But Harry was upon him. He hurled the Gypsy across the room. He charged at the others and one went down.
Through the door came four men.
"It's Harry. Help him!" cried Pauline.
Balthazar charged straight at the newcomers but he did not attempt to fight. He was out through the door and away to the river before they could intercept him. Within a few moments his companions lay bound on the hut floor.
"But how did you find out? How did you know we needed you?" asked Pauline afterward of young Richard Gorman, whose camping party had been the rescuers.
"That's the girl who told us," he said, pointing to a dejected little bull terrier that stood, quaking with excitement, a few feet away.
"Cyrus!" cried Pauline, running and clutching the little terrier in her arms.
"Yes, he brought us the dead bomb and we knew something was up."
THE GUEST OF HONOR
"Well, prove it," said Harry. "Show me that you mean it!"
"Why, Harry, what a woman says she, always means."
"Always means not to do."
"But, Harry, really I'm going to be good this time," pleaded Pauline.
They were emerging from the gate of the Marvin mansion to the avenue, and as Harry turned to Pauline with a skeptical reply on his lips, the approach of a young man of military bearing stopped him.
"By Jove, isn't that—who the deuce is it? Why, Benny Summers!"
The young man was hurrying by without recognition, when Harry called sharply: "Hello, Ben!"
"Harry—Harry Marvin! By the coin of Croesus, is it really you?"
"No," said Harry, grasping his hand, "not the 'you' you used to know. I've been driven into premature old age by caring for a militant sister. Polly, this is Ensign Summers of the navy. Please promise me that you won't get him into danger, because he used to be a friend of mine. He has never done anything more dangerous than run a submarine and shoot torpedoes out of it in a field of mines."
"A submarine? Torpedoes?" cried Pauline. "Isn't that beautiful."
"But, Benny, how are you? What have you been doing? I haven't seen you in a thousand years."
"I'm still at it. And I've got it, Harry. I give you my word, I have."
"The torpedo—I mean THE torpedo, in capital letters and italics with a line under the word. I've invented one that would blow—well— I've got it."
"Congratulations, felicitations, laudatory, remarks, and enthusiasm," cried Harry. "Without having slightest idea what a torpedo is, I rejoice with you. Come on back to the house, and tell us about it."
"I'm sorry, I can't, Harry, now. I'm engaged for a conference with the Naval Board, and I'm late already. But will you and Miss Marvin come to luncheon with me tomorrow?"
"Why not you with us, we saw you first?"
Summers laughed. "Well, for this reason, I want you to meet Mlle. de Longeon, who will preside at this particular luncheon, and who is—"
The flush that came suddenly to the cheeks of the young officer brought involuntary laughter from Harry and Pauline.
"I take that as an acceptance—the Kerrimore, East Fifty-sixth street," he called, sharing in their laughter as he fled.
But at the gate of the Marvin house he came upon Raymond Owen. There was a hasty clasp of hands and "You're to come, too," cried Summers, continuing his flight.
"Where am I to come?" asked Owen, as he approached Harry and Pauline.
"To luncheon with Ensign Summers tomorrow. Isn't he dear? I love men who blush. They seem so innocent."
"The Fates defend us!" implored Harry.
* * * * *
Ensign Summers had gained a position beyond his rank in the navy. A natural bent toward science and a patriotic bent toward the use of science as a means of national defense had inspired him to experiments which had resulted in success amazing even to himself. He had been allowed—during the year preceding the meeting with Harry and Pauline —a leave of absence. In that time he had visited Italy, France, England and Germany, and had studied under naval experts. He had come back home with his own little idea undiminished in its importance to his own mind, and he had proceeded with youthful enthusiasm and effrontery to prove its importance to the highest of his commanders.
The tests now about to be made—tests of a new torpedo gun and new torpedo—had been ordered by the mightiest in the land. Triumphant in his discovery and wealthy in his own right, Summers was the happiest of men. It was in Paris that he had met Mlle. del Longeon. Exquisitely beautiful, of the alluring and languorous type, quick of wit, tactful, and with great charm of manner, she had completely fascinated the young officer. He had vowed his adoration of her almost before he knew her. His avowals had been repulsed with just that margin of insincerity that would double his ardor.
It had required many letters to induce Mlle. de Longeon to leave her beloved Paris and visit friends in America. Summers knew she was not a Frenchwoman, but he was totally in the dark as to what was her nationality. Summers didn't care. He was madly mad in love with her, and there was no other thing to consider.
It was for this reason that Mlle. de Longeon was the guest of honor at the little luncheon in his rooms, to which he had invited Harry and Pauline. The affair was quite informal. There were a number of navy men present, a few young married people. The atmosphere of the gathering was "sublimely innocuous," as Mlle. de Longeon remarked to Summers in the hall after the guests had departed.
But Mlle. de Longeon had met one guest who did not impress her as innocuous—or sublime—Raymond Owen. Pauline had presented the secretary on his arrival, and Owen had immediately devoted himself to her. Not long after luncheon was served the voice of Mlle. de Longeon rose suddenly above the general talk.
"But, Mr. Summers, you have not told us yet of your new invention. When shall the plans be ready? When shall you rise to the realization of your true success?"
Summers beamed his happiness in the face of the brazen compliment, like the good and silly boy he was.
"I'm supposed to keep this secret," he answered, "but I can trust every one here, I know. The plans are going to be sent out day after tomorrow."
"You mean you will have them completed—all those intricate plans?" queried Mlle. de Longeon in a tone of breathless admiration.
"I'll work all tonight and most of tomorrow; but, of course, it's only a case of putting into words ideas that have already been put into solid metal. My gun and torpedo are ready for work. It isn't so very difficult, and it's—well, it's a lot of fun."
"And great honor," paid the woman he loved.
For a moment their eyes met, but only for a moment. The next, Catin, the valet, who was taking charge of the luncheon, under pretense of anticipating a waiter moved quickly to fill her wine glass. Even the subtle eye of Owen was not sharp enough to see Mlle. de Longeon pass him a crushed slip of paper, and she had been too long trained to concealment of even the simplest emotions to betray uneasiness now.
Nevertheless, there was the possibility of surprising Mlle. de Longeon, and that possibility was realized as she glanced at Raymond Owen. His set, tense face reflected for the moment all his hatred of Harry and Pauline, who were talking blithely with Ensign Summers, another naval officer and two of the wives of the civilian visitors. She turned to him with a suddenness that would have seemed abrupt in the manner of one less beautiful.
"Mr. Owen, do come to see me," she said. "I am sure—at least I think I am sure—that we have many matters of mutual interest."
In her softly modulated tones, the invitation had no significance beyond the literal meaning of the words.
"It will be an honor," he answered.
"Tomorrow evening, then?"
"Delighted. And, later, the Naval Ball?"
"No, I'm afraid the Ensign will not permit any one else to take me to the ball; but we shall meet there, afterward."
In a New York street, among the lower there was at that time a foreign agency that was not a consulate, but was visited by diplomats of the highest rank in a certain nation, the name of which, or the mystery of whose suspicions, need not be touched upon.
There was no regular staff at the agency. The rooms were maintained under the name of a certain foreign gentleman—or, rather, under the name that he chose to assume. There were two servants, but they saw little of the master of the house. He was seldom at home, but when he was, he had many visitors.
An hour after the luncheon in the rooms of Ensign Summers, the master of the mysterious dwelling was at home. And he had four guests. It would have, greatly surprised Ensign Summers had he known that one of the diplomat's guests was his own man servant, Catin.
