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Early the next morning in a bedroom in a rooming house for aliens in Fifteenth Street, a man sat in a chair scanning the want columns of a newspaper. Occasionally he jotted down something on a slip of paper. This man's job was rather an unusual one. He hunted jobs for other men - jobs in steel mills, great factories, in the textile districts, the street-car lines, the shipping yards and docks, any place where there might be a grain or two of the powder of unrest and discontent. His business was to supply the human matches.
No more parading the streets, no more haranguing from soap boxes. The proper place nowadays was in the yard or shop corners at noontime. A word or two dropped at the right moment; perhaps a printed pamphlet; little wedges wherever there were men who wanted something they neither earned nor deserved. Here and there across the land little flares, one running into the other, like wildfire on the plains, and then - the upheaval. As in Russia, so now in Germany; later, England and France and here. The proletariat was gaining power.
He was no fool, this individual. He knew his clay, the day labourer, with his parrotlike mentality. Though the victim of this peculiar potter absorbs sounds he doesn't often absorb meanings. But he takes these sounds and respouts them and convinces himself that he is some kind of Moses, headed for the promised land. Inflammable stuff. Hence, the strikes which puzzle the average intelligent American citizen. What is it all about? Nobody seems to know.
Once upon a time men went on a strike because they were being cheated and abused. Now they strike on the principle that it is excellent policy always to be demanding something; it keeps capitalism where it belongs - on the ragged edge of things. No matter what they demand they never expect to give an equivalent; and a just cause isn't necessary. Thus the present-day agitator has only one perplexity - that of eluding the iron hand of the Department of Justice.
Suddenly the man in the chair brought the newspaper close up and stared. He jumped to his feet, ran out and up the next flight of stairs. He stopped before a door and turned the knob a certain number of times. Presently the door opened the barest crack; then it was swung wide enough to admit the visitor.
"Look!" he whispered, indicating Cutty's advertisement.
The occupant of the room snatched the newspaper and carried it to a window.
Will purchase the drums of jeopardy at top price. No questions asked. Address this office. Double C.
"Very good. I might have missed it. We shall sell the accursed drums to this gentleman."
"Sell them? But - "
"Imbecile! What we must do is to find out who this man is. In the end he may lead us to him."
"But it may be a trap!"
"Leave that to me. You have work of your own to do, and you had best be about it. Do you not see beneath? Who but the man who harbours him would know about the drums? The man in the evening clothes. I was too far away to see his face. Get me all the morning newspapers. If the advertisement is in all of them I will send a letter to each. We lost the young woman yesterday. And nothing has been heard of Vladimir and Stemmler. Bad. I do not like this place. I move to the house to-night. My old friend Stefani may be lonesome. I dare not risk daylight. Some fool may have talked. To work! All of us have much to do to wake up the proletariat in this country of the blind. But the hour will come. Get me the newspapers."
Karlov pushed his visitor from the room and locked and bolted the door. He stepped over to the window again and stared down at the clutter of pushcarts, drays, trucks, and human beings that tried to go forward and got forward only by moving sideways or worming through temporary breaches, seldom directly - the way of humanity. But there was no object lesson in this for Karlov, who was not philosophical in the peculiar sense of one who was demanding a reason for everything and finding allegory and comparison and allusion in the ebb and flow of life. The philosophical is often misapplied to the stoical. Karlov was a stoic, not a philosopher, or he would not have been the victim of his present obsession. The idea of live and let live has never been the propaganda of the anarch. To the anarch the death of some body or the destruction of some thing is the cornerstone to his madhouse.
Nothing would ever cure this man of his obsession - the death of Hawksley and the possession of the emeralds. Moreover, there was the fanatical belief in his poor disordered brain that the accomplishment of these two projects would eventually assist in the liberation of mankind. Abnormally cunning in his methods of approach, he lacked those imaginative scales by which we weigh our projects and which we call logic. A child alone in a house with a box of matches; a dog on one side of Fifth Avenue that sees a dog on the other side, but not the automobiles - inexorable logic - irresistible force - whizzing up and down the middle of that thoroughfare. It is not difficult to prophesy what is going to happen to that child, that dog.
Karlov was at this moment reaching out toward a satisfactory solution relative to the disappearance of the gems. They had not been found on his enemy; they had not been found in the Gregor apartment; the two men assigned to the task of securing them would not have risked certain death by trying to do a little bargaining on their own initiative. In the first instance they had come forth empty-handed. In the second instance - that of intimidating the girl to disclose his whereabouts - neither Vladimir nor Stemmler had returned. Sinister. The man in the dress suit again?
Conceivably, then, the drums were in the possession of this girl; and she was holding them against the day when the fugitive would reclaim them. The advertisement was a snare. Very good. Two could play that game as well as one.
The girl. Was it not always so? That breed! God's curse on them all! A crooked finger, and the women followed, hypnotized. The girl was away from the apartment the major part of the day; so it was in order to search her rooms. A pretty little fool.
But where were they hiding him? Gall and wormwood! That he should slip through Boris Karlov's fingers, after all these tortuous windings across the world! Patience. Sooner or later the girl would lead the way. Still, patience was a galling hobble when he had so little time, when even now they might be hunting him. Boris Karlov had left New York rather well known.
He expanded under this thought. For the spiritual breath of life to the anarch is flattery, attention. Had the newspapers ignored Trotzky's advent into Russia, had they omitted the daily chronicle of his activities, the Russian problem would not be so large as it is this day. Trotzky would have died of chagrin.
He would answer this advertisement. Trap? He would set one himself. The man who eventually came to negotiate would be made a prisoner and forced to disclose the identity of the man who had interfered with the great projects of Boris Karlov, plenipotentiary extraordinary for the red government of Russia.
Midtown, Cutty tapped his breakfast egg dubiously. Not that he speculated upon the freshness of the egg. What troubled him was that advertisement. Last night, keyed high by his remarkable discovery of the identity of his guest and his cupidity relative to the emeralds, he had laid himself open. If he knew anything at all about the craft, that reporter would be digging in. Fortunately he had resources unsuspected by the reporter. Legitimately he could send a secret-service operative to collect the mail - if Karlov decided to negotiate. Still within his rights, he could use another operative to conduct the negotiations. If in the end Karlov strayed into the net the use of the service for private ends would be justified.
Lord, those green stones! Well, why not? Something in the world worth a hazard. What had he in life but this second grand passion? There shot into his mind obliquely an irrelevant question. Supposing, in the old days, he had proceeded to reach for Molly as he was now reaching for the emeralds - a bit lawlessly? After all these years, to have such a thought strike him! Hadn't he stepped aside meekly for Conover? Hadn't he observed and envied Conover's dazzling assault? Supposing Molly had been wavering, and this method of attack had decided her? Never to have thought of that before! What did a woman want? A love storm, and then an endless after-calm. And it had taken him twenty-odd years to make this discovery.
Fact. He had never been shy of women. He had somehow preferred to play comrade instead of gallant; and all the women had taken advantage of that, used him callously to pair with old maids, faded wives, and homely debutantes.
What impellent was driving him toward these introspections? Kitty, Molly's girl. Each time he saw her or thought of her - the uninvited ghost of her mother. Any other man upon seeing Kitty or thinking about her would have jumped into the future from the spring of a dream. The disparity in years would not have mattered. It was all nonsense, of course. But for his dropping into the office and casually picking up the thread of his acquaintance with Kitty, Molly - the memory of her - would have gone on dimming. Actions, tremendous and world-wide, had set his vision toward the future; he had been too busy to waste time in retrospection and introspection. Thus, instead of a gently rising and falling tide, healthily recurrent, a flood of mixed longings that was swirling him into uncertain depths. Those emeralds had bobbed up just in time. The chase would serve to pull him out of this bog.
He heard a footstep and looked up. The nurse was beckoning to him.
"What is it?"
"He's awake, and there is sanity in his eyes."
"Great! Has he talked?"
"No. The awakening happened just this moment, and I came to you. You never can tell about blows on the skull or brain fever - never any two eases alike."
Cutty threw down his napkin and accompanied the nurse to the bedside. The glance of the patient trailed from Cutty to the nurse and back.
"Don't talk," said Cutty. "Don't ask any questions. Take it easy until later in the day. You are in the hands of persons who wish you well. Eat what the nurse gives you. When the right time comes we'll tell you all about ourselves, You've been robbed and beaten. But the men who did it are under arrest."
"One question," said the patient, weakly.
"Well, just one."
"A girl - who gave me something to eat?"
"Yes. She fed you, and later probably your life."
"Thanks." Hawksley closed his eyes.
Cutty and the nurse watched him interestedly for a few minutes; but as he did not stir again the nurse took up her temperature sheet and Cutty returned to his eggs. Was there a girl? No question about the emeralds, no interest in the day and the hour. Was there a girl? The last person he had seen, Kitty; the first question, after coming into the light: Had he seen her? Then and there Cutty knew that when he died he would carry into the Beyond, of all his earthly possessions - a chuckle. Human beings!
The yarn that reporter had missed by a hair - front page, eight-column head! But he had missed it, and that was the main thing. The poor devil! Beaten and without a sou marque in his pockets, his trail was likely to be crowded without the assistance of any newspaper publicity. But what a yarn! What a whale of a yarn!
In his fevered flights Hawksley had spoken of having paid Kitty for that meal.
Kitty had said nothing about it. Supposing -
"Telephone, sair," announced the Jap. "Lady."
Molly's girl! Cutty sprinted to the telephone.
"Hello! That you, Kitty?"
"Yes. How is Johnny Two-Hawks?"
"Back to earth."
'When can I see him? I'm just crazy to know what the story is!"
"Say the third or fourth day from this. We'll have him shaved and sitting up then."
"Has he talked?"
"Not permitted. Still determined to stay the run of your lease?" Cutty heard a laugh. "All right. Only I hope you will never have cause to regret this decision."
"Fiddlesticks! All I've got to do in danger is to press a button, and presto! here's Bernini."
"Kitty, did Hawksley pay you for that meal?"
"Good heavens, no! What makes you ask that?"
"In his delirium he spoke of having paid you. I didn't know." Cutty's heart began to rap against his ribs. Supposing, after all, Karlov hadn't the stones? Supposing Hawksley had hidden them somewhere in Kitty's kitchen?
"Anything about Gregor?"
"No. Remember, you're to call me up twice a day and report the news. Don't go out nights if you can avoid it."
"I'll be good," Kitty agreed. "And now I must hie me to the job. Imagine, Cutty ! - writing personalities about stage folks and gabfesting with Burlingame and all the while my brain boiling with this affair! The city room will kill me, Cutty, if it ever finds out that I held back such a yarn. But it wouldn't he fair to Johnny Two-Hawks. Cutty, did you know that your wonderful drums of jeopardy are here in New York?"
"What?" barked Cutty.
"Somebody is offering to buy them. There was an advertisement in the paper this morning. Cutty?"
"The first problem in arithmetic is two and two make four. By-by!"
Dizzily Cutty hung up the receiver. He had not reckoned on the possibility of Kitty seeing that damfool advertisement. Two and two made four; and four and four made eight; so on indefinitely. That is to say, Kitty already had a glimmer of the startling truth. The initial misstep on his part had been made upon her pronouncement of the name Stefani Gregor. He hadn't been able to control his surprise. And yesterday, having frankly admitted that he knew Gregor, all that was needed to complete the circle was that advertisement. Cutty tore his hair, literally. The very door he hoped she might overlook he had thrown open to her.
Thaddeus of Warsaw. But it should not be. He would continue to offer a haven to that chap; but no nonsense. None of that sinister and unfortunate blood should meddle with Kitty Conover's happiness. Her self-appointed guardian would attend to that.
He realized that his attitude was rather inexplicable; but there were some adventures which hypnotized women; and one of this sort was now unfolding for Kitty. That she had her share of common sense was negligible in face of the facts that she was imaginative and romantical and adventuresome, and that for the first time she was riding one of the great middle currents in human events. She was Molly's girl; Cutty was going to look out for her.
Mighty odd that this fear for her should have sprung into being that night, quite illogically. Prescience? He could not say. Perhaps it was a borrowed instinct - fatherly; the same instinct that would have stirred her father into action - the protection of that dearest to him.
If he told her who Hawksley really was, that would intrigue her. If he made a mystery of the affair, that, too, would intrigue her. And there you were, 'twixt the devil and the deep blue sea. Hang it, what evil luck had stirred him to tell her about those emeralds? Already she was building a story to satisfy her dramatic fancy. Two and two made four - which signified that she was her father's daughter, that she would not rest until she had explored every corner of this dark room. Wanting to keep her out of it, and then dragging her into it through his cupidity. Devil take those emeralds! Always the same; trouble wherever they were.
The real danger would rise during the convalescence. Kitty would be contriving to drop in frequently; not to see Hawksley especially, but her initial success in playing hide and seek with secret agents, friendly and otherwise, had tickled her fancy. For a while it would be an exciting game; then it might become only a means to an end. Well, it should not be.
Was there a girl! Already Hawksley had recorded her beauty. Very well; the first sign of sentimental nonsense, and out he should go, Karlov or no Karlov. Kitty wasn't going to know any hurt in this affair. That much was decided.
Cutty stormed into his study, growling audibly. He filled a pipe and smoked savagely. Another side, Kitty's entrance into the drama promised to spoil his own fun; he would have to play two games instead of one. A fine muddle!
He came to a stand before one of the windows and saw the glory of the morning flashing from the myriad spires and towers and roofs, and wondered why artists bothered about cows in pastures.
Touching his knees was an antique Florentine bridal chest, with exquisite carving and massive lock. He threw back the lid and disclosed a miscellany never seen by any eye save his own. It was all the garret he had. He dug into it and at length resurrected the photograph of a woman whose face was both roguish and beautiful. He sat on the floor a la Turk and studied the face, his own tender and wistful. No resemblance to Kitty except in the eyes. How often he had gone to her with the question burning his lips, only to carry it away unspoken! He turned over the photograph and read: "To the nicest man I know. With love from Molly." With love. And he had stepped aside for Tommy Conover!
By George! He dropped the photograph into the chest, let down the lid, and rose to his feet. Not a bad idea, that. To intrigue Kitty himself, to smother her with attentions and gallantries, to give her out of his wide experience, and to play the game until this intruder was on his way elsewhere.
He could do it; and he based his assurance upon his experiences and observations. Never a squire of dames, he knew the part. He had played the game occasionally in the capitals of Europe when there had been some information he had particularly desired. Clever, scheming women, too. A clever, passably good-looking elderly man could make himself peculiarly attractive to young women and women in the thirties. Dazzlement for the young; the man who knew all about life, the trivial little courtesies a younger man generally forgot; the moving of chairs, the holding of wraps; the gray hairs which served to invite trust and confidence, which lulled the eternal feminine fear of the male. To the older women, no callow youth but a man of discernment, discretion, wit and fancy and daring, who remembered birthdays husbands forgot, who was always round when wanted.
There was no vanity back of these premises. Cutty was merely reaching about for an expedient to thwart what to his anticipatory mind promised to be an inevitability. Of course the glamour would not last; it never did, but he felt he could sustain it until yonder chap was off and away.
That evening at five-thirty Kitty received a box of beautiful roses, with Cutty's card.
"Oh, the lovely things!" she cried.
She kissed them and set them in a big copper jug, arranged and rearranged them for the simple pleasure it afforded her. What a dear man this Cutty was, to have thought of her in this fashion! Her father's friend, her mother's, and now hers; she had inherited him. This thought caused her to smile, but there were tears in her eyes. A garden some day to play in, this mad city far away, a home of her own; would it ever happen?
The bell rang. She wasn't going to like this caller for taking her away from these roses, the first she had received in a long time - roses she could keep and not toss out the window. For it must not be understood that Kitty was never besieged.
Outside stood a well-dressed gentleman, older than Cutty, with shrewd, inquiring gray eyes and a face with strong salients.
"Pardon me, but I am looking for a man by the name of Stephen Gregory. I was referred by the janitor to you. You are Miss Conover?"
"Yes," answered Kitty. "Will you come in?" She ushered the stranger into the living room and indicated a chair. "Please excuse me for a moment." Kitty went into her bedroom and touched the danger button, which would summon Bernini. She wanted her watchdog to see the visitor. She returned to the living room. "What is it you wish to know?"
"Where I may find this Gregory."
"That nobody seems able to answer. He was carried away from here in an ambulance; but we have been unable to locate the hospital. If you will leave your name - "
"That is not necessary. I am out of bounds, you might say, and I'd rather my name should be left out of the affair, which is rather peculiar."
"In what way?"
"I am only an agent, and am not at liberty to speak. Could you describe Gregory?"
"Then he is a stranger to you?"
Kitty described Gregor deliberately and at length. It struck her that the visitor was becoming bored, though he nodded at times. She was glad to hear Bernini's ring. She excused herself to admit the Italian.
"A false alarm," she whispered. "Someone inquiring for Gregor. I thought it might be well for you to see him."
"I'll work the radiator stuff."
Bernini went into the living room and fussed over the steam cock of the radiator.
"Nothing the matter with it, miss. Just stuck."
"Sorry to have troubled you," said the stranger, rising and picking up his hat.
Bernini went down to the basement, obfuscated; for he knew the visitor. He was one of the greatest bankers in New York - that is to say, in America! Asking questions about Stefani Gregor!
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