MoboReader> Literature > From Place to Place

   Chapter 8 HOODWINKED

From Place to Place By Irvin S. Cobb Characters: 66628

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


SPY stories rather went out of fashion when the armistice was signed. But this one could not have been told before now, because it happened after the armies had quit fighting and while the Peace Conference was busily engaged in belying its first name. Also, in a strict manner of speaking, it is not a spy story at all.

So far as our purposes are concerned, it began to happen on an afternoon at the end of the month of March of this present year, when J. J. Mullinix, of the Secret Service, called on Miss Mildred Smith, the well-known interior decorator, in her studio apartments on the top floor of one of the best-looking apartment houses in town. For Mullinix there was a short delay downstairs because the doorman, sharp on the lookout to bar pestersome intruders who might annoy the tenants, could not at first make up his mind about Mullinix. In this building there was a rule against solicitors, canvassers, collectors, pedlar men and beggar men; also one against babies, but none against dogs-excepting dogs above a certain specified size, which-without further description-should identify our building as one standing in what is miscalled the exclusive residential belt of Manhattan Island.

The doorman could not make up his mind offhand whether Mullinix was to be classified as a well-dressed mendicant or an indifferently dressed book agent; he was pretty sure, though, that the stranger fell somewhere within the general ban touching on dubious persons having dubious intentions. This doubt on the part of the doorman was rather a compliment to Mullinix, considering Mullinix's real calling. For Mullinix resembled neither the detective of fiction nor yet the detective of sober fact, which is exactly what the latter usually is-a most sober fact; sober, indeed, often to the point of a serious and dignified impressiveness. This man, though, did not have the eagle-bird eye with which the detective of fiction so often is favoured. He did not have the low flattened arches-frontal or pedal-which frequently distinguish the bona-fide article, who comes from Headquarters with a badge under his left lapel and a cigar under his right moustache to question the suspected hired girl. About him there was nothing mysterious, nothing portentous, nothing inscrutable. He had a face which favourably would have attracted a person taking orders for enlarging family portraits. He had the accommodating manner of one who is willing to go up when the magician asks for a committee out of the audience to sit on the stage.

Not ten individuals alive knew of his connection with the Secret Service. Probably in all his professional life not ten others-outsiders-had ever appraised him for what he was. His finest asset was a gift of Nature-a sort of protective colouration which enabled him to hide in the background of commonplaceness and do his work with an assurance which would not have been possible had he worn an air of assurance. In short and in fine, Mullinix no more resembled the traditional hawkshaw than Miss Mildred Smith resembled the fashionable conception of a fashionable artist. She never gestured with an upturned thumb; nor yet made a spy-glass of her cupped hand through which to gaze upon a painting. She had never worn a smock frock in her life.

The smartest of smart tailor-mades was none too smart for her. Nothing was too smart for her, who was so exquisitely fine and well-bred a creature. She was wearing tailor-mades, with a trig hat to match, when she opened the door of her entry hall for Mullinix.

"Just going out, weren't you?" he asked as they shook hands.

"No, just coming in," she said. "I had only just come in when the hall man called me up saying you were downstairs."

"I had trouble getting him to send up my name at all," he said with a half smile on his face. "He insisted on knowing all about me and my business before he announced me. So I told him everything nearly-except the truth."

"I gathered from his tone he was a bit doubtful about you; but I was glad to get the word. This is the third time you've favoured me with a visit and each of the other times something highly exciting followed. Come in and let me make you a cup of tea, won't you? Is it business that brings you?"

"Yes," he said, "it's business."

They sat down in the big inner studio room; on one side of the fireplace the short, slow-speaking, colourless-looking man who knew the inner blackness of so many whited sepulchres; and on the other side, facing him from across the tea table, this small patrician lady who, having rich kinfolk and friends still richer and a family tree deep-rooted in the most Knickerbockian stratum of the Manhattan social schist, nevertheless chose to earn her own living; and while earning it to find opportunity for service to her Government in a confidential capacity. Not all the volunteers who worked on difficult espionage jobs through the wartime carried cards from the Intelligence Department.

"Yes," he repeated, "it's business-a bigger piece of business and a harder one and probably a more interesting one than the last thing you helped on. If it weren't business I wouldn't be coming here to-day, taking up your time. I know how busy you are with your own affairs."

"Oh, I'm not busy," she said. "This is one of my loafing days. Since lunch time I've been indulging in my favourite passion. I've been prowling through a secondhand bookstore over on Lexington Avenue, picking up bargains. There's the fruit of my shopping."

She indicated a pile of five or six nibbled-looking volumes in dingy covers resting upon one corner of the low mantelshelf.

"Works on interior decorating?" he guessed.

"Goodness, no! Decorating is my business; this is my pleasure. The top one of the heap-the one bound in red-is all about chess."

"Chess! Did anybody ever write a whole book about chess?"

"I believe more books have been written on chess than on any other individual subject in the world, barring Masonry," she said. "And the next one to it-the yellow-bound one-is a book about old English games; not games of chance, but games for holidays and parties. I was glancing through it in my car on the way here from the shop. It's most interesting. Why, some of the games it tells about were played in England before William the Conqueror landed; at least so the author claims. Did you ever hear of a game called Shoe the Wild Mare? It was very popular in Queen Elizabeth's day. The book yonder says so."

"No, I never heard of it. From the name it sounds as though it might be rather a rough game for indoors," commented Mullinix. "For a busy woman who's made such a big success at her calling, I wonder how you find time to dig into so many miscellaneous subjects."

"I don't call the time wasted," she said. "For example, there's one book in that lot dealing with mushroom culture. It seems there's ever so much to know about mushrooms. Besides, who knows but what some day I might have a wealthy client who would want me to design him a mushroom cellar, combining practicability with the decorative. Then, you see, I would have the knowledge at my finger tips." She smiled at the conceit, busying herself with the tea things.

"Well, I suppose I'm a one-idea-at-a-time sort of person," he said.

"No, you aren't! You only think you are," she amended. "Just now I suppose you are all so wrapped up in the business you mentioned a moment ago that you can't think of anything else."

"That's a fact," he confessed. "And yet all my thinking doesn't seem to have got me anywhere in particular." He paused to glance about. "Where's your maid? Is she, by any chance, where she could overhear us?"

"No, she's out. This is her afternoon off."

"Good! Then I'll start at the beginning and tell you in as few words as possible the whole thing. But before I do begin, let me ask you a question. It may simplify matters. Anyhow it has a bearing on my principal reason for coming to see you to-day. Isn't Mrs. Howard Hadley-Smith your cousin?"

