THE CINEMA MURDER
BY E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
With a somewhat prolonged grinding of the brakes and an unnecessary
amount of fuss in the way of letting off steam, the afternoon train from
London came to a standstill in the station at Detton Magna. An elderly
porter, putting on his coat as he came, issued, with the dogged aid of
one bound by custom to perform a hopeless mission, from the small,
redbrick lamp room. The station master, occupying a position of vantage
in front of the shed which enclosed the booking office, looked up and
down the lifeless row of closed and streaming windows, with an expectancy
dulled by daily disappointment, for the passengers who seldom alighted.
On this occasion no records were broken. A solitary young man stepped out
on to the wet and flinty platform, handed over the half of a third-class
return ticket from London, passed through the two open doors and
commenced to climb the long ascent which led into the town.
He wore no overcoat, and for protection against the inclement weather
he was able only to turn up the collar of his well-worn blue serge coat.
The damp of a ceaselessly wet day seemed to have laid its cheerless
pall upon the whole exceedingly ugly landscape. The hedges, blackened
with smuts from the colliery on the other side of the slope, were
dripping also with raindrops. The road, flinty and light grey in colour,
was greasy with repellent-looking mud—there were puddles even in the
asphalt-covered pathway which he trod. On either side of him stretched
the shrunken, unpastoral-looking fields of an industrial neighbourhood.
The town-village which stretched up the hillside before him presented
scarcely a single redeeming feature. The small, grey stone houses, hard
and unadorned, were interrupted at intervals by rows of brand-new,
red-brick cottages. In the background were the tall chimneys of several
factories; on the left, a colliery shaft raised its smoke-blackened
finger to the lowering clouds.
After his first glance around at these familiar and unlovely objects,
Philip Romilly walked with his head a little thrown back, his eyes lifted
as though with intent to the melancholy and watery skies. He was a young
man well above medium height, slim, almost inclined to be angular, yet
with a good carriage notwithstanding a stoop which seemed more the
result of an habitual depression than occasioned by any physical
weakness. His features were large, his mouth querulous, a little
discontented, his eyes filled with the light of a silent and rebellious
bitterness which seemed, somehow, to have found a more or less permanent
abode in his face. His clothes, although they were neat, had seen better
days. He was ungloved, and he carried under his arm a small parcel,
which appeared to contain a book, carefully done up in brown paper.
As he reached the outskirts of the village he slackened his pace.
Standing a little way back from the road, from which they were separated
by an ugly, gravelled playground, were the familiar school buildings,
with the usual inscription carved in stone above the door. He laid his
hand upon the wooden gate and paused. From inside he could catch the
drone of children's voices. He glanced at his watch. It was barely twenty
minutes past four. For a moment he hesitated. Then he strolled on, and,
turning at the gate of an adjoining cottage, the nearest to the schools
of a little unlovely row, he tried the latch, found it yield to his
touch, and stepped inside. He closed the door behind him and turned, with
a little weary sigh of content, towards a large easy-chair drawn up in
front of the fire. For a single moment he seemed about to throw himself
into its depths—his long fingers, indeed, a little blue with the cold,
seemed already on their way towards the genial warmth of the flames. Then
he stopped short. He stood perfectly still in an attitude of arrested
motion, his eyes, wonderingly at first, and then with a strange,
unanalysable expression, seeming to embark upon a lengthened, a
scrupulous, an almost horrified estimate of his surroundings.
To the ordinary observer there would have been nothing remarkable in the
appearance of the little room, save its entirely unexpected air of luxury
and refinement. There was a small Chippendale sideboard against the wall,
a round, gate-legged table on which stood a blue china bowl filled with
pink roses, a couple of luxurious easy-chairs, some old prints upon the
wall. On the sideboard was a basket, as yet unpacked, filled with
hothouse fruit, and on a low settee by the side of one of the easy-chairs
were a little pile of reviews, several volumes of poetry, and a couple of
library books. In the centre of the mantelpiece was a photograph, the
photograph of a man a little older, perhaps, than this newly-arrived
visitor, with rounder face, dressed in country tweeds, a flower in his
buttonhole, the picture of a prosperous man, yet with a curious, almost
disturbing likeness to the pale, over-nervous, loose-framed youth whose
eye had been attracted by its presence, and who was gazing at it,
"Douglas!" he muttered. "Douglas!"
He flung his hat upon the table and for a moment his hand rested upon his
forehead. He was confronted with a mystery which baffled him, a mystery
whose sinister possibilities were slowly framing themselves in his mind.
While he stood there he was suddenly conscious of the sound of the
opening gate, brisk footsteps up the tiled way, the soft swirl of a
woman's skirt. The latch was raised, the door opened and closed. The
newcomer stood upon the threshold, gazing at him.
"Philip!" she exclaimed. "Why, Philip!"
There was a curious change in the girl's tone, from almost glad welcome
to a note of abrupt fear in that last pronouncement of his name. She
stood looking at him, the victim, apparently, of so many emotions that
there was nothing definite to be drawn either from her tone or
expression. She was a young woman of medium height and slim, delicate
figure, attractive, with large, discontented mouth, full, clear eyes and
a wealth of dark brown hair. She was very simply dressed and yet in a
manner which scarcely suggested the school-teacher. To the man who
confronted her, his left hand gripping the mantelpiece, his eyes filled
with a flaming jealousy, there was something entirely new in the hang of
her well-cut skirt, the soft colouring of her low-necked blouse, the
greater animation of her piquant face with its somewhat dazzling
complexion. His hand flashed out towards her as he asked his question.
"What does it mean, Beatrice?"
She showed signs of recovering herself. With a little shrug of the
shoulders she turned towards the door which led into an inner room.
"Let me get you some tea, Philip," she begged. "You look so cold and
"Stay here, please," he insisted.
She paused reluctantly. There was a curious lack of anything peremptory
in his manner, yet somehow, although she would have given the world
to have passed for a few moments into the shelter of the little kitchen
beyond, she was impelled to do as he bade her.
"Don't be silly, Philip," she said petulantly. "You know you want some
tea, and so do I. Sit down, please, and make yourself comfortable. Why
didn't you let me know you were coming?"
"Perhaps it would have been better," he agreed quietly. "However, since I
am here, answer my question."
She drew a little breath. After all, although she was lacking in any real
strength of character, she was filled with a certain compensatory
doggedness. His challenge was there to be faced. There was no way out of
it. She would have lied willingly enough but for the sheer futility of
falsehood. She commenced the task of bracing herself for the struggle.
"You had better," she said, "frame your question a little more exactly. I
will then try to answer it."
He was stung by her altered demeanour, embarrassed by an avalanche of
words. A hundred questions were burning upon his lips. It was by a great
effort of self-control that he remained coherent.
"The last time I visited you," he began, "was three months ago. Your
cottage then was furnished as one would expect it to be furnished. You
had a deal dresser, a deal table, one rather hard easy-chair and a very
old wicker one. You had, if I remember rightly, a strip of linoleum upon
the floor, and a single rug. Your flowers were from the hedges and your
fruit from the one apple tree in the garden behind. Your clothes—am I
mistaken about your clothes or are you dressed more expensively?"
"I am dressed more expensively," she admitted.
"You and I both know the value of these things," he went on, with a
little sweep of the hand. "We know the value of them because we were once
accustomed to them, because we have both since experienced the passionate
craving for them or the things they represent. Chippendale furniture, a
Turkey carpet, roses in January, hothouse fruit, Bartolozzi prints, do
not march with an income of fifty pounds a year."
"They do not," she assented equably. "All the things which you see here
and which you have mentioned, are presents."
His forefinger shot out with a sudden vigour towards the photograph.
"From Douglas," she admitted, "from your cousin."
He took the photograph into his hand, looked at it for a moment, and
dashed it into the grate. The glass of the frame was shivered into a
hundred pieces. The girl only shrugged her shoulders. She was holding
herself in reserve. As for him, his eyes were hot, there was a dry
choking in his throat. He had passed through many weary and depressed
days, struggling always against the grinding monotony of life and his
surroundings. Now for the first time he felt that there was something
"What does it mean?" he asked once more.
She seemed almost to dilate as she answered him. Her feet were firmly
planted upon the ground. There was a new look in her face, a look of
decision. She was more or less a coward but she felt no fear. She even
leaned a little towards him and looked him in the face.
"It means," she pronounced slowly, "exactly what it seems to mean."
The words conveyed horrible things to him, but he was speechless. He
could only wait.
"You and I, Philip," she continued, "have been—well, I suppose we should
call it engaged—for three years. During those three years I have earned,
by disgusting and wearisome labour, just enough to keep me alive in a
world which has had nothing to offer me but ugliness and discomfort and
misery. You, as you admitted last time we met, have done no better. You
have lived in a garret and gone often hungry to bed. For three years this
has been going on. All that time I have waited for you to bring something
human, something reasonable, something warm into my life, and you have
failed. I have passed, in those three years, from twenty-three to
twenty-six. In three more I shall be in my thirtieth year—that is to
say, the best time of my life will have passed. You see, I have been
thinking, and I have had enough."
He stood quite dumb. The girl's newly-revealed personality seemed to fill
the room. He felt crowded out. She was, at that stage, absolutely
mistress of the situation…. She passed him carelessly by, flung herself
into the easy-chair and crossed her legs. As though he were looking at
some person in another world, he realized that she was wearing shoes of
shapely cut, and silk stockings.
"Our engagement," she went on, "was at first the dearest thing in life to
me. It could have been the most wonderful thing in life. I am only an
ordinary person with an ordinary character, but I have the capacity to
love unselfishly, and I am at heart as faithful and as good as any other
woman. But there is my birthright. I have had three years of sordid and
utterly miserable life, teaching squalid, dirty, unlovable children
things they had much better not know. I have lived here, here in Detton
Magna, among the smuts and the mists, where the flowers seem withered and
even the meadows are stony, where the people are hard and coarse as their
ugly houses, where virtue is ugly, and vice is ugly, and living is ugly,
and death is fearsome. And now you see what I have chosen—not in a
moment's folly, mind, because I am not foolish; not in a moment's
passion, either, because until now the only real feeling I have had in
life was for you. But I have chosen, and I hold to my choice."
"They won't let you stay here," he muttered.
"They needn't," she answered calmly. "There are other ways in which I can
at least earn as much as the miserable pittance doled out to me here. I
have avoided even considering them before. Shall I tell you why? Because
I didn't want to face the temptation they might bring with them. I always
knew what would happen if escape became hopeless. It's the ugliness I
can't stand—the ugliness of cheap food, cheap clothes, uncomfortable
furniture, coarse voices, coarse friends if I would have them. How do you
suppose I have lived here these last three years, a teacher in the
national schools? Look up and down this long, dreary street, at the names
above the shops, at the villas in which the tradespeople live, and ask
yourself where my friends were to come from? The clergyman, perhaps? He
is over seventy, a widower, and he never comes near the place. Why, I'd
have been content to have been patronized if there had been anyone here
to do it, who wore the right sort of clothes and said the right sort of
thing in the right tone. But the others—well, that's done with."
He remained curiously dumb. His eyes were fixed upon the fragments of the
photograph in the grate. In a corner of the room an old-fashioned clock
ticked wheezily. A lump of coal fell out on the hearth, which she
replaced mechanically with her foot. His silence seemed to irritate and
perplex her. She looked away from him, drew her chair a little closer
to the fire, and sat with her head resting upon her hands. Her tone had
become almost meditative.
"I knew that this would come one day," she went on. "Why don't you speak
and get it over? Are you waiting to clothe your phrases? Are you afraid
of the naked words? I'm not. Let me hear them. Don't be more melodramatic
than you can help because, as you know, I am cursed with a sense of
humour, but don't stand there saying nothing."
He raised his eyes and looked at her in silence, an alternative which she
found it hard to endure. Then, after a moment's shivering recoil into her
chair, she sprang to her feet.
"Listen," she cried passionately, "I don't care what you think! I tell
you that if you were really a man, if you had a man's heart in your body,
you'd have sinned yourself before now—robbed some one, murdered them,
torn the things that make life from the fate that refuses to give them.
What is it they pay you," she went on contemptuously, "at that miserable
art school of yours? Sixty pounds a year! How much do you get to eat and
drink out of that? What sort of clothes have you to wear? Are you
content? Yet even you have been better off than I. You have always your
chance. Your play may be accepted or your stories published. I haven't
even had that forlorn hope. But even you, Philip, may wait too long.
There are too many laws, nowadays, for life to be lived naturally. If I
were a man, a man like you, I'd break them."
Her taunts apparently moved him no more than the inner tragedy which her
words had revealed. He did not for one moment give any sign of abandoning
the unnatural calm which seemed to have descended upon him. He took up
his hat from the table, and thrust the little brown paper parcel which he
had been carrying, into his pocket. His eyes for a single moment met the
challenge of hers, and again she was conscious of some nameless,
"Perhaps," he said, as he turned away, "I may do that."
His hand was upon the latch before she realized that he was actually
going. She sprang to her feet. Abuse, scorn, upbraidings, even
violence—she had been prepared for all of these. There was something
about this self-restraint, however, this strange, brooding silence, which
terrified her more than anything she could have imagined.
"Philip!" she shrieked. "You're not going? You're not going like this?
You haven't said anything!"
He closed the door with firm fingers. Her knees trembled, she was
conscious of an unexpected weakness. She abandoned her first intention of
following him, and stood before the window, holding tightly to the sash.
He had reached the gate now and paused for a moment, looking up the long,
windy street. Then he crossed to the other side of the road, stepped over
a stile and disappeared, walking without haste, with firm footsteps,
along a cindered path which bordered the sluggish-looking canal. He had
come and gone, and she knew what fear was!
The railway station at Detton Magna presented, if possible, an even
more dreary appearance than earlier in the day, as the time drew near
that night for the departure of the last train northwards. Its long strip
of flinty platform was utterly deserted. Around the three flickering
gas-lamps the drizzling rain fell continuously. The weary porter came
yawning out of his lamp room into the booking office, where the station
master sat alone, his chair turned away from the open wicket window to
the smouldering embers of the smoky fire.
"No passengers to-night, seemingly," the latter remarked to his
"Not a sign of one," was the reply. "That young chap who came down from
London on a one-day return excursion, hasn't gone back, either. That'll
do his ticket in."
The outside door was suddenly opened and closed. The sound of footsteps
approaching the ticket window was heard. A long, white hand was thrust
through the aperture, a voice was heard from the invisible outside.
"Third to Detton Junction, please."
The station-master took the ticket from a little rack, received the exact
sum he demanded, swept it into the till, and resumed his place before the
fire. The porter, with the lamp in his hand, lounged out into the
booking-hall. The prospective passenger, however, was nowhere in sight.
He looked back into the office.
"Was that Jim Spender going up to see his barmaid again?" he asked his
The station master yawned drowsily.
"Didn't notice," he answered. "What an old woman you're getting, George!
Want to know everybody's business, don't you?"
The porter withdrew, a little huffed. When, a few minutes later, the
train drew in, he even avoided ostentatiously a journey to the far end of
the platform to open the door for the solitary passenger who was standing
there. He passed up the train and slammed the door without even glancing
in at the window. Then he stood and watched the red lights disappear.
"Was it Jim?" the station master asked him, on their way out.
"Didn't notice," his subordinate replied, a little curtly. "Maybe it was
and maybe it wasn't. Good night!"
* * * * *
Philip Romilly sat back in the corner of his empty third-class carriage,
peering out of the window, in which he could see only the reflection of
the feeble gas-lamp. There was no doubt about it, however—they were
moving. The first stage of his journey had commenced. The blessed sense
of motion, after so long waiting, at first soothed and then exhilarated
him. In a few moments he became restless. He let down the rain-blurred
window and leaned out. The cool dampness of the night was immensely
refreshing, the rain softened his hot cheeks. He sat there, peering away
into the shadows, struggling for the sight of definite objects—a tree, a
house, the outline of a field—anything to keep the other thoughts away,
the thoughts that came sometimes like the aftermath of a grisly,
unrealisable nightmare. Then he felt chilly, drew up the window, thrust
his hands into his pockets from which he drew out a handsome cigarette
case, struck a match, and smoked with vivid appreciation of the quality
of the tobacco, examined the crest on the case as he put it away, and
finally patted with surreptitious eagerness the flat morocco letter case
in his inside pocket.
At the Junction, he made his way into the refreshment room and ordered
a long whisky and soda, which he drank in a couple of gulps. Then he
hastened to the booking office and took a first-class ticket to
Liverpool, and a few minutes later secured a seat in the long,
north-bound express which came gliding up to the side of the platform. He
spent some time in the lavatory, washing, arranging his hair,
straightening his tie, after which he made his way into the elaborate
dining-car and found a comfortable corner seat. The luxury of his
surroundings soothed his jagged nerves. The car was comfortably warmed,
the electric light upon his table was softly shaded. The steward who
waited upon him was swift-footed and obsequious, and seemed entirely
oblivious of Philip's shabby, half-soaked clothes. He ordered champagne a
little vaguely, and the wine ran through his veins with a curious
potency. He ate and drank now and then mechanically, now and then with
the keenest appetite. Afterwards he smoked a cigar, drank coffee, and
sipped a liqueur with the appreciation of a connoisseur. A fellow
passenger passed him an evening paper, which he glanced through with
apparent interest. Before he reached his journey's end he had ordered and
drunk another liqueur. He tipped the steward handsomely. It was the first
well-cooked meal which he had eaten for many months.
Arrived at Liverpool, he entered a cab and drove to the Adelphi Hotel. He
made his way at once to the office. His clothes were dry now and the rest
and warmth had given him more confidence.
"You have a room engaged for me, I think," he said, "Mr. Douglas Romilly.
I sent some luggage on."
The man merely glanced at him and handed him a ticket.
"Number sixty-seven, sir, on the second floor," he announced.
A porter conducted him up-stairs into a large, well-furnished bedroom. A
fire was blazing in the grate; a dressing-case, a steamer trunk and a
hatbox were set out at the foot of the bedstead.
"The heavier luggage, labelled for the hold, sir," the man told him, "is
down-stairs, and will go direct to the steamer to-morrow morning. That
was according to your instructions, I believe."
"Quite right," Philip assented. "What time does the boat sail?"
"Three o'clock, sir."
Philip frowned. This was his first disappointment. He had fancied himself
on board early in the day. The prospect of a long morning's inaction
seemed already to terrify him.
"Not till the afternoon," he muttered.
"Matter of tide, sir," the man explained. "You can go on board any time
after eleven o'clock in the morning, though. Very much obliged to you,
The porter withdrew, entirely satisfied with his tip. Philip Romilly
locked the door after him carefully. Then he drew a bunch of keys from
his pocket and, after several attempts, opened both the steamer trunk and
the dressing-case. He surveyed their carefully packed contents with a
certain grim and fantastic amusement, handled the silver brushes, shook
out a purple brocaded dressing-gown, laid out a suit of clothes for the
morrow, even selected a shirt and put the links in it. Finally he
wandered into the adjoining bathroom, took a hot bath, packed away at the
bottom of the steamer trunk the clothes which he had been wearing, went
to bed—and slept.
The sun was shining into his bedroom when Philip Romilly was awakened the
next morning by a discreet tapping at the door. He sat up in bed and
shouted "Come in." He had no occasion to hesitate for a moment. He knew
perfectly well where he was, he remembered exactly everything that had
happened. The knocking at the door was disquieting but he faced it
without a tremor. The floor waiter appeared and bowed deferentially.
"There is a gentleman on the telephone wishes to speak to you, sir," he
announced. "I have connected him with the instrument by your side."
"To speak with me?" Philip repeated. "Are you quite sure?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. Douglas Romilly he asked for. He said that his name was
Mr. Gayes, I believe."
The man left the room and Philip took up the receiver. For a moment he
sat and thought. The situation was perplexing, in a sense ominous, yet
it had to be faced. He held the instrument to his ear.
"Hullo? Who's that?" he enquired.
"That Mr. Romilly?" was the reply, in a man's pleasant voice. "Mr.
"Good! I'm Gayes—Mr. Gayes of Gayes Brothers. My people wrote me last
night from Leicester that you would be here this morning. You are
crossing, aren't you, on the Elletania?"
Philip remained monosyllabic.
"Yes," he admitted cautiously.
"Can't you come round and see us this morning?" Mr. Gayes invited. "And
look here, Mr. Romilly, in any case I want you to lunch with me at the
club. My car shall come round and fetch you at any time you say."
"Sorry," Philip replied. "I am very busy this morning, and I am engaged
"Oh, come, that's too bad," the other protested, "I really want to have a
chat with you on business matters, Mr. Romilly. Will you spare me half an
hour if I come round?"
"Tell me exactly what it is you want?" Philip insisted.
"Oh! just the usual thing," was the cheerful answer. "We hear you are off
to America on a buying tour. Our last advices don't indicate a very easy
market over there. I am not at all sure that we couldn't do better for
you here, and give you better terms."
Philip began to feel more sure of himself. The situation, after all, he
realized, was not exactly alarming.
"Very kind of you," he said. "My arrangements are all made now, though,
and I can't interfere with them."
"Well, I'm going to bother you with a few quotations, anyway. See here,
I'll just run round to see you. My car is waiting at the door now. I
won't keep you more than a few minutes."
"Don't come before twelve," Philip begged. "I shall be busy until then."
"At twelve o'clock precisely, then," was the reply. "I shall hope to
induce you to change your mind about luncheon. It's quite a long time
since we had you at the club. Good-by!"
Philip set down the telephone. He was still in his pajamas and the
morning was cold, but he suddenly felt a great drop of perspiration on
his forehead. It was the sort of thing, this, which he had expected—had
been prepared for, in fact—but it was none the less, in its way,
gruesome. There was a further knock at the door, and the waiter
"Can I bring you any breakfast, sir?" he enquired.
"What time is it?"
"Half-past nine, sir."
"Bring me some coffee and rolls and butter," Philip ordered.
He sprang out of bed, bathed, dressed, and ate his breakfast. Then he lit
a cigarette, repacked his dressing-case, and descended into the hall. He
made his way to the hall porter's enquiry office.
"I am going to pay some calls in the city," he announced—"Mr. Romilly is
my name—and I may not be able to get back here before my boat sails.
I am going on the Elletania. Can I have my luggage sent there direct?"
"By all means, sir."
"Every article is properly labelled," Philip continued. "Those in my
bedroom—number sixty-seven—are for the cabin, and those you have in
your charge are for the hold."
"That will be quite all right, sir," the man assured him pocketing his
liberal tip. "I will see to the matter myself."
Philip paid his bill at the office and breathed a little more freely as
he left the hotel. Passing a large, plate-glass window he stopped
suddenly and stared at his own reflection. There was something unfamiliar
in the hang of his well-cut clothes and fashionable Homburg hat. It was
like the shadow of some one else passing—some one to whom those clothes
belonged. Then he remembered, remembered with a cold shiver which
blanched his cheeks and brought a little agonised murmur to his lips. The
moment passed, however, crushed down, stifled as he had sworn that he
would stifle all such memories. He turned in at a barber's shop, had his
hair cut, and yielded to the solicitations of a fluffy-haired young lady
who was dying to go to America if only somebody would take her, and who
was sure that he ought to have a manicure before his voyage. Afterwards
he entered a call office and rang up the hotel on the telephone.
"Mr. Romilly speaking," he announced. "Will you kindly tell Mr. Gayes, if
he calls to see me, that I have been detained in the city, and shall not
The man took down the message. Philip strolled out once more into the
streets, wandering aimlessly about for an hour or more. By this time it
was nearly one o'clock, and, selecting a restaurant, he entered and
ordered luncheon. Once more it came over him, as he looked around the
place, that he had, after all, only a very imperfect hold upon his own
identity. It seemed impossible that he, Philip Romilly, should be there,
ordering precisely what appealed to him most, without thought or care of
the cost. He ate and drank slowly and with discrimination, and when he
left the place he felt stronger. He sought out a first-class
tobacconist's, bought some cigarettes, and enquired his way to the dock.
At a few minutes after two, he passed up the gangway and boarded the
great steamer. One of the little army of linen-coated stewards enquired
the number of his room and conducted him below.
"Anything I can do for you, sir, before your luggage comes on?" the man
Philip shook his head and wandered up on deck again, where there were
already a fair number of passengers in evidence. He leaned over the side,
watching the constant stream of porters bearing supplies, and the
steerage passengers passing into the forepart of the ship. With every
moment his impatience grew. He looked at his watch sometimes half a dozen
times in ten minutes, changed his position continually, started violently
whenever he heard an unexpected footstep behind him. Finally he broke a
promise he had made to himself. He bought newspapers, took them into a
sheltered corner, and tore them open. Column by column he searched them
through feverishly, running his finger down one side and up the next. It
seemed impossible to find nowhere the heading he dreaded to see, to
realize that they were entirely empty of any exciting incident. He
satisfied himself at last, however. The disappearance of a half-starved
art teacher had not yet blazoned out to a sympathetic world. It was so
much to the good…. There was a touch upon his shoulder, and he felt a
chill of horror. When he turned around, it was the steward who had
conducted him below, holding out a telegram.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said. "Telegram just arrived for you."
He passed on almost at once, in search of some one else. Philip stood for
several moments perfectly still. He looked at the inscription—Douglas
Romilly—set his teeth and tore open the envelope:
Understood you were returning to factory before leaving. Am posting a few
final particulars to Waldorf Hotel, New York. Staff joins me in wishing
you bon voyage.
Philip felt his heart cease its pounding, felt an immense sense of
relief. It was a wonderful thing, this message. It cleared up one point
on which he had been anxious and unsettled. It was taken for granted at
the Works, then, that he had come straight to Liverpool. He walked up and
down the deck on the side remote from the dock, driving this into his
Everything was wonderfully simplified. If only he could get across, once
reach New York! Meanwhile, he looked at his watch again and discovered
that it wanted but ten minutes to three. He made his way back down to his
stateroom, which was already filled with his luggage. He shook out an
ulster from a bundle of wraps, and selected a tweed cap. Already there
was a faint touch of the sea in the river breeze, and he was impatient
for the immeasurable open spaces, the salt wind, the rise and fall of the
great ship. Then, as he stood on the threshold of his cabin, he heard
"Down in number 110, eh?"
"Yes, sir," he heard his steward's voice reply. "Mr. Romilly has just
gone down. You've only a minute, sir, before the last call for
"That's all right," the voice which had spoken to him over the telephone
that morning replied. "I'd just like to shake hands with him and wish him
Philip's teeth came together in a little fury of anger. It was maddening,
this, to be trapped when only a few minutes remained between him and
safety! His brain worked swiftly. He took his chance of finding the next
stateroom empty, as it happened to be, and stepped quickly inside. He
kept his back to the door until the footsteps had passed. He heard the
knock at his stateroom, stepped back into the corridor, and passed along
a little gangway to the other side of the ship. He hurried up the stairs
and into the smoking-room. The bugle was sounding now, and hoarse voices
"Every one for the shore! Last call for the shore!"
"Give me a brandy and soda," he begged the steward, who was just opening
The man glanced at the clock and obeyed. Philip swallowed half of it at a
gulp, then sat down with the tumbler in his hand. All of a sudden
something disappeared from in front of one of the portholes. His heart
gave a little jump. They were moving! He sprang up and hurried to the
doorway. Slowly but unmistakably they were gliding away from the dock.
Already a lengthening line of people were waving their handkerchiefs and
shouting farewells. Around them in the river little tugs were screaming,
and the ropes from the dock had been thrown loose. Philip stepped to the
rail, his heart growing lighter at every moment. His ubiquitous steward,
laden with hand luggage, paused for a moment.
"I sent a gentleman down to your stateroom just before the steamer
started, sir," he announced, "gentleman of the name of Gayes, who wanted
to say good-by to you."
"Bad luck!" Philip answered. "I must have just missed him."
The steward turned around and pointed to the quay.
"There he is, sir—elderly gentleman in a grey suit, and a bunch of
violets in his buttonhole. He's looking straight at you."
Philip raised his cap and waved it with enthusiasm. After a moment's
hesitation, the other man did the same. The steward collected his
belongings and shuffled off.
"He picked you out, sir, all right," he remarked as he disappeared in the
Philip turned away with a little final wave of the hand.
"Glad I didn't miss him altogether," he observed cheerfully.
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Gayes! Good-by, England!"
Mr. Raymond Greene, very soon after the bugle had sounded for dinner that
evening, took his place at the head of one of the small tables in the
saloon and wished every one good evening. It was perfectly apparent that
he meant to enjoy the trip, that he was prepared to like his fellow
passengers and that he wished them to know it. Even the somewhat
melancholy-looking steward, who had been waiting for his arrival, cheered
up at the sight of his beaming face, and the other four occupants of the
table returned his salutation according to their lights.
"Two vacant places, I am sorry to see," Mr. Greene observed. "One of them
I can answer for, though. The young lady who is to sit on my right will
be down directly—Miss Elizabeth Dalstan, the great actress, you know.
She is by way of being under my charge. Very charming and talented
young lady she is. Let us see who our other absentee is."
He stretched across and glanced at the name upon the card.
"Mr. Douglas Romilly," he read out. "Quite a good name—English, without
a doubt. I have crossed with you before, haven't I, sir?" he went on
affably, turning to his nearest neighbour on the left.
A burly, many-chinned American signified his assent.
"Why, I should say so," he admitted, "and I'd like a five-dollar bill,
Mr. Greene, for every film I've seen of yours in the United States."
Mr. Greene beamed with satisfaction.
"Well, I am glad to hear you've come across my stuff," he declared. "I've
made some name for myself on the films and I am proud of it. Raymond
Greene it is, at your service."
"Joseph P. Hyam's mine," the large American announced, watching the
disappearance of his soup plate with an air of regret. "I'm in the
clothing business. If my wife were here, she'd say you wouldn't think it
to look at me. Never was faddy about myself, though," he added, with a
glance at Mr. Greene's very correct dinner attire.
"You ought to remember me, Mr. Greene," one of the two men remarked from
the right-hand side of the table. "I've played golf with you at Baltusrol
more than once."
Mr. Greene glanced surreptitiously at the card and smiled.
"Why, it's James P. Busby, of course!" he exclaimed. "Your father's the
Busby Iron Works, isn't he?"
The young man nodded.
"And this is Mr. Caroll, one of our engineers," he said, indicating a
rather rough-looking personage by his side.
"Delighted to meet you both," Mr. Greene assured them. "Say, I remember
your golf, Mr. Busby! You're some driver, eh? And those long putts of
yours—you never took three on any green that I can remember!"
"Been playing in England?" the young man asked.
Mr. Raymond Greene shook his head.
"When I am on business," he explained, "I don't carry my sticks about
with me, and I tell you this last fortnight has been a giddy whirl for
me. I was in Berlin Wednesday night, and I did business in Vienna last
Monday. Ah! here comes Miss Dalstan."
He rose ceremoniously to his feet. A young lady who was still wearing her
travelling clothes smiled at him delightfully and sank into the chair by
his side. During the little stir caused by her arrival, no one paid any
attention to the man who had slipped into the other vacant place
opposite. Mr. Greene, however, when he had finished making known his
companion's wants to the steward, welcomed Philip Romilly genially.
"Now we're a full table," he declared. "That's what I like. I only hope
we'll keep it up all the voyage. Mind, there'll be a forfeit for the
first one that misses a meal. Mr. Romilly, isn't it?" he went on,
glancing at his left-hand neighbour's card once more. "My name's Raymond
Greene. I am an old traveller and there's nothing I enjoy more, outside
my business, than these little ocean trips, especially when they come
after a pretty strenuous time on shore. Crossed many times, sir?"
"Never before," Philip answered.
"First trip, eh?" Mr. Greene remarked, mildly interested. "Well, well,
you've some surprises in store for you, then. Let me make you acquainted
with your opposite neighbour, Miss Elizabeth Dalstan. I dare say, even if
you haven't been in the States, you know some of our principal actresses
Philip raised his head and caught a glimpse of a rather pale face, a mass
of deep brown hair, a pleasant smile from a very shapely mouth, and the
rather intense regard of a pair of wonderfully soft eyes, whose colour at
that moment he was not able to determine.
"I have had the pleasure of seeing Miss Dalstan on the stage," he
"Capital!" Mr. Raymond Greene exclaimed. "We haven't met before, have we,
Mr. Romilly? Something kind of familiar in your face. You are not by way
of being in the Profession, are you?"
Romilly shook his head.
"I am a manufacturer," he acknowledged.
"That so?" his neighbour remarked, a trifle surprised. "Queer! I had a
fancy that we'd met, and quite lately, too. I am in the cinema business.
You may have heard of me—Raymond Greene?"
"I have seen some of your films," Philip told him. "Very excellent
productions, if you will allow me to say so."
"That's pleasant hearing at any time," Mr. Greene admitted, with a
gratified smile. "Well, I can see that we are going to be quite a
friendly party. That's Mr. Busby on your right, Mr. Romilly—some
golfer, I can tell you!—and his friend Mr. Caroll alongside. The lady
"My name is Miss Pinsent," the elderly lady indicated declared
pleasantly, replying to Mr. Greene's interrogative glance. "It is my
first trip to America, too. I am going out to see a nephew who has
settled in Chicago."
"Capital!" Mr. Raymond Greene repeated. "Now we are all more or less a
family party. What did you say your line of business was, Mr. Romilly?"
"I don't remember mentioning it," Philip observed, "but I am a
manufacturer of boots and shoes."
Elizabeth Dalstan looked across at him a little curiously. One might have
surmised that she was in some way disappointed.
"Coming over to learn a thing or two from us, eh?" Mr. Greene went on.
"You use all our machinery, don't you? Well, there's Paul Lawton on
board, from Brockton. I should think he has one of the biggest plants in
Massachusetts. I must make you acquainted with him."
Philip frowned slightly.
"That is very kind of you, Mr. Greene," he acknowledged, "but do you know
I would very much rather not talk business with any one while I am on
the steamer? I am a little overworked and I need the rest."
Elizabeth Dalstan looked at her vis-à-vis with some renewal of her former
interest. She saw a young man who was, without doubt, good-looking,
although he certainly had an over-tired and somewhat depressed
appearance. His cheeks were colourless, and there were little dark
lines under his eyes as though he suffered from sleeplessness. He was
clean-shaven and he had the sensitive mouth of an artist. His forehead
was high and exceptionally good. His air of breeding was unmistakable.
"You do look a little fagged," Mr. Raymond Greene observed
sympathetically. "Well, these are strenuous days in business. We all have
to stretch out as far as we can go, and keep stretched out, or else some
one else will get ahead of us. Business been good with you this fall, Mr.
"Very fair, thank you," Philip answered a little vaguely. "Tell me, Miss
Dalstan," he went on, leaning slightly towards her, and with a note of
curiosity in his tone, "I want to know your candid opinion of the last
act of the play I saw you in—'Henderson's Second Wife'? I made up my
mind that if ever I had the privilege of meeting you, I would ask you
"I know exactly why," she declared, with a quick little nod of
They talked together for some time, earnestly. Mr. Greene addressed his
conversation to his neighbours lower down the table. It was not until the
arrival of dessert that Philip and his vis-à-vis abandoned their
"Tell me, have you written yourself, Mr. Romilly?" Elizabeth Dalstan
asked him with interest.
"I have made an attempt at it," he confessed.
"Most difficult thing in the whole world to write a play," Mr. Raymond
Greene intervened, seeing an opportunity to join once more in the
conversation. "Most difficult thing in the world, I should say. Now with
pictures it's entirely different. The slightest little happening in
everyday life may give you the start, and then, there you are—the whole
thing unravels itself. Now let me give you an example," he went on,
helping himself to a little more whisky and soda. "Only yesterday
afternoon, on our way up to Liverpool, the train got pulled up somewhere
in Derbyshire, and I sat looking out of the window. It was a dreary
neighbourhood, a miserable afternoon, and we happened to be crossing a
rather high viaduct. Down below were some meadows and a canal, and by
the side of the canal, a path. At a certain point—I should think about
half a mile from where the train was standing—this path went underneath
a rude bridge, built of bricks and covered over with turf. Well, as I sat
there I could see two men, both approaching the bridge along the path
from opposite directions. One was tall, dressed in light tweeds, a
good-looking fellow—looked like one of your country squires except that
he was a little on the thin side. The other was a sombre-looking person,
dressed in dark clothes, about your height and build, I should say, Mr.
Romilly. Well, they both disappeared under that bridge at the same
moment, and I don't know why, but I leaned forward to see them come out.
The train was there for quite another two minutes, perhaps more. There
wasn't another soul anywhere in sight, and it was raining as it only can
rain in England."
Mr. Raymond Greene paused. Every one at the table had been listening
intently. He glanced around at their rapt faces with satisfaction. He was
conscious of the artist's dramatic touch. Once more it had not failed
him. He had excited interest. In Philip Romilly's eyes there was
something even more than interest. It seemed almost as though he were
trying to project his thoughts back and conjure up for himself the very
scene which was being described to him. The young man was certainly in a
very delicate state of health, Mr. Greene decided.
"You are keeping us in suspense, sir," the elderly lady complained,
leaning forward in her place. "Please go on. What happened when they came
"That," Mr. Raymond Greene said impressively, "is the point of the
story. The train remained standing there, as I have said, for several
minutes—as many minutes, in fact, as it would have taken them seconds to
have traversed that tunnel. Notwithstanding that, they neither of them
appeared again. I sat there, believe me, with my eyes fastened upon that
path, and when the train started I leaned out of the window until we had
rounded the curve and we were out of sight, but I never saw either of
those two men again. Now there's the beginning of a film story for you!
What do you want more than that? There's dramatic interest, surprise, an
"After all, I suppose the explanation was quite a simple one," Mr. Busby
remarked. "They were probably acquaintances, and they stayed to have a
Mr. Raymond Greene shook his head doubtfully.
"All I can say to that is that it was a queer place to choose for a
little friendly conversation," he pronounced. "They were both tall
men—about the same height, I should say—and it would have been
impossible for them to have even stood upright."
"You mentioned the fact, did you not," the lady who called herself Miss
Pinsent observed, "that it was raining heavily at the time? Perhaps they
stayed under the bridge to shelter."
"That's something I never thought of," Mr. Greene admitted, "perhaps for
the reason that they both of them seemed quite indifferent to the rain.
The young man in the dark clothes hadn't even an umbrella. I must admit
that I allowed my thoughts to travel in another direction. Professional
instinct, you see. It was a fairly broad canal, and the water was nearly
up to the towing-path. I'd lay a wager it was twelve or fifteen feet
deep. Supposing those two men had met on that narrow path and quarrelled!
Mr. Raymond Greene stopped short. He gazed in amazement at Elizabeth
Dalstan, who had suddenly clutched his hand. There was something in her
face which puzzled as well as startled him. She had been looking at her
opposite neighbour but she turned back towards the narrator of this
thrilling story as the monosyllable broke from her lips.
"Please stop," she begged. "You are too dramatic, Mr. Greene. You really
"Frighten you?" he repeated. "My dear Miss Dalstan!"
"I suppose it is very absurd of me," she went on, smiling appealingly at
him, "but your words were altogether too graphic. I can't bear to think
of what might have taken place underneath that tunnel! You must remember
that I saw it, too. Don't go on. Don't talk about it any more. I am going
upstairs for my cigarette. Are you coming to get my chair for me, Mr.
Greene, or must I rely upon the deck steward?"
Mr. Raymond Greene was a very gallant man, and he did not hesitate for a
moment. He sprang to his feet and escorted the young lady from the
saloon. He glanced back, as he left the table, to nod his adieux to the
little company whom he had taken under his charge. Philip Romilly was
gazing steadfastly out of the porthole.
"Kind of delicate young fellow, that," he remarked. "Nice face, too.
Can't help thinking that I've met or seen some one like him lately."
Philip Romilly found himself alone at last with the things which he had
craved—darkness, solitude, the rushing of the salt wind, the sense of
open spaces. On the other, the sheltered side of the steamer, long lines
of passengers were stretched in wicker chairs, smoking and drinking their
coffee, but where he was no one came save an occasional promenader. Yet
even here was a disappointment. He had come for peace, for a brief escape
from the thrall of memories which during the last few hours had become
charged with undreamed-of horrors—and there was to be no peace. In the
shadowy darkness which rested upon the white-churned sea flying past him,
he saw again, with horrible distinctness, the face, the figure of the man
who for those few brief minutes he had hated with a desperate and
passionate hatred. He saw the broken photograph, the glass splintered
into a thousand pieces. He saw the man himself, choking, sinking down
beneath the black waters; heard the stifled cry from his palsied lips,
saw the slow dawning agony of death in his distorted features. Some one
was playing a mandolin down in the second class. He heard the feet of a
dancer upon the deck, the little murmur of applause. Well, after all,
this was life. It was a rebuke of fate to his own illogical and useless
vapourings. Men died every second whilst women danced, and no one who
knew life had any care save for the measure of their own days. Some
freakish thought pleaded stridently his own justification. His mind
travelled back down the gloomy avenues of his past, along those last
aching years of grinding and undeserved poverty. He remembered his
upbringing, his widowed mother, a woman used to every luxury, struggling
to make both ends meet in a suburban street, in a hired cottage filled
with hired furniture. He remembered his schooldays, devoid of pocket
money, unable to join in the sports of others, slaving with melancholy
perseverance for a scholarship to lighten his mother's burden. Always
there was the same ghastly, crushing penuriousness, the struggle to make
a living before his schooldays were well over, the unbought books he had
fingered at the bookstalls and let drop again, the coarse clothes he had
been compelled to wear, the scanty food he had eaten, the narrow, driving
ways of poverty, culminating in his mother's death and his own fear—he,
at the age of nineteen years—lest the money for her funeral should not
be forthcoming. If there were any hell, surely he had lived in it! This
other, whose flames mocked him now, could be no worse. Sin! Crime! He
remembered the words of the girl who during these latter years had
represented to him what there might have been of light in life. He
remembered, and it seemed to him that he could meet that ghostly image
which had risen from the black waters, without shrinking, almost
contemptuously. Fate had mocked him long enough. It was time, indeed,
that he helped himself.
He swung away from the solitude to the other side of the steamer, paused
in a sheltered spot while he lit a cigarette, and paced up and down the
more frequented ways. A soft voice from an invisible mass of furs and
rugs, called to him.
"Mr. Romilly, please come and talk to me. My rug has slipped—thank you
so much. Take this chair next mine for a few minutes, won't you? Mr.
Greene has rushed off to the smoking room. I think he has just been told
that there is a rival cinema producer on board, and he is trying to run
him to ground."
Philip settled himself without hesitation in the vacant place.
"One is forced to envy Mr. Raymond Greene," he sighed. "To have work in
life which one loves as he does his is the rarest form of happiness."
"What about your own?" she asked him. "But you are a manufacturer, are
you not? Somehow or other, that surprises me."
