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Against Odds - A Detective Story
by Lawrence L. Lynch
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'I am glad of this opportunity,' I began at once,' for I have something to tell you which I prefer to make known to you first, although I should have told my story, even in your aunt's presence, if necessary, before leaving to-day.'

And as directly as possible I told of my acquaintance with the handsome guard.

Beginning with her encounter with the Turkish palanquin-bearers, I described my interview with the guard, repeated his words, his questions concerning her welfare, his statement that she was not a stranger to him, and then, with her interest and her curiosity well aroused, I described him.

'I wonder who it can be?' she had murmured before I began my description, and I kept a secret watch upon her features, while I said:

'He is a tall young fellow, and very straight and square-shouldered, though somewhat slender. He is blond, with close-cropped hair that is quite light, almost golden, and inclined to curl where it has attained an inch of growth. He wears a moustache that is but little darker than his hair, and is kept close-trimmed. He has a broad, full forehead; honest, open blue eyes, not pale blue, but a fine deep colour, and they meet one frankly and fearlessly. His mouth is really too handsome for a man, but his chin is firm enough to counterbalance that. His manners are fine, and he has evidently been reared a gentleman. I chanced to hear him sing last night, and he has a wonderfully high tenor voice—an unusual voice; clear and sweet, and soft in the highest notes.'

Before I had finished my description, I saw clearly that she recognised the picture. Her colour had changed and changed again, from red to pale. But I made no pause, telling how I had seen him in conversation with the little brunette, and what he had told me of that conversation, and then I described the adventure of the previous night.

When I had reached the point where I had offered my card and he had refused to give me a false name, I saw her eyes glow and her head lift itself unconsciously; when I described him in converse with the wily brunette, a slight frown crossed her face, and her little foot tapped an impatient tattoo quite unconsciously; when I pictured him as following the two women toward the Wooded Island, her head was lifted again and her lip curled scornfully. But when I had reached the point where the two figures, springing suddenly from the darkness behind him, had hurled him over the parapet into the deepest part of the lagoon, a low moan burst from her lips, and she put out her hands entreatingly.

'Was he——Quick! tell me!'

'He was rescued, unconscious but living, by two of the emergency crew who guard the lagoons by night, who, luckily, were lying in their skiff under the shadow of the bridge engaged in watching the mysterious movements of the very men who were lurking behind the big pedestal on the other side of the pier, awaiting the signal from the women, their confederates. In going over, his head was quite seriously hurt. At first it was thought that he had struck the edge of the boat in falling, but the doctor says it was a blow from some blunt instrument with a rounded end—some manner of club, no doubt.'

'And now—how—is he?' she faltered.

'In very good hands, and doing as well as can be expected. I was not allowed to see him, and he does not seem fully conscious, although the doctor says he may recover if all goes well.'

'Where is he?' Her face was very pale, but there was a change in her voice, a sudden firmness, and a total lack of hesitancy.

'At the Emergency Hospital in the Fair grounds.' I had purposely made his case as serious as I consistently could, and I now made the important plunge. 'Miss Jenrys, I have taken a great interest in this young man from the first. He is a fine fellow, and now, added to this personal liking, is the duty I owe this helpless young man, who evidently has an enemy, and that enemy seemingly the very person who has been dogging you so persistently and so mysteriously. You see the strangeness of the complication. Are you willing to help me?'

'I?' she hesitated. 'How?'

'This young man knows you. Do you not know him?'

'I—almost believe so.'

'And—are you under any vow or promise of secrecy? He lies there, unknown, friendless; and he has an enemy near at hand. I want to serve him, but to do this intelligently I must know him.'

She hesitated a moment, and then, to my surprise, arose quite calmly, went to her desk, and came back with a photograph in her hand.

'Look at that,' she said, as she held it out to me.

It was a group of tennis-players upon a sunlit lawn, one of those instantaneous pictures in which amateurs delight; but it was clear and the faces were very distinct. One of them I recognised at once as the subject of our conversation. He wore in the picture a light tennis suit, and his handsome head was bare; but I knew the face at once, and told her so.

'That,' she said, 'is a picture of a Mr. Lossing, whom I knew quite well for a season in New York. Shortly before Lent he left the city, it was said, and I have heard and known nothing of him since.'

'And—pardon me—it's very unusual for a young man of society to take up the work he has chosen. Do you know any reason for this?'

'None whatever. He seemed to be well supplied with money. So far as I can judge, I confess I never thought before of his fortune or lack of it.' A sudden flush mantled her face, and her eyes dropped. I wondered if she was thinking of that letter to Hilda O'Neil.

'It's a delicate point,' I said musingly. 'If we could learn something of his situation. He is very proud. Do you think that your friend, Monsieur Voisin, might possibly know something——'

She put up her hand quickly, imperiously.

'If Mr. Lossing has chosen to conceal himself from his friends, we have no right to make his presence here known to Monsieur Voisin.' She checked herself and coloured beautifully again.

'You are right,' I said promptly. I had no real thought of asking Monsieur Voisin into our councils, and I had now verified the suspicions I had held from the first—fitting the guard's statement and his personality into the story her letter told—that he was the Mr. Lossing from whom she had parted so stormily in the conservatory on the night of her aunt's reception.

And now, as I consulted my watch, she leaned toward me, and suddenly threw aside her reserve.

'Can you guess,' she asked eagerly, 'how he came to meet those women in that way? It was a meeting, was it not?'

'No doubt of that; and it was also a scheme to entrap him.'

'But—how did they do it? How did they lure him to that bridge—those two women?'

I could not suppress a smile.

'Can you not guess? It must be only a guess on my part, you know, but I fancy that in her talk with him that afternoon the brunette led him to think that you would not be unwilling to see him. I particularly noted that the woman with her was of about your height, and that she wore a hat much like the one worn by you on the day I first saw you. Now that I recall their manoeuvres of last night, I remember that the hat almost concealed her face, and that they kept in the shadow.'

She did not follow up the subject, but after a moment said:

'Do—do you think I might be allowed to see him if I went with auntie to the hospital? I mean now—to-day! Could you not say that I—that we were—that we knew him?'

'It is quite important that you should do so,' I declared unblushingly. 'You are the only one who can identify him; and now if I am to tell Miss Ross all these things——'

'Pardon me,' she broke in, 'if it will not matter, I—I would rather tell Aunt Ann; at least, about Mr. Lossing.'

I arose hastily. 'In that case I will leave it to you willingly, and if you will come with your aunt, say at two o'clock, I will meet you at any place you may choose, and take you to the hospital; or would you rather go alone?'

'Oh, no, no!' she exclaimed. 'We shall be glad of your escort. Indeed, I should fear to venture else.'



CHAPTER XVIII.

'IF YOU'LL FIND ONE, I'LL FIND THE OTHER.'

It was through the boy Bill that we learned finally how the brunette and her companions made their escape from Wooded Island after the attack upon the guard.

I found the lad waiting upon my return from Washington Avenue, and full of the excitement of his story.

He had struck upon her trail not long after she had parted from the guard, it would seem. He had been watching upon Midway Plaisance until thoroughly weary, when he caught sight of her going east, and followed her to the Turkish bazaar as before. This time she did not retire behind the curtains, much to his relief, but she spoke a few words to the 'tired-looking woman' behind the bedecked sales-table, and then left as she came, going straight to the entrance upon Midway which opened upon Madison Avenue, as on a former occasion, and from thence, as before, past Miss Jenrys' rooms, and so to her own at the cafe.

Here, again, Bill was obliged to loiter three long hours, and then a woman passed him so close that her face was distinctly visible, and entered the place. He recognised her at once as the woman of the 'tired' face, though she was now dressed quite smartly and with no remnant of the Oriental in her costume. This I gathered from his description of her attire, which, while it failed to give things their proper names as set down in the books of fashion, was sufficiently vivid, and enabled me to easily recognise the person who had aided the little brunette by impersonating Miss Jenrys the night before. She had entered the cafe and disappeared again through a side-door, to return, before long, in company with the brunette. They had then partaken of a hearty meal at one of the cafe tables, and had entered the Fair grounds at dusk.

'I didn't have no trouble a-trackin' 'em, though I had been dreadin' a reg'lar bo-peep dance, seein' how late 'twas gettin'. But they jest sa-auntered along, quite slow, only I noticed they was always careful not to git into no strong lights; they kept on the shady side of things,'specially the tallest one with the big cow-boy hat. So I jest monkeyed round till I see 'em start to go round the 'Lectricity B'ildin'. Then I jest slipped over between the 'Lectric an' Mines, ye know, and come ahead of 'em jest as they turned to'rds the bridges. I tell ye,' he declared with enthusiasm in a bad cause, they couldn't 'a' struck a better place 'an that there second bridge! First, there's the t'other bridge, and that little island on one side, and most everybody goin' round the Mines on t'other side, 'cause 'twas best lighted; then there was them little bushy islands, an' all that lagoon on the west of 'em; an' on the east not a speck of light, 'cept a few clean acrost to the Lib'ral Arts shop, and most all them little lamps on the island gone out. I tell ye, Mr. Masters, I felt sort o' glad when I seen ye come acrost an' hide in the bushes.'

'Oh, you saw me, did you?' I said, to hasten him on.

'I should say! I was a-layin' flat 'longside of them little shrubs on the other side the path, right where you turned off.'

'Well, go on, Bill.'

'Wal, sir, I was so busy watchin' them women that I didn't notice nothin' else 'cept you an' the guard—of course I thought he was tendin' to his biz. When they stopped to talk on the bridge, I begun to crawl along closte to the bridge, an' then—you know how it was all comin' so suddin? When I see the feller go over, an' seen you start to'rds the water, I jest took after the others. Well, sir, 'twas too slick the way they managed. Right alongside them willers there was one o' them little skiffs that's stuck round the island for show, or one jest like 'em. It lay jest where that little woody strip 'ud come right 'tween the island and the other side, an' 'twas all dark there. Wal, they all run that way crost the grass, an' me after 'em, close as 'twas safe to git. Two of 'em, the tall woman an' one of the men, got into the skiff, an' the other two struck off north, keepin' on the grass an' under the shade. I follered after 'em; they went pretty fast, too, till they come most to them Hoodoo tea-shops, you know; we hadn't met a soul so far, but it was lighter there, and I see there was a guard comin' to'rds 'em, an' what d' ye s'pose they did?'

