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THE MIND READER
When Philip Endicott was at Harvard, he wrote stories of undergraduate life suggested by things that had happened to himself and to men he knew. Under the title of "Tales of the Yard" they were collected in book form, and sold surprisingly well. After he was graduated and became a reporter on the New York Republic, he wrote more stories, in each of which a reporter was the hero, and in which his failure or success in gathering news supplied the plot. These appeared first in the magazines, and later in a book under the title of "Tales of the Streets." They also were well received.
Then came to him the literary editor of the Republic, and said: "There are two kinds of men who succeed in writing fiction--men of genius and reporters. A reporter can describe a thing he has seen in such a way that he can make the reader see it, too. A man of genius can describe something he has never seen, or any one else for that matter, in such a way that the reader will exclaim: 'I have never committed a murder; but if I had, that's just the way I'd feel about it.' For instance, Kipling tells us how a Greek pirate, chained to the oar of a trireme, suffers; how a mother rejoices when her baby crawls across her breast. Kipling has never been a mother or a pirate, but he convinces you he knows how each of them feels. He can do that because he is a genius; you cannot do it because you are not. At college you wrote only of what you saw at college; and now that you are in the newspaper business all your tales are only of newspaper work. You merely report what you see. So, if you are doomed to write only of what you see, then the best thing for you to do is to see as many things as possible. You must see all kinds of life. You must progress. You must leave New York, and you had better go to London."
"But on the Republic," Endicott pointed out, "I get a salary. And in London I should have to sweep a crossing."
"Then," said the literary editor, "you could write a story about a man who swept a crossing."
It was not alone the literary editor's words of wisdom that had driven Philip to London. Helen Carey was in London, visiting the daughter of the American Ambassador; and, though Philip had known her only one winter, he loved her dearly. The great trouble was that he had no money, and that she possessed so much of it that, unless he could show some unusual quality of mind or character, his asking her to marry him, from his own point of view at least, was quite impossible. Of course, he knew that no one could love her as he did, that no one so truly wished for her happiness, or would try so devotedly to make her happy. But to him it did not seem possible that a girl could be happy with a man who was not able to pay for her home, or her clothes, or her food, who would have to borrow her purse if he wanted a new pair of gloves or a hair-cut. For Philip Endicott, while rich in birth and education and charm of manner, had no money at all. When, in May, he came from New York to lay siege to London and to the heart of Helen Carey he had with him, all told, fifteen hundred dollars. That was all he possessed in the world; and unless the magazines bought his stories there was no prospect of his getting any more.
Friends who knew London told him that, if you knew London well, it was easy to live comfortably there and to go about and even to entertain modestly on three sovereigns a day. So, at that rate, Philip calculated he could stay three months. But he found that to know London well enough to be able to live there on three sovereigns a day you had first to spend so many five-pound notes in getting acquainted with London that there were no sovereigns left. At the end of one month he had just enough money to buy him a second-class passage back to New York, and he was as far from Helen as ever.
Often he had read in stories and novels of men who were too poor to marry. And he had laughed at the idea. He had always said that when two people truly love each other it does not matter whether they have money or not. But when in London, with only a five-pound note, and face to face with the actual proposition of asking Helen Carey not only to marry him but to support him, he felt that money counted for more than he had supposed. He found money was many different things--it was self-respect, and proper pride, and private honors and independence. And, lacking these things, he felt he could ask no girl to marry him, certainly not one for whom he cared as he cared for Helen Carey. Besides, while he knew how he loved her, he had no knowledge whatsoever that she loved him. She always seemed extremely glad to see him; but that might be explained in different ways. It might be that what was in her heart for him was really a sort of "old home week" feeling; that to her it was a relief to see any one who spoke her own language, who did not need to have it explained when she was jesting, and who did not think when she was speaking in perfectly satisfactory phrases that she must be talking slang.
The Ambassador and his wife had been very kind to Endicott, and, as a friend of Helen's, had asked him often to dinner and had sent him cards for dances at which Helen was to be one of the belles and beauties. And Helen herself had been most kind, and had taken early morning walks with him in Hyde Park and through the National Galleries; and they had fed buns to the bears in the Zoo, and in doing so had laughed heartily. They thought it was because the bears were so ridiculous that they laughed. Later they appreciated that the reason they were happy was because they were together. Had the bear pit been empty, they still would have laughed.
On the evening of the thirty-first of May, Endicott had gone to bed with his ticket purchased for America and his last five-pound note to last him until the boat sailed. He was a miserable young man. He knew now that he loved Helen Carey in such a way that to put the ocean between them was liable to unseat his courage and his self-control. In London he could, each night, walk through Carlton House Terrace and, leaning against the iron rails of the Carlton Club, gaze up at her window. But, once on the other side of the ocean, that tender exercise must be abandoned. He must even consider her pursued by most attractive guardsmen, diplomats, and belted earls. He knew they could not love her as he did; he knew they could not love her for the reasons he loved her, because the fine and beautiful things in her that he saw and worshipped they did not seek, and so did not find. And yet, for lack of a few thousand dollars, he must remain silent, must put from him the best that ever came into his life, must waste the wonderful devotion he longed to give, must starve the love that he could never summon for any other woman.
On the thirty-first of May he went to sleep utterly and completely miserable. On the first of June he woke hopeless and unrefreshed.
And then the miracle came.
Prichard, the ex-butler who valeted all the young gentlemen in the house where Philip had taken chambers, brought him his breakfast. As he placed the eggs and muffins on the tables to Philip it seemed as though Prichard had said: "I am sorry he is leaving us. The next gentleman who takes these rooms may not be so open-handed. He never locked up his cigars or his whiskey. I wish he'd give me his old dress-coat. It fits me, except across the shoulders."
Philip stared hard at Prichard; but the lips of the valet had not moved. In surprise and bewilderment, Philip demanded:
"How do you know it fits? Have you tried it on?"
"I wouldn't take such a liberty," protested Prichard. "Not with any of our gentlemen's clothes."
"How did you know I was talking about clothes," demanded Philip. "You didn't say anything about clothes, did you?"
"No, sir, I did not; but you asked me, sir, and I--"
"Were you thinking of clothes?"
"Well, sir, you might say, in a way, that I was, answered the valet. "Seeing as you're leaving, sir, and they're not over-new, I thought "
"It's mental telepathy," said Philip.
"I beg your pardon," exclaimed Prichard.
"You needn't wait," said Philip.
The coincidence puzzled him; but by the time he had read the morning papers he had forgotten about it, and it was not until he had emerged into the street that it was forcibly recalled. The street was crowded with people; and as Philip stepped in among them, It was as though every one at whom he looked began to talk aloud. Their lips did not move, nor did any sound issue from between them; but, without ceasing, broken phrases of thoughts came to him as clearly as when, in passing in a crowd, snatches of talk are carried to the ears. One man thought of his debts; another of the weather, and of what disaster it might bring to his silk hat; another planned his luncheon; another was rejoicing over a telegram he had but that moment received. To himself he kept repeating the words of the telegram--"No need to come, out of danger." To Philip the message came as clearly as though he were reading it from the folded slip of paper that the stranger clutched in his hand.
Confused and somewhat frightened, and in order that undisturbed he might consider what had befallen him, Philip sought refuge from the crowded street in the hallway of a building. His first thought was that for some unaccountable cause his brain for the moment was playing tricks with him, and he was inventing the phrases he seemed to hear, that he was attributing thoughts to others of which they were entirely innocent. But, whatever it was that had befallen him, he knew it was imperative that he should at once get at the meaning of it.
The hallway in which he stood opened from Bond Street up a flight of stairs to the studio of a fashionable photographer, and directly in front of the hallway a young woman of charming appearance had halted. Her glance was troubled, her manner ill at ease. To herself she kept repeating: "Did I tell Hudson to be here at a quarter to eleven, or a quarter past? Will she get the telephone message to bring the ruff? Without the ruff it would be absurd to be photographed. Without her ruff Mary Queen of Scots would look ridiculous!"
Although the young woman had spoken not a single word, although indeed she was biting impatiently at her lower lip, Philip had distinguished the words clearly. Or, if he had not distinguished them, he surely was going mad. It was a matter to be at once determined, and the young woman should determine it. He advanced boldly to her, and raised his hat.
"Pardon me," he said, "but I believe you are waiting for your maid Hudson?"
As though fearing an impertinence, the girl regarded him in silence.
"I only wish to make sure," continued Philip, "that you are she for whom I have a message. You have an appointment, I believe, to be photographed in fancy dress as Mary Queen of Scots?"
"Well?" assented the girl.
"And you telephoned Hudson," he continued, "to bring you your muff."
The girl exclaimed with vexation.
"Oh!" she protested; "I knew they'd get it wrong! Not muff, ruff! I want my ruff."
Philip felt a cold shiver creep down his spine.
"For the love of Heaven!" he exclaimed in horror; "it's true!"
"What's true?" demanded the young woman in some alarm.
"That I'm a mind reader," declared Philip. "I've read your mind! I can read everybody's mind. I know just what you're thinking now. You're thinking I'm mad!"
The actions of the young lady showed that again he was correct. With a gasp of terror she fled past him and raced up the stairs to the studio. Philip made no effort to follow and to explain. What was there to explain? How could he explain that which, to himself, was unbelievable? Besides, the girl had served her purpose. If he could read the mind of one, he could read the minds of all. By some unexplainable miracle, to his ordinary equipment of senses a sixth had been added. As easily as, before that morning, he could look into the face of a fellow-mortal, he now could look into the workings of that fellow-mortal's mind. The thought was appalling. It was like living with one's ear to a key-hole. In his dismay his first idea was to seek medical advice--the best in London. He turned instantly in the direction of Harley Street. There, he determined, to the most skilled alienist in town he would explain his strange plight. For only as a misfortune did the miracle appear to him. But as he made his way through the streets his pace slackened.
Was he wise, he asked himself, in allowing others to know he possessed this strange power? Would they not at once treat him as a madman? Might they not place him under observation, or even deprive him of his liberty? At the thought he came to an abrupt halt His own definition of the miracle as a "power" had opened a new line of speculation. If this strange gift (already he was beginning to consider it more leniently) were concealed from others, could he not honorably put it to some useful purpose? For, among the blind, the man with one eye is a god. Was not he--among all other men the only one able to read the minds of all other men--a god? Turning into Bruton Street, he paced its quiet length considering the possibilities that lay within him.
It was apparent that the gift would lead to countless embarrassments. If it were once known that he possessed it, would not even his friends avoid him? For how could any one, knowing his most secret thought was at the mercy of another, be happy in that other's presence? His power would lead to his social ostracism. Indeed, he could see that his gift might easily become a curse. He decided not to act hastily, that for the present he had best give no hint to others of his unique power.
As the idea of possessing this power became more familiar, he regarded it with less aversion. He began to consider to what advantage he could place it. He could see that, given the right time and the right man, he might learn secrets leading to far-reaching results. To a statesman, to a financier, such a gift as he possessed would make him a ruler of men. Philip had no desire to be a ruler of men; but he asked himself how could he bend this gift to serve his own? What he most wished was to marry Helen Carey; and, to that end, to possess money. So he must meet men who possessed money, who were making money. He would put questions to them. And with words they would give evasive answers; but their minds would tell him the truth.
The ethics of this procedure greatly disturbed him. Certainly it was no better than reading other people's letters. But, he argued, the dishonor in knowledge so obtained would lie only in the use he made of it. If he used it without harm to him from whom it was obtained and with benefit to others, was he not justified in trading on his superior equipment? He decided that each case must be considered separately in accordance with the principle involved. But, principle or no principle, he was determined to become rich. Did not the end justify the means? Certainly an all-wise Providence had not brought Helen Carey into his life only to take her away from him. It could not be so cruel. But, in selecting them for one another, the all-wise Providence had overlooked the fact that she was rich and he was poor. For that oversight Providence apparently was now endeavoring to make amends. In what certainly was a fantastic and roundabout manner Providence had tardily equipped him with a gift that could lead to great wealth. And who was he to fly in the face of Providence? He decided to set about building up a fortune, and building it in a hurry.
From Bruton Street he had emerged upon Berkeley Square; and, as Lady Woodcote had invited him to meet Helen at luncheon at the Ritz, he turned in that direction. He was too early for luncheon; but in the corridor of the Ritz he knew he would find persons of position and fortune, and in reading their minds he might pass the time before luncheon with entertainment, possibly with profit. For, while pacing Bruton Street trying to discover the principles of conduct that threatened to hamper his new power, he had found that in actual operation it was quite simple. He learned that his mind, in relation to other minds, was like the receiver of a wireless station with an unlimited field. For, while the wireless could receive messages only from those instruments with which it was attuned, his mind was in key with all other minds. To read the thoughts of another, he had only to concentrate his own upon that person; and to shut off the thoughts of that person, he had only to turn his own thoughts elsewhere. But also he discovered that over the thoughts of those outside the range of his physical sight he had no control. When he asked of what Helen Carey was at that moment thinking, there was no result. But when he asked, "Of what is that policeman on the corner thinking?" he was surprised to find that that officer of the law was formulating regulations to abolish the hobble skirt as an impediment to traffic.
As Philip turned into Berkeley Square, the accents of a mind in great distress smote upon his new and sixth sense. And, in the person of a young gentleman leaning against the park railing, he discovered the source from which the mental sufferings emanated. The young man was a pink-cheeked, yellow-haired youth of extremely boyish appearance, and dressed as if for the race-track. But at the moment his pink and babyish face wore an expression of complete misery. With tear-filled eyes he was gazing at a house of yellow stucco on the opposite side of the street. And his thoughts were these: "She is the best that ever lived, and I am the most ungrateful of fools. How happy were we in the house of yellow stucco! Only now, when she has closed its doors to me, do I know how happy! If she would give me another chance, never again would I distress or deceive her."
So far had the young man progressed in his thoughts when an automobile of surprising smartness swept around the corner and drew up in front of the house of yellow stucco, and from it descended a charming young person. She was of the Dresden- shepherdess type, with large blue eyes of haunting beauty and innocence.
"My wife!" exclaimed the blond youth at the railings. And instantly he dodged behind a horse that, while still attached to a four-wheeler, was contentedly eating from a nose-bag.
With a key the Dresden shepherdess opened the door to the yellow house and disappeared.
The calling of the reporter trains him in audacity, and to act quickly. He shares the troubles of so many people that to the troubles of other people he becomes callous, and often will rush in where friends of the family fear to tread. Although Philip was not now acting as a reporter, he acted quickly. Hardly had the door closed upon the young lady than he had mounted the steps and rung the visitor's bell. As he did so, he could not resist casting a triumphant glance in the direction of the outlawed husband. And, in turn, what the outcast husband, peering from across the back of the cab horse, thought of Philip, of his clothes, of his general appearance, and of the manner in which he would delight to alter all of them, was quickly communicated to the American. They were thoughts of a nature so violent and uncomplimentary that Philip hastily cut off all connection.
As Philip did not know the name of the Dresden-china doll, it was fortunate that on opening the door, the butler promptly announced:
"Her ladyship is not receiving."
"Her ladyship will, I think, receive me," said Philip pleasantly, "when you tell her I come as the special ambassador of his lordship."
From a tiny reception-room on the right of the entrance-hall there issued a feminine exclamation of surprise, not unmixed with joy; and in the hall the noble lady instantly appeared.
When she saw herself confronted by a stranger, she halted in embarrassment. But as, even while she halted, her only thought had been, "Oh! if he will only ask me to forgive him!" Philip felt no embarrassment whatsoever. Outside, concealed behind a cab horse, was the erring but bitterly repentant husband; inside, her tenderest thoughts racing tumultuously toward him, was an unhappy child-wife begging to be begged to pardon.
For a New York reporter, and a Harvard graduate of charm and good manners, it was too easy.
"I do not know you," said her ladyship. But even as she spoke she motioned to the butler to go away. "You must be one of his new friends." Her tone was one of envy.
"Indeed, I am his newest friend," Philip assured her; "but I can safely say no one knows his thoughts as well as I. And they are all of you!"
The china shepherdess blushed with happiness, but instantly she shook her head.
"They tell me I must not believe him," she announced. "They tell me--"
"Never mind what they tell you," commanded Philip. "Listen to ME. He loves you. Better than ever before, he loves you. All he asks is the chance to tell you so. You cannot help but believe him. Who can look at you, and not believe that he loves you! Let me," he begged, "bring him to you." He started from her when, remembering the somewhat violent thoughts of the youthful husband, he added hastily: "Or perhaps it would be better if you called him yourself."
"Called him!" exclaimed the lady. "He is in Paris-at the races--with her!"
"If they tell you that sort of thing," protested Philip indignantly, "you must listen to me. He is not in Paris. He is not with her. There never was a her!"
He drew aside the lace curtains and pointed. "He is there-- behind that ancient cab horse, praying that you will let him tell you that not only did he never do it; but, what is much more important, he will never do it again."
The lady herself now timidly drew the curtains apart, and then more boldly showed herself upon the iron balcony. Leaning over the scarlet geraniums, she beckoned with both hands. The result was instantaneous. Philip bolted for the front door, leaving it open; and, as he darted down the steps, the youthful husband, in strides resembling those of an ostrich, shot past him. Philip did not cease running until he was well out of Berkeley Square. Then, not ill-pleased with the adventure, he turned and smiled back at the house of yellow stucco.
"Bless you, my children," he murmured; "bless you!"
He continued to the Ritz; and, on crossing Piccadilly to the quieter entrance to the hotel in Arlington Street, found gathered around it a considerable crowd drawn up on either side of a red carpet that stretched down the steps of the hotel to a court carriage. A red carpet in June, when all is dry under foot and the sun is shining gently, can mean only royalty; and in the rear of the men in the street Philip halted. He remembered that for a few days the young King of Asturia and the Queen Mother were at the Ritz incognito; and, as he never had seen the young man who so recently and so tragically had been exiled from his own kingdom, Philip raised himself on tiptoe and stared expectantly.
As easily as he could read their faces could he read the thoughts of those about him. They were thoughts of friendly curiosity, of pity for the exiles; on the part of the policemen who had hastened from a cross street, of pride at their temporary responsibility; on the part of the coachman of the court carriage, of speculation as to the possible amount of his Majesty's tip. The thoughts were as harmless and protecting as the warm sunshine.
And then, suddenly and harshly, like the stroke of a fire bell at midnight, the harmonious chorus of gentle, hospitable thoughts was shattered by one that was discordant, evil, menacing. It was the thought of a man with a brain diseased; and its purpose was murder.
"When they appear at the doorway," spoke the brain of the maniac, "I shall lift the bomb from my pocket. I shall raise it above my head. I shall crash it against the stone steps. It will hurl them and all of these people into eternity and me with them. But I shall LIVE--a martyr to the Cause. And the Cause will flourish!"
Through the unsuspecting crowd, like a football player diving for a tackle, Philip hurled himself upon a little dark man standing close to the open door of the court carriage. From the rear Philip seized him around the waist and locked his arms behind him, elbow to elbow. Philip's face, appearing over the man's shoulder, stared straight into that of the policeman.
"He has a bomb in his right-hand pocket!" yelled Philip. "I can hold him while you take it! But, for Heaven's sake, don't drop it!" Philip turned upon the crowd. "Run! all of you!" he shouted. "Run like the devil!"
At that instant the boy King and his Queen Mother, herself still young and beautiful, and cloaked with a dignity and sorrow that her robes of mourning could not intensify, appeared in the doorway.
"Go back, sir!" warned Philip. "He means to kill you!"
At the words and at sight of the struggling men, the great lady swayed helplessly, her eyes filled with terror. Her son sprang protectingly in front of her. But the danger was past. A second policeman was now holding the maniac by the wrists, forcing his arms above his head; Philip's arms, like a lariat, were wound around his chest; and from his pocket the first policeman gingerly drew forth a round, black object of the size of a glass fire-grenade. He held it high in the air, and waved his free hand warningly. But the warning was unobserved. There was no one remaining to observe it. Leaving the would-be assassin struggling and biting in the grasp of the stalwart policeman, and the other policeman unhappily holding the bomb at arm's length, Philip sought to escape into the Ritz. But the young King broke through the circle of attendants and stopped him.
"I must thank you," said the boy eagerly; "and I wish you to tell me how you came to suspect the man's purpose."
Unable to speak the truth, Philip, the would-be writer of fiction, began to improvise fluently.
"To learn their purpose, sir," he said, "is my business. I am of the International Police, and in the secret service of your Majesty."
"Then I must know your name," said the King, and added with a dignity that was most becoming, "You will find we are not ungrateful."
Philip smiled mysteriously and shook his head.
"I said in your secret service," he repeated. "Did even your Majesty know me, my usefulness would be at an end." He pointed toward the two policemen. "If you desire to be just, as well as gracious, those are the men to reward."
He slipped past the King and through the crowd of hotel officials into the hall and on into the corridor.
The arrest had taken place so quietly and so quickly that through the heavy glass doors no sound had penetrated, and of the fact that they had been so close to a possible tragedy those in the corridor were still ignorant. The members of the Hungarian orchestra were arranging their music; a waiter was serving two men of middle age with sherry; and two distinguished-looking elderly gentlemen seated together on a sofa were talking in leisurely whispers.
One of the two middle-aged men was well known to Philip, who as a reporter had often, in New York, endeavored to interview him on matters concerning the steel trust. His name was Faust. He was a Pennsylvania Dutchman from Pittsburgh, and at one time had been a foreman of the night shift in the same mills he now controlled. But with a roar and a spectacular flash, not unlike one of his own blast furnaces, he had soared to fame and fortune. He recognized Philip as one of the bright young men of the Republic; but in his own opinion he was far too self-important to betray that fact.
Philip sank into an imitation Louis Quatorze chair beside a fountain in imitation of one in the apartment of the Pompadour, and ordered what he knew would be an execrable imitation of an American cocktail. While waiting for the cocktail and Lady Woodcote's luncheon party, Philip, from where he sat, could not help but overhear the conversation of Faust and of the man with him. The latter was a German with Hebraic features and a pointed beard. In loud tones he was congratulating the American many-time millionaire on having that morning come into possession of a rare and valuable masterpiece, a hitherto unknown and but recently discovered portrait of Philip IV by Velasquez.
Philip sighed enviously.
"Fancy," he thought, "owning a Velasquez! Fancy having it all to yourself! It must be fun to be rich. It certainly is hell to be poor!"
The German, who was evidently a picture-dealer, was exclaiming in tones of rapture, and nodding his head with an air of awe and solemnity.
"I am telling you the truth, Mr. Faust," he said. "In no gallery in Europe, no, not even in the Prado, is there such another Velasquez. This is what you are doing, Mr. Faust, you are robbing Spain. You are robbing her of something worth more to her than Cuba. And I tell you, so soon as it is known that this Velasquez is going to your home in Pittsburgh, every Spaniard will hate you and every art-collector will hate you, too. For it is the most wonderful art treasure in Europe. And what a bargain, Mr. Faust! What a bargain!"
To make sure that the reporter was within hearing, Mr. Faust glanced in the direction of Philip and, seeing that he had heard, frowned importantly. That the reporter might hear still more, he also raised his voice.
"Nothing can be called a bargain, Baron," he said, "that costs three hundred thousand dollars!"
Again he could not resist glancing toward Philip, and so eagerly that Philip deemed it would be only polite to look interested. So he obligingly assumed a startled look, with which he endeavored to mingle simulations of surprise, awe, and envy.
The next instant an expression of real surprise overspread his features.
Mr. Faust continued. "If you will come upstairs," he said to the picture-dealer, "I will give you your check; and then I should like to drive to your apartments and take a farewell look at the picture."
"I am sorry," the Baron said, "but I have had it moved to my art gallery to be packed."
"Then let's go to the gallery," urged the patron of art. "We've just time before lunch." He rose to his feet, and on the instant the soul of the picture-dealer was filled with alarm.
In actual words he said: "The picture is already boxed and in its lead coffin. No doubt by now it is on its way to Liverpool. I am sorry." But his thoughts, as Philip easily read them, were: "Fancy my letting this vulgar fool into the Tate Street workshop! Even HE would know that old masters are not found in a half-finished state on Chelsea-made frames and canvases. Fancy my letting him see those two half-completed Van Dycks, the new Hals, the half-dozen Corots. He would even see his own copy of Velasquez next to the one exactly like it--the one MacMillan finished yesterday and that I am sending to Oporto, where next year, in a convent, we shall 'discover' it."
Philip's surprise gave way to intense amusement. In his delight at the situation upon which he had stumbled, he laughed aloud. The two men, who had risen, surprised at the spectacle of a young man laughing at nothing, turned and stared. Philip also rose.
"Pardon me," he said to Faust, "but you spoke so loud I couldn't help overhearing. I think we've met before, when I was a reporter on the Republic."
The Pittsburgh millionaire made a pretense, of annoyance.
"Really!" he protested irritably, "you reporters butt in everywhere. No public man is safe. Is there no place we can go where you fellows won't annoy us?"
"You can go to the devil for all I care," said Philip, "or even to Pittsburgh!"
He saw the waiter bearing down upon him with the imitation cocktail, and moved to meet it. The millionaire, fearing the reporter would escape him, hastily changed his tone. He spoke with effective resignation.
"However, since you've learned so much," he said, "I'll tell you the whole of it. I don't want the fact garbled, for it is of international importance. Do you know what a Velasquez is?"
"Do you?" asked Philip.
The millionaire smiled tolerantly.
"I think I do," he said. "And to prove it, I shall tell you something that will be news to you. I have just bought a Velasquez that I am going to place in my art museum. It is worth three hundred thousand dollars."
Philip accepted the cocktail the waiter presented. It was quite as bad as he had expected.
"Now, I shall tell you something," he said, "that will be news to you. You are not buying a Velasquez. It is no more a Velasquez than this hair oil is a real cocktail. It is a bad copy, worth a few dollars."
"How dare you!" shouted Faust. "Are you mad?"
The face of the German turned crimson with rage.
"Who is this insolent one?" he sputtered.
"I will make you a sporting proposition," said Philip. "You can take it, or leave it. You two will get into a taxi. You will drive to this man's studio in Tate Street. You will find your Velasquez is there and not on its way to Liverpool. And you will find one exactly like it, and a dozen other 'old masters' half-finished. I'll bet you a hundred pounds I'm right! And I'll bet this man a hundred pounds that he DOESN'T DARE TAKE YOU TO HIS STUDIO!"
"Indeed, I will not," roared the German. "It would be to insult myself."
"It would be an easy way to earn a hundred pounds, too," said Philip.
"How dare you insult the Baron?" demanded Faust. "What makes you think--"
"I don't think, I know!" said Philip. "For the price of a taxi-cab fare to Tate Street, you win a hundred pounds."
"We will all three go at once," cried the German. "My car is outside. Wait here. I will have it brought to the door?"
Faust protested indignantly.
"Do not disturb yourself, Baron," he said; "just because a fresh reporter--"
But already the German had reached the hall. Nor did he stop there. They saw him, without his hat, rush into Piccadilly, spring into a taxi, and shout excitedly to the driver. The next moment he had disappeared.
"That's the last you'll see of him," said Philip.
"His actions are certainly peculiar," gasped the millionaire. "He did not wait for us. He didn't even wait for his hat! I think, after all, I had better go to Tate Street."
"Do so," said Philip, "and save yourself three hundred thousand dollars, and from the laughter of two continents. You'll find me here at lunch. If I'm wrong, I'll pay you a hundred pounds."
"You should come with me," said Faust. "It is only fair to yourself."
"I'll take your word for what you find in the studio," said Philip. "I cannot go. This is my busy day."
Without further words, the millionaire collected his hat and stick, and, in his turn, entered a taxi-cab and disappeared.
Philip returned to the Louis Quatorze chair and lit a cigarette. Save for the two elderly gentlemen on the sofa, the lounge was still empty, and his reflections were undisturbed. He shook his head sadly.
"Surely," Philip thought, "the French chap was right who said words were given us to conceal our thoughts. What a strange world it would be if every one possessed my power. Deception would be quite futile and lying would become a lost art. I wonder," he mused cynically, "is any one quite honest? Does any one speak as he thinks and think as he speaks?"
At once came a direct answer to his question. The two elderly gentlemen had risen and, before separating, had halted a few feet from him.
"I sincerely hope, Sir John," said one of the two, "that you have no regrets. I hope you believe that I have advised you in the best interests of all?"
"I do, indeed," the other replied heartily "We shall be thought entirely selfish; but you know and I know that what we have done is for the benefit of the shareholders."
Philip was pleased to find that the thoughts of each of the old gentlemen ran hand in hand with his spoken words. "Here, at least," he said to himself, "are two honest men."
As though loath to part, the two gentlemen still lingered.
"And I hope," continued the one addressed as Sir John, "that you approve of my holding back the public announcement of the combine until the afternoon. It will give the shareholders a better chance. Had we given out the news in this morning's papers the stockbrokers would have--"
"It was most wise," interrupted the other. "Most just."
The one called Sir John bowed himself away, leaving the other still standing at the steps of the lounge. With his hands behind his back, his chin sunk on his chest, he remained, gazing at nothing, his thoughts far away.
Philip found them thoughts of curious interest. They were concerned with three flags. Now, the gentleman considered them separately; and Philip saw the emblems painted clearly in colors, fluttering and flattened by the breeze. Again, the gentleman considered them in various combinations; but always, in whatever order his mind arranged them, of the three his heart spoke always to the same flag, as the heart of a mother reaches toward her firstborn.
Then the thoughts were diverted; and in his mind's eye the old gentleman was watching the launching of a little schooner from a shipyard on the Clyde. At her main flew one of the three flags--a flag with a red cross on a white ground. With thoughts tender and grateful, he followed her to strange, hot ports, through hurricanes and tidal waves; he saw her return again and again to the London docks, laden with odorous coffee, mahogany, red rubber, and raw bullion. He saw sister ships follow in her wake to every port in the South Sea; saw steam packets take the place of the ships with sails; saw the steam packets give way to great ocean liners, each a floating village, each equipped, as no village is equipped, with a giant power house, thousands of electric lamps, suite after suite of silk-lined boudoirs, with the floating harps that vibrate to a love message three hundred miles away, to the fierce call for help from a sinking ship. But at the main of each great vessel there still flew the same house-flag--the red cross on the field of white--only now in the arms of the cross there nestled proudly a royal crown.
Philip cast a scared glance at the old gentleman, and raced down the corridor to the telephone.
Of all the young Englishmen he knew, Maddox was his best friend and a stock-broker. In that latter capacity Philip had never before addressed him. Now he demanded his instant presence at the telephone.
Maddox greeted him genially, but Philip cut him short.
"I want you to act for me," he whispered, "and act quick! I want you to buy for me one thousand shares of the Royal Mail Line, of the Elder-Dempster, and of the Union Castle."
He heard Maddox laugh indulgently.
"There's nothing in that yarn of a combine," he called. "It has fallen through. Besides, shares are at fifteen pounds."
Philip, having in his possession a second-class ticket and a five-pound note, was indifferent to that, and said so.
"I don't care what they are," he shouted. "The combine is already signed and sealed, and no one knows it but myself. In an hour everybody will know it!"
"What makes you think you know it?" demanded the broker.
"I've seen the house-flags!" cried Philip. "I have--do as I tell you," he commanded.
There was a distracting delay.
"No matter who's back of you," objected Maddox, "it's a big order on a gamble."
"It's not a gamble," cried Philip. "It's an accomplished fact. I'm at the Ritz. Call me up there. Start buying now, and, when you've got a thousand of each, stop!"
Philip was much too agitated to go far from the telephone booth; so for half an hour he sat in the reading-room, forcing himself to read the illustrated papers. When he found he had read the same advertisement five times, he returned to the telephone. The telephone boy met him half-way with a message.
"Have secured for you a thousand shares of each," he read, "at fifteen. Maddox."
Like a man awakening from a nightmare, Philip tried to separate the horror of the situation from the cold fact. The cold fact was sufficiently horrible. It was that, without a penny to pay for them, he had bought shares in three steamship lines, which shares, added together, were worth two hundred and twenty five thousand dollars. He returned down the corridor toward the lounge. Trembling at his own audacity, he was in a state of almost complete panic, when that happened which made his outrageous speculation of little consequence. It was drawing near to half-past one; and, in the persons of several smart men and beautiful ladies, the component parts of different luncheon parties were beginning to assemble.
Of the luncheon to which Lady Woodcote had invited him, only one guest had arrived; but, so far as Philip was concerned, that one was sufficient. It was Helen herself, seated alone, with her eyes fixed on the doors opening from Piccadilly. Philip, his heart singing with appeals, blessings, and adoration, ran toward her. Her profile was toward him, and she could not see him; but he could see her. And he noted that, as though seeking some one, her eyes were turned searchingly upon each young man as he entered and moved from one to another of those already in the lounge. Her expression was eager and anxious.
"If only," Philip exclaimed, "she were looking for me! She certainly is looking for some man. I wonder who it can be?"
As suddenly as if he had slapped his face into a wall, he halted in his steps. Why should he wonder? Why did he not read her mind? Why did he not KNOW? A waiter was hastening toward him. Philip fixed his mind upon the waiter, and his eyes as well. Mentally Philip demanded of him: "Of what are you thinking?"
There was no response. And then, seeing an unlit cigarette hanging from Philip's lips, the waiter hastily struck a match and proffered it. Obviously, his mind had worked, first, in observing the half-burned cigarette; next, in furnishing the necessary match. And of no step in that mental process had Philip been conscious! The conclusion was only too apparent. His power was gone. No longer was he a mind reader!
Hastily Philip reviewed the adventures of the morning. As he considered them, the moral was obvious. The moment he had used his power to his own advantage, he had lost it. So long as he had exerted it for the happiness of the two lovers, to save the life of the King, to thwart the dishonesty of a swindler, he had been all-powerful; but when he endeavored to bend it to his own uses, it had fled from him. As he stood abashed and repentant, Helen turned her eyes toward him; and, at the sight of him, there leaped to them happiness and welcome and complete content. It was "the look that never was on land or sea," and it was not necessary to be a mind reader to understand it. Philip sprang toward her as quickly as a man dodges a taxi-cab.
"I came early," said Helen, "because I wanted to talk to you before the others arrived." She seemed to be repeating words already rehearsed, to be following a course of conduct already predetermined. "I want to tell you," she said, "that I am sorry you are going away. I want to tell you that I shall miss you very much." She paused and drew a long breath. And she looked at Philip as if she was begging him to make it easier for her to go on.
Philip proceeded to make it easier.
"Will you miss me," he asked, "in the Row, where I used to wait among the trees to see you ride past? Will you miss me at dances, where I used to hide behind the dowagers to watch you waltzing by? Will you miss me at night, when you come home by sunrise, and I am not hiding against the railings of the Carlton Club, just to see you run across the pavement from your carriage, just to see the light on your window blind, just to see the light go out, and to know that you are sleeping?"
Helen's eyes were smiling happily. She looked away from him.
"Did you use to do that?" she asked.
"Every night I do that," said Philip. "Ask the policemen! They arrested me three times."
"Why?" said Helen gently.
But Philip was not yet free to speak, so he said:
"They thought I was a burglar."
Helen frowned. He was making it very hard for her.
"You know what I mean," she said. "Why did you keep guard outside my window?"
"It was the policeman kept guard," said Philip. "I was there only as a burglar. I came to rob. But I was a coward, or else I had a conscience, or else I knew my own unworthiness." There was a long pause. As both of them, whenever they heard the tune afterward, always remembered, the Hungarian band, with rare inconsequence, was playing the "Grizzly Bear," and people were trying to speak to Helen. By her they were received with a look of so complete a lack of recognition, and by Philip with a glare of such savage hate, that they retreated in dismay. The pause seemed to last for many years.
At last Helen said: "Do you know the story of the two roses? They grew in a garden under a lady's window. They both loved her. One looked up at her from the ground and sighed for her; but the other climbed to the lady's window, and she lifted him in and kissed him--because he had dared to climb."
Philip took out his watch and looked at it. But Helen did not mind his doing that, because she saw that his eyes were filled with tears. She was delighted to find that she was making it very hard for him, too.
"At any moment," Philip said, "I may know whether I owe two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars which I can never pay, or whether I am worth about that sum. I should like to continue this conversation at the exact place where you last spoke--AFTER I know whether I am going to jail, or whether I am worth a quarter of a million dollars."
Helen laughed aloud with happiness.
"I knew that was it!" she cried. "You don't like my money. I was afraid you did not like ME. If you dislike my money, I will give it away, or I will give it to you to keep for me. The money does not matter, so long as you don't dislike me."
What Philip would have said to that, Helen could not know, for a page in many buttons rushed at him with a message from the telephone, and with a hand that trembled Philip snatched it. It read: "Combine is announced, shares have gone to thirty-one, shall I hold or sell?"
That at such a crisis he should permit of any interruption hurt Helen deeply. She regarded him with unhappy eyes. Philip read the message three times. At last, and not without uneasy doubts as to his own sanity, he grasped the preposterous truth. He was worth almost a quarter of a million dollars! At the page he shoved his last and only five-pound note. He pushed the boy from him.
"Run!" he commanded. "Get out of here, Tell him he is to SELL!"
He turned to Helen with a look in his eyes that could not be questioned or denied. He seemed incapable of speech, and, to break the silence, Helen said: "Is it good news?"
"That depends entirely upon you," replied Philip soberly. "Indeed, all my future life depends upon what you are going to say next."
Helen breathed deeply and happily.
"And--what am I going to say?"
"How can I know that?" demanded Philip. "Am I a mind reader?"
But what she said may be safely guessed from the fact that they both chucked Lady Woodcotes luncheon, and ate one of penny buns, which they shared with the bears in Regents Park.
Philip was just able to pay for the penny buns. Helen paid for the taxi-cab.
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