The Black Bag
by Louis Joseph Vance
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Overhead, on the deck, a heavy thumping of hurrying feet awoke him to keener perceptiveness.

Judging from the incessant rolling and pitching of the brigantine, the crashing thunder of seas upon her sides, the eldrich shrieking of the gale, as well as from the chorused groans and plaints of each individual bolt and timber in the frail fabric that housed his fortunes, the wind had strengthened materially during his hours of forgetfulness—however many the latter might have been.

He believed, however, that he had slept long, deeply and exhaustively. He felt now a little emaciated mentally and somewhat absent-bodied—so he put it to himself. A numb languor, not unpleasant, held him passively supine, the while he gave himself over to speculative thought.

A wild night, certainly; probably, by that time, the little vessel was in the middle of the North Sea ... bound for Antwerp!

"Oh-h," said Kirkwood vindictively, "hell!"

So he was bound for Antwerp! The first color of resentment ebbing from his thoughts left him rather interested than excited by the prospect. He found that he was neither pleased nor displeased. He presumed that it would be no more difficult to raise money on personal belongings in Antwerp than anywhere else; it has been observed that the first flower of civilization is the rum-blossom, the next, the conventionalized fleur-de-lis of the money-lender. There would be pawnshops, then, in Antwerp; and Kirkwood was confident that the sale or pledge of his signet-ring, scarf-pin, match-box and cigar-case, would provide him with money enough for a return to London, by third-class, at the worst. There ... well, all events were on the knees of the gods; he'd squirm out of his troubles, somehow. As for the other matter, the Calendar affair, he presumed he was well rid of it,—with a sigh of regret. It had been a most enticing mystery, you know; and the woman in the case was extraordinary, to say the least.

The memory of Dorothy Calendar made him sigh again, this time more violently: a sigh that was own brother to (or at any rate descended in a direct line from) the furnace sigh of the lover described by, the melancholy Jaques. And he sat up, bumped his head, groped round until his hand fell upon a doorknob, opened the door, and looked out into the blowsy emptiness of the ship's cabin proper, whose gloomy confines were made visible only by the rays of a dingy and smoky lamp swinging violently in gimbals from a deck-beam.

Kirkwood's clothing, now rough-dried and warped wretchedly out of shape, had been thrown carelessly on a transom near the door. He got up, collected them, and returning to his berth, dressed at leisure, thinking heavily, disgruntled—in a humor as evil as the after-taste of bad brandy in his mouth.

When dressed he went out into the cabin, closing the door upon his berth, and for lack of anything better to do, seated himself on the thwartships transom, against the forward bulkhead, behind the table. Above his head a chronometer ticked steadily and loudly, and, being consulted, told him that the time of day was twenty minutes to four; which meant that he had slept away some eighteen or twenty hours. That was a solid spell of a rest, when he came to think of it, even allowing that he had been unusually and pardonably fatigued when conducted to his berth. He felt stronger now, and bright enough—and enormously hungry into the bargain.

Abstractedly, heedless of the fact that his tobacco would be water-soaked and ruined, he fumbled in his pockets for pipe and pouch, thinking to soothe the pangs of hunger against breakfast-time; which was probably two hours and a quarter ahead. But his pockets were empty—every one of them. He assimilated this discovery in patience and cast an eye about the room, to locate, if possible, the missing property. But naught of his was visible. So he rose and began a more painstaking search.

The cabin was at once tiny, low-ceiled, and depressingly gloomy. Its furniture consisted entirely in a chair or two, supplementing the transoms and lockers as resting-places, and a center-table covered with a cloth of turkey-red, whose original aggressiveness had been darkly moderated by libations of liquids, principally black coffee, and burnt offerings of grease and tobacco-ash. Aside from the companion-way to the deck, four doors opened into the room, two probably giving upon the captain's and the mate's quarters, the others on pseudo state-rooms—one of which he had just vacated—closets large enough to contain a small bunk and naught beside. The bulkheads and partitions were badly broken out with a rash of pictures from illustrated papers, mostly offensive. Kirkwood was interested to read a half-column clipping from a New York yellow journal, descriptive of the antics of a drunken British sailor who had somehow found his way to the bar-room of the Fifth Avenue Hotel; the paragraph exploiting the fact that it had required four policemen in addition to the corps of porters to subdue him, was strongly underscored in red ink; and the news-story wound up with the information that in police court the man had given his name as William Stranger and cheerfully had paid a fine of ten dollars, alleging his entertainment to have been cheap at the price.

While Kirkwood was employed in perusing this illuminating anecdote, eight bells sounded, and, from the commotion overhead, the watch changed. A little later the companion-way door slammed open and shut, and Captain Stryker—or Stranger; whichever you please—fell down, rather than descended, the steps.

Without attention to the American he rolled into the mate's room and roused that personage. Kirkwood heard that the name of the second-in-command was 'Obbs, as well as that he occupied the starboard state-room aft. After a brief exchange of comment and instruction, Mr. 'Obbs appeared in the shape of a walking pillar of oil-skins capped by a sou'wester, and went on deck; Stryker, following him out of the state-room, shed his own oilers in a clammy heap upon the floor, opened a locker from which he brought forth a bottle and a dirty glass, and, turning toward the table, for the first time became sensible of Kirkwood's presence.

"Ow, there you are, eigh, little bright-eyes!" he exclaimed with surprised animation.

"Good morning, Captain Stryker," said Kirkwood, rising. "I want to tell you—"

But Stryker waved one great red paw impatiently, with the effect of sweeping aside and casting into the discard Kirkwood's intended speech of thanks; nor would he hear him further.

"Did you 'ave a nice little nap?" he interrupted. "Come up bright and smilin', eigh? Now I guess"—the emphasis made it clear that the captain believed himself to be employing an Americanism; and so successful was he in his own esteem that he could not resist the temptation to improve upon the imitation—"Na-ow I guess yeou're abaout right ready, ben't ye, to hev a drink, sonny?"

"No, thank you," said Kirkwood, smiling tolerantly. "I've got any amount of appetite..."

"'Ave you, now?" Stryker dropped his mimicry and glanced at the clock. "Breakfast," he announced, "will be served in the myne dinin' saloon at eyght a. m. Passingers is requested not to be lyte at tyble."

Depositing the bottle on the said table, the captain searched until he found another glass for Kirkwood, and sat down.

"Do you good," he insinuated, pushing the bottle gently over.

"No, thank you," reiterated Kirkwood shortly, a little annoyed.

Stryker seized his own glass, poured out a strong man's dose of the fiery concoction, gulped it down, and sighed. Then, with a glance at the American's woebegone countenance (Kirkwood was contemplating a four-hour wait for breakfast, and, consequently, looking as if he had lost his last friend), the captain bent over, placing both hands palm down before him and wagging his head earnestly.

"Please," he implored,—"Please don't let me hinterrupt;" and filled his pipe, pretending a pensive detachment from his company.

The fumes of burning shag sharpened the tooth of desire. Kirkwood stood it as long as he could, then surrendered with an: "If you've got any more of that tobacco, Captain, I'd be glad of a pipe."

An intensely contemplative expression crept into the captain's small blue eyes.

"I only got one other pyper of this 'ere 'baccy," he announced at length, "and I carn't get no more till I gets 'ome. I simply couldn't part with it hunder 'arf a quid."

Kirkwood settled back with a hopeless lift of his shoulders. Abstractedly Stryker puffed the smoke his way until he could endure the deprivation no longer.

"I had about ten shillings in my pocket when I came aboard, captain, and ... a few other articles."

"Ow, yes; so you 'ad, now you mention it."

Stryker rose, ambled into his room, and returned with Kirkwood's possessions and a fresh paper of shag. While the young man was hastily filling, lighting, and inhaling the first strangling but delectable whiff, the captain solemnly counted into his own palm all the loose change except three large pennies. The latter he shoved over to Kirkwood in company with a miscellaneous assortment of articles, which the American picked up piece by piece and began to bestow about his clothing. When through, he sat back, troubled and disgusted. Stryker met his regard blandly.

"Anything I can do?" he inquired, in suave concern.

"Why ... there was a black pearl scarfpin—"

"W'y, don't you remember? You gave that to me, 'count of me 'avin syved yer life. 'Twas me throwed you that line, you know."

"Oh," commented Kirkwood briefly. The pin had been among the most valuable and cherished of his belongings.

"Yes," nodded the captain in reminiscence. "You don't remember? Likely 'twas the brandy singing in yer 'ead. You pushes it into my 'ands,—almost weepin', you was,—and sez, sez you, 'Stryker,' you sez, 'tyke this in triflin' toking of my gratichood; I wouldn't hinsult you,' you sez, 'by hofferin' you money, but this I can insist on yer acceptin', and no refusal,' says you."

"Oh," repeated Kirkwood.

"If I for a ninstant thought you wasn't sober when you done it.... But no; you're a gent if there ever was one, and I'm not the man to offend you."

"Oh, indeed."

The captain let the implication pass, perhaps on the consideration that he could afford to ignore it; and said no more. The pause held for several minutes, Kirkwood having fallen into a mood of grave distraction. Finally Captain Stryker thoughtfully measured out a second drink, limited only by the capacity of the tumbler, engulfed it noisily, and got up.

"Guess I'll be turnin' in," he volunteered affably, yawning and stretching.

"I was about to ask you to do me a service...." began Kirkwood.

"Yes?"—with the rising inflection of mockery.

Kirkwood quietly produced his cigar-case, a gold match-box, gold card-case, and slipped a signet ring from his finger. "Will you buy these?" he asked. "Or will you lend me five pounds and hold them as security?"

Stryker examined the collection with exaggerated interest strongly tinctured with mistrust. "I'll buy 'em," he offered eventually, looking up.

"That's kind of you—"

"Ow, they ain't much use to me, but Bill Stryker's allus willin' to accommodate a friend.... Four quid, you said?"


"They ain't wuth over four to me."

"Very well; make it four," Kirkwood assented contemptuously.

The captain swept the articles into one capacious fist, pivoted on one heel at the peril of his neck, and lumbered unsteadily off to his room. Pausing at the door he turned back in inquiry.

"I sye, 'ow did you come to get the impression there was a party named Almanack aboard this wessel?"


"'Ave it yer own wye," Stryker conceded gracefully.

"There isn't, is there?"

"You 'eard me."

"Then," said Kirkwood sweetly, "I'm sure you wouldn't be interested."

The captain pondered this at leisure. "You seemed pretty keen abaht seein' 'im," he remarked conclusively.

