The Project Gutenberg eBook of Blotted Out, by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

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Title: Blotted Out

Author: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Release Date: February 15, 2022 [eBook #67411]

Language: English

Produced by: Roger Frank and Sue Clark


Blotted Out

By Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

James Ross was well content, that morning. He stood on the deck, one elbow on the rail, enjoying the wind and the cold rain that blew in his face, enjoying still more his feeling of complete isolation and freedom.

None of the other passengers shared his liking for this bleak November weather, and he had the windward side of the deck to himself. He was alone there; he was alone in the world—and he meant to remain alone.

Through the window of the saloon he could, if he liked, see the severe, eagle-nosed profile of Mrs. Barron, who was sitting in there, more majestic than ever in her shore-going outfit. She was a formidable lady, stern, resolute, and experienced; she had marked him down as soon as he had come on board at San Juan.

Yet he had escaped from her; he had got the better of her, and so skillfully that even to this moment she was not sure whether he had deliberately avoided her, or whether it was chance. Yes, even now, if the weather had permitted, she would have come out after him with her card.

But, if the weather had permitted that, Ross would not have been where he was. The day before, she had captured him for an instant in the dining saloon, and she had said that before they landed she would give him her card.

He had thanked her very civilly, but he had made up his mind that she should do nothing of the sort. Because, if she did, she would expect a card from him in return; she would want to know where he was going, and he meant that she should never know, and never be able to find him. Even she was not likely to go so far as to rush across the rain-swept deck with that card of hers.

He could also see, if he liked, the little blond head of Phyllis Barron, who was sitting beside her mother, her hat in her lap. He knew very well that Phyllis had taken no part at all in pursuing him, yet, in a way, she was far more dangerous than Mrs. Barron.

Before he had realized the danger, he had spent a good deal of time with Phyllis—too much time. It was only a five days’ run up from Porto Rico; he had never seen her before he came on board, and he intended never to see her again; yet he felt that it might take him considerably more than five days to forget her.

This made him uncomfortable. Every glimpse of that quiet, thoughtful little face, so very pretty, so touching in its brave young dignity and candor, gave him a sort of qualm, as if she had spoken a friendly word to him, and he had not answered. Indeed, so much did the sight of Phyllis Barron disquiet him that he turned away altogether.

And now, through the downpour, he saw the regal form of the Statue of Liberty. It pleased him, and somehow consoled him for those qualms. It was a symbol of what his life was going to be, a life of completest liberty. He had left nobody behind him, there was nobody waiting for him anywhere in the world; he cared for nobody—no, not he; and nobody cared for him. That was just what he liked.

He was young, he was in vigorous health, he had sufficient money, and no one on earth had any sort of claim upon him. He could go where he pleased, and do what he pleased. He was free. And here he was, coming back to what was, after all, his native city, and not one soul there knew his face.

He smiled to himself at the thought, his dour, tight-lipped smile. Coming home, eh? And nobody to greet him but the Statue of Liberty. He was glad it was so. He didn’t want to be greeted; he wanted to be let alone. And, in that case, he had better go now, before they came alongside the pier, and Mrs. Barron appeared.

He went below to his cabin, intending to stop there until all other passengers had disembarked. The steward had taken up his bags, and the little room had a forlorn and untidy look; not an agreeable place in which to sit. But it was safe.

Ross hung up his wet overcoat and cap, and sat down with a magazine, to read. But he could not read a word. The engines had stopped; they had arrived; he was in New York. In New York. Try as he would to stifle his emotions, a great impatience and restlessness filled him.

There were, in this city, thousands of men to whom Manila and Mayaguez would seem names of almost incredible romance; men to whom New York meant little but an apartment, the subway, the office, and the anxious and monotonous routine of earning a living. But to Ross, New York had all the allurement of the exotic, and those other ports had meant only exile and discontent. He thought uncharitable thoughts about Mrs. Barron, because she kept him imprisoned here when he so longed to set foot on shore.

There was a knock at the door.

“Well?” Ross demanded.

“Note for you, sir,” answered the steward.

Ross grinned to himself at what he considered a new instance of Mrs. Barron’s enterprise. For a moment he thought he would refuse to take the note, so that he might truthfully say he had never got it; then he reflected that Mrs. Barron was never going to have a chance to question him about it, and he unlocked the door.

“We’ve docked, sir,” the steward said.

“I know it,” Ross agreed briefly.

He took the note, tipped the steward, and locked the door after him. Extraordinary, the way this lady had pursued him, all the way across! He was not handsome, not entertaining, not even very amiable; she knew nothing about him.

Indeed, as far as her knowledge went, he might be any sort of dangerous and undesirable character. Yet she had persistently—and obviously—done her best to capture him for her daughter.

He glanced at himself in the mirror. A lean and hardy young man, very dark, with the features characteristic of his family, a thin, keen nose, rather long upper lip, a saturnine and faintly mocking expression. They were a disagreeable family, bitterly obstinate, ambitious, energetic, and grimly unsociable.

And he was like that, too; like his father and his grandfather and his uncles. Without being in the least humble, he still could not understand what Mrs. Barron had seen in him to make her consider him a suitable son-in-law.

With Phyllis Barron it was different. He had sometimes imagined that her innocent and candid eyes had discerned in him qualities he had long ago tried to destroy. It was possible that she had found him a little likable.

But she wouldn’t pursue him. He was certain that she had not written this note, or wanted her mother to write it. When he had realized his danger, and had begun to spend his time talking to the doctor, instead of sitting beside her on deck, she had never tried to recall him. Whenever he did come, she always had that serious, friendly little smile for him; but she had tried to make it very plain that, where she was concerned, he was quite free to come or to go, to remember or to forget.

Well, he meant to forget. His life was just beginning, and he did not intend to entangle himself in any way. He sighed, not knowing that he did so, and then, out of sheer idle curiosity, just to see how Mrs. Barron worked, he opened the note.

“Dear Cousin James—” it began.

But, as far as he knew, he hadn’t a cousin in the world. With a puzzled frown, he picked up the envelope; it was plainly addressed, in a clear, small hand, to “Mr. James Ross. On board the S. S. Farragut.”

“Must be a mistake, though,” he muttered. “I’ll just see.” And he went on reading:

You have never seen me, and I know you have heard all sorts of cruel and false things about me. But I beg you to forget all that now. I am in such terrible trouble, and I don’t know where to turn. I beg you to come here as soon as you get this. Ask for Mrs. Jones, the housekeeper. Say you have come from Cren’s Agency, about the job as chauffeur. She will tell you everything. You can’t refuse just to come and let me tell you about this terrible thing.

Your desperately unhappy cousin,
Amy Ross Solway.
“Day’s End,” Wygatt Road, near Stamford.

He sat, staring in amazement at this letter.

“It’s a mistake!” he said, aloud.

But, all the same, it filled him with a curious uneasiness. Of course, it was meant for some one else—and he wanted that other fellow to get it at once; he wanted to be rid of it in a hurry.

He had nothing to do with any one’s Cousin Amy and her “terrible trouble.” He rang the bell for the steward, waited, rang again, more vigorously, again waited, but no one came.

Then, putting the note back in its envelope, he flung open the door and strode out into the passage, shouting “Steward!” in a pretty forcible voice. No one answered him. He went down the corridor, turned a corner, and almost ran into Mrs. Barron.

“Mr. Ross!” said she, in a tone of stern triumph. “So here you are! Phyllis, dear, give Mr. Ross one of our cards—with the address.”

Then he caught sight of Phyllis, standing behind her mother. In her little close fitting hat, her coat with a fur collar, she looked taller, older, graver, quite different from that bright-haired, slender little thing in a deck chair. And, somehow, she was so dear to him, so lovely, so gentle, so utterly trustworthy.

“I’ll never forget her!” he thought, in despair.

Then she spoke, in a tone he had not heard before.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I haven’t any cards with me.”

“Phyllis!” cried her mother. “I particularly asked you—”

“I’m sorry,” Phyllis declared again. “We’ll really have to hurry, mother. Good-by, Mr. Ross!”

Her steady blue eyes met his for an instant, but, for all the regret and pain he felt, his stubborn spirit refused to show one trace. Evidently she knew he had tried to run away, and she didn’t want to see him again. Very well!

“Good-by, Miss Barron!” he said.

She turned away, and he, too, would have walked off, but the dauntless Mrs. Barron was not to be thwarted.

“Then I’ll tell you the address!” said she. “Hotel Benderly—West Seventy-Seventh Street. Don’t forget!”

“I shan’t,” Ross replied. “Thank you! Good-by!”

He went back along the corridor, forgetting all about the note, even forgetting where he was going, until the sight of a white jacket in the distance recalled him.

“Steward!” he shouted.

The man came toward him, anxious and very hurried.

“Look here!” said Ross. “This note—it’s not meant for me.”

“Beg your pardon, sir, but a boy brought it aboard and told me to give it to you.”

“I tell you it’s not meant for me!” said Ross. “Take it back!”

“But it’s addressed to you, sir. Mr. James Ross. There’s no other Mr. Ross on board. The boy said it was urgent.”

“Take it back!” Ross repeated.

“I shouldn’t like to do that, sir,” said the steward, firmly. “I said I’d deliver it to Mr. Ross. If you’re not—satisfied, sir, the purser might—”

“Oh, all right!” Ross interrupted, with a frown. “I haven’t time to bother now. I’ll keep it. But it’s a mistake. And somebody is going to regret it.”


A casual acquaintance in San Juan had recommended the Hotel Miston to Ross. “Nice, quiet little place,” he had said; “and you can get a really good cup of coffee there.”

So, when the United States customs officers had done with Ross, he secured a taxi, and told the chauffeur to drive him to this Hotel Miston. Not that he was in the least anxious for quiet, or had any desire for a cup of coffee; simply, he was in a hurry to get somewhere, anywhere, so that he could begin to live.

In spite of the rain, he lowered the window of the cab, and sat looking out at the astounding speed and vigor of the life about him. This was what he had longed for, this was what he had wanted; for years and years he had said to himself that when he was free, he would come here and make a fortune.

Well, he was free, and he was in New York, and he had already the foundation of a nice little fortune. For eight years he had worked in the office of a commission agent in Manila, and every day of those eight years he had told himself that he wouldn’t stand it any longer. But he had stood it.

His grandfather had been a cynical old tyrant; he had thwarted the boy in every ambition that he had. When James said he wanted to be a civil engineer, as his father had been, old Ross told him he hadn’t brains enough for that. James had not agreed with him, but as he had no money to send himself home to college, he had been obliged to put up with what old Ross called “a sound practical education.”

At eighteen his education was declared finished, and he went to work. He hated his work, he hated everything about his life, and from his meager salary he had saved every cent he could, so that he would get away.

Long ago he had saved enough to pay his passage to New York—but he had not gone. His grandfather was old and ill, and, because of his bitter tongue, quite without friends; he certainly gave no sign that he enjoyed his grandson’s company, and James showed no affection for him; their domestic life was anything but agreeable.

Sick at heart, James saw his youth slipping by, wasted, his abilities all unused; he told himself that he had done his duty, and more than his duty to his grandfather. Yet he could not leave him.

Then, six months ago, the old man had died, leaving everything he had to “my grandson, James Ross, in appreciation of his loyalty,” the only sign of appreciation he had ever made. It was a surprisingly large estate; there was some property in Porto Rico, where James had spent his childhood with his parents, but the greater part consisted of very sound bonds and mortgages in the hands of a New York lawyer, Mr. Teagle.

Mr. Teagle had written to James, and James had written to Mr. Teagle several times in the last few months, but James had not told him when he expected to arrive in New York. He had gone to Porto Rico in a little cargo steamer, by the way of Panama; he had wound up his business there, and now he wanted to walk in on Mr. Teagle in the most casual fashion. He hated any sort of fuss; he didn’t want to be met at the steamer, he didn’t want to be advised and assisted. He wanted to be let alone.

The taxi stopped before the Hotel Miston, a dingy little place not far from Washington Square. Ross got out, paid the driver, and followed the porter into the lobby. He engaged a room and bath, and turned toward the elevator.

“Will you register, sir?” asked the clerk.

Ross hesitated for a moment; then he wrote “J. Ross, New York.” After all, this was his home; he had been born here, and he intended to live here.

He went upstairs to his room, and, locking the door, sat down near the window. The floor still seemed to heave under his feet, like the deck of a ship. He visualized the deck of the Farragut, and Phyllis in a deck chair, looking at him with her dear, friendly little smile.

He frowned at the unwelcome thought. That was finished; that belonged in the past. There was a new life before him, and the sooner he began it, the better.

He reached in his pocket for Mr. Teagle’s last letter—and brought out that note to “Cousin James.” At the sight of it, he frowned more heavily; he tossed it across the room in the direction of the desk, but it fluttered down to the floor. Let it lie there. He found Mr. Teagle’s letter, and took up the telephone receiver. Presently:

“Mr. Teagle’s office!” came a brisk feminine voice.

“I’d like to see Mr. Teagle this morning, if possible.”

“Sorry, but Mr. Teagle won’t be in today. Will you leave a message?”

“No,” said Ross. “No, thanks.” And hung up the receiver.

He sat for a time looking out of the window at the street, far below him. The rain fell steadily; it was a dismal day. He could not begin his new life today, after all. Very well; what should he do, then? Anything he wanted, of course. Nobody could have been freer.

He lit a cigarette, and leaned back in the chair. Freedom—that was what he had wanted, and that was what he had got. And yet—

He turned his head, to look for an ash tray, and his glance fell upon that confounded note on the floor. In the back of his mind he had known, all the time, that he would have to do something about it.

He disliked it, and disapproved of it; a silly, hysterical sort of note, he thought, but, nevertheless, it was an appeal for help, and it was from a woman. Somebody ought to answer it.

He began idly to speculate about the “terribly unhappy” Amy Ross Solway. Perhaps she was young—not much more than a girl—like Phyllis.

“Not much!” he said to himself. “She wouldn’t write a note like that. She’s not that sort. No matter what sort of trouble menaced—”

It occurred to him that if Phyllis Barron were in any sort of trouble, she would never turn to James Ross for help. He had shown her too plainly that he was not disposed to trouble himself about other people and their affairs.

His family never did. They minded their own business, they let other people alone, and other people soon learned to let them alone. Very satisfactory! Lucky for this Amy Ross Solway that she didn’t know what sort of fellow had got that note of hers.

Still, something had to be done about it. At first he thought he would mail it back to her, with a note of his own, explaining that he was not her Cousin James, but another James Ross, who had got it by mistake. But, no; that plan meant too much delay, when she was no doubt waiting impatiently for a gallant cousin.

Then he thought he would try to get her on the telephone, but that idea did not suit him, either. It was always awkward, trying to explain anything on the telephone—and, besides, she seemed anxious for secrecy. He might explain to the wrong person, and do a great deal of harm.

He began to think very seriously about that note now. And, for some unaccountable reason, his thoughts of the unknown woman were confused with thoughts of Phyllis Barron. It seemed to him that if Phyllis could know how much attention he was giving to this problem which was not his business, she would realize that he was not entirely callous. If she thought he was, she misjudged him.

Perhaps he was not what you might call impulsively sympathetic, but he was not lacking in all decent feeling. He was not going to ignore this appeal.

“I’ll go out there!” he decided. “I’ll see this Amy Ross Solway, and explain. And, if her trouble’s anything real, I’ll—” He hesitated. “Well, I’ll give her the best advice I can,” he thought.

No, James Ross was not what you might call impulsively sympathetic. But, considering how vehemently he hated to be mixed up in other people’s affairs, it was creditable of him even to think of giving advice, creditable of him to go at all.

He arose, put on his overcoat, caught up his hat, and went downstairs. Nobody took any notice of him. He walked out of the Hotel Miston—and he never came back.


It did not please the young man to ask questions in this, his native city. He had spent time enough in studying a map of New York, and he knew his way about pretty well. But there were, naturally, things he did not know; for instance, he went to the Pennsylvania Station, and learned that his train for Stamford left from the Grand Central.

It was after one o’clock, then, so he went into a restaurant and had lunch before going farther—his first meal in the United States. He had never enjoyed anything more. To walk through these streets, among the hurrying and indifferent crowds, to be one of them, to feel himself at home here, filled him with something like elation. It was his city.

A little after three, he boarded the train. And, in spite of his caution and his native reticence, he would, at that moment, have relished a talk with one of his fellow countrymen in the smoking car. He was not disposed to start a conversation without encouragement, though, and nobody took any notice of him; nobody had, since his landing. A clever criminal, escaping from justice, could not have been much more successful in leaving no traces.

When he got out at Stamford, the rain had ceased, but the sky was menacing and overcast. He stood for a moment on the platform, again reluctant to ask questions, but there was no help for it this time.

He stopped a grocer’s boy, and asked him where Wygatt Road was. The boy told him. “But it’s a long way,” he added.

Ross didn’t care how long it was. This was the first suburban town he had seen, and it charmed him. Such a prosperous, orderly, lively town! He thought that he might like to live here.

Dusk was closing in early this dismal day; it was almost dark before he reached the hill he had to climb. The street lights came on, and through the windows of houses he could see shaded lamps and the shadows of people, comfortable rooms, bright little glimpses of domestic life. Past him, along the road, went an endless stream of motor cars, with a rush and a glare of light; he scarcely realized that he was in the country until he came to the top of the hill, and saw before him a signpost marked “Wygatt Road.”

He turned down here, and was at once in another world. It was dark, and very, very quiet; no motors passed him, no lights shone out; he walked on, quite alone, under tall old trees, to which clung a few leaves, trembling in every gust of wind. Overhead, ragged black clouds flew across the darkening sky; the night was coming fast.

And now he began to think about his extraordinary errand, now he began to think that he had been a fool to come. But it did not occur to him to turn back. He never did that. He was sorry he had begun a foolish thing, but, now that he had begun, he would carry on. If it took him all night, if it took him a week, he would find “Day’s End,” and do what he had set out to do.

There was no one to ask questions of here; no human being, no house in sight.

On one side of him was a belt of woodland, on the other an iron fence which appeared to run on interminably. Well, he also would go on interminably, and if “Day’s End” was on Wygatt Road, he would certainly come to it in the course of time.

He did. There was a break in the fence at last, made by a gateway between stone pillars, and here he saw, by the light of a match, “Day’s End,” in gilt letters. He opened the gate and went in; a long driveway stretched before him, tree lined; he went up it briskly.

He saw nothing, and heard nothing, but he had a vague impression that the grounds through which he passed were somber and forbidding, and he expected to see a house in keeping with this notion, an old, sinister house, suitable for people in “terrible trouble.”

It was not like that, though. A turn in the driveway brought him in sight of a long façade of lighted windows, and a large, substantial, matter-of-fact house—which made him feel more of a fool than ever. Yet, still he went on, mounted the steps of a brick terrace, and rang the doorbell.

The door was opened promptly by a pale and disagreeable young housemaid.

“I want to see Mrs. Jones, the housekeeper,” said Ross.

“You ought to go to the back door!” she remarked sharply. “You ought to know that much!”

Ross did not like this, but it was not his habit to let his temper override discretion.

“All right!” he said, and was turning away, ready to go to the back door, ready to go anywhere, so that he accomplished his mission, when the housemaid relented.

“As long as you’re here, you can come in,” she said. “This way!”

He followed her across a wide hall, with a polished floor and a fine old stairway rising from it, to a door at the farther end.

“It’s the room right in front of you when you get to the top,” she explained.

She opened the door; he went in, she closed the door behind him, and he found himself in what seemed a pitch-black cupboard. But, as he moved forward, his foot struck against a step, and he began cautiously to mount a narrow, boxed-in staircase, until his outstretched hand touched a door.

He pushed it open, and found himself in a well lighted corridor, and, facing him, a white painted door. And behind that door he heard some one sobbing, in a low, wailing voice.

He stopped, rather at a loss. Then, because he would not go back, he went forward, and knocked.

“Who is it?” cried a voice.

“I came to see Mrs. Jones,” Ross replied casually.

There was a moments silence; then the door was opened by the loveliest creature he had ever seen in his life. He had only a glimpse of her, of an exquisite face, very white, with dark and delicate brows and great black eyes, a face childlike in its soft, pure contours, but terribly unchildlike in its expression of terror and despair.

“Wait!” she said. “Go in and wait!”

