can telegraph here, Mr. Larcher."
Her instant compliance with Edna's suggestion puzzled Larcher a little.
"She's had an understanding with her father," said Edna, having noted
his look. "She's a bit more her own mistress to-day than she was
"Yes," said Florence, "I--I had a talk with him--I spoke to him about
those letters, and he finally--explained the matter. We settled many
things. He released me from the promise we were talking about yesterday."
"Good! That's excellent news!"
"It's the news we had ready for you when you brought us such a
disappointment," bemoaned Edna.
"It's news that will change the world for Davenport," replied Larcher.
"I _must_ find him now. If he only knew what was waiting for him, he
wouldn't be long missing."
"It would be too cruel if any harm befell him"--Florence's voice quivered
as she spoke--"at this time, of all times. It would be the crowning
"I don't think destiny means to play any such vile trick, Miss Kenby."
"I don't see how Heaven could allow it," said Florence, earnestly.
"Well, he's simply _got_ to be found. So I'm off to Mrs. Haze. I can
go tea-less this time, thank you. Is there anything I can do for you
on the way?"
"I'll have to send father a message about my staying here. If you would
stop at a telegraph-office--"
"Oh, that's all right," broke in Edna. "There's a call-box down-stairs.
I'll have the hall-boy attend to it. You mustn't lose a minute, Tom."
Miss Hill sped him on his way by going with him to the elevator. While
they waited for that, she asked, cautiously:
"Is there anything about this affair that you were afraid to say before
A thought of the twenty thousand dollars came into his head; but again
he felt that the circumstance of the money was his friend's secret, and
should be treated by him--for the present, at least--as non-existent.
"No," he replied. "I wouldn't call it a disappearance, if I were you. So
far, it's just a non-appearance. We shall soon be laughing at ourselves,
probably, for having been at all worked up over it.--She's a lovely girl,
isn't she? I'm half in love with her myself."
"She's proof against your charms," said Edna, coolly.
"I know it. What a lot she must think of him! The possibility of harm
brings out her feelings, I suppose. I wonder if you'd show such concern
if _I_ were missing?"
"I give it up. Here's the elevator. Good-by! And don't keep us in
suspense. You're a dear boy! _Au revoir!_"
With the hope of Edna's approval to spur him, besides the more unselfish
motives he already possessed, Larcher made haste upon the business. This
time he tried to conquer the expectation of finding Davenport at home;
yet it would struggle up as he approached the house of Mrs. Haze. The
same deadening disappointment met him as before, however; and was
mirrored in the landlady's face when she saw by his that he brought no
Mrs. Haze had come up from preparations for dinner. Hers was a house in
which, the choice being "optional," sundry of the lodgers took their
rooms "with board." Important as was her occupation, at the moment, of
"helping out" the cook by inducing a mass of stale bread to fancy itself
disguised as a pudding, she flung that occupation aside at once, and
threw on her things to accompany Larcher to police headquarters. There
she told all that was necessary, to an official at a desk,--a big,
comfortable man with a plenitude of neck and mustache. This gentleman,
after briefly questioning her and Larcher, and taking a few illegible
notes, and setting a subordinate to looking through the latest entries
in a large record, dismissed the subject by saying that whatever was
proper to be done _would_ be done. He had a blandly incredulous way with
him, as if he doubted, not only that Murray Davenport was missing, but
that any such person as Murray Davenport existed to _be_ missing; as if
he merely indulged his visitors in their delusion out of politeness; as
if in any case the matter was of no earthly consequence. The subordinate
reported that nothing in the record for the past two days showed any
such man, or the body of any such man, to have come under the all-seeing
eye of the police. Nevertheless, Mrs. Haze wanted the assurance that an
investigation should be started forthwith. The big man reminded her that
no dead body had been found, and repeated that all proper steps would be
taken. With this grain of comfort as her sole satisfaction, she returned
to her bread pudding, for which her boarders were by that time waiting.
When the big man had asked the question whether Davenport was accustomed
to carry much money about with him, or was known to have had any
considerable sum on his person when last seen, Larcher had silently
allowed Mrs. Haze to answer. "Not as far as I know; I shouldn't think
so," she had said. He felt that, as Davenport's absence was still so
short, and might soon be ended and accounted for, the situation did not
yet warrant the disclosure of a fact which Davenport himself had wished
to keep private. He perceived the two opposite inferences which might be
made from that fact, and he knew that the police would probably jump at
the inference unfavorable to his friend. For the present, he would guard
his friend from that.
Larcher's work on the case had just begun. For what was to come he
required the fortification of dinner. Mrs. Haze had invited him to dine
at her board, but he chose to lose that golden opportunity, and to eat
at one of those clean little places which for cheapness and good cooking
together are not to be matched, or half-matched, in any other city in
the world. He soon blessed himself for having done so; he had scarcely
given his order when in sauntered Barry Tompkins.
"Stop right here," cried Larcher, grasping the spectacled lawyer and
pulling him into a seat. "You are commandeered."
"What for?" asked Tompkins, with his expansive smile.
"Dinner first, and then--"
"All right. Do you give me _carte blanche_ with the bill of fare? May I
roam over it at my own sweet will? Is there no limit?"
