Readme.it in English  home page
Readme.it in Italiano  pagina iniziale
readme.it by logo SoftwareHouse.it

Ebook in formato Kindle (mobi) - Kindle File Ebook (mobi)

Formato per Iphone, Ipad e Ebook (epub) - Ipad, Iphone and Ebook reader format (epub)

Versione ebook di Readme.it powered by Softwarehouse.it


THE WHITE MOLL

by Frank Packard

 

 

 

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. NIGHT IN THE UNDERWORLD

II. SEVEN-THREE-NINE

III. ALIAS GYPSY NAN

IV. THE ADVENTURER

V. A SECOND VISITOR

VI. THE RENDEZVOUS

VII. FELLOW THIEVES

VIII. THE CODE MESSAGE

IX. ROOM NUMBER ELEVEN

X. ON THE BRINK

XI. SOME OF THE LESSER BREED

XII. CROOKS vs. CROOKS

XIII. THE DOOR ACROSS THE HALL

XIV. THE LAME MAN

XV. IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER

XVI. THE SECRET PANEL

XVII. THE SILVER SPHINX

XVIII. THE OLD SHED

XIX. BREAD UPON THE WATERS

XX. A LONE HAND

XXI. THE RECKONING

 

 

I. NIGHT IN THE UNDERWORLD

It was like some shadowy pantomime: The dark mouth of an alleyway

thrown into murky relief by the rays of a distant street lamp...the

swiftforward leap of a skulking figure...a girl's form swaying

and struggling in the man's embrace. Thena pantomime no longer

there came a half threateninghalf triumphant oath; and then the

girl's voicequietstrangely containedalmost imperious:

"Nowgive me back that purseplease. Instantly!" The man

already retreating into the alleywaypaused to fling back a

jeering laugh.

"Sayyouse've got yer nerveain't youse!"

The girl turned her head so that the rays of the street lampfaint

as they werefell full upon herdisclosing a sweetoval face

out of which the dark eyes gazed steadily at the man.

And suddenly the man leaned forwardstaring for an instantand

then his hand went awkwardly to touch his cap.

"De White Moll!" he mumbled deferentially. He pulled the peak of

his cap down over his eyes in a sort of shame-faced wayas though

to avoid recognitionandstepping nearerreturned the purse.

"'Scuse memiss" he said uneasily. "I didn't know it wasyouse

- honest to GawdI didn't! 'Scuse memiss. Good-night!"

For a moment the girl stood there motionlesslooking down the

alleyway after the retreating figure. From somewhere in the

distance came the rumble of an elevated train. It drowned out the

pound of the man's speeding footsteps; it died away itself - and

now there was no other sound. A puckerstrangely wistful

curiously perturbedcame and furrowed her forehead into little

wrinklesand then she turned and walked slowly on along the

deserted street.

The White Moll! She shook her head a little. The attack had not

unnerved her. Why should it? It was simply that the man had not

recognized her at first in the darkness. The White Moll here at

night in one of the loneliestas well as one of the most vicious

and abandonedquarters of New Yorkwas as safe and inviolate

as - as - She shook her head again. Her mind did not instantly

suggest a comparison that seemed wholly adequate. The pucker

deepenedbut the sensitivedelicately chiseled lips parted now

in a smile. Wellshe was safer here than anywhere else in the

worldthat was all.

It was the first time that anything like this had happenedand

for the very reason that it was unprecedentedit seemed to stir

her memory nowand awaken a dormant train of thought. The White

Moll! She remembered the first time she had ever been called by

that name. It took her back almost three yearsand since that

timehere in this sordid realm of crime and miserythe name of

Rhoda Grayher own nameher actual identityseemed to have

become lostobliterated in that of the White Moll. A "dip"

had given it to herand the underworldquick and trenchant in its

"monikers" had instantly ratified it. There was not a crook or

denizen of crimelandprobablywho did not know the White Moll;

there wasprobablynot one to-day who knewor caredthat she

was Rhoda Gray!

She went ontraversing block after blockentering a less deserted

though no less unsavoryneighborhood. Herea saloon flung a

sudden glow of yellow light athwart the sidewalk as its swinging

doors jerked apart; and a form lurched out into the night; there

from a dance-hall came the rattle of a tinny pianothe squeak of

a raspy violina high-pitchedhectic burst of laughter; while

flanking the street on each sidelike interjected inanimate

blotchesrows of squalid tenements and cheaptumble-down frame

houses silhouetted themselves in brokenjagged points against

the sky-line. And now and then a man spoke to her - his untrained

fingers fumbling in clumsy homage at the brim of his hat.

How strange a thing memory was! How strangetoothe coincidences

that sometimes roused it into activity! It was a mana thiefjust

like the man to-nightwho had first brought her here into this

shadowland of crime. That was just before her father had died. Her

father had been a mining engineerandthough an Americanhad been

for many years resident in South America as the representative of a

large English concern. He had been in ill health for a year down

therewhenacting on his physician's advicehe had come to New

York for consultationand she had accompanied him. They had taken

a little flatthe engineer had placed himself in the hands of a

famous specialistand an operation had been decided upon. And

thena few days prior to the date set for the operation and before

her fatherwho was still able to be abouthad entered the hospital

the flat had been broken into during the early morning hours. The

thiefobviously not counting on the engineer's wakefulnesshad

been caught red-handed. At first defiantthe man had finally

broken downand had told a miserable story. It was hackneyed

possiblythe same story told by a thousand others as a last defense

in the hope of inducing leniency through an appeal to pitybut

somehow to her that night the story had rung true. Pete McGee

alias the Bussardthe man had said his name was. He couldn't get

any work; there was the shadow of a long abode in Sing Sing that

lay upon him as a curse - a job here to-dayhis record discovered

to-morrowand the next day out on the street again. It was very

oldvery threadbarethat story; there were even the sick wife

the hungryunclothed children; but to her it had rung true. Her

father had not placed the slightest faith in itand but for her

intervention the Bussard would have been incontinently consigned

to the mercies of the police.

Her face softened suddenly now as she walked along. She remembered

well that scenewhenat the endshe had written down the address

the man had given her.

"Father is going to let you goMcGeebecause I ask him to" she

had said. "And to-morrow morning I will go to this addressand if

I find your story is trueas I believe it isI will see what I

can do for you."

"It's truemissso help me God!" the man had answered brokenly.

"Youse come an' see. I'll be dere-an'-an'-God bless yousemiss!"

And so they had let the man go freeand her fatherwith a

whimsicaltolerant smilehad shaken his head at her. "You'll

never find that addressRhoda-or our friend the Bussardeither!"

But she had found both the Bussard and the addressand destitution

and a squalor unspeakable. Pathetic stillbut the vernacular of

the underworld where men called their women by no more gracious

names than "molls" and "skirts" no longer strange to herearsthere

came to her again now the Bussard's words in which he had paid her

tribute on that morning long agoand with which he had introduced

her to a shrunken form that lay upon a dirty cot in the barefloored

room:

"Meet de moll I was tellin' youse aboutMag. She's white - all de

way up. She's whiteMag; she's a white moll - take it from me."

The White Moll!

The firm little chin came suddenly upward; but into the dark eyes

unbidden came a sudden film and mist. Her father's health had been

too far underminedand he bad been unable to withstand the shock

of the operationand he had died in the hospital. There weren't

any relativesexcept distant ones on her mother's sidesomewhere

out in Californiawhom she had never seen. She and her father

had been all in all to each otherchumspalscomradessince her

mother's death many years ago. She had gone everywhere with him

save when the demands of her education had necessarily kept them

apart; she had hunted with him in South Americaridden with him

in sections where civilization was still in the makingshared the

cruderough life of mining camps with him - and it had seemed as

though her lifetoohad gone out with his.

She brushed her hand hastily across her eyes. There hadn't been

any friends eitherapart from a few of her father's casual

business acquaintances; no one else - except the Bussard. It was

very strange! Her reward for that one friendly act had come in a

manner little expectedand it had come very quickly. She had

sought and found a genuine relief from her own sorrow in doing

what she could to alleviate the misery in that squalidone-room

home. And then the sphere of her activities had broadenedslowly

at firstnot through any preconceived intention on her partbut

naturallyand as almost an inevitable corollary consequent upon

her relations with the Bussard and his ill-fortuned family.

The Bussard's circle of intimates was amongst those who lay outside

the lawthose who gambled for their livelihood by staking their

witsto win against the toils of the police; and somore and more

she had come into close and intimate contact with the criminal

element of New Yorkuntil to-daythroughout its length and breadth

she was knownandshe had reason to believewas loved and trusted

by every crook in the underworld. It was a strange eulogy

self-pronounced! But it was none the less true. Thenshe had

been Rhoda Gray; noweven the Bussarddoubtlesshad forgotten

her name in the one with which he himselfat that queer baptismal

font of crimelandhad christened her - the White Moll. It even

went further than that. It embraced what might be called the

entourage of the underworldthe police and the social workers with

whom she inevitably came in contact. Thesetoohad long known

her as the White Molland had comesince she had volunteered no

further informationtacitly to accept her as suchand nothing more.

Again she shook her head. It wasn't altogether a normal life. She

was only a womanwith all the aspirations of a womanwith all the

yearning of youth for its measure of gayety and pleasure. Trueshe

had not made a recluse of herself outside her work; butequally

on the other handshe had not made any intimate friends in her own

station in life. She had never purposed continuing indefinitely the

work she was doingnor did she now; butlittle by littleit had

forced its claims upon her until those claims were not easy to

ignore. Even though the circumstances in which her father had left

her were barely more than sufficient for a modest little flat uptown

there was still always a little surplusand that surplus counted

in certain quarters for very much indeed. But it wasn't only that.

The small amount of money that she was able to spend in that way

had little to do with it. The bonds which linked her to the sordid

surroundings that she had come to know so well were stronger far

than that. There wasn't any money involved in this visitfor

instancethat she was going now to make to Gypsy Nan. Gypsy Nan

was...

Rhoda Gray had halted before the doorway of a smallhovel-like

two-story building that was jammed in between two tenementswhich

relativelyin their own classwere even more disreputable than

was the little frame house itself. A secondhand-clothes store

occupied a portion of the ground floorand housed the proprietor

and his family as wellpermitting the rooms on the second floor

to be "rented out"; the garret above was the abode of Gypsy Nan.

There was a separate entranceapart from that into the

secondhand-clothes storeand she pushed this door open and stepped

forward into an absolutely black and musty-smelling hallway. By

feeling with her hands along the wall she reached the stairs and

began to make her way upward. She had found Gypsy Nan last night

huddled in the lower doorwayand apparently in a condition that

was very much the worse for wear. She had stopped and helped the

woman upstairs to her garretwhereupon Gypsy Nanin language far

more fervent than eleganthad ordered her to begoneand had

slammed the door in her face.

Rhoda Gray smiled a little wearilyason the second floor now

she groped her way to the rearand began to mount a short

ladder-like flight of steps to the attic. Gypsy Nan's lack of

cordiality did not absolve herRhoda Grayfrom coming back

to-night to see how the woman was - to crowd one more visit on her

already over-expanded list. She had never had any personal

knowledge of Gypsy Nan beforebutin a sensethe woman was no

stranger to her. Gypsy Nan was a character known far and wide

in the under-world as one possessing an insatiable and unquenchable

thirst. As to who she wasor what she wasor where she got her

money for the gin she boughtit was not in the ethics of the Bad

Lands to inquire. She was just Gypsy Nan. So that she did not

obtrude herself too obviously upon their noticethe police

suffered her; so that she gave the underworld no reason for

complaintthe underworld accepted her at face value as one of its

own!

There was no hallway here at the head of the ladder-like stairs

just a sort of narrow platform in front of the attic door. Rhoda

Graygroping out with her hands againfelt for the doorand

knocked softly upon it. There was no answer. She knocked again.

Still receiving no replyshe tried the doorfound it unlocked

andopening itstood for an instant on the threshold. A lamp

almost emptyill-trimmed and smoking badlystood on a chair

beside a cheap iron bed; it threw a dullyellow glow about its

immediate vicinityand threw the remainder of the garret into

deepimpenetrable shadows; but also it disclosed the motionless

form of a woman on the bed.

Rhoda Gray's eyes darkenedas she closed the door behind her

and stepped quickly forward to the bedside. For a moment she

stood looking down at the recumbent figure; at the matted tangle

of gray-streaked brown hair that straggled across a pillow which

was none too clean; at the heavy-lensedold-fashionedsteel-bowed

spectaclesawry nowthat were still grotesquely perched on the

woman's nose; at the sallow facestreaked with grime and dirtas

though it had not been washed for months; at a handas ill-cared

forwhich lay exposed on the torn blanket that did duty for a

counterpane; at the dirty shawl that enveloped the woman's shoulders

and which was tightly fastened around Gypsy Nan's neck-and from the

woman her eyes shifted to an empty bottle on the floor that

protruded from under the bed.

"Nan!" she called sharply; andstooping overshook the woman's

shoulder. "Nan!" she repeated. There was something about the

woman's breathing that she did not likesomething in the queer

pinched condition of the other's face that suddenly frightened

her. "Nan!" she called again.

Gypsy Nan opened her eyesstared for a moment dullythenin a

curiously quickdesperate wayjerked herself up on her elbow.

"Youse get t'hell outer here!" she croaked. "Get out!"

"I am going to" said Rhoda Gray evenly. "And I'm going atonce."

She turned abruptly and walked toward the door. "I'm going to

get a doctor. You've gone too far this timeNanand -"

"Noyouse don't!" Gypsy Nan s voice rose in a sudden scream. She

sat bolt upright in bedand pulled a revolver out from under the

coverings. "Youse don't bring no doctor here! See! Youse put

a finger on dat dooran' it won't be de door youse'1l go out by!"

Rhoda Gray did not move.

"Nanput that revolver down!" she ordered quietly. "You don't

know what you are doing."

"Don't!?" leered Gypsy Nan. The revolver heldswaying a little

unsteadilyon Rhoda Gray. There was silence for a moment; then

Gypsy Nan spoke againevidently through dry lipsfor she wet them

again and again with her tongue: "Sayyouse are de White Moll

ain't youse?"

"Yes" said Rhoda Gray.

Gypsy Nan appeared to ponder this for an instant.

"Well dencome back here an' sit down on de foot of de bed"

she commanded finally.

Rhoda Gray obeyed without hesitation. There was nothing to do

but humor the woman in her present statea state that seemed one

bordering on delirium and complete collapse.

"Nan" she said"you -"

"De White Moll!" mumbled Gypsy Nan. "I wonder if de dope deyhands

out about youse is all on de level? My GawdI wonder if wot dey

says is true?"

"What do they say?" asked Rhoda Gray gently.

Gypsy Nan lay back on her pillow as though her strengthover-taxed

had failed her; her handthough it still clutched the revolver

seemed to have been dragged down by the weapon's weightand now

rested upon the blanket.

"Dey say" said Gypsy Nan slowly"dat youse knows more on de

inside here dan anybody else - t'ings youse got from de spacers'

mollsan' from de dips demselves when youse was lendin' dem a

hand; dey say dere ain't many youse couldn't send up de river just

by liftin' yer fingerbut dat youse're straightan' dat youse've

kept yer map closedan' dat youse' re safe."

Rhoda Gray's dark eyes softenedas she leaned forward and laid a

hand gently over the one of Gypsy Nan that held the revolver.

"It couldn't be any other waycould itNan?" she said simply.

"Wot yer after?" demanded Gypsy Nanwith sudden mockery. "Degun?

Welltake it!" She let go her hold of the weapon. "But don't kid

yerself dat youse're kiddin' me into givin' it to youse because

youse have got a pretty smile an' a sweet voice! Savvy? I" - she

choked suddenlyand caught at her throat - "I guess youse're de

only chance I got-dat's all."

"That's better" said Rhoda Gray encouragingly. "And nowyou'll

let me go and get a doctorwon't youNan?"

"Wait!" said Gypsy Nan hoarsely. "Youse're de only chance Igot.

Will youse swear youse won't t'row me down if I tells youse

somet'ing? I ain't got no other way. Will youse swear youse'll

see me through?"

"Of courseNan" said Rhoda Gray soothingly. "Of courseIwill

Nan. I promise.

Gypsy Nan came up on her elbow.

"Dat ain't good enough!" she cried out. "A promise ain't good

enough! For Gawd's sakecome across all de way! Swear youse'll

keep mum an' see me through!"

"YesNan" - Rhoda Gray's eyes smiled reassurance -"I swearit.

But you will be all right again in the morning."

"Will I? You think sodo you? WellI can only say that I wish

I did!"

Rhoda Gray leaned sharply forwardstaring in amazement at the

figure on the bed. The woman's voice was the sameit was still

hoarsestill heavyand the words came with painful effort; but

the English was suddenly perfect now.

"Nanwhat is it? I don't understand!" she said tensely. "What

do you mean?"

"You think you know what's the matter with me." There was a

curious mockery in the weak voice. "You think I've drunk myself

into this state. You think I'm on the verge of the D.T.'s now.

That empty bottle under the bed proves itdoesn't it? And anybody

around here will tell you that Gypsy Nan has thrown enough empties

out of the window there to stock a bottle factory for yearssome

of them on the flat roof just outside the windowsome of them on

the roof of the shed belowand some of them down into the yard

just depending on how drunk she was and how far she could throw.

And that proves ittoodoesn't it? Wellmaybe it doesthat's

what I did it for; but I never touched the stuffnot a drop of it

from the day I came here. I didn't dare touch it. I had to keep

my wits. Last night you thought I was drunk when you found me in

the doorway downstairs. I wasn't. I was too sick and weak to get

up here. I almost told you thenonly I was afraidand - and I

thought that perhaps I'd be all right to-day."

"OhI didn't know!" Rhoda Gray was on her knees beside the bed.

There was no room to question the truth of the woman's wordsit

was in Gypsy Nan's eyesin the strugglinglabored voice.

"Yes." Gypsy Nan clutched at the shawl around her neckand

shivered. "I thought I might be all right to-dayand that I'd

get better. But I didn't. And now I've got about a chance in a

hundred. I know. It's my heart."

"You mean you've been alone heresicksince last night?" There

was anxietyperplexityin Rhoda Gray's face. "Why didn't you

call some one? Why did you even hold me back a few minutes ago

when you admit yourself that you need immediate medical assistance

so badly?"

"Because" said Gypsy Nan"if I've got a chance at allI'dfinish

it for keeps if a doctor came here. I - I'd rather go out this way

than in that horrible thing they call the 'chair.' Ohmy God

don't you understand that! I've seen pictures of it! It's a

horrible thing - a horrible thing - horrible!"

"Nan" - Rhoda Gray steadied her voice - you re delirious. You do

not know what you are saying. There isn't any horrible thing to

frighten you. Now you just lie quietly here. I'll only be a few

minutesand -" She stopped abruptly as her wrists were suddenly

imprisoned in a frantic grip.

"You swore it!" Gypsy Nan was whispering feverishly. "Youswore

it! They say the White Moll never snitched. That's the one chance

I've gotand I'm going to take it. I'm not delirious - not yet.

I wish to God it was nothing more than that! Look!"

With a lowstartled cryRhoda Gray was on her feet. Gypsy Nan

was gone. A sweep of the woman's handand the spectacles were off

the gray-streaked hair a tangled wig upon the pillow - and Rhoda Gray

found herself staring in a numbed sort of way at a dark-haired woman

who could not have been more than thirtybut whose facewith its

streaks of grime and dirtlooked grotesquely and incongruously old.

 

II. SEVEN--THREE--NINE

For a moment neither spokethen Gypsy Nan broke the silence with

a bitter laugh. She threw back the bedclothesandgripping at

the edge of the bedsat up.

"The White Moll! The words rattled in her throat. A fleck of blood

showed on her lips. "Wellyou know now! You're going to help me

aren't you? I - I've got to get out of here - get to a hospital."

Rhoda Gray laid her hands firmly on the other's shoulders.

"Get back into bed" she said steadily. "Do you want to make

yourself worse? You'll kill yourself!"

Gypsy Nan pushed her away.

"Don't make me use up what little strength I've got left in talking"

she cried out piteouslyand suddenly wrung her hands together.

"I'm wanted by the police. If I'm caughtit's - it's that 'chair.'

I couldn't have a doctor brought herecould I? How long would

it be before he saw that Gypsy Nan was a fake? I can't let you go

and have an ambulancesaycome and get mecan Ieven with the

disguise hidden away? They'd say this is where Gypsy Nan lives.

There's something queer here. Where is Gypsy Nan? I've got to get

away from here - away from Gypsy Nan - don't you understand? It's

death one way; maybe it is the othermaybe it'll finish me to get

out of herebut it's the only thing left to do. I thought some

onesome one that I could trustnever mind whowould have come

to-daybut-but no one cameand - and maybe now it s too latebut

there's just the one chanceand I've got to take it." Gypsy Nan

tore at the shawl around her throat as though it choked herand

flung it from her shoulders. Her eyes were gleaming with an

unhealthyfeverish light. "Don't you see? We get out on the

street. I collapse there. You find me. I tell you my name is

Charlotte Green. That's all you know. There isn't much chance

that anybody at the hospital would recognize me. I've got money.

I take a private room. Don't you understand?"

Rhoda Gray's face had gone a little white. There was no doubt about

the woman's serious conditionand yet - and yet - She stood there

hesitant. There must be some other way! It was not likely even

that the woman had strength enough to walk down the stairs to begin

with. Strange things had come to her in this world of shadowbut

none before like this. If the law got the woman it would cost the

woman her life; if the woman did not receive immediate and adequate

medical assistance it would cost the woman her life. Over and over

in her brainlike a jangling refrainthat thought repeated itself.

It was not like her to stand hesitant before any emergencyno

matter what that emergency might be. She had never done it before

but now...

"For God's sake" Gypsy Nan implored"don't stand therelooking at

me! Can't you understand? If I'm caughtI go out. Do you think

I'd have lived in this filthy hole if there had been any other way

to save my life? Are you going to let me die here like a dog? Get

me my clothes; ohfor God's sakeget themand give me the one

chance that's left!"

A queer little smile came to Rhoda Gray's lipsand her shoulders

straightened back.

"Where are your clothes?" she asked.

"God bless you!" The tears were suddenly streaming down the grimy

face. "God bless the White Moll! It's true! It's true - all they

said about her!" The woman had lost control of herself.

"Nankeep your nerve!" ordered Rhoda Gray almost brutally. It was

the White Moll in another light nowcoolcalmcollected

efficient. Her eyes swept Gypsy Nan. The womanwho had obviously

flung herself down on the bed fully dressed the night beforewas

garbed in coarseheavy bootsthe cheapest of stockings which were

also sadly in need of repaira tattered and crumpled skirt of some

rough materialandpreviously hidden by the shawla soiled

greasy and spotted black blouse. Rhoda Gray's forehead puckered

into a frown. "What about your hands and face-they go with the

clothesdon't they?"

"It'll wash off" whispered Gypsy Nan. "It's just some stuff Ikeep

in a box-over there - the ceiling-" Her voice trailed off weakly

then with a desperate effort strengthened again. "The door! I

forgot the door! It isn't locked! Lock the door first! Lock the

door! Then you take the candle over there on the washstandand

- and I'll show you. You - you get the things while I'm undressing.

I - I can help myself that much."

Rhoda Gray crossed quickly to the doorturned the key in the lock

and retraced her steps to the washstand that stood in the shadows

against the wall on the opposite side from the bedand near the far

end of the garret. Here she found the short stub of a candle that

was stuck in the mouth of a gin bottleand matches lying beside it.

She lighted the candleand turned inquiringly to Gypsy Nan.

The woman pointed to the end of the garret where the roof sloped

sharply down untilat the wall itselfit was scarcely four feet

above the floor.

"Go down there. Right to the wall - in the center" instructed

Gypsy Nan weakly. And thenas Rhoda Gray obeyed: "Now push up on

that wide board in the ceiling."

Rhoda Gray. already in a stooped positionreached upand pushed

at a roughunplaned board. It swung back without a soundlike a

narrow trap-dooruntil it rested in an upright position against the

outer frame of the housedisclosing an aperture through whichby

standing erectRhoda Gray easily thrust her head and shoulders.

She raised the candle then through the opening - and suddenly her

dark eyes widened in amazement. It was a hiding placenot only

ingeniousbut exceedingly generous in expanse. As far as one

could reach the ceiling metamorphosed itself into a most convenient

shelf. And it had been well utilized! It held a most astounding

collection of things. There was a cashboxbut the cashbox was

apparently wholly inadequate - there must have been thousands of

dollars in those piles of banknotes that were stacked beside it!

There was a large tin boxthe cover offcontaining some black

pastelike substance - the "stuff" presumablythat Gypsy Nan used

on her face and hands. There was a bunch of curiously formed keys

several boxes of revolver cartridgesan electric flashlightand

a great quantity of the choicest brands of tinned and bottled

fruits and provisions - and a little to one sideevidently kept

ready for instant usea suit of excellent materialunderclothing

silk stockings shoes and hat were neatly piled together.

Rhoda Gray took the clothingand went back to the bedside. Gypsy

Nan had made little progress in disrobing. It seemed about all the

woman could do to cling to the edge of the cot and sit upright.

"What does all this meanNan" she asked tensely; "all thosethings

up there - that money?"

Gypsy Nan forced a twisted smile.

"It means I know how bad I amor I wouldn't have let you see what

you have" she answered heavily. "It means that there isn't any

other way. Hurry! Get these things off! Get me dressed!"

But it took a long time. Gypsy Nan seemed with every moment to

grow weaker. The lamp on the chair went out for want of oil. There

was only the guttering candle in the gin bottle to give light. It

threw weirdflickering shadows around the garret; it seemed to

enhance the already deathlike pallor of the womanasusing the

pitcher of water and the basin from the washstand nowRhoda Gray

removed the grime from Gypsy Nan's face and hands.

It was done at last - and where there had once been Gypsy Nan

haglike and repulsivethere was now a stylishlyeven elegantly

dressed woman of well under middle age. The transformation seemed

to have acted as a stimulant upon Gypsy Nan. She laughed with

nervous hilarity she even tried valiantly to put on a pair of new

black kid glovesbutfailing in thispushed them unsteadily into

the pocket of her coat.

"I'm - I'm all right" she asserted fiercelyas Rhoda Gray

pausing in the act of gathering up the discarded garmentsregarded

her anxiously. "Bring me a package of that money after you've put

those things away - yesand you'll find a flashlight there. We'll

need it going down the stairs."

Rhoda Gray made no answer. There was no hesitation now in her

actionsasto the pile of clothing in her armsshe added the

revolver that lay on the blanketandreturning to the little

trap-door in the ceilinghid them away; but her brain was whirling

again in a turmoil of doubt. This was madnessutterstarkblind

madnessthis thing that she was doing! It was suicideliterally

thatnothing less than suicide for one in Gypsy Nan's condition to

attempt this thing. But the woman would certainly die heretoo

with out medical assistance - only there was the police! Rhoda

Gray's faceas she stood upright in the little aperture again

throwing the wavering candle-rays around herseemed suddenly to

have grown pinched and wan. The police! The police! It was her

consciencethenthat was gnawing at her - because of the police!

Was that it? Wellthere was alsothenanother side. Could she

turn informertraitorbecome a female Judas to a dying womanwho

had sobbed and thanked her Maker because she had found some one whom

she believed she could trust? That was a hideous and an abominable

thing to do! "You swore it! You swore you'd see me through!" - the

words came and rang insistently in her ears. The sweetpiquant

little face set in harddetermined lines. Mechanically she picked

up the flashlight and a package of the banknoteslowered the board

in the ceiling into placeand returned to Gypsy Nan.

"I'm readyif there is no other way" she said soberlyas she

watched the other tuck the money away inside her waist. "I said I

would see you throughand I will. But I doubt if you are strong

enougheven with what help I can give youto get down the stairs

and even if you canI am afraid with all my soul of the consequences

to youand -"

Gypsy Nan blew out the candleand staggered to her feet.

"There isn't any other way." She leaned heavily on Rhoda Gray's

arm. "Can't you see that? Don't you think I know? Haven't you

seen enough here to convince you of that? I - I'm just spilling

the dice for - for perhaps the last time - but it's the only chance

- the only chance. Go on!" she urged tremulously. "Shoot the glim

and get me to the door. And - and for the love of Goddon't make

a sound! It's all up if we're seen going out!"

The flashlight's ray danced in crazy gyrations as the two figures

swayed and crept across the garret. Rhoda Gray unlocked the door

andas they passed outlocked it again on the outside.

"Hide the key!" whispered Gypsy Nan. "See - that crack in thefloor

under the partition! Slip it in there!"

The flashlight guiding herRhoda Gray stooped down to where

between the rough attic flooring and the equally rough boarding of

the garret partitionthere was a narrow space. She pushed the key

in out of sight; and thenwith her arm around Gypsy Nan's waist

and with the flashlight at cautious intervals winking ahead of her

through the darknessshe began to descend the stairs.

It was slow workdesperately slowboth because they dared not

make the slightest noiseand becausetooas far as strength was

concernedGypsy Nan was close to the end of her endurance. Down

one flightand then the otherthey wentresting at every few

stepsleaning back against the wallblack shadows that merged

with the blackness around themthe flashlight used only when

necessity compelled itlest its gleam might attract the attention

of some other occupant of the house. And at times Gypsy Nan's head

lay cheek to Rhoda Gray'sand the other's body grew limp and

became a great weightso heavy that it seemed she could no longer

support it.

They gained the street doorhung there tensely for a moment to

make sure they were not observed by any chance passer-bythen

stepped out on the sidewalk. Gypsy Nan spoke then:

"I - I can't go much farther" she faltered. "But - but itdoesn't

matter now we're out of the house - it doesn't matter where you

find me - only let's try a few steps more."

Rhoda Gray had slipped the flashlight inside her blouse.

"Yes" she said. Her breath was coming heavily. "It's allright

Nan. I understand."

They walked on a little way up the blockand then Gypsy Nan's grasp

suddenly tightened on Rhoda Gray's arm.

"Play the game!" Gypsy Nan's voice was scarcely audible. "You'll

play the gamewon't you? You'll - you'll see me through. That's

a good name - as good as any - Charlotte Green - that's all you know

- but - but don't leave me alone with them - you - you'll come to

the hospital with mewon't you - I -"

Gypsy Nan had collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk.

Rhoda Gray glanced swiftly around her. In the squalid tenement

before which she stood there would be no help of the kind that was

needed. There would be no telephone in there by means of which she

could summon an ambulance. And then her glance rested on a figure

far up the block under a street lamp - a policeman. She bent

hurriedly over the prostrate womanwhispered a word of

encouragementand ran in the officer's direction.

As she drew closer to the policemanshe called out to him. He

turned and came running towardandas he reached herafter a

sharp glance into her facetouched his helmet respectfully.

"What's wrong with the White Moll to-night?" he asked pleasantly.

"There's - there's a woman down there" - Rhoda Gray was breathless

from her run - "on the sidewalk. She needs help at once."

"Drunk?" inquired the officer laconically.

"NoI'm sure it's anything but that" Rhoda Gray answered quickly.

"She appears to be very sick. I think you had better summon an

ambulance without delay."

"All right!" agreed the officer. "There's a patrol box downthere

in the direction you came from. We'll have a look at her on the

way." He started briskly forward with Rhoda Gray beside him. "Who

is she d'ye know?" he asked.

"She said her name was Charlotte Green" Rhoda Gray replied.

"That's all she couldor wouldsay about herself."

"Then she ain't a regular around hereor I guess you'd know her!"

grunted the policeman.

Rhoda Gray made no answer.

They reached Gypsy Nan. The officer bent over herthen picked her

up and carried her to the tenement doorway.

"I guess you're rightall right! She's bad! I'll send in a call"

he saidand started on the run down the street.

Gypsy Nan had lost consciousness. Rhoda Gray settled herself on

the doorstepsupporting the woman's head in her lap. Her face had

set again in grimhardperplexed lines. There seemed something

unnaturalsomething menacingly weirdsomething even uncanny about

it all. Perhaps it was because it seemed as though she could so

surely foresee the end. Gypsy Nan would not live through the night.

Something told her that. The woman's masqueradefor whatever

purpose it had been assumedwas over. "You'll play the game

won't you? You'll see me through?" There seemed something

pitifully futile in those words now!

The officer returned.

"It's all right" he said. "How's she seem?"

Rhoda Gray shook her head.

A passer-by stoppedasked what was the matter - and lingered

curiously. Anotherand anotherdid the same. A little crowd

collected. The officer kept them back. Came then the strident

clang of a gong and the rapid beat of horses' hoofs. A

white-coated figure jumped from the ambulancepushed his way

forwardand bent over the form in Rhoda Gray's lap. A moment more

and they were carrying Gypsy Nan to the ambulance.

Rhoda Gray spoke to the officer:

"I think perhaps I had better go with her."

"Sure!" said the officer.

She caught snatches of the officer's wordsas he made a report to

the doctor:

Found her here in the street...Charlotte Green...nothing else...the

White Mollstraight as God makes 'em...she'll see the woman through."

He turned to Rhoda Gray. "You can get in there with themmiss."

It took possibly ten minutes to reach the hospitalbutbefore that

timeGypsy Nanresponding in a measure to stimulantshad regained

consciousness. She insisted on clinging to Rhoda Gray's hand as they

carried in the stretcher.

"Don't leave me!" she pleaded. And thenfor the first timeGypsy

Nan's nerve seemed to fail her. "I - ohmy God - I - I don't want

to die!" she cried out.

But a moment laterinside the hospitalas the admitting officer

began to ask questions of Rhoda GrayGypsy Nan had apparently

recovered her grip upon herself.

"Ahlet her alone!" she broke in. "She doesn't know me anymore

than you do. She found me on the street. But she was good to me

God bless her!"

"Your name's Charlotte Green? Yes?" The man nodded. "Where do

you live?"

"Wherever I like!" Gypsy Nan was snarling truculently now. "What's

it matter where I live? Don't you ever have any one come here

without a letter from the pastor of her church!" She pulled out the

package of banknotes. "You aren't going to get stuck. This'll see

you through whatever happens. Give me a - a private roomand" - her

voice was weakening rapidly - "and" - there came a bitterfacetious

laugh -" the best you've got." Her voice was weakening rapidly.

They carried her upstairs. She still insisted on clinging to Rhoda

Gray's hand.

"Don't leave me!" she pleaded againas they reached the door of a

private roomand Rhoda Gray disengaged her hand gently.

"I'll stay outside here" Rhoda Gray promised. "I won't goaway

without seeing you again.

Rhoda Gray sat down on a settee in the hall. She glanced at her

wrist watch. It was five minutes of eleven. Doctors and nurses

came and went from the room. Then a great quiet seemed to settle

down around her. A half hour passed. A doctor went into the room

and presently came out again. She intercepted him as he came along

the corridor.

He shook his head.

She did not understand his technical explanation. There was

something about a clot and blood stoppage. But as she resumed her

seatshe understood very fully that the end was near. The woman

was resting quietly nowthe doctor had saidbut if sheRhoda Gray

cared to waitshe could see the other before leaving the hospital.

And so she waited. She had promised Gypsy Nan she would.

The minutes dragged along. A quarter of an hour passed. Still

another. Midnight came. Fifteen minutes more went byand then a

nurse came out of the roomandstanding by the doorbeckoned to

Rhoda Gray.

"She is asking for you" the nurse said. "Please do not staymore

than a few minutes. I shall be outside hereand if you notice the

slightest changecall me instantly."

Rhoda Gray nodded.

"I understand" she said.

The door closed softly behind her. She was smiling cheerily as she

crossed the room and bent over Gypsy Nan.

The woman stretched out her hand.

"The White Moll!" she whispered. "He told the truththat bulldid

- straight as they make 'emand

"Don't try to talk" Rhoda Gray interrupted gently. "Waituntil you

are a little stronger."

"Stronger!" Gypsy Nan shook her head. "Don't try to kid me! I

know. They told me. I'd have known it anyway. I'm going out."

Rhoda Gray found no answer for a moment. A great lump had risen

in her throat. Neither would she have needed to be told; shetoo

would have known it anyway - it was stamped in the gray pallor of

the woman's face. She pressed Gypsy Nan's hand.

And then Gypsy Nan spoke againa queeryearning hesitancy in her

voice:

"Do - do you believe in God?"

"Yes" said Rhoda Gray simply.

Gypsy Nan closed her eyes.

"Do - do you think there is a chance - even at the last - if - if

without throwing down one's palsone tries to make good?"

"Yes" said Rhoda Gray again.

"Is the door closed?" Gypsy Nan attempted to raise herself on her

elbowas though to see for herself.

Rhoda Gray forced the other gently back upon the pillows.

"It is closed" she said. "You need not be afraid."

"What time is it?" demanded Gypsy Nan.

Rhoda Gray looked at her watch.

"Twenty-five minutes after twelve" she answered.

"There's time yetthen" whispered Gypsy Nan. "There's timeyet."

She lay silent for a momentthen her hand closed tightly around

Rhoda Gray's. "Listen!" she said. "There's more about - about

why I lived like that than I told you. And - and I can't tell you

now - I can't go out like a yellow cur - I'm not going to snitch

on anybody else just because I'm through myself. But - but there's

something on to-night that I'd - I'd like to stop. Only the police

or anybody elsearen't to know anything about itbecause then

they'd nip my friends. See? But you can do it - easy. You can

do it alone without anybody knowing. There's time yet. They

weren't going to pull it until halfpast one - and there won't be

any danger for you. All you've got to do is get the money before

they doand then see that it goes back where it belongs to-morrow.

Will you? You don't want to see a crime committed to-night if - if

you can stop itdo you?"

Rhoda Gray's face was grave. She hesitated for a moment.

"I'll have to know more than that before I can answer youNan"

she said.

"It's the only way to stop it!" Gypsy Nan whispered feverishly.

"I won't split on my pals - I won't - I won't! But I trust you.

Will you promise not to snitch if I tell you how to stop iteven

if you don't go there yourself? I'm offering you a chance to stop

a twenty-thousand-dollar haul. If you don't promise it's got to

go throughbecause I've got to stand by the ones that were in it

with me. I - I'd like to make good - just - once. But I can't do

it any other way. For God's sakeyou see thatdon't you?"

"Yes" said Rhoda Gray in a low voice; "but the promise youask for

is the same as though I promised to try to get the money you speak

of. If I knew what was going onand did nothingI would be an

accomplice to the crimeand guilty myself."

"But I can't do anything else!" Gypsy Nan was speaking with great

difficulty. "I won't get those that were with me in wrong - I won't!

You can prevent a crime to-nightif you will - you - you can help

me to - to make good."

Rhoda Gray's lips tightened"Will you give me your word that I can

do what you suggest - that it is feasiblepossible?"

"Yes" said Gypsy Nan. "You can do it easilyand - and it'ssafe.

It - it only wants a little nerveand - and you've got that."

"I promisethen" said Rhoda Gray.

"Thank God!" Gypsy Nan pulled fiercely at Rhoda Gray's wrist.

"Come nearer-nearer! You know Skarbolovold Skarbolovwho keeps

the antique store - on the street - around the corner from my place?"

Rhoda Gray nodded.

"He's rich!" whispered Gypsy Nan. "Think of it! Him - rich!But

he gets the best of the Fifth Avenue crowd just because he keeps

his joint in that rotten hole. They think they're getting the real

thing in antiques! He's a queer old fool. Afraid people would know

he had money if he kept it in the bank - afraid of a banktoo.

Understand? We found out that every once in a while he'd change a

lot of small bills for a big one - five-hundred-dollar bills

- thousand-dollar bills. That put us wise. We began to watch him.

It took months to find where he hid it. We've spent night after

night searching through his shop. You can get in easily. There's

no one there - upstairs is just a storage place for his extra stock.

There's a big padlock on the back doorbut there's a false link in

the chain - count three links to the right from the padlock - we

put it thereand -"

Gypsy Nan's voice had become almost inaudible. She pulled at Rhoda

Gray's wrist againurging her closer.

"Listen - quick! I - my strength! she panted. "An antique he

never sells - old escritoire against rear wall - secret drawer

- take out wide middle drawer - reach in and rub your hand along

the top - you'll feel the spring. We waited to - to get - get

counterfeits - put counterfeits there - understand? Then he'd

never know he'd been robbed - not for a long time anyway

- discovered perhaps when he was dead - old wife - suffer then

- I - got to make good - make good - I -" She came up suddenly

on both her elbowsthe dark eyes staring wildly. "Yesyes!"

she whispered. "Seven-three-nine! Look out!" Her voice rang

with sudden terrorrising almost to a scream. "Look out! Can't

you understandyou fool! I've told you! Seven-three-nine!

Seven-three...

Rhoda Gray's arms had gone around the other's shoulders. She heard

the door open-and then a quicklight step. There wasn't any other

sound now. She made way mechanically for the nurse. And then

after a momentshe rose from her knees. The nurse answered her

unspoken question.

"Yes; it's over."

 

III. ALIAS GYPSY NAN

Rhoda Gray went slowly from the room. In a curiously stunned sort

of way she reached the streetand for a few blocks walked along

scarcely conscious of the direction she was taking. Her mind was

in turmoil. The night seemed to have been one of harrowing

hallucination; it seemed as though it were utterly unreallike one

dreaming that one is dreaming. And thensuddenlyshe looked at

her watchand the straight little shoulders squared resolutely back.

The hallucinationif she chose to call it thatwas not yet over!

It was twenty minutes of oneand there was still Skarbolov's - and

her promise.

She quickened her pace. She did not like this promise that she had

made; buton the other handshe had not made it either lightly or

impulsively. She had no regrets on that score. She would make it

again under the same conditions. How could she have done otherwise?

It would have been to stand aside and permit a crime to be committed

which she was assured was easily within her power to prevent. What

excuse could she have had for that? Fear wasn't an excuse. She

did not like the thought of entering the back door of a store in

the middle of the night like a thiefandlike a thieftaking away

that hidden money. She knew she was going to be afraidhorribly

afraid - it frightened her now - but she could not let that fear

make a moral coward of her.

Her hands clenched at her sides. She would not allow herself to

dwell upon that phase of it! She was going to Skarbolov'sand

that was all there was to it. The only thing she really had to

fear was that she should lose even a single unnecessary moment in

getting there. Halfpast oneGypsy Nan had said. That should give

her ample time; but the quicker she wentthe wider themargin of

safety.

Her thoughts reverted to Gypsy Nan. What had the woman meant

by her last few wandering words? They had nothing to do with

Skarbolov'sthat was certain; but the words came back now

insistently. "Seven-three-nine." What did "seven-three-nine"

mean? She shook her head helplessly. Wellwhat did it matter?

She dismissed further consideration of it. She repeated to herself

Gypsy Nan's directions for finding the spring of the secret drawer.

She forced herself to think of anything that would bar the entry

of that fear which stood lurking at the threshold of her mind.

From time to time she consulted her watch - and each time hurried

the faster.

It was five minutes past one whenstealing silently along a black

laneand counting against the skyline the same number of buildings

she had previously counted on the street from the cornershe

entered an equally black yardand reached the back door of

Skarbolov's little store. She felt out with her hands and found

the padlockand her fingers pressed on the link in the chain that

Gypsy Nan had described. It gave readily. She slipped it free

and opened the door. There was faintalmost inaudibleprotesting

creak from the hinges. She caught her breath quickly. Had anybody

heard it? It - it had seemed like a cannon shot. And then her lips

curled in sudden self-contempt. Who was there to hear it?

She stepped forwardclosed the door silently behind herand drew

out her flashlight. The ray cut through the blackness. She was

in what seemed like a smallouter storeroomthat was littered

with an untidy collection of boxesbroken furnitureand odds and

ends of all sorts. Ahead of her was an open doorandthrough

thisthe flashlight disclosed the shop itself. She switched off

the light now as she moved forward-there were the front windows

andused too freelythe light might by some unlucky chance be

noticed from the street.

And nowin the darkness againshe reached the doorway of the

shop. She had not made any noise. She assured herself of that.

She had never known that she could move so silently before - and

- and - Yesshe would fight down this panic that was seizing her!

She would! It would only take a minute now - just another minute

- if - if she would only keep her head and her nerve. That was

what Gypsy Nan had said. She only needed to keep her nerve. She

had never lost it in the face of many a really serious danger when

with her father - why should she nowwhen there was nothing but

the silence and the darkness to be afraid of!

The flashlight went on againits ray creeping inquisitively now

along the rear wall of the shop. It held finally on an escritoire

over in the far corner at her right.

Once more the light went out. She moved swiftly across the floor

and in a moment more was bending over the escritoire. And now

with her body hiding the flashlight's rays from the front windows

she examined the desk. It was an old-fashionedspindle-legged

affairwith a nest of pigeonholes and multifarious little drawers.

One of the drawerswider than any of the othersand in the center

was obviously the one to which Gypsy Nan referred. She pulled out

the drawerand in the act of reaching insidesuddenly drew back

her hand. What was that? Instinctively she switched off the

flashlightand stood tense and rigid in the darkness.

A minute passed-another. Still she listened.

There was no sound - unless - unless she could actually hear the

beating of her heart. Fancy! Imagination! The darkness played

strange tricks! It - it wasn't so easy to keep one' s nerve. She

could have sworn that she had heard some sort of movement back

there down the shop.

Angry with herselfshe thrust her hand into the opening now and

felt hurriedly around. Yesthere it was! Her fingers touched

what was evidently a little knob or button. She pressed upon it.

There was a faintanswering click. She turned on the flashlight

again. What had before appeared to be nothing but one of the wide

pearl inlaid partitions between two of the smaller drawerswas

protruding invitingly outward now by the matter of an inch or so.

Rhoda Gray pulled it open. It was very shallowscarcely

three-quarters of an inch in depthbut it was quite long enough

and quite wide enough for its purpose! Insidethere lay a little

pile of banknotesbanknotes of very large denomination - the one

on top was a thousand-dollar bill.

She reached in and took out the money-and then from Rhoda Gray's

lips there came a little crythe flashlight dropped from her hand

and smashed to the floorand she was clinging desperately to the

edge of the escritoire for support. The shop was flooded with light.

Over by the side wallone hand still on the electric-light switch

the other holding a leveled revolverstood a man.

And then the man spoke - with an oath - with curious amazement:

"My God - a woman!"

She did not speakor stir. It seemed as though not fearbut

horror nowheld her powerless to move her limbs. Her first swift

brain-flash had been that it was one of Gypsy Nan's accomplices

here ahead of the appointed time. That would have given her cause

all too much of causefor fear; but it was not one of Gypsy Nan's

accomplicesandfar worse than the fear of any physical attack

upon herwas the sense of ruin and disaster that the realization

of a quite different and more desperate situation brought her now.

She knew the man. She had seen those squareheavyclamped jaws

scores of times. Those sharprestless black eyes under

over-hangingshaggy eyebrows were familiar to the whole East Side.

It was Rorke - "Rough" Rorkeof headquarters.

He came toward herand halfway across the room another exclamation

burst from his lips; but this time it held a jeerand in the jeer

a sort of cynical and savage triumph.

"The White Moll!"

He was close beside her nowand now he snatched from her hand the

banknotes thatall unconsciouslyshe had still been clutching

tightly.

"So this is what all the sweet charity's been abouteh?" he

snapped. "The White Mollthe Little Saint of the East Sidethat

lends a helping hand to the crooks to get 'em back on the straight

and narrow again! The White Moll-hell! You crooked little devil!"

Again she did not answer. Her mind was clear nowbrutally clear

brutally keenbrutally virile. What was there for her to say?

She was caught here at one o'clock in the morning after breaking

into the placecaught red-handed in the very act of taking the

money. What story could she tell that would clear her of that!

That she had taken it so that it wouldn't be stolenand that she

was going to give it back in the morning? Was there anybody in the

world credulous enough to believe anything like that! Tell Gypsy

Nan's storyall that had happened to-night? Yesshe might have

told that to-morrowafter she had returned the moneyand been

believed. But now-no! It would even make her appear in a still

worse light. They would credit her with being a member of this

very gang to which Gypsy Nan belongedone in the secrets of an

organized band of criminalswho was trying to clear her own skirts

at the expense of her confederates. Everythingevery act of hers

to-nightpointed to that construction being placed upon her story

pointed to duplicity. Why had she hidden the identity of Gypsy Nan?

Why had she not told the police that a crime was to be committed

and left it to the police to frustrate it? It would fit in with the

storyof course - but the story was the result of having been

caught in the act of stealing twenty thousand dollars in cash! What

was there to say - andabove allto this manwhose reputation

for callous brutality in the handling of those who fell into his

hands had earned him the sobriquet of "Rough" Rorke? Sick at heart

desperatebut with her hands clenched nowshe stood therewhile

the man felt unceremoniously over her clothing for a concealed

weapon.

Finding nonehe stoopedpicked up the flashlighttested itand

found it broken from its fall.

"Too bad you bust thiswe'll have to go out in the dark after I

switch off the light" he said with unpleasant facetiousness. "I

didn't have one with meor time to get onewhen I got tipped off

there was something doing here to-night." He caught her ungently

by the arm. "Wellcome alongmy pretty lady! This'll make a

stirthis will! The White Moll!" He led her to the electric-light

switchturned off the lightandwith his grasp tight upon her

made for the front door. He chuckled in a sinister manner. "Say

you're a prizeyou are! And pretty clevertooaren't you? I

wasn't looking for a woman to pull this. The White Moll! Some

saint!"

Rhoda Gray shivered. Disgraceruinstared her in the face. A

sea of faces in a courtroommorbid faceshideous facesleered at

her. Gray walls rose before herwalls that shut out sunshine and

hopepitilesscold things that seemed to freeze the blood in her

veins. And to-nightin just a few minutes more - a cell!

From the street outside came the sound of some one making a cheery

but evidently a somewhat inebriatedattempt to whistle some ragtime

air. It seemed to enhance her miseryto enhance by contrast in its

care-free cheeriness the despair and misery that were eating into

her soul. Her hands clenched and unclenched. If there were only a

chance - somewhere - somehow! If only she were not a woman! If she

could only fight this hulking form that gripped so brutally at her

arm!