She brushed past him, with a flutter of her filmy gray dress and a breath of some faint fragrance, and vanished down the back stairs.

Ross went in as he was instructed, and stood facing the door, waiting with a certain uneasiness for some one to come. But nobody did come, and at last he turned and looked about him.

It was a cozy room, with a cheerful red carpet on the floor, and plenty of solid, old-fashioned walnut furniture about; it was well warmed by a steam radiator, and well lighted by an alabaster electrolier in the ceiling; a clock ticked smartly on the mantelpiece, and on the sofa lay a big yellow cat, pretending to be asleep, with one gleaming eye half open.

It was such a thoroughly commonplace and comfortable room that the young man felt reassured. He decided to ignore the wailing voice he had heard, and the pallid, lovely creature who had opened the door. For all he knew, such things might be quite usual in this household, and, anyhow, it was none of his business. He had come to see Mrs. Jones, and to explain an error.

He watched the smart little clock for five minutes, and then began to grow restless. He had walked a good deal this day; he was tired; his shoes were wet; he wanted to be done with this business and to get away. Another five minutes—

It seemed to him that this was the quietest room he had ever known. Even the tick of the clock was muffled, like a tiny pulse. It was altogether too quiet. He didn’t like it at all.

He frowned uneasily, and turned toward the only other living thing there, the cat. He laid his hand on its head, and in a sort of drowsy ecstasy the cat stretched out to a surprising length, opening and curling up its paws. Its claws caught in the linen cover and pulled it up a little, and Ross saw something under the sofa.

He doubted the very evidence of his senses. He could not believe that he saw a hand stretched out on the red carpet. He stared and stared at it, incredulous.

Then he stooped and lifted up the cover and looked under the sofa. There lay a man, face downward.

He was very still. It seemed to Ross that it was this man’s stillness which he had felt in the room; it was the quiet of death.


Ross stood looking down at the very quiet figure in a sort of daze. He did not find this horrible, or shocking; it was simply impossible. Here, in this tranquil, cozy room—No, it was impossible!

Going down on one knee, he reached out and touched the nape of the man’s neck. But he did it mechanically; he had known, from the first glance, that the man was dead. No living thing could lie so still. Quite cold—

The sound of a slow footstep in the corridor startled him. He sprang to his feet, pulled down the linen cover, and was standing idly in the center of the room when a woman entered, a stout, elderly woman with calm brown eyes behind spectacles.

“Well?” said she.

“I came to see Mrs. Jones,” said Ross. “I had a note—”

He spoke in a tone as matter-of-fact as her own, for to save his life he could think of no rational manner in which to tell her what he had seen. Such a preposterous thing to tell a sensible, elderly woman! The very thought of it dismayed him. Of all things in the world, he hated the theatrical. He could not be, and he would not be, dramatic. He wished to be casual.

But, in this case, it would not be easy. The thing he had found was, in its very nature, dramatic, and was even now defying him to be casual and sensible. He would have to tell her, point-blank, and she probably would shriek or faint, or both.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m Mrs. Jones. A note?”

Her voice trailed away, and she stood regarding him in thoughtful silence. Ross was quite willing to be silent a little longer, while he tried to find a reassuring form for his statement; he looked back at her, his lean face quite impassive, his mind working furiously.

“Yes?” said Mrs. Jones. “Miss Solway did think, for a time, that she might need some one to—advise her. But everything’s quite all right now.” She paused a moment. “She’ll be sorry to hear you’ve made the journey for nothing. She’ll appreciate your kindness, I’m sure. But everything’s quite all right now.”

“Oh, is it?” murmured Ross.

He found difficulty in suppressing a grim smile. Everything was all right now, was it, and he could run away home? He did not agree with Mrs. Jones.

“Yes,” she replied. “It was very kind of you to come, but—”

“Wait!” cried Ross, for she had turned away toward the sofa.

Without so much as turning her head, she went on a few steps, took the knitted scarf from her shoulders, and threw it over the end of the sofa. And he saw then that just the tip of the man’s fingers had been visible, and that the trailing end of the scarf covered them now. She knew!

“Well?” she asked, looking inquiringly at him through her spectacles. No; it was impossible; the whole thing was utterly impossible!

This sedate, respectable, gray-haired woman, this housekeeper who looked as if she would not overlook the smallest trace of dust in a corner, certainly, surely would not leave a dead man under her sofa.

She was stroking the cat, and the animal had assumed an expression of idiotic delight, pink tongue protruding a little, eyes half open. Would even a cat be so monstrously indifferent if—if what he thought he had seen under the sofa were really there?

“Would you like me to telephone for a taxi to take you to the station?” asked Mrs. Jones, very civilly.

“Ha!” thought Ross. “You want to get rid of me, don’t you?”

And that aroused all his stiff-necked obstinacy. He would not go away now, after all his trouble, without any sort of explanation of the situation.

“There’s a good train—” Mrs. Jones began, with calm persistence, but Ross interrupted.

“No, thanks,” he said. “I’d like to see Miss Solway first.”

His own words surprised him a little. After all, why on earth should he want to see this Miss Solway? A few hours ago he had been greatly annoyed at the thought of having to do so; he would have been only too glad never to see or to hear of her again.

“It’s because I don’t like being made such a fool of,” he thought.

For the first time since she had entered the room, Mrs. Jones’s calm was disturbed. She came nearer to him, and looked into his face with obvious anxiety, speaking very low, and far more respectfully.

“It would be much better not to!” she said. “Much better, sir, if you’ll just go away—”

“I want to see Miss Solway,” Ross repeated. “There’s been a mistake, and I want to explain.”

“I know that, sir!” she whispered. “Of course, as soon as I saw you, I knew you weren’t Mr. Ross. But—”

“Look here!” said Ross, bluntly. “What’s it all about, anyhow?”

“There was a little difficulty, sir,” said Mrs. Jones, still in a whisper. “But it’s all over now.”

All over now? A new thought came to Ross. Had the man under the sofa been Miss Solway’s “terrible trouble,” and had Cousin James been sent for to help—in doing what had already been done?

He had, at this moment, a most clear and definite warning from his brain. “Clear out!” it said. “Get out of this, now. Don’t wait; don’t ask questions; just go!” All through his body this warning signal ran, making his scalp prickle and his heart beat fast. “It is bad for you here. Go! Now!

And his stubborn and indomitable spirit answered: “I won’t!

“I want to see Miss Solway,” he said, aloud.

Mrs. Jones looked at him for a moment, and apparently the expression on his face filled her with despair.

“Oh, dear!” she said, with a tremulous sigh. “I knew; I told her it was a mistake to send. Oh, dear!”

Ross stood there and waited.

“If you’ll go away,” she said, “Miss Solway will write to you.”

Ross still stood there and waited.

“Very well, sir!” she said, with another sigh. “If you must, you must. This way, please!”

He followed her out of the room, and he noticed that she did not even glance back. She couldn’t know. It was impossible that any one who was aware of what lay under the sofa could simply walk out of the room like that, closing the door upon it.

They went down the corridor, which was evidently a wing of the house, and turned the corner into a wider hall. Mrs. Jones knocked upon a door.

“Miss Amy, my pet!” she called, softly.

The door opened a little.

“The gentleman,” said Mrs. Jones. “He will see you!”

“All right!” answered a voice he recognized; the door opened wider, and there was the girl he had seen before. Her body, in that soft gray dress, seemed almost incredibly fragile; her face, colorless, framed in misty black hair, with great, restless black eyes and delicate little features, was strange and lovely as a dream.

Too strange, thought Ross. For the first time he realized the significance of her presence in the housekeeper’s room. He remembered the wailing voice, her air of haste and terror as she had brushed past him. She had been in there, alone. What did she know? What had she seen?

“I had a note from you—” he began.

“Hush!” said Mrs. Jones. “If you please, sir! It’s a mistake, Miss Amy, my pet. This isn’t Mr. Ross. It’s quite a stranger.”

Obviously she was warning her pet to be careful what she said, and Ross decided that he, too, would be careful. He would have his own little mystery.

“Quite a stranger!” he repeated.

“But—how did you get my note?” asked the girl.

“It was given to me,” he answered.

He saw Mrs. Jones and the girl exchange a glance.

“If I hold my tongue and wait,” he thought, “they’ll surely have to tell me something.”

“But I don’t—” the girl began, when, to Ross’s amazement, Mrs. Jones gave him a vigorous push forward.

“You’re the new chauffeur!” she whispered, fiercely.

Then he heard footsteps in the hall. He stood well inside the room, now; a large room, furnished with quiet elegance. It was what people called a boudoir, he thought, as his quick eye took in the details; a dressing table with rose shaded electric lights and gleaming silver and glass; a little desk with rose and ivory fittings; a silver vase of white chrysanthemums on the table.

“I’m afraid we can’t take you,” said Mrs. Jones, in an altogether new sort of voice, brisk, and a little loud. “I’m sorry.”

Ross was very well aware that some one else had come to the door and was standing behind him. He was also aware of a sort of triumph in Mrs. Jones’s manner. She thought she was going to get rid of him. But she wasn’t.

“If it’s a question of wages,” he said, “I’ll take a little less.”

He saw how greatly this disconcerted her.

“No,” she said. “No, I’m afraid not.”

“What’s the matter? What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” demanded an impatient voice behind him. He turned, and saw a stout, middle-aged man of domineering aspect standing there and frowning heavily.

“The young man’s come to apply for the chauffeur’s position, sir,” Mrs. Jones explained. “But I’m afraid—”

“Well, what’s the matter with him?” cried the domineering man. “Can he drive a car? Has he got references, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” Ross replied.

“Let’s see your references!”

“I left them at the agency,” said Ross, as if inspired.

“Agency sent you, eh? Well, they know their business, don’t they? Can you take a car to pieces and put it together again? Have you brains enough to keep your gasoline tank filled, and to remember that when you’re going round a corner some other fellow may be doing the same thing?”

“Yes, sir,” said Ross.

The domineering man stared hard, and Ross met his regard steadily.

“He’ll do,” said the man. “I like him. Looks you straight in the face. Level headed. Well set up. Good nerves. Doesn’t drink. We’ll give him a chance. Eddy!”

He went out into the hall.

“Eddy!” he shouted. “I want Eddy!”

Mrs. Jones came close to Ross.

“Go away!” she whispered. “You must go away!”

The domineering man had come back into the room.

“Now, then, what’s your name?” he demanded brusquely.

“Moss,” said Ross.

“Moss, eh? Very well! Ah, here’s Eddy! Eddy, take this young man over to the garage. See that he’s properly looked after. He’s our new chauffeur.”


The door closed behind them, and Ross round himself in the hall, alone with this Eddy. They stared at each other for a moment; then, in spite of himself, a grudging smile dawned upon Ross’s lean and dour face. Eddy grinned from ear to ear.

“Come on, shover!” he said. “I’ll show you your stall!”

A sheik, Eddy was; very slender, with black hair well oiled and combed back from his brow, and wearing clothes of the latest and jauntiest mode. But he lacked the lilylike languor of the true sheik; his rather handsome face was alert and cheerful; and although he moved with the somewhat supercilious grace of one who had been frequently called a just wonderful dancer, there was a certain wiry vigor about him.

Ross followed him down the hall and around the corner, into the corridor where Mrs. Jones’s room was. Ross saw that the door was a little ajar, and he dropped behind, because he wanted to look into that room, but Eddy, in passing, pulled it shut.

Did he know, too? Certainly he did not look like the sort of youth who went about closing doors unbidden, simply from a sense of order and decorum. And that grin—did it signify a shrewd understanding of a discreditable situation?

It was at this instant that Ross began to realize what he had done. Only dimly, though; for he thought that in a few moments he would be gone, and the whole affair finished, as far as he was concerned. He felt only a vague disquiet, and a great impatience to get away. He went after Eddy down the back stairs and through a dark passage on the floor below, at the end of which he saw a brightly lit kitchen where a stout cook bent over the stove, and that same disagreeable housemaid was mixing something in a bowl at the table.

Then Eddy opened a door, and a wild gust of wind and rain sprang at them.

“Step right along, shover!” said Eddy. “Here! This way!” And he took Ross by the arm.

It was black as the pit out there; the wind came whistling through the pines, driving before it great sheets of rain that was half sleet. It was a world of black, bitter cold and confusion, and Ross thought of nothing at all except getting under shelter again.

It was only a few yards; then Eddy stopped, let go of Ross’s arm, and slid back a door. This door opened upon blackness, too, but Ross was glad enough to get inside. Eddy closed the door, turned on a switch, and he saw that they were in a garage.

It was a very ordinary garage, neat and bare, with a cement floor, and two cars standing, side by side; yet, to Ross it had a sinister aspect. He was very weary, wet and chilled to the bone, and this place looked to him like a prison, a stone dungeon. Storm or no storm, he wanted to get out, away from this place and these people.

“Look here—” he began, but Eddy’s cheerful voice called out: “This way!” and he saw him standing at the foot of a narrow staircase in one corner.

The one thing which made Ross go up those stairs was his violent distaste for the dramatic. He felt that it would be absurd to dash out into the rain. Instinct warned him, but once again he defied that warning, and up he went.

He was surprised and pleased by what he found up there: the jolliest, coziest little room, green rug on the floor, big armchairs of imitation red leather, reading lamp. It was not a room of much aesthetic charm, perhaps, but comfortable, cheerful and homelike, and warm.

The rain was drumming loud on the roof and dashing against the windows, and Ross sighed as he looked at the big chairs. But he was beginning to think now.

“Take off your coat and make yourself at home,” said Eddy.

“No,” Ross objected. “I can’t stay tonight. Didn’t bring my things along.”

“Oh, didn’t you?” said Eddy. “Why not?”

“Because I didn’t come prepared to stay.”

“What did you come for?” asked Eddy.

Now, this might be mere idle curiosity, and Ross decided to accept it as that.

“No,” he said, slowly. “I’ll go back to the city and get my things.”

“It’s raining too hard,” Eddy declared. “It wouldn’t be healthy for you to go out just now, shover.”

This was a little too much for Ross to ignore.

“Just the same,” he insisted, “I’m going now.”

“Nope!” said Eddy.

Ross moved forward, and Eddy moved, too, so that he blocked the doorway. He was grinning, but there was an odd light in his eyes.

“Now, lookit here!” he said. “You just make yourself comfortable for the night, see?”

Ross looked at him thoughtfully. He believed that it would not be difficult to throw this slender youth down the stairs, and to walk out of the garage, but he disliked the idea.

“I don’t want to make any trouble, Eddy,” he explained, almost mildly. “But I’m going.”

“Nope!” said Eddy.

Ross took a step forward. Eddy reached in his hip pocket and pulled out a revolver.

“Nope!” he said again.

“What!” cried Ross, astounded. “Do you mean—”

“Tell you what I mean,” said Eddy. “I mean to say that I know who you are, and what you come for, and you’re going to sit pretty till tomorrow morning. That’s what I mean.”

He spoke quite without malice; indeed, his tone was good-humored. But he was in earnest, he and his gun; there was no doubt about it.

It was not Ross’s disposition to enter into futile arguments. He took off his overcoat, sat down, calmly took out a cigarette and lit it.

“I see!” he remarked. “But I’d like to know who I am, and what I came for. I’d like to hear your point of view.”

“Maybe you wouldn’t,” said Eddy. “Anyway, that can wait. Got to see about feeding you now.”

He locked the door behind him and dropped the key into his pocket. Then he opened another door leading out of the sitting room, disclosing a small kitchen.

“Last shover we had, he was a married man,” he explained. “Him and his wife fixed the place up like it is. I been living here myself, lately. Let’s see—I got pork and beans, cawfee, cake—good cake—cook over at the house made it. How does that strike you?”

“Good enough!” answered Ross, a little absently.

Eddy was moving about in the kitchen, whistling between his teeth; from time to time he addressed a cheerful remark to his captive, but got no answer. Presently he brought in a meal, of a sort, and set it out on a table.

“Here you are!” he announced.

Ross drew up his chair, and fell to, with a pretty sharp appetite.

“Look here!” he said, abruptly. “Who was that man—the one who—hired me?”

“Him? The Prince of Wales!” Eddy replied. “Thought you’d recognized him.”

This was Ross’s last attempt at questioning. Indeed, he was quite willing to be silent now, for his deplorably postponed thinking was now well under way. His brain was busy with the events of this day—this immeasurably long day. Was it only this morning that he had got the note? Only this morning that he had said good-by to Phyllis Barron?

“She’d be a bit surprised if she knew where I’d gone!” he thought.

And then, with a sort of shock, it occurred to him that nobody—absolutely nobody on earth knew where he had gone, or cared. These people here did not know even his name. He had come here, had walked into this situation, and if he never came out again, who would be troubled?

Mr. Teagle had not expected him at any definite time, and would wait for weeks and weeks before feeling the least anxiety about his unknown client. The people at the Hotel Miston would scarcely notice for some time the absence of Mr. Ross of New York, especially as his luggage remained there to compensate them for any loss. Nobody would be injured, or unhappy, or one jot the worse, if he never saw daylight again.

This was one aspect of a completely free life which he had not considered. He was of no interest or importance to any one. He began to consider it now.

Eddy had cleared away their meal, and had been turning over the pages of a magazine. Now he began to yawn, and presently, getting up, opened another door, to display a tidy little bedroom.

“Whenever you’re ready to go by-by, shover,” he suggested.

“Thanks, I’m all right where I am,” Ross asserted.

“Suit yourself,” said Eddy.

He set a chair against the locked door, pulled up another chair to put his feet on, and made himself as comfortable as he could. But Ross made no such effort. His family had never cared about being comfortable. No; there he sat, too intent upon his thoughts to sleep.

The realization of his own utter loneliness in this world had set him to thinking about the man under the sofa. There might be some one waiting, in tears, in terrible anxiety for that man. Probably there was. There were very, very few human beings who had nobody to care.

He had made up his mind to go to the police with his story the next morning. And he saw very clearly the disagreeable position into which his perverse obstinacy had brought him. He had discovered a man who was certainly dead, and possibly murdered, and he had said not a word about it to any one.

He had refused to go away when he had a chance, and now, here he was, held prisoner while, if there had been foul play, the persons responsible would have ample time to make what arrangements they pleased. He could very well imagine how his tale would sound to the police.

“Good Lord!” he said to himself. “What a fool I’ve been!”


It seemed to Ross that the great noise of the wind outside was mingled now with the throb of engines and the rushing of water. He thought he felt the lift and roll of the ship beneath him; he thought he was lying in his berth again, on his way across the dark waste of waters, toward New York. He wondered what New York would be like.

Phyllis Barron was knocking at his door, telling him to hurry, hurry and come on deck. This did not surprise him; he was only immensely relieved and glad.

“I knew you’d come!” he wanted to say, but he could not speak. He tried to get up and dress and go out to her, but he could not move. He made a desperate struggle to call to her.

“Wait! Wait!” he tried to say. “I’m asleep. But I’ll wake in a minute. Please don’t go away!”

Then, with a supreme effort, he did wake. He opened his eyes. There was Eddy, stretched out on his two chairs, sound asleep. And there was a muffled knocking at the door, and a little wailing voice:

“Eddy! Eddy! Oh, can’t you hear me? Eddy!”

For a moment Ross thought it was an echo from his dream, but, as the drowsiness cleared from his head, he knew it was real. He got up and touched the sleeping youth on the shoulder.

“There’s some one calling you!” he said. Eddy opened his eyes with an alert expression and glared at Ross.

“What?” he demanded, sternly. “No monkey tricks, now!”

As a matter-of-fact, he was still more than half asleep, and Ross had to repeat his statement twice before it was understood. Then he sprang up, pushed aside the chairs, and unlocked the door.

It was Miss Solway. She came in, like a wraith; she was wrapped in a fur coat, but she looked cold, pale, affrighted; her black eyes wide, her misty dark hair in disorder; a fit figure for a dream.

“Eddy!” she said. “Go away!”

“Lookit here, Miss Amy,” Eddy protested, anxiously. “Wait till morning.”

“But it is morning!” she cried. “Go away, Eddy! Quick! I want to speak to— Go away, do! I only have a minute to spare.”

“Morning!” thought Ross. He looked at his watch, which showed a few minutes past six; then at the window. It was as black as ever outside.

“Lookit here, Miss Amy,” Eddy began again. “If I was you, I’d—”

“Get out, fool!” she cried. “Idiot! This instant!”

