The Mystery of Murray Davenport
Robert Neilson Stephens
Part 3 out of 4
coincidences anything _but_ coincidences was absurd.
The two young men were soon bending over the book of engravings, which
lay on a table. Turl pointed out beauties of detail which Larcher had
"You talk like an artist," said Larcher.
"I have dabbled a little," was the reply. "I believe I can draw, when put
"You ought to be put to it occasionally, then."
"I have sometimes thought of putting myself to it. Illustrating, I mean,
as a profession. One never knows when one may have to go to work for a
living. If one has a start when that time comes, so much the better."
"Perhaps I might be of some service to you. I know a few editors."
"Thank you very much. You mean you would ask them to give me work to
"If you wished. Or sometimes the text and illustrations may be done
first, and then submitted together. A friend of mine had some success
with me that way; I wrote the stuff, he made the pictures, and the
combination took its chances. We did very well. My friend was Murray
Davenport, who disappeared. Perhaps you've heard of him."
"I think I read something in the papers," replied Turl. "He went to
South America or somewhere, didn't he?"
"A detective thinks so, but the case is a complete mystery," said
Larcher, making the mental note that, as Turl evidently had not known
Davenport, it could not be Davenport who had mentioned Turl. "Hasn't
Mr. Kenby or his daughter ever spoken of it to you?" added Larcher,
after a moment.
"No. Why should they?" asked the other, turning over a page of the
"They knew him. Miss Kenby is very unhappy over his disappearance."
Did a curious look come over Mr. Turl's face for an instant, as he
carefully regarded the picture before him? If it did, it passed.
"I've noticed she has seemed depressed, or abstracted," he replied. "It's
a pity. She's very beautiful and womanly. She loved this man, do you
"Yes. But what makes it worse, there was a curious misunderstanding on
his part, which would have been removed if he hadn't disappeared. That
aggravates her unhappiness."
"I'm sorry for her. But time wears away unhappiness of that sort."
"I hope it will in this case--if it doesn't turn it to joy by bringing
Turl was silent, and Larcher did not continue the subject. When the
visitor was through with the pictures, he joined his host at the
fire, resigning himself appreciatively to one of the great, handsome
easy-chairs--new specimens of an old style--in which Larcher indulged
"A pleasant place you have here," said the guest, while Larcher was
bringing forth sundry bottles and such from a closet which did duty as
"It ought to be," replied Larcher. "Some fellows in this town only sleep
in their rooms, but I work in mine."
"And entertain," said Turl, with a smile, as the bottles and other things
were placed on a little round table at his elbow. "Here's variety of
choice. I think I'll take some of that red wine, whatever it is, and a
sandwich. I require a wet day for whisky. Your quarters here put me out
of conceit with my own."
"Why, you live in a good house," said Larcher, helping himself in turn.
"Good enough, as they go; what the newspapers would call a 'fashionable
boarding-house.' Imagine a fashionable boarding-house!" He smiled. "But
my own portion of the house is limited in space. In fact, at present I
come under the head of hall-bedroom young men. I know the hall-bedroom
has supplanted the attic chamber of an earlier generation of budding
geniuses; but I prefer comfort to romance."
"How did you happen to go to that house?"
"I saw its advertisement in the 'boarders wanted' column. I liked the
neighborhood. It's the old Knickerbocker neighborhood, you know. Not much
of the old Knickerbocker atmosphere left. It's my first experience as a
'boarder' in New York. I think, on the whole, I prefer to be a 'roomer'
and 'eat out.' I have been a 'paying guest' in London, but fared better
there as a mere 'lodger.'"
"You're not English, are you?"
"No. Good American, but of a roving habit. American in blood and
political principles; but not willing to narrow my life down to the
resources of any one country. I was born in New York, in fact, but of
course before the era of sky-scrapers, multitudinous noises, and
perpetual building operations."
"I thought there was something of an English accent in your speech now
"Very probably. When I was ten years old, my father's business took us
to England; he was put in charge of the London branch. I was sent to a
private school at Folkestone, where I got the small Latin, and no Greek
at all, that I boast of. Do you know Folkestone? The wind on the cliffs,
the pine-trees down their slopes, the vessels in the channel, the faint
coast of France in clear weather? I was to have gone from there to one
of the universities, but my mother died, and my father soon after,--the
only sorrows I've ever had,--and I decided, on my own, to cut the
university career, and jump into the study of pictorial art. Since then,
I've always done as I liked."
"You don't seem to have made any great mistakes."
"No. I've never gone hunting trouble. Unlike most people who are doomed
to uneventful happiness, I don't sigh for adventure."
"Then your life has been uneventful since you jumped into the study of
"Entirely. Cast always in smooth and agreeable lines. I studied first in
a London studio, then in Paris; travelled in various parts of Europe and
the United States; lived in London and New York; and there you are. I've
never had to work, so far. But the money my father left me has gone--I
spent the principal because I had other expectations. And now this other
little fortune, that I meant to use frugally, is in dispute. I may be
deprived of it by a decision to be given shortly. In that case, I shall
have to earn my mutton chops like many a better man."
"You seem to take the prospect very cheerfully."
"Oh, I shall be fortunate. Good fortune is my destiny. Things come my
way. My wants are few. I make friends easily. I have to make them easily,
or I shouldn't make any, changing my place so often. A new place, new
friends. Even when I go back to an old place, I rather form new
friendships that chance throws in my way, than hunt up the old ones.
I must confess I find new friends the more interesting, the more suited
to my new wants. Old friends so often disappoint on revisitation. You
change, they don't; or they change, you don't; or they change, and you
change, but not in the same ways. The Jones of yesterday and the Brown
of yesterday were eminently fitted to be friends; but the Jones of
to-day and the Brown of to-day are different men, through different
experiences, and don't harmonize. Why clog the present with the past?"
As he sipped his wine and ate his sandwich, gazing contentedly into the
fire the while, Mr. Turl looked the living justification of his
FLORENCE DECLARES HER ALLEGIANCE
During the next few weeks, Larcher saw much of Mr. Turl. The Kenbys,
living under the same roof, saw even more of him. It was thus inevitable
that Edna Hill should be added to his list of new acquaintances. She
declared him "nice," and was not above trying to make Larcher a little
jealous. But Turl, beyond the amiability which he had for everybody, was
not of a coming-on disposition. Sometimes Larcher fancied there was the
slightest addition of tenderness to that amiability when Turl regarded,
or spoke to, Florence Kenby. But, if there was, nobody need wonder at it.
The newcomer could not realize how permanently and entirely another image
filled her heart. It would be for him to find that out--if his feelings
indeed concerned themselves with her--when those feelings should take
hope and dare expression. Meanwhile it was nobody's place to warn him.
If poor Davenport's image remained as living as ever in Florence Kenby's
heart, that was the only place in New York where it did remain so. With
Larcher, it went the course of such images; occupied less and less of his
thoughts, grew more and more vague. He no longer kept up any pretence of
inquiry. He had ceased to call at police headquarters and on Mrs. Haze.
That good woman had his address "in case anything turned up." She had
rented Davenport's room to a new lodger; his hired piano had been removed
by the owners, and his personal belongings had been packed away unclaimed
by heir or creditor. For any trace of him that lingered on the scene of
his toils and ponderings, the man might never have lived at all.
It was now the end of January. One afternoon Larcher, busy at his
writing-table, was about to light up, as the day was fading, when he was
surprised by two callers,--Edna Hill and her Aunt Clara.
"Well, this is jolly!" he cried, welcoming them with a glowing face.
"It's not half bad," said Edna, applying the expression to the room. "I
don't believe so much comfort is good for a young man."
She pointed her remark by dropping into one of the two great chairs
before the fire. Her aunt, panting a little from the ascent of the
stairs, had already deposited her rather plump figure in the other.
"But I'm a hard-working young man, as you can see," he replied, with a
gesture toward the table.
"Is that where you grind out the things the magazines reject?" asked
Edna. "Oh, don't light up. The firelight is just right; isn't it,
"Charming," said Aunt Clara, still panting. "You must miss an elevator
in the house, Mr. Larcher."
"If it would assure me of more visits like this, I'd move to where there
was one. You can't imagine how refreshing it is, in the midst of the
lonely grind, to have you come in and brighten things up."
"We're keeping you from your work, Tommy," said Edna, with sudden
seriousness, whether real or mock he could not tell.
"Not a bit of it. I throw it over for the day. Shall I have some tea
made for you? Or will you take some wine?"
"No, thanks; we've just had tea."
"I think a glass of wine would be good for me after that climb,"
suggested Aunt Clara. Larcher hastened to serve her, and then brought a
chair for himself.
"I just came in to tell you what I've discovered," said Edna. "Mr. Turl
is in love with Florence Kenby!"
"How do you know?" asked Larcher.
"By the way he looks at her, and that sort of thing. And she knows it,
too--I can see that."
"And what does she appear to think about it?"
"What would she think about it? She has nothing against him; but of
course it'll be love's labor lost on his side. I suppose he doesn't know
that yet, poor fellow. All she can do is to ignore the signs, and avoid
him as much as possible, and not hurt his feelings. It's a pity."
"That she isn't open to--new impressions,--you know what I mean. He's an
awfully nice young man, so tall and straight,--they would look so well
"Edna, you amaze me!" said Larcher. "How can you want her to be
inconstant? I thought you were full of admiration for her loyalty to
"So I was, when there was a tangible Davenport. As long as we knew he was
alive, and within reach, there was a hope of straightening things out
between them. I'd set my heart on accomplishing that."
"I know you like to play the goddess from the machine," observed Larcher.
"She's prematurely given to match-making," said Aunt Clara, now restored
to her placidity.
"Be good, auntie, or I'll make a match between you and Mr. Kenby,"
threatened Edna. "Well, now that the best we can hope for about Davenport
is that he went away with another man's money--"
"But I've told you the other man morally owed him that much money."
"That won't make it any safer for him to come back to New York. And you
know what's waiting for him if he does come back, unless he's got an
awfully good explanation. And as for Florence's going to him, what chance
is there now of ever finding out where he is? It would either be one of
those impossible countries where there's no extradition, or a place where
he'd always be virtually in hiding. What a horrid life! So I think if she
isn't going to be miserable the rest of her days, it's time she tried to
forget the absent."
"I suppose you're right," said Larcher.
"So I came in to say that I'm going to do all I quietly can to distract
her thoughts from the past, and get her to look around her. If I see
any way of preparing her mind to think well of Mr. Turl, I'll do it. And
what I want of you is not to discourage him by any sort of hints or
allusions--to Davenport, you understand."