"I was."

"Seems to me I did 'ear the nyme sumw'eres afore." The captain appeared to wrestle with an obdurate memory. "Ow!" he triumphed. "I know. 'E was a chap up Manchester wye. Keeper in a loonatic asylum, 'e was. 'That yer party?"

"No," said Kirkwood wearily.

"I didn't know but mebbe 'twas. Excuse me. 'Thought as 'ow mebbe you'd escyped from 'is tender care, but, findin' the world cold, chynged yer mind and wanted to gow back."

Without waiting for a reply he lurched into his room and banged the door to. Kirkwood, divided between amusement and irritation, heard him stumbling about for some time; and then a hush fell, grateful enough while it lasted; which was not long. For no sooner did the captain sleep than a penetrating snore added itself unto the cacophony of waves and wind and tortured ship.

Kirkwood, comforted at first by the blessed tobacco, lapsed insensibly into dreary meditations. Coming after the swift movement and sustained excitement of the eighteen hours preceding his long sleep, the monotony of shipboard confinement seemed irksome to a maddening degree. There was absolutely nothing he could discover to occupy his mind. If there were books aboard, none was in evidence; beyond the report of Mr. Stranger's Manhattan night's entertainment the walls were devoid of reading matter; and a round of the picture gallery proved a diversion weariful enough when not purely revolting.

Wherefore Mr. Kirkwood stretched himself out on the transom and smoked and reviewed his adventures in detail and seriatim, and was by turns indignant, sore, anxious on his own account as well as on Dorothy's, and out of all patience with himself. Mystified he remained throughout, and the edge of his curiosity held as keen as ever, you may believe.

Consistently the affair presented itself to his fancy in the guise of a puzzle-picture, which, though you study it never so diligently, remains incomprehensible, until by chance you view it from an unexpected angle, when it reveals itself intelligibly. It had not yet been his good fortune to see it from the right viewpoint. To hold the metaphor, he walked endless circles round it, patiently seeking, but ever failing to find the proper perspective.... Each incident, however insignificant, in connection with it, he handled over and over, examining its every facet, bright or dull, as an expert might inspect a clever imitation of a diamond; and like a perfect imitation it defied analysis.

Of one or two things he was convinced; for one, that Stryker was a liar worthy of classification with Calendar and Mrs. Hallam. Kirkwood had not only the testimony of his sense to assure him that the ship's name, Alethea (not a common one, by the bye), had been mentioned by both Calendar and Mulready during their altercation on Bermondsey Old Stairs, but he had the confirmatory testimony of the sleepy waterman, William, who had directed Old Bob and Young William to the anchorage off Bow Creek. That there should have been two vessels of the same unusual name at one and the same time in the Port of London, was a coincidence too preposterous altogether to find place in his calculations.

His second impregnable conclusion was that those whom he sought had boarded the Alethea, but had left her before she tripped her anchor. That they were not stowed away aboard her seemed unquestionable. The brigantine was hardly large enough for the presence of three persons aboard her to be long kept a secret from an inquisitive fourth,—unless, indeed, they lay in hiding in the hold; for which, once the ship got under way, there could be scant excuse. And Kirkwood did not believe himself a person of sufficient importance in Calendar's eyes, to make that worthy endure the discomforts of a'tween-decks imprisonment throughout the voyage, even to escape recognition.

With every second, then, he was traveling farther from her to whose aid he had rushed, impelled by motives so hot-headed, so innately, chivalric, so unthinkingly gallant, so exceptionally idiotic!

Idiot! Kirkwood groaned with despair of his inability to fathom the abyss of his self-contempt. There seemed to be positively no excuse for him. Stryker had befriended him indeed, had he permitted him to drown. Yet he had acted for the best, as he saw it. The fault lay in himself: an admirable fault, that of harboring and nurturing generous and compassionate instincts. But, of course, Kirkwood couldn't see it that way.

"What else could I do?" he defended himself against the indictment of common sense. "I couldn't leave her to the mercies of that set of rogues!... And Heaven knows I was given every reason to believe she would be aboard this ship! Why, she herself told me that she was sailing ...!"

Heaven knew, too, that this folly of his had cost him a pretty penny, first and last. His watch was gone beyond recovery, his homeward passage forfeited; he no longer harbored illusions as to the steamship company presenting him with another berth in lieu of that called for by that water-soaked slip of paper then in his pocket—courtesy of Stryker. He had sold for a pittance, a tithe of its value, his personal jewelry, and had spent every penny he could call his own. With the money Stryker was to give him he would be able to get back to London and his third-rate hostelry, but not with enough over to pay that one week's room-rent, or ...

"Oh, the devil!" he groaned, head in hands.

The future loomed wrapped in unspeakable darkness, lightened by no least ray of hope. It had been bad enough to lose a comfortable living through a gigantic convulsion of Nature; but to think that he had lost all else through his own egregious folly, to find himself reduced to the kennels—!

So Care found him again in those weary hours,—came and sat by his side, slipping a grisly hand in his and tightening its grip until he could have cried out with the torment of it; the while whispering insidiously subtile, evil things in his ear. And he had not even Hope to comfort him; at any previous stage he had been able to distil a sort of bitter-sweet satisfaction from the thought that he was suffering for the love of his life. But now—now Dorothy was lost, gone like the glamour of Romance in the searching light of day.

Stryker, emerging from his room for breakfast, found the passenger with a hostile look in his eye and a jaw set in ugly fashion. His eyes, too, were the abiding-place of smoldering devils; and the captain, recognizing them, considerately forbore to stir them up with any untimely pleasantries. To be sure, he was autocrat in his own ship, and Kirkwood's standing aboard was nil; but then there was just enough yellow in the complexion of Stryker's soul to incline him to sidestep trouble whenever feasible. And besides, he entertained dark suspicions of his guest—suspicions he scarce dared voice even to his inmost heart.

The morning meal, therefore, passed off in constrained silence. The captain ate voraciously and vociferously, pushed back his chair, and went on deck to relieve the mate. The latter, a stunted little Cockney with a wizened countenance and a mind as foul as his tongue, got small change of his attempts to engage the passenger in conversation on topics that he considered fit for discussion. After the sixth or eighth snubbing he rose in dudgeon, discharged a poisonous bit of insolence, and retired to his berth, leaving Kirkwood to finish his breakfast in peace; which the latter did literally, to the last visible scrap of food and the ultimate drop of coffee, poor as both were in quality.

To the tune of a moderating wind, the morning wearied away. Kirkwood went on deck once, for distraction from the intolerable monotony of it all, got a sound drenching of spray, with a glimpse of a dark line on the eastern horizon, which he understood to be the low littoral of Holland, and was glad to dodge below once more and dry himself.

He had the pleasure of the mate's company at dinner, the captain remaining on deck until Hobbs had finished and gone up to relieve him; and by that time Kirkwood likewise was through.

Stryker blew down with a blustery show of cheer. "Well, well, my little man!" (It happened that he topped Kirkwood's stature by at least five inches.) "Enj'yin' yer sea trip?"

"About as much as you'd expect," snapped Kirkwood.

"Ow?" The captain began to shovel food into his face. (The author regrets he has at his command no more delicate expression that is literal and illustrative.) Kirkwood watched him, fascinated with suspense; it seemed impossible that the man could continue so to employ his knife without cutting his throat from the inside. But years of such manipulation had made him expert, and his guest, keenly disappointed, at length ceased to hope.

Between gobbles Stryker eyed him furtively.

"'Treat you all right?" he demanded abruptly.

Kirkwood started out of a brown study. "What? Who? Why, I suppose I ought to be—indeed, I am grateful," he asserted. "Certainly you saved my life, and—"

"Ow, I don't mean that." Stryker gathered the imputation into his paw and flung it disdainfully to the four winds of Heaven. "Bless yer 'art, you're welcome; I wouldn't let no dorg drownd, 'f I could 'elp it. No," he declared, "nor a loonatic, neither."

He thrust his plate away and shifted sidewise in his chair. "I 'uz just wonderin'," he pursued, picking his teeth meditatively with a pen-knife, "'ow they feeds you in them as-ylums. 'Avin' never been inside one, myself, it's on'y natural I'd be cur'us.... There was one of them institootions near where I was borned—Birming'am, that is. I used to see the loonies playin' in the grounds. I remember just as well!... One of 'em and me struck up quite an acquaintance—"

"Naturally he'd take to you on sight."

"Ow? Strynge 'ow we 'it it off, eigh?... You myke me think of 'im. Young chap, 'e was, the livin' spi't-'n-himage of you. It don't happen, does it, you're the same man?"

"Oh, go to the devil!"

"Naughty!" said the captain serenely, wagging a reproving forefinger. "Bad, naughty word. You'll be sorry when you find out wot it means.... Only 'e was allus plannin' to run awye and drownd 'is-self."...

He wore the joke threadbare, even to his own taste, and in the end got heavily to his feet, starting for the companionway. "Land you this arternoon," he remarked casually, "come three o'clock or thereabahts. Per'aps later. I don't know, though, as I 'ad ought to let you loose."

Kirkwood made no answer. Chuckling, Stryker went on deck.

In the course of an hour the American followed him.

Wind and sea alike had gone down wonderfully since daybreak—a circumstance undoubtedly in great part due to the fact that they had won in under the lee of the mainland and were traversing shallower waters. On either hand, like mist upon the horizon, lay a streak of gray, a shade darker than the gray of the waters. The Alethea was within the wide jaws of the Western Scheldt. As for the wind, it had shifted several points to the northwards; the brigantine had it abeam and was lying down to it and racing to port with slanting deck and singing cordage.

Kirkwood approached the captain, who, acting as his own pilot, was standing by the wheel and barking sharp orders to the helmsman.

"Have you a Bradshaw on board?" asked the young man.

"Steady!" This to the man at the wheel; then to Kirkwood: "Wot's that, me lud?"

Kirkwood repeated his question. Stryker eyed him suspiciously for a thought.

"Wot d'you want it for?"

"I want to see when I can get a boat back to England."

"Hmm.... Yes, you'll find a Bradshaw in the port-locker, near the for'ard bulk'ead. Run along now and pl'y—and mind you don't go tearin' out the pyges to myke pyper boatses to go sylin' in."

Kirkwood went below. Like its adjacent rooms, the cabin was untenanted; the watch was the mate's, and Stryker a martinet. Kirkwood found the designated locker and, opening it, saw first to his hand the familiar bulky red volume with its red garter. Taking it out he carried it to a chair near the companionway, for a better reading light: the skylight being still battened down.