"None, except a time limit. I want you to steer me around the hospitals,
station-houses, morgue, _et cetera_. There's a man missing. You've made
those rounds before."
"Yes, twice. When poor Bill Southford jumped from the ferry-boat; and
again when a country cousin of mine had knockout drops administered to
him in a Bowery dance-hall. It's a dismal quest."
"I know it, but if you have nothing else on your hands this evening--"
"Oh, I'll pilot you. We never know when we're likely to have
search-parties out after ourselves, in this abounding metropolis. Who's
the latest victim of the strenuous life?"
"What! is he occurring again?"
Larcher imparted what it was needful that Tompkins should know. The two
made an expeditious dinner, and started on their long and fatiguing
inquiry. It was, as Tompkins had said, a dismal quest. Those who have
ever made this cheerless tour will not desire to be reminded of the
experience, and those who have not would derive more pain than pleasure
from a recital of it. The long distances from point to point, the
rebuffs from petty officials, the difficulty in wringing harmless
information from fools clad in a little brief authority, the mingled
hope and dread of coming upon the object of the search at the next place,
the recurring feeling that the whole fatiguing pursuit is a wild goose
chase and that the missing person is now safe at home, are a few features
of the disheartening business. The labors of Larcher and Tompkins
elicited nothing; lightened though they were by the impecunious lawyer's
tact, knowledge, and good humor, they left the young men dispirited and
dead tired. Larcher had nothing to telegraph Miss Kenby. He thought of
her passing a sleepless night, waiting for news, the dupe and victim of
every sound that might herald a messenger. He slept ill himself, the
short time he had left for sleep. In the morning he made a swift
breakfast, and was off to Mrs. Haze's. Davenport's room was still
untenanted, his bed untouched; the telegram still lay unclaimed in the
Florence and Edna were prepared, by the absence of news during the night,
for Larcher's discouraged face when he appeared at the flat in the
morning. Miss Kenby seemed already to have fortified her mind for an
indefinite season of anxiety. She maintained an outward calm, but it was
the forced calm of a resolution to bear torture heroically. She had her
lapses, her moments of weakness and outcry, her periods of despair,
during the ensuing days,--for days did ensue, and nothing was seen or
heard of the missing one,--but of these Larcher was not often a witness.
Edna Hill developed new resources as an encourager, a diverter, and an
unfailing optimist in regard to the outcome. The girls divided their time
between the flat and the Kenby lodgings down Fifth Avenue. Mr. Kenby was
subdued and self-effacing when they were about. He wore a somewhat meek,
cowed air nowadays, which was not without a touch of martyrdom. He
volunteered none but the most casual remarks on the subject of
Davenport's disappearance, and was not asked even for those. His
diminution spoke volumes for the unexpected force of personality
Florence must have shown in that unrelated interview about the letters,
in which she had got back her promise.
The burden of action during those ensuing days fell on Larcher. Besides
regular semi-diurnal calls on the young ladies and at Mrs. Haze's house,
and regular consultations of police records, he made visits to every
place he had ever known Davenport to frequent, and to every person he
had ever known Davenport to be acquainted with. Only, for a time Mr.
Bagley had to be excepted, he not having yet returned from Chicago.
It appeared that the big man at police headquarters had really caused
the proper thing to be done. Detectives came to Mrs. Haze's house and
searched the absent man's possessions, but found no clue; and most of
the newspapers had a short paragraph to the effect that Murray
Davenport, "a song-writer," was missing from his lodging-house. Larcher
hoped that this, if it came to Davenport's eye, though it might annoy
him, would certainly bring word from him. But the man remained as silent
as unseen. Was there, indeed, what the newspapers call "foul play"? And
was Larcher called upon yet to speak of the twenty thousand dollars? The
knowledge of that would give the case an importance in the eyes of the
police, but would it, even if the worst had happened, do any good to
Davenport? Larcher thought not; and held his tongue.
One afternoon, in the week following the disappearance,--or, as Larcher
preferred to call it, non-appearance,--that gentleman, having just sat
down in a north-bound Sixth Avenue car, glanced over the first page of
an evening paper--one of the yellow brand--which he had bought a minute
before. All at once he was struck in the face, metaphorically speaking,
by a particular set of headlines. He held his breath, and read the
following opening paragraph:
"The return of George A. Bagley from Chicago last night puts a new phase
on the disappearance of Murray Davenport, the song-writer, who has not
been seen since Wednesday of last week at his lodging-house,--East
----th Street. Mr. Bagley would like to know what became of a large
amount of cash which he left with the missing man for certain purposes
the previous night on leaving suddenly for Chicago. He says that when he
called this morning on brokers, bankers, and others to whom the money
should have been handed over, he found that not a cent of it had been
disposed of according to orders. Davenport had for some years frequently
acted as a secretary or agent for Bagley, and had handled many thousands
of dollars for the latter in such a manner as to gain the highest
There was a half-column of details, which Larcher read several times over
on the way up-town. When he entered Edna's drawing-room the two girls
were sitting before the fire. At the first sight of his face, Edna
sprang to her feet, and Florence's lips parted.