Her fierce and sudden anger astounded Ross. Her eyes had narrowed, her nostrils dilated, her short upper lip was drawn up in a sort of snarl. Yet this rage was in no way repellent; it was like the fury of some beautiful little animal. He could perfectly understand Eddy’s answering in a tone of resigned indulgence.

“All right, Miss Amy. Have it your own way.”

It seemed to Ross that that was the only possible way for any man to regard this preposterous and lovely creature, not critically, but simply with indulgence.

Taking up his cap and overcoat, Eddy departed, whistling as he went down the stairs. Miss Solway waited, scowling, until he had gone; then she turned to Ross.

Who are you?” she demanded.

He was greatly taken aback. He had not yet had time to collect his thoughts; nothing much remained in his mind except the decision of the night before that this morning he was going to the police with an account of what he had seen. And, stronger and clearer than anything else, was his desire and resolve to get away from here.

“Oh, tell me!” she entreated.

Ross reflected well before answering. Eddy suspected him of something—Heaven knew what. Perhaps this girl did, too. He imagined that they were both a little afraid of him. And, if he held his tongue, and didn’t let them know how casual and unpremeditated all his actions had been, he might keep them in wholesome doubt about him, and so get away.

“My name’s Moss,” he replied, as if surprised. “I came to get a job.”

“No!” she said. “You got my note. But how could you? Who can you be? Nanna said—but I don’t believe it! I knew—as soon as I saw you—I felt sure you’d come to help me. Oh, tell me! My cousin James sent you, didn’t he?”

“James Ross?” asked Ross, slowly.

“Yes!” she answered, eagerly. “My cousin James. He did! I know it! Mother always told me to go to him if I needed help. Of course, I know he must be old now. I was afraid—so terribly afraid that he’d left the ship, or that I’d forgotten the name of it. But I was right, after all. I thought mother had said he was purser on the Farragut.”

“What!” cried Ross.

He began to understand now. Years and years ago—the dimmest memory—he had had a cousin James who was purser on one of the Porto Rico boats. He could vaguely remember his coming to their house in Mayaguez; a gloomy man with a black beard; son of his father’s elder brother William. It must have been on the old Farragut, scrapped nearly twenty years ago.

And that cousin James had vanished, too, long ago. William Ross had had three children, and outlived them all. Ross could remember his grandfather telling him that.

“All gone,” the old man had said; “both my sons and their sons. No doubt the Almighty has some reason for sparing you; but it’s beyond me.”

Your Cousin James?” said Ross, staring at her—because that had been his Cousin James.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she answered, impatiently. “I told you. Now tell me how—”

But Ross wanted to understand.

“What was your father’s name?” he demanded.

“Luis Delmano,” she replied. “But what does that matter? I only have a minute—”

“Then why do you call yourself Solway if your name is—”

“Oh!” she cried. “Now I see! You didn’t know the name of my mother’s second husband! Nobody had told you that! Of course! I should have thought of that. Mother told me how horrible her brothers were. When she married daddy, they were so furious. They said they’d never see her or speak to her or mention her name again—and I suppose they didn’t. Nasty, heartless beasts! Their only sister!”

Although Ross had never before heard of any sister of his father’s, the story seemed to him probable. His grandfather, his father, and his uncle were so exactly the sort of people to possess a sister whose name was never mentioned; grim, savage, old-fashioned, excommunicating sort of people. Yes; it was probable; but it was startling. Because, if this girl’s mother had been his father’s sister, then he was her Cousin James, after all.

He did not want to be. His dark face grew a little pale, and he turned away, looking down at the floor, considering this new and unwelcome idea.

“Now you understand!” she said. “And you did come to help me, didn’t you?”

This time his silence was deliberate, and not due to any confusion in his thoughts. The blood in his veins spoke clearly to him. What those other Rosses had condemned, he, too, condemned. He was like them. This girl was altogether strange, exotic, and dangerous, and he wanted to get away from her.

It was his gift, however, to show no sign of whatever he might be thinking; his face was expressionless, and she read what she chose there. She came nearer to him, and laid her hand on his arm.

“You will help me?” she said, softly.

He looked down at her gravely. He knew that she was willfully attempting to charm him—and how he did scorn anything of that sort! And yet— He looked at her as some long forgotten Ross of Salem might have looked at a bonny young witch. The creature was dangerous, and yet— Bonny she was, and a young man is a young man.

“I don’t see,” he began, doubtfully, when suddenly she cried: “Look!” and pointed to the window. He turned, startled, but he saw nothing there.

“It’s getting light!” she cried.

That was true enough. The sky was not black now, but all gray, pallid, swept clean of clouds. The rain had ceased, but the mighty wind still blew, and the tops of the trees bowed and bent before it, like inky marionettes before a pale curtain. There was no sign yet of the sun, but you could feel that the dawn was coming.

“What of it?” asked Ross, briefly.

“It’s the last day!” she answered.

What a thing to say! The last day. It filled him with a vague sense of dread, and it made him angry.

“That’s not—” he began, but she did not heed him.

“Listen!” she said. “You must help me! I don’t know what to do. I’m—I’m desperate! I’ve—” She stopped, looking up into his wooden face; then, seizing him by the shoulder, she tried to shake him.

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, look at me like a human being!” she cried.

He stared at her, dumfounded.

“Stop it!” she commanded. “You’ve got to listen to me!”

He had never in his life been so amazed. She had flown at him, and shaken him! It was unbelievable. It was pathetic. She was such a little thing; so fierce, and so helpless.

“All right!” he said, mildly. “I’m listening. What’s it all about?”

His tone, his faint smile, did not please her.

“Oh, you think it’s nothing!” she said. “You think I’m just a silly girl, making an awful fuss about some childish trouble. Don’t you? Well, you’re wrong. Listen to me!”

She stopped, and drew back a little, looking him straight in the face with those strange black eyes of hers.

“I’ve done a terrible thing,” she said, in a low, steady voice. “A wicked, terrible thing. If I get what I deserve, I’m ruined and lost.”

She turned away from him, and walked over to the window. Ross turned, too, and followed her. She was gazing before her at the gray sky; the curve of her cheek, her half parted lips, her wide brow, were altogether innocent and lovely, but the look on her pale face was not so. It was somber, bitter, and tragic.

“The sun is coming up,” she said, almost inaudibly. “Will you help me?”

“Yes,” Ross answered.


Ross stood by the window, watching the sun come up—the first sunrise he had witnessed in his native land. From the east the light welled up and spread, slow and inexorable, across the sky, like the Master’s glance traveling over the chill world; and in his soul Ross dreaded that light. It would mean discovery. That very quiet figure in the housekeeper’s room would have his revenge.

“I’m in it now,” Ross muttered. “Up to the neck.”

And why? Was it pity for that girl? Was it a stirring of sentiment because she was his kinswoman, his cousin? He did not think so. He might have pitied her, and still gone away. He might have recognized their kinship simply by keeping silent about what he had seen. No; it was something more than that; something he could not quite understand.

It was the claim of life upon a strong spirit. You are hardy and valiant, life said; your shoulders are fitted to bear burdens, and bear them you shall. Here before you is a cruel burden, and you cannot turn aside. All the strong ones shall be chosen to suffer for the weak. You are chosen, and you shall suffer.

Well, he did.

“I’ve done a wicked, terrible thing. If I get what I deserve, I’m ruined and lost.”

That was what she had said to him, and he interpreted it readily enough. It was hideous to think of, but not difficult to believe. She was, he thought, capable of any imaginable thing, good or evil. She would not weigh, or calculate, or even understand; she would only want. She would want to possess something, or she would want to destroy something which irked her.

“And after all,” he thought, “it’s not a hard thing to do. Even a little, weak thing like her can—”

His mind balked at the fatal word, but, with a frown, he deliberately uttered it to himself.

“Can kill,” he said. “I’ve got to face this squarely. Other women have done things like that. A few drops of something in a glass, perhaps.”

An uncontrollable shudder ran through him.

“No!” he thought. “I needn’t think—that. I’ll wait till she’s told me. The whole thing may be—some accident—something else.”

But he remembered that she had been there alone in the housekeeper’s room, and that he had heard her crying in there. He remembered her words—“a wicked, terrible thing.” And he remembered, above everything else, her face, with that look upon it.

“Damn it!” he cried. “I won’t think at all—until I know something definite. I’ll just carry on.”

He could, and did, refuse to think of his immediate problem, but his mind would not remain idle. It presented him with a very vivid picture of Phyllis Barron. And now, for the first time, he welcomed that gentle image. She was so immeasurably remote now, so far away, in an entirely different world; a friendly, honest world, where she was living her daily life, while he stood here, watching the sun rise upon a dreaded and unpredictable day.

“Well, shover!” said Eddy’s cheerful voice behind him. “The big boss ’ll want the car for the eight forty.”

“All right!” Ross agreed, promptly. “I want a bath and a shave first. And maybe you’ll lend me a collar and a pair of socks.”

“I’ll do that for you!” said Eddy. “And say! You could try Wheeler’s uniform that he left behind. He was the shover before you. He left in a hurry. Got kicked out. Most of our shovers do.”


“Well, I’ll tell you,” Eddy explained, sitting down on the edge of the bed, and watching Ross shave with cold water, a very dull razor, and the minute fragment of a shaving stick. “Most of our shovers get tempted and fall—hard. Miss Amy ’ll ask ’em to take her some place where the boss don’t want her to go, and not to mention it at home. And they do. And then, the next time she gets mad at the boss, she tells him the whole tale, just to worry him. And the shover goes. See?”

“I see!” said Ross.

“She was talking to me just now,” Eddy went on. “I guess I was mistaken about you. She says you’re going to stay. Well!” He grinned. “I wish you luck!”

“Thanks!” said Ross.

He understood that Eddy was warning him against the devices of Miss Amy, but it was a little too late.

He took a bath in water colder than any he had yet encountered; then he tried on the uniform left behind by the unfortunate Wheeler. It was a bit tight across the shoulders, and the style was by no means in accordance with his austere taste, but he could wear it.

“And I shan’t keep up this silly farce much longer,” he thought.

“We might as well go over to the house for breakfast,” said Eddy. “Ready?”

Ross did not relish the glimpse he had of his reflection in the mirror. That snug-fitting jacket with a belt in the back, those breeches, those puttees—he did not like them. Worst of all, Eddy’s collar would not meet round his neck, and he had fastened it with a safety pin. As he took up the peaked cap and followed the cheerful youth, he felt, not like an accomplice in a tragedy, but like a very complete fool—and that did not please him.

They crossed the lawn to the house, went in at the back door, and entered the kitchen. There he sat down to breakfast with the cook, the housemaid, the laundress, and Eddy. The kitchen was warm and clean, and neat as a new pin; very agreeable in the morning sunshine. The breakfast was good, and he was very hungry, and ate with a healthy appetite. But, except for a civil good morning, he did not say one word.

For he was listening. He was waiting, in an unpleasant state of tension, for something which would shatter this comfortable serenity. It must come. It was not possible that the figure under the sofa should remain undiscovered, that life should progress as if nothing at all had happened. Amy had said this was the “last day.”

Nothing interrupted the breakfast, though; and, when he had finished, he went back to the garage, to look over the sedan he was to drive. It was a good car, and in perfect condition; nothing for him to do there. He lit a cigarette, and stood talking to Eddy for a time.

Eddy’s theme was Mr. Solway, Miss Amy’s long-suffering stepfather.

“He’s the best man Gawd ever made,” said Eddy, seriously. “My father was coachman to him for eighteen years, and when he passed out, Mr. Solway, he kept me here. He seen that I got a good education and all. I wanted this here shover’s job, but he said nothing doing. He said I’d ought to get a job with a future. I’m down in the telephone comp’ny now—repair man. He lets me live here for nothing—just for doing a few odd jobs. He’s a prince!” He stamped out his cigarette with his heel. “And he has a hell of a life!” he added.

“How?” asked Ross, thirsting for any sort of information about this household.

“Her,” said Eddy. “Remember, I’m not saying nothing against Miss Amy. I’ve known her all my life. But, I’ve done things for that girl I wouldn’t have done for my own mother.” He paused. “I done things for her I wish to Gawd I hadn’t done,” he said, and fell silent.

Ross was silent, too. He remembered how Eddy had closed the door of the housekeeper’s room. He remembered how very anxious Eddy had been to keep him shut up in the garage all night. And he remembered that Eddy carried a revolver.

Why should he imagine that Amy Solway would do for herself any unpleasing task, when apparently she found it so easy to make others do things for her? This boy admitted he had done things for her which he wished “to Gawd” he hadn’t.

“You better start,” said Eddy, and Ross got into the sedan and drove up to the house. He was undeniably nervous. He expected to see—he didn’t know what; a pale face looking at him from one of the windows, a handkerchief waved to him, a note slipped into his hand, some signal. But there was nothing.

Mr. Solway came bursting out of the front door, ran down the steps, said “Good morning! Good morning!” to his new chauffeur, popped into the sedan, and immediately began to read the newspaper. At the station he bounced out, said “Four fifty,” and walked off.

Ross stopped in the town and bought himself some collars. Even this delay worried him; he might be badly needed at the house. But, in spite of his haste to get back, he was mighty careful in his driving, because he had no sort of license. He returned to the garage and put up the car—and waited.

Four hours did he wait. Eddy was nowhere about; no doubt he was repairing telephones. Nobody came near the garage. Ross sketchily overhauled both cars, swept out the place, and waited, not patiently, either.

He had agreed to help that girl, and he was prepared to do so, but he was not going to be a chauffeur much longer. It was, he thought, a singularly dull life. What is more, he had his own affairs to look after; he wanted to get back to New York, and to see Mr. Teagle.

At one o’clock the telephone in the garage rang, and the disagreeable housemaid informed him that lunch was ready. Very well, he was ready for lunch; he went over to the house and again sat down in the kitchen, and ate again in silence. He had nothing to say, and the three women said nothing to him.

He was not a talkative young man; he and his grandfather had often passed entire days with scarcely a word between them, and he took this silence as a matter of course, quite innocent of the fact that it was hostile. The new chauffeur was not liked in the kitchen.

Then he went back to the garage, and waited, and waited, and waited, with grim resentment. A little after four o’clock he was preparing to take the sedan out again, when Amy appeared in the doorway, in her fur coat and a little scarlet hat.

“Oh, good!” she cried. “You’re all ready! I want you to take me—”

“No!” said Ross. “Mr. Solway said four fifty, and I’m going to meet his train.”

“But he meant the four fifty from New York!” said she. “You’ll have plenty of time.” She came nearer to him. “Please, please be quick!” she said. “It’s my last chance!”


“To the left, and straight ahead!” said Amy, as they drove out of the gates.

So, to the left he turned, and drove straight ahead. And he looked straight ahead, too, although he knew very well that she was looking at him. This girl took entirely too much for granted. It was one thing to help her, but to obey her orders blindly was quite another, and it did not suit him. Here he was, dressed up in a chauffeur’s uniform somewhat too small for him, and behaving, no doubt, as those other chauffeurs had behaved—like a fool.

He heard her stir restlessly, with little flutterings and jinglings of her silly feminine finery. She sighed deeply.

“I don’t believe you’ve told me your right name,” she said, plaintively.

“James Ross,” he announced.

“James Ross!” she cried. “Oh, but you said—But he’s old!”

“Another James Ross,” he remarked, coldly but in his heart he was rather pleased with the sensation his words caused.

“Another one? Then—are you my cousin? Are you?”

“I believe so,” Ross replied.

She was silent for a moment; then she observed, thoughtfully:

“I guess I’ll call you Jimmy.”

“I’d rather you didn’t,” said Ross. “I don’t like it.”

“I do!” said she. “I think Jimmy’s a darling name.” Suddenly she flung one arm about his neck. “And I think you’re a darling!” she added, with a sob.

“Look out!” Ross cried, sharply. “You mustn’t do that when I’m driving.” He cast a glance along the straight, empty road, and then turned to her. Her dark eyes were soft and shining with tears, but she was trying to smile.

“Oh, Jimmy!” she exclaimed. “I’m so glad you’ve come!”

“All right!” said the Spartan young man. “Then suppose you tell me what’s wrong?”

“I can’t, Jimmy,” she answered. Her hand rested on his shoulder, but her head was turned away. “I can’t—just now. Only, oh, Jimmy! Sometimes I wish I were dead! Dead and buried with my darling mother—”

He could think of nothing adequate to say to that, and, once more giving a careful glance at the road, he patted her hand.

“I’m sorry,” he declared gravely.

“I know it’s not fair—not to tell you,” she said. “But—can’t you just help me, Jimmy, and—and not care?”

A curious emotion filled him; a great compassion and a great dread.

“Why not?” he thought. “I don’t want to hear. I don’t want to know. Better let well enough alone.”

But he knew it was not better, and not possible. Not all the pity in the world should make him a blind and ignorant tool. He was in honor bound to ask his question.

“Just this,” he said. “That man—in the housekeeper’s room?”

“Why, what man?” she asked. “I don’t know what you mean.”

His heart sank. Disappointment, and a sort of disgust for this childish lie filled him; he did not want to look at her again. He drove on, down a road which seemed to him endless, like a road in a dream.

The sun was going down quietly, without pomp and glory, only slipping out of sight and drawing with it all the light and color in the world. They passed houses, they passed other cars, and it seemed to him that he and this girl passed through the everyday life about them like ghosts, set apart from their fellows, under a chill shadow.

“Jimmy!” she said, abruptly. “How can you be so horrid! Why don’t you talk? Why can’t you be like—like a real cousin?”

“Perhaps I haven’t had enough practice,” Ross replied.

She did not like this.

“All right, then! Don’t help me! Just go away and leave me to suffer all alone!” she cried. “You’re a heartless—beast! Go away!”

“Just as you please,” said Ross. “Can you drive the car?”

She began to cry, but he paid no attention to this.

“Jimmy,” she resumed, at last, “my Gayle’s coming tonight.”

“Your Gayle?” he repeated “What’s that?”

“He’s the man I love,” she said, simply. And she was honest now, wholly in earnest; the childish artfulness had gone, and she spoke quietly.

“He’s coming tonight,” she went on. “And if anything—goes wrong, he’ll go away, and never come back. And something’s very likely to go wrong, Jimmy.”

“You’ll have to remember that I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Ross.

She did not resent his blunt manner now.

“In the house where we’re going,” she explained, “there’s some one Gayle must not see—no matter what happens. I’ll talk to—this person first; I’ll try to persuade him. But if I can’t—That’s what I want you to do for me. I want you to be sure to see that—this person doesn’t leave that house tonight.”

“And how am I to do that?”

She was silent for a moment.

“I don’t care,” she said then. “It doesn’t matter how it’s done.”

“It does matter—to me.”

“Listen to me!” she said, with a sort of sternness. “This man—in the cottage—he’s blackmailing me. Because of something I did—something I’m sorry for—terribly, terribly sorry—”

“What will he take to keep quiet?”

“Nothing. All he wants is to hurt and ruin me.”

“That’s not blackmail,” said Ross. “If he can’t be bribed—”

“Oh, what does it matter what you call it? He’s coming tonight, to tell—this thing—and Gayle will go away!”

“Look here!” said Ross. “Let him tell. If this Gayle of yours cares for you, he’ll stand by you. If he doesn’t, you’re well rid of him. No; just wait a minute! Don’t you see? You can’t lie to a man you’re—fond of. You—”

“I’m not going to lie. I’ll just say nothing. The thing is over, Jimmy; over and done with. Mustn’t I even have a chance? Jimmy, I’m young! I’m sorry—God knows I’m sorry for what I did—but it’s done. Nothing can undo it. Won’t you—won’t you let me have just a chance?”

“But look here! Even if the man didn’t come tonight, he’d come some other time. You don’t expect me to—”

He stopped short, appalled by the words he had not spoken. He looked at her, and in the gathering dusk he saw upon her white face that terrible, still look again.

“No!” he cried.

“Jimmy!” she said. “Just keep him from coming tonight. Then tomorrow I’ll tell you the whole thing. And perhaps you’ll think of something to do. But—just tonight—keep him from coming!”

Ross made no answer.

“Down here, Jimmy—to the left,” she said, presently, and he turned the car down a solitary lane, narrow, scored with ruts of half frozen mud. It had grown so dark now that he turned on the headlights.