The strap removed, the book opened easily, as if by force of habit, at the precise table he had wished to consult; some previous client had left a marker between the pages,—and not an ordinary book-mark, by any manner of means. Kirkwood gave utterance to a little gasp of amazement, and instinctively glanced up at the companionway, to see if he were observed.

He was not, but for safety's sake he moved farther back into the cabin and out of the range of vision of any one on deck; a precaution which was almost immediately justified by the clumping of heavy feet upon the steps as Stryker descended in pursuit of the ever-essential drink.

"'Find it?" he demanded, staring blindly—with eyes not yet focused to the change from light to gloom—at the young man, who was sitting with the guide open on his knees, a tightly clenched fist resting on the transom at either side of him.

In reply he received a monosyllabic affirmative; Kirkwood did not look up.

"You must be a howl," commented the captain, making for the seductive locker.


"A howl, readin' that fine print there in the dark. W'y don't you go over to the light?... I'll 'ave to 'ave them shutters tyken off the winders." This was Stryker's amiable figure of speech, frequently employed to indicate the coverings of the skylight.

"I'm all right." Kirkwood went on studying the book.

Stryker swigged off his rum and wiped his lips with the back of a red paw, hesitating a moment to watch his guest.

"Mykes it seem more 'ome-like for you, I expect," he observed.

"What do you mean?"

"W'y, Bradshaw's first-cousin to a halmanack, ain't 'e? Can't get one, take t'other—next best thing. Sorry I didn't think of it sooner; like my passengers to feel comfy.... Now don't you go trapsein' off to gay Paree and squanderin' wot money you got left. You 'ear?"

"By the way, Captain!" Kirkwood looked up at this, but Stryker was already half-way up the companion.

Cautiously the American opened his right fist and held to the light that which had been concealed, close wadded in his grasp,—a square of sheer linen edged with lace, crumpled but spotless, and diffusing in the unwholesome den a faint, intangible fragrance, the veriest wraith of that elusive perfume which he would never again inhale without instantly recalling that night ride through London in the intimacy of a cab.

He closed his eyes and saw her again, as clearly as though she stood before him,—hair of gold massed above the forehead of snow, curling in adorable tendrils at the nape of her neck, lips like scarlet splashed upon the immaculate whiteness of her skin, head poised audaciously in its spirited, youthful allure, dark eyes smiling the least trace sadly beneath the level brows.

Unquestionably the handkerchief was hers; if proof other than the assurance of his heart were requisite, he had it in the initial delicately embroidered in one corner: a D, for Dorothy!... He looked again, to make sure; then hastily folded up the treasure-trove and slipped it into a breast pocket of his coat.

No; I am not sure that it was not the left-hand pocket.

Quivering with excitement he bent again over the book and studied it intently. After all, he had not been wrong! He could assert now, without fear of refutation, that Stryker had lied.

Some one had wielded an industrious pencil on the page. It was, taken as a whole, fruitful of clues. Its very heading was illuminating:


which happened to be the quickest and most direct route between London and Antwerp. Beneath it, in the second column from the right, the pencil had put a check-mark against:


And now he saw it clearly—dolt that he had been not to have divined it ere this! The Alethea had run in to Queensborough, landing her passengers there, that they might make connection with the eleven-ten morning boat for Flushing,—the very side-wheel steamer, doubtless, which he had noticed beating out in the teeth of the gale just after the brigantine had picked him up. Had he not received the passing impression that the Alethea, when first he caught sight of her, might have been coming out of the Medway, on whose eastern shore is situate Queensborough Pier? Had not Mrs. Hallam, going upon he knew not what information or belief, been bound for Queensborough, with design there to intercept the fugitives?

Kirkwood chuckled to recall how, all unwittingly, he had been the means of diverting from her chosen course that acute and resourceful lady; then again turned his attention to the tables.

A third check had been placed against the train for Amsterdam scheduled to leave Antwerp at 6:32 p. m. Momentarily his heart misgave him, when he saw this, in fear lest Calendar and Dorothy should have gone on from Antwerp the previous evening; but then he rallied, discovering that the boat-train from Flushing did not arrive at Antwerp till after ten at night; and there was no later train thence for Amsterdam. Were the latter truly their purposed destination, they would have stayed overnight and be leaving that very evening on the 6:32. On the other hand, why should they wait for the latest train, rather than proceed by the first available in the morning? Why but because Calendar and Mulready were to wait for Stryker to join them on the Alethea?

Very well, then; if the wind held and Stryker knew his business, there would be another passenger on that train, in addition to the Calendar party.

Making mental note of the fact that the boat-train for Flushing and London was scheduled to leave Antwerp daily at 8:21 p. m., Kirkwood rustled the leaves to find out whether or not other tours had been planned, found evidences of none, and carefully restored the guide to the locker, lest inadvertently the captain should pick it up and see what Kirkwood had seen.

An hour later he went on deck. The skies had blown clear and the brigantine was well in land-bound waters and still footing a rattling pace. The river-banks had narrowed until, beyond the dikes to right and left, the country-side stretched wide and flat, a plain of living green embroidered with winding roads and quaint Old-World hamlets whose red roofs shone like dull fire between the dark green foliage of dwarfed firs.

Down with the Scheldt's gray shimmering flood were drifting little companies of barges, sturdy and snug both fore and aft, tough tanned sails burning in the afternoon sunlight. A long string of canal-boats, potted plants flowering saucily in their neatly curtained windows, proprietors expansively smoking on deck, in the bosoms of their very large families, was being mothered up-stream by two funny, clucking tugs. Behind the brigantine a travel-worn Atlantic liner was scolding itself hoarse about the right of way. Outward bound, empty cattle boats, rough and rusty, were swaggering down to the sea, with the careless, independent thumbs-in-armholes air of so many navvies off the job.

And then lifting suddenly above the level far-off sky-line, there appeared a very miracle of beauty; the delicate tracery of the great Cathedral's spire of frozen lace, glowing like a thing of spun gold, set against the sapphire velvet of the horizon.

Antwerp was in sight.

A troublesome care stirring in his mind, Kirkwood looked round the deck; but Stryker was very busy, entirely too preoccupied with the handling of his ship to be interrupted with impunity. Besides, there was plenty of time.

More slowly now, the wind falling, the brigantine crept up the river, her crew alert with sheets and halyards as the devious windings of the stream rendered it necessary to trim the canvas at varying angles to catch the wind.

Slowly, too, in the shadow of that Mechlin spire, the horizon grew rough and elevated, taking shape in the serrated profile of a thousand gables and a hundred towers and cross-crowned steeples.

Once or twice, more and more annoyed as the time of their association seemed to grow more brief, Kirkwood approached the captain; but Stryker continued to be exhaustively absorbed in the performance of his duties.

Up past the dockyards, where spidery masts stood in dense groves about painted funnels, and men swarmed over huge wharves like ants over a crust of bread; up and round the final, great sweeping bend of the river, the Alethea made her sober way, ever with greater slowness; until at length, in the rose glow of a flawless evening, her windlass began to clank like a mad thing and her anchor bit the riverbed, near the left bank, between old Forts Isabelle and Tete de Flandre, frowned upon from the right by the grim pile of the age-old Steen castle.

And again Kirkwood sought Stryker, his carking query ready on his lips. But the captain impatiently waved him aside.

"Don't you bother me now, me lud juke! Wyte until I gets done with the custom hofficer."

Kirkwood acceded, perforce; and bided his time with what tolerance he could muster.

A pluttering customs launch bustled up to the Alethea's side, discharged a fussy inspector on the brigantine's deck, and panted impatiently until he, the examination concluded without delay, was again aboard.

Stryker, smirking benignly and massaging his lips with the back of his hand, followed the official on deck, nodded to Kirkwood an intimation that he was prepared to accord him an audience, and strolled forward to the waist. The American, mastering his resentment, meekly followed; one can not well afford to be haughty when one is asking favors.

Advancing to the rail, the captain whistled in one of the river-boats; then, while the waterman waited, faced his passenger.

"Now, yer r'yal 'ighness, wot can I do for you afore you goes ashore?"

"I think you must have forgotten," said Kirkwood quietly. "I hate to trouble you, but—there's that matter of four pounds."

Stryker's face was expressive only of mystified vacuity. "Four quid? I dunno as I know just wot you means."

"You agreed to advance me four pounds on those things of mine...."

"Ow-w!" Illumination overspread the hollow-jowled countenance. Stryker smiled cheerfully. "Garn with you!" he chuckled. "You will 'ave yer little joke, won't you now? I declare I never see a loony with such affecsh'nit, pl'yful wyes!"

Kirkwood's eyes narrowed. "Stryker," he said steadily, "give me the four pounds and let's have no more nonsense; or else hand over my things at once."

"Daffy," Stryker told vacancy, with conviction. "Lor' luv me if I sees 'ow he ever 'ad sense enough to escype. W'y, yer majesty!" and he bowed, ironic. "I 'ave given you yer quid."

"Just about as much as I gave you that pearl pin," retorted Kirkwood hotly. "What the devil do you mean—"

"W'y, yer ludship, four pounds jus pyes yer passyge; I thought you understood."

"My passage! But I can come across by steamer for thirty shillings, first-class—"

"Aw, but them steamers! Tricky, they is, and unsyfe ... No, yer gryce, the W. Stryker Packet Line Lim'ted, London to Antwerp, charges four pounds per passyge and no reduction for return fare."

Stunned by his effrontery, Kirkwood stared in silence.

"Any complynts," continued the captain, looking over Kirkwood's head, "must be lyde afore the Board of Directors in writin' not more'n thirty dyes arfter—"

"You damned scoundrel!" interpolated Kirkwood thoughtfully.

Stryker's mouth closed with a snap; his features froze in a cast of wrath; cold rage glinted in his small blue eyes. "W'y," he bellowed, "you bloomin' loonatic, d'ye think you can sye that to Bill Stryker on 'is own wessel!"

He hesitated a moment, then launched a heavy fist at Kirkwood's face. Unsurprised, the young man side-stepped, caught the hard, bony wrist as the captain lurched by, following his wasted blow, and with a dexterous twist laid him flat on his back, with a sounding thump upon the deck. And as the infuriated scamp rose—which he did with a bound that placed him on his feet and in defensive posture; as though the deck had been a spring-board—Kirkwood leaped back, seized a capstan-bar, and faced him with a challenge.

