Bowing in response to the mighty cheer that greeted his appearance, Hanlo_tood, smiling at the crowd.
A young fellow he seemed to be, slender, well-knit and with a frank, winnin_ace. But he evidently meant business, for he turned at once to Mr. Mortimer, and asked that the test be begun.
A few words from one of the staff of the newspaper that was backing th_nterprise informed the audience that the day before there had been hidden i_ distant part of the city a penknife, and that only the hider thereof and th_on. Mr. Mortimer knew where the hiding place was.
Hanlon would now undertake to go, blindfolded, to the spot and find the knife, although the distance, as the speaker was willing to disclose, was more than _ile. The blindfolding was to be done by a committee of prominent citizens an_as to be looked after so carefully that there could be no possibility o_anlon's seeing anything.
After that, Hanlon engaged to go to the hiding place and find the knife, o_ondition that Mr. Mortimer would follow him, and concentrate all hi_illpower on mentally guiding or rather directing Hanlon's footsteps.
The blindfolding, which was done in full view of the front ranks o_pectators, was an elaborate proceeding. A heavy silk handkerchief had bee_repared by folding it in eight thicknesses, which were then stitched t_revent Clipping. This bandage was four inches wide and completely covered th_an's eyes, but as an additional precaution pads of cotton wool were firs_laced over his closed eyelids and the bandage then tied over them.
Thus, completely blindfolded, Hanlon spoke earnestly to Mr.
"I must ask of you, sir, that you do your very best to guide me aright. Th_uccess of this enterprise depends quite as much on you as on myself. I a_erely receptive, you are the acting agent. I strive to keep my mind a blank, that your will may sway it in the right direction. I trust you, and I beg tha_ou will keep your whole mind on the quest. Think of the hidden article, kee_t in your mind, look toward it. Follow me—not too closely—and mentally pus_e in the way I should go. If I go wrong, will me back to the right path, bu_n no case get near enough to touch me, and, of course, do not speak to me.
This test is entirely that of the influence of your will upon mine. Call i_elepathy, thought-transference, will-power—anything you choose, but grant m_equest that you devote all your attention to the work in hand. If your min_anders, mine will; if your mind goes straight to the goal, mine will also b_mpelled there."
With a slight bow, Hanlon stood motionless, ready to start.
The preliminaries had taken place on a platform, hastily built for th_ccasion, and now, with Mortimer behind him, Hanlon started down the steps t_he street.
Reaching the pavement, he stood motionless for a few seconds and then, turning, walked toward Broad Street. Reaching it, he turned South, and walke_long, at a fairly rapid gait. At the crossings he paused momentarily, sometimes as if uncertain which way to go, and again evidently assured of hi_irection.
The crowd surged about him, now impeding his progress and now almost pushin_im along. He gave them no heed, but made his way here or there as he chos_nd Mortimer followed, always a few steps behind, but near enough to see tha_anlon was in no way interfered with by the throng.
Indeed, so anxious were the onlookers that fair play should obtain, the one_earest to the performer served as a cordon of guards to keep his immediat_urroundings cleared.
Hanlon's actions, in all respects, were those that might be expected from _lindfolded man. He groped, sometimes with outstretched hands, again with arm_olded or hands clasped and extended, but always with an expression, so far a_is face could be seen, of earnest, concentrated endeavor to go the right way.
Now and then he would half turn, as if impelled in one direction, and the_esitate, turn and march off the other way. One time, indeed, he went nearl_alf a block in a wrong street. Then he paused, groped, stumbled a little, an_radually returned to the vicinity of Mortimer, who had stood still at th_orner. Apparently, Hanlon had no idea of his detour, for he went on in th_ight direction, and Mortimer, who was oblivious to all but his mission, followed interestedly.
One time Hanlon spoke to him. "You are a fine 'guide,' sir," he said. "I see_mpelled steadily, not in sudden thought waves, and I find my mind respond_ell to your will. If you will be so good as to keep the crowd away from us _ittle more carefully. I don't want you any nearer me, but if too many peopl_re between us, it interferes somewhat with the transference of your guidin_hought."
"Do you want to hear my footsteps?" asked Mortimer, thoughtfully.
"That doesn't matter," Hanlon smiled. "You are to follow me, sir, even if I g_rong. If I waited to hear you, that would be no test at all. Simply will me, and then follow, whether I am on the right track or not. But keep your mind o_he goal, and look toward it—if convenient. Of course, the looking toward i_s no help to me, save as it serves to fix your mind more firmly on th_atter."
And then Hanlon seemed to go more carefully. He stepped slowly, feeling wit_is foot for any curbstone, grating or irregularity in the pavement. And ye_e failed in one instance to feel the edge of an open coalhole, and his righ_eg slipped down into it.
Some of the nearby watchers grabbed him, and pulled him back without hi_ustaining injury, for which he thanked them briefly and continued.
Several times some sceptical bystanders put themselves deliberately in fron_f the blindfolded man, to see if he would turn out for them.
On the contrary, Hanlon bumped into them, so innocently, that they were nearl_hrown down.
He smiled good-naturedly, and said, "All right, fellows; I don't mind, if yo_on't. And I don't blame you for wanting to make sure that I'm not playing
Of course, Hanlon carried no light cane, such as blind men use, to tap on th_tones, so he helped himself by feeling the way along shop windows and are_ates, judging thus, when he was nearing a cross street, and sometime_esitating whether to cross or turn the corner.
After a half-hour of this sort of progress he found himself in a vacant lo_ear the edge of the city. There had been a building in the middle of the plo_f ground, but it had been burned down and only a pile of blackened debri_arked the place.
Reaching the corner of the streets that bounded the lot, Hanlon made no pause, but started on a straight diagonal toward the center of the lot. He steppe_nto a tangle of charred logs and ashes, but forged ahead unhesitatingly, though slowly, and picked his way by thrusting the toe of his shoe tentativel_orward.
Mortimer, about three paces behind him, followed, unheeding the rubbish h_talked through, and very evidently absorbed in doing his part to it_onclusion.
For the knife was hidden in the very center of the burned-down house. A bit o_looring was left, on which Hanlon climbed, Mortimer getting up on it also.
Hanlon walked slowly round in a circle, the floor being several yards square.
Mortimer stepped behind him, gravely looking toward the hiding-place, an_xerting all his mentality toward "guiding" Hanlon to it. At no time was h_earer than two feet, though once, making a quick turn, Hanlon nearly bumpe_nto him. Finally, Hanlon, poking about in the ashes with his right foot, kicked against something. He picked it up and it proved to be only a bit o_ire. But the next moment he struck something else, and, stooping, brought u_riumphantly the hidden penknife, which he waved exultantly at the crowd.
Loud and long they cheered him. Cordially Mr. Mortimer grasped the hands o_he hero, and it was with some difficulty that Alvord Hendricks restraine_iss Abby Ames from getting out of his car and rushing to congratulate th_uccessful treasure- seeker.
"Now," she exclaimed; "no one can ever doubt the fact of telepathy after this!
How else could that young man have done what he has done. Answer me that!"
"It's all a fake," asserted Hendricks, "but I'm ready to acknowledge I don'_now how it's done. It's the best game I ever saw put up, and I'd like to kno_ow he does it."
"Seems to me," put in Eunice, a little dryly, "one oughtn't to insist that i_s a fake unless one has some notion, at least, of how it could be done. I_he man could see—could even peep —there might be a chance for trickery. Bu_ith those thick cotton pads on his eyes and then covered with that big, thick, folded silk handkerchief—it's really a muffle-there's no chance for hi_aking."
"And if he could see—if his eyes were wide open—how would he know where t_o?" demanded Aunt Abby. "That blindfolding is only so he can't see Mr.
Mortimer's face, if he turns round, and judge from its expression. And also, _aresay, to help him concentrate his mind, and not be diverted or distracte_y the crowd and all."
"All the same, I don't believe in it," and Hendricks shook his hea_bstinately. "There is no such thing as telepathy, and this 'willing' busines_as all been exposed years ago."
"I remember," and Aunt Abby nodded; "you mean that Bishop man and all that.
But this affair it quite different. You don't believe Mr. Mortimer was a part_o deceit, do you?"
"No, I don't. Mortimer is a judge and a most honest man, besides. He wouldn'_toop to trickery in a thing of this sort. But he has been himself deceived."
"Then how was it done?" cried Eunice, triumphantly; "for no one else kne_here the knife was hidden, except that newspaper man who hid it, and he wa_incere, of course, or there'd be no sense in the whole thing."
"I know that. Yes, the newspaper people were hoodwinked, too."
"Then what happened?" Eunice persisted. "There's no possible explanation bu_elepathy. Is there, now?"
"I don't know of any," Hendricks was forced to admit. "After the excitemen_lows over a little, I'll try to speak with Mortimer again. I'd like to kno_is opinion."
They sat in the car, looking at the hilarious crowds of people, most of who_eemed imbued with a wild desire to get to the hero of the hour and demand hi_ecret.
"There's a man who looks like Tom Meredith," said Eunice, suddenly. "By th_ay, Alvord, where do the Merediths stand in the matter of the club election?"
"Which of them?"
"Either—or both. I suppose they're on your side—they never seemed to lik_anford much."
"My dear Eunice, don't be so narrow-minded. Club men don't vote one way o_nother because of a personal like or dislike—they consider the good of th_lub—the welfare of the organization."
"Well, then, which side do they favor as being for the good of the club?"
"Oh—if you don't want to tell me."
Eunice looked provokingly pretty and her piquant face showed a petulan_xpression as she turned it to Hendricks.
"Smile on me again and I'll tell you anything you want to know: if I know i_yself."
A dazzling smile answered this speech, and Hendricks' gaze softened as h_atched her.
"But you'll have to ask me something else, for, alas, the brothers Meredit_aven't made a confidant of me."
"Story-teller" and Eunice's dark eyes assumed the look of a roguish littl_irl. "You can't fool me, Alvord; now tell me, and I'll invite you in to te_hen we get home."
"I'm going in, anyway."
"Not unless you tell me what I ask. Why won't you? Is it a secret? Pooh! I'_ust as lief ask Mr. Tom Meredith myself, if I could see him. Never mind, don't tell me, if you don't want to. You're not my only confidential friend; there are others."
"Who are they, Euny? I flattered myself I was your only really, truly intimat_riend—not even excepting your husband!"
"Oh, what a naughty speech! If you weren't Sanford's very good friend, I'_ever speak to you again!"
"I don't see how you two men can be friends," put in Aunt Abby, "when you'r_oth after that same presidency."
"That's the answer!" Eunice laughed. "Alvord is San's greatest friend, becaus_t's going to be an easy thing for Sanford to win the election from him! I_here were a more popular candidate in Alvord's place, or a less popular on_n Sanford's place, it wouldn't be such a walkover!"
"You—you—" Hendricks looked at Eunice in speechless admiration. The dancin_yes were impudent, the red lips curved scornfully, and she made a darin_ittle moue at him as she readjusted her black lace veil so that a heavy bi_f its pattern covered her mouth.
"What do you do that for? Move that darned flower, so I can see you talk!"
She laughed then, and wrinkled her straight little nose until the vei_illowed mischievously.
"I wish you'd take that thing off," Hendricks said, irritatedly; "it annoy_e."
"And pray, sir, who are you, that I should shield you from annoyance? My vei_s a necessary part of my costume."
"Necessary nothing! Take it off, I tell you!"
"Merry Christmas!" and Eunice gave him such a scornful shrug of her furre_houlders that Hendricks laughed out, in sheer enjoyment of her audacity.
"Tell me about the Merediths, and I'll take off the offending veil," sh_rged, looking at him very coaxingly.
"All right; off with it."
Slowly, and with careful deliberation, Eunice unpinned her veil, took it of_nd folded it in a small, compact parcel. This she put in her handbag, an_hen, with an adorable smile, said: "Now!"
"You beautiful idiot," and Hendricks devoured her with his eyes. "All I ca_ell you about the Merediths is, that I don't know anything about their stan_n the election."
"What do you guess, assume, surmise, imagine or predict?" she teased, stil_ascinating him with her magnetic charm.
"Well, I think this: they're a little too old-timey to take up all m_rojects. But, on the other hand, they're far from willing to subscribe t_our husband's views. They do not approve of the Sunday-school atmosphere h_ants to bring about, nor do they shut their eyes to the fact that the younge_lement must be considered."
"Younger element! Do you call Sanford old?"
"No; he's only twenty-eight this minute. But there are a lot of new member_ven younger than that strange as it may seem! These boys want gayety—yea, even unto the scorned movies and the hilarious prize-fights—and as they ar_cions of the wealthy and aristocratic families of our little old town, _hink we should consider them. And, since you insist on knowing, it is my fir_elief, conviction and—I'm willing to add—my hope that the great an_nfluential Meredith brothers agree with me! So there now, Madam Sanfor_mbury!"
"Thank you, Alvord; you're clear, at least. Do you think I could persuade the_o come over to Sanford's side?"
"I think you could persuade the statue of Jupiter Ammon to climb down from hi_edestal and take you to Coney Island, if you looked at him like that! But _lso think that friend husband will not consent to your electioneering fo_im. It isn't done, my dear Eunice."
"As if I cared what is 'done' and what isn't, if I want to help Sanford."
"Go ahead, then, fair lady; but remember that Sanford Embury stands for th_onservative element in our club, and anything you might try to do by virtu_f your blandishments or fascinations would be frowned upon and would reac_gainst your cause instead of for it. If I might suggest, my supporters, th_ounger set, the—well—the gayer set, would more readily respond to such _lan. Why don't you electioneer for me?"
Eunice disdained to reply, and Aunt Abby broke into the discussion b_xclaiming: "Oh, Alvord, here comes Mr. Mortimer, and he has Mr. Hanlon wit_im!"
Sure enough the two heroes of the day were walking toward the Hendricks car, which, still standing near the scene of Hanlon's triumph, awaited a goo_hance for a getaway.
"I wonder if you ladies wouldn't like to meet this marvel," began Mr.
Mortimer, genially, and Aunt Abby's delight was convincing, indeed.
Eunice, too, greeted Mr. Hanlon cordially, and Hendricks held out a welcomin_and.
"Tell us how you did it," he said, smiling into the intelligent face of th_ysterious "mind-reader."
"You saw," he returned, simply, with a slight gesture of out-turned palms, a_f to disavow any secrets.
"Yes, I saw," said Hendricks, "but with me, seeing is not believing."
"Don't listen, Hanlon," Mr. Mortimer said, smiling a little resentfully. "Tha_ort of talk would go before the test, but not now. What do you mean, Hendricks, by not believing? Do you suspect me of complicity?"
"I do not, Mortimer. I believe you have been taken in with the rest, by a ver_lever trick." He looked sharply at Hanlon, who returned his gaze serenely. "_elieve this young man is unusually apt as a trickster, and I believe h_oodwinked the whole community. The fact that I cannot comprehend, or eve_uess how he did it, in no way disturbs my conviction that he did do it b_rickery. I will change this opinion, however, if Mr. Hanlon will look me i_he eye and assure me, on his honor, that he found the penknife by no othe_eans or with no other influence to guide him than Mr. Mortimer's will-power."
"I am not on trial," he said. "I am not called upon to prove or disprov_nything. I promised to perform a feat and I have done so. It was no_ominated in the bond that I should defend my honor by asseverations."
"Begging the question," laughed Hendricks, but Mr. Mortimer said: "Not at all.
Hanlon is right. If he has any secret means of guidance, it is up to us t_iscover it. But I hold that he cannot have, or it would have been discovere_y some of the eager observers. We had thousands looking on to-day. There mus_ave been some one clever enough to suspect the deceit, if deceit there were."
"Thank you, Mr. Mortimer," Hanlon spoke quietly. "I made no mystery of m_erformance; I had no confederate, no paraphernalia. All there was to se_ould be seen by all. You willed me; I followed your will. That is all."
The simple manner and pleasant demeanor of the young man greatly attracte_unice, who smiled at him kindly.
"I came here very sceptical," she admitted; "and even now I can't fee_ntirely convinced—"
"Well, I can!" declared Aunt Abby. "I am willing to own it, too. These peopl_ho really believe in your sincerity, Mr. Hanlon, and refuse to confess it, make me mad! I wish you'd give an exhibition in New York."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, madam, but this is my last performance."
"Good gracious why?" Aunt Abby looked curiously at him.
"I have good reasons," Hanlon smiled. "You may learn them later, if you car_o."
"I do. How can I learn them?"
"Read the Newark Free Press next Monday."
"Oh!" and Eunice had an inspiration—a premonition of the truth.
"May I speak to you alone a minute, Mr. Hanlon?"
She got out of the car and walked a few steps with the young man, who politel_ccompanied her.
They paused a short distance away, and held a brief but animated conversation.
Eunice laughed gleefully, and it was plain to be seen her charming smile_layed havoc with Hanlon's reserved demeanor. Soon he was willingly agreein_o something she was proposing and finally they shook hands on it.
They returned to the car; he assisted Eunice in, and then he told Mr. Mortime_hey had stayed as long as was permissible and were being eagerly called bac_o the committee in charge of the day's programme.
"That's so," said Mortimer. "I begged off for a few minutes.
Good-by, all." He raised his hat and hurried away after Hanlon.
"Well," said Hendricks as they started homeward, "what did you persuade him t_o, Eunice? Give a parlor exhibition for you?"
"The boy guessed nearly right the very first time!" cried Eunice, gleefully;
"it was all a fake, and he's coming to our house Sunday afternoon to tell ho_e did it. It's all coming out in the paper on Monday."
"My good land!" and Aunt Abby sank back in her seat, utterly disgusted.