"Only by marriage. Her husband was my second cousin. He belonged to the branch of the family that owns the hyphen and most of the money. He died six or seven years ago. He was not the most perfect creature in the world, but Claire, his wife-his widow, I mean-is a trump. She's one of the finest women and one of the sanest in New York."

"I'm glad to hear that. Because before we're through with this job-you see I'm assuming in advance that you are going to be willing to help me on it-I say, before we get through it, providing of course we do get through it, it may be necessary to take her into our confidence. That is, if you are sure we can trust absolutely to her discretion."

"We can. But please remember that I don't know what the business is all about."

"I'm coming to that. Oh, by the way, there is one question more: To-morrow night your cousin is giving a costume party or a fancy-dress party of some sort or other, isn't she?"

"Yes; an All Fools' Day party; not a very large one though."

"And you will be going to it, won't you?"

"Yes, indeed! I'm doing the decorating and acting as sort of assistant director of the affair. But what can my cousin and her April Fools' Day party and all that have to do with the matter that brings you here?"

"A good deal, I hope. But I expect I had better go back to the beginning and tell you the tale in some sort of orderly way. Of course I am telling it to you as one responsible representative of our Government to another."

"I understand. But go ahead, won't you? My curiosity is increasing by the moment."

"Well then, here it is: Six days ago there arrived from the conference at Versailles a high army officer, acting for this occasion as a confidential messenger of the Administration. He brought with him a certain communication-a single small sheet or strip of parchment paper containing about twelve or fifteen typewritten lines. But those few lines were about as important and, under certain circumstances, as dangerous a collection of typewritten lines as it is possible to conceive of."

"Weren't they in code?"

"Naturally. But the signature was not. The signature was in the handwriting of the man-let us say the personage-who dictated the wording of the dispatch. You would know that handwriting if you saw it. Nearly every man, woman and child in this country who can read would know it and would recognise it at a glance. Even between us, I take it that there is no need of mentioning the name."

"No. Please go on. The thing has a thrilling sound already."

"That communication dealt directly with perhaps the most important single issue now in controversy at the Peace Conference-a phase of the Asiatic muddle. In fact, it was an outline of the private agreement that has been reached as between our envoys and the envoys representing sundry friendly powers in regard to this particular question. If it should fall into the hands of a certain other power-and be translated-the entire negotiation would be jeopardised. Almost inevitably at least one Oriental nation would withdraw from the conference. The future of the great thing for which our own statesmen and the statesmen of some of the countries provisionally leagued together with us are working-well, that result, to put the thing mildly, would be jeopardised. The very least that could happen would be that four governments would be tremendously embarrassed.

"Indeed it is hard offhand to calculate the possibilities of disaster, but this much is quite sure: Our enemy-and Germany is as much our enemy now as she was during active hostilities-would almost inevitably succeed in the very thing she has been plotting to bring about, which is the sowing of discord among the Allies, not to mention the increase of a racial distrust and a racial antagonism which exist in certain quarters, and, on top of all that, the widening and deepening of a problem which already has been sufficiently difficult and delicate."

"I see. Well?"

"Well, naturally everything possible was done at Washington to safeguard a dispatch of such tremendous importance. No copies of the communication were made. The original was put in a place where it was presumed to be absolutely safe. But within forty-eight hours it disappeared from the place where it had been put."

"How did it disappear? Is that known?"

"It was stolen. A government clerk named Westerfeltner, a man who held a place of trust and confidence, was the man who stole it. For it he was offered a sum of money which would make him independent for life, and under the temptation he weakened and he stole it. But first he stole the key to the cipher, which would make it possible for anyone having both the key and the message to decode the message. Once this is done the damage is done, for the signature is ample proof of the validity of the document. That is the one thing above all others we are trying to prevent now."

"But why couldn't the thief have decoded the dispatch?"

"He might have, excepting for two things. In the first place his principal, the man who corrupted him to betray his honour and incidentally to betray his Government, would not trust him to do this. The head plotter demanded the original paper. In the second place an interval of a day and a half elapsed between the theft of the code and the theft of the dispatch. Before the thief secured the dispatch the key had already passed out of his possession."

"How do you know these things with such certainty?"

"Because Westerfeltner has confessed. He confessed to me at three o'clock yesterday morning after the thefts had practically been traced to his door. He made a clean breast of it all right enough. The high points of his confession have all been verified. I am sure that he was honest with me. Fear and remorse together made him honest. At present he is-well, let's call it sequestered. No outsider knows he is now under arrest; or perhaps I should say in custody. No interested party is likely to feel concern regarding his whereabouts, because so far as he was concerned the crooked contract had been carried out and completed before he actually fell under suspicion."

"Meaning by that, what?"

"Meaning just this: On the night he secured possession of the key he handed it over to his principal, who still has it unless he has destroyed it. It is fair to assume that this other man, being a code expert, already has memorised the key so that he can read the dispatch almost offhand. At least that is the assumption upon which I am going."

"All this happened in Washington, I suppose?"

"Yes, in Washington. The original understanding was that as soon as possible after stealing the dispatch Westerfeltner would turn it over to the other man. But something-we don't know yet just what-frightened the master crook out of town. With the job only partially accomplished he left Washington and came to New York. But before leaving he gave to Westerfeltner explicit instructions for the delivery of the dispatch-when he had succeeded in getting his hands on it-to a third party, a special go-between, with whom Westerfeltner was to communicate by telephone.

"Late the next day Westerfeltner did succeed in getting his hands on the document. That same evening, in accordance with his instructions, he called up from his house a certain number. He had been told to call this number exactly at eight o'clock and to ask for Mrs. Williams. Without delay he got Mrs. Williams on the wire. Over the wire a woman's voice told him to meet her at the McPherson Statue in McPherson Square at eleven-fifteen o'clock that night. He was there at the appointed hour, waiting. According to what he tells me, almost precisely on the minute a woman, wearing plain dark clothes and heavily veiled, came walking along the path that leads to the statue from Fifteenth Street. It was dark there, anyhow, and for obvious reasons both the conspirators kept themselves well shielded in the shadows.

"As she came up and saw him waiting there, she uttered the catchwords which made him know her for the right person. The words were simple enough. She merely said to him 'Did you go to the pawnshop?' He answered 'Yes, I went there and I got your keepsake.' 'Thank you,' she answered, 'then give it to me.' 'Here it is, safe and sound,' he replied and passed to her the paper, which was wadded up, he says, in a pellet about the size of a hazelnut.

"Up to this point the pair had been speaking in accordance with a sort of memorised ritual, each knowing from the instructions given to both by their employer what the other would say. But before they parted they exchanged a few other words. Westerfeltner tells me that, having his own safety in mind as well as a natural anxiety for the safe delivery of the paper to its real purchaser, he said to her: 'I hope you understand that you should keep this thing in your possession for every minute of the time until you hand it over to our mutual friend.'

