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The Diamond Master (1909)
Jacques Futrelle



CONTENTS

   I  THE FIRST DIAMOND
  II  TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE
 III  THURSDAY AT THREE
  IV  THE UNLIMITED SUPPLY
   V  THE ASTUTE MR. BIRNES
  VI  THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN
 VII  A WINGED MESSENGER
VIII  SOME CONJECTURES
  IX  AND MORE DIAMONDS!
   X  THE BIG GAME
  XI  THE SILENT BELL
 XII  THE THIRD DEGREE
XIII  MR. CZENKI APPEARS
 XIV  CAUGHT IN THE NET
  XV  THE TRUTH IN PART
 XVI  MR. CZENKI EXPLAINS
XVII  THE GREAT CUBE




CHAPTER I

THE FIRST DIAMOND

There were thirty or forty personally addressed letters, the daily
heritage of the head of a great business establishment; and a plain,
yellow-wrapped package about the size of a cigarette-box, some three
inches long, two inches wide and one inch deep.  It was neatly tied
with thin scarlet twine, and innocent of markings except for the
superscription in a precise, copperplate hand, and the smudge of the
postmark across the ten-cent stamp in the upper right-hand corner. The
imprint of the cancellation, faintly decipherable, showed that the
package had been mailed at the Madison Square substation at half-past
seven o'clock of the previous evening.

Mr. Harry Latham, president and active head of the H. Latham Company,
manufacturing jewelers in Fifth Avenue, found the letters and the
package on his desk when he entered his private office a few minutes
past nine o'clock.  The simple fact that the package bore no return
address or identifying mark of any sort caused him to pick it up and
examine it, after which he shook it inquiringly.  Then, with kindling
curiosity, he snipped the scarlet thread with a pair of silver
scissors, and unfolded the wrappings.  Inside was a glazed paper box,
such as jewelers use, but still there was no mark, no printing, either
on top or bottom.

The cover of the box came off in Mr. Latham's hand, disclosing a bed
of white cotton.  He removed the downy upper layer, and there--there,
nestling against the snowy background, blazed a single splendid
diamond, of six, perhaps seven, carats.  Myriad colors played in its
blue-white depths, sparkling, flashing, dazzling in the subdued
light.  Mr. Latham drew one long quick breath, and walked over to the
window to examine the stone in the full glare of day.

A minute or more passed, a minute of wonder, admiration, allurement,
but at last he ventured to lift the diamond from the box.  It was
perfect, so far as he could see; perfect in cutting and color and
depth, prismatic, radiant, bewilderingly gorgeous.  Its value?  Even
he could not offer an opinion--only the appraisement of his expert
would be worth listening to on that point.  But one thing he knew
instantly--in the million-dollar stock of precious stones stored
away in the vaults of the H. Latham Company, there was not one to
compare with this.

At length, as he stared at it fascinated, he remembered that he
didn't know its owner, and for the second time he examined the
wrappings, the box inside and out, and finally he lifted out the
lower layer of cotton, seeking a fugitive card or mark of some sort.
Surely the owner of so valuable a stone would not be so careless as
to send it this way, through the mail--unregistered--without some
method of identification!  Another sharp scrutiny of box and cotton
and wrappings left him in deep perplexity.

Then another idea came.  One of the letters, of course!  The owner
of the diamond had sent it this way, perhaps to be set, and had sent
instructions under another cover.  An absurd, even a reckless thing
to do, but ----!  And Mr. Latham attacked the heap of letters neatly
stacked up in front of him.  There were thirty-six of them, but not
one even remotely hinted at diamonds.  In order to be perfectly sure,
Mr. Latham went through his mail a second time.  Perhaps the letter
of instructions had come addressed to the company, and had gone to
the secretary, Mr. Flitcroft.

He arose to summon Mr. Flitcroft from an adjoining room, then changed
his mind long enough carefully to replace the diamond in the box and
thrust the box into a pigeonhole of his desk.  Then he called Mr.
Flitcroft in.

"Have you gone through your morning mail?" Mr. Latham inquired of the
secretary.

"Yes," he replied.  "I have just finished."

"Did you happen to come across a letter bearing on--that is, was
there a letter to-day, or has there been a letter of instructions as
to a single large diamond which was to come, or had come, by mail?"

"No, nothing," replied Mr. Flitcroft promptly.  "The only letter
received to-day which referred to diamonds was a notification of a
shipment from South Africa."

Mr. Latham thoughtfully drummed on his desk.

"Well, I'm expecting some such letter," he explained.  "When it comes
please call it to my attention.  Send my stenographer in."

Mr. Flitcroft nodded and withdrew; and for an hour or more Mr. Latham
was engrossed in the routine of correspondence.  There was only an
occasional glance at the box in the pigeonhole, and momentary fits
of abstraction, to indicate an unabated interest and growing
curiosity in the diamond.  The last letter was finished, and the
stenographer arose to leave.

"Please ask Mr. Czenki to come here," Mr. Latham directed.

And after a while Mr. Czenki appeared.  He was a spare little man,
with beady black eyes, bushy brows, and a sinister scar extending
from the point of his chin across the right jaw.  Mr. Czenki drew
a salary of twenty-five thousand dollars a year from the H. Latham
Company, and was worth twice that much.  He was the diamond expert
of the firm; and for five or six years his had been the final word
as to quality and value.  He had been a laborer in the South African
diamond fields--the scar was an assegai thrust--about the time Cecil
Rhodes' grip was first felt there; later he was employed as an expert
by Barney Barnato at Kimberly, and finally he went to London with
Adolph Zeidt.  Mr. Latham nodded as he entered, and took the box
from the pigeonhole.

"Here's something I'd like you to look at," he remarked.

Mr. Czenki removed the cover and turned the glittering stone out into
his hand.  For a minute or more he stood still, examining it, as he
turned and twisted it in his fingers, then walked over to a window,
adjusted a magnifying glass in his left eye and continued the
scrutiny.  Mr. Latham swung around in his chair and stared at him
intently.

"It's the most perfect blue-white I've ever seen," the expert
announced at last.  "I dare say it's the most perfect in the world."

Mr. Latham arose suddenly and strode over to Mr. Czenki, who was
twisting the jewel in his fingers, singling out, dissecting, studying
the colorful flashes, measuring the facets with practised eyes,
weighing it on his finger-tips, seeking a possible flaw.

"The cutting is very fine," the expert went on.  "Of course I would
have to use instruments to tell me if it is mathematically correct;
and the weight, I imagine, is--is about six carats, perhaps a
fraction more."

"What's it worth?" asked Mr. Latham.  "Approximately, I mean?"

"We know the color is perfect," explained Mr. Czenki precisely.  "If,
in addition, the cutting is perfect, and the depth is right, and the
weight is six carats or a fraction more, it's worth--in other words,
if that is the most perfect specimen in existence, as it seems to be,
it's worth whatever you might choose to demand for it--twenty,
twenty-five, thirty thousand dollars.  With this color, and assuming
it to be six carats, even if _badly_ cut, it would be worth ten or
twelve thousand."

Mr. Latham mopped his brow.  And this had come by mail, unregistered!

"It would not be possible to say where--where such a stone came
from--what country?" Mr. Latham inquired curiously.  "What's your
opinion?"

The expert shook his head.  "If I had to guess I should say Brazil,
of course," he replied; "but that would be merely because the most
perfect blue-white diamonds come from Brazil.  They are found all
over the world--in Africa, Russia, India, China, even in the United
States.  The simple fact that this color is perfect makes conjecture
useless."

Mr. Latham lapsed into silence, and for a time paced back and forth
across his office; Mr. Czenki stood waiting.

"Please get the exact weight," Mr. Latham requested abruptly.  "Also
test the cutting.  It came into my possession in rather an--an
unusual manner, and I'm curious."

The expert went out.  An hour later he returned and placed the white,
glazed box on the desk before Mr. Latham.

"The weight is six and three-sixteenths carats," he stated. "The
depth is absolutely perfect according to the diameter of the girdle.
The _bezel_ facets are mathematically correct to the minutest
fraction--thirty-three, including the table.  The facets on the
_collet_ side are equally exact--twenty-five, including the _collet_,
or fifty-eight facets in all.  As I said, the color is flawless.  In
other words," he continued without hesitation, "I should say,
speaking as an expert, that it is the most perfect diamond existing
in the world to-day."

Mr. Latham had been staring at him mutely, and he still sat silent
for an instant after Mr. Czenki had finished.

"And its value?" he asked at last.

"Its value!" Mr. Czenki repeated musingly.  "You know, Mr. Latham,"
he went on suddenly, "there are a hundred experts, commissioned by
royalty, scouring the diamond markets of the world for such stones
as this.  So, if you are looking for a sale and a price, by all means
offer it abroad first."  He lifted the sparkling, iridescent jewel
from the box again, and gazed at it reflectively.  "There is not one
stone belonging to the British crown, for instance, which would in
any way compare with this."

"Not even the Koh-i-noor?" Mr. Latham demanded, surprised.

Mr. Czenki shook his head.

"Not even the Koh-i-noor.  It is larger, that's all--a fraction more
than one hundred and six carats, but it has neither the coloring nor
the cutting of this."  There was a pause.  "Would it be impertinent
if I ask who owns this?"

"I don't know," replied Mr. Latham slowly.  "I don't know; but it
isn't ours.  Perhaps later I'll be able to--"

"I beg your pardon," the expert interrupted courteously, and there
was a slight expression of surprise on his thin scarred face.  "Is
that all?"

Mr. Latham nodded absently and Mr. Czenki left the room.



CHAPTER II

TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE

A little while later, when Mr. Latham started out to luncheon, he
thrust the white glazed box into an inside pocket.  It had occurred
to him that Schultze--Gustave Schultze, the greatest importer of
precious stones in America--was usually at the club where he had
luncheon, and--

He found Mr. Schultze, a huge blond German, sitting at a table in an
alcove, alone, gazing out upon Fifth Avenue in deep abstraction, with
perplexed wrinkles about his blue eyes.  The German glanced around at
Latham quickly as he proceeded to draw out a chair on the opposite
side of the table.

"Sid down, Laadham, sid down," he invited explosively.  "I haf yust
send der vaiter to der delephone to ask--"

There was a restrained note of excitement in the German's voice, but
at the moment it was utterly lost upon Mr. Latham.

"Schultze, you've probably imported more diamonds in the last ten
years than any other half-dozen men in the United States," he
interrupted.  "I have something here I want you to see.  Perhaps,
at some time, it may have passed through your hands."

He placed the glazed box on the table.  For an instant the German
stared at it with amazed eyes, then one fat hand darted toward it,
and he spilled the diamond out on the napkin in his plate.  Then he
sat gazing as if fascinated by the lambent, darting flashes deep from
the blue-white heart.

"_Mein Gott_, Laadham!" he exclaimed, and with fingers which shook a
little he lifted the stone and squinted through it toward the light,
with critical eyes.  Mr. Latham was leaning forward on the table,
waiting, watching, listening.

"Well?" he queried impatiently, at last.

"Laadham, id is der miracle!" Mr. Schultze explained solemnly, with
his characteristic, whimsical philosophy.  "I haf der dupligade of
id, Laadham--der dwin, der liddle brudder.  Zee here!"

From an inner pocket he produced a glazed white box, identical with
that which Mr. Latham had just set down, then carefully laid the
cover aside.

"Look, Laadham, look!"

Mr. Latham looked--and gasped!  Here was the counterpart of the
mysterious diamond which still lay in Mr. Schultze's outstretched
palm.

"Dey are dwins, Laadham," remarked the German quaintly, finally.
"Id came by der mail in dis morning--yust like das, wrapped in
paper, but mit no marks, no name, no noddings.  Id yust came!"

With his right hand Mr. Latham lifted the duplicate diamond from
its cotton bed, and with his left took the other from the German's
hand.  Then, side by side, he examined them; color, cutting, diameter,
depth, all seemed to be the same.

"Dwins, I dell you," repeated Mr. Schultze stolidly.  "Dweedledum
und Dweedledee, born of der same mudder und fadder.  Laadham, id
iss der miracle!  Dey are der most beaudiful der world in--yust der
pair of dem."

"Have you made," Mr. Latham began, and there was an odd, uncertain
note in his voice--"Have you made an expert examination?"

"I haf.  I measure him, der deepness, der cudding, der facets, und
id iss perfect.  Und I take my own judgment of a diamond, Laadham,
before any man der vorld in but Czenki."

"And the weight?"

"Prezizely six und d'ree-sixdeendh carads.  Dere iss nod more as a
difference of a d'irty-second bedween dem."

Mr. Latham regarded the importer steadily, the while he fought back
an absurd, nervous thrill in his voice.

"There isn't that much, Schultze.  Their weight is exactly the same."

For a long time the two men sat staring at each other unseeingly.
Finally the German, with a prodigious Teutonic sigh, replaced the
diamond from Mr. Latham's right hand in one of the glazed boxes and
carefully stowed it away in a cavernous pocket; Mr. Latham
mechanically disposed of the other in the same manner.

"Whose are they?" he demanded at length.  "Why are they sent to us
like this, with no name, no letter of explanation?  Until I saw the
stone you have I believed this other had been sent to me by some
careless fool for setting, perhaps, and that a letter would follow
it.  I merely brought it here on the chance that it was one of your
importations and that you could identify it.  But since you have
received one under circumstances which seem to be identical, now--"
He paused helplessly.  "What does it mean?"

Mr. Schultze shrugged his huge shoulders and thoughtfully flicked
the ashes from his cigar into the consomme.

"You know, Laadham," he said slowly, "dey don't pick up diamonds
like dose on der streed gorners.  I didn't believe dere vas a stone
of so bigness in der Unided States whose owner I didn't know id vas.
Dose dat are here I haf bring in myself, mostly--dose I did not I haf
kept drack of.  I don'd know, Laadham, I don'd know.  Der longer I
lif der more I don'd know."

The two men completed a scant luncheon in silence.

"Obviously," remarked Mr. Latham as he laid his napkin aside, "the
diamonds were sent to us by the same person; obviously they were sent
to us with a purpose; obviously we will, in time, hear from the
person who sent them; obviously they were intended to be perfectly
matched; so let's see if they are.  Come to my office and let Czenki
examine the one you have."  He hesitated an instant.  "Suppose you
let me take it.  We'll try a little experiment."

He carefully placed the jewel which the German handed to him, in an
outside pocket, and together they went to his office.  Mr. Czenki
appeared, in answer to a summons, and Mr. Latham gave him the
German's box.

"That's the diamond you examined for me this morning, isn't it?" he
inquired.

Mr. Czenki turned it out into his hand and scrutinized it
perfunctorily.

"Yes," he replied after a moment.

"Are you quite certain?" Mr. Latham insisted.

Something in the tone caused Mr. Czenki to raise his beady black
eyes questioningly for an instant, after which he walked over to a
window and adjusted his magnifying glass again.  For a moment or more
he stood there, then:

"It's the same stone," he announced positively.

"Id _iss_ der miracle, Laadham, when Czenki make der mistake!" the
German exploded suddenly.  "Show him der odder von."

Mr. Czenki glanced from one to the other with quick, inquisitive
glance; then, without a word, Mr. Latham produced the second box and
opened it.  The expert stared incredulously at the two perfect stones
and finally, placing them side by side on a sheet of paper, returned
to the window and sat down.  Mr. Latham and Mr. Schultze stood beside
him, looking on curiously as he turned and twisted the jewels under
his powerful glass.

"As a matter of fact," asked Mr. Latham pointedly at last, "you would
not venture to say which of those stones it was you examined this
morning, would you?"

"No," replied Mr. Czenki curtly, "not without weighing them."

"And if the weight is identical?"

"No," said Mr. Czenki again.  "If the weight is the same there is not
the minutest fraction of a difference between them."



CHAPTER III

THURSDAY AT THREE

Mr. Latham ran through his afternoon mail with feverish haste and
found--nothing; Mr. Schultze achieved the same result more
ponderously.  On the following morning the mail still brought
nothing.  About eleven o'clock Mr. Latham's desk telephone rang.

"Come to my offiz," requested Mr. Schultze, in gutteral excitement.
"_Mein Gott_, Laadham, der--come to my offiz, Laadham, und bring der
diamond!"

Mr. Latham went.  Including himself, there were the heads of the five
greatest jewel establishments in America, representing, perhaps,
one-tenth of the diamond trade of the country, in Mr. Schultze's
office. He found the other four gathered around a small table, and on
this table--Mr. Latham gasped as he looked--lay four replicas of the
mysterious diamond in his pocket.

"Pud id down here, Laadham," directed Mr. Schultze.  "Dey're all
dwins alike--Dweedeldums und Dweedledeeses."

Mr. Latham silently placed the fifth diamond on the table, and for
a minute or more the five men stood still and gazed, first at the
diamonds, then at one another, and then again at the diamonds.  Mr.
Solomon, the crisply spoken head of Solomon, Berger and Company,
broke the silence.

"These all came yesterday morning by mail, one to each of us just as
the one came to you," he informed Mr. Latham.  "Mr. Harris here, of
Harris and Blacklock, learned that I had received such a stone, and
brought the one he had received for comparison.  We made some
inquiries together and found that a duplicate had been received by
Mr. Stoddard, of Hall-Stoddard-Higginson.  The three of us came here
to see if Mr. Schultze could give us any information, and he
telephoned for you."

Mr. Latham listened blankly.

"It's positively beyond belief," he burst out.  "What--what does it
mean?"

"Id means," the German importer answered philosophically, "dat if
diamonds like dese keep popping up like dis, dat in anoder d'ree
months dey vill nod be vorth more as five cents a bucketful."

The truth of the observation came to the four others simultaneously.
Hitherto there had been only the sense of wonder and admiration; now
came the definite knowledge that diamonds, even of such great size
and beauty as these, would grow cheap if they were to be picked out
of the void; and realization of this astonishing possibility brought
five shrewd business brains to a unit of investigation.  First it
was necessary to find how many other jewelers had received
duplicates; then it was necessary to find whence they came.  A plan
was adopted, and an investigation ordered to begin at once.