“There!” she said. “That’s the house. Let me out!”

He stopped the car.

“Look here!” he began, but she had sprung out, and was hurrying across a field of stubble. He could not let her go alone. He followed her, sick at heart, filled again with that sense of utter solitude, of being cut off from all his fellows, in a desolate and unreal world. His soul revolted against this monstrous adventure, and yet he could not abandon her.

She went before him, light, surprisingly sure-footed upon those high heels of hers. For some reason of her own, she had chosen to approach the house from the side, instead of following the curve of the lane. She came to a fence, and climbed it like a cat, and Ross climbed after her.

They were in a forlorn garden, where the withered grass stood high, and before them was the sorriest little cottage, battered and discolored by wind and rain, all the shutters closed, not a light, not a curtain, not a sign of life about it.

“Look here!” Ross began again. “I’ve got to know—”

She ran up the steps to the porch, where a broken rocking-chair began to rock as she brushed it in passing. She opened the door and entered; it was dark in there, but she ran up the stairs as if she knew them well; before he was halfway up, he heard her hurrying footsteps on the floor above, heard doors open and shut.

Then a light sprang out in the upper hall, and she stood there, looking down at him. By the unshaded gas jet he could see her face clearly, and it shocked him; such anguish there, such terror.

“Gone!” she gasped. “Gone!


To Ross, with his rigid self-control, it seemed impossible that a human creature could safely endure such violent emotion as hers. She was so fragile; she looked ill, horribly ill, ghastly; he thought she would faint, would fall senseless at his feet. He sprang up the stairs to be with her.

“Amy!” he cried.

Her dark brows met in a somber frown; she shook her head, waving her forefinger in front of her face; an odd, foreign little gesture.

“No!” she said. “Keep quiet! Don’t speak to me. Let me think.”

“Think!” said Ross to himself. “I don’t believe you’re capable of it, my girl. But certainly you’re even less capable of listening to any one. Very well; go ahead with your thinking, then; and I’ll wait for the next development.”

He lit a cigarette, and leaned against the wall, smoking, not sorry for an interval of peace.

“Look at the time!” Amy commanded sharply “You’ll be late getting to the station, unless you hurry. Why didn’t you remind me?”

“Inexcusable of me,” said Ross. “I hope I shan’t lose my job.”

She apparently did not choose to notice this flippancy.

“Come!” she ordered, and went past him, down the stairs, and out of that sorry little cottage. She ran all the way to the car, and two or three times she said “Hurry!” to Ross, who kept easily at her side with his usual stride.

“Now!” she said. “Drive as fast as you possibly can!”

“Sorry,” said Ross, “but my only license is one I had in Manila—and even that’s expired. I can’t afford to take chances.”

She shrugged her shoulders, with an unpleasant little laugh. She was in a very evil temper; the light was on inside of the car, and now and then he glanced at her, saw her sitting there, her black eyes staring straight before her, her mouth set in a mutinous and scornful line.

She was in torment; he felt sure of that, but he felt equally sure that she would not hesitate to inflict torment upon others. She was cruel, reckless, blind, and deaf in her folly. He wondered why it was that he pitied her so.

Then he, too, shrugged his shoulders; mentally, that is, for he was incapable of so theatric a gesture in the flesh. He himself was in an odd humor, a sort of resigned indifference. He had, for the moment, lost interest in the whole affair. It was too fantastic, too confusing; he didn’t care very much what happened, just now.

“Let me out here!” she said. “There’s not time for you to take me up to the house. I’ll walk. Now hurry!”

He stopped the car at the corner of Wygatt Road; she got out, and he went on, alone. And he was surprised by the difference which her going made. It was as if a monstrous oppression were lifted from his spirit, and he could once more draw a free breath, and once more see the open sky. One clear star was out. No; it was not a mad world; there was awful and majestic order in the universe, inexorable law.

And she was truly pitiable, hurrying home beneath that one star; a poor, helpless futile young thing, defying the whole world for her own desire. She wanted him to help her! He would not help her in her desperate folly, but he would not leave her now. Not now.

These admirable ideas were entirely put out of his head by a new dilemma. He arrived at the station; he heard the train coming in, and he could find no advantageous place for his car. All the good places were taken. He had to stop where he was certain Mr. Solway would never find him, until, as the train came in, a taxi was seized by an alert woman, and Ross got his car into that vacant place.

Mr. Solway was not in the vanguard of the commuters; he came leisurely and with dignity, talking with another man. Ross stood beside the open door of the car; with a nod Mr. Solway got in, and the other man, too. They paid no attention whatever to Ross; they settled themselves, and went on talking, as if he were a ghost.

“They closed at five and an eighth,” said the other man. “I can’t help thinking that—”

“Now, see here!” Mr. Solway interrupted. “You hold on to them, my boy. I told you it was a good thing.”

“It would be,” said the other. “A very good thing, sir, if I could unload at five and an eighth—or even a bit less—when I bought at three and three-fourths.”

“Now, see here!” said Mr. Solway. “I’ll tell you something—which you needn’t mention anywhere. I’m buying at five and an eighth—up to six and a half. Buying, mind you, my boy!”

This was almost more than Ross could bear. This was just the sort of talk he had thirsted for; this was what he had come to New York for; to buy stocks at three and three-fourths and sell at six and one-half, or more. There he sat, with his peaked cap pulled down over his lean, impassive face, listening with a sort of rage. If he could only ask Mr. Solway questions, only tell him that he had a few thousands of his own all ready and waiting for a little venture like this.

“And you’ll need all you can get, my boy,” Mr. Solway went on, “if you’re going to marry Amy.”

Then this was Gayle? Ross turned his head for one hasty glance—and then, encountering the astonished frown of Mr. Solway, realized what an improper thing he had done. Chauffeurs must not look.

He had had this look, though, and had gained a pretty accurate impression of the stranger. A tall young fellow, fair haired and gray eyed; he was stalwart and broad shouldered, and altogether manly, but there was in his face something singularly gentle and engaging.

“And that’s the fellow!” thought Ross. “That’s the fellow who’s going to be fooled and lied to.”

He liked him. And he liked the vigorous and blustering Mr. Solway, and he liked this rational, masculine conversation. It reassured him. He reflected that, after all, he was not alone in this miserable affair, not hopelessly cornered with the preposterous girl. No; Solway was her stepfather, and the other man was her “Gayle.” They were in it, too. They were his natural allies.

“She’s got to tell them, that’s all,” he said to himself. “They’ll both stand by her. I’ll make her tell them. I can’t handle this infernal mystery alone. I’m too much in the dark.”

He drove in at the gates, up the driveway, and stopped the car before the house with a smartness that pleased him. Mr. Solway bounced out.

“Here, now!” he said. “You—Moss—Moss, that’s it. Moss, just lend a hand with this bag. That’s right; up the stairs—first door on the left. That’s it! That’s it! There you are, Gayle, my boy!”

He turned to Ross.

“Moss,” he said. “Everything going along all right? That’s it! That’s it! You let me know if there’s anything wrong.”

Ross was hard put to it to suppress a smile. He imagined how it would be if he should say:

“Well, sir, there was one little thing—a dead man under the housekeeper’s sofa. But, perhaps I shouldn’t mention it.”

He looked for a moment into the bluff, scowling, kindly face of the man Eddy had called “a prince.”

“Thank you, sir,” he said, and turned away, down the hall toward the back stairs. And, as he came round the corner into the corridor, where the housekeeper’s room was, his quick ear caught some words of such remarkable personal interest to him that he stood still.

“Another James Ross!” Mrs. Jones was saying. “That’s a likely story, I must say! Amy, that man’s a fraud and a spy!”

“No, Nanna darling, he’s not!” answered Amy, with sweet obstinacy.

“I tell you he is, child. He’s got to go.”

“No, dear,” said Amy. “He’s going to help me.”

“Amy!” cried Mrs. Jones. “Can’t you trust me? I tell you it’s all right. He won’t come tonight. I promise you he won’t!”

“Oh, you mean well!” Amy remarked. “But you’ve made plenty of mistakes before this.”

“Amy, I promise you—”

“No,” said Amy. “You told me before that I needn’t worry, that you’d ‘settled everything.’ And what happened? No; I’m afraid you’re getting old, Nanna—old and stupid. I’m going to manage for myself now. And Jimmy’s going to help me.”

“Child!” Mrs. Jones protested. “That man will ferret out—”

“I don’t care if he does,” said Amy. “He won’t tell, anyhow. Now don’t bother me any more, Nanna. I’ve simply got to go.”

Ross stepped quickly backward along the hall for a few yards; then he went forward again, with a somewhat heavier tread. And just round the corner of the corridor, he came face to face with Amy.

Her beauty almost took his breath away. She wore a dress of white and silver, and round her slender throat a short string of pearls. And against all this gleaming white the pallor of her skin was rich and warm, with a tint almost golden; and her misty hair was like a cloud about her face, and her black eyes so soft, so limpid.

“Jimmy!” she whispered. “Do I look nice?”

“Er—yes; very nice,” Ross answered stiffly.

She came close to him, put her hand on his shoulder.

“Please, Jimmy!” she said, earnestly. “I do so awfully want to be happy—just for a little while!”

Ross had a moment of weakness. She was so young, so lovely; it seemed important, even necessary, that she should be happy. But he valiantly resisted the spell.

“Who doesn’t?” he inquired.

“Jimmy, dear!” she said. “I’m coming to the garage after dinner—to ask you something—to beg you to do something. Will you do it, my dear little Jimmy?”

“I’ll have to hear what it is first,” said Ross.

But she seemed satisfied.


Ross went up to the room over the garage, and sat down there. He was hungry and tired, and in no pleasant humor.

“It’s entirely too damned much!” he said to himself. “I’m—comparatively speaking—a rich man. There’s money waiting for me. There’s a nice, comfortable room in a hotel waiting for me; and decent clothes. I could have gone to a play tonight. There was one I wanted to see. And here I am—in a garage—dressed up like a monkey. No, it’s too much! I’m going back to the city tomorrow. I’m going to see Teagle, and settle my affairs. If Amy wants me to help her, I suppose I shall. But I won’t stay here, and I won’t be a chauffeur.”

The more he thought of all this, the more exasperated he became. And it was nearly nine o’clock before he was summoned to dinner, which did not tend to placate him. In spite of his hunger, he took his time in going over to the house. He had no objection to being late, and he would have no objection to hearing some one complain about it. Indeed, he wished that some one would complain. Just one word.

Looking for trouble, Ross was, when he entered the house. He pushed open the swing door of the kitchen.

What marvelous aromas were there! What a festive air! That grave woman, the cook, was wreathed in smiles, for had she not this night accomplished a dinner which even Mrs. Jones had praised?

And the disagreeable housemaid was in softened mood, too, for she had waited upon romance. She had already described, more than once, the splendor of Miss Amy’s costume, and the way “him and her” had looked at each other.

The laundress was elated, because she was fond of romance, and still more because she was a greedy young creature, and scented an especially good dinner. And they all welcomed Ross with cordiality.

“It’s too bad you had to be waiting the long time it was!” said the cook. “You’ve a right to be famished entirely, Mr. Moss!”

Much mollified, the young man admitted that he was hungry.

“You’d oughter of come over for a cuper tea this afternoon,” said the housemaid. “And a piecer cake.”

“You’d oughter of tole him, Gracie,” the laundress added. “Poor feller! He don’t know the ways here, yet!”

“Sit down, the lot of ye!” said the cook.

They did, and that unparalleled dinner began. It must be borne in mind that Ross was wholly unaccustomed to this sort of thing, to home cooking at its best, to the maternal kindness of women toward a hungry man. He liked it.

He was in no hurry to go back to the solitude of the garage, and his own thoughts. Being invited to smoke, he lit a cigarette and made himself very comfortable, while the cook washed the dishes, and Gracie and the laundress dried them. He was still taciturn, because he couldn’t be anything else; but he answered questions.

He admitted that he had traveled a bit, and when the laundress, who was disposed to be arch, asked to be told about them queer places, he gave a few facts about the exports and imports of Manila. Anyhow, they all listened to him, and said, “Didjer ever!” and it was altogether the pleasantest hour he had yet spent in his native land.

And then—the swing door banged open, and there stood Amy, with a fur coat over her shimmering dress, and an ominous look in her black eyes.

“Moss!” she said. “What are you doing here? Get up and come with me at once! I want to speak to you!”

Without a word, he arose and followed her into the passage.

“I told you I was coming to the garage!” she pointed out, in a low, furious voice. “Why didn’t you wait there?”

“Look here!” said Ross. “I don’t like this sort of thing.”

Before his tone her wrath vanished at once.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy!” she said. “I didn’t mean to be horrid. Only, it was so hard for me to slip away—and I went all the way out to the garage in the cold and the dark, and you weren’t there—and I’m so terribly worried. Oh, you will hurry, won’t you?”

“Hurry? Well, what do you want me to do?”

“It may be too late, even now. Any instant he may come. He’ll ring the bell, and Gracie will open the door. I can’t tell her not to. He’ll come in. Oh, Jimmy, you won’t let that happen, will you? Oh, do, do please hurry!”

“But just what—”

“Go out and hide some place where you can watch the front door. And if you see him coming—stop him! A thin, dark man, with a mustache. Oh, hurry, Jimmy! All evening long I’ve been waiting and waiting—in torment—for the sound of the bell. Go, Jimmy dear!”

“How long do you expect me to wait for him?”

“Oh, not so awfully long, dear. Just—” She paused. “Just till Eddy comes home. I’m sure he won’t be late. Now hurry!”

“I don’t want to do this,” said Ross. “I can’t stop—”

“Oh, shut up!” she cried; and then tried to atone by patting his cheek. “Jimmy, I’m desperate! Just help me this once! Tomorrow I’ll explain it all, and you’ll see. Only go now!”

“I’ll have to get my overcoat from the garage,” he explained.

“All right, dear!” she said, gently, and turned away. And as he went toward the back door, he heard her sob.

All the way to the garage that sob echoed in his ears. Her tears had not affected him; they were too facile, too convenient. But that half stifled sob in the dark—He went quickly, taking the key from his pocket as he went; he, too, was in a hurry, now, to spare her this thing she dreaded.

He unlocked the door, turned on the switch, ran up the stairs, through the sitting room, and into the bedroom, where his coat hung.

He stopped short in the doorway. For, sitting on the bed was a tiny girl, seriously engaged in tying a ribbon about the waist of a white flannel rabbit. She looked up at the young man, but apparently was not interested, and went on with her job.

“Who are you?” demanded Ross.

“Lil-lee,” said she.

“Yes, but I mean—how did you get here?”

“I comed in a balloon,” she assured him.

Ross was completely ignorant about young children, but he realized that they were not to be held strictly accountable for their statements. And this child was such a very small one; such a funny little doll. She had a great mane of fair hair hanging about her shoulders, and, on one temple, a wilted bit of pink ribbon; she had serene blue eyes, a plump and serious face, by no means clean.

She wore a white dress, still less clean, a coral necklace, white—or grayish white—socks all down about her ankles, and the most dreadful little white shoes. He observed all this, because it was his way to observe, and because he was so amazed that he could do nothing but stare at her.

“But who brought you?” he asked.

“Minoo,” she replied.

“Who’s Minoo?”

The child held up the rabbit.

“Oh, Lord!” cried Ross. “Won’t you please try to be—sensible? I don’t know— Are you all alone here?”

“I fink I are.”

“The door was locked,” he said, aloud. “I can’t see— But what shall I do with you?”

“Gimme my dindin,” said she.

Ross wished to treat so small and manifestly incompetent a creature with all possible courtesy, but he was handicapped by his inexperience.

“Look here, Lily!” he said, earnestly. “I’m in the deuce of a hurry just now. If you’ll wait here, I’ll come back as soon as I can.”

“I will be a good baby!” said she. “But I want my dindin!”

He could have torn his hair. He could not fail Amy now. And he could not leave a good baby alone and hungry, for he did not know how long.

“Shall I take it to the house?” he thought. “The cook would feed it. But—perhaps it’s another of these damned mysteries. I haven’t time to think it out now. I’d better keep it here until I’ve thought a bit. See here, Lily, what do you eat?”

“Dindin,” Lily answered.

“Yes, I know. But—I’ve got bread. Will that do?”

“I like bread and thugar!” she agreed.

He hurried into the kitchen, cut four good, sturdy slices of bread, covered them well with butter and sugar, and brought them back on a plate. Then, with a vague memory of a puppy he had once had, he thought of water, and brought a glassful.

“Now I’ve got to go, Lily,” he explained. “But I’ll come back as soon as I can. You just wait, see?”

“I will!” she said, pleasantly, and held out her arms.

He hesitated for a moment, half frightened; then he caught up the funny little doll and kissed its cheek.

It was not a doll. It was warm and alive, and solider than it looked. It clung to him, and kissed him back again.


“You won’t feel the cold the first winter in the States.”

That was what people in Manila and Porto Rico had told Ross. He thought of those people now. You didn’t feel it, did you? Yes, you did!

He had found “some place where he could hide and watch the front door”; a plantation of firs halfway between the house and the gates. He had been there more than an hour, prowling up and down behind the screen of branches; he had at first tried to smoke, but darkness and cold annihilated any sort of zest in the tobacco. He had attempted the army setting-up exercises, considerably hampered by his overcoat; but nothing produced in him either bodily warmth or a patient serenity of mind.

He was worried about that child. Not once did he say to himself that it was none of his business; he admitted willingly that a creature of that size had a claim upon all full-grown persons; he admitted that, whoever it was, and wherever it came from, it was entitled to his protection.

“She’s too little to be left there alone,” he thought. “Much too little. They always have nurses—or some one. She might fall down the stairs—or turn on the gas stove. I’ve been gone more than an hour. Good Lord! This is too much! What the devil’s the matter with that fellow, anyhow?”

He was disgusted with this thin dark man with a mustache, who was so outrageously late in coming. Very likely the funny little doll was sitting up there, crying. The raw cold pierced to the marrow of his bones.

And this, he reflected, was his second night in his native land. The first had been spent imprisoned in the garage, at the point of a revolver, but it had been a thousand times better than this. He had been warm and comfortable—and he had been innocent, a victim. Now he was taking an active part in a thoroughly discreditable affair.

He was committed to wait for a thin dark man with a mustache, and to prevent his entering the house. And how was he to do this? Walk up to him and begin to expostulate? Try to bribe him?

The thought of bribery aroused in the young man an anger which almost made him warm. No Ross would ever pay blackmail. Indeed, no Ross of his branch was fond of parting with money for any purpose at all. They were very prompt in paying their just bills and debts, but they took care that these should be moderate.

“No!” thought Ross. “If I was fool enough to give this fellow money, he’d only come back for more, later on. I’m not going to start that. No! But how am I going to stop him? Knock him out? That’s all very well, but suppose he knocked me out? Or he may carry a gun. Of course, I suppose I could come up behind him and crack him over the head with a rock. That’s what my Cousin Amy would appreciate. But somehow it doesn’t appeal to me. After all, what have I got against this fellow? What do I know about him? Only what she’s told me. And she’s not what you’d call overparticular with her words.”

His thoughts were off, then, upon the track of that problem which obsessed him. What had happened to the man under the sofa? He couldn’t still be there. But who had taken him away, and where was he now? He looked toward the house, so solid and dignified, with its façade of lighted windows. He remembered his cozy dinner in the kitchen; he thought of the orderly life going on there.

It was impossible! Yet it was true. He had seen that dead man with his own eyes. He had touched him.

Who else knew? Surely Amy; but it was obvious that she had some one to help her in all emergencies. Mrs. Jones? Ross believed that Mrs. Jones had been well aware of the man’s presence in her room. Eddy? Eddy’s behavior had been highly suspicious.

He refused to go on with this profitless and exasperating train of thought. He was sick of the whole thing. Amy had said that she would “explain everything” to him the next day. Not for a moment did he believe that she would do anything of the sort, but he did hope that at least she would tell him a little. And, anyhow, whatever she told him, whatever happened or did not happen, he was going away—back to normal, honest, decent life.

“I said I’d help her, and, by Heaven, I am!” he thought. “After tonight we’re quits. I’ll hold my tongue about all this; but—I’m going!”

He whacked his stiff arms across his chest.

“Hotel Benderly, West Seventy-Seventh Street,” he said to himself. “I’m going there tomorrow.”

