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Chapter 26

  • Hawksley heard the lift door close, and he knew that at last he was alone. H_lung out his arms, ecstatically. Free! He would see no more of that naggin_eggar Ryan until tomorrow. Free to put into execution the idea that had bee_ubbling all day long in his head, like a fine champagne, firing his bloo_ith reckless whimsicality.
  • Quietly he stole down the corridor. Through a crack in the kitchen door he sa_uroki's back, the attitude of which was satisfying. It signified that the Ja_as pegging away at his endless studies and that only the banging of the gon_ould rouse him. The way was as broad and clear as a street at dawn. Not tha_uroki mattered; only so long as he did not know, so much the better.
  • With careful step Hawksley manoeuvred his retreat so that it brought him t_utty's bedroom door. The door was unlocked. He entered the room. What a lark!
  • They would hide his own clothes; so much the worse for the old beggar'_ardrobe. Street clothes. Presently he found a dark suit, commendable not s_uch for its style as for the fact that it was the nearest fit he could find.
  • He had to roll up the trouser hems.
  • Hats. Chuckling like a boy rummaging a jam closet, he rifled the shelves an_ulled down a black derby of an unknown vintage. Large; but a runner of folde_aper reduced the size. As he pressed the relic firmly down on his head h_inced. A stab over his eyes. He waited doubtfully; but there was n_ecurrence. Fit as a fiddle. Of course he could not stoop without a flash o_ertigo; but on his feet he was top-hole. He was gaining every day.
  • Luck. He might have come out of it with the blank mind of a newborn babe; an_ere he was, keen to resume his adventures. Luck. They had not stopped to se_f he was actually dead. Some passer-by in the hall had probably alarmed them.
  • That handkerchief had carried him round the brink. Perhaps Fate intende_etting him get through—written on his pass an extension of his leave o_bsence. Or she had some new torture in reserve.
  • Now for a stout walking stick. He selected a blackthorn, twirled it, saluted, and posed before the mirror. Not so bally rotten. He would pass. Next, h_emembered that there were some flowers in the dining room—window boxes wit_carlet geraniums. He broke off a sprig and drew it through his buttonhole.
  • Outside there was a cold, pale April sky, presaging wind and rain.
  • Unimportant. He was going down into the streets for an hour or so. The colou_nd action of a crowded street; the lure was irresistible. Who would dar_ouch him in the crowd? These rooms had suddenly become intolerable.
  • He leaned against the side of the window. Roofs, thousands of them, flat, domed, pinnacled; and somewhere under one of these roofs Stefani Gregor wa_ating his heart out. It did not matter that this queer old eagle who_verybody called Cutty had promised to bring Stefani home. It might be to_ate. Stefani was old, highly strung. Who knew what infernal lies Karlov ha_old him? Stefani could stand up under physical torture; but to tear at hi_oul, to twist and rend his spirit!
  • The bubble in the champagne died down—as it always will if one permits it t_tand. He felt the old mood seep through the dikes of his gayety. Alone. _amiliar face—he would have dropped on his knees and thanked God for the sigh_f a familiar face. These people, kindly as they were—what were they bu_trangers? Yesterday he had not known them; to-morrow he would leave the_ehind forever. All at once the mystery of this bubbling idea was bared: h_as going to risk his life in the streets in the vague hope of seeing som_ace he had known in the days before the world had gone drunk on blood. On_amiliar face.
  • Of course he would never forget—at any rate, not the girl whose courage ha_ade possible this hour. Those chaps, scared off temporarily, might hav_eturned. What had become of her? He was always seeing her lovely face in th_hadows, now tender, now resolute, now mocking. Doubtless he thought of he_onstantly because his freedom of action was limited. He hadn't diversio_nough. Books and fiddling, these carried him but halfway through the boredom.
  • Where was she? Daily he had called her by telephone; no answer. The Jap shoo_is head; the slangy boy in the lift shook his.
  • She was a thoroughbred, even if she had been born of middle-class parentage.
  • He laughed bitterly. Middle class. A homeless, countryless derelict, and h_ad the impudence to revert to comparisons that no longer existed in thi_opsy-turvy old world. He was an upstart. The final curtain had droppe_etween him and his world, and he was still thinking in the ancient make-up.
  • Middle class! He was no better than a troglodyte, set down in a ne_ilderness.
  • He heard the curtain rings slither on the pole. Believing the intruder to b_uroki he turned belligerently. And there she stood—the girl herself! Th_oise of her reminded him of the Winged Victory in the Louvre. Where there ha_een a cup of champagne in his veins circumstance now poured a magnum.
  • "You!" he cried.
  • "What has happened? Where are you going in those clothes?" demanded Kitty.
  • "I am running away—for an hour or so."
  • "But you must not! The risks—after all the trouble we've had to help you!"
  • "I shall be perfectly safe, for you are going with me. Aren't you my guardia_ngel? Well, rather! The two of us—people, lights, shop windows! Perfectl_plendiferous! Honestly, now, where's the harm?" He approached her rapidly a_e spoke, and before the spell of him could be shaken off Kitty found he_ands imprisoned in his. "Please! I've been so damnably bored. The two of u_n the streets, among the crowds! No one will dare touch us. Can't you see?
  • And then—I say, this is ripping!—we'll have dinner together here. I will pla_or you on the old Amati. Please!"
  • The fire of him communicated to the combustibles in Kitty's soul. A wild, reckless irony besieged her. This adventure would be exactly what she needed; it would sweep clear the fog separating one side of her brain from the other.
  • For it was plain enough that part of her brain refused to cooperate with th_ther. A break in the trend of thought: she might succeed in getting hold o_he puzzle if she could drop it absolutely for a little while and then pick i_p again.
  • She had not gone home. She had not notified Bernini. She had checked he_uggage in the station parcel room and come directly here. For what? To le_he sense of luxury overcome the hidden repugnance of the idea of marryin_utty, divorcing him, and living on his money. To put herself in the way o_isible temptation. What fretted her so, what was wearing her down to th_oint of fatigue, was the patent imbecility of her reluctance. There woul_ave been some sense of it if Cutty had proposed a real marriage. All she ha_o do was mumble a few words, sign her name to a document, live out West for _ew months, and be in comfortable circumstances all the rest of her life. An_he doddered!
  • She would run the streets with Johnny Two-Hawks, return, and dine with him.
  • Who cared? Proper or improper, whose business was it but Kitty Conover's?
  • Danger? That was the peculiar attraction. She wanted to rush into danger, som_ense excitement the strain of which would lift her out of her mood. _ecurrent touch of the wild impulsiveness of her childhood. Hadn't sh_ometimes flown out into thunderstorms, after merited punishment, to punis_he mother whom thunder terrorized? And now she was going to rush into unknow_anger to punish Fate—like a silly child! Nevertheless, she would go into th_treets with Johnny Two-Hawks.
  • "But are you strong enough to venture on the streets?"
  • "Rot! Dash it all, I'm no mollycoddle! All nonsense to keep me pinned in lik_his. Will you go with me—be my guide?"
  • "Yes!" She shot out the word and crossed the Rubicon before reason could begi_o lecture. Besides, wasn't reason treating her shabbily in withholding th_ey to the riddle? "Johnny Two-Hawks, I will go as far as Harlem if you wan_e to."
  • "Johnny Two-Hawks!" He laughed joyously, then kissed her hands. But he had t_ay for this bending—a stab that filled his eyes with flying sparks. He mus_emember, once out of doors, not to stoop quickly. "I say, you're the jollies_irl I ever met! Just the two of us, what?"
  • "The way you speak English is wonderful!"
  • "Simple enough to explain. Had an English nurse from the beginning. Spok_nglish and Italian before I spoke Russian."
  • He seized the wooden mallet and beat the Burmese gong—a flat piece of bras_ut in the shape of a bell. The clear, whirring vibrations filled the room.
  • Long before these spent themselves Kuroki appeared on the threshold. H_obbed.
  • "Kuroki, Miss Conover is dining here with me to-night. Seven o'clock sharp.
  • The best you have in the larder."
  • "Yes, sair. You are going out, sair?"
  • "For a bit of fresh air."
  • "And I am going with him, Kuroki," said Kitty. Kuroki bobbed again. "Dinner a_even, sair." Another bob, and he returned to the kitchen, smiling. The gir_as free to come and go, of course, but the ancient enemy of Nippon would no_ass the elevator door. Let him find that out for himself.
  • When the elevator arrived the boy did not open the door. He noted the derby o_awksley's head.
  • "I can take you down, Miss Conover, but I cannot take Mr. Hawksley. When th_oss gives me an order I obey it—if I possibly can. On the day the boss tell_e you can go strolling, I'll give you the key to the city. Until then, nix!
  • No use arguing, Mr. Hawksley."
  • "I shan't argue," replied Hawksley, meekly. "I am really a prisoner, then?"
  • "For your own good, sir. Do you wish to go down, Miss Conover?"
  • "No."
  • The boy swung the lever, and the car dropped from sight.
  • "I'm sorry," said Kitty.
  • Hawksley smiled and laid a finger on his lips. "I wanted to know," h_hispered. "There's another way down from this Matterhorn. Come with me. Of_he living room is a storeroom. I found the key in the lock the other day an_nvestigated. I still have the key. Now, then, there's a door that gives t_he main loft. At the other end is the stairhead. There is a door at the foo_f the first flight down. We can jolly well leave this way, but we shall hav_o return by the lift. That bally young ruffian can't refuse to carry us up, y' know!"
  • Kitty laughed. "This is going to be fun!"
  • "Rather!"
  • They groped their way through the dim loft—for it was growing dark outside—an_ade the stairhead. The door to the seventeenth floor opened, and they steppe_orth into the lighted hallway.
  • "Now what?" asked Kitty, bubbling.
  • "The floor below, and one of the other lifts, what?" Twenty minutes later th_wo of them, arm in arm, turned into Broadway.
  • "This, sir," began Kitty with a gesture, "is Broadway—America's backyard i_he daytime and Ali Baba's cave at night. The way of the gilded youth; th_unnel for papa's money; the chorus lady; the starting point of the high cos_f living. We New Yorkers despise it because we can't afford it."
  • "The lights!" gasped Hawksley.
  • "Wreckers' lights. Behold! Yonder is a highly nutritious whisky blinking it_loomin' farewell. Do you chew gum? Even if you don't, in a few minutes I'l_ive you a cud for thought. Chewing gum was invented by a man with a talkativ_ife. He missed the physiological point, however, that a body can chew an_alk at the same time. Come on!"
  • They went on uptown, Hawksley highly amused, exhilarated, but frequentl_uzzled. The pungent irony of her observations conveyed to him that under thi_ayety was a current of extreme bitterness. "I say, are all American girl_ike you?"
  • "Heavens, no! Why?"
  • "Because I never met one like you before. Rather stilted—on their goo_ehaviour, I fancy."
  • "And I interest you because I'm not on my good behaviour?" Kitty whipped back.
  • "Because you are as God made you—without camouflage."
  • "The poor innocent young man! I'm nothing but camouflage to-night. Why are yo_isking your life in the street? Why am I sharing that risk? Because we bot_eel bound and are blindly trying to break through. What do you know about me?
  • Nothing. What do I know about you? Nothing. But what do we care? Come on, com_n!"
  • Tumpitum—tump! tumpitum—tump! drummed the Elevated. Kitty laughed. The tocsin!
  • Always something happened when she heard it.
  • "Pearls!" she cried, dragging him toward a jeweller's window.
  • "No!" he said, holding back. "I hate—jewels! How I hate them!" He broke awa_rom her and hurried on.
  • She had to run after him. Had she hesitated they might have become separated.
  • Hated jewels? No, no! There should be no questions, verbal or mental, thi_ight. She presently forced him to slow down. "Not so fast! We must neve_ecome separated," she warned. "Our safety—such as it is—lies in bein_ogether."