"Dere iss someding back of id, of course," declared Mr. Schultze.
"_Vas iss?_  Dey are nod being send for our healdh!"

During the next six days half a score of private detectives were at
work on the mystery, with the slender clews at hand.  They scanned
hotel registers, quizzed paper-box manufacturers, pestered stamp
clerks, bedeviled postal officials, and the sum total of their
knowledge was negative, save in the fact that they established beyond
question that only these five men had received the diamonds.

And meanwhile the heads of the five greatest jewel houses in New
York were assiduous in their search for that copperplate
superscription in their daily mail.  On the morning of the eighth day
it came.  Mr. Latham was nervously shuffling his unopened personal
correspondence when he came upon it--a formal white square envelope,
directed by that same copperplate hand which had directed the boxes.
He dropped into his chair, and opened the envelope with eager
fingers.  Inside was this letter:

   MY DEAR SIR:

   One week ago I took the liberty of sending to you, and to each
   of four other leading jewelers of this city whose names you
   know, a single large diamond of rare cutting and color.  Please
   accept this as a gift from me, and be good enough to convey my
   compliments to the other four gentlemen, and assure them that
   theirs, too, were gifts.

   Believe me, I had no intention of making a mystery of this.  It
   was necessary definitely to attract your attention, and I could
   conceive of no more certain way than in this manner.  In return
   for the value of the jewels I shall ask that you and the four
   others concerned give me an audience in your office on Thursday
   afternoon next at three o'clock; that you make known this
   request to the others; and that three experts whose judgment
   you will all accept shall meet with us.

   I believe you will appreciate the necessity of secrecy in this
   matter, for the present at least.   Respectfully,

   E. VAN CORTLANDT WYNNE

They were on hand promptly, all of them--Mr. Latham, Mr. Schultze,
Mr. Solomon, Mr. Stoddard and Mr. Harris.  The experts agreed upon
were the unemotional Mr. Czenki, Mr. Cawthorne, an Englishman in the
employ of Solomon, Berger and Company, and Mr. Schultze, who
gravely admitted that he was the first expert in the land, after Mr.
Czenki, and whose opinion of himself was unanimously accepted by the
others.  The meeting place was the directors' room of the H. Latham
Company.

At one minute of three o'clock a clerk entered with a card, and
handed it to Mr. Latham.

"'Mr. E. van Cortlandt Wynne,'" Mr. Latham read aloud, and every man
in the room moved a little in his chair.  Then:  "Show him in here,
please."

"Now, gendlemens," observed Mr. Schultze sententiously, "ve shall zee
vat ve shall zee."

The clerk went out and a moment later Mr. Wynne appeared.  He was
tall and rather slender, alert of eyes, graceful of person; perfectly
self-possessed and sure of himself, yet without one trace of egotism
in manner or appearance--a fair type of the brisk, courteous young
business man of New York.  He wore a tweed suit, and in his left
hand carried a small sole-leather grip.  For an instant he stood,
framed by the doorway, meeting the sharp scrutiny of the assembled
jewelers with a frank smile.  For a little time no one spoke--merely
gazed--and finally:

"Mr. Latham?" queried Mr. Wynne, looking from one to the other.

Mr. Latham came to his feet with a sudden realization of his
responsibilities as a temporary host, and introductions followed.  Mr.
Wynne passed along on one side of the table, shaking hands with each
man in turn until he came to Mr. Czenki.  Mr. Latham introduced them.

"Mr. Czenki," repeated Mr. Wynne, and he allowed his eyes to rest
frankly upon the expert for a moment.  "Your name has been repeated
to me so often that I almost feel as if I knew you."

Mr. Czenki bowed without speaking.

"I am assuming that this is the Mr. Czenki who was associated with
Mr. Barnato and Mr. Zeidt?" the young man went on.

"That is correct, yes," replied the expert.

"And I believe, too, that you once did some special work for Professor
Henri Moissan in Paris?"

Mr. Czenki's black eyes seemed to be searching the other's face for an
instant, and then he nodded affirmatively.

"I made some tests for him, yes," he volunteered.

Mr. Wynne passed on along the other side of the long table, and
stopped at the end.  Mr. Latham was at his right, Mr. Schultze at
his left, and Mr. Czenki sat at the far end, facing him.  The small
sole-leather grip was on the floor at Mr. Wynne's feet.  For a moment
he permitted himself to enjoy the varying expressions of interest on
the faces around the table.

"Gentlemen," he began, then, "you all, probably, have seen my letter
to Mr. Latham, or at least you are aware of its contents, so you
understand that the diamonds which were mailed to you are your
property.  I am not a eleemosynary institution for the relief of
diamond merchants," and he smiled a little, "for the gifts are
preliminary to a plain business proposition--a method of
concentrating your attention, and, in themselves, part payment, if
I may say it, for any worry or inconvenience which followed upon
their appearance.  There are only five of them in the world, they
are precisely alike, and they are yours.  I beg of you to accept
them with my compliments."

Mr. Schultze tilted his chair back a little, the better to study
the young man's countenance.

"I am going to make some remarkable statements," the young man
continued, "but each of those statements is capable of demonstration
here and now.  Don't hesitate to interrupt if there is a question in
your mind, because everything I shall say is vital to each of you as
bearing on the utter destruction of the world's traffic in diamonds.
It is coming, gentlemen, it is coming, just as inevitably as that
night follows day, unless you stop it.  You _can_ stop it by
concerted action, in a manner which I shall explain later."

He paused and glanced along the table.  Only the face of Mr. Czenki
was impassive.

"Since the opening of the fields in South Africa," Mr. Wynne resumed
quietly, "something like five hundred million dollars' worth of
diamonds have been found there; and we'll say arbitrarily that all
the other diamond fields of the world, including Brazil and
Australia, have produced another five hundred million dollars' worth
--in other words, since about 1868 a billion dollars' worth of
diamonds has been placed upon the market.  Gentlemen, that represents
millions and millions of carats--forty, fifty, sixty million carats
in the rough, say.  Please bear those figures in mind a moment.

"Now, suddenly, and as yet secretly, the diamond output of the world
has been increased fiftyfold--that is, gentlemen, within the year I
can place _another_ billion dollars' worth of diamonds, at the
prices that hold now, in the open market; and within still another
year I can place still another billion in the market; and on and on
indefinitely.  To put it differently, I have found the unlimited
supply."

"_Mein Gott_, vere _iss_ id?" demanded the German breathlessly.

Heedless of the question, Mr. Wynne leaned forward on the table, and
gazed with half-closed eyes into the faces before him.  Incredulity
was the predominant expression, and coupled with that was amazement.
Mr. Harris, with quite another emotion displaying itself on his face,
pushed back his chair as if to rise; a slight wrinkle in his brow was
all the evidence of interest displayed by Mr. Czenki.

"I am not crazy, gentlemen," Mr. Wynne went on after a moment, and
the perfectly normal voice seemed to reassure Mr. Harris, for he sat
still.  "The diamonds are now in existence, untold millions of
dollars' worth of them--but there is the tedious work of cutting.
They're in existence, packed away as you pack potatoes--I thrust my
two hands into a bag and bring them out full of stones as perfect as
the ones I sent you."

He straightened up again and the deep earnestness of his face relaxed
a little.

"I believe you said, Mr. Wynne, that you could prove any assertion you
might make, here and now?" suggested Mr. Latham coldly.  "It occurs
to me that such extraordinary statements as these demand immediate
proof."

Mr. Wynne turned and smiled at him.

"You are quite right," he agreed; and then, to all of them: "It's
hardly necessary to dwell upon the value of colored diamonds--the
rarest and most precious of all--the perfect rose-color, the perfect
blue and the perfect green."  He drew a small, glazed white box from
his pocket and opened it. "Please be good enough to look at this, Mr.
Czenki."

He spun a rosily glittering object some three-quarters of an inch in
diameter, along the table toward Mr. Czenki.  It flamed and flashed
as it rolled, with that deep iridescent blaze which left no doubt of
what it was.  Every man at the table arose and crowded about Mr.
Czenki, who held a flamelike sphere in his outstretched palm for
their inspection.  There was a tense, breathless instant.

"It's a diamond!" remarked Mr. Czenki, as if he himself had doubted
it.  "A deep rose-color, cut as a perfect sphere."

"It's worth half a million dollars if it's worth a cent!" exclaimed
Mr. Solomon almost fiercely.

"And this, please."

Mr. Wynne, from the other end of the table, spun another glittering
sphere toward them--this as brilliantly, softly green as the verdure
of early spring, prismatic, gleaming, radiant.  Mr. Czenki's beady
eyes snapped as he caught it and held it out for the others to see,
and some strange emotion within caused him to close his teeth
savagely.

"And this!" said Mr. Wynne again.

And a third sphere rolled along the table.  This was blue--elusively
blue as a moonlit sky.  Its rounded sides caught the light from the
windows and sparkled it back.

And now the three jewels lay side by side in Mr. Czenki's open hand,
the while the five greatest diamond merchants of the United States
glutted their eyes upon them.  Mr. Latham's face went deathly white
from sheer excitement, the German's violently red from the same
emotion, and the others--there was amazement, admiration, awe in
them.  Mr. Czenki's countenance was again impassive.



CHAPTER IV

THE UNLIMITED SUPPLY

"If you will all be seated again, please?" requested Mr. Wynne, who
still stood, cool and self-certain, at the end of the table.

The sound of his voice brought a returning calm to the others, and
they resumed their seats--all save Mr. Cawthorne, who walked over to
a window with the three spheres in his hand and stood there examining
them under his glass.

"You gentlemen know, of course, the natural shape of the diamond in
the rough?" Mr. Wynne resumed questioningly.  "Here are a dozen
specimens which may interest you--the octahedron, the rhombic
dodecahedron, the triakisoctahedron and the hexakisoctahedron."  He
spread them along the table with a sweeping gesture of his hand,
colorless, inert pebbles, ranging in size from a pea to a peanut.
"And now, you ask, where do they come from?"

The others nodded unanimously.

"I'll have to state a fact that you all know, as part answer to that
question," replied Mr. Wynne.  "A perfect diamond is a perfect
diamond, no matter where it comes from--Africa, Brazil, India or New
Jersey.  There is not the slightest variation in value if the stone
is perfect.  That being true, it is a matter of no concern to you, as
dealers, where these come from--sufficient it is that they are here,
and, being here, they bring home to you the necessity of concerted
action to uphold the diamond as a thing of value."

"You said der vorld's oudpud had been increased fiftyfold?" suggested
Mr. Schultze.  "Do ve understand you prove him by dese?"

The young man smiled slightly and drew a leather packet from an inner
pocket.  He stripped it of several rubber bands, and then turned to
Mr. Czenki again.

"Mr. Czenki, I have been told that a few years ago you had an
opportunity of examining the Koh-i-noor.  Is that correct?"

"Yes."

"I believe the Koh-i-noor was temporarily removed from its setting,
and that you were one of three experts to whom was intrusted the
task of selecting four stones of the identical coloring to be set
alongside it?"

"That is correct," Mr. Czenki agreed.

"You held the Koh-i-noor in your hand, and you would be able to
identify it?"

"_I_ would be able to identify it," said Mr. Cawthorne positively.

He had turned at the window quickly; it was the first time he had
spoken.  Mr. Wynne walked around the table to Mr. Czenki, and Mr.
Cawthorne approached them.

"Suppose, then, you gentlemen examine this together," suggested Mr.
Wynne.

He lifted a great glittering jewel from the leather packet and held
it aloft that all might see.  Then he carefully placed it on the
table in front of the experts; the others came to their feet and
stood gazing as if fascinated.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Mr. Cawthorne.

For a minute or more the two experts studied the huge diamond--one
hundred and six carats and a fraction--beneath their glasses, and
finally Mr. Cawthorne picked it up and led the way toward the window.
Mr. Czenki and the German followed him.

"Gentlemen," and Mr. Cawthorne now turned sharply to face the others,
"this _is_ the Koh-i-noor!  Mr. Czenki didn't mention it, but I was
one of the three experts who had opportunity to examine the
Koh-i-noor.  This _is_ the Koh-i-noor!"

Startled, questioning eyes were turned upon Mr. Wynne; he was
smiling.  There was a question in his face as he regarded Mr. Czenki.

"It is either the Koh-i-noor or an exact duplicate," said Mr. Czenki.

"It _is_ the Koh-i-noor," repeated Mr. Cawthorne doggedly.

"Id seems to me," interposed Mr. Schultze, "dat if der Koh-i-noor vas
missing somebody would haf heard, ain'd id?  I haf nod heard.  Mr.
Czenki made a misdake der oder day--maybe you make id to-day?"

"You _have_ made a mistake, I assure you, Mr. Cawthorne," remarked
Mr. Wynne quietly.  "You identify that as the Koh-i-noor, of course,
by a slight inaccuracy in one of the facets adjoining the _collet_.
That inaccuracy is known to every diamond expert--the mistake you
make is a compliment to that as a replica."

He resumed his position at the end of the table, and Mr. Schultze sat
beside him.  Amazement was a thing of the past, as far as he was
concerned.  Mr. Czenki dropped into his chair again.

"And now, Mr. Czenki, speaking as an expert, what would you say was
the most perfect diamond the world?" asked Mr. Wynne.

"The five blue-white stones you mailed to these gentlemen," replied
the expert without hesitation.

"Perhaps I should have specified the most perfect diamond known to
the world at large," Mr. Wynne added smilingly.

"The Regent."

Again Mr. Cawthorne looked around, with bewilderment in his eyes.
The others nodded their approval of Mr. Czenki's opinion.

"The Regent, yes," Mr. Wynne agreed; "one hundred and thirty-six and
three-quarter carats, cut as a brilliant, worn by Napoleon in his
sword-hilt, now in the Louvre at Paris, the property of the French
Government--valued at two and a half million dollars."  His hand
disappeared into the leather packet again; poised on his finger-tips,
when he withdrew them, was another huge jewel.  He dropped it into
Mr. Schultze's hand.  "There is further proof that the diamond output
has increased fiftyfold."

Mr. Schultze seemed dazed as he turned and twisted the diamond in his
hand.  After a moment he passed it on down the table without a word.

"A duplicate also," and Mr. Wynne glanced at Mr. Cawthorne.  "It is
reasonably certain that you would have heard of that if it had
disappeared from the Louvre."  He turned to Mr. Schultze again.  "I
may add that this fiftyfold increase in output is not confined to
small stones," he went on tauntingly.  "They are of all sizes and
values.  For instance?"

He lifted still another jewel from the packet and held it aloft for
an instant.

"The Orloff!" gasped Mr. Solomon.

"No," the young man corrected; "this, too, is a duplicate.  The
original is in the Russian sceptre.  This is a replica--color, weight
and cutting being identical--one hundred and ninety-three carats,
nearly as large as a pigeon's egg."

Again Mr. Wynne glanced along the table.  Suddenly the frank
amazement had vanished from the faces of these men, and he found
only the tense interest of an audience watching a clever juggler.
For a time Mr. Schultze studied the Orloff duplicate, then passed it
along to the experts.

"Der grand Cullinan diamond weighs only two or d'ree pounds," he
questioned in a tone of deep resignation.  "Maybe you haf _him_ in
der backage, alretty?"

"Not yet," replied Mr. Wynne, "but I may possibly get that on my next
trip out.  Who knows?"

There was a long, tense silence.  Mechanically Mr. Czenki placed the
three spheres and the replicas in an orderly little row on the table
in front of him and the uncut stones beside them--six, seven, eight
million dollars' worth of diamonds.

"Gentlemen, are you convinced?" demanded Mr. Wynne suddenly.  "Is
there one lingering doubt in any mind here as to the tremendous find
which makes the production of all those possible?"

"Id iss der miracle, Mr. Vynne," admitted the German gravely, after
a little pause.  "Dere iss someding before us as nefer vas in der
vorld.  I am gonvinced!"

"Up to this moment, gentlemen, the De Beers Syndicate has controlled
the diamond market," Mr. Wynne announced, "but now, from this moment,
I control it.  I hold it there, in the palm of my hand, with the
unlimited supply back of me.  I am offering you an opportunity to
prevent the annihilation of the market.  It rests with you.  If I
turn loose a billion dollars' worth of diamonds within the year you
are ruined--all of you.  You _know_ that--it's hardly necessary to
tell you.  And, gentlemen, I don't care to do it."

"What is your proposition?" queried Mr. Latham quietly.  His face was
ghastly white; haggard lines, limned by amazement and realization,
were marked clearly on it.  "What is your proposition?" he repeated.

"Wait a minute," interposed Mr. Solomon protestingly, and he turned
to the young man.  "The Syndicate controls the market by force of a
reserve stock of ten or fifteen million dollars.  Do we understand
that you have more than these ready for market now?"

Mr. Wynne stooped and lifted the small sole-leather grip which had
been unheeded on the floor.  He unfastened the catch and turned the
bag upside down upon the table.  When he raised it again the
assembled jewelers gazed upon a spectacle unknown and undreamed of
in the history of the world--a great, glittering heap of diamonds,
flashing, colorful, prismatic, radiant, bedazzling.  They rattled
like pebbles upon the mahogany table as they slipped and slid one
against another, and then, at rest, resolved themselves into a
steady, multi-colored blaze which was almost blinding.

"Now, gentlemen, on the table before you there are about thirty
million dollars' worth of diamonds," Mr. Wynne announced calmly.
"They are all perfect, every one of them; and they're mine.  I know
where they come from; you can't find out.  It's none of your
business.  Are you satisfied _now_?"

Mr. Latham looked, looked until his eyes seemed bursting from his
head, and then, with an inarticulate little cry, fell forward on the
table with his face on his arms.  The German importer came to his
feet with one vast Teutonic oath, then sat down again; Mr. Solomon
plunged his hand into the blazing heap and laughed senselessly.  The
others were silent, stunned, overcome.  Mr. Wynne walked around the
table and replaced the spheres and replicas in his pocket, after
which he resumed his former position.

"I have stated my case, gentlemen," he continued quietly, very
quietly.  "Now for my proposition.  Briefly it is this:  For a
consideration I will destroy the unlimited supply.  I will bind
myself to secrecy, as you must; I will guarantee that no stone from
the same source is ever offered in the market or privately, while you
gentlemen," and his manner was emphatically deliberate, "purchase
from me at one-half the carat price you now pay _one hundred million
dollars' worth of diamonds!_"

He paused.  There was not a sound; no one moved.