'Oh, go on, Billy!'

'Wal, I had got pretty closte, and I seen them whisperin' together, an' then it seemed to me that they wasn't so far away as they had been a minit before. Then flash came a fizz match, an' sure enough there they was, facin' to'rds me, an' the very way they'd come, an' holdin' the match to the ground. Jest then the guard come up, an' they told him they or she had dropped their purse, an' she was lookin' for it; an' when he asked when, she said, "Oh, an hour ago," when they walked across the island to see the Hor—horty——'

'Horticultural?'

'—'Tyculchural place lighted; an' the guard said he feared they wouldn't find it, an' went on, tellin' them they'd better hurry out; an' then he went back the way they'd come, crost the bridge an' all, an' every little way they'd light a match, an' course I got so close I heard her say, "It must 'a' been when I fell down." I thought somebody got a fall when they run from the bridge down into the bushes.'

'Well, did you find where they went?'

'Drat the luck! No! I'd follered them out Midway, and was jest a little ways behind, when a couple o' guards stopped me, and afore I'd got out of their grip the two of 'em was out of sight.'

I was not surprised to hear this. I was quite convinced that the gang had in some manner secured a safe and secret lurking-place in the Plaisance. Still, somehow, I had hoped for something more from Billy's report, and felt somewhat disappointed. But I had yet to learn its true value.

During my absence there had come a message from the bureau asking our presence there. It was the Lausch robbery that 'required our presence,' so the message read, and Dave had returned an answer promising our presence at the earliest moment of leisure.

We did not feel so deeply interested in the Lausch robbery then as in some other matters, but when we had dismissed our boy shadower we went at once to the bureau.

There was considerable excitement at the office, and with good reason. Some of Monsieur Lausch's jewels had been returned, and in a most novel manner.

Early in the morning a guard had appeared with the treasure in his hand, and a singular story upon his lips.

Last night, he had said, while crossing the north-east end of the Wooded Island, at quite a late hour, he had encountered a man and woman searching for a lost purse. They were quite certain it had been lost on the island, and he being then on duty and 'unable to delay,' told them that he would search for it next day, and passed on. Early in the morning he had entered upon the search at the place where he had met the two, and, finding no trace of the lost purse, had turned his search into a stroll about the island. He was quite familiar with the place, having done guard duty there, and going close to the water's edge, at a point where a favourite view was to be had, he observed that one of the skiffs that were moored here and there about the island was gone. Going closer, he saw that it had been roughly torn from its moorings, and the soft soil showed that several people had left traces of their presence. It was in stooping closer, to look at these footprints, that he had noticed a bit of string trailing across the grass just beyond; and taking hold of this, he found a weight upon it, which proved to be a little chamois-skin bag containing some uncut gems. He had at once reported this find to his superior officer, being an honest guard, and was ordered to come with it to the bureau.

There was no room for doubt or mistake. The chamois bag contained a portion of the jewels stolen from the pavilion of Monsieur Lausch. There were some half-dozen of the dew-drop sparklers taken with the silver-leaf tray, one large topaz and two of the smaller ones, and there were also two solitaire rings which were not of the Lausch collection.

The bag containing these had been securely tied to a stout cord, nearly a yard in length, and fastened, doubtless, about the body of some person so securely that the double sailor-knot remained—a very hard knot indeed; but, alas for human calculations! something, it was evident, having a fine keen edge, had come in contact with this cord, and had cut it smoothly in two.

As Dave Brainerd and I saw these things, the same thought entered both our minds, and we exchanged one swift glance of mutual meaning, after which we stood and heard Monsieur Lausch ejaculate, and wonder, and question the officers, discuss, and theorize, and prophesy, ourselves saying little, and eager to be away from this place, that we might take counsel together concerning this new thing.

Singularly enough, no one seemed to think of connecting this find with the attack upon the guard at the bridge, and, finally, they decided to advertise the gems, as if they were still in the hands of the finder, who only awaited a reward to yield them up; and, as little more could be done, Dave and myself withdrew from the council, where we had been little more than lookers-on.

As we were taking our leave, the mail was brought in by a messenger, and we were called back from the outer office to hear a letter read. It was from an up-town jewellery house—at least, it bore the card of the house—and it reported that an emerald, 'large, fine, and of great value,' had been purchased by the head of the firm, under somewhat suspicious circumstances, and from a woman. Further information and a description of the woman, the letter stated, might be had by addressing, or appointing a meeting with, the writer.

And now my interest suddenly awoke, and to such good purpose that I managed to be chosen as the person to go to the city and interview the writer, perhaps also the purchaser of the jewel. And this accomplished, Brainerd and I withdrew in haste.

There was no doubt in our minds, the story told by the guard fitted too well in Billy's tale to admit of doubt. The bag of stolen jewels had been lost by the little brunette, and Dave was fully of my mind.

'I can't see how it was done,' he said, as we discussed the matter later. 'But it's plain enough that she had missed the bag, and that they were searching for it when the guard came up. Of course she wouldn't say that she had lost a bag of jewels.'

'Hardly,' I replied. 'As for the how, I can very well see how that string might have been severed. You know my opinions about this brunette. A concealed knife may have done the mischief, or one of those steels that help to give ladies a slender waist, broken perhaps by the vigorous running, may have cut the string; it would only require a little rubbing to do the thing. I tell you, Dave, it looks as if we would have a full account to settle with this individual, and I begin to feel the ground under my feet. I'd like to know who the men were who threw the guard over the bridge, though.'

'Don't you think Greenback Bob capable of it?'

'Quite.'

'And—Delbras?'

'Capable enough, but—he was not in it.'

'Are you sure, Carl?'

'I mean to be, shortly,' I replied. 'Dave, old man, don't ask me any questions yet as to how it's to be done, but I believe that before this World's Fair closes you and I will have gotten Delbras and Bob out of mischief's way, settled the brunette problem, and thrown light on the diamond robbery.'

'And how about that lost young Englishman, Sir Carroll Rae, and missing Gerald Trent?'

I turned and faced him. 'Old man,' I said, 'if you'll find one, I'll find the other.'



CHAPTER XIX.

'STRANGE! MISTAKEN! HEARTLESS!'

I was not disappointed in my interview with the up-town jeweller, who, being as real as the World's Fair itself, must not be named.

In order to identify the jewel offered by the strange woman, I took Monsieur Lausch with me, and he at once declared the description of the emerald to correspond precisely with the one stolen from him, and when I had listened to the description of the woman who had offered the gem, I was quite as confident that this person was the brunette and no other.

True, she had assumed a foreign accent and had laid aside her rather jaunty dress for a more sober and foreign-looking attire; she had made herself up, in fact, as a German woman, well dressed after the fashion of the German bourgeois; but she had added nothing to her face save a pair of gold-framed spectacles; and while I kept my knowledge to myself, I felt none the less sure that I had another link ready for the chain I was trying to forge for this troublesome brunette, who was so busy casting her shadows across my path and disarranging my plans.

The writer of the anonymous letter, for such it was, turned out to be a practical jeweller in the employ of a certain jewel merchant, and I never knew whether he had made his employer's purchase known to us for the sake of the reward, or to gratify some personal spite or sense of injury. Whichever it may have been, it concerned us little. We gave him our word not to use his name in approaching his employer, and our promise of a suitable reward should we find his story of use upon further investigation, and then we sought the purchaser of the jewel.

With him we dealt very cavalierly. We knew, no matter how, that he had purchased an emerald of value, we told him; and I further added that he had bought it from an accomplice, knowing that such an accusation would soonest bring about the desired result, as indeed it did.

A sight of the jewel sent Monsieur Lausch into raptures and rages. It was the lost emerald, the finest of them all!

That he could not at once carry away the gem somewhat modified the rapture, but we came away quite satisfied on the whole, he that the emerald would soon be restored to him, and I that I at last knew how to deal with the brunette—always provided I should find her again after the events of the day and night previous.

* * * * *

On the second day after his plunge into the lagoon I took Miss Jenrys and her aunt to see the injured guard, who was booked at the hospital as 'Carr.'

The blow upon the head had resulted first in unconsciousness, and later in a mild form of delirium. I had made a preparatory visit to the hospital, and was able to tell Miss Jenrys that the patient would not recognise her or any of us.

I thought that she seemed almost relieved at this intelligence, especially after I had assured her that the surgeon in charge had assured me that the delirium was much to be preferred as a less dangerous symptom than the lethargy of the first twenty-four hours.

'Mr. Masters,' she had said to me on our way to the hospital, 'there is one thing which I overlooked in telling you what I could about—Mr. Lossing. I—I trust you have not told them at the hospital, or anywhere, that he is not what he has represented himself.'

I hastened to assure her that this secret rested still between us two, and she drew a quick breath of relief.

'If he should die,' I added, watching furtively the sudden paling of her fair cheek, 'it would become my duty and yours to tell the truth, all of it. As he seems likely to recover, we may safely let the disclosure rest with him.'

'I am glad!' she said. 'So long as he chooses to be—Mr. Carr, I cannot of course claim his acquaintance. You—you are sure he will not know me?'

'Quite sure,' I replied; and she said no more until we had reached the hospital.

We were asked to wait for a few moments in the outer office or reception room. The doctor was occupied for the moment, the attendant said, but an instant later the same attendant beckoned me outside.

'Come this way a moment,' he whispered. 'The doctor wishes to speak with you.'

I murmured an excuse to the ladies, and went to the doctor in his little private room near by.

'When you were here,' he began, putting out his hand to me, 'I was preoccupied and you were in haste. There is something concerning our patient that you, as his friend, must know. By the way, has he any nearer friends than yourself at hand?'

'I believe not,' I replied briefly. 'I hope he is not worse, doctor?'

'No, not that, though he's bad enough. But you remember the sailors who came with you said that he had struck against the boat in falling, and we decided, rather hastily, that this was the cause of the wound and swelling. In fact, it was the swelling which misled us. We could not examine closely until it was somewhat reduced; but this morning, after the wound was washed and cleansed for the new dressing, I found that the hurt upon the head was caused, not by contact with a blunt piece of wood, but by something hard, sharp, and somewhat uneven of surface; a stone, I should say, or a piece of old iron—a blow, in fact.'

'Ah!' the sudden thought that came to me caused me to start; but after a moment I said:

'I do not doubt it. The fellows that made the attack are equal to worse things than that. I think, from what I know and guess at, the weapon may have been a sling of stones or bits of iron, tied in an old bandana.'

I did not tell him that this was said to be one of Greenback Bob's favourite modes of attack, and of defence, too, when otherwise unarmed. In fact, I said nothing to further indicate my knowledge of the assailants of our patient. But I got back to the ladies at once, after thanking the doctor, telling myself that his information would make the charge against the miscreants, when captured, stronger and more serious, if that were needful.

When Miss Jenrys stood by the cot where the injured man lay, pallid and weak, with great dark lines beneath his eyes and his head swathed in bandages, I saw her start and shiver, and the slight colour in an already unusually pale face fade out, leaving her cheek as white as that upon the pillow. The small hand clenched itself until the dainty glove was drawn to the point of bursting; the lips trembled, and the tears stood in the sweet eyes. She turned to the physician, and drew back a little as the head upon the pillow moved restlessly.

'I—I have not seen him for some time. Do—do you think it could possibly startle him—if—if he should recognise me?'

'If it were possible, which, I fear, it is not—now—there is nothing that would benefit him so much.'

She went close to the cot then, and, bending down, looked into the restless blue eyes.

'How do you do?' she said clearly.

The restless eyes were still for a moment; then the head upon the pillow moved as if essaying a bow, and the right hand was feebly lifted.

She took his hand as if in greeting, and said again, speaking softly and clearly:

'Won't you go and speak with my Aunt Charlotte?'

A startled look came into the eyes; a look of distress crossed the face. He made a feeble gesture with the right hand; a great sigh escaped his lips, and then they parted.

'Strange,' they muttered feebly, 'cruel—mistaken—heartless!' His hand dropped heavily, and, quick as thought, Miss Jenrys lifted her head and drew back, her face one rosy glow from temples to chin; and now the sweet Quakeress interposed with womanly tact:

'He does not know thee, dear; and perhaps our presence may disturb him, in this weakened state.' She bent over the sick man for a moment, scanned the pale, handsome features closely, gently put back a stray lock of hair that had escaped from beneath the bandage and lay across the white full temple. Then she turned to the doctor:

'In the absence of nearer friends, doctor, we will stand in their stead. Will you give him your best care and let nothing be lacking? When we can serve him in any manner, thee will inform us through Mr. Masters, I trust; and, with your permission, I will call to ask after him each day until he is better.'

Sweet soul! How plain to me was the whole tender little episode! I could imagine June Jenrys telling the story of her rupture with young Lossing as frankly as she had written it to her friend Hilda O'Neil, and more explicitly, with fuller detail. I could fancy the sweet sympathy and tender admonitions of the elder woman; and here, before me, was the visible proof of how she had interpreted the heart of the girl, at once so proud, so honest, and so fearless in an emergency like this.

Had the sweet little Quakeress come to the bedside of this suffering young stranger because he was a fellow being, friendless, alone, and in need of help and kindly care, or had she come because she believed that June Jenrys possessed a heart whose monitions might be trusted, and that the man she had singled out from among many as the one man in the world must be a man indeed?

Be this as it would, and whatever the frame of mind in which she approached that white cot at her niece's side, I knew, by the lingering touch upon the pale forehead, the deft, gentle, and quite unconscious smoothing of the white counterpane across his breast, that the pale, unknowing face had won its way, and that what she took away from that hospital ward was not the tenderly carried burden of another's interest and another's anxiety, but a personal interest and a personal liking that could be trusted to sustain itself and grow apace in that tender woman's heart.

We were a very silent party as we came away from the hospital. June Jenrys looked as if the word 'heartless' were yet sounding in her ears. I was assuring myself that it was best not to speak of what the surgeon had told me, and the little Quakeress was evidently quite lost to herself in her thoughts of, and for, others. As I took my leave of them, Miss Ross put out her hand, and, after thanking me for my escort, said:

'I will not trouble thee to accompany me to-morrow; I know the way perfectly, and can go very well by myself. Indeed I prefer to do so. I shall not even let June here accompany me—at first.'



CHAPTER XX.

'WE MUST UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER.'

The next morning brought a telegram from Boston, in reply to my wire asking instructions about the rooms on Madison Avenue. It read:

'Hold rooms until we come. Short delay. Unavoidable.

'TRENT.'

The second day after our visit to the hospital the photograph of Gerald Trent was received by Miss Jenrys, and at once turned over to me, I, in my turn, putting it into the hands of an expert 'artist,' with orders to turn out several dozen copies as rapidly as possible.

These I meant to distribute freely among specials, policemen, the Columbian Guards at the Fair City; and others were to be furnished the chief of police for use about the city proper, for I meant to have a thorough search made in the hotels, boarding places, furnished rooms, and in all the saloons and other haunts of vice and crime, wherever an officer, armed with one of these pictures and offering a princely reward, could penetrate.

On the morning of the third day another telegram came. This read:

'Still delayed because of illness. Hold rooms.

'TRENT.'

Accompanying the photograph had come a distracted letter from poor Hilda O'Neil, in which she had described Mrs. Trent, the mother of the missing young man, as almost broken down by the shock and suspense; and we readily guessed that her illness was the cause of the delay.

Twenty-four hours after receipt of this last message came another:

'Mrs. T. too ill to travel. Doctor forbids my leaving. Give up rooms. For God's sake work. Don't spare money. Letter follows.

'TRENT.'

In addition to these, every day brought across the wires, from Hilda O'Neil to her friend, the pitiful little question, 'Any news?' and took back the only possible reply, 'Not yet.'

And then came this letter from the father of Gerald Trent:

'DEAR SIR,' it began,

'I thank you heartily for your kind straightforward letter, and while I see and realize the many obstacles in the way of your search, I yet hope—I must hope—for your ultimate success; first, because Miss Jenrys' letter, so full of confidence in you, has inspired me with the same confidence; and, second, because to abandon hope would be worse than death. The prompt way in which you have taken up this search, at Miss Jenrys' request, has earned my sincerest gratitude. Although I had ordered the search begun through our chief of police here, yours was the first word of hope or encouragement I have received, although I have since heard from your city police.

'My wife lies in a condition bordering upon insanity, and much as I long to be where I can, at least, be cognizant of every step in the search for my son, as it is taken, my duty to that son's mother holds me at her bedside. For this reason we must all remain here, and I implore you to work! Leave no stone unturned! Employ more men; draw upon me for any sum you may require; offer any reward you may see fit; do what you will; only find my son, and save his mother from insanity and his father from a broken heart! Above all keep me informed, I beg of you. Remember all our moments here are moments of suspense.'

The name at the end was written in an uneven, diminishing scrawl, as if the letter had taxed the strength of the writer almost beyond endurance, and I heaved a sigh of earnest sympathy for the father, now doubly afflicted.

It was impossible now to do more than was being done from day to day, but every morning I gave an ungrudged fifteen minutes to the writing of a letter, in which I tried to say each day some new word of hope and to describe some new feature of our search, that he might feel that we were indeed leaving no stone unturned.

Meantime, from the moment when our brunette vanished from Master Billy in the Plaisance, no trace of her could be found by the lad or by ourselves.

For a number of days Dave and I gave ourselves to an untiring search, by day and night. We haunted the cafe where she had found lodgings, but we did not enter, for we did not wish to give the alarm to a young person already sufficiently shy, and we spent much time in Midway and upon Stony Island Avenue, near the places where the Camps had seen Smug, and the saloon wherein he had disappeared one day.

That the brunette had not entered the cafe since the night of the assault upon the guard, we soon assured ourselves. But we did not relax our vigilance, and for many days the beautiful White City was, to us, little more than a perplexing labyrinth in which we searched ceaselessly and knew little rest, stopping only to let another take up our seemingly fruitless search.

It was not often now that we sought our rest together or at the same time, but one night, after a week's fruitless seeking, I came to our door at a late hour to find Dave there before me, and not yet asleep. He began to talk while watching me lay aside the rather uninteresting disguise I had worn all day.

'Carl, wake up that imagination factory of yours and tell me, or make a guess at least, why we don't run upon Greenback Bob, Delbras, or even Smug, to say nothing of that invisible pedestal-climber of yours, any more?'

'Easy enough,' I replied wearily. 'They're sticking close to business, and they don't show, at least by day, in the grounds any more. If they're here at all, they are lying perdu in Cairo Street or in some of the Turkish quarters, smoking hasheesh, perhaps, or flirting with the Nautch dancers, and all disguised in turban, fez, or perhaps a Chinese pigtail.'

'Do you believe it?'

'I certainly do.'

'Jove! I wonder how they managed to get into those foreign holy of holies.'

'Backsheesh,' I answered tartly.

'Look here, Carl!' Dave jerked himself erect in the middle of his bed. 'Suppose you wanted to get in with those people, how would you do it?'

'Dave,' I replied, 'why weren't you born with just a little bump of what you mistakenly call imagination? I'll show you to-morrow how to do the thing.'

'How?' Dave stubbornly insisted.

'Well, if I must talk all night, suppose in the morning we go to Cairo, and find our way to some one in some small degree an authority—some one who can talk a little English, and most of them can. I might offer my man a cigar, and praise his show a bit, and then tell him how I want to tell the world all about him; how I want to see how they live, not so briefly, you understand. The circumlocution office is as much in vogue in the Orient as, according to our mutual friend Dickens, it is in old England. Well, when he fully understands that I admire their life and manners, and want to live it as well as write it, I begin to bid. They're here for money, and they won't let any pass them—see?'

'Old man!' cried Dave, smiting his knee with vigour, 'I'm going to try it on!'

