Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org

Title: The Northing Tramp
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100561.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2011
Date most recently updated: August 2011

Produced by: Nicola Kuhlen

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Northing Tramp
Author: Edgar Wallace

*

Chapter 1


THE tramp looked to be less savoury than most tramps; and more dangerous.
For he was playing with a serviceable automatic pistol, throwing it from
one hand and catching it with the other, balancing its muzzle on his
forefinger with an anxious eye as it leant first one way and then another;
or letting it slip through his hands until the barrel was pointing
earthwards. This pistol was rather like a precious plaything; he could
neither keep his eyes nor hands from it, and when, tired of the toy, he
slipped it into the pocket of his tattered pants, the disappearance was
momentary. Out it came again, to be fondled and tossed and spun. "Such
things cannot be!" said the tramp, aloud, not once, but many times in the
course of his play. He was unmistakably English, and what an English
tramp was doing on the outskirts of Littleburg, in the State of New York,
requires, but for the moment evades, explanation. He was not pleasant
even as tramps go. His face was blotched and swollen, he carried a week's
growth of beard, one eye was recovering from the violent impact of a fist
delivered a week before by a brother tramp whom he had awakened at an
inconvenient moment. He might explain the swelling by his ignorance of
the properties of poison ivy, but there was nobody interested enough to
ask. His collarless shirt was grimy, his apology for a jacket had
bottomless pits for pockets; on the back of his head, as he juggled the
pistol, he maintained an ancient derby hat, badly dented, the rim
rat-eaten.

"Such things cannot be," said the tramp, who called himself Robin. The
pistol slipped from his hand and fell on his foot. He said "Ouch!" like a
Christian man and rubbed the toe that was visible between upper and sole.
Somebody was coming through the little wood. He slipped the pistol into
his pocket, and, moving noiselessly between bushes, crouched down. A
girl, rather pretty he thought; very slim and graceful, he saw. A local
aristocrat, he guessed. She wore a striped silk dress and swung a
walking-stick with great resolution. She stopped almost opposite to him
and lit a cigarette. Whether for effect or enjoyment was her own mystery.
Not a hundred yards away, the wood path joined the town road, and a
double line of big frame houses were inhabited by the kind of people who
would most likely be shocked by the spectacle of a cigarette-smoking
female.

"Effect," thought Robin. "Bless the woman, she's going to set 'em
alight!" From where he crouched he had seen the look of distaste with
which she had examined the feebly smoking cylinder. She puffed
tremendously to bring it into working order, and then went on. He rather
sympathised with people who shocked folks: he had shocked so many
himself, and was to continue. Leisurely he returned to the path. Should
he wait for nightfall or make a circuit of the town?--there must be a
road west of the rolling mills to the north or past the big cheese
factory to the south. Or should he walk boldly through the main street,
endure the questions and admonitions of a vigilant constabulary, and risk
being run out of town, so long as they ran him out at, the right end? He
had elected for the first course even before he gave the matter
consideration. The town way was too dangerous, Red Beard might be there
and the fat little man who ran so surprisingly fast and threw knives with
such extraordinary skill. Another pedestrian was coming--walking so
softly on rubber shoes that Robin did not hear him until too late. He was
a lank young man, very smartly dressed, with a straw hat adorned with a
college ribbon tilted over his right eye. The buckle of the belt which
encircled his wasp waist and supported nicely creased trousers, was
golden, his shirt beautifully figured. He might have just walked out of
any advertisement page of almost any magazine. The rather large mouth
twisted in a grin at the sight of the ragged figure sitting by the path
side.

"'Lo, bo'!"

"'Lo!" said Robin.

"Going far?"

"Not far--Canada, I guess. I'll get ferried over from Ogdensburg."

"Fine: got your passport 'n' everything?" Sarcasm was wasted on Robin.

"I'll get past on my face," he said. The young man chuckled and offered a
very silvery case...thought better of it and withdrew the cigarette
himself. Robin respected the precaution; his hands were not very clean.
He lit the cigarette with a match that he took from the lining of his hat
and smoked luxuriously.

"You won't find it easy. Those Canadian police are fierce. A fellow I
know used to run hooch across, but you can't do that now--too fierce."
He was enjoying his condescension, his fellowship with the lowly and the
possibly criminal. He was broad-minded, he explained. He had often talked
with the genus hobo, and had learnt a lot. Only a man of the world could
talk with tramps without loss of dignity. One need not be common because
one associated with common people.

"That's what I can't get our folks to understand," he complained. "Old
people get kind of narrow-minded--and girls. Colleges ruin girls. They
get stuck up and nobody's good enough for 'um. And Europe--meeting lords
and counts that are only after their money. I say 'See America first!"

Robin the tramp sent a cloud of grey smoke up to the pine tops.

"Somebody said it before you," he suggested. "It sounds that way to me."

The young man's name was Samuel Wasser. His father kept the biggest store
in Littleburg--Wasser's Universal Store. Samuel believed that every man
was entitled to live his own life, and was careful to explain that a
young man's own life was an altogether different life from any that was
planned for him by people who were "past it."

"I made seven thousand dollars in one year," he said. "I got in with a
live crowd fall before last--but the Canadian police are fierce, and the
Federal officers are fiercer...still, seven thousand!" He was very
young; had the joy of youth in displaying his own virtues and superior
possessions. He rattled certain keys in his pocket, hitched up his vivid
tie, looked despisingly at the main street of Littleburg and asked:

"Did you see a young lady come along? Kind of stripey dress?" Robin
nodded.

"I'm getting married tonight," said Samuel lugubriously. "Got to! It's a
mistake, but they're all for it. My governor and her uncle. It's tough on
me. A man ought to see something of life. It isn't as though I was one of
 these country jakes, jump at the first skirt he sees. I'm a college man
and I know there's something beyond...a bigger world "--he described
illustrative circles with this hands--"sort of--well, you know what I
mean, bo'."

Robin knew what he meant.

"Seems funny talking all this stuff to you--but you're a man of the
world. Folks look down on you boys, but you see things--the wide open
spaces of God's world."

"Sure," said Robin. The tag had a familiar ring. "Where men are men," he
added. He had not seen a movie show since--a long time; but his memory
was retentive.

"Have another cigarette...here...two. I'll be getting along."
Robin followed the dapper figure of the bridegroom until it was out of
sight. He wished he had asked him for a dollar. Looking up into the
western sky he saw above the dim haze that lay on the horizon, the mass
of a gathering storm.

"Maybe it will come soon," he said hopefully. Red Beard did not like
rain, and the fat little man who threw knives loathed it.


Chapter 2


MR. PFFIEFER was a stout man with a sense of humour; but since he was a
lawyer, having his dealings with a dour people who had one public joke
which served the whole county when recited at farmers' conventions, and
one private obscenity which, told in a smoky atmosphere 'twixt shuffle
and cut, had convulsed generations of hearers, he never displayed the
bubbling sense of fun that lay behind his pink mask of a face. He could
have filled his untidy office with unholy laughter now, but he kept a
solemn face, for the man who sat on the opposite side of a table covered
with uneven mounds of papers, law books and personal memoranda, was a
great personage, a justice of the peace and the leading farmer in the
county.

"Let me get this thing right, Mr. Pffiefer," Andrew Elmer's harsh voice
was tense with anxiety. "I get noth'n' out of this estate unless October
is married on her twen'y-first anniversary?"

Mr. Pffiefer inclined his head gravely. "That is how the will reads." His
podgy fingers smoothed out the typewritten document before him.

"To my brother-in-law twenty thousand dollars and the residue of my
estate to my daughter October Jones to be conveyed on the marriage of my
daughter on or before her twenty-first anniversary of her birth." Andrew
Elmer scratched his head irritably.

"That lawyer over in Ogdensburg figured it out this way. I get twenty
thousand dollars, anyway. Then when October marries--"

"Who is responsible for this curious instrument?" interrupted the
lawyer. Andrew shifted uneasily.

"Well--I guess I drew it up. Jenny left most all her business to me."

He was a thin man with a hard, angular face and the habit of moving his
lips in silent speech. He held long conversations with himself, his
straight slit of a mouth working at a great speed, though no sound came.
Now he spoke to himself rapidly, his upper lip going up and down almost
comically.

"Never was any reason to have this thing tested," he said at last.
"Jenny's money was tied up in mortgages an' they only just fell in. It was
that bank president over at Ogdensburg that allowed I didn't ought to
touch the money till October was married. I figured it out this way. That
the residoo's all that concerns her..."

"Is there any residue, Mr. Elmer?" There was a certain dryness in the
lawyer's tone, but Elmer saw nothing otfensive in the question.

"Why, no: not much. Naturally there's always a home for October with me
an' Mrs. Elmer. That's God's holy ord'nance--to protect the fatherless
an' everything, She's been a great expense...college an' clothes, an'
the wedding'll cost something. I figured it out when I drawed up that
will-". Mr. Pffiefer sighed heavily.

"Your legacy is contingent--just as October's is contingent. When is the
wedding to be?"

Like a ghost of wintry sunlight was the fleeting brightness which came to
Elmer's harsh face. "Tonight; that's why I dropped in to see you. Mrs.
Elmer figured it this way: you can be too economic, says she. For a
dollar or so you can get the law of it, so's there'll be no come-back.
I'd feel pretty mean if after October was out of the...was fixed up,
there was a rumpus over the will."

"Marrying Sam Wasser, ain't she?" Mr. Elmer nodded, his eyes fixed on the
buggy and the lean horse that was hitched just outside the window. That
cadaverous animal was eating greedily from the back of a hay trolley
which had been incautiously drawn up within reach.

"Yeh-Sam's a nice feller." He ruminated on this for a while.

"October's kind of crazy--no, not about Sam. Obstinate as an old mule.
She goes mad--yes, sir. Seen her stand on the top of the well an' say,
'You touch me an' I'll jump right in'--yes, sir. Sparin' the rod's the
ruin of this generation. My father took a slat to all of us, boy an' girl
alike. An' I'm her guardian, ain't I? Mrs. Elmer reckons that a spankin'
is just what October wants. But there it is--she didn't holler 'r
anything, just walked to the well an' said, 'If you beat me I'll jump
in.' I figure that self-destruction is about the wickedest thing anybody
can talk about. It goes plumb clean in the face of divine Providence.
That's October. She'll do most anything, but it's got to be done her way.
Sam's a nice, slick young feller. His pa's got building lots and
apartment houses down in Ogdensburg, besides the store, and Sam's made
money. I'm not sayin' that I'd like to make profit on the degradation--to
the level of the beasts in the field--of my fellow critters...but
the money's good."

The lawyer pieced together and interpreted, from this disjointed evidence
of October's wickedness and Sam Wasser's virtues, a certain difficulty in
the operation of match-making.

"October's just as hard as a flint stone. She's never found grace, though
me an' Mrs. Elmer's prayed an' prayed till we're just sick of prayin',
an' Reverend Stevens has put in a whole lot of private supplications to
the Throne. I guess Satan does a lot of work around these high schools."

There was a silence. Mr. Elmer's long, shaven upper lip wrinkled and
straightened with uncanny rapidity. A student of lip-reading, the
fascinated Mr. Pffiefer saw words--

"October," "Giving trouble," and, many times, "Money." He became
audible.

"You never know where you're at with October. S'pose you say, 'October,
there's a chicken pie for dinner,' she says 'Yes.' And when you hand out
the plate she says, 'I don't eat chicken pie,' just like that. Don't say
anything till you push the plate at her." Mr. Elmer relapsed into
silence: evidently his mind had reverted to the will. The lawyer read
"residue" and "hell" and other words.

"She's fast, too. Smoking on Main Street only this morning, and after I
prayed her an' Mrs. Elmer almost went down on her knees..."

"What was the great idea?" Mr. Pffiefer permitted himself the question.
"This will, I mean. Why residue, why marriage, before October's
twenty-first anniversary?"

Mr. Elmer glanced at him resentfully.

"Jenny believed in marryin' young for one thing. And that's right, Mr.
Pffiefer. The psalmist said, 'A maid--'"

"Yes, yes," said the lawyer, a little testily, "we know what he said. But
David never was my idea of a Sabbath school teacher. Mrs. Jones's views
are understandable. But fixing the will that way--I can't get round that
somehow. Almost looks as if it was a bribe to get October off your
hands." His bright eyes transfixed Mr. Elmer for a second, but that
worthy and conscientious man stared dumbly through the window. If he
heard the challenge he did not accept.

"Almost looks," said Pffiefer, with a hint of rising heat, "as if this
humbug about the residue of an estate, which palpably and obviously has
no existence, was a lure to a likely bridegroom. Sounds grand, 'residue
of my estate,' but so far as I can see, Elmer, there are ten acres of
marsh and a cottage that no man, or woman could ever live in--say five
hundred dollars--?" He jerked his head on one side inquiringly.

"Twen'y-five hundred dollars," murmured Mr. Elmer. "Got a teller over
from Ogdens to value it. He said the new Lakes canal might be cut right
through that property. What'll I be owing you, Mr. Pffiefer?" The
lawyer's first inclination was to say "Nothing," but he thought better of
that.

"Ten dollars," he said briefly, and saw the old man wince. Mr. Elmer paid
on the nail, but he paid with pain. At the door of the office he paused.
A thought occurred to the lawyer.

"Say, Mr. Elmer, suppose Sam doesn't want to marry? He's got kind of
smart lately. And he has more money than seems right." Mr. Elmer shifted
uncomfortably.

"Sam's a worker," he said. "He's made money out of real estate--"

"Where?" asked the other bluntly. "I know as much about realty in this
country as the next man, and I don't remember seein' Sam's name figurin'
in any deal." Mr. Elmer was edging to the door.

"I think the rain'll hold up long enough to get in the corn," he stated.
"Roots are just no good at all. Maybe I'll get you to fix that new lease
I've gave to Orson Clark." On this good and promising line he made his
exit. Mr. Pffiefer saw him climb slowly into the buggy and untie the
lines. He had touched a very sore place: Mr. Elmer was panic-stricken.
And there was every reason why he should be. Give a dog a bad name and
hang him. Give a man, or, worse, a woman, a name which is neither Mary
nor Jane, but hovers somewhere about in the opposite end of the pole, and
she attracts to herself qualities and weaknesses which in some ineffable
way are traceable to her misguided nomenclature.

They who named October Jones were with the shades, though one of them had
lived long enough to repent of his enterprise. October, under local and
topical influences, had at various times and on particular occasions
styled herself Doris Mabel, and Mary Victoria, and Gloria Wendy. At the
McCube College she was Virginia Guinevere: she chose that name before she
left home and had her baggage boldly initialled V. G. J.

"I guess I can't get rid of the Jones," she said thoughtfully, her
disapproving eye upon the 'J.' "That old sea-man will kind of hang
around, with his chubby little knees under my ears, all time."

"I am afraid so," said her parent wearily. He had been a tall man,
hollow-cheeked, long-bearded. Children did not interest him; October
bored him. She had a trick of borrowing rare volumes from his library and
leaving them on a wood-pile or amidst the golden rod or wherever she
happened to be when it started raining.

"Jones was a pretty mean kind of name," she suggested. "Can't you change
it, daddy?" Mr. Jones sighed and tapped his nose with a tortoiseshell
paper-knife.

"It satisfied my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather and
innumerable ancestors before them--" Her brows knit.

"Who was the first Jones?" she demanded.

"I'll have to get the biology of that. I guess they sort of came out of
their protoplasms simultaneous."

"--ly!" murmured Mr. Jones. "I wish you would get but of that habit,
October-" October groaned.

"What is the matter with Virginia?" she asked. "That is one cute little
name!" There was nothing that was October in her appearance, for October
is a red and brown month, and she was pinkish and whitish: she had April
eyes and hair that was harvest colour, and she had a queer, searching
habit of glance that was disconcerting. People who did not know her read
into this an offensive scepticism, whilst in reality it was eagerness for
knowledge. As to her moral character: Miss Washburton Flemming, Principal
of the Flemming Preparatory School for Girls, wrote to her father:

"I would point out one characteristic of October's which may have escaped
your observation, and that is her Intense Romanticism, which, linked as
it is with an Exaltation of Spirit, may lead her into ways which we
should all deplore. It is unfortunate that the dear child was indeed the
inestimable boon of a Mother's Love. Perhaps she is more self-controlled
today than she was when she carne under our care..."

"How much more of this stuff?" snarled Stedman Jones as he turned the
page--there were three more pages and a two-page postscript. He dropped
the letter on the floor. He really didn't care how intense or how
romantic October was, or how exalted she might be. Whilst he paid her
fees and her amazing extras, he did not wish people to write letters to
him about her or anybody or anything. He had not to buy her dresses,
thank heavens. There was an income from his wife's estate administered by
a lout of a brother-in-law whom he had only met twice in his lifetime and
with whom, in consequence, he had only quarrelled twice. Stedman was a
bibliophile, the author of a scholarly volume of medieval French history,
and the only times he was ever really cheerful with October were the last
week of her short vacation. Nobody ever called her Virginia or Alys or
Gloria Wendy or Guinevere or anything but October--the nearest she got
to an acceptable nickname was when somebody, reasoning along intelligent
lines, called her "Huit." In another age she would have been a Joan of
Arc: lost causes had for her an attraction which she could not resist.
She was by turns a parlour Socialist, a Worker of the World, an anarchist
and a good Christian woman.

Cross October in the pursuit of her legitimate rainbows, and she was
terrible; thwart her, and you trebled her resolution; forbid her, and she
bared her feet for the red-hot shares across which she was prepared to
walk to her objective. Her father died the second year she was at
McCubes. She spent two days trying to be sorry--trying to remember
something that made him different and clearer. She confided to the
principal, who consoled her with conventional references to the source of
all comfort, that she had not been greatly successful.

"There is really nothing intrinsically precious about fathers--or
mothers either," she said, to the good lady's distress. "You give back
people all that they give to you. Parents are only precious when they
love their children--otherwise they are just Mr. Jones and Mr. Hobson.
That is how I feel about Daddy. I tried hard to be sorry, but the only
tear I've shed is when I got maudlin about being an orphan. There's an
awful lot of self-pity about us orphans!" Miss Washburton Flemming felt
it necessary to straighten a dangerous angle.

"Your father, my dear, worked very hard for you. He gave you a
comfortable home, he bought you all that you have, and paid your
fees..."

"He'd have been arrested if he hadn't," said October. "I'm terribly
sorry, Miss Flemming, but I've. just got to get this thing right from my
own point of view. I don't think any other matters to me, just now." Her
father left practically no money--he never had any to leave; she learnt
this from the big, uncouth Andrew Elmer. Mr. Jones had merely an annuity
which died with him. Mr. Elmer, whom she remembered dimly, was an uncle,
the brother-in-law of her mother and sole executor of her mother's
estate. Incidentally her guardian by law and soon to be her most
unwilling host. The translation from the intenseness of McCubes to the
modified placidity of Four Beech Farm had at first the illusion of a
desirable change; it was as though she had come through the buffets and
tossing; of a whirlpool to calm waters. In twenty-four hours those calm
waters had the appearance of a stagnant pool on which the green scum was
already forming. And Mrs. Adelaide Elmer was a shocking substitute for
the human contacts she had broken. October did not rebel: rebellion was
her normal state of being. The wildness of a tiger is unaffected by a
change of cages; the new keeper had met with nothing fiercer than the
domestic cat, and was outraged because her charge showed her teeth when
she should have purred. Wise Miss Flemming had fixed an imponderable
average of behaviour, balancing periodic atheisms against rhapsodical
pieties, and discovered a standard of spiritual excellence which was
altogether admirable. Mrs. Elmer lacked the qualities of discrimination.
She was in truth on the side of uncharity, having been strictly trained
in a school which enjoined obedience to parents, blind faith in the Holy
Word, and the meek and awe-stricken silence of all children in the
presence of their elders. The Reverend Stevens was called in, his
assistance invoked. He came one Saturday afternoon, bringing in his large
hand three little books of counsel and comfort. October was not impressed
by him, and in truth his education had been of an intensive character and
there were certain appalling gaps which only social experience or innate
goodness of heart could have bridged.

"He has all the thrones and oil paintings of theology, but there is no
carpet on his floor and he eats with his fingers," said October
metaphorically. Mrs. Elmer, who took this literally, was momentarily
paralysed.

"A nicer man never lived"--her voice was a cracked falsetto when she was
agitated--"and uses a knife and fork same as you, October. I never heard
a wickeder story..."

October did not argue. She never argued unless there was a victory to be
gained. The proposal that she should marry, nervously offered by Andrews
Elmer, was accepted with remarkable patience. "Really?" October was
interested. "Who have you got?"

Andrew repressed a desire to expatiate on the cold-bloodedness of the
question.

"I been talking to Lee Wasser..." he began. The next day Samuel was
introduced. He was rather sure of himself and he spoke unceasingly on his
favourite topic. October listened with downcast eyes. When he had gone,
she asked:

"Does this young man know anybody besides himself?" Mr. Elmer did not
understand her. Samuel brought flowers and candy and new facts and
anecdotes which showed him in an heroic light. He had a neat turn of
humour and a gift of repartee. He told her all about this. His
conversation was larded with: "So I says to Ed," and "So Al says to me,"
and he invariably concluded every such narrative with the assurance: "I
thought they'd died laughin'." Once she asked if anybody had ever died in
these happy circumstances, and he was taken aback.

"Well...I mean...of course they didn't die...what I meant was...well,
you know." He went home that night, his mind clouded with doubt. Once,
when they were alone, sitting on the porch on a hot June night, he grew
sentimental...tried to kiss her. It was his right, as he explained
afterwards. There was no unseemly struggle or resistance, no lips seeking
lips and pecking at an ear. She held him back with one athletic hand and
asked him not to be a fool. No date had been fixed for the wedding. The
announcement on the part of Andrew Elmer that, by a clause in her
mother's will, October must be married on her twenty-first birthday, came
in the nature of a shock to everybody but October. When she was told, a
week before the date, she merely said "Oh?"

Sam had a consultation with his father and ordered an expensive suite at
an hotel romantically situated on the banks of the Oswegatchie. Thus
matters stood when Mr. Elmer had his interview with Joe Pffiefer, the man
of law, and found his worst fears fully justified.

The old grey horse ambled on at his own pace; the buggy rocked from side
to side as its spidery-web wheels met an obstruction, and Mr. Elmer
rocked with it. His shrewd eye as surveyed the street. Old man Wasser was
standing outside Wasser's Universal Stores, running his hairy hand
through and again through his mat of grey hair. His octagonal glasses had
slipped down his nose, pugnacity was in the thrust of his long jaw. With
his free hand he was gesticulating to point his observation. And his
audience was Sam, very serious. Not the seriousness of one who was at
that moment an object of admonition, but rather he seemed to have a
partnership in seriousness; his manner spoke agreement. Every time the
waving hand fell to thump an invisible tub, Sam nodded deeply. Mr. Elmer
sniffed: he always sniffed rapidly when he was perturbed: and guided the
languid grey to the broad sidewalk.

"...I was just saying to Sam that it don't feel like a wedding day for
nobody. Seems like when you're camping and find out round about
supper-time that it's been Sunday all day. It don't seem like Sunday-and
it don't seem like Sam's wedding day." Sam shook his head. It only felt
like a wedding day to him because he was uncomfortable and nervous and
rather unhappy.

"It ought to be--different," said Mr. Wasser Senior, glaring up at the
man in the buggy.

"Ought to have a kind of excitement and--well, it ought to be different.
I'm not so sure..." He shook his head. Sam also shook his head.

"I don't see what's the matter with the day-" began Elmer.

"It's the feeling. Kind of hunch, here!" Old Wasser struck his chest.
"You got to be reasonable, Andrew; you got to put yourself in my place.
Sam's my only boy--can't afford to spoil his young life. That's the
point. And October--her wedding day, and here was she, not 'n hour ago,
on this very board walk with a cigarette an' everybody looking at her and
remarking. Old Doctor Vinner and Miss Selby and the city people over at
Linsberg House. And Sam--what did she tell you, Sam?"

Sam emerged from the background and testified.

"She said one man's like another man--only this morning. And she didn't
love me. She said she'd as soon marry a tramp as marry me--she wasn't
particular. She said that a girl had to make a start somewhere an' maybe
I'd do to begin with--" Mr. Elmer drew a deep, whistling breath.

"Wish she'd seen that bum I was talkin' to, she'd change her mind pretty
quick," said Sam, encouraged to eloquence. "I told her that wasn't the
kind of talk I liked to hear from a girl who was wearin' my betrothal
ring. She took it off and heaved it at me. Said she wasn't going to limit
the--what was it?--limit the expression of her personality for fifty
dollars' worth of bad taste-"

"H-w-w w!" breathed Andrew Elmer. Mr. Wasser's face was all smiling
triumph.

"She said maybe she'd change her mind, she wasn't sure--that's when she
told me that one man was like another as far as she was concerned."

"Sam's got the ring in his pocket," confirmed Mr. Wasser.

"She's young." Andrew spoke urgently. "They get that way: doubt their
own judgment. It's natural. She's always spoke well about you to me. I
get plumb tired of hearing her talk of you. It's 'Sam this' and 'Sam
that' mornin' till night. She's proud and likes to hide her feelings."

"Wish she'd hide the line she sold me," said Sam, not wholly convinced,
and yet, since he was a man and young, finding a difficulty in
disbelieving this story of the secret praises which had been lavished
upon him. He looked at his father. The smile had left Mr. Wasser's face;
he was glum and perplexed.

"And we ought to have had her marriage deed fixed, Andrew. What's the
hurry, any way? Give these young people a month or so to think it
over..." He pleaded, but could not insist. Andrew Elmer was in a sense a
partner in his real estate transactions; he had unsuspected pulls,
controlled a certain board of management, was in every way the wrong man
to antagonise.

"It don't feel like a wedding, Andrew. No party, nothing. Kind of mean
and underhand. It will do us no good." Mr. Elmer gathered up the lines:
it was the psychological moment.

"If you and Sam ain't up to Four Beeches round about nine o'clock
to-night, I guess I've got enough sense to know that you've backed out,"
he said sombrely, and laid his whip across the old grey's withers.
Anyway, he ruminated with satisfaction, he had avoided discussing the
very delicate matter of October's financial position. As he was turning
at the fork, a long-bodied touring car came slowly past him. He had a
glimpse of a thin-faced man at the wheel. An Englishman, he guessed by
the monocle. The machine had a Canadian number. Strangers are rare in
Littleburg; he turned his head and looked back after the car, saw it stop
before the Berg House Hotel. A few minutes later he saw two men who were
also strangers. A tall, thick-set man with a short red beard, and a fat
little man whose face was broader than it was long, the breadth being
emphasised by the straight black eyebrows and moustache. They were
striding out side by side, the little man's head no higher than his
companions shoulder. They favoured Mr. Elmer with a quick, sidelong stare
and marched past with no other greeting.

"Littleburg's goin' ahead," said Mr. Elmer. He had large interests in
Littleburg real estate, and had every reason to be pleased at this
slender evidence of the town's growing popularity. The two men marched on
without exchanging a word and turned into Berg House with the precision
of soldiers. A tall, thin man in a long dust-coat was talking to the
clerk. He was an Englishman: his accent betrayed him. Goody looking,
though his face and features were small, sleek-haired, a little petulant.
"...the roads are abominable. Isn't there a post road to Ogdensburg?"
The two men hardly paused in their stride: they heard this as they passed
to the stairway. A stocky, sandy-haired man, who had been dozing in one
of the long chairs that abounded in the vestibule, opened one eye as they
came abreast of him, straightened up, relit the stub of his dead cigar,
and followed them up the stairs. Evidently he knew their habitation, for
he knocked on No. 7 and a voice barked permission to enter.

"'Morning, boys." He nodded affably to the two, and such was his perfect
assurance that there was no need for him to display the silver badge that
was pinned on the inside of his coat.

"Heard you were in town. Stayin' long?" Red Beard finished the glass of
water he was drinking when the detective entered, wiped his moustache
daintily with a silk handkerchief and jerked a cigar from his pocket.

"Me and my friend are just stoppin' over to look round," he said. "We
reckon to go on to Philadelphia, N.Y., by the night train. Thasso, Lenny?
" He looked to his friend for support.

"Thasso," said Lenny. The sandy man lit the cigar.

"Chief asked me to make a call," he said apologetically. "Thought maybe
you mightn't know we'd seen you arrive. Pretty poor place, Littleburg.
You'd starve here, and that's a fact. Ogdenburg's not much better. The
police have had a clean-up lately and they're mighty sore with folks who
think they're easy. Chief was on the line to them this morning, and they
reckoned Ogdenshurg wouldn't be healthy for you."

"Philadelphia," said Red Beard, "and we're only stopping off. Utica's
our home."

"Fine," said the sandy man, by nature and training a sceptic. "Either of
you boys got a gun?" Red Beard spread out his arms invitingly, and the
detective made a quick search first of one and then of the other. No
lethal weapon was discovered.

"That's fine," said the sandy man cheerfully.

"I'll be seeing you at the depot about nine?"

"Sure thing," said Red Beard as heartily. The detective went down through
the vestibule and telephoned. The Englishman had departed.

"Some of these guys want the earth," complained the clerk, "'is Lordship
wants a new post road."

"English?"

"And some," said the clerk. An hour later Red Beard and his friend came
down to the lounge and were silent spectators of a ceremony. A number of
high-spirited young men of Littleburg had formed a ring about an
embarrassed young man and they were chanting a ribald chorus. Red Beard
gathered from this that the young gentleman in the centre was on the
verge of matrimony. They were chanting the lay of a local poet and were
by now word perfect.

"Old Sam Wasser was a mean old skunk, He keeps his hooch where it can't
be drunk. He marries a girl and he never sends A 'come-all-ye' to his
faithful friends-"

"Aw...listen, fellers...!"

"There ain't no cake for the bride to cut, No hooch for the health of
this poor nut. Old Sam Wasser is a mean old dog. Old Sam Wasser is a mean
old hog, A mean old hog..."

"AW, listen, fellers!" The circle broke into a formless little group
from which great noises emerged.

"You are, Sam! And so you are...you old skinflint'!"

"Aw, listen!...say, come along to my apartment..." The crowd billowed
unevenly towards the door, Mr. Bennett, the proprietor of Berg House,
rubbing his hands in the background and looking happy for the first time
since this congregation had irrupted into his hotel. Sam Wasser's
"apartment" was above the garage of his suffering parent. Sam, who was a
strangely old boy, gave little parties here at times. There were secret
closets wherein The Right Stuff was stored, and an odd assortment of
glasses. Towards the end of the afternoon Sam made a suggestion.

"Lishen, fellers...got an idea. There'sh an ole hobo up in the woods...good
feller...man of the world. Le's go right along an' gim a drink. Bet
he ain't tasted the Right Stuff in years...Le's all be bums...Glor'us
Fraternity Men who Love Wide Open Spacesh...Le's..."


Chapter 3


MRS. ELMER made several visits to the bedroom. She had endeavoured
throughout the day to arouse October to a sense of her responsibilities,
but unsuccessfully.

"You'd break the heart of a stone," said Mrs. Elmer bitterly. She was a
terribly thin woman, with a face that was all angles, and her manner was
normally and permanently acidulated.

"How can I pack, October? I don't know what you want to take with you."
October put down her book and regarded the thin lady thoughtfully.

"Anything. What does a bride wear, anyway?" It was the first spark of
interest she had shown.

"Your blue, the satiny one. Mr. Elmer thought that as the wedding was to
be quiet it was waste of money to buy fal-de-rals..."

"Oh, Lord!" groaned October. "Who wants fal-de-rals? Anything you like,
Mrs. Elmer. Not too much; I don't want the bother of unpacking."

"Can't you do anything?" demanded the exasperated woman. "Do you expect
me to break my back over your trunks?"

"Don't pack 'em," said October, and returned her mind to the book. She
had her supper in her room alone. She was reading by the light of a
kerosene lamp, her head on one hand, when Mrs. Elmer in rustling black
came twittering in to her.

"The Reverend Stevens has come," she whispered, as though the information
were too intimate to be spoken aloud. October put down her book,
carefully marked the place, and stood up, brushing back her hair with a
quick gesture.

"What does he want?" she asked astoundingly. Mrs. Elmer did not swoon.

"You're goin' to be married, ain't you?" she demanded violently.

"Oh, that! The long parlour at Four Beeches was at its worst a gaunt and
cheerless room. All that flowers, garden-grown, could do to its
embellishment had been done. The flowers gave the room a beauty and a
dignity which October had not noticed before. Mr. Elmer in his Sunday
best black and the Reverend Stevens in funereal black were solemn
figures. So were Johnny Woodgers, the hired man, and his wife, and Art
Fingle, the clerk from the Farmers' Bank, and Martha Dimmock, the widow
woman who was accounted Mrs. Elmer's closest and most confidential
friend. October looked in vain for Sam.

"You didn't wear The Blue after all," whispered Mrs. Elmers. "That dress
looks too gay."

"I feel gay," said October clearly. The Reverend Stevens held a whispered
conversation with Andrew Elmer, and Mr. Elmer went out. It was Mr.
Stevens's opportunity. He tiptoed across the room. He had the manner of
one in the presence of the newly deceased.

"You are about to embark upon a new life and a new career," he said; "a
career which calls for the exercise of all the virtues-"

"Where is this Sam person?" demanded October. "I'd like to take one
really good look at him before I decide."

"He will be here presently? Mr. Stevens was annoyed. October had that
effect on him. He, too, had need to exercise all his Christian virtues
when he was brought into contact with her. To say that he disliked her
intensely is to put the situation truthfully. He was looking forward to
the day when she would be removed to the fold which sheltered the
Lutheran Wassers.

"You are about to embark upon a new-" The sound of voices came faintly
from the road outside: they must have been very loud voices to reach so
far. Somebody was laughing stupidly.

"--a new career, as I say. There can only be one sure guide even in the
most paltry affairs-"

The voices were so loud now that he stopped. The door was flung open; Mr.
Elmer came in backwards, waving his hands frantically. After him, facing
first one way and then the other, Mr. Wasser in a tail coat, very flushed
and talking at the top of his voice. The little crowd that followed
exploded into the room. Sam Wasser was very noticeable. He had a flag
attached to a walking-cane and he waved it furiously. Hatless and bearing
marks of strife, he did not differ in this respect from his elated
friends.

"Here he ish! Whoop! Rush that weddin'. Yi-yap! Gerraway!" This to his
frantic father. Then, in a sing-song chorus which was lustily sung by his
supporters:

"Calling your bluff, November Jones, December Jones, callin' your bluff,
November Jones, September Jones-wow!"

Then it was that October saw the tramp. He was pushed forward by friendly
hands and stood swaying unsteadily on his feet. His eye was glassy, his
air a little wild. Somebody had ripped his coat so that only one sleeve
remained.

"Sorry," he said thickly. Sorry? She looked at him keenly. One word, and
it determined her course. Until that moment her mind was all fury and
contempt. Mr. Elmer became articulate.

