Transcribed by Sean Pobuda
THE PERILS OF PAULINE
By Charles Goddard
THE BREATH OF DEAD CENTURIES
In one of the stateliest mansions on the lower Hudson, near New York, old Stanford Marvin, president of the Marvin Motors Company, dozed over his papers, while Owen, his confidential secretary, eyed him across the mahogany flat-topped desk. A soft purring sound floated in the open window and half-roused the aged manufacturer. It came from one of his own cars—six cylinders chanting in unison a litany of power to the great modern god of gasoline.
These things had been in his mind since the motor industry started. He had lived with them, wrestled with them during his meals and taken them to his dreams at night. Now they formed a rhythm, and he heard them in his brain just before the fainting spells, which had come so frequently of late. He glanced at the secretary and noted Owen's gaze with something of a start.
"What are you thinking about, Raymond?" he queried, with his customary directness.
"Your health, sir," replied Owen, who, like all intelligent rascals, never lied when the truth would do equally well. As a matter of fact, Owen had wondered whether his employer would last a year or a month. He much preferred a month, for there was reason to believe that the Marvin will would contain a handsome bequest to "my faithful secretary."
"Oh, bosh!" said the old man. "You and Dr. Stevens would make a mummy of me before I'm dead."
"That reminds me, sir," said Owen, smoothly, "that the International Express Company has delivered a large crate addressed to you from Cairo, Egypt. I presume it is the mummy you bought on your last trip. Where shall I place it?"
Mr. Marvin's eye coursed around the walls of the handsome library, which had been his office since the doctor had forbidden him to visit his automobile works and steel-stamping mills.
"Take out that bust of Pallas Athene," he ordered, "and stand the mummy up in its place."
Owen nodded, poised his pencil and prompted:
"You were just dictating about the new piston rings."
Mr. Marvin drew his hand across his eyes and looked out the window. Within the range of his vision was one of the most charming sights in the world—a handsome youth and a pretty girl, arrayed in white flannels, playing tennis.
"Never mind the letters. Tell Harry and Pauline I wish to see them."
Alone, the old man opened a drawer and took a dose of medicine, then he unfolded Dr. Stevens's letter and read its final paragraph, which prescribed a change of climate, together with complete and permanent rest or "I will not answer for the consequences."
There was little doubt that no primer mover in a great industry was better able to leave its helm than Standford Marvin. His lieutenants were able, efficient and contented. The factories would go of their own momentum for a year or two at least, then his son, Harry, just out of college, should be able, perhaps, to help. His lieutenants had proved Marvin's unerring instinct in judging character. Not one single case came to the old employer's mind of a man who had failed to turn out exactly as he expected. Yet the most trusted man of all, Raymond Owen, the secretary, was disloyal and dishonest.
This one exception was easily enough explained. When Owen came to Marvin's attention, fifteen years before, he was a fine, honest, faithful man. It was born and bred in him to be straight. During the first five' or six years in the Marvin household the older man took pains to keep watch on this quiet, tactful youth until he knew all his ways and even his habits of thought. There was no doubt that Owen was as upright and clean as the old man himself.
At the age of forty the devil entered into Owen. It came in the form of insomnia. Loss of sleep will make any man irritable and unreasonable, but hardly dishonest. With the sleeplessness, however, came the temptation to take drugs. Owen shifted from one narcotic to another, finally, settling down upon morphine. Five years of the opiate had made him its slave. Every physician knows that morphine fiends become dishonest.
The secretary had speculated with his modest savings and lost them. He had borrowed and lost again, and now, for some time, had been betting on horse races. This last had made him acquainted with a certain Montgomery Hicks, who lived well without visible source of income. Through Hicks, Owen had betrayed one of his employer's guarded secrets. Hicks, armed with this secret, promptly changed from a friendly creditor to a blackmailer.
Owen, on his way to summon Pauline and Harry, descended to the basement, where the butler, gardener, and a colored man were uncrating the Egyptian mummy. He told them to stand it in place of the bust of Pallas Athene in the library, and then went out, crossing the splendid lawns, and graveled roads to the tennis court. There was no design in Owen's mind against the two players, but of late the instinct of both the hunter and the hunted were showing in him, and it prompted him to approach quietly and under cover. So he passed along the edge of a hedge and stood a moment within earshot.
Pauline was about to "serve," but paused to look down at the loosened laces of her small white shoe. She heard Harry's racquet drop and saw him hurdle the net. In another instant he was at her feet tying the tiny bow.
"You needn't have done that, Harry," she said.
"Oh, no!" Harry affirmed, as he vainly tried to make his bow as trim as its mate. "I suppose not. I don't suppose I need to, think, about you all the time either, or follow you around till that new cocker spaniel of yours thinks I'm part of your shadow. Perhaps I don't need to love you."
"Harry, get up! Someone will see you and think you're proposing to me."
"Think? They ought to know I'm proposing. But, Pauline, talking about 'need,' there isn't any need of your being so pretty. Your eyes are bigger and bluer than they really need to be. You could see just as well if you didn't have such long, curly lashes, and there isn't any real necessity for the way they group together in that starry effect, like Nell Brinkley's girls. Is there any need of fifteen different beautiful shades of light where the sun strikes your hair just back of your ear?"
"Harry, stop this! The score is forty-fifteen."
"Yes, all these things are entirely unnecessary. I'm going to have old Mother Nature indicted by the Grand jury for willful, wasteful, wanton extravagance unless—unless—" Harry paused.
"Now, Harry, don't use up your whole vocabulary—promise what?"
"Promise to marry me at once."
"No, Harry, I can't do that—that is, right away. I must have time."
"Why time? Pauline, don't you love me?"
"Yes, I think I do love you, Harry, and you know there is nobody else in the world."
"Then what do you want time for?"
"Why, to see life and to know what life really is."
"All right. Marry me, and I'll show you life. I'll lead you any kind of a life you want."
"No, that won't do. As an old, settled-down, married woman I couldn't really do what I want. I must see life in its great moments. I must have thrills, adventures, see people, do daring things, watch battles. It might be best for me even to see someone killed, if that were possible. As I was telling Harley St. John last night—"
"Harley St. John? Well, if I catch that fop taking you motoring again you'll get your wish and see a real nice aristocratic murder. He ought to be put out of his misery, anyway; but where did you get all these sudden notions about wild and strenuous life?"
Pauline did not answer. They both heard a discreet cough, and Owen rounded the corner of the hedge. He delivered his message, and the three walked slowly toward the house.
Advancing to meet them came a dashy checked suit. Above it was a large Panama hat with a gaudy ribbon. A red necktie was also visible, even at a considerable distance. Between the hat and the necktie a face several degrees darker in color than the tie came into view as the distance lessened. It was Mr. Montgomery Hicks, whose first name was usually pronounced "Mugumry" and thence degenerated into "Mug." Mug's inflamed and scowling face and bulging eyes usually conveyed the general impression that he was about to burst into profanity—a conjecture which frequently proved correct. In this case he merely remarked in a sort of "newsboy" voice:
"Mr. Raymond Owen, I believe?"
The secretary's sallow face flushed a little as he stepped aside and let Harry and Pauline pass out of earshot.
"See here, Mug," complained Owen, "I haven't a cent for you. You will get me discharged if you come around here like this."
"Well, I'll get you fired right now," growled Mug, "if you don't come across with the money." And he started toward the front steps. Owen led him out of sight of the house and finally got rid of him. For a blackmailer knows he can strike but once, and, having struck, he loses all power over his victim. So Hicks withheld the blow, collected a paltry thirty dollars, and consented to wait a little while for Marvin to die.
Harry and Pauline passed on into the house. He had the straight backbone and well poised head of the West Pointer, but without the unnatural stiffness of the soldier's carriage; the shoulders of the "halfback," and the lean hips of a runner were his, and he had earned them in four years on his varsity football and track teams. The girl beside him, half a head shorter, tripped along with the easy action of a thoroughbred. Both bore the name of Marvin, yet there was no relationship.
Harry's mother, long dead, had adopted this girl on Mr. Marvin's first trip to Egypt. Pauline was the daughter of an English father and a native mother.
Mrs. Marvin first saw her as a blue-eyed baby, too young to understand that its parents had just been drowned in the Nile. As brother and sister they grew up together until college separated the two. After four years Pauline's dainty prettiness struck Harry with a distinct shock, the delightful sort of shock known as love at first sight. It was really Harry's first sight of her as a woman. Every sense and instinct in him shouted, "Get that girl," and nothing in him answered "No."
Mr. Marvin looked unusually pale as those two very vital young persons stepped into the library. He read their thoughts and said quietly.
"Harry, I've been placed in the hands of a receiver."
"Receiver?" echoed Harry, with amazement, for he knew that Marvin enterprises were financed magnificently.