"What is it?" cried Edna. "You've got news! What is it?"
"No. Not any news of _his_ whereabouts."
"What of, then? It's in that paper."
She seized the yellow journal, and threw her glance from headline to
headline. She found the story, and read it through, aloud, at a rate of
utterance that would have staggered the swiftest shorthand writer.
"Well! What do you think of _that_?" she said, and stopped to take
"Do you think it is true?" asked Florence.
"There is some reason to believe it is!" replied Larcher, awkwardly.
Florence rose, in great excitement. "Then this affair _must_ be cleared
up!" she cried. "For don't you see? He may have been robbed--waylaid for
the money--made away with! God knows what else can have happened! The
newspaper hints that he ran away with the money. I'll never believe that.
It must be cleared up--I tell you it _must_!"
Edna tried to soothe the agitated girl, and looked sorrowfully at
Larcher, who could only deplore in silence his inability to solve the
MR. BUD'S DARK HALLWAY
A month passed, and it was not cleared up. Larcher became hopeless of
ever having sight or word of Murray Davenport again. For himself, he
missed the man; for the man, assuming a tragic fate behind the mystery,
he had pity; but his sorrow was keenest for Miss Kenby. No description,
nothing but experience, can inform the reader what was her torment of
mind: to be so impatient of suspense as to cry out as she had done, and
yet perforce to wait hour after hour, day after day, week after week,
in the same unrelieved anxiety,--this prolonged torture is not to be told
in words. She schooled herself against further outcries, but the evidence
of her suffering was no less in her settled look of baffled expectancy,
her fits of mute abstraction, the start of her eyes at any sound of bell
or knock. She clutched back hope as it was slipping away, and would not
surrender uncertainty for its less harrowing follower, despair. She had
resumed, as the probability of immediate news decreased, her former way
of existence, living with her father at the house in lower Fifth Avenue,
where Miss Hill saw her every day except when she went to see Miss Hill,
who denied herself the Horse Show, the football games, and the opera for
the sake of her friend. Larcher called on the Kenbys twice or thrice a
week, sometimes with Edna, sometimes alone.
There was one possibility which Larcher never mentioned to Miss Kenby
in discussing the case. He feared it might fit too well her own secret
thought. That was the possibility of suicide. What could be more
consistent with Davenport's outspoken distaste for life, as he found it,
or with his listless endurance of it, than a voluntary departure from it?
He had never talked suicide, but this, in his state of mind, was rather
an argument in favor of his having acted it. No threatened men live
longer, as a class, than those who have themselves as threateners. It was
true, Larcher had seen in Davenport's copy of Keats, this passage marked:
"... for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death."
But an unhappy man might endorse that saying without a thought of
possible self-destruction. So, for Davenport's very silence on that way
of escape from his tasteless life, Larcher thought he might have taken
He confided this thought to no less a person than Bagley, some weeks
after the return of that capitalist from Chicago. Two or three times,
meeting by chance, they had briefly discussed the disappearance, each
being more than willing to obtain whatever light the other might be able
to throw on the case. Finally Bagley, to whom Larcher had given his
address, had sent for him to call at the former's rooms on a certain
evening. These rooms proved to be a luxurious set of bachelor apartments
in one of the new tall buildings just off Broadway. Hard wood, stamped
leather, costly rugs, carved furniture, the richest upholstery, the art
of the old world and the inventiveness of the new, had made this a
handsome abode at any time, and a particularly inviting one on a cold
December night. Larcher, therefore, was not sorry he had responded to
the summons. He found Bagley sharing cigars and brandy with another man,
a squat, burly, middle-aged stranger, with a dyed mustache and the dress
and general appearance of a retired hotel-porter, cheap restaurant
proprietor, theatre doorkeeper, or some such useful but not interesting
member of society. This person, for a time, fulfilled the promise of
his looks, of being uninteresting. On being introduced to Larcher as Mr.
Lafferty, he uttered a quick "Howdy," with a jerk of the head, and
lapsed into a mute regard of tobacco smoke and brandy bottle, which he
maintained while Bagley and Larcher went more fully into the Davenport
case than they had before gone together. Larcher felt that he was being
sounded, but he saw no reason to withhold anything except what related
to Miss Kenby. It was now that he mentioned possible suicide.
"Suicide? Not much," said Bagley. "A man _would_ be a chump to turn on
the gas with all that money about him. No, sir; it wasn't suicide. We
know that much."
"You _know_ it?" exclaimed Larcher.
"Yes, we know it. A man don't make the preparations he did, when he's
got suicide on his mind. I guess we might as well put Mr. Larcher on,
Lafferty, do you think?"
"Jess' you say," replied Mr. Lafferty, briefly.
"You see," continued Bagley to Larcher, "I sent for you, so's I could
pump you in front of Lafferty here. I'm satisfied you've told all you
know, and though that's absolutely nothing at all--ain't that so,
"Though it's nothing at all, a fair exchange is no robbery, and I'm
willing for you to know as much as I do. The knowledge won't do you any
good--it hasn't done me any good--but it'll give you an insight into your
friend Davenport. Then you and his other friends, if he's got any, won't
roast me because I claim that he flew the coop and not that somebody did
him for the money. See?"