"What in hell's the meaning of this?" he screeched. "Hey? What's the
idea...get out, you bunch of boozers...get out!"

"Idea?" Sam strode forward truculently.

"She'd sooner marry tramp, she said--call her bluff. Tha's what. Here's
tramp. Marry him...tha's what!"

Into the face of October Jones came a look that defied the description of
those who witnessed the scene.

"I'll marry him!" Robin the tramp stared at her owlishly.

"He's drunk," said a voice in the background, and there was a laugh.
"Wouldn't drink, so we sat on him and poured it down."

"We poured it down, we poured it down!" roared the chorus, stamping time
with their feet.

"He wouldn't drink, so we poured it down! Poured it down..." The voices
straggled; one dropped out and then another. Sam was left in the position
of soloist, and presently he stopped. October was searching the face of
the dazed tramp, eagerly, tensely.

The thing of rags and tatters shook his head in helpless protest. His
gaze wandered from the girl to the shaded lamp: it was smoking blackly.
The lamp interested him. He raised a solemn finger as though in reproof.
And then his eyes came back to the girl.

"Fearfully sorry!" he muttered. "Curse that intaglio!"

It was as though he, of all the gaping company, had some dim
understanding of her humiliation. He waggled his head, frowned terribly.
She saw the struggle between the will of him and the drug that deadened
his senses. He was trying to throw off the black cloth that blinded
him...and failed. As to this strange talk of intaglios--she had no room
in her mind for that.

"I will marry him."

Elmer's lip was working terribly fast, Mr. Wasser was weeping weakly.

"You can't...you marry Sam-"

"That weakling!" Sam sniggered at this, made to stride up to her, tripped
over the carpet and floundered on his hands and knees, tried to rise and
fell again.

"You'll have to marry me off tonight--I'll take the tramp!"

Mrs. Elmer wrung her hands. "You don't know what you're saying," she
squeaked. "You can't do it, October!"

"Can't I?" The girl's eyes were on the Reverend Stevens. "One man is like
another in the eyes of God, isn't he?"

She turned to Robin: he was regarding her with wide eyes.

"Such things cannot be," he said solemnly. "What is your name?"

"Robin--Robin Leslie."

"Robin Leslie--that will do." She took his grimy hand in hers. She was
at that moment a being exalted; her eyes were blazing. The Reverend
Stevens fiddled with his prayer-book, looked over his glasses at Mr.
Elmer. Andrew was biting his nails, one eye on the clock, one on the limp
figure that sprawled on the floor. Sam had gone to sleep.

"You do as you like," his voice quavered.

"You're mad, October--plumb starin' mad--" She still held the paw in
hers.

"My name is October Jones--his is Robin Leslie--marry us."

The Reverend Stevens opened the book and stumbled through the words. From
the carpet came the drum-beat of Sam's snores.

"Ring?" She stooped and searched the waistcoat pocket of the slumbering
youth.

"Here it is." So in the sight of God and His congregation she was made
Mrs. Robin Leslie. Mrs. Elmer, hand at mouth, watched her, like a woman
in a trance. Andrew talked furiously, but no sound came. As for Robin the
tramp...

"Sorry!" he said once. The crowd at the end of the room gaped as they
came towards the door.

"Where you goin'?" asked Wasser hoarsely.

"With my husband? They disappeared into the black night, and for a long
time nobody spoke or moved. Then with a scream Mrs. Elmer flew to the
door.

"October! October!" There was no answer but the uneasy rustling of the
leaves and the deep growl of distant thunder.


Chapter 4


As October crossed the porch she heard the roll of thunder. Hanging over
the handrail was the old coat she used as a carpet when the shade of the
apple trees enticed her out of doors. She gathered it mechanically. Robin
was walking ahead of her. She saw the nearly white sleeve of his tattered
shirt and, quickening her pace, overtook him.

"Where's that?" He pointed with waggling finger.

"That is the road-it leads to the fork." He rubbed his forehead.

"Another way--path over fields?" She considered.

"You don't wish to go through the town? It doesn't worry me at all."

"Worries me...I'm rather tight...intoxicated. The young devils! I
wasn't prepared for them." He stood uncertainly. Ahead was the gate and
the road. Behind she heard somebody scream her name.

"This way! She caught him by the sleeveless coat and dragged him
between the elderberry bushes along a track scarcely visible in
daylight. He. stumbled once and apologised. She saw that he really was
"tight"--intoxicated. The path brought them to grass and trees and an
occasional view between the apple trees of a faraway yellow light.
Presently they were clear of the orchard and traversing a rough stretch
of field where Mr. Elmer grazed his cows. There was a big barn here, its
bulk showing blackly against the sky: beyond was rough going, a pool
where the cows drank and sheer waste land where nothing grazed or grew.

"Storm somewhere," said Robin. October had seen the lightning.
"Following the valley of the St. Lawrence? She stopped suddenly.

"What are you--what nationality? You're not American?"

"Bri'sh." Only now and again was his voice slurred. She drew a long
breath.

"Then I'm--British." She could not see his face; she had to suppose his
dullness from his tone and attitude.

"Are you? Fine." Her lips were tight pressed.

"I'm American--nothing will ever make me anything but American."

"Oh..." He was trying to think. "You said you were Bri'sh just now--I
hate people who can't make up their minds. Where are we going?"

"Where are we going? Where do you want to go?"

"Prescott." She gasped.

"In Canada?" He nodded: she had to guess this.

"Where does this bring us--right here, I mean?" She told him there was
a road ahead of them. It joined the main road West of Littleburg.

"Is there a little wood-road goes through it?" he asked eagerly. And,
surprised, she said that there was. They had reached the snake fence
which marked the boundary of Four Beech Farm when he hissed--

"Don't speak--kneel!" She obeyed and heard somebody talking, and after
a while saw the flare of a match. "Flat down...in this dip!" He set her
an example and sprawled face downward on the moist grass. She fell beside
him, her heart racing. There was no cause for that wild excitement, she
told herself, and yet she knew that there was an enormous, a vital
reason. There was danger: a vague sense of peril lifted the hairs of her
neck. She found herself glaring towards the road and hating the men who
were walking in so leisurely a fashion towards them. Nearer and nearer.
One stopped to strike another match. They were less than six yards from
where the two were lying. She glimpsed a fat, broad face and had a flash
of a red beard.

"You certainly put your name in lights, Lenny!" said Red Beard
disparagingly. "We ought to have come out with a band."

"Huh!" grunted the other. "What's that matter? He's not here...not'n
miles."

"I saw him, I tell you. `With a bunch of kids, all loaded. If you'd been
around I'd have got him..."

"Had to go up to the depot...that fly cop..." The voices grew
indistinct; they became a murmur. Came a growl and rumble of thunder, and
when it died away there was silence.

"Are they looking for you?" she whispered.

"Yes." His voice was steady: he seemed suddenly sobered. As he rose, the
western skies throbbed palely with lightning, and she saw the glint of
something in his hand. Sober his head might be to meet what trouble was
present, but he staggered as he walked.

"Don't stub your toe against the fence," he whispered. "Wood sounds
carry. Is there a gate?"

"Farther along..."

"Down!" He had seen the faint speck of a cigar end; the men were coming
back. This time the hiding pair had an advantage. A small ridge of earth
ran parallel with the fence; behind this they were safely screened. The
two strollers stopped opposite to them. Apparently one seated himself on
the fence: they listened, heard the scrape of his shoes on the rail.

"...back in the wood on the other side of the town, I bet. Ought to have
combed that wood, Lenny. If I hadn't been a bonehead I'd a-got him at
Schenectady." A silence.

"He got that gun," said another voice.

"Like hell he did! That's newspaper lyin'. Fellers don't smash a bank to
get a gun...well, maybe it wasn' a bank, but I reckon the book-keeper's
office at a plant is as good as a bank."

"Newspaper said-"

"Newspaper!" He added an appeal to his Deity. Another long silence. The
scent of a good cigar was waited towards and over the hillock.

"Say...what's Gussie got on him?" Red Beard (she could identify the two
voices now) laughed shortly.

"Listen, Lenny: suppose we get this bird--what'll we have on Gussie? Oh,
nothin'! Come on..."

The sound of their footsteps receded. Raising his head, Robin took an
observation.

"Gussie!" he murmured. "That's jolly good!" Ten minutes passed before
he got up and helped her to rise.

"Where is the gate?" She walked a little ahead of him. He must have
seen the coat she carried was trailing; he took it from her without a
word. The gate was found and was half open. They went through the road,
which was uneven but infinitely easier to walk upon than the field. The
grass had been heavy with dew--she felt the front of her dress was
soaked.

"There's a house up in these woods--haunted. Not afraid?"

"The Swede's house," she said, remembering.

"That's it. Hanged himself, didn't he? Hobos never go there, rather sleep
in the rain. They think it is unlucky. Terribly superstitious people,
tramps. Am I walking too fast?"

"No." A hundred yards farther on:

"You're not drunk now." He turned his head sideways to her.

"Yes, I am, horribly! I keep thinking you're...someone else. And my legs
are all crazy. I didn't sleep last night. I jumped a ride on a freight
train night before that, but one of the train hands found me and booted
me off. I could sleep standing tonight. But I'm drunk all right."

The road began to ascend. She had so often walked this way that she could
have gone forward blindfolded. Larches appeared on either hand, and the
road became a track. Now they were in a great darkness; the far-off
lightning was helpful, the sky reflection came down to them through the
tree-tops.

"It is to the left somewhere...there are two steps up the bank."

They walked more slowly now, searching for the path to the Swede's house.
A flicker of light in the sky, and they saw the steps-two rough-hewn
slabs of sandstone, worn by the feet of the suicide. At the head of the
steps he stopped, swaying from side to side. She thought the climb had
made him dizzy, but when she put out her hand to steady him he disengaged
himself gently. Then she too saw the red gleam of a fire. It was
somewhere beyond the spot where they had turned from the track.

"Shtay here," he said huskily, and went down the steps. Moving stealthily
forward, the man stalked the fire foot by foot. No sound came back to the
waiting girl. Nearer and nearer he came, slipping from tree to tree until
he reached a place where he could see the campers. There were two: one
immensely tall, one who seemed by comparison a dwarf, and though later he
proved to be scarcely shorter than the average man, Robin thought of him
and spoke of him as "the little man." Tramps both, grimy of face, their
raiment was such that the sack about the big fellow's shoulders seemed
surprisingly smart. He had a low receding forehead, a gross button of a
nose and a huge, hairy chin; eyes as small, as dark and as close-set as a
monkeys His companion was a very old man. His rags were indescribably
foul, his face had not known soap and water in weeks, White-bearded,
bald, he sat, staring into the fire.

"Come right along, bo'," growled the big man. He had seen the stalker,
though apparently he had not lifted his eyes from the bread he was
carving. Tramp Robin lurched forward. His head was surprisingly clear,
though nausea almost overcame him.

"Howdy," growled the big man. "Set you down. Did that yard dick chase ye?
The--! He ditched me, but this old plug dew the coop."

Robin gathered they had been thrown off a train by a railroad detective.

"An' a slow freight!" He invoked his God.

"Goin' up to Ogdens?" the little old man asked eagerly. "We're glommin'
the Limited tonight-"

"Ain't no Limited, you old fool," (he did not say "fool"), "I'm
tellin' yer. How's this town for hand-outs, Joe? Listen, this dam' road's
worse than hell."

"I haven't tried it yet." The big man opened his eyes. The accent, if not
new, was strange.

"British! That's funny." And then, looking closely at the stranger:
"Ye're stewed! Hi, Baldy, this bird's stewed!" A new interest came to the
little eyes.

"Set down, Joe--guess you're the gay cat!"

"Pardon me "--the little old man's voice took on a sudden refinement--"you
are acquainted with Ogdensburg? You will be interested to learn that--"

"Shut up!" The big tramp's lips curled up in a snarl, his hand swung
back, and the little man shrunk to the earth, a grimace of terror on his
grotesque face.

"Always seein' spooks...got himself nearly pinched by a station bull at
Troy--Troy, can you beat it! Him yowlin' round the railway yards about
app'ritions! Ju-liah!" Baldy was shivering like a wet dog, but at that
word some courage returned to him.

"Not that word, O...! Listen. She treated me badly--she was mean, O, but
I'd rather you didn't!"

"Ju-liah!_" roared the big man mockingly. His great hand shot out,
gripped the little face of his companion and shook it savagely. Robin
looked...said nothing till the brute threw the old man from him and
grinned up at the eye-witness.

"Set you down. What's hurtin' you, Joe? Gwan, set down. You comin' along?
There's good batterin' in Ogdens. Say, I knew 'n Englishman--set down!"
The last two words were shouted.

"Standing up," said Robin calmly. "And walking!"

"'Fraid I'd roll you? Gawd amighty, you ain't got three cents!"

"Maybe not: still, I'm walking? He turned and walked away. Out of the
corner of his eye he saw the man reach for a stone, and spun round.

"I'm packing a gat," he said significantly. He saw that the man believed
him, for he forced a laugh.

"You'd get Life for that," he said sarcastically. "An' a sappin'! It's a
fool thing to carry--a gun." He got up and trod on the fire, collected
the remains of the feast and rolled them up into an old newspaper.

"Come on, Baldy--this gay cat reckons I'm goin' to roll him I You
catchin' that freight?" Robin shook his head.

"Huh! Never thought you was. Bet you've never decked a car in your life.
Come on--you!" Baldy got up slowly, collected his own belongings and
slouched in the trail of his master. Soon they were out of sight, and
Robin, stamping the last red ember to death, went back to the girl.

"Who were they?" she asked. She had seen them pass.

"Some fellers--tramps. Where's this house?" She pointed--at least he
thought she was pointing. The storm was coming nearer; the heaven lit up
in a quivering succession of flashes. He saw a low-roofed shack, a
blind that hung by one hinge, a pitiful little portico drooping on one
pillar.

"Home!" said Robin magnificently. The door was fast, but a window gave
him entrance. After a while she heard his footfall in the passage and the
squeaking of a latch. It took a perceptible time to open the door, and
then it only yielded far enough to admit her.

"Hinges gone," he said briefly.

He pushed the door tight and then, striking a match, lit a piece of
candle which he took from a pocket on the inside of his coat. The passage
was inches deep in debris. Dead leaves had found their way here, and
scraps of discoloured rags showed under the accumulations of dust. Across
the passage ran a beam of unpainted pine, and screwed into the wood was a
large hook. She saw this...the forgotten Swede, whose sole memorial this
tumbledown house was, had hanged himself.

"Ugh!" He looked at her gravely.

"Not scared?" His eyes went up to the hook. "That wasn't it. Used to
hang hams there. He did it in a wood--on a tree somewhere. So they say.
Lost his wife and went mad--before you were born. So they say."

"So who say?" a little impatiently. He jerked his head vaguely towards
Littleburg; in reality he was indicating a scattered community.

"Tramps swap these yarns. I didn't understand them all--they have a
language of their own. Hold the light, will you, please?"

October took the candle from his hand, and he lurched into a room that
opened from the passage. He returned very soon, carrying a dusty and
ragged blanket.

"There's an iron bed--the spring mattress feels good to me, Rusty, I
think--but springy. We'd better chance a light." The bed was a very dismal
looking affair, but, as he said, the spring bottom was intact. He shook
out the blanket and folded it pillow fashion.

"Warmish," he said sleepily, "but you'd better pull your coat over you."
She sat on the bed. Looked at him. He might have been good-looking once.
The bristly face, the bruised eye, the puffy redness on one cheek...October
shook her head.

"What is the matter with your face?" she asked.

He was surprised by the question.

"Generally or particularly?" he asked, and touched his cheek. "This?
Poison ivy. Those old Inquisitors missed something. Go to sleep." She
kicked off her shoes and lay down, pulling her coat over her. The
mattress was largely soft, but it was made up of little steel links and
her dress was thin-she would be like a tattooed lady in the morning. He
had seated himself in a corner of the room and blown out the candle.
Presently she heard his deep breathing; once he snored.

Through the unshaded window she could see the sky lit red and blue at
irregular intervals. The house shook and shivered with every crash of
thunder. And then the rain came down. It rattled and drummed on the iron
roof, beat against the broken window pane.. Seep...peep...peep!

The roof was leaking somewhere; the drip and drop of water sounded close
at hand. Between thunder rolls she heard the breathing of Robin...she
was dozing when he spoke in his sleep. "Silly fool," he muttered,
"silly fool!" Whether he was talking of himself, or to somebody who
belonged to the life that was veiled, or of her, she could only
speculate upon. She fell asleep dreamless--she woke slowly with the
consciousness that somebody was holding her hand--a bristly cheek was
near, to hers. She opened her lips to scream and a firm hand closed her
mouth.


Chapter 5


THE wedding party had melted down to four. The Reverend Stevens had gone
on the tail of guests--wanted and unwanted. His responsibility had been
a heavy one, he both felt and said. And yet--might he not tomorrow find
himself a controversial subject, with legions for him as well as sour
battalions against? Might he not anticipate pictures of himself across
two or even three columns, with captions beneath? He had been human
before he had become evangelical: it was difficult to be wholly inhuman.
Brethren of his cloth, who cared less for captions and controversy, would
arise in their wrath and denounce him. Mothers of marriageable daughters,
fearing the imitative qualities of youth, would condemn him unreservedly.
The broad-minded, who invariably champion the less decent protagonist of
all controversies, would say that there was something to be said for him.
He stole away, shaking his head. When the reporters came to him in the
morning he would have twelve photographs of himself spread on the parlour
table for their inspection. He preferred the one taken at Potsdam in the
early days of his ministry. It was in profile, and he had rather a
striking profile. He thought about October as he hurried homewards, but
imagination was not his strong point. She had committed a folly in her
petulance; she would probably have run away from her tramp husband before
now. Honestly he expected to learn in the morning that she had returned
to Four Beech Farm--was there already, he supposed, as he disrobed for
the night. Andy Elmer sat rigidly by the table that served as an altar.
Mrs. Elmer was weeping, more in anger than in sorrow, in her rocker. Mr.
Lee Wasser sat on the sofa, his arm about a dazed and sickly Sam.

"Nobody can blame me," said Mr. Elmer disjointedly. "The crazy little
cat!...High school an' college...ideas..."

Mr Wasser glared at him malignantly. "Look here in the newspapers, hey?
My boy thrown over for a dirty old hobo, hey?" He had said this so often
in the last ten minutes, that Andrew Elmer scarcely heard him.

"She's got no clothes...nothin'!" wailed Mrs. Elmer. "Only the blue...what
folks'll say..."

Andy's upper lip went up and down furiously.

"She done it for spite--" he began. The hired man appeared in the
doorway.

"There's a feller wants to see you, Mr. Elmer. English, I guess...didn't
understand half he was sayin'." Mr. Elmer blinked at him. The
Grand Cham of China could not have made a more inopportune appearance at
that hour and in those circumstances than an unintelligible Englishman.
He glanced at his wife. Mrs. Elmer dabbed her eyes and made an awkward
exit. Sam was not in a state that permitted any kind of exit. There was a
challenge in Lee Wasser's eye: he, at any rate, had nothing to be ashamed
of. Already Sam was a victim of dire machinations. He had been drugged by
this infamous man with the black eye and the swollen face--or
hypnotised, or something that had no fumes of whisky in it. And, thus
incapacitated, had been bereft of his wife. Sam drooped more limply,
uttered discordant sounds. Mr. Elmer was alarmed.

"Can't you get him into the kitchen, Lee?" he almost pleaded. "Mrs.
Elmer's awful particular--"

"He's singing." Mr. Wasser's tone was ferocious. "There's a whole lot
back of this business. If it costs me a thousand dollars I'm going to get
right down to the bottom of it!"

The hired man ran his fingers between the hateful stiff collar of
ceremony and his scrawny neck, a gesture of impatience. There was a
little group of excited people on the back porch all talking at once. He
had his own view to expose and felt that he was missing something.

"Say, Mr. Elmer, he said he wanted to see you." Behind him there appeared
a tall figure in a long dust coat, He wore an eyeglass and bright brown
gauntlets. Mr. Elmer saw that over enamelled shoes were fawn-coloured
spats.

"Sorry to bother you-er--" He was a good-looking fellow with a wax-like
complexion, a small, brown, silky moustache and a permanent smile. At
least it seemed permanent. His voice was soft and rather musical. "I
heard a rumpus outside, but couldn't make head or tail of what
these-er--people were saying. Something about a tramp...I hope you
will forgive me--er-butting in." He said "butting in" a little
self-consciously, as an Englishman speaks a foreign language. He had
(his manner said) no right to flounder in strange colloquialisms, but
desired to make himself understood...

"Uh huh. That's right. There was a tramp up here boozed...that's so."
Mr. Elmer was called upon without notice to put into words his version of
the happening. And it must be put into words sooner or later. In two or
three days he would be facing a Farmers' Convention-he shuddered at the
thought.

"Well-say..." The presence of Mr. Lee Wasser and the condition of the
heir to the Wasser fortune largely determined the colour and shape of his
narrative. That the monocled Englishman was a curious intruder, to be
asked what'n thunder the affair had to do with him, did not occur to Mr.
Elmer. The stranger was The World; he represented in his person millions
of people sitting at breakfast reading their morning newspapers and
saying: "That's a queer affair over in Littleburg--tramp married a
college girl..."

Moreover, he was the forerunner of an army of reporters and
photographers.

"My niece--well, her mother was a sort of sister-in-law...this young
lady...October Jones was her name...She got some mighty queer
notions about...everything..."

"Extraordinary!" murmured the stranger. It was merely a polite or a
sardonic interjection, but it gave Mr. Elmer a guiding line.

"Extr'ordin'ry...you've said it! Well, this young lady was gettin'
married. Everything fixed. Reverend Stevens--well, everything!" A wave
of his hand indicated certain festive preparations: the Englishman in the
dust coat examined the flowers earnestly.

"And then, this tramp sort of...well, he came. Right there where
you're standing."

"An' Sam was doped. No doubt about that." Mr. Wasser entered the
conversation loudly.

"This bum fixed him that way. Maybe gave him somep'n' to smell. He's
unconscious now." Andrew nodded.

"That's about it," he said, "and October was crazy. She said 'I'll marry
him.' I just couldn't speak. I was standin' here, or maybe there "--he
indicated the alternative spots with meticulous exactness. "I just
couldn't so much as holler."

"Doped," murmured Mr. Wasser helpfully. Andrew considered this
explanation and regretfully decided upon its rejection.

"Paralysed," he substituted. "Couldn't believe I was awake."

The stranger was staring at him. He was as near to being without a smile
as ever Mr. Elmer saw him.

"Married?" he said sharply. "Who was married?" Mr. Elmer groaned at the
man's stupidity.

"October--her crazy idea...she took the ring out of poor Sam's
pocket. Just bent down an' took the ring. 'Here it is,' she says. 'What's
your name?' An' this hobo says...What did he say, Lee?" Mr. Wasser
had forgotten. His angry gesture told the Englishman how very unimportant
was the question of a tramp's name. "'I don't quite understand. This girl
October, is that her name?--wanted to marry a tramp?"

"He was drunk," said Mr. Wasser, in a tone that suggested a reason for
October's strange behaviour.

"She wanted--and she did," said Mr. T Elmer. The strangers mouth opened;
his eyeglass dropped.

"Married...not really married?"

Messieurs Elmer and Wasser nodded. Sam's nod was involuntary. "Good God!"

The heart of Andrew Elmer sank. If this simple statement produced such an
effect upon a stranger, and obviously an unemotional stranger, what would
follow the general publication of the news?

"I want to say right here, that October is peculiar...she's crazy,
'that's all. She'd jump into a well, yes, sir. She said so 'You I touch
me,' she says, an' I'll jump right in.' Yes, sir--"

"Tonight? Did she jump into the well?" There was unmistakable hope in
the stranger's voice.

"No, sir: I'm talkin' about last fall-"

"She married this tramp--actually married him?"

And, when they nodded gravely: "My God!"

Then before Mr. Elmer could speak: "Where is he?"

"October--" began Mr. Elmer.

"Never mind about October." He was smiling, but wickedly. "I suppose she
is here. Where did the tramp go?" Lee Wasser pointed dramatically to the
door.

"They went out--there! Both of 'um." The man in the dust coat turned his
head.

"Both of 'um!" he repeated absently and with sudden animation. "How long
since? Which way did they go?" Mr. Elmer lugged out his big watch.

"About half an hour ago," he said. The watch had no value at all to
indicate the passage of time. This event belonged to eternity: the dial
should have been divided into aeons.

"About halt an hour--they went out there." The door then was a starting
point, the black night a destination. The stranger walked from the house.
At the gate four men were talking.

"...say, listen...this bird was loaded. Didn't know what he was
doin'. Sam an' Ed got him up in the wood an' Pete back-heeled him and got
him on the floor. 'You son of a gun,' says Ed, 'you gotta drink...'"

Dust coat went past them and they stopped discussing the great happening
to speculate upon his identity.

"English. He's got a big machine. Joe Prideaux at the garage reckons it's
worth ten thousand dollars an' more..."

The machine was waiting a little way along the road and Mr. Alan Loamer
leapt into the driver's seat and drove at an increasing speed towards
Littleburg. He came through the town more cautiously because he could not
afford to be held up by the unimaginative police. Clear of the power
plant, he let the big car roar and switched on his powerful headlamps. He
was watching the road carefully. Presently he saw somebody jump a fence
from the road and brought his machine to a stop.

"Byrne!" he called. A shape came out of the gloom and then another.

"Have you seen him?"

"No. Lenny and me's been hanging around here. He's got to come this way
unless he works back. Lenny reckoned he might be in the woods the other
side of town." The man at the wheel said something under his breath that
Red Beard could not hear.

"I wanted to locate you," he said. "Stay here: I'll go back and make
inquiries. He has a girl with him/'

"You don't say!" Red Beard was frankly astonished.

"Yes--that may make things difficult for you." Mr. Loamer was fretful.
His audience did not know that inside him and behind his calmness was a
boiling, bubbling rage. "Is there a side road here? I want to turn my
car." He pronounced the word strangely.

"Wants to turn his 'caw,' does he?" said Red Beard, watching the
manoeuvres of the big machine from a distance. "Gussie's rattled all
right, Lenny."

"What's the idea--this girl? Never heard anything about her," demanded
the fat man. The machine had turned by now and was flying back...it
boomed past them on its way to Littleburg.

"You heard him: did he tell me anything? A girl. First I've heard of a
girl. That bird's nutty. I keep tellin' you, Lenny."

Mr. Loamer came back to Littleburg to find it alive. He saw groups at odd
corners, and once he passed two men carrying shot guns and addressing
each other noisily. On the corner of Main and Union Street he saw a
policeman. The policeman knew nothing except that there had been some
sort of trouble up at Mr. Elmer's farm. The chief was dealing with the
consequence, whatever it was. He asked Mr. Loamer if he had seen two men,
one with a red beard and one rather fat and short. Mr. Loamer said that
he had not.

"They're not in town, I guess," said the policeman, and expressed the
view that the storm would just miss Littleburg. It was an hour after
midnight when the watcher on the road saw the unmistakable headlamps of
the big car and woke his companion, who was sleeping with his back
against the rail of the fence.

"There is a search party looking for these people," said Mr. Loamer.
"They are going through the woods on the far side of the town, but
somebody suggested he would make for the Swede's house. They say it is
haunted. Where is it?"

"Swede's house--know that, Lenny?" The sleepy-eyed Lenny thought that
he had heard of such a place, but he had never seen it. Evidently he had
a nodding acquaintance with the district.

"It's somewhere on the high ground back of Elmer's place," he said.
"Never been there, but the woods are not big..."' He indicated the route
they would follow. Mr. Loamer said he would return to the town for the
latest news and would join them.

"This time--get him!" he said emphatically. "The girl...?" He
smoothed his moustache with his gloved hand. "I don't know what to do
about her," He was silent for a very long time. Evidently 'the girl' was
the subject of his cogitation, for, when he spoke: "She doesn't
matter...really," he said. As he stepped into the driver's seat he remarked
casually:

"A policeman asked me if I had seen you fellows and of course I told him
that I hadn't." "That was certainly kind of you." Red Beard was
good-humouredly sarcastic. When the car was out of sight he clapped his
companion on the shoulder.

"Let's go," he said. "That old Swede's house is haunted, eh? Maybe we
can deal it a new spook."


Chapter 6


OCTOBER was very wide awake now. She did not struggle, but gripped at the
hand which covered her mouth, conserving all her strength to pry loose
this suffocating pad of muscle and bone. "Don't make a sound!" he was
breathing. "Terribly scared you'd shout...somebody prowling outside
the house." She nodded. The hand was drawn away, the bristly face was
removed.

"Sorry!" he whispered. "Can you get off the bed without raising a
riot...wait!" His two hands went under her; she felt herself raised slowly.
Creak-squeak! went the rusty springs as they relaxed. He canted her
gently, feet to floor, so that she stood with her back to the wall in
which the window was set.

"Don't move!" The storm had passed; she thought she detected the
ghostly light of dawn in the room. Silence...and then, outside, the
cracking of a twig. Robin the tramp crouched under the window. She could
only see a splodge of something a little blacker than the blackness of
the room. The window darkened; hands were fumbling with the latch. She
heard the low murmur of a querulous voice. Suddenly a brilliant circle of
light appeared on the opposite wall; the man outside was searching the
room with an electric lamp. The circle moved left and right, up and down;
focused on the end of the rusty bed and paused there undecidedly. She saw
Robin clearly now, huddled under the window; he was gripping a steel rod
that, attached to the window, had once regulated its opening. She had
wondered why the man outside had failed to find a way in. The light went.

"Get to the door...along the passage to the right...take your
shoes but don't put them on!" She nodded agreement to the sibilant
instructions, gathered her shoes and tiptoed along the passage until a
door barred further progress. Here she waited. Presently she heard him
coming towards her.

"Is it open?" he whispered, and went past her. The passage was so narrow
that she felt the brush of his shirt sleeve on her face. The door was
unlocked but noisy. The enemy was at the front door by now, rattling the
handle. Robin the tramp waited until the sound came again and then,
putting his shoulder to the obstruction, pushed. With a grind and a jar
it opened. Reaching back, he caught her by the arm and pulled her
through. They were in a kitchen which smelt of earth and damp. A second
door was here...he felt for it, groping along wet walls. Overhead the
roof had partly vanished. A thudding sound shook the little
house...another. Robin tugged at the door and it opened with a groan;
the scent of wet leaves and balsam came to October's grateful nostrils.

"Got your coat?" His lips were close to her ear. She did not mind the
bristly cheek now. "Good! Follow me--you'll get your feet wet, but that
won't kill you. Hold my sleeve...when I stoop, do the same." He
stepped out into the tangle of what had once been a garden. Noiselessly
he moved towards the encircling wood, she creeping behind him. Her
stockings were soaked; once she trod on a thorn and needed all her
self-control to repress a cry--as it was, she made some sort of sound,
for he half turned.

They were circling towards the town road; if it had been light they
could not have seen the Swede's shack when he stopped.

"Put on your shoes--I expect your feet are wet." She held on to his arm
with one hand and pulled on her shoes one by one with the other. Her feet
were soddened and the soles of her silk stockings in rags. But she was
glad to have leather between foot and earth.

"No hurry: they will take some time exploring the hut," he said, stills
whispering.

"And the trees will spoil Lenny's style--he likes the great open spaces
where men are men!" Something amused him: she heard him laughing in
staccato gasps. He was moving more swiftly, and the distance between them
and the shack must have been considerable when they struck a path that
ran downhill; the trees began to thin, and then he caught tight hold of
her arm and stooped.

She saw the figure too. It was smoking a cigarette. There was just enough
light in the sky to reveal an indistinct outline. A man, and he was
sitting on a fallen tree to their left front. Behind them, somebody
shouted; it sounded faint and comfortably far. The man on the tree trunk
got up and strolled slowly up the path, but unexpectedly deviated to his
right. He passed the watching pair not a dozen yards away--evidently he
had missed the path.

"Hullo!" he called. "They've been here--but they've gone."

Still faintly. It was Red Beard's voice; she recognised its deep
raucousness. The smoker passed out of sight...still stooping, Robin
went on...stopped again and pointed. In the fold of the little hill
she saw three gleaming lights, two white, one red.

"A car," he breathed. By the position of the lights she saw that the
bonnet of the machine was turned towards Littleburg. Stealthily he crept
towards the lights and, holding fast to his sleeve she followed. One
swift look round.

"Jump in!" he said, and she scrambled aboard. She did not realise that
the engines were running until he was by her side. He gripped the gear
lever, looked back again; they were moving with little or no sound. The
springs of the machine took the strain of the uneven surface, nearer and
nearer to the white road they stole. Then she heard a shout behind, but,
looking round, could see nothing against the dark background of hill and
wood. The car was going faster. Something buzzed past her cheek; she
thought it was a nocturnal beetle and instinctively put up her hand to
brush her face. Robin the tramp slowed to take the turn; and now
Littleburg was behind them and the car was flying towards Ogdensburg. She
sat huddled in a corner of the seat, watching and yet not watching the
country fly past. Barn and farm-house, rail crossing, stretch of rolling
country, now a steep hill, tree-furred, now a dead town with an ugly iron
church and none to watch their passage but a cat. Once they passed a lake
and saw at the end of it a miniature Niagara. It was growing lighter.
They passed a farm wagon. Robin came to a fork and branched right, though
it was clear that this was the poorer road. And so it proved. They bumped
and swayed up a steep and slippery grade. The road became unrelieved
rock, and when they had got beyond a great scar in the hill-side, from
which at some period stone had been quarried, the road ceased to be.
Nevertheless-, they continued, dodging between trees, avoiding
miraculously a confusion of boulders that seemed to have been dropped for
the special purpose of checking their adventure. Coming over a razor-back
ridge, he jammed on the brakes, and only in time, for from the crest the
ground dropped steeply to the well-defined edge of a chasm.

"That's that," said the tramp, and hoisted himself from his seat. Before
she could descend, he had put his hands about her waist and lifted her
free of the machine. He walked to the top of the slope and looked back.
The car tracks were visible on the grass if the search came so far. But
beyond was the stone causeway (as he called it) and the lower slopes of
the road had marks of trolley wheels in which his own might merge...

He strolled to the car, pulled from the back seat a folded rug and then
"whooped softly. There was a basket here and a hold-all. He lugged them
out, one after the other. Opening the lid, he looked in and grinned
demoniacally (as October thought); then he unrolled the canvas carry-all.

"Here is a towel and soap--I can hear water up there," he jerked his
head to the higher slopes. "'Ware wire!" She looked inquiringly at him.

"Ware--?"

"Watch your step," he translated. She found the water: it was beautifully
cold. When she came back to him with a light step, as rosy as the dawn
that had broken, he took towel and soap from her and went up the hill.
There was ca ludicrous plaid patch on the back of his pants that seemed
in keeping. She had seen the genus at such a distance as the stalls are
from the stage. October watched him, chin in hand, until he disappeared
behind the tangle of whortleberry and laurel that hid the spring.