* * * * *

It was seven days before our invalid—as we now by mutual consent called the still nameless guard—recovered his senses fully. There had been two or three days of the stupor, and then a brief season of active delirium; and at this stage the surgeon shook his head and looked very serious; and the little Quakeress, who, true to her first intention, came alone, carried away with her a face more serious still.

'She looks,' said the surgeon to me, 'as much shocked as if he were one of her own people.'

'She has a tender heart,' I replied, 'and—he is quite well known, I believe, to others of her family.'

'To one, assuredly,' he said, with a dry smile and a quick glance; and I knew that June Jenrys' interest in the insensible guard had been as plain to this worldly-wise surgeon as to me.

Remembering this brief dialogue, I was not surprised, when I made my brief call in Washington Avenue, to note an added shade of seriousness on the fair face that, since the disappearance of Gerald Trent—unknown, but the friend of her friend—had been growing graver day by day, so that the charms of the great Fair had palled upon her, and she had made her daily visits in a subdued and preoccupied mood, and shortened them willingly, to return at an early hour with the more easily fatigued little Quakeress.

On the morning of the eighth day I called early, sent by the surgeon with a message to Miss Ross.

'She asked me to send her word the first moment when I found our patient sane enough and strong enough to receive a short call, and to listen for a few moments, not to talk, "that was not needed," she said,' he added with one of his quiet smiles, 'and when I told her that when he came to himself the sight of some friend for whom he cared would help him more than medicine, and asked her if he had any such, she said that she could at least tell him a bit of pleasant news, and asked me to send her word at once.'

I was very willing to take the message, and when it was delivered the little Quakeress thanked me in her own quaint sweet manner, and a few moments later, while I was talking with Miss Jenrys and giving her some details of our search for a clue to young Trent's disappearance, she excused herself quietly and left us without once glancing toward her niece.

When I visited the hospital in the afternoon, the doctor said:

'Your little Quakeress is certainly a sorceress as well. She came very soon after you left us yesterday, and she did not stay long. I had forbidden my patient to talk, and I heard every word she said. It was a mere nothing, but she has almost cured him.'

'If it was so simple,' I said, half ashamed of my curiosity, yet having a very good motive for it, 'may I not hear the words that so charmed and healed him?'

'As nearly as I can repeat them, you may. I had introduced her, as she bade me, and told him that she had called to see him every day, and I knew, from the look in those open blue eyes of his, that she was an utter stranger, and that even her name was unknown to him. He was pleased though, and small wonder, at sight of the dainty, white-haired, sweet-voiced little lady; and when she took his hand in hers and, holding it between both her own, said, in her pretty Quaker fashion: "I am very glad and thankful to see thee so much better, and my niece June will be also—I mean Miss Jenrys, who, hearing of thy adventure and injuries, came at once to see if it were really the friend she thought she recognised in the description. My niece's friends are mine, and so I have assumed an old woman's privilege and paid thee a visit daily, and now that thee seems much better I will, with thy permission, bring her with me when I come again."' The doctor stopped short and smiled.

'Was that all?' I asked, smiling also. 'What did he say?'

'Well, sir, for a moment I thought the fellow was going to faint, but it was a pleasurable shock, and he made a feeble clutch at her hand, and his face was one beam of gratitude as he looked in hers and whispered, while he clung to her hand, "To-morrow." Then of course she turned to me, and I, pretending to have been quite unobservant, ordered her away, and made their next visit contingent upon his good behaviour during the next twenty-four hours.'

I saw that the time had now come when the patient and I must understand each other better, and I began by taking the doctor a little into my confidence, telling him a little of what I knew and a part of what I guessed at or suspected.

'I want now to enlighten him a little concerning this attack upon him, doctor,' I concluded, 'and if I don't make him talk——'

'Oh, see him by all means. There's nothing worse for the sick than suspense. I begin to understand matters. Since his return to consciousness he has seemed singularly apathetic, but let me tell you one thing: there were two nights—he was always wildest at night—when he talked incessantly about that meeting at the bridge, and he fully believes now that she, whoever that may be, was there. His first question asked, after being told of his mishap, was this: "Was anyone else attacked or injured besides myself that night at the bridge?" and when I answered no, he seemed relieved of a great anxiety.'

I had not seen him since the full return of his senses, and he seemed very glad to see me. When the doctor had warned him against much conversation, and had left us, I drew my chair close beside his cot, so that I could look into his face and he in mine.

'My friend,' I began, 'I am doctor enough to know that a mind at ease is a great help toward recovery, and I am going to set your mind at ease upon some points at least. Mind,' I added, smiling in spite of myself, 'I do not say your heart. Now, to do this I may need to put a few questions; and to obey the doctor and at the same time come to an understanding with you, I will make my questions direct, and you can answer them by a nod.'

At this he nodded and smiled.

'I dare say,' I went on, 'you wonder how and why you were treated to that sudden ducking?'

Again he nodded; this time quite soberly.

'I am going to enlighten you, in a measure, and I am obliged, in order to do so, to take you into my confidence, to some extent, and I must begin with the adventure of the bag—Miss Jenrys' bag, you know.'

Now I was approaching a delicate topic, and I knew it very well. I had not, in so many words, asked permission of Miss Jenrys to use her name in relating my story, but I had said to her during one of the several calls I had made in Washington Avenue, during the week that had just passed:

'When our friend is able to listen, Miss Jenrys, I must tell him, I think, how he came to be assaulted upon the bridge, as I understand it, if only to prepare and warn him against future attacks; and, to make my story clear to him or even reasonable, I shall need to enter somewhat, in fact considerably, into detail. I can hardly make him realize that he has a dangerous enemy else.'

I saw by the flush upon her face and a sudden nervous movement, that she understood fully what this would involve, and for a moment I feared that she was about to forbid me. But the start and blush were quickly controlled, and she pressed her lips together and drew herself erect, and there was only the slightest tremor in her voice when she said, slowly:

'You are right; he ought to know,' and turned at once to another subject.

Something in the look the young fellow turned upon me when I spoke of the episode of the bag reminded me of her face as she gave that tacit consent; there was the same mingling of pride and eagerness, reticence and suspense, and I plunged at once into my story, recalling briefly the encounter between Miss Jenrys and the Turks, the finding of the bag, my meeting with him, and the appearance of the little brunette, and here I put a question.

'I want to ask you,' I said, 'and I have a good reason for asking, as you will see later, why, when that tricky brunette turned her back upon you so pertly after making her demand for the bag—why you at once left us both and without another word? Wait,' as he seemed making an effort to reply. 'Let me put the question direct. Did you not leave us because you thought that person was really a friend of Miss Jenrys, and had, perhaps, been warned not to speak too freely in your hearing?'

The blood flew to his pale cheeks, and there was a momentary flash of haughtiness in his fine eyes, but as they met my own, this look faded from them and he murmured 'Yes.'

'Thank you,' I said. 'And now, before going further, let me tell you that I am violating no confidence; it is not for me to explain more fully here than this: The young lady of whom I am about to speak knows that I am telling you these things. I am not speaking against her will.'

And now his eyes dropped as he said faintly, 'Thank you.'

I next told him in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible how I examined the bag, and how, when all other hope of a clue to the owner failed, I read Miss Jenrys' letters; how, when the first letter failed to give me the owner's address, I read the second in full.

'And now,' I said to him, 'before I go further, let me remind you once more that I speak by permission, and add, on my own behalf, that, even thus authorized, I would not utter what I am about to say if I did not believe that by so doing I can set right a wrong, a worse wrong done to you than that of attempting your life—a blow at your honour, in fact.'

He started, and then, as if remembering his condition, said with wonderful self-restraint, 'Go on, please.'

And I did go on. Before I paused again I had told him almost word for word, as it was implanted upon my memory, the story June Jenrys had written to her friend, the story of that ante-Lenten party—just the fact, omitting her expressions of preference. I told the story as I would have told it of a dear sister whose maidenly pride was precious to me; told how she had gone, at his request, to speak with him in the conservatory, and how, there, she had heard, herself unseen, those flippant, unmanly words, so unlike him, yet from the lips of someone addressed by his name.

For a long moment after I had ceased speaking he lay there so moveless, with his hands tightly clenched and his eyes fixed upon empty space, that I almost feared he had fainted; then he turned his face toward me and spoke in stronger tones than I had supposed him capable of using.

'That letter—did it name that man?'

'What man?' I had purposely omitted the name of the man who had come so opportunely to lead Miss Jenrys away after she had heard the heartless speech from behind the ferns in the conservatory, and while I asked the question I knew to whom he referred.

'The man who came so opportunely after the—after I had gone.'

I hesitated. Here was a complication, perhaps, for I had hoped he would not put this question yet, but I could not draw back now, or what I had meant should result in good to two persons, at least, might cause further misunderstanding and render the last state worse than the first. So, after a moment, I answered:

'Yes. It named the man.'

'Who? tell me!' This was not a request, it was a command; and he was off his pillow, resting upon his elbow, and eyeing me keenly.

I got up and bent over him.

'I'll tell you fast enough,' I said grimly. 'And it's evident you are not a dead man yet; but get back on your pillow—he's here in this very White City, and if you want to take care of your own you'd better not undo the doctor's good work. Lie down!'

He dropped back weakly, and the fire died out of his face; he was deathly pale, but his white lips framed the word, 'Who?'

'Monsieur Maurice Voisin,' I said.

'The dastard!'

'Quite so,' I agreed. 'Did you know he was here?'

'Yes.' He lay silent a moment, then: 'I see! He saw it was—he——'

I held up my hand. 'If you talk any more I shall go; and I have more to say to you. I want you to get well, and there's someone else who is even more anxious than I am. But you have made one mistake, I think. You think that Voisin attacked you because you were about to meet Miss Jenrys, do you not?'

He stared, but did not answer.

'When the brunette met you in the afternoon of that day, she gave you some reason for believing that Miss J. desired to see you, and that if you joined them that night it would please her.'

I paused, but again he was mute.

'My friend,' I went on, 'I believe that Love, besides being himself blind, is capable of blinding and befooling the wits of the wisest. That brunette is an impostor. As for knowing Miss Jenrys, she does, if following her up and down, and trying to force an acquaintance, is knowing her. Here is the truth: That brunette, as we all call her, for want of any other appellation, is one of a trio, or perhaps a quartet, of adventurers, confidence men, counterfeiters, what you will, so that it is evil. They are here for mischief, and they began at once, through this brunette decoy, to entrap Miss Jenrys, for what purpose I am just beginning to learn. It seems, too, that they have designs upon you, for they decoyed you out the other night, this brunette and one of their woman companions dressed to resemble Miss J., and when they had you upon the bridge and you thought you were about to meet Miss J., two men who had been lying in wait for you behind a buttress sprang upon you, and while one thrust you over, the other dealt you a blow which, an inch lower, would have killed you—so the doctor has said.'

All the life had gone out of his face as I ceased speaking. His lips trembled. 'Then—it was not she?' he said brokenly.

'My dear fellow,' I put my hand upon his, 'listen: Until the next morning she did not know you were here, but after reading that letter I could not help believing that you were the man of whom she wrote, and I went to her, told her of my meeting with you, described you, and saw at once that she recognised you. Then I told her how you had been attacked, and the next morning I brought her and her aunt to see you. I don't want to flatter you, and I can't betray a lady; but while it was not she that night upon the bridge—and in your own sober senses and free of Cupid's blindness you would be among the first to know that it could not be she—she is now very near, and she is only waiting to be told that she may come to see, with her own eyes, that you are better, and that you will be glad to see her.'

'Glad!' How much the one word said, but in a moment he looked up.' But—these men—how do you know——'

'About the attack? I saw it. I had been following, watching you and them.'

He put his hand to his head as if bewildered.

'But, my God! those men! If they are following her—and myself—and if it is not—not Voisin——' He lifted his hand suddenly. 'I tell you, man, it is Voisin!'

As his hand dropped, the doctor came up and looked keenly from one to the other. I got up quickly.

'Doctor,' I said, 'I fear he has talked too much; but if you will let me talk to him a little longer—tell him something that will lift a weight from his mind, once he understands it, I am sure he will promise not to talk; and I will be brief.'

The doctor looked at his watch. 'Go on,' he said; 'I give you fifteen minutes.'

The guard heaved a long sigh of relief, and I seated myself again beside his cot.

'Now,' I said, 'I, on my part at least, am going to be perfectly frank with you. We must understand and aid each other.'



CHAPTER XXI.

'LET ME LAUGH!'

There were moments, yes, even hours, during the week while our guard lay upon his hospital cot unconscious or delirious, when I blamed myself severely for my lack of confidence or frankness that afternoon of his encounter with the brunette; times when I felt that he should have been told at least what I believed was the truth concerning her.

Yet, how was I to have guessed her intent concerning him?

Knowing her pursuit of Miss Jenrys, I felt so sure that she was only using him as a means for obtaining information about that young lady, and that this interview was only the beginning of what was meant to become an acquaintance more or less confidential.

As a result of my reticence, the young fellow had barely escaped with his life; even now, so the doctor said, fever or inflammation might put it in jeopardy.

Well, it was not my only blunder, I thought, looking back, with a grim smile, to my first absurd exploit. But I would try very hard to make it my last; at least, where 'the gang,' as Dave was wont to call Delbras and Company, was concerned. And when thinking of 'the gang,' I could not but note how both Dave and myself had reversed our first order in naming them, and now spoke, invariably, not of 'Greenback Bob and the rest,' but of 'Delbras and Company.' Somehow, Delbras seemed to have taken the foremost place in our thoughts, as I fully believed he was foremost in all the plots, plans and undertakings of the mysterious and elusive three. And yet he was the one out of the gang against whom we had no actual case.

We could see the hand of Greenback Bob in the counterfeit two-dollar greenbacks which had started into circulation so briskly, and then so suddenly dropped out of sight. And his work was also visible in that attack upon the guard; for who, according to the police records, could handle a 'slung-shot' as could Bob? And that the guard's wound was the work of a sling, we—the surgeon and myself—quite believed.

As for the brunette, we might begin with her little confidence game, in which she did not secure Miss Jenrys' bag; charge her with the sale of the stolen emerald, and bring home to her the loss of the 'dew-drops' and other contents of the chamois-bag lost in her flight across Wooded Island—when we found her again.

But Delbras! We might believe him to be the originator of, and prime mover in, the Lausch diamond robbery, but the only shadow of corroboration was our belief—based upon the fact of Dave's having seen the three together—that they were 'partners,' and that Delbras was credited with being an expert diamond thief. Not a promising outlook, I sometimes said to Dave, in my moments of discouragement, which my practical friend declared were somehow always synonymous with my moments of hunger.

But to return to our guard and his interests. During the fifteen minutes kindly granted by the doctor, and which somehow ran into half an hour before he came and ordered me away, I contrived to establish between myself and the invalid a very sufficient understanding, and I left him feeling that, so far as lay in my power, he was warned against his enemies, and knew them, at least, as well as I did.

Upon one question, however, we differed. As I was about to take leave, I said: 'There is one thing that I foresee, and that is a renewal of your social relations with Miss Jenrys and a beginning of the same with her aunt. I can see reasons why it might be better—might simplify matters—if you kept up at least an outside appearance of coolness. You understand?'

'Yes.' He was silent for a little time, then: 'Will this be of actual use or help to you?'

'Only as your meetings may complicate matters by making new trouble for yourself, or—possibly—her.'

'Then,' said he, looking me straight in the eye, 'Miss Jenrys must decide the question.'

As I came out from the hospital that day I came face to face with Monsieur Voisin. He paused a moment, as if in doubt, and then came quickly toward me, one hand extended, a smile upon his face. His greeting was the perfection of courtesy, and I, of course, responded in kind.

After a few remarks of the usual sort, a word regarding the weather, which was perfect, and praises of the Fair, Monsieur Voisin, who had seen me emerge from the hospital, said:

'So it is here that this great Fair cares for its sick and unfortunate? Have you been inspecting its methods, may I ask?'

There are times when the truth is best; and I thought I knew my man, so I replied smilingly:

'A hospital is not in itself charming. I have been to call upon a friend.'

'That, indeed! A patient, I suppose?'

'A patient, yes.' I felt sure that he was not inclined to tarry, nor in truth was I; but I let him take the initiative, and after a few more airy, courteous words he murmured something about an appointment, and went his way.

When he was quite out of sight I went back to the guard near the door of the hospital, who had grown to know me quite well.

'Did you notice the man who just spoke with me?' I asked him.

'Yes, sir.'

'Ever see him before?'

'I have that. A few days ago he stopped and asked after one of the patients—feller that fell into the lagoon the other night. Said he'd heard that a young man fell off a bridge.'

'And—may I ask how you answered him?'

The guard looked at me quizzically. 'Well, you see, we've been ordered not to answer questions about this case, for some reason that you may know better than I do; and so I couldn't tell him much about it, but I offered to ask for him. He wouldn't have that; said it was only a passing inquiry,' and he laughed knowingly.

He had seen me when I came with the men who bore the guard upon a stretcher, and felt that he might overstep the rules with safety.

'How is the fellow, anyhow?' he asked. 'They say he was one of us.'

'He is one of you,' I replied, 'and we hope to see him about at the end of a week.'

* * * * *

Precisely how Carr or Lossing—I called him 'our guard' in those days, by preference—precisely how he and June Jenrys met, I learned in detail, but not until the glorious White City had faded in truth to a dream city—a lovely vivid memory; but I had imagined the scene, even before it took place, and I was glad to know that my 'imagination machine,' to quote Dave, had not gone far wrong.

Miss Jenrys had accepted my proffered escort that morning, and, a little to my surprise, I found that her aunt was not prepared to accompany her. For the first time that little woman gave me a glimpse of a strong foundation of that good sense that is not held in strictly orthodox leash, the sturdy independence that accepts convention as a servant but not as a mistress, that was hidden beneath that gentle, yielding manner of hers.

'My niece is not a child,' she said to me, when the young lady had left us to make ready for the walk to the hospital, 'and it is best that she should go alone to-day for his sake. Thee must understand?' I nodded, and she went on: 'June has told me the story, all of it, I think, and there is something that should be explained; there is error, at least, somewhere. It seems strange to be talking like this to thee, but thee seems to have come so intimately into our lives of late—besides, of course, I know that—having read that letter, which June has let me read also—thee sees the position——'

'One moment,' I interrupted her; 'I have wanted to speak upon this subject and have hesitated. Nine young women out of ten would have deeply resented my reading of that letter.'

'But the circumstances——'

'I know. Still, I might have resisted the temptation to read on after I had discovered your address, and although she grants the mitigating circumstances, still she must resent, just a little, my knowledge of its contents.'

She put up her hand, with a soft little laugh.

'I shall be sure to trip myself if I attempt a polite fib, so I will admit that. At first, for a little time, June did feel quite haughty when she thought of that letter and thy knowledge of it in the same moment. But great troubles often swallow up small annoyances, thee knows; and I can assure thee that my niece now looks upon thee as a real friend, to be trusted, not quarrelled with; besides—for thee must know we have talked over this very thing—she realizes that if thee had not read that letter something unpleasant might have befallen her, something terrible; who knows? Besides, there are all these later happenings, all your help to be put in the balance in your favour. No, Mr. Masters, thee has in June Jenrys a friend, who is grateful to thee, and who believes in thee, and she is no lukewarm partisan.'

She put out her slim, white hand, ringless and soft, but firm in its touch, and I grasped it and was silent for a moment; then, thanking her for her kindness and confidence, I said hastily, and in momentary expectation of seeing Miss Jenrys enter the room:

'Miss Ross, I believe you have saved me from a blunder. As you have said, your niece is a woman, and a very clever one, and I have been near treating her like a child.'

'A child, and how?'

'There is a word concerning that same letter we have been speaking of, which I have been longing to speak. It should have been said before this visit of to-day, I think; and I have near been telling it to you, when it most concerns Miss Jenrys.'

She came closer, with a swift step.

'Does it—does it also concern—him?'

