The Master of Mysteries/Vengeance of the Pi Rho Nu
VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU
"GRACIOUS! It's perfectly wonderful! Why, you've told me things no one has ever known about me." The young woman gazed at Astro with her deep brown eyes—eyes that bespoke feeling rather than intellect.
Then she drew a long breath, as if seeking courage to speak. "There's one thing I'd like to know if you can tell me," she added anxiously, "shall I be married soon?"
Astro leaned back into the shadow and contemplated his client. She was young, vivid, temperamental, and decidedly pretty. But he looked in vain for evidences of a sense of humor. Her level eyebrows were too delicately straight for that. Her lips curved deliciously, but not with whimsicality. There was no doubt about it, Miss Pauline Wister was a bromide; and he must act accordingly.
"Very soon," he answered.
She drew a sigh of relief, and he felt her clasp on his hands relax. "I've been worrying a little," she confessed.
It was evident that she was willing to talk, and Astro waited a moment without answering, bending in closer scrutiny over her palm. He finally put down her hand, nodding his head mysteriously. "I can see that you are in trouble. If I can be of any help, I shall be glad to do what I can."
Miss Wister released her hand and opened her bag, from which she drew a small envelope. Her lips trembled as she looked at the Seer.
"I am to be married to-morrow morning at ten o'clock," she said; "that is, if nothing happens to prevent it." Her fingers clasped the letter more tightly. "I am engaged to Mr. Edward Farralon; but—but I haven't heard from him since yesterday noon!" There were tears in her big brown eyes as she gazed up at him.
As Astro, however, only nodded gravely, she went on. "I tried to telephone to him last night, and he was not at home; at least, he didn't answer. I tried this forenoon, and they told me that he had not been down to his office. And—and I'm to be married tomorrow!" Miss Wister had almost broken into tears.
"You've been seeing him often and quite regularly, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes, every day! That's what makes it seem so strange. Do you think anything can have happened to him? I don't know what to do! I daren't tell any one for fear of making talk, and if he's all right, that would be dreadful. But there's something else here, look at this letter I got this morning!"
Astro glanced at the envelope she passed him, saw that it was addressed with a typewriter, and took out the single sheet it contained. On this was typewritten the line:
"Beware the Vengeance of the Pi Rho Nu!"
"No. I'm awfully alarmed; but at the same time—I'll have to tell you—Edward is an awful jollier, and is all the time playing jokes on me; so I never can be sure of anything. He says he's training my sense of humor." Miss Wister smiled sadly. "But the fact that he's missing is different. It frightens me!"
"My dear Miss Wister," Astro said, clasping her hand in assurance, "if you'll leave this to me, I'll promise you that you shall be married promptly on time. You need give yourself no anxiety about it. As it happens, I have nothing else to do, and I shall be glad to help you."
"Oh, I'm so relieved! I knew that if you would only try you could solve the mystery. You know, I used to know Mrs. Chester when she was Ruth Lorsson, and she told me the story of how you helped her. It was that made me want to tell you."
Astro smiled. "Yes, I confess love-affairs do rather amuse me, and I'm always willing to help straighten them out. So, if you're willing to do exactly as I say, I'll take this on."
"Oh, I'll do anything!"
"It may cost considerable money, too."
"But think of having trouble with my wedding! It's awful! Why, I don't know but I ought to countermand the invitations! Of course, I don't want to unless it's necessary; it's a terrible thing to do."
"Go right ahead, and trust to me. I'll promise to have Mr. Farralon on time. Is it at a church?"
"No, we're to be married at my house, 5678 Lexington Avenue."
"All right. Where is Mr. Farralon's office?"
"Eighteen West Thirty-second Street. He's the American agent for a Belgian rubber firm, you know, and has only a small place for a headquarters."
"He's a college man, I suppose?"
"Yes, Stapleton University, '04."
"Who is to be his best man?"