Robin Leslie-Mrs. Robin Leslie. And the situation did not seem unreal.
She was part of his life. Red Beard was her deadly foe. She had thrilled
and grown tense at a common danger. October never analysed her own
emotions. She could pick to threads motives and causes, could reduce to
formulae human eccentricities, but she never felt the urge to
disintegrate her own soul that she might furnish sections for a
microscope, or tested with the acid of other people's experience her own
reactions. The man attached to the plaid patch was a fact--Mr. Robin
Leslie. He could differ only from any other man in respect to his
behaviour. So far he was entirely satisfactory. He had given her the
spring bed (she was a tattooed lady, she had discovered after a limited
investigation); he had told her to put on her shoes at exactly the right
moment. She in his place would have done the same. He drove a car rather
efficiently. He had probably stolen cars before. The plaid patch was not
absurd, nor the sleeveless jacket. Probably his pants were hitched up
with string and she had overlooked the old soup can that all tramps
carry. He came back very clean looking and surprisingly wholesome: when
he opened the basket and offered her a sandwich she saw that his nails
were immaculate. But he was a little shaky; his eyes bloodshot. They were
grey eyes set well apart, but they were decidedly bloodshot. There was a
vacuum bottle in the basket. The coffee steamed as he poured it into one
of the cups that he had found in this heaven-sent canteen.

"Now," he said, and sat down cross-legged, "let's get everything right! I
know you are here, I know that you were in the Swede's house--by the
way, he did hang himself from that hook, but I thought it best to lie--and
I know that in some mysterious fashion you have got yourself attached
to me. But exactly why and how?"

She sat very upright at this. Was he joking? Apparently not. He was
sipping at his cup, one reddish eye regarding her over its edge.

"I'm your wife," she said. He choked...coughed, and put down the cup.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I am your wife," she said, and by the rising horror that made his
unpleasant face assume a terrifying hideousness, she gathered that he did
not well remember all that had happened at Littleburg.

"My wife, you said...you're not serious?" She nodded.

"I'rn very serious. You don't remember?"

No, he did not remember. "The young devils! They came up to me
in the wood...all of them as tight--as intoxicated as--as--well,
intoxicated as foolish young people can be. I had no idea what was their
little game--in fact, I was expecting quite a different sort of party.
One of them--Mr. Goldbuckle, a young man who talks a great deal about
himself--"

She recognised Sam immediately.

"--asked me to drink. And just about then I didn't want to drink. I don't
recall the circumstances of my defeat. Two of them knelt on my chest--one
fellow put the neck of a bottle in my mouth. It was a case of drink
or perish. I drank. Did I go to your house?"

She told him undramatically. And as she went on, he punctuated the story
with startled "Good Lords!"

"But you're really serious? I married you--or rather, you married me?"

She was very serious, she said. Robin covered his face with his hands and
moaned.

"What a perfectly horrible nightmare!" She was interested but not
offended.

"Is it, Mr. Leslie--"

"Mr. who?" he demanded, his eyes wide open.

"That is the name you gave--Mr. Robin Leslie, I suppose you dreamt
that?" He shook his head dispiritedly.

"No--that's my name all right--at least, it is my Christian--given
name: Robert Leslie Beausere...no, it isn't French. It was never
French," he said testily, in answer to her inquiry. "What a perfectly
ghastly thing to happen! I suppose I was awfully tight--intoxicated.
'Tight' means the same thing."

"You were rather--tight," she said; "in fact, very. You said you were
sorry--"

"I was sober then," grimly. "What is or was your name?"

"October Jones-horrible, isn't it?"

"Ghastly," he groaned. "Moses--what a name!"

She stiftened at this. "I don't see anything 'ghastly' about it," she
said coldly. "It is certainly unusual."

"Unusual! What am I to call you?"

"You may call me October," she replied.

"I'll be--I won't, anyway. What a lout!"

It was strange to her that she should guess he was referring to Sam.

"I don't think that you have anything to complain about," she said, still
a trifle annoyed.

His solemn eyes were fixed on hers.

"You were sober," he said with significance. "I was incapable of offering
resistance."

"Oh!" said October indignantly and half rose. He waved her down. "Don't
let us start our married life with a quarrel," he said sombrely. "Have
another sandwich!"

She took the sandwich because she was hungry.

"We will pack all the grub that is left," he suggested. "I don't think we
shall be getting any eats as sumptuous as these for a very long time." He
looked up at the sky.

"Seven o'clock--between that and eight. We ought to double back towards
Littleburg, then strike east. There is plenty of timber in this country,
thank Heaven! With luck we should End a place where we can sleep before
nightfall?

"Why does that red-bearded man want you? Have you committed a crime?"

He smiled with his eyes.

"Have I committed a crime? Yes. I burgled a factory; 'plant' you call
it, at that funny sounding-place--Schenectady. This is my chief offence.
I don't mind him.--It is the little fellow, the knife-throwing
gentleman, who rattles me. He is rather wonderful--a South American, I
suppose. Leonardo Dellamontez. And run! That fellow can spring like a
hare. You wouldn't think so to see him. Very fat and short in the leg. I
shouldn't think he could sit a horse. But a real artist."

He spoke dispassionately, if anything admiringly, of the knife-thrower.

October had the illusion that they were sitting together on the grand
stand watching Leonardo competing in some murderous Olympic game.

"You're not a real tramp, are you?" she asked.

"Sure as you're born!" he answered. "Is that the right thing to say?
Yes, I'm a tramp, but the State of New York is not an ideal tramping
ground. There is no merit in the exercise you get from strolling through
a picture gallery. Now the Goby desert is real tramping! And the woolly
lands beyond Urzra. That's tramping too!" She had a dim idea that the
Goby Desert was in China, but Urzra she could not place.

"Mongolia--it's Red now. Queer little place full of Buddhist priests and
dogs that will pull you down in the street and leave nothing but your
watch and guard."

"But," she insisted, "you're tramping for...for fun, for pleasure.
It is a sort of vacation rucksack hike, isn't it? You aren't tramping
because you've no money and...well, because you can't get work?"

"I've got fifty cents," he said. "Just now I'm tramping to save my life!"

"Why?"

He shook his head. "I'd hate to tell you," he said. "If I did, you'd say
what I say--Such things cannot be!"

"But what are the things?" He rose, gathered her cup and corked the
vacuum bottle.

"Medieval things--things you hear about in the Valley of the Rhone and
on the Rhine. The history of France is full of it, and England. Ever
heard of Queen Elfrida? What a lady! That is what I am finding in this
Empire State of yours--just mad, impossible things that cannot be.
You're another of 'em! Good Lord!" He was shaking his head at her.

"I really must have been tight!"

"Intoxicated," she said. "You're almost offensive."

"Am I?" He was immediately penitent. His unsightly face drooped. "Of
course I am...but I just feel that I can be offensive to you."

She knew what he meant and was fairly well pleased.


Chapter 7


THE way they took was a painful one. They traversed mile upon mile of
sloping hill; she seemed, most of the time, to be walking alternately on
the right side of her right foot and the left of the other. Both legs
ached in turn, whilst the other went cramped. And yet she carried
nothing. It was Robin Leslie Beausere who was cluttered up with food and
blanket. She did not even carry her own coat.

There was very little conversation. He admitted that he did not know the
country at all; she was as ignorant. New York State was foreign territory
to her. Now, if it had been Virginia or Ohio...

She did not even know the names or relative positions of the towns. Twice
she had been to the island, but the sleeper of an express is a poor place
to study topography. She knew Ogdensburg, because she had taken trips
along the St. Lawrence and had called there. With Littleburg and its
environs she was fairly well acquainted, but they were miles and miles
from Littleburg--forty, she supposed. He thought more.

Elfrida? Who was Queen Elfrida? October had a sketchy acquaintance with
the British monarchs. Elfrida-Alfred...one of the Saxon bunch. What
had they to do with a fifty-cent tramp in the State of New York? It was
intriguing, bizarre. She could hardly keep her eyes from the plaid patch.
Once upon a time she had made a study of the Scottish tartans. It wasn't
Stewart-Stewart is red; and it was not Cameron-that had a yellowish line
in it (or was that Gordon?).

"Campbell!" she cried triumphantly. "Eh?" He came round in alarm.

"That patch--on your trousers. It is a Campbell tartan!"

"Is it?" He screwed his head to see. "I am not fearfully keen on the
Campbells. So it is--how clever of you! The Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders wear that pattern of kilt. A pretty good regiment--mainly
recruited in the Midlands. As he lifted his jacket to examine the patch
she saw the butt of a gun in his pocket. She had supposed the revolver,
but had forgotten all about it.

"Isn't it very dangerous carrying a pistol in New York?" she asked. "I
mean...in your position?"

"Much more dangerous not to--especially now." He resumed his march and
was talking over his shoulder, and then, at a tangent:

"I suppose you wouldn't have the slightest difficulty in getting a
divorce?"

"I don't wish a divorce--yet," she said calmly, and she heard him groan
again.

"You're very ungallant," she said.

"I am, aren't I? Very sorry. What is the best remedy for a poison-ivy
skin?"

"Does it hurt?" She was sympathetic.

"A wee bit--nothing to make a fuss about. It rather irritates when one
is hot. Hallo!"

He stood stock still. Ahead of them they heard the "clop-clop" of a
lumberman's axe and as they stood the swish and thud of falling timber.

They were walking along the wet floor of a little ravine. There was cover
enough in case or necessity, thickly-growing clumps of dark laurel and
fernlike sumac. The walls of the little canyon rose steeply. Looking up,
he saw with some concern a small hut perched on the edge. But there was
no sign of a man or his inevitable dog.

"Let's try this other face," he suggested. "I'm afraid that the unsparing
woodmen are on the other side of that bluff."

He went first and their progress was painfully slow. In half an hour he
drew himself cautiously over the side of a rock. Before him was a
beautiful sight, trees-spruce, pine, basswood--an impenetrable fairy
woodland that belonged to dreams.

After a careful reconnaissance he signalled her to follow. They plunged
into the cool twilight and silence. A game preserve of some kind, he
thought; big, tame birds were strutting on the ground, a hen pheasant
rose at his feet and went noisily to a less disturbed area. There were
conies; he thought he saw a sleek black stoat--or were there any stoats
in North America?

The nest they found by accident--it was a saucer-like depression in a
small hillock, and was shielded from view, supposing anybody came, by
low-growing bushes and high-growing ferns.

"We can't light a fire," he said, as he spread the blanket for her to sit
upon, "but happily there is no need. You may find the ground damp. We
will move on before night."

"Where are we going?"

"Prescott," he told her. "Not exactly Prescott, but a few miles
down-river. Hungry?"

He produced the vacuum bottle. The coffee was lukewarm but
refreshing--what was left.

"But how do you know which way we're going?"

He felt in his hip-pocket where the pistol was, and brought out a little
compass. Because the nest was rather difficult to find, he broke off a
small branch of a young tree and stuck it upright--more for her guidance
than his.

"You don't mind being left alone? I want to do a little exploring."

He was gone the greater part of two hours (she had become aware of her
wrist-watch in the course of their morning march), and he returned
carrying three cantaloups. There was a farm on the edge of the wood, he
told her.

"Some swell lives there--it looks like one of those gentleman-farmer's
places--pedigree cows and a good dancing floor. There was a wonderful
pair of blue pants drying on a line, but I hadn't the nerve to raid 'em.
Seen the newspapers?"

He took a sheet from his pocket. When he had lifted the cantaloups he had
also paid a visit to a gardener's shed. The newspaper had been lying on
the bench.

"You're famous," he said. She unfolded the page; her mouth opened.

"Fiendish Hobo Steals Wife of Littleburg Society Man.

"Doped in Wood by Drink-Crazed Thief, Bridegroom Sees His Beautiful Bride
Married to Tramp."

"Country Roused. Armed Vigilants Searching All Night. Stolen Woman Niece
of Littleburgs Most Prominent Citizen."

Beneath was a very large picture of October. Sharing honours was a
smirking Sam. The photograph had been taken on the occasion of Ye Olde
Englishe Fayre, an event organised for a Littleburg charity. It depicted
Sam with an insane smile on his face, his hat tilted over one eye. In all
the circumstances there was some discrepancy between the festal picture
and the caption:

"Robbed of Bride, Samuel E. Wasser, Prominent Clubman of Littleburg, Lies
Prostrate with Grief."

"Is this the miscreant who married us?" asked Robin.

There indeed was the Reverend Stevens--but not in profile. And even as
he slept he had become a controversial subject.

"Revd. Stevens Held Up at Point of Gun and Forced to Perform Ceremony."

"Why...!" October's eyes were blazing.

"How could they! How could they! Oh!" He was examining the news-sheet
critically.

"That is a pretty good portrait of you. Most of these things flatter--I
rather like your hair done that way."

"I am going right back to Littleburg to tell them they are liars," she
stormed. "Liars! Prominent society man, that...that hick I Oh, but it
is too bad--"

"Worse to come--did you see the very latest? It is on the back page. You
can't go back."

With trembling hands she turned the newspaper and found the "Worse."

"Has beautiful October Jones met with a terrible death at the hands of
the mad tramp-fiend? That is the question all Littleburg is asking..."

"You see," he explained gravely. "You can't go back if you're dead: that
would be an anti-climax and would be unpardonable. They would never
forgive you. You had better stay dead for a week or two."

"' Drink-crazed tramp '...' Minister held at pistol point '! I must
do something!"

"`Write to The Times,"' he said soothingly.

"The Times? Don't be absurd. Can't you see what this means? Everybody
will be searching for you--you'll never have a fair chance--they will
shoot you like a dog it they come upon you here...or...or
anywhere."

"I suppose they would." Only then such an idea occurred to him,
apparently. He was rather surprised. "Pity one can't buy the afternoon
extras--I'd like to know what Gussie says about the car. Do you bet?"

"I don't know what you mean," she said, bewildered.

"If you did, I would bet you that Gussie says nothing. Not a word--not a
syllable. Of course, the farm hands may have seen us without being able
to identify the machine I drove. In which case the search will shift
nearer. Do you think you could sleep?"

She shook her head.

"Perhaps later--you're all nerved up by this infernal newspaper report.
Sorry I brought it with me-I thought you would be amused."

"Amused!" she scoffed.

As the afternoon wore on she began to feel drowsy and fell asleep for an
hour. She woke to find him lying flat on his face at the edge of the
"saucer." He had parted the ferns that obstructed his view, and as he
looked back at her she guessed that her awakening owed nothing to chance.

"I saw a woman walking in the wood," he said in a low voice. "She was
some distance away. Probably she belongs to the farm. I thought I had
better kick you."

"Did you kick me?"--indignantly.

"We're married," he said. "I understand the practice is very usual in our
circle."

Half an hour passed. "I have been a brute," he said, without turning his
head. "No, not over kicking you. That whisky was what Goldbuckle would
call fierce. I'm still a little dithery, but I can think. When this woman
has gone I will take you to the farm--at least to the outskirts. You'll
find your way into the house and 'phone. I want you, please, to lie about
me: say you left me on the Ogdensburg road--wherever that may be."

"Leave you?" She was aghast.

"Of course--you can't go around sleeping in woods...hunted and...God
knows what. I'm being selfish, really. It will be easier for me to
get away. And you can tell them of course that you aren't dead and that
I'm quite--as tramps go--respectable. I was joking this morning about
your not being able to go back because you were dead. But you Americans
have no sense of English humour."

She, too, was lying face downward now. Her hands were clasped under her
chin.

"I'm late but I'm laughing," she said calmly. "How funny!"

"What?" He screwed his head round to her and he was frowning. Much of the
inflammation had left his face--one red weal ran from his ear and
disappeared in the growth upon his chin.

"Do you really expect me to go to the farm and say: 'Please, I'm the
stolen bride of the Littleburg Society Man'? Have you any imagination?"

He scratched his nose, frowning deeper.

"I have--but I'd rather like to hear how yours is working."

She flashed a quick smile. He had not seen her smile before, and the
experience left him a little breathless.

"I'll tell you," she nodded. "I am met by the lady of the house--I
relate my sad story. She looks at me...oddly. Do you know what I
mean? just...oddly. Can't you see her eyebrows going up, can't you
hear her saying 'My poor child! '--supposing she is playing at farms and
not a real slave-wife? And then she telephones to the police and maybe to
Mrs. Elmer. And then she seeks her dearest friend, who maybe is staying
with her, and, closing the door so that the servants can't hear, tells
her. And then they look at one another, and one says: 'What do you
think?' And the other says: 'Well--they're married' and then--"

"Oh, yes, yes!" Robin spoke hurriedly. He was actually embarrassed. "Of
course...yes...shut up!"--this last outrageous piece of
rudeness in a fierce whisper; "...the woman!" October followed his
example and, gently pressing back the ferns, looked. The lady was very
near to them. She strode manfully, using a black ebony walking-cane. She
was in black, and over her grey head she wore a Spanish mantilla. In
point of inches she was enormous, and her thinness made her seem taller.
Coming into a patch of sunlight, the swinging hands glittered dazzlingly.
October saw this in spite of herself, for she was gazing awe-stricken at
the face of the woman. Dead white, with dark-rimmed eyes and a nose that
was grotesquely big and outstanding. Diamonds flashed at her ears, from
her wrist, from the black corsage. She went on out of sight, and then
October heard the man sigh.

"Queen Elfrida! Did you see her? Elfrida! Suffering snakes...here!"

"Elfrida? Is that her name?"

He shook his head; his staring eyes were still glued to the tree clumps
around which she had disappeared. He was a comical picture of amazement.

"Well, I'll go sideways! Elfrida...the old sport! She follows hounds
that way...takes anything from a stone wall to a cut road. And she's
there when they kill--always! By gum! Elfrida!"

"Is her name Elfrida?' October was a thought impatient.

"No--Loamer-the Lady Georgina Loamer. Her father was the Marquis of
Dealford...funny old devil and everlastingly broke."

"You know her?" She was astonished.

"Only in a hat-touching way. 'Good morning, my lady--I hope your
ladyship is well'--that kind of thing. We are not"--he chuckled
softly--"on speaking terms. She is staying at the farm. You can't
go there."

"I cannot because I will not," said October correctly. "I am going
through--Prescott, isn't it? What will you do in Prescott?"

"Nothing much." He was looking at her glumly; she felt that she had of a
sudden become a worry to him.

"Anyway, I refuse to go back." She very resolutely spoke her thoughts.

"I remember the wedding now...dimly," he said. "I thought that it was
part of the rag-jamboree, whatever you call it. Just remember
it--faintly."

A little while after this he pillowed his face on his arm and fell
asleep. October took stock of the food. There were two very stale
biscuits, a small box of crackers, three cakes of chocolate and a segment
of pie, the latter carefully wrapped in thin white paper. They would not
starve. There was, in addition to the vacuum bottle, a flat,
military-looking water-flask, which Robin had filled just before they
climbed out of the ravine. She sat patiently, her hands folded in her
lap: it was her turn to keep guard. There was an importance in her vigil.
Now and again she looked through the ferns, but saw nothing. The sun was
sinking. Millions of tiny flies began to gyrate in great clouds under the
spread of every tree. She heard more distinctly the "tap tap tap" of a
woodpecker.

"What time is it?" She did not know that he was awake.

"About seven--aren't you hungry?" He sat up, rubbing his face
vigorously.

"Starving," he answered, and they supped together frugally. After they
had wrapped up what food remained (and they ate the stalest items first)
he outlined his programme. They would start before the light was entirely
gone and make for the southern section of the reserve. He believed that a
post road ran somewhere in that direction. And there was a railway
somewhere near. In point of fact, they had heard hoarse whistles and the
far-off clang of bells during the afternoon. The trouble was going to be
at the bridges, he said. If they came to any considerable stream they
must follow it or find some means of crossing. He was an expert on such
things, she gathered, and had evaded several unhappy experiences by a
careful avoidance of bridges. As far as he could understand, they would
"fetch up" in the morning midway between Ogdensburg and a place he
called "Liffy's." He was very emphatic about "Liffy's." She thought it
was a township, but apparently Liffy was a human being who maintained
himself precariously by the hiring of boats.

"He is Irish," he explained gravely. "His brother shot my uncle--not
fatally, I'm sorry to say. But even bad marksmanship has not disturbed
our good relations. His other name is Mike." All this in the preparation
for departure. She asked a question.

"No, I don't think he has been a tramp. At any rate, I have never met him
in that role. He has been most other things. Are you ready?"

Night was coming down when, with the motor rug rolled and fastened
horse-collar fashion about his shoulder, he led the way. The wood was
deeper than she thought. Between tree-tops she saw the thin crescent of a
new moon...the harsh shriek of an owl near at hand made her jump
involuntarily.

"Made me jump too," he comforted her. They were descending all the time,
and this worried him a little. Most abruptly their progress was stopped
by a high wire fence. The wood's natural boundary was beyond this, for
the wire ran irregularly from tree to tree. Searching the ground, he
found a piece of branch wood suitable for the purpose, and prised up the
lower strand of the wire.

"You can slip under--keep very close to the ground and make yourself
thin!"

She got under with only a slight mishap. One of the sharp barbs caught
the old coat which she insisted she should wear, and ripped a. narrow
strip.

"You'll be real hobo in a week," he said.

"Rags and tatters--I must hunt up a tomato can for you!"

By some miracle he himself wriggled under without a scratch.

"'Let caution mark the way,'" he quoted, dropping his voice. "The post
road is nearer than I thought."

Nearer indeed. From the thicket-like density of the wood they came
suddenly within a few yards of the open, and a road bright with the
lights of stationary automobiles.

"...the lumber man said he saw 'um go into Mr. Murphy's reservation.
Don't let anybody move till we get the signal from the fellers on the
other side of the park. An' listen, fellers...I want first crack at
that bird. I got something to wipe out, tha's what! If I get him over my
sights he's dead, tha's all! Don't any of you tellers forget it. I'm
speakin' as man of the world to men of the world...I got to get him or
he's got to get me..." Sam Wasser was addressing a select and
approving audience. Even as he spoke there came the sound of a shot from
beyond the woods.

"Get your lights ready, boys, and don't shoot the young lady." They came
surging up the bank to where a petrified October stood gripping her
husband's sleeve in terror.

"Back! Under the wire...I'll go first." Before she reached the fence
he was under...he dragged her through with some violence. She heard
another rent appear in her coat.

"Left...hurry. They don't know about the wire." Evidently the party
had halted for another reason. "Spread out! Ed, you go right along to
the corner. Mr. Elmer-where's Mr. Elmer...oh, say, Mr. Elmer, you
stick along here..." The corner? There would be an angle to the fence
and the confines of the estate must be fairly near.

"Run! he said under his breath, and she obeyed. The right-angle fence
appeared as unexpectedly as its fellow. Peering through, Robin saw that
the roadway was deserted. He yanked up the lower strand and the girl
slipped under. She held the wire less efficiently whilst he followed.

"Nothing--my coat wouldn't show a new tear." Ed, ordered to the corner,
must have obeyed with some reluctance. He was nowhere in sight. The two
made to the right, keeping by the side of the road and walking in single
file. From the wood came the sound of a shot and then another; there
followed a fusillade. She saw that he was shaking with laughter.

"They will kill one another and I shall be blamed," he said, and he was
almost prophetic. Two specks of light showed ahead of them. They lay flat
on the side of the road until the car passed.

"We had better keep to the verge," he said, and explained that the
ancient word for the borders of a road was "slang."

"Gipsies used to camp on the slang--gipsies and wandering tinkers with a
queer language of their own. And 'slang' has passed into the vocabulary."

He was oddly informative and at the most unlikely moments. She asked him
to elucidate his riddle of Queen Elfrida, but here he was not obliging.

"I'll tell you one day," he said. "Jolly old Elfrida! What a perfect
lady!"

They walked over a mile before they came to a by-road. Private tracks
there were, leading to gloomy farm buildings; once a big dog leapt out at
them from an open gate. Robin whistled and the dog came to his side and
was with difficulty persuaded to go to his home again. They were within a
few yards of the side road when October whispered:

"Are you sure we are not being followed?" He looked back.

"I didn't think we were; why?"

"I don't know--I'm nervous, I suppose. But I thought--"

They turned at this minute and he waved her on, and, crouching down by
the corner of the fence that bounded the main road, looked back. He
remained for a few minutes before he joined the girl.

"I saw nobody--did you?" She hesitated.

"No--I'm not sure. I thought I saw somebody walking on the side of the
road. It may have been imagination."

Less than a mile away was a railroad. They saw a brilliantly lighted
train moving across the landscape.

"There is a crossing at the end of this road, I suppose," mused Robin.
"We might take the track, but I've a notion that wouldn't help us any.
We'd probably land in the very place we wish to avoid."

The plan was to cross the track and find a road on the far side that ran
parallel. That which they now trudged did not run straight to the
railroad, they found. Half-way down there was a sharp elbow, and in the
crook of it were two high gates flanked by tall pillars that led to a
drive and eventually, as he supposed, to a house hidden behind the high
clipped hedges that lined the fence and flanked the drive. As he stopped
to make an inspection a dog barked furiously, but evidently it was
leashed. But a bigger danger than dogs threatened. As they stood, October
saw that she was casting a long, dim shadow on the ground. The man had
seen it too and looked round. At the far end of the road two motor lamps
showed and they were growing in brilliance every fraction of a second.
Robin made a swift survey. There was no cover of any kind: it was
impossible that, passing them, the motorists could miss seeing them, and
in that bright light there could be no question but that they would be
identified. He saw an iron ring dangling from the gate, turned it, and,
as a heavy iron latch came up, the big gate moved open. October needed no
instructions to follow: she had become inured to furtiveness and was
inside the gate almost as soon as he. He fastened the gate again...the
dog was barking furiously. So close was the car that there was light
enough to see the gaps that offered shelter. They had to crawl on hands
and knees before they rolled over, completely hidden. The machine had
stopped; somebody got down and, walking to the gate, flung it open with
a crash. From the direction of the invisible house a man's voice asked:

"Is that you, Dick?"

"Yep...sorry I'm late--Bill, did you hear the shooting?"

The man walked from the house up the drive to meet them, his feet
scrunching pleasantly on the gravel.

"Eh? Shooting? Yes, I thought I heard something. Dog was barking like
mad. What is the trouble?"

"That dam' hobo--the feller that killed the Littleburg girl. They got
him on Murphy's land-Murphy is trying to look as if he enjoyed having his
birds shot over in September! Some of these jakes started in to blaze
away at one another. Nobody killed--that's the wonder. I'll get the
machine inside...sorry I'm late..."

His voice receded: evidently he was going to the car. There was a harsh
purr, the machine turned cautiously into the drive and somebody clanged
the gate behind it.

"Let my man come out and put it away...leave it, Dick." There was a
chuckle, a snap of steel.

"Best lock the gears whilst that bird is around. He lifted a car last
night--found it up on Quarry Hill...eh? He's some mover, that bum!
Wait, I'll get my valise."

"Come on"--impatiently. "I'll send Hawkins for it." Sounds of two pairs
of feet on gravel...silence as they crossed the grass floor of a lawn.

"Get out--quick as you can," Robin whispered. She had never seen him
quite as excited.

"Walk along towards the railway...and wait." October obeyed, wriggling
out under the hedge--a terribly difficult exit this proved to be, for
the car lights had been extinguished and she could not see the
providential gap through which they had come. She lifted the latch
noiselessly and stepped into the road. She thought that the car steal of
the night before was to be repeated, and it might have been but for those
locked gears. The juice was also locked off, but he could have made a
short circuit under the bonnet and overcome that difficulty. The gears
defied him...

She turned to the right as she went out, and had walked a hundred yards
when a doubt assailed her. The house had been on the left: she was going
back they way she had come. Or wasn't she? Standing irresolutely for a
moment, she considered. She saw the lights of a winking train as it
passed through a belt of trees. Of course...She had started to run,
when she saw the men. They stood one on each side of the road, motionless
pillars of black...but men. Her heart was thumping painfully; for an
instant she was breathless. Robin must be warned: they had been followed.
She walked rapidly along the centre of the road, and they crossed to
intercept her.

"Excuse me, ma'am." It was Red Beard. She would have detected his voice
amongst a thousand.


Chapter 8


"Good night," said October, and would have gone on, but he threw out his
hand and she found her arm gripped painfully.

"Goin' far, ma'am?"

"No...to Mr.--to the house. Please let me go--or I'll call for--my
brother."

"Didn't know she had any brother, d'you, Lenny? Thought she was just one
lone 1i'1 orphan. Hey, where's that hobo friend of yourn?"

"I don't know what you mean." She spoke loudly. Robin could hear. And
then a panic seized her. Suppose he heard and came? These two men were
after him; one threw knives....

"What's the matter--nobody's goin' to hurt you, are they, Lenny?"

He invariably appealed to Lenny, and as a general rule Lenny said
nothing. He bent over past her and whispered into the ear of his
companion.

"Uh, huh," grunted Lenny, "thasso."

"You come along back to your uncle, ma'am," said Red Beard. "I guess
we're mighty poor kind of hicks after runnin' around with that swell
husband of yours, but you better stick along of us, hey, Lenny?"

All the time she was conscious of a tense alertness in him; he was like a
man who expected attack from some quarter, he knew not whence. Then she
saw the gun in his hand--sensed it rather, for the night was very dark;
the crescent moon had slid down from the sky and only the stars gave
light.

"Come along." His grip of her arm did not relax: he was sidling. Lenny
made no pretence that he was not walking backwards. Starlight, faint and
ghostly, was reflected back in the knife he carried between finger and
thumb.

"Must be grand marryin' that kind of trash. Been a dream sort of
honeymoon, ain't it, ma'am?"

"What are you scared of?" she asked,

"And must you walk like a crab? If he shoots you, you will fall on me."

She heard the quick catch of his breath, and then he laughed softly, but
not heartily.

"Tha's good! Heard that, Lenny? I guess your husband's somewhere around,
ma'am? There's a bunch handy that wants to get acquainted with him. Ain't
there, Lenny?"

"Thasso," said Lenny.

"Got a gun, ain't he, ma'am? I'll bet-"

"Watch out!" For the life of her she could not resist the mischievous
inclination.

He jumped sideways with an oath. For an instant she was free, but he
clawed at her.

"Say...what's this funny stuff, Missis Tramp? What's the idea? I
guess we're laughin' at you, ain't we, Lenny? Funny stuff..."

He was loud and angry. Thereafter they progressed much more quickly, but
neither Red Beard nor the silent Lenny kept their heads still. Every two
steps, one glanced back.

"We'll get him, don't worry, ma'am. He's around, that's all we want to
know. There's two men guardin' the crossin', anyway. I guess before
mornin' we'll be takin' you down to the morgue and sayin' 'Pick yours,
ma'am,' hey, Lenny?"

"Thasso," said Lenny.

"What are you in real life?" she asked. "Just thieves or merely gunmen?"

"Gunmen, I guess," she nodded. "They're cheapest in Chicago. Somebody
told me you can get them at basement prices."

Red Beard had his civic pride. Chicago was his home town. He developed a
spluttering obscurity of speech.

"Listen, you...what's good enough for me's good enough for...say,
what's the matter with you, anyway?...Cheap! I like that, hey, Lenny?
What's cheaper'n a hobo's girl...huh!" They had reached the post
road; there was a thrilling spectacle revealed. Quite near them, cars
were packed bonnet to tail. The ground rose gently to one side of the
road, apparently no man's land, for the sloping ground beyond was
unfenced. A fire was burning, a regular camp fire that lit the trees
picturesquely. Since it was a warm night, a camp fire was unnecessary in
its first essential. But it was undoubtedly picturesque, and threw
strange lights upon stern faces, glinted on the barrels of shot-guns and
glittered evilly on the face of Mr. Elmer's big watch.

"A quarter of eleven. I guess we'd better get back to Littleburg, Sam.
Seems likely we've missed 'um. I figure that October's dead. Maybe it's
best for everybody."

He glanced sideways and backwards at the one woman of the party. Mrs.
Elmer had a passion for a peculiarly sticky candy; her cheeks bulged, her
narrow jaws worked monotonously. Mrs. Elmer shook her head, tears welled
from her eyes, her jaw went up and down.

"Lumber man saw her," said Sam briefly. He sat cross-legged, elbow on
knee, his small chin cupped in his palm. Across his legs was a shot-gun.
Mr. Elmer had twice pushed the muzzle in another direction than himself.
Sam was staring into the fire. His face was very red, his brows knit
terribly.

"I ought to have killed him," he said hollowly.

"I had a feelin' when I see him--saw him first time...sort of creepy
feelin'...fate!" Somebody asked how long it would take for this
damned old fire to burn itself out; another wondered whether it should be
left. One or two of the searchers had already stolen away to their
machines. Mr. Elmer looked at his watch.

"Nobody can blame anybody," he said comfortably. "October was that kind
of girl. Remember once, when I was goin' to correct her, she walked right
over to the well. 'You touch me,' she says, 'an' I'll jump in.' That's
October!"

Sam wrinkled his nose in a sneer. He was, by common agreement, the most
important member of the party, the acknowledged leader, the Chief Victim.
He could and did resent the presence of any other authority on the
subject of October and her eccentricities.

"She jumped in all right!" he said bitterly.

"The question is, was it arranged? Mighty queer to me that she said that
very mornin', `One man's good as another. I'd as soon marry a tramp.'"

Andrew was startled by this new hypothesis; the jaws of Mrs. Elmer
stopped moving.

"That's the question--was it fixed?" Sam addressed a new audience,
attracted by a relief from the sameness of argument and speculation.

"He was there...sittin' by the path. She must have seen him...he
saw her. 'Yes,' he says when I asked him." He looked up at this point;
his scorched eyes stared to one side of the blazing wood. The red-bearded
man he did not know. The girl in the torn and ragged coat who came into
the light of the fire he knew. He gripped his gun and glared at her. Mr.
Elmer rose unsteadily to his feet.

"October!" he gasped, and was uncertain how further to proceed, for she
was no prodigal daughter, nor yet a sheep returned to the fold. He
realised in that heart-searching moment that she was no more, no less,
than the Cat who Wouldn't Drown. Mr. Sam Wasser gave him time to think.
Still clasping his shot-gun, he took three strides towards and confronted
her.

"You've come back, eh...October?" His huskiness was appropriate.

"Mrs. Beausere," she said icily. "I'm married."

This set him blinking and arrested what might well have been an historic
utterance. Instead--

"Married...ah! Oh, yes! Ain't that I fine! Ain't you ashamed, October
Jones? I wouldn't have your disposition an' character I an'...everything,
for I a million dollars! Ain't you ashamed?..."

"Don't be hysterical," said October, "and don't call me 'Jones'--I'm
through with the Joneses for everlasting."

Mrs. Elmer had staggered forward in faltering stages. She was a woman and
knew a woman's place. Her head drooped forward, her face wore that look
of pained surprise with which she invariably met all life's crises.