"Oh, I haven't been making any. I told him the mere fact, that's all. I'm
neither for him nor against him. I have no right to be against him--and
yet, when I think of poor Davenport, I can't bring myself to be for Turl,
much as I like him."
"All right. Be neutral, that's all I ask. How is Turl getting on with his
plan of going to work?"
"Oh, he has excellent chances. He's head and shoulders above the ruck of
black-and-white artists. He makes wonderfully good comics. He'll have no
trouble getting into the weeklies, to begin with."
"Is it settled yet, about that money of his in dispute?"
"I don't know. He hasn't spoken of it lately."
"He doesn't seem to care much. I'm going to do my little utmost to keep
Florence from avoiding him. I know how to manage. I'm going to reawaken
her interest in life in general, too. She's promised to go for a drive
with me to-morrow. Do you want to come along?"
"I jump at the chance--if there's room."
"There'll be a landau, with a pair. Aunt Clara won't come, because Mr.
Kenby's coming, and she doesn't love him a little bit."
"Neither do I, but for the sake of your society--"
"All right. I'll get the Kenbys first, and pick you up here on the way
to the park. You can take Mr. Kenby off our hands, and leave me free to
cheer up Florence."
This assignment regarding Mr. Kenby had a moderating effect on Larcher's
pleasure, both at that moment and during the drive itself. But he gave
himself up heroically to starting the elder man on favorite topics, and
listening to his discourse thereon. He was rewarded by seeing that Edna
was indeed successful in bringing a smile to her friend's face now and
then. Florence was drawn out of her abstracted air; she began to have
eyes for the scenes around her. It was a clear, cold, exhilarating
afternoon. In the winding driveways of the park, there seemed to be more
than the usual number of fine horses and pretty women, the latter in
handsome wraps and with cheeks radiant from the frosty air. Edna was
adroit enough not to prolong the drive to the stage of numbness and
melancholy. She had just ordered the coachman to drive home, when the
rear of the carriage suddenly sank a little and a wheel ground against
the side. Edna screamed, and the driver stopped the horses. People came
running up from the walks, and the words "broken axle" went round.
"We shall have to get out," said Larcher, leading the way. He instantly
helped Florence to alight, then Edna and Mr. Kenby.
"Oh, what a nuisance!" cried Edna. "We can't go home in this carriage, of
"No, miss," said the driver, who had resigned his horses to a park
policeman, and was examining the break. "But you'll be able to pick up a
cab in the avenue yonder. I'll send for one if you say so."
"What a bore!" said Edna, vexatiously.
Several conveyances had halted, for the occupants to see what the trouble
was. From one of them--an automobile--a large, well-dressed man strode
over and greeted Larcher with the words:
"How are you? Had an accident?"
It was Mr. Bagley. Larcher briefly answered, "Broken axle."
"Well," said Edna, annoyed at being the centre of a crowd, "I suppose
we'd better walk over to Fifth Avenue and take a cab."
"You're quite welcome to the use of my automobile for your party," said
Bagley to Larcher, having swiftly inspected the members of that party.
As Edna, hearing this, glanced at Bagley with interest, and at Larcher
with inquiry, Larcher felt it was his cue to introduce the newcomer. He
did so, with no very good grace. At the name of Bagley, the girls
exchanged a look. Mr. Kenby's manner was gracious, as was natural toward
a man who owned an automobile and had an air of money.
"I'm sorry you've had this break-down," said Bagley, addressing the
party collectively. "Won't you do me the honor of using my car? You're
not likely to find an open carriage in this neighborhood."
"Thank you," said Edna Hill, chillily. "We can't think of putting you
"Oh, you won't put _me_ out. There's nobody but me and the chauffeur. My
car holds six people. I can't allow you to go for a carriage when mine's
here waiting. It wouldn't be right. I can set you all down at your homes
without any trouble."
During this speech, Bagley's eyes had rested first on Edna, then on Mr.
Kenby, and finally, for a longer time, on Florence. At the end, they went
back to Mr. Kenby, as if putting the office of reply on him.
"Your kindness is most opportune, sir," said Mr. Kenby, mustering
cordiality enough to make up for the coldness of the others. "I'm not at
my best to-day, and if I had to walk any distance, or wait here in the
cold, I don't know what would happen."
He started at once for the automobile, and there was nothing for the
girls to do, short of prudery or haughtiness, but follow him; nor for
Larcher to do but follow the girls.
Bagley sat in front with the chauffeur, but, as the car flew along, he
turned half round to keep up a shouting conversation with Mr. Kenby. His
glance went far enough to take in Florence, who shared the rear seat with
Edna. The spirits of the girls rose in response to the swift motion, and
Edna had so far recovered her merriment by the time her house was
reached, as to be sorry to get down. The party was to have had tea in her
flat; but Mr. Kenby decided he would rather go directly home by
automobile than wait and proceed otherwise. So he left Florence to
the escort of Larcher, and remained as Mr. Bagley's sole passenger.
"That was _the_ Mr. Bagley, was it?" asked Florence, as the three young
people turned into the house.
"Yes," said Larcher. "I ought to have got rid of him, I suppose. But
Edna's look was so imperative."
"I didn't know who he was, then," put in Edna.
"But after all, there was no harm in using his automobile."
"Why, he as much as accused Murray Davenport of absconding with his
money," said Florence, with a reproachful look at Edna.
"Oh, well, he couldn't understand, dear. He only knew that the money and
the man were missing. He could think of only one explanation,--men like
that are so unimaginative and businesslike. He's a bold, coarse-looking
creature. We sha'n't see anything more of him."
"I trust not," said Larcher; "but he's one of the pushful sort. He
doesn't know when he's snubbed. He thinks money will admit a man
anywhere. I'm sorry he turned up at that moment."
"So am I," said Florence, and added, explanatorily, "you know how ready
my father is to make new acquaintances, without stopping to consider."
That her apprehension was right, in this case, was shown three days
later, when Edna, calling and finding her alone, saw a bunch of great
red roses in a vase on the table.
"Oh, what beauties!" cried Edna.
"Mr. Bagley sent them," replied Florence, quickly, with a helpless,
perplexed air. "Father invited him to call."
"H'm! Why didn't you send them back?"
"I thought of it, but I didn't want to make so much of the matter. And
then there'd have been a scene with father. Of course, anybody may send
flowers to anybody. I might throw them away, but I haven't the heart to
treat flowers badly. _They_ can't help it."
"Does Mr. Bagley improve on acquaintance?"
"I never met such a combination of crudeness and self-assurance. Father
says it's men of that sort that become millionaires. If it is, I can
understand why American millionaires are looked down on in other
"It's not because of their millions, it's because of their manners,"
said Edna. "But what would you expect of men who consider money-making
the greatest thing in the world? I'm awfully sorry if you have to be
afflicted with any more visits from Mr. Bagley."
"I'll see him as rarely as I can. I should hate him for the injuries he
did Murray, even if he were possible otherwise."
When Edna saw Larcher, the next time he called at the flat, she first
sent him into a mood of self-blame by telling what had resulted from
the introduction of Bagley. Then, when she had sufficiently enjoyed his
verbal self-chastisement, she suddenly brought him around by saying:
"Well, to tell the truth, I'm not sorry for the way things have turned
out. If she has to see much of Bagley, she can't help comparing him with
the other man they see much of,--I mean Turl, not you. The more she
loathes Bagley, the more she'll look with relief to Turl. His good
qualities will stand out by contrast. Her father will want her to
tolerate Bagley. The old man probably thinks it isn't too late, after
all, to try for a rich son-in-law. Now that Davenport is out of the way,
he'll be at his old games again. He's sure to prefer Bagley, because
Turl makes no secret about his money being uncertain. And the best thing
for Turl is to have Mr. Kenby favor Bagley. Do you see?"
"Yes. But are you sure you're right in taking up Turl's cause so
heartily? We know so little of him, really. He's a very new acquaintance,
"Oh, you suspicious wretch! As if anybody couldn't see he was all right
by just looking at him! And I thought you liked him!"
"So I do; and when I'm in his company I can't doubt that he's the best
fellow in the world. But sometimes, when he's not present, I remember--"
"Well, what? What do you remember?"
"Oh, nothing,--only that appearances are sometimes deceptive, and that
sort of thing."
In assuming that Bagley's advent on the scene would make Florence more
appreciative of Turl's society, Edna was right. Such, indeed, was the
immediate effect. Mr. Kenby himself, though his first impression that
Turl was a young man of assured fortune had been removed by the young
man's own story, still encouraged his visits on the brilliant theory
that Bagley, if he had intentions, would be stimulated by the presence
of a rival. As Bagley's visits continued, it fell out that he and Turl
eventually met in the drawing-room of the Kenbys, some days after Edna
Hill's last recorded talk with Larcher. But, though they met, few words
were wasted between them. Bagley, after a searching stare, dismissed the
younger man as of no consequence, because lacking the signs of a
money-grabber; and the younger man, having shown a moment's curiosity,
dropped Bagley as beneath interest for possessing those signs. Bagley
tried to outstay Turl; but Turl had the advantage of later arrival and
of perfect control of temper. Bagley took his departure, therefore, with
the dry voice and set face of one who has difficulty in holding his
wrath. Perceiving that something was amiss, Mr. Kenby made a pretext to
accompany Bagley a part of his way, with the design of leaving him in a
better humor. In magnifying his newly discovered Bagley, Mr. Kenby
committed the blunder of taking too little account of Turl; and thus
Turl found himself suddenly alone with Florence.
The short afternoon was already losing its light, and the glow of the
fire was having its hour of supremacy before it should in turn take
second place to gaslight. For a few moments Florence was silent, looking
absently out of the window and across the wintry twilight to the rear
profile of the Gothic church beyond the back gardens. Turl watched her
face, with a softened, wistful, perplexed look on his own. The ticking
of the clock on the mantel grew very loud.
Suddenly Turl spoke, in the quietest, gentlest manner.
"You must not be unhappy."
She turned, with a look of surprise, a look that asked him how he knew
"I know it from your face, your demeanor all the time, whatever you're
doing," he said.
"If you mean that I seem grave," she replied, with a faint smile, "it's
only my way. I've always been a serious person."
"But your gravity wasn't formerly tinged with sorrow; it had no touch of
"How do you know?" she asked, wonderingly.
"I can see that your unhappiness is recent in its cause. Besides, I have
heard the cause mentioned." There was an odd expression for a moment on
his face, an odd wavering in his voice.
"Then you can't wonder that I'm unhappy, if you know the cause."