"Stand clear, Stryker!" he warned the man tensely, himself livid with rage. "If you move a step closer I swear I'll knock the head off your shoulders! Not another inch, you contemptible whelp, or I'll brain you!... That's better," he continued as the captain, caving, dropped his fists and moved uneasily back. "Now give that boatman money for taking me ashore. Yes, I'm going—and if we ever meet again, take the other side of the way, Stryker!"

Without response, a grim smile wreathing his thin, hard lips, Stryker thrust one hand into his pocket, and withdrawing a coin, tossed it to the waiting waterman. Whereupon Kirkwood backed warily to the rail, abandoned the capstan-bar and dropped over the side.

Nodding to the boatman, "The Steen landing—quickly," he said in French.

Stryker, recovering, advanced to the rail and waved him a derisive bon voyage.

"By-by, yer hexcellency. I 'opes it may soon be my pleasure to meet you again. You've been a real privilege to know; I've henjoyed yer comp'ny somethin' immense. Don't know as I ever met such a rippin', Ay Number One, all-round, entertynin' ass, afore!"

He fumbled nervously about his clothing, brought to light a rag of cotton, much the worse for service, and ostentatiously wiped from the corner of each eye tears of grief at parting. Then, as the boat swung toward the farther shore, Kirkwood's back was to the brigantine, and he was little tempted to turn and invite fresh shafts of ridicule.

Rapidly, as he was ferried across the busy Scheldt, the white blaze of his passion cooled; but the biting irony of his estate ate, corrosive, into his soul. Hollow-eyed he glared vacantly into space, pale lips unmoving, his features wasted with despair.

They came to the landing-stage and swung broad-side on. Mechanically the American got up and disembarked. As heedless of time and place he moved up the Quai to the gangway and so gained the esplanade; where pausing he thrust a trembling hand into his trouser pocket.

The hand reappeared, displaying in its outspread palm three big, round, brown, British pennies. Staring down at them, Kirkwood's lips moved.

"Bed rock!" he whispered huskily.



Without warning or presage the still evening air was smitten and made softly musical by the pealing of a distant chime, calling vespers to its brothers in Antwerp's hundred belfries; and one by one, far and near, the responses broke out, until it seemed as if the world must be vibrant with silver and brazen melody; until at the last the great bells in the Cathedral spire stirred and grumbled drowsily, then woke to such ringing resonance as dwarfed all the rest and made it seem as nothing.

Like the beating of a mighty heart heard through the rushing clamor of the pulses, a single deep-throated bell boomed solemnly six heavy, rumbling strokes.

Six o'clock! Kirkwood roused out of his dour brooding. The Amsterdam express would leave at 6:32, and he knew not from what station.

Striding swiftly across the promenade, he entered a small tobacco shop and made inquiry of the proprietress. His command of French was tolerable; he experienced no difficulty in comprehending the good woman's instructions.

Trains for Amsterdam, she said, left from the Gare Centrale, a mile or so across the city. M'sieur had plenty of time, and to spare. There was the tram line, if m'sieur did not care to take a fiacre. If he would go by way of the Vielle Bourse he would discover the tram cars of the Rue Kipdorp. M'sieur was most welcome....

Monsieur departed with the more haste since he was unable to repay this courtesy with the most trifling purchase; such slight matters annoyed Kirkwood intensely. Perhaps it was well for him that he had the long walk to help him work off the fit of nervous exasperation into which he was plunged every time his thoughts harked back to that jovial black-guard, Stryker.... He was quite calm when, after a brisk walk of some fifteen minutes, he reached the station.

A public clock reassured him with the information that he had the quarter of an hour's leeway; it was only seventeen minutes past eighteen o'clock (Belgian railway time, always confusing). Inquiring his way to the Amsterdam train, which was already waiting at the platform, he paced its length, peering brazenly in at the coach windows, now warm with hope, now shivering with disappointment, realizing as he could not but realize that, all else aside, his only chance of rehabilitation lay in meeting Calendar. But in none of the coaches or carriages did he discover any one even remotely resembling the fat adventurer, his daughter, or Mulready.

Satisfied that they had not yet boarded the train, he stood aside, tortured with forebodings, while anxiously scrutinizing each individual of the throng of intending travelers.... Perhaps they had been delayed—by the Alethea's lateness in making port very likely; perhaps they purposed taking not this but a later train; perhaps they had already left the city by an earlier, or had returned to England.

On time, the bell clanged its warning; the guards bawled theirs; doors were hastily opened and slammed; the trucks began to groan, couplings jolting as the engine chafed in constraint. The train and Kirkwood moved simultaneously out of opposite ends of the station, the one to rattle and hammer round the eastern boundaries of the city and straighten out at top speed on the northern route for the Belgian line, the other to stroll moodily away, idle hands in empty pockets, bound aimlessly anywhere—it didn't matter!

Nothing whatever mattered in the smallest degree. Ere now the outlook had been dark; but this he felt to be the absolute nadir of his misfortunes. Presently—after a while—as soon as he could bring himself to it—he would ask the way and go to the American Consulate. But just now, low as the tide of chance had ebbed, leaving him stranded on the flats of vagabondage, low as showed the measure of his self-esteem, he could not tolerate the prospect of begging for assistance—help which would in all likelihood be refused, since his story was quite too preposterous to gain credence in official ears that daily are filled with the lamentations of those whose motives do not bear investigation. And if he chose to eliminate the strange chain of events which had landed him in Antwerp, to base his plea solely on the fact that he was a victim of the San Francisco disaster ... he himself was able to smile, if sourly, anticipating the incredulous consular smile with which he would be shown the door.

No; that he would reserve as a last resort. True, he had already come to the Jumping-off Place; to the Court of the Last Resort alone could he now appeal. But ... not yet; after a while he could make his petition, after he had made a familiar of the thought that he must armor himself with callous indifference to rebuff, to say naught of the waves of burning shame that would overwhelm him when he came to the point of asking charity.

He found himself, neither knowing nor caring how he had won thither, in the Place Verte, the vast venerable pile of the Cathedral rising on his right, hotels and quaint Old-World dwellings with peaked roofs and gables and dormer windows, inclosing the other sides of the square. The chimes (he could hear none but those of the Cathedral) were heralding the hour of seven. Listless and preoccupied in contemplation of his wretched case he wandered purposelessly half round the square, then dropped into a bench on its outskirts.

It was some time later that he noticed, with a casual, indifferent eye, a porter running out of the Hotel de Flandre, directly opposite, and calling a fiacre in to the carriage block.

As languidly he watched a woman, very becomingly dressed, follow the porter down to the curb.

The fiacre swung in, and the woman dismissed the porter before entering the vehicle; a proceeding so unusual that it fixed the onlooker's interest. He sat rigid with attention; the woman seemed to be giving explicit and lengthy directions to the driver, who nodded and gesticulated his comprehension.

The woman was Mrs. Hallam.

The first blush of recognition passed, leaving Kirkwood without any amazement. It was an easy matter to account for her being where she was. Thrown off the scent by Kirkwood at Sheerness, the previous morning, she had missed the day boat, the same which had ferried over those whom she pursued. Returning from Sheerness to Queensborough, however, she had taken the night boat for Flushing and Antwerp,—and not without her plan, who was not a woman to waste her strength aimlessly; Kirkwood believed that she had had from the first a very definite campaign in view. In that campaign Queensborough Pier had been the first strategic move; the journey to Antwerp, apparently, the second; and the American was impressed that he was witnessing the inception of the third decided step.... The conclusion of this process of reasoning was inevitable: Madam would bear watching.

Thus was a magical transformation brought about. Instantaneously lassitude and vain repinings were replaced by hopefulness and energy. In a twinkling the young man was on his feet, every nerve a-thrill with excitement.

Mrs. Hallam, blissfully ignorant of this surveillance over her movements, took her place in the fiacre. The driver clucked to his horse, cracked his whip, and started off at a slow trot: a pace which Kirkwood imitated, keeping himself at a discreet distance to the rear of the cab, but prepared to break into a run whenever it should prove necessary.

Such exertion, however, was not required of him. Evidently Mrs. Hallam was in no great haste to reach her destination; the speed of the fiacre remained extremely moderate; Kirkwood found a long, brisk stride fast enough to keep it well in sight.

Round the green square, under the beautiful walls of Notre Dame d'Anvers, through Grande Place and past the Hotel de Ville, the cab proceeded, dogged by what might plausibly be asserted the most persistent and infatuated soul that ever crossed the water; and so on into the Quai Van Dyck, turning to the left at the old Steen dungeon and, slowing to a walk, moving soberly up the drive.

Beyond the lip of the embankment, the Scheldt flowed, its broad shining surface oily, smooth and dark, a mirror for the incandescent glory of the skies. Over on the western bank old Tete de Flandre lifted up its grim curtains and bastions, sable against the crimson, rampart and parapet edged with fire. Busy little side-wheeled ferry steamers spanked the waters noisily and smudged the sunset with dark drifting trails of smoke; and ever and anon a rowboat would slip out of shadow to glide languidly with the current. Otherwise the life of the river was gone; and at their moorings the ships swung in great quietness, riding lights glimmering like low wan stars.

In the company of the latter the young man marked down the Alethea; a sight which made him unconsciously clench both fists and teeth, reminding him of that rare wag, Stryker....

To his way of thinking the behavior of the fiacre was quite unaccountable. Hardly had the horse paced off the length of two blocks on the Quai ere it was guided to the edge of the promenade and brought to a stop. And the driver twisted the reins round his whip, thrust the latter in its socket, turned sidewise on the box, and began to smoke and swing his heels, surveying the panorama of river and sunset with complacency—a cabby, one would venture, without a care in the world and serene in the assurance of a generous pour-boire when he lost his fare. But as for the latter, she made no move; the door of the cab remained closed,—like its occupant's mind, a mystery to the watcher.

Twilight shadows lengthened, darkling, over the land; street-lights flashed up in long, radiant ranks. Across the promenade hotels and shops were lighted up; people began to gather round the tables beneath the awnings of an open-air cafe. In the distance, somewhere, a band swung into the dreamy rhythm of a haunting waltz. Scattered couples moved slowly, arm in arm, along the riverside walk, drinking in the fragrance of the night. Overhead stars popped out in brilliance and dropped their reflections to swim lazily on spellbound waters.... And still the fiacre lingered in inaction, still the driver lorded it aloft, in care-free abandon.

In the course of time this inertia, where he had looked for action, this dull suspense when he had forecast interesting developments, wore upon the watcher's nerves and made him at once impatient and suspicious. Now that he had begun to doubt, he conceived it as quite possible that Mrs. Hallam (who was capable of anything) should have stolen out of the cab by the other and, to him, invisible door. To resolve the matter, finally, he took advantage of the darkness, turned up his coat collar, hunched up his shoulders, hid his hands in pockets, pulled the visor of his cap well forward over his eyes, and slouched past the fiacre.

Mrs. Hallam sat within. He could see her profile clearly silhouetted against the light; she was bending forward and staring fixedly out of the window, across the driveway. Mentally he calculated the direction of her gaze, then, moved away and followed it with his own eyes; and found himself staring at the facade of a third-rate hotel. Above its roof the gilded letters of a sign, catching the illumination from below, spelled out the title of "Hotel du Commerce."

Mrs. Hallam was interested in the Hotel du Commerce?

Thoughtfully Kirkwood fell back to his former point of observation, now the richer by another object of suspicion, the hostelry. Mrs. Hallam was waiting and watching for some one to enter or to leave that establishment. It seemed a reasonable inference to draw. Well, then, so was Kirkwood, no less than the lady; he deemed it quite conceivable that their objects were identical.

He started to beguile the time by wondering what she would do, if...

Of a sudden he abandoned this line of speculation, and catching his breath, held it, almost afraid to credit the truth that for once his anticipations were being realized under his very eyes.

Against the lighted doorway of the Hotel du Commerce, the figures of two men were momentarily sketched, as they came hurriedly forth; and of the two, one was short and stout, and even at a distance seemed to bear himself with an accent of assertiveness, while the other was tall and heavy of shoulder.

Side by side they marched in step across the embankment to the head of the Quai gangway, descending without pause to the landing-stage. Kirkwood, hanging breathlessly over the guard-rail, could hear their footfalls ringing in hollow rhythm on the planks of the inclined way,—could even discern Calendar's unlovely profile in dim relief beneath one of the waterside lights; and he recognized unmistakably Mulready's deep voice, grumbling inarticulately.

At the outset he had set after them, with intent to accost Calendar; but their pace had been swift and his irresolute. He hung fire on the issue, dreading to reveal himself, unable to decide which were the better course, to pursue the men, or to wait and discover what Mrs. Hallam was about. In the end he waited; and had his disappointment for recompense.

For Mrs. Hallam did nothing intelligible. Had she driven over to the hotel, hard upon the departure of the men, he would have believed that she was seeking Dorothy, and would, furthermore, have elected to crowd their interview, if she succeeded in obtaining one with the girl. But she did nothing of the sort. For a time the fiacre remained as it had been ever since stopping; then, evidently admonished by his fare, the driver straightened up, knocked out his pipe, disentangled reins and whip, and wheeled the equipage back on the way it had come, disappearing in a dark side street leading eastward from the embankment.

Kirkwood was, then, to believe that Mrs. Hallam, having taken all that trouble and having waited for the two adventurers to appear, had been content with sight of them? He could hardly believe that of the woman; it wasn't like her.

He started across the driveway, after the fiacre, but it was lost in a tangle of side streets before he could make up his mind whether it was worth while chasing or not; and, pondering the woman's singular action, he retraced his steps to the promenade rail.

Presently he told himself he understood. Dorothy was no longer of her father's party; he had a suspicion that Mulready's attitude had made it seem advisable to Calendar either to leave the girl behind, in England, or to segregate her from his associates in Antwerp. If not lodged in another quarter of the city, or left behind, she was probably traveling on ahead, to a destination which he could by no means guess. And Mrs. Hallam was looking for the girl; if there were really jewels in that gladstone bag, Calendar would naturally have had no hesitation about intrusting them to his daughter's care; and Mrs. Hallam avowedly sought nothing else. How the woman had found out that such was the case, Kirkwood did not stop to reckon; unless he explained it on the proposition that she was a person of remarkable address. It made no matter, one way or the other; he had lost Mrs. Hallam; but Calendar and Mulready he could put his finger on; they had undoubtedly gone off to the Alethea to confer again with Stryker,—that was, unless they proposed sailing on the brigantine, possibly at turn of tide that night.

Panic gripped his soul and shook it, as a terrier shakes a rat, when he conceived this frightful proposition.

In his confusion of mind he evolved spontaneously an entirely new hypothesis: Dorothy had already been spirited aboard the vessel; Calendar and his confederate, delaying to join her from enigmatic motives, were now aboard; and presently the word would be, Up-anchor and away!

Were they again to elude him? Not, he swore, if he had to swim for it. And he had no wish to swim. The clothes he stood in, with what was left of his self-respect, were all that he could call his own on that side of the North Sea. Not a boatman on the Scheldt would so much as consider accepting three English pennies in exchange for boat-hire. In brief, it began to look as if he were either to swim or ... to steal a boat.

Upon such slender threads of circumstance depends our boasted moral health. In one fleeting minute Kirkwood's conception of the law of meum et tuum, its foundations already insidiously undermined by a series of cumulative misfortunes, toppled crashing to its fall; and was not.

He was wholly unconscious of the change. Beneath him, in a space between the quays bridged by the gangway, a number of rowboats, a putative score, lay moored for the night and gently rubbing against each other with the soundless lift and fall of the river. For all that Kirkwood could determine to the contrary, the lot lay at the mercy of the public; nowhere about was he able to discern a figure in anything resembling a watchman.

Without a quiver of hesitation—moments were invaluable, if what he feared were true—he strode to the gangway, passed down, and with absolute nonchalance dropped into the nearest boat, stepping from one to another until he had gained the outermost. To his joy he found a pair of oars stowed beneath the thwarts.

If he had paused to moralize—which he didn't—upon the discovery, he would have laid it all at the door of his lucky star; and would have been wrong. We who have never stooped to petty larceny know that the oars had been placed there at the direction of his evil genius bent upon facilitating his descent into the avernus of crime. Let us, then, pity the poor young man without condoning his offense.

Unhitching the painter he set one oar against the gunwale of the next boat, and with a powerful thrust sent his own (let us so call it for convenience) stern-first out upon the river; then sat him composedly down, fitted the oars to their locks, and began to pull straight across-stream, trusting to the current to carry him down to the Alethea. He had already marked down that vessel's riding-light; and that not without a glow of gratitude to see it still aloft and in proper juxtaposition to the river-bank; proof that it had not moved.

He pulled a good oar, reckoned his distance prettily, and shipping the blades at just the right moment, brought the little boat in under the brigantine's counter with scarce a jar. An element of surprise he held essential to the success of his plan, whatever that might turn out to be.

Standing up, he caught the brigantine's after-rail with both hands, one of which held the painter of the purloined boat, and lifted his head above the deck line. A short survey of the deserted after-deck gave him further assurance. The anchor-watch was not in sight; he may have been keeping well forward by Stryker's instructions, or he may have crept off for forty winks. Whatever the reason for his absence from the post of duty, Kirkwood was relieved not to have him to deal with; and drawing himself gently in over the rail, made the painter fast, and stepped noiselessly over toward the lighted oblong of the companionway. A murmur of voices from below comforted him with the knowledge that he had not miscalculated, this time; at last he stood within striking distance of his quarry.

The syllables of his surname ringing clearly in his ears and followed by Stryker's fleeting laugh, brought him to a pause. He flushed hotly in the darkness; the captain was retailing with relish some of his most successful witticisms at Kirkwood's expense.... "You'd ought to've seed the wye'e looked at me!" concluded the raconteur in a gale of mirth.

Mulready laughed with him, if a little uncertainly. Calendar's chuckle was not audible, but he broke the pause that followed.

"I don't know," he said with doubting emphasis. "You say you landed him without a penny in his pocket? I don't call that a good plan at all. Of course, he ain't a factor, but ... Well, it might've been as well to give him his fare home. He might make trouble for us, somehow.... I don't mind telling you, Cap'n, that you're an ass."

The tensity of certain situations numbs the sensibilities. Kirkwood had never in his weirdest dreams thought of himself as an eavesdropper; he did not think of himself as such in the present instance; he merely listened, edging nearer the skylight, of which the wings were slightly raised, and keeping as far as possible in shadow.

"Ow, I sye!" the captain was remonstrating, aggrieved. "'Ow was I to know 'e didn't 'ave it in for you? First off, when 'e comes on board (I'll sye this for 'im, 'e's as plucky as they myke 'em), I thought 'e was from the Yard. Then, when I see wot a bally hinnocent 'e was, I mykes up my mind 'e's just some one you've been ply in' one of your little gymes on, and 'oo was lookin' to square 'is account. So I did 'im proper."

"Evidently," assented Calendar dryly. "You're a bit of a heavy-handed brute, Stryker. Personally I'm kind of sorry for the boy; he wasn't a bad sort, as his kind runs, and he was no fool, from what little I saw of him.... I wonder what he wanted."

"Possibly," Mulready chimed in suavely, "you can explain what you wanted of him, in the first place. How did you come to drag him into this business?"

"Oh, that!" Calendar laughed shortly. "That was partly accident, partly inspiration. I happened to see his name on the Pless register; he'd put himself down as from 'Frisco. I figured it out that he would be next door to broke and getting desperate, ready to do anything to get home; and thought we might utilize him; to smuggle some of the stuff into the States. Once before, if you'll remember—no; that was before we got together, Mulready—I picked up a fellow-countryman on the Strand. He was down and out, jumped at the job, and we made a neat little wad on it."

"The more fool you, to take outsiders into your confidence," grumbled Mulready.

"Ow?" interrogated Calendar, mimicking Stryker's accent inimitably. "Well, you've got a heap to learn about this game, Mul; about the first thing is that you must trust Old Man Know-it-all, which is me. I've run more diamonds into the States, in one way or another, in my time, than you ever pinched out of the shirt-front of a toff on the Empire Prom., before they made the graft too hot for you and you came to take lessons from me in the gentle art of living easy."

"Oh, cut that, cawn't you?"

"Delighted, dear boy.... One of the first principles, next to profiting by the admirable example I set you, is to make the fellows in your own line trust you. Now, if this boy had taken on with me, I could have got a bunch of the sparklers on my mere say-so, from old Morganthau up on Finsbury Pavement. He does a steady business hoodwinking the Customs for the benefit of his American clients—and himself. And I'd've made a neat little profit besides: something to fall back on, if this fell through. I don't mind having two strings to my bow."

"Yes," argued Mulready; "but suppose this Kirkwood had taken on with you and then peached?"

