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by Horace Hazeltine

HALF hidden in the dusky shadows of the great room's farthest corner, the tall, lean, white-haired old gentleman, stooping, swung feebly flush the heavy metal door of the small fire-proof safe and secured it by a twirl of its nickeled knob. The bent, shrunken figure in the shabby leather armchair before the fireplace, disregarded and unheeded, watched him furtively.

He had come of late, old Peter Hemming, eldest survivor of a long line of honorable but parsimonious Connecticut landowners to ignore his imbecile brother in many matters. For Henry's mental weakness had developed within recent years into a derangement, and his always meager understanding had grown seriously warped. Peter saw no reason, therefore, why this evening's transfer of jeweled family heirlooms, precious plate and hoarded currency, from the ancient brass-bound, padlocked chest to the new repository of combination-guarded steel, should hold for that clouded, twisted mind the smallest measure of interest.

Much more likely, indeed, to arouse those dull wits from their lethargic contemplation of the dimly glowing coals, before which it was Henry's habit to sit hour after hour, were the tidings Peter now conveyed, as, coming forward, he paused at his brother's side.

"It's snowing—snowing hard. I say it's snowing—snowing hard."

The head of the seated old man, bald of crown and parchment-yellow like his vacant, wrinkled face, swayed slowly back and forth in signal that he understood the iterated sentences. "And the moon's at the full," he croaked in return, iterating too. "The moon's at the full."

In the earlier stages of his dementia Henry Hemming had been inclined to craft at these seasons. There was more than one ugly waif word afloat among the neighbors which had to do with his acts of cunning at such times. But in recent years the moons had waxed and waned without exerting any perceptible ill influence upon the crippled intellect. Yet he never failed to note the passing of this lunar phase.

"It's a March blizzard," Peter told him. "It's been raging since three o'clock, and the drifts are already high. If it keeps on, the roads will be impassable before morning."

He repeated each sentence, and his brother's old head swayed again, understandingly. "The moon's at the full," he said, once more. This time he added: "And it's cold; dead cold."

Peter agreed with him. His own fingers were numb. The room was very chill. He pulled an old-fashioned bell-cord, and presently, just as he had seated himself in the leathern chair opposite his brother's, turned up the lamp, adjusted his spectacles and spread out the newspaper that had come in the evening mail—just, too, as the antique hall clock in the passage, in solemn tone, tolled the hour of nine, a hunchbacked servitor, old like his masters, appeared in the doorway.

"The house is a tomb, Abijah," said Peter, a little querulously. " Put more coal in the furnace, and open the drafts. The night is bitter."

Then, for a half-hour and more, the long, somber room was silent, save for the ceaseless whirl of the snow against the windowpanes, the intermittent protest of the wind-lashed sashes, and the occasional rustle of the newspaper as Peter Hemming turned its pages. Henry, meanwhile, his faded eyes dim as the dying coals on which they rested, sat crouching, dumb and motionless, like a carven gnome.

It was the habit of the brothers to rise as the clock struck ten, and mount the winding, low-treaded colonial stairway to their second-floor bedchambers. Night after night the practise was invariable. Until the signal was given, Peter read his paper without comment, and Henry never moved, never spoke. But to-night, to the astonishment of the elder of the two men, the crouching figure across the hearth stirred before the clock-stroke; stirred, indeed, fully twenty minutes in advance of the accustomed hour for stirring; and stirred in a quite unusual and alarming manner.

It was the sharpness of the sound made by his withered hands dropping with sudden clutch upon his chair-arms that drew Peter's eyes from the printed column he had been engrossed in and caused him, precipitately, to drop his paper into his lap. Henry was sitting up, very straight; straighter of back, indeed, than Peter remembered ever to have seen him; yet with his naked, yellowish head perkingly slanted and listeningly alert. His eyes, wontedly expressionless, seemed, strangely enough, to have taken on an undreamed-of luster; and as the startled brother stared, the cup of his amazement was brimmed to overflowing by a sharply penetrating, hissing sort of whisper.


