Out of the woods and once more on a smooth highway the stolen car sped like _rightened ghost through the starry night. The Governor drove with th_ssurance of a man who knows what he's about. Huddled in a long ulster he ha_ound in the cabin, Archie, whose ideas of motoring had always been extremel_onservative, yielded himself more and more to the inevitable. He was n_onger a free agent but a plaything of circumstance. In no exaggerated sens_e was a captive, a prisoner of the man beside him, whose friendliness wa_lattering and alarming in a breath!
At any moment they might be held up and subjected to scrutiny and questioning,
and Archie experienced a tingle at the prospect; but the Governor had declare_ith apparent sincerity that he had never been in jail and this in itself wa_eassuring, for presumably a man who so keenly enjoyed his freedom was _killed dodger of the law. The Governor, who would have passed anywhere for _uccessful banker or lawyer, had more of the spirit of the debonai_washbucklers of romance than any other man Archie had known. He might be _reat liar, and Archie suspected that he was; and doubts of the man's sanit_roubled him not a little; but it sufficed for the moment that his comrade wa_teering him rapidly away from Bailey Harbor, and so far had managed th_usiness with excellent judgment.
Occasionally the Governor lifted his voice in songs of unimpeachable literar_nd musical quality that rang sonorously above the hum of the engine.
> "Who is Sylvia? What is she?
> That all our swains commend her,"
he sang through to the end to the old familiar air; followed by "Drink to M_nly with Thine Eyes."
They struck a stretch of road under repair and slowing up the Governo_emarked carelessly as he picked his way through a line of red lanterns:
"Speaking of women, my dear Archie, do you share the joy of the lyric poets i_he species?"
"Women?" gulped Archie, as surprised as though he had been asked suddenly hi_pinion of the _gazella dorcas_.
"The same, Archie. It occurs to me that you have probably had many affairs. _ellow of your coolness and dash couldn't fail to appeal to th_ncomprehensible sex. I'm thirty-four but I've loved only one woman—that's th_olemn truth, Archie. Occasionally small indiscretions, I confess; and _ometimes weakly yield to the temptation to flirt, but with my hand on m_eart I declare solemnly that only once have I ever been swayed by the gran_assion. And strange as it may seem she's a bishop's daughter, though a sain_n her own right! O wonderful! O sublime!"
This confidence, vague as to the identity and habitat of the lady of th_overnor's adoration, nevertheless made it incumbent upon Archie to make som_ort of reply. The Governor would probably be disappointed in him if h_onfessed the meagerness of his experiences, and he felt that it would be _rave error to jeopardize his standing with his companion.
"Well, I'm in the same boat," he answered glibly. "There's only one girl fo_e!"
"Magnificent!" cried the Governor. "I hope she's not beyond your reach like m_oddess?"
"Well, I'll hardly say that," Archie replied. "But there are difficulties,
embarrassments, you know."
"Possibly your choice of the open road as a career is a bar to marriage? Suc_ituations are always deplorable."
"It is quite the other way round with me," Archie protested. "It was she wh_ut me up to it!"
"What! Your inamorata wanted you to be a crook?" cried the Governor. "She mus_e a wonderful girl! Shoplifter, perhaps? There are some jolly girls in tha_usiness! Or, maybe she's one of these confidence women who play a sure gam_nd usually get by with it?"
"Nothing like that!" cried Archie hastily. "She just fancies the life—think_t offers me a good chance to prove my mettle. She hates conventionality."
This reference to Isabel Perry, remote and guarded as it was, he defended onl_n the ground that it was necessary in some way to meet the Governor half-wa_n his confidences. And what he had said was really true, though to be sur_sabel could hardly be held responsible for the shooting at the Congdon house.
He wondered what Isabel would say if she could see him with a criminal besid_im, joy-riding in a stolen car. And it was no lie that he sincerely believe_hat he loved her. No other girl had ever roused him so much, or given him s_ood reason for standing off and taking a look at himself. His thoughts of he_ad led him far afield when the Governor remarked ruminatively:
"Do you manage to see her? That's the devil of it in my case! The lady'_orbidden to recognize me in any way and the right reverend father is a tar_ld party and keeps sharp watch of her. You'd think a girl of twenty-two o_hereabouts who spends her time in good works for the heathen and runs _unday-school class in a slum would be indulged in her admiration for a joll_ogue like me! But the facts are decidedly otherwise. She's never quit_rought her nerve to the point of breaking home ties and bolting with me; bu_he's declined to marry all the bachelor and widower dominies in the paterna_iocese on my account. And a young bishop of the brightest prospects.
Actually, my dear Archie! There's a steadfast soul for you! But I can't se_er and the regular mails are closed to us. Nevertheless we have a_rrangement—highly romantic, by which if she ever needs me or thinks I ca_erve her in any way she's to leave a note in a certain place. It's her ow_dea and very pretty. Savors of the good old times when bold knights wen_iding up to the castle and yelled to the flinty-hearted duke inside to lowe_he draw-bridge and send out his daughter to be married on the spot or he'd b_ropped in the moat with all his armor for a sinker."
Archie thought it would be a fine thing if he could make an arrangement wit_sabel by which he could hear from her on his travels and he mustered courag_o ask the Governor how he managed his line of communication.
"The device is the simplest possible. In our jauntings we shall pass a tow_here she visits a good deal—the home of an ancient aunt. It's a jolly ol_lace, big grounds, with elms and maples all round, and there's a tea hous_ith a tile floor, and there's a particular blue tile under a bench that ca_e pried out with a pen knife. That's our post-office, and much safer tha_egistered mail. Of course my business correspondence is a different matter. _ick that up in countless places between here and California—reports of th_oys, their hopes and ambitions and hints of schemes for acquiring sudde_ealth. If you'd like to use some of these addresses and have mail forwarde_'ll be glad to oblige you. You know how fussy the government is about the us_f the mail for irregular purposes? Well, it rather tickled me to get som_nvelopes with S. S. S. P. printed in the corner and the number of a vacan_ot in Sioux City as the address. A careless eye would think the initial_tood for some sort of learned society but the real translation is Society fo_he Segregation of Stolen Property. I always use these in communicating wit_he brotherhood."
"There's a good deal about the business I don't know," said Archie wit_winges of envy and admiration. "My bridges are all burned behind me and I'_ot getting mail anywhere; but I'll remember your offer."
Further conversation was ended by the swinging of a lantern across the road.
"Ah!" exclaimed the Governor, with a curious rising inflexion. "I've bee_ooking for that."
He slowed up instantly and in a moment halted car. The headlights played upo_wo men standing belligerently in front of the roadster.
"Good evening, gentlemen!" cried the Governor. "Short of gas or what's th_rouble?"
"We're from the Portsmouth police," answered one of the men while the othe_an to the rear of the car and swung a lantern over the license tag.
"Maine tag," he shouted.
"Certainly a Maine license," replied the Governor. "We're deputy sheriffs fro_umberland County looking for two crooks who've been robbing houses up ou_ay. Got blank warrants all ready to serve if we catch the scoundrels."
Archie shuddered at the Governor's assurance. The Portsmouth officer_anifested the deepest professional interest and sympathy as the Governor wit_n authoritative air flourished two documents.
"Burglar shot at Bailey Harbor last night," explained one of the officers;
"they found his body this morning and we're looking for his accomplice. Gues_e didn't come this way; we been on the road all night."
"We've held up everybody that looked suspicious all the way down and haven'_een a soul," the Governor replied in official tones. "Think the chaps we'r_ooking for skipped by train. What did the dead burglar look like?"
"I talked with the Bailey mayor over the telephone and he said the dead ma_as a big fellow, clean-shaven with the scar of an old knife wound under hi_eft arm. One of the cottagers shot him in his house, but he got away—crawle_own on the shore and died. Boston police department's sending a man up t_ook at the body. Never knew so many burglaries up this way. Must be a whol_ang at work."
"Certainly looks like it," the Governor assented. "Well, if you see a tal_hap and a short thick-set fellow anywhere nail 'em for us. Old criminals wit_ong records. They've been enjoying themselves up our way. The tall on_oesn't say much, but the little chap is a smooth talker—can talk himsel_ight out of jail if you give him a chance."
"We'll shoot first and get an explanation afterward if we see 'em," declare_he Portsmouth officer, as his companion buttoned up his coat preparatory t_etting back into the car.
"Glad to see you, boys!" exclaimed the Governor, backing the stolen machin_nd then calling a cheery "Good luck!" as he passed their car.
Archie had been sitting pigeon-toed expecting that at any minute the tw_fficers would discover points in the stolen car to arouse their suspicions;
but the Governor's jaunty tone had evidently thrown them entirely off guard.
He had hoped that the Governor would press for further details as to th_illing of the burglar at the Harbor, but as matters stood he had learne_othing except that a burglar had been shot in one of the Harbor cottages an_e was again torn with anxiety as to the identity of the man he had fired a_n the Congdon house.
The Governor began to chortle after a quick glance at the vanishing red ligh_f the Portsmouth car.
"Not the first time I've used warrants in that way! And they're good warrant_oo. I plucked a bunch of such literature from a deputy sheriff who got to_nquisitive last summer and I had to grab and tie him to a tree up nea_oosehead where I'd gone for a conference with some of the boys who wer_oming out of Canada. But I guess it's a sure thing those Portsmouth chap_ere looking for me! I'd been strolling round quite freely with poor Hoky u_he shore. If that chap had stuck his finger into the paint this machine woul_ave gone no further. We'll do well to leave the main road for a while, the_tep briskly into a train somewhere."
"Your nerve in describing us—you and me, sitting right there before them—t_hose officers gave me a chill," confessed Archie. "If you'd talked to the_uch more we'd have been pinched for sure."
"You flatter the intelligence of the police. There are not a half a doze_etectives worthy of the name in the whole country. Possibly we may have _ontest of wits with some of them before we close the season."
It had always been Archie's habit to greet courteously the policemen he passe_t night in the Avenue, little dreaming that the day would come when he woul_iew the policing of the world with contemptuous disdain. The Governor spok_f policemen and detectives with pity; they were so stupid, he said, though h_dmitted under Archie's cross-examination that they could be a nuisance a_imes.
"Make yourself as conspicuous as possible and they're hardly likely to bothe_ou. There are times, of course, when one must hide, but the mistake our boy_ake is in hiding in places where the police can call them up by telephone an_ell them to pay their own taxi fare to the nearest police station. I call o_olice chiefs in a purely social way now and then, and talk to them about th_est way of reforming crooks. It's their philosophy that no crook eve_eforms; an absurd idea, of course. But there's no surer way to ingratiat_ourself with a big fat detective than to ask how you can help poor repentan_inners, which gives him a chance to discourage you. There's nothing in it, h_arns you. You thank him for his advice and ask him out to lunch. I've bough_xpensive dinners for some of the highest priced crime-ferrets in the gam_ust for the joy of hearing their pessimism. They're all swollen up with th_dea of their superior knowledge of human nature. But it serves a good purpos_o cultivate them, for you're perfectly safe so long as you listen and don'_ry to tell them anything."