"That's another secret; you've got to know your man, be able to size him up. I called on this chap for that very purpose; but I saw at a glance he wasn't our man. He smelt a nigger in the woodpile and most politely told me to go to the devil. But if he had come in, he'd've died before he squealed. I know the breed; there's honor among gentlemen that knocks the honor of thieves higher'n a kite, the old saw to the contrary—nothing doing.... You understand me, I'm sure, Mulready?" he concluded with envenomed sweetness.

"I don't see yet how Kirkwood got anything to do with Dorothy."

"Miss Calendar to you, Mister Mulready!" snapped Calendar. "There, there, now! Don't get excited.... It was when the Hallam passed me word that a man from the Yard was waiting on the altar steps for me, that Kirkwood came in. He was dining close by; I went over and worked on his feelings until he agreed to take Dorothy off my hands. If I had attempted to leave the place with her, they'd've spotted me for sure.... My compliments to you, Dick Mulready."

There came the noise of chair legs scraped harshly on the cabin deck. Apparently Mulready had leaped to his feet in a rage.

"I've told you—" he began in a voice thick with passion.

"Oh, sit down!" Calendar cut in contemptuously. "Sit down, d'you hear? That's all over and done with. We understand each other now, and you won't try any more monkey-shines. It's a square deal and a square divide, so far's I'm concerned; if we stick together there'll be profit enough for all concerned. Sit down, Mul, and have another slug of the captain's bum rum."

Although Mulready consented to be pacified, Kirkwood got the impression that the man was far gone in drink. A moment later he heard him growl "Chin-chin!" antiphonal to the captain's "Cheer-o!"

"Now, then," Calendar proposed, "Mr. Kirkwood aside—peace be with him!—let's get down to cases."

"Wot's the row?" asked the captain.

"The row, Cap'n, is the Hallam female, who has unexpectedly shown up in Antwerp, we have reason to believe with malicious intent and a private detective to add to the gaiety of nations."

"Wot's the odds? She carn't 'urt us without lyin' up trouble for 'erself."

"Damn little consolation to us when we're working it out in Dartmoor."

"Speak for yourself," grunted Mulready surlily.

"I do," returned Calendar easily; "we're both in the shadow of Dartmoor, Mul, my boy; since you choose to take the reference as personal. Sing Sing, however, yawns for me alone; it's going to keep on yawning, too, unless I miss my guess. I love my native land most to death, but ..."

"Ow, blow that!" interrupted the captain irritably. "Let's 'ear about the 'Allam. Wot're you afryd of?"

"'Fraid she'll set up a yell when she finds out we're planting the loot, Cap'n. She's just that vindictive; you'd think she'd be satisfied with her end of the stick, but you don't know the Hallam. That milk-and-water offspring of hers is the apple of her eye, and Freddie's going to collar the whole shooting-match or madam will kick over the traces."


"Well, she's queered us here. We can't do anything if my lady is going to camp on our trail and tell everybody we're shady customers, can we? The question now before the board is: Where now,—and how?"

"Amsterdam," Mulready chimed in. "I told you that in the beginning."

"But how?" argued Calendar. "The Lord knows I'm willing but ... we can't go by rail, thanks to the Hallam. We've got to lose her first of all."

"But wot I'm arskin' is, wot's the matter with—"

"The Alethea, Cap'n? Nothing, so far as Dick and I are concerned. But my dutiful daughter is prejudiced; she's been so long without proper paternal discipline," Calendar laughed, "that she's rather high-spirited. Of course I might overcome her objections, but the girl's no fool, and every ounce of pressure I bring to bear just now only helps make her more restless and suspicious."

"You leave her to me," Mulready interposed, with a brutal laugh. "I'll guarantee to get her aboard, or..."

"Drop it, Dick!" Calendar advised quietly. "And go a bit easy with that bottle for five minutes, can't you?"

"Well, then," Stryker resumed, apparently concurring in Calendar's attitude, "w'y don't one of you tyke the stuff, go off quiet and dispose of it to a proper fence, and come back to divide. I don't see w'y that—"

"Naturally you wouldn't," chuckled Calendar. "Few people besides the two of us understand the depth of affection existing between Dick, here, and me. We just can't bear to get out of sight of each other. We're sure inseparable—since night before last. Odd, isn't it?"

"You drop it!" snarled Mulready, in accents so ugly that the listener was startled. "Enough's enough and—"

"There, there, Dick! All right; I'll behave," Calendar soothed him. "We'll forget and say no more about it."

"Well, see you don't."

"But 'as either of you a plan?" persisted Stryker.

"I have," replied Mulready; "and it's the simplest and best, if you could only make this long-lost parent here see it."

"Wot is it?"

Mulready seemed to ignore Calendar and address himself to the captain. He articulated with some difficulty, slurring his words to the point of indistinctness at times.

"Simple enough," he propounded solemnly. "We've got the gladstone bag here; Miss Dolly's at the hotel—that's her papa's bright notion; he thinks she's to be trusted ... Now then, what's the matter with weighing anchor and slipping quietly out to sea?"

"Leavin' the dootiful darter?"

"Cert'n'y. She's only a drag any way. 'Better off without her.... Then we can wait our time and get highest market prices—"

"You forget, Dick," Calendar put it, "that there's a thousand in it for each of us if she's kept out of England for six weeks. A thousand's five thousand in the land I hail from; I can use five thousand in my business."

"Why can't you be content with what you've got?" demanded Mulready wrathfully.

"Because I'm a seventh son of a seventh son; I can see an inch or two beyond my nose. If Dorothy ever finds her way back to England she'll spoil one of the finest fields of legitimate graft I ever licked my lips to look at. The trouble with you, Mul, is you're too high-toned. You want to play the swell mobs-man from post to finish. A quick touch and a clean getaway for yours. Now, that's all right; that has its good points, but you don't want to underestimate the advantages of a good blackmailing connection.... If I can keep Dorothy quiet long enough, I look to the Hallam and precious Freddie to be a great comfort to me in my old age."

"Then, for God's sake," cried Mulready, "go to the hotel, get your brat by the scruif of her pretty neck and drag her aboard. Let's get out of this."

"I won't," returned Calendar inflexibly.

The dispute continued, but the listener had heard enough. He had to get away and think, could no longer listen; indeed, the voices of the three blackguards below came but indistinctly to his ears, as if from a distance. He was sick at heart and ablaze with indignation by turns. Unconsciously he was trembling violently in every limb; swept by alternate waves of heat and cold, feverish one minute, shivering the next. All of which phenomena were due solely to the rage that welled inside his heart.

Stealthily he crept away to the rail, to stand grasping it and staring across the water with unseeing eyes at the gay old city twinkling back with her thousand eyes of light. The cool night breeze, sweeping down unhindered over the level Netherlands from the bleak North Sea, was comforting to his throbbing temples. By degrees his head cleared, his rioting pulses subsided, he could think; and he did.

Over there, across the water, in the dingy and disreputable Hotel du Commerce, Dorothy waited in her room, doubtless the prey of unnumbered nameless terrors, while aboard the brigantine her fate was being decided by a council of three unspeakable scoundrels, one of whom, professing himself her father, openly declared his intention of using her to further his selfish and criminal ends.

His first and natural thought, to steal away to her and induce her to accompany him back to England, Kirkwood perforce discarded. He could have wept over the realization of his unqualified impotency. He had no money,—not even cab-fare from the hotel to the railway station. Something subtler, more crafty, had to be contrived to meet the emergency. And there was one way, one only; he could see none other. Temporarily he must make himself one of the company of her enemies, force himself upon them, ingratiate himself into their good graces, gain their confidence, then, when opportunity offered, betray them. And the power to make them tolerate him, if not receive him as a fellow, the knowledge of them and their plans that they had unwittingly given him, was his.

And Dorothy, was waiting....

He swung round and without attempting to muffle his footfalls strode toward the companionway. He must pretend he had just come aboard.

Subconsciously he had been aware, during his time of pondering, that the voices in the cabin had been steadily gaining in volume, rising louder and yet more loud, Mulready's ominous, drink-blurred accents dominating the others. There was a quarrel afoot; as soon as he gave it heed, Kirkwood understood that Mulready, in the madness of his inflamed brain, was forcing the issue while Calendar sought vainly to calm and soothe him.

The American arrived at the head of the companionway at a critical juncture. As he moved to descend some low, cool-toned retort of Calendar's seemed to enrage his confederate beyond reason. He yelped aloud with wrath, sprang to his feet, knocking over a chair, and leaping back toward the foot of the steps, flashed an adroit hand behind him and found his revolver.

"I've stood enough from you!" he screamed, his voice oddly clear in that moment of insanity. "You've played with me as long as you will, you hulking American hog! And now I'm going to show—"

As he held his fire to permit his denunciation to bite home, Kirkwood, appalled to find himself standing on the threshold of a tragedy, gathered himself together and launched through the air, straight for the madman's shoulders.

As they went down together, sprawling, Mulready's head struck against a transom and the revolver fell from his limp fingers.



Prepared as he had been for the shock, Kirkwood was able to pick himself up quickly, uninjured, Mulready's revolver in his grasp.

On his feet, straddling Mulready's insentient body, he confronted Calendar and Stryker. The face of the latter was a sickly green, the gift of his fright. The former seemed coldly composed, already recovering from his surprise and bringing his wits to bear upon the new factor which had been so unceremoniously injected into the situation.

Standing, but leaning heavily upon a hand that rested flat on the table, in the other he likewise held a revolver, which he had apparently drawn in self-defense, at the crisis of Mulready's frenzy. Its muzzle was deflected. He looked Kirkwood over with a cool gray eye, the color gradually returning to his fat, clean-shaven cheeks, replacing the pardonable pallor which had momentarily rested thereon.

As for Kirkwood, he had covered the fat adventurer before he knew it. Stryker, who had been standing immediately in the rear of Calendar, immediately cowered and cringed to find himself in the line of fire.

Of the three conscious men in the brigantine's cabin, Calendar was probably the least confused or excited. Stryker was palpably unmanned. Kirkwood was tingling with a sense of mastery, but collected and rapidly revolving the combinations for the reversed conditions which had been brought about by Mulready's drunken folly. His elation was apparent in his shining, boyish eyes, as well as in the bright color that glowed in his cheeks. When he decided to speak it was with rapid enunciation, but clearly and concisely.

"Calendar," he began, "if a single shot is fired about this vessel the river police will be buzzing round your ears in a brace of shakes."

The fat adventurer nodded assent, his eyes contracting.

"Very well!" continued Kirkwood brusquely. "You must know that I have personally nothing to fear from the police; if arrested, I wouldn't be detained a day. On the other hand, you ... Hand me that pistol, Calendar, butt first, please. Look sharp, my man! If you don't..."

He left the ellipsis to be filled in by the corpulent blackguard's intelligence. The latter, gray eyes still intent on the younger man's face, wavered, plainly impressed, but still wondering.

"Quick! I'm not patient to-night..."

No longer was Calendar of two minds. In the face of Kirkwood's attitude there was but one course to be followed: that of obedience. Calendar surrendered an untenable position as gracefully as could be wished.

"I guess you know what you mean by this," he said, tendering the weapon as per instructions; "I'm doggoned if I do.... You'll allow a certain latitude in consideration of my relief; I can't say we were anticipating this—ah—Heaven-sent visitation."

Accepting the revolver with his left hand and settling his forefinger on the trigger, Kirkwood beamed with pure enjoyment. He found the deference of the older man, tempered though it was by his indomitable swagger, refreshing in the extreme.

"A little appreciation isn't exactly out of place, come to think of it," he commented, adding, with an eye for the captain: "Stryker, you bold, bad butterfly, have you got a gun concealed about your unclean person?"

The captain shook visibly with contrition. "No, Mr. Kirkwood," he managed to reply in a voice singularly lacking in his wonted bluster.

"Say 'sir'!" suggested Kirkwood.

"No, Mr. Kirkwood, sir," amended Stryker eagerly.

"Now come round here and let's have a look at you. Please stay where you are, Calendar.... Why, Captain, you're shivering from head to foot! Not ill are you, you wag? Step over to the table there, Stryker, and turn out your pockets; turn 'em inside out and let's see what you carry in the way of offensive artillery. And, Stryker, don't be rash; don't do anything you'd be sorry for afterwards."

"No fear of that," mumbled the captain, meekly shambling toward the table, and, in his anxiety to give no cause for unpleasantness, beginning to empty his pockets on the way.

"Don't forget the 'sir,' Stryker. And, Stryker, if you happen to think of anything in the line of one of your merry quips or jests, don't strain yourself holding in; get it right off your chest, and you'll feel better."

Kirkwood chuckled, in high conceit with himself, watching Calendar out of the corner of his eye, but with his attention centered on the infinitely diverting spectacle afforded by Stryker, whose predacious hands were trembling violently as, one by one, they brought to light the articles of which he had despoiled his erstwhile victim.

"Come, come, Stryker! Surely you can think of something witty, surely you haven't exhausted the possibilities of that almanac joke! Couldn't you ring another variation on the lunatic wheeze? Don't hesitate out of consideration for me, Captain; I'm joke proof—perhaps you've noticed?"

Stryker turned upon him an expression at once ludicrous, piteous and hateful. "That's all, sir," he snarled, displaying his empty palms in token of his absolute tractability.

"Good enough. Now right about face—quick! Your back's prettier than your face, and besides, I want to know whether your hip-pockets are empty. I've heard it's the habit of you gentry to pack guns in your clothes.... None? That's all right, then. Now roost on the transom, over there in the corner, Stryker, and don't move. Don't let me hear a word from you. Understand?"

Submissively the captain retired to the indicated spot. Kirkwood turned to Calendar; of whose attitude, however, he had not been for an instant unmindful.

"Won't you sit down, Mr. Calendar?" he suggested pleasantly. "Forgive me for keeping you waiting."

For his own part, as the adventurer dropped passively into his chair, Kirkwood stepped over Mulready and advanced to the middle of the cabin, at the same time thrusting Calendar's revolver into his own coat pocket. The other, Mulready's, he nursed significantly with both hands, while he stood temporarily quiet, surveying the fleshy face of the prime factor in the intrigue.

A quaint, grim smile played about the American's lips, a smile a little contemptuous, more than a little inscrutable. In its light Calendar grew restive and lost something of his assurance. His feet shifted uneasily beneath the table and his dark eyes wavered, evading Kirkwood's. At length he seemed to find the suspense unendurable.

"Well?" he demanded testily. "What d'you want of me?"

"I was just wondering at you, Calendar. In the last few days you've given me enough cause to wonder, as you'll admit."

The adventurer plucked up spirit, deluded by Kirkwood's pacific tone. "I wonder at you, Mr. Kirkwood," he retorted. "It was good of you to save my life and—"

"I'm not so sure of that! Perhaps it had been more humane—"

Calendar owned the touch with a wry grimace. "But I'm damned if I understand this high-handed attitude of yours!" he concluded heatedly.

"Don't you?" Kirkwood's humor became less apparent, the smile sobering. "You will," he told the man, adding abruptly: "Calendar, where's your daughter?"

The restless eyes sought the companionway.

"Dorothy," the man lied spontaneously, without a tremor, "is with friends in England. Why? Did you want to see her?"

"I rather expected to."

"Well, I thought it best to leave her home, after all."

"I'm glad to hear she's in safe hands," commented Kirkwood.

The adventurer's glance analyzed his face. "Ah," he said slowly, "I see. You followed me on Dorothy's account, Mr. Kirkwood?"

"Partly; partly on my own. Let me put it to you fairly. When you forced yourself upon me, back there in London, you offered me some sort of employment; when I rejected it, you used me to your advantage for the furtherance of your purposes (which I confess I don't understand), and made me miss my steamer. Naturally, when I found myself penniless and friendless in a strange country, I thought again of your offer; and tried to find you, to accept it."

"Despite the fact that you're an honest man, Kirkwood?" The fat lips twitched with premature enjoyment.

"I'm a desperate man to-night, whatever I may have been yesterday." The young man's tone was both earnest and convincing. "I think I've shown that by my pertinacity in hunting you down."

"Well—yes." Calendar's thick fingers caressed his lips, trying to hide the dawning smile.

"Is that offer still open?"

His nonchalance completely restored by the very naivete of the proposition, Calendar laughed openly and with a trace of irony. The episode seemed to be turning out better than he had anticipated. Gently his mottled fat fingers played about his mouth and chins as he looked Kirkwood up and down.

"I'm sorry," he replied, "that it isn't—now. You're too late, Kirkwood; I've made other arrangements."

"Too bad." Kirkwood's eyes narrowed. "You force me to harsher measures, Calendar."

Genuinely diverted, the adventurer laughed a second time, tipping back in his chair, his huge frame shaking with ponderous enjoyment. "Don't do anything you'd be sorry for," he parroted, sarcastical, the young man's recent admonition to the captain.

"No fear, Calendar. I'm just going to use my advantage, which you won't dispute,"—the pistol described an eloquent circle, gleaming in the lamplight—"to levy on you a little legitimate blackmail. Don't be alarmed; I shan't hit you any harder than I have to."

"What?" stammered Calendar, astonished. "What in hell are you driving at?"

"Recompense for my time and trouble. You've cost me a pretty penny, first and last, with your nasty little conspiracy—whatever it's all about. Now, needing the money, I purpose getting some of it back. I shan't precisely rob you, but this is a hold-up, all right.... Stryker," reproachfully, "I don't see my pearl pin."

"I got it 'ere," responded the sailor hastily, fumbling with his tie.

"Give it me, then." Kirkwood held out his hand and received the trinket. Then, moving over to the table, the young man, while abating nothing of his watchfulness, sorted out his belongings from the mass of odds and ends Stryker had disgorged. The tale of them was complete; the captain had obeyed him faithfully. Kirkwood looked up, pleased.

"Now see here, Calendar; this collection of truck that I was robbed of by this resurrected Joe Miller here, cost me upwards of a hundred and fifty. I'm going to sell it to you at a bargain—say fifty dollars, two hundred and fifty francs."

"The juice you are!" Calendar's eyes opened wide, partly in admiration. "D'you realize that this is next door to highway robbery, my young friend?"

"High-seas piracy, if you prefer," assented Kirkwood with entire equanimity. "I'm going to have the money, and you're going to give it up. The transaction by any name would smell no sweeter, Calendar. Come—fork over!"

"And if I refuse?"

"I wouldn't refuse, if I were you."

"Why not?"

"The consequences would be too painful."

"You mean you'd puncture me with that gun?"

"Not unless you attack or attempt to follow me. I mean to say that the Belgian police are notoriously a most efficient body, and that I'll make it my duty and pleasure to introduce 'em to you, if you refuse. But you won't," Kirkwood added soothingly, "will you, Calendar?"

"No." The adventurer had become suddenly thoughtful. "No, I won't. 'Glad to oblige you."

He tilted his chair still farther back, straightening out his elephantine legs, inserted one fat hand into his trouser pocket and with some difficulty extracted a combined bill-fold and coin-purse, at once heavy with gold and bulky with notes. Moistening thumb and forefinger, "How'll you have it?" he inquired with a lift of his cunning eyes; and when Kirkwood had advised him, slowly counted out four fifty-franc notes, placed them near the edge of the table, and weighted them with five ten-franc pieces. And, "'That all?" he asked, replacing the pocket-book.

"That will be about all. I leave you presently to your unholy devices, you and that gay dog, over there." The captain squirmed, reddening. "Just by way of precaution, however, I'll ask you to wait in here till I'm off." Kirkwood stepped backwards to the door of the captain's room, opened it and removed the key from the inside. "Please take Mulready in with you," he continued. "By the time you get out, I'll be clear of Antwerp. Please don't think of refusing me,—I really mean it!"

The latter clause came sharply as Calendar seemed to hesitate, his weary, wary eyes glimmering with doubt. Kirkwood, watching him as a cat her prey, intercepted a lightning-swift sidelong glance that shifted from his face to the port lockers, forward. But the fat adventurer was evidently to a considerable degree deluded by the very child-like simplicity of Kirkwood's attitude. If the possibility that his altercation with Mulready had been overheard, crossed his mind, Calendar had little choice other than to accept the chance. Either way he moved, the risk was great; if he refused to be locked in the captain's room, there was the danger of the police, to which Kirkwood had convincingly drawn attention; if he accepted the temporary imprisonment, he took a risk with the gladstone bag. On the other hand, he had estimated Kirkwood's honesty as thorough-going, from their first interview; he had appraised him as a gentleman and a man of honor. And he did not believe the young man knew, after all ... Perplexed, at length he chose the smoother way, and with an indulgent lifting of eyebrows and fat shoulders, rose and waddled over to Mulready.

"Oh, all right," he conceded with deep toleration in his tone for the idiosyncrasies of youth. "It's all the same to me, beau." He laughed a nervous laugh. "Come along and lend us a hand, Stryker."