"Why, Mr. Stringer, a classmate of his. He's a lawyer; a patent lawyer, I think. I've told him about Edward's disappearance, and he's promised to find him to-day; but I thought—"
"You'd make sure?" Astro smiled as he rose. "Mr. Stringer knew nothing, I suppose? Did he offer to come and see you about it?"
"Yes; said he'd be up this afternoon."
"Very well. Let me know if he's found out anything. Meanwhile, be ready to do anything I request. I'll consult my crystal ball immediately. Valeska!" he called, raising his voice. "Show Miss Wister out, please."
His guest had no sooner left than Astro took up the telephone. He called for Edward Masson, a man whose friendship he had won at the time of the solution of the famous Denton boudoir murder mystery. Of the conversation that ensued, Valeska, returning to the palmist's studio, heard only one side.
"Is this Mr. Masson? . . . You're a Stapleton University man, aren't you, Masson? . . . Were there any local secret fraternities there along from 1901 to 1904? . . . What was the name of it? . . . The Pi Rho Nu? . . . Can you get me a list of the members? . . . Rather lively crowd, eh? . . . Well, thank you, but you'll have to hurry. Telephone me here as soon as you can."
He hung up the receiver and turned to Valeska. "We have but little time, and there's much to be done. I can't explain till later. You'd better wait here till Masson telephones, and stay till I come. I'm off right away. Ring up Lieutenant McGraw, and ask him if he can get me a burglar's jimmy, and also ask him to investigate the Belgian Rubber Syndicate's office, 18 West Thirty-second Street. See if there's anything crooked about it. I'll be back as soon as I can. Oh! If Masson rings up soon, go out to Miss Wister's house, look it over outside, and hurry back and be ready to report the lay of the land."
Two minutes after that, Astro was in a green motorcar headed for West Thirty-second Street. Here he alighted and went in through a narrow doorway. There was a narrow hall with a single elevator, and a flight of stairs leading upward. A list of names on the wall showed that the office of "Edward Farralon, American Agent, Belgian Rubber Syndicate," occupied room twelve, on the third floor. Astro pressed the bell, and shortly afterward the elevator door rolled open. A red-headed man in shirt sleeves was inside.
"Mr. Farralon has an office here?" said the Seer.
"Yep; but he ain't in."
"Been in to-day?"
"Did you see him go out last night?"
"Nope. He worked rather late, though, I think. He prob'ly walked down-stairs. The elevator boy skipped last night; so the box wa'n't working. I'm the janitor; just running the car till they can get another boy."
"Ah! So the elevator boy skipped, did he? What was his name?"
"Mickey Flynn. He'll have hard work getting another job, if I can prevent it, leaving me in the lurch like that!"
"Do you know where he lives?"
"Out on East One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Street, I believe. Let's see, I believe I got it writ down in my pocketbook somewhere. Did you want him?"
"I dropped a package in the car yesterday, or in Mr. Farralon's office, I don't know which. If I can't get into Farralon's office, I want to see the boy, in case he found it."
"Well, you'll never get it, then, I'll bet! But I'll give a look and see if I can find the address. Let's see. He come here about two months back." He looked over the greasy pages of the note-book till he found the page. "Here it is: 1575 East One Hundred and Fifty-sixth. That's right. Well, I hope you'll find your package, sir."
Astro went back to the cab and drove immediately to the address. It was a tenement swarming with children, and he was directed to the fifth floor, where, at his knock, the door was opened by Mickey himself. It took only a short talk to convince the boy that he would avoid trouble if he told what he knew immediately, and he explained his disappearance from his post of duty with considerable anxiety.
"I was in de box up to eight o'clock, all right. Along about then two swell chaps come into de hall and asked me was Mr. Farralon up-stairs. Yes, I says, he was. Then one o' de chaps peeled free tens off'n a roll o' bills and shoved it into me fist. 'Beat it out'n dis here!' he says. 'Go chase a new job,' he says, 'an' lose yourself! Dis here is give you so you don't come back for a week,' he says. Well, I didn't ask no questions. It looked like a easy way to make t'irty to me, an' I got me coat an' piked out in a hurry, and went up to de Circle T'eater to see de show. An dat's all I know."
