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Chapter 3 THE STUNT

  • 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.
  • Mortimer.
  • "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
  • 'possum!"
  • 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?"
  • "Ask Sanford."
  • "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.