"October!" she said mournfully; "Oh, October!"

Mr. Wasser saw his duty.

"Don't you go gettin' mixed up in this," he said sharply. "October's
made her bed--"

Mrs. Elmer transfixed him with a look.

"I want to know," she said. Mr. Elmer coughed. Gaping spectators turned
delicately away and pretended to be interested in one another. They would
know all about it later: they could afford to wait. Only Sam, who didn't
know better, brooding with folded arms, did not budge.

"Sam!" said Mr. Elmer gently.

"Was it fixed?--that's what I want to know," he demanded. "You just
tell me that an' I'm through--tha's all!"

"Sam!" Mrs. Elmer glanced significantly at the other men. "I don't care
what anybody hears"-Sam was truculent. "Was it arranged?"

"Mr. Wasser-junior"--October's voice was like honey--"won't you run
away? Mrs. Elmer wishes to be maternal!"

He stared; Mrs. Elmer stiffened her back. Her nicest feelings were
outraged.

"Ain't that just like you, October, goin' puttin' the worst meanin' to
everything!"

She was her old shrill self. "After all Mr. Elmer done for you an' me
packin' your old trunks...you ought to be ashamed. Makin' a mock of
things..." Mr. Elmer heard the sound of strife and came into range;
would have delivered his own views, which were formed by now, but October
stopped him.

"I want to tell everybody that I married of my own free will. Most of you
know that, but it may be news to some."

"Fixed!" Sam said this between his teeth.

"I married him in preference to Sam Wasser--with my eyes open. Is that
clear? And I do not regret the choice. I said once that one man is as
good as another. That isn't true. Some men are much better than others.
My husband, for example, is much better than Mr. Sam Wasser." She looked
round for Red Beard: he had vanished. Robin would be waiting for her near
the crossing. An idea came to her mind.

"Perhaps there is an American gentleman here who will take me a ride
to...some place: I will tell him later." There were a dozen who would have
offered their services. The night had begun on a more heroic level than
it was ending. Worse than death is ridicule. Unless somebody could rescue
the situation from the deeps in which it wallowed--Sam Wasser obliged
nobly.

"You're comin' back to Littleburg, that's what! You got a nerve! Think
we're goin' to stand for you an' that dam' bum...say, what do you
know about that, tellers? You got to come back! Nobody's goin' to have
the laugh on us."

This decided the matter: the party returned to its heroic status. Nobody
was going to have the laugh on them. She was a prisoner: October was
horror-stricken. Not at the ignominy of her lot. Robin was alone. Of
course, he had been alone before, but this time was different. She might
never see him again. She went deathly cold at the thought. There was no
question of love...he was something definitely hers; he was
indispensable.

Why? She did not explain to herself. And he needed her. Why? She shook
her head; but she was very certain. Red Beard? She strained her eyes
towards the road. There were several men there, but Red Beard was not
amongst them.

"You've got to come back home with me and Mrs. Elmer tonight." Andrew was
very gruff and surly. "Maybe tomorrow...well, that fool lawyer
Pffiefer allowed he might fix you up at his home. Listen, October, you
got to tell Mrs. Elmer...everything"

"Does Littleburg want to know so badly?" she asked innocently.

"Mrs. Elmer, I said. She's a woman, October." This very soberly.

"I didn't need that warning, Mr. Elmer," she said.

The situation grew and continued very strained. That interminable journey!
October curled up in one corner of the jiggitty old Ford, Mrs. Elmer in
the other. The elder lady's lunch basket between them as a screen to trap
contaminations. She woke from a doze as the machine struck the rotting
cord road that led to Four Beech Farm. The old room...unchanged. The
infinitely ticking clock with faded roses painted on the dial. That
damnably indifferent yellow cat curled up under the table. The house
smelt--stale! Worse than the earthy kitchen at the Swede's shack. There
ought, by rights, to be a hook in the ceiling whereon a broken heart
could make a swift and merciful transition to a land where tramp--like
angels wander hand in hand through scented woods.

Not love...it wasn't love. Hero worship! She fell into a paroxysm of
laughter. Mrs. Elmer, tight-lipped, hoped that this was the beginning of
a breakdown.

"You got a lot to laugh about!" Sam had come home with them. "You
oughter--"

"Shush!" She waved him to oblivion.

"Go home. You have no locus standi, Sam Wasser! You have no reason. As a
prospective bridegroom you had one foot in the family. But now-!"

Biting his lip in cogitation, Mr. Elmer had to agree in his mind that
October was right. He was weary of Sam: Sam's loss, Sam's schemes of
vengeance, Sam's leadership. A mere boy, too--October was crazy and
ungrateful, no doubt, but right. Even Sam succumbed to her logic.

"That lets me out," he said, hitching up his belt. "Don't suppose you
an' me will be seein' one another--much. You go your way--I go mine.
Yeh. I don't bear you any grudge, October. I'm leavin' Littleburg...goin'
to Europe somewhere--but before I go I'd like to say this--" He
never said it.

"I know--I've read it. You forgive me; you hope I'll be happy--"

"I wasn't going to say anything like that!" he protested indignantly.
"Huh! Wastin' my time, tha's what! Ruined my life 'n everything an' just
stand there laughin'!"

"I guess you'd better be getting along, Sam," said Mr. Elmer. He opened
the door. Sam shrugged his thin shoulders, snapped his fingers
jazz-fashion and retired. Half-way to the forks he remembered a smart
answer he might have returned when she handed him locus standi--Sam had
Latin of his own.

An awkward silence followed his departure. October occupied the rocker;
Mrs. Elmer, arms tightly clasped across her middle, looked at her
husband. Andrew, his mind on the Farmers' Convention, turned up the light
of the big shaded kerosene lamp with the carefulness and concentration
of one who wished to be spared any other duty. Lena, the Swedish cook,
tiptoed into the room with a tray on which a large silver coffee-pot was
conspicuous. She set the cups noiselessly. Nobody had the courage to tell
her to go away. Lena tiptoed out: she felt that she had compromised on
the fatted calf. Half-heartedly Mrs. Elmer poured out the coffee.

"Your room's just about straight," she said. "I don't know what I'll say
to folks, I'm sure."

She handed a cup to October with a gesture of disparagement. October
sipped the hot fluid thoughtfully. Perhaps it wasn't true about the guard
at the railway crossing. A lie would come naturally to Red Beard. And
Robin was cautious--almost he was like one of the wild creatures of the
forest, He could see things in the dark, things invisible to her. So the
Swede hanged himself on the hook after all. It was nothing to smile
about, but she smiled, and Mrs. Elmer, who watched her every expression,
felt her anger rising.

"Glad you can grin, October. I guess Mr. Elmer and me--"

"Grinning--was I?" She was almost penitent. Mrs. Elmer had never seen
her that way before. "I'm sorry; I was thinking of...things entirely
different. I suppose I must stay here? Couldn't I have a room at the Berg
House?"

A suggestion on which Mr. Elmer had very emphatic views.

"Berg House--who's payin' for a suite at Berg House, October? You got no
money to pay. Berg House."

It was the first intimation of her penury. In many ways this was the most
informative statement Andrew Elmer had ever made. "Oh! Is that so?" She
nearly added "Lenny."

"That's so," said Mr. Elmer, unconsciously in the character of the fat
little man who threw knives.

There was a knocking at the door. Husband and wife exchanged glances.

"If it's Sam, tell him to come in the morning," snarled Mr. Elmer. She
disappeared. The door of the parlour was sturdy enough to exclude any
sound lower than a shout. To and fro October rocked, her cheek on her
palm. Over the back of a chair her tattered, bark-torn coat was hanging:
it was lovely to see. Almost every stain and rent could be identified
with some stage of her--of their adventure. The door opened slowly. Mrs.
Elmer came in; her parlour smile advertised the social importance of the
caller.

"Just step in, mister." Mister came at her heels. A tall man in evening
dress. His soft white shirt was like snow, his black tie was most
correct; his trousers were an inch too short, and a gap of shirt showed
between his waistcoat and the top of his pants. He had a stubbly
moustache and side-whiskers, and a pair of horn-rimmed pince-nez, a
little askew, was on his nose.

"Captain Sullivan, Department of Justice," he gruffly introduced himself.
"Is this the young lady?"

As he indicated October, four inches of shirt-cuff shot out. The sleeves
of his coat were a little short. October gazed, fascinated. Mr. Elmer
stopped talking to himself and stared.

"I came by special--from Washington," said Captain Sullivan. "Young lady,
you're under arrest!"

October nodded. She had no questions to ask.

"Get your coat--have you any food in the house?" This to Mrs. Elmer.
The lady nodded; the right words would not come.

"Cheese, bread, biscuits." Captain Sullivan's eyes fell on the
coffee-pot. "Coffee. We have a long journey."

"Under arrest?" Mr. Elmer found his voice.

"Under arrest," said Captain Sullivan of the Department of justice
solemnly. "Contravention of Section twenty-nine." Mrs. Elmer vanished
into the kitchen. She returned in a remarkably short space of time with a
basket loaded with odd things.

"Have you a bottle--a large bottle?"

She nodded dumbly, returned from the it kitchen with a bottle--a large
bottle. Gravely Captain Sullivan half filled it from the coffeepot; added
milk. He took two large handfuls of sugar and put them into the pocket of
his smoking jacket. His gravity was almost depressing.

"Arrested? Say...arrested?" Captain Sullivan regarded him severely
for the space of a second, then he took up the coat that was hanging over
the chair.

"Yours?" October nodded. She was on her feet now.

"Come," he said, and took two cups from the table. He had the bottle in
one hand, the basket in the other; an apple fell out: he stooped and
picked it up.

Screak! A back seam of the jacket parted under the strain and a white
slither of shirt showed. October went obediently, meekly. Outside the
gate stood a car, its engine running. "Chug, chug, CHUG!" Every third
"chug" was more explosive than its fellows. She scrambled into a
machine which was without dignity.

"Say, Captain, that's a pretty poor kind of flivver for a long journey!"
Mr. Elmer had followed them to the gate.

"It is Disguised," said the captain coldly. "We always Disguise."

The car rattled wheezily through Littleburg and came again to the
well-remembered road. October sighed luxuriously.

"I think you're wonderful!" she breathed.


Chapter 9


SOME forty miles away a distracted and wrathful young man was telephoning
to the police.

"...a brown leather valise. R.T. on both sides...Eh? I told
you-hours ago I told you. Listen, write it down, will you: a brown
leather valise. It was strapped on the back of my machine. It had an
evening dress suit, safety-razor outfit, and--well the usual fixings.
And a suit of pyjamas."

Robin grew conversational as the car jogged along.

"The pyjamas were rather superfluous--I chucked them into a field. I'm
sorry now; you could have worn the pants as a scarf. And that razor...my
heavens, it hurt!"

The car had been gathered from the parking place near the camp fire. It
was the end machine--nobody had seen it go. The youth of Littleburg had
a sort of communal interest in cars. Ed borrowed Joe's when things went
wrong without so much as by your leave. The owner was possibly sleeping
at that moment without a single uneasy dream of loss.

"But the shaving...cold water and no glass, and this face of mine!"

"Did you see me taken away?" she asked.

"From the Boy Scouts--yes. As a matter of fact, you passed me. What
really happened?"

She told him about Red Beard, but this was no news to him. He had seen
Red Beard.

"I guessed that you had gone in the wrong direction when I didn't see
you. I stopped to loot the valise. I'm wearing silk undies--I feel
royal!"

She asked nothing. When they came to the side road where the valise had
been acquired he turned down. As they passed the house where the wronged
owner of a good dress suit was expressing his views about the police and
police methods he waved a silent salute to the author of his comfort. Red
Beard had only half lied. At the crossing was a sentinel with a gun under
his arm. As they passed he shouted:

"You haven't seen--" The rest of the sentence was inaudible.

"Good night!" roared Robin as they bumped across the track.

"I could have wished something less conspicuous than a dress suit," he
said, "but finders can't choose. And I feel like the Prince of Wales.
Besides, as we're doing our walking by night the costume is appropriate.
You weren't frightened when I appeared?"

"I knew you--of course I knew you," she scoffed.

"I thought you would--hallo!" He jerked his head round to look back.

"What was it?" she asked.

"A man lying beside the road--hiding, I think. You don't know which way
Reddy went after he left the Wolf Cubs?"

She had not seen his going. Robin considered all the possibilities.

"He guessed I was making for the railway," he said at last. "Perhaps he
thought I had already gone on. I wonder what Elfrida thinks about it
all--and Gussie!" She could advance no postulation.

"Looks like a cross road ahead," he said.

"Suppose we turn down, shut off the lights and eat. I had to abandon the
grub, and I'm starving." The cross road was, it seemed, the main road,
not a spot for lingering.

A few miles along this highway they found a likely "lane" (as he called
it) and a suitable halting ground. There was a glow in the western
sky--faint but distinguishable. He suspected the presence of a large
town or a big plant of some kind.

"Ogdensburg can't be very far away," he said, as he uncorked the bottle.
She was not very hungry, but she ate to keep him in countenance.

"If we could hide the car you could sleep in it," he said. "There is a
skin blanket of--some kind in the back. I'd give a thousand pounds for a
line to the habits and customs of the local tribe! There must be any
number of old barns that nobody ever looks into. You knew me, eh? Spotted
me the moment I pranced into the parlour?"

He seemed pleased at this, and reverted to her recognition again.

"Elmer will go to the police, of course. He was suspicious at the last.
Elfrida wots well my habits; I wonder if Gussie is wise?"

"In what respect?"

"About my knowing." She put down the cup from which she had been
drinking.

"What is your crime?" she asked. "I know that you are a burglar and a
car-thief, but what have you done that is seriously wrong?" And, when he
laughed:

"No, really. Have you stolen his wife?" It was strange to her that she
found a difficulty in putting the doubt into words. "Have you?"

"God forbid!" he said piously. "Gussie's wife doesn't live with him.
Either she couldn't stand Gussie, or, what is more likely, his mother."

"Is that Elfrida--the woman with the nose?" she asked quickly.

"She has a nose, yes. Georgina is Gussie's ma. She is really the queen
pippin of the Things that Cannot Be. But what a woman to hounds! I saw
her take Bellamy Gap, in the Quorn country--nobody has taken that jump
since old Fralenhough broke his neck in '63. What an old sport!" She was
confounded.

"But I thought she was unpleasant? Wasn't Elfrida rather...awful!"

"Terrible!" he said solemnly. "Do you I remember the low-down trick
she played on Athelwold when she came in all dressed up to see the king?"

"I don't remember!" October's tone was sharper than usual, but he was
very disarming.

"I'll tell you all about it some day," he said.

"I'm a whale on Saxon history. Now to find a castle of refuge!"

He got down and cranked up the car; they rattled on for a mile or so and
reached a threesway fork. He took the centre way, and they came presently
to a gaunt-looking building, very square and ugly, that stood within a
few yards of the road. The wire fence that indicated the boundary was
sagging and in places missing. One of the finds he made when he searched
the car was an electric torch, and with this in his hand he went
exploring. The foreground was littered with iron barrels. Rank grass grew
through and about the debris. There, in the neglect and desolation,
unmistakable evidence of ruin. He saw that the window glass was broken;
on the black door that was squarely in the middle of the building was a
half obliterated tramp sign written with chalk. He puzzled over this sign
for a time: it might be a private signature revealing the identity of the
writer, or a piece of general information. Was it "not safe"?

Picking his way carefully through the rubbish, he rounded a corner of the
building and continued. At the far end he came upon a one-storied annexe
built on to the main structure. He could imagine this had once been an
office of the long departed occupants. There was a small door and he
tried this, never expecting that it would open. To his surprise, it
yielded readily--too readily: somebody was pulling from the inside, and
he stepped back quickly, pulling the gun from his pocket. In the light of
his lamp he recognised the old man he had seen near the Swede's house on
the night of the wedding. The old fellow knitted his brows.

"Seen you before, ain't I, bo'?" He spoke in an undertone, as though he
were afraid of disturbing somebody.

"Me and O was pulled off by a bull," he whispered, "so we hit the ties..."

The old man looked back into the room and stepped out, closing the door
very gently.

"My mistake entirely." Again the voice was like that of an educated man.

"Canadian," said Robin's trained ear.

"I did not see you well. The light...disconcerting. Hum!" He peered
forward shortsightedly.

"Hum! I see you have dressed for dinner. The fashion has changed
considerably. A soft shirt, for example, was regarded as--er--dclass."
His grimy hand felt the texture of the tuxedo.

"It is rather interesting." He shook his bald head. "Let me see...it
was in '90...or a little later that I last...hum!"

Robin was startled alike by the accent and the substance of the old man's
speech.

"It was before the trouble with Julia," said the old gentleman,
reminiscent, "and long before the Apparition. That came to me in Santa
Barbara, or possibly it was in Sacramento, in...I cannot tell you the
date...I treated my wife very badly. Julia was an instrument of divine
justice."

He spoke pleasantly in the way of an old man retailing his reminiscences.
He had been a professor of anatomy at a great American university, he
remarked casually--before the trouble with Julia and long before the
Apparition and He...The old man nodded towards the door.

"He thinks I am mad...because of the...Appearance. I have tried
to explain that I have gifts not vouchsafed to every man. But I can
sympathise with a sceptic. I should have laughed, twenty, thirty years
ago...hum!"

Robin thought it was time to ask vital questions.

"A car? Let me think!" The old man smoothed his shiny pate. "There is a
shed behind-nobody comes to the studio...as they call it. It was
occupied by a moving picture-er-maker. I know little about such matters.
I am glad you came."

"Why?"

"I am glad you came," repeated the old man. "The Apparition...I am
not sure that I understood her. She is usually so explicit. But
tonight...nebulous, indefinite. Naturally one would not like to fall into
error. Was it not perhaps that my own sense of personal grievance...He
gave me rather at bad beating-up. Look!"

He pointed to his mouth: it was swollen and cut.

"Is this somebody you are travelling with?" The ancient nodded
seriously.

"His name I do not know. Harry the Valet they call him." He glanced
nervously at the door.

"I will show you the shed," he said, and went ahead. "We have been
together for eight years--longer perhaps. I find him useful. But he is
very cruel...hum!"

The "shed" was a lean-to, but if, as the old man said, this disused
studio was a place that nobody visited, the shelter was on the side of
the building where it was least likely to be observed.

"This is a favourite 'sleep' for the confraternity." The visitor gathered
what he meant.

"But I am afraid we have the best place. But, of course, you would not
wish to sleep here?" Robin broke it to him that he would, and the old man
did not seem surprised.

"Are you alone? No? there is a store in a corner of the lot. I have not
been there myself, but I understand that it is comfortable in dry
weather." He would have shown the way, but Robin declined his assistance,
and they returned to the front of the one-storied building to find that
He was waiting in the open for him. A giant, almost a head taller than
Robin.

"Hey! What's this, Jesse...what'n hell's the big idea? Leavin' the
door open, you little--" His language was not delicate. Robin showed his
lamp on to the ground. It gave enough slight to inspect the man. Poorly
but not uncomfortably dressed, well fed, burly...there all that could
be said favourably of his appearance finished. If anything, he was less
prepossessing than he had been on the night of their introduction. The
old man addressed him as "O" and was pitifully anxious to propitiate him.

"Get in and make that bed again, you little runt!" He lifted his foot;
the bald old man dodged the kick with remarkable agility. In the light,
"O" had seen the white expanse of dress shirt and anticipated largesse.
Robin understood that he was not recognised.

"That old guy's nutty--don't take notice of him. He sees spooks. Got the
makin's on you? Well, have you got a dollar...quarter? Me an' him
ain't had no food in days."

It was the moment to put "O" right. Robin explained.

"Sleepin' here? You're crazy. Anyway, there's no room." The note of
deference was gone from his voice. "What's the idea?"

"I'm staying here, that's all," said Robin shortly, and turned away. He
expected the man to follow, but he made no movement. Very briefly he
explained to October what the position was.

"I don't think we can get the car much farther," he said. "The tank is
nearly empty, but I may be able to scrounge a tin to-morrow." He drove
the car over the ruts and furrows, surmounted mysterious heaps of refuse
and backed it into the shelter. Then they went in search of the corner
store. It was a small windowless building that had evidently been used as
a sleeping-place before. Door there was none; the floor was bare,/not
even a sack had been left. The one-time whitewashed walls were covered
with pencilled inscriptions by former occupants. Some of them were
translatable and others unprintable. There were also drawings, but he
dropped his light quickly from these.

"You had better try the floor," he said, and laid the cushions and rug he
had brought from the car in one corner. He heard her whisper, and,
looking up, saw the giant form of "O" silhouetted in the doorway. Robin
walked out of the hut.

"Want anything?" he asked.

"Who's the skirt?" Robin's light flashed full on the animal face of the
man. He shaded his eyes and saw the gun in the other hand.

"Go back where you belong."

"Hi! Hi! What's matter with you...!"

"Get!" The big man shambled off into the darkness; his curses came back
with undesirable clearness.

"Who is he?"

"'O,'" said Robin laconically. "Or 'nought'--he's nothing." One cushion
sufficed him. He planted it in the doorway, pulled a rubber sheet round
him and, with his back to the wall, dozed. It was a long time before
October fell into a fitful sleep. She must have awakened a dozen times,
but whenever she turned or stretched, she saw a movement at the door and
knew that he was awake. Finally she sat up, pushed back her hair and
yawned.

"Did it waken you?" asked the voice from the doorway.

"It? What was it? I heard nothing."

"Poor little Baldy is getting a beating--for two cents I'd go over."

What he meant, as she knew, was that, but for the necessity of guarding
her sleep, he would have gone. She yawned, got up on her feet, pulling on
her shoes, and joined him. His head was bent, listening. From somewhere
in the grounds came the sound of weeping, a thin, weak crying like a
child's.

"Poor old Baldy!" he said softly. She asked him who he meant, and he told
her of the old man called "Jesse."

"I suspect he is a slave. Some of the old hands have these poor devils to
fetch and carry for them. Baldy is one such."

He told her nothing of Julia or the Apparition or the great university
where Baldy had lectured to students who were now great doctors driving
in their pretentious limousines. The tale was harrowing enough, and he
was not past being harrowed himself. The weeping ceased. She brought her
blanket, put it round her shoulders and sat with him. He had had "forty
winks," he said, and anyway he did not require much sleep, boasting that
he had once kept awake for three days and nights.

"Where was this?" she asked, and he answered vaguely that it was in
Europe, and did not think it worth while explaining that an intensive
enemy bombardment of his trench had been a contributory cause to his
wakefulness.

Just as the first pale light came into the east they heard another cry.
An "Ow!" hoarse and startling. Nothing followed. Robin moved uneasily.
He could see the angle of the building now--the after side of the
office. Then he rose.

"I really must go over, I am afraid," he said. "Do you mind? You will be
quite safe here."

"Shall I come with you?" He hesitated. "Yes...perhaps it would be
better." The morning was chilly; he helped her into the beloved coat, and
they stepped out side by side. In the cold light of dawn he had a
remarkable appearance. He had taken off the stiff collar and tie, and the
shirt was unbuttoned at the neck. There were four inches of shirt showing
between the rumpled-up waistcoat and pants that were built for a slighter
man. The sleeves had worked up until the cuffs seemed to be in the region
of his elbows. Intercepting her amused glance, he chuckled.

"I look funny, don't I? Like a comedy waiter. Some day I'll take off the
rest of my venerable beard, and then I'll give you leave to laugh!"

They rounded the corner and stopped before the door, listening. No sound
came from inside the "office." He motioned her back and pushed the door
gently. As it opened a little he listened again. Sharp as his ears were,
he could detect no sound of breathing. The atmosphere was thick. He made
a grimace and moved the door wide open. Still no sound. He could have
switched on the light, but he did not wish to disturb them; they must
sleep soundly if fresh air did not rouse their shivering protests.

The room was inkily dark. He took one cautious step, and then his foot
slipped on something and he lost his balance. Down he came sprawling. It
was soft and wet. His hands were covered with a warm, sticky fluid. Up to
his feet he came in a second and flashed down the lamp, on the face of
the man called "O."

He looked, petrified with horror, then his lamp searched for Jesse who
was once a professor of anatomy and saw Apparitions. The old man was not
there. Robin stooped and wiped his hand on the man's coat, then he backed
out.

October was waiting, a dim figure in the grey dimness. "Was he...?"
Then she saw the white shirt-front.

"Blood!" she whispered. "Is the old man hurt?" I He shook his head.

"The other-?"

"Dead--sorry." He sent the light round its limited range. There was no
sign of the old man who spoke such good English. Perhaps he was already
with the Apparition that came to him some nights and leered and pointed
him his duty. They went back to the little store and gathered rug and
cushions.

"We must get away from here--quick," he said, carrying the equipment to
the car. "The poor old beggar! Professor of anatomy! I should say so!"

When he cranked up the car, the noise of it sounded deafening. Nobody
could live on the earth and not hear it.

"I don't know how far we can run on a quart of juice," he said, "but
we'll go as far as we can."

They came out on to the road and turned in the direction they had been
heading when the car had stopped before the studio. The light was still
faint--hardly distinguishable from night. Patches of white mist lay in
the hollows, and when they descended a sharp dip they ran into a fog that
continued a surprising time. Now they were climbing a road that was cut
in the side of a bare hill. The engines began to make spluttering noises,
the machine went on in jerks. Near to the top, they went dead. He pulled
the brake, and, getting down, walked to the crest. From here the road ran
gently downhill. He carne back and told her, and together, with great
labour, they pushed the machine to the far side of the ridge. Here they
sat down and regained their breath.

"Can't you take off your shirt?" she asked anxiously. "It
is--dreadful! And your hands..." She looked round for water but there was
no spring here.

"Couldn't I buy you some clothes?" she asked suddenly. He put his hand
in his pocket and when he withdrew it she saw two quarters on his palm.

"Buy me anything up to fifty cents," he said. She had no money. Her
wrist-watch might have a selling value, but it could not be a high one.

"Great Moses!" She followed the direction of his startled eyes. He was
looking backwards: the hill commanded a view of the road along which
they had come...big white billows of smoke were rising from the
studio...she saw the red and yellow flames lick up and vanish.

"On fire--he did it...the old hero!"

She knew that he was talking of Baldy. Then his face fell.

"That is going to call together all the police in miles," he said, "and
they will find 'O'--both parts of him."

Without another word he stripped off coat and shirt. Underneath was the
silk which made him feel royal. He made a bundle of waistcoat and shirt,
looked longingly at the petrol tank and finally stuffed them under one of
the back cushions.

"Let us glide," he said. The car went smoothly downhill. He might have
got a movement for his engine, but he was reserving this for a final run
on the level.

"You must be dreadfully cold--have the rug around your shoulders," said
October, but though he was shivering he refused the offer. There was a
little township ahead of them. The inevitable farm trolley appeared in
the road. Robin made a signal and the driver, a sleepy and disgruntled
youth, stopped.

"Sure I've got spirit..." Robin bargained and lied. He had a manner
with him that combined hauteur and good humour. He sought for the young
man's weak spot and found it.

"This young lady is my daughter--she's rushing to meet the 6.15. Queer
thing is that I came along without my wallet--look!"

Fifty cents displayed upon a broad palm look very few cents.

"That's not enough for a can," said the young man, one eye on October.
"I'd get fired--yes, sir. Still--" He had a can that was near full. The
exchange was effected.

"Where you from? Not Littleburg? Say, they caught that Willie last night
an' shot him up, yes, sir. Over by Murphy's corner...you know. He
poisoned a feller an' got his wife away--she's dead too."

"Glory be!" said Robin. "I must tell her--I must tell my daughter."

A few miles farther along a motor fire-engine came rocking past,
smothered with dust.

"We are getting near to progress," said Robin, "This is where we go
very slow."

He had hardly spoken before he heard the hideous shriek of a motor horn
behind. He thought it was the fire float and took no notice. Again the
angry yelp. Looking back, he saw a car and, drawing in to the side, waved
it on.

"It's very early for traffic--" he began, and then the car drew abreast
and passed. The man at the wheel was little featured and wore a monocle.
From the heap of furs by his side protruded the dead white face of a lady
with a large Roman nose. For a second their eyes met...she spoke to
the man at her side and he half turned his head, straightened it again
and swerved before the little machine.

"What a nerve!" said Robin Leslie Beausere. It was all over in two
seconds, the exchange of glances, the passing. The machine ahead
accelerated, became a dim form showing between rolling clouds of dust,
and was gone.

"Elfrida!" said October.

"And Gussie. So they found the car. I am very glad. I'd hate to lose it."
She looked at him in blank amazement.

"But it isn't your car."

"In a sense and for the time being it isn't," he said carefully, "but it
will be!" At the next fork he stopped and examined the wheel tracks.
The diamond-pattern tyres had gone due north; he took the westerly road
and was sorry. So many were the houses hereabouts that he guessed he was
approaching the suburbs of a large town. There were cars and people on
the road--people who were interested in a man dressed simply in a tuxedo
and silk vest. And the spirit was running low. A garage was opening, and
he stopped the car before its doors. But the man who was open ing up was
an assistant and had no authority to loan petrol.

"Would you like to buy this handsome run-about?" blandly. The garage
hand regarded this suggestion as a humourless joke and went sour on it.
Then he said something.

"Cut yourself, ain't you?" He was looking curiously at Robin's hand.

"Could you drive a machine like that and not cut yourself?" he demanded.

October came to the rescue.

"My uncle has left home without money and we have to get on to
Ogdensburg. Would you loan us some spirit if I left my watch with
you--or would you buy it?"

The garage man took the watch and smiled cleverly. He was not, said the
smile, the kind of man who would fall for fake jewellery. With
disparagement written large upon his homely face bearing relics of
yesterday's toil, he weighed the little gold timepiece in his hand.

"Worth about a dollar, I guess?" he said.

"You can buy 'um cheaper, but a dollar'd be fair/' The watch had cost a
hundred and fifty dollars a year before.

"Make it ten," said October courageously. The young man half shook his
head He had a girl for whose birthday he had designed an expensive
present-and an expensive present is one that is just a little more than
you can afford. And it was a nice watch. It had been worn and yet
remained gold.

"Five dollars is all that I could give you for that watch."

A brilliant idea came to October.

"You shall have that little watch for three dollars and a suit of
clothes," she said, with solemn earnestness. He was staggered, but the
bargaining faculties of the man were stirred. He had a suit...a very old
suit...

"Sure!" he said. Near to the garage was the tiniest wooden house she
had ever seen. It looked to be rather a large tool chest, yet into this
he disappeared. When he came out, garments were hanging over his arm.
October took them one by one and examined them critically.

"They're not Savile Row, are they?" she asked, and he, who had taken a
correspondence course in the French language, thought she had introduced
a foreign idiom and answered "Oui." With one dollar's worth of petrol in
the tank, two greasy bills in her hand, and the suit neatly folded on the
back seat, the machine sped on its way.

"He's very slight, not to say skinny," said Robin ominously. "I'm going
to bulge!" They were now in a more sparsely peopled country; farms were
fewer, there were clumps of trees and fast-running little streams. They
followed the course of one of these until they came to a wooded glen. He
had abandoned food and covering, but had held fast to soap and towel-she
had discovered this the night before, when the sugar with which he
sweetened her coffee had imparted a faintly soapy flavour to an otherwise
perfect refreshment.

"You go first," he said, and produced the towel with a flourish. Climbing
down the steep bank to the stream she made a hurried toilet and returned
him apologetically a very damp towel. He had, he gravely informed her, a
shirt. He used this to dry himself, washed the shirt in the stream and
applied to his cheeks the safety razor. It was a groaning performance.
There came back to her a smart, youngish man with a moustache the ends of
which had been soaped and twisted into spiky points. The vividly brown
suit showed signs of wear and tear, but in many ways it fitted him better
than the dress clothes he had abandoned. The crumpled dress collar had
been straightened out, the black dress tie gave him an air of
respectability.

"You look," October summed up, "rather like a drummer who is travelling
in a snappy line of funeral fixings."

The shirt was spread on the engine to dry whilst they made a hasty meal
and held a council of war. O's death had complicated matters, he said.
The certain circulation of particulars and number of the stolen car, the
appearance of Captain Sullivan at Four Beech Farm in a borrowed dress
suit, and the swift recognition of Elfrida's were all bad enough. What
would follow the discovery at the studio would be worse.

"But, my dear man, they can't say that you killed this wretched bully!"
she protested.

They could and they might, he argued. He had been seen coming from the
direction of the fire; the garage man had noted the blood on his hands.

"My only hope is Elfrida--she's clever," he said, and she was speechless
with astonishment.

"But...I thought she would have you arrested it she could? I
understood that...doesn't she hate you?"

He nodded, but did not reply, for his mouth was occupied with the half of
a large apple.

"She loathes me!" he said. "But the last thing she wishes is my arrest.
Elfrida would strip her rings from her fingers, her diamonds from her
ears, her king's-ransom pearls from her neck to prevent my arrest! That
is her big worry. She will never forgive me for coming into the public
eye. If you could get inside Elfrida's soul you would find it like a
tossing sea of despair. Poor old Elfrida!" October settled back in a
corner of the car and moaned.

"I don't understands! What is the mystery? First you make me think that
this wretched woman hates you, then you tell me she would sell her
jewels--as I have done--to save you. Then you call her poor 'old
Elfrida' as though she were your dearest friend!"

"I'm naturally mysterious," he said modestly, but became serious
immediately. "The point is this: we're marked, and the car marks us. I
don't know whether its lawful owner has already interviewed the police--it
is rather early. But that risk can only be delayed a short while.
Every garage will be notified and our friend whose wardrobe I am
representing is certain to betray us. The only hope in that direction is
that he doesn't disclose the fact that he swapped clothes for your watch.
Probably he won't. He will think that the watch has been stolen, and that
if he tells the truth he will lose watch, dollars, and suiting. He will
say that we filled up and went on."

"What shall we do with the machine?" she asked, impressed by his logic.

"Leave it--not here but near some township. You will have to leave your
coat, too, I am afraid. That is positively trampish." He recovered his
shirt. It was dry--in places. There were even yellow scorch marks.
October made a suggestion. A thin branch of alder was broken off, and to
its end the shirt was tied by its sleeves. There was hardly enough wind
to stir the linen, but when the car started and the breeze caught the
fluttering thing, it billowed out like an obese and shapeless sausage.

"An emblem of surrender and slightly conspicuous," said Robin, glancing
up, "but ingenious!"

Fortunately the road was deserted, and the only man who saw this strange
banner found a. perfectly natural explanation for its presence. They had
to strike their banner once for a farmer's car, but by the time they
came to the really dense traffic the shirt was dry. And they came up to
the "dense traffic" unexpectedly at the first cross-road-two buggies,
several Fords, a little trolley crowded with young men and maidens in
festal garb, a motor wagon with an oddly uniformed band, they were all
in sight when the machine, panting huskily struggled over the top of a
long, steep hill.

"They are going to the Farmers' Convention!" said the girl, suddenly
remembering. Apparently the Convention was an affair of some importance.