"But I can tell you that you oughtn't to be unhappy. No one ought to
be, when the cause belongs to the past,--unless there's reason for
self-reproach, and there's no such reason with you. We oughtn't to
carry the past along with us; we oughtn't to be ridden by it, oppressed
by it. We should put it where it belongs,--behind us. We should sweep
the old sorrows out of our hearts, to make room there for any happiness
the present may offer. Believe me, I'm right. We allow the past too
great a claim upon us. The present has the true, legitimate claim. You
needn't be unhappy. You can forget. Try to forget. You rob
yourself,--you rob others."
She gazed at him silently; then answered, in a colder tone: "But you
don't understand. With me it isn't a matter of grieving over the past.
It's a matter of--of absence."
"I think," he said, so very gently that the most sensitive heart could
not have taken offence, "it is of the past. Forgive me; but I think you
do wrong to cherish any hopes. I think you'd best resign yourself to
believe that all is of the past; and then try to forget."
"How do you know?" she cried, turning pale.
Again that odd look on his face, accompanied this time by a single
twitching of the lips and a momentary reflection of her own pallor.
"One can see how much you cared for him," was his reply, sadly uttered.
"Cared for him? I still care for him! How do you know he is of the past?
What makes you say that?"
"I only--look at the probabilities of the case, as others do, more calmly
than you. I feel sure he will never come back, never be heard of again in
New York. I think you ought to accustom yourself to that view; your whole
life will be darkened if you don't."
"Well, I'll not take that view. I'll be faithful to him forever. I
believe I shall hear from him yet. If not, if my life is to be darkened
by being true to him, by hoping to meet him again, let it be darkened!
I'll never give him up! Never!"
Pain showed on Turl's countenance. "You mustn't doom yourself--you
mustn't waste your life," he protested.
"Why not, if I choose? What is it to you?"
He waited a moment; then answered, simply, "I love you."
The naturalness of his announcement, as the only and complete reply to
her question, forbade resentment. Yet her face turned scarlet, and when
she spoke, after a few moments, it was with a cold finality.
"I belong to the absent--entirely and forever. Nothing can change my
hope; or make me forget or want to forget."
Turl looked at her with the mixture of tenderness and perplexity which
he had shown before; but this time it was more poignant.
"I see I must wait," he said, quietly.
There was a touch of anger in her tone as she retorted, with an impatient
laugh, "It will be a long time of waiting."
He sighed deeply; then bade her good afternoon in his usual courteous
manner, and left her alone. When the door had closed, her eyes followed
him in imagination, with a frown of beginning dislike.
LARCHER PUTS THIS AND THAT TOGETHER
Two or three days after this, Turl dropped in to see Larcher,
incidentally to leave some sketches, mainly for the pleasanter passing of
an hour in a gray afternoon. Upon the announcement of another visitor,
whose name was not given, Turl took his departure. At the foot of the
stairs, he met the other visitor, a man, whom the servant had just
directed to Larcher's room. The hallway was rather dark as the incomer
and outgoer passed each other; but, the servant at that instant lighting
the gas, Turl glanced around for a better look, and encountered the
other's glance at the same time turned after himself. Each halted, Turl
for a scarce perceptible instant, the other for a moment longer. Then
Turl passed out, the servant having run to open the door; and the new
visitor went on up the stairs.
The new visitor found Larcher waiting in expectation of being either
bored or startled, as a man usually is by callers who come anonymously.
But when a tall, somewhat bent, white-bearded old man with baggy black
clothes appeared in the doorway, Larcher jumped up smiling.
"Why, Mr. Bud! This _is_ a pleasant surprise!"
Mr. Bud, from a somewhat timid and embarrassed state, was warmed into
heartiness by Larcher's welcome, and easily induced to doff his overcoat
and be comfortable before the fire. "I thought, as you'd gev me your
address, you wouldn't object--" Mr. Bud began with a beaming countenance;
but suddenly stopped short and looked thoughtful. "Say--I met a young man
down-stairs, goin' out."
"Mr. Turl probably. He just left me. A neat-looking, smooth-faced young
man, smartly dressed."
"That's him. What name did you say?"
"Never heard the name. But I've seen that young fellow somewhere. It's
funny: as I looked round at 'im just now, it seemed to me all at wunst as
if I'd met that same young man in that same place a long time ago. But
I've never been in this house before, so it couldn't 'a' been in that
"We often have that feeling--of precisely the same thing having happened
a long time ago. Dickens mentions it in 'David Copperfield.' There's a
"Yes, I know, but this wasn't exactly that. It was, an' it wasn't. I'm
dead sure I did reely meet that chap in some such place. An' a funny
thing is, somehow or other you was concerned in the other meeting like
you are in this."
"Well, that's interesting," said Larcher, recalling how Turl had once
seemed to be haunting his footsteps.
"I've got it!" cried Mr. Bud, triumphantly. "D'yuh mind that night you
came and told me about Davenport's disappearance?--and we went up an'
searched my room fur a trace?"
"And found the note-book cover that showed he had been there? Yes."
"Well, you remember, as we went into the hallway we met a man comin' out,
an' I turned round an' looked at 'im? That was the man I met just now
"Are you sure?"
"Sure's I'm settin' here. I see his face that first time by the light o'
the street-lamp, an' just now by the gaslight in the hall. An' both times
him and me turned round to look at each other. I noticed then what a
good-humored face he had, an' how he walked with his shoulders back. Oh,
that's the same man all right enough. What yuh say his name was?"
"Turl--T-u-r-l. Have you ever seen him at any other time?"
"Never. I kep' my eye peeled fur 'im too, after I found there was no new
lodger in the house. An' the funny part was, none o' the other roomers
knew anything about 'im. No such man had visited any o' them that
evening. So what the dickens _was_ he doin' there?"
"It's curious. I haven't known Mr. Turl very long, but there have been
some strange things in my observation of him, too. And it's always seemed
to me that I'd heard his name before. He's a clever fellow--here are some
comic sketches he brought me this afternoon." Larcher got the drawings
from his table, and handed them to Mr. Bud. "I don't know how good these
are; I haven't examined them yet."
The farmer grinned at the fun of the first picture, then read aloud the
name, "F. Turl."
"Oh, has he signed this lot?" asked Larcher. "I told him he ought to.
Let's see what his signature looks like." He glanced at the corner of the
sketch; suddenly he exclaimed: "By George, I've seen that name!--and
written just like that!"
"Like as not you've had letters from him, or somethin'."
"Never. I'm positive this is the first of his writing I've seen since
I've known him. Where the deuce?" He shut his eyes, and made a strong
effort of memory. Suddenly he opened his eyes again, and stared hard at
the signature. "Yes, sir! _Francis_ Turl--that was the name. And who do
you think showed me a note signed by that name in this very
"Give it up."
"Yuh don't say."
"Yes, I do. Murray Davenport, the last night I ever saw him. He asked me
to judge the writer's character from the penmanship. It was a note about
a meeting between the two. Now I wonder--was that an old note, and had
the meeting occurred already? or was the meeting yet to come? You see,
the next day Davenport disappeared."
"H'm! An' subsequently this young man is seen comin' out o' the hallway
Davenport was seen goin' into."
"But it was several weeks subsequently. Still, it's odd enough. If there
was a meeting _after_ Davenport's disappearance, why mightn't it have
been in your room? Why mightn't Davenport have appointed it to occur
there? Perhaps, when we first met Turl that night, he had gone back there
in search of Davenport--or for some other purpose connected with him."
"H'm! What has this Mr. Turl to say about Davenport's disappearance?"
"Nothing. And that's odd, too. He must have been acquainted with
Davenport, or he wouldn't have written to him about a meeting. And yet
he's left us under the impression that he didn't know him.--And then
his following me about!--Before I made his acquaintance, I noticed him
several times apparently on my track. And when I _did_ make his
acquaintance, it was in the rooms of the lady Davenport had been in
love with. Turl had recently come to the same house to live, and her
father had taken him up. His going there to live looks like another
"There seems to be a hull bunch o' queer things about this Mr. Turl. I
guess he's wuth studyin'."
"I should think so. Let's put these queer things together in
chronological order. He writes a note to Murray Davenport about a meeting
to occur between them; some weeks later he is seen coming from the place
Murray Davenport was last seen going into; within a few days of that, he
shadows the movements of Murray Davenport's friend Larcher; within a few
more days he takes a room in the house where Murray Davenport's
sweetheart lives, and makes her acquaintance; and finally, when
Davenport is mentioned, lets it be assumed that he didn't know the man."
"And incidentally, whenever he meets Murray Davenport's other friend, Mr.
Bud, he turns around for a better look at him. H'm! Well, what yuh make
out o' all that?"
"To begin with, that there was certainly something between Turl and
Davenport which Turl doesn't want Davenport's friends to know. What do
_you_ make out of it?"
"That's all, so fur. Whatever there was between 'em, as it brought Turl
to the place where Davenport disappeared from knowledge, we ain't takin'
too big chances to suppose it had somethin' to do with the disappearance.
This Turl ought to be studied; an' it's up to you to do the studyin', as
you c'n do it quiet an' unsuspected. There ain't no necessity o' draggin'
in the police ur anybody, at this stage o' the game."
"You're quite right, all through. I'll sound him as well as I can. It'll
be an unpleasant job, for he's a gentleman and I like him. But of course,
where there's so much about a man that calls for explanation, he's a fair
object of suspicion. And Murray Davenport's case has first claim on me."
"If I were you, I'd compare notes with the young lady. Maybe, for all
you know, she's observed a thing or two since she's met this man. Her
interest in Davenport must 'a' been as great as yours. She'd have sharp
eyes fur anything bearin' on his case. This Turl went to her house to
live, you say. I should guess that her house would be a good place to
study him in. She might find out considerable."
"That's true," said Larcher, somewhat slowly, for he wondered what Edna
would say about placing Turl in a suspicious light in Florence's view.
But his fear of Edna's displeasure, though it might overcloud, could not
prohibit his performance of a task he thought ought to be done. He
resolved, therefore, to consult with Florence as soon as possible after
first taking care, for his own future peace, to confide in Edna.
"Between you an' the young lady," Mr. Bud went on, "you may discover
enough to make Mr. Turl see his way clear to tellin' what he knows about
Davenport. Him an' Davenport may 'a' been in some scheme together. They
may 'a' been friends, or they may 'a' been foes. He may be in Davenport's
confidence at the present moment; or he may 'a' had a hand in gettin' rid
o' Davenport. Or then again, whatever was between 'em mayn't 'a' had
anything to do with the disappearance; an' Turl mayn't want to own up to
knowin' Davenport, for fear o' bein' connected with the disappearance.
The thing is, to get 'im with his back to the wall an' make 'im deliver
up what he knows."
Mr. Bud's call turned out to have been merely social in its motive.