"It's the wind," said Peter soothingly, though his heart fluttered, "it's the wind.' He had heard nothing else.

But Henry irritably shook his head.

"Listen!" he hissed again. And Peter, holding his breath, strained his ears. To him the stillness now seemed abysmal; the wind had passed; the snow no longer smote the panes.

"They're at the door!" Henry cried, suddenly springing from his chair. "Keep 'em out! Keep 'em out!" And he shuffled into the shadows of the room's end.

To Peter it was but another distressing, racking and unlooked for turn of the life-old infirmity. The moon, as he had been reminded, was at the full. He rose, sadly, and started to follow. It must be his mission now to pacify. All his years, it seemed to him, had been given up to ministering to this feeble-minded one.

He moved totteringly, nervously unbraced, only to stumble the next instant to a halt; checked by the sudden clangor of the door-bell, echoing brazenly through the silent house. In panic he laid a shaking hand on the back of Henry's vacated chair, and paused there, white and apprehensive, while Abijah's old feet scraped across the hall—while the chain-bolt rattled and the great lock clicked to the turning key.

The invading rush of icy air seemed to freeze his thin blood. A shiver ran through him, as vainly he strove to gather the sense of the ensuing dialogue which penetrated to him in a vague jumble.

At length, still disturbed, still perplexed, he heard the door slammed against the blast; and then—approaching footsteps. Instinctively he peered once more with apprehension into the gloom of the room's end. Henry, dumbly cowering there beside the safe, was half lost amid the shadows; and Peter, tense though he was with questioning suspense, sighed his scant measure of relief.

At the same instant, Abijah, with some apology of manner, reluctantly admitted two fur-wrapped, snow-encrusted figures—a man and a woman who clung dependently to his arm. The man had removed his cap, revealing sandy hair and a florid, tempest-whipped face. The woman was thickly veiled, and to the veil there still clung splotches of snow or the frost of her frozen breath.

Peter, recovering his self-command with the revelation of their presence, took a step forward, his attitude courtly, yet reserved, inquisitorial.

"I hope you won't think this an imposition." It was the woman who spoke first. Her voice was low, and there was an elusive suggestion of the foreigner in her accent. "But I must have shelter. I am ill, and—" She paused, as if for breath, and the man took up the appeal.

"The motor's stalled, sir." He was evidently her chauffeur. "We've been limping through drifts the past two hours, and——"

"I'm quite willing to pay you anything," the woman broke in. "Your servant seemed disinclined——"

The interruption came, this time, from the old gentleman.

"I do not keep a public house," he said, a little proudly. "I do not entertain strangers. My servant understands that."

"But in all humanity, sir," was her plea, her hand busy now in an effort to raise her veil, "I am an ill woman."

"Humanity," repeated Peter Hemming, in tone less austere, "is another matter. You spoke of payment." He turned to the man. "And you?" he asked.

"I can go on," was the reply. "There's nothing the matter with me; but you see Mrs.—the lady's all in, sir. I'll come back and fetch her in the morning, when the roads is broken. The snow's about stopped already."

"Very well, then." It was at once a signal of consent and of dismissal. He was in haste to conclude the interview, nervous as he had been all the while, lest that cowering imbecile in the corner should humiliate him by sudden word or action.

To Abijah, who had stood waiting, he made a gesture, and the old servitor, understanding, plucked at the sleeve of the chauffeur's fur coat. For the woman, Peter pushed forward a chair.

"Be seated, madam," he said.

But before obeying she turned to her companion.

"My satchel, Frederick," she reminded him.

While Abijah and the chauffeur were out of the room on her errand, and just as, having loosened her veil and turned it partially back over her motoring hood, she exposed a somewhat sallow, but nevertheless strikingly handsome face of the brunette type, there occurred an incident which set poor Peter Hemming's old heart to rapid, uneven, nervous pumping.