"Mr. Elmer was president or something..." She wasn't quite sure that
she knew the name of the town where the Convention was to be held, but
she had heard that it was an occasion for hectic gaieties. Mr. and Mrs.
Elmer often talked about a lady who swallowed swords and a gentleman who
put his head in a lion's mouth. In their artless admiration of these
feats of daring they were almost human. All this October related as they
made their slow progress to the intersecting road. Robin made up his mind
quickly. Not to be going to the Convention, would be, in the eyes of
numerous travellers, both odd and noticeable. The best way to avoid
attention was to drift with the stream. He turned with the tide, planted
himself between a dilapidated joy wagon and a slow-moving and
heavily-loaded Ford, and kept his position. The gaiety of the Convention
came out to meet them--stuff-roofed stalls where young men were eating
quickly but solemnly; a little group of heads, bent in a motionless scrum
about a top-hatted man who was performing some miracle in the centre;
another and larger group gathered round a small rostrum on which a
bareheaded gentleman wearing a poker dot waistcoat and frock coat held a
large pink-filled bottle in one hand and gesticulated with the other.

"We'll back in here," said Robin. They had reached the centre of the
town`; motor vehicles in every stage of beauty or decrepitude were parked
at an angle to the sidewalk.

"Every town in the United States should have its name painted up in
letters a mile high," said Robin as he got down. "We'll leave this bad
baby here--I don't know a better place than a car park. Now where can I
leave you?"

"Leave me?" she repeated in dismay. He nodded.

"I want clothes for us both, a new machine and information," he said,
"and I shall get all these best if I work alone. By the way, I suppose
you have never picked a pocket? That's a pity. I'm rather clumsy with my
hands. We'll have to try another way."

He left her outside the drug store with strict injunctions that she was
not to move until he returned, and was soon lost to sight in the crowd.
She stood for a long time watching the people. Immediately opposite where
she stood was a big, square building with a red, shingled roof. Across
its clapboard front in letters gilt and Gothic were the words "Astor
House." It was, presumably, the principal hotel, for on the narrow stoep
before the building, and protected from the sun by a semicircular veranda
that had the appearance of a large eyeshade, was a line of chairs,
occupied by shirt-sleeved men. As she was looking, a long-bodied touring
car drew up before the doors. It was covered with dust so that it was
difficult to distinguish its colour, but the shape was familiar...it
was the car that had passed them on the descent from the hill! More, it
was they identical machine that she and Robin had left in the quarry
forest. But the woman with the Roman nose was not one of its three
passengers, nor did the monocled man Loamer sit at the wheel.

First to descend was the passenger who had lolled at his ease behind. He
opened his coat, shook off the dust and, standing up, removed his big
goggles. Sam Wasser! Spellbound, she stood watching.

"...that's the machine...English. Some flivver, but gimme my old
Overland!" Behind her two men who had come out of the drug store were
talking.

"She's been to Littleburg an' back 'n two hours. That's going some. But
she eats juice--eats it." The car had been sent back to Littleburg to
pick up Sam. Why? Let Lady Georgina Loamer supply the explanation. She
received her guest in a sitting-room which until that morning had been a
bedroom and which became an integral part of suite A by the simple
process of removing a bed, substituting a writing-table and opening a
door that communicated with a bedroom in which no change had been made.
Earn, who had been literally lifted from his breakfast a little more than
an hour before, was glad to meet her--at least he said so.

"So good of you to come, Mr. Wasser! I suppose you wonder why I asked
you?" She paused; her son made a discreet retirement. Sam had an
illusion of importance. He remembered that he was a gentleman and dragged
his fascinated eyes from the peculiar abnormality of the lady's
countenance; thereafter looked past her right ear, which supported a
large, pear-shaped emerald So did her left ear for the matter of that.

"Won't you sit down, please!"

"After you, ma'am," said Sam gallantly. He hitched up the knees of his
pants and sat expectantly.

"I was so terribly sorry to hear of your misfortune. My son told me, and
I have been wondering if I could do something for you." Sam coughed.

"Well, ma'am, that's kind of you, but I guess there's nothing can be
done. I got to smile an' start fresh. I don't blame October--it's this
bum. He's just naturally bad. I ought to killed him. But I just didn't
want to till I was sure."

"Sure," she repeated encouragingly.

"Well...I went up after him before...well, before the weddin',
ma'am. Up in the woods. You see, madam, I had my suspicions. That very
mornin' she said, 'I'd rather marry that hobo.' But I wasn't sure. So I
went up in the woods to have it out with him an' I said...well, I
don't know what I said. I just laid him out."

"That was brave of you, to go alone against that big fellow." Sam moved
uneasily.

"Well, ma'am, not exactly alone...two fellers, maybe three." She
accepted three. He added sombrely: "I ought to killed him."

"Mr. Wasser!"--the old woman clapped her knee with fingers that were
hardly visible under flashing rings--"I think you are very foolish to
say that nothing can be done. I am English, r so that I am not very well
acquainted with your laws, but you know, don't you, that the validity of
the marriage has been questioned and that the State attorney has declared
it to be illegal?"

"Is-that-so!" Sam had skipped all those parts of the newspaper reports
which did not mention him.

"Don't you think you could seek out this foolish girl and explain what
a terrible position she is in? And don't you think, Mr. Wasser, that it
would be very chivalrous and noble of you to offer her your name?" Sam's
feet were twisting under the chair.

"Well, ma'am--"

"Please--I want to finish. All the newspapers say that the girl--that
Miss Jones loved you: that is so, isn't it?" Mr. Wasser's feet curled
round one another lightly.

"Well, ma'am...October was kind of crazy--"

"Crazy about you? Yes, that is what I mean." Lady Georgina Loamer was a
very clever woman, and three minutes' personal association with October,
or one minute's personal observation of October in her relationship with
Mr. Wasser would have informed her. Unfortunately she took newspaper
accounts a little too literally. She was a subscriber to the London
Times, which dismissed big tragedies in little space.

Such as: The man found shot in Trafalgar Square has been identified as
Sir John Smith. Lady Smith has been detained by the police. It is
believed that jealousy of the popular dancer Madame Tiptoeski is at the
root of the sad affair.

She was not acquainted with the clichs of a brighter journalism. She did
not know that any woman who poisons her husband is automatically
"beautiful," and that when romance is missing from even the most sordid
tragedy it is mechanically supplied. It was impossible in her to envisage
an army of toiling reporters whose task was to save or blacken faces, and
that, whilst they had no objection to being harrowed, the average readers
refused to be nauseated, and therefore it was necessary, for the proper
presentation of the Littleburg affair, that October Jones should be
presented in the light of a victim.

"Well...yes. She was-not exactly crazy, ma'am, but...well, we
understood each other." Lady Georgina wondered which of the two
understandings was the more accurate. She had a pretty shrewd idea.

"This is what I wanted to say. The happiness of young people is my chief
consideration in life. I have a feeling that I would like to help you.
The question is, Mr. Wasser, would you be offended if I said that the day
you and this wretched--this poor woman was reconciled and married, I
will give you as a wedding present ten thousand dollars?" Sam's feet
went limp. He made sounds indicative of surprise and pleasure, but in his
face was the blank despair of a starving man who is separated from food
by a river that he cannot swim.

"Well, ma'am...you see, it's this way. Nobody knows where October is.
Last night this hobo stole a gentleman's clothes an' bluffed old
Elmer--said he was from the Department of Justice--he'll get thirty
years in the penitentiary for that--and October went away, and where she
went to--" Lady Georgina walked to the window and pulled aside the lace
curtains.

"Isn't that she?" Sam gaped past her. October Jones was standing on
the opposite sidewalk. She did not see the interesting audience of her
movement. All her attentions were concentrated upon a red-bearded man
who stood stock still in the middle of the street, regarding her with an
unfriendly eye.

Where was Robin? Her heart was beating furiously and it was not from fear
for herself. She withdrew her attention for a second and looked round for
the echoing Lenny. He was nowhere in sight. When her eyes came back to
Red Beard, he was apparently interested elsewhere. And then he strolled
on, ignoring her. She wanted to follow, but Robin had told her to stay.
And stay she must. The crowd was increasing. Every minute brought a new
contingent from the neighbouring towns and...was she mistaken?...more
police. She saw a party of a dozen ride slowly down the street: they
must have come some distance, for their horses were caked with dust,
their flanks wet and heaving. And then a wagon drew up by the sidewalk
and a dozen youngish men tumbled out--she saw the glitter of a police
badge as one threw back his jacket to shake off the dust. Police? Surely
more than was necessary to keep in order a few thousand law-abiding
holiday makers, or to deal with the half a dozen manipulators of peas and
walnut shells who lurked in secluded side streets to baffle and bleed the
unwary.

She felt herself go white and red again. Robin's presence here was known,
but that was not all. Something dreadful had happened.

"'Lo, October!" She almost jumped at the greeting. Mr. Sam Wasser's
smile was labelled in his mind as friendly. It was a large and stony
grin--he held out his hand.

"Glad to see you, October...didn't think I'd be meetin' you here.
Seen Mr. Elmer?"

"No," she managed to say. Sam extracted a cigar from his handkerchief
pocket and lit it with an air of nonchalance. He found it difficult to
meet her gaze.

"All that stuff...what I said last night...forget it, October. I
was sore. Honest, wouldn't you be sore? I'm a man of the world, October."

She had been thrown off her balance, but she was her normal self again;
could even smile so faintly that he was not sure whether she smiled at
all.

"Why, Sam, that's fine. When did this happen?" He was in the position
of an orator who had a set speech for delivery but could find nothing to
lead him to the opening. If she had said, as he had every reason to
anticipate, "Why are you following me?" he could have begun:

"Because, in spite of all that has passed I love you and wish to protect
you from yourself," or something like that.

"Aw, say, October! I been worried to death about you--can't sleep,
can't eat nothing."

Yet there was nothing of the starveling in his appearance, and his eyes
were brighter than they would have been if he had sat up all night in the
doorway of a studio store listening to the sobbings of an old man. She
looked round at the drug store.

"I see--you were on your way to the druggist? Too bad, but he'll fix you
up with a sleeping draught. Perhaps you need a tonic-;"

"I want you!" said Sam huskily, and before she could frame an answer he
stepped in with his preamble. "I want you...because...well, in
spite of the way you turned me down you know you did, October! I guess if
any other feller's ever been treated so darned mean he wouldn't come
runnin' after you same as me..."

She became conscious of a small and supernaturally clean boy with a
collar that obviously irked him, who had appeared on the sidewalk. He
stood, very ill at ease and uncertain, looking first at October, then at
Sam. In his hand he twisted and twirled a folded slip of paper.

"You only got to look at what the Globe and Star wrote to see how mean
you've been. After what I done--did for you an' everything..."

October went up to the boy.

"Do you want me?" she asked in a low voice.

"You Mrs. Bo-somethin'?" She almost snatched the note from his hand.

'Get to school far end of main avenue Walk on into country. Will
endeavour pick you up. Police looking for me.'

There was no signature. The note was written on a telegraph blank. She
crumpled the paper in her hand and nodded to the boy. Evidently he
expected no reward, for he did not linger. Sam, whose eloquent appeal had
been interrupted, saw nothing remarkable in her brief colloquy with the
small boy. Possibly she had sent him on an errand and had been waiting
there for his return.

"...in spite of all that's passed, October, I--well, I'm crazy about
you. That's what. Plumb mad about you, October. You're all alone an'
friendless an'...well, you know an' you're not married, October! The
district attorney an' the bishop an' everybody says it's unregular and
illegal." She cared nothing for bishops at that moment of crisis.

"Meet me here in an hour's time." This was not the moment for argument:
she could not even spare the time to be offensive.

"What I wanted to say was this, October--"

"In an hour's time. Leave me now or I will not see you at all. Go!"

He responded to this dramatic dismissal. She did not wait until the broad
portals of Astor House had engulfed him before she joined that section of
the leisurely throng that was moving in the direction of the school. To
make absolutely sure that she had made no mistake she asked a woman
loiterer.

Police...everywhere! Men obviously strangers to the town, who
exchanged knowing glances with the uniformed men as they strolled past
them. The school-house was a building of glaring red brick--shingle-roofed,
not to be missed. It was aloof from the town proper, nearer to
a huddle of one-storied frame houses of microscopic dimensions
that formed a suburb to the town and yet had an entity and a name of its
own. The woman she had questioned had told her that the school was "this
side Lutherville."

The road before the school was comparatively deserted except for the
pedestrians and vehicles making for the town she had left. There was no
sign of Robin.

"Walk on into country," the note said, and she continued on her way. Soon
Lutherville was behind her. On either side were fields dotted with shocks
of buckwheat; farm buildings were numerous; ahead was the blue curve of
hills. She stopped and sat down, staring back along the road. Except for
the cars that had passed her there was nothing in sight. A wagon of some
kind was coming towards her, progressing with painful slowness. A
diminutive man was driving--she thought at first he was a boy. The noise
of the worn-out and patched-up engine was thunderous, even at a distance.
As it came nearer it sounded like an artillery bombardment.

"Phut! Crash! Boom! Bang!" and through the major notes the counter melody
of metallic tittering. The driver was a middle-aged man with a wisp of
iron-grey beard on his chin and large rimless glasses on his nose. His
face wore a look of fierce determination and labour, as though it were
only the operations of his indomitable soul that kept the horrible
machine in motion. It moved at a good walking pace; when it came near,
the noise was deafening. The driver threw her one appealing glance as he
came up to her. The wagon had a tilt; flapping curtains hid its interior.

"October!" She spun round with a cry. The curtains at the back were
parted. She saw a face and an extended hand and flew. The hand caught
hers; she gripped the edge of the tailboard with her other hand and was
drawn upward.

"Watch your step," warned Robin. "We have guests!" And then in the
half darkness she saw the man with the red beard and his broad-faced
companion. They were lying on the broken floor of the trolley, their
hands strapped to one another's, back to back.

"You can sit on 'em if you like," shouted Robin obligingly. It was
necessary to shout, for inside the wagon the sound of bombardment was
intensified.


Chapter 10


WHEN Mr. Robin Leslie Beausere left his wife he went in search of a
telegraph office. He had two dollars and fifty cents in his pocket, and
was determined to take a short cut out of all his troubles. But the
telegraph office was not easy to find without making inquiries. And his
accent was rather English. One good result came of his wanderings--he
became acquainted with local topography. On a board attached to a
hardware store was a sheet advertising the desirable character of
building lots outside the town. To illustrate their proximity a
conscienceless draughtsman had drawn a plan, and on one of the broad,
tree-shaded avenues (as they were in the drawing) was the inscription
"To Ogdensburg." And Ogdensburg or thereabouts was his destination. The
town boasted, in addition to a cinema, a theatre. He became aware of
this, oddly enough, before he had seen the lurid posters which advertised
that sterling attraction "A Mother's Sin," which was immodestly
described as "The Most Stupendous Drama of Love and Hate and Woman's
Sacrifice ever presented on the American Stage." It was an argument
between the pugnacious driver of a trolley that had evidently transported
the properties and scenery of this soul-stirring play, and one who, to
judge by his commanding manner and all-round insolence, was not only the
manager but the leading man of the troupe, that first attracted Robin's
attention. He was not near enough, nor did he penetrate the
fast-gathering crowd, to learn the cause of the dispute, but guessed that
money entered into the question. It was as he strolled off that he became
dimly aware that there were more police in the town than seemed
necessary.

Two men, walking together in front of him, were obviously detectives. One
took off his hat and showed a sandy head, bald at the back. They were
talking; he got nearer to them.

"...not in ten years. Last case was when Mickey got Norey the Lawyer.
Cut his throat same as this bum's was cut." That was all and more than
Robin wanted to hear. The body had been found, and though his own name
had not been mentioned he knew that he was the explanation for this
incursion of police officers. They were looking for him, and either knew
that he was in town or guessed that this was the most likely place to
find him.

Soon after this he found the telegraph office, took a blank to the wall
desk and considered. To send such a wire at all was repugnant to him. He
was quitting. Whichever way he examined his motives, he was a quitter.
But there was October to be considered--He dropped point of pencil to
the paper; checked his hand again. What good would be the wire if they
arrested him for the murder of "O"? He got a little hot under the collar
as he thought of all the possible consequences of such an arrest. He made
up his mind quickly, scribbled a note to the girl and looked round for a
messenger. A boy had brought in a wire for dispatch and was paying the
clerk. Robin caught his eye and signalled him: the small boy came
suspiciously.

"Here's a quarter for you, son: take this note to a young lady you'll
find waiting outside the druggist's." When the messenger had gone, Robin
walked without haste to the door and stepped aside to allow a new-comer
to enter.

"Mornin', bo'!" Red Beard was more shocked than he: his voice trembled
so slightly that an ordinary hearer would not have detected the quaver of
it. Behind him was Lenny, a set grin on his face, his brown eyes saying
as plainly as words,

"Too near--and too many police around.."

"Come right in, Reddy." Robin's voice was cool, desperately polite.
"Tickled to death to see you."

He had started at an advantage; his left hand was in his jacket. By a
scarcely imperceptible flicker of eye had Red Beard observed this potent
fact.

"Got kind of spruce, ain't you? Never seen you with a moo-stache before.
You're a dude, bo', ain't he, Lenny?"

"Thasso," grunted Lenny.

"I'll be going along," said Robin. Red Beard stepped aside promptly. As
he came on to the street Robin turned at an angle to face them.

"Listen!"--Red Beard seemed to have forgotten that he wanted to go into
the office at all--"I'd like to talk to you, bo'. Suppose you come for a
walk?"

"Suppose!" replied Robin sardonically.

"Where's the cemetery, anyway?"

"Aw! Cemetery!" Red Beard looked pained. "What's all this cemetery
stuff? Me and Lenny will walk in front. That's fair, ain't it, Lenny?"
Lenny agreed in the usual manner.

Curiosity was one of Robin Leslie's weaknesses.

"Walk," he said, and kept close behind them as they marched together side
by side in their soldier-like way. They turned at the corner of the
block, he close behind them, knowing the dangerous nature of corners. At
the Main Avenue end of the thoroughfare was a fair sprinkling of people,
a booth or two. A man, patently Latin of origin, was selling hot edibles
briskly. Farther down the street a procession was forming, and here was a
bigger and younger crowd. There was a circus in town: gilded wagons,
beautiful but under-attired ladies hobnobbed with gorgeous Cossacks;
clowns smoking cigarettes, a dispirited lion blinking sleepily in a cage;
two camels (Robin observed that one was mangy) and a top-hatted huntsman
with a mixed pack of performing hounds that were merely dogs; a band
wagon of scarlet and gold, and, a long way behind the tail of this
aggregation of talent and beauty, a very ancient trolley with a
bedraggled tilt.

"Let's talk." Red Beard and his companion stopped and came about with
military exactness.

"I seen your young lady on Main Street," said Red Beard. "That's one
nice girl. A perfect lady--ain't she, Lenny?"

"Thasso," said Lenny.

"Me and Lenny's been talking about you. Lenny reckons that you're mad at
us for shootin' you up at Schenectady. But we was all wrong. Mistook you
for a bum who put dirt on me an' Lenny down in Looeyville last fall.
Ain't that so, Lenny?"

"Thasso," said Lenny.

"We got you wrong, bo', and that's a fact. New me an' Lenny don't want
any fuss--we got our own graft an' we don't want anybody to go sour on
us because we mistook you for a guy that doubled us in Looeyville."

"And when," asked Robin blandly, "did you make this discovery? Did it
coincide--"

"How's that?" asked Red Beard.

"Did it happen when you found that I'd borrowed the watchman's gun and
was good enough shot to take your hat oft?"

"That's nothin' to do with it," Red Beard hastened to assure him. "You
didn't need to shoot off my derby--I'd take it off to you as a shooter.
Yes, sir."

"Then what do you want to talk about?"

Red Beard did not look at his friend. He stared straight ahead.

"You're in bad. Seen the coppers in town? I'll bet you have! I'll bet
there's nothin' you don't see! Sharp! That's what I says to Lenny: 'I'll
bet he don't miss any'!"

"Yes, I've seen the police: I thought they were after you."

Red Beard was amused. He laughed loud and long.

"Tha's the best one I heard since I left New York I Say, Lenny, did you
hear this big stiff? Ain't he the big joke? Listen-I'm tellin' you. You
got to get out of town--quick! There's three fly cops on every way out--and
mounted fellers. You can't get out one-handed and that's a fact. Me
and Lenny's got to skip too-that bonehead cop from Littleburg's here and
he's mad at us. But me an' Lenny won't leave you. We got a feelin' we'd
like to pull you out with us. Only we can't take your young lady. That's
a fact."

"How are you going to get me out?"

Red Beard looked round, and it occurred to the fugitive that until that
moment his would-be rescuer had not considered a method. The ramshackle
trolley was drawn up by the roadside; its little driver sat with his
back to a high poster-covered fence, eating.

"Just wait," said Red Beard, and walked slowly over to the luncher.

"Mornin', boss--come far?" The little man eyed him unfavourably over
his glasses.

"Ogdens," he said briefly, and took another bite at the thick wad of
brown dough that occupied his attention.

"Me and my friends reckon we'd like to got back to Ogdens. Startin'
soon?"

"Yuh"--with a glance at "my friends." And then, with a shake of head:
"My old trolley don't go fast enough. You'd get there sooner on the
cars."

Red Beard whistled softly.

"Pretty well known around here?"

"I'd say," said the trolley owner complacently. "You wouldn't find
nobody here that didn't know me. My name's Meister."

"Police know you?"

"Hey?" Suspicion in the man's face and tone. He had money in his pocket
and this man was a foreigner. "Yuh! Don't suppose there's a cop in this
country that don't know me. I'm a Justice of Peace." He put back the
remainder of his lunch in a tarnished pail.

"I guess I'll be getting along." Red Beard signed to the others to come;
they were crossing the road. Mr. Meister's heart sank into his little
boots.

"We figured we'd like to take a ride with you," said Red Beard, and, as
the old man went to the starting handle, signalled the two into the back
of the machine. The engines raved round; Mr. Meister leapt to his seat
with great agility when he saw that his questioner had disappeared. The
trolley shocked forward...behind the driver the curtain was pulled
aside.

"Drive straight through town and speak to nobody. I'll be watching you,
you old runt, an' I'll blow your spine outer you if you squeal!" The
muzzle of a gun rested on the back of the driver's seat. Mr, Meister
reeled. As the trolley came to the thronged avenue:

"You guys better lay flat," said Red Beard, "case any of these hicks
peek in," and set an example, lying athwart the floor, holding back the
front curtain with one hand, his gun levelled in the other. Robin and
Lenny were stretched side by side and facing. Half the width of the
trolley was between them.

They were clear of the town, beyond the shacks that were qualifying for
entrance to the gazetteer...fields on either side...no sign of
October.

"Put that gun down!" Red Beard turned his head. Robin was resting on his
elbow, and his left hand held a black-barrelled automatic. Red Beard
looked at Lenny and the impassive face of the echo told him nothing. He
laid down the revolver very carefully and Robin kicked it towards
himself. And then every muscle in play, he flung himself back against the
side of the wagon. Lenny struck, but struck short. Swifter than eye could
follow, his hand had moved...the knife buried itself in the wooden
floor and the point protruded beneath.

"Come here, Reddy, and step lively! Stay down--you!"

He was on his feet. Red Beard lurched forward, his hands above his head.

"Lie down--back to back." There were little straps in the trolley: the
pinioning was easy.

"Clever, ain't you--we got you out of town and this is what you do! Say,
we'll get you for this!"

"Don't talk," said Robin ominously. He took a. look at the driver. The
little man was like one in a trance.

"Go right on: don't stop till you get to Ogdensburg."

Now he saw the slim figure by the wayside sand, going to the back
curtain, called...


Chapter 11


As they cleared the first cross-road, Robin pointed to the exit, helped
her drop to the road. The trolley thundered on.

"Which way now?" She sounded breathless, and he looked at her keenly.

"Canada now," he said. The railway had run parallel with the road for the
last few miles, and they crossed it without meeting anything more human
than a dog. At a wayside pond he stopped to toss into the still water a
number of deadly weapons that he had acquired in the course of the trip.
Two knives, a revolver and a small automatic went to their permanent
rest.

"I'm rather sorry for Lenny," he said.

"Effective knife-throwing is largely a matter of balance--it may take
him years to get used to a new armoury." She shivered, and again he shot
an anxious glance at her.

"You're not feeling sick?" And, when she shook her head: "You'll never
deceive me about that, will you?"

"No--I'm not sick. Not really sick. I'm just--I'm frightened to confess
it--but my nerves have that all-in feeling."

"You have seen the newspapers?" he asked quickly.

"No--why? Is it about the tramp? Did they find the--the body?" He
nodded.

"I haven't seen them, but I gathered from such talk as I overheard that
"O's" body was found and that the old man had not been heard of. Of
course they blame me--the garage man spilt the beans. I am aching to see
the newspapers."

He saw them much sooner than he expected.

They reached the inevitable Ogdensburg Road and turned in the direction
of that (to him) important town. She was worried by this. Were not the
victims of his duplicity also en route to Ogdensburg?

"They will shout like blazes as soon as I am out of earshot, and the
funny little man will stop his machine and untie them--unless he has the
sense to drive them to the nearest police station."

He laughed at the memory of a good joke

"What is it?" She was inclined to be irritable. For answer he put his
hand in his pocket and drew out a respectable handful of bills.

"Nearly a thousand dollars--I took every cent they had," he said simply.
October was past surprise.

"I don't understand-anything," she said.

"Why did you hold them up? Surely they were trying to help you? If it had
not been for them you would still have been in town--captured probably."
He was tickled at this.

"Elfrida wouldn't allow that! I told you she wouldn't. And of course
Elfrida was there--I saw the car as I was talking to Reddy at the
telegraph office. No, Elfrida would hate to see me pinched!"

"Sam was there too," she said. He listened without comment. At the end of
her narrative:

"That was Elfrida, of course! Isn't she wonderful! Jolly old Elfrida!
I just hate the thought of putting Gussie behind bars--that is going to
break her up--hallo!" She had left his side and, walking to a grassy
bank at the side of the road, sat down. Her face had gone suddenly very
white, her hands were trembling.

"I don't think I can walk any more," she said unsteadily. In a state of
panic Robin made a search of the road. It was a straight, broad avenue,
and he thought he saw the white gable of a house through the trees.

"You won't faint if I leave you?" She shook her head. "Sure?"

".Don't be silly--I shan't faint. Hunger doesn't kill the first day."

Hunger! She had eaten nothing since seven that morning.

He searched his pockets frantically.

"What a callous brute I've been!" he exclaimed. "I've nothing---not
even a crust."

Without another word he sprinted down the road. As he came nearer to the
gable he saw it was a house of some size.

A colonial mansion, white and chaste with wooden Corinthian pillars,
hidden for half their height by some creeping flower of brilliant purple.
As he pushed open the gate he was staggered to see, on a neatly painted
board nailed to a big sycamore, "Rooms to Rent."

He rang the bell, and after a wait of a minute the door was opened by a
sharp-featured maid in black. He supposed her the maid from the white
apron and cap she wore. He thought she was between forty and fifty. She
had been weeping; her eyes were very red and swollen, her nose had been
streaked with powder hurriedly, in a pathetic endeavour to hide the
evidence of her distress.

"May I see your mistress, please?" Her eyes winked rapidly.

"She is not at home." She was obviously British, but it was not, he
thought, an unusual circumstance to find an English maid in a house of
this character. And then he recalled the advertisement on the sycamore.

"Can I have a room--two rooms? My--er--my wife has been taken ill on the
road."

She shook her head half-heartedly, measured his inches with a glance.

"Would you be staying long?" she asked.

"I don't know; everything depends." He could almost watch the process of
vacillation.

"Come in, please." She closed the door behind him. He was in a large
vestibule from which a staircase wound up to a gallery that ran all four
sides of the hall. Facing him on the wall was a large steel engraving of
Queen Victoria, above which hung the Union flag of Britain. The floor was
paved in squares of black and white tiling; there was a bloated rosewood
cabinet against one wall, and an old grandfather clock ticked solemnly in
one corner. She opened a door and showed him into a parlour that was a
type of all that mid-Victorian parlours should be. Everything was
specklessly clean, but terribly worn and shabby. The original design of
the carpet had long since disappeared: it was a reddish-blue smudge. She
took off her apron and cap and laid them on the horsehair couch.

"I am the lady of the house," she said simply. "I have only one maid.
I--I sometimes open the door to strangers. You wanted rooms?"

"Two," he said, but she shook her head,

"I have one--a large double room. You see, Mr---?"

"Beausere."

"Mr. Beausere, I have no boarders any longer. I am rather far from
Ogdensburg, and in the past few years new boarding-houses have been
opened. Sometimes in the spring and autumn I have a family from Canada."
She wanted to tell him something, but he, growing impatient as he thought
of October, was in no mood for her confidences.

"May I bring her, then?" he asked. She hesitated again.

"Yes, please. I am sure that I am doing right. God has performed great
miracles for me--must trust you." With this cryptic `utterance in his
ears but hardly in his mind, he raced back to where he had left October,
and a load rolled off his heart when he saw her walking slowly towards
him.

"You angel! I thought you would at least need carrying!"

She smiled at this, and October seldom smiled.

"What have you unearthed?" she asked. "Robin, I could eat grass!"

He told her of his new landlady.

"Poor soul--how brave!" said October in a hushed voice. "And I love
early-Victorian furniture, especially tables with fried chicken and pie
and melons...ugh! I mustn't think it!"

She was waiting at the door and informed them quaintly that she was
usually called "Miss Ellen."

"There is only one thing I would ask of you," she said, after she had
ceremoniously introduced the drawing-room to October, "and that is, to
make as little noise as possible. I--I have an invalid in the house.
My--my dear father." She searched rapidly for her handkerchief. Here, then,
was the source of tears.

"Perhaps you would like dinner? It is rather late--we dine at two, but
if you wish-?"

October wished, most fervently. Miss Ellen glided from the room and
closed the door softly upon them.

"In many ways," said Robin, glooming down on the girl, "this isn't Real!
It is one of the Things that Cannot Be. Thank God for money!" He
rustled the bills in his pocket luxuriously, and then:

"There is only one room," he said, with elaborate indifference. "I mean
bedroom. I will break it to our dear lady that I have an eccentric
desire to sleep on the chesterfield--maybe there is a davenport
somewhere. To a man who has spent a very considerable time on hard ground
and regarding wood sheds as sybaritic, a davenport, or even a reasonably
soft carpet, will be heaven."

She said nothing in reply; for some reason or other the moment was
embarrassing.

"I suppose--we me married?" she asked.

"Good Lord, yes--why?" She looked hard at the window.

"Mr. Sam Wasser had his doubts. He said the marriage had been declared
illegal by the district attorney. I suppose he means the State attorney.
And the bishop."

He was uneasy. "You don't mean that?"

She nodded.

"It's a stunt! One of those infernal newspaper men wanted a sensation and
interviewed the bishop." She raised her face with a jerk.

"Would you be...terribly relieved if it were dissolved? I shall
never forget how miserable you were when I told you the morning after."
He looked somewhat miserable now.

"I guess you'll be relieved, you poor little hobo-ess!"

"You're evading!" she accused. He eyed her steadily.

"If this marriage is dissolved, will you marry me all over again?" he
asked, and her hand shot out to him and was imprisoned.

Miss Ellen knocked at the door. Dinner was ready, she said. She hoped
they would excuse her shortcomings and (this was asked as Robin was
following into the dining-room) when might she expect the baggage.

He turned back and produced his money. It would, he explained, take some
time to get his baggage. He was only staying because his wife was not
well. As a matter of fact he was on a visit from Canada and they had
brought no baggage at all.

He intended (a very bright notion) to ask her whether she would be so
kind as to buy a few things for his wife in town--possibly a few
articles for himself? A Palm Beach suit, for example? He had a roll of
bills in his hand as he spoke. Would she accept a week's board in
advance? He could have sworn that her eyes lit up at the suggestion.

By the time he joined October at the table she was half-way through the
first course. Miss Ellen herself waited on them. She made, she said in
some confusion, a very good wine.

"Not alcoholic. My dear father always laid it down that a strict
observation of the law is the highest expression of culture."

The elderberry wine was palatable. She gave them the history of the bush
from which the berries were picked. The coffee was thin and unpalatable.

"Of course she's British!" scoffed Robin when the girl expressed her
doubt. "Taste the coffee and be convinced!"

Miss Ellen came in soon after; she was dressed for the street and, to his
delight, expressed her willingness to buy whatever he required. Perhaps
they would inspect their room after her return? If not, it was the door
facing them when they reached the head of the stairs.

"Mrs. Beausere will see her room when you return," said Robin
emphatically. He made a hurried list of his requirements and handed
pencil and paper to October, walking discreetly to the window whilst she
described her more intimate needs. The dining-room overlooked a broad
lawn flanked by flower-beds blazing with early chrysanthemums. There was
a little wooden nesting place on the end of a pole, weatherworn cupids at
odd corners. Beyond the lawn a "carre" of trees, as they call these
narrow plantations in England; beyond that, to his surprise, a railroad.
It seemed to skirt the end of a track garden, sketchily revealed through
the plantation.

After Miss Ellen's departure, October went up to inspect her room and he
found his way into the grounds. The lawn was delightfully soft; the
gravelled path led to a pergola unseen from the window. Dorothy Perkins
still bloomed pinkly, but there was a suggestion of neglect here. Poor
soul! October had said rightly. He sensed a hard and bitter fight against
the encroachment of poverty, an heroic, vain defence in face of
overwhelming odds. It is hard to keep the wolf from the cottage door with
its one entrance--here were so many approaches to guard. The belt of
pines cut off the track garden; a low hedge, which was neither box nor
privet, separated this land from a broad meadow. A small cowshed in one
corner was closed. A train thundered past; he walked to the untrimmed
bushes that were the first boundary line. Untrimmed, broken...why
broken? There was a distinct gap...newly broken. The twigs that were
snapped showed whitely, except in one place. A dark red turning brown.
Blood! There it was again on the burnished face of a leaf...and on
another broken twig.

He looked down. The grass grew high here, there was an abundance of
golden rod...a patch was crushed down, their stems snapped...blood
on the golden rod, too! And now he began to quarter the field;
found nothing until he explored the plantation...under a tree very
close to the path through which he had walked was a grimy old golf cap,
and when he picked it up, it was damp...blood! He wiped his hand on
the grass and dropped the cap where he had found it. He looked at the
house. It had a brooding air: the very windows seemed to leer slyly as
though enjoying some grim joke at his expense.

"Nerves!" said Robin, and returned to the house very thoughtful.
October was in the drawing-room reading a newspaper with an expression
more serious than his own.

"I found this under the pillow of the sofa," she said, and gave it to
him. There was a heavy type line across the front page.

"Police Reserves of State Searching for Tramp Murderer."

"That is good to begin with," he said, after he had read the line aloud.