Larcher took him to dinner at a smart restaurant, which the old man
declared he would never have had the nerve to enter by himself; and
finally set him on his way smoking a cigar, which he said made him feel
like a Fi'th Avenoo millionaire. Larcher instantly boarded an up-town
car, with the better hope of finding Edna at home because the weather had
turned blowy and snowy to a degree which threatened a howling blizzard.
His hope was justified. With an adroitness that somewhat surprised
himself, he put his facts before the young lady in such a non-committal
way as to make her think herself the first to point the finger of
suspicion at Turl. Important with her discovery, she promptly ignored her
former partisanship of that gentleman, and was for taking Florence
straightway into confidence. Larcher for once did not deplore the
instantaneous completeness with which the feminine mind can shift about.
Edna despatched a note bidding Florence come to luncheon the next day;
she would send a cab for her, to make sure.
The next day, in the midst of a whirl of snow that made it nearly
impossible to see across the street, Florence appeared.
"What is it, dear?" were almost her first words. "Why do you look
"I've found out something. I mus'n't tell you till after luncheon. Tom
will be here, and I'll have him speak for himself. It's a very
Florence had sufficient self-control to bide in patience, holding her
wonder in check. Edna's portentous manner throughout luncheon was enough
to keep expectation at the highest. Even Aunt Clara noticed it, and had
to be put off with evasive reasons. Subsequently Edna set the elderly
lady to writing letters in a cubicle that went by the name of library, so
the young people should have the drawing-room to themselves. Readers who
have lived in New York flats need not be reminded, of the skill the
inmates must sometimes employ to get rid of one another for awhile.
Larcher arrived in a wind-worn, snow-beaten condition, and had to stand
before the fire a minute before he got the shivers out of his body or the
blizzard out of his talk. Then he yielded to the offered embrace of an
armchair facing the grate, between the two young ladies.
Edna at once assumed the role of examining counsel. "Now tell Florence
all about it, from the beginning."
"Have you told her whom it concerns?" he asked Edna.
"I haven't told her a word."
"Well, then, I think she'd better know first"--he turned to
Florence--"that it concerns somebody we met through her--through you,
Miss Kenby. But we think the importance of the matter justifies--"
"Oh, that's all right," broke in Edna. "He's nothing to Florence. We're
perfectly free to speak of him as we like.--It's about Mr. Turl, dear."
"Mr. Turl?" There was something eager in Florence's surprise, a more than
expected readiness to hear.
"Why," said Larcher, struck by her expression, "have _you_ noticed
anything about his conduct--anything odd?"
"I'm not sure. I'll hear you first. One or two things have made me
"Things in connection with somebody we know?" queried Larcher.
"Yes--tell me what you know." Florence's eyes were poignantly intent.
Larcher made rapid work of his story, in impatience for hers. His
relation deeply impressed her. As soon as he had done, she began, in
"With all those circumstances--there can be no doubt he knows something.
And two things I can add. He spoke once as if he had seen me in the
past;--I mean before the disappearance. What makes that strange is, I
don't remember having ever met him before. And stranger still, the other
thing I noticed: he seemed so sure Murray would never come back"--her
voice quivered, but she resumed in a moment: "He _must_ know something
about the disappearance. What could he have had to do with Murray?"
Larcher gave his own conjectures, or those of Mr. Bud--without credit to
that gentleman, however. As a last possibility, he suggested that Turl
might still be in Davenport's confidence. "For all we know," said
Larcher, "it may be their plan for Davenport to communicate with us
through Turl. Or he may have undertaken to keep Davenport informed about
our welfare. In some way or other he may be acting for Davenport,
secretly, of course."
Florence slowly shook her head. "I don't think so," she said.
"Why not?" asked Edna, quickly, with a searching look. "Has he been
making love to you?"
Florence blushed. "I can hardly put it as positively as that," she
"He might have undertaken to act for Davenport, and still have fallen in
love," suggested Larcher.
"Yes, I daresay, Tom, you know the treachery men are capable of," put in
Edna. "But if he did that--if he was in Davenport's confidence, and yet
spoke of love, or showed it--he was false to Davenport. And so in any
case he's got to give an account of himself."
"How are we to make him do it?" asked Larcher.
Edna, by a glance, passed the question on to Florence.
"We must go cautiously," Florence said, gazing into the fire. "We don't
know what occurred between him and Murray. He may have been for Murray;
or he may have been against him. They may have acted together in bringing
about his--departure from New York. Or Turl may have caused it for his
own purposes. We must draw the truth from him--we must have him where
he can't elude us."
Larcher was surprised at her intensity of resolution, her implacability
toward Turl on the supposition of his having borne an adverse part toward
Davenport. It was plain she would allow consideration for no one to stand
in her way, where light on Davenport's fate was promised.
"You mean that we should force matters?--not wait and watch for other
circumstances to come out?" queried Larcher.
"I mean that we'll force matters. We'll take him by surprise with what
we already know, and demand the full truth. We'll use every advantage
against him--first make sure to have him alone with us three, and then
suddenly exhibit our knowledge and follow it up with questions. We'll
startle the secret from him. I'll threaten, if necessary--I'll put the
worst possible construction on the facts we possess, and drive him to
tell all in self-defence." Florence was scarlet with suppressed energy
"The thing, then, is to arrange for having him alone with us," said
Larcher, yielding at once to her initiative.
"As soon as possible," replied Florence, falling into thought.
"We might send for him to call here," suggested Edna, who found the
situation as exciting as a play. "But then Aunt Clara would be in the
way. I couldn't send her out in such weather. Tom, we'd better come to
your rooms, and you invite him there."
Larcher was not enamored of that idea. A man does not like to invite
another to the particular kind of surprise-party intended on this
occasion. His share in the entertainment would be disagreeable enough at
best, without any questionable use of the forms of hospitality. Before he
could be pressed for an answer, Florence came to his relief.
"Listen! Father is to play whist this evening with some people up-stairs
who always keep him late. So we three shall have my rooms to
ourselves--and Mr. Turl. I'll see to it that he comes. I'll go home now,
and give orders requesting him to call. But you two must be there when he
arrives. Come to dinner--or come back with me now. You will stay all
After some discussion, it was settled that Edna should accompany
Florence home at once, and Larcher join them immediately after dinner.
This arranged, Larcher left the girls to make their excuses to Aunt
Clara and go down-town in a cab. He had some work of his own for the
afternoon. As Edna pressed his hand at parting, she whispered,
nervously: "It's quite thrilling, isn't it?" He faced the blizzard again
with a feeling that the anticipatory thrill of the coming evening's
business was anything but pleasant.
MR. TURL WITH HIS BACK TO THE WALL
The living arrangements of the Kenbys were somewhat more exclusive than
those to which the ordinary residents of boarding-houses are subject.
Father and daughter had their meals served in their own principal room,
the one with the large fireplace, the piano, the big red easy chairs, and
the great window looking across the back gardens to the Gothic church.
The small bedchamber opening off this apartment was used by Mr. Kenby.
Florence slept in a rear room on the floor above.
The dinner of three was scarcely over, on this blizzardy evening, when
Mr. Kenby betook himself up-stairs for his whist, to which, he had
confided to the girls, there was promise of additional attraction in the
shape of claret punch, and sundry pleasing indigestibles to be sent in
from a restaurant at eleven o'clock.
"So if Mr. Turl comes at half-past eight, we shall have at least three
hours," said Edna, when Florence and she were alone together.
"How excited you are, dear!" was the reply. "You're almost shaking."
"No, I'm not--it's from the cold."
"Why, I don't think it's cold here."
"It's from looking at the cold, I mean. Doesn't it make you shiver to see
the snow flying around out there in the night? Ugh!" She gazed out at the
whirl of flakes illumined by the electric lights in the street between
the furthest garden and the church. They flung themselves around the
pinnacles, to build higher the white load on the steep roof. Nearer, the
gardens and trees, the tops of walls and fences, the verandas and
shutters, were covered thick with snow, the mass of which was ever
augmented by the myriad rushing particles.
Edna turned from this scene to the fire, before which Florence was
already seated. The sound of an electric door-bell came from the hall.
"It's Tom," cried Edna. "Good boy!--ahead of time." But the negro man
servant announced Mr. Bagley.
A look of displeasure marked Florence's answer. "Tell him my father is
not here--is spending the evening with Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence."
"Mr. Bagley!--he _must_ be devoted, to call on such a night!" remarked
Edna, when the servant had gone.
"He calls at all sorts of times. And his invitations--he's forever
wanting us to go to the theatre--or on his automobile--or to dine at
Delmonico's--or to a skating-rink, or somewhere. Refusals don't
discourage him. You'd think he was a philanthropist, determined to give
us some of the pleasures of life. The worst of it is, father sometimes
Another knock at the door, and the servant appeared again. The gentleman
wished to know if he might come in and leave a message with Miss Kenby
for her father.
"Very well," she sighed. "Show him in." "If he threatens to stay two
minutes, I'll see what I can do to make it chilly," volunteered Edna.
Mr. Bagley entered, red-faced from the weather, but undaunted and
undauntable, and with the unconscious air of conferring a favor on Miss
Kenby by his coming, despite his manifest admiration. Edna he took
somewhat aback by barely noticing at all.
He sat down without invitation, expressed himself in his brassy voice
about the weather, and then, instead of confiding a message, showed a
mind for general conversation by asking Miss Kenby if she had read an
She had not.
"I see that Count What's-his-name's wedding came off all the same, in
spite of the blizzard," said Mr. Bagley. "I s'pose he wasn't going to
take any chances of losing his heiress."
Florence had nothing to say on this subject, but Edna could not
"Perhaps Miss What-you-call-her was just as anxious to make sure of her
"Oh, you mustn't say that," interposed Florence, gently. "Perhaps they
love each other."
"Titled Europeans don't marry American girls for love," said Edna.
"Haven't you been abroad enough to find out that? Or if they ever do,
they keep that motive a secret. You ought to hear them talk, over there.
They can't conceive of an American girl being married for anything _but_
money. It's quite the proper thing to marry one for that, but very bad
form to marry one for love."
"Oh, I don't know," said Bagley, in a manner exceedingly belittling to
Edna's knowledge, "they've got to admit that our girls are a very
charming, superior lot--with a few exceptions." His look placed Miss
Kenby decidedly under the rule, but left poor Edna somewhere else.
"Have they, really?" retorted Edna, in opposition at any cost. "I know
some of them admit it,--and what they say and write is published and
quoted in this country. But the unfavorable things said and written in
Europe about American girls don't get printed on this side. I daresay
that's the reason of your one-sided impression."
Bagley looked hard at the young woman, but ventured another play for the
approval of Miss Kenby:
"Well, it doesn't matter much to me what they say in Europe, but if they
don't admit the American girl is the handsomest, and brightest, and
cleverest, they're a long way off the truth, that's all."