"It is the worst duty I have ever had to perform," the diplomat said solemnly. "It means, almost certainly, your death. But it is death for your country. It is the command of your country. The submarine must be destroyed and the plans—we shall get the plans through another agent."
"I am not afraid to die," said Catin.
"Then here is the model of a submarine—not of the one you will enter, of course, but it will give you an idea. I have marked the place where you will secrete the explosive until the proper moment. I have also indicated the position for you to take in order to have some faint chance of reaching the surface and being saved."
One of the other men stepped forward and handed Catin a small square box. "This is the explosive. You know how to handle it."
With a military salute, Catin turned and left the place. Within half an hour he was carefully brushing Ensign Summers' clothes, as Summers came in.
"Would it be too much to ask, sir," inquired the perfect valet, "that I might accompany you in the submarine? I am afraid you will be very uncomfortable without me."
Summers laughed good-naturedly.
"It's impossible, Catin. This boat is a government secret in itself, and my new torpedo makes it a double secret. No one but a picked crew will be allowed on it, except—"
"Well, I admit I could command it. But it would be very unwise, Catin, and, I assure you, I shall get along all right."
Mlle. de Longeon's apartment was characteristic of the lady herself. The artist would have found it a little too luxurious for good taste— a little over-toned in the richness of draperies, the heavy scent of flowers, the subtleties of half-screened divans—there was something more than feminine—something feline. To Raymond Owen, however, it was ideal. The dimmed ruby lights, the suggestive shadows of the tapestries, were in tune with the surreptitious mind of the secretary. But there remained for him a picture that he admired more—Mlle. de Longeon coming through the portieres with a cry of pleasure.
"I am so glad you came—and so sorry I must send you away quickly," exclaimed Mlle. de Longeon. "The little ensign has telephoned that he is coming early to take me for a drive before the ball."
"I can come again—if I may have the honor," said Owen, rising quickly.
"Oh, there is time for a word," she said, smiling.
"There was something you wished to say to me, was there not? Something you did not care to say at the luncheon yesterday?"
"Yes. Why do you hate Miss Marvin?"
Owen was silent for a moment. "Why do you hate the little ensign, as you call another?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that we can be of service to one another, in all likelihood, and that, therefore, we should be frank friends. You wish to have Pauline Marvin out of the way, do you not?"
"How did you find that out?"
"People engaged in similar business find out many things. Now I—"
"Wish to be rid of Ensign Summers."
"You are an international agent?"
"Yes. And I offer you my aid and the aid of the powerful men I control in return for your aid to me and them. Is it a bargain?"
They were seated on one of the curtained divans, a low-turned light above them. She leaned forward. Her long, delicate hand touched his. A splendid jewel at her throat heightened the magic of her beauty.
"Because it is my business to hate him—and make love to him at the same time. Come, Mr. Owen, let us be frank."
For the first time in his life Owen felt himself mastered by the sheer fascination of a woman. "What am I to do?" he said breathlessly.
"I will tell you tonight at the ball. Now you must run away."
He arose instantly, but as she stood beside him, he turned, caught her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
She protested with a little cry and a struggle not too violent to damage her coiffure. He drew back from her. There was something of astonishment in his eyes—astonishment at himself.
"You are the only woman in the world who ever made me do that," he gasped.
"Go, go," she pleaded.
"But you are angry? You break our agreement?"
"No, but I am overcome. I shall meet you tonight."
He caught her hand to his lips, and hurried from the house.
It was more than an hour after he observed her arrival at the Naval Ball before Owen had the privilege of a greeting from Mlle. de Longeon, and then it was only a smile as she passed him on the arm of a distinguished looking foreign diplomat.
Owen saw that she spoke a quiet word to her escort, who turned and looked at Owen. She beamed brightly at Owen, who smiled back at her, and moved slowly toward the door of the conservatory into which she and the diplomat had disappeared. He was surprised, a moment later, to see Pauline rush by him, with a little laugh.
"Is anything the matter?" Owen called.
"Nothing you can help. Stay right where you are," she cried.
Owen laughed his understanding and moved over to where Harry and Lucille were talking with Ensign Summers.
Meanwhile, Pauline, in the darkest recess of the conservatory was pinning together a broken garter. As she started back to the ballroom she was surprised to hear voices near her.
There was something about their foreign accent that roused the ever-venturous, ever-curious interest of Pauline. She crept along a row of palms and peered through an aperture. Mlle. de Longeon and the diplomat were talking together as they paced the aisle of palms on the other side. Pauline crept nearer.
Presently the voice of the diplomat became distinguishable.
"It is all arranged. The thing is to be done in Submarine B-2 tomorrow. All you have now to do is—"
Pauline could not catch the final words.
The two moved back to the ballroom. She followed close behind, a little suspicious, but with the thrill of a new plan gripping her.
She saw Ensign Summers step forward early to greet Mile. de Longeon. Another dance was beginning.
"This one is Mr. Owen's," said Mile. de Longeon, as she moved away on the arm of the secretary.
"Have you anything to tell me?" he asked.
"Yes. Induce her to make Summers take her down in his submarine tomorrow, and she will never trouble you again."
As the dance ended, Pauline and Harry, Summers and Lucille, joined them.
"Mr. Summers, I have a great request to make," declared Pauline.
"I grant it before you breathe a word," he answered.
"I want you to take me along on your submarine trip tomorrow."
"Polly, have you gone crazy all over again?" cried Harry.
"I don't believe it would be—" began Summers.
"It must be," she commanded.
"Well, I promised too soon, but I'll keep my word."
Owen and Mile. de Longeon had stepped aside.
"What does it mean?" gasped the secretary. "She is doing the very thing we want her to do."
"Sometimes Fate aids the worthy," said Mile. de Longeon softly.
At the dock of the navy yard a submarine lay ready for departure.
There was nothing about its appearance to indicate that its mission was of more than ordinary importance. But it was an unusual thing to see a woman aboard, and the curiosity of the crew was matched by that of the young officers who had come down to see Summers off on his voyage of many chances.
The officers got little reward for their considerate interest. Ensign Summers was engaged. He was explaining to Pauline, as they stood on the deck of the war-craft, the entire history of submarines from the time of Caesar, or Washington, or somebody to the present day, and Pauline was listening with that childlike simplicity which women use for the purpose of making men look foolish.
"By Jove! I thought he was tied, heart and hope, to the lovely foreigner," exclaimed one of the shoreward observers.
"So he is," said another. "But Mlle. de Longeon isn't interested in his daily toil. Do you know who the young lady up there is?"
"No. She must have got a dispensation from the secretary himself to go on this trip."
"So she did—easy as snapping your thumb. She's Miss Pauline Marvin, daughter of the richest man that has died in twenty years."
The boat gong sounded the signal of departure.
Summers, with a hasty apology, left Pauline and stepped forward. The engines began to rumble. The deadly and delicate craft—masterpiece of modern naval achievement—drew slowly from the pier.
There was a shout.
Summers, delivering rapid orders on deck, turned with an expression of annoyance to see his faithful man servant, Catin, out of breath and excited, rushing toward the boat.
Summers ordered the vessel stopped. It had moved not more than stepping distance from the pier and in a moment Catin was beside his master on the deck.
"She told me it must—" he paused, gasping for breath.
"Who told you what?" demanded Summers.
"Mlle. de Longeon. I am sure it is a message of importance. She told me I must give it to you before you risked your life on the voyage."
"Mlle. de Longeon!" He caught the letter from Catin's hand.
"My Hero—I cannot keep the secret any longer, cannot wait to tell you that it is you I love. Estelle de Longeon."