"There's worse to come," she said; but he was reading the "worse."

"Robert Lesley, Abductor of Brides, cuts throat of a fellow tramp and
burns studio to hide his fiendish crime."

"They called me 'fiendish' before," he complained.

"Have you read what Al Luke has to say?" she asked. He jumped the
head-lines and came to Al Luke, his story.

"It was round about seven when I saw the tramp-fiend. He stopped at Mr.
Stone's garage, where I work, and asked me for a can of petrol. I saw his
hands were stained, but little dreamt that the sanguinary fluid-"

"I'll bet Al didn't say that," protested Robin.

"--sanguinary fluid was the blood of his wretched victim. I saw October
Jones. She sat in the machine most of the time. She looked pale and wan.
I would not call her pretty, but she was sad-looking--"

"He wouldn't call you pretty," emphasised Robin.

"He doesn't even call you pretty," she retorted.

"The man was a debased-looking creature and the trace of his vicious life
was only too evident. I didn't notice what clothes he wore--"

"Good for Al!"

"-I only saw his besotted face. Madness glared out of his eyes." The
report concluded with the information that Mr. Al Luke was expecting to
get married at an early date to the prettiest girl in Luxor, and was
moving to Littleburg to join the thriving garage company of Slitt &
Silberman as Chief Engineer.

"Not so bad," said Robin, and folded up the paper. "I wonder what
happened to Baldy--that pathetic old slave! The paper makes no mention
of him."

At her suggestion he replaced the journal where she had found it. He left
her with an old volume of Scott--the lightest reading that the bookshelf
in the parlour had to offer, and returning to the garden, began a
systematic search.

Nearing the end of the tree belt, he was conscious of the pungent odour
of burning kerosene. Against the brick wall was a heap of ashes that
still smouldered. He sniffed and raked over the ashes. The centre of the
heap was still red. What had been burnt there? It was impossible to tell:
the fluffy ash gave no clue, until he saw, in the depth of the red,
glowing heart, a red-hot metal button, and then another, a little larger.
Old clothing-and Miss Ellen did not seem the kind of woman who would burn
old clothes.

Going down into the meadow, he straddled the gap in the hedge and found
himself on a railway embankment. There were bloodstains here and a heap
of gravel piled up by the side of the track was scattered as though it
had been struck by a heavy body. There had been an accident. He began to
piece together the evidence.

Miss Ellen's aged father had wandered on to the track and had been
knocked over by an engine and carried into the house. But why the
mystery, and how came it that she made no reference to the happening?
Going back through the trees, he found the cap. It was an ancient golf
cap with a large red check, and he had the impression that he had seen it
before. But where? There must be thousands of such caps in use. He picked
it up with a stick and balancing the thing carefully, carried it to the
ash heap and poked it into the centre of the fire.

When he returned to the parlour, October was asleep, the open book on her
lap. He sat down opposite her. She was pretty, very pretty. The long
lashes that lay on her cheek were darker than her hair, a mop of red
gold...he sighed deeply, and the sound may have awakened her, for she
opened her eyes.

"Was I asleep? How long have you been here...did I snore? How mean of
you!"

He shook his head solemnly.

"Nary a snore! I could have set you back one nice pair of reindeer
gloves, but I didn't."

"Why didn't you?" she asked, retrieving the book that had fallen to the
floor.

"My innate delicacy is largely responsible," he said, "plus the dread
warning of Mr. Samuel Wasser."

"That we are not married?" She yawned and stretched her arms. "Lordy I
I shouldn't take much notice of what Sam said--there was nothing about
it in the Post-Courier."

"That almost makes it true," he replied.

"October, quo vadis?"

"Ogdensburg," she said lazily, "and a nice swim in the St. Lawrence, and
then Canada!"

He laughed gently. "Do you know the width of the river at Ogdensburg?
October, I owe you an apology."

"Why?" suspiciously.

"I thought you were just reckless--I wish to heaven I could remember all
the details of that wedding!--I imagined--be calm!--hysteria. A sort
of frenzy that came upon you and made you say 'I will' or whatever one
says--"

"You said it," she challenged.

"But I was not quite myself."

"Tight-intoxicated!" she mocked. "Of course you said 'I will.' And I
wasn't frenzied. I knew all that it meant or might mean marrying a tramp.
I did--if you smile I shall do something--unwomanly! That was Mr.
Elmer's favourite complaint against me, that I did unwomanly things--smoked
and washed myself all over in the stable--they haven't a shower
at Four Beech Farm. But I wasn't frenzied. Not after you said 'Sorry.'--If
you hadn't said 'Sorry' I shouldn't have married you. But you did say
'Sorry' and I knew that you meant it. And I've never been afraid--except
once. Once...I was scared when I woke up, scared and angry with
myself because--well, I don't know why. What do you think of me?"

In clear type such a question had more than a hint of coquetry; there was
provocation enough in its artlessness, yet he could see no more than she
meant to ask.

"I am trying to tell you. You're unique."

"All women are," she retorted.

"Yes--don't interrupt: you send all my profound judgments skew-wiff! But
you're unique in the light of experience. You may represent a numerous
genre, but I have never met a sample. Vividly wholesome! 'vividly'is
right--you shine! Puritanical, too. That's queer. I thought you were
Joan of Arc-ish but you're not. You see no--apparitions (poor old
Baldy!); you're sane. Lady Godiva is nearer the type `: a shingled Lady
Godiva. You would have scorned the compromise of long hair--" She
nodded.

"That is so: I should have felt I was a. cheat--what else?"

"You're emotional in a kind of way--I haven't quite got to the end of
you there. You're rather a stranger...I talked blithely about winning
a pair of gloves just now. But the truth is I never thought of kissing
you. I'd sooner knock out the fuse of a dud shell with a. coke hammer.
You'd explode--or you wouldn't. I'd be disappointed if you didn't and be
unconscious if you did. How old are you?"

"Twenty-one. If I hadn't been twenty one yesterday or whenever it was,
you'd be going on your way and I should have finished 'Morte d'Arthur.' I
wonder if I should have exploded?"

"I think you would," he nodded. "It would have been a pretty bad piece of
timing on my part. I know a fellow who jumped into the sea to save a
drowning girl. She was awfully pretty and rather fond of him, but as he
swam with her he kissed her--she never forgave him."

She had not taken her eyes from his face all the time he had been
speaking.

"I hate your moustache," she said.

"That was another reason why I could not kiss you," he said, and she went
pink.

"I wasn't thinking of that--yes, I was! It is too late to start lying. I
was. That moustache with little spiky ends...like an Italian banker
or Matilda Ann's ideal."

"Hi, bo' I You gloomin' the freight...?" A cracked, choky voice
hailed them, and Robin leapt to his feet. Standing in the doorway was a
little man wrapped in a woman's faded kimono. His head was swathed in
white bandages, his scrawny feet were bare. Chalk-faced, he glared at
Robin.

"Get busy! We'll make Troy in the mornin', and there's poke-outs
aplenty..." It was Baldy the Tramp, Baldy tottering into this quiet
parlour, the light of madness in his eyes. The old man's knees gave way
as Robin reached and caught him.

"Hey?" He looked up into Robin's face.

"'Lo-that shack ditched me, bo'-an' the train makin' forty! Caught me
with his sap and ditched me!" His head drooped.

"What does he say?" asked the bewildered girl. "I can't understand."

"He was stealing a ride on a train and the brakesman found him, clubbed
him and threw him off."

The mystery of the bloodstains and the gap in the hedge was a mystery no
longer. And the miracle of Miss Ellen's--was it not miraculous that this
old wanderer should have been ditched at the door of the house he had
left thirty years before! He laid the old man down on the hard sofa. His
eyes were closed, and October, in alarm, thought he was dead.

"I wonder where the servant is?" asked Robin. "Would you look after him
whilst I found her?" At that moment Baldy's eyelids flickered and opened.
He looked up at Robin and smiled faintly.

"I am dreadfully sorry to give you so much trouble, sir. My knowledge of
medicine tells me that I have--um--a very short time to live. Would it
be trespassing on your kindness to ask you...I would like to see
Julia very much. My dear wife would understand...in the
circumstances. Julia, she is staying at the King Edward Hotel. Suite I2,
I think--yes, I am almost sure. Lady Georgina Loamer..." Across the
frail body Robin's eyes met the girl's.

"Elfrida! What a lady!" he breathed.


Chapter 12


LADY GEORGINA LOAMER reclined at her ease in a long cane chair, a
cigarette between her heavily-carmined lips, her bright eyes fixed upon
her son. That small-featured man was not happy, and he had less reason
for happiness because of his mother's awful calm. A dozen times he took
out his monocle, polished and replaced it in position. His fingers beat a
miserable tattoo on the arm of the chair, and his mechanical smile was
little more than a grimace. The town was still crowded; Main Avenue was
a vista of twinkling lights. The blaring circus band had just passed
under the window, interrupting their conversation, and incidentally
affording a blessed respite for Mr. Loamer.

"What are you going to do?" she asked. When Lady Georgina Loamer was
annoyed, her voice had a peculiar hoarseness. And she was hoarse now.

"I don't know." He examined his eyeglass attentively. "I suppose I'd
better take the car to Ogdensburg and bring back these fools...Really,
mother, I don't see why you should rag me! I've done my best. I
never supposed that Robin would be easy. I told you so--"

"Never mind what you told me!" she rasped.

"At any rate," he interrupted, "it was not my idea; you will admit
that. It was yours."

He wilted under the contempt in her eyes.

"Not your idea! Have you ever had an idea, Alan? Not your idea! I hate
to remind you, but you are very like your father." Evidently this was her
deadliest insult, for there followed a long and tense silence. Mr. Alan
Loamer's face was very red; his frown was terrible; but she knew him for
the weakling he was, and his active rebellion came in the nature of a
shock.

"I don't care...!" He spoke rapidly, his sentences were a little
disjointed. "I'm finished with the business. It's too horrible! And he
knows...he's always known! Doesn't he call you 'Elfrida' openly? He
has always expected this, mother. Robin is no fool. You shouldn't have
come--why didn't you stay in Ottawa? You've made things impossible. I'm
going to New York tomorrow morning, and I'm catching the first boat that
sails for Europe!" The thin lips of the woman curved in a smile.

"You sail--as a steward?" she asked sardonically. "And how will you
reach New York? 'On the bumpers' or 'riding the rods '? Those are the
terms, aren't they? You'll stay here, Alan, until I give you leave to
go--and money to go with. I should have stayed in Ottawa! I never intended
staying in Ottawa. When the Sullivans offered me their house whilst they
were in Europe, I accepted because I knew that sooner or later you would
need help. Have you ever succeeded in anything--without help?" He
wriggled in his impotent rage and became his own humble self.

"Mother, be reasonable! This thing is getting on my nerves; I shall have
a breakdown. I get no sleep...really, the thing is impossible. And he
knows! Why not chuck the thing and come back to England with me?"

She got up from her chair, walked to the window and pulled aside the
shade; he thought she had heard something which had attracted her
attention, but apparently she needed this stimulus of movement and
light--stimulus or sedative, for, when she turned round, she was smiling.

"We'll go to Odgensburg," she said. "There is a good hotel there-"

"Do you know the place?" he asked in surprise.

"I knew it years ago," she answered briefly.

"My father had large interests in Canada, and I spent some years in
Toronto. What is the name of that man with the red beard?"

"Byrne," he replied. She nodded.

"I want to see him," she said. "No, not here. It would be foolish to
bring them back. Where are they waiting?" He told her that they had
telephoned from a little restaurant on the outskirts of Ogdensburg.

"That means, of course, that they are too well known to go into the
town," she nodded.

"And it would be little better for them here, if what you say is true."
He was a picture of apprehension.

"Is it wise?" he pleaded. "I mean to say...need you come into this at
all?"

"Don't be a fool!" She cut him short.

"Now tell me, what have you said to these men? What reason have you
given?"

"I've told them...that Robin was a servant who has been blackmailing
the family for years. That's right, isn't it? That he unearthed
some...well, some scandal about...us."

"Me," she said shortly.

"Well, you. I've never asked you whether there was a scandal. I suppose
that isn't true?"

"It isn't necessary that you should be convinced," she said coldly. "Did
you convince them?"

"I suppose I did," he was doubtful. "But they're a pretty tough crowd.
Byrne wanted to know how long Robin had been a hobo; fortunately I wasn't
obliged to go into details. One of them--the little Italian or Spaniard,
or whatever he is--met Robin two years ago in a hobo camp on the Frazer
River in Vancouver. They called him 'The Guy who Walks,' because he
never jumps trains. Apparently a walking tramp is an object--of
derision. This Lenny man was on the run for some crime he'd committed in
St. Louis at the time, and apparently he had some sort of fight with
Robin and got the worst of it. Byrne told me that he only found this out
after he'd fixed with Lenny to join him, and if it had not been for
Lenny's surprise at finding an old enemy they would have got him south of
Schenectady."

Another pause.

"Mother, when--if--" Her stopped.

"When--if?" she repeated impatiently.

"Suppose the thing goes through, what about these two men? We're rather
in their hands, aren't we?" Her frosty smile answered him.

"One of them will be killed--at least one," she said. "I know Robin!
Ring the bell, Alan, please. We ought not to keep these poor men
waiting."



The sound of the door opening sent Robin into the hall. It was Miss
Ellen, laden with parcels, and she gave him a friendly nod, then saw his
face.

"Has anything happened?" she asked fearfully. He tried to reassure her,
but, dropping the packages she carried, she ran past him into the
parlour, and when he went in she was kneeling by the sofa, her arm about
the old man's neck.

"Well! That is why you came, to find him, I suppose?"

She was strident, defiant; he marvelled at the valour of this frail
little woman.

"I should have known that you were detectives...That is why you sent
me on this errand, so that you could spy on a poor old man." Hate shone
in her eyes like a fire. He was too dumbfounded to answer.

"You'll have to prove that--that he killed anybody. He couldn't do it--he
couldn't! And the girl--an old man like he is...lies, newspaper
lies!"

A light dawned upon Robin Leslie Beausere. Now he knew why the old man's
bloodstained clothes had been burnt--why the newspaper was so carefully
hidden from sight. This loyal daughter of his had confused her father--with
Robin!

He could have chuckled, and did indeed smile.

"We are not detectives," he said quietly, "we are tramps!"

"Tramps?" Doubt and incredulity in tone and look.

"Yes; one half the newspaper story applies to me--the other half to
your father."

"You are a tramp...which half? Which half?" tremulously. "He
didn't...he didn't hurt...kill anybody?"

"Of course he didn't--how stupid you are, Robin!"

"Robin! Robin Leslie! Is that your name? It was in the newspapers."

"Let us get your father up to bed." Robin was peremptory, almost
bullying. "We can talk about things after."

The old man had been a silent listener, and now, as the other stooped to
lift him, he tittered foolishly.

"Professor of anatomy, hey? His own knife too! He got his? Third cervical
vertebral..."

Robin carried him rapidly out of earshot. On the bottom step of the
stairs stood an old woman, wringing her hands. She was the oldest woman
he had ever seen.

"Oh dear, oh lor, Miss Ellen! I only went down to boil the kettle, Miss
Ellen..."

Miss Ellen, practical in that testing time of nerves and judgment, waved
her aside and flew upstairs ahead of Robin and his burden. She showed the
way to a little room at the far end of the gallery.

"Thank you--I can attend to him now." She was as pale as the old man
and almost it pushed Robin from the room.

"This," he said, as he came back to the parlour, "is emphatically one
of the Things That Cannot Be. It is impossible and absurd--the most
monstrous of all coincidences that; ever disturbed the smooth flow of
logic's placid stream."

"It was the old man--Baldy, as you called him?"

"Baldy; and this is his home--the home from which Elfrida enticed him.
I'm only guessing now. October, we may have to move quickly."

"Why? Do you think she will send for the police?"

He nodded. "There is a chance. You see, she cannot believe that her
father would murder; she may be seized of the notion that my conviction
would free her parent from blame. The homely little lioness! S-sh!"

He raised a linger in warning.

There was a telephone in the hall: they heard Miss Ellen's voice and
Robin crept to the closed door and listened.

"Dr. Soeur? Will you come up right away? My father has come home, very
sick...Yes, my father; he has been to--to Europe."

A clang as the receiver was hung up. Robin had tiptoed back to the middle
of the room when the door opened. Miss Ellen's face was still white, but
she had recovered her old serenity. Closing the door behind her, she
stopped to straighten a linen mat on one of the small tables which
abounded in the room.

"Mr. Leslie--"

"Beausere--but Leslie will do," he said.

"I want you to tell me--the truth. About my father and about yourself."

Her faded eyes fell upon the girl and their infinite pathos brought
October to the verge of tears.

"I am quite alone in the world," she said. "There isn't a lonelier woman
in all the world. And I've nobody to whom I can turn for advice or help.
Will you remember this?" Robin nodded slowly. "I will tell you
everything," he said. For a moment October wondered whether that
"everything" was more than she knew. But of his life before the marriage
he said nothing. He only sought her confirmation when he spoke of the
ceremony. After that he went on without reference to her.

Miss Ellen had seated herself stiffly on the edge of a chair, her hands
folded in her lap, her pale blue eyes searching his face. She listened
without interruption until he finished.

"You think there is no doubt?" She shook her own head in anticipation of
his answer.

"I'm glad--I'm glad he killed him!" she said breathlessly. "That anybody
could be so wicked and cruel to an old man!"

She shuddered. "Dreadful...he drove my father insane. And he was such
a gentle soul--such a dear, gentle soul!" With an effort of will at
which Robin could only marvel she controlled her quivering lips.

"He was a professor of anatomy at the University and had a practice--a
consultative practice. My mother was an American lady and this was her
house--she left a small legacy which enabled me to keep it going until
my father came back: she was sure that he would return.
About thirty years ago my father met an English peer--the Marquis of
Dearford. He was in Toronto in connection with a company with which he
was associated. He had a daughter, a very clever girl and very heartless,
it proved. My mother said she was homely but brilliant. I never saw her.
She was clever enough to fascinate my father--so that he forgot his
home, his reputation, everything. He prepared to run away with this Lady
Georgina Loamer; even sent mother a letter praying her forgiveness; and
then he found that she had fooled him. Apparently she was under the
impression that he was very rich. It was all sordid and horrible. We
never saw my father again. We had a letter asking us to forget him. She
married soon after--we saw this in the Globe--she often comes to
Canada, and once I saw her photograph in the newspapers: a woman with a
face like a hawk."

She described the miracle. She and the old woman had been pulling
vegetables in the garden when the train had rattled past, and had heard
rather than seen the old man fall from the roof of the car on which he
had been concealed until a vigilant brakeman found him.

"We dragged him into the house. Until he opened his eyes and called me by
my dear mother's name, I did not know him. And then he told me of
the--the--of what he had done, and I found the blood on his poor rags and
burnt them. Mr. Leslie, what am I to do?"

"Do nothing. You have sent for the doctor? Tell him your father is asleep
and you do not wish him disturbed. No doctor can help him at present.
Later, when all this talk of tramps and murders has subsided, you can
call him in. The point is, Miss Ellen, what would you wish us to do?"
She had no views.

"You may stay--or go whenever it is convenient," she said. "I will
help you however I can. I was glad you came--the presence of a man in
the house was welcome..What set you tramping, Mr. Leslie?"

He shrugged his broad shoulders.

"I was born that way, I guess," he said.

"Was it a woman, too?" October detected the hesitation and her heart
missed a beat.

"In a way," he said.

Out of the tail of his eye he saw October clutch the edge of the table.

"Yes...the same lady--Julia. Never knew that her name was Julia--yes,
I did, though. My father used to call her that--Georgina Julia."

"She made you--a tramp?" Miss Ellen was open-mouthed. "But
she's--old. Sixty."

"A deuced alluring woman," said Robin calmly.

"Stuff!" scoffed October. "A. woman like that couldn't send a man
anywhere! I don't believe it. It was Somebody Else! Why do you pretend?"

Miss Ellen might not have been there. For the moment the old man was
excluded as the absorbing interest: their common danger, the very mystery
of the Man Who Walked. Robin Leslie had struck the fuse with a
coke-hammer.

"I never thought of that! Somebody hurt you and you left the world! I
never dreamt there was Romance back of everything?"

"Back of most things," he said, a trifle haughtily.

Miss Ellen reacted to the strain; it was not a moment to intrude upon
young married people and she had her own immediate and urgent trouble.
Looking round, Robin missed her, but none saw her go.

"It is absurd"--she could shrug too; "I am going on like a silly
schoolgirl. Naturally you had your past--I could not expect you to
table your broken heart for my inspection. I am sorry."

"I am glad," he said stiffly. "I mean, Iam glad you have the grace to be
sorry."

"Grace!" She flamed at this.

"Grace," he said firmly. "I had no broken heart to table--as you call
it."

"What would you call it?" she demanded.

"Table," he agreed. "I have no romance; I have had no violent affairs.
My heart is as nearly virginal as makes no difference."

"Somebody sent you away and you went," she insisted. "There is no crime
in that--you have no need to defend yourself. It is not my business. I
don't expect you to take me into your confidence--I should loathe you
if you did; She has a right to your reticence."

He glowered at her. One needle point of his ridiculous moustache curled
downward. Under such a handicap he could not be heroic.

"There--is---no--woman--in--my--life but--you," he said.

She laughed politely.

"I am not concerned," she said.

"I could shake you!"

"You dare! And your moustache is coming undone!"

"Is it?" He was interested enough to approach the gilt-framed mirror
above the stove.

"You did that. No self-respecting moustachios could stay jaunty in the
presence of a nagging wife."

"I'm not nagging--and I'm not your wife!"

He said nothing to this: she thought she saw a shadow pass across his
face.

"I am nagging-and I am your wife," she added. "I'm an unpleasant little
devil, Mr. Robin Leslie Beausere--I do wish we were in Canada!"

He caught his breath.

"That's better!" he said. "I had the sensation of standing on a
chimney-stack a mile high and watching somebody cutting the guys. Yes, it
was as bad as that. Elfrida was the lady, but I haven't tramped for love
of her."

"Who could?" she answered sympathetically It was strange how shaken she
was; she could hardly believe that this limp being with funny squirmy
sensations inside her was October Jones...Leslie or Beausere.

"I mustn't try that again," she said seriously.

"Try what?"

"Entertaining the gentleman with the green eyes. Yes, I was jealous."

He took no advantage of the opening: she would have been surprised if he
had. That was the wonder of it all--she could dispense with her
defences, leave the portcullis raised and the drawbridge down, and the
truce, unspoken, unformed, was observed. The safety of him was like a
draught of wine. Sometimes, it tempted her to folly. In certain moods she
was for painting "welcome" on the portcullis and laying a carpet
across the bridge, just to see...if he would.

A knock at the front door advertised the arrival of the doctor. Followed
a long conversation between Miss Ellen and the visitor. The murmur of
their voices came faintly through the stout door.

"He is going upstairs," said Robin, in surprise. A very long time elapsed
before the voices were heard again and the front door closed. Miss Ellen
came in, her eyes red with weeping.

"The doctor says my father cannot possibly recover," she said; "I told
him he had fallen from a train and he says that at his age the shock is
too violent for any hope of recovery."

She pressed her lips tightly together, but the tears were rolling down
her cheeks.

"But the doctor doesn't know," said Robin quietly. "He doesn't know the
hard life your father has been leading. He must have been 'ditched'
scores of times and 'O's' beatings, I am afraid, were frequent."

She shook her head.

"Bless you for that little ray of hope," she said, "but the doctor is
right--I feel it. And his mind has gone, though he has long, lucid
intervals when he knows me and remembers everything. I am too grateful to
God that He sent him home, to the hearts that loved him, to resent."

The heroine! Robin was humbled in the presence of this homely woman,
prematurely aged by her sorrows. She had given up her life for this
appointed end--sacrificed youth and was grateful that the wanderer might
die in the home he had desolated. After she had gone:

"Do you think he will die?" October asked in a low voice.

Robin nodded.

"She thinks so. Women have an uncanny instinct for these things."

The coincidence of Baldy's arrival worried him. This old rod-rider, who
had probably toured and re-toured every state in the Union, was wise in
the ways of "shacks." It was unlikely that he would be so incautious as
to show himself--unless...That was the explanation, of course. The
old man's homing instinct had brought him; he was looking for the house
which he knew lay on the railway, and, thus exposed, the brakesman or one
of the train's crew had "ditched" him.

Dusk fell. Miss Ellen came into the parlour with a lamp and drew the
shades. She was very calm, cheerful almost. Her father was sleeping, she
said. At the door she lingered.

"I have put your clothes upstairs, Mr. Leslie. If you wish to dress
before supper they are ready for you." Robin had forgotten all about the
clothes.

"Do you mind if I go up and change?" October did not object.

"You will go to bed at what time you wish," said Miss Ellen.

"Yes," said Robin thoughtfully. "And that reminds me, Miss Ellen. Would
you object very much if I used your parlour...very late. In fact, I
may be writing until the early hours--"

"We may both be writing till the early hours," October broke in. The
woman looked from one to the other.

"I see," she said quietly, and went out.

"What did she see?" asked Robin, but his wife was immersed in her Scott
and supplied no answer. Soon after, Robin disappeared and was gone until
a few minutes before supper was announced. There walked into the room a
soldierly figure in yellow tussore. He was clean-shaven; the face was
well moulded--there was about him that ineffable air of good breeding
which may not be stated in terms of looks.

"You?" she said incredulously.

"I," said Robin. He fingered his cheek tenderly. "The poison ivy has
ceased to cling to my sturdy jaw. Scared away, I imagine."

She had noticed that morning that the swelling had almost disappeared. Of
the black eye, the relic of which had disfigured his face on their first
meeting, nothing remained but the palest shadow.

"You--come into the light. I want to look at you." He obeyed without
embarrassment.

"Yes..." The scrutiny did not altogether satisfy her, it seemed. "Yes...you
are different. I wonder if I like the change? I think so." This
new aspect of him gave her the satisfaction a new toy affords to a child.
She made him stand, here and there, with the light on his face and behind
him; in profile...

"Yes," she said.

"Do I get past?"

"You get past," she said. "But you're terribly young!"

"I shall grow out of that," he said tritely. "And I'm thirty something.
In our set I am an aged gentleman."

She pondered this. "Ten years older than I--"

"Thirteen: that's unlucky. For you, I mean. What nonsense you make me
talk!"

Miss Ellen had supper with them--an act of friendliness that they
appreciated each for a different reason. She remarked frankly upon his
improved appearance and said she thought she had seen his photograph
somewhere. Robin turned the subject, but October nailed it down.

"Where?--Please try to think, Miss Ellen," she asked.

"I was a Presidential candidate," said Robin.

"Don't be silly--where, Miss Ellen?"

But Miss Ellen could not remember. When she had gone out to make the
coffee, October tackled him. Her curiosity was piqued.

"Has your portrait ever appeared in the newspapers?" she asked.

"Society butterfly--male," murmured Robin; "seen in all the best
circles. 'Mr. Robin Beausere, well-known clubman and social leader.' Sam
has nothing on me. Wherever I go there's a note: 'Mr. Robin Beausere has
arrived in town. He is staying in a handsome B. and O. box car in the
railway yard.'"

"But she has seen it," insisted the girl.

"Maybe: under a gruesome snap, Found in farmers hay mow, this man goes
to jail for sixty days."

"Be serious--"

"I'll tell you"--he leant over the table--"I was cured of rheumatism
by Dr. Schmidt's Rub-in-on--"

"I won't talk to you!" She flounced round in her chair. "I expect
there is something disreputable behind it."

"You've said it, aunty!" He was almost disrespectful.

When the coffee came in, Miss Ellen left them finally. "I have opened
the secretaire if you wish to write," she said, "and I have put a cover
and a pillow on the sofa if you don't."

"That lady has a nice mind," said Robin when they were alone. He turned
the conversation to a more serious channel.

"We may stay here for a day or so," he said, "but we must make
preparations for a flit."

"It will be ever so much easier now that you have clothes," she
suggested, but he shook his head.

"I'm not sure of that. All depends upon how far Red Beard allowed the
trolley to go before he pulled up. I've been thinking since that they
may not have gone far."

"Who is Red Beard?" He smiled. He had a `nice smile: she was certain of
this now.

"A gunman of sorts. A tramp I pigged with in Utica told me that he was a
well-known high jacker who had got into some sort of trouble in Chicago--he
double-crossed one of the intelligentsia in the rum-running
business and Mud became his middle name. The red beard is merely a
Living Down of the Past. Lenny was with him in his various enterprises.
He has been on the road (as we call it at home). I met him two years ago,
when I was hiking through British Columbia and we had a...well, a
sort of fight. It was over a question of property. He tried to 'glom'
my boots when I was asleep. They are nothing very much. Some day the slow
but steady law of the United States will reach for Red Beard and set him
firmly in a large wooden chair, and some lucky jail electrician will buy
his wife a new hat on the proceeds."

He was observing her closely.

"You're a tired woman. If you are wise you'll go meet Miss Morpheus. I
change the sex because, as I have told you before, I am innately
delicate."

The advice was welcome. October had never felt so tired in her life. How
long ago since she had slept in her hard little bed at Four Beech Farm?
Ages! He talked about the road and the queer folks of a world beyond her
ken. The Gobi Desert was tramping. He knew strange people, famous people
in their own world. Hoke, who tramped through Russia whilst the
Revolution was in fiercest flame, who ambled pleasantly through Germany
during the war and begged his way from one prisoners' camp to another.
Lossy, the New Englander who spoke fourteen languages and could not write
his own name. And Lossy had walked and begged his way from Kashmir to
Bukarest. She was immensely interested, was angry with herself that she
nodded. Perhaps the monotony of his voice was studied...she woke
half-way up the stairs in his arms--he delivered her on her feet at the
door of her room. A minute later he was knocking softly on the door,
begging in a loud whisper for his razor. It was no more than the truth
that he had letters to write--the writing had been postponed too long.
One of these was a very long letter. His pen moved with extraordinary
rapidity; sheet after sheet was covered and tossed aside. Miss Ellen
brought him coffee at ten-o'clock, saw the quantity and was impressed.

"There is a postal box at the end of the lot," she said, and described
its location. But there would be no collection until the morning, she
said.

"I'll post tonight--a postal box is as good as a safe deposit," he
said. Might she bring him some refreshment before he went to bed? She
suggested elderberry wine, but Robin, in haste, elected for tea. She had
tea, a special brand that "Dr. Evington" liked. It was the first time he
had heard Baldy's name--the grandeur of the appellation surrounded the
old man's identity with an aura of dignity. Never again did he think of
the little tramp except as Dr. Evington. By eleven o'clock the three most
important letters were finished. He went in search of Miss Ellen to beg
stamps, and found her in a lofty, stone-flagged kitchen, stirring some
concoction that simmered on a wood fire.

"Shall I post them?" she volunteered, when the stamps had been extracted
from her notecase, but he wouldn't hear of this. It was a fine night; the
sickle moon was still in the sky, and gave an eerie half-light to a dark
and silent world. He walked up the drive, pulled open the gate and
strolled towards the postal box. It was affixed to a stone pillar that
formed a corner-stone of the small estate. He dropped the letters in and
walked leisurely back. Frogs were croaking by a far-away pond, a
frantically hurrying bat darted down towards him, swerved and vanished. A
slow freight was making the grade somewhere south, and the harsh
cough-cough of the engine was softened by distance to the gentlest of
"woofs." A night for the road and the open country, he thought. His hand
was on the gate--

A streak of silver in the air...bird...he ducked in time.

The knife struck the cross-bar of the gate--he saw the second in
flight and threw himself back as he jerked out his gun. The second knife
missed the gate--he heard the sharp whang of it as it struck a tree.
Out of the darkness on the opposite sidewalk leapt a thin pencil of
flame...once, twice. The report of the revolver was thunderous. The
automatic spat in reply...a shadow ran from the shadows---Robin threw
his gun to his left hand and tired. The shadow stumbled and went down.
Robin. was inside the gate, running. He saw the door open.

"Get away from the door!" he yelled, and Miss Ellen fell out of sight.

He leapt to the top step as October reached the hall. She asked no
questions. A small lamp was standing on the hall table: she made for
this and blew it out as he closed the door.

"What was it?" Miss Ellen was trembling. "Not the police?"

"No: the men was telling you about." He was out of breath but was
grinning savagely.

"Lenny got his knives back--probably saw me toss them in the pond and
fished them out again. I should have been prepared for that. But the gun
is different--a .42. Whiskers used a hammerless of a smaller calibre."

"They didn't hurt you?" October's hand was moving slowly up and down his
sleeve and the caress set him on fire.

"No--but I hurt one of them. Lenny, I think. I hope he isn't dead: I've
a soft spot for the wife of the jail electrician and I'd hate she was
robbed of her new hat. I'll make sure." He went through the parlour,
extinguished the light, and, opening a window noiselessly, dropped on to
the flagged terrace beneath. Passing through the tree belt, he reached
the place where the old man's clothes had been burnt. There was a
weather-beaten door in the wall and he had noticed that it was not quite
closed. He pushed it open far enough to squeeze through. He was in a
narrow alleyway flanked on one side by the wall of the garden and on the
other by a wire fence. Along this he crept, pausing every few paces to
listen. Presently he was within a few yards of the road. He calculated
that he must be opposite the spot where the shadow fell...

The purr of a motor-car growing fainter and fainter. He reached the road
and looked left and right. The road was very straight; half a mile away
he saw a speck of red light--the tail-lamp of a car, and as he looked, it
went out of sight. The automatic was in his left hand now: he was taking
no chances. Nobody was there--not even in the black shadows of the
trees in front of him. They had gone. He stepped into the middle of the
road, the moonlight reflected on the polished barrel of his gun. No sound
or movement. The nearest house was a quarter of a mile away, and only
congenital idiots come out at night to learn the cause of promiscuous
shooting. Doubtless there were timid souls at this moment 'phoning
urgently to police head-quarters. Here...or was it here that Lenny
fell? He took a chance and lit a match...dropped it instantly as
thesound of pattering feet came to his ears. It was October. She wore an
old coat over her nightdress and was barefooted.

"Get back to the house!" he hissed.

"Don't be a cave-man," she said. "They've gone. I saw the machine drive
up and somebody lifted in. I went up to my bedroom and looked out of the
window. It isn't as clever as climbing the garden wall, but you see a lot
more! Is this the knife?"

She held a long-bladed, wicked-looking hunting knife in her hand.

"It was sticking in a tree--" He raised his hand in warning and
listened.

"That's the patrol wagon," he said, and they ran to the house and closed
the door. Miss Ellen, waiting like a wilting ghost in the gloomy hall,
rubbed her thin hands together nervously.

"Will they come here?" she asked, when he told her.

"They may inquire--you had best tell them that you heard the shots.
October can go back to her room. I don't imagine that they will wish to
search the house. If you went down to the gate that might save a lot of
trouble."