The latter glanced timidly at Kirkwood, his eyes pleading for leave to move; which Kirkwood accorded with an imperative nod and a fine flourish of the revolver. Promptly the captain, sprang to Calendar's assistance; and between the two of them, the one taking Mulready's head, the other his feet, they lugged him quickly into the stuffy little state-room. Kirkwood, watching and following to the threshold, inserted the key.

"One word more," he counseled, a hand on the knob. "Don't forget I've warned you what'll happen if you try to break even with me."

"Never fear, little one!" Calendar's laugh was nervously cheerful. "The Lord knows you're welcome."

"Thank you 'most to death," responded Kirkwood politely. "Good-by—and good-by to you, Stryker. 'Glad to have humored your desire to meet me soon again."

Kirkwood, turning the key in the lock, withdrew it and dropped it on the cabin table; at the same time he swept into his pocket the money he had extorted of Calendar. Then he paused an instant, listening; from the captain's room came a sound of murmurs and scuffling. He debated what they were about in there—but time pressed. Not improbably they, were crowding for place at the keyhole, he reflected, as he crossed to the port locker forward.

He had its lid up in a twinkling, and in another had lifted out the well-remembered black gladstone bag.

This seems to have been his first compound larceny.

As if stimulated by some such reflection he sprang for the companionway, dropping the lid of the locker with a bang which must have been excruciatingly edifying to the men in the captain's room. Whatever their emotions, the bang was mocked by a mighty kick, shaking the door; which, Kirkwood reflected, opened outward and was held only by the frailest kind of a lock: it would not hold long.

Spurred onward by a storm of curses, Stryker's voice chanting infuriated cacophony with Calendar's, Kirkwood leapt up the companionway even as the second tremendous kick threatened to shatter the panels. Heart in mouth, a chill shiver of guilt running up and down his spine, he gained the deck, cast loose the painter, drew in his rowboat, and dropped over the side; then, the gladstone bag nestling between his feet, sat down and bent to the oars.

And doubts assailed him, pressing close upon the ebb of his excitement—doubts and fears innumerable.

There was no longer a distinction to be drawn between himself and Calendar; no more could he esteem himself a better and more honest man than that accomplished swindler. He was not advised as to the Belgian code, but English law, he understood, made no allowance for the good intent of those caught in possession of stolen property; though he was acting with the most honorable motives in the world, the law, if he came within its cognizance, would undoubtedly place him on Calendar's plane and judge him by the same standard. To all intents and purposes he was a thief, and thief he would remain until the gladstone bag with its contents should be restored to its rightful owner.

Voluntarily, then, he had stepped from the ranks of the hunters to those of the hunted. He now feared police interference as abjectly as did Calendar and his set of rogues; and Kirkwood felt wholly warranted in assuming that the adventurer, with his keen intelligence, would not handicap himself by ignoring this point. Indeed, if he were to be judged by what Kirkwood had inferred of his character, Calendar would let nothing whatever hinder him, neither fear of bodily hurt nor danger of apprehension at the hands of the police, from making a determined and savage play to regain possession of his booty.

Well! (Kirkwood set his mouth savagely) Calendar should have a run for his money!

For the present he could compliment himself with the knowledge that he had outwitted the rogues, had lifted the jewels and probably two-thirds of their armament; he had also the start, the knowledge of their criminal guilt and intent, and his own plans, to comfort him. As for the latter, he did not believe that Calendar would immediately fathom them; so he took heart of grace and tugged at the oars with a will, pulling directly for the city and permitting the current to drift him down-stream at its pleasure. There could be no more inexcusable folly than to return to the Quai Steen landing and (possibly) the arms of the despoiled boat-owner.

At first he could hear crash after splintering crash sounding dully muffled from the cabin of the Alethea: a veritable devil's tattoo beaten out by the feet of the prisoners. Evidently the fastening was serving him better than he had dared hope. But as the black rushing waters widened between boat and brigantine, the clamor aboard the latter subsided, indicating that Calendar and Stryker had broken out or been released by the crew. In ignorance as to whether he were seen or being pursued, Kirkwood pulled on, winning in under the shadow of the quais and permitting the boat to drift down to a lonely landing on the edge of the dockyard quarter of Antwerp.

Here alighting, he made the boat fast and, soothing his conscience with a surmise that its owner would find it there in the morning, strode swiftly over to the train line that runs along the embankment, swung aboard an adventitious car and broke his first ten-franc piece in order to pay his fare.

The car made a leisurely progress up past the old Steen castle and the Quai landing, Kirkwood sitting quietly, the gladstone bag under his hand, a searching gaze sweeping the waterside. No sign of the adventurers rewarded him, but it was now all chance, all hazard. He had no more heart for confidence.

They passed the Hotel du Commerce. Kirkwood stared up at its windows, wondering....

A little farther on, a disengaged fiacre, its driver alert for possible fares, turned a corner into the esplanade. At sight of it Kirkwood, inspired, hopped nimbly off the tram-car and signaled the cabby. The latter pulled up and Kirkwood started to charge him with instructions; something which he did haltingly, hampered by a slight haziness of purpose. While thus engaged, and at rest in the stark glare of the street-lamps, with no chance of concealing himself, he was aware of a rising tumult in the direction of the landing, and glancing round, discovered a number of people running toward him. With no time to wonder whether or no he was really the object of the hue-and-cry, he tossed the driver three silver francs.

"Gare Centrale!" he cried. "And drive like the devil!"

Diving into the fiacre he shut the door and stuck his head out of the window, taking observations. A ragged fringe of silly rabble was bearing down upon them, with one or two gendarmes in the forefront, and a giant, who might or might not be Stryker, a close second. Furthermore, another cab seemed to have been requisitioned for the chase. His heart misgave him momentarily; but his driver had taken him at his word and generosity, and in a breath the fiacre had turned the corner on two wheels, and the glittering reaches of the embankment, drive and promenade, were blotted out, as if smudged with lamp-black, by the obscurity of a narrow and tortuous side street.

He drew in his head the better to preserve his brains against further emergencies.

After a block or two Kirkwood picked up the gladstone bag, gently opened the door, and put a foot on the step, pausing to look back. The other cab was pelting after him with all the enthusiasm of a hound on a fresh trail. He reflected that this mad progress through the thoroughfares of a civilized city would not long endure without police intervention. So he waited, watching his opportunity. The fiacre hurtled onward, the driver leaning forward from his box to urge the horse with lash of whip and tongue, entirely unconscious of his fare's intentions.

Between two streets the mouth of a narrow and darksome byway flashed into view. Kirkwood threw wide the door, and leaped, trusting to the night to hide his stratagem, to luck to save his limbs. Neither failed him; in a twinkling he was on all fours in the mouth of the alley, and as he picked himself up, the second fiacre passed, Calendar himself poking a round bald poll out of the window to incite his driver's cupidity with promises of redoubled fare.

Kirkwood mopped his dripping forehead and whistled low with dismay; it seemed that from that instant on it was to be a vendetta with a vengeance. Calendar, as he had foreseen, was stopping at nothing.

At a dog trot he sped down the alley to the next street, on which he turned back—more sedately—toward the river, debouching on the esplanade just one block from the Hotel du Commerce. As he swung past the serried tables of a cafe, whatever fears he had harbored were banished by the discovery that the excitement occasioned by the chase had already subsided. Beneath the garish awnings the crowd was laughing and chattering, eating and sipping its bock with complete unconcern, heedless altogether of the haggard and shabby young man carrying a black hand-bag, with the black Shade of Care for company and a blacker threat of disaster dogging his footsteps. Without attracting any attention whatever, indeed, he mingled with the strolling crowds, making his way toward the Hotel du Commerce. Yet he was not at all at ease; his uneasy conscience invested the gladstone bag with a magnetic attraction for the public eye. To carry it unconcealed in his hand furnished him with a sensation as disturbing as though its worn black sides had been stenciled STOLEN! in letters of flame. He felt it rendered him a cynosure of public interest, an object of suspicion to the wide cold world, that the gaze which lit upon the bag traveled to his face only to espy thereon the brand of guilt.

For ease of mind, presently, he turned into a convenient shop and spent ten invaluable francs for a hand satchel big enough to hold the gladstone bag.

With more courage, now that he had the hateful thing under cover, he found and entered the Hotel du Commerce.

In the little closet which served for an office, over a desk visibly groaning with the weight of an enormous and grimy registry book, a sleepy, fat, bland and good-natured woman of the Belgian bourgeoisie presided, a benign and drowsy divinity of even-tempered courtesy. To his misleading inquiry for Monsieur Calendar she returned a cheerful permission to seek that gentleman for himself.

"Three flights, M'sieu', in the front; suite seventeen it is. M'sieu' does not mind walking up?" she inquired.

M'sieu' did not in the least, though by no strain of the imagination could it, be truthfully said that he walked up those steep and redolent stairways of the Hotel du Commerce d'Anvers. More literally, he flew with winged feet, spurning each third padded step with a force that raised a tiny cloud of fine white dust from the carpeting.

Breathless, at last he paused at the top of the third flight. His heart was hammering, his pulses drumming like wild things; there was a queer constriction in his throat, a fire of hope in his heart alternating with the ice of doubt. Suppose she were not there! What if he were mistaken, what if he had misunderstood, what if Mulready and Calendar had referred to another lodging-house?

Pausing, he gripped the balustrade fiercely, forcing his self-control, forcing himself to reflect that the girl (presuming, for the sake of argument, he were presently to find her) could not be expected to understand how ardently he had discounted this moment of meeting, or how strangely it affected him. Indeed, he himself was more than a little disturbed by the latter phenomenon, though he was no longer blind to its cause. But he was not to let her see the evidences of his agitation, lest she be frightened.

Slowly schooling himself to assume a masque of illuding self-possession and composure, he passed down the corridor to the door whose panels wore the painted legend, 17; and there knocked.

Believing that he overheard from within a sudden startled exclamation, he smiled patiently, tolerant of her surprise.

Burning with impatience as with a fever, he endured a long minute's wait.

Misgivings were prompting him to knock again and summon her by name, when he heard footfalls on the other side of the door, followed by a click of the lock. The door was opened grudgingly, a bare six inches.

Of the alarmed expression in the eyes that stared into his, he took no account. His face lengthened a little as he stood there, dumb, panting, staring; and his heart sank, down, deep down into a gulf of disappointment, weighted sorely with chagrin.

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