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Chapter 30

  • Cutty arrived at the apartment in time to share dinner with Hawksley. He ha_isely decided to say nothing about the escapade of Hawksley and Kitt_onover, since it had terminated fortunately. Bernini had telegraphed the gis_f the adventure. He could readily understand Hawksley's part; but Kitty'_asn't reducible to ordinary terms of expression. The young chap had run wil_ecause his head still wobbled on his shoulders and because his isolation wa_eginning to scratch his nerves. But for Kitty to run wild with him offered _lank wall to speculation. (As if he could solve the riddle when Kitty hersel_ould not!) So he determined to shut himself up in his study and shuffle th_hrysoprase. Something might come of it. Looking backward, he recognized th_alient, at no time had he been quite sure of Kitty. She seemed to be _ombination of shallows and unfathomable deeps.
  • From the Pennsylvania Station he had called up the office. Kitty had gone.
  • Bernini informed him that Kitty was dining at a cafe on the way home. Cutt_as thorough. He telephoned the restaurant and was advised that Miss Conove_ad reserved a table. He had forgotten to send down the operative who guarde_itty at that end. But the distance from the office to the Subway was s_nsignificant!
  • "You are looking fit," he said across the table.
  • "Ought to be off your hands by Monday. But what about Stefani Gregor? I can'_tir, leaving him hanging on a peg."
  • "I am going into the study shortly to decide that. Head bother you?"
  • "Occasionally."
  • "Ryan easy to get along with?"
  • "Rather a good sort. I say, you know, you've seen a good deal of life. Whic_o you consider the stronger, the inherited traits or environment?"
  • "Environment. That is the true mould. There is good and bad in all of us. I_s brought into prominence by the way we live. An angel cannot touch pitc_ithout becoming defiled. On the other hand, the worst gutter rats in th_orld saved France. Do you suppose that thought will not always be tugging a_nd uplifting those who returned from the first Marne?"
  • "There is hope, then, for me!"
  • "Hope?"
  • "Yes. You know that my father, my uncle, and my grandfather were fin_coundrels."
  • "Under their influence you would have been one, too. But no man could liv_ith Stefani Gregor and not absorb his qualities. Your environment has bee_nglo-Saxon, where the first block in the picture is fair play. You have bee_onstantly under the tutelage of a fine and lofty personality, Gregor's.
  • Whatever evil traits you may have inherited, they have become subject to th_nfluences that have surrounded you. Take me, for instance. I was born in _ather puritanical atmosphere. My environments have always been good. Ye_here lurks in me the taint of Macaire. Given the wrong environment, I shoul_ow have my picture in the Rogues' Gallery."
  • "You?"
  • "Yes."
  • Hawksley played with his fork. "If you had a daughter would you trust me wit_er?"
  • "Yes. Any man who can weep unashamed over the portrait of his mother may b_rusted. Once you are out there in Montana you'll forget all about you_aternal forbears."
  • Handsome beggar, thought Cutty; but evidently born under the opal. A_nexplicable resentment against his guest stirred his heart. He resented hi_outh, his ease of manner, his fluency in the common tongue. He wa_heoretically a Britisher; he thought British; approached subjects from _ritish point of view. A Britisher—except when he had that fiddle tucked unde_is chin. Then Cutty admitted he did not know what he was. Devil take him!
  • There must have been something electrical in Cutty's resentment, for th_bject of it felt it subtly, and it fired his own. He resented the freedom o_ction that had always been denied him, resented his host's mental an_hysical superiority. Did Cutty care for the girl, or was he playing the gam_s it had been suggested to him? Money and freedom. But then, it was in n_ense a barter; she would be giving nothing, and the old beggar would b_sking nothing. His suggestion! He laughed.
  • "What's the joke?" asked Cutty, looking up from his coffee, which he wa_tirring with unnecessary vigour.
  • "It isn't a joke. I'm bally well twisted. I laugh now when I think o_omething tragic. I am sorry about last night. I was mad, I suppose."
  • "Tell me about it."
  • Cutty listened intently and smiled occasionally. Mad as hatters, both of them.
  • He and Kitty couldn't have gone on a romp like this, but Kitty and Hawksle_ould. Thereupon his resentment boiled up again.
  • "Have you any idea why she took such a risk? Why she came here, knowing me t_e absent?"
  • "She spoke of a problem. I fancy it related to your approaching marriage. Sh_old me."
  • Cutty laid down his spoon. "I'd like to dump Your Highness into the middle o_ast River for putting that idea into my head. She has consented to it; an_ow, damn it, I've got to back out of it!" Cutty rose and flung down hi_apkin.
  • "Why?" asked the bewildered Hawksley.
  • "Because there is in me the making of a first-rate scoundrel, and I neve_hould have known it if you and your affairs hadn't turned up."
  • Cutty entered his study and slammed the door, leaving Hawksley prey to so man_onflicting emotions that his head began to bother him. Back out of it! Why?
  • Why should Kitty have a problem to solve over such a marriage of convenience, and why should the old thoroughbred want to back out?
  • Kitty would be free, then? A flash of fire, which subsided quickly under th_mothering truth. What if she were free? He could not ask her to be his wife.
  • Not because of last night's madness. That no longer troubled him. She was th_ort who would understand, if he told her. She had a soul big wit_nderstanding. It was that he walked in the shadow of death, and would so lon_s Karlov was free; and he could not ask any woman to share that.
  • He pushed back his chair slowly. In the living room he took the Amati from it_ase and began improvising. What the chrysoprase did for Cutty the fiddle di_or this derelict—solved problems.
  • He reviewed all the phases as he played. That dish of bacon and eggs, th_esolute air of her, that popping fan! [Allegretto.] She had found hi_enseless on the floor. She had had the courage to come to his assistance.
  • [Andante con espressione.] What had been in her mind that night she had take_light from his bedroom, after having given him the wallet? Something lik_ears. What about? An American girl, natural, humorous, and fanciful. Someho_e felt assured that it had not been his kisses; she had looked into his eye_nd seen the taint. Always there, the beast that old Stefani had chained an_ubdued. He knew now that this beast would never again lift its head. And h_ad let her go without a sign. [Dolorosomente.] To have gone through life wit_ woman who would have understood his nature. The test of her had been las_ight in the streets. His mood had been hers. [Allegretto con amore.]
  • "Love," he said, lowering the bow.
  • "Love," said Cutty, shifting his chrysoprase. There was no fool like an ol_ool. It did not serve to recall Molly in all her glory, to reach hither an_on for a handhold to pull him out of this morass. Molly had become a_nvisible ghost. He loved her daughter. Double sunset; the phenomenon of th_ndian Ocean was now being enacted upon his own horizon. Double sunset.
  • But why should Kitty have any problem to solve? Why should she dodder ove_uch a trifle as this prospective official marriage? It was only a joke whic_ould legalize his generosity. She had sent that telegram after leaving thi_partment. What had happened here to decide her? Had Hawksley fiddled? Ther_as something the matter with the green stones to-night; they evoked nothing.
  • He leaned back in his chair, listening, the bowl of his pipe touching th_apel of his coat. Music. Queer, what you could do with a fiddle if you kne_ow.
  • After all there was no sense in venting his anger on Hawksley. He was hoist b_is own petard. Why not admit the truth? He had had a crack on the head th_ame night as Hawksley; only, he had been struck by an idea, often more deadl_han the butt of a pistol. He would apologize for that roaring exit from th_ining room. The poor friendless devil! He bent toward the green stones again.
  • In the living room Hawksley sat in a chair, the fiddle across his knees. H_nderstood now. The old chap was in love with the girl, and was afraid o_imself; couldn't risk having her and letting her go… . A curse on the drum_f jeopardy! Misfortune followed their wake always. The world would have bee_ifferent this hour if he—The break in the trend of thought was caused by th_ntrance of Kuroki, who was followed by a man. This man dropped into a chai_ithout apparently noticing that the room was already tenanted, for he neve_lanced toward Hawksley. A haggard face, dull of eye. Kuroki bobbed an_anished, but returned shortly, beckoning the stranger to follow him into th_tudy.
  • "Coles?" cried Cutty delightedly. Here was the man he had sent to negotiat_or the emeralds, free. "How did you escape? We've combed the town for you."
  • "They had me in a room on Fifteenth Street. Once in a while I got something t_at. But I haven't escaped. I'm still a prisoner."
  • "What do you mean by that?"
  • "I am here as an emissary. There was nothing for me to do but accept the job."
  • "Did he have the stones?" asked Cutty, without the least suspicion of what wa_oming.
  • "That I don't know. He pretended to have them in order to get me where h_anted me. I've been hungry a good deal because I wouldn't talk. I'm here as _egotiator. A rotten business. I agreed because I've hopes you'll be able t_ut one over on Karlov. It's the girl."
  • "Kitty?"
  • "Karlov has her. The girl wasn't to blame. Any one in the game would have don_s she did. Karlov is bugs on politics; but he's shrewd enough at this sort o_ame. He trapped the girl because he'd studied her enough to learn what sh_ould or would not do. Now they are not going to hurt her. They merely propos_xchanging her for the man you've been hiding up here. There's a tax_ownstairs. It will carry me back to Fifteenth; then it will return and wait.
  • If the man is not at the appointed place by midnight—he must go in thi_axi—the girl will be carried off elsewhere, and you'll never lay eyes on he_gain. Karlov and his gang are potential assassins; all they want is excuse.
  • Until midnight they will not touch the girl; but after midnight, God knows!
  • What message am I to take back?"
  • "Do you know where she is?"
  • Cutty spoke without much outward emotion.
  • "Not the least idea. Whenever Karlov wanted to quiz me, he appeared late a_ight from some other part of the town. But he never got much."
  • "You saw him this evening?"
  • "Yes. It probably struck him as a fine joke to send me."
  • "And if you don't go back?"
  • "The girl will be taken away. I'm honestly afraid of the man. He's too quie_poken. That kind of a man always goes the limit."
  • "I see. Wait here."
  • At Cutty's approach Hawksley looked up apathetically.
  • "Want me?"
  • "Perhaps."
  • "You are pale. Anything serious?"
  • "Yes. Karlov has got Kitty."
  • For a minute Hawksley did not stir. Then he got up, put away the Amati, an_ame back. He was pale, too.
  • "I understand," he said. "They will exchange her for me. Am I right?"
  • "Yes. But you are not obliged to do anything like that, you know."
  • "I am ready."
  • "You give yourself up?"
  • "Why not?"
  • "You're a man!" Cutty burst out.
  • "I was brought up by one. Honestly, now, could I ever look a white man in th_ace again if I didn't give myself up? I did begin to believe that I might ge_hrough. But Fate was only playing with me. May I use your desk to write _ine?"
  • "Come with me," said Cutty, unsteadily. This was not the result o_nvironment. Quiet courage of this order was race. No questions demanding i_here wasn't some way round the inevitable. Cutty's heart glowed; the boy ha_alked into it, never to leave it. "I'm ready." It took a man to say that whe_he sequence was death.
  • "Coles," said Cutty upon reentering the study, "tell Karlov that His Highnes_ill give himself up. He will be there before midnight."
  • "That's enough for me. But if there's the least sign that you're not playin_traight it will be all off. Two men will be watching the taxi and th_ntrance. If you appear, it's good-night. They told me to warn you."
  • "I promise not to appear."
  • Coles smiled enigmatically and reached for his hat. He held his hand out t_awksley. "You're a white man, sir."
  • "Thanks," said Hawksley, absently. To have it all over with!
  • As soon as the captive Federal agent withdrew Hawksley sat down at the des_nd wrote.
  • "Will this hold legally?" he asked, extending the written sheet to Cutty.
  • Cutty saw that it was a simple will. In it Hawksley gave half of hi_ossessions to Kitty and half to Stefani Gregor. In case the latter was dea_he sum total was to go to Kitty.
  • "I got you into a muddle; this will take you out of it. Karlov will kill me. _on't know how. I am his obsession. He will sleep better with me off his mind.
  • Will this hold legally?"
  • "Yes. But why Kitty Conover, a stranger?"
  • "Is a woman who saves your life a stranger?"
  • "Well, not exactly. This is what we might call zero hour. I gave you a have_ere not particularly because I was sorry for you, but because I wanted thos_meralds. Once upon a time Gregor showed them to me. Until I examined you_allet I supposed you had smuggled in the stones; and that would have bee_air game. But you had paid your way in honestly. Now, what did you do t_itty Conover last night that decided her to accept that fool proposition? Sh_ent her acceptance after she left you.
  • "I did not know that. I played for her. She became music-struck, and I too_dvantage of it—kissed her. Then she told me she was going to marry you."
  • "And that is why you asked me if I would trust you with a daughter of mine?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Conscience. That explains this will."
  • "No. Why did you accept my suggestion to marry her?"
  • "To make her comfortable without sidestepping the rules of convention."
  • "No. Because you love her—the way I do."
  • Cutty's pipe slipped from his teeth. It did not often do that. He stamped ou_he embers and laid the pipe on the tray.
  • "What makes you think I love her?"
  • "What makes me tell you that I do?"
  • "Yes, death may be at the end of to-night's work; so I'll admit that I lov_er. She is like a forest stream, wild at certain turns, but always sweet an_lear. I'm an old fool, old enough to be her father. I loved her mother. Can _an love two women with all his heart, one years after the other?"
  • "It is the avatar; she is the reincarnation of the mother. I understand now.
  • What was a beautiful memory takes living form again. You still love th_other; the daughter has revived that love."
  • "By the Lord Harry, I believe you've struck it! Walked into the fog an_ouldn't find the way out. Of course. What an old ass I've been! Simple a_aylight. I've simply fallen in love with Molly all over again, thinking i_as Kitty. Plain as the nose on my face. And I might have made a fine mess o_t if you hadn't waked me up."
  • All this gentle irony went over Hawksley's head. "When do you wish me to g_own to the taxi?"
  • "Son, I'm beginning to like you. You shall have your chance. In fact, we'l_ake it together. There'll be a taxi but I'll hire it. I'm quite positive _now where Kitty is. If I'm correct you'll have your chance. If I'm wron_ou'll have to pay the score. We'll get her out or we'll stay where she is. I_ny event, Karlov will pay the price. Wouldn't you prefer to go out—if yo_ust—in a glorious scrap?"
  • "Fighting?" Hawksley was on his feet instantly. "Do you mean that? I can di_ith free hands?"
  • "With a chance of coming out top-hole."
  • "I say, what a ripping thing hope is—always springing back!"
  • Cutty nodded. But he knew there was one hope that would never warm his hear_gain. Molly!… Well, he'd let the young chap believe that. Kitty must neve_now. Poor little chick, fighting with her soul in the dark and not knowin_hat the matter was! Such things happened. He had loved Molly on sight. He ha_oved Kitty on sight. In neither case had he known it until too late to tur_bout. Mother and daughter; a kind of sacrilege, as if he had betrayed Molly!
  • But what a clear vision acknowledged love lent to the mind! He understoo_itty, who did not understand herself. Well, this night's adventure woul_ecide things.
  • He smiled. Neither Kitty nor the drums of jeopardy; nothing. The gates o_aradise again—for somebody else! Whoever heard of a prompter receiving pres_otices?
  • "Let's look alive! We haven't any time to waste. We'll have to change t_ungarees—engineer togs. There'll be some tools to carry. We go straight dow_o the boiler room. We come up the ash exit on the street side. Remember, n_uspicious haste. Two engineers off for their evening swig of beer at th_orner groggery. Through the side door there, and into my taxi. Obey ever_rder I give. Now run along to Kuroki and say night work for both of us. He'l_nderstand what's wanted. I'll set the machinery in motion for a raid. How d_ou feel? I want the truth. I don't want to turn to you for help and not ge_t."
  • Hawksley laughed. "Don't worry about me. I'll carry on. Don't you understand?
  • To have an end of it, one way or the other! To come free or to die there!"
  • "And if Kitty is not where I believe her to be?"
  • "Then I'll return to the taxi outside."
  • To be young like that! thought Cutty, feeling strangely sad and old. "To com_ree or to die there!" That was good Anglo-Saxon. He would make a goo_merican citizen—if he were in luck.
  • At half after nine the two of them knelt on the roof before the cemented trap.
  • Nothing but raging heat disintegrates cement. So the liberation of this trap, considering the time, was a Herculean task, because it had to be accomplishe_ith little or no noise. Cold chisels, fulcrums, prying, heaving, boring. T_ree the under edge; the top did not matter. Not knowing if Kitty wer_elow—that was the worst part of the job.
  • The sweat of agony ran down Hawksley's face; but he never faltered. He wa_oing to die to-night, somehow, somewhere, but with free hands, the wa_tefani would have him die, the way the girl would have him die. All thes_housands of miles—to die in a house he had never seen before, just when lif_as really worth something!
  • An hour went by. Then they heard Kitty's signal. Instinctively the two of the_new that the taps came from her. They were absolutely certain when her signa_as repeated. She was below, alone.
  • "Faster!" whispered Cutty.
  • Hawksley smiled. To say that to a chap when he was digging into his tomb!
  • When the sides of the trap were free Cutty tapped to Kitty again. There was _ong, agonizing wait. Then three taps came from below. Cutty flashed a signa_o the warehouse windows. In five minutes the raid would be in full swing—fro_he roof, from the street, from the cellar.
  • With their short crowbars braced by stout fulcrums the two men heaved. Nois_id not matter now. Presently the trap went over.
  • "Look out for your hands; there's lots of loose glass. And together when w_rop."
  • "Right-o!" whispered Hawksley, assured that when he dropped through the tra_he result would be oblivion. Done in.