"You may put them on the market as you may agree, slowly, thus
preventing any material fluctuation in value," he went on.  "How to
hold this tremendous reserve secretly and still permit the operation
of the other diamond mines of the world is the great problem you will
have to face."

He leaned over, picked up a handful from the heap and replaced them
in the leather bag.  The others he swept off into it, then snapped
the lock.

"I will give you one week to decide what you will do," he said in
conclusion.  "If you accept the proposition, then six weeks from next
Thursday at three o'clock I shall expect a cash payment of ten
million dollars for a portion of the stones now cut and ready; within
a year all the diamonds will have been delivered and the transaction
must be closed."  He hesitated an instant.  "I'm sorry, gentlemen, if
the terms seem hard, but I think, after consideration, you will agree
that I have done you a favor by coming to you instead of going into
the market and destroying it.  I will call next Thursday at three for
your answer.  That is all.  Good day!"

The door opened and closed behind him.  A minute, two minutes, three
minutes passed and no one spoke.  At last the German came to his feet
slowly with a sigh.

"Anyhow, gendlemens," he remarked, "dat young man has a hell of a lod
of diamonds, ain'd id?"



CHAPTER V

THE ASTUTE MR. BIRNES

It was a few minutes past four o'clock when Mr. Wynne strode through
the immense retail sales department of the H. Latham Company, and a
uniformed page held open the front door for him to pass out.  Once on
the sidewalk the self-styled diamond master of the world paused long
enough to pull on his gloves, carelessly chucking the small sole-leather
grip with its twenty-odd million dollars' worth of precious stones under
one arm; then he turned up Fifth Avenue toward Thirty-fourth Street.  A
sneak thief brushed past him, appraised him with one furtive glance,
then went his way, seeking quarry more promising.

Simultaneously with Mr. Wynne's appearance three men whose watchful eyes
had been fastened on the doorway of the H. Latham Company for something
more than an hour stirred.  One of them--Frank Claflin--was directly
across the street, strolling along idly, the most purposeless of all in
the hurrying, well-dressed throng; another--Steve Birnes, chief of the
Birnes Detective Agency--appeared from the hallway of a building
adjoining the H. Latham Company, and moved along behind Mr. Wynne, some
thirty feet in the rear; the third--Jerry Malone--was half a block away,
up Fifth Avenue, coming slowly toward them.

Mr. Birnes adjusted his pace to that of Mr. Wynne, step for step, and
then, seeming assured of his safety from any chance glance,
ostentatiously mopped his face with a handkerchief, flirting it a
little to the left as he replaced it in his pocket.  Claflin, across
the street, understood from that that he was to go on up Fifth
Avenue to Thirty-fourth Street, the next intersection, and turn west
to board any crosstown car which Mr. Wynne might possibly take; and
a cabby, who had been sitting motionless on his box down the street,
understood from it that he was to move slowly along behind Mr.
Birnes, and be prepared for an emergency.

Half-way between Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth Streets, Jerry Malone
approached and passed Mr. Wynne without so much as a glance at him,
and went on toward his chief.

"Drop in behind here," Mr. Birnes remarked crisply to Malone, without
looking around.  "I'll walk on ahead and turn east in Thirty-fourth
Street to nail him if he swings a car.  Claflin's got him going
west."

Mr. Wynne was perhaps some twenty feet from the corner of Thirty-fourth
Street and Fifth Avenue when Mr. Birnes passed him.  His glance
lingered on the broad back of the chief reflectively as he swung by and
turned into the cross street, after a quick, business-like glance at an
approaching car.  Then Mr. Wynne smiled.  He paused on the edge of the
curb long enough for an automobile to pass, then went on across
Thirty-fourth Street to the uptown side and, turning flatly, looked
Mr. Birnes over pensively, after which he leaned up against an
electric-light pole and scribbled something on an envelope.

A closed cab came wriggling and squirming up Fifth Avenue.  As it
reached the middle of Thirty-fourth Street Mr. Wynne raised his hand,
and the cab drew up beside him.  He said something to the driver,
opened the door and stepped in.  Mr. Birnes smiled confidently.  So
that was it, eh?  He, too, crossed Thirty-fourth Street and lifted
his hand.  The cab which had been drifting along behind him
immediately came up.

"Now, Jimmy, get on the job," instructed Mr. Birnes, as he stepped
in.  "Keep that chap in sight and when he stops you stop."

Mr. Wynne's cab jogged along comfortably up the avenue, twisting and
winding a path between the other vehicles, the while Mr. Birnes
regarded it with thoughtful gaze.  Its number dangled on a white
board in the rear; Mr. Birnes just happened to note it.

"Grand Central Station, I'll bet a hat," he mused.

But the closed cab didn't turn into Forty-second Street; it went
past, then on past Delmonico's, past the Cathedral, past the Plaza,
at Fifty-ninth Street, and still on uptown.  It was not hurrying--
it merely moved steadily; but once free of the snarl which culminates
at the Fifty-ninth Street entrance to Central Park, its speed was
increased a little.  Past Sixty-fourth Street, Sixty-fifth, Sixty-sixth,
and at Sixty-seventh it slowed up and halted at the sidewalk on the far
side.

"Stop in front of a door, Jimmy," directed the detective hastily.

Jimmy obeyed gracefully, and Mr. Birnes stepped out, hardly half a
block behind the closed cab.  He went through an elaborate pretense
of paying Jimmy, the while he regarded Mr. Wynne, who had also
alighted and was paying the driver.  The small sole-leather grip was
on the ground between his feet as he ransacked his pocketbook.  A
settlement was reached, the cabby nodded, touched his horse with his
whip and continued to jog on up Fifth Avenue.

"Now, he didn't order that chap to come back or he wouldn't have paid
him," the detective reasoned.  "Therefore he's close to where he is
going."

But Mr. Wynne seemed in no hurry; instead he stood still for a minute
gazing after the retreating vehicle, which fact made it necessary for
Mr. Birnes to start a dispute with Jimmy as to just how much the fare
should be.  They played the scene admirably; had Mr. Wynne been
listening he might even have heard part of the vigorous argument.
Whether he listened or not he turned and gazed straight at Mr. Birnes
until, finally, the detective recognized the necessity of getting out
of sight.

With a final explosion he handed a bill to Jimmy and turned to go up
the steps of the house.  He had no business there, but he must do
something.

Jimmy turned the cab short and went rattling away down Fifth Avenue
to await orders in the lee of a corner a block or so away.  And,
meanwhile, as Mr. Wynne still stood on the corner, Mr. Birnes had to
go on up the steps.  But as he placed his foot on the third step he
knew--though he had not looked, apparently, yet he knew--that Mr.
Wynne had raised his hand, and that in that hand was a small white
envelope.  And further, he knew that Mr. Wynne was gazing directly
at him.

Now that was odd.  Slowly it began to dawn upon the detective that
Mr. Wynne was trying to attract his attention.  If he heeded the
signal--evidently it was intended as such--it would be a confession
that he was following Mr. Wynne, and realizing this he took two more
steps up.  Mr. Wynne waved the envelope again, after which he folded
it across twice and thrust it into a crevice of a water-plug beside
him.  Then he turned east along Sixty-seventh Street and disappeared.

The detective had seen the performance, all of it, and he was
perplexed.  It was wholly unprecedented.  However, the first thing to
do now was to keep Mr. Wynne in sight, so he came down the steps and
walked rapidly on to Sixty-seventh Street, pausing to peer around the
corner before he turned.  Mr. Wynne was idling along, half a block
away, without the slightest apparent interest in what was happening
behind.  Inevitably Mr. Birnes' eyes were drawn to the water-plug
across the street.  A tag end of white paper gleamed tantalizingly.
Now what the deuce did it mean?

Being only human, Mr. Birnes went across the street and got the
paper.  It was an envelope.  As he unfolded it and gazed at the
address, written in pencil, his mouth opened in undignified
astonishment.  It was addressed to him--Steve Birnes, Chief of the
Birnes Detective Agency.  Mr. Wynne had still not looked back, so
the detective trailed along behind, opening the envelope as he
walked.  A note inside ran briefly:

   My address is No. ---- East Thirty-seventh Street.  If it is
   necessary for you to see me please call there about six o'clock
   this afternoon.
   E. VAN CORTLANDT WYNNE

Now here was, perhaps, as savory a kettle of fish as Mr. Birnes had
ever stumbled upon.  It is difficult to imagine a more embarrassing
situation for the professional sleuth than to find himself suddenly
taken into the confidence of the person he is shadowing.  But _was_
he being taken into Mr. Wynne's confidence?  Ah!  That was the
question!  Admitting that Mr. Wynne knew who he was, and admitting
that he knew he was being followed, was not this apparent frankness
an attempt to throw him off the scent?  He would see, would Mr.
Birnes.

He quickened his pace a little, then slowed up instantly, because Mr.
Wynne had stopped on the corner of Madison Avenue, and as a downtown
car came rushing along he stepped out to board it.  Mr. Birnes
scuttled across the street, and by a dexterous jump swung on the car
as it fled past.  Mr. Wynne had gone forward and was taking a seat;
Mr. Birnes remained on the back platform, sheltered by the
accommodating bulk of a fat man, and flattered himself that Mr.
Wynne had not seen him.  By peering over a huge shoulder the
detective was still able to watch Mr. Wynne.

He saw him pay his fare, and then he saw him place the small
sole-leather grip on his knees and unfasten the catch.  Not knowing
what was in that grip Mr. Birnes was curious to see what came out of
it. Nothing came out of it--it was empty!  There was no question of
this, for Mr. Wynne opened it wide and turned it upside down to shake
it out.  It didn't mean anything in particular to Mr. Birnes, the fact
that the grip was empty, so he didn't get excited about it.

Mr. Wynne left the car at Thirty-fourth Street, the south end of the
Park Avenue tunnel, by the front door, and the detective stepped off
the rear end.  Mr. Wynne brushed past him as he went up the stairs,
and as he did so he smiled a little--a very little.  He walked on up
Park Avenue to Thirty-seventh Street, turned in there and entered a
house about the middle of the block, with a latch-key.  The detective
glanced at the number of the house, and felt aggrieved--it was the
number that was written in the note!  And Mr. Wynne had entered with
a key!  Which meant, in all probability, that he _did_ live there, as
he had said!

But why did he take that useless cab ride up Fifth Avenue?  If he had
no objection to any one knowing his address, why did he go so far out
of his way?  Mr. Birnes couldn't say.  As he pondered these questions
he saw a maid-servant come out of a house adjoining that which Mr.
Wynne had entered, an he went up boldly to question her.

Did a Mr. Wynne live next door?  Yes.  How long had he lived there?
Five or six months.  Did he own the house?  No.  The people who owned
the house had gone to Europe for a year and had rented it furnished.
No, Mr. Wynne didn't have a family.  He lived there alone except for
two servants, a cook and a housemaid.  She had never noticed anything
unusual about Mr. Wynne, or the servants, or the house.  Yes, he went
out every day, downtown to business.  No, she didn't know what his
business was, but she had an idea that he was a broker.  That was all.

From a near-by telephone booth the detective detailed Claflin and
Malone, who had returned to the office, to keep a sharp watch on
the house, after which he walked on to Fifth Avenue, and down Fifth
Avenue to the establishment of the H. Latham Company.  Mr. Latham
would see him--yes.  In fact, Mr. Latham, harried by the events of
the past two hours, bewildered by a hundred-million-dollar diamond
deal which had been thrust down his throat gracefully, but none the
less certainly, and ridden by the keenest curiosity, was delighted
to see Mr. Birnes.

"I've got his house address all right," Mr. Birne boasted, in the
beginning.  Of course it was against the ethics of the profession to
tell _how_ he got it.

"Progress already," commented Mr. Latham with keen interest.  "That's
good."

Then the detective detailed the information he had received from the
maid, adding thereto divers and sundry conclusions of his own.

Mr. Latham marveled exceedingly.

"He tried to shake us all right when he went out," Mr. Birnes went on
to explain, "but the trap was set and there was no escape."

With certain minor omissions he told of the cab ride to Sixty-seventh
Street, the trip across to a downtown car, and, as a matter of
convincing circumstantial detail, added the incident of the empty
gripsack.

"Empty?" repeated Mr. Latham, startled.  "Empty, did you say?"

"Empty as a bass drum," the detective assured him complacently.  "He
turned it upside down and shook it."

"Then what became of them?" demanded Mr. Latham.

"Became of what?"

"The diamonds, man--what became of the diamonds?"

"You didn't mention any diamonds to me except those five the other
day," the detective reminded him coldly.  "Your instructions were to
find out all about this man--who he is, what he does, where he goes,
and the rest.  This is my preliminary report.  You didn't mention
diamonds."

"I didn't know he would have them," Mr. Latham exploded irascibly.
"That empty gripsack, man--when he left here he carried millions--I
mean a great quantity of diamonds in it."

"A great quantity of --," the detective began; and then he sat up
straight in his chair and stared at Mr. Latham in bewilderment.

"If the gripsack was empty when he was on the car," Mr. Latham rushed
on excitedly, "then don't you see that he got rid of the diamonds
somehow from the time he left here until you saw that the gripsack
_was_ empty?  How did he get rid of them?  Where does he keep them?
And where does he get them?"

Mr. Birnes closed his teeth grimly and his eyes snapped.  _Now_ he
knew why Mr. Wynne had taken that useless cab ride up Fifth Avenue.
It was to enable him to get rid of the diamonds!  There was an
accomplice--in detective parlance the second person is always an
accomplice--in that closed cab!  It had all been prearranged; Mr.
Wynne had deliberately made a monkey of him--Steven Birnes!
Reluctantly the detective permitted himself to remember that he
didn't know whether there was anybody in that cab or not when Mr.
Wynne entered it, and--and--!  Then he remembered that he did know
one thing--_the number of the cab!_

He arose abruptly, with the light of a great determination in his
face.

"Whose diamonds were they?" he demanded.

"They were his, as far as we know," replied Mr. Latham.

"How much were they worth?"

Mr. Latham looked him over thoughtfully.

"I am not at liberty to tell you that, Mr. Birnes," he said at last.
"There are a great number of them, and they are worth--they are
worth a large sum of money.  And they are all unset.  That's enough
for you to know, I think."

It seemed to be quite enough for Mr. Birnes to know.

"It may be that I will have something further to report this
evening," he told Mr. Latham.  "If not, I'll see you to-morrow,
here."

He went out. Ten minutes later he was talking to a friend in police
headquarters, over the telephone.  The records there showed that the
license for the particular cab he had followed had been issued to one
William Johns.  He was usually to be found around the cabstand in
Madison Square, and lived in Charlton Street.



CHAPTER VI

THE MYSTERIOUS WOMAN

Mr. Birnes' busy heels fairly spurned the pavements of Fifth Avenue
as he started toward Madison Square.  Here was a long line of cabs
drawn up beside the curb, some twenty or thirty in all.  The fifth
from the end bore the number he sought--Mr. Birnes chuckled; and
there, alongside it, stood William Johns, swapping Billingsgate with
the driver of a hansom, the while he kept one eye open for a
prospective fare.  It was too easy!  Mr. Birnes paused long enough
to congratulate himself upon his marvelous acumen, and then he
approached the driver.

"You are William Johns?" he accused him sharply.

"That's me, Cap," the cabby answered readily.

"A few minutes past four o'clock this afternoon you went up Fifth
Avenue, and stopped at the corner of Thirty-fourth Street to pick up
a fare--a young man."

"Yep."

"You drove him to the corner of Sixty-seventh Street and Fifth
Avenue," the detective went on just to forestall possible denials.
"He got out there, paid you, and you went on up Fifth Avenue."

"Far be it from me to deceive you, Cap," responded the cabby with
irritating levity.  "I done that same."

"Who was that man?" demanded Mr. Birnes coldly.

"Search me!  I never seen him before."

The detective regarded the cabby with accusing eyes.  Then, quite
casually, he flipped open his coat and Johns caught a glimpse of
a silver shield.  It might only have been accident, of course,
still--

"Now, Johns, who was the man in the cab when you stopped to pick up
the second man at Thirty-fourth Street?"

"Wrong, Cap," and the cabby grinned.  "There wasn't any man."

"Don't attempt to deny--"

"No man, Cap.  It was a woman."

"A woman!" the detective repeated.  "A woman!"

"Sure thing--a woman, a regular woman.  And, Cap, she was a pippin,
a peachorino, a beauty bright," he added, gratuitously.

Mr. Birnes stared thoughtfully across the street for a little while.
So there was a woman in it!  Mr. Wynne had transferred the contents
of the gripsack to her, in a cab, on a crowded thoroughfare, right
under his nose!

"I was a little farther down the line there," Johns went on to
explain.  "About a quarter of four o'clock, I guess, she came along.
She got in, after telling me to drive slowly up Fifth Avenue so I
would pass Thirty-fourth Street five minutes or so after four
o'clock.  If a young man with a gripsack hailed me at the corner I
was to stop and let him get in; then I was to go on up Fifth Avenue.
If I wasn't stopped I was to drive on to Thirty-fifth Street, cut
across to Madison Avenue, down to Thirty-third Street, then back to
Fifth Avenue and past Thirty-fourth Street again, going uptown.  The
guy with the gripsack caught us first crack out of the box."

"And then?" demanded the detective eagerly.

"I went on up Fifth Avenue, according to sailing orders, and the guy
inside stopped me at Sixty-seventh Street.  He got out and gimme a
five-spot, telling me to go a few blocks, then turn and bring the
lady back to the Sixth Avenue 'L' at Fifty-eighth Street.  I done it.
That's all.  She went up the steps, and that's the last I seen of
her."

"Did she carry a small gripsack?"

"Yep.  It would hold about as much as a high hat."

Explicit as the information was it led nowhere, apparently.  Mr.
Birnes  readily understood this much, yet there was a chance--a bare
chance--that he might trace the girl on the 'L,' in which case--anyway,
it was worth trying.