'Yes.'

'And—ah—I must ask thee if it is to his hurt?'

'It is not.'

'Then tell it to her at once, if it will make their meeting less embarrassing to either; tell it—hush!'

Almost as she spoke the door opened and June Jenrys entered the room, and never had she looked so charming. It was evident in every detail of her simple toilet that she had dressed with the purpose and the power to please and charm.

The gown was simply made, of some soft, creamy-tinted wool, that fell in long straight folds from her silken belt, and was drawn, soft and full, like the surplice of our grandmothers' day, about the shapely shoulders and across the breast; and the hat was black and broad, with curving brim and drooping plume, the same, in fact, worn by her on the now memorable day when we—the guard and I—saw her, all unconscious of the menacing Turks on Midway Plaisance. A soft, black glove with long, wrinkled wrists, and a long, slim umbrella, tightly furled, completed a charming picture of a New York girl par excellence.

As we left the house and I turned at the foot of the steps to lift my hat to Miss Ross, looking after us from the doorway, she waved her hand and sent me a significant glance, which I well understood. It meant, 'Speak, and speak boldly.'

When we had entered at the Fifty-seventh Street gate, and were crossing the bridge, I did speak, and boldly too, it seemed to me.

'Before we enter the hospital, Miss Jenrys,' I began, 'there is something which I think you ought to know. I have not spoken of it in your aunt's presence, because it is first and most your affair, to make known or to withhold for a time. Will you sit in that arbour where I first talked to yourself and Miss Ross? I see that it is unoccupied, fortunately.'

She assented promptly, and when we had entered the Nebraska House arbour, and were seated side by side upon the shadiest seat, she turned toward me an expectant look, and silently waited my pleasure. Her face was grave and somewhat paler than usual, but there rested in her lovely eyes a look of fixed purpose, a clear, fine light as of some decision, made after doubt and hesitation, in which she now rested and felt strong.

She did not seem eager, as she sat beside me, only waiting, and her mind evidently was 'far away ahead.'

I came promptly to the point.

'What I have to say, Miss Jenrys, concerns our friend whom we are about to visit, as well as yourself.' She let her lashes droop, and slightly bent her head. 'And it has been in my mind,' I went on, 'for some time—in fact ever since I came to the conclusion that our friend was, in truth, the Mr. Lossing whom you named in the letter I was so bold as to read;' here she flushed hotly. 'And here permit me to say, Miss Jenrys, that no man ever read his own mother's letter more respectfully than I perused that letter of yours, searching through it for the address of its writer. I hope you will believe me when I say that I hesitated long, and put down the letter more than once, before I ventured to give it a second glance, and that no eye save mine read or saw one word of its contents while it remained in my possession. When I met you first, and talked with you in this same spot, I wanted to say this to you, but I saw that you preferred to ignore this part of the affair——'

'I did,' she interrupted, with gentle dignity, reminding me of her aunt. 'I confess that at first I felt sore and sensitive about my poor letter, but that is over, Mr. Masters; you have made me again and again your debtor, even by that act, as I now see clearly. Let us not refer to that letter again.'

'But I must once more at least, and I beg you to bear with me if I seem unduly meddling with your affairs; they are our friend's affairs too, and I believe he has been grievously wronged.'

'Wronged?' She started, and her face flushed and paled in the same moment. 'How—how?'

'I will tell you. You may not be aware how much a few written lines can sometimes convey to one in my profession, especially when written by one who speaks frankly, as friend to friend; and when I had read that portion of your letter which describes the scene in the conservatory, I seemed to see it all.' I was speaking with my eyes upon the ripples of the little stream at our feet, into which, from time to time, I tossed a leaf or twig from the branches just overhead.

'When I had read that portion of the letter, Miss Jenrys,' I went on, 'before I had seen you or Lossing, I said to myself, "She has been deceived—tricked!"'

'Tricked?' she whispered through pale lips, and then she drew herself erect, and awaited my next words.

'Miss Jenrys, I believe you know now whom I am about to accuse. Yesterday I had a talk with Lossing, as long as the doctor would permit, and I, on my part, took him quite into my confidence. He knows me for what I am; he knows what I am doing. I told him, after consulting you, the story of the letter—of the brunette—everything. Was I wrong?'

'No,' very slowly.

'And last I told him that I believed someone had played him a dastardly trick. Shall I tell you what he said to me?'

'Yes.'

'He swore that the words you heard behind the palms were never uttered by him; that he saw only you and one other in the conservatory.'

She clasped her two hands in her lap, and I saw that they trembled slightly; but her voice was low and calm when she turned to me and said:

'If he tells me this, I shall believe him.' And then, after a moment of silence, 'How was it done?' she asked.

'Can you not imagine a rival overhearing, perhaps, the appointment in the conservatory? If he is a good mimic or a ventriloquist, say, it would be easy to utter a few words behind the palms, impersonating two people; then, as his victim approaches, he glides behind some other leafy screen, to appear before you, perhaps, a little later, smiling and secretly triumphant.'

'I see!' she said, with sudden energy. 'Tell me what must—what ought I to do?'

'Will you take my advice, with a strong reason behind it?'

'Yes,' promptly.

'Then, say nothing, do nothing, for the present. Believe me, it will be best in the end, and an especial favour to me. I will explain more fully at another time.' I got up and stood before her, watch in hand. 'We are due at the hospital. Do you agree?'

'To wait?' She arose quickly. 'Will it really be a favour to you?'

'It will be a great favour. It will disarrange my most cherished plans for unmasking a villain if you make a sign too soon.'

'Then I will hold my peace; I will help you, even—can I?'

'Will you?'

'I will.' She put out her hand.

'Thank you. I will not cause you to regret your promise. Shall we go?'

* * * * *

Lossing lay eager-eyed and impatient, watching alternately his watch and the door, when June entered, stately and charming, and came alone straight to his cot.

There were no heroics. These were not the lovers of the popular novel, who meet invariably, after long absence or a deadly quarrel, in an empty parlour at early twilight; they were young and ardent, but they were also familiar with les convenances, and possessed of the nineteenth-century horror of a scene.

When she paused beside him his hand was outstretched to meet hers; and if the clasp was close and long, what of that? And if, when she sank gracefully into the seat placed for her by an attendant, there was a suspicious moisture in her eyes, which she seemed to wipe away, since her back was turned to the others; and if his lip quivered slightly, for he was very weak you know, what then?

At first no word was spoken, but their eyes had met and exchanged greetings, without the aid of words.

By-and-by, with his eyes devouring her face, he said feebly:

'You—have seen—Masters?'

'Yes, he brought me here.'

'And—he told—you——?'

'Everything.'

He drew a long sigh of relief, and slid his hand along the counterpane toward hers.

'June,' appealingly.

She put her hand in his for a moment, met his eyes for an instant, turned her own away quickly, and glanced over her shoulder; then suddenly she began to laugh softly.

'June!' reproachfully.

'Let me laugh! Oh, you poor boy! If I don't laugh, I'm afraid—I shall cry!'



CHAPTER XXII.

'THERE IS DANGER—NEAR!'

Women are strange. This has been said before, I know, but it is doubtful if it is ever said twice with just the same meaning; and it is always true.

When Miss Jenrys learned that our guard was quite beyond the danger line, and that he might leave the hospital in a week, she promptly declared her second visit, in company with her aunt, her last, assuring him that, while one might disregard Mrs. Grundy when a friend was so ill as to be upon debatable ground, it would never do to risk her favour for a rapidly recovering convalescent. 'Besides,' she said with a smile that was kinder than her words, 'in a few days you will begin to pay some of the visits you now owe to Aunt Ann and to me.' And this he did.

When he left the hospital his physician forbade him to attempt anything more severe than a very short promenade once a day, and a little sight-seeing, if he choose to do it in a wheeled chair; for the rest, quiet and much sleep. As to his duties as guard, even the lightest of these were forbidden him for at least a fortnight.

It is hardly likely that the originators of the Fair City planned to do just that, or realized at first what they had done, but intentional or not, the White City was a paradise for lovers.

Those cosy nooks all about Wooded Island, those quiet corners about the lagoons, with seats invitingly placed; and what snug recesses, 'too small for numbers, roomy for two,' in the great buildings, among the pagodas, temples, pavilions and lofty inclosures, hospitably furnished by generous exhibitors; then there were half a hundred and more buildings, model dwellings, cottages, castles, villas, mansions, palaces, edifices, State and national, each with open doors, and many with cosy parlours, reception-rooms, assembly-rooms, where one or two could find quiet and seclusion in the midst of multitude; and last and best, there were the beautiful lake, the lake shore, the lagoons, the skiffs, launches, and the gondolas.

On the first day of his freedom from the hospital our guard tried his strength moderately, and took counsel with Miss Ross.

On the second day June came 'half-way,' as she expressed it, joining him upon the Plaza and leaving Miss Ross to my tender mercies, for he had unblushingly begged an hour of my time—which he stretched to two hours—that I might 'help him entertain the ladies.'

Even now I am not certain that Miss Ross was not a party to the plot by which we first found ourselves alone upon the Plaza; and a moment later saw our guard and Miss Jenrys afloat upon the Grand Basin, luxuriously established, because of the invalid, of course, in a canopied gondola, and looking as innocent as if they did not perfectly well know that their picturesque gondolier could not understand the least word of English.

We watched them until they passed under the bridge of the bears at the south end of the north canal, and when they came out into the lagoon and turned westward as if to skirt the island, I turned to my companion.

'Does she speak Italian?'

'June? No; she is a good German scholar, and loves the language. She speaks French also, and reads Spanish well; but Italian, no, I am sure not.'

'Then he does!' I declared, 'and he has set those fellows to paddling around the island. Miss Ross, let us go and see the cliff dwellers,' and we went.

When our two lovers were gliding slowly along the shores of the island, in the shadows of its western side, our guard turned toward June, and after a long look into the eyes which she dropped, at last said, softly and slowly:

'June—you did not rebuke me when I called you so at the hospital when I was ill; may I call you June now?'