"And me," he acknowledged frankly. "I mean that I wonder I have
persevered at it so long."
"But you are a very young man!"
"Young or old," he answered, "I am one of those who have made a false
start in life. I am on my way to new things. Do you think, Miss Dalstan,
that your country is a good place for one to visit who seeks new things?"
She turned in her chair a little more towards him. Against the background
of empty spaces, the pale softness of her face seemed to gain a new
"Well, that depends," she said reflectively, "upon what these new things
might be which you desire. For an ambitious business man America is a
"But supposing one had finished with business?" he persisted. "Supposing
one wanted to develop tastes and a gift for another method of life?"
"Then I should say that New York is the one place in the world," she told
him. "You are speaking of yourself?"
"You have ambitions, I am sure," she continued. "Tell me, are they
"I would like to call them so," he admitted. "I have written a play and
three stories, so bad that no one would produce the play or publish the
"You have brought them with you?"
He shook his head.
"No! They are where I shall never see them again."
"Never see them again?" she repeated, puzzled.
"I mean that I have left them at home. I have left them there, perhaps,
to a certain extent deliberately," he went on. "You see, the idea is
still with me. I think that I shall rewrite them when I have settled down
in America. I fancy that I shall find myself in an atmosphere more
conducive to the sort of work I want to do. I would rather not be
handicapped by the ghosts of my old failures."
"One's ghosts are hard sometimes to escape from," she whispered.
He clutched nervously at the end of his rug. She looked up and down along
the row of chairs. There were one or two slumbering forms, but most were
empty. There were no promenaders in sight.
"You know," she asked, her voice still very low, "why I left the saloon a
little abruptly this evening?"
"Why?" he demanded.
"Because," she went on, "I could see the effect which Mr. Raymond
Greene's story had upon you; because I, also, was in that train, and I
have better eyesight than Mr. Greene. You were one of the two men who
were walking along the towpath."
"Well?" he muttered.
"You have nothing to tell me?"
She waited for a moment.
"At least you have not attempted to persuade me that you lingered
underneath that bridge to escape from the rain," she remarked.
"If I cannot tell you the truth," he promised, "I am not going to tell
you a lie, but apart from that I admit nothing. I do not even admit that
it was I whom you saw."
She laid her hand upon his. The touch of her fingers was wonderful, cool
and soft and somehow reassuring. He felt a sense of relaxation, felt the
strain of living suddenly grow less.
"You know," she said, "all my friends tell me that I am a restful person.
You are living at high pressure, are you not? Try and forget it. Fate
makes queer uses of all of us sometimes. She sends her noblest sons down
into the shadows and pitchforks her outcasts into the high places of
life. Those do best who learn to control themselves, to live and think
for the best."
"Go on talking to me," he begged. "Is it your voice, I wonder, that is so
soothing, or just what you say?"
She smiled reassuringly.
"You are glad because you have found a friend," she told him, "and a
friend who, even if she does not understand, does not wish to understand.
Do you see?"
"I wish I felt that I deserved it," he groaned.
She laughed almost gaily.
"What a sorting up there would be of our places in life," she declared,
"if we all had just what we deserved!… Now give me your arm. I want to
walk a little. While we walk, if you like, I will try to tell you what I
can about New York. It may interest you."
They walked up and down the deck, and by degrees their conversation
drifted into a discussion of such recent plays as were familiar to both
of them. At the far end of the ship she clung to him once or twice as the
wind came booming over the freshening waves. She weighed and measured his
criticisms of the plays they spoke of, and in the main approved of them.
When at last she stopped outside the companionway and bade him good
night, the deck was almost deserted. They were near one of the electric
lights, and he saw her face more distinctly than he had seen it at all,
realised more adequately its wonderful charm. The large, firm mouth,
womanly and tender though it was, was almost the mouth of a protector.
She smiled at him as one might smile at a boy.
"You are to sleep well," she said firmly. "Those are my orders. Good
She gave him her hand—a woman's soft and delicate fingers, yet clasping
his with an almost virile strength and friendliness. She left him with
just that feeling about her—that she was expansive, in her heart, her
sympathies, even her brain and peculiar gifts of apprehension. She left
him, too, with a curious sense of restfulness, as though suddenly he
had become metamorphosed into the woman and had found a sorely-needed
guardian. He abandoned without a second thought his intention of going to
the smoking-room and sitting up late. The thought of his empty stateroom,
a horror to him a few hours ago, seemed suddenly almost alluring, and he
made his way there cheerfully. He felt the sleep already upon his eyes.
All the physical exhilaration of his unlived youth seemed to be dancing
in Philip Romilly's veins when he awoke the next morning to find an open
porthole, the blue sea tossing away to infinity, and his steward's
cheerful face at his bedside.
"Bathroom steward says if you are ready, sir, he can arrange for your
bath now," the man announced.
Philip sprang out of bed and reached for his Bond Street dressing-gown.
"I'll bring you a cup of tea when you get back, sir," the steward
continued. "The bathrooms are exactly opposite."
The sting of the salt water seemed to complete his new-found
light-heartedness. Philip dressed and shaved, whistling softly all the
time to himself. He even found a queer sort of interest in examining his
stock of ties and other garments. The memory of Elizabeth Dalstan's words
was still in his brain. They had become the text of his life. This, he
told himself, was his birthday. He even accepted without a tremor a
letter and telegram which the steward brought him.
"These were in the rack for you, sir," he said. "I meant to bring them
down last night but we had a busy start off."
Philip took them up on deck to read. He tore open the telegram first and
permitted himself a little start when he saw the signature. It was sent
off from Detton Magna,—
"Why did you not come as promised? What am I to do? BEATRICE."
The envelope of the letter he opened with a little more compunction. It
was written on the printed notepaper of the Douglas Romilly Shoe Company,
and was of no great length,—
"Dear Mr. Romilly,
"I understood that you would return to the factory this evening for a few
minutes, before taking the train to Liverpool. There were one or two
matters upon which I should like some further information, but as time is
short I am writing to you at the Waldorf Hotel at New York.
"I see that the acceptances due next 4th are unusually heavy, but I think
I understood you to say that you had spoken to Mr. Henshaw at the bank
concerning these, and in any case I presume there would be no difficulty.
"Wishing you every success on the other side, and a safe return,
"Your obedient servant,
"There is not the slightest doubt," Philip said to himself, as he tore
both communications into pieces and watched them flutter away downwards,
"that I am on my way to New York. If only one knew what had become of
that poor, half-starved art master!"
He went down to breakfast and afterwards strolled aimlessly about the
deck. His sense of enjoyment was so extraordinarily keen that he found it
hard to settle down to any of the usual light occupations of idle
travellers. He was content to stand by the rail and gaze across the sea,
a new wonder to him; or to lie about in his steamer chair and listen,
with half-closed eyes, to the hissing of the spray and the faint music of
the wind. His mind turned by chance to one of those stories of which he
had spoken. A sudden new vigour of thought seemed to rend it inside out
almost in those first few seconds. He thought of the garret in which it
had been written, the wretched surroundings, the odoriferous food, the
thick crockery, the smoke-palled vista of roofs and chimneys. The genius
of a Stevenson would have become dwarfed in such surroundings. A phrase,
a happy idea, suddenly caught his fancy. He itched for a pencil and
paper. Then he looked up to find the one thing wanting. Elizabeth
Dalstan, followed by a maid carrying rugs and cushions, had paused,
smiling, by his side.
"You have slept and you are better," she said pleasantly. "Now for the
next few minutes you must please devote yourself to making me
comfortable. Put everything down, Phoebe. Mr. Romilly will look after
For a moment he paused before proceeding to his task.
"I want to look at you," he confessed. "Remember I have only seen you
under the electric lights of the saloon, or in that queer, violet gloom
of last night. Why, you have quite light hair, and I thought it was
She laughed good-humouredly and turned slowly around.
"Here I am," she announced, "a much bephotographed person. Almost plain,
some journalists have dared to call me, but for my expression. On flowing
lines, as you see, because I always wear such loose clothes, and yet,
believe me, slim. As a matter of fact," she went on pensively, "I am
rather proud of my figure. A little journalist who had annoyed me, and to
whom I was rude, once called it ample. No one has ever ventured to say
more. The critics who love me, and they most of them love me because I am
so exceptionally polite to them, and tell them exactly what to say about
every new play, allude to my physique as Grecian."
"But your eyes!" he exclaimed. "Last night I thought they were grey. This
morning—why, surely they are brown?"
"You see, that is all according to the light," she confided. "If any one
does try to write a description of me, they generally evade the point by
calling them browny-grey. A young man who was in love with me," she
sighed, "but that was long ago, used to say that they reminded him of
fallen leaves in a place where the sunlight sometimes is and sometimes
isn't. And now, if you please, I want to be made exceedingly comfortable.
I want you to find the deck steward and see that I have some beef tea as
quickly as possible. I want my box of cigarettes on one side and my
vanity case on the other, and I should like to listen to the plot of your
He obeyed her behests with scrupulous care, leaned back in his chair and
brought into the foreground of his mind the figures of those men and
women who had told his story, finding them, to his dismay, unexpectedly
crude and unlifelike. And the story itself. Was unhappiness so necessary,
after all? They suddenly seemed to crumble away into insignificance,
these men and women of his creation. In their place he could almost fancy
a race of larger beings, a more extensive canvas, a more splendid, a
riper and richer vocabulary.
"Nothing that I have ever done," he sighed, "is worth talking to you
about. But if you are going to be my friend—"
"If you are going to be my friend," he went on, with almost inspired
conviction, "I shall write something different."
"One can rebuild," she murmured. "One can sometimes use the old pieces.
Life and chess are both like that."
"Would you help me, I wonder?" he asked impulsively.
She looked away from him, out across the steamer rail. She seemed to be
measuring with her eyes the roll of the ship as it rose and fell in the
trough of the sea.
"You are a strange person," she said. "Tell me, are you in the habit of
becoming suddenly dependent upon people?"
"Not I," he assured her. "If I were to tell you how my last ten years
have been spent, you would not believe me. You couldn't. If I were to
speak of a tearing, unutterable loneliness, if I were to speak of
poverty—not the poverty you know anything about, but the poverty of bare
walls, of coarse food and little enough of it, of everything cheap and
miserable and soiled and second-hand—nothing fresh, nothing
He stopped abruptly.
"But I forgot," he muttered. "I can't explain."
"Is one to understand," she asked, a little puzzled, "that you have had
difficulties in your business?"
"I have never been in business," he answered quickly. "My name is
Romilly, but I am not Romilly the manufacturer. For the last eight years
I have lived in a garret in London, teaching false art in a third-rate
school some of the time, doing penny-a-line journalistic work when I got
the chance; clerk for a month or two in a brewer's office and sacked for
incapacity—those are a few of the real threads in my life."
"At the present moment, then," she observed, "you are an impostor."
"Exactly," he admitted, "and I should probably have been repenting it by
now but for your words last night."
She smiled at him and the sun shone once more. It wasn't an ordinary
smile at all. It was just as though she were letting him into the light
of her understanding, as though some one from the world, entrance into
which he had craved, had stooped down to understand and was telling him
that all was well. He drew his chair a little closer to hers.
"We are all more or less impostors," she said. "Does any one, I wonder,
go about the world telling everybody what they really are, how they
really live? Dear me, how unpleasant and uncomfortable it would be! You
are so wise, my new friend. You know the value of impulses. You tell me
the truth, and I am your friend. I do not need facts, because facts count
for little. I judge by what lies behind, and I understand. Do not weary
me with explanations. I like what you have told me. Only, of course, your
work must have suffered from surroundings like that. Will it be better
for you now?"
"I shall land in New York," he told her, "with at least a thousand
pounds. That is about as much as I have spent in ten years. There is the
possibility of other money. Concerning that—well, I can't make up my
mind. The thousand pounds, of course, is stolen."
"So I gathered," she remarked. "Do you continue, may I ask, to be Douglas
Romilly, the manufacturer?"
He shook his head a little vaguely.
"I haven't thought," he confessed. "But of course I don't. I have risked
everything for the chance of a new life. I shall start it in a new way
and under a new name."
He was suddenly conscious of her pity, of a moistness in her eyes as she
looked at him.
"I think," she said, "that you must have been very miserable. Above all
things, now, whatever you may have done for your liberty, don't be
fainthearted. If you are in trouble or danger you must come to me. You
"If I may," he assented fervently.
"Now I must hear the play as it stood in your thoughts when you wrote
it," she insisted. "I have a fancy that it will sound a little gloomy. Am
"Of course you are! How could I write in any other way except through the
darkened spectacles? However, there's a way out—of altering it, I mean.
I feel flashes of it already. Listen."
The story expanded with relation. He no longer felt confined to its
established lines. Every now and then he paused to tell her that this or
that was new, and she nodded appreciatively. They walked for a time,
watched the seagulls, and bade their farewell to the Irish coast.
"You will have to re-write that play for me," she said, a little
abruptly, as she paused before the companionway. "I am going down to my
room for a few minutes before lunch now. Afterwards I shall bring up a
pencil and paper. We will make some notes together."
Philip walked on to the smoking room. He could scarcely believe that the
planks he trod were of solid wood. Raymond Greene met him at the entrance
and slapped him on the back:
"Just in time for a cocktail before lunch!" he exclaimed. "I was looking
everywhere for a pal. Two Martinis, dry as you like, Jim," he added,
turning round to the smoking room steward. "Sure you won't join us,
"Daren't!" was the laconic answer from the man whom he had addressed.
"By-the-bye," Mr. Raymond Greene went on, "let me make you two
acquainted. This is Mr. Douglas Romilly, an English boot
manufacturer—Mr. Paul Lawton of Brockton. Mr. Lawton owns one of the
largest boot and shoe plants in the States," the introducer went on. "You
two ought to find something to talk about."
Philip held out his hand without a single moment's hesitation. He was
filled with a new confidence.
"I should be delighted to talk with Mr. Lawton on any subject in the
world," he declared, "except our respective businesses."
"I am very glad to meet you, sir," the other replied, shaking hands
heartily. "I don't follow that last stipulation of yours, though."
"It simply means that I am taking seven days' holiday," Philip explained
gaily, "seven days during which I have passed my word to myself to
neither talk business nor think business. Your very good health, Mr.
Raymond Greene," he went on, drinking his cocktail with relish. "If we
meet on the other side, Mr. Lawton, we'll compare notes as much as you
"That's all right, sir," the other agreed. "I don't know as you're not
right. We Americans do hang round our businesses, and that's a fact.
Still, there's a little matter of lasts I should like to have a word or
two with you about some time."
"A little matter of what?" Philip asked vaguely.
"Lasts," the other repeated. "That's where your people and ours look
different ways chiefly, that and a little matter of manipulation of our
"Just so," Philip assented, swallowing the rest of his cocktail. "What
about luncheon? There's nothing in the world to give you an appetite like
this sea air."
"I'm with you," Mr. Raymond Greene chimed in. "You two can have your
trade talk later on."
He took his young friend's arm, and they descended the stairs together.
"What the mischief is a last?" he inquired.
"I haven't the least idea," Philip replied carelessly. "Something to do
with boots and shoes, isn't it?"
His questioner stared at him for a moment and then laughed.
"Say, you're a young man of your word!" he remarked appreciatively.
Philip Romilly was accosted, late that afternoon, by two young women
whose presence on board he had noticed with a certain amount of
disapproval. They were obviously of the chorus-girl type, a fact which
they seemed to lack the ambition to conceal. After several would-be
ingratiating giggles, they finally pulled up in front of him whilst he
was promenading the deck.
"You are Mr. Romilly, aren't you?" one of them asked. "Bob Millet told us
you were going to be on this steamer. You know Bob, don't you?"
Philip for a moment was taken aback.
"Bob Millet," he repeated thoughtfully.
"Of course! Good old Bob! I don't mind confessing," the young woman went
on, "that though we were all out one night together—Trocadero, Empire,
and Murray's afterwards—I should never have recognised you. Seems to me
you've got thinner and more serious-looking."
"I am afraid my own memory is also at fault," Philip remarked, a little
"I am Violet Fox," the young woman who had accosted him continued. "This
my friend, Hilda Mason. She's a dear girl but a little shy, aren't you,
"That's just because I told her that we ought to wait until you
remembered us," the slighter young woman, with the very obvious
peroxidised hair, protested.
"Didn't seem to be any use waiting for that," her friend retorted
briskly. "Hilda and I are dying for a cocktail, Mr. Romilly."
He led them with an unwillingness of which they seemed frankly unaware,
towards the lounge. They drank two cocktails and found themselves
unfortunately devoid of cigarettes, a misfortune which it became his
privilege to remedy. They were very friendly young ladies, if a little
slangy, invited him around to their staterooms, and offered to show him
the runs around New York. Philip escaped after about an hour and made his
way to where Elizabeth was reclining in her deck chair.
"That fellow Romilly," he declared irritably, "the other one, I mean,
seems to have had the vilest tastes. If I am to be landed with any more
of his ridiculous indiscretions, I think I shall have to go overboard.
There was an enterprising gentleman named Gayes in Liverpool, who nearly
drove me crazy, then there's this Mr. Lawton who wants to talk about
lasts, and finally it seems that I dined at the Trocadero and spent the
evening at the Empire and Murray's with the two very obvious-looking
young ladies who accosted me just now. I am beginning to believe that
Douglas' life was not above suspicion."
She smiled at him tolerantly. An unopened book lay by her side. She
seemed to have been spending the last quarter of an hour in thought.
"I am rather relieved to hear," she confessed, "that those two young
people are a heritage from the other Mr. Romilly. No, don't sit down,"
she went on. "I want you to do something for me. Go into the library, and
on the left-hand side as you enter you will see all the wireless news.
Read the bottom item and then come back to me."
He turned slowly away. All his new-found buoyancy of spirits had
suddenly left him. He cursed the imagination which lifted his feet from
the white decks and dragged his eyes from the sparkling blue sea to the
rain-soaked, smut-blackened fields riven by that long thread of bleak,
turgid water. The horrors of a murderous passion beat upon his brain.
He saw himself hastening, grim and blind, on his devil-sped mission. Then
the haze faded from before his eyes. Somehow or other he accomplished his
errand. He was in the library, standing in front of those many sheets of
typewritten messages, passing them all over, heedless of what their
message might be, until he came to the last and most insignificant.
Four lines, almost overlapped by another sheet—
STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE OF A LONDON ART TEACHER
Acting upon instructions received, the police
are investigating a somewhat curious case of
disappearance. Philip Romilly, a teacher of art in
a London school, visited Detton Magna on Friday
afternoon and apparently started for a walk along
the canal bank, towards dusk. Nothing has since
been heard of him or his movements, and
arrangements have been made to drag the canal
at a certain point.
The letters seemed to grow larger to him as he stood and read. He
remained in front of the message for an inordinately long time. Again his
imagination was at work. He saw the whole ghastly business, the police on
the canal banks, watching the slow progress of the men with their drags
bringing to the surface all the miserable refuse of the turgid waters,
the dripping black mud, perhaps at last….
He was back again on the deck, walking quite steadily yet seeing little.
He made his way to the smoking room, asked almost indifferently for a
brandy and soda, and drained it to the last drop. Then he walked up the
deck to where Elizabeth was seated, and dropped into a chair by her side.
"So I am missing," he remarked, almost in his ordinary tone. "I really
had no idea that I was a person of such importance. Fancy reading of my
own disappearance within a few days of its taking place, in the middle of
"There was probably some one there who gave information," she suggested.
"There was the young lady whom I went to visit," he assented. "She
probably watched me cross the road and turn in at that gate and take the
path by the canal side. Yes, she may even have gone to the station to see
whether I took the only other train back to London, and found that I did
not. She knew, too, that I could only have had a few shillings in my
pocket, and that my living depended upon being in London for my school
the next morning. Yes, the whole thing was reasonable."
"And they are going to drag the canal," Elizabeth said thoughtfully.
"A difficult business," he assured her. "It is one of the most ghastly,
ill-constructed, filthiest strips of water you ever looked upon. It has
been the garbage depository of the villages through which it makes its
beastly way, for generations. I don't envy the men who have to handle the
"You do not believe, then, that they will find anything—interesting?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"That type of man," he continued, "must have a morbid mind. There will be
dead animals without a doubt, worn-out boots, filthy and decomposed
articles of clothing—"
"Don't!" she interrupted. "You know what I mean. Do leave off painting
your ghastly pictures. You know quite well what I mean. Philip Romilly is
here by my side. What can they hope to find there in his place?"
His evil moments for that afternoon were over. He answered her almost
"Not what they are looking for. Have you brought the paper and pencil you
spoke of? I have an idea—I am getting fresh ideas every moment now
that I picture you as my heroine. It is queer, isn't it, how naturally
you fall into the role?"
She drew a little nearer to him. He was conscious of a mysterious and
unfamiliar perfume, perhaps from the violets half hidden in her furs, or
was it something in her hair? It reminded him a little of the world the
keys into which he had gripped—the world of joyousness, of light-hearted
pleasures, the sunlit world into which he had only looked through other
"Perhaps you knew that I was somewhere across the threshold," she
suggested. "Did you drag your Mona wholly from your brain, or has she her
prototype somewhere in your world?"
He shook his head.
"Therein lies the weakness of all that I have ever written," he declared.
"There have been so few in my world from whom I could garner even the
gleanings of a personality. They are all, my men and women, artificially
made, not born. Twenty-three shillings a week has kept me well outside
the locked doors."
"Yet, you know, in many ways," she reflected, "Mona is like me."
"Like you because she was a helper of men," he assented swiftly, "a woman
of large sympathies, appealing to me, I suppose, because in my solitude,
thoughts of my own weakness taunted me, weakness because I couldn't break
out, I mean. Perhaps for that reason the thought of a strong woman
fascinated me, a woman large in thoughts and ways, a woman to whom
purposes and tendencies counted most. I dreamed of a woman sweetly
omnipotent, strong without a shadow of masculinity. That is where my Mona
was to be different from all other created figures."
"Chance," she declared, "is a wonderful thing. Chance has pitchforked you
here, absolutely to my side, I, the one woman who could understand what
you mean, who could give your Mona life. Don't think I am vain," she went
on. "I can assure you that my head isn't the least turned because I have
been successful. I simply know. Listen. I have few engagements in New
York. I should not be going back at all but to see my mother, who is too
delicate to travel, and who is miserable when I am away for long. Take
this pencil and paper. Let us leave off dreaming for a little time and
give ourselves up to technicalities. I want to draft a new first act and
a new last one, not so very different from your version and yet with
changes which I want to explain as we go on. Bring your chair a little
nearer—so. Now take down these notes."
They worked until the first gong for dinner rang. She sat up in her chair
with a happy little laugh.
"Isn't it wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I never knew time to pass so
quickly. There isn't any pleasure in the world like this," she added, a
little impulsively, "the pleasure of letting your thoughts run out to
meet some one else's, some one who understands. Take care of every line
we have written, my friend."
"We might go on after dinner," he suggested eagerly.
She shook her head.
"I'd rather not," she admitted. "My brain is too full. I have a hundred
fancies dancing about. I even find myself, as we sit here, rehearsing
my gestures, tuning myself to a new outlook. Oh! You most disturbing
person—intellectually of course, I mean," she added, laughing into his
face. "Take off my rugs and help me up. No, we'll leave them there.
Perhaps, after dinner, we might walk for a little time."
"But the whole thing is tingling in my brain," he protested. "Couldn't we
go into the library? We could find a corner by ourselves."
She turned and looked at him, standing up now, the wind blowing her
skirts, her eyes glowing, her lips a little parted. Then for the first
time he understood her beauty, understood the peculiar qualities of it,
the dissensions of the Press as to her appearance, the supreme charm of a
woman possessed of a sweet and passionate temperament, turning her face
towards the long-wished-for sun. Even the greater things caught hold of
him in that moment, and he felt dimly what was coming.
"Do you really wish to work?" she asked.
He looked away from her.
"No!" he answered, a little thickly. "We will talk, if you will."
They neither of them moved. The atmosphere had suddenly become charged
with a force indescribable, almost numbing. In the far distance they saw
the level line of lights from a passing steamer. Mr. Raymond Greene, with
his hands in his ulster pockets, suddenly spotted them and did for them
what they seemed to have lost the power to do.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "I've been looking for you two everywhere. I don't
want to hurt that smoking room steward's feelings. He's not bad at
his job. But," he added confidentially, dropping his voice and taking
them both by the arm, "I have made a cocktail down in my stateroom—it's
there in the shaker waiting for us, something I can't talk about. I've
given Lawton one, and he's following me about like a dog. Come right this
way, both of you. Steady across the gangway—she's pitching a little.
Why, you look kind of scared, Mr. Romilly. Been to sleep, either of you?"
Philip's laugh was almost too long to be natural. Elizabeth, as though by
accident, had dropped her veil. Mr. Raymond Greene, bubbling over with
good nature and anticipation, led them towards the stairs.
Mr. Raymond Greene could scarcely wait until Philip had taken his place
at the dinner table that evening, to make known his latest discovery.
"Say, Mr. Romilly," he exclaimed, leaning a little forward, "do you
happen to have seen the wireless messages to-day?—those tissue sheets
that are stuck up in the library?"
Philip set down the menu, in which he had been taking an unusual
"Yes, I looked through them this afternoon," he acknowledged.
"There's a little one at the bottom, looks as though it had been shoved
in at the last moment. I don't know whether you noticed it. It announced
the mysterious disappearance of a young man of the same name as your
own—an art teacher from London, I think he was. I wondered whether it
might have been any relation?"
"I read the message," Philip admitted. "It certainly looks as though it
might have referred to my cousin."
Mr. Raymond Greene became almost impressive in his interested
"Talk about coincidences!" he continued. "Do you remember last night
talking about subjects for cinema plays? I told you of a little incident
I happened to have noticed on the way from London to Liverpool, about the
two men somewhere in Derbyshire whom I had seen approaching a tunnel over
a canal—they neither of them came out, you know, all the time that the
train was standing there."
Philip helped himself a little absently to whisky and soda from the
bottle in front of him.
"I remember your professional interest in the situation," he confessed.
"I felt at the time," Mr. Raymond Greene went on eagerly, "that there was
something queer about the affair. Listen! I have been putting two and two
together, and it seems to me that one of those men might very well have
been this missing Mr. Romilly."
Philip shook his head pensively.
"I don't think so," he ventured.
"What's that? You don't think so?" the cinema magnate exclaimed. "Why
not, Mr. Romilly? It's exactly the district—at Detton Magna, the message
said, in Derbyshire—and it was a canal, too, one of the filthiest I ever
saw. Can't you realise the dramatic interest of the situation now that
you are confronted with this case of disappearance? I have been asking
myself ever since I strolled up into the library before dinner and read
this notice—'What about the other man?'"
Philip had commenced a leisurely consumption of his first course, and
answered without undue haste.
"Well," he said, "if this young man Romilly is my cousin, it would be
the second or third time already that he has disappeared. He is an
ill-balanced, neurotic sort of creature. At times he accepts help—even
solicits it—from his more prosperous relations, and at times he won't
speak to us. But of one thing I am perfectly convinced, and that is that
there is no man in the world who would be less likely to make away with
himself. He has a nervous horror of death or pain of any sort, and in
his peculiar way he is much too fond of life ever to dream of voluntarily
shortening it. On the other hand, he is always doing eccentric things. He
probably set out to walk to London—I have known him do it before—and
will turn up there in a fortnight's time."
Mr. Raymond Greene seemed rather to resent having cold water poured upon
his melodramatic imaginings. He turned to Elizabeth, who had remained
silent during the brief colloquy.
"What do you think, Miss Dalstan?" he asked. "Don't you think that, under
the circumstances, I ought to give information to the British police?"
She laughed at him quite good-naturedly, and yet in such a way that a
less sensitive man than Mr. Raymond Greene might well have been conscious
of the note of ridicule.
"No wonder you are such a great success in your profession!" she
observed. "You carry the melodramatic instinct with you, day by day. You
see everything through the dramatist's spectacles."
"That's all very well," Mr. Greene protested, "but you saw the two men
yourself, and you've probably read about the case of mysterious
disappearance. Surely you must admit that the coincidence is
"Alas!" she went on, shaking her head, "I am afraid I must throw cold
water upon your vivid imaginings. You see, my eyesight is better than
yours and I could see the two men distinctly, whilst you could only see
their figures. One of them, the better-dressed, was fair and obviously
affluent, and the other was a labourer. Neither of them could in any way
have answered the description of the missing man."
Mr. Raymond Greene was a little dashed.
"You didn't say so at the time," he complained.
"I really wasn't sufficiently interested," she told him. "Besides,
without knowing anything of Mr. Romilly's cousin, I don't think any
person in the world could have had the courage to seek an exit from his
troubles by means of that canal."
"But my point," Mr. Raymond Greene persisted, "is that it wasn't suicide
at all. I maintain that the situation as I saw it presented all the
possibilities of a different sort of crime."
"My cousin hadn't an enemy in the world except himself," Philip
"And I would give you the filming of my next play for nothing," Elizabeth
ventured, "if either of those two men could possibly have been an art
teacher…. Can I have a little more oil with my salad, please, steward,
and I should like some French white wine."
Mr. Raymond Greene took what appeared to be a positive disappointment
"Well," he said, "I dare say you are both right, and in any case I
shouldn't like to persist in a point of view which might naturally enough
become distressing to our young friend here. Tell you what I'll do to
show my penitence. I shall order a bottle of wine, and we'll drink to the
welfare of the missing Mr. Philip Romilly, wherever he may be. Pommery,
steward, and bring some ice along."
Philip pushed away his whisky and soda.
"Just in time," he remarked. "I'll drink to poor Philip's welfare, with
pleasure, although he hasn't been an unmixed blessing to his family."
The subject passed away with the drinking of the toast, and with the
necessity for a guard upon himself gone, Philip found himself eating and
drinking mechanically, watching all the time the woman who sat opposite
to him, who had now engaged Mr. Raymond Greene in an animated
conversation on the subject of the suitability for filming of certain
recent plays. He was trying with a curious intentness to study her
dispassionately, to understand the nature of the charm on which dramatic
critics had wasted a wealth of adjectives, and of which he himself was
humanly and personally conscious. She wore a high-necked gown of some
soft, black material, with a little lace at her throat fastened by her
only article of jewellery, a pearl pin. Her hair was arranged in coils,
with a simplicity and a precision which to a more experienced observer
would have indicated the possession of a maid of no ordinary qualities.
Her mouth became more and more delightful every time he studied it; her
voice, even her method of speech, were entirely natural and with a
peculiarly fascinating inflexion. At times she looked and spoke with the
light-hearted gaiety of a child; then again there was the grave and
cultured woman apparent in her well-balanced and thoughtful criticisms.
When, at the end of the meal, she rose to leave the table, he found
himself surprised at her height and the slim perfection of her figure.
His first remark, when he joined her upon the stairs, was an almost
abrupt expression of his thoughts.
"Tell me," he exclaimed, "why were all my first impressions of you wrong?
To-night you are a revelation to me. You are amazingly different."
She laughed at him.
"I really can't do more than show you myself as I am," she expostulated.
"Ah! but you are so many women," he murmured.
"Of course, if you are going to flatter me! Give me a cigarette from my
case, please, and strike a match, and if you don't mind struggling with
this wind and the darkness, we will have our walk. There!" she added, as
they stood in the companionway. "Now don't you feel as though we were
facing an adventure? We shan't be able to see a yard ahead of us, and the
wind is singing."
They passed through up the companionway. She took his arm and he suddenly
felt the touch of her warm fingers feeling for his other hand. He gripped
them tightly, and his last impression of her face, before they plunged
into the darkness, was of a queer softness, as though she were giving
herself up to some unexpected but welcome emotion. Her eyes were half
closed. She had the air of one wrapped in silence. So they walked almost
the whole length of the deck. Philip, indeed, had no impulse or desire
for speech. All his aching nerves were soothed into repose. The last
remnants of his ghostly fears had been swept away. They were on the
windward side of the ship, untenanted save now and then by the shadowy
forms of other promenaders. The whole experience, even the regular
throbbing of the engines, the swish of the sea, the rising and falling of
a lantern bound to the top of a fishing smack by which they were passing,
the distant chant of the changing watch, all the night sights and sounds
of the seaborne hostel, were unfamiliar and exhilarating. And inside his
hand, even though given him of her great pity, a woman's fingers lay in
She spoke at last a little abruptly.
"There is something I must know about," she said.
"You have only to ask," he assured her.
"Don't be afraid," she continued. "I wish to ask you nothing which might
give you pain, but I must know—you see, I am really such a ordinary
woman—I must know about some one whom you went to visit that day, didn't
you, at Detton Magna?"
He answered her almost eagerly.
"I want to talk about Beatrice," he declared. "I want to tell you
everything about her. I know that you will understand. We were brought up
together in the same country place. We were both thrown upon the world
about the same time. That was one thing, I suppose, which made us kindly
disposed towards one another. We corresponded always. I commenced my
unsuccessful fight in London. I lived—I can't tell you how—week by
week, month by month. I ate coarse food, I was a hanger-on to the fringe
of everything in life which appealed to me, fed intellectually on the
crumbs of free libraries and picture galleries. I met no one of my own
station—I was at a public school and my people were gentlefolk—or
tastes. I had no friends in London before whom I dared present myself, no
money to join a club where I might have mixed with my fellows, no one to
talk to or exchange a single idea with—and I wasn't always the gloomy
sort of person I have become; in my younger days I loved companionship.
And the women—my landlady's daughter, with dyed hair, a loud voice,
slatternly in the morning, a flagrant imitation of her less honest
sisters at night! Who else? Where was I to meet women when I didn't even
know men? I spent my poor holidays at Detton Magna. Our very loneliness
brought Beatrice and me closer together. We used to walk in those ugly
fields around Detton Magna and exchanged the story of our woes. She was a
teacher at the national school. The children weren't pleasant, their
parents were worse. The drudgery was horrible, and there wasn't any
escape for her. Sometimes she would sob as we sat side by side. She, too,
wanted something out of life, as I did, and there seemed nothing but that
black wall always before us. I think that we clung together because we
shared a common misery. We talked endlessly of a way out. For me what was
there? There was no one to rob—I wasn't clever enough. There was no way
I could earn money, honestly or dishonestly. And for her, buried in that
Derbyshire village amongst the collieries, where there was scarcely a
person who hadn't the taint of the place upon them—what chance was there
for her? There was nothing she could do, either. I knew in my heart that
we were both ready for evil things, if by evil things we could make our
escape. And we couldn't. So we tried to lose ourselves in the only fields
left for such as we. We read poetry. We tried to live in that unnatural
world where the brains only are nourished and the body languishes. It was
a morbid, unhealthy existence, but I plodded along and so did she. Then
her weekly letters became different. For the first time she wrote me with
reserves. I took a day's vacation and I went down to Detton Magna to see
what had happened."
"That was the day," she interrupted softly, "when—"
"That was the day," he assented. "I remember so well getting out of
the train and walking up that long, miserable street. School wasn't
over, and I went straight to her cottage, as I have often done before.
There was a change. Her cheap furniture had gone. It was like one of
those little rooms we had dreamed of. There was a soft carpet upon the
floor, Chippendale furniture, flowers, hothouse fruit, and on the
mantelpiece—the photograph of a man."
He paused, and they took the whole one long turn along the wind-swept,
shadowy deck in silence.
"Presently she came," he continued. "The change was there, too. She was
dressed simply enough, but even I, in my inexperience, knew the
difference. She came in—she, who had spoken of suicide a short time
ago—singing softly to herself. She saw me, our eyes met, and the story
was told. I knew, and she knew that I knew."
It seemed as though something in his tone might have grated upon her.
Gently, but with a certain firmness, she drew her hand away from his.
"You were very angry, I suppose?" she murmured.
Some instinct told him exactly what was passing in her thoughts. In a
moment he was on the defensive.
"I think," he said, "that if it had been any other man—but listen. The
photograph which I took from the mantelpiece and threw into the fire was
the photograph of my own cousin. His father and my father were brought up
together. My father chose the Church, his founded the factory in which
most of the people in Detton Magna were employed. When my grandfather
died, it was found that he was penniless. The whole of his money had gone
towards founding the Douglas Romilly Shoe Company. I won't weary with the
details. The business prospered, but we remained in poverty. When my
mother died I was left with nothing. My uncle made promises and never
kept them. He, too, died. My cousin and I quarrelled. He and his father
both held that the money advanced by my grandfather had been a gift and
not a loan. They offered me a pittance. Well, I refused anything. I spoke
plain words, and that was an end of it. And then I came back and I saw
his picture, my cousin's picture, upon the mantelpiece. I can see it now
and it looks hateful to me. All the old fires burned up in me. I
remembered my father's death—a pauper he was. I remembered how near I
had been to starvation. I remembered the years I had spent in a garret
whilst Douglas had idled time away at Oxford, had left there to trifle
with the business his father had founded, had his West End club, hunters,
and shooting. It was a vicious, mad, jealous hatred, perhaps, but I claim
that it was human. I went out of that little house and it seemed to me
that there was a new lust in my heart, a new, craving desire. If I had
thrown myself into that canal, they might well have called it temporary
insanity. I didn't, but I was mad all the same. Anything else I did—was
Her hand suddenly came back again and she leaned towards him through the
"You poor child," she whispered. "Stop there, please. Don't be afraid to
think you've told me this. You see, I am of the world, and I know that we
are all only human. Now, twice up and down the deck, and not a word. Then
I shall ask you something."
So they passed on, side by side, the touch of her fingers keeping this
new courage alive in his heart, his head uplifted even to the stars
towards which their rolling mast pointed. It was wonderful, this—to tell
the truth, to open the door of his heart!
"Now I am going to ask you something," she said, when they turned for the
third time. "You may think it a strange question, but you must please
answer it. To me it is rather important. Just what were your feelings for
"I think I was fond of her," he answered thoughtfully. "I know that I
hated her when she came in from the schoolhouse—when I understood. Both
of us, in the days of our joint poverty, had scoffed at principles, had
spoken boldly enough of sin, but I can only say that when she came, when
I looked into her eyes, I seemed to have discovered a new horror in life.
I can't analyse it. I am not sure, even now, that I was not more of a
beast that I had thought myself. I am not sure that part of my rage was
not because she had escaped and I couldn't."
"But your personal feelings—that is what I want to know about?" she
He dug down into his consciousness to satisfy her.
"Think of what my life in London had been," he reminded her. "There
wasn't a single woman I knew, with whom I could exchange a word. All the
time I loved beautiful things, and beautiful women, and the thought of
them. I have gone out into the streets at nights sometimes and hung
around the entrances to theatres and restaurants just for the pleasure of
looking at them with other men. It didn't do me any good, you know, but
the desire was there. I wanted a companion like those other men had.
Beatrice was the only woman I knew. I didn't choose her. It wasn't the
selective instinct that made her attractive to me. It was because she was
the only one. I never felt anything great when I was with her," he went
on hoarsely. "I knew very well that ours were ordinary feelings. She was
in the same position that I was. There was no one else for her, either.
Do you want me to go on?"
"Don't be afraid—I am not quite mad," he continued, "only I'll answer
for you the part of your question you don't put into words. Beatrice was
nothing to me but an interpretress of her sex. I never loved her. If I
had, we might in our misery have done the wildest, the most foolish
things. I will tell you why I know so clearly that I never loved her. I
have known it since you have been kind to me, since I have realised what
a wonderful thing a woman can be, what a world she can make for the man
who cares, whom she cares for."
Her fingers gripped his tightly.
"And now," she said, "I know all that I want to know and all that it is
well for us to speak of just now. Dear friend, will you remember that you
are sharing your burden with me, and that I, who am accounted something
in the world and who know life pretty thoroughly, believe in you and hope
They paused for a moment by the side of the steamer rail. She understood
so well his speechlessness. She drew her hand away from his and held it
to his lips.
"Please kiss my fingers," she begged. "That is just the seal of our
friendship in these days. See how quickly we seem to plough our way
through the water. Listen to the throbbing of that engine, always towards
a new world for you, my friend. It is to be an undiscovered country. Be
brave, keep on being brave, and remember—"
The words seemed to die away upon her lips. A shower of spray came
glittering into the dim light, like flakes of snow falling with
unexpected violence close to them. He drew her cloak around her and
"Now," she said, "I think we will smoke, and perhaps, if you made
yourself very agreeable to the steward in the smoking room, you could get
"One moment," he pleaded. "Remember what? Don't you realise that there is
just one word I still need, one little word to crown all that you have
She turned her head towards him. The trouble and brooding melancholy
seemed to have fallen from his face. She realised more fully its
sensitive lines, its poetic, almost passionate charm. She was carried
suddenly away upon a wave of the emotion which she herself had created.
"Oh, but you know!" she faltered. "You see, I trust you even to know
when … Now your arm, please, until we reach the smoking room, and
mind—I must have coffee."
Philip Romilly, on the last day of the voyage, experienced to the full
that peculiar sensation of unrest which seems inevitably to prevail when
an oceangoing steamer is being slowly towed into port. The winds of the
ocean had been left behind. There was a new but pleasant chill in the
frosty, sunlit air. The great buildings of New York, at which he had
been gazing for hours, were standing, heterogeneous but magnificent,
clear-cut against an azure sky. The ferry boats, with their amazing human
cargo, seemed to be screeching a welcome as they churned their way across
the busy river. Wherever he looked, there was something novel and
interesting, yet nothing sufficiently arresting to enable him to forget
that he was face to face now with the first crisis of his new life. Since
that brief wireless message on the first day out, there had been nothing
disquieting in the daily bulletins of news, and he had been able to
appreciate to the full the soothing sense of detachment, the friendliness
of his fellow voyagers, immeasurably above all the daily association with
Elizabeth. He felt like one awaking from a dream as he realised that
these things were over. At the first sight of land, it was as though a
magician's wand had been waved, a charm broken. His fellow passengers, in
unfamiliar costumes, were standing about with their eyes glued upon the
distant docks. A queer sense of ostracism possessed him. Perhaps, after
all, it had been a dream from which he was now slowly awaking.
He wandered into the lounge to find Elizabeth surrounded by a little
group of journalists. She nodded to him pleasantly and waved a great
bunch of long-stemmed pink roses which one of them had brought to her.
Her greeting saved him from despair. She, at least, was unchanged.
"See how my friends are beginning to spoil me!" she cried out. "Really, I
can't tell any of you a thing more," she went on, turning back to them,
"only this, and I am sure it ought to be interesting. I have discovered a
new dramatist, and I am going to produce a play of his within three
months, I hope. I shan't tell you his name and I shan't tell you anything
about the play, except that I find more promise in it than anything I
have seen or read for months. Mr. Romilly, please wait for me," she
called after him. "I want to point out some of the buildings to you."
A dark young man, wearing eyeglasses, with a notebook and pencil in his
hand, swung around.
"Is this Mr. Douglas Romilly," he enquired, "of the Romilly Shoe Company?
I am from the New York Star. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Romilly. You are
over here on business, we understand?"
Philip was taken aback and for the moment remained speechless.
"We'd like to know your reason, Mr. Romilly, for paying us a visit," the
young man continued, "in your own words. How long a trip do you intend to
make, anyway? What might your output be in England per week? Women's
shoes and misses', isn't it?"
Elizabeth intervened swiftly, shaking her finger at the journalist.
"Mr. Harris," she said, "Mr. Romilly is my friend, and I am not going to
have him spend these few impressive moments, when he ought to be looking
about him at the harbour, telling you silly details about his business.
You can call upon him at his hotel, if you like—the Waldorf he is going
to, I believe—and I am sure he will tell you anything you want to know."
"That's all right, Miss Dalstan," the young man declared soothingly. "See
you later, Mr. Romilly," he added. "Maybe you'll let us have a few of
your impressions to work in with the other stuff."
Romilly made light of the matter, but there was a slight frown upon his
forehead as they passed along the curiously stationary deck.
"I am afraid," he observed, "that this is going to be a terribly hard
country to disappear in."
"Don't you believe it," she replied cheerfully. "You arrive here to-day
and you are in request everywhere. To-morrow you are forgotten—some
one else arrives. That newspaper man scarcely remembers your existence at
the present moment. He has discovered Mr. Raymond Greene…. Tell me, why
do you look so white and unhappy?"
"I am sorry the voyage is over," he confessed.
"So am I, for that matter," she assented. "I have loved every minute of
the last few days, but then we knew all the time, didn't we, that it was
just an interlude? The things which lie before us are so full of
"It is the next few hours which I fear," he muttered gloomily.
She laughed at him.
"Foolish! If there had been any one on this side who wanted to ask you
disagreeable questions, they wouldn't have waited to meet you on the
quay. They'd have come down the harbour and held us up. Don't think about
that for a moment. Think instead of all the wonderful things we are going
to do. You will be occupied every minute of the time until I come back to
New York, and I shall be so anxious to see the result. You won't
disappoint me, will you?"
"I will not," he promised. "It was only for just a moment that I felt an
idiot. It's exciting, you know, this new atmosphere, and the voyage was
so wonderful, such a perfect rest. It's like waking up, and the daylight
seems a little crude."
She held out her hand.
"You see, the gangways are going down," she pointed out. "I can see many
of my friends waiting. Remember, with your new life begins our new
alliance. Good luck to you, dear friend!"
Their fingers were locked for a moment together. He looked earnestly into
"Whatever the new life may mean for me," he said fervently, "I shall owe
A little rush of people came up the gangway, and Elizabeth was speedily
surrounded and carried off. They came across one another several times in
the Custom House, and she waved her hand to him gaily. Philip went
through the usual formalities, superintended the hoisting of his trunks
upon a clumsy motor truck, and was himself driven without question from
the covered shed adjoining the quay. He looked back at the huge side of
the steamer, the floor of the Custom House, about which were still dotted
little crowds of his fellow passengers. It was the disintegration of a
wonderful memory—his farewell….
* * * * *
At the Waldorf he found himself greeted with unexpected cordiality. The
young gentleman to whom he applied, after some hesitation, for a room,
stretched out his hand and welcomed him to America.
"So you are Mr. Romilly!" he exclaimed. "Well, that's good. We've got
your room—Number 602, on the ninth floor."
"Ninth floor!" Philip gasped.
"If you'd like to be higher up we can change you," the young man
continued amiably. "Been several people here enquiring for you. A young
man from the 'Boot and Shoe Trades Reporter' was here only half an hour
ago, and here's a cable. No mail yet."
He handed the key to a small boy and waved Philip away. The small boy
proved fully equal to his mission.
"You just step this way, sir," he invited encouragingly. "Those packages
of yours will be all right. You don't need to worry about them."
He led the way down a corridor streaming with human beings, into a lift
from which it appeared to Philip that he was shot on to the ninth floor,
along a thickly-carpeted way into a good-sized and comfortable bedroom,
with bathroom attached.
"Your things will be up directly, sir," the small boy promised, holding
out his hand. "I'll see after them myself."
Philip expressed his gratitude in a satisfactory manner and stood for a
few moments at the window. Although it was practically his first glimpse
of New York, the wonders of the panorama over which he looked failed even
to excite his curiosity. The clanging of the surface cars, the roar and
clatter of the overhead railway, the hooting of streams of automobiles,
all apparently being driven at breakneck speed, alien sounds though they
were, fell upon deaf ears. He could neither listen nor observe. Every
second's delay fretted him. His plans were all made. Everything depended
upon their being carried out now without the slightest hitch. He
walked a dozen times to the door, waiting for his luggage, and when at
last it arrived he was on the point of using the telephone. He feed the
linen-coated porters and dismissed them as rapidly as possible. Then he
ransacked the trunks until he found, amidst a pile of fashionable
clothing, a quiet and inconspicuous suit of dark grey. In the bathroom
he hastily changed his clothes, selected an ordinary Homburg hat, and
filled a small leather case with various papers. He was on the point of
leaving the room when his eyes fell upon the cable. He hesitated for a
moment, gazed at the superscription, shrugged his shoulders, and tore it
open. He moved to the window and read it slowly, word for word:
"Just seen Henshaw. Most disturbing interview. Tells me you have had
notice to reduce overdraft by February 1st. Absolutely declines any
further advances. Payments coming in insufficient meet wages and current
liabilities. No provision for 4th bills, amounting sixteen thousand
pounds. Have wired London for accountant. Await your instructions
urgently. Suggest you cable back the twenty thousand pounds lying our
credit New York. Please reply. Very worried. Potts."
Word by word, Philip read the cable twice over. Then it fluttered from
his fingers on to the table. It told its own story beyond any shadow of a
mistake. His cousin's great wealth was a fiction. The business to which
his own fortune and the whole of his grandfather's money had been
devoted, was even now tottering. He remembered the rumours he had heard
of Douglas' extravagance, his establishment in London, the burden of his
college debts. And then a further light flashed in upon him. Twenty
thousand pounds in America!—lying there, too, for Douglas under a false
name! He drew out one of the documents which he had packed and glanced at
it more carefully. Then he replaced it, a little dazed. Douglas had
planned to leave England, then, with this crisis looming over him. Why?
Philip for a moment sat down on the arm of an easy-chair. A grim sense of
humour suddenly parted his lips. He threw back his head and laughed.
Douglas Romilly had actually been coming to America to disappear! It was
incredible but it was true.
He left the cable carefully open upon the dressing-table, and, picking up
the small leather case, left the room. He reached the lift, happily
escaping the observation of the young lady seated at her desk, and
descended into the hall. Once amongst the crowd of people who thronged
the corridors, he found it perfectly simple to leave the hotel by one of
the side entrances. He walked to the corner of the street and drew a
little breath. Then he lit a cigarette and strolled along Broadway,
curiously light-hearted, his spirits rising at every step. He was free
for ever from that other hateful personality. Mr. Douglas Romilly, of the
Douglas Romilly Shoe Company, had paid his brief visit to America and
After a fortnight of his new life, Philip took stock of himself and his
belongings. In the first place, then, he owned a new name, taken bodily
from certain documents which he had brought with him from England.
Further, as Mr. Merton Ware, he was the monthly tenant of a small but not
uncomfortable suite of rooms on the top story of a residential hotel in
the purlieus of Broadway. He had also, apparently, been a collector of
newspapers of certain dates, all of which contained some such paragraph
DOUGLAS ROMILLY, WEALTHY ENGLISH BOOT
MANUFACTURER, DISAPPEARS FROM THE WALDORF ASTORIA
HOTEL. WALKS OUT OF HIS ROOM WITHIN AN HOUR OF
LANDING AND HAS NOT BEEN HEARD OF SINCE. DOWN TOWN
HAUNTS SEARCHED. FOUL PLAY FEARED.
SUPERINTENDENT SHIPMAN DECLARES HIMSELF BAFFLED.
Early on Monday morning, the police of the city
were invited to investigate a case of curious
disappearance. Mr. Douglas Romilly, an English
shoe manufacturer, who travelled out from England
on board the Elletania, arrived at the Waldorf
Hotel at four o'clock on Saturday afternoon and
was shown to the reservation made for him. Within
an hour he was enquired for by several callers,
who were shown to his room without result. The
apartment was found to be empty and nothing has
since been seen or heard of Mr. Romilly. The room
assigned to him, which could only have been
occupied for a few minutes, has been locked up and
the keys handed to the police. A considerable
amount of luggage is in their possession, and
certain documents of a somewhat curious character.
From cables received early this afternoon, it
would appear that the Douglas Romilly Shoe
Company, one of the oldest established firms in
England, is in financial difficulties.
Then there was a paragraph in a paper of later date:
NO NEWS OF DOUGLAS ROMILLY.
The police have been unable to discover any trace
of the missing Englishman. From further cables to
hand, it appears that he was in possession of a
considerable sum of money, which must have been on
his person at the time of disappearance, and it is
alleged that there was also a large amount, with
which he had intended to make purchases for his
business, standing to his credit at a New York
bank. Nothing has since been discovered, however,
amongst his belongings, of the slightest financial
value, nor does any bank in New York admit holding
a credit on behalf of the missing man.
"Perhaps it is time," Philip murmured, "that these were destroyed."
He tore the newspapers into pieces and threw them into his waste-basket.
On his writing-table were forty or fifty closely written pages of
manuscript. In his pocketbook were sixteen hundred dollars, and a
document indicating a credit for a very much larger amount at the United
Bank of New York, in favor of Merton Ware and another. The remainder
of his belongings were negligible. He stood at the window and looked out
across the city, the city into whose labyrinths he was so eager to
penetrate—the undiscovered country. By day and night its voices were in
his ears, the rattle and roar of the overhead railway, the clanging of
the street cars, the heavy traffic, the fainter but never ceasing
foot-fall of the multitudes. He had sat there before dawn and watched the
queer, pinky-white light steal with ever widening fingers through the
darkness, heard the yawn of the city as it seemed to shiver and tremble
before the battle of the day. At twilight he had watched the lights
spring up one by one, at first like pin pricks in the distance, growing
and widening until the grotesque shapes of the buildings from which they
sprung had faded into nothingness, and there was left only a velvet
curtain of strangely-lit stars. At a giddy distance below he could trace
the blaze of Broadway, the blue lights flashing from the electric wires
as the cable cars rushed back and forth, the red and violet glimmer of
the sky signs. He knew it all so well, by morning, by noon and night;
in rainstorm, storms which he had watched come up from oceanwards in
drifting clouds of vapour; and in sunshine, clear, brilliant sunshine, a
little hard and austere, to his way of thinking, and unseasonable.
"A week," he muttered. "She said a week. Tonight I will go out."
He looked at himself in the glass. He wore no longer the well-cut clothes
of Mr. Douglas Romilly's Saville Row tailor, but a ready-made suit of
Schmitt & Mayer's business reach-me-downs, an American felt hat and
"She said a week," he repeated. "It's a fortnight to-day. I'll go to the
restaurant at the corner. I must find out for myself what all this noise
means, what the city has to say."
He turned towards the door and then stopped short. For almost the first
time since he had taken up his quarters here, the lift had stopped
outside. There was a brief pause, then his bell rang. For a moment Philip
hesitated. Then he stepped forward and opened the door, looking out
enquiringly at his caller.
"You Mr. Merton Ware?"
He admitted the fact briefly. His visitor was a young woman dressed in a
rather shabby black indoor dress, over which she wore an apron. She was
without either hat or gloves. Her fingers were stained with purple
copying ink, and her dark hair was untidily arranged.
"I live two stories down below," she announced, handing him a little
card. "Miss Martha Grimes—that's my name—typewriter and stenographer,
you see. The waiter who brings our meals told me he thought you were some
way literary, so I just stepped up to show you my prospectus. If you've
any typewriting you want doing, I'm on the spot, and I don't know as
you'd get it done much cheaper anywhere else—or better."
There was nothing particularly ingratiating about Miss Martha Grimes,
but, with the exception of a coloured waiter, she happened to be the
first human being with whom Philip had exchanged a word for several days.
He felt disinclined to hurry her away.
"Come in," he invited, holding the door open. "So you do typing, eh? What
sort of a machine do you use?"
"Remington," she answered. "It's a bit knocked about—a few of the
letters, I mean—but I've got some violet ink and I can make a manuscript
look all right. Half a dollar a thousand words, and a quarter for carbon
copies. Of course, if you'd got a lot of stuff," she went on, her eyes
lighting hopefully upon the little collection of manuscript upon his
table, "I might quote you a trifle less."
He picked up some of his sheets and glanced at them.
"Sooner or later," he admitted, "I shall have to have this typed. It
isn't quite ready yet, though."
He was struck by the curious little light of anticipation which somehow
changed her face, and which passed away at his last words. Under pretence
of gathering together some of those loose pages, he examined her more
closely and realised that he had done her at first scant justice. She was
very thin, and the expression of her face was spoilt by the discontented
curve of her lips. The shape of her head, however, was good. Her dark
hair, notwithstanding its temporary disarrangement, was of beautiful
quality, and her eyes, though dull and spiritless-looking, were large and
full of subtle promise. He replaced the sheets of manuscript.
"Sit down for a moment," he begged.
"I'd rather stand," she replied.
"Just as you please," he assented, smiling. "I was just wondering what to
do about this stuff."
She hesitated for a moment, then a little sulkily she seated herself.
"I suppose you think I'm a pretty forward young person to come up here
and beg for work. I don't care if you do," she went on, swinging her foot
back and forth. "One has to live."
"I am very pleased that you came," he assured her. "It will be a great
convenience to me to have my typing done on the premises, and although I
am afraid there won't be much of it, you shall certainly do what there
"Story writer?" she enquired.
"I am only a beginner," he told her. "This work I am going to give you is
She looked at him with a shade of commiseration in her face.
"Sickening job, ain't it, writing for the stage unless you've got some
sort of pull?"
"This is my first effort," he explained.
"Well, it's none of my business," she said gloomily. "All I want is the
typing of it, only you should see some of the truck I've had! I've hated
to send in the bill. Waste of good time and paper! I don't suppose yours
is like that, but there ain't much written that's any good, anyway."
"You're a hopeful young person, aren't you?" he remarked, taking a
cigarette from the mantelpiece and lighting it. "Have one?"
"No, thank you!" she replied, rising briskly to her feet. "I'm not that
sort that sits about and smokes cigarettes with strange young men. If
you'll let me know when that work's going to be ready, I'll send the
janitor up for it."
He smiled deprecatingly.
"You're not afraid of me, by any chance, are you?" he asked.
Her eyes glowed with contempt as she looked him up and down.
"Afraid of you, sir!" she repeated. "I should say not! I've met all sorts
of men and I know something about them."
"Then sit down again, please," he begged.
She hesitated for a moment, then subsided once more unwillingly into the
"Don't know as I want to stay up here gossiping," she remarked. "You'd
much better be getting on with your work. Give me one of those
cigarettes, anyway," she added abruptly.
"Do you live in the building?" he enquired, as he obeyed her behest.
"Two flats below with pop," she replied. "He's a bad actor, very seldom
in work, and he drinks. There are just the two of us. Now you know as
much as is good for you. You're English, ain't you?"
"I am," Philip admitted.
"Just out, too, by the way you talk."
"I have been living in Jamaica," he told her, "for many years—clerk in
an office there."
"Better have stayed where you were, I should think, if you've come here
hoping to make a living by that sort of stuff."
"Perhaps you're right," he agreed, "but you see I am here—been here a
week or two, in fact."
"Done much visiting around?" she enquired.
"I've scarcely been out," he confessed. "You see, I don't know the city
except from my windows. It's wonderful from here after twilight."
"Think so," she replied dully. "It's a hard, hammering, brazen sort of
place when you're living in it from hand to mouth. Not but what we don't
get along all right," she added, a little defiantly. "I'm not grumbling."
"I am sure you're not," he assented soothingly. "Tell me—to-night I am a
little tired of work. I thought of going out. Be a Good Samaritan and
tell me where to find a restaurant in Broadway, somewhere where crowds
of people go but not what they call a fashionable place. I want to get
some dinner—I haven't had anything decent to eat for I don't know how
long—and I want to breathe the same atmosphere as other people."
She looked at him a little enviously.
"How much do you want to spend?" she asked bluntly.
"I don't know that that really matters very much. I have some money.
Things are more expensive over here, aren't they?"
"I should go to the New Martin House," she advised him, "right at the
corner of this block. It's real swell, and they say the food's
"I could go as I am, I suppose?" he asked, glancing down at his clothes.
She stared at him wonderingly.
"Say, where did you come from?" she exclaimed. "You ain't supposed to
dress yourself out in glad clothes for a Broadway restaurant, not even
the best of them."
"Have you been to this place yourself?" he enquired.
"Come with me," he invited suddenly.
She arose at once to her feet and threw the remains of her cigarette into
"Say, Mr. Ware," she pronounced, "I ain't that sort, and the sooner you
know it the better, especially if I'm going to do your work. I'll be
"Look here," he remonstrated earnestly, "you don't seem to understand me
altogether. What do you mean by saying you're not that sort?"
"You know well enough," she answered defiantly. "I guess you're not
proposing to give me a supper out of charity, are you?"
"I am asking you to accompany me," he declared, "because I haven't spoken
to a human being for a week, because I don't know a soul in New York,
because I've got enough money to pay for two dinners, and because I am
She looked at him and it was obvious that she was more than half
convinced. Her brightening expression transformed her face. She was still
hesitating, but her inclinations were apparent.
"Say, you mean that straight?" she asked. "You won't turn around
afterwards and expect a lot of soft sawder because you've bought me a
"Don't be a silly little fool," he answered good-humouredly. "All I want
from you is to sit by my side and talk, and tell me what to order."
Her face suddenly fell.
"No good," she sighed. "Haven't got any clothes."
"If I am going like this," he expostulated, "why can't you go as you are?
Take your apron off. You'll be all right."
"There's my black hat with the ribbon," she reminded herself. "It's no
style, and Stella said yesterday she wouldn't be seen in a dime show in
"Never you mind about Stella," he insisted confidently. "You clap it on
your head and come along."
She swung towards the door.
"Meet you in the hall in ten minutes," she promised. "Can't be any
quicker. This is your trouble, you know. I didn't invite myself."
Philip opened the door, a civility which seemed to somewhat embarrass
"I shall be waiting for you," he declared cheerfully.
Philip stepped into his own little bedroom and made scanty preparations
for this, his first excursion. Then he made his way down into the shabby
hall and was seated there on the worn settee when his guest descended.
She was wearing a hat which, so far as he could judge, was almost
becoming. Her gloves, notwithstanding their many signs of mending, were
neat, her shoes carefully polished, and although her dress was undeniably
shabby, there was something in her carriage which pleased him. Her
eyes were fixed upon his from the moment she stepped from the lift. She
was watching for his expression half defiantly, half anxiously.
"Well, you see what I look like," she remarked brusquely. "You can back
out of it, if you want to."
"Don't be silly," he replied. "You look quite all right. I'm not much of
a beau myself, you know. I bought this suit over the counter the other
day, without being measured for it or anything."
"Guess you ain't used to ready-made clothes," she observed, as they
"You see, in England—and the Colonies," he added hastily, "things aren't
so expensive as here. What a wonderful city this is of yours, Martha!"
"Miss Grimes, please," she corrected him.
"I beg your pardon," he apologised.
"That's just what I was afraid of," she went on querulously. "You're
beginning already. You think because you're giving me a meal, you can
take all sorts of liberties. Calling me by my Christian name, indeed!"
"It was entirely a slip," he assured her. "Tell me what theatre that is
across the way?"
She answered his question and volunteered other pieces of information.
Philip gazed about him, as they walked along Broadway, with the eager
curiosity of a provincial sightseer. She laughed at him a little
"You'll get used to all the life and bustle presently," she told him. "It
won't seem so wonderful to you when you walk along here without a dollar
to bless yourself with, and your silly plays come tumbling back. Now this
is the Martin House. My! Looks good inside, don't it?"
They crossed the threshold, Philip handed his hat to the attendant and
they stood, a little undecided, at the top of the brilliantly-lit room. A
condescending maître d'hotel showed them to a retired table in a distant
corner, and another waiter handed them a menu.
"You know, half of this is unintelligible to me," Philip confessed.
"You'll have to do the ordering—that was our bargain, you know."
"You must tell me how much you want to spend, then?" she insisted.
"I will not," he answered firmly. "What I want is a good dinner, and for
this once in my life I don't care what it costs. I've a few hundred
dollars in my pocket, so you needn't be afraid I shan't be able to pay
the bill. You just order the things you like, and a bottle of claret or
anything else you prefer."
She turned to the waiter, and, carefully studying the prices, she gave
him an order.
"One portion for two, remember, of the fish and the salad," she enjoined.
"Two portions of the chicken, if you think one won't be enough."
She leaned back in her place.
"It's going to cost you, when you've paid for the claret, a matter of
four dollars and fifty cents, this dinner," she said, "and I guess you'll
have to give the waiter a quarter. Are you scared?"
He laughed at her once more.
"Not a bit!"
She looked at his long, delicate fingers—studied him for a moment.
Notwithstanding his clothes, there was an air of breeding about him,
unconcealable, a thing apart, even, from his good looks.
"Clerk, were you?" she remarked. "Seems to me you're used to spending two
dollars on a meal all right. I'm not!"
"Neither am I," he assured her. "One doesn't have much opportunity of
spending money in—Jamaica."
"You seem kind of used to it, somehow," she persisted. "Have you come
into money, then?"
"I've saved a little," he explained, with a rather grim smile, "and
I've—well, shall we say come into some?"
"Stolen it, maybe," she observed indifferently.
"Should you be horrified if I told that I had?"
"I don't know," she answered. "I'm one of those who's lived honest, and I
sometimes wonder whether it pays."
"It's a great problem," he sighed.
"It is that," she admitted gloomily. "I've got a friend—she used to live
in our place, just below me—Stella Kimbell, her name is. She and I
learnt our typewriting together and started in the same office. We stood
it, somehow, for three years, sometimes office work, sometimes at home.
We didn't have much luck. It was always better for me than for Stella,
because she was good-looking, and I'm not."
"I shouldn't say that," he remonstrated. "You've got beautiful eyes, you
"You stop it!" she warned him firmly. "My eyes are my own, and I'll
trouble you not to make remarks about them."
"Sorry," Philip murmured, duly crushed.
"The men were after her all the time," the girl continued, reminiscently.
"Last place we were at, a dry goods store not far from here, the heads of
the departments used to make her life fairly miserable. She held out,
though, but what with fines, and one thing or another, they forced her to
leave. So I did the same. We drifted apart then for a while. She got a
job at an automobile place, and I was working at home. I remember the
night she came to me—I was all alone. Pop had got a three-line part
somewhere and was bragging about it at all the bars in Broadway. Stella
came in quite suddenly and almost out of breath.
"'Kid,' she said, 'I'm through with it.'
"'What do you mean?' I asked her.
"Then she threw herself down on the sofa and she sobbed—I never heard a
girl cry like that in all my life. She shrieked, she was pretty nearly in
hysterics, and I couldn't get a word out of her. When she was through at
last, she was all limp and white. She wouldn't tell me anything. She
simply sat and looked at the stove. Presently she got up to go. I put my
hands on her shoulders and I forced her back in the chair.
"'You've got to tell me all about it, Stella,' I insisted.
"And then of course I heard the whole story. She'd got fired again. These
men are devils!"
"Don't tell me more about it unless you like," he begged sympathetically.
"Where is she now?"
"In the chorus of 'Three Frivolous Maids.' She comes in here regularly."
"Sorry for herself?"
"Not she! Last time I saw her she told me she wouldn't go back into an
office, or take on typewriting again, for anything in the world. She was
looking prettier than ever, too. There's a swell chap almost crazy about
her. Shouldn't wonder if she hasn't got an automobile."
"Well, she answers our question one way, then," he remarked thoughtfully.
"Tell me, Miss Grimes, is everything to eat in America as good as this
"Some cooking here," she observed, looking rather regretfully at her
empty plate. "I told you things were all right. There's grilled
chicken—Maryland chicken—coming, and green corn."
"Have I got to eat the corn like that man opposite?" he asked anxiously.
"You can eat it how you like," she answered.
"Watch me, if you want to. I don't care. I ain't tasted green corn since
I can remember, and I'm going to enjoy it."
"You don't like your claret, I'm afraid," he remarked.
She sipped it and set down the glass a little disparagingly.
"If you want to know what I would like," she said, "it's just a Martini
cocktail. We don't drink wines over here as much as you folk, I guess."
He ordered the cocktails at once. Every now and then he watched her. She
ate delicately but with a healthy and unashamed appetite. A little colour
came into her cheeks as the room grew warmer, her lower lip became less
uncompromising. Suddenly she laid down her knife and fork. Her eyes were
agleam with interest. She pulled at his sleeve.
"Say, that's Stella!" she exclaimed excitedly. "Look, she's coming this
way! Don't she look stunning!"
A girl, undeniably pretty, with dark, red-gold hair, wearing a long
ermine coat and followed by a fashionably dressed young man, was making
her way up the room. She suddenly recognised Philip's companion and came
towards her with outstretched hand.
"If it isn't Martha!" she cried. "Isn't this great! Felix, this is Miss
Grimes—Martha Grimes, you know," she added, calling to the young man who
was accompanying her. "You must remember—why, what's the matter with
She broke off in her speech. Her companion was staring at Philip, who was
returning his scrutiny with an air of mild interrogation.
"Say," the young man enquired, "didn't I meet you on the Elletania?
Aren't you Mr. Douglas Romilly?"
Philip shook his head.
"My name is Ware," he pronounced, "Merton Ware. I have certainly never
been on the Elletania and I don't remember having met you before."
The young man whose name was Felix appeared almost stupefied.
"Gee whiz!" he muttered. "Excuse me, sir, but I never saw such a likeness
"Well, shake hands with Miss Grimes quickly and come along," Stella
enjoined. "Remember I only have half an hour for dinner now. You coming
to see the show, Martha?"
"Not to-night," that young woman declared firmly.
The two passed on after a few more moments of amiable but, on the part of
the young man, somewhat dazed conversation. Philip had resumed the
consumption of his chicken. He raised an over-filled glass to his lips
steadily and drank it without spilling a drop.
"Mistook me for some one," he remarked coolly.
"Man who disappeared from the Waldorf Astoria. They made quite a fuss
about him in the newspapers. I shouldn't have said you were the least
like him—to judge by his pictures, anyway."
Philip shrugged his shoulders. He seemed very little interested.
"I don't often read the newspapers…. So that is Stella."
"That is Stella," she assented, a little defiantly. "And if I were she—I
mean if I were as good-looking as she is—I'd be in her place."
"I wonder whether you would?" he observed thoughtfully.
"Oh! don't bother me with your problems," she replied. "Does it run to
"Of course it does," he agreed, "and a liqueur, if you like."
"If you mean a cordial, I'll have some of that green stuff," she decided.
"Don't know when I shall get another dinner like this again."
"Well, that rests with you," he assured her. "I am very lonely just now.
Later on it will be different. We'll come again next week, if you like."
"Better see how you feel about it when the time comes," she answered
practically. "Besides, I'm not sure they'd let me in here again. Did you
see Stella's coat? Fancy feeling fur like that up against your chin!
She broke off and sipped her coffee broodingly.
"Those things are immaterial in themselves," he reminded her. "It's just
a question how much happiness they have brought her, whether the thing
pays or not."
"Of course it pays!" she declared, almost passionately. "You've never
seen my rooms or my drunken father. I can tell you what they're like,
though. They're ugly, they're tawdry, they're untidy, when I've any work
to do, they're scarcely clean. Our meals are thrown at us—we're always
behind with the rent. There isn't anything to look at or listen to that
isn't ugly. You haven't known what it is to feel the grim pang of a
constant hideousness crawling into your senses, stupefying you almost
with a sort of misery—oh, I can't describe it!"
"I have felt all those things," he said quietly.
"What did you do?" she demanded. "No, perhaps you had luck. Perhaps it's
not fair to ask you that. It wouldn't apply. What should you do if you
were me, if you had the chance to get out of it all the way that she
"I am not a woman," he reminded her simply. "If I answer you as an
outsider, a passer-by—mind, though, one who thinks about men and
women—I should say try one of her lesser sins, one of the sins that
leaves you clean. Steal, for instance."
"And go to prison!" she protested angrily. "How much better off would you
be there, I wonder, and what about when you came out? Pooh! Pay your bill
and let's get out of this."
He obeyed, and they made their way into the crowded street. He paused for
a moment on the pavement. The pleasure swirl was creeping a little into
"Would you like to go to a theatre?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"You do as you like. I'm going home. You needn't bother about coming with
"Don't be foolish," he protested. "I only mentioned a theatre for your
sake. Come along."
They walked down Broadway and turned into their own street. They entered
the tenement building together and stepped into the lift. She held out
her hand a little abruptly.
"Good night!" he answered. "You get out first, don't you? I'll polish
that stuff up to-night, the first part of it, so that you can get on with
Some half-developed fear which had been troubling her during the walk
home, seemed to have passed. Her face cleared.
"Don't think I am ungrateful," she begged, as the lift stopped. "I
haven't had a good time like this for many months. Thank you, Mr. Ware,
and good night!"
She stepped through the iron gates on to her own floor, and Philip swung
up to his rooms. Somehow, he entered almost light-heartedly. The roar of
the city below was no longer provocative. He felt as though he had
stretched out a hand towards it, as though he were in the way of becoming
one of its children.
A few nights later Philip awoke suddenly to find himself in a cold sweat,
face to face with all the horrors of an excited imagination. Once more he
felt his hand greedy for the soft flesh of the man he hated, tearing its
way through the stiff collar, felt the demoniacal strength shooting down
his arm, the fever at his finger tips. He saw the terrified face of his
victim, a strong man but impotent in his grasp; heard the splash of the
turgid waters; saw himself, his lust for vengeance unsatisfied, peering
downwards through the dim and murky gloom. It was not only a physical
nightmare which seized him. His brain, too, was his accuser. He saw with
a hideous clarity that even the excuse of motive was denied him. It was a
sense of personal loss which had driven him out on to that canal path, a
murderer at heart. It was something of which he had been robbed, an acute
and burning desire for vengeance, personal, entirely egotistical. It was
not the wrong to the woman which he resented, had there been any wrong.
It was the agony of his own personal misery. He rose from his bed and
stamped up and down his little chamber in a fear which was almost
hysterical. He threw wide open the windows, heedless of a driving
snowstorm. The subdued murmur of the city, with its paling lights,
brought him no relief. He longed frantically for some one who knew the
truth, for Elizabeth before any one, with her soft, cool touch, her
gentle, protective sympathy. He was a fool to think he could live alone
like this, with such a burden to bear! Perhaps it would not be for long.
The risks were many. At any moment he might hear the lift stop, steps
across the corridor, the ring at his bell, the plainly-clad, businesslike
man outside, with his formal questions, his grim civility. He fumbled
about in his little dressing-case until he came to a small box containing
several white pills. He gripped them in his hand and looked around,
listening. No, it was fancy! There was still no sound in the building.
When at last he went back to bed, however, the little box was tightly
clenched in his hands.
In the morning he went through his usual programme. He arose soon after
eight, lighted his little spirit lamp, made his coffee, cut some bread
and butter, and breakfasted. Then he lit a cigarette and sat down at his
desk. His imagination, however, seemed to have burnt itself out in the
night. Ideas and phrases were denied to him. He was thankful, about
eleven o'clock, to hear a ring at the bell and find Martha Grimes outside
with a little parcel under her arm. She was wearing the same shabby black
dress and her fingers were stained with copying ink. Her almost too
luxuriant hair was ill-arranged and untidy. Even her eyes seemed to have
lost their lustre.
"I've finished," she announced, handing him the parcel. "Better look and
see whether it's all right. I can't do it up properly till I've had the
He cut the string and looked at a few of the sheets. The typing was
perfect. He began to express his approval but she interrupted him.
"It's better stuff than I expected," she declared grudgingly. "I thought
you were only one of these miserable amateurs. Where did you learn to
write like that?"
Somehow, her praise was like a tonic.
"Do you like it?" he asked eagerly.
"Oh! my likes or dislikes don't matter," she replied. "It's good stuff.
You'll find the account in there. If you'd like to pay me, I'd like to
have the money."
He glanced at the neat little bill and took out his pocketbook.
"Sit down for a minute," he begged. "I'm stuck this morning—can't write
a line. Take my easy-chair and smoke a cigarette—I have nothing else
to offer you."
For a moment she seemed about to refuse. Then she flung herself into his
easy-chair, took a cigarette, and, holding it between her lips, almost
scarlet against the pallor of her cheeks, stretched upwards towards the
match which he was holding.
"Stella and her boy were over to see me last night," she announced, a
"The young lady with the ermines," he murmured.
"And her boy, Felix Martin. It was through him they came—I could see
that all right. He was trying all the time to pump me about you."
"Oh! you needn't trouble to look surprised," she remarked. "I guess you
remember the bee he had in his bonnet that night."
"Mistook me for some one, didn't he?" Philip murmured.
"Kind of queer you don't read our newspapers! It was a guy named
Romilly—Douglas Romilly—who disappeared from the Waldorf Hotel. Strange
thing about it," she went on, "is that I saw photographs of him in the
newspapers, and I can't recognise even a likeness."
"This Mr. Felix Martin doesn't agree with you, apparently," Philip
"He don't go by the photographs," Martha Grimes explained. "He believes
that he crossed from Liverpool with this Mr. Douglas Romilly, and that
you," she continued, crossing her legs and smoothing down her skirt to
hide her shabby shoes, "are so much like him that he came down last night
to see if there was anything else he could find out from me before he
paid a visit to police headquarters."
There was a moment's silence. Philip was apparently groping for a match,
and the girl was keeping her head studiously turned away from him.
"What business is it of his?"
"There was a reward offered. Don't know as that would make much
difference to Felix Martin, though. According to Stella's account, he is
pretty well a millionaire already."
"It would be more useful to you, wouldn't it?" Philip remarked.
"Five hundred dollars!" Martha sighed. "Don't seem to me just now that
there's much in the world you couldn't buy with five hundred dollars."
"Well, what did you tell Mr. Felix Martin?"
"Oh, I lied, sure! He'd found out the date you came into your rooms
here—the day this man Romilly disappeared—but I told him that I'd known
you and done work for you before then—long enough before the Elletania
ever reached New York. That kind of stumped him."
"Why did you do that?" Philip demanded.
"Dunno," the girl replied, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Just a fancy.
I guessed you wouldn't want him poking around."
"But supposing I had been Douglas Romilly, you might at least have
divided the reward," he reminded her.
"There's money and money," Martha declared. "We spoke of that the other
day. Stella's got money—now. Well, she's welcome. My time will come, I
suppose, but if I can't have clean money, I haven't made up my mind yet
whether I wouldn't rather try the Hudson on a foggy morning."
"Well, I am not Douglas Romilly, anyway," Philip announced.
She looked up at him almost for the first time since her entrance.
"I kind of thought you were," she admitted. "I might have saved my lies,
He shook his head.
"You have probably saved me from more than you know of," he replied. "I
am not Douglas Romilly, but—"
"You're not Merton Ware, either," she interrupted.
"Quite right," he agreed. "I started life as Philip Merton Ware the day I
took these rooms, and if the time should come," he went on, "that any one
seriously set about the task of finding out exactly who I was before I
was Merton Ware, you and I might as well take that little journey—was it
to the Hudson, you said, on a foggy morning?—together."
They sat in complete silence for several moments, Then she threw the end
of her cigarette into the fire.
"Well, I'm glad I didn't lie for nothing," she declared. "I didn't quite
tumble to the Douglas Romilly stunt, though. They say he has left his
business bankrupt in England and brought a fortune out here. You don't
look as though you were overdone with it."
"I certainly haven't the fortune that Douglas Romilly is supposed to have
got away with," he said quietly. "I have enough money for my present
needs, though—enough, by-the-by, to pay you for this typing," he added,
counting out the money upon the table.
"Any more stuff ready?"
"With luck there'll be some this afternoon," he promised her. "I had a
bad night last night, but I think I'll be able to work later in the day."
She looked at him curiously, at his face, absolutely devoid of colour,
his eyes, restless and overbright, his long, twitching fingers.
"Bad conscience or drugs?" she asked.
"Bad conscience," he acknowledged. "I've been where you have been—Miss
Grimes. I looked over the edge and I jumped. I'd stay where you are, if
I were you."
"Maybe I shall, maybe I shan't," she replied doggedly. "Stella wants to
bring a boy around to see me. 'You bring him,' I said. 'I'll talk to
him.' Then she got a little confused. Stella's kind, in her way. She came
back after Mr. Martin had gone down the passage. 'See here, kid,' she
said, 'you know as well as I do I can't bring any one round to see you
while you are sitting around in those rags. Let me lend you—' Well, I
stopped her short at that. 'My own plumes or none at all,' I told
her, 'and I'd just as soon he didn't come, anyway.'"
"You're a queer girl," Philip exclaimed. "Where's your father to-day?"
"Usual place," she answered,—"in bed. He never gets up till five."
"Let me order lunch up here for both of us, from the restaurant," he
She shook her head.
"Why not?" he persisted.
"I'm going round to the office to see if I can get any extra work."
"But you've got to lunch some time," he persisted.
She laughed a little hardly.
"Have I? We girls haven't got to eat like you men. I'll call up towards
the evening and see if you've anything ready for me."
She was gone before he could stop her. He turned back to his desk and
seated himself. The sight of his last finished sentence presented itself
suddenly in a new light. There was a suggestiveness about it which was
almost poignant. He took up his pen and began to write rapidly.
It was a few minutes after six that evening when Philip was conscious of
a knock at his door. He swung around in his chair, blinking a little.
Martha Grimes entered. She was in outdoor apparel, that is to say she
wore her hat and a long mackintosh. She remained standing upon the
"Just looked up to see if you've got any more work ready," she explained.
He sprang to his feet and stood there, for a moment, unsteadily.
"Come in and shut the door," he ordered. "Look! Look!" he added, pointing
to his table. "Thirty-three sheets! I've been working all the time. I've
been living, I tell you, living God knows where!—not in this accursed
little world. Here, let's pick up the sheets. There's enough work for
She looked at him curiously.
"Have you been in that chair ever since?" she asked.
"Ever since," he assented enthusiastically.
"Not a scrap. Never thought about it."
"You'll make yourself sick, that's what you'll do," she declared. "Go out
and get something at once."
"Never even thought about lunch," he repeated, half to himself. "Where
have you been?"
"Some luck," she replied. "First place I dropped in at. Found there was a
girl gone home for the day, fainted. Lots of work to do, so they just
stuck me down in her chair. Three dollars they gave me. The girl's coming
back to-morrow, though, worse luck."
"When did you have your lunch?"
"Haven't had any. I'm going to make myself a cup of tea now."
He reached for his hat.
"Not on your life" he exclaimed. "Come along, Miss Martha Grimes. I
have written lines—you just wait till you type them! I tell you it's
what I have had at the back of my head for months. It's there now on
paper—living, flaring words. Come along."
"We are going to eat," he insisted. "I am faint, and so are you. We are
going to that same place, and we'll have lunch and dinner in one."
"Nothing doing," she snapped. "You'll see some more people who recognise
He waved his hand contemptuously.
"Who cares! If you don't come along with me, I'll go up town to the
Waldorf or the Ritz Carlton. I'll waste my money and advertise myself.
Come along—that same little quiet corner. I don't suppose your friends
will be there again."
"Stella won't," she admitted doubtfully. "She's going to Sherry's. I'd
just as soon be out," she went on ruminatingly. "Shouldn't be surprised
if she didn't bring that guy in, after all."
He had already rung the bell of the lift.
"Look at me!" she exclaimed ironically. "Nice sort of an object I am to
take out! Got a raincoat on—though it's dry enough—because my coat's
gone at the seams."
"If you don't stop talking like that," he declared, "I'll march into one
of those great stores and order everything a woman wants to wear. Look at
me. Did you ever see such clothes!"
"A man's different," she protested. "Besides, you've got a way with you
of looking as though you could wear better clothes if you wanted
to—something superior. I don't like it. I should like you better if you
"You're going to like me better," he assured her, "because we are going
to have a cocktail together within the next three minutes. Look at
you—pale as you can stick. I bet you haven't had a mouthful of food all
day. Neither have I, except a slice of bread and butter with my tea this
morning. We're a nice sort of couple to talk about clothes. What we want
She swayed for a moment and pretended that she tripped. He caught her arm
and steadied her. She jerked it from him.
"Have your own way," she yielded.
They reached the corner of the street, plunged into the surging crowds of
Broadway, passed into the huge restaurant, were once more pounced upon
by a businesslike but slightly patronizing maître d'hôtel, and escorted
to a remote table in a sort of annex of the room. Philip pushed the menu
"Two cocktails—the quickest you ever mixed in your life," he ordered.
"Quicker than that, mind."
The man was back again almost at once with two frosted glasses upon a
tray. They laughed together almost like children as they set them down
"I know what I want, and you, too, by the look of you," he continued—"a
beefsteak, with some more of that green corn you gave me the other day,
and fried potatoes, and Burgundy. We'll have some oysters first while we
"I don't mean to come here with you again," she said, a little
impatiently. "I don't know why I give in to you. You're not strong, you
know. You are a weak man. Women will always look after you; they'll
always help you in trouble—I suppose they'll always care for you. Can't
think why I do what you want me to. Guess I was near starving."
"You don't know much about me yet," he reminded her.
"You don't know much about yourself," she retorted glibly. "Why,
according to your own confession, you only started life a few weeks ago.
I fancy what went before didn't count for much. You've been fretted and
tied up somewhere. You haven't had the chance of getting big like so many
of our American men. What are you going to do with this play of yours?"
"Miss Elizabeth Dalstan has promised to produce it," he told her.
She looked at him in some surprise.
"Elizabeth Dalstan?" she repeated. "Why, she's one of our best
"I understood so," he replied. "She has heard the story—in fact I wrote
out one of the scenes with her. She is going to produce it as soon as
"Well, all you poor idiots who write things have some fine tale to tell
their typewriter," she remarked. "You seem as though you mean it, though.
Where did you meet Elizabeth Dalstan?"
"I came over with her on the Elletania," he answered thoughtlessly.
She gave a little start. Then she turned upon him almost in anger.
"Well, of all the simpletons!" she exclaimed. "So that's the way you give
yourself away, is it? Just here from Jamaica, eh! Nothing to do with
Douglas Romilly! Never heard of the Elletania, did you! I'd like to see
you on the grid at police headquarters for five minutes, with one of our
men asking you a few friendly questions! You'd look well, you would! You
ought to go about with a nurse!"