"I'd like to know what you mean by _the_ American girl. There are all
sorts of girls among us, as there are among girls of other nations:
pretty girls and plain ones, bright girls and stupid ones, clever girls
and silly ones, smart girls and dowdy girls. Though I will say, we've got
a larger proportion of smart-looking, well-dressed girls than any other
country. But then we make up for that by so many of us having frightful
_ya-ya_ voices and raw pronunciations. As for our wonderful cleverness,
we have the assurance to talk about things we know nothing of, in such a
way as to deceive some people for awhile. The girls of other nations
haven't, and that's the chief difference."
Bagley looked as if he knew not exactly where he stood in the argument,
or exactly what the argument was about; but he returned to the business
of impressing Florence.
"Well, I'm certain Miss Kenby doesn't talk about things she knows nothing
of. If all American girls were like her, there'd be no question which
nation had the most beautiful and sensible women."
Florence winced at the crude directness. "You are too kind," she said,
"As for me," he went on, "I've got my opinion of these European gentlemen
that marry for money."
"We all have, in this country, I hope," said Edna; "except, possibly, the
few silly women that become the victims."
"I should be perfectly willing," pursued Bagley, magnanimously, watching
for the effect on Florence, "to marry a girl without a cent."
"And no doubt perfectly able to afford it," remarked Edna, serenely.
He missed the point, and saw a compliment instead.
"Well, you're not so far out of the way there, if I do say it myself," he
replied, with a stony smile. "I've had my share of good luck. Since the
tide turned in my affairs, some years ago, I've been a steady winner.
Somehow or other, nothing seems able to fail that I go into. It's really
been monotonous. The only money I've lost was some twenty thousand
dollars that a trusted agent absconded with."
"You're mistaken," Florence broke in, with a note of indignation that
made Bagley stare. "He did not abscond. He has disappeared, and your
money may be gone for the present. But there was no crime on his part."
"Why, do you know anything about it?" asked Bagley, in a voice subdued by
"I know that Murray Davenport disappeared, and what the newspapers said
about your money; that is all."
"Then how, if I may ask, do you know there wasn't any crime intended? I
inquire merely for information." Bagley was, indeed, as meek as he could
be in his manner of inquiry.
"I _know_ Murray Davenport," was her reply.
"You knew him well?"
"You--took a great interest in him?"
"Indeed!" said Bagley, in pure surprise, and gazing at her as if she
were a puzzle.
"You said you had a message for my father," replied Florence, coldly.
Bagley rose slowly. "Oh, yes,"--he spoke very dryly and looked very
blank,--"please tell him if the storm passes, and the snow lies, I wish
you and he would go sleighing to-morrow. I'll call at half-past two."
"Thank you; I'll tell him."
Bagley summoned up as natural a "good night" as possible, and went. As he
emerged from the dark rear of the hallway to the lighter part, any one
who had been present might have seen a cloudy red look in place of the
blank expression with which he had left the room. "She gave me the dead
freeze-out," he muttered. "The dead freeze-out! So she knew Davenport!
and cared for the poverty-stricken dog, too!"
Startled by a ring at the door-bell, Bagley turned into the common
drawing-room, which was empty, to fasten his gloves. Unseen, he heard
Larcher admitted, ushered back to the Kenby apartment, and welcomed by
the two girls. He paced the drawing-room floor, with a wrathful frown;
then sat down and meditated.
"Well, if he ever does come back to New York, I won't do a thing to him!"
was the conclusion of his meditations, after some minutes.
Some one came down the stairs, and walked back toward the Kenby rooms.
Bagley strode to the drawing-room door, and peered through the hall, in
time to catch sight of the tall, erect figure of a man. This man knocked
at the Kenby door, and, being bidden to enter, passed in and closed it
"That young dude Turl," mused Bagley, with scorn. "But she won't freeze
him out, I'll bet. I've noticed he usually gets the glad hand, compared
to what I get. Davenport, who never had a thousand dollars of his own at
a time!--and now this light-weight!--compared with _me_ I--I'd give
thirty cents to know what sort of a reception this fellow does get."
Meanwhile, before Turl's arrival, but after Larcher's, the
characteristics of Mr. Bagley had undergone some analysis from Edna Hill.
"And did you notice," said that young lady, in conclusion, "how he simply
couldn't understand anybody's being interested in Davenport? Because
Davenport was a poor man, who never went in for making money. Men of the
Bagley sort are always puzzled when anybody doesn't jump at the chance of
having their friendship. It staggers their intelligence to see
impecunious Davenports--and Larchers--preferred to them."
"Thank you," said Larcher. "I didn't know you were so observant. But
it's easy to imagine the reasoning of the money-grinders in such cases.
The satisfaction of money-greed is to them the highest aim in life; so
what can be more admirable or important than a successful exponent of
that aim? They don't perceive that they, as a rule, are the dullest of
society, though most people court and flatter them on account of their
money. They never guess why it's almost impossible for a man to be a
money-grinder and good company at the same time."
"Why is it?" asked Florence.
"Because in giving himself up entirely to money-getting, he has to
neglect so many things necessary to make a man attractive. But even
before that, the very nature that made him choose money-getting as the
chief end of man was incapable of the finer qualities. There _are_
charming rich men, but either they inherited their wealth, or made it in
some high pursuit to which gain was only an incident, or they are
exceptional cases. But of course Bagley isn't even a fair type of the
regular money-grinder--he's a speculator in anything, and a boor compared
with even the average financial operator."
This sort of talk helped to beguile the nerves of the three young people
while they waited for Turl to come. But as the hands of the clock neared
the appointed minute, Edna's excitement returned, and Larcher found
himself becoming fidgety. What Florence felt could not be divined, as she
sat perfectly motionless, gazing into the fire. She had merely sent up a
request to know if Mr. Turl could call at half-past eight, and had
promptly received the desired answer.
In spite of Larcher's best efforts, a silence fell, which nobody was able
to break as the moment arrived, and so it lasted till steps were heard in
the hall, followed by a gentle rap on the door. Florence quickly rose and
opened. Turl entered, with his customary subdued smile.
Before he had time to notice anything unnatural in the greeting of
Larcher and Miss Hill, Florence had motioned him to one of the chairs
near the fire. It was the chair at the extreme right of the group, so far
toward a recess formed by the piano and a corner of the room that, when
the others had resumed their seats, Turl was almost hemmed in by them and
the piano. Nearest him was Florence, next whom sat Edna, while Larcher
faced him from the other side of the fireplace.
The silence of embarrassment was broken by the unsuspecting visitor, with
a remark about the storm. Instead of answering in kind, Florence, with
her eyes bearing upon his face, said gravely:
"I asked you here to speak of something else--a matter we are all
interested in, though I am far more interested than the others. I want to
know--we all want to know--what has become of Murray Davenport."
Turl's face blenched ever so little, but he made no other sign of being
startled. For some seconds he regarded Florence with a steady inquiry;
then his questioning gaze passed to Edna's face and Larcher's, but
finally returned to hers.
"Why do you ask me?" he said, quietly. "What have I to do with Murray
Florence turned to Larcher, who thereupon put in, almost apologetically:
"You were in correspondence with him before his disappearance, for
"Oh, was I?"
"Yes. He showed me a letter signed by you, in your handwriting. It was
about a meeting you were to have with him."
Turl pondered, till Florence resumed the attack.
"We don't pretend to know where that particular meeting occurred. But we
do know that you visited the last place Murray Davenport was traced to in
New York. We have a great deal of evidence connecting you with him about
the time of his disappearance. We have so much that there would be no use
in your denying that you had some part in his affairs."
She paused, to give him a chance to speak. But he only gazed at her with
a thoughtful, regretful perplexity. So she went on:
"We don't say--yet--whether that part was friendly,
The last word, and the searching look that accompanied it, drew a swift
though quiet answer:
"It wasn't evil, I give you my word."
"Then you admit you did have a part in his disappearance?" said
"I may as well. Miss Kenby says you have evidence of it. You have
been clever--or I have been stupid.--I'm sorry Davenport showed you
"Then, as your part was not evil," pursued Florence, with ill-repressed
eagerness, "you can't object to telling us about him. Where is he now?"
"Pardon me, but I do object. I have strong reasons. You must excuse me."
"We will not excuse you!" cried Florence. "We have the right to
know--the right of friend-ship--the right of love. I insist. I will not
take a refusal."
Apprised, by her earnestness, of the determination that confronted him,
Turl reflected. Plainly the situation was a most unpleasant one to him. A
brief movement showed that he would have liked to rise and pace the
floor, for the better thinking out of the question; or indeed escape from
the room; but the impulse was checked at sight of the obstacles to his
passage. Florence gave him time enough to thresh matters out in his mind.
He brought forth a sigh heavy with regret and discomfiture. Then, at
last, his face took on a hardness of resolve unusual to it, and he spoke
in a tone less than ordinarily conciliating:
"I have nothing now to do with Murray Davenport. I am in no way
accountable for his actions or for anything that ever befell him. I have
nothing to say of him. He has disappeared, we shall never see him again;
he was an unhappy man, an unfortunate wretch; in his disappearance there
was nothing criminal, or guilty, or even unkind, on anybody's part. There
is no good in reviving memories of him; let him be forgotten, as he
desired to be. I assure you, I swear to you, he will never reappear,--and
that no good whatever can come of investigating his disappearance. Let
him rest; put him out of your mind, and turn to the future."
To his resolved tone, Florence replied with an outburst of
"I _will_ know! I'll resort to anything, everything, to make you speak.
As yet we've kept our evidence to ourselves; but if you compel us, we
shall know what to do with it."
Turl let a frown of vexation appear. "I admit, that would put me out.
It's a thing I would go far to avoid. Not that I fear the law; but to
make matters public would spoil much. And I wouldn't make them public,
except in self-defence if the very worst threatened me. I don't think
that contingency is to be feared. Surmise is not proof, and only proof is
to be feared. No; I don't think you would find the law able to make me
speak. Be reconciled to let the secret remain buried; it was what Murray
Davenport himself desired above all things."
"Who authorized you to tell _me_ what Murray Davenport desired? He would
have desired what I desire, I assure you! You sha'n't put me off with a
quiet, determined manner. We shall see whether the law can force you to
speak. You admit you would go far to avoid the test."
"That's because I shouldn't like to be involved in a raking over of the
affairs of Murray Davenport. To me it would be an unhappy business, I do
admit. The man is best forgotten."
"I'll not have you speak of him so! I love him! and I hold you
answerable to me for your knowledge of his disappearance. I'll find a way
to bring you to account!"
Her tearful vehemence brought a wave of tenderness to his face, a quiver
to his lips. Noting this, Larcher quickly intervened:
"In pity to a woman, don't you think you ought to tell her what you know?
If there's no guilt on your part, the disclosure can't harm you. It will
end her suspense, at least. She will be always unhappy till she knows."
"She will grow out of that feeling," said Turl, still watching her
compassionately, as she dried her eyes and endeavored to regain her
"No, she won't!" put in Edna Hill, warmly. "You don't know her. I must
say, how any man with a spark of chivalry can sit there and refuse to
divulge a few facts that would end a woman's torture of mind, which she's
been undergoing for months, is too much for me!"
Turl, in manifest perturbation, still gazed at Florence. She fixed her
eyes, out of which all threat had passed, pleadingly upon him.
"If you knew what it meant to me to grant your request," said he, "you
wouldn't make it."
"It can't mean more to you than this uncertainty, this dark mystery, is
to me," said Florence, in a broken voice.
"It was Davenport's wish that the matter should remain the closest
secret. You don't know how earnestly he wished that."
"Surely Davenport's wishes can't be endangered through _my_ knowledge of
any secret," Florence replied, with so much sad affection that Turl was
again visibly moved. "But for the misunderstanding which kept us apart,
he would not have had this secret from me. And to think!--he disappeared
the very day Mr. Larcher was to enlighten him. It was cruel! And now you
would keep from me the knowledge of what became of him. I have learned
too well that fate is pitiless; and I find that men are no less so."
Turl's face was a study, showing the play of various reflections. Finally
his ideas seemed to be resolved. "Are we likely to be interrupted here?"
he asked, in a tone of surrender.
"No; I have guarded against that," said Florence, eagerly.
"Then I'll tell you Davenport's story. But you must be patient, and let
me tell it in my own way, and you must promise--all three--never to
reveal it; you'll find no reason in it for divulging it, and great
reason for keeping it secret."
On that condition the promise was given, and Turl, having taken a
moment's preliminary thought, began his account.
A STRANGE DESIGN
"Perhaps," said Turl, addressing particularly Florence, "you know already
what was Murray Davenport's state of mind during the months immediately
before his disappearance. Bad luck was said to attend him, and to fall on
enterprises he became associated with. Whatever were the reasons, either
inseparable from him, or special in each case, it's certain that his
affairs did not thrive, with the exception of those in which he played
the merely mechanical part of a drudge under the orders, and for the
profit, of Mr. Bagley. As for bad luck, the name was, in effect,
equivalent to the thing itself, for it cut him out of many opportunities
in the theatrical market, with people not above the superstitions of
their guild; also it produced in him a discouragement, a
self-depreciation, which kept the quality of his work down to the level
of hopeless hackery. For yielding to this influence; for stooping, in his
necessity, to the service of Bagley, who had wronged him; for failing to
find a way out of the slough of mediocre production, poor pay, and
company inferior to him in mind, he began to detest himself.
"He had never been a conceited man, but he could not have helped
measuring his taste and intellect with those of average people, and he
had valued himself accordingly. Another circumstance had forced him to
think well of himself. On his trip to Europe he had met--I needn't say
more; but to have won the regard of a woman herself so admirable was
bound to elevate him in his own esteem. This event in his life had roused
his ambition and filled him with hope. It had made him almost forget, or
rather had braced him to battle confidently with, his demon of reputed
bad luck. You can imagine the effect when the stimulus, the cause of
hope, the reason for striving, was--as he believed--withdrawn from him.
He assumed that this calamity was due to your having learned about the
supposed shadow of bad luck, or at least about his habitual failure. And
while he did this injustice to you, Miss Kenby, he at the same time found
cause in himself for your apparent desertion. He felt he must be
worthless and undeserving. As the pain of losing you, and the hope that
went with you, was the keenest pain, the most staggering humiliation, he
had ever apparently owed to his unsuccess, his evil spirit of fancied
ill-luck, and his personality itself, he now saw these in darker colors
than ever before; he contemplated them more exclusively, he brooded on
them. And so he got into the state I just now described.
"He was dejected, embittered, wearied; sick of his way of livelihood,
sick of the atmosphere he moved in, sick of his reflections, sick of
himself. Life had got to be stale, flat, and unprofitable. His
self-loathing, which steadily grew, would have become a maddening torture
if he hadn't found refuge in a stony apathy. Sometimes he relieved this
by an outburst of bitter or satirical self-exposure, when the mood found
anybody at hand for his confidences. But for the most part he lived in a
lethargic indifference, mechanically going through the form of earning
"You may wonder why he took the trouble even to go through that form. It
may have been partly because he lacked the instinct--or perhaps the
initiative--for active suicide, and was too proud to starve at the
expense or encumbrance of other people. But there was another cause,
which of itself sufficed to keep him going. I may have said--or given the
impression--that he utterly despaired of ever getting anything worth
having out of life. And so he would have, I dare say, but for the
not-entirely-quenchable spark of hope which youth keeps in reserve
somewhere, and which in his case had one peculiar thing to sustain it.
"That peculiar thing, on which his spark of hope kept alive, though its
existence was hardly noticed by the man himself, was a certain idea which
he had conceived,--he no longer knew when, nor in what mental
circumstances. It was an idea at first vague; relegated to the cave of
things for the time forgotten, to be occasionally brought forth by
association. Sought or unsought, it came forth with a sudden new
attractiveness some time after Murray Davenport's life and self had grown
to look most dismal in his eyes. He began to turn it about, and develop
it. He was doing this, all the while fascinated by the idea, at the time
of Larcher's acquaintance with him, but doing it in so deep-down a region
of his mind that no one would have suspected what was beneath his
languid, uncaring manner. He was perfecting his idea, which he had
adopted as a design of action for himself to realize,--perfecting it to
the smallest incidental detail.
"This is what he had conceived: Man, as everybody knows, is more or less
capable of voluntary self-illusion. By pretending to himself to believe
that a thing is true--except where the physical condition is concerned,
or where the case is complicated by other people's conduct--he can give
himself something of the pleasurable effect that would arise from its
really being true. We see a play, and for the time make ourselves believe
that the painted canvas is the Forest of Arden, that the painted man is
Orlando, and the painted woman Rosalind. When we read Homer, we make
ourselves believe in the Greek heroes and gods. We _know_ these
make-believes are not realities, but we _feel_ that they are; we have the
sensations that would be effected by their reality. Now this
self-deception can be carried to great lengths. We know how children
content themselves with imaginary playmates and possessions. As a gift,
or a defect, we see remarkable cases of willing self-imposition. A man
will tell a false tale of some exploit or experience of his youth until,
after years, he can't for his life swear whether it really occurred or
not. Many people invent whole chapters to add to their past histories,
and come finally to believe them. Even where the _knowing_ part of the
mind doesn't grant belief, the imagining part--and through it the feeling
part--does; and, as conduct and mood are governed by feeling, the effect
of a self-imposed make-believe on one's behavior and disposition--on
one's life, in short--may be much the same as that of actuality. All
depends on the completeness and constancy with which the make-believe is
"Well, Davenport's idea was to invent for himself a new past history; not
only that, but a new identity: to imagine himself another man; and, as
that man, to begin life anew. As he should imagine, so he would feel and
act, and, by continuing this course indefinitely, he would in time
sufficiently believe himself that other man. To all intents and purposes,
he would in time become that man. Even though at the bottom of his mind
he should always be formally aware of the facts, yet the force of his
imagination and feeling would in time be so potent that the man he coldly
_knew_ himself to be--the actual Murray Davenport--would be the stranger,
while the man he _felt_ himself to be would be his more intimate self.
Needless to say, this new self would be a very different man from the old
Murray Davenport. His purpose was to get far away from the old self, the
old recollections, the old environment, and all the old adverse
circumstances. And this is what his mind was full of at the time when
you, Larcher, were working with him.
"He imagined a man such as would be produced by the happiest conditions;
one of those fortunate fellows who seem destined for easy, pleasant paths
all their lives. A habitually lucky man, in short, with all the
cheerfulness and urbanity that such a man ought to possess. Davenport
believed that as such a man he would at least not be handicapped by the
name or suspicion of ill-luck.
"I needn't enumerate the details with which he rounded out this new
personality he meant to adopt. And I'll not take time now to recite the
history he invented to endow this new self with. You may be sure he made
it as happy a history as such a man would wish to look back on. One
circumstance was necessary to observe in its construction. In throwing
over his old self, he must throw over all its acquaintances, and all the
surroundings with which it had been closely intimate,--not cities and
public resorts, of course, which both selves might be familiar with, but
rooms he had lived in, and places too much associated with the old
identity of Murray Davenport. Now the new man would naturally have made
many acquaintances in the course of his life. He would know people in the
places where he had lived. Would he not keep up friendships with some of
these people? Well, Davenport made it that the man had led a shifting
life, had not remained long enough in one spot to give it a permanent
claim upon him. The scenes of his life were laid in places which
Davenport had visited but briefly; which he had agreeable recollections
of, but would never visit again. All this was to avoid the necessity of a
too definite localizing of the man's past, and the difficulty about old
friends never being reencountered. Henceforth, or on the man's beginning
to have a real existence in the body of Davenport, more lasting
associations and friendships could be formed, and these could be
cherished as if they had merely supplanted former ones, until in time a
good number could be accumulated for the memory to dwell on.
"But quite as necessary as providing a history and associations for the
new self, it was to banish those of the old self. If the new man should
find himself greeted as Murray Davenport by somebody who knew the latter,
a rude shock would be administered to the self-delusion so carefully
cultivated. And this might happen at any time. It would be easy enough to
avoid the old Murray Davenport's haunts, but he might go very far and
still be in hourly risk of running against one of the old Murray
Davenport's acquaintances. But even this was a small matter to the
constant certainty of his being recognized as the old Murray Davenport by
himself. Every time he looked into a mirror, or passed a plate-glass
window, there would be the old face and form to mock his attempt at
mental transformation with the reminder of his physical identity.
Even if he could avoid being confronted many times a day by the
reflected face of Murray Davenport, he must yet be continually brought
back to his inseparability from that person by the familiar effect of the
face on the glances of other people,--for you know that different faces
evoke different looks from observers, and the look that one man is
accustomed to meet in the eyes of people who notice him is not precisely
the same as that another man is accustomed to meet there. To come to the
point, Murray Davenport saw that to make his change of identity really
successful, to avoid a thousand interruptions to his self-delusion, to
make himself another man in the world's eyes and his own, and all the
more so in his own through finding himself so in the world's, he must
transform himself physically--in face and figure--beyond the recognition
of his closest friend--beyond the recognition even of himself. How was it
to be done?
"Do you think he was mad in setting himself at once to solve the problem
as if its solution were a matter of course? Wait and see.
"In the old fairy tales, such transformations were easily accomplished by
the touch of a wand or the incantation of a wizard. In a newer sort of
fairy tale, we have seen them produced by marvellous drugs. In real life
there have been supposed changes of identity, or rather cases of dual
identity, the subject alternating from one to another as he shifts from
one to another set of memories. These shifts are not voluntary, nor is
such a duality of memory and habit to be possessed at will. As Davenport
wasn't a 'subject' of this sort by caprice of nature, and as, even if he
had been, he couldn't have chosen his new identity to suit himself, or
ensured its permanency, he had to resort to the deliberate exercise of
imagination and wilful self-deception I have described. Now even in those
cases of dual personality, though there is doubtless some change in
facial expression, there is not an actual physical transformation such as
Davenport's purpose required. As he had to use deliberate means to work
the mental change, so he must do to accomplish the physical one. He must
resort to that which in real life takes the place of fairy wands, the
magic of witches, and the drugs of romance,--he must employ Science and
the physical means it afforded.
"Earlier in life he had studied medicine and surgery. Though he had never
arrived at the practice of these, he had retained a scientific interest
in them, and had kept fairly well informed of new experiments. His
general reading, too, had been wide, and he had rambled upon many curious
odds and ends of information. He thus knew something of methods employed
by criminals to alter their facial appearance so as to avoid recognition:
not merely such obvious and unreliable devices as raising or removing
beards, changing the arrangement and color of hair, and fattening or
thinning the face by dietary means,--devices that won't fool a close
acquaintance for half a minute,--not merely these, but the practice of
tampering with the facial muscles by means of the knife, so as to alter
the very hang of the face itself. There is in particular a certain
muscle, the cutting of which, and allowing the skin to heal over the
wound, makes a very great alteration of outward effect. The result of
this operation, however, is not an improvement in looks, and as
Davenport's object was to fabricate a pleasant, attractive countenance,
he could not resort to it without modifications, and, besides that, he
meant to achieve a far more thorough transformation than it would
produce. But the knowledge of this operation was something to start with.
It was partly to combat such devices of criminals, that Bertillon
invented his celebrated system of identification by measurements. A
slight study of that system gave Davenport valuable hints. He was
reminded by Bertillon's own words, of what he already knew, that the skin
of the face--the entire skin of three layers, that is, not merely the
outside covering--may be compared to a curtain, and the underlying
muscles to the cords by which it is drawn aside. The constant drawing of
these cords, you know, produces in time the facial wrinkles, always
perpendicular to the muscles causing them. If you sever a number of these
cords, you alter the entire drape of the curtain. It was for Davenport to
learn what severances would produce, not the disagreeable effect of the
operation known to criminals, but a result altogether pleasing. He was to
discover and perform a whole complex set of operations instead of the
single operation of the criminals; and each operation must be of a
delicacy that would ensure the desired general effect of all. And this
would be but a small part of his task.
"He was aware of what is being done for the improvement of badly-formed
noses, crooked mouths, and such defects, by what its practitioners call
'plastic surgery,' or 'facial' or 'feature surgery.' From the 'beauty
shops,' then, as the newspapers call them, he got the idea of changing
his nose by cutting and folding back the skin, surgically eliminating
the hump, and rearranging the skin over the altered bridge so as to
produce perfect straightness when healed. From the same source came the
hint of cutting permanent dimples in his cheeks,--a detail that fell
in admirably with his design of an agreeable countenance. The dimples
would be, in fact, but skilfully made scars, cut so as to last. What
are commonly known as scars, if artistically wrought, could be made to
serve the purpose, too, of slight furrows in parts of the face where
such furrows would aid his plan,--at the ends of his lips, for
instance, where a quizzical upturning of the corners of the mouth could
be imitated by means of them; and at other places where lines of mirth
form in good-humored faces. Fortunately, his own face was free from
wrinkles, perhaps because of the indifference his melancholy had taken
refuge in. It was, indeed, a good face to build on, as actors say in
regard to make-up.
"But changing the general shape of the face--the general drape of the
curtain--and the form of the prominent features, would not begin to
suffice for the complete alteration that Davenport intended. The hair
arrangement, the arch of the eyebrows, the color of the eyes, the
complexion, each must play its part in the business. He had worn his hair
rather carelessly over his forehead, and plentiful at the back of the
head and about the ears. Its line of implantation at the forehead was
usually concealed by the hair itself. By brushing it well back, and
having it cut in a new fashion, he could materially change the
appearance of his forehead; and by keeping it closely trimmed behind, he
could do as much for the apparent shape of his head at the rear. If the
forehead needed still more change, the line of implantation could be
altered by removing hairs with tweezers; and the same painful but
possible means must be used to affect the curvature of the eyebrows. By
removing hairs from the tops of the ends, and from the bottom of the
middle, he would be able to raise the arch of each eyebrow noticeably.
This removal, along with the clearing of hair from the forehead, and
thinning the eyelashes by plucking out, would contribute to another
desirable effect. Davenport's eyes were what are commonly called gray. In
the course of his study of Bertillon, he came upon the reminder that--to
use the Frenchman's own words--'the gray eye of the average person is
generally only a blue one with a more or less yellowish tinge, which
appears gray solely on account of the shadow cast by the eyebrows, etc.'
Now, the thinning of the eyebrows and lashes, and the clearing of the
forehead of its hanging locks, must considerably decrease that shadow.
The resultant change in the apparent hue of the eyes would be helped by
something else, which I shall come to later. The use of the tweezers on
the eyebrows was doubly important, for, as Bertillon says, 'no part of
the face contributes a more important share to the general expression of
the physiognomy, seen from in front, than the eyebrow.' The complexion
would be easy to deal with. His way of life--midnight hours,
abstemiousness, languid habits--had produced bloodless cheeks. A summary
dosing with tonic drugs, particularly with iron, and a reformation of
diet, would soon bestow a healthy tinge, which exercise, air, proper
food, and rational living would not only preserve but intensify.
"But merely changing the face, and the apparent shape of the head, would
not do. As long as his bodily form, walk, attitude, carriage of the head,
remained the same, so would his general appearance at a distance or when
seen from behind. In that case he would not be secure against the
disillusioning shock of self-recognition on seeing his body reflected in
some distant glass; or of being greeted as Murray Davenport by some
former acquaintance coming up behind him. His secret itself might be
endangered, if some particularly curious and discerning person should go
in for solving the problem of this bodily resemblance to Murray Davenport
in a man facially dissimilar. The change in bodily appearance, gait, and
so forth, would be as simple to effect as it was necessary. Hitherto he
had leaned forward a little, and walked rather loosely. A pair of the
strongest shoulder-braces would draw back his shoulders, give him
tightness and straightness, increase the apparent width of his frame,
alter the swing of his arms, and entail--without effort on his part--a
change in his attitude when standing, his gait in walking, his way of
placing his feet and holding his head at all times. The consequent
throwing back of the head would be a factor in the facial alteration,
too: it would further decrease the shadow on the eyes, and consequently
further affect their color. And not only that, for you must have noticed
the great difference in appearance in a face as it is inclined forward or
thrown back,--as one looks down along it, or up along it. This accounts
for the failure of so many photographs to look like the people they're
taken of,--a stupid photographer makes people hold up their faces, to get
a stronger light, who are accustomed ordinarily to carry their faces
"You understand, of course, that only his entire _appearance_ would have
to be changed; not any of his measurements. His friends must be unable to
recognize him, even vaguely as resembling some one they couldn't 'place.'
But there was, of course, no anthropometric record of him in existence,
such as is taken of criminals to ensure their identification by the
Bertillon system; so his measurements could remain unaffected without
the least harm to his plan. Neither would he have to do anything to his
hands; it is remarkable how small an impression the members of the body
make on the memory. This is shown over and over again in attempts to
identify bodies injured so that recognition by the face is impossible.
Apart from the face, it's only the effect of the whole body, and that
rather in attitude and gait than in shape, which suggests the identity to
the observer's eye; and of course the suggestion stops there if not borne
out by the face. But if Davenport's hands might go unchanged, he decided
that his handwriting should not. It was a slovenly, scratchy degeneration
of the once popular Italian script, and out of keeping with the new
character he was to possess. The round, erect English calligraphy taught
in most primary schools is easily picked up at any age, with a little
care and practice; so he chose that, and found that by writing small he
could soon acquire an even, elegant hand. He would need only to go
carefully until habituated to the new style, with which he might defy
even the handwriting experts, for it's a maxim of theirs that a man who
would disguise his handwriting always tries to make it look like that of
an uneducated person.
"There would still remain the voice to be made over,--quite as important
a matter as the face. In fact, the voice will often contradict an
identification which the eyes would swear to, in cases of remarkable
resemblance; or it will reveal an identity which some eyes would fail to
notice, where time has changed appearances. Thanks to some out-of-the-way
knowledge Davenport had picked up in the theoretic study of music and
elocution, he felt confident to deal with the voice difficulty. I'll come
to that later, when I arrive at the performance of all these operations
which he was studying out; for of course he didn't make the slightest
beginning on the actual transformation until his plan was complete and
every facility offered. That was not till the last night you saw him,
Larcher,--the night before his disappearance.
"For operations so delicate, meant to be so lasting in their effect, so
important to the welfare of his new self, Davenport saw the necessity of
a perfect design before the first actual touch. He could not erase
errors, or paint them over, as an artist does. He couldn't rub out
misplaced lines and try again, as an actor can in 'making up.' He had
learned a good deal about theatrical make-up, by the way, in his contact
with the stage. His plan was to use first the materials employed by
actors, until he should succeed in producing a countenance to his
liking; and then, by surgical means, to make real and permanent the sham
and transient effects of paint-stick and pencil. He would violently
compel nature to register the disguise and maintain it.
"He was favored in one essential matter--that of a place in which to
perform his operations with secrecy, and to let the wounds heal at
leisure. To be observed during the progress of the transformation would
spoil his purpose and be highly inconvenient besides. He couldn't lock
himself up in his room, or in any new lodging to which he might move, and
remain unseen for weeks, without attracting an attention that would
probably discover his secret. In a remote country place he would be more
under curiosity and suspicion than in New York. He must live in comfort,
in quarters which he could provision; must have the use of mirrors, heat,
water, and such things; in short, he could not resort to uninhabited
solitudes, yet must have a place where his presence might be unknown to a
living soul--a place he could enter and leave with absolute secrecy. He
couldn't rent a place without precluding that secrecy, as investigations
would be made on his disappearance, and his plans possibly ruined by the
intrusion of the police. It was a lucky circumstance which he owed to
you, Larcher,--one of the few lucky circumstances that ever came to the
old Murray Davenport, and so to be regarded as a happy augury for his
design,--that led him into the room and esteem of Mr. Bud down on the
"He learned that Mr. Bud was long absent from the room; obtained his
permission to use the room for making sketches of the river during his
absence; got a duplicate key; and waited until Mr. Bud should be kept
away in the country for a long enough period. Nobody but Mr. Bud--and
you, Larcher--knew that Davenport had access to the room. Neither of you
two could ever be sure when, or if at all, he availed himself of that
access. If he left no traces in the room, you couldn't know he had been
there. You could surmise, and might investigate, but, if you did that, it
wouldn't be with the knowledge of the police; and at the worst, Davenport
could take you into his confidence. As for the rest of the world, nothing
whatever existed, or should exist, to connect him with that room. He need
only wait for his opportunity. He contrived always to be informed of Mr.
Bud's intentions for the immediate future; and at last he learned that
the shipment of turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas would keep the old
man busy in the country for six or seven weeks without a break. He was
now all ready to put his design into execution."
TURL'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED
"On the very afternoon," Turl went on, "before the day when Davenport
could have Mr. Bud's room to himself, Bagley sent for him in order to
confide some business to his charge. This was a customary occurrence,
and, rather than seem to act unusually just at that time, Davenport went
and received Bagley's instructions. With them, he received a lot of
money, in bills of large denomination, mostly five-hundreds, to be placed
the next day for Bagley's use. In accepting this charge, or rather in
passively letting it fall upon him, Davenport had no distinct idea as to
whether he would carry it out. He had indeed little thought that evening
of anything but his purpose, which he was to begin executing on the
morrow. As not an hour was to be lost, on account of the time necessary
for the healing of the operations, he would either have to despatch
Bagley's business very quickly or neglect it altogether. In the latter
case, what about the money in his hands? The sum was nearly equal to
that which Bagley had morally defrauded him of.
"This coincidence, coming at that moment, seemed like the work of fate.
Bagley was to be absent from town a week, and Murray Davenport was about
to undergo a metamorphosis that would make detection impossible. It
really appeared as though destiny had gone in for an act of poetic
justice; had deliberately planned a restitution; had determined to
befriend the new man as it had afflicted the old. For the new man would
have to begin existence with a very small cash balance, unless he
accepted this donation from chance. If there were any wrong in accepting
it, that wrong would not be the new man's; it would be the bygone Murray
Davenport's; but Murray Davenport was morally entitled to that much--and
more--of Bagley's money. To be sure, there was the question of breach of
trust; but Bagley's conduct had been a breach of friendship and common
humanity. Bagley's act had despoiled Davenport's life of a hundred times
more than this sum now represented to Bagley.
"Well, Davenport was pondering this on his way home from Bagley's rooms,
when he met Larcher. Partly a kind feeling toward a friend he was about
to lose with the rest of his old life, partly a thought of submitting the
question of this possible restitution to a less interested mind, made him
invite Larcher to his room. There, by a pretended accident, he contrived
to introduce the question of the money; but you had no light to volunteer
on the subject, Larcher, and Davenport didn't see fit to press you. As
for your knowing him to have the money in his possession, and your
eventual inferences if he should disappear without using it for Bagley,
the fact would come out anyhow as soon as Bagley returned to New York.
And whatever you would think, either in condemnation or justification,
would be thought of the old Murray Davenport. It wouldn't matter to the
new man. During that last talk with you, Davenport had such an impulse of
communicativeness--such a desire for a moment's relief from his
long-maintained secrecy--that he was on the verge of confiding his
project to you, under bond of silence. But he mastered the impulse; and
you had no sooner gone than he made his final preparations.
"He left the house next morning immediately after breakfast, with as few
belongings as possible. He didn't even wear an overcoat. Besides the
Bagley money, he had a considerable sum of his own, mostly the result of
his collaboration with you, Larcher. In a paper parcel, he carried a few
instruments from those he had kept since his surgical days, a set of
shaving materials, and some theatrical make-up pencils he had bought the
day before. He was satisfied to leave his other possessions to their
fate. He paid his landlady in advance to a time by which she couldn't
help feeling that he was gone for good; she would provide for a new
tenant accordingly, and so nobody would be a loser by his act.
"He went first to a drug-store, and supplied himself with medicines of
tonic and nutritive effect, as well as with antiseptic and healing
preparations, lint, and so forth. These he had wrapped with his parcel.
His reason for having things done up in stout paper, and not packed as
for travelling, was that the paper could be easily burned afterward,
whereas a trunk, boxes, or gripsacks would be more difficult to put out
of sight. Everything he bought that day, therefore, was put into
wrapping-paper. His second visit was to a department store, where he got
the linen and other articles he would need during his seclusion,--sheets,
towels, handkerchiefs, pajamas, articles of toilet, and so forth. He
provided himself here with a complete ready-made 'outfit' to appear in
immediately after his transformation, until he could be supplied by
regular tailors, haberdashers, and the rest. It included a hat, shoes,
everything,--particularly shoulder braces; he put those on when he came
to be fitted with the suit and overcoat. Of course, nothing of the old
Davenport's was to emerge with the new man.
"Well, he left his purchases to be called for. His paper parcel,
containing the instruments, drugs, and so forth, he thought best to
cling to. From the department store he went to some other shops in the
neighborhood and bought various necessaries which he stowed in his
pockets. While he was eating luncheon, he thought over the matter of the
money again, but came to no decision, though the time for placing the
funds as Bagley had directed was rapidly going by, and the bills
themselves were still in Davenport's inside coat pocket. His next
important call was at one of Clark & Rexford's grocery stores. He had
got up most carefully his order for provisions, and it took a large part
of the afternoon to fill. The salesmen were under the impression that he
was buying for a yacht, a belief which he didn't disturb. His parcels
here made a good-sized pyramid. Before they were all wrapped, he went
out, hailed the shabbiest-looking four-wheeled cab in sight, and was
driven to the department store. The things he had bought there were put
on the cab seat beside the driver. He drove to the grocery store, and
had his parcels from there stowed inside the cab, which they almost
filled up. But he managed to make room for himself, and ordered the man
to drive to and along South Street until told to stop. It was now quite
dark, and he thought the driver might retain a less accurate memory of
the exact place if the number wasn't impressed on his mind by being
mentioned and looked for.
"However that may have been, the cab arrived at a fortunate moment, when
Mr. Bud's part of the street was deserted, and the driver showed no great
interest in the locality,--it was a cold night, and he was doubtless
thinking of his dinner. Davenport made quick work of conveying his
parcels into the open hallway of Mr. Bud's lodging-house, and paying the
cabman. As soon as the fellow had driven off, Davenport began moving his
things up to Mr. Bud's room. When he had got them all safe, the door
locked, and the gas-stove lighted, he unbuttoned his coat and his eye
fell on Bagley's money, crowding his pocket. It was too late now to use
it as Bagley had ordered. Davenport wondered what he would do with it,
but postponed the problem; he thrust the package of bills out of view,
behind the books on Mr. Bud's shelf, and turned to the business he had
come for. No one had seen him take possession of the room; no eye but
the cabman's had followed him to the hallway below, and the cabman would
probably think he was merely housing his goods there till he should go
aboard some vessel in the morning.
"A very short time would be employed in the operations themselves. It was
the healing of the necessary cuts that would take weeks. The room was
well enough equipped for habitation. Davenport himself had caused the
gas-stove to be put in, ostensibly as a present for Mr. Bud. To keep the
coal-stove in fuel, without betraying himself, would have been too great
a problem. As for the gas-stove, he had placed it so that its light
couldn't reach the door, which had no transom and possessed a shield for
the keyhole. For water, he need only go to the rear of the hall, to a
bath-room, of which Mr. Bud kept a key hung up in his own apartment.
During his secret residence in the house, Davenport visited the bath-room
only at night, taking a day's supply of water at a time. He had first
been puzzled by the laundry problem, but it proved very simple. His
costume during his time of concealment was limited to pajamas and
slippers. Of handkerchiefs he had provided a large stock. When the towels
and other articles did require laundering, he managed it in a wash-basin.
On the first night, he only unpacked and arranged his things, and slept.
At daylight he sat down before a mirror, and began to design his new
physiognomy with the make-up pencils. By noon he was ready to lay aside
the pencils and substitute instruments of more lasting effect. Don't
fear, Miss Hill, that I'm going to describe his operations in detail.
I'll pass them over entirely, merely saying that after two days of work
he was elated with the results he could already foresee upon the healing
of the cuts. Such pain as there was, he had braced himself to endure. The
worst of it came when he exchanged knives for tweezers, and attacked his
eyebrows. This was really a tedious business, and he was glad to find
that he could produce a sufficient increase of curve without going the
full length of his design. In his necessary intervals of rest, he
practised the new handwriting. He was most regular in his diet, sleep,
and use of medicines. After a few days, he had nothing left to do, as far
as the facial operations were concerned, but attend to their healing. He
then began to wear the shoulder-braces, and took up the matter of voice.
"But meanwhile, in the midst of his work one day,--his second day of
concealment, it was,--he had a little experience that produced quite as
disturbing a sensation in him as Robinson Crusoe felt when he came
across the footprints. While he was busy in front of his mirror, in the
afternoon, he heard steps on the stairs outside. He waited for them, as
usual, to pass his door and go on, as happened when lodgers went in and
out. But these steps halted at his own door, and were followed by a
knock. He held his breath. The knock was repeated, and he began to fear
the knocker would persist indefinitely. But at last the steps were heard
again, this time moving away. He then thought he recognized them as
yours, Larcher, and he was dreadfully afraid for the next few days that
they might come again. But his feeling of security gradually returned.
Later, in the weeks of his sequestration in that room, he had many little
alarms at the sound of steps on the stairs and in the passages, as people
went to and from the rooms above. This was particularly the case after he
had begun the practice of his new voice, for, though the sound he made
was low, it might have been audible to a person just outside his door.
But he kept his ear alert, and the voice-practice was shut off at the
slightest intimation of a step on the stairs.
"The sound of his voice-practice probably could not have been heard many
feet from his door, or at all through the wall, floor, or ceiling. If it
had been, it would perhaps have seemed a low, monotonous, continuous
sort of growl, difficult to place or identify.
"You know most speaking voices are of greater potential range than their
possessors show in the use of them. This is particularly true of American
voices. There are exceptions enough, but as a nation, men and women, we
speak higher than we need to; that is, we use only the upper and middle
notes, and neglect the lower ones. No matter how good a man's voice is
naturally in the low register, the temptation of example in most cases is
to glide into the national twang. To a certain extent, Davenport had done
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