"Yes, Dr. Stevens is the receiver. He says I have exhausted my entire stock of nervous capital, that my account at the bank of physical endurance is overdrawn, nature has called her loans, and you might say that I am a nervous bankrupt."
"So All you need is rest," cried Pauline, "and you will be as strong as ever."
"Well, before I rest I want to assure myself about you children. Harry, you love Pauline, don't you?"
"You bet I do, father."
"Pauline, you love Harry, don't you?"
"Yes," answered Pauline slowly.
"And you will marry right away?"
"This very minute, if she would have me," said Harry.
"And you, Pauline?" queried the old man.
"Yes, father," for she loved him and felt toward him as if she were indeed his daughter. "Perhaps some time I'll marry Harry, but not for a year or two. I couldn't marry him now, it wouldn't be right."
"Wouldn't be right?? Well, I'd like to know why not."
Pauline was silent a moment. She hated to oppose this fine old man, but her will was as firm as his, and well he knew it. Harry spoke for her:
"Oh, she wants to see life before she settles down—wild life, sin and iniquity, battle, murder and sudden death and all that sort of stuff. I don't know what has gotten into women these days, anyway."
Then Polly, prettily, daintily, as she did all things, and with charming little blushes and hesitations, confessed her secret. In short, it was her ambition to be a writer, a writer of something worth while—a great writer. To be a great writer one must know life, and to know life one must see it—see the world. She ended by asking the two men if this were not so.
They looked at each other and coughed with evident relief it the comparative harmlessness of her whim.
"Yes, Polly," said old man Marvin, "a great writer ought to see life in order to know what he is writing about. But what makes you suspect that you have the ability to be even an ordinary writer?"
Marvin sire winked at Marvin son and Marvin son winked back, for no man is too old or too young to enjoy teasing a pretty and serious girl.
Pauline saw the wink, and her foot ceased tracing a pattern in the carpet and stamped on it instead.
"I'll show you what reason I have to think I can write. My first story has just been published in the biggest magazine in the country. I have had a copy of it lying around here for days with my story in it, and nobody has even looked at it."
Out she flashed, and Harry after her, almost upsetting the butler and gardener, who appeared in the library doorway. These two worthies advanced upon the statue of Pallas without noticing the master of the house sitting behind his big desk. The butler did notice that a large hound from the stable had followed the gardener into the room.
"That's what one gets for letting outdoor servants into the house," muttered the butler, as he hustled the big dog to the front door and ejected him.
"Is he addressing himself to me or to the pup, I wonder?" asked the gardener, a fat, good-natured Irishman, as he placed himself in front of the statue.
He read the name "Pallas," forced his rusty derby hat down over his ears in imitation of the statue's helmet, and mimicked the pose.
Together they staggered out with their burden. A moment later they returned, carrying, with the help of two other men, the mummy in its big case. Owen also entered, and Marvin, with the joy of an Egyptologist, grasped a magnifying glass and examined the case.
The old man's bobby had been Egypt, his liberal checks had assisted in many an excavation, and his knowledge of her relics was remarkable. Inserting a steel paper cutter in a crack he deftly pried open the upper half of the mummy's front. Beneath lay the mass of wrappings in which thousands of years ago the priests of the Nile had swathed some lady of wealth and rank. It was a woman, Marvin was sure, from the inscriptions on her tomb, and he believed her to be a princess.
The secretary excused himself and went to his room, where his precious morphine pills were hidden. The old man, left alone, deftly opened the many layers of cloth which bound the ancient form. A faint scent that was almost like a presence came forth from the unwrapped folds. Long lost balms they were, ancient spices, forgotten antiseptics of a great race that blossomed and Fell—thousands of years before its time.
"I smell the dead centuries," whispered Marvin to himself, "I can almost feel their weight. The world was young when this woman breathed. Perhaps she was pretty and foolish like my Polly—yes, and maybe as stubborn, too. Manetho says they had a good deal to say in those days. Ah, now we shall see her face."
He had uncovered a bit of the mummy's forehead when out of the bandages fell a tiny vial. Marvin quickly picked it up. The vial was carved from some sort of green crystal in the shape of a two-headed Egyptian bird god. Without effort the stopper came out and Marvin held the small bottle to his nostrils, only to drop it at the mummy's feet. It exhaled the odor of the mummy which the reek of the centuries intensified a thousand times.
It was too much for the old man. He had overtaxed his feeble vitality and felt his senses leaving him. With the entire force of his will he was able to get to a chair, into which he sank. The odor of the vial was still in his nostrils. His eyes were fixed and stared straight ahead, but he could see, in a faint, unnatural yellow light that bathed the room.
From the vial, lying at the mummy's feet a vapor appeared to rise. It floated toward the swathed figure, enveloped it and seemed to be absorbed by it.
"Perhaps this is death," thought Marvin, "for I cannot move or speak."
But something else moved. There was a flutter among the bandages of the mummy. The commotion increased. Something was moving inside. The bandages were becoming loosened. They fell away from the face, and then was Marvin amazed indeed. Instead of the tight, brown parchment-like skin one always finds in these ancient relics appeared a smooth, olive-tinted complexion. It was the face of a young and beautiful woman. The features were serene as if in death, but there was no sunken nose or mummy's hollow eyes.
A strand of black hair fell down, and the movement beneath the bandages increased. Out of the folds came an arm, a woman's arm, slender, yet rounded, an arm with light bones and fine sinews, clearly an arm and hand that had never known work. Marvin was well aware that a mummy's arm is invariably a black skeleton claw.
At this point the old man made a mental note that he was not dead, for he could feel his own breathing. The arm rapidly and gracefully loosened and removed wrappings from the neck and breast. On the wrist gashed a bracelet made of linked scarabs. The arm now cast away the last covering of the bosom, neck and shoulders.
She freed her left hand, lifted out the bottom half of the case and slid the wrappings from her limbs. Barefooted and bare-ankled, clothed only in a shimmering white gown that scarcely covered bare knees, and a white head-dress with a green serpent head in front, she stepped somewhat stiffly into the room. Slowly she made several movements of limbs and body like the first steps of a dance. She rose on her toes, looked down at herself and swayed her lithe hips. It occurred to Marvin that all this was by way of a graceful little stretch after a few thousand years of sleep.
Marvin now observed that she was Pauline's height, and age, as well as general size and form. Slightly shorter she might have been, but then she lacked Pauline's high heels. The general resemblance was striking except in the color of the eyes and hair. Pauline's tresses were a light golden yellow, while this girl's hair was black as the hollow of the sphinx. Pauline's eyes were blue, but she who stood before him gazed through eyes too dark to guess their color.
The Egyptian had found a little mirror. She patted her hair, adjusted the head-dress, but Marvin waited in vain for the powder puff. From the mirror the girl's eyes wandered to a painting hanging above the desk. It was an excellent likeness of Pauline. The resemblance between the two was obvious, not only to Marvin but evidently to the black-haired girl. She turned to the old man and addressed him in a strange language. Not one word did he recognize, yet the syllables were so clearly and carefully pronounced that he felt he was listening to an educated woman. Some of the tones were like Pauline's, some were not, but all were soft, sweet, modulated.
The meaning was clear enough. She wished Marvin to see the resemblance, and she frowned slightly because the rigid, staring figure did not respond. Why should she be impatient, this woman of the Pharaohs who had lain stiff and unresponsive while Babylon and Greece and Rome and Spain had risen and fallen?
Soon she resorted to pantomime, pointed to herself and the picture, touched her eyes and nose and mouth and then the corresponding painted features. She felt of her own jet hair, shook her head and looked questioningly at the light coiffure of Pauline. She turned to the old man, evidently asking if the painting were true in this respect. Then she smiled a smile like Pauline's. Perhaps she was asking if Pauline had changed the color of her hair.
Now she became interested in a book on the corner of the desk. With little musical exclamations of delight she turned the printed pages and appreciated that the shelves contained hundreds more of these treasures. The typewritten letters lying about excited her admiration and then the pen and ink. She quickly guessed the use of the pen and ran eagerly to the mummy case. A moment's search brought forth a long roll of papyrus. Before Marvin's eyes she unrolled a scroll covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics.
There were footsteps in the hall and the Egyptian looked toward the door. Owen entered, looked at Marvin searchingly, placed him in a more comfortable position in the chair, spoke his name and walked out. What seemed most surprising to the sick, man was his secretary's oversight of the girl. He passed in front of her, almost brushing her white robe and yet it was clear that he did not see her.
But the Egyptian had seen him and the sight had excited her. She seemed desperately anxious to say something to Marvin, something about Pauline.
The mummy had a secret to reveal!
She tore the bracelet from her right wrist and tried to force it into Marvin's nerveless grasp. Try as she would, his muscles did not respond. There were voices in the hallway. Harry and Pauline were running downstairs. The Princess gave one last imploring glance at the paralyzed figure, passed her hand gently over his forehead; then she stepped quickly back to the case.