Philip had all the appearance of a guilty child.
"You see," he explained penitently, "I am new to this sort of thing.
However, you know now."
"Still ready to swear that you're not Douglas Romilly, I suppose?"
"On my honour I am not," he replied.
"Kind of funny that you should have been on the steamer, after all," she
"Perhaps so, but I am not Douglas Romilly," he persisted.
She was silent for a moment, then she shrugged her shoulders.
"What do I care who your are?" she said. "Here, help me off with this
raincoat, please. It's warm in here, thank goodness!"
He looked at her as she sat by his side in her plain black dress, and was
impressed for the first time with a certain unsuspected grace of outline,
which made him for the moment oblivious of the shabbiness of her gown.
"You have rather a nice figure," he told her with a sudden impulse of
She turned upon him almost furiously. Something in his expression,
however, seemed to disarm her. She closed her lips again.
"You are nothing but a child!" she declared. "You don't mean anything.
I'd be a fool to be angry with you."
The waiter brought their steak. Philip was conscious of something in his
companion's eyes which almost horrified him. It was just that gleam of
hungry desire which has starvation for its background.
"Don't let's talk," he pleaded. "There isn't any conversation in the
world as good as this."
The waiter served them and withdrew, casting a curious glance behind.
They were, from his point of view, a strange couple, for, cosmopolitan
though the restaurant was, money was plentiful in the neighbourhood, and
clients as shabby as these two seldom presented themselves. He pointed
them out to a maître d'hôtel, who in his turn whispered a few words
concerning them to a dark, lantern-jawed man, with keen eyes and a hard
mouth, who was dining by himself. The latter glanced at them and
"Thank you, Charles," he said, "I've had my eye on them. The girl's a
pauper, daughter of that old fool Grimes, the actor. Does a little
typewriting—precious little, I should think, from the look of her. The
man's interesting. Don't talk about them. Understand?"
The maître d'hôtel bowed.
"I understand, Inspector. Not much any one can tell you, sir."
"Pays his bill in American money, I suppose?" the diner asked.
"I'll ascertain for you, Mr. Dane," Charles replied. "I believe he is an
"Name of Merton Ware," the inspector agreed, nodding, "just arrived from
Jamaica. Writes some sort of stuff which the girl with him typewrites.
That's his story. He's probably as harmless as a baby."
Charles bowed and moved away. His smile was inscrutable.
New York became a changed city to Philip. Its roar and its turmoil, its
babel of tongues speaking to him always in some alien language, were
suddenly hushed! He was no longer conscious of the hard unconcern of a
million faces, of the crude buildings in the streets, the cutting winds,
the curious, depressing sense of being on a desert island, the hermit
clutching at the sleeves of imaginary multitudes. A few minutes' journey
in a cable car which seemed to crawl, a few minutes' swift walking along
the broad thoroughfare of Fifth Avenue, where his feet seemed to fall
upon the air and the passersby seemed to smile upon him like real human
beings, and he was in her room. It was only an hotel sitting room, after
all, but eloquent of her, a sitting room filled with great bowls of
roses, with comfortable easy-chairs, furniture of rose-coloured satin,
white walls, and an English fire upon the grate. Elizabeth was in New
York, and the world moved differently.
She came out to him from an inner room almost at once. His eyes swept
over her feverishly. He almost held his breath. Then he gave a great sigh
of satisfaction. She came with her hands outstretched, a welcoming smile
upon her lips. She was just as he had expected to find her. There was
nothing in her manner to indicate that they had not parted yesterday.
"Welcome to New York, my dramatist!" she exclaimed. "I am here, you see,
to the day, almost to the hour."
He stood there, holding her hands. His eyes seemed to be devouring her.
"Go on talking to me," he begged. "Let me hear you speak. You can't
think—you can't imagine how often in the middle of the night, I have
waked up and thought of you, and the cold shivers have come because,
after all, I fancied that you must be a dream, that you didn't really
exist, that that voyage had never existed. Go on talking."
"You foolish person!" she laughed, patting his hands affectionately. "But
then, of course, you are a little overwrought. I am very real, I can
assure you. I have been in Chicago, playing, but there hasn't been a
night when I haven't thought of the times when we used to talk together
in the darkness, when you let me into your life, and I made up my mind to
try and help you. Foolish person! Sit down in that great easy-chair and
draw it up to the fire."
He sank into it with a little sigh of content. She threw herself on to
the couch opposite to him. Her hands drooped down a little wearily on
either side, her head was thrown back. Against the background of
rose-silk cushions, her cheeks seemed unexpectedly pale.
"I am tired with travelling," she murmured, "and I hate Chicago, and I
have worried about you. Day by day I have read the papers. Everything has
"So far as I know," he answered. "I did exactly as we planned—or rather
as you planned. The papers have been full of the disappearance of
Douglas Romilly. You read how wonderfully it has all turned out? Fate has
provided him with a real reason for disappearing. It seems that the
business was bankrupt."
"You mustn't forget, though," she reminded him, "that that also supplies
a considerable motive for tracking him down. He is supposed to have at
least twenty thousand pounds with him."
"I have all the papers," he went on. "They prove that he knew the state
the business was in. They prove that he really intended to disappear in
New York. The money stands to the credit of Merton Ware—and another at a
bank with which his firm apparently had had no connections, a small bank
in Wall Street."
"So that," she remarked, "is where you get your pseudonym from?"
"It makes the identification so easy," he pointed out, "and no one knew
of it except he. I could easily get a witness presently to prove that I
am Merton Ware."
"You haven't drawn the money yet, then?"
"I haven't been near the bank," he replied. "I still have over a thousand
dollars—money he had with him. Sometimes I think that if I could I'd
like to leave that twenty thousand pounds where it is. I should like some
day, if I could do so without suspicion, to let the creditors of the firm
have it back again. What do you think?"
"I would rather you didn't touch it yourself," she agreed. "I think
you'll find, too, that you'll be able to earn quite enough without
wanting it. Nothing disturbing has happened to you at all, then?"
"Once I had a fright," he told her. "I was in a restaurant close to my
hotel. I was there with a young woman who is typing the play for me."
She looked towards him incredulously.
"You were there with a typewriter?" she exclaimed.
"I suppose it seems queer," he admitted. "It didn't to me. She is a
plain, shabby, half starved little thing, fighting her own battle
bravely. She came to me for work—she lives in the flat below—and
it seemed to me that she was just as hungry for a kind word as I was
lonely, and I took her out with me. Twice I have taken her. Her name is
"I am not in the least sure that I approve," she said, "but go on."
"A friend of hers came into the restaurant, a girl in the chorus of a
musical comedy here, and she had with her a young man. I recognised him
at once. We didn't come across one another much, but he was on the
Elizabeth's face was full of concern.
"He asked me twice if I wasn't Mr. Romilly. I assured him that he was
mistaken. I don't think I gave myself away. The next day he went to see
the girl I was with, Martha Grimes."
"Well, what did she tell him?"
"She told him that she had been typing my work for over a month, that I
had come from Jamaica, and that my name was Merton Ware."
Elizabeth gazed into the fire for several moments, and Philip watched
her. It was a woman's face, grave and thoughtful, a little perturbed just
then, as though by some unwelcome thought. Presently she looked back at
him, looked into his eyes long and earnestly.
"My friend," she said, "you are like no one else on earth. Perhaps you
are one of those horrible people who have what they call an unholy
influence over my sex. You have known this girl for a matter of a few
days, and she lies for you. And there's five hundred dollars reward. I
suppose she knew about that?"
"Yes, she knew," he admitted. "She simply isn't that sort. I suppose I
realised that, or I shouldn't have been kind to her."
"It's a puzzle," she went on. "I think there must be something in you of
the weakling, you know, something that appeals to the mothering instinct
in women. I know that my first feeling for you was that I wanted to help
you. Tell me what you think of yourself, Mr. Philip Merton Ware? Are you
a faithful person? Are you conscientious? Have you a heart, I wonder? How
much of the man is there underneath that strong frame of yours? Are you
going to take just the things that are given you in life, and make no
return? For the moment, you see, I am forgetting that you are my friend
and that I like you. I am thinking of you from the point of view of an
actress—as a psychical problem. Philip, you idiot!" she broke off,
suddenly stamping her foot, "don't sit there looking at me with your
great eyes. Tell me you are glad I've come back. Tell me you feel
something, for goodness' sake!"
He was on his knees before she could check him, his arms, his lips
praying for her. She thrust him back.
"It was my fault," she declared, "but don't, please. Yes, of course you
have feelings. I don't know why you tempted me to that little outburst."
"You'll tempt me to more than that," he cried passionately. "Do you think
it's for your help that I've thought of you? Do you think it's because
you're an angel to me, because you've comforted me in my darkest, most
miserable hours that I've dreamed of you and craved for you? There's more
than that in my thoughts, dear. It's because you are you, yourself, that
I've longed for you through the aching hours of the night, that I've sat
and written like a man beside himself just for the joy of thinking that
the words I wrote would be spoken by you. Oh! if you want me to tell you
what I feel—"
She suddenly leaned forward, took his head between her hands and kissed
"Now get back, please, to your chair," she begged. "You've stilled the
horrible, miserable little doubt that was tearing at my heartstrings. I
just had it before, once or twice, and then—isn't it foolish!—your
telling me about this little typewriter girl! I must go and see her. We
must be kind to her."
He resumed his seat with a little sigh.
"She thought a great deal more of me and my work when I told her that you
were probably going to act in my play."
Her expression changed. She was more serious, at the same time more
"Ah! The play!" she exclaimed. "I can see that you have brought some of
He drew the roll of manuscript from his pocket.
"Shall I read it?" he suggested.
She almost snatched it away. "No! I can't wait for that. Give it to me,
She leaned forward so that the firelight fell upon the pages. Little
strands of soft brown hair drooped over her face. In studying her, Philip
almost forgot his own anxiety. He had known so few women, yet he had
watched so many from afar off, endowed them with their natural qualities,
built up their lives and tastes for them, and found them all so sadly
wanting. To him, Elizabeth represented everything that was desirable in
her sex, from the flowing lines of her beautiful body to the sympathy
which seemed to be always shining out of her eyes. Notwithstanding her
strength, she was so exquisitely and entirely feminine, a creature of
silk and laces, free from any effort of provocativeness, yet subtly,
almost clamorously human. He forgot, in those few moments, that she had
become the arbitress of his material fate—that he was a humble author,
watching the effect of his first attempts upon a mistress in her
profession. He remembered only that she was the woman who was filling his
life, stealing into every corner of it, permeating him with love,
pointing him onwards towards a life indescribable, unrealisable….
She swung suddenly towards him. There was a certain amount of enthusiasm
in her face but even more marked was her relief.
"Oh! I am so glad," she cried. "You know, I have had qualms. When you
told me the story in your own words, picking your language so carefully,
and building it all up before me, well, you know what I said. I gave you
more than hope—I promised you success. And then, when I got away into
the hard, stagey world of Chicago, and my manager talked business to me,
and my last playwright preached of technique, I began to wonder whether,
after all, you could bring your ideas together like this, whether you
would have a sense of perspective—you know what I mean, don't you? And
you have it, and the play is going to be wonderful, and I shall produce
it. Why don't you look pleased, Mr. Author? You are going to be famous."
"I don't care about fame," he said. "And for the rest, I think I knew."
"Conceited!" she exclaimed.
"It wasn't that," he protested. "It was simply when I sat down in that
little room, high up over the roofs and buildings of a strange city, shut
myself in and told myself that it was for you—well, the thoughts came
too easily. They tumbled over one another. And when I looked away from my
work, I saw the people moving around me, and I knew that I had made my
dreams real, and that's the great thing, isn't it?… Elizabeth!"
"I am lonely in that little room."
"You lonely, taking out typewriters to dine!" she mocked tenderly.
"It is lonely," he repeated, "and I am afraid of you here in all this
luxury. I am so far away. I come from my attic to this, and I am afraid.
Do you know why?"
She sat quite still for a moment. Dimly she felt the presage of a coming
change in their relations. Up to now she had been the mistress, she had
held him so easily in check with her practised skill, with an unfinished
sentence, a look, a touch. And now the man was rising up in him, and she
felt her powers weaken.
"Shall I change my abode?" she murmured.
"Ah! but you would be just as wonderful and as far away even if we
changed places—if you sat in my attic and I took your place here. That
isn't why I torture myself, why I am always asking myself if you are
real, if the things we talk about are real, if the things we feel belong
to ourselves, well up from our own hearts for one another or are just the
secondary emotions of other people we catch up without knowing why. This
is foolish, but you understand—you do understand. It is because you
keep me so far away from yourself, when my fingers are burning for yours,
when even to touch your face, to feel your cheek against mine, would
banish every fear I have ever had. Elizabeth, you do understand! I have
never kissed you, I have never held you for one moment in my arms—and I
He was leaning over her chair and she held him tightly by the shoulders.
There was nothing left of that hidden fear in his dark eyes. They shone
now with another light, and she began to tremble.
"I wanted to wait a little, Philip, but if you feel like that—well, I
He took her silently into his arms. With the half closing of her eyes,
the first touch of her responsive lips, himself dimly conscious of the
change, he passed into the world where stronger men live.
Three months later, a very different Philip stood in the smaller of a
handsome suite of reception rooms in a fashionable Fifth Avenue hotel. He
was wearing evening clothes of the most approved cut and carried himself
with a dignity and assurance entirely transforming. The distinction of
birth and breeding, little apparent in those half-starved, passionate
days of his misery, had come easily to the surface. His shoulders, too,
seemed to have broadened, and his face had lost its cadaverous pallor.
The apartment in which he stood was plainly but handsomely furnished as a
small withdrawing room. On the oak chiffonier stood a silver tray on
which were half a dozen frosted cocktails. Through the curtains was
apparent a room beyond, in which a round table, smothered with flowers,
was arranged for supper; in the distance, from the public restaurant,
came the sound of softly played music. Philip glanced at the clock. The
whole of the anxieties of this momentous evening had passed. Telephone
messages had reached him every quarter of an hour. The play was a great
success. Elizabeth was coming to him with her producer and a few
theatrical friends, flushed with triumph. They were all to meet for the
first time that night the man who for the last three months had lived as
a hermit—Merton Ware, the author of "The House of Shams," the new-found
A maître d'hôtel appeared in the space between the two rooms, and bowed.
"Everything is quite ready, Mr. Ware," he said, in the friendly yet
deferential manner of an American head-waiter. "Won't you take a
cocktail, sir, while you are waiting?"
"Very thoughtful of you, Louis. I think I will," Philip assented, taking
a little case from his pocket and lighting a cigarette.
The man passed him a glass upon a small salver.
"You'll pardon the liberty, I am sure, sir," he continued, dropping his
voice a little. "I've just heard that 'The House of Shams' seems to be a
huge success, sir. If I might take the liberty of offering my
Philip smiled genially.
"You are the first, Louis," he said. "Thank you very much indeed."
"I think you will find the supper everything that could be desired, Mr.
Ware," the man went on. "Our head chef, Monsieur Raconnot, has given it
his personal attention. The wine will be slightly iced, as you desired. I
shall be outside in the corridor to announce the guests."
"Capital, Louis!" Ware replied, sipping his cocktail. "It will be another
quarter of an hour yet before we see anything of them, I am afraid."
The man disappeared and left Philip once more alone. He looked through
the walls of the room as though, indeed, he could see into the packed
theatre and could hear the cries for "Author!" which even then were
echoing through the house. From the moment when Elizabeth, abandoning her
reserve, had given him the love he craved, a new strength seemed to have
shone out of the man. Step by step he had thought out subtly and with
infinite care every small detail of his life. It was he who had elected
to live those three months in absolute seclusion. It was he, indirectly,
who had arranged that many more photographs of Douglas Romilly, the
English shoe manufacturer, should appear in the newspapers. One moment's
horror he had certainly had. He could see the little paragraph now,
almost lost in the shoals of more important news:
GHASTLY DISCOVERY IN A DERBYSHIRE CANAL
Yesterday the police recovered the body of a man
who had apparently been dead for some weeks, from
a canal close to Detton Magna. The body was
unrecognisable but it is believed that the remains
are those of Mr. Philip Romilly, the missing art
teacher from London, who is alleged to have
committed suicide in January last.
The thought of that gruesome find scarcely blanched his cheeks. His
nerves now were stronger and tenser things. He crushed back those
memories with all the strength of his will. Whatever might lie behind, he
had struck for the future which he meant to live and enjoy. They were
only weaklings who brooded over an unalterable past. It was for the
present and the near future that he lived, and both, in that moment, were
more alluring than ever before. Even his intellectual powers seemed to
have developed in his new-found happiness. The play which he had written,
every line of which appeared to gain in vital and literary force towards
its conclusion, was only the first of his children. Already other images
and ideas were flowing into his brain. The power of creation was
triumphantly throwing out its tendrils. He was filled with an amazing and
almost inspired confidence. He was ready to start upon fresh work that
hour, to-morrow, or when he chose. And before him now was the prospect of
stimulating companionship. Elizabeth and he had decided that the time had
come for him to take his fate into his hands. He was to be introduced to
the magnates of the dramatic profession, to become a clubman in the
world's most hospitable city, to mix freely in the circles where he would
find himself in constant association with the keenest brains and most
brilliant men of letters in the world. He was safe. They had both decided
He walked to the mirror and looked at himself. The nervous,
highly-strung, half-starved, neurotic stripling had become the perfectly
assured, well-mannered, and well-dressed man of the world. He had studied
various details with a peculiar care, suffered a barber to take summary
measures with his overlong black hair, had accustomed himself to the use
of an eyeglass, which hung around his neck by a thin, black ribbon. Men
might talk of likenesses, men who were close students of their fellows,
yet there was no living person who could point to him and say—"You are,
beyond a shadow of doubt, a man with whom I travelled on the
Elletania." The thing was impossible.
Louis once more made a noiseless appearance. There was the slightest of
frowns upon his face.
"A gentleman wishes a word with you before the arrival of your guests,
Mr. Ware," he announced.
"A journalist?" Philip enquired carelessly.
"I do not think so, sir."
Even as he spoke the door was opened and closed again. The man who
had entered bowed slightly to Philip. He was tall and clean-shaven,
self-assured, and with manner almost significantly reserved. He held a
bowler hat in his hand and glanced towards Louis. He had the air of
being somewhat out of place in so fashionable a rendezvous.
"Good evening, Mr. Ware!" he began. "Could I have just a word with you?"
Philip nodded to Louis, who at once left the room. The newcomer drew a
"My name, sir," he said, "is Dane—Edward Dane."
Philip bowed politely. He was just a little annoyed at the intrusion, an
annoyance which he failed altogether to conceal.
"What do you want with me?" he asked. "I am expecting some friends to
supper in about ten minutes."
"Ten minutes will perhaps be sufficient for what I have to say," the
other promised. "You don't know me, then, Mr. Ware?"
"Never saw you before, to the best of my knowledge," Philip replied
nonchalantly. "Are you a journalist?"
The man laid his hat upon a corner of the table.
"I am a detective," he said, "attached to the Cherry Street headquarters.
Your last rooms, Mr. Ware, were in my beat."
Philip nodded with some slight indication of interest. He faced his
ordeal with the courage of a man of steel.
"That so?" he remarked indifferently. "Well, Mr. Dane, I have heard a
good deal about you American detectives. Pleased to meet you. What can I
do for you?"
The detective eyed Philip steadfastly. There was just the shadow of
something that looked like admiration in his hard, grey eyes.
"Well, Mr. Ware," he said, "nothing that need disturb your supper party,
I am sure. Over in this country we sometimes do things in an unusual
way. That's why I am paying you this visit. I have been watching you for
exactly three months and fourteen days."
"Watching me?" Philip repeated.
"Precisely! No idea why, I suppose?"
"Not the slightest."
The detective glanced towards the clock. Barely two minutes had passed.
"Well," he explained, "I got on your tracks quick enough when you skipped
from the Waldorf and blossomed out in a second-rate tenement house as
"So I was at the Waldorf, was I?" Philip murmured.
"You crossed from Liverpool on the Elletania," the man continued,
"registered at the Waldorf as Mr. Douglas Romilly of the Douglas Romilly
Shoe Company, went to your room, changed your clothes, and disappeared.
Of course, a disappearance of that sort," he went on tolerantly, "might
be possible in London. In New York, to even attempt it is farcical."
"Dear me," remarked Philip, "this is very interesting. Let me ask you
this question, though. If you were so sure of your facts, why didn't you
arrest me at once instead of just watching me?"
The man's eyes were like gimlets. He seemed as though he were trying,
with curious and professional intensity, to read the thoughts in Philip's
"There is no criminal charge against Douglas Romilly that I know of," he
"There's a considerable reward offered for his discovery," Philip
"I can claim that at any moment," the man replied. "I have had my reasons
for waiting. It's partly those reasons that have brought me here. For one
thing, Mr. Douglas Romilly was supposed to be able to put his hand on a
matter of a hundred thousand dollars somewhere in New York. You haven't
shown many signs up till now, Mr. Ware, of having any such sum in your
"I see," Philip assented. "You wanted the money as well."
"The creditors of the Douglas Romilly Shoe Company are wanting it pretty
badly," the man proceeded, "but that wasn't all. I wanted to find out
what your game was. That I don't know, even now. That is why I have come
to you. Have I the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Douglas Romilly?"
"I really don't see," Philip protested thoughtfully, "why I should go
into partnership with you in this affair. You see, in the long run, our
interests might not be altogether identical."
Mr. Dane smiled grimly.
"That's a fairly shrewd calculation, Mr. Ware," he admitted. "You ain't
bound to answer any question you don't want to. This is just a friendly
chat and no more."
"Besides," Philip continued, lighting another cigarette, "I think I
understood you to say that you had already arrived at the conclusion that
I was Douglas Romilly?"
"Not precisely that," the detective replied. "All that I discovered was
that you were the man who registered at the Waldorf Hotel as Mr. Douglas
"Well, the only name I choose to acknowledge at present is the name of
Merton Ware," Philip declared. "If you think there is any mystery about
me, any connection with the gentleman whom I believe you call Mr. Douglas
Romilly, well, the matter is one for your investigation. You will forgive
me if I remind you that my guests will be here in a matter of a few
minutes, and permit me to ask you one more question. Why do you come here
to me in this very unofficial manner? If I am really an impostor, you are
giving me every opportunity of clearing out."
Mr. Edward Dane shook his head. He was fingering the brim of his hat.
"Oh, no, Mr. Ware!" he declared smoothly. "Our detective system may have
some faults, but when a man's name is put on the list where yours
figures, he has not one chance in a million of leaving the country or of
gaining any place of hiding. I shall know where you lunch to-morrow and
with whom you dine, and with whom you spend your time. The law, sir, will
keep its eye upon you."
"Really, that seems very friendly," Philip said coolly. "Shall I have the
privilege of your personal surveillance?"
"I think not, Mr. Ware. To tell you the truth, this is rather a p.p.c.
visit. I've booked my passage on the Elletania, sailing to-morrow from
New York. I am taking a trip over to England to make a few enquiries
round about the spot where this Mr. Douglas Romilly hails from—Detton
Magna, isn't it?"
Philip made no reply, yet even his silence might well have been the
silence of indifference.
"At the last moment," the detective concluded, "it flashed in upon me
that there might be some ridiculous explanation of the few little points
about your case which, I must confess, have puzzled me. For that reason,
I decided to seek an interview with you before I left. You have, however,
I gather, nothing to say to me?"
"Nothing at all, Mr. Dane, except to wish you a pleasant voyage," Philip
declared. "I won't detain you a moment longer. I hear my guests in the
corridor. Good night, sir!" he added, opening the door. "I appreciate
your call very much. Come and see me again when you return from England."
Mr. Dane lingered for a moment upon the threshold, hat in hand, a
somewhat ominous figure. There was no attempt at a handshake between the
two men. The detective was imperturbable. Philip, listening to
Elizabeth's voice, had shown his first sign of impatience.
"I shall surely do that, Mr. Ware!" the other promised, as he passed out.
The door closed. Philip stood for a moment in the empty room, listening
to the man's retreating footsteps. Then he turned slowly around. His
cheeks were blanched, his eyes were glazed with reminiscent horror. He
looked through the wall of the room—a long way back.
"We shall find Mr. Ware in here, I expect." He could hear the voices of
his approaching guests.
He ground his heel into the carpet and swung around. He anticipated
Louis, threw open the curtain, and stood there waiting to welcome his
guests, a smile upon his lips, his hands outstretched towards Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's face was glowing with joy. For the first time Philip realised
that she, too, had had her anxieties.
"You dear, dear man!" she exclaimed. "To think what you have missed! It
would have been the evening of your life. It's a success, do you hear?—a
great success! It was wonderful!"
He seemed, almost to himself, to be playing a part, he was so calm yet so
"I am glad for both our sakes," he said.
She indicated the others with a little wave of the hand.
"I don't think you know a soul, do you?" she asked. "They none of them
quite believe in your existence down at the theatre. This is my leading
man, Noel Bridges. You should have seen how splendid he was as
Mr. Noel Bridges, with a deprecating smile towards Elizabeth, held out
his hand. He was tall and of rather a rugged type for the New York stage.
Like the rest of the little party, his eyes were full of curiosity as he
shook hands with Philip.
"So you are something human, after all," he remarked. "We began to think
you lived underground and only put your head up every now and then for a
little air. I am glad to meet you, Mr. Ware. I enjoy acting in your play
very much indeed, and I hope it's only the first of many."
"You are very kind," Philip murmured cordially.
Elizabeth glanced around the little group.
"Dear me, I am forgetting my manners," she declared. "I ought to have
presented you to Sara Denison first. Sara is really the star of your
play, Mr. Ware, although I have the most work to do. She loves her part
and has asked about you nearly every day."
Miss Denison, a young lady of the smaller Gibson type, with large eyes
and a very constant smile, greeted Philip warmly.
"Do you know," she told him, "that this is the first time I have ever
been in a play in which the author hasn't been round setting us to rights
most of the time? I can't imagine how you kept away, Mr. Ware."
"Perhaps," observed Philip, "my absence has contributed to your success.
I am sure I shouldn't have known what to tell you. You see, I am so
absolutely ignorant of the technique."
"I've got to shake hands with you, Mr. Ware," a stout, middle-aged,
clean-shaven man, with narrow black eyes and pale cheeks, declared,
stepping forward. "These other folk don't count for much by the side of
me. I am the manager of the theatre, and I'm thundering glad that your
first play has been produced at the 'New York,' sir. There's good stuff
in it, and if I am any judge, and I'm supposed to be, there's plenty of
better stuff behind. Shake hands, if you please, sir. You know me by
name—Paul Fink. I hope you'll see my signature at the bottom of a good
many fat cheques before you've finished writing plays."
"That's very nice of you, Mr. Fink," Philip declared. "Now I am sure you
all want your supper."
At a sign from Philip, the maître d'hôtel handed round the tray of
cocktails. Mr. Fink raised his glass.
"Here's success to the play," he exclaimed, "and good luck to all of us!"
He tossed off the contents of the glass and they all followed his
example. Then they took their places at the little round table and the
service of supper began. The conversation somewhat naturally centered
around Philip. The three strangers were all interested in his personality
and the fact that he had no previous work to his credit. It was unusual,
almost dramatic, and for a time both Elizabeth and he himself found
themselves hard put to it to escape the constant wave of good-natured but
very pertinent questions.
"You'll have a dose of our newspapermen to-morrow, sir," Mr. Fink
promised him. "They'll be buzzing around you all day long. They'll want
to know everything, from where you get your clothes and what cigarettes
you smoke, to how you like best to do your work and what complexioned
typist you prefer. They're some boys, I can tell you."
Philip's eyes met Elizabeth's across the table. The same instinct of
disquietude kept them both, for a moment, silent.
"I am afraid," Elizabeth sighed, "that Mr. Ware will find it rather hard
to appreciate some of our journalistic friends."
"They're good fellows," Mr. Fink declared heartily, "white men, all of
them. So long as you don't try to put 'em off on a false stunt, or
anything of that sort, they'll sling the ink about some. Ed Harris was in
my room just after the second act, and he showed me some of his stuff. I
tell you he means to boost us."
Elizabeth laid her hand upon her manager's arm.
"They're delightful, every one of them," she agreed, "but, Mr. Fink, you
have such influence with them, I wonder if I dare give you just a hint?
Mr. Ware has passed through some very painful times lately. He is so
anxious to forget, and I really don't wonder at it myself. I am sure he
will be delighted to talk with all of them as to the future and his
future plans, but do you think you could just drop them a hint to go
quietly as regards the past?"
Mr. Fink was a little perplexed but inclined to be sympathetic. He
glanced towards Philip, who was deep in conversation with Sara Denison.
"Why, I'll do my best, Miss Dalstan," he promised. "You know what the
boys are, though. They do love a story."
"I am not going to have Mr. Ware's story published in every newspaper in
New York," Elizabeth said firmly, "and the newspaper man who worms the
history of Mr. Ware's misfortunes out of him, and then makes use of it,
will be no friend of mine. Ask them to be sports, Mr. Fink, there's a
"I'll do what I can," he promised. "Mr. Ware isn't the first man in the
world who has funked the limelight, and from what I can see of him it
probably wasn't his fault if things did go a little crooked in the past.
I'll do my best, Miss Dalstan, I promise you that. I'll look in at the
club to-night and drop a few hints around."
Elizabeth patted his hand and smiled at him very sweetly. The
conversation flowed back once more into its former channels, became a
medley of confused chaff, disjointed streams of congratulation, of
toast-drinking and pleasant speeches. Then Mr. Fink suddenly rose to his
"Say," he exclaimed, "we've all drunk one another's healths. There's just
one other friend I think we ought to take a glass of wine with. Gee,
he'd give something to be with us to-night! You'll agree with me, Miss
Dalstan, I know. Let's empty a full glass to Sylvanus Power!"
There was a curious silence for a second or two, then a clamour of
assenting voices. For a single moment Philip felt a sharp pang at his
heart. Elizabeth was gazing steadily out of the room, a queer tremble at
her lips, a look in her eyes which puzzled him, a look almost of fear, of
some sort of apprehension. The moment passed, but her enthusiasm, as
she raised her glass, was a little overdone, her gaiety too easily
"Why, of course!" she declared. "Fancy not thinking of Sylvanus!"
They drank his health noisily. Philip set down his glass empty. A curious
instinct kept his lips sealed. He crushed down and stifled the memory of
that sudden stab. He did not even ask the one natural question.
"Say, where is Sylvanus Power these days?" Mr. Fink enquired.
"In Honolulu, when last I heard," Elizabeth replied lightly, "but then
one never knows really where he is."
Philip became naturally the central figure of the little gathering. Mr.
Fink was anxious to arrange a little dinner, to introduce him to some
fellow workers. Noel Bridges insisted upon a card for the Lambs Club and
a luncheon there. Philip accepted gratefully everything that was offered
to him. It was no good doing things by halves, he told himself. The days
of his solitude were over. Even when, after the departure of his guests,
he glanced for a moment into the anteroom beyond and remembered those few
throbbing moments of suspense, they came back to him with a curious sense
of unreality—they belonged, surety, to some other man, living in some
"You are happy?" Elizabeth murmured, as she took his arm and they waited
in the portico below for her automobile.
He had no longer any idea of telling her of that disquieting visit. The
touch of her hair blown against his cheek, as he had helped her on with
her cloak, something in her voice, some slight diffidence, a queer, half
expostulating look in the eyes that fell with a curious uneasiness before
his, drove every thought of future danger out of his mind. He had at
least the present! He answered without a moment's hesitation.
"For the first time in my life!"
She gave the chauffeur a whispered order as she stepped into the car.
"I have told him to go home by Riverside Drive," she said, as they glided
off. "It is a little farther, and I love the air at this time of night."
He clasped her fingers—suddenly felt, with the leaning of her body, her
heart beating against his. With that wave of passion there was an instant
and portentous change in their attitudes. The soft protectiveness which
had sometimes seemed to shine out of her face, to envelop him in its
warmth, had disappeared. She was no longer the stronger. She looked at
him almost with fear, and he was electrically conscious of all the vigour
and strength of his stunted manhood, was master at last of his fate,
accepting battle, willing to fight whatever might come for the sake of
the joy of these moments. She crept into his arms almost humbly.
The success of "The House of Shams" was as immediate and complete as was
the social success of its author. After a few faint-hearted attempts,
Philip and Elizabeth both agreed that the wisest course was to play the
bold game—to submit himself to the photographer, the interviewer, and,
to some judicious extent, to the wave of hospitality which flowed in upon
him from all sides. He threw aside, completely and utterly, every idea of
leading a more or less sheltered life. His photograph was in the Sunday
newspapers and the magazines. It was quite easy, in satisfying the
appetite of journalists for copious personal details, especially after
the hints dropped by Mr. Fink, to keep them carefully off the subject of
his immediate past. There had been many others in the world who, on
attaining fame, had preferred to gloss over their earlier history. It
seemed to be tacitly understood amongst this wonderful freemasonry of
newspaper men that Mr. Merton Ware was to be humoured in this way. He was
a man of the present. Character sketches of him were to be all
foreground. But, nevertheless, Philip had his trials.
"Want to introduce you to one of our chief 'movie' men," Noel Bridges
said to him one day in the smoking room of "The Lambs." "He is much
interested in the play, too. Mr. Raymond Greene, shake hands with Mr.
Mr. Raymond Greene, smiling and urbane, turned around with outstretched
hand, which Philip, courteous, and with all that charm of manner which
was making him speedily one of the most popular young men in New York,
"I am very happy to meet you, Mr. Greene," he said. "You represent an
amazing development. I am told that we shall all have to work for you
presently or find our occupation gone."
With a cool calculation which had come to Philip in these days of his
greater strength, he had purposely extended his sentence, conscious,
although apparently he ignored the fact, that all the time Mr. Raymond
Greene was staring in his face with a bewilderment which was not without
its humorous side. He was too much a man of the world, this great picture
producer, to be at a loss for words, to receive an introduction with any
degree of clumsiness.
"But surely," he almost stammered, "we have met before?"
Philip shook his head doubtfully.
"I don't think so," he said, "As a matter of fact, I am sure we haven't,
because you are one of the men whom I hoped some day to come across over
here. I couldn't possibly have forgotten a meeting with you."
Mr. Raymond Greene's blue eyes looked as though they saw visions.
"But surely," he expostulated, "the Elletania—my table on the
Elletania, when Miss Dalstan crossed—"
Philip laughed easily.
"Why," he exclaimed, "are you going to be like the others and take me
for—wasn't it Mr. Romilly?—the man who disappeared from the Waldorf?
Why, I've been tracked all round New York because of my likeness to that
"Likeness!" Mr. Raymond Greene muttered. "Likeness!"
There was a moment's silence. Then Mr. Greene knew that the time had
arrived for him to pull himself together. He had carried his bewilderment
to the very limits of good breeding.
"Well, well!" he continued. "Fortunately, it's six o'clock, and I can
offer you gentlemen a cocktail, for upon my word I need it! Come to look
at you, Mr. Ware, there's a trifle more what I might term savoir faire,
about you. That chap on the boat was a little crude in places, but
believe me, sir," he went on, thrusting his arm through Ware's and
leading him towards the bar, "you don't want to be annoyed at those
people who have mistaken you for Romilly, for in the whole course of my
life, and I've travelled round the world a pretty good deal, I never came
across a likeness so entirely extraordinary."
"I have heard other people mention it," Noel Bridges intervened,
"although not quite with the same conviction as you, Mr. Greene.
Curiously enough, however, the photograph of Romilly which they sent out
from England, and which was in all the Sunday papers, didn't strike me as
being particularly like Mr. Ware."
"It was a damned bad photograph, that," Mr. Raymond Greene pronounced. "I
saw it—couldn't make head nor tail of it, myself. Well, the world is
full of queer surprises, but this is the queerest I ever ran up against.
Believe me, Mr. Ware, if this man Romilly who disappeared had been a
millionaire, you could have walked into his family circle and been made
welcome at the present moment. Why, I don't believe his own wife or
sister, if he had such appendages, would have been able to tell that you
weren't the man."
"Unfortunately," Bridges remarked, as he sipped the cocktail which the
cinema man had ordered, "this chap Romilly was broke, wasn't he?—did a
scoot to avoid the smash-up? They say that he had a few hundred thousand
dollars over here, ostensibly for buying material, and that he has taken
the lot out West."
"Well, I must say he didn't seem that sort on the steamer," Mr. Raymond
Greene declared, "but you never can tell. Looked to me more like a
schoolteacher. Some day, Mr. Ware, I want you to come along to my
office—it's just round the corner in Broadway there—and have a chat
about the play."
"You don't want to film us before we've finished its first run, surely?"
Philip protested, laughing. "Give us a chance!"
"Well, we'll talk about that," the cinema magnate promised.
They were joined by other acquaintances, and Philip presently made his
escape. One of the moments which he had dreaded more than any other had
come and passed. Even if Mr. Raymond Greene had still some slight
misgivings, he was, to all effects and purposes, convinced. Philip walked
down the street, feeling that one more obstacle in the path of his
absolute freedom had been torn away. He glanced at his watch and boarded
a down-town car, descended in the heart of the city region of Broadway,
and threaded his way through several streets until he came to the back
entrance of a dry goods store. Here he glanced once more at his watch and
commenced slowly to walk up and down. The timekeeper, who was standing in
the doorway with his hands in his pockets, watched him with interest.
When Philip approached for the third time, he addressed him in friendly
"Waiting for one of our gals, eh?"
Philip stifled his quick annoyance and answered in as matter-of-fact a
tone as possible.
"Yes! How long will it be before they are out from the typewriting
"Typewriting department?" the man repeated. "Well, that depends some upon
the work. They'll be out, most likely, in ten minutes or so. I guessed
you were after one of our showroom young ladies. We get some real swells
down here sometimes—motor cars of their own. The typists ain't much, as
a rule. It's a skinny job, theirs."
"The young ladies from here appear to be prosperous," Ware remarked. "I
watched them last night coming out. My friend happened to be late,
and I had to leave without seeing her."
"That's nothing to go by, their clothes ain't," the man replied. "They
spend all their money on their backs instead of putting it inside. If
it's Miss Grimes you're waiting for, you're in luck, for here she is,
Philip drew a little into the background. The girl came down the stone
passage, passed the timekeeper without appearing to notice his familiar
"Good-evening!" and stepped out into the murky street. Philip, who saw
her face as she emerged from the gloom, gave a little start. She seemed
paler than ever, and she walked with her eyes fixed upon vacancy, as
though almost unconscious of her whereabouts. She crossed the sidewalk
without noticing the curbstone, and stumbled at the unexpected depth of
it. Philip stepped hastily forward.
"Miss Grimes!" he exclaimed. "Martha!… Why do you look at me as though
I were a ghost?"
She started violently. It was certain that she saw him then for the first
"You! Mr. Ware! Sorry, I didn't see you."
He insisted upon shaking hands. There was a little streak of colour in
her cheeks now.
"I came to meet you," he explained. "I came yesterday and missed you. I
have been to your rooms four times and only found out with difficulty
where you were working. The last time I called, I rang the bell six
times, but the door was locked."
"I was in bed," she said shortly. "I can't have gentlemen callers there
at all now. Father's gone off on tour. Thank you for coming to meet me,
but I don't think you'd better stop."
"Why not?" he asked gently.
"Because I don't want to be seen about with you," she declared, "because
I don't want you to look at me, because I want you to leave me alone,"
she added, with a little passionate choke in her voice.
He turned and walked by her side.
"Martha," he said, "you were very kind to me when I needed it, you were a
companion to me when I was more miserable than I ever thought any human
being could be. I was in a quandary then—in a very difficult position. I
took a plunge. In a way I have been successful."
"Oh, we all know that!" she replied bitterly. "Pictures everywhere,
notices in the paper all the time—you and your fine play! I've seen it.
Didn't think much of it myself, but I suppose I'm not a judge."
"Tell me why you came out there looking as though you'd seen a ghost?" he
"Discharged," she answered promptly.
"Fainted yesterday," she went on, "and was a bit wobbly to-day. The head
clerk said he wanted some one stronger."
"Brute!" Philip muttered. "Well, that's all right, Martha. I have some
work for you."
"Don't want to do your work."
"Little fool!" he exclaimed. "Martha, do you know you're the most
obstinate, pig-headed, prejudiced, ill-tempered little beast I ever
"Then go along and leave me," she insisted, stopping short, "if I'm all
"You're also a dear!"
She drew a little breath and looked at him fiercely.
"Now don't be silly," he begged. "I'm starving. I had no lunch so that I
could dine early. Here we are at Durrad's."
"I'm not going inside there with you," she declared.
"Look here," he expostulated, "are we going to do a wrestling act on the
sidewalk? It will be in all the papers, you know."
"Spoil your clothes some, wouldn't it?" she remarked, looking at them
"It would indeed, also my temper," he assured her. "We are going to have
a cocktail, you and I, within two minutes, young lady, and a steak
afterwards. If you want to go in there with my hand on your neck, you
can, but I think it would look better—"
She set her feet squarely upon the ground and faced him.
"Mr. Ware," she said, "I am in rags—any one can see that. Listen. I will
not go into a restaurant and sit by your side to have people wonder what
woman from the streets you have brought in to give a meal to out of
charity. Do you hear that? I can live or I can die, just by myself. If I
can't keep myself, I'll die, but I won't. Nothing doing. You hear?"
She had been so strong and then something in his eyes, that pitying, half
anxious expression with which he listened, suddenly seemed to sap her
determination. She swayed a little upon her feet—she was indeed very
tired and very weak. Philip took instant advantage of her condition.
Without a moment's hesitation he passed his arm firmly through hers, and
before she could protest she was inside the place, being led to a table,
seated there with her back to the wall, with a confused tangle of words
still in her throat, unuttered. Then two great tears found their way into
her eyes. She said nothing because she could not. Philip was busy talking
to the waiter. Soon there was a cocktail by her side, and he was
drinking, smiling at her, perfectly good-natured, obviously accepting her
momentary weakness and his triumph as a joke.
"Got you in, didn't I?" he observed pleasantly. "Now, remember you told
me the way to drink American cocktails—one look, one swallow, and down
She obeyed him instinctively. Then she took out a miserable little piece
of a handkerchief and wiped her eyes.
"What's gone wrong?" he asked briskly. "Tell me all about it."
"Father went off on tour," she explained. "He left the rent owing for a
month, and he's been writing for money all the time. The agent who comes
round doesn't listen to excuses. You pay, or out you go into the street.
I've paid somehow and nearly starved over it. Then I got this job after
worrying about it Lord knows how long, and this evening I'm discharged."
"How much a week was it?" he enquired, with sympathy.
"Ten dollars," she replied. "Little enough, but I can't live without it."
He changed his attitude, suddenly realising the volcanic sensitiveness of
her attitude towards him and life in general. Instinctively he felt that
at a single ill-considered word she would even then, in her moment of
weakness, have left him, have pushed him on one side, and walked out to
whatever she might have to face.
"What a fool you are!" he exclaimed, a little brusquely.
"Am I!" she replied belligerently.
"Of course you are! You call yourself a daughter of New York, a city
whose motto seems to be pretty well every one for himself. You know you
did my typing all right, you know my play was a success, you know that I
shall have to write another. What made you take it for granted that I
shouldn't want to employ you, and go and hide yourself? Lock the door
when I came to see you, because it was past eight o'clock, and not answer
"Can't have men callers now dad's away," she told him, a little
brusquely. "It's not allowed."
"Oh, rubbish!" he answered irritably. "That isn't the point. You've kept
away from me. You've deliberately avoided me. You knew that I was just
as lonely as you were."
Then she blazed out. The sallowness of her cheeks, the little dip under
her cheekbones—she had grown thinner during the last week or so—made
her eyes seem larger and more brilliant than ever.
"You lonely! Rubbish! Why, they're all running after you everywhere.
Quite a social success, according to the papers! I say, ain't you
"Horribly," he admitted, "and about the one person I could have talked to
about it chucks me."
"I don't know anything about you, or what you've done," she said. "I only
know that the tecs—"
He laid his hand upon her fingers. She snatched them away but accepted
his warning. They were served then with their meal, and their
conversation drifted into other channels.
"Well," he continued presently, in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone, "I've
found you now, and you've got to be sensible. It's true I've had a stroke
of luck, but that might fall away at any moment. I've typing waiting for
you, or I can get you a post at the New York Theatre. You'd better first
do my typing. I'll have it in your rooms to-morrow morning by nine
o'clock. And would you like something in advance?"
"No!" she replied grudgingly. "I'll have what I've earned, when I've
He sipped his claret and studied her meditatively.
"You're not much of a pal, are you?"
She scoffed at him, looked him up and down, at his well-fitting clothes,
his general air of prosperity.
"Pal!" she jeered. "Look at you—Merton Ware, the great dramatist, and
me—a shabby, ugly, bad-tempered, indifferent typewriter. Bad-tempered,"
she repeated. "Yes, I am that. I didn't start out to be. I just haven't
had any luck."
"It will all come some day," he assured her cheerfully.
"I think if you'd stayed different," she went on thoughtfully, "if you
hadn't slipped away into the clouds … shows what a selfish little beast
I am! Can't imagine why you bother about me."
"Shall I tell you why, really?" he asked. "Because you saved me—I don't
know what from. The night we went out I was suffering from a loneliness
which was the worst torture I have ever felt. It was there in my throat
and dragging down my heart, and I just felt as though any way of ending
it all would be a joy. All these millions of hard-faced people, intent on
their own prosperity or their own petty troubles, goaded me, I think,
into a sort of silent fury. Just that one night I craved like a madman
for a single human being to talk to—well, I shall never forget it,
"Miss Grimes!" she interrupted under her breath.
"That doesn't really matter, does it?" he asked. "You've never been
afraid that I should want to make love to you, have you?"
She glanced round into the mirror by their side, looked at her wan face,
the shabby little hat, the none too tidily arranged hair which drooped
over her ears; down at her shapeless jacket, her patched skirt, the shoes
which were in open rebellion. Then she laughed, curiously enough without
any note of bitterness.
"Seems queer, doesn't it, even to think of such a thing! I've been up
against it pretty hard, though. A man who gives a meal to a girl, even if
she is as plain as I am, generally seems to think he's bought her, in
this city. Even the men who are earning money don't give much for
nothing. But you are different," she admitted. "I'll be fair about
"You'll be waiting for the work at nine o'clock to-morrow morning?" he
asked, as indifferently as possible.
"I will," she promised.
He leaned back and told her little anecdotes about the play, things that
had happened to him during the last few weeks, speaking often of
Elizabeth Dalstan. By degrees the nervous unrest seemed to pass away from
her. When they had finished their meal and drunk their coffee, she was
almost normal. She smoked a cigarette and even accepted the box which he
thrust into her hand. When he had paid the bill, she rose a little
"Well," she said, "you've had your way, and a kind, nice way it was. Now
I'll have mine. I don't want any politeness. When we leave this place I
am going to walk home, and I am going to walk home alone."
"That's lucky," he replied, "because I have to be at the theatre in ten
minutes to meet a cinema man. Button up your coat and have a good night's
They left the place together. She turned away with a farewell nod and
walked rapidly eastwards. He watched her cross the road. A poor little
waif, she seemed, except that something had gone from her face which had
almost terrified him. She carried herself, he fancied, with more
buoyancy, with infinitely more confidence, and he drew a sigh of relief
as he called for a taxi.
Elizabeth paused for breath at the top of the third flight of stairs. She
leaned against the iron balustrade.
"You poor dear!" she exclaimed. "How many times a day did you have to do
"I didn't go out very often," he reminded her, "and it wasn't every day
that the lift was out of order. It's only one more flight."
She looked up the stairs, sighed, and raised her smart, grey, tailor-made
skirt a little higher over her shoes.
"Well," she announced heroically, "lead on. If they would sometimes dust
these steps—but, after all, it doesn't matter to you now, does it? Fancy
that poor girl, though."
He smiled a little grimly.
"A few flights of stairs aren't the worst things she has had to face, I'm
afraid," he said.
"I am rather terrified of her," Elizabeth confided, supporting herself by
her companion's shoulder. "I think I know that ultra-independent type.
Kick me if I put my foot in it. Is this the door?"
Philip nodded and knocked softly. There was a sharp "Come in!"
"Put the key down, please," the figure at the typewriter said, as they
The words had scarcely left Martha's lips before she turned around,
conscious of some other influence in the room. Philip stepped forward.
"Miss Grimes," he said, "I have brought Miss Dalstan in to see you. She
He paused. Something in the stony expression of the girl who had risen to
her feet and stood now facing them, her ashen paleness unrelieved by any
note of colour, her hands hanging in front of her patched and shabby
frock, seemed to check the words upon his lips. Her voice was low but not
soft. It seemed to create at once an atmosphere of anger and resentment.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"I hope you don't mind—I am so anxious that you should do some work for
me," Elizabeth explained. "When Mr. Ware first brought me in his play, I
noticed how nicely it was typewritten. You must have been glad to find it
turn out such a success."
"I take no interest in my work when once it is typed," Martha Grimes
declared, "and I am very sorry but I do not like to receive visitors. I
am very busy. Mr. Ware knows quite well that I like to be left alone."
Elizabeth smiled at her delightfully.
"But it isn't always good for us, is it," she reminded her, "to live
exactly as we would like, or to have our own way in all things?"
There was a moment's rather queer silence. Martha Grimes seemed to be
intent upon studying the appearance of her visitor, the very beautiful
woman familiar to nearly every one in New York, perhaps at that moment
America's most popular actress. Her eyes seemed to dwell upon the little
strands of fair hair that escaped from beneath her smart but simple hat,
to take in the slightly deprecating lift of the eyebrows, the very
attractive, half appealing smile, the smart grey tailor-made gown with
the bunch of violets in her waistband. Elizabeth was as quietly dressed
as it was possible for her to be, but her appearance nevertheless brought
a note of some other world into the shabby little apartment.
"It's the only thing I ask of life," Martha said, "the only thing I get.
I want to be left alone, and I will be left alone. If there is any more
work, I will do it. If there isn't, I can find some somewhere else. But
visitors I don't want and won't have."
Elizabeth was adorably patient. She surreptitiously drew towards her a
cane chair, a doubtful-looking article of furniture upon which she seated
herself slowly and with great care.
"Well," she continued, with unabated pleasantness, "that is reasonable as
far as it goes, only we didn't quite understand, and it is such a climb
up here, isn't it? I came to talk about some work, but I must get my
"Miss Dalstan thought, perhaps," Philip intervened diffidently, "that you
might consider accepting a post at the theatre. They always keep two
stenographers there, and one of them fills up her time by private work,
generally work for some one connected with the theatre. In your case you
could, of course, go on with mine, only when I hadn't enough for you, and
of course I can't compose as fast as you can type, there would be
something else, and the salary would be regular."
"I should like a regular post," the girl admitted sullenly. "So would any
one who's out of work, of course."
"The salary," Elizabeth explained, "is twenty-five dollars a week. The
hours are nine to six. You have quite a comfortable room there, but when
you have private work connected with the theatre you can bring it home if
you wish. Mr. Ware tells me that you work very quickly. You will finish
all that you have for him to-day, won't you?"
"I shall have it finished in half an hour."
"Then will you be at the New York Theatre to-morrow morning at nine
o'clock," Elizabeth suggested. "There are some parts to be copied. It
will be very nice indeed if you like the work, and I think you will."
The girl stood there, irresolute. It was obvious that she was trying to
bring herself to utter some form of thanks. Then there was a loud knock
at the door, which was opened without waiting for any reply. The janitor
stood there with a small key in his hand, which he threw down upon a
"Key of number two hundred, miss," he said. "Let me have it back again
He closed the door and departed.
"Two hundred?" Philip exclaimed. "Why, that's my old room, the one up
"I must see it," Elizabeth insisted. "Do please let us go up there. I
meant to ask you to show it me."
"You are not thinking of moving, are you, Miss Grimes?" Philip enquired.
She snatched at the key, but he had just possessed himself of it and was
swinging it from his forefinger.
"I don't know," she snapped. "I was going up there, anyway. You can't
have the key to-day."
"Why not?" Philip asked in surprise.
"Never mind. There are some things of mine up there. I—"
She broke off. They both looked at her, perplexed. Philip shook his head
"Miss Grimes," he said, "you forget that the rooms are mine till next
quarter day. I promise you we will respect any of your belongings we may
find there. Come along, Elizabeth."
"We'll see you as we come down," the latter promised, nodding pleasantly,
"I don't know as you will," the girl retorted fiercely. "I may not be
They climbed the last two flights of stairs together.
"What an extraordinary young woman!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Is there any
reason for her being quite so rude to me?"
"None that I can conceive," he answered. "She is always like that."
"And yet you took an interest in her!"
"Why not? She is human, soured by misfortune, if you like, with an
immense stock of bravery and honesty underneath it all. She has had a
drunken father practically upon her hands, and life's been pretty sordid
for her. Here we are."
He fitted the key into the lock and swung the door open. The clear
afternoon light shone in upon the little shabby room and its worn
furniture. There were one or two insignificant belongings of Philip's
still lying about the place, and on the writing-table, exactly opposite
the spot where he used to sit, a little blue vase, in which was a bunch
of violets. Somehow or other it was the one arresting object in the room.
They both of them looked at it in equal amazement.
"Is any one living here?" Elizabeth enquired.
"Not to my knowledge," he replied. "No one could take it on without my
signing a release."
They moved over to the desk. Elizabeth stooped down and smelt the
violets, lifted them up and looked at the cut stalks.
"Is this where you used to sit and write?" she asked.
"But I never had any flowers here," he observed, gazing at them in a
Elizabeth looked at the vase and set it down. Then she turned towards her
companion and shook her head.
"Oh, my dear Philip," she sighed, "you really don't know what makes that
girl so uncouth?"
"You mean Martha? Of course I don't. You think that she … Rubbish!"
He stopped short in sudden confusion. Elizabeth passed her arm through
his. She replaced the vase very carefully, looked once more around the
room, and led him to the door.
"Never mind," she said. "It isn't anything serious, of course, but it's
wonderful, Philip, what memories a really lonely woman will live on, what
she will do to keep that little natural vein of sentiment alive in her,
and how fiercely she will fight to conceal it. You can go on down and
wait for me in the hall. I am going in to say good-by to Miss Martha
Grimes. I think that this time I shall get on better with her."
Philip waited nearly a quarter of an hour for Elizabeth. When at last she
returned, she was unusually silent. They drove off together in her
automobile. She held his fingers under the rug.
"Philip dear," she said, "I think it is time that you and I were
He turned and looked at her in amazement. There was a smile upon her
lips, but rather a plaintive one. He had a fancy, somehow, that there had
been tears in her eyes lately.
"If we are ever going to be," she went on softly, "why shouldn't we be
married quietly, as people are sometimes, and then tell every one
He held the joy away from him, struggling hard for composure.
"But a little time ago," he reminded her, "you wanted to wait."
"Yes," she confessed, "I, too, had my—my what shall I call it—fear?—my
ghost in the background?"
"Ah! but not like mine," he faltered, his voice unsteady with a surging
flood of passion. "Elizabeth, if you really mean it, if you are going to
take the risk of finding yourself the wife of the villain in a cause
célèbre, why—why—you know very well that even the thought of it can
draw me up into heaven. But, dear—my sweetheart—remember! We've played
a bold game, or rather I have with your encouragement, but we're not safe
"Do you know anything that I don't?" she asked feverishly.
"Well, I suppose I do," he admitted. "It isn't necessarily serious," he
went on quickly, as he saw the colour fade from her cheeks, "but on the
very night that our play was produced, whilst I was waiting about for you
all at the restaurant, a man came to see me. He is one of the keenest
detectives in New York—Edward Dane his name is. He knew perfectly well
that I was the man who had disappeared from the Waldorf. He told me so to
"Then why didn't he—why didn't he do something?"
"Because he was clever enough to suspect that there was something else
behind it all," Philip said grimly. "You see, he'd discovered that I
hadn't used any of the money. He couldn't fit in any of my doings with
the reports they'd had about Douglas. Somehow or other—I can't tell
how—another suspicion seems to have crept into the man's brain. All the
time he talked to me I could see him trying to read in my face whether
there wasn't something else! He'd stumbled across a puzzle of which the
pieces didn't fit. He has gone to England—gone to Detton Magna—gone to
see whether there are any missing pieces to be found. He may be back any
"But what could he discover?" she faltered.
"God knows!" Philip groaned. "There's the whole ghastly truth there, if
fortune helped him, and he were clever enough, if by any devilish chance
the threads came into his hand. I don't think—I don't think there was
ever any fear from the other side. I had all the luck. But, Elizabeth,
sometimes I am terrified of this man Dane. I didn't mean to tell you
this, but it's too late now. Do you know that I am watched, day by day? I
pretend not to notice it—I am even able, now and then, to shut it out
from my own thoughts—but wherever I go there's some one shadowing me,
some one walking in my footsteps. I'm perfectly certain that if you were
to go to police headquarters here, you could find out where I have spent
almost every hour since I took that room in Monmouth House."
She gripped his fingers fiercely.
He leaned forward, gazing with peculiar, almost passionate intentness,
into the faces of the people as they swept along Broadway.
"Look at them, Elizabeth!" he muttered. "Look at that mob of men and
women sweeping along the pavements there, every kind and shape of man,
every nationality, every age! They are like the little flecks on the top
of a wave. I watched them when I first came and I felt almost reckless.
You'd think a man could plunge in there and be lost, wouldn't you? He
can't! I tried it. Is there anywhere else in the world, I wonder? Is
there anywhere in the living world where one can throw off everything of
the past, where one can take up a new life, and memory doesn't come?"
She shook her head. She was more composed now. The moment of feverish
excitement had passed. Her shrewd and level common sense had begun to
"There isn't any such place, Philip," she told him, "and if there were it
wouldn't be worth while your trying to find it. We are both a little
hysterical this evening. We've lost our sense of proportion. You've
played for your stake. You mustn't quail; if the worst should come, you
must brave it out. I believe, even then, you would be safe. But it won't
He gripped her hands. They were slowing up now, caught in a maze of heavy
traffic a few blocks from the theatre. His voice was firm. He had
regained his self-control.
"What an idiot I have been!" he exclaimed scornfully. "Never mind, that's
past. There is just one more serious word, though, dear."
She responded immediately to the change in his manner, and smiled into
"My only real problem," he went on earnestly, "is this. Dare I hold you
to your word, Elizabeth? Dare I, for instance, say 'yes' to the wonderful
suggestion of yours?—make you my wife and risk having people look at you
in years to come, point at you with pity and say that you married a
murderer who died a shameful death! Fancy how the tragedy of that would
lie across your life—you who are so wonderful and so courted and so
"Isn't that my affair, Philip?" she asked calmly.
"No," he answered, "it's mine!"
She turned and laughed at him. For a moment she was her old self again.
"You refuse me?"
His eyes glowed.
"We'll wait," he said hoarsely, "till Dane comes back from England!"
The car had stopped outside the theatre. Hat in hand, and with his face
wreathed in smiles, the commissionaire had thrown open the door. The
people on the pavement were nudging one another—a famous woman was about
to descend. She turned back to Philip.
"Come in with me," she begged. "Somehow, I feel cold and lonely to-night.
It hasn't anything to do with what we were talking about, but I feel as
though something were going to happen, that something were coming out of
the shadows, something that threatens either you or me. I'm silly, but
She clung to him as they crossed the pavement. For once she forgot to
smile at the little curious crowd. She was absorbed in herself and her
"Life is so hard sometimes!" she exclaimed, as they lingered for a moment
near the box office. "There's that poor girl, Philip, friendless and
lonely. What she must suffer! God help her—God help us all! I am sick
with loneliness myself, Philip. Don't leave me alone. Come with me to my
room. I only want to see if there are any letters. We'll go somewhere
near and dine first, before I change. Philip, what is the matter with me?
I don't want to go a step alone. I don't want to be alone for a moment."
He laughed reassuringly and drew her closer to him. She led the way down
the passage towards her own suite of apartments. They passed one or two
of the officials of the theatre, whom she greeted with something less
than her usual charm of manner. As they reached the manager's office
there was the sound of loud voices, and the door was thrown open. Mr.
Fink appeared, and with him a somewhat remarkable figure—a tall,
immensely broad, ill-dressed man, with a strong, rugged face and a mass
of grey hair; a huge man, who seemed, somehow or other, to proclaim
himself of a bigger and stronger type than those others amongst whom
he moved. He had black eyes, and the heavy jaw of an Irishman. His face
was curiously unwrinkled. He stood there, blocking the way, his great
hands suddenly thrust forward.
"Betty, by the Lord that loves us!" he exclaimed. "Here's luck! I was on
my way out to search for you. Got here on the Chicago Limited at four
o'clock. Give me your hands and say that you are glad to see me."
If Elizabeth were glad, she showed no sign of it. She seemed to have
become rooted to the spot, suddenly dumb. Philip, by her side, heard the
quick indrawing of her breath.
"Sylvanus!" she murmured. "You! Why, I thought you were in China."
"There's no place on God's earth can hold me for long," was the
boisterous reply. "I did my business there in three days and caught a
Japanese boat back. Such a voyage and such food! But New York will make
up for that. You've got a great play, they tell me. I must hear all about
it. Shake my hands first, though, girl, as though you were glad to see
me. You seem to have shrunken since I saw you last—to have grown
smaller. Didn't London agree with you?"
The moment of shock had passed. Elizabeth had recovered herself. She gave
the newcomer her hands quite frankly. She even seemed, in a measure, glad
to see him.
"These unannounced comings and goings of yours from the ends of the earth
are so upsetting to your friends," she declared.
"And this gentleman? Who is he?"
Elizabeth laughed softly.
"I needn't tell you, Mr. Ware," she said, turning to Philip, "that this
dear man here is an eccentric. I dare say you've heard of him. It is Mr.
Sylvanus Power, and Sylvanus, this is Mr. Merton Ware, the author of our
play—'The House of Shams.'"
Philip felt his hand held in a grasp which, firm though it was, seemed to
owe its vigour rather to the long, powerful fingers than to any real
cordiality. Mr. Sylvanus Power was studying him from behind his bushy
"So you're Merton Ware," he observed. "I haven't seen your play yet—hope
to to-night. An Englishman, eh?"
"Yes, I am English," Philip assented coolly. "You come from the West,
There was a moment's silence. Elizabeth laughed softly.
"Oh, there's no mistake about Mr. Power!" she declared. "He brings the
breezy West with him, to Wall Street or Broadway, Paris or London. You
can't shake it off or blow it away."
"And I don't know as I am particularly anxious to, either," Mr. Power
pronounced. "Are you going to your rooms here, Betty? If so, I'll come
along. I guess Mr. Ware will excuse you."
Philip was instantly conscious of the antagonism in the other's manner.
As yet, however, he felt little more than amusement. He glanced towards
Elizabeth, and the look in her face startled him. The colour had once
more left her cheeks and her eyes were full of appeal.
"If you wouldn't mind?" she begged. "Mr. Power is a very old friend and
we haven't met for so long."
"You needn't expect to see anything more of Miss Dalstan to-night, either
of you," the newcomer declared, drawing her hand through his arm, "except
on the stage, that is. I am going to take her out and give her a little
dinner directly. Au revoir, Fink! I'll see you to-night here. Good-day to
you, Mr. Ware."
Philip stood for a moment motionless. The voice of Mr. Sylvanus Power was
no small thing, and he was conscious that several of the officials of the
place, and the man in the box office, had heard every word that had
passed. He felt, somehow, curiously ignored. He watched the huge figure
of the Westerner, with Elizabeth by his side, disappear down the
corridor. Mr. Fink, who had also been looking after them, turned towards
"Say, that's some man, Sylvanus Power!" he exclaimed admiringly. "He is
one of our multimillionaires, Mr. Ware. What do you think of him?"
"So far as one can judge from a few seconds' conversation," Philip
remarked, "he seems to possess all the qualities essential to the
production of a multimillionaire in this country."
Mr. Fink grinned.
"Sounds a trifle sarcastic, but I guess he's a new type to you," he
"Absolutely," Philip acknowledged, as he turned and made his way slowly
out of the theatre.
Philip's disposition had been so curiously affected by the emotions of
the last few months that he was not in the least surprised to find
himself, that evening, torn by a very curious and unfamiliar spasm of
jealousy. After an hour or so of indecision he made his way, as usual, to
the theatre, but instead of going at once to Elizabeth's room, he slipped
in at the back of the stalls. The house was crowded, and, seated in the
stage box, alone and gloomy, his somewhat austere demeanour intensified
by the severity of his evening clothes, sat Sylvanus Power with the air
of a conqueror. Philip, unaccountably restless, left his seat in a very
few minutes, and, making his way to the box office, scribbled a line to
Elizabeth. The official to whom he handed it looked at him in surprise.
"Won't you go round yourself, Mr. Ware?" he suggested. "Miss Dalstan has
another ten minutes before she is on."
Philip shook his head.
"I'm looking for a man I know," he replied evasively. "I'll be somewhere
about here in five minutes."
The answer came in less than that time. It was just a scrawled line in
"Forgive me, dear. I will explain everything in the morning, if you will
come to my rooms at eleven o'clock. This evening I have a hateful duty to
perform and I cannot see you."
Philip, impatient of the atmosphere of the theatre, wandered out into the
streets with the note in his pocket. Broadway was thronged with people, a
heterogeneous, slowly-moving throng, the hardest crowd to apprehend, to
understand, of any in the world. He looked absently into the varying
stream of faces, stared at the whirling sky-signs, the lights flashing
from the tall buildings, heard snatches of the music from the open doors
of the cafes and restaurants. Men, and even women, elbowed him,
unresenting, out of the way, without the semblance of an apology. It
seemed to him that his presence there, part of the drifting pandemonium
of the pavement, was in a sense typical of his own existence in New York.
He had given so much of his life into another's hands and now the anchor
was dragging. He was suddenly confronted with the possibility of a rift
in his relations with Elizabeth; with a sudden surging doubt, not of
Elizabeth herself but simply a feeling of insecurity with regard to their
future. He only realised in those moments how much he had leaned upon
her, how completely she seemed to have extended over him and his troubled
life some sort of sheltering influence, to which he had succumbed with an
effortless, an almost fatalistic impulse, finding there, at any rate, a
refuge from the horrors of his empty days. It was all abstract and
impersonal at first, this jealousy which had come so suddenly to disturb
the serenity of an almost too perfect day, but as the hours passed it
seemed to him that his thoughts dwelt more often upon the direct cause of
his brief separation from Elizabeth. He turned in at one of the clubs of
which he had been made a member, and threw himself gloomily into an
easy-chair. His thoughts had turned towards the grim, masterful
personality of the man who seemed to have obtruded himself upon their
lives. What did it mean when Elizabeth told him she was engaged for
to-night? She was supping with him somewhere—probably at that moment
seated opposite to him at a small, rose-shaded table in one of the many
restaurants of the city which they had visited together. He, Sylvanus
Power, his supplanter, was occupying the place that belonged to him,
ordering her supper, humouring her little preferences, perhaps sharing
with her that little glow of relief which comes with the hour of rest,
after the strain of the day's work. The suggestion was intolerable.
To-morrow he would have an explanation! Elizabeth belonged to him.
The sooner the world knew it, the better, and this man first of all. He
read her few lines again, hastily pencilled, and evidently written
standing up. There was a certain ignominy in being sent about his
business, just because this colossus from the West had appeared and
claimed—what? Not his right!—he could have no right! What then?…
Philip ordered a drink, tore open an evening paper, and tried to read.
The letters danced before his eyes, the whisky and soda stood neglected
at his elbow. Afterwards he found himself looking into space. There was
something cynical, challenging almost, in the manner in which that man
had taken Elizabeth away from him, had acknowledged his introduction,
even had treated the author of a play, a writer, as some sort of a
mountebank, making his living by catering for the amusements of the
world. How did that man regard such gifts as his, he wondered?—Sylvanus
Power, of whom he had seen it written that he was one of the conquerors
of nature, a hard but splendid utilitarian, the builder of railways in
China and bridges for the transit of his metals amid the clouds of the
mountain tops. In the man's absence, his harshness, almost uncouthness,
seemed modified. He was a rival, without a doubt, and to-night a favoured
one. How well had he known Elizabeth? For how long? Was it true, that
rumour he had once heard—that the first step in her fortunes had been
due to the caprice of a millionaire? He found the room stifling, but the
thought of the streets outside unnerved him. He looked about for some
The room was beginning to fill—actors, musicians, a few journalists, a
great many men of note in the world of Bohemia kept streaming in. One
or two of them nodded to him, several paused to speak.
"Hullo, Ware!" Noel Bridges exclaimed. "Not often you give us a look in.
What are you doing with yourself here all alone?"
Philip turned to answer him, and suddenly felt the fire blaze up again.
He saw his questioner's frown, saw him even bite his lip as though
conscious of having said a tactless thing. The actor probably understood
the whole situation well enough.
"I generally go into the Lotus," Philip lied. "To-night I had a fancy to
"The Lotus is too far up town for us fellows," Bridges remarked. "We need
a drink, a little supper, and to see our pals quickly when the night's
work is over. I hear great things of the new play, Mr. Ware, but I don't
know when you'll get a chance to produce it. Were you in the house
"Only for a moment."
"Going stronger than ever," Bridges continued impressively. "Yes, thanks,
I'll take a Scotch highball," he added, in response to Philip's mute
invitation, "plenty of ice, Mick. There wasn't a seat to be had in the
house, and I wouldn't like to say what old Fink had to go through before
he could get his box for the great Sylvanus."
"His box?" Philip queried.
"The theatre belongs to Sylvanus Power, you know," Bridges explained. "He
built it five years ago."
"For a speculation?"
The actor fidgeted for a moment with his tumbler.
"No, for Miss Dalstan," he replied.
Philip set his teeth hard. The temptation to pursue the conversation was
almost overpowering. The young man himself, though a trifle embarrassed,
seemed perfectly willing to talk. At least it was better to know the
truth! Then another impulse suddenly asserted itself. Whatever he was to
know he must learn from her lips and from hers only.
"Well, I should think it's turned out all right," he remarked.
Noel Bridges shrugged his shoulders.
"The rent, if it were figured out at a fair interest on the capital,
would be something fabulous," he declared. "You see, the place was
extravagantly built—without any regard to cost. The dressing rooms, as
you may have noticed, are wonderful, and all the appointments are unique.
I don't fancy the old man's ever had a quarter's rent yet that's paid him
one per cent, on the money. See you later, perhaps, Mr. Ware," the young
man concluded, setting down his tumbler. "I'm going in to have a grill.
Why don't you come along?"
Philip hesitated for a second and then, somewhat to the other's surprise,
assented. He was conscious that he had been, perhaps, just a little
unresponsive to the many courtesies which had been offered him here and
at the other kindred clubs. They had been ready to receive him with open
arms, this little fraternity of brain-workers, and his response had been,
perhaps, a little doubtful, not from any lack of appreciation but partly
from that curious diffidence, so hard to understand but so fundamentally
English, and partly because of that queer sense of being an impostor
which sometimes swept over him, a sense that he was, after all, only
the ghost of another man, living a subjective life; that, reason it out
however he might, there was something of the fraud in any personality
he might adopt. And yet, deep down in his heart he was conscious of so
earnest a desire to be really one of them, this good-natured,
good-hearted, gay-spirited little throng, with their delightful
intimacies, their keen interest in each other's welfare, their potent,
almost mysterious geniality, which seemed to draw the stranger of kindred
tastes so closely under its influence. Philip, as he sat at the long
table with a dozen or so other men, did his best that night to break
through the fetters, tried hard to remember that his place amongst them,
after all, was honest enough. They were writers and actors and
journalists. Well, he too was a writer. He had written a play which they
had welcomed with open arms, as they had done him. In this world of
Bohemia, if anywhere, he surely had a right to lift up his head and
breathe—and he would do it. He sat with them, smoking and talking, until
the little company began to thin out, establishing all the time a new
reputation, doing a great deal to dissipate that little sense of
disappointment which his former non-responsiveness had created.
"He's a damned good fellow, after all," one of them declared, as at last
he left the room. "He is losing his Britishness every day he stays here."
"Been through rough times, they say," another remarked.
"He is one of those," an elder member pronounced, taking his pipe for a
moment from his mouth, "who was never made for happiness. You can always
read those men. You can see it behind their eyes."
Nevertheless, Philip walked home a saner and a better man. He felt
somehow warmed by those few hours of companionship. The senseless part of
his jealousy was gone, his trust in Elizabeth reestablished. He looked at
the note once more as he undressed. At eleven o'clock on the following
morning in her rooms!
Something of his overnight's optimism remained with Philip when at eleven
o'clock on the following morning he was ushered into Elizabeth's rooms.
It was a frame of mind, however, which did not long survive his
reception. From the moment of his arrival, he seemed to detect a
different atmosphere in his surroundings,—the demeanour of Phoebe, his
staunch ally, who admitted him without her usual welcoming smile; the
unanalysable sense of something wanting in the dainty little room,
overfilled with strong-smelling, hothouse flowers in the entrance and
welcome of Elizabeth herself. His eyes had ached for the sight of her.
He was so sure that he would know everything the moment she spoke.
Yet her coming brought only confusion to his senses. She was
different—unexpectedly, bewilderingly different. She had lost that
delicate serenity of manner, that almost protective affection which he
had grown to lean upon and expect. She entered dressed for the street,
smoking a cigarette, which was in itself unusual, with dark rings under
her eyes, which seemed to be looking all around the room on some
pretext or other, but never at him.
"Am I late?" she asked, a little breathlessly. "I am so sorry. Tell me,
have you anything particular to do?"
"Nothing," he answered.
"I want to go out of the city—into the country, at once," she told him
feverishly. "The car is waiting. I ordered it for a quarter to eleven.
Let us start."
"Of course, if you wish it," he assented.
He opened the door but before she passed through he leaned towards her.
She shook her head. His heart sank. What could there be more ominous
"I am not well," she muttered. "Don't take any notice of anything I say
or do for a little time. I am like this sometimes—temperamental, I
suppose. All great actresses are temperamental. I suppose I am a great
actress. Do you think I am, Philip?"
He was following her down-stairs now. He found it hard, however, to
imitate the flippancy of her tone.
"The critics insist upon it," he observed drily. "Evidently your audience
last night shared their opinion."
"I love them to applaud like that, and yet—audiences don't really know,
do they? Perhaps—"
She relapsed into silence, and they took their places in the car. She
settled herself down with a little sigh of content and drew the rug over
"As far as you can go, John," she told the man, "but you must get back at
six o'clock. The country, mind—not the shore."
They started off.
"So you were there last night?" she murmured, leaning back amongst the
cushions with an air of relief.
"I was there for a few moments. I wrote my note to you in the box
She shook the memory away.
"I went to one of the clubs down-town."
"What did you do there?" she enquired. "Gossip?"
"Some of the men were very kind to me," he said. "I had supper with Noel
Bridges, amongst others."
"Well?" she asked, almost defiantly.
"I don't understand."
She looked intently at him for a moment.
"I forgot," she went on. "You are very chivalrous, aren't you? You
wouldn't ask questions…. See, I am going to close my eyes. It is too
horrible here, and all through Brooklyn. When we are in the lanes I can
talk. This is just one of those days I wish that we were in England. All
our country is either suburban or too wild and restless. Can you be
content with silence for a little time?"
"Of course," he assured her. "Besides, you forget that I am in a strange
country. Everything is worth watching."
They passed over Brooklyn Bridge, and for an hour or more they made slow
progress through the wide-flung environs of the city. At last, however,
the endless succession of factories and small tenement dwellings lay
behind them. They passed houses with real gardens, through stretches of
wood whose leaves were opening, whose branches were filled with the
sweet-smelling sap of springtime. Elizabeth seemed to wake almost
automatically from a kind of stupor. She pushed back her veil, and
Philip, stealing eager glances towards her, was almost startled by some
indefinable change. Her face seemed more delicate, almost the face of an
invalid, and she lay back there with half-closed eyes. The strength of
her mouth seemed to have dissolved, and its sweetness had become almost
pathetic. There were signs of a great weariness about her. The fingers
which reached out for the little speaking-tube seemed to have become
"Take the turn to the left, John," she instructed, "the one to Bay Shore.
Go slowly by the lake and stop where I tell you."
They left the main road and travelled for some distance along a lane
which, with its bramble-grown fences and meadows beyond, was curiously
reminiscent of England. They passed a country house, built of the wood
which was still a little unfamiliar to Philip, but wonderfully homelike
with its cluster of outbuildings, its trim lawns, and the turret clock
over the stable entrance. Then, through the leaves of an avenue of elms,
they caught occasional glimpses of the blue waters of the lake, which
they presently skirted. Elizabeth's eyes travelled over its placid
surface idly, yet with a sense of passive satisfaction. In a few minutes
they passed into the heart of a little wood, and she leaned forward.
"Stop here, close to the side of the road, John. Stop your engine,
please, and go and sit by the lake."
The man obeyed at once with the unquestioning readiness of one used to
his mistress' whims. For several minutes she remained silent. She had the
air of one drinking in with almost passionate eagerness the sedative
effect of the stillness, the soft spring air, the musical country sounds,
the ripple of the breeze in the trees, the humming of insects, the soft
splash of the lake against the stony shore. Philip himself was awakened
into a peculiar sense of pleasure by this, almost his first glimpse of
the country since his arrival in New York. A host of half forgotten
sensations warmed his heart. He felt suddenly intensely sympathetic,
perhaps more genuinely tender than he had ever felt before towards the
woman by his side, whose hour of suffering it was. His hand slipped under
the rug and held her fingers, which clutched his in instantaneous
response. Her lips seemed unlocked by his slight action.
"I came here alone two years ago," she told him, "and since then often,
sometimes to study a difficult part, sometimes only to think. One
She released her fingers from his, drew out the hatpins from her hat,
unwound the veil and threw them both on to the opposite seat. Then she
laid her hands upon her forehead as though to cool it. The little breeze
from the lake rippled through her hair, bringing them every now and then
faint whiffs of perfume from the bordering gardens.
"There!" she exclaimed, with a little murmur of content. "That's a man's
action, isn't it? Now I think I am getting brave. I have something to
say to you, Philip."
He felt her fingers seeking his again and held them tightly. It was
curious how in that moment of crisis his thoughts seemed to wander away.
He was watching the little flecks of gold in her hair, wondering if he
had ever properly appreciated the beautiful curve of her neck. Even her
voice seemed somehow attuned to the melody of their surroundings, the
confused song of the birds, the sighing of the lake, the passing of the
west wind through the trees and shrubs around.
"Philip," she began, clinging closely to him, "I have brought you here to
tell you a story which perhaps you will think, when you have heard it,
might better have been told in my dressing-room. Well, I couldn't.
Besides, I wanted to get away. It is about Sylvanus Power."
He sat a little more upright. His nerves were tingling now with
"I met him," she continued, "eight years ago out West, when I was in a
travelling show. I accepted his attentions at first carelessly enough. I
did not realise the sort of man he was. He was a great personage even in
those days, and I suppose my head was a little turned. Then he began to
follow us everywhere. There was a scandal, of course. In the end I left
the company and came to New York. He went to China, where he has always
had large interests. When I heard that he had sailed—I remember reading
it in the paper—I could have sobbed with joy."
Philip moved a little uneasily in his place. Some instinct told him,
however, how greatly she desired his silence—that she wanted to tell her
story her own way.
"Then followed three miserable years, during which I saw little of him. I
knew that I had talent, I was always sure of making a living, but I got
no further. It didn't seem possible to get any further. Nothing that I
could do or say seemed able to procure for me an engagement in New York.
Think of me for a moment now, Philip, as a woman absolutely and entirely
devoted to her work. I loved it. It absorbed all my thoughts. It was just
the one thing in life I cared anything about. I simply ached to get at
New York, and I couldn't. All the time I had to play on tour, and you
won't quite understand this, dear, but there is nothing so wearing in
life as for any one with my cravings for recognition there to be always
playing on the road."
She paused for a few minutes. There was a loud twittering of birds. A
rabbit who had stolen carefully through the undergrowth scurried away. A
car had come through the wood and swept past them, bringing with it some
vague sense of disturbance. It was some little time before she settled
down again to her story.
"At the end of those three years," she went on, "Sylvanus Power had
become richer, stronger, more masterful than ever. I was beginning to
lose heart. He was clever. He studied my every weakness. He knew quite
well that with me there was only one way, and he laid his schemes with
regard to me just in the same fashion as he schemed to be a conqueror
of men, to build up those millions. We were playing near New York and one
day he asked me to motor in there and lunch with him. I accepted. It was
in the springtime, almost on such a day as this. We motored up in one of
his wonderful cars. We lunched—I remember how shabby I felt—at the best
restaurant in New York, where I was waited upon like a queen. Somehow or
other, the man had always the knack of making himself felt wherever he
went. He strode the very streets of New York like one of its masters and
the people seemed to recognise it. Afterwards he took me into Broadway,
and he ordered the car to stop outside the theatre where I am now
playing. I looked at it, and I remember I gave a little cry of interest.
"'This is the new theatre that every one is talking about, isn't it?' I
asked him eagerly.
"'It is,' he answered. 'Would you like to see inside?'
"Of course, I was half crazy with curiosity. The doors flew open before
him, and he took me everywhere. You know yourself what a magnificent
place it is—that marvellous stage, the auditorium all in dark green
satin, the seats like armchairs, the dressing rooms like boudoirs—the
wonderful spaciousness of it! It took my breath away. I had never
imagined such splendour. When we had finished looking over the whole
building, I clutched his arm.
"'I can't believe that it isn't some sort of fairy palace!' I exclaimed.
And to think that no one knows who owns the place or when it is going to
"'I'll tell you all about that' he answered. 'I built it, I own it, and
it will be opened just when you accept my offer and play in it.'
"It all seemed too amazing. For a time I couldn't speak coherently. Then
I remember thinking that whatever happened, whatever price I had to pay,
I must stand upon the stage of that theatre and win. My lips were quite
dry. His great voice seemed to have faded into a whisper.
"'Your offer?' I repeated.
"'Yourself,' he answered gruffly."
There was a silence which seemed to Philip interminable. All the magic of
the place had passed away, its music seemed no longer to be singing
happiness into his heart. Then at last he realised that she was waiting
for him to speak.
"He wanted—to marry you?" he faltered.
"He had a wife already."
Splash! John was throwing stones into the lake, a pastime of which he was
getting a little tired. A huge thrush was thinking about commencing to
build his nest, and in the meantime sat upon a fallen log across the way
and sang about it. A little tree-climbing bird ran round and round the
trunk of the nearest elm, staring at them, every time he appeared, with
his tiny black eyes. A squirrel, almost overhead, who had long since come
to the conclusion that they were harmless, decided now that they had the
queerest manners of any two young people he had ever watched from his
leafy throne, and finally abandoned his position. Elizabeth had been
staring down the road ever since the last words had passed her lips. She
turned at last and looked at her companion. He was once more the refugee,
the half-starved man flying from horrors greater even than he had known.
She began to tremble.
"Philip!" she cried. "Say anything, but speak to me!"
Like a flash he seemed to pass from his own, almost the hermit's way of
looking out upon life from the old-fashioned standpoint of his inherent
puritanism, into a closer sympathy with those others, the men and women
of the world into which he had so lately entered, the men and women who
had welcomed him so warm-heartedly, human beings all of them, who lived
and loved with glad hearts and much kindliness. The contrast was absurd,
the story itself suddenly so reasonable. No other woman on tour would
have kept Sylvanus Power waiting for three years. Only Elizabeth could
have done that. It was such a human little problem. People didn't live in
the clouds. He wasn't fit for the clouds himself. Nevertheless, when he
tried to speak his throat was hard and dry, and at the second attempt he
began instead to laugh. She gripped his arm.
"Philip!" she exclaimed. "Be reasonable! Say what you like, but look and
behave like a human being. Don't make that noise!" she almost shrieked.
He stopped at once.
"Forgive me," he begged humbly. "I can't help it. I seem to be playing
hide and seek with myself. You haven't finished the story yet—if there
is anything more to tell me."
She drew herself up. She spoke absolutely without faltering.
"I accepted Sylvanus Power's terms," she went on. "He placed large sums
of money in Fink's hands to run the theatre. There was a wonderful
opening. You were not interested then or you might have heard of it. I
produced a new play of Clyde Fitch's. It was a great triumph. The house
was packed. Sylvanus Power sat in his box. It was to be his night.
Through it all I fought like a woman in a nightmare. I didn't know what
it meant. I knew hundreds of women who had done in a small way what I was
prepared to do magnificently. In all my acquaintance I think that I
scarcely knew one who would have refused to do what I was doing. And all
the time I was in a state of fierce revolt. I had moments when my life's
ambitions, when New York itself, the Mecca of my dreams, and that
marvellous theatre, with its marble and silk, seemed suddenly to dwindle
to a miserable, contemptible little doll's house. And then again I
played, and I felt my soul as I played, and the old dreams swept over
me, and I said that it wasn't anything to do with personal vanity that
made me crave for the big gifts of success; that it was my art, and that
I must find myself in my art or die."
The blood was flowing in his veins again. She was coming back to him. He
was ashamed—he with his giant load of sin! His voice trembled with
"Go on," he begged.
"I think that the reason I played that night as though I were inspired
was because of the great passionate craving at my heart for
forgetfulness, to shut out the memory of that man who sat almost
gloomily alone in his box, waiting. And then, after it was all over, the
wonder and the glory of it, he appeared suddenly in my dressing-room,
elbowing his way through excited journalists, kicking bouquets of flowers
from his path. We stood for a moment face to face. He came nearer. I
shrank away. I was terrified! He looked at me in cold surprise.
"'Three minutes,' he exclaimed, 'to say good-by. I'm off to China. Stick
at it. You've done well for a start, but remember a New York audience
wants holding. Choose your plays carefully. Trust Fink.'
"'You're going away?' I almost shrieked.
"He glanced at his watch, leaned over, and kissed me on the forehead.
"'I'll barely make that boat,' he muttered, and rushed out."…
Philip was breathless. The strange, untold passion of the whole thing was
coming to him in waves of wonderful suggestion.
"Finish!" he cried impatiently. "Finish!"
"That is the end," she said. "I played for two years and a half, with
scarcely a pause. Then I came to Europe for a rest and travelled back
with you on the Elletania. Last night I saw Sylvanus Power again for
the first time. Don't speak. My story is in two halves. That is the
first. The second is just one question. That will come before we reach
home…John!" she called.
The man approached promptly—he was quite weary of throwing stones.
"Take us somewhere to lunch," his mistress directed, "and get back to New
York at six o'clock."
It was not until they were crossing Brooklyn Bridge, on their way into
the city, that she asked him that question. They crawled along, one of an
interminable, tangled line of vehicles of all sorts and conditions, the
trains rattling overhead, and endless streams of earnest people passing
along the footway. Below them, the evening sunlight flashed upon the
murky waters, glittered from the windows of the tall buildings, and shone
a little mercilessly upon the unlovely purlieus of the great human hive.
The wind had turned cool, and Elizabeth, with a little shiver, had drawn
her furs around her neck. All through the day, during the luncheon in an
unpretentious little inn, and the leisurely homeward drive, she had been
once more entirely herself, pleasant and sympathetic, ignoring absolutely
the intangible barrier which had grown up between them, soon to be thrown
down for ever or to remain for all time.
"We left our heroine," she said, "at an interesting crisis in her career.
I am waiting to hear from you—what would you have done in her place?"
He answered her at once, and he spoke from the lesser heights. He was
"It is not a reasonable question," he declared. "I am not a woman. I am
just a man who has led an unusually narrow and cramped life until these
last few months."
"That is scarcely fair," she objected. "You profess to have loved—to
love still, I hope. That in itself makes a man of any one. Then you, too,
have sinned. You, too, are one of those who have yielded to passion of a
sort. Therefore, your judgment ought to be the better worth having."
He winced as though he had been struck, and looked at her with eyes
momentarily wild. He felt that the deliberate cruelty of her words was of
intent, an instinct of her brain, defying for the moment her heart.
"I don't know," he faltered. "I won't answer your question. I can't. You
see, the love you speak of is my love for you. You ask me to ignore
that—I, who am clinging on to life by one rope."
"You are like all men," she sighed. "We do not blame you for it—perhaps
we love you the more—but when a great crisis comes you think only of
yourselves. You disappoint me a little, Philip. I fancied that you might
have thought a little of me, something of Sylvanus Power."
"I haven't your sympathy for other people," he declared hoarsely.
"No," she assented, "sympathy is the one thing a man lacks. It isn't your
fault, Philip. You are to be pitied for it. And, after all, it is a
woman's gift, isn't it?"
There followed then a silence which seemed interminable. It was not until
they were nearing the theatre that he suddenly spoke with a passion which
"Tell me," he insisted, "last night? I can't help asking. I was in hell!"
He told himself afterwards that there couldn't be any possible way of
reconciling cruelty so cold-blooded with all that he knew of Elizabeth.
She behaved as though his question had fallen upon deaf ears. The car had
stopped before the entrance to the theatre. She stepped out even before
he could assist her, hurried across the pavement and looked back at him
for one moment only before she plunged into the dark passage. She nodded,
and there was an utterly meaningless smile upon her lips.
"Good-by!" she said. "Do you mind telling John he needn't wait for me?"
Then she disappeared. He stood motionless upon the pavement, a little
dazed. Two or three people jostled against him. A policeman glanced at
him curiously. A lady with very yellow hair winked in his face. Philip
pulled himself together and simultaneously felt a touch upon his elbow.
He glanced into the face of the girl who had accosted him, and for a
moment he scarcely recognised her.
"Wish you'd remember you're in New York and not one of your own sleepy
old towns," Miss Grimes remarked brusquely. "You'll have a policeman say
you're drunk, in a minute, if you stand there letting people shove you
He fell into step by her side, and they walked slowly along. Martha was
plainly dressed, but she was wearing new clothes, new shoes, and a new
"Don't stare at me as though you never saw me out of a garret before,"
she went on, a little sharply. "Your friend Miss Dalstan is a lady who
understands things. When I arrived at the theatre this morning I found
that it was to be a permanent job all right, and there was a little
advance for me waiting in an envelope. That fat old Mr. Fink began to
cough and look at my clothes, so I got one in first. 'This is for me to
make myself look smart enough for your theatre, I suppose?' I said.
'Give me an hour off, and I'll do it.' So he grinned, and here I am. Done
a good day's work, too, copying the parts of your play for a road
company, and answering letters. What's wrong with you?"
The very sound of her voice was a tonic. He almost smiled as he answered
"Just a sort of hankering for the moon and a sudden fear lest I mightn't
"You're spoilt, that's what's the matter with you," she declared
"It never occurred to me," he said gloomily, "that life had been
"Oh, cut it out!" she answered. "Here you are not only set on your feet
but absolutely held up there; all the papers full of Merton Ware's
brilliant play, and Merton Ware, the new dramatist, with his social
gifts—such an acquisition to New York Society! Why, it isn't so very
long ago, after all, that you hadn't a soul in New York to speak to.
I saw something in your face that night. I thought you were hungry. So
you were, only it wasn't for food. It cheered you up even to talk with
me. And look at you to-day! Clubs and parties and fine friends, and there
you were, half dazed in Broadway! Be careful, man. You don't know what it
is to be down and out. You haven't been as near it as I have, anyway, or
you'd lift your head up and be thankful."
"Martha," he began earnestly—
"Miss Grimes!" she interrupted firmly. "Don't let there be any mistake
about that. I hate familiarity."
"Miss Grimes, then," he went on. "You talk about my friends. Quite right.
I should think I have been introduced to nearly a thousand people since
the night my play was produced. I have dined at a score of houses and
many scores of restaurants. The people are pleasant enough, too, but all
the time it's Merton Ware the dramatist they are patting on the back.
They don't know anything about Merton Ware the man. Perhaps there are
some of them would be glad to, but you see it's too soon, and they seem
to live too quickly here to make friends. I am almost as lonely as I was,
so far as regards ordinary companionship. Last night I felt the first
little glow of real friendliness—just the men down at the club."
"You've put all your eggs into one basket, that's what you've done," she
"That's true enough," he groaned.
"And like all men—selfish brutes!" she proceeded deliberately—"you
expect everything. Fancy expecting everything from a woman like Miss
Dalstan! Why, you aren't worthy of it, you know."
"Perhaps not," he admitted, "but you see, Miss Grimes, there is something
in life which seems to have passed you by up till now."
"Has it indeed!" she objected. "You think I've never had a young man, eh?
Perhaps you're right. Haven't found much time for that sort of rubbish.
Anyway, this is where I hop on a trolley car."
"Wait a moment," he begged. "Don't leave me yet. You've nothing to do,
"Nothing particular," she confessed, "except go home and cook my dinner."
"Look here," he went on eagerly, "I feel like work. I've got the second
act of my new play in my mind. Come round with me and let me try
dictating it. I'll give you something to eat in my rooms. It's for the
theatre, mind. I never tried dictating. I believe I could do it to you."
"In your rooms," she repeated, a little doubtfully.
"They won't talk scandal about us, Miss Grimes," he assured her. "To tell
you the truth, I want to be near the telephone."
"In case she rings you up, eh?"
"That's so. I said something I ought not to have done. I ought to have
waited for her, but it was something that had been tearing at me ever
since last night, and I couldn't bear it."
"Some blunderers, you men," Miss Grimes sighed. "Well, I'm with you."
He led her almost apologetically to the lift of the handsome building in
which his new rooms were situated. They were very pleasant bachelor
rooms, with black oak walls and green hangings, prints upon the wall, a
serviceable writing-table, and a deep green carpet. She looked around her
and at the servant who had come forward at their entrance, with a little
"Shall you be changing to-night, sir?" he asked.
"Not to-night," Philip answered quickly. "Tell the waiter to send up a
simple dinner for two—I can't bother to order. And two cocktails," he
added, as an afterthought.
Martha stared after the disappearing manservant disparagingly.
"Some style," she muttered. "A manservant, eh? Don't know as I ever saw
one before off the stage."
"Don't be silly," he remonstrated. "He has four other flats to look after
besides mine. It's the way one lives, nowadays, cheaper than ordinary
hotels or rooms. Take off your coat."
She obeyed him, depositing it carefully in a safe place. Then she
strolled around the room, finding pictures little to her taste, and
finally threw herself into an easy-chair.
"Are we going to work before we eat?" she asked.
"No, afterwards," he told her. "Have a cigarette?"
She held it between her fingers but declined a match.
"I'll wait for the cocktails," she decided. "Now listen here, Mr. Ware,
there's a word or two I'd like to say to you."
"Go ahead," he invited listlessly.
"You men," she continued, looking him squarely in the face, "think a lot
too much of yourselves. You think so much of yourselves that as often as
not you've no time to think of other folk. A month or so ago who were
you? You were hiding in a cheap tenement house, scared out of your wits,
dressed pretty near as shabbily as I was, with a detective on your track,
and with no idea of what you were going to do for a living. And now look
at you. Who's done it all?"
"Of course, my play being successful," he began—
She broke in at once.
"You and your play! Who took your play? Who produced it at the New York
Theatre and acted in it so that people couldn't listen without a sob in
their throats and a tingling all over? Yours isn't the only play in the
world! I bet Miss Dalstan has a box full of them. She probably chose
yours because she knew that you were feeling pretty miserable, because
she'd got sorry for you coming over on the steamer, because she has a
great big heart, and is always trying to do something for others. She's
made a man of you. Oh! I know a bit about plays. I know that with the
royalties you're drawing you can well afford rooms like these and
anything else you want. But that isn't all she's done. She's introduced
you to her friends, she's taken more notice of you than any man around.
She takes you out automobile driving, she lets you spend all your spare
time in her rooms. She don't mind what people say. You dine with her and
take her home after the play. You have more of her than any other person
alive. Say, what I want to ask is—do you think you're properly
"I couldn't ever repay Miss Dalstan," he acknowledged, a little sadly,
"Look here, no 'buts'!" she interrupted. "You think I don't know
anything. Perhaps I don't, and perhaps I do. I was standing in the door
of the office when you two came in from your automobile drive this
afternoon. I saw her come away without wishing you good-by, then I saw
her turn and nod, looking just as usual, and I saw her face afterwards.
If I had had you, my man, as close to me then as you are now, I'd have
boxed your ears."
He moved uneasily in his chair. There was no doubt about the girl's
earnestness. She was leaning a little forward, and her brown eyes were
filled with a hard, accusing light. There was a little spot of colour,
even, in her sallow cheeks. She was unmistakably angry.
"I'd like to know who you are and what you think yourself to make a woman
look like that?" she wound up.
The waiter entered with the cocktails and began to lay the cloth for
dinner. Philip paced the room uneasily until he had gone.
"Look here, my little friend," he said, when at last the door was closed,
"there's a great deal of sound common sense in what you say. I may be
an egoist—I dare say I am. I've been through the proper training for
it, and I've started life again on a pretty one-sided basis, perhaps.
But—have you ever been jealous?"
"Me jealous!" she repeated scornfully. "What of, I wonder?"
There was a suspicious glitter in her eyes, a queer little tremble in her
tone. His question, however, was merely perfunctory. She represented
little more to him, at that moment, than the incarnation of his own
"Very likely you haven't," he went on. "You are too independent ever to
care much for any one. Well, I've been half mad with jealousy since last
night. That is the truth of it. There's another man wants her, the man
who built the theatre for her. She told me about him yesterday while we
were out together."
"Don't you want her to be happy?" the girl asked bluntly.
"Of course I do."
"Then leave her alone to choose. Don't go about looking as though you had
a knife in your heart, if you find her turn for a moment to some one
else. You don't want her to choose you, do you, just because you are a
weakling, because her great kind heart can't bear the thought of making
you miserable? Stand on your feet like a man and take your luck…. Can I
take off my hat? I can't eat in this."
The waiter had entered with the dinner. Merton opened the door of his
room and paced up and down, for a few moments, thoughtfully. When she
reappeared she took the seat opposite Philip and suddenly smiled at him,
an exceedingly rare but most becoming performance. Her mouth seemed at
once to soften, and even her eyes laughed at him.
"Here you ask me to dine," she said, "because you are lonely, and I do
nothing but scold you! Never mind. I was typewriting something of yours
this morning—I've forgotten the words, but it was something about the
discipline of affection. You can take my scolding that way. If I didn't
adore Miss Dalstan, and if you hadn't been kind to me, I should never
take the trouble to make myself disagreeable."
He smiled back at her, readily falling in with her altered mood. She
seemed to have talked the ill-humour out of her blood, and during the
service of the meal she told him of the comfort of her work, the charm of
the other girl in the room, with whom she was already discussing a plan
to share an apartment. When she came to speak, however remotely, of Miss
Dalstan, her voice seemed instinctively to soften. Philip found himself
wondering what had passed between the two women in those few moments when
Elizabeth had left him and gone back to Martha's room. By some strange
miracle, the strong, sweet, understanding woman had simply taken
possession of the friendless child. The thought of her sat now in
Martha's heart, an obsession, almost a worship. Perhaps that was why the
sense of companionship between the two, notwithstanding certain obvious
disparities, seemed to grow stronger every moment.
They drank their coffee and smoked cigarettes afterwards in lazy fashion.
Suddenly Martha sprang up.
"Say, I came here to work!" she exclaimed.
"And I brought you under false pretences," he confessed. "My brain's not
working. I can't dictate. We'll try another evening. You don't mind?"
"Of course not," she answered, glancing at the clock. "I'll be going."
"Wait a little time longer," he begged.
She resumed her seat. There was only one heavily shaded lamp burning on
the table, and through the little cloud of tobacco smoke she watched him.
His eyes were sometimes upon the timepiece, sometimes on the telephone.
He seemed always, although his attitude was one of repose, to be
listening, waiting. It was half-past nine—the middle of the second
act. They knew quite well that for a quarter of an hour Elizabeth would
be in her dressing room. She could ring up if she wished. The seconds
ticked monotonously away. Martha found herself, too, sharing that
curiously intense desire to hear the ring of the telephone. Nothing
happened. A quarter to ten came and passed. She rose to her feet.
"I am going home right now," she announced.
He reached for his hat.
"I'll come with you," he suggested, a little halfheartedly.
"You'll do nothing of the sort," she objected, "or if you do, I'll never
come inside your rooms again. Understand that. I don't want any of these
Society tricks. See me home, indeed! I'd have you know that I'm better
able to take care of myself in the streets of New York than you are. So
thank you for your dinner, and just you sit down and listen for that
telephone. It will ring right presently, and if it doesn't, go to bed and
say to yourself that whatever she decides is best. She knows which way
her happiness lies. You don't. And it's she who counts much more than
you. Leave off thinking of yourself quite so much and shake hands with
me, please, Mr. Ware."
He gripped her hand, opened the door, and watched her sail down towards
the lift, whistling to herself, her hands in her coat pockets. Then he
turned back into the room and locked himself in.
The slow fever of inaction, fretting in Philip's veins, culminated soon
after Martha's departure in a passionate desire for a movement of some
sort. The very silence of the room maddened him, the unresponsive-looking
telephone, the fire which had burned itself out, the dropping even of the
wind, which at intervals during the evening had flung a rainstorm
against the windowpane. At midnight he could bear it no longer and
sallied out into the streets. Again that curious desire for companionship
was upon him, a strange heritage for one who throughout the earlier
stages of his life had been content with and had even sought a grim and
unending solitude. He boarded a surface car for the sake of sitting
wedged in amongst a little crowd of people, and he entered his club,
noting the number of hats and coats in the cloakroom with a queer sense
of satisfaction. He no sooner made his appearance in the main room than
he was greeted vociferously from half a dozen quarters. He accepted every
hospitality that was offered to him, drinking cheerfully with new as well
as old acquaintances. Presently Noel Bridges came up and gripped his
"Come and have a grill with us, Ware," he begged. "There's Seymour and
Richmond here, from the Savage Club, and a whole crowd of us. Hullo,
Freddy!" he went on, greeting the man with whom Philip had been talking.
"Why don't you come and join us, too? We'll have a rubber of bridge
"That's great," the other declared. "Come on, Ware. We'll rag old
Honeybrook into telling us some of his stories."
The little party gathered together at the end of the common table. Philip
had already drunk much more than he was accustomed to, but the only
result appeared to be some slight slackening of the tension in which he
had been living. His eyes flashed, and his tongue became more nimble. He
insisted upon ordering wine. He had had no opportunity yet of repaying
many courtesies. They drank his health, forced him into the place of
honour by the side of Honeybrook, veteran of the club, and ate their meal
to the accompaniment of ceaseless bursts of laughter, chaff, the popping
of corks, mock speeches, badinage of every sort. Philip felt, somehow,
that his brain had never been clearer. He not only held his own, but he
earned a reputation for a sense of humour previously denied to him. And
in the midst of it all the door opened and closed, and a huge man,
dressed in plain dinner clothes, still wearing his theatre hat, with a
coat upon his arm and a stick in his hand, passed through the door and
stood for a moment gazing around him.
"Say, that's Sylvanus Power!" one of the young men at the table
exclaimed. "Looks a trifle grim, doesn't he?"
"It's the old man, right enough," Noel Bridges murmured. "Wonder what he
wants down here? It isn't in his beat?"
Honeybrook, the great New York raconteur, father of the club, touched
Philip upon the shoulder.
"Hey, presto!" he whispered. "We who think so much of ourselves have
become pigmies upon the face of the earth. There towers the
representative of modern omnipotence. Those are the hands—grim,
strong-looking hands, aren't they?—that grip the levers of modern
American life. Rodin ought to do a statue of him as he stands there—art
and letters growing smaller as he grows larger. We exist for him. He
builds theatres for our plays, museums for our pictures, libraries for
"Seems to me he is looking for one of us," Noel Bridges remarked.
"Some pose, isn't it!" a younger member of the party exclaimed
reverently, as he lifted his tankard.
All these things were a matter of seconds, during which Sylvanus Power
did indeed stand without moving, looking closely about the room. Then his
eye at last lit upon the end of the table where Philip and his friends
were seated. He approached them without a word. Noel Bridges ventured
upon a greeting.
"Coming to join us, Mr. Power?" he asked.
Sylvanus Power, if he heard the question, ignored it. His eyes had rested
upon Philip. He stood over the table now, looming before them, massive,
in his way awe-inspiring.
"Ware," he said, "I've been looking for you."
Instinctively Philip rose to his feet. Tall though he was, he had to look
up at the other man, and his slender body seemed in comparison like a
willow wand. Nevertheless, the light in his eyes was illuminative. There
was no shrinking away. He stood there with the air of one prepared to
welcome, to incite and provoke storm whatever might be brewing.
"I have been to your rooms," Sylvanus Power went on. "They knew nothing
about you there."
"They wouldn't," Philip replied. "I go where I choose and when I choose.
What do you want with me?"
Conversation in the room was almost suspended. Those in the immediate
locality, well acquainted with the gossip of the city, held the key to
the situation. Every one for a moment, however, was spellbound. They felt
the coming storm, but they were powerless.
"I sought you out, Ware," Sylvanus Power continued, his harsh voice
ringing through the room, "to tell you what probably every other man here
knows except you. If you know it you're a fool, and I'm here to tell you
"Have you been drinking?" Philip asked calmly.
"Maybe I have," Sylvanus Power answered, "but whisky can't cloud my brain
or stop my tongue. You're looking at my little toy here," he went on,
twirling in his right hand a heavy malacca cane with a leaden top. "I
killed a man with that once."
"The weapon seems sufficient for the purpose," Philip answered
"Any other man," Sylvanus Power went on, "would have sat in the chair for
that. Not I! You don't know as much of me as you need to, Merton Ware.
I'm no whippersnapper of a pen-slinger, earning a few paltry dollars by
writing doggerel for women and mountebanks to act. I've hewn my way with
my right arm and my brain, from the streets to the palace. They say that
money talks. By God! if it does I ought to shout, for I've more million
dollars than there are men in this room."
"Nevertheless," Philip said, growing calmer as he recognised the man's
condition, "you are a very insufferable fellow."
There had been a little murmur throughout the room at the end of Sylvanus
Power's last blatant speech, but at Philip's retort there was a hushed,
almost an awed silence. Mr. Honeybrook rose to his feet.
"Sir," he said, turning to Power, "to the best of my belief you are not a
member of this club."
"I am a member of any club in America I choose to enter," the intruder
declared. "As for you writing and acting popinjays, I could break the lot
of you if I chose. I came to see you, Ware. Come out from your friends
and talk to me."
Philip pushed back his chair, made his way deliberately round the head of
the table, brushing aside several arms outstretched to prevent his going.
Sylvanus Power stood in an open space between the tables, swinging his
cane, with its ugly top, in the middle of his hand. He watched Philip's
approach and lowered his head a little, like a bull about to charge.
"If you have anything to say to me," Philip observed coolly, "I am here,
but I warn you that there is one subject which is never discussed within
these walls. If you transgress our unwritten rule, I shall neither listen
to what you have to say nor will you be allowed to remain here."
"And what is that subject?" Sylvanus Power thundered.
"No woman's name is mentioned here," Philip told him calmly.
Several of the men had sprung to their feet. It seemed from Power's
attitude as though murder might be done. Philip, however, stood his
ground almost contemptuously, his frame tense and poised, his fists
clenched. Suddenly the strain passed. The man whose face for a moment had
been almost black with passion, lowered his cane, swayed a little upon
his feet, and recovered himself.
"So you know what I've come here to talk about, young man?" he demanded.
"One can surmise," Philip replied. "If you think it worth while, I will
accompany you to my rooms or to yours."
Philip in those few seconds made a reputation for himself which he never
lost. The little company of men looked at one another in mute
acknowledgment of a courage which not one of them failed to appreciate.
"I'll take you at your word," Sylvanus Power decided grimly. "Here,
boys," he went on, moving towards the table where Philip had been seated,
"give me a drink—some rye whisky. I'm dry."
Not a soul stirred. Even Noel Bridges remained motionless. Heselton, the
junior manager of the theatre, met the millionaire's eye and never
flinched. Mr. Honeybrook knocked the ash from his cigar and accepted the
role of spokesman.
"Mr. Power," he said, "we are a hospitable company here, and we are at
all times glad to entertain our friends. At the same time, the privileges
of the club are retained so far as possible for those who conform to a
reasonable standard of good manners."
There was a sudden thumping of hands upon the table until the glasses
rattled. Power's face showed not a single sign of anger. He was simply
puzzled. He had come into touch with something which he could not
understand. There was Bridges, earning a salary at his theatre, to be
thrown out into the streets or made a star of, according to his whim;
Heselton, a family man, drawing his salary, and a good one, too, also
from the theatre; men whose faces were familiar to him—some of them, he
knew, on newspapers in which he owned a controlling interest. The power
of which he had bragged was a real enough thing. What had come to these
men that they failed to recognise it?—to this slim young boy of an
Englishman that he dared to defy him?
"Pretty queer crowd, you boys," he muttered.
Philip, who had been waiting by the door, came a few steps back again.
"Mr. Power," he said, "I don't know much about you, and you don't seem to
know anything at all about us. I am only at present a member by courtesy
of this club, but it isn't often that any one has reason to complain of
lack of hospitality here. If you take my advice, you'll apologise to
these gentlemen for your shockingly bad behaviour when you came in. Tell
them that you weren't quite yourself, and I'll stand you a drink myself."
"That goes," Honeybrook assented gravely. "It's up to you, sir."
Mr. Sylvanus Power felt that he had wandered into a cul-de-sac. He had
found his way into one of those branch avenues leading from the great
road of his imperial success. He was man enough to know when to turn
"Gentlemen," he said, "I offer you my apologies. I came here in a furious
temper and a little drunk. I retract all that I said. I'll drink to your
club, if you'll allow me the privilege."
Willing hands filled his tumbler, and grateful ones forced a glass
between Philip's fingers. None of them really wanted Sylvanus Power for
"Here's looking at you all," the latter said. "Luck!" he muttered,
glancing towards Philip.
They all drank as though it were a rite. Philip and Sylvanus Power set
their glasses down almost at the same moment. Philip turned towards the
"I am at your service now, Mr. Power," he announced. "Good night, you
There was a new ring of friendliness in the hearty response which came
from every corner of the room.
"So long, old fellow!"
"Good night, old chap!"
There was a little delay in the cloakroom while the attendant searched
for Philip's hat, which had been temporarily misplaced. Honeybrook, who
had followed the two men out of the room, fumbling for a moment in his
locker and, coming over to Philip, dropped something into the latter's
"Rather like a scene in a melodrama, isn't it, Ware," he whispered, "but
I know a little about Sylvanus Power. It's only a last resource, mind."
Philip fetched his hat, and the two men stepped out on to the pavement. A
servant in quiet grey livery held open the door of an enormous motor car.
Sylvanus Power beckoned his companion to precede him.
"Home," he told the man, "unless," he added, turning to Philip, "you'd
rather go to your rooms?"
"I am quite indifferent," Philip replied.
They drove off in absolute silence, a silence which remained unbroken
until they passed through some elaborate iron gates and drew up before a
mansion in Fifth Avenue.
"You'll wait," Sylvanus Power ordered, "and take this gentleman home.
This way, sir."
The doors rolled open before them. Philip caught a vista of a wonderful
hall, with a domed roof and stained glass windows, and a fountain playing
from some marble statuary at the further end. A personage in black took
his coat and hat. The door of a dining room stood open. A table, covered
with a profusion of flowers, was laid, and places set for two. Mr.
Sylvanus Power turned abruptly to a footman.
"You can have that cleared away," he directed harshly. "No supper will be
He swung around and led the way into a room at the rear of the hall, a
room which, in comparison with Philip's confused impressions of the rest
of the place, was almost plainly furnished. There was a small oak
sideboard, upon which was set out whisky and soda and cigars; a great
desk, covered with papers, before which a young man was seated; two
telephone instruments and a phonograph. The walls were lined with books.
The room itself was long and narrow. Power turned to the young man.
"You can go to bed, George," he ordered. "Disconnect the telephones."
The young man gathered up some papers, locked the desk in silence, bowed
to his employer, and left the room without a word. Power waited until the
door was closed. Then he stood up with his back to the fireplace and
pointed to a chair.
"You can sit, if you like," he invited. "Drink or smoke if you want to.
"Thank you," Philip replied. "I'd rather stand."
"You don't want even to take a chair in my house, I suppose,"
Mr. Sylvanus Power went on mockingly, "or drink my whisky or
smoke my cigars, eh?"
"From the little I have seen of you," Philip confessed, "my inclinations
are certainly against accepting any hospitality at your hands."
"That's a play-writing trick, I suppose," Sylvanus Power sneered,
"stringing out your sentences as pat as butter. It's not my way. There's
the truth always at the back of my head, and the words ready to fit it,
but they come as they please."
"I seem to have noticed that," Philip observed.
"What sort of a man are you, anyway?" the other demanded, his heavy
eyebrows suddenly lowering, his wonderful, keen eyes riveted upon Philip.
"Can I buy you, I wonder, or threaten you?"
"That rather depends upon what it is you want from me?"
"I want you to leave this country and never set foot in it again. That's
what I want of you. I want you to get back to your London slums and
write your stuff there and have it played in your own poky little
theatres. I want you out of New York, and I want you out quick."
"Then I am afraid," Philip regretted, "that we are wasting time. I
haven't the least intention of leaving New York."
"Well, we'll go through the rigmarole," Power continued gruffly. "We've
got to understand one another. There's my cheque book in that safe. A
million dollars if you leave this country—alone—within twenty-four
hours, and stay away for the rest of your life."
Philip raised his eyebrows. He was lounging slightly against the desk.
"I should have no use for a million dollars, Mr. Power," he said. "If I
had, I should not take it from you, and further, the conditions you
suggest are absurd."
"Bribery no good, eh?" Mr. Power observed. "What about threats? There was
a man once who wrote a letter to a certain woman, which I found. I killed
him a few days afterwards. There was a sort of a scuffle, but it was
murder, right enough. I am nearer the door than you are, and I should say
about three times as strong. How would a fight suit you?"
Ware's hand was in his overcoat pocket.
"Not particularly," he answered. "Besides, it wouldn't be fair. You see,
I am armed, and you're not."
As though for curiosity, he drew from his pocket the little revolver
which Honeybrook had slipped into it. Power looked at it and shrugged his
"We'll leave that out, then, for the moment," he said. "Now listen to me.
I'm off on another tack now. Eight years ago I met Elizabeth Dalstan. I
was thirty-eight years old then—I am forty-six now. You young men
nowadays go through your life, they tell me, with a woman on your hands
most of the time, waste yourself out in a score of passions, go through
the same old rigmarole once a year or something like it. I was married
when I was twenty-four. I got married to lay my hands on the first ten
thousand dollars I needed. My wife left me fifteen years ago. You may
have read of her. She was a storekeeper's daughter then. She has a flat
in Paris now, a country house in England, a villa at Monte Carlo and
another at Florence. She lives her life, I live mine. She's the only
woman I'd ever spoken a civil word to until I met Elizabeth Dalstan,
Philip was interested despite his violent antipathy to the man.
"A singular record of fidelity," he remarked suavely.
"If you'd drop that play-acting talk and speak like a man, I'd like you
better," Sylvanus Power continued. "There it is in plain words. I lived
with my wife until we quarrelled and she left me, and while she lived
with me I thought no more of women than cats. When she went, I thought
I'd done with the sex. Elizabeth Dalstan happened along, and I found I
hadn't even begun. Eight years ago we met. I offered her at once
everything I could offer. Nothing doing. We don't need to tell one
another that she isn't that sort. I went off and left her, spent a
winter in Siberia, and came home by China. I suppose there were women
there and in Paris. I was there for a month. I didn't see them. Then
America. Elizabeth Dalstan was still touring, not doing much good for
herself. I hung around for a time, tried my luck once more—no go. Then I
went back to Europe, offered my wife ten million and an income for a
divorce. It didn't suit her, so I came back again. The third time I found
Elizabeth discouraged. If ever a man found a woman at the right time, I
did. She is ambitious—Lord knows why! I hate acting and the theatres and
everything to do with them. However, I tried a new move. I built that
theatre in New York—there isn't another place like it in the world—and
offered it to her for a birthday present. Then she began to hesitate."
"Look here," Philip broke in, "I know all this. I know everything you
have told me, and everything you can tell me. What about it? What have
you got to say to me?"
"This," Sylvanus Power declared, striking the desk with his clenched
fist. "I have only had one consolation all the time I have been
waiting—there has been no other man. Elizabeth isn't that sort. Each
time I was separated and came back, I just looked at her and I knew.
That's why I have been patient. That is why I haven't insisted upon my
debt being paid. You understand that?"
"I hear what you say."
Power crossed the room, helped himself to whisky, and returned to his
place with the tumbler in his hand. There was a brief silence. A little
clock upon the mantelpiece struck two. The street sounds outside had
ceased save for the hoot of an occasional taxicab. Philip was conscious
of a burning desire to get away. This man, this great lump of power and
success, standing like a colossus in his wonderful home, infuriated him.
That a man should live who thought he had a right such as he claimed,
"Well," Power proceeded, setting down the tumbler empty, "you won't be
bought. How am I going to get you out of the way?"
"You can't do it," Philip asserted. "I am going to-morrow morning to
Elizabeth, and I am going to pray her to marry me at once."
Power swayed for a single moment upon his feet. The teeth gleamed between
his slightly parted lips. His great arm was outstretched, its bursting
muscles showing against the sleeve of his dinner coat. His chest was
"If you do it," he shouted, "I'll close the theatre to-morrow and sack
every one in it. I'll buy any theatre in New York where you try to
present your namby-pamby play. I'll buy every manager she goes to for an
engagement, every newspaper that says a word of praise of any work of
yours. I tell you I'll stand behind the scenes and pull the strings which
shall bring you and her to the knowledge of what failure and want mean.
I'll give up the great things in life. I'll devote every dollar I have,
every thought of my brain, every atom of my power, to bringing you two
face to face with misery. That's if I keep my hands off you. I mayn't do
Philip shrugged his shoulders.
"If I put you in a play," he said, "which is where you really belong,
people would find you humorous. Your threats don't affect me at all, Mr.
Power. Elizabeth can choose."
Power leaned over to the switch and turned on an electric light above
"Blast you, let me look at you!" he thundered. "You're a white-faced,
sickly creature to call yourself a man! Can't you see this thing as I see
it? You're the sort that's had women, and plenty of them. Another will do
for you, and, my God! she is the only one I've looked at—I, Sylvanus
Power, mind—I, who have ruled fate and ruled men all my life—I want
her! Don't be a fool! Get out of my path. I've crushed a hundred such men
as you in my day."
Philip took up his hat.
"We are wasting time," he observed. "You are a cruder person than I
thought you, Mr. Power. I am sorry for you, if that's anything."
"Sorry for me? You?"
"Very," Philip continued. "You see, you've imbibed a false view of life.
You've placed yourself amongst the gods and your feet really are made of
very sticky clay…. Shall I find my own way out?"
"You can find your way to hell!" Power roared. "Use your toy pistol, if
you want to. You're going where you'll never need it again!"
He took a giant stride, a stride which was more like the spring of a
maddened bull, towards Philip. The veneer of a spurious civilisation
seemed to have fallen from him. He was the great and splendid animal,
transformed with an overmastering passion. There was murder in his eyes.
His great right arm, with its long, hairy fingers and its single massive
ring, was like the limb of some prehistoric creature. Philip's brain and
his feet, however, were alike nimble. He sprang a little on one side, and
though that first blow caught him just on the edge of the shoulder and
sent him spinning round and round, he saved himself by clutching at the
desk. Fortunately, it was his left arm that hung helpless by his side.
His fingers groped feverishly in the cavernous folds of his overcoat
pocket. Power, who had dashed against the wall, smashing the glass of one
of the pictures, had already recovered his balance and turned around. The
little revolver, with whose use Philip was barely acquainted, flashed
suddenly out in the lamplight. Even in that lurid moment he kept his
nerve. He aimed at the right arm outstretched to strike him, and pulled
the trigger. Through the little mist of smoke he saw a spasm of pain in
his assailant's face, felt the thundering crash of his other arm,
striking him on the side of the head. The room spun round. There was a
second almost of unconsciousness…. When he came to, he was lying with
his finger pressed against the electric bell. Power was clutching the
desk for support, and gasping. The sober person in black, with a couple
of footmen behind, were already in the room…. Their master turned to
"There has been an accident here," he groaned, "nothing serious. Take
that gentleman and put him in the car. It's waiting outside for him.
Telephone round for Doctor Renshaw."
For a single moment the major-domo hesitated. The weapon was still
smoking in Philip's hand. Then Power's voice rang out again in furious
"Do as I tell you," he ordered. "If there's one of you here opens his
lips about this, he leaves my service to-morrow. Not a dollar of pension,
mind," he added, his voice shaking a little.
The servant bowed sombrely.
"Your orders shall be obeyed, sir," he promised.
He took up the telephone, and signed to one of the footmen, who helped
Philip to the door. A moment afterwards the latter sank back amongst the
cushions, a little dizzy and breathless, but revived almost instantly by
the cool night air. He gave the chauffeur his address, and the car glided
through the iron gates and down Fifth Avenue.
Philip was awakened the next morning by the insistent ringing of the
telephone at his elbow. He took up the receiver, conscious of a sharp
pain in his left shoulder as he moved.
"Is this Mr. Merton Ware?" a man's smooth voice enquired.
"I am speaking for Mr. Sylvanus Power. Mr. Sylvanus Power regrets very
much that he is unable to lunch with Mr. Ware as arranged to-day, but he
is compelled to go to Philadelphia on the morning train. He will be glad
to meet Mr. Ware anywhere, a week to-day, and know the result of the
matter which was discussed last night."
"To whom am I speaking?" Philip demanded. "I don't know anything about
lunching with Mr. Power to-day."
"I am Mr. Power's secretary, George Lunt," was the reply. "Mr. Power's
message is very clear. He wishes you to know that he will not be in New
York until a week to-day."
"How is Mr. Power?" Philip enquired.
"He met with a slight accident last night," the voice continued, "and is
obliged to wear his arm in a sling. Except for that he is quite well. He
has already left for Philadelphia by the early train. He was anxious that
you should know this."
"Thank you very much," Philip murmured, a little dazed.
He sprang out of bed, dressed quickly, hurried over his coffee and rolls,
boarded a cross-town car, and arrived at the Monmouth House flats just in
time to meet Martha Grimes issuing into the street. She was not at all
the same Martha. She was very neatly dressed, her shoes were nicely
polished, her clothes well brushed, her gloves new, and she wore a bunch
of fresh-looking violets in her waistband. She started in surprise as
Philip accosted her.
"Whatever are you doing back in the slums?" she demanded. "Any fresh
"Nothing particular," Philip replied, turning round and falling into step
with her. "I can't see my way, that's all, and I want to talk to you.
You're the most human person I know, and you understand Elizabeth."
"Gee!" she smiled. "This is the lion and the mouse, with a vengeance. You
can walk with me, if you like, as far as the block before the theatre.
I'm not going to arrive there with you, and I tell you so straight."
"No followers, eh?"
"There's no reason to set people talking," she declared. "Their tongues
wag fast enough at the theatre, as it is. I've only been there for one
day's work, and it seems to me I've heard the inside history of every one
connected with the place."
"That makes what I have to say easier," he remarked. "Just what do they
say about Miss Dalstan and Mr. Sylvanus Power?"
She looked at him indignantly.
"If you think you're going to worm things out of me—"
"Don't be foolish," he interrupted, a little wearily. "How could you know
anything? You are only the echo of a thousand voices. I could find out,
if I went where they gossip. I don't. In effect I don't care, but I am up
against a queer situation. I want to know just what people think of them.
Afterwards I'll tell you the truth."
"Well, they profess to think," she said slowly, "that the theatre belongs
to Miss Dalstan, and that she—"
"Stop, please," he interrupted. "I know you hate saying it, and I know
quite well what you mean. Well, what about that?"
"It isn't my affair."
"It isn't true," he told her.
"Whether it's true or not, she is one of the best women in the world,"
Martha declared vigorously.
"There isn't any doubt about that, either," he assented. "This is the
situation. Listen. Sylvanus Power has been in love with Elizabeth for the
best part of his life. He built that theatre for her and offered it—at a
price. She accepted his terms. When the time came for payment, he saw her
flinch. He went away again and has just come back. She is face to face
now with a decision, a decision to which she is partly committed. In the
meantime, during these last few months, Elizabeth and I have become great
friends. You know that I care for her. I think that she cares for me. She
has to make up her mind. Martha, which is she to choose?"
"How do you want me to answer that?" the girl asked, slackening her pace
a little. "I'm not Miss Dalstan."
"From her point of view," he explained eagerly. "This man Power is madly
and I believe truly in love with her. In his way he is great; in his way,
too, he is a potentate. He can give her more than luxury, more, even,
than success. You know Elizabeth," he went on. "She is one of the finest
women who ever breathed, an idealist but a seeker after big things. She
deserves the big things. Is she more likely to find them with me or with
"Power's wife is still alive," she ruminated.
"And won't accept a divorce at present," he observed. "If ever she does,
of course he will marry her. That has to be taken into account not
morally but the temporal side of it. We know perfectly well that whatever
Elizabeth decides, she couldn't possibly do wrong."
Martha smiled a little grimly.
"That's what it is to be born in the clouds," she said. "There is no sin
for a good woman."
He looked at her appreciatively.
"I wonder how I knew that you would understand this," he sighed.
Suddenly he clutched at her arm. She glanced up in surprise. He was
staring at a passer-by. Her eyes followed his. In a neat morning suit,
with a black bowler hat and well-polished shoes, a cigar in his mouth and
a general air of prosperity, Mr. Edward Dane was strolling along
Broadway. He passed without a glance at either of them. For a moment
Philip faltered. Then he set his teeth and walked on. There was an ashen
shade in his face. The girl looked at him and shook her head.
"Mr. Ware," she said, "we haven't talked much about it, but there is
something there behind, isn't there, something you are terrified about,
something that might come, even now?"
"She knows about it," he interposed quickly.
"Would it be very bad if it came?"
"If she were your wife—?"
"She would be notorious. It would ruin her."
"Do you think, then," she asked quietly, "that you needed to come and ask
He walked on with his head high, looking upwards with unseeing eyes. A
little vista of that undisturbed supper table on the other side of the
marble hall, a dim perspective of those eight years of waiting, flitted
through his brain. The lord of that Fifth Avenue Mansion was in earnest,
right enough, and he had so much to offer.
"It will break me if I have to give her up," he said simply. "I believe I
should have gone overboard, crossing the Atlantic, but for her."
"There are some women," she sighed, "the best of all women, the joy of
whose life seems to be sacrifice. That sounds queer, don't it, but it's
true. They're happy in misfortune, so long as they are helping some one
else. She is wonderful, Elizabeth Dalstan. She may even be one of those.
You'll find that out. You'd better find out for yourself. There isn't any
one can help you very much."
"I am not sure that you haven't," he said. "Now I'll go. Where did you
get your violets, Martha? Had them in water since last night, haven't
She made a little grimace at him.
"A very polite young gentleman at the box office sent us each a bunch
directly we started work yesterday. I've only had a few words with him
yet, but Eva—that's the other girl—she's plagued to death with fellows
already, so I'm going to take him out one evening."
Philip stopped short. They were approaching the theatre.
"Not a step further," he declared solemnly. "I wouldn't spoil your
prospects for worlds. Run along, my little cynic, and warm your hands.
Life's good at your age—better than when I found you, eh?"
"You don't think I am ungrateful?" she asked, a little wistfully.
He shook his head.
"You couldn't be that, Martha…. Good luck to you!"
She turned away with a little farewell wave of the hand and was lost at
once in the surging stream of people. Philip summoned a taxicab, sat far
back in the corner, and drove to his rooms. He hesitated for a moment
before getting out, crossed the pavement quickly, hurried into the lift,
and, arriving up-stairs, let down the latch of the outside door. Edward
Dane was back in New York! For a moment, the memory of the great human
drama in which he found himself a somewhat pathetic figure seemed
swallowed up by this sudden resurrection of a grisly tragedy. He looked
around his room a little helplessly. Against his will, that hideous
vision which had loomed up before him in so many moments of depression
was slowly reforming itself, this time not in the still watches of the
night but in the broad daylight, with the spring sunshine to cheer his
heart, the roar of a friendly city in his ears. It was no time for
dreams, this, and yet he felt the misery sweeping in upon him, felt all
the cold shivers of his ineffective struggles. Slowly that fateful
panorama unfolded itself before his memory. He saw himself step out with
glad relief from the uncomfortable, nauseous, third-class carriage, and,
clutching his humble little present in his hand, cross the flinty
platform, climb the long, rain-swept hill, keeping his head upraised,
though the very sky seemed grimy, battling against the miserable
depression of that everlasting ugliness. Before him, at least, there
was his one companion. There would be kind words, sympathy, a cheerful
fireside, a little dreaming, a little wandering into that world which
they had made for themselves with the help of such treasures as that
cheap little volume he carried. And then the last few steps, the open
door, the room, its air at first of wonderful comfort, and then the queer
note of luxury obtruding itself disquietingly, the picture on the
mantelpiece, her coming. He had never been in love with Beatrice. He knew
that now perfectly well. He had simply clung to her because she was the
only living being who knew and understood, because they had mingled their
thoughts and trodden the path of misery together. Removed now from that
blaze of passion, smouldering perhaps in him through previous years of
discontent, but which leaped into actual and effective life for the first
time in those few moments, he realised a certain justice in her point of
view, a certain hard logic in the way she had spoken of life and their
relations. There had been so little real affection between them. So
little had passed which might have constituted a greater bond. It was his
passionate outburst of revolt against life, whose drear talons seemed to
have fastened themselves into his very soul, which had sent him out with
murder in his brain to seek the man who had robbed him of the one thing
which stood between him and despair; the pent-up fury of a lifetime which
had tingled in his blood and had given him the strength of the navvy in
those few minutes by the canal side.
He covered his face with his hands, strode around the room, gazing wildly
out over the city, trying to listen to the clanging of the surface cars,
the rumble of the overhead railway in the distance, the breaking of the
long, ceaseless waves of human feet upon the pavement. It was useless. No
effort of his will could keep from his brain the haunting memory of those
final moments—the man's face, handsome and well-satisfied at first, the
careless greeting, the sudden change, the surprise, the apprehension, the
ghastly fear, the agony! He heard the low, gurgling shriek of terror; he
looked into the eyes with the fear of hell before them! Then he heard the
splash of the black, filthy water.
There was a cry. It was several seconds before he realised that it had
broken from his lips. He looked around him like a hunted creature. There
was another terror now—the gloomy court with its ugly, miserable
paraphernalia—the death, uglier still, death in disgrace, a sordid,
ghastly thing! And in his brain, too, there was so much dawning, so many
wonderful ideas craving for fulfilment. These few months had been months
of marvellous development. The power of the writer had seemed to grow,
hour by hour. His brain was full of fancies, exquisite fancies some of
them. It was a new world growing up around him and within him, too
beautiful a world to leave. Yet, in those breathless moments, fear was
the dominant sensation. He felt a coward to his fingertips…
He walked up and down the room feverishly, as a man might pace a prison
in the first few moments of captivity. There was no escape! If he
disappeared again, it would only rivet suspicion the more closely. There
was no place to which he could fly, no shelter save on the other side of
the life which he had just begun to love. His physical condition began to
alarm him. He felt his forehead by accident and found it damp with sweat.
His heart was beating irregularly with a spasmodic vigour which brought
pain. He caught sight of his terror-stricken face in the looking-glass,
and the craving to escape from his frenzied solitude overcame all his
other resolutions. He rushed to the telephone, spoke with Phoebe, waited
breathlessly whilst she fetched his mistress to the instrument.
"I want to see you," he begged, as soon as he was conscious of her
presence at the other end. "I want to see you at once."
"Has anything happened?" she asked quickly.
"Yes!" he almost groaned. "I can't tell you—"
"I will be with you in ten minutes," she promised.
He set the receiver down. Those ten minutes were surely the longest which
had ever ticked their way into Eternity! And then she came. He heard the
lift stop and his door open. There was a moment's breathless silence as
their eyes met, then a little gathering together of the lines of her
forehead, a half querulous, half sympathetic smile. She shook her head at
"You've had one of those silly nervous attacks," she declared. "Tell me
at once why?"
"Dane is back—I saw him on the pavement this morning!" he exclaimed. "He
has been to England to find out!"
She made him sit down and seated herself by his side.
"Listen," she said, "Dane came back on the Orinoco, the day before
yesterday. I saw his name in the paper. If his voyage to England had been
a success, which it could not have been, you would have heard from him
"I didn't think of that," he muttered.
"I have never asked you," she went on, "to tell me exactly what happened
behind there. I don't want to know. Only I have a consciousness—I had
from the first, when you began to talk to me about it—that your fears
were exaggerated. If you have been allowed to remain safe all this time,
you will be safe always. I feel it, and I am always right in these
things. Now use your own common sense. Tell me truthfully, don't you
think it is very improbable that anything could be discovered?"
"That anything could be proved," he admitted eagerly, "yes!"
"Then don't be silly. No one is likely to make accusations and attempt a
case unless they had a definite end in view. We are safe even from the
Elletania people. Mr. Raymond Greene has ceased to talk of your
wonderful resemblance to Douglas Romilly. Phoebe—the only one who could
really know—will never open her lips. Now take me for a little walk. We
will look in the shops in Fifth Avenue and lunch at the Ritz-Carlton. Go
and brush yourself and make yourself look respectable. I'll have a
cigarette and read the paper…. No, I won't, I'll look over these loose
sheets and see how you are getting on."
He disappeared into his room for a few minutes. When he returned she was
entirely engrossed. She looked up at him with something almost of
reverence in her face.
"When did you write this?" she asked.
"Yesterday, most of it," he answered. "There is more of it—I haven't
finished yet. When you send me away this afternoon, I shall go on. That
is only the beginning. I have a great idea dawning."
"What you have written is wonderful," she said simply. "It makes me feel
almost humble, makes me feel that the very best actress in the world
remains only an interpretress. Yes, I can say those words you have
written, but they can never be mine. I want to be something more than an
intelligent parrot, Philip. Why can't you teach me to feel and think
things like that?"
"You!" he murmured, as he took her arm and led her to the door. "You
could feel all the sweetest and most wonderful things in heaven. The
writer's knack is only a slight gift. I put on paper what lives in your
She raised her head, and he kissed her lips. For a moment he held her
quite quietly. Her arms encircled him. The perfume of her clothes, her
hair, her warm, gentle touch, seemed like a strong sedative. If she said
that he was safe, he must be. It was queer how so often at these times
their sexes seemed reversed; it was he who felt that womanly desire for
shelter and protection which she so amply afforded him. She patted his
"Now for our little walk," she said. "Open the windows and let out all
these bad fancies of yours. And listen," she went on, as they stepped out
of the lift a moment or two later, and passed through the hall towards
the pavement, "not a word about our own problem. We are going to talk
nonsense. We are going to be just two light-hearted children in this
wonderful city, gazing at the sights and taking all she has to offer us.
I love it, you know. I love the noise of it. It isn't a distant, stifled
roar like London. There's a harsh, clarion-like note about it, like metal
striking upon metal. And the smell of New York—there isn't any other
city like it! When we get into Fifth Avenue I am going to direct your
attention to the subject of hats. Have you ever bought a woman's hat,
"Never," he answered, truthfully enough.
"Then you are going to this morning, or rather you are going to help me
to choose one," she declared, "and in a very few moments, too. There
is a little place almost underground in Fifth Avenue there, and a
Frenchwoman—oh, she is so French!—and all her assistants have black
hair and wear untidy, shapeless clothes and velvet slippers. It isn't New
York at all, but I love it, and I let them put their name on the
programme. They really don't charge me more than twice as much as they
ought to for my hats. We go down here," she added, descending some steps,
"and if you make eyes at any of the young women I shall bring you
straight out again."
They spent half an hour choosing a hat and nearly two hours over lunch.
It was late in the afternoon before she dropped him at his rooms. Not a
word had they spoken of Sylvanus Power or their future, but Philip was a
different man. Only, as he turned and said good-by, his voice trembled.
"I can't say thank you," he muttered, "but you know!"…
The lift was too slow for him. He opened his door with almost breathless
haste. He only paused to light a cigarette and change his coat and wheel
his table round so as to catch the afternoon light more perfectly. Then,
with his brain teeming with fancies, he plunged into his work.
Philip let the pen slip at last from his tired fingers. The light had
failed. He had been writing with straining eyes, almost in the darkness.
But there was something else. Had it been fancy or … This time there
could be no mistake. He had not heard the lift stop, but some one was
knocking softly at the door, softly but persistently. He turned his head.
The room seemed filled with shadows. He had written for hours, and he was
conscious that his limbs were stiff. The sun had gone down in a cloudy
sky, and the light had faded. He could scarcely distinguish the articles
of furniture at the further end of the room. For some reason or other he
felt tongue-tied. Then, without any answer from him to this mysterious
summons, the handle of the door slowly turned. As he sat there he saw it
pushed open. A woman, wrapped in a long coat, stepped inside, closing it
firmly behind her. She stood peering around the room. There was something
familiar and yet unfamiliar in her height, her carriage. He waited,
spellbound, for her voice.
"Douglas!" she exclaimed. "Ah, there you are!"
The words seemed to die away, unuttered, upon his lips. He suddenly
thought that he was choking. He stared at her blankly. It was impossible!
She came a step further into the room. Her hand was stretched out
"So I've found you, have I, Douglas?" she cried, and there was a note of
bitter triumph in her words, "found you after all these months! Aren't
you terrified? Aren't you afraid? No wonder you sit there, shrinking
away! Do you know what I have come for?"
He tried to speak, but his lips were as powerless to frame words as his
limbs were to respond to his desire for movement. This was the one thing
which he had not foreseen.
"You broke your promise," she went on, raising her voice a little in
passionate reproach. "You left me there alone to face dismissal, without
a penny, and slipped off yourself to America. You never even came in to
wish me good-by. Why? Tell me why you went without coming near me?… You
won't, eh? You daren't. Be a man. Out with it. I am here, and I know the
For the first time some definite sound came from his lips.
"Beatrice!" he gasped.
"Ah!" she mocked. "You can remember my name, then? Douglas, I knew that
you were a bad man. I knew that when you told me how you meant to cheat
your creditors, how you meant to escape over here on the pretext of
business, and bring all the money you could scrape together. I knew that,
and yet I was willing to come with you, and I should have come. But there
was one thing I didn't reckon upon. I didn't know that you had the heart
or the courage to be a murderer!"
The little cry that broke from his lips was stifled even before it was
"I shall never forgive you!" she sobbed. "I never want to touch your
bloodstained fingers! I have forgotten that I ever loved you. You're
horrible—do you hear?—horrible! And yet, I don't mean to be left to
starve. That's why I've followed you. You're afraid I am going to give
you up to justice? Well, I don't know. It depends…. Turn on the lights.
I want to see you. Do you hear? I want to see how you can face me. I want
to see how the memory of that afternoon has dealt with you. Do as I tell
you. Don't stand there glowering at me."
He crossed the room with stumbling footsteps.
"You've learnt to stoop, anyhow," she went on. "You're thinner,
too…. My God!"
The room was suddenly flooded with light. Philip, rigid and ghastly, was
looking at her from the other side of the table. She held up her hands as
though to shut out the sight of him.
"Philip!" she shrieked. "Philip!… Oh, my God!"
Her eyes were lit with horror as she swayed upon her feet. For a moment
she seemed about to collapse. Then she groped her way towards the door
and stood there, clinging to the handle. Slowly she looked around over
her shoulder, her face as white as death. She moistened her lips with her
tongue, her eyes glared at him. Behind, her brain seemed to be working.
Her first spasm of inarticulate fear passed.
"Philip—-alive!" she muttered. "Alive!… Speak! Can't you speak to me?
Are you a ghost?"
"Of course not," he answered, with a calm which surprised him. "You can't
have forgotten in less than six months what I look like."
A new expression struggled into her face. She abandoned her grasp of the
handle and came back to her former position.
"Look here," she faltered, "if you are Philip Romilly, where's
he—Douglas?… Where's Douglas?"
There was no answer. Philip simply looked at her. She began to shake once
more upon her feet.
"Where's Douglas?" she demanded fiercely. "Tell me? Tell me quickly,
before I go mad! If you are Philip Romilly alive, if it wasn't your body
they found, where's Douglas?"
"You can guess what happened to him," Philip said slowly. "I met him on
the towing-path by the side of the canal. I spoke to him—about you.
He answered me with a jest. I think that all the passion of those
grinding years of misery swept up at that moment from my heart. I was
strong—God, how strong I was! I took him by the throat, Beatrice. I
watched his face change. I watched his damned, self-satisfied complacency
fade away. He lost all his smugness, and his eyes began to stare at me,
and his lips grew whiter as they struggled to utter the cries for mercy
which choked back. Then I flung him in—that's all. Splash!… God, I can
hear it now! I saw his face just under the water. Then I went on."
"You went on?" she repeated, trembling in every limb.
"I picked up the pocketbook which I had shaken out of his clothes in
that first struggle. I studied its contents, and it gave me an idea. I
went to Liverpool, stayed at the hotel where he had engaged rooms,
dressed myself in his clothes, and went on the steamer in his place. I
travelled to New York as Mr. Douglas Romilly of the Douglas Romilly Shoe
Company, occupied my room at the Waldorf under that name. Then I
disappeared suddenly—there were too many people waiting to see me. I
took the pseudonym which he had carefully prepared for himself and hid
for a time in a small tenement house. Then I rewrote the play. There you
have my story."
"You—murdered him, Philip!… You!"
"It was no crime," he continued calmly, filled with a queer sense of
relief at the idea of being able to talk about it. "My whole life, up
till that day, had been one epitome of injustice and evil fortune. You
were my one solace. His life—well, you know what it had been. Everything
was made easy for him. He had a luxurious boyhood, he was sent to
college, pampered and spoilt, and passed on to a dissipated manhood. He
spent a great fortune, ruined a magnificent business. He lived, month by
month, hour by hour, for just the voluptuous pleasures which his wealth
made possible to him. That was the man I met on the canal bank that
afternoon. You know the state I was in. You know very well the grievance
I had against him."
"You had no right to interfere," she said dully. "If I chose to accept
what he had to give, it was my business. There never had been over-much
affection between you and me. We were just waifs together. Life wouldn't
give us what we wanted. I had made up my mind months before to escape
whenever the opportunity came. Douglas brought it to me and I snatched at
it. I am not accepting any blame."
He leaned towards her.
"Neither am I," he declared. "Do you remember we used to talk about the
doctrine of responsibility? I am a pervert. I did what I had to do, and
I am content."
She stood quite still for several moments. Then she took out the pins
from her hat, banged it upon the table, opened her tweed coat, came round
to the fireside, and threw herself into an easy-chair. Her action was
portentous and significant.
"Tell me how you found me out?" he asked, after a brief pause.
"I was dismissed from Detton Magna," she told him. "I had to go and
be waiting-maid to Aunt Esther at Croydon. I took the place of her
maid-of-all-work. I scrubbed for my living. There wasn't anything else. I
hadn't clothes to try for the bolder things, not a friend in the world,
but I was only waiting. I meant, at the first chance, to rob Aunt Esther,
to come to London, dress myself properly, and find a post on the stage,
if possible. I wasn't particular. Then one day a man came to see me—an
American. He'd travelled all the way from New York because he was
interested in what he called the mysterious Romilly disappearance. He
knew that I had been Douglas' friend. He asked me to come out and
identify—you! He offered me my passage, a hundred pounds, and to give me
a start in life here, if I needed it. So I came out with him."
"With Dane," he muttered.
"Yes, that was his name—Mr. Edward Dane. I came out to identify
"You weren't going to give him away?" Philip asked curiously.
"Of course not. I should have made my bargain, and then, after I had
scared Douglas for leaving me as he did, I should have said that it
wasn't the man. And instead—I found you!"
He tapped the table with his fingers, restlessly. A new hope was forming
in his brain. This, indeed, might be the end of all his troubles.
"Listen," he said earnestly, "Dane has always suspected me. Sometimes I
have wondered whether he hadn't the truth at the back of his head. You
can make me safe forever."
She made no reply. Her eyes were watching his face. She seemed to be
waiting to hear what else he had to say.
"Don't you understand?" he went on impatiently. "You have only to tell
Dane that I am neither Douglas nor Philip, but curiously like both, and
he will chuck the thing up. He must. Then I shall be safe. You see that,
"Yes, I see that," she admitted.
"Tell me exactly how much of Douglas' money you have spent?" she
"Only the loose money from the pocketbook. Not all of that. I am earning
She leaned across the table.
"What about the twenty thousand pounds?"
"I haven't touched it," he assured her, "not a penny."
"On your honour?"
He rose silently and went to his desk, unlocked one of the drawers, and
drew from a hidden place a thin strip of paper. He smoothed it out on the
table before her.
"There's the deposit note," he said,—"Twenty thousand pounds to the
joint or separate credit of Beatrice Wenderley and Douglas Romilly, on
demand. The money's there still. I haven't touched it."
She gripped the paper in her fingers. The sight of the figures seemed to
fascinate her. Then she looked around.
"How can you afford to live in a place like this, then?" she demanded
suspiciously. "Where does your money come from?"
"The play," he told her.
"What, all this?" she exclaimed.
"It is a great success. The theatre is packed every night. My royalties
come every week to far more than I could spend."
She looked once more around her, gripped the deposit note in her fingers,
and leaned back in her chair. She laughed curiously. Her eyes had
travelled back to Philip's anxious face.
"Wonderful!" she murmured. "You paid the price, but you've won. You've
had something for it. I paid the price, and up till now—"
She stared at the paper in her hand. Then she looked away into the fire.
"I can't get it all into my head," she went on. "I pictured him here,
living in luxury, spending the money of which he had promised me a
share … and he's dead! That was his body—that unrecognisable thing
they found in the canal. You killed him—Douglas! He was so fond of life,
"Fond of the things which meant life to him," Philip muttered.
"I should never have believed that you had the courage," she observed
ruminatingly. "After all, then, he wasn't faithless. He wasn't the brute
I thought him."
She sat thinking for what seemed to him to be an interminable time. He
broke in at last upon her meditations.
"Well," he asked, "what are you going to say to Dane?"
"I shan't give you away—at least I don't think so," she promised
cautiously. "I shall see. Presently I will make terms, only this time I
am not going to be left. I am going to have what I want."
"But he'll be waiting to hear from you!" Philip exclaimed. "He may come
She shook her head.
"He's gone to Chicago. He can't be back for five days. I promised to
wire, but I shan't. I'll wait until he's back. And in the meantime—"
Her fingers closed upon the deposit note. He nodded shortly.
"That's yours," he said. "You can have it all. I have helped myself to a
fresh start in life at his expense. That's all I wanted."
She folded up the paper and thrust it carefully into the bosom of her
gown. Then she stood up.
"Well," she pronounced, "I think I am getting used to things. It's
wonderful how callous one can become. The banks are closed now, I
"They will be open at nine o'clock in the morning."
"First of all, then," she decided, "I'll make sure of my twenty thousand
pounds, and then we'll see. I don't think you'll find me hard, Philip. I
ought not to be hard on you, ought I?"
She looked at him most kindly, and he began to shiver. Curiously enough,
her very kindness, when he realised the knowledge which lay behind her
brain, was hateful to him. He had pleaded for her forgiveness, even her
toleration, but—anything else seemed horrible! She strolled across the
room and glanced at the clock, took one of his cigarettes from a box and
"Well, this is queer!" she murmured reflectively. "Now I want some
dinner, and I'll see your play, Philip. You shall take me. Get ready
He looked at her doubtfully.
"But, Beatrice," he protested, "think! You know why you came here? You
know the story you will have to tell? We are strangers, you and I. What
if we are seen together?"
She snapped her fingers at him.
"Pooh! Who cares! I am a stranger in New York, and I have taken a fancy
to you. You are a young man of gallantry, and you are going to take me
out…. We often used to talk of a little excursion like this in London.
We'll have it in New York instead."
He turned slowly towards the door of his bedroom. She was busy looking at
her own eyes in the mirror, and she missed the little gleam of horror in
"In ten minutes," he promised her.
Beatrice replaced the programme which she had been studying, on the ledge
of the box, and turned towards Philip, who was seated in the background.
There was something a little new in her manner. Her tone was subdued, her
"You really are a wonderful person, Philip," she declared. "It's the same
play, just as you used to tell it me, word for word. And yet it isn't.
What is it that you have gained, I wonder?—a sense of atmosphere,
breadth, something strangely vital."
"I am glad you like it," he said simply.
"Like it? It's amazing! And what an audience! I never thought that the
people were so fashionable here, Philip. I am sitting right back in the
box, but ten minutes after I have cashed my draft tomorrow I shall be
buying clothes. You won't be ashamed to be seen anywhere with me then."
He drew his chair up to her side, a little haggard and worn with the
suspense of the evening. She laughed at him mockingly.
"What an idiot you are!" she exclaimed. "You ought to be one of the
happiest men in the world, and you look like a death's-head."
"The happiest man in the world," he repeated.
"Beatrice, sometimes I think that there is only one thing in the world
that makes for happiness."
"And what's that, booby?" she asked, with some of her old familiarity.
"A clear conscience."
She laid her hand upon his arm.
"Look here, Philip," she said, "the one thing I determined, when I threw
up the sponge, was that whether the venture was a success or not I'd
never waste a single moment in regrets. Things didn't turn out too
brilliantly with me, as you know. But you—see what you've attained! Why,
it's wonderful! Your play, the one thing you dreamed about, produced in
one of the greatest cities in the world, and a packed house to listen to
it, people applauding all the time. I didn't realise your success when we
talked this evening. I am just beginning to understand. I've been reading
some of these extracts from the newspapers. You're Merton Ware, the great
dramatist, the coming man of letters. You've won, Philip. Can't you see
that it's puling cowardice to grumble at the price?"
He, for his part, was wondering at her callousness, of which he was
constantly discovering fresh evidences. The whole shock of her discovery
seemed already, in these few hours, to have passed away.
"If you can forget—so soon," he muttered, "I suppose I ought to be able
She made a little grimace, but immediately afterwards he saw the cold
tightening of her lips.
"Listen, Philip," she said. "I started life with the usual quiverful of
good qualities, but there's one I've lost, and I don't want it back
again. I'm a selfish woman, and I mean to stay a selfish woman. I am
going to live for myself. I've paid a fair price, and I'm going to have
what I've paid for. See?"
"Do you think," he asked, "that it is possible to make that sort of
bargain with one's self and fate?"
She laughed scornfully.
"There's room for a little stiffening in you, even now, Philip! No one
but a weakling ever talks about fate. You'd think better of me, I
suppose, if I stayed in my room and wept. Well, I could do it if I let
myself, but I won't. I should lose several hours of the life that belongs
to me. You think I didn't care about Douglas? I am not at all sure that I
didn't care for him as much as I ever did for you, although, of course,
he wasn't worthy of it. But he's gone, and all the shudders and morbid
regrets in the world won't bring him back again. And I am here in New
York, and to-morrow I shall have twenty thousand pounds, and to-night I
am with you, watching your play. That's life enough for me at present—no
more, no less. I hate missing the first act, and I'm coming to see it
again to-morrow. What time is it over?"
"Soon after eleven," he told her.
She glanced at her watch.
"You shall take me out and give me some supper," she decided, "somewhere
where there's music."
He made no remark, but she surprised again something in his face which
"Look here, Philip," she said firmly, "I won't have you look at me as
though I were something inhuman. There are plenty of other women like me
in the world, even if they are not quite so frank about it. I want to
live, and I will live, and I grudge every moment out of which I am not
extracting the fullest amount of happiness. That's because I've paid.
It's the woman's bargaining instinct, you know. She wants to get
value…. Now I want to hear about Miss Dalstan. Where did you meet her,
and how did you get her to accept your play?"
"She was on the Elletania," he explained. "We crossed from Liverpool
together. She sat at my table."
"How much does she know about you?" Beatrice asked bluntly.
"Everything," he confessed. "I don't know what I should have done without
her. She has been the most wonderful friend any one could have."
Beatrice looked at him a little critically.
"You're a queer person, Philip," she exclaimed. "You're not fit to go
about alone, really. Good thing I came over to take care of you, I
"You don't understand," he replied. "Miss Dalstan is—well, unlike
anybody else. She wants to see you. I am to take you round after the next
act, if you would like to go."
Beatrice smiled at him in a gratified manner.
"I've always wanted to go behind the scenes," she admitted. "I'll come
with you, with pleasure. Perhaps if I decide that I'd like to go on the
stage, she may be able to help me. How much is twenty thousand pounds in
"A little over a hundred thousand," he told her.
"I don't suppose they think that much out here," she went on
ruminatingly. "The hotel where Mr. Dane sent me—it's nice enough, in its
way, but very stuffy as regards the people—is twice as expensive as it
would be in London. However, we shall see."
The curtain rang up on the third act, and Beatrice, seated well back in
the shadows, followed the play attentively, appreciated its good points
and had every appearance of both understanding and enjoying it.
Afterwards, she rose promptly to her feet, still clapping.
"I'm longing to meet Miss Dalstan, Philip," she declared. "She is
wonderful. And to think that you wrote it—that you created the part for
her! I am really quite proud of you."
She laughed at his embarrassment, affecting to ignore the fact that it
was less the author's modesty than some queer impulse of horror which
seemed to come over him when any action of hers reminded him of their
past familiarity. He hurried on, piloting her down the corridor to the
door of Elizabeth's dressing room. In response to his knock they were
bidden to enter, and Elizabeth, who was lying on a couch whilst a maid
was busy preparing her costume for the next act, held out her hand with a
little welcoming smile.
"I am so glad to see you, Miss Wenderley," she said cordially. "Philip,
bring Miss Wenderley over here. You'll forgive my not getting up, won't
you? I have to rest for just these few minutes before the next act."
Beatrice was for a moment overpowered. The luxury of the wonderful
dressing room, with its perfect French furniture, its white walls hung
with a few choice sketches, the thick rugs upon the polished wood floor,
the exquisite toilet table with its wealth of gold and tortoiseshell
appurtenances—Elizabeth herself, so beautiful and gracious—even a
hurried contemplation of all these things took her breath away. She felt
suddenly acutely conscious of the poverty of her travelling clothes, of
her own insignificance.
"Won't you sit down for a moment?" Elizabeth begged, pointing to a chair
by her side. "You and I must be friends, you know, for Philip's sake."
Beatrice recovered herself a little. She sank into the blue satin chair,
with its ample cushions, and looked down at Elizabeth with something very
much like awe.
"I am sure Philip must feel very grateful to you for having taken his
play," she declared. "It has given him a fresh chance in life."
"After all he has gone through," Elizabeth said gently, "he certainly
deserves it. It is a wonderfully clever play, you know … don't blush,
"I heard the story long ago," Beatrice observed, "only of course it
sounded very differently then, and we never dreamed that it would really
"Philip has told me about those days," Elizabeth said. "I am afraid that
you, too, have had your share of unhappiness, Miss Wenderley. I only hope
that life in the future will make up to you something of what you have
The girl's face hardened. Her lips came together in familiar fashion.
"I mean it to," she declared. "I am going to make a start to-morrow. I
wish, Miss Dalstan, you could get Philip to look at things a little more
cheerfully. He has been like a ghost ever since I arrived."
Elizabeth turned and smiled at him sympathetically.
"Your coming must have been rather a shock," she reminded Beatrice. "You
came with the idea, did you not, that—you would find Mr. Douglas
The girl nodded and glanced around for the maid, who had disappeared,
however, into an inner apartment.
"They were always alike," she confided,—"the same figures, same shaped
head and that sort of thing. Douglas was a little overfond of life,
though, and Philip here hasn't found out yet what it means. It was a
shock, though, Miss Dalstan. Philip was sitting in the dark when I
arrived at his rooms this evening, and—I thought it was Douglas."
Elizabeth shivered a little.
"Don't let us talk about it," she begged. "You must come and see me,
won't you, Miss Wenderley? Philip will tell you where I live. Are you
going back to England at once?"
"I haven't made up my mind yet," the girl replied, with a slight frown.
"It just depends."
Elizabeth glanced at the little clock upon her table, and Philip threw
away his cigarette and came forward.
"We must go, Beatrice," he announced. "Miss Dalstan has to change her
dress for this act."
He held out his hand and Elizabeth rose lightly to her feet. So far, no
word as to their two selves had passed their lips. She smiled at him and
all this sense of throbbing, almost theatrical excitement subsided. He
was once more conscious of the beautiful things beyond. Once more he felt
the rest of her presence.
"You must let me see something of you tomorrow, Philip," she said.
"Telephone, will you? Good night, Miss Wenderley."
The maid, who had just returned, held the door open. Philip glanced back
over his shoulder. Elizabeth blew him a kiss, a gesture which curiously
enough brought a frown to Beatrice's face.
The close of the performance left them both curiously tongue-tied. They
waited until the theatre was half empty before they left their seats.
Then they joined the little throng of stragglers at the end.
"Your play!" she murmured, as they faced the soft night air. "I can't
believe it, even now. We've seen it together—your play—and this is
New York! That's a new ending, isn't it?"
"Absolutely," he confessed. "The ending was always what bothered me, you
She laughed, not quite naturally. She was unexpectedly impressed.
"So you're a genius, after all," she went on. "Sometimes I wondered—but
never mind that now. Philip, do you know I am starving? We took exactly
ten minutes over dinner!"
He led her to a huge restaurant a few doors away, where they found a
corner table. Up in the balcony an orchestra was playing light music, and
a little crowd of people were all the time streaming through the doors.
Beatrice settled herself down with an air of content. Few of the people
were in evening dress, and the tone of the place was essentially
democratic. Philip, who had learnt a little about American dishes, gave
an order, and Beatrice sipped her cocktail with an air of growing
"Queer idea, this, but the stuff tastes all right," she acknowledged. "I
suppose, if you were taking your dear Miss Dalstan out, you'd go to a
different sort of place, eh?"
"We generally go further up town," he admitted unthinkingly.
She set her glass down quickly.
"So you do take her out, do you?" she asked coldly. "You'd have been with
her to-night, perhaps, if I hadn't been here?"
She was half inclined to rally him, behind it all a little annoyed.
"You're a nice sort of person! Why, it's only a few months ago since you
pretended to be in love with me!"
He looked at her, and her eyes fell before his.
"I don't think there was ever much question of our being in love with one
another, was there? We simply seemed to have drifted together because we
were both miserable, and then, as the time passed on—well, you came to
be my only solace against the wretchedness of that life."
She nodded appreciatively. For a moment the sights and sounds of the
noisy restaurant passed from her consciousness.
"Do you remember how glad I was to see you? How we used to spend our
holidays out in those dingy fields and hope and pray for better things
some day? But it was all so hopeless, wasn't it! You could barely keep
yourself from starving, and I—oh, the misery of that awful Detton Magna
and teaching those wretched children! There never were such children in
the world. I couldn't get their mothers to send them clean. They seemed
to have inherited all the vice, the bad language, the ugly sordidness
with which the place reeked. They were old men and women in wickedness
before they passed their first standard. It's a corner of the world I
never want to see again. I'd rather find hell! Have you ordered any wine,
Philip? I want to forget."
He pointed to the bottle which stood in the pail by their side, and
summoned a waiter. She watched it being opened and their glasses filled.
"This is like one of our fairy stories of the old days, isn't it?" she
said. "Well, I drink to you, Philip. Here's success to our new lives!"
She raised her glass and drained it. A woman had entered who reminded him
of Elizabeth, and his eyes had wandered away for a moment as Beatrice
pledged him. She called him back a little impatiently.
"Don't sit there as though you were looking at ghosts, Philip! Try and
remember who I am and what we used to mean to one another. Let us try
and believe," she added, a little wistfully, "that one of those dreams of
ours which we used to set floating like bubbles, has come true. We can
wipe out all the memories we don't want. That ought to be easy."
"Ought it?" he answered grimly. "There are times when I've found it
She laughed and looked about her. He realised suddenly that she was still
very attractive with her rather insolent mouth, her clear eyes, her silky
hair with the little fringe. People, as they passed, paid her some
attention, and she was frankly curious about everybody.
"Well," she went on presently, "thank heavens I have plenty of will
power. I remember nothing, absolutely nothing, which happened before this
evening. I am going to tell myself that an uncle in Australia has died
and left me money, and so we are here in New York to spend it. To-morrow
I am going to begin. I shall buy clothes—all sorts of clothes—and hats.
You won't know me to-morrow evening, Philip."
His heart sank. To-morrow evening!
"But Beatrice," he expostulated, "you don't think of staying out here, do
you? You don't know a soul. You haven't a friend in the city."
"What friends have I in England?" she retorted. "Not one! I may just as
well start a new life in a new country. It seems bright enough here, and
gay. I like it. I shall move to a different sort of hotel to-morrow. You
must help me choose one. And as to friends," she whispered, looking up at
him with a little provocative gleam in her eyes, "don't you count? Can't
you do what I am going to do, Philip? Can't you draw down that curtain?"
"I can't!" he muttered.
A waiter brought their first course, and she at once evinced interest in
her food. She returned to the subject, however, later on, after she had
drunk another glass of wine.
"You're a silly old thing, you know," she declared. "You found the
courage, somehow, to break away from that loathsome existence. You had
more courage, even, than I, because you ran a risk I never did. But here
you are, free, with the whole world before you, and your last danger
disappearing with the knowledge that I am ready to be your friend and
am sensible about everything that has happened. This ought to be an
immense relief to you, Philip. You ought to be the happiest man on earth.
And there you sit, looking like a death's-head! Look at me for a moment
like a human being, can't you? Drink some more wine. There must be some
strength, some manhood about you somewhere, or you couldn't have done
what you have done."
He filled his glass mechanically. She leaned across the table. Her eyes
were bright, her cheeks delicately pink.
"Courage, Philip," she murmured. "Remember that what you did … well, in
a way it was for my sake, wasn't it?—for love of me? I am here now and
we are both free. The old days are passed. Even their shadow cannot
trouble us any longer. Don't be a sentimentalist. Listen and I'll tell
you something—at the bottom of my heart I rather admire you for what you
did. Don't you want your reward?"
"No," he answered firmly, "I don't!"
She shrugged her shoulders and kept time with her foot to the music.
Across the table, although she kept silence for a while, she smiled at
him whenever she caught his eye. She was not angry, not even hurt. Philip
had always been so difficult, but in the end so easily led. She had
unlimited confidence in herself.
"Don't be a goose!" she exclaimed at last. "Of course you want your
reward, and of course you'll have it, some day! You've always lived with
your head partly in the clouds, and it's always been my task to pull you
down to earth. I suppose I shall have to do the same again, but to-night
I haven't patience. I feel suddenly gay. You are so nice-looking, Philip,
but you'd look ten times nicer still if you'd only smile once or twice
and look as though you were glad."
The whole thing was a nightmare to him. The horror of it was in his
blood, yet he did his best to obey. Plain speaking just then was
impossible. He drank glass after glass of wine and called for liqueurs.
She held his fingers for a moment under the table.
"Oh, Philip," she whispered, "can't you forget that you have ever been a
school-teacher, dear? We are only human, and did suffer so. You know,"
she went on, "you were made for the things that are coming to us. You've
improved already, ever so much. I like your clothes and the way you carry
yourself. But you look—oh, so sad and so far away all the time! When I
came to your rooms, at my first glimpse of you I knew that you were
miserable. We must alter all that, dear. Tell me how it is that with all
your success you haven't been happy?"
"Memories!" he answered harshly. "Only a few hours before you came,
I was in hell!"
"Then you had better make up your mind," she told him firmly, "that you
are going to climb up out of there, and when you're out, you're going to
stay out. You can't alter the past. You can't alter even the smallest
detail of its setting. Just as inevitably as our lives come and go, so
what has happened is finished with, unchangeable. It is only a weak
person who would spoil the present and the future, brooding. You used not
to be weak, Philip."
"I don't think that I am, really," he said. "I am moody, though, and
that's almost as bad. The sight of you brought it all back. And that
fellow Dane—I've been frightened of him, Beatrice."
"Well, you needn't be any longer," she declared. "What you want is some
one with you all the time who understands you, some one to drive back
those other thoughts when they come to worry you. It is really a very
good thing for you, dear, that I came out to New York. Mr. Dane is going
to be very disappointed when I tell him that I never saw you before in my
life…. Don't you love the music? Listen to that waltz. That was written
for happy people, Philip. I adore this place. I suppose we shall find
others that we like better, as time goes on, but I shall always think of
this evening. It is the beginning of my task, too, Philip, with you—for
you. What has really happened, dear? I can't realise anything. I feel as
though the gates of some great prison had been thrown wide-open, and
everything there was to long for in life was just there, within reach,
waiting. I am glad, so much gladder than I should have imagined possible.
It's wonderful to have you again. I didn't even feel that I missed you so
much, but I know now what it was that made life so appalling. Tell me, am
I still nice to look at?"
"Of course you are," he assured her. "Can't you understand that by the
way people notice you?"
She strummed upon the table with her fingers. Her whole body seemed to be
moving to the music. She nodded several times.
"I don't want them to notice me, Philip," she murmured. "I want you to
look just for a moment as though you thought me the only person in the
world—as you did once, you know."
He did his best to be responsive, but he was not wholly successful.
Nevertheless, she was tolerant with his shortcomings. They sat there
until nearly three o'clock. It was she at last who rose reluctantly to
"I want to go whilst the memory of it all is wonderful," she declared.
"Come. Here's a card with my address on. Drive me home now, please."
He paid his bill and they found a cab. She linked her arm through his,
her head sank a little upon his shoulder. He made no movement. She waited
for a moment, then she leaned back amongst the cushions.
"Philip," she asked quietly, "has this Elizabeth Dalstan been letting you
make love to her?"
"Please don't speak of Miss Dalstan like that," he begged.
"Answer my question," she insisted.
"Miss Dalstan has been very kind to me," he admitted slowly, "wonderfully
kind. If you really want to know, I do care for her."
"More than you did for me?"
"Very much more," he answered bravely, "and in a different fashion."
In the darkness of the cab it seemed to him that her face had grown
whiter. Her arm remained within his but it clasped him no longer. Her
body seemed to have become limp. Even her voice, firm though it was,
seemed pitched in a different key.
"Listen," she said. "You will have to forget Miss Dalstan. I have made up
my mind what I want in life and I am going to have it. I shall draw my
money to-morrow morning and afterwards I shall come straight to your
rooms. Then we will talk. I want more than just that money. I am lonely.
And do you know, Philip, I believe that I must have cared for you all the
time, and you—you must have cared for me a little or you would never
have done that for my sake. You must and you shall care, Philip, because
our time has come, and I want you, please—shall I have to say it,
dear?—I want you to marry me."
He wrenched himself free from her.
"That is quite out of the question, Beatrice," he declared.
She laughed at him mockingly.
"Oh, don't say that, Philip! You might tempt me to be brutal. You might
tempt me to speak horribly plain words to you."
"Speak them and have done with it," he told her roughly. "I might find a
"I am past hurting," she replied, "and I am not in the least afraid of
anything you could say. You robbed me of the man who was bringing me to
America—who would have married me some day, I suppose. Well, you must
pay, do you see, and in my way? I have told you the way I choose."
"You want me to marry you?" he demanded—"simply marry you? You do not
care whether I have any love for you or whether I loathe you now."
"You couldn't loathe me, could you?" she begged. "The thought of those
long days we spent together in our prison house would rise up and forbid
it. Kiss me."
"I will not!"
Her lips sought his, in vain. He pushed her away.
"Don't you understand?" he exclaimed. "There is another woman whom I have
kissed—whom I am longing to kiss now."
"But we are old friends," she pleaded, "and I am lonely. Kiss me how you
like. Don't be foolish."
He kissed her upon the cheek. She pulled down her veil. The cab had
stopped before the door of her hotel.
"You are not to worry any more about ugly things, Philip," she whispered,
holding his hand for a moment as he rang the bell for her. "You are safe,
remember—quite safe. I've come to take care of you. You need it so
badly…. Good night, dear!"
Late though it was when Philip reached his rooms, he found on his writing
table a message addressed to him from the telephone call office in the
building. He tore it open:
"Kindly ring up Number 551 Avenue immediately you return, whatever the
He glanced at the clock, hesitated, and finally approaching the
instrument called up Elizabeth's number. For a few moments he waited. The
silence in the streets outside seemed somehow to have become communicated
to the line, the space between them emptied of all the jarring sounds of
the day. It was across a deep gulf of silence that he heard at last her
"Yes? Is that you, Philip?"
"I am here," he answered. "I am sorry it is so late."
"Have you only just come in?"
"Has that girl kept you out till now?" she asked reprovingly.
"I couldn't help it," he replied. "It was her first night over here. I
took her to Churchill's for supper."
"Is everything—all right with her? She doesn't mean to make trouble?"
The unconscious irony of the question almost forced a smile to his lips.
"I don't think so," he answered. "She is thoroughly excited at the idea
of possessing the money. I believe she thought that Douglas would have
drawn it all. She is going straight to the bank, early in the morning, to
get hold of it."
"What about the man Dane?"
"He has gone to Chicago. He won't be back for several days."
There was a moment's pause.
"Have you anything to ask me?" she enquired.
"I have had the most extraordinary letter from Sylvanus. You and he have
"Yes," he admitted.
"Philip, we must make up our minds."
"You mean that you must make up your mind," he answered gently.
There was another silence. Then she spoke a little abruptly.
"I wonder whether you really love me, Philip…. No! don't, please—don't
try to answer such a foolish question. Go to bed and sleep well now.
You've had a trying day. Good night, dear!"
He had barely time to say good night before he heard the ring off. He set
down the receiver. Somehow, there was a sensation of relief in having
been, although indirectly, in touch with her. The idea of the letter from
Sylvanus Power affected him only hazily. The crowded events of the day
had somehow or other dulled his power of concentrated thought. He felt a
curious sense of passivity. He undressed without conscious effort, closed
his eyes, and slept until he was awakened by the movements of the valet
about the room.
Philip was still seated over his breakfast, reading the paper and
finishing his coffee, when the door was thrown suddenly open, and
Beatrice entered tumultuously. She laughed at his air of blank surprise.
"You booby!" she exclaimed. "I couldn't help coming in to wish you good
morning. I have just discovered that my hotel is quite close by here.
Lucky, isn't it, except that I am going to move. Good morning, Mr.
Serious Face!" she went on, leaning towards him, her hands behind her,
her lips held out invitingly.