For he no longer saw Phyllis Barron as a danger. He was considerably less infatuated with liberty after these two days. It occurred to him, now, that to be entirely free meant to be entirely alone, and that to be without a friend was not good.

He wanted some one to trust, and he trusted Phyllis. No matter that he had known her only five days; he had seen that she was honest; that she was steadfast, and, loveliest virtue of all, she was self-controlled. He knew that from her one need never dread tears, fury, despairs, selfishness and cajoleries.

Out there, in the cold and dark of his unhappy vigil, he thought of Phyllis, and longed for her smile.

“She’d never in her life get a fellow into a mess like this!” he thought. “But Amy—”

His distrust for his Cousin Amy was without limits. There was nothing, he thought, that she might not do. She was perfectly capable of forgetting all about him, and then, in the morning, if he were found frozen to death at his post, she would pretend to wonder what on earth the new chauffeur had been doing out there.

“After eleven,” he thought. “And Eddy hasn’t come yet. Very likely she knew he wouldn’t come. Perhaps he’s never coming back. All right! I’ll wait till twelve, and then I’m going to take a look at that little kid. I’ve got to. It’s too little.”

So he walked up and down, up and down, over the rough, frozen patch of ground behind the fir trees; his coat collar turned up, his soft hat pulled low over his eyes, his face grim and dour; a sinister figure he would have been to meet on a lonely road.

Up and down—and then something happened. At first he could not grasp what it was, only that in some way his world had changed. He stopped short, every nerve alert. Then he realized that it was a sudden increase in the darkness, and, turning toward the house, he saw the lights there going out, one by one.

“By George!” he thought. “They’re all going to bed! And I suppose I can stay here all night, eh? While they’re warm and snug, the faithful Cousin James will be on guard. All right! I said I’d do it. But I’m going to get a glass of milk for that baby.”

He set off as fast as his numb feet and stiff legs would carry him, toward the back door. He would tell the cook that he was hungry, and she would give him what he wanted. A kind, sensible woman, that cook.

He pushed open the back door and went in; it was dark in the passage, but warm, and the entrancing perfumes of the great dinner still lingered there. He went on, toward the kitchen, but before he got there, the swing door opened, and Mrs. Jones appeared. She stopped, and he thought that she whispered: “It’s I!”

He was a little disconcerted, because he knew that Mrs. Jones was not fond of him, and he was extremely suspicious of her. But she looked so sedate, almost venerable, standing there in the lighted doorway, in her best black dress, with her gray hair, her spectacles. He took off his hat, and spoke to her civilly.

“I came to ask for a glass of milk,” he said.

Then she repeated what she had said before, and it was not “It’s I,” but the word “Spy!” uttered with a suppressed scorn that startled him.

“Spy!” she said. “I know you!”

He looked at her in stern amazement.

“Leave this house!” she said. “You can deceive a poor innocent young girl, but you can’t deceive me. You and your glass of milk! I know you! And I tell you straight to your face that you’re not coming one step farther. I’m going to stay here all night, and I’m going to see to it that neither you nor anybody else comes to worry and torment that poor girl. Go!”

“All right!” said Ross, briefly, and, turning on his heel, went out of the house.

“If she’s going to take over the job of watchdog, she’s welcome to it,” he thought. “I guess she’d be pretty good at that sort of thing. But—spy!”

His face grew hot.

“I don’t feel inclined to swallow that,” he said to himself, deliberately. “Some day we’ll have a reckoning, Mrs. Jones!”


The funny little doll lay asleep, very neat and straight, just in the center of the bed, the covers drawn up like a shawl, one cheek pressed against the pillow, its fair mane streaming out behind, as if it were advancing doggedly against a high wind. There was no creature in the world more helpless, yet it was not alert, not timid, as defenseless little animals are; it slept in utter confidence and security.

And that confidence seemed to Ross almost terrible. The tiny creature, breathing so tranquilly, took for granted all possible kindness and protection from him. It had asked him for food; it had offered a kiss.

He stood looking down at it with considerable anxiety, yet with the hint of a smile on his lips.

“Made yourself at home, didn’t you?” he thought.

As he looked, the child gave an impatient flounce, and threw one arm over her head. Ross drew nearer, frowning a little; bent over to examine that arm, that ruffled sleeve.

“I don’t believe—” he muttered, and very carefully pulled out the covers from the foot of the bed. His suspicions were confirmed; she was fully dressed, even to her shoes.

“Must be darned uncomfortable!” he thought. He hesitated a moment, half afraid to touch her; but at last he cautiously unbuttoned one slipper. She did not stir. He drew off the slipper, then the other one; then the socks, and tucked in the covers again.

“Poor little devil!” he said to himself. “Poor little devil! I wonder—”

A great yawn interrupted him.

“I’ll think about this in the morning,” he thought; “but I’m going to get some sleep now—before anything else happens.”

For, coming from the cold of his vigil into this warmth was making him intolerably drowsy. He took off his collar and sat down to remove those objectionable puttees.

As this unprincipled intruder had so coolly taken possession of the bed, he would have to sleep on the couch in the sitting room, but that didn’t trouble him. He felt that he could sleep anywhere, and that nothing—absolutely nothing—could keep him awake ten minutes longer.

A sound from below startled him. Some one was unlocking the door.

In his blind fatigue, he was ready to ignore even that. He didn’t care who came; he wanted to go to sleep.

But he remembered the tiny creature in the bed, the creature who expected his protection, and that roused him. Closing the bedroom door, he went to the head of the stairs, and, in a voice husky with sleep, but distinctly threatening, called out:

“Who’s that?”

“Me,” answered Eddy’s voice.

Even before he saw the boy, Ross was aware that there was something amiss with Eddy tonight. His voice was different; he climbed the stairs so slowly. He came into the sitting room, and flung down the bag he was carrying.

“I’m all in!” he said.

He looked it. His face was haggard and white; his glossy hair was no longer combed back, but flopped untidily over his forehead. There was nothing jaunty about Eddy now. He was weary, grimy, and dispirited.

“Been doing overtime,” he explained. “Lot of wires down in that storm last night.”

“Look here!” said Ross. “There’s a child here—a baby. I don’t know whose it is, or how it got here. But it’s asleep in there. Better not disturb it.”

“Wha-at!” cried Eddy. He looked amazed, he spoke in a tone of amazement, but there was something—

“By Heaven!” thought Ross. “You’ve got the other key to the garage, my lad! And the child didn’t come through a locked door.”

“A kid!” Eddy repeated.

“Queer, isn’t it?” Ross inquired, sarcastically. “If not peculiar!”

Eddy glanced at him, and then sat down and lit a cigarette.

“I’ll say it’s queer!” he observed.

“Especially as I’d left the door locked when I went out.”

Again Eddy glanced at him.

“Did you—what did they say—over at the house?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing much!”

He observed, with satisfaction, that this answer alarmed Eddy.

“Well, lissen here,” he said. “Who did you tell? Old Jones?”

“I don’t remember,” Ross declared.

“But—” Eddy began, and stopped.

“I’m going to turn in now,” said Ross. “Afraid you’ll have to put up with the chair again tonight.”

He crossed the room to the couch and lay down there. He was only partly undressed, and he put his shoes beside him, and his overcoat across his feet, because, in this nightmare existence, he had to be prepared for every impossible emergency.

“But I’ll get some sleep anyhow!” he thought, defiantly.

He stretched out, with a sigh of relief, and closed his eyes, when an almost inaudible sound, like the faintest echo of his own sigh, made him glance up again. He saw that Eddy had buried his face in his hands, and sat there, his slight shoulders hunched, his young head bent, in an attitude of misery and dejection.

And Ross was sorry for him. All through his confused and heavy dreams that night ran a little thread of pity, of regret and pain, which he could not understand. Only, he felt that in this adventure there was more than the tragedy of death.

When he opened his eyes again, the room was filled with a strange, pale light, unfamiliar to him. Dawn? It was more like twilight. He raised himself on one elbow and looked out of the window, and, for the first time in his life, he saw the snow.

Thick and fast the flakes went spinning by, tapping lightly against the glass, and, out beyond, he saw that all the world was white. White and unimaginably still. He had seen plenty of pictures of snow-covered landscapes, but he had never known the feel of a snowstorm, the odd tingle in the air, the sense of hushed expectancy.

He was amazed and delighted with it. Old and forgotten fancies of his childhood stirred in him now; queer little memories of glittering Christmas cards, of fairy tales. He remembered a story his mother had read to him, so very long ago, about a Snow Queen.

And it was good for him to remember these things, after so many ungracious years, just as it was good to see the snow, after so long a time of tropic sun and rain. He knew that it was good, and for a little time he was content, watching the snow fall.

But his destiny was not inclined to allow him many peaceful moments just then. Before he had even begun to think of his complicated anxieties, a sound from the next room brought the whole burden upon him like an avalanche. It was the child’s voice.

He jumped up from the couch, and then he noticed that Eddy had gone. He frowned, not knowing whether this was a disaster or a thing of no importance, and, without stopping to put on his shoes, went across to the bedroom door and turned the knob. He had come so quietly that no one had heard him, and he was able to observe a curious scene.

Eddy was on his knees, his head bowed before the little girl, who sat on the bed, lifting strands of his glossy hair and pulling them out to their fullest extent, with a grave and thoughtful air.

“Lookit here!” whispered Eddy. “I wish you’d quit that, baby!”

“You dot funny, flippety-floppety hair,” said she.

“Well, anyway, hold your foot still, won’t you?” he entreated.

Ross saw, then, that Eddy was trying to put the child’s socks on, and getting no intelligent coöperation from her.

“What are you doing that for?” he asked.

Eddy sprang to his feet like a cat. He looked at Ross, and Ross looked at him, and the little girl lay back on the bed and began jouncing up and down.

“Well,” Eddy replied, slowly, “if you really want to know, it was me brought her here, and now I’m goin’ to take her away again; that’s all.”

Once more Ross was conscious of a disarming pity for the boy. He thought he had never seen a human creature who looked so unhappy.

“Look here, Eddy!” he remarked. “Who is she, anyhow?”

“Her?” said Eddy. “Why, what does it matter?”

Ross was silent for a moment.

“I—I’m interested in the little girl,” he said, half ashamed of this weakness. “I’d like to know where she’s going.”

“Gawd knows,” said Eddy, briefly.

“What do you mean?”

“She can’t stay here,” said Eddy. “That’s one sure thing.”

Again he looked at Ross, with a strange intensity, as if he were trying desperately to read that quite unreadable face.

“If you’re really interested in the kid—” he began.

“I am,” said Ross.

Eddy sat down on the bed.

“I don’t believe you told them, over at the house,” he continued. “’Cause, if they knew, they’d of—”

“No, I didn’t,” said Ross.

“Then nobody knows she’s here—but me and you?”

“That’s all.”

“Well,” said Eddy.

Again Ross had a distinct warning of danger, and again he defied it, standing there stubbornly resistant to all the ill winds that might blow.

“This kid,” Eddy pointed out—“she hasn’t got anybody in the world.”

As if by common consent, they both turned to look at the child. She was holding the rabbit aloft, and trying to touch it with one little bare foot; she was quite happy; with superb unconcern she left her fate in the hands of these two young men.

“I’d explain it to you, if I could,” Eddy went on; “but I can’t, just now. Later on, maybe. Only, she can’t stay here. I got to take her away before anybody sees her.” He paused. “I know somewheres I could leave her today, and bring her back here tonight, all right, only after that—”

A dim and monstrous suspicion stirred in Ross, but he would not examine it. He did not want to understand.

“After that,” he said, “I’ll look after her.”


They had breakfast together, Ross and Eddy and the child. And the rabbit was there, too, propped up against the coffeepot; he was fed with spoonfuls of water, and he got pretty wet in the process.

It was an amazing meal. It seemed to Ross sometimes that he was still asleep, and this a dream—the little kitchen filled with that strange, pale light, the snow falling steadily outside, and the child beside him.

“Why did I say I’d look after her?” he thought, with a sort of wonder. “What’s the matter with me, anyhow?”

He didn’t know, and could not understand. He was hopelessly involved, now, in this sorry muddle, and he saw, very clearly, that every step had been taken deliberately, of his own free will. He could have got out, long ago, but—here he was. And he was committed now to an undertaking almost too fantastic, too preposterous to contemplate.

Yet he did not regret it. Just as, in a shipwreck, he would have given his life for a tiny creature like this, so was he obliged now to offer it his protection. Eddy said she had nobody in the world. Very well, then; he had to stop, to turn aside from his own affairs, and lend a hand to this forlorn little fellow traveler. He had to do it.

“More!” said the child, briskly.

“More what?” asked Ross.

“More—evvysing!” she cried, bouncing up and down perilously upon the telephone directories he had piled on her chair. “More evvysing!”

“Give her some cawfee,” suggested Eddy.

“No,” said Ross. “Too young. They only have milk—things like that.”

And, with these words, the fantasy became real. He had actually assumed the responsibility, now. He was taking care of the child. He looked down at her, frowning a little, and she looked up into his face with cheerful expectancy. She knew very well! He was the one appointed to serve her, and she knew it. He was to supply her with “more evvysing.”

“Look here, Eddy!” he said. “There must be some one who’ll turn up later to—to take care of the child. There’s bound to be some one

Eddy glanced up as if he were about to speak, but his face grew scarlet, and he turned away.

“Well,” he said, after a time, “I dunno. It’s kind of hard to say. Only, I thought you—I thought you’d be a good one to—take her.”

Ross was surprised and curiously touched by this, and somewhat embarrassed. A good one, was he, for this charge? He looked at the child again.

“Her face is dirty,” he observed, sternly. “She ought to be washed. Any warm water in that kettle, Eddy?”

“Yep. But I got to hurry, before the rest of ’em get up. Go on and eat, kid!” He turned to Ross. “Tell you what I thought. I know a place where I can take her and keep her till you come and get her after dark. It’s a cottage where there’s nobody living just now. You go up the Post Road about eight miles, till you come to a church that’s being built on the left side of the road. Then you turn—”

“Yes,” said Ross. “I—” He stopped, and Eddy sat staring blankly at him.

“What?” he cried. “D’you know?”

“Go on!” said Ross. “Go on! Tell me how to get there.”

“What made you say ‘yes,’ like that?”

“I meant I was listening to you. Go on, man!” And because of his distaste for this lie, Ross spoke with a brusque impatience which impressed Eddy.

“All right!” he said. “But lissen here! I—well—you’re a funny sort of guy. I never seen any one so close-mouthed in my life. I can’t make out yet who you are, or what you come here for. But—” He sighed, and stroked his glossy hair. “I got to trust you, that’s all. Last night I thought I’d go crazy, trying to think what I could do about the kid. I couldn’t—I’ll tell you where this place is, and I hope to Gawd you’ll keep still about it. ’Cause, if we get any one else monkeying around there—well—there’ll be trouble, that’s all. Big trouble.”

“Go on!” said Ross.

So Eddy did go on, giving him careful directions for reaching the cottage Ross had visited the day before with Amy.

“And for Pete’s sake, come as early as you can,” he ended. “Come before it gets dark, will you? I—” He arose. “Come on, baby!”

She jumped down from her chair, with a piece of bread and butter in one hand, and the rabbit in the other; she was quite ready to go anywhere, with any one. Ross washed her sticky hands and tried to wash her face, but this annoyed her so much that he was not successful. Eddy brought out her coat and bonnet from a cupboard; put on his own very modish overcoat, and a cap, picked up the child, and off they went.

From an upper window, Ross watched them go across the great white waste that was so strange and yet somehow so familiar to him. Eddy stumbled now and then, over some hidden unevenness in the ground, but the child in his arms sat up straight and triumphant, her head, in the knitted hood, turning briskly from side to side. Then they were lost to sight in the falling snow and the gray morning light, and Ross turned back to the empty rooms.

It was only half past seven; he had nearly an hour before Mr. Solway expected him, and he thought he would use that time for investigating the engine of the limousine. Both cars were in deplorably good condition; there was little he could justifiably do to them, and he was, moreover, a mechanic of more enterprise than experience. But he was devoted to engines, and pretty well up in the theory of the internal combustion type.

He put on a suit of overalls he found in the garage; he started the engine and opened the hood; he was so pleased with that fine roar, that powerful vibration which was like the beat of a great, faithful heart, that he began to whistle. A superb motor; he would enjoy driving that car.

“She’s a beauty, all right!” said a voice, so very close to his ear that he jumped.

Standing at his elbow was a burly fellow of thirty-five or so, with a bulldog jaw; his voice and his smile were friendly, but his blue eyes, Ross thought, were not.

“Yes, sir!” he went on. “You’ve got a mighty fine car there.”

Ross said nothing. He did not care to continue his amateur explorations under those cold blue eyes. He shut off the engine, closed the hood, and turned toward the stranger with a challenging glance.

But the stranger was not at all abashed.

“Have a smoke,” he asked, proffering a packet of cigarettes.

“No, thanks!” said Ross, and stood there, facing the other, and obviously waiting for an explanation.

“Dirty weather!” said the stranger.

“All right!” said Ross sullenly. “What about it?”

His tone was very nearly savage, for, to tell the truth, his position was having a bad effect upon his temper. Having so much to conceal, so many unwelcome secrets intrusted to him, he had begun to suspect every one. He didn’t like this fellow.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said the stranger, in an easy and confidential manner. “I came up this way, looking for a man. And I thought I’d drop in here and see if you could give me any information.” He stopped to light a cigarette, and his blue eyes were fixed upon Ross. “Fellow by the name of Ives,” he said. “Ever hear of him, eh?”

“No!” said Ross.

“Ives,” said the other, slowly. “Martin Ives. Fellow about your age. About your build. Dark complexioned—like you.”

“D’you think I’m your Martin Ives?” demanded Ross, angrily.

“I wish you were,” said the stranger, and his tone was so grave that Ross had a sudden feeling of profound uneasiness.

“Well, I’m not,” he said, “and I never heard of him. I’m new here—just came two days ago.”

“Two days, eh?” said the stranger. “That was Wednesday, eh?”

“I shouldn’t have told him that,” thought Ross, dismayed. “But, good Lord, I can’t remember to lie all the time! And, anyhow, what difference can it make—when I came here?”

But he could see, from the stranger’s face, that it had made a difference.

“You came here on Wednesday,” he continued. “I wonder, now, did you happen to see any one—”

“No!” shouted Ross. “I didn’t see any one. I didn’t see anything. I never heard of your Ives. Go and ask some one else. I’m busy!”

“I don’t want to bother you,” said the stranger, grown very mild. “I can see you’re busy. But it’s a pretty serious thing. You see, Ives came to Stamford on Tuesday. I’ve traced him that far. And after that—he’s disappeared.”

“Well, do you think I’ve got him hidden here?”

“My name’s Donnelly,” the stranger went on. “And I’ve come out here to find Ives.”

“All right! I wish you luck!”

“I don’t know,” said Donnelly, thoughtfully. “Maybe it won’t be so lucky—for some people.”

He was not looking at Ross now; his cold blue eyes were staring straight before him.

“But I think I’ll find him, all the same,” he declared, gently.

“Ives was the man under the sofa,” thought Ross.


Ross could not understand why that notion came as a shock to him. Naturally, the man under the sofa had a name; every one had. Yet, directly he thought of that figure as “Martin Ives,” instead of “the man,” the whole affair grew ten times more tragic and horrible—and ten times more dangerous.

“A man” might disappear, but not Martin Ives. Martin Ives was real, he had friends; he must have lived somewhere. He would be sought for—and found.

“This Donnelly—” thought Ross. “He’s got this far already. And he’ll keep on.”

In his mind he envisaged the inexorable progress of the search. Step by step, hour by hour. If this man went away, another would come. The awful march of retribution had begun. Nothing could stop it.

“Murder will out.”

His anger, his impatience, had quite vanished now. He could not resent Donnelly’s presence, because he was inevitable. He seemed to Ross the very personification of destiny, not to be eluded, not to be mollified. He looked at him and, as he had expected, found the cold blue eyes regarding him.

“Do you think you can help me?” asked Donnelly.

“I don’t see how,” said Ross. “I don’t know the fellow you’re looking for. I’ll have to get along, now. Got to drive down to the station.”

“Well,” said Donnelly, blandly, “I can wait.”