Rough Rorke opened the doorand pulled her out to the street. She

shrank back instinctively. It was quite light here from a nearby

street lampand the owner of the whistlea young manfashionably

dresseddecidedly unsteady on his legsand just opposite the door

as they came outhad stopped both his whistle and his progress

along the street to stare at them owlishly.

"'Ullo!" said the young man thickly. "What'sh all this about -eh?

What'sh you two doing in that place this time of night - eh?"

"Beat it!" ordered Rough Rorke curtly.

"That'sh all right." The young man came nearer. He balanced himself

with difficultybut upon him there appeared to have descended

suddenly a vast dignity. "I'm - hic - law - 'biding citizen. Gotta

know. Gotta show me. Damn funny - coming out of there this time

of night! Eh - what'sh the idea?"

Rough Rorkewith his free handgrabbed the young man by the

shoulder angrily.

"Mind your own businessor you'll get into trouble!" he raspedout.

"I'm an officerand this woman is under arrest. Beat it! D'ye

hear? Beat it - or I'll run you intoo!"

"Is that'sh so!" The young man's tones expressed a fuddleddefiance.

He rocked on his feet and stared from one to the other. "Shayis

that'sh so! You will - eh? Gotta show me. How do I know you're

- hic - officer? Eh? More likely damned thief yourself! I -"

The young man lurched suddenly and violently forwardbreaking Rough

Rorke's grip on Rhoda Gray - andas his arms swept out to grasp at

the detective in an apparently wild effort to preserve his balance

Rhoda Gray felt a quicksignificant push upon her shoulder.

For the space of time it takes a watch to tick she stood startled

and amazedand thenlike a flashshe was speeding down the street.

A roar of ragea burst of unbridled profanity went up from Rough

Rorke behind her; it was mingled with equally angry vituperation in

the young man's voice. She looked behind her. The two men were

swaying around crazily in each other's arms. She ran on - faster

than she had ever run in her life. The corner was not far ahead.

Her brain was working with lightning speed. Gypsy Nan's house was

just around the corner. If she could get out of sight - hide - it

would...

She glanced behind her againas her ears caught the pound of racing

feet. The young man was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk

shaking his fist; Rough Rorkeperhaps a bare fifty yards awaywas

chasing her at top speed.

Her face set hard. She could not out-run a man! There was only

one hope for her - just one - to gain Gypsy Nan's doorway before

Rorke got around the corner.

A yard - another - still another! She swerved around the corner.

Andas she turnedshe caught a glimpse of the detective. The man

was nearer - much nearer. But it was only a little wayjust a

little wayto Gypsy Nan's - not so far as the distance between

her and Rorke - and - and if the man didn't gain too fastthen

- then - A little cry of dismay came with a new and terrifying

thought. Quite apart from Rorkesome one else might see her enter

Gypsy Nan's! She strained her eyes in all directions as she ran.

There wasn't any one - she didn't see any one - only Rorkearound

the corner therewas bawling out at the top of his voiceand

- and...

She flung herself against Gypsy Nan's doorstumbled inand

closing itheard Rorke just swinging around the corner. Had he

seen her? She didn't know. She was pantinggasping for her

breath. It seemed as though her lungs would burst. She held

her hand tightly to her bosom as she made for the stairs - she

mustn't make any noise - they mustn't hear her breathing like that

- they - they mustn't hear her going up the stairs.

How dark it was! If she could only see - so that she would be sure

not to stumble! She couldn't go fast now - she would make a noise

if she did. Stair after stair she climbed stealthily. Perhaps she

was safe now - it had taken her a long time to get up here to the

second floorand there wasn't any sound yet from the street below.

And now she mounted the shortladder-like steps to the atticand

feeling with her hand for the crack in the flooring under the

partitionreached in for the key. As her fingers closed upon it

she choked back a cry. Some one had been here! A piece of paper

was wrapped around the key. What did it mean? What did all these

strangeyessinisterthings that had happened to-night mean?

How had Rorke known that a robbery was to be committed at Skarbolov's?

Who was that man who had effected her escapeand whoshe knew now

was no more drunk than she was? Fastquickpiling one upon the

otherthe questions raced through her mind.

She fought them back. There was no time for speculation now! There

was only one question that mattered: Was she safe?

She stood upthrust the paper for safe-keeping into her bosomand

unlocked the door. If - if Rorke did not know that she had entered

this house hereshe could remain hidden for a few hours; it would

give her time to thinkand...

It came this timeno strength of will would hold it backa little

moan. The front door below had openeda heavy footstep sounded in

the lower hall. She couldn't seeof course. But she knew. It was

Rorke! She heard him coming up the stairs.

And thenin a flashit seemedher brain responded to her

despairing cry. There was still a way - a desperate one - but still

a way - if there was time! She darted inside the garretlocked the

doorfound the matches and candleandrunning silently to the rear

wallpushed up the board in the ceiling. In frantic haste she tore

off her outer garmentsher stockings and shoespulled on the rough

stockings and coarse boots that Gypsy Nan had wornslipped the other's

greasythreadbare skirt over her headand pinned the shawl tight

about her shoulders. There was a bigvoluminous pocket in the skirt

and into this she dropped Gypsy Nan's revolverand the paper she had

found wrapped around the key.

She could hear a commotion from below now. It was the one thing she

had counted upon. Rough Rorke might know she had entered the house

but he could not know whereabouts in the house she wasand he would

naturally search each room as he came to it on the way up. She fitted

the gray-streaked wig of tangledmatted hair upon her headplunged

her hand into the box that Gypsy Nan used for her make-up and daubed

some of the grime upon both hands and faceadjusted the spectacles

upon her nosehid her own clothingclosed the narrow trap-door in

the ceilingand ran backcarrying the candleto the washstand.

Herethere was a small and battered mirrorand more coollymore

leisurely nowfor the commotion still continued from the floor below

she spread and rubbed inas craftily as she couldthe grime streaks

on her face and hands. It was neither artistic nor perfectbut in

the meagerflickering light now the face of Gypsy Nan seemed to

stare reassuringly back at her. It might not deceive any one in

daylight - she did not knowand it did not matter now - but with only

this candle to light the garretsince the lamp was emptyshe could

fairly count on her identity not being questioned.

She blew out the candleleft it on the washstandbecauseif she

could help itshe did not want to risk having it lighted near the

bed or doorandtiptoeing nowwent to the doorunlocked itthen

threw herself down upon the bed.

Possibly a minute went bypossibly twoand then there was a quick

step on the ladder-like stairsthe door handle was rattled violently

and the door was flung open and slammed shut again.

Rhoda Gray sat upright on the bed. It was her wits nowher wits

against Rough Rorke's; nothing else could save her. She could not

even make out the man's formit was so dark; butas he had not

movedshe was quite well aware that he was standing with his back

to the doorevidently trying to place his surroundings.

It was Gypsy Nannot Rhoda Graywho spoke.

"Who's dere?" she screeched. "D'ye hearblast yousewho'sdere?"

Rough Rorke laughed gratingly.

"That youNanmy dear?"

"Who d'youse t'ink it is-me gran'mother?" demanded Rhoda Gray

caustically. "Who are youse?"

"Rorke" said Rorke shortly. "I guess you knowdon'tyou?"

"Is dat so?" snorted Rhoda Gray. "Well denyouse can beat it- hop

it - on de jump! Wot t'hell right have youse got bustin' into me

room at dis time of night - eh? I ain't done nothin'!"

Rough Rorkehis feet scuffling to feel the waycame forward.

"Cut it out!" he snarled. "I ain't the only visitor you'vegot!

It's not you I want; it's the White Moll."

"Wot's dat got to do wid me?" Rhoda Gray flung back hotly."She

ain't hereis she?"

"Yesshe's here!" Rough Rorke's voice held an ugly menace. "Ilost

her around the cornerbut a woman from a window across the street

who heard the rowsaw her run into this house. She ain't downstairs

- so you can figure the rest out the same way I do."

"De woman was kiddin' youse!" Rhoda Grayalias Gypsy Nancackled

derisively. "Dere ain't nobody here but me."

"We'll see about that!" said Rough Rorke shortly. "Strike alight!"

"Awstrike it yerself!" retorted Rhoda Gray. "I ain't yerservant!

Dere's a candle over dere on de washstand against de wallif youse

wants it."

A match crackled and spurted into flame; its light fell upon the

lamp standing on the chair beside the bed. Rough Rorke stepped

toward it.

"Dere ain't any oil in dat" croaked Rhoda Gray. "Didn't Itell

youse de candle was over dere on de washstandan' -"

The words seemed to freeze in her throatthe chairthe lampthe

shadowy figure of the man in the match flame to swirl before her

eyesand a sick nausea to come upon her soul itself. With a short

triumphant oathRough Rorke had stopped suddenly and reached in

under the chair. And now he was dangling a newblack kid glove in

front of her. Caught! Yesshe was caught! She remembered Gypsy

Nan's attempt to put on her gloves - one must have fallen to the floor

unnoticed by either of them when Gypsy Nan had thought to put them

in her pocket! The man's voice came to her as from some great

distance:

"Soshe ain't here - ain't she! I'll teach you to lie to me!

I'll -" The match was dying out. Rorke raised it higherand with

the last flicker located the washstandand made toward itobviously

for the candle.

Her wits against Rough Rorke's! Nothing else could save her!

Failing to find any one here but herselfcertain now that the White

Moll was hereonly a fool could have failed in his deduction - and

Rough Rorke was not a fool. Her wits against Rough Rorke's! There

was the time left her while the garret was still in darknessjust

thatno more!

With a quick spring she leaped from the bedseized the chair

sending the lamp to the flooranddragging the chair after her to

make as much noise and confusion as she couldshe rushed for the

doorscreeching at the top of her voice:

"Rundearierun! Run!" She was scuffling with her feet

clattering the chairas she wrenched the door open. And thenin

her own voice: "NanI won't! I won't let you stand for thisI -"

Then as Gypsy Nan again: "Rundearie! Don't youse mind old Nan!"

She banged the door shutlocked itand whipped out the key. It had

taken scarcely a second. She was still screeching at the top of her

voice to cover the absence of flying footers on the stairs. "Run

dearierun! Run!"

And thenin the darknessthe candle still unlightedRough Rorke

was on her like a madman. With a sweep of his arm he sent her

crashing to the floorand wrenched at the door. The next instant

he was on her again.

"The key! Give me that key!" he roared.

For answer she flung it from her. It fell with a tinkle on the

floor at the far end of the garret. The man was beside himself

with rage.

"Damn youif I had timeI'd wring your neck for thisyou

she-devil!" he bawled-and raced backevidently for the candle

on the washstand.

Rhoda Graysprawled on the floor where he had thrown herdid not

move-except to take the revolver from the pocket of her dress. She

was crooning queerly to herselfas she watched Rough Rorke light

the candle and grope around on the floor:

"She was good to mede White Moll was. Jellies an' t'ings she

brought meshe did. An' Gypsy Nan don't ferret. Gypsy Nan don't -"

She sat up suddenlysnarling. Rorke had found the keyleft the

bottle with the short stub of guttering candle standing on the floor

and was back again.

"By God!" he gritted through his teethas he jabbed the key with

frantic haste into the lock. "I'll fix you for this!" He made a

clutch at her throatas he swung the door open.

She jerked herself backwardeluding himher revolver leveled.

"Youse keep yer dirty paws off me!" she screamed. "Yahwotcan

youse do! Wot do I care! She was good to meshe wasan -"

Rough Rorke was gone-taking the stairs three and four at a time.

Then she heard the street door slam.

She rose slowly to her feet - and suddenly reached outgrasping at

the door to steady herself. It seemed as though every muscle had

gone limpas though her limbs had not strength to support her.

And for a moment she hung therethen she locked the doorstaggered

backsank down on the edge of the bedandwith her chin in her

handsstared at the guttering stub of candle. And presentlyin

an almost aimlessmechanical wayshe felt in her pocket for the

piece of paper that she had found wrapped around the keyand drew

it out. There were three figures scrawled upon it - nothing else.

7 3 9

She dropped her chin in her hands againand stared again at the

candle. And after a while the candle went out.

 

IV. THE ADVENTURER

Twenty-Four hours had passed. Twenty four hours! Was it no more

than that since - Rhoda Grayin the guise of Gypsy Nanas she sat

on the edge of the disreputablepoverty-stricken cotgrew suddenly

tenseholding her breath as she listened. The sound reached the

attic so faintly that it might be but the product solely of the

imagination. No - it came again! And it even defined itself now

- a stealthy footstep on the lower stairs.

A smallleather-bound notebookin which she had been engrossed

was tucked instantly away under the soiled blanketand she glanced

sharply around the garret. A new candlewhich she had bought in

the single excursion she had ventured to make from the house during

the daywas stuck in the neck of the gin bottleand burned now on

the chair beside her. She had not bought a new lamp - it gave too

much light! The old onethe pieces of itlay over therebrushed

into a heap in the corner on the floor.

The footstep became more audible. Her lips tightened a little. The

hour was late. It must be already after eleven o'clock. Her eyes

grew perturbed. Perhaps it was only one of the unknown tenants of

the floor below going to his or her room; buton the other handno

one had come near the garret since last nightwhen that strange and

yessinister trick of fate had thrust upon her the personality of

Gypsy Nanand it was hoping for too much to expect such seclusion

to obtain much longer. There were too many who must be interested

vitally interestedin Gypsy Nan! There was Rough Rorkeof

headquarters; he had given no signbut that did not mean he had

lost interest in Gypsy Nan. There was the death of the real Gypsy

Nanwhich was pregnant with possibilities; and though the

newspapersthat sheRhoda Grayhad bought and scanned with such

tragic eagernesshad said nothing about the death of one Charlotte

Green in the hospitalmuch less had given any hint that the

identity Gypsy Nan had risked so much to hide had been discovered

it did not mean that the policewith their own ends in viewmight

not be fully informedand were but keeping their own counsel while

they baited a trap.

Alsoand even more to be fearedthere were those of this criminal

organization to which Gypsy Nan had belongedand to which she

Rhoda Graythrough a sort of hideous proxynow belonged herself!

Sooner or laterthey must show their handsand the test of her

identity would come. And here her danger was the greater because

she did not know who any of them wereunless the man who had

stepped in between Rough Rorke and herself last night was one of

them - which was a question that had harassed her all day. The man

had been no more drunk than she had beenand he had obviously only

played the part to get her out of the clutches of Rough Rorke; but

against thishe had seen her simply as herself thenthe White Moll

and what could the criminal associates of Gypsy Nan have cared as

to what became of the White Moll?

A newspaperto procure which had been the prime motive that had

lured her out of her retreat that afternooncaught her eye now

and she shivered a little asfrom where it lay on the floorthe

headlines seemed to leer up at herand mockand menace her.

"The White Moll....The Saint of the East Side Exposed....Vicious

Hypocrisy....Lowly Charity for Years Cloaks a Consummate Thief..."

They had not spared her!

Her lips firmed suddenlyas she listened. The stealthy footfall

had not paused in the hall below. It was on the shortladder-like

steps nowleading up here to the garret - and now it had halted

outside her doorand there came a lowinsistent knocking on the

panels.

"Who's dere?" demanded Rhoda Grayalias Gypsy Nanin a grumbling

toneasgetting up from the bedshe moved the chair noiselessly

a few feet farther awayso that the bed would be beyond the

immediate radius of the candle light. Then she shuffled across the

floor to the door. "Who's dere?" she demanded againand her hand

deep in the voluminous pocket of Gypsy Nan's greasy skirtclosed

tightly around the stock of Gypsy Nan's revolver.

The voice that answered her expostulated in a plaintive whisper:

"My dear lady! And after all the trouble I have taken to reach

here without being either seen or heard!"

For an instant Rhoda Gray hesitated - there seemed something

familiar about the voice - then she unlocked the doorand

retreated toward the bed.

The door opened and closed softly. Rhoda Grayreaching the edge

of the bedsat down. It was the fashionably-attiredimmaculate

young manwho had saved her from Rough Rorke last night. She

stared at him in the faint light without a word. Her mind was

racing in a mad turmoil of doubtuncertaintyfear. Was he one

of the gangor not? Was shein the role of Gypsy Nansupposed

to know himor not? Did he know that the real Gypsy Nantoo

had but played a partandthereforewhen she spoke must it be

in the vernacular of the East Side - or not? And then sudden

enlightenmentwith its incident reliefcame to her.

"My dear lady" - the young man's soft felt hat was under his arm

and he was plucking daintily at the fingers of his yellow gloves as

he removed them - "I beg you to pardon the intrusion of a perfect

stranger. I offer you my very genuine apologies. My excuse is

that I come from a - I hope I am not overstepping the bounds in

using the term - mutual friend." Rhoda Gray snorted disdainfully.

"Awcut out de boudoir talkan' get down to cases!" she croaked.

"Who are youseanyway?"

The young man had gray eyes - and they lighted up now humorously.

"Boudoir? Ah - yes! Of course! Awfully neat!" His eyesfrom

the chair that held the candlestrayed around the scantily

furnishedmurky garret as though in search of a seatand finally

rested inquiringly on Rhoda Gray.

"Youse can put de candle on de floorif youse like" she said

grudgingly. "Dat's de only chair dere is."

"Thank you!" he said.

Rhoda Gray watched him with puckered browas he placed the gin

bottle with its candle on the floorand appropriated the chair.

He mightfrom his tonehave been thanking her for some priceless

boon. He wore a boutonniere. His clothes fitted him like gloves.

He exuded a certain studiedalmost languid fastidiousness - that

was wholly out of keeping with the quickdaringagile wit that

he had exhibited the night before. She found her hand toying

unconsciously with the weapon in her pocket. She was aware that

she was fencing with unbuttoned foils. How much did he know

- about last night?

"Wellwhy don't youse spill it?" she invited curtly. "Who are

youse?"

"Who am I?" He lifted the lapel of his coatcarrying the

boutonniere to his nose. "My dear ladyI am an adventurer."

"Youse don't say!" observed Rhoda Grayalias Gypsy Nan. "An'wot's

dat w' en it's at home?"

"In my casefirst of all a gentlemanI trust" he saidpleasantly;

"after thatI do not quarrel with the accepted definition of the

term - though it is not altogether complimentary."

Rhoda Gray scowled. As Rhoda Grayshe might have answered him; as

Gypsy Nanit was too subtleand she was beyond her depth.

"Youse look to me like a slick crook!" she said bluntly.

"I will admit" he said"that I have at timesperhapstaken

liberties with the law."

"Wellden" she snapped"cut out de high-brow stuffan'come

across wid wot brought youse here. I ain't holdin' no reception.

Who's de friend youse was talkin' about?"

The Adventurer looked around himand lowered his voice.

"The White Moll" he said.

Rhoda Gray eyed the man for a long minute; then she shook her head.

"I take back wot I said about youse bein' a slick crook" she

announced coolly. "I guess youse're a dick from headquarters.

Wellyouse have got de wrong number - see? Me fingers are crossed.

Try next door!"

The Adventurer's eyes were fixed on the newspaper headlines on the

floor. He raised them now significantly to hers.

"You helped her to get away from Rough Rorke last night" he said

gently. "Wellso did I. I am very anxious to find the White Moll

andas I know of no other way except through youI have got to

make you believe in meif I can. Listenmy dear lady - and don't

look at me so suspiciously. I have already admitted that I have

taken liberties with the law. Let me add now that last night there

was a little fortune of quite a few thousand dollars that I had

already made up my mind was as good as in my pocket. I was on my

way to get it - the newspaper will already have given you the

details - when I found that I had been forestalled by the young

ladywhothe papers sayis known as the White Moll." He smiled

whimsically. "Even though one might be a slick crook as you

suggestit is no reason why he should fail in his duty to himself

- as a gentleman. What other course was open to me? I discovered

a very charming young lady in the grip of a hulking police brute.

She alsoapparentlytook liberties with the law. There was a

bond between us. I - er - took it upon myself to do what I could.

AndbesidesI was not insensible to the fact that I was under a

certain obligation to herquixotic as it may soundin view of

the fact that we were evidently competitors after the same game.

You seeif she had not forestalled me and been caught herself

I should most certainly have walked into the trap that our friend

of headquarters had prepared. I - er - as I saydid what I could.

She got away; but somehow Rough Rorke later discovered her here in

this roomI understand that he was not happy over the result; that

thanks to youshe escaped againand has not been heard of since.

Rhoda Gray dropped her chin in her grime-smeared handstaring

speculatively at the other. The man sat thereapparently a

self-confessed crook and criminalbutalsohe sat there as the

man to whom she owed the fact that at the present moment she was

not behind prison bars. He proclaimed himself in the same breath

both a thief and a gentlemanas far as she could make out. They

were characteristics whichuntil nowshe had never associated

together; but nowcuriously enoughthey did not seem so utterly

at variance. Of course they were at variancemust of necessity

be so; but in the personality of this man the incongruity seemed

somehow lost. Perhaps it was a sense of gratitude toward him that

modified her views. He looked a gentleman. There was something

about him that appealed. The gray eyes seemed full of cool

confidentself-possession; andquiet as his manner wasshe

sensed a latent dynamic something lurking near the surface all the

time - that she was conscious she would much prefer to have enlisted

on her behalf than against her. The strongfirm chin bore this out.

He was not handsomebut - with a sort of mental jerkshe forced

her mind back to the stark realities of her surroundings. She could

not thank him for what he had done last night. She could not tell

him that she was the White Moll. She could only play out the role

of Gypsy Nan until - until - Her hand tightened with a fierce

involuntary pressure upon her chin until it brought a physical hurt.

Until what? God alone knew what the end of this miserable

impossible horrorin which she found herself engulfedwould be!

Her eyes sought his face again. The Adventurer was tactfully

engaged in carefully smoothing out the fingers of his yellow gloves.

Thief and gentlemanwhatever he might bewhatever he might choose

to call himselfwhatexactlywas it that had brought him here

to-night? The White Mollhe had said; but what did he want with

the White Moll?

He answered her unspoken question nowalmost as though he had read

her thoughts.

"She is very clever" he said quietly. "She must beexceedingly

clever to have beaten the police the way she has for the last few

years; and - er - I worship at the shrine of cleverness - especially

if it be a woman's. The idea struck me last night that if she and

I should - er - pool our resourceswe should not have to complain

of the reward."

"Ohso youse wants to work wid hereh?" sniffed Rhoda Gray."So

dat's itis it?"

"Partially" he said. "Butquite apart from thatthe reasonI

want to find her is because she is in very great danger. Clever

as she isit is a very different matter to-day now that the police

have found her out. She has been forced into hidingandif alone

and without any friend to help herher situationto put it mildly

must be desperate in the extreme. You befriended her last night

and I honor you for the unselfishness with which you laid yourself

open to the future attentions of that animal Rorkebut that very

fact has deprived her of what might otherwise have been a refuge and

a quite secure retreat here with you. I do not wish to intrudeor

force myself upon herbut I believe I could be of very material

helpand so I have come to youas I have saidbecause you are the

only source through which I can hope to find herand because

through your act of last nightI know you to be a trustworthyand

perhapseven an intimatefriend of hers."

"Awgo on!" said Rhoda Grayalias Gypsy Nandeprecatingly."Dat

don't prove nothin'! I'd have done as much for a stray cat if de

bulls was chasm' her. See? I told youse once youse had de wrong

number. She didn't leave no address. Dat's flatan' dat's de end

of it."

"I'm sorry" said the Adventurer gravely. "Perhaps I haven'tmade

out a good enough case. Or perhapseven believing meyou consider

that the White Molland not yourselfshould be the judge as to

whether my services are acceptable or not?"

"Youse can dope it out any way youse likes" said Rhoda Gray

indifferently. "Me t'roat's gettin' hoarse tellin' youse dere's

nothin' doin'!"

"I'm sorry" said the Adventurer again. He smiled suddenlyand

tucking his gloves into his pocketleaned forward and tore off a

small piece from the margin of the newspaper on the floor - but his

head the while was now cocked in a curious listening attitude in the

direction of the door. "You will pardon memy dear ladyif I

confess thatin spite of what you sayI still harbor the belief

that you know where to reach the White Moll; and so -" He stopped

abruptlyand she found his glancesharp and criticalupon her.

"You are expecting a visitorperhaps?" he inquired softly.

Rhoda Gray stared in genuine perplexity.

"Wot's de answer?" she demanded.

"There is some one on the stairs" replied the Adventurer.

Rhoda Gray listened - and her perplexity deepened. She could hear

nothing.

"Youse must have good ears!" she scoffed.

"I have" returned the Adventurer coolly. "My hearing is oneof

the resources that I wanted to pool with the White Moll."

"Welldenmabbe it's Rough Rorke." Her tone still held its

scoffing note; but her words voiced the genuine enoughthat had

come flashing upon her. "An' if it isafter last nightan' he

finds youse an' me togetherdere'll be -"

"My dear lady" interposed the Adventurer calmly"if therewere

the remotest possibility that it could be Rough RorkeI would not

be here."

"Wot do youse mean?" She had unconsciously towered her voice.

The Adventurer shrugged his shoulders whimsically. He had laid the

piece of paper on his kneeandwith a small gold pencil which he

had taken from his pocketwas writing something upon it.

"The fact that I can assure you thatwhoever else it may bethe

person outside there cannot be Rough Rorkeis simply a proof that

if I had the opportunityI could be of real assistance to the White

Moll" he said imperturbably. "Well" - a grim little smileflickered

suddenly across his lips - "do you hear any one now?"

Quite lowbut quite unmistakablythe shortladder-like steps just

outside the door were voicing a creaky protest now as some one

mounted them. Rhoda Gray did not move. It seemed as though she

could hear the sudden thumping of her own heart. Who was it this

time? How was she to act? What was she to say? It was so easy to

make the single little slip of word or manner that would spell ruin

and disaster.

"Rubber heels and rubber soles" murmured the Adventurer."Butat

thatit is extremely well done." He held out the torn piece of

paper to Rhoda Gray.

"If" - he smiled significantly - "ifby any good fortuneyousee

the White Moll againplease give her this and let her decide for

herself. It is a telephone number. She can always reach me there

by asking for - the Adventurer." He was still extending the piece

of paper. "Quick!" he whisperedas the door knob rattled.

 

V. A SECOND VISITOR

Mechanically Rhoda Gray thrust the paper into the pocket of her

skirt. The door swung open. A tall manwell dressedas far as

could be seen in the uncertain lighta slouch hat pulled far down

over his eyesstood on the thresholdsurveying the interior of

the garret.

The Adventurer rose composedly to his feet - and moved slightly

back out of the direct radius of the candlelight.

There was silence for a momentand then the man in the doorway

laughed unpleasantly.

"Hello!" he flung out harshly. "Who's the dudeNan?"

Rhoda Grayon the edge of the bedshrugged her shoulders. The

Adventurer was standing quite at his easehis soft hat tucked

under his right armhis hand thrust into the side pocket of his

coat. She could no longer see his face distinctly.

"Well?" There was a snarl in the man's voice as he advanced from

the doorway. "You heard medidn't you? Who is he?"

"Why don't youse ask him yerself?" inquired Rhoda Gray truculently.

"I dunno."

"You don'teh?" The man had halted close to where the candle

stood on the floor between himself and the Adventurer. "Wellthen

I guess we'll find out!" He was peering in the Adventurer's

directionand now there came a sudden savage scowl to his face.

"It seems to me I've seen those clothes somewhere beforeand I

guess now we'll take a look at your face so that there won't be any

question about recognition the next time we meet."

The Adventurer laughed softly.

"There will be none on my part" he said calmly. "It'sDanglar

isn't it? I am surely not mistaken. Parson Danglaralias - ah!

Please don't do that!"

It seemed to Rhoda Gray that it happened in the space of time it

might take a watch to tick: The newcomer stooping to the floor

and lifting the candle with the obvious intention of thrusting it

into the Adventurer's face - a glint of metalas the Adventurer

whipped a revolver from the side pocket of his coat -and then

how they got there she could not tellit was done so adroitly and

swiftlythe thumb and forefinger of the Adventurer's left hand

had closed on the candle wick and snuffed it outand the garret

was in darkness.

There was a savage oatha snarl of rage from the man whom the

Adventurer had addressed as Danglar; then an instant s silence; and

then the Adventurer's voice - from the doorway:

"I beg of you not to vent your disappointment on the lady - Danglar.

I assure you that she is in no way responsible for my visit here

andas far as that goesnever saw me before in her life. Also

it is only fair to tell youin case you should consider leaving

here too hurriedlythat I am really not at all a bad shot - even

in the dark. I bid you good-nightDanglar - and you my dear lady!"

Danglar's voice rose again in a flood of profane rage. He stumbled

and moved around in the dark.

"Damn it!" he shouted. "Where are the matches? Where's thelamp?

This cursed candle's put enough to the bad already! Do you hear?

Where's the lamp?"

"It's over dere on de floorbust to pieces" mumbled Rhoda Gray.

"Youse'll find the matches on de washstandan -"

"What's the idea?" There was a suddensteel-like note dominating

the angry tones. "What are you handing me that hog-wash language

for? Eh? It's damned queer! There's been damned queer doings

around here ever since last night! See? What's the idea?"

Rhoda Gray felt her face whiten in the darkness. It was the slip

she had feared; the slip that she had had to take the chance of

makingand whichif it were not retrievedand instantly retrieved

now that it was mademeant discoveryand after that - She shivered

a little.

"You needn't lose your headjust because you've lost your temper!"

she said tartlyin a guarded whisper. "The door into the hall is

still wide openisn't it?"

"Ohall right!" he saidhis tones a sort of sullen admission that

her retort was justified. "But even now your voice sounds offcolor."

Rhoda Gray bridled.

"Does it?" she snapped at him. "I've got a cold. Maybe you'dget

one tooand maybe your voice would be off colorif you had to live

in a dump like thisand -"

"Ohall rightall right!" he broke in hurriedly. "ForHeaven's

sake don't start a row! Forget it! See? Forget it!" He walked

over to the doorpeered outswore savagely to himselfshut the

doorheld the candle up to circle the garretand scowled as its

rays fell upon the shattered pieces of the lamp in the corner then

returninghe set the candle down upon the chair and began to pace

restlesslythree or four steps each wayup and down in front of

the bed.

Rhoda Grayfrom the edge of the bedshifted back until her

shoulders rested against the wall. Danglartoowas dressed like

a gentleman - but Danglar's face was not appealing. The little

round black eyes were shiftythey seemed to possess no pupils

whateverand they roved constantly; there was a hardunyielding

thinness about the lipsand the face itself was thinalmost gaunt

as though the skin had had to accommodate itself to more than was

expected of itand was elastically stretched over the cheek-bones.

"WellI'm listening!" jerked out the man abruptly. "You knewour

game at Skarbolov's was queered. You got the 'seven-three-nine'

didn't you?"

"Yesof courseI got it" answered Rhoda Gray. "What aboutit?"

"For two weeks nowyesmore than two weeks" - the man's voice

rasped angrily - "things have been going wrongand some one has

been butting in and getting away with the goods under our noses.

We know nowfrom last nightthat it must have been the White Moll

for onethough it's not likely she worked all alone. Skeeny dropped

to the fact that the police were wise about Skarbolov'sand that's

why we called it offand the 'seven-three-nine' went out. They

must have got wise through shadowing the White Moll. See? Then

they pinch herbut she makes her get-awayand comes hereandif

the dope I've got is rightyou hand Rough Rorke oneand help her

to beat it again. It looks blamed funny - doesn't it? - when you

come to consider that there's a leak somewhere!"

"Is that so!" Rhoda Gray flashed back. "And did you knowbefore

last night that it was the White Moll who was queering our game?"

"If I had" the man gritted between his teeth"I'd -"

"Wellthenhow did you expect me to know it?" demanded Rhoda Gray

heatedly. "And if the White Moll happens to know Gypsy Nanas she

knows everybody else through her jellies and custards and fake

charityand happens to be near here when she gets into trouble

and beats it for here with the police on her heelsand asks for

helpwhat do you expect Gypsy Nan's going to do if she wants to

stand any chance of sticking around these parts - as Gypsy Nan?"

The man paused in his walkandjerking back his hatdrew his

hand nervously across his forehead.

"You make me tired!" said Rhoda Gray wearily. "Do you thinkyou

could find the door without too much trouble?"

Danglar resumed his pacing back and forthbut more slowly now.

"OhI know! I knowBertha!" he burst out heavily. "I'mtalking

through my hat. You've got the roughest job of any of usold girl.

Don't mind what I'm saying. Something's badly wrongand I'm half

crazy. It's certain now that the White Moll's the one that's been

doing usand what I really came down here for to-night was to tell

you that your job from now on was to get the White Moll. You helped

her last night. She doesn't know you are anybody but Gypsy Nanand

so you're the one person in New York she'll dare try to communicate

with sooner or later. Understand? That's what I came fornot to

talk like a fool - but that fellow I found here started me off.

Who is he? What did he want?"

"He wanted the White Molltoo" said Rhoda Graywith a shortlaugh.

"Ohhe dideh!" Danglar's lips twisted into a suddenmerciless

smile. "Wellgo on! Who is he?"

"I don't know who he is" Rhoda Gray answered a little impatiently.

"He said he was an adventurer - if you can make anything out of that.

He said he got the White Moll away from Rough Rorke last nightafter

Rorke had arrested her; and then he doped the rest out the same as

you have - that he could find the White Moll again through Gypsy Nan.

I don't know what he wanted her for."

"That's better!" snarled Danglarthe merciless smile still on his

lips. "I thought she must have had a paland we know now who her

pal is. It's open and shut that she's sitting so tight she hasn't

been able to get into touch with himand that's what's worrying

Mr. Adventurer."

Rhoda Graysave for a nod of her headmade no answer.

Danglar laughed suddenlyas though in relief; thencoming closer

to the bedplunged his hand into his coat pocketand tossed

handful of jewelry carelessly into Rhoda Gray's lap.

"I feel better than I did!" he saidand laughed again. "It'sa

cinch now that we'll get them both through youand it s a cinch

that the White Moll won't cut in to-night. Put those sparklers

away with the rest until we get ready to 'fence' them."

Rhoda Gray did not speak. Mechanicallyas though she were living

through some hideous nightmareshe began to scoop up the gems from

her lap and allow them to trickle back through her fingers. They

flashed and scintillated brilliantlyeven in the meager light.

They seemed alive with some premonitorybaleful fire.

"Yesthere's some pretty slick stuff there" said Danglarwith

an appraising chuckle; "but there'll be something to-night that'll

make all that bunch look like chicken-feed. The boys are at work

nowand we'll have old Hayden-Bond's necklace in another hour.

Skeeny's got the Sparrow tied up in the old room behind Shluker's

placeand once we're sure there's no back-fire anywherethe

Sparrow will chirp his last chirp." He laughed out suddenlyand

leaning forwardclapped Rhoda Gray exultantly on the shoulder. "It

was like taking candy from a kid! The Sparrow and the old man fell

for the sick-mother-needing-her-son-all-night stuff without batting

a lid; but the Sparrow hasn't been holding the old lady's hand at

the bedside yet. We took care of that."

Again Rhoda Gray made no comment. She wonderedas she gripped at

the rings and brooches in handso fiercely that the settings

pricked into the fleshif her face mirrored in any way the cold

sick misery that had suddenly taken possession of her soul. The

Sparrow! She knew the Sparrow; she knew the Sparrow's sick mother.

That part of it was true. The Sparrow did have an old mother who

was sick. A fine old lady - finer than the son - Finchher name

was. Indirectlyshe knew old Hayden-Bondthe millionaireand

- Almost subconsciously she was aware that Danglar was speaking

again.

"I guess luck's breaking our way again" he grinned. "The oldboy

paid a hundred thousand cold for that necklace. You know how long

we've been waiting to get our hooks on itand we've never had our

eyes off his house for two months. Wellit pays to waitand it

pays to do things right. It broke our way at last to-nightall

rightall right! To-day's Saturday - and the safety deposit vaults

aren't open on Sunday. Mrs. Hayden-Bond's been away all week

visitingbut she comes back to-morrowand there's some swell

society fuss fixed for to-morrow nightand she wants her necklace

to make a splurgeso she writes Mr. H-hyphen-Band out it comes

from the safety deposit vaultand into the library safe. The old

man isn't long on social stuntsand he's got pretty well set in

his habits; one of those must-have-nine-hours'-sleep bugsand he's

always in bed by ten - when his wife'll let him. She being away

to-nightthe boys were able to get to work early. They ought to

be able to crack that box without making any noise about it in an

hour and a half at the outside." He pulled out his watch-and

whistled low under his breath. "It's a quarter after eleven now"

he said hurriedlyand moved abruptly toward the door. "I can't

stick around here any longer. I've got to be on deck where they

can slip me the 'white ones' and then there's Skeeny waiting for

the word to bump off the Sparrow." He jerked his hand suddenly

toward the jewels in her lap. "Salt those away before any

more adventurers blow in!" he saidhalf sharplyhalf jocularly.

"And don't let the White Moll slip you - at any cost. Remember!

She's bound to come to you again. Play her - and send out the

call. You understanddon't you? There's never been a yip out

of the police. Our methods are too good for that. Look at the

Sparrow to-night. Where there's no chance taken of suspicion

going anywhere except where we lead itthere's no chance of any

trouble - for us! But this cursed she-fiend's another story.

We're not planting plum trees for her to pick any more of the fruit.

Understand?"

She answered him mechanically.

"Yes" she said.

"All rightthen; that end of it is up to you" he saidsignificantly.

"You're cleverclever as the devilBertha. Use your brains now

- we need 'em. Good-nightold girl. See you later."

"Good-night" said Rhoda Gray dully.

The door closed. The shortladder-like steps to the hallway below

creaked onceand then all was still. Danglar did have on

rubber-soled shoes. She sat uprighther handsclenched now

pressed hard against her throbbing temples. It wasn't true! None

of this was true - this hovel of a placethose jewels glinting

like evil eyes in her lap; her existence itself wasn't true; it was

only her brain nowsick like her soulthat conjured up these ugly

phantoms with horribleplausible ingenuity. And then an inner

voice seemed to answer her with a calmness that was hideous in its

finality. It was true. All of it was true. Those words of Danglar

and their bald meaningwere true. Men did such things; men made in

the image of their Maker did such things. They were going to kill

a man to-night - an innocent man whom they had made their pawn.

She swept the jewels from her lap to the blanketand risingseized

the candlewent to the doorlooked outandholding the candle

high above her headpeered down the stairs. Yeshe was gone.

There was no one there.

She locked the door againreturned to the bedset the candle down

upon the chairand stood thereher face white and drawnstaring

with widetormented eyes about her. Murder. Danglar had spoken

of it with inhuman callousness - and had laughed at it. They were

going to take a man's life. And there was only herselfalready

driven to extremityalready with her own back against the wall in

an effort to save herselfonly herself to carry the burden of the

responsibility of doing something-to save a man's life.

It seemed to plumb the depths of irony and mockery. She could not

make a move as Gypsy Nan. It would only result in their turning

upon herof the discovery that she was not Gypsy Nan at allof

the almost certainty that it would cost her her own life without

saving the Sparrow's. That way was closed to her from the start.

As the White Mollthen? Outside there in the great cityevery

plain-clothes manevery policeman on every beatwas staring into

every woman's face he met - searching for the White Moll.

She wrung her hands in cruel desperation. Even to her own problem

she had found no solutionthough she had wrestled with it all last

nightand all through the day; no solution save the negative one

of clinging to this one refuge that remained to hersuch as it

wastemporarily. She had found no solution to that; what solution

was there to this! She had thought of leaving the city as Gypsy Nan

and then somewhere far awayof sloughing off the character of Gypsy

Nanand of resuming her own personality again under an assumed name.

But that would have meant the loss of everything she had in life

her little patrimonythe irredeemable stamp of shame upon the name

she once had owned; and also the constant fear and dread that at

any moment the police netwide as the continent was widewould

close around herassooner or laterit was almost inevitable that

it would close around her. It had seemed that her only chance was

to keep on striving to play the role of Gypsy Nanbecause it was

these associates of Gypsy Nan who were at the bottom of the crime

of which sheRhoda Graywas held guiltyand because there was

always the hope that in this waythrough confidences to a supposed

confederateshe could find the evidence that would convict those

actually guiltyand so prove her own innocence. But in holding to

the role of Gypsy Nan for the purpose of receiving those criminal

confidencesshe had not thought of this - that upon her would rest

the moral responsibility of other crimes of which she would have

knowledgeandleast of allthat she should be faced with what

lay before her nowto-nightat the first contact with those who

had been Gypsy Nan's confederates.

What was she to do? Upon herand upon her alonedepended a man's

lifeandadding to her distractionshe knew the man - the Sparrow

who had already done time; that was the vile ingenuity of it all.

And there would le corroborative evidenceof course; they would

have seen to that. If the Sparrow disappeared and was never heard

of againeven a child would deduce the assumption that the proceeds

of the robbery had disappeared with him.

Her brain seemed to grow panicky. She was standing here helplessly.

And timethe one precious ally that she possessedwas slipping

away from her. She could not go to the police as Gypsy Nan - and

much lessas the White Moll! She could not go to the police in any

casefor the "corroborative" evidencethat obviously must exist

unless Danglar and those with him were foolswould indubitably damn

the Sparrow to another prison termeven supposing that through the

intervention of the police his life were saved. What was she to do?

And thenfor a momenther eyes lighted in relief. The Adventurer!

She thrust her hand into the pocket of her skirtand drew out the

torn piece of paperand studied the telephone number upon it - and

slowly the hurt and misery came back into her eyes again. Who was

he? He had told her. An adventurer. He had given her to understand

that heif she had not been just a few minutes ahead of himwould

have taken that money from Skarbolov's escritoire last night.

Therefore he was a crook. Danglar had said that some one had been

getting in ahead of them lately and snatching the plunder from under

their noses; and Danglar now believed that it had been the White

Moll. A wan smile came to her lips. Instead of the White Mollit

appeared to be quite obvious that it was the Adventurer. It

therefore appeared to be quite as obvious that the man was a

professional thiefand an extremely clever oneat that. She dared

not trust him. To enlist his aid she would have to explain the

gang's plot; and while the Adventurer might go to the Sparrow's

assistancehe might also be very much more interested in the

diamond necklace that was involvedand not be entirely averse to

Danglar's plan of using the Sparrow as a pawnwhoin that case

would make a very convenient scapegoat for the Adventurer - instead

of Danglar! She dared not trust the man. She could not absolve

her conscience by staking another's life on a hazardon the

supposition that the Adventurer might do this or that. It was not

good enough.

She was quick in her movements now. Subconsciously her decision

had been made. There was only one way - only one. She gathered up

the jewels from the bed and thrust themwith the Adventurer's torn

piece of paperinto her pocket. And now she reached for the

little notebook that she had hidden under the blanket. It contained

the gang's secret codeand she had found it in the cash box in

Gypsy Nan's strange hiding place that evening. Half running now

carrying the candleshe started toward the lower end of the attic

where the roof sloped down to little more than shoulder high.

"Seven-Three-Nine!" Danglar had almost decoded the message word for

word in the course of his conversation. In the little notebookset

against the figureswere the words: "Danger. The game is off.

Make no further move." It was only one of manythat arbitrary

arrangement of figureseach combination having its own special

significance; butbesides thesethere was the key to a complete

cipher into which any message might be codedand - But why was her

brain swerving off at inconsequential tangents? What did a coder or

code bookmatter at the present moment?

She was standing under the narrow trap-door in the low ceiling now

and now she pushed it upand lifting the candle through the

openingset it down on the inner surface of the ceilingwhich

like some vast shelfGypsy Nan had metamorphosed into that

exhaustive storehouse of ediblesof plunder - a curious and sinister

collection that was eloquent of a gauntlet long flung down against

the law. She emptied the pocket of her skirtretaining only the

revolverand substituted the articles she had removed with the tin

box that contained the dark compound Gypsy Nanand she herselfas

Gypsy Nanhad used to rob her face of youthfulnessand give it the

grimydissolute and haggard aspect which was so simple and yet so

efficient a disguise.

She worked rapidly nowchanging her clothes. She could not goor

actas Gypsy Nan; and so she must go in her own charactergo as

the White Moll - because that was the lesser dangerthe one that

held the only promise of success. There wasn't any other way. She

could not very well refuse to risk her capture by the policecould

shewhen by so doing she might save another's life? She could not

balance in cowardly selfishness the possibility of a prison term for

herselfhideous as that might beagainst the penalty of death

that the Sparrow would pay if she remained inactive. But she could

not leave here as the White Moll. Somewheresomewhere out in the

nightsomewhere away from this garret where all connection with it

was severedshe must complete the transformation from Gypsy Nan to

the White Moll. She could only prepare for that now as best she

could.

And there was not a moment to lose. The thought made her frantic.

Over her own clothes she put on again Gypsy Nan's greasy skirtand

drew on againover her own silk onesGypsy Nan's coarse stockings.

She put on Gypsy Nan's heavy and disreputable bootsand threw the

old shawl again over her head and shoulders. And thenwith her

hat - for the small shape of which she breathed a prayer of

thankfulness! - and her own shoes under her arm and covered by the

shawlshe took the candle againclosed the trap-doorand stepped

over to the washstand. Hereshe dampened a ragthat did duty as

a faceclothand thrust it into her pocket; thenblowing out the

candleshe groped her way to the doorlocked it behind herand

without any attempt at secrecy made her way downstairs.

 

VI. THE RENDEZVOUS

Rhoda Gray's movements were a little unsteady as she stepped out

on the sidewalk. Gypsy Nan's accepted inebriety was not without

its compensation. It enabled heras she swayed for a momentto

scrutinize the street in all directions. Were any of Rough Rorke's

men watching the house? She did not know; she only knew that as

far as she had been able to discovershe had not been followed

when she had gone out that afternoon. Up the streetto her right

there were a few pedestrians; to her leftas far as the corner

the block was clear. She turned in the latter direction. She

had noticed that afternoon that there was a lane between Gypsy Nan's

house and the corner; she gained this and slipped into it unobserved.

And nowin the comparative darknessshe hurried her steps.

Somewhere here in the lane she would make the transformation from

Gypsy Nan to the White Moll complete; it required only some place

in which she could with safety leave the garments that she discarded

and - Yesthis would do! A tumble-down old shedits battered door

half openample proof that the place was in disuseintersected

the line of high board fence on her right.

She stole inside. It was utterly darkbut she had no need for

light. It was a matter of perhaps three minutes; and thenthe

revolver transferred to the pocket of her jacketthe stains removed

from her face by the aid of the damp clothher hands neatly gloved

in black kidthe skirtbootsstockingsshawlspectacles and

wig of Gypsy Nan carefully piled together and hidden in a hole under

the rotting boards of the floorbehind the doorshe emerged as the

White Molland went on again.

But at the end of the lanewhere it met a cross streetand the

street lamp flung out an ominous challengeanddim though it was

seemed to glare with the brightness of daylightshe faltered for

a moment and drew back. She knew where Shluker's place wasbecause

she knewas few knew itevery nook and cranny in the East Side

and it was a long way to that old junk shopalmost over to the East

Riverand - and there would be lights like this one here that barred

her exit from the lanethousands of themlights all the wayand

- and out there they were searching everywherepitilesslyfor the

White Moll.

And thenwith her lips tightenedthe straight little shoulders

thrown resolutely backshe slipped from the lane to the sidewalk

andhugging the shadows of the buildingsstarted forward.

She was alert now in mind and bodyevery faculty strained and in

tension. It was a long wayand it would take a great while - by

wide detoursby lanes and alleywaysfor only on those streets that

were relatively deserted and poorly lighted would she dare trust

herself to the open. And as she went alongnow skirting the side

of a streetnow through some black courtyardnow forced to take

a fenceand taking it with the agility born of the openathletic

life she had led with her father in the mining camps of South

Americanow hiding at the mouth of a lane waiting her chance to

cross an intersecting street when some receding footstep should have

died awaythe terror of delay came gripping at her heart with an

icy clutchsubmerging the fear of personal peril in the agony of

dread thatwith her progress so slowshe wouldafter allbe too

late. And at times she almost cried out in her vexation and despair

as oncewhen crouched behind a door-stoopa policemannot two

yards from herstood and twirled his night stick under the street

lamp while the minutes sped and raced themselves away.

When she could runshe ran until it seemed her lungs must burst

but it was slow progress at bestand always the terror grew upon

her. Had Danglar met the men yet who had looted the millionaire's

safe? Had he already joined Skeeny in that old room behind Shluker's

place? Had the Sparrow - She would not let her mind frame that

question in concrete words. The Sparrow! His real name was Martin

Martin Finch - Martyfor short. Times without number she had

visited the sick and widowed mother - while the Sparrow had served

a two-years' sentence for his first conviction in safe-breaking.

The Sparrowfrom a first-class chauffeur mechanichad showed signs

of becoming a first-class cracksmanit was true; but the Sparrow

was youngand she had never believed that he was inherently bad.

Her opinion had been confirmed whensome six months agoon his

releaselistening both to her own pleadings and to those of his

motherthe Sparrow had sworn that he would stick to the "straight

and narrow." And Hayden-Bondthe millionairereferred to by a

good many people as eccentrichad further proved his claims to

eccentricity in the eyes of a good many people by giving a prison

bird a chance to make an honest livingand had engaged the Sparrow

as his chauffeur. It was a vile and an abominable thing that they

were doingeven if they had not planned to culminate it with murder.

What chance would the Sparrow have had!

It had taken a long time. She did not know how longasat last

she stole unnoticed into a black and narrow driveway that led in

between two blocks of down-at-the-heels tenementsto a courtyard

in the rear. Shluker had his junk shop here. Her lips pursed up

as though defiant of a tinge of perplexity that had suddenly taken

possession of her. She did not know Shlukeror anything about

Shluker's place except its locality; but surely "the old room behind

Shluker's" was direction enoughand - She had just emerged from the

end of the driveway nowand nowstartledshe turned her head

quicklyas she heard a brisk step turning in from the street behind

her. But in the darkness she could see no oneand satisfied

thereforethat she in turn had not been seenshe moved swiftly

to one sideand crouched down against the rear wall of one of the

tenements. A long momentthat seemed an eternitypassedand

then a man's form came out from the drivewayand started across

the courtyard.

She drew in her breath sharplya curious mingling of relief and a

sudden panic fear upon her. It was not so dark in the courtyard

as it had been in the drivewayandunless she were strangely

mistaken that form out there was Danglar's. She watched him as he

headed toward a small building that loomed up like a black

irregular shadow across the courtyardand which was Shluker's shop

- watched him in a tensefascinated way. She was in timethen

- only - only somehow now her limbs seemed to have become weak and

powerless. It seemed suddenly as though she craved with all her

soul the protecting shadows of the tenementand that every impulse

bade her cling thereflattened against the walluntil she could

make her escape. She was afraid now; she shrank from the next step.

It wasn't illogical. She had set out with a purpose in viewand

she had not been blind to the danger that she ranbut the

prospective and mental encounter with danger did not hold the terror

that the tangibleconcrete and actual presence of that peril did

- and that was Danglar there.

She felt her face whitenand she felt the tremor of her lips

tightly as they were drawn together. Yesshe was afraidafraid

in every fiber of her beingbut there was a differencewasn't

therebetween being afraid and being a coward? Her smallgloved

hands clenchedher lips parted slightly. She laughed a little

nowlowwithout mirth. Upon what she did or did not doupon the

margin between fear and cowardice as applied to herselfthere hung

a man's life. Danglar was disappearing around the side of Shluker's

shop. She moved out from the walland swiftlysilentlycrossed

the courtyardgained the side of the junk shop in turnskirted it

and haltedlisteningpeering around heras she reached the rear

corner of the building. A door closed somewhere ahead of her; from

aboveupstairsfaint streaks of light showed through the

interstices of a shuttered window.

She crept forward nowhugging the rear wallreached a door-the

oneobviouslythrough which Danglar had disappearedand which

she had heard as it was closed - tried the doorfound it unlocked

andnoiselesslyinch by inchpushed it open; and a moment later

stepping over the thresholdshe closed it softly behind her. A

dull glow of lightemanating evidently from an open door above

disclosed the upper portion of a stairway over on her leftbut

apart from that the place was in blacknessand save that she knew

of courseshe was in the rear of Shluker's junk shopshe could

form no idea of her surroundings. But she couldat lasthear.

Voicesone of which she recognized as Danglar'sthough she could

not distinguish the wordsreached her from upstairs.

Slowlywith infinite careshe crossed to the stairsand on hands

and knees nowlest she should make a soundbegan to crawl upward.

And a little way uppanic fear seized upon her againand her heart

stood stilland she turned a miserable face in the darkness back

toward the door belowand fought against the impulse to retreat

again.

And then she heard Danglar speakand from her new vantage point

his words came to her distinctly this time:

"Good workSkeeny! You've got the Sparrow nicely trussed upI

see. Wellhe'll do as he is for a while there. I told the boys

to hold off a bit. It's safer to wait an hour or two yetbefore

moving him away from here and bumping him off."

"Two jobs instead of one!" a surly voice answered. "We mightjust

as well have finished him and slipped him away for keeps when we

first got our hooks on him."

"Got a little sick of your wood-carvingwhile you stuck around by

your lonesome and watched him - eh?" Danglar's tones were jocularly

facetious. "Don't grouchSkeeny! We're not killing for fun - it

doesn't pay. Supposing anything had broken wrong up the Avenue - eh?

We wouldn't have had our friend the Sparrow there for the next time

we tried it!"

There was something abhorrently callous in the laugh that followed.

It seemed to fan into flame a smoldering fire of passionate anger

in Rhoda Gray's soul. And before it panic fled. Her hand felt

upward for the next stair-treadand she crept on againas a face

seemed to rise before her - not the Sparrow's face - a woman's face.

It was a face that was crowned with very thin white hairand its

eyes were the saddest she had ever seenand yet they were brave

steady old eyes that had not lost their faith; nor had the old

care-lined face itselfin spite of sufferinglost its gentleness

and sweetness. And then suddenly it seemed to changethat face

and become wreathed in smilesand happy tears to run coursing down

the wrinkled cheeks. Yesshe remembered! It had brought the tears

to her own eyes. It was the night that the wayward Sparrowhome

from the penitentiaryon his kneeshis head buried in his mother's

laphad sworn that he would go straight.

Fear! It seemed as though she never had knownnever could know

fear - that only a mercilesstigerishunbridled fury had her in

its thrall. And she went on upstep after stepas Danglar spoke

again:

"There's nothing to it! The Sparrow there fell for the telephone

when Stevie played the doctor. And old Hayden-Bond of course grants

his prison-bird chauffeur's request to spend the night with his

motherwho the doctor says is taken worsebecause the old guy

knows there is a mother who really is sick. Only Mr. Hayden-Bond

and the police with himwill maybe figure it a little differently

in the morning when they find the safe lootedand that the Sparrow

instead of ever going near the poor old damehas flown the coop

and can't be found. And in case there's any lingering doubt in

their mindsthat piece of paper with the grease-smudges and the

Sparrow's greasy finger-prints on itthat you remember we copped

a few days ago in the garagewill set them straight. The Cricket

slipped it in among the papers he pulled out of the safe and tossed

around on the floor. It looks as though a tool had been wiped with

it while the safe was being crackedand that it got covered over

by the stuff that was emptied outand had been forgotten. I guess

they won't be long in comparing the finger-prints with the ones the

Sparrow kindly left with them when they measured him for his striped

suit the time they sent him up the river - eh?"

Rhoda Gray could see now. Her eyes were on a level with the landing

and diagonally across from the head of the stairs was the open

doorway of a lighted room. She could not see all of the interior

but she could see quite enough. Two men satside face to her

one at each end of a roughdeal table - Danglarand an ugly

pock-markedunshaven manin a peaked cap that was drawn down over

his eyeswho whittled at a stick with a huge jack-knife. The

latter was Skeenyobviously; and the jack-knife and the stick

quite as obviouslyexplained Danglar's facetious reference to

wood-carving. And then her eyes shiftedand widened as they rested

on a huddled form that she could see by looking under and beyond the

tableand that lay sprawled out against the far wall of the room.

Skeeny pushed the peak of his cap back with the point of his

knife-blade.

"What's the haul size up at?" he demanded. "Anything in thesafe

besides the shiners?"

"A few hundred dollars" Danglar replied. "I don't knowexactly

how much. I told the Cricket to divide it up among the boys who

did the rough work. That's good enoughisn't itSkeeny? It

gives you a little extra. You'll get yours."

Skeeny grunted compliance.

"Welllet's have a look at the white onesthen" he said.

Rhoda Gray was standing upright in the little hallway nowand now

pressed close against the wallshe edged toward the door-jamb.

And a queergrim little smile came and twisted the sensitive lips

as she drew her revolver from her pocket. The mercilesspitiless

way in which the newspapers had flayed the White Moll was notafter

allto be wholly regretted! The coolclever resourcefulnessthe

years of reckless daring attributed to the White Mollwould stand

her in good stead now. Everybody on the East Side knew her by sight.

These men knew her. It was not merely a woman ambitiously attempting

to beard two men whoperhapsholding her sex in contempt in an

adventure of this kindmight throw discretion to the winds and give

scant respect to her revolverfor behind the muzzle of that revolver

was the reputation of the White Moll. They would take her at face

value - as one who not only knew how to use that revolverbut as

one who would not hesitate an instant to do so.

From the room she heard Skeeny whistle low under his breathas

though in sudden and amazed delight - and then she was standing full

in the open doorwayand her revolver in her outflunggloved hand

covered the two men at the table.

There was a startled cry from Skeenya scintillating flash of light

as a magnificent string of diamonds fell from his hand to the table.

But Danglar did not move or speak; only his lips twitchedand a

queer whiteness came and spread itself over his face.

"Put up your hands-both of you!" she orderedin a lowtensevoice.

It was Skeeny who spokeas both men obeyed her. "The White Moll

so help me!" he mumbledand swallowed hard.

Danglar's eyes never seemed to leave her faceand they narrowed

nowfull of hatred and a fury that lie made no attempt to conceal.

She smiled at him coldly. She quite understood! He had already

complained that evening that the White Moll for the last few weeks

had been robbing them of the fruits of their laboriously planned

schemes. And now-again! Wellshe would not dispel his illusion!

He had given the White Moll that role - and it was the safest role

to play.

She stepped forward nowand with her free hand suddenly pulled the

table toward her out of their reach; and thenas she picked up the

necklaceshe appeared for the first time to become aware of the

presence of the huddled form on the floor near the wall. She could

see that the Sparrow was bound and gaggedand as he squirmed now

he turned his face toward her.

"Whyit's the Sparrowisn't it?" she exclaimed sharply; then

evenlyto the two men: "I had no idea you were so hospitable!

Push your chairs closer together - with your feetnot your hands!

You are easier to watch if you are not too far apart."

Dangler complied sullenly. Skeenyover the scraping of his chair

legscursed in a sort of unnerved abandonas he obeyed her.

"Thank you!" said Rhoda Gray pleasantly - and calmly tucked the

necklace into her bodice.

The act seemed to rouse Danglar to the last pitch of fury. The

blood rushed in an angry tide to his faceandsuffusingpurpled

his cheeks.

"This isn't the first crack you've made!" he flung out hoarsely.

"You've been getting wise to a whole lot lately somehowyou and

that dude pal of yoursbut you'll pay for ityou female devil!

Understand? By Godyou'll pay for it! I promise you that you'll

pray yet on your bended knees for the chance to take your own life!

Do you hear?"

"I hear" said Rhoda Gray coldly.

She picked up the jack-knife from the tableand keeping both men

coveredstepped backward to the wall. Herekneelingshe reached

behind her with her left handand felt forand cut the heavy cord

that bound the Sparrow's arms; thenpushing the knife into the

Sparrow's hands that he might free himself from the rest of his

bondsshe stood up again.

A moment moreand the Sparrowrubbing the circulation back into

his wristsstood beside her. There was a look on the youngwhite

face that was not good to see. He circled dry lips with the tip of

his tongue and then his thumb began to feel over the blade of the

big jack-knife in a sort of horribly supercritical appraisal of its

edge. He spoke thickly for the gag that had been in his mouth.

"You dirty skates!" he whispered. "You were going to bump meoff

were you? You planted me colddid you? Ohhell!" His laugh

like the laugh of one insanejanglingdiscordantrang through

the room. "Wellit's my turn nowand" - his body was coiling

itself in a slowcuriousalmost snake-like fashion - "and you'll-"

Rhoda Gray laid her hand on the Sparrow's arm.

"Not that wayMarty" she said quietly. She smiled thinly at

Danglarwhowith genuinely frightened eyes nowseemed fascinated

by the Sparrow's movements. "I wouldn't care to have anything

happen to Mr. Danglar - yet. He has been invaluable to meand I

am sure he will be again."

The Sparrow brushed his hands across his eyesand stared at her.

He licked his lips again. He appeared to be obsessed with the

knife-blade in his hand - dazed in a strange way to all else.

"There's enough cord there for both of them" said Rhoda Gray

crisply. "Tie them in their chairsMarty."

For a moment the Sparrow hesitated; and thenwith a sort of queer

reluctancyhe dropped the knife on the tableand went and picked

up the strands of cord from the floor.

No one spoke. The Sparrowwith twitching lips as he workedand

worked not gentlybound first Danglar and then Skeeny to their

respective chairs. Skeeny for the most part kept his eyes on the

floorcasting only furtive glances at Rhoda Gray's revolver muzzle.

But Danglar was smiling now. He had very white teeth. There was

something of primalinsensate fury in the hard-drawnparted lips.

Somehow he seemed to remind Rhoda Gray of a beaststung to madness

but impotent behind the bars of its cageas it showed its fangs.

"We'll go nowMarty" she said softlyas the Sparrow finished.

She motioned the Sparrow with an imperious little nod of her head

to the door. And thenfollowing the othershe backed to the door

herselfand halted an instant on the threshold.

"It has been a very profitable eveningMr. Danglar" she said

coolly. "I have you to thank for it. When your friends comewhich

I think I heard you say would be in another hour or soI hope you

will not fail to convey to them my -"

"You she-fiend!" Danglar had found his voice again. You'll crawl

for this! Do you understand? and I'll show you inside of

twenty-four hours what you're up againstyou - you -" His voice

broke in its fury. The veins were standing out on the side of his

neck like whipcords. He could just move his forearms a littleand

his hands reached out toward hercurved like claws. "I'll -"

But Rhoda Gray had closed the door behind herandwith the Sparrow

was retreating down the stairs.

 

VII. FELLOW THIEVES

Reaching the courtyardRhoda Gray led the way without a word

through the drivewayand finding the street clearhurried on

rapidly. Her mindstrangely stimulatedwas working in quick

incisive flashes. Her work was not yet done. The Sparrow was safe

as far as his life was concerned; but her possession of even the

necklace would not save the Sparrow from the law. There was the

money that was gone from the safe. She could not recover thatbut

- yesdimlyshe began to see a way. She swerved suddenly from

the sidewalk as she came to an alleyway - which had been her

objective - and drew the Sparrow in with her out of sight of the

street.

The Sparrow gripped at her hand.

"The White Moll!" he whispered brokenly. "God bless the White

Moll! I ain't had a chance to say it before. You saved my life

and I - I -"

In the semi-darkness she leaned forward and laid her fingers gently

over the Sparrow's lips.

"And there's no time to say it nowMarty" she said quickly."You

are not out of this yet."

He swept his hand across his eyes.

"I know it" he said. "I got to get those shiners back upthere

somehowand I got to get that paper they planted on me."

She shook her head.

"Even that wouldn't clear you" she said. "The safe has beenlooted

of moneyas well; and you can't replace that. Even with only the

money gonewho would they first naturally suspect? You are known as

a safe-breaker; you have served a term for it. You asked for a night

off to stay with your mother who is sick. You left Mr. Hayden-Bond's

we'll sayat seven or eight o'clock. It's after midnight now. How

long would it take them to find out that between eight and midnight

you had not only never been near your motherbut could not prove an

alibi of any sort? If you told the truth it would sound absurd. No

one in their sober senses would believe you."

The Sparrow looked at her miserably.

"My God!" he faltered. He wet his lips. "That's true."

"Marty" she said quietly"did you read in the papers that Ihad

been arrested last night for theftcaught with the goods on me

but had escaped?"

The Sparrow hesitated.

"YesI did" he said. And thenearnestly: "But I don'tbelieve

it!"

"It was truethoughMarty - all except that I wasn't a thief"

she said as quietly as before. "What I want to know isin spite

of thatwould you trust me with what is left to be done to-night

if I tell you that I believe I can get you out of this?"

"SureI would!" he said simply. "I don't know how you gotwise

about all thisor how you got to know about that necklacebut

any of our crowd would trust you to the limit. SureI'd trust

you! You bet your life!"

"Thank youMarty" she said. "Wellthenhow do you get intoMr.

Hayden-Bond's house whenfor instanceyou are out late at night?"

"I've got a key to the garage" he answered. "The garage is

attached to the housethough it opens on the side street."

She held Out her hand.

The Sparrow fished in his pocketand extended the key without

hesitation.

"It's for the small doorof course" he explained.

"You haven't got a flashlightI suppose?" she smiled.

"Sure! There's plenty of 'em! Each car's got one with its tools

under the back seat."

She nodded.

"And nowthe library" she said. "What part of the house isit

in? How is it situated?"

"It's on the ground floor at the back" he told her. "Thelittle

short passage from the garage opens on the kitchenthen the pantry

and then there's a little cross hallwayand the dining-room is on

the leftand the library on the right. But ain't I going with you?"

She shook her head again.

"You're going homeMarty - after you've sent me a taxicab. If you

were seen in that neighborhood nowlet alone by any chance seen in

the housenothing could save you. You understand thatdon't you?

Nowlisten! Find a taxiand send it here. Tell the chauffeur to

pick me upand drive me to the corner of the cross streetone block

in the rear of Mr. Hayden-Bond's residence. Don't mention Hayden-Bond's

name. Give the chauffeur simply street directions. Be careful that

he is some one who doesn't know you. Tell him he will be well paid

- and give him this to begin with." She thrust a banknote into the

Sparrow's hand. "You're sure to find one at some all-night cabaret

around here. And rememberwhen you go home afterwardnot a word

to your mother! And not a word to-morrowor ever-to any one!

You've simply done as you told your employer you were going to do

- spent the night at home."

"But you" he burst outand his words choked a little. "I - I

can't let you goand -"

"You said you would trust meMarty" she said. "And if youwant

to help meas welldon't waste another moment. I shall need every

second I have got. Quick! Hurry!"

"But -"

She pushed him toward the street.

"Run!" she said tensely. "HurryMartyhurry!"

She drew back into the shadows. She was alone now. The Sparrow's

racing footsteps died away on the pavement. Her mind reverted to

the plan that she had dimly conceived. It became detailedconcrete

nowas the minutes passed. And then she heard a car coming along

the previously deserted streetand she stepped out on the sidewalk.

It was the taxi.

"You know where to godon't you?" she said to the chauffeuras

the cab drew up at the curband the man leaned out and opened the

door.

"Yes'm" he said.

"Please drive fastthen" she saidas she stepped in.

The taxi shot out from the curband rattled forward at a rapid

pace. Rhoda Gray settled back on the cushions. A half whimsical

half weary little smile touched her lips. It was much easierand

infinitely saferthis mode of travelthan that of her earlier

experience that evening; butearlier that eveningshe had had no

one to go to a cab rank for herand she had not dared to appear

in the open and hail one for herself. The smile vanishedand the

lips becamepursed and grim. Her mind was back on that daring

and perhaps a little dangerousplanthat she meant to put into

execution. Block after block was traversed. It was a long way

uptownbut the chauffeur's initial and generous tip was bearing

fruit. The man was losing no time.

Rhoda Gray calculated that they had been a little under half an

hour in making the tripwhen the taxi finally drew up and stopped

at a cornerand the chauffeuragain leaning outopened the door.

"Wait for me" she instructedand handed the man another tip -and

with a glance about her to get her locationshe hurried around the

cornerand headed up the cross street.

She had only a block now to go to reach the Hayden-Bond mansion on

the corner of Fifth Avenue ahead - less than that to reach the

garagewhich opened on the cross street here. She had little fear

of personal identification now. Here in this residential section

and at this hour of nightit was like a silent and deserted city;

even Fifth Avenuejust aheadfor all its lightswas one of the

loneliest places at this hour in all New York. Truenow and then

a car might race up or down the great thoroughfareor a belated

pedestrian's footsteps ring and echo hollow on the pavementwhere

but a few hours before the traffic-squad struggled valiantlyand

sometimes vainlywith the congestion - but that was all.

She could make out the Hayden-Bond mansion on the corner ahead of

her nowand now she was abreast of the rather ornate and attached

little buildingthat was obviously the garage. She drew the key

from her pocketand glanced around her. There was no one in sight.

She stepped swiftly to the small door that flanked the big double

ones where the cars went in and outopened itclosed it behind

herand locked it.

For a momenther eyes unaccustomed to the darknessshe could see

nothing; and then a cartaking the form of a grotesquelooming

shadowshowed in front of her. She moved toward itfelt her way

into the tonneaulifted up the back seatandgroping around

found a flashlight. She meant to hurry now. She did not mean to

let that nervous dreadthat fearthat was quickening her pulse

nowhave time to get the better of her. She located the door that

led to the houseand in another momentthe short passage behind

hershe was in the kitchenthe flashlight winking cautiously

around her. She paused to listen here. There was not a sound.

She went on again - through a swinging pantry door with extreme

careand into a small hall. "On the right" the Sparrow had said.

Yeshere it was; a door that opened on the rear of the library

evidently. She listened again. There was no sound - save the

silencethat seemed to grow loud nowand palpitateand make great

noises. And nowin spite of herselfher breath was coming in

quickhard little catchesand the flashlight's raythat she sent

around herwavered and was not steady. She bit her lipsas she

switched off the light. Why should she be afraid of thiswhen in

another five minutes she meant to invite attention!

She pushed the door in front of her openfound it hung with a heavy

portiere insidebrushed the portiere asidestepped through into

the roomstood still and motionless to listen once moreand then

the flashlight circled inquisitively about her.

It was the library. Her eyes widened a little. At her leftover

against the wallthe mangled door of a safe stood wide openand

the floor for a radius of yards around was littered with papers and

documents. The flashlight's ray liftedand she followed it with

her eyes as it made the circuit of the walls. Opposite the safe

and quite near the doorway in which she stoodwas a window recess

portiered; diagonally across from her was another door that led

presumablyinto the main hall of the house; the walls were

tapestriedand hung here and there with clusters of ancient

trophiesgreat metal shieldsand swordsand curious armsthat

gave a sort of barbaric splendor to the luxurious furnishings of

the apartment.

She worked quickly now. In a moment she was at the window portieres

anddrawing these asideshe quietly raised the windowand looked

out. The window was on the side of the house away from the cross

streetand she nodded her head reassuringly to herself as she noted

that it gave on a narrow strip of grassit could not be called lawn

that separated the Hayden-Bond mansion from the house next door; that

the window was little more than shoulder-high from the ground; and

that the Avenue was within easy and inviting reach along that little

strip of grass between the two houses.

She left the window openand retraced her steps across the room

going now to the littered mass of papers on the floor near the safe.

She began to search carefully amongst them. She smiled a little

curiously as she came across the plush-lined jeweler's case that

had contained the necklaceand which had evidently been

contemptuously discarded by the Cricket and his confederates; but

it took her longer to find the paper for which she was searching.

And then she came upon it - a grease-smeared advertisement for some

automobile appliancesa well-defined greasy finger-print at one

edge - and thrust the paper into her pocket.

And now suddenly her heartbeat began to quicken again until its

thumping became tumultuous. She was ready now. She looked around

herusing the flashlightand her eyes rested appraisingly on one

of the great clusters of shields and arms that hung low down on the

wall between the window and the door by which she had entered. Yes

that would do. Her lips tightened. It would have been so easy if

there had not been that cash to account for! She could replace

the necklacebut she could not replace the cash - and oneas far

as the Sparrow was concernedwas as bad as the other. But there

was a wayand it was simple enough. She whispered to herself that

it was notafter allvery dangerousthat the cards were all in

her own hands. She had only to pull down those shields with a

clatter to the floorwhich would arouse some one of the household

and as that some one reached the library door and opened itshe

would be disappearing through the windowand the necklaceas

though it had slipped from her pocket or grasp in her wild effort

to escapewould be lying behind her on the floor. They would see

that it was not the Sparrow; and there would be no question as to

where the money was gonesince the money had not been dropped.

There was the intervalof coursethat must elapse between the

accident that knocked the shields from the wall and the time it

would take any of the inmates to reach the libraryan interval

in which a thief might reasonably be expected to have had time

enough to get away without being seen; but the possibility that

she had not fully accomplished her ends when the accident occurred

and that she had stayed to make frantic and desperate efforts to

do so right up to the last momentwould account for that.

She moved now to an electric-light switchand turned on the light.

They must be able to see beyond any question of doubt that the

person escaping through the window was not the Sparrow. What was

she afraid of nowjust at the last! There was an actual physical

discomfort in the furious thumping of that cowardly little heart of

hers. It was the only way. And it was worth it. And it was not

so very dangerous. Peoplearoused out of bedcould not follow

her in their night clothes; and in a matter of but a few minutes

before the police notified by telephone could become a factor in

the affairshe would have run the block down the Avenueand then

the other block down the cross streetthen back to the taxiand

be whirling safely downtown.

Yesshe was ready! She nodded her head sharplyas though in

imperative self-commandand running backher footfalls soundless

on the richheavy rugshe picked up the plush-lined necklace case.

She dropped this againopenon the floorhalfway between the

safe and the window. With the case apparently burst open as it

felland the necklace also on the floorthe stage would be set!

She felt inside her bodicedrew out the necklace - and as she stood

there holding itand as it caught the light and flashed back its

fire and life from a thousand facetsa numbness seemed to come

stealing over herand a horrorand a great fearand a dismay

that robbed her of power of movement until it seemed that she was

rooted to the spotand a lowgasping cry came from her lips. Her

eyeswide with their alarmwere fixed on the window. There was

a man's face therejust above the sill - and now a man's form

swung through the windowand dropped lightly to the floor inside

the room. And she stared in horrified fascinationand could not

move. It was the Adventurer.

"It's Miss Grayisn't it? The White Moll?" he murmured amiably.

"I've been trying to find you all night. What corking luck! You

remember medon't you? Last nightyou know."

She did not answer. His eyes had shifted from her face to the

glittering river of gems in her hand.

"I see" he smiled"that you are ahead of me again. Wellitis

the fortune of warMiss Gray. I do not complain."

She found her voice at last; andquick as a flashas he advanced

a stepshe dropped the necklace into her pocketand her revolver

was in her hand.

"W - what are you doing here?" she whispered.

He shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"I take it that we are both in the same boat" he said pleasantly.

"In the same boat?" she echoed dully. She remembered his

conversation with her a few hours agowhen he had believed he was

talking to Gypsy Nan. And now he stood before her for the second

time a self-confessed thief. In the same boat-fellow-thieves!

A certain cold composure came to her. "You mean you came to steal

this necklace? Wellyou shall not have it! Andfurthermoreyou

have no right to class me with yourself as a thief."

He had a whimsical and very engaging smile. His eyebrows lifted.

"Miss Gray perhaps forgets last night" he suggested.

"NoI do not forget last night" she said slowly"And I donot

forget that I owe you very much for what you did. And that is

one reason why I warn you at once thatas far as the necklace is

concernedit will do you no good to build any hopes on the

supposition that we are fellow-thievesand that I am likely either

to part with itorthrough gratitudeshare it. In spite of

appearances last nightI was not a thief."

"And to-nightMiss Gray - in spite of appearances?" he challenged.

He was regarding her with eyes thatwhile they appraised shrewdly

held a lurking hint of irony in their depths. And somehowsuddenly

self-proclaimed crook though she held him to beshe found herself

seized with an absurdunreasonablebut nevertheless passionate

desire to make good her words.

"Yesand to-nighttoo!" she asserted. "I did not steal this

necklace. I - never mind how - I - I got it. It was planned to

put the theft on an innocent man's shoulders. I was trying to

thwart that plan. Whether you believe me or notI did not come

here to steal the necklace; I came here to return it."

"Quite so! Of course!" acknowledged the Adventurer softly. "I

am afraid I interrupted youthenin the act of returning it.

Might I suggestthereforeMiss Graythat as it's a bit dangerous

to linger around here unnecessarilyyou carry out your intentions

with all possible hasteand get away."

"And you?" she queried evenly.

"Myselfof courseas well." He shrugged his shoulders

philosophically. "Under the circumstancesas a gentleman - will

you let me say I prefer that word to the one I know you are

substituting for it - what else can I do?"

She bit her lips. Was he mocking her? The gray eyes were

inscrutable now.

"Then please do not let me detain you!" she said sharply. "Andin

my turnlet me advise you to go at once. I intend to knock one of

those shields down from the wall before I goin order to arouse the

household. I willhoweverin part payment for last nightallow

you three full minutes from the time you climb out of that window

so that you may have ample time to get away.

He stared at her in frank bewilderment.

"Good Lord!" he gasped. "You - you're jokingMiss Gray."

"NoI am not" she replied coolly. "Far from it! There wasmoney

stolen that I cannot replaceand the theft of the money would be

put upon the same innocent shoulders. I see no other way than the

one I have mentioned. If whoever runs into this room is permitted

to get a glimpse of meand is given the impression that the

necklacewhich I shall leave on the floorwas dropped in my haste

the supposition remains thatat leastI got away with the money.

I am certainly not the innocent man who has been used as the pawn;

and if I am recognized as the White Mollwhat does it matter - after

last night?"

He took a step toward her impetuously - and stopped quite as

impetuously. Her revolver had swung to a level with his head.

"Pardon me!" he said.

"Not at all!" she said caustically.

For the first timeas she watched him warilythe Adventurer

appeared to lose some of his self-assurance. He shifted a little

uneasily on his feetand the corners of his eyes puckered into a

nest of perturbed wrinkles.

"I sayMiss Grayyou can't mean this!" be protested. "You're

not serious!"

"I have told you that I am" she answered steadily. "Thosethree

minutes that I gave you are going fast."

"Then look here!" he exclaimed earnestly. "I'll tell yousomething.

I said I had been trying to find you to-night. It was the truth.

I went to Gypsy Nan's - and might have been spared my pains. I

told her about last nightand that I knew you were in dangerand

that I wanted to help you. I mention this so that you will

understand that I am not just speaking on the spur of the moment

now that I have an opportunity of repeating that offer in person."

She looked at him impassively for a moment. He had neglected to

state that he had also told Gypsy Nan he desired to enter into a

partnership with her - in

crime.

"It is very kind of you" she said sweetly. "I presumethenthat

you have some suggestion to make?"

"Only what any - may I say it? - gentleman would suggest under the

circumstances. It is far too dangerous a thing for a woman to

attempt; it would be much less dangerous for me. I realize that

you are in earnest nowand I will agree to carry out your plan in

every detail once I am satisfied that you are safely away."

"The idea being" she observed monotonously"thatbeingsafely

awayand the necklace being left safely on the flooryou are left

safely in possession of - the necklace. Wellmy answer is - no!"

His face hardened a little.

"I'm sorrythen" he said. "For in that casein so far asyour

project is concernedItoomust say - no!"

It was an impasse. She studied his facethe strong jaw set a

little nowthe lips molded in sterner linesand for all her

outward show of composureshe knew a sick dismay. And for a moment

she neither moved nor spoke. What he would do nextshe did not

know; but she knew quite well that he had not the slightest

intention of leaving her here undisturbed to carry out her plan

unless - unlesssomehowshe could outwit him. She bit her lips

again. And then inspiration came. She turnedand with a sudden

leap gained the walland the next instantholding him back with

her revolver as she reached up with her left handshe caught at

the great metal shield with its encircling cluster of small arms

and wrenched it from its fastenings. It crashed to the floor with

a din infernal thatin the night silencewent racketing through

the house like the reverberations of an explosion.

"My Godwhat have you done!" he cried out hoarsely.

"What I said I'd do!" she answered. She was white-facedfrightened

at her own actfighting to maintain her nerve. "You'll go nowI

imagine!" she flung at him passionately. "You haven't muchtime."

"No!" he said. His composure was instantly at command again."No"

he repeated steadily; "not until after you have gone. I refuse

- positively - to let you run any such risk as that. It is far too

dangerous."

"Yesyou will!" she burst out wildly. "You will! You must!You

shall! I - I -" The house itself seemed suddenly to have awakened.

From above doors opened and closed. Indistinctly there came the

sound of a voice. She clenched her hand in anguished desperation.

"Goyou - you coward!" she whispered frantically.

"Miss Grayfor God's sakedo as I tell you!" he said between his

teeth. "You don't realize the danger. It's not the pursuit. They

are not coming down here unarmed after that racket. I know that

you came in by that door there. Go out that way. I will play the

game for you. I swear it!"

There were footstepsplainly audible nowout in the main hall.

"Quick!" he urged. "Are we both to be caught? See!" Hebacked

suddenly toward the window.

"See! I am too far away now to touch that necklace before they get

here. Throw it downand get behind the portiere of the rear door!"

Mechanically she was retreating. They were almost at the other door

nowthose footsteps outside in the main hall. With a backward

spring she reached the portiere. The door handle across the room

rattled. She glanced at the Adventurer. He was close to the window.

It was truehe could not get the necklace and at the same time hope

to escape. She whipped it from her pockettossed it from her to

the floor near the plush-lined case - and slipped behind the portiere.

The door opposite to her was wrenched violently open. She could

see through the corner of the portiere. There was a sharpexcited

exclamationas a gray-haired manin pajamasevidently Mr.

Hayden-Bond himselfsprang into the room. He was followed by

another man in equal dishabille.

And the Adventurer was leaping for the window.

There was a blinding flashthe roar of a reportas the

millionaire flung up a revolver and fired; it was echoed by the

splatter and tinkle of falling glass. The Adventurer was astride

the window sill nowhis face deliberately and unmistakably in view.

"A foot too highand a bit to the right!" said the Adventurer

debonairly - and the window sill was empty.

Rhoda Gray stole silently through the doorway behind her. She could

hear the millionaire and his companionthe butlerprobablyrush

across the library to the window. As she gained the pantryshe

heard another shot. Tight-lippedusing her flashlightshe ran

through the kitchen. In a moment moreshe was standing at the

garage doorlisteningpeering furtively outside. The street

itself was empty; there were shoutsthoughfrom the direction of

the Avenue. She stepped out on the side streetand walking

composedly that she might not attract attentionthough very impulse

urged her to run with frantic hasteshe reached the corner and the

waiting taxicab. She gave the chauffeur an address that would bring

her to the street in the rear of Gypsy Nan's and within reach of the

lane where she had left her clothesandwith an injunction to

hurrysprang into the cab.

And then for a long time she sat there with her hands tightly

clasped in her lap. Her mindher brainher very soul itself

seemed in chaos and turmoil. There was the Sparrowwho was safe;

and Danglarwho would move heaven and hell to get her now; and

the Adventurerwho - Her mind seemed to grope around in cycles;

it seemed to moil on and on and arrive at nothing. The Adventurer

had played the game - perhaps because he had had to; but he had

not risked that revolver shot in her stead because he had had to.

Who was he? How had he come there? How had he found her there?

How had he known that she had entered by that rear door behind

the portiere? She remembered how that he had offered not a single

explanation.

Almost mechanically she dismissed the taxi when at last it stopped;

and almost mechanicallyas Gypsy Nansome ten minutes latershe

let herself into the garretand lighted the candle. She was

consciousas she hid the White Moll's clothes awaythat she was

thankful she had regained in safety even the questionable sanctuary

of this wretched place; butstrangelythoughts of her own peril

seemed somehow to be temporarily relegated to the background.

She flung herself down on the bed - it was not Gypsy Nan's habit to

undress - and blew out the light. But she could not sleep. And

hour after hour in the darkness she tossed unrestfully. It was very

strange! It was not as it had been last night. It was not the

impotentfrantic rebellion against the horrors of her own situation

nor the fear and terror of itthat obsessed her to-night. It was

the Adventurer who plagued her.

 

VIII. THE CODE MESSAGE

It was strange! Most strange! Three days had passedand to Gypsy

Nan's lodging no one had come. The small crack under the partition

that had been impressed into service as a letter-box had remained

empty. There had been no messages - nothing - only a sinister

brooding isolation. Since the night Rhoda Gray had left Danglar

balkedalmost a madman in his furyin the little room over

Shluker's junk shopDanglar had not been seen - nor the Adventurer

- nor even Rough Rorke. Her only visitant since then had been an

ugly premonition of impending perilwhich came and stalked like a

hideous ghost about the bare and miserable garretand which woke

her at night with its whispering voice - which was the voice of

intuition.

Rhoda Gray drew her shawl closer around her shoulders and shivered

as nowfrom shuffling down the block in the guise of Gypsy Nan

she halted before the street door of what fatefor the momenthad

thrust upon her as a home; and shivered againaswith abhorrence

she pushed the door open and stepped forward into the black

unlighted hallway. Soulmind and body were in revolt to-night.

Even faiththe simple faith in God that she had known since

childhoodwas wavering. There seemed nothing but horror around

hera mental horrora physical horror; and the sole means of even

momentary relief and surcease from it had been a pitiful prowling

around the streetswhere even the fresh air seemed to be denied to

herfor it was tainted with the smells of squalor that ruled

rampantin that neighborhood.

And to-nightstronger than everintuition and premonition of

approaching danger lay heavy upon herand oppressed her with a

sense of nearness. She was not a coward; but she was afraid.

Danglar would leave no stone unturned to get the White Moll. He

had said so. She remembered the threat he had made - it had lived

in her woman's soul ever since that night. Better anything than

to fall into Danglar's hands! She caught her breath a littleand

shivered again as she groped her way up the dark stairs. But

thenshe never would fall into Danglar's power. There was always

an alternative. Yesit was quite as bad as that - death at her

own hands was preferable. Balkedoutwittedthe plans of the

criminal coterieof which Danglar appeared to be the headrendered

again and again abortiveand believing it all due to the White Moll

all of Danglar's shrewdunscrupulous cunning would be centered on

the task of running her down; and ifadded to thishe discovered

that she was masquerading as Gypsy Nanone of their own inner

circleit mean that - She closed her lips in a hardtight line.

She did not want to think of it. She had fought all dayand the

days beforeagainst thinking about itbut premonition had crept

upon her stronger and strongeruntil to-nightnowit seemed as

though her mind could dwell on nothing else.

On the landingshe paused suddenly and listened. The street door

had opened and closedand now a footstep sounded on the stairs

behind her. She went on again along the hallfeeling her way; and

reaching the shortladder-like steps to the garretshe began to

mount them. Who was it there behind her? One of the unknown

lodgers on the lower flooror -? She could not seeof course.

It was pitch black. But she could hear. And as she knelt now on

the narrow landingand felt with her fingers along the floor for

the aperturewhereimitating the custom of Gypsy Nanshe had left

her key when she went outshe heard the footsteps coming steadily

onpassing the doors below herand making toward the garret ladder.

And thenstifling a startled little cryher hand closed on the key

and closedas it had closed on that first night when she had

returned here in the role of Gypsy Nanon a piece of paper wrapped

around the key. The days of isolation were ended with climacteric

effect; the pendulum had swung full the other way - to-night there

was both a visitor and a message!

The paper detached from the key and thrust into her bodiceshe

stood up quickly. A formlooming up even in the darknessshowed

on the garret stairs. "Who's dere?" she croaked.

"It's all right" a voice answered in low tones. "You werejust

ahead of me on the street. I saw you come in. It's Pierre."

Pierre! So that was his name! It was only the voice she recognized.

Pierre - Danglar! She fumbled for the keyholefound itand

inserted the key. "Wellhow's Bertha to-night?"

There seemed to be a strange exhilaration in the man's voice. He

was standing beside her nowclose beside herand now his hand

played with a curiously caressing motion on her shoulder. The touch

seemed to scorch and burn her. Who was this Danglarwho was Pierre

to herand to whom she was Bertha? Her breath came quickly in

spite of herself; there cametooa frenzy of aversionand

impulsively she flung his hand awayand with the door unlocked now

stepped from him into the garret.

"Feeling a bit off coloreh?" he said with a short laughas he

followed herand shut the door behind him. "WellI don't know

as I blame you. Butlook hereold girlhave a heart! It's not

my fault. I know what you're grouching about - it's because I

haven't been around much lately. But you ought to know well enough

that I couldn't help it. Our game has been crimped lately at every

turn by that she-devilthe White Molland that dude pal of hers."

He laughed out again - in savage menace now. "I've been busy.

UnderstandBertha? It was either ourselvesor them. We've got

to go under - or they have. And we won't! I promise you that!

Things'll break a little better before longand I'll make it up to

you."

She could not see him in the blackness of the garret. She breathed

a prayer of gratitude that he could not see her. Her facein spite

of Gipsy Nan's disguising grimemust be whitewhite as death

itself. It seemed to plumb some infamous depth from which her soul

recoiledthis apology of his for his neglect of her. And then her

hands at her sides curled into tight-clenched little fists as she

strove to control herself. His wordsat leastsupplied her with

her cue.

"Of course!" she said tartlybut in perfect English - thevernacular

of Gypsy Nan was not for Danglarfor she remembered only too well

how once before it had nearly tripped her up. "But you didn't come

here to apologize! What is it you want?"

"AhI sayBertha!" he said appeasingly. "Cut that out! Icouldn't

help being awayI tell you. Of courseI didn't come here to

apologize - I thought you'd understand well enough without that.

The gang's out of cashand I came to tap the reserves. Let me have

a package of the long greenBertha."

It was a moment before she spoke. Her woman's instinct prompted

her to let down the bars between them in no single degreethat her

protection lay in playing up to the full what Danglarjumping at

conclusionshad assumed was a grouch at his neglect. Alsoher

mind worked quickly. Her own clothes were no longer in the secret

hiding place here in the garret; they were out there in that old

shed in the lane. It was perfectly safethento let Danglar go

to the hiding place himselfassuming that he knew where it was

- whichalmost of necessityhe must.

"Oh!" she said ungraciously. "Wellyou know where it isdon't

you? Suppose you go and get it yourself!"

"All right!" returned Danglara sullenness creeping into hisvoice.

"Have it your own wayBertha! I haven't got time to-night to coax

you out of your tantrums. That's what you wantbut I haven't got

time - to-night."

She did not answer.

A match crackled in Danglar's hand; the flames spurted up through

the darkness. Danglar made his way over to the rickety washstand

found the candle that was stuck in the neck of the gin bottle

lighted itheld the candle above his headand stared around

the garret.

"Why the devil don't you get another lamp?" he grumbled - and

started toward the rear of the garret.

Rhoda Gray watched him silently. She did not care to explain that

she had not replaced the lamp for the very simple reason that it

gave far too much light here in the garret to be safe - for her!

She watched himwith her hand in the pocket of her greasy skirt

clutched around another legacy of Gypsy Nan - her revolver. And

now she became conscious that from the moment she had entered the

garrether fingershidden in that pockethad sought and clung

to the weapon. The man filled her with detestation and fear; and

somehow she feared him more now in what he was trying to make an

ingratiating moodthan she had feared him in the full flood of

his rage and anger that other night at Shluker's place.

She drew back a little toward the cot bed against the walldrew

back to give him free passage to the door when he should return

againher eyes still holding on the far end of the garretwhere

with the slope of the roofthe ceiling was no more than shoulder

high. There seemed something horribly weird and grotesque in the

scene before her. He had pushed the narrow trap-door in the ceiling

upwardand had thrust candle and head through the openingand the

faint yellow lightseeping back and downward in flickering

uncertain rayssuggested the impression of a gruesomeheadless

figure standing there hazily outlined in the surrounding murk. It

chilled her; she clutched at her shawldrew it more closely about

herand edged still nearer to the wall.

And then Danglar closed the trap-door againand came back with the

candle in one handand one of the bulky packages of banknotes from

the hiding place in the other. He set the candle down on the

washstandand began to distribute the money through his various

pockets.

He was smiling with curious complacency.

"It was your job to play the spider to the White Moll if she ever

showed up again here in your parlor" he said. "Maybe somebody

tipped her off to keep awaymaybe she was too wily; butanyway

since you have not sent out any wordit is evident that our little

plans along that line didn't worksince she has failed to come back

to pay a call of gratitude to you. I don't suppose there's anything

to add to thatehBertha? No report to make?"

"No" said Rhoda Gray shortly. "I haven't any report tomake."

"Wellno matter!" said Danglar. He laughed out shortly."There

are other ways! She's had her fling at our expense; it's her turn

to pay now." He laughed again - and in the laugh now there was

something both brutal in its menaceand sinister in its suggestion

of gloating triumph.

"What do you mean?" demanded Rhoda Gray quickly. "What are you

going to do?"

"Get her!" said Danglar. The man's passion flamed up suddenly; he

spoke through his closed teeth. "Get her! I made her a little

promise. I'm going to keep it! Understand?"

"You've been saying that for quite a long time" retorted Rhoda

Gray coolly. "But the 'getting' has been all the other way so far.

How are you going to get her?"

Danglar's little black eyes narrowedand he thrust his head forward

and out from his shoulders savagely. In the flickering candle

lightwith contorted face and snarling lipshe looked again the

beast to which she had once likened him.

"Never mind how I'm going to get her!" he flung outwith an oath.

"I told you I'd been busy. That's enough! You'll see

Rhoda Grayin the semi-darknessshrugged her shoulders. Was the

manprompted by rage and furysimply making wild threatsor had

he at last some definite and perhaps infallible plan that he

purposed putting into operation? She did not know; andmuch as it

meant to hershe did not dare take the risk of arousing suspicion

by pressing the question. Failingthento obtain any intimation

of what he meant to dothe next thing most to be desired was to

get rid of him.

"You've got the money. That's what you came forwasn't it?" she

suggested coldly.

He stared at her for a momentand then his face gradually lost its

scowl.

"You're a rare oneBertha!" he exclaimed admiringly. "Yes;I've

got the money - and I'm going. In factI'm in a hurryso don't

worry! You got the dopelike everybody elsefor to-nightdidn't

you? It was sent out two hours ago."

The dope! It puzzled her for the fraction of a second - and then

she remembered the paper she had thrust into the bodice of her

dress. She had not read it. She lunged a little in the dark.

"Yes" she said curtly.

"All right!" he said-and moved toward the door. "That explainswhy

I'm in a hurry - and why I can't stop to oil that grouch out of you.

But I'll keep my promise to youtooold girl. I'll make up the

last few days to you. Have a heartehBertha! 'Night!"

She did not answer him. It seemed as though an unutterable dread

had suddenly been lifted from heras he passed out of the door

and began to descend the steps to the hall below. Her "grouch"

he had called it. Wellit had served its purpose! It was just

as well that he should think so! She followed to the doorand

deliberately slammed it with a bang. And from belowhis laugh

more an amused chuckleechoed back and answered her.

And thenfor a long time she stood there by the doora little

weak with the revulsion of relief upon herher hands pressed hard

against her templesstaring unseeingly about the garret. He was

gone. He filled her with terror. Every instinct she possessed

every fiber of her being revolted against him. He was gone. Yes

he was gone - for the time being. But - but what was the end of

all this to be?"

She shook her head after a momentshook it helplessly and wearily

asfinallyshe walked over to the washstandtook the piece of

paper from the bodice of her dressand spread it out under the

candle light. A glance showed her that it was in cipher. There

was the stub of a pencilshe rememberedin the washstand drawer

andarmed with thisand a piece of wrapping paper that had once

enveloped one of Gypsy Nan's gin bottlesshe took up the candle

crossed the garretand sat down on the edge of the cotplacing

the candle on the chair in front of her.

If the last three days had been productive of nothing elsethey

had at least furnished her with the opportunity of studying the

notebook she had found in the secret hiding placeand of making

herself conversant with the gang's cipher; and she now set to

work upon it. It was a numerical cipher. Each letter of the

alphabet in regular rotation was represented by its corresponding

numeral; a zero was employed to set off one letter from another

and the addition of the numerals between the zeros indicated the

number of the letter involved. Alsothere being but twenty-six

letters in the alphabetit was obvious that the addition of three

nineswhich was twenty-sevencould not represent any letterand

the combination of 999 was therefore used to precede any of the

arbitrary groups of numerals which were employed to express phrases

and sentencessuch as the 739 that she had found scrawled on the

piece of paper around her key on the first night she had come here

and whichhad it been embodied in a message and not preceded by

the 999would have meant simply the addition of seventhree and

ninethat isnineteen - and therefore would indicate the

nineteenth letter of the alphabetS.

Rhoda Gray copied the first line of the message on the piece of

wrapping paper:

321010333203202306663103330111102210444202101112052110761

 

Adding the numerals between the zerosand giving to each its

corresponding lettershe set down the result:

6010110505022090405014030509014

f a k e e v i d e n c e i n

It was then but a matter of grouping the letters into words; and

decodedthe first line read:

Fake evidence in......

She worked steadily on. It was a lengthy messageand it took her

a long time. It was an hourperhaps moreafter Danglar had gone

before she had completed her task; and thenafter thatshe sat

for still a long time staringnot at the paper on the chair before

herbut at the flickering shadows thrown by the candle on the

opposite wall.

Queer and strange were the undercurrents and the cross-sections of

life that were to be foundamazingly contradictoryamazingly

incomprehensibleonce one scratched beneath the surface of the

poverty and the squalorandyesthe crimeamongst the hiving

thousands of New York's East Side! In the days - not so very long

ago - whenas the White Mollshe had worked amongst these classes

she had on one occasionwhen he was sickeven kept old Viner in

food. She had notat the timefailed to realize that the man

was graspingrapaciouseven unthankfulbut she had little dreamed

that he was a miser worth fifty thousand dollars!

Her mind swerved off suddenly at a tangent. The tentacles of this

crime octopusof which Danglar seemed to be the headreached far

and into most curious places to fasten and hold and feed on the

progeny of human foibles! She could not help wondering where the

lair was from which emanated the efficiency and system thatas

witness this code message to-nightkept its membersperhaps widely

scatteredfully informed of its every movement.

She shook her head. That was something she had not yet learned;

but it was something she must learn if ever she hoped to obtain the

evidence that would clear her of the crime that circumstances had

fastened upon her. And yet she had made no move in that direction

because - wellbecauseso farit had seemed all she could do to

protect and safeguard herself in her present miserable existence

and surroundingswhichabhorrent as they werealone stood between

her and a prison cell.

Her forehead gathered into little furrows; andreverting to the

code messageher thoughts harked back to a well-known crimethe

authorship of which still remained a mysteryand which had stirred

the East Side some two years ago. A man - in the vernacular of the

underworld a "stage hand" - by the name of Kronercredited with

having a large amount of cashthe proceeds of some nefarious

transactionin his possession on the night in questionwas found

murdered in his room in an old and tumble-down tenement of unsavory

reputation. The police net had gathered in some of the co-tenants

on suspicion; Nicky Vinerreferred to in the code messageamongst

them. But nothing had come of the investigation. There had been

no charge of collusion between the suspects; but Perlmera shyster

lawyerhad acted for them all collectivelyandone and allthey

had been discharged. In what degree Perlmer's services had been of

actual value had never been ascertainedfor the policethrough

lack of evidencehad been obliged to drop the case; but the

underworld had whispered to itself. There was such a thing as

suppressing evidenceand Perlmer was known to have the cunning of

a foxand a code of morals that never stood in the wayor

restricted him in any manner.

The code message threw a new light on all this. Perlmer must have

known that old Nicky Viner had moneyforaccording to the code

messagePerlmer prepared a fake set of affidavits and forged a

chain of fake evidence with which he had blackmailed Nicky Viner

ever since; and Nicky Vinerknown as a dissoluteshady character

innocent enough of the crimebut afraid because his possession of

money if made public would tell against himand frightened because

he had already been arrested once on suspicion for that very crime

had whimpered - and paid. And thensomehowDanglar and the gang

had discovered that the oldseedystoop-shoulderedbearded

down-at-the-heels Nicky Viner was not all that he seemed; that he

was a miserand had a hoard of fifty thousand dollars - and Danglar

and the gang had set out to find that hoard and appropriate it.

Only they had not succeeded. But in their search they had stumbled

upon Perlmer's trailand that was the key to the plan they had

afoot to-night. If Perlmer's fake and manufactured affidavits were

clever enough and convincing enough to wring money out of Viner for

Perlmerthey were more than enough to enable Danglaremployed as

Danglar would employ themto wring from Nicky Viner the secret of

where the old miser hid his wealth; for Viner would understand that

Danglar was not hampered by having to safeguard himself on account

of having been originally connected with the case in a legal

capacityor any capacityand therefore in demanding all or nothing

would have no cause for hesitationfailing to get what he wanted

in turning the evidence over to the police. In other wordswhere

Perlmer had to play his man cautiously and get what he could

Danglar could go the limit and get all. As it stoodthenDanglar

and the gang had not found out the location of that hoard; but they

had found out where Perlmer kept his spurious papers - stuffed in

at the back of the bottom drawer of his desk in his office

practically forgottenpractically useless to Perlmer any morefor

having once shown them to Vinerthere was no occasion to call them

into service again unless Viner showed signs of getting a little

out of hand and it became necessary to apply the screws once more.

For the restit was a very simple matter. Perlmer had an office

in a small building on lower Sixth Avenueand it was his custom

to go to his office in the evenings and remain there until ten

o'clock or so. The plan thenaccording to the code messagewas

to loot Perlmer's desk some time after the man had gone home for

the nightand thenat midnightarmed with the false documents

to beard old Nicky Viner in his miserable quarters over on the East

Sideand extort from the old miser the neat little sum that Danglar

estimated would amount to some fifty thousand dollars in cash.

Rhoda Gray's face was troubled and serious. She found herself

wishing for a moment that she had never decoded the message. But

she shook her head in sharp self-protest the next instant. True

she would have evaded the responsibility that the criminal knowledge

now in her possession had brought her; but she would have done so

in that casedeliberately at the expense of her own self-respect.

It would not have excused her in her own soul to have sat staring

at a cipher message that she was satisfied was some criminal plot

and have refused to decode it simply because she was afraid a sense

of duty would involve her in an effort to frustrate it. To have

sat idly by under those circumstances would have been as

reprehensible - and even more cowardly - than it would be to sit

idly by now that she knew what was to take place. And on that

latter score to-night there was no argument with herself. She

found herself accepting the fact that she would actand act

promptlyas the only natural corollary to the fact that she was

in a position to do so. Perhaps it was that way to-nightnot only

because she had on a previous occasion already fought this principle

of duty out with herselfbut because to-nightunlike that other

nightthe way and the means seemed to present no insurmountable

difficultiesand because she was now far better preparedand free

from all the perplexingthough enormously vitallittle details

that had on the former occasion reared themselves up in mountainous

aspect before her. The purchase of a heavy veilfor instancethe

day after the Hayden-Bond affairwould enable her now to move about

the city in the clothes of the White Moll practically at will and

without fear of detection. Andfurtherthe facilities for making

that changethe change from Gypsy Nan to the White Mollwere now

already at hand - in the little old shed down the lane.

And as far as any actual danger that she might incur to-night was

concernedit was not great. She was not interested in the fifty

thousand dollars in an intrinsic sense; she was interested only in

seeing that old Nicky Vinerunappealingyesand almost repulsive

both in personality and habits as the man waswas not blackmailed

out of it; that Danglaryesand hereafterPerlmer tooshould

not prey like vultures on the manand rob him of what was

rightfully his. Ifthereforeshe secured those papers from

Perlmer's deskit automatically put an end to Danglar's scheme

to-night; and iflatershe saw to it that those papers came into

Viner's possessionthattooautomatically ended Perlmer's

persecutions. Indeedthere seemed little likelihood of any danger

or risk at all. It could not be quite ten o clock yet; and it was

not likely that whoever was delegated by Danglar to rob Perlmer's

office would go there much before eleven anywaysince they would

naturally allow for the possibility that Perlmer might stay later

in his office than usuala contingency that doubtless accounted

for midnight being set as the hour at which they proposed to lay

old Nicky Viner by the heels. Thereforeit seemed almost a

certainty that she would reach therenot only firstbut with

ample time at her disposal to secure the papers and get away again

without interruption. She might evenperhapsreach the office

before Perlmer himself had left - it was still quite early enough

for that - but in that case she need only remain on watch until

the lawyer had locked up and gone away. Nor need even the fact

that the office would be locked dismay her. In the secret

hiding-place here in the garretamong those many other evidences

of criminal activitywas the collection of skeleton keysand - she

was moving swiftly around the attic nowphysically as active as her

thoughts.

It was not like that other night. There were few preparations to

make. She had only to secure the keys and a flashlightand to

take with her the damp cloth that would remove the grime streaks

from her faceand the box of composition that would enable her to

replace them when she came back - and five minutes later she was

on the streetmaking her way toward the laneandspecifically

toward the deserted shed where she had hidden away her own clothing.

 

IX. ROOM NUMBER ELEVEN

Another five minutesand in her own personality nowa slimtrim

figureneatly glovedthe heavy veil affording ample protection to

her featuresRhoda Gray emerged from the shed and the laneand

started rapidly toward lower Sixth Avenue. And as she walkedher

mindreleased for the moment from the consideration of her

immediate venturebegan againas it had so many times in the last

three daysits striving and its searching after some loophole of

escape from her own desperate situation. But onlyas it ever did

confusion came - a chaos of thingscontributory things and

circumstancesand the personalities of those with whom this

impossible existence had thrown her into contact. Little by little

she was becoming acquainted with the personnel of the gang - in an

impersonal waymostly. Apart from Danglarthere was Shlukerwho

must of necessity be one of them; and Skeenythe man who had been

with Danglar in Shluker's room; and the Cricketwhom she had never

seen; and besides thesethere were those who were mentioned in the

cipher message to-nightand detailed to the performance of the

various acts and scenes that were to lead up to the final climax

- whichshe supposedwas the object and reason for the cipher

messagein order that even those not actually employed might be

thoroughly conversant with the entire planand ready to act

intelligently if called upon. For there were othersof courseas

witness herselforratherGypsy Nanwhose personality she had

so unwillingly usurped.

It was vitalnecessarythat she should know them alland more

than in that impersonal wayif she counted upon ever freeing

herself of the guilt attributed to her. For she could see no other

way but one - that of exposing and proving the guilt of this vile

clique who now surrounded herand who had actually instigated and

planned the crime of which she was accused. And it was not an easy

task!

And then there were those outside this unholy circle who kept

forcing their existence upon her consciousnessbecause theytoo

played an intimate part in the sordid drama which revolved around

herand whose end she could not foresee. There wasfor instance

- the Adventurer. She drew in her breath quickly. She felt the

color creep slowly upwardand tinge her throat and cheeks - and

then the little chinstrong and firmwas lifted in a sort of

self-defiant challenge. Truethe man had been a great deal in

her thoughtsbut that was only because her curiosity was piqued

and because on two occasions now she had had very real cause for

gratitude to him. If it had not been for the Adventurershe

would even now be behind prison bars. Why shouldn't she think of

him? She was not an ingrate! Why shouldn't she be interested?

There was something piquantly mysterious about the man - who called

himself an adventurer. She would even have given a good deal to

know who he really wasand how hetoocame to be so conversant

with Danglar's plans as fast as they were maturedand whyon

those two particular occasionshe had not only gone out of his

way to be of service to herbut had done so at very grave risk to

himself. Of courseshe was interested in him - in that way. How

could she help it? But in any other way - the little chin was

still tilted defiantly upward - even the suggestion was absurd.

The man might be chivalrouscourageousyesoutwardlyeven a

gentleman in both manner and appearance; he might be all those

thingsandindeedwas - but he was a thiefa professional

thief and crook. It seemed very strangeof course; but she was

judging himnot alone from the circumstances under which they had

met and been togetherbut from what he had given her to understand

about himself.

The defiance went suddenly from her face; andfor a momenther

lips quivered a little helplessly. It was all so very strangeand

so forbiddingand - andperhaps she hadn't the stout heart that

a man would have - but she did not understandand she could not

see her way through the darkness that was like a pall wrapped about

her - and it was hard just to grope out amidst surroundings that

revolted her and made her soul sick. It was hard to do this and

- and still keep her courage and her faith.

She shook her head presently as she went alongshook it

reprovingly at herselfand the little shoulders squared resolutely

back. There must beand there would bea way out of it alland

meanwhile her positionbad as it waswas not withoutat least

a certain compensation. There had been the Sparrow the other night

whom she had been able to saveand to-night there was Nicky Viner.

She could not be blind to that. Who knew! It might be for just

such very purposes that her life had been turned into these new

channels!

She looked around her sharply now. She had reached the lower

section of Sixth Avenue. Perlmer's officeaccording to the address

givenwas still a little farther on. She walked briskly. It was

very different to-nightthanks to her veil! It had been horrible

that other nightwhen she had ventured out as the White Moll and

had been forced to keep to the dark alleyways and lanesand the

unfrequented streets!

And nowthrough a jeweler's windowshe noted the timeand knew

a further sense of relief. It was even earlier than she had

imagined. It was not quite ten o'clock; she wouldat leastbe

close on the heels of Perlmer's departure from his officeif not

actually ahead of timeand therefore she would be first on the

sceneand - yesthis was the place; here was Perlmer's name

amongst those on the name-plate at the street entrance of a small

three-story building.

She entered the hallwayand found it deserted. It was a rather

dirty and unkempt placeand very poorly lighted - a single

incandescent alone burned in the hall. Perlmer's roomso the

name-plate indicatedwas Number Elevenand on the next floor.

She mounted the stairsand paused on the landing to look around

her again. Heretoothe hallway was lighted by but a single

lamp; and heretooan air of desertion was in evidence. The

office tenantsit was fairly obviouswere not habitual night

workersfor not a ray of light came from any of the glass-paneled

doors that flanked both sides of the passage. She nodded her head

sharply in satisfaction. It was equally obvious that Perlmer had

already gone. It would take her but a momentthenunless the

skeleton keys gave her trouble. She had never used a key of that

sortbut - She moved quietly down the hallwayandlooking quickly

about her to assure herself again that she was not observedstopped

before the door of Room Number Eleven.

A moment she hung therelistening; then she slipped the skeleton

keys from her pocketandin the act of inserting one of them

tentatively into the keyholeshe tried the door - and with a little

gasp of surprise returned the keys hurriedly to her pocket. The

door was unlocked; it had even opened an inch already under her hand.

Again she looked around hera little startled now; and instinctively

her hand in her pocket exchanged the keys for her revolver. But she

saw nothingheard nothing; and it was certainly dark inside there

and therefore only logical to conclude that the room was unoccupied.

Reassuredshe pushed the door cautiously and noiselessly openand

stepped insideand closed the door behind her. She stood still for

an instantand then the roundwhite ray of her flashlight went

dancing inquisitively around the office. It was a medium-sized room

far from ornate in its appointmentsbare flooredthe furniture of

the cheapest - Perlmer's clientele did not insist on oriental rugs

and mahogany!

Her appraisal of the roomhoweverwas but cursory. She was

interested only in the flat-topped desk in front of her. She

stepped quickly around it - and stopped-and a low cry of dismay came

from her as she stared at the floor. The lower drawer had been

completely removedand now lay upturned beside the swivel chair

its contents strewn around in all directions.

And for a moment she stared at the scenenonpluseddiscomfited.

She had been so sure that she would be first - and she had not been

first. There was no need to search amongst those papers on the

floor. They told their own story. The ones she wanted were already

gone.

In a numbed waymechanicallyshe retreated to the door; andwith

the flashlight playing upon itshe noticed for the first time that

the lock had been roughly forced. It was but corroborative of the

despoiled drawer; andat the same timethe obvious reason why the

door had not been relocked when whoever had come here had gone out

again.

Whoever had come here! She could have laughed out hysterically.

Was there any doubt as to who it was? One of Danglar's emissaries;

the Cricketperhaps-or perhaps even Danglar himself! They had

seen to it that lack of prompt actionat leastwould not be the

cause of marring their plans.

A little dazedoverwroughtconfused at the ground being cut from

under her where she had been so confident of a sure footingshe

made her way out of the buildingand to the street - and for a

block walked almost aimlessly along. And then suddenly she turned

hurriedly into a cross streetand headed over toward the East Side.

The experience had not been a pleasant oneand it had upset most

thoroughly all her calculations; but it was very farafter all

from being disastrous. It meant simply that she must now find

Nicky Viner himself and warn the manand there was ample time in

which to do that. The code message specifically stated midnight

as the hour at which they proposed to favor old Viner with their

unhallowed attentionsand as it was but a little after ten now

she had nearly a full two hours in which to accomplish what should

not take her more than a few minutes.

Rhoda Gray's lips tightened a littleas she hurried along. Old

Nicky Viner still lived in the same disreputable tenement in which

he had lived on the night of that murder two years agoand she

could not ward off the thought that it had been - yesand was - an

ideal place for a murderfrom the murderer's standpoint! The

neighborhood was one of the toughest in New Yorkand the tenement

itself was frankly nothing more than a den of crooks. Trueshe

had visited there more than oncehad visited Nicky Viner there;

but she had gone there then as the White Mollto whom even the

most abandoned would have touched his cap. To-night it was very

different - she went there as a woman. And yetafter all - she

amended her own thoughtssmiling a little seriously - surely she

could disclose herself as the White Moll there again to-night if

the actual necessity arosefor surely crookspokegetters

shillabers and lags though they wereand though the place teemed

with the dregs of the underworldno one of themeven for the

reward that might be offeredwould inform against her to the police!

And yet - again the mental pendulum swung the other way - she was

not so confident of that as she would like to be. In a general way

there could be no question but that she could count on the loyalty

of those who lived there; but there were always those upon whom one

could never countthose who were dead to all sense of loyaltyand

alive only to selfish gain and interest - a human trait thatall

too unfortunatelywas not confined to those alone who lived in that

shadowland outside the law. Her facebeneath the thick veil

relaxed a little. Wellshe certainly did not intend to make a test

case of it and disclose herself there as the White Mollif she

could help it! She would enter the tenement unnoticed if she could

and make her way to Nicky Viner's two miserable rooms on the second

floor as secretively as she could. Andknowing the place as she

didshe was quite satisfied thatif she were careful enough and

cautious enoughshe could both enter and leave without being

seen by any one exceptof courseNicky Viner.

She walked on quickly. Five minutesten minutes passed; and now

in a narrow streetlighted mostly by the dullyellow glow that

seeped up from the sidewalk through basement entrancesqueer and

forbidding portals to sinister interiorsor filtered through the

dirty windows of uninviting little shops that ran the gamut from

Chinese laundries to oyster densshe halteddrawn back in the

shadows of a doorwayand studied a tenement building that was

just ahead of her. That was where old Nicky Viner lived. A smile

of grim whimsicality touched her lips. Not a light showed in the

place from top to bottom. From its exterior it might have been

uninhabitedeven long deserted. But to one who knewit was quite

the normal conditionquite what one would expect. Those who lived

there confined their activities mostly to the night; and their

exodus to their labors began when the labors of the world at large

ended - with the fall of darkness.

For a little while she watched the placeand kept glancing up and

down the street; and thenseizing her opportunity when for half a

block or more the street was free of pedestriansshe stole forward

and reached the tenement door. It was half openand she slipped

quickly inside into the hall.

She stood here for a moment motionless; listeningstriving to

accommodate her eyes to the darknessand instinctively her hand

went to her pocket for the reassuring touch of her revolver. It

was black back there in the hallway of Gypsy Nan's lodging; she had

not thought that any greater degree of blackness could exist; but

it was blacker here. Only the sense of touch promised to be of any

avail. If one could have moved as noiselessly as a shadow moves

one could have passed another within arm's-length unseen. And so

she listenedlistened intently. And there was very little sound.

Once she detected a footstep from the interior of some room as it

moved across a bare floor; once she heard a door creak somewhere

upstairs; and oncefrom some indeterminate directionshe thought

she heard voices whispering together for a moment.

She moved suddenly thenabruptlyalmost impulsivelybut careful

not to make the slightest noise. She dared not remain another

instant inactive. It was what she had expectedwhat she had

counted upon as an allythis darknessbut she was not one who

laughedeven in daylightat its psychology. It was beginning

to attack her now; her imagination to magnify even the actual

dangers that she knew to be around her. And she must fight it off

before it got a hold upon herand before panic voices out of the

blackness began to shriek and clamor in her earsas she knew they

would do with pitifully little provocationurging her to turn and

flee incontinently.

The staircaseshe rememberedwas at her right; and feeling out

before her with her handsshe reached the stairsand began to

mount them. She went slowlyvery slowly. They were barethe

stairsand unless one were extremely careful they would creak out

through the silence with a noise that could be heard from top to

bottom of the tenement. But she was not making any noise; she

dared not make any noise.

Halfway up she halted and pressed her body close against the wall.

Was that somebody coming? She held her breath in expectation.

There wasn't a sound nowbut she could have sworn she had heard

a footstep on the hallway aboveor on the upper stairs. She bit

her lips in vexation. Panic noises! That's what they were! That

and the thumping of her heart! Why was it that alarms and

exaggerated fancies came and tried to unnerve her? Whatafter all

was there really to be afraid of? She had almost a clear two hours

before she need even anticipate any actual danger hereandif

Nicky Viner were inshe would be away from the tenement again in

another fifteen minutes at the latest.

Rhoda Gray went on againand gaining the landinghalted once more.

And here she smiled at herself with the tolerant chiding she would

have accorded a child that was frightened without warrant. She

could account for those whisperings and that footstep now. The door

to the leftthe one next to Nicky Viner's squalidtwo-room

apartmentwas evidently partially openand occasionally some one

moved within; and the voices came from there tooandlow-toned to

begin withwere naturally muffled into whispers by the time they

reached her.

She had onlythento step the five or six feet across the narrow

hall in order to reach Nicky Viner's doorand unless by some

unfortunate chance whoever was in that room happened to come out

into the hall at the same momentshe would - Yesit was all right!

She was trying Nicky Viner's door now. It was unlockedand as she

opened it for the space of a crackthere showed a tiny chink of

lightso faint and meager that it seemed to shrink timorously back

again as though put to rout by the massed blackness - but it was

enough to evidence the fact that Nicky Viner was at home. It was

all simple enough now. Old Viner would undoubtedly make some

exclamation at her sudden and stealthy entrancebut once she was

inside without those in the next room either having heard or seen

herit would not matter.

Another inch she pushed the door openanother - and then another.

And then quicklysilentlyshe tip-toed over the threshold and

closed the door softly behind her. The light came from the inner

room and shone through the connecting doorwhich was openand

there was movement from withinand a lowgrowling voicepetulant

whiningas though an old man were mumbling complainingly to himself.

She smiled coldly. It was very like Nicky Viner - it was a habit

of his to talk to himselfshe remembered. Andalsoshe had never

heard Nicky Viner do anything else but grumble and complain.

But she could not see fully into the other roomonly into a corner

of itfor the two doors were located diagonally across from one

anotherand her handin a startled waywent suddenly to her lips

as though mechanically to help choke back and stifle the almost

overpowering impulse to cry out that arose within her. Nicky Viner

was not alone in there! A figure had come into her line of vision

in that other roomnot Nicky Vinernot any of the gang - and she

stared now in incredulous amazementscarcely able to believe her

eyes. And thensuddenly cool and self-possessed againrelieved

in a curious way because the element of personal danger was as a

consequence eliminatedshe began to understand why she had been

forestalled in her efforts at Perlmer's office when she had been so

sure that she would be first upon the scene. It was not Danglar

or the Cricketor Skeenyor any of the band who had forestalled

her - it was the Adventurer. That was the Adventurer standing in

there nowside face to herin Nicky Viner's inner room!

 

X. ON THE BRINK

Rhoda Gray moved quietlyinch by inchalong the side of the wall

to gain a point of vantage more nearly opposite the lighted doorway.

And then she stopped again. She could see quite clearly now - that

isthere was nothing now to obstruct her view; but the light was

miserable and poorand the single gas-jet that wheezed and flickered

did little more than disperse the shadows from its immediate

neighborhood in that inner room. But she could see enough - she

could see the bent and ill-clad figure of Nicky Vineras she

remembered himan oldgray-bearded manwringing his hands in

groveling miserywhile the mumbling voicenow whining and pleading

now servilenow plucking up courage to indulge in abusekept on

without evenit seemeda pause for breath. And she could see the

Adventurerquite unmovedquite debonaira curiously patient smile

on his facestanding theremuch nearer to herhis right hand in

the side pocket of his coata somewhat significant habit of his

his left hand holding a sheaf of foldedlegal-looking documents.

And then she heard the Adventurer speak.

"What a flow of words!" said the Adventurerin a bored voice.

"You will forgive memy dear Mr. Vinerif I appear to be facetious

which I am not - but money talks."

"You are a thiefa robber!" The old gray-bearded figure rocked on

its feet and kept wringing its hands. "Get out of here! Get out!

Do you hear? Get out! You come to steal from a poor old manand -"

"Must we go all over that again?" interrupted the Adventurerwearily.

"I have not come to steal anything; I have simply come to sell you

these paperswhich I am quite sureonce you control yourself and

give the matter a little calm considerationyou are really most

anxious to buy - at any price.

"It's a lie!" the other croaked hoarsely. "Those papers are alie!

I am innocent. And I haven't got any money. None! I haven't any.

I am poor - an old man - and poor."

Rhoda Gray felt the blood flush hotly to her cheeks. Somehow she

could feel no sympathy for that cringing figure in there; but she

felt a hot resentment toward that dapperimmaculately dressed and

self-possessed young manwho stood theresilently nowtapping the

papers with provoking coolness against the edge of the plain deal

table in front of him. And somehow the resentment seemed to take a

most peculiar phase. She resented the fact that she should feel

resentmentno matter what the man did or said. It was as though

instead of angerimpersonal angerat this lowmiserable act of

hisshe felt ashamed of him. Her hand clenched fiercely as she

crouched there against the wall. It wasn't true! She felt nothing

of the sort! Why should she be ashamed of him? What was he to her?

He was frankly a thiefwasn't he? And he was at his pitiful

calling now - down to the lowest dregs of it. What else did she

expect? Because he had the appearance of a gentlemanwas it that

her sense of gratitude for what she owed him had made herdeep

down in her soulactually cherish the belief that he really was

one - made her hope itand nourish that hope into belief? Tighter

her hand clenched. Her lips partedand her breath came in short

hard inhalations. Was it true? Was it all only an added misery

where it had seemed there could be none to add to her life in these

last few days? Was it true that there was no price she would not

have paid to have found him in any role but this abased one that

he was playing now?

The Adventurer broke the silence.

"Quite somy dear Mr. Viner!" he agreed smoothly. "It wouldappear

thenfrom what you say that I have been mistaken - even stupidly so

I am afraid. And in that caseI can only apologize for my intrusion

andas you so delicately put itget out." He slipped the papers

with a philosophic shrug of his shouldersinto his inside coat

pocketand took a backward step toward the door. "I bid you

good-nightthenMr. Viner. The papersas you stateare doubtless

of no value to youso you canof coursehave no objection to my

handing them over to the policewho -"

"Nono! Wait! Wait!" the other whispered wildly. "Wait!"

"Ah!" murmured the Adventurer.

"I - I'll" - the bent old figure was clawing at his beard -"I'll -"

"Buy them?" suggested the Adventurer pleasantly.

"YesI'll - I'll buy them. I - I've got a little moneyonly a

littleall I've been able to save in yearsa - a hundred dollars.

"How much did you say?" inquired the Adventurer coldly.

"Two hundred." The voice was a maudlin whine.

The Adventurer took another backward step toward the door.

"Three hundred!"

Another step.

"Five - a thousand!"

The Adventurer laughed suddenly.

"That's better!" he said. "Where you keep a thousandyou keepthe

rest. Where is the thousandMr. Viner?"

The bent figure hesitated a moment; and thenwith what sounded like

a despairing crypointed to the table.

"It's there" he whimpered. "God's curses on youfor thethief

you are."

Rhoda Gray found her eyes fixed in suddenstrained fascination on

the table - asshe imaginedthe Adventurer's were too. It was

bare of any coveringnor were there any articles on its surface

noras far as she could seewas there any drawer. And now the

Adventurerhis right hand still in his coat pocketand bulging

there where she knew quite well it grasped his revolverstepped

abruptly to the tablefacing the other with the table between them.

The bent old figure still hesitatedand thenwith the despairing

cry againgrasped at the top of the tableand jerked it toward

him. The surface seemed to slide sideways a little waya matter

of two or three inchesand then stick there; but the Adventurer

in an instanthad thrust the fingers of his left hand into the

crevice. He drew out a number of loose banknotesand thrust

his fingers in again for a further supply.

"Open it wider!" he commanded curtly.

"I - I'm trying to" the other mumbledand bent down to peer under

the table. "It's stuck. The catch is underneathand -"

It seemed to Rhoda Graygazing into that dimly lighted roomas

though she were suddenly held spellbound as in some horrible and

amazing trance. Like a hideous jack-in-the-box the gray head popped

above the level of the table againand quick as a flasha revolver

was thrust into the Adventurer's face; and the Adventurercaught at

a disadvantagesince his hand in his coat pocket was below the

intervening table topstood there as though instantaneously

transformed into some motionlessinanimate thinghis fingers still

gripping at another sheaf of banknotes that he had been in the act

of scooping out from the narrow aperture.

And then again Rhoda Gray staredand stared now as though bereft

of her senses; and upon her creptcold and deadlya fear and a

terror that seemed to engulf her very soul itself. That head that

looked like a jack-in-the-box was gone; the gray beard seemed

suddenly to be shorn awayand the gray hair tooand to fall and

flutter to the tableand the bent shoulders were not bent any more

and it wasn't Nicky Viner at all - only a clevera wonderfully

cleverimpersonation that had been helped out by the poor and

meager light. And terror gripped at her againfor it wasn't Nicky

Viner. Those narrowed eyesthat leeringgloating facethose

working lips were Danglar's.

Andas from some far distancedulled because her consciousness

was dulledshe heard Danglar speak.

"Perhaps you'll take your hand out of that right-hand coat pocket

of yours now!" sneered Danglar. "And take it out - empty!"

The Adventurer's faceas nearly as Rhoda Gray could seehad not

moved a muscle. He obeyed nowcoollywith a shrug of his

shoulders.

Danglar appeared to experience no further trouble with the surface

of the table now. He suddenly jerked it almost offdisplaying

what Rhoda Gray now knew to be the remainder of the large package

of banknotes he had taken from the garret earlier in the evening.

"Help yourself to the rest!" he invited caustically. "Thereisn't

fifty thousand therebut you are quite welcome to all there is - in

return for those papers.

The Adventurer was apparently obsessed with an inspection of his

finger nails; he began to polish those of one hand with the palm

of the other.

"Quite soDanglar!" he said coolly. "I admit it - I amashamed

of myself. I hate to think that I could be caught by you; but I

suppose I can find some self-extenuating circumstances. You seem

o have risen to an amazingly higher order of intelligence. In fact

for youDanglarit is not at all bad!" He went on polishing his

nails. "Would you mind taking that thing out of my face? Even you

ought to be able to handle it effectively a few inches farther away."

Under the studied insult Danglar's face had grown a mottled red.

"Damn you!" he snarled. "I'll take it away when I get good and

ready; and by that time I'll have you talking out of the other side

of your mouth! See? Do you know what you're up againstyou slick

dude?"

"I have a fairly good imagination" replied the Adventurersmoothly.

"You haveeh?" mimicked Danglar wickedly. "Wellyou don'tneed

to imagine anything! I'll give you the straight goods so's there

won't be any chance of a mistake. And never mind about the higher

order of intelligence! It was high enoughand a little to spare

to make you walk into the trap! I hoped I'd get you bothyou and

your she-palthe White Moll; that you'd come here together - but

I'm not kicking. It's a pretty good start to get you!"

"Is it necessary to make a speech?" complained the Adventurer

monotonously. "I can't help listeningof course."

"You can make up your mind for yourself when I'm through - whether

it's necessary or not!" retorted Danglar viciously. "I've got a

little proposition to put up to youand maybe it'll help you to

add two and two together if I let you see all the cards. Understand?

You've had your run of luck latelyquite a bit of ithaven't you

you and the White Moll? Wellit's my turn now! You've been

queering our game to the limitcurse you!" Danglar thrust his

working face a little farther over the tableand nearer to the

Adventurer. "Wellwhat was the answer? Where did you get the dope

you made your plays with? It was a cinchwasn't itthat there was

a leak somewhere in our own crowd?" He laughed out suddenly. "You

poor fool! Did you think you could pull that sort of stuff forever?

Did you? Wellthenhow do you like the 'leak' to-night? You get

the ideadon't you? Everybodyevery last soul that is in with us

got the details of what they thought was a straight play to-night

- and it leaked to youas I knew it would; and you walked into the

trapas I knew you wouldbecause the bait was good and juicyand

looked the easiest thing to annex that ever happened. Fifty thousand

dollars! Fifty thousand - nothing! All you had to do was to get a

few papers that it wouldn't bother any crook to geteven a near

- crook like youand then come here and screw the money out of a

helpless old manwho was supposed to have been discovered to be a

miser. Easywasn't it? Only Nicky Viner wasn't a miser! We chose

Nicky because of what happened two years ago. It made things look

pretty near rightdidn't it? Looked straightthat part about

Perlmertoodidn't it? That was the come-on. Perlmer never saw

those papers you've got there in your pocket. I doped them out

and we planted them nice and handy where you could get them without

much trouble in the drawer of Perlmer's deskand -"

"It's a long story" interrupted the Adventurerwith quiet

insolence.

"It's got a short ending" said Danglarwith an ugly leer."We

could have bumped you off when you went for those papersbut if

you went that far you'd come fartherand that wasn't the place to

do itand we couldn't cover ourselves there the way we could here.

This is the place. We brought that trick table here a while ago

as soon as we had got rid of Nicky Viner. That was the only bit of

stage setting we had to do to make the story ring true right up to

the curtainin case it was necessary. It wouldn't have been

necessary if you and the White Moll had both come togetherfor

then you would neither of you have got any further than that other

room. It would have ended there. But we weren't taking any chances.

I'll pay you the compliment of admitting that we weren't counting on

getting you off your guard any too easily ifas it happenedyou

came aloneforbeing aloneor if either of you were alonethere

was that little proposition that had to be settledinstead of just

knocking you on the head out there in the dark in that other room;

and soas I saywe weren't overlooking any bets on account of the

little trouble it took to plant that table and the money. We tried

to think of everything!" Danglar paused for a moment to mock the

Adventurer with narrowed eyes. "That's the story; here's the end.

I hoped I'd get you both togetheryou and the White Moll. I didn't.

But I've got you. I didn't get you both - and that's what gives you

a chance for your lifebecause she's worth more to us than you are.

If you'd been togetheryou would have gone out-together. As it is

I'll see that you don't do any more harm anywaybut you get one

chance. Where is she? If you answer thatyou willof course

answer a minor question and locate that 'leak'for methat I was

speaking about a moment ago. But we'll take the main thing first.

And you can take your choice between a bullet and a straight answer.

Where is the White Moll?"

Rhoda Gray's hand felt Out along the wall for support. Was this a

dreamsome ghastlysoul-terrifying nightmare! Danglar! Those

working lips! That callous viciousnessthat leer in the degenerate

face. It seemed to bring a weakness to her limbsand seek to rob

her of the strength to stand. She could not even hope against hope;

she knew that Danglar was in deadly earnest. Danglar would not have

the slightest compunctionlet alone hesitationin carrying out his

threat. Terrified nowher eyes sought the Adventurer. Didn't the

Adventurer know Danglar as she knew himdidn't he realize that

there was deadly earnestness behind Danglar's words? Was the man

madthat he stood there utterly unmovedas though he had no

consideration on earth other than those carefully manicured finger

nails of his!

And then Danglar spoke again.

"Do you notice anything special about this gun I'm holding on you?"

he demandedin low menace.

The Adventurer did not even look up.

"Ohyes" he said indifferently. "I fancy you got it out of adime

noveldidn't you? One of those silencer things."

"Yes" said Danglar grimly; "one of those silencer things.Where is

she?"

The Adventurer made no answer.

The color in Danglar's face deepened.

"I'll make things even a little plainer to you" he said withbrutal

coolness. "There are two men in our organization from whom it is

absolutely impossible that that leak could have come. Those two

men followed you from Perlmer's office to this place. They are in

the next room now waiting for me to get through with youand ready

for anything if they are needed. But they won't be needed. That's

not the way it works out. This gun won't make much noiseand it

isn't likely to arouse the inmates of this divebut even if it

doesit doesn't matter very much - we aren't going out by the front

door. The two of themthe minute they hear the shotslip in here

and lock the door - you see it's got a goodhusky bolt on it - and

then we beat it by the fire escape that runs past that window there.

Get the idea? And don't kid yourself into thinking that I am taking

any risk with the consequences on account of the coroner having got

busy because a man was found here dead on the floor. Nicky Viner

stands for that. It isn't the first time he's been suspected of

murder. See? Nicky was easy. He'd crawl on his hands and knees

from the Battery to Harlem any time if you held a little money in

front of his nose. He's been fooled up to the eyes with a faked-up

message that he's to deliver secretly to some faked-up crooks out

West. He's just about starting away on the train now. And that's

where the police nab him - running away from the murder he's pulled

in his room here to-night. Looks kind of bad for Nicky Viner - eh?

We should worry! It cost a hundred dollars and his ticket. Cheap

wasn't it? I guess you're worth that much to us."

A dull horror seized upon Rhoda Gray. It seemed to clog and confuse

her mind. She fought it franticallystriving to thinkand to

think clearly. Every detail seemed to have been planned with Satanic

foresight and ingenuityand yet - and yet - Yesin one little

thingDanglar had made a mistake. That was why she was here now;

that was why those men in that next room had not been out in the hall

on guardor even out in the street on watch for her. Danglar had

naturally gone upon the supposition that the Adventurer and herself

worked hand in glove; whereas they were as much in the dark

concerning each other's movements as Danglar himself was. Therefore

Danglarand logically enough from his viewpointhad jumped to the

conclusion thatsince they had not come togetheronly one of them

the Adventurerwas acting in the affair to-nightand - Danglar's

voice was rasping in her ears.

"I'm not going to stay here all night!" he snarled. "You'vegot

one chance. I've told you what it is. You're lucky to have it.

We'd sooner have you out of the way for keeps. I'd rather drop you

in your tracks than let you live. Where is the White Moll?"

The Adventurer was side face to the doorway againand Rhoda Gray

saw him smile contemptuously at Danglar now.

"Really" he said blandly"I haven't the slightest idea inthe

world."

Danglar laughed ironically.

"You lie!" he flung out hoarsely. "Do you think you can getaway

with that? Wellthink again! Sooner or laterit will be all the

same whether you talk or not. We caught you to-night in a trap;

we'll catch her in another. Our hand doesn't show here. She'll

think that Nicky Viner was a little too much for youthat's all.

Come onnow - quick! Are you fool enough to misunderstand? The

'don't know' stuff won't get you by!"

"The misunderstanding seems to be on your side." There was a cold

irritating deliberation in the Adventurer's voice. "I repeat that

I do not know where the young lady you refer to could be found; but

I did not make that statement with any idea that you would believe

it. To a curI suppose it is necessary to add thateven if I did

knowI should take pleasure in seeing you damned before I told you."

Danglar's face was like a devil's. His revolver held a steady bead

on the Adventurer's head.

"I'll give you a last chance." He spoke through closed teeth.

"I'll fire when I count three. One!"

A horrible fascination held Rhoda Gray. If she cried outit was

more likely than not to cause Danglar to fire on the instant. It

would not save the Adventurer in any case. It would be but the

signaltoofor those two men in the next room to rush in here.

"Two!"

It seemed as thoughnot in the hope that it would do any goodbut

because she was going mad with horrorthat she would scream out

until the place rang and rang again with her outcries. Even her

soul was in frantic panic. Quick! Quick! She must act! She

must! But how? Was there only one way? She was conscious that she

had drawn her revolver as though by instinct. Danglar's lifeor

the Adventurer's! But she shrank from taking life. Her lips were

breathing a prayer. They had called her a crack shot back there

in South Americawhen she had hunted and ridden with her father.

It was easy enough to hit Danglarbut that might mean Danglar's

life; it was not so easy to hit Danglar's armor Danglar's hand

or the revolver Danglar heldand if she risked that and missed

she...

 

"Thr -"

There was the roar of a report that went racketing through the

silence like a cannon shotand the shortvicious tongue-flame

from Rhoda Gray's revolver muzzle stabbed through the black. There

was a scream of mingled surprise and furyand the revolver in

Danglar's hand clattered to the floor. She saw the Adventurer

springquick as a pantherat the otherand saw him whip blow

after blow with terrific force full into Danglar's face; she heard

a rush of feet coming from the corridor behind her; and she flung

herself forward into the inner roomandpantingsnatched at the

door and slammed it shutand groping for the boltfound itand

shot it home in its grooves.

And she stood thereweak for the momentand drew her hand across

her eyes - and behind her they pounded on the doorand there came

a burst of oaths; and in front of her the Adventurer was smiling

gravely as he covered Danglar with Danglar's own revolver; and

Danglaras though dazed and half stunned from the blows he had

receivedrocked unsteadily upon his feet. And then her eyes

widened a little. The pounding on the doorthe shoutsthe noise

was beginning to arouse what inmates there were in the tenementand

there wasn't an instant to lose - but the Adventurer now was calmly

gathering upto the last oneand pocketing themthe banknotes

with which Danglar had baited his trap. And as he crammed the money

into his pocketshe spoke to herwith a curious softnessa great

strange gentleness in his voice:

"I owe you my lifeMiss Gray. That was a wonderful shot. You

knocked the revolver from his hand without even grazing his fingers.

A very wonderful shotand - will you let me say it? - you are a

very wonderful woman."

"Ohquick!" she whispered wildly. "I am afraid this door willnot

hold."

"There is the windowand the fire escapeso our friend here was

good enough to inform me" said the Adventureras he composedly

pocketed the last dollar. "Will you open the windowMiss Grayif

you please? I am afraid I hit Mr. Danglar a little ungentlyand

as he is still somewhat groggyI fancy he will need a little

assistance. I imagine" - he caught Danglar suddenly by the collar

of his coat as Rhoda Gray ran to the window and flung it upand

rushed the man unceremoniously across the room -" I imagine it would

be a mistake to leave him behind. He might open the dooror even

be unpleasant enough to throw something down on us from above; also

he should serve us very well as a hostage. Will you go first

pleaseMiss Gray?"

She climbed quickly over the sill to the iron platform. Danglar

was dragged through by the Adventurermumblingand evidently still

in a half-dazed condition. Windows were opening here and there.

>From back inside the roomthe blows rained more heavily upon the

door - and now there came the rip and rend of woodas though a

panel had crashed in.

"HurrypleaseMiss Gray!" prompted the Adventurer.

It was darkalmost too dark to see her footing. She felt her way

down. It was only one story above the groundand it did not take

long; but it seemed hours since she had fired that shotthough she

knew the time had been measured by scarcely more than a minute. And

nowon the lower platformwaiting for that queerdoubletwisting

shadow of the two men to join hershe heard the Adventurers s voice

ring out sharply:

"This is your chanceDanglar! I didn't waste the time to bring

you along because it afforded me any amusement. They've found their

heads at lastand gone to the next windowinstead of wasting time

on that door. They can't reach the fire escape therebut if they

fire a single shot - you go out! You'd better tell them so - and

tell them quick!"

And then Danglar's voice shrieked out in suddenfor God's sake

don't fire!"

They were all on the lower platform together now. The Adventurer

was pressing the muzzle of his revolver into the small of Danglar's

backand was still supporting the man by the collar of his coat.

"I think" said the Adventurer abruptly"that we can nowdispense

with Mr. Danglar's servicesand I am sure a little cool night air

out here on the fire escape will do him good. Miss Gray - would you

mind? - there's a pair of handcuffs in my left-hand coat pocket."

Handcuffs! She could have laughed out idiotically. Handcuffs!

They seemed the most incongruous things in the world for the

Adventurer to haveand - She felt mechanically in his pocketand

handed them to him.

There was a click as a cuff was snapped over Danglar's wrist

another as the other cuff was snapped shut around the iron

hand-railing of the fire escape. The act seemed to arouse Danglar

both mentally and physically. He tore and wrenched at the steel

links nowand burst suddenlyravinginto oaths.

"Hold your tongueDanglar!" ordered the Adventurer in cold menace;

and as the othercowedobeyedthe Adventurer swung himself over

the platform and dropped to the ground. "ComeMiss Gray. Drop!

I'll catch you!" he called in a low voice. "One step takes us

around the corner of the tenement into the laneand Mr. Danglar

won't let them fire at us before we can make that - when we could

still fire at him!"

She obeyed himswinging at arm's-length. She felt his hands fold

about her in a firm grasp as she let go her holdand she caught her

breath suddenlyshe did not know whyand felt the hot blood sweep

her face - and then she was standing on the ground.

"Now!" he whispered. "Together!"

They sped around the corner of the tenement. A yell from Danglar

followed them. An echoing yell from above answered - and then a

fusillade of abortive shotsand the sound as of boot heels

clattering on the iron rungs of the fire escape; and thenmore

faintlyfor they were putting distance behind them as fast as they

could runan excited outburst of profanity and exclamations.

"They won't follow!" panted the Adventurer. "Those shots oftheirs

outdoors will have alarmed the policeand they'll try and get

Danglar free first. It's lucky your shot inside wasn't heard by

the patrolman on the beat. I was afraid of that. But we're safe

now - from Danglar's crowdat least."

But still they ran. They crossed an intersecting streetand

continued on along the lane; then swerving into the next intersecting

streetmoderated their pace to a rapid walk - and stopped finally

only as Rhoda Gray drew suddenly into the shadows of another

alley-wayand held out her hand. They were both safe nowas he

had said. And there were so many reasons whythough her resolution

faltered a littleshe should go the rest of the way alone. She

was not sure that she trusted this strange "gentleman" who was a

thief with his pockets crammed even now with the money that had

lured him almost to his death; buttooshe was not altogether sure

that she distrusted him. But all that was secondary. She mustas

soon as she couldget back to Gypsy Nan's garret. Like that other

nightshe dared not take the risk that Danglarby any chancemight

return there - and find her gone after what had just happened. The

man would be beside himself with furysuspicious of everything

-and suspicion would be fatal in its consequences for her. And so

she must go. And she could not become Gypsy Nan again with the

Adventurer looking on!

"We part here" she said a little unsteadily."Good-night!"

"OhI sayMiss Gray!" he protested quickly. "You don't meanthat!

Whylook hereI haven't had a chance to tell you what I thinkor

what I feelabout what you've done to-night - for me."

She shook her head.

"There is nothing you need say" she answered quietly. "We areonly

quits. You have done quite as much for me."

"Butsee hereMiss Gray!" he pleaded. "Can't we come to some

understanding? We seem to have a jolly lot in common. Is it quite

necessaryreally necessarythat you should keep me off at

arm's-length? Couldn't you let down the bars just a little?

Couldn't you tell mefor instancewhere I could find you in case

of - real necessity?"

She shook her head again.

"No" she said. "It is impossible."

He drew a little closer. A sudden earnestness deepened his voice

made it rasp a littleas though it were not wholly within control.

"And supposeMiss Graythat I refuse to leave youor to let you

gonow that I have you hereunless you give me more of your

confidence? What then?"

"The other night" she said slowly"you informed meamongother

thingsthat you were a gentleman. I believed the other things."

He did not answer for a moment - and then he smiled whimsically.

"You scoreMiss Gray" he murmured.

"Good nightthen!" she said again. "I will go by the alleyhere;

you by the street."

"No! Wait!" he said gravely. "If nothing will change your mind

- and I shall not be importunateforas we have met three times

now through the same peculiar chain of circumstancesI know we

shall meet again - I have something to tell youbefore you go.

As you already knowI went to Gypsy Nan's the night after I first

saw youbecause I felt you needed help. I went there in the hope

that she would know where to find youandfailing in thatI left

a message for you in the hope thatsince she had tricked Rorke in

your behalfyou would find means of communicating with her again.

But all that is entirely changed now. Your participation in that

Hayden-Bond affair the other night makes Gypsy Nan's place the last

in all New York to which you should go."

Rhoda Gray stared through the semi-darknesssuddenly startled

searching the Adventurer's face.

"What do you mean?" she demanded quickly.

"Just this" he answered. "That where before I hoped you wouldgo

thereI have spent nearly all the time since then in haunting the

vicinity of Gypsy Nan's house to warn you away in case you should

try to reach her."

"I - I don't understand" she said a little uncertainly.

"It is simple enough" he said. "Gypsy Nan is now one of thoseyou

have most to fear. Gypsy Nan is merely a disguise. She is no more

Gypsy Nan than you are."

Rhoda Gray caught her breath.

"Not Gypsy Nan!" she repeated - and fought to keep her voice in

control. "Who is shethen?"

The Adventurer laughed shortly.

"She is quite closely connected with that gentleman we left airing

himself on the fire escape" he said grimly. "Gypsy Nan isDanglar's

wife."

It was very strangevery curious - the alleyway seemed suddenly to

be revolving around and aroundand it seemed to bring her a

giddiness and a faintness. The Adventurer was standing there before

herbut she did not see him any more; she could only seeas from

a brink upon which she tottereda gulfabysmal in its horrorthat

yawned before her.

"Thank you - thank you for the warning." Was that her voice

speaking so calmly and dispassionately? "I will remember it. But

I must go now. Good-night again!"

He said something. She did not know what. She only knew that she

was hurrying along the alleyway nowand that he had made no effort

to stop herand that she was grateful to him for thatand that her

composurestrained to the breaking pointwould have given away if

she had remained with him another instant. Danglar's wife! It was

dark here in the alley-wayand she did not know where it led to.

But did it matter? And she stumbled as she went along. But it was

not the physical inability to see that made her stumble - it was a

brain-blindness that fogged her soul itself. His wife! Gypsy Nan

was Danglar's wife.

 

XI. SOME OF THE LESSER BREED

Danglar's wife! It had been a night of horror; a night without

sleep; a nightafter the guttering candle had gone outwhen the

blackness of the garret possessed added terrors created by an

imagination which ran riotand which she could not control. She

could have fled from itscreaming in panic-stricken hysteria - but

there had been no other place as safe as that was. Safe! The

word seemed to reach the uttermost depths of irony. Safe! Well

it was truewasn't it?

She had not wanted to return there; her soul itself had revolted

against it; but she had dared to do nothing else. And all through

that nighthuddled on the edge of the cot bedher fingers clinging

tenaciously to her revolver as though afraid for even an instant

to relinquish it from her grasplisteninglisteningalways

listening for a footstep that might come up from that dark hall

belowthe footstep that would climax all the terrors that had

surged upon herher mind had kept on reiteratingalways reiterating

those words of the Adventurer - "Gypsy Nan is Danglar's wife."

And they were still with herthose words. Daylight had come again

and passed againand it was evening once more; but those words

remainedinsensible to changeimmutable in their foreboding. And

Rhoda Grayas Gypsy Nanshuddered now as she scuffled along a

shabby street deep in the heart of the East Side. She was Danglar's

wife - by proxy. At dawn that morning when the gray had come

creeping into the miserable attic through the small and dirty window

panesshe had fallen on her knees and thanked God she had been

spared that footstep. It was strange! She had poured out her soul

in passionate thankfulness then that Danglar had not come - and now

she was deliberately on her way to seek Danglar himself! But the

daylight had done more than disperse the actualphysical darkness

of the past night; it had broughtif not a measure of reliefat

least a sense of guidanceand the final decisionperilous though

it waswhich she meant now to put into execution.

There was no other way - unless she were willing to admit defeat

to give up everythingher own good nameher father's nameto run

from it all and live henceforth in hiding in some obscure place far

awaybranded in the life she would have left behind her as a

despicable criminal and thief. And she could notwould notdo

this while her intuitionat leastinspired her with the faith to

believe that there was still a chance of clearing herself. It was

the throw of the diceperhaps - but there was no other way.

Danglarand those with himwere at the bottom of the crime of

which she was held guilty. She could not go on as she had been

doingmerely in the hope of stumbling upon some clew that would

serve to exonerate her. There was not time enough for that.

Danglar's trap set for herself and the Adventurer last night in old

Nicky Viner's room proved that. And the fact that the woman who

had originally masqueraded as Gypsy Nan - as sheRhoda Graywas

masquerading now - was Danglar's wifeproved it a thousandfold

more. She could no longer remain passivearguing with herself

that it took all her wits and all her efforts to maintain herself

in the role of Gypsy Nanwhich temporarily was all that stood

between her and prison bars. To do so meant the certainty of

disaster sooner or laterand if it meant thatthe need for

immediate action of an offensive sort was imperative.

And so her mind was made up. Her only chance was to find her way

into the full intimacy of the criminal band of which Danglar was

apparently the head; to search out its lair and its personnel; to

reach to the heart of it; to know Danglar's private movementsand

to discover where he lived so that she might watch him. It surely

was not such a hopeless task! Trueshe knew by name and sight

scarcely more than three of this crime cliquebut at least she had

a starting point from which to work. There was Shluker's junk shop

where she had turned the tables on Danglar and Skeeny on the night

they had planned to make the Sparrow their pawn. It was obvious

thereforethat Shluker himselfthe proprietor of the junk shop

was one of the organization. She was going to Shluker's now.

Rhoda Gray halted suddenlyand stared wonderingly a little way up

the block ahead of her. As though by magic a crowd was collecting

around the doorway of a poverty-strickentumble-down frame house

that made the corner of an alleyway. And where but an instant

before the street's jostling humanity had been immersed in its

wrangling with the push-cart men who lined the curbthe carts were

now deserted by every one save their ownerswhose caution exceeded

their curiosity - and the crowd grew momentarily larger in front of

the house.

She drew Gypsy Nan's blackgreasy shawl a little more closely

around her shouldersand moved forward again. And nowon the

outskirts of the crowdshe could see quite plainly. There were

two or three low steps that led up to the doorwayand a man and

woman were standing there. The woman was wretchedly dressedbut

with most strange incongruity she held in her handobviously

subconsciouslyobviously quite oblivious of ita huge basket full

to overflowing withas nearly as Rhoda Gray could judgeall sorts

of purchasesas though out of the midst of abject poverty a golden

shower had suddenly descended upon her. And she was grayand well

beyond middle ageand crying bitterly; and her free handwhether

to support herself or with the instinctive idea of supporting her

companionwas clutched tightly around the man's shoulders. And

the man rocked unsteadily upon his feet. He was tall and angular

and older than the womanand cadaverous of featureand miserably

thin of shoulderand blood trickled over his forehead and down one

ashenhollow cheek - and above the excited exclamations of the

crowd Rhoda Gray heard him cough.

Rhoda Gray glanced around her. Where scarcely a second before she

had been on the outer fringe of the crowdshe now appeared to be

in the very center of it. Women were pushing up behind herwomen

who wore shawls as she didonly the shawls were mostly of gaudy

colors; and men pushed up behind hermostly men of swarthy

countenancewho wore circlets of gold in their ears; andbrushing

her skirtsseeking vantage pointsraggedill-clad children

wriggled and wormed their way deeper into the press. It was a crowd

composed almost entirely of the foreign element which inhabited that

quarter - and the crowd chattered and gesticulated with

ever-increasing violence. She did not understand. And she could not

see so well now. That pitiful tableau in the doorway was being shut

out from her by a mandirectly in front of herwho had hoisted a

half-naked tot of three or four to a reserved seat upon his head.

And then a young manone whomfrom her years in the Bad Lands as

the White Mollshe recognized as a hanger-on at a gambling hell in

the Chatham Square districtcame toward herplowing his way

contemptuous of obstructionsout of the crowd.

Rhoda Grayas Gypsy Nanhailed him out of the corner of her mouth.

"Saywot's de row?" she demanded.

The young man grinned.

"Somebody pinched a million from de old guy!" He shifted his

cigarette with a deft movement of his tongue from one side of his

mouth to the otherand grinned again. "Can youse beat it!

Accordin' to himhe had enough coin to annex de whole of Noo Yoik!

De moll's his wife. He went out to hell-an'-gone somewhere for a

few years huntin' gold while de old girl starved. Den back he comes

an' blows in to-day wid his pockets fullan' de old girl grabs a

handfulan' goes out to buy up all de grub in sight 'cause she

ain't had none for so long. An' w'en she comes back she finds de

old geezer gagged an' tied in a chairan' some guy's hit him a

crack on de bean an' flown de coop wid de mazuma. But youse had

better get out of here before youse gets run over! Dis ain't no

place for an old skirt like youse. De bulls'11 be down here on de

hop in a minutean' w'en dis mob starts sprinklin' de street wid

deir fleetin' footstepsyouse are likely to get hurt. See?" The

young man started to force his way through the crowd again. "Youse

had better cut loosemother!" he warned over his shoulder.

It was good advice. Rhoda Gray took it. She had scarcely reached

the next block when the crowd behind her was being scattered

pell-mell and without ceremony in all directions by the policeas

the young man had predicted. She went on. There was nothing that

she could do. The man's face and the woman's face haunted her.

They had seemed stamped with such abject misery and despair. But

there was nothing that she could do. It was one of those sore and

grievous cross-sections out of the lives of the swarming thousands

down here in this quarter which she knew so intimately and so well.

And there were so manymany of those cross-sections! Oncein a

smallpitifully meager and restricted wayshe had been able to

help some of these hurt livesbut now - Her lips tightened a

little. She was going to Shluker's junk shop.

Her forehead gathered in little furrows as she walked along. She

had weighed the pros and cons of this visit a hundred times already

during the day; but even soinstinctively to reassure herself lest

some apparently minorbut nevertheless fatally vitalpoint might

have been overlookedher mind reverted to it again. From Shluker's

viewpointwhether Gypsy Nan was in the habit of mingling with or

visiting the other members of the gang or not - a matter upon which

she could not even hazard a guess - her visit to-night must appear

entirely logical. There was last night - anda natural corollary

her equally natural anxiety on her supposed husband's account

providingof coursethat Shluker was aware that Gypsy Nan was

Danglar's wife. But even if Shluker did not know thathe knew

at least that Gypsy Nan was one of the gangandas suchhe must

equally accept it as natural that she should be anxious and disturbed

over what had happened. She would be on safe ground either way.

She would pretend to know only what had appeared in the papers; in

other wordsthat the policeattracted to the spot by the sound of

revolver shotshad found Danglar handcuffed to the fire escape of

a well-known thieves' resort in an all too well-known and

questionable locality.

A smile came spontaneously. It was quite true. That was where the

Adventurer had left Danglar - handcuffed to the fire escape! The

smile vanished. The humor of the situation was not long-lived; it

ended there. Danglar was as cunning as the proverbial fox; and

Danglarat that momentin desperate need of explaining his

predicament in some plausible way to the policehadas the

expression wentrun true to form. Danglar's storyas reported by

the paperseven rose above his own high-water mark of vicious

cunningbecause it played upon a chord that appealed instantly to

the police; and it rang truenot only because what the police

could find out about him made it likelybut also because it

contained a modicum of truth in itself; andfurthermoreDanglar

had scored on still another count in that his story must stimulate

the police into renewed activities as his unsuspecting allies in

the one thingthe one aim and object thatat that momentmust

obsess him above all others - the discovery of herselfthe White

Moll.

It was ingeniously simpleDanglar's smooth and oily lie! He had

been walking along the streethe had statedwhen he saw a woman

as she passed under a street lampwho he thought resembled the

White Moll. To make surehe followed her - at a safe distance

as he believed. She entered the tenement. He hesitated. He knew

the reputation of the placewhich bore out his first impression

that the woman was the one he thought she was; but he did not want

to make a fool of himself by calling in the police until he was

positive of her identityso he finally followed her insideand

heard her go upstairsand crept up after her in the dark. And

thensuddenlyhe was set upon and hustled into a room. It was

the White Mollall right; and the shots came from her companion

a man whom he described minutely - the description being that of

the Adventurerof course. They seemed to think that heDanglar

was a plain-clothes manand tried to sicken him of his job by

frightening him. And then they forced him through the window and

down the fire escapeand fastened him there with handcuffs to

mock the policeand the White Moll's companion had deliberately

fired some more shots to make sure of bringing the police to the

sceneand then the two of them had run for it.

Rhoda Gray's eyes darkened angrily. The newspapers said that

Danglar had been temporarily held by the policethough his story

was believed to be truefor certainly the man would make no mistake

as to the identity of the White Mollsince his lifewhat the

police could find out about itcoincided with his own statements

and he would naturally therefore have seen her many times in the

Bad Lands when she was working there under cover of her despicable

role of sweet and innocent charity. Danglar had made no pretensions

to self-righteousness - he was too cute for that. He admitted that

he had no "specific occupation" that he hung around the gambling

hells a good dealthat he followed the horses - thatfranklyhe

lived by his wits. He had probably given some framed-up address to

the policebutif sothe papers had not stated where it was.

Rhoda Gray's faceunder the grime of Gypsy Nan's disguisegrew

troubled and perplexed. Neither had the paperseven the evening

papersstated whether Danglar had as yet been released - they had

devoted the rest of their space to the vilification of the White

Moll. They had demanded in no uncertain tones a more conclusive

effort on the part of the authorities to bring herand with her

now the man in the caseas they called the Adventurerto

justiceand...

The thought of the Adventurer caused her mind to swerve sharply off

at a tangent. Where he had piqued and aroused her curiosity before

he nowsince last nightseemed more complex a character than ever.

It was strangemost strangethe way their liveshis and hershad

become interwoven! She had owed him much; but last night she had

repaid him and squared accounts. She had told him so. She owed him

nothing more. If a sense of gratitude had once caused her to look

upon him with - with - She bit her lips. What was the use of that?

Had it become so much a part of her lifeso much a habitthis

throwing of dust in the eyes of othersthis constant passing of

herself off for some one elsethis constant deceptionwarranted

though it might bethat she must now seek to deceive herself! Why

not frankly admit to her own soulalready in the secretthat she

cared in spite of herself - for a thief? Why not admit that a great

hurt had comeone that no one but herself would ever knowa hurt

that would last for always because it was a wound that could never

be healed?

A thief! She loved a thief. She had fought a bitterstubborn

battle with her common sense to convince herself that he was not

a thief. She had snatched hungrily at the incident that centered

around those handcuffsso opportunely produced from the Adventurer's

pocket. She had tried to argue that those handcuffs not only

suggestedbut provedhe was a police officer in disguiseworking

on some case in which Danglar and the gang had been mixed up; and

as she tried to argue in this wiseshe tried to shut her eyes to

the fact that the same pocket out of which the handcuffs came was

at exactly the same moment the repository of as many stolen

banknotes as it would hold. She had tried to argue that the fact

that he was so insistently at work to defeat Danglar's plans was in

his favor; but that argumentlike all otherscame quickly and

miserably to grief. Where the "leak" wasas Danglar called it

that supplied the Adventurer with foreknowledge of the gang's

movementsshe had no ideasave that perhaps the Adventurer and

some traitor in the gang were in collusion for their own ends - and

that certainly did not lift the Adventurer to any higher planeor

wash from him the stigma of thief.

She clenched her hands. It was all an attempt at argument without

the basis of a single logical premise. It was silly and childish!

Why hadn't the man been an ordinaryplaincommon thief and

criminal - and looked like one? She would never have been attracted

to him then even through gratitude! Why should he have all the

graces and ear-marks of breeding? Why should he have all the

appearances of gentleman? It seemed a needlessly cruel and

additional blow that fate had dealt herwhen already she was living

through days and nights of fearof horrorof trepidationso great

that at times it seemed she would literally lose her reason. If

he had not lookedyesand at timesactedso much like a

thorough-bred gentlemanthere would never have come to her this

hurtthis gulf between them that could not now be spannedand in

a personal way she would never have cared because he was - a thief.

Her mental soliloquy ended abruptly. She had reached the narrow

driveway that led inbetween the two blocks of down-at-the-heels

tenementsto the courtyard at the rear that harbored Shluker's junk

shop. And nowunlike that other night when she had first paid a

visit to the placeshe made no effort at concealment as she entered

the driveway. She walked quicklyand as she emerged into the

courtyard itself she saw a light in the window of the junk shop.

Rhoda Gray nodded her head. It was still quite earlystill almost

twilight - not more than eight o'clock. Back thereon that squalid

doorstep where the old woman and the old man had stoodit had still

been quite light. The long summer evening had served at least to

searsomehowthose two faces upon her mind. It was singular that

they should intrude themselves at this moment! She had been thinking

hadn't shethat at this hour she might naturally expect to find

Shluker still in his shop? That was why she had come so early - since

she had not cared to come in full daylight. Wellif that light meant

anythinghe was there.

She felt her pulse quicken perceptibly as she crossed the courtyard

and reached the shop. The door was openand she stepped inside.

It was a dingy placefilthyand litteredwithout the slightest

attempt at orderwith a heterogeneous collection ofit seemed

every article one could think offrom scraps of old iron and bundles

of rags to cast-off furniture that was in an appalling state of

dissolution. The lightthat of a single and dim incandescentcame

from the interior of what was apparently the "office" of the

establishmenta smallglassed-in partition affairat the far end

of the shop.

Her first impression had been that there was no one in the shopbut

nowfrom the other side of the glass partitionshe caught sight of

a bald headand became aware that a pair of black eyes were fixed

steadily upon herand that the occupant was beckoning to her with

his hand to come forward.

She scuffled slowlybut without hesitationup the shop. She

intended to employ the vernacular that was part of the disguise of

Gypsy Nan. If Shlukerfor that was certainly Shluker theregave

the slightest indication that he took it amissher explanation would

come glibly and logically enough - she had to be careful; how was she

supposed to know whether there was any one else aboutor not!

"'Ello!" she said curtlyas she reached the doorway of the little

officeand paused on the threshold. Shifty little black eyes met

hersas the bald head fringed with untrimmed gray hairwas lifted

from a battered deskand the wizened face of an old man was

disclosed under the rays of the tin-shaded lamp. He grinned suddenly

showing discolored teeth - and instinctively she drew back a little.

He was an uninviting and exceedingly disreputable old creature.

"YouehNan!" he grunted. "So you've come to see old JakeShluker

have you? 'Tain't often you come! And what's brought youeh?"

"I can readcan't I?" Rhoda Gray glanced furtively around her

then leaned toward the other. "Saywot's de lay? I been scared

stiff all day. Is dat straight wot de papers said about

youse-know-who gettin' pinched?"

A scowl settled over Shluker's features as he nodded.

"Yes; it's straight enough" he answered. "Damn 'emone andall!

But they let him out again."

"Dat's de stuff!" applauded Rhoda Gray earnestly. "Where isheden?"

Shluker shook his head.

"He didn't say" said Shluker.

"He didn't say?" echoed Rhoda Graya little tartly. "Wotd'youse

meanhe didn't say? Have youse seen him?"

Shluker jerked his hand toward the telephone instrument on the desk.

"He was talkin' to me a little while ago."

"Wellden" - Rhoda Gray risked a more peremptory tone -"where is he?"

Shluker shook his head again.

"I dunno" he said. "I'm tellin' youhe didn't say."

Rhoda Gray studied the wizened and repulsive old creaturethat

huddled in his chair in the dirtyboxed-in little officemade her

think of some crafty old spider lurking in its web for unwary prey.

Was the man lying to her? Was he in any degree suspicious? Why

should he be? He had given not the slightest sign that her uncouth

language was either unexpected or unnecessary. Perhaps to Shluker

and perhaps to all the rest of the gang - except Danglar! - Gypsy

Nan was accepted at face value as just Gypsy Nan; andif that were

sothe idea of playing up a natural wifely anxiety on Danglar's

behalf could not be used unless Shluker gave her a lead in that

direction. Butall that apartshe was getting nowhere. She bit

her lips in disappointment. She had counted a great deal on this

Shluker hereand Shluker was not proving the fount of information

far from itthat she had hoped he would.

She tried again-even more peremptorily than before.

"Awopen up!" she snapped. "Wot's de use bein' a clam! Youse

heard medidn't youse? Where is he?"

Shluker leaned abruptly forwardand looked at her in a suddenly

perturbed way.

"is there anything wrong?" he asked in a tenselowered voice.

"What makes you so anxious to know?"

Rhoda Gray laughed shortly.

"Nothin'!" she answered coolly. "I told youse oncedidn't I?I

got a scare readin' dem papers - an' I ain't over it yet. Dat's

wot I want to know foran' youse seem afraid to open up!"

Shluker sank back again in his chair with an air of relief.

"Oh!" he ejaculated. "Wellthat's all rightthen. You were

beginning to give me a scaretoo. I ain't playin' the clamand

I dunno where he is; but I can tell you there's nothing to worry

you any more about the rest of it. He was after the White Moll last

nightand it didn't come off. They pulled one on him insteadand

fastened him to the fire escape the way the papers said. Skeeny

and the Cricketwho were in on the play with himdidn't have time

to get him loose before the bulls got there. So Danglar told them

to beat itand he handed the cops the story that was in the papers.

He got away with itall rightand they let go him to-day; but he

phoned a little while ago that they were still stickin' around kind

of close to himand that I was to pass the word that the lid was to

go down tight for the next few daysand -"

Shluker stopped abruptly as the telephone rangand reached for the

instrument.

Rhoda Gray fumbled unnecessarily with her shawlas the other

answered the call. Failure! A curious bitterness came to her. Her

plan thenfor to-night it leastwas a failure. Shluker did not

know where Danglar was. She was quite convinced of that. Shluker

was - She glanced suddenly at the wizened little old man. From an

ordinary toneShluker' s voice had risen sharply in protest about

something. She listened now:

Nono; it does not matter what it is!

What?...No! I tell youno! Nothing! Not to-night! Those are

the orders....NoI don't know! Nan is here now....Eh?....You'll

pay for it if you do!" Shluker was snarling threateningly now.

"What?....Wellthenwait! I'll come over....Noyou can bet I

won't be long! You wait! Understand?"

He banged the receiver on the hookand got up from his chair

hurriedly.

"Fools!" he muttered savagely. "NoI won't be long gettin'there!"

He grabbed Rhoda Gray's arm. "Yesand you cometoo! You will

help me put a little sense into their headsif it is possible - eh?

The fools!"

The man was violently excited. He half pulled Rhoda Gray down the

length of the shop to the front door. Puzzledbewildereda little

uneasyshe watched him lock the doorand then followed him across

the courtyardwhile he continued to mutter constantly to himself.

"Wot's de matter?" she asked him twice.

But it was not until they had reached the streetand Shluker was

hurrying along as fast as he could walkthat he answered her.

"It's the Pug and Pinkie Bonn!" he jerked out angrily."They're

in the Pug's room. Pinkie went back there after telephonin'.

They've nosed out something they want to put through. The fools!

And after last night nearly havin' finished everything! I told 'em

- you heard me - that everybody's to keep under cover now. But

they think they've got a soft thingand they say they're goin' to

it. I've got to put a crimp in itand you've got to help me.

Y'understandNan?"

"Yes" she said mechanically.

Her mind was working swiftly. The nightafter allperhapswas

not to be so much of a failure! To get into intimate touch with

all the members of the clique was equally one of her objectsand

failing Danglar himself to-nighthere was an "open sesame" to the

re-treat of two of the others. She would never have a better chance

or one in which risk and dangerunder the chaperonageas it were

of Shluker herewereif not entirely eliminatedat least reduced

to an apparently negligible minimum. Yes; she would go. To refuse

was to turn her back on her own proposed line of actionand on the

decision which she had made herself.

 

XII. CROOKS Vs. CROOKS

It was not far. Shlukerhastening alongstill muttering to

himselfturned into a cross street some two blocks awayand from

there again into a lane; anda moment laterled the way through

a small door in the fence that hungbattered and half openon

sagging and broken hinges. Rhoda Gray's eyes traveled sharply

around her in all directions. It was still light enough to see

fairly welland she might at some future time find the bearings

she took now to be of inestimable worth. Not that there was much

to remark! They crossed a diminutive and disgustingly dirty

backyardwhose sole reason for existence seemed to be that of a

receptacle for old tin cansand were confronted by the rear of

what appeared to be a four-story tenement. There was a back door

hereandon the right of the doorfronting the yarda single

window that was some four or five feet from the level of the ground.

Shlukerwithout hesitationopened the back doorshut it behind

themled the way along a blackunlighted halland halting before

a door well toward the front of the buildingknocked softly upon

it - giving two rapsa single rapand then two more in quick

succession. There was no answer. He knocked again in precisely

the same mannerand then a footstep sounded from withinand the

door was flung open. "Fools!" growled Shluker in greetingas they

stepped inside and the door was closed again. "A pair of brainless

fools!"

There were two men there. They paid Shluker scant attention. They

both grinned at Rhoda Gray through the murky light supplied by a

wheezy and wholly inadequate gas-jet.

"HelloNan!" gibed the smaller of the two. "Who let youout?"

"Awforget it!" croaked Rhoda Gray.

Shluker took up the cudgels.

"You close your facePinkie!" he snapped. "Get down to cases!Do

you think I got nothing else to do but chase you two around like a

couple of puppy dogs that haven't got sense enough to take care of

themselves? Wasn't what I told you over the phone enough without

me havin' to come here?"

"Nix on that stuff!" returned the one designated as Pinkie

imperturbably. "Sayyou'll be glad you come when we lets you in

on a little piece of easy money. We ain't askin' your advice; all

we're askin' you to do is frame up the alibisame as usualfor me

an' the Pug here in case we wants it."

Shluker shook his fist.

"Frame nothing!" he spluttered angrily. "Ain't I tellin' youthat

the orders are not to make a movethat everything is off for a few

days? That's the word I got a little while agoand the

Seven-Three-Nine is goin' out now. Nan'll tell you the same thing."

"Sure!" corroborated Rhoda Graypicking up the obvious cue."Dat's

de straight goods."

The two men were lounging beside a table that stood at the extreme

end of the roomand now for a moment they whispered together. And

as they whisperedRhoda Gray found her first opportunity to take

critical stock both of her surroundings and of the two men

themselves. Pinkiea shortslight little manshe dismissed with

hardly a glance; he was the common typewith lowvicious cunning

stamped all over his face - an ordinary rat of the underworld. But

her glance rested longer on his companion. The Pug was indeed

entitled to his moniker! His face made her think of one. It seemed

to be all screwed up out of shape. Perhaps the eye-patch over the

right eye helped a little to put the finishing touch of repulsiveness

upon a countenance already most unpleasant. The celluloid eye-patch

once flesh-coloredwas now so dirty and smeared that its original

color was discernible only in spotsand the once white elastic cord

that circled his head and kept the patch in place was in equal

disrepute. A battered slouch hat came to the level of the eye-patch

in a forbidding sort of tilt. His left eyelid drooped until it was

scarcely open at alland fluttered continually. One nostril of

his nose was entirely closed; and his mouth seemed to be twisted

out of shapeso thateven when in reposethe lips never entirely

met at one corner. And his earswhat she could see of them in the

poor lightand on account of the slouch hatseemed to bear out the

low-type criminal impression the man gave herin that they lay flat

back against his head.

She turned her eyes away with a little shudder of repulsionand

gave her attention to an inspection of the room. There was no

windowexcept a small one high up in the right-hand partition wall.

She quite understood what that meant. It was common enoughand all

too unsanitary enoughin these old and cheap tenements; the window

gavenot on the out-of-doorsbut on a light-well. For therest

it was a room she had seen a thousand times before - carpetless

unfurnished save for the barest necessitiesdirt everywhere

unkempt.

Pinkie Bonn broke in abruptly upon her inspection.

"That's all right!" he announced airily. "We'll let Nan in onit

too. The Pug an' me figures she can give us a hand."

Shluker's wizened little face seemed suddenly to go purple.

"Are you tryin' to make a fool of me?" he half screamed. "Orcan't

you understand English? D'ye want me to keep on tellin' you till

I'm hoarse that there ain't nobody goin' in with youbecause you

am't goin' in yourself! See? Understand that? There's nothing

doin' to-night for anybody - and that means you!"

"Awshut upShluker!" It was the Pug nowa curious whispering

sibilancy in his voicedue no doubt to the disfigurement of his

lips. "Give Pinkie a chance to shoot his spiel before youse injure

yerself throwin' a fit! Go onPinkiespill it."

"Sure!" said Pinkie eagerly. "ListenShluk! It ain't any crib

we're wantin' to crackor nothin' like that. It's just a couple

of crooks that won't dare open their yaps to the bulls'cause what

we're after 'll be what they'll have pinched themselves. See?"

Shluker's face lost some of its belligerencyand in its place a

dawning interest came.

"What's that?" he demanded cautiously. "What crooks?"

"French Pete an' Marny Day" said Pinkie - and grinned.

"Oh!" Shluker's eyebrows went up. He looked at the Pugand the

Pug winked knowingly with his half-closed left eyelid. Shluker

reached out for a chairandfinding it suspiciously wobbly

straddled it warily. "Mabbe I've been in wrong" he admitted.

"What's the lay?"

"Me" said Pinkie"I was down to Charlie's this afternoonhavin'

a little lay-offan'"

"One of these days" interrupted Shluker sharply"you'll goout

like" - he snapped his fingers - "that!" "Can't you leavethe stuff

alone?"

"I got to have me bit of coke" Pinkie answeredwith a shrug of

his shoulders. "An'anywayI'm no pipe-hitter.

"It's all the same whatever way you take it!" retorted Shluker.

"Wellgo on with your story. You went down to Charlie's dope

parlorsand jabbed a needle into yourselfor took it some other

old way. I get you! What happened then?"

"It was about an hour ago" resumed Pinkie Bonn with undisturbed

complacency. "Just as I was beatin' it out of there by the cellar

I hears some whisperin' as I was passin' one of the end doors.

Savvy? I hadn't made no noisean' they hadn't heard me. I gets

a peek in'cause the door's cracked. It was French Pete an' Marny

Day. I listens. An' after about two seconds I was goin' shaky for

fear some one would come along an' I wouldn't get the whole of it.

Take it from meShlukit was some goods!"

Shluker grunted noncommittingly.

"Wellgo on!" he prompted.

"I didn't get all the fine points" grinned Pinkie; "but I got

enough. There was a guy by the name of Dainey who used to live

somewhere on the East Side herean' he used to work in some

sweat-shopan' he worked till he got pretty oldan' then his

lungsor somethingwent bad on himan' he went broke. An' the

doctor said he had to beat it out of here to a more salubrious

climate. Some nut filled his ear full 'bout gold huntin' up in

Alaskaan' he fell for it. He chewed it over with his wifean'

she was for it too'cause the doctor 'd told her her old man would

bump off if he stuck around herean' they hadn't any money to get

away together. She figured she could get along workin' out by the

day till he came back a millionaire; an' old Dainey started off.

"I dunno how he got there. I'm just fillin' in what I hears French

Pete an' Marny talkin' about. I guess mostly he beat his way there

ridin' the rods; butanywayhe got there. See? An' then he goes

down sick there againan' a hospitalor some outfithas to take

care of him for a couple of years; an' back here the old woman got

kind of feeble an' on her uppersan there was hell to payan' -"

"Wot's bitin' youseNan?" The Pug's lisping whisper broke sharply

in upon Pinkie Bonn's story.

Rhoda Gray started. She was conscious now that she had been leaning

forwardstaring in a startled way at Pinkie as he talked; conscious

now that for a moment she had forgotten - that she was Gypsy Nan.

But she was mistress of herself on the instantand she scowled

blackly at the Pug.

"Mabbe it's me soft heart dat's touched!" she flung out acidly.

"Youse close yer trapan' let Pinkie talk!"

"Yesshut up!" said Pinkie. "What was I sayin'? Ohyes! An'

then the old guy makes a strike. Can you beat it! I dunno nothing

about the way they pull them thingsbut he's off by his lonesome

out somewherean' he finds goldan' stakes out his claimbut

he takes sick again an' can't work itan' it's all he can do to

get back alive to civilization. He keeps his mouth shut for a

whilefigurin' he'll get strong againbut it ain't no goodan'

he gets a letter from the old woman tellin' how bad she isan'

then he shows some of the stuff he'd found. After that there's

nothing to it! Everybody's beatin' it for the place; butat that

old Dainey comes out of it all rightan' goes crazy with joy

'cause some guy offers him twenty-five thousand bucks for his claim

an' throws in the expenses home for good luck. He gets the money

in cashtwenty-five one-thousand-dollar billsan' the chicken

feed for the expensesan' starts for back here an' the old woman.

But this time he don't keep his mouth shut about it when he'd have

been better off if he had. See? He was tellin' about it on the

train. I guess he was tellin' about it all the way across. But

anywayhe tells about it comm' from Philly this afternoonan'

French Pete an' Marny Day happens to be on the trainan' they

hears itan' frames it up to annex the coin before morning'cause

he's got in too late to get the money into any bank to-day."

Pinkie Bonn pausedand stuck his tongue significantly in his cheek.

Shluker was rubbing his hands together now in a sort of unctuous

way.

"It sounds pretty good" he murmured; "only there's Danglar-"

"Youse leave Danglar to me!" broke in the Pug. "As soon as we

hands one to dem two boobs an' gets de cashPinkie can beat it

back here wid de coin an wait fer me while I finds Danglar an'

squares it wid him. He ain't goin' to put up no holler at dat. We

ain't runnin' de gang into nothin'. Dis is private business - see?

So youse just take a sneak wid yerselfan' fix a nice little alibi

fer us so's we won't be takin' any chances."

Shluker frowned.

"But what's the good of that?" he demurred. "French Pete and

Marny Day '11 see you anyway."

"Will dey!" scoffed the Pug. "Guess once more! A coupla

handkerchiefs over our mugs is good enough fer demif youse holds

yer end up. An' dey wouldn't talk fer publicationanywaywould

dey?"

Shluker smiled now-almost ingratiatingly.

"And how much is my end worth?" he inquired softly.

"One of dem thousand-dollar engravin's" stated the Pug promptly.

"An' Pinkie'll run around an' slip it to youse before mornin'"

"All right" said Shlukerafter a moment. "It's half pasteight

now. From nine o'clock onyou can beat any jury in New York to it

that you were both at the same old place - as long as you keep

decently under cover. That'll dowon't it? I'll fix it. But I

don't see -"

Rhoda Grayas Gypsy Nanfor the first time projected herself into

the discussion. She cackled suddenly in jeering mirth.

"I t'ought something was wrong wid her!" whispered the Pug with

mock anxiety. "Mabbe she ain't well! Tell us about itNan!"

"When I do" she said complacently"mabbe youse'll smile outof de

other corner of dat mouth of yers!" She turned to Shluker. "Youse

needn't lay awake waitin' fer dat thousandShluker'cause youse'll

never see it. De little game's all off - 'cause it's already been

pulled. See? Dere was near a riot as I passes along a street goin'

to yer placean' I gets piped off to wot's upan' it's de same

story dat Pinkie's toldan' de crib's crackedan' de money's gone

- dat's all."

Shluker's face fell.

"I said you were fools when I first came in here!" he burst out

suddenlywheeling on Pinkie Bonn and the Pug. "I'm sure of it now.

I was wonderin a minute ago how you were goin' to keep your lamps on

Pete and Marny from hereor know when they were goin' to pull their

stuntor where to find 'em."

Pinkie Bonnignoring Shlukerleaned toward Rhoda Gray.

"SayNanis that straight?" he inquired anxiously. "Yousure?"

"SureI'm sure!" Rhoda Gray asserted tersely. The one thought in

her head now was that her information would naturally deprive these

men here of any further interest in the matterand that she would

get away as quickly as possibleandin some way or othersee that

the police were tipped off to the fact that it was French Pete and

Marny Day who had taken the old couple's money. Those two old faces

rose before her again now - blotting out most curiously the face of

Pinkie Bonn just in front of her. She felt strangely glad - glad

that she had heard all of old Dainey's storybecause she could see

now an ending to it other than the miserablehopeless one of

despair that she had read in the Daineys' faces just a little while

ago. "SureI'm sure!" she repeated with finality.

"How long ago was it?" prodded Pinkie.

"I dunno" she answered. "I just went to Shluker'san' den we

comes over here. Youse can figure it fer yerself."

And then Rhoda Gray stared at the other - with sudden misgiving.

Pinkie Bonn's face was suddenly wreathed in smiles.

"I'll answer you nowShluk" he grinned. "What do you think?That

we're nutsme an' Pug? Wellforget it! We didn't have to stick

around watchin' Pete an' Marny; we just had to wait until they had

collected the dough. That was the most trouble we had - wonderin'

when that would be. Wellwe don't have to wonder any more. We

know now that the cherries are ripe. See? An' now we'll go an'

pick 'em! Where? Where d'ye suppose? Down to Charlie'sof course!

I hears 'em talkin' about thattoo. They ain't so foolish! They're

out for an alibi themselves. Get the idea? They was to sneak out

of Charlie's without anybody seem' 'eman' if everything broke

right for 'emthey was to sneak back again an' spend the night

there. Nothey ain't so foolish - I guess they ain't! There ain't

no place in New York you can get in an' out of without nobody knowin'

it like Charlie'sif you know the wayan -"

"Awwrite de rest of it down in yer memoirs!" interposed the Pug

impatiently - and moved toward the door. "It's all rightShluker

- all de way. Noweverybody beat itan' get on de job. Nan

youse sticks wid Pinkie an' me."

Rhoda Grayher mind in confusionfound herself being crowded

hurriedly through the doorway by the three men. Still in a mentally

confused conditionshe found herselfa few minutes later - Shluker

having parted company with them - walking along the street between

Pinkie Bonn and the Pug. She was fighting desperately to obtain a

rip upon herself. The information she had volunteered had had an

effect diametrically opposite to that which she had intended. She

seemed terribly impotent; as though she were being swept from her

feet and borne onward by some swift and remorseless currentwhether

she would or no.

The Pugin his curious whisperwas talking to her: "Pinkie knows

de way in. We don't want any row in dereon account of Charlie.

We ain't fer puttin' his place on de roughan' gettin' him raided

by de bulls. Charlie's all to de good. See? Welldat's wot 'd

likely happen if me an' Pinkie busts in on Pete an' Marny widout

sendin' in our visitin'-cards firstpolite-like. Dey would pull

deir gunsan' though we'd get de coin just de samedere'd be hell

to pay fer Charliean' de whole place 'd go up in fireworks right

off de bat. Welldis is where youse come in. Youse are de

visitin'-card. Youse gets into deir bunk roompretendin' youse

have made a mistakean' youse leaves de door open behind youse.

Dey don't know yousean'bein' a womandey won't pull no gun on

youse. An' den youse breaks it gently to dem dat dere's a coupla

gents outsidean' just about den dey looks up an' sees me an'

Pinkie an' our guns-an' I guess dat's all. Get it?"

"Sure!" mumbled Rhoda Gray.

The Pug talked on. She did not hear him. It seemed as though her

brain ached literally with an acute physical pain. What was she

to do? What could she do? She must do something! There must

be some way to save herself from being drawn into the very center

of this vortex toward which she was being swept closer with every

second that passed. Those two old faceshaggard in their despair

and miseryrose before her again. She felt her heart sink. She

had countedonly a few moments beforeon getting their money

back for them - through the police. The police! How could she

get any word to the police nowwithout first getting away from

these two men here? And suppose she did get awayand found some

means of communicating with the authoritiesit would be Pinkie

Bonn hereand the Pugwho would fall into the meshes of the law

quite as much as would French Pete and Marny Day; and to have Pinkie

and the Pug apprehended nowjust as they seemed to be opening the

gateway for her into the inner secrets of the gangmeant ruin to

her own hopes and plans. And to refuse to go on with them nowas

one of themwould certainly excite their suspicions - and suspicion

of Gypsy Nan was the end of everything for her.

Her handsunder her shawlclenched until the nails bit into her

palms. Couldn't she do anything? And there was the moneytoo

for those two old people. Wasn't there any - She caught her breath.

Yesyes! Perhaps there was a way to save the money; yesand at

the same time to place herself on a firmer footing of intimacy with

these two men here - if she went on with this. But - She shook her

head. She could not afford "buts" now; they must take care of

themselves afterwards. She would play Gypsy Nan now without

reservation. These two men herelike Shlukerwere obviously

ignorant that Gypsy Nan was Danglar's wife; so she was - Pinkie

Bonn's hand was on her arm. She had stumbled.

"Look out for yourself!" he cautioned under his breath. "Don't

make a sound!"

They had drawn into a very dark and narrow area way between two

buildingsand now Pinkie kept his touch upon her as he led the way

along. What was this "Charlie's"? She did not knowexcept that

from what had been saidit was a drug dive of some kindpatronized

extensively by the denizens of the underworld. She did not know

where she was nowsave that she had suddenly left one of the

out-of-the--way East Side streets.

Pinkie halted suddenlyandbending downlifted up what was

evidently a half section of the folding trapdoor to a cellar

entrance.

"There's only a few of us regulars wise to this" whispered Pinkie.

"Watch yourself! There's five steps. Count 'emso's you won't

trip. Keep hold of me all the way. An' nix on the noiseor we

won't get away with it inside. Leave the trap openPugfor our

getaway. We ain't goin' to be long. Come on!"

It was horribly dark. Rhoda Graywith her hand on Pinkie Bonn's

shoulderdescended the five steps. She felt the Pug keeping touch

behind by holding the corner of her shawl. They went forward softly

slowlystealthily. She felt her knees shake a littleand suddenly

panic seized herand she wanted to scream out. What was she doing?

Where was she going? Was she madthat she had ventured into this

trap of blackness? Blackness! It was hideously black. She looked

behind her. She could not see the Pugclose as he was to her; and

dark as she had thought it outside there at the cellar entranceit

appeared by contrast to have been lightfor she could even

distinguish now the opening through which they had come.

They were in a cellar that was damp underfootand the soft earth

deadened all sound as they walked upon it - and they seemed to be

walking on interminably. It was too far - much too far! She felt

her nerve failing her. She looked behind her again. That opening

still discernible to her straining eyesbeckoned herlured her.

Better to...

Pinkie had halted again. She bumped into him. And then she felt

his lips press against her ear.

"Here we are!" he breathed. "They got the end room on theright

so's they could get in an' out with out bein' seenan so's even

Charlie'd swear they was here all the time. You're too old a bird

to fall downNan. If the door's lockedknock - an' give 'em any

old kind of a song an' dance till you gets 'em off their guard.

The Pug an' me '11 see you through. Go it!"

Before Rhoda Gray could replyPinkie had stepped suddenly to one

side. A door in front of hera sliding door it seemed to be

opened noiselesslyand she could see a faintly lightednarrow

and very short passage ahead of her. It appeared to make a

right-angled turn just a few yards inand what light there was

seemed to filter in from around the corner. And on each side of

the passagebefore it made the turnthere was a doorand from

the one on the rightthrough a cracked panela tiny thread of

light seeped out.

Her lips moved silently. After allit was not so perilous. Nobody

would be hurt. Pinkie and the Pug would cover those two men in

there - and take the money - and run for it - and...

The Pug gave her an encouraging push from behind.

She moved forward mechanically. There were many sounds nowbut

they came muffled and indeterminate from around that corner ahead

- all save a low murmuring of voices from the door with the cracked

panel on the right.

It was only a few feet. She found herself crouched before the door

- but she did not knock upon it. Insteadher blood seemed suddenly

to run cold in her veinsand she beckoned frantically to her two

companions. She could see through the crack in the panel. There

were two men in thereFrench Pete and Marny Day undoubtedlyand

they sat on opposite sides of a tableand a lamp burned on the

tableand one of the men was counting out a sheaf of crisp

yellow-back banknotes - but the otherwhile apparently engrossed

in the first man's occupationand while he leaned forward in

apparent eagernesswas edging one hand stealthily toward the lamp

and his other handhidden from his companion's view by the table

was just drawing a revolver from his pocket. There was no mistaking

the man's murderous intentions. A dull horrorthat numbed her

brainseized upon Rhoda Gray; the low-type brutal faces under the

rays of the lamp seemed to assume the aspect of two monstrous

gargoylesand to spin around and around before her vision; and then

- it could only have been but the fraction of a second since she had

begun to beckon to Pinkie and the Pug - she felt herself pulled

unceremoniously away from the doorand the Pug leaned forward in

her placehis eyes to the crack in the panel.

She heard a lowquick-muttered exclamation from the Pug; and then

suddenlyas the lamp was obviously extinguishedthat crack of

light in the panel had vanished. But in an instantcuriously like

a jagged lightning flashlight showed through the crack again - and

vanished again. It was the flash of a revolver shot from within

and the roar of the report came now like the roll of thunder on its

heels.

Rhoda Gray was back against the opposite wall. She saw the Pug

fling himself against the door. It was a flimsy affair. It

crashed inward. She heard him call to Pinkie:

"Shoot yer flash on de tablean' grab de coin! I'll fix de other

guy!"

Were eternities passing? Her eyes were fascinated by the interior

beyond that broken door. It was utterly dark inside theresave

that the ray of a flashlight played now on the tableand a hand

reached out and snatched up a scattered sheaf of banknotes; and

on the outer edge of the ray two shadowy forms struggled and one

went down. Then the flashlight went out She heard the Pug speak:

"Beat it!"

Commotion came now; cries and footsteps from around that corner in

the passage. The Pug grasped her by the shouldersand rushed her

back into the cellar. She was consciousit seemedonly in a dazed

and mechanical way. There were men in the passage running toward

them - and then the passage had disappeared. Pinkie Bonn had shut

the connecting door.

"Hop it like blazes!" whispered the Pugas they ran for the faint

glimmer of light that located the cellar exit. "Separate de minute

we're outside!" he ordered. "Dere's murder in dere. Pete shot

Marny. I put Pete to sleep wid a punch on de jaw; but de bunch

knows now some one else was derean' Pete'll swear it was us

though he don't know who we was dat did de shootin'. I gotta make

dis straight right off de bat wid Danglar." His whispering voice

was laboredpanting; they were climbing up the steps now. "Youse

take de money to my roomPinkiean' wait fer me. I won't be much

more'n half an hour. Nanyouse beat it fer yer garretan' stay

dere!"

They were outside. The Pug had disappeared in the darkness. Pinkie

was closingand evidently fasteningthe trap-door.

"The other wayNan!" he flung outas she started to run."That

takes you to the other streetan' they can't get around that way

without goin' around the whole block. Me for a fence I knows about

an' we gives 'em the merry laugh! Go on!"

She ran - ran breathlesslystumblinghalf fallingher hands

stretched out before her to serve almost in lieu of eyesfor she

could make out scarcely anything in front of her. She emerged upon

a street. It seemed abnormalthe quietthe lack of commotionthe

laughterthe unconcern in the voices of the passers-by among whom

she suddenly found herself. She hurried from the neighborhood.

 

XI. THE DOOR ACROSS THE HALL

It was many blocks away before calmness came again to Rhoda Gray

and before it seemedeventhat her brain would resume its normal

functions; but with the numbed horror once gonethere came in its

placelike some surging tidea fierce virility that would not be

denied. The money! The old couple on that doorstepstripped of

their all! Wasn't that one reason why she had gone on with Pinkie

Bonn and the Pug? Hadn't she seen a wayor at least a chance

to get that money back?

Rhoda Gray looked quickly about her. On the corner ahead she saw

a drug storeand started briskly in that direction. Yesthere

was a way! The idea had first come to her from the Pug's remark

to Shluker thatafter they had secured the moneyPinkie would

return with it to the Pug's roomwhile the Pug would go and

square things with Danglar. And alsoat the same timethat same

remark of the Pug's had given rise to a hope that she might yet

trace Danglar to night through the Pug - but the circumstances and

happenings of the last few minutes had shattered that hope utterly.

And so there remained the money. Andas she had walked with Pinkie

and the Pug a little while agoknowing that Pinkie wouldif they

were successfulcarry the money back to the Pug's roomjust as

was being done now precisely in accordance with the Pug's original

intentionsshe had thought of the Adventurer. It had seemed the

only way then; it seemed the only way now - despite the fact that

she would be hard put to it to answer the Adventurer if he thought

to ask her howor by what meansshe was in possession of the

information that enabled her to communicate with him. But she must

risk that - put him offif necessarythrough the plea of haste

and on the ground that there was not time to-night for an unnecessary

word. He had given herbelieving her to be Gypsy Nanhis telephone

numberwhich shein turnwas to transmit to the White Moll - in

other wordsherself! But the White Mollso he believedhad never

received that message - and it must of necessity be as the White

Moll that she must communicate with him to-night! It would be hard

to explain - she meant to evade it. The one vital point was that

she remembered the telephone number he had given her that night when

he and Danglar had met in the garret. She was not likely to have

forgotten it!

Rhoda Grayalias Gypsy Nanscuffled along. Was she inconsistent?

The Adventurer would be in his element in going to the Pug's room

and in relieving Pinkie Bonn of that money; but the Adventurertoo

was a thief-wasn't he? Whythendid she proposefor her mind

was now certainly made up as to her course of actionto trust a

thief to recover that money for her?

She smiled a little wearily as she reached the drug storestepped

into the telephone boothand gave central her call. Trust a thief!

Noit wasn't because her heart prompted her to believe in him; it

was because her head assured her she was safe in doing so. She

could trust him in an instance such as this because - wellbecause

once beforefor her sake he had foregone the opportunity of

appropriating a certain diamond necklace worth a hundred times the

sum that she would ask him - yesif necessaryfor her sake - to

recover to-night. There was no...

She was listening in a startled way now at the instrument. Central

had given her "information"; and "information" wasinforming her

that the number she had asked for had been disconnected.

She hung up the receiverand went out again to the street in a

dazed and bewildered way. And then suddenly a smile of bitter

self-derision crossed her lips. She had been a fool! There was no

softer word - a fool! Why had she not stopped to think? She

understood now! On the night the Adventurer had confided that

telephone number to her as Gypsy Nanhe had had every reason to

believe that Gypsy Nan wouldas she had already apparently done

befriend the White Moll even to the extent of accepting no little

personal risk in so doing. But since then things had taken a very

different turn. The White Moll was now held by the gangof which

Gypsy Nan was supposed to be a memberto be the one who had of late

profited by the gang's plans to the gang's discomfiture; and the

Adventurer was ranked but little lower in the scale of hatredsince

they counted him to be the White Moll's accomplice. Knowing this

thereforethe first thing the Adventurer would naturally do would

be to destroy the clewin the shape of that telephone numberthat

would lead to his whereaboutsand which he of course believed he

had put into the gang's hands when he had confided in Gypsy Nan.

Had he not told herno later than last nightthat Gypsy Nan was

her worst enemy? He did not knowdid hethat Gypsy Nan and the

White Moll were one! And so that telephone had been disconnected

- and to-nightnowjust when she needed help at a crucial moment

when she had counted upon the Adventurer to supply itthere was no

Adventurerno means of reaching himand no means any more of

knowing where he was!

Rhoda Gray walked on along the streether lips tighther face

drawn and hard. Failing the Adventurerthere remained - the police.

If she telephoned the police and sent them to the Pug's roomthey

would of a certainty recover the moneyand with equal certainty

restore it to its rightful owners. She had already thought of that

when she had been with Pinkie and the Pugand had been loath even

then to take such a step because it seemed to spell ruin to her own

personal plans; but now there was another reasonand one far more

cogentwhy she should not do so. There had been murder committed

back there in that underground drug-diveand of that murder Pinkie

Bonn was innocent; but if Pinkie were found in possession of that

moneyand French Peteto save his own skin from the consequences

of a greater crimeadmitted to its original theftPinkie would be

convicted out of handfor there were the others in that divewho

had come running along the passageto testify that an attack had

been made on the door of French Pete and Marny Day's roomand that

the thieves and murderers had fled through the cellar and escaped.

Her lips pressed harder together. And so there was no Adventurer

upon whom she could calland no policeand no one in all the

millions in this great pulsing city to whom she could appeal; and

so there remained only - herself.

Wellshe could do itcouldn't she? Not as Gypsy Nanof course

- but as the White Moll. It would be worth itwouldn't it? If

she were sincereand not a moral hypocrite in her sympathy for

those two outraged old people in the twilight of their livesand

if she were not a moral cowardthere remained no question as to

what her decision should be.

Her mind began to mull over the details. Subconsciouslysince

the moment she had made her escape from that cellarshe found now

that she had been walking in the direction of the garret that

sheltered her as Gypsy Nan. In another five minutes she could

reach that deserted shed in the lane behind Gypsy Nan's house where

her own clothes were hiddenand it would take her but a very few

minutes more to effect the transformation from Gypsy Nan to the

White Moll. And thenin another ten minutesshe should be back

again at the Pug's room. The Pug had said he would not be much more

than half an hourbutas nearly as she could calculate itthat

would still give her from five to ten minutes alone with Pinkie

Bonn. It was enough - more than enough. The prestige of the White

Moll would do the rest. A revolver in the hands of the White Moll

would insure instant and obedient respect from Pinkie Bonnor any

other member of the gang under similar conditions. And so - and so

- it - would not be difficult. Only there was a queer fluttering

at her heart nowand her breath came in hardshort little

inhalations. And she spoke suddenly to herself:

"I'm glad" she whispered"I'm glad I saw those two old faceson

that doorstepbecause - becauseif I hadn'tI - I would be afraid."

The minutes passed. The dissolute figure of an old hag disappeared

like a deeper shadow in the blackness of a lanethrough the broken

door of a deserted shed; presently a slimneat little figure

heavily veiledemerged. Again the minutes passed. And now the

veiled figure let herself in through the back door of the Pug's

lodging houseand stole softly down the dark halland halted

before the Pug's door. It was the White Moll now.

From under the doorat the ill-fitting thresholdthere showed a

thin line of light. Rhoda Graywith her ear against the door panel

listened. There was no sound of voices from within. Pinkie Bonn

thenwas still aloneand still waiting for the Pug. She glanced

sharply around her. There was only darkness. Her gloved right hand

was hidden in the folds of her skirt; she raised her left hand and

knocked softly upon the door-two rapsone raptwo raps. She

repeated it. And as it had been with Shlukerso it was now with

her. A footstep crossed the floor withinthe key turned in the

lockand the door was flung open.

"All rightPug" said Pinkie Bonn"I -"

The man's words ended in a gasp of surprised amazement. With a

quick step forwardRhoda Gray was in the room. Her revolver

suddenly outflungcovered the other; and her free handreaching

behind herclosed and locked the door again.

There was an almost stupid look of bewilderment on Pinkie Bonn's

face.

Rhoda Gray threw back her veil.

"My Gawd!" mumbled Pinkie Bonn - and licked his lips. "TheWhite

Moll!"

"Yes!" said Rhoda Gray tersely. "Put your hands up over yourhead

and go over there and stand against the wall - with your face to it!"

Pinkie Bonnlike an automaton moved purely by mechanical means

obeyed.

Rhoda Gray followed himand with the muzzle of her revolver

pressed into the small of the man's backfelt rapidly over his

clothes with her left hand for the bulge of his revolver. She

found and possessed herself of the weaponandstepping back

ordered him to turn around again.

"I haven't much time" she said icily. "I'll trouble you nowfor

the cash you took from Marny Day and French Pete."

"My Gawd!" he mumbled again. "You know about that!"

"Quick!" she said imperatively. "Put it on the table thereand

then go back again to the wall!"

Pinkie Bonn fumbled in his pocket. His face was whitealmost

chalky whiteand it held fear; but its dominant expression was one

of helpless stupefaction. He placed the sheaf of banknotes on the

tableand shuffled back again to the wall.

Rhoda Gray picked up the moneyand retreated to the door. Still

facing the manworking with her left hand behind her backshe

unlocked the door againand this time removed the key from the lock.

"You are quite safe here" she observed evenly"since thereappears

to be no window through which you could get out; but you might make

it a little unpleasant for me if you gave the alarm and aroused the

other occupants of the house before I had got well away. I dare say

that was in your mindbut - she opened the door slightlyand

inserted the key on the outer side - "I am quite sure you will

reconsider any such intentions - Pinkie. It would be a very

disastrous thing for you if I were caught. Somebody is 'wanted' for

the murder of Marny Day at Charlie's a little while agoand a jury

would undoubtedly decide that the guilty man was the one who broke

in the door there and stole the money. And if I were caught and

were obliged to confess that I got it from youand French Pete

swore that it was whoever broke into the room that shot his palit

might go hard with youPinkie - don't you think so?" She smiled

coldly at the man's staring eyes and dropped jaw. "Good-night

Pinkie; I know you won't make any noise" she said softly - and

suddenly opened the doorand in a flash stepped back into the hall

and closed and locked the doorand whipped out the key from the

lock.

And inside Pinkie Bonn made no sound.

It was done now. Rhoda Gray drew in her breath in a great choking

gasp of relief. She found herself trembling violently. She found

her limbs were bearing her none too steadilyas she began to grope

her way now along the black hall toward the back door. But it was

done nowand - Noshe was not safe awayeven yet! Some one was

coming in through that back door just ahead of her; orat least

she heard voices out there.

She was just at the end of the hall now. There was no time to go

back and risk the front entrance. She darted across the hall to

the opposite side from that of the Pug's roombecause on that side

the opening of the door would not necessarily expose herand

crouched down in the corner. It was black hereperhaps black

enough to escape observation. She listenedher heart beating

wildly. The voices outside continued. Why were they lingering

there? Why didn't they do one thing or the other - either go away

or come in? There wasn't any too much time! The Pug might be

back at any minute now. Perhaps one of those people out there was

the Pug! Perhaps it would be better after all to run back and go

out by the front doorrisky as that would be. Noher escape in

that direction now was cut offtoo!

She shrank as far back into the corner as she could. The door of

the end room on this side of the hall had openedand now a man

stepped out and closed the door behind him. Would he see her? She

held her breath. No! It - it was all right. He was walking away

from her toward the front of the hall. And now for a moment it

seemed as though she had lost her sensesas though her brain were

playing some madwild trick upon her. Wasn't that the Pug's door

before which the man had stopped? Yesyes! And he seemed to have

a key to itfor he did not knockand the door was openingand

now for an instantjust an instantthe light fell upon the man

as he stepped with a quicklightning-like movement insideand she

saw his face. It was the Adventurer.

She stifled a little cry. Her brain was in turmoil. And now the

back door was opening. They - they might see her here! And - yes

- it was safer - safer to act on the sudden inspiration that had

come to her. The door of the room from which the Adventurer had

emerged was almost within reach; and he had not locked it as he had

gone out - she had subconsciously noted that fact. And she

understood why he had not now - that he had safeguarded himself

against the loss of even the second or two it would have taken

him to unlock it when he ran back for cover again from the Pug's

room. Yes-that room! It was the safest thing she could do. She

could even get out that wayfor it must be the room with the low

windowwhich she remembered gave on the back yardand - She

darted silently forwardandas the back door openedslipped into

the room the Adventurer had just vacated.

It was pitch black. She must not make a sound; butequallyshe

must not lose a second. What was taking place in the Pug's room

between Pinkie Bonn and the Adventurer she did not know. But the

Adventurer was obviously on one of his marauding expeditionsand

he might stay there no more than a minute or two once he found out

that he had been forestalled. She must hurry - hurry!

She felt her way forward in what she believed to be the direction

of the window. She ran against the bed. But this afforded her

something by which to guide herself. She kept her touch upon it

her hand trailing along its edge. And thenhalfway down its

lengthwhat seemed to be a piece of string caught in her extended

groping fingers. It seemed to clingbut also to yield most

curiouslyas she tried to shake it off; and then something

evidently from under the mattresscame away with a little jerk

and remainedsuspendedin her hand.

It didn't matterdid it? Nothing mattered except to reach the

window. Yeshere it was now! And the roller shade was drawn down;

that was why the room was so dark. She raised the shade quickly

- and suddenly stood there as though transfixedher face paling

as in the faint light by the window she gazedfascinatedat the

object that still dangled by a cord from her hand.

And it seemed as if an inner darkness were suddenly riven as by a

bolt of lightning - a hundred thingsonce obscure and

incomprehensiblewere clear nowterribly clear. She understood

now how the Adventurer was privy to all the inner workings of the

organization; she understood now how it wasand whythe Adventurer

had a room so close to that other room across the hall. That

dangling thing on an elastic cord was a smeared and dirty celluloid

eye-patch that had once been flesh-colored! The Adventurer and the

Pug were one!

 

Her wits! Quick! He must not know! In a frenzy of haste she ran

for the bedand slipped the eye-patch in under the mattress again;

and thenstill with frenzied speedshe climbed to the window sill

drew the roller shade down again behind herand dropped to the

ground.

Through the back yard and lane she gained the streetand sped on

along the street - but her thoughts outpaced her hurrying footsteps.

How minutely every detail of the night now seemed to explain itself

and dovetail with every other one! At the timewhen Shluker had

been presentit had struck her as a little forced and unnecessary

that the Pug should have volunteered to seek out Danglar with

explanations after the money had been secured. But she understood

now the craft and guile that lay behind his apparently innocent plan.

The Adventurer needed both time and an alibiand also he required

an excuse for making Pinkie Bonn the custodian of the stolen money

and of getting Pinkie alone with that money in the Pug's room.

Going to Danglar supplied all this. He had hurried backchanged

in that room from the Pug to the Adventurerand proposed in the

latter character to relieve Pinkie of the moneyto return then

across the hallbecome the Pug againand then go backas though

he had just come from Danglarto find his friend and allyPinkie

Bonnrobbed by their mutual arch-enemy - the Adventurer!

The Pug-the Adventurer! She did not quite seem to grasp its

significance as applied to her in a personal way. It seemed to

branch out into endless ramifications. She could not somehow think

logicallycoolly enough nowto decide what this meant in a

concrete way to herand her to-morrowand the days after the

to-morrow.

She hurried on. To-nightas she would lay awake through the hours

that were to comefor sleep was a thing deniedperhaps a clearer

vision would be given her. For the moment there - there was

something else - wasn't there? The money that belonged to the old

couple.

She hurried on. She came again to the street where the old couple

lived. It was a dirty streetand from the curb she stooped and

picked up a dirty piece of old newspaper. She wrapped the banknotes

in the paper.

There were not many people on the street as she neared the mean

little frame housebut she loitered until for the moment the

immediate vicinity was deserted; then she slipped into the alleyway

and stole close to the side windowthrough whichshe had noted

from the streetthere shone a light. Yesthey were therethe

two of them - she could see them quite distinctly even through

the shutters.

She went back to the front door thenand knocked. And presently

the old woman came and opened the door.

"This is yours" Rhoda saidand thrust the package into thewoman's

hand. And as the woman looked from her to the package

uncomprehendinglyRhoda Gray flung a quick "good-night" over her

shoulderand ran down the steps again.

But a few moments later she stole backand stood for an instant

once more by the shuttered window in the alleyway. And suddenly

her eyes grew dim. She saw an old manwhite and haggardwith

bandaged headsitting in a chairthe tears streaming down

his face; and on the floorher face hidden on the other's knees

a woman knelt - and the man's hand stroked and stroked the thin

gray hair on the woman' s head.

And Rhoda Gray turned away. And out in the street her face was

lifted and she looked upwardand there were myriad stars. And

there seemed a beauty in them that she had never seen beforeand

a greatcomforting serenity. And they seemed to promise something

- that through the window of that stark and evil garret to which

she was going nowthey would keep her dreaded vigil with her until

morning came again.

 

XIV. THE LAME MAN

Another night - another day! And the night again had been without

restlest Danglar's dreaded footstep come upon her unawares; and

the day again had been one of restlessabortive activitynow

prowling the streets as Gypsy Nannow returning to the garret to

fling herself upon the cot in the hope that in daylightwhen

she might risk itsleep would comebut it had been without avail

forin spite of physical wearinessit seemed to Rhoda Gray as

though her tortured mind would never let her sleep again. Danglar's

wife! That was the horror that was in her brainyesand in her

souland that would not leave her.

And now night was coming upon her once more. It had even begun to

grow dark here on the lower stairway that led up to that wretched

haunted garret above where in the shadows stark terror lurked.

Strange! Most strange! She feared the night - and yet she welcomed

it. In a little whilewhen it grew a little darkershe would

steal out again and take up her work once more. It was only during

the nightunder the veil of darknessthat she could hope to make

any progress in reaching to the heart and core of this criminal

clique which surrounded herwhose members accepted her as Gypsy

Nanandthereforeas one of themselvesand who would accord to

herif they but even suspected her to be the White Mallless mercy

than would be shown to a mad dog.

She climbed the stairs. Fear was upon her nowbecause fear was

always thereand with it was abhorrence and loathing at the

frightful existence fate had thrust upon her; butsomehowto-night

she was not so depressednot so hopelessas she had been the night

before. There had been a little success; she had come a little

farther along the way; she knew a little more than she had known

before of the inner workings of the gang who were at the bottom of

the crime of which she herself was accused. She knew now the

Adventurer's secretthat the Pug and the Adventurer were one; and

she knew where the Adventurer livednow in one characternow in

the otherin those two rooms almost opposite each other across

that tenement hall.

And so it seemed that she had the right to hopeeven though there

were still so many things she did not knowthat if she allowed her

mind to dwell upon that phase of itit staggered her - where those

code messages came fromand how; why Rough Rorke of headquarters

had never made a sign since that first night; why the original

Gypsy Nanwho was dead nowhad been forced into hiding with the

death penalty of the law hanging over her; why Danglarthough Gypsy

Nan's husbandwas comparatively free. Theseand a myriad other

things! But she counted now upon her knowledge of the Adventurer's

secret to force from him everything he knew; andwith that to work

ona confession from some of the gang in corroboration that would

prove the authorship of the crime of which she had seemingly been

caught in the act of committing.

Yesshe was beginning to see the way at last - through the

Adventurer. It seemed a sure and certain way. If she presented

herself before him as Gypsy Nanwhom he believed to be not only

one of the gangbut actually Danglar's wifeand let him know

that she was aware of the dual role he was playingand that the

information he thus acquired as the Pug he turned to his own

account and to the undoing of the ganghe must of necessity be at

her mercy. Her mercy! What exquisite irony! Her mercy! The man

her heart loved; the thief her common sense abhorred! What irony!

When shetooplayed a double role; when in their other characters

that of the Adventurer and the White Mollhe and she were linked

together by the gang as confederateswhereasin truththey were

wider apart than the poles of the earth!

Her mercy! How merciful would she be - to the thief she loved? He

knewhe must knowall the inner secrets of the gang. She smiled

wanly now as she reached the landing. Would he know that in the

last analysis her threat would be only an idle one; thatthough her

futureher safetyher life depended on obtaining the evidence she

felt he could supplyher threat would be emptyand that she was

powerless - because she loved him. But he did not know she loved

him - she was Gypsy Nan. If she kept her secretif he did not

penetrate her disguise as she had penetrated hisif she were Gypsy

Nan and Danglar's wife to himher threat would be valid enough

and - and he would be at her mercy!

A flushhalf shamedhalf angrydyed the grime that was part of

Gypsy Nan's disguise upon her face. What was she saying to herself?

What was she thinking? That he did not know she loved him! How

would he? How could he? Had a wordan acta single look of hers

ever given him a hint thatwhen she had been with him as the White

Mollshe cared! It was unjustunfairto fling such a taunt at

herself. It seemed as though she had lost nearly everything in

lifebut she had not yet lost her womanliness and her pride.

She had certainly lost her sensesthough! Even if that wordthat

lookthat act had passed between thembetween the Adventurer and

the White Mollhe still did not know that Gypsy Nan was the White

Moll - and that was the one thing now that he must not knowand...

Rhoda Gray halted suddenlyand stared along the hallway ahead of

herand up the shortladder-like steps that led to the garret.

Her ears - or was it fancy? - had caught what sounded like a low

knocking up there upon her door. Yesit came again now distinctly.

It was dusk outside; in herein the hallit was almost dark. Her

eyes strained through the murk. She was not mistaken. Something

darker than the surrounding darknessa formmoved up there.

The knocking ceasedand now the form seemed to bend down and grope

along the floor; and thenan instant laterit began to descend the

ladder-like steps - and abruptly Rhoda Graytoomoved forward. It

wasn't Danglar. That was what had instantly taken hold of her mind

and she knew a sudden relief now. The man on the stairs - she could

see that it was a man now - though he moved silentlyswayed in a

grotesquely jerky way as though he were lame. It wasn't Danglar!

She would go to any length to track Danglar to his lair; but not

here - here in the darkness - here in the garret. Here she was

afraid of him with a deadly fear; here alone with him there would

be a thousand chances of exposure incident to the slightest intimacy

he might show the woman whom he believed to be his wife - a thousand

chances here against hardly one in any other environment or

situation. But the man on the stairs wasn't Danglar.

She halted now and uttered a sharp exclamationas though she had

caught sight of the man for the first time.

The othertoohad halted - at the foot of the stairs. A plaintive

drawl reached her:

"Don't screechBertha! It's only your devoted brother-in-law.

Curse your infernal ladderand my twisted back!"

Danglar's brother! Bertha! She snatched instantly at the cue with

an inward gasp of thankfulness. She would not make the mistake of

using the vernacular behind which Gypsy Nan sheltered herself. Here

was some one who knew that Gypsy Nan was but a role. But she had to

remember that her voice was slightly hoarse; that her voiceat least

could not sacrifice its disguise to any one. Danglar had been a

little suspicious of it until she had explained that she was

suffering from a cold.

"Oh!" she said calmly. "It's youis it? And what brought you

here?"

"What do you suppose?" he complained irritably. "The same old

thingall I'm good for - to write out code messages and deliver

them like an errand boy! It's a sweet jobisn't it? How'd you

like to be a deformed little cripple?"

She did not answer at once. The night seemed suddenly to be opening

some strangeeven premonitoryvista. The code messages! Their

mode of delivery! Here was the answer!

"Maybe I'd like it better than being Gypsy Nan!" she flung back

significantly.

He laughed out sharply.

"I'd like to trade with you" he saida quick note of genuine envy

in his voice. "You can pitch away your clothes; I can't pitch away

a crooked spine. Andanywayafter to-nightyou'll be living

swell again.

She leaned toward himstaring at him in the semi-darkness. That

premonitory vista was widening; his words seemed suddenly to set her

brain in tumult. After to-night! She was to resumeafter to-night

the character that was supposed to lay behind the disguise of Gypsy

Nan! She was to resume her supposedly true character - that of

Pierre Danglar's wife!

"What do you mean?" she demanded tensely.

"Awcome on!" he said abruptly. "This isn't the place totalk.

Pierre wants you at once. That's what the message was for. I

thought you were outand I left it in the usual place so you'd get

it the minute you got back and come along over. Socome on now

with me."

He was moving down the hallwayblotching like some misshapen toad

in the shadowy lightlurching in his walkthat wasnevertheless

almost uncannily noiseless. Mechanically she followed him. She was

trying to think; striving frantically to bring her wits to play on

this sudden and unexpected denouement. It was obvious that he was

taking her to Danglar. She had striven desperately last night to

run Danglar to earth in his lair. And here was a self-appointed

guide! And yet her emotions conflicted and her brain was confused.

It was what she wantedwhat through bitter travail of mind she had

decided must be her course; but she found herself shrinking from it

with dread and fear now that it promised to become a reality. It

was not like last night when of her own initiative she had sought

to track Danglarfor then she had started out with a certain freedom

of action that held in reserve a freedom to retreat if it became

necessary. To-night it was as though she were deprived of that

freedomand being led into what only too easily might develop into

a trap from which she could not retreat or escape.

Suppose she refused to go?

They had reached the street nowand now she obtained a better view

of the misshapen thing that lurched jerkily along beside her. The

man was deformedmiserably deformed. He walked most curiously

half bent over; and one armthe leftseemed to swing helplessly

and the left hand was like a withered thing. Her eyes sought the

other's face. It was an old facemuch older than Danglar'sand

it was white and pinched and drawn; and in the dark eyesas they

suddenly darted a glance at hershe read a sullenbitter brooding

and discontent. She turned her head away. It was not a pleasant

face; it struck her as being both morbid and cruel to a degree.

Suppose she refused to go?

"What did you mean by 'after to-night'?" she asked again.

"You'll see" he answered. "Pierre'll tell you. You're inluck

that's all. The whole thing that has kept you under cover has bust

wide open your wayand you win. And Pierre's going through for a

clean-up. To-morrow you can swell around in a limousine again. And

maybe you'll come around and take me for a driveif I dress upand

promise to hide in a corner of the back seat so's they won't see your

handsome friend!"

The creature flung a bitter smile at herand lurched on.

He had told her what she wanted to know - more than she had hoped

for. The mystery that surrounded the character of Gypsy Nanthe

evidence of the crime at which the woman who had originated that

role had hinted on the night she diedand which must necessarily

involve Danglarwas hersRhoda Gray'snow for the taking. As

well go and give herself up to the police as the White Moll and

have done with it allas to refuse to seize the opportunity which

fateevidently in a kindlier mood toward her nowwas offering

her at this instant. It promised her the hold upon Danglar that

she needed to force an avowal of her own innocencethe very hold

that she had but a few minutes before been hoping she could obtain

through the Adventurer.

There was no longer any question as to whether she would go or not.

Her hand groped down under the shabby black shawl into the wide

voluminous pocket of her greasy skirt. Yesher revolver was there.

She knew it was therebut the touch of her fingers upon it seemed

to bring a sense of reassurance. She was perhaps staking her all

in accompanying this cripple here to-night - she did not need to be

told that - but there was a way of escape at the last if she were

cornered and caught. Her fingers played with the weapon. If the

worst came to the worst she would never be at Danglar's mercy while

she possessed that revolver andif the need cameturned it upon

herself.

They walked on rapidly; the lurching figure beside her covering the

ground at an astounding rate of speed. The man made no effort to

talk. She was glad of it. She need not be so anxiously on her

guard as would be the case if a conversation were carried onand

shewho knew so much and yet so pitifully littlemust weigh her

every wordand feel her way with every sentence. And besidestoo

it gave her time to think. Where were they going? What sort of a

place was itthis headquarters of the gang? For it must be the

headquarterssince it was from there the code messages would

naturally emanateand this deformed creaturefrom what he had

saidwas the "secretary" of the nefarious clique that was ruled

by his brother. And was luck really with her at last? Suppose she

had been but a few minutes later in reaching Gypsy Nan's houseand

had foundinstead of this man hereonly the note instructing her

to go and meet Danglar! What would she have done? What explanation

could she have made for her nonappearance? Her hands would have

been tied. She would have been helpless. She could not have

answered the summonsfor she could have had no idea where this

gang-lair was; and the note certainly would not contain such details

as street and numberwhich she was obviously supposed to know. She

smiled a little grimly to herself. Yesit seemed as though fortune

were beginning to smile upon her again - fortuneat leasthad

supplied her with a guide.

The twisted figure walked on the inside of the sidewalkand

curiously seemed to seek as much as possible the protecting shadows

of the buildingsand invariably shrank back out of the way of the

passers-by they met. She watched him narrowly as they went along.

What was he afraid of? Recognition? It puzzled her for a time

and then she understood: It was not fear of recognition; the sullen

almost belligerent stare with which he met the eyes of those with

whom he came into close contact belied that. The man was morbidly

abnormally sensitive of his deformity.

They turned at last into one of the East Side cross streetsand

her guide halted finally on a corner in front of a little shop that

was closed and dark. She stared curiously as the man unlocked the

door. Perhapsafter allshe had been woefully mistaken. It did

not look at all the kind of place where crimes that ran the gamut

of the decalogue were hatchedat all the sort of place that was

the council chamber of perhaps the most cunningcertainly the most

cold-blooded and unscrupulousband of crooks that New York had

ever harbored. And yet - why not? Wasn't there the essence of

cunning in that very fact? Who would suspect anything of the sort

from a ramshackletwo-story little house like thiswhose front

was a woe-begone little storethe proceeds of which might just

barely keep the body and soul of its proprietor together?

The man fumbled with the lock. There was not a single light showing

from the placebut in the dwindling rays of a distant street lamp

she could see the meager window display through the filthyunwashed

panes. It was evidently a cheap and tawdry notion storewell

suited to its locality. There were toys of the cheapest variety

stationery of the same gradecheap pipescigarettestobacco

candy - a package of needles.

"Go on in!" grunted the manas he pushed the door - which seemed

to shriek out unduly on its hinges - wide open. "If anybody sees

the door openthey'll be around wanting to buy a paper of pins

- curse 'em! - and I ain't open to-night." He snarled as he shut

and locked the door. "Pierre says you're grouching about your

garret. How about meand this job? You get out of yours to-night

for keeps. What about me? I can't do anything but act as a damned

blind for the rest of you with this fool store. just because I was

born a freak that every gutter-snipe on the street yells at!"

Rhoda Gray did not answer.

"Wellgo on!" snapped the man. "What are you standing therefor?

One would think you'd never been here before!"

Go on! Where? She had not the faintest idea. It was quite dark

inside here in the shop. She could barely make out the outline of

the other's figure.

"You're in a sweet temper to-nightaren't you?" she said tartly.

"Go onyourself! I'm waiting for you to get through your speech."

He moved brusquely past herwith an angry grunt. Rhoda Gray

followed him. They passed along a shortnarrow spaceevidently

between a low counter and a shelved walland then the man opened

a doorandshutting it again behind themmoved forward once more.

She could scarcely see him at all now; it was more the sound of his

footsteps than anything else that guided her. And then suddenly

another door was openedand a softyellow light streamed out

through the doorwayand she found that she was standing in an

intervening room between the shop and the room ahead of her. She

felt her pulse quickenand it seemed as though her heart began to

thump almost audibly. Danglar ! She could see Danglar seated at

a table in there. She clenched her hands under her shawl. She

would need all her wits now. She prayed that there was not too

much light in that room yonder.

 

XV. IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER

The man with the withered hand had passed through into the other

room. She heard them talking togetheras she followed. She

forced herself to walk with as nearly a leisurely defiant air as

she could. The last time she had been with Danglar - as Gypsy Nan

- she hadin self-protectionforbidding intimacyplayed up what

he called her "grouch" at his neglect of her.

She paused in the doorway. Halfway across the roomat the table

Danglar's gauntswarthy face showed under the rays of a shaded

oil lamp. Behind her spectaclesshe met his smallblack ferret

eyes steadily.

"HelloBertha!" he called out cheerily. "How's the old girl

to-night?" He rose from his seat to come toward her. "And how's

the cold?"

Rhoda Gray scowled at him.

"Worse!" she said curtly-and hoarsely. "And a lot you care! I

could have died in that holefor all you knew! She pushed him

irritably awayas he came near her. "Yesthat's what I said!

And you needn't start any cooing game now! Get down to cases!"

She jerked her hand toward the twisted figure that had slouched

into a chair beside the table. "He says you've got it doped out

to pull something that will let me out of this Gypsy Nan stunt.

Another bubbleI suppose!" She shrugged her shouldersglanced

around herandlocating a chair - not too near the table - seated

herself indifferently. "I'm getting sick of bubbles!" she announced

insolently. "What's this one?"

He stood there for a moment biting at his lipshesitant between

anger and tolerant amusement; and thenthe latter evidently gaining

the ascendencyhe too shrugged his shouldersand with a laugh

returned to his chair.

"You're a rare oneBertha!" he said coolly. "I thought you'dbe

wild with delight. I guess you're sickall right - because usually

you're pretty sensible. I've tried to tell you that it wasn't my

fault I couldn't go near youand that I had to keep away from -"

"What's the use of going over all that again?" she interrupted

tartly. "I guess I -"

"Ohall right!" said Danglar hurriedly. "Don't start a row!After

to-night I've an idea you'll be sweet enough to your husbandand

I'm willing to wait. Matty maybe hasn't told you the whole of it."

Matty! So that was the deformed creature's name. She glanced at

him. He was grinning broadly. A family squabble seemed to afford

him amusement. Her eyes shifted and made a circuit of the room. It

was poverty-stricken in appearancebare-flooredwith the scantiest

and cheapest of furnishingsits one window tightly shuttered.

"Maybe not" she said carelessly.

"WellthenlistenBertha!" Danglar's voice was loweredearnestly.

"We've uncovered the Nabob's stuff! Do you get me? Every last one

of the sparklers!"

Rhoda Gray's eyes went back to the deformed creature at Danglar's

sideas the man laughed out abruptly.

"Yes" grinned Matty Danglar"and they weren't in the empty

money-belt that you beat it with like a scared cat after croaking

Deemer!"

How queer and dim the light seemed to go suddenly - or was it a blur

before her own eyes? She said nothing. Her mind seemed to be

groping its way out of darkness toward some faint gleam of light

showing in the far distance. She heard Danglar order his brother

savagely to hold his tongue. That was curioustoobecause she

was grateful for the man's gibe. Gypsy Nanin her proper person

had murdered a man named Deemer in an effort to secure - Danglar's

voice came again:

"Wellto-night we'll get that stuffall of it - it's worth a cool

half million; and to-night we'll get Mr. House-Detective Cloran for

keeps - bump him off. That cleans everything up. How does that

strike youBertha?"

Rhoda Gray's hands under her shawl locked tightly together. Her

premonition had not betrayed her. She was face to face to-night with

the beginning of the end.

"It sounds fine!" she said derisively.

Danglar's eyes narrowed for an instant; and then he laughed.

"You're a rare oneBertha!" he ejaculated again. "You don'tseem

to put much stock in your husband lately."

"Why should I?" she inquired imperturbably. "Things have been

breaking finehaven't they? - only not for us!" She cleared her

throat as though it were an effort to talk. "I'm not going crazy

with joy till I've been shown."

Danglar leaned suddenly over the table.

"Wellcome and look at the cardsthen" he said impressively.

"Pull your chair up to the tableand I'll tell you."

Rhoda Gray tilted her chairinsteadnonchalantly back against the

wall - it was quite light enough where she was!

"I can hear you from here" she said coolly. "I'm not deafand I

guess Matty's suite is safe enough so that you won't have to whisper

all the time!"

The deformed creature at the table chortled again.

Danglar scowled.

"Damn youBertha!" he flung out savagely. "I could wring thatneck

of yours sometimesand -"

"I know you couldPierre" she interposed sweetly. "That'swhat I

like about you - you're so considerate of me! But suppose you get

down to cases. What's the story about those sparklers? And what's

the game that's going to let me shed this Gypsy Nan stuff for keeps?"

"I'll tell herPierre" grinned the deformed one. "It'll keepyou

two from spitting at one another; and neither of you have got all

night to stick around here." He swung his withered hand suddenly

across the tableand as suddenly all facetiousness was gone both

from his voice and manner. "Sayyou listen hardBertha! What

Pierre's telling you is straight. You and him can kiss and make

up to-morrow or the next dayor whenever you damned please; but

to-night there ain't any more time for scrapping. Nowlisten!

I handed you a rap about beating it with the empty money-belt

the night you croaked Deemer with an overdose of knockout drops

in the private dining-room up at the Hotel Marwitzbut you forget

that! I ain't for starting any argument about that. None of us

blames you. We thought the stuff was in the belttoo. And none

of us blames you for making a mistake and going too strong with the

dropseither; anybody might do that. And I'll say now that I take

my hat off to you for the way you locked Cloran into the room with

the dead manand made your escape when Cloran had you dead to

rights for the murder; and I'll saytoothat the way you've played

Gypsy Nan and saved your skinand ours toois as slick a piece of

work as has ever been pulled in the underworld. That puts us

straightyou and medon't itBertha?"

Rhoda Gray blinked at the man through her spectacles; her brain was

whirling in a mad turmoil. "I always liked youMatty" she

whispered softly.

Danglar was lolling back in his chairblowing smoke rings into the

air. She caught his eyes fixed quizzically upon her.

"Go onMatty!" he prompted. "You'll have her in a good humorif

you're not careful!"

"We were playing more or less blind after that." The withered hand

traced an aimless pattern on the table with its crooked and

half-closed fingersand the man's face was puckered into a shrewd

reminiscent scowl. "The papers couldn't get a lead on the motive

for the murderand the police weren't talking for publication. Not

a word about the Rajah's jewels. Washington saw to that! A young

potentate's sonpractically the guest of the countrytouring about

in a special for the sake of his educationand dashed near 'ending

it in the river out West if it hadn't been for the rescue you know

aboutwouldn't look well in print; so there wasn't anything said

about the slather of gems that was the reward of heroism from a

grateful naboband we didn't get any help that way. All we knew

was that Deemer came East with the jewelspresumably to cash in on

themand it looked as though Deemer "were pretty clever; that he

wore the money-belt for a stalland that he had the sparklers

safe somewhere else all the time. And I guess we all got to

figuring it that waybecause the fact that nothing was said about

any theft was strictly along the lines the police were working

anywayand a was a toss-up that they hadn't found the stuff among

his effects. Get me?"

Get him! This wasn't realwas itthis room here; those two

figures sitting there under that shaded lamp? Something coldan

icy gripseemed to seize at her heartas in a surge there swept

upon her the full appreciation of her peril through these confidences

to which she was listening. A wordin actsome slightest thing

might so easily betray her; and then - Her fingers under the shawl

and inside the wide pocket of her greasy skirtclutched at her

revolver. Thank God for that! It would at least be merciful! She

nodded her head mechanically.

"But the police didn't find the jewels - because they weren't there

to be found. Somebody got in ahead of us. Pinched 'emunderstand

may be only a few hours before you got in your last playandfrom

the way you say Deemer actedbefore he was wise to the fact that

he'd been robbed."

Rhoda Gray let her chair come sharply down to the floor. She must

play her role of "Bertha" now as she never had before. Here was a

question that she could not only ask with safetybut one that was

obviously expected.

"Who was it?" she demanded breathlessly.

"She's coming to life!" murmured Danglarthrough a haze ofcigarette

smoke. "I thought you'd wake up after a whileBertha. This is the

big nightold girlas you'll find out before we're through."

"Who was it?" she repeated with well-simulated impatience.

"I guess she'll listen to me now" said Danglarwith a little

chuckle. "Don't over-tax yourself any moreMatty. I'll tell you

Bertha; and it will perhaps make you feel better to know it took

the slickest dip New York ever knew to beat you to the tape. It was

Angel Jackalias the Gimp."

"How do you know?" Rhoda Gray demanded.

"Because" said Danglarand lighted another cigarette"hedied

yesterday afternoon up in Sing Sing."

She could afford to show her frank bewilderment. Her brows knitted

into furrowsas she stared at Danglar.

"You - you mean he confessed?" she said.

"The Angel? Never!" Danglar laughed grimlyand shook his head.

"Nothing like that! It was a question of playing one 'fence' against

another. You know that Witzerwho's handled all our jewelry for

ushas been on the look-out for any stones that might have come

from that collection. Wellthis afternoon he passed the word to me

that he'd been offered the finest unset emerald he'd ever seenand

that it had come to him through old Jake Luertz's runnera very

innocent-faced young man who is known to the trade as the Crab."

Danglar paused - and laughed again. Unconsciously Rhoda Gray drew

her shawl a little closer about her shoulders. It seemed to bring

a chill into the roomthat laugh. Once beforeon another night

Danglar had laughedandwith his parted lipsshe had likened him

to a beast showing its fangs. He looked it now more than ever. For

all his ease of voice and mannerhe was in deadly earnest; and if

there was merriment in his laughit but seemed to enhance the

menace and the promise of unholy purpose that lurked in the cold

glitter of his smallblack eyes.

"It didn't take long to get hold of the Crab" - Danglar was rubbing

his hands together softly - "and the emerald with him. We got him

where we could put the screws on without arousing the neighborhood."

"Another murderI suppose!" Rhoda Gray flung out the wordscrossly.

"Ohno" said Danglar pleasantly. "He squealed before it cameto

that. He's none the worse for wearand he'll be turned loose in

another hour or soas soon as we're through at old Jake Luertz's.

He's no more good to us. He came across all right - after he was

properly frightened. He's been with old Jake as a sort of familiar

for the last six yearsand -"

"He'd have sold his soul outhe was so scared!" The withered hand

on the table twitched; the deformed creature's face was twisted

into a grimace; and the man was chuckling with unhallowed mirthas

though unable. to contain himself atpresumablythe recollection

of a scene which he had witnessed himself. "He was down on his

knees and clawing out with his hands for mercyand he squealed like

a rat. 'It's the sixth panel in the bedroom upstairs' he says;

'it's all there. But for God's sake don't tell Jake I told. It's

the sixth panel. Press the knot in the sixth panel that -'" He

stopped abruptly.

Danglar had pulled out his watch and with exaggerated patience was

circling the crystal with his thumb.

"Are you all throughMatty?" he inquired monotonously. "Ithink

you said something a little while ago about wasting time. Bertha's

looking bored; andbesidesshe's got a little job of her own on

for to-night." He jerked his watch back into his pocketand turned

to Rhoda Gray again. "The only one who knew all the details Angel

Jackand he'll never tell now because he's dead. Whether he came

down from the West with Deemer or notor how he got wise to the

stonesI don't know. But he got the stonesall right. And then

he tumbled to the fact that the police were pushing him hard for

another job he was 'wanted' forand he had to get those stones out

of sight in a hurry. He made a package of them and slipped them to

old Luertzwho had always done his business for himto keep for

him; and before he could duckthe bulls had him for that other job.

Angel Jack went up the river. See? Old Jake didn't know what was

in that package; but he knew better than to monkey with itbecause

he always thought something of his own skin. He knew Angel Jack

and he knew what would happen if he didn't have that package ready

to hand back the day Angel Jack got out of Sing Sing. Understand?

But yesterday Angel Jack died-without a will; and old Jake appointed

himself sole executor-without bonds! He opened that package

figured he'd begin turning it into money - and that's how we get

our own back again. Old Jake will get a fake message to-night

calling him out of the house on an errand uptown; and about ten

o'clock Pinkie Bonn and the Pug will pay a visit there in his

absenceand - wellit looks gooddon't itBerthaafter two

years?"

Rhoda Gray was crouched down in her chair. She shrugged her

shoulders nowand infused a sullen note into her voice.

"Yesit's fine!" she sniffed. "I'll be rolling in wealth inmy

garret - which will do me a lot of good! That doesn't separate me

from these ragsand the hell I've liveddoes it - after two years?"

"I'm coming to that" said Danglarwith his shortgrating laugh.

"We've as good as got the stones nowand we're going through

to-night for a clean-up of all that old mess. We stake the whole

thing. Get meBertha - the whole thing ! I'm showing my hand

for the first time. Cloran's the man that's making you wear those

clothes; Cloran's the only one who could go into the witness box

and swear that you were the woman who murdered Deemer; and Cloran's

the man who has been working his head off for two years to find you.

We've tried a dozen times to bump him off in a way that would make

his death appear to be due purely to an accidentand we didn't get

away with it; but we can afford to leave the 'accident' out of it

to-nightand go through for keeps - and that's what we're going

to do. And once he's out of the way - by midnight - you can heave

Gypsy Nan into the discard."

It seemed to Rhoda Gray that horror had suddenly taken a numbing

hold upon her sensibilities. Danglar was talking about murdering

some manwasn't heso that she could resume again the personality

of a woman who was dead? Hysterical laughter rose to her lips. It

was only by a frantic effort of will that she controlled herself.

She seemed to speak involuntarilydoubtful almost that it was her

own voice she heard.

"I'm listening" she said; "but I wouldn't be too sure.Cloran's

a wary birdand there's the White Moll."

She caught her breath. What suicidal inspiration had prompted her

to say that! Had what she had been listening to herethe horror

of itindeed turned her brain and robbed her of her wits to the

extent that she should invite exposure? Danglar's face had gone a

mottled purple; the misshapen thing at Danglar's side was leering

at her most curiously.

It was a moment before Danglar spoke; and then his handclenched

until the white of the knuckles showedpounded upon the table to

punctuate his words.

"Not to-night!" he rasped out with an oath. "There's not achance

that she's in on this to-night - the she-devil! But she's next!

With this cleaned upshe's next! If it takes the last dollar of

to-night's hauland five years to do itI'll get herand get -"

"Sure!" mumbled Rhoda Gray hurriedly. "But you needn't getexcited!

I was only thinking of her because she's queered us till I've got

my fingers crossedthat's all. Go on about Cloran."

Danglar's composure did not return on the instant. He gnawed at

his lips for a moment before he spoke.

"All right!" he jerked out finally. "Let it go at that! I told

you the other night in the garret that things were beginning to

break our wayand that you wouldn't have to stay there much

longerbut I didn't tell you how or why - you wouldn't give me

a chance. I'll tell you now; and it's the main reason why I've

kept away from you lately. I couldn't take a chance of Cloran

getting wise to that garret and Gypsy Nan." He grinned suddenly.

"I've been cultivating Cloran myself for the last two weeks. We're

quite pals! I'm for playing the luck every time! When the jewels

showed up to-dayI figured that to-night's the night - see?

Cloran and I are going to supper together at the Silver Sphinx at

about eleven o'clock -and this is where you shed the Gypsy Nan

stuffand show up as your own sweet self. Cloran'll be glad to

meet you!"

She stared at him in genuine perplexity and amazement.

"Show myself to Cloran!" she ejaculated heavily. "I don't getyou!"

"You will in a minute" said Danglar softly. "You're the bait

-see? Cloran and I will be at supper and watching the fox-trotters.

You blow in and show yourself - I don't need to tell you howyou're

clever enough at that sort of thing yourself - and the minute he

recognizes you as the woman he's been looking for that murdered

Deemeryou pretend to recognize him for the first time tooand

then you beat it like you had the scare of your life for the door.

He'll follow you on the jump. I don't know what it's all about

and I sit tightand that lets me out. And now get this! There'll

be two taxicabs outside. If there's more than twoit's the first

two I'm talking about. You jump into the one at the head of the

line. Cloran won't need any invitation to grab the second one and

follow you. That's all! It's the last ride he'll take. It'll be

our boysand not chauffeurswho'll be driving those cars to-night

and they've got their orders where to go. Cloran won't come back.

UnderstandBertha'?"

There was only one answer to makeonly one answer that she dared

make. She made it mechanicallythough her brain reeled. A man

named Cloran was to be murdered; and she was to show herself as

this - this Bertha - and...

"Yes" she said.

"Good!" said Danglar. He pulled out his watch again. "Allright

then! We've been here long enough." He rose briskly. "It's time

to make a move. You hop it back to the garretand get rid of that

fancy dress. I've got to meet Cloran uptown first. Come onMatty

let us out."

The place stifled her. She got up and moved quickly through the

intervening room. She heard Danglar and his crippled brother

talking earnestly together as they followed her. And then the

cripple brushed by her in the darknessand opened the front door

- and Danglar had drawn her to him in a quick embrace. She did not

struggle; she dared not. Her heart seemed to stand still. Danglar

was whispering in her ear:

"I promised I'd make it up to youBerthaold girl. You'll see

- after to-night. We'll have another honey-moon. You go on ahead

now - I can't be seen with Gypsy Nan. And don't be late - the

Silver Sphinx at eleven."

She ran out on the street. Her fingers mechanically clutched at

her shawl to loosen it around her throat. It seemed as though she

were chokingthat she could not breathe. The man's touch upon her

had seemed like contact with some foul and loathsome thing; the

scene in that room back there like some nightmare of horror from

which she could not awake.

 

XVI. THE SECRET PANEL

Rhoda Gray hurried onwardback toward the garrether mind in riot

and dismay. It was not only the beginning of the end; it was very

near the end! What was she to do? The Silver Sphinx - at eleven!

That was the end - after eleven - wasn't it? She could impersonate

Gypsy Nan; she could notif she wouldimpersonate the woman who

was dead! And thentoothere were the stolen jewels at old Jake

Luertz's! She could not turn to the police for help therebecause

then the Pug might fall into their handsand - and the Pug was

- was the Adventurer.

And then a sort of fatalistic calm fell upon her. If the masquerade

was overif the end had comethere remained only one thing for her

to do. There were no risks too desperate to take now. It was she

who must strikeand strike first. Those jewels in old Luertz's

bedroom became suddenly vital to her. They were tangible evidence.

With those jewels in her possession she should be able to force

Danglar to his knees. She could get them - before Pinkie Bonn and

the Pug - if she hurried. Afterward she would know where to find

Danglar - at the Silver Sphinx. Nothing would happen to Cloran

becausethrough her failure to cooperatethe plan would be

abortive; butveiledas the White Mollshe could pick up Danglar's

trail again there. Yesit would be the end - one way or the other

- between eleven o'clock and daylight!

She quickened her steps. Old Luertz was to be inveigled away from

his home about ten o'clock. At a guessshe made it only a little

after nine now. She would need the skeleton keys in order to get

into old Luertz's placeandyesshe would need a flashlighttoo.

Wellshe would have time enough to get themand time enoughthen

to run to the deserted shed in the lane behind the garret and change

her clothes.

Rhoda Grayas Gypsy Nanwent on as speedily as she dared without

inviting undue attention to herselfreached the garretsecured

the articles she soughthurried out againand went down the lane

in the rear to the deserted shed. She remained longer here than in

the atticperhaps ten minutesworking mostly in the darkness

risking the flashlight only when it was imperative; and thenthe

metamorphosis completea veiled figurein her own personas

Rhoda Graythe White Mollshe was out on the street againand

hastening back in the same general direction from which she had

just come.

She knew old Jake Luertz's placeand she knew the man himself very

intimately by reputation. There were few such men and such places

that she could have escaped knowing in the years of self-appointed

service that she had given to the worstand perhaps therefore the

most needyelement in New York. The man ostensibly conducted a

little secondhand store; in reality he probably "shoved" morestolen

goods for his clientelewhich at one time or another undoubtedly

embraced nearly every crook in the underworldthan any other"fence"

in New York. She knew him for an oilycunning old fox who lived

alone in the two rooms over his miserable store - unlessof late

his young henchmanthe Crabhad taken to living with him; though

as far as that was concernedit mattered little to-nightsince

the Crabfor the momentthanks to the gangwas eliminated from

consideration.

She reached the secondhand store - and walked on past it. There

was a light upstairs in the front window. Old Luertz therefore had

not yet gone out in response to the gang's fake message. She knew

old Luertz's reputation far too well for that; the man would never

go out and leave a gas jet burning - which he would have to pay for!

There was nothing to do but wait. Rhoda Gray sought the shelter of

a doorway across the street. She was nervously impatient now. The

minutes dragged along. Why didn't 'the man hurry and go out?

"About ten o'clock" Danglar had said - but that was veryindefinite.

Pinkie Bonn and the Pug might be as late as that; butequallythey

might be earlier!

It seemed an interminable time. And thenher eyes strained across

the street upon that upper windowshe drew still farther back into

the protecting shadows of the doorway. The light had gone out.

A moment more passed. The street door of the house opposite to her

- a door separate from that of the secondhand store-openedand a

bentgray-bearded manstepped outpeered aroundlocked the door

behind himand scuffled down the street.

Rhoda Gray scanned the dingy and ill-lighted little street. It was

virtually deserted. She crossed the roadand stepped into the

doorway from which the old "fence" had just emerged. It was dark

herewell out of the direct radius of the nearest street lamp

andwith luckthere was no reason why she should be observed - if

she did not take too long in opening the door! She had never

actually used a skeleton key in her life beforeand...

She inserted one of her collection of keys in the lock. It would

not work. She tried anotherand still another-with mounting

anxiety and perplexity. Suppose that - yes! The door was open now!

With a quick glance over her shoulderscanning the street in both

directions to make sure that she was not observedshe stepped

insideclosed the doorand locked it again.

Her flashlight stabbed through the darkness. Narrow stairs

immediately in front of her led upward; at her right was a

connecting door to the secondhand shop. Without an instant's

hesitation she ran up the stairs. There was no need to observe

caution since the place was temporarily untenanted; there was need

only of haste. She opened the door at the head of the stairsand

with a quickeager nod of satisfactionas the flashlight swept

the interiorstepped over the threshold. It was the room she

sought - old Luertz's bedroom.

And now the flashlight played inquisitively about her. The bed

occupied a position by the window; across one corner of the room

was a cretonne hangingthat evidently did service as a wardrobe;

across another corner was a large and dilapidated washstand; there

were a few chairsand a threadbare carpet; andopposite the bed

another doorclosedwhich obviously led into the front room.

Rhoda Gray stepped to this dooropened itand peered in. She

was not concerned that it was evidently used for kitchen

dining-room and the stowage of everything that overflowed from the

bedroom; she was concerned only with the fact that it offered no

avenue through which any added risk or danger might reach her. She

closed the door as she had found itand gave her attention now to

the walls of old Luertz's bedroom.

She smiled a little whimsically. The Crab had used a somewhat

dignified term when he had referred to "panels." Truethewalls

were of stained woodbut the wood was of the cheapest variety of

matched boardsand the stain was of but a single coatand a very

meager one at that! The smile faded. There were a good many knots;

and there were four corners to the roomand therefore eight boards

each one of which would answer to the description of being the

"sixth panel."

She went to the corner nearest herand dropped down on her knees.

As well start with this one! She had not dared press Danglaror

Danglar's deformed brotherfor more definite directionshad she?

She counted the boards quickly from the corner to her right; and

thenthe flashlight playing steadilyshe began to press first one

knot after anotherin the board before herworking from the bottom

up. There were many knots; she went over each one with infinite

care. There was no result.

She turned then to the sixth board from the corner to her left. The

result was the same. She stood upher brows puckereda sense of

anxious impatience creeping upon her. She had been quite a while

over even these two boardsand it might be any one of the remaining

six!

Her eyes traversed the roomfollowing the ray of the flashlight.

If she only knew which oneit would - Was it an inspiration? Her

eyes had fixed on the cretonne hanging across one of the far corners

from the doorand she moved toward it now quickly. The hanging

might very well serve for an other purpose than that of merely a

wardrobe! It seemed suddenly to be the most likely of the four

corners because it was ingeniously concealed.

She parted the hanging. A heterogeneous collection of clothing

hung from pegs and nails. Eagerlyhastily nowshe brushed these

asideandclose to the walldropped down on her knees again. The

minutes passed. Twice she went over the sixth board from the

corner to her right. She felt so sure now that it was this corner.

And thenstill eagerlyshe turned to the corresponding board at

her left.

It was warm and close here. The clothing hanging from the pegs

and nails enveloped herandwith the cretonne hanging itself

shut out the airwhat little of it there wasthat circulated

through the room.

Over the boardfrom the tiniest knot to the largesther fingers

pressed carefully. Had she missed one anywhere? She must have

missed one! She was sure the panel in question was here behind this

hanging. Wellshe would try againand...

What was that?

In an instant the flashlight in her hand was outand she was

listening tensely. Yesthere was a footstep - two of them - not

only on the stairsbut already just outside the door. It seemed

as though a deadly fearcold and numbingsettled upon her and

robbed her of even the power of movement. She was caught! If it

was Pinkie Bonn and the Pugand if this corner hid the secret

panel as she still believed it didthis was the first place to

which they would comeand they would find her here amongst the

clothing - which had evidently been the cause of deadening any

sound on those stairs out there until it was too late.

She held her breathher hands tight upon her bosom. There was

no time to reach the sanctuary of the other room - the footsteps

were already crossing the threshold from the head of the stairs.

And then a voice reached her - the Pug's. It was the Pug and

Pinkie Bonn.

"Strike a lightPinkie! Dere's no use messin' around wid a

flash. De old geezer'11 be back on de hop de minute he finds out

he's been bunkedan' de quicker we work de better."

A match crackled into flame. An air-choked gas jetwith a

protesting hisswas lighted. And then Rhoda Gray's drawn face

relaxed a littleand a strangemirthless smile came hovering over

her lips. What was she afraid of? The Pug was the Adventurer

wasn't he? This was one of the occasions when he could not escape

the entanglements of the gangand must work for the gang instead

of appropriating all the loot for his own personal and nefarious

ends; but he was the Adventurer. The White Moll need not fear him

even though he appearedlinked with Pinkie Bonnin the role of

the Pug! So there was only Pinkie Bonn to fear.

Rhoda Gray took her revolver from her pocket. She was well armed

- and in more than a material sense. The Adventurer did not know

that she was aware of the Pug's identity. Her smilestill

mirthlessdeepened. She might even turn the tables upon themand

still secure the stolen stones. She had turned the tables upon

Pinkie Bonn last night; to-nightif she used her witsshe could

do it again!

And thensuddenlyshe stifled an exclamationas the Pug's voice

reached her again:

"Wot are youse gapin' about? Dere ain't anything else worth pinchin'

around here except wot's in de old gent's safety vault. Get a move

on! We ain't got all night! It's de corner behind de washstand.

Give us a hand to move de furniture!"

It wasn't here behind the cretonne hanging! Rhoda Gray bit her lips

in a crestfallen little way. Wellher supposition had been natural

enoughhadn't it? And she would have tried every corner before she

was through if she had had the opportunity.

She moved now slightlywithout a soundparting the clothing away

from in front of herand moving the cretonne hanging by the fraction

of an inch where it touched the side wall of the room. And now she

could see the Pugwith his dirty and discolored celluloid eye-patch

and his ingeniously contorted face; and she could see Pinkie Bonn's

pasty-whitedrug-stamped countenance

It was not a large room. The two men in the opposite corner along

the wall from her were scarcely more than ten feet away. They swung

the washstand out from the walland the Puggoing in behind it

began to work on one of the wall boards. Pinkie Bonnan unlighted

cigarette dangling from his lipleaned over the washstand watching

his companion.

A minute passed - another. It was still in the roomexcept only

for the distant sounds of the world outside - a clatter of wheels

upon the pavementthe muffled roar of the elevatedthe clang of a

trolley bell. And then the Pug began to mutter to himself. Rhoda

Gray smiled a little grimly. She was not the only oneit would

appearwho experienced difficulty with old Jake Luertz's crafty

hiding place!

"Saydis is de limit!" the Pug growled out suddenly. "Dere'smore

damned knots in dis board dan I ever save in any piece of wood in me

life beforean' -" He drew back abruptly from the walltwisting

his head sharply around. "D'ye hear datPinkie!" he whispered

tensely. "Quick! Put out de light! Quick! Dere's some one down

at de front door!"

Rhoda Gray felt the blood ebb from her face. She had heard nothing

save the rattle and bump of a wagon along the street below; but she

had had reason to appreciate on a certain occasion before that the

Pugalias the Adventurerwas possessed of a sense of hearing that

was abnormally acute. If it was some one else - who was it? What

would it mean to her? What complication here in this room would

result? What...

The light was out. Pinkie Bonn had stepped silently across the

room to the gas jet near the door. Her eyesstrainedshe could

just make out the Adventurer's form kneeling by the walland then

- was she mad! Was the faint night-light of the city filtering in

through the window mocking her? The Adventurerhidden from his

companion by the washstandwas working swiftly and without a

sound - or else it was a phantasm of shadows that tricked her!

A door in the wall opened; the Adventurer thrust in his handdrew

out a packageandleaning aroundslipped it quickly into the

bottom of the washstandwherewith its little doorsthere was

a most convenient and very commodious apartment. He turned again

thenseemed to take something from his pocket and place it in the

opening in the walland then the panel closed.

It had taken scarcely more than a second.

Rhoda Gray brushed her hand across her eyes. Noit wasn't a

phantasm! She had misjudged the Adventurer - quite misjudged him!

The Adventurereven with one of the gang present - to furnish an

unimpeachable alibi for him! - was plucking the gang's fruit again

for his own and undivided enrichment!

Pinkie Bonn's voice came in a guarded whisper from the doorway.

"I don't hear nothin'!" said Pinkie Bonn anxiously.

The Pug tiptoed across the roomand joined his companion. She

could not see them nowbut apparently they stood together by the

door listening. They stood there for a long time. Occasionally

she heard them whisper to each other; and then finally the Pug

spoke in a less guarded voice.

"All right" he said. "I guess me nerves are gettin' decreeps.

Shoot de light on againan' let's get back on de job. An' youse

can take a turn dis time pushin' de knotsPinkie; mabbe youse'll

have better luck."

The light went on again. Both men came back across the roomand

now Pinkie Bonn knelt at the wall while the Pug leaned over the

washstand watching him. Pinkie Bonn was not immediately successful;

the Pug's nervesof which he had complainedappeared shortly to

get the better of him.

"Fer Gawd's sakehurry up!" he urged irritably. "Or elselemme

take another crack at itPinkiean'...

A lowtriumphant exclamation came from Pinkie Bonnas the small

door in the wall swung suddenly open.

"There she ismy bucko!" he grinned. "Some nifty vaulteh?The

old guy-" He stopped. He had thrust in his handand drawn it out

again. His fingers gripped a sheet of notepaper - but he was

seemingly unconscious of that fact. He was leaning forward

staring into the aperture. "It's empty!" he choked.

"Wot's dat?" cried the Pugand sprang to his companion's side.

"Youse're crazyPinkie! He thrust his head toward the opening

- and then turned and stared for a moment helplessly at Pinkie Bonn.

"So help me!" he said heavily. "It's - it's empty." Heshook his

fist suddenly. "De Crab's handed us onedat's wot! But de Crab'll

get his fer -"

"It wasn't the Crab!" Pinkie Bonn was stuttering his words. He

stoodjaws droppedhis eyes glued now on the paper in his hand.

The Pughis face workingthe personification of baffled rage and

intoleranceleered at Pinkie Bonn. "Wellwho was itden?" he

snarled.

Pinkie Bonn licked his lips.

"The White Moll!" He licked his lips again.

"De White Moll!" echoed the Pug incredulously.

"Yes" said Pinkie Bonn. "Listen to what's on this paper thatI

fished out of there I Listen! She's got all the nerve of the devil!

'With thanksand my most grateful appreciation - the White Moll.'"

The Pug snatched the paper from Pinkie Bonn's handas though to

assure himself that it was true. Rhoda Gray smiled faintly. It

was good actingvery excellently done - seeing that the Pug had

written the note and placed it in the hiding place himself!

"My God!" mumbled Pinkie Bonn thickly. "I ain't afraid of most

thingsbut I'm gettin' scared of her. She ain't human. Last

night you know what happenedand the night beforeand -" He

gulped suddenly. "Let's get out of here !" he said hurriedly.

The Pug made no replyexcept for a muttered growl of assent and

a nod of his head.

The two men crossed the room. The light went out. Their footsteps

echoed back as they descended the stairsthen died away.

And then Rhoda Gray moved for the first time. She brushed aside

the cretonne hangingran to the washstandpossessed herself of

the package she had seen the Pug place thereand then made her way

cautious now of the s1ightest sounddownstairs.

She tried the door that led into the secondhand shop from the hall

found it unlockedand with a little gasp of relief slipped through

and closed it gently behind her. She did not dare risk the front

entrance. Pinkie Bonn and the Pug were not far enough away yetand

she did not dare wait until they were. Too bulky to take the risk

of attempting to conceal it about his person while with Pinkie Bonn

the Pugit was obviouswould come back alone for that packageand

it was equally obvious that he would not be long in doing so. There

was old Luertz's return that he would have to anticipate. It would

not take wits nearly so sharp as those possessed by the Pug to find

an excuse for separating promptly from Pinkie Bonn!

Rhoda Gray groped her way down the shopgroped her way to a back

doorunbolted itworking by the sense of touchand let herself

out into a back yard. Five minutes later she was blocks awayand

hurrying rapidly back toward the deserted shed in the lane behind

Gypsy Nan's garret.

Her lips formed into a tight little curve as she went along. There

was still work to do to-night - if this package really contained

the stolen legacy of gems left by Angel Jack. She had first of all

to reach a place where she could examine the package with safety;

then a place to hide it where it would be secure; and then - Danglar!

She gained the lanestole along itand disappeared into the shed

through the broken door that hungpartially openon sagging hinges.

Here she sought a cornerand crouched down so that her body would

smother any reflection from her flashlight. And noweagerly

feverishlyshe began to undo the package; and thena moment later

she gazedstupefied and amazedat what lay before her. Precious

stonesscores of themnestled on a bed of cotton; they were of all

colors and of all sizes - but each one of them seemed to pulsate and

throband from some wondrousglorious depth of its own to fling

back from the white ray upon it a thousand rays in returnas though

into it had been breathed a living and immortal fire.

And Rhoda Graycrouched therestared - until suddenly she grew

afraidand suddenly with a shudder she wrapped the package up again.

These were the stones for whose fabulous worth the woman whose

personality sheRhoda Grayhad usurpedhad murdered a man; these

were the stones which were indirectly the instrumentality - since

but for them Gypsy Nan would never have existed - that made her

Rhoda Grayto-nightnowat this very momenta hunted thing

homelessfriendlessfighting for her very life against police and

underworld alike!

She rose abruptly to her feet. She had no longer any need of a

flashlight. There was even light of a sort in the place - she could

see the stars through the jagged holes in the roofand through one

of thesetoothe moonlight streamed in. The shed was all but

crumbling in a heap. Underfootwhat had once been flooringwas

now but rottingbroken boards. Under one of thesebeside the

clothing of Gypsy Nan which she had discarded but a little while

beforeshe deposited the package; then stepped out into the lane

and from there to the street again.

And now she became suddenly conscious of a great and almost

overpowering physical weariness. She did not quite understand at

firstunless it was to be attributed to the reaction from the last

few hours - and thensmiling wanly to herselfshe remembered. For

two nights she had not slept. It seemed very strange. That was it

of coursethough she was not in the least sleepy now - just tired

just near the breaking point.

But she must go on. To-night was the endanyhow. To-nightfailing

to keep her appointment as "Bertha" the crash must come; butbefore

it cameas the White Mollarmed with the knowledge of the crime

that had driven Danglar's wife into hidingand which was Danglar's

crime tooand with the evidence in the shape of those jewels in her

possessionshe and Danglar would meet somewhere - alone. Before the

law got himwhen he would be close-mouthed and struggling with all

his cunning to keep the evidence of other crimes from piling up

against him and damning whatever meager chances he might have to

escape the penalty for Deemer's murdershe meant - yeseven if

she pretended to compound a felony with him - to force or to inveigle

from himit mattered little whicha confession of the authorship

and details of the scheme to rob Skarbolov that night when she

Rhoda Grayin answer to a dying woman's pleadinghad tried to

forestall the planand had been caughtapparentlyin the very act

of committing the robbery herself! With that confession in her

possessionwith the identity of the unknown woman who had died in

the hospital that night establishedher own story would be believed.

And soif she were wearywhat did it matter? It was only until

morning. Danglar was at the Silver Sphinx now with the man he meant

that she should help him murderonly - only that plan would fail

because there would be no "Bertha" to lure the man to his deathand

sheRhoda Grayhad only to keep track of Danglar until somewhere

where he lived perhapsshe should have that final scenethat final

reckoning with him alone.

It was a long way to the Silver Sphinxwhich she knewas every one

in the underworldand every one in New York who was addicted to

slumming knewwas a combination dance-hall and restaurant in the

Chatham Square district. She tried to find a taxibut with out

avail. A clock in a jeweler's window which she passed showed her

that it was ten minutes after eleven. She had had no idea that it

was so late. At elevenDanglar had said. Danglar would be growing

restive! She took the elevated. If she could risk the protection

of her veil in the Silver Sphinxshe could risk it equally in an

elevated train!

Butin spite of the elevatedit wasshe knewwell on towards

half past eleven when she finally came down the street in front of

the Silver Sphinx. From under her veilshe glancedhalf curiously

half in a sort of grim ironyat the taxis lined up before the

dancehall. The two leading cars were not taxis at allthough they

bore the ear-markswith their registersof being public vehicles

for hire; they were largeroomypowerfuland lookedwith their

hoods uplike privately owned motors. Wellit was of little

account! She shrugged her shouldersas -she mounted the steps of

the dance-hall. Neither "Bertha" nor Cloran would use those cars

to-night!

 

XVII. THE SILVER SPHINX

A Bedlam of noise smote Rhoda Gray's ears as she entered the Silver

Sphinx. A jazz band was in full swing; on the polished section of

the floor in the centera packed mass of humanity swirled and

gyrated and wriggled in the contortions of the "latest" danceand

laughed and howled immoderately; and around the sides of the room

the waiters rushed this way and that amongst the crowded tables

mopping at their faces with their aprons. It seemed as though

confusion itself held sway!

Rhoda Gray scanned the occupants of the tables. The Silver Sphinx

was particularly riotous to-nightwasn't it? Yesshe understood!

A great many of the men were wearing little badges. Some society

or other was celebrating - and was doing it with abandon. Most of

the men were half drunk. It was certainly a free-and-easy night!

Everything went!

Danglar! Yes'there he was - quite close to heronly a few tables

away - and beside him sat a heavy builtclean-shaven man of middle

age. That would be Cloranof course - the man who was to have been

lured to his death. And Danglar was nervous and uneasyshe could

see. His fingers were drumming a tattoo on the table; his eyes were

roving furtively about the room; and he did not seem to be paying any

but the most distrait attention to his companionwho was talking

to him.

Rhoda Gray sank quickly into a vacant chair. Three menlinked arm

in armand decidedly more than a little drunkwere approaching

her. She turned her head away to avoid attracting their attention.

It was too free and easy here to-nightand she began to regret her

temerity at having ventured inside; she would betterperhapshave

waited until Danglar came out - only there were two exitsand she

might have missed him - and...

A cold fear upon hershe shrank back in her chair. The three men

had halted at the tableand were clustered around her. They began

a jocular quarrel amongst themselves as to who should dance with her.

Her heart was pounding. She stood upand pushed them away.

"Ohnoyou don't!" hiccoughed one of the three. "Gotta seeyour

- hic! - pretty faceanyhow!"

She put up her hands frantically and clutched at her veil - but just

an instant too late to save it from being wrenched aside. Wildly her

eyes flew to Danglar. His attention had been attracted by the scene.

She saw him rise from his seat; she saw his eyes widen - and then

stumbling over his chair in his hastehe made toward her. Danglar

had recognized the White Moll!

She turned and ran. Fearhorrordesperationlent her strength.

It was not like this that she had counted on her reckoning with

Danglar! She brushed the roisterers asideand darted for the door.

Over her shoulder she glimpsed Danglar following her. She reached

the doorburst through a knot of people thereandher torn veil

clutched in her handdashed down the steps. She could only run

- runand pray that in some way she might escape.

And then a mad exultation came upon her. She saw the man in the

chauffeur's seat of the first car in the line lean out and swing

the door open. And in a flash she grasped the situation. The man

was waiting for just this - for a woman to come running for her life

down the steps of the Silver Sphinx. She put her hand up to her

facehiding it with the torn veilraced for the carand flung

herself into the tonneau.

The door slammed. The car leaped from the curb. Danglar was coming

down the steps. She heard him shout. The chauffeurin a startled

wayleaned outas he evidently recognized Danglar's voice - but Rhoda

Gray was mistress of herself now. The tonneau of the car was not

separated from the driver's seatand bending forwardshe wrenched

her revolver from her pocketand pressed the muzzle of her weapon to

the back of the man's neck.

"Don't stop!" she gaspedstruggling for her breath. "Go on!

Quick!"

The manwith a frightened oathobeyed. The car gained speed. A

glance through the window behind showed Danglar climbing into the

other car.

And then for a moment Rhoda Gray sat there fighting for her

self-controlwith the certain knowledge in her soul that upon her

witsand her wits aloneher life depended now. She studied the

car's mechanism over the chauffeur's shouldereven as she continued

to hold her revolver pressed steadily against the back of the man's

neck. She could drive a car - she could drive this one. The

presence of this chauffeurone of the gangwas an added menace;

there were too many tricks he might play before she could forestall

themany one of which would deliver her into the hands of Danglar

behind there - an apparently inadvertent stoppage due to traffic

for instancethat would bring the pursuing car alongside - that

or a dozen other things which would achieve the same end.

"Open the door on your side!" she commanded abruptly. "And getout

- without slowing the car! Do you understand?"

He turned his head for a half increduloushalf frightened look at

her. She met his eyes steadily - the torn veilquite discarded now

was in her pocket. She did not know the man; but it was quite

evident from the almost ludicrous dismay which spread over his face

that he knew her.

"The - the White Moll!" he stammered. "It's the WhiteMoll!"

"Jump!" she ordered imperatively - and her revolver pressed still

more significantly against the man's flesh.

He seemed in even frantic haste to obey her. He whipped the door

openandbefore she could reach to the wheelhe had leaped to

the street. The car swerved sharply. She flung herself over into

the vacated seatand snatched at the wheel barely in time to

prevent the machine from mounting the curb.

She looked around again through the window of the hood. The man

had swung aboard Danglar's carwhich was only a few yards behind.

Rhoda Gray drove steadily. Here in the city streets her one aim

must be never to let the other car come abreast of her; but she

could prevent that easily enough by watching Danglar's movements

and cutting across in front of him if he attempted anything of the

sort. But ultimately what was she to do? How was she to escape?

Her hands gripped and clenched in a suddenalmost panic-like

desperation at the wheel. Turn suddenly around a cornerand jump

from the car herself? It was useless to attempt it; they would

keep too close behind to give her a chance to get out of sight.

Wellthensuppose she jumped from the carand trusted herself to

the protection of the people on the street. She shook her head grimly.

Danglarshe knew only too wellwould risk anythinggo to any

lengthto put an end to the White Moll. He would not hesitate an

instant to shoot her down as she jumped and he would be fairly

safe himself in doing it. A few revolver shots from a car that

speeded away in the darkness offered an even chance of escape. And

yetunless she forced an issue such as thatshe knew that Danglar

would not resort to firing at her here in the city. He would want

to be sure that was the only chance he had of getting herbefore

he accepted the risk that he would run of being caught for it by

the police.

She found herself becoming strangelyalmost unnaturallycool and

collected now. The one dangergreater than all othersthat

menaced her was a traffic block that would cause her to stopand

allow those in the other car behind to rush in upon her as she sat

here at the wheel. And sooner or laterif she stayed in the city

a block such as that was inevitable. She must get out of the city

then. It was only to invite another riskthe risk that Danglar

was in the faster car of the two but there was no other way.

She drove more quicklymade her way to the Bridgeand crossed it.

The car behind followed with immutable persistence. It made no

effort to close the short gap between them; butneitheron the

other handdid it permit that gap to widen.

They passed through Brooklyn; and thenreaching the outskirts

Rhoda Graywith headlights streaming into the blackwith an open

Long Island road before herflung her throttle wideand the car

leaped like a thing of life into the night. It was a sudden start

it gained her a hundred yards but that was all.

The wind tore at her and whipped her face; the car rocked and reeled

as in some mad frenzy. There was not much trafficbut such as

there was it cleared away from before her as if by magicas

seeking shelter from the wild meteoric thing running amuckthe few

vehiclesmotor or horsethat she encountered hugged; the edge of

the roadand the wind whisked to her ears fragments of shouts and

execrations. Again and again she looked back two fiery balls of

light blazed behind her always those same two fiery balls.

She neither gained nor lost. Rigidlike steelher little figure

was crouched over the wheel. She did not know the road. She knew

nothing save that she was racing for her life. She did not know

the end; she could not see the end. Perhaps there would be some

merciful piece of luck for her that would win her through a

break-down to that roaring thingwith its eyes that were balls of

firebehind.

She passed through a town with lighted streets and lighted windows

or was it only imagination? It was gone againanyhowand there

was just black road ahead. Over the roar of the car and the sweep

of the windthenshe caughtor fancied she caughta series

of faint reports. She looked behind her. Yesthey were firing

now. Little flashes leaped out above and at the sides of those

blazing headlights.

How long was it since she had left the Silver Sphinx? Minutes or

hours would not measure itwould they? But it could not last much

longer! She was growing very tired; the strain upon her armsyes

and upon her eyeswas becoming unbearable. She swayed a little

in her seatand the car swervedand she jerked it back again into

the straight. She began to laugh a little hysterically and then

suddenlyshe straightened uptense and alert once more.

That swerve was the germ of an inspiration! It took root swiftly

now. It was desperate - but she was desperate. She could not drive

much moreor much longer like this. Mind and body were almost

undone. Andbesidesshe was not outdistancing that car behind

there by a foot; and sooner or later they would hit her with one of

their shotsorperhaps what they were really trying to do

puncture one of her tires.

Again she glanced over her shoulder. YesDanglar was just far

enough behind to make the plan possible. She began to allow the

car to swerve noticeably at intervalsas though she were weakening

and the car was getting beyond her control - which wasindeed

almost too literally the case. And now it seemed to her that each

time she swerved there came an exultant shout from the car behind.

Wellshe asked for nothing better; that was what she was trying to

dowasn't it? - inspire them with the belief that she was breaking

under the strain.

Her eyes searched anxiously down the luminous pathway made by her

high-powered headlights. If only she could reach a piece of road

that combined two things - an embankment of some sortand a curve

just sharp enough to throw those headlights behind off at a tangent

for an instant as they rounded ittooin following her.

A minutetwoanother passed. And then Rhoda Graytight-lipped

her face drawn hardas her own headlights suddenly edged away from

the road and opened what looked like a deep ravine on her left

while the road curved to the rightflung a frenzied glance back

of her. It was her chance - her one chance. Danglar was perhaps

a little more than a hundred yards in the rear. Yes - now! His

headlights were streaming out on her left as hetootouched the

curve. The right-hand side of her carthe right-hand side of the

road were in blackness. She checked violentlyalmost to a stop

then instantly opened the throttle wide once morewrenching the

wheel over to head the machine for the ravine; and before the car

picked up its momentum againshe dropped from the right-hand side

darted to the far edge of the roadand flung herself flat down

upon the ground.

The greatblack body of her car seemed to sail out into nothingness

like some weird aerial monsterthe headlights streaming uncannily

through space - then blackness - and a terrific crash.

And now the other car had come to a stop almost opposite where she

lay. Danglar and the two chauffeursshouting at each other in

wild excitementleaped out and rushed to the edge of the embankment.

And then suddenly the sky grew red as a great tongue-flame shot up

from below. It outlined the forms of the three men as they stood

thereuntilabruptlyas though with one accordthey rushed

pell-mell down the embankment toward the burning wreckage. And as

they disappeared from sight Rhoda Gray jumped to her feetsprang

for Danglar's carflung herself into the driver's seatand the car

shot forward again along the road.

A shouta wild chorus of yellsthe reports of a fusillade of

shots reached her; she caught a glimpse of forms running insanely

after her along the edge of the embankment - then silence save for

the roar of the speeding car.

She drove on and on. Somewherenearing a townshe saw a train

in the distance coming in her direction. She reached the station

firstand left the car standing thereandwith the torn veil

over her face againtook the train.

She was weakundoneexhausted. Even her mind refused its

functions further. It was only in a subconscious way she realized

thatwhere she had thought never to go to the garret againthe

garret and the role of Gypsy Nan weremore than ever nowher sole

refuge. The plot against Cloran had failedbut they could not

blame that on "Bertha's" non-appearance; and since it had failed

she would not now be expected to assume the dead woman's personality.

Trueshe had notas had been arrangedreached the Silver Sphinx

at elevenbut there were a hundred excuses she could give to

account for her being late in keeping the appointment so that she

had arrived just in timesayto see Danglar dash wildly in pursuit

of a woman who had jumped into the car that she was supposed to take!

The garret! The garret again - and Gypsy Nan! Her surroundings

seemed to become a blank to her; her actions to be prompted by some

purely mechanical sense. She was conscious only that finallyafter

an interminable timeshe was in New York again; and after that

longlong after thatdressed as Gypsy Nanshe was stumbling up

the darkladder-like steps to the attic.

How her footsteps dragged! She opened the doorstaggered inside

locked the door againand staggered toward the cotand dropped

upon it; and the gray dawn came in with niggardly light through

the grimy little window panesas though timorously inquisitive

of this shawled and dissolute figure prone and motionlessthis

figure who in other dawns had found neither sleep nor rest - this

figure who lay there now as one dead.

 

XVIII. THE OLD SHED

Rhoda Gray opened her eyesandfrom the cot upon which she lay

stared with drowsy curiosity around the garret - and in another

instant was sitting bolt uprightalert and tenseas the full flood

of memory swept upon her.

There was still a meager light creeping in through the smallgrimy

window panesbut it was the light of waning day. She must have

sleptthenall through the morning and the afternoonslept the

deadheavy sleep of exhaustion from the moment she had flung

herself down here a few hours before daybreak.

She rose impulsively to her feet. It was strange that she had not

been disturbedthat no one had come to the garret! The recollection

of the events of the night before were crowding themselves upon her

now. In view of last nightin view of her failure to keep that

appointment in the role of Danglar's wifeit was very strange

indeed that she had been left undisturbed!

Subconsciously she was aware that she was hungrythat it was long

since she had eatenandalmost mechanicallyshe prepared herself

something now from the store the garret possessed; buteven as she

ateher mind was far from thoughts of food. From the first night

she had come here and self-preservation had thrust this miserable

role of Gypsy Nan upon herfrom that first night and from the

following night whento save the Sparrowshe had been whirled

into the vortex of the gang's criminal activitiesher mind raced

on through the sequence of events that seemed to have spanned some

vastimmeasurable space of time until they had brought her to

- last night.

Last night! She had thought it was the end last nightbut instead

- The dark eyes grew suddenly hard and intent. Yesshe had

counted upon last nightwhenwith the necessary proof in her

possession with which to confront Danglar with the crime of murder

she could wring from the man all that now remained necessary to

substantiate her own story and clear herself in the eyes of the law

of that robbery at Skarbolov's antique store of which she was held

guilty - and instead she had barely escaped with her life. That

was the story of last night.

Her eyes grew harder. Wellthe way was still openwasn't it?

Last night had changed nothing in that respect. To-nightas the

White Mollshe had only to find and corner Danglar as she had

planned to do last night. She had still only to get the man alone

somewhere.

Rhoda Gray's hands clenched tightly. That was all that was necessary

- just the substantiation of her own story that the plot to rob

Skarbolov lay at the door of Danglar and his gang; orratherperhaps

that the plot was in existence before she had ever heard of Skarbolov.

It would prove her own statement of what the dying woman had said.

It would exonerate her from guilt; it would prove thatrather than

having any intention of committing crimeshe had taken the only means

within her power of preventing one. The real Gypsy NanDanglar's

wifewho had died that nightbadeven in eleventh-hour penitence

refused to implicate her criminal associates. There was a crime

projected whichunless sheRhoda Graywould agree to forestall

it in person and would give her oath not to warn the police about

it and so put the actual criminals in jeopardywould go on to its

fulfillment!

She remembered that night in the hospital. The scene came vividly

before her now. The woman's pleadingthe woman's grim loyalty

even in death to her pals. SheRhoda Grayhad given her oath.

It became necessary only to substantiate those facts. Danglar

could be made to do it. She had now in her possession the evidence

that would convict him of complicity in the murder of Deemerand

for which murder the original Gypsy Nan had gone into hiding; she

even had in her possession the missing jewels that had prompted that

murder; she hadtoothe evidence now to bring the entire gang to

justice for their myriad depredations; she knew where their secret

hoard of ill-gotten gains was hidden - here in this atticbehind

that ingeniously contrived trap-door in the ceiling. She knew all

this; and this information placed before the policeproviding

only it was backed by the proof that the scheme to rob Skarbolov

was to be carried out by the gangas sheRhoda Graywould say

the dying woman had informed herwould be more than enough to

clear her. She had not had this proof on that first night when

she had snatched at the mantle of Gypsy Nan as the sole means of

escape from Rough Rorkeof headquarters; she did not have it

now - but she would have itstake all and everything in life she

had to have itfor itin itselfliterally meant everything and

all - and Danglar would make a written confessionor else - or

else - She smiled mirthlessly. That was all! Last night she had

failed. To-night she would not fail. Before morning cameif it

were humanly within her powershe and Danglar would have played

out their game - to the end.

And now a pucker came and gathered her forehead into little furrows

and anxiety and perplexity crept into her eyes. Another thought

tormented her. In the exposure that was to come the Adventurer

alias the Pugwas involved. Was there any way to save the man to

whom she owed so muchthe splendidly chivalroushigh-couraged

gentleman she lovedthe thief she abhorred?

She pushed the remains of her frugal meal away from herstood up

abruptly from the rickety washstand at which she had been seated

and commenced to pace nervously up and down the starkbare garret.

Where was the line of demarcation between right and wrong? Was it

a grievous sinor an infinitely human thing to doto warn the

man she lovedand give him a chance to escape the net she meant

to furnish the police? He was a thiefeven a member of the gang

- though he used the gang as his puppets. Did ethics count when

one who had stood again and again between her and peril was himself

in danger now? Would it be a righteous thingor an act of

despicable ingratitudeto trap him with the rest?

She laughed out shortly. Warn him! Of courseshe would warn him!

But then - what? She shivered a littleand her face grew drawn and

tired. It was the oldold story of the pitcher and the well. It was

almost inevitable that sooner or laterfor some crime or another

the man she loved would be caught at lastand would spend the

greater portion of his days behind prison bars. That was what the

love that had come into her life held as its promise to her! It was

terrible enough without her agency being the means of placing him

there!

She did not want to think about it. She forced her mind into other

channelsthough they were scarcely less disquieting. Why was it

that during the day just past there had been not a sign from Danglar

or any one of the gangwhen every plan of theirs had gone awry last

nightand she had failed to keep her appointment in the role of

Danglar's wife? Why was it? What did it mean? Surely Danglar

would never allow what had happened to pass unchallengedand - was

that some one now?

She halted suddenly by the door to listenher hand going

instinctively to the widevoluminous pocket of her greasy skirt

for her revolver. Yesthere was a footstep in the hall belowbut

it was descending now to the ground floornot coming up. She even

heard the street door closebut still she hung there in a strained

tense wayand into her face there came creeping a gray dismay. Her

pocket was empty.

The revolver was gone! Its losspregnant with a hundred ominous

possibilitiesseemed to bring a panic fear upon herholding her

for a moment inert - and then she rushed frantically to the cot.

Perhaps it had fallen out of her pocket during the hours she had

lain there asleep. She searched the folds of the soiled and

crumpled blanketthat was the cot's sole coveringthen snatched

the blanket completely off the cot and shook it; and thendown on

her kneesshe searched the floor under the cot. There was no sign

of the revolver.

Rhoda Gray stood upand stared in a stunned way about her. Was

thisthenthe explanation of her having seemingly been left

undisturbed here all through the day? Had some oneafter all

been hereand -? She shook her head suddenly with a quick

emphatic gesture of dissent. The door was still lockedshe

could see the key on the inside; andbesidesas a theoryit

wasn't logical. They wouldn't have taken her revolver and left

her placidly asleep!

The loss of the revolver was a vital matter. It was her one

safeguard; the one means by which she could first gain and

afterwards hold the whip-hand over Danglar in the interview she

proposed to have with him; the one means of escapethe last resort

if she herself were cornered and fell into his power. It had

sustained her more than oncethat resolution to turn it against

herself if she were in extremity. It meant everything to herthat

weaponand it was gone now; but the panic that had seized upon her

was gone tooand she could think rationally and collectively again.

Last nightor rather this morningwhen she had made her way back

to the shed out there in the lane behind the garretshe had been

in a state of almost utter exhaustion. She had changed from the

clothes of the White Moll to those of Gypsy Nanbut she must have

done so almost mechanically for she had no concrete recollection of

it. It was quite likely theneven more than probablethat she

had left the revolver in the pocket of her other clothes; for she

had certainly hadnot only her revolverbut her flashlight and her

skeleton keys with her when she had visited old Luertz's place last

nightand later on toowhen she had jumped into that automobile

in front of the Silver Sphinxshe had had her revolverfor she

had used it to force the chauffeur out of the car - and she had no

one of those articles now.

Of course! That was it! She stepped impulsively to the doorand

opening itmade her way quickly down the stairs to the street. The

revolver was undoubtedly in the pocket of her other skirtand she

felt a surge of relief sweep upon her; but a sense of relief was far

from enough. She would not feel safe until the weapon was again in

her possessionand intuitively she felt that she had no time to

lose in securing it. She had already been left too long alone not

to make a break in that unaccountable isolation they had accorded

her as something to be expected at any moment. She hurried now down

the street to the lane that intervened between Gypsy Nan's house

and the next cornerglanced quickly about herandseeing no one

in her immediate vicinityslipped into the lane. She gained the

deserted shed some fifty yards along the laneentered through the

broken door that hunghalf openon sagging hingesanddropping

on her kneesreached in under the decayed and rotting flooring.

She pushed aside impatiently the package of jewelsat whose

magnificence she had gazed awe-struck and bewildered the night

beforeand drew out the bundle that comprised her own clothing.

Her hand sought the pocket eagerly. Yesit was here - at least

the flashlight wasand so were the skeleton keys. That was what

had happened! She had been near utter collapse last nightand she

had forgottenand - Rhoda Grayunconscious even that she still

held the clothing in her handsrose mechanically to her feet.

There was a sudden weariness in her eyes as she stared unseeingly

about her. Yesthe flashlight and the keys were here - but the

revolver was not! Her brain harked back in lightning flashes over

the events of the preceding night. She must have lost it somewhere

then. Where? She had had it in the automobilethat she knew

positively; but after that she did not rememberunless - yesit

must have been that! When she had jumped from the car and flung

herself down at the roadside! It must have fallen out of her

pocket then.

Her heart seemed to stand still. Suppose they had found it! They

would certainly recognize it as belonging to Gypsy Nan! They were

not fools. The deduction would be obvious - the identity of the

White Moll would be solved. Was that why no one had apparently

come near her? Were they playing at cat-and-mousewatching her

before they struckso that she would lead them to those jewels

under the flooring here that were worth a king's ransom? They

certainly believed that the White Moll had them. The Adventurer's

noteso ironically truethat he had intended as an alibi for

himselfand which he had exchanged for the package in old Luertz's

placewould have left no doubt in their minds but that the stones

were in her possession. Was that it? Were they - She held her

breath. It seemed as though suddenly her limbs were refusing to

support her weight. In the soft earth outside she had heard no

stepbut she saw now a shadow fall athwart the half-open door-way.

There was no time to moveeven had she been capable of action. It

seemed as though even her soul had turned to stoneandwith the

White Moll's clothes in her handsshe stood there staring at the

doorwayand something that was greater than fearbecause it

mingled horrorugly and forbiddingfell upon her. It was still

just light enough to see. The shadow moved forward and came inside.

She wanted to screamto rush madly in retreat to the farthest

corner of the shed; but she could not move. It was Danglar who was

standing there. He seemed to sway a little on his feetand the dark

sinister face seemed blotchedand he seemed to smile as though

possessed of some unholy and perverted sense of humor.

She was helplessat his mercyunarmedsaved for her wits. Her wits!

Were wits any longer of avail? She could believe nothing else now

except that he had been watching her - before he struck.

"What are you doing hereand what are those clothes you've got in

your hands?" he rasped out.

She could only fence for time in the meager hope that some loophole

would present itself. She forced an assumed defiance into her tones

and mannerthat was in keeping with the sort of armed trucewhich

from her first meeting with Danglarshe had inaugurated as a barrier

between them.

"You have asked me two questions" she said tartly. "Which onedo

you want me to answer first?"

"Look here" he snapped"you cut that out! There's one or two

things need explaining - see? What are those clothes?"

Her wits! Perhaps he did not know as much as she was afraid he did!

She seemed to have become abnormally containedher mind abnormally

acute and active. It was not likely that the womanhis wifewhom

he believed she washad worn her own clothes in his presence since

the daysome two years agowhen she had adopted the disguise of

Gypsy Nan; and sheRhoda Grayremembered that on the night Gypsy

Nanre-assuming her true personalityhad gone to the hospitalthe

woman's clotheslike these she held nowhad been of dark material.

It was not likely that a man would be able to differentiate between

those clothes and the clothes of the White Mollespecially as the

latter hung folded in her hands nowand even though he had seen

them on her at the Silver Sphinx last night.

"What clothes do you suppose they are but my own? - though I haven't

had a chance to wear them much lately!" she countered crisply.

He scowled at her speculatively.

"What are you doing with them out here in this holethen?" he

demanded.

"I had to wear them last nighthadn't I?" she retorted. "I'dhave

looked well coming out of Gypsy Nan's garret dressed as myself if any

one had seen me! She scowled at him in turn. She was beginning to

believe that he had not even an inkling of her identity. Her safest

play was to stake everything on that belief. "Saywhat's the matter

with you?" she inquired disdainfully. "I came out here and changed

last night; and I changed into these rags I'm wearing now when I got

back again; and I left my own clothes here because I was expecting to

get word that I could put them on again soon for keeps - though I

might have known from past experience that something would queer the

fine promises you made at Matty's last night! And the reason I'm out

here now is because I left some things in the pocketamongst them"

- she stared at him mockingly -" my marriage certificate."

Danglar's face blackened.

"Curse you!" he burst out angrily. "When you get your tantrumson

you've got a tonguehaven't you! You'd have been wearing your

clothes nowif you'd have done as you were told. You're the one

that queered things last night." His voice was rising; he was

rocking even more unsteadily upon his feet. "Why in hell weren't

you at the Silver Sphinx?"

Rhoda Gray squinted at him through Gypsy Nan's spectacles. She knew

an hysterical impulse to laugh outright in the sure consciousness of

supremacy over him now. The man had been drinking. He was by no

means drunk; buton the other handhe was by no means sober - and

she was certain now thatthough she did not know how he had found

her here in the shednot the slightest suspicion of her had entered

his mind.

"I was at the Silver Sphinx" she announced coolly.

"You lie!" he said hoarsely. "You weren't! I told you to bethere

at elevenand you weren't. You lie! What are you lying to me for

- eh? I'll find outyou - you -"

Rhoda Gray dashed the clothes down on the floor at her feetand

faced the man as though suddenly overcome in turn herself with

passionshaking both closed fists at him.

"Don't you talk to me like thatPierre Danglar!" she shrilled."I

liedo I? WellI'll prove to you I don't! You said you were

going to have supper with Cloran at about eleven o'clockand perhaps

I was a few minutes after thatbut maybe you think it's easy to get

all this Gypsy Nan stuff off me face and alland rig up in my own

clothes that I haven't seen for so long it's a wonder they hold

together at all. I liedo I? Welljust as I got to the Silver

SphinxI saw a woman breaking her neck to get down the steps with

you after her. She jumped into the automobile it was doped out I

was to takeand you jumped into the other oneand both beat it

down the street. I thought you'd gone crazy. I was afraid that

Cloran would come out and recognize meso I turned and rantoo.

The safest thing I could do was to get back into the Gypsy Nan game

againand that's what I did. And I've been lying low ever since

waiting to get word from some of youand not a soul came near me.

You're a nice lotyou are! And now you come sneaking here and call

me a liar! How'd you get to this shedanyway?"

Danglar pushed his hand in a heavyconfused way across his eyes.

"My God!" he said heavily. "So that's itis it?" Hisvoice became

suddenly conciliating in its tones. "Look hereBerthaold girl

don't get sore. I didn't understandsee? And there was a whole lot

that looked queer. We even lost the jewels at old Luertz's last

night. Do you know who that woman was? It was the White Moll! She

led us a chase all over Long Islandand -"

"The White Moll!" ejaculated Rhoda Gray. And then her laughshort

and jeeringrang out. The tables were turned. She had him on the

defensive now. "You needn't tell me I She got away againof course!

Why don't you hire a detective to help you? You make me weary! So

it was the White Mollwas it? WellI'm listening - only I'd like

to know first how you got here to this shed."

"There's nothing in that!" he answered impatiently. "There's

something more important to talk about. I was coming over to the

garretand just as I reached the corner I saw you go into the lane.

I followed you; that's all there is to that."

"Oh!" she sniffed. She stared at him for a moment. There was

something in which there was the uttermost of irony nowit seemed

in this meeting between them. Last night she had striven to meet him

aloneand she had meant to devote to-night to the same purpose; and

she was here with him nowand in a place than whichin her wildest

hopesshe could have imagined one no better suited to the reckoning

she would have demanded and forced. And she was helplesspowerless

to make use of it. She was unarmed. Her revolver was gone. Without

that to protect herat an intimation that she was the White Moll she

would never leave the shed alive. The spot would be quite as ideal

under those circumstances for himas it would have been under other

circumstances for her. She shrugged her shoulders. Danglar's

continued silence evidently invited further comment on her part."Oh!"

she sniffed again. "And I supposethenthat you have been chasing

the White Moll ever since last night at elevenand that's why you

didn't get around sooner to allay my fearseven though you knew I

must be half mad with anxiety at the way things broke last night.

She'll have us down and out for keeps if you haven't got brains enough

to beat her. How much longer is this thing going on?"

Danglar's little black eyes narrowed. She caught a sudden glint of

triumph in them. It was Danglar now who laughed.

"Not much longer!" His voice was arrogant with malicious

satisfaction. "The luck had to turnhadn't it? Wellit's turned!

I've got the White Moll at last!"

She felt the color leave her face. It seemed as though something

had closed with an icy clutch upon her heart. She had heard aright

hadn't she? - that he had said he had got the White Moll at last.

And there was no mistaking the mans s sinister delight in making

that announcement. Had she been prematureterribly prematurein

assuring herself that her identity was still safe as far as he was

concerned? Did it mean thatafter allhe had been playing at

cat-and-mouse with heras she had at first feared?

"You - you've got the White Moll?" She forced the words from her

lipsstriving to keep her voice steady and in controland to

infuse into it an ironical incredulity.

"Sure!" he said complacently. "The showdown comes to-night. In

another hour or so we'll have her where we want herand -"

"Oh!" She laughed almost hysterically in relief. "I thoughtso!

You haven't got her yet. You're only going to get her - in another

hour or so! You make me tired! It's always in 'another hour or so'

with you - and it never comes off!"

Danglar scowled at her under the taunt.

"It'll come off this time!" he snarled in savage menace. "Youhold

that tongue of yours! Yesit'll come off! And when it does" - a

sweep of fury sent the red into his working face - "I'll keep the

promise I made her once - that she'd wish she had never been born!

D'ye hearBertha?"

"I hear" she said indifferently. "But would you mind tellingme

how you are going to do it? I might believe you then - perhaps!"

"Damn youBertha!" he exploded. "Sometimes I'd like to wringthat

pretty neck of yours; and sometimes!" - he moved suddenly toward her

- "I would sell my soul for youand -"

She retreated from him coolly.

"Never mind about that! This isn't a love scene!" she purred

caustically. "And as for the othersave it for the White Moll.

What makes you think you've got her at last?"

"I don't think - I know." He stood gnawing at his lipseying her

uncertainlyhalf angrilyhalf hungrily. And then he shrugged his

shoulders. "Listen!" he said. "I've got some one elsetoo!And

I know now where the leak that's queered every one of our games and

put the White Moll wise to every one of our plans beforehand has

come from. I guess you'll believe me nowwon't you? We've got that

dude pal of hers fastened up tighter than the night he fastened me

with his cursed handcuffs! Do you know who that same dude pal is?"

He laughed in an uglyimmoderate way. "You don'tof courseso

I'll tell you. It's the Pug!" Rhoda Gray did not answer. It was

growing dark here in the shed now - perhaps that was why the man's

form blended suddenly into the doorway and walland blurred before

her. She tried to thinkbut there seemed to have fallen upon her

a numbed and agonized stupefaction. There was no confusing this

issue. Danglar had found out that the Adventurer was the Pug. And

it meant - ohwhat did it mean? They would kill him. Of course

they would kill him! The Adventurerdiscoveredwould be safer at

the mercy of a pack of starved pumasand...

"I thought that would hold you!" said Danglar with brutal serenity.

"That's why I didn't get around till now. I didn't get back from

that chase until daylight - the she-fiend stole our car - and then

I went to bed to get a little sleep. About three o'clock this

afternoon Pinkie Bonn woke me up. He was half batty with excitement.

He said he was over in the tenement in the Pug's room. The Pug

wasn't inand Pinkie was waiting for himand then all of a sudden

he heard a woman screaming like mad from somewhere. He went to the

door and looked outand saw a man dash out of a room across the

halland burst in the door of the next room. There was a woman in

there with her clothes on fire. She'd upset a coal-oil stoveor

something. The man Pinkie had seen beats the fire outand

everybody in the tenement begins to collect around the door. And

then Pinkie goes pop-eyed. The man's face was the face of the White

Moll's dude pal - but he had on the Pug's clothes. Pinkie's a wise

guy. He slips away to me without getting himself in the limelight

or spilling any beans. And I didn't ask him if he'd been punching

the needle again overtimeeither. It fitted like a glove with what

happened at old Luertz's last night. You don't know about that.

Pinkie and this double-crossing snitch went there - and only found

a note from the White Moll. He'd tipped her off beforeof course

and the note made a nice little play so's he'd be safe himself with

us. Wellthat's about all. We had to get him - where we wanted

him - and we got him. We waited until he showed up again as the

Pugand then we put over a frame-up deal on him that got him to go

over to that old iron plant in Harlemyou knowbehind Jake Malley's

saloonwhere we had it fixed to hand Cloran his last night - and the

Pug's there now. He's nicely gaggedand tiedand quite safe. The

plant's been shut down for the last two monthsand there's only the

watchman thereand he's 'squared.' We gave the Pug two hours of

solitary confinement to think it over and come across. We just asked

him for the White Moll's addressso's we could get her and the

sparklers she swiped at Old Luertz's place last night."

Still Rhoda Gray did not speak for a moment. She seemed to be held

in thrall by both terror and a sickening dismay. It did not seem

realher surroundings herethis manand the voice that was

gloatingly pronouncing the death sentence upon the man who had

come unbidden into her lifeand into her heartthe man she loved.

Yesshe understood! Danglar's words had been plain enough. The

Adventurer had been trapped - not through Danglar's cunningor

lack of cunning on the Adventurer's own partbut through force of

circumstances that had caused him to fling all thought of

self-consideration to the winds in an effort to save another's life.

Her handshidden in the folds of her skirtclenched until they

hurt. And it was another selfit seemedsubconsciously enacting

the role of Gypsy Nanalias Danglar's wifewho spoke at last.

"You are a fool! You are all fools!" she cried tempestuously.

"What do you expect to gain by that? Do you imagine you can make

the Pug come across with any information by a threat to kill him

if he doesn't? You tried that once. You had him coldor at least

you thought you hadand so did hethat night in old Nicky Viner's

roomand he laughed at you even when he expected you to fire the

next second. He's not likely to have changed any since thenis he?"

"No" said Danglarwith a vicious chuckle; "and that's whyI'm not

trying the same game twice. That's why we've got him over in the

old iron plant now."

There was something she did not like in Danglar's voicesomething

of ominous assurancesomething that startled her.

"What do you mean?" she demanded sharply.

"It's a lonely place" said Danglar complacently. "There's noone

around but the watchmanand he's an old friend of Shluker's; and

it's so roomy over there that no one could expect him to be

everywhere at once. See? That let's him out. He's been well

greasedand he won't know anything. Don't you worryold girl!

That's what I came here for - to tell you that everything is all

rightafter all. The Pug will talk. Maybe he wouldn't if he just

had his choice between that and the quickpainless end that a

bullet would bring; but there are some things that a man can't

stand. Get me? We'll try a few of those on the Pugandbelieve

mebefore we're throughthere won't be any secrets wrapped up in

his bosom."

Rhoda Gray stood motionless. Thank God it had grown dark - dark

enough to hide the whiteness that she knew had crept over her face

and the horror that had crept into her eyes. "You mean" - her voice

was very low - "you mean you're going to torture him into talking?"

"Sure!" said Danglar. "What do you think!"

"And after that?"

"We bump him offof course" said Danglar callously. "Heknows

all about usdon't he? And I guess we'll square up on what's

coming to him! He's put the crimp into us for the last time!"

Danglar's voice pitched suddenly hoarse in fury. "That's a hell

of a question to ask! What do you think we'd do with a yellow

cur that's double-crossed us like that?"

Plead for the Adventurer's life? It was useless; it was worse than

useless - it would only arouse suspicion toward herself. From the

standpoint of any one of the gangthe Adventurer's life was forfeit.

Her mind was swiftcruelly swiftin its workings now. There came

the prompting to disclose her own identity to tell Danglar that he

need not go to the Adventurer to discover the whereabouts of the

White Mollthat she was here now before him; there came the

prompting to offer herself in lieu of the man she loved. But that

toowas uselessand worse than useless; they would still do away

with the Adventurer because he had been the Pugand the only chance

he now hadas represented by whatever she might be able to do

would be gonesince she would but have delivered herself into

their hands.

She drew back suddenly. Danglar had stepped toward her. She was

unable to avoid himand his arm encircled her waist. She shivered

as the pressure of his arm tightened.

"It's all rightold girl!" he said exuberantly. "You've been

through hellyou have; but it's all right at last. You leave it

to me! Your husband's got a kiss to make up for every drop of that

grease you've had to put on the prettiest face in New York."

It seemed as though she must scream out. It was hideous. She could

not force herself to endure it another instant even for safety's safe.

She pushed him away. It was unbearable - at any riskcost what it

might. Mindsoul and body recoiled from the embrace.

"Leave me alone!" she panted. "You've been drinking. Leave mealone!"

He drew backand laughed.

"Not very much" he said. "The celebration hasn't started yetand

you'll be in on that. I guess your nerves have been getting shaky

latelyhaven't they? Wellyou can figure on the swellest

rest-cure you ever heard ofBertha. Take it from me! We're going

down to keep the Pug company presently. You blow around to Matty's

about midnight and get the election returns. We'll finish the job

after that by getting Cloran out of the road some way before morning

and that will let you out for keeps - there won't be any one left to

recognize the woman who was with Deemer the night he shuffled out."

He backed to the doorway. "Get me? Come over to Matty's and see the

rajah's sparklers about midnight. We'll have 'em then - and the

she-fiendtoo. So longBertha!"

She scarcely heard him; she answered mechanically.

"Good-night" she said.

 

XIX. DREAD UPON THE WATERS

For a moment after Danglar had goneRhoda Gray stood motionless;

and thenthe necessity for instant action upon hershe moved

quickly toward the doorway herself. There was only one thing she

could dojust one; but she must be sure first that Danglar was

well started on his way. She reached the doorwaylooked out - and

suddenly caught her breath in a lowquick inhalationIn the

semi-darkness she could just make out Danglar's formperhaps

twenty-five yards away nowheading along the lane toward the

street; but behind Danglarat a well-guarded distance in the rear

hugging the shadows of the fenceshe saw the form of another man.

Her brows knitted in a perplexed and anxious frown. The second man

was undoubtedly following Danglar. That was evident. But why?

Who was it? What did it mean?

She retreated back into the shedand commenced hastily to disrobe

and dress again in her own clotheswhich she had flung down upon

the floor. In the last analysisdid it matter who it was that was

following Danglar - even if it were one of the police? For

supposing that the man who was shadowing Danglar was a plain-clothes

manand suppose he even followed Danglar and the rest of the gang

to the old iron plantand suppose that with the necessary assistance

he rounded them all upand in that sense effected the Adventurer's

rescueit scarcely meant a better fate for the Adventurer! It

simply meant that the Adventureras one of the gangand against

whom every one of the rest would testify as the sole means left to

them of wreaking their vengeance upon one who had tricked and

outwitted them again and again for his own endswould stand his

trial with the othersand with the others go behind prison bars for

a long term of years.

She hurried nowcompleting the last touches that transformed her

from Gypsy Nan into the veiled figure of the White Mollstepped

out into the laneand walking rapidlyreached the street and

headednot in the direction of Harlembut deeper over into the

East Side. Even as Danglar had been speaking she had realized that

for the Adventurer's own sakeand irrespective of what any

premature disclosure of her own identity to the authorities might

mean to hershe could not call upon the police for aid. There

was only one wayjust one - to go herselfto reach the Adventurer

herself before Danglar returned there and had an opportunity of

putting his worse than murderous intentions into effect.

Wellshe was going therewasn't she? And if she lost no time she

should be there easily ahead of themand her chances would be

excellent of releasing the Adventurer with very little risk. From

what Danglar had saidthe Adventurer was there alone. Once tied

and gagged there had been no need to leave anybody to guard him

save that the watchman would ordinarily serve to keep any one off

the premiseswhich was all that was necessary. But that he had

been left at all worried her greatly. He hadof coursealready

refused to talk. What they had done to him she did not knowbut

the 'solitary confinement' Danglar had referred to was undoubtedly

the first step in their efforts to break his spirit. Her lips

tightened as she went along. Surely she could accomplish it! She

had but to evade the watchman - onlyfirstthe lost revolver

the one safeguard against an adverse turn of fortunemust be

replacedand that was where she was going now. She knewfrom her

associations with the underworld as the White Moll in the old days

where such things could be purchased and no questions askedif one

were known. And she was known in the establishment to which she

was goingfor evil days had once fallen upon its proprietorone

"Daddy" Jacquesin that he had incurred the enmity of certain of

his own ilk in the underworldand on a certain nightwhich he

would not be likely to forgetshe had stood between him and a

manhandling that would probably have cost him his lifeand - Yes

this was the place.

She entered a dirty-windowedsmall and musty pawnshop. A little

old manalmost dwarf-like in staturewith an unkempttawny beard

who wore a greasy and ill-fitting suitand upon whose bald head

was perched an equally greasy skull capgazed at her inquiringly

from behind the counter.

"I want a gunand a good oneplease" she saidafter a glance

around her to assure herself that they were alone.

The other squinted at her through his spectaclesas he shook his

head.

"I haven't got anylady" he answered. "We're not allowed tosell

them without -"

"Ohyesyou haveDaddy" she contradicted quietlyas she raised

her veil. "And quickplease; I'm in a hurry."

The little old man leaned forwardstaring at her for a moment as

though fascinated; and then his handin a fumbling wayremoved

the skull cap from his bead. There was a curiousalmost wistful

reverence in his voice as he spoke.

"The White Moll!" he said.

"Yes" she smiled. "But the gunDaddy. Quick! I haven't an

instant to lose."

"Yesyes!" he said eagerly - and shuffled away.

He was back in a momentan automatic in his hand.

"It's loadedof course?" she saidas she took the weapon. She

slipped it into her pocket as he nodded affirmatively. "How much

Daddy?"

"The White Moll!" He seemed still under the spell of amazement.

"It is nothing. There is no charge. It is nothingof course."

"Thank youDaddy!" she said softly - and laid a bill upon the

counterand stepped back to the door. "Good-night!" she smiled.

She heard him call to her; but she was already on the street again

and hurrying along. She felt bettersomehowin a mental wayfor

that little encounter with the shady old pawnbroker. She was not

so much aloneperhapsas she had thought; there were manyperhaps

even if they were of the underworldwho had not swerved from the

loyalty they had once professed to the White Moll.

It brought a new train of thoughtand she paused suddenly in her

walk. She might rally around her some of those underworld intimates

upon whose allegiance she felt she could dependand use them now

to-nightin behalf of the Adventurer; she would be sure then to be

a match for Danglarno matter what turn affairs took. And then

with an impatient shake of her headshe hurried on again. There

was no time for that. It would take a great deal of time to find

and pick her men; she had even wasted time herselfwhere there was

no time to sparein the momentary pause during which she had given

the thought consideration.

She reached the nearest subway stationwhich was her objective

and boarded a Harlem trainsatisfied that her heavy veil would

protect her against recognition. Unobtrusively she took a window

seat. No one paid her any attention. Hours passedit seemed to

her impatiencewhile the black walls rushed bypunctuated by

occasional scintillating signal lightsandat longer intervals

by the fuller glare from the station platforms.

In the neighborhood of 125th street she left the trainand

entering the first drug store she foundconsulted a directory.

She did not know this section of New York at all; she did not know

either the location or the firm name of the iron plant to which

Danglarassuming naturallyof coursethat she was conversant

with ithad referred; and she did not care to ask to be directed

to Jake Malley's saloonwhich was the only clew she had to guide

her. The problemhoweverdid not appear to be a very difficult

one. She found the saloon's addressandasking the clerk to

direct her to the street indicatedleft the drug store again.

Butafter allit was not so easy; no easier than for one

unacquainted with any locality to find one's way about. Several

times she found herself at faultand several times she was obliged

to ask directions again. She had begun to grow panicky with fear

and dread at the time she had lostbeforefinallyshe found the

saloon. She was quite sure that it was already more than half an

hour since she had left the drug store; and that half an hour might

easily mean the difference between safety and disasternot only

for the Adventurerbut for herself as well. Danglar might have

been in no particular hurryand he would probably have gone first

to whatever rendezvous he had appointed for those of the gang

selected to accompany himbut even to have done so in a leisurely

way would surely not have taken more than that half hour!

Yesthat was Jake Malley's saloon nowacross the road from her

but she could not recall the time that was already lost! They

might be there now - ahead of her.

She quickened her steps almost to a run. There should be no

difficulty in finding the iron plant now. "Behind Jake Malley's

saloon" Danglar had said. She turned down the cross street

passed the side entrance to the saloonand hastened along. The

locality was lonelydesertedand none too well lighted. The arc

lampspowerful enough in themselveswere so far apart that they

left great areas of shadowalmost blacknessbetween them. And

the street too was very narrowand the buildingssuch as they

werewere dark and unlighted - certainly it was not a residential

district!

And now she became aware that she was close to the riverfor the

sound of a passing craft caught her attention. Of course! She

understood now. The iron plantfor shipping facilitieswas

undoubtedly on the bank of the river itselfand - yesthis was

itwasn't it? - this picket fence that began to parallel the

right-hand side of the streetand encloseseeminglya very large

area. She halted and stared at it - and suddenly her heart sank

with a miserable sense of impotence and dismay. Yesthis was the

place beyond question. Through the picket fence she could make

out the looming shadows of many buildingsand spidery iron

structures that seemed to cobweb the darknessand - and - Her

face mirrored her misery. She had thought of a single building.

Whereinside thereamongst all those rambling structureswith

little timeperhaps none at allto searchwas she to find the

Adventurer?

She did not try to answer her own question - she was afraid that

her dismay would get the better of her if she hesitated for an

instant. She crossed the streetchoosing a spot between two of

the arc lamps where the shadows were blackest. It was a high fence

but not too high to climb. She reached uppreparatory to pulling

herself to the top - and drew back with a stifled cry. She was too

latethen - already too late! They were here ahead of her - and

on guard after all! A man's formappearing suddenly out of the

darkness but a few feet awaywas making quickly toward her. She

wrenched her automatic from her pocket. The touch of the weapon

in her hand restored her self-control.

"Don't come any nearer!" she cried out sharply. "I will fireif

you do!"

And then the man spoke.

"It's youain't it?" he called in guarded eagerness. "It'sthe

White Mollain't it? Thank Godit's you!"

Her extended hand with the automatic fell to her side. She had

recognized his voice. It wasn't Danglarit wasn't one of the

gangor the watchman who was no better than an accomplice; it was

Marty Finchalias the Sparrow.

"Marty!" she exclaimed. "You! What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to keep you from goin' in there!" he answered excitedly.

"And - andsayI was afraid I was too late. Don't you go in

there! For God's sakedon't you go! They're layin' a trap for

you! They're goin' to bump you off! I know all about it!"

"You know? What do you mean?" she asked quickly. "How do you

know?"

"I quit my job a few days after that fellow you called Danglar

tried to murder me that night you saved me" said the Sparrowwith

a savage laugh. "I knew he had it in for youand I guess I had

something comm' to him on my own account toohadn't I? That's the

job I've been on ever since - tryin' to find the dirty pup. And I

found him! But it wasn't until to-nightthough you can believe me

there weren't many joints in the old town where I didn't look for

him. My luck turned to-night. I spotted him comin' out of Italian

Joe's bar. See? I followed him. After a while he slips into a

laneand from the street I saw him go into a shed there. I worked

my way up quietand got as near as I dared without bein' heard and

seenand I listened. He was talkin' to a woman. I couldn't hear

everything they saidand they quarreled a lot; but I heard him say

something about framin' up a job to get somebody down to the old

iron plant behind Jake Malley's saloon and bump 'em offand I

heard him say there wouldn't be any White Moll by morningand I

put two and two together and beat it for here."

Rhoda Gray reached out and caught the Sparrow's hand.

"Thank youMarty! You haven't got it quite right - thoughthank

Heavenyou got it the way you didsince you are here now!" she

said fervently. "It wasn't meit wasn't the White Mollthey

expected to get here; it's the man who helped me that night to

clear you of the Hayden-Bond robbery that Danglar meant to make

you shoulder. He risked his life to do itMarty. They've got

him a prisoner somewhere in there; and they're coming back to - to

torture him into telling them where I amand - and afterwards to

do away with him. That's why I'm hereMarty - to get him away

if I canbefore they come back."

The Sparrow whistled low under his breath.

"WellthenI guess it's my hunt too" he said coolly. "And I

guess this is where a prison bird horns in with the goods. Ever

since I've been looking for that Danglar guyI've been carryin'

a full kit - because I didn't know what might breakor what kind

of a mess I might want to get out of. Come on! We ain't got no

time. There's a couple of broken pickets down there. We might be

seen climbin' the fence. Come on!"

Bread upon the waters! With a sense of warm gratitude upon her

Rhoda Gray followed the ex-convict. They made their way through

the fence. A longlow buildinga storage shed evidentlyshowed

a few yards in front of them. It seemed to be quite close to the

riverfor now she could see the reflection of lights from here

and there playing on the blackmirror-like surface of the water.

Farther onover beyond the shedthe yard of the plantdotted

with other buildings and those spidery iron structures which she

had previously noticedstretched away until it was lost in the

darkness. Herehoweverwithin the radius of one of the street

arc lamps it was quite light.

Rhoda Gray had paused in almost hopeless indecision as to how or

where to begin her searchwhen the Sparrow spoke again.

"It looks like we got a long hunt" whispered the Sparrow;"but a

few minutes before you camea guy with a lantern comes from over

across the yard there and nosed around that shedand acted kind

of queerand I could see him stick his head up against them side

doors there as though he was listenin' for something inside. Does

that wise you up to anything?"

"Yes!" she breathed tensely. "That was the watchman. He's oneof

them. The man we want is in that shed beyond a doubt. Hurry

Marty - hurry!"

They ran together nowand reached the double side-door. It was

evidently for freight purposes onlyand probably barred on the

insidefor they found there was no way of opening it from without.

"There must be an entrance" she said feverishly - and led the way

toward the front of the building in the direction away from the

river. "Yeshere it is!" she exclaimedas they rounded the end

of the shed.

She tried the door. It was locked. She felt in her pocket for her

skeleton keysfor she had not been unprepared for just such an

emergencybut the Sparrow brushed her aside.

"Leave it to me!" he said quickly. "I'll pick that lock likeone

o'clock! It won't take me more'n a minute."

Rhoda Gray did not stand and watch him. Minutes were priceless

thingsand she could put the minute he asked for to better

advantage than by idling it away. With an added injunction to

hurry and that she would be back in an instantshe was already

racing around the opposite side of the shed. If they were pressed

corneredby the arrival of Danglarit might well mean the

difference between life and death to all of them if she had an

intimate knowledge of the surroundings.

She was running at top speed. Halfway down the length of the

shed she tripped and fell over some object. She pushed it aside

as she rose. It was an old iron castingmore bulky in shape than

in weightthough she found it none too light to lift comfortably.

She ran on. A wharf projected outshe foundfrom this end of

the shed. At the edgeshe peered over. It was quite light here

again; away from the protecting shadows of the shedthe rays of

the arc lamp played without hindrance on the wharf just as they

did on the shed's side door. Belowsome ten or twelve feet below

and at the corner of the wharfa boatorrathera sort of scow

for it was larger than a boat though oars lay along its thwarts

was moored. It was partly decked overand she could see a small

black opening into the forward end of itthough the opening itself

was almost hidden by a heap of tarpaulinor sailclothor something

of the kindthat lay in the bottom of the craft. She nodded her

head. They might all of them use that boat to advantage!

Rhoda Gray turned and ran back. The Sparrowwith a grunt of

satisfactionwas just opening the door. She stepped through the

doorway. The Sparrow followed.

"Close it!" said Rhoda Grayunder her breath. She felt her heart

beat quickenthe blood flood her face and then recede. Her

imagination had suddenly become too horribly vivid. Suppose they

- they had already gone farther than...

With an effort she controlled herself - and the roundwhite ray of

her flashlight swept the place. A moment moreandwith a low cry

she was running forward to whereon the floor near the wall of the

shed opposite the side doorshe made out the motionless form of a

man. She reached himand dropped on her knees beside him. It was

the Adventurer. She spoke to him. He did not answer. And then she

remembered what Danglar had saidand she saw that he was gagged.

But - but she was not sure that was the reason why he did not answer.

The flashlight in her hand wavered unsteadily as it played over him.

Perhaps the whiteness of the ray itself exaggerated itbut his face

held a deathly pallor; his eyes were closed; and his hands and feet

were twisted cruelly and tightly bound.

"Give me your knife - quick - Sparrow!" she called. "Then goand

keep watch just outside."

The Sparrow handed her his knifeand hurried back to the door.

She worked in the darkness now. She could not use both hands and

still hold the flashlight; andbesideswith the door partially

open now where the Sparrow was on guard there was always the chance

if Danglar and those of the gang with him were already in the

vicinityof the light bringing them all the more quickly to the

scene.

Again she spoke to the Adventureras she removed the gag - and a

fear that made her sick at heart seized up on her. There was still

no answer. And nowas she workedcutting at the cords on his

hands and feetthe love that she knew for the manits restraint

broken by the sense of dread and fear at his conditionrose

dominant within herand impulse that she could not hold in least

took possession of herand in the darknesssince he would not

knowand there was none to seeshe bent her headandhalf

cryingher lips pressed upon his forehead.

She drew back startleda crimson in her face that the darkness

hid. What had she done? Did he know? Had he returned to

consciousnessif he really had been unconsciousin time to

know? She could not see; but she knew his eyes had opened.

She worked frantically with the bonds. He was free now. She cast

them off.

He spoke then - thicklywith great difficulty.

"It's youthe White Mollisn't it?"

"Yes" she answered.

He raised himself up on his elbowonly to fall back with a

suppressed groan.

"I don't know how you found mebut get away at once - for God's

sakeget away!" he cried. "Danglar'll be here at any minute.

It's you he wants. He thinks you know where some - some jewels are

and that I - I -"

"I know all about Danglar" she said hurriedly. "And I knowall

about the jewelsfor I've got them myself."

He was up on his knees nowswaying there. She caught at his

shoulder to support him.

"You!" he cried out incredulously. "You - you've got them? Say

that again! You - you've -"

"Yes" she saidand with an effort steadied her voice. He - he

was a thief. Cost her what it mightwith all its bitter hurt

she must remember thateven - even if she had forgotten once.

"Yes" she said. "And I mean to turn them over to the policeand

expose every one of Danglar's gang. I - you are entitled to a

chance; you once stood between me and the police. I can do no less

by you. I couldn't turn the police loose on the gang without

giving you warningforyou seeI know you are the Pug."

"Good God!" he stammered. "You know thattoo?"

"Try and walk" she said breathlessly. "There isn't any time.

And once you are away from hereremember that when Danglar is in

the hands of the police he will take the only chance for revenge he

has leftand give the police all the information he canso that

they will get you too.

He stumbled pitifully.

"I can't walk much yet." He was striving to speak coolly."They

trussed me up a bityou know - but I'll be all right in a little

while when I get the cramps out of my joints and the circulation

back. And soMiss Graywon't you please go at once? I'm free

nowand I'll manage all rightand-"

The Sparrow came running back from the door.

"They're comm'!" he said excitedly. "They're comm' from adifferent

way than we came in. I saw 'em sway up there across the yard for a

second when they showed up under a patch of light from an arc lamp

on the other street. There's three of 'em. We. got about a couple

of minutesand -"

"Get those side doors open! Quick! And no noise!"' ordered Rhoda

Gray tersely. And then to the Adventurer: "Try - try and walk!

I'll help you."

The Adventurer made a desperate attempt at a few steps. It was

miserably slow. At that rate Danglar would be upon them before

they could even cross the shed itself.

"I can crawl faster" laughed the Adventurer with bitter

whimsicality. "Give me your revolverMiss Grayand you two go

- and God bless you!"

The Sparrow was opening the side doorbut she realized now that

even if they could carry the Adventurer they could not get away in

time. Her mind itself seemed stunned for an instant - and thenin

a lightning flashinspiration came. She remembered that iron

castingand the wharfand the other side of the shed in shadow.

It was desperateperhaps almost hopelessbut it was the only way

that gave the Adventurer a chance for his life.

She spoke rapidly. The little margin of time they had must be

narrowing perilously.

"Martyhelp this gentleman! Crawl to the streetif you have to.

The only thing is that you are not to make the slightest noise

and -"

"What are you going to do?" demanded the Adventurer hoarsely.

"I'm going to take the only chance there is for all of us" she

answered.

She started toward the front door of the shed; but he reached out

and held her back.

"You are going to take the only chance there is for me!" he cried

brokenly. "You're going out there - where they are. Ohmy God!

I know! You love me! I - I was only half consciousbut I am sure

you kissed me a little while ago. And but for this you would never

have known that I knew itbecauseplease Godwhatever else I am

I am not coward enough to take that advantage of you. But I love

youtoo! Rhoda! I have the right to speakthe right our love

gives me. You are not to go - that way. Run - run through the side

door there - they will not see you.

She was trembling. Repudiate her love? Tell him there could be

nothing between them because he was a thief? She might never live

to see him again. Her soul was in riotthe blood flaming hot in

her cheeks. He was clinging to her arm. She tore herself forcibly

away. The seconds were counting now. She tried to bid him good-by

but the words choked in her throat. She found herself running for

the front door.

"Sparrow - quick! Do as I told you!" she half sobbed over her

shoulder - and opening the doorstepped out and dosed it behind her.

 

XX. A LONE HAND

And now Rhoda Gray was in the radius of the arc lampand distinctly

visible to any one coming down the yard. How near were they? Yes

she saw them now - three forms-perhaps a little more than a hundred

yards away. She moved a few steps deliberately toward themas

though quite unconscious of their presence; and thenas a shout

from one of them announced that she was seenshe haltedhesitated

as though surprisedterrified and uncertainandas they sprang

forwardshe turned and ran - making for the side of the shed away

from the side door.

A voice rang out - Danglar's:

"By Godit's the White Moll!"

It was the only way! She had the pack in cry now. They would pay

no attention to the Adventurer while the White Moll was seemingly

almost within their grasp. If she could only hold them now for a

little while - just a little while - the Adventurer wasn't hurt

- only cramped and numbed - he would be all right again and able

to take care of himself in a little while - and meanwhile the

Sparrow would help him to get away.

She was running with all her speed. She heard them behind her - the

poundpoundpound of feet. She had gained the side of the shed.

The light from the arc lamp was shut off from her nowand they would

only be able to see hershe knewas a dimfleeting shadow. Where

was that iron casting? Pray Godit was heavy enough; and pray God

it was not too heavy! Yeshere it was! She pretended to stumble

- and caught the thing up in her arms. An exultant cry went up

from behind her as she appeared to fall - oathsa chorus of them

as she went on again.

They had not gained on her before; but with the weight in her arms

especially as she was obliged to carry it awkwardly in order to

shield it from their view with her bodyshe could not run so fast

nowand they were beginning to close up on her. But she was on the

wharf nowand there was not much farther to goand - and surely

she could hold all the lead she needed until she reached the edge.

The light from the arc lamp held her in view again out here on the

wharf where she was clear of the shed; but she knew they would not

fire at her except as a last resort. They could not afford to sound

an alarm that would attract notice to the spot - when they hador

believed they hadboth the Adventurer and the White Moll within

their grasp now.

She was running now with shorthardpanting gasps. There were

still five yards to go-three-one! She looked around her like a

hunted animal at bayas she reached the end of the wharf and stood

there poised at the edge. Yesthank Godthey were still far

enough behind to give her the few seconds she needed! She cried

out loudly as though in despair and terror - and sprang from the

edge of the wharf. And as she sprang she dropped the casting; but

even as it struck the water with a loud splashRhoda Grayin

frantic hastewas crawling in through the little locker-like

opening under the decked-over bow of the half scowhalf boat into

which she had leaped. And quick as a flashhuddled insideshe

reached out and drew the heap of what proved to be sailcloth nearer

to her to cover the opening-and lay still.

A few seconds passed; then she heard them at the edge of the wharf

and heard Danglar s voice.

"Watch where she comes up! She can't get away!"

A queerwan smile twisted Rhoda Gray's lips. The casting had

served her well; the splash had been loud enough! She listened

straining her ears to catch every sound from above. It was

miserably small this hiding place into which she had crawled

scarcely large enough to hold her - she was beginning to be

painfully cramped and uncomfortable already.

Another voicethat she recognized as Pinkie Bonn's nowreached

her:

"It's damned hard to spot anything out there; the water's blacker'n

hell."

Came a savage and impatient oath from Danglar.

"She's got to come upain't she - or drown!" he rasped."Maybe

she's swum under the wharfor maybe she's swum under water far

enough out so's we can't see her from here. Anywayjump into

that boat thereand we'll paddle around till we get her."

Rhoda Gray held her breath. The boat rocked violently asone after

anotherthe men jumped into it. Her right hand was doubled under

herit was hard to reach her pocket and her automatic. She moved

a little; they were cursingsplashing with their oarsmaking too

much noise to hear any slight rustle that she might make.

A minutetwowent by. She had her automatic nowand she lay

theregrim-lippedwaiting. Even if they found her nowshe had

her own way out; and by nowbeyond any questionthe Adventurer

and the Sparrow would have reached the streetandeven if they

had to hide out there somewhere until the Adventurer had recovered

the use of his limbsthey would be safe.

She could not seeof course. Once the boat bumpedand again.

They were probably searching around under the wharf. She could not

hear what they saidfor they were keeping quiet nowtalking in

whispers - so as not to give her warning of their whereabouts

undoubtedly!

The time dragged on. Her cramped position was bringing her

excruciating agony now. She could understand how the Adventurer

in far worse case in the brutal position in which they had bound him

had fainted. She was afraid she would faint herself - it was not

only the painbut it was terribly close in the confined spaceand

her head was swimming.

Occasionally the oars splashed; and thenafter an interminable

timethe menas though hopeless of successand as though caution

were no longer of any servicebegan to talk louder.

The third man was Shluker. She recognized his voicetoo.

"It's no use!" he snarled. "If she's a good swimmershe couldget

across the river easy. She's got away; that's sure. What the hell's

the good of this? We're playing the fool. Beat it back! She was

nosing around the shed. How do we know she didn't let the Pug loose

before we saw her?"

Pinkie Bonn whined:

"If he's gone toowe're crimped! The whole works is bust up! The

Pug knows everythingwhere our money isan' everything. They'll

have us cold!"

"Close your facePinkie!" It was Danglar speakinghis voicehoarse

with uncontrollable rage. "Go on backthenShluker. Quick!"

Rhoda Gray heard the hurried splashing of the oars now; and presently

she felt the bumping of the boat against the wharfand its violent

rocking as the men climbed out of it again. But she did not move

- save with her hand to push the folds of sailcloth a cautious inch

or two away from the opening. It did not ease the agony she was

suffering from her cramped positionbut it gave her fresher air

and she could hear better - the ring of their boot-heels on the

wharf abovefor instance.

The footsteps died away. There was silence then for a moment; and

thenfaintlyfrom the direction of the shedthere came a chorus

of baffled rage and execration. She smiled a little wearily to

herself. It was all right. That was what she wanted to know. The

Adventurer had got away.

Still she lay there. She dared not leave the boat yet; but she

could change her position now. She crawled half out from under the

dockingand lay with her head on the sailcloth. It was exquisite

relief! They could not come back along the wharf without her hearing

themand she could retreat under the decking again in an instant

if necessary.

Voices reached her now occasionally from the direction of the shed.

Finally a silence fell. The minutes passed - ten - fifteen - twenty

of them. And then Rhoda Gray climbed warily to the wharfmade her

way warily past the shedand gained the road - and three-quarters

of an hour laterin another shedin the lane behind the garretshe

was changing quickly into the rags of Gypsy Nan again.

It was almost the end now. To-nightshe would keep the appointment

Danglar had given her - and keep it ahead of time. It was almost

the end. Her lips set tightly. The Adventurer had been warned.

There was nothing now to stand in the way of her going to the police

save only the substantiation of that one point in her own story

which Danglar must supply.

Her transformation completedshe reached in under the flooring and

took out the package of jewels - they would help very materially

when she faced Danglar! - andthough it was somewhat largetucked

it inside her blouse. It could not be noticed. The blackgreasy

shawl hid it effectively.

She stepped out into the laneand from there to the streetand

began to make her way across town. She did not have to search for

Danglar to-night. She was to meet him at Matty's at midnightand

it was not more than halfpast eleven now. Three hours and a half!

Was that all since at eight o'clockas nearly as she could place

ithe had left her in the lane? It seemed as many years; but it

was only twenty minutes after elevenshe had noticedwhen she had

left the subway on her return a few minutes ago. Her hand clenched

suddenly. She was to meet him at Matty's - andthereafterif it

took all nightshe would not leave him until she had got him alone

somewhere and disclosed herself. The man was a coward in soul. She

could trust to the effect upon him of an automatic in the hands of

the White Mall to make him talk.

Rhoda Gray walked quickly. It was not very far. She turned the

corner into the street where Danglar's deformed brotherMatty

cloaked the executive activities of the gang with his cheap little

notion store - and halted abruptly. The store was just ahead of

herand Danglar himselfcoming outhad just closed the door.

He saw herand stepping instantly to her sidegrasped her arm

roughly and wheeled her about.

"Come on!" he said - and a vicious oath broke from his lips.

The man was in a toweringungovernable passion. She cast a

furtive glance at his face. She had seen him before in anger; but

nowwith his lips drawn back and workinghis whole face contorted

he seemed utterly beside himself.

"What's the matter?" she inquired innocently. "Wouldn't thePug

talkor is it a case of 'another hour or so' and -"

He swung on her furiously.

"Hold your cursed tongue!" he flared. "You'll snicker on the

wrong side of your face this time!" He gulpedstared at her

threateninglyand quickened his stepforcing her to keep pace

with him. But he spoke again after a minutesavagelybitterly

but more in control of himself. "The Pug got away. The White

Moll queered us again. But it's worse than that. The game's up!

I told you to be here at midnight. It's only half past eleven yet.

I figured you would still be over in the garretand I was going

there for you. That's where we're going now. There's no chance at

those rajah's jewels now; there's no chance of fixing Cloran so's

you can swell it around in the open again - the only chance we've

got is to save what we can and beat it!"

She did not need to simulate either excitement or disquiet.

"What is it? What's happened?" she asked tensely.

"The gang's thrown us down!" he said between his teeth."They're

scared; they've got cold feet - they're going to quit. Shluker and

Pinkie were with me at the iron plant. We went back to Matty's

from there. Matty's with themtoo. They say the Pug knows every

one of usand every game we've pulledand that in revenge for our

trying to murder him he'll wise up the police - that he could do it

easily enough without getting nipped himselfby sending them a

letteror even telephoning the names and addresses of the whole

layout. They're scared - he curs! They say he knows where all our

coin is too; and they're for splitting it up to-nightand ducking

it out of New York for a while to get under cover." He laughed out

suddenlyraucously. "They will - eh? I'll show them - the

yellow-streaked pups! They wouldn't listen to me - and it meant

that you and I were thrown down for fair. If we're caughtit's

the chair. I'll show them! When I saw it wasn't any use trying to

get them to stickI pretended to agree with them. See? I said

they could go around and dig up the rest of the gangand if the

others felt the same way about itthey were all to come over to

the garretand I'd be waiting for them- and we'd split up the

swagand everybody'd be on his own after that." Again he laughed

out raucously. "It'll take them half an hour to get together - but

it won't take that long for us to grab all that's worth grabbing

out of that trap-doorand making our getaway. See? I'll teach

them to throw Pierre Danglar down! Come onhurry!"

"Sure!" she mumbled mechanically.

Her mind was siftingsortingweighing what he had said. She was

not surprised. She remembered Pinkie Bonn's outburst in the boat.

She walked on beside Danglar. The man was muttering and cursing

under his breath. Wellwhy shouldn't she appear to fall in with

his plans? Under what choicer surroundings could she get him alone

than in the garret? And half an hour would be ample time for her

too! Yesyesshe began to see! With Danglarwhen she had got

what she wanted out of him herselfheld up at the point of her

automaticshe could back to the door and lock him in there - and

notify the police - and the police would not only get Danglar and

the ill-gotten hoard hidden in the ceiling behind that trap-door

but they would get all the rest of the gang as the latter in due

course appeared on the scene. Yeswhy not? She experienced an

exhilaration creeping upon her; she even increasedunconsciously

the rapid pace which Danglar had set.

"That's the stuff!" he grunted in savage approval. "We needevery

minute we've got."

They reached the house where once - so long ago nowit seemed!

- Rhoda Gray had first found the original Gypsy Nan; andDanglar

leadingmounted the darknarrow stairway to the hall aboveand

from there up the shortladder-like steps to the garret. He

groped in the aperture under the partition for the keyopened the

doorand stepped inside. Rhoda Grayfollowingremoved the key

inserted it on the inside of the doorandas she too entered

locked the door behind her. It was pitch-black here in the attic.

Her face was set nowher lips firm. She had been waiting for this

hadn't she? It was near the end at last. She had Danglar - alone.

But not in the darkness! He was too tricky! She crossed the garret

to where the candle-stubstuck in the neck of the gin bottlestood

on the rickety washstand.

"Come over here and light the candle" she said. "I can't findmy

matches."

Her hand was in the pocket of her skirt nowher fingers

tight-closed on the stock of her automaticas he shuffled his way

across the attic to her side. A match spurted into flame; the

candle wick flickeredthen steadieddispersing little by little

as it grew brighterthe nearer shadows - and there came a startled

cry from Danglar - and Rhoda Graythe weapon in her pocket

forgottenwas staring as though stricken of her senses across the

garret. The Adventurer was sitting on the edge of the cotand a

revolver in his hand held a steady bead upon Danglar and herself..

 

XXI . THE RECKONING

It was the Adventurer who spoke first.

"Both of you! What charming luck!" he murmured whimsically."You'll

forgive the intrusion won't you? A friend of minethe Sparrow by

name - I think you are acquainted with himDanglar - was good enough

to open the door for meand lock it again on the outside. You see

I didn't wish to cause you any alarm through a premature suspicion

that you might have a guest!" His voice hardened suddenly as he rose

from the cotandthough he limped badlystepped quickly toward

them. "Don't moveDanglar - or youMrs. Danglar!" he ordered

sharply - and with a lightning movement of his hand felt forand

whipped Danglar's revolver from the latter's pocket. "Pardon me!"

he said - and his hand was in and out of Rhoda Gray's pocket. He

tossed the two weapons coolly over onto the cot. "WellDanglar"

he smiled grimly"there's quite a change in the last few hours

isn't there?"

Danglar made no answer. His face was ashen; his little black eyes

like those of a cornered ratand as though searching for some

avenue of escapewere darting hunted glances all around the garret.

Rhoda Graythe first shock of surprise goneleaned back against

the washstand with an air of composure that she did not altogether

feel. What was the Adventurer going to do? Trueshe need have no

fear of personal violence - she had only to disclose herself. But

- but there were other considerations. She saw that reckoning of

her own with Danglar at an endthough - yes! - perhaps the

Adventurer would become her ally in that matter. Butthenthere

was something else. The Adventurer was a thiefand she could not

let him get away with those packages of banknotes up there behind

the trap-door in the ceilingif she could help it. That was

perhaps what he had come forand - and - Her mind seemed to tumble

into chaos. She did not know what to do. She stared at the

Adventurer. He was still dressed as the Pugthough the eye-patch

was goneand there was no longer any sign of the artificial facial

disfigurements.

The Adventurer spoke again.

"Won't you sit down - Mrs. Danglar?" He pushed the single chair

the garret possessed toward her - and shrugged his shoulders as

she remained motionless. "You'll pardon methenif I sit down

myself." He appropriated the chairand faced themhis revolver

dangling with ominous carelessness in his hand. "I've had a

rather upsetting experience this eveningand I am afraid I am

still a little the worse for it - as perhaps you knowDanglar?"

"You damned traitor!" Danglar burst out wildly. "I - I -"

"Quite so!" said the Adventurer smoothly. "But we'll get tothat

in a minute. Do you mind if I inflict a little story on you? I

promise you it won't take long. It's a little personal history

which I think will be interesting to you both; butin any case

as my hostsI am sure you will be polite enough to listen. It

concerns the murder of a man named Deemer; but in order that you

may understand my interest in the matterI must go back quite a

little further. Perhaps I even ought to introduce myself. My name

my real nameyou knowis David Holt. My father was in the American

Consular service in India when I was about ten. He eventually left

it and went into business there through the advice of a very warm

friend of hisa certain very rich and very powerful rajah in the

State of Chota Nagpur in the Province of Bengalwhere we then

lived. I became an equally intimate friend of the rajah's son

and - do I bore youDanglar?"

Danglar was like a crouched animalhis head drawn into his

shouldershis hands behind him with fingers twisting and gripping

at the edge of the washstand.

"What's your proposition?" he snarled. "Curse youname yourprice

and have done with it! You're as big a crook as I am!"

"You are impatient!" The Adventurer's shoulders went up again."In

due time the rajah decided that a trip through Europe and back home

through America would round out his son's educationand broaden and

fit him for his future duties in a way that nothing else would. It

was also decidedI need hardly say to my intense delightthat I

should accompany him. We come now to our journey through the United

States - you seeDanglarthat I am omitting everything but the

essential details. In a certain city in the Middle West - I think

you will remember it wellDanglar - the young rajah met with an

accident. He was out riding in the outskirts of the city. His

horse took fright and dashed for the river-bank. He was an

excellent horsemanbutpitched from his seathis foot became

tangled in the stirrupand as he hung there head downa blow from

he horse's hoof rendered him unconsciousand he was being dragged

alongwhen a man by the name of Deemerat the risk of his own

lifesaved the rajah's son. The horse plunged over the bank and

into the water with both of them. They were both nearly drowned.

Deemerlet me say in passingdid one of the bravest things that

any man ever did. Submergedhalf drowned himselfhe stayed

with the maddened animal until he had succeeded in freeing the

unconscious man. All this was some two years ago."

The Adventurer paused.

Rhoda Grayhanging on his wordswas leaning tensely forward - it

seemed as though some greatdawning wonderment was lifting her out

of herselfmaking her even unconscious of her surroundings.

"The rajah's son remained at the hotel there for several days to

recuperate" continued the Adventurer deliberately; "and duringthat

time he saw a great deal of Deemerandnaturallyso did I. And

incidentallyDanglarthough I thought nothing much of it then

I saw something of you; and something of Mrs. Danglar theretoo

though - if she will permit me to say it - in a more becoming

costume than she is now wearing!" Once more he shrugged his

shoulders as Danglar snarled. "Yesyes; I will hurry. I am almost

through. While it was not made public throughout the country

inasmuch as the rajah's son was more or less an official guest of

the governmentthe details of the accident were of course known

locallyas also was the fact that the young rajah in token of his

gratitude had presented Deemer with a collection of jewels of

almost priceless worth. We resumed our journey; Deemerwho was a

man in very moderate circumstancesand who had probably never had

any means in his life beforewent to New Yorkpresumably to have

his first real holidayandas it turned outto dispose of the

stonesor at least a portion of them. When we reached the coast

we received two advices containing very ill news. The first was

an urgent message to return instantly to India on account of the

old rajah's serious illness; the second was to the effect that

Deemer had been murdered by a woman in New Yorkand that the jewels

had been stolen."

Again the Adventurer pausedandeying Danglarsmiled - not

pleasantly.

"I will not attempt to explain to you" he went on"the young

rajah's feelings when he heard that the gift he had given Deemer

in return for his own life had cost Deemer his. Nor will I attempt

to explain the racial characteristics of the people of whom the

young rajah was oneand who do not lightly forget or forgive.

But an eye for an eyeDanglar - you will understand that. If it

cost all he hadthere should be justice. He could not stay

himself; and so I stayed-because he made me swear I wouldand

because he made me swear that I would never allow the chase to lag

until the murderers were found.

"And so I came East again. I remembered youDanglar - that on

several occasions when I had come upon Deemer unawaresyou

sometimes accompanied by a womanand sometimes nothad been

lurking in the background. I went to Cloranthe house detective

at the hotel here in New York where Deemer was murdered. He

described the woman. She was the same woman that had been with

you. I went to the authorities and showed my credentialswith

which the young rajah had seen to it I was supplied from very

high sources indeed. I did not wish to interfere with the

authorities in their handling of the case; buton the other hand

I had no wish to sit down idly and watch themand it was necessary

therefore that I should protect myself in anything I did. I also

made. myself known to one of New York's assistant district attorneys

who was an old friend of my father's. And thenDanglarI started

out after you.

"I discovered you after about a month; then I wormed myself into

your gang as the Pug. That took about a year. I was almost another

year with you as an accepted member of the gang. You know what

happened during that period. A little while ago I found out that

the woman we wanted - with youDanglar - was your wifeliving in

hiding in this garret as Gypsy Nan. But the jewels themselves were

still missing. To-night they are not. A - a friend of mineone

very much misjudged publiclyI might sayhas themand has told

me they would be handed to the police.

"And soDanglarafter coming here to-nightI sent the Sparrow

out to gather together a few of the authorities who are interested

in the case - my friend the assistant district attorney; Cloranthe

house detective; Rough Rorke of headquarterswho on one occasion

was very much interested in Gypsy Nan; and enough men to make the

round of arrests. They should be conveniently hidden across the

road nowand waiting for my signal. My ideayou seewas to allow

Mrs. Danglar to enter here without having her suspicions aroused

and to see that she did not get away again if she arrived before

those who are duly qualified - which I am not - to arrest her did;

alsoin view of what transpired earlier this eveningI must

confess I was a little anxious about those several years'

accumulation of stolen funds up there in the ceiling. As I said

at the beginningI hardly expected the luck to get you both at the

same time; though we should have got youDanglarand every one of

the rest of the gang before morningand -"

"You" Rhoda Gray whispered"you - are not a thief!"Brain and

soul seemed on fire. It seemed as though she had striven to voice

those words a dozen times since he had been speakingbut that she

had been afraid - afraid that this was not truethis great

wonderful thingthat it could not be true. "You - you are not a

- a thief!"

The Adventurer's face lost its immobility. He half rose from his

chairstaring at her in a startled way - but it was Danglar now

who spoke.

"It's a lie!" he screamed out. "It's a lie!" The man'sreason

appeared to be almost unhinged; a mad terror seemed to possess him.

"It's all a lie! I never heard of this rajah bunk before in my

life! I never heard of Deemeror any jewels before. You lie! I

tell youyou lie! You can't prove it; you can't -"

"But I can" said Rhoda Gray in a low voice. The shawl fell from

her shoulders; from her blouse she took the package of jewels and

held them out to the Adventurer. "Here are the stones. I got them

from where you had put them in old Luertz's room. I was hidden

there all the time last night." She was removing her spectacles

and her wig of tangled gray hair as she spokeand now she turned

her face full upon Danglar. "I heard you discuss Deemer's murder

with your brother last nightand plan to get rid of Cloranwho

you thought was the only existing witness you need fearand -"

"Great God!" The Adventurer cried out. "You - Rhoda! The White

Moll! I - I don't understandthough I can see you are not the

woman who originally masqueraded as Gypsy Nanfor I knew heras

I saidby sight."

He was on his feet nowhis face aflame with a great light. He

took a step toward her.

"Wait!" she said hurriedly. She glanced at Danglar. The man's

face was blanchedhis body seemed to have shriveled upand

there was a light in his eyes as they held upon her that was near

to the borderland of insanity. "That night at Skarbolov's!" she

saidand tried to hold her voice in control. "Gypsy Nanthis

man's wifedied that night in the hospital. I had found her here

sickand I had promised not to divulge her secret. I helped her

get to the hospital. She was dying; she was penitent in a way;

she wanted to prevent a crime that she said was to be perpetrated

that nightbut she would not inform on her accomplices. She begged

me to forestall themand return the money anonymously the next day.

That was the choice I had - either to allow the crime to be carried

outor else swear to act alone in return for the information that

would enable me to keep the money away from the thieves without

bringing the police into it. I - I was caught. You - you saved me

from Rough Rorkebut he followed me. I put on Gypsy Nan's clothes

and managed to outwit him. I had had no opportunity to return the

moneywhich would have been proof of my innocence; the only way I

could prove itthenwas to try and find the authors of the crime

myself. I - I have lived since then as Gypsy Nanfighting this

hideous gang of Danglar's here to try and save myselfand - and

to-night I thought I could see my way clear. I - I knew enough at

last about this man to make him give me a written statement that it

was a pre-arranged plan to rob Skarbolov. That would substantiate

my story. And" - she looked again at Danglar; the man was still

crouched thereeying her with that same mad light in his eyes

- "and he must be made to - to do it now for -"

"But why didn't you ask me?" cried the Adventurer. "You knewme as

the Pugand therefore must have believed that Itooknow all

about it."

"Yes" she saidand turned her head away to hide the color shefelt

was mounting to her cheeks. "I - I thought of that. But I thought

you were a thiefand - and your testimony wouldn't have been much

good unlesswith itI could have handed youtooover to the

policeas I intended to do with Danglar; and - and - I - I couldn't

do thatand - Ohdon't you see?" she ended desperately.

"Rhoda! Rhoda!" There was a gladbuoyant note in the Adventurer's

voice. "YesI see! WellI can prove it for you now without any

of those fears on my behalf to worry you! I went to Skarbolov's

myselfknowing their plansto do exactly what you did. I did not

know you thenandas Rough Rorkewho was there becauseas I

heard laterhis suspicions had been aroused through seeing some of

the gang lurking around the back door in the lane the night before

had taken the actual money from youI contrived to let you get

awaybecause I was afraid that you were some new factor in the

gamesome member of the gang that I did not know aboutand that I

must watchtoo! Don't you understand? The jewels were still

missing. I had not got the general warning that was sent out to

the gang that night to lay lowfor at the last moment it seems that

Danglar here found out that Rough Rorke had suspicions about

Skarbolov's place." He came close to her - and with the muzzle

of his revolver he pushed Danglar's huddled figure back a little

further against the washstand. "Rhoda - you are clear. The

assistant district attorney who had your case is the one I spoke

of a few minutes ago. That night at Hayden-Bond'sthough I did

not understand fullyI knew that you were the bravesttruest

little woman into whom God had ever breathed the breath of life.

I told him the next day there was some mistakesomething strange

behind it all. I told him what happened at Hayden-Bond's. He

agreed with me. You have never been indicted. Your case has

never come before the grand jury. And it never will now! Rhoda!

Rhoda! Thank God for you! Thank God it has all come out right

and -"

A peal of laughtermadinsanehorrible in its perverted mirth

rang through the garret. Danglar's hands were creeping queerly

up to his temples. And thenoblivious evidently in his frenzy

of the revolver in the Adventurer's handand his eye catching the

weapons that lay upon the cothe made a sudden dash in that

direction - and Rhoda Graydivining his intentionsprang for the

cottooat the same time. But Danglar never reached his objective.

As Rhoda Gray caught up the weapons and thrust them into her pocket

she heard Danglar's furious snarland whirling aroundshe saw the

two men locked and struggling in each other's embrace.

The Adventurer's voice reached herquickimperative:

"Show the candle at the windowRhoda! The Sparrow is waiting for

it in the yard below. Then open the door for them."

A sudden terror and fear seized her. The Adventurer was not fit

after what he had been through to-night to cope with Danglar. He

had been limping badly even a few minutes ago. It seemed to her

as she rushed across the garret and snatched up the candlethat

Danglar was getting the best of it even now. And the Adventurer

could have shot him downand been warranted in doing it! She

reached the windowwaved the candle frantically several times

across the panethen setting the candle down on the window ledge

she ran for the door.

She looked back againas she turned the key in the lock. With a

crashpitching over the chairboth men went to the floor - and the

Adventurer was underneath. She cried out in alarmand wrenched the

door open - and stood for an instant there on the threshold in a

startled way.

They couldn't be coming already! The Sparrow hadn't had time even

to get out of the yard. But there were footsteps in the hall below

many of them. She stepped out on the landing; it was too dark to

seebut...

A sudden yell as she showed even in the faint light of the open

garret doorthe quicker rush of feetreached her from below.

"The White Moll! That's her! The White Moll!" She flung herself

flat downwrenching both the automatic and the revolver from her

pocket. She understood now! That was Pinkie Bonn's voice. It was

the gang arriving to divide up the spoilsnot the Sparrow and the

police. Her mind was racing now with lightning speed. If they got

herthey would get the Adventurer in theretoobefore the police

could intervene. She must hold this little landing where she lay

nowhold those shortladder-like steps that the oncoming footsteps

from below there had almost reached.

She fired once - twice - again; but highover their headsto check

the rush.

Yells answered her. A vicious tongue-flame from a revolveranother

and anotherleaped out at her from the black below; the spatspat

of bullets sounded from behind her as they struck the walls.

Again she fired. They were at least more cautious now in their rush

- no one seemed anxious to be first upon the stairs. She cast a

wild glance through the open door into the garret at her side. The

two forms in thereon their feet againwere spinning around and

around with the strangelurching gyrations of automatons - and then

she saw the Adventurer whip a terrific blow to Danglar's face - and

Danglar fall and lie still - and the Adventurer come leaping toward

her.

But faces were showing now above the level of the floorand there

was suddenly an increased uproar from further back in the rear until

it seemed that pandemonium itself were loosed.

"It's the police! The police behind us!" she heard Shluker's voice

shriek out.

She jumped to her feet. Two of the gang had reached the landing

and were smashing at the Adventurer. There seemed to be a swirling

mob in riot there below. The Adventurer was fighting like a madman.

It was hand to hand now.

"Quick! Quick!" she cried to the Adventurer. "Jump backthrough

the door."

"Ohnoyou don't!" It was Skeeny - she could see the man's brutal

face now. "Ohnoyou don'tyou she-devil!" he shoutedand

over-reaching the Adventurer's guardstruck at her furiously with

his clubbed revolver.

It struck her a glancing blow on the headand she reeled and

staggeredbut recovered herself. And now it seemed as though it

were another battle that she fought - and one more desperate; a

battle to fight back a horrible giddiness from overpowering her

and with which her brain was swimmingto fight it back for just

a secondthe fraction of a second that was needed until - until

- "Jump!" she cried againand staggered over the thresholdand

as the Adventurer leaped backward beside hershe slammed the door

and locked it - and slid limply to the floor.

When she regained consciousness she was lying on the cot. It

seemed very stillvery quiet in the garret. She opened her eyes.

It - it must be all rightfor that was the Sparrow standing there

watching herand shifting nervously from foot to footwasn't it?

He couldn't be thereotherwise. She held out her hand.

"Marty" she saidand smiled with trembling lips"we - weowe

you a great deal."

The Sparrow gulped.

"Geeyou're all right again! They said it wasn't nothin'but you

had me scared worse'n down at the iron plant when I had to do the

rough act with that gent friend of yours to stop him from crawlin'

after you and fightin' it outand queerin' the whole works. You

don't owe me nothin'Miss Gray; andbesidesI'm gettin' a lot

more than is comm' to me'cause that same gent friend of yours

there says I'm goin' to horn in on the rewardsand I guess that's

goin' somefor they got the whole outfit from Danglar downand

the stuff up in the ceiling theretoo."

She turned her head. The Adventurer was coming toward the cot.

"Better?" he called cheerily.

"Yes" she said. "Quite! Only I - I'd like to get away fromhere

from this - this horrible place at onceand back to - to my flat

if they'll let me. Are - are they all gone?"

The Adventurer's gray eyes lighted with a whimsical smile.

"Nearly all!" he said softly. "And - er - Sparrowsuppose yougo

and find a taxi!"

"Me? Sure! Of course! Sure!" said the Sparrow hurriedlyand

retreated through the door.

She felt the blood flood her faceand she tried to avert it.

He bent his head close to hers.

"Rhoda" his voice was lowpassionate"I -"

"Wait!" she said. "Your friend - the assistant districtattorney

- did he come?"

"Yes" said the Adventurer. "But I shooed them all outassoon as

we found you were not seriously hurt. I thought you had had enough

excitement for one night. He wants to see you in the morning."

"To see me" - she rose up anxiously on her elbow - "in themorning?"

He was smiling at her. His hands reached out and took her face

between themand made her look at him.

"Rhoda" he said gently"I knew to-night in the iron plantthat

you cared. I told him so. What he wants to see you for is to tell

you that he thinks I am the luckiest man in all the world. You are

cleardear. Even Rough Rorke is singing your praises; he says you

are the only woman who ever put one over on him."

She did not answer for a moment; and then with a little sob of glad

surrender she buried her face on his shoulder.

"It - it is very wonderful" she said brokenly"for - foreven we

you and Ieach thought the other a - a thief."

"And so we werethank God!" he whispered - and lifted her head

until now his lips met hers. "We were both thievesRhodaweren't

we? Andplease Godwe will be all our lives - for we have stolen

each other's heart."