Harry and Pauline rushed in, followed less hastily by Owen. They grasped the old man's hands, and Harry, seizing the telephone, called Dr. Stevens. But to the surprise of everybody Marvin suddenly shook off the paralysis, spoke, moved and seemed none the worse for his seizure.
Old Mr. Marvin's faculties returned with a snap. There was the library just as it had been before his peculiar seizure. His son Harry was summoning on the telephone Dr. Stevens, the heart specialist, and Pauline, his adopted daughter, was on her knees chafing his hands and anxiously watching his face, while Owen, the secretary, was pouring out a dose of his medicine. But the peculiar yellow light had gone. And what about the mummy? It stood just as he had left it, the lower half of the case was in place, the upper half was out, revealing the loosened bandages and just a glimpse of the forehead.
One strand of jet black hair hung down. All was just as it was when the little vial had fallen out.
"I'm all right, I'm all right," protested Mr. Marvin, somewhat testily, as he twisted about in his chair to get a good view of the mummy. "Look out, Harry, don't step on that little bottle."
Harry looked down and picked up the tiny vial which had fallen from the bandages wrapped about the ancient form.
"Smell of it," his father ordered. Harry sniffed it and remarked that it smelled musty and passed it to Pauline. The girl carried it to her nostrils spin and again. She looked perplexed.
"Well, what do you think it is?" asked the old man.
"Why—I can't remember, but I ought to know. I'm sure I do know."
"The devil you do," muttered her faster father.
"What makes you think you ought to know?"
"Why, it is so familiar. I'm certain I've smelled it often before. Haven't I?"
"Well, if you have, Polly, you are a lot older than I am, older than anything in this country, as old as the pyramids. That bottle fell out of the mummy, and I can assure you it has been there some three or four thousand years. When I smelled of that bottle it had a queer effect on me. I felt as if I were going to have one of my fainting spells and was glad to get back to the chair. It's funny about that mummy. I thought she came out and talked to me."
"Why, father, what a horrible thing!" sympathized Pauline.
"Not horrible at all. She was a beauty and a princess. She was interested in your picture, Polly, and she looked like you, too, except, let's see—yes, her hair was black, jet black, like that one lock you see hanging down."
"Oh," interrupted Pauline, "I wish my hair were black, and I often dream that it is, and that I am walking around in a pretty, white pleated dress and my feet are bare."
"And a bracelet on your wrist—your right wrist?" questioned Marvin eagerly.
"I don't remember," Pauline replied thoughtfully.
"Well, we'll see if you had one and also whether I was dreaming or not," announced the old man with a half ashamed look as he rose somewhat unsteadily to his feet. Harry and Pauline tried to keep him quiet. He brushed their warnings aside and walked unsteadily to the mummy.
"Let's see its face," suggested Harry carelessly.
"No," said his father. "I have an idea that this old but young lady would not care to have us look at her. But there is one thing I must find out. I want to know if she wears a bracelet of linked scarabs on her right wrist or not."
All of this was rather a bore to Harry, who lived intensely in the present, had no interest in Egypt, except that Pauline was born and adopted as an orphan baby there, and asked nothing of the future except that it allow him to marry this obstinate but fascinating little creature at the earliest possible moment. The question had been brought up half an hour before, and he wanted it settled at once. Harry wished they would decide about the marriage instead of fussing around with an old mummy.
"My son, I venture to say that you would have been interested in this young woman had you met her."
"Possibly," the youth admitted with a slight yawn.
"Yes," continued his father, busily searching for the mummy's right wrist, "she was probably what you would call a peach."
"She may have been a peach in her day," thought Harry, "but today she's a dried apricot."
The elder Marvin's searching fingers encountered a hard object. It proved to be a scarab, or sacred Egyptian beetle, carved in black stone.
"Did you ever dream about that?" asked Harry, chaffing.
"Yes, I have," replied Pauline. Both men looked at her to see if she were serious.
"I dreamed that I was very sick and going to die, and an old man with a long, thin beard came in. He gave me a stone beetle like that. Then it seems to me they put it right on my chest and they said—let's see, what did they do that for? I think it was to cure me of something the matter with my heart."
"Polly," said Mr. Marvin, "I never knew you had dreams like this. But are you sure they said it would cure your heart? Wasn't it for some other reason?"
Pauline thought a moment, while Harry lit a cigarette and his father worked his fingers down toward the mummy's right wrist.
"No," said Pauline, "I remember now. It wasn't to cure it at all. It was to make it keep quiet."
"Ho, ho!" laughed Harry. "I never knew of any one making it flutter much. I guess that was no dream."
Harry's father silenced him with an impatient gesture and turned to Pauline, who was watching the wind make cat's paws on the polished surface of the Hudson River.
"Go on, girl, go on. This is remarkable. I have read of this custom in the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead'! Why did they want to keep your heart quiet?"
"They said," continued Pauline, dreamily, "that after I died my spirit was to be called before somebody—a God, I guess—who would judge whether I was good enough for Heaven or not. That stone beetle was placed on my heart to make it keep silent and not tell anything wicked I might have done in life. Aren't dreams crazy things? Say, Harry, there goes a hydroplane."
The two young people hung out the open window. The old man was absorbed, too. He had at last worked his fingers along the entire length of the mummy's right wrist. It was dry and hard as any mummy he had ever seen, but it bore neither bracelet nor any ornament whatever.
"Well," he said, reluctantly, "it was all a dream, interesting but not important. Like Polly's dream, it was just the echo of something I have read or seen."
"Oh, pshaw! What are dreams, anyway?" muttered Harry, with impatience.
"Dreams," said Pauline, authoritatively, "dreams are the bubbles which rise to the surface of the mind when it cools down in sleep."
"Now," observed Harry, quietly, "when you and father are through talking about mummies and dreams I wish you would consider something that I am interested in. I'd like to know how soon you are going to marry me?"
"Where did you get that definition of dreams, Polly?" asked the old man.
"From my story," said Pauline, proudly.
Both men at once remembered that she had gone to find the magazine and show them her first story. They eagerly demanded to see it.
Pauline picked up the Cosmopolitan from the floor. She had dropped it in her agitation at finding her foster father had fainted. Sure enough, there it was:
FIRE ON AN OCEAN LINER
By Pauline Marvin.
It was not the biggest feature by any means, but it was quite a little story, and there were several large stirring illustrations. Both men begged her to read it to them, but she modestly declined.
Mr. Marvin adjusted his spectacles and read it through from start to finish, frequently looking up to compliment the authoress on some point that pleased him. Harry looked over his father's shoulder, and there could be no doubt they were both held and even thrilled by the story.
Mr. Marvin clapped his hands and stated in a loud voice that he was proud of her. Harry expressed his appreciation by a bear-like hug and a kiss, all of which she accepted with blushes and protests.
"And—er—did they actually pay you something for this?" asked the old gentleman.
"Oh, yes," Pauline assured him. "They sent me a check at once. It paid for that frock you told me was too extravagant."
"A hundred dollars?" ventured Harry from the depths of his ignorance of things feminine.
Both Pauline and his father cast pitying glances at him.
"Look here, young man," said the elder Marvin, "whoever led you to believe that you could buy dresses for a girl like Polly at a hundred dollars? If you contemplate matrimony on any such deluded basis as that you had better back out now before it's too late. Isn't that so, Polly?"
"Why, father," protested the youth, "what do I care what her dresses cost? Polly knows everything I have or ever make is hers, and I can't think of a more satisfactory way of spending it than on her."
"That's fine, Harry," laughed the father, "you have just the ideal frame of mind and the proper sentiments for a modern husband. You will find, too, that women are very reasonable. If a man gives his wife all he makes, plus the vote, and lets her do just as she pleases—she'll usually let him live in the same house with her, and even get up early enough to see him at breakfast once in a while."
"I agree to everything," declared Harry, with the reckless abandon of youth in love. "But I want to know how soon Polly is going to marry me."
Pauline, who had said nothing in answer to the preliminary skirmishes, now recognized the main attack and opened up in reply.
"I told you I would marry Harry some time, but not for a year or two. You admitted that a writer ought to see life in order to write well. So there you are. I must have a year or two of adventure. There are a thousand things I want to do and see before I settle down as Mrs. Harry Marvin. Suppose we say two years."
Harry staggered back as if from a blow. Two years! How preposterous! He couldn't live that long without Pauline. In vain he hurled his protests and objections. She stood, sweet, unruffled, sympathetic, but as firm as the Rocky Mountains. The old man listened to the debate for some time without comment. Then he pressed a button on his desk.
In answer came Raymond Owen, the secretary. He had shown the good taste to retire from the library as soon as the conversation became personal. From the vantage point of a room across the hall he had been quietly listening, and decided it a rather unfruitful piece of eavesdropping. He appeared the faithful, deferent employee in every line as he entered.
"Come here, Raymond," directed the old man, as sharply as a commanding officer, "and you, Harry, and you, Pauline."
They obeyed and quickly lined up before his chair with rather surprised faces, for Mr. Marvin only called them Pauline and Harry when he was very serious.
"Raymond, this is the situation: My son loves Pauline and wants to marry her at once. I have no objection; in fact, I would like to see them united at once, but Pauline demurs. She loves Harry, but feels she ought to have two years to see life before settling down. Two years is too much."
"I should say so," growled Harry.
"But, as my old grandfather, who has been gone these forty years now, used to say: 'When a woman will, she will, and when she won't, she won't—and there's an end on't.' I don't blame her for wanting to have her own way. It's the only plan I've found to get along in this world, but you can't have all your own way. You have to compromise. So Polly is going to have one year—that's enough.
"During that year, Raymond, I'm going to put her in your care. You are older and more prudent than either Polly or Harry and will see that she comes to no harm. Take her anywhere she wants to go—around the world if she likes, to do anything within reason. Do you agree?"
Mr. Marvin looked at Owen, who accepted the duty as calmly as if it were an order to post a letter. Polly also consented after a moment's hesitation. Harry alone protested and argued. It was a hopeless case and he yielded to overwhelming odds.
This matter settled, Mr. Marvin's mind returned to the mummy and his curious delusion that it had come to life. While Owen perused Pauline's story and that willful young woman herself tried to cheer up her disconsolate lover, the old man returned to the mummy. He had searched for the bracelet on the right wrist, but, after all, perhaps the Egyptian might have slipped it onto her left wrist in her hurry to get back.
"There it is," he shouted suddenly; "there it is—the bracelet. She wore it on her wrist and he told her to give it to Polly."
Mr. Marvin held in his hand a bracelet of scarabs linked together. It looked to him to the very one the reincarnated mummy had worn. Harry and Pauline in wonder came to him, and it was well they did. The excitement and exertion had again overstrained his failing energies. He tottered, and they were just in time to save him from a fall.
It was another of his fainting spells, and they lowered him gently into his chair. But the old man was not unconscious yet. Feebly he repeated to Pauline, "Wear this bracelet—wear it always—promise."
Pauline promised, and slipped it on her wrist without more than glancing at it. The old man's eyes closed, and it was clear that this faint was more serious than his others. Harry, about to telephone for Dr. Stevens again, was greatly relieved to see the physician stride into the room. There was hardly need of the stethoscope to tell him the end was near.
Even before the old man was undressed and in bed, Dr. Stevens had prepared and administered a hypodermic. The patient's eyelids fluttered and Dr. Stevens listened to the faintly moving lips.
"The will," called the doctor, "what about the will?"
He glanced at every one, but nobody knew.
A shadow of anxiety passed over the features of the dying millionaire. Dr. Stevens could see that something of serious importance was on the old man's mind—something of importance about his vast property.
Once more he listened and then hastily drawing out his prescription pad and fountain pen he wrote a few sentences at the dying man's dictation, while the patient rallied and opened his eyes. The physician held the blank before his patient, who read it through and nodded. Dr. Stevens then placed the pen in the trembling fingers and guided his signature. A moment more and the physician had signed it as a witness and the butler had done the same.
The old manufacturer died as he had lived.
The will written on Dr. Stevens's prescription pad was given to Owen. He went to his room and examined it. It read:
"Bodley Stevens, M.D. Rx: I bequeath half my estate to my son, Harry, the remainder to my adopted daughter, Pauline, to be held in trust, until her marriage, by my secretary, Raymond Owen."
Then followed the signature of the deceased and that of the two witnesses. In vain Owen looked for the handsome bequest to "the faithful secretary." This was a bitter disappointment, and he considered for a moment the advisability of destroying the will. This would make valid one of the earlier wills in which he knew he had not been forgotten.
The folly of such a course became evident after a few moments thought. Dr. Stevens, the butler, and several others knew the contents of the document. It was so simple that its meaning could hardly be confused or forgotten, and every one knew it was in his keeping. It occurred to Owen that quite likely such a hasty death-bed will written by a doctor unskilled in law might not be accepted by the courts.
Early the next morning Owen suspended his work of answering telegrams of condolence long enough to make a hurried trip to lower Manhattan, where the late Stanford Marvin's lawyers had offices.
In vain the great lawyer cudgeled his brains for some flaw. The will ought to be wrong, but it wasn't. The meaning was so clear that even a court couldn't misunderstand it, and the fortune was left to his natural beneficiaries. The lawyer heaved a sigh and said plaintively:
"Too bad, too bad. Why didn't they call me?"
"Then this will is not valid?" asked Owen.
"Oh, no, it will hold; but what a pity that such a great man's last will and testament should be such an—well, so—well, this instrument is not worthy of conveying such a great estate."
He contemptuously slipped the simple document into an envelope and placed it in his safe. Owen picked up his hat, but hesitated at the door. A question was forming in his mind and with it a hope.
"Mr. Wilmerding," he asked finally, "in case Miss Marvin does not marry who would have charge of the estate?"
"I should say," replied the lawyer, "in reply to your question that the estate would be held in trust by you."
Returning to the house and entering the library Owen was confronted by the unwelcome spectacle of Montgomery Hicks, generally known as Mug. Hicks, with his gaudy attire, and ugly face, was always an affront to the eye, but to Owen he was a terror, for he held the power of blackmail over the secretary. Owen shrank at the sight of his enemy, but immediately took courage. Though Marvin's death had left the secretary no legacy it had also robbed the blackmailer of his power.
Hicks advanced with what he intended to be a winning smile and extended a hot, fat hand.
"I see the old man has croaked and I was just dropping in to talk business," Hicks's newsboy voice growled out.
"Hicks," said Owen, keeping his hand in his pocket, "if you came here to get your money out of the legacy old man Marvin was to leave me. Well, you won't get it and you never will get it. Marvin didn't leave me a cent, so there is nothing for you to get. He did leave me a job in his will, a job that will last for a year, and neither you nor any one else can force me out of that job. You can't blackmail me any more."
"At the end of the year what becomes of you?" asked Hicks.
"Then I get a position somewhere else; but that is none of your business."
"You don't want a position, Owen. A position calls for work. You don't like hard work any more then I do. You can't stand work much longer, either. Look at your eyes and your skin, how many grains do you take a day, anyway?"
"I haven't touched a grain of morphine in six months," lied Owen. "But get out of my way—you can't get anything out of me and you can't blackmail me. If you come to this house again I'll have you thrown out."
"Just a minute," said Hicks, as pleasantly as he could, straining his coarse features into the unaccustomed position of a smile. "I didn't come to get money out of you. I know all about the will. What I came for was to help you and give you a tip. You and I can make a lot of easy money together. You've got the opportunity and I've got the brains. Now, to show you I'm your friend, look at this!"
Hicks handed him a paper which Owen read with surprise. It was a receipt in full for all Owen owed. Owen put it in his pocket.
"That's right, keep it. You and I are going to be so rich before long that a matter of a thousand or two wouldn't be worth talking about between friends."
Owen had been under the thumb of this man, had feared and hated him and hoped for the day when he might sneer in his face and defy him. This was the time, and yet he felt Hicks had something to offer. He was in temporary charge of millions. There should be, there must be, some way to make this control permanent or else to delve into these millions while they were in his care. As Hicks hinted, this was an opportunity and he needed not brains, but rather experience and advice. Owen had been a rascal on a short time, why not take a partner like this man Hicks? He would prevent mistakes, and mistakes are all a criminal need fear.
Owen fingered uneasily the paper Hicks had put in his hand. He drew it out of his pocket—yes, it was a receipt in full for all that Owen owed the scoundrel. What could be Hicks's scheme? Owen turned a puzzled and worried gaze upon his companion.
Hicks observed him closely, read the misgivings in Owen's mind and, drawing close, whispered something in the latter's ear.
But Owen's drug-saturated nerves trembled at the thought. He pushed Hicks aside and walked rapidly out of the room, calling over his shoulder:
"I won't have anything to do with you. I don't want you to come near me or speak to me again. I'm done with you."
"When you want me you know where to find me," was Hicks's parting answer.
PAULINE TAXES THE FIRST TRICK
"All right, I'll do it," growled Harry Marvin, with the air of a martyr going to the stake. "I'll do it for your sake, Polly."
"Well, you'd better begin to get ready," said Pauline blithely.
"I'll climb into a frock coat and endure an hour or two of this afternoon tea chatter," promised Harry, "but first you must talk sense with me for a few minutes."
"Oh, Harry," spoke Pauline, softly, "I know what 'talking sense' means. You want to argue about my year of adventure. Now, lets not argue. Let's just be happy. You know I love you and I know you love me, and that ought to be enough. This year will be gone before you know it. I'm going to begin it right away just to please you. The sooner it starts the sooner it will be over."
"Begin it?" said Harry. "Why, a month of it is gone now. But it's all nonsense. Polly, if you love me you are going to give up this crazy idea."
A maid, bringing the card of Miss Lucille Hamlin, interrupted Harry. She was the first of the afternoon tea party. Polly hurried Harry off to dress, and, of course, he had no further chance to "talk sense" until the door had closed on the last guest. Then he pounced upon her. But Pauline, sweetly stubborn, cheerfully unyielding, insisted on carrying out her father's promise to the letter.
Raymond Owen, the secretary of the late Mr. Marvin, had thought it important to overhear this argument, and finally to walk into the library where the debate was going on. If the adventures were to start he had an idea for a beginning. The words of Hicks, the blackmailer, had been in his mind for some thirty days and were beginning to bear fruit. He had soon reached the point of hoping, almost praying, something would happen to Pauline that he might be left in control of her, estate. During the last few days Owen had progressed, from merely hoping to readiness to help his wish to come true.
Harry instantly appealed to the secretary to dissuade Pauline. There was no doubt that Owen had some influence over the girl. In years gone by, before Owen had taken to the drug, Pauline had sought him out in many a time of perplexity and learned to rely on his tactful, well-considered advice.
To the surprise of the young master of the house, Owen made no attempt to dissuade. Very unobtrusively he pointed out that for many years he had been accustomed to carry out the wishes of Harry's father, and that he was bound to fulfill his last wish in the same way.
"Raymond, you're a dear," laughed Pauline; "let's think of something thrilling to do right off. Have you any idea?"
"No," lied Owen, "I hadn't given the matter any thought. We might look at a newspaper and see what's happening."
Owen had a paper with him and the three examined it together.
Owen pretended to discover that an aviation meet was about to be held. His idea, for which Harry promptly hated him, was to induce some aviator to take Pauline as a passenger. Many of the races called for carrying a passenger. Harry made a few objections, but the speed with which they were overruled showed that he had no standing in this court. So Harry subsided, but he thought very hard.
Several things were becoming evident to Harry.
One was that this year to see life and have adventures was actually going to take place and no opposition on his part would stop it. It was also clear that if he hoped to control Pauline's adventures in any way it would be by the use of his wits, matching them against Pauline and the secretary.
When Pauline and Owen decided upon the aeroplane ride, Harry contented himself with remarking that he would have to see about it. Both chuckled when he said it, Pauline outwardly and Owen inwardly.
Then they had dinner under the round glassy eye of Aunt Cornelia. Aunt Cornelia was an elderly maiden relative of Harry, who had arrived with others for the funeral and made the brilliant discovery that since Mr. Marvin's death the "social situation," as she termed it, at the Marvin house had become impossible.
It seemed, according to Aunt Cornelia, that a young man and a young woman of impressionable age living in the same house unchaperoned constituted an "impossible social situation," Either Pauline or Harry must move out or someone must be installed as chaperon. Of course, the chaperon was the least of the three evils and Aunt Cornelia, being the discoverer of the job, was elected to fill it.
Harry ordered a bottle of wine with his dinner. Though he actually drank very little, this unusual event created no little consternation.
"Harry, I didn't know you drank?" said Pauline.
"I am just beginning. You see, now that I must take over father's affairs and mix with men of the world I ought to get a little experience in things. See life and know what's what."
After dinner Harry casually asked if Pauline thought her adventures would lead her to Paris. Pauline thought it likely, whereat Harry remarked that he might see her over there.
"I haven't been to Paris since I was a kid, and I really ought to see it, don't you think?"
"Yes," agreed Pauline, without enthusiasm, "but wait until we are married and we'll do Paris together."
"No, Polly, that won't do. I'm sorry, but as you say, you can't see life after you're married and settled down, so I'll have to do Paris alone."
"Harry, are you sure you love me?" Pauline whispered.
"Polly, I know it, and everybody else knows it except you. Get Owen, he's a notary public, and I'll take an oath before him that you have been the only girl in all the world, are now and ever will be, world without end, amen."
"And I love you, Harry," said Pauline, lowering her eyes until he saw only the silky lashes.
"Why, Polly, that's the first time you ever volunteered that information."
"Yes, Harry, I love you too much to let you go to Paris."
"Paris can't hurt me unless I let it hurt me."
"Harry, you won't be quite the same sort of boy when you come back from Paris. Will you promise not to go until we are married?"
"Will you promise not to go on this trip of adventure?"
"Why should I?" demanded Pauline.
"Because you won't ever be quite the same sort of girl when you come back."
After breakfast the next morning when the big touring car rolled up to the front door to got Pauline and Owen, Harry was hurt that he had not been consulted. Pauline's belated invitation to go with them to the aviation field in the automobile was declined. Away went the big car to the fine stretch of roads, where it made short work of the distance to the aviation grounds.
Owen made a complete canvass of the "hangars" and soon accounted for every machine entered in the race for the next day. From all but one of the aviators he obtained a flat refusal. Not for money or any other consideration would they take a strange woman as a passenger. The only exception was a Frenchman, whose hesitation in declining led Owen to further argument. At the last moment Pauline, impatient at the suspense, entered the Frenchman's "hangar" and added her blandishments to Owen's financial inducements. The gallant foreigner succumbed and a bargain was struck. He exhibited his tame bird of steel and wood and cloth with the utter pride of a mother showing off her only child.
The aviator's fingers touched one of the wires and the easy smile left his face. He turned to his mechanics and sharp words followed. A moment later one of his assistants was at work tightening the wire. Owen's eyes scarcely left the wire, and when the opportunity arose he questioned the mechanic as, to what would happen if that particular steel strand should fail during flight. The foreigner explained frankly that the aeroplane would capsize and plunge to the earth. But he assured Owen that no such thing would happen, as he had just tightened the wire in question and would make another inspection after the practice flight that afternoon.
All the way home Owen's thoughts were of that wire and what it would mean to him. In the meanwhile Harry, after watching the car depart toward Hempstead, concluded to follow. He went to the picturesque private garage behind the Marvin mansion and soon was, following in the tracks of the bigger car.
Arrived on the field, he recognized Pauline's car and awaited patiently until he saw it drive away. Then he interviewed the aviator and learned of the proposed trip on the morrow. Harry's French was nothing to boast of, nor was the Frenchman's English. But they managed to have a long and in the end a heated argument. The birdman said he had given his word to a beautiful lady, and that settled it. Besides, there was no danger in his wonderful machine. Had he not flown upside down and done all the things the great Pegoud himself had done?
"As you Americans say—let's see, what is your idiom?"
One of his mechanics prompted him:
"Ah, yes," he said, with a smile. "I believe the proper expression is, 'I should worry.'"
Harry threw up his hands and went home. As he buzzed his horn outside the garage the door was opened by the Marvin chauffeur with a telegram in his hand. The chauffeur's wife was sick and he wanted a couple of days' leave of absence. Harry granted it instantly. That evening he made no mention of either the chauffeur's absence or his trip to the field. Pauline thought she was teasing Harry by saying nothing of her plans. She was sure he was eaten up with curiosity to know the result of her visit and admired his ability, as she thought, to conceal it.
Owen spent a nervous evening. He walked out soon after dinner and from a drug-store telephone booth called up a friend in the insurance business. To the secretary's surprise and disappointment he learned that the percentage of accidents to aviators had become comparatively small. Passengers were particularly fortunate. The friend even agreed to obtain accident insurance for any one at a reasonable premium.
If aeroplanes had become reasonably safe the chance of Pauline's being killed during the flight on the following day was insignificant. He must give up all hope of wealth from the permanent control of her estate. As the evening wore on Owen began to feel how he had unconsciously relied on this hope. He doubled his evening dose of morphine, but it neither soothed his disappointment nor brought him sleep.
Hour after hour, during the night, his sleepless eyes seemed to see that loose wire which the mechanic had explained to be so vitally important. He could see in imagination the machine flying off into the clouds with Pauline in it. He could see it suddenly waver, dip and plunge to the earth. In his mind's eye he saw himself rushing to, the wreck, lifting out the girl's crushed form, wildly calling for a doctor, and exulting all the time that she was beyond human aid.
About two o'clock Owen fell into a doze, and in that doze came one of his vivid opium dreams. He beheld Hicks enter his bedroom. It was not Hicks, the blackmailer, but Hicks, the counselor, who had told Owen how he might become rich. Hicks was speaking to him in a sort of noiseless voice, very different from his usual tones. He spoke in a sort of shells or husks of words. The consonants were there, but the vowels were lacking. Yet he heard as plainly as if the red-faced man had shouted. Hicks advised him to be a man, to show courage for once, to risk something, and then reap the reward forever afterward. "Take your motorcycle, ride to the aviation field before daylight, file that wire half through, and fate will take care of the rest."
But Owen lacked the nerve. He feared that he would be seen sneaking onto the field at night or at daybreak. Hicks replied that the field was deserted at this hour. Owen then insisted that the aeroplane would be guarded, and even if it were not locked in its hangar the first rasp of a file on the wire would call the attention of some one on guard. No, it was too much, Owen could not do it. Instead, he made a counter suggestion that Hicks should undertake the task, since he was so certain of its success. For his part the secretary agreed to divide all that the estate might be made to yield him.
Owen, like everybody else, had seen many strange things in dreams, but never had he known of any character in a dream admitting or even suggesting that he was a dream. Yet this was just what Hicks did.
"I would, Owen. I would do it in a minute if I were talking to you. But this isn't me at all. I'm only a dream, in, reality I'm sound asleep in a hotel on upper Broadway, where I am dreaming that I am talking to you. Tomorrow morning I'll remember enough of this dream to make me go down to the aviation field with a sort of premonition that Pauline is going to be killed in an aeroplane."
"How did you know about that wire and that she is going to fly tomorrow," asked Owen.
"I don't know that," said the phantom Hicks frankly in his empty voice. "There is a third party in this and I don't know who he is or much about him, except that he is not a living being. He seems to be somebody from the past, a priest of some old religion I ought to have studied about when I was at school. I don't know what his motive is, but he is with us. He wants her killed for some reason. He brought this dream of me to you so I could explain.
"You needn't worry about the man on guard over the aeroplanes. That man won't wake up, no matter how much noise you make."
"How do you know?" Owen asked.
"He knows," replied Hicks, "because he has transferred the effects of your morphine from your astral body to his. That's how he knows. You ought to know, too, because you have taken almost enough of the drug to kill you tonight, and yet this is the first time you have even closed your eyes. You'd better let him help us and file that wire as he advises. I'm going now, you will wake up in a moment. This priest man told me after I had given you the message to drop this out of my hand and the dream would end. So here goes. Goodbye."
Owen saw Hicks hold his hand over a table and drop a small black shiny object upon it. As it dropped Hicks vanished and Owen awoke. He heard a sharp snap and saw something black and shiny on the table. For a moment the secretary sat quietly in his chair staring at the table and making sure that he was no longer dreaming. Then he examined the black object. It was the scarab which old Mr. Marvin had removed from the folds of the mummy. An image of the beetle which Egypt held sacred, carved in black stone. Owen had not noticed the scarab before his short nap and he could not account for its presence in his room anyway.
A little later he donned his motor-cycling suit, tip-toed downstairs, noiselessly went out by a back door and was soon trundling his big two-cylinder motorcycle from the garage. He was careful to push it out of the Marvin premises onto the highway before lighting his lamp and starting.
Arriving at the field just at dawn Owen found it as deserted as the spectral Hicks had promised. From the tool kit of his motor-cycle he took two files of different shapes and a pair of pliers and walked briskly and fearlessly over the uneven ground to the hangars. All were closed except one, and that one contained the French machine in which Pauline was to ascend. The secretary knew that this hangar would be open. He knew in advance that he would find a mechanic on guard and sound asleep.
Whether real or unreal, awake or asleep, the business of the moment was the filing of that wire. Owen recognized it readily and found it not to be a single wire, as he supposed, but a slender cable composed of many strands. These strands resisted his file and even the clipper attached to his pliers. After what seemed an hour's work he had weakened or broken enough of the metal threads so that the cable stretched perceptibly at that point to do more might cause the cable to break at once and betray what had been done.
Owen hurriedly, returned to his machine had dashed back through the beautiful morning air to the Marvin home. Servants were stirring in their rooms and the gardener was engaged in shaking some sort of powder from a can onto a bare spot on the front lawn. He glanced up at Owen without surprise, for these early rides were known to be an old habit of the secretary.
Owen took the machine to the garage, satisfied that there was nothing guilty in his appearance or the gardener would have noted it. Stepping out of the garage he met Harry and could not help starting perceptibly. Harry looked him in the eye, and there was nothing for Owen to do but stare steadily back.
"You are up very early, Owen," said Harry, looking at the dust on the motor.
"Yes, I've been for a long ride. I think the morning air does me good."
"You don't look well, Owen. Why don't you go to bed today. I'll take Polly to the meet."
"No, thanks. I wouldn't miss seeing Miss Pauline fly," said Owen firmly.
OWEN WINS THE FIRST GAME
Harry Marvin entered the little private garage back of the Marvin mansion, locked the door and drew the shades of the small windows. There were only two automobiles in the garage. One was the big six cylinder touring car in which Pauline and Owen had made their trip the day before to the aviation field. The other was the two-seated runabout that Harry had driven over the same ground just behind them.
Having made sure that nobody was about, Harry lifted up the hood of the touring car and without the slightest provocation attacked it with a wrench. He removed the carburetor, took it to pieces, lifted out the hollow metal float and deliberately made two punctures in it. Then he tossed the dismembered parts upon a work bench and was about to operate on the runabout when he heard voices outside.
He was barely in time to unlock the door and be found busily working on the car when Pauline entered. She had just learned of the chauffeur's absence. Harry volunteered the additional bad news that the big car was out of order. Like every disappointed woman, she insisted on knowing exactly what was wrong. Harry told her, with many long technical details, and, not knowing at all what he was talking about, she had to be satisfied.
Could he fix it in time to get her to the aviation field before the race?
Well, that depended partly on whether she would go away and not bother him until breakfast.
Pauline could, and she certainly would refrain from bothering him. Never before had Harry found her a bother, nor, for that matter, had any other man in her recollection. Out she went, with more color than usual in her pink cheeks and the light of battle in her eyes.
"By George, I've got to play my cards carefully," thought Harry, as he contemplated the runabout. It was evident that he had designs on the health of the two-seater also. But he felt the necessity of subtlety in this case. He could not assassinate it boldly by tearing out a vital organ as he had done to the bigger car. This runabout must die a slow, lingering death. How was he to do it? His first idea was to weaken the tires and invite "blowouts" on the road. But this could not be done with certainty, and some kind friend might supply him with new tires.
A more promising idea was to drain the engine of its oil, knowing that sooner or later the pistons would run dry and stick. Such a proceeding would ruin the engine, and Harry was too good a mechanic to spoil a first rate engine, especially one built by his father. He would as soon think of hamstringing a faithful horse. A better plan soon came to him and put him into action. It soon had him flat on his back under the car, boring a hole in the bottom of the gasoline tank. When the life-blood of the car began to trickle out in a stream he stopped the hole with a small wooden peg.
The young man now frowned at the only remaining vehicle which had, not received his attention, Owen's motorcycle.
Harry went to the hose used for washing down the cards and collected a little water in the palm of his hand. With the other hand he removed the cap from the motorcycle's tank and allowed two or three drops of water to mingle with the gasoline.
This done, Harry let down his sleeves, washed his hands, and sauntered in to breakfast, with the unwelcome announcement that the big car was, for the day at least, beyond human aid.
There was a flicker of suspicion in Owen's sallow face at the news. He wondered if Harry had disabled the touring car that he might ride alone with Pauline.
"I am afraid," said Harry, quietly, "that you will have to ride in the runabout alone with me, Polly. It's rather hard on Raymond, but I guess he must go on his motorcycle or by train."
"Oh, I think you wrecked it on purpose," said Pauline, without the slightest suspicion that she was stating the truth.
Owen, worried by vague misgivings about Harry, looked into the tank of the runabout to make sure that it was full, and then scurried away on his two wheeled mount. He considered waiting until the runabout was ready to start and keeping the machine in sight, but it seemed wiser to be on the field where he could make sure the Frenchman would not forget his bargain nor start before Pauline arrived.
Pauline was ready with such record-breaking suddenness that it gave her the novel experience of waiting for Harry.
She bad not forgotten that her lover had asked her not to bother him while he worked on the car. After that slight to her pride the young lady would rather die than go near the garage while he was in it. During the next five minutes unpleasant doubts entered her mind. What could this indifference and neglect mean? She had looked upon Harry ever since his return from college as a personal possession. Of course, technically he wasn't hers until she married him. But if he were not her property, at least she had an option on the handsome youth until such time as she saw fit to either take his name or relinquish him to some one else. In that case she wondered to whom she would like to turn him over. There was her schoolmate and chum, Miss Hamlin. How lucky any man would be to get her, and Harry—how would he feel about it? Then, like a cold draught in her brain came the recollection that Lucille and Harry had corresponded all the four years he was at college.
Could it be that she, Pauline, had been too willful and headstrong with Harry? If so, was it possible that the keen edge of his adoration was wearing dull? Pauline had just succeeded in stamping these unpleasant questions deep down into the subconscious parts of her mind when the young man whisked up in the runabout.
Pauline's wrath melted rapidly. Harry drove, as he did everything out in the open air, magnificently. His judgment of distances and openings was precise, and his skill in weaving his way through heavy traffic was startling. A good looking young man is seldom seen to better advantage, especially by a girl, than when driving a powerful car. Pauline loved to drive with Harry. Besides his spectacular tricks he had a guileless manner of getting the better of arguments with crossing policemen.
Harry was not driving as fast as usual. This fact was impressed on her by shouts and waving of hands from a car which passed them from behind.
"That's Lucille," cried Pauline, waving.
"Yes, and, confound it, that's Billy Madison taking her to the races."
"Well, why shouldn't he?" asked Pauline. "Isn't it all right?"
"Yes but it seems to me he is paying deal of attention to Lucille and —say, Polly, you don't suppose she'd be silly enough to care for him, do, you?"
That sensation of a cold wave in the back of her brain came again.
"I'm sure I don't know," she replied, a little coldly. "Why—does it matter very much to you?"
Harry hesitated, even stammered a little, in denying that it did. He stammered, as Pauline well understood, because he was not telling her his true thoughts. It did matter, and she knew it. In reality it mattered because Harry knew too much about young Madison to want him to win the affection of any friend of his, but Harry did not wish to explain.
"So Harry does care for Lucille and always has cared," thought Pauline. The sense of possession of the youth beside her faded and he seemed far away. If a man fears he is losing his grip on a girl he redoubles his attentions and racks his brains to be more interesting and attractive to her. A girl in the same situation reverses the tactics.
Just as Harry felt the absolute zero which scientists talk about settling upon him, he remembered a very important duty.
"Seems to me we don't drift the way we ought to," said Harry, pressing on his clutch pedal and trying to took concerned.
"I think we have been a long time getting to the aviation field," was Pauline's chilly answer.
Harry stopped the car, went back and pulled out the little wooden plug in the gasoline tank. Then away they went again, leaving a little wet line in the dust of the road. Pauline stared straight ahead. Harry's attempts at conversation fell on the stony ground of silence, or at best brought forth only the briefest and most colorless answers. Soon Harry's practiced ear caught the preliminary warning of waning gasoline, and a moment later, half way up a gentle hill, with a sob from all its six cylinders the car gave up the ghost.
A few miles ahead Owen also was in difficulties. He had been sailing along merrily until he stopped at a little roadhouse for a drink. The machine had been all right when he got off and he knew nobody had touched it, yet now it acted as if possessed by the evil one. With great difficulty he was able to start it, and once started it coughed, bucked and showed all the symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia. By dint of strenuous pedaling Owen helped the asthmatic motor to the top of the next hill. It ran as smoothly as a watch all the way down the other side and then imitated a bunch of cannon crackers on the following rise.
Owen was a good motorcycle rider, but a very poor mechanic. His machine had been adjusted, cleaned and kept in repair by the Marvin chauffeur, and the secretary had seldom, cause to investigate it on the road. He had always used the carefully filtered gasoline from the garage, so that he neither understood the present alarming symptoms nor knew their simple cure. His motor was protesting at a drop of water which had entered the needle valve of his carburetor and, being heavier than gasoline, had lodged there and stopped its flow. It would have been an easy, matter to drain the carburetor, but instead Owen with nervous fingers adjusted everything he could get his hands on, and after two hours' work trundled it into a farmhouse and hired the farmer to drive him the short remaining distance to the aviation field.
Several machines were in the air, but not the Frenchman's, when the farmer drove up. The roads and the edges of the field were alive with cars and spectators as the secretary hastened to the "hangars." The French aviator welcomed Owen and inquired for the mademoiselle. This confirmed Owen's fears that something had happened to her on the way. It had troubled him a little that the runabout had not passed him on the road, but Harry might have made a detour to avoid some section of bad road.
Owen lost another hour in watching and worrying before he made up his mind to go to the rescue. There were plenty of idle cars, but it was not easy to hire one, as they were mostly guarded by chauffeurs with no right to rent or lend them. At last a man was found who was willing to pick up $10 and take a chance that his master would not know about it.
The rescue car found them just where they had stopped, half way up the hill. Pauline had run the scale of feminine annoyance, from silence to sarcasm, to tears. The tears produced almost the same effect on Harry's determination to keep Pauline from flying that the drops of water had in Owen's carburetor. The spectacle of the girl he loved weeping had almost broken up his resolve when Owen dashed by, shouted, turned around and drew up alongside.
Harry asked for help, and the chauffeur who had never had the pleasure of tinkering with a "Marvin Six," was inclined to dismount and aid at least in diagnosing the car's ailment. While he was thinking about it and surveying the parts which Harry had taken out and strewn about the running board in his pretended trouble hunt Pauline had dashed away her tears and transferred her pretty self to the new car. Pauline and Owen both knew there was barely time to reach the field before the Frenchman's ascent. So with scanty farewells Harry was left to reassemble his car. When he had set up the last nut he replaced the little plug in the tank, produced a can of gasoline from the locker behind the seats, emptied it into his tank and drove at reckless speed for the aviation grounds.
He was just in time to see a tiny speck on the edge of the horizon. This, he learned, was the Frenchman's machine. He was told that it carried a passenger. The speck grew rapidly in size, developed the insect shape of a biplane and soon seemed to be over the other end of the aviation field. The young man's joy at seeing the aeroplane returning in safety was dampened by a little feeling of shame that by such devious means he had almost spoiled Pauline's pleasure.
"I act like an old woman worrying Polly this way," he decided. "No wonder she is cross to me lately. She must think I would be a tyrant of a—"
Harry's last words were choked by a spasm of the throat.
There were shouts and gestures from the spectators.
A light gust of wind had struck the aeroplane on the right wing. It wavered an instant, like a dragon fly about to alight, and then instead of responding to the aviator's levers turned on its left side and plunged to the ground. A cloud of dust arose, half hiding the wreck, and then the crash of impact came to his ears.
There was a second of silence, broken by a groan. Harry heard the groan and didn't even know it came from his own throat. He was in motion now, forcing people to the right and left and running down the field. It seemed miles to the other end, and he was gratefully conscious that others nearer were hurrying to the rescue, if rescue it might be called.
The aeroplane had dropped like a stone from a height that forbade hope of escape. Would she be conscious and would he be in time to give and receive a last message of love before her splendid young life was quenched in the black blot of death? Besides grief there was fury in the runner's heart, wrath against Owen for encouraging this foolish and dangerous caprice, against the unfortunate driver who had failed to preserve his precious freight, and against nature who condemns every living thing by one means or another to that same final failure and wreck death.
Gasping for breath from his exertions, he was at last within a hundred feet of the ruin, and saw people lifting up the engine and removing a limp figure. Just then two people stepped in his way. He did not turn out but rushed straight at them, rather glad to have something to burl aside in his blind anger, nor did he notice that one was a woman. Harry's plunge carried him between them and knocked both down, just as he had often bowled over the "interference" in his football games. On he lurched, wondering vaguely at hearing his name called. He heard it again and it sounded like Pauline's voice.
He turned, and it was Pauline.
After all Pauline had arrived too late—had missed that fatal adventure.
Owen watched Harry lift Pauline up and wrap her in his arms with a squeeze that hurt. But it was a hurt she loved and though she sobbed as if her heart would break they were sobs of relief and happiness.
Owen watched a moment and then slunk away; his schemes had been for nothing. Pauline was alive and happy in her lover's arms, and the secretary was no nearer his goal of permanent control of her estate than before. He walked to the entrance of' the tent and tried to learn from the nurses and doctors who were hurrying in and out whether the French aviator would live or die. Nobody would stop to give him a satisfactory answer. There was a flap in the back of the tent, and through this Owen cautiously peered. He saw a nurse with something that looked like wet absorbent cotton dabbing at a round black object.
Presently he saw that the round object was the head of a man blackened by fire. Just then the nurse looked up, saw Owen's guilty face and gave a little exclamation of dismay. At the same instant Owen felt a hand grasp his elbow. Withdrawing his head from the tent, he turned quickly and was confronted by the red face of Hicks, the blackmailer, counselor and dream messenger.
The secretary backed away from Hicks with a face of terror.
"Don't be scared," said Hicks in a hoarse whisper. "I feel as if I were in this thing as deep as you are."
"In what thing?" asked Owen.
"Don't bluff, old man," said Hicks. "Didn't you dream about me last night?"
"Well, what have my dreams to do with you?"
"Stop bluffing," replied Hicks. "Didn't you see me in a dream last night? And didn't I leave a black, shining stone on the table when I left?"
Owen did not deny these questions, and the red-visaged man went on:
"I see you took my advice—that is, his advice, whoever he is, and you fixed the wire."
"Look here, Hicks, in heaven's name, tell me what this means. I did dream about you; you told me to do the thing, and it's your fault. You admit you are in it. Now, what is it?"
"Owen," said Hicks, "you and I are a couple of pikers in a big game— bigger than we understand. We hold the cards, but somebody else is playing the hand for us. He is an old guy and a wise one, four thousand years old, he tells me, and, though it scares me out of my boots to think who I am trailing along with, I'm going to stick and you'd better stick, too, and let him play our hand to the end."
"Who is it?" asked Owen, wondering if the morphine had gotten the better of him again or if Hicks were playing some uncanny deceit on him.
"I don't know," replied Hicks. "He's somebody who has been dead 4,000 years, and he wants to have this girl Pauline killed so he can get her back. I suppose he's some kind of ghostly white slaver. It isn't our business what he is as long as he takes care of us. If we'll help him he'll help us."
"Well, he didn't manage very well today," objected Owen.
"He planned all right," rejoined Hicks. "The machine fell, and if she'd been in it she'd have been killed. But the other side played a card. I don't know what the card was, but it took the trick and she didn't go up in the machine. That's all. But don't worry, we'll have better luck some other time."
Owen shook his head. He could make nothing of this battle of unseen forces. It was clear to him that he had grasped at the one big chance to get Pauline's estate and had missed it. He told Hicks so frankly.
"That's where you're wrong again," insisted Hicks. "If that girl had been killed today it would have been a big blunder."
"A blunder?" queried Owen. "Didn't you say that Pauline must be put out of the way before we can get hold of her fortune?"
"Listen," said Hicks glancing cautiously about, "come over here away from these people."
"What do you mean by saying that it would have been a big blunder if Pauline had been killed in that flying machine?" demanded Owen.
"Yes, an almighty big blunder—that's what I said, and I can tell you why. We were pretty stupid not to think of it before. Now here's what's got to happen to Miss Pauline—"
Hicks placed his mouth close to Owen's car and whispered.
THE PIRATE AND PAULINE
A sort of false quiet, like the calm that broods between storms, kept all serene at the Marvin mansion for a week after the aeroplane catastrophe. Little had been seen of Harry, who was busy with directors' meetings and visits to the factories. Owen had read with alarm of rumors that some one had tampered with a wire of the wrecked biplane. But if the authorities were investigating he saw no signs of it, and suspicion pointed no finger at him.
What puzzled and worried Owen more than anything else was his own mind and behavior. Having no belief in the supernatural, he could not account for the dream which had thrown him into a criminal partnership with Hicks. Hicks had blackmailed him in the past, and there was nobody he had feared and hated more than this vulgar and disreputable race track man. Yet Hicks had appeared to him in a dream, and Owen had promptly done his bidding, involving himself in what would probably turn out to be murder. The newspapers reported the French aviator as barely living from day to day.
Owen suffered the torment of a lost soul, but, at least he had no more dreams, or spectral visitations. Hicks called him on the telephone once or twice, but the secretary refused to talk.
Pauline, too, had a busy week. Besides her usual social activities, she rewrote and finished her new story. It seemed to her even better than the one in the Cosmopolitan Magazine.
"This will surely be taken," Pauline thought with a little sigh of regret, "and that means the end of my year of adventures—"
She had determined on this course the night after the accident. It was after midnight, and Pauline was trying to marshal the exciting recollections of the day into the orderly mental procession that leads to sleep. Very faintly she heard what sounded like the music of a distant mandolin. Pauline knew it was Harry, went to the open window and looked down on the dark lawn. There he was playing with a bit of straw instead of a pick that his music might not disturb the sleepers in the house.
Pauline wanted to throw her arms around him and promise not to cause any more worry. But she didn't, because she couldn't reach him from the window. After Harry had gone Pauline decided to finish her story, send it to a publisher and let his decision be hers.
"If they accept it, you stay home and marry Harry," she told the pretty face under the filmy night cap which smiled at her from the mirror. "But if they dare reject it, Harry will have to worry, dear boy though he is."
So Pauline lost no time in finishing and submitting her manuscript, inclosing a special delivery stamp and a request please to let her know at once.
On Saturday Pauline received a bulky letter in the morning's mail. It was her neatly typed manuscript and a short letter declining her story. The editor thought it charming, showed wonderful imagination, gave great promise of future success, but there was a lack of experience evident throughout—a little unreal, he added. He ventured to suggest that the author would do well to travel around and see the world from different angles. During the afternoon Harvey Schieffelin dropped in for a call. He had found her story in the Cosmopolitan and complimented her then he began to laugh.
"Polly, that's a bully story of yours, but you ought to have gone down and watched some stokers do work before you described that scene."
"What was wrong in my description?" demanded the young authoress.
"Well, you told of a stoker laying his grimy hand on the fire door and pulling it open to rake the fire."
"Well, couldn't he do that?"
"Oh, yes," laughed Harvey, "he could, but he wouldn't do it more than once. Those doors are almost red hot and would bum the flesh off the stoker's hand, whether it were grimy or not. I'll show you on my yacht some time. What you need is—?"
"Harvey, don't you dare tell me I need experience," interrupted Pauline with unexpected heat. Young Schieffelin saw that tears were almost in her eyes.
"Well," thought Schieffelin, "this vein leads too close to water," and he hurried to shift the course of the conversation.
But the damage was done. Pauline took her story to the little open fireplace in her room and destroyed it. At the same time she destroyed, her resolution to give up the year of adventure. There could be no question, she needed experience. Her adopted father had admitted it, the editor had said it, and even an empty-headed young man like Schieffelin could see it. She was sorry for Harry, but it couldn't be helped. She picked up a copy of "Treasure Island" and soon wished fervently that the days of pirates were back again.
Owen gave up his fight against morphine late Friday night. Saturday he was at peace with the world. Gone were all the nerve clamorings and with them went his scruples. All day he kept a furtive watch upon Pauline, and even heard her envious remarks about pirates to Harry when he returned for a weekend at home. Owen sympathized with Pauline in her regret that pirates were extinct. A pirate would have been very useful to the secretary just then.
However, there were other cut-throats, plenty of them, and perhaps some other kind would do. There were gunmen, for instance, but, an honest District Attorney had lately made these murderous gentlemen of the underworld almost as quiet as pirates. He was still pondering when Hicks called again on the telephone. This time the secretary responded and made an immediate appointment in a cafe near Forty-second street.
Owen related the events of the week, ending with Pauline's hankering for pirates. The two men got their heads together and rapidly evolved a plan.
From the cafe they took a taxi and rode along the water front, first on one side of the island of Manhattan and then on the other. The cab stopped near the worst-looking saloons, while the two schemers entered and looked over the sailors and longshoremen refreshing themselves at the bars. After covering several miles of water front they had collected as many as a dozen abominable barroom cigars and a few equally dubious drinks, but had not yet found what they were looking for.
On Front Street they saw a man, and both cried out:
"Look, there he is."
The man was a wild-looking specimen. He had the rolling gait of the deep sea. A squinting eye gave him a villainous leer, while a bristly beard and long gray hair made him a ferocious spectacle. His age was doubtful, as the lines in his ruddy skin might have been cut by dissipation as much as age. The most prominent feature of his unlovely countenance was a nose, fiery red from prolonged exposure to sunburn, or rum-bum.
"If he isn't a pirate he ought to be one," said Owen.
The man carried the top of a ship's binnacle, as the round brass case which holds a ship's compass is called. He entered the dismal portal of a marine junk shop. The taxi was stopped discreetly a block away. As Owen and Hicks approached the shop they heard a loud argument going on inside.
"How much do you want for it?"
"Ten dollars. It's a brand-new Negus."
"Ten nothing. You stole it, you son of a sea cook. I'll give you a dime for it."
"I did not steal it, so help me —— ———! The captain of that 'lime juicer' over in the North River gave it to me for saving his little gal's life. He begged me to take anything I wanted, but I fancied this. I'll tell you about it."
Then Owen and Hicks, listening just outside, heard a fearful and wonderful tale. To relate it in the sailor's own words, stripped of the long deep-sea oaths, would be as impossible as to pick the green specks out of a sage cheese.
In brief, the gentleman with the binnacle, sauntering innocently along the docks Friday night, had heard a commotion on the British tramp which he referred to as a "lime juicer." Some fifteen or more long-shoremen had invaded the ship, overcome the captain, tied him down and were about to kidnap his daughter. The teller of the story had walked in and thrashed them all single-handed, driven them off into the darkness, rescued the little girl and released the captain. In gratitude the commander had made him a present of the binnacle head.