'Yes, because now you are an invalid.' There was a little smile lurking at the corners of her mouth, but he went on gravely:

'Thank you, June; and now may I begin where I should have begun that evening when you sent me from you——'

'Stop, please! I could not speak of that miserable time until you—I mean since you have approached the matter, let me ask your pardon for the insult I then offered you. I have felt all the time since those first hours that there was somehow a hideous blunder, and now my reason has been enlightened. I should not have doubted. Forgive me!'

'June, don't! How could I blame you, knowing as I now do how you were deceived? It is noble of you, but don't ask my pardon when——'

'But I want your pardon! Do you think it humiliates me to ask pardon for a wrong I have done? I am too proud not to do it, Mr. Lossing.'

And so gliding along that fair water-way, isolated, yet with all the world around them, those two settled the question of questions; and then, with minds and hearts at ease, and beauty all about them, their thoughts became less serious, and she began to criticise the uniform of a guard standing at a boat-landing, with shoulders erect and a military air.

'And you, Mr. Lossing, are really one of those superb personages! and to think that I have never seen you in your panoply of war.'

'Shall I resume it to-morrow?' he asked earnestly.

'For duty? You are not able.'

'But when I am able? When I donned that uniform I was in search of a new experience; something to take the staleness out of life. I thought it would give me a view of this great enterprise not to be had by the cash-paying outsider. But, June, I am willing to dispense with my panoply of war, and to be a common citizen once more; shall I?'

'Do you wish to?'

'Your will in this matter is my law.'

She laughed musically. '"In this matter?" I am so glad you qualified that speech. But now, seriously, let me say to you that if you choose to retain the place you have taken I shall honour you for it. What can you or any man, in time of peace, do more or better than the work of these young men? Their work can only be well done by gentlemen. Courtesy, watchfulness, care for others; help to the old, the weak, the children; guiding, informing, protecting; making this great beautiful labyrinth of wonders, that might be so puzzling, so wearisome, so dangerous, a place of comfort, of safety, of delight. My friend, when I think what a Babel this place would be without the Columbian Guard, I am proud of—your uniform.'

'Then you do believe that "a man's a man for a' that?" Thank you, June.'

'I do, assuredly.'

'And if I tell you that I am a poor man, with only a little money and just a newly fledged literary knack to stand between me and the sunny side of life—what then, Princess June?'

'Don't expect to extract one grain of sympathy from me because of any tale of poverty you may tell, sir. You don't impress me as a young man who has been ill-used by the world. But that literary knack—do let me hear more about that;' and her smile changed to a look of eager interest.

'It's a short tale. About a year ago I made my first attempt as a journalist—newspaper hack would sound more modest—and I am succeeding fairly.'

'Then I congratulate you. Anyone can be a millionaire, but a journalist who succeeds—he wields a power beyond price.'

* * * * *

There was one thing that bade fair to grow troublesome, as I found myself giving some small portion of almost every day to the two ladies; for Miss Ross as well as her niece had made me feel that my duty as well as my pleasure lay in those daily reports or interviews, held sometimes in the dainty rooms upon the avenue, and now and then in some convenient spot within the Fair City.

At our first meeting, at the north end of the grounds, I did not consider the encounter with the Turks in her behalf a meeting, for I scarcely had a full look at her face, while she did not so much as glance at mine; but at the other I had appeared before her in propria persona, and my subsequent calls at the house upon the avenue had been the same. On the other hand, whenever I went about the Exposition grounds or beyond them in my capacity of 'sleuth,' I went in some manner of disguise.

During the first week of my acquaintance with Miss Jenrys I had encountered Monsieur Voisin twice; first upon the occasion of our introduction, and afterward at Miss Jenrys' door; and during the first week of our guard's confinement in the hospital I had narrowly escaped him twice, going to or coming from the same place. As the days went on I found that Monsieur Voisin's attentions were growing more marked, and his visits on the avenue almost constant.

I did not wish to become too well known to Monsieur Voisin, who was a keen observer, for I was posing for him as a 'New York newspaper man,' and so at last I was forced to tell the two ladies that some, if not all, of my calls, for a time at least, must be made at unconventional hours, and often in disguise.

And now the days, while quite uneventful, were growing more and more busy for Brainerd and myself.

The matter of the diamond robbery, after considerable discussion and some reluctance, had been turned over to a clever Chicago expert, and to help him on, and at the same time free our hands for other matters, we gave him all the information in our possession; told him our theories and suspicions, and gave him a description of the brunette, together, of course, with an account of her transactions with the emerald, which, by the way, had been restored to Monsieur Lausch, not freely and not willingly, but because the dealer in precious stones was not daring enough to risk a threatened exposure in the newspapers.

To make the expert's way quite clear with reference to the brunette, we told him also of her pursuit of Miss Jenrys and her connection with the attack upon our guard, adding that we were fully convinced she was one of a clique, working always, whether together or separately, in unison. But we entered into no details where Delbras and his other confederates were concerned. In fact, we did not name them.

'We cannot let the Lausch business go out of our hands without letting the other party into the matter as deep as we ourselves have gone,' said Dave, 'and the brunette has put her finger into the pie. But there's no proof of any sort pointing toward the rest of the gang; and so, old man, before we put another fellow on the track of Delbras, Bob, Smug and Company, we will satisfy ourselves that we are not smart enough to run them down alone.'

These sentiments I echoed in full; and although they were proving themselves adepts in the art of vanishing and leaving no trace behind, I felt—for reasons which I had not as yet confided even to Brainerd—more and more certain every day that we should sooner or later entrap Delbras, and through him the others.

But while we could describe the brunette to the satisfaction of the keen young fellow in whom we felt a brotherly interest and any amount of faith, we could do little more. I sent him my 'shadow,' Billy, and the boy went with him to the cafe where she had been seen to come and go, and to the places in the Plaisance where she had more than once disappeared; and having done this we could do no more, save to wish him success and to wash our hands, for a time, of the Lausch diamond robbery and the little brunette—or so we thought.

But now I had upon my mind a new case. Our guard, or Lossing, as, in imitation of Miss Jenrys and her aunt, I was learning to call him, was now becoming convalescent, and while he had not yet returned to his duties as Columbian Guard, which he had assured me he meant soon to do, he was beginning to go about by night and by day, as his strength increased, quite regardless, seemingly, of the fact that he had been attacked once, and had every reason to think the act might be repeated in some new fashion.

I had warned him of the risk he might run by going about alone at night, for I saw that when he was not in the presence of June Jenrys—as he was now sure to be, for a little time at least, every day—he was unnaturally restless.

I had learned to know him too well to suggest a companion for his evening strolls, but I kept an eye upon him, and, so long as he did not venture from the grounds, felt tolerably secure of his safety.

Much of the great inclosure was as light and as safe by night as by day, but Lossing, while recovering in the hospital, had fallen in love with the lake, so near at hand, and his first stroll by day was in this direction, as well as his first evening venture.

Out across the Government Plaza, along the shore to the brick gunboat, and on northward where the lights were faint and the risk greatest, or so it seemed to me, he went that night, and the next, and the next.

But not alone, when he took his second promenade lake-ward. The boy Billy was at his heels unseen but watchful, and well knowing how to act should danger threaten.

* * * * *

In the meantime, since the night of the attack upon Lossing, the brunette, Bob, Delbras, Smug—all had vanished utterly. Neither in Midway nor elsewhere, as Turks or gentlemen of leisure, were they seen by Dave, myself, or the boy Billy.

'But they're here all right!' Dave declared, 'and if we don't find a new gap in the fence somewhere soon, I don't know the gentry!'

During Lossing's confinement in the hospital, after he had begun to mend, I had brought Dave to see him, and after that he had several times looked in upon the invalid; sometimes at my request, and later for his own pleasure as well.

Dave's bluff ways had made for him a friend in our guard, and so one day, the day following that of Lossing's third lakeside promenade, I asked Dave, who had declared himself off duty for the night, to go and see him.

I had just received a letter from Boston which made me anxious to see Miss Jenrys; and as I had not called upon nor met her during the day, I decided to go to Washington Avenue that evening.

'Go early, Dave,' I said, when he had assured me of his readiness to go, 'and ask him to put in the evening with you. I don't like these lakeshore prowls. The fellow's a good one with his fists, but he don't seem to realize that it's treachery, a blow in the back, that he must guard against.'

Dave went his way, and it being rather early for my call, I sat down to re-read Mr. Trent's letter.

It was brief and evidently penned under excitement. He had received an anonymous letter from Chicago, proposing to open negotiations for the ransom of his son, who, it declared, was at that moment a prisoner in the hands of desperate men.

'In short,' Trent's letter ended, 'it's an alarming letter. I write this in haste that it may reach you at once, and can only say that my daughter and Miss O'Neil, in my absence, opened and read the letter, and have written to Miss Jenrys in full. I am very anxious to know what they have written. See Miss J—— at once; it is important. I have no time for more.

'Yours hastily,

'TRENT.'

As I was turning the key in the lock and about to set out at once for Washington Avenue, Brainerd came puffing up the stairs.

'He's gone!' he panted, 'and I was afraid you'd be!'

'Do you mean Lossing?'

'Of course! He laid off his regimentals, one of the guards told me, and put on a swell evening suit, and away he went. Want me to follow him?'

'Yes,' I answered promptly. 'I can't come home with him, I fear; I must somehow see the ladies alone. You know the place, Dave, do you not? He won't stay late, you know.'

I was not greatly surprised to hear of Lossing in Washington Avenue, for we knew well enough that his first evening's visit would be to Miss Jenrys. He had been three or four times taken to the gate in a rolling chair, and had walked from there to the house for a morning call; but this was his first evening outside the grounds since his recovery.

As I approached the house I saw that someone was before me, already at the threshold, and ringing the bell. I could not identify the figure, because of the two trees which stood one on each side of the stone steps before the door, the one half concealing his figure, the other the light at the corner below.

The door opened so promptly that he was admitted before I had left the pavement, and the visitor, Lossing as I supposed, passed in.

'Poor fellow,' I said to myself, 'I won't come upon his very heels. I'll give him a few moments, at least, alone with the lady of his choice,' and I turned away and walked at a moderate pace around the block. But I could spare him no further grace, and so upon again reaching the house I ran up the steps and rang hastily.