“Not here!” said Ross, with energy. “They wouldn’t like—”

“Oh, no, not here!” said the other. “See you later. So long!” And off he went.

Ross watched his burly figure tramping along the driveway until he was out of sight; then he made haste to get himself ready, took out the car, locked the garage, and drove up to the house.

It was much too early. There he sat, shut up in the snug little sedan, with the snow falling outside, as if he were some unfortunate victim of an enchantment, shut up in a glass cage. And he began to think, now, of what lay immediately before him.

“I’ll have to make some sort of excuse to Mr. Solway for going away,” he thought. “A lie, of course. I wish to Heaven I didn’t have to lie to him. Then I’ll get the child, and clear out. I’ll find some sort of home for her. Phyllis Barron will help me.”

The idea dazzled him, the magnificent simplicity of it, the unspeakable relief of just picking up the child and walking off. No explanations, no more lies. He contemplated it in detail. How he would walk into the Hotel Miston, into his comfortable room, and unpack his bags. How he would take the child to Phyllis Barron, and tell her that here was a poor little kid who had nobody in the world. She would know what to do; she would help him; the nightmare would end.

As for Amy—

“I’ll have it out with her today!” he thought. “I’m not called upon to give up my entire life for that girl. I’ve done enough, and more than enough.”

The door opened, and out came Mr. Solway. Ross jumped out and opened the door of the car.

“Ha!” said Mr. Solway. “Very sensible—very sensible! You came early, so that you’d have time to drive carefully. Very important—weather like this. Very sensible! But wait a bit! Mr. Dexter’s coming along.” Standing out in the snow, he shouted: “Gayle! Come, now! Come!” to the unresponsive house; then, he got into the car.

“I’d like to speak to you for a minute, sir,” said Ross.

Mr. Solway observed how white and strained the young man’s face was, and he spoke to him very kindly.

“Well?” he said. “What is it, Moss?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave tomorrow, sir.”

“Leave, eh?”

“Yes, sir. I—it’s—family troubles, sir.”

“Married man?” asked Mr. Solway, in a low voice.

“No, sir,” said Ross. The honest sympathy in the other man’s tone made him sick with shame. “It’s a—a younger sister of mine.”

“Well, my boy,” said Mr. Solway, “I’m sorry, very sorry. You’re the sort of young fellow I like. Family troubles— Too bad! I’m sorry. Come back here any time you like.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Ross.

“Nonsense! Nonsense! You’re the type of young— Ha, Gayle! Step in! Step in. Start her up, Moss!”

Ross did so. He had never been more unhappy in his life than he was now, with his lie successfully accomplished.

“This finishes it!” he thought, as he drove back from the station. “I’m going to see Amy, and have it out with her. I’ll tell her about this Donnelly. I’ll warn her—”

And then go off and leave her to face the consequences alone?

“But, hang it all, she’s not alone!” he cried to himself. “She’s got Solway, and she’s got her Gayle. Why doesn’t she go to him? He’s the natural one to share her troubles.”

Unfortunately, however, he could not help understanding a little why Amy did not want to tell Gayle. He had had another good look at Gayle when he got out of the car at the station, and he was obliged to admit that there was something very uncompromising in that handsome face. Nobody, he thought, would want to tell Gayle Dexter a guilty secret.

“I suppose she doesn’t particularly mind my knowing anything,” he reflected, “because, as far as she’s concerned, I don’t count.”

This idea pleased him as much as it would please any other young fellow of twenty-six. And, combined with his many anxieties, and his hatred and impatience toward his present position, it produced in him a very unchivalrous mood. He brought the car into the garage, and sat down on its step, with his watch in his hand. He gave Amy thirty minutes in which to send him a message.

Of course she didn’t send any. Then he went to the telephone which connected with the house. Gracie’s voice answered him.

“I want to speak to Miss Solway!” he said.

“I’ll see,” said Gracie.

He waited and waited, feeling pretty sure that Amy would not come; that she would, indeed, never speak to him or think of him unless she wanted him to do something for her. But presently, to his surprise, he heard her voice, so very gentle and sweet that he could scarcely recognize it.

“Moss?” she said, as if in wonder.

“Yes,” he said. “Look here! I’d like to—”

“I don’t think I’ll want the car all day,” said she. “Not in this weather.”

“Look here!” he began, again. “I want to speak to you. Now.”

“I shan’t need you at all today, Moss,” said she, graciously, and he heard the receiver go up on the hook.

He stood for a moment, looking at the telephone. His dark face had grown quite pale, and there was upon it a peculiar and unpleasant smile.

But he was, in his way, a just man, and not disposed to let his temper master him. He looked at the telephone, and he thought his thoughts for a few moments; then he resolutely put this exasperation out of his mind, and proceeded with his business.

He decided to go and get the child without any further delay. There was no reason for delay, and, to tell the truth, he was vaguely uneasy with her away. He could easily keep her hidden in the garage until the morning, and then get away early. And he wanted her here.

He took off the hated uniform, dressed himself in his customary neat and sober fashion, put his papers and what money he had into his pockets, and set off toward the station, where he knew he could get a taxi.

The beauty which had so enchanted him early in the morning was perishing fast, now. The fields still showed an unbroken expanse of white, but the trees were bare again. The flakes melted as they fell; the roads were a morass of slush, and all the tingle had gone out of the air. It was a desolate, depressing day, now, with a leaden sky. The slush came over the tops of his shoes, his hat brim dripped, his spirits sank, in this melancholy world.

But at least he was alone, and able to go his own way, in his own good time, and that was a relief. He stopped in the town, and bought himself a pipe and a tin of tobacco. He stopped whenever he felt like it, to look at things; and, passing a fruit stand, went in and bought two apples for the little girl.

“Good for children,” he thought, with curious satisfaction.

He reached the station, and saw three or four vacant taxis standing there; he selected one and went up to it, and was just about to give his directions when a hand fell on his shoulder.

“Well!” said a voice—the most unwelcome one he could have heard.

It was Donnelly, grinning broadly.

“Well!” said Ross, in a noncommittal tone.

His brain was working fast. He couldn’t go to the cottage now. He must somehow get rid of this fellow, and he must invent a plausible reason for being here.

“I walked down to get a few things,” he said, “but I guess I won’t try walking back. The roads are too bad.”

“You’re right!” said Donnelly, heartily.

“Wygatt Road!” Ross told the taxi driver, and got into the cab.

“Hold on a minute!” said Donnelly. “I’m going that way, too. I’ll share the cab with you.”

“Look here!” cried Ross.

“Well?” said Donnelly. “I’m looking.”

The unhappy young man did not know what to say. He felt that it would be extremely imprudent to antagonize the man.

“All right,” he said, at last, and Donnelly got in beside him.

The cab set off, splashing through the melted snow—going back again to that infernal garage. Suppose Donnelly hung about all day?

“Where do you want to get out?” he demanded.

“To tell you the truth,” said Donnelly, “I was waiting for you.”

“Waiting! But—”

“I sort of thought you might be coming to the station some time today,” said the other, tranquilly, “and I waited. Wanted a little talk with you.”

“What about?”

“Well, it’s this. I told you I was looking for a man called Ives.”

“And I told you I didn’t—”

“Now, hold on a minute! You told me you’d never heard of him. All right. Now, I told you I knew Ives came out to Stamford on Tuesday. That was about all I did know—this morning. But I’ve found out a little more since then.”

“What’s that got to do with me?” asked Ross, with a surly air and a sinking heart.

“That’s just what I don’t know. On Wednesday you came to Mr. Solway’s house. You didn’t bring anything with you, and you haven’t sent for any bag or trunk, or anything like that. Now, hold on! Just wait a minute! You said you’d come from Cren’s Agency, I’m told. But Cren’s Agency told me on the telephone that— Now, hold on! Don’t lose your temper! You can clear this up easy enough. Just show me your license. Haven’t got it with you, I suppose?”

“No!” said Ross.

All right. You’ve left it in the garage. Very well. That’s where you’re going now, isn’t it? Unless—” He paused. “Unless you’d like to come along with me.”

“Come—where?” asked Ross.

“Why, there’s a little cottage off the Post Road,” said Donnelly. “I’d like to pay a little visit there this morning, and it came into my head that maybe you’d like to come along with me, eh?”


Ross was, by nature, incapable of despair; but he felt something akin to it now. He was so hopelessly in the dark; he did not know what to guard against, what was most dangerous. He remembered Eddy’s warning, not to let any one come “monkeying around” that cottage; but he did not know the reason for that warning. Nor could he think of any way to prevent Donnelly’s going there.

Should he lock the fellow up in the garage until he had warned Eddy? No; that was a plan lacking in subtlety. Certainly it would confirm whatever suspicions Donnelly might have; it might do a great deal more harm than good.

Should he tell Amy, on the chance that she might suggest something? No. The chance of her suggesting anything helpful was very small, and the chance that she would do something reckless and disastrous very great. Better keep Amy out of it.

Then what could he do? The idea came into his head that he might keep Donnelly quiet for a time by boldly asserting that he himself was Ives. But perhaps Donnelly knew that he wasn’t.

“By Heaven, why shouldn’t I tell him the truth?” he thought, in a sort of rage. “Why not tell him I’m James Ross? There’s nothing against me. I’ve done nothing criminal. I don’t even know what’s happened here. I’ll just tell him.”

And then Donnelly would ask him why he had come, and why he was here masquerading as a chauffeur. How could he explain? For it never occurred to him as a possibility that he could ignore Donnelly’s questions.

There was an air of unmistakable authority about the man. Ross had not asked him who he was, and he had no wish in the world to find out, either; simply, he knew that Donnelly was justified in his very inconvenient curiosity, that he had a right to know, and that he probably would know, before long.

“Perhaps I can manage to get away from him,” thought Ross.

That was the thing! Somehow he must sidetrack Donnelly; get him off upon a false scent, while he himself hastened to Eddy. Such a simple and easy thing to do, wasn’t it?

“Well!” said Donnelly. “Do we go back, and have a look at that license of yours—or do we go and pay a little visit to that cottage, eh?”

“I’m going back,” said Ross, curtly.

“Of course,” Donnelly went on, in a mild and reasonable tone, “I know, and you know, that you’re not going to show me any license. What you want is a little time to make up your mind. You’re saying to yourself: ‘I don’t know this fellow. I don’t know what he’s up to. I don’t see any reason why I should trust him with any of my private affairs.’ You’re right. Why should you? You’ve talked to certain other people, and you’ve heard good reasons why you ought to keep quiet—about one or two little things. That’s sensible enough. Why, naturally,” he went on, growing almost indignant in defense of Ross, “naturally an intelligent young man like you isn’t going to tell all he knows to a stranger. Why should you?”

Ross found it difficult to reply to this.

“No,” said Donnelly. “Naturally not. What you say to me is: ‘Put your cards on the table, Donnelly. Let’s hear who you are, and what you know, and what you’re after. Then we can talk.’ That’s what you say. All right. Now, I’ll tell you. I’ll be frank. I’ll admit that when I saw you this morning, I thought you were Ives. You see, I’m frank—not pretending to know it all. I made a mistake. You’re not Ives.”

“Thanks!” said Ross.

“When Ives came out here on Tuesday,” Donnelly proceeded, “he took a taxi. I’ll tell you frankly that I just found that out this morning by a lucky fluke. No credit to me. He went out to this cottage, and there he met somebody.”

“Oh, that was me, I suppose” said Ross.

“No,” said Donnelly. “It was a woman.”

“Oh, Lord!” thought Ross. “This is—I can’t stand much more of this.”

“Now, I’m not going to pretend I know who that woman was,” Donnelly went on. “I don’t. I haven’t found that out—yet. Not yet.”

“But you will,” thought Ross.

He felt sure of that. He believed that there was no hope now for the guilty ones, and he felt that he was one of the guilty ones. He did not know what had happened at “Day’s End,” but the burden of that guilt lay upon his heart. This man was the agent of destiny, inexorable, in no way to be eluded. He had come to find out, and find out he surely would.

Ross was a young man of remarkable hardihood, though; no one had ever yet been able to bully him, or to intimidate or fluster him. He had precious little hope of success, but he meant to do what he could. If he could only gain a little time, perhaps he might think of a plan, and, in the meanwhile, he would say nothing and admit nothing.

“Now, before we talk,” said Donnelly, “you want to know who I am, and how I came to be mixed up in this business. As soon as you saw me, you said to yourself: ‘Police!’”

Ross winced at the word.

“That was natural. But you made a mistake. I’ll tell you frankly that I was a police detective once, but I’ve left the force. I’m a private citizen, now, same as you are. Got a little business of my own—what you might call a private investigator. Collecting information—jobs like that. Nothing to do with criminal cases.”

He was silent for a moment.

“Nothing to do with criminal cases,” he repeated. “I don’t like ’em. Now, this—”

Again he fell silent.

“We’ll hope this isn’t one,” he said. “I’ll tell you about it. My sister, she’s a widow, and she keeps a rooming house, down on West Twelfth Street. Well, yesterday she came to me with a story that sort of interested me. She told me that about a month ago a young fellow took a room in her house. Quiet young fellow, didn’t give any trouble, but she’d taken a good deal of notice of him, in what you might call a sort of motherly way.”

“Yes, I know,” Ross nodded.

“A good-looking young fellow, very polite and nice in his ways—and she thought from the start that he was pretty badly worried about something. She’d hear him walking up and down at night—and she said there was a look on his face—You know how women are.”

“Yes,” Ross agreed.

“So, when he didn’t show up for a couple of nights, she came to me. I told her to go to the police, but she had some sort of notion that he wouldn’t like that—and I dare say she didn’t like it herself. Bad for business—a thing like that in the newspapers, you know. So, just to please her, I got his door unlocked, and had a look at his room.”

“You found—”

“Well, the first thing I saw there was a pile of money on the table—about seventy-five dollars in bills, under a paper weight, and a half finished letter. No name—just began right off—‘I won’t wait any longer.’ But here’s the letter. You can see for yourself.”

Unbuttoning his overcoat, he took a folded piece of paper from his breast pocket and handed it to Ross. It read:

I won’t wait any longer. I am coming out to Stamford tomorrow, and if you refuse to see me this time, it will be the end. You’ve been putting me off with one lie after the other for all this time, and now it’s finished. I don’t know how you can be so damned cruel. Don’t you even want to see your own child? As for your husband—I have no more illusions about that. You’re sick of me. All you want is to get rid of me, and you don’t care how, either. Well, I don’t care. I’d be better off with a bullet through the head. It’s only the baby—

Here there were several words scratched out, and it began again:

Darling, my own girl, perhaps I’m wrong. I hope to God I am. Perhaps you are really doing your best, and thinking of what’s best for the child. Only, it’s been so long. I want you back so. I’ve got a little money saved. I can keep you both. I can work. I can make you happy, even if we are a bit poor. Darling, just let me see you and—

That was the end. Ross touched his tongue to his dry lips, and folded up the letter again. He dared not look at Donnelly, but he knew Donnelly was looking at him.

“Ives wrote that letter,” said Donnelly. “The way I figure it out is this. He began to write, and then he decided that, instead of sending a letter, he’d go. He must have been in a pretty bad state to leave all that money behind. But, of course, he meant to come back. Well, he didn’t. Aha! Here we are!”

The taxi stopped before the gates of “Day’s End,” and Donnelly, getting out, told the driver to wait for him. Then he set off with Ross, not along the drive, but across the lawn, behind the fir trees.

“I won’t bother you by telling you how I know he came to Stamford on Tuesday,” he proceeded. “It’s my business to find out things like that. He came, and he took a taxi out to this cottage I’ve mentioned, and a woman met him there. He sent the taxi away—and that’s the last I’ve heard of him.”

The snow was wholly turned to rain, now; it blew against Ross’s face, cold and bitter; the trees stood dripping and shivering under the gray sky. He was wet, chilled to the bone, filled with a terrible foreboding.

“That cottage belongs to an old lady in the neighborhood,” said Donnelly. “But she doesn’t know anything about this. She said the place had been vacant two years, and she didn’t expect to rent it till she’d made some repairs. She said anybody could get into it easily enough if they should want to. Well!”

They stood before the garage, now, and Ross took the key from his pocket.

“So you see,” said Donnelly, “that’s how it is. We’ve traced him that far. I know that there’s some woman in Stamford who has a good reason for wanting to get rid of him. And now—” He looked steadily at Ross. “And now I’ve about finished.”

“Finished?” said Ross. “You—you mean—”

But Donnelly did not answer.


Ross went upstairs to the sitting room over the garage. It did not occur to him to extend an invitation to his companion; he knew well enough that he would hear those deliberate footsteps mounting after him; he knew that Donnelly would follow.

He took off his hat and overcoat and flung himself into a chair, and Donnelly did the same, in a more leisurely fashion. Certainly he was not a very troublesome shadow; he did not speak or disturb Ross in any way. He just waited.

And Ross sat there, his legs stretched out before him, hands in his pockets, his head sunk, lost in a reverie of wonder, pity, and great dread.

“Her child?” he thought. “Amy’s child? Ives was her husband, and that baby is her child?”

He recalled with singular vividness the phrases of that pitiful, unreasonable letter. “Just let me see you.” “It’s been so long!” “You’re sick of me. All you want is to get rid of me.” He could imagine Ives, that fellow who was about his age, about his build—alone in his furnished room, writing that letter. “How can you be so damned cruel?” And “darling.”

“In a pretty bad state,” Donnelly had said. And he had come, with all his hope and his fear and his pain, to “Day’s End,” and—

“But if—if that was Ives I saw in Mrs. Jones’s room,” thought Ross, “then who was it Amy wanted me to watch for last night?”

This idea gave him immeasurable relief. That man had not been Ives. Ives hadn’t come yet. The whole tragedy was an invention of his own.

“No reason to take it for granted that that letter was meant for Amy,” he thought. “Plenty of other women in Stamford. No; I’ve simply been making a fool of myself, imagining.”

But there was one thing he had not imagined. There was, among all these doubts and surmises, one immutable fact, the man under the sofa. He could, if he pleased, explain away everything else, but not that.

It seemed to him incredible that he had, in the beginning, accepted that fact so coolly. He had thought it was “none of his business.” And now it was the chief business of his life. It was as if that silent figure had cried out to him for justice; as if he had come here only in order to see that man, and to avenge him.

“No!” he protested, in his soul. “I’ve got nothing to do with justice and—vengeance. The thing’s done. It can never be undone. I don’t want to see—any one punished for it. That’s not my business. I’m nobody’s judge, thank God!”

“Well?” said Donnelly, gently.

Ross looked up, met his glance squarely.

“I can’t help you,” he said.

Donnelly arose.

“I’m sorry for that,” he said. “Mighty sorry. I’ve been very frank with you. Showed you the letter—laid my cards on the table. Because I had a notion that you’d heard one side of the case, and that if you heard the other you might change your mind. You might think that Ives hadn’t had a fair deal.”

“I can’t help that,” muttered Ross.

“No,” said Donnelly, “of course you can’t. And I can’t help it now, either.” He sighed. “Well,” he said, “I’ll be off now. Good-by!”

“What are you going to do?” asked Ross, sitting up straight.

“Why, I’m going to that cottage I mentioned,” said Donnelly. “And if I don’t find Ives there, or something that’ll help me to find him—then I’ll have to turn the case over to the police.”

Ross got up and began to put on his damp overcoat.

“I’ll go with you,” he said.

Whether this was the best thing for him to do, he could not tell. But he could see no way of preventing Donnelly from going, and he would not let him go alone. He meant to be there, with Eddy and the little girl.

Donnelly had already gone to the head of the stairs, and Ross followed him, impatient to be gone. But the other’s burly form blocked the way. He was listening. Some one was opening the door of the garage.

Ross made an attempt to get by, but Donnelly laid a hand on his arm.

“Wait!” he whispered.

Light, quick footsteps sounded on the cement floor below, and then a voice, so clear, so sweet:


“Miss Solway!” he cried. “Jimmy’s not here. Only me—Moss—and a friend of mine!”

This was his warning to her, and he hoped with all his heart that she would understand, and would go. Donnelly had begun to descend the stairs. If she would only go, before that man saw her!

But she had not gone. When he reached the foot of the stairs, and looked over Donnelly’s shoulder, he saw her there. She was wearing her fur coat, with the collar turned up, and a black velvet tam; the cold air had brought a beautiful color into her cheeks; her hair was clinging in little damp curls to her forehead; he had never seen her so lovely, so radiant. And for all that he knew against her, and all that he suspected, he saw in her now a pitiful and terrible innocence.

