THE MIDNIGHT PASSENGER
By RICHARD HENRY SAVAGE
THE MIDNIGHT PASSENGER
UNDER THE ARCH
I. The Danube Picture II. Tidings of Great Joy III. In Magdal's Pharmacy IV. Under the Shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge V. Breakers Ahead! Checkmate! Mr. Arthur Ferris Works in the Dark
AN INSIDE RING
VI. Dreaming by the Sea VII. "This May Be My Last Bank Deposit" VIII. The Strange Tug's Voyage IX. The Lightning Stroke of Fate X. A Cruel Legacy
THE MESSAGE FROM AMOY
XI. The Girl Bride's Rebellion XII. The Lonely Pursuer XIII. On the Yacht "Rambler" XIV. Irma Gluyas XV. Miss Worthington Shares Her Secret
UNDER THE ARCH.
THE DANUBE PICTURE.
There was no air of uncertainty upon the handsome countenance of Mr. Randall Clayton as he stepped out of the elevator of a sedate Fourteenth Street business building and approvingly sniffed the April morning breeze.
On this particular Saturday of ninety-seven, the shopping multitude was already pouring from the Scylla of Simpson, Crawford & Simpson's on Sixth Avenue—and its Charybdis of the Big Store—past the jungles of Altman's, Ehrich's and O'Neill's—to dash feebly upon the buttressed corner of Macy's, and then die away in refluent, diverted waves, lost in the fastnesses of McCreery's and Wanamaker's, far down Broadway.
The pulses of the young man were vaguely thrilled with the coming of spring, and so he complacently took in the never-ceasing tide of eager women, on the street's shady side, with one comprehensive and kindly glance.
For six long years he had cautiously studied that same sea of always anxious faces! He well knew all the types from the disdainful woman of fashion, the crafty daughter of sin, the vacuous country visitor, down to the argus-eyed mere de famille, sternly resolute in her set purpose of making three dollars take the place of five, by some heaven-sent bargain.
Countless times he had threaded this restless multitude, with an alert devotion to the interests of the Western Trading Company. He was, to the ordinary lounger, but the type of the average well-groomed New York business man.
And yet, his watchful eyes swept keenly to right and left, as he breasted the singularly inharmonious waves of the weaker sex.
His left hand firmly gripped a Russian leather portmanteau of substantial construction, while his right lay loosely in the pocket of his modish spring overcoat.
To one having the gift of Asmodeus, that well-gloved right hand would have been revealed as resting upon the handle of a heavy revolver, and the contents of the tourist-looking portmanteau been known as some thirty-eight thousand dollars in well-thumbed currency and greasy checks of polyglot signatures.
It was the "short day" of the week's business, and the usual route for making his bank deposit lay before him. Down University Place to Eighth Street he was bent, thus avoiding the Broadway crush, and over to the shaded counting rooms of the Astor Place Bank.
Clayton's mind was concentrated, as usual, upon his important business. Few of the neighbors in the great office building knew of the vast interests represented by the modest sign "Western Trading Company."
Certain gray-bearded bookkeepers, a couple of brisk correspondents, a stony-faced woman stenographer, with a couple of ferret-eyed office boys were the office force, besides the travelling manager and Mr. Randall Clayton, the cashier and personal representative of the absent "head," who rarely left his Detroit home to interfere with the well-oiled movements of the "New York end."
But daily, rain or shine, Mr. Randall Clayton himself took his way to the bank to deposit the funds to meet their never-ceasing outflow of Western exchange. There was an air of grave prosperity in the sober offices of the great cattle company which impressed even the casual wanderer.
Silence and decorum marked all the transactions of the weekly messengers, paying in the heavy accounts of the hundreds of New York butchers who drew their daily supplies from these great occidental cattle handlers. The various departments of the great business were always kept as sealed books to each other, and only Emil Einstein, Clayton's own office boy, knew how much treasure was daily packed away into that innocent looking portmanteau.
Mr. Somers, the head accountant, with a grave bow, always verified the sealed delivery slip of the funds, and compared it with the returned bank books, carefully filing away all these in his own private safe with Clayton's returned list of Western and Southern exchange.
On the sunny April morning, Randall Clayton was weary of the confining life of the silence haunted office rooms, where he patiently bore the strain of his grave duties, with a cautious avoidance of useless communication, fencing him even from his fellow employees.
As he strode along the crowded street, his jaded soul yearned for the wild majesty of the far off Montana mountains, and the untrammeled life of the Western frontier, given up perforce, when his father's death had left him, twelve years before, alone in the world.
"The same old daily grind," he murmured. "Oh! For one good long gallop on the lonely prairies—a day in the forest with the antlered elk, an afternoon among the gray boulders of the McCloud River."
He sighed as he recalled his drudging rise in business, since his father's old partner had set his life work out before him, when the lonely boy had finished with honor his course at Ann Arbor.
Four years at college, two with "the chief," under his own watchful eye, and then that six years of a dragging upward pull in the New York office had made a man of him; but, only a self-contained and prematurely jaded man.
"It's too much to lose," he muttered, as he thought of his hardly earned promotion, his four thousand a year, and—the future prospects. He was the envy of his limited coterie, even though his few intimates looked with a certain awe upon a man who was obliged to file a bond of fifty thousand dollars for his vast pecuniary handlings.
For the great association of Western cattle men were hard taskmasters and only the head lawyers in Detroit knew that Hugh Worthington had annually sent in his own personal check to the Fidelity Company to pay the dues of the bond of the son of a man to whom he had owed his own first rise.
"It's too hard," mused his patron, "to spy on the lad and then make him pay for it. But it has to be," he sighed. "There are the snares and pitfalls."
Many an eye approvingly followed the stalwart young man still in the flush of his unsapped vigor, at twenty-eight, as the tall form swept on through the crowds of polyglot women.
There was a healthy tan on Clayton's face, his brown hair crisply curled upon a well-set head, his keen blue eye and soldierly mustache finely setting off a frank and engaging countenance.
The grave sense of gratitude, his place of trust, the stern admonitions of his sententious patron, Worthington, and the counsel of his only chum—a hard-headed young New York lawyer—had kept him so far from the prehensile clutches of the Jezebel-infested Tenderloin.
Clayton had fallen judiciously into the haven of a well-chosen apartment, sharing his intimacy only with Arthur Ferris, the brisk-eyed advocate whose curt office missive always enforced the lagging collections of the New York branch.
Simultaneously with his last promotion, however, there came to Clayton the knowledge that he was continuously and systematically watched by the unseen agents of the Fidelity Company.
And, yet strong in his own determination, he bore as a galling chain, growing heavier with the months, the knowledge that the eye of the secret agent would surely follow him, in all the "pleasures" incident to his time of life and rising financial station.
The sword hung over his defenceless head!—too busy for the gad-fly life of the clubs—a strong, lonely swimmer in the tide of New York life, he was as yet a comparative stranger to Folly and her motley crew of merry wantons in gay Gotham.
The theater, some good music, his athletics, and the hastily snatched pleasures of vacation, together with the limp reading of an overwearied man, afforded him such desultory pleasures as fell in his path.
On his way now to a luncheon engagement with his comrade Ferris, at Taylor's, his mind was busied only with the care of the daily treasure trust.
Serenely confident, he swung along, his two score thousand of dollars being a mere ordinary deposit, in a business which, in holiday seasons, and at times of monthly settlements, often stuffed the portmanteau with sums rising the hundred thousand.
His callous eye vainly rested on the peopled loneliness of the bustling crowd, intent only upon the possibility of a sudden dash of some sneak thief, or the chance malignity of some swell "mobsman."
Suddenly Randall Clayton paused in his swinging stride. For a face, rapt in its intense earnestness, broke in upon his gnawing loneliness. A lovely vision, a very Rose of Life's Garden!
"By Jove!" he murmured, as with a new-born craft he lingered for a moment before a window with an "art" display, only to watch the receding form of the unknown beauty, whose single glance had left him standing there spellbound.
There was an exquisite artist proof of a romantic scene upon the Danube displayed in the place of honor, a view of one of the grandly witching defiles where the mighty stream immortalized by Strauss breaks out of the smiling Austrian plains, dashing along into the Iron Gates of gallant Hungary.
He could not, as yet, tell what manner of woman she might be, but his spirit burned within him as he felt the lingering spell of those dark, witching eyes, for they had rested upon his own, in an instant, unguarded glance of sympathy.
Mechanically following on, Clayton noted the refinement of the daintily cut dark dress, veiling a form of ravishing symmetry. There was a single red rose in the Polish toque, and that one touch of color guided him as he followed the gracefully gliding unknown beauty.
Strangely stirred at heart, he marked the distinction of the lady's bearing, her well-gloved hand, clasping a music roll—and even the natty bottines had not escaped him. He saw all this before he was aware that he had passed on beyond University Place, with no other purpose than to gaze into those sweetly earnest eyes again. "Twenty-three—no, twenty-five," his keen perception told him, by right of the supple and imperially moulded form of womanly ripeness. And he wondered vaguely what daughter of the gods this might be—what heiress of the graces of the laughter-loving goddesses of old!
He quickened his pace in the narrow space between University Place and Broadway, fearful that he would lose that dark-eyed vision in the human breakers at the Broadway curve. But his grasp mechanically tightened upon his treasure, his right hand clutched the pistol butt more firmly, as his cheek reddened with an involuntary blush.
He had seen just such faces on the Prater in sparkling Vienna, and in the antique streets of Buda-Pesth on the one summer European run, snatched from the Moloch worship of the Almighty Dollar!
Such eyes, now soft and dreamy, then lit up with a merry challenge, had rested on the handsome young American tourist in the vaulted halls of the Wiener Cafe, where the Waltz King's witching melodies ruled the happy hour.
And supple forms like this he had often seen flitting among the copses of the Margarethe Insel, when the yellow sunset rays shone golden on the gleaming Danube, and the purple shadows began to steal over the old fortress high uplifted there above Hungary's capital. Here was a truant beauty escaped from a land of dreams.
Clayton had followed the unknown over Broadway's dangerously choked throat, before the music roll gave him his clue. He was now in the musical center of New York, and in proximity to the modest foreign theaters where a conscientious art flourishes, as yet unknown to the garish play-houses of upper Broadway.
Some visiting singer, some transplanted "Kuenstlerinn," he conjectured as, never ceasing that queenly stride, the unknown crossed Fourth Avenue toward the vicinity of Steinway's and the Irving Place Theater.
As yet he had not seen that bewitching face again, for he was a laggard in pursuit, his coward conscience smiting him for his first errant detour.
It seemed as if the money in that portmanteau rustled a portentous warning, but "a spirit in his feet" led him to execute a quick left-flank movement as he sped first across the triangle, passing under the shadow of the Washington statue (pride of the job brass founder), and, with a stolen side glance, he surveyed the lady once more, as she leisurely mounted the steps of the "Restaurant Bavaria."
His eyes dropped in a strange confusion as he once more met the sweetly serious glance of those wonderful eyes, now resting upon him with a gleam of vaguely timid inquiry. The delicately moulded arm and slender hand were revealed, as with a graceful sweep the lady lifted her rustling drapery and disappeared within the doors of the one foreign cafe lingering reluctant on Union Square.
With a sigh, Randall Clayton turned back toward the south, for a hasty glance at a clock face told him that there was left him but fifteen minutes wherein to reach the Bank, before the brazen bells would clang high noon. His heart was beating strangely as he retraced his steps, for the ichor of young blood was boiling in his veins at last.
He was lost in a clouding day dream, as he recrossed Fourth Avenue and only dimly saw the foxy face of his office boy flash out of the jostling crowd on the corner before he darted over.
As he resolutely stemmed the tide pouring eastward, he had turned down Broadway before he realized that there had been a half smile of recognition on those rich red Hungarian lips, a wordless message in the dark splendors of the gleaming eyes.
Could it be? They had lingered but a few moments together gazing on the pictured glories of the distant Danube. Clayton felt that some new influence had suddenly loosened all the pent-up longings of his ardent nature. He was above all the vulgar pretenses of the "boulevardier." He now realized in a single moment the hollow loneliness of a life made up only of so many monthly pay days and so many dull returns of the four unheeded seasons. For his life had only been a heavy pathway of toil up an inclined plane of manifold resistances.
He recalled, how on his one European voyage, the distant gleam of a single silver sail far out on the blue rim of the pathless ocean had suddenly broken in upon the eternal loneliness of that watery waste.
And now, in all the peopled loneliness of all New York—hitherto a human desert for him—the glance of these same alien eyes had suddenly awakened him to yearnings for another life.
He was half way down the bustling Broadway to the bank before he dared ask himself if the bright, shy glances of these unforgotten eyes were meant for him.
"Perhaps," he muttered, and then his whole nature stifled the unworthy suggestion. No! On that fair face only truth and honor were mirrored. He was left alone absently checking up his deposit list before he recalled all the proud and womanly bearing of the beautiful unknown.
There was in her every motion the distinction of an isolation from the contact of the meaner world! How hungrily he had watched her onward path he only knew now.
And, with a secret pride, he recalled how daintily, like the swift Camilla, she had sped onward through all those human billows heaving to and fro, "the world forgetting, by the world forgot."
He pocketed all his deposit slips, then glanced mechanically at the bank-book's entries, and wearily parried the badinage of the bright-faced young bank-teller.
Clayton slowly wandered over toward Taylor's, and he was still lost in his day-dream when he joined his chum, Arthur Ferris, finding the modest feast already on the table.
"By Jove, old man! You're 'way behind time," began the nervous lawyer. "I've got to hustle. I leave for Detroit on the evening train."
"What's up, Arthur?" demanded the laggard.
"I've just had a wire from Worthington," seriously replied his room-mate. "He is going to take a trip around the world, via San Francisco. It seems that Miss Alice's health is precarious. And, the 'Chief' is going to put me in special charge of all his personal interests during this stay of six or nine months. I am to go out for my instructions, travel on to the Pacific Coast with them, and then, returning, inspect all the cattle ranches on my way back to Detroit."
"I'm right glad to hear it, Arthur," said Clayton, warmly grasping his friend's hand. "I know Hugh Worthington's mental processes well! He wants some one to watch over all his home business machinery while he makes the grand tour. And he has selected one not in the local ring. It means a substantial promotion for you."
"I fondly hope so," replied Ferris. "He must have some such ideas, for I'm to turn over all my New York matters here to the senior in our firm, and I'm also to have a special power of attorney from the Chief. The annual election comes off before his return."
The two young men had finished their luncheon before Clayton thought of the loneliness which his chum's absence would entail upon him. There were many matters of detail to talk over, and Clayton hastened his return to the office to deposit his bank-book in order to be free to give the afternoon to his departing friend.
"I've only my office desk to clear up; it's a short horse and soon curried," laughed Ferris. "I'll run over to my place and then meet you at our rooms, so you can see the last of me. We can talk things over while I pack up."
Ferris was busied with the cashier as young Einstein darted into Taylor's. The lad's face brightened as he saw Clayton.
"I brought you down this telegram marked 'Rush,'" he said, all out of breath. "I feared that you might go away for the afternoon." He was off like a shot, before Clayton tore open the yellow envelope.
It was a private despatch from Hugh Worthington announcing his own impending departure, and then directing all his mail to be forwarded to the Palace Hotel, San Francisco.
The last words were: "Kindly send me a private letter by Ferris, and give me any personal suggestions for handling the firm's business in my absence. Will write you fully on private affairs from San Francisco."
When Clayton parted with Ferris at the door of Taylor's, the two young men wended their separate ways, each busied with the vision of a fair woman.
Arthur Ferris, the dark "Pride of Columbia," as his college-mates fondly called him, now dreamed of nothing but Alice Worthington's golden hair and sapphire blue eyes, as the cable-car bore him swiftly downward to the office of Hatch & Ferris, at 105 Broad Street.
Seven years older than Clayton, the already successful lawyer recalled on his way the first confidences of the great capitalist, when Clayton was sent into Manhattan Island business whirlpool.
The silver-haired Detroit widower had forgotten that even New York City lawyers have hearts, when he had frankly admitted to Ferris the reasons for detaching Randall Clayton from his own household.
"You see, Ferris," reminiscently said the money magnate, "I owed my own rise to Clayton's ambitious father. When he retired from the old firm of Clayton & Worthington, Everett Clayton had a cool million. It was 'big money' in the days of seventy. But, plunging into a new railway with an end left hanging out on the wild prairies, the panic of '72 soon carried Clayton down.
"When he died, out West, I helped the orphan lad along. There was no trouble until Randall became an inmate of my household, after his graduation.
"I woke up, however, one day to find that my little Alice had leaped into womanhood at a bound. And so I have decided to push Clayton's fortunes from a safe distance. For, the social freedom of the college lad and the schoolgirl in short frocks cannot be allowed to the man of twenty-four and the blossoming girl of sixteen."
Hugh Worthington, giving over his protege to the watchful care of Arthur Ferris, old beyond his years, never realized the boundless ambitions of the aspiring New York lawyer.
Ferris, with an eye ambitiously fixed upon the Senate of the United States, had quickly become a living spirit of boundless energy in the Western Trading Company's service, and Miss Alice Worthington, on her New York visits, a girlish tyro, saw only the man, and not the lawyer, in her accomplished metropolitan cavalier.
And so the coming young advocate's heart bounded with delight at the six-weeks' future companionship of the woman whose unguarded heart had silently drifted toward him "along the line of least resistance."
Arthur Ferris burned now to make his calling and election sure, before this "round the world" trip should present an endless succession of fortune hunters to the gaze of the Detroit heiress.
Clayton, hastening back toward the office, was only intent upon the answer to his chief's despatch and he never noticed, across the street, the progress of Emil Einstein, threading the crowds swiftly, and yet furtively watching his master's progress. He reached Fourteenth Street two blocks in advance of his unsuspecting employer, and then paused for a moment in the shaded corridor of a photographer's atelier.
With a whispered word, the young spy slipped, eel-like, into the crowd and had regained his desk long before Randall Clayton reentered the office. The lad's face glowed with a secret triumph.
Clayton's countenance was flushed by some strong emotion as he absently entered the private office of the head accountant. The sharp clang of his bell brought the office boy at once to his side, when, ten minutes later, the young cashier handed to Einstein a telegram.
The doors of the various rooms were now clanging with the snap of the locks as the boy respectfully said, "Anything else for this afternoon, sir?" Clayton carelessly nodded for the lad's dismissal and then bowed his tired head upon his hands, as the nimble youth eagerly sped away to the telegraph office and his half holiday.
The office staff were all filing out, wearied with the week's work, and Robert Wade, Esq., the chief manager, stared in surprise as Clayton passed him without a word, in answer to his stately greeting. He watched the young man, who slowly descended by the stairway, forgetting the ready elevator service. "What's up with Clayton?" murmured the pompous official. "He forgot his manners!"
All unconscious of his strange actions, Randall Clayton slowly sought the street level, waiting until his colaborers had all departed. He then moved along again toward the window where the Danube view still charmed the passerby.
Then, turning abruptly, he hurried away to a Broadway car, seeking the solitude of the cosy apartment in the still respectable "Thirties," which he had so long shared with Ferris.
He dared not, as yet, ask himself why Fate had shown him, a second time, at that very window, the graceful figure of the beautiful unknown.
But, there, with the slender music roll still clasped in her delicate hand, she stood, lingering a beautiful Peri in his path, on his return from the meeting with Ferris.
And he was not deceived this time. For the blush of semi-recognition, the womanly embarrassment as their eyes met in a sudden surprise, told him that she also had lingered for a moment at their involuntary trysting place.
It was in vain that he sought for any cogent reason for the reappearance of the unknown dark-eyed beauty.
There was no veiled suggestion in her wistful eyes, no lure of the fisher of men in the restrained mien of the lovely unknown. He paced his room for half an hour, until the arrival of Ferris brought about an active discussion of all their personal and business affairs which lasted until the coupe arrived to bear them to the station.
In the long examination of their mutual interests, Clayton had strangely forgotten to even mention the name of Miss Alice Worthington, for he was still keenly aware of the gradual fading away of the ties of friendly family intimacy which had once bound him to the Detroit household.
Moreover, loyal to his chum as he was, he could not forget how often, in the past two years, he had seen letters lying on Ferris' table, bearing the superscription of the woman who had been graduated by Fate from that dangerous rank of "Little Sister."
Before Ferris finally turned over his keys, the cool lawyer laid his hand gravely on Clayton's shoulder.
"Randall, my boy!" he said. "It's only fair to you to tell you that the Fidelity Company makes private reports to Hugh Worthington upon the inner life of all the bonded employees. Some of these documents have always been forwarded through me. Evidently there have been some new directions given on this matter.
"Worthington is a man who forgets nothing. You will be left alone. You know your dangerous trust. Be always on your guard!
"For, even though born in its whirl, there are dangers in New York which are sealed books to me, even now; and, you are a stranger here, after all.
"Take care of yourself! Be watchful! There will be many jealous eyes spying upon your every movement, and strange eyes at that."
They entered the carriage in a constrained silence, in the early nightfall, and were soon whirled away toward the Forty-second Street Depot. Some overhanging shadow seemed to dampen the ardor of that friendly farewell, when the gliding train bore the lawyer away from his friend's sight.
At that very instant the office boy, Einstein, darted out of the great depot's main entrance and mingled with the passers by. "Now for Fritz Braun," he chuckled. "She has caught on at last! He followed her to the 'Bavaria.' The lawyer is gone for good! The field is clear. There's a twenty now in sight, and many a twenty to follow."
TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY.
While Randall Clayton was lingering moodily over a lonely dinner at the Grand Union, his office boy was dallying with a cigarette on the front platform of a Fourth Avenue car.
Emil Einstein had safely sized up the friendly adieu of the two room-mates, and was now hastening down to report his successful infamy.
"Too late for Sixth Avenue!" the hard-faced boy muttered. "Catch him at 'the Bavaria,' sure."
The round, gloating eyes of the young New York-nurtured Jew were ablaze with a fierce thirst for pleasure.
Round shouldered, strongly built, his Semitic countenance was all aglow with a superabundant vitality, and the pleasure-loving mouth alone belied the keen intelligence of the wide set Hebraic eyes.
An eleve of the gutters of New York's East-Side ghetto, dangerously half educated at the free public schools, Einstein, now nearing seventeen, joined the dashing villainy of the Bowery tough to the crafty long-headed scheming of the low-grade Israelite.
He had drank in all the precocious wiles of the Manhattan urchins quickly after his sturdy Odalisque mother had dragged him, a squalling urchin, out of the steerage confines of a cheap Hamburg steamer.
A reckless, resolute, conscienceless sinner was the handsome Leah Einstein; already, when, on the voyage, she fell under the influence of a man who found his ready tool in this greasy but symmetrical Esther, clad in her Polish rags.
When the decamping Viennese pharmacist had wearied of his low-life Venus, their joint operations soon made the East Side too hot for the man who boldly dared all, and who now yearned for a share of the fleecing of the fatuous New Yorkers.
The Austrian criminal fugitive, after some years of varied adventure, had circled back to New York City at last, and rejoiced to find in Leah's son, now a burly youth, a fit companion and second for his own craftily laid villanies. It was a capital for him, the legacy of her nurture and his own training.
Mr. Fritz Braun's broad white brow was gathered in an impatient frown as he strode out of Magdal's Pharmacy on Sixth Avenue and paced with dignity past all the minor notables of the street.
Hulking policemen, loquacious barber, marketman and newsdealer, small shop-keeper, and the saloon magnates, all knew the stolid reticent German who presided over the veiled mysteries of Magdal's.
The whole region of Sixth Avenue, between Twenty-third and Thirtieth, had its floating contingent of "sporting" men and women who well knew the crafty wisdom lurking behind the blue spectacles which veiled the pharmacist's piercing glances. Fritz Braun's "contingent" were a brood of the Devil's own children.
Fritz Braun was strangely three hours late upon this especial evening, but his step was evenly sedate as he entered Zimmermann's for his before dinner Kuemmel. A prosperous figure was he in his mouse-colored top-coat of fashionable cut, his immaculate silk hat, with the red dogskin gloves, and the heavy ivory-headed cane.
With his antique cameo scarf pin, his coat collar turned up around his flowing golden beard, he was the very type of the sedate burgher of Dresden or Leipzig. And yet many a dark secret lurked in that busy brain of his.
A dozen necks were craned after him, though, as he silently left the saloon and caught the down-town car.
For from Greely Square to Eighth Street, from the cork room of Koster & Bial's to the purlieus of old Clinton Place, all the "off color" men and women of New York's "fly" circles knew and feared the steady eyes gleaming through the cerulean lenses.
"He's a deep one, the Professor," grunted the Hanoverian barkeeper. "Vat a lot 'e knows!" The Teuton rinsed his beer glasses with a vicious twirl as he exclaimed: "Like as not, choost so like, he's up to some new devilment! Niemand know vere 'e hangs out! He's a wonder, he is, dat same Fritz!"
But the pharmacist lost all his sedateness as he sprang out of the crosstown car after his transfer at Fourteenth Street and Fourth Avenue.
He was the nimblest crosser of the busy corner, and then gazed anxiously up and down the street, in front of the Restaurant Bavaria.
Wasting but a moment he smartly entered the cafe and then, with an air of proprietorship, entered a curtain-shaded alcove.
The waiter silently placed the carte du jour before him, and merely shook his head when Braun sharply demanded, "Any one here for me?"
A luxurious dinner was ordered, and the silent man was busied scanning the convives when Emil Einstein, cautiously entering without haste, furtively regarded all the diners.
They were the better class of artists—musical virtuosos, and floating foreigners of the Teutonic business circles of lower New York.
Frank, pleasure-loving continental women mingled freely with these materialistic Romeos, who preferred the comforting cuisine to the fiery and seductive cocktails of "The Opera" on the corner.
The artful Einstein was warily assuring himself that he was quite unknown to the convives before making his report to his real master and evil genius. For, young as he was, Emil Einstein well knew that the tyrant master, who had been his mother's cruel lover, might some day lure him on to the electric chair.
A guilty pride thrilled the depraved boy's heart to feel that he, alone, in all the crowded ward, knew what manner of human devil lurked behind those innocent-looking blue spectacles.
He had seen the ferocious grin which relaxed Fritz Braun's bearded lips into a cruel grin, as the sly lad made a gesture which indicated tidings of great joy. Einstein's dress and bearing was fully worthy of his respectable business station. He might well be taken for the precious "only son" of some well-to-do Jewish-American merchant.
Quick to learn, he had aped the mien of his American fellow employees, and his "educational evenings" at the "Irving Place," the "Thalia," and the "Germania" had given to his bearing what he fondly deemed an "irresistible social swing."
Greedy of pleasures, gluttonous and covetous, the young Ishmael ardently looked forward to a comfortable ill-gotten revenue at the hands of the man, who—through a skilful manipulation of the German janitor of the Western Trading Company's office—had obtained the place of office boy, "with substantial references," for the son of his cast-off paramour.
Leah Einstein had long forgotten the face of the reckless Polish country noble who was the real father of this budding criminal, and the lad himself but dimly discerned the drift of his Mephistophelian patron's proposed villainy.
Timid and cowardly at heart, the young waif would have shuddered had he known of the callous-handed and desperate murders which had shocked Vienna just before Hugo Landor, a talented and handsome young chemist, disappeared forever in flight, lost under a cloud of scandal caused by drink and a maddening devotion to a baby-faced devil of the Ring Strasse Theater chorus, a woman at whose feet the hungry-eyed aristocrats had knelt to sue, a man-eater, a hard-hearted, velvet-eyed, reckless and defiant devil.
At an almost imperceptible nod Einstein drew near to his patron, taking the vacant place in the little alcove, a deux, with his back prudently screening him from any chance visitor who might know the Western Trading Company's personnel. Braun was eager for his spy's report now.
"All right, at last!" the youth huskily whispered. "I watched him meet her, at the picture window, you know. I had posted her! And then he slyly followed her over here and went three blocks out of his way to pipe her off here! So, after his lunch at Taylor's, I put her again onto his homeward way! And he's caught on! No matter! She will tell you the rest herself!"
When the eager lad had finished, Fritz Braun growled under his breath, "You are sure you made no bungle?"
"Dead sure," gaily answered the boy, draining his bock of Muenchner, "I followed him to the bank and to Taylor's, and he is unsuspecting of any plant, I know."
Braun's face relaxed as he pushed over a twenty-dollar bill to the young Judas. "Come in Monday, about ten," he said, carelessly. "You can go, now! I must hurry over to the river. I am late!"
There was a shifty light in Einstein's eyes as he mumbled, "I can tell you something else, if you'll do the right thing." Braun searched the young villain's face. "Go ahead! I'll pay you."
Emboldened by his success, Einstein loudly rapped to replenish his glass. He was now panting to escape for certain tender engagements of his own.
"The firm's lawyer, Ferris, the man who lived with Mr. Clayton, has gone West for six months, so he will be left alone! I followed them and saw Ferris off on the train. I took a telegram to the office for Ferris and Clayton, so Clayton will be alone in the rooms. He's going to keep them, and I'm to go around there Monday and pack up all Mr. Ferris' little things."
"Good, capital!" said Fritz Braun, his eyes gleaming. "You must manage to get me a duplicate key of Clayton's rooms!"
"Easy enough," proudly answered the young rascal. "Mr. Clayton trusts me in all things, and often gives me his latch-key and the room keys when he wants anything from the apartment. Anything else?"
"Yes," stammered the lad, surprised at the stern glare of Braun's expectant eyes. "The Fidelity fellows have been piping off all Mr. Clayton's movements. They watch him on account of the big money that he handles every day. I know the man who shadows Clayton, twice a week, regular, on all his evening trips. They've got their spotters, too, in all the big bar-rooms, and all around the gambling houses, the race courses, Wall Street and the Tenderloin.
"Now, after Clayton left, to-day, Ferris the lawyer came in and told Mr. Robert Wade, that's our chief manager, that the Fidelity Company would make their written reports twice a month to him, while the lawyer's gone."
"I must have these reports!" cried Braun, forgetting the raised pitch of his voice, but the Venus and Tannhauser coterie around were all now fondly busied with each other.
"I can get them! I have a key to Wade's own desk," glibly mouthed the young spy.
"How did you get it?" eagerly demanded the astonished Braun.
"I had it made to get at his cigars," proudly boasted the unabashed lad. "Wade keeps a couple of boxes of the best Havanas on Company account, for the 'big customers.' Yes, and a drop of good old cognac, too.
"There's often a bit of fun behind the ground glass partitions. I've scraped a little eye hole."
"You are your sly mother's own darling imp," growled Braun, bringing out his pocketbook. "She was the devil's own, too, before she got old and lost her good looks," he sighed.
"Tell me," said he, selecting a note with grave deliberation, "how much did Clayton deposit to-day?"
"Only thirty-eight thousand," contemptuously answered the boy, as he clutched the note now held out to him. "Sometimes it's a round hundred thousand," continued Emil, eager to show off his knowledge, "and on the annual settlements, July 1 to 4th, last year we put in two hundred thousand into the Astor Place. That's our biggest monthly settlement. I always help Mr. Clayton pack it up, in his own room, after he verifies the accountant's tabs."
Fritz Braun suddenly awoke from a reverie. "Get out of here now, and see that you post me on all that this Clayton is up to at night, on his Sundays and vacations. I'll give you a third twenty for the two keys. I may want to take a look at his rooms some Sunday when you are sporting out of town.
"And watch the spotters, too! You might do a good turn in pocket money by posting him, but only as I tell you, mind that! Now, don't go to the devil too fast. Do you ever give your mother any money?"
Einstein's vicious leer was a silent answer. "Tell her she shall have a new silk dress from me, if you keep your wits about you. Remember, Monday!"
The lad sped away at a curt nod of dismissal, and was soon lost in the devil's whirlpool of the Bowery.
But, as Mr. Fritz Braun sedately finished his cosy dinner, he saw strange golden gleams in the blue, wreathing smoke mists of his Perfectos.
"Two hundred thousand; that would be a stake. And July, too; this lawyer fellow gone. What a chance! There must be no mistake now! He must lead himself on, now. One prick of the hidden hook and this fat trout would be off forever I must see Irma and coach her. Donnerwetter! It's too good to be true. After all this waiting. And now I've got to keep my eyes on both the spider and the fly. Irma is such a tempestuous devil. If Leah only had her years and looks and dash, she would twist any man in the world around her finger. But I can never teach this Hungarian madcap, Leah's velvet softness and never-tiring patience."
The prosperous pharmacist gleefully paid for his dinner and nimbly chased an East-side ferry-bound car. He laughed in spite of himself at Emil's unflagging deviltry. "He is a credit to Leah's Polish blood and my Austrian nurture," mused Braun. "The young wretch might be dangerous, too. He must know nothing of my deep game."
"If this Clayton will only break into the flirtation in the right way, the victory is assured. But, if he were to show her off around town, or try and dodge these spotter fellows in New York, then I should lose a year's time, my expenses, and this heavy money stake. It's the one chance of a life time."
In half an hour, Fitz Braun, crossing on the Tenth Street Ferry to Greenpoint, was soon lost, as was his wont, in the human hive of Brooklyn toilers. Men had seen him go over for years invariably on this ferry, his burly figure was always seen on the Fulton Ferry daily at half-past eight each morning, but not a soul among the thousand clients of Magdal's Pharmacy knew where the human fox, Fritz Braun, laid his head to rest at night.
From nine till four he lurked behind the high dispensing screen of Magdal's Pharmacy, his inner life and antecedents a sealed book to all the sleuth-eyed votaries of vice on Sixth Avenue.
And yet, for all his craft, on this balmy night of spring, the man who had buried Hugo Landor's stormy past forever under staid Fritz Braun's impenetrable mask, shivered while plotting his new iniquities lest the panther-footed pursuer might even now demand at his hand a life in return for those victims who had lain, staring eyed, cold in death, mute witness against him in far away Vienna. The terrible record of his past evil days haunted his every footstep now. He saw these avenging eyes even in his dreams.
There was but one who could lift the veil of the awful past. On this eventful night Fritz Braun hid, within his heart, an awful resolve, born of the fear of the disguised felon, floating uneasily in the maelstrom of a great city. "If she should betray me, and women are women, after all," he mused in his cowardly ferocity. "If she pulls this off for me, I'll"—he ceased, with an inward shudder, for he dared not give the awful thought its fitting frame.
"Only at the last," he murmured, as he sped along in Brooklyn's dingy water streets to take on another mask to veil his wolfishly evil life.
While snares and pitfalls were being laid for Randall Clayton's careless feet, that gentleman sat in a wrathful mood, pondering over Arthur Ferris' half-hearted disclosures. Clayton's face had frankly disclosed his displeasure at the false attitude of his chum, when Ferris reluctantly disclosed the fact of the secret financial espionage.
The three years of their past intimacy now took on a different color, at once, to the jaundiced eyes of the young cashier.
He had almost abruptly declined Ferris' invitation to spend Sunday at Seneca Lake, with the prosperous lawyer's mother and two sisters.
A feeling of bitter envy gnawed at Clayton's heart as he counted up the rapid rise of his quondam friend.
"So, he has been playing this double game for years; it must have been at Worthington's bidding. And why?"
It began to dawn at last upon Clayton that his Detroit patron had certainly followed a singular course in his apparent beneficence.
All unused to social intrigue, Clayton ignored the possible effect of his further presence in Worthington's household as an attractive young man when little Alice, at a bound, passed through the gates of girlhood and became the beautiful Miss Worthington. He had never seen the angel at his side, and yet Ferris, clearer eyed, had conquered in silent craft a golden future.
Clayton lingered at his table in the Grand Union cafe long after the waiter had removed his half-tasted dinner. He ordered an unaccustomed "highball" as he pondered over some means of circumventing the social treason of his dethroned "friend."
Clayton easily found a valid reason, for the semi-treason of Ferris.
"He is, after all, a stranger to me. His ambition leads him onward and upward. He would tread on my body gladly in mounting to the great monopolist's confidence. It is easy enough to see why Ferris has played both the spy and lickspittle. It has paid him well. Here's a jump to handling Worthington's power of attorney. Of course, Ferris seeks the position of the one Eastern lawyer of the great Trust.
"But," and a wave of anger swept away all the grateful memoirs of his youth, "why did this cool old badger, Worthington, take me to his home, later back me through college, and then, and there railroad me off here to be fenced around with his spies? He could have easily dropped me at any time. If he really cared to advance me, why not have made me a lawyer and breed me up to share his secrets?" There came no answer to his troubled mind as he sat there, alone, despising Ferris and doubting even Worthington's candor.
He had revolved several future plans of action in his mind before reaching the vitreous substratum of the generous high-ball. His first indignant impulse was to give up the joint apartment in a fortnight.
May the first was rapidly coming on by Nature's calendar of leaf and bird, of deepening green in the park and light-hearted woman's smartening attire.
"No," he resentfully cried, as he threw his cigar away and paid his bill, "that would only show them my hand. I'll make no open enemy of Ferris."
"But I will dodge Worthington's spies and then lock up my heart. I will keep on good terms with Worthington's lickspittle and try and later reach the secret of all this strange behavior. The old man seems unwilling to let me go out of his control, and yet he has tied me down to this ironclad money mill—as a slave rubbing the lamp for him." It opened a gloomy future to him, this dreary hour of introspection.
Randall Clayton had not lost all the opportunities of his New York life for a peep behind the metropolitan scenes. He knew that there was an inside view to be had of the clubs, the great hotels, the show life of the smart set, the pretentious apartment houses, the banks and theaters, the ambitious schemes of business and professional men.
One by one the shams had yielded to his prying gaze, and, but too well, he knew the truth of Tom Moore's trite remark, "False the light on glory's plume!"
But, straightforward and sincere, he had never watched his own environment. The loss of his mother in his childhood and his father's lonely struggle to retrieve his fallen fortunes had left the boy without happy memories of boyhood, with no family history to aid him, and the embarrassment of his dependence upon Hugh Worthington had robbed him of the confidences incident to young manhood.
Only in his books had he learned of the passionate, hot hearts beating behind the silken armor of womanhood.
For who had noticed the dependent, the poor, plodding college boy?
Worthington's Detroit home was a mere social machine-shop, a place of vanished glories during the adolescence of Miss Alice, and no Diana had stooped to kiss the forgotten young Endymion sleeping in the Lethe of a New York business obscurity. Clayton's life had been gilded by few joys.
His whole nature rose up in a sudden rebellion against this "personally conducted" career in life. "I am to be a mere hoodwinked worker in this millionaire's treadmill. A bond slave to one of the great Trusts which are chaining the whole American population to the galley-oar for life.
"I must be fairly paid, decently dressed, sufficiently fed, to play my part as a decent workman; that is all. We will see!"
He had now crushed out all lingering remnant of a friendly feeling for Ferris.
Even the last social invitation rankled in his mind. "I suppose that he wanted to pump me, at ease, under the guise of a homelike hospitality. If there is any little game being played around me, I will now take a hand in it."
As he moved to the door, the memory of that bewitching woman's face rose up once more to thrill the very core of his lonely heart. "She looked lonely. Perhaps she is, like myself, a solitary sail on Life's lonely ocean. And I shall never see her again! Lost in New York's human flood. But I'll buy that picture, if I live till Monday. It will call her back to me; bring back her vanished loveliness."
A motley crowd was pouring into the various doors of the huge hostelry, for the evening trains were depositing the flotsam and jetsam of humanity into busy Gotham.
Prosperous tourists, crafty schemers, brazen politicians, overdressed drummers, and flashy sporting men were pouring in to seek the "first aid to the weary," which the nearest available hotel affords to the cramped and jaded traveler.
Even the sidewalks were now thronged with anxious-eyed women, some of them with wildly-beating hearts, awaiting the kind "gentleman friend" who so often mysteriously appears at the cross-roads of Life.
From the Forty-second Street Station the "new departure" of many a life has begun, the radial lines often curving downward into the sheer depths of ruin of the Morgue, or the darkened abysses of the Tenderloin.
Alas! That no angel with a flaming sword stands ready to warn away the helpless from the gates which close behind the unwary with a deadly clang.
Randall Clayton drew back as a stalwart traveler jostled him, only to spring forward in the ardor of mutual recognition.
"Jack Witherspoon, by all the gods," cried the delighted New Yorker. "What brings you here?"
"The Chicago Limited, my boy!" coolly answered the jovial Westerner as he dragged his friend back into the cafe. "I do confess the need of an 'eye-opener' after my meal of cinders."
In ten minutes Clayton knew all the salient facts of Jack's career.
Their lives had diverged at the college gates, and the bustling Witherspoon, now the lawyer of a great Michigan railway company, was on his way to Europe for a six-months' tour.
Clayton's spirits vastly rose in their reminiscent chat, and, in ten minutes, the two ex-collegians were on their way to Clayton's apartment. Members of the same fraternity, it was natural that Witherspoon should gladly accept the offered hospitality of his old-time comrade,
"I am tied down to business," said Clayton, "but I can put you up here far better than Room 999 of any Broadway hotel. We can have our nights together, at least, until the 'Fuerst Bismarck' takes you out on the blue."
They had returned from a jolly supper, after dismissing the carriage, and the pipes were lit before Witherspoon found time to go into his friend's affairs. The memories of old days were still upon them when the Detroit lawyer, after a close study of his friend's face, demanded flatly, "And are you satisfied here?"
"You see my surroundings, Jack," replied Clayton. "I've told you about where I stand."
"But," protested his friend, "your life is too lonely. You know what a genial circle we have in Detroit. You would have already risen to be a man of mark among us! And our old set are now rising to be the men in power. You were easily our leader."
Clayton uneasily replied, for he saw the questioning glances of his friend's eyes, "I have very little time to throw away. And I have had Arthur Ferris with me here."
"In your position you should have already married and settled down," resolutely contended Witherspoon. "Besides, you'll lose Ferris soon. He's slated to marry Alice Worthington, I hear."
The smoking-table between them went over with a crash as Clayton sprang to his feet.
"Impossible!" cried the cashier. "Ferris never told me anything of it."
"Certainly not," calmly replied Jack Witherspoon, as Clayton busied himself with the wreck and ruin. "It's not in his game to do anything but hoodwink you. What did he tell you now of this Western trip?" Clayton frankly unbosomed himself to his visitor, pacing up and down in a sudden indignation.
"All that story of Miss Worthington's illness is mere moonshine," confidently answered the Western lawyer. "Hugh Worthington is one of the coldest business calculators in America."
"Our road and its allies are naturally inside of all the secrets of the big cattle trust. I have watched the old Croesus' career for years. It's only since I got into possession of the law business of this branching-out railroad that I have been able to fathom old Worthington's designs.
"He has used young Ferris for years to quietly gather in all the loose stock of his unsuspicious partners. You may not know that Arthur Ferris is the favorite nephew of Senator Durham, Chairman of the Committee on Interstate Commerce.
"This Western visit of old Worthington's is only a betrothal trip for Ferris and Miss Alice. The Senator and his friends will put up the legislation.
"Worthington is craftily frightening out all his Western partners and Mr. Arthur Ferris will bob up at the annual election with a stack of proxies and a power of attorney from Worthington.
"The new deal will follow the annual election, old Hugh captures the whole concern, Mr. Ferris will be not only Hugh's son-in-law but the new managing vice-president in the East. The trick will double old Hugh's fortune. Once husband of the old miser's only child, he can be trusted to guard his own. So, look out for yourself!" Clayton's eyes burned with a sudden anger.
"You asked me why I did not marry," he fiercely cried. "I have a fair salary. True; but at a word, on a single telegram from old Hugh, out I go. Dropped, cast off like a squeezed lemon." Clayton's eyes gleamed in a sudden rage.
"Have you saved much?" demanded his friend. Clayton shook his head. "I have a couple of thousand in bank, that's all."
"Then you are dependent upon this old skinflint's bounty," answered the lawyer, "for you have no profession, no backing, no capital. He wished to leave you helpless in his hands; I see it all. The crafty old fox! To watch you during your boyhood, to railroad you away from Michigan, and to hoodwink you as to your possible rights. Never mind, old man; I will be back in three months, and if you will confide in me, we may frighten a good sum out of Worthington.
"But you must let this annual election go on undisturbed. Smile and keep your counsel. Let this sleek ferret Ferris, go on and marry the girl, for I, alone, can aid you. Worthington fears me. I know too much of his secret operations.
"When I get you a slice of your lost patrimony, you can break loose, find yourself a fitting mate, and lead the life of a man, and not a galley-slave. Oh! It has been a beautifully worked scheme. The parchment-faced old wretch!"
"What do you mean? Explain yourself! Have I been tricked like a dog my whole life?" cried Randall Clayton, the hidden espionage and Ferris' duplicity returning to arouse him into a glow of rage.
"I mean only this," coolly answered Jack Witherspoon, "our railroad has just agreed to pay Hugh Worthington two millions of dollars for two hundred acres of outlying city lands, to be used as our lumber and ore and stock-handling depots. The lake commerce has increased a thousand fold.
"I had still supposed it was only railroad rivalry which caused our people to keep the purchase secret and to record only a ninety-nine year lease, when they had Hugh Worthington's guarantee deed in their possession.
"He takes the whole purchase price out in freights, paid in to him by your cattle trust, and with this same money he buys the majority of the outlying stock."
"How does this touch me?" cried the now thoroughly angered Clayton.
"Because your father deeded all the real estate holdings of Clayton & Worthington to his partner before the old trouble came on. Only this, a then valueless, tract was forgotten.
"In honor and equity you are entitled to one-half as Everett Clayton's heir."
The young cashier clenched his fists in anguish, as Witherspoon sadly said: "But he has had twenty-one years' unbroken possession. You were of age seven years ago, and he allowed it to be sold for taxes every year, and has also secretly bought up all the tax titles. It is too late. But wait, keep silent, and trust to me."
IN MAGDAL'S PHARMACY.
Randall Clayton and his friend heard the "chimes at midnight" after the disquieting disclosures. Witherspoon finally allayed Clayton's sudden distrust. The Detroit lawyer succeeded in lamely explaining his own delay in making the fraud known.
"You see, Randall," he finally said at parting for the night, "I must live my life in Detroit under the heel of these great operators.
"I intended to take this long hidden matter up on my return from this trip, but I have been carried on, into a premature confidence.
"Just take care of yourself and bide your time! I want Worthington to consummate the whole deal. I wish the marriage and the election to take place undisturbed by clamor. For Worthington has put a fancy price on the land. It is to-day only worth a million at market rates. We, however, get immediate possession and pay in hauling, but the real extra million comes out of the pockets of the Cattle Trust, for as President, Worthington sells his own land really to the Cattle Company for two million dollars.
"He has duties as a Trustee to all the stockholders of the cattle association. When all is over, when Ferris is his son-in-law, I will have Senator Durham connected with this matter. The young couple will set up in royal style.
"I will then open out on Hugh Worthington, lay all the uncontested facts before him, and bring him to bay! I will soon squeeze out of him a fortune for you and also one for me. I only want twenty-five per cent. of the recovery. That will be a guarantee against my losing my place as railroad attorney. But old Hugh will never dare to "squeal." He wants social quiet, and he does not care to have his toga of respectability ripped up."
"Your motive?" agnostically demanded Clayton. I am poor, friendless; you will risk much in this."
"There's a sweet little dark-eyed French-descended angel in Detroit, whom I will then marry at once," smilingly answered Jack Witherspoon, "that is, as soon as Papa Worthington has given me the sinking fund. Any college man is a fool now who marries in these days unless he has the assured income on the principal of a quarter of a million."
"Money is the one thing, my boy," sighed Jack. "Without it, Venus herself, ever young and ever fair, would be a millstone around any man's neck, in these later days. Great God! How you missed it! If I had only stumbled on this discovery sooner. You could have antedated Ferris' crafty game.
"You could have easily married Alice. She has often told my Francine that you were the noblest of men."
But the moody Randall Clayton had tired already of hearing Miss Francine Delacroix's praises in divers keys.
"Poor Little Sister," muttered Randall Clayton. "Traded off to a senator's nephew, for an illicit government pull. Damn all treachery!" he growled, as he stalked off to bed.
He felt that he was powerless in his calculating friend's hands, and yet, the possibilities of a coming future swept him from his feet. He wanted money now but for one purpose—revenge upon Arthur Ferris.
"Of course," he growled, "the dog knew the whole deal, and has been a secret guardian over me, in the interest of the thief who has robbed my father's grave. Poor, dear old Dad! If he had only remembered these cheap lands and set them aside for me. It was the only real estate holding forgotten in the hard-driven bargain which vastly enriched old Hugh. But old Hugh shall pay; yes, to the last farthing. I will lock up my heart. I will circumvent his spies, and then await my own hour of triumph. It will be a fight to the finish and no quarter asked or given. I swear it!"
A thorough confidence was reestablished between the two collegians before the coming of Monday morning took Randall Clayton back to his money mill. His first impulse to give up the apartment had returned to him. He now loathed the memory of Arthur Ferris as the slimy snake in the grass; and yet he resisted his desire to shove all the traitor's traps into a storage warehouse.
"Be ruled by me, Randall," urged Jack Witherspoon, as he set out on Monday morning for his last business conferences with the New York end of his railroad employers.
"I will surely make Hugh give up the million. You shall have your three-quarters, for it would be ruin to Worthington to drag out his relations with Durham."
"Play the honest Iago. Keep your counsel. Dismiss this from you mind. Make love to some pretty girl, amuse yourself. Do anything but drink or gamble. Keep up a jolly mien. Go in to the summer pleasures a little. It will throw these two crafty ones off their guard. The weeks will soon roll around. I will cable you of my return.
"Then we will jointly descend upon this new combination of Worthington, Durham, and Ferris. But I must first be in Detroit, back in my impregnable railroad law fortress. Then, at my nod, he settles or down come the gates of Gaza on him! Remember that you have no one in your matrimonial eye. I want to win Francine Delacroix's home from these robbers. And then install the little dainty therein. I will go in and win for you!"
The college comrades had now unravelled all the past, and their Sunday outing had after all been a jolly one. Thoroughly reassured, Clayton had given Jack Witherspoon his whole history, and the future campaign was laid out in all its details.
"As for these Fidelity Company men," said Jack, "you can give them the go by in only frequenting secluded places.
"As long as you avoid the public resorts of New York, they cannot reach you. But keep your eyes always open. And, remember, secrecy above all. If Hugh Worthington should divine our plan to unveil his devilment, you might be the victim of some 'strange accident!'
"Money has a long arm in these days," ominously said the lawyer, "and, it can strike with remorseless power. So, keep on here, but look out for yourself.
"I shall not come back to your rooms. I will send for my luggage; go down to the Astor House, and you must not be seen in the streets with me. I want Worthington to think that I have dug up his villainy all alone.
"Otherwise you would suffer in some strange way.
"When I open my battery, you must publicly resign your place by a simple telegram. And then jump out of New York to some secret haunt until I telegraph you to come to Detroit and make your deeds for the stolen property."
Clayton saw the cogency of his friend's reasoning, and, after agreeing to meet Witherspoon in the Astor Rotunda each evening until the sailing of the "Fuerst Bismarck," he proceeded to the office to take up the white man's burden.
Swinging down Fourteenth Street from Broadway, he paused once more to look at the lovely Danube scene smiling out from the window of the Newport Art Gallery.
It was an exquisite artist proof and bore the name of the Viennese artist and a pencilled address. "I'll buy it at once," thought the man whose memory now brought back that lovely, wistful face.
As his foot was on the doorstep he paused. "No! It may bring her back to me! When I go out to the bank I can step in and secure it. It can remain on exhibition in the window for a few days. She may be there again to-day, who knows?"
He was under the spell of the unknown beauty again, as he absently exclaimed, "Pardon me!" when he rudely jostled a sedate-looking gentleman emerging from the gallery. "My fault, sir," courteously remarked Mr. Fritz Braun, beaming benevolently through his blue glass eye screens.
The pharmacist turned and raised a warning finger as Clayton hastened away to resume his morning duties.
In the doorway, following Braun's mouse-colored overcoat, as he mingled with the "madding crowd," stood Mr. Adolph Lilienthal, the proprietor of the "Art Emporium."
Briskly rubbing his hands, the art dealer murmured "Vot devilment is Fritz up to, now?"
He was only one of the many comrades in evil of the Sixth Avenue chemist, for Mr. Lilienthal boasted a "private view" room, in rear of his pretentious "Art Gallery," where many conveniently arranged interviews habitually took place.
Not one in one hundred of his patrons knew the secret of that room with its cosy divans and a private entrance to the stairway of an adjoining fashionable photograph gallery.
But the dealers in the "queer," the handlers of lottery tickets, the pool-sellers, the oily green-goods man, and many a velvet-voiced, silken clad Delilah knew the pathway to that inner room.
Benevolent-looking old capitalists with gold-rimmed spectacles; soft-eyed sirens of the Four Hundred, and the splendid Aspasias of the apartment-house clique, brisk clubmen, and the reckless jeunesse doree, were all in the secret of the "private view" rooms.
A meek, furtive cat-like connoisseur was Mr. Adolph Lilienthal, and the "diamond coterie" of smugglers often hastily exchanged in the safe retirement of the "art parlors" packages of glittering gems all innocent of Uncle Sam's imposts. The "Newport Art Gallery" was a gem, a very gem in itself and judiciously protected.
Mr. Fritz Braun enjoyed the crystalline spring air as he hastened along to catch his avenue car. There was a gleam of triumph behind the blue shields as he murmured, "If she only plays her part as I laid it down yesterday, he is a hooked fish, sure enough."
Randall Clayton sat for an hour in his office, dispatching his accumulated two-days' mail, all unobservant of the cat-like tread of Einstein, the office boy, moving in and out. He lingered in a gloomy reverie, after checking up his correspondence, and a half hour's sharp dictations, absorbed in the cautious letter of Hugh Worthington, Esq., the man who had robbed him of his birthright.
It was in vain that he tried to be cool. Every drop of blood in his heart now throbbed through his pulses in an eager unrest. He had suddenly lost faith in all men. "Wait, only wait," he murmured, and then started up as Einstein touched his arm.
"Mr. Somers has the deposits all ready, now, sir. It's a quarter of twelve," the boy remarked, with a veiled scrutiny of the restless-eyed cashier. Clayton sprang to his feet and then, with lightning rapidity, packed up the treasure which the old accountant had gathered out of the morning mail, and received from the prompt and timorous debtors fearful of having their "credit cut."
He was fifteen minutes late as he stepped out upon Fourteenth Street, valise in hand and the ready pistol once more in his pocket. The day's "haul" was rich in checks and light in cash, but the total was a considerable fortune.
"Serve the old brute right if I'd bolt some day with a good stake," wrathfully murmured Clayton. "He would be in for fifty thousand dollars' bond! Damn his famed benevolence. He wished to anchor me here for life, and, so cover his tracks. He might even put up a fancied theft on me if I quarrel. I'll be out of this slavery the very moment that Jack opens his guns. And he shall pay the last score, to the last stiver!"
In a vain effort at self deception Randall Clayton avoided glancing at the art window where he had seen the mysterious beauty until he was abreast of it. But his beating heart told him already that she was not there. He paused a moment, once more to feast his eyes upon the picture which he proposed to order reserved for him on his return from the Astor Place Bank. It was gone!
He started back in surprise as he saw the place of honor vacated. There was only a mawkish color reprint of "Mary Stuart and Rizzio" parading its faded romance in the show window. Resolutely entering, he quickly called for the proprietor.
In his momentary excitement, Clayton failed to notice the sly twinkle of Mr. Adolph Lilienthal's crow-footed eyes. "You had a beautiful artist proof of a Hungarian scene in your window this morning," began Clayton.
"Sold, sir; you are but a few moments too late," blandly replied Lilienthal, in his best manner. "We are just packing it up for a lady. An exquisite thing; sorry I cannot replace it, sir," remarked the vendor, "Show you anything else?"
"You could not order me another, could you?" blankly demanded Clayton, with a baffled sense of losing both the lady and the art gem.
"It was a unique proof," volubly continued Lilienthal. "I might, however,"—he briskly turned to an assistant, and after a few words, led the annoyed Clayton back to a counter.
There a packing case was lying, plainly marked "Fraeulein Irma Gluyas, No. 192 Layte Street, Brooklyn."
"I might open it," hesitated the dealer, "and yet, the lady might not like it. She paid a round price for it, a hundred dollars. And some persons do not like to have a proof duplicated. Still, I could get the artist's name and address, and then my agents in Vienna perhaps could get one. I might see the lady. She is a patron of mine. This is Mr. Randall Clayton, is it not?"
The young man started in surprise, as his hand involuntarily closed upon the handle of his portmanteau. "Oh, we are neighbors," laughed Lilienthal. "Your Mr. Robert Wade frequently drops in here to pick up an etching or a bit of French color. I do a good deal of business with the gentlemen of the Western Trading Company."
Clayton dropped his hand, instantly mollified. "I wish you would see what you can do," he cordially said. "Perhaps the lady only purchased it to fill a place on the walls of her drawing room. I, at least, would like to be allowed to open it and have you take the particulars. If she has no objection, you might be able to order me a replica."
Lilienthal stood musing for a moment with his ferret eyes gleaming under their bushy brows. "I might try! Suppose you look in here after your lunch. The fact is," laughed the dealer, "Fraeulein Gluyas only took a sudden fancy to the Danube view a few days ago. And she has gone down to the bank to get the money to gratify her whim. She seemed to think some one else might claim it, and she dropped in a half an hour ago, and ordered it packed up. She will take it home in her carriage, as such a proof can be easily injured."
Randall Clayton's eyes were fixed on the floor, as he nodded an assent. "I'll be back in half an hour. See what you can do," he pleasantly said. "And at any rate, I'll be thankful to be allowed to have the data."
"I think I can fix it all right," genially remarked Lilienthal. "Fraeulein Gluyas is a Hungarian prima donna of rare merit, an artist, too, of no mean order. She may be heard here in grand opera this winter. She is living in retirement until Mr. Grau's return, as she does not want to be heralded before the public."
Clayton tried to appear unconcerned as he asked, "Is she married?"
"She is single," carelessly remarked Lilienthal, showing Clayton to the door. "And I am told she has refused some very eligible offers at home. But she is a Magyar of an old and noble family and they detest the Austrian nobility, who have now all the fortunes and privileges of the old Hungarian noblesse."
With crimsoned cheeks Randall Clayton was speeding away to the bank before he had digested the crafty dealer's story. He was reassured at the mention of Robert Wade's name and, hemmed in, all in ignorance that his grave-mannered superior often met a bit of very lively "French color" in the luxurious solitude of the "private view" room, as yet a terra incognita to the young cashier.
For Mr. Robert Wade had a "Sunday-school reputation" to support, and was dignified, worldly wise, a pillar of a fashionable church, and hence, duly sly. His left hand often wisted not the doings of his right hand, and Lilienthal found in Mr. Robert Wade a judicious and accommodating patron.
"This is a simple-minded youth," grinned Lilienthal, as he turned away. "He has swallowed my story, and—I fancy I see Mr. Fritz Braun's little game. I wonder if the Vienna witch is still over there. I must hurry up and post her. This young chap may be a good customer, for he handles plenty of money." And the brisk Figaro darted away, his eyes gleaming in the ardor of the undying covetousness of the Israelite.
While Mr. Adolph Lilienthal was cautiously conducting a Philadelphia money magnate into the "Private Gallery," a closely veiled lady was entering that sanctum from the photographer's hall. The secret of the two double rings of the push button admitted her to the "packing room," where an innocent-faced young German lad stood guard over the complicated system of letter boxes, telegraph racks, and telephones in that jealously guarded "packing room."
It had been a busy morning with the astute Lilienthal, and the sudden arrival of the "big fish," a wary "customer" from the Schuylkill, caused the dealer to temporarily forget Randall Clayton. He scented only an ordinary amorous intrigue in the young man's ardent desire to make that particular "artist proof" his own.
Besides, the postman had just staggered in with a considerable bundle of letters all addressed to the Newport Art Gallery. There was a good hour's work for the rosy-faced graduate of a Viennan cafe in removing the decoy wrappers and assorting the private correspondence which alone paid the rental of Mr. Lilienthal's "emporium."
Randall Clayton was already hastening back from the Astor Place Bank, forgetting his own luncheon in his eagerness to hear once more of Fraeulein Irma Gluyas, when Mr. Fritz Braun had at last disposed of the morning swarm of "privately attended" customers at Magdal's Pharmacy.
The blue-spectacled chemist had been working with lightning rapidity behind his effective screen, following the whispered directions of his depraved London assistant. It was for him an anxious morning.
His heart would have leaped up in a wild joy had he known how carefully Randall Clayton had already entered the accidentally found address in the little silver-clasped address book, in which he had recorded, with judicious cabalistic cloudiness, the combinations of his safes and certain vital private business memoranda.
These secrets were all hidden in a mass of artfully inserted characters so as to defy the curious eye of any stranger in case of mishap, but the young cashier's fingers trembled with eagerness as he had paused on his way in a corridor to boldly enter an already beloved name.
"I can easily find her out over there," Clayton murmured. "She shall not drift out of my life. I must some day read the secret of those wistful eyes."
But Fritz Braun, anxiously waiting in his den on Sixth Avenue, was chafing until his labors of the day should cease. "I'm all right," he mused, "if that sheepshead Lilienthal does not blunder. I do not dare to tell him too much. And then, if only Irma follows my instructions.
"But the wild-hearted witch may speculate in love a little on her own account. She is only to be trusted as far as any other woman." He snorted in disdain. "And the fellow is young, eager, good looking. At any rate, I shall steer them both out of Lilienthal's clutches. The game is too risky for 'mein frent Adolph.' He is wrapped up in his greed, his blackmail schemes, his 'sure thing' villainies.
"Here is the prize of a life to fight for, and—the electric chair to face—should I be betrayed. Neither of them shall ever know my little game." The master plotter was busy with dreams of an ill-gotten harvest soon to ripen.
Braun peered out into his shop, sneeringly glanced at two shop girls lingering at the soda fountain, drew up a chair, picked up the Staats-Zeitung, and lit a cheroot, while he waited for the advance guard of the afternoon customers.
"I dare not go over to the 'Bavaria' until three o'clock," mused the chemist. "It will never do to let Clayton see me with either Irma or Lilienthal. Once hooked, though, I can give him plenty of line, and play him, in the shadows of water too deep for him. Einstein has given me a fair insight into his character and habits. I must go and see Leah and take her that promised dress. I need that boy, for he is true to Leah, his dam, and she at least loves me as fondly yet as the dumb dog that licks the hand. The other one, I can never rule that way. Never mind, you proud-hearted Hungarian devil, I'll tame you yet." There was an ugly cloud on his broad brow as he dreamed of a yet unshapen crime.
Fritz Braun, gliding out behind the high sample cases, swept the morning's receipts out of the large bill compartment of the cash drawer. "Seventy-five dollars. Not so bad," he grinned, as he clutched the only thing on earth which he loved.
The crumpled, greasy green bills! Passed from hand to hand, as the hard wage of toil, the prize of infamy, the badge of shame! Tossed from the fingers of the spendthrift, dragged from the reluctant miser, filched from yokel and rounder, slyly stolen by thieving domestic or dishonest clerk, still the "long green" was as sacred to Fritz Braun as Mahomet's emerald banner hanging over the pulpit of magnificent Saint Sophia to the Moslem heart.
Magdal's Pharmacy was an innocent enough looking place of business. Few of the neighboring shopkeepers dated back to the time, long years ago, when the real Magdal ran upon the breakers of bankruptcy and disappeared in the "eternal smash" of a final pecuniary ruin.
The crafty Braun, once a co-laborer with Magdal, had jumped eagerly at the opportunity of burying the identity of Hugo Landor, the criminal fugitive, under the banner of the hopelessly wrecked Magdal.
Fritz Braun had been a good enough name to use until the crafty employee had robbed drunken old Magdal's till of money enough to purchase the now valueless fixtures.
Magdal, the victim of an expensive liason with a dashing neighboring French modiste, had tried to keep up a "regular" business.
All this was foreign to the ideas of the quick-witted Braun, safe now under his humble alias, and his flowing false beard and the never absent blue glass eye screens. Braun duly closed the doors for a "reopening."
A few dollars spent in paint and gilding, a "gorgeous" soda fountain "on lease," had soon transformed the dingy interior. A couple of dozen cheap red plush stools wooed the tawdy Phrynes of Sixth Avenue, and the light-headed shop girls to a repose from the crash and roar of the shopping street.
From a dealer in "fake" goods, Braun cheaply obtained the empty packages, the jars of colored water, and the stacks of imitation "put up" goods, which gave to the pharmacy its air of rosy prosperity. To cater to his natural patrons, cheap perfumes, confectionery, gaudy nostrums, theatrical make-up, and a round of disguised narcotics and "headache" medicines were always at hand.
Braun picked up a waif of the street, an ex-Prussian soldier, who for a pittance and his daily "rum," slaved in the "Pharmacy" like a dog, polishing and cleaning until it was the smartest show place of the neighboring blocks.
But the citadel of the real business was the huge marble soda fountain, with its bewildering array of gaudy silver-plated faucets. Above the rows of bottled "bitters," the fiery drink of the temperance frauds, high over the three score jars of "nervines" and pick-me-up preparations, towered a life-size marble statue of Hygeia, glowing in a voluptuous Parian nakedness.
Behind the fountain counter, with its serried rows of crystal glasses in artistic silver holders, there lurked on watch, now, the factotum, the thieving London-bred drug-clerk who had escaped "transportation," at Her Gracious Majesty's behest, by slipping over to New York City disguised as a stoker.
To him alone was entrusted the traffic in slops and the flimsy produce of the soda fountain, to him the drudgery of the illicit Sunday liquor trade, when the "regulars" entered by the side door from the hall, bearing the portentous sign, "Hugo Adler, M.D., Physician and Surgeon."
No mortal had ever gazed upon the legendary Adler, but Timmins the cockney, and Braunschweiger the ex-Prussian grenadier, gaily dispensed from jugs and bottles the "spiritual comforts" stacked up in the "dark room" every Saturday against the Sunday of legally enforced thirst and resultant sadness.
But while these minor villains slaved for the master who greedily snatched every bill from the till, and held them up to a keen return for every measured drink in the stock of the Sunday "bar" of the mock drug-store, it was the taciturn Fritz Braun himself who murmured in confidence to the important patrons of the den.
The morning run beginning at nine, embraced the haggard-eyed devotees of pleasure—Wall Street men, clerk and financiers, habitues of the Tenderloin—actors and men about town.
In subdued murmurs the skilful Fritz Braun trafficked with these "shaky" mortals, while Timmins covered their "prescriptions" with an innocent layer of Vichy.
Sometimes the favored few entered behind Braun's screen, until the chemist solved their varying problems by manipulating his vials in the closely locked cabinet, the key of which never left his person.
There were little packages by the gross ready in that capacious lock box. Opium, hasheesh, chorodyne, sulphonal, cocaine, "dope," all the life-stealing narcotics in every form.
There were medicines the traffic in which leads even the innocent behind the bars.
And it was from the sale of these "nervines," forbidden medicines, and poisonous agents that the runaway Vienna criminal drew his increasing revenue. There was an aristocracy among the motley customers.
From the "hypodermic" regulars, men and women, laying down their syringes to be filled with the soul-stealing morphia solution—faded men and trembling women, down to the shattered wretch, with his pitiful twenty-five cents for a bit of "dope," no one with money was turned away.
Yet all of these passed under Fritz Braun's watchful scrutiny. The disguised criminal trembled lest some ugly-minded detective or crank journalist might entrap him into the meshes of the law.
Alas! Nearly all the customers bore the seal of safety in their imploring eyes. By the freemasonry of the degenerates, Magdal's was a known haven of refuge to all the weaklings of Manhattan.
The frequent ringing of "Doctor Adler's" bell admitted to the little dimly-lighted rear room the sullen-eyed visitors who bore away the colorless vials of "knock-out drops," for which five- and ten-dollar bills were eagerly thrust into Braun's itching palm.
This important traffic was confided to no one but the real proprietor. And stealthily-treading, matronly-looking women often found their way into the den, where nameless "remedies" were sold, often for their weight in diamonds, the weapons of that hidden guild which paves New York's streets with the bones of ignorant and martyred women. For all the thirty-third degree trade of the "consulting-room," an "introduction" was stiffly demanded.
Thanks to his craft, to his fear of the awful doom hanging over him from the unpunished Viennese murders, Hugo Landor had so far defied detection and avoided all awkward inquiry. Mr. Fritz Braun always had a prime cigar and a drop of "medicinal cognac" at the disposal of the visiting policeman. His perfunctory "loans" had gladdened the hands of several minor officials, whose argus eyes had noted the Sunday run of Dr. Adler's many friends.
All these dangerous wares were distributed in unlabelled vials, and no witnesses had ever verified the transfer of the felonious knock-out drops. Each week brought to Braun customers from adjacent cities, many of whom, disguised or veiled, hurried away with the means of cowardly crime to work the devil's charms at a safe distance.
Taciturn, morose and keeping his own counsel, Fritz Braun was a cautious trader with the great supply houses. His bills of purchase were made out to the welcome "Mr. Cash," and the old prescription books of Magdal were ostentatiously displayed with a few family orders dropping in now and then from some befogged physician. The bond between Lilienthal and Braun had been strengthened by the aid of the "picture dealer" in smuggling from Hamburg and Bremen much of the dangerous ware of this mind-wrecking business.
And so, peddling the means of murder, filling his yawning pocketbook, Fritz Braun had thrived in solitude until Irma Gluyas sought the refuge of New York City.
For the discovery of her picture in the stiffened hands of a suicide, a young noble officer, ruined by her extravagance, had caused the Viennese siren to flee the vengeance of a powerful Austrian family.
And so the lives of these two, linked by folly, sin, crime and mad extravagance, had run together again far from the scenes where, led on by her dark eyes, Hugo Landor had stumbled along on the dark road from theft and forgery to callous murder.
On this particular April early afternoon, the eager plotter was willing to leave his afternoon customers to the sly Timmins. The actresses and lazy demi-monde queens fluttered in always before sunset, together with a bevy of quacks, whose doubtful prescriptions were always put up by Timmins, easily capable of brazenly swearing to "a mistake," or denying upon oath the sale of any clumsy weapon of medical butchery.
It was also the time when the floating "shopping women" drifted in to reinforce their luncheons with Timmins' artfully veiled alcoholic preparations.
His row of bottles labelled "Vin Mariani," "Moxie," and "Nervura" were never empty, and the oldest toper would have found them veritable "well springs of joy in the desert."
All the simple machinery of the mock pharmacy was so well oiled that even an expert could detect no commerce more dangerous than Lubin's Powders, crimson lip salve, or a powder puff.
"Fritz Braun, Manager," came and went with regularity, no man knowing of his home or family ties; the old golden sign of "Magdal's Pharmacy" covering whatever mystery was not hidden behind those gleaming blue glasses.
Save for his regular luncheon at the Cafe Bavaria, no Sixth Avenue habitue had ever seen Mr. Fritz Braun at concert, theater, or any of the places of local or suburban amusement.
As to woman, he seemed to be sternly indifferent, Save to the semi-professionals who were as anxious to escape Sing Sing's gloomy embrace as the man who supplied them with the drugs for their various "Ladies' Homes." These were welcome "Greeks bearing gifts" of the coveted "long green" which was Fritz Braun's god.
Braun was never in the pharmacy after six o'clock, and from that evening hour when all well-conducted men and women turn to dinner as the day's culmination, no one had ever set their eyes upon the bustling manager.
Friendless he seemed, yet ever cheerful, a man distantly respected for the open frankness of his business dealings, the order and quiet of his shop, and his rare capacity for minding his own business.
It was only in the evening that Mr. Ben Timmins' reign was uncontested. The flashy young fellows of his caught-up friendships then lurked around Magdal's Pharmacy where Timmins dispensed complimentary drinks and lorded over his fluctuating harem of unemployed "soubrettes" and light-headed shop girls freed from their daily toil.
In a rough average at a half-way honesty, Timmins "turned in" habitually about half of the evening's receipts of the "joint," which, to use his own language, he "ran for all it was worth."
He had soon lost all fear of his stern employer visiting him at random, and the clever London rascal now laughed detection to scorn.
For he always kept in hand one day's stealings so that, if suddenly "called down," he could glibly explain, "Slipped it in my pocket in my hurry! The shop was full!"
While Timmins, returning from his breakfast on this busy Monday, wondered at Mr. Fritz Braun delaying his comfortable luncheon, Mr. Adolph Lilienthal was anxiously awaiting his secret partner in villainy at the "Newport Art Gallery."