Infomotions, Inc.When a Man Marries / Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958



Author: Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958
Title: When a Man Marries
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): aunt selina; harbison; selina; bella; flannigan; jim; dal; aunt; dallas; kit; harbison man; anne; aunt selina's; miss caruthers; roof; betty mercer
Contributor(s): Cotton, Charles, 1630-1687 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 56,303 words (really short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 72 (easy)
Identifier: etext1671
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When a Man Marries

by Mary Roberts Rinehart

March, 1999  [Etext #1671]
[Date last updated: February 3, 2005]



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WHEN A MAN MARRIES

by Mary Roberts Rinehart




Contents

I     At Least I Meant Well
II    The Way It Began
III   I Might Have Known It
IV    The Door Was Closed
V     From The Tree  Of  Love
VI    A Mighty Poor Joke
VII   We Make An Omelet
VIII  Correspondents'  Department
IX    Flannigan's Find
X     On The Stairs
XI    I Make A Discovery
XII   The Roof Garden
XIII  He Does Not Deny It
XIV   Almost, But Not Quite
XV    Suspicion and Discord
XVI   I Face Flannigan
XVII  A Clash and A Kiss
XVIII It's All My Fault
XIX   The Harbison Man
XX    Breaking Out In A New Place
XXI   A Bar of Soap
XXII  It Was A Delirium
XXIII Coming




Needles and pins
Needles and pins,
When a man marries
His trouble begins.




Chapter I. AT LEAST I MEANT WELL

When the dreadful thing occurred that night, every one turned on
me. The injustice of it hurt me most. They said I got up the
dinner, that I asked them to give up other engagements and come,
that I promised all kinds of jollification, if they would come;
and then when they did come and got in the papers and every
one--but ourselves--laughed himself black in the face, they
turned on ME! I, who suffered ten times to their one! I shall
never forget what Dallas Brown said to me, standing with a coal
shovel in one hand and a--well, perhaps it would be better to
tell it all in the order it happened.

It began with Jimmy Wilson and a conspiracy, was helped on by a
foot-square piece of yellow paper and a Japanese butler, and it
enmeshed and mixed up generally ten respectable members of
society and a policeman. Incidentally, it involved a pearl collar
and a box of soap, which sounds incongruous, doesn't it?

It is a great misfortune to be stout, especially for a man. Jim
was rotund and looked shorter than he really was, and as all the
lines of his face, or what should have been lines, were really
dimples, his face was about as flexible and full of expression as
a pillow in a tight cover. The angrier he got the funnier he
looked, and when he was raging, and his neck swelled up over his
collar and got red, he was entrancing. And everybody liked him,
and borrowed money from him, and laughed at his pictures (he has
one in the Hargrave gallery in London now, so people buy them
instead), and smoked his cigarettes, and tried to steal his Jap.
The whole story hinges on the Jap.

The trouble was, I think, that no one took Jim seriously. His
ambition in life was to be taken seriously, but people steadily
refused to. His art was a huge joke--except to himself. If he
asked people to dinner, every one expected a frolic. When he
married Bella Knowles, people chuckled at the wedding, and
considered it the wildest prank of Jimmy's career, although Jim
himself seemed to take it awfully hard.

We had all known them both for years. I went to Farmington with
Bella, and Anne Brown was her matron of honor when she married
Jim. My first winter out, Jimmy had paid me a lot of attention.
He painted my portrait in oils and had a studio tea to exhibit
it. It was a very nice picture, but it did not look like me, so I
stayed away from the exhibition. Jim asked me to. He said he was
not a photographer, and that anyhow the rest of my features
called for the nose he had given me, and that all the Greuze
women have long necks. I have not.

After I had refused Jim twice he met Bella at a camp in the
Adirondacks and when he came back he came at once to see me. He
seemed to think I would be sorry to lose him, and he blundered
over the telling for twenty minutes. Of course, no woman likes to
lose a lover, no matter what she may say about it, but Jim had
been getting on my nerves for some time, and I was much calmer
than he expected me to be.

"If you mean," I said finally in desperation, "that you and Bella
are--are in love, why don't you say so, Jim? I think you will
find that I stand it wonderfully."

He brightened perceptibly.

"I didn't know how you would take it, Kit," he said, "and I hope
we will always be bully friends. You are absolutely sure you
don't care a whoop for me?"

"Absolutely," I replied, and we shook hands on it. Then he began
about Bella; it was very tiresome.

Bella is a nice girl, but I had roomed with her at school, and I
was under no illusions. When Jim raved about Bella and her banjo,
and Bella and her guitar, I had painful moments when I recalled
Bella, learning her two songs on each instrument, and the old
English ballad she had learned to play on the harp. When he said
she was too good for him, I never batted an eye. And I shook
hands solemnly across the tea-table again, and wished him
happiness--which was sincere enough, but hopeless--and said we
had only been playing a game, but that it was time to stop
playing. Jim kissed my hand, and it was really very touching.

We had been the best of friends ever since. Two days before the
wedding he came around from his tailor's, and we burned all his
letters to me. He would read one and say: "Here's a crackerjack,
Kit," and pass it to me. And after I had read it we would lay it
on the firelog, and Jim would say, "I am not worthy of her, Kit.
I wonder if I can make her happy?" Or--"Did you know that the
Duke of Belford proposed to her in London last winter?"

Of course, one has to take the woman's word about a thing like
that, but the Duke of Belford had been mad about Maude Richard
all that winter.

You can see that the burning of the letters, which was meant to
be reminiscently sentimental, a sort of how-silly-we-were-but-
it-is-all-over-now occasion, became actually a two hours' eulogy
of Bella. And just when I was bored to death, the Mercer girls
dropped in and heard Jim begin to read one commencing "dearest Kit."
And the next day after the rehearsal dinner, they told Bella!

There was very nearly no wedding at all. Bella came to see me in
a frenzy the next morning and threw Jim and his two-hundred odd
pounds in my face, and although I explained it all over and over,
she never quite forgave me. That was what made it so hard
later--the situation would have been bad enough without that
complication.

They went abroad on their wedding journey, and stayed several
months. And when Jim came back he was fatter than ever. Everybody
noticed it. Bella had a gymnasium fitted up in a corner of the
studio, but he would not use it. He smoked a pipe and painted all
day, and drank beer and WOULD eat starches or whatever it is that
is fattening. But he adored Bella, and he was madly jealous of
her. At dinners he used to glare at the man who took her in,
although it did not make him thin. Bella was flirting, too, and
by the time they had been married a year, people hitched their
chairs together and dropped their voices when they were
mentioned.

Well, on the anniversary of the day Bella left him--oh yes, she
left him finally. She was intense enough about some things, and
she said it got on her nerves to have everybody chuckle when they
asked for her husband. They would say, "Hello, Bella! How's
Bubbles? Still banting?" And Bella would try to laugh and say,
"He swears his tailor says his waist is smaller, but if it is he
must be growing hollow in the back."

But she got tired of it at last. Well, on the second anniversary
of Bella's departure, Jimmy was feeling pretty glum, and as I
say, I am very fond of Jim. The divorce had just gone through and
Bella had taken her maiden name again and had had an operation
for appendicitis. We heard afterward that they didn't find an
appendix, and that the one they showed her in a glass jar WAS NOT
HERS! But if Bella ever suspected, she didn't say. Whether the
appendix was anonymous or not, she got box after box of flowers
that were, and of course every one knew that it was Jim who sent
them.

To go back to the anniversary, I went to Rothberg's to see the
collection of antique furniture--mother was looking for a
sideboard for father's birthday in March--and I met Jimmy there,
boring into a worm-hole in a seventeenth-century bedpost with the
end of a match, and looking his nearest to sad.  When he saw me
he came over.

"I'm blue today, Kit," he said, after we had shaken hands. "Come
and help me dig bait, and then let's go fishing. If there's a
worm in every hole in that bedpost, we could go into the fish
business. It's a good business."

"Better than painting?" I asked. But he ignored my gibe and
swelled up alarmingly in order to sigh.

"This is the worst day of the year for me," he affirmed, staring
straight ahead, "and the longest. Look at that crazy clock over
there. If you want to see your life passing away, if you want to
see the steps by which you are marching to eternity, watch that
clock marking the time. Look at that infernal hand staying quiet
for sixty seconds and then jumping forward to catch up with the
procession. Ugh!"

"See here, Jim," I said, leaning forward, "you're not well. You
can't go through the rest of the day like this. I know what
you'll do; you'll go home to play Grieg on the pianola, and you
won't eat any dinner." He looked guilty.

"Not Grieg," he protested feebly. "Beethoven."

"You're not going to do either," I said with firmness. "You are
going right home to unpack those new draperies that Harry Bayles
sent you from Shanghai, and you are going to order dinner for
eight--that will be two tables of bridge. And you are not going
to touch the pianola."

He did not seem enthusiastic, but he rose and picked up his hat,
and stood looking down at me where I sat on an old horse-hair
covered sofa.

"I wish to thunder I had married you!" he said savagely. "You're
the finest girl I know, Kit, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, and you are going
to throw yourself away on Jack Manning, or Max, or some other--"

"Nothing of the sort," I said coldly, "and the fact that you
didn't marry me does not give you the privilege of abusing my
friends. Anyhow, I don't like you when you speak like that."

Jim took me to the door and stopped there to sigh.

"I haven't been well," he said heavily. "Don't eat, don't sleep.
Wouldn't you think I'd lose flesh? Kit"--he lowered his voice
solemnly--"I have gained two pounds!"

I said he didn't look it, which appeared to comfort him somewhat,
and, because we were old friends, I asked him where Bella was. He
said he thought she was in Europe, and that he had heard she was
going to marry Reggie Wolfe. Then he signed again, muttered
something about ordering the funeral baked meats to be prepared
and left me.

That was my entire share in the affair. I was the victim, both of
circumstances and of their plot, which was mad on the face of it.

During the entire time they never once let me forget that I got
up the dinner, that I telephoned around for them. They asked me
why I couldn't cook--when not one of them knew one side of a
range from the other. And for Anne Brown to talk the way she
did--saying I had always been crazy about Jim, and that she
believed I had known all along that his aunt was coming--for Anne
to talk like that was sheer idiocy. Yes, there was an aunt. The
Japanese butler started the trouble, and Aunt Selina carried it
along.



Chapter II. THE WAY IT BEGAN

It makes me angry every time I think how I tried to make that
dinner a success. I canceled a theater engagement, and I took the
Mercer girls in the electric brougham father had given me for
Christmas. Their chauffeur had been gone for hours with their
machine, and they had telephoned all the police stations without
success. They were afraid that there had been an awful smash;
they could easily have replaced Bartlett, as Lollie said, but it
takes so long to get new parts for those foreign cars.

Jim had a house well up-town, and it stood just enough apart from
the other houses to be entirely maddening later. It was a
three-story affair, with a basement kitchen and servants' dining
room. Then, of course, there were cellars, as we found out
afterward. On the first floor there was a large square hall, a
formal reception room, behind it a big living room that was also
a library, then a den, and back of all a Georgian dining room,
with windows high above the ground. On the top floor Jim had a
studio, like every other one I ever saw--perhaps a little
mussier. Jim was really a grind at his painting, and there were
cigarette ashes and palette knives and buffalo rugs and shields
everywhere. It is strange, but when I think of that terrible
house, I always see the halls, enormous, covered with heavy rugs,
and stairs that would have taken six housemaids to keep in proper
condition. I dream about those stairs, stretching above me in a
Jacob's ladder of shining wood and Persian carpets, going up, up,
clear to the roof.

The Dallas Browns walked; they lived in the next block. And they
brought with them a man named Harbison, that no one knew. Anne
said he would be great sport, because he was terribly serious,
and had the most exaggerated ideas of society, and loathed
extravagance, and built bridges or something. She had put away
her cigarettes since he had been with them--he and Dallas had
been college friends--and the only chance she had to smoke was
when she was getting her hair done. And she had singed off quite
a lot--a burnt offering, she called it.

"My dear," she said over the telephone, when I invited her, "I
want you to know him. He'll be crazy about you. That type of man,
big and deadly earnest, always falls in love with your type of
girl, the appealing sort, you know. And he has been too busy, up
to now, to know what love is. But mind, don't hurt him; he's a
dear boy. I'm half in love with him myself, and Dallas trots
around at his heels like a poodle."

But all Anne's geese are swans, so I thought little of the
Harbison man except to hope that he played respectable bridge,
and wouldn't mark the cards with a steel spring under his finger
nail, as one of her "finds" had done.

We all arrived about the same time, and Anne and I went upstairs
together to take off our wraps in what had been Bella's dressing
room. It was Anne who noticed the violets.

"Look at that!" she nudged me, when the maid was examining her
wrap before she laid it down. "What did I tell you, Kit? He's
still quite mad about her."

Jim had painted Bella's portrait while they were going up the
Nile on their wedding trip. It looked quite like her, if you
stood well off in the middle of the room and if the light came
from the right. And just beneath it, in a silver vase, was a
bunch of violets. It was really touching, and violets were
fabulous. It made me want to cry, and to shake Bella soundly, and
to go down and pat Jim on his generous shoulder, and tell him
what a good fellow I thought him, and that Bella wasn't worth the
dust under his feet. I don't know much about psychology, but it
would be interesting to know just what effect those violets and
my sympathy for Jim had in influencing my decision a half hour
later. It is not surprising, under the circumstances, that for
some time after the odor of violets made me ill.

We all met downstairs in the living room, quite informally, and
Dallas was banging away at the pianola, tramping the pedals with
the delicacy and feeling of a football center rush kicking a
goal. Mr. Harbison was standing near the fire, a little away from
the others, and he was all that Anne had said and more in
appearance. He was tall--not too tall, and very straight. And
after one got past the oddity of his face being bronze-colored
above his white collar, and of his brown hair being sun-bleached
on top until it was almost yellow, one realized that he was very
handsome. He had what one might call a resolute nose and chin,
and a pleasant, rather humorous, mouth. And he had blue eyes that
were, at that moment, wandering with interest over the lot of us.
Somebody shouted his name to me above the Tristan and Isolde
music, and I held out my hand.

Instantly I had the feeling one sometimes has, of having done
just that same thing, with the same surroundings, in the same
place, years before, I was looking up at him, and he was staring
down at me and holding my hand. And then the music stopped and he
was saying:

"Where was it?"

"Where was what?" I asked. The feeling was stronger than ever
with his voice.

"I beg your pardon," he said, and let my hand drop. "Just for a
second I had an idea that we had met before somewhere, a long
time ago. I suppose--no, it couldn't have happened, or I should
remember."  He was smiling, half at himself.

"No," I smiled back at him. "It didn't happen, I'm afraid--unless
we dreamed it."

"We?"

"I felt that way, too, for a moment."

"The Brushwood Boy!" he said with conviction. "Perhaps we will
find a common dream life, where we knew each other. You remember
the Brushwood Boy loved the girl for years before they really
met." But this was a little too rapid, even for me.

"Nothing so sentimental, I'm afraid," I retorted. "I have had
exactly the same sensation sometimes when I have sneezed."

Betty Mercer captured him then and took him off to see Jim's
newest picture. Anne pounced on me at once.

"Isn't he delicious?" she demanded. "Did you ever see such
shoulders? And such a nose? And he thinks we are parasites,
cumberers of the earth, Heaven knows what. He says every woman
ought to know how to earn her living, in case of necessity! I
said I could make enough at bridge, and he thought I was joking!
He's a dear!"  Anne was enthusiastic.

I looked after him. Oddly enough the feeling that we had met
before stuck to me. Which was ridiculous, of course, for we
learned afterward that the nearest we ever came to meeting was
that our mothers had been school friends! Just then I saw Jim
beckoning to me crazily from the den. He looked quite yellow, and
he had been running his fingers through his hair.

"For Heaven's sake, come in, Kit!" he said. "I need a cool head.
Didn't I tell you this is my calamity day?"

"Cook gone?" I asked with interest. I was starving.

He closed the door and took up a tragic attitude in front of the
fire. "Did you ever hear of Aunt Selina?" he demanded.

"I knew there WAS one," I ventured, mindful of certain gossip as
to whence Jimmy derived the Wilson income.

Jim himself was too worried to be cautious. He waved a brazen
hand at the snug room, at the Japanese prints on the walls, at
the rugs, at the teakwood cabinets and the screen inlaid with
pearl and ivory.

"All this," he said comprehensively, "every bite I eat, clothes I
wear, drinks I drink--you needn't look like that; I don't drink
so darned much--everything comes from Aunt Selina--buttons," he
finished with a groan.

"Selina Buttons," I said reflectively. "I don't remember ever
having known any one named Buttons, although I had a cat once--"

"Damn the cat!" he said rudely. "Her name isn't Buttons. Her name
is Caruthers, my Aunt Selina Caruthers, and the money comes from
buttons."

"Oh!" feebly.

"It's an old business," he went on, with something of proprietary
pride. "My grandfather founded it in 1775. Made buttons for the
Continental Army."

"Oh, yes," I said. "They melted the buttons to make bullets,
didn't they? Or they melted bullets to make buttons? Which was
it?"

But again he interrupted.

"It's like this," he went on hurriedly. "Aunt Selina believes in
me. She likes pictures, and she wanted me to paint, if I could.
I'd have given up long ago--oh, I know what you think of my
work--but for Aunt Selina. She has encouraged me, and she's done
more than that; she's paid the bills."

"Dear Aunt Selina," I breathed.

"When I got married," Jim persisted, "Aunt Selina doubled my
allowance. I always expected to sell something, and begin to make
money, and in the meantime what she advanced I considered as a
loan." He was eyeing me defiantly, but I was growing serious. It
was evident from the preamble that something was coming.

"To understand, Kit," he went on dubiously, "you would have to
know her. She won't stand for divorce. She thinks it is a crime."

"What!" I sat up. I have always regarded divorce as essentially
disagreeable, like castor oil, but necessary.

"Oh, you know well enough what I'm driving at," he burst out
savagely. "She doesn't know Bella has gone. She thinks I am
living in a little domestic heaven, and--she is coming tonight to
hear me flap my wings."

"Tonight!"

I don't think Jimmy had known that Dallas Brown had come in and
was listening. I am sure I had not. Hearing his chuckle at the
doorway brought us up with a jerk.

"Where has Aunt Selina been for the last two or three years?" he
asked easily.

Jim turned, and his face brightened.

"Europe. Look here, Dal, you're a smart chap. She'll only be here
about four hours. Can't you think of some way to get me out of
this? I want to let her down easy, too. I'm mighty fond of Aunt
Selina. Can't we--can't I say Bella has a headache?"

"Rotten!" laconically.

"Gone out of town?" Jim was desperate.

"And you with a houseful of dinner guests! Try again, Jim."

"I have it," Jim said suddenly. "Dallas, ask Anne if she won't
play hostess for tonight. Be Mrs. Wilson pro tem. Anne would love
it. Aunt Selina never saw Bella. Then, afterward, next year, when
I'm hung in the Academy and can stand on my feet"--("Not if
you're hung," Dallas interjected.)--"I'll break the truth to her."

But Dallas was not enthusiastic.

"Anne wouldn't do at all," he declared. "She'd be talking about
the kids before she knew it, and patting me on the head." He said
it complacently; Anne flirts, but they are really devoted.

"One of the Mercer girls?" I suggested, but Jimmy raised a
horrified hand.

"You don't know Aunt Selina," he protested. "I couldn't offer
Leila in the gown she's got on, unless she wore a shawl, and
Betty is too fair."

Anne came in just then, and the whole story had to be told again
to her. She was ecstatic. She said it was good enough for a play,
and that of course she would be Mrs. Jimmy for that length of
time.

"You know," she finished, "if it were not for Dal, I would be
Mrs. Jimmy for ANY length of time. I have been devoted to you for
years, Billiken."

But Dallas refused peremptorily.

"I'm not jealous," he explained, straightening and throwing out
his chest, "but--well, you don't look the part, Anne. You're--you
are growing matronly, not but what you suit ME all right. And
then I'd forget and call you 'mammy,' which would require
explanation. I think it's up to you, Kit."

"I shall do nothing of the sort!" I snapped. "It's ridiculous!"

"I dare you!" said Dallas.

I refused. I stood like a rock while the storm surged around me
and beat over me. I must say for Jim that he was merely pathetic.
He said that my happiness was first; that he would not give me an
uncomfortable minute for anything on earth; and that Bella had
been perfectly right to leave him, because he was a sinking ship,
and deserved to be turned out penniless into the world. After
which mixed figure, he poured himself something to drink, and his
hands were shaking.

Dal and Anne stood on each side of him and patted him on the
shoulders and glared across at me. I felt that if I was a rock,
Jim's ship had struck on me and was sinking, as he said, because
of me. I began to crumble.

"What--what time does she leave?" I asked, wavering.

"Ten: nine; KIT, are you going to do it?"

"No!" I gave a last clutch at my resolution. "People who do that
kind of thing always get into trouble. She might miss her train.
She's almost certain to miss her train."

"You're temporizing," Dallas said sternly. "We won't let her miss
her train; you can be sure of that."

"Jim," Anne broke in suddenly, "hasn't she a picture of Bella?
There's not the faintest resemblance between Bella and Kit."

Jim became downcast again. "I sent her a miniature of Bella a
couple of years ago," he said despondently. "Did it myself."

But Dal said he remembered the miniature, and it looked more like
me than Bella, anyhow. So we were just where we started. And down
inside of me I had a premonition that I was going to do just what
they wanted me to do, and get into all sorts of trouble, and not
be thanked for it after all. Which was entirely correct. And then
Leila Mercer came and banged at the door and said that dinner had
been announced ages ago and that everybody was famishing. With
the hurry and stress, and poor Jim's distracted face, I weakened.

"I feel like a cross between an idiot and a criminal," I said
shortly, "and I don't know particularly why every one thinks I
should be the victim for the sacrifice. But if you will promise
to get her off early to her train, and if you will stand by me
and not leave me alone with her, I--I might try it."

"Of course, we'll stand by you!" they said in chorus. "We won't
let you stick!" And Dal said, "You're the right sort of girl,
Kit. And after it's all over, you'll realize that it's the
biggest kind of lark. Think how you are saving the old lady's
feeling! When you are an elderly person yourself, Kit, you will
appreciate what you are doing tonight."

Yes, they said they would stand by me, and that I was a heroine
and the only person there clever enough to act the part, and that
they wouldn't let me stick! I am not bitter now, but that is what
they promised. Oh, I am not defending myself; I suppose I
deserved everything that happened. But they told me that she
would be there only between trains, and that she was deaf, and
that I had an opportunity to save a fellow-being from ruin. So in
the end I capitulated.

When they opened the door into the living room, Max Reed had
arrived and was helping to hide a decanter and glasses, and
somebody said a cab was at the door.

And that was the way it began.



Chapter III. I MIGHT HAVE KNOWN IT

The minute I had consented I regretted it. After all, what were
Jimmy's troubles to me? Why should I help him impose on an
unsuspecting elderly woman? And it was only putting off discovery
anyhow. Sooner or later, she would learn of the divorce,
and--Just at that instant my eyes fell on Mr. Harbison--Tom
Harbison, as Anne called him. He was looking on with an amused,
half-puzzled smile, while people were rushing around hiding the
roulette wheel and things of which Miss Caruthers might
disapprove, and Betty Mercer was on her knees winding up a toy
bear that Max had brought her. What would he think? It was
evident that he thought badly of us already--that he was
contemptuously amused, and then to have to ask him to lend
himself to the deception!

With a gasp I hurled myself after Jimmy, only to hear a strange
voice in the hall and to know that I was too late. I was in for
it, whatever was coming. It was Aunt Selina who was coming--along
the hall, followed by Jim, who was mopping his face and trying
not to notice the paralyzed silence in the library.

Aunt Selina met me in the doorway. To my frantic eyes she seemed
to tower above us by at least a foot, and beside her Jimmy was a
red, perspiring cherub.

"Here she is," Jimmy said, from behind a temporary eclipse of
black cloak and traveling bag. He was on top of the situation
now, and he was mendaciously cheerful. He had NOT said, "Here is
my wife." That would have been a lie. No, Jimmy merely said,
"Here she is." If Aunt Selina chose to think me Bella, was it not
her responsibility? And if I chose to accept the situation, was
it not mine? Dallas Brown came forward gravely as Aunt Selina
folded over and kissed me, and surreptitiously patted me with one
hand while he held out the other to Miss Caruthers. I loathed
him!

"We always expect something unusual from James, Miss Caruthers,"
he said, with his best manner, "but THIS--this is beyond our
wildest dreams."

Well, it's too awful to linger over. Anne took her upstairs and
into Bella's bedroom. It was a fancy of Jim's to leave that room
just as Bella had left it, dusty dance cards and favors hanging
around and a pair of discarded slippers under the bed. I don't
think it had been swept since Bella left it. I believe in
sentiment, but I like it brushed and dusted and the cobwebs off
of it, and when Aunt Selina put down her bonnet, it stirred up a
gray-white cloud that made her cough. She did not say anything,
but she looked around the room grimly, and I saw her run her
finger over the back of a chair before she let Hannah, the maid,
put her cloak on it.

Anne looked frightened. She ran into Bella's bath and wet the end
of a towel and when Hannah was changing Aunt Selina's collar--her
concession to evening dress--Anne wiped off the obvious places on
the furniture. She did it stealthily, but Aunt Selina saw her in
the glass.

"What's that young woman's name?" she asked me sharply, when Anne
had taken the towel out to hide it.

"Anne Brown, Mrs. Dallas Brown," I replied meekly. Every one
replied meekly to Aunt Selina.

"Does she live here?"

"Oh, no," I said airily. "They are here to dinner, she and her
husband. They are old friends of Jim's--and mine."

"Seems to have a good eye for dirt," said Aunt Selina and went on
fastening her brooch. When she was finally ready, she took a bead
purse from somewhere about her waist and took out a half dollar.
She held it up before Hannah's eyes.

"Tomorrow morning," she said sternly, "You take off that white
cap and that fol-de-rol apron and that black henrietta cloth, and
put on a calico wrapper. And when you've got this room aired and
swept, Mrs. Wilson will give you this."

Hannah took two steps back and caught hold of a chair; she stared
helplessly from Aunt Selina to the half dollar, and then at me.
Anne was trying not to catch my eye.

"And another thing," Aunt Selina said, from the head of the
stairs, "I sent those towels over from Ireland. Tell her to wash
and bleach the one Mrs. What's-her-name Brown used as a duster."

Anne was quite crushed as we went down the stairs. I turned once,
half-way down, and her face was a curious mixture of guilt and
hopeless wrath. Over her shoulder, I could see Hannah, wide-eyed
and puzzled, staring after us.

Jim presented everybody, and then he went into the den and closed
the door and we heard him unlock the cellarette. Aunt Selina
looked at Leila's bare shoulders and said she guessed she didn't
take cold easily, and conversation rather languished. Max Reed
was looking like a thundercloud, and he came over to me with a
lowering expression that I had learned to dread in him.

"What fool nonsense is this?" he demanded. "What in the world
possessed you, Kit, to put yourself in such an equivocal
position? Unless"--he stopped and turned a little white--"unless
you are going to marry Jim."

I am sorry for Max. He is such a nice boy, and good looking, too,
if only he were not so fierce, and did not want to make love to
me. No matter what I do, Max always disapproves of it. I have
always had a deeply rooted conviction that if I should ever in a
weak moment marry Max, he would disapprove of that, too, before I
had done it very long.

"Are you?" he demanded, narrowing his eyes--a sign of unusually
bad humor.

"Am I what?"

"Going to marry him?"

"If you mean Jim," I said with dignity, "I haven't made up my
mind yet. Besides, he hasn't asked me."

Aunt Selina had been talking Woman's Suffrage in front of the
fireplace, but now she turned to me.

"Is this the vase Cousin Jane Whitcomb sent you as a wedding
present?" she demanded, indicating a hideous urn-shaped affair on
the mantel. It came to me as an inspiration that Jim had once
said it was an ancestral urn, so I said without hesitation that
it was. And because there was a pause and every one was looking
at us, I added that it was a beautiful thing.

Aunt Selina sniffed.

"Hideous!" she said. "It looks like Cousin Jane, shape and
coloring."

Then she looked at it more closely, pounced on it, turned it
upside down and shook it. A card fell out, which Dallas picked up
and gave her with a bow. Jim had come out of the den and was
dancing wildly around and beckoning to me. By the time I had made
out that that was NOT the vase Cousin Jane had sent us as a
wedding present, Aunt Selina had examined the card. Then she
glared across at me and, stooping, put the card in the fire. I
did not understand at all, but I knew I had in some way done the
unforgivable thing. Later, Dal told me it was HER card, and that
she had sent the vase to Jim at Christmas, with a generous check
inside. When she straightened from the fireplace, it was to a new
theme, which she attacked with her usual vigor. The vase incident
was over, but she never forgot it. She proved that she never did
when she sent me two urn-shaped vases with Paul and Virginia on
them, when I--that is, later on.

"The Cause in England has made great strides," she announced from
the fireplace. "Soon the hand that rocks the cradle will be the
hand that actually rules the world." Here she looked at me.

"I'm not up on such things," Max said blandly, having recovered
some of his good humor, "but--isn't it usually a foot that rocks
the cradle?"

Aunt Selina turned on him and Mr. Harbison, who were standing
together, with a snort.

"What have you, or YOU, ever done for the independence of woman?"
she demanded.

Mr. Harbison smiled. He had been looking rather grave until then.
"We have at least remained unmarried," he retorted. And then
dinner was again announced.

He was to take me out, and he came across the room to where I sat
collapsed in a chair, and bent over me.

"Do you know," he said, looking down at me with his clear,
disconcerting gaze, "do you know that I have just grasped the
situation? There was such a noise that I did not hear your name,
and I am only realizing now that you are my hostess! I don't know
why I got the impression that this was a bachelor establishment,
but I did. Odd, wasn't it?"

I positively couldn't look away from him. My features seemed
frozen, and my eyes were glued to his. As for telling him the
truth--well, my tongue refused to move. I intended to tell him
during dinner if I had an opportunity; I honestly did. But the
more I looked at him and saw how candid his eyes were, and how
stern his mouth might be, the more I shivered at the plunge. And,
of course, as everybody knows now, I didn't tell him at all. And
every moment I expected that awful old woman to ask me what I
paid my cook, and when I had changed the color of my
hair--Bella's being black.

Dinner was a half hour late when we finally went out, Jimmy
leading off with Aunt Selina, and I, as hostess, trailing behind
the procession with Mr. Harbison. Dallas took in the two Mercer
girls, for we were one man short, and Max took Anne. Leila Mercer
was so excited that she wriggled, and as for me, the candles and
the orchids--everything--danced around in a circle, and I just
seemed to catch the back of my chair as it flew past. Jim had
ordered away the wines and brought out some weak and cheap
Chianti. Dallas looked gloomy at the change, but Jim explained in
an undertone that Aunt Selina didn't approve of expensive
vintages. Naturally, the meal was glum enough.

Aunt Selina had had her dinner on the train, so she spent her
time in asking me questions the length of the table, and in
getting acquainted with me. She had brought a bottle of some sort
of medicine downstairs with her, and she took a claret-glassful,
while she talked. The stuff was called Pomona; shall I ever
forget it?

It was Mr. Harbison who first noticed Takahiro. Jimmy's Jap had
been the only thing in the menage that Bella declared she had
hated to leave.  But he was doing the strangest things: his
little black eyes shifted nervously, and he looked queer.

"What's wrong with him?" Mr. Harbison asked me finally, when he
saw that I noticed. "Is he ill?"

Then Aunt Selina's voice from the other end of the table:

"Bella," she called, in a high shrill tone, "do you let James eat
cucumbers?"

"I think he must be," I said hurriedly aside to Mr. Harbison.
"See how his hands shake!" But Selina would not be ignored.

"Cucumbers and strawberries," she repeated impressively. "I was
saying, Bella, that cucumbers have always given James the most
fearful indigestion. And yet I see you serve them at your table.
Do you remember what I wrote you to give him when he has his
dreadful spells?"

I was quite speechless; every one was looking, and no one could
help. It was clear Jim was racking his brain, and we sat staring
desperately at each other across the candles. Everything I had
ever known faded from me, eight pairs of eyes bored into me, Mr.
Harbison's politely amused.

"I don't remember," I said at last. "Really, I don't believe--"
Aunt Selina smiled in a superior way.

"Now, don't you recall it?" she insisted. "I said: 'Baking soda in
water taken internally for cucumbers; baking soda and water
externally, rubbed on, when he gets that dreadful, itching
strawberry rash.'"

I believe the dinner went on. Somebody asked Aunt Selina how much
over-charge she had paid in foreign hotels, and after that she
was as harmless as a dove.

Then half way through the dinner we heard a crash in Takahiro's
pantry, and when he did not appear again, Jim got up and went out
to investigate. He was gone quite a little while, and when he
came back he looked worried.

"Sick," he replied to our inquiring glances. "One of the maids
will come in. They have sent for a doctor."

Aunt Selina was for going out at once and "fixing him up," as she
put it, but Dallas gently interfered.

"I wouldn't, Miss Caruthers," he said, in the deferential manner
he had adopted toward her. "You don't know what it may be. He's
been looking spotty all evening."

"It might be scarlet fever," Max broke in cheerfully. "I say,
scarlet fever on a Mongolian--what color would he be, Jimmy? What
do yellow and red make? Green?"

"Orange," Jim said shortly. "I wish you people would remember
that we are trying to eat."

The fact was, however, that no one was really eating, except Mr.
Harbison who had given up trying to understand us, considering,
no doubt, our subdued excitement as our normal condition. Ages
afterward I learned that he thought my face almost tragic that
night, and that he supposed from the way I glared across the
table, that I had quarreled with my husband!

"I am afraid you are not well," he said at last, noticing my food
untouched on my plate. "We should not have come, any of us."

"I am perfectly well," I replied feverishly. "I am never ill.
I--I ate a late luncheon."

He glanced at me keenly. "Don't let them stay and play bridge
tonight," he urged. "Miss Caruthers can be an excuse, can she
not? And you are really fagged. You look it."

"I think it is only ill humor," I said, looking directly at him.
"I am angry at myself. I have done something silly, and I hate to
be silly."

Max would have said "Impossible," or something else trite. The
Harbison man looked at me with interested, serious eyes.

"Is it too late to undo it?" he asked.

And then and there I determined that he should never know the
truth. He could go back to South America and build bridges and
make love to the Spanish girls (or are they Spanish down there?)
and think of me always as a married woman, married to a
dilettante artist, inclined to be stout--the artist, not I--and
with an Aunt Selina Caruthers who made buttons and believed in
the Cause. But never, NEVER should he think of me as a silly
little fool who pretended that she was the other man's wife and
had a lump in her throat because when a really nice man came
along, a man who knew something more than polo and motors, she
had to carry on the deception to keep his respect, and be sedate
and matronly, and see him change from perfect open admiration at
first to a hands-off-she-is-my-host's-wife attitude at last.

"It can never be undone," I said soberly.

Well, that's the picture as nearly as I can draw it: a round
table with a low centerpiece of orchids in lavenders and pink,
old silver candlesticks with filigree shades against the somber
wainscoting; nine people, two of them unhappy--Jim and I; one of
them complacent--Aunt Selina; one puzzled--Mr. Harbison; and the
rest hysterically mirthful. Add one sick Japanese butler and
grind in the mills of the gods.

Every one promptly forgot Takahiro in the excitement of the game
we were all playing. Finally, however, Aunt Selina, who seemed to
have Takahiro on her mind, looked up from her plate.

"That Jap was speckled," she asserted. "I wouldn't be surprised
if it's measles. Has he been sniffling, James?"

"Has he been sniffling?" Jim threw across at me.

"I hadn't noticed it," I said meekly, while the others choked.

Max came to the rescue. "She refused to eat it," he explained,
distinctly and to everybody, apropos absolutely of nothing. "It
said on the box,'ready cooked and predigested.' She declared she
didn't care who cooked it, but she wanted to know who predigested
it."

As every one wanted to laugh, every one did it then, and under
cover of the noise I caught Anne's eye, and we left the dining
room. The men stayed, and by the very firmness with which the
door closed behind us, I knew that Dallas and Max were bringing
out the bottles that Takahiro had hidden. I was seething. When
Aunt Selina indicated a desire to go over the house (it was
natural that she should want to; it was her house, in a way) I
excused myself for a minute and flew back to the dining room.

It was as I had expected. Jim hadn't cheered perceptibly, and the
rest were patting him on the back, and pouring things out for
him, and saying, "Poor old Jim" in the most maddening way. And
the Harbison man was looking more and more puzzled, and not at
all hilarious.

I descended on them like a thunderbolt.

"That's it," I cried shrewishly, with my back against the door.
"Leave her to me, all of you, and pat each other on the back, and
say it's gone splendidly! Oh, I know you, every one!" Mr.
Harbison got up and pulled out a chair, but I couldn't sit; I
folded my arms on the back. "After a while, I suppose, you'll
slip upstairs, the four of you, and have your game." They looked
guilty. "But I will block that right now. I am going to
stay--here. If Aunt Selina wants me, she can find me--here!"

The first indication those men had that Mr. Harbison didn't know
the state of affairs was when he turned and faced them.

"Mrs. Wilson is quite right," he said gravely. "We're a selfish
lot. If Miss Caruthers is a responsibility, let us share her."

"To arms!" Jim said, with an affectation of lightness, as they
put their glasses down, and threw open the door. Dal's retort,
"Whose?" was lost in the confusion, and we went into the library.
On the way Dallas managed to speak to me.

"If Harbison doesn't know, don't tell him," he said in an
undertone. "He's a queer duck, in some ways; he mightn't think it
funny."

"Funny," I choked. "It's the least funny thing I ever
experienced.  Deceiving that Harbison man isn't so bad--he thinks
me crazy, anyhow. He's been staring his eyes out at me--"

"I don't wonder. You're really lovely tonight, Kit, and you look
like a vixen."

"But to deceive that harmless old lady--well, thank goodness,
it's nine, and she leaves in an hour or so."

But she didn't and that's the story.



Chapter IV. THE DOOR WAS CLOSED

It was infuriating to see how much enjoyment every one but Jim
and myself got out of the situation. They howled with mirth over
the feeblest jokes, and when Max told a story without any point
whatever, they all had hysteria. Immediately after dinner Aunt
Selina had begun on the family connection again, and after two
bad breaks on my part, Jim offered to show her the house. The
Mercer girls trailed along, unwilling to lose any of the
possibilities. They said afterward that it was terrible: she went
into all the closets, and ran her hand over the tops of doors and
kept getting grimmer and grimmer. In the studio they came across
a life study Jim was doing and she shut her eyes and made the
girls go out while he covered it with a drapery. Lollie! Who did
the Bacchante dance at three benefits last winter and was
learning a new one called "Eve"!

When they heard Aunt Selina on the second floor, Anne, Dal and
Max sneaked up to the studio for cigarettes, which left Mr.
Harbison to me. I was in the den, sitting in a low chair by the
wood fire when he came in. He hesitated in the doorway.

"Would you prefer being alone, or may I come in?" he asked.
"Don't mind being frank. I know you are tired."

"I have a headache, and I am sulking," I said unpleasantly, "but
at least I am not actively venomous. Come in."

So he came in and sat down across the hearth from me, and neither
of us said anything. The firelight flickered over the room,
bringing out the faded hues of the old Japanese prints on the
walls, gleaming in the mother-of-pearl eyes of the dragon on the
screen, setting a grotesque god on a cabinet to nodding. And it
threw into relief the strong profile of the man across from me,
as he stared at the fire.

"I am afraid I am not very interesting," I said at last, when he
showed no sign of breaking the silence. "The--the illness of the
butler and--Miss Caruthers' arrival, have been upsetting."

He suddenly roused with a start from a brown reverie.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I--oh, of course not! I was
wondering if I--if you were offended at what I said earlier in
the evening; the--Brushwood Boy, you know, and all that."

"Offended?" I repeated, puzzled.

"You see, I have been living out of the world so long, and never
seeing any women but Indian squaws"--so there were no Spanish
girls!--"that I'm afraid I say what comes into my mind without
circumlocution. And then--I did not know you were married."

"No, oh, no," I said hastily. "But, of course, the more a woman
is married--I mean, you can not say too many nice things to
married women. They--need them, you know."

I had floundered miserably, with his eyes on me, and I half
expected him to be shocked, or to say that married women should
be satisfied with the nice things their husbands say to them. But
he merely remarked apropos of nothing, or following a line of
thought he had not voiced, that it was trite but true that a good
many men owed their success in life to their wives.

"And a good many owe their wives to their success in life," I
retorted cynically. At which he stared at me again.

It was then that the real complexity of the situation began to
develop. Some one had rung the bell and been admitted to the
library and a maid came to the door of the den. When she saw us
she stopped uncertainly. Even then it struck me that she looked
odd, and she was not in uniform. However, I was not informed at
that time about bachelor establishments, and the first thing she
said, when she had asked to speak to me in the hall, knocked her
and her clothes clear out of my head. Evidently she knew me.

"Miss McNair," she said in a low tone. "There is a lady in the
drawing room, a veiled person, and she is asking for Mr. Wilson."

"Can you not find him?" I asked. "He is in the house, probably in
the studio."

The girl hesitated.

"Excuse me, miss, but Miss Caruthers--"

Then I saw the situation.

"Never mind," I said. "Close the door into the drawing room, and
I will tell Mr. Wilson."

But as the girl turned toward the doorway, the person in question
appeared in it, and raised her veil. I was perfectly paralyzed.
It was Bella! Bella in a fur coat and a veil, with the most
tragic eyes I ever saw and entirely white except for a dab of
rouge in the middle of each cheek. We stared at each other
without speech. The maid turned and went down the hall, and with
that Bella came over to me and clutched me by the arm.

"Who was being carried out into that ambulance?" she demanded,
glaring at me with the most awful intensity.

"I'm sure I don't know, Bella," I said, wriggling away from her
fingers. "What in the world are you doing here? I thought you
were in Europe."

"You are hiding something from me!" she accused. "It is Jim! I
see it in your face."

"Well, it isn't," I snapped. "It seems to me, really, Bella, that
you and Jim ought to be able to manage your own affairs, without
dragging me in." It was not pleasant, but if she was suffering,
so was I. "Jim is as well as he ever was. He's upstairs
somewhere. I'll send for him."

She gripped me again, and held on while her color came back.

"You'll do nothing of the kind," she said, and she had quite got
hold of herself again. "I do not want to see him: I hope you
don't think, Kit, that I came here to see James Wilson. Why, I
have forgotten that there IS such a person, and you know it."

Somebody upstairs laughed, and I was growing nervous. What if
Aunt Selina should come down, or Mr. Harbison come out of the
den?

"Why DID you come, then, Bella?" I inquired. "He may come in."

"I was passing in the motor," she said, and I honestly think she
hoped I would believe her, "and I saw that am--" She stopped and
began again. "I thought Jim was out of town, and I came to see
Takahiro," she said brazenly. "He was devoted to me, and Evans is
going to leave. I'll tell you what to do, Kit. I'll go back to
the dining room, and you send Taka there. If any one comes, I can
slip into the pantry."

"It's immoral," I protested. "It's immoral to steal your--"

"My own butler!" she broke in impatiently. "You're not usually so
scrupulous, Kit. Hurry! I hear that hateful Anne Brown."

So we slid back along the hall, and I rang for Takahiro. But no
one came.

"I think I ought to tell you, Bella," I said as we waited, and
Bella was staring around the room--"I think you ought to know
that Miss Caruthers is here."

Bella shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, thank goodness," she said, "I don't have to see her. The
only pleasant thing I remember about my year of married life is
that I did NOT meet Aunt Selina."

I rang again, but still there was no answer. And then it occurred
to me that the stillness below stairs was almost oppressive.
Bella was noticing things, too, for she began to fasten her veil
again with a malicious little smile.

"One of the things I remember my late husband saying," she
observed, "was that HE could manage this house, and had done it
for years, with flawless service. Stand on the bell, Kit."

I did. We stood there, with the table, just as it had been left,
between us, and waited for a response. Bella was growing
impatient. She raised her eyebrows (she is very handsome, Bella
is) and flung out her chin as if she had begun to enjoy the
horrible situation.

I thought I heard a rattle of silver from the pantry just then,
and I hurried to the door in a rage. But the pantry was empty of
servants and full of dishes, and all the lights were out but one,
which was burning dimly. I could have sworn that I saw one of the
servants duck into the stairway to the basement, but when I got
there the stairs were empty, and something was burning in the
kitchen below.

Bella had followed me and was peering over my shoulder curiously.

"There isn't a servant in the house," she said triumphantly. And
when we went down to the kitchen, she seemed to be right. It was
in disgraceful order, and one of the bottles of wine that had ben
banished from the dining room sat half empty on the floor.

"Drunk!" Bella said with conviction. But I didn't think so. There
had not been time enough, for one thing. Suddenly I remembered
the ambulance that had been the cause of Bella's appearance--for
no one could believe her silly story about Takahiro. I didn't
wait to voice my suspicion to her; I simply left her there,
staring helplessly at the confusion, and ran upstairs again:
through the dining room, past Jimmy and Aunt Selina, past Leila
Mercer and Max, who were flirting on the stairs, up, up to the
servants' bedrooms, and there my suspicions were verified. There
was every evidence of a hasty flight; in three bedrooms five
trunks stood locked and ominous, and the closets yawned with open
doors, empty. Bella had been right; there was not a servant in
the house.

As I emerged from the untidy emptiness of the servants' wing, I
met Mr. Harbison coming out of the studio.

"I wish you would let me do some of this running about for you,
Mrs. Wilson," he said gravely. "You are not well, and I can't
think of anything worse for a headache. Has the butler's illness
clogged the household machinery?"

"Worse," I replied, trying not to breathe in gasps. "I wouldn't
be running around--like this--but there is not a servant in the
house! They have gone, the entire lot."

"That's odd," he said slowly. "Gone! Are you sure?"

In reply I pointed to the servants' wing. "Trunks packed," I said
tragically, "rooms empty, kitchen and pantries, full of dishes.
Did you ever hear of anything like it?"

"Never," he asserted. "It makes me suspect--" What he suspected
he did not say; instead he turned on his heel, without a word of
explanation, and ran down the stairs. I stood staring after him,
wondering if every one in the place had gone crazy. Then I heard
Betty Mercer scream and the rest talking loud and laughing, and
Mr. Harbison came up the stairs again two at a time.

"How long has that Jap been ailing, Mrs. Wilson?" he asked.

"I--I don't know," I replied helplessly. "What is the trouble,
anyhow?"

"I think he probably has something contagious," he said, "and it
has scared the servants away. As Mr. Brown said, he looked
spotty. I suggested to your husband that it might be as well to
get the house emptied--in case we are correct."

"Oh, yes, by all means," I said eagerly. I couldn't get away too
soon. "I'll go and get my--" Then I stopped. Why, the man
wouldn't expect me to leave; I would have to play out the
wretched farce to the end!

"I'll go down and see them off," I finished lamely, and we went
together down the stairs.

Just for the moment I forgot Bella altogether. I found Aunt
Selina bonneted and cloaked, taking a stirrup cup of Pomona for
her nerves, and the rest throwing on their wraps in a hurry.
Downstairs Max was telephoning for his car, which wasn't due for
an hour, and Jim was walking up and down, swearing under his
breath. With the prospect of getting rid of them all, and, of
going home comfortably to try to forget the whole wretched
affair, I cheered up quite a lot. I even played up my part of
hostess, and Dallas told me, aside, that I was a brick.

Just then Jim threw open the front door.

There was a man on the top step, with his mouth full of tacks,
and he was nailing something to the door, just below Jim's
Florentine bronze knocker, and standing back with his head on one
side to see if it was straight.

"What are you doing?" Jim demanded fiercely, but the man only
drove another tack. It was Mr. Harbison who stepped outside and
read the card.

It said "Smallpox."

"Smallpox," Mr. Harbison read, as if he couldn't believe it. Then
he turned to us, huddled in the hall.

"It seems it wasn't measles, after all," he said cheerfully. "I
move we get into Mr. Reed's automobile out there, and have a
vaccination party. I suppose even you blase society folk have not
exhausted that kind of diversion."

But the man on the step spat his tacks in his hand and spoke for
the first time.

"No, you don't," he said. "Not on your life. Just step back,
please, and close the door. This house is quarantined."



Chapter V. FROM THE TREE OF LOVE

There is hardly any use trying to describe what followed. Anne
Brown began to cry, and talk about the children. (She went to
Europe once and stayed until they all got over the whooping
cough.) And Dallas said he had a pull, because his mill
controlled I forget how many votes, and the thing to do was to be
quiet and comfortable and we would get out in the morning. Max
took it as a huge joke, and somebody found him at the telephone,
calling up his club. The Mercer girls were hysterically giggling,
and Aunt Selina sat on a stiff-backed chair and took aromatic
spirits of ammonia. As for Jim, he had collapsed on the lowest
step of the stairs, and sat there with his head in his hands.
When he did look up, he didn't dare to look at me.

The Harbison man was arguing with the impassive individual on the
top step outside, and I saw him get out his pocketbook and offer
a crisp bundle of bills. But the man from the board of health
only smiled and tacked at his offensive sign. After a while Mr.
Harbison came in and closed the door, and we stared at one
another.

"I know what I'm going to do," I said, swallowing a lump in my
throat. "I'm going to get out through a basement window at the
back. I'm going home."

"Home!" Aunt Selina gasped, jumping up and almost dropping her
ammonia bottle. "My dear Bella! Home?"

Jimmy groaned at the foot of the stairs, but Anne Brown was
getting over her tears and now she turned on me in a temper.

"It's all your fault," she said.  "I was going to stay at home
and get a little sleep--"

"Well, you can sleep now," Dallas broke in. "There'll be nothing
to do but sleep."

"I think you haven't grasped the situation, Dal," I said icily.
"There will be plenty to do. There isn't a servant in the house!"

"No servants!" everybody cried at once. The Mercer girls stopped
giggling.

"Holy cats!" Max stopped in the act of hanging up his overcoat.
"Do you mean--why, I can't shave myself! I'll cut my head off."

"You'll do more than that," I retorted grimly. "You will carry
coal and tend fires and empty ash pans, and when you are not
doing any of those things there will be pots and pans to wash and
beds to make."

Then there WAS a row. We had worked back to the den now, and I
stood in front of the fireplace and let the storm beat around me,
and tried to look perfectly cold and indifferent, and not to see
Mr. Harbison's shocked face. No wonder he thought them a lot of
savages, browbeating their hostess the way they did.

"It's a fool thing anyhow," Max Reed wound up, "to celebrate the
anniversary of a divorce--especially--" Here he caught Jim's eye
and stopped. But I had suddenly remembered. BELLA DOWN IN THE
BASEMENT!

Could anything have been worse? And of course she would have
hysteria and then turn on me and blame me for it all. It all came
over me at once and overwhelmed me, while Anne was crying and
saying she wouldn't cook if she starved for it, and Aunt Selina
was taking off her wraps. I felt queer all over, and I sat down
suddenly. Mr. Harbison was looking at me, and he brought me a
glass of wine.

"It won't be so bad as you fear," he said comfortingly. "There
will be no danger once we are vaccinated, and many hands make
light work. They are pretty raw now, because the thing is new to
them, but by morning they will be reconciled."

"It isn't the work; it is something entirely different," I said.
And it was. Bella and work could hardly be spoken in the same
breath.

If I had only turned her out as she deserved to be, when she
first came, instead of allowing her to carry through the wretched
farce about seeing Takahiro! Or if I had only run to the basement
the moment the house was quarantined, and got her out the areaway
or the coal hole! And now time was flying, and Aunt Selina had me
by the arm, and any moment I expected Bella to pounce on us
through the doorway and the whole situation to explode with a
bang.

It was after eleven before they were rational enough to discuss
ways and means, and, of course, the first thing suggested was
that we all adjourn below stairs and clean up after dinner. I
could have slain Max Reed for the notion, and the Mercer girls
for taking him up.

"Of course we will," they said in a duet. "What a lark!" And they
actually began to pin up their dinner gowns. It was Jim who
stopped that.

"Oh, look here, you people," he objected, "I'm not going to let
you do that. We'll get some servants in tomorrow. I'll go down
and put out the lights. There will be enough clean dishes for
breakfast."

It was lucky for me that they started a new discussion then and
there about who would get the breakfast. In the midst of the
excitement I slipped away to carry the news to Bella. She was
where I had left her, and she had made herself a cup of tea, and
was very much at home, which was natural.

"Do you know," she said ominously, "that you have been away for
two hours; and that I have gone through agonies of nervousness
for fear Jim Wilson would come down and think I came here to see
him?"

"No one would think that, Bella," I soothed her. "Everybody knows
you loathe him--Jim, too." She looked at me over the edge of her
cup.

"I'll run along now," she said, "since Takahiro isn't here. And
if Jim has any sense at all, he will clear out every maid in the
house. I never saw such a kitchen in all my life. Well, lead the
way, Kit. I suppose they are deep in bridge, or roulette, or
something."

She was fixing her veil, and I saw I would have to tell her.
Personally, I would much rather have told her the house was on
fire.

"Wait a minute, Bella," I said. "You see, something queer has
happened. You know this is the anniversary--well, you know what
it is--and Jim was awfully glum. So we thought we would come--"

"What are you driving at?" she demanded. "You are sea-green, Kit.
What's the matter? You needn't think I mind because Jim has a
jollification to celebrate his divorce."

"It--it was Takahiro--in the ambulance," I blurted. "Smallpox.
We--Bella, we are shut in, quarantined."

She didn't faint. She just sat down and stared at me, and I
stared back at her. Then a miserable alarm clock on the table
suddenly went off like an explosion, and Bella began to laugh. I
knew what that was--hysteria. She always had attacks like that
when things went wrong. I was quite despairing by that time; I
hoped they would all hear her and come downstairs and take her up
and put her to bed like a Christian, so she could giggle her soul
out. But after a bit she quieted down and began to cry softly,
and I knew the worst was over. I gave her a shake, and she was so
angry that she got over it altogether.

"Kit, you are horrid," she choked. "Don't you see what a position
I am in? I am not going upstairs to face Anne and the rest of
them. You can just put me in the coal cellar."

"Isn't there a window you could get through?" I asked
desperately. "Locking the door doesn't shut up a whole house."

Bella's courage revived at that, and she said yes, there were
windows, plenty of them, only she didn't see how she could get
out. And I said she would HAVE to get out, because I was playing
Bella in the performance, and I didn't care to have an
understudy. Then the situation dawned on her, and she sat down
and laughed herself weak in the knees. Of course she wanted to
stay, then, and see the fun out. But I was firm; she would have
to go, and I told her so. Things were complicated enough without
her.

Well, we looked funny, no doubt, Bella in a Russian pony
automobile coat over the black satin she had worn at the
Clevelands' dinner, and I in cream lace, the skirt gathered up
from the kitchen floor, with Bella's ermine pelerine around my
bare shoulders, and dishes and overturned chairs everywhere.

Bella knew more about the lower regions of her ex-home than I
would have thought. She opened a door in a corner and led the way
through a narrow hall past the refrigerating room, to a huge,
cemented cellar, with a furnace in the center, and a half-dozen
electric lights making it really brilliant.

"Get a chair," Bella said over her shoulder, excitedly. "I can
get out easily here, through the coal hole. Imagine my--"

But it was my turn to grip Bella. From behind the furnace were
coming the most terrible sounds, rasping noises that fairly
frayed the silk of my nerves. We stood petrified for an instant.
Then Bella laughed. "They are not all gone," she said carefully.
"Some one is asleep there."

We tiptoed to where we could see around the furnace, and, sure
enough, some one WAS asleep there. Only, it was not one of the
servants; it was a portly policeman, with a newspaper and an
empty plate on the floor on one side, and a champagne bottle on
the other. He had slid down in his chair, with his chin on his
brass buttons, and his helmet had rolled a dozen feet away. Bella
had to clap her hand over her mouth.

"Fairly caught!" she whispered. "Sartor Resartus, the arrester
arrested. Oh, Jim and his flawless service!"

But after we got over our surprise, we saw the situation was
serious. The policeman was threatening to awaken. Once he stopped
snoring to yawn noisily, and we beat a hasty retreat. Bella
switched off the lights in a hurry and locked the door behind us.
We hardly breathed until we were back in the kitchen again, and
everything quiet. And then Jimmy called my name from up above
somewheres.

"I am going to call him down, Bella," I said firmly. "Let him
help you out. I'm sure I don't see why I should have all this
when the two of you--"

"Oh, no, no! Surely, Kit, you wouldn't be so cruel!" she
whispered pleadingly. "You know what he would think. He--oh, Kit,
let them all get settled for the night, and then come down, like
a dear, and help me out. I know loads of ways--honestly I do."

"If I leave you here," I debated, "what about the policeman?"

"Never mind him"--frantically. "Listen! There's Jim up in the
pantry. Run, for the sake of Heaven!"

So--I ran. At the top of the stairs I met Jimmy, very crumpled as
to shirt-front and dejected as to face.

"I've been hunting everywhere for you," he said dismally. "I
thought you had added to the general merriment by falling
downstairs and breaking your neck."

I went past him with my chin up. Now that I had time to think
about it, I was furiously angry with him.

"Kit!" he called after me appealingly, but I would not hear. Then
he adopted different tactics. He took advantage of my catching my
foot in the lace of my gown to pass me, and to stand with his
back against the door.

"You're not going until you hear me, Kit," he declared miserably.
"In the first place, for all you are down on me, is it my fault?
Honestly, now IS IT MY FAULT?"

I refused to speak.

"I was coming home to be miserable alone," he went on, "and--oh,
I know you meant well, Kit; but YOU asked all these crazy people
here."

"Perhaps you will give me credit for some things," I said
wearily. "I did NOT give Takahiro smallpox, for instance, and--if
you will permit me to mention the fact--Aunt Selina is not MY
Aunt Selina."

"That's what I wanted to speak to you about," Jimmy went on
wretchedly, trying not to look at me. "You see, when they were
rowing so about who would get the breakfast--I never saw such a
lot of people; half of them never touch breakfast, but of course
now they want all kinds of things--when they were talking, Aunt
Selina said she knew YOU would get it, being the hostess, and
responsible, besides knowing where things are kept." He had fixed
his eyes on the orchids, and he looked shrunken, actually
shrunken. "I thought," he finished, "you might give me a few
pointers now, and I could come down in the morning, and--and fuss
up something, coffee and so on. I would say you did it! Oh, hang
it all, Kit, why don't you say something?"

"What do you want me to say?" I demanded. "That I love to cook,
and of course I'll fix trays and carry them up in the morning to
Anne Brown and Leila Mercer and the rest; and that I will have
the shaving water ready--"

"I know what I'm going to do," Jimmy said, with a sudden
resolution. "Aunt Selina and her money can go to blazes. I am
going right upstairs and tell her the truth, tell her who you
are, what I am, and all the rest of it." He opened the door.

"You'll do nothing of the kind," I gasped, catching him in time.
"Don't you dare, Jimmy Wilson! Why, what would they think of me?
After letting her call me Bella, and him--Jim, if Mr. Harbison
ever learns the truth--I--I will take poison. If we are going to
be shut up here together, we will have to carry it on. I couldn't
stand the disgrace."

In spite of an heroic effort, Jim looked relieved. "They have
been hunting for the linen closet," he said, more cheerfully,
"and there will be room enough, I think. Harbison and I will hang
out in the studio; there are two couches there. I'm afraid you'll
have to take Aunt Selina, Kit."

"Certainly," I said coldly. That was the way it was all along.
Whenever there was something to do that no one else would
undertake--any unpleasant responsibility--that entire mongrel
household turned with one gesture and pointed its finger at me!
Well, it is over now, and I ought not to be bitter, considering
everything.

It was quite characteristic of that memorable evening (that is
quite novelesque, I think) that my interview with Jimmy should
have a sensational ending. He was terribly down, of course, and
as I was trying to pass him to get to the door, he caught my
hand.

"You're a girl in a thousand, Kit," he said forlornly. "If I were
not so damnably, hopelessly, idiotically in love with--somebody
else, I should be crazy about you."

"Don't be maudlin," I retorted. "Would you mind letting my hand
go?" I felt sure Bella could hear.

"Oh, come now, Kit," he implored, "we've always got along so
well. It's a shame to let a thing like this make us bad friends.
Aren't you ever going to forgive me?"

"Never," I said promptly. "When I once get away, I don't want
ever to see you again. I was never so humiliated in my life. I
loathe you!"

Then I turned around, and, of course, there was Aunt Selina with
her eyes protruding until you could have knocked them off with a
stick, and beside her, very red and uncomfortable, Mr. Harbison!

"Bella!" she said in a shocked voice, "is that the way you speak
to your husband! It is high time I came here, I think, and took a
hand in this affair."

"Oh, never mind, Aunt Selina," Jim said, with a sheepish grin.
"Kit--Bella is tired and nervous. This is a h--deuce of a
situation. No--er--servants, and all that."

But Aunt Selina did mind, and showed it. She pulled the unlucky
Harbison man through the door and closed it, and then stood
glaring at both of us.

"Every little quarrel is an apple knocked from the tree of love,"
she announced oratorically.

"This was a very little quarrel," Jim said, edging toward the
door; "a--a green apple, Aunt Selina, a colicky little green
apple." But she was not to be diverted.

"Bella," she said severely, "you said you loathed him. You didn't
mean that."

"But I do!" I cried hysterically. "There isn't any word to tell
how I--how I detest him."

Then I swept past them all and flew to Bella's dressing room and
locked myself in. Aunt Selina knocked until she was tired, then
gave up and went to bed.

That was the night Anne Brown's pearl collar was stolen!



Chapter VI. A MIGHTY POOR JOKE

Of course, one knows that there are people who in a different
grade of society would be shoplifters and pickpockets. When they
are restrained by obligation or environment they become a little
overkeen at bridge, or take the wrong sables, or stuff a
gold-backed brush into a muff at a reception. You remember the
ivory dressing set that Theodora Bucknell had, fastened with fine
gold chains? And the sensation it caused at the Bucknell
cotillion when Mrs. Van Zire went sweeping to her carriage with
two feet of gold chain hanging from the front of her wrap?

But Anne's pearl collar was different. In the first place,
instead of three or four hundred people, the suspicion had to be
divided among ten. And of those ten, at least eight of us were
friends, and the other two had been vouched for by the Browns and
Jimmy. It was a horrible mix-up. For the necklace was gone--there
couldn't be any doubt of that--and although, as Dallas said, it
couldn't get out of the house, still, there were plenty of places
to hide the thing.

The worst of our trouble really originated with Max Reed, after
all. For it was Max who made the silly wager over the telephone,
with Dick Bagley. He bet five hundred even that one of us, at
least, would break quarantine within the next twenty-four hours,
and, of course, that settled it. Dick told it around the club as
a joke, and a man who owns a newspaper heard him and called up
the paper. Then the paper called up the health office, after
setting up a flaming scare-head, "Will Money Free Them? Board of
Health versus Millionaire."

It was almost three when the house settled down--nobody had any
night clothes, although finally, through Dallas, who gave them to
Anne, who gave them to the rest, we got some things of
Jimmy's--and I was still dressed. The house was perfectly quiet,
and, after listening carefully, I went slowly down the stairs.
There was a light in the hall, and another back in the dining
room, and I got along without any trouble. But the pantry, where
the stairs led down, was dark, and the wretched swinging door
would not stay open.

I caught my skirt in the door as I went through, and I had to
stop to loosen it. And in that awful minute I heard some one
breathing just beside me. I had stooped to my gown, and I turned
my head without straightening--I couldn't have raised myself to
an erect posture, for my knees were giving way under me--and just
at my feet lay the still glowing end of a match!

I had to swallow twice before I could speak. Then I said sharply:

"Who's there?"

The man was so close it is a wonder I had not walked into him;
his voice was right at my ear.

"I am sorry I startled you," he said quietly.  "I was afraid to
speak suddenly, or move, for fear I would do--what I have done."

It was Mr. Harbison.

"I--I thought you were--it is very late," I managed to say, with
dry lips. "Do you know where the electric switch is?"

"Mrs. Wilson!" It was clear he had not known me before. "Why, no;
don't you?"

"I am all confused," I muttered, and beat a retreat into the
dining room. There, in the friendly light, we could at least see
each other, and I think he was as much impressed by the fact that
I had not undressed as I was by the fact that he HAD, partly. He
wore a hideous dressing gown of Jimmy's, much too small, and his
hair, parted and plastered down in the early evening, stood up in
a sort of brown brush all over his head. He was trying to flatten
it with his hands.

"It must be three o'clock," he said, with polite surprise, "and
the house is like a barn. You ought not to be running around with
your arms uncovered, Mrs. Wilson. Surely you could have called
some of us."

"I didn't wish to disturb any one," I said, with distinct truth.

"I suppose you are like me," he said. "The novelty of the
situation--and everything. I got to thinking things over, and
then I realized the studio was getting cold, so I thought I would
come down and take a look at the furnace. I didn't suppose any
one else would think of it. But I lost myself in that pantry,
stumbled against a half-open drawer, and nearly went down the
dumb-waiter." And, as if in judgment on me, at that instant came
two rather terrific thumps from somewhere below, and inarticulate
words, shouted rather than spoken. It was uncanny, of course,
coming as it did through the register at our feet. Mr. Harbison
looked startled.

"Oh, by the way," I said, as carelessly as I could. "In the
excitement, I forgot to mention it. There is a policeman asleep
in the furnace room. I--I suppose we will have to keep him now,"
I finished as airily as possible.

"Oh, a policeman--in the cellar," he repeated, staring at me, and
he moved toward the pantry door.

"You needn't go down," I said feverishly, with visions of Bella
Knowles sitting on the kitchen table, surrounded by soiled dishes
and all the cheerless aftermath of a dinner party. "Please don't
go down. I--it's one of my rules--never to let a stranger go down
to the kitchen. I--I'm peculiar--that way--and besides,
it's--it's mussy."

Bang! Crash! through the register pipe, and some language quite
articulate. Then silence.

"Look here, Mrs. Wilson," he said resolutely. "What do I care
about the kitchen? I'm going down and arrest that policeman for
disturbing the peace. He will have the pipes down."

"You must not go," I said with desperate firmness. "He--he is
probably in a very dangerous state just now. We--I--locked him
in."

The Harbison man grinned and then became serious.

"Why don't you tell me the whole thing?" he demanded. "You've
been in trouble all evening, and--you can trust me, you know,
because I am a stranger; because the minute this crazy quarantine
is raised I am off to the Argentine Republic," (perhaps he said
Chili) "and because I don't know anything at all about you. You
see, I have to believe what you tell me, having no personal
knowledge of any of you to go on. Now tell me--whom have you
hidden in the cellar, besides the policeman?"

There was no use trying to deceive him; he was looking straight
into my eyes. So I decided to make the best of a bad thing.
Anyhow, it was going to require strength to get Bella through the
coal hole with one arm and restrain the policeman with the other.

"Come," I said, making a sudden resolution, and led the way down
the stairs.

He said nothing when he saw Bella, for which I was grateful. She
was sitting at the table, with her arms in front of her, and her
head buried in them. And then I saw she was asleep. Her hat and
veil were laid beside her, and she had taken off her coat and
draped it around her. She had rummaged out a cold pheasant and
some salad, and had evidently had a little supper. Supper and
a nap, while I worried myself gray-headed about her!

"She--she came in unexpectedly--something about the butler," I
explained under my breath. "And--she doesn't want to stay. She is
on bad terms with--with some of the people upstairs. You can see
how impossible the situation is."

"I doubt if we can get her out," he said, as if the situation
were quite ordinary. "However, we can try. She seems very
comfortable. It's a pity to rouse her."

Here the prisoner in the furnace room broke out afresh. It
sounded as though he had taken a lump of coal and was attacking
the lock. Mr. Harbison followed the noise, and I could hear him
arguing, not gently.

"Another sound," he finished, "and you won't get out of here at
all, unless you crawl up the furnace pipe!"

When he came back, Bella was rousing. She lifted her head with
her eyes shut and then opened them one at a time, blinked, and
sat up. She didn't see him at first.

"You wretch!" she said ungratefully, after she had yawned. "Do
you know what time it is? And that--" Then she saw Mr. Harbison
and sat staring at him.

"This is Mr. Harbison," I said to her hastily. "He--he came with
Anne and Dal and--he is shut in, too."

By that time Bella had seen how handsome he was, and she took a
hair pin out of her mouth, and arched her eyebrows, which was
always Bella's best pose.

"I am Miss Knowles," she said sweetly (of course, the court had
given her back her name),"and I stopped in tonight, thinking the
house was empty, to see about a--a butler. Unfortunately, the
house was quarantined just at that time, and--here I am. Surely
there can not be any harm in helping me to get out?" (Pleading
tone.) "I have not been exposed to any contagion, and in the
exhausted state of my health the confinement would be positively
dangerous."

She rolled her eyes at him, and I could see she was making an
impression. Of course she was free. She had a perfect right to
marry again, but I will say this: Bella is a lot better looking
by electric light than she is the next morning.

The upshot of it was that the gentleman who built bridges and
looked down on society from a lofty, lonely pinnacle agreed to
help one of the most gleaming members of the aforesaid society to
outwit the law.

It took about fifteen minutes to quiet the policeman. Nobody ever
knew what Mr. Harbison did to him, but for twenty-four hours he
was quite tractable. He changed after that, but that comes later
in the story. Anyhow, the Harbison man went upstairs and came
down with a Bagdad curtain and a cushion to match, and took them
into the furnace room, and came out and locked the door behind
him, and then we were ready for Bella's escape.

But there were four special officers and three reporters watching
the house, as a result of Max Reed's idiocy. Once, after trying
all the other windows and finding them guarded, we discovered a
little bit of a hole in an out-of-the-way corner that looked like
a ventilator and was covered with a heavy wire screen. No
prisoners ever dug their way out of a dungeon with more energy
than that with which we attached that screen, hacking at it with
kitchen knives, whispering like conspirators, being scratched
with the ragged edges of the wire, frozen with the cold air one
minute and boiling with excitement the next.  And when the wire
was cut, and Bella had rolled her coat up and thrust it through
and was standing on a chair ready to follow, something outside
that had looked like a barrel moved, and said, "Oh, I wouldn't do
that if I were you. It would be certain to be undignified, and
probably it would be unpleasant--later."

We coaxed and pleaded and tried to bribe, and that happened, as
it turned out, to be one of the worst things we had to endure.
For the whole conversation came out the next afternoon in the
paper, with the most awful drawings, and the reporter said it was
the flashing of the jewels we wore that first attracted his
attention. And that brings me back to the robbery.

For when we had crept back to the kitchen, and Bella was fumbling
for her handkerchief to cry into and the Harbison man was trying
to apologize for the language he had used to the reporter, and I
was on the verge of a nervous chill--well, it was then that Bella
forgot all about crying and jumped and held out her arm.

"My diamond bracelet!" she screeched. "Look, I've lost it."

Well, we went over every inch of that basement, until I knew
every crack in the flooring, every spot on the cement. And Bella
was nasty, and said that she had never seen that part of the
house in such condition, and that if I had acted like a sane
person and put her out, when she had no business there at all,
she would have had her freedom and her bracelet, and that if we
were playing a joke on her (as if we felt like joking!) we would
please give her the bracelet and let her go and die in a corner;
she felt very queer.

At half-past four o'clock we gave up.

"It's gone," I said. "I don't believe you wore it here. No one
could have taken it. There wasn't a soul in this part of the
house, except the policeman and he's locked in."

At five o'clock we put her to sleep in the den. She was in a
fearful temper, and I was glad enough to be able to shut the door
on her. Tom Harbison--that was his name--helped me to creep
upstairs, and wanted to get me a glass of ale to make me sleep.
But I said it would be of no use, as I had to get up and get the
breakfast. The last thing he said was that the policeman seemed
above the average in intelligence, and perhaps we could train him
to do plain cooking and dishwashing.

I did not go to sleep at once. I lay on the chintz-covered divan
in Bella's dressing room and stared at the picture of her with
the violets underneath. I couldn't see what there was about Bella
to inspire such undying devotion, but I had to admit that she had
looked handsome that night, and that the Harbison man had
certainly been impressed.

At seven o'clock Jimmy Wilson pounded at my door, and I could
have choked him joyfully. I dragged myself to the door and opened
it, and then I heard excited voices. Everybody seemed to be up
but Aunt Selina, and they were all talking at once.

Anne Brown was in the corner of the group, waving her hands,
while Dallas was trying to hook the back of her gown with one
hand and hold a blanket around himself with the other. No one was
dressed except Anne, and she had been up for an hour, looking in
shoes and under the corners of rugs and around the bed clothing
for her jeweled collar. When she saw me she began all over again.

"I had it on when I went into my room," she declared, "and I put
it on the dressing table when I undressed. I meant to put it
under my pillow, but I forgot. And I didn't sleep well; I was
awake half the night. Wasn't I, Dal? Then, when the clock
downstairs in the hall was chiming five, something roused me, and
I sat up in bed. It was still dark, but I pinched Dal and said
there was somebody in the room. You remember that, don't you,
Dal?"

"I thought you had nightmare," he said sheepishly.

"I lay still for ages, it seemed to me, and then--the door into
the hall closed. I heard the catch click. I turned on the light
over the bed then, and the room was empty. I thought of my
collar, and although it seemed ridiculous, with the house sealed
as it is, and all of us friends for years--well, I got up and
looked, and it was gone!"

No one spoke for an instant. It WAS a queer situation, for the
collar was gone; Anne's red eyes showed it was true. And there we
stood, every one of us a miserable picture of guilt, and tried to
look innocent and debonair and unsuspicious. Finally Jim held up
his hand and signified that he wanted to say something.

"It's like this," he said, "until this thing is cleared up, for
Heaven's sake, let's try to be sane! If every fellow thinks the
other fellow did it, this house will be a nice little hell to
live in. And if anybody"--here he glared around--"if anybody has
got funny and is hiding those jewels, I want to say that he'd
better speak up now. Later, it won't be so easy for him. It's a
mighty poor joke."

But nobody spoke.



Chapter VII. WE MAKE AN OMELET

It was Betty Mercer who said she was hungry, and got us switched
from the delicate subject of which was the thief to the quite as
pressing subject of which was to be cook. Aunt Selina had slept
quietly through the whole thing--we learned afterward that she
customarily slept on her left side, which was on her good ear. We
gathered in the Dallas Browns' room, and Jimmy proposed a plan.

"We can have anything sent in that we want," he suggested
speciously, "and if Dal doesn't make good with the city fathers,
you girls can get some clothes anyhow. Then, we can have dinner
sent from one of the hotels."

"Why not all the meals?" Max suggested. "I hope you're not going
to be small about things, Jimmy."

"It ought to be easy," Jim persisted, ignoring the remark, "for
nine reasonably intelligent people to boil eggs and make coffee,
which is all we need for breakfast, with some fruit."

"Nine of us!" Dallas said wickedly, looking at Tom Harbison, who
was out of earshot, "Why nine of us? I thought Kit here,
otherwise known as Bella, was going to show off her housewifely
skill."

It ended, however, with Mr. Harbison writing out a lot of slips,
cook, scullery-maid, chamber-maid, parlor-maid, furnace-man, and
butler, and as that left two people over--we didn't count Aunt
Selina--he added another furnace-man and a trained nurse. Betty
Mercer drew the trained nurse slip, and, of course, she was
delighted. It seems funny now to look back and think what a
dreadful time she really had, for Aunt Selina took the grippe,
you know, that very day.

It was fate that I should go back to that awful kitchen, for of
course my slip said "cook." Mr. Harbison was butler, and Max and
Dal got the furnace, although neither of them had ever been
nearer to a bucket of coal than the coupons on mining stock. Anne
got the bedrooms, and Leila was parlor-maid. It was Jimmy who got
the scullery work, but he was quite crushed by this time, and did
not protest at all.

Max was in a very bad temper; I suppose he had not had enough
sleep--no one had. But he came over while the lottery was going
on and stood over me and demanded unpleasantly, in a whisper,
that I stop masquerading as another man's wife and generally
making a fool of myself--which is the way he put it. And I knew
in my heart that he was right, and I hated him for it.

"Why don't you go and tell him--them?" I asked nastily. No one
was paying any attention to us. "Tell them that, to be obliging,
I have nearly drowned in a sea of lies; tell them that I am not
only not married, but that I never intend to marry; tell them
that we are a lot of idiots with nothing better to do than to
trifle with strangers within our gates, people who build--I mean,
people that are worth two to our one! Run and tell them."

He looked at me for a minute, then he turned on his heel and left
me. It looked as though Max might be going to be difficult.

While I was improvising an apron out of a towel, and Anne was
pinning a sheet into a kimono, so she could take off her dinner
gown and still be proper, Dallas harked back to the robbery.

"Ann put the collar on the table there," he said. "There's no
mistake about that. I watched her do it, for I remember thinking
it was the sole reminder I had that Consolidated Traction ever
went above thirty-nine."

Max was looking around the room, examining the window locks and
whistling between his teeth. He was in disgrace with every one,
for by that time it was light enough to see three reporters with
cameras across the street waiting for enough sun to snap the
house, and everybody knew that it was Max and his idiotic wager
that had done it. He had made two or three conciliatory remarks,
but no one would speak to him. His antics were so queer, however,
that we were all watching him, and when he had felt over the rug
with his hands, and raised the edges, and tried to lift out the
chair seats, and had shaken out Dal's shoes (he said people often
hid things and then forgot about it), he made a proposition.

"If you will take that infernal furnace from around my neck, I'll
undertake either to find the jewels or to show up the thief," he
said quietly. And of course, with all the people in the house
under suspicion, every one had to hail the suggestion with joy,
and to offer his assistance, and Jimmy had to take Max's share of
the furnace. So they took the scullery slip downstairs to the
policeman, and gave Jim Max's share of the furnace. (Yes, I had
broken the policeman to them gently. Of course, Anne said at once
that he was the thief, but they found him tucked in and sound
asleep with his back against the furnace.)

"In the first place," Max said, standing importantly in the
middle of the room, "we retired between two and three--nearer
three. So the theft occurred between three and five, when Anne
woke up. Was your door locked, Dal?"

"No. The door into the hall was, but the door into the dressing
room was open, and we found the door from there into the hall
open this morning."

"From three until five," Max repeated. "Was any one out of his
room during that time?"

"I was," said Tom Harbison promptly, from the foot of the bed. "I
was prowling all around somewhere about four, searching"--he
glanced at me--"for a drink of water. But as I don't know a pearl
from a glass bead, I hope you exonerate me."

Everybody laughed and said, "Of course," and "Sure, old man," and
changed the subject quickly.

While that excitement was on, I got Jim to one side and told him
about Bella. His good-natured face was radiant at first.

"I suppose she DID come to see Takahiro, eh, Kit?" he asked
delicately. "She didn't say anything about me?"

"Nothing good. She said the house was in a disgraceful
condition," I said heartlessly. "And her diamond bracelet was
stolen while she took a nap on the kitchen table"--he
groaned--"and--oh, Jim, you are such a goose! If I could only
manage my own affairs the way I could my friends'! She's too sure
of you, Jimmy. She knows you adore her, and--how brutal could you
be, Jim?"

"Fair," he said. "I may have undiscovered depths of brutality
that I have never had occasion to use. However, I might try.
Why?"

"Listen, Jim," I urged. "It was always Bella who did things here;
she managed the house, she tyrannized over her friends, and she
bullied you. Yes, she did. Now she's here, without your
invitation, and she has to stay. It's your turn to bully, to
dictate terms, to be coldly civil or politely rude. Make her
furious at you. If she is jealous, so much the better."

"How far would you sacrifice yourself on the altar of
friendship?" he asked.

"You may pay me all the attention you like, in public," I
replied, and after we shook hands we went together to Bella.

There was an ominous pause when we went into the den. Bella was
sitting by the register, with her furs on, and after one glance
over her shoulder at us, she looked away again without speaking.

"Bella," Jim said appealingly. And then I pinched his arm, and he
drew himself up and looked properly outraged.

"Bella," he said, coldly this time, "I can't imagine why you have
put yourself in this ridiculous position, but since you have--"

She turned on him in a fury.

"Put MYSELF in this position!"

She was frantic. "It's a plot, a wretched trick of yours, this
quarantine, to keep me here."

Jim gasped, but I gave him a warning glance, and he swallowed
hard.

"On the contrary," he said, with maddening quiet, "I would be the
last person in the world to wish to perpetuate an indiscretion of
yours. For it was hardly discreet, was it, to visit a bachelor
establishment alone at ten o'clock at night? As far as my
plotting to keep you here is concerned, I assure you that nothing
could be further from my mind. Our paths were to be two parallel
lines that never touch." He looked at me for approval, and Bella
was choking.

"You are worse that I ever thought you," she stormed. "I thought
you were only a--a fool. Now I know you--for a brute!"

Well, it ended by Jim's graciously permitting Bella to
remain--there being nothing else to do--and by his magnanimously
agreeing to keep her real identity from Aunt Selina and Mr.
Harbison, and to break the news of her presence to Anne and the
rest. It created a sensation beside which Anne's pearls faded
away, although they came to the front again soon enough.

Jim broke the news at once, gathering everybody but Harbison and
Aunt Selina in the upper hall. He was palpitatingly nervous, but
he tried to carry it off with a high hand.

"It's unfortunate," he said, looking around the circle of faces,
each one frozen with amazement, and just a suspicion, perhaps of
incredulity. "It's particularly unfortunate for her. You all know
how high-strung she is, and if the papers should get hold of
it--well, we'll all have to make it as easy as we can for her."

With Jim's eyes on them, they all swallowed the butler story
without a gulp. But Anne was indignant.

"It's like Bella," she snapped. "Well, she has made her bed and
she can lie on it. I'm sure I shan't make it for her. But if you
want to know my opinion, Mr. Harbison may be a fool, but you
can't ram two Bellas, both NEE Knowles, down Miss Caruthers'
throat with a stick."

We had not thought of that before and every one looked blank.
Finally, however, Jim said Bella's middle name was Constantia,
and we decided to call her that. But it turned out afterward that
nobody could remember it in a hurry, and generally when we wanted
to attract her attention, we walked across the room and touched
her on the shoulder. It was quicker and safer.

The name decided, we went downstairs in a line to welcome Bella,
to try to make her feel at home, and to forget her deplorable
situation. Leila had worked herself into a really sympathetic
frame of mind.

"Poor dear," she said, on the way down. "Now don't grin, anybody,
just be cordial and glad to see her. I hope she doesn't cry; you
know the spells she takes."

We stopped outside the door, and everybody tried to look cheerful
and sympathetic, and not grinny--which was as hard as looking as
if we had had a cup of tea--and then Jim threw the door open and
we filed in.

Bella was comfortably reading by the fire. She had her feet up on
a stool and a pillow behind her head. She did not even look at us
for a minute; then she merely glanced up as she turned a page.

"Dear me," she said mockingly, "what a lot of frumps you all are!
I had hoped it was some one with my breakfast."

Then she went on reading. As Leila said afterward, that kind of
person OUGHT to be divorced.

Aunt Selina came down just then and I left everybody trying to
explain Bella's presence to her, and fled to the kitchen. The
Harbison man appeared while I was sitting hopelessly in front of
the gas range, and showed me about it.

"I don't know that I ever saw one," he said cheerfully, "but I
know the theory. Likewise, by the same token, this tea kettle,
set on the flame, will boil. That is not theory, however, that is
early knowledge. 'Polly, put the kettle on; we'll all take tea.'
Look at that, Mrs. Wilson. I didn't fight bacilli with boiled
water at Chickamauga for nothing."

And then he let out the policeman and brought him into the
kitchen. He was a large man, and his face was a curious mixture
of amazement, alarm and dignity. No doubt we did look queer,
still in parts of our evening clothes and I in the white silk and
lace petticoat that belonged under my gown, with a yellow and
black pajama coat of Jimmy's as a sort of breakfast jacket.

"This is Officer Flannigan," Mr. Harbison said. "I explained our
unfortunate position earlier in the morning, and he is prepared
to accept our hospitality. Flannigan, every person in this house
has got to work, as I also explained to you. You are appointed
dishwasher and scullery maid."

The policeman looked dazed. Then, slowly, like dawn over a
sleeping lake, a light of comprehension grew in his face.

"Sure," he said, laying his helmet on the table. "I'll be glad to
be doing anything I can to help. Me and Mrs. Wilson--we used to
be friends. It's many the time I've opened the carriage door for
her, and she with her head in the air, and for all that, the
pleasant smile. When any one around her was having a party and
wanted a special officer, it was Mrs. Wilson that always said,
Get Flannigan, Officer Timothy Flannigan. He's your man.'"

My heart had been going lower and lower. So he knew Bella, and he
knew I was not Bella, although he had not grasped the fact that I
was usurping her place. The odious Harbison man sat on the table
and swung his feet.

"I wonder if you know," he said, looking around him, "how good it
is to see a white woman so perfectly at home in a civilized
kitchen again, after two years of food cooked by a filthy Indian
squaw over a portable sheet-iron stove!"

SO PERFECTLY AT HOME? I stood in the middle of the room and
stared around at the copper things hanging up and the rows of
blue and white crockery, and the dozens and hundreds of
complicated-looking utensils, whose names I had never even heard,
and I was dazed. I tried with some show of authority to instruct
Flannigan about gathering up the soiled things, and, after
listening in puzzled silence for a minute, he stripped off his
blue coat with a tolerant smile.

"Lave em to me, miss," he said. The "miss" passed unnoticed. "I
mayn't give em a Turkish bath, which is what you are describin',
but I'll get the grease off all right. I always clean up while
the missus is in bed with a young un."

He rolled up his sleeves, found a brown checked gingham apron
behind the door, and tied it around his neck with the ease of
practice. Then he cleared off the plates, eating what appealed to
him as he did so, and stopping now and again for a deep-throated
chuckle.

"I'm thinkin'," he said once, stopping with a dish in the air,
"what a deuce of a noise there will be when the vaccination
doctor comes around this mornin'. In a week every one of us will
be nursin' a sore arm or walkin' on one leg, beggin' your pardon,
miss. The last time the force was vaccinated, I asked to be done
behind me ear; I needed me legs and I needed me arms, but didn't
need me head much!"

He threw his head back and laughed. Mr. Harbison laughed. Oh, we
were very cheerful! And that awful stove stared at me, and the
kettle began to hum, and Aunt Selina sent down word that she was
not well, and would like some omelet on her tray. Omelet!

I knew that it was made of eggs, but that was the extent of my
knowledge. I muttered an excuse and ran upstairs to Anne, but she
was still sniffling over her necklace, and said she didn't know
anything about omelets and didn't care. Food would choke her.
Neither of the Mercer girls knew either, and Bella, who was still
reading in the den, absolutely declined to help.

"I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did. You can get
yourself out, as you got yourself in," she said nastily. "The
simplest thing, if you don't mind my suggesting it, is to poison
the coffee and kill the lot of us. Only, if you decide to do it,
let me know; I want to live just long enough to see Jimmy Wilson
WRITHE!"

Bella is the kind of person who gets on one's nerves. She finds a
grievance and hugs it; she does ridiculous things and blames
other people. And she flirts.

I went downstairs despondently, and found that Mr. Harbison had
discovered some eggs and was standing helplessly staring at them.

"Omelet--eggs. Eggs--omelet. That's the extent of my knowledge,"
he said, when I entered. "You'll have to come to my assistance."

It was then that I saw the cook book. It was lying on a shelf
beside the clock, and while Mr. Harbison had his back turned I
got it down. It was quite clear that the domestic type of woman
was his ideal, and I did not care to outrage his belief in me. So
I took the cook book into the pantry and read the recipe over
three times. When I came back I knew it by heart, although I did
not understand it.

"I will tell you how," I said with a great deal of dignity, "and
since you want to help, you may make it yourself."

He was delighted.

"Fine!" he said. "Suppose you give me the idea first. Then we'll
go over it slowly, bit by bit. We'll make a big fluffy omelet,
and if the others aren't around, we'll eat it ourselves."

"Well," I said, trying to remember exactly, "you take two eggs--"

"Two!" he repeated. "Two eggs for ten people!"

"Don't interrupt me," I said irritably. "If--if two isn't enough
we can make several omelets, one after the other."

He looked at me with admiration.

"Who else but you would have thought of that!" he remarked.
"Well, here are two eggs. What next?"

"Separate them," I said easily. No, I didn't know what it meant.
I hoped he would; I said it as casually as I could, and I did not
look at him. I knew he was staring at me, puzzled.

"Separate them!" he said. "Why, they aren't fastened together!"
Then he laughed. "Oh, yes, of course!" When I looked he had put
one at each end of the table. "Afraid they'll quarrel, I
suppose," he said. "Well, now they're separated."

"Then beat."

"First separate, then beat!" he repeated. "The author of that
cook book must have had a mean disposition. What's next? Hang
them?" He looked up at me with his boyish smile.

"Separate and beat," I repeated. If I lost a word of that recipe
I was gone. It was like saying the alphabet; I had to go to the
beginning every time mentally.

"Well," he reflected, "you can't beat an egg, no matter how cruel
you may be, unless you break it first." He picked up an egg and
looked at it. "Separate!" he reflected. "Ah--the white from
the--whatever you cooking experts call it--the yellow part."

"Exactly!" I exclaimed, light breaking on me. "Of course. I KNEW
you would find it out." Then back to the recipe--"beat until well
mixed; then fold in the whites."

"Fold?" he questioned. "It looks pretty thin to fold, doesn't it?
I--upon my word, I never heard of folding an egg. Are you--but of
course you know. Please come and show me how."

"Just fold them in," I said desperately. "It isn't difficult."
And because I was so transparent a fraud and knew he must find me
out then, I said something about butter, and went into the
pantry. That's the trouble with a lie; somebody asks you to tell
one as a favor to somebody else, and the first thing you know,
you are having to tell a thousand, and trying to remember the
ones you have told so you won't contradict yourself, and the very
person you have tried to help turns on you and reproaches you for
being untruthful! I leaned my elbows despondently on the shelf of
the kitchen pantry, with the feet of a guard visible through the
high window over my head, and waited for Mr. Harbison to come in
and demand that I fold a raw egg, and discover that I didn't know
anything about cooking, and was just as useless as all the
others.

He came. He held the bowl out to me and waved a fork in triumph.

"I have solved it," he said. "Or, rather, Flannigan and I have
solved it. The mixture awaits the magic touch of the cook."

I honestly thought I could do the rest. It was only to be put in
a pan and browned, and then in the oven three minutes. And I did
it properly, but for two things: I should have greased the pan
(but this was the book's fault; it didn't say) and I should have
lighted the oven. The latter, however, was Mr. Harbison's fault
as much as mine, and I had wit enough to lay it to absent-
mindedness on the part of both of us.

After that, Aunt Selina or no Aunt Selina, we decided to have
boiled eggs, and Mr. Harbison knew how to cook them. He put them
in the tea kettle and then went to look at the furnace. And
Officer Timothy Flannigan ground the coffee and gave his opinion
of the board of health in no stinted terms. As for me, I burned
my fingers and the toast, and felt myself growing hot and cold,
for I was going to be found out as soon as Flannigan grasped the
situation.

Then, of course, I did the thing that caused me so much trouble
later. I put down the toaster--at least the Harbison man said it
was a toaster--and went over and stood in front of the policeman.

"I don't suppose you will understand--exactly," I said, "but--but
if anything occurs to--to make you think I am not--that things
are not what they seem to be--I mean, what I say they are--you
will understand that it is a joke, won't you? A joke, you know."

Yes, that was what I said. I know it sounds like a raving
delirium, but when Max came down and squizzled some bacon, as he
said, and told Flannigan about the robbery, and how, whether it
was a joke or deadly earnest, somebody in the house had taken
Anne's pearls, that wretched policeman winked at me solemnly over
Max's shoulder. Oh, it was awful!

And, to add to my discomfort, the most unpleasant ideas WOULD
obtrude themselves. WHAT was Mr. Harbison doing on the first
floor of the house that night? Ice water, he had said. But there
had been plenty of water in the studio! And he had told me it was
the furnace.

Mr. Harbison came back in a half hour, and I remembered the eggs.
We fished them out of the tea kettle, and they were perfectly
hard, but we ate them.

The doctor from the board of health came that morning and
vaccinated us. There was a great deal of excitement, and Aunt
Selina was done on the arm. As she did not affect evening clothes
this was entirely natural, but later on in the week, when the
wretched things began to take, nobody dared to limp, and Leila
made a terrible break by wearing a bandage on her left arm, after
telling Aunt Selina that she had been vaccinated on the right.



Chapter VIII. CORRESPONDENTS' DEPARTMENT

The following letters were found in the house post box after the
lifting of the quarantine, and later were presented to me by
their writers, bound in white kid (the letters, not the authors,
of course).

FROM THOMAS HARBISON, LATE ENGINEER OF BRIDGES, PERUVIAN TRUNK
LINES, SOUTH AMERICA, TO HENRY LLEWELLYN, CARE OF UNION NITRATE
COMPANY, IQUIQUE, CHILI.

Dear Old Man:

I think I was fully a week trying to drive out of my mind my last
glimpse of you with your sickly grin, pretending to be tickled to
pieces that the only white man within two hundred miles of your
shack was going on a holiday. You old bluffer! I used to hang
over the rail of the steamer, on the way up, and see you standing
as I left you beside the car with its mule and the Indian driver,
and behind you a million miles of soul-destroying pampa. Never
mind, Jack; I sent yesterday by mail steamer the cigarettes,
pipes and tobacco, canned goods and poker chips. Put in some
magazines, too, and the collars. Don't know about the ties--guess
it won't matter down there.

Nothing happened on the trip. One of the engines broke down three
days out, and I spent all my time below decks for forty-eight
hours. Chief engineer raving with D.T.'s. Got the engine fixed in
record time, and haven't got my hands clean yet. It was bully.

With this I send the papers, which will tell you how I happen to
be here, and why I have leisure to write you three days after
landing. If the situation were not so ridiculous, it would be
maddening. Here I am, off for a holiday and congratulating myself
that I am foot free and heart free--yes, my friend, heart
free--here I am, shut in the house of a man I never saw until
last night, and wouldn't care if I never saw again, with a lot of
people who never heard of me, who are almost equally vague about
South America, who play as hard at bridge as I ever worked at
building one (forgive this, won't you? The novelty has gone to my
head), and who belong to the very class of extravagant,
luxury-loving, non-producing parasites (isn't that what we called
them?) that you and I used to revile from our lofty Andean
pinnacle.

To come down to earth: here we are, six women and five men,
including a policeman, not a servant in the house, and no one who
knows how to do anything. They are really immensely interesting,
these people; they all know each other very well, and it is
"Jimmy" here, and "Dal" there--Dallas Brown, who went to India
with me, you remember my speaking of him--and they are good
natured, too, except at meal times. The little hostess, Mrs.
Wilson, took over the cooking, and although luncheon was better
than breakfast, the food still leaves much to the imagination.

I wish you could see this Mrs. Wilson, Hal. You would change a
whole lot of your ideas. She is a thoroughbred, sure enough, and
of course some of her beauty is the result of the exquisite care
about which you and I--still from our Andean pinnacle--used to
rant. But the fact is, she is more than that. She has fire, and
pluck, no end. If you could have seen her this morning, standing
in front of a cold kitchen range, determined to conquer it, and
had seen the tilt of her chin when I offered to take over the
cooking--you needn't grin; I can cook, and you know it--you would
understand what I mean. It was so clear that she was paralyzed
with fright at the idea of getting breakfast, and equally clear
that she meant to do it. By the way, I have learned that her name
was McNair before she married this would-be artist, Wilson, and
that she is a daughter of the McNair who financed the Callao
branch!

I have not met the others so intimately. There are two sisters
named Mercer, inclined to be noisy--they are playing roulette in
the next room now. One is small and dark, almost Hebraic in type,
named Leila and called Lollie. The other, larger, very blonde and
languishing, and with a decided preference for masculine society,
even, saving the mark, mine! Dallas Brown's wife, good looking,
smokes cigarettes when I am not around--they all do, except Mrs.
Wilson.

Then there is a maiden aunt, who is ill today with grippe and
excitement, and a Miss Knowles, who came for a moment last night
to see Mrs. Wilson, was caught in the quarantine (see papers),
and, after hiding all night in the basement, is sulking all day
in her room. Her presence created an excitement out of all
proportion to the apparent cause.

From the fact that I have reason to know that my artist host and
his beautiful wife are on bad terms, and from the significant
glances with which the announcement of Miss Knowles' presence was
met, the state of affairs seems rather clear. Wilson impresses me
as a spineless sort, anyhow, and when the lady of the basement
shut herself away from the rest today and I happened on "Jimmy,"
as they call him, pleading with her through the door, I very
nearly kicked him down the stairs. Oh, yes, I'll keep out, right
enough; it isn't my affair.

By the way, after the quarantine and with the policeman locked in
the furnace room, a pearl necklace and a diamond bracelet were
stolen! Just ten of us to divide the suspicion! Upon my word,
Hal, it's the queerest situation I ever heard of. Which of us did
it? I make a guess that not a few of us are fools, but which is
the knave? The worst of it is, I am the only unaccredited member
of the household!

This is more scandal than I ever wrote in my life. Lay it to
circumscribed environment, and the lack of twenty miles over the
pampa before breakfast. We have all been vaccinated, and the
officious gentlemen from the board of health have taken their
grins and their formaldehyde and gone. Ye gods, how we cough!

The Carlton order will go through all right, I think.  Phoned him
this morning. If it does, old man, we will take a month in
September and explore the Mercator property.

Do you know, Hal, I have been thinking lately that you and I
stick too close to the grind. Business is right enough, but
what's the use of spending one's best years succeeding in
everything except the things that are worth while? I'll be thirty
sooner than I care to say, and--oh, well, you won't understand.
You'll sit down there, with the Southern Cross and the rest of
the infernal astronomical galaxy looking down on you, and the
Indians chanting in the village, and you will think I have grown
sentimental. I have not. You and I down there have been looking
at the world through the reverse end of the glass. It's a bully
old world, Hal, and this is God's part of it.

Burn this letter after you read it; I suspect it is covered with
germs. Well, happy days, old man.

Yours, Tom

P.S. By the way, can't you spare some of the Indian pottery you
picked up at Callao? I told Mrs. Wilson about it, and she was
immensely interested. Send it to this address. Can you get it to
the next steamer?--T.

FROM MAXWELL REED TO RICHARD BURTON BAGLEY, UNIVERSITY CLUB, NEW
YORK.

Dear Dick:

Enclosed find my check for five hundred, as per wager. Possibly
you were within your rights in protecting your bet in the manner
you chose, but while I do not wish to be offensive, your
reporters are damnably so.

Yours, Maxwell Reed

FROM OFFICER FLANNIGAN TO MRS. MAGGIE FLANNIGAN, ERIN STREET.

Dear Maggie:

As soon as you receive this, go down to Mac and tell him the
story as I tell you hear. Tell him I was walkin my beat, and I'd
been afther seein Jimmy Alverini about doin the right thing for
Mac on Monday, at the poles, when I seen a man hangin suspicious
around this house, which is Mr. Wilson's, on Ninety-fifth. And,
of coorse, afther chasin the man a mile or more, I lose him,
which was not my fault. So I go back to the Wilson house, and
tell them to be careful about closin up fer the night, and while
I'm standin in the hall, with all the swells around me, sparklin
with jewels, the board of health sends a man to lock us all in,
because the Jap thats been waiter has took the smallpox and gone
to the hospitle. I stood me ground. I sez, sez I, you cant shtop
an officer in pursute of his duty. I rafuse to be shut in. Be
shure to tell Mac that.

So here I am, and like to be for a month. Tell Mac theres four
votes shut up here, and I can get them for him, if he can stop
this monkey business.

Then go over to the Dago Church on Webster Avenue and put a
dollar in Saint Anthony's box. He'll see me out of this scrape,
right enough. Do it at once. Now remember, go to Mac first; maybe
you can get the dollar from him, and mind what you tell him.

Your husband, Tim Flannigan

FROM ME TO MOTHER--MRS. THEODORE McNAIR, HOTEL HAMILTON, BERMUDA.

Dearest Mother:

I hope you will get this before you read the papers, and when you
DO read them, you are not to get excited and worried. I am as
well as can be, and a great deal safer than I ever remember to
have been in my life. We are quarantined, a lot of us, in Jim
Wilson's house, because his irreproachable Jap did a very
reproachable thing--took smallpox. Now read on before you get
excited. HIS ROOM HAS BEEN FUMIGATED, and we have been
vaccinated. I am well and happy. I can't be killed in a railway
wreck or smashed when the car skids. Unless I drown myself in my
bath, or jump through a window, positively nothing can happen to
me. So gather up all your maternal anxieties and cast them to the
Bermuda sharks.

Anne Brown is here--see the papers for list--and if she can not
play propriety, Jimmy's Aunt Selina can. In fact, she doesn't
play at it; she works. I have telephoned Lizette for some
clothes--enough for a couple of weeks, although Dallas promises
to get us out sooner. Now, dear, do go ahead and have a nice
time, and on no account come home. You could only have the
carriage to stop in front of the house, and wave to me through a
window.

Mother, I want you to do something for me. You know who is down
there, and--this is awfully delicate, Mumsy--but he's a nice boy,
and I thought I liked him. I guess you know he has been rather
attentive. Now, I DO like him, Mumsy, but not the way I thought I
did, and I want you to--very gently, of course--to discourage him
a little. You know how I mean. He's a dear boy, but I am so tired
of people who don't know anything but horses and motors.

And, oh, yes,--do you remember a girl named Lucille Mellon who
was at school with you in Rome? And that she married a man named
Harbison? Well, her son is here! He builds railroads and bridges
and things, and he even built himself an automobile down in South
America, because he couldn't afford to buy one, and burned wood
in it! Wood! Think of it!

I wired father in Chicago for fear he would come rushing home.
The picture in the paper of the face at the basement window is
supposed to be Mr. Harbison, but of course it isn't any more like
him than mine is like me.

Anne Brown mislaid her pearl collar when she took it off last
night, and has fussed herself into a sick headache. She declares
it was stolen! Some of the people are playing bridge, Betty
Mercer is doing a cake walk to the RHAPSODIE HONGROISE--Jim has
no every-day music--and the telephone is ringing. We have
received enough flowers for a funeral--somebody sent Lollie a
Gates Ajar, only with the gates shut.

There are no servants--think of it, Mumsy. I wish you had made me
learn to cook. Mr. Harbison has shown me a little--he was a
soldier in the Spanish War--but we girls are a terribly ignorant
lot, Mumsy, about the real things of life.

Now, don't worry. It is more sport than camping in the
Adirondacks, and not nearly so damp.

Your loving daughter, Katherine.

P.S.--South America must be wonderful. Why can't we put the
Gadfly in commission, and take a coasting trip this summer? It is
a shame to own a yacht and never use it. K.

THIS NOTE, EVIDENTLY DELIVERED BY MESSENGER, WAS FOUND AMONG
OTHER LITTER IN THE VESTIBULE AFTER THE LIFTING OF THE
QUARANTINE.

Mr. Alex Dodds, City Editor, Mail and Star:

Dear D.--Can't get a picture. Have waited seven hours. They have
closed the shutters.

McCord.

WRITTEN ON THE BACK OF THE ABOVE NOTE.

Watch the roof.

Dodds.



Chapter IX. FLANNIGAN'S FIND

The most charitable thing would be to say nothing about the first
day. We were baldly brutal--that's the only word for it. And Mr.
Harbison, with his beautiful courtesy--the really sincere
kind--tried to patch up one quarrel after another and failed. He
rose superbly to the occasion, and made something that he called
a South American goulash for luncheon, although it was too salty,
and every one was thirsty the rest of the day.

Bella was horrid, of course. She froze Jim until he said he was
going to sit in the refrigerator and cool the butter. She locked
herself in the dressing room--it had been assigned to me, but
that made no difference to Bella--and did her nails, and took
three different baths, and refused to come to the table. And of
course Jimmy was wild, and said she would starve. But I said,
"Very well, let her starve. Not a tray shall leave my kitchen."
It was a comfort to have her shut up there anyhow; it postponed
the time when she would come face to face with Flannigan.

Aunt Selina got sick that day, as I have said. I was not so
bitter as the others; I did not say that I wished she would die.
The worst I ever wished her was that she might be quite ill for
some time, and yet, when she began to recover, she was dreadful
to me. She said for one thing, that it was the hard-boiled eggs
and the state of the house that did it, and when I said that the
grippe was a germ, she retorted that I had probably brought it to
her on my clothing.

You remember that Betty had drawn the nurse's slip, and how
pleased she had been about it. She got up early the morning of
the first day and made herself a lawn cap and telephoned out for
a white nurse's uniform--that is, of course, for a white uniform
for a nurse. She really looked very fetching, and she went around
all the morning with a red cross on her sleeve and a Saint
Cecilia expression, gathering up bottles of medicine--most of it
flesh reducer, which was pathetic, and closing windows for fear
of drafts. She refused to help with the house work, and looked
quite exalted, but by afternoon it had palled on her somewhat,
and she and Max shook dice.

Betty was really pleased when Aunt Selina sent for her. She took
in a bottle of cologne to bathe her brow, and we all stood
outside the door and listened. Betty tiptoed in in her pretty cap
and apron, and we heard her cautiously draw down the shades.

"What are you doing that for?" Aunt Selina demanded. "I like the
light."

"It's bad for your poor eyes," Betty's tone was exactly the
proper bedside pitch, low and sugary.

"Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea!" Dal
hummed outside.

"Put up those window shades!" Aunt Selina's voice was strong
enough. "What's in that bottle?"

Betty was still mild. She swished to the window and raised the
shade.

"I'm SO sorry you are ill," she said sympathetically. "This is
for your poor aching head. Now close your eyes and lie perfectly
still, and I will cool your forehead."

"There's nothing the matter with my head," Aunt Selina retorted.
"And I have not lost my faculties; I am not a child or a sick
cow. If that's perfumery, take it out."

We heard Betty coming to the door, but there was no time to get
away. She had dropped her mask for a minute and was biting her
lip, but when she saw us she forced a smile.

"She's ill, poor dear," she said. "If you people will go away, I
can bring her around all right. In two hours she will eat out of
my hand."

"Eat a piece out of your hand," Max scoffed in a whisper.

We waited a little longer, but it was too painful. Aunt Selina
demanded a mustard foot bath and a hot lemonade and her back
rubbed with liniment and some strong black tea. And in the
intervals she wanted to be read to out of the prayer book. And
when we had all gone away, there came the most terrible noise
from Aunt Selina's room, and every one ran. We found Betty in the
hall outside the door, crying, with her fingers in her ears and
her cap over her eye. She said she had been putting the hot water
bottle to Aunt Selina's back, and it had been too hot. Just then
something hit against the door with a soft thud, fell to the
floor and burst, for a trickle of hot water came over the sill.

"She won't let me hold her hand," Betty wailed, "or bathe her
brow, or smooth her pillow. She thinks of nothing but her stomach
or her back! And when I try to make her bed look decent, she
spits at me like a cat. Everything I do is wrong. She spilled the
foot bath into her shoes, and blamed me for it."

It took the united efforts of all of us--except Bella, who stood
back and smiled nastily--to get Betty back into the sick room
again. I was supremely thankful by that time that I had not drawn
the nurse's slip. With dinner ordered in from one of the clubs,
and the omelet ten hours behind me, my position did not seem so
unbearable. But a new development was coming.

While Betty was fussing with Aunt Selina, Max led a search of the
house. He said the necklace and the bracelet must be hidden
somewhere, and that no crevice was too small to neglect.

We made a formal search all together, except Betty and Aunt
Selina, and we found a lot of things in different places that Jim
said had been missing since the year one. But no jewels--nothing
even suggesting a jewel was found. We had explored the entire
house, every cupboard, every chest, even the insides of the
couches and the pockets of Jim's clothes--which he resented
bitterly--and found nothing, and I must say the situation was
growing rather strained. Some one had taken the jewels; they
hadn't walked away.

It was Flannigan who suggested the roof, and as we had tried
every place else, we climbed there. Of course we didn't find
anything, but after all day in the house with the shutters closed
on account of reporters, the air was glorious. It was February,
but quite mild and sunny, and we could look down over Riverside
Drive and the Hudson, and even recognize people we knew on
horseback and in cars. It was a pathetic joy, and we lined up
along the parapet and watched the motor boats racing on the
river, and tried to feel that we were in the world as well as of
it, but it was very hard.

Betty had been making tea for Aunt Selina, and of course when
she heard us up there, she followed, tray and all, and we drank
Aunt Selina's tea and had the first really nice time of the day.
Bella had come up, too, but she was still standoffish and queer,
and she stood leaning against a chimney and staring out over the
river. After a little Mr. Harbison put down his cup and went over
to her, and they talked quite confidentially for a long time. I
thought it bad taste in Bella, under the circumstances, after
snubbing Dallas and Max, and of course treating Jim like the dirt
under her feet, to turn right around and be lovely to Mr.
Harbison. It was hard for Jim.

Max came and sat beside me, and Flannigan, who had been sent down
for more cups, passed tea, putting the tray on top of the
chimney. Jim was sitting grumpily on the roof, with his feet
folded under him, playing Canfield in the shadow of the parapet,
buying the deck out of one pocket and putting his winnings in the
other. He was watching Bella, too, and she knew it, and she
strained a point to captivate Mr. Harbison. Any one could see
that.

And that was the picture that came out in the next morning's
papers, tea cups, cards and all. For when some one looked up,
there were four newspaper photographers on the roof of the next
house, and they had the impertinence to thank us!

Flannigan had seen Bella by that time, but as he still didn't
understand the situation, things were just the same. But his
manner to me puzzled me; whenever he came near me he winked
prodigiously, and during all the search he kept one eye on me,
and seemed to be amused about something.

When the rest had gone down to dress for dinner, which was being
sent in, thank goodness, I still sat on the parapet and watched
the darkening river. I felt terribly lonely, all at once, and
sad. There wasn't any one any nearer than father, in the West, or
mother in Bermuda, who really cared a rap whether I sat on that
parapet all night or not, or who would be sorry if I leaped to
the dirty bricks of the next door-yard--not that I meant to, of
course.

The lights came out across the river, and made purple and yellow
streaks on the water, and one of the motor boats came panting
back to the yacht club, coughing and gasping as if it had
overdone. Down on the street automobiles were starting and
stopping, cabs rolling, doors slamming, all the maddening,
delightful bustle of people who are foot-free to dine out, to
dance, to go to the theater, to do any of the thousand
possibilities of a long February evening. And above them I sat on
the roof and cried. Yes, cried.

I was roused by some one coughing just behind me, and I tried to
straighten my face before I turned. It was Flannigan, his double
row of brass buttons gleaming in the twilight.

"Excuse me, miss," he said affably, "but the boy from the hotel
has left the dinner on the doorstep and run, the cowardly little
divil! What'll I do with it? I went to Mrs. Wilson, but she says
it's no concern of hers." Flannigan was evidently bewildered.

"You'd better keep it warm, Flannigan," I replied. "You needn't
wait; I'm coming." But he did not go.

"If--if you'll excuse me, miss," he said, "don't you think ye'd
betther tell them?"

"Tell them what?"

"The whole thing--the joke," he said confidentially, coming
closer. "It's been great sport, now, hasn't it? But I'm afraid
they will get on to it soon, and--some of them might not be
agreeable. A pearl necklace is a pearl necklace, miss, and the
lady's wild."

"What do you mean?" I gasped. "You don't think--why, Flannigan--"

He merely grinned at me and thrust his hand down in his pocket.
When he brought it up he had Bella's bracelet on his palm,
glittering in the faint light.

"Where did you get it?" Between relief and the absurdity of the
thing, I was almost hysterical. But Flannigan did not give me the
bracelet; instead, it struck me his tone was suddenly severe.

"Now look here, miss," he said; "you've played your trick, and
you've had your fun. The Lord knows it's only folks like you
would play April fool jokes with a fortune! If you're the
sinsible little woman you look to be, you'll put that pearl
collar on the coal in the basement tonight, and let me find it."

"I haven't got the pearl collar," I protested. "I think you are
crazy. Where did you get that bracelet?"

He edged away from me, as if he expected me to snatch it from him
and run, but he was still trying in an elephantine way to treat
the matter as a joke.

"I found it in a drawer in the pantry," he said, "among the dirty
linen. And if you're as smart as I think you are, I'll find the
pearl collar there in the morning--and nothing said, miss."

So there I was, suspected of being responsible for Anne's pearl
collar, as if I had not enough to worry me before. Of course I
could have called them all together and told them, and made them
explain to Flannigan what I had really meant by my delirious
speech in the kitchen. But that would have meant telling the
whole ridiculous story to Mr. Harbison, and having him think us
all mad, and me a fool.

In all that overcrowded house there was only one place where I
could be miserable with comfort. So I stayed on the roof, and
cried a little and then became angry and walked up and down, and
clenched my hands and babbled helplessly. The boats on the river
were yellow, horizontal streaks through my tears, and an early
searchlight sent its shaft like a tangible thing in the darkness,
just over my head. Then, finally, I curled down in a corner with
my arms on the parapet, and the lights became more and more
prismatic and finally formed themselves into a circle that was
Bella's bracelet, and that kept whirling around and around on
something flat and not over-clean, that was Flannigan's palm.



Chapter X. ON THE STAIRS

I was roused by someone walking across the roof, the cracking of
tin under feet, and a comfortable and companionable odor of
tobacco. I moved a very little, and then I saw that it was a
man--the height and erectness told me which man. And just at that
instant he saw me.

"Good Lord!" he ejaculated, and throwing his cigar away he came
across quickly. "Why, Mrs. Wilson, what in the world are you
doing here? I thought--they said--"

"That I was sulking again?" I finished disagreeably. "Perhaps I
am. In fact, I'm quite sure of it."

"You are not," he said severely. "You have been asleep in a
February night, in the open air, with less clothing on than I
wear in the tropics."

I had got up by this time, refusing his help, and because my feet
were numb, I sat down on the parapet for a moment. Oh, I knew
what I looked like--one of those "Valley-of-the-Nile-After-a-Flood"
pictures.

"There is one thing about you that is comforting," I sniffed.
"You said precisely the same thing to me at three o'clock this
morning. You never startle me by saying anything unexpected."

He took a step toward me, and even in the dusk I could see that
he was looking down at me oddly. All my bravado faded away and
there was a queerish ringing in my ears.

"I would like to!" he said tensely. "I would like, this
minute--I'm a fool, Mrs. Wilson," he finished miserably. "I ought
to be drawn and quartered, but when I see you like this I--I get
crazy. If you say the word, I'll--I'll go down and--" He clenched
his fist.

It was reprehensible, of course; he saw that in an instant, for
he shut his teeth over something that sounded very fierce, and
strode away from me, to stand looking out over the river, with
his hands thrust in his pockets. Of course the thing I should
have done was to ignore what he had said altogether, but he was
so uncomfortable, so chastened, that, feline, feminine, whatever
the instinct is, I could not let him go. I had been so wretched
myself.

"What is it you would like to say?" I called over to him. He did
not speak. "Would you tell me that I am a silly child for
pouting?" No reply; he struck a match. "Or would you preach a
nice little sermon about people--about women--loving their
husbands?"

He grunted savagely under his breath.

"Be quite honest," I pursued relentlessly. "Say that we are a lot
of barbarians, say that because my--because Jimmy treats me
outrageously--oh, he does; any one can see that--and because I
loathe him--and any one can tell that--why don't you say you are
shocked to the depths?" I was a little shocked myself by that
time, but I couldn't stop, having started.

He came over to me, white-faced and towering, and he had the
audacity to grip my arm and stand me on my feet, like a bad
child--which I was, I dare say.

"Don't!" he said in a husky, very pained voice. "You are only
talking; you don't mean it. It isn't YOU. You know you care, or
else why are you crying up here? And don't do it again, DON'T DO
IT AGAIN--or I will--"

"You will--what?"

"Make a fool of myself, as I have now," he finished grimly. And
then he stalked away and left me there alone, completely
bewildered, to find my way down in the dark.

I groped along, holding to the rail, for the staircase to the
roof was very steep, and I went slowly. Half-way down the stairs
there was a tiny landing, and I stopped. I could have sworn I
heard Mr. Harbison's footsteps far below, growing fainter. I even
smiled a little, there in the dark, although I had been rather
profoundly shaken. The next instant I knew I had been wrong; some
one was on the landing with me. I could hear short, sharp
breathing, and then--

I am not sure that I struggled; in fact, I don't believe I did--I
was too limp with amazement. The creature, to have lain in wait
for me like that! And he was brutally strong; he caught me to him
fiercely, and held me there, close, and he kissed me--not once or
twice, but half a dozen times, long kisses that filled me with
hot shame for him, for myself, that I had--liked him. The
roughness of his coat bruised my cheek; I loathed him. And then
someone came whistling along the hall below, and he pushed me
from him and stood listening, breathing in long, gasping breaths.

I ran; when my shaky knees would hold me, I ran. I wanted to hide
my hot face, my disgust, my disillusion; I wanted to put my head
in mother's lap and cry; I wanted to die, or be ill, so I need
never see him again. Perversely enough, I did none of those
things. With my face still flaming, with burning eyes and hands
that shook, I made a belated evening toilet and went slowly,
haughtily, down the stairs. My hands were like ice, but I was
consumed with rage. Oh, I would show him--that this was New York,
not Iquique; that the roof was not his Andean tableland.

Every one elaborately ignored my absence from dinner. The Dallas
Browns, Max and Lollie were at bridge; Jim was alone in the den,
walking the floor and biting at an unlighted cigar; Betty had
returned to Aunt Selina and was hysterical, they said, and
Flannigan was in deep dejection because I had missed my dinner.

"Betty is making no end of a row," Max said, looking up from his
game, "because the old lady upstairs insists on chloroform
liniment. Betty says the smell makes her ill."

"And she can inhale Russian cigarettes," Anne said enviously,
"and gasolene fumes, without turning a hair. I call a revoke,
Dal; you trumped spades on the second round."

Dal flung over three tricks with very bad grace, and Anne counted
them with maddening deliberation.

"Game and rubber," she said. "Watch Dal, Max; he will cheat in
the score if he can. Kit, don't have another clam while I am in
this house. I have eaten so many lately my waist rises and falls
with the tide."

"You have a stunning color, Kit," Lollie said. "You are really
quite superb. Who made that gown?"

"Where have you been hiding, du kleine?" Max whispered, under
cover of showing me the evening paper, with a photograph of the
house and a cross at the cellar window where we had tried to
escape. "If one day in the house with you, Kit, puts me in this
condition, what will a month do?"

From beyond the curtain of a sort of alcove, lighted with a
red-shaded lamp, came a hum of conversation, Bella's cool, even
tones, and a heavy masculine voice. They were laughing; I could
feel my chin go up. He was not even hiding his shame.

"Max," I asked, while the others clamored for him and the game,
"has any one been up through the house since dinner? Any of the
men?"

He looked at me curiously.

"Only Harbison," he replied promptly. "Jim has been eating his
heart out in the den every since dinner; Dal played the Sonata
Appasionata backward on the pianola--he wanted to put through one
of Anne's lingerie waists, on a wager that it would play a tune;
I played craps with Lollie, and Flannigan has been washing
dishes. Why?"

Well, that was conclusive, anyhow. I had had a faint hope that it
might have been a joke, although it had borne all the evidences
of sincerity, certainly. But it was past doubting now; he had
lain in wait for me at the landing, and had kissed me, ME, when
he thought I was Jimmy's wife. Oh, I must have been very light,
very contemptible, if that was what he thought of me!

I went into the library and got a book, but it was impossible to
read, with Jimmy lying on the couch giving vent to something
between a sigh and a groan every few minutes. About eleven the
cards stopped, and Bella said she would read palms. She began
with Mr. Harbison, because she declared he had a wonderful hand,
full of possibilities; she said he should have been a great
inventor or a playwright, and that his attitude to women was one
of homage, respect, almost reverence. He had the courage to look
at me, and if a glance could have killed he would have withered
away.

When Jimmy proffered his hand, she looked at it icily. Of course
she could not refuse, with Mr. Harbison looking on.

"Rather negative," she said coldly. "The lines are obscured by
cushions of flesh; no heart line at all, mentality small,
self-indulgence and irritability very marked."

Jim held his palm up to the light and stared at it.

"Gad!" he said. "Hardly safe for me to go around without gloves,
is it?"

It was all well enough for Jim to laugh, but he was horribly
hurt. He stood around for a few minutes, talking to Anne, but as
soon as he could he slid away and went to bed. He looked very
badly the next morning, as though he had not slept, and his
clothes quite hung on him. He was actually thinner. But that is
ahead of the story.

Max came to me while the others were sitting around drinking
nightcaps, and asked me in a low tone if he could see me in the
den; he wanted to ask me something. Dal overheard.

"Ask her here," he said. "We all know what it is, Max. Go ahead
and we'll coach you."

"Will you coach ME?" I asked, for Mr. Harbison was listening.

"The woman does not need it," Dal retorted. And then, because Max
looked angry enough really to propose to me right there, I got up
hastily and went into the den. Max followed, and closing the
door, stood with his back against it.

"Contrary to the general belief, Kit," he began, "I did NOT
intend to ask you to marry me."

I breathed easier. He took a couple of steps toward me and stood
with his arms folded, looking down at me. "I'm not at all sure,
in fact, that I shall ever propose to you," he went on
unpleasantly.

"You have already done it twice. You are not going to take those
back, are you, Max?" I asked, looking up at him.

But Max was not to be cajoled. He came close and stood with his
hand on the back of my chair. "What happened on the roof
tonight?" He demanded hoarsely.

"I do not think it would interest you," I retorted, coloring in
spite of myself.

"Not interest me! I am shut in this blasted house; I have to see
the only woman I ever loved--REALLY loved," he supplemented, as
he caught my eye, "pretend she is another man's wife. Then I sit
back and watch her using every art--all her beauty--to make still
another man love her, a man who thinks she is a married woman. If
Harbison were worth the trouble, I would tell him the whole
story, Aunt Selina be--obliterated!"

I sat up suddenly.

"If Harbison were worth the trouble!" I repeated. What did he
mean? Had he seen--

"I mean just this," Max said slowly. "There is only one
unaccredited member of this household; only one person, save
Flannigan, who was locked in the furnace room, one person who was
awake and around the house when Anne's jewels went, only one
person in the house, also, who would have any motive for the
theft."

"Motive?" I asked dully.

"Poverty," Max threw at me. "Oh, I mean comparative poverty, of
course. Who is this fellow, anyhow? Dal knew him at school,
traveled with him through India. On the strength of that he
brings him here, quarters him with decent people, and wonders
when they are systematically robbed!"

"You are unjust!" I said, rising and facing him. "I do not like
Mr. Harbison--I--I hate him, if you want to know. But as to his
being a thief, I--think it is quite as likely that you took the
necklace."

Max threw his cigarette into the fire angrily.

"So that is how it is!" he mocked. "If either of us is the thief,
it is I! You DO hate him, don't you?"

I left him there, flushed with irritation, and joined the others.
Just as I entered the room, Betty burst through the hall door
like a cyclone, and collapsed into a chair. "She's a mean,
cantankerous old woman!" she declared, feeling for her
handkerchief. "You can take care of your own Aunt Selina, Jim
Wilson. I will never go near her again."

"What did you do? Poison her?" Dallas asked with interest.

"G--got camphor in her eyes," snuffed Betty. "You never--heard
such a noise. I wouldn't be a trained nurse for anything in the
world. She--she called me a hussy!"

"You're not going to give her up, are you, Betty?" Jim asked
imploringly. But Betty was, and said so plainly.

"Anyhow, she won't have me back," she finished, "and she has sent
for--guess!"

"Have mercy!" Dal cried, dropping to his knees. "Oh, fair
ministering angel, she has not sent for me!"

"No," Betty said maliciously. "She wants Bella--she's crazy about
her."



Chapter XI. I MAKE A DISCOVERY

Really, I have left Aunt Selina rather out of it, but she was
important as a cause, not as a result; at least at first. She
came out strong later. I believe she was a very nice old woman,
with strong likes and prejudices, which she was perfectly willing
to pay for. At least, I only presume she had likes; I know she
had prejudices.

Nobody every understood why Bella consented to take Betty's place
with Aunt Selina. As for me, I was too much engrossed with my own
affairs to pay the invalid much attention. Once or twice during
the day I had stopped in to see her, and had been received
frigidly and with marked disapproval. I was in disgrace, of
course, after the scene in the dining room the night before. I
had stood like a naughty child, just inside the door, and replied
meekly when she said the pillows were overstuffed, and why didn't
I have the linen slips rinsed in starch water? She laid the blame
of her illness on me, as I have said before, and she made Jim
read to her in the afternoon from a book she carried with her,
Coals of Fire on the DOMESTIC Hearth, marking places for me to
read.

She sent for me that night, just as I had taken off my gown; so I
threw on a dressing gown and went in. To my horror, Jim was
already there. At a gesture from Aunt Selina, he closed the door
into the hall and tiptoed back beside the bed, where he sat
staring at the figures on the silk comfort.

Aunt Selina's first words were:

"Where's that flibberty-gibbet?"

Jim looked at me.

"She must mean Betty," I explained. "She has gone to bed, I
think."

"Don't--let--her--in--this--room--again," she said, with awful
emphasis. "She is an infamous creature."

"Oh, come now, Aunt Selina," Jim broke in; "she's foolish,
perhaps, but she's a nice little thing."

Aunt Selina's face was a curious study. Then she raised herself
on her elbow, and, taking a flat chamois-skin bag from under her
pillow, held it out.

"My cameo breastpin," she said solemnly; "my cuff-buttons with
gold rims and storks painted on china in the middle; my watch,
that has put me to bed and got me up for forty years, and my
money--five hundred and ten dollars and forty cents!--taken with
the doors locked under my nose." Which was ambiguous, but
forcible.

"But, good gracious, Miss Car--Aunt Selina!" I exclaimed, "you
don't think Betty Mercer took those things?"

"No," she said grimly; "I think I probably got up in my sleep and
lighted the fire with them, or sent em out for a walk." Then she
stuffed the bag away and sat up resolutely in bed.

"Have you made up?" she demanded, looking from one to the other
of us. "Bella, don't tell me you still persist in that nonsense."

"What nonsense?" I asked, getting ready to run.

"That you do not love him."

"Him?"

"James," she snapped irritably. "Do you suppose I mean the
policeman?"

I looked over at Jimmy. She had got me by the hand, and Jimmy was
making frantic gestures to tell her the whole thing and be done
with it. But I had gone too far. The mill of the gods had crushed
me already, and I didn't propose to be drawn out hideously
mangled and held up as an example for the next two or three
weeks, although it was clear enough that Aunt Selina disapproved
of me thoroughly, and would have been glad enough to find that no
tie save the board of health held us together. And then Bella
came in, and you wouldn't have known her. She had put on a
straight white woolen wrapper, and she had her hair in two long
braids down her back. She looked like a nice, wide-eyed little
girl in her teens, and she had some lobster salad and a glass of
port on a tray. When she saw the situation, she put the things
down and had the nastiness to stay and listen.

"I'm not blind," Aunt Selina said, with one eye on the tray. "You
two silly children adore each other; I saw some things last
night."

Bella took a step forward; then she stopped and shrugged her
shoulders. Jim was purple.

"I saw you kiss her in the dining room, remember that!" Aunt
Selina went on, giving the screw another turn.

It was Bella's turn to be excited. She gave me one awful stare,
then she fixed her eyes on Jim.

"Besides," Aunt Selina went on, "you told me today that you loved
her. Don't deny it, James."

Bella couldn't keep quiet another instant. She came over and
stood at the foot of the bed.

"Please don't excite yourself, DEAR Miss Caruthers," she said in
a voice like ice. "Every one knows that he loves her; he simply
overflows with it. It--it is quite a by-word among their friends.
They have been sitting together in a corner all evening."

Yes, that was what she said; when I had not spoken to Jimmy the
whole time in the den. Bella was cattish, and she was jealous,
too. I turned on my heel and went to the door; then I turned to
her, with my hand on the knob.

"You have been misinformed," I said coldly. "You can not possibly
know, having spent three hours in a corner yourself--with Mr.
Harbison." I abhor jealousy in a woman.

Well, Aunt Selina ate all the lobster salad, and drank the port
after Bella had told her it was beef, iron and wine, and she
slept all night, and was able to sit up in a chair the next day,
and was so infatuated with Bella that she would not let her out
of her sight. But that is ahead of the story.

At midnight the house was fairly quiet, except for Jim, who kept
walking around the halls because he couldn't sleep. I got up at
last and ordered him to bed, and he had the audacity to have a
grievance with me.

"Look at my situation now!" he said, sitting pensively on a steam
radiator. "Aunt Selina is crazy. I only kissed your hand, anyhow,
and I don't know why you sat in the den all evening; you might
have known that Bella would notice it. Why couldn't you leave me
alone to my misery?"

"Very well," I said, much offended. "After this I shall sit with
Flannigan in the kitchen. He is the only gentleman in the house."

I left him babbling apologies and went to bed, but I had an
uncomfortable feeling that Bella had been a witness to our
conversation, for the door into Aunt Selina's room closed softly
as I passed.

I knew beforehand that I was not going to sleep. The instant I
turned out the light the nightmare events of the evening ranged
themselves in a procession, or a series of tableaus, one after
the other; Flannigan on the roof, with the bracelet on his palm,
looking accusingly at me; Mr. Harbison and the scene on the roof,
with my flippancy; and the result of that flippancy--the man on
the stairs, the arms that held me, the terrible kisses that had
scorched my lips--it was awful! And then the absurd situation
across Aunt Selina's bed, and Bella's face! Oh, it was all so
ridiculous--my having thought that the Harbison man was a
gentleman, and finding him a cad, and worse. It was
excruciatingly funny. I quite got a headache from laughing;
indeed I laughed until I found I was crying, and then I knew I
was going to have an attack of strangulated emotion, called
hysteria. So I got up and turned on all the lights, and bathed my
face with cologne, and felt better.

But I did not go to sleep. When the hall clock chimed two, I
discovered I was hungry. I had had nothing since luncheon, and
even the thirst following the South American goulash was gone.
There was probably something to eat in the pantry, and if there
was not, I was quite equal to going to the basement.

As it happened, however, I found a very orderly assortment of
left-overs and a pitcher of milk, which had no business there in
the pantry, and with plenty of light I was not at all frightened.

I ate bread and butter and drank milk, and was fast becoming a
rational person again; I had pulled out one of the drawers part
way, and with a tray across the corner I had improvised a
comfortable seat. And then I noticed that the drawer was full of
soiled napkins, and I remembered the bracelet. I hardly know why
I decided to go through the drawer again, after Flannigan had
already done it, but I did. I finished my milk and then, getting
down on my knees, I proceeded systematically to empty the drawer.
I took out perhaps a dozen napkins and as many doilies without
finding anything. Then I took out a large tray cloth, and there
was something on it that made me look farther. One corner of it
had been scorched, the clear and well defined imprint of a
lighted cigarette or cigar, a blackened streak that trailed off
into a brown and yellow. I had a queer, trembly feeling, as if I
were on the brink of a discovery--perhaps Anne's pearls, or the
cuff buttons with storks painted on china in the center. But the
only thing I found, down in the corner of the drawer, was a
half-burned cigarette.

To me, it seemed quite enough. It was one of the South American
cigarettes, with a tobacco wrapper instead of paper, that Mr.
Harbison smoked.



Chapter XII. THE ROOF GARDEN

I was quite ill the next morning--from excitement, I suppose.
Anyhow, I did not get up, and there wasn't any breakfast. Jim
said he roused Flannigan at eight o'clock, to go down and get the
fire started, and then went back to bed. But Flannigan did not
get up. He appeared, sheepishly, at half-past ten, and by that
time Bella was down, in a towering rage, and had burned her hand
and got the fire started, and had taken up a tray for Aunt Selina
and herself.

As the others straggled down they boiled themselves eggs or ate
fruit, and nobody put anything away. Lollie Mercer made me some
tea and scorched toast, and brought it, about eleven o'clock.

"I never saw such a house," she declared. "A dozen housemaids
couldn't put it in order. Why should every man that smokes drop
ashes wherever he happens to be?"

"That's the question of the ages," I replied languidly. "What was
Max talking so horribly about a little while ago?" Lollie looked
up aggrieved.

"About nothing at all," she declared. "Anne told me to clean the
bath tubs with oil, and I did it, that's all. Now Max says he
couldn't get it off, and his clothes stick to him, and if he
should forget and strike a match in the--in the usual way, he
would explode. He can clean his own tub tomorrow," she finished
vindictively.

At noon Jim came in to see me, bringing Anne as a concession to
Bella. He was in a rage, and he carried the morning paper like a
club in his hand.

"What sort of a newspaper lie would you call this?" he demanded
irritably. "It makes me crazy; everybody with a mental image of
me leaning over the parapet of the roof, waving a board, with the
rest of you sitting on my legs to keep me from overbalancing!"

"Maybe there's a picture!" Anne said hopefully.

Jim looked.

"No picture," he announced. "I wonder why they restrained
themselves! I wish Bella would keep off the roof," he added, with
fresh access of rage, "or wear a mask or veil. One of those
fellows is going to recognize her, and there'll be the deuce to
pay."

"When you are all through discussing this thing, perhaps you will
tell me what is the matter," I remarked from my couch. "Why did
you lean over the parapet, Jim, and who sat on your legs?"

"I didn't; nobody did," he retorted, waving the newspaper. "It's
a lie out of the whole cloth, that's what it is. I asked you
girls to be decent to those reporters; it never pays to offend a
newspaper man. Listen to this, Kit."

He read the article rapidly, furiously, pausing every now and
then to make an exasperated comment.

ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE
FRUSTRATED MEMBERS OF THE FOUR HUNDRED DEFY THE LAW

"Special Officer McCloud, on duty at the quarantined house of
James Wilson, artist and clubman, on Ninety-fifth Street,
reported this morning a daring attempt at escape, made at 3 A.M.
It is in this house that some eight or nine members of the smart
set were imprisoned during the course of a dinner party, when the
Japanese butler developed smallpox. The party shut in the house
includes Miss Katherine McNair, the daughter of Theodore McNair,
of the Inter-Ocean system; Mr. and Mrs. Dallas Brown; the Misses
Mercer; Maxwell Reed, the well-known clubman and whip; and a Mr.
Thomas Harbison, guest of the Dallas Browns and a South American.

"Officer McCloud's story, told to a Chronicle reporter this
morning, is as follows: The occupants of the house had been
uneasy all day. From the air of subdued bustle, and from a
careful inspection of the roof, made by the entire party during
the afternoon, his suspicion had been aroused. Nothing unusual,
however, occurred during the early part of the night. From eight
o'clock to twelve, McCloud was relieved from duty, his place
being taken by Michael Shane, of the Eighty-sixth Street Station.

"When McCloud came on duty at midnight, Shane reported that about
eleven o'clock the searchlight of a steamer on the river,
flashing over the house, had shown a man crouching on the
parapet, evidently surveying the roof across, which at this point
is only twelve feet distant, with a view of making his escape.
One seeing Shane below, however, he had beat a retreat, but not
before the officer had seen him distinctly. He was dressed in
evening clothes and wore a light tan overcoat.

"Officer McCloud relieved Shane at midnight, and sent for a
plain-clothes man from the station house. This man was stationed
on the roof of the Bevington residence next door, with strict
injunctions to prevent an escape from the quarantined mansion.
Nothing suspicious having occurred, the man on the roof left
about 3 A.M., reporting to McCloud below that everything was
quiet. At that moment, glancing skyward, one of the officers was
astounded to see a long narrow board project itself from the
coping of the Wildon house, waver uncertainly for a moment, and
then advance stealthily toward the parapet across.  When it was
within a foot or two of a resting place, McCloud called sharply
to the invisible refugee above, at the same time firing his
revolver in the ground.

"The result was surprising. The board stopped, trembled, swayed a
little, and dropped, missing the vigilant officers by a hair's
breadth, and crashing to the cement with a terrific force. An
inspection of the roof from the Bevington house, later, revealed
nothing unusual. It is evident, however, that the quarantine is
proving irksome to the inhabitants of the sequestered residence,
most of whom are typical society folk, without resources in
themselves. Their condition, without valets and maids, is
certainly pitiable. It has been rumored that the ladies are doing
their own hair, and that the gentlemen have been reduced to
putting their own buttons in their shirts. This deplorable
situation, however, is unavoidable.

"The vigilance of the board of health has been most commendable
in this case. Beginning with a wager over the telephone that they
would break quarantine in twenty-four hours, and ending with the
attempt to span a twelve-foot gulf with a board, over which to
cross to freedom, these shut-in society folk have shown
characteristic disregard of the laws of the state. It is quite
time to extend to the millionaire the same strictness that keeps
the commuter at home for three weeks with the measles; that makes
him get the milk bottles and groceries from the gate post and
smell like dog soap for a month afterward, as a result of
disinfection.'"

We sat in dead silence for a minute. Then:

"Perhaps it is true," I said. "Not of you, Jim--but some one may
have tried to get out that way. In fact, I think it extremely
likely."

"Who? Flannigan? You couldn't drive him out. He's having the time
of his life. Do you suspect me?"

"Come away and don't fight," Anne broke in pacifically. "You will
have to have luncheon sent in, Jimmy; nobody has ordered anything
from the shops, and I feel like old Mother Hubbard."

"I wish you would all go out," I said wearily. "If every man in
the house says he didn't try to get over to the next roof last
night, well and good. But you might look and see if the board is
still lying where it fell."

There was an instantaneous rush for the window, and a second's
pause. Then Jimmy's voice, incredulous, awed:

"Well, I'll be--blessed! There's the board!"

I stayed in my room all that day. My head really ached and then,
too, I did not care to meet Mr. Harbison. It would have to come;
I realized that a meeting was inevitable, but I wanted time to
think how I would meet him. It would be impossible to cut him,
without rousing the curiosity of the others to fever pitch; and
it was equally impossible to ignore the disgraceful episode on
the stairs. As it happened, however, I need not have worried. I
went down to dinner, languidly, when every one was seated, and
found Max at my right, and Mr. Harbison moved over beside Bella.
Every one was talking at once, for Flannigan, ambling around the
table as airily as he walked his beat, had presented Bella with
her bracelet on a salad plate, garnished with romaine. He had
found it in the furnace room, he said, where she must have
dropped it. And he looked at me stealthily, to approve his
mendacity!

Every one was famished, and as they ate they discussed the board
in the area way, and pretended to deride it as a clever bit of
press work, to revive a dying sensation. No one was deceived;
Anne's pearls and the attempt to escape, coming just after,
pointed only to one thing. I looked around the table, dazed.
Flannigan, almost the only unknown quantity, might have tried to
escape the night before, but he would not have been in dress
clothes. Besides, he must be eliminated as far as the pearls were
concerned, having been locked in the furnace room the night they
were stolen. There was no one among the girls to suspect. The
Mercer girls had stunning pearls, and could secure all they
wanted legitimately; and Bella disliked them. Oh, there was no
question about it, I decided; Dallas and Anne had taken a wolf to
their bosom--or is it a viper?--and the Harbison man was the
creature. Although I must say that, looking over the table, at
Jimmy's breadth and not very imposing personality, at Max's lean
length, sallow skin, and bold dark eyes, at Dallas, blond,
growing bald and florid, and then at the Harbison boy, tall,
muscular, clear-eyed and sunburned, one would have taken Max at
first choice as the villain, with Dal next, Jim third, and the
Harbison boy not in the running.

It was just after dinner that the surprise was sprung on me. Mr.
Harbison came around to me gravely, and asked me if I felt able
to go up on the roof. On the roof, after last night! I had to
gather myself together; luckily, the others were pushing back
their chairs, showing Flannigan the liqueur glasses to take up,
and lighting cigars.

"I do not care to go," I said icily.

"The others are coming," he persisted, "and I--I could give you
an arm up the stairs."

"I believe you are good at that," I said, looking at him
steadily. "Max, will you help me to the roof?"

Mr. Harbison really turned rather white. Then he bowed
ceremoniously and left me.

Max got me a wrap, and every one except Mr. Harbison and Bella,
who was taking a mass of indigestables to Aunt Selina, went to
the roof.

"Where is Tom?" Anne asked, as we reached the foot of the stairs.
"Gone ahead to fix things," was the answer. But he was not there.
At the top of the last flight I stopped, dumb with amazement; the
roof had been transformed, enchanted. It was a fairy-land of
lights and foliage and colors. I had to stop and rub my eyes.
From the bleakness of a tin roof in February to the brightness
and greenery of a July roof garden!

"You were the immediate inspiration, Kit," Dallas said. "Harbison
thought your headache might come from lack of exercise and fresh
air, and he has worked us like nailers all day. I've a blister on
my right palm, and Harbison got shocked while he was wiring the
place, and nearly fell over the parapet. We bought out two
full-sized florists by telephone."

It was the most amazing transformation. At each corner a pole had
been erected, and wires crossed the roof diagonally, hung with
red and amber bulbs. Around the chimneys had been massed
evergreen trees in tubs, hiding their brick-and-mortar ugliness,
and among the trees tiny lights were strung. Along the parapet
were rows of geometrical boxwood plants in bright red crocks, and
the flaps of a crimson and white tent had been thrown open,
showing lights within, and rugs, wicker chairs, and cushions.

Max raised a glass of benedictine and posed for a moment,
melodramatically.

"To the Wilson roof garden!" he said. "To Kit, who inspired; to
the creators, who perspired; and to Takahiro--may he not have
expired."

Every one was very gay; I think the knowledge that tomorrow Aunt
Selina might be with them urged them to make the most of this
last night of freedom. I tried to be jolly, and succeeded in
being feverish. Mr. Harbison did not come up to enjoy what he had
wrought. Jim brought up his guitar and sang love songs in a
beautiful tenor, looking at Bella all the time. And Bella sat in
a steamer chair, with a rug over her and a spangled veil on her
head, looking at the boats on the river--about as soft and as
chastened as an an acetylene headlight.

And after Max had told the most improbable tale, which Leila
advised him to sprinkle salt on, and Dallas had done a clog
dance, Bella said it was time for her complexion sleep and went
downstairs, and broke up the party.

"If she only give half as an much care to her immortal soul,"
Anne said when she had gone, "as she does to her skin, she would
let that nice Harbison boy alone. She must have been brutal to
him tonight, for he went to bed at nine o'clock. At least, I
suppose he went to bed, for he shut himself in the studio, and
when I knocked he advised me not to come in."

I had pleaded my headache as an excuse for avoiding Aunt
Selina all day, and she had not sent for me. Bella was really
quite extraordinary. She was never in the habit of putting
herself out for any one, and she always declared that the very
odor of a sick room drove her to Scotch and soda. But here she
was, rubbing Aunt Selina's back with chloroform liniment--and you
know how that smells--getting her up in a chair, dressed in one
of Bella's wadded silk robes, with pillows under her feet, and
then doing her hair in elaborate puffs--braiding her gray switch
and bringing it, coronet-fashion, around the top of her head. She
even put rice powder on Aunt Selina's nose, and dabbed violet
water behind her ears, and said she couldn't understand why she
(Aunt Selina) had never married, but, of course, she probably
would some day!

The result was, naturally, that the old lady wouldn't let Bella
out of her sight, except to go to the kitchen for something to
eat for her. That very day Bella got the doctor to order ale for
Aunt Selina (oh, yes; the doctor could come in; Dal said "it was
all a-coming in, and nothing going out") and she had three pints
of Bass, and learned to eat anchovies and caviare--all in one
day.

Bella's conduct to Jim was disgraceful. She snubbed him, ignored
him, tramped on him, and Jim was growing positively flabby. He
spent most of his time writing letters to the board of health and
playing solitaire. He was a pathetic figure.

Well, we went to bed fairly early. Bella had massaged Aunt
Selina's face and rubbed in cold cream, Anne and Dallas had
compromised on which window should be open in their bedroom, and
the men had matched to see who should look at the furnace. I did
not expect to sleep, but the cold night air had done its work,
and I was asleep almost immediately.

Some time during the early part of the night I wakened, and,
after turning and twisting uneasily, I realized that I was cold.
The couch in Bella's dressing room was comfortable enough, but
narrow and low. I remember distinctly (that was what was so
maddening; everybody thought I dreamed it)--I remember getting an
eiderdown comfort that was folded at my feet, and pulling it up
around me. In the luxury of its warmth I snuggled down and went
to sleep almost instantly. It seemed to me I had slept for hours,
but it was probably an hour or less, when something roused me.
The room was perfectly dark, and there was not a sound save the
faint ticking of the clock, but I was wide awake.

And then came the incident that in its ghastly, horrible
absurdity made the rest of the people shout with laughter the
next day. It was not funny then. For suddenly the eiderdown
comfort began to slip. I heard no footstep, not the slightest
sound approaching me, but the comfort moved; from my chin, inch
by inch, it slipped to my shoulders; awfully, inevitably,
hair-raisingly it moved. I could feel my blood gather around my
heart, leaving me cold and nerveless. As it passed my hands I
gave an involuntary clutch for it, to feel it slip away from my
fingers. Then the full horror of the situation took hold of me;
as the comfort slid past my feet I sat up and screamed at the top
of my voice.

Of course, people came running in all sorts of things. I was
still sitting up, declaring I had seen a ghost and that the house
was haunted. Dallas was struggling for the second armhole of his
dressing gown and Bella had already turned on the lights. They
said I had had a nightmare, and not to sleep on my back, and
perhaps I was taking grippe.

And just then we heard Jimmy run down the stairs, and fall over
something, almost breaking his wrist. It was the eiderdown
comfort, half-way up the studio staircase!



Chapter XIII. HE DOES NOT DENY IT

Aunt Selina got up the next morning and Jim told her all the
strange things that had been happening. She fixed on Flannigan,
of course, although she still suspected Betty of her watch and
other valuables. The incident of the comfort she called nervous
indigestion and bad hours.

She spent the entire day going through the storeroom and linen
closets, and running her fingers over things for dust. Whenever
she found any she looked at me, drew a long breath, and said,
"Poor James!" It was maddening. And when she went through his
clothes and found some buttons off (Jim didn't keep a man, and
Takahiro had stopped at his boots) she looked at me quite
awfully.

"His mother was a perfect housekeeper," she said. "James was
brought up in clothes with the buttons on, put on clean shelves."

"Didn't they put them on him?" I asked, almost hysterically. It
had been a bad morning, after a worse night. Every one had found
fault with the breakfast, and they straggled down one at a time
until I was frantic. Then Flannigan had talked to me about the
pearls, and Mr. Harbison had said, "Good morning," very stiffly,
and nearly rattled the inside of the furnace out.

Early in the morning, too, I overheard a scrap of conversation
between the policeman and our gentleman adventurer from South
America. Something had gone wrong with the telephone and Mr.
Harbison was fussing over it with a screw driver and a pair of
scissors--all the tools he could find. Flannigan was lifting rugs
to shake them on the roof--Bella's order.

"Wash the table linen!" he was grumbling.  "I'll do what I can
that's necessary. Grub has to be cooked, and dishes has to be
washed--I'll admit that. If you're particular, make up your bed
every day; I don't object. But don't tell me we have to use
thirty-three table napkins a day. What did folks do before
napkins was invented? Tell me that!"--triumphantly.

"What's the answer?" Mr. Harbison inquired absently, evidently
with the screw driver in his mouth.

"Used their pocket handkerchiefs! And if the worst comes to the
worst, Mr. Harbison, these folks here can use their sleeves, for
all I care--not that the women has any sleeves to speak of. Wash
clothes I will not."

"Well, don't worry Mrs. Wilson about it," the other voice said.
Flannigan straightened himself with a grunt.

"Mrs. Wilson!" he said. "A lot she would worry. She's been a
disappointment to me, Mr. Harbison, me thinking that now she'd
come back to him, after leavin' him the way she did, they'd be
like two turtle doves. Lord! The cook next door--"

But what the cook had told about Bella and Jimmy was not
divulged, for the Harbison man caught him up with a jerk and sent
Flannigan, grumbling, with his rugs to the roof.

It did not seem possible to carry on the deception much longer,
but if things were bad now, what would they be when Aunt Selina
learned she had been lied to, made ridiculous, generally
deceived? And how would I be able to live in the house with her
when she did know? Luckily, every one was so puzzled over the
mystery in the house that numbers of little things that would
have been absolutely damning were never noticed at all. For
instance, my asking Jimmy at luncheon that day if he took cream
in his coffee! And Max coming to the rescue by dropping his watch
in his glass of water, and creating a diversion and giving
everybody an opportunity to laugh by saying not to mind, it had
been in soak before.

Just after luncheon Aunt Selina brought me some undergarments of
Jim's to be patched. She explained at length that he had always
worn out his undergarments, because he always squirmed around so
when he was sitting. And she showed me how to lay one of the
garments over a pillow to get the patch in properly.

It was the most humiliating moment of my life, but there was no
escape. I took my sewing to the roof, while she went away to find
something else for me to do when that was finished, and I sat
with the thing on my knee and stared at it, while rebellious
tears rolled down my cheeks. The patch was not the shape of the
hole at all, and every time I took a stitch I sewed it fast to
the pillow beneath. It was terrible. Jim came up after a while
and sat down across from me and watched, without saying anything.
I suppose what he felt would not have been proper to say to me.
We had both reached the point where adequate language failed us.
Finally he said:

"I wish I were dead."

"So do I," I retorted, jerking the thread.

"Where is she now?"

"Looking for more of these." I indicated the garment over the
pillow, and he wiggled. "Please don't squirm," I said coldly. "You
will wear out your--lingerie, and I will have to mend them."

He sat very still for five minutes, when I discovered that I had
put the patch in crosswise instead of lengthwise and that it
would not fit. As I jerked it out he sneezed.

"Or sneeze," I added venomously. "You will tear your buttons off,
and I will have to sew them on."

Jim rose wrathfully. "Don't sit, don't sneeze," he repeated.
"Don't stand, I suppose, for fear I will wear out my socks. Here,
give me that. If the fool thing has to be mended, I'll do it
myself."

He went over to a corner of the parapet and turned his back to
me. He was very much offended. In about a minute he came back,
triumphant, and held out the result of his labor. I could only
gasp. He had puckered up the edges of the hole like the neck of a
bag, and had tied the thread around it. "You--you won't be able
to sit down," I ventured.

"Don't have any time to sit," he retorted promptly. "Anyhow, it
will give some, won't it? It would if it was tied with elastic
instead of thread. Have you any elastic?"

Lollie came up just then, and Jim took himself and his mending
downstairs. Luckily, Aunt Selina found several letters in his
room that afternoon while she was going over his clothes, and as
it took Jim some time to explain them, she forgot the task she
had given me altogether.

When Lollie came up to the roof, she closed the door to the
stairs, and coming over, drew a chair close to mine.

"Have you seen much of Tom today?" she asked, as an introduction.

"I suppose you mean Mr. Harbison, Lollie," I said. "No--not any
more than I could help. Don't whisper, he couldn't possibly hear
you. And if it's scandal I don't want to know it."

"Look here, Kit," she retorted, "you needn't be so superior. If I
like to talk scandal, I'm not so sure you aren't making it."

That was the way right along: I was making scandal; I brought
them there to dinner; I let Bella in!

And, of course, Anne came up then, and began on me at once.

"You are a very bad girl," she began. "What do you mean by
treating Tom Harbison the way you do? He is heart-broken."

"I think you exaggerate my influence over him," I retorted. "I
haven't treated him badly, because I haven't paid any attention
to him."

Anne threw up her hands.

"There you are!" she said. "He worked all day yesterday fixing
this place for you--yes, for you, my dear. I am not blind--and
last night you refused to let him bring you up."

"He told you!" I flamed.

"He wondered what he had done. And as you wouldn't let him come
within speaking distance of you, he came to me."

"I am sorry, Anne, since you are fond of him," I said. "But to me
he is impossible--intolerable. My reasons are quite sufficient."

"Kit is perfectly right, Anne," Leila broke in. "I tell you,
there is something queer about him," she added in a portentous
whisper.

Anne stiffened.

"He is perfect," she declared. "Of good family, warm-hearted,
courageous, handsome, clever--what more do you ask?"

"Honesty," said Leila hotly. "That a man should be what he says
he is."

Anne and I both stared.

"It is your Mr. Harbison," Leila went on, "who tried to escape
from the house by putting a board across to the next roof!"

"I don't believe it," said Anne. "You might bring me a picture of
him, board in hand, and I wouldn't believe it."

"Don't then," Lollie said cruelly. "Let him get away with your
pearls; they are yours. Only, as sure as anything, the man who
tried to escape from the house had a reason for escaping, and the
papers said a man in evening dress and light overcoat. I found
Mr. Harbison's overcoat today lying in a heap in one of the
maids' rooms, and it was covered with brick dust all over the
front. A button had even been torn off."

"Pooh!" Anne said, when she had recovered herself a little.
"There isn't any reason, as far as that goes, why Flannigan
shouldn't have worn Tom's overcoat, or--any of the others,"

"Flannigan!" Leila said loftily. "Why, his arms are like piano
legs; he couldn't get into it. As for the others, there is only
one person who would fit, or nearly fit, that overcoat, and that
is Dallas, Anne."

While Anne was choking down her wrath, Leila got up and darted
out of the tent. When she came back she was triumphant.

"Look," she said, holding out her hand. And on her palm lay a
lightish brown button. "I found it just where the paper said the
board was thrown out, and it is from Mr. Harbison's overcoat,
without a doubt."

Of course I should not have been surprised. A man who would kiss
a woman on a dark staircase--a woman he had known only two
days--was capable of anything.

"Kit has only been a little keener than the rest of us," Lollie
said. "She found him out yesterday."

"Upon my word," said Anne indignantly, preparing to go, "if I
didn't know you girls so well, I would think you were crazy. And
now, just to offset this, I can tell you something. Flannigan
told me this morning not to worry; that he has my pearl collar
spotted, and that YOUNG LADIES WILL HAVE THEIR JOKES!"

Yes, as I said before, it was a cheerful, joy-producing
situation.

I sat and thought it over after Anne's parting shot, when Leila
had flounced downstairs. Things were closing in; I gave the
situation twenty-four hours to develop. At the end of that time
Flannigan would accuse me openly of knowing where the pearls
were; I would explain my silly remark to him and the mine would
explode--under Aunt Selina.

I was sunk in dejected reverie when some one came on the roof.
When he was opposite the opening in the tent, I saw Mr. Harbison,
and at that moment he saw me. He paused uncertainly, then he made
an evident effort and came over to me.

"You are--better today?"

"Quite well, thank you."

"I am glad you find the tent useful. Does it keep off  the wind?"

"It is quite a shelter"--frigidly.

He still stood, struggling for something to say. Evidently
nothing came to his mind, for he lifted the cap he was wearing,
and turning away, began to work with the wiring of the roof. He
was clever with tools; one could see that. If he was a
professional gentleman-burglar, no doubt he needed to be. After a
bit, finding it necessary to climb to the parapet, he took off
his coat, without even a glance in my direction, and fell to work
vigorously.

One does not need to like a man to admire him physically, any
more than one needs to like a race horse or any other splendid
animal. No one could deny that the man on the parapet was a
splendid animal; he looked quite big enough and strong enough to
have tossed his slender bridge across the gulf to the next roof,
without any difficulty, and coordinate enough to have crossed on
it with a flourish to safety.

Just then there was a rending, tearing sound from the corner and
a muttered ejaculation. I looked up in time to see Mr. Harbison
throw up his arms, make a futile attempt to regain his balance,
and disappear over the edge of the roof. One instant he was
standing there, splendid, superb; the next, the corner of the
parapet was empty, all that stood there was a broken, splintered
post and a tangle of wires.

I could not have moved at first; at least, it seemed hours before
the full significance of the thing penetrated my dazed brain.
When I got up I seemed to walk, to crawl, with leaden weights
holding back my feet.

When I got to the corner I had to catch the post for support. I
knew somebody was saying, "Oh, how terrible!" over and over. It
was only afterward that I knew it had been myself. And then some
other voice was saying, "Don't be alarmed. Please don't be
frightened. I'm all right."

I dared to look over the parapet, finally, and instead of a
crushed and unspeakable body, there was Mr. Harbison, sitting
about eight feet below me, with his feet swinging into space and
a long red scratch from the corner of his eye across his cheek.
There was a sort of mansard there, with windows, and just enough
coping to keep him from rolling off.

"I thought you had fallen--all the way," I gasped, trying to keep
my lips from trembling. "I--oh, don't dangle your feet like
that!"

He did not seem at all glad of his escape. He sat there gloomily,
peering into the gulf beneath.

"If it wasn't so--er--messy and generally unpleasant," he replied
without looking up, "I would slide off and go the rest of the
way."

"You are childish," I said severely. "See if you can get through
the window behind you. If you can not, I'll come down and
unfasten it." But the window was open, and I had a chance to sit
down and gather up the scattered ends of my nerves. To my
surprise, however, when he came back he made no effort to renew
our conversation. He ignored me completely, and went to work at
once to repair the damage to his wires, with his back to me.

"I think you are very rude," I said at last. "You fell over there
and I thought you were killed. The nervous shock I experienced is
just as bad as if you had gone--all the way."

He put down the hammer and came over to me without speaking.
Then, when he was quite close, he said:

"I am very sorry if I startled you. I did not flatter myself that
you would be profoundly affected, in any event."

"Oh, as to that," I said lightly, "it makes me ill for days if my
car runs over a dog." He looked at me in silence. "You are not
going to get up on that parapet again?"

"Mrs. Wilson," he said, without paying the slightest attention to
my question, "will you tell me what I have done?"

"Done?"

"Or have not done? I have racked my brains--stayed awake all of
last night. At first I hoped it was impersonal, that, womanlike
you were merely venting general disfavor on one particular
individual. But--your hostility is to me, personally."

I raised my eyebrows, coldly interrogative.

"Perhaps," he went on calmly--"perhaps I was a fool here on the
roof--the night before last. If I said anything that I should
not, I ask your pardon. If it is not that, I think you ought to
ask mine!"

I was angry enough then.

"There can be only one opinion about your conduct," I retorted
warmly. "It was worse than brutal. It--it was unspeakable. I have
no words for it--except that I loathe it--and you."

He was very grim by this time. "I have heard you say something
like that before--only I was not the unfortunate in that case."

"Oh!" I was choking.

"Under different circumstances I should be the last person to
recall anything so--personal. But the circumstances are unusual."
He took an angry step toward me. "Will you tell me what I have
done? Or shall I go down and ask the others?"

"You wouldn't dare," I cried, "or I will tell them what you did!
How you waylaid me on those stairs there, and forced your
caresses, your kisses, on me! Oh, I could die with shame!"

The silence that followed was as unexpected as it was ominous. I
knew he was staring at me, and I was furious to find myself so
emotional, so much more the excited of the two. Finally, I looked
up.

"You can not deny it," I said, a sort of anti-climax.

"No." He was very quiet, very grim, quite composed. "No," he
repeated judicially. "I do not deny it."

He did not? Or he would not?  Which?



Chapter XIV. ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE

Dal had been acting strangely all day. Once, early in the
evening, when I had doubled no trump, he led me a club without
apology, and later on, during his dummy, I saw him writing our
names on the back of an envelope, and putting numbers after them.
At my earliest opportunity I went to Max.

"There is something the matter with Dal, Max," I volunteered.
"He has been acting strangely all day, and just now he was
making out a list--names and numbers."

"You're to blame for that, Kit," Max said seriously. "You put
washing soda instead of baking soda in those biscuits today, and
he thinks he is a steam laundry. Those are laundry lists he's
making out. He asked me a little while ago if I wanted a domestic
finish."

Yes, I had put washing soda in the biscuits. The book said soda,
and how is one to know which is meant?

"I do not think you are calculated for a domestic finish," I said
coldly as I turned away. "In any case I disclaim any such
responsibility. But--there is SOMETHING on Dal's mind."

Max came after me. "Don't be cross, Kit. You haven't said a nice
word to me today, and you go around bristling with your chin up
and two red spots on your cheeks--like whatever-her-name-was with
the snakes instead of hair. I don't know why I'm so crazy about
you; I always meant to love a girl with a nice disposition."

I left him then. Dal had gone into the reception room and closed
the doors. And because he had been acting so strangely, and
partly to escape from Max, whose eyes looked threatening, I
followed him. Just as I opened the door quietly and looked in,
Dallas switched off the lights, and I could hear him groping his
way across the room. Then somebody--not Dal--spoke from the
corner, cautiously.

"Is that you, Mr. Brown, sir?" It was Flannigan.

"Yes. Is everything here?"

"All but the powder, sir. Don't step too close. They're spread
all over the place."

"Have you taken the curtains down?"

"Yes, sir."

"Matches?"

"Here, sir."

"Light one, will you, Flannigan? I want to see the time."

The flare showed Dallas and Flannigan bent over the timepiece.
And it showed something else. The rug had been turned back from
the windows which opened on the street, and the curtains had been
removed. On the bare hardwood floor just beneath the windows was
an array of pans of various sizes, dish pans, cake tins, and a
metal foot tub. The pans were raised from the floor on bricks,
and seemed to be full of paper. All the chairs and tables were
pushed back against the wall, and the bric-a-brac was stacked on
the mantel.

"Half an hour yet," Dal said, closing his watch. "Plenty of time,
and remember the signal, four short and two long."

"Four short and two long--all right, sir."

"And--Flannigan, here's something for you, on account."

"Thank you, sir."

Dal turned to go out, tripped over the rug, said something, and
passed me without an idea of my presence. A moment later
Flannigan went out, and I was left, huddled against the wall, and
alone.

It was puzzling enough. "Four long and two short!" "All but the
powder!" Not that I believed for a moment what Max had said, and
anyhow Flannigan was the sanest person I ever saw in my life. But
it all seemed a part of the mystery that had been hanging over us
for several days. I felt my way across the room and knelt by the
pans. Yes, they were there, full of paper and mounted on bricks.
It had not been a delusion.

And then I straightened on my knees suddenly, for an automobile
passing under the windows had sounded four short honks and two
long ones. The signal was followed instantly by a crash. The foot
bath had fallen from its supports, and lay, quivering and
vibrating with horrid noises at my feet. The next moment Mr.
Harbison had thrown open the door and leaped into the room.

"Who's there?" he demanded. Against the light I could see him
reaching for his hip pocket, and the rest crowding up around him.

"It's only me," I quavered, "that is, I. The--the dish pan
upset."

"Dish pan!" Bella said from back in the crowd. "Kit, of course!"

Jim forced his way through then and turned on the lights. I have
no doubt I looked very strange, kneeling there on the bare floor,
with a row of pans mounted on bricks behind me, and the furniture
all piled on itself in a back corner.

"Kit! What in the world--!" Jim began, and stopped. He stared
from me to the pans, to the windows, to the bric-a-brac on the
mantel, and back to me.

I sat stonily silent. Why should I explain? Whenever I got into a
foolish position, and tried to explain, and tell how it happened,
and who was really to blame, they always brought it back to ME
somehow. So I sat there on the floor and let them stare. And
finally Lollie Mercer got her breath and said, "How perfectly
lovely; it's a charade!"

And Anne guessed "kitchen" at once. "Kit, you know, and the pans
and--all that," she said vaguely. At that they all took to
guessing! And I sat still, until Mr. Harbison saw the storm in my
eyes and came over to me.

"Have you hurt your ankle?" he said in an undertone. "Let me help
you up."

"I am not hurt," I said coldly, "and even if I were, it would be
unnecessary to trouble you."

"I can not help being troubled," he returned, just as evenly.
"'You see, it makes me ill for days if my car runs over a dog.'"

Luckily, at that moment Dal came in. He pushed his way through
the crowd without a word, shut off the lights, crashed through
the pans and slammed the shutters closed. Then he turned and
addressed the rest.

"Of all the lunatics--!" he began, only there was more to it than
that. "A fellow goes to all kinds of trouble to put an end to
this miserable situation, and the entire household turns out and
sets to work to frustrate the whole scheme. You LIKE to stay
here, don't you, like chickens in a coop? Where's Flannigan?"

Nobody understood Dal's wrath then, but it seems he meant to
arrange the plot himself, and when it was ripe, and the hour
nearly come, he intended to wager that he could break the
quarantine, and to take any odds he could get that he would free
the entire party in half an hour. As for the plan itself, it was
idiotically simple; we were perfectly delighted when we heard it.
It was so simple and yet so comprehensive. We didn't see how it
COULD fail. Both the Mercer girls kissed Dal on the strength of
it, and Anne was furious. Jim was not so much pleased, for some
reason or other, and Mr. Harbison looked thoughtful rather than
merry. Aunt Selina had gone to bed.

The idea, of course, was to start an embryo fire just inside the
windows, in the pans, to feed it with the orange-fire powder that
is used on the Fourth of July, and when we had thrown open the
windows and yelled "fire" and all the guards and reporters had
rushed to the front of the house, to escape quietly by a rear
door from the basement kitchen, get into machines Dal had in
waiting, and lose ourselves as quickly as we could.

You can see how simple it was.

We were terribly excited, of course. Every one rushed madly for
motor coats and veils, and Dal shuffled the numbers so the people
going the same direction would have the same machine. We called
to each other as we dressed about Mamaroneck or Lakewood or
wherever we happened to have relatives. Everybody knew everybody
else, and his friends. The Mercer girls were going to cruise
until the trouble blew over, the Browns were going to Pinehurst,
and Jim was going to Africa to hunt, if he could get out of the
harbor.

Only the Harbison man seemed to have no plans; quite suddenly
with the world so near again, the world of country houses and
steam yachts and all the rest of it, he ceased to be one of us.
It was not his world at all. He stood back and watched the
kaleidoscope of our coats and veils, half-quizzically, but with
something in his face that I had not seen there before. If he had
not been so self-reliant and big, I would have said he was
lonely. Not that he was pathetic in any sense of the word. Of
course, he avoided me, which was natural and exactly what I
wished. Bella never was far from him and at the last she loaded
him with her jewel case and a muff and traveling bag and asked
him to her cousins' on Long Island. I felt sure he was going to
decline, when he glanced across at me.

"Do go," I said, very politely. "They are charming people." And
he accepted at once!

It was a transparent plot on Bella's part: Two elderly maiden
ladies, house miles from anywhere, long evenings in the music
room with an open fire and Bella at the harp playing the two
songs she knows.

When we were ready and gathered in the kitchen, in the darkness,
of course, Dal went up on the roof and signaled with a lantern to
the cars on the drive. Then he went downstairs, took a last look
at the drawing room, fired the papers, shook on the powder,
opened the windows and yelled "fire!"

Of course, huddled in the kitchen we had heard little or nothing.
But we plainly heard Dal on the first floor and Flannigan on the
second yelling "fire," and the patter of feet as the guards ran
to the front of the house. And at that instant we remembered Aunt
Selina!

That was the cause of the whole trouble. I don't know why they
turned on me; she wasn't my aunt. But by the time we had got her
out of bed, and had wrapped her in an eiderdown comfort, and
stuck slippers on her feet and a motor veil on her head, the
glare at the front of the house was beginning to die away. She
didn't understand at all and we had no time to explain. I
remember that she wanted to go back and get her "plate," whatever
that may be, but Jim took her by the arm and hurried her along,
and the rest, who had waited, and were in awful tempers, stood
aside and let them out first.

The door to the area steps was open, and by the street lights we
could see a fence and a gate, which opened on a side street. Jim
and Aunt Selina ran straight for the gate; the wind blowing Aunt
Selina's comfort like a sail. Then, with our feet, so to speak,
on the first rungs of the ladder of Liberty, it slipped. A
half-dozen guards and reporters came around the house and drove
us back like sheep into a slaughter pen. It was the most
humiliating moment of my life.

Dal had been for fighting a way through, and just for a minute I
think I went Berserk myself. But Max spied one of the reporters
setting up a flash light as we stood, undecided, at the top of
the steps, and after that there was nothing to do but retreat. We
backed down slowly, to show them we were not afraid. And when we
were all in the kitchen again, and had turned on the lights and
Bella was crying with her head against Mr. Harbison's arm, Dal
said cheerfully,

"Well, it has done some good, anyhow. We have lost Aunt Selina."

And we all shook hands on it, although we were sorry about Jim.
And Dal said we would have some champagne and drink to Aunt
Selina's comfort, and we could have her teeth fumigated and send
them to her. Somebody said "Poor old Jim," and at that Bella
looked up.

She stared around the group, and then she went quite pale.

"Jim!" she gasped. "Do you mean--that Jim is--out there too?"

"Jim and Aunt Selina!" I said as calmly as I could for joy. You
can see how it simplified the situation for me. "By this time
they are a mile away, and going!"

Everybody shook hands again except Bella. She had dropped into a
chair, and sat biting her lip and breathing hard, and she would
not join in any of the hilarity at getting rid of Aunt Selina.
Finally she got up and knocked over her chair.

"You are a lot of cowards," she stormed. "You deserted them out
there, left them. Heaven knows where they are--a defenseless old
woman, and--and a man who did not even have an overcoat. And it
is snowing!"

"Never mind," Dal said reassuringly. "He can borrow Aunt Selina's
comfort. Make the old lady discard from weakness. Anyhow, Bella,
if I know anything of human nature, the old lady will make it hot
enough for him. Poor old Jim!"

Then they shook hands again, and with that there came a terrible
banging at the door, which we had locked.

"Open the door!" some one commanded. It was one of the guards.

"Open it yourself!" Dallas called, moving a kitchen table to
reenforce the lock.

"Open that door or we will break it in!"

Dallas put his hands in his pockets, seated himself on the table,
and whistled cheerfully. We could hear them conferring outside,
and they made another appeal which was refused. Suddenly Bella
came over and confronted Dallas.

"They have brought them back!" she said dramatically. "They are
out there now; I distinctly heard Jim's voice. Open that door,
Dallas!"

"Oh, DON'T let them in!" I wailed. It was quite involuntary, but
the disappointment was too awful. "Dallas, DON'T open that door!"

Dal swung his feet and smiled from Bella to me.

"Think what a solution it is to all our difficulties," he said
easily. "Without Aunt Selina I could be happy here indefinitely."

There was more knocking, and somebody--Max, I think--said to let
them in, that it was a fool thing anyhow, and that he wanted to
go to bed and forget it; his feet were cold. And just then there
was a crash, and part of one of the windows fell in. The next
blow from outside brought the rest of the glass, and--somebody
was coming through, feet first. It was Jim.

He did not speak to any of us, but turned and helped in a bundle
of red and yellow silk comfort that proved to be Aunt Selina,
also feet first. I had a glimpse of a half-dozen heads outside,
guards and reporters. Then Jim jerked the shade down and
unswathed Aunt Selina's legs so that she could walk, offered his
arm, and stalked past us and upstairs, without a word!

None of us spoke. We turned out the lights and went upstairs and
took off our wraps and went to bed. It had been almost a fiasco.



Chapter XV. SUSPICION AND DISCORD

Every one was nasty the next morning. Aunt Selina declared that
her feet were frost-bitten and kept Bella rubbing them with ice
water all morning. And Jim was impossible. He refused to speak to
any of us and he watched Bella furtively, as if he suspected her
of trying to get him out of the house.

When luncheon time came around and he had shown no indication of
going to the telephone and ordering it, we had a conclave, and
Max was chosen to remind him of the hour. Jim was shut in the
studio, and we waited together in the hall while Max went up.
When he came down he was somewhat ruffled.

"He wouldn't open the door," he reported, "and when I told him it
was meal time, he said he wasn't hungry, and he didn't give a
whoop about the rest of us. He had asked us here to dinner; he
hadn't proposed to adopt us."

So we finally ordered luncheon ourselves, and about two o'clock
Jim came downstairs sheepishly, and ate what was left. Anne
declared that Bella had been scolding him in the upper hall, but
I doubted it. She was never seen to speak to him unnecessarily.

The excitement of the escape over, Mr. Harbison and I remained on
terms of armed neutrality. And Max still hunted for Anne's
pearls, using them, the men declared, as a good excuse to avoid
tinkering with the furnace or repairing the dumb waiter, which
took the queerest notions, and stopped once, half-way up from the
kitchen, for an hour, with the dinner on it. Anyhow, Max was
searching the house systematically, armed with a copy of Poe's
Purloined Letter and Gaboriau's Monsieur LeCoq. He went through
the seats of the chairs with hatpins, tore up the beds, and
lifted rugs, until the house was in a state of confusion. And the
next day, the fourth, he found something--not much, but it was
curious. He had been in the studio, poking around behind the
dusty pictures, with Jimmy expostulating every time he moved
anything and the rest standing around watching him.

Max was strutting.

"We get it by elimination," he said importantly. "The pearls
being nowhere else in the house, they must be here in the studio.
Three parts of the studio having yielded nothing, they must be in
the fourth. Ladies and gentlemen, let me have your attention for
one moment. I tap this canvas with my wand--there is nothing up
my sleeve. Then I prepare to move the canvas--so. And I put my
hand in the pocket of this disreputable velvet coat, so. Behold!"

Then he gave a low exclamation and looked at something he held in
his hand. Every one stepped forward, and on his palm was the
small diamond clasp from Anne's collar!

Jimmy was apoplectic. He tried to smile, but no one else did.

"Well, I'll be flabbergasted!" he said. "I say, you people, you
don't think for a minute that I put that thing there? Why, I
haven't worn that coat for a month. It's--it's a trick of yours,
Max."

But Max shook his head; he looked stupefied, and stood gazing
from the clasp to the pocket of the old painting coat. Betty
dropped on a folding stool, that promptly collapsed with her and
created a welcome diversion, while Anne pounced on the clasp
greedily, with a little cry.

"We will find it all now," she said excitedly. "Did you look in
the other pockets, Max?"

Then, for the first time, I was conscious of an air of constraint
among the men. Dallas was whistling softly, and Mr. Harbison,
having rescued Betty, was standing silent and aloof, watching the
scene with non-committal eyes. It was Max who spoke first, after
a hurried inventory of the other pockets.

"Nothing else," he said constrainedly. "I'll move the rest of the
canvases."

But Jim interfered, to every one's surprise.

"I wouldn't, if I were you, Max. There's nothing back there. I
had 'em out yesterday." He was quite pale.

"Nonsense!" Max said gruffly. "If it's a practical joke, Jim, why
don't you fess up? Anne has worried enough."

"The pearls are not there, I tell you," Jim began. Although the
studio was cold, there were little fine beads of moisture on his
face. "I must ask you not to move those pictures." And then Aunt
Selina came to the rescue; she stalked over and stood with her
back against the stack of canvases.

"As far as I can understand this," she declaimed, "you gentlemen
are trying to intimate that James knows something of that young
woman's jewelry, because you found part of it in his pocket.
Certainly you will not move the pictures. How do you know that
the young gentleman who said he found it there didn't have it up
his sleeve?"

She looked around triumphantly, and Max glowered. Dallas soothed
her, however.

"Exactly so," he said. "How do we know that Max didn't have the
clasp up his sleeve? My dear lady, neither my wife nor I care
anything for the pearls, as compared with the priceless pearl of
peace. I suggest tea on the roof; those in favor--? My arm, Miss
Caruthers."

It was all well enough for Jim to say later that he didn't dare
to have the canvases moved, for he had stuck behind them all
sorts of chorus girl photographs and life-class crayons that were
not for Aunt Selina's eye, besides four empty siphons, two full
ones, and three bottles of whisky. Not a soul believed him; there
was a a new element of suspicion and discord in the house.

Every one went up on the roof and left him to his mystery. Anne
drank her tea in a preoccupied silence, with half-closed eyes, an
attitude that boded ill to somebody. The rest were feverishly
gay, and Aunt Selina, with a pair of arctics on her feet and a
hot-water bottle at her back, sat in the middle of the tent and
told me familiar anecdotes of Jimmy's early youth (had he known,
he would have slain her).  Betty and Mr. Harbison had found a
medicine ball, and were running around like a pair of children.
It was quite certain that neither his escape from death nor my
accusation weighed heavily on him.

While Aunt Selina was busy with the time Jim had swallowed an
open safety pin, and just as the pin had been coughed up, or
taken out of his nose--I forget which--Jim himself appeared and
sulkily demanded the privacy of the roof for his training hour.

Yes, he was training. Flannigan claimed to know the system that
had reduced the president to what he is, and he and Jim had a
seance every day which left Jim feeling himself for bruises all
evening. He claimed to be losing flesh; he said he could actually
feel it going, and he and Flannigan had spent an entire afternoon
in the cellar three days before with a potato barrel, a
cane-seated chair and a lamp.

The whole thing had been shrouded in mystery. They sandpapered
the inside of the barrel and took out all the nails, and when
they had finished they carried it to the roof and put it in a
corner behind the tent. Everybody was curious, but Flannigan
refused any information about it, and merely said it was part of
his system. Dal said that if HE had anything like that in his
system he certainly would be glad to get rid of it.

At a quarter to six Jim appeared, still sullen from the events of
the afternoon and wearing a dressing gown and a pair of slippers,
Flannigan following him with a sponge, a bucket of water and an
armful of bath towels. Everybody protested at having to move, but
he was firm, and they all filed down the stairs. I was the last,
with Aunt Selina just ahead of me. At the top of the stairs, she
turned around suddenly to me.

"That policeman looks cruel," she said. "What's more, he's been
in a bad humor all day. More than likely he'll put James flat on
the roof and tramp on him, under pretense of training him. All
policemen are inhuman."

"He only rolls him over a barrel or something like that," I
protested.

"James had a bump like an egg over his ear last night," Aunt
Selina insisted, glaring at Flannigan's unconscious back. "I
don't think it's safe to leave him. It is my time to relax for
thirty minutes, or I would watch him. You will have to stay," she
said, fixing me with her imperious eyes.

So I stayed. Jim didn't want me, and Flannigan muttered mutiny.
But it was easier to obey Aunt Selina than to clash with her, and
anyhow I wanted to see the barrel in use.

I never saw any one train before. It is not a joyful spectacle.
First, Flannigan made Jim run, around and around the roof. He
said it stirred up his food and brought it in contact with his
liver, to be digested.

Flannigan, from meekness and submission, of a sort, in the
kitchen, became an autocrat on the roof.

"Once more," he would say. "Pick up your feet, sir! Pick up your
feet!"

And Jim would stagger doggedly past me, where I sat on the
parapet, his poor cheeks shaking and the tail of his bath robe
wrapping itself around his legs. Yes, he ran in the bath robe in
deference to me. It seems there isn't much to a running suit.

"Head up," Flannigan would say. "Lift your knees, sir. Didn't you
ever see a horse with string halt?"

He let him stop finally, and gave him a moment to get his breath.
Then he set him to turning somersaults. They spread the cushions
from the couch in the tent on the roof, and Jim would poke his
head down and say a prayer, and then curve over as gracefully as
a sausage and come up gasping, as if he had been pushed off a
boat.

"Five pounds a day; not less, sir," Flannigan said encouragingly.
"You'll drop it in chunks."

Jim looked at the tin as if he expected to see the chunks lying
at his feet.

"Yes," he said, wiping the back of his neck. "If we're in here
thirty days that will be one hundred and fifty pounds. Don't
forget to stop in time, Flannigan. I don't want to melt away like
a candle."

He was cheered, however, by the promise of reduction.

"What do you think of that, Kit?" he called to me. "Your uncle is
going to look as angular as a problem in geometry. I'll--I'll be
the original reductio ad absurdum. Do you want me to stand on my
head, Flannigan? Wouldn't that reduce something?"

"Your brains, sir," Flannigan retorted gravely, and presented a
pair of boxing gloves. Jim visibly quailed, but he put them on.

"Do you know, Flannigan," he remarked, as he fastened them, "I'm
thinking of wearing these all the time. They hide my character."

Flannigan looked puzzled, but he did not ask an explanation. He
demanded that Jim shed the bath robe, which he finally did, on my
promise to watch the sunset. Then for fully a minute there was no
sound save of feet running rapidly around the roof, and an
occasional soft thud. Each thud was accompanied by a grunt or two
from Jim. Flannigan was grimly silent. Once there was a smart
rap, an oath from the policeman, and a mirthless chuckle from
Jim. The chuckle ended in a crash, however, and I turned. Jim was
lying on his back on the roof, and Flannigan was wiping his ear
with a towel. Jim sat up and ran his hand down his ribs.

"They're all here," he observed after a minute. "I thought I
missed one."

"The only way to take a man's weight down," Flannigan said dryly.

Jim got up dizzily.

"Down on the roof, I suppose you mean," he said.

The next proceedings were mysterious. Flannigan rolled the barrel
into the tent, and carried in a small glass lamp. With the
material at hand he seemed to be effecting a combination, no new
one, to judge by his facility. Then he called Jim.

At the door of the tent Jim turned to me, his bathrobe toga
fashion around his shoulders.

"This is a very essential part of the treatment," he said
solemnly. "The exercise, according to Flannigan, loosens up the
adipose tissue. The next step is to boil it out. I hope, unless
your instructions compel you, that you will at least have the
decency to stay out of the tent."

"I am going at once," I said, outraged. "I'm not here because I'm
mad about it, and you know it. And don't pose with that bath
robe. If you think you're a character out of Roman history, look
at your legs."

"I didn't mean to offend you," he said sulkily. "Only I'm tired
of having you choked down my throat every time I open my mouth,
Kit. And don't go just yet. Flannigan is going for my clothes as
soon as he lights the--the lamp, and--somebody ought to watch the
stairs."

That was all there was to it. I said I would guard the steps, and
Flannigan, having ignited the combination, whatever it was, went
downstairs. How was I to know that Bella would come up when she
did? Was it my fault that the lamp got too high, and that
Flannigan couldn't hear Jim calling? Or that just as Bella
reached the top of the steps Jim should come to the door of the
tent, wearing the barrel part of his hot-air cabinet, and yelling
for a doctor?

Bella came to a dead stop on the upper step, with her mouth open.
She looked at Jim, at the inadequate barrel, and from them she
looked at me. Then she began to laugh, one of her hysterical
giggles, and she turned and went down again. As Jim and I stared
at each other we could hear her gurgling down the hall below.

She had violent hysterics for an hour, with Anne rubbing her
forehead and Aunt Selina burning a feather out of the feather
duster under her nose. Only Jim and I understood, and we did not
tell. Luckily, the next thing that occurred drove Bella and her
nerves from everybody's mind.

At seven o'clock, when Bella had dropped asleep and everybody
else was dressed for dinner, Aunt Selina discovered that the
house was cold, and ordered Dal to the furnace.

It was Dal's day at the furnace; Flannigan had been relieved of
that part of the work after twice setting fire to a chimney.

In five minutes Dal came back and spoke a few words to Max, who
followed him to the basement, and in ten minutes more Flannigan
puffed up the steps and called Mr. Harbison.

I am not curious, but I knew that something had happened. While
Aunt Selina was talking suffrage to Anne--who said she had always
been tremendously interested in the subject, and if women got the
suffrage would they be allowed to vote?--I slipped back to the
dining room.

The table was laid for dinner, but Flannigan was not in sight. I
could hear voices from somewhere, faint voices that talked
rapidly, and after a while I located the sounds under my feet.
The men were all in the basement, and something must have
happened. I flew back to the basement stairs, to meet Mr.
Harbison at the foot. He was grimy and dusty, with streaks of
coal dust over his face, and he had been examining his revolver.
I was just in time to see him slip it into his pocket.

"What is the matter?" I demanded. "Is any one hurt?"

"No one," he said coolly. "We've been cleaning out the furnace."

"With a revolver! How interesting--and unusual!" I said dryly,
and slipped past him as he barred the way. He was not pleased; I
heard him mutter something and come rapidly after me, but I had
the voices as a guide, and I was not going to be turned back like
a child. The men had gathered around a low stone arch in the
furnace room, and were looking down a short flight of steps, into
a sort of vault, evidently under the pavement. A faint light came
from a small grating above, and there was a close, musty smell in
the air.

"I tell you it must have been last night," Dallas was saying.
"Wilson and I were here before we went to bed, and I'll swear
that hole was not there then."

"It was not there this morning, sir," Flannigan insisted. "It has
been made during the day."

"And it could not have been done this afternoon," Mr. Harbison
said quietly. "I was fussing with the telephone wire down here. I
would have heard the noise."

Something in his voice made me look at him, and certainly his
expression was unusual. He was watching us all intently while
Dallas pointed out to me the cause of the excitement. From the
main floor of the furnace room, a flight of stone steps
surmounted by an arch led into the coal cellar, beneath the
street. The coal cellar was of brick, with a cement floor, and in
the left wall there gaped an opening about three feet by three,
leading into a cavernous void, perfectly black--evidently a
similar vault belonging to the next house.

The whole place was ghostly, full of shadows, shivery with
possibilities. It was Mr. Harbison finally who took Jim's candle
and crawled through the aperture. We waited in dead silence,
listening to his feet crunching over the coal beyond, watching
the faint yellow light that came through the ragged opening in
the wall. Then he came back and called through to us.

"Place is locked, over here," he said. "Heavy oak door at the
head of the steps. Whoever made that opening has done a
prodigious amount of labor for nothing."

The weapon, a crowbar, lay on the ground beside the bricks, and
he picked it up and balanced it on his hand. Dallas' florid face
was almost comical in his bewilderment; as for Jimmy--he slammed
a piece of slag at the furnace and walked away. At the door he
turned around.

"Why don't you accuse me of it?" he asked bitterly. "Maybe you
could find a lump of coal in my pockets if you searched me."

He stalked up the stairs then and left us. Dallas and I went up
together, but we did not talk. There seemed to be nothing to say.
Not until I had closed and locked the door of my room did I
venture to look at something that I carried in the palm of my
hand. It was a watch, not running--a gentleman's flat gold watch,
and it had been hanging by its fob to a nail in the bricks beside
the aperture.

In the back of the watch were the initials, T.H.H. and the
picture of a girl, cut from a newspaper.

It was my picture.



Chapter XVI. I FACE FLANNIGAN

Dinner waited that night while everybody went to the coal cellar
and stared at the hole in the wall, and watched while Max took a
tracing of it and of some footprints in the coal dust on the
other side.

I did not go. I went into the library with the guilty watch in
the fold of my gown, and found Mr. Harbison there, staring
through the February gloom at the blank wall of the next house,
and quite unconscious of the reporter with a drawing pad just
below him in the area-way. I went over and closed the shutters
before his very eyes, but even then he did not move.

"Will you be good enough to turn around?" I demanded at last.

"Oh!" he said wheeling. "Are YOU here?"

There wasn't any reply to that, so I took the watch and placed it
on the library table between us. The effect was all that I had
hoped. He stared at it for an instant, then at me, and with his
hand outstretched for it, stopped.

"Where did you find it?" he asked. I couldn't understand his
expression. He looked embarrassed, but not at all afraid.

"I think you know, Mr. Harbison," I retorted.

"I wish I did. You opened it?"

"Yes."

We stood looking at each other across the table. It was his
glance that wavered.

"About the picture--of you," he said at last. "You see, down
there in South America, a fellow hasn't much to do in the
evenings, and a--a chum of mine and I--we were awfully down on
what we called the plutocrats, the--the leisure classes. And when
that picture of yours came in the paper, we had--we had an
argument. He said--" He stopped.

"What did he say?"

"Well, he said it was the picture of an empty-faced society
girl."

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

"I--I maintained there were possibilities in the face." He put
both hands on the table, and, bending forward, looked down at me.
"Well, I was a fool, I admit. I said your eyes were kind and
candid, in spite of that haughty mouth. You see, I said I was a
fool."

"I think you are exceedingly rude," I managed finally. "If you
want to know where I found your watch, it was down in the coal
cellar. And if you admit you are an idiot, I am not. I--I know
all about Bella's bracelet--and the board on the roof, and--oh,
if you would only leave--Anne's necklace--on the coal, or
somewhere--and get away--"

My voice got beyond me then, and I dropped into a chair and
covered my face. I could feel him staring at the back of my head.

"Well, I'll be--" something or other, he said finally, and then
he turned on his heel and went out. By the time I got my eyes dry
(yes, I was crying; I always do when I am angry) I heard Jim
coming downstairs, and I tucked the watch out of sight. Would
anyone have foreseen the trouble that watch would make!

Jim was sulky. He dropped into a chair and stretched out his
legs, looking gloomily at nothing. Then he got up and ambled into
his den, closing the door behind him without having spoken a
word. It was more than human nature could stand.

When I went into the den he was stretched on the davenport with
his face buried in the cushions. He looked absolutely wilted, and
every line of him was drooping.

"Go on out, Kit," he said, in a smothered voice. "Be a good girl
and don't follow me around."

"You are shameless!" I gasped. "Follow you! When you are hung
around my neck like a--like a--" Millstone was what I wanted to
say, but I couldn't think of it.

He turned over and looked up from his cushions like an
ill-treated and suffering cherub.

"I'm done for, Kit," he groaned. "Bella went up to the studio
after we left, and investigated that corner."

"What did she find? The necklace?" I asked eagerly. He was too
wretched to notice this.

"No, that picture of you that I did last winter. She is
crazy--she says she is going upstairs and sit in Takahiro's room
and take smallpox and die."

"Fiddlesticks!" I said rudely, and somebody hammered on the door
and opened it.

"Pardon me for disturbing you," Bella said, in her best
dear-me-I'm-glad-I-knocked manner. "But--Flannigan says the
dinner has not come."

"Good Lord!" Jim exclaimed. "I forgot to order the confounded
dinner!"

It was eight o'clock by that time, and as it took an hour at
least after telephoning the order, everybody looked blank when
they heard. The entire family, except Mr. Harbison, who had not
appeared again, escorted Jim to the telephone and hung around
hungrily, suggesting new dishes every minute. And then--he
couldn't raise Central. It was fifteen minutes before we gave up,
and stood staring at one another despairingly.

"Call out of a window, and get one of those infernal reporters to
do something useful for once," Max suggested. But he was
indignantly hushed. We would have starved first. Jim was peering
into the transmitter and knocking the receiver against his hand,
like a watch that had stopped. But nothing happened. Flannigan
reported a box of breakfast food, two lemons, and a pineapple
cheese, a combination that didn't seem to lend itself to
anything.

We went back to the dining room from sheer force of habit and sat
around the table and looked at the lemonade Flannigan had made.
Anne WOULD talk about the salad her last cook had concocted, and
Max told about a little town in Connecticut where the restaurant
keeper smokes a corn-cob pipe while he cooks the most luscious
fried clams in America. And Aunt Selina related that in her
family they had a recipe for chicken smothered in cream. And then
we sipped the weak lemonade and nibbled at the cheese.

"To change this gridiron martyrdom," Dallas said finally,
"where's Harbison? Still looking for his watch?"

"Watch!" Everybody said it in a different tone.

"Sure," he responded. "Says his watch was taken last night from
the studio. Better get him down to take a squint at the
telephone. Likely he can fix it."

Flannigan was beside me with the cheese. And at that moment I
felt Mr. Harbison's stolen watch slip out of my girdle, slide
greasily across my lap, and clatter to the floor. Flannigan
stooped, but luckily it had gone under the table. To have had it
picked up, to have had to explain how I got it, to see them try
to ignore my picture pasted in it--oh, it was impossible! I put
my foot over it.

"Drop something?" Dallas asked perfunctorily, rising. Flannigan
was still half kneeling.

"A fork," I said, as easily as I could, and the conversation went
on. But Flannigan knew, and I knew he knew. He watched my every
movement like a hawk after that, standing just behind my chair. I
dropped my useless napkin, to have it whirled up before it
reached the floor. I said to Betty that my shoe buckle was loose,
and actually got the watch in my hand, only to let it slip at the
critical moment. Then they all got up and went sadly back to the
library, and Flannigan and I faced each other.

Flannigan was not a handsome man at any time, though up to then
he had at least looked amiable. But now as I stood with my hand
on the back of my chair, his face grew suddenly menacing. The
silence was absolute. I was the guiltiest wretch alive, and
opposite me the law towered and glowered, and held the yellow
remnant of a pineapple cheese! And in the silence that wretched
watch lay and ticked and ticked and ticked. Then Flannigan
creaked over and closed the door into the hall, came back, picked
up the watch, and looked at it.

"You're unlucky, I'm thinkin'," he said finally. "You've got the
nerve all right, but you ain't cute enough."

"I don't know what you mean," I quavered. "Give me that watch to
return to Mr. Harbison."

"Not on your life," he retorted easily. "I give it back myself,
like I did the bracelet, and--like I'm going to give back the
necklace, if you'll act like a sensible little girl."

I could only choke.

"It's foolish, any way you look at it," he persisted. "Here you
are, lots of friends, folks that think you're all right. Why, I
reckon there isn't one of them that wouldn't lend you money if
you needed it so bad."

"Will you be still?" I said furiously. "Mr. Harbison left that
watch--with me--an hour ago. Get him, and he will tell you so
himself!"

"Of course he would," Flannigan conceded, looking at me with
grudging approval. "He wouldn't be what I think he is, if he
didn't lie up and down for you." There were voices in the hall.
Flannigan came closer. "An hour ago, you say. And he told me it
was gone this morning! It's a losing game, miss. I'll give you
twenty-four hours and then--the necklace, if you please, miss."



Chapter XVII. A CLASH AND A KISS

The clash that came that evening had been threatening for some
time. Take an immovable body, represented by Mr. Harbison and his
square jaw, and an irresistible force, Jimmy and his weight, and
there is bound to be trouble.

The real fault was Jim's. He had gone entirely mad again over
Bella, and thrown prudence to the winds. He mooned at her across
the dinner table, and waylaid her on the stairs or in the back
halls, just to hear her voice when she ordered him out of her
way. He telephoned for flowers and candy for her quite
shamelessly, and he got out a book of photographs that they had
taken on their wedding journey, and kept it on the library table.
The sole concession he made to our presumptive relationship was
to bring me the responsibility for everything that went wrong,
and his shirts for buttons.

The first I heard of the trouble was from Dal. He waylaid me in
the hall after dinner that night, and his face was serious.

"I'm afraid we can't keep it up very long, Kit," he said. "With
Jim trailing Bella all over the house, and the old lady keener
every day, it's bound to come out somehow. And that isn't all.
Jim and Harbison had a set-to today--about you."

"About me!" I repeated. "Oh, I dare say I have been falling short
again. What was Jim doing? Abusing me?"

Dal looked cautiously over his shoulder, but no one was near.

"It seems that the gentle Bella has been unusually beastly today
to Jim, and--I believe she's jealous of you, Kit. Jim followed
her up to the roof before dinner with a box of flowers, and she
tossed them over the parapet. She said, I believe, that she
didn't want his flowers; he could buy them for you, and be damned
to him, or some lady-like equivalent."

"Jim is a jellyfish," I said contemptuously. "What did he say?"

"He said he only cared for one woman, and that was Bella; that he
never had really cared for you and never would, and that divorce
courts were not unmitigated evils if they showed people the way
to real happiness. Which wouldn't amount to anything if Harbison
had not been in the tent, trying to sleep!"

Dal did not know all the particulars, but it seems that relations
between Jim and Mr. Harbison were rather strained. Bella had left
the roof and Jim and the Harbison man came face to face in the
door of the tent. According to Dal, little had been said, but
Jim, bound by his promise to me, could not explain, and could
only stammer something about being an old friend of Miss Knowles.
And Tom had replied shortly that it was none of his business, but
that there were some things friendship hardly justified, and
tried to pass Jim. Jim was instantly enraged; he blocked the door
to the roof and demanded to know what the other man meant. There
were two or three versions of the answer he got. The general
purport was that Mr. Harbison had no desire to explain further,
and that the situation was forced on him. But if he
insisted--when a man systematically ignored and neglected his
wife for some one else, there were communities where he would be
tarred and feathered.

"Meaning me?" Jim demanded, apoplectic.

"The remark was a general one," Mr. Harbison retorted, "but if
you wish to make a concrete application--!"

Dal had gone up just then, and found them glaring at each other,
Jim with his hands clenched at his sides, and Mr. Harbison with
his arms folded and very erect. Dal took Jim by the elbow and led
him downstairs, muttering, and the situation was saved for the
time. But Dal was not optimistic.

"You can do a bit yourself, Kit," he finished. "Look more
cheerful, flirt a little. You can do that without trying. Take
Max on for a day or so; it would be charity anyhow. But don't let
Tom Harbison take into his head that you are grieving over Jim's
neglect, or he's likely to toss him off the roof."

"I have no reason to think that Mr. Harbison cares one way or the
other about me," I said primly. "You don't think he's--he's in
love with me, do you, Dal?" I watched him out of the corner of my
eye, but he only looked amused.

"In love with you!" he repeated. "Why bless your wicked little
heart, no! He thinks you're a married woman! It's the principle
of the thing he's fighting for. If I had as much principle as he
has, I'd--I'd put it out at interest."

Max interrupted us just then, and asked if we knew where Mr.
Harbison was.

"Can't find him," he said. "I've got the telephone together and
have enough left over to make another. Where do you suppose
Harbison hides the tools? I'm working with a corkscrew and two
palette knives."

I heard nothing more of the trouble that night. Max went to Jim
about it, and Jim said angrily that only a fool would interfere
between a man and his wife--wives. Whereupon Max retorted that a
fool and his wives were soon parted, and left him. The two
principals were coldly civil to each other, and smaller issues
were lost as the famine grew more and more insistent. For famine
it was.

They worked the rest of the evening, but the telephone refused to
revive and every one was starving. Individually our pride was at
low ebb, but collectively it was still formidable. So we sat
around and Jim played Grieg with the soft stops on, and Aunt
Selina went to bed. The weather had changed, and it was sleeting,
but anything was better than the drawing room. I was in a mood to
battle with the elements or to cry--or both--so I slipped out,
while Dal was reciting "Give me three grains of corn, mother,"
threw somebody's overcoat over my shoulders, put on a man's soft
hat--Jim's I think--and went up to the roof.

It was dark in the third floor hall, and I had to feel my way to
the foot of the stairs. I went up quietly, and turned the knob of
the door to the roof. At first it would not open, and I could
hear the wind howling outside. Finally, however, I got the door
open a little and wormed my way through. It was not entirely dark
out there, in spite of the storm. A faint reflection of the
street lights made it possible to distinguish the outlines of the
boxwood plants, swaying in the wind, and the chimneys and the
tent. And then--a dark figure disentangled itself from the
nearest chimney and seemed to hurl itself at me. I remember
putting out my hands and trying to say something, but the figure
caught me roughly by the shoulders and knocked me back against
the door frame. From miles away a heavy voice was saying, "So
I've got you!" and then the roof gave from under me, and I was
floating out on the storm, and sleet was beating in my face, and
the wind was whispering over and over, "Open your eyes, for God's
sake!"

I did open them after a while, and finally I made out that I was
laying on the floor in the tent. The lights were on, and I had a
cold and damp feeling, and something wet was trickling down my
neck.

I seemed to be alone, but in a second somebody came into the
tent, and I saw it was Mr. Harbison, and that he had a double
handful of half-melted snow. He looked frantic and determined,
and only my sitting up quickly prevented my getting another snow
bath. My neck felt queer and stiff, and I was very dizzy. When he
saw that I was conscious he dropped the snow and stood looking
down at me.

"Do you know," he said grimly, "that I very nearly choked you to
death a little while ago?"

"It wouldn't surprise me to be told so," I said. "Do I know too
much, or what is it, Mr. Harbison?" I felt terribly ill, but I
would not let him see it. "It is queer, isn't it--how we always
select the roof for our little--differences?" He seemed to relax
somewhat at my gibe.

"I didn't know it was you," he explained shortly. "I was waiting
for--some one, and in the hat you wore and the coat, I mistook
you. That's all. Can you stand?"

"No," I retorted. I could, but his summary manner displeased me.
The sequel, however, was rather amazing, for he stooped suddenly
and picked me up, and the next instant we were out in the storm
together. At the door he stooped and felt for the knob.

"Turn it," he commanded. "I can't reach it."

"I'll do nothing of the kind," I said shrewishly. "Let me down; I
can walk perfectly well."

He hesitated. Then he slid me slowly to my feet, but he did not
open the door at once. "Are you afraid to let me carry you down
those stairs, after--Tuesday night?" he asked, very low. "You
still think I did that?"

I had never been less sure of it than at that moment, but an imp
of perversity made me retort, "Yes."

He hardly seemed to hear me. He stood looking down at me as I
leaned against the door frame.

"Good Lord!" he groaned. "To think that I might have killed you!"
And then--he stooped and suddenly kissed me.

The next moment the door was open, and he was leading me down
into the house. At the foot of the staircase he paused, still
holding my hand, and faced me in the darkness.

"I'm not sorry," he said steadily. "I suppose I ought to be, but
I'm not. Only--I want you to know that I was not guilty--before.
I didn't  intend to now. I am--almost as much surprised as you
are."

I was quite unable to speak, but I wrenched my hand loose. He
stepped back to let me pass, and I went down the hall alone.



Chapter XVIII. IT'S ALL MY FAULT

I didn't go to the drawing room again. I went into my own room
and sat in the dark, and tried to be furiously angry, and only
succeeded in feeling queer and tingly. One thing was absolutely
certain: not the same man, but two different men had kissed me on
the stairs to the roof. It sounds rather horrid and
discriminating, but there was all the difference in the world.

But then--who had? And for whom had Mr. Harbison been waiting on
the roof? "Did you know that I nearly choked you to death a few
minutes ago?" Then he rather expected to finish somebody in that
way! Who? Jim, probably. It was strange, too, but suddenly I
realized that no matter how many suspicious things I mustered up
against him--and there were plenty--down in my heart I didn't
believe him guilty of anything, except this last and unforgivable
offense. Whoever was trying to leave the house had taken the
necklace, that seemed clear, unless Max was still foolishly
trying to break quarantine and create one of the sensations he so
dearly loves. This was a new idea, and some things upheld it, but
Max had been playing bridge when I was kissed on the stairs, and
there was still left that ridiculous incident of the comfort.

Bella came up after I had gone to bed, and turned on the light to
brush her hair.

"If I don't leave this mausoleum soon, I'll be carried out," she
declared. "You in bed, Lollie Mercer and Dal flirting, Anne
hysterical, and Jim making his will in the den! You will have to
take Aunt Selina tonight, Kit; I'm all in."

"If you'll put her to bed, I'll keep her there," I conceded,
after some parley.

"You're a dear." Bella came back from the door. "Look here, Kit,
you know Jim pretty well. Don't you think he looks ill? Thinner?"

"He's a wreck," I said soberly. "You have a lot to answer for,
Bella."

Bella went over to the cheval glass and looked in it. "I avoid
him all I can," she said, posing. "He's awfully funny; he's so
afraid I'll think he's serious about you. He can't realize that
for me he simply doesn't exist."

Well, I took Aunt Selina, and about two o'clock, while I was in
my first sleep, I woke to find her standing beside me, tugging at
my arm.

"There's somebody in the house," she whispered. "Thieves!"

"If they're in they'll not get out tonight," I said.

"I tell you, I saw a man skulking on the stairs," she insisted.

I got up ungraciously enough, and put on my dressing gown. Aunt
Selina, who had her hair in crimps, tied a veil over her head,
and together we went to the head of the stairs. Aunt Selina
leaned far over and peered down.

"He's in the library," she whispered. "I can see a light."

The lust of battle was in Aunt Selina's eye. She girded her robe
about her and began to descend the stairs cautiously. We went
through the hall and stopped at the library door. It was empty,
but from the den beyond came a hum of voices and the cheerful
glow of fire light. I realized the situation then, but it was too
late.

"Then why did you kiss her in the dining room?" Bella was saying
in her clear, high tones. "You did, didn't you?"

"It was only her hand," Jim, desperately explaining. "I've got to
pay her some attention, under the circumstances. And I give you
my word, I was thinking of you when I did it." THE WRETCH!

Aunt Selina drew her breath in suddenly.

"I am thinking of marrying Reggie Wolfe." This was Bella, of
course. "He wants me to. He's a dear boy."

"If you do, I will kill him."

"I am so very lonely," Bella sighed. We could hear the creak of
Jim's shirt bosom that showed that he had sighed also. Aunt
Selina had gripped me by the arm, and I could hear her breathing
hard beside me.

"It's only Jim," I whispered. "I--I don't want to hear any more."

But she clutched me firmly, and the next thing we heard was
another creak, louder and--

"Get up! Get up off your knees this instant!" Bella was saying
frantically. "Some one might come in."

"Don't send me away," Jim said in a smothered voice. "Every one
in the house is asleep, and I love you, dear."

Aunt Selina swallowed hard in the darkness.

"You have no right to make love to me," Bella. "It's--it's highly
improper, under the circumstances."

And then Jim: "You swallow a camel and stick at a gnat. Why did
you meet me here, if you didn't expect me to make love to you?
I've stood for a lot, Bella, but this foolishness will have to
end. Either you love me--or you don't. I'm desperate." He drew a
long, forlorn breath.

"Poor old Jim!" This was Bella. A pause. Then--"Let my hand
alone!" Also Bella.

"It is MY hand!"--Jim;'s most fatuous tone. "THERE is where you
wore my ring. There's the mark still." Sounds of Jim kissing
Bella's ring finger. "What did you do with it? Throw it away?"
More sounds.

Aunt Selina crossed the library swiftly, and again I followed.
Bella was sitting in a low chair by the fire, looking at the
logs, in the most exquisite negligee of pink chiffon and ribbon.
Jim was on his knees, staring at her adoringly, and holding both
her hands.

"I'll tell you a secret," Bella was saying, looking as coy as she
knew how--which was considerable. "I--I still wear it, on a chain
around my neck."

On a chain around her neck! Bella, who is decollete whenever it
is allowable, and more than is proper!

That was the limit of Aunt Selina's endurance. Still holding me,
she stepped through the doorway and into the firelight, a fearful
figure.

Jim saw her first. He went quite white and struggled to get up,
smiling a sickly smile. Bella, after her first surprise, was
superbly indifferent. She glanced at us, raised her eyebrows, and
then looked at the clock.

"More victims of insomnia!" she said. "Won't you come in? Jim,
pull up a chair by the fire for your aunt."

Aunt Selina opened her mouth twice, like a fish, before she could
speak. Then--

"James, I demand that that woman leave the house!" she said
hoarsely.

Bella leaned back and yawned.

"James, shall I go?" she asked amiably.

"Nonsense," Jim said, pulling himself together as best he could.
"Look here, Aunt Selina, you know she can't go out, and what's
more, I--don't want her to go."

"You--what?" Aunt Selina screeched, taking a step forward. "You
have the audacity to say such a thing to me!"

Bella leaned over and gave the fire log a punch.

"I was just saying that he shouldn't say such things to me,
either," she remarked pleasantly. "I'm afraid you'll take cold,
Miss Caruthers. Wouldn't you like a hot sherry flip?"

Aunt Selina gasped. Then she sat down heavily on one of the
carved teakwood chairs.

"He said he loved you; I heard him," she said weakly. "He--he
was going to put his arm around you!"

"Habit!" Jim put in, trying to smile. "You see, Aunt Selina,
it's--well, it's a habit I got into some time ago, and I--my arm
does it without my thinking about it."

"Habit!" Aunt Selina repeated, her voice thick with passion. Then
she turned to me. "Go to your room at once!" she said in her most
awful tone. "Go to your room and leave this--this shocking affair
to me."

But if she had reached her limit, so had I. If Jim chose to ruin
himself, it was not my fault. Any one with common sense would
have known at least to close the door before he went down on his
knees, no matter to whom. So when Aunt Selina turned on me and
pointed in the direction of the staircase, I did not move.

"I am perfectly wide awake," I said coldly. "I shall go to bed
when I am entirely ready, and not before. And as for Jim's
conduct, I do not know much about the conventions in such cases,
but if he wishes to embrace Miss Knowles, and she wants him to,
the situation is interesting, but hardly novel."

Aunt Selina rose slowly and drew the folds of her dressing gown
around her, away from the contamination of my touch.

"Do you know what you are saying?" she demanded hoarsely.

"I do." I was quite white and stiff from my knees up, but below I
was wavery. I glanced at Jim for moral support, but he was
looking idolatrously at Bella. As for her, quite suddenly she had
dropped her mask of indifference; her face was strained and
anxious, and there were deep circles I had not seen before, under
her eyes. And it was Bella who finally threw herself into the
breach--the family breach.

"It is all my fault, Miss Caruthers," she said, stepping between
Aunt Selina and myself. "I have been a blind and wicked woman,
and I have almost wrecked two lives."

Two! What of mine?

"You see," she struggled on, against the glint in Aunt Selina's
eyes. "I--I did not realize how much I cared, until it was too
late. I did so many things that were cruel and wrong--oh, Jim,
Jim!"

She turned and buried her head on his shoulder and cried; real
tears. I could hardly believe that it was Bella. And Jim put both
his arms around her and almost cried, too, and looked
nauseatingly happy with the eye he turned to Bella, and scared to
death out of the one he kept on Aunt Selina.

She turned on me, as of course I knew she would.

"That," she said, pointing at Jim and Bella, "that shameful
picture is due to your own indifference. I am not blind; I have
seen how you rejected all his loving advances." Bella drew away
from Jim, but he jerked her back. "If anything in the world would
reconcile me to divorce, it is this unbelievable situation.
James, are you shameless?"

But James was and didn't care who knew it. And as there was
nothing else to do, and no one else to do it, I stood very
straight against the door frame, and told the whole miserable
story from the very beginning. I told how Dal and Jim had
persuaded me, and how I had weakened and found it was too late,
and how Bella had come in that night, when she had no business to
come, and had sat down in the basement kitchen on my hands and
almost turned me into a raving maniac. As I went on I became
fluent; my sense of injury grew on me. I made it perfectly clear
that I hated them all, and that when people got divorces they
ought to know their own minds and stay divorced. And at that a
great light broke on Aunt Selina, who hadn't understood until
that minute.

In view of her principles, she might have been expected to turn
on Jim and Bella, and disinherit them, and cast them out,
figuratively, with the flaming sword of her tongue. BUT SHE DID
NOT! 

She turned on me in the most terrible way, and asked me how I
dared to come between husband and wife, because divorce or no
divorce, whom God hath joined together, and so on. And when Jim
picked up his courage in both hands and tried to interfere, she
pushed him back with one hand while she pointed the other at me
and called me a Jezebel.



Chapter XIX. THE HARBISON MAN

She talked for an hour, having got between me and the door, and
she scolded Jim and Bella thoroughly. But they did not hear it,
being occupied with each other, sitting side by side meekly on
the divan with Jim holding Bella's hand under a cushion. She said
they would have to be very good to make up for all the deception,
but it was perfectly clear that it was a relief to her to find
that I didn't belong to her permanently, and as I have said
before, she was crazy about Bella.

I sat back in a chair and grew comfortably drowsy in the monotony
of her voice. It was a name that brought me to myself with a
jerk.

"Mr. Harbison!" Aunt Selina was saying. "Then bring him down at
once, James. I want no more deception. There is no use cleaning a
house and leaving a dirty corner."

"It will not be necessary for me to stay and see it swept," I
said, mustering the rags she had left of my self-respect, and
trying to pass her. But she planted herself squarely before me.

"You can not stir up a dust like this, young woman, and leave
other people to sneeze in it," she said grimly. And I stayed.

I sat, very small, on a chair in a corner. I felt like Jezebel,
or whatever her name was, and now the Harbison man was coming,
and he was going to see me stripped of my pretensions to
domesticity and of a husband who neglected me. He was going to
see me branded a living lie, and he would hate me because I had
put him in a ridiculous position. He was just the sort to resent
being ridiculous.

Jim brought him down in a dressing gown and a state of
bewilderment. It was plain that the memory of the afternoon still
rankled, for he was very short with Jim and inclined to resent
the whole thing. The clock in the hall chimed half after three as
they came down the stairs, and I heard Mr. Harbison stumble over
something in the darkness and say that if it was a joke, he
wasn't in the humor for it. To which Jim retorted that it wasn't
anything resembling a joke, and for heaven's sake not to walk on
his feet; he couldn't get around the furniture any faster.

At the door of the den Mr. Harbison stopped, blinking in the
light. Then, when he saw us, he tried to back himself and his
dishabille out into the obscurity of the library. But Aunt Selina
was too quick for him.

"Come in," she called, "I want you, young man. It seems that
there are only two fools in the house, and you are one."

He straightened at that and looked bewildered, but he tried to
smile.

"I thought I was the only one," he said. "Is it possible that
there is another?"

"I am the other," she announced. I think she expected him to say
"Impossible," but, whatever he was, he was never banal.

"Is that so?" he asked politely, trying to be interested and to
understand at the same time. He had not seen me. He was gazing
fixedly at Bella, languishing on the divan and watching him with
lowered lids, and he had given Jim a side glance of contempt. But
now he saw me and he colored under his tan. His neck blushed
furiously, being much whiter than his face. He kept his eyes on
mine, and I knew that he was mutely asking forgiveness. But the
thought of what was coming paralyzed me. My eyes were glued to
his as they had been that first evening when he had called me
"Mrs. Wilson," and after an instant he looked away, and his face
was set and hard.

"It seems that we have all been playing a little comedy, Mr.
Harbison," Aunt Selina began, nasally sarcastic. "Or rather, you
and I have been the audience. The rest have played."

"I--I don't think I understand," he said slowly. "I have seen
very little comedy."

"It was not well planned," Aunt Selina retorted tartly. "The idea
was good, but the young person who was playing the part of Mrs.
Wilson--overacted."

"Oh, come, Aunt Selina," Jim protested, "Kit was coaxed and
cajoled into this thing. Give me fits if you like; I deserve all
I get. But let Kit alone--she did it for me."

Bella looked over at me and smiled nastily.

"I would stop doing things for Jim, Kit," she said. "It is SO
unprofitable."

But Mr. Harbison harked back to Aunt Selina's speech.

"PLAYING the part of Mrs. Wilson!" he repeated. "Do you mean--?"

"Exactly. Playing the part. She is not Mrs. Wilson. It seems that
that honor belonged at one time to Miss Knowles. I believe such
things are not unknown in New York, only why in the name of sense
does a man want to divorce a woman and then meet her at two
o'clock in the morning to kiss the place where his own wedding
ring used to rest?"

Jim fidgeted. Bella was having spasms of mirth to herself, but
the Harbison man did not smile. He stood for a moment looking at
the fire; then he thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his
dressing gown, and stalked over to me. He did not care that the
others were watching and listening.

"Is it true?" he demanded, staring down at me. "You are NOT Mrs.
Wilson? You are not married at all? All that about being
neglected--and loathing HIM, and all that on the roof--there was
no foundation of truth?"

I could only shake my head without looking up. There was no
defense to be made. Oh, I deserved the scorn in his voice.

"They--they persuaded you, I suppose, and it was to help
somebody? It was not a practical joke?"

"No," I rallied a little spirit at that. It had been anything but
a joke.

He drew a long breath.

"I think I understand," he said slowly, "but--you could have
saved me something. I must have given you all a great deal of
amusement."

"Oh, no," I protested. "I--I want to tell you--"

But he deliberately left me and went over to the door. There he
turned and looked down at Aunt Selina. He was a little white, but
there was no passion in his face.

"Thank you for telling me all this, Miss Caruthers," he said
easily. "Now that you and I know, I'm afraid the others will miss
their little diversion. Good night."

Oh, it was all right for Jim to laugh and say that he was only
huffed a little and would be over it by morning. I knew better.
There was something queer in his face as he went out. He did not
even glance in my direction. He had said very little, but he had
put me as effectually in the wrong as if he had not kissed
me--deliberately kissed me--that very evening, on the roof.

I did not go to sleep again. I lay wretchedly thinking things
over and trying to remember who Jezebel was, and toward morning I
distinctly heard the knob of the door turn. I mistrusted my ears,
however, and so I got up quietly and went over in the darkness.
There was no sound outside, but when I put my hand on the knob I
felt it move under my fingers. The counter pressure evidently
alarmed whoever it was, for the knob was released and nothing
more happened. But by this time anything so uncomplicated as the
fumbling of a knob at night had no power to disturb me. I went
back to bed.



Chapter XX. BREAKING OUT IN A NEW PLACE

Hunger roused everybody early the next morning, Friday. Leila
Mercer had discovered a box of bonbons that she had forgotten,
and we divided them around. Aunt Selina asked for the candied
fruit and got it--quite a third of the box. We gathered in the
lower hall and on the stairs and nibbled nauseating sweets while
Mr. Harbison examined the telephone.

He did not glance in my direction. Betty and Dal were helping
him, and he seemed very cheerful. Max sat with me on the stairs.
Mr. Harbison had just unscrewed the telephone box from the wall
and was squinting into it, when Bella came downstairs. It was her
first appearance, but as she was always late, nobody noticed.
When she stopped, just above us on the stairs, however, we looked
up, and she was holding to the rail and trembling perceptibly.

"Mr. Harbison, will you--can you come upstairs?" she asked. Her
voice was strained, almost reedy, and her lips were white.

Mr. Harbison stared up at her, with the telephone box in his
hands.

"Why--er--certainly," he said, "but, unless it's very important,
I'd like to fix this talking machine. We want to make a food
record."

"I'd like to break a food record," Max put in, but Bella created
a diversion by sitting down suddenly on the stair just above us,
and burying her face in her handkerchief.

"Jim is sick," she said, with a sob. "He--he doesn't want
anything to eat, and his head aches. He--said for me--to go away
and let him die!"

Dal dropped the hammer immediately, and Lollie Mercer sat
petrified, with a bonbon halfway to her mouth. For, of course, it
was unexpected, finding sentiment of any kind in Bella, and none
of them knew about the scene in the den in the small hours of the
morning.

"Sick!" Aunt Selina said, from a hall chair. "Sick! Where?"

"All over," Bella quavered. "His poor head is hot, and he's
thirsty, but he doesn't want anything but water."

"Great Scott!" Dal said suddenly. "Suppose he should--Bella, are
you telling us ALL his symptoms?"

Bella put down her handkerchief and got up. From her position on
the stairs she looked down on us with something of her old
haughty manner.

"If he is ill, you may blame yourselves, all of you," she said
cruelly. "You taunted him with being--fat, and laughed at him,
until he stopped eating the things he should eat. And he has been
exercising--on the roof, until he has worn himself out. And
now--he is ill. He--he has a rash."

Everybody jumped at that, and we instinctively moved away from
Bella. She was quite cold and scornful by that time.

"A rash!" Max exclaimed. "What sort of rash?"

"I did not see it," Bella said with dignity, and turning, she
went up the stairs.

There was a great deal of excitement, and nobody except Mr.
Harbison was willing to go near Jim. He went up at once with
Bella, while Max and Dal sat cravenly downstairs and wondered if
we would all take it, and Anne told about a man she knew who had
it, and was deaf and dumb and blind when he recovered.

Mr. Harbison came down after a while, and said that the rash was
there, right enough, and that Jim absolutely refused to be
quarantined; that he insisted that he always got a rash from
early strawberries and that if he DID have anything, since they
were so touchy he hoped they would all get it. If they locked him
in he would kick the door down.

We had a long conference in the hall, with Bella sitting red-eyed
and objecting to every suggestion we made. And finally we
arranged to shut Jim up in one of the servants' bedrooms with a
sheet wrung out of disinfectant hung over the door. Bella said
she would sit outside in the hall and read to him through the
closed door, so finally he gave a grudging consent. But he was in
an awful humor. Max and Dal put on rubber gloves and helped him
over, and they said afterward that the way he talked was fearful.
And there was a telephone in the maid's room, and he kept asking
for things every five minutes.

When the doctor came he said it was too early to tell positively,
and he ordered him liquid diet and said he would be back that
evening.

Which--the diet--takes me back to the famine. After they had
moved Jim, Mr. Harbison went back to the telephone, and found
everything as it should be. So he followed the telephone wire,
and the rest followed him. I did not; he had systematically
ignored me all morning, after having dared to kiss me the night
before. And any other man I know, after looking at me the way he
had looked a dozen times, would have been at least reasonably
glad to find me free and unmarried. But it was clear that he was
not; I wondered if he was the kind of man who always makes love
to the other man's wife and runs like mad when she is left a
widow, or gets a divorce.

And just when I had decided that I hated him, and that there was
one man I knew who would never make love to a woman whom he
thought married and then be very dignified and aloof when he
found she wasn't, I heard what was wrong with the telephone wire.

It had been cut! Cut through with a pair of silver manicure
scissors from the dressing table in Bella's room, where Aunt
Selina slept! The wire had been clipped where it came into the
house, just under a window, and the scissors still lay on the
sill.

It was mysterious enough, but no one was interested in the
mystery just then. We wanted food, and wanted it at once. Mr.
Harbison fixed the wire, and the first thing we did, of course,
was to order something to eat. Aunt Selina went to bed just after
luncheon with indigestion, to the relief of every one in the
house. She had been most unpleasant all morning.

When she found herself ill, however, she insisted on having
Bella, and that made trouble at once. We found Bella with her
cheek against the door into Jim's room, looking maudlin while he
shouted love messages to her from the other side. At first she
refused to stir, but after Anne and Max had tried and failed, the
rest of us went to her in a body and implored her. We said Aunt
Selina was in awful shape--which she was, as to temper--and that
she had thrown a mustard plaster at Anne, which was true.

So Bella went, grumbling, and Jim was a maniac. We had not
thought it would be so bad for Bella, but Aunt Selina fell asleep
soon after she took charge, holding Bella's hand, and slept for
three hours and never let go!

About two that afternoon the sun came out, and the rest of us
went to the roof. The sleet had melted and the air was fairly
warm. Two housemaids dusting rugs on the top of the next house
came over and stared at us, and somebody in an automobile down on
Riverside Drive stood up and waved at us. It was very cheerful
and hopelessly lonely.

I stayed on the roof after the others had gone, and for some time
I thought I was alone. After a while, I got a whiff of smoke, and
then I saw Mr. Harbison far over in the corner, one foot on the
parapet, moodily smoking a pipe. He was gazing out over the
river, and paying no attention to me. This was natural,
considering that I had hardly spoken to him all day.

I would not let him drive me away, so I sat still, and it grew
darker and colder. He filled his pipe now and then, but he never
looked in my direction. Finally, however, as it grew very dusk,
he knocked the ashes out and came toward me.

"I am going to make a request, Miss McNair," he said evenly.
"Please keep off the roof after sunset. There are--reasons." I
had risen and was preparing to go downstairs.

"Unless I know the reasons, I refuse to do anything of the kind,"
I retorted. He bowed.

"Then the door will be kept locked," he rejoined, and opened it
for me. He did not follow me, but stood watching until I was
down, and I heard him close the roof door firmly behind me.



Chapter XXI. A BAR OF SOAP

Late that evening Betty Mercer and Dallas were writing verses of
condolence to be signed by all of us and put under the door into
Jim's room when Bella came running down the stairs.

Dal was reading the first verse when she came. "Listen to this,
Bella," he said triumphantly:

    "There was a fat artist named Jas,
     Who cruelly called his friends nas.
     When, altho' shut up tight,
     He broke out over night
     With a rash that is maddening, he clas."

Then he caught sight of Bella's face as she stood in the doorway,
and stopped.

"Jim is delirious!" she announced tragically. "You shut him in
there all alone and now he's delirious. I'll never forgive any of
you."

"Delirious!" everybody exclaimed.

"He was sane enough when I took him his chicken broth," Mr.
Harbison said. "He was almost fluent."

"He is stark, staring crazy," Bella insisted hysterically. "I--I
locked the door carefully when I went down to my dinner, and when
I came up it--it was unlocked, and Jim was babbling on the bed,
with a sheet over his face. He--he says the house is haunted and
he wants all the men to come up and sit in the room with him."

"Not on your life," Max said. "I am young, and my career has only
begun. I don't intend to be cut off in the flower of my youth.
But I'll tell you what I will do; I'll take him a drink. I can
tie it to a pole or something."

But Mr. Harbison did not smile. He was thoughtful for a minute.
Then:

"I don't believe he is delirious," he said quietly, "and I
wouldn't be surprised if he has happened on something that--will
be of general interest. I think I will stay with him tonight."

After that, of course, none of the others would confess that he
was afraid, so with the South American leading, they all went
upstairs. The women of the party sat on the lower steps and
listened, but everything was quiet. Now and then we could hear
the sound of voices, and after a while there was a rapid slamming
of doors and the sound of some one running down to the second
floor. Then quiet again.

None of us felt talkative. Bella had followed the men up and had
been put out, and sat sniffling by herself in the den. Aunt
Selina was working over a jig-saw puzzle in the library, and
declaring that some of it must be lost. Anne and Leila Mercer
were embroidering, and Betty and I sat idle, our hands in our
laps. The whole atmosphere of the house was mysterious. Anne told
over again of the strange noises the night her necklace was
stolen. Betty asked me about the time when the comfort slipped
from under my fingers. And when, in the midst of the story, the
telephone rang, we all jumped and shrieked.

In an hour or so they sent for Flannigan, and he went upstairs.
He came down again soon, however, and returned with something
over his arm that looked like a rope. It seemed to be made of all
kinds of things tied together, trunk straps, clothesline, bed
sheets, and something that Flannigan pointed to with rage and
said he hadn't been able to keep his clothes on all day. He
refused to explain further, however, and trailed the nondescript
article up the stairs. We could only gaze after him and wonder
what it all meant.

The conclave lasted far into the night. The feminine contingent
went to bed, but not to sleep. Some time after midnight, Mr.
Harbison and Max went downstairs and I could hear them rattling
around testing windows and burglar alarms. But finally every one
settled down and the rest of the night was quiet.

Betty Mercer came into my room the next morning, Sunday, and said
Anne Brown wanted me. I went over at once, and Anne was sitting
up in bed, crying. Dal had slipped out of the room at daylight,
she said, and hadn't come back. He had thought she was asleep,
but she wasn't, and she knew he was dead, for nothing ever made
Dal get up on Sunday before noon.

There was no one moving in the house, and I hardly knew what to
do. It was Betty who said she would go up and rouse Mr. Harbison
and Max, who had taken Jim's place in the studio. She started out
bravely enough, but in a minute we heard her flying back. Anne
grew perfectly white.

"He's lying on the upper stairs!" Betty cried, and we all ran
out. It was quite true. Dal was lying on the stairs in a
bathrobe, with one of Jim's Indian war clubs in his hand. And he
was sound asleep.

He looked somewhat embarrassed when he roused and saw us standing
around. He said he was going to play a practical joke on somebody
and fell asleep in the middle of it. And Anne said he wasn't even
an intelligent liar, and went back to bed in a temper. But Betty
came in with me, and we sat and looked at each other and didn't
say much. The situation was beyond us.

The doctor let Jim out the next day, there having been nothing
the matter with him but a stomach rash. But Jim was changed; he
mooned around Bella, of course, as before, but he was abstracted
at times, and all that day--Sunday--he wandered off by himself,
and one would come across him unexpectedly in the basement or
along some of the unused back halls.

Aunt Selina held service that morning. Jim said that he always
had a prayer book, but that he couldn't find anything with so
many people in the house. So Aunt Selina read some religious
poetry out of the newspapers, and gave us a valuable talk on
Deception versus Honesty, with me as the illustration.

Almost everybody took a nap after luncheon. I stayed in the den
and read Ibsen, and felt very mournful. And after Hedda had shot
herself, I lay down on the divan and cried a little--over Hedda;
she was young and it was such a tragic ending--and then I fell
asleep.

When I wakened Mr. Harbison was standing by the table, and he
held my book in his hands. In view of the armed neutrality
between us, I expected to see him bow to me curtly, turn on his
heel and leave the room. Indeed, considering his state of mind
the night before, I should hardly have been surprised if he had
thrown Hedda at my head. (This is not a pun. I detest them.)  But
instead, when he heard me move he glanced over at me and even
smiled a little.

"She wasn't worth it," he said, indicating the book.

"Worth what?"

"Your tears. You were crying over it, weren't you?"

"She was very unhappy," I asserted indifferently. "She was
married and she loved some one else."

"Do you really think she did?" he asked. "And even so, was that a
reason?"

"The other man cared for her; he may not have been able to help
it."

"But he knew that she was married," he said virtuously, and then
he caught my eye and he saw the analogy instantly, for he colored
hotly and put down the book.

"Most men argue that way," I said. "They argue by the book,
and--they do as they like."

He picked up a Japanese ivory paper weight from the table, and
stood balancing it across his finger.

"You are perfectly right," he said at last. "I deserve it all. My
grievance is at myself. Your--your beauty, and the fact that I
thought you were unhappy, put me--beside myself. It is not an
excuse; it is a weak explanation. I will not forget myself
again."

He was as abject as any one could have wished. It was my minute
of triumph, but I can not pretend that I was happy. Evidently it
had been only a passing impulse. If he had really cared, now that
he knew I was free, he would have forgotten himself again at
once. Then a new explanation occurred to me. Suppose it had been
Bella all the time, and the real shock had been to find that she
had been married!

"The fault of the situation was really mine," I said
magnanimously; "I quite blame myself. Only, you must believe one
thing. You never furnished us any amusement." I looked at him
sidewise. "The discovery that Bella and Jim were once married
must have been a great shock."

"It was a surprise," he replied evenly. His voice and his eyes
were inscrutable. He returned my glance steadily. It was
infuriating to have gone half-way to meet him, as I had, and then
to find him intrenched in his self-sufficiency again. I got up.

"It is unfortunate that our acquaintance has begun so
unfavorably," I remarked, preparing to pass him. "Under other
circumstances we might have been friends."

"There is only one solace," he said. "When we do not have
friends, we can not lose them."

He opened the door to let me pass out, and as our eyes met, all
the coldness died out of his. He held out his hand, but I was
hurt. I refused to see it.

"Kit!" he said unsteadily. "I--I'm an obstinate, pig-headed
brute. I am sorry. Can't we be friends, after all?"

"'When we do not have friends we can not lose them,'" I replied
with cool malice. And the next instant the door closed behind me.

It was that night that the really serious event of the quarantine
occurred.

We were gathered in the library, and everybody was deadly dull.
Aunt Selina said she had been reared to a strict observance of
the Sabbath, and she refused to go to bed early. The cards and
card tables were put away and every one sat around and quarreled
and was generally nasty, except Bella and Jim, who had gone into
the den just after dinner and firmly closed the door.

I think it was just after Max proposed to me. Yes, he proposed to
me again that night. He said that Jim's illness had decided him;
that any of us might take sick and die, shut in that contaminated
atmosphere, and that if he did he wanted it all settled. And
whether I took him or not he wanted me to remember him kindly if
anything happened. I really hated to refuse him--he was in such
deadly earnest. But it was quite unnecessary for him to have
blamed his refusal, as he did, on Mr. Harbison. I am sure I had
refused him plenty of times before I had ever heard of the man.
Yes, it was just after he proposed to me that Flannigan came to
the door and called Mr. Harbison out into the hall.

Flannigan--like most of the people in the house--always went to
Mr. Harbison when there was anything to be done. He openly adored
him, and--what was more--he did what Mr. Harbison ordered without
a word, while the rest of us had to get down on our knees and
beg.

Mr. Harbison went out, muttering something about a storm coming
up, and seeing that the tent was secure. Betty Mercer went with
him. She had been at his heels all evening, and called him "Tom"
on every possible occasion. Indeed, she made no secret of it; she
said that she was mad about him, and that she would love to live
in South America, and have an Indian squaw for a lady's maid, and
sit out on the veranda in the evenings and watch the Southern
Cross shooting across the sky, and eat tropical food from the
quaint Indian pottery. She was not even daunted when Dal told her
the Southern Cross did not shoot, and that the food was probably
canned corn on tin dishes.

So Betty went with him. She wore a pale yellow dinner gown, with
just a sophisticated touch of black here and there, and cut
modestly square in the neck. Her shoulders are scrawny. And after
they were gone--not her shoulders; Mr. Harbison and she--Aunt
Selina announced that the next day was Monday, that she had only
a week's supply of clothing with her, and that no policeman who
ever swung a mace should wash her undergarments for her.

She paused a moment, but nobody offered to do it. Anne was
reading De Maupassant under cover of a table, and the rest
pretended not to hear. After a pause, Aunt Selina got up heavily
and went upstairs, coming down soon after with a bundle covered
with a green shawl, and with a white balbriggan stocking trailing
from an opening in it. She paused at the library door, surveyed
the inmates, caught my unlucky eye and beckoned to me with a
relentless forefinger.

"We can put them to soak tonight," she confided to me, "and
tomorrow they will be quite simple to do. There is no lace to
speak of"--Dal raised his eyebrows--"and very little flouncing."

Aunt Selina and I went to the laundry. It never occurred to any
one that Bella should have gone; she had stepped into all my
privileges--such as they were--and assumed none of my
obligations. Aunt Selina and I went to the laundry.

It is strange what big things develop from little ones. In this
case it was a bar of soap. And if Flannigan had used as much soap
as he should have instead of washing up the kitchen floor with
cold dish water, it would have developed sooner. The two most
unexpected events of the whole quarantine occurred that night at
the same time, one on the roof and one in the cellar. The cellar
one, although curious, was not so serious as the other, so it
comes first.

Aunt Selina put her clothes in a tub in the laundry and proceeded
to dress them like a vegetable. She threw in a handful of salt,
some kerosene oil and a little ammonia. The result was
villainous, but after she tasted it--or snuffed it--she said it
needed a bar of soap cut up to give it strength--or flavor--and I
went into the store room for it.

The laundry soap was in a box. I took in a silver fork, for I
hated to touch the stuff, and jabbed a bar successfully in the
semi-darkness. Then I carried it back to the laundry and dropped
it on the table. Aunt Selina looked at the fork with disgust;
then we both looked at the soap. ONE SIDE OF IT WAS COVERED WITH
ROUND HOLES THAT CURVED AROUND ON EACH OTHER LIKE A COILED SNAKE.

I ran back to the store room, and there, a little bit sticky and
smelling terribly of rosin, lay Anne's pearl necklace!

I was so excited that I seized Aunt Selina by the hands and
danced her all over the place. Then I left her, trying to find
her hair pins on the floor, and ran up to tell the others. I met
Betty in the hall and waved the pearls at her. But she did not
notice them.

"Is Mr. Harbison down there?" she asked breathlessly. "I left him
on the roof and went down to my room for my scarf, and when I
went back he had disappeared. He--he doesn't seem to be in the
house." She tried to laugh, but her voice was shaky. "He couldn't
have got down without passing me, anyhow," she supplemented. "I
suppose I'm silly, but so many queer things have happened, Kit."

"I wouldn't worry, Betty," I soothed her. "He is big enough to
take care of himself. And with the best intentions in the world,
you can't have him all the time, you know."

She was too much startled to be indignant. She followed me into
the library, where the sight of the pearls produced a tremendous
excitement, and then every one had to go down to the store room,
and see where the necklace had been hidden, and Max examined all
the bars of soap for thumb prints.

Mr. Harbison did not appear. Max commented on the fact
caustically, but Dal hushed him up. And so, Anne hugging her
pearls, and Aunt Selina having put a final seasoning of washing
powder on the clothes in the tub, we all went upstairs to bed. It
had been a long day, and the morning would at least bring bridge.

I was almost ready for bed when Jim tapped at my door. I had been
very cool to him since the night in the library when I was
publicly staked and martyred, and he was almost cringing when I
opened the door.

"What is it now?" I asked cruelly. "Has Bella tired of it
already, or has somebody else a rash?"

"Don't be a shrew, Kit," he said. "I don't want you to do
anything. I only--when did you see Harbison last?"

"If you mean 'last,'" I retorted, "I'm afraid I haven't seen the
last of him yet." Then I saw that he was really worried. "Betty
was leading him to the roof," I added. "Why? Is he missing?"

"He isn't anywhere in the house. Dal and I have been over every
inch of it." Max had come up, in a dressing gown, and was
watching me insolently.

"I think we have seen the last of him," he said. "I'm sorry, Kit,
to nip the little romance in the bud. The fellow was crazy about
you--there's no doubt of it. But I've been watching him from the
beginning, and I think I'm upheld. Whether he went down the water
spout, or across a board to the next house--"

"I--I dislike him intensely," I said angrily, "but you would not
dare to say that to his face. He could strangle you with one
hand."

Max laughed disagreeably.

"Well, I only hope he is gone," he threw at me over his shoulder,
"I wouldn't want to be responsible to your father if he had
stayed." I was speechless with wrath.

They went away then, and I could hear them going over the house.
At one o'clock Jim went up to bed, the last, and Mr. Harbison had
not been found. I did not see how they could go to bed at all. If
he had escaped, then Max was right and the whole thing was
heart-breaking. And if he had not, then he might be lying--

I got up and dressed.

The early part of the night had been cloudy, but when I got to
the roof it was clear starlight. The wind blew through the
electric wires strung across and set them singing. The occasional
bleat of a belated automobile on the drive below came up to me
raucously. The tent gleamed, a starlit ghost of itself, and the
boxwoods bent in the breeze. I went over to the parapet and
leaned my elbows on it. I had done the same thing so often
before; I had carried all my times of stress so infallibly to
that particular place, that instinctively my feet turned there.

And there in the starlight, I went over the whole serio-comedy,
and I loathed my part in it. He had been perfectly right to be
angry with me and with all of us. And I had been a hypocrite and
a Pharisee, and had thanked God that I was not as other people,
when the fact was that I was worse than the worst. And although
it wasn't dignified to think of him going down the drain pipe,
still--no one could blame him for wanting to get away from us,
and he was quite muscular enough to do it.

I was in the depths of self-abasement when I heard a sound behind
me. It was a long breath, quite audible, that ended in a groan. I
gripped the parapet and listened, while my heart pounded, and in
a minute it came again.

I was terribly frightened. Then--I don't know how I did it, but I
was across the roof, kneeling beside the tent, where it stood
against the chimney. And there, lying prone among the flower
pots, and almost entirely hidden, lay the man we had been looking
for.

His head was toward me, and I reached out shakingly and touched
his face. It was cold, and my hand, when I drew it back, was
covered with blood.



Chapter XXII. IT WAS DELIRIUM

I was sure he was dead. He did not move, and when I caught his
hands and called him frantically, he did not hear me. And so,
with the horror over me, I half fell down the stairs and roused
Jim in the studio.

They all came with lights and blankets, and they carried him into
the tent and put him on the couch and tried to put whisky in his
mouth. But he could not swallow. And the silence became more and
more ominous until finally Anne got hysterical and cried, "He is
dead! Dead!" and collapsed on the roof.

But he was not. Just as the lights in the tent began to have red
rings around them and Jim's voice came from away across the
river, somebody said, "There, he swallowed that," and soon after,
he opened his eyes. He muttered something that sounded like
"Andean pinnacle" and lapsed into unconsciousness again. But he
was not dead! He was not dead!

When the doctor came they made a stretcher out of one of Jim's
six-foot canvases--it had a picture on it, and Jim was angry
enough the next day--and took him down to the studio. We made it
as much like a sick-room as we could, and we tried to make him
comfortable. But he lay without opening his eyes, and at dawn the
doctor brought a consultant and a trained nurse.

The nurse was an offensively capable person.  She put us all out,
and scolded Anne for lighting Japanese incense in the
room--although Anne explained that it is very reviving. And she
said that it was unnecessary to have a dozen people breathing up
all the oxygen and asphyxiating the patient. She was
good-looking, too. I disliked her at once. Any one could see by
the way she took his pulse--just letting his poor hand hang,
without any support--that she was a purely mechanical creature,
without heart.

Well, as I said before, she put us all out, and shut the door,
and asked us not to whisper outside. Then, too, she refused to
allow any flowers in the room, although Betty had got a florist
out of bed to order some.

The consultant came, stayed an hour, and left. Aunt Selina, who
proved herself a trump in that trying time, waylaid him in the
hall, and he said it might be a fractured skull, although it was
possibly only concussion.

The men spent most of the morning together in the den, with the
door shut. Now and then one of them would tiptoe upstairs, ask
the nurse how her patient was doing, and creak down again. Just
before noon they all went to the roof and examined again the
place where he had been found. I know, for I was in the upper
hall outside the studio. I stayed there almost all day, and after
a while the nurse let me bring her things as she needed them. I
don't know why mother didn't let me study nursing--I always
wanted to do it. And I felt helpless and childish now, when there
were things to be done.

Max came down from the roof alone, and I cornered him in the
upper hall.

"I'm going crazy, Max," I said. "Nobody will tell me anything,
and I can't stand it. How was he hurt? Who hurt him?"

Max looked at me quite a long time.

"I'm darned if I understand you, Kit," he said gravely. "You said
you disliked Harbison."

"So I do--I did," I supplemented. "But whether I like him or not
has nothing to do with it. He has been injured--perhaps
murdered"--I choked a little. "Which--which of you did it?"

Max took my hand and held it, looking down at me.

"I wish you could have cared for me like that," he said gently.
"Dear little girl, we don't know who hurt him. I didn't, if
that's what you mean. Perhaps a flower pot--"

I began to cry then, and he drew me to him and let me cry on his
arm. He stood very quietly, patting my head in a brotherly way
and behaving very well, save that once he said:

"Don't cry too long, Kit; I can stand only a certain amount."

And just then the nurse opened the door to the studio, and with
Max's arm still around me, I raised my head and looked in.

Mr. Harbison was conscious. His eyes were open, and he was
staring at us both as we stood framed by the doorway.

He lay back at once and closed his eyes, and the nurse shut the
door. There was no use, even if I had been allowed in, in trying
to explain to him. To attempt such a thing would have been to
presume that he was interested in an explanation. I thought
bitterly to myself as I brought the nurse cracked ice and
struggled to make beef tea in the kitchen, that lives had been
wrecked on less.

Dal was allowed ten minutes in the sick room during the
afternoon, and he came out looking puzzled and excited. He
refused to tell us what he had learned, however, and the rest of
the afternoon he and Jim spent in the cellar.

The day dragged on. Downstairs people ate and read and wrote
letters, and outside newspaper men talked together and gazed over
at the house and photographed the doctors coming in and the
doctors going out. As for me, in the intervals of bringing
things, I sat in Bella's chair in the upper hall, and listened to
the crackle of the nurse's starched skirts.

At midnight that night the doctors made a thorough examination.
When they came out they were smiling.

"He is doing very well," the younger one said--he was hairy and
dark, but he was beautiful to me. "He is entirely conscious now,
and in about an hour you can send the nurse off for a little
sleep. Don't let him talk."

And so at last I went through the familiar door into an
unfamiliar room, with basins and towels and bottles around, and a
screen made of Jim's largest canvases. And someone on the
improvised bed turned and looked at me. He did not speak, and I
sat down beside him. After a while he put his hand over mine as
it lay on the bed.

"You are much better to me than I deserve," he said softly. And
because his eyes were disconcerting, I put an ice cloth over
them.

"Much better than you deserve," I said, and patted the ice cloth
to place gently. He fumbled around until he found my hand again,
and we were quiet for a long time. I think he dozed, for he
roused suddenly and pulled the cloth from his eyes.

"The--the day is all confused," he said, turning to look at me,
"but--one thing seems to stand out from everything else. Perhaps
it was delirium, but I seemed to see that door over there open,
and you, outside, with--with Max. His arms were around you."

"It was delirium," I said softly. It was my final lie in that
house of mendacity.

He drew a satisfied breath, and lifting my hand, held it to his
lips and kissed it.

"I can hardly believe it is you," he said. "I have to hold firmly
to your hand or you will disappear. Can't you move your chair
closer? You are miles away." So I did it, for he was not to be
excited.

After a little--

"It's awfully good of you to do this. I have been desperately
sorry, Kit, about the other night. It was a ruffianly thing to
do--to kiss you, when I thought--"

"You are to keep very still," I reminded him. He kissed my hand
again, but he persisted.

"I was mad--crazy." I tried to give him some medicine, but he
pushed the spoon aside. "You will have to listen," he said. "I am
in the depths of self-disgust. I--I can't think of anything else.
You see, you seemed so convinced that I was the blackguard that
somehow nothing seemed to matter."

"I have forgotten it all," I declared generously, "and I would be
quite willing to be friends, only, you remember you said--"

"Friends!" his voice was suddenly reckless, and he raised on his
elbow. "Friends! Who wants to be friends? Kit, I was almost
delirious that night. The instant I held you in my arms--It was
all over. I loved you the first time I saw you. I--I suppose I'm
a fool to talk like this."

And, of course, just then Dallas had to open the door and step
into the room. He was covered with dirt and he had a hatchet in
his hand.

"A rope!" he demanded, without paying any attention to us and
diving into corners of the room. "Good heavens, isn't there a
rope in this confounded house!"

He turned and rushed out, without any explanation, and left us
staring at the door.

"Bother the rope!" I found myself forced to look into two earnest
eyes. "Kit, were you VERY angry when I kissed you that night on
the roof?"

"Very," I maintained stoutly.

"Then prepare yourself for another attack of rage!" he said. And
Betty opened the door.

She had on a fetching pale blue dressing gown, and one braid of
her yellow hair was pulled carelessly over her shoulder. When she
saw me on my knees beside the bed (oh, yes, I forgot to say that,
quite unconsciously, I had slid into that position) she stopped
short, just inside the door, and put her hand to her throat. She
stood for quite a perceptible time looking at us, and I tried to
rise. But Tom shamelessly put his arm around my shoulders and
held me beside him. Then Betty took a step back and steadied
herself by the door frame. She had really cared, I knew then, but
I was too excited to be sorry for her.

"I--I beg your pardon for coming in," she said nervously.
"But--they want you downstairs, Kit. At least, I thought you
would want to go, but--perhaps--"

Just then from the lower part of the house came a pandemonium of
noises; women screaming, men shouting, and the sound of hatchet
strokes and splintering wood. I seized Betty by the arm, and
together we rushed down the stairs.



Chapter XXIII. COMING

The second floor was empty. A table lay overturned at the top of
the stairs, and a broken flower vase was weltering in its own
ooze. Part way down Betty stepped on something sharp, that proved
to be the Japanese paper knife from the den. I left her on the
stairs examining her foot and hurried to the lower floor.

Here everything was in the utmost confusion. Aunt Selina had
fainted, and was sitting in a hall chair with her head rolled
over sidewise and the poker from the library fireplace across her
knees. No one was paying any attention to her. And Jim was
holding the front door open, while three of the guards hesitated
in the vestibule. The noises continued from the back of the
house, and as I stood on the lowest stair Bella came out from the
dining room, with her face streaked with soot, and carrying a
kettle of hot water.

"Jim," she called wildly. "While Max and Dal are below, you can
pour this down from the top. It's boiling."

Jim glanced back over his shoulder. "Carry out your own murderous
designs," he said. And then, as she started back with it, "Bella,
for Heaven's sake," he called, "have you gone stark mad? Put that
kettle down."

She did it sulkily and Jim turned to the policeman.

"Yes, I know it was a false alarm before," he explained
patiently, "but this is genuine. It is just as I tell you. Yes,
Flannigan is in the house somewhere, but he's hiding, I guess. We
could manage the thing very well ourselves, but we have no
cartridges for our revolvers." Then as the noise from the rear
redoubled, "If you don't come in and help, I will telephone for
the fire department," he concluded emphatically.

I ran to Aunt Selina and tried to straighten her head. In a
moment she opened her eyes, sat up and stared around her. She saw
the kettle at once.

"What are you doing with boiling water on the floor?" she said to
me, with her returning voice. "Don't you know you will spoil the
floor?" The ruling passion was strong with Aunt Selina, as usual.

I could not find out the trouble from any one; people appeared
and disappeared, carrying strange articles. Anne with a rope, Dal
with his hatchet, Bella and the kettle, but I could get a
coherent explanation from no one. When the guards finally decided
that Jim was in earnest, and that the rest of us were not
crawling out a rear window while he held them at the door, they
came in, three of them and two reporters, and Jim led them to the
butler's pantry.

Here we found Anne, very white and shaky, with the pantry table
and two chairs piled against the door of the kitchen slide, and
clutching the chamois-skin bag that held her jewels. She had a
bottle of burgundy open beside her, and was pouring herself a
glass with shaking hands when we appeared. She was furious at
Jim.

"I very nearly fainted," she said hysterically. "I might have
been murdered, and no one would have cared. I wish they would
stop that chopping, I'm so nervous I could scream."

Jim took the Burgundy from her with one hand and pointed the
police to the barricaded door with the other.

"That is the door to the dumb-waiter shaft," he said. "The lower
one is fastened on the inside, in some manner. The noises
commenced about eleven o'clock, while Mr. Brown was on guard.
There were scraping sounds first, and later the sound of a
falling body. He roused Mr. Reed and myself, but when we examined
the shaft everything was quiet, and dark. We tried lowering a
candle on a string, but--it was extinguished from below."

The reporters were busily removing the table and chairs from the
door.

"If you have a rope handy," one of them said, "I will go down the
shaft."

(Dal says that all reporters should have been policemen, and that
all policemen are natural newsgatherers.)

"The cage appears to be stuck, half-way between the floors," Jim
said. "They are cutting through the door in the kitchen below."

They opened the door then and cautiously peered down, but there
was nothing to be seen. I touched Jim gingerly on the arm.

"Is it--is it Flannigan," I asked, "shut in there?"

"No--yes--I don't know," he returned absently. "Run along and
don't bother, Kit. He may take to shooting any minute."

Anne and I went out then and shut the door, and went into the
dining room and sat on our feet, for of course the bullets might
come up through the floor. Aunt Selina joined us there, and
Bella, and the Mercer girls, and we sat around and talked in
whispers, and Leila Mercer told of the time her grandfather had
had a struggle with an escaped lunatic.

In the midst of the excitement Tom appeared in a bathrobe,
looking very pale, with a bandage around his head, and the nurse
at his heels threatening to leave and carrying a bottle of
medicine and a spoon. He went immediately to the pantry, and soon
we could hear him giving orders and the rest hurrying around to
obey them. The hammering ceased, and the silence was even worse.
It was more suggestive.

In about fifteen minutes there was a thud, as if the cage had
fallen, and the sound of feet rushing down the cellar stairs.
Then there were groans and loud oaths, and everybody talking at
once, below, and the sound of a struggle. In the dining room we
all sat bent forward, with straining ears and quickened breath,
until we distinctly heard someone laugh. Then we knew that,
whatever it was, it was over, and nobody was killed.

The sounds came closer, were coming up the stairs and into the
pantry. Then the door swung open, and Tom and a policeman
appeared in the doorway, with the others crowding behind. Between
them they supported a grimy, unshaven object, covered with
whitewash from the wall of the shaft, an object that had its
hands fastened together with handcuffs, and that leered at us
with a pair of the most villainously crossed eyes I have ever
seen.

None of us had ever seen him before,

"Mr. Lawrence McGuirk, better known as Tubby,'" Tom said
cheerfully. "A celebrity in his particular line, which is
second-story man and all-round rascal. A victim of the
quarantine, like ourselves."

"We've missed him for a week," one of the guards said with a
grin. "We've been real anxious about you, Tubby. Ain't a week
goes by, when you're in health, that we don't hear something of
you."

Mr. McGuirk muttered something under his breath, and the men
chuckled.

"It seems," Tom said, interpreting, "that he doesn't like us
much. He doesn't like the food, and he doesn't like the beds. He
says just when he got a good place fixed up in the coal cellar,
Flannigan found it, and is asleep there now, this minute."

Aunt Selina rose suddenly and cleared her throat.

"Am I to understand," she asked severely, "that from now on we
will have to add two newspaper reporters, three policemen and a
burglar to the occupants of this quarantined house? Because, if
that is the case, I absolutely refuse to feed them."

But one of the reporters stepped forward and bowed ceremoniously.

"Madam," he said, "I thank you for your kind invitation, but--it
will be impossible for us to accept. I had intended to break the
good news earlier, but this little game of burglar-in-a-corner
prevented me. The fact is, your Jap has been discovered to have
nothing more serious than chicken-pox, and--if you will forgive a
poultry yard joke, there is no longer any necessity for your
being cooped up."

Then he retired, quite pleased with himself.

One would have thought we had exhausted our capacity for emotion,
but Jim said a joyful emotion was so new that we hardly knew how
to receive it. Every one shook hands with every one else, and
even the nurse shared in the excitement and gave Jim the medicine
she had prepared for Tom.

Then we all sat down and had some champagne, and while they were
waiting for the police wagon, they gave some to poor McGuirk. He
was still quite shaken from his experience when the dumb-waiter
stuck. The wine cheered him a little, and he told his story, in a
voice that was creaky from disuse, while Tom held my hand under
the table.

He had had a dreadful week, he said; he spent his days in a
closet in one of the maids' rooms--the one where we had put Jim.
It was Jim waking out of a nap and declaring that the closet door
had moved by itself and that something had crawled under his bed
and out of the door, that had roused the suspicions of the men in
the house--and he slept at night on the coal in the cellar. He
was actually tearful when he rubbed his hand over his scrubby
chin, and said he hadn't had a shave for a week. He took
somebody's razor, he said, but he couldn't get hold of a portable
mirror, and every time he lathered up and stood in front of the
glass in the dining room sideboard, some one came and he had had
to run and hide. He told, too, of his attempts to escape, of the
board on the roof, of the home-made rope, and the hole in the
cellar, and he spoke feelingly of the pearl collar and the
struggle he had made to hide it. He said that for three days it
was concealed in the pocket of Jim's old smoking coat in the
studio.

We were all rather sorry for him, but if we had made him
uncomfortable, think of what he had done to us. And for him to
tell, as he did later in court, that if that was high society he
would rather be a burglar, and that we starved him, and that the
women had to dress each other because they had no lady's maids,
and that the whole lot of us were in love with one man, it was
downright malicious.

The wagon came for him just as he finished his story, and we all
went to the door. In the vestibule Aunt Selina suddenly
remembered something, and she stepped forward and caught the poor
fellow by the arm.

"Young man," she said grimly. "I'll thank you to return what you
took from ME last Tuesday night."

McGuirk stared, then shuddered and turned suddenly pale.

"Good Lord!" he ejaculated. "On the stairs to the roof! YOU?"

They led him away then, quite broken, with Aunt Selina staring
after him. She never did understand. I could have explained, but
it was too awful.

On the steps McGuirk turned and took a farewell glance at us.
Then he waved his hand to the policemen and reporters who had
gathered around.

"Goodby, fellows," he called feebly. "I ain't sorry, I ain't.
Jail'll be a paradise after this."

And then we went to pack our trunks.

NOTE FROM MAX WHICH CAME THE NEXT DAY
WITH ITS ENCLOSURE.

My Dear Kit--The enclosed trunk tag was used on my trunk,
evidently by mistake. Higgins discovered it when he was unpacking
and returned it to me under the misapprehension that I had
written it. I wish I had. I suppose there must be something
attractive about a fellow who has the courage to write a love
letter on the back of a trunk tag, and who doesn't give a
tinker's damn who finds it. But for my peace of mind, ask him not
to leave another one around where I will come across it. Max.

WRITTEN ON THE BACK OF THE TRUNK TAG.

Don't you know that I won't see you until tomorrow? For Heaven's
sake, get away from this crowd and come into the den. If you
don't I will kiss you before everybody. Are you coming? T.

WRITTEN BELOW.

No indeed. K.

THIS WAS SCRATCHED OUT AND BENEATH.

Coming.





End of Project Gutenberg Etext of When a Man Marries, by Mary Rinehart


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