He set down his paper, kissed her on the cheek, and looked inside the
"Have you had your breakfast?"
"Hours ago. I was too excited to sleep when I got to bed, and yet I feel
so well. Philip, where's Wall Street? Won't you take me there?"
He shook his head.
"I am expecting a visitor, and I have piles of work to do."
She made a grimace.
"I know I shall be terrified when I march up to the counter of the bank
and say I've come for twenty thousand pounds!"
"You must transfer it to a current account," he explained, "in your own
name. Have you any papers with you—for identification, I mean?"
"I've thought of all that. I've a photograph and a passport and some
letters. It isn't that I'm really afraid, but I hate being alone, and you
look so nice, Philip dear. I always loved you in blue serge, and I adore
your eyeglass. You really have been clever in the small things you have
done to change your appearance. Perhaps you are right not to come,
though," she went on, looking in the mirror. "These clothes are the best
I could get at a minute's notice. Mr. Dane was really quite nice, but he
hadn't the least idea how long it takes a woman to prepare for a journey.
Never mind, you wait until I get back here this afternoon! I am going
round to all the shops, and I am going to bring the clothes I buy away
with me. Then I am going to lock myself in my room and change everything.
I am going to have some of those funny little patent shoes, and silk
stockings—and, oh, well, all sorts of things you wouldn't understand
about. And do try and cheer up before I get back, please, Philip. Twelve
months ago you would have thought all this Paradise. Oh, I can't stop a
moment longer!" she wound up, throwing away the cigarette she had taken
from the box and lit. "I'm off now. And, Philip, don't you dare to go out
of these rooms until I come back!"
She turned towards the door—she was half-way there, in fact—when they
were both aware of a ring at the bell. She stopped short and looked
"Who's that?" she whispered.
Philip glanced at the clock. It was too early for Elizabeth.
"No idea," he answered. "Come in."
The door opened and closed. Philip sat as though turned to stone.
Beatrice remained in the middle of the room, her fingers clasping the
back of a chair. Mr. Dane, hat in hand, had entered.
"Good morning, Miss Wenderley!" he said. "Good morning, Mr. Ware!"
Philip said nothing. He had a horrible feeling that this was some trap.
Beatrice at first could only stare at the unexpected visitor. His sudden
appearance had disconcerted her.
"I thought you were in Chicago, Mr. Dane!" she exclaimed at last.
"My plans were altered at the last moment," he told her. "No, I won't sit
down, thanks," he added, waving away the chair towards which Philip had
pointed. "As a matter of fact, I haven't been out of New York. I decided
to wait and hear your news, Miss Wenderley."
"Well, you're going to be disappointed, then," she said bluntly. "I
Mr. Dane was politely incredulous. He was also a little stern.
"You mean," he protested, "that you cannot identify this gentleman—that
you don't recognise him as Mr. Douglas Romilly?"
"I cannot identify him," she repeated. "He is not Mr. Douglas Romilly."
"I have brought you all this way, then, to confront you with a stranger?"
"Absolutely," she insisted. "It wasn't my fault. I didn't want to come."
Mr. Dane's expression suddenly changed. His hard knuckles were pressed
upon the table, he leaned forward towards her. Even his tone was altered.
His blandness had all vanished, his grey eyes were as hard as steel.
"A stranger!" he exclaimed derisively. "Yet you come here to his rooms
early in the evening, you stay here, you go to the theatre with him the
same night, you go on to supper at Churchill's and stay there till three
o'clock in the morning, you are here with him again at nine o'clock—at
breakfast time. A stranger, Miss Wenderley? Think again! A story like
this might do for Scotland Yard. It won't do for us out here."
She knew at once that she had fallen into a trap, but she was not wholly
dismayed. The position was one which they had half anticipated. She told
herself that he was bluffing, that it was simply the outburst of a
disappointed man. On the whole, she behaved extraordinarily well.
"You brought me out here," she said, "to confront me with this man—to
identify him, if I could, as Mr. Douglas Romilly. Well, he isn't Mr.
Douglas Romilly, and that's all there is about it. As to my going out
with him last evening, I can't see that that's any concern of any one. He
was kind to me, cheered me up when he saw that I was disappointed; I told
him my whole story and that I didn't know a soul in New York, and we
became friends. That's all there is about it."
"That so?" the detective observed, with quiet sarcasm. "You seem to have
a knack of making friends pretty easily, Miss Wenderley."
"It is not your business if I have," she snapped.
"Well, we'll pass that, then," he conceded. "I haven't quite finished
with you yet, though. There are just one or two more points I am going to
put before you—and this gentleman who is not Mr. Douglas Romilly," he
added, with a little bow to Philip. "The first is this. There is one fact
which we can all three take for granted, because I know it—I can prove
it a hundred times over—and you both know it; and that is that the Mr.
Merton Ware of to-day travelled from Liverpool on the Elletania as Mr.
Douglas Romilly, occupied a room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel as Mr.
Douglas Romilly, and absconded from there, leaving his luggage and his
identity behind him, to blossom out in an attic of the Monmouth tenement
house as Mr. Merton Ware, a young writer of plays. Now I don't think,"
Mr. Dane went on, leaning a little further over the table, "that the Mr.
Douglas Romilly who has disappeared was ever capable of writing a play. I
don't think he was a man of talent at all. I don't think he could have
written, for instance, 'The House of Shams.' Let us, however, leave the
subject of Douglas Romilly for a moment. Let us go a little further
back—to Detton Magna, let us say. Curiously enough, there was another
young man who disappeared from that little Derbyshire village about the
same time, who has never been heard of since. His name, too, was Romilly.
I gathered, during the course of my recent enquiries, that he was a poor
relation, a cousin of Mr. Douglas Romilly."
"He was drowned in the canal," Beatrice faltered. "His body has been
"A body has been found," Mr. Dane corrected, "but it was in an
unrecognisable state. It has been presumed to be the body of Philip
Romilly, the poor relation, a starving young art teacher in London
with literary aspirations—but I hold that that presumption is a mistake.
I believe," the detective went on, his eyes fastened upon Philip, his
voice a little raised, "that it was the body of Douglas Romilly, the shoe
manufacturer, which was fished out from the canal, and that you, sir, are
Mr. Philip Romilly, late art-school teacher of Kensington, who murdered
Douglas Romilly on the banks of the canal, stole his money and
pocketbook, assumed his identity in Liverpool and on the Elletania, and
became what you are now—Mr. Merton Ware."
Philip threw away the cigarette which he had been smoking, and, leaning
over the box, carefully selected another. He tapped it against the table
and lit it.
"Mr. Dane," he said coolly, "I shall always be grateful to you for your
visit this morning, for you have given me what is the most difficult
thing in the whole world to stumble up against—an excellent idea for a
new play. Apart from that, you seem, for so intelligent a man, to have
wasted a good deal of your time and to have come, what we should call in
English, a cropper. I will take you into my confidence so far as to admit
that I am not particularly anxious to disclose my private history, but if
ever the necessity should arise I shall do so without hesitation. Until
that time comes, you must forgive me if I choose to preserve a certain
reticence as to my antecedents."
Mr. Dane, in the moment's breathless silence which followed, acknowledged
to himself the perpetration of a rare mistake. He had selected Philip to
bear the brunt of his attack, believing him to be possessed of the weaker
nerve. Beatrice, who at the end of his last speech had sunk into a chair,
white and terrified, an easy victim, had rallied now, inspired by
"You deny, then, that you are Mr. Philip Romilly?" the detective asked.
"I never heard of the fellow in my life," Philip replied pleasantly, "but
don't go, Mr. Dane. You can't imagine how interesting this is to me. You
have sent me a most charming acquaintance," he added, bowing to Beatrice,
"and you have provided me with what I can assure you is almost
pathetically scarce in these days—a new and very dramatic idea. Take a
seat, won't you, and chat with us a little longer? Tell us how you came
to think of all this? I have always held that the workings of a
criminologist's brain must be one of the most interesting studies in
Mr. Dane smiled enigmatically.
"Ah!" he protested, "you mustn't ask me to disclose all my secrets."
"You wouldn't care to tell us a little about your future intentions?"
Mr. Dane shook his head.
"It is very kind of you, Mr. Merton Ware," he confessed, "to let me down
so gently. We all make mistakes, of course. As to my future intentions,
well, I am not quite sure about them. You see, this isn't really my job
at all. It isn't up to me to hunt out English criminals, so long as they
behave themselves in this city. If an extradition order or anything of
that sort came my way, it would, of course, be different."
"Why not lay this interesting theory of yours before the authorities at
Scotland Yard?" Philip suggested. "I am sure they would listen with
immense interest to any report from you."
"That's some idea, certainly," the detective admitted, taking up his hat
from the table. "For the present I'll wish you both good morning—or
shall I say an revoir?"
"We may look for the pleasure of another visit from you, then?" Philip
The detective faced them from the doorway.
"Sir," he said to Philip, "I admire your nerve, and I admire the nerve of
your old sweetheart, Miss Wenderley. I am afraid I cannot promise you,
however, that this will be my last visit."
The door closed behind him. They heard the shrill summons of the bell,
the arrival of the lift, the clanging of the iron gate, and its
subsequent descent. Then Beatrice turned her head. Philip was still
smoking serenely, standing with his back to the mantelpiece, his hands in
his pockets. She rose and threw her arms around him.
"Philip!" she cried. "Why, you are wonderful! You are marvellous! You
make me ashamed. It was only for a moment that I lost my nerve, and you
saved us. Oh, what idiots we were! Of course he meant to watch—that's
why he told me he was going to Chicago. The beast!"
"He seems to have got hold of the idea all right, doesn't he?" Philip
"Pooh!" she exclaimed encouragingly. "I know a little about the law—so
do you. He hasn't any proof—he never can have any proof. No one will
ever be able to swear that the body which they picked out of the canal
was the body of Douglas Romilly. There wasn't a soul who saw you do it. I
am the only person in the world who could supply the motive, and I—I
shall never be any use to them. Don't you see, Philip?… I shall be your
wife! A wife can't give evidence against her husband! You'll be safe,
He withdrew a little from her embrace.
"Beatrice," he reminded her, "there is another tragedy beyond the one
with which Dane threatens us. I do not wish to marry you."
She suddenly blazed up.
"Not because of any reason in the world," he interrupted, "except that I
love Elizabeth Dalstan."
"Does she want to marry you?"
He was suddenly an altered person. Some of his confidence seemed to
desert him. He shook his head doubtfully.
"I am not sure. Sometimes I think that she would. Sometimes I fancy that
it is only a great kindness of heart, an immense sympathy, a kind of
protective sympathy, which has made her so good to me."
She looked at herself steadily for a moment in the mirror. Then she
pulled down her veil.
"Philip," she said, "we find out the truth when we are up against things
like this. I used to think I could live alone. I can't. Whatever you may
think of me, I was fond of Douglas. It wasn't only for the sake of the
money and the comfort. He was kind, and in his way he understood. And
then, you know, misery didn't agree with you. You were often, even in
those few hours we spent together, very hard and cold. Anyway," she
added, with a little tightening of the lips, "I am going to get my money
now. No one can stop that. You stay here and think it over. It would be
better to marry me, Philip, and be safe, than to have the fear of that
man Dane always before you. And wait—wait till you see me when I come
back!" she went on, her spirits rapidly rising as she moved towards the
door. "You'll change your mind then, Philip. You were always so
impressionable, weren't you? A little touch of colour, the perfume of
flowers, a single soft word spoken at the right moment—anything that
took your fancy made such a difference. Well—just wait till I come
She closed the door. Philip heard her descend in the lift. He moved to
the window and watched for her on the pavement. She appeared there in a
moment or two and waited whilst the boy whistled for a taxicab, her face
expectantly upraised, one hand resting lightly on her bosom, just over
the spot where her pocketbook lay.
Philip was still gazing into vacancy and smoking cigarettes when
Elizabeth arrived. She seemed conscious at once of the disturbed
atmosphere. His hands, which she held firmly in hers, were as cold as
"Is that girl going to be troublesome?" she demanded anxiously.
"Not in the way we feared," he replied. "All the same, the plot has
thickened so far as I am concerned. That fellow Dane has been here."
"Go on," she begged.
"He laid a trap for us, and we fell into it like the veriest simpletons.
He let Beatrice think that he had gone to Chicago. Of course, he did
nothing of the sort. He turned her loose to come to me, and he had us
watched. He knew that we spent last evening together as old friends. She
was here in my rooms this morning when he arrived."
"Oh, Philip, Philip!" she murmured. "Well, what does he suspect?"
"The truth! He accused me to my face of being Philip Romilly. Beatrice
did her best but, you see, the position was a little absurd. She denied
strenuously that she had ever seen me before, that I was anything but a
stranger to her. In the face of last evening, and his finding her here
this morning, it didn't sound convincing."
"What is Dane going to do?"
"Heaven knows! It isn't his affair, really. If there were any charge
against me—well, you see, there'd have to be an extradition order. I
should think he will probably lay the facts before Scotland Yard and let
them do what they choose."
She made him sit down and drew a low chair herself to his side. She held
his hand in hers.
"Philip," she said soothingly, "they can't possibly prove anything."
"They can prove," he pointed out, "that I was in Detton Magna that
afternoon. I don't think any one except Beatrice saw me start along the
canal path, but they can prove that I knew all about Douglas Romilly's
disappearance, because I travelled to America under his name and with his
ticket, and deliberately personated him."
"They can prove all that," she agreed, "but they can't prove the crime
itself. Beatrice is the only person who could do that."
"She proposes to marry me," he announced grimly. "That would prevent her
giving evidence at all."
Elizabeth suddenly threw her arms around his neck and held her cheek to
"She shan't marry you!" she declared. "I want you myself!"
"Yes, I have made up my mind, Philip. It is no use. The other things are
fascinating and splendid in their way, but they don't count, they don't
last. They're tinsel, dear, and I don't want tinsel—I want the gold.
We'll face this bravely, wherever it leads, however far, however deep
down, and then we'll start again."
"You know what this means, Elizabeth?" he faltered. "That man Power—"
She brushed the thought away.
"I know. He'll close the theatre. He'll do all he can to harm us. That
doesn't matter. The play is ours. That's worth a fortune. And the new one
coming—why, it's wonderful, Philip. We don't want wealth. Your brain and
my art can win us all that we desire in life. We shall have something
sweeter than anything which Sylvanus Power's millions could buy. We shall
have our love—your love for me, dear, and mine for you."
He felt her tears upon his cheek, her lips pressed to his. He held her
there, but although his heart was beating with renewed hope, he said
nothing for a time. When she stepped back to look at his face, however,
the change was already there.
"You are glad, Philip!" she cried. "You are happy—I can see it! You
didn't ever care really for that girl, did you?"
He almost laughed.
"Not like this!" he answered confidently. "I never even for a single
moment pretended to care in a great way. We were just companions in
misfortune. The madness that came over me that day had been growing in my
brain for years. I hated Douglas Romilly. I had every reason to hate him.
And then, after all he had robbed me of—my one companion—"
She stopped him.
"I know—I know," she murmured. "You need never try to explain anything
to me. I know everything, I understand, I sympathise."
A revulsion of feeling had suddenly chilled him. He held her to him none
the less tightly but there was a ring of despair in his tone.
"Elizabeth, think what it may mean!" he muttered. "How can I drag you
through it all? A trial, perhaps, the suspense, and all the time that
guilty knowledge behind—yours and mine!"
"Pooh!" she exclaimed lightly. "I am not a sentimentalist. I am a woman
"But, Elizabeth, I am guilty!" he groaned. "That's the horror of it! I'd
take the risk if I were an innocent man—I'd risk everything. But I am
afraid to stand there and know that every word they say against me will
be true, and every word of the men who speak in my defence will be false.
Can't you realise the black, abominable horror of it? I couldn't drag you
into such a plight, Elizabeth! I was weak to think of it. I couldn't!"
"You'll drag me nowhere," she answered, holding him tightly. "Where I go
my feet will lead me, and my love for you. You can't help that. We'll
play the game—play it magnificently, Philip. My faith in you will count
"But, dear," he protested, "don't you see? If the case ever comes into
court, even if I get off, every one will know that it is through a
technicality. The evidence is too strong. Half the world at least will
believe me guilty."
"It shan't come into court," she proclaimed confidently. "I shall talk to
Dane. I have some influence with the police authorities here. I shall
point out how ridiculous it all is. What's the use of formulating a
charge that they can never, never prove?"
"Unless," he reminded her hesitatingly, "Beatrice—"
"Beatrice! You're not afraid of her?"
"I am afraid of no one or anything," he declared, "when you are here! But
Beatrice has been behaving strangely ever since she arrived. She has a
sudden fancy for remembering that in a sense we were once engaged."
"Beatrice," Elizabeth announced, "must be satisfied with her twenty
thousand pounds. I know what you are trying to say—she wants you. She
shan't have you, Philip! We'll find her some one else. We'll be kind to
her—I don't mind that. Very soon we'll find her plenty of friends. But
as for you, Philip—well, she just shan't have you, and that's all there
is about it."
He took her suddenly into his arms. In that moment he was the lover she
had craved for—strong, passionate, and reckless.
"All the love that my heart has ever known," he cried, "is yours,
Elizabeth! Every thought and every hope is yours. You are my life. You
saved me—you made me what I am. The play is yours, my brain is yours,
there isn't a thought or a dream or a wish that isn't for you—of
He kissed her as he had never dreamed of kissing any woman. It was the
one supreme moment of their life and their love. Time passed
Then interruption came, suddenly and tragically. Without knock or ring,
the door was flung open and slammed again. Beatrice stood there, still in
her shabby clothes, her veil pushed back, gloveless and breathless. Her
clenched hand flew out towards Philip as though she would have struck
"You liar!" she shrieked. "You've had my money! You've spent it! You've
stolen it! Thief! Murderer!"
She paused, struggling for breath, tore her hat from her head and threw
it on the table. Her face was like the face of a virago, her eyes blazed,
her cheeks were as pale as death save for one hectic spot of colour.
"You are talking nonsense, Beatrice," he expostulated.
"Don't lie to me!" she shouted. "You can lie in the dock when you stand
there and tell them you never murdered Douglas Romilly! That makes you
cringe, doesn't it? I don't want to make a scene, but the woman you're in
love with had better hear what I have to say. Are you going to give me
back my money, Philip?"
"As I stand here," he declared solemnly, "I have not touched that money
or been near the bank where it was deposited. I swear it. Every penny I
have spent since I moved into this apartment, I have spent from my
earnings. My own royalties come to over a hundred pounds a week—more
than sufficient to keep me in luxury. I never meant to touch that
money. I have not touched it."
His words carried conviction with them. She stood there for several
seconds, absolutely rigid, her eyes growing larger and rounder, her lips
a little parted. Bewilderment was now struggling with her passion.
"Who in God's name, then," she asked hoarsely, "could have known about
the money and forged his signature! I tell you that I've seen it with my
own eyes, a few minutes ago, in the bank. They showed me into a little
cupboard, a place without any roof, and laid it there before me on the
desk—his cheque and signature for the whole amount."
Philip looked at her earnestly, oppressed by a sense of coming trouble.
"Beatrice," he said, "I wouldn't deceive you. I should be a fool to try,
shouldn't I? I can only repeat what I have said. I have never been near
the bank. I have never touched that money."
She shivered a little where she stood. It was obvious that she was
convinced, but her sense of personal injustice remained unabated.
"Then there is some one else," she declared, "who knows everything—some
one else, my man," she added, leaning across the table and shaking her
head with a sudden fierceness, "who can step into the witness box and
tell the truth about you. You must find out who it is. You must find out
who has stolen that money and get it back. I tell you I won't have
everything snatched away from me like this!" she cried, her voice
breaking hysterically, "I won't be robbed of life and happiness and
everything that counts! I want my money. Are you going to get it back for
"Beatrice, don't be absurd," he protested. "You know very well that I
can't do that. I am not in a position to go about making enquiries. I
shall be watched from now, day and night, if nothing worse happens. A
single step on my part in that direction would mean disaster."
"Then take me straight to the town hall, or the registry office, or
wherever you go here, and marry me," she demanded. "A hundred pounds a
week royalty, eh? Well, that's good enough. I'll marry you, Philip—do
you hear?—at once. That'll save your skin if it won't get me back my
twenty thousand pounds. You needn't flatter yourself overmuch, either.
I'd rather have had Douglas. He's more of a man than you, after all. You
are too self-conscious. You think about yourself too much. You're too
intellectual, too. I don't want those things. I want to live! Any way,
you've got to marry me—to-day. Now give me some money, do you hear?"
He took out his pocketbook and threw it towards her. She smoothed out the
wad of notes which it contained and counted them with glistening eyes.
"Well, there's enough here for a start," she decided, slipping them into
her bosom. "No one shall rob me of these before I get to the shops.
Better come with me, Philip. I'm not going to leave you alone with her."
Elizabeth would have intervened, but Philip laid his hand upon her arm.
"Beatrice," he said sternly, "you are a little beside yourself. Listen. I
don't understand what has happened. I must think about it. Apparently
that twenty thousand pounds has gone, but so far as regards money I
recognise your claim. You shall have half my earnings. I'll write more.
I'll make it up somehow. But for the rest, this morning has cleared
away many misunderstandings. Let this be the last word. Miss Dalstan has
promised to be my wife. She is the only woman I could ever love."
"Then you'll have to marry me without loving me," Beatrice declared
thickly. "I won't be left alone in this beastly city! I want some one to
take care of me. I am getting frightened. It's uncanny—horrible! I—oh!
I am so miserable—so miserable!"
She sank into a chair and fell forward across the table, sobbing
"I hate every one!" she moaned. "Philip, why can't you be kind to me!
Why doesn't some one care!"
And, after all, nothing happened. Dane's barely veiled threats seemed to
vanish like the man himself into thin air. Beatrice, after the breakdown
of her one passionate outburst, had become wonderfully meek and
tractable. Sylvanus Power, who had received from Elizabeth the message
for which he had waited, showed no sign either of disappointment or
anger. After the storm which had seemed to be breaking in upon him from
every quarter, the days which followed possessed for Philip almost the
calm of an Indian summer. He had found something in life at last stronger
than his turbulent fears. His whole nature was engrossed by one great
atmosphere of deep and wonderful affection. He spent a part of every day
with Elizabeth, and the remainder of his time was completely engrossed by
the work over which she, too, the presiding genius, pored eagerly.
Together they humoured many of Beatrice's whims, treating her very much
as an unexpected protegée, a position with which she seemed entirely
content. She made friends with the utmost facility. She wore new clothes
with frank and obvious joy. She preened herself before the looking-glass
of life, developed a capacity for living and enjoying herself which,
under the circumstances, was nothing less than remarkable.
And then came the climax of Philip's new-found happiness. His earnest
protests had long since been overruled, and certainly no one could have
accused him of posing for a single moment as the reluctant bridegroom.
The happiness which shone from their two faces seemed to brighten the
strangely unecclesiastical looking apartment, in which a cheerful and
exceedingly pleasant looking American divine completed the formalities of
their marriage. It was a queer little company who hurried back to
Elizabeth's room for tea—Elizabeth and Philip themselves, and Martha
Grimes and Beatrice sharing the attentions of Noel Bridges. For an
event of such stupendous importance, it was amazing how perfectly
matter-of-fact the two persons chiefly concerned were. There was only one
moment, just before they started for the theatre, when Elizabeth betrayed
the slightest signs of uneasiness.
"I sent a telegram, Philip," she said, "to Sylvanus Power. I thought I
had better. This is his answer."
Philip read the few typewritten words on the little slip of paper:
"You will hear from me within twenty-four hours."
Philip frowned a little as he handed it back. It was dated from
"I think," Elizabeth faltered, "he might have sent his good wishes, at
Philip laughed confidently.
"We have nothing to fear," he declared confidently, "from Sylvanus
"Nor from any one else in the world," Elizabeth murmured fervently.
Then followed the wonderful evening. Philip found Beatrice alone in the
stage box when he returned from taking Elizabeth to her dressing-room.
"Where's Martha?" he asked.
"Faithless," Beatrice replied. "She is in the stalls down there with a
young man from the box office. She said you'd understand."
"A serious affair?" Philip ventured.
"They are engaged. I had tea with them yesterday."
"We shall have to do something for you, Beatrice, soon," he remarked
A very rare gravity settled for a moment upon her face.
"I wonder, Philip," she said simply. "I thought, a little time ago, it
would be easy enough to care for the right sort of person. Perhaps I am
not really quite so rotten as I thought I was. Here comes Elizabeth.
Let's watch her."
They both leaned a little forward in the box, Philip in a state of
beatific wonder, which turned soon to amazement when, at Elizabeth's
first appearance, the house suddenly rose, and a torrent of applause
broke out from the floor to the ceiling. Elizabeth for a moment seemed
dumbfounded. The fact that the news of what had happened that afternoon
could so soon have become public property had not occurred to either her
or Philip. Then a sudden smile of comprehension broke across her face.
With understanding, however, came a momentary embarrassment. She looked a
little pathetically at the great audience, then laughed and glanced at
Philip, seated now well back in the box. Many of them followed her gaze,
and the applause broke out again. Then there was silence. She paused
before she spoke the first words of her part.
"Thank you so much," she said quietly.
It was a queer little episode. Beatrice gripped Philip's hand as she drew
her chair back to his. There were tears in her eyes.
"How they love her, these people! And fancy their knowing about it,
Philip, already! You ought to have shown yourself as the happy
bridegroom. They were all looking up here. I wonder why men are so shy.
I'm glad I have my new frock on…. Fancy being married only a few hours
ago! Tell me how you are feeling, can't you, Philip? You sit there
looking like a sphinx. You are happy, aren't you?"
"Happier, I think, than any man has a right to be," he answered, his eyes
watching Elizabeth's every movement.
As the play proceeded, his silence only deepened. He went behind at the
end of each act and spent a few stolen moments with Elizabeth. Life was a
marvellous thing, indeed. Every pulse and nerve in his body was tingling
with happiness. And yet, as he lingered for a moment in the vestibule of
the theatre, before going back to his box at the commencement of the last
act, he felt once more that terrible wave of depression, the ghostly
uprising of his old terrors even in this supreme moment. He looked down
from the panorama of flaring sky-signs into the faces of the passers-by
along the crowded pavement. He had a sudden fancy that Dane was there,
watching. His heart beat fiercely as he stood, almost transfixed,
scanning eagerly every strange face. Then the bell rang behind him. He
set his teeth and turned away. In less than half an hour the play would
be over. They would be on their way home.
He found the box door open and the box itself, to his surprise, empty.
There was no sign anywhere of Beatrice. He waited for a little time. Then
he rang the bell for the attendant but could hear no news of her. His
uneasiness increased as the curtain at last fell and she had not
returned. He hurried round to the back, but Elizabeth, when he told her,
"Why, there's nothing to worry about, dear," she said. "Beatrice can take
care of herself. Perhaps she thought it more tactful to hurry on home
tonight. She is really just as kind-hearted as she can be, you know,
Philip, underneath all that pent-up, passionate desire for just a small
share of the good things of life. She has wasted so much of herself in
longings. Poor child! I sometimes wonder that she is as level-headed as
she seems to be. Now I am ready."
They passed down the corridor amidst a little chorus of good nights, and
stepped into the automobile which was waiting. As it glided off she
suddenly came closer to him.
"Philip," she whispered, "it's true, isn't it? Put your arms around me.
You are driving me home—say it's true!"
Elizabeth sat up presently, a little dazed. Her fingers were still
gripping Philip's almost fiercely. The automobile had stopped.
"I haven't the least idea where we are," she murmured.
"And I forgot to tell you," he laughed, as he helped her out. "I took the
suite below mine by the week. There are two or three rooms, and an
extra one for Beatrice. Of course, it's small, but then with this London
idea before us—"
"Such extravagance!" she interrupted. "Your own rooms would have done
quite nicely, only it is a luxury to have a place for Phoebe. I hope
Beatrice won't have gone to bed."
"I am sure she won't," he replied. "She has done all the arranging for
me—she and Phoebe together."
They crossed the pavement and entered the lift. The attendant grinned
broadly as he stopped at the eighth floor, and held out his hand for the
tip for which Philip had been fumbling. The door of the suite was opened
before they could reach the bell. Elizabeth's maid, Phoebe, came forward
to take her mistress' cloak, and the floor valet was there to relieve
Philip of his overcoat. A waiter was hovering in the background.
"Supper is served in the dining room, sir," he announced. "Shall I open
Philip nodded and showed Elizabeth over the little flat, finally ushering
her into the small, round dining room.
"It's perfectly delightful," she declared, "but we don't need nearly so
much room, Philip. What a dear little dining table and what a delicious
supper! Everything I like best in the world, from pâté de foie gras to
cold asparagus. You are a dear."
The waiter disappeared with a little bow. They were alone at last. She
held his hands tightly. She was trembling. The forced composure of the
last few minutes seemed to have left her.
"I am silly," she faltered, "but the servants and everything—they won't
come back, will they?"
He laughed as he patted her hand.
"We shan't see another soul, dear," he assured her.
She laid her cheek against his.
"How hot your face feels," she exclaimed. "Throw open the window, do. I
shan't feel it."
He obeyed her at once. The roar of the city, all its harshness muffled,
came to them in a sombre, almost melodious undernote. She rested her
hands upon his shoulder.
"What children we are!" she murmured. "Now it's you who are trembling!
Sit down, please. You've been so brave these last few days."
"It was just for a moment," he told her. "It seems too wonderful. I had a
sudden impulse of terror lest it should all be snatched away."
She laughed easily.
"I don't think there's any fear of that, dear," she said. "Perhaps—"
There was a little knock at the door. Philip, who had been holding
Elizabeth's chair, stood as though transfixed. Elizabeth gripped at the
side of the table. It was some few seconds before either of them
"It's perhaps—Beatrice," Elizabeth faltered.
The knock was repeated. Philip drew a little breath.
"Come in," he invited.
The door opened slowly towards them and closed again. It was Mr. Dane who
had entered. From outside they caught a momentary glimpse of another
man, waiting. Mr. Dane took off his hat. For a man with so expressionless
a countenance, he was looking considerably perturbed.
"Miss Dalstan," he said, "I am very sorry, believe me, to intrude. I only
heard of your marriage an hour ago. I wish I could have prevented it."
"Prevented it?" Elizabeth repeated. "What do you mean?"
"I think that Mr. Philip Romilly could explain," Dane continued, turning
towards Philip. "I am sorry, but I have received an imperative cable from
Scotland Yard, and it is my duty to arrest you, Philip Romilly, and to
hold you, pending the arrival of a special police mission from England. I
am bound to take note of anything you may say, so I beg of you not to ask
me any particulars as to the charge."
The colour slowly faded from Elizabeth's cheeks. She had risen to her
feet and was gripping the mantelpiece for support. Philip, however, was
perfectly calm. He poured out a glass of water and held it to her lips.
"Drink this, dear," he begged, "and don't be alarmed. It sounds very
terrible, but believe me there is nothing to be feared."
He swung suddenly round to Dane. His voice shook with passion.
"You've kept me under observation," he cried, "all this time. I haven't
attempted to escape. I haven't moved from New York. I haven't the
slightest intention of doing so until this thing is cleared up. Can't you
take my parole? Can't you leave me alone until they come from England?"
Mr. Dane shook his head slowly. He was a hard man, but there was an
unaccustomed look of distress in his face.
"Sorry, Mr. Romilly," he said regretfully. "I did suggest something of
the sort, but they wouldn't hear of it at headquarters. If we let you
slip through our fingers, we should never hear the last of it from
Then there came another and a still more unexpected interruption. From
outside they heard Beatrice's voice raised in excitement. Mr. Dane stood
on one side as the door was thrown open. Beatrice suddenly flung herself
into the room, dragging after her a man who was almost breathless.
"I say, Beatrice, steady!" the latter began good-naturedly.
There followed the most wonderful silence in the world, a silence which
was filled with throbbing, indescribable emotions, a silence which meant
something different for every one of them. Beatrice, gripping her captive
by the wrist, was looking around, striving to understand. Elizabeth was
filled with blank wonder. Mr. Dane was puzzled. But Philip, who a moment
before had seemed perfectly composed, was the one who seemed torn by
indescribable, by horrible emotions. He was livid almost to the lips. His
hands were stretched out as though to keep from him some awful and
ghastly vision. His eyes, filled with the anguished light of supreme
terror, were fastened upon the newcomer. His lips shook as he tried to
"Take him away!" he shrieked. "Oh, my God!"
Beatrice, more coherent than any of them, scoffed at him.
"Don't be a fool!" she cried. "Take him away, indeed! He's the most
wonderful thing that ever happened. He's the one man in life you want to
see! So you've come for him, eh?" she went on, turning almost like a
wild-cat on Dane. "You beast! You chose to-night, did you? Now get on
with it, then, and I'll give you the surprise of your life. What are you
"I am here to arrest that man, Philip Romilly, for the murder of his
cousin, Douglas Romilly, Miss Wenderley," Dane announced gravely. "I am
Beatrice threw her head back and laughed hysterically.
"You'll never write a play like it, Philip!" she exclaimed. "There never
was anything like it before. Now, Mr. Dane, what is it you say in America
when you want to introduce anybody?—shake hands with Mr. Douglas
Romilly—that's it. Shake hands with the dead man here and then get on
with your arresting. He must be dead if you say so, but he doesn't look
it, does he?"
Philip's face had become a more natural colour. His eyes had never left
the other man's. He swayed a little on his feet and his voice seemed to
him to come from a long way off.
"Douglas! It isn't you, Douglas! … It isn't you really?"
"I wish you'd all leave off staring at me as though I were a ghost," the
other man answered, almost pettishly. "I'm Douglas Romilly, right enough.
You needn't look in such a blue funk, Philip," he went on, his fingers
mechanically rearranging his collar and tie, which Beatrice had
disarranged. "I served you a beastly trick and you went for me. I should
have done the same if I'd been in your place. On the other hand, I rather
turned the tables on you by keeping quiet. Perhaps it's up to me to
Elizabeth, feeling her way by the mantelpiece, came to Philip's side. His
arm supported her, holding her as though in a vise.
"Is that your cousin?" she whispered hoarsely. "Is that Douglas Romilly?
Is he alive, after all?"
Philip had no words, but his face spoke for him. Then they both turned to
listen. The newcomer had dragged a chair towards him and was leaning over
the back of it. He addressed Philip.
"We met, as you know, on the canal path that beastly afternoon," he
began. "I was jolly well ashamed of myself for having made love to
Beatrice, and all the rest of it, and you were mad with rage. We had a
sort of tussle and you threw me into the canal. It was a nasty dark spot
just underneath the bridge. I expect I was stunned for a moment,
but it was only for a moment. I came to long before I choked, and when I
remembered your grip upon my throat, I decided I was safer where I was. I
could swim like a duck, you know, and though it was filthy water I took a
long dive. When I came up again—gad, what disgusting water it was!—you
were tearing off like a creature possessed. That's the true history of
our little fracas."
"But afterwards?" Philip asked wonderingly. "What happened afterwards?"
"You just tell them all about it," Beatrice ordered him sternly. "Go on,
"Well, you see," Douglas Romilly continued, "I was just going to scramble
out on to the bank when my brain began to work, and I swam slowly along
instead. You see, just then I was in a devil of a mess. I'd spent a lot
of money, and though I'd kept the credit of the firm good, I knew that
the business was bust, and the one thing I was anxious about was to get
off to America without being stopped. I've explained this all to
Beatrice, and why I didn't send for her before. Anyway, I swam along
until I met with an old barge. I climbed in and got two of the choicest
blackguards you ever saw to let me spend an hour or two in their filthy
cabin and to keep their mouths closed about it. Fortunately, I had
another pocketbook, with sufficient to satisfy them and keep me going.
Then I borrowed some clothes and came out to America, steerage. I had no
difficulty in getting my money, as I had a couple of pals in Lynn whom I
had fixed things up with before I started. They came and identified me as
Merton Ware, and we all three started in business together as the Ford
Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company at Lynn in Massachusetts.
Incidentally, we've done all right. Heaps more, of course, but that's the
pith of it. As for the body that was fished out of the canal, if you make
enquiries, you'll find there was a tramp missing, a month or so before."
Elizabeth had begun to sob quietly. Philip, who was holding her tenderly
in his arms, whispered unheard things into her ears. It was Beatrice who
remained in charge of the situation.
"So now, Mr. Dane," she jeered, "what about your little errand? I hope
this will be a lesson to you not to come meddling in other people's
Dane turned to the man who had brought this bombshell into their midst.
"Do you swear that you are Douglas Romilly?" he asked.
"I not only swear it but I can prove it, if you'll come along with me to
Murray's," he answered. "My partner's there, waiting supper, and another
man who has known me all his life."
The detective glanced interrogatively towards Philip.
"That is my cousin, Douglas Romilly," the latter pronounced.
Dane took up his hat.
"Mr. Merton Ware," he said, "or Mr. Philip Romilly, whichever you may in
future elect to call yourself, you may not believe it, but the end of
this affairs is an immense relief to me. I offer you my heartiest
congratulations. You need fear no more annoyance. Good night!"
He passed out. They heard the sound of his footsteps and his companion's,
as they crossed the corridor and rang for the lift. Speech was a little
difficult. It was still Beatrice who imposed conviction upon them.
"I was seated in the box," she explained, "when Philip went round to see
you, Elizabeth. I had looking down into the stalls to find Martha, and
all of a sudden I saw Douglas there. He, too, was staring at me. Of
course, I thought it was some extraordinary likeness, but, whilst I was
clutching at the curtain, he stood up and waved his hand. You should have
seen me tear from the box! You know, ever since they showed me that
signature at the bank I have had a queer idea at the back of my head.
Luckily for him," she went, patting his arm, "he sent home for me a
fortnight ago, and sent a draft for my expenses out. You won't mind, will
you, if I take him off now?" she concluded, turning to Elizabeth. "They
are waiting supper for us, but I wasn't going to let Philip—"
"Did you know that Dane was going to be here?" Elizabeth asked.
"Not an idea," Beatrice declared. "I simply dragged Douglas along here,
as soon as we'd talked things out, because I knew that it would be the
one thing wanting to complete Philip's happiness. We'll leave you now.
Douglas will bring me back, and we are going to be married in a few
Philip held out his hand a little diffidently.
"My dear fellow," Douglas interrupted, grasping it, "wouldn't I! I'm
thundering sorry for all you've been through. I suppose I ought to have
let you know that I was still in the land of the living, but I was
waiting until things blew over in England. That's all right now, though,"
he went on. "I've turned over a new leaf and I am making money—making
it after a style they don't understand in England. I am going to pay my
creditors twenty shillings in the pound before a couple of years have
gone, and do pretty well for Beatrice and myself as well. You wouldn't
care, I suppose," he added, as they stood there with locked hands, "to
offer us just a glass of wine before we start out? Beatrice has been
riddling me with questions and dragging me through the streets till I
scarcely know whether I am on my head or my heels."
Philip emptied the contents of the champagne bottle into the glasses.
Never was wine poured out more gladly.
"Douglas," he explained, "this is Miss Elizabeth Dalstan, whom you saw
act this evening. We were married this afternoon. You can understand,
can't you, just what your coming has meant for us?"
Douglas shook Elizabeth by the hand. Then he held up his glass.
"Here's the best of luck to you both!" he said heartily. "Very soon
Beatrice and I will ask you to wish us the same. Philip, old chap," he
added, as he set his glass down and without the slightest protest watched
it replenished, "that's a thundering good play of yours I've seen this
evening, but you'll never write one to beat this!"
Soon Beatrice and Douglas also took their departure. Elizabeth held out
her arms almost as the door closed. The tear-stains were still on her
cheeks. Her lips quivered a little, but her voice was clear and sweet and
"Philip," she cried, "it's all over—it's all finished with—the dread,
the awful days! I am not going to be hysterical any more, and you—you
are just going to remember that we have everything we want in the world.
Sit down opposite to me, if you please, and fill my glass. I have only
one emotion left. I am hungry—desperately hungry. Move your chair nearer
so that I can reach your hand. There! Now you and I will drink our little
It was an hour before they thought of leaving the table. A very perplexed
waiter brought them coffee and watched them light cigarettes. Then the
telephone bell rang. They both stared at the instrument. Philip would
have taken off the receiver, but Elizabeth held out her hand.
"I have an idea," she said. "I believe it is from Sylvanus Power. Let me
She held the receiver to her ear and listened.
"Yes?" she murmured. "Yes?… At what time?"
Her face grew more puzzled. She listened for a moment longer.
"But, Sylvanus," she expostulated, "what do you mean?… Sylvanus?… Mr.
The telephone had become a dumb thing. She replaced the receiver.
"I don't understand," she told Philip. "All that he said was—'You will
receive my present at five o'clock this morning!'"
"Does he think we are going to sit up for it?" Philip asked.
"He is the strangest man," she sighed….
* * * * *
After all, some queer fancy awoke Philip at a little before five that
morning and drew him to the window. He sat looking out over the still
sleeping city. All sound now was hushed. It was the brief breathing space
before the dawn. In the clear morning spring light, the buildings of the
city seemed to stand out with a new and marvellous distinctness. Now and
then from the harbour came the shriek of a siren. A few pale lights were
still burning along the river way. From one of the city clocks the hour
was slowly tolled. Philip counted the strokes—one, two, three, four,
five. Then, almost as he was preparing to leave his post, there came a
terrific roar. The window against which he leaned shook. Some of the
buildings in the distance trembled. One, with its familiar white cupola,
seemed for a moment to be lifted from the ground and then split through
by some unseen hand. The roar of the explosion was followed by the
crashing of falling masonry. Long fingers of fire suddenly leapt up into
the quiet, cool air. Fragments of masonry, a portion, even, of that
wonderful cupola, came crashing down into the street. He heard
Elizabeth's voice behind him, felt her fingers upon his shoulder.
"What is it? Philip, what is it?"
He pointed with steady finger. The truth seemed to come to him by
"It is Sylvanus Power's message to you," he replied. "The theatre!"
There were flames now, leaping up to the sky. Together they watched them
and listened to the shrieking of sirens and whistles as the fire engines
galloped by from every section of the city. There was a strange look in
Elizabeth's face as she watched the curling flames.
"Philip," she whispered, "thank God! There it goes, all his great
offering to me! It's like the man and his motto—'A man may do what he
will with his own.' Only last night I felt as though I would give
anything in the world never to stand upon the stage of that theatre
again. He doesn't know it, Philip, but his is a precious gift."
He passed his arm around her and drew her from the window.
"'A man may do what he will with his own,'" he repeated. "Well, it isn't
such a bad motto. Sylvanus Power may destroy a million-dollar theatre
for a whim, but so far as you and I are concerned—"
She sighed with content.
"We do both need a holiday," she murmured. "Somewhere in Europe, I