For turning uneasily to enquire again as to Henry's whereabouts and conduct, he was startled to discover that he had crept stealthily forward and was standing just behind him. Standing there, a dwarfish, horrid little figure, his wizened face evilly distorted, his eyes still abnormally bright, he was peering with sinister intentness upon the strange visitor.

It was evident, however, that, still busy with her veil, she had not yet observed him, and Peter, in desperate hope of distracting him, ventured upon a shrilly whispered command to return to his chair. But the whisper not only failed of effect on Henry, who still stared, immovable, but served to attract the attention of the woman. Her gaze lifted and met that of her observer; and for just a moment Peter indulged a compensating hope that, alarmed by the spectacle, she might even yet decline the hospitality she had so craved and which he had so grudgingly granted.

To his surprise, however, she evinced no sign of uneasiness. She seemed, indeed, scarcely interested, and the old gentleman, with some reluctance, accorded her a meed of admiration for what seemed to him a superb exhibition of self-control.

He thought of this afterward when Abijah had shown her to the seldom occupied ground-floor guest-chamber across the hall, when the lights were out for the night, and the house quiet, and Henry, having at length been calmed, was snug in bed in the room adjoining his own. He thought of it as he lay wakeful in his great four-poster and reviewed the evening's episode. It came to him as an odd sequel to Henry's singular prescience and subsequent agitation.

He wondered who the woman was, remembering now that she had given no name. Indeed she had volunteered no information whatever, save that she was ill and required shelter. Whence she came or whither she was going had not been so much as hinted. And he had not even thought of inquiring.

The experience distressed and disquieted him. His old brain teemed with a score of conjectures which contended with sleep. Once he fancied that he heard Henry moving in the next room. Later an echo seemed to reach him from the floor below. Finally, in dread, he rose, lighted a candle and went into his brother's chamber. But Henry was sleeping soundly.


THE four men were grouped before the guest-chamber door in the dim gray of the lower hall, Peter and Henry Hemming, Abijah and the chauffeur. The night's snow-storm had been succeeded by a steady, pelting rainfall. The morning was chill and dismal. Through the panes of the hall transom a pale, murky half-light filtered.

"Suppose you knock again," Peter suggested; and the chauffeur with some impatience rapped hard and resoundingly, a fusillade of blows.

There was no response.

"That's the fifth or sixth time," the young man declared. "She can't be there."

"No," Peter agreed. "She can't be there. And yet she would scarcely attempt, I suppose, to face this storm afoot; especially since she was expecting you."

Abijah was silent. He seemed only half awake. The truth was he had been aroused from profound slumber by the chauffeur's noisy ringing of the door-bell. Henry, standing a little back, wagged his parchment-like poll and grinned vacantly.

"Suppose you try the door," Peter ventured.

The chauffeur promptly seized the knob and turned it, but the door held.

"It's locked," he said, but even as he said it he turned sharply with an expression that seemed half alarm, half anger, and added: "And locked on the outside! The key's here in the lock!"

Old Peter Hemming caught his breath. He felt his heart falter and then sink. What was that sound he had heard down here, in the night? Why had he thought he heard Henry moving about his room just a little while before?

"Then unlock it!" he ordered, boldly enough; and felt his brother's leering eyes upon his back.

The door swung inward and Peter, forgetful of his customary reserve and dignity, bent eagerly forward for searching sweep of the revealed interior. The bed, tossed and in disarray, was empty. The room was as tenantless as the bed.

"You see!" cried the chauffeur, turning about, a demand in his tone. "You see!" It was as though he said: "Where is she?"

"It is very odd," Peter returned; and Abijah, looking too and seeing, though he said nothing, appeared immeasurably perplexed. Henry did not look. Indeed he retreated a step and leaned against the newel-post at the stair-foot, chuckling low, but malignly.