She nodded: she had nerve and to spare. So it came about that when the
police arrived, and behind them a dozen or so residents in the
neighbourhood, Miss Ellen was able to give the only authentic story of
the shooting.

"Didn't see any of 'em, did you?" asked the police sergeant, for Miss
Ellen claimed to have been a witness from her bedroom window.

"One a red-bearded guy. He was in Ogdensburg this afternoon." No, Miss
Ellen had not identified a red-bearded guy or any other kind of guy. The
police made a sweeping examination of the ground and found blood traces
to confirm the lady's story.

"Wasn't a hobo--feller in a brown suit...moustache waxed up--with
a girl?" Miss Ellen had seen no such hobo.

"That's certainly queer." The sergeant scratched his head. "Automobile
and everything! Didn't see that either, Miss Evington? I'm telling
everybody there's pain and sorrow coming to any bum I find with a gun--and
that's a fact!"

He went off to collect evidence from the other inhabitants. One had heard
six shots fired--one had only heard two. The firing was all over in
something under a minute: on that point they were all agreed. And then a
discovery was made by accident. The postal box at the corner of the lot
had been broken open and rifled. It was not a very difficult operation,
for roadside boxes are not designed to resist the attention which had
been paid to this.

"A gang of mail crooks," concluded the sergeant vaguely. At long last the
patrol wagon departed townwards, the neighbours disappeared behind doubly
locked doors, and Miss Ellen went back to the dark parlour.

"They've gone! And the postal box has been broken open--"

She was shaking so that she had to sit down. But the indomitable woman's
rest was short. She went upstairs, her father was still sleeping. There
were wooden blinds to the parlour window; these, as a matter of
precaution, Robin closed before he lit the lamp again.

"Go along and sleep," he said. October shook her head vigorously.

"I couldn't. Honest. I'll stay up till I feel tired." She lifted one bare
foot after the other and brushed them clean of the sand.

"Then for heaven's sake dress," he said; "and dress warmly, because I'm
going to say something to you that will make your blood run cold!"

"This," said October, as she made for the door obediently, "this will be
an interesting night." She was down in a few minutes, if not wholly, at
least cosily, dressed.

"Produce your creep," she said. He was pacing up and down the long room,
his hands clasped behind him. She wondered why he frowned and whether
there was really something serious to hear.

"Patrol wagon or no patrol wagon--Lenny dead or Lenny alive--those
birds have not roosted for the night"

"They will come back?"

"Yes, sir; sure as you're born!"

"When you have finished being idiomatic in the Darktown manner, will you
please tell me why you think this?" He was laughing softly.

"You've got a nerve--'Darktown manner'! I'll reduce it to good
English. I'm too near the touch line--that's permissible--for Elfrida to
let up--relax her efforts, I mean. She's that kind. There is only one
thing that will stop her and it isn't a gun--but a fountain pen."

She shook her head, all at sea.

"Don't you understand? For the first time since--I've lost track of
time--I am in a position to write--and I wrote. And they saw me post
and duly reported to General Head-quarters, which was, I suspect, in the
car. They went after the letters and got them, Therefore do I say that
the night is still young for Elfrida!"

"What did you write in the letters?" she asked curiously.

"There was one important and vital sentence in the most important and
vital of the letters--it ran somehow like this, and was at the
beginning. This is practically a copy of the letter I sent you from
Littleburg last night, but I am scared of the first going astray.

"Did you write from Littleburg last night?" she asked in surprise, and
he shook his head.

"No--it was an inspiration to start with, that passage. The only
question is: will Elfrida call my bluff?"

"But who was the letter meant for?" she asked.

"A friend--his name is Mortimer and he is, to be exact, a domestic
servant in the employ of a lunatic."

"I give it up!" she said in despair. "And my blood isn't running cold
and I'm terribly disappointed."

He suggested, unhelpfully, bed and a good night's sleep. She searched for
Scott, tidied away by Miss Ellen, and found him. Robin went back to his
pen and ink and began writing letters all over again. The clock in the
hall had a soft, musical chime. Looking up from her book, October counted
twelve. Robin glanced round at her.

"Is your hearing good?" he asked softly.

"Yes--why?" He did not answer: his eyes wandered to the door.

"There is a bell ringing somewhere." She heard it now, a mournful
clang-clang, muffled by the interposition of many doors.

"Do you think it is Miss Ellen--her father may be worse. Shall I go--?"

He waved her down, and was half-way to the door when it flew open. It was
Miss Ellen and her teeth were chattering.

"Somebody at the door--ringing!" she gasped. "Past twelve...there
is an automobile in front of the house...."

"Oh?" Robin's face was blank, expressionless. "Would you like me to
open?" he asked. Miss Ellen's face was twitching.

"No--I will open!" Her voice was strained and unnatural. "I will
open--" She went firmly from the room; he followed her, signalling
October to put out the light. In the open doorway he slipped his gun from
his pocket and covered the door behind the unconscious Ellen Evington. A
rattle of chain and the creak of the lock.

"Who is there?" she asked.

"A lady who wishes to see Mr. Robin Beausere." Robin nearly let his
pistol fall in his astonishment. For the woman who spoke was Lady
Georgina!


Chapter 13


"LET her in!" he whispered, and stepped back into the parlour.
Fortunately October had turned the lamp low and light was restored.
Georgina was alone: he saw this when her tall figure was silhouetted
against the open doorway.

"Come in, Elfrida," he said, and stepped aside to let her pass. In her
white--gloved hands she carried a pair of lorgnettes. She raised them and
favoured October with a long and steady scrutiny, and such was the girl's
disposition and balance that she grew neither angry nor embarrassed under
the ordeal, but gave gravity for insolence.

"Is this--the girl?"

"That is my wife--yes," he answered quietly.

"Really!" An ironical politeness can be very offensive. And yet Georgina
had no desire to be offensive. She came bearing large flags of truce with
an ink-wet deed of armistice ready for his signature. Literally she
carried in the shagreen bag that dangled from her wrist a document which
represented both armistice and lop-sided reparation.

"I should like a talk with you--alone," she said. Miss Ellen stood with
folded hands just inside the room. She faded away at the words.

"Would you like me to go?" October needed only the agreement in his
eyes to follow her hostess. Robin closed the door.

"Now, my lady," he said, "won't you sit down?" Georgina declined with
a gesture.

"I suppose you are going back to Canada?" she began conventionally.

"I hope so," he said.

He was very careful in the choice of words. "You have read my letter?"

Her eyebrows rose.

"I do not remember that you wrote to me?"

"I didn't; I can't remember when I wrote last to you. But I gather that
you have read my letter."

She ignored the question: indeed it was one not to be answered without
placing herself at a great disadvantage and just now it was necessary
that she should maintain command of a very delicate situation.

"Robin, I am in all sorts of trouble. You know that. Methway Court to.
keep up, Alan to provide for--the boy ought to be married--the house
in North. Audley Street that simply eats money and---"

"Current expenses?" he suggested when she paused. "They must be fairly
heavy. I do not know what is the current rate for gunmen, but it must be
heavy. Even the second rate yegg is expensive, I should imagine. You are
feudal-minded, Georgina. I have often wondered why your ginger-bearded
retainer doesn't wear your badge on his chest--three leopards couchant
on a field, or isn't it? Lenny would look fine in a suit of armour
carrying your flaming banner."

She accepted his banter without visible resentment. He could admire her
without reservations, having discounted her peculiar morals. Sixty and as
straight as a lance. Fascinating, too, with her wonderful eyes as black
as night and as fathomless. The Roman nose had a quality of its own;
less in evidence, she would have been a beautiful woman.

"You interrupted me, Robin."

"I'm sorry!" She laid the shagreen bag on the table where he had been
writing, took out a folded slip of paper and smoothed it flat.

"I cannot help feeling that you blame me, Robin, for all the stupid
things that have happened since--since the night I called on you. That
seems an awful long time ago, doesn't it? It was most unfortunate that
you should have seen Alan in Schenectady--"

"But fortunate for him that I have not seen him since." His voice was
silky; he was smiling. She shivered a little, knowing the Beausere family
rather well.

One had had his head lopped off on Tower Hill with just that smile, and
was still enjoying his private jest when the headman exhibited his trophy
to a half-frozen crowd of sightseers. Another smiled that way before
Richard of Gloucester even as Duke Clarence struck him down. And they had
smiled their way out of dangers and into dangers. They were deadliest
when they were most cheerful.

"Alan...can look after himself. He is not exactly a coward. A fool--yes.
But no man of my blood is a coward."

Yet he had shaken her. She had experienced a spasm of fear and he knew
it.

"There are divers expressions of cowardice. We won't go into the ethics
of this business."

He had seen the slip of paper she had smoothed open on the writing table.
The colour and shape were familiar. But he said nothing, waiting for her
to explain a visit that now needed no explanation.

"Shall I be very frank, Robin?" He inclined his head. "I want to get
back to Europe. My agents have found a delightful villa for me at Cannes.
I shall sell the Court and rent the house in London. But I have a
fearful number of bills to pay, and some of my creditors are getting
unpleasant. I wish to start with a clean slate, and that can only be done
if you will help me."

"To what extent?" She picked up the cheque: it was already filled in,
wanted nothing but a signature. The sum was a very large one. He smiled
again and handed back the paper.

"No," he said. He did not say that he was sorry, as he had said on one
historic occasion. He was not sorry at all, and he was very honest.

"No?" Her head hung to one side; the lips were tightened.

"It means an awful lot of bother--for both of us. I should hate to see
you in one of these American courts and the whole ghastly business
exposed. Naturally, being what you are, it is unlikely that you would
allow yourself to be arrested for murder without a fight. It would be
perfectly horrible to hear that you had been shot down like a dog by some
wretched policeman--"

"Or gunman," he suggested. "Such accidents happen in a free-for-all
fight and the murderer has the support of a righteous act. I'm sorry--I
interrupted you."

"That, I wish to avoid. I would like to see you ride in comfort over the
border, without fuss or scandal. I suppose this girl means nothing to you?"

She watched him keenly and would have been happy to have found a new and
more effective lever.

"We will not discuss 'this girl,'" he said. One shoulder went up--he
knew the sign; could have foretold her next words.

"Well...there is nothing to be done. I hoped you would be sensible."

There was no bargaining: she did not offer quid pro quo. She had come for
a loan and it had been refused. That was the end of it--for her.

"Good night, Robin." She picked up her bag, stuffed the cheque inside and
snapped the fastening.

"You're not in a hurry?" he asked. She waited.

"The villa at Cannes--delightful! One can see you growing old there, an
almost saintly figure. And in the Casino--a venerable and frugal
gambler. Alan would find it irksome, but he could travel. What is the
American equivalent to Aylesbury?"

She was puzzled.

"Aylesbury?--You mean the hunt?"

He showed all his teeth in a smile.

"I am thinking of the hunted. There is a convict establishment at
Aylesbury--for women Have you ever thought of that as an unpleasant
alternative to Cannes, Georgina? I went there once--line upon line of
drab women in grey, walking in a circle and looking at the ground. The
dead alive!"

Lady Georgina did not blench: she raised her lorgnettes deliberately and
examined him.

"Is that-er--a threat?"

"It is a possibility," he said. "I don't know. I haven't made up my
mind. I admire you tremendously, Georgina. Your courage is beyond praise.
There is a tiny loophole for you--it is in New York City--the
narrowish entrance to a pier where the outgoing liner is waiting for the
just and the unjust. Write off your bad debts, Georgina, and trust to my
well known generosity!"

She walked in her stately fashion to the door.

"Good night," she said.

"Goodnight. Will you please not make a noise as you pass through the
hall--Dr. Evington is very ill."

She swung round.

"Evington...Dr. Evington?" harshly.

"What do you mean?"

"Very ill," he murmured. She looked up and down the parlour, a wondering
frown on her forehead. "Here?"

"He has just come back from hell," said Robin. "Thirty years of it--nearer
forty, I should imagine. Think of it, Georgina! Thirty odd years
of tramping, riding perilously on the decks of fast trains, risking death
and insanity on the rods, kicked, cuffed, jailed, begging from door to
door for a hand-out--and all because some attractive young woman of
aristocratic lineage desired the thrill of flirting with a simple
professor of anatomy!"

He had pulled off the mask: she had lost self-control and looked pitiably
old.

"You're lying, Robin! You've heard that stupid piece of scandal..."

"Were you ever in his house?" He saw from her expression that she had
been. "Don't you recognise the place?"

"Once--only once," she broke in. "I came--" She was half convinced.

"The lady who opened the door to you is his daughter. You owe her a
life, Georgina. The mother died a few years back---"

"Where is he? I want to see him." Robin was dumbfounded.

"My dear, good woman, you can't see him--"

"I want to see him!" She threw open the door. On the other side of the
hall she saw a light in the dining-room, but before she could cross the
tiled floor Miss Ellen was in the doorway.

"Are you his daughter--Marcus Evington's?" and, when Miss Ellen bowed:

"I am Georgina. Loamer--Lady Georgina."

Miss Ellen put out her hand to the wall for support. In the dim light of
the little hall lamp Robin saw her face go whiter. October was in the
background.

"I want to see your father...Is it true he is here?"

"Yes." The word hardly reached the watchful man.

"Will you take me to him?" Miss Ellen turned meekly to the stairs and
led the way.

"Why is she seeing him?" October whispered.

"I don't know-I think had better go up."

He mounted the stairs two at a time and saw the Lady Georgina disappear
into the doctor's room. The door was open; the old man lay on his back,
looking strangely at the visitor. Miss Ellen, her trembling hands folded,
a picture of patience, of resignation, of sheer fatalism. In one corner
of the room sat the aged maid, knitting on her lap, glooming over her
steel-rimmed glasses at the visitor.

"Why, it's Julia!"

Lady Georgina was sitting on the bed, one of his hands between hers. And
in her dark eyes was such a look as Robin had never seen.

"Marky!" Just that, in a husky, tear-choked, voice. Robin swore softly
to himself...He was dreaming, surely.

"...why, Julia! Old 'O' used to laugh at my Apparition...and here
you are, darling! I always knew you'd come...We'll go west, Julia--glom
a freight to Chicago an' deck the Limited...I know a grand place
we can stop off...a hand-out in every street...hot coffee 'n'
everything..."--He closed his eyes and seemed to be sleeping, but
presently he spoke again.--

"This, gentlemen, is a typical case of intracranial pressure. You will
observe that the patient..." His voice sank to a mumble, and when he
spoke again it was of "Julia" and "the dam' shack who sapped" him.

Georgina did not speak: she sat with his hand in hers, her eyes roving
the wasted face. What story was here, half told? wondered Robin. He was
never to know. Somewhere in the past of these two units of humanity was
Romance...peculiar bonds not to be translated to his understanding.
The souls of men and women are outside all measurement; their secret
hearts defy comparison with formulae.

"Good to see you I Good to see you!" The old man's voice was very
clear. Five minutes passed without a sound...Only Robin knew that he
was dead.

Lady Georgina came downstairs, her head held high; there was no trace of
tears when she stood before Robin.

"I shall not see you again," she said.

"Good-bye!"--He was mute. So much he might say, but all her barriers
were up against speech. She hated him--hated him because he knew;
hated him forgwhat he was, for all that he represented.

"Aylesbury...I think it would be more comfortable than a box-car, or the
roof of a Pullman on a rainy night, don't you, Robin?"

He said nothing. She had concentrated upon him all the bitter malignity
she felt towards a world that had been so hard to the pitiful thing she
had left upstairs. He stood for the obstacle that had baffled her
throughout her life, that had broken two hearts, thirty years before. He
sensed this, felt unutterably sorry for her; yet had she at that moment
presented the cheque for his signature, he would have refused. But she
had no thought of offering cheque or palm branch. War!

The knowledge set him tingling. He could have laughed as he stood on the
top step and watched the car pull away into the night. Laughed and wept,
for she was making a greater appeal to his sympathy than he had thought
possible.

He closed the door and went into the parlour. October was in her
room--which was all to the good. He unfastened one of the blinds and
pulled up the window. The drop to the terrace below was a gentle one. On
the window-sill he laid his electric torch that he had brought from
October's room. Drawing the heavy cloth curtains across the window, he
took out his automatic, stuffed two more shells in the magazine and
another in the breech, pulled up the safety catch and dropped the Weapon
into his pocket. Amongst the articles he had asked Miss Ellen to buy for
him was a dark raincoat; she had hung it in the hall. He found this,
transferred the gun and hung the coat within reach. The hall clock
chimed one; it had the sound of a knell. Robin showed his teeth in a
smile; it was his one gesture of defiance. The handle of the door
turned. It was October, and he had never seen her more depressed.

"It is dreadful. But, Robin, this poor lady is wonderful--truly
wonderful! That woman has gone?"

He nodded.

"Isn't it...unreal? And ugly!"

"There is nothing ugly about love," he said, and realised he was being
sententious.

"I suppose not. Only. it gave me the creeps. Not the death of that poor
old man. That was too natural to be anything but right. But she--sitting
on the bed and holding his hand, and all the ancient ghosts
parading. It was rather like seeing withered flowers on an ash-pit and
trying to reconstruct them in their beauty."

"Tired?" She shook her head. "No--why?"

"We may have to leave in a hurry," he said and she nodded.

"I rather expected that--when?"

"I don't know. Soon, I think. I am only afraid of one thing, that they
come 'soft footed to destroy.' But that is hardly likely. We ought to
hear the wagon in time."

"The police?" She was startled. "The police--the last refuge of the
wicked. Gunmen do not grow on bushes or Georgina would pick a quart. I'm
going out to sit on the doorstep." He swept up his coat. "Will you
explain to Miss Ellen? And, October, get into everything that is new and
wait for me here."

He opened the front door softly and went down to the gate. The world was
silent and mysteriously without movement. His yellow Palm Beach made him
conspicuous---he pulled on the coat and buttoned it to his neck; the
sleeves were too long for effective gun-play--these he rolled back.

Not a sound...

Ten minutes passed; the hall clock chimed the quarter. There appeared far
away to his left two twinkling stars of light. Georgina's auto, he
guessed. The lights grew brighter; to his ears came the hum of the
engines.

How near would she come? Not much nearer apparently. The lights went.
out and the engines ceased to purr. The patrol wagon was noisier. He
must hear this before he made a move. There it was--a harsher moan.

He walked back into the house and closed the door. Miss Ellen was in the
parlour.

"Your wife has told me you are leaving--I made this ready for you."

It was a packet of food; he thanked her and dropped it into his pocket.

"We must go through the window," he said, and asked her to close and
shutter it after them. As October dropped to his side on the stone flags,
he heard the patrol wagon distinctly.

"This way."

He took her hand. October had not touched his hand since the wedding, she
realised; it felt very strong and capable. Through the tree belt, across
the track garden, into the meadow...he helped her aver the gap in the
hedge. Somewhere a railway engine was coughing asthmatically. He stopped
and looked along the road.

There was a grade here up which the express that carried poor Baldy might
speed at forty miles an hour, but no heavy freight would make that time.

Still holding his hand, they made a cautious way along the ties.
Presently they cleared the obstruction of the house and could see the
tree-lined road from Ogdensburg. The patrol wagon had halted short of
their objective. Men were tumbling out to the road.

To go farther was to show themselves against the skyline. The track ran
along the top of an embankment; there was a little culvert ahead over a
small stream. Better to wait, he thought, and sought a hiding-place.
There was a small pile of railway ties, and behind this they crouched.

"I don't know what this train is, but our only chance of escape this way
is to find a box car with the doors open. If that fails us we must cross
the track and take to the fields."

The train was near now; the light of its powerful head-lamp lit the
bushes and trees that fringed the track. And then it came into sight--a
white beam shot along the metals.

"Wait till I say 'Go,'" he whispered.

"Don't try to climb--wait until I have boarded I the car."

The engine grunted past...October could see the train crew in the
light of the furnace fire...they were in darkness again. He touched
her arm and she rose.

Car after car passed, and then: "Follow!" he whispered, and, running,
reached up and caught a steel rod and hoisted himself through the open
door of the car.

Instantly he turned and, reaching down, gripped her wrist and pulled her
up, breathless and triumphant.

Looking back in the direction of the house, he saw little lights dashing
in Miss Ellen's garden--thought he saw a man running beside the
track, but since the train increased its speed as it reached the top of
the grade and began the down-hill run, he thought he might mistaken.

"We're here!" he said grimly.

"There is somebody in the car!" she whispered.

He took the torch from his pocket and flashed the light around. At the
far end of the car lay two tramps half covered by straw. They were
sleeping peacefully.

"Where are we going?" was the old question, and she nearly laughed at
its familiarity.

"I don't know--Ogdensburg, I think. We are moving in that direction."

The train whammed on at a pace which he likened to a steady jog-trot, but
there was no sign of Ogdensburg. Once, with a thundering rattle of
bumper against bumper, they pulled up at a little station. Two men walked
along the track, one of them swinging a lantern,

"...found that bum yet...Yeh--murder! Killed another bum--ye--he
orter get a medal from Congress...!" They were discussing tramps as
they came back.

"Got two in here---look." He sent the light of his lantern towards the
sleeping hobos. October squeezed herself tight against the wall. Robin
had chosen the other end of the car, and the two men did not look in
their direction. The lantern was withdrawn.

"...what's the use? You ditch 'em and likely enough they gang up
against you and one fine night it's 'Joe Smith, aged 38. No flowers.' Let
'em sleep. The yard sleuth's job, not mine..."

The train moved on for a few miles and then stopped. Looking out, Robin
saw a man with a red lamp walking down the track towards the engine in
the blinding light of the headlamp. A gaitered police officer!

He imparted the news to the girl.

"He's come on a motor-bicycle," he surmised.

He pulled open the big door on the far side of the car and dropped to the
track, and in another second she had joined him.. There was no station
building in sight, but a hundred yards in front of the engine he saw a.
level-crossing. The cycle would be there--he almost imagined that that
he could see the light of it. They reached the sandy ditch by the side
of the track and, leading the way, Robin crawled towards the head of the
train. He could hear voices above the hiss of the escaping steam--a
volley of "Is that so's?" and "Yes, sir's." He remembered Lenny, and
grinned.

The sound of steam stopped suddenly. "...only one car that's empty--all
the others are sealed...two bums, but I've had ''em since
Littleburg."

Sound of heavy feet plodding along the track The engine crew were
leaning out of the cab that they might miss nothing--their backs
towards the fugitives. The danger was the head-lamp. It threw a beam
that covered both tracks, but the ditch became deeper, and by stooping
they could keep their heads below its edge. Walking was difficult. They
were tramping through mud; their feet became entangled with coarse water
grasses. Robin found a deep mud-hole and sank up to his knees.

"Farewell, Palm Beach!" he groaned as he guided her past the trap. The
crossing was a dozen yards away, and there was no sign of a motor-cycle.

"We can't expect everything," said Robin philosophically, and at that
second the rays of the head-lamp were reflected dimly on polished steel.
It was on the right side of the road too--they need not cross the
track. He climbed up the steep bank, pulling her with him.

"You'd better lie down--"

Pang!

A bullet struck the wire fence on which his hand rested, and hummed into
the night. The shot came from the ditch fifty yards behind them. October
saw the flash.

"Run!" She was on her knees, but he jerked her to her feet and,
stooping, they flew. Pang!

Robin stumbled forward--her heart stood still.

"Nothing--caught me a clip on the head, but nothing."

He was under cover, tinkering furiously with the big motor-cycle.

"Give me the pistol!"

He handed it to her without a word and she crept forward. A man was
running along the track towards them, but her eyes were only for the
hidden assassin in the ditch.

And then she saw him and fired. The force of the recoil startled her no
less than the violence of the explosion. She felt her hand tingle hotly.

"Come!" It was Robin calling. He was straddling the machine, its
head-lamp burnt brilliantly. "Up behind me on the carrier--hang on!"

She obeyed, found a steel grille at the back of the seat and sat
sideways, her arms around his body. He kicked at the starter...there
was a splutter and bang and they glided forward, gathering speed.

"Wo--w--w!"

"He's shooting--the cop," shouted Robin.

"Don't worry...rotten target!"

It seemed an eternity before the road crooked round and the railway was
out of sight. She could see its reflected searchlight for a long time.
The cycle behaved nobly; over his shoulder Robin shouted encomia on its
sterling qualities. They met only one man, an elderly gentleman driving a
buggy, whose horse reared dup and shied towards the side of the road. He
hurled fierce imprecations after them.

"Small town doctor," roared Robin. "Only excuse for man his age being
out late." The wind tore speech to fragments--they were moving at a
rate which made conversation a matter of guesswork. Apparently he had no
route in his mind, but he told her afterwards that he was following a
simple plan--first road to right--then first road to left.

"Red Beard--ditch!" She gasped.

"The man who fired at us?"

"Jumped--train--same---time--we. Thought--spotted him."

He checked the speed of the machine and after a few minutes stopped. She
was not sorry to leave the carrier. It was of steel, in pattern rather
like a grid. Robin put out the headlight.

"There will be a telephone within a mile of where the train stopped," he
said "By now the constabulary of the county will be looking for a lady
and gentleman riding the wind."

He picked up the machine and toppled it over a low wall into a field.

"We are approaching," he said. "Did you see the bill-board in that field
we just passed? Billboards are the heralds of civilised communities."

He stooped and with a stick scraped the drying mud from his pantaloons.

"You were about to ask where do we go from here?" he said.

"I wasn't!" she affirmed stoutly. "I've ceased to be curious. I should
like to know--"

"Where we are--so should I." He put up his head and sniffed. "Can't you
smell it?"

"What?"

"The sea! You can scent it sometimes--it comes sweeping up the St.
Lawrence. I can smell it now. Glory be!"

She sniffled up the cool night air, but detected nothing that reminded
her of the Atlantic Ocean.

"We're near the River," he said seriously; "how near or just where, I'm
not troubling to think. I wonder where we can hide up?"

They walked on, and, as he had anticipated, came soon to a collection of
houses. Their character and appearance were hidden. No wandering
policeman was encountered, and they emerged into the country again in
five minutes.

"The name of that thriving city might have helped us if we knew it," he
said. "There was a shop that sold fishing-tackle: did you notice that?"

She hadn't, and marvelled that he could have made such a discovery in the
darkness. They stopped at the fork and decided to take the left-hand
road. It seemed the less cared for. It proved to be a cheerless way.

A wind sprang up before dawn, and there was a nip in it that chilled his
thinly covered legs.

"...if I might mention anything so indelicate."

He could mention anything without protest from October. Her own legs were
aching; she had an overwhelming desire to sleep, and had he suggested
that they should lie down in the middle of the road, she would have
offered no objection.

The sky had clouded over, they saw, with the coming of the first grey
light in the sky. On and on they trudged along the uneven road. Twice he
stopped to let her rest--the second time he had to shake her awake. She
was apologetic in a sleepy way and tried to be brightly conversational.

"An intensive education in cinema clichs tells me that you will turn out
to be a secret service man who is flying from a gang of international war
makers," she said. "You have the secret plans of--of the next war in
your boot-heel...or maybe concealed in your vest; with a golden
badge that you've only to show to the police chief to--to--"

"Get a good cigar," he humoured her. "No, I'm nothing so romantic."

"Then you're the heir to a great fortune that Lady Thingummy wants. You
have a fleur-de-lis tattooed on your right arm."

"Heir to the ages--no. The only person who could die and leave me
something is Georgina. And I'll bet she won't. Try another."

"I can't--I'm talking nonsense. You're Mr. Tramp and I'm Mrs. Tramp and
we'll wake in the lock-up and I shall be petted by the Society for the
Protection of Lady Hobos."

She scarcely realised that he had guided her from the main road and that
they were trudging through one of his favourite "lanes."

She was sleeping on her feet, her arm linked in his, when she became
conscious that they had stopped. She stared stupidly at a narrow stream
of black-looking water. Moored to the bank was a long black scow. There
was light enough to see a man curled up on the bank under a gaily
coloured blanket. When they came up to him they saw he was black, and
that his dazzling bedspread was only one of e many. Near by were the
ashes of a fire, an old tin kettle blackened with much use, and a grub
box. But neither kettle nor food was responsible for his deep and
stertorous sleep.

Robin picked up the empty bottle and sniffed.

"Guaranteed to kill at fifty yards," he said.

"Snowball has been enjoying a solitary jag."

Between bank and scow was a plank; he walked aboard and looked round. The
scow was empty--its usual cargo was coal, he saw. At one end in the
stern was a hatchway which was unlocked. He made an inspection of the
cramped quarters. Apparently this was the sleeping and living-room of the
crew. In the bow was a small compartment with a wooden bunk, but having
no evidence of occupation. It was approached through a sliding hatch, but
the hasp by which the door was fastened had been broken off.

He returned to find October sitting on the bank, her arms folded on her
knees, her head on her arms. Lifting her bodily, he carried her across
the plank, which sagged under them so that every yard of their progress
required an extraordinary effort, and eventually got her into the close
little cubby hole. Laying her on the bunk with his rolled coat under her
head, he pushed the door tight and stretched himself on the floor, and
fell into a painful sleep. In his dreams he heard voices shouting
anathemas upon the heads of all boozing coons, the slow drag of feet and
a guttural, whining voice raised in exculpation.

Thump!

A heavy object fell on the deck above his head. He stared round, saw that
October had rolled perilously near to the edge of the bunk and pushed her
back unceremoniously with his foot, before he fell off to sleep again.

He woke with a taste of bitumen in his mouth, and saw that October was
sitting on the edge of the bunk eating a biscuit. Her face was black.

"There was a letter for you," she said, and handed down an envelope.

"Has the post come?"

There was no light to read; he slipped it into his pocket.

"It was wrapped up with the food," said October. "Isn't everything
quiet? You look funny!"

She began to laugh, quietly at first, and then mirth shook her.

"If it is the coal dust on my face that amuses you," he said, "perhaps
you would like to see your own."

She had a bag and a mirror. Her exclamation of horror was pleasant
hearing. He opened the hatch a little and peeped cautiously out. The
banks were travelling past--the scow was on the move. Looking aft, he
saw the coon sitting with a blanket about his shoulders, his head on his
breast, one hand on the long tiller. He pulled open the hatch a little
farther, got his head and shoulders out. Ahead of them was a little tug
boat, and between scow and tug a hawser slapped up and down in the water.
He went down to the girl, but the cabin was empty--a mystery explained
when she crawled out through the narrowest door he had ever seen. There
was a wash place there with a rusty little pump that yielded a trickle of
water.

"Which way are we going?" she asked in alarm.

"That way," he pointed. "Whether it leads to the River or New York, I
don't know; we must lie low until night."

He closed the door, and, visiting the washroom, succeeded in removing
some of the grime from his face. With the hatch closed, the atmosphere
was stuffy. October developed a headache and went to sleep again.

Every hour or so Robin took an observation. Once, when he looked out, the
scow was under the shadow of a line of big elevators, and he saw the
smoke of locomotives. It must have been four o'clock when the tug ceased
to haul. The bump of the scow as it struck the bank awakened the girl.
Robin went to his peep-hole.

"We are taking more barges in tow--scows, I mean."

After the exchange of a considerable quantity of bad language between the
captain of the tug and the coon at the tiller, in which the skipper was
aided and abetted by an unknown called "Tom," who evidently was posted
on the canal bank, progress was resumed.

Robin dozed and dreamt that he was back in the Swede's house and could
not leave it because before every door and window swung the body of the
departed owner. He felt a pressure on his arm and woke.

"We have stopped," she whispered in his ear. "I heard somebody ask the
negro if he had seen a man and a woman when he stopped last night." Feet
sounded on the deck, booted, heavy feet.

"What's down here, anyway?"

The door to the wash room was a thick plank opening on hinges inward.
Robin gathered up his coat and the girl's hat and bag and pushed her
through the opening. He followed and, bracing his feet against the scow's
timbers, set his back firmly against the door. He heard the hatch grind
back and heavy feet tread the floor of the bunk-house.

"Nobody heah, sah. I done bin in dis cab'n an' outer dis cab'n all day,
sah."

"Where do you sleep?" asked an authoritative voice.

"Me, sah? I sleep up for'ard, sah. There ain't nothin' in my cab'n, sah!"

"We'll go look, shall we?"

"No, sah! No, sah!" There was terror in the coon's voice..

"Hi, wait, nigger, you stay right here with us..." There was a crash
as the hatch closed and they were gone. Robin stole out and listened,
heard later an angry colloquy.

"Five pints of hooch, under his bedding. Nigger, you'll get twenty years
for that!" After that an animated and interminable conversation went on
somewhere near, but Robin could hear nothing.

The scow must be tied up to some pier, for he heard the rumble of wagon
wheels and the slow clip-clop of a horse's hooves. The talkers were
moving in his direction. Robin heard authority again.

"...Now see here, Byrne---"

 Byrne! Robin dared move the hatch: the failing light justifies the act.

"...there's no argument. You get out of town. You're not welcome and
that's a fact. I don't care what you're doing. I know, I know! I'll get
Leslie without any assistance from you--thank you! I know just all
about it..."

Robin did not catch Red Beard's retort.

"Sure I am! Always glad of information, Mr. Byrne. You traced him to the
scow, did you...yeh! I know all about the officer losing his
machine. Too bad! You traced him to the scow--you're one fine sleuth.
Well, he's not on the scow and never came on. Only thing here is hooch--and
wood spirit at that..."

"Can't I stay the night? I'll leave town first thing in the morning.
Listen, chief--this bird got my partner--right through the leg. I'm
sore's hell. And this bum is on the scow--him an' his chicken. He's
somewheres round. I gotta instinct. Say, I'd give a million dollars to
get him for you..."

They were walking slowly as he spoke; Robin did not hear the reply. More
deadly than all the sleuths was Red Beard, for he had sources of
information denied to the police. And he had the use of a fast
automobile, could pick up the distinctive track of the cycle. It was not
very hard to understand how this bloodhound came to nose along the trail.
They had seen nobody on the journey except the old man in the buggy. Who
had seen them? What homeless men had looked out from their sleeping
places and watched them pass in the light of dawn?

"There is nothing to do but wait," he said. October thought that he
sounded rather middle-aged and told him as much.

"Maybe: I feel a hundred. I don't know where we are, and we may blunder
from the scow into the arms of a dock bull."

There was a church clock near them. They counted the quarters until ten
struck. Robin opened the hatch and closed it again quickly. Two men were
standing at the far end of the boat, visible in a distant arc-lamp. The
negro was one, the other he recognised though his back was turned. So Red
Beard was back. That instinct of which he boasted had brought him. He was
illustrating his words with his hands. He pointed down, he pointed first
to one side of the scow and then the other, and then he turned round and
it was the coon who pointed. And a negro's gestures are expressive. By
the slope of his hands Robin saw that he wasindicating the cubby hole,
then he pulled open an invisible plank and vigorously washed his
face--pointed again. Red Beard was nodding. The negro took a step towards
the fore cabin--Red Beard caught him by the arm and told him
something...all these events Robin repeated to the girl.