Summers walked slowly, dizzily up the deck was in an ecstasy. He was oblivious to all the world—even to Pauline, who stood questioning an officer at the rail. The fact that his servant, Catin, slipped silently down the hatchway to the main compartment, and thence on to the pump room at the vessel's bottom, would hardly have interested him —-even if he had known it.
"Shall we put off, sir?"
The second officer saluted.
The Ensign came to himself instantly. "Yes, of course. I put back only for an important message," he said. "My man got off, did he?"
"I think so."
"All right. Go ahead."
Catin, with that rare fortune which sometimes favors the wicked, had chosen precisely the right moment for his ruse. The crew of the submarine were all on deck save those in the engine room, and his quick passage to the vitals of the vessel was unseen.
Once in the pump room, he hastily drew from under his coat the bomb placed in his hands at the conference of diplomats, wound its clock-work spring and laid it beside the pumps.
There was a strange look on the man's face as he did this—a look at once proud and pitiful. Catin had not sense of treachery or shame. The deed in itself did not lack the dignity of courage, for, with the others, he was planned his own death. And while the others were to die suddenly, ignorant of their peril, Catin was to die in deliberate knowledge of it.
On deck Pauline was eagerly questioning an under officer about the torpedoes, when Summers came up.
"You'll have to come down and see for yourself," he said, overhearing her.
"First I'll show you the pump room—the most important part of us," he was saying as Catin, in the boat's bottom, first caught the sound of nearing voices.
Catin leaped up the steps from the pump room. He was in the nick of time. A large locker in the main compartment gave him refuge just as Pauline and Summers reached the room.
"The pumps are our life-savers," said Summers, as he directed Pauline down the second ladder. "If they go wrong when we're under water we can't come up."
"And what do you do then?" asked Pauline innocently.
"Oh, just-stay down."
Catin waited breathless in his hiding place until they returned. "By heaven, they didn't find it!" he breathed eagerly.
Pauline and Ensign Summers stood at the rail watching the foamy rush of a fast motor boat, when a hail sounded across the water.
A man was standing up in the motor boat and calling through a megaphone.
Summers raised his glasses. "Do you know who that is?" he asked laughingly.
"Of course not. What does he want?"
"It's Harry, and I suspect he wants to take you away from us."
Pauline uttered an exclamation of annoyance.
"Isn't he silly!" she cried, "One would think I was, a baby, the way he watches me."
Soon the voice of Harry could be plainly distinguished.
"Clear your ship; I am going to sink you," he called.
"Cargo too precious this trip; don't do it," answered Summers.
"Let me take the megaphone," demanded Pauline.
"What do you mean by following us?" she cried.
"I don't trust that sardine can, and I want a regular boat on hand when you are wrecked."
"I am very angry with you. It looks as if—"
Her words were drowned in Summers' laughter.
"Never mind. I know a way we can escape from him," he said.
"Why, sink the boat."
"That will be splendid."
He stepped aside and gave a terse order. Delightedly, Pauline watched the brief, machine-like movements of the crew trimming the deck. Summers escorted her back to the conning tower. They descended. Within a few moments the wonderful craft was buried under the waves.
"There he is—looking for us," laughed Summers, as he made room for Pauline at the periscope.
Amazed, fascinated, she gazed from what seemed the bottom of the sea out upon the rolling surface of the waves. Harry's motorboat was near and he was standing in the bow, scanning the water with binoculars.
"And he can't see us?" asked Pauline.
"Oh, yes, he'll pick up out periscope after a while. Shall we fire the torpedo at him?"
"Yes, please," said Pauline.
Summers' laugh was cut short. As if someone had taken his jest in earnest and really fired a projectile, the crash of an explosion came from the bottom of the boat.
"Stay here—" ordered Summers with a set face as he joined the rush of seamen into the pump room.
But Pauline followed.
An officer, with blanched face but steady voice, came up to Summers.
"What was it, Grimes?"
"It seems to have been a bomb, sir. There was no powder down there."
The face of the Ensign darkened with suspicion and alarm.
"A bomb? So they were going after us—the enemy! We'd better get right up and back to port, Grimes."
"I have to report, sir—the pumps are disabled."
Summers turned with a look of pity toward Pauline, who stood at his elbow.
"And we can't get up again?" she questioned.
"There is one chance, but—" He stopped openly and listened. "Open that locker," he commanded.
A seaman pulled back the door of the locker and disclosed the cringing form and defiant face of Catin.
The man stepped forward with a smile of triumph.
"You set off the bomb? You wanted to kill me?"
"I did my duty. I obeyed my orders as you obey your orders. I had no enmity for you. I am, in fact, sorry that you were fool enough not to see that I was a little more than a valet."
"You are a spy, Catin?"
"Yes, sir. And I have done my work, and I am willing to die with the rest of you."
Pauline drew back, shuddering. She touched Summers' arm.
"Oh, Mr. Summers, I believe—"
"What is it?"
"I believe I know of the plot. I was in the conservatory at the naval ball. A man and a woman—"
"Mlle. de Longeon and her diplomatic friend—you remember."
"They talked together in whispers. The man said 'The thing will be done on Submarine B-2 tomorrow.'"
A look of agony that the fear of death could not have caused came into the face of the young Ensign.
"Mlle. de Longeon? No!"
"Yes! Mlle. de Longeon," sneered Catin stepping nearer. "Mlle. de Longeon is the principal proof of my statement that you are a fool. Mlle. de Longeon recommended me to you as a capable valet, did she not? Mlle. de Longeon frequently was your guest. Now Mlle. de Longeon has the plans of your submarine and your torpedo—plans which I took the liberty of removing from the little cupboard over the desk in your workroom."
Summers sprang forward but he recovered himself.
"I should have told you," wailed Pauline.
"How should you have known?" said Summers. In a moment he had lost his life work and his love. Suddenly he straightened himself. The soldier in him mastered the man.
"There is still a chance—one little chance," he said.
"To get out?" cried Pauline.
"Yes—through the torpedo tube."
"I am going to make you do it," he said, "because it is the only chance. The men will follow you. Harry's boat will be near."
"I do not matter any more. Come."
A gunner opened the great tube as Summers led Pauline into the torpedo room. Obediently she entered the strange passageway of peril and of hope.
"Goodbye," he said, "and good luck."
"Goodbye," she answered. "You are a brave man. You are as brave— you are as fine—as Harry."
From the end of the torpedo tube a woman's form shot to the surface of the water. Choking, dazed, but courageous, Pauline tried to turn on her back and gain breath. But they were well out to seat and the waves were crushing.
"What is that?" asked Harry, pointing and passing his glasses to the boatman.
The man looked and without a word swung the craft about and put the engine at top speed. And in a few moments Harry's strong arms drew her from the water.
"My darling, what has happened?" he gasped.
"Don't think of me—think of them!" she begged, weakly. "They were trapped—down there. There was a bomb—a plot—the machinery is ruined. Harry, help them!"
The boatman who overheard Pauline's first cry of appeal, now came forward respectfully. "There's a revenue cutter—the Iroquois— coming out," he said, significantly.
Harry looked. "Splendid!" he cried. "Can we signal her?"
"No, but we can catch her?"
Shouts from a speeding motorboat brought the Government vessel to a stop. Officers came to the rail and helped Harry and Pauline to the deck.
"Ensign Summers and his crew are sunk in their submarine. The pumps are gone. There was a bomb explosion. Can you get help?"
"Where are they?"
"You can pick up their buoy with a glass—there."
The chief officer looked through his glass. "Yes," he said. "You'll come abroad, or keep your own boat?"