"She couldn't have left the house," the chauffeur pursued. "She wouldn't in this storm. I know she wouldn't. Why should she?"

He stood with Ms cap on, Ms hands plunged deeply in the pockets of his fur coat. His manner had lost its last vestige of deference; Ms attitude was dictatorial.

Perturbed, tremulous with apprehension though he was, old Peter Hemming resented the fellow's demeanor; and all at once Ms wrinkled lips hardened to a line over his set teeth, and his old eyes kindled.

"Why should she, indeed?" he snapped. "Why should she without so much as a word of thanks for the shelter my house afforded her? That is the question I myself want answered."

His miser thought had turned suddenly to his possessions. He was recalling how he had admitted a total stranger under his roof. Presumably the stranger was a woman. Certainly all the indications had pointed to this presumption. And yet, had they all so pointed? Most women—indeed who not but the most exceptionally strong-nerved?—would have quailed before that hideously satanic stare of Henry's. But tMs woman had seen it, unmoved. Might it not have been, therefore, that this fur-wrapped, hooded, veiled creature was, after all, a man—a man of lawless vocation, a thief, a safe-breaker?

At the moment the one convincing argument against such a theory—the fact that her chauffeur had returned and was even now demanding information concerning Ms mistress's whereabouts—was submerged in Peter's panic of mistrust concerning his hoarded treasures.

"Come!" he demanded, clutching the fellow's fur sleeve. "Come with me! And perhaps we shall see why she, or he, or whatever it was you brought here, sneaked away before the house was astir!"

The young man made no demur. He allowed himself to be led across the hall and into the long darksome sitting-room with its heavy ancient furniture, its thick, faded hangings. The coal fire had long ago died out. The grate held only gray clinkers and white ashes.

Henry followed, more slowly, at a distance; but Abijah, with the instinct of the worker, went into the guest-chamber. Later, after he had prepared the old men's breakfast, he would have to put this room to rights.

In the middle of the sitting-room floor old Peter Hemming's hold on the chauffeur's sleeve suddenly relaxed. His eager stride ceased. Gasping, he stood still, his lips and hollow cheeks white as his snowy hair.

The door of the new fireproof safe was wide open, the polished steel of its lining reflecting the pale light which fell upon it from the near window. The floor about it was strewn with tarnished silver forks and spoons and other pieces of plate; and amid this litter were scattered leather, silk-lined jewel-cases, open for the most part, and empty.

"You see! You see!" he cried, at length, tremulously, his poise but half recovered. "It is as I feared. The person you brought here was a thief!" And he laid agitated hands on the young man beside him.

But the young man shook him off with scarcely an effort.

"Let go of me!" he commanded, smiling cynically. "You're crazy! That's what you are. Why, she'd no more think of doing that sort of thing than the Pope himself would! She's got more money and jewels than she knows what to do with. You've been robbed, my friend, but Mrs.—that's to say, the lady I fetched here, didn't do it. Your house has been broken into. Burglars! That's it. They frightened her, and she's still hiding somewhere. In the garret, maybe, or in the cellar."

Peter listened, dazed, confused. Out of the welter of his thoughts at length emerged a question that spurred him to instant action: Had the thief found the secret drawer—the drawer containing the hoarded currency, the thousand-dollar treasury notes, forty-three of them?

Another moment and he was on his knees before the open safe, his nervous forefinger pressing a spring. At the pressure a steel slide receded and an oblong steel panel came into view. In its center was a countersunk steel ring. Palpitantly, every nerve tense, he slipped his finger within it—drew out the drawer. The bills were there.

As he deftly restored the aperture to its original masquerade he breathed quickly. The jewels could probably be recovered. Little, if any, of the silver, so far as he could see, had been taken. He wondered why. And wondering, he rose.

The chauffeur was still standing in the room's center, his head bent thoughtfully forward, and behind him, creeping stealthily upon him, his face hideous with murderous craft, in his upraised hand an iