BY NATALIE SUMNER LINCOLN
To MRS. SARAH VAIL GOULD my grandmother to whose affection belongs many joyous days of childhood at "Oaklands" this book is offered as a loving tribute to her memory.
I. AT VICTORIA STATION
II. OUT OF THE VOID
III. POWERS THAT PREY
IV. "SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT?"
V. AN EVENTFUL EVENING
VI. AT THE CAPITOL
VII. PHANTOM WIRES
VIII. KAISER BLUMEN
IX. THE SPIDER AND THE FLY
X. SISTERS IN UNITY
XI. A MAN IN A HURRY
XII. A SINISTER DISCOVERY
XIII. HIDE AND SEEK
XIV. A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
XV. THE GAME, "I SPY"
XVI. AT THE MORGUE
XVII. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
XVIII. A PROPOSAL
XIX. THE YELLOW STREAK
XX. THE AWAKENING
XXI. THE FINGER PRINT
XXII. "TRENTON HURRY"
XXIII. IN FULL CRY
XXIV. RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
XXV. LOVE PARAMOUNT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"He saw Kathleen quickly palm his place card"
"As Henry pushed back the door, she collapsed into her father's arms"
"'A flash, the rifle's recoil—and Mr. Whitney still standing just where he was'"
"Whitney paused to snatch up a magnifying glass and by its aid examined the finger prints"
AT VICTORIA STATION
The allied forces, English and French, had been bent backward day by day, until it seemed as if Paris was fairly within the Germans' grasp. Bent indeed, but never broken, and with the turning of the tide the Allied line had rushed forward, and France breathed again.
Two men, seated in a room of the United Service Club in London one gloomy afternoon in November, 1914, talked over the situation in tones too low to reach other ears. The older man, Sir Percival Hargraves, had been bemoaning the fact that England seemed honeycombed by the German Secret Service, and his nephew, John Hargraves, an officer in uniform, was attempting to reassure him. It was a farewell meeting, for the young officer was returning to the front.
"Much good will all this espionage do the Germans," said the young man. "We are easily holding our own, and with the spring will probably come our opportunity." He clicked his teeth together. "What price then all these suspected plots and futile intrigues?"
"Don't be so damned cocksure," rapped out his uncle, his exasperation showing in heightened color and snapping eyes. "It's that same cocksureness which has almost brought the British Empire to the very brink of dissolution."
His nephew smiled tolerantly, and shifted his thickset figure to a more comfortable position.
"Now, now," he cautioned. "Remember what old Sawbones told you yesterday about not exciting yourself. Said you weren't to read or talk about this bally old war. Leave the worrying to Kitchener; he'll see we chaps do our part."
"If everything were left to Kitchener!" Sir Percival thumped the arm of his chair. "Some of us would sleep easier in our beds. And I know you chaps at the front will do your part. Would to God I could be with you!" glancing at his shrunken and useless left leg. "If I could only take a pot at the beggars!"
"According to your belief the firing line will shortly be on English soil," chaffed his nephew, avoiding looking at his companion. He knew the tragic circumstances surrounding his uncle's maimed condition, and wished to avoid anything touching upon sentiment.
"If the plans to undermine England's home government are perfected and carried out, every man, woman and child will have to band together to repel invasion." Sir Percival lowered his voice. "If there are any able-bodied men left here."
"Don't be so pessimistic. Kitchener has built up a great army, and is only waiting the proper moment to launch it in the field."
"The best of England has volunteered," agreed Sir Percival, "but what about the slackers? What about the coal strikes—the trouble in our munition factories? All are chargeable to the Kaiser's war machine which overlooks nothing in its complete preparedness. Preparedness—England doesn't yet know the meaning of the word."
"It's time for me to leave," said the young officer, consulting his watch. "Take my word for it, Uncle, we're not going to the demnition bowwows—count on England's bulldog grit. God help Germany when the Allies get into that country!"
"When—ah, when?" echoed Sir Percival. "I hope that I live to see the day. Tell me, boy," his voice softening, "how is it with you and Molly?"
His nephew reddened under his tan. "Molly doesn't care for a chap like me," he muttered.
"Did she tell you so?"
"Well, no. You see, Uncle, it—eh—doesn't seem the thing to suggest that a charming girl like Molly tie herself to a fellow who may get his at any time."
"Piffle!" Sir Percival's shaggy eyebrows met in a frown. "Sentimental nonsense! You and Molly were great chums a year ago. You told me yourself that you hoped to marry her; I even spoke to her mother about the suitability of the match."
"You had no right to," blazed his nephew. "It was damned impertinent interference."
"You have not always thought so," retorted Sir Percival bitterly. "What had that most impertinent American girl you met in Germany to do with your change of front toward Molly?"
"I must insist that you speak more respectfully of Kathleen." John Hargraves' expression altered. "If you must know, I asked Kathleen to marry me and—she refused."
"I said she was impertinent. All Americans are; they don't know any better," fumed his uncle. "Forget her, John; think of Molly. I tell you the child loves you. Don't wreck her happiness for the sake of a fleeting fancy."
"Fleeting fancy?" John Hargraves shook his head sorrowfully. "When Kathleen refused me I was hard hit; so hit I can't marry any other girl. Don't let's talk of it." He smiled wistfully as he held out his hand. "Time's up, Uncle; the train leaves in an hour, and I must get my kit. Good-by, sir. Wish me luck." And before the older man could stop him he was retreating down the hall.
Sir Percival stared vacantly about the room. "The last of his race," he muttered. "God help England! The toll is heavy."
In spite of his haste John Hargraves was late in reaching Victoria Station, and had barely time to take his place before the train pulled slowly out. As he looked down the long trainshed, he encountered the fixed stare of a tall, well-groomed man standing near one of the pillars. Hargraves looked, and looked again; then his hand flew up, and leaning far out of his compartment he shouted to a porter. But his message was lost in the roar of the more rapidly moving train, and the porter, shaking a bewildered head, turned back.
The crowd of women and children and a few men, which had gathered to witness the troop train's departure, was silently dispersing when an obsequious porter approached the tall stranger whose appearance had so excited John Hargraves.
"Ye keb's out 'ere, sir," he said. "This way, sir," and as the stranger made no move to follow him, he leaned forward and lifted the latter's top coat from his arm. "Let me carry this 'ere for you, gov'ner," then in a whisper that none could overhear, he said in German: "For your life, follow me."
"Go on," directed the stranger in English, pausing to adjust his cravat, and made his leisurely way after the hurrying porter. The latter stopped finally by the side of a somewhat battered-looking limousine.
"'Ere ye are, sir," announced the porter, not waiting for the chauffeur to pull open the door. "I most amissed ye," he rattled on. "Kotched the keb, sir, an' tucked yer boxes inside, then I looked for ye at the bookin' office, 'cording to directions. Let me tuck this 'ere laprobe over ye."
As the stranger stepped into the limousine and seated himself the porter clambered in after him.
"They're on," he whispered, his freckles showing plainly against his white face. "The chauffeur is one of us, he'll take you straight to our landing. This packet's for you. Good luck!" And pocketing the sovereign offered, the porter, voicing loud thanks, backed from the limousine and slammed the door shut.
The outskirts of London were reached before the man in the limousine opened the slip of paper thrust into his hand by the porter. It was wrapped about a small electric torch and a book of cigarette papers. Slowly he read the German script in the note.
Be at the rendezvous by Thursday. Hans, the chauffeur, has full directions. Do not miss the seventeenth.
After rereading the contents of the note the man tore it into tiny bits and, not content with that, stuffed them among the tobacco in his pipe. Striking a match he lighted his pipe and planting his feet on the bag he gazed long and earnestly at his initials stamped on the much labeled buckskin. The slowing up of the limousine aroused him from his meditations, and he glanced out of the window to see which way they were headed. London, the metropolis of the civilized world, lay behind him. Catching his chauffeur's backward glance, he signaled him to continue onward as, removing his pipe, he muttered:
"Gott strafe England!"
OUT OF THE VOID
Slowly, the sullen roar of artillery, the rattle of Maxims and rifles sank fitfully away. A tall raw-boned major of artillery stretched his cramped limbs in the observation station, paused to look with callous eyes over the devastated fields before him, then sought the trench. Earlier in the day the Allies had been shelled out of an advance position by the enemy and had fallen back on the entrenchments.
"Devilish hot stuff, shrapnel," commented a brother officer as Major Seymour stopped at his side.
The Major nodded absently, and without further reply advanced a few paces to meet an ammunition corporal who was obviously seeking him. "Well?" he demanded, as the non-commissioned officer saluted.
"Only twenty rounds left, Major." The Corporal lowered his voice. "Captain Hargraves sent word to rush reinforcements here as soon as it is dark, sir."
Major Seymour glanced with unconcealed impatience at his wrist watch. God! Would night never come!
"Can't we get our wounded to the base hospital, Major?" asked a younger officer. He had only joined the unit thirty-six hours before and while he had faced the baptism of fire gallantly, the ghastly carnage about him shook his nerve. He was not fed up with horrors as were his brother officers.
"The wounded would stand small chance of reaching safety if the German gunners sighted them. They must wait for darkness," replied Seymour. "Here, take a pull at my flask. Got potted yourself, didn't you?" noticing a thin stream of blood trickling down his companion's sleeve.
"Only a flesh wound—of no moment," protested the young man, flushing at the thought that his commanding officer might have misunderstood his question. "I'm afraid Captain Hargraves is in a bad way."
"Hargraves!" The Major spun on his heel. "Where is he?"
"This way, sir," and the Lieutenant led him past groups of men and officers. It was an appalling scene of desolation. The approach of night had brought a slight drizzling rain, and the ground, pitted with shell holes, was slimy with wet, greasy mud. Nearly all the trees in the vicinity were blasted as if by lightning, and along the right hand side of the road was a line of A.S.S. carts and limbers blown to pieces. One horse, completely disemboweled, lay on his back, the inside arch of his ribs plainly showing. His leader was a mass of entrails lying about, and on the other side lay four or five more, one with a foreleg blown clear off at the shoulder, one minus a head. A half-dozen motor cycles and over a dozen push bikes lay in the mud with some unrecognizable shapes that had been riding them. Between the advance trenches, in No Man's Land, the ground was thickly strewn with corpses of Scotties killed in the charge.
"The Huns had us cold as to range," volunteered the Lieutenant, loss of blood and reaction from excitement loosening his tongue. "They outed five guns complete with detachments by direct hits. Here we are, sir," and he paused near a demolished gun emplacement. The ground about was a shambles.
Major Seymour stepped up to one of the figures lying upon the ground, a mud-incrusted coat thrown over his legs. Several privates who had been rendering what assistance they could, moved aside on the approach of their superior officers. Hargraves opened his eyes as Seymour knelt by him.
"My number's up," he whispered, and the game smile which twisted his white lips was pitiful.
"Nonsense." Seymour's gruff tone concealed emotion. Hargraves' face betrayed death's indelible sign. "You'll pull through, once you're back at the hospital."
Hargraves shook his head; he realized the futility of argument.
"Have you pencil and paper?" he asked.
"Yes." Seymour drew out his despatch book and removed a page. "What is it, John?" But some minutes passed before his question received an answer, and Hargraves' voice was noticeably weaker, as he dictated:
I saw Karl in London at Victoria Station. I swear it was he ... warn Uncle ... Kathleen ... Kathleen ...
There was a long silence; then Seymour laid aside the unneeded brandy flask and slowly rose to his feet. He mechanically folded the scrap of paper, but before slipping it inside his pocket, the blank side arrested his attention.
"Heavens! John never gave me her address or last name. Who is Kathleen?" he exclaimed.
More shaken than he was willing to confess even to himself, by the loss of his pal, he stared bitterly across the battlefield toward the enemy's lines. How cheerily Hargraves had greeted him that morning on his return from a week's furlough in England! How glad he had been to rejoin the unit and be once again with his comrades on the firing line! A gallant spirit had passed to the Great Beyond.
Back in his observation station Major Seymour an hour later viewed the gathering darkness with satisfaction. Two hours more and it would be difficult to see a hand before one's face. Undoubtedly the sorely needed ammunition and reserves would reach the trenches in time, and the wounded could be safely transferred to the base hospital. The Allies' line had held, and in spite of their desperate assaults the Germans had been unable to find a vulnerable spot.
Seymour passed his hand over his eyes. Against the darkness his fevered imagination pictured advancing "gray phantoms." "They come like demons from the hell they have created," he muttered. "I hope to God they don't use 'starlights' over our trenches tonight. Flesh and blood can stand no more."
The darkness grew denser and more dense. In the long battle front of the Allies no sentinel saw a powerful Aviatik biplane glide over the trenches and fly onward toward its goal. Several times the airman inspected his phosphorescent compass and map, each time thereafter altering his course. Finally, making a sign to his observer, he planed to a lower level and, satisfied that he had reached the proper distance, a bomb was released.
Down through the black void the infernal machine sped. A sickening pause—then a deafening detonation, followed by another and another, cut the stillness, and the earth beneath was aflame with light as the high explosives and shells stored in the concealed ammunition depot were set off. Nothing escaped destruction; flesh and blood, mortar and brick went skyward together, and a great gash in the earth was all that was left to tell the story of the enemy's successful raid.
From a safe height the German airman and his observer watched their handiwork. Suddenly the latter caught sight of an aeroplane winging its way toward them.
"Bauerschreck!" he shouted, and the airman followed his pointed finger. Instantly under his skillful manipulation their biplane climbed into the air in long graceful spirals until they were six thousand feet above ground. But as fast as they went, their heavier Aviatik was no match in speed for the swift French aeroplane, and the bullets from the latter's machine gun were soon uncomfortably near.
The German airman's face was set in grim lines as he maneuvered his biplane close to his pursuer and, dodging and twisting in sharp dips and curves, spoiled the aim of the Frenchman at the machine gun, while his own revolver and that of his observer kept up a continuous fusillade.
For twenty minutes the unequal fight continued. It could not last much longer. Despair pulled at the German's heartstrings as he saw his observer topple for a moment in his seat, then pitch forward into space. The biplane tipped dangerously, righted itself and sped like a homing pigeon in the direction of the German lines. There was nothing left but to fly for it. The German dared not look behind; only by the mercy of God were the Frenchman's shots going wild. It could not last; he must get the range. Surely, surely they were past the last of the Allies' trenches?
The German turned and fired his revolver desperately at his pursuers. Glory to God! one of his bullets punctured the latter's gasoline tank. It must be so—the French aeroplane was apparently making a forced landing. The shout on the German's lips was checked by a stinging sensation in his right side. The Frenchman had his range at last.
Almost simultaneously his machine turned completely over. With groping, desperate fingers the German strove to gain control over the levels and right himself. In vain—and as he started in the downward rush, the hurrying wind carried the frenzied whisper:
"The cross, dear God, the cross!"
POWERS THAT PREY
Not far as the crow flies from the scene of the German airman's catastrophe, but with its presence hidden from general knowledge, was the Grosses Hauptquartier, the pulsing heart and brain of the Imperial fighting forces. Vigilant sentries patrolled the park leading from the chateau commandeered for the use of the War Lord and his entourage, to the quarters of the Great General Staff. In a secluded room of the latter building a dozen men sat in conference about a table littered with papers; they had been there since early evening, but no man permitted his glance to stray to the dial of a library clock whose hands were gradually approaching two o'clock. Truly, the chiefs of the divisions were tireless toilers.
The Herr Chief of the Great General Staff was emphasizing his remarks with vigor unusual even for him, when the telephone, no respecter of persons, sent out its tinkling call. Hitching his chair closer to the table, the Herr Chief of the Aviation Corps removed the receiver from the instrument. A courteous silence prevailed as he took the message. Replacing the receiver, he turned and confronted his confreres.
"An outpost reports," he began formally, "that Captain von Eltz in his Aviatik biplane was pursued and wrecked by a French airman who was obliged to make a forced landing inside our lines. The French airmen were shot in their attempt to escape. Owing to the Aviatik biplane catching in the branches of a tree and thereby breaking his fall Captain von Eltz was rescued alive, although desperately wounded. The observer who accompanied him is dead. On regaining consciousness Captain von Eltz reported that his mission was successful, the new ammunition depot having been completely destroyed by his bomb."
A low hum of approval greeted his words. "Well done, gallant von Eltz!" exclaimed one of the hearers. "He deserves the Iron Cross."
"He will receive it," declared another officer enthusiastically.
"The information as to the location of this new ammunition depot, which von Eltz has just destroyed, came from the man of whom I have been telling you tonight," broke in the Herr Chief of the Secret Service. "He has been our eyes and ears in England. Gentlemen, is it your wish that he be intrusted with the delicate mission of which we have just been speaking?"
The eyes of the Herr Chief of the Great General Staff swept his companions. "Is it that I speak for all?" A quick affirmative answered him. "Then, we leave the matter entirely in your hands." The Herr Chief of the Secret Service bowed. "You know your agents; the selection is left to you, but see there is no unnecessary delay."
"There will be no delay," responded the Herr Chief of the Secret Service. "My agent is not far from here. With your permission, I take my leave," and saluting he hastened from the room.
The sun was halfway in the heavens when a limousine drew up before a wayside inn near a semi-demolished city. Before the orderly sitting by the chauffeur could swing himself to the ground, a tall man had stepped to the side of the car and opened the door. For a second the Herr Chief of the Secret Service and the stranger contemplated each other without speaking, then the former motioned to the vacant seat by his side.
"We can talk as we ride," he announced brusquely. "Your luggage—"
"Is here," thrusting a much labeled suitcase inside the limousine and jumping in after it.
At a low-toned word from the Herr Chief of the Secret Service the orderly saluted and quickly resumed his seat by the chauffeur. There was a short silence inside the limousine as the powerful car continued up the road. They were stopped at the first railroad crossing by a trainload of wounded soldiers.
"Your pardon," and before the Herr Chief of the Secret Service could stop him, the stranger pulled down the sash curtains of all the windows. "You are well known; being recognized is the penalty of greatness. It is to my interest to escape such a distinction."
"I approve your caution, Herr Captain," observed the older man. "Will you smoke?" producing his cigarette case, and as the other smilingly helped himself and accepted a lighted match, he surveyed him critically. Paying no attention to his chief's scrutiny, the Secret Service agent contemplated the luxurious appointments of the limousine with satisfaction and puffed contentedly at his cigarette. His air of breeding was unmistakable, but the devil-may-care sparkle in his gray-blue eyes redeemed an otherwise expressionless face from being considered heavy. The spirits of the Herr Chief of the Secret Service rose. His recollection and judgment was still good; his agent, by men and women, would be deemed extremely handsome.
"The new ammunition depot was destroyed last night by our airmen," he said, with some abruptness. "Your information was reliable."
"Pardon, is not my information always reliable?" interpolated the Secret Service agent.
"So it has proved," acknowledged his chief cordially, but a mark was mentally registered against the Herr Captain. German bureaucracy does not tolerate presumption from a subordinate. "And owing to your excellent record, you have been selected for a most delicate mission."
"Under the same conditions?"
"The Imperial Government cannot be questioned," retorted his chief, his anger rising.
"I am different from other operatives." A puff of cigarette smoke wreathed upward from the speaker's lips. "A free-lance."
"And you have been given a free hand. We have not inquired into your methods of procuring information, being content with the result."
"And does not the result justify not only your confidence but promotion?"
The Herr Chief of the Secret Service considered before replying; then he answered with a question.
"Have you been to Ireland?"
The Secret Service agent smiled grimly as he took from his pocket a book of cigarette papers. Counting them over, he selected the seventeenth paper, and passed it to his companion, who examined the small blank sheet with interest. "Just a moment," and the young man again slipped his hand into a vest pocket, this time bringing out a nickel flashlight. Pressing his thumb on the switch he held the glass bulb against the rice paper. In a few minutes a faint tracing appeared on the blank page, which grew brighter as the rays of light generated more heat.
"Hold it a moment," said the Herr Chief of the Secret Service. "Keep it over the bulb," and taking out his notebook he made several entries, then closed it with a snap.
"Finished?" As he asked the question, the Secret Service agent replaced his pocket flashlight, drew out his tobacco pouch, poured a little in the rice paper, and proceeded to roll the cigarette with practiced fingers.
"About Sheerness?" questioned the Herr Chief of the Secret Service.
"All is arranged."
"Good." The Herr Chief of the Secret Service permitted himself to settle back more comfortably on the roomy seat so that he faced his companion. In the closed and semi-darkened limousine there was no danger of their conversation being overheard.
"I reserved for myself, Herr Captain," said the Herr Chief slowly, "the pleasure of informing you that your valuable services to the Kaiser and the Fatherland"—the Secret Service agent raised his hat—"are recognized. The Cross may yet be yours."
"How can I express my gratitude?" stammered the Secret Service agent.
"By not jumping to hasty conclusions," smiled his chief. "Never again question your orders."
"Be just," protested the Secret Service agent warmly. "I have risked my life daily for the Kaiser and the Fatherland in a hostile country. There have been hours which I do not care to remember." The speaker's tone grew husky. "Some day—a short shift; and I must make provision for another."
"I understood you were not married?"
There was a barely perceptible pause. "Spies do not marry, sir."
"And if a Secret Service agent has a healthy regard for his own safety, he is careful of serious entanglements," cautioned his chief. "However, judging by your past work, I believe you are quite able to take care of yourself. Thanks to the warnings and information of your organization we have been able to meet some of the Allies' contemplated concerted attacks, and your information as to the sailing of transports and the movements of ammunition trains has been of inestimable service."
"Do you still wish me to keep up this particular work?"
"No." The Herr Chief of the Secret Service leaned forward in his earnestness. "This war has demonstrated again and again that victory goes with the heaviest artillery."
"True! Antwerp, one of the strongest fortified cities on the Continent, crumpled up before our siege guns," broke in his companion.
The older man paid no attention to the interruption, but continued gravely: "Hand to hand conflict and cavalry charges are a thing of the past. We shell out the enemies' trenches from batteries six to twelve miles away. All this you already know; I repeat it now to explain what I am about to say. We are in possession of the mining district of France, they are getting hard pushed for ammunition; England's supply is not inexhaustible; Russia cannot half arm her fighting forces. They one and all are appealing to the manufacturing capitalists of the United States to furnish them with arms and ammunition."
"And with success," dryly.
The Herr Chief of the Secret Police frowned. "It must be stopped. You are to go to America—"
"Yes, at once. You have a genius for organization; your work in England proved that. Let us know what merchant vessels and passenger steamers are carrying munitions of war. Be sure, doubly sure, that your information is correct, for we shall act upon it. Our Government stands ready to take most drastic measures to stop such traffic."
"I see." The Secret Service agent stroked his clean-shaven chin in meditative silence. "In England I went hand in hand with death; in the United States I am likely to outlive my usefulness."
"Perhaps," with dry significance. "But recollect our Government is ready to adopt any expedient to stop the exporting of arms and ammunition to our enemies."
"As for instance—?"
"Leave our methods to us; you have your work. You will make your headquarters at Washington City. There you will be able to place your hand on the pulse of the nation, and there you will find—idle women."
"Have we not already representatives at the United States capital?"
The Herr Chief of the Secret Service eyed him keenly. "Our embassy is concerned only with the diplomatic world. You are to send us word whether the United States Government arsenals are working under a full complement of men; of the orders placed by the Navy Department for submarines, and the activities obtaining in private munition plants. Be certain and study the undercurrent of sentiment for or against us. Report as you have heretofore."
"How am I to get in touch with the private shipyards and munition plants?"
"I will give you letters to residents loyal to their Fatherland. A number of the owners of powder companies and munition plants usually winter in Washington. I am also told that Mexican juntas still make Washington their headquarters." The eyes of the Secret Service agent were boring into him, but the older man's countenance remained a mask. "You must bear in mind that if the American capitalists persist in selling assistance to our enemies the attention of the United States must be diverted to other issues...."
"Such a plan could only be carried out by creating a necessity of home consumption for war munitions," supplemented the Secret Service agent softly.
Without replying the Herr Chief of the Secret Service pulled forward a small despatch-box from a cleverly concealed pocket in the upholstery of the limousine.
"We are motoring to your nearest destination," he said soberly, opening the box. "Here are your letters of credit, your passport, and introductions to our friends across the water," handing him a leather wallet. "They will see that you are properly introduced to Washington hostesses. Go out in society; I am told it is most delightful at the Capital. Make friends with influential public men and prominent Washingtonians. Above all," with emphasis, "cultivate the gentler sex; remember, idle women make excellent pawns, my dear Herr Captain von Mueller."
"SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT?"
Mrs. Winslow Whitney, gathering her wraps together, stepped from the limousine.
"I shall not need you again tonight, Henry," she said, as the chauffeur sprang to the sidewalk to assist her.
"Very good, ma'am," and touching his cap respectfully, he took from the limousine the heavy fur laprobe and hastened to ring the doorbell for his mistress.
Halfway to her front door Mrs. Whitney paused to scan the outward appearance of her home. The large, Colonial, brick double house, with lights partly showing behind handsomely curtained windows, looked the embodiment of comfort, but Mrs. Whitney heaved a sharp sigh of discontent. The surroundings were not pleasing to her. Again and again she had pleaded with her husband to give up the old house and move into a more fashionable neighborhood. But with the tenacity which easy-going men sometimes exhibit, Winslow Whitney clung to the home of his ancestors. It had descended from father to son for generations, and finally to him, the last of the direct male line. Although business had encroached and noisy electric cars passed his door, and even government buildings dwarfed the impressive size of the old mansion, he declined to give up his home, stating that he had been born there and there he would die.
"Very well, you and Providence can settle the point between you, Dad," answered Kathleen, his only child, who had been brought in to use her persuasive powers upon her irate parent. "But as long as mother and I have to inhabit this old shell you must, simply must, put new works inside her."
And Whitney, with the generosity which marked his every action to those he loved, rehabilitated and remodeled the mansion until it finally rivaled in up-to-date completeness the more ornate homes of the newly rich in the fashionable Northwest.
"Has Miss Kathleen returned?" asked Mrs. Whitney, handing her wraps to the breathless Vincent, who had hurried to answer the chauffeur's imperious ring.
"When she does return, tell her that I wish to see her."
"Is Mr. Whitney in his studio?"
"Yes, ma'am. Shall I send Julie to you?"
"Tell her to go to my room and wait for me." As she spoke Mrs. Whitney crossed the broad hall and, passing the Colonial staircase, entered the elevator. The automatic car carried her to the first bedroom floor but, changing her mind, she did not open the door; instead she pressed the electric button marked "Attic." Her slight feeling of irritation aroused by not being met downstairs by any member of her family was increased by stepping from the elevator into a dark hall.
"Winslow!" she called. Meeting with no response she walked over to the opposite wall and by the aid of the light in the elevator found the electric switch and turned it on. Not pausing to look about her, she went to the back of the large high-roofed attic and tried the handle of a closed door. Finding that it would not open to her touch, she rapped sharply on the panel. She waited several seconds before she heard a chair pushed back and the sound of advancing footsteps. The inside bolt was shot back with distinct force.
"Well, what is it?" demanded Whitney, jerking open the door. "Oh, my dear," his tone changing at sight of his wife, "I had no idea you were returning so soon."
"Do you call half-past six o'clock soon?" asked Mrs. Whitney following him into the room. "Winslow, Winslow, I warn you not to become too absorbed in your work."
Whitney laughed somewhat ruefully. "Does the kettle call the pot black? What do you do but give up your time to the Sisters in Unity? I'm a secondary consideration. There, there," noting his wife's expression. "Don't let us dispute over trifles. I'm making headway, Minna—headway."
"I congratulate you, dear." Mrs. Whitney laid a caressing hand on his touseled gray hair. "I never doubted that you would. But, Winslow, such complete absorption in your work is not healthy. The doctor has warned you not to shut yourself up in this room for hours, and particularly that you are not to lock your door on the inside. Remember your recent attacks of vertigo."
"McLane's an ass. The vertigo sprang from indigestion; hereafter, I'll be more careful what I eat," he protested. "There's nothing the matter with this room; it's well ventilated and heated. And I will lock my door—I won't be interrupted by any jackass servant wanting to feed me pap"—pointing scornfully toward the hall where a tray laden with a teapot and tempting dishes stood on a table near the door. "Do you not yet realize, Minna, that this is my life work?" With a sweeping gesture he indicated the models, brass, wood, and wax, which filled every cranny of the sparsely furnished room.
Mrs. Whitney sighed. The room was her bugbear. She had dignified it with the name of "studio," but it looked what it was—a workshop. Winslow Whitney, considered in clubdom as a dilettante and known to scientists as an inventor of ability, frowned impatiently as he observed his wife's air of disapprobation.
"My dear, we must agree to disagree," he said, lowering his voice. "My brain is carrying too much just now; I cannot be confused by side issues. Everything must wait until my invention is completed."
"Is your daughter's welfare of secondary importance?"
"What?" Whitney surveyed his wife in startled surprise, and her handsome face flushed under his scrutiny. "What is the matter with Kathleen's welfare? Do I illtreat her? Is she refused money? Do I make her spend hours here helping me in this"—sarcastically—"sweatshop? Four years ago she took up this fad of painting; you encouraged her at it—you know you did," shaking an accusing finger at his wife. "You persuaded me to let her study in Germany, and she hasn't been worth a button since—as far as home comfort goes."
"It's true," doggedly. "Formerly she was willing and glad to help me with my modeling, help me in making calculations, tracings—now she spends her time philandering."
"All young girls flirt, Winslow."
"But Kathleen was always so shy," Whitney shook his head. "Now I'm asked at the club if she isn't engaged to this man and that."
"Will you never realize that Kathleen is exceptionally pretty, with the gift of fascination?"
"A dangerous power," said Whitney gravely. "I do not entirely approve of the men whose attentions Kathleen encourages."
"As for instance...."
"Young Potter, and this Baron Frederic von Fincke—you know, Minna, I do not approve of international marriages, and I am very glad that Kathleen refused that Englishman, John Hargraves, whom she met in Germany...."
"I sometimes wonder if she regrets," said Mrs. Whitney musingly. "Kathleen hears from him occasionally—and at times she is so very odd in her manner."
"Humph! I hope not. I don't want her to be a war bride," retorted Whitney. "And all Englishmen of family are at the front these days. You don't think, Minna," with quickly suppressed nervousness, "that Kathleen can be fond of Sinclair Spencer."
"Sinclair Spencer?" echoed Mrs. Whitney. "Why he is double her age, and besides, Winslow, his habits are not...."
"I know," gloomily, as his wife paused. "I would certainly never give my consent to such a marriage. But, Minna, he is forever hanging around Kathleen and haunts this house."
"So much so that Kathleen is heartily sick of him," said Mrs. Whitney comfortingly. "She is not the girl to really care for a man of his caliber. After all, Winslow," unable to restrain the dig, "you are responsible for Sinclair Spencer's intimate footing in this house...."
"Intimate footing? Nothing of the sort. Just because I employed him as my patent attorney, you and Kathleen did not have to throw yourselves at his head and have him sitting in your pockets."
Mrs. Whitney laughed outright. "My dear Winslow, neither Kathleen nor I encouraged him to come here. If you are afraid," her eyes twinkling, "that Kathleen considers his attentions seriously, I will sound her on the subject. And this brings me back to what I was going to say originally; you must inquire about the men Kathleen meets. She is at the impressionable age and as apt as not to pick up an undesirable parti."
"Why didn't Kathleen remain a schoolgirl?" fumed Whitney. "Then we only had to engage competent nurses and look up their references and our responsibility ended."
"Your responsibility is just beginning," said Mrs. Whitney cheerfully. "By the way, the days are short, and Kathleen should be at home by five o'clock at least; this is a rough neighborhood for a beautiful girl to walk through unattended."
"My forefathers found no fault with this neighborhood," replied Whitney stiffly. "Then it was fashionable, now it is a good respectable business section; and if dividends continue to dwindle you may thank your stars we are in a business section—for convenience' sake. I will not give up this house, Minna, even to please you."
"Dear Winslow, don't excite yourself." Mrs. Whitney laid an affectionate hand on his arm. "Remember Dr. McLane's advice ... and dinner will be served in an hour. Please come down and get it while it is hot," and not waiting to hear his halfhearted promise she walked from the room and closed the door. It was some seconds before Whitney resumed his interrupted work.
"Only a little while now," he muttered—"only a little while."
Before proceeding to her bedroom Mrs. Whitney sought the suite of rooms which had been given to Kathleen on her coming of age two months before. Finding the prettily decorated and furnished sitting-room empty she walked into the adjoining bedroom and saw Kathleen sitting at her dressing table.
"What detained you?" she asked kindly, as the girl turned on her entrance.
"The symphony concert was not over until twenty-five minutes ago. Won't you sit down, dear?" pulling forward a chair. "I must go on with my dressing. My pink satin, Julie, thank you," as the French maid appeared.
"Are you dining out tonight?" in surprise. "I thought you told me you had no engagement for this evening."
"I hadn't, mother. This invitation was quite unexpected," explained Kathleen, arranging her hair with care. "On my return from the concert I found this note from Miss Kiametia Grey asking me to fill a place and prevent thirteen at her dinner tonight."
"I see." Mrs. Whitney inspected the dainty note-paper and forceful handwriting through her gold lorgnette. The word of Miss Kiametia Grey was as the law of the Medes and Persians to her many friends, and Mrs. Whitney had a high regard for the wealthy spinster who cloaked her warm-hearted impulsiveness under an erratic and often brusque manner. "You cannot very well refuse. Who sent you those orchids?" pointing to a handsome bouquet lying half out of its box on the bed.
"Sinclair Spencer," briefly. "Be careful, Julie, don't muss my hair," and discussing unimportant matters Kathleen hurried her dressing as much as possible.
"Not knowing you were going out I told Henry he would not be needed tonight," said Mrs. Whitney, suddenly waking up to the fact that Kathleen was ready to go. "You had better order a herdic."
"Oh!" Kathleen gazed at her blankly. "And the dinner is at the Chevy Chase Club."
"Pardon, madame," Julie, the maid, spoke in rapid French. "Mademoiselle Grey telephoned to ask if mademoiselle had returned and said that she hoped she could dine with her. Knowing madame had no engagement this evening, I took the great liberty of telling Henry to be here with the limousine."
"Quite right, Julie," Mrs. Whitney rose. "Don't forget your orchids, Kathleen."
"I am not going to wear them; they"—not meeting Mrs. Whitney's eyes—"they would stain my dress. Good night, mother. I am likely to be late; don't either you or Dad wait up for me."
An hour later, her naturally rosy cheeks a deeper tint from the consciousness that she was late, Kathleen made a charming picture as she stood just within the entrance to the assembly room of the Chevy Chase Club, waiting to greet her hostess who was at that moment marshalling her guests out to the private dining-room. It was several minutes before Miss Kiametia Grey discovered Kathleen's presence.
"So very glad you could come," she said, squeezing her hand warmly. "Not only did I want to be helped over the thirteen bugaboo, but I have such a nice dinner partner for you. Captain Miller. Yes, Judge, you are to take me out. Kathleen, introduce yourself to the Captain."
"Am I to find him by the process of elimination?" laughed Kathleen, as Miss Kiametia laid her hand on the Judge's arm.
"He is just back of you," she called, and Kathleen turned around. Every vestige of color left her cheeks as she encountered the steadfast gaze of a tall, broad-shouldered man in immaculate evening dress.
"You?" she blurted out, her white lips barely forming the word. "You?"
There was an agonizing pause, then Captain Miller stepped toward her.
"Suppose we go out to dinner," he suggested suavely.
AN EVENTFUL EVENING
While keeping up an animated conversation with Judge Powers, Miss Kiametia Grey saw with inward perturbation that her vis-a-vis, Captain Miller, was spending much of his time between courses making bread pellets. What possessed Kathleen Whitney? She was usually the soul of courtesy, and yet her hostess had not seen her address one word to her dinner partner. Possibly Kathleen had taken offense at her off-hand introduction to the handsome officer. But that was not like the warmhearted, charming girl she had come to love and admire, and Miss Kiametia ate her dinner with less and less relish as she tried to keep up her end of the conversation and forget about the pair seated opposite her.
Captain Charles Miller had just finished helping himself to an ice when, from the tail of his eye, he saw Kathleen quickly palm his place card.
"Let us make it an exchange," he said, and reaching across her plate, picked up the pretty hand-painted Japanese card bearing her name, and slipped it inside the pocket of his white vest.
For the first time that evening there was color in Kathleen's cheeks.
"You have not lost your—"
"Effrontery," she finished. "I cannot see that the years have brought much change."
"To you, most certainly not," and there was no mistaking the admiration in his eyes.
"I object to personalities." She paused. "And particularly on slight acquaintance."
Miller bowed. "It is my loss that we have not met before," and he did not miss the look of relief that lighted her eyes for the fraction of a second. Swiftly he changed the subject. "Who is the man glaring at us from the end of the table?"
"Baron Frederic von Fincke." Her manner was barely civil and that was all. Under his heavy eyebrows Miller's eyes snapped. She should talk to him, and he squared his broad shoulders.
"I have already met the young girl sitting next him," he said, "and who is her dinner partner?"
"Captain Edwin Sayre, United States Army."
"Of what branch of the service?"
"Is it true, Miss Kathleen," broke in the man seated on her right, "that Captain Sayre has resigned from the army to take a position in the Du Pont Powder Works?"
"I believe so."
"Is that not establishing a bad precedent, Mr. Spencer?" inquired Miller. He had met the lawyer on his arrival before dinner. "Suppose other officers follow his example, what will the army do in case of hostilities with—eh—Mexico?"
"Probably the officers will apply for active service." Sinclair Spencer, glad of the pretext that talking to Miller gave him of bending nearer Kathleen, turned his back on his dinner partner. That Kathleen had given him her full attention throughout the dinner had partly compensated for the fact that she was not wearing his orchids. It had been weeks since he had enjoyed so uninterrupted a talk with her. That her manner was distrait and her replies somewhat haphazard escaped him utterly. The drive to Chevy Chase was both long and cold, and while waiting for Miss Kiametia's other guests to assemble before he presented himself, he had enjoyed more than one cocktail. That stimulant, combined with Miss Kiametia's excellent champagne, had dulled his perceptions. "The officers will be given their old rank," continued Spencer. "In the meantime they will have gained most valuable experience."
"There is really no prospect now of a war with Mexico." As she spoke Kathleen looked anxiously across at Miss Kiametia, but her hostess showed no disposition to give the signal for rising. Kathleen was aware by his thick speech and flushed features that Spencer had taken more wine than was good for him. She desired to ignore Captain Miller, but she was equally desirous not to encourage Spencer's attentions. She moved her chair back as far as she could from the table to avoid the latter's near presence as he bent toward her. Deliberately she turned and continued her remarks to Miller. "As soon as a fair election is held and a president elected, he will be recognized by our Government."
Miller laughed. "A fair election and Mexico are a contradiction of terms. Trouble there is by no means over. I hope that you are not a peace-at-any-price American?"
"Indeed I am not," and Kathleen's eyes sparkled. "I am for peace with a punch."
Again Spencer cut into the conversation, but his condition was so apparent that Kathleen shrank from him. "Miss Kathleen, give me firs' dance," he demanded, as Miss Kiametia laid aside her napkin and pushed back her chair.
In a second Baron Frederic von Fincke was by her side, and with a sigh of thankfulness Kathleen accepted his eager demand for a dance, and they hastened into the assembly room, which, stripped of its furniture, was already filled with dancers. It was the regular Wednesday night dance at the club and the room was crowded. Kathleen had no difficulty in avoiding Captain Miller. Since her debut she had reigned an acknowledged belle in society, and she was quickly importuned by men eager for a dance. But as she laughed and jested with her partners, she was conscious of lagging time and numbing brain. Could she keep up the farce much longer?
From one of the doorways Sinclair Spencer watched the gay scene with surly discontent. An attempt to dance, while its result had no effect upon his understanding, had caused his partner hastily to seek her chaperon. His only ray of consolation was that she had not been Kathleen Whitney. Come to think of it, she had never thanked him for his orchids. The oversight worried him, and he was about to attempt to dodge the dancers and cross the room in search of Kathleen when Baron von Fincke stopped and addressed him.
"She is very beautiful, your Miss Whitney," he said slowly. His English was not fluent "But she has not the tact of her pretty mother. She would never have shown her avoidance of Captain Miller quite so plainly as did Miss Whitney during dinner."
"'Twasn't 'voidance," protested Spencer. "I cut him out."
"Then why postpone your wooing?" The foreigner permitted no hint of his secret amusement to creep into his voice as he glanced from Spencer to where Kathleen was dancing.
"Go-going to ask Kathleen tonight," replied Spencer, with drunken dignity. "I'm no la-laggard. Speak to Whitney, too; though that isn't important—he won't refuse." He cogitated darkly for a moment. "If he does ... I'll make things hot for him...."
"Hush!" Von Fincke laid a heavy hand on Spencer's shoulder as he looked carefully about them; apparently no one was within earshot. "Collect your wits. The time is not ripe for threats, Spencer. The invention is not yet completed; until it is—no threats. We must not kill the goose before the golden egg is laid."
"Washn't makin' threats," stammered Spencer, startled by the angry gleam in his companion's eyes. "Now, don't get mad, von Fincke, think of all I've done in that Mex—"
"Come this way," and with no gentle hand the foreigner propelled Spencer down the hall out of sight of the guests and out of doors.
Miss Kiametia Grey, enjoying watching the dancing as much as her guests enjoyed participating in it, was interrupted in her desultory conversation with two chaperons by one of the club attendants. Upon receiving his message she made her way to where Kathleen and her partner had just paused after a breathless extra.
"Having a good time, dearie?" she questioned. "It is a shame to interrupt your pleasure, but your father has telephoned that you must be at home by midnight."
"And your car waits, Cinderella," put in Spencer who, suddenly returning, had overheard Miss Kiametia's remark. He had a particularly hard time with the pronunciation of "Cinderella."
The spinster favored him with a frown, and the back view of a sharp shoulder blade. To her mid-Victorian mind Sinclair Spencer was not conducting himself as a gentleman should, and her half-considered resolve to drop him from her visiting list became adamantine as she observed his appearance. Slipping her hand inside Kathleen's arm she led her to the cloakroom.
"Catch me asking fourteen to dinner again!" she exclaimed. "It always dwindles to thirteen at the last moment, and I have a nervous chill until the number is completed."
"Whose place did I fill?" asked Kathleen, presenting her cloak check to the maid.
"Nobody's, to be quite candid," Miss Kiametia smiled ruefully. "My dinner was originally twelve, but Captain Miller was so charming this afternoon that I asked him on impulse, and then sent for you to pair off with him."
"Thank you." The dryness of her tone was not lost on the spinster. There were times when she wished to box Kathleen's ears. She was a born matchmaker, and Kathleen's indifference to matrimonial opportunities was a constant source of vexation to her.
"Never saw two people look so ideally suited to each other," she snapped. Kathleen started as if stung. "And I'm told mutual aversion is often a good beginning for a romance. I never saw you discourteous before, Kathleen; you simply ignored Captain Miller until dessert."
"Possibly I had good reason." Kathleen's color rose. "Where, pray, did you pick him up?"
"Tut, tut! Don't forget you are talking to a woman nearly old enough to be your mother." But Miss Kiametia's kind heart softened as she saw Kathleen felt her words. "There, dearie, don't mind an old crosspatch. Captain Miller was introduced to me by Senator Foster. You can see with half an eye that Captain Miller is a gentleman born and bred. All ready? Then I'll run back to my other guests. Come and see me Sunday," and with a friendly wave of her hand, Miss Kiametia returned to the dining-room where the dancers had adjourned for supper.
Kathleen found her limousine waiting at the entrance, and bidding the club attendant good-night she stepped inside the car, but as her chauffeur started to close the door he was pushed to one side.
"Fa-sher tele-telephoned I was to shee you home," announced Spencer, striving to enunciate clearly. His haste and unsteady gait precipitated him almost on top of the girl as he endeavored to seat himself by her side. "D-don't get scared," placing a moist hand on her wrist. "Fa-sher's orders. Ask H-Henry."
The chauffeur touched his cap. "Mr. Whitney did telephone me to bring Mr. Spencer back with you, Miss Kathleen," he volunteered, and without waiting for further orders he banged to the door and climbed into his seat.
With an indignant exclamation Kathleen leaned over, seized the speaking-tube and whistled through it. But apparently the roar of the open throttle drowned the whistle, for Henry did not pick up his end of the tube. As the car started down the drive a man jumped to the running-board, jerked open the car door, and without ceremony pushed Spencer into a corner and seated himself between the latter and Kathleen.
"Hope I didn't keep you waiting, Miss Whitney," he apologized. "Sorry to have been late."
Kathleen shrank back. She did not need the light from the lamp at the entrance of the club grounds to tell her the intruder was Captain Miller. She was too well acquainted with his voice. A voice she had hoped never to hear again.
Spencer, considerably shaken by the force Miller had used in thrusting him back against the side of the car, muttered a string of curses, which ended abruptly as Miller's elbow came in sharp contact with his ribs.
Too bewildered for speech, Kathleen rested her head against the upholstered back of the limousine. Neither of the men seemed inclined to break the silence as the car sped swiftly toward Washington, and gradually Kathleen's reasoning power returned to her. She was furiously angry with herself, with the world, with Fate. Ah, she would be mistress of her own fate. Kathleen compressed her lips in mute determination. Captain Miller must be made to understand that she would not tolerate his further acquaintance. How dared he thrust his presence upon her? Kathleen's hot anger cooled for a second; if Miller had not thrust himself into the limousine she would in all probability have either had to order Henry forcibly to eject Spencer, which might have given rise to unpleasant gossip, or have endured alone the intoxicated man's society for the five-mile drive into town.
High-power arc lights were strung along the roadway, and under their white glare Kathleen stole a glance at Miller. Handsome still, she admitted to herself, and the same broad-shouldered, athletic figure. He was the type of man which appeals to both men and women. She caught her breath sharply as bitter memories crowded upon her, and slipping down her hand, drew her skirts surreptitiously away from touching Miller. If he noted the movement he gave no sign.
As the lights of Washington appeared, the chauffeur reduced the limousine's speed to that required by law. They were in the heart of the resident section when a snore from Spencer explained his long silence. The warmth and motion of the limousine, combined with his overindulgence in wine, had lulled him to sleep. With an effort Kathleen roused herself from her dismal reflections.
"Can I leave you anywhere, Captain—Miller?" she inquired frigidly.
"No thanks, I will walk to my hotel after I have seen you safely home."
Kathleen fumbled with the clasp of her evening wrap and stared down the empty streets. She waited until they were approaching Lafayette Square, then broke her silence for the second time.
"I desire that you leave me here," she stated calmly. "I am now within a few blocks of my home." Without waiting for comment she leaned forward, tapped upon the front window, and signaled Henry to stop.
Miller rose as the limousine drew up to the curb. "As you wish," he said courteously. "But I do not think this man a suitable companion for you," and collaring Spencer, he opened the door and, thrusting the still sleeping man out on the pavement, sprang out after him.
Henry's eyes bulged as he saw the two men, but Miller's manner stopped the ejaculation upon his lips.
"Take Miss Whitney home," directed Miller, and lifting his hat to Kathleen he watched the limousine turn a corner and disappear. Then he glanced down at Spencer sprawling on the pavement. A queer smile lighted his face as he stared at the lawyer.
"What's your little game, Spencer?" he asked softly, and a hearty kick punctuated the question.
AT THE CAPITOL
Mrs. Whitney's usually placid disposition was decidedly ruffled, and she took no pains to conceal her displeasure.
"Really, Kathleen, you are greatly at fault," she said, as the girl joined her in the vestibule. "The idea of keeping Henry at the Club until after midnight! No wonder he is late now. No chauffeur can work both day and night."
"I'm sorry, mother," but Kathleen did not look particularly penitent; she considered that the faithful Henry had a soft berth. That he worked occasionally would not prove harmful. She had hoped to avoid going to the Capitol that morning, and when told that Henry had not appeared either at the house for orders or at the garage, she had supposed the trip would be given up. But Mrs. Whitney was of the persevering kind, and with her to plan was to accomplish. Decidedly upset by Henry's non-appearance in her well conducted household, she had ordered the garage to fill his place temporarily, and her limousine was at last at the door.
Mrs. Whitney was giving her final direction to the new chauffeur as to which she considered the best and safest route to the Capitol and the speed she wished maintained, when her husband joined them.
"I've decided to take a morning off and go with you," he announced, entering the limousine. "Room for me on the back seat?"
"Surely," and his wife patted the wide cushion. "We do not possess a superabundance of flesh in this family."
"Except Dad," interpolated Kathleen mischievously. She knew her father disliked the idea of getting fat, while lacking the initiative of keeping thin. "What you need, Dad, is a cold plunge and a ten-mile walk before breakfast."
Whitney shuddered. "Nice comfortable ideas you have, Kathleen, for a winter day. It strikes me you should take a dose of your own medicine." Inspecting her keenly. "Late hours do not improve your appearance, young lady."
"Thanks," but her usually sunny smile was strained. "And I suppose you still work all night, Dad, disobeying Dr. McLane's orders."
"I don't take orders from McLane," shortly. "And I didn't work very late last night. Your mother came up and tried some of her Sisters in Unity persuasion upon me, and I capitulated."
Mrs. Whitney did not take the jest in good part. While she reveled in society, she was essentially a clubwoman, and nothing delighted her so much as debating and delivering addresses. She was a capital extemporaneous speaker, and had held prominent offices in different clubs. Possessing no sense of humor, which her husband and Kathleen had in abundance, she seriously objected to their poking fun at her beloved organization, the Sisters in Unity, of which she was a charter member. Any allusion to it in fun she considered an offense in good taste. Therefore withdrawing into dignified silence she permitted Whitney and Kathleen to keep up the conversation. In fact, Whitney did most of the talking, and neither he nor his wife perceived Kathleen's inattention.
"I'm on the high road to solving the last problem," he exulted. "The invention is simple, so very simple, but, Minna, it will revolutionize many things in warfare. You won't be ashamed of your old Dad, Kathleen, when the world acknowledges what I've done."
"I'm proud of you now, and always have been," affirmed Kathleen, and leaning over she placed a spray of lilies-of-the-valley from her bouquet in his buttonhole.
"Who sent you the flowers, Kathleen?" inquired Mrs. Whitney.
"I don't know; I could find no card or note with them."
"Perhaps Sinclair Spencer has decided to send them anonymously." With a look of repugnance, Kathleen pulled the flowers off and before her father could interfere, opened the door and tossed the bouquet into the street. "Good gracious, Kathleen, don't take everything that I say literally!" exclaimed Mrs. Whitney. "I am sorry I suggested...."
"I am not, mother. After last night, nothing would induce me to wear his flowers again," declared Kathleen with spirit. "Father, what made you tele—"
"Here we are," broke in Whitney, apparently not hearing Kathleen's remark, as the limousine drew up at the entrance to the Senate side of the Capitol. "Jump out, Kathleen. Careful, Minna." But without assistance Mrs. Whitney sprang lightly to the ground, a worried look on her face.
"I do believe, Winslow," she said, "that I have left my admission card to the private gallery at home. It isn't in my bag."
"Don't mind, I'll look up Randall Foster; he'll see we get in. Come this way."
They found the corridors of the huge building filled with hurrying men and women, and Whitney spent fully twenty minutes before he succeeded in obtaining the coveted card to the private gallery from his friend, Senator Foster. To Mrs. Whitney's dismay they found the gallery filled; but fortune favored them, for just after their entrance three women seated in the front row rose and made their way out. With a quickness which showed her familiarity with conventions Mrs. Whitney pounced upon the seats, and sank into hers with a sigh of thankfulness. She had overcome a number of obstacles that morning to get there, and though it was a small matter she hated to be thwarted in anything she undertook.
Kathleen, like many another Washingtonian, confined her visits to the Capitol to sightseeing trips with out-of-town friends, and she had come there that morning only because she could think of no good reason for staying away. To her inward surprise she soon found her attention absorbed by the debate going on in the Senate, and when one of the distinguished lawmakers commenced a characteristic speech she became unconscious of the flight of time. As the Senator ended his fiery peroration, she raised her head and, glancing toward the Diplomats' Gallery, recognized Captain Charles Miller sitting in the front row regarding her.
"Have you seen Medusa's head?" asked Whitney, tugging at her elbow. "Wake up, Kathleen, unless you've been turned into marble. Your mother's told you three times that Senator Foster has invited us to lunch with him. She is waiting for us in the corridor. Come along."
As they joined Mrs. Whitney, a young man hurried up to them. "I am Senator Foster's secretary," he explained. "The Senator has gone direct to the dining-room on the ground floor. This way, please," and he piloted them to an elevator. On reaching the private dining-room of the Senate they found not only Foster but Miss Kiametia Grey awaiting them.
"This is my lucky day," exclaimed Foster, heartily. "First, you tell me your wife and Miss Kathleen are here, Whitney; then I meet Kiametia on the way to the gallery." Mrs. Whitney smiled covertly. The Senator's courtship of the wealthy spinster was one of the most discussed topics in smart society. "Couldn't resist the temptation to have you all lunch with me," added Foster. "Won't you sit here, Mrs. Whitney," pulling out a chair on his right, "and Kiametia," indicating the chair on his left, "and Whitney next to you. Miss Kathleen, it's not etiquette to place father and daughter together, but I have a stranger for your other hand. Ah, here he comes...."
Kathleen's back was to the entrance of the dining-room, but a sixth sense warned her who the newcomer was, and her face was expressionless when Foster introduced his friend, Captain Miller, to Mrs. Whitney and her husband. After greeting Miss Kiametia, Miller stepped to Kathleen's side.
"Good morning," he said quietly, and held out his hand. Kathleen drew back, then good breeding mastered her indignation. A second later her hand was laid in his and instantly withdrawn, but her fingers tingled from his strong clasp.
"Jolly party you must have had last night, Kiametia." Foster's cheery voice enabled Kathleen to control her somewhat shaken nerves. "Telephoned Sinclair Spencer to stop and see me this morning, but his servant said he never showed up until noon today."
"Kathleen pleaded guilty to a sleepless night," volunteered Mrs. Whitney, to the girl's secret indignation.
"It was the lobster," answered Miss Kiametia. "I tried to warn you not to eat it, Kathleen."
"Well, your lobster won't account for the non-appearance of Henry," mourned Mrs. Whitney, her mind harking back to her own grievance. "How d'ye do, Mrs. Sunderland," as an elaborately gowned woman swept by their table, barely returning their greeting.
"It is the regret of my life," announced Miss Kiametia, her eyes twinkling, "that I never kept a photograph of Mrs. Sunderland taken when she first came to Washington ten years ago. It would provide a study in expression and expansion in social snobbery."
Mrs. Whitney, conscious that she was perhaps rude by her silence, turned to Captain Miller who had taken no part in the conversation.
"Is this your first visit to Washington, Captain?" she inquired.
"Yes, and I find its residents so delightful that I hope to prolong my stay."
"What did you think of the speech today?" broke in Foster.
"Capital! The Senator is right; if this government ship purchase bill goes through, the country will indeed be buying a quarrel."
"Quite right," agreed Whitney, laying down his fork. "The only people who fail to see it in that light are those advocating the bill's passage. Every nation thinks the same."
"Except possibly Germany," argued Foster. "She would probably try and sell us the hundreds of interned ships in our seaports."
"Well, why shouldn't she?" Miss Kiametia, with recollections of her misgivings the night before, declined the lobster croquettes. "With the German steamships and freighters interned here we should have a merchant marine ready to our hand."
"And thereby provide instant use for our navy," retorted Whitney.
"Uncle Sam had better think twice before taking issue with the German submarines," grumbled Miss Kiametia.
Whitney's eyes lit with an angry sparkle, and he opened his mouth to speak, but his wife gave him no opportunity.
"Are you pro-German, Kiametia?" she asked in astonishment.
"Well, I lean that way," admitted the spinster. "You know I'm named for the sister of Pocahontas, and my drop of Indian blood gives me a good memory. It strikes me that this nation is overlooking the American Revolution, not to mention 1812, and I also recollect that England did not show us particular friendship during the Civil War."
"The idea of waving the bloody shirt of '76!" exclaimed Kathleen. "For shame, Miss Kiametia! We Anglo-Saxons must stand together. And another thing: Germany may have wiped the Belgians off the map, but she's lodged them in every American heart."
"And we'll wake up some day and find the Germans sitting in Canada," retorted Miss Kiametia. "Looking at U. S."
"'Over the garden wall,'" quoted Whitney laughing. "No, no, Kiametia. Wave the bloody shirt, but don't try to scare us with a straw man."
"Straw or not, the Kaiser is the world's bogy man. He has taught us a lesson in preparedness which this country will be slow to imitate."
"Uncle Sam is a good disciplinarian but a poor student," acknowledged Whitney, fingering the table ornaments nervously. "Well, Foster, I've enjoyed myself immensely, but there's work awaiting me at home, and I really must run along."
Mrs. Whitney, talking placidly with Captain Miller, looked considerably taken aback by her husband's precipitancy. Hastily draining the last drop of her demi-tasse, she added her thanks and good-byes, and followed her husband and Kathleen from the room.
"I'll walk home," announced Kathleen, as Whitney signaled to their chauffeur. "It will do me good, I need a constitutional."
"But—but it's over a mile," protested Mrs. Whitney.
"All the better," and waving her muff in farewell, Kathleen hastened off through the grounds in the direction of Pennsylvania Avenue. She found the cold invigorating air a bracing tonic after the steam-heated atmosphere of the Capitol, and was thoroughly enjoying her walk when she became conscious that a figure was keeping pace with her. Looking up, she recognized Captain Miller. Kathleen stopped.
"Which way are you going?" she demanded, totally unconscious of the pretty tableau she made, her dark beauty enhanced by a becoming hat and silver fox furs. Not anticipating her abrupt halt, Miller was forced to retrace his footsteps.
"I spoke to you twice, Miss Whitney, but you apparently did not hear me," he answered, lifting his hat. "I asked if I might accompany you, and took silence for consent. My way lies your way."
Kathleen's fingers clenched tightly together inside her muff. "Are you dead to all sense of decency?" she asked. "Can you not see that your presence is an offense?"
Miller's color rose, and there was an ominous flash in his blue-gray eyes, but she met his look undauntedly. "I think you take an exaggerated view of the matter," he said quietly. "I desire your friendship."
"You dare ask that after...."
With a quiet masterful gesture Miller stopped her. "We are living in the present," he said. "I repent the past. Come"—with deepening earnestness, "you are warm-hearted, impulsive, generous—be generous to me—give me a chance to make good. Before God, I will not fail you."
Kathleen scanned him keenly. Could she place faith in his sincerity? As she met the penetrating glance she knew of old, now softened by the fascination of his winning smile, she came again under the old personal charm.
"I cannot be friends with a man whom I do not respect," she stammered.
"But you shall respect me," with dogged determination, "and then...."
A bevy of girls, coming out of Galt's, paused to greet Kathleen, and Miller, not waiting to complete his sentence, bowed to her and continued up the Avenue. He paid no attention to the streets he traversed, but on turning into F Street sought shelter near a shop to light his cigarette. As he threw the burnt match to the pavement he was attracted by a large photograph of Kathleen Whitney in the window. It was an excellent likeness, and Miller, studying the clear-cut features, the lovely eyes, and soft rippling hair, felt his heart throb. He glanced at the sign above the window and found he was standing before Edmonston's Photographic Studio. On impulse he entered the building.
Miller's absorption in Kathleen's photograph had not gone unnoticed, and when he emerged from the studio, the observer accosted him.
"Beg pardon, sir, I'm Henry, Mr. Whitney's chauffeur," he said. "Mr. Spencer, sir, was much put out to wake up this morning, sir, and find himself in a strange hotel."
"Better that than being registered 'drunk and disorderly,'" smiled Miller.
"Yes, Captain Miller. I told him, sir, that you had done him a service."
"Ah, indeed? May I ask how you know who I am?"
"I made out you'd have trouble with Mr. Spencer, sir, and as soon as I'd left Miss Kathleen at home, sir, I ran the car back down by the park, sir, just in time to see you leading Mr. Spencer into the hotel. The doorman there gave me your name, sir."
"I see," replied Miller thoughtfully. "I lunched with Mr. Whitney today, and it was mentioned that you had not shown up," and his eyes were guilty of a peculiar glint as he scrutinized the intelligent face and finely proportioned figure of the chauffeur.
Henry reddened. "I wasn't feeling very well in the night, sir, and overslept," he explained. "Eh, Captain," as Miller turned away. "I saw you looking, sir, at Miss Kathleen's picture. Did you get a copy in Edmonston's?"
"I thought not, sir. They never part with their photographs in there, sir. But there's an extra one in Mr. Whitney's library, sir, which I could ... could...." he stopped abruptly as he met Miller's gaze.
After a pause Miller slipped his hand into his pocket and on pulling it out disclosed a gold coin lying in his bare palm. "I see you are amenable to reason, Henry," he said serenely, and the chauffeur stammered his thanks.
Sinclair Spencer walked up and down the Whitney drawing-room examining the costly bric-a-brac, totally blind to the merits of each piece and in several instances replacing them with entire disregard as to whether they rested on the edge, or on firm foundation. His occupation was interrupted by the return of Vincent, the butler.
"Miss Kathleen is not at home, sir," he announced.
"Quite certain, Vincent?" holding out a treasury bill with a persuasive gesture.
"Quite, sir." Vincent looked offended, but slipped the large tip in his pocket with inward satisfaction. He saw Spencer's crestfallen appearance and thawed. "Julie, the maid, says Miss Kathleen hasn't returned from the Red Cross meeting, sir, but that she's liable to come in 'most any time."
"Well, perhaps—is Mr. Whitney at home?"
"Yes, sir; but I dassent interrupt him, sir. He's working in his studio."
"Then I'll wait here for a time, at least. Don't wait, Vincent"
"Very good, sir." But Vincent paused irresolutely. His conscience was reproaching him. Miss Kathleen's orders had been very explicit; if Mr. Spencer called to see her father, well and good; if he came to see her, he was not to be admitted.
For six weeks the seesaw had kept up, and Vincent had grown weary of answering the door for Spencer. He had been an almost daily caller, occasionally admitted when Winslow Whitney was downstairs, and always a visitor on Mrs. Winslow's weekly day at home. But these latter visits had profited him nothing. Kathleen never gave him an opportunity to see her alone, and it was the same at dinners and dances to which they were both invited. Spencer had come there that morning fully determined to see Kathleen and, as he expressed it to himself, "have an understanding with her." Having for once gotten by Vincent's relaxed guard, wild horses would not have dragged him away.
Vincent's harassed expression altered to one of relief as he heard the front doorbell sound, but his feelings underwent a change when he saw Kathleen standing in the vestibule instead of Mrs. Whitney, who had announced that she would return early as she was walking and not using the limousine.
"Any mail for me in the noon delivery?" asked Kathleen, and her smile faded at the butler's negative reply. Why did her letters to England remain unanswered? John Hargraves was the promptest of correspondents, and the question she had asked him required an answer. Preoccupied with her own thoughts, she was about to enter the elevator totally oblivious to Vincent's agitated manner. As she placed her hand on the elevator door, Sinclair Spencer walked into the hall.
"How are you?" he said, his off-hand salutation concealing much tribulation of spirit. Vincent caught one glimpse of Kathleen's face and discreetly vanished.
"Do you wish to see my father, Mr. Spencer?" asked Kathleen, utterly ignoring his outstretched hand.
"No. I came expressly to see you," and his air of dogged determination was not to be mistaken. Kathleen came to a sudden decision.
"Suppose we go into the drawing-room," she suggested. "I can spare you a few minutes." But once in the room she did not sit down. "Why do you wish to see me, Mr. Spencer?"
"To ask you to marry me." Sinclair's usually florid face was white, and his customary self-assurance had departed.
"I thank you for the compliment," with icy politeness, "but I must decline your proposal."
"You—you refuse?" Spencer spoke as in a dream.
"Yes. Surely, Mr. Spencer, you cannot have expected any other answer—cannot have deluded yourself into thinking that I could possibly accept you? I have tried in every means within my power to discourage your attentions."
"But why?" Spencer's air castles were tumbling about his ears, but he stuck to his guns. His affection for Kathleen, fanned by her indifference, had become all-absorbing. Courted and flattered by mothers with marriageable daughters, he had come to believe that he had but to speak to win Kathleen.
"Why discuss the matter further?" asked Kathleen. She heartily wished the scene over; it had not been of her seeking. To wantonly hurt another's feelings was alien to her nature, and that Spencer was suffering his demeanor betrayed.
"I must." Spencer came a step nearer. "Tell me why you refuse me."
"Your habits ..."
"I haven't touched a drop of wine since that dinner at Chevy Chase," triumphantly. "And if you don't approve, I'll not take another drink as long as I live."
"I certainly think it would be better for you to stick to that resolution." Kathleen moved toward the hall door. "I really do not see any object in prolonging this discussion."
"But I do," following her. "I have perhaps startled you by my abrupt manner. I do love you, Kathleen"—his voice shook—"love you better than anybody. I know that I can make you care for me. I have money ..."
"That makes no difference."
"With you, perhaps not," but Spencer looked dubious. "I swear never to touch wine again. I will gratify your every wish"—Kathleen shook her head, and he added heatedly, "What is there about me you don't like?"
"I—I cannot tell—" Kathleen edged toward the door. "It's a case of 'Dr. Fell.'"
"Fell?" Spencer turned red, his self-esteem pricked at last. "Is that another name for Captain Miller?" with insolent significance.
Kathleen stepped back as if struck. "I think it time to end this conversation," she said, but her remark received no attention.
"I see it all now," muttered Spencer. "Captain Miller has won your affection."
"He has not." The contradiction slipped from Kathleen with more vehemence than she intended. Spencer brightened. In endeavoring to convince herself, she had thoroughly convinced him.
"You are not engaged to him?" he asked eagerly.
"Certainly not." Kathleen crimsoned with indignation. How dared Sinclair Spencer catechise her! "I must insist that you leave. And, Mr. Spencer, please remember, I desire that you never again allude to your proposal of marriage."
"But I shall," doggedly.
"Then our acquaintance will cease." Her manner even more than her words roused Spencer to sudden wrath.
"No, it won't," he retorted. "And I will make you—understand—make you reconsider your refusal to marry me. Good morning," and without a backward look he departed.
Kathleen drew a long breath of relief as the front door closed behind him. "Thank God, he's gone," she said aloud, unconscious that her words were overheard. "He is insufferable. I cannot understand why father ever encouraged him to come to the house."
Rapid walking soon brought Spencer to the corner of Seventeenth and H Streets, and hailing a taxicab he gave the chauffeur an address on Nineteenth Street. Fifteen minutes later he was ushered into the presence of Baron Frederic von Fincke.
"And how is the excellent Mr. Spencer this morning?" asked von Fincke genially, offering his guest a chair.
Spencer, however, remained standing and disregarded the question as well as the chair.
"Who is this fellow, Charles Miller?" he asked in his turn.
Von Fincke laughed softly. "Consult your 'Who's Who,' my dear friend; do not come to me, an outsider."
"You know why I come to you," with pointed accentuation. "I am determined to find out Miller's antecedents, and I am convinced you can tell me if you will."
Von Fincke shook his head. "You overrate my powers," he insisted suavely. "I have met Captain Miller as one meets any visitor to this cosmopolitan city. My acquaintance extends no further than our meeting at Miss Grey's dinner at the Chevy Chase Club six weeks ago."
Spencer paused in indecision; for the moment, the foreigner's candid manner disarmed his doubts. "Quite sure you can't find out about Miller?" he persisted.
"I can but question my few friends in Washington; their information of Captain Miller may be of the vaguest. Why do you not apply to Senator Randall Foster? He and the Captain are what you call—inseparable."
"So they are, but I'm not going to Foster for anything."
"No!" The repetition was almost a roar. Spencer's temper, always uncertain, had been severely tried that morning, and was rapidly giving way under the strain of bitter disappointment. "I ran up against Foster in those Senate lobby charges, and of all the cantankerous—" He paused expressively, then added, "I used to have a high regard for his sagacity and business judgment until he lost his head over that Grey woman. Because she don't choose to be decently civil, he's turned surly. You wait! I'll bring them to time, and Kathleen Whitney also."
"You may 'Ah!' all you wish, but I am going to marry that girl, in spite of her refusal."
"And how is that to be accomplished if you have not the young lady's consent?"
Spencer thrust his hands deep into his pockets and faced von Fincke resolutely. "She idolizes her father; his word is law to her."
"And you have his consent to the match?"
"Not yet, but I mean to get it; if necessary, by moral suasion."
"Gently, my dear Spencer, gently." Von Fincke held up a warning hand. "Whitney must not be annoyed."
"Indeed?" Spencer eyed his companion suspiciously. "And why not?"
Spencer's laugh was not pleasant. "How do you know it isn't completed and patent applied for?"
"Is that so?" Von Fincke walked over to his desk and seated himself. "Suppose we sit and talk...."
"No," defiantly. "The time for talking has gone by. You know, I'll bet my last cent that Whitney has patents pending in the United States Patent Office for his invention. All this waiting for him to finish his work is poppy-cock. Why are you protecting Whitney, unless he's your tool?"
Von Fincke laughed. "You have strange ideas. Do sit and let us change the topic of conversation."
"I won't." Spencer strode to the door. "I've done with your dirty work...."
"Tut! tut!" Von Fincke, who had been leaning back in his revolving chair, straightened up. "Your language, my dear friend, can be improved ..."
"And so can my knowledge," significantly. "I'm going to investigate Whitney's affairs and his house before I'm much older. Don't bother to ring for a servant," he added, seeing his host's hand hovering over the electric desk bell, and not waiting for an answer, bolted from the room.
Von Fincke's hand descended on the electric bell button with imperative force, and rising he hastened into the hall. He paused at sight of his breathless valet ushering Spencer down the staircase. Not until he was thoroughly convinced that Spencer had left the house did he turn back from the head of the stairs.
"He grows troublesome, that Spencer," he mused as he made his way to his own suite of rooms.
An hour later Captain Charles Miller turned in at the main entrance of his hotel and went directly to his room on the eighth floor. Humming softly to himself he hung up his overcoat and hat in the closet, and removing his coat placed that also on a hanger. Back once more in his bedroom, he carefully arranged the heavy draperies over his window so that his movements were completely screened, and taking a black silk muffler fastened it securely over the knob of the hall door. The window and door of his private bathroom were likewise draped. Finally satisfied that he was secure from observation and all sound deadened, Miller took from his overcoat pocket four porcelain castors, and dropping on his knees by the side of his brass bed, he deftly inserted them in place of the bed's regular steel castors.
Pausing long enough to clear the toilet articles from his bureau, he lifted from a box-shaped leather bag marked "Underwood" a Massie Rosonophone and deftly installed it on the bureau top. Taking a slight copper wire he attached it to one of the posts of the bed and connected it with the apparatus, making sure that the wire was suspended clear of the ground and surrounding objects. With another suspended wire he grounded the apparatus on the radiator.
At last convinced that all was adjusted properly, Miller moved over to his desk and gazed intently at a large photograph of Kathleen Whitney. It was an occupation of which he never tired. The faint buzz of the alarm bell sent him back to the wireless apparatus, and slipping on his headpiece telephone he picked up his pencil. Listening intently to the dots and dashes, Miller took down the message passing through space.
As he jotted down the last letter and the wireless apparatus ceased to receive, Miller regarded the written coded message before him on his writing pad with deep satisfaction. He was at last in tune with the transmitting station. The code only remained to be solved.
Miss Kiametia Grey was having her last Tuesday at home before Holy Week, and the drawing-room of her apartment was hardly large enough to hold all her callers comfortably. She was assisted in receiving by several of her friends, and Kathleen Whitney presided over the tea-table.