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Because it was assumed that some of Karlov's pack might be at large and unsuspectingly return to the trap, Federal agents would remain on guard all night. They explored the house, hunting for chemicals, documents, letters, and addresses. They found enough high explosive to blow up the district. And they found Stefani Gregor. They were standing by the cot as Cutty came in.
"Yes, sir. Just this minute went out."
"Did he speak?"
"A woman's name."
"Yes, sir. Looks to me as if he had been starved to death. Know who he was?"
"Yes. Tell the coroner to be gentle. Once upon a time Stefani Gregor spoke to kings by right of genius."
The thought that he himself might have been the indirect cause of Gregor's death shocked Cutty, who was above all things tender.
He had held back the raid for several days, to serve his own ends. He could have ordered the raid from Washington, and it would have gone through as smoothly as to-night. The drums of jeopardy. Well, that phase of the game was done with. He had held up this raid so that he might be on hand to search Karlov; and until now he had forgotten the drums. Accurst! They were accurst. The death of Stefani Gregor would always be on his conscience.
Cutty stared - not very clearly - at the cameo-like face so beautifully calm. As in life, so it was in death; the calm that had brooked and beaten down the turbulent instincts of the boy, the imperturbable calm of a great soul. Rosa. The sublime unselfishness of the man! He had sacrificed wealth and fame for the love of the boy's mother - unspoken, unrequited love, the quality that passes understanding. And his reward: to die on this cot, in horrid loneliness. Rosa.
All at once Cutty felt himself little, trivial, beside this forlorn bier. What did he know about love? He had never made any sacrifices; he had simply carried in his heart a bittersweet recollection. But here! Twenty-odd years of unremitting devotion to the son of the woman he had loved - Stefani Gregor. Creating environments that would develop the noble qualities in the boy, interposing himself between the boy and the evil pleasures of the uncle, teaching him the beautiful, cleansing his soul of the inherited mud. Reverently Cutty drew the coverlet over the fine old head.
"What's this?" asked one of the operatives. "Looks like the pieces of a broken fiddle."
Out of those dark red bits of wood - some of them bearing the imprints of hobnails - Cutty constructed the scene. A wave of bitter rage rolled over him. The beast! Karlov had done this thing, with poor old Gregor looking on, too weak to intervene. Not so many years ago these bits of wood, under the master's touch, had entranced the souls of thousands. Cutty recalled a fairy tale he had read when a boy about a prince whose soul had been transformed into a flower which, if plucked or broken, died. Karlov had murdered Stefani Gregor, perhaps not legally but actually nevertheless.
Rehabilitated in soul, Cutty left the room. He had read a compelling lesson in self-sacrifice. He was going to pick up his cross and go on with it, smiling. After all, Kitty was only an interlude; the big thing was the game; and shortly he would be in the thick of great events again. But Kitty should be happy.
His old analytical philosophy resumed its functions. The contempt and jealousy of one race for another; what was God's idea in implanting that in souls? Hawksley was at base Russian. The boy's English education, his adopted outlook upon life, made it possible for Cutty to ignore the racial antagonism of the Anglo-Saxon for all other races. Stefani Gregor at one end of the world and he at the other, blindly working out the destinies of Kitty Conover and Ivan Mikhail Feodorovich and so forth and so on, with the blood of Catharine in his veins! Made a chap dizzy to think of it. Traditions were piling up along with crowns and sceptres in the abyss.
When he returned to the attic he felt himself fortified against any inevitability. Hawksley was sitting up, his back to the wall, staring groggily but with reckless adoration into Kitty's lovely face. Youth will be served. As if, watching these two, there could be any doubt of it! And he had bent part of his energies toward keeping them separated.
"Ha!" he cried, cheerfully. "Back on top again, I see. How's the head?"
"Haven't any; no legs; I'm nothing at all but a bit of my own imagination. How do you feel?"
"Like the aftermath of an Irish wake." Then Cutty's battered face assumed an expression that was meant to typify gravity. "John," he aid, "I've bad news for you."
John. A glow went over the young man's aching body. John. What could that signify except that he had passed into the eternal friendship of this old thoroughbred? John.
"Stefani is dead. He died speaking your mother's name."
Hawksley's head sank; his chin touched his chest. He spoke without looking up. "Something told me I would never see him alive again. Old Stefani! If there is any good in me it will be his handiwork. "I say," he added, his eyes now seeking Cutty's, "you called me John. Will you carry on?"
"Keep an eye on you? So long as you may need me."
"I come from a lawless race. Stefani had to fight. Even now I'm afraid sometimes. God knows I want to be all he tried to make me."
"You're all right, John. You've reached haven; the storms hereafter will be outside. Besides, Stefani will always be with you. You'll never pick up that old Amati without feeling Stefani near. Can you stand?"
"Between the two of you, perhaps."
With Kitty on one side and Cutty on the other Hawksley managed the descent tolerably well. Often a foot dragged. How strong she was, this girl! No hysterics, no confusion, after all that racket, with death - or something worse - reaching out toward her; calmly telling him that there was another step, warning him not to bear too heavily on Cutty! Holding him up physically and morally, these two, now all he had in life to care for. Yesterday, unknown to him; this night, bound by hoops of steel. The girl had forgiven him; he knew it by the touch of her arm.... Old Stefani! A sob escaped him. Their arms tightened.
"No; I was thinking of Stefani. Rather hard - to die all alone - because he loved me."
Kitty longed to be alone. There were still many unshed tears - some for Cutty, some for Stefani Gregor, some for Johnny Two-Hawks, and some for herself.
In the limousine Cutty sat in the middle, Kitty on his left and Hawksley on his right, his arms round them both. Presently Hawksley's head touched his shoulder and rested there; a little later Kitty did likewise. His children! Lord, he was going to have a tremendous interest in life, after all! He smiled with kindly irony at the back of the chauffeur. His children, these two; and he knew as he planned their future that they were thinking over and round but not of him, which is the way of youth.
At the apartment Cutty decided to let Hawksley sit in an easy chair in the living room until Captain Harrison arrived. Kuroki was ordered to prepare a supper, which would be served on the tea cart, set at Hawksley's knees. Kitty - because it was impossible for her to remain inactive - set the linen and silver. She was in and out of the room, ill at ease, angry, frightened, bitter, avoiding Hawksley's imploring eyes because she was not sure of her own.
She was sure of one thing, however. All the nonsense was out of her head. To-morrow she would be returning to the regular job. She would have a page from the Arabian Nights to look upon in the days to come. She understood, though it twisted her heart dreadfully: she was in the eyes of this man a plaything, a pretty woman he had met in passing. If she had saved his life he had in turn saved hers; they were quits. She did not blame him for his point of view. He had come from the top of the world, where women were either ornaments or playthings, while she and hers had always struggled to maintain equilibrium in the middle stratum. Cutty could give him friendship; but she could not because she was a woman, young and pretty.
Love him? Well, she would get over it. It might be only the glamour of the adventure they had shared. Anyhow, she wouldn't die of it. Cutty hadn't. Of course it hurt; she was a silly little fool, and all that. Once he was in Montana he would be sending for his Olga. There wasn't the least doubt in her mind that if ever autocracy returned to power, he'd be casting aside his American citizenship, his chaps and sombrero, for the old regalia. Well - truculently to the world at large - why not?
So she avoided Hawksley's gaze, sensing the sustained persistence of it. But, oh, to be alone, alone, alone!
Cutty washed the patient's hands and face and patched up the cut on the cheek, interlarding his chatter with trench idioms, banter, jokes. Underneath, though, he was chuckling. He was the hero of this tale; he had done all the thrilling stunts, carried limp bodies across fire escapes in the rain, climbed roofs, eluded newspaper reporters, fought with his bare fists, rescued the girl.... All with one foot in the grave! Fifty-two, gray haired - with a prospect of rheumatism on the morrow - and putting it over like a debonair movie idol!
Hawksley met these pleasantries halfway by grousing about being babied when there was nothing the matter with him but his head, his body, and his legs.
Why didn't she look at him? What was the meaning of this persistent avoidance? She must have forgiven last night. She was too much of a thoroughbred to harbour ill feeling over that. Why didn't she look at him?
The telephone called Cutty from the room.
Kitty went into the dining room for an extra pair of salt cellars and delayed her return until she heard Cutty coming back.
"Karlov is dead," he announced. "Started a fight in the taxi, got out, and was making for safety when one of the boys shot him. He hadn't the jewels on him, John. I'm afraid they are gone, unless he hid them somewhere in that - What's the matter, Kitty?"
For Kitty had dropped the salt cellars and pressed her hands against her bosom, her face colourless.
Hawksley, terrified, tried to get up.
"No, no! Nothing is the matter with me but my head.... To think I could forget! Good - heavens!" She prolonged the words drolly. "Wait."
She turned her back to them. When she faced them again she extended a palm upon which lay a leather tobacco pouch, cracked and parched and blistered by the reactions of rain and sun.
"Think of my forgetting them! I found them this morning. Where do you suppose? On a step of the fire-escape ladder."
"Well, I'll be tinker-dammed!" said Cutty.
"I've reasoned it out," went on Kitty, breathlessly, looking at Cutty, "When the anarchist tore them from Mr. Hawksley's neck, he threw them out of the window. The room was dark; his companion could not see. Later he intended, no doubt, to go into the court and recover them and cheat his master. I was looking out of the window, when I noticed a brilliant flash of purple, then another of green. The pouch was open, the stones about to trickle out. I dared not leave them in the apartment or tell anybody until you came home. So I carried them with me to the office. The drums, Cutty! The drums! Tumpitum-tump! Look!"
She poured the stones upon the white linen tablecloth. A thousand fires!
"The wonderful things!" she gasped. "Oh, the wonderful things! I don't blame you, Cutty. They would tempt an angel. The drums of jeopardy; and that I should find them!"
"Lord!" said Cutty, in an awed whisper. Green stones! The magnificent rubies and sapphires and diamonds vanished; he could see nothing but the exquisite emeralds. He picked up one - still warm with Kitty's pulsing life - and toyed with it. Actually, the drums! And all this time they had been inviting the first comer to appropriate them. Money, love, tragedy, death; history, pageants, lovely women; murder and loot! All these days on the step of the fire-escape ladder! He must have one of them; positively he must. Could he prevail upon Hawksley to sell one? Had he carried them through sentiment?
He turned to broach the suggestion of purchase, but remained mute.
Hawksley's head was sunk upon his chest; his arms hung limply at the sides of his chair.
"He is fainting!" cried Kitty, her love outweighing her resolves. "Cutty!" - desperately, fearing to touch Hawksley herself.
"No! The stones, the stones! Take them away - out of sight! I'm too done in! I can't stand it! I can't - The Red Night! Torches and hobnailed boots!"
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