"How did they come?" Astro asked.
"In a buzz wagon. I copped dat off all right. Say, I'll give you de number for anoder ten."
"You'll give it to me without that, or I'll have you arrested! I'm a detective!" the Seer threatened.
Mickey's eyes grew big; he was evidently a hero worshiper. He fumbled in his pocket and drew out a bit of newspaper. On it was scrawled the number 11115.
"Dat's de mark, all right," he explained. "Say, I'm goin' to be a 'teck myself when I grow up. Will youse give me a job?"
Astro laughed. "If you'd had sense enough to wait and see what those two men did, I'd give you a job right now," he said.
Mickey groaned. "Gee!" he exclaimed. "W'y didn't I t'ink o' dat? I was dopin' out w'at I'd do wit' de money. I was crazy to see a show."
"Well, what did the men look like, then, if you're such a good detective?"
Mickey brightened visibly as he replied, "Say, I got dat, all right. Look a-here! One was a tall guy wit' specs and a little mustache and, gee! w'at a neck! De other was built like Jim Jeffries,—stocky an' heavy. Looked like he could punch, all right! Mout' full o' gold teeth, he had. De other chap called him Frank."
"Was there any one in the car when you left?"
"Dey was a ch'uffer dere, all bungled up so I couldn't reckernize him, wit' goggles and one o' dem hairy coats."
"All right. That's worth the ten you wanted, I think." And Astro passed over the bill and started down-stairs.
Mickey leaned over the rail and shouted, "Say, boss, de tall guy had a leather bag!"
Astro nodded and regained his car. "Drive to the nearest big automobile dealer," he ordered.
The car stopped before the Aeromobile warerooms. Astro got out and asked to see the automobile list. In two minutes he had found that the car registered number 11115 was owned by Frank Brigham of number 1212 Charles Street, in Greenwich village, New York. A look at the telephone book showed Brigham's business to be brokerage, and his office to be 1000 Wall Street. Astro reentered the cab and returned to the studio.
Valeska was not in the place. A boy in buttons informed him that she had left a half-hour ago, after having answered the telephone.
A package had come from Lieutenant McGraw. Astro opened it, and took out a burglar's jimmy and a note. It read:
"Did Masson give you any names?" was his first inquiry.
"Yes; Mr. Paul Stringer of Flatbush, Mr. Richard Hanbury of Albany, Mr. Frank Brigham."
"Of 1212 Charles Street?"
"Yes!" Valeska looked at him in wonder.
"And what about Miss Wister's house? You've been out there, I fancy?"
"Yes. It's a five-story brick dwelling. It's on the corner."
"What about the other houses in the block?"
"I have the names of the owners from the Social Register, all except one, which is vacant and for sale."
"Real estate agents?"
"Swan & Dowell, 3421 Broadway."
"Very good. Telephone right out there for an appointment; then hire that house and pay in advance for one month. Tell them you'll sign a lease if the place is satisfactory. Use any excuse you need. Just where is it?"
"At the other end of the block, on the corner of the next street."
"All right. Then, as soon as possible, look up Stringer—he's Farralon's best man—and see where he goes to-night. Find him, and don't lose sight of him! I'll have to work quickly, if I'm going to keep my word to Miss Wister."
"You think Stringer knows something of it?"
"He hasn't been to see Miss Wister, and that's suspicious. I telephoned to her and to his office. He hasn't been there. They say he's out of town. That means he doesn't want to be found; but you must try to find him. Miss Wister will give you a description. Now I'm off!"
He ran down-stairs and jumped into the waiting cab. In less than twenty minutes he was at Frank Brigham's Wall Street office. Inquiring of the office boy, he discovered that Brigham was in; but, instead of waiting, Astro took the elevator down to the street. There was an automobile waiting by the curb, and he looked at the number. It was 11115! He went back to his taxicab.
"Can you keep up with that car?" he asked, pointing to Brigham's machine and handing the chauffeur a five-dollar bill.
The man touched his cap and grinned. "I'll do it or get pinched for speeding!" he answered.
Astro got into the cab and waited, watching through a slit side of the curtain window. Within five minutes Brigham appeared with a tall thin man in eye-glasses, wearing a small, black, close-cropped mustache. They entered the tonneau of the automobile, and the car moved off, followed by the taxicab. Winding in and out of the up-town traffic, the car was easily followed until it stopped at the Hotel Saint Nemo, where the two men alighted. Astro followed them to the grillroom, waited till they had seated themselves, and took a table not too far away to watch them.
Cocktails for three were brought. Astro's eyes narrowed as he awaited the third conspirator. In a few minutes he appeared, and the Seer of secrets had time to make up his mind that he was the missing best man before his suspicion was corroborated by Valeska's unobtrusive appearance in the doorway. He gave her a sign that she could safely join him, and she came to his table as if she had been expected.
"How do you suppose I got him?" she asked jubilantly. "I called him up on the telephone, and some one asked my name. I replied, 'Pi Rho Nu.' It was a sudden inspiration, though I haven't the least idea what it means. As soon as he answered, I hung up, and got to his apartment-house as soon as I could. He took a hansom, and I had no trouble in following him. Who are these men?"
"Brigham and Doctor Hanbury," said Astro. "At least I imagine that the one they've been calling 'Doc' is Richard Hanbury. I wish they'd talk a little louder."
"Wait till they've finished those cocktails," said Valeska sapiently.
The three men were already laughing uproariously. One was telling a story, marking imaginary circles on his cheeks as he spoke. At the close of the narration all three lifted their glasses and drank a health.
"Was that 'To the ride'?"
"Not quite." Astro was seated nearer to the group.
At nine o'clock the men showed signs of being about to leave the dining-room, and Astro and Valeska had just time to make their exit first without being observed.
"I'll have to continue the chase alone," he said. "You'd better try and find out what you can from Farralon's apartment. See his man, if you can. You can act the French maid for that. Any valet will talk, if he thinks you come from some woman. As for me, I may be in the police court for burglary by to-morrow morning; and so, if I'm not at the studio by eight o'clock, you'd better see Lieutenant McGraw. Here they come, now! Good-by!"
In another minute his cab had again taken up the chase of car 11115. They sped north, crossed the park, turned into Seventy-second Street, and finally flew at full speed straight out the Broadway boulevard. Here the little taxicab had hard work following; but kept on and on, nearly to Kingsbridge. Here the open draw-bridge enabled Astro to catch up. Beyond that, the car turned sharply to the right and went a hundred yards, stopping before a large brick building that stood alone. It bore the sign of a sewing-machine company but was apparently deserted, though a light shone from one of the upper floors.
Astro, whose driver had stopped the cab at a safe distance, got out and walked on cautiously. Luckily it was dark and cloudy. As he went up the steps to the door, he could still hear the voices of the men who had just entered. The door was ajar. Instantly he slipped inside, and, suspecting that the doorkeeper would return after he had shown his guests the way, he dodged into a vacant room off the hall.
Here he waited nearly an hour, and, hiding close to the door, heard several visitors arrive, saw them give the hailing sign and pass up-stairs. At about eleven o'clock the watchman looked at his watch, lighted his pipe, and walked into the room opposite, evidently to sleep. This was the time, if any time were safe, to investigate the upper floors.
Up one floor he crept softly, found all dark, and listened. From higher up came now the sounds of laughter, of singing, and an occasional cheer. He crept up the next flight; the noise grew louder. He opened a door at the right of the landing, and found a large hall, once used for machinery. The pounding of feet on the ceiling told him that the men he had seen enter were immediately above. He paced the room, and found it to be a hundred feet by fifty. Opposite the long row of shuttered windows was another door. This he entered, and found a small room, evidently once used for an office, with a fireplace, mantel, and one window.
Step by step he now ascended the next flight of stairs, the sounds of revelry growing louder every minute. A glance above showed a streak of light through the half-opened door. A nearer approach showed another door, corresponding to that of the office he had noticed below. He darted up to the landing, put his hand to the handle of this door, and it opened easily. Passing in, he closed it behind him and looked about.
There was a cot bed with a pair of blankets drawn up against the wall, a basket of food, and a pitcher of water and many beer bottles on a table. A fireplace on the other wall corresponded to the one he had seen below. Astro stole to the keyhole of the door leading into the hall and listened. A smile came to his lips.
"Brigham! Brigham!" the company was yelling.
From his post Astro could see only the broad back of Brigham in the light of many candles; but he could hear perfectly the speech that followed.
"Brothers of the Pi Rho Nu," Brigham began, "far be it from me to try to make a speech to-night—as you know I can't! But I'll take my turn in testifying to the utter depravity of the prisoner."
Cries of "Hear, hear!" interrupted him, and after they were stilled Brigham went on.
"The event is now a piece of the history of the Pi Rho Nu; but I'll briefly state the facts. Two years ago I was married."
"How delightful to be married!" the crowd began to sing.
"And it was my fond intention to pass my honeymoon in an automobile. In fact, it was begun all right, and I'd have been safe if I had contented myself with driving only daytimes. But on my very first evening—we were married at noon—I was held up by a band of desperadoes on the road from Albany to Troy. I should have been able to take care of all of them with my fists; but I could never look a gun in the muzzle calmly. The result was that I was tied up with Mrs. Brigham and carried into a lonely house. She was put into one room, and I into another. Gentlemen, I ask you to picture my feelings that night, as I heard scream after scream coming from the room adjacent for hours unending. It was only because I knew my bride had been carried safely away to the nearest hotel that I was able to sleep at all. So, gentlemen, I demand the penalty of—"
"Death!" shouted the rest in a chorus of laughter, after which there were calls for "Doc Hanbury." Hanbury was invisible from Astro's peep-hole, but his voice rose clearly.
"I also was married," he began, and was also interrupted by the popular chorus; "but under painful and embarrassing circumstances," he continued. "The afternoon of the wedding my flat was entered and I was garroted by two masked men. I was tied to a chair, and then one of them painted my face deliberately but too fancifully with iodine. He painted my cheeks in circles, gentlemen, and my brow was a picturesque plaid of squares. Those of you who were present at the ceremony possibly remarked the grease paint that attempted too unsuccessfully to cover my shame. I had to do it. You can't explain an absence from your own wedding except by—"
"Death!" came the jovial chorus.
One after another proceeded to testify, each constantly interrupted by the hilarious members of the fraternity.
Astro had heard enough. It was evident that Farralon, the master spirit of the association and fiercest of its practical jokers, had met his just deserts. Just what they would do with him, Astro could not guess; but that the bridegroom would need a friend was not to be doubted. How was he to be helped? Astro determined to complete his investigation of the building before he decided. Undoubtedly the gang would make a night of it in the house and keep Farralon a prisoner till the last moment, if indeed they did not prevent the ceremony. The Seer took an electric torch from his pocket and stole up-stairs.
The floor was planned like those below, with the same big hall, the small office, and fireplace. As it was in the office that Farralon was to be locked, evidently, when his fraternity members had departed, Astro looked over the little room carefully. The iron shutters were barred and immovable. There was only one safe means of communicating with the prisoner after he was left alone,—by way of the chimney. Astro took the jimmy from his pocket and set to work inside the fireplace, to open a hole on each side. Which of the two flues ran down into the next floor it was impossible to tell. He must be ready for both. It took two hours of hard work to get the bricks out; but by the time the company were racketing down-stairs Astro had the satisfaction of perceiving a faint light deep down in one of the openings. It was now only a question of waiting till Farralon was alone, and hailing him. To find out what was going on, he had started down-stairs when he heard voices. A man was still in the larger room speaking through the closed door of the office.
"Don't you try and make a row now, or we'll come in and make you quit! You keep quiet, Farralon! I'm going to turn in now. So long, old man! Dream of your bride and a happy wedding!" and after turning the key in the door he rolled over on a cot in the hall. In a few minutes he was snoring.
Astro stole up-stairs and put his mouth to the hole, calling Farralon. No answer came. Then he sat down on the floor, took off his sock, and raveled out a long line of silk. Next, he wrote a short note, fastened the paper into his pocket-knife, and tied the line to it. This he let cautiously down the hole, and jangled it softly at the bottom. In a few minutes he felt the line pulled taut. Farralon took the note, read it, and came back.
"Who's up there?" he called up in a loud whisper.
"A friend!" Astro replied.
And thereupon ensued a long dialogue; after which the Seer of Secrets, chuckling to himself mightily, stole down-stairs and out the door, found his still waiting taxicab, and was driven rapidly back to the city. It was four o'clock when he threw himself, exhausted, on the great couch in his studio.
At half past nine that forenoon, Astro and Valeska stood behind the inside shutters of the parlor window at number 5652 Lexington Avenue. It was the house that Valeska had rented at the other end of the block in which Miss Wister lived.
A large furniture van stood in front of the door. A long table was on the sidewalk, standing parallel to the curb. Two men in overalls walked in and out of the house occasionally.
Astro looked at his watch. "About time for the show," he remarked. "How is Miss Wister standing the suspense?"
Valeska giggled. "I don't think she slept a wink last night, and when I got to her this morning she was almost frantic. I don't think that even now she considers herself safe. You see, she doesn't know you so well as I do. If you told me I was to be married today, I'd believe it!"
Astro turned to her with a sudden look in his eyes. "If I told you that you were to be married next month, would you believe it?" he demanded.
"Ah, but you're not going to tell me that!" said Valeska, putting away his hand gently. "But it was impossible to get Miss Wister to see the funny side of it all. I'm afraid that young Mr. Farralon is going to have a hard time getting some things into her head."
"Well, her heart is accessible, at any rate," Astro replied. His gaze returned to the window. "It's queer the Pi Rho Nu aren't here. We have mighty little time to get him ready. I believe they're going to wait till the last minute. No, by Jove! there they come now!" He rapped on the window sharply to the men on the sidewalk, who immediately put their hands to the table.
At the other end of the block, where a long awning stretched from the door of the Wister house to the sidewalk and a curious crowd had gathered, a large red automobile—number 11115—had stopped just as he spoke. It was full of men. One got out, then another, then another. As the fourth, stepped on the sidewalk, however, there was a sudden commotion. A man dropped. Two others seemed fighting. They were joined by two more, who jumped from the car. Another dropped, and another, and then—
Sprinting down the block came a wild fantastic creature, half in man's clothes, half in woman's, with ribbons streaming, with short skirts flapping, fighting his way with excited gestures through the passers-by, knocking down several as he strove. Behind him instantly followed the crowd, led by the men who had risen to their feet. As the fugitive came up to the house where Astro and Valeska waited, the men on the sidewalk swung the long table round and the mob dashed against the barrier. One or two hurdled it; the rest ran round the ends. But the moment's handicap gave the fugitive just time to rush up the front steps and enter the doorway before the doors were closed and bolted behind him.
"Quick! Follow me!" exclaimed Astro. He could hardly speak from laughter; but the man followed him with curses, raving like a wild beast. Up three flights of stairs they raced, entered a small closet, and scrambled up a ladder."Now it's a plain track to the scuttle of the Wister house," said Astro. "You'll find a ladder three houses beyond here. You have just eight minutes to dress in. Your clothes are all laid out in Wister's room, and the
Sprinting down the block came a wild, fantastic figure.
ring is in the pocket of your waistcoat. There'll be no best man. I'll wait here to make ready for your getaway."
"My get-away!" cried Farralon wildly. "For heaven's sake! isn't it over yet? Is there any more of this confounded practical joke?"
"More!" said Astro smiling. "You ought to know the capacity of the Pi Rho Nu. There's a hack covered with ribbons which I've had ready at the door, and there's a brass band and a demonstration waiting at the pier that will make you feel as if you were a crown prince."
Farralon wilted. "Well, I guess I'll get what's coming to me this time," he said, grinning feebly.
"No, you won't. You'll escape on Miss Wister's account. I've got it all fixed. As soon as you can, after the ceremony, you and your wife are to go upstairs. Say you're going to leave in the cab at the door in half an hour and drive by way of the Christopher Street ferry to Hoboken. Then get up to the roof, come back here, just as you are, and I'll give you your instructions?"
"But my trunks, and Kitty's my clothes, and everything—"
"Everything is ready in that furniture van at the door. Now hurry! You've wasted two minutes!"
Farralon darted across the roof at reckless speed. Astro watched, with a lingering smile, till the groom disappeared over the edge of the roof of the third house beyond. Then he descended into the house again. Valeska was arranging a queer collection of clothes in a rear room up-stairs.
"Is everything ready?" he asked.
She burst out laughing. "There's a bride's going-away costume for you!" she exclaimed, holding up a blue gingham skirt, a purple-checked blouse, and a bandana kerchief.
"Well, be prepared for a quick change, then. I'll go to the roof and be ready to help the bride down."
Astro had begun to be anxious by the time the bridal couple reappeared. It was fully an hour before he saw the happy pair approach, clambering lightly over the roof. Then Farralon gave a whoop, and the two came up laughing.
They laughed as she stumbled down the ladder; they roared as—Astro with the bridegroom in the front room, and Valeska with the bride in the rear—the pair changed their clothes for the emigrant costumes that were ready. Then down-stairs they went, Astro carrying two large suit cases filled with the wedding clothes. At the door he stopped them and went to the window to reconnoiter. The Brigham automobile was still standing at the curb, near to the hack which was fairly white with ribbons and bridal flags.
"Take this chair now," said Astro.
Farralon took one end of a Morris chair and Mrs. Farralon the other. There was no one on the sidewalk at this end of the block, though a crowd was collected in front of the Wister residence, preparing for the fun of throwing rice and old shoes. The couple were unnoticed as they lifted the chair into the van and then climbed in themselves. The two teamsters followed with the suit cases, and in another minute the van was safely off. Astro and Valeska waved a discreet adieu behind the shutters of the empty house.
Astro took from his pocket a check for a thousand dollars and handed it to Valeska. "I think I deserve more credit than the clergyman," he said. "But now we must follow them and see how it all comes out."
The members of the Pi Rho Nu had hurried to the ferry as soon as the bridegroom's escape was suspected. They roamed all over the boat, passing the furniture van several times in their search.
As soon as the boat was in the slip the gay fraternity hurried to the pier where the Carothian lay with steam up. Here a brass band was in readiness to serenade the couple. The fraternity swarmed aboard the steamer and pushed their quest everywhere save into the third-class cabin, where the bridal couple, disguised as steerage passengers, sat and laughed till the gangplank was raised. Then Astro and Valeska, near the baffled members of the crestfallen Pi Rho Nu, awaited the dénouement.
Just before the last line was cast off, the couple, dressed perfectly now, appeared at the rail of the promenade deck, waving their handkerchiefs merrily. A shout went up from the Pi Rho Nu.
Stringer, who was standing near Astro, turned to his companion. "Well," he said, "they fooled us, after all. But when he gets into his stateroom it'll look like a small grain elevator. There's a good ton of rice on the floor and in the mattresses. He'll get his on the way across! Hooray for the Pi Rho Nu!"
Valeska smiled as if she were pleased; and also as if she were a little envious, too.