"What did she look like?  How was she dressed?" he asked.

"She had on one of them blue tailor-made things with a lid to match,
and a long feather in it," the cabby answered obligingly.  "She was
pretty as a--as a--she was a beaut, Cap, sort of skinny, and had all
sorts of hair on her head--brownish, goldish sort of hair.  She was
about twenty-two or three, maybe, and--and--Cap, she was the goods,
that's all."

In the course of a day a thousand women, more or less, answering that
description in a general sort of way, ride back and forth on the
elevated trains.  Mr. Birnes sighed as he remembered this; still it
might produce results.  Then came another idea.

"Did you happen to look in the cab after the young woman left it?" he
inquired.

"No."

"Had any fares since?"

"No."

Mr. Birnes opened the door of the closed cab and glanced in.  Perhaps
there might be a stray glove, a handkerchief, some more definite clew
than this vague description.  He scrutinized the inside of the
vehicle carefully; there was nothing.  Yes, by Jingo, here _was_
something--a white streak under the edge of the cushion on the seat!
Mr. Birnes' hopeful fingers fished it out.  It was a white envelope,
sealed and--_and addressed to him!_

   If you are as clever as I imagine you are, you will find this.
   My address is No. ---- East Thirty-seventh Street.  I shall be
   pleased to see you if you will call.
   E. VAN CORTLANDT WYNNE.

It was most disconcerting, really.



CHAPTER VII

A WINGED MESSENGER

A snow-white pigeon dropped down out of an azure sky and settled on
a top-most girder of the great Singer Building.  For a time it rested
there, with folded pinions, in a din of clanging hammers; and a
workman far out on a delicately balanced beam of steel paused in his
labors to regard the bird with friendly eyes.  The pigeon returned
his gaze unafraid.

"Well, old chap, if I had as little trouble getting up here and down
again as you do I wouldn't mind the job," the workman remarked
cheerfully.

The pigeon cooed an answer.  The steel worker extended a caressing
hand, whereupon the bird rose swiftly, surely, with white wings
widely stretched, circled once over the vast steel structure, then
darted away to the north.  The workman watched the snow-white speck
until it was lost against the blue sky, then returned to his labors.

Some ten minutes later Mr. E. van Cortlandt Wynne, sitting at a desk
in his Thirty-seventh Street house, was aroused from his meditations
by the gentle tinkle of a bell.  He glanced up, arose, and went up
the three flights of stairs to the roof.  Half a dozen birds rose and
fluttered around him as he opened the trap; one door in their cote at
the rear of the building was closed.  Mr. Wynne opened this door,
reached in and detached a strip of tissue paper from the leg of a
snow-white pigeon.  He unfolded it eagerly; on it was written:  Safe.
I love you.    D.



CHAPTER VIII

SOME CONJECTURES

Mr. Gustave Schultze dropped in to see Mr. Latham after luncheon, and
listened with puckered brows to a recital of the substance of the
detective's preliminary report, made the afternoon before.

"Mr. Birnes left here rather abruptly," Mr. Latham explained in
conclusion, "saying he would see me again, either last night or
to-day.  He has not appeared yet, and it may be that when he comes he
will be able to add materially to what we now know."

The huge German sat for a time with vacant eyes.

"Der gread question, Laadham," he observed at last, gravely, "iss
vere does Vynne ged dem."

"I know that--I know it," said Mr. Latham impatiently.  "That is the
very question we are trying to solve."

"Und if we don'd solve him, Laadham, ve'll haf to do vatever as he
says," Mr. Schultze continued slowly.  "Und ve _may_ haf to do
vatever as he says, anywhow."

"Put one hundred million dollars into diamonds in one year--just the
five of us?" demanded the other.  "It's preposterous."

"Id _iss_ brebosterous," the German agreed readily; "but das iss no
argument."  He was silent for a little while.  "Vere does he ged dem?
Vere does he ged dem?" he repeated thoughtfully.  "Do you believe,
Laadham, it vould be bossible to smuggle in dwenty, d'irty, ein
hundred million dollars of diamonds?"

"Certainly not," was the reply.

"Den, if dey were _nod_ smuggled in, dey are somewhere on der records
of der Custom House, ain'd id?"

Mr. Latham snapped his fingers with a sudden realization of this
possibility.

"Schultze, I believe that is our clew!" he exclaimed keenly.
"Certainly they would have been listed by the customs department; and
come to think of it, the tariff on them would have been enormous, so
enormous that--that--" and he lost the hopeful tone--"so enormous
that we must have heard of it when it became a matter of public
record."

"_Yah_," Mr. Schultze agreed.  "Diamonds like dose dupligates of der
Koh-i-noor, der Orloff und der Regent could never haf passed through
der Custom House, Laadham, mitoud attracting attention, so?"

Mr. Latham acquiesced by a nod of his head; Mr. Schultze sat
regarding him through half-closed eyelids.

"Und if dey are _nod_ on der Custom House records," he continued
slowly, "und dey are _nod_ smuggled in, den, Laadham, _den--Mein
Gott_, man, don'd you see?"

"See what?"

"Den dey are produced in dis country!"

For a minute or two Mr. Latham sat perfectly still, gazing into the
other's eyes.  First he was startled, then this gave way to
incredulity, and at last he shook his head.

"No," he said flatly.  "No."

"Laadham, ve Amerigans produce anyding," the German went on
patiently.  "In eighdeen hundred und forty-eight ve didn't know
California vas full of gold; und so late as eighdeen hundred und
ninedy-four ve didn't know der Klondike vas full of gold.  Der
greadest diamond fields ve know now are in Africa, bud in eighdeen
hundred und sixty-six ve didn't know _id_!  Dere iss no reason ve
should _nod_ produce diamonds."

"But look here, Schultze," Mr. Latham expostulated, "it's--it's
unheard of."

"So vas der Mizzizzippi River until id was discovered," the German
argued complacently.  "You are a diamond dealer, Laadham, bud you
don'd know much aboud dem from whey dey come at.  Iss Czenki here?
Send for him.  He knows more aboud diamonds as any man vat ever
lived."

Mr. Latham sent an office boy for Czenki, who a few minutes later
appeared with an inquiry in his beady black eyes and a nod of
recognition for Mr. Schultze.

"Sid down, Mr. Czenki," the German invited.  "Sid down und draw a
long breath, und den dell Mr. Laadham here someding aboud diamonds."

"What is it, please?" Mr. Czenki asked of Mr. Latham.

"Mr. Czenki, have you any very definite idea as to where those
diamonds came from?" asked Mr. Latham.

"No," was the unhesitating response.

"Is it possible that they might have been found in the--in the United
States?" Mr. Latham went on.

"Certainly.  They might have been found anywhere."

"As a matter of fact, were any diamonds _ever_ found in the United
States?"

"Yes, frequently.  One very large diamond was found in 1855 at
Manchester, across the James River from Richmond, Virginia.  It
weighed twenty-four carats when cut, and is the largest, I believe,
ever found in this country."

Mr. Latham seemed surprised.

"Why, you astonish me," he remarked.

"Vait a minute und he'll astonish you some more," Mr. Schultze put in
confidently.  "Vere else in der United States haf diamonds been
found, Czenki?"

"In California, in North Carolina, and in Hall County, Georgia,"
replied the expert readily.  "There is good ground for the belief
that the stone found at Richmond had been washed down from the
mountains farther in the interior, and, if this is true, there is a
substantial basis for the scientific hypothesis that diamond fields
lie somewhere in the Appalachian Range, because the diamonds found in
both North Carolina and Georgia were adjacent to these mountains."
He paused a moment.  "This is all a matter of record."

His employer was leaning forward in his chair, gripping the arms
fiercely as he stared at him.

"Do you believe it possible, Mr. Czenki," he asked deliberately,
"that Mr. Wynne has found these diamond fields?"

The expert shrugged his slender shoulders.

"It is possible, of course," he replied.  "From time to time great
sums of money have been spent in searching for them, so--"  He waved
his hand and was silent.

"Zo you see, Laadham," Mr. Schultze interpolated, "ve don'd know
anyding much.  Ve _know_ der African fields, und der Australian
fields, und der Brazilian fields, und der fields in India, bud ve
_don'd_ know if new fields haf been found.  By der time you haf lived
so long as me you won't know any more as I do."

There was silence for a long time.  Mr. Czenki sat with impassive
face, and his hands at rest on the arms of the chair.  At last he
spoke:

"If you'll pardon me, Mr. Latham, I may suggest another possibility."

"_Vas iss?_" demanded Mr. Schultze quickly.

"Did you ever hear of the French scientist, Charles Friedel?" Mr.
Czenki asked, addressing Mr. Latham.

"Never, no."

"Well, this idea has occurred to me.  Some years ago he discovered two
or three small diamonds in a meteor.  We may safely assume, from the
fact that there were diamonds in one meteor, that there may be
diamonds in other meteors, therefore--"

The German importer anticipated his line of thought and arose with a
guttural burst of Teutonic expletives.

"Therefore," the expert went on steadily, "is it not possible that
Mr. Wynne has stumbled upon a huge deposit of diamonds in some
meteoric substance some place in this country?  A meteor may have
fallen anywhere, of course, and it may have been only two months
ago, or it may have been two thousand years ago.  It may even be
buried in his cellar."

The huge German nodded his head vigorously, with sparkling eyes.

"It seems extremely probable that if diamond fields had been
discovered in the Appalachian Range," Mr. Czenki went on, "it would
have become public in spite of every effort to prevent it; whereas,
it is possible that a meteor containing diamonds might have been
hidden away easily; and, also, the production of diamonds from such
a source in this country would not make it necessary for the diamonds
to pass through the Custom House.  Is it clear, sir?"

"Why, it's absurd, fantastic, chimerical!" Mr. Latham burst out
irritably.  "It's ridiculous to consider such a thing."

"I beg your pardon," Mr. Czenki apologized.  "It is only a
conjecture, of course.  I may add that I don't believe that three
stones of the size of the replicas which Mr. Wynne produced here
could have been found anywhere in the world and brought in here--
smuggled in or in the usual way--and the secret held against the
thousands of men who daily watch the diamond fields and market.  It
would not be difficult, however, if one man alone knew the source of
the stones, to keep it from the world at large.  I beg your pardon,"
he added.

He arose as if to go.  Mr. Schultze brought a heavy hand down on the
slim shoulder of the expert, and turned to Mr. Latham.

"Laadham, you are listening to der man who knows more as all of us
pud in a crowd," he declared.  "_Mein Gott_, I do believe he's
right!"

Mr. Latham was a cold, unimaginative man of business; he hadn't even
believed in fairies when he was a boy.  This was child-talk; he
permitted himself to express his opinion by a jerk of his head, and
was silent.  Diamonds like those out of meteors!  Bosh!



CHAPTER IX

AND MORE DIAMONDS!

There was a rap on the door, and a clerk thrust his head in.

"Mr. Birnes to see you, sir," he announced.

"Show him in," directed Mr. Latham.  "Sit down, both of you, and
let's see what he has to say."

There was an odd expression of hope deferred on the detective's
face when he entered.  He glanced inquiringly at Mr. Schultze and
Mr. Czenki, whereupon Mr. Latham introduced them.

"You may talk freely," he added.  "We are all interested alike."

The detective crossed his legs and balanced his hat carefully on
a knee, the while he favored Mr. Czenki with a sharp scrutiny.  There
was that in the thin, scarred face and in the beady black eyes which
inevitably drew the attention of a stranger, and half a dozen times
as he talked Mr. Birnes glanced at the expert.

He retold the story of the cab ride up Fifth Avenue, and the car trip
back downtown--omitting embarrassing details such as the finding of
two notes addressed to himself--dwelt a moment upon the empty gripsack
which Mr. Wynne carried on the car, and then:

"When you told me, Mr. Latham, that the gripsack had contained
diamonds when Mr. Wynne left here I knew instantly how he got rid of
them.  He transferred them to some person in the cab, in accordance
with a carefully prearranged plan.  That person was a woman!"

"A woman!" Mr. Latham repeated, as if startled.

"Dere iss alvays wimmins in id," remarked Mr. Schultze
philosophically.  "Go on."

Mr. Birnes was not at all backward about detailing the persistence
and skill it had required on his part to establish this fact; and
he went on at length to acquaint them with the search that had been
made by a dozen of his men to find a trace of the woman from the time
she climbed the elevated stairs at Fifty-eighth Street.  He admitted
that the quest for her had thus far been fruitless, assuring them at
the same time that it would go steadily on, for the present at least.

"And now, Mr. Latham," he went on, and inadvertently he glanced at
Mr. Czenki, "I have been hampered, of course, by the fact that you
have not taken me completely into your confidence in this matter.  I
mean," he added hastily, "that beyond a mere hint of their value I
know nothing whatever about the diamonds which Mr. Wynne had in the
gripsack.  I gathered, however, that they were worth a large sum of
money--perhaps, even a million dollars?"

"Yah, a million dollars ad leasd," remarked Mr. Schultze grimly.

"Thank you," and the detective smiled shrewdly.  "Your instructions
were to find where he got them.  If there had been a theft of a
million dollars' worth of diamonds anywhere in this world, I would
have known it; so I took steps to examine the Custom House records
of this and other cities to see if there had been an unusual shipment
to Mr. Wynne, or to any one else outside of the diamond dealers,
thinking this might give me a clew."

"And what was the result?" demanded Mr. Latham quickly.

"My agents have covered all the Atlantic ports and they did not come
in through the Custom House," replied Mr. Birnes.  "I have not heard
from the western agents as yet, but my opinion is--is that they were
perhaps smuggled in.  Smuggling, after all, is simple with the
thousands of miles of unguarded coasts of this country.  I don't know
this, of course; I advance it merely as a possibility."

Mr. Latham turned to Mr. Schultze and Mr. Czenki with a triumphant
smile.  Diamonds in meteors!  Tommyrot!

"Of course," the detective resumed, "the whole investigation centers
about this man Wynne.  He has been under the eyes of my agents as no
other man ever was, and in spite of this has been able to keep in
correspondence with his accomplices.  And, gentlemen, he has done it
not through the mails, not over the telephone, not by telegraph, and
yet he has done it."

"By wireless, perhaps?" suggested Mr. Czenki.  It was the first time
he had spoken, and the detective took occasion then and there to stare
at him frankly.

"And not by wireless," he said at last.  "He sends and receives
messages from the roof of his house in Thirty-seventh Street by
homing pigeons!"

"Some more fandastics, eh, Laadham?" Mr. Schultze taunted.  "Some
more chimericals?"

"I demonstrate this much by the close watch I have kept of Mr. Wynne,"
the detective went on, there being no response to his questioning look
at Mr. Schultze.  "One of my agents, stationed on the roof of the
house adjoining Mr. Wynne's" (it was the maid-servant next door) "has,
on at least one occasion, seen him remove a tissue-paper strip from a
carrier pigeon's leg and read what was written on it, after which he
kissed it, gentlemen, kissed it; then he destroyed it.  What did it
mean?  It means that that particular message was from the girl to whom
he transferred the diamonds in the cab, and that he is madly in love
with her."

"Oh, dese wimmins!  I dell you!" commented Mr. Schultze.

There was a little pause, then Mr. Birnes continued impressively:

"This correspondence is of no consequence in itself, of course.  But
it gives us this:  Carrier pigeons will only fly home, so if Mr.
Wynne received a message by pigeon it means that at some time, within
a week say, he has shipped that pigeon and perhaps others from the
house in Thirty-seventh Street to that person who sent him the
message.  If he sends messages to that person it means that he has
received a pigeon or pigeons from that person within a week.  And how
were these pigeons shipped?  In all probability, by express.  So,
gentlemen, you see there ought to be a record in the express offices,
which would give us the home town, even the name and address, of the
person who now has the diamonds in his or her keeping.  Is that clear
to all of you?"

"It is perfectly clear," commented Mr. Laadham admiringly, while the
German nodded his head in approval.

"And that is the clew we are working on at the moment," the detective
added.  "Three of my men are now searching the records of all the
express companies in the city--and there are a great many--for the
pigeon shipments.  If, as seems probable, this clew develops, it may
be that we can place our hands on the diamonds within a few days."

"I don'd d'ink I vould yust blace my hands on dem," Mr. Schultze
advised.  "Dey are his diamonds, you know, und your hands might ged
in drouble."

"I mean figuratively, of course," the detective amended.

He stopped and drummed on his stiff hat with his fingers.  Again he
glanced at the impassive face of Mr. Czenki with keen, questioning
eyes; and for one bare instant it seemed as if he were trying to
bring his memory to his aid.

"I've found out all about this man Wynne," he supplemented after a
moment, "but nothing in his record seems to have any bearing on this
case.  He is an orphan.  His mother was a Van Cortlandt of old Dutch
stock, and his father was a merchant downtown.  He left a few
thousands to the son, and the son is now in business for himself with
an office in lower Broad Street.  He is an importer of brown sugar."

"Brown sugar?" queried Mr. Czenki quickly, and the thin, scarred face
reflected for a second some subtle emotion within him.  "Brown
sugar!" he repeated.

"Yes," drawled the detective, with an unpleasant stare, "brown sugar.
He imports it from Cuba and Porto Rico and Brazil by the shipload, I
understand, and makes a good thing of it."

A quick pallor overspread Mr. Czenki's countenance, and he arose with
his fingers working nervously.  His beady eyes were glittering; his
lips were pressed together until they were bloodless.

"_Vas iss?_" demanded Mr. Schultze curiously.

"My God, gentlemen, don't you see?" the expert burst out violently.
"Don't you see what this man has done?  He has--he has--"

Suddenly, by a supreme effort, he regained control of himself, and
resumed his seat.

"He has--what?" asked Mr. Latham.

For half a minute Czenki stared at his employer; then his face grew
impassive again.

"I beg your pardon," he said quietly.  "Mr. Wynne is a heavy importer
of sugar from Brazil.  Isn't it possible that those _are_ Brazilian
diamonds?  That new workings have been discovered somewhere in the
interior?  That he has smuggled them in concealed in the sugar-bags,
right into New York, under the noses of the customs officials?  I beg
your pardon," he concluded.


Late in the afternoon of the following day a drunken man, unshaven,
unkempt, unclean and clothed in rags, lurched into a small pawnshop
in the lower Bowery and planked down on the dirty counter a handful
of inert, colorless pebbles, ranging in size from a pea to a peanut.

"Say, Jew, is them real diamonds?" he demanded thickly.

The man in charge glanced at them and nearly fainted.  Ten minutes
later Red Haney, knight of the road, was placed under arrest as a
suspicious character.  Uncut diamonds, valued roughly at fifty
thousand dollars, were found in his possession.

"Where did you get them?" demanded the amazed police.

"Found 'em."

"_Where_ did you find them?"

"None o' your business."

And that was all they were able to get out of him at the moment.



CHAPTER X

THE BIG GAME

When the police of Mulberry Street find themselves face to face with
some problem other than the trivial, every-day theft, burglary or
murder, as the case may be, they are wont to rise up and run around
in a circle.  The case of Red Haney and the diamonds, blared to the
world at large in the newspapers of Sunday morning, immediately
precipitated a circular parade, while Haney, the objective center,
snored along peacefully in a drunken stupor.

The statement of the case in the public press was altogether
negative.  There had been no report of the theft of fifty thousand
dollars' worth of uncut diamonds in any city of the United States;
in fact, diamonds, as a commodity in crime, had not figured in
police records for several weeks--not even an actress had mislaid a
priceless necklace.  The newspapers were unanimously certain that
stones of such value could not rightfully belong to a man of Haney's
type, therefore, to whom _did_ they belong?

Four men, at least, of the thousands who read the detailed account
of the affair Sunday morning, immediately made it a matter of
personal interest to themselves.  One of these was Mr. Latham,
another was Mr. Schultze, and a third was Mr. Birnes.  The fourth
was Mr. E. van Cortlandt Wynne.  In the seclusion of his home in
Thirty-seventh Street, Mr. Wynne read the story with puckered brows,
then re-read it, after which he paced back and forth across his room
in troubled thought for an hour or more.  An oppressive sense of
uneasiness was coming over him; and it was reflected in eyes grown
somber.

After a time, with sudden determination, the young man dropped into
a chair at his desk, and wrote in duplicate, on a narrow strip of
tough tissue-paper, just one line:

   Are you safe?  Is all well?  Answer quick.
   W.

Then he mounted to the roof.  As he flung open the trap a man on the
top of the house next door darted behind a chimney.  Mr. Wynne saw
him clearly--it was Frank Claflin--but he seemed to consider the
matter of no consequence, for he paid not the slightest attention.
Instead he went straight to a cage beside the pigeon-cote, wherein a
dozen or more birds were imprisoned, removed one of them, attached a
strip of the tissue-paper to its leg, and allowed it to rise from
his out-stretched hand.

The pigeon darted away at an angle, up, up, until it grew indistinct
against the void, then swung widely in a semicircle, hovered
uncertainly for an instant, and flashed off to the west, straight as
an arrow flies.  Mr. Wynne watched it thoughtfully until it had
disappeared; and Claflin's interest was so intense that he forgot the
necessity of screening himself, the result being that when he turned
again toward Mr. Wynne he found that young man gazing at him.

Mr. Wynne even nodded in a friendly sort of way as he attached the
second strip of tissue to the leg of another bird.  This rose, as the
other had done, and sped away toward the west.

"It may be worth your while to know, Mr. Claflin," Mr. Wynne remarked
easily to the detective on the other house, "that if you ever put
your foot on this roof to intercept any message which may come to me
I shall shoot you."

Then he turned and went down the stairs again, closing and locking
the trap in the roof behind him.  He should get an answer to those
questions in two hours, three hours at the most.  If there was no
answer within that time he would despatch more birds, and _then_, if
no answer came, then--_then_--Mr. Wynne sat down and carefully
perused the newspaper story again.

At just about that moment the attention of one John Sutton, another
of the watchful Mr. Birnes' men, on duty in Thirty-seventh Street,
was attracted to a woman who had turned in from Park Avenue, and was
coming rapidly toward him, on the opposite side of the street.  She
was young, with the elasticity of perfect health in her step; and
closely veiled.  She wore a blue tailor-made gown, with hat to match;
and recalcitrant strands of hair gleamed a golden brown.

"By George!" exclaimed the detective.  "It's her!"

By which he meant that the mysterious young woman of the cab, whose
description had been drilled into him by Mr. Birnes, had at last
reappeared.  He lounged along the street, watching her with keen
interest, fixing her every detail in his mind.  She did not hesitate,
she glanced neither to right nor left, but went straight to the house
occupied by Mr. Wynne, and rang the bell.  A moment later the door was
opened, and she disappeared inside.  The detective mopped his face
with tremulous joy.

"Doris!" exclaimed Mr. Wynne, as the veiled girl entered the room
where he sat.  "Doris, my dear girl, what _are_ you doing here?"

He arose and went toward her.  She tore off the heavy veil
impatiently, and lifted her moist eyes to his.  There was suffering
in them, uneasiness--and more than that.

"Have you heard from him--out there?" she demanded.

"Not to-day, no," he responded.  "_Why_ did you come here?"

"Gene, I can't stand it," she burst out passionately.  "I'm worried
to death.  I can't hear a word, and--I'm worried to death."

Mr. Wynne wondered if she, too, had seen the morning papers.  He
stared at her gravely for an instant, then turned, crumpled up the
section of newspaper with its glaring head-lines and dropped it into
a waste-basket.

"I'm sorry," he said gently.

"I telephoned twice yesterday," she rushed on quickly, pleadingly,
"and once last night and again this morning.  There was no--no answer.
Gene, I couldn't stand it.  I had to come."

"It's only that he didn't happen to be within hearing of the
telephone bell," he assured her.  But her steadfast, accusing eyes
read more than that in his face, and her hands trembled on his arm.

"I'm afraid, Gene, I'm afraid," she declared desperately.  "Suppose--
suppose something _has_ happened?"

"It's absurd," and he attempted to laugh off her uneasiness.  "Why,
nothing could have happened."

"All those millions of dollars' worth of diamonds, Gene," she
reminded him, "and he is--I shouldn't have left him alone."

"Why, my dear Doris," and Mr. Wynne gathered the slender, trembling
figure in his arms protectingly, "not one living soul, except you and
I, knows that they are there.  There's no incentive to robbery, my
dear--a poor, shabby little cottage like that.  There is not the
slightest danger."

"There is always danger, Gene," she contradicted.  "It makes me
shudder just to think of it.  He is so old and so feeble, simple as
a child, and utterly helpless if anything should happen.  Then, when
I didn't hear from him after trying so many times over the telephone
--I'm afraid, Gene, I'm afraid," she concluded desperately.

The long-pent-up tears came, and she buried her face on his shoulder.
He stood silent, with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

This, and the thing in the newspaper there!  And evidently she had
not seen that!  It was not wise that she should see it just yet.

"That day I took the horrid things from you in the cab I was awfully
frightened," she continued sobbingly.  "I felt that every one I
passed knew I had them; and you can't imagine what a relief it was
when I took them back out there and left them.  And now when I think
that something may have happened to _him!_"  She paused, then raised
her tear-dimmed eyes to his face.  "He is all I have in the world
now, Gene, except you.  Already the hateful things have cost the
lives of my father and my brother, and now if he--Or you--Oh, my
God, it would kill me!  I hate them, hate them!"

She was shaken by a paroxysm of sobs.  Mr. Wynne led her to a chair,
and she dropped into it wearily, with her face in her hands.

"Nothing can have happened, Doris," he repeated gently.  "I sent a
message out there in duplicate only a few minutes ago.  In a couple
of hours, now, we shall be getting an answer.  Now, don't begin to
cry," he added helplessly.

"And if you don't get an answer?" she insisted.

"I shall get an answer," he declared positively.  There was a long
pause.  "And when I get that answer, Doris," he resumed, again
becoming very grave, "you will see how unwise, how dangerous even, it
was for you to come here this way.  I know it's hard, dear," he
supplemented apologetically, "but it was only for the week, you know;
and now I don't see how you can go away from here again."

"Go away?" she repeated wonderingly.  "Why shouldn't I go away?  I
was very careful to veil myself when I came--no one saw me enter, I
am sure.  Why can't I go away again?"

Mr. Wynne paced the length of the room twice, with troubled brow.

"You don't understand, dear," he said quietly, as he paused before
her.  "From the moment I left Mr. Latham's office last Thursday I
have been under constant surveillance.  I'm followed wherever I go--
to my office, to luncheon, to the theater, everywhere; and day and
night, day and night, there are two men watching this house, and two
other men watching at my office.  They tamper with my correspondence,
trace my telephone calls, question my servants, quiz my clerks.  You
don't understand, dear," he said again.

"But why should they do all this?" she asked curiously.  "Why should
they--"

"I had expected it all, of course," he interrupted, "and it doesn't
disturb me in the least.  I planned for months to anticipate every
emergency; I know every detective who is watching me by name and by
sight; and all my plans have gone perfectly until now.  This is why
it was necessary for me to keep away from out there as it was for you
to keep away from here; why we could not afford to take chances by an
interchange of letters or by telephone calls.  When I left you in the
cab I knew you would get away safely, because they did not know you
were there, in the first place; and then it was the beginning of the
chase and I forced them to center their attention on me.  But now it
different.  Come here to the window a minute."

He led her across the room unresistingly.  On the opposite side of
the street, staring at the house, was a man.

"That man is a private detective," Mr. Wynne informed her.  "His name
is Sutton, and he is only one of thirty or forty whose sole business
in life, right now, is to watch me, to keep track of and follow any
person who comes here.  He saw you enter, and you couldn't escape
him going out.  There's another on the roof of the house next door.
His name is Claflin.  These men, or others from the same agency, are
here all the time.  There are two more at my office downtown; still
others are searching customs records, examining the books of the
express companies, probing into my private affairs.  And they're all
in the employ of the men with whom I am dealing.  Do you understand
now?"

"I didn't dream of such a thing," the girl faltered slowly.  "I knew,
of course, that--Gene, I shouldn't have come if--if only I could have
heard from him."

"My dear girl, it's a big game we are playing--a hundred-million-dollar
game!  And we shall win it, unless--we _shall_ win it, in spite of
them.  Naturally the diamond dealers don't want to be compelled to put
up one hundred million dollars.  They reason that if the stones I
showed them came from new fields, and the supply is unlimited, as I
told them, that the diamond market is on the verge of collapse, anyway;
and as they look at it they are compelled to know where they came from.
As a matter of fact, if they did know, or if the public got one inkling
of the truth, the diamond market would be wrecked, and all the diamond
dealers in the world working together couldn't prevent it.  If they
succeed in doing this thing they feel they must do, they will only
bring disaster upon themselves.  It would do no good to tell them so;
I merely laid my plans and am letting them alone.  So, you see, my
dear, it is a big game--a big game!"



CHAPTER XI

THE SILENT BELL

He stood looking at her with earnest thoughtful eyes.  Suddenly the
woman-soul within her awoke in a surging, inexplicable wave of
emotion which almost overcame her; and after it came something of
realization of the great fight he was making for her--for her, and
the aged, feeble grandfather waiting patiently out there.  He loved
her, this master among men, and she sighed contentedly.  For the
moment the maddening anxiety that brought her here was forgotten;
there was only the ineffable sweetness of seeing him again.  She
extended her hands to him impulsively, and he kissed them both.

"The difficulty of you leaving here," he went on after a little, "is
that you would be followed, and within two hours these men would know
all about you--where you are stopping, how long you have been there;
they would know of your daily telephone messages to your grandfather,
and then, inevitably, they would appear out there, and learn all the
rest of it.  It doesn't matter how closely they keep watch of me.  My
plans are all made, I know I am watched, and make no mistakes.  But
you!"

"So I should not have come?" she questioned.  "I'm sorry."

"I understand your anxiety, of course," he assured her, and he was
smiling a little, "but the worst never happens--so for the present
we will not worry.  In an hour or more, now, I imagine we shall
receive a pigeon-o-gram which will show that all is well.  And then I
shall have to plan for you to get away somehow."

She leaned toward him a little and again he gathered her in his arms.
The red lips were mutely raised, and he kissed her reverently.

"It's all for you and it will all be right," he assured her.

"Gene, dear Gene!"

He pressed a button on the wall and a maid appeared.

"You will have to wait for a couple of hours or so, at least, so if
you would like to take off your things?" he suggested with grave
courtesy.  "I dare say the suite just above is habitable, and the
maid is at your service."

The girl regarded him pensively for a moment, then turning ran
swiftly up the stairs.  The maid started to follow more staidly.

"Just a moment," said Mr. Wynne crisply, in an undertone.  "Miss
Kellner is not to be allowed to use the telephone under any
circumstances.  You understand?"  She nodded silently and went up the
stairs.

An hour passed.  From the swivel chair at his desk Mr. Wynne had
twice seen Sutton stroll past on the opposite side of the street;
and then Claflin had lounged along.  Suddenly he arose and went to
the window, throwing back the curtains.  Sutton was leaning against
an electric-light pole, half a block away; Claflin was half a block
off in the other direction, in casual conversation with a policeman.
Mr. Wynne looked them over thoughtfully.  Curiously enough he was
wondering just how he would fare in a physical contest with either,
or both.

He turned away from the window at last and glanced at his watch
impatiently.  One hour and forty minutes!  In another half an hour
the little bell over his desk should ring.  That would mean that a
pigeon had arrived from--from out there, and that the automatic door
had closed upon it as it entered the cote.  But if it didn't come--
if it didn't come!  Then what?  There was only one conclusion to be
drawn, and he shuddered a little when he thought of it.  There could
only remain this single possibility when he considered the sinister
things that had happened--the failure of the girl to get an answer
by telephone, and the unexpected appearance of Red Haney with the
uncut diamonds. It might be necessary for him to go out there, and
how could he do it?  How, without leaving an open trail behind him?
How, without inviting defeat in the fight he was making?

His meditations were interrupted by the appearance of Miss Kellner.
She had crept down the stairs noiselessly, and stood beside him
before he was aware of her presence.  Her eyes sought his countenance
questioningly, and the deadly pallor of her face frightened him.  She
crept into his arms and nestled there silently with dry, staring
eyes.  He stroked the golden-brown hair with an utter sense of
helplessness.

"Nothing yet," he said finally, and there was a thin assumption of
cheeriness in his tone.  "It may be another hour, but it will come--
it will come."

"But if it doesn't, Gene?" she queried insistently.  Always her mind
went back to that possibility.

"We shall cross no bridges until we reach them," he replied.  "There
is always a chance that the pigeons might have gone astray, for they
have this single disadvantage against the incalculable advantage of
offering no clew to any one as to where they go; and it is impossible
to follow them.  If nothing comes in half an hour now I shall send
two more."

"And then, if nothing comes?"

"Then, my dear, then we shall begin to worry."

Half an hour passed; the little bell was silent; Claflin and Sutton
were still visible from the window.  Miss Kellner's eyes were
immovably fixed on Mr. Wynne's face, and he repressed his gnawing
anxiety with an effort.  Finally he wrote again on the tissue slips--
three of them this time--and together they climbed to the roof,
attached the messages, and watched the birds disappear.

Another hour--two hours--two hours and a half passed.  Suddenly the
girl arose with pallid face and colorless lips.

"I can't stand it, Gene, I can't!" she exclaimed hysterically.  "I
must know.  The telephone?"

"No," he commanded harshly, and he, too, arose.  "No."

"I will!" she flashed.

She darted out of the room and along the hall.  He followed her with
grim determination in his face.  She seized the receiver from the
hook and held it to her ear.

"Hello!" called Central.

"Give me long distance--Coaldale, Number--"

"No," commanded Mr. Wynne, and he placed one hand over the
transmitter tightly.  "Doris, you must not!"

"I will!" she flamed.  "Let me alone!"

"You'll ruin everything," he pleaded earnestly.  "Don't you know that
they get every number I call?  Don't you know that within fifteen
minutes they will have that number, and their men will start for
there?"

She faced him with blazing eyes.

"I don't care," she said deliberately, and the white face was
relieved by an angry flush.  "I will know what has happened out
there!  I must!  Gene, don't you see that I'm frantic with anxiety?
The money means nothing to me.  I want to know if he is safe."

His hand was still gripped over the transmitter.  Suddenly she turned
and tugged at it fiercely.  Her sharp little nails bit into the flesh
of his fingers.  In a last desperate effort she placed the receiver
to her lips.

"Give me long distance, Coaldale Number--"

With a quick movement he snapped the connecting wire from the
instrument, and the receiver was free in her hand.

"Doris, you are mad!" he protested.  "Wait a minute, my dear girl--
just a minute."

"I don't care!  I _will_ know!"

Mr. Wynne turned and picked up a heavy cane from the hall-stand, and
brought it down on the transmitter with all his strength.  The
delicate mechanism jangled and tingled, then the front fell off at
their feet.  The diaphragm dropped and rolled away.

"Doris, you must not!" he commanded again gravely.  "We will find
another way, dear."

"How dare you?" she demanded violently.  "It was cowardly."

"You don't understand--"

"I understand it all," she broke in.  "I understand that this might
lead to the failure of the thing you are trying to do.  But I don't
care.  I understand that already I have lost my father and my
brother in this; that my grandmother and my mother were nearly
starved to death while it was all being planned; all for these
hideous diamonds.  Diamonds!  Diamonds!  Diamonds!  I've heard
nothing all my life but that.  As a child it was dinned into me, and
now I am sick and weary of it all.  I know--I _know_ something has
happened to him now. I hate them!  I hate them!"

She stopped, glared at him with scornful eyes for an instant, then
ran up the stairs again.  Mr. Wynne touched a button in the wall, and
the maid appeared.

"Go lock the back door, and bring me the key," he commanded.

The maid went away, and a moment later returned to hand him the key.
He still stood in the hall, waiting.

After a little there came a rush of skirts, and Miss Kellner ran down
the steps, dressed for the street.

"Doris," he pleaded, "you must not go out now.  Wait just a moment--
we'll find a way, and then I'll go with you."

She tried to pass him, but his outstretched arms made her a prisoner.

"Do I understand that you refuse to let me go?" she asked tensely.

"Not like this," he replied.  "If you'll give me just a little while
then perhaps--perhaps I may go with you.  Even if something had
happened there you could do nothing alone.  I, too, am afraid now.
Just half an hour--fifteen minutes!  Perhaps I may be able to find a
plan."

Suddenly she sank down on the stairs, with her face in her hands.  He
caressed her hair tenderly, then raised her to her feet.

"Suppose you step into the back parlor here," he requested.  "Just
give me fifteen minutes.  Then, unless I can find a way for us to go
together safely, we will throw everything aside and go anyway.
Forgive me, dear."

She submitted quietly to be led along the hall.  He opened the door
into a room and stood aside for her to pass.

"Gene, Gene!" she exclaimed.

Her soft arms found their way about his neck, and she drew his face
down and kissed him; then, without a word, she entered the room and
closed the door.  A minute passed--two, four, five--and Mr. Wynne
stood as she left him, then he opened the front door and stepped out.

Frank Claflin was just starting toward the house from the corner with
deliberate pace when he glanced up and saw Mr. Wynne signaling for
him to approach.  Could it be possible?  He had had no orders about
talking to this man, but--Perhaps he was going to give it up!  And
with this idea he accelerated his pace and crossed the street.

"Oh, Mr. Claflin, will you step in just a moment, please?" requested
Mr. Wynne courteously.

"Why?" demanded the detective suspiciously.

"There's a matter I want to discuss with you," responded Mr. Wynne.
"It may be that we can reach some sort of--of an agreement about
this, and if you don't mind--"

Claflin went up the steps, Mr. Wynne ushered him in and closed the
door behind him.

Three minutes later Mr. Wynne appeared on the steps again and
beckoned to Sutton, who had just witnessed the incident just
preceding, and was positively being eaten by curiosity.

"This is Mr. Sutton, isn't it?" inquired Mr. Wynne.

"Yes, that's me."

"Well, Mr. Claflin and I are discussing this matter, and my
proposition to him was such that he felt if must be made in your
presence.  Would you mind stepping inside for a moment?"

"You and the girl decided to give it up?" queried Mr. Sutton
triumphantly.

"We are just discussing the matter now," was the answer.

Sutton went up the steps and disappeared inside.

And about four minutes after that Mr. Wynne stood in the hallway,
puffing a little as he readjusted his necktie.  He picked up his hat,
drew on his gloves and then rapped on the door of the back parlor.
Miss Kellner appeared.

"We will go now," said Mr. Wynne quietly.

"But is it safe, Gene?" she asked quickly.

"Perfectly safe, yes.  There's no danger of being followed if we go
immediately."

She gazed at him wonderingly, then followed him to the door.  He
opened it and she passed out, glancing around curiously.  For one
instant he paused, and there came a clatter and clamor from somewhere
in the rear of the house.  He closed the door with a grim smile.

"Which are the detectives?" asked Miss Kellner, in an awed whisper.

"I don't see them around just now," he replied.  "We can get a cab at
the corner."



CHAPTER XII

THE THIRD DEGREE

Some years ago a famous head of the police department clearly
demonstrated the superiority of a knock-out blow, frequently
administered, as against moral suasion, and from that moment the
"third degree" became an institution.  Whatever sort of criticism
may be made of the "third degree," it is, nevertheless, amazingly
effective, and beyond that, affords infinite satisfaction to the
administrator.  There is a certain vicious delight in brutally
smashing a sullen, helpless prisoner in the face; and the "third
degree" is not officially in existence.

Red Haney was submitted to the "third degree."  His argument that he
found the diamonds, and that having found them they were his until
the proper owner appeared, was futile.  Ten minutes after having
passed into a room where sat Chief Arkwright, of the Mulberry Street
force, and three of his men, and Steven Birnes, of the Birnes
Detective Agency, Haney remembered that he hadn't found the diamonds
at all--somebody had given them to him.

"Who gave them to you?" demanded the chief.

"I don't know the guy's name, Boss," Haney replied humbly.

"This is to remind you of it."

Haney found himself sprawling on the floor, and looked up, with a
pleading, piteous expression.  His eyes were still red and bleary,
his motley face shot with purple, and the fumes of the liquor still
clouded his brain.  The chief stood above him with clenched fist.

"On the level, Boss, I don't know," he whined.

"Get up!" commanded the chief.  Haney struggled to his feet and
dropped into his chair.  "What does he look like--this man who gave
them to you?  Where did you meet him?  _Why_ did he give them to
you?"

"Now, Boss, I'm goin' to give you the straight goods," Haney pleaded.
"Don't hit me any more an' I'll tell you all I know about it."

The chief sat down again with scowling face.  Haney drew a long
breath of relief.

"He's a little, skinny feller, Boss," the prisoner went on to
explain, the while he thoughtfully caressed his jaw.  "I meets him
out here in a little town called Willow Creek, me havin' swung off a
freight there to git somethin' to eat.  He's just got a couple of
handouts an' he passes one to me, an' we gits to talkin'.  He gits to
tellin' me somethin' about a nutty old gazebo who lives in the next
town, which he had just left.  This old bazoo, he says, has a hatful
o' diamonds up there, but they ain't polished or nothin' an' he's
there by hisself, an' is old an' simple, an' it's findin' money, he
says, to go over an' take 'em away from him.  He reckoned there must
'a' been a thousan' dollars' worth altogether.

"Well, he puts the proposition to me," Haney continued
circumstantially, "an' I falls for it.  We're to go over, an' I'm to
pipe it all off to see it's all right, then I'm to sort o' hang aroun'
an' keep watch while he goes in an' gives the old nut a gentle tap on
the coco, an' cops the sparks.  That's what we done.  I goes up an'
takes a few looks aroun', then I whistles an' he appears from the
back, an' goes up to the kitchen for a handout.  The old guy opens
the door, an' he goes in.  About a minute later he comes out an'
gives me a handful o' little rocks--them I had--an' we go away.  He
catches a freight goin' west, an' I swings one for Jersey City."

"When was this?" demanded Chief Arkwright.

"What's to-day?" asked Haney in turn.

"This is Sunday morning."

"Well, it was yesterday mornin' sometime, Saturday.  When I gits to
Jersey I takes one o' the little rocks an' goes into a place an'
shows it to the bar-keep.  He gives me a lot o' booze for it, an' I
guess I gits considerable lit up, an' he also gives me some money to
pay ferry fare, an' the next thing I knows I'm nabbed over in the
hock-shop.  I guess I _was_ lit up good, 'cause if I'd 'a' been right
I wouldn't 'a' went to the hock-shop an' got pinched."

He glanced around at the five other men in the room, and he read
belief in each face, whereupon he drew a breath of relief.

"What town was it?" asked the chief.

"Little place named Coaldale."

"Coaldale," the chief repeated thoughtfully.  "Where is that?"

"About forty or fifty miles out'n Jersey" said Haney.

"I know the place," remarked Mr. Birnes.

"You are sure, Haney?" said the chief after a pause.  "You are sure
you don't know this other man's name?"

"I don't know it, Boss."

"Who was the man you robbed?"

"I don't know."

The chief arose quickly, and the prisoner cringed in his seat.

"I don't know," he went on protestingly.  "Don't hit me again."

But the chief had no such intention; it was merely to walk back and
forth across the room.

"What kind of man was he--a tramp?"

Haney faltered and thoughtfully pulled his under-lip.  The cunning
brain behind the bleary eyes was working now.

"I wouldn't call him a tramp," he said evasively.  "He had on collar
an' cuffs an' good clothes, an' talked sort o' easy."

"Little, skinny man you said.  What color was his hair?"

The chief turned in his tracks and regarded Haney with keen, inquiring
eyes.  The prisoner withstood the scrutiny bravely.

"Sort o' blackish, brownish hair."

"Black, you mean?"

"Well, yes--black."

"And his eyes?"

"Black eyes--little an' round like gimlet holes."

"Heavy eyebrows, I suppose?"

"Yes," Haney agreed readily.  "They sort o' stuck out."

"And his nose?  Big or little?  Heavy or thin?"

Haney considered that thoughtfully for a moment before he answered.
Then:

"Sort o' medium nose, Boss, with a point on it."

"And a thin face, naturally.  How much did he weigh?"

"Oh, he was a little feller--skinny, you know.  I reckon he didn't
weigh no more'n a hundred an' twenty-five or thirty."

Some germ had been born in the fertile mind of Mr. Birnes; now it
burst into maturity.  He leaned forward in his chair and stared
coldly at Haney.

"Perhaps," he suggested slowly, "perhaps he had a scar on his face?"

Haney returned the gaze dully for an instant, then suddenly he nodded
his head.

"Yes, a scar," he said.

"From here?" Mr. Birnes placed one finger on the point of his chin
and drew it across his right jaw.

"Yes, a scar--that's it;" the prisoner acquiesced, "from his chin
almost around to his ear."

Mr. Birnes came to his feet, while the official police stared.  The
chief sat down again and crossed his fat legs.

"Why, what do _you_ know, Birnes?" he queried.

"I know the _man_, Chief," the detective burst out confidently.  "I'd
gamble my head on it.  I knew it!  I knew it!" he told himself.  Again
he faced the tramp:  "Haney, do you know how much the diamonds you
had were worth?"

"Must 'a' been three or four hundred dollars."

"Something like fifty thousand dollars," Mr. Birnes informed him
impressively; "and if you got fifty thousand dollars for your share
the other man got a million."

Haney only stared.



CHAPTER XIII

MR. CZENKI APPEARS

Half an hour later Mr. Birnes, Chief Arkwright and Detective Sergeant
Connelly were on a train, bound for Coaldale.  Mr. Birnes had left
them for a moment at the ferry and rushed into a telephone booth.
When he came out he was exuberantly triumphant.

"It's my man, all right," he assured the chief.  "He has been missing
since Friday night, and no one knows his whereabouts.  It's my man."

It was an hour's ride to Coaldale, a sprawling, straggly village
with only four or five houses in sight from the station.  When the
three men left the train there, Mr. Birnes walked over and spoke to
the agent, a thin, cadaverous, tobacco-chewing specimen of his
species.

"We are looking for an old gentleman who lives out here somewhere,"
he explained.  "He probably lives alone, and we've been told that he
has a little cottage somewhere over this way."

He waved his hand vaguely to the right, in accordance with the
directions of Red Haney.  The station agent scratched his stubbly
chin, and spat with great accuracy through a knot-hole ten feet away.

"'Spect you mean old man Kellner," he replied obligingly.  "He lives
by hisself part of the time; then again sometimes his grand-darter
lives with him."

Granddaughter!  Mr. Birnes almost jumped.

"A granddaughter, yes," he said with a forced calm.  "Rather a pretty
girl, twenty-two or three years old?  Sometimes she dresses in blue?"

"Yes," the agent agreed.  "'Spect them's them.  Follow the road there
till you come to Widow Gardiner's hog-lot, then turn to your left,
and it's about a quarter of a mile on.  The only house up that way--
you can't miss it."

The agent stood squinting at them, with friendly inquiry radiating
from his parchment-like countenance, and Mr. Birnes took an
opportunity to ask some other questions.

"By the way, what sort of old man is this Mr. Kellner?  What does he
do?  Is he wealthy?"

A pleasant grin overspread his informant's face; one finger was raised
to his head and twirled significantly.

"'Spect he's crazy," he went on to explain.  "Don't do nothing, so
far as nobody knows--lives like a hermit, stays in the house all the
time, and has long whiskers.  Don't know whether he's rich or not,
but 'spect he ain't becuz no man with money'd live like he does."  He
thrust a long forefinger into Mr. Birnes' face.  "And stingy!  He's
so stingy he won't let nobody come in the house--scared they'll wear
the furniture out looking at it."

"How long has he lived here?"

"There ain't nobody in this town old enough to say.  Why, mister,
I'll bet that old man's a thousand years old.  Wait'll you see him."

That was all.  They went on as indicated.

"The very type of man who would scrimp and starve to put all his
money in something like diamonds," mused Chief Arkwright.  "The usual
rich old miser who winds up by being murdered."

They passed the "Widow Gardiner's hog-lot" and came into a pleasant
country road, which, turning, brought them to a shabby little
cottage, embowered in trees.  Through the foliage, farther on, they
caught the amber gleam of a languid river; and around their feet, as
they entered the yard, scores of pigeons fluttered.

"Carriers!" ejaculated Mr. Birnes, as if startled.

With a strange feeling of elation the detective led the way up the
steps to the veranda and knocked.  There was no answer.  He glanced
at the chief significantly, and tried the door.  It was locked.

"Try the back door," directed Chief Arkwright tersely.  "If that's
locked we'll go in anyway."

They passed around the house to the rear, and Mr. Birnes laid one
hand upon the door-knob.  He turned it and the door swung inward.
Again he glanced at Chief Arkwright.  The chief nodded, and led the
way into the house.  They stood in a kitchen, clean as to floors and
tables, but now in the utmost disorder.  They spent only a moment
here, then passed into the narrow hall, along this to a door that
stood open, and then--then Chief Arkwright paused, staring downward,
and respectfully lifted his hat.

"Always the same," he remarked enigmatically.

Mr. Birnes thrust himself forward and through the door.  On the
floor, with white face turned upward, and fixed, staring eyes, lay an
old man.  His venerable gray hair, long and unkempt, fell back from a
brow of noble proportions, the wide, high brow of the student; and a
great, snow-white beard rippled down over his breast.  Save for the
glassiness of the eyes the face was placid in death, even as it must
have been in life.

Mutely Mr. Birnes examined the body.  A blow in the back of the
head--that was all.  Then he glanced around the room inquiringly.
Everything was in order, except--except here lay an overturned
cigar-box.  He picked it up; two uncut diamonds were on the floor
beneath it.  The rough, inert pebbles silently attested the obvious
manner of death which simultaneously forced itself upon the three
men--the cowardly blow of an assassin, a dying struggle, perhaps,
for the contents of the box, and this--the end!

From outside came sharply in the silence the rattle of wheels on the
gravel of the road, and a vehicle stopped in front of the door.

"Sh-h-h-h!" warned the chief.

Some one came along the walk, up the steps and rapped briskly on the
door; the detectives waited motionless, silent  The knob rattled
under impatient fingers, then the footsteps passed along the veranda
quickly, and were lost, as if some one had stepped off at the end
intending to come to the back door, which was open.  A moment later
they heard steps in the kitchen, then in the narrow hall approaching,
and the doorway of the room where they stood framed the figure of a
man.  It was Mr. Czenki.

"There's your man, Chief," remarked Mr. Birnes quietly.

The diamond expert permitted his gaze to wander from one to another
of the three men, and then the beady black eyes came to rest on the
silent, outstretched figure of the old man.  He started forward
impulsively; the grip of Detective-Sergeant Connelly on his arm
stopped him.

"You're my prisoner!"

"Yes, I understand," said Mr. Czenki impatiently.  He didn't even
look up; he was still gazing at the figure on the floor.

"Well, what have you got to say for yourself?" demanded Chief
Arkwright coldly.

Mr. Czenki met the accusing stare of the chief squarely for an
instant, then the keen eyes shifted to the slightly flushed face of
Mr. Birnes and lingered there interrogatively.

"I have nothing whatever to say," he replied at last, and he drew one
hand slowly across his thin, scarred face.  "Yes, I understand," he
repeated absently.  "I have nothing to say."



CHAPTER XIV

CAUGHT IN THE NET

Doris looked down in great, dry-eyed horror upon the body of this
withered old man whom she had loved, and the thin thread of life
within her all but snapped.  It had come; the premonition of disaster
had been fulfilled; the last of her blood had been sacrificed to the
mercilessly glittering diamonds--father, brother and now him!  Mr.
Wynne's face went white, and his teeth closed fiercely; he had loved
this old man, too; then the shock passed and he turned anxiously to
Doris to receive the limp, inert figure in his arms.  She had
fainted.

"Well, what do _you_ know about it?" inquired Chief Arkwright
abruptly.

Mr. Wynne was himself again instantly--the calm, self-certain
perfectly poised young man of affairs.  He glanced at the chief,
then shot a quick, inquiring look at Mr. Czenki.  Almost
imperceptibly the diamond expert shook his head.  Then Mr. Wynne's
eyes turned upon Mr. Birnes.  There had been triumph in the
detective's face until that moment, but, under the steady, meaning
glare which was directed at him, triumph faded to a sort of wonder,
followed by a vague sense of uneasiness, and he read a command in the
fixed eyes--a command to silence.  Curiously enough it reminded him
that he was in the employ of Mr. Latham, and that there were certain
business secrets to be protected.  He regarded the coroner's
physician, hastily summoned for a perfunctory examination.

"Well?" demanded the chief again.

"Nothing--of this," replied Mr. Wynne.  "I think, Doctor," and he
addressed the physician, "that she needs you more than he does.  We
know only too well what's the matter with him."

The physician arose obediently.  Mr. Wynne gathered up the slender,
still figure in his arms, and bore it away to another room.  The
doctor bent over Doris, and tested the fluttering heart.

"Only shock," he said finally, when he looked up.  "She'll come
round all right in a little while."

"Thank God!" the young man breathed softly.

He stooped and pressed reverent lips to the marble-white brow, then
straightened up and, after one long, lingering look at her, turned
quickly and left the room.

"I have no statement to make," Mr. Czenki was saying, in that level,
unemotional way of his, when Mr. Wynne reentered the room where lay
the dead.

"We are to assume that you are guilty, then?" demanded Chief
Arkwright with cold finality.

"I have nothing to say," replied the expert.  His gaze met that of
Mr. Wynne for a moment, then settled on the venerable face of the
old man.

"Guilty?" interposed Mr. Wynne quickly.  "Guilty of what?"

Chief Arkwright, without speaking, waved his hand toward the body on
the floor.  There was a flash of amazement in the young man's face, a
sudden bewilderment; the diamond expert's countenance was
expressionless.

"You don't deny that you killed him?" persisted the chief accusingly.

"I have nothing to say," said the expert again.

"And you don't deny that you were Red Haney's accomplice?"

"I have nothing to say," was the monotonous answer.

The chief shrugged his shoulders impatiently.  Some illuminating
thought shone for an instant in Mr. Wynne's clear eyes and he nodded
as if a question in his mind had been answered.

"Perhaps, Chief, there may be some mistake?" he protested half-heartedly.
"Perhaps this gentleman--what motive would--"

"There's motive enough," interrupted the chief briskly.  "We have
this man's description straight from his accomplice, Red Haney,
even to the scar on his face--"  He paused abruptly, and regarded
Mr. Wynne through half-closed lids.  "By the way," he continued
deliberately, "who are _you?_  What do _you_ know about it?"

"My name is Wynne--E. van Cortlandt Wynne" was the ready response.
"I am directly interested in this case through a long-standing
friendship for Mr. Kellner here, and through the additional fact
that his granddaughter in the adjoining room is soon to become my
wife."  There was a little pause.  "I may add that I live in New
York, and that Miss Kellner has been stopping there for several days.
She has been accustomed to hearing from her grandfather at least once
a day by telephone, but she was unable to get an answer either
yesterday or to-day, so she came to my home, and together we came out
here."

Mr. Birnes looked up quickly.  It had suddenly occurred to him to
wonder as to the whereabouts of Claflin and Sutton, who had been on
watch at the Thirty-seventh Street house.  The young man interpreted
the expression of his face aright, and favored him with a meaning
glance.

"We came alone," he supplemented.

Mr. Birnes silently pondered it.

"All that being true," Chief Arkwright suggested tentatively,
"perhaps you can give us some information as to the diamonds that
were stolen?  How much were they worth?  How many were there?"  He
held up the uncut stones that had been found on the floor.

"I don't know their exact number," was the reply.  "Their value, I
should say, was about sixty thousand dollars.  Except for this little
house, and the grounds adjoining, practically all of Mr. Kellner's
money was invested in diamonds.  Those you have there are part of an
accumulation of many years, imported in the rough, one or two at a
time."

Mr. Czenki was gazing abstractedly out of a window, but the
expression on his lean face indicated the keenest interest, and--and
something else; apprehension, maybe.  The chief stared straight into
the young man's eyes for an instant, and then:

"And Mr. Kellner's family?" he inquired.

"There is no one, except his granddaughter, Doris."

Some change, sudden as it was pronounced, came over the chief, and
his whole attitude altered.  He dropped into a chair near the door.

"Have a seat, Mr. Wynne," he invited courteously, "and let's
understand this thing clearly.  Over there, please," and he indicated
a chair partly facing that in which Mr. Czenki sat.

Mr. Wynne sat down.

"Now you don't seem to believe," the chief went on pleasantly, "that
Czenki here killed Mr. Kellner?"

"Well, no," the young man admitted.

Mr. Czenki glanced at him quickly, warningly.  The chief was not
looking, but he knew the glance had passed.

"And _why_ don't you believe it?" he continued.

"In the first place," Mr. Wynne began without hesitation, "the
diamonds were worth only about sixty thousand dollars, and Mr. Czenki
here draws a salary of twenty-five thousand dollars a year.  The
proportion is wrong, you see.  Again, Mr. Czenki is a man of
unquestioned integrity.  As diamond expert of the Henry Latham
Company he handles millions of dollars' worth of precious stones each
year, and has practically unlimited opportunities for theft, without
murder, if he were seeking to steal.  He has been with that company
for several years, and that fact alone is certainly to his credit."

"Very good," commented the chief ambiguously.  He paused an instant
to study this little man with an interest aroused by the sum of his
salary.  "And what of Haney's description?  His accusation?" he
asked.

"Haney might have lied, you know," retorted Mr. Wynne.  "Men in his
position have been known to lie."

"I understood you to say," the chief resumed, heedless of the note of
irony in the other's voice, "that you and Miss Kellner are to be
married?"

"Yes."

"And that she is the only heir of her grandfather?"

"Yes."

"Therefore, at his death, the diamonds would become her property?"

For one instant Mr. Wynne seemed startled, and turned his clear eyes
full upon his interrogator, seeking the hidden meaning.

"Yes, but--" he began slowly.

"That's true, isn't it?" demanded the chief, with quick violence.

"Yes, that's true," Mr. Wynne admitted calmly.

"Therefore, indirectly, it would have been to _your_ advantage if Mr.
Kellner had died or had been killed?"

"In that the diamonds would have come to my intended wife, yes," was
the reply.

Mr. Czenki clasped and unclasped his thin hands nervously.  His face
was again expressionless, and the beady eyes were fastened immovably
on Chief Arkwright's.  Mr. Birnes was frankly amazed at this
unexpected turn of the affair.  Suddenly Chief Arkwright brought his
hand down on the arm of his chair with a bang.

"Suppose, for the moment, that Red Haney lied, and that Mr. Czenki is
_not_ the murderer, then--As a matter of fact _your_ salary isn't
twenty-five thousand a year, is it?"

He was on his feet now, with blazing eyes, and one hand was thrust
accusingly into Mr. Wynne's face.  It was simulation; Mr. Birnes
understood it; a police method of exhausting possibilities.  There
was not the slightest movement by Mr. Wynne to indicate uneasiness at
the charge, not a tremor in his voice when he spoke again.

"I understand perfectly, Chief," he remarked coldly.  "Just what was
the time of the crime, may I ask?"

"Answer my question," insisted the Chief thunderously.

"Now look here, Chief," Mr. Wynne went on frigidly, "I am not a child
to be frightened into making any absurd statements.  I do _not_ draw
a salary of twenty-five thousand a year, no.  I am in business for
myself, and make more than that.  You may satisfy yourself by
examining the books in my office if you like.  By intimation, at
least, you are accusing me of murder.  Now answer me a question,
please.  What was the time of the crime?"



CHAPTER XV

THE TRUTH IN PART

The chief dropped back into his chair with the utmost complacency.
This was not the kind of man with whom mere bluster counted.

"Haney says Saturday morning," he answered.  "The coroner's physician
agrees with that."

"Yesterday morning," Mr. Wynne mused; then, after a moment:  "I think,
Chief, you know Mr. Birnes here?  And that you would accept a
statement of his as correct?"

"Yes," the chief agreed with a glance at Mr. Birnes.

"Mr. Birnes, where was I all day Saturday?" Mr. Wynne queried,
without so much as looking around at him.

"You were in your house from eleven o'clock Friday night until fifteen
minutes of nine o'clock Saturday morning," was the response. "You left
there at that time, and took the surface car at Thirty-fourth Street
to your office.  You left your office at five minutes of one, took
luncheon alone at the Savarin, and returned to your office at two
o'clock.  You remained there until five, or a few minutes past, then
returned home.  At eight you--"

"Is that sufficient?" interrupted Mr. Wynne.  "Does that constitute
an alibi?"

"Yes," he admitted; "but how do you know all this, Birnes?"

"Mr. Birnes and the men of his agency have favored me with the most
persistent attentions during the last few days," Mr. Wynne continued
promptly.  "He has had two men constantly on watch at my office, day
and night, and two others constantly on watch at my home, day and
night.  There are two there now--one in a rear room of the basement,
and another in the pantry, with the doors locked on the outside.
Their names are Claflin and Sutton!"

So, that was it!  It came home to Mr. Birnes suddenly.  Claflin and
Sutton had been tricked into the house on some pretext, and locked
in!  Confound their stupidity!

"Why are they locked up?" demanded the chief, with kindling interest.
"Why have you been watched?"

"I think, perhaps, Mr. Birnes will agree with me when I say that that
has nothing whatever to do with this crime," replied Mr. Wynne
easily.

"That's for me to decide," declared the chief bluntly.

There was a long pause.  Mr. Czenki was leaning forward in his chair,
gripping the arms fiercely, with his lips pressed into a thin line.
It was only by a supreme effort that he held himself in control; and
the lean, scarred face was working strangely.

"Well, if you insist on knowing," observed Mr. Wynne slowly, "I
suppose I'll have to tell all of it.  In the first place--"

"_Don't!_"  It came finally, the one word, from Mr. Czenki's half-closed
lips, a smothered explosion which drew every eye upon him.

Mr. Wynne turned slightly in his chair and regarded the diamond
expert with an expression of astonishment on his face.  The beady
black eyes were all aglitter with the effort of repression, and
some intangible message flashed in them.

"In the first place," resumed Mr. Wynne, as if there had been no
interruption, "Mr. Kellner here--"

"Don't!" the expert burst out again desperately.  "Don't!  It means
ruin--absolute ruin!"

"Mr. Kellner had those diamonds--about sixty thousand dollars' worth
of them," Mr. Wynne continued distinctly.  "Mr. Kellner decided to
sell some diamonds.  One of the quickest and most satisfactory
methods of selling rough gems, such as those you have in your hand,
Chief, is to offer them directly to the men who deal in them.  I went
to Mr. Henry Latham, and other jewelers of New York, on behalf of
Mr. Kellner, and offered them a quantity of diamonds.  It may be that
they regarded the quantity I offered as unusual; that I don't know,
but I would venture the conjecture that they did."

He paused a moment.  Mr. Czenki's face, again growing expressionless,
was turned toward the light of the window; Chief Arkwright was
studying it shrewdly.

"Diamond merchants, of course, have to be careful," the young man
went on smoothly.  "They can't afford to buy whatever is offered by
people whom they don't know.  They had reason, too, to believe that I
was not acting for myself alone.  What was more natural, therefore,
than that they should have called in Mr. Birnes, and the men of his
agency, to find out about me, and, if possible, to find out whom I
represented, so they might locate the supply?  I wouldn't tell them,
because it was not desirable that they should deal directly with Mr.
Kellner, who was old and childish, and lacking, perhaps, in
appreciation of the real value of diamonds.

"The result of all this was that the diamond dealers placed me under
strict surveillance.  My house was watched; my office was watched.
My mail going and coming, was subjected to scrutiny; my telephone
calls were traced; telegrams opened and read.  I had anticipated all
this, of course, and was in communication with Mr. Kellner here only
by carrier-pigeons."  He glanced meaningly at Mr. Birnes, who was
utterly absorbed in the recital.  "Those carrier-pigeons were not
exchanged by express, because the records would have furnished a
clew to Mr. Birnes' men; I personally took them back and forth in a
suitcase before I approached Mr. Latham with the original
proposition."

He was giving categorical answers to a few of the multitude of
questions to which Mr. Birnes had been seeking answers.  The tense
expression about Mr. Czenki's eyes was dissipated, and he sighed
a little.

"I saw the Red Haney affair in the newspapers this morning, as you
will know," he continued after a moment.  "It was desirable that I
should come here with Miss Kellner, but it was not desirable, even
under those circumstances, that I should permit myself to be
followed.  That's how it happens that Mr. Claflin and Mr. Sutton are
now locked up in my house."  Again there was a pause.  "Mr. Birnes, I
know, will be glad to confirm my statement of the case in so far as
his instructions from Mr. Latham and the other gentlemen interested
bear on it?"

Chief Arkwright glanced at the detective inquiringly.

"That's right," Mr. Birnes admitted with an uncertain nod--"that is,
so far as my instructions go.  I understood, though, that the
diamonds were worth more than sixty thousand dollars; in fact, that
there might have been a million dollars' worth of them."

"A million dollars!" repeated Chief Arkwright in amazement.  "A
million dollars!" he repeated.  He turned fiercely upon Mr. Wynne.
"What about that?" he demanded.

"I'm sure I don't know what Mr. Birnes _understood_," replied the
young man, with marked emphasis.  "But it's preposterous on the face
of it, isn't it?  Would a man with a million dollars' worth of
diamonds live in a hovel like this?"

The chief considered the matter reflectively for a minute or more,
the while his keen eyes alternately searched the faces of Mr. Wynne
and Mr. Czenki.

"It would depend on the man, of course," he said at last.  And then
some new idea was born within him.  "Your direct connection with the
crime seems to be disproved, Mr. Wynne," he remarked slowly; "and if
we admit _his_ innocence," he jerked a thumb at the expert, "there
remains yet another view-point.  Do you see it?"

The young man turned upon him quickly.

"Does it occur to you that every argument I advanced to furnish you
with a motive for the crime might be applied with equal weight
against--against Miss Kellner?"

"Doris!" flamed Mr. Wynne.  For the first time his perfect
self-possession deserted him, and he came to his feet with gripping
hands.  "Why--why--!  What are you talking about?"

"Sit down," advised the chief quietly.

Mr. Czenki glanced at them once uneasily, then resumed his fixed stare
out of the window.

"Sit down," said the chief again.

Mr. Wynne glared at him for an instant, then dropped back into his
chair.  His hands were clenched desperately, and a slight flush in his
clean-cut face showed the fight he was making to restrain himself.

"All the property this old man owned, including the diamonds, would
become her property in the event of his death--or murder," the chief
added mercilessly.  "That's true, isn't it?"

"But when she entered this room her every act testified to her
innocence," Mr. Wynne burst out passionately.

The chief shrugged his shoulders.

"She has been living at a little hotel in Irving Place," the young
man rushed on.  "The people there can satisfy you as to her
whereabouts on Saturday?"

Again the chief shrugged his shoulders.

"And remember, please, that the best answer to all that is that Haney
had the diamonds!"

"It doesn't necessarily follow, Mr. Wynne," said the other steadily,
"that she committed the crime with her own hands.  It comes down
simply to this: If there were _only_ sixty thousand dollars' worth of
diamonds then the one motive which Czenki might have had is
eliminated; because Haney had practically fifty thousand dollars'
worth of them, and here are some others.  There would have been no
share for your expert here.  And again, if there were only sixty
thousand dollars' worth of the diamonds you or Miss Kellner would
have been the only persons to benefit by this death."

"But Haney had those!" protested Mr. Wynne.

"Just what I'm saying," agreed the other complacently.  "Therefore
there _were_ more than sixty thousand dollars' worth.  However we
look at it, whoever may have been Haney's accomplice, that point
seems settled."

"Or else Haney lied," declared Mr. Wynne flatly.  "If Haney came here
alone, killed this old man and stole the diamonds there would be none
of these questions, would there?"

Mr. Birnes, who had listened silently, arose suddenly and left the
room.  Mr. Wynne's last suggestion awakened a new train of thought
in the police official's mind, and he considered it silently for a
moment.  Finally he shook his head.

"The fact remains," he said, as if reassuring himself, "that Haney
described an accomplice, that that description fits Czenki perfectly,
that Czenki has refused to defend himself or even make a denial; that
he has drawn suspicion upon himself by everything he has done and
said since he has been here, even by the strange manner of his
appearance at this house.  Therefore, there were more diamonds, and
he got his share of them."

"Hello!" came in Mr. Birnes' voice from the hall.  "Give me 21845
River, New York. . . . Yes. . . . Is Mr. Latham there? . . . Yes,
Henry Latham . . . ."

Again Mr. Wynne's self-possession forsook him, and he came to his
feet, evidently with the intention of interrupting that conversation.
He started forward, with gritting teeth, and simultaneously Chief
Arkwright, Detective-Sergeant Connelly and Mr. Czenki laid
restraining hands upon him.  Something in the expert's grip on his
wrist caused him to stop and cease a futile struggle; then came a
singular expression of resignation about the mouth and he sat down
again.

"Hello!  This Mr. Latham! . . . . This is Detective Birnes. . . .
I've been able to locate some diamonds, but it's necessary to know
something of the quantity of those you mentioned.  You remember Mr.
Schultze said something about . . . . Yes. . . . Yes. . . . Oh, there
_were?_ .  . Unexpected developments, yes. . . . I'll call and see
you to-night about eight. . . . Yes. . . . Good-by!"

Mr. Birnes reentered the room, his face aglow with triumph.  Mr.
Wynne glanced almost hopelessly at Mr. Czenki, then turned again to
the detective.

"I should say there _were_ more than sixty thousand dollars' worth of
them," Mr. Birnes blurted.  "There were at least a million dollars'
worth.  Mr. Schultze intimated as much to me; now Mr. Latham confirms
it."

Chief Arkwright turned and glared scowlingly upon the diamond expert.
The beady black eyes were alight with some emotion which he failed to
read.

"Where are they, Czenki?" demanded the chief harshly.

"I have nothing to say," replied Mr. Czenki softly.

"So your disappearance Friday night, and your absence all day
yesterday did have to do with this old man's death?" said the chief,
directly accusing him.

"I have nothing to say," murmured Mr. Czenki.

"That settles it, gentlemen," declared the chief with an air of
finality.  "Czenki, I charge you with the murder of Mr. Kellner here.
Anything you may say will be used against you.  Come along, now;
don't make any trouble."



CHAPTER XVI

MR. CZENKI EXPLAINS

Fairly drunk with excitement, his lean face, usually expressionless,
now flushed and working strangely, and his beady black eyes aglitter,
Mr. Czenki reeled into the study where Mr. Latham and Mr. Schultze
sat awaiting Mr. Birnes.  He raised one hand, enjoining silence,
closed the door, locked it and placed the key in his pocket, after
which he turned upon Mr. Latham.

"He _makes_ them, man!  He _makes them!_" he burst out between
gritting teeth.  "Don't you understand?  _He makes them!_"

Mr. Latham, astonished and a little startled, came to his feet; the
phlegmatic German sat still, staring at the expert without
comprehension.  Mr. Czenki's thin fist was clenched under his
employer's nose, and the jeweler drew back a little, vaguely alarmed.

"I don't understand what--" he began.

"The diamonds!" Mr. Czenki interrupted, and the long pent-up
excitement within him burst into a flame of impatience.  "The
diamonds!  He makes them!  Don't you see?  Diamonds!  He
_manufactures_ them!"

"_Gott in Himmel!_" exclaimed Mr. Schultze, and it was anything but
an irreverent ejaculation.  He arose.  "Der miracle has come to pass!
Ve might haf known!  Ve might haf known!"

"Millions and millions of dollars' worth of them, even _billions_,
for all we know," the expert rushed on in incoherent violence.  "A
sum greater than all the combined wealth of the world in the hands
of one man!  Think of it!"  Mr. Latham only gazed at him blankly,
and he turned instinctively to the one who understood--Mr. Schultze.
"Think of the mind that achieved it, man!"