"We've got another piece of work to do—if we can leave our friends to your guarding," said Harry.
"Well have the wrecking tugs and divers in twenty minutes."
Harry and Pauline climbed back to the motorboat and sped up the bay.
"What did you mean another piece of work?" asked Pauline as she clung to his arm.
"My car is at the Navy Yard pier," was his only answer.
She still clung to him in tremulous uncertainty as the motor sped them up through Broadway, into Fifth avenue, and on to the door of Mlle. de Longeon's hotel.
She and the diplomatic grandee who had held the confidential conference with her in the conservatory at the naval ball were together in her suite.
"And you have the plans actually in your possession?" he said.
"Yes. It has been a tedious process. It was easy to make him fall in love, but he is so fearfully scrupulous about his work. It took even his valet three months to locate the secret hiding place of the papers."
"A little more caution mingled with his scruples and he would not now be dead at the bottom of the bay."
"Oh, this is the day, is it?" asked Mlle. de Longeon, wearily. "After all, it is rather cruel to Catin."
"To die for his country?"
"Nonsense! He dies because he knows he would be killed in a crueler way if he refused to obey you."
The diplomat smiled. "Will you give me the plans?"
"Yes—why, Marie, what is it?"
A maid had entered with cards. "I am not at home today."
Mlle. de Longeon moved to her writing desk, removed from it a packet of papers, and, with a little courtesy gave it into the eager hands of the diplomat.
"It has been a splendid achievement, Mademoiselle," he said, enthusiastically. "I shall see that—what? Who is this?" he exclaimed, as Harry and Pauline burst into the room.
"Marie, Marie, I told you that I was at home to no one!" screamed Mlle. de Longeon.
"How dare you intrude in these apartments?" demanded the diplomat.
"I dare, because I want those papers," declared Harry.
The packet was still in the diplomat's hands. He tried to thrust it into his pocket, but Harry was upon him. They clinched, broke from each other's grasp and struggled furiously.
As the last resource the diplomat drew the packet from his breast and flung it across the room toward Mlle. de Longeon. She pounced upon it. But Pauline was beside her. Stronger both in body and in spirit than the adventuress, she grasped her wrists, and in the luxurious, soft-curtained room there raged two battles.
But the struggles did not last long. Harry hurled his antagonist, an exhausted wreck, to the floor, and sprang to the side of Pauline. Throwing off Mlle. de Longeon's grasp, he picked up the packet from the floor, and with Pauline ran from the room.
A revenue cutter was landing a group of faint and silent men, at the pier of the Navy Yard when an automobile flashed in.
"Hurrah! They did it! You're safe!" cried Pauline, rushing past Harry to greet Ensign Summers.
The officer took her extended hands gratefully, but there was no light in his eyes as he answered.
"Safe—and dishonored," he said. "I am only glad for my men."
"Why dishonored?" asked Harry.
"Don't you understand?"
"The man," said Pauline, curiously, "the man who placed the bomb? Where is he?"
"Dead," said Summers. "He broke the tube after you were released and then attacked me with a knife. I had to kill him."
"Good for you!" broke in Harry. "But what's all the gloom talk for? This stuff about dishonor? You've proved yourself a hero, man."
"I have lost the most important documents of the Navy Department— through a silly entanglement with a woman."
"No, you haven't. We went and got them for you," said Harry, presenting the packet of plans.
A PAPER CHASE
In Balthazar's band, which had failed so often do away with Pauline Marvin, there was, nevertheless, one man who had attracted the particular interest Raymond Owen—Louis Wrentz. Physically and mentally brutal, he had always been one to oppose Balthazar's delays.
Six months before Owen would have shuddered at the thought of employing this ruffian. Then his great aim was to be rid of Pauline by the most indirect and secret means.
But Pauline's hair-breadth escape a few weeks before from Mlle de. Longeon's cleverly planned plot, the almost incredible rescue of the submarine and recovery of Ensign Summers' torpedo boat plans, as well as the fact that the year of adventure was rapidly drawing to a close and that Harry's growing hostility and the increasing danger of exposure at the hands of some one of his aides, made the secretary willing to take every chance, made it imperative that he should have a lieutenant who could be trusted to strike boldly. Owen sent for Wrentz.
The man appeared in the guise of a servant seeking employment, and was brought up to Owen's private sitting-room.
"Wrentz, I want you to take charge of my work hereafter," said the secretary.
"You mean the work of—"
Owen raised his hand in caution. "The work of conducting a certain person to a far country."
"But Balthazar?" questioned Wrentz.
"I am through with Balthazar. He's done nothing but procrastinate. All his plans have failed because it was to his profit that they should fail."
"I'll do the work quickly. What's your present plan?"
"A very simple one, but one that must be very shrewdly handled. It will mean that you and some of your friends will have to make a trip to Philadelphia. Where shall I be able to call you within a day or two?"
"At Stroob's lodging house, in Avenue B."
"Very well. Be prepared to act on short notice."
"I'll stick close to the place, sir."
"And, Wrentz, understand that you are also to act firmly. No Balthazar, tactics. I'm through being tricked."
"I'm sure I never failed you, sir," said Wrentz, with an aggrieved air.
Owen smiled. "True, but temptation occasionally leads even the most honest of men astray," he said, sarcastically.
While this last plot was being hatched Pauline and Harry were playing chess in the library. As she checkmated him for the third time he arose in mock disgust.
"They say chess is a perfect mental test. I wonder who is the brains of this family now?" she taunted.
"There's a difference between brains and hare-brains. You know, I lost because I had that Chicago thing on my mind."
"Oh, isn't that settled yet?"
"No; I'm expecting to be called up any minute with a message that will send me out there."
"Oh, Harry! That's terrible! When you go to Chicago you never get back for a whole week."
"If you like me so much, why don't you marry me and go with me on all my trips?"
"Conceited!" she began, but her face fell again as the telephone bell sounded. Harry answered it, and after a few rapid questions turned to Pauline.
"That's what it is," he said; "I go tomorrow. I must see Owen," and rang the bell.
"Owen," Pauline exclaimed upon his entrance, "Harry must go to Chicago tomorrow. Isn't it dreadful?"
"I am very sorry. But I hope it will not be for long."
"No," said Harry, curtly. "Look over these papers."
An hour later Owen drew from his typewriter this letter:
Miss Pauline Marvin,
Carson & Brown, Publishers, 9 Weston Place, Philadelphia.
After reading your marine story, published in the Cosmopolitan Magazine, we have decided you are just the person to write a new serial we have in mind.
Would you be interested to call on us at your earliest opportunity?
Yours very truly, J. R. Carson."
Owen sealed, addressed and, stamped the letter and enclosed it in a larger envelope, which he addressed to a friend in Philadelphia, with instructions to post the enclosure in that city.
He did not trust the mailing of the double letter to a servant, but, putting on his motor togs, prepared to ride to Westbury.
"Well, he's got a reprieve; he's going to stay with us one more day," Pauline cried, happily, as she met Owen in the hall.
For the flash of an instant something twinged at the cold heart of the secretary. The bright beauty of Pauline, her happiness, her love for her foster brother, struck home the first realization of something missing—and never to be achieved—in his grim existence. Perhaps for the moment Raymond Owen had a dim understanding of the value of innocence.
The next afternoon Pauline stood on the veranda bidding Harry goodbye.
"I hate to go, Polly, but I must," he said. "I hate to leave you with that—secretary."
"Harry, please don't start again on that. You know I don't agree with you, and—and I don't want to quarrel with you when you're going away."
"Very well," he said, embracing her, "but don't get into any of your scrapes while I am away. Remember, it's a long way to Chicago."
"And Tipperary," she laughed. "Goodbye, darling boy, and run home the minute you can."
"I will. Goodbye."
Pauline had turned dejectedly back toward the house when the sound of steps on the walk drew her attention. It was the postman.
"I'll take them," she said, extending her hand.
She ran over the envelopes swiftly until she came to one which bore the corner mark of a publishing concern in Philadelphia. She had never heard of the firm of Carson & Brown, but, to her enthusiasm of young authorship, the very name "publisher" was magical. She opened the letter hastily and read.
For a moment she stood spellbound with happiness. The realization of her dreams was at hand. Publishers were calling for her work instead of sending it back when she sent it to them.
With a glad cry, and waving the treasured letter, she rushed out into the garden to Owen.
"It's happened!" she sang, gaily. "I am discovered."
"You are what, Miss Pauline?"
"Don't you understand? Can't you see?"
"Not exactly, while you slant that letter above your head like a reprieve for a doomed man."
"Well, read it." She leaned breathlessly over his shoulder as he read the familiar lines.
"Miss Pauline, it is splendid!" he exclaimed. "I was always sure you would be successful with your writing."
"Yes, you encouraged me to get new experiences, while Harry always opposed me," she said. "But, oh, I wish Harry was here to see this."
"Shall you go to Philadelphia?" inquired Owen
"Indeed—shall and instantly."
"Is it so urgent as that."
"Of course. They might change their minds any moment and get some one else to write the story. Will you see what train I can take this evening, Owen, while I run and pack a few things?"
"With pleasure—but don't you think some one ought to accompany you?"
"To Philadelphia? Nonsense. It's just like crossing the street. Please, Owen, don't you begin to worry about every little thing I do."
"Very well," he laughed. As soon as she was gone he selected a time table, and scanned the train list. Then he took up the telephone and called a number.
"This is Owen. It worked. Be at the Pennsylvania station with your men tonight. And, Wrentz, if the plan I gave you fails, I leave it to you to invent a new one. You understand? What? No. I don't want any return this time."
Before Owen had helped Pauline into her car and bidden her goodbye, Wrentz and his men were on watch in the railroad station.
"Goodbye and good luck."
Pauline was standing in the aisle, the porter stowing her baggage into her drawing room, when the men entered the car. She noted them with curiosity. There was nothing very sinister about them, but they seemed obviously out of place, but the next moment she had forgotten about them, and for the twentieth time, was reading her own story in the Cosmopolitan. For now, in the light of the magic it had wrought, she was bent on studying every word—to absorb the power of her own genius, so to speak—in order that "her publishers" should not be disappointed in the forthcoming novel.
When Pauline got off the train at Philadelphia she did not notice that one of the four men who had aroused her curiosity walked behind her as she left, or that he was joined by the three others in the taxicab which followed hers.
When she left the cab at one of the fashionable hotels, Wrentz alone followed her.
He was at Pauline's elbow when she registered. As she followed the bell boy through the lobby, he stepped to the desk, and, noting the number of Pauline's room—NO. 22—he signed his name under hers with a flourish.
"By the way," he said easily to the clerk, "is that pet room of' mine vacant—the one I had last year?"
The clerk smiled. "I'll see," he said. "I had forgotten it was your pet room. I can't remember everybody."
"Oh, I was just here for a few days," said Wrentz.
"I remember you."
"Yes, sir; 24 is yours," said the clerk. "Front."
Wrentz stood at the cigar counter to make a purchase. He did not wish to follow Pauline so closely that she might know he had taken the room next to hers.
In spite of her excitement, Pauline slept soundly that night. The next morning she had breakfast in her own room and at ten o'clock was ready to go to "Carson & Brown's." She was considerably provoked by the ignorance of the hotel clerk, who not only did not know the publishing house of Carson & Brown, but could not even direct her to Weston place. He called the head porter and taxicab manager. The latter had an idea.
"I don't think it's Weston Place, but there's a Weston Street down in —well, it's not a very good section of the city, Miss. I wouldn't want to—"
"Never mind. In New York some of our best publishing houses are perfect barns. You may call a taxicab."
"Publishing house in Weston Street-whew! But she doesn't look crazy," he instructed one of his chauffeurs. "I don't know what the game is, but it's a good job."
Pauline's spirits revived as the cab whisked her through the big business streets, newly a-bustle with their morning life. She had a sense of pity for the workers hastening to their uninspiring toil. How few of them had ever received even a letter from a publisher! How few had known the thrill of successful authorship!
A few moments after Pauline's departure Louis Wrentz and his companions set to work.
Two of the men left the room and sauntered to opposite ends of the hall where they lingered on watch. Wrentz and the other man stepped out briskly and each with a screwdriver in his hand began unfastening the number-plates over the doors of rooms 22 and 24.
A low cough sounded down the corridor and they quickly desisted from their task and retired to their room while a maid passed by.
In a moment they were out again. Wrentz passed the number plate of 24 to his assistant, who handed back the plate Of 22. The numbers were refastened on the wrong doors. The watchers were called back.
"Now," said Wrentz, "it is only a matter of waiting."
Pauline's cab passed out of the central city into the region of factories.
"This looks like the section where the print shops are in New York," she said confidently to herself.
But the driver kept on into streets of dingy, ancient houses—streets crowded with unkempt children and lined with push-carts.
"Are you sure you got the right address of them publishers, Miss?" he asked after awhile. "The next street is Weston and it don't look very promisin'."
She drew the letter from her handbag and showed it to him.
"Well, that's the queerest thing I know," he said, astonished by the letterhead. "I've been drivin' cabs—horse and taxi—for twenty years, and I never heard of no such people or no such place."
"Well, at least go around the corner and see. Perhaps it is a new firm that isn't listed as yet," said Pauline.
The driver swung the cab into a street even more bleak and bedraggled than the one they had just traversed. He stopped and got out. Pauline followed him. A blear-eyed man, slouching on a stoop, looked up in faint curiosity as she addressed him.
"There ain't no No. 9 Weston Street," he answered.
"It usta be over there, but it's burnt down."
Pauline's face fell. "Well, this is certainly stupid," she exclaimed. "Of course it isn't Weston Street; it's Weston Place, as the letter says."
"But my 'City Guide' ain't got no such place in it, miss," answered the chauffeur.
"Well, I'll go back to, the hotel," she said dejectedly.
She was on the verge of tears as she left the elevator and started for her room. She had looked through all the directories and street guides and knew at last that she had been the victim of a cruel hoax. All her joy and pride of yesterday had turned to humiliation and grief. She wanted to be alone—and have a good cry.
She was puzzled for a moment as she drew her key from her handbag and glanced at the numbers on the doors. She had been almost sure that No. 22 was the left-hand door, but she had been in such excitement that she could not trust any of her impressions. She started to place the key in the lock of the right-hand door.
Like a flash it opened inward and two pairs of hands gripped her. Her cry was stifled by a hand over her mouth. She was dragged into the room.
THE MUMMY'S LAST WARNING
Pauline had barely time to recognize in her new captors the four strange men who had attracted her attention on the train, before a bandage was drawn over her eyes, another over her mouth, and cruel, heavy hands began to bind her limbs.
As she listened to the rough voices of the men, the mystery of the "Carson & Brown" letter was entirely cleared away.
"That was easy," commented Wrentz.
"Easier than the rest of the work will be," said one.
"Shall we leave her on the floor, boss?" asked another.
"Yes, of course."
"Then I'll put a pillow under her head."
"Pillow? Why a pillow? Since when did you become tender-hearted, Rocco?"
Rocco scowled, but he made no reply.
"You don't need any pillows or Pullman cars on the way to heaven," said Wrentz with a snarling laugh.
The laugh was checked abruptly by a rap on the door. For an instant the ruffians looked at each other in alarm. There was no telling whether to open that door would be to face the drawn revolvers of detectives or only the expectant eyes of a bellboy.
There was nothing to do but to answer, however. Wrentz moved to the door.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Your trunk, sir."
"You are the porter?"
"Well, you can leave the trunk at the door. I am too busy to be interrupted just now. But here—"
Wrentz opened the door an inch and passed a dollar bill to the porter. "I am going to need you again in a few hours," he said.
"Yes, sir; thank you, sir."
"Move the girl over behind the bed—out of range there," commanded Wrentz. Two men seized Pauline and dragged her across the room where she could not be seen through the door, which Wrentz now opened wide.
In the corridor outside stood a large trunk. Wrentz and one of the men lifted it and carried it into the room.
"Your baggage is light," said the man.
"It will be heavier in a little while. Open it."
"Do you think it is large enough?" asked Wrentz.
"Large enough for what—the girl?" demanded Rocco, who had been sulking since his rebuke.
"You are shrewd, Rocco. You have guessed rightly I suppose you'll want to put a pillow in it."
"Yes, I would," said Rocco, who was the youngest of the band, "or else I would kill her first. What is the use of torture?"
Wrentz's dark fact grew even blacker as he eyed the young man.
"If you were a grown man, Rocco," he said, "instead of a soft-hearted boy, you would know that there is one form of murder that is always found out—the trunk murder. And I want to say this to you," he added with growing heat, "that if I hear one more word of rebellion from you this prisoner will be alive some hours after you have departed. Now, then, into the trunk with her."
Rocco sullenly helped the others in the grim task. The trunk, large as it was, was not deep enough to permit Pauline a sitting posture, nor long enough to prevent the painful cramping of her limbs. But she was deadened to physical pain. With the words of her doom still ringing in her ears—the calm discussion of her death—her terror was her torture. The choking gag, the cutting bonds, the stifling trunk—in which the knife of Wrentz had cut but a few air holes—these were as nothing to the agony of her spirit—the agony of a lingering journey toward a certain but mysterious end.
Pauline had been a prisoner before, had been through many and desperate dangers, but her heart had never failed her utterly until she felt the pressure of the trunk lid on her bent shoulders and heard the clamping of the locks that bound her in.
She could still hear the voices.
"I'll go down and settle my bill and send up that porter," Wrentz was saying. "Don't let him help with the trunk, except to run the elevator. You're sure your car is at the side entrance—not out in front?"
"I will meet you there."
Pauline had been so carefully bound that she could not stir in the trunk. As she felt it lifted and carried rapidly through the corridor to the hotel elevator she strained with all her might to make a noise —to beat with hands or feet or even with her head, the sides of the receptacle. But it was no use. She was carried through the hotel and out to the side entrance without attracting attention.
She felt the trunk lifted over the men's heads, and the whirring of an automobile told her that she was being placed in the machine.
"Well, you didn't care much for your pet room this time, Mr. Wrentz," smiled the clerk as Wrentz asked for his bill.
"Indeed I did, but a message has called me back to New York."
He paid his bill and hurried out to the big car in the back of which Pauline's trunk had been placed. Springing to the wheel, he ordered his followers in, and they drove away.
Once on suburban roads, Wrentz, either fearful of pursuit or drunk with success, began speeding.
Along the railroad tracks the noise of their speed drew a tumult of wild sounds from a string of gaily painted cars on the siding. The snarls and howls of beasts were mingled with the angry cries of men who seemed to be at work on the other side of the cars.
To Pauline the noises came faintly, but with a horrid and unearthly note. She, who had been the victim of so many cruet and fantastic plots, knew not what new danger the roaring of the beasts threatened.
In a moment, though, her mind was set at rest on this point. For Rocco, the young bandit, turning to the man next him, asked: "What does it mean? What are they doing?"
"It is a circus train," answered the man. "They are loading the beasts into the cars."
Pauline felt the machine swerve sharply and evidently take to a by-road, for she could hear the swish of leaves on overhanging branches as they brushed through.
"This place will do," she heard Wrentz say. "Now, be quick about it."
"It has come," breathed Pauline to herself. "This is the place where I am to die."
Through her mind, in piteous pageant, flashed thoughts of home, of Harry, of even Raymond Owen. There was a great loneliness in the hour of doom. But it would be over quickly. She shut her eyes tight and clenched her tied hands as the trunk was taken from the machine and placed upon the ground.
"Open it," commanded Wrentz. "I don't want her to die in there."
The men quickly unclamped the locks and lifted Pauline out.
"Take off the ropes and the bandages," ordered Wrentz.
"Take them off? Why, she'll scream," exclaimed one.
"If she does you may choke her to death in the car," replied Wrentz.
"Why not here?" asked the oldest of the men. "Didn't Mr. —"
"Hush your mouth! You confounded rascal!" Wrentz screamed. "Are you going to mention that name here?"
"What harm—as long as she is to die? Dead women tell no more tales than dead men."
"I will name all names that are to be spoken," declared Wrentz.
"Well, he of the name that is unspoken—at least he did say that we must have no delays. We want to earn our money as well as you, Louis —remember that."
"Come, come," he said. "This is no way to be arguing among friends. You'll get your money all right; but there is one thing to remember-you ain't get it except through me. So let me handle the matter. Put the girl in the car."
Pauline, although her bonds had been cut away, was unable to rise to her feet. They lifted her to her feet. She took a step or two, while they watched her curiously. Quickly strength and self-control came back to her. With a sudden spring, she struck at Wrentz with her fist, and as he drew back, astonished she darted across the roadway toward the wood.
It was but a futile, maneuver. She had gone but a few paces when she was gripped from behind and snatched back.
"You see, Louis—I told you she would do something of the kind," said the old bandit.
"And I told you it would do no harm. Place her in the car between you and Rocco. If she screams or makes a move to get away you may do as you wish, but not until then."
Pauline still struggled feebly as she was lifted into the machine. Wrentz kicked the empty trunk to the side of the byroad and took the wheel again. He drove back to the main drive that skirted the railroad.
Distant as they were by now, the clamor of the caged beasts in the circus train could still be heard. To Pauline the creatures seemed less wild and cruel than these, her human captors.
Wrentz put on even greater speed than he had ventured before. Two policemen, Burgess and Blount, of the Motorcycle Squad, were standing by their wheels in the roadway when the sound of the car's rush reached their ears from half a mile away.
"By George, that fellow's coming some," exclaimed Blount.
"And looks as if he wasn't going to stop," said the other. "Halt! Halt, there!" he commanded, as the machine flashed up in a mantle of dust.
"They are coming, Louis," said one of the men.
"I know they are. But there is no machine made that can catch this one. Have your guns ready, though. In case they begin to fire, pick them off."
Pauline shuddered at the matter-of-fact way in which Rocco and the man on the other side drew their heavy pistols from their hip pockets and rested them on their knees.
"Do you see the girl in that car?" yelled Burgess to his companion over the din of their streaking machines.
"Yes. We want that party for more than speeding, I guess," answered Blount. They bent low over their handle-bars and raced on.
"If he takes the 'S' curve like that we've got him—dead or alive," said Burgess.
"And it looks as if he would. By George, he is!"
Wrentz's car had shot suddenly out of sight around a twist in the road. Wrentz was an able driver, and, even at its terrific speed, the machine took the first turn gracefully. But Wrentz had not counted on a second shorter turn to the opposite direction. And he worked the wheel madly for a second swerve; the huge car skidded, spun round, and, reeling on two wheels for an instant, turned over in the ditch.
It was several moments before Pauline opened her eyes. She shut them quickly and staggered to her feet shuddering—she had been lying across Rocco's dead body which had broken her fall and saved her life.
Two other men lay motionless in the road. But from under the overturned car there came a sound, and Pauline realized, with quick alarm, that Wrentz was still alive. She ran across the road and into the parked woods that hid the railroad from the drive.
Wrentz struggled out from beneath the car. His eyes swept swiftly from the bodies of his dead comrades to the form of Pauline just vanishing in the thicket. He was bruised and bleeding, but with the instinct of a beast of prey he followed his quarry.
"Dead or alive was right," said Burgess, jumping from his wheel and examining the bodies in the road. "I wonder what that fellow was up to. And where is the girl?"
"I saw her and one of the men make into the park there," said Blount. "You take charge here and I'll go after them."
As he moved into the thicket in the direction Pauline had taken young Blount's attention was attracted by a new commotion. The park was on the crest of a steep cliff overlooking the railroad tracks and from the tracks came a riot of voices. Blount forced his way through the wood to a viewpoint from the cliff. Below him a score of men were moving rapidly along the tracks in wide, open order, evidently bent on some sort of a hunt.
"The circus men," said Blount to himself. "An animal must have got out. This is certainly some day for business."
He turned back to the work in hand.
Pauline, spurred by terror as she realized that Wrentz was again upon her trail, had sped like a wild thing through the park paths. She could hear the heavy footsteps of her pursuer close behind. She could hear also a shouting from afar off. She made toward the shouting— the sound of any voice but the voices of the inhuman men who had planned her death was welcome to her ears.
She came out upon the cliff where it sloped steeply to the railroad yards, but not too steeply to prevent her descending. From her position, the lines of freight cars cut off from her vision the strange group of hunters who were shouting. Running, stumbling, creeping, clutching at small bushes, she scrambled down the cliff.
"Stop and come back!" she heard a menacing voice behind her. She sped on the faster.
A line of high bushes fringed the bottom of the cliff. Between the bushes and the first rails ran a ditch. Sheltered from all view from above, Pauline dragged herself along this ditch, seeking a hiding place. She knew her strength was almost gone. She was in terror of fainting. If she could hide somewhere and rest—
A single empty freight car stood on the outer track a hundred yards away. Its open door offered the only means of concealment that she had. She believed that the bushes were high enough still to shield her while she climbed into the car.
In this she was wrong. Wrentz, watching from above—for he was afraid of the voices on the tracks, below and had not followed Pauline —watched with pleasure as she crawled to the side of the car, and, after two failures, managed to drag herself through the high door. She sank exhausted. Gradually, however, her strength returned. Her mind recovered from the dazing experiences of the last few hours. She began to gain courage and to plan her further flight.
As she moved toward the car door to reconnoiter, the sense of an invisible presence suddenly possessed her. Instinctively she turned.
One glance behind her and every fiber of her body seemed to turn to stone. Fear she had known, but never terror such as this. She stood paralyzed, unable to close her eyes, unable to move. For there beside her, towering above her in horrible strength, with wildly grinning face and cruelly outreaching claws, stood the thing that gave explanation to the hunt outside and the shouting. Pauline was in the clutches of a gorilla. She fainted as she felt herself gripped in the hairy arms.
Wrentz was gloating as he stood on watch over Pauline's hiding place. In a little while the men, would be out of the railroad yard and he would go down and finish the work. But his rejoicings were turned into amazement by the sight which now presented itself at the door of the car.
With Pauline, carried over one arm as if she had been a wisp of straw, the gorilla was crawling down to the trackside. Wrentz saw it crawl along the ditch and heard the crunch of broken bushes as the huge creature clambered up the cliff.
Wondering, scarcely able to believe his eyes, Wrentz followed at a safe distance.
Young Policeman Blount, searching for the fugitive chauffeur of the wrecked automobile and the mysterious young woman who had escaped from it, paused at the sound of heavy foot-falls. A low, guttural, snarling sound—a sound hardly human—accompanied the footsteps. He had reached the bottom of the cliff a half mile from where Pauline had found her perilous shelter. Peering up through the bushes, his astonishment and horror were a match for the astonishment and joy of Wrentz. The gorilla, with Pauline still clutched in the mighty paw, had reached almost the top of the cliff at its steepest point.
Blount blew his whistle, blast after blast. He started up the cliff, but came back at the sound of hurrying footsteps and calls; the hunters from the railroad yards had heard the signal.
"Hello! Have you seen anything of the gorilla?" yelled the first man to come up.
Blount pointed up the cliff side to where the hideous beast was just dragging Pauline over the topmost ledge.
The men stood spell-bound with pity.
"A girl!" gasped one of them. "She's as good as dead, if she isn't dead now. He just killed our foreman back in the yards."
"No, thank heaven!" cried Blount, "she's not dead. Look!"
At the top of the cliff they saw Pauline's form suddenly quicken into life. The gorilla had released its hold upon her to make sure of its footing on the perilous ledge. Now she stood, a frail, pitiful, hopeless thing, fighting—actually assailing the beast, more mighty than a dozen men.
Their hearts sick within them they watched the brief struggle. Wrentz, too, watched it, from his hiding place on the top of the cliff. But his heart was not sick. In a moment, he was sure, his work would be accomplished for him, and his employer would be rid of Pauline Marvin in a way that could reflect no blame on any one.
Blount started up the cliff. He took it for granted that the others would follow, but looking down after gaining half the distance, he saw the circus men still huddled together in fascinated awe.
"Look! Look!" they called to him. "He's taking her up the tree."
Blount looked and saw the gorilla climbing ponderously the trunk of a large tree, the branches of which overhung the precipice. Blount climbed on frantically. He stopped again. The gorilla was crawling out upon one of the overhanging branches! The strange beast-brain had conceived a death for Pauline more terrible than any Raymond Owen bad ever plotted. Wrentz himself might have envied the gorilla.
Blount drew his revolver. He was not more than a hundred feet below them now. "It's the chance of hitting her against the chance of saving her," he muttered. He fired. With a snarl of pain the gorilla turned and bit savagely at its shoulder. Blount rushed on. He stopped again and fired. He was at the verge of the cliff. He could blaze away now with no danger of hitting Pauline, for he was a sure marksman.
With a great throb of joy in his heart the gallant young fellow saw the beast turn, and, leaving Pauline with her arms around the limb, her eyes shut against the dizzy depths below, move back and scramble down.
Blount was on the cliff-top as the gorilla reached the ground. The beast charged. Blount fired again. Again the gorilla, snarling, bit at its wounded side, but it came an as if a dozen lives vitalized the gross body.
Blount backed away from the cliff, but the monster was upon him. It clutched him, hurled him to ground, dragged him back to the dizzy verge.
Slowly Blount was pressed over the precipice. The watchers below saw him in his last struggle writhe in the deathly grasp, twist his revolver and fire three shots into the heart of the gorilla.
Down the long fall to the jagged rocks went the beast.
Pauline was bending over the bleeding, battered form of the young officer when the circus crew reached them.
"Oh, you are brave, brave!" she cried.
He opened his eyes and grinned merrily. "If I'm brave, I'd like to know what you are."
"Oh, I'm not brave, I'm nothing but a selfish little pig," cried Pauline. "I've treated the dearest fellow in the world shamefully. He's forgiven me over and over, but he won't forgive me this time."
"He'll forgive you anything, Mim," Blount assured her, "for the sake of getting you safe back. But I shouldn't like to be the man who got you into this, when he hears of it."
"The man's safe enough," said Burgess, who had just up in time to hear Blount's last words.
"No, he didn't escape that way," as Blount uttered an ejaculation of disgust. "He ran full tilt into me and when I tried to arrest him he drew his revolver on me. By good luck I got him first—yes, Jo, he's dead."
"Dead," repeated Pauline in a low tone. "How horrible to go out of life a moment after you had tried to commit murder."
"It's not his first," Burgess said coolly. "We've been after him and his gang these six months. It was Wrentz, Jo, and I made a haul of papers that'll get somebody into trouble."
"Oh, don't hurt the young one," cried Pauline. "He tried to help me."
"Rocco? He was dead when they picked him up. And, now, Miss Marvin, hadn't I better get you a taxi?"
"Yes, thank you, but," with irrepressible curiosity, "how did you know me?"
Burgess smiled. "How did I know you? I beg your pardon, Miss, but for nearly a year your picture's been in every paper, more or less, in the United States. You're a big head-liner—it's an honor to meet you, face to face. But it's Blount has all the luck. He's saved you—he'll be a head-liner himself tomorrow."
The hot color rushed over Pauline's face. "A head-liner"—so that was what she meant to the public, to the man on the street.
"Please, Please, don't let this get into the Papers," she begged. "I'll do anything in the world for you if you'll just keep it out of the papers."
"Will you tell us about those other adventures?"
Burgess asked eagerly. "It's a sure thing that somebody's been pulling the wires, making you walk the tight rope, and somebody that knows everything you do. Any man on the force who could spot him would be made."
"No, no," Pauline insisted, an uneasy remembrance of Harry's suspicions lending emphasis to her denial. "Some of those things were done before anybody out of the house could know."
"Just as I said," Burgess agreed triumphantly.
"It's somebody in the house. Why he knew about your bull terrier, and the papers had it had just been given you the day before—darned clever little dog to give your folks the clue."
"Cyrus?" Pauline's face broke into smiles and dimples. "He's the cleverest, dearest, most beautiful dog in the world."
"Fine dog, yes Miss, if he's like the picture the reporters got."
Pauline's face clouded—for the moment she had forgotten the horrors of publicity.
"You won't put this in the papers?" she pleaded.
"He shan't," Blount raised himself weakly on his elbow. "If the reporters haven't got it already, we'll keep you out of it anyhow, Miss."
"Keep a scoop like this out of the papers?" Burgess laughed aloud. "You're talking through your hat, Blount, it can't be done."
In one terrible flash Pauline saw her name in capitals, her photograph almost life-size, photographs of her trunk, the gorilla, Blount, in head-liners, too, and Harry, furious, too far away for moral suasion; stern, cold, unforgiving, worse still, disgusted. She realized as she had never realized before that Harry was what counted most, Harry was the one thing she could not live without. To the terrors of these hours was added the terror of losing him.
She burst into wild sobs.
"I want Harry, I don't want anything in the world but Harry! Oh, take me home, please take me home!"
Burgess got a taxi and went with her to the hotel, where She was put to bed, a doctor sent for, and where at last she fell asleep.
But it was not until noon the next day that she was able to take the train for New York. And then began, two hours and a half that Pauline remembered to the last hour of her life. Her photograph stared at her from the front page of every daily paper—even the glasses and thick veil she wore to conceal her identity could not soften the conspicuous pictures. Newsboys called her name, and the gorilla story, Wrentz, and Blount's names, together—every passenger in the car, it seemed to her, men, women, and children, were discussing her. There were silly jokes, contemptuous criticism, half-laughing suggestions that there was something "queer about Miss Marvin." just behind her, she heard one woman say to another, "But, then, my dear, what could you expect of any girl whose mother was an Egyptian" as if this equaled breaking the whole Decalogue.
Though she had wired Owen, the motor did not meet her, and feeling more than ever forlorn and forsaken, Pauline got into a taxi. Never had the old place looked so beautiful as today when she felt that it could never be her home again—she must tell Harry that her mother was an Egyptian and then even if he could forgive her this last adventure he would never marry her. Oh, how could she have been so silly, so conceited, so cruel to Harry! And what a fool she had been to go in search of experience in order to write. If she couldn't write with all this beauty spread out before her, if she couldn't write by living a real, human, everyday life, the sort of life that brings you close to normal people, how could she ever hope to write by living on excitement —on abnormal excitement and with abnormal people and situations?
She paid the driver and was walking slowly up the steps of the veranda, when, suddenly, she halted as if she had been struck. What was that? It couldn't be—yes, it was—funeral streamers hanging from the door-knob!
With a scream that rang through the closed door, Pauline fainted. When she recovered consciousness she was in the library. Bemis and Margaret were bending over her, and strong, tender arms were around her.
"Harry," she murmured instinctively.
"Don't try to talk, my darling, drink this. You go," to Bemis and Margaret.
"Oh, Harry, I thought you were dead."
"I'm very much alive," Harry said with a tremulous laugh.
"But Harry, what does all that black on the door mean?"
"It means," said Harry, savagely, "that though the mills of the gods grind slowly they grind surely—Owen's dead."
"Owen!" Her eyes large with terror, Blount's words ringing in her ears— "I shouldn't like to be the man at the bottom of this when Mr. Marvin hears of it." "'Owen," she repeated in a breathless whisper.
"Harry, you didn't kill him?"
"He didn't give me the chance. He was dead when I got here—overdose of morphine Dr. Stevens said. Seems he was a drug fiend."
"Why that was the reason," Pauline said, her filling with tears. "He was crazy, he didn't know what he was doing. Poor Owen, poor Owen"— then turned hastily to safer topics. "But I thought you went to Chicago for a week."
"I did, but, you'll laugh, Pauline—I know it sounds fool—the Mummy came to me just as she came to me in Montana. I took the first train home. I knew you were in danger—I knew it was a warning. I'll ever trust, you out of my sight again—you've got to marry me now."
Pauline shrank back from his kisses. "No, no, Harry I can't—I won't —there was a woman on the train said my mother was an Egyptian."
Harry broke into a peal of laughter and caught her in his arms.
"Is that the only reason you won't?"
"Harry, is it true?"
"I don't know and I don't care—what difference does it make who your mother was? You are you, that's all I care for." His voice shook. "I love you so, Pauline, that I can't stand this life any longer—another adventure—"
Pauline silenced him with a kiss.
"I'm all through with adventures," she declared. "Harry, I'm going to—"
"Marry me? Polly, do you mean it?"
"Yes, yes. Oh, my dearest, I've been a selfish, silly, conceited little pig, but I'm cured, I'm cured at last."
As he clasped her in his arms, the shutter swung violently to, and the case containing the Mummy fell with a clatter to the floor. Harry ran and lifted it as tenderly as if it had been a little child.
"I suppose we can hardly keep her here," he said regretfully, "but we'll give, no, I can't give her up entirely, we'll lend her to the Metropolitan Art Museum where she'll receive due honor. She's been a faithful friend to us, Polly."
"And here's another," exclaimed Pauline, as Cyrus ran frantically into the room, and leaping upon the couch with ecstatic barks of welcome, threatened again to take the place that belonged by right to Harry. But this time Harry joined in Pauline's caresses.