The rooms occupied by the ladies as parlour and reception rooms were small and cosy, and thrown together by an arch, beneath which a portiere was draped, and Miss Ross came forward to greet me at the doorway of the first of these.

I could hear a murmur of conversation from the farther room, but it was not until I was standing beneath the curtained archway that I saw, to my amazement, Lossing and Monsieur Voisin at the farther side of the room, talking amiable nothings, as men of the world will when they meet. Both were in evening dress, and the Frenchman held in his hand a splendid bunch of American Beauty roses.

Voisin greeted me with empressement, and Lossing carelessly acknowledged 'having met me before.'

Miss Jenrys, her aunt informed me, as she had before informed the others, was engaged upon a letter of some importance, which must be sent in the early mail. She would join us soon; and then I learned from our desultory talk that it was Voisin for whose accommodation I had been pacing the block, and that Lossing had been the first arrival.

These two were still seated at the rear of the inner room, with Miss Ross at a little table near its centre and myself opposite her, and with my back to the archway, when there came a sudden sound at the outer door. It opened and closed quickly, and Miss Jenrys' voice exclaimed:

'Oh, Mr. Masters! I have had such a letter! One of those wretches has written that he will ransom poor lost Gerald Trent for——'

'June, my dear, come and receive thy visitors before thee tells thy news.'

There was just a second of embarrassed silence, and then Miss Jenrys came forward and greeted her guests, with precisely the same courteous welcome extended to us each and all.

But she only referred to her exclamatory first words in reply to Monsieur Voisin's question:

'You greeted us with some rather startling words, Miss Jenrys. Pardon me, but is it true that you have a friend lost in this wonderful city?'

But Miss Jenrys was not to be made to commit herself a second time.

'Not at all; it is simply some news just given me by a correspondent, who has told me in a former letter about the disappearance of a young man whom I do not know.'

'A disappearance! Is it possible? I am interested.' He turned quickly toward me. 'May I ask from you the details?'

'You can learn from the daily papers as much as I can tell you,' I replied, with my most candid smile. 'I read some time since of such a disappearance, and speaking of it casually to Miss Jenrys, learned from her that she had the news direct from a young lady correspondent who chanced to know the young man and his family. Is that reported correctly, Miss Jenrys?'

She nodded.

'And he has been ransomed, you say? That is well indeed,' persisted Voisin.

There was a brief moment of silence, during which I knew that her eyes were fixed upon my face; but other eyes were also keenly watching, and I did not return her gaze.

'Not ransomed,' Miss Jenrys said, 'not yet; there has been an offer of some sort, a proposition, I understand;' and she turned to Lossing and began to question him about his health, and then, before the Frenchman could renew his queries, began telling them both of a recent letter from her New York aunt, full, it would seem, of bits of society news, and mention of persons known to herself, Lossing, and Voisin; and she was so well aided by her aunt and Lossing, not to mention myself, that there was no renewal of the former subject, and after a very short call Monsieur Voisin made his adieus, expressed 'the keenest pleasure' at having encountered Mr. Lossing in Chicago, and his determination to see more of him.

When the door had closed behind him I arose, and without a word of explanation crossed the two rooms, and, peering out through the little bay-window overlooking the street, saw Monsieur Voisin standing upon the pavement outside, and casting slow glances, first up and then down the street; after which he walked briskly southward.

There was no need of an explanation where those three were concerned, and I made none. No one referred to Monsieur Voisin, his visit, or his interest in the Trent disappearance, and nothing was said for a time concerning the letter which was foremost in Miss Jenrys' mind and in mine.

For half an hour I conversed with Miss Ross and left the lovers to an uninterrupted chat; at the end of that time Lossing took his leave. As yet he had heard but the briefest outlines of the Trent affair; but in spite of my own request that he would remain and make one at our councils, he withdrew, declaring himself under orders to keep early hours.

I let him go without uneasiness, for was not Dave Brainerd lurking somewhere very near, and very much to be relied upon?

He had said good-bye to the little Quakeress in the back parlour, and then Miss Jenrys and myself had walked with him the length of the two small rooms, bidding him goodnight at the door.

As the street-door was heard to close behind him, Miss Jenrys turned to me, caught my arm, and said quickly, beseechingly:

'Mr. Masters, won't you follow him home? I—I have a strange feeling that he is not safe. It is not far, and it is early. Can you not come back—please?

There was no hesitation, no blushes; she spoke like a woman forgetful of self in her anxiety for another; and when I told her that my friend was doubtless awaiting him, she only wrung her hands.

'He may not be now. It is so early, and I shall not feel at ease until I know. Mr. Masters, I am sure there is danger very near us; I feel it. Won't you go—and come back when all is safe?'



CHAPTER XXIII.

'YOU ARE SUFFERING IN MY STEAD.'

It was useless to argue, and how could I refuse? For the first time, and greatly to my amazement, I saw that self-contained and sweetly reasonable young woman deaf to reason, and in that strange condition which, for lack of power to understand, we men call 'hysterical.'

I went, and in spite of myself I left her presence feeling somehow aroused and watchful—quite prepared, for a little time, to see an assassin at every corner and beneath every tree.

'Do not overtake him,' had been her last command. 'It might offend him. Only see him safe at his own door.'

I was not five minutes behind Lossing, and he could not, or would not, I knew, walk rapidly. I expected to come close upon his heels before I had reached the first corner.

That he would take the most direct and nearest route, I felt, was a matter of course. In fact, he knew no other, or so I thought.

The direct route was straight north to Fifty-seventh Street, and east to the entrance gate; but though I walked fast, and then almost ran, I could see nothing of Lossing and nothing of Dave Brainerd.

What did it mean? When I had reached the end of the first block, without a sight of Lossing, I hastened across the intersecting street and hurried on another block, and still no Lossing. I paused, looked around me, and seeing and hearing nothing, increased my steps almost to a run.

At Fifty-seventh Street I paused, before turning, to look about me and to listen. After the first block, going east, this street became quite densely shaded by the trees on either side.

I had now reached the second block on the south side of the street, that which contained the vacant lots and the overshadowing trees, beneath which the bootblack's stand was placed by day; and here again I paused and listened, in the hope that in the quiet about me I might hear and recognise Lossing's slow, even step. But no step was heard, and I moved on.

'It is early yet,' I assured myself; 'so early that thugs and night-birds are hardly likely to be abroad.'

I was now opposite the bootblack's stand on the skeleton uprights which supported his rainy-day awning, and the platform upon which his patrons sat enthroned in state—and here memory fails me.

I had turned my gaze upon the gibbet-like uprights, and simultaneously, as it now seems to me, a voice shouted my name; but the sound and something else came together—something bringing with it a sting and the sounds of a rampant engine. I saw a myriad of flashing lights, heard a tremendous crash, and—that was all.

I came to myself a little later, outstretched upon a wire cot, and with a cretonne cushion beneath what felt like a very large and much-battered prize pumpkin, but what was in reality my head. There was a glow of electric light all about and above me, and bottles of all sizes and colours on every side.

Slowly it dawned upon my dazed senses that I was in the corner drug-store where I had more than once called, on my return from Washington Avenue, to buy a cigar.

I stirred slightly, and then the faces of Dave Brainerd, Lossing, the druggist, and a big policeman came suddenly into view surrounding my cot.

'Hello, old man, glad to see you back,' was Dave's characteristic greeting, and the druggist, who proved to be a physician as well, promptly placed a finger on my pulse.

'Better,' he said laconically, and turning, took from the desk at his back a glass which he held before me. 'Can you lift your head and drink this?' he asked.

I made a feeble effort, and with Dave's assistance got my head high enough to swallow the medicine.

'Now,' said the surgeon, 'lie still, and I think before long you will be all right, except for a sore head, which you will probably keep for a day or two.'

For some time longer I lay quiet, and with no desire to think or speak; then slowly the noise and dizziness wore away, and the strength came back to my limbs; but when I attempted to rise, I found that my head was paining me severely, and I contented myself with resting upon my elbow and asking, with my eyes on Dave:

'What has happened?'

'Sandbag,' replied Dave tersely. 'Didn't you feel it?'

'I feel it now,' I said, trying to smile feebly, for I knew that Dave, now assured that my hurt was not serious, was giving vent to his relief in a characteristic bit of chaff.

'You see, it was this way,' he went on. 'Lossing here and I were walking along on the north side of the street, just down here, and we saw you cross the street on the opposite side; the lamp at the corner showed you plainly. We saw you stop and look, and seem to listen, and then go on, and repeat the same manoeuvre after you had crossed the street. We had stopped under a tree, and close against the wall nearly opposite that bootblack's stand; and we meant to cross and surprise you, when all at once out from behind that platform sprang someone. I gave a yell, and we heard you go down. I ran to you, and Lossing ran and fired after the fellow, who cut across the open ground. I called him back when I saw that you were insensible, and the next minute this officer came up. He ran to this place (lucky it is so near), and brought the cot, and here you are. Can you remember? Did you hear me call?'

'Y—yes,' I said slowly, 'I—I think I tried to turn.'

'And that saved you, no doubt,' declared the druggist. 'The fellow meant to do you deadly hurt—the weapon shows that. He meant to strike you lower, across the back of the neck; but, at the call, you turned, just as he had taken aim, and as a result you received the blow on the back of the skull, the thickest part; and it struck with less than half its force, glancing away as your head moved sidewise. It was most fortunate for you.'

And now, as I began to think and remember, I knew that Miss Jenrys would be waiting anxiously, and that delay would mean for her, in the mood in which I had left her, a time of terrible suspense.

I brought myself to a sitting posture, and then got upon my feet, rather weakly. The druggist touched my wrist again.

'If you'll take my advice,' he said, 'you will stay right here for the night. I have a comfortable room at the back here, and I think, by keeping up an application during the night, a cooling and healing lotion that will keep out inflammation, you will come out in the morning with nothing worse than a sore and tender skull to show for your encounter. I am a regular physician—you'll be quite safe with me.'

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