He collapsed into a chair and sat looking at the floor, his fingers
writhing within one another, muttering to himself.  Mr. Latham was a
cold, sane, unimaginative man of business.  As yet the full import of
it all hadn't reached him.  He stared dumbly, first at Mr. Czenki,
then at Mr. Schultze.  There was not even incredulity in the look,
only faint amazement that two such well-balanced men should have gone
mad at once.  At last the German importer turned upon him flatly.

"Why don'd you ged egzited aboud id, Laadham?" he demanded.  "He iss
all righd, nod crazy," he added with whimsical assurance.  "He iss
delling you dat dose diamonds are _made_--made like doughnuds, mitoud
der hole; manufactured, pud togedher.  Don'd you ged id?"

He ran off into guttural German expletives; and slowly, slowly the
idea began to dawn upon Mr. Latham.  The diamonds Mr. Wynne had
shown were not real, then; they were artificial!  It was some sort of
a swindle!  Of course!  But the experts had agreed that they were
diamonds--real diamonds!  Perhaps they had been deceived, or--by
George!  Did these two men mean to say that they were real diamonds,
but that they were _manufactured?_  Mr. Latham's tidy little
imagination balked at that.  Absurd!  Whoever heard of a diamond as
big as the Koh-i-noor, or the Regent, or the Orloff being made?  They
were crazy--the pair of them!

"Do I understand," he demanded in a tone of deliberate annoyance,
"that you, Czenki, and you, Schultze, expect me to believe that those
diamonds we saw were not natural, but _were_ real diamonds turned out
by machinery in a--in a diamond factory?  Is that what you are
driving at?

"_Das iss!_" declared the German bluntly.  "Id vas coming in dime,
Laadham, id vas coming, of course  Und I haf always noticed dat
whatever iss coming does come."

"Made, made--made as you make marbles," Mr. Czenki repeated
monotonously.  "Yes, it had to come, but--but imagine the insuperable
difficulties that one brain had to surmount!"  He passed a thin hand
across his flushed brow, and was thoughtfully silent.

"I don't believe it," asserted Mr. Latham tartly.  "It's impossible!
I don't believe it!"  And sat down.

"Id don'd madder much whedher you belief id or nod," remarked the
German in a tone of resignation.  "If id iss, id iss.  Und all dose
diamonds in your place und mine are nod worth much more by der bushel
as potatoes."

Mr. Latham turned away from him, half angrily, and glared at the
expert, who was still regarding the floor.

"What do you know about this, anyway, Czenki?" he demanded.  "How do
you _know_ he makes them?  Have you _seen_ him make them?"

Thus directly addressed Mr. Czenki looked up, and the living flame of
wonder within his eyes flickered and died.  In silence, for a minute
or more, he studied the unconcealed skepticism in his employer's
face, and then asked slowly:

"Do you know what diamonds are, Mr. Latham?"

"There is some theory that they are pure carbon, crystallized."

"They are that," declared the expert impatiently.  "You know that
diamonds have been made?"

"Oh, I've read something about it, yes; but what I--"

"Every school-boy knows how to make a diamond, Mr. Latham.  If pure
carbon is heated to approximately five thousand degrees Fahrenheit,
and simultaneously subjected to a pressure of approximately six
thousand tons to the square inch, it becomes a diamond.  And there's
no theory about that--that's a fact!  The difficulty has always been
to apply the knowledge we have in a commercially practicable way--in
other words, to isolate a carbon that is absolutely pure, and invent
a method of applying the heat and pressure simultaneously.  It has
been done, Mr. Latham; _it has been done!_  Don't you understand what
it means to--"

With an effort he repressed the returning excitement which found vent
in a rising voice and quick, nervous gestures of the hands.  After a
moment he went on:

"Half a score of scientists have made diamonds, minute particles no
larger than the point of a pin.  Professor Henri Moissan, of Paris,
went further, and by use of an electric furnace produced diamonds as
large as a pinhead.  You may remember that when I first met Mr. Wynne
he inquired if I had not done some special work for Professor
Moissan.  I had; I tested the diamonds he made--_and they were
diamonds!_  I dare say the suggestion Mr. Wynne conveyed to me by
that question--that is, the suggestion of manufactured diamonds--had
been carefully planned, for he is a wonderful young man, Mr. Wynne--
a wonderful young man."  He paused a moment.  "We know that he has
millions and millions of dollars' worth of them--we know because we
saw them--and who can tell how many billions more there are?  The one
man holds in his hand the power to overturn the money values of the
earth!"

"But how do you know he makes them?" demanded Mr. Latham, returning
to the main question.

"He suggested it by his question," Mr. Czenki went on. "That
suggestion lingered in my mind.  When the detective, Mr. Birnes,
reported that Mr. Wynne was an importer of brown sugar I was on the
point of advancing a theory that the diamonds were manufactured,
because of all known substances burnt brown sugar is richest in
carbon.  But you, Mr. Latham, had discredited a previous suggestion
of mine, and I--I--well, I didn't suggest it.  Instead, that night I
personally began an investigation to see what disposition was made of
the sugar.  I found that the ships discharged their cargoes in
Hoboken, that the sugar was there loaded on barges, and those barges
hauled up a small stream to the little town of Coaldale, all
consigned to a Mr. Hugo Kellner.

"It took Friday, all day Saturday, and a great part of to-day to
learn all this.  This afternoon I went to see Mr. Kellner.  I found
him murdered."  He stated it merely as an inconvenient incident.  "In
the room with the body were Mr. Birnes, Chief Arkwright of the New
York police, and another New York detective.  I had glanced at the
story of Red Haney and the diamonds in the morning papers, and from
what I knew, and from Mr. Birnes' presence, I surmised something of
the truth.  I was instantly placed under arrest for murder--the murder
of this man I had never seen--the _real_ diamond master, the man who
achieved it all."

He was silent for a moment, as if from infinite weariness.

" . . . Mr. Wynne came, and a Miss Kellner, granddaughter of the dead
man.  . . . He saw me, and understood . . . between us we contrived
that I should be taken away as the murderer, and so prevent an
immediate search of the house. . . . I made no denial. . . . I
permitted myself to be taken . . . some mistake as to identity. . . .
I proved an alibi by the shipping men in Hoboken . . . the diamonds
are there, untold millions of dollars' worth of them . . . the
diamond master is dead!"

Mr. Latham had been listening, as if dazed, to the hurried, somewhat
disconnected, narrative; Mr. Schultze, keener to comprehend all that
the story meant, was silent for a moment.

"Den if all dose men know all he has told us, Laadham," he remarked
finally, "our diamonds are nod worth any more as potatoes _alretty_."

"But they _don't_ know," Mr. Czenki burst out fiercely. "Don't you
understand?  Haney, or somebody, killed Mr. Kellner and stole some
uncut diamonds--you must have seen the newspaper account of it to-day.
The New York police traced Haney's course to Coaldale and to that
house.  But all _they_ know is that sixty thousand dollars' worth of
uncut stones were stolen.  There was not even a suggestion to them of
the millions and millions of dollars' worth that were manufactured.
Don't you understand?  I permitted myself to be accused and arrested,
knowing I could establish an alibi, in order to lead them away from
there and gain time, at least, to give Mr. Wynne an opportunity of
hiding the other diamonds, if they were there.  He understood what I
was trying to do, and fell in with the plan.  He knew that _I_ knew
the diamonds were made.  Mr. Birnes doesn't know; _no_ one knows but
you and me and Mr. Wynne, and perhaps the girl!  But, don't you see,
if you don't accept the proposition he made the diamond market of the
world is ruined?  You are ruined!"

"But how do you know they are _made?_" insisted Mr. Latham doggedly.
"You've never seen them made, have you?"

"_Mein Gott_, Laadham, how do you know when you haf der boil on der
pack of your neck?  You can'd zee him, ain'd id?"  Mr. Schultze
turned to Mr. Czenki.  "Der dhree of us vill go und zee Mr. Wynne. Id
iss der miracle!  Vass iss, iss, und id don'd do any good to say id
ain'd."



CHAPTER XVII

THE GREAT CUBE

A cube of solid, polished steel, some twenty feet square, set on a
spreading base of concrete, and divided perpendicularly down the
middle into Titanic halves, these being snugly fitted one to the
other by a series of triangular corrugations, a variation of the
familiar tongue and groove.  Interlacing the ponderous mass, from
corner to corner, were huge steel bolts, and the hulking heads of
more bolts, some forty on each of the four sides, showed that the
whole might be split into halves at will, and readily made whole
again, one enormous side sliding back and forth on a short track.

In the two undivided faces of the cube, relatively squaring the
center, were four borings somewhat smaller in diameter than an
ordinary pencil, and extending through; and directly in the center
was focused a network of insulated wires which dropped down out of
the gloom overhead.  In the other two sides of the great cube, just
where the dividing lines of the halves came, were the funnel-like
mouths of a two-inch boring.  This, too, extended straight through.

Directly opposite each of the two mouths, a dozen feet away, was
mounted a peculiarly-constructed heavy gun of the naval type.  In a
general sort of way these were not unlike twelve-inch ordnance, but
the breech was much larger in proportion, the barrel longer, and the
bore only two instead of twelve inches.  The mountings were high, and
the adjustment so delicate that, looking into the open breech of one
gun, the bore through the twenty-foot cube and through the barrel of
the gun on the other side seemed to be continuous.

"This is the diamond-making machine, gentlemen," said Mr. Wynne, and
he indicated to Mr. Latham, Mr. Schultze and Mr. Czenki the cube and
the two guns.  "It is perfectly simple in construction, has enormous
powers of resistance, as you may guess, and is as delicately fitted
as a watch, being regulated by electric power.  This cube is the
solution of the high-pressure, high-temperature problem, which was
only one of the many seemingly insuperable obstacles to be overcome.
When the bolts are withdrawn one half slides back; when the bolts are
in position it is as solid as if it were in one piece, and perfectly
able to withstand a force greater than the ingenuity of man has ever
before been able to contrive.  This force is a combination of a heat
one-half that of the sun on its surface, and a head-on impact of two
one-hundred-pound projectiles fired less than forty feet apart with
an enormous charge of cordite, and possessing an initial velocity
greater than was ever recorded in gunnery.

"This vast force centers in a sort of furnace in the middle of the
cube.  The furnace is round, about three feet long and three feet in
diameter, built of half a dozen fire-resisting substances in layers,
perforated for electric wires, with an opening through it lengthwise
of the exact size of the borings in the guns and in the cube.  It fits
snugly into a receptacle cut out for it in the center of the cube, and
is intended to protect the steel of the cube proper from the intense
heat.  This heat reaches the furnace by electric wires which enter the
cube from the sides, as you see, being brought here by a conduit along
the river-bed from a large power-plant five miles away.  Twenty-eight
large wires are necessary to bring it; I own the power-plant,
ostensibly for the operation of a small sugar refinery.  I may add
that the furnace is a variation of the principle employed by Professor
Moissan, in Paris."  He turned to Mr. Czenki.  "You may remember
having heard me mention him?"

"I remember," the expert acquiesced grimly.

"Now, pure carbon is vaporized, as you perhaps know, at a fraction
less than five thousand degrees Fahrenheit," Mr. Wynne continued.  "A
carbon not merely chemically pure but _absolutely_ pure, in highly
compressed disks, is packed in the furnace, the furnace placed within
the cube, the ends of the two-inch opening in the furnace being
blocked to prevent expansion, the cube closed, the bolts fastened, and
heat applied, for several minutes--a heat, gentlemen, of five thousand
two hundred and eighty degrees Fahrenheit.  The heat of the sun is
only about ten thousand degrees.  And then the pressure of about
seven thousand tons to the square inch is added by means of the two
guns.  In other words, gentlemen, pure carbon, vaporized, is caught
between two projectiles which enter the cube simultaneously from
opposite sides, being fired by electricity.  The impact is so terrific
that what had been two feet of compressed carbon is instantly
condensed into an irregular disk, one inch or an inch and a half
thick.  _And that disk, gentlemen, is a diamond!_

"The violence of the operation, coupled with the intense heat, fuses
everything--furnace, projectiles, electric wires, fire-brick, even
asbestos, into a single mass.  The cube is opened, and this mass,
white-hot, is dropped into cold water.  This increases the pressure
until the mass is cool.  Then it is broken away, and in the center is
a diamond--as big as a biscuit, gentlemen!  Four small bores lead
from the two-inch bore through the cube, and permit the escape of air
as the projectiles enter.  There is no rebound because the elastic
quality of the carbon is crushed out of existence--driven, I may say,
into the diamond itself.  Of course the furnace, the two projectiles
and the connecting electric wires are all destroyed at each charge,
which brings the total cost of the operation to a little more than
eight hundred dollars, including nearly three tons of brown sugar.
The diamond resulting is worth at least a million when broken up for
cutting, sometimes even two millions.  That is all, I think."

There was a long, awed silence.  Mr. Latham, leaning against the
giant cube, stared thoughtfully at his toes; Mr. Schultze was peering
curiously about him, thence off into the gloom; Mr. Czenki still had
a question.

"I understand that all the diamonds were made in that disk-like
shape," he remarked at last.  "Then the uncut stones that were stolen
were--"

"They were natural stones," interrupted Mr. Wynne, "imported for
purposes of study and experiment.  I told Chief Arkwright the truth,
but not all of it.  In the last twenty years Mr. Kellner had
destroyed some twenty thousand dollars' worth of diamonds in this
way.  I may add that while Mr. Kellner had succeeded in making
diamonds of large size he had never made a perfect one until eight
years ago.  But meanwhile the expenses of the work, as you will
understand, were enormous, so during the past eight years about a
million dollars' worth of diamonds have been sold, one or two at a
time, to meet this expense."

He paused a moment, then resumed musingly:

"All this, you understand, is not the work of a day  Mr. Kellner was
nearly eighty-one years old, and it was fifty-eight years ago that
he began work here.  The cubes there were made and placed in position
thirty years ago; the guns have been there for twenty-eight years--
so long, in fact, that recollection of them has passed from the minds
of the men who made them.  And, until four years ago, he was assisted
by his son, Miss Kellner's father, and her brother.  There was some
explosion in this chamber where we stand which killed them both, and
since then he has worked alone.  His son--Miss Kellner's father--was
the inventor of the machine which has enabled us to cut all the
stones I showed you.  I mailed the application for patent on this
machine to Washington three days ago.  It is as intricate as a linotype
and delicate as a chronometer, but it does the work of fifty expert
hand-cutters.  Until patent papers are granted I must ask that I be
allowed to protect that."

Mr. Latham turned upon him quickly.

"But you've explained all this to us fully," he exclaimed sharply,
indicating the cube and the guns.  "We _could_ duplicate that if we
liked."

"Yes, you could, Mr. Latham," replied Mr. Wynne slowly, "but you
can't duplicate the brain that isolated absolutely pure carbon from
the charred residue of brown sugar.  That brain was Mr. Kellner's;
the secret died with him!"

Again there was a long silence, broken at last by Mr. Schultze:

"Dat means no more diamonds can be made undil some one else can make
der pure carbon, ain'd id?  Yah!  Und dat brings us down to der
question, How many diamonds are made alretty?"

"The diamonds I showed you gentlemen were all that have been cut thus
far," replied Mr. Wynne.  "Less than twenty of the disks were used in
making them.  There are now some five hundred more of these disks in
existence--roughly a billion dollars' worth--so you see I am prepared
to hold you to my proposition that you buy one hundred million
dollars' worth of them at one-half the carat price you now pay in the
open market."

Mr. Latham passed one hand across a brow bedewed with perspiration,
and stared helplessly at the German.

"The work of cutting could go on steadily here, under the direction of
Mr. Czenki," Mr. Wynne resumed after a moment.  "The secrecy of this
place has not been violated for forty years.  We are now one hundred
and seventy feet below ground level, in a gallery of the abandoned
coal mine which gave Coaldale its name, reached underground from the
cellar in the cottage.  Roofs and walls of the entire place are shored
up to insure safety, and heavy felts make this chamber sound-proof,
smothering even the detonation of the guns.  Mr. Czenki is the man
to do the work.  Mr. Kellner, for ten years, held him to be the first
expert in the world, and it would be carrying out his wishes if Mr.
Czenki would agree.  If _he_ does not _I_ shall undertake it, _and
flood the market!_"  His voice hardened a little.  "And, gentlemen,
call off your detectives.  The secret is now more yours than mine.
It destroys _you_ if it becomes known, not _me!_  The New York police
have turned this end of the investigation over to the local police,
and they are fools; all the forms have been complied with, so this
place is safe.  Now call off your men!  On the day the last diamond
is delivered to you, and the payment of one hundred million dollars
is completed, everything here will be destroyed.  That's all!"

"One hundred million dollars!" repeated Mr. Latham.  "Even if we
accept the proposition, Schultze, how can we raise that enormous sum
within a year, and preserve the secret?"

"Id ain'd a question of _can_, Laadham--id's a question of _musd_,"
was the reply.  He thoughtfully regarded Mr. Wynne.  "Id's only
Sunday nighd, yed; we haf undil Thursday to answer, you remember."
He turned to Mr. Latham, with a recurrence of whimsical philosophy.
"Think of id, Laadham, der alchemisds tried for dhree thousand years
to make a piece of gold so big as a needle-point und didn'd; und he
made diamonds so big as your fist mit a liddle cordide und some
elecdricity!  _Mein Gott_, man!  Think of id!"


The jewelers accepted Mr. Wynne's proposition.  Mr. Wynne bowed his
thanks, and handed to Mr. Czenki a scientific periodical opened at a
page which bore a head-line:

                Newly Discovered Property of Radium.
              Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds and Sapphires
                Changed in Color by Exposure of One
                          Month to Radium.


For the fourth time Red Haney underwent the "third degree."  It
culminated in a full confession of the murder of Mr. Kellner.  There
had been no accomplice.

"Yer see, Chief," he explained apologetically, "you an' that other
guy" (meaning Mr. Birnes) "was so dead set on sayin' there was
somebody else in it, an' was so ready wit' yer descriptions, that it
looked good to me, an' I said 'Sure,' but _I_ done it."



THE END





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