THE WHITE MOLL
by Frank Packard
I. NIGHT IN THE UNDERWORLD
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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"
"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!
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
A match crackled and spurted into flame; its light fell upon the
lamp standing on the chair beside the bed. Rough Rorke stepped
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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.
"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
"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
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'
"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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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 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
"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."
"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!"
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
He stared at her for a momentand then his face gradually lost its
"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
Adding the numerals between the zerosand giving to each its
corresponding lettershe set down the result:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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 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.
"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
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
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
"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
"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."
"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
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
"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.
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
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
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:
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
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
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
Rhoda Gray threw back her veil.
"My Gawd!" mumbled Pinkie Bonn - and licked his lips. "TheWhite
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"HelloBertha!" he called out cheerily. "How's the old girl
to-night?" He rose from his seat to come toward her. "And how's
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
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
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.
"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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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!
The manwith a frightened oathobeyed. The car gained speed. A
glance through the window behind showed Danglar climbing into the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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!
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"Martyhelp this gentleman! Crawl to the streetif you have to.
The only thing is that you are not to make the slightest noise
"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
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
"It's damned hard to spot anything out there; the water's blacker'n
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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."