  • "I'm an ass. Perhaps my head is ratty without my realizing it. I fancy I'_ike a dog that's been kicked; I'm trying to run away from the pain. What'_his tomb?"
  • "The Metropolitan Opera House."
  • As they were passing a thin, wailing sound came to the ears of both. Seate_ith his back to the wall was a blind fiddler with a tin cup strapped to _nee. He was out of bounds; he had no right on Broadway; but he possessed _ingular advantage over the law. He could not be forced to move on without hi_uide—if he were honestly blind. Hundreds of people were passing; but th_iddler's "Last Rose of Summer" wasn't worth a cent. His cup was empty.
  • "The poor thing!" said Kitty.
  • "Wait!" Hawksley approached the fiddler, exchanged a few words with him, an_he blind man surrendered his fiddle.
  • "Give me your hat!" cried Kitty, delighted.
  • Carefully Hawksley pried loose his derby and handed it to Kitty. No stab o_ain; something to find that out. He turned the instrument, tucked it unde_is chin and began "Traumerei." Kitty, smiling, extended the hat. Just th_ort of interlude to make the adventure memorable. She knew this thoroughfare.
  • Shortly there would be a crowd, and the fiddler's cup would overflow—that is, if the police did not interfere too soon.
  • As for the owner of the wretched fiddle, he raised his head, his mouth opened.
  • Up there, somewhere, a door to heaven had opened.
  • True to her expectations a crowd slowly gathered. The beauty of the girl an_he dark, handsome face of the musician, his picturesque bare head, wer_ufficient for these cynical passers-by. They understood. Operati_elebrities, having a little fun on their own. So quarters and dimes an_ickels began to patter into Cutty's ancient derby hat. Broadway will alway_ontribute generously toward a novelty of this order. Famous names were tosse_bout in undertones.
  • Entered then the enemy of the proletariat. Kitty, being a New Yorker born, ha_ad her weather eye roving. The brass-buttoned minion of the law was alway_round when a bit of innocent fun was going on. As the policeman reached th_nner rim of the audience the last notes of Handel's "Largo" were fading o_he ear.
  • "What's this?" demanded the policeman.
  • "It's all over, sir," answered Kitty, smiling.
  • "Can't have this on Broadway, miss. Obstruction." He could not speak gruffl_n the face of such beauty—especially with a Broadway crowd at his back.
  • "It's all over. Just let me put this money in the blind man's cup." Kitt_oured her coins into the receptacle. At the same time Hawksley laid th_iddle in the blind man's lap. Then he turned to Kitty and boomed a lon_ussian phrase at her. Her quick wit caught the intent. "You see, he doesn'_nderstand that this cannot be done in New York. I couldn't explain."
  • "All right, miss; but don't do it again." The policeman grinned.
  • "And please don't be harsh with the blind man. Just tell him he mustn't pla_n Broadway again. Thank you!"
  • She linked her arm in Hawksley's, and they went on; and the crowd dissolved; only the policeman and the blind man remained, the one contemplating his dut_nd the other his vision of heaven.
  • "What a lark!" exclaimed Hawksley.
  • "Were you asking me for your hat?"
  • "I was telling the bobby to go to the devil!"
  • They laughed like children.
  • "March hares!" he said.
  • "No. April fools! Good heavens, the time! Twenty minutes to seven. Ou_inner!"
  • "We'll take a taxi… . Dash it!"
  • "What's wrong?"
  • "Not a bally copper in my pockets!"
  • "And I left my handbag on the sideboard! We'll have to walk. If we hurry w_an just about make it."
  • Meantime, there lay in wait for them—this pair of April fools—a taxicab. I_tood snugly against the curb opposite the entrance to Cutty's apartment. Th_oor was slightly ajar.
  • The driver watched the south corner; the three men inside never took thei_aze off the north corner.
  • "But, I say, hasn't this been a jolly lark?"
  • "If we had known we could have borrowed a dollar from the blind man; he'_ever have missed it."