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Kitty Conover ate in the kitchen. First off, this statement is likely to create the false impression that there was an ordinary grain here, a wedge of base hemlock in the citron. Not so. She ate in the kitchen because she could not yet face that vacant chair in the dining room without choking and losing her appetite. She could not look at the chair without visualizing that glorious, whimsical, fascinating mother of hers, who could turn grumpy janitors into comedians and send importunate bill collectors away with nothing but spangles in their heads.
So long as she stayed out of the dining room she could accept her loneliness with sound philosophy. She knew, as all sensible people know, that there were ghosts, that memory had haunted galleries, and that empty chairs were evocations.
Her days were so busily active, there were so many first nights and concerts, that she did not mind such evenings as she had to spend alone in the apartment. Persons were in and out of the office all through the day, and many of them entertaining. For only real persons ever penetrated that well-guarded cubby-hole off the noisy city room. Many of them were old friends of her mother. Of course they were a little pompous, but this was less innate than acquired; and she knew that below they were worth while. She had come to the conclusion that successful actors and actresses were the only people in America who spoke English fluently and correctly.
Yes, she ate in the kitchen; but she would have been a fit subject for the fastidious Fragonard. Kitty was naturally an exquisite. Everything about her was dainty, her body and her mind. The background of pans and dishes, gas range and sink did not absorb Kitty; her presence here in the morning lifted everything out of the rut of commonplace and created an atmosphere that was ornamental. Pink peignoir and turquoise-blue boudoir cap, silk petticoat and stockings and adorable little slippers. No harm to tell the secret! Kitty was educating herself for a husband. She knew that if she acquired the habit of daintiness at breakfast before marriage it would become second nature after marriage. Moreover, she was determined that it should be tremendous news that would cause a newspaper to intervene. She had all the confidence in the world in her mirror.
She got her breakfast this morning, singing. She was happy. She had found a door out of monotony; theatrical drama had given way to the living. She had opened the book of adventure and she was going straight through to finis. That there was an undertow of the sinister escaped her or she ignored it.
In all high-strung Irish souls there is a bit of the old wife, the foreteller; the gift of prescience; and Kitty possessed this in a mild degree. Something held her here, when for a dozen reasons she should have gone elsewhere.
She strained the coffee, humming a tune out of The Mikado, the revival of which she had seen lately:
My object all sublime I shall achieve in time To make the punishment fit the crime. The punishment fit the crime. And make the prisoner pent Unwillingly represent A source of innocent merriment. Of innocent merriment!
And there you were! To make the punishment fit the crime. Wall in the Bolsheviki, the I.W.W.'s, the Red Socialist, the anarchists - and let them try it for ten years. Those left would be glad enough to embrace democracy and sanity. The poor benighted things, to imagine that they were going forward there in Russia! What kind of mentality was it that could conceive a blessing to humanity in the abolition of baths and work? And Cutty felt sorry for them. Well, as for that, so did Kitty Conover; and she would continue feeling sorry for them so long as they remained thousands of miles away. But next door!
"Grapefruit, eggs on toast, and coffee; mademoiselle is served!" she cried, gayly, sitting down and attacking her breakfast with the zest of healthy youth.
Often the eyes are like the lenses of a camera minus the sensitized plate; they see objects without printing them. Thus a dozen times Kitty's glance absently swept the range and the racks on each side of the stovepipe, one rack burdened with an empty pancake jug and the other cluttered with old-fashioned flatirons; but she saw nothing.
She was carefully reviewing the events of the night before. She could not dismiss the impression that Cutty knew Stefani Gregor or had heard of him; and in either case it signified that Gregor was something more than a valet. And decidedly Two-Hawks was not of the Russian peasantry.
By the time she was ready to leave for the office the Irish blood in her was seething and bubbling and dancing. She knew she would do crazy, impulsive things all day. It was easy to analyze this exuberance. She had reached out into the dark and touched danger, and found a new thrill in a humdrum world.
The Great Dramatist had produced a tremendous drama and she had watched curtain after curtain fall from the wrong side of the lights. Now she had been given a speaking part; and she would be down stage for a moment or two - dusting the furniture - while the stars were retouching their make-up. It was not the thought of Cutty, of Gregor, of Johnny Two-Hawks, of hidden treasure; simply she had arrived somewhere in the great drama.
When she reached the office she had a hard time of it to settle down to the day's work.
"Hustle up that Sunday stuff," said Burlingame. Kitty laughed. Just as she had pictured it. She hustled.
"I have it!" she cried, breaking a spell of silence.
"What - St. Vitus?" inquired Burlingame, patiently.
"No; the Morgue!"
"What the dickens - !"
But Kitty was no longer there to answer.
In all newspaper offices there is a department flippantly designated as the Morgue. Obituaries on ice, as it were. A photograph or an item concerning a great man, a celebrated, beauty or some notorious rogue; from the king calibre down to Gyp-the-Blood brand, all indexed and laid away against the instant need. So, running her finger tip down the K's, Kitty found Karlov. The half tone which she eventually exhumed from the tin box was an excellent likeness of the human gorilla who had entered her rooms with the policeman. She would be able to carry this positive information to Cutty that afternoon.
When she left the office at four she took the Subway to Forty-second Street. She engaged a taxi from the Knickerbocker and discharged it at the north entrance to the Waldorf, which she entered. She walked through to the south entrance and got into another taxi. She left this at Wanamaker's, ducking and dodging through the crowded aisles. She selected this hour because, being a woman, she knew that the press of shoppers would be the greatest during the day. Karlov's man and the secret-service operative detailed by Cutty both made the same mistake - followed Kitty into the dry-goods shop and lost her as completely as if she had popped up in China. At quarter to five she stepped into Elevator Number Four of the building which Cutty called his home, very well pleased with herself.
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