“She doesn’t know!” he thought. “She doesn’t realize—she can’t realize—ever—what she’s done. She doesn’t even know when she hurts any one.”

And there was Donnelly, standing before her, hat in hand, his eyes modestly downcast; a most inoffensive figure. She was not interested in him; she thought he didn’t matter; she was looking past him at Ross, with that cajoling, childish smile of hers.

“Oh, Moss!” she said. “Will you bring the sedan round to the house? Please? I want to go out.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Solway,” he said, and it seemed to him that any one could hear the significance in his voice. “Mr. Solway told me not to take you out—in this weather.”

“Oh!” she said, and sighed. “All right,” with gentle resignation; “I’ll just have to wait, then.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Solway,” said Ross again.

Didn’t she see how that fellow was watching her? It was torment to Ross. There was not a shadow on her bright face; she stood there, gay, careless, perfectly indifferent to the silent Donnelly.

“All right!” she said, and turned away, then, to open the door. But it was heavy for her small fingers, and Donnelly hastened forward.

“Excuse me, miss!” he said, and pushed back the door for her.

“Oh, thanks!” she said, smiling into his face, and off she went, running through the rain across the sodden lawn. Ross looked after her; so little, so young.

“And that’s Miss Solway!” said Donnelly, speculatively.

Ross glanced at him, and his heart gave a great leap. For, on the other’s face, was an unmistakable look of perplexity.

“Yes,” he said, “that’s Miss Solway.”

“She’s pretty young, isn’t she?” Donnelly pursued, still following with his eyes the hurrying little figure.

“I suppose so,” said Ross, casually. It was difficult for him to conceal his delight. Donnelly was evidently at a loss; he couldn’t believe ill of that girl with her careless smile. He thought she was too young, too light-hearted. The very fact of her ignoring Ross’s warning had done this for her. If she had understood, if across her smiling face had come that look Ross had seen, that look of terror and dismay, Donnelly would not have thought her too young.

“He’s not sure now!” thought Ross. “He’s not sure. She has a chance now. If I can only think of something.”

He could not think of anything useful now, but he felt sure that he would, later on. There was a chance now. Donnelly was only human; he, like other men, could be deluded.

They left the garage and walked back to the waiting taxi.

“What about a little lunch first?” suggested Donnelly.

“All right!” said Ross.

So they stopped at a restaurant in the town, and sent away the cab. They sat down facing each other across a small table. Ross was hungry, and Donnelly, too, ate with hearty appetite, but he did not talk. He was thoughtful, and, Ross believed, somewhat downcast.

“Getting up a new theory,” said the young man to himself. “Perhaps I can help him.”

The vague outline of a plan was assembling in his mind, but he could not quite discern it yet. It seemed to him plain that Donnelly had nothing but suspicions; that he had no definite facts as to any connection between Ives and Amy Solway. He had thought she was the woman to whom that letter was addressed; but since he had seen her, he doubted. Very well; he must be kept in doubt.

When they had finished lunch, they went round the corner to a garage, and took another taxi. Ross settled himself back comfortably, and filled and lighted his new pipe; a good time to break it in, he thought. Donnelly brought out a big cigar, which he kept in the corner of his mouth while he talked a little upon the subject of tobacco. The cab grew thick with smoke, and Ross opened the window beside him. The rain blew in, but he did not mind that.

They came to the cottage along the lane which took them directly to its front gate. There it stood, forlorn and shabby, the shutters closed, the neglected garden a dripping tangle. They went up the steps; Donnelly knocked, but there was no answer. He pushed open the door, and they went in. He called out: “Is there anybody here?”

But Ross knew then that the house was empty. The very air proclaimed it.

“My luck’s in!” he thought, elated.


“Nice, cheerful little place!” observed Donnelly, looking about him.

Ross said nothing. He had not even dared hope for such a stroke of luck as that Eddy and the little girl should be gone, yet the silence in this dim, damp, little house troubled him. Where and why had they gone?

“We’ll just take a look around,” said Donnelly.

He opened a door beside him, revealing a dark and empty room. He flashed an electric torch across it; nothing there but the bare floor and the four walls. He closed the door and went along the passage, and opened the door of the next room. The shutter was broken here, and one of the window panes, and the rain was blowing in, making a pool on the floor that gleamed darkly when the flash light touched it.

That door, too, he closed, with a sort of polite caution, as if he didn’t want to disturb any one. Then he looked into the room at the end of the passage. This was evidently the kitchen, for there was a sink there, and a built-in dresser. He turned on the taps; no water.

“Now we’ll just take a look upstairs,” he said, in a subdued tone.

He mounted the stairs with remarkable lightness for so heavy a man; but Ross took no such precaution. Indeed, he wanted to make a noise. He did not like the silence in this house.

Donnelly opened the door facing the stairs. One shutter had been thrown back, and the room was filled with the gray light of the rainy afternoon. And, lying on the floor, Ross saw a white flannel rabbit.

It lay there, quite alone, its one pink glass eye staring up at the ceiling, and round its middle was a bedraggled bit of blue ribbon which Ross remembered very well.

“Now, what’s this?” said Donnelly.

He picked up the rabbit, frowning a little; he turned it this way and that, he fingered its sash. And, to Ross, there was something grotesque and almost horrible in the sight of the burly fellow with a cigar in one corner of his mouth, and an intent frown on his red face, holding that rabbit.

“It’s a clew, isn’t it?” he inquired, with mock respect.

Donnelly glanced at him quickly. Then he put the rabbit into the pocket of his overcoat, from which its long ears protruded ludicrously.

“Come on!” he said.

The next door was locked, and here Donnelly displayed his professional talents. Before Ross could quite see what he was at, he had taken something from his pocket; he bent forward, and almost at once the lock clicked, and he opened the door.

It seemed to Ross that nothing could have been more eloquent of crime, of shameful secrecy and misery, than that room. There was a wretched little makeshift bed against one wall, made up of burlap bags and a ragged portiére; there was a box on which stood a lantern, an empty corned beef tin, and a crushed and sodden packet of cigarettes. There was nothing else.

With a leaden heart, he looked at Donnelly, and saw him very grave.

“Come on!” he said, again.

And they went on, into every corner of that house that was so empty and yet so filled with questions. They found nothing more. Some one had been here, and some one had gone; that was all.

Donnelly led the way back to the room where that some one had been.

“Now we’ll see if we can find some more clews here,” he said. “Like the fellows in the story books.”

He took up the packet of cigarettes and went over to the window with it. But, instead of examining the object in his hand, his glance was arrested by something outside, and he stood staring straight before him so long that Ross came up beside him, to see for himself.

From this upper window there was an unexpectedly wide vista of empty fields, still white with snow, and houses tiny in the distance, and a belt of woodland, dark against the gray sky; all deserted and desolate in the steady fall of sleet. What else?

Directly before the house was the road, where the taxi waited, the driver inside. Across the road the land ran downhill in a steep slope, washed bare of any trace of snow, and at its foot was a pond, a somber little sheet of water, shivering under the downpour. But there was nobody in sight, nothing stirred. What else? What was Donnelly looking at?

“I think—” said Donnelly. “I guess I’ll just go out and mooch around a little before it gets dark. Just to get the lay of the land. You don’t want to come—in this weather. You just wait here. I won’t keep you long.”

Ross did want to go with him, everywhere, and to see everything that he saw, but he judged it unwise to say so. He stood where he was, listening to the other’s footsteps quietly descending; he heard the front door close softly, and a moment later he saw Donnelly come out into the road and cross it, with a wave of his hand toward the taxi driver, and begin to descend the steep slope toward the pond.

“What’s he going there for?” thought Ross. “What does he think—”

Before he had finished the question, the answer sprang up in his mind. Donnelly had not found Ives in the cottage, so he was going to look for him down there. Suppose he found him?

“No!” thought Ross. “It’s—impossible. I—I’m losing my nerve.”

To tell the truth, he was badly shaken. He was ready to credit Donnelly with superhuman powers, to believe that he could see things invisible to other persons, that he could, simply by looking out of the window, trace the whole course of a crime.

“I’ve got to do something,” he thought. “Now is my chance. I can give him the slip now.”

But he was a good seven or eight miles from “Day’s End.” Well, why couldn’t he hurry down, jump into the taxi, and order the driver to set off at once? Long before Donnelly could find any way of escape from this desolate region, he could get back to the house and warn Amy. And, in doing so, he would certainly antagonize Donnelly, and confirm any suspicions he might already have.

“No,” he thought. “He’s not sure about Amy now. And I don’t believe he’s got anything against me. I can’t afford to run away. He hasn’t found anything yet that definitely connects Amy with the—the case.”

But when he did?

Donnelly had reached the bottom of the slope now, and was sauntering along the edge of the pond, hands in his pockets. He had in nowise the air of a sleuth hot upon a scent, but to Ross his leisurely progress suggested an alarming confidence. He knew—what didn’t he know? And Ross, the guilty one, knew nothing at all. In angry desperation, he turned away from the window.

“All right!” he said, aloud. “I’ll have a look for clews myself!”

And, without the slightest difficulty, he found all the clews he wanted.

The makeshift bed was the only place in the room where anything could be hidden; he lifted up the portiére that lay over the bags, and there he found a shabby pocketbook in which were the papers of the missing Martin Ives.

Everything was there—everything one could want. There was a savings bank book, there were two or three letters, and there was a little snapshot of Amy, on the back of which was written: “To Marty—so that he won’t forget.”

Ross looked at that photograph for a long time. He was not expert enough to recognize that the costume was somewhat outmoded, but he did know that this picture had been taken some time ago, because Amy was so different. It showed her standing on a beach, with the wind blowing her hair and her skirts, her head a little thrown back, and on her face the jolliest smile—a regular schoolgirl grin.

It hurt him, the sight of that laughing, dimpled, little ghost from the past. He remembered her as he had seen her today, still smiling, still lovely, but so changed. She was reckless now, haunted now, even in her most careless moments.

He opened the top letter; it bore the date of last Monday, but no address. It read:

Dear Mr. Ives:

Amy has asked me to reply to your letter of a month ago. I scarcely need to tell you how greatly it distressed her. If you should come to the house publicly now, everything she has tried to do would be ruined. She had hoped that you would wait patiently, but as you refuse to do so, she has consented to see you.

She wants to see Lily as well, and, although there is a great deal of risk in this, if you will follow my directions, I think we can manage. Telephone to the nurse with whom the child is boarding to bring her to the station at Greenwich by the train leaving New York at 7.20 A.M. on Tuesday and Eddy will meet her there. You can take an early afternoon train to Stamford. Take a taxi there and go up the Post Road to Bonnifer Lane, a little past the Raven Inn. There is a new church being built on the corner. Turn down here, and stop at the first house, about half a mile from the main road. You will find the little girl there, and I shall be there, waiting for you, between three and five, and we can make arrangements for you to see Amy.

Remember, Mr. Ives, that Amy trusts you to do nothing until you have seen her.

Respectfully yours,
Amanda Jones.

Ross folded up the letter. Yes; nobody could ask for a much better clew. He took out another letter, but before opening it, he glanced out of the window. And he saw Donnelly coming back.

He put the wallet into his pocket, and went to the head of the stairs. A great lassitude had come upon him; he felt physically exhausted. His doubt—and his hope—were ended now.

Donnelly came in quietly, and advanced to the foot of the stairs. It was not possible to read his face by that dim light, but his voice was very grave.

“Come on!” he said.

“Find anything?” asked Ross.

Donnelly was silent for a moment.

“I’ve finished,” he said, at last.

“What—” began Ross.

“I’ve finished,” Donnelly repeated, almost gently. “It’s up to the police now. We’ll have that pond dragged.”

Ross, too, was silent for a moment.

“All right!” he said. “I’ll just get my hat.”

He turned back into the room; Donnelly waited for him below. In a few minutes Ross joined him, and they got into the cab.


Mr. Solway descended from the train and walked briskly toward his car. The new chauffeur was standing there, stiff as a poker.

“Well, Moss!” he said. “Everything all right, eh?”

“Yes, thank you, sir,” said Ross.

“That’s it!” said Mr. Solway, with his vague kindliness. He got into the car, and Ross started off through the sleet and the dark. Mr. Solway made two or three observations about the weather, but his chauffeur answered “Yes, sir,” “That’s so, sir,” rather absent-mindedly. He was, to tell the truth, very much preoccupied with his own thoughts. He was wondering how a pond was dragged, and how long such a thing might take.

He had seen no one, spoken to no one, since he had left Donnelly at the police station and gone back to the garage alone. So he had had plenty of time to think.

He stopped the car before the house, Mr. Solway got out, and Ross drove on to the garage. There would be a little more time for thinking before he was summoned to dinner. He went upstairs and sat down, stretched out in a chair, staring before him. He was still wearing the peaked cap which had belonged to Wheeler; perhaps it was not a becoming cap, for his face looked grim and harsh beneath it.

He was not impatient, now, as that James Ross had been who had landed in New York three days ago. Indeed, he seemed almost inhumanly patient, as if he were willing to sit there forever. And that was how he felt. He had done his utmost; now he could only wait.

The sleet was rattling against the windows, and a great wind blew. It must be a wild night, out in the fields, where a lonely little pond lay. A bad night to be in that little cottage. A bad night, anywhere in the world, for a child who had nobody.

From his pocket he brought out a snapshot, and looked at it for a long time; then he tore it into fragments and let them flutter to the floor. He closed his eyes, then, but he was not asleep; the knuckles of his hand grasping the arm of the chair were white.

No; he wasn’t asleep. When the telephone rang in the garage, he got up at once and went downstairs to answer it.

“Dinner’s ready!” said Gracie’s voice. “Eddy come in yet?”

“Not yet,” answered Ross. “But—wait a minute!”

For he thought he heard some one at the door. He was standing with the receiver in his hand when the door slid open and Eddy came in.

“He’s just—” he began, turning back to the telephone, when Eddy sprang forward and caught his arm, and whispered: “Shut up! Sh-h-h!”

“Just about due,” said Ross to Gracie. Then he hung up the receiver and faced Eddy.

“Don’t tell ’em I’m here!” said Eddy. “I—I don’t want—I c-can’t stand any—jabbering. I—Oh, Gawd!”

At the end of his tether, Eddy was. His lips twitched, his face was distorted with his valiant effort after self-control. And it occurred to Ross that, for all his shrewdness and his worldly air, Eddy was not very old or very wise.

“What’s up, old man?” he asked.

“Tell me. You’d better get your dinner now.”

“Nope!” said Eddy. “I—can’t eat. I—I don’t want to talk.”

Ross waited for some time.

“Lissen here,” said Eddy, at last. “You—you seemed to like—that kid. You—you’ll look after her, won’t you?”

“Yes,” Ross answered.

He would have been surprised, and a little incredulous, if any one had called him tactful, yet few people could have handled Eddy better. He knew what the boy wanted; knew that he needed just this cool and steady tone, this incurious patience.

“Go and get her,” Eddy pleaded. “She’s down at the barber’s—near the movie theayter. Go and get her.”

“All right. I’ll have my dinner first, though. Want me to bring you something?”

“Nope!” said Eddy. “Lissen! I guess the cops are after me already.”

“You mean they’ve—found him?”

“Yep,” said Eddy. “They’ve found him. How did you know?”

Ross did not answer the question.

“Can’t you get away?” he asked.

“Not going to try,” said Eddy. “I—I’m too d-darn tired. I—I don’t care!” There was a hysterical rise in his voice, but he mastered it. “Let ’em come!”

“What have they got against you?”

“They’ve found him—in the pond—where I put him.”

“Who’s going to know that?”

“Oh, they’ll know, all right!” said Eddy. “They got ways of finding out things. They’ll know, and they’ll think it was me that—All right! Let ’em!”

“Then you’re not going to tell?”

Eddy looked at him.

“D’you think it—wasn’t me?”

“Yes,” Ross replied. “I think it wasn’t you, Eddy.”

There was a long silence between them.

“What d’you think I’d ought to do?” asked Eddy, almost in a whisper.

“Suppose we talk it over,” said Ross.

“Yes—but—I dunno who you are.”

“Well, let’s say I’m Ives.”

Eddy sprang back as if he had been struck.


“Look here!” said Ross. “I’m going to tell you what I did.”

And, very bluntly, he told. Eddy listened to him in silence; it was a strange enough thing, but he showed no surprise.

“D’you think it’ll work?” he asked, when Ross had finished.

“I hope so. Anyhow, there’s a chance. Now, you better tell me the whole thing. There’s a lot that I don’t know—and I might make a bad mistake.”

The telephone rang again. It was Gracie, annoyed by this delay.

“I’ll come as soon as I can,” said Ross, severely. “But I’m working on the car, and I can’t leave off for a few minutes.”

He turned again to Eddy.

“Go ahead!” he said.

Eddy sat down on the step of the sedan, and Ross leaned back against the wall, his arms folded, his saturnine face shadowed by the peaked cap.

“Tuesday I went and got her—the kid, y’ know, and took her to the cottage.”

“Did you know about her before?”

“Sure I did! I knew when they got married—her and Ives—four years ago. She told me herself. You know the way she tells you things—crying an’ all.”

Ross did know.

“Well, I used to see Ives hanging around. He was a nice feller—but he didn’t have a cent. He was an actor. She was too young, anyway—eighteen—same age as me. I told her I’d tell Mr. Solway, and then she told me they’d got married. I felt pretty bad—on Mr. Solway’s account. But she—well, you know how she acts. Her mother’d left her some money she’s going to get when she’s twenty-five, if she don’t get married without her stepfather’s consent. Mrs. Solway had the right idea. She knew Amy, all right. Only, it didn’t work. Amy wanted to get married and have the money, too. That’s how she is. So she told me she was going to tell Mr. Solway when she was twenty-five. I know I’d ought to have told him then, but—I didn’t.”

Ross understood that.

“Mr. Solway went over to Europe that summer, and she and Mrs. Jones went somewheres out West, and Lily was born out there. And Ives, he took the kid, and she came back here. She used to see Ives pretty often for awhile—go into the city and meet him. Then she began talking about what a risk it was. That was because she’d met this Gayle Dexter. That made me sick! I said I’d tell Mr. Solway, but she said her and Ives was going to get divorced, an’ nobody’d ever know, and that I’d ruin her life and all. And I gave in—like a fool. Only, you see, I—I’ve known Amy all my life.”

“I see!” said Ross.

“Well, it seems Ives was beginning to get suspicious, when she didn’t see him no more. He kept writing; I used to get the letters for her—general delivery—an’ she kept stalling—and at last he said he was coming here to see her. Well, her and Mrs. Jones must have told him to come along. And Tuesday I met the kid and took her to that cottage. My idea, that was. I told Mrs. Jones about the place. I wish to Gawd I hadn’t.” He was silent for a moment. “Only, I thought it might—I was glad to do it, ’cause I thought maybe if Amy seen Ives and the kid, she’d—kinder change her mind. He come that afternoon, and seen Mrs. Jones. Well, I went there after work, and he told me Amy was coming to see him next morning. He was real pleased. He was—he was a—nice feller—”

Eddy’s mouth twitched again. “I wish—I’d known. Anyway, she wouldn’t go to see him. Jones tried to make her—said she’d got to have a talk with him—but Amy, she took on something fierce. Said she’d never see him again. Well, I guess he must of waited and waited, and in the afternoon he come here to the garage. I tried to argue with him and all, but it wouldn’t work. He started off for the house, and I telephoned over to Jones. An’ he went—he went out of that door—”

Eddy turned and stared at the door with an odd blank look. It was as if he saw something—which was not there.

“This very door,” he muttered. “My Gawd!”

“Yes,” said Ross, quietly. “He went to the house. And then?”

Eddy turned back with a shudder.

“I didn’t never think,” he said. “Wheeler’d left, then, so I drove the big car down to the station to meet Mr. Solway, and when I brung him home, you was there. Old Lady Jones tried to tip me off. I saw her trying to tell me something behind your back. I couldn’t make out what it was, but I knew there was something queer. I thought you was a detective Ives’d sent to see what was going on, ’cause he’d been saying he’d do that. I didn’t know, then— But next day Jones told me that—that Ives had—died. Said he’d fell down dead from a heart attack. And she said we’d got to get rid of him on the Q. T., for Amy’s sake. I—I thought I couldn’t—but I did. Fella I know lent me his Ford. I said I wanted to take a girl out. And, while you were out there on the lawn, I—I got him—out of Jones’s room.”

“Do you mean he’d been there all that time?”

“I guess so. She told me she been sitting up all night, trying to—to see if she could—do anything for him. But he— Anyway, Jones told me what to do, and I did it. I—you don’t know what it was like—going all that way—alone—with him. And I had to put stones in his pockets.” He looked at Ross with a sort of wonder.

“I can’t believe it now!” he cried. “It don’t seem true! I don’t know why—only Jones told me that if I didn’t, there’d be a inquest an’ all. And she said everyone’d think that Amy— It would all come out, she said, and Amy and Mr. Solway’d be in the newspapers and all. And she said he was dead, anyway. The pond couldn’t hurt him. I—”

He came closer to Ross, and laid a hand on his sleeve. “Lissen here!” he said. “D’you think that’s true—that he—just died?”

“There’s no use thinking about that—now,” said Ross.


Ross could feel sorry enough for Eddy, for his ghastly trip to the pond, for all the dread and misery that lay upon his soul. He was sorry for Ives, although his sufferings were at an end. He pitied Mr. Solway, in his ignorance of all this. He was sorry, in his own way, for Amy. But, above all creatures in this world, he pitied that little child.

Eddy told him about her. When Ives had gone to “Day’s End,” he had left the child with the obliging barber in town, and she had been there all that night and the next day, until Mrs. Jones had sent Eddy after her.

“She said it would start people talking, if the kid stayed there, and she told me to take her back to the cottage and leave her till she made some plans. But I couldn’t do that. The way I felt last night, I didn’t care. I’d rather have seen the whole thing go to smash than leave the kid alone there all night. That’s why I brung her here. And this morning—I couldn’t stay there—in that house. It kind of gave me the creeps. So I took her back to the barber’s.” He paused.

“Jones don’t care about the kid,” he added. “She don’t care about anything on earth but Amy. Lissen here! I know she’s old and all, but I think—maybe she—I just wonder if the old girl had the nerve?”

Ross had had that thought, too. But it seemed to him that, no matter who had actually done this thing, even if it were an accident—which he did not believe—the guilt still lay upon the woman who had betrayed and abandoned the man and the child. Amy was guilty, and no one else. He straightened up, with a sigh.

“Come along!” he said. “We’ll get our dinner. No! Don’t be a fool, my lad. It’s what you need.”

Eddy was considerably relieved by his confession. He went upstairs, washed, changed his coat, and brushed his glossy hair, and when he set off toward the house, there was a trace of his old swagger about him. Only a trace, though, for he walked beneath a shadow.

As for Ross, there was precious little change to be discerned in his dour face and impassive bearing. And it was his very good fortune to be so constituted that he did not show what he felt, for he was to receive an unexpected shock.

“Sit down!” said Gracie, sharply. “I put somethin’ aside for you. Now hurry up! It puts me back with the dishes an’ all.”

“An’ thim extry people,” said the cook, who was also a little out of temper. “There’ll not be enough butter for breakfast, the way they did be eatin’, an’ me without a word of warnin’ at all.”

“It’s that Mr. Teagle,” said Gracie. “Them small men is always heavy eaters.”

“Teagle? Who’s he?” asked Eddy.

“Haven’t you heard?” cried Gracie, almost unable to believe that she was to have the bliss of imparting this amazing news. “Why, there was a body found in a lake somewheres.”

“Oh, I heard about that, down at the comp’ny!” said Eddy, scornfully.

“But lissen, Eddy! It turns out it was a cousin o’ Miss Amy’s! It seems they found some papers an’ letters an’ all near where they found him, an’ he turns out to be her cousin! This Mr. Teagle, he’s a lawyer. They sent for him, an’ he come out here to look at the poor feller, and then he come to the house, ’cause Miss Amy’s goin’ to get all his money. She took on somethin’ terrible! Mr. Solway, he telephoned to Mr. Dexter, and he come out, too. I guess it was kinder to comfort her.”

“What would she be needin’ all the comfortin’ for?” demanded the cook. “She’d never set eyes on the cousin at all, and her to be gettin’ all that money.”

“She’s kinder sensitive,” said Gracie.

“Sensitive, is it!” said the cook, with significance.

Ross went on eating his dinner. He did not appear to be interested. When he had finished, he bade them all a civil good night, and got up and went out.

“He’s a cold-blooded fish,” said Gracie.

Yet, something seemed to keep him warm—something kept him steadfast and untroubled as he walked, head down, against the storm of wind and sleet, along the lonely roads to the town. He found the barber shop to which Eddy had directed him, and when he entered, the lively little Italian barber did not think his face forbidding.

“I’ve come for the little girl,” said Ross.

“Oh, she’s all right!” cried the barber. “She’s O. K. She eata soom nica dinner—verrie O. K. She sooma kid.”

He was a happy little man, pleased with his thriving business, with his family, with his own easy fluency in the use of the American tongue. He took Ross through the brilliantly lighted white tiled shop—a sanitary barber, he was—into a back room, where were his wife and his own small children.

And among them was the little fairhaired Lily, content and quite at home as she seemed always to be. You might have thought that she knew she had nobody, and no place of her own in this world, and that she had philosophically made up her mind to be happy wherever fate might place her.

She was sitting on the floor, much in the way of the barber’s wife, who pursued her household duties among the four little children in the room with the deft unconcern of a highly skilled dancer among eggshells. The woman could speak no English, but she smiled at Ross with placid amiability. She could not understand why three different men should have brought this child here at different times; but, after all, she didn’t particularly care. A passing incident, this was, in her busy life.

As for the barber himself, he had his own ideas. He saw something suspicious in the affair; a kidnaping, perhaps; but he preferred to know nothing. It was his tradition to be wary of troubling the police.

He took the money Ross gave him, and he smiled. Nobody had told him anything. He knew nothing.

The barber’s wife got the little girl ready, and Ross picked her up in his arms. She turned her head, to look back at the children, and her little woolen cap brushed across his eyes; he had to stop in the doorway of the shop, to shift her on to one arm, so that he could see. And then, what he did see was Donnelly.

“Well! Well!” said Donnelly, in a tone of hearty welcome.

“Well!” said Ross. “I’m in a hurry to get back, now. Tomorrow—”

“Of course you are!” said Donnelly. “I’m not going to keep you a minute. I’ve got something here I’d like the little girl to identify.”

Ross’s arm tightened about the child.

“No!” he protested. “No! She’s got nothing to do with—this.”

“Pshaw!” said Donnelly, with a laugh. “It’s only this.” And from his pocket he brought out the rabbit.

“Oh, my wabbit!” cried the little girl, with a sort of solemn ecstasy.

“Hi! Taxi!” called Donnelly, suddenly, and a cab going by slowed down, turned, skidding a little on the wet street, and drew up to the curb. Without delay, Ross put the child inside, and got in after her, but Donnelly remained standing on the curb, holding open the door. Light streamed from the shop windows, but his back was turned toward it; his face was in darkness; he stood like a statue in the downpour.

“There’s some funny things about this case—” he observed.

Ross said nothing.

“Mighty funny!” Donnelly pursued. “And, by the way—” He leaned into the cab. “I’ve seen a good deal of you today, but I don’t believe you’ve told me your name.”

It seemed to Ross for a moment that he could not speak. But, at last, with a great effort, he said:


“Ah!” said Donnelly.

Ross waited and waited.

“If you’d like to see—my bank book and papers,” he finally suggested.

“No,” said Donnelly, soothingly. “No, never mind. And this James Ross. You never heard of him, I suppose?”


“He landed in New York on Wednesday, went to a hotel in the city, left his bags, and came right out to Stamford—and fell in a pond. Now, that’s a queer stunt, isn’t it?”

Ross put his arm round the child’s tiny shoulders and drew her close to him.

“Very!” he agreed.

“I thought so myself. Queer! I found the man’s pocketbook in that cottage—in that very room where you waited for me. What d’you think of that? There was a letter from a lawyer in New York—name of Teagle. I telephoned to him, and he came out. He could identify the man’s handwriting and so on. But he’d never seen him. Said he didn’t think there was any one in this country who had. He has a theory, though. Like to hear it—or are you in a hurry?”

“No! Go ahead!”

“Well, Teagle’s theory is that this Mr. James Ross knew he had a cousin out this way. Miss Solway, you know. It seems her mother made a match the family didn’t approve of, and they dropped her, years ago. Now, Teagle thinks this Mr. James Ross wanted to see for himself what this cousin was like, and that he came out to that cottage to stay while he sort of mooched around, getting information about her. Family feeling, see? Only—he met with an accident.”

“That sounds plausible,” said Ross.

“You’re right! Now, of course, there’ll be a coroner’s inquest tomorrow. But—” He paused. “I happened to be around when the doctor made his examination. And he says—the man was dead before he fell in the pond.”

“Oh, God!” cried Ross, in his torment. “Don’t go on!”

“Hold on a minute! Hold on! Of course that startles you, eh? You think it’s a case of murder, eh? Well, I’ll tell you now that the verdict’ll be—death from natural causes. No marks of violence. And Mr. James Ross had a very bad heart. I dare say he didn’t know it. He died of heart failure, and then he rolled down that slope. I saw that for myself—saw bushes broken, and so on, where something had rolled or been dragged down there.”


“Then,” said Donnelly, “as far as I’m concerned, there’s no case. And I’ll say good-by to you. Maybe you wouldn’t mind shaking hands, Mr.—Ives?”

Their hands met in a firm clasp.

“On Miss Solway’s account,” said Donnelly, “I’m mighty glad you’re Mr. Ives. Good-by!”


Ross was going away, at last. He was going as he had come, with no luggage, with no ceremony. Only, he was going to take with him a small child, and he left behind him his name, his money, and a good many illusions—and a friend. Eddy was not likely to forget him.

“You’re—you’re a white man!” he said, in a very unsteady voice. “You’re—a prince.”

“No,” Ross objected. “I’m a fool. The biggest damned fool that ever lived.”

“Have it your own way!” said Eddy.

“I can think different if I like. I—” He paused a moment. “It makes me sick, you goin’ away like this. It—it—”

Ross laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“Drop it!” he said. “Now, then! It’s about time for us to be off.” He turned toward the bedroom. “I’ll wake her up, while you start the car. I’ll take one of the blankets to wrap her in.”

It was a little early for the train he wanted to catch, but he was in a hurry to be gone. He might have known, though, that it was his fate never to leave this place when or how he wished.

He might have known that there was one inevitable thing still to be faced. He heard the throb of the sturdy little engine downstairs; he thought, he hoped, that the last moment had come, and, instead, he was called upon to endure a moment almost beyond endurance.

For Amy came. The sound of the engine prevented his hearing her entrance; he had just gone into the bedroom when he heard her footsteps on the stairs. In a wild storm of tears, desperate, white as a ghost, she ran in to him.

“Jimmy!” she gasped. “Oh, Jimmy! Jimmy!”

He did not speak. What had he to say to her now?

She was panting for breath, and her sobs were horrible, as if they choked her. He wanted to close the bedroom door, but she had seized him by the shoulder.

“I didn’t know!” she cried. “Not—till tonight. Oh, Jimmy, I didn’t know he was dead! He came to see me—and he died. Oh, Jimmy! Just when Nanna told him—that I didn’t want to see him ever again. It killed him, Jimmy. I killed him!”

“Oh, do keep quiet!” said Ross, in a sort of despair.

“I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! If I’d only seen him—just once more! Nanna begged me to—but I wouldn’t. And when Nanna told him, he—died! How can I bear that? Oh, Jimmy! I didn’t think he’d care so much! Just as I care for Gayle. Jimmy, listen to me! I’ll tell Gayle. I’ll go to him now. I can’t let you do this for me, Jimmy!”

For a moment his heart beat with a great hope.

“Do you mean that?” he asked.

“I never meant it to be like this. Never! Never! I thought Martin would let me go—let me get a divorce. And if he hadn’t, I’d have given up Gayle. I’ll give him up now, if you tell me to. Even if I die, too!”

The hope was faint now.

“You think he’d give you up, if he knew?” he asked.

“Think? I know! He’d loathe me!”

“And you’d be willing to marry him with—”

“You don’t understand!” she interrupted, violently. “You never could. You’re too good. And I’m not good—in your way. I was just a child when I met Martin. I’m not a child now. Gayle’s my whole life to me. I love him so that—”

“For God’s sake, stop!” cried Ross. “It’s—infamous! Have you forgotten?”

All the light and passion fled from her face at his tone. She looked up at him in terrified inquiry. Ross stood aside from the doorway, so that she could see the child lying asleep on the bed. She went in very softly, and stood looking down at the little creature.

“You see,” she whispered, “I’ve given up—my soul—for Gayle.”

He took her by the arm and led her out of the room, closing the door behind them.

“Very well!” he said. “On her account, it’s better like this. I’ll take her. And you’ll have to forget her. Do you understand? There’s to be no repentance, and so on. Make up your mind now.”

“No,” she said, faintly. “I can’t. I won’t! I’ll just do what you tell me. You’ve got to decide.”

“What!” he cried, appalled. “You’d try to make me?”

The child gave a little chuckle in her sleep. He thought what the child’s life would be, with Amy, if Amy were denied her Gayle. He thought of Ives. He had taken Ives’s name, and with it the burden that Ives could no longer carry.

“All right!” he said. “It’s finished. I only hope to Heaven that Mr. Solway can end his days without knowing. As for Dexter—he’ll have to take his chance—like the rest of us. Good-by, Amy!”

She caught one of his hands in both of hers, and pressed it against her wet cheek.

“Can you ever, ever forgive me, Jimmy?” she asked, with a sob.

“I dare say!” said Ross, grimly.


“Left hand, please!”

Obediently, Mrs. Barron took her left hand out of the bowl of warm water, and laid it on the towel, carefully, as if it might melt. And the manicurist bent over it with her nice air of earnest attention.

All this was agreeable to Mrs. Barron. She was rather proud of her hands; she was altogether comfortable and tranquil; she had a pleasant, restful day before her.

In the afternoon she and her daughter were going to look at fur coats, which was really better than the actual buying; and, in the evening, they were all going to a play. The sun was shining, too, and the formal sitting room of her hotel suite was cheerful and warm, and filled with the perfume of the roses that stood all about.

“It’s good to be home again,” she remarked. “At my time of life traveling is not—” The telephone bell rang. “Answer that, my dear. It’s dangerous to touch a telephone with damp hands—Oh! A gentleman to see Miss Barron? What a strange time to call—ten o’clock in the morning! Ask his name, my dear. He was on the Farragut with us? But how very strange! Why doesn’t he give his name? But ask him to come up.”

She dried her hands and arose, majestic even in her frivolous negligee.

“Very strange!” she murmured.

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in!” she said.

The door opened—and it was Mr. Ross! She took a step forward, with a welcoming smile; then she stopped short.

“Mr. Ross!” she cried. “But—Mr. Ross!”

He did not fail to notice the change in her tone, the vanishing of her smile. It did not surprise him. He stood in the doorway, hat in one hand, the little girl clinging to the other, and he felt that, to her piercing glance, he was a sorry enough figure. He felt shabby, as if he had been long battered by wind and rain; he felt that somehow the emptiness of his pockets was obvious to any one.

“I’m sorry,” he said stiffly. “I’m afraid I’ve disturbed you. I thought perhaps I could see Miss Barron, just for a moment.”

“Come in!” said Mrs. Barron, and, turning to the manicurist, “Later, my dear!” she said.

Ross came in, and the manicurist, gathering her things together on her tray, made haste to escape. She went out, closing the door behind her.

“Mr. Ross!” said Mrs. Barron, in the same tone of stern wonder.

“I’m sorry,” he said, again. “I’m afraid I’ve dis—”

“But, my dear boy, what has happened?” she cried.

He was absolutely astounded by her voice, by the kindly anxiety in her face.

“I just thought—” he began.

“Sit down!” said she. “Here! On the sofa. You do look so tired!”

“I—I am,” he admitted.

“And such a dear little girl!” said Mrs. Barron. “Such a dear little mite.”

She had sat down on the sofa beside the child, and was stroking her fair mane, while her eyes were fixed upon Ross with genuine solicitude. She looked so kind, so honest, so sensible—he marveled that he had ever thought her formidable.

“You wanted to see Phyllis?” she went on. “She’s out, just now; but you must wait.”

“By George!” cried Ross.

For he had an inspiration. With all his stubborn soul he had been dreading to meet Phyllis in his present condition. He was penniless, and, what was worse, he could not rid himself of an unreasonable conviction of guilt. And now that he found Mrs. Barron so kind—

“Mrs. Barron!” he said. “It’s really you I ought to speak to. It’s about this child. She’s a—sort of cousin of mine, and she’s”—he paused a moment—“alone.”

Mrs. Barron was looking down at the child, very thoughtfully.

“I don’t know any one in this country,” he went on, “so I thought if you’d advise me. I want to find a home for her. A—a real home, you know, with people who’ll—be fond of her. Just for a few months; later on I’ll take her myself. But, just now—” His dark face flushed.

“I’m a bit hard up just now,” he said; “but I’ll find a job right away, and I’ll be able to pay for her board and so on.”

Mrs. Barron continued to look thoughtful, and it occurred to him that his request must seem odd to her—very odd. The flush on his face deepened.

“I’m sorry,” he said, coldly; “but there are a good many things I can’t explain—”

“Yes, you can!” Mrs. Barron declared, in her old manner. “And that’s just what you’re going to do. As soon as I set eyes on you, on board that ship, I knew what you were. And I am never deceived about character. Never, Mr. Ross! I knew at once that you were to be trusted. I said to Phyllis: ‘That young man has force of character!’ I knew it. Now you’ve gone and got yourself into trouble of some sort, and you’ve come to me—very properly—and you’re going to tell me the whole thing.”

“I can’t!” Ross protested.

“Oh, yes, you can! Here you come and tell me you haven’t a penny, and don’t know a soul in this country, and here’s this poor little child who’s been foisted upon you— Don’t look surprised! I know it very well! She’s been foisted upon you by selfish, heartless, unscrupulous people, and you can’t deny it! Now, tell me what’s happened.”

He did. And what is more, he was glad to tell her.

There were a good many details that he left out, and he mentioned no names at all, but the main facts of his amazing story he gave to her. Especially was he emphatic in pointing out that he had now no name and no money, and he thought that would be enough for her.

But when he carefully pointed this out, she said:

“Nonsense! You’ve got your own name, and you can go right on using it. As for money, you’re never going to let that horrible, wicked woman rob you like that—”

“Look here, Mrs. Barron!” said Ross. “I am. I give you my word, I’ll never reopen that case again. It’s finished. I’m going to make a fresh start in the world and forget all about it.”

“I shan’t argue with you now,” said Mrs. Barron, firmly. “You’re too tired. And if you want a position—for awhile—Mr. Barron will find you one. The little girl will stay here with us, of course. Now, take off your coat and make yourself comfortable until lunch time.”

“No!” said Ross. “No! I—don’t you see for yourself? I don’t want to see—anybody.”

“Mr. Ross!” said Mrs. Barron. “I’m not young any longer. I’ve lived a good many years in the world, and I’ve learned a few things. And one of them is—that character is the one thing that counts. Not money, Mr. Ross; not intellect, or appearance, or manners; but character. What you’ve done is very, very foolish, but—” She leaned across the child, and laid her hand on his shoulder. “But it was very splendid, my dear boy.”

Ross grew redder than ever.

“Just the same, I’d rather go,” he muttered, obstinately.

“Here’s Phyllis now!” cried Mrs. Barron, in triumph.

So he had to get up and face her—the girl he had run away from when he had had so much to offer her. He had to face her, empty-handed, now; heartsick and weary after his bitter adventure.

And she seemed to him so wonderful, with that dear friendly smile.

“Mr. Ross!” she said.

She held out her hand, and he had to take it. He had to look at her—and then he could not stop. They forgot, for a moment; they stood there, hands clasped, looking at each other.

“Didn’t I know he’d come!” cried Mrs. Barron.

Transcriber’s Note: This story appeared in the September 1926 issue of Munsey’s Magazine.
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