By REX BEACH
Author of "THE SILVER HORDE" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc.
II. THE TRAIL DIVIDES
III. A GAP
IV. NEW ACQUAINTANCES
V. A REMEDY IS PROPOSED
VI. IN WHICH KIRK ANTHONY IS GREATLY SURPRISED
VII. THE REWARD OF MERIT
VIII. EL COMANDANTE TAKES A HAND
IX. SPANISH LAW
X. A CHANGE OF PLAN
XI. THE TRUTH ABOUT MRS. CORTLANDT
XII. A NIGHT AT TABOGA
XIV. THE PATH THAT LED NOWHERE
XV. ALIAS JEFFERSON LOCKE
XVII. GARAVEL THE BANKER
XVIII. THE SIEGE OF MARIA TORRES
XIX. "LA TOSCA"
XX. AN AWAKENING
XXI. THE REST OF THE FAMILY
XXII. A CHALLENGE AND A CONFESSION
XXIII. A PLOT AND A SACRIFICE
XXIV. A BUSINESS PROPOSITION
XXVI. THE CRASH
XXVII. A QUESTION
XXVIII. THE ANSWER
XXIX. A LAST APPEAL
XXX. DARWIN K ANTHONY
It was a crisp November night. The artificial brilliance of Broadway was rivalled by a glorious moonlit sky. The first autumn frost was in the air, and on the side-streets long rows of taxicabs were standing, their motors blanketed, their chauffeurs threshing their arms to rout the cold. A few well-bundled cabbies, perched upon old-style hansoms, were barking at the stream of hurrying pedestrians. Against a background of lesser lights myriad points of electric signs flashed into everchanging shapes, winking like huge, distorted eyes; fanciful designs of liquid fire ran up and down the walls or blazed forth in lurid colors. From the city's canons came an incessant clanging roar, as if a great river of brass and steel were grinding its way toward the sea.
Crowds began to issue from the theatres, and the lines of waiting vehicles broke up, filling the streets with the whir of machinery and the clatter of hoofs. A horde of shrill-voiced urchins pierced the confusion, waving their papers and screaming the football scores at the tops of their lusty lungs, while above it all rose the hoarse tones of carriage callers, the commands of traffic officers, and the din of street-car gongs.
In the lobby of one of the playhouses a woman paused to adjust her wraps, and, hearing the cries of the newsboys, petulantly exclaimed:
"I'm absolutely sick of football. That performance during the third act was enough to disgust one."
Her escort smiled. "Oh, you take it too seriously," he said. "Those boys don't mean anything. That was merely Youth— irrepressible Youth, on a tear. You wouldn't spoil the fun?"
"It may have been Youth," returned his companion, "but it sounded more like the end of the world. It was a little too much!"
A bevy of shop-girls came bustling forth from a gallery exit.
"Rah! rah! rah!" they mimicked, whereupon the cry was answered by a hundred throats as the doors belched forth the football players and their friends. Out they came, tumbling, pushing, jostling; greeting scowls and smiles with grins of insolent good-humor. In their hands were decorated walking-sticks and flags, ragged and tattered as if from long use in a heavy gale. Dignified old gentlemen dived among them in pursuit of top-hats; hysterical matrons hustled daughters into carriages and slammed the doors.
"Wuxtry! Wuxtry!" shrilled the newsboys. "Full account of the big game!"
A youth with a ridiculous little hat and heliotrope socks dashed into the street, where, facing the crowd, he led a battle song of his university. Policemen set their shoulders to the mob, but, though they met with no open resistance, they might as well have tried to dislodge a thicket of saplings. To-night football was king.
Out through the crowd came a score of deep-chested young men moving together as if to resist an attack, whereupon a mighty roar went up. The cheer-leader increased his antics, and the barking yell changed to a measured chant, to the time of which the army marched down the street until the twenty athletes dodged in through the revolving doors of a cafe, leaving Broadway rocking with the tumult.
All the city was football-mad, it seemed, for no sooner had the new-comers entered the restaurant than the diners rose to wave napkins or to cheer. Men stepped upon chairs and craned for a better sight of them; women raised their voices in eager questioning. A gentleman in evening dress pointed out the leader of the squad to his companions, explaining:
"That is Anthony—the big chap. He's Darwin K. Anthony's son. You've heard about the Anthony bill at Albany?"
"Yes, and I saw this fellow play football four years ago. Say! That was a game."
"He's a worthless sort of chap, isn't he?" remarked one of the women, when the squad had disappeared up the stairs.
"Just a rich man's son, that's all. But he certainly could play football."
"Didn't I read that he had been sent to jail recently?"
"No doubt. He was given thirty days."
"What! in PRISON?" questioned another, in a shocked voice.
"Only for speeding. It was his third offence, and his father let him take his medicine."
"Old man Anthony doesn't care for this sort of thing. He's right, too. All this young fellow is good for is to spend money."
Up in the banquet-hall, however, it was evident that Kirk Anthony was more highly esteemed by his mates than by the public at large. He was their hero, in fact, and in a way he deserved it. For three years before his graduation he had been the heart and sinew of the university team, and for the four years following he had coached them, preferring the life of an athletic trainer to the career his father had offered him. And he had done his chosen work well.
Only three weeks prior to the hard gruel of the great game the eleven had received a blow that had left its supporters dazed and despairing. There had been a scandal, of which the public had heard little and the students scarcely more, resulting in the expulsion of the five best players of the team. The crisis might have daunted the most resourceful of men, yet Anthony had proved equal to it. For twenty-one days he had labored like a real general, spending his nights alone with diagrams and little dummies on a miniature gridiron, his days in careful coaching. He had taken a huge, ungainly Nova Scotian lad named Ringold for centre; he had placed a square-jawed, tow-headed boy from Duluth in the line; he had selected a high-strung, unseasoned chap, who for two years had been eating his heart out on the side-lines, and made him into a quarter-back.
Then he had driven them all with the cruelty of a Cossack captain; and when at last the dusk of this November day had settled, new football history had been made. The world had seen a strange team snatch victory from defeat, and not one of all the thirty thousand onlookers but knew to whom the credit belonged. It had been a tremendous spectacle, and when the final whistle blew for the multitude to come roaring down across the field, the cohorts had paid homage to Kirk Anthony, the weary coach to whom they knew the honor belonged.
Of course this fervid enthusiasm and hero-worship was all very immature, very foolish, as the general public acknowledged after it had taken time to cool off. Yet there was something appealing about it, after all. At any rate, the press deemed the public sufficiently interested in the subject to warrant giving it considerable prominence, and the name of Darwin K. Anthony's son was published far and wide.
Naturally, the newspapers gave the young man's story as well as a history of the game. They told of his disagreement with his father; of the Anthony anti-football bill which the old man in his rage had driven through the legislature and up to the Governor himself. Some of them even printed a rehash of the railroad man's famous magazine attack on the modern college, in which he all but cited his own son as an example of the havoc wrought by present- day university methods. The elder Anthony's wealth and position made it good copy. The yellow journals liked it immensely, and, strangely enough, notwithstanding the positiveness with which the newspapers spoke, the facts agreed essentially with their statements. Darwin K. Anthony and his son had quarrelled, they were estranged; the young man did prefer idleness to industry. Exactly as the published narratives related, he toiled not at all, he spun nothing but excuses, he arrayed himself in sartorial glory, and drove a yellow racing-car beyond the speed limit.
It was all true, only incomplete. Kirk Anthony's father had even better reasons for his disapproval of the young man's behavior than appeared. The fact was that Kirk's associates were of a sort to worry any observant parent, and, moreover, he had acquired a renown in that part of New York lying immediately west of Broadway and north of Twenty-sixth Street which, in his father's opinion, added not at all to the lustre of the family name. In particular, Anthony, Sr., was prejudiced against a certain Higgins, who, of course, was his son's boon companion, aid, and abettor. This young gentleman was a lean, horse-faced senior, whose unbroken solemnity of manner had more than once led strangers to mistake him for a divinity student, though closer acquaintance proved him wholly unmoral and rattle-brained. Mr. Higgins possessed a distorted sense of humor and a crooked outlook upon life; while, so far as had been discovered, he owned but two ambitions: one to whip a policeman, the other to write a musical comedy. Neither seemed likely of realization. As for the first, he was narrow-chested and gangling, while a brief, disastrous experience on the college paper had furnished a sad commentary upon the second.
Not to exaggerate, Darwin K. Anthony, the father, saw in the person of Adelbert Higgins a budding criminal of rare precocity, and a menace to his son; while to the object of his solicitude the aforesaid criminal was nothing more than an entertaining companion, whose bizarre disregard of all established rules of right and wrong matched well with his own careless temper. Higgins, moreover, was an ardent follower of athletics, revolving like a satellite about the football stars, and attaching himself especially to Kirk, who was too good-natured to find fault with an honest admirer.
It was Higgins this evening who, after the "cripples" had deserted and the supper party had dwindled to perhaps a dozen, proposed to make a night of it. It was always Higgins who proposed to make a night of it, and now, as usual, his words were greeted with enthusiasm.
Having obtained the floor, he gazed owlishly over the flushed faces around the table and said:
"I wish to announce that, in our little journey to the underworld, we will visit some places of rare interest and educational value. First we will go to the House of Seven Turnings."
"No poetry, Hig!" some one cried. "What is it?"
"It is merely a rendezvous of pickpockets and thieves, accessible only to a chosen few. I feel sure you will enjoy yourselves there, for the bartender has the secret of a remarkable gin fizz, sweeter than a maiden's smile, more intoxicating than a kiss."
"It is a place where the student of sociology can obtain a world of valuable information."
"How do we get in?"
"Leave that to old Doctor Higgins," Anthony laughed. "To get out is the difficulty."
"Oh, I guess we'll get out," said the bulky Ringold.
"After we have concluded our investigations at the House of Seven Turnings," continued the ceremonious Higgins, "we will go to the Palace of Ebony, where a full negro orchestra—"
"The police closed that a week ago."
"But it has reopened on a scale larger and grander than ever."
"Let's take in the Austrian Village," offered Ringold.
"Patiently! Patiently, Behemoth! We'll take 'em all in. However, I wish to request one favor. If by any chance I should become embroiled with a minion of the law, please, oh please, let me finish him."
"Remember the last time," cautioned Anthony. "You've never come home a winner."
"Enough! Away with painful memories! All in favor—"
"AYE!" yelled the diners, whereupon a stampede ensued that caused the waiters in the main dining-room below to cease piling chairs upon the tables and hastily weight their napkins with salt- cellars.
But the crowd was not combative. They poured out upon the street in the best possible humor, and even at the House of Seven Turnings, as Higgins had dubbed the "hide-away" on Thirty-second Street, they made no disturbance. On the contrary, it was altogether too quiet for most of them, and they soon sought another scene. But there were deserters en route to the Palace of Ebony, and when in turn the joys of a full negro orchestra had palled and a course was set for the Austrian Village, the number of investigators had dwindled to a choice half-dozen.
These, however, were kindred spirits, veterans of many a midnight escapade, composing a flying squadron of exactly the right proportions for the utmost efficiency and mobility combined.
The hour was now past a respectable bedtime and the Tenderloin had awakened. The roar of commerce had dwindled away, and the comparative silence was broken only by the clang of an infrequent trolley. The streets were empty of vehicles, except for a few cabs that followed the little group persistently. As yet there was no need of them. The crowd was made up, for the most part, of healthy, full-blooded boys, fresh from weeks of training, strong of body, and with stomachs like galvanized iron. They showed scant evidence of intoxication. As for the weakest member of the party, it had long been known that one drink made Higgins drunk, and all further libations merely served to maintain him in status quo. Exhaustive experiments had proved that he was able to retain consciousness and the power of locomotion until the first streak of dawn appeared, after which he usually became a burden. For the present he was amply able to take care of himself, and now, although his speech was slightly thick, his demeanor was as didactic and severe as ever, and, save for the vagrant workings of his mind, he might have passed for a curate. As a whole, the crowd was in fine fettle.
The Austrian Village is a saloon, dance-hall, and all-night restaurant, flourishing brazenly within a stone's throw of Broadway, and it is counted one of the sights of the city. Upon entering, one may pass through a saloon where white-aproned waiters load trays and wrangle over checks, then into a ball-room filled with the flotsam and jetsam of midnight Manhattan. Above and around this room runs a white-and-gold balcony partitioned into boxes; beneath it are many tables separated from the waxed floor by a railing. Inside the enclosure men in street-clothes and smartly gowned girls with enormous hats revolve nightly to the strains of an orchestra which nearly succeeds in drowning their voices. From the tables come laughter and snatches of song; waiters dash hither and yon. It is all very animated and gay on the surface, and none but the closely observant would note the weariness beneath the women's smiles, the laughter notes that occasionally jar, or perceive that the tailored gowns are imitations, the ermines mainly rabbit-skins.
But the eyes of youth are not analytical, and seen through a rosy haze the sight was inspiriting. The college men selected a table, and, shouldering the occupants aside without ceremony, seated themselves and pounded for a waiter.
Padden, the proprietor, came toward them, and, after greeting Anthony and Higgins by a shake of his left hand, ducked his round gray head in acknowledgment of an introduction to the others.
"Excuse my right," said he, displaying a swollen hand criss- crossed with surgeon's plaster. "A fellow got noisy last night."
"D'jou hit him?" queried Higgins, gazing with interest at the proprietor's knuckles.
"Yes. I swung for his jaw and went high. Teeth—" Mr. Padden said, vaguely. He turned a shrewd eye upon Anthony. "I heard about the game to-day. That was all right."
Kirk grinned boyishly. "I didn't have much to do with it; these are the fellows."
"Don't believe him," interrupted Ringold.
"Sure! he's too modest," Higgins chimed in. "Fine fellow an' all that, understand, but he's got two faults—he's modest and he's lazy. He's caused a lot of uneasiness to his father and me. Father's a fine man, too." He nodded his long, narrow head solemnly.
"We know who did the trick for us," added Anderson, the straw- haired half-back.
"Glad you dropped in," Mr. Padden assured them. "Anything you boys want and can't get, let me know."
When he had gone Higgins averred: "There's a fine man—peaceful, refined—got a lovely character, too. Let's be gentlemen while we're in his place."
Ringold rose. "I'm going to dance, fellows," he announced, and his companions followed him, with the exception of the cadaverous Higgins, who maintained that dancing was a pastime for the frivolous and weak.
When they returned to their table they found a stranger was seated with him, who rose as Higgins made him known.
"Boys, meet my old friend, Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis. He's all right."
The college men treated this new recruit with a hilarious cordiality, to which he responded with the air of one quite accustomed to such reunions.
"I was at the game this afternoon," he explained, when the greetings were over, "and recognized you chaps when you came in. I'm a football fan myself."
"You look as if you might have played," said Anthony, sizing up the broad frame of the Missourian with the critical eye of a coach.
"Yes. I used to play."
Mr. Locke avoided answer by calling loudly for a waiter, but when the orders had been taken Kirk repeated:
"Where did you play, Mr. Locke?"
"Oh one of the Southern colleges. It was a freshwater school—you wouldn't know the name." He changed the subject quickly by adding:
"I just got into town this morning and I'm sailing to-morrow. I couldn't catch a boat to-day, so I'm having a little blow-out on my own account. When I recognized you all, I just butted in. New York is a lonesome place for a stranger. Hope you don't mind my joining you."
"Not at all!" he was assured.
When he came to pay the waiter he displayed a roll of yellow- backed bills that caused Anthony to caution him:
"If I were you I'd put that in my shoe. I know this place."
Locke only laughed. "There's more where this came from. However, that's one reason I'd like to stick around with you fellows. I have an idea I've been followed, and I don't care to be tapped on the head. If you will let me trail along I'll foot the bills. That's a fair proposition."
"It certainly sounds engaging," cried Higgins, joyously. "The sight of that money awakens a feeling of loyalty in our breasts. I speak for all when I say we will guard you like a lily as long as your money lasts, Mr. Locke."
"As long as we last," Ringold amended.
"It's a bargain," Locke agreed. "Hereafter I foot the bills. You're my guests for the evening, understand. If you'll agree to keep me company until my ship sails I'll do the entertaining."
"Oh, come now," Anthony struck in. "The fellows are just fooling. You're more than welcome to stay with us if you like, but we can't let you put up for it."
"Why not? We'll make a night of it. I'll show you how we spend money in St. Louis. I'm too nervous to go to bed."
Anthony protested, insisting that the other should regard himself as the guest of the crowd; but as Locke proved obdurate the question was allowed to drop until later, when Kirk found himself promoted by tacit consent to the position of host for the whole company. This was a little more than he had bargained for, but the sense of having triumphed in a contest of good-fellowship consoled him. Meanwhile, the stranger, despite his avowedly festive spirit, showed a certain reserve.
When the music again struck up he declined to dance, preferring to remain with Higgins in their inconspicuous corner.
"There's a fine fellow," the latter remarked, following his best friend's figure with his eyes, when he and Locke were once more alone. "Sweet nature."
"Anthony? Yes, he looks it."
"He's got just two faults, I always say: he's too modest by far and he's lazy—won't work."
"He doesn't have to work. His old man has plenty of coin, hasn't he?"
"Yes, and he'll keep it, too. Heartless old wretch. Mr.—What's your name, again?"
"Mr. Locke." The speaker stared mournfully at his companion. "D'you know what that unnatural parent did?"
"He let his only son and heir go to jail."
Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis, started; his wandering, watchful eyes flew back to the speaker.
"That's what I remarked. He allowed his own flesh and blood to languish in a loathsome cell."
"What for? What did they get him for?" queried the other, quickly.
"Oh!" Locke let himself back in his chair.
"Yes sir, he's a branded felon."
"Nonsense. That's nothing."
"But we love him just the same, criminal though he is" said Higgins, showing a disposition to weep. "If he were not such a strong, patient soul it might have ruined his whole life."
Mr. Locke grunted.
"S'true! You've no idea the disgrace it is to go to jail."
The Missourian stirred uneasily. "Say, it gets on my nerves to sit still," said he. "Let's move around."
"Patiently! Patiently! Somebody's sure to start something before long."
"Well, I don't care to get mixed up in a row."
Higgins laid a long, white hand upon the speaker's arm. "Then stay with us, Mr.—Locke. If you incline to peace, be one of us. We're a flock of sucking doves."
The dancers came crowding up to the table at the moment, and Ringold suggested loudly: "I'm hungry; let's eat again."
His proposal met with eager response.
"Where shall we go?" asked Anderson.
"I just fixed it with Padden for a private room upstairs," Anthony said. "All the cafes are closed now, and this is the best place in town for chicken creole, anyhow."
Accordingly he led the way, and the rest filed out after him; but as they left the ball-room a medium-sized man who had recently entered from the street caught a glimpse of them, craned his neck for a better view, then idled along behind.
THE TRAIL DIVIDES
Inspired by his recent rivalry with Mr. Jefferson Locke, Anthony played the part of host more lavishly than even the present occasion required. He ordered elaborately, and it was not long before corks were popping and dishes rattling quite as if the young men were really hungry. Mr. Locke, however, insisted that his friends should partake of a kind of drink previously unheard of, and with this in view had a confidential chat with the waiter, to whom he unostentatiously handed a five-dollar retainer. No one witnessed this unusual generosity except Higgins, who commended it fondly; but his remarks went unheeded in the general clamor.
The meal was at its noisiest when the man whom Locke had so generously tipped spoke to him quietly. Whatever his words, they affected the listener strongly. Locke's face whitened, then grew muddy and yellow, his hands trembled, his lips went dry. He half arose from his chair, then cast a swift look about the room. His companions were too well occupied, however, to notice this by-play even when the waiter continued, in a low tone:
"He slipped me a ten-spot, so I thought it must be something worth while."
"He—he's alone, you say?"
"Seems to be. What shall I do, sir?"
Locke took something from his pocket and thrust it into the fellow's hand, while the look in his eyes changed to one of desperation.
"Step outside and wait. Don't let him come up. I'll call you in a minute."
Ringold was recounting his version of the first touchdown—how he had been forced inch by inch across the goal line to the tune of thirty thousand yelling throats and his companions were hanging upon his words, when their new friend interrupted in such a tone that Anthony inquired in surprise:
"What's wrong, old man? Are you sick?"
Locke shook his head. "I told you fellows I'd been followed this evening. Remember? Well, there's a man down-stairs who has given the waiter ten dollars to let him have his coat and apron so he can come in here."
"Who is he?"
The men stared at the speaker with a sudden new interest.
"I'm not sure. I—think it's part of a plan to rob me." He let his gaze roam from one face to another. "You see—I just came into a big piece of coin, and I've got it with me. I'm—I'm alone in New York, understand? They've followed me from St. Louis. Now, I want you boys to help me dodge this—"
Kirk Anthony rose suddenly, moving as lightly upon his feet as a dancer.
"You say he's below?"
Locke nodded. It was plain that he was quite unnerved.
Ringold rose in turn and lurched ponderously toward the door, but Kirk stepped in front of him with a sharp word:
"Wait! I'll manage this."
"Lemme go," expostulated the centre-rush. "Locke's a good fellow and this man wants to trim him."
"No, no! Sit down!" Ringold obeyed. "If he wants to join us, we'll have him come up."
"What?" cried Locke, leaping nervously from his chair. "Don't do that. I want to get out of here."
"Not a bit like it." Kirk's eyes were sparkling. "We'll give this fellow the third degree and find out who his pals are."
"Grand idea!" Higgins seconded with enthusiasm. "Grand!"
"Hold on! I can't do that. I've got to sail at ten o'clock. I don't dare get into trouble, don't you understand? It's important." Locke seemed in an extraordinary panic.
"Oh, we'll see that you catch your boat all right," Kirk assured him; and then before the other could interfere he rang for the waiter.
"Give that chap your coat and apron," he ordered, when the attendant answered, "and when I ring next send him up. Pass the word to Padden and the others not to notice any little disturbance. I'll answer for results."
"I'm going to get out," cried the man from St. Louis. "He mustn't see me."
"He'll see you sure if you leave now. You'll have to pass him. Stick here. We'll have some fun."
The white-faced man sank back into his chair, while Anthony directed sharply:
"Now, gentlemen, be seated. Here, Locke, your back to the door— your face looks like a chalk-mine. There! Now don't be so nervous— we'll cure this fellow's ambition as a gin-slinger. I'll change names with you for a minute. Now, Ringold, go ahead with your story." Then, as the giant took up his tale again: "Listen to him, fellows; look pleasant, please. Remember you're not sitting up with a corpse. A little more ginger, Ringie. Good!" He pushed the button twice, and a moment Later the door opened quietly to admit a medium-sized man in white coat and apron.
Had the young men been a little less exhilarated they might have suspected that Locke's story of having been dogged from St. Louis was a trifle exaggerated; for, instead of singling him out at first glance, the new-comer paused at a respectful distance inside the door and allowed his eyes to shift uncertainly from one to another as if in doubt as to which was his quarry. Anthony did not dream that it was his own resemblance to the Missourian that led to this confusion, but in fact, while he and Locke were totally unlike when closely compared, they were of a similar size and coloring, and the same general description would have fitted both.
Having allowed the intruder a moment in which to take in the room, Kirk leaned back in his chair and nodded for him to approach.
"Cigars!" he ordered. "Bring a box of Carolinas."
"Yes, sir. Are you Mr. Locke, sir?" inquired the new waiter.
"Yes," said Kirk.
"Telephone message for you, Mr. Locke," the waiter muttered.
"What's that?" Anthony queried, loud enough for the others to hear.
"Somebody calling you by 'phone. They're holding the wire outside. I'll show you the booth."
"Oh, will you?" Kirk Anthony's hands suddenly shot out and seized the masquerader by the throat. The man uttered a startled gasp, but simultaneously the iron grip of Marty Ringold fell upon his arms and doubled them behind him, while Kirk gibed:
"You'll get me outside and into a telephone booth, eh? My dear sir, that is old stuff."
The rest of the party were on their feet instantly, watching the struggle and crowding forward with angry exclamations. Ringold, with the man's two wrists locked securely in his own huge paw, was growling:
"Smooth way to do up a fellow, I call it."
"All the way from St. Louis for a telephone call, eh?" Anthony sank his thumbs into the stranger's throat, then, as the man's face grew black and his contortions diminished, added: "We're going to make a good waiter out of you."
Jefferson Locke broke in excitedly: "Choke him good! Choke him! That's right. Put him out for keeps. For God's sake, don't let him go!"
But it was not Kirk's idea to strangle his victim beyond a certain point. He relaxed his grip after a moment and, nodding to Ringold to do likewise, took the fellow's wrists himself, then swung him about until he faced the others. The man's lungs filled with fresh air, he began to struggle once more, and when his voice had returned he gasped:
"I'll get you for this. You'll do a trick—" He mumbled a name that did not sound at all like Jefferson Locke, whereupon the Missourian made a rush at him that required the full strength of Anthony's free hand to thwart.
"Here, stand back! I've got him!"
"I'll kill him!" chattered the other.
"Let me go," the stranger gasped. "I'll take you all in. I'm an officer."
"It's a lie!" shouted Locke. "He's a thief."
"I tell you I'm—an officer; I arrest this—"
The words were cut off abruptly by a loud exclamation from Higgins and a crash of glass. Kirk Anthony's face was drenched, his eyes were filled with a stinging liquid; he felt his prisoner sink limply back into his arms and beheld Higgins struggling in the grasp of big Marty Ringold, the foil-covered neck of a wine bottle in his fingers.
The foolish fellow had been hovering uncertainly round the edges of the crowd, longing to help his friends and crazily anxious to win glory by some deed of valor. At the first opening he had darted wildly into the fray, not realizing that the enemy was already helpless in the hands of his captors.
"I've got him!" he cried, joyously. "He's out!'
"Higgins!" Anthony exclaimed, sharply. "What the devil—" Then the dead weight in his arms, the lolling head and sagging jaw of the stranger, sobered him like a deluge of ice-water.
"You've done it this time," he muttered.
"Good God!" Locke cried. "Let's get away! He's hurt!"
"Here, you!" Anthony shot a command at the speaker that checked him half-way across the room. "Ringold, take the door and don't let anybody in or out." To Higgins he exclaimed, "You idiot, didn't you see I had his hands?"
"No. Had to get him," returned Higgins, with vinous dignity. "Wanted to rob my old friend, Mr.—What's his name?"
"We've got to leave quick before we get in bad," Locke reiterated, nervously, but Anthony retorted:
"We're in bad now. I want Padden." He stepped to the door and signaled a passing waiter. A moment later the proprietor knocked, and Ringold admitted him.
"What's the—" Padden started at sight of the motionless figure on the floor, and, kneeling beside it, made a quick examination, while Anthony explained the circumstances leading up to the assault.
"Thief, eh? I see."
"Is he badly hurt?" queried Locke, bending a pale face upon them.
"Huh! I guess he's due for the hospital," the owner of the Austrian Village announced. "He had his nerve, trying to turn a trick in my place. I thought I knew all the dips, but he's a stranger." With nimble fingers he ran through the fellow's pockets, then continued:
"I'm glad you got him, but you'd better get together and rehearse before the police—" He stopped abruptly once more, then looked up curiously.
"What is it?" questioned the man from Missouri.
Padden pointed silently to the lapel of the fellow's vest, which he had turned back. A nickeled badge was pinned upon it. "He's no thief; he's a detective—a plain-clothes man!"
"Wha'd I tell you!" Higgins exulted. "I can smell 'em!"
The crowd looked nonplussed, with the exception of Jefferson Locke, who became calmer than at any time since the waiter had first whispered into his ear.
"We didn't know who he was," he began, hurriedly, "You must square it for us, Padden. I don't care what it costs." He extended a bulky roll of bank-notes toward the gray-haired man. "These boys can't stand this sort of thing, and neither can I. I've got to sail at ten o'clock this morning."
"Looks to me like you've croaked him," said the proprietor, ignoring the proffered money.
"It's worth a thousand dollars to me not to miss my boat."
"Wait a minute." Padden emptied the unconscious man's pockets, among other things of some telegrams and a legally folded paper. The latter he opened and scanned swiftly, then turned his little eyes upon Locke without a word, whereupon that gentleman, with equal silence, took from his inside pocket a wallet, and selected a bill, the denomination of which he displayed to the; proprietor before folding it inside the bundle he held.
"Here! It may cost you something."
Padden nodded and accepted the money, saying:
"Oh, I guess I can fix it. I know the right doctor." He regained his feet, then warned the onlookers: "But you'll have to keep your traps closed, understand?"
"Will he die?" asked Ringold, fearfully, his back still against the door.
"Not a chance. But if he does he'll never know who hit him. You see, we picked him up in the alley and brought him in." Padden winked meaningly. "It happens right along in this part of town. Do you get me? I'll keep these." He indicated the badge and papers in his hand. "Now go out as if nothing had come off. Drop in again the next time you're in town. I'll take care of the supper checks."
As the partly sobered visitors struggled into their overcoats Padden drew Locke aside, and, nodding toward Higgins, who was still talkative, said:
"If you want to catch that ten o'clock boat you'd better stick close to your friend; I know him."
"Thanks!" Locke glanced at the prostrate figure, then inquired in a low tone: "On the level, will he make it?"
"Hard to tell. Just the same, if I was you I'd change my sailing— he might come to."
"You chaps have done me a big favor to-night," said Locke, a little later, when he and his companions were safely out of the Austrian Village, "and I won't forget it, either. Now let's finish the evening the way we began it."
Anderson, Rankin, and Burroughs, to conceal their nervousness, pleaded bodily fatigue, while Anthony also declared that he had enjoyed himself sufficiently for one night and intended to go home and to bed. "That episode rather got on my nerves," he acknowledged.
"Mine, too," assented Locke. "That's why you mustn't leave me. I just won't let you. Remember, you agreed to see me off."
"'S'right, fellows," Higgins joined in. "We agreed to put him aboard and we must do it. Don't break up the party, Kirk."
"I don't want to go home," Ringold muttered.
"It's a breach of hospitality to go home," Higgins insisted. "Besides, after my bloody 'ncounter with that limb of the law I need a stimulant. You must look after me."
"I shall tuck you in your little bed," Kirk told him. But Higgins would hear to nothing of the sort, protesting that he was in honor bound to conduct his old friend Locke to the steamer, and Anthony feared that without his protection some harm might befall his irresponsible and impulsive companion. Candor requires it to be said that he did hesitate, arguing long with the limp-legged Higgins; but Locke was insistent, the others grew impatient of the delay, and in the end he allowed himself to be persuaded.
It is often through just such sudden, inconsequent decisions, influenced perhaps by the merest trifles, that a man's life is made great or small; just such narrow forkings of the trail may divert him into strange adventurings, or into worlds undreamed of. Kirk Anthony, twenty-six years old, with a heritage at hand, and with an average capacity for good or evil, chose the turning that led him swiftly from the world he knew into an alien land.
Numbed as they were by the excesses of the evening, it did not take the young men long to lose all clear and vivid remembrance of this recent experience; for the time had come when Nature was offering her last resistance, and their brains were badly awhirl. Of all the four, Jefferson Locke was the only one who retained his wits to the fullest—a circumstance that would have proved him the owner of a remarkably steady head had it not been for the fact that he had cunningly substituted water for gin each time it came his turn to drink. It was a commentary upon the state of his companions that they did not notice the limpid clearness of his beverage.
Dawn found them in an East Side basement drinking-place frequented by the lowest classes. Ringold was slumbering peacefully, half overflowing the wet surface of a table; Anthony had discovered musical talent in the bartender and was seated at a battered piano, laboriously experimenting with the accompaniment to an Irish ballad; Higgins and Locke were talking earnestly. It was the slackest, blackest hour in an all-night dive; the nocturnal habitues had slunk away, and the day's trade had not yet begun. Higgins, drawn and haggard beneath his drunken flush, was babbling incessantly; Locke, as usual, sat facing the entrance, his eyes watchful, his countenance alert. In spite of the fact that he had constantly plied his companion with liquor in the hope of stilling his tongue, Higgins seemed incapable of silence, and kept breaking forth into loud, garbled recitals of the scene at Padden's, which caused the Missourian to shiver with apprehension. To a sober eye it would have been patent that Locke was laboring under some strong excitement; for every door that opened caused him to start, every stranger that entered made him quake. He consulted his watch repeatedly, he flushed and paled and fidgeted, then lost himself in frowning meditation.
"Grandes' fellow I ever met," Higgins was saying for the hundredth time. "Got two faults, tha's all; he's modesht an' he's lazy—he won't work."
Locke stirred himself, and, leaning forward, said: "You and he are good friends, eh?"
"Would you like to play a joke on him?"
"Joke? Can't be done. He's wises' guy ever. I've tried it an' always get the wors' of it. Yes, sir, he's wise guy. Jus' got two faults: he won't work an'—"
"Look here! Why don't you make him work?"
"Huh?" Higgins turned a pair of bleared, unfocusable eyes upon the speaker.
"Why don't somebody make him work?"
The lean-faced youth laughed moistly.
"Tha's good joke."
"I mean it."
"Got too much money. 'S old man puts up reg'lar."
"Listen! It's a shame for a fine fellow like him to go to the dogs." Higgins nodded heavily in agreement. "Why don't you send him away where he'll have to rustle? That's the joke I meant."
"Huh?" Again the listener's mind failed to follow, and Locke repeated his words, concluding: "It would make a new man of him."
"Oh, he wouldn't work. Too lazy."
"He'd have to if he were broke."
"But he AIN'T broke. Didn't I tell you 's old man puts up reg'lar? Fine man, too, Misser Anthony; owns railroads."
"I'll tell you how we can work it. I've got a ticket for Central America in my pocket. The boat sails at ten. Let's send him down there."
Locke kept his temper with an effort. "To make a man of him. We'll go through his clothes and when he lands he'll be broke. He'll HAVE to work. Don't you see?"
"No." Anthony's friend did not see. "He don't want to go to Central America," he argued; "he's got a new autom'bile."
"But suppose we got him soused, went through his pockets, and then put him aboard the boat. He'd be at sea by the time he woke up; he couldn't get back; he'd have to work; don't you see? He'd be broke when he landed and have to rustle money to get back with. I think it's an awful funny idea."
The undeniable humor of such a situation finally dawned upon Higgins's mind, and he burst into a loud guffaw.
"Hey there! Shut up!" Anthony called from the piano. "Listen here! I've found the lost chord." He bore down with his huge hands upon the yellow keyboard, bringing forth a metallic crash that blended fearfully with the bartender's voice. "It's a great discovery."
"I'll get him full if you'll help manage him," Locke went on. "And here's the ticket." He tapped his pocket.
"Where'd you get it?"
"Bought it yesterday. It's first class and better, and he'll fit my description. We're about the same size."
"Ain't you goin'?"
"No. I've changed my mind. I may jump over to Paris. Come, are you on?"
Higgins giggled. "Darn' funny idea, if you can get him full."
"Wait." Locke rose and went to the bar, where he called loudly for the singer; then, when the bartender had deserted the piano, he spoke to Anthony: "Keep it up, old man, you're doing fine."
For some moments he talked earnestly to the man behind the bar; but his back was to Higgins, Anthony was occupied, and Ringold still slumbered; hence no one observed the transfer of another of those yellow bills of which he seemed to have an unlimited store.
Strangely enough, Mr. Jefferson Locke's plan worked without a hitch. Within ten minutes after Kirk Anthony had taken the drink handed him he declared himself sleepy, and rose from the piano, only to seek a chair, into which he flung himself heavily.
"It's all right," Locke told his drunken companion. "I've got a taxi waiting. We'll leave Ringold where he is."
Twenty-four hours later Adelbert Higgins undertook to recall what had happened to him after he left Muller's place on East Fourteenth Street, but his memory was tricky. He recollected a vaguely humorous discussion of some sort with a stranger, the details of which were almost entirely missing. He remembered that dawn had broken when he came out of the saloon, but beyond that he could not go with any degree of certainty. There was a hazy memory of an interminable ride in a closed vehicle of some sort, a dizzy panorama of moving buildings, bleak, wind-swept trees, frosty meadows, and land-locked lakes backed by what were either distant mountain ranges or apartment houses. This last, however, was all very blurred and indistinct.
As to who was with him on the ride, or what took place thereafter, he had no memory and no opportunity of learning, owing to certain unexpected and alarming occurrences which made it imperative for him to terminate his connection with his college, as big Marty Ringold had done earlier in the day, and begin to pack his belongings. Partly out of deference to the frantic appeals of his widowed mother, partly owing to the telephoned advice of Mr. Michael Padden, of Sixth Avenue, who said the injured man had recognized one of his assailants, he booked passage to Japan by the next steamer out of Vancouver. He left New York that afternoon by the Twentieth Century Limited, taking with him only one suit- case and a determination to see the world.
Strictly speaking, Kirk Anthony did not awake to a realization of his surroundings, but became conscious of them through a long process of dull, dreamy speculation. He never knew the precise moment when his eyes opened and sleep left him, but at cost of considerable mental effort he finally brought himself to the conviction that hours had passed and another day had arrived. More than once after long, white nights in New York City, he had awakened amid strange surroundings and had been forced to wait upon his lagging memory; but this time his mind refused to work, even after he knew himself to be fully roused. So he closed his eyes with the admonition:
"Now, begin all over again, Kirk. When you left Padden's place you went to Maxim's and listened to the fat quartette, then to the place where the waiter held out a dollar. After the trouble at that point, you tried to get into Tony's rathskeller and couldn't, so you started for the East Side. Ringold was very drunk. Good! Everything is clear so far. Next you were playing a piano with yellow teeth while somebody sang something about a 'Little Brown Cot.' After that—Lord, you must have been drinking! Well, let's run through it again."
But his efforts were vain; he could recall nothing beyond the piano, so fell to wondering what hotel this could be.
"Some East Side joint," he decided, "and a cheap one too, from the size of this stall." He noted another brass bed close at hand and reasoned that Ringold or Higgins must have risen early, leaving him to finish his sleep. That was considerate, of course, but— Good heavens, it must be late! And he was due to motor to New Haven at noon! He raised himself suddenly, and was half out of bed when he fell back, with a cry, as if an unseen hand had smitten him. He clapped both palms to his head, realizing that he was very sick indeed. The sensation was unlike anything he had ever felt before. His head was splitting, he felt a frightful nausea, the whole room was rocking and reeling as if to pitch him out of bed. It was terrible; so he arose blindly and felt his way toward the telephone. Failing to find it, he pushed a button instead, then tumbled back to bed, reviling the luck that had brought him to such a miserable place. He closed his eyes tightly and calmed his stomach by an effort of will. At last he heard the door open and a voice inquire:
"Did you ring, sir?"
"An hour ago. Haven't you more than one bell-hop in this place?"
"I'm sorry, sir."
"And I'm sick, mighty sick. I'm going to die."
"I think not, sir; the others are sick, too."
"That's good! I was afraid they'd dressed and gone." It was some consolation to know that Ringold and Higgins had not escaped their share of suffering. "How is Hig—the bony fellow?"
"Do you mean the gentleman in thirty-two?"
"How should I know his number? That's not Hig's description, however—even you could tell that he is no gentle—Oh, Lord!"
"Can I get you something, sir—a little champagne, perhaps, to settle your stomach?"
"NO, NO! Get me a taxicab. I want to go up-town."
"Rather a long drive, isn't it?" snickered the bell-boy.
"Never mind the comedy." Anthony opened his eyes. "Hello! Are you the clerk?" Instead of the bell-hop he had expected he beheld a man in white jacket and black trousers.
"No, sir, I'm the steward."
The invalid shook his head faintly. "Funny place I've got into. What's the name of it?"
"This? Oh! The SANTA CRUZ."
"Never heard of it. Why didn't they give me a good room? This is fierce."
"Suite A is considered very good, sir. It is one of the best on the line."
"Line?" Kirk grunted. "So this is some dead-line dump. Well, I'm going to get out—understand? Hand me my trousers and I'll slip you a quarter."
The steward did as desired, but a blind search showed the pockets to be empty.
"Give me the coat and vest." But here again Kirk found nothing, and was forced to apologize. "Sorry, old man, but I must have left it at the office. Now be a good fellow and hustle up that taxi. I'm getting sicker every minute."
"Perhaps you had better have the doctor?"
"Is there a good one handy?"
"Here in the hotel?"
The steward seemed undecided whether to treat the occupant of Suite A as a humorist or a lunatic, but finally he observed, "This isn't a hotel, sir."
"That's what I though-t-more like a roadhouse," "This is a ship."
"A—WHAT?" Anthony raised himself and stared at the white-clad figure over the foot of his little brass bed.
"This is a ship, sir."
"You get out of here!" yelled the infuriated young man. He cast his eyes about for some missile to hurl at this insolent menial, and, spying a heavy glass pitcher upon a stand beside him, reached for it, whereat the steward retreated hastily to the door.
"I beg pardon, sir. I will send the doctor at once."
"Must think I'm still drunk," mumbled Anthony, dazedly, as he once more laid his head upon his pillow with a groan.
When his dizziness had diminished sufficiently to permit him to open his eyes he scanned his surroundings more carefully; but his vision was unreliable. His head, too, continued to feel as if his skull were being forcibly spread apart by some fiendish instrument concealed within it. His mouth was parched, his stomach violently rebellious. In spite of these distractions he began to note certain unfamiliar features about this place. The wall-paper, for instance, which at first glance he had taken for the work of some cheap decorator, turned out to be tapestry, as he proved by extending a shaky hand. The low ceiling, the little windows with wooden blinds, the furniture itself, were all out of keeping with hotel usages. He discovered by rolling his head that there was a mahogany dresser over by the door and a padded couch covered with chintz. There were folding brass clothes-hooks on the wall, moreover, and an electric fan, while a narrow door gave him a glimpse of a tiny, white-enamelled bath-room.
He took in these details laboriously, deciding finally that he was too intoxicated to see aright, for, while the place was quite unlike an ordinary hotel room, neither did it resemble any steamship stateroom he had ever seen; it was more like a lady's boudoir. To be sure, he felt a sickening surge and roll now and then, but at other times the whole room made a complete revolution, which was manifestly contrary to the law of gravitation and therefore not to be trusted as evidence. There were plenty of reasons, moreover, why this could not be a ship. The mere supposition was absurd. No, this must be a room in some up-town club, or perhaps a bachelor hotel. Kirk had many friends with quarters decorated to suit their own peculiar fancies, and he decided that in all probability one of these had met him on the street and taken him home for safe-keeping. He had barely settled this in his mind when the door opened for a second time and a man in uniform entered.
"The steward said you wanted me," he began.
"No; I want a doctor."
"I am the doctor."
"I thought you were the elevator man. I'm sick—awful sick—"
"Can you vomit?"
"Certainly! Anybody can do that."
The stranger pulled up a stool, seated himself beside the bed, then felt of Anthony's cheek.
"You have a fever."
"That explains everything." Kirk sighed thankfully and closed his eyes once more, for the doctor had begun to revolve slowly, with the bed as an axis. "How are the other boys coming on?"
"Everybody is laid out. It's a bad night."
"Night? It must be nearly daylight by this time."
"Oh no! It is not midnight yet."
"Not midnight? Why, I didn't turn in until—" Anthony raised himself suddenly. "Good Lord! have I slept all day?"
"You certainly have."
"Whose room is this?"
"Your room, of course. Here, take one of these capsules; it will settle your stomach."
"Better give me something to settle my bill if I've been here that long. I'm broke again."
"You're not fully awake yet," said the doctor. "People have funny ideas when they're sick."
"Well, I know I'm broke, anyhow! That's no idea; it's a condition. I went through my clothes just now and I'm all in. I must get back to the Astor, too, for I had arranged to motor up to New Haven at noon."
"Let me feel your pulse," said the doctor, quietly.
"The boys will think I'm lost. I never did such a thing before."
"Where do you think you are?" inquired the physician.
"I don't know. It's a nice little hotel, but—"
"This isn't a hotel. This is a ship."
Anthony was silent for a moment. Then he sighed feebly and said:
"Doctor, you shouldn't make fun of a man at the point of death. It isn't professional."
"Fact," said the doctor, abstractedly gazing at his watch, while he held Anthony's wrist between his fingers. "We are one hundred and fifty miles out of New York. The first officer told me you were considerably intoxicated when you came aboard, but," he continued brusquely, rising and closing his watch with a snap, "you will remember it all in a little while, Mr. Locke."
"What did you call me?"
"Locke. You haven't forgotten your name, too?"
Again Anthony pressed his throbbing temples with both hot hands and strove to collect his whirling wits. At last he began to speak, measuring his words with care.
"Now, I KNOW you are wrong, Doctor, and I'll tell you why. You see, my name isn't Locke; it's Anthony. Locke went away on a ship, but I stayed in New York; understand? Well, he's the fellow you're talking to and I'm asleep somewhere down around the Bowery. I'm not here at all. I didn't want to go anywhere on a ship; I couldn't go; I didn't have the price. That supper was a hundred and seventy."
"Nevertheless, this is a ship," the physician patiently explained, "and you're on it and I'm talking to you. What is more, you have not exchanged identities with your friend Anthony, for your ticket reads 'Jefferson Locke.' You'll be all right if you will just go to sleep and give that capsule a chance to operate."
"Ask Higgins or Ringold who I am."
"There's no one aboard by either of those names."
"Say!" Anthony raised himself excitedly on one arm, but was forced to lie down again without delay. "If this is a ship, I must have come aboard. How did I do it? When? Where?"
"You came on with two men, or rather between two men, about eight- thirty this morning. They put you in here, gave your ticket to the purser, and went ashore. The slim fellow was crying, and one of the deck-hands had to help him down the gangway."
"That was Higgins all right. Now, Doctor, granting, just for the sake of argument, that this is a ship and that I am Jefferson Locke, when is your next stop?"
"What?" Kirk's eyes opened wide with horror. "I can't stay here a week."
"You will have to."
"But I tell you I CAN'T, I just can't. I bought a new car the other day and it's standing in front of the New York Theatre. Yes, and I have two rooms and a bath at the Astor, at fifteen dollars a day."
The physician smiled heartlessly. "You must have been drinking pretty heavily, but I guess you will remember everything by-and- by."
"I can't understand it," groaned the bewildered invalid. "What ship is this—if it is really a ship?"
"The SANTA CRUZ. Belongs to the United Fruit Company. This is one of the bridal suites; it is 11:30 P.M., November 21st. We are bound for Colon."
"Where is that?"
"Panama is in Central America or Mexico or somewhere, isn't it?"
"It is. Now, do you remember anything more?"
"Not a thing."
"Well, then, go to sleep. You'll be all right in the morning, Mr. Locke."
"Very well, Mr. Anthony, if you prefer. Is there anything more you would like to ask me?"
"Of course, there may have been some mistake," the medical man observed, doubtfully, as he opened the door. "Maybe you intended to take some other ship?"
"No mistake at all," the sick man assured him. "I'm beginning to remember now. You see, I lost my hat and decided I'd run down to Panama and get another. Good-night."
"Good-night. That capsule will make you sleep."
When the officer had gone Kirk mumbled to himself: "If it turns out that I AM in New York, after all, when I wake up I'll lick that doctor." Then he turned over and fell asleep.
But morning showed him the truth of the doctor's information. He awoke early and, although his head still behaved queerly and he had moments of nausea, he dressed himself and went on deck. The shock he had received on the evening before was as nothing to what he felt now upon stepping out into the light of day. In spite of his growing conviction, he had cherished a lingering hope that it was all a dream, and the feeling did not entirely vanish until he had really seen for himself. Then his dismay was overwhelming.
A broad deck, still wet from its morning scrubbing and lined with steamer chairs, lay in front of him. A limitless, oily sea stretched out before his bewildered eyes; he touched the rail with his hands to verify his vision. The strangeness of it was uncanny. He felt as if he were walking in his sleep. He realized that a great fragment had suddenly dropped out of his life's pattern, and it was intensely disquieting to think of all it might have carried with it.
He began to pace the deck mechanically, falling in with the other early risers who were out for a breath of morning air, striving to adjust himself to this new state of affairs. But even though the solid reality of his surroundings soon brought him back more nearly to a normal state of mind, he felt an ever-present expectancy of some new shock, some new and abrupt transition that might yet bring him back to his starting-point. But this obsession gradually left him, as the brisk sea breeze brought him to a proper perspective and braced him to face the full consequences of his long, restless night's orgy.
No man is so systematic, none is so well ordered in his affairs, that he can cut out a slice of his life at a moment's notice without suffering many kinds of loss and inconvenience. Although Anthony was a youth of few responsibilities, he awoke suddenly to the fact that there were a thousand things that needed doing, a thousand people who needed to know his whereabouts, a thousand things that were bound to go wrong. For instance, there was his brand-new French car, standing with motor blanketed beside the Forty-fifth Street curb.
What had happened to it, and to the urchin he had left in charge of it? He owed a thousand dollars on its purchase, which he had promised to pay yesterday. Then, too, he had neglected his house account at the University Club, and it was long overdue. That remittance from his father had come just in the nick of time. Suddenly he recalled placing the check in his bill-case, and he searched himself diligently, but found nothing. That reminded him that he had won a bet or two on the football game and the money needed collecting. There was the shooting trip to Cape Cod as well. He was due there to-day for a week-end among the geese and brant. What would Benny Glover think when he failed to show up or even telegraph? Benny's sister was coming down from Boston with some friends and—oh, it was simply imperative that he get some word ashore.
He let his eyes rove over the ship in desperation, then a happy thought came to him.
"The wireless!" he said aloud. "Bonehead! Why didn't you think of that long ago?" A glance at the rigging showed him that the Santa Cruz was equipped with a plant, and a moment later he was hammering at the operator's door.
"I want to send a message right away!" he cried, excitedly; but the "wireless" shook his head with a smile.
"I'm sorry, but—"
"It's important; awfully important. I'll pay you anything!" Kirk rammed a hand mechanically into his empty pocket.
"We're installing a new system," said the operator. "The old apparatus wasn't satisfactory and it's being changed throughout."
"Then you-you can't send a message—possibly?"
"Nothing doing until the next trip."
Kirk strode forward and stared disconsolately down upon the freight deck in a vain endeavor to collect his thoughts. How in the devil had he managed to get into this mess? Could it be one of Higgins's senseless pranks, or was there something deeper, more sinister behind it? He recalled the incidents of that wild night and began to have a disquieting doubt. Did that chance meeting with the chap from St. Louis have anything to do with his presence here, or had he really decided in some foolish, drunken whim to take a trip to Central America? He hardly knew what to think or where to begin his reasoning. He recollected that Jefferson Locke had not impressed him very favorably at the start, and that his behavior upon the appearance of the plain-clothes man had not improved that first impression. It seemed certain that he must have had his hand in this affair, else how would Anthony now find himself in possession of his ticket? What had become of the rightful occupant of Suite A? What had become of Higgins's unfortunate victim with the cracked head? What did it all signify? Kirk sighed disconsolately and gave it up. In five days more he would learn the answer, anyhow, for there must be a cable from Panama to the States. Meanwhile, he supposed he must reconcile himself to his condition. But it was tough to have two weeks of valuable time snatched out of his eventful life. It was maddening.
The sound of a bugle, which Kirk interpreted as an invitation to breakfast, reminded him that he was famished, and he lost no time in going below. Upon his appearance the steward made it plain to him in some subtle manner that the occupant of Suite A needed nothing beyond the mere possession of those magnificent quarters to insure the most considerate treatment. Kirk was placed at the captain's table, where his hunger was soon appeased, and his outlook grew more cheerful with the complete restoration of bodily comfort. Feeling somewhat less dissatisfied with his surroundings, he began to study the faces of his fellow-passengers.
"Getting your sea legs, Mr. Locke?" inquired the man at his right.
"My name is Anthony."
"I beg your pardon! The passenger list said—"
"That was a mistake."
"My name is Stein. May I ask where you are bound for?"
"I think the place is Panama."
"Going to work on the canal?"
"What canal? Oh, of course! Now I remember hearing something about a Panama Canal. Is that where it is?"
"That's the place," Stein replied, dryly.
"I'm not going to work. I don't work—don't know how."
"I see. Pleasure trip?"
"Purely a pleasure trip. I'm having a great time. By-the-way, this canal affair is something new, isn't it?"
"It was begun about thirty years ago." Mr. Stein regarded the speaker with puzzled inquiry, as if undecided in what spirit to take him.
"What's the idea? Why don't they finish it up?"
"I thought you were an American," returned the other, politely. "You have no accent."
"I am an American. I'm the fellow who was born in Albany, New York. If you look on the map you'll find the town has a little ring around it."
"And really don't you know anything about the Panama Canal?"
"Oh, I've heard it mentioned."
"Well, you won't hear anything else mentioned down here; it's the one and only subject of conversation. Nobody thinks or talks or dreams about anything except the canal. Everybody works on it or else works for somebody who does. For instance, that white-haired man at the other end of the table is Colonel Bland, one of the commissioners. The man over there with the black beard is one of the engineers at Gatun."
Stein, who seemed a gossipy person, ran on glibly for a time, pointing out the passengers of note and giving brief details about them. Suddenly he laid his hand on Anthony's arm, and said:
"See this fellow coming down the stairs?" Anthony beheld a slender, bald-headed man of youthful appearance. "That is Stephen Cortlandt. You've heard of the Cortlandts?"
"Sure! One of them pitched for the Cubs."
"I mean the Cortlandts of Washington. They're swell people, society folks and all that—" He broke off to bow effusively to the late comer, who seated himself opposite; then he introduced Kirk.
Mr. Cortlandt impressed Anthony as a cold-blooded, highly schooled person, absolutely devoid of sentiment. His face was stony, his eyes were cool, even his linen partook of his own unruffled calm. He seemed by no means effeminate, yet he was one of those immaculate beings upon whom one can scarcely imagine a speck of dust or a bead of perspiration. His hair—what was left of it—was parted to a nicety, his clothes were faultless, and he had an air of quiet assurance.
"By-the-way, we're getting up a pool on the ship's run," Stein told his new acquaintance. "Would you like to join?"
"Yes, indeed. I'm for anything in the line of chance."
"Very well. I'll see you in the smoking-room later. It will cost you only five dollars."
Kirk suddenly recalled his financial condition and hastened to say, a trifle lamely:
"Come to think about it, I believe I'll stay out. I never gamble." Chancing to glance up at the moment, he found Mr. Cortlandt's eyes fixed upon him with a peculiarly amused look, and a few minutes later he followed Mr. Stein to the deck above.
Once in his own stateroom, the young man began a thorough exploration, realizing more keenly than before that without baggage or money his plight might prove distressing. But, look as he would, he could find no trace of either, and an inadvertent glance in the mirror betrayed the further fact that his linen was long since past a presentable stage. Another despairing search showed that even his watch was gone and that his only asset, evidently overlooked by the hilarious Higgins and his co-partner in crime, was a modest three-stone finger ring. He was regarding this speculatively when the purser knocked, then entered at his call.
"I've just heard that there's a mistake about your ticket," the new-comer began. "It is made out to 'Mr. Jefferson Locke,' but the doctor says you insist your name is something else."
"That's right. My name is Anthony."
"Then how did I get this ticket?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
"Have you any baggage?"
"I don't know."
"What is your destination?"
"I don't know. You'll pardon my limited vocabulary?"
"Are you joking?"
"Do I look as if I were?"
"But I don't understand."
"Neither do I. But I must have some luggage—a fellow wouldn't make a trip like this without baggage, would he?"
"I should think not. I'll look it up for you if you wish. But about this ticket—"
"My dear man, don't bother me with that. I have worries enough as it is. What I want now is a clean shirt and collar."
"Yes, but this ticket says—"
"Please! Look at my linen. I'll create a scandal this way."
"Very well, Mr. Anthony. I must straighten out this ticket affair. Really, I must."
"All right, straighten away."
"If you are not Mr. Locke, it is no good."
"Hurrah! Put me off."
"You don't understand—the ticket is good, but—See here, there's something mighty strange about this. You say your name isn't Locke, you have no baggage, you even thought this ship was a hotel—"
"I did. It was a great disappointment. And now I want a shirt." Anthony began to laugh. "Funny, isn't it?"
"You will have to buy another ticket," said the purser, with dignity.
"A bright idea!" Kirk smiled grimly; then, turning his pockets wrong side out, continued lightly: "You look me over and if you can find the price of a ticket I'll give you half."
"Then you have lost your money as well as your baggage and your identity?"
"So it would seem."
It was plain that the officer was growing angry, so Kirk made haste to say:
"Now let's be friends, at least. By-the-way—pardon the personal nature of the question—but—what size shirt do you wear?"
"Saved! Let me have about six, will you?"
"Certainly NOT," returned the other. "I need all I have."
"Miser! Then you must help me find some one my size."
The purser, however, seemed in no mood to go shirt-hunting, and backed out of the door, saying: "I'll have a look for your baggage, Mr.—Anthony, and I'll see the captain about this ticket, also. I don't know whether you're making fun of me or not, but— I'll look you up later."
He departed, shaking his head as if this were a form of insanity he had never before encountered. A moment later Kirk followed him and made a round of the deck, staring at each man he met and mentally estimating the girth of his neck; but it seemed that the male passengers of the Santa Cruz were all of medium size, and he saw no one whose appearance held out the slightest hope. He did observe one fellow whose neck seemed as large as his own, but the man looked surly and not too cleanly, and Kirk was not yet desperate enough to bring himself to the point of approaching such a fellow for such a favor. He thought of appealing directly to the captain, but promptly remembered that he was a small, wiry man whose wardrobe could by no possible chance afford him relief. At last he made his way toward the smoking-room, determined to enlist the help of his new acquaintance, Stein.
Midway aft, he paused. A girl had emerged from the deck-house ahead of him, whose appearance was sufficiently striking to divert him, momentarily at least, from his quest. She was well above the usual height, quite slender, yet of an exquisite rounded fulness, while her snug-fitting tailor-made gown showed the marks of a Redfern or a Paquin. He noted, also, that her stride was springy and athletic and her head well carried. Feeling that friendly approval with which one recognizes a member of his own kind, Kirk let his eyes follow her, then retraced his way around the deck in the hope of meeting her face to face.
A woman frequently betrays her beauty by the poise of her head, by the turn of her neck, or the lines of her figure, just as truly as by a full glimpse of her features. Hence it was that Anthony felt a certain pleasurable expectancy as he crossed in front of the deck-house, realizing that she was approaching. But when they had met and passed he went his way vaguely disappointed. Instead of a girl, as the first sight of her youthful figure had led him to expect, he had seen a woman of perhaps forty. There was little in her countenance to reveal her age except a certain settled look that does not go with girlhood, and, while no one could have thought her plain, she was certainly not so handsome as he had imagined from a distance. Yet the face was attractive. The eyes were wide-set, gray, and very clear, the mouth large enough to be expressive. Her hair shone in the morning sun with a delicate bronze lustre like that of a turkey's wing. It did not add to the young man's comfort to realize that her one straight, casual glance in passing had taken him in from his soiled collar to his somewhat extreme patent leathers with the tan tops and pearl buttons.
Being very young himself and of limited social experience, he classed all women as either young or old—there was no middle ground. So he dismissed her from his thoughts and continued his search for a number seventeen shirt, and collar to match. But he did not fare well. He found Mr. Stein in the smoking-room, but discovered that his size was fifteen and a half; and there was no one else to whom he could apply.
For a second time Stein importuned him to buy a chance on the ship's run, and, failing in this, suggested that they have a drink together. Had not Kirk realized in time his inability to reciprocate he would have accepted eagerly, for his recent dissipation had left him curiously weak and nervous. At the cost of an effort, however, he refused. It was a rare experience for him to refuse anything, being, like many indolent youths, an accomplished guest. In fact, he was usually as ready to accept favors as he was carelessly generous when he happened to be in funds. The technique of receiving comes to some people naturally; others cannot assume an obligation without giving offence. Kirk was one of the former. Yet now he felt a sudden, strange hesitancy and a self-consciousness that made graceful acquiescence impossible. He continued firm, therefore, even when Stein gibed at him good-humoredly:
"I suppose it's against your principles to drink, as well as to gamble?"
"That's good, after the way you came aboard."
"How did I come aboard?"
"Oh, I didn't see you, but I heard about it."
Kirk flushed uncomfortably, muttering: "The acoustics of this ship are great. A man can't fall asleep but what somebody hears it."
Stein laughed: "Don't get sore; all ships are alike—we have to talk about something. Sorry I can't help you with the shirt question. Deuced careless of them to lose your luggage."
"Yes! It makes one feel about as comfortable as a man with a broken arm and the prickly heat. Something's got to be done about it, that's all." He glared enviously at the well-dressed men about the room.
Over in a corner, propped against the leather upholstery, was Mr. Cortlandt, as pale, as reserved, and as saturnine as at breakfast. He was sipping Scotch-and-soda, and in all the time that Anthony remained he did not speak to a soul save the waiter, did not shift his position save to beckon for another drink. Something about his sour, introspective aloofness displeased the onlooker, who shortly returned to the deck.
The day was warming up, and on the sunny side of the ship the steamer chairs were filling. Two old men were casting quoits; a noisy quartette was playing shuffle-board. After idling back and forth for a time, Kirk selected a chair and stretched himself out; but he was scarcely seated before the deck steward approached him and said:
"Do you wish this chair for the voyage, sir?"
"Yes, I think so."
"I'll put your name on it."
"Anthony, Suite A, third floor, front."
"Very well, sir." The man wrote out a card and fitted it to the back of the chair, saying, "One dollar, if you please."
"The price of the chair is one dollar."
"I haven't got a dollar."
The steward laughed as if to humor his passenger. "I'm afraid then you can't have the chair."
"So I must stand up all the way to Panama, eh?"
"You are joking, sir. I'll have to pay it myself, if you don't."
"That's right—make me as uncomfortable as possible. By-the-way, what size collar do you wear?"
Kirk sighed. "Send the purser to me, will you? I'll fix up the chair matter with him."
While he was talking he heard the rustle of skirts close by and saw the woman he had met earlier seating herself next to him. With her was a French maid bearing a rug in her hands. It annoyed the young man to realize that out of all the chairs on deck he had selected the one nearest hers, and he would have changed his position had he not been too indolent. As it was, he lay idly listening to her words of direction to the maid; but as she spoke in French, he was undecided whether she was telling her companion that bad weather was imminent, or that the laundry needed counting—his mind, it seemed, ran to laundry.
Then the purser appeared. "Did you send for me?" he inquired.
"Yes. There was a strange man around just now, and he wanted a dollar for this chair."
"I want to establish a line of credit."
The purser grunted.
"And say!" Kirk ran on, seriously. "I've been all over your little ship, but the passengers are boys' size. I can't wear this collar any longer."
"And I can't find any baggage of yours."
"Then there isn't any. I never really expected there was. Come now, be a good fellow. This is my 'case shirt."
"If you really wish some clothes, I'll see what I can find among the stewards."
"No, no," Kirk hastily interposed, "I can't wear a shirt with soup stains on it. Let me have one of yours—we're twin brothers."
"I have no more than I need," said the purser, coldly. He opened a cigarette case, at which Anthony gazed longingly. It seemed ages since he had had a smoke; but the other seemed disinclined for small courtesies.
"I've seen the captain about that ticket matter," he went on, "and he says you must buy another."
Kirk shook his head languidly. "Once more I tell you there is nothing doing."
The officer broke out with some heat: "If you are joking, you've carried this thing far enough. If you are really strapped, as you say you are, how does it happen that you are occupying the best suite on the ship?"
"It is a long story."
"Humph! You will have to give up those quarters and go forward."
"Why? You have your money for that ticket?"
"Yes, but you're not Mr. Locke."
Kirk smiled meditatively. "How do you know?" he queried.
"Good heavens! You've told me so a dozen—"
"Ah! Then you have nothing except my word. Well, sir, now that I come to think it over, I believe my name is Locke, after all." He grinned. "Anyhow, I love my little room and I think I'll keep it. Please don't be peevish. I want you to do me a favor." He removed the ring from his finger, and, handing it to the Purser, said "I want you to get me two diamonds' and a ruby's worth of shirts and collars; and also a safety razor. My mind has stopped working, but my whiskers continue to grow."
The officer managed to say with dignity: "You wish to raise money on this, I presume? Very well, I'll see what can be done for you, Mr. Locke." As he turned away, Kirk became conscious that the woman in the next chair had let her book fall and was watching him with amused curiosity. Feeling a sudden desire to confide in some one, he turned his eyes upon her with such a natural, boyish smile that she could not take offence, and began quite as if he had known her for some time:
"These people are money-mad, aren't they? Worst bunch of gold- diggers I ever saw." Surprised, she half raised her book, but Kirk ran on: "Anybody would think I was trying to find a missing will instead of a shirt. That purser is the only man on the ship my size, and he distrusts me."
The woman murmured something unintelligible. "I hope you don't mind my speaking to you," he added. "I'm awfully lonesome. My name is Anthony, Kirk Anthony."
Evidently the occupant of the next chair was not a football enthusiast, for, although she bowed her acknowledgment, her face showed that the name carried no significance.
"I understood you to tell the purser your name was Locke," said she, in a very low-pitched, well-modulated voice. "I couldn't help overhearing."
"But it isn't really, it's Anthony. I'm the undignified heir to the stocks and bonds of an old party by that name who lives in Albany."
"Darwin K. Anthony?" questioned she, quickly. "Is he your father?" Her face lighted with a flash of genuine interest.
Kirk nodded. "He's my prodigal father and I'm the fatted son. Do you know the governor?"
"Well, what do you think of that? He's a great old party, isn't he?" He chuckled irrepressibly. "Did you ever hear him swear?"
The woman shook her head with a smile. "I hardly know him well enough for that."
"Oh, he's a free performer; he swears naturally; can't help it. Everybody knows he doesn't mean anything. It's funny, isn't it, with all his credit, that I can't get a shirt until I put up a diamond ring? He could buy a railroad with half that security."
"You are joking, are you not?"
"No indeed. I never needed a shirt so badly in my life. You see, I didn't intend to take this trip; I didn't even know I had sailed. When I woke up I thought this was a hotel. I've got no more baggage than a robin."
"Really?" The woman by now had closed her book and was giving him her full attention, responding to some respectful quality in his tone that robbed his frankness of offence. "How did it happen?"
"Well, to be perfectly honest, I got drunk—just plain drunk. I didn't think so at the time, understand, for I'd never been the least bit that way before. Hope I don't shock you?"
His new acquaintance shrugged her shoulders. "I have seen something of the world; I'm not easily shocked."
"Well, I was perfectly sober the last I remember, and then I woke up on the Santa Cruz. I'd never even heard the name before."
"And hadn't you intended taking an ocean trip?"
"Good Lord, no! I had just bought a new French car and was going to drive it up to New Haven yesterday. It's standing out on Forty- fifth Street now, if somebody hasn't stolen it. Gee! I can see the news-boys cutting their monograms in those tires."
"You see, it was a big night—football game, supper, and all that. I remember everything up to a certain point, then—curtain! I was 'out' for twelve hours, and SICK!—that's the funny part; I'm still sick." He shook his head as if at a loss what to make of this phenomenon. He noted how the woman's countenance lighted at even a passing interest, as he continued: "What I can't understand is this: It took all my money to pay for the supper, and yet I wake up with a first-class ticket to Panama and in possession of one of the best suites on the ship. It's a problem play."
"You say you were sick afterward?"
"WAS I?" Kirk turned his eyes upon the speaker, mournfully. "My head isn't right yet."
"You were drugged," said the woman.
"By Jove!" He straightened up in his chair. "Knockouts!"
"Exactly. Some one drugged you and bought a ticket—"
"Wait! I'm beginning to see. It was Locke. That's how I got his name. This is his ticket. Oh! There's going to be something doing when I get back."
"I don't know yet, but I'm going to sit right here and brood upon some fitting revenge. After that chap gets out of the hospital—"
"You did not impress me as a college student," said the stranger.
"I'm not. I graduated four years ago. I barely made it, but I did get through."
"And you have never been to the tropics?"
"Not since I had my last row with the governor. Have you?"
"Many times. It will prove an interesting trip for you. At least you have that consolation."
"What is it like?"
Evidently the artless effrontery of the young man had not offended, for his neighbor talked freely, and in a short time the two were conversing as easily as old acquaintances. This was due, perhaps, to the fact that he had appealed to her with the same frankness he would have used toward a man and, thus far at least, had quite ignored her sex. She was sufficiently quick to appreciate the footing thus established, and allowed herself to meet him half-way. Had he presumed in the slightest, she would have chilled him instantly; but, as it was, she seemed to feel the innate courtesy back of his boldness, seeing in him only a big, unaffected boy who needed an outlet for his feelings. In the same way, had a fine St. Bernard dog thrust a friendly head beneath her hand she would have petted it.
When at last she rose, after an hour that had swiftly sped, she was gratified at the look of concern that came into his eyes. She looked at him with genuine approval as he bowed and said:
"Thank you for the pointers about Panama. I hope I may have the pleasure of talking to you again."
When she had disappeared he murmured, admiringly:
"Jove! She's a corker! And she's not so old, after all. I wonder who she—" He leaned over and read the card on the back of her steamer chair. "Mrs. Stephen Cortlandt, Suite B," it was lettered. Straightening up, he grumbled with genuine disappointment: "Just my blamed luck! She's MARRIED."
A REMEDY IS PROPOSED
By pledging his one article of jewelry Kirk became possessed that afternoon of several shirts, collars, and handkerchiefs—likewise a razor, over which he exercised a sort of leasehold privilege. The purser made it plain, however, that he had not sold these articles, but merely loaned them, holding the ring as security for their return, and this arrangement allowed Kirk no spare cash whatever. Even with all his necessities paid for, it surprised him to find how many channels remained for spending money. For instance, the most agreeable loafing spot on the ship was the smoking-room, but whenever he entered it he was invited to drink, smoke, or play cards, and as he was fond of all these diversions, it required such an effort of will to refuse that it destroyed all the pleasure of good company. It was very hard always to be saying no; and in addition it excited his disgust to learn that he had inadvertently founded a reputation for abstemiousness.
Before long he discovered that the passengers considered him an exceptionally sober, steady youth of economical habits, and this enraged him beyond measure. Every tinkle of ice or hiss of seltzer made his mouth water, the click of poker chips drew him with magnetic power. He longed mightily to "break over" and have a good time. It was his first effort at self-restraint, and the warfare became so intense that he finally gave up the smoking-room almost entirely, and spent his hours on deck, away from temptation. He suffered most, perhaps, from the lack of tobacco, but even in the matter of cigarettes he could not bring himself to accept favors that he could not return. In the solitude of his richly appointed suite he collected a few cork-bound stumps, which he impaled on a toothpick in order to light them.
Meanwhile he amused himself by baiting the purser. He dogged that serious-minded gentleman through all his waking hours, finding a rare delight in playing upon his suspicion and lack of humor. To him Kirk was always Mr. Locke, while he insisted upon being called Mr. Anthony by the others, and the officer never quite got the hang of it. Moreover, the latter was full of dignity, and did not relish being connected with a certainly dubious and possibly criminal character, yet dared not resort to rudeness as a means of riddance.
The situation was trying enough to the young man at best; for the ship's hirelings began to show a lack of interest in his comfort, once it became known that he did not tip, and he experienced difficulty in obtaining even the customary attentions. It was annoying to one who had never known an unsatisfied whim; but Kirk was of a peculiarly sanguine temperament that required much to ruffle, and looked upon the whole matter as a huge joke. It was this, perhaps, that enabled him to make friends in spite of his unsociable habits, for the men liked him. As for the women, he avoided them religiously, with the exception of Mrs. Cortlandt, whom he saw for an hour or two, morning and afternoon, as well as at meal-times. With her he got on famously, finding her nearly as entertaining as a male chum, though he never quite lost his dislike for her husband. Had she been unmarried and nearer his own age, their daily intimacy might have caused him to become self- conscious, but, under the circumstances, no such thought occurred to him, and he began to look forward with pleasure to their hours on deck.
The Santa Cruz was four days out before Cortlandt joined them, and when he did he merely nodded casually to Kirk, then, after exchanging a polite word or two with his wife, lapsed into his customary silence, while Mrs. Cortlandt continued her conversation without a second glance in her husband's direction.
"That's what I call an ideal married couple," Kirk reflected— "complete understanding, absolute confidence." And the more he saw of them, the stronger this impression grew. Cortlandt was always attentive and courteous, without being demonstrative, while his wife showed a charming graciousness that was plainly unassumed. Their perfect good-breeding made the young man feel at ease; but though he endeavored to cultivate the husband on several occasions, he made little headway. The man evidently possessed a wide knowledge of current events, a keen understanding of men and things, yet he never opened up. He listened, smiled, spoke rarely, and continued to spend nine-tenths of his time in that isolated corner of the smoking-room, with no other company than a long glass and a siphon.
One day when Kirk had begun to feel that his acquaintance with Mrs. Cortlandt was well established, he said to her:
"Stein told me to-day that your husband is in the diplomatic service."
"Yes," said she. "He was Consul-General to Colombia several years ago, and since then he has been to France and to Germany."
"I thought you were tourists—you have travelled so much."
"Most of our journeys have been made at the expense of the Government."
"Are you diplomatting now?"
"In a way. We shall be in Panama for some time."
"This Stein seems to be a nice fellow. He's taken quite a liking to me."
Mrs. Cortlandt laughed lightly. "That is part of his business."
"He is one of Colonel Jolson's secret agents."
"Who is Colonel Jolson?"
"Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission. Your father knows him."
"Do you mean that Stein is a—detective?" Kirk looked uncomfortable.
"I do! Does he know you are the son of Darwin K. Anthony?"
"Why, yes, I suppose so."
"Colonel Jolson will be interested."
"Again I don't see the point."
"Your father is one of the most powerful and aggressive railroad men in the country. Perhaps you know something about the railroad opposition to the canal?"
Kirk smiled. "Well, to tell you the truth," said he, "the governor doesn't consult me about his business as much as he ought to. He seems to think he can run it all right without me, and we've only been speaking over the telephone lately."
"One of the strongest forces the Government had to combat in putting through the canal appropriations was the railroads. Colonel Jolson has no reason to love your father."
"Yes, but I don't object to this canal. I think it must be a rather good idea."
Mrs. Cortlandt laughed for a second time. "The Colonel's dislike for your father will not affect you, inasmuch as you are returning so soon, but if you intended to stay it might be different."
"In what way?"
"Oh, in many ways. There are two classes of people who are not welcomed on the Canal Zone—magazine writers and applicants for positions who have political influence back of them. The former are regarded as muckrakers, the latter as spies."
"That's rather rough on them, isn't it?"
"You must understand that there is a great big human machine behind the digging of this canal, and, while it is more wonderful by far than the actual machinery of iron and steel, it is subject to human weaknesses. Men like Colonel Jolson, who form a part of it, are down here to make reputations for themselves. They are handicapped and vexed by constant interference, constant jealousy. It is a survival of the fittest, and I suppose they feel that they must protect themselves even if they use underhand means to do so. It is so in all big work of this character, where the individual is made small. You would find the same condition in your father's railroad organization."
"Oh, now! My old man is a pretty tough citizen to get along with, but he wouldn't hire detectives to spy on his employees."
Mrs. Cortlandt smiled. "By-the-way, when are you going into business with him?" she said.
"I? Oh, not for a long time. You see, I'm so busy I never seem to have time to work. Work doesn't really appeal to me, anyway. I suppose if I had to hustle I could, but—what's the use?"
"What is it that keeps you so busy? What are you going to do when you get back, for instance?"
"Well, I'm going to Ormond for the auto races, and I may enter my new car. If I don't get hurt in the races I'll take a hunting trip or two. Then I want to try out an iceboat on the Hudson, and I'll have to be back in New Haven by the time the baseball squad limbers up. Oh, I have plenty of work ahead!"
Mrs. Cortlandt let her eyes dwell upon him curiously for a moment; then she said:
"Have you no ambition?"
"What is it?"
"Why—" Kirk hesitated. "I can't say right off the reel, but I've got it—lots of it."
"Is there no—girl, for instance? Have you never been in love?"
"Oh, see here, now!" Anthony blushed in a manner to excite the envy of any woman. "I don't like 'em. I'd rather play football."
"That explains something. When the time comes you will cease wasting your life and—"
"I'm NOT wasting my life," the young man denied hotly. "I'm having a great time; simply immense."
"I remember reading an article once by a man who attacked American colleges with bitter personal feeling, on the ground that they fostered exactly the attitude toward life which you have just expressed."
Anthony looked sober. "That was my father," he said.
"Really! How stupid of me to forget the name. But I don't agree with him," she continued, gently. "You merely lack stimulus. If you should meet the right woman—" Then, seeing the amusement in his face; "Believe me, I know what I am talking about. I know what a woman can do. Your life has been too easy and placid. You need some disturbing element to make it ferment."
"But I don't want to ferment."
"Why don't you stay in Panama and go to work?"
"Work? Hideous word! For one thing, I haven't time. I must get back—"
"You will find great opportunities there."
"But how about the girl who is to sour the syrup of my being and make it ferment?"