"All right; then we'll open your eyes. I guess you don't happen to know
who Mr. Lafferty here is, do you?"
"Well, he's a central office detective." (Mr. Lafferty bore Larcher's
look of increased interest with becoming modesty.) "He's been on this
case ever since I came back from Chicago, and by a piece of dumb luck,
he got next to Davenport's trail for part of the day he was last seen.
He'll tell you how far he traced him. It's up to you now, Lafferty.
Mr. Lafferty, pretending to take as a good joke the attribution of his
discoveries to "dumb luck," promptly discoursed in a somewhat thick but
"On the Wednesday morning he was las' seen, he left the house about nine
o'clock, with a package wrapt in brown paper. I lose sight of'm f'r a
couple 'f hours, but I pick'm up again a little before twelve. He's still
got the same package. He goes into a certain department store, and buys
a suit o' clothes in the clothin' department; shirts, socks, an'
underclothes in the gents' furnishin' department; a pair o' shoes in the
shoe department, an' s'mother things in other departments. These he has
all done up in wrappin'-paper, pays fur 'em, and leaves 'em to be called
fur later. He then goes an' has his lunch."
"Where does he have his lunch?" asked Bagley.
"Never mind where he has his lunch," said Mr. Lafferty, annoyed. "That's
got no bearin' on the case. After he has his lunch, he goes to a certain
big grocer's and provision dealer's, an' buys a lot o' canned meats and
various provisions,--I can give you a complete list if you want it."
This last offer, accompanied by a movement of a hand to an inner pocket,
was addressed to Bagley, who declined with the words, "That's all right.
I've seen it before."
"He has these things all done up in heavy paper, so's to make a dozen'r
so big packages. Then he pays fur 'em, an' leaves 'em to be called fur.
It's late in the afternoon by this time, and comin' on dark. Understand,
he's still got the 'riginal brown paper package with him. The next thing
he does is, he hires a cab, and has himself druv around to the department
store he was at before. He gets the things he bought there, an' puts 'em
on the cab, an' has himself druv on to the grocer's an' provision
dealer's, an' gets the packages he bought there, an' has them put _in_
the cab. The cab's so full o' his parcels now, he's only got just room
fur himself on the back seat. An' then he has the hackman drive to a
place away down-town."
Mr. Lafferty paused for a moment to wet his throat with brandy and
water. Larcher, who had admired the professional mysteriousness shown
in withholding the names of the stores for the mere sake of reserving
something to secrecy, was now wondering how the detective knew that the
man he had traced was Murray Davenport. He gave voice to his wonder.
"By the description, of course," replied Mr. Lafferty, with disgust at
Larcher's inferiority of intelligence. "D'yuh s'pose I'd foller a man's
trail as fur as that, if everything didn't tally--face, eyes, nose,
height, build, clo'es, hat, brown paper parcel, everything?"
"Then it's simply marvellous," said Larcher, with genuine astonishment,
"how you managed to get on his track, and to follow it from place to
"Oh, it's my business to know how to do them things," replied Mr.
"Your business!" said Bagley. "Dumb luck, I tell you. Can't you see how
it was?" He had turned to Larcher. "The cabman read of Davenport's
disappearance, and putting together the day, and the description in the
papers, and the queer load of parcels, goes and tells the police.
Lafferty is put on the case, pumps the cabman dry, then goes to the
stores where the cab stopped to collect the goods, and finds out the
rest. Only, when he comes to tell the story, he tells the facts not in
their order as he found them out, but in their order as they occurred."
"You know all about it, Mr. Bagley," said Lafferty, taking refuge in
jocular irony. "You'd ought 'a' worked up the case yourself."
"You left Davenport being driven down-town," Larcher reminded the
"Yes, an' that about lets me out. The cabman druv 'im to somewhere on
South Street, by the wharves. It was dark by that time, and the driver
didn't notice the exact spot--he just druv along the street till the man
told him to stop, that was his orders,--an' then the man got out, took
out his parcels, an' carried them across the sidewalk into a dark
hallway. Then he paid the cabman, an' the cabman druv off. The last the
cabman seen of 'im, he was goin' into the hallway where his goods were,
an' that's the last any one seen of 'im in New York, as fur as known.
Prob'ly you've got enough imagination to give a guess what became of him
"No, I haven't," said Larcher.
"Jes' think it over. You can put two and two together, can't you? A new
outfit o' clo'es, first of all. Then a stock o' provisions. To make it
easier, I'll tell yuh this much: they was the kind o' provisions people
take on yachts, an' he even admitted to the salesman they was for that
purpose. And then South Street--the wharves; does that mean ships? Does
the whole business mean a voyage? But a man don't have to stock up extry
food if he's goin' by any regular steamer line, does he? What fur, then?
And what kind o' ships lays off South Street? Sailin' ships; them that
goes to South America, an' Asia, and the South Seas, and God knows where
all. Now do you think you can guess?"
"But why would he put his things in a hallway?" queried Larcher.