"...the coon is firing a gun--Reddy has told him I am armed--Reddy
is flapping his hand up and down as if he was saying: 'Leave him to
me.' Now he is leaving the scow--no, he isn't, he's going down to
Snowball's dugout--"

"Reddy fades out picture!" she said wearily. "It sounds like an
over-elaborated film scenario---"

Somebody called "Bud" in a loud voice, and the coon nigger came flying
up to the deck alone. He ran towards the hatch. Robin closed it quickly,
and just then there was a thud on the deck. The scow bumped so violently
that October was nearly thrown from her feet.

"We're on the move!" said Robin suddenly. He could hear the panting of
the tug--the scow lurched sideways. From the pier a man roared a string
of rapid instructions, only the last four words of which could be
distinguished.

"Don't forget the bacon." Evidently this was a time-honoured jest. The
negro's roar of laughter filled all space.

"Ha, ha!" said Robin politely. He was sitting by her side and, reaching
out, took her hand.

"How did you know I wanted comfort?" she asked.

"Do you? Yes, I knew that. I am psychic. You have a forlornness." He
heard her deep sigh and grinned.

"Don't laugh--I'm psychic too!" she said fretfully, "And I know you
smiled. Do you realise that a week ago I had never slept in a haunted
house, or in a scow, or ridden in a box car with tramps, or seen anybody
die? And it's...well, crowding on me! And I feel that I'm going
through life running away from something...the kind of nightmare you
have after a bridge party...running away from a man with a knife,
running, running, running, until you wake up and turn on the light I
Shall I wake up?"

"Yes, and you won't need to turn on the light--there will be sunshine
and flowers and fountains playing and a brass band--everything the
heart can desire." She drew a long breath.

"I don't see that--only horrid roads, and old sheds and box cars...tramps
without end, hobbling along and to nowhere!"

He dropped her hand suddenly.

"Why?" she asked.

"You're shaking my nerve--and you mustn't do it, October." His voice
was almost sharp. "I get panicky when you talk that way--when you feel
that way. I just want to leap up on deck and shoot somebody--anybody;
it is hysteria. Dash your auburn tresses, you've made me hysterical!"

"My hair isn't auburn," she said coldly, and then laughed and squeezed
his arm tight.

"I'm mean! I think I was depressed about Red Beard--I did so hope I had
killed him! And then we could have sat side by side in court and cheered
one another--the prisoner always gets the best seat in court."

He laughed at this, rather more loudly than was safe...overhead he
heard the creak of a shoe and put his hand to her mouth.

"I wonder if he heard!"


Chapter 14


FIFTY thousand dollars are a lot of dollars, as Red Beard often said to
Lenny. And Lenny had invariably replied "Thasso!" A few minutes
afterwards, he would grin from ear to ear, for he was a slow thinker,
though an excellent judge of pace. Red Beard squatted by the negro
steersman, a cigar between his teeth, his arms clasped about his knees,
and tried to imagine what they would look like--five hundred bills for
a hundred dollars each, all spread out on a large table. It would have to
be an enormously large table. He watched the dark country pass on either
bank, his eyes glued on the chuffing tug. The scow had passed out of the
canal and was keeping to the central channel of a little river that
alternately sprawled and closed upon them. She--if a scow be not a
neutral thing--was due to meet the William and Mary, a collier out of
Cardiff, and Red Beard anticipated no more than a pleasant trip and a few
quiet hours to exercise his thoughts. And the most pleasant of these was
that fifty thousand dollars are a lot of dollars. Now suppose. The worst
of men have their dreams, and they are usually about money. Now suppose
he had got that walking guy down at Schenectady, or when he was leaning
on the gate taking the air...

The thought thrilled him. Suppose he were on this very scow! Red Beard,
though no Catholic, carried in his pocket a tiny silver medallion of St.
Anthony, reputedly a great help in finding articles you mislay. He
possessed all the superstitions of his illiteracy, and in a grip now
safely deposited in New York at the Grand Central Station he stored
innumerable charms, which were all cunningly promoted and degraded as
their potency failed. But St. Anthony was one of the constants of his
faith. He took it out now, rubbed it on the palm of both hands, and
deposited it religiously in the deeps of his pocket. This nigger talked
of a recess opening from the forward cubby hole, but niggers are born
liars and imagine things; and anyway, Red Beard had not thought it
necessary to pursue his search. A thought occurred to him.

"Bud, go along and see what's down that hatch. I'll take your steering
stick."

"Me, sah? No, sah!" Bud shook his head vigorously. "Dat place is sure
ha'nted! Old nigger died down thah last time we was on the Welland." Red
Beard tried to jeer him into making the investigation; but the coon was
adamant. He said that the night after the old nigger man was moved the
hatch was padlocked. Next morning the lock was broken. Another padlock
was fixed and again was broken. According to Bud, this happened six
nights out of seven. He did not explain that the only time it happened
was when a shore thief came aboard in his absence, looking for loot. But
Red Beard was impressed. He believed in ghosts and premonitions--pictures
falling from the wall, and death tappings...He stared forward into the
darkness apprehensively, but after a while he mastered his uneasiness,
and walked along the narrow side deck, standing irresolutely above the
hatch. And then he heard the laugh, and his heart leapt. Going down on
his knees, he examined the covering. A broken staple gave support to the
coon's legend, but Mr. Byrne was superior now to superstitious fears. His
fingers went gingerly along the slide. The hatch must be pushed towards
the bow of the boat. If the staple were there, it would be easy enough to
fasten. How else might it be kept closed? His practical mind found a way,
and he went cautiously back to the uneasy steersman.

"Got an iron bar--anything!" Bud, perturbed and frightened, went
reluctantly down into his sleeping hole. In a box under the bunk were
kept the ship's tools, a rusty collection of axes, hammers and chisels.
From the bottom Red Beard raked out two crowbars of different length,
and, armed with these, he went forward again. If the longer of the two
bars had been made for the purpose, it could not have suited him better.
With the claw fixed to the back of the hatch he hammered down the head of
the crowbar against the prow--post. Robin heard the hammering and,
guessing its meaning, jumped for the hatch: he tried to pull it back, but
not an inch would it yield.

"Put your hands to your ears," he whispered. And then, from the deck
above, he heard a hateful voice:

"Hullo, bo'!" Red Beard lay flat on the hatch and formed a trumpet of
his two hands.

"Think you'll make Canada this trip? Like hell you will------"

Right at his elbow the wood splintered and flew upward. A second bullet
snicked the tip of his ear...his face was smarting in a dozen places
where the splinters had struck. He scrambled to his feet with a bellow of
rage and whipped out his gun. Ahead of them was a great expanse of water,
and as Red Beard fared, the tug was caught by the swift waters of the
St. Lawrence and swung round. From the little steamer's deck the skipper
was shouting at him excitedly; the siren wailed; but Red Beard neither
heard nor realised. Half mad with rage, he danced up and down the little
deck, his gun whirling.

"I'll fix you...I'll fix you!"

Again the pistol banged, but by now Robin had taken cover with the girl
behind the stout plank. Back to the stern and the alarmed Bud the gunman
raced, vanished into the little cabin. The steersman heard the rattle and
crash of the tool-box being overturned, and then the half-demented man
came out carrying a rusty axe.

"Boss, fo' de Lawd's sake, what you gwine ter do? Boss, I'll get fired
for dis sure!"

But Red Beard swept him aside. The tug was panting against the stream;
the hawser that held the scow was taut. With two blows he severed the
rope, and without pause dropped down into the broad Hat bottom of the
scow. Crash! The axe fell on the floor, and as he lugged it back, a thin
plank came up, revealing the black ribs and a layer of black water that a
covered the outer skin of this decrepit craft. Bud was dancing to and
fro, working the tiller first this way and that in his frenzy as the scow
drifted in circles to the centre of the stream. The axe was useless--the
bilge water was too deep.

Red Beard clambered up to the foredeck and searched for the short
crowbar, found it, and returning down, drove through the water to the
bottom of the boat. Only then did the negro steersman realise what he was
doing. He dropped his tiller with a yell, and made a wild jump into the
well of the boat. Red Beard's back straightened, and his gun drove out.

"Stay where you are, nigger!"

"For Gawd's sake, boss...I can't swim."

"Get back--quick!" He fired a shot at the coon's foot and Bud clambered
out of the well with a wild howl. The wood was old and soggy: every blow
of the sharp claw dug deeply into its rottenness. Panting, blinded with
the perspiration which ran down his face at his unusual exertion, Red
Beard drove down the bar and felt it slip through. Water bubbled up
noisily; he struck again, broke off the edges of the hole he had made...the
river was above his ankles when he climbed to the after-deck. He
pushed the petrified steersman aside, dragging back the tiller so that
the scow headed for the shore.

The scow lurched sideways, turning round and round, now stern first, now
broadside to the stream, but all the time edging towards the dark shore.
In the well the water was rising slowly, bringing with it the loose deck
boards that had covered its floor.

"I cain't swim; I cain't swim," sobbed Bud.

"Shut up!" snapped Red Beard savagely.

"When we hit the bank, jump!"

Nearer and nearer to the shore the waterlogged craft circled. She was so
heavily waterlogged that she no longer responded to the rudder. Red Beard
made a mental calculation and guessed that, by now, the people in the
fore cabin had water up to their waists. Another and a stronger eddy
caught them and brought the stern of the scow within a few feet of the
bank. He had judged well...there was a grinding thump and, with a
scream of terror, Bud shot through the air like something released from a
catapult, tumbled on to the steep bank and, by a superhuman effort,
dragged himself to land. Red Beard's departure was more dignified. He
literally stepped from the rudder top to earth, and save for wet feet
suffered no inconvenience. The scow was drifting out again, and, as it
drifted, sank lower and lower till only the rims of the stern and bow
showed. Presently it passed out of sight. Red Beard put up his hand to
his lacerated cheek, drew out a splinter with a grimace and grinned.

"Figured I'd fix him, and I've fixed him!" he said complacently, and sat
down to recover his breath and to debate in his mind the important
question--was Lenny entitled to his agreed share of the blood-money?

"Fifty-fifty's all wrong," said Red Beard.

 The first intimation of danger that came to the two people in the cabin
 was a gushing of water through the loosely set floor--boards. At first
 Robin could not believe his eyes, and then, as there reached him the
 thud-thud of the falling crowbar and the gurgle of the inrushing water,
 the horror of the thing turned him cold. With the help of his lamp, he
 made a hurried search for some means to break open the hatch. The plank
 that formed the door to the washroom seemed the only possible
 instrument, but the hinges were tightly screwed, and not all his efforts
 could wrench one loose.

"We're sinking, aren't we?" asked October quietly.

"It feels that way," he said.

"Is the knife any good?" she asked, and produced unexpectedly from her
pocket the weapon that Lenny had thrown. It was a clasp-knife of peculiar
pattern: the blade, as long again as the handle, folded over, its edge
being protected by a narrow steel groove which, when the knife was in
use, fitted into the handle. He seized this timely weapon from her hand
and, snapping it straight, attacked the hatchway. But the wood here was
at least three-quarters of an inch thick, and although he had the
advantage of working from the punctures which the bullets had made, there
was little hope of cutting away sufficient to allow them to escape.

By now, as Red Beard had calculated, the water was between waist and
armpits, and the scow was wallowing first to one side and then to the
other, and with every drunken stagger of it they thought the end had
come.

"Will the hatch slide in the other direction?" she asked.

He examined the edge and saw at once that the wooden cover was kept in
its place by a flimsy strip of wood, which was already strained and bent
under the pressure of the hammered crowbar. Driving the knife into the
wood, he had the satisfaction of tearing off a long splinter without
trouble. A second sliver followed. As he struck again he heard the bump
of the stern as it struck the bank. The water was now up to his shoulders
and he worked at fever speed, handicapped by the presence of the girl,
whom he had been forced to put in front of him on the lower of the three
steps that led down from the deck. He prised loose yet another jagged
slip, and, planting his hands on the under side of the hatch, exerted all
his strength and pushed. The hatch did not open, as he expected; it gave
half an inch and then stuck. But that half an inch produced a result he
had not anticipated. The iron bar fell to the deck with a clang, and,
reversing the motion of his hands, he pulled and the hatch slid back.
Linking his arm in hers, he dragged her to the deck, already under water.

"Can you swim, October?"

"Yes...how far and for how long?" It seemed there was no need to swim
for any distance. As the craft careened round, out of the darkness on
their left loomed a low bluff. In another instant they were in the water,
swimming strongly against the current. A log floated past them, but they
dived under it; and then, reaching out his hand, Robin dug his fingers
into a clay bank and they slipped and slid up its steep and oozy face
until his hand touched the thorny branches of a bush...

October was the first to recover her speech.

"Now where are we?" she asked.

"I'm dam'd if I know!" said Robin, "but curse all intaglios!"

It was the first time he had used strong language in her presence, and in
the circumstances she felt that he was justified. But the intaglios
again?

Presently he gripped her hand and lifted her.

"Walk," he said. "You'll be chilled to death sitting there in those wet
clothes. We'll find a house somewhere."

They struggled through the bramble of a little wood and emerged on the
other side, to find there was a broad canal to cross. Along this they
wandered until they came to a deserted `lock, which gave them a bridge.
Before them at the foot of a long hill they saw the lights of a
considerable township. Presently, labouring across the fields, they found
a road.

"Once more we take to the broad highway," said October gaily; "and if
this is Littleburg I shall scream!"

"It is anywhere but Littleburg," he said;

"But I thought I recognised...no, I didn't! But I've been in this
town before." He felt in his pocket and his hand touched the sodden roll
of bills he had taken from Lenny--who was the cashier of the
confederation.

"We'll go straight to the best hotel," he said firmly, "order a hot
dinner and a hot bath."

Somebody was walking ahead of them--a stranger like themselves, for,
hearing footsteps behind him, he stopped and turned.

"Say, mister, what place is this? I just lauded from a scow--"

It was Red Beard. Robin slipped his arms from his wet jacket.

"This is the place you get off, whiskers!" he said, and drove with his
left.

Red Beard fell with a crash, but in a second he was on his feet and had
jerked out his gun. Before he could raise it, a hand gripped his wrist
and twisted it so painfully that with a yell the gunman dropped his
weapon.

It fell at October's feet and she kicked it to the side of the road.

Red Beard was game, but he was no hand fighter. The third time he went
down he elected to stay. Robin searched round for the pistol, put it in
his pocket and walked back to his enemy.

"Are you insured, Byrne?" he asked. "Because, if you are, I'm entitled
to a commission from the company that took the risk. Ninety-nine cents
to the dollar is your premium if you and I ever meet again! Do you
get that?"

Red Beard did not answer. He was counting his teeth. The end of the road
brought them to the main avenue and to the rails of a trolley car.

"We shall attract a little attention, October, I but I can't risk your
running round in damp clothes."

The town was peculiarly constructed: it consisted of one main avenue
with practically no houses behind on either side, and a large I
proportion of the buildings were devoted to the rest and the refreshment
of man. There was a festive gaiety about these big boarding-houses and
little hotels which suggested that the community enjoyed only a seasonal
prosperity, and this view was supported by the fact that some of the
hotels were already closed for the year.

The chill wind that swept down the long street was responsible for its
deserted appearance--they did not see even a rural policeman, though
there was a knot of people about the enticing and brightly illuminated
entrance of the inevitable cinema.

"The best hotel is any hotel," said Robin, "and this place looks good to
me."

It was a two-storied frame house standing back from the road behind a
grassy forecourt, and the open hall-way, with its gaily covered lights,
decided him.

Across the broad transom by were the words "River Hotel," and as they
stepped into the warm vestibule a heavenly smell of cooking food came out
to meet them.

Robin searched for a bell and found it and presently a stout little
woman, with huge, gold-rimmed spectacles, appeared with the set smile it
of one who had profited by her contact with humanity. The smile faded at
the sight of the two coal-stained and bedraggled scarecrows.

Robin hastened to remove the unfavourable impression which they had
created.

"We've been picnicking on a scow," he said, "but unfortunately we didn't
choose a clean one, and we finished up our trip by falling into the
water. Can you let us rooms?"

"Why--yes," she hesitated, and then, with an "Excuse me," darted
through a door and returned immediately with a large red-haired man
chewing a toothpick, who surveyed them solemnly, critically and
appraisingly.

"Why," he drawled, when he had found his voice, "I don't know that this
hotel will suit you. Maybe if you go along to Mrs. Hodges, she's open all
winter."

"We're closing down to-morrow," jerked in the stout little woman. "All
our boarders are gone and we have no staff."

"We only want rooms for the night," said Robin. The big man chewed his
toothpick with his eye on his wife, and Robin thought it a good moment to
produce from his unpleasantly damp pocket a mass of wet paper.

"I'd like to have you dry this for me," he said, and at the sight of so
much indubitably good money the big man was galvanised into a violent
interest.

"Sure I will," he said. "You count it out, because I don't want any
argument after. Mother, you'll find a room for this gentleman and lady.
Married, mister?" Robin nodded.

"Two rooms,"` he said soberly, "and, if possible, two bathrooms."

"We've got three," said the proprietor, with some pride. He came up to
collect the money and told Robin that they were the only guests in the
house. Apparently they shut down at the end of August, but the September
had been so unusually fine that a number of the boarding houses in the
town had dragged out their period of usefulness.

"You'll be wanting some more clothes," said the big man. "Would you like
me to 'phone up to the Universal and ask them to send you down some duds?
Maybe your wife would like something dry?"

It was an excellent scheme. Robin was hardly out of a scalding hot bath
when a salesman from the Universal, happy to find customers at this
dead-end of the season, arrived with two big grips.

"I've got a Palm Beach here that you couldn't buy in New York for fifty
dollars--"

"N O!" said Robin loudly. They dined in solitary state, he and October,
in a large, over-ornamented dining-room, economically darkened except for
a lamp over their table. It was a well-cooked dinner, and after the
feast Robin leant back with a sigh of content and smiled up at the big
man who acted as waiter.

"If I expressed a desire for a pint of good wine, would you send for the
police?"

"No, sir, I'd send for the wine. What would you like?"

To Robin's amazement he produced a card with all the skill and aplomb of
a conjurer, and like a man in a dream the visitor ordered a bottle of
Clicquot. The landlord neither whispered nor winked, nor emphasised the
difficulty he had in procuring the Right Stuff--which was surprising.

That was the first remarkable occurrence of the night. The second came in
more dramatic circumstances.

They had retired to the hotel parlour, there to discuss the morrow, when
the first hint of trouble came. Next the parlour was the proprietor's
office, and only a thin matchboarding separated the two rooms. Robin had
heard the telephone bell ring before, and had been an unwilling
eavesdropper to conversations which consisted of the unimportant
exchanges of intimate gossip that make up the life of a small community.

The little Hebrew salesman who brought the clothes had told him that
they were twelve miles from Ogdensburg.

"In which direction?" she asked.

"I didn't ask him that. He was a very short-speech little man. I've never
met a salesman that spoke less." He was rising to search for a newspaper
when he heard the telephone bell ring and the proprietor's voice answer:

"Hey?...Yes, chief..." A long pause.

"Yes, two people...that's right, a man and a woman. Say, wait a
minute."

He got up and closed the door of his office, rather unnecessarily, as it
happened.

"Yes, about an hour ago..." Another pause, and then, in a tone of
consternation:

"You don't say!...Is that so?" And then the receiver was hung up.
They looked at one another.

"The Great Highway, I think," said Robin carefully, and at that moment
the proprietor came in and closed the door behind him. In his hand he had
a half-dried sheaf of notes.

"You'd better take this, mister--and get!"

"I haven't paid my bill," said Robin.

"Don't worry about that--you step lively! Killed a bum, did you?"

He shook his head in wonder. Robin had the idea that the gesture held not
a little admiration too.

"Somebody has squealed on you, son. I didn't oughter tell you, but the
chief's getting his gang together and the station house is only a block
away."

He personally conducted them on to the stoep.

"They'll come from uptown "--he pointed left. "You had best go right
till you come to the fork."

An automobile came speeding up the street and now it stopped before the
door and three men jumped out. October clung more tightly to her
husband's arms. Behind them the tall man stood in the doorway, blocking
all escape from the rear, for under the eye of authority he stood for
justice rather than for generosity. The leader of the three was a police
officer of some rank. He walked up the path to the house, a gun in his
hand.

"Is your name Robin?" he asked sharply.

"That is my name," said Robin, and added:

"One of them."

"We've had information laid against you that you killed a tramp,"

"That's right, chief," said the third man eagerly. "I seen him do it. At
least, I didn't see him, but I know he done it!" The police officer cut
him short.

"We know nothing about this murder," he said; "no report has come
through, but I must hold you, Robin, until the chief receives
instructions from head-quarters. Is this young lady your wife?"

"Yes," said Robin quietly, and the officer scratched his chin in
perplexity.

"Maybe she'd like to come along to the station?" he said, and without a
word the girl led the way to the automobile. The machine turned and sped
back through the town towards the little stone building at the far end of
the street, Red Beard standing precariously on the running board. They
were ushered into a large, bare room, where a man in a black alpaca coat
sat at a desk. He looked up as they entered.

"Is that Robin?" he said. "Listen, Johnny, there's nothing known about
this bird. No bums have been murdered, no complaint has been
made--Headquarters say somebody has been stringing us."

October's mouth opened wide in amazement. The man at the desk was
scowling in perplexity.

"Ask that R.C. sergeant if he's heard anything," he said. "The fellow
that came this afternoon--if he is still here."

Red Beard, hovering in the doorway of the station, shuffled his feet
uncomfortably. He looked from the chief at his desk to a notice pasted
above the stove--a yellow-varnished list of police "Don'ts," which had
escaped Robin's notice. Red Beard read and choked, and then stepped
softly out into the street and out of the lives of these puzzled young
people awaiting the solution of a mystery which, to one at least, seemed
insoluble.

"What is an R.C. sergeant?" she asked, under her breath.

Robin shook his head.

"Is it Roman Catholic?" A broad-shouldered man, with a clean-shaven,
good-humoured face, strode in, saluted the chief at the desk stiffly; he
wore the stripes of a sergeant.

"This is the man," said Robin's captor. The new-comer turned, took one
glance at the prisoner and his jaw dropped.

"Suffering snakes!" murmured the bewildered Robin. "Where are we?"

The sergeant looked at him oddly and grinned.

"You're in Canada, my lord," he said. October thought that "my lord"
was a piece of pleasantry.

"In Canada?" Of course! She remembered now! The river was running to
the right when they had landed. The man in the alpaca coat had risen
and was walking towards the little group.

"Then you know this gentleman, sergeant?" he asked.

The Royal Canadian policeman grinned again.

"I ought to, chief," he said. "I was his orderly for two years--Lord
Rochford, Assistant Military Secretary to the Governor-General."


Chapter 15


The Chapter that should have been first



ROBIN LESLIE BEAUSERE, fourth Earl of Rochford, ordinarily enjoyed the
dances at Rideau House. But most willingly would he have forgone the
function that brought him in the scarlet mess jacket and golden
aiguillettes and all the gorgeous trappings of his profession to dance
attendance upon The Great. For the morrow saw the beginning of his
vacation, and he had planned to take the night train to Quebec, go by
boat to Chicoutimi, and begin the hike he had promised himself towards
Lake Kenogami. Hi rooms at La Bonne Menagere were already booked; his
steamer and train reservations taken, when there dropped into the city of
Qubec an Important Military Personage with a passion for changing his
routes and upsetting carefully arranged programmes. So that the dance at
Government House took on something of an official complexion, and there
were military secretaries in scarlet and A.D.C.'s in gold to add colour
to his Excellency's state. The Important Military Personage had heard of
Robin and his favourite hobby; sent for him after the dances had
started.

"They tell me you're a great walker, Lord Rochford."

"Yes, sir, I am something of a tramp," Robin laughed. And, being also
something of a judge of character, he dared confess his own
embarrassment.

"Great heavens, don't let me keep you from your infernal mountains!"
laughed the personsage genially. He was a very human man.

"I'll tell his Excellency that I've no further use for you--you're
attached to my august person, aren't you? Anyway, you are officially
dismissed."

A joyous Robin went back to his little house at Majorshill Park. As he
was getting out of his car, a nondescript figure shuffled across the
sidewalk and a whining voice advertised its owner's hunger with a
passionate earnestness. Robin chuckled as he felt in his pockets.

"You're a bad lad, bo'! If the city police fund you they'll sap you to
death--and they'll certainly jug you!"

He dropped a dollar into the outstretched palm, and his key was in the
door when a thought struck him and he called the man back to him.

"How's riding, bo'?"

"Rotten," said the man. "Them C.P.R. shacks are the hell's own
fusiliers! I've seen 'em kill a bum up in Kickin' Horse Pass--well, not
kill him," he amended, "but sort of killed him, if you get me. I'm
thinking of getting across the river and deckin' the flier down to
Albany--it's a lousy town for bumming, but I could get a job there."

"Good riding!" said Robin, and left him. As he came into the hall,
Mortimer, hisvalet and butler, met him with surprising news.

"I'm very, sorry, my lord," he said in an undertone, "But her ladyship
has arrived." Robin frowned.

"Which ladyship?" he asked suspiciously

"Lady Georgina--and Mr. Loamer."

"The devil they have!" He was not quite sure whether he was annoyed or
amused. His last interview with Georgina, though it had ended with all
the appearance of amiability, had left their relations rather strained.
Lady Georgina was sitting before the flower-filled fire-place, and he
crossed and took her hand.

"Georgina, you're irrepressible," he said, and nodded to the
small-featured young man who had effaced himself behind an evening
newspaper.

"And you're a provocative woman." He pointed to the cameo brooch she
wore, not as a brooch, but as though it were the bizarre decoration of a
knightly order, just above her waist. The Rochford intaglios are famous;
there is no other collection in the world so complete. His grandfather
had been a. great collectornot so the Countess of Rochford of that time.
To this vivacious lady, intaglios were stones of no particular value, and
on the death of her husband she had presented to the youthful Georgina
one precious Medici intaglio which two generations of Rochfords had been
trying to buy back ever since.

"Provocative?" She looked down at the gem with a grim smile of
satisfaction. "An ugly little beast, Robin, but a thousand pounds would
not buy it."

He laughed. "I refuse to be enraged!" he said. "I'm starting on my
vacation tomorrow."

"Your holiday. Why do you use these wretched American terms?"

"I like 'em," he said carelessly, and then: "What are you doing in
Ottawa, anyway?" Her ladyship glanced at her son.

"We are on our way home; we've been staying at the Sullivans' house in
New York. Alan wished to go straight on to Quebec, but I had a duty to
perform."

"And I'll bet it was an unpleasant one, you look so happy about it," said
Robin.

"All duties are unpleasant." She had a long feather fan and could use it
effectively. "This particular duty is to myself and to Alan."

He did not offer her any further opening, suspecting what was coming.

"Here is the situation in a nutshell, Robin. You are enormously rich and
we are enormously poor. Alan is your second cousin and heir to your title
and as much of your money as is entailed. In the circumstances, don't you
think it's rather mean that you should allow us to struggle on, when,
with a few scribbles of your pen, you could relieve us of so much trouble
and so much anxiety?"

"In other words," said Robin good-humouredly, "with so much money
running loose in the family, you feel you're entitled at least to a
pension?"

"You can put it as objectionably as you wish," she said. "But nothing
you say can relieve you of your responsibility to the family."

Alan Loamer was watching them, and the eyes of the two men met.

"What do you say to this undignified suggestion?"

Alan shrugged his shoulders, folded his newspaper and put it down tidily
on the table.

"It is mother's idea entirely," he said. "Naturally I have no wish to
live on charity, but I really think that you might help us a little,
Robin."

"Am I not helping you a little now?" asked Lord Rochford quietly. "I am
under the impression that twelve hundred good pounds goes from my bank
account to your mother's every first of January."

Lady Georgina smiled. "How absurd---twelve hundred pounds! Of course,
it is something. But remember that Alan is your heir presumptive--"

"I may marry: why shouldn't I?..."

He marvelled that she had broken her journey to repeat all the arguments
that had been offered again and again. This conversation was the same,
almost word for word, as one they had had in London before he left to
take up his duties in Canada. Written down, her words would read like a
carbon copy of the long talk he had had with her ladyship in Paris three
summers before. Before he could speak, he heard a noise in the street,
walked to the window and looked out.

"Poor devil!" he said, forgetting Lady Georgina and the glum heir
presumptive.

His friend the tramp was in the hands of the law, and seemed unwilling
to accept the hospitality which the Canadian Government were prepared to
offer him, for he struggled to break free as he crossed the street.

"What is it?" Georgina was behind him.

"Only an old hobo--poor soul! And he'd planned such a wonderful hike!
He was crossing the river tonight to deck a passenger train to Albany."

He turned back from the window. "And now he goes to quod!"

"A lethal chamber would be better," she said, helping herself to a
cigarette.

"Why?" he asked, in surprise. "They're a good lot of fellows. I've met
them...been in camp with them. An amusing, romantic bunch of
speed-hounds!"

"You're getting rather American, aren't you?" she asked. "Even in your
sympathy with tramps."

"I'm a tramp myself," he said, as he followed her example and lit a
cigarette. She pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"He would have crossed the river, got into America--without a
passport?"

The idea of a tramp with a passport tickled him. "Anybody could," he
said. "If I cared to employ my vacation that way, I could walk from here
to New York and back again. I know an Irish scoundrel who runs booze, who
would ferry me across the river and bring me back again, and not charge
me a cent."

She was looking at the thin ash of her cigarette with a thoughtful frown.

"I don't believe that," she said.

"You're very rude." He was amused. "You always have been rude,
Georgina."

"You could go from here to New York and back--how much money would you
require?"

"Fifty cents," he said promptly, "and I'd bring that amount back again."

"I don't believe it," she said again. "It is impossible."

He was piqued. "Would you like to bet?" he asked.

"My dear Robin"--she made a weary gesture--"have I any money to bet
with?"

She fingered her brooch absently and he rose to the bait.

"I'll bet you a thousand pounds to your intaglio that I make the round
trip," he said. "I'd love it! The very thought of it is like a tonic!"

For a long time she stared at him, uttering no word. "A thousand pounds
to my intaglio--I want a thousand pounds badly! I'll bet you, Robin!"

And all the time she was thinking with a rapidity which would have amazed
him had he known.

Robin left next morning at live, just after the dawn broke, but her
ladyship and her son were already on their way to Chicago by the night
express; for there she knew a high police official who was personally
acquainted with every bad man in the State of Illinois.



There is a broad porch behind Lord Rochford's house--and, if you know
Ottawa, it is the easiest house in Canada to locate, because of the big
blue Chinese bowls that are filled with red geraniums that flower at the
front--and from this comfortable place of dreaming you look across
Ottawa River and can see above the rectangles of the modern architects
the twin towers of Notre Dame. It was proof of Robin's eccentricity that
he lived so far from Rideau Hall, which is popularly supposed to be the
Hub of Canada's Universe, but he had his peculiarities. It was far enough
 from Rideau House, and it was at Rideau House that he was sleeping at
nights.

"Which is absurd!" said October.

"Propriety is my favourite weakness," he admitted.

She turned up her nose at this. "Not that I object to living at this
gorgeous little house--I'm used now to the smell of tobacco
everywhere--but isn't it rather silly? Elsie or Marie...the maid you
hired yesterday is already la-la-ing about our matrimonial troubles: she
would be sympathetic for two cents."

He groaned. "It is an awful long business," he said. "I have to make my
inquiries in such a roundabout fashion. But we me married, I'm sure of
that."

"Well? Why marry again, Robin?"

He drew up a chair to her side--they were on the porch at the hour when
the twin towers were turning golden in the light of the dying sun and the
Ottawa becomes a turquoise mist.

"I've heard it said that girls like to remember their wedding day; to put
away in lavender their wedding gowns and hide odd scraps of vegetation in
cedar boxes."

"Well?"

"Men like to have memories too," he said gently. "I cannot even preserve
the black eye I wore on our wedding eve, and though by diligent searching
I could find poison ivy and, by allowing my beard to grow for a week, I
could obtain a permanent photograph record of the bridegroom, it isn't
the same thing as remembering the ceremony."

"You were horrible!" she said thoughtfully. "You looked a tramp and
you were a tramp and you were--"

"Intoxicated." His voice was grave. "I admit it--that is what I mean. I
should like to be married once--sober."

October examined him with interest. "It is rather difficult to remember
you--even as you were at Miss Ellen's. When I saw you all dressed up
this morning with those goldy things on your shoulder, I somehow couldn't
see you washing your shirt or borrowing a lady's watch to buy a suit of
old clothes. Did you write to Miss Ellen?"

He nodded.

"And did you send her--anything?"

"I sent her back the statement her father signed on his death bed," he
said quietly. "It is of no use to me, and might be hurtful to his
memory. Anyway, she will keep it."

"Did you send her anything?" she persisted.

"Money," awkwardly, "yes; but of course I couldn't say who I was. I
think she knows. Do you remember when she said she had seen my photograph
in the newspaper? I went across with the Governor-General to see a man, a
friend of his."

"Where?"

"The Place Never Reached," he added, and she wailed.

"Ogdensburg!"

And then he became serious.

"I've seen the G.G. and told him all about the great adventure, and he
was a brick! He insisted on having poor Baldy's statement photographed,
and I believe he is writing to the Secretary of State at Washington. They
are very good friends. And I told him--I was married."

A silence.

"Did he burst into tears?" she asked innocently.

"No; he was very brave about it. That was when he gave me the leave."

She frowned. "Leave?"

"Yes "--Robin tried to appear unconcerned--"The--er--honeymoon
leave; it is usual."

A longer silence.

"That means we are married--officially," she said.

"Yes." They stared gloomily across the river, purple now and sombre.

"That is certainly tough on you, bo'!" she said ironically.

"It's tougher on you," he retorted, and quoted from a recent headline.

"' Mad Schoolgirl Escapade Binds Her to Maniac Hobo'"

"Oh!" she said, and then "Was it so mad?"

She got up from her chair, seemingly intent upon the darkening landscape.
Then suddenly she turned, and, dropping her hands on his shoulders,
stooped and kissed him.

"Sit down," said Robin, and she sat down, but her chair remained
unoccupied...

"Dinner is served, my lord," said Mortimer in the doorway. Under cover of
the darkness October arranged her hair.

"Did the post come?" she asked. She expected nothing by the post, but
felt that she must impress upon the world he represented that she was
very calm and very unhurried and altogether self-possessed--everything,
in fact, that she was not at that moment.

"No, my lady--I forgot to tell your lordship that Lady Georgina called
ten minutes ago and left a little parcel."

"Georgina!" He did not say what he thought, but went into the panelled
dining-room.

The package was beside his plate--a small box pushed into an envelope.
He lifted the lid and took out a card--and a tiny intaglio brooch.

"With compliments," said the card.

Robin breathed heavily, "The old sport!" he said softly.

When dinner was through, the man came to ask what time he was to order
the car. October answered for him.

"Lord Rochford will not need his car tonight," she said.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia