The Blue Pear  (1904) 
by Arthur Stringer

Extracted from The Smart Set magazine, Vol 13, May 1904, pp. 53–69.


By Arthur Stringer

DURKIN sat at the café table, smoking, his watch in his hand. It was already seven minutes to four. As the seventh minute slipped into the sixth, and the sixth into the fifth, some first, vague sense of impending disaster stole over him.

“Is this seat taken, sir?”

It was a waiter speaking, with a short, florid man at his heels.

“Yes,” said Durkin, quietly, “I'm expecting a lady—in five minutes.”

The florid man bowed. The waiter said “Yes, sir,” tipped the chair against the table edge, and went on in search of a seat.

Durkin smoked hard once more, relishing the irony of it all. He did not, naturally enough, explain that the lady he was expecting had made the engagement two thousand miles away from the table at which he sat and at which he was to meet her precisely on the stroke of four. Such things were theatrical, and unnecessary; besides, one had to allow for accidents. And once more, with a puzzled brow, he took up his paper and looked through the Teutonic's passenger-list, still involuntarily cast down by a wayward sense of possible calamity.

He imagined some dark coalition of forces against him, obscurely depressed for the moment, by the shadow of some immense, seemingly impassive, and yet implacable, animosity of eternal rule toward the accidental revolter. The same vague feeling had possessed him the day he first abandoned his operator's key and became an “overhead guerrilla.” Still later it had come to him, when, dazzled by the splendor of a vast hazard, he joined forces with the notorious MacNutt and became a professional wire-tapper, so audaciously and yet so cautiously bleeding Penfield's pool-rooms, in the very teeth of Inspector Doogan and his men. Still, he argued with himself, that had been a victory of intelligence—and would not victory always be with the alerter mind and the warier hand? Would they not still meet and combat, point by point, this vague and mysterious enemy whose emissaries, even though relentless, were always so temptingly dull?

A woman, dressed in black, with a dark veil caught up around the rim of her hat, pushed her way through the crowded café toward the table in the corner. She might have passed for a mere girl, but for the heavy shadows about the weary-looking, violet eyes and the betraying fullness of her womanly breast and hips. She glanced at the clock, and smiled a little, with her calm, almost pensive lips, as she placed a pearl-gloved hand on the back of the tilted chair.

“I am on time, you see,” she said, quietly, in her soft contralto, as she sank into the chair with a contented sigh, and began drawing off her gloves. “It is precisely four o'clock.”

“Why, Mame!” cried Durkin, with eloquent enough inadequacy, his face paling a little, for all his assumption of easy fortitude. He continued to look at her, a sudden lump in his throat choking back the hundred stampeding words that seemed clamoring to escape. For one wavering moment she let her eyes lose their studied calmness, and, inwardly surrendering, gazed at him recklessly, abandonedly, with her very soul in her face.

“Dearest!” she whispered to him, with her back to the crowded room.

He tried to seize her ungloved hand in his, but she drew him up with a sudden monitory “Hsssh!” Then he, too, remembered, and they took up their rôle again.

“Now, you want, I know, a good silver fizz, and I want a nice, old-fashioned, warm milk-punch. For, oh, Jim, I'm tired right out!”

Durkin called his waiter and gave him the order, puffing his cigar with assumed insolence of unconcern, while the woman murmured across the table to him:

“You look quite foreign, with that magnificent Vandyke! And, by the way, how do you like my English bang?”

“Why, it's dyed!” said Durkin, for the first time missing the sunny glint in the familiar crown of chestnut.

“Jim,” said the woman, in lower tones, sobering, “there's trouble ahead!”

She drew her chair a little closer, and leaned forward, with her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands. Durkin lighted another cigar, and lounged toward her with the same careless pose, his face alert with a new and different interest.

“You don't mean Doogan's men?”

“Not so loud, dear! No, not Doogan's men. It's nothing like that. But first tell me, quickly, has anything gone wrong over here?”

“Not a thing—except that you were away.”

“But hasn't anything happened since I saw you?”

“Nothing worth while. It's been so dull, so deadly dull, I almost jumped back into the old game, and held up a pool-room or two. Five whole weeks of—of just waiting for you!”

She caught up her veil, where a part of it drooped from her hat-brim, and smiled her wistfully girlish smile at him. Then she glanced carefully about her; no one seemed within earshot.

“Yes, I know. It seemed just as long to me, dearest. Only I had to jump into something. That's what I must tell you about—but we can't talk here.”

“Then we'll have William call a hansom?”

“Not a hansom, Jim—a four-wheeler. We can talk there without having a driver lifting a lid over our heads every two minutes.

“Do you know,” she went on, dreamily, as she watched the waiter push out through the crowded, many-odored room, “I often think I must have lived through all the ordinary feelings of life. I mean that we have taken such chances together, you and I, that now only a big thing can stir me into interest. I suppose we have exhausted all the everyday sensations of life!”

“Yes, I know the feeling,” said Durkin, through his cigar-smoke. “I suppose it's really a sort of drunkenness with us now. I couldn't go back to the other things, any more than I could go back to—to stogies. All this last five weeks of hanging about I've felt like—oh, like a sailor who'd pounded round every strange sea in all the world, and has come home to be told not to go out of his own backyard.”

“That's how I felt in London, with nothing to do, nothing to think about, or plan, or live for. I got so I nearly screamed every time I faced the four dull walls of that hotel room. But, you see, we have both fallen back on the wrong sort of stimulant. Neither of us two should ever have been evil-doers. I'm too much—oh, too much like other women, I suppose! And you're too thin-skinned and introspective—too much of a Hamlet! You should never have tapped a wire; and I should never have been a welcher and robbed MacNutt. You ought to have gone on being a nice, respectable young train-despatcher, with a row of geraniums in front of your station-window; and I ought to be a prim little branch-office telegrapher, in one of those big Broadway hotel corridors, in a little wire cage between the news-stand and the cigar-counter. Then we should both have a lot to look for and to live for!”

She broke off, inconsequentially, and gazed out through the lightly-curtained café window, to where a street-piano was throbbing out the waltz-tune of “Sammy.”

“Do you remember our little inn at Cumnor last Spring, and the first time you ever heard an English cuckoo? You said it was my voice, set to music! Oh, what a happy two weeks those were!” And she gazed at him dreamily, as she hummed the tune of “Sammy” in her throaty, low-noted contralto, ending with a nonchalant little laugh as she looked up and said, “But here's our cab, at last!”

In the half-light of the carriage, as they turned into Fifth avenue and swung up toward Central Park, she let her tired body rest against his shoulder, with her arm clinging to him forlornly. There was a minute or two of silence, and then putting her face up to him, she said, with a sudden passionate calmness,

“Kiss me!”

He felt the moist warmth of her capitulating lips, the clinging weight of her inert body, and, deep down within his own consciousness, he knew that, if need be, he could die for her as the purest knight might have died for some old-world lady of spotless soul and name. Yet, after all, he wondered, as he held her there, were they so irretrievably bad? Was it not only their game, this life they had drifted into—their anodyne, their safeguard against exhausted desire and the corroding idleness of life?

She must intuitively have felt what was running through his mind, as she slipped away from him, and drew back into her own corner of the carriage, with a new look of brooding melancholy in her shadowy eyes.

“If I were ignorant, and coarse, and debased, then I could understand it. But I'm not! I have always wanted to be honest. From the first, I have longed to be decent!”

“You are honest, through and through,” he protested. “You are as strong and true as steel!”

She shook her head, but he caught her in his arms, and she lay there half-happy again.

“Oh, Mame, for the twentieth time,” he pleaded, “won't you marry me?”

“No, no, no; not till we're honest!” she cried, in alarm. “I wouldn't dare to, I couldn't, until then.”

“But we're only what we have been. We can't change it all in a day, can we? Especially when there's so much behind!”

“I want to be decent!” she cried, in a sort of muffled wail. “No, no; I can't marry you, Jim—not yet! We may not be honest with other people, but we must be honest with ourselves!”

A policeman, directing the crowded street traffic at Forty-second street, glanced in at them through the misty cab-window and smiled broadly. It seemed to remind her of other worlds, for she at once sat up more decorously.

“Time! time! We're losing time—and I have so much to tell you.”

“Then give me your hand to hold while you talk.”

She hesitated for a half-laughing moment, and then surrendered it.

“Now, tell me everything, from the first.”


“It's the Blue Pear,” she said, hesitatingly, wondering how to begin.

“And just what is that?”

“You have never heard of the Blue Pear?”


“But you wouldn't, of course—most of it happened after you had sailed. The Blue Pear, Jim, is a diamond. It's a diamond that you and I, in some way or another, have got to get back!”

“To get back? Then when did we lose it?”

“I lost it. That's what I've got to tell you.”

“Well, first tell me what it is.”

“It's a very odd diamond, and a very big diamond, tinted with the same pale-blue coloring as the Hope diamond. That's how it came to get its name. But the odd thing about it is that, when it was cut in Amsterdam, rather than grind away a fifteen-carat irregularity, it was left in a sort of pear-shape. Even before it was mounted by Lalique, it sold in Paris for well over four thousand pounds. Later, in Rio de Janeiro, it brought something like five thousand pounds. There it was given to a French actress by a Spanish-American coffee-king. It was an African stone in the first place.”

“But what's all this geography for?” asked Durkin.

“Wait, dear, and you'll understand. The coffee-king quarreled with the Paris woman. This woman, though, smuggled the stone back to France with her. It was sold there, a few months later, for about one-fourth its market value. Still later, it was bought for a little under six thousand pounds, by the late Earl of Warton, who gave it to his younger daughter, Lady Margaret Singford, when she married young Cicely—Sir Charles Cicely, who was wounded in the Boer War, you remember. Well, Sir Charles didn't like the setting—it had been made into a marquise ring of some sort—so he took it to René Lalique's workshop, in Paris, and had it mounted after his own ideas.”

“But who is Lalique?”

“A French l'art nouveau goldsmith—the Louis Tiffany of the Continent. But I've a lot to tell you, Jim, and only a little time to do it in, so we shall have to cut out these details. Lalique made a pendant out of the Blue Pear, hung on a thin gold stem, between little leaves of beaten gold, with diamond dew-drops on them. Well, four weeks ago the Blue Pear was stolen from Lady Margaret's jewel-case. No, Jim, thank you, not by me; but, if you'll wait, I shall try to explain.

“I hardly know now what made me do it—it was ennui and being lonesome, I suppose. But I had detective-agency cards printed, and went straight to the Cicelys. Lady Margaret wouldn't see me; she sent down word that the reward of a thousand pounds was still open and that there was no new information. But I saw her at last—I sha'n't explain just how. Before very long I found out something rather remarkable—I mean the fact that Lady Margaret wanted to drop the case altogether, and was rather trying to blind Scotland Yard and the police. And that started me thinking.

“Before the end of the week, I found out that Lady Margaret's young brother had made a mess of things at Oxford, had been mixed up later in a row at Monaco, and had decided to try ranching in the Canadian Northwest. I had already booked my passage on the Deutschland, but the whole thing was too alluring, and, when I found young Singford was sailing that week on the Teutonic, I succeeded in getting a berth on that steamer. Jim, as soon as I saw that wretched boy on deck I knew I had guessed right, or almost right. Oh, I know them, I know them! I suppose it's because I've been mixed up with so many of them. But there he was, as plain as day, a criminal with stage-fright, a beginner without enough nerve to face things out. I rather think he may have been a nice boy at one time. And I know just how easy it is, once you make the first little wrong turn, to keep on and on and on, until you daren't turn back, even if you had the chance to.”

“And you took pity on him?” inquired Durkin; “or merely vivisected him—at a distance?”

“Not altogether—but first I must tell you of the second dilemma. Before we sailed, and the first day out, I thought it best to keep to my cabin—you know why, of course. After all, this is such a little world when the Central office is after you! That was precisely what I thought, only a good deal harder, when I sat down to dinner, the second day out, and glanced across the table. You remember my telling you about my first trouble in America, when I was a shrinking and pink-cheeked young English governess, and never knew a bold thought or a dishonest act? Do you remember my describing the woman—it's always a woman who is hard on another woman!—who accused me of—of having designs on her husband? Her husband, a miserable, oily, little Hebrew diamond-merchant who twice insulted me on the stairs of his own house, and I had to swallow it without a word! Well, it was that woman who sat across the table from me. They had put me at the captain's table—my London gown, you see, looks uncommonly well. But there was that woman, a little more faded and wizened and wrinkled, looking at me with those beady old hawk-eyes of hers; and I knew there was trouble ahead.

“A war-correspondent, who had been nice to me, had brought up about everybody at our table worth while, and introduced them to me that night before going down. So, when I saw that yellow face and those hawk-eyes, I knew I had to think hard and fast.

“'Are you not the young woman,' she said, in a sort of nasal scream of indignation, 'are you not the young woman whom I once employed as a governess and discharged for misconducting herself with—er—with the other servants?'

“I was so busy trying to be cool that I didn't bother thinking out an answer, though I did want to say it was not a servant, but her own devoted husband. I kept on talking to the captain, deciding to ignore her icily. But that yellow hag deliberately repeated her question, and I heard the war-correspondent gasp out an indignant 'My God, madam!' and saw the captain's face growing redder and redder. So I went on sweetly, and asked the ship's doctor if intoxication was getting commoner on the high seas. Then she began to splutter and tremble. I kept looking at her as languidly as ever, and a steward had to help her away.

“But she knew she was right. And she knew that I knew she knew. Though I had all the men on my side, and the captain cheerfully saw to it that she was moved down among the commercial travelers and the school-ma'ams, I knew well enough that she was only waiting for her chance.

“It didn't change the face of things, but it upset me, and made me more cautious in the way I handled young Singford. In some way, I felt sorry for the poor devil. I thought a little sympathy might perhaps soften him, and make him tell me something worth while. But he had too much good old English backbone for that. And, although he told me I was the best woman he ever knew, and a little more solemn nonsense like that, I at last had to go for him very openly. It was a moonlight night—the sea air was as soft as Summer. We were standing by the rail, looking out over the water. Then I made the plunge, and very quietly told him I knew he had stolen his sister's diamond pendant, and that for two days he had been thinking about committing suicide.

“I watched his hand go up to his breast-pocket—the moon was on his terrified young face—and I came a little nearer to him, for I was afraid of something—I tried to tell him there was no use jumping overboard, and none whatever in throwing the Blue Pear there—that would only make things past mending, forever. Besides, he was young, and his life was still before him. I talked to him—well, I believe I cried over him a little. And finally, without a word, he reached in under his coat, and there in the moonlight handed me the Blue Pear. I gave him my word of honor it would be taken back to his sister, and even lent him twenty pounds. That was the night before we came up the Bay.

“I slipped down to my cabin, and turned on the electric-light. Then I opened the little case and looked at my pendant. You know I never liked diamonds, they always seemed so cold and hard and cruel—well, as though the tears of a million women had frozen into one drop. But this Blue Pear—oh, Jim, it was a beautiful thing!”

“It was—good heavens, you don't mean——?”

“Shhhh! Not so loud! Yes, that is just it. There I stood trying it in the light, feasting on it, when a voice said behind me, a voice that made my hair creep at the roots, 'A very unsafe stone to smuggle, young lady!' and there, just inside my door, stood the yellow hag. She had stolen down, I suppose, to nose among my luggage a bit. I could have killed her—I almost did try it.

“We stood staring at each other; it was the second battle of the kind on board that ship. I realized she had the upper hand in this one. I never saw such envy and greed and cruelty in a human face, as she ogled that stone.

“It seemed to intoxicate her—she was drunk to get her hands on it—and she had enough of her own, too. So, once more, I had to think hard and fast, for I knew this time she would be relentless.

“'No, I sha'n't smuggle it,' I said, in answer to her look.

'You pay duty—a thousand, two thousand dollars!' she gasped at me, still keeping her eyes on the stone, flashing there in the light. 'Given to you,' she hissed, 'by some loving father whose child you guided into the paths of wisdom? Oh, I know you, you lying hussy! It's mine!' she cried, like a baby crying for the moon. 'It's mine! You—you stole it from me!'”

She paused, at the memory of the scene, and Durkin stirred uneasily on the seat.

“What made the fool say that?” he demanded.

“Why, she meant that she intended to claim it, insinuating that she would see that it was declared at the wharf if I kept it, and arguing that I might as well lose it quietly to her, as to the treasury officers. I knew in a flash, then, that she didn't know what the Blue Pear was. I closed the little gun-metal case with a snap. Then I put it, Blue Pear and all, in her hand. She turned white, and asked me what I meant.

“'I'm going to give it to you,' I said, as coolly as I could, making a virtue of what I felt was going to be a necessity.

“She tore open the case, looked at the stone, weighed it in her fingers, gasped a little, held it to the light again, and then turned and looked at me.

“'This pendant was stolen!' she cried, with sudden conviction. She looked at the stone again—she couldn't resist it.

“'You might call it the Robin's Egg, when you have it recut!' I told her.

“She gave a jump—that was what she was thinking of, the shrewd old rascal. She shoved the case down in her lean old breast.

“'Then you will smuggle it in for me?' I asked her.

“'Yes, I'll get it through, if I have to swallow it!'

“'And you will keep it?' I asked; and I laughed, I don't know why.

“'You remember my house?' she cried, with a start.

“'Like a book!' I told her.

“'But still I'll keep it!' she declared.

“It was a challenge, a silly challenge, but she didn't seem to realize that keeping the Blue Pear was like trying to conceal a white elephant, or attempting to hide away a mountain. Then that cruel, old, avaricious, over-dressed, natural-born criminal had her turn at laughing—a little hysterically, I think. And, for a minute or two, I felt that all the world had gone mad, that we were only two gray, gibbering ghosts talking in the enigmas of insanity, penned up in throbbing cages of white-enameled iron.

“I followed her out of the cabin, and walked up and down alone in the moonlight, wondering if I had done right. At the wharf, I fully intended to risk everything and inform on her, then cable to the Cicelys. But she must have suspected something like that—my stewardess had already told me there were two treasury department detectives on board—and got her innings first. For I found myself quietly taken in charge, and my luggage gone over with a microscope—to say nothing of the gentle old lady who massaged me so apologetically from head to foot, and seemed put out to find I had nothing more dutiable than an extra pair of French gloves.”

“Had you expected this before-hand?” interposed Durkin.

“Yes, the stewardess had told me there was trouble ahead—that's what made me afraid about the Blue Pear. Just as I got safely through customs, though, I caught sight of the yellow hag despatching her maid and luggage home in a four-wheeler, while she herself sailed away in another. I felt so sure she was going straight to her husband's store—Isaac Ottenheimer & Company, the jeweler and diamond man on Fifth avenue, you know—that I scrambled into a hansom and told the driver to follow my friend to Ottenheimer's. When we pulled up there, I drew the side-curtains and watched through a quarter-inch crack. The woman came out again, looking very relieved and triumphant. And that's the whole story, only——

She did not finish the sentence, but looked at Durkin, who was slowly and dubiously rubbing his hands together, with the old, weary, half-careless look all gone from his studious face. He glanced back at the woman beside him, admiringly, lost himself in thought for a moment, and then laughed outright.

“You're a dare-devil, Mame, if there ever was one!” he cried, and then suddenly grew serious once more.


Four hours later, in that shabby little oyster-house often spoken of as “The Café of Failures,” and lying less than a stone's throw from the shabbiest corner of Washington square, Miss Mabel Chandler met by appointment a stooped and somewhat sickly-looking workman carrying a small bag of tools. This strange couple sought out a little table in one of the odorous alcoves of the oyster-house, and talked at great length and in low tones over an unexpectedly generous dinner.

“You say it's a Brandon & Stark eight-ton vault; but can't you give me something more definite than that to work on?” the man was asking of the girl.

“Only what I've told you about its position; I had to watch out for Ottenheimer every minute I was in that store.”

“I see. But while I think of it, providing we do find the stone there, do we turn it over again, or——?”

“I gave my word of honor, Jim!”

The shadow of a smile on his face died away before her unyielding solemnity.

“Oh, of course! There is a thousand pounds on it, anyway, isn't there?”

She nodded her head in assent.

“But I think we've got our trouble before us, and plenty of it, before we see that thousand pounds,” he said, with a shrug.

“The time's so short—that is the danger. As I was on the point of telling you, Ottenheimer has an expert diamond-cutter in his shops.”

“And that means he'll have the apex off our Pear at the first chance, and, ergo, it means hurry for us. But tell me the rest.”

“Ottenheimer himself owns, I discovered, the double building his store is in. He has his basement, of course, his ground-floor show-room and store, and work-rooms, and shipping department, and all that, on the second story. Above them is a lace importer. On the top floor there is a chemical fire-apparatus agency. In the south half of the building, with the hall and stairway between, is an antique-furniture store, and above them a surgical-supply company. The third and top floors are taken up by two women photographers—their reception-room on the third floor, their operating-room, and that sort of thing, on the top floor, with no less than two skylights and a transom opening directly on the roof. I arranged for a sitting with them. That is the floor we ought to have, but the building is full. Three doors below, though, there was a top, back studio suite to let, and I've taken it for a month. There we have a transom opening on the roof; I looked through, merely to see if I could hang my washing out sometimes. But barring our roof off from Ottenheimer's is an ugly iron fencing.”

“Did you get a chance to notice their wiring?”

“The first thing. We can cut in and 'loop' their telephone from our back room, with thirty feet of number twelve wire.”

“Then we've got to get in on that line, first thing!”

He ruminated in silence for a minute or two.

“Of course, you didn't get a glimpse of the basement, under Ottenheimer's?”

“Hardly, Jim. We shall have to leave that to the gasman!”

And they both laughed a little over the memory of a certain gasman who short-circuited a private line in the basement of the stock-exchange building and, through doing so, upset one of the heaviest cotton-brokerage businesses on Wall street.

“Did you notice any of the other wires, power circuits, and that kind of thing?”

“Yes; but there were too many of them! I know, though, that Ottenheimer's wires go south along our roof.”

“Then the sooner we give a quiet ear to that gentleman's conversation, the better for us. Have you had any furniture moved in?”

“It goes this evening. By the way, though, what am I just at present?”

Durkin thought for a moment, and then suddenly remembered her incongruous love for needlework.

“You'd better be a hard-working maker of cotillon-favors, don't you think? You might have a little showcase put outside.”

She pondered the matter, drumming on the table with her impatient fingers.

“But how is all this going to put us inside that eight-ton safe?”

“That's the trouble we've got to face,” he laughed back at her.

“But haven't you thought of anything?”

“Yes. I've been cudgeling my brains until I feel light-headed. Nitro-glycerine I object to—it's so odiously criminal, so abominably crude, and so disgustingly noisy. And it's brain we've got to cudgel, and not safe-doors. Now, speaking as an expert, by lighting, say, a piece of sulphur, and using it as a sort of match to start combustion, I could turn on a stream of liquid oxygen and burn through that safe-steel about the same as through a pine board. But the trouble is in getting the oxygen. Or a couple of gallons of liquid air, say, poured on the top of the safe, ought to chill the steel so that one good blow from a sledge would crack it. Or by tapping an exceptionally strong power-circuit somewhere, I could fuse portions of the steel with electricity, and cut it away like putty. But all that, you see, is mechanical and coarse; and it all has its drawbacks, too.”

“Then what can we do?”

“Use these thick heads of ours to advantage—think, not pound, our way in. Mame, we've got to get at that safe as Ottenheimer himself would!”

They looked at each other for a minute of unbroken silence, the one trying to follow the other's wider line of thought.

“Well, there's where our fun comes in, I suppose,” said Mame, valiantly, feeling for the first time a little qualm of doubt.

Durkin, who had been plunged in thought, turned to her with a sudden change of manner.

“You're a bad lot, Mame!” he said, warmly, catching her frail hands in his own.

“I know it,” she answered, wistful-eyed, leaning passively on her elbows. “But some day I'm going to change—we're both going to change!” And she stroked his studiously bent head with her hand, in a miserably solicitous maternal sort of way, and sighed heavily once or twice, trying in vain to console herself with the question as to why a good game should be spoilt by a doubtful philosophy.


Entrenched in her little top-floor studio, behind a show-case of cotillon favors, Miss Cecelia Starr sat in her wicker rocker, very quietly and very contentedly, sewing. She felt that it had been an exceptionally profitable day for her.

Three hair-pins and a linen handkerchief held a watch-case receiver close over her ear, after the style of the metallic ear-bands of a central-office operator. Leading from this improvised ear-band and trailing across the floor out into her private room at the back, ran a green, cloth-covered wire. This wire connected again with an innocent-looking and ordinary desk-battery transmitter, rigged up with a lever-switch, and standing on a little table next to the wall, up which might be detected the wires that since ten o'clock that morning had tapped and bridged the general wire connecting the offices of Ottenheimer & Company with the outside world.

From time to time the members of that firm went to their telephone, little dreaming that a young lady, decorously sewing velvet scissor-cases on a studio top-floor of another building, was quietly listening to every message that passed in and out of their bustling place of business. It was a strange medley of talk, some of it incoherent, some of it dull, some of it amusing. Sometimes the busy needle was held poised, and a more interested and startled expression flitted over the shadowy violet eyes of Miss Cecelia Starr. At such times she vaguely felt that she was a disembodied spirit, listening to the hum of a far-away world, or that she was an old astrologer, gazing into some mystic and forbidden crystal. Still again as she listened, she felt like an invisible eagle, poised high in ethereal emptinesses, watching hungrily a dim and far-off sign of earthly life and movement.

Suddenly, from the street door sounded the familiar two-three ring of Durkin. This door remained open during the day, and she waited for him to come up. She went to her own door, however, and laughed girlishly as he stepped into the room, mopping his moist forehead. There was a very alert, nervous, triumphant expression in his eyes, and, once again, the feeling swept over her that it was now only crime, and crime alone, that could stimulate into interest and still satisfy their fagged vitalities. It was their one and only intoxication, the one thing that could awaken them from their mental sloth and stir them from the shadowy valley of disillusionment.

Her quick eye had taken note of the fact that he wore a soiled blue uniform and the leather-peaked blue cap of a Consolidated Gas Company employee, and that he carried with him a brass hand-pump. He laughed a little to himself, put down his pump in one corner of the room, and allowed his fingers to stray through his mutilated Vandyke, now a short and straggly growth of sandy whiskers. Then he turned to her with an unuttered query on his face.

“I was right,” she said, quietly, but hurriedly. I

“I never really doubted it!”

“Ottenheimer has a private drawer in the vault. It's in that. His wife telephoned down very cautiously about it this morning. A little later, too, Ottenheimer was called up from a Brooklyn drug-store, by a Mrs. Van Gottschalck, or some such name, who said her husband was still in bed with the grip, and couldn't possibly get over until Monday. This man, you see, is Ottenheimer's diamond-cutter.”

“Thank heaven! That gives us a little more time!”

“Three days, at least. But what have you done, Jim?”

“Been trying to persuade the janitor of the Ottenheimer building that I was sent to pump the water out of his gas-pipes. But he was just as sure that I wasn't. I got down in his cellar, though, and had a good look about, before I saw it wouldn't do to push the thing too far. So I insisted on going up and seeing the owner about that order. There was an inside stairway and a queer-looking steel door I wanted to get my knuckles against. I started up there, but he hauled me back. I found out, though, that this door is made of one-inch, steel armor-plate. There's another door leading from the foot of the outer hallway into the cellar itself. But that's only covered with soft sheet-iron—more for fire than anything else. Fifteen minutes will get through that one, easily. It's the inner door that is the problem. I tried it with a knife-point—just one hard little jab. It took the end off my Rogers blade.”

“But is this door the only way in?”

“Absolutely; the rear is impossible, bricked-up; and the avenue itself is a little too conspicuous. The bolts of this door, as far as I can make out, slide into heavy steel cups sunk in solid cement, and are controlled, of course, from inside. Judging from the thickness of these, and the sound of the door, it would take either a pound of soap and nitro-glycerine on the one hand, or five hours of hard drilling on the other, to get through. We'll say seven hours, altogether, to get into the building. Then comes the safe, or, rather, the vault itself. I had a casual glance at that safe, this morning, before I got these duds on—dropped in to purchase an engagement-ring, but was altogether too hard to suit. It's a ten-tonner, I believe, and about as burglar-proof as it can be made. Nothing but a gallon of guncotton would make so much as a dent in it. But, here again, explosions are not in my line. We've got to use these wits of ours. We've got to get in that safe, and we've got to get through that door! I can't risk six hours of machine-shop work down there; and I'm still too respectable to drop into safe-cracking!”

“Well, the combinations of that sort of vault, you know, aren't often advertised on the ash-barrels.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we have got to get it by our own wits, as you say.

“The janitor, old Campbell, leaves the building about ten-fifteen every night. He's also a sort of day-watchman, I find. He's a pretty intelligent and trusty old fellow, absolutely unapproachable, from our standpoint. Another thing, too, the place is webbed with burglar-alarm apparatus. It would take another hour or so to get the right wires cut safely off. I hate to feel squeamish, at this time of the game—but that Ottenheimer safe does look uninviting!”

Mame walked up and down, with the little watch-case receiver and its hand-kerchief still crowning her heavy mass of dark hair, like a coronet, and green wires trailing behind her, like the outline of a bridal veil. She was thinking fast and desperately. Suddenly, she stopped in the midst of her pacing, and looked hard at Durkin.

“I've found it!” she said, in a feverish half-whisper. “We've got to do it!”

Durkin looked at her gloomily, still struggling with his own line of fruitless thought.

“Here, Jim, quick! Take this and listen.” She placed the receiver close to his ear as she spoke. “Now, that's Ottenheimer himself at the 'phone. Can you catch his voice distinctly? Well, do you notice what kind of a voice it is—its timbre, I mean? A plaintive-toned, guttural, suave, mean, cringing sort of voice! Listen hard! He may not be at the 'phone again to-day. Is he still talking?”

“Yes, the old scoundrel! There, he's finished.”

“What was it about?”

“Just kicking to some one down in Maiden Lane because Judge Hazel of the district court has overruled the board of appraisers and imposed a ten per cent. ad valorem duty on natural pearls coming in.”

“But his voice—Jim, you have got to learn to imitate that voice!”

“And then what?”

“Then cut in, presumably from Ottenheimer's own house, and casually ask, say, Phipps, the junior salesman and head of the shipping department, just what your safe combination happens to be. It has slipped your memory, you see!”

“And Phipps, naturally, will ring up central and verify the call.”

“Not at all! At the first sound from him we shall cut his wire.”

“Which cuts us off, and gives us away, as soon as a special messenger can deliver a message and a lineman trace up the trouble.”

“Then why cut him off at all? If that's too risky, should the worst come to the worst, we can tell central it's a case of crossed wires, bewilder her a bit, and then shut ourselves off.”

“I believe you've almost got it.”

“But can you get anywhere near that voice?”

“Listen, Mame, how's this?”

He drew in his chin, half laughingly, and throwing his voice into a whining yet businesslike guttural, spoke through an imaginary transmitter to an imaginary Ottenheimer.

“That would never, never do!” cried Mame, despairingly. “He's a German Jew, if you have noticed—he sounds his w's like w's, and not like v's, but he makes his r's like w's.

“Oh, I have it,” broke in Durkin, from a silent contemplation of his desk-phone. “We'll just release the binding-posts on our transmitter a little, and, let's say, keep the electrode-bearing a trifle slack—fix things up, I mean, so any voice will sound as tinny as a phonograph—decompose it, so to speak. Then, if necessary, we can lay it to the fact that the wires are out of order somewhere!”

“Good, but when—when can we do it?”

Durkin paced the room, with his old-time restless, animal-like stride, while Mame readjusted her receiver and restlessly took her seat in the wicker rocker once more.

“This is Friday. That leaves Saturday night the only possible night for the—er—the invasion. Then, you see, we get a whole day for a margin. First, we've got to find out exactly what time Ottenheimer himself leaves the place, and whether it's Phipps, or some one else, who closes up, and just what time he does it.”

“They close at half-past five on Saturdays. Ottenheimer has already made an engagement for to-morrow, about five, at the Waldorf, with an importer, to doctor up an invoice for the benefit of the treasury department.”

“We could make that do; though, of course, any one in his office would be more likely to suspect a call from the Waldorf, being a public place. You must find out, definitely, this afternoon just who it is closes up to-morrow. Then we must get hold of some little business detail or two, to fling in at him, in case he has any suspicions.”

“That shouldn't be so very difficult. Though I do wish you could get something nearer Ottenheimer's voice!”

“I'll have a rehearsal or two alone—though I guess we can muffle up that 'phone to suit our purpose. My last trouble, now, is to find out how I'm going to get through those two doors, without powder.”

Again he fell to pacing the little room with his abstracted stride, silently testing contingency after contingency, examining and rejecting the full gamut of possibilities. Sometimes he stood before the woman with the receiver, staring at her with vacant and unseeing eyes; at other times, he paced between her and the window. Then he paused before the little green coils of wire that stretched across the room. He studied them with involuntary and childish movements of the head and hands. Then he suddenly stood erect, ran to the back window, and flung it open.

“My God, I've got it!” he cried, running back to where the woman still sat, listening, “I've got it!”

“How?” she asked, catching her breath.

“I've got to eat my way through what may be, for all I know, a full inch of Harveyized steel. I've got to burrow and work through it in some way, haven't I? It has to be done quickly, too. I've got to have power, strong power.”

He stopped suddenly, and seemed to be working out the unmastered details in his own mind, his eyes bent on a little shelf in one corner of the room.

“Have you ever seen an electric fan? You see this shelf, up here in the corner? Well, at one time an electric fan stood there—see, here are the remnants of the wires. It stood there whirling away at three hundred revolutions a minute, and with no more power than it takes to keep an ordinary office-lamp alight. Right at the back of this house is a wire, a power-circuit, alive with more than two hundred times that voltage, with power in plenty—a little condensed Niagara of power—asking to be taken off and made use of!”

“But what use?”

“I can capture and tame and control that power, Mame. I can make it my slave and carry it along with me, almost in my pocket, on a mere thread of wire. I can make it a living, iron-eating otter, with a dozen fangs—in the shape of quarter-inch drills, gnawing and biting and eating through that armor-plate door about the same as a rat would gnaw through a wooden lath. Oh, we've got them, Mame! We've got them this time!”

“Not until we know that combination, though,” qualified the colder-thoughted woman in the wicker rocker, still not quite understanding how the other had found so potent and so unexpected an ally.


In the paling afternoon, with a pearl-mist of fine rain thinly shrouding the city, Mame waited for Durkin impatiently with her watch open before her. As the frail steel hand, implacable as fate, sank away toward the half-hour mark, her own spirits sank with it. It was not often Durkin was late. Another ten minutes would make him forever too late. She debated within herself whether or not she should risk her own voice over the wire to Ottenheimer's office, while there was yet time, or wait it out to the last. Then she remembered, to her sudden horror, that the transmitter still stood in its perfect and normal condition, that there could be no muffling, incompetent mechanism to disguise the tones of her voice.

She was still beating despairingly through a tangle of dubious possibilities when the reassuring two-three ring of the door-bell sounded out, through the quiet of the lonely twilight, with startling clearness. A minute later Durkin came panting into the room. He was clean-shaven, silk-hatted, immaculate, and most painfully out of breath.

“Is there time?” he gasped, putting down a heavy suit-case and peeling off his frock-coat as he spoke.

“It's twenty-one minutes after five. If Phipps is punctual, that gives you only four minutes.”

By this time Durkin had the suitcase open. In another half-minute he had the casing off the transmitter. Then a deft turn or two with his screw-driver, a tentative touch or two on the electrode, and in another half-minute the casing was restored, and he was gently tapping on the diaphragm of the transmitter, with the receiver at his ear, testing the sound.

“Just a minute now, till I cool down, and get my breath. I had endless trouble getting my drill apparatus—at one time I thought I'd have to take a dentist's tooth-driller or some such thing. But I got what I wanted—that's what kept me. Anything new?”

He turned, with the receiver still at his ear, and for the first time looked at her closely. Her face seemed pale and a little weary-looking against her black street-gown, the shadowy wistfulness about her eyes seemed more marked than ever.

“Yes,” she was laughing back at him, however, “something most prodigious has happened. I have an order for one dozen cotillon-favors, to be done in velvet and crimson satin, and delivered next Saturday afternoon!”

Durkin himself laughed, shortly, and faced the telephone, once more, asking her how time was.

“You haven't a second to lose.”

His own face was a little paler than usual as he stood before the transmitter while Mame, with her watch in her hand, went on saying that, if Phipps was punctual, he would be out and away in one minute's time.

Durkin took a last look round, said, under his breath, “Well, here goes!” and placed the receiver to his ear.

The next minute, the bell tinkled out briskly, authoritatively, with a metallic and dispassionate peremptoriness. For a moment, too, Mame, watching him with half-parted lips, was haunted with the sudden impression that she had lived through the scene before, that each move and sound was in some way second-hand to her inner consciousness, older than time itself, a blurred and dateless photograph on the plates of memory.

“Hello! hello! Is that you Phipps?” she heard him say, and his voice sounded thin and far away. There was a pause—it seemed an endless pause—and he repeated the query, louder. “This is Ottenheimer. Yes, something wrong with the 'phone. Don't cable Teetzel—I say, don't cable Teetzel about those canary diamonds, until you see me. Yes, Teetzel. Did you get that? Well—er—what the devil's our safe-combination? Yes; yes; Ottenheimer!”

“Slower—slower, Jim!” moaned Mame, behind him.

“Combination's slipped my mind, Phipps. Yes; after dinner; want to run down and look over the books. Louder, please; I can't hear. Yes, that's better. To the right three times, to seventy-four—back thirty—on eighty-two—back one hundred and eight—and on seven. Yes. It's the second last figure slipped me. Better close up now. Better close up, I say. All right. Good-bye.”

The bell tinkled and grew still. The last minute vibration ebbed out of the transmitter's tingling diaphragm; but still neither the listening man nor woman moved. They waited, tense. expectant, tossed between doubt and hope, knowing only too well that the questioning tinkle of that little, polished, nickel bell would sound the signal of their absolute and irreparable defeat.

Second by second, a minute dragged itself away. Then another, and another, and still no call came from Ottenheimer's office for central. The woman moved a little, restlessly. The man sighed deeply. Then he slowly put down the receiver, and mopped his moist forehead and face.

“I think he's safe,” half whispered Durkin, with his eyes still on the transmitter.

“He may suspect, any moment, though—when he has had time to think it over, especially.”

“I rather doubt it. Our voices were nothing but broken squeaks. But, if he does ring up central, we'll have to risk it and jump in and claim a wire's crossed somewhere.”

Then he repeated the strange formula: “To the right three times, to seventy-four—back thirty—on eighty-two—back one hundred and eight—and on seven. Can you get it down, Mame?”

She nodded, as she wrote it, in pencil, on a slip of paper. This he placed in his waistcoat pocket, and mopped his face once more, laughing—perhaps a little hysterically, as he felt the passing minutes drip relievingly, like the softest of balm, on his strained nerves.

“And now what?” asked Mame, sharing his relief, as she went to the window and breathed the fresh air that blew in through the low-ceilinged little room.

“Now,” said Durkin, jubilantly, “now we begin our real work!” He opened his suit-case, and handed her a heavy, cylindrical, steel implement. Into one end of this odd-looking tool he slipped and clamped a slender, polished little shaft of grooved steel.

“That's what nearly lost me everything,” he continued, carefully unpacking, as he spoke, a condenser, a tangent galvanometer, a pair of lines- man's gloves, a Warner pocket battery-gauge, a pair of electrician's scissors and pliers, two or three coils of wire, half-a-dozen pony glass insulators and a handful or two of smaller tools.

“Here, you see, is what I set up business with,” he soliloquized, as he studied the litter they made on the floor. He looked up quickly as Mame drew her little table out from the wall and lifted the transmitter up on the empty electric-fan shelf. “Er—before I forget it,” he said, absently, his eyes still on his widely-strewn apparatus, “have you got everything you want away from here?”

She had; though she hated to leave her show-case, she said. Some day she might like to take up fancy-sewing again. “But before we do another thing,” she insisted, “we have got to have dinner. Breakfast this morning was our last meal, I know!”

And to his utter astonishment Durkin remembered that he was famished!

It was a hurried and humble little meal they ate together in the failing light—a meal of sandwiches washed down with bottled claret. Their thoughts, as they ate, however, were on other things, grappling with impending problems, wondering when and under what circumstances their next meal would be eaten, almost glorying in the very uncertainty of their future, tingling with the consciousness of the trial they were to undergo, of the hazard they essayed. Then Durkin, as he smoked, laid out his final plan of action, point by premeditated point.


At twenty minutes to eleven, slipping off his shoes, Durkin climbed cautiously through the transom opening out on the roof. Creeping as carefully from chimney-tier to chimney-tier, he found himself face to face with a roof-fence of sharpened iron rods. He counted down this fence to the eighteenth rod, then carefully lifted on it. The lead that sealed it in the lower cross-piece, and the stone beneath that again, had been strangely fused away, and the loosened rod slid up through the top horizontal bar, very much like a miniature portcullis. Squeezing through this narrow opening, he carefully replaced the rod behind him. With the flattened piece of steel, once used for a furnace-poker, and looking very much like a gigantic tack-drawer, he slowly and gently forced the bolt that held shut the transom on the Ottenheimer building. This he replaced, after passing through, paying out with him, as he went, two coils of rubber-coated wire, in appearance not unlike a large size of incandescent lamp-cord.

From the photographer's studio in which he found himself, nothing but a draw-bolt kept him from an outside hallway. Making sure that the building was deserted, and everything safe, he worked his way slowly down, stair by stair, to the basement. Here he made a careful study of the little tunnel of electric wires at the back of the lower hall, probing, testing, measuring, and finally, with cool deliberation, cutting every wire that in any way looked like a burglar-alarm connection, taking care to leave only the lighting circuit intact. Then, holding before him his little two-candle incandescent lamp, scarcely bigger than his thumb-nail, he groped toward the iron-covered door that divided one half of the building from the other.

Here he directed his thin shaft of light into the crack between the heavy door and its studding, and his squinting eyes made out the iron lock-bar that held him out. From his vest pocket, where they stood in a row like glimmering pencils, he took out one of the slim steel drills, adjusted it noiselessly in the drill-flange, and snapped shut his switch. There was the quick spit of a blue spark, and, of a sudden, the inanimate thing of steel throbbed and sang and quivered with mysterious life. As he glanced down at it, in its fierce revolutions, he realized that once more he had for an accomplice that old-time, silent and ever-ready assistant which for years had been a well-tested and faithful friend. The mere companionship with so familiar a force brought back to him his waning confidence.

He forced the whirling drill through the door crack and in against the bar. It ate through the soft iron as though it had been a bar of cheese. Eight carefully placed perforations, side by side, had severed the end of the lockshaft. He shut off the current, confidently, and swung open the heavy door. The falling piece of iron made a little tinkle of sound on the cement flooring, then all was silence again. He had at least, he told himself, captured the enemies' outposts.

Cautiously, he felt his way across the warm cellar, up the steps, and at last faced his one defiant barrier, the door of solid steel, abutted by even more solid masonry. The builders of that door had done their best to make it forbidding to men of his turn of mind, Durkin ruminated, as he felt and sounded and tested despondently over its taciturn painted surface.

He studied the hinges carefully, with his tiny lamp. They were impregnable. As he had surmised, his only way was to cut out, inch by inch, the three heavy steel shafts, or bolt-bars, which slipped and fitted into steel casings, also apparently embedded in solid masonry.

Adjusting his drill, he closed the switch once more, and, bracing the instrument's head against his breast-bone, watched the slender, humming spinning shaft bite and grind and burrow its way into the slowly yielding bar. From a little pocket-can, every minute or two, he squirted kerosene in on the drill tip. The pungent smell of the scorching oil as it spread on the heated steel rose almost suffocatingly to his nostrils, in the furnace-heated warmth of the cellar, and for weeks afterward remained an indistinct and odious memory to him.

When his first hole was bored, and his little drill raced wildly through into space, like the screw of a liner on the crest of a wave, he started a second close beside the first; then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, slowly honeycombing the thick steel with his minute excavations. Sometimes a drill would snap off short, and he would have to draw a fresh one from his stock, Sometimes it did not bite sharply, and he tried another. And still he stood drilling, directing the power of his silent, insidious, untiring accomplice whose spirit sighed and burned itself out through the wire at his feet.

As he worked, he lost all track of time; after he had started what he knew would be the last hole, he stopped and looked at his watch, as casually as he had done often enough after a night of operating the key in a despatcher's office. To his horror, he saw that it had stopped, stunned with a natural enough electrolytic paralysis. It might not yet be twelve, or it might be four in the morning; time, from the moment he had taken off his shoes in Mabel Chandler's little back room, had been annihilated to him. He wondered, in sudden alarm, if she were still keeping up her patrol outside, up and down the block. He wondered, too, as he drove the little drill home for the last time and cautiously pried open the great, heavy door, if she had sent any signal in from the street-front, and he had missed it. He even wondered if daylight would not overtake them at their work—when his startled eyes, chancing to fall on a near-by clock-dial, saw that the hour was only twenty-five minutes to twelve!

Step by step, he crept back to the inner offices, followed by the murmurous ticking of a dozen noisy clocks declaiming his presence. From the floor in front of where the safe stood, gloomy, ominous, impregnable-looking, he lifted a seemingly innocent rubber mat. As he thought, it had been attached to a burglar-alarm apparatus. Dropping on one knee, he repeated his formula, number by number, each time listening for the tell-tale click of the wards. Then, turning the nickel lock-knob, he heard the many-barred lock chuck back into place.

The next moment, the ponderous doors were open, and Durkin's little thumb-nail electric lamp was exploring the tiers of inner compartments.

He still carried his drill with him; and, once he had found the private drawer he wanted, the softer iron of the inner fittings offered little resistance to a brutally impatient one-eighth bit. After two minutes of feverish work, he was able to insert the point of his furnace-poker into the drawer, and firmly but gently pry it open.

The next moment his blackened and oily fingers were rummaging carelessly through a fortune or two of unset stones, through little trays of different-tinted diamonds, through crowded little cases of Ceylon pearls and Uralian emeralds. At last, in a smaller compartment, marked “I. Ottenheimer,” he found the little gun-metal case, sealed up in an envelope. The case itself, however, was securely locked. Durkin hesitated for one-half second; then he forced the lid open with his screw-driver.

One look was enough. It held the Blue Pear.

He stooped and carefully brushed up the steel cuttings under his shoeless feet. As carefully, he closed the inner drawers of the safe. His hand was on the nickel lock-knob once more, to swing the ponderous outer doors shut, when a sound fell on his ears, a sound that made his very blood chill and tingle and chill again through all his tense body.

It was Mame's voice, inside the same building in which he stood, not a hundred feet away from him—her voice shrilly screaming for help.

His first mad impulse was to rush out to her, blindly. A second precautionary flash of thought kept him rooted to the spot where he stood, listening. He could hear confused, sharp voices, and the scuffling of feet. He heard the quick scream again; then guttural, angry protests. Some subliminal prompting told Durkin that scream was not one of terror, but of warning.

Snapping out his incandescent lamp, he stole cautiously forward through the row of partitioned, heavily-carpeted little offices, and, without showing himself, peered toward the shop-front. As he did so, a second involuntary thrill of apprehension sped up and down his backbone. The street door itself was open. Already halfway in through that door was a dark, stoutly-built man. He stood struggling in the arms of a determined and desperate young woman. That woman, Durkin, could see was Mame. And all the while she was clinging to him and holding him, she was crying lustily for help. The next moment Durkin made out the man. It was Ottenheimer himself. For some unknown reason, he hastily surmised, the diamond-merchant had intended to drop into his own office. But why, he still asked, was Mame taking such risks?

Durkin did not try to work the thing out in its minute details. Like a flash, he darted back to the open safe. He swung the big doors to, locked them, caught up his drill and loose strands of wire, and then backed quickly out through the steel door, securing it with a deft twist or two of a piece of “No. 12.” The outer cellar door he as quickly closed after him.

Then he flew up-stairs, two steps at a time, rebolted the photographer's hall-door, replaced the transom as he swung up through it, and as hurriedly refitted the loose iron bar in the roof-fencing.

Three minutes later, a well-dressed gentleman, wearing a silk hat and carrying a large leather suit-case, stopped, with a not unnatural curiosity, on his way up Fifth avenue to inquire the meaning of an excited little crowd that clustered about two policemen and a woman in-the doorway of Isaac Ottenheimer & Company.

He drew up, casually enough, and listened while a short, stout, and very indignant man spluttered and gesticulated and angrily demanded how any one should dare to stop him from going into his own store. He was the owner of the place—there was his own watchman to identify him.

The young woman, who chanced to be veiled, explained in her well-modulated, rich contralto voice that the hour had seemed so unusual, the store had looked so dark inside, even the burglar-alarm, she stubbornly insisted, had rung so loudly, that, naturally, it had made her suspicious. She was sorry if it was a mistake. But now the officers were there they could attend to it—if some one would kindly call a carriage for her.

The sergeant at her elbow agreed with her, and stopping an empty motor-cab on its way up the Avenue, turned back to the enraged owner of the store, and solicitously advised him to go home and cool down.

“You hold that woman!” demanded Ottenheimer, husky with rage. “You hold that woman, till I examine these premises!”

The young woman, obviously, and also quite naturally, objected to being held. There was a moment of puzzled silence, and then a murmur of disapproval from the crowd, for about the carefully gloved girl in the black street-gown and plumed hat clung that nameless touch of birth and bearing which marked her as a person who would be more at home in a brougham than in a wind-swept doorway.

“The lady, of course, will wait!” quietly but deliberately suggested the silk-hatted man with the suit-case, looking casually in over the circling crowd of heads.

The sergeant turned, sharply, glaring out his sudden irritability.

“Now, who asked you to butt in on this?” he demanded, as he impatiently elbowed the pressing crowd further out into a wider circle.

“I merely suggested that the lady wait!” repeated the man in the silk hat, as imperturbed as before.

“Of course, officer, I shall wait, willingly,” said the girl, hurriedly, in her low-noted, rich contralto. She drew her skirts about her timidly, merely asking the shop-owner to make his search as quickly as possible.

Ottenheimer and the dubious-minded sergeant disappeared into the gloom of the midnight store. As the whole floor flowered into sudden electric luminousness, Durkin thanked his stars that he had had sense enough to leave the lighting wires intact.

“Everything's all right; you may go, miss,” said the sergeant, two minutes later. “I guess old Isaac's had an early nightmare!” And the dispersing crowd laughed sympathetically

The woman stepped into the motor-cab and turned toward Broadway. Safely round the corner, she picked up the waiting Durkin.

“That was a close one—but we win!” he murmured, jubilantly.

The woman at his side, for some vague reason, could not share in his joy. Intuitively, in that moment of exhaustion, she felt that their triumph, at the most, was a mere conspiracy of indifference on the part of a timeless and relentless destiny. And in the darkness of the carriage she put her ineffectual arms about Durkin, passionately, as though such momentary guardianship might shield him for all time to come.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1950, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 72 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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