"To wait fur the boat that was to take 'em out to the vessel late at
night. Why did he wait fur dark to be druv down there? You bet, he was
makin' his flittin' as silent as possible. He'd prob'ly squared it with
a skipper to take 'im aboard on the dead quiet. That's why there ain't
much use our knowin' what vessels sailed about that time. I _do_ know,
but much good we'll get out o' that. What port he gets off at, who'll
ever tell? It'll be sure to be in a country where we ain't got no
extradition treaty. And when this particular captain shows up again at
this port, innocent enough _he'll_ be; _he_ never took no passenger
aboard in the night, an' put 'im off somewheres below the 'quator. I
guess Mr. Bagley can about consider his twenty thousand to the bad,
unless his young friend takes a notion to return to his native land
before he's got it all spent."
"And that's your belief?" said Larcher to Bagley, "--that he went to some
other country with the money?"
"Absconded," replied the ready-money man. "Yes; there's nothing else to
believe. At first I thought you might have some notion where he was;
that's what made me send for you. But I see he left you out of his
confidence. So I thought you might as well know his real character.
Lafferty's going to give the result of his investigation to the newspaper
men, anyhow. The only satisfaction I can get is to show the fellow up."
When Larcher left the presence of Bagley, he carried away no definite
conclusion except that Bagley was an even more detestable animal than he
had before supposed. If the man whom Lafferty had traced was really
Davenport, then indeed the theory of suicide was shaken. There remained
the possibility of murder or flight. The purchases indeed seemed to
indicate flight, especially when viewed in association with South Street.
South Street? Why, that was Mr. Bud's street. And a hallway? Mr. Bud's
room was approached through a hallway. Mr. Bud had left town the day
before that Wednesday; but if Davenport had made frequent visits there
for sketching, was it not certain that he had had access to the room in
Mr. Bud's absence? Larcher had knocked at that room two days after the
Wednesday, and had got no answer, but this was no evidence that Davenport
might not have made some use of the room in the meanwhile. If he had made
use of it, he might have left some trace, some possible clew to his
subsequent movements. Larcher, thinking thus on his way from Bagley's
apartment-house, resolved to pay another visit to Mr. Bud's quarters
before saying anything about Bagley's theory to any one.
He was busy the next day until the afternoon was well advanced. As soon
as he got free, he took himself to South Street; ascended the dark stairs
from the hallway, and knocked loudly at Mr. Bud's door. There was no more
answer than there had been six weeks before; nothing to do but repair to
the saloon below. The same bartender was on duty.
"Is Mr. Bud in town, do you know?" inquired Larcher, having observed the
usual preliminaries to interrogation.
"Not to my knowledge."
"When was he here last?"
"Not for a long time. 'Most two months, I guess."
"But I was here five or six weeks ago, and he'd been gone only three days
"Then you know more about it than I do; so don't ast me."
"He hasn't been here since I was?"
"And my friend who was here with me the first time--has he been here
"Not while I've been."
"When is Mr. Bud likely to be here again?"
"Give it up. I ain't his private secretary."
Just as Larcher was turning away, the street door opened, and in walked a
man with a large hand-bag, who proved to be none other than Mr. Bud
"I was just looking for you," cried Larcher.
"That so?" replied Mr. Bud, cheerily, grasping Larcher's hand. "I just
got into town. It's blame cold out." He set his hand-bag on the bar,
saying to the bartender, "Keep my gripsack back there awhile, Mick, will
yuh? I got to git somethin' into me 'fore I go up-stairs. Gimme a plate
o' soup on that table, an' the whisky bottle. Will you join me, sir? Two
plates o' soup, an' two glasses with the whisky bottle. Set down, set
down, sir. Make yourself at home."
Larcher obeyed, and as soon as the old man's overcoat was off, and the
old man ready for conversation, plunged into his subject.
"Do you know what's become of my friend Davenport?" he asked, in a low
"No. Hope he's well and all right. What makes you ask like that?"
"Haven't you read of his disappearance?"
"Disappearance? The devil! Not a word! I been too busy to read the
papers. When was it?"
"Several weeks ago." Larcher recited the main facts, and finished thus:
"So if there isn't a mistake, he was last seen going into your hallway.
Did he have a key to your room?"
"Yes, so's he could draw pictures while I was away. My hallway? Let's
go and see."
In some excitement, without waiting for partiallars, the farmer rose
and led the way out. It was already quite dark.
"Oh, I don't expect to find him in your room," said Larcher, at his
heels. "But he may have left some trace there."
Mr. Bud turned into the hallway, of which the door was never locked till
late at night. The hallway was not lighted, save as far as the rays of a
street-lamp went across the threshold. Plunging into the darkness with
haste, closely followed by Larcher, the old man suddenly brushed against
some one coming from the stairs.
"Excuse _me_" said Mr. Bud. "I didn't see anybody. It's all-fired dark in
"It _is_ dark," replied the stranger, and passed out to the street.
Larcher, at the words of the other two, had stepped back into a corner
to make way. Mr. Bud turned to look at the stranger; and the stranger,
just outside the doorway, turned to look at Mr. Bud. Then both went their
different directions, Mr. Bud's direction being up the stairs.