"As he recalls her answer, as nearly as possible in the words she used, she said: 'Certainly I do. It will be kept on my person where I can put my hand on it, but where no one else can see it and where no one else will ever suspect it of being.' Then she asked him: 'Was there anything else you wanted to say to me?' He told her there was nothing else and she said good night to him and turned and walked away in the direction from which she had come. He waited a minute or so and then walked off, leaving the square on the opposite side-the Vermont Avenue side. He went directly home and went to bed.

"He is unmarried and lives alone, taking his luncheons and dinners out, but preparing his own breakfasts in his rooms. At three o'clock in the morning he was in bed and asleep when I rang his doorbell. In his night clothes he got up and let me in; and as soon as I was in I accused him. As a matter of fact the double theft had been discovered the evening before, but unfortunately by then several hours had elapsed from the time the dispatch was taken, and already, as you know, the dispatch had changed hands.

"Within an hour after the discovery of the loss I had been set to work on the job. At once suspicion fell upon three men, one after the other. It didn't take very long to convince me that two of these men were innocent. So these two having been eliminated by deductive processes, I personally went after the third man, who was this Westerfeltner. The moment I walked in on him I was convinced from his behaviour that I had made no mistake. So I took a chance. I charged him point-blank with being the thief. Almost immediately he weakened. His denials turned to admissions. As a conspirator Westerfeltner is a lame duck. I only wish I had started after him three or four hours earlier than I did; if only I had done so I'm satisfied the paper would be back where it belongs and no damage done. Well, anyhow, if I am one to judge, he told me everything frankly and held back nothing."

"Well, then, who is the woman in the case?"

"He didn't know. To his best knowledge he had never seen her before that night. He is sure that he had never heard her voice before. Really, all he does know about her is that she is a small, slender woman with rather quick, decided movements and that her voice is that of a refined person. He is sure she is a young woman, but he can furnish no better description of her than this. He claims he was very nervous at the time of their meeting. I figure he was downright excited, filled as he was with guilty apprehensions, and no doubt because of his excitement he took less notice of her than he otherwise might. Besides, you must remember that the place of rendezvous was a fairly dark spot on rather a dark night."

"He has absolutely no idea of his own, then, as to the identity of Mrs. Williams?"

"He hasn't; but I have. The telephone number which figures in the case is the number of a pay station in an all-night drug store in Washington. Westerfeltner freely gave me the number. Both the proprietor of this drug store and his clerk remember that night before last, shortly before eight o'clock, a rather small, slight woman wearing a black street costume with a dark veil over her face came into the place and said she was expecting a telephone call for Mrs. Williams. Within two or three minutes the bell rang and the clerk answered and somebody asked for Mrs. Williams. The woman entered the booth, came out almost immediately, and went away. All that the drugstore man and his clerk remember about her is that she was a young woman, plainly dressed but well-groomed. The druggist is positive she had dark hair; the clerk is inclined to think her hair was a deep reddish-brown. Neither of them saw her face; neither of them remarked anything unusual about her. To them she was merely a woman who came in to keep a telephone engagement, and having kept it went away again. So, having run into a blind alley at that end of the case, I started in at the other end of it to find the one lady to whom naturally the chief conspirator would turn for help in the situation that confronted him when he ran away from Washington. And I found her-both of her in fact."

"Both of her! Then there are two women involved?"

"No, only one; but which one of two suspects she is I can't for the life of me decide. I know who she is, and yet I don't know. I'll come to that part of it in a minute or two. I haven't told you the name of the head devil of the whole intrigue yet, have I? You've met him, I imagine. At any rate you surely have heard of him.

"You know him, or else you surely know of him, as the Hon. Sidney Bertram Goldsborough, of London, England, and Shanghai, China."

"Goodness gracious me!" In her astonishment Miss Smith had recourse to an essentially feminine exclamation. "Why, that does bring it close to home! Why, he is among the persons invited to my cousin's house to-morrow night. I remember seeing his name on the invitation list. That's why you asked me about her party a while ago. My cousin met him somewhere and liked him. I've never seen him, but I've heard about him. A big mining engineer, isn't he?"

"A big international crook, posing as a mining engineer and ostensibly in this country to finance some important Korean concessions-that's what he is. His real name is Geltmann. Here's his pedigree in a nutshell: Born in Russia of mixed German and Swiss parentage. Educated in England, where he acquired his accent and the monocle habit. Perfected himself in scoundrelism in the competent finishing schools of the Far East. Speaks half a dozen languages, including Chinese and Japanese. Carries gilt-edged credentials made in the Orient. That, briefly, is your Hon. Mr. Sidney Bertram Goldsborough, when you undress him. He was officially suspected of being something other than what he claimed to be, even before Westerfeltner divulged his name. In fact, he fell under suspicion shortly after he turned up in Paris in January of this year, he having obtained a passport for France on the strength of his credentials and on the representation that he wanted to go abroad to interest European financiers in that high-sounding Korean development scheme of his-which, by the way, is purely imaginary. He hung about Paris for three months. How he found out about the document which the army officer was bringing home, and how he found out that the officer-in order to save time-would travel on a French liner instead of on a transport, are details that are yet to be cleared up by our people on the other side. There has been no time yet of course to take up the chase over there in Paris. But obviously there must have been a leak somewhere. Either some one abroad was in collusion with him or perhaps indiscreetness rather than guilty connivance was responsible for his learning what he did learn. As to that, I can't say.

"But the point remains that Geltmann sailed on the same ship that brought the army officer. Evidently he hoped to get possession of the paper the officer carried on the way over. Failing there, he tried other means. He followed the officer down to Washington, seduced Westerfeltner by the promise of a fat bribe, and then, just when his scheme was about to succeed, became frightened and returned to New York, trusting to a woman confederate to deliver the paper to him here. And now he's here, awaiting her arrival, and from all the evidence available he expects to get it from her to-morrow night at your cousin's party."

"Then the woman is to be there too?" Miss Smith's eyes were stretched wide.

"She certainly is."

"And who is she-or, rather, who do you think she is?"

"Miss Smith, prepare for a shock. Either that woman is Mme. Josephine Ybanca, the wife of the famous South American diplomat, or else she is Miss Evelyn Ballister, sister of United States Senator Hector Ballister. And I am pretty sure that you must know both of them."

"I do! I do! I know Miss Ballister fairly well, and I have met Madame Ybanca twice-once here in New York, once at Washington. And let me say now, that at first blush I do not find it in my heart to suspect either of them of deliberate wrongdoing. I don't think they are that sort."

