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The Lion's Mouse
by C. N. Williamson and A. M. Williamson
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"No," Roger said. "I'll wait till you're ready and I can see you in your glory—pearls and all."

Beverley merely smiled an answer, and wondered what Roger thought of her smile. He drew the curtain, and led her to rest, asking at the door that she would promise to call him when she was dressed. "I want to have a good look at you before you go downstairs," he added as he went out.

Adjoining Beverley's bedroom was a small room whose wall appeared to be composed entirely of mirrors. It was a glorified wardrobe with mirror doors, and light and ventilation came from above. Behind the mirror doors were deep closets, some of which were lined with cedar, others with sandalwood; and at the back of one was an ingeniously concealed safe. In this safe Mrs. Roger Sands' jewels had already been placed, and among them was the empty case which had contained the queen's pearls. Beverley slid back the sandalwood panel, and opened the steel door behind it, which was manipulated by a miniature time-lock.

"Suppose I wear diamonds and emeralds," she thought, "and tell Roger they match better with my dress than the pearls—that I'll wear the pearls another time?"

But at the best this would only postpone the evil moment.

She took off her dress of embroidered white organdie, and put on a robe de chambre. Then she dropped wearily down on a great, cushiony sofa, not to rest, but because she had nothing else to do.

It was very still in her room, save for a far-off murmur of waves below the rocks. When she had remained thus for about three quarters of an hour she sprang up, her brain throbbing more feverishly, her body quivering more uncontrollably than when she had lain down. It was close upon seven o'clock, and she rang for Leontine. Her hair had to be done, and the whole process of dressing would need quite an hour.

"I daresay Mary Stuart took a lot of pains dressing to have her head cut off," she thought bitterly.

Leontine came, and made ready her mistress's bath. She emptied a bottle of eau de Cologne into the tepid water, but for once the refreshing scent failed to revive Beverley. She was like a creature in a dream as Leontine wound her long hair in bands round her head (a new fashion Roger had fallen in love with a few weeks ago), fastening it here and there with diamond pins. "Madame will be late if we are not careful," the Frenchwoman said. "Everything takes so long to-night." She laid on the floor at Beverley's feet a cloud of silver gauze, supple as chiffon. It was the new dress and Madame must step into it to avoid ruffling her hair. Beverley obeyed, and when her arms had slid into the odd little jewelled sleeves, she let Leontine draw her gently in front of a mirror.

"Madame is like a marvellous statue of ivory and silver," the maid exclaimed. "But she should have some colour. If Madame—but no, it is too late. There is a knock. It will be Monsieur. Shall I open the door?"

"Yes, open the door," Beverley echoed. Her voice sounded metallic and unnatural in her own ears.



XXXVI

"WE DO THINGS QUICKLY OVER HERE"

"Is this heaven?" Clo wondered.

"No, you darling, it's not. It's our same poor old world; but it'll be near heaven if you'll get well and live for me," said Justin O'Reilly. Then it seemed to the girl that she heard a very odd, choking sound, and on to her half-parted lips fell a drop of something hot. She tasted this, and found it salt.

"You—you can't be crying?" she mumbled.

"I am." O'Reilly answered, "crying with joy. I don't remember doing it before—in joy or sorrow. Here goes another tear! Sorry! I couldn't help spilling it on you. Shan't happen again."

O'Reilly's face was close to hers. She smiled up at him. Everything seemed strange except that he should call her darling. That, somehow, was not strange at all. Nor was it strange that his head should be bent over her upturned face. Yet he said it was the same poor old world!

"I thought I was dead," she explained.

"I thought so, too, for a minute, and it was the worst minute and the worst thought I ever had. But you're alive. And you're going to live. I tell you that on the doctor's authority. He and the nurse are having a confab in the next room. In fact, when we saw you coming to all right, after the anaesthetic (a bullet had to come out of your poor little shoulder!) I asked them to leave me alone with you. I wanted to be the first one your eyes saw. You're going to live for me, aren't you? Because I adore you, you know!"

"I know," the girl echoed, floating on a strange, bright wave of joy.

"You know I adore you?"

"Something told me it would come out like that," she said. "In those long days when I had to lie still in my room and listen to Kit and Churn, another voice—so different from theirs!—seemed to say it in my ear. Your message for me in the newspaper—I was sure it was for me—put it into my head. I couldn't answer. But the message was the greatest comfort! I didn't feel alone after that."

"Precious one! You're a star heroine, and a martyr and a saint, and I don't know what not. But most of all, you are my life—my very life. I've had a big disappointment since I parted from you—lost a thing I'd wanted for years—lost it to Roger Sands. His revenge for—I hardly know what! Yet finding you and holding you like this shows me that nothing else matters. What's a house, anyhow, except this darling house not made with hands—your little body, house of your soul? When you know me better, could you learn to love me, do you think, if I try hard to teach you?"

"Oh, but I do love you already," said Clo, as a matter of course. "Even that first night—there was something about you—I hated to cheat and rob you the way I did. And it was wonderful hearing your voice in the telephone, in Peterson's dreadful room. It wasn't only that I hoped you'd help, it was because it was you—because you were different for me from anybody else, different even from Angel."

"Good Lord, I should hope so!"

"And I've wanted you dreadfully ever since. That's why I thought it must be heaven when I woke up just now and saw you."

"You angel!"

"How funny you should call me that. Oh, I've almost forgotten my poor Angel! I must get to her, somehow." Clo looked around hastily, and realized that she was lying on a bed in a peculiarly unattractive room, and that O'Reilly was kneeling on the floor by the bedside. "How wicked of me to think more about you than her!"

"If you mean Mrs. Sands, you shall go to her when you're able. Mrs. Sands is all right. You sent her something rather important by Miss Blackburne, the pearl-stringer that you told me about that night in the taxi—and in Krantz's Keller. I talked to the woman—and cursed myself afterward for stopping to speak, when I found you and saw how every instant had counted. I oughtn't to have waited even for a second."

"Oh, you couldn't have saved me if you'd come up without speaking to Ellen. The shot was fired before I threw out the bag with the pearls," Clo broke in. "I remember now. Someone fired through the hole in the door. It was Chuff, I'm sure. It didn't hurt much. It was like a heavy blow, and I couldn't help dropping on my knees at the window. I felt weak and queer, but I called to Ellen. Then somebody picked me up—Kit, I think. I could hear them arguing what to do with me. Funny! I thought of you then—and that's the last I remember till now."

"I must have been in the house by that time," O'Reilly soothed her. "I had come for you! I was sure you'd be where Kit was, because of the pearls. Denham and I had been trying to track Churn and Kit and Chuff—all the lot you told me about—ever since you turned me down, in Krantz's Keller."

"I didn't turn you down!"

"No, I don't mean that! You were a brave little soldier going into battle on your own."

"A soldier? No, I was only a mouse."

"I know. 'The lion's mouse.' And to gnaw the net the lion was caught in, you had to stick your head into another lion's den. But some memoranda you'd picked up and left for us put Denham on the right trail. He doesn't need much of a pointer, that chap! He fairly jumped on to the track of a fellow named Isaacs—at least Isaacs is his 'alias'—a man who's been suspected for a long time as a receiver of stolen goods—a fence. When I got the tip that Kit and Churn were staying in the house where we were to spot Chuff, I was sure I had the clue to you. I wish to God we'd been five minutes earlier; but I thank Him we weren't five minutes too late! If the police eventually bring the crime home to Kit (that's improbable, Denham thinks) there's nothing to link up the story with the name of Mrs. Sands."

"Oh, I'm not sure!" breathed Clo. "Kit knows about her. She told Churn."

"She won't tell any one else, you may depend on that. If she's accused of the murder, she won't confess to stealing somebody's pearls as her motive. She'll say that Peterson insulted her, and she feared him; some sob-sister stuff of that sort."

"She did complain to Churn that Pete was horrible to her, and that if Churn had been there to hear what he said, he'd have killed him quick," Clo remembered.

"You see, she wanted to clear herself in the eyes of her best young man! How much more anxious she'd be to keep on the same line if it came to saving herself from the Chair! You can make your mind easy about your friend Mrs. Sands. I won't say a word against her. You love her. You may be right, I may be wrong. I'm growing humble. I don't set my judgment against yours, even though I know some things about the lady which it's probable you don't know. But she's been good to you. That makes all the difference to me. She's to be saved from the consequences of things which—you'll never hear from my lips. Saved she shall be if it depends at all on yours ever. But you've done so much that little more remains."

"Then you'll give her the papers?"

"The papers you returned to me that Sunday night?"

"It wasn't I who returned them. I don't know who did send them. It's the greatest mystery! But if you love me, you'll hand them back."

O'Reilly looked grave. "I love you," he said, "more than I ever thought it was in me to love, though I had an idea it might go hard with me when my time came. But I gave the papers to Heron, whose property they were—and are. I was only keeping them for him because he had reason to think they weren't safe in his possession."

"John Heron!" Clo echoed. A thought had suddenly started out from the background of her mind, pushing in front of her fears for Beverley. "Yes, of course, he's a friend of yours! But he's in worse danger than his papers ever were. From things they said, I believe Pete came East on purpose to kill him. Of course, there were the papers to get as well. But he wanted to kill John Heron. It was Chuff who ordered him to get the papers. Pete had some grudge of his own against Mr. Heron, so he made a good catspaw. When Pete was killed, Chuff had to find someone else to do the job. I don't know John Heron, and never saw him in my life, so I——"

"There you're mistaken," O'Reilly broke in. "Did you notice any one coming out of a room next to my suite when you were letting yourself in with my key which you had—er—found?"

"Yes!" cried Clo. "A beautiful woman in a black dress with gorgeous jewellery; and a tall man with reddish hair and beard and—Oh, eyes! Great dark eyes that looked at me in a strange way. I felt them in my spine."

"That was the first time you saw John Heron, the man his enemies still call the Oil Trust King—though thanks to Roger Sands they daren't call him that out aloud. The second time must have been in Heron's own room. But you shall judge for yourself. He'd been downstairs with his wife. He went up to his rooms again for something, and in the hall outside his own door—which he'd just unlocked—he fell down in a sort of fainting fit. Well, putting two and two together, after you told me your adventure creeping along the ledge from my window to his, it occurred to me that there'd been just cause for the seizure. I didn't think Heron was the man to keel over in a faint, even for a thing like that. All the same, seeing that ghostly vision would account for his attack."

"I understand," said Clo. "I saw he was flabbergasted. But that first time at the door, when he was with his wife, he didn't look at me as if I were a stranger. It was as if he knew me, and almost fell over himself to see me again. That was the feeling I had, but I was—a little excited."

"Most girls would have been corpses!"

"I felt like a live coal. But we mustn't let the gang make a corpse of Mr. Heron, must we? Let's warn him. Where are we, anyhow?"

"Same house you were in. Doctor said it wouldn't be safe to move you. We disinfected the best we could in a hurry, and he extracted the bullet from your poor little shoulder. Thank God, I was in time, or there might have been another bullet or two, that couldn't be extracted! You're all right now, or will be with a little rest, and we'll get you into a nursing home. As for Heron, he and his wife have gone to Narragansett. That's close to Newport, you know, where Mrs. Sands is."

"Angel in Newport already! Then the pearls—but I told Ellen Blackburne to take them there if she had to. Do you think she will?"

"Sure! She'll catch the first train."

"No. She won't do that. She thinks of her mother before everything. But the ball's not till to-morrow. Angel won't need the pearls till then. Oh, if I could be sure she'll get them! I can't rest till I'm sure. I must go to Newport. I must."

"When you're strong enough."

"I'm strong enough now. Is it late?"

"Getting on toward evening. You were a long time coming to yourself. Presently the doctor will say whether you can be moved to-night to that nursing home."

"If I can be moved to a nursing home I can be moved to Newport. Tell the doctor I shall burst if I can't go."

"You may tell him yourself."

"I must go. I must know if all goes right with the pearls. I must know if it's better or worse for Angel that Stephen's dead."

"Stephen's dead!"

"Yes. Did you know him?"

"I know of him. He is——"

"Don't tell me. She mightn't want me to hear. I haven't heard anything except that Kit and Churn talked about his having died, and said Angel had been cheated."

"By Jove, I begin to see light."

"Now you see why I must go to her? And you've forgotten maybe what I told you about Mr. Heron. If he's near Newport, I——"

"Look here, darling, if the doctor says you can be taken there to-morrow—oh, in time to arrive before the famous ball—let's say in a comfortable motor car, travelling slowly, banked up on cushions, will you go as my wife?"

Clo stared as if O'Reilly had broken into some strange language which he expected her to understand. "Your wife?"

"Well—don't you expect to marry me? That's what happens when a girl and a man love each other."

"Oh—some day—if you're sure you really want an ignorant little girl like me, brought up in an orphan asylum, who's worked in a shop and hasn't a penny in the world—except a dollar or two left of Mrs. Sands' money. A long time from now, when you've thought about it——"

"I've thought of nothing else since we met and parted, and I realized that you were my life and soul. If you can make up your mind to 'some day,' it might just as well be to-morrow. Don't you want to console me for the loss of the only other thing, besides you, I've ever wanted with all my heart? You do if you love me. The dear old house that was my father's! You know, when you sent up your name at the Dietz as Miss O'Reilly, I believed you were my cranky cousin Theresa, come to tell me she'd changed her mind about selling the house. Why, you owe it to me, if you care, to make up for that. Your Angel's husband has bribed Theresa to sell to him. The place has passed away from me forever. But if you'll marry me to-night I shan't care. In the joy of being husband—and nurse—to the bravest and dearest mouse in the world I'll forget everything and be the happiest man on God's earth."

"People don't get married at a few hours' notice."

"Don't they? How long have you lived in the United States, my Irish colleen?"

"Months. Over a year. But I never discussed marriage."

"I'm jolly glad you didn't. But you'll hear of nothing else till the knot's tied. We do things quickly over here."

Then the door opened, and the doctor came in.



XXXVII

THE TELEGRAM

Roger Sands had hardly known himself for many days. His wife had read him aright. At times he was purposely cruel. At times he did wish to see how much she could bear and not break. Yet if she had broken, he felt that he could not have helped seizing her in his arms and forgiving her.

While he dressed that night he hoped that she would send for him, or come to him, and confess that the pearls were gone, that she had given them to O'Reilly, whom she had once loved, and whom she loved no more.

But she neither sent nor came. She was bluffing it out to the last. He might have known she would do that, although he had taken her to her room to give her one more chance to repent. At half-past seven he was ready, but he waited quietly ten minutes. Then he went to his door, meaning—as he said to himself roughly—to "get the thing over." But he paused with his hand on the knob. He thought that he heard a woman's voice saying: "May I come in?"

His muttered comment upon one of his and Beverley's guests, whom he supposed the intruder to be, was far from flattering. Perhaps, however, it would be well not to find his wife alone. He would give Beverley a few minutes more, to be sure that her dress was on, before he went to interrupt the chorus of mutual admiration; but no woman's presence should prevent him from asking the question he meant to ask—"Where are your pearls?"

At exactly eight minutes to eight Roger ceased his restless tramp up and down the room, and stopped again at the door. Before he could open it, however, there was a light tap—a tap like Beverley's in happier days. "Can she mean, after all, to tell me the truth?" he wondered; and he heard his voice saying mechanically, "Come in."

Beverley came in; Roger's room was full of light, and as his wife entered she faced it. She glittered from head to foot like an ice maiden under a blazing sun. She wore a wreath of diamond roses; round her waist was a girdle of diamonds with long tasselled ends; on her white satin shoes were diamond buckles; and over her bare, white neck, her young gauze-enfolded bosom, hung the rope of the queen's pearls.

"I thought you were coming in to see me dressed?" she said calmly. "Did you forget?"

For answer Roger stared. He stepped back into the room, and let Beverley shut the door. She stood before him smiling, though, if he had analyzed her smile, he would have said that it was sad. "How do you think I look?" she asked, when he did not speak. "I hope you're not disappointed?"

"You have had those pearls copied!" he flung at her.

Beverley blushed bright crimson. She understood instantly what he meant and thought, but she had not gone through tortures and been relieved at the last moment to be beaten down now.

"What do you mean?" she asked, her eyes steady, her head up.

"You thought I didn't know. But I have known from the first. I found out by accident. I always hoped you'd some day tell me the truth. This is a cowardly thing you've done."

Beverley was again ivory pale. "Are you a judge of pearls, Roger?" she coldly inquired.

"Yes," he said.

She lifted the rope over her head and thrust it, against his will, into his hands. "Make any test you wish, and decide whether these are the pearls you gave me or an imitation."

Hardly knowing what he did, he walked to a table, on which stood a tall lamp that gave a brilliant light. Beverley watched him. There was no emotion whatever on her face. After a moment he spoke: "These are genuine pearls," he admitted, after a heavy silence. "And I have reason to believe from certain marks that they are the pearls I bought for you, the queen's pearls. If you give me your word, that since I put them into your hands you did not part with them to Justin O'Reilly, as I have believed, I will beg your forgiveness on the knees of my soul. I will confess to you—as I once expected you to confess to me."

"Hush! There's someone at the door!" Beverley cut him short.

It was Leontine who knocked, and paused on the threshold. "Will Madame have the kindness to step into the hall," she asked. As her mistress moved toward her, she retired, and it was not until they both stood at some distance from the door that the Frenchwoman spoke.

"I beg Madame's pardon for disturbing her," she apologized, "but I dare not delay. The lady, Mees Blackburne, if that is her name, was about to start back to town, but remembered a commission she had been given at the apartment; to bring a telegram for me. I opened it, to find that for me there is no sense. I know no Stephen; but——"

"Stephen!" Beverley gasped the name, and snatched from the woman's hand an open telegram she held. She read it, and then without a word or cry, collapsed in a dead faint. With a shriek of fear Leontine tried to catch the swaying figure; but the best she could do was to break the fall. When Roger reached the door it was to find Beverley in a white heap on the floor with the Frenchwoman kneeling by her side. He caught his wife up, and, carrying her back into his room, laid her on the bed.

"Let everybody be told that dinner will be delayed half an hour," he said, and shut the door in Leontine's face. She snatched the dropped telegram and whisked off to obey the master's command.



XXXVIII

WHO IS STEPHEN?

As Roger stood looking down at Beverley she opened her eyes.

"Stephen is dead!" she muttered. "Stephen—is dead."

"Who is Stephen?" Roger asked shortly.

"Oh, Roger!" she appealed to him, breaking into sobs. "My poor Stephen! I shall never see him again. All my sacrifices—in vain!"

"Who is Stephen?" Roger repeated.

She held up her arms, without answering his questions. "Roger—comfort me!" she wept.

And for all his life, no matter how many years he may live, Roger Sands will be glad that he did not hold back from Beverley then. Without another word he clasped her tightly, while she cried against his cheek. Both had forgotten that there were guests, that this was the "big night" which all the newspapers were talking about; that already dinner was late, and people wondering; that the "ball" was to begin at ten-thirty, and that the Russian dancers who were to open it, as the great "surprise," would soon be in the house.

When Beverley had sobbed until exhaustion came, she spoke, in a tiny voice, like that of a tired little girl: "Because Stephen is—safe, I can tell you everything now. Will you listen, Roger, until the end, whether you can forgive me or no?"

"Yes," Roger answered. "But just this before you begin! I love you so much, Beverley, that if there's something to forgive it's forgiven already."

"Stephen was my brother," she said, "the one person who belonged to me after father died. Mother I don't remember. She came of a high Russian family who were sent to Siberia as political prisoners. She was only sixteen, and father saved her by making her his wife. I was named 'Olga' after her. But for that dreadful journey from Albuquerque I had to have some name that wouldn't give me away when my ticket was bought. Stephen and I were called Bevan, because father used that name for his business in Russia, but his own name was Beverley. For travelling that day I was 'Miss B. White.' Once I'd told you I was Beverley, I had always to be Beverley for you.

"Stephen—or Stephan, his Russian name—and I, were born in Russia, where father superintended an immense tract of oil wells for Mr. Heron. When my father was killed in an explosion (I was fourteen and Stephen twelve) Mr. Heron felt it his duty to look after our future. He had just married at that time. You must know Mrs. Heron well enough to understand that she wouldn't like to have two half-grown-up children thrust upon her. Why, she used to be jealous even of her husband's first wife, an Irish girl, who died years and years ago, in Ireland! It seems Mr. Heron hadn't told her about his old love story. She came across a picture of him taken with the girl, and some letters from people Mr. Heron had employed to search for his wife, whom he had quarrelled with and left. I was staying at their house when Dolores discovered the photograph and letters. She rushed into the room where I was with Mr. Heron. He had to seize her hands to keep her from tearing the picture in pieces; and he held them while he told her his sad story. He'd been visiting Ireland, it seemed, years before, and met a girl, very poor but very lovely, and married her when they'd known each other a few weeks. It seemed the girl had been engaged to someone else; and that someone took a cruel revenge on Heron. By a plot which he confessed afterward when it was too late, he made it appear that the girl had been his mistress. The evidence was so strong Heron could hardly help believing, so he came back to America and tried to forget. Years after the other man, dying of typhoid, confessed to a priest that he had lied, and forged letters. The priest wrote to Heron. But the poor, deserted girl was dead, and all that Heron could learn when he dashed back to Ireland to find her was that a baby girl had been born a few months after he left his wife. He tried for years to trace the child, but could not. And it was only after he'd given up all hope that he married Dolores Moreno. I think Mr. Heron felt tender over us children because of his lost little one. After leaving us in Russia at school for a while, and a year in England, to learn the language better than we knew it, another year in France and another in Italy (in families whom he paid to educate and take care of us) he must have had a longing to see what we were like. He and Dolores, his wife, came abroad, and brought us back to America with them, much against Dolores' will, I know. I was nearly eighteen, and I realized the first minute we met that Dolores was going to hate me. We went straight to a house near Albuquerque, which belongs to Mrs. Heron. Her brother Louis always lived there. He was an invalid, you know; about a year younger than Dolores; something wrong with his heart, and almost a hunchback—but oh, what a handsome face! When he took a violent fancy to me her one thought was to get me out of his way. Louis had money of his own. He was rich, and I suppose Dolores was afraid I might try to marry him, as I hadn't a penny. It was bad enough for her that Mr. Heron should have a tenderness for me, because of his lost child; but that Louis should love me was more than she could stand. I was sent to a boarding-school, and when I was twenty I began to teach. Dolores didn't like Stephen, either. She grudged every penny her husband spent for us.

"Mr. Heron used his influence, and got Stephen work in Los Angeles as a reporter on a newspaper, when he was only eighteen. He was tall and handsome, and could pass for two years older at least. I was very unhappy at this time, for I'd begun to worry about Stephen. I was sure he was keeping some secret from me. But I found out nothing till the crash came. Oh, Roger, it was horrible. He'd fallen under the influence of those anarchists—those dynamiters, who had been terrorizing all America for years. They'd persuaded him that they were noble reformers. Poor Stephen was a useful tool. He never did any of the dynamiting with his own hands, but he used to make bombs, and carry them from place to place, and take letters it wasn't thought safe to send through the post. It was the blowing-up of the Times buildings in Los Angeles and all those innocent men being killed that sickened him, he confessed afterward, when at last he opened his heart to me. But he was too deep in to free himself. It's now two years ago that the break happened, and all our life collapsed—Stephen's and mine.

"Some of the old lot he'd worked with were left—men who had managed to keep clear and never be suspected when William Burns, the detective, was fighting the Macnamaras and their gang. Only one or two who'd been under suspicion wriggled out from Burns' clutches. A man named Carl Schmelzer was the cleverest. He went abroad, and was supposed to die in Germany. But he didn't die. By that time they were engaged in new enterprises, as the old ones were too risky; but they always pretended to be working for Labour against Capital. John Heron was their target two years ago. The war cry was that he was the master, a tyrant, a plutocrat, ruthlessly crushing the weak. The Comrades knew our history—Stephen's and mine—and they tried to inflame Stephen against Mr. Heron because he'd failed to do for us what our father's services and death merited. But they made a big mistake when they ordered my brother to dynamite a railway bridge, just as a train with Heron's private car was due to pass over it. He refused, and threatened to warn Heron unless they abandoned all their schemes against him. That gave the gang a fearful fright. They thought their one chance of safety was to suppress Stephen. A friend of his who lived at Home Colony warned him that there was a plot to kill him. He came straight to me and told me the whole story. Neither of us had much hope. We thought the Comrades were sure to get him in the end. Then a wonderful thing happened. The train Stephen took, after his visit to me, was wrecked. Everybody in the car with Stephen was killed except himself. An idea came to Stephen. He put a silver cigarette-case with his name on it into the pocket of a man burnt past recognition—a man of about his own size. Then he crept away and hid for many days. When he hoped it might be fairly safe, he wrote to me, knowing I mourned for him as dead. He asked if I'd risk going with him to Russia to begin a new life there under another name. Of course I said 'Yes.'

"I left the school, and some jewellery I had kept us going for a while till there was a ship we could take for Japan, and so get back to Russia. We'd have to sail from San Francisco, so presently we went to Oakland, travelling at night by local trains. We hoped in that way we should not be seen by any one we knew.

"Whether someone did see us or not, I can't tell. Anyhow, from the day Stephen left me to buy our cabins on the ship I've never seen him again. He was kidnapped by the gang; and then began my martyrdom. They gave me a week of suspense. Then I got a letter. It told me that Stephen had been caught and would be punished by death for his treachery unless I'd agree to buy his life. I was warned that if I went to the police, it would be known to them, and Stephen instantly killed. If I consented to bargain I must put a 'personal' in a San Francisco paper, saying 'Steve's sister says yes'; in that case an appointment would be made with a man who would tell me what to do to save Stephen.

"Of course, I obeyed. Next day the same paper told 'Steve's Sister' where to go for instructions, and at what time. I think the man who met me must have been Schmelzer himself, just back from Europe. He had the authoritative manner Stephen had spoken of, and a great deal of gesture. He didn't give himself any name then, but afterward I knew him as Cheffinsky. To save my brother I had only to get a bundle of papers which were in the possession of John Heron. They were at Albuquerque in Mrs. Heron's house. Heron kept them there because he believed no one would suspect; but a spy the 'Comrades' had hired to act as a gardener there overheard a conversation, and knew the hiding-place. Unfortunately he couldn't put his hand on the papers without killing a man to get at them. For me, it would be simple, because Louis Moreno was in love with me. Louis had charge of the papers, and would let me see them if I treated him the right way. How Cheffinsky found out about Louis and me I never heard; perhaps from Stephen. I was given a day to think the matter over. Then there was to be another meeting in the same place. When I went to the rendezvous for the second time—it was in a park—I hadn't made up my mind. But, oh, Roger, the wretch showed me a snapshot of Stephen in a room, with a rope round his neck, standing on tiptoe. The rope was fastened to a ring in the ceiling, where a chandelier had been. If Stephen had dropped from fatigue he would have choked to death. 'Six hours a day of this medicine,' Cheffinsky said, 'till you've handed us the papers we want.'

"I promised to go to Albuquerque and get them. What the papers were I wasn't told. Afterward I heard more about them—from Louis himself. The day of the second meeting in the park I was given directions what to do, but they were changed in a hurry. The Comrades got warning to 'clear out' and go East as quick as they could. A telegram reached me only a few hours before I was to start for Albuquerque. It said, 'Delay journey. Writing,' and a letter came the same night to the quiet little boarding-house where I stayed. My brother had been taken East, where I should meet him when I handed over the papers. I was told what train to take to Albuquerque, and what train to leave in: the Santa Fe Limited. I was to find reservations on board for 'Miss B. White.' At Chicago I was to get out of the train and find a man waiting for me. You know all about that, and what happened. There was money in the letter of instructions, enough to see me through to Chicago, otherwise I couldn't have started. What I had was almost all gone. Oh, I can hardly bear to think of that day, and what I went through—before I met you."

"Don't think of it—don't go on if you'd rather not," Roger begged.

But Beverley wished to go on.

"There was one thing the Comrades hadn't calculated upon," she said, "and that was that the Herons would be at Albuquerque. When the plan was made the Herons were at Los Angeles, and expecting to stay there. You must have been with them—just after the great case was decided in John Heron's favour—thanks to you! But Louis had been seized with one of his heart attacks—he had angina pectoris—and had wired for his sister. Dolores didn't wish to travel without her husband, so both decided to go. As for Justin O'Reilly, it was at Albuquerque I first saw him. It came out that he was taking a short holiday in California, and I heard talk about his visiting some place where he and his father had lived. I had the impression of his being a California man. Mr. Heron had helped O'Reilly to get into Congress. They weren't intimate, though I believe they're distantly related, but Mr. Heron wanted to see him before he went East, and wired for O'Reilly to meet them at Albuquerque. When I arrived, expecting to find only Louis in the house, they were all there.

"It was a shock and a blow to me to see the Herons. I'd meant to lie, and tell Louis I'd come to him because I'd changed my mind, and liked him better than I thought. But to account for my sudden appearance, uninvited, to Dolores, who hated me, was another matter.

"She and her husband supposed I was living quietly at school, mourning for my dead brother. I had to make up a story quickly. I said that I'd lost my position, and hoped they would put me up at Albuquerque until I could get another. They couldn't turn me out that night. And Louis was fairly well again by that time. He was very glad to see me. I made the most of his welcome—for Stephen's sake. You see, I had to succeed! I wrote a note, and slipped it into Louis' hand. In it I hinted that I had something very particular to say to him. He must go to his own rooms as soon as he could—he had a whole suite to himself which he could shut off from the rest of the house. It was on the ground floor. I said I would go to him there.

"Now comes the most terrible part of my story. Roger, you may hate me when you've heard the rest! I went to Louis' room. He let me in. I told him that I had changed my mind. I would marry him if he wanted me to, but only on one condition. I said I'd heard from friends of Stephen's that Mr. Heron was keeping documents which concerned our dead father; that they were with other private papers, in the Albuquerque house, and in Louis' charge. If he would give the whole bundle to me to look over, and choose what I wished to take away, I'd be his wife whenever he wanted me.

"He tried to seize me in his arms, but I threatened to go away at once unless he kept quiet, and did as I told him. There was a packet of papers, he admitted, but he vowed to me that they were only business papers. They were compromising to John Heron, and would do him immense harm—worse than ever, now that he'd just come successfully through the courts—if they passed into enemy hands. I insisted that there must be something about my father. There could be no mistake, and unless Louis would let me look, I'd never marry him. He still objected, arguing that all the things were in one envelope, sealed with three seals, which must not be broken, or his sister and her husband would never forgive him.

"He went to his desk—we were in his sitting-room—and showed me a secret drawer between two other drawers. He took out an envelope—you've seen it. 'I'll try to cut off the seals with a sharp knife,' he said, 'and I can stick them on again. While he spoke, he began looking for the knife he wanted, and I snatched at the envelope. But his fingers closed down on it. He laughed in my face. 'So that's your game!' he said. 'I'm not so soft as you thought!' But I struggled with him. I was strong; he was an invalid. He'd just been ill. When he realized that I was more than his match, his face looked like a devil's. I shall never forget it. 'You'll pay for this!' he screamed at the top of his voice—an awful scream—'Help! murder!'

"Overhead was what they called the living room. I knew he would be heard; people would come. I wrenched the envelope from him, and ran for the window. I dared not go to the door; I should meet someone and be caught. Louis grabbed my dress, shouting 'murder!' Then I seemed to go mad. I gave him a push, and he fell over a chair, and lay quite still. I rushed to the door, locked it, and took the key, to make a few minutes' delay. Then I jumped out of the window (I told you Louis' rooms were on the ground floor) and ran very fast. I won't stop now to tell you the adventures I had before I managed to dash into the Albuquerque railway station, at the last minute, after the train was in. Once in the train when I didn't see Louis, or Mr. Heron's secretary, or any one I expected to follow me, I began to hope that some other trail had been followed. It would have seemed more likely that I'd go back west, where I had friends, than travel east where I was a stranger. You promised to stand by me. Then you met Justin O'Reilly. I didn't dream Louis was dead. It was a week later, when you and I were married, that I saw in a newspaper about the beautiful Mrs. John Heron losing her brother suddenly, from heart disease. A date was mentioned: the night I took the envelope. Oh, Roger, I felt that I was guilty of his death. Even to save Stephen I could not have killed him. Do you think me a murderess? If you do, just let me go from your arms, and I shall understand. You needn't tell me in words."

Roger held her closer. "No, my darling," he said, "you're not a murderess. You didn't kill Louis Moreno. He couldn't have lived many weeks. The doctor had warned John Heron. I love you more than ever for what you've gone through. It's you who should hate me for my cruelty and—and my beastly suspicion. But there were some things that tried me rather hard. Why didn't you tell me this story long ago? Surely you could have trusted me to keep your secret?"

"Yes, I could have trusted you, even though it was Stephen's secret more than mine. But I had taken a double oath not to tell! First, I'd promised Stephen himself when he came back from the dead, never to give any hint of the truth. Later, when he was kidnapped, I was obliged to swear another oath, on the memory of our dead parents, and my love for my brother, that I wouldn't betray Cheffinsky and his comrades. Now it's different. They have betrayed me. Stephen is dead. Such a girl as Clo Riley wouldn't have sent this message unless she knew for certain. He must have died just before that dreadful Sunday when all our unhappiness—yours and mine—began, Roger. To keep their hold over me, those men would have done all they could to save him till they had the papers they wanted to use, and ruin John Heron. Soon after you brought me to New York they found out about our marriage, and put 'personals' in the newspapers headed like those others in California: 'Steve's Sister.' They knew, of course, that their man, who should have met me in Chicago, had been prevented from coming—imprisoned on a charge which they called a 'frame-up' but I believe he must have picked someone's pocket and been arrested in the railway station. They still had power over me, although I was your wife, but I had power over them, too, because I'd got the papers they wanted. I answered the messages, and refused to give up what I had unless my brother fetched it. I hoped that would bring him. But he only wrote—a short letter. He said that he was safe for the time being, and was treated kindly. He would come when he could. Meanwhile, I 'must keep the papers and the secret'—and wait. I felt relieved after that! I dared to let myself be happy. Then, that Sunday, when Clo and I went out in the motor, a man was waiting for me in the street. He made me understand that he came from Stephen. His name was Peterson. He said the Comrades had changed their minds. They wouldn't let Stephen come to me. I must send the papers that night or my brother would die. When I asked the reason for the change, Peterson pretended not to know. Now, I understand at last. Stephen was dead already. Cheffinsky and the others had at last lost their hold over me and dared not wait longer. I sent the envelope to Peterson by Clo, to the Westmorland Hotel. Yes, the man who was murdered! That has been another horror for me. It was when I was taking the envelope to Clo, in the car, that I broke the rope of pearls, and dared not even stop to pick them up! I hoped that Stephen was saved—thanks to Clo—but, Roger, it was not the same envelope you took care of for me in the train. It had been changed. Inside, when Peterson opened it before Clo, he found only blank paper—writing paper of the Santa Fe Limited train. Clo puzzled the mystery out, and explained what might have happened when you and I left the train in Chicago—what must have happened. A clever trick of Justin O'Reilly's, working for the Herons."

"Justin O'Reilly! Damn him!" Roger broke out; but Beverley covered his lips with her hand.

"No. He wasn't to blame. He must have thought me a monster of ingratitude and treachery to the Herons. The moment they saw the secret drawer open they would all have guessed that I'd stolen the sealed envelope. It was the only thing kept there. If John Heron told O'Reilly what the contents were, he must have supposed I meant to make money by blackmailing. The reason the Herons were silent and left me alone, was that O'Reilly had managed to have you robbed of the envelope, at Chicago, where it was changed for another—another just like it, given him by Dolores, with her seal and gold wax. So they were safe. O'Reilly kept the right envelope, and it was safer with him than at Albuquerque. But they could never be sure whether you were in the affair with me or not. So, I have lost you the Herons' friendship."

"As if I cared!"

"And Justin O'Reilly has doubted you, and detested me. But he has been splendid to Clo, who went to his hotel and stole the real envelope out of his private safe and brought it here——"

"So that was it!" said Roger. "And in your boudoir I found the envelope addressed to him at his bank, and sent it back to the Dietz that night."

"Roger! It was you?"

"Yes. You are not the only one with a confession to make. There are many things I——"

"I don't want a confession from you!" she broke in. "Whatever you did was right. Even before you told me, I felt you knew about the pearls being gone——"

"Though I knew, I ought to have trusted you. I ought to have trusted you when I heard you telephone O'Reilly——"

"So you did hear! I was sure of it. I telephoned about Clo. He was helping her, and so, indirectly, helping me, though I'd seen him only when he brought her here that Sunday night, after she'd been to his hotel. Oh, Roger, you don't know what that child has done for me! Not only did she get back the envelope, and now the pearls—which Peterson stole—but she has gone through an ordeal terrible enough to kill most women, or drive them mad—that delicate girl! She may be in danger still—for she dropped the pearls in a bag out of a window in a shabby boarding-house where she has been watching a thief. Miss Blackburne has just told me. My one comfort is that a man, answering Justin O'Reilly's description, got out of a motor car in front of the house, as Miss Blackburne came away. Clo tricked O'Reilly, and stole from him, and yet—I think she bewitched him. I think he'd risk his life to keep her from harm. I pray that he may bring her here, safe and sound."

"He's not likely to come to my house," Roger said. "I've just caused him the greatest disappointment of his life. I wanted to hurt him—and I found a way. By this time he must know what I've done. There's an old mansion in Gramercy Square built by O'Reilly's great-great-grandfather. Years ago there was a forced sale; and ever since Justin O'Reilly was a boy he has wanted to buy the house back. I have bought it. But I wish to heaven he would fall in love with this Clo of yours and marry her. I'd give them the deed of sale as a wedding present!"

Roger had sprung up, released by Beverley, and almost shouted the words of his inspiration. He had forgotten everything and everybody in the world except his wife, the girl who had helped her, and his own late enemy, whom he would now gladly welcome as his dearest friend. A knock brought him back to realities with a start; yet he felt half dazed as he opened the door, to face Leontine.

"The butler begged of me to come," said the Frenchwoman. "Is it the wish of Monsieur and Madame that dinner be still longer delayed?"

Roger turned and looked at Beverley, his hand on the door. "What shall we say?" he asked. "Shall I go down without you? Shall I explain that you've a headache——"

"No," Beverley answered. She stood up, tall and very beautiful, though deadly pale. "I have no headache. I am quite well. Leontine, tell Johnson dinner may be served."



XXXIX

ON THE ROAD TO NEWPORT

Through the blue dusk of the June night a big gray limousine car bowled smoothly over the velvet road surface, with the moon overhead, and the sea making distant music. Turning a corner with a swing the limousine came upon another car, stationary and in trouble. A man in evening dress was holding an electric lamp for the chauffeur to peer under the bonnet, and standing beside him was a woman in black, wearing a filmy purple cloak.

"Want any help?" O'Reilly called from the window, while his chauffeur slowed down.

"No, thank you! We'll soon be all right," answered the man with the lamp. The light shone on his face, which was strange to O'Reilly, and on that of the woman, which, to his surprise, was familiar. "You can go on," he said to his chauffeur, in a low voice.

"Why, Mr. O'Reilly, it was Mrs. Heron!" Clo cried, sinking back reluctantly upon her comfortably rigged-up bed, after a long stare through the window.

"'Mr. O'Reilly,' indeed? Don't you realize I'm your husband?" Justin laughed at her.

"I'd forgotten," said Clo. "It's only since this morning, and we've had so many things to think of."

"I've thought of nothing but you. You seem to have thought of nothing but your Angel—and these Herons."

"It's the Herons I'm thinking of now," Clo confessed. "Why did you tell the man to go on?"

"Why, I like old John Heron, but I'm not a spoil-sport."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm wondering if Mrs. Heron and that chap are on their way to the Sands' ball. If Heron doesn't mind letting them enjoy each other's company, why should I butt in?"

"Mr. Heron was in the car," Clo insisted gravely. "It was dark inside, but I saw his face at the window."

"You must have sharp eyes," said Justin. "The window looked black as a pocket to me."

"You think I imagined it. But I'm sure! Oh, Mr.—er—Justin, do let's go back and warn him! I have a presentiment that if we don't, it will be too late."

"Whatever you feel as if you must do shall be done," said Justin, with a tenderness in his voice of which few people would have believed him capable. "The doctor humoured you, and told me to, so here goes!" He called through the speaking-tube, and directed the chauffeur to turn. "Go back till you get within a few yards of that auto we passed hung up on the road," he added. And to Clo:

"Astonishing the interest you take in the Herons!" he teased.

"Not in them. In him. I don't think I like Mrs. Heron," she explained.

"You've worried about him ever since you came to yourself yesterday. But then, I'm used to John Heron's life being threatened. It used to happen about once a week. And he is alive to this day."

"I feel awfully responsible," said Clo. "You see, I heard Kit and Churn talking of the plot, and saying that Chuff was sure to have found someone else, after Pete died."

"I tried to get Heron three times on long distance yesterday," said O'Reilly, "and when he was always out, I wired."

"You couldn't explain clearly in the telegram."

"If you really saw him in the car, he's all right, up to date. There it is, still stranded. We shall soon know."

"Will you get out and talk to him seriously?" Clo urged.

"Yes. If it's he and not his ghost you saw. I'll get him to walk along the road with me, out of earshot from his wife."

The gray limousine slowed, and carefully stopped. The chauffeur had been told that, for his life, he must not let the car jolt or jerk.

Justin kissed his bride of a few hours good-bye for a few minutes, and jumped out.

While Clo kissed her hand, almost timidly, because Justin had kissed it, Justin himself walked on to the other car.

"You!" exclaimed Dolores Heron. "So it was you in the limousine that hailed us? Funny I didn't recognize your voice, but the chauffeur's tinkering made such a noise——"

O'Reilly was about to ask for Heron when Dolores introduced him to Mr. Hammersley-Fisher. "He's our host at Narragansett, and is taking us over to Roger Sands,'" she said. "Jack's in the car, very bored. I believe he's gone to sleep."

"No, he hasn't," Heron's voice answered rather testily, for he secretly disliked Dolores' habit of calling him "Jack." "He's only waiting for a chance to speak!"

O'Reilly went to the window of the car, and shook hands with his friends.

"It's not possible that you're going to the Sands'?" Heron said.

"I should have made the same remark about you a few days ago," retorted O'Reilly. "But—circumstances have altered cases with us both."

"My wife is the circumstance that has altered my case," Heron replied, in the tone of a man with a grievance.

"So is mine!" returned Justin, in a purposely subdued tone.

"Your—what?"

"My wife. But let's take a walk. Your friend's auto won't be ready to move for some time, I should judge."

The elder man, who had been feeling ill and tired, sprang out of the car with a sudden increase of liveliness. Dolores and Hammersley-Fisher stood with their backs to the two men. Heron's wife turned for a glance, but let them walk away without a question. She was flirting with her host.

Dolores was saying to Hammersley-Fisher: "I dislike Mrs. Roger Sands intensely. I wouldn't dream of going to her house if her husband hadn't at one time done quite a service—legally, I mean—to mine. I don't often talk like this about people I'm going to visit. But if I could tell you the things that woman has done you wouldn't blame me."

To O'Reilly Heron was repeating, as they walked along:

"Your wife, did you say?"

"I did say. But before I go on I've a question or so to ask. You got my wire, advising you to be careful, and hinting that some of the old lot had bobbed up along your life line?"

"Yes. We were out all the afternoon. I found the wire this evening when we got back to Hammersley-Fisher's place to dress for this show at Roger Sands'. Now will you tell me——"

"I'll tell you this, that my opinion of Mrs. Roger Sands has changed. You shall hear why presently. I rather think it will give you pleasure to change yours—when you can conscientiously. As for Sands himself, I've learned that we have both done him an injustice in regard to those papers."

"How have you learned all this?"

"From the same person who wished me to put you on your guard—made me call you up at Narragansett, and wire when I couldn't reach you by 'phone!"

"Who is this person?"

"My wife. And if you want to know who she is——"

"I most certainly do."

"I could introduce you to her in about two minutes if I weren't afraid of her giving you another shock."

"Another—shock?"

"As she did on the Sunday night at our hotel when you had your—little attack. Heron, I've married that girl; the most wonderful girl in the world."

Heron stopped short.

"That girl!—you—have—married that girl?"

"Yes," said Justin, "I married her this morning. So, if you'd been inclined to forbid the banns, you're too late."

For an instant Heron did not speak. But when words came, he seemed to fling them at his friend: "You're not joking when you say that, O'Reilly. You have a meaning. What's in your mind?"

"Perhaps—the same thing that's in yours, Heron."

"Speak out plainly."

"I'm not prepared to do that without encouragement. You and I are both of Irish blood, Heron, so you know as well as I do that imagination gets out of hand now and then with us Celtic folk. We generally flatter ourselves it's second sight, whereas it may be—just nothing at all."

"I give you leave to speak."

"Long ago, when I first knew you, while my father was still alive, and before you married Miss Moreno, you once came to stop with us. You were run down and ill. My father thought we could do you good. One day you spoke rather frankly about a certain incident in your past. Never since have we mentioned that conversation, and I never expected to do so again. Yesterday I heard the story of another incident which matched it about as perfectly as two bits of a broken coin can join together. This second incident concerned two Irish girls. The first died years ago. The second—is my wife."

"And the first was mine."

"I was wondering. You see, that collapse of yours on Sunday night wasn't like you, in the normal course of things. It had to be accounted for, and so——"

"The girl told you!"

"She told me that she'd met outside my door a tall man with red hair and beard, and extraordinary eyes that pierced her through and through. She told me that, after she'd walked on to a stone ledge from my window to yours, and climbed in there——"

"Great Heavens!"

"I mentioned that she was the most wonderful girl in the world. You'll hear the story some day. She didn't know who you were, then. When she learned your name, although she wasn't conscious of having heard it in the past, it affected her strangely. She seemed to associate it with wakeful nights in her early childhood, and the sound of a woman's sobs in the dark."

"Don't, Justin. I can't stand any more—now. The sight of her face that Sunday at the Dietz—the ghostliness of her, in my locked room—I thought I was haunted."

"Would you like to see her again, and judge for yourself whether——"

"Take me to her," Heron broke in.

They started on again toward the gray limousine drawn up at the roadside only a few yards away; but before they had gone a dozen steps Heron stopped O'Reilly once more.

"Does she know?" he asked abruptly.

"I have said nothing to her," Justin assured him. "She cannot know. Yet I think, what one would call her 'subconscious self' is aware of a tie between you and herself. She's Celtic, too! She hasn't been able to rest since she learned (in a way you shall hear about later) that your life was threatened. I'm certain that something above Fate has brought us three together on the road to-night. I didn't see you in the car. She saw you. She made me turn back."

Without another word Heron began to walk very fast. Justin kept at his side, but did not speak until they had nearly reached the car which contained Clo. Then he warned Heron hastily that the girl had had an accident. "That is," he corrected himself, dryly, "she was shot by the leader of the band that's after you. If you want to tell her here and now what you think you are to each other, I don't forbid it. Happy news seldom hurts. (By the by, she explained to me that she came over to America because she thought the States looked small on the map, and she might meet her American father!) Go gently with her, that's all I ask."

"You give me leave to talk to her—as I wish?"

"Yes. But—what about Mrs. Heron? Is she——"

"Oh, later, I must tell her. To-night I want it to rest between ourselves. But, O'Reilly, I can't go on with my wife and that fellow, Hammersley-Fisher, to the Sands'—after this! What am I to do? Think for me. I can think only—of one thing."

"When I've introduced you to my wife" (each time O'Reilly spoke those two words it was with tenderness and pride) "I'll go back to Hammersley-Fisher's car and suggest that he take Mrs. Heron on, while we follow later, if you like."

"For heaven's sake, do."

They had reached the gray limousine. Justin opened the door. "Clo, here is my old friend, John Heron, come to see you," he announced.

"Clo! Her name's not 'Clodagh,' is it?" the question leapt from Heron's lips.

"It was one of my mother's names, Mr. Heron."

"And your voice is her voice!" he exclaimed. "Your face is her face." He had not meant to begin in this way; but the moment was too big for him when Clo switched on an electric lamp, and the light framed her in silver. Justin silently moved away, leaving the two to make acquaintance as Fate led.

Next morning the newspapers all over the country were head-lined with a new sensation. Mrs. John Heron, of California, had arrived rather late, on account of an accident to the car of Mr. Hammersley-Fisher, who had been entertaining the Herons at Narragansett. Mr. Heron, owing to indisposition, had remained behind, and only the lady's host had accompanied her to the ball. At the moment of their entrance a dance, given by several famous Russian professionals, was nearly ended. An extra dancer had accompanied the party as an understudy of one of its members who feared a breakdown. Not being called upon to dance, he had taken up his station near the door, and must have known Mrs. John Heron by sight, though not her husband. When she came in, accompanied by Hammersley-Fisher, he shot the latter through the breast, calling out in English: "Take that, John Heron, for your sins against the Comrades!"

Unfortunately the Russian—or pretended Russian—was allowed to escape in the confusion, but the police had hopes of getting upon his track. Mr. Hammersley-Fisher was seriously, but not fatally, injured. All the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Sands, with the exception of four, had left, that the house might be kept quiet for the invalid.

The four who remained were Mr. and Mrs. John Heron, Justin O'Reilly, and Justin O'Reilly's wife.

THE END



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