"Must be a new lodger," said Mr. Bud. "He was comin' from these stairs
when I run agin 'im. I never seen 'im before."
"You can't truly say you saw him even then," replied Larcher, guiding
himself by the stair wall.
"Oh, he turned around outside, an' I got the street-light on him. A
good-lookin' young chap, to be roomin' on these premises."
"I didn't see his face," replied Larcher, stumbling.
"Look out fur yur feet. Here we are at the top."
Mr. Bud groped to his door, and fumblingly unlocked it. Once inside his
room, he struck a match, and lighted one of the two gas-burners.
"Everything same as ever," said Mr. Bud, looking around from the centre
of the room. "Books, table, chairs, stove, bed made up same's I left
"Hello, what's this?" exclaimed Larcher, having backed against a hollow
metallic object on the floor and knocked his head against a ropey,
rubbery something in the air.
"That's a gas-heater--Mr. Davenport made me a present of it. It's
convenienter than the old stove. He wanted to pay me fur the gas it
burned when he was here sketchin', but I wouldn't stand fur that."
The ropey, rubbery something was the tube connecting the heater with the
"I move we light 'er up, and make the place comfortable; then we can talk
this matter over," continued Mr. Bud. "Shet the door, an' siddown."
Seated in the waves of warmth from the gas-stove, the two went into the
details of the case.
Larcher not withholding the theory of Mr. Lafferty, and even touching
briefly on Davenport's misunderstanding as to Florence Kenby.
"Well," said Mr. Bud, thoughtfully, "if he reely went into a hallway in
these parts, it would prob'ly be the hallway he was acquainted with. But
he wouldn't stay in the hallway. He'd prob'ly come to this room. An' he'd
no doubt bring his parcels here. But one thing's certain: if he did that,
he took 'em all away again. He might 'a' left somethin' in the closet, or
under the bed, or somewheres."
A search was made of the places named, as well as of drawers and
wash-stand, but Mr. Bud found no additions to his property. He even
looked in the coal-box,--and stooped and fished something out, which he
held up to the light. "Hello, I don't reco'nize this!"
Larcher uttered an exclamation. "He _has_ been here! That's the note-book
cover the money was in. He had it the night before he was last seen. I
could swear to it."
"It's all dirty with coal-dust," cautioned Mr. Bud, as Larcher seized it
for closer examination.
"It proves he's been here, at least. We've got him traced further than
the detective, anyhow."
"But not so very fur, at that. What if he was here? Mind, I ain't
a-sayin' one thing ur another,--but if he _was_ contemplatin' a voyage,
an' had fixed to be took aboard late at night, what better place to wait
fur the ship's boat than just this here?"
"But the money must have been handled here--taken out of this cover, and
the cover thrown away. Suppose somebody _had_ seen him display that money
during the day; _had_ shadowed him here, followed him to this room, taken
him by surprise?"
"No signs of a struggle, fur as I c'n see."
"But a single blow with a black-jack, from behind, would do the
"An' what about the--remains?"
"The river is just across the street. This would occur at night,
Mr. Bud shook his head. "An' the load o' parcels--what 'ud become o'
"The criminal might convey them away, too, at his leisure during the
night. They would be worth something."
Evidently to test the resourcefulness of the young man's imagination, Mr.
Bud continued, "But why should the criminal go to the trouble o' removin'
the body from here?"
"To delay its discovery, or create an impression of suicide if it were
found," ventured Larcher, rather lamely. "The criminal would naturally
suppose that a chambermaid visited the room every day."
"The criminal 'ud risk less by leavin' the body right here; an' it don't
stand to reason that, after makin' such a haul o' money, he'd take any
chances f'r the sake o' the parcels. No; your the'ry's got as much agin'
it, as the detective's has fur it. It's built on nothin' but random
guesswork. As fur me, I'd rather the young man did get away with the
money,--you say the other fellow'd done him out o' that much, anyhow.
I'd rather that than somebody else got away with him."
"So would I--in the circumstances," confessed Larcher.
Mr. Bud proposed that they should go down to the saloon and "tackle the
soup." Larcher could offer no reason for remaining where they were. As
they rose to go, the young man looked at his fingers, soiled from the
coal-dust on the covers.
"There's a bath-room on this floor; we c'n wash our hands there," said
Mr. Bud, and, after closing up his own apartment, led the way, by the
light of matches, to a small cubicle at the rear of the passage, wherein
were an ancient wood-encased bathtub, two reluctant water-taps, and other
products of a primitive age of plumbing. From this place, discarding the
aid of light, Mr. Bud and his visitor felt their way down-stairs.
"Yes," spoke Mr. Bud, as they descended in the darkness, "one 'ud almost
imagine it was true about his bein' pursued with bad luck. To think of
the young lady turnin' out staunch after all, an' his disappearin' just
in time to miss the news! That beats me!"
"And how do you suppose the young lady feels about it?" said Larcher. "It
breaks my heart to have nothing to report, when I see her. She's really
an angel of a girl."
They emerged to the street, and Mr. Bud's mind recurred to the stranger
he had run against in the hallway. When they had reseated themselves in
the saloon, and the soup had been brought, the old man said to the
"I see there's a new roomer, Mick?"
"Where?" asked Mick.
"In the house here. Somewheres up-stairs."
"If there is, he's a new one on me," said Mick, decidedly.
"What? _Ain't_ there a new roomer come in since I was here last?"
"No, sir, there ain't there."
"Well, that's funny," said Mr. Bud, looking to Larcher for comment. But
Larcher had no thought just then for any subject but Davenport, and to
that he kept the farmer's attention during the rest of their talk. When
the talk was finished, simultaneously with the soup, it had been agreed
that Mr. Bud should "nose around" thereabouts for any confirmation of
Lafferty's theory, or any trace of Davenport, and should send for Larcher
if any such turned up.
"I'll be in town a week ur two," said the old man, at parting. "I
been kep' so long up-country this time, 'count o' the turkey
trade--Thanksgivin' and Chris'mas, y'know. I do considerable in poultry."
But some days passed, and Larcher heard nothing from Mr. Bud. A few of
the newspapers published Detective Lafferty's unearthings, before Larcher
had time to prepare Miss Kenby for them. She hailed them with gladness as
pointing to a likelihood that Davenport was alive; but she ignored all
implications of probable guilt on his part. That the amount of Bagley's
loss through Davenport was no more than Bagley's rightful debt to
Davenport, Larcher had already taken it on himself delicately to inform
her. She had not seemed to think that fact, or any fact, necessary to her
A NEW ACQUAINTANCE
Meanwhile Larcher was treated to an odd experience. One afternoon, as
he turned into the house of flats in which Edna Hill lived, he chanced
to look back toward Sixth Avenue. He noticed a pleasant-looking,
smooth-faced young man, very erect in carriage and trim in appearance,
coming along from that thoroughfare. He recalled now that he had observed
this same young man, who was a stranger to him, standing at the corner of
his own street as he left his lodgings that morning; and again sauntering
along behind him as he took the car to come up-town. Doubtless, thought
he, the young man had caught the next car, and, by a coincidence, got off
at the same street. He passed in, and the matter dropped from his mind.
But the next day, as he was coming out of the restaurant where he usually
lunched, his look met that of the same neat, braced-up young man, who was
standing in the vestibule of a theatre across the way. "It seems I am
haunted by this gentleman," mused Larcher, and scrutinized him rather
intently. Even across the street, Larcher was impressed anew with the
young man's engagingness of expression, which owed much to a whimsical,
amiable look about the mouth.
Two hours later, having turned aside on Broadway to greet an
acquaintance, his roving eye fell again on the spruce young man, this
time in the act of stepping into a saloon which Larcher had just passed.
"By George, this _is_ strange!" he exclaimed.
"What?" asked his acquaintance.
"That's the fifth time I've seen the same man in two days. He's just gone
into that saloon."
"You're being shadowed by the police," said the other, jokingly. "What
crime have you committed?"
The next afternoon, as Larcher stood on the stoop of the house in lower
Fifth Avenue, and glanced idly around while waiting for an answer to his
ring, he beheld the young man coming down the other side of the avenue.
"Now this is too much," said Larcher to himself, glaring across at the
stranger, but instantly feeling rebuked by the innocent good humor that
lurked about the stranger's mouth. As the young man came directly
opposite, without having apparently noticed Larcher, the latter's
attention was called away by the coming of the servant in response to
the bell. He entered the house, and, as he awaited the announcement of
his name to Miss Kenby, he asked himself whether this haunting of his
footsteps might indeed be an intended act. "Do they think I may be in
communication with Davenport? and _are_ they having me shadowed? That
would be interesting." But this strange young man looked too intelligent,
too refined, too superior in every way, for the trade of a shadowing
detective. Besides, a "shadow" would not, as a rule, appear on three
successive days in precisely the same clothes and hat.
And yet, when Larcher left the house half an hour later, whom did he see
gazing at the display in a publisher's window near by, on the same side
of the street, but the young man? Flaring up at this evidence to the
probability that he was really being dogged, Larcher walked straight to
the young man's side, and stared questioningly at the young man's
reflection in the plate glass. The young man glanced around in a casual
manner, as at the sudden approach of a newcomer, and then resumed his
contemplation of the books in the window. The amiability of the young
man's countenance, the quizzical good nature of his dimpled face,
disarmed resentment. Feeling somewhat foolish, Larcher feigned an
interest in the show of books for a few seconds, and then went his way,
leaving the young man before the window. Larcher presently looked back;
the young man was still there, still gazing at the books. Apparently he
was not taking further note of Larcher's movements. This was the end of
Larcher's odd experience; he did not again have reason to suppose himself
The third time Larcher called to see Miss Kenby after this, he had not
been seated five minutes when there came a gentle knock at the door.
Florence rose and opened it.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Kenby," said a very masculine, almost husky
voice in the hall; "these are the cigars I was speaking of to your
father. May I leave them?"
"Oh, come in, come in, Mr. Turl," called out Miss Kenby's father himself
from the fireside.
"Thank you, no; I won't intrude."
"But you must; I want to see you," Mr. Kenby insisted, fussily getting
to his feet.
Larcher asked himself where he had heard the name of Turl. Before his
memory could answer, the person addressed by that name entered the room
in a politely hesitating manner, bowed, and stood waiting for father
and daughter to be seated. He was none other than the smooth-faced,
pleasant-looking young man with the trim appearance and erect attitude.
Larcher sat open-eyed and dumb.
Mr. Kenby was for not only throwing his attention entirely around the
newcomer, but for snubbing Larcher utterly forthwith; seeing which,
Florence took upon herself the office of introducing the two young men.
Mr. Turl, in resting his eyes on Larcher, showed no consciousness of
having encountered him before. They were blue eyes, clear and soft, and
with something kind and well-wishing in their look. Larcher found the
whole face, now that it was animated with a sense of his existence,
pleasanter than ever. He found himself attracted by it; and all the
more for that did he wonder at the young man's appearance in the house
of his acquaintances, after those numerous appearances in his wake in
Mr. Kenby now took exclusive possession of Mr. Turl, and while those two
were discussing the qualities of the cigars, Larcher had an opportunity
of asking Florence, quietly:
"Who is your visitor? Have you known him long?"
"Only three or four days. He is a new guest in the house. Father met
him in the public drawing-room, and has taken a liking to him."
"He seems likeable. I was wondering where I'd heard the name. It's not a
No, it was not common. Florence had seen it in a novel or somewhere, but
had never before met anybody possessing it. She agreed that he seemed
likeable,--agreed, that is to say, as far as she thought of him at all,
for what was he, or any casual acquaintance, to a woman in her state of
Larcher regarded him with interest. The full, clear brow, from which the
hair was tightly brushed, denoted intellectual qualities, but the rest
of the face--straight-bridged nose, dimpled cheeks, and quizzical
mouth--meant urbanity. The warm healthy tinge of his complexion, evenly
spread from brow to chin, from ear-tip to ear-tip, was that of a social
rather than bookish or thoughtful person. He soon showed his civility by
adroitly contriving to include Florence and Larcher in his conversation
with Mr. Kenby. Talk ran along easily for half an hour upon the shop
windows during the Christmas season, the new calendars, the picture
exhibitions, the "art gift-books," and such topics, on all of which Mr.
Turl spoke with liveliness and taste. ("Fancy my supposing this man a
detective," mused Larcher.)
"I've been looking about in the art shops and the old book stores," said
Mr. Turl, "for a copy of the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, as it was
called. You know, of course,--engravings from the Boydell collection of
Shakespearean paintings. It was convenient to have them in a volume. I'm
sorry it has disappeared from the shops. I'd like very much to have
another look through it."
"You can easily have that," said Larcher, who had impatiently awaited a
chance to speak. "I happen to possess the book."
"Oh, indeed? I envy you. I haven't seen a copy of it in years."
"You're very welcome to see mine. I wouldn't part with it permanently,
of course, but if you don't object to borrowing--"
"Oh, I wouldn't deprive you of it, even for a short time. The value of
owning such a thing is to have it always by; one mayn't touch it for
months, but, when the mood comes for it, there it is. I never permit
anybody to lend me such things."
"Then if you deprive me of the pleasure of lending it, will you take the
trouble of coming to see it?" Larcher handed him his card.
"You're very kind," replied Turl, glancing at the address. "If you're
sure it won't be putting you to trouble. At what time shall I be least
in your way?"
"I shall be in to-morrow afternoon,--but perhaps you're not free till
"Oh, I can choose my hours; I have nothing to do to-morrow afternoon."
("Evidently a gentleman of leisure," thought Larcher.)
So it was settled that he should call about three o'clock, an appointment
which Mr. Kenby, whose opinion of Larcher had not changed since their
first meeting, viewed with decided lack of interest.
When Larcher left, a few minutes later, he was so far under the spell of
the newcomer's amiability that he felt as if their acquaintance were
considerably older than three-quarters of an hour.
Nevertheless, he kept ransacking his memory for the circumstances in
which he had before heard the name of Turl. To be sure, this Turl might
not be the Turl whose name he had heard; but the fact that he _had_ heard
the name, and the coincidences in his observation of the man himself,
made the question perpetually insistent. He sought out Barry Tompkins,
and asked, "Did you ever mention to me a man named Turl?"
"Never in a state of consciousness," was Tompkins's reply; and an equally
negative answer came from everybody else to whom Larcher put the query
He thought of friend after friend until it came Murray Davenport's turn
in his mental review. He had a momentary feeling that the search was
warm here; but the feeling succumbed to the consideration that Davenport
had never much to say about acquaintances. Davenport seemed to have put
friendship behind him, unless that which existed between him and Larcher
could be called friendship; his talk was not often of any individual
"Well," thought Larcher, "when Mr. Turl comes to see me, I shall find,
out whether there's anybody we both know. If there is, I shall learn more
of Mr. Turl. Then light may be thrown on his haunting my steps for three
days, and subsequently turning up in the rooms of people I visit."
The arrival of Mr. Turl, at the appointed hour the next afternoon,
instantly put to rout all doubts of his being other than he seemed. In
the man's agreeable presence, Larcher felt that to imagine the
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