"I don't wonder you say that," answered Mullinix. "Also I think I know you well enough to feel sure that the fact that both of them are to be guests of your cousin, Mrs. Hadley-Smith, to-morrow night has no influence upon you in forming your judgments of these two young women."

"I know Miss Ballister has been invited and has accepted. But I think you must be wrong when you say Madame Ybanca is also expected."

"When was the last time you saw your cousin?"

"The day before yesterday, I think it was, but only for a few minutes."

"Well, yesterday she sent a telegram to Madame Ybanca saying she understood Madame Ybanca would be coming up from Washington this week and asking her to waive formality and come to the party."

"You say my cousin sent such a wire?"

"I read the telegram. Likewise I read Madame Ybanca's reply, filed at half after six o'clock yesterday evening, accepting the invitation."

"But surely"-and now there was mounting incredulity and indignation in Miss Smith's tone-"but surely no one dares to assert that my cousin is conniving at anything improper?"

"Certainly not! If I thought she was doing anything wrong I would hardly be asking you to help trap her, would I? Didn't I tell you that we might even have to enlist your cousin's co-operation? But I imagine, when you make inquiry, as of course you will do at once, you'll find that since you saw your cousin she has seen Goldsborough, or Geltmann-to give him his real name-and that he asked her to send the wire to Madame Ybanca."

"That being assumed as correct, the weight of the proof would seem to press upon the madame rather than upon Miss Ballister, wouldn't it?"

"Frankly I don't know. At times to-day, coming up here on the train, I have thought she must be the guilty one, and at times I have felt sure that she was not. But this much I do know: One of those two ladies is absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing, and the other one-pardon my language-is as guilty as hell. But perhaps it is only fair to both that you should suspend judgment altogether until I have finished telling you the whole business, as far as I know it.

"Let us go back a bit. Half an hour after I had heard Westerfeltner's confession and fifteen minutes after I had seen the druggist and his clerk, the entire machinery of our branch of the service had been set in motion to find out what women in Washington were friends of Geltmann. For Geltmann spent most of last fall in Washington. Now while in Washington he was noticeably attentive to just two women-Miss Ballister and Madame Ybanca. Now mark a lengthening of the parallel: Both of them are small women; both of them are slender; both are young, and both of course have refined voices. Neither speaks with any special accent, for the madame, though married to a Latin, is an American woman. She has black hair, while Miss Ballister's hair is a golden red-brown. So far, you see, the vague description furnished by the three men who spoke to the mythical Mrs. Williams might apply to either."

"Then which of the two is supposed to have been most attracted to Geltmann, as you call him?"

Mullinix smiled a trifle.

"I was rather expecting that question would come along about here," he said. "I only wish I could tell you; it might simplify matters. But so far as the available evidence points, there is nothing to indicate that either of them really cared for him or he for either of them. The attentions which he paid them both, impartially, were those which a man might pay to any woman, whether she was married or unmarried, without creating gossip. There is no suggestion here of a dirty scandal. The woman who is serving Geltmann's ends is doing it, not for love of him and not even because she is fascinated by him, but for money. She has agreed to sell out her country, the land she was born in, for hire. I'm sure of that much."

"Then which of them is presumed to be in pressing need of funds?"

"Again you score. I was expecting that question too. As a matter of fact both of them need money. Madame Ybanca belongs to a bridge-playing set-a group of men and women who play for high stakes. She has been a heavy loser and her husband, unlike many politically prominent South Americans, is not a fabulously wealthy man. I doubt whether he would be called wealthy at all, either by the standards of his own people or of ours. As for Miss Ballister, I have reports which prove she has no source of income except a modest allowance from her brother, the senator, who is in moderate circumstances only; yet it is common talk about Washington that she is extravagant beyond her means. She owes considerable sums to tradesmen for frocks and furs, millinery, jewelry and the like. It is fair to assume that she is harassed by her debts. On the other hand, Madame Ybanca undoubtedly wants funds with which to meet her losses at bridge. So the presumption in this direction runs as strongly against one as against the other."

"Well then, barring these slight clews-which to my way of thinking really aren't clews at all-and when you have eliminated the circumstance of Goldsborough's having paid perfectly proper attentions to both of them simultaneously, what is there to justify the belief that one or the other must be guilty?"

Miss Smith's voice still carried a suggestion of scepticism.

"I'm coming to that. Of course their positions being what they are, neither I nor any other Secret Service operative would dare question either one or both of them. On a mere hazard you cannot go to the beautiful young wife of the distinguished representative of a friendly nation, and a woman besides of irreproachable character, and accuse her of being in the pay of an international crook. You cannot do this any more than you could attempt a similar liberty with regard to an equally beautiful woman of equally good repute who happens to be a prominent figure in the most exclusive circles of this country and the favourite sister of a leader on the Administration side in the United States Senate. Of course since the developments began to focus suspicion upon them, they have been watched. Yesterday at church Miss Ballister's wrist bag was picked. Along with things of no apparent significance, it contained a note received by her the day before from Goldsborough-Geltmann rather-reminding her that they were to meet to-morrow night at your cousin's party. Later in the afternoon Madame Ybanca received a telegram and sent an answer, as I have told you; a telegram inviting her to the very same party. Putting two and two together, I think I see Geltmann's hand showing. Having put two and two together, I came to New York to get in touch with you and to enlist your help."

"But why me?"

"Why not you? I remembered that Mrs. Hadley-Smith was related to you. I felt pretty sure that you would be going to her party. And I am morally sure that at the party Geltmann means to meet his confederate-Miss Ballister or Madame Ybanca, as the case may be-and to receive from her the bit of paper that means so much to him and to those he is serving in the capacity of a paid agent. It will be easy enough to do the thing there; whereas a meeting in any other place, public or private, might be dangerous for both of them.

"Miss Ballister will be coming over from Washington to-morrow. She has a chair-car reservation on the Pennsylvania train leaving there at ten o'clock in the morning. I don't know what train Madame Ybanca will take, but the news will be coming to me by wire before she is aboard the train. Each one of them is now being shadowed; each one of them will be shadowed for every moment while she is on her way and during her stay here; and of course Geltmann cannot stir a step outside his suite at the Hotel Atminster, on Fortieth Street, without being under observation. He didn't know it, but he was under observation when he woke up yesterday morning.

"But I think these precautions are of mighty little valu

e; I do not expect any important result from them. On the other hand, I am convinced that the transfer of the dispatch will be attempted under your cousin's roof. I do not need to tell you why Geltmann should have sought to insure the presence of both women here at one time. He is smart enough; he knows that in this case there is an added element of safety for him in numbers-that it is better to have both present. Then unwittingly the innocent one will serve as a cover for the guilty one. I think he figures that should discovery of the theft come soon-he not knowing it already has come-then in such case there will be a divided trail for us to follow, one end pointing toward Miss Ballister and the other toward the madame. Or, at least, so I diagnose his mental processes.

"If I have diagnosed them correctly, the big part of the job, Miss Smith, is now up to you. We figure from what she told Westerfeltner that the paper will be concealed on the person of the woman we are after-in her hair perhaps, or in her bosom; possibly in that favourite cache of a woman-her stocking. At any rate she will have it hidden about her; that much we may count on for a certainty. And so it must be your task to prevent that paper from changing hands; better still, to get it into your own possession before it possibly can come under Geltmann's eyes even for a moment. But there must be no scene, no violence used, no scandal; above all things there must be no publicity. Publicity is to be dreaded almost as much as the actual transfer.

"For my part I can promise you this: I shall be in the house of your cousin to-morrow night, if you want me to be there. That detail we can arrange through her: but naturally I must stay out of sight. You must do your work practically unaided. I guarantee though to insure you plenty of time in which to do it. Geltmann will not reach the party until later than he expects. The gentleman will be delayed by one or a number of annoying but seemingly unavoidable accidents. Beyond these points I have to confess myself helpless. After those two women pass inside Mrs. Hadley-Smith's front door the real job is in your hands. You must find who has the paper and you must get it away from its present custodian without making threats, without using force-in short, without doing anything to rouse the suspicions beforehand of the person we are after, or to make the innocent woman aware that she is under scrutiny.

"Above all, nothing must occur to make any of the other guests realise that anything unusual is afoot. For that would mean talk on the outside, and talk on the outside means sensational stories in the newspapers. You can make no mistake, and yet for the life of me I cannot see how you are going to guard against making them. Everything depends on you, and that everything means a very great deal to our country. Yes, everything depends on you, because I am at the end of my rope."

He finished and sat back in his chair, eyeing her face. Her expression gave him no clew to any conclusions she might have reached.

"I'll do my best," she said simply, "but I must have full authority to do it in my own way."

"Agreed. I'm not asking anything else from you."

In a study she rose and went to the mantelpiece and took one book from the heap of books there. She opened it and glanced abstractedly through the leaves as they flittered under her fingers.

With her eyes on the page headings she said to him: "I quarrel with one of your premises."

"Which one?"

"The one that the woman we want will have the paper hidden in her hair or in her corsage or possibly in her stocking."

"Well, I couldn't think of any other likely place in which she might hide it. She wouldn't have it in a pocket, would she? Women don't have pockets in their party frocks, do they?"

Disregarding his questions she asked one herself:

"You say it is a small strip of paper, and that probably it is rolled up into a wad about the size of a hazelnut?"

"It was rolled up so when Westerfeltner parted from it-that's all I can tell you. Why do you ask that?"

"Oh, it doesn't particularly matter. I merely was thinking of various possibilities and contingencies."

Apparently she now had found the place in the book which, more or less mechanically, she had been seeking. She turned down the upper corner of a certain page for a marker and closed the book.

"Well, in any event," she said, "I must get to work. I think I shall begin by calling up my cousin to tell her, among other things, that her party may have some rather unique features that she had not included in her program. And where can I reach you by telephone or by messenger-say, in an hour from now?"

A number of small things, seemingly in no wise related to the main issue, occurred that evening and on the following morning. In the evening, for example, Mrs. Hadley-Smith revised the schedule of amusements she had planned for her All Fools' party, incorporating some entirely new notions into the original scheme. In the morning Miss Mildred Smith visited the handkerchief counter of a leading department store, where she made selections and purchases from the stocks, going thence to a shop dealing in harness and leather goods. Here she gave a special commission for immediate execution.

Toward dusk of the evening of April first a smallish unobtrusive-looking citizen procured admittance to Mrs. Hadley-Smith's home, on East Sixty-third Street just off Fifth Avenue. With the air of a man having business on the premises he walked through the front door along with a group of helpers from the caterer's. Once inside, he sent a name by the butler to Mrs. Hadley-Smith, who apparently awaited such word, for promptly she came downstairs and personally escorted the man to a small study at the back of the first floor; wherein, having been left alone, he first locked the door leading to the hall and drew the curtains of the windows giving upon a rear courtyard, and proceeded to make himself quite at home.

He ate a cold supper which he found spread upon a table and after that he used the telephone rather extensively. This done, he lit a cigar and stretched himself upon a sofa, smoking away with the air of a man who has finished his share of a given undertaking and may take his ease until the time arrives for renewed action upon his part. Along toward nine-thirty o'clock, when he had smoked his third cigar, there came a soft knock thrice repeated upon the door, whereupon he rose and unlocked the door, but without opening it to see who might be outside he went back to his couch, lay down and lit a fourth cigar. For the next little while we may leave him there to his comfortable solitude and his smoke haze.

Meanwhile the Hon. Sidney Bertram Goldsborough, so called and so registered at the Hotel Atminster, grew decidedly peevish over the unaccountable failure of his order to arrive from a theatrical costumer's, where he had selected it some three days earlier. He was morally sure it had been sent hours earlier by special messenger from the costume shop. In answer to his vexed inquiries the parcels department of the hotel was equally sure that no box or package consigned to Mr. Goldsborough had been received. Finally, after ten o'clock, the missing costume was brought to the gentleman's door with a message of profound regret from the assistant manager, who expressed sorrow that through the stupidity of some member or members of his force a valued guest had been inconvenienced. Hastily slipping into the costume and putting a light overcoat on over it Mr. Goldsborough started in a taxicab up Fifth Avenue. But at Forty-eighth Street a government mail van, issuing suddenly out of the sideway, smashed squarely into the side of the taxicab bearing him, with the result that the taxi lost a wheel and Mr. Goldsborough lost another half hour.

This second delay was due to the fact that his presence upon the spot was required by a plain-clothes man who took over the investigation of the collision from the patrolman on the post. To Mr. Goldsborough, inwardly fuming but outwardly calm and indifferent, it seemed that the plain-clothes person took an unreasonably long time for his inquiries touching on the accident. At length, with apologies for detaining him, the headquarters man-now suddenly become accommodating where before he had been officially exact and painstaking in his inquisition into causes and circumstances-personally hailed another taxicab for Mr. Goldsborough and sent him upon his way.

But, Mr. Goldsborough's chapter of petty troubles was not yet ended; for the driver of the second taxi stupidly drove to the wrong address, landing his fare at a house on West Sixty-third Street, clear across Central Park and nearly halfway across town from Mrs. Hadley-Smith's home. So, what with first one thing and then another, eleven o'clock had come and gone before the indignant passenger finally was set down at his proper destination.

We go back to nine-thirty, which was the hour set and appointed for inaugurating the All Fools' Day party. Nine-thirty being the hour, very few of the prospective celebrants arrived before ten. But by ten, or a little later, most of them were assembled in the big twin drawing-rooms on the first floor of the Hadley-Smith establishment. These two rooms, with the study behind them and the wide reception hall that ran alongside them, took up the most of the first-floor ground space of the town house. As the first arrivals noted, they had been stripped of furniture for dancing. One room was quite empty, save for decorations; the other contained only a table piled with favours. Even the chairs had been removed, leaving clear spaces along the walls.

It was not such a very large party as parties go, for Mrs. Hadley-Smith had a reputation for doing her entertaining on a small but an exceedingly smart scale. All told, there were not more than fifty on hand-and accounted for-by ten o'clock. A good many had come in costume-as zanies, Pantaloons, witches, Pierrots, Columbines, clowns and simples. For those who wore evening dress the hostess had provided a store of dunce caps and dominos of gay colours. Nearly everybody present already knew nearly everybody else. There were only five or six guests from out of town, and of these Mme. Josephine Ybanca, wife of the great South American diplomat, and Miss Evelyn Ballister, sister of the distinguished Western statesman, were by odds the handsomest. Of women there were more than men; there usually are more women than men in evidence at such affairs.

At about ten o'clock, Mrs. Hadley-Smith stood out on the floor under the arch connecting but not exactly separating the joined rooms.

"Listen, please, everybody!" she called, and the motley company, obeying the summons, clustered about her. "The musicians won't be here until midnight. After they have come and after we've had supper there will be dancing. But until midnight we are going to play games-old games, such as I'm told they played in England two hundred years ago on May Day and on All Fools' Day and on Halloween. There'll be no servants about and no one to bother us and we'll have these rooms to ourselves to do just as we please in."

A babble of politely enthusiastic exclamations rose. The good-looking widow could always be depended upon to provide something unusual when she entertained.

"I've asked my cousin, Mildred, to take charge of this part of our party," went on the hostess. "She has been studying up on the subject, I believe." She looked about her. "Oh, Mildred, where are you?"

"Here," answered Miss Smith, emerging from a corner, pretty Madame Ybanca coming with her. "Madame Ybanca has on such marvellous, fascinating old jewelry to-night; I was just admiring it. Are you ready to start?"

"Quite ready, if you are."

Crossing to the one table in sight Miss Smith took the party-coloured cover from a big square cardboard box. Seemingly the box was filled to the top with black silk handkerchiefs; thick, heavy black handkerchiefs they were.

"As a beginning," she announced, "we are going to play a new kind of Blind Man's Buff. That is to say, it may be new to us, though some of our remote ancestors no doubt played it a century or so back. In the game we played as children one person was blindfolded and was spun about three times and then had to lay hands upon one of the others, all of whom were duty bound to stand where they were, without moving or speaking-but you remember, I'm sure, all of you? In this version the rules are different, as you'll see.

"First we'll draw lots to see who's going to be It, as we used to say when we were kiddies. Wait a minute though-it will take too long to choose from among so many. I think I'll save time by finding a victim in this little crowd here." And she indicated ten or twelve who chanced to be clustered at her right.

"You, Mr. Polk, and you, Miss Vane, and you and you and you-and, oh yes, I'll take in Madame Ybanca too; she makes an even dozen. I shan't include myself, because I rather think I had better act as referee and general factotum until you learn the game."

The chosen group faced her while the others pressed up in anticipation. From a pocket in her red-and-white clown's blouse Miss Smith produced a sheaf of folded bits of tissue paper.

"One of these papers bears a number," she went on, as she made a selection of twelve slips from the handful. "All the others are blank. I know which one is marked, but no one else does. Now then, take a slip, each of you. The person who draws the numbered slip is It."

In mock solemnity each of the selected twelve in turn drew from between Miss Smith's fingers a colored scrap.

"Mine's a blank," called out Miss Vane, opening her bit of paper.

"Mine too."

"And mine."

"And mine is."

"Who has it, then?"

"I seem to have drawn the fatal number," said Madame Ybanca, holding up her slip for all to see the markings on it.

"So you have," agreed Miss Smith. "Now then, everybody pick out a black handkerchief from this box-they're all exactly alike. Not you, though, madame. I'll have to prepare you for your r?le myself." So saying, she took one of the handkerchiefs and folded it into a long flat strip.

"Now, madame, please put your arms back of you-so! You see, I'm going to tie your hands behind your back."

"Oh, does everybody have to be tied?" demanded Miss Vane.

"No, but everybody excepting the madame must be blindfolded," stated Miss Smith. "I'll explain in just one minute when I'm done with the madame here." With fast-moving fingers she firmly drew the handkerchief about the young matron's crossed wrists. Madame Ybanca uttered a sharp little "Ouch!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Miss Smith. "Am I binding you too tightly?"

"No, not that; but I think you are making one of my bracelets press into my flesh. It's such a thick cumbersome thing anyway."

"Shall I slip it farther up your arm?" asked Miss Smith.

"No, take it off entirely, won't you, and keep it for me? It fastens with a little clasp."

So Miss Smith undid the bracelet, which was a band of curiously chased heavy gold, studded with big bosses containing blue stones, and dropped it into her handy blouse pocket.

Then swiftly she finished her task of knotting the handkerchief ends and Madame Ybanca, very securely bound, stood forth in the midst of a laughing ring, making a pretty and appealing picture, her face slightly flushed by embarrassment.

"One thing more for your adornment and you'll be ready," promised Miss Smith.

Burrowing beneath the remaining handkerchiefs in the box she produced a collarlike device of soft russet leather, all hung with fat silver sleigh bells which, being loosely sewed to the fabric by means of twisted wire threads, jingled constantly and busily. The slightest movement set the wires to quivering like antennae and the bells to making music. Miss Smith lifted the leather circlet down over Madame Ybanca's head so that it rested upon her shoulders, looping across just below the base of the throat.

"Take a step forward," she bade the madame, and as the latter obeyed, all the bells tinkled together with a constant merry clamour.

"Behold!" said Miss Smith. "The lady of the bells is caparisoned for her part. Now then, let each person blindfold his or her eyes with the handkerchief you have; but take care that you are well blinded.

"Oh, Miss Ballister, let me adjust your handkerchief, won't you? I'm afraid you might disarrange that lovely hair ornament of yours unless you have help. There! How's that! Can you see anything at all? How many fingers do I hold up?"

"Oh, I'm utterly in the dark," said Miss Ballister. "I can't see a thing."

"Are you all hooded?" called Miss Smith.

A chorus of assents went up.

"Good! Then listen a moment: It will be Madame Ybanca's task to catch hold of some one of you with her hands fastened as they are behind her. It is your task to keep out of her way; the bells are to warn you of her approach. Whoever is caught takes her place and becomes It.

"Ready-go!"

Standing a moment as though planning a campaign Madame Ybanca made a quick dash toward where the others were grouped the thickest. But her bells betrayed her. From before her they scattered and broke apart, stumbling, groping with outstretched hands to find the wall, jostling into one another, caroming off again, whooping with laughter. Fast as Madame Ybanca advanced, the rest all managed to evade her. She halted, laughing in admission of the handicap upon her, when before she had been so confident of a capture; then, changing her tactics, she undertook to stalk down some member of the blindfolded flock by stealthy, gentle forward steps. But softly though she might advance, the telltale bells gave ample notice of her whereabouts, and the troop fled. Moreover, even when she succeeded-as she soon did-in herding someone into a corner, the prospective victim, a man, managed to slip past her out of danger, being favoured by the fact that to grasp him with one of her fettered hands she must turn entirely about. So he was able to wriggle out of peril and her clutching fingers closed only on empty air.

"It's not so easy as it seemed," she confessed.

"Keep trying," counselled the referee, keeping pace with her. Miss Smith's eyes were darting everywhere at once, watching the hooded figures keenly, as though to detect any who might seek to cheat by lifting his or her mufflings. "You're sure to catch somebody presently. They can't dodge you every time, you know."

So Madame Ybanca tried again. Ahead of her the fugitives stampeded, milling about in uncertain circles, gliding past her along the walls, fleeing from one room to the other and back again-singly, by pairs and threes. They touched her often, but by reason of her hampered state she never could touch, with her hands, any of them in their flight.

As Mrs. Hadley-Smith, fleeing alone, came through the doorway with both her arms outstretched to fend off possible collisions, a sharp low whisper spoken right alongside of her made her halt. The whisperer was her cousin. Unobserved by the madame and unheard by any one else, Miss Smith spoke a word or two in her cousin's ear. The next instant almost Mrs. Hadley-Smith, apparently becoming confused as to the direction from which the sounds of bells approached, hesitated in indecision and was fairly trapped by the pursuer.

"Who's caught? Who's caught?" cried several together.

"You're not supposed to know-that makes the fun all the better," cried Miss Smith. "You may halt a bit to get your breath, but nobody is to touch his or her blindfold."

"I'm sure you took pity on me and let me tag you," said Madame Ybanca in an undertone to her victim as Miss Smith, deftly freeing the younger woman's hands, proceeded to bind the hostess' wrists at her back.

"Not at all," replied Mrs. Hadley-Smith, also under her breath. "I was stupid or awkward or perhaps both at once-that's all."

A moment later when the collar of bells had been shifted to the new wearer's shoulders, the madame, covering up her own eyes, moved away to join the ranks of the blindfolded.

Before taking up the chase Mrs. Hadley-Smith cast a quick look toward her cousin and the cousin replied with a nod and a significant glance toward a certain quarter of the same room in which they stood. Raising her eyebrows to show she understood the widow moved toward the place that had been indicated. From her path the gaily clad figures retreated, eddying and tacking in uncertain flight away from the jingle of the bells.

Had any third person there had the use of his or her eyes that person would have witnessed now a strange bit of byplay and-given a fair share of perception-would have realised that something more important than a petty triumph in the playing of a game was afoot. Having vision this third person would have seen how Mrs. Hadley-Smith, disregarding easier chances to make a capture, strove with all her power to touch one particular chosen quarry; would have seen how twice, by a quick twist of a graceful young body, the hunted one eluded those two tied hands outthrust to seize her; how at the third time of trying the huntress scored a victory and laid detaining hold upon a fold of the fugitive's costume; and how at this Miss Smith, so eagerly watching the chase, gave a gesture of assent and satisfaction over a thing accomplished, as she hurried toward the pair of them to render her self-appointed service upon the winner and the loser.

But having for the moment no eyes with which to see, no third person there witnessed these little interludes of stratagem and design, though it was by no means hard for them to sense that again a coup had been scored. What they did not know was that the newest victim was Evelyn Ballister.

"Oh, somebody else has been nabbed! Goody! Goody! I'm glad I got away," shouted Miss Vane, who was by nature exuberant and of a high spirit. "I wonder who it is now?" She threw back her head, endeavouring to peep out along her tilted nose. "I hope it's a man this time. It's more exciting-being pursued by a man."

"Don't forget-no one is to look," warned Miss Smith as keeper of the rules. "It would spoil the sport if you knew who'll be pursuing you next."

Already she had stripped the blindfold from about Miss Ballister's head and with a quick jerk at the master knot had freed her cousin from bondage. With flirting motions she twisted the folded kerchief into a rope. Practice in the work seemed to have given to her added deftness and speed, for in no more time than it takes to tell of it she had drawn Miss Ballister's smooth arms round behind their owner's back and was busied at the next step of her offices. Almost it seemed the girl surrendered reluctantly, as though she were loath to go through with the r?le that had fallen to her by penalty of being tagged. But if Miss Smith felt unwillingness in the sudden rebellious tensing of the limbs she touched, the only response on her part was an added quickness in her fingers as she placed one veined wrist upon the other and with double wraps made them snugly fast.

"It hurts-it pinches! You've bound me too tightly," murmured the prisoner, as involuntarily she strained against the pull of the trussings.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," whispered Miss Smith. "I'll ease you in just a second." But despite her promise she made no immediate move to do so. Instead she concerned herself with lifting the collaret of bells off over Mrs. Hadley-Smith's head and bestowing it upon the rounded shoulders of the girl. As she brought the jingling harness down in its place her hands lingered for one fleeting space where a heavy, quaint, old-fashioned gold locket-an heirloom that might have come down from a grandmother's days-was dangling from a gold chain that encircled the girl's neck. Apparently she caught a finger in the chain and before she could free it she had given a sharp tug at the chain, thereby lifting the locket from where it rested against the white flesh of its wearer's throat.

"I-I'm afraid I can't play," Miss Ballister almost gasped out the words; then drawing in her breath with a sharp catch: "This room-it's so warm. I feel a bit faint, really I do. Please untie me. I shan't be able to go on." Her voice, though pitched still in a low key, was sharpened with a nervous entreaty.

"I will of course if you really do feel badly," said Miss Smith. Then an inspiration seemed to come to her. Her eyes sparkled.

"Oh," she said, "I've a beautiful idea! We'll play an April Fools' joke on them. We'll make them all think you still are here and while they're dodging about trying to keep away from you we'll slip away together and be at the other end of the house." By a gesture of one hand and with a finger of the other across her lips to impress the need of secrecy, she brought Mrs. Hadley-Smith into the little conspiracy.

"Don't blindfold yourself, Claire," she whispered. "You must help Miss Ballister and me to play a joke on the others. You are to keep the bells rattling after we are gone. See? This way."

With that she shifted the leathern loop from about Miss Ballister's neck and replaced it over Mrs. Hadley-Smith's head which bent forward to receive it. Smiling in appreciation of the proposed hoax the widow took a step or two.

"Watch!" whispered Miss Smith in Miss Ballister's ear. "See how well the trick works. There-what did I tell you?"

For instantly all the players, deceived by the artifice, were falling back, huddling away from the fancied danger zone as Mrs. Hadley-Smith went toward them. In the same instant Miss Smith silently had opened the nearest door and, beckoning to Miss Ballister to follow her, was tiptoeing softly out into the empty hall. The door closed gently behind them.

Miss Ballister laughed a forced little laugh. She turned, presenting her back to Miss Smith.

"Now untie me, please do." In her eagerness to be free she panted out the words.

"Surely," agreed Miss Smith. "But I think we should get entirely away, out of sight, before the bells stop ringing and the hoax begins to dawn on them. There's a little study right here at the end of the hall. Shall we go there and hide from them? I'll relieve you of that handkerchief then."

"Yes, yes; but quickly, please!" Miss Ballister's note was insistent; you might call it pleading, certainly it was agitated. "Being tied this way gives one such a trapped sort of feeling-it's horrid, really it is. I'll never let any one tie my hands again so long as I live. It's enough to give one hysterics-honestly it is.

"I understand. Come on, then."

With one hand slipped inside the curve of the other's elbow Miss Smith hurried her to the study door masked beneath the broad stairs, and opening it, ushered her into the inner room.

It contained an occupant: a smallish man with mild-looking gray eyes, who at their entrance rose up from where he sat, staring steadily at them. At sight of the unexpected stranger Miss Ballister halted. She uttered a shocked little exclamation and recoiled, pulling away from her escort as though she meant to flee back across the threshold. But her shoulders came against the solid panels.

The door so soon had been shut behind her, cutting off retreat.

"Well?" said the stranger.

Miss Smith stood away from the shrinking figure, leaving it quite alone.

"This is the woman," she said, and suddenly her voice was accusing and hard. "The stolen paper is in that necklace she is wearing round her neck."

For proof of the truth of the charge Mullinix had only to look into their captive's face. Her first little fit of distress coming on her so suddenly while she was being bound had made her pale. Now her pallor was ghastly. Little blemishes under the skin stood out in blotches against its dead white, and out of the mask her eyes glared in a dumb terror. She made no outcry, but her lips, stiff with fright, twisted to form words that would not come. Her shoulders heaved as-futilely-she strove to wrench her arms free. Then quickly her head sank forward and her knees began to bend under her.

"Mind-she's going to faint!" warned Mullinix.

Both of them sprang forward and together they eased the limp shape down upon the rug. She lay there at their feet, a pitiable little bundle. But there was no compassion, no mercifulness in their faces as they looked down at her.

Alongside the slumped form Miss Smith knelt down and felt for the clasp of the slender chain and undid it. She pressed the catch of the locket and opened it, and from the small receptacle revealed within, where a miniature might once have been, she took forth a tightly folded half sheet of yellow parchment paper, which had it been wadded into a ball would have made a sphere about the size of the kernel of a fair-sized filbert.

Mullinix grasped it eagerly, pressed it out flat and took one glance at the familiar signature, written below the close-set array of seemingly meaningless and unrelated letters.

"You win, young lady," he said, and there was thanksgiving and congratulation in the way he said it. "But how did you do it? How was it done?"

She looked up from where she was casting off the binding about the relaxed hands of the unconscious culprit.

"It wasn't hard-after the hints you gave me. I made up my mind yesterday that the paper would probably be hidden in a piece of jewelry-in a bracelet or under the setting of a ring possibly; or in a hair ornament possibly; and I followed that theory. Two tests that I made convinced me that Madame Ybanca was innocent; they quite eliminated Madame Ybanca from the equation. So I centred my efforts on this girl and she betrayed herself soon enough."

"Betrayed herself, how?"

"An individual who has been temporarily deprived of sight will involuntarily keep his or her hands upon any precious object that is concealed about the person-I suppose you know that. And as I watched her after I had blindfolded her--"

"After you had what?"

"Blindfolded her. Oh, I kept my promise," she added, reading the expression on his face. "There was no force used, and no violence. She suffered herself to be blindfolded-indeed, I did the blinding myself. Well, after she had been blindfolded with a thick silk handkerchief I watched her, and I saw that while with one hand she groped her way about, she kept the other hand constantly clutched upon this locket, as though to make sure of the safety of something there. So then I was sure; but I was made doubly sure by her actions while I was tying her hands behind her. And then, after I had her tied and helpless, I could experiment further-and I did-and again my experiment convinced me I was on the right track."

"Yes-but tying her hands-didn't she resist that?"

"No; you see, she let me tie her hands too. It was a part of a game. They all played it."

"Some of the others were blinded, eh?"

"All of them were; every single one of them was. They still are, I imagine, providing my cousin is doing her part-and I am sure she is. There'll be no suspicion of the truth, even after their eyes are unhooded. Claire has her explanations all ready. They'll miss this girl of course and wonder what has become of her, but the explanation provides for that: She was taken with a sudden indisposition and slipped away with me, not wishing to spoil the fun by staying on after she began to feel badly. That's the story they'll be told, and there's no reason why they shouldn't accept it as valid either. See! She's coming to."

"Then I'll get out and leave you to attend to her. Keep her here in this room until she's better, and then you may send her back to her hotel. You might tell her that there is to be no prosecution and no unpleasant notoriety for her if only she keeps her mouth shut about all that's happened. Probably she'll be only too glad to do that, for I figure she has learned a lesson."

"You won't want to question her, then, after she has been revived?"

"It's quite unnecessary. I have the other ends of the case in my hands. And besides I must go outside to meet our dear friend Geltmann when he arrives. He should be driving up to the house pretty soon-I had a telephone message five minutes ago telling me to expect him shortly. So I'm going out to break some sad news to him on the sidewalk. He doesn't know it yet, but he's starting to-night on a long, long trip; a trip that will take him clear out of this country-and he won't ever, ever be coming back.

"But I'll call on you to-morrow, if I may-after I've seen to getting him off for the West. I want to thank you again in behalf of the Service for the wonderful thing you've done so wonderfully well. And I want to hear more from you about that game you played."

"I'll do better than that," she promised: "I'll let you read about it in a book-an old secondhand book, it is; you saw it yesterday. Maybe I can convert you to reading old books; they're often full of things that people in your line should know."

"Lady," he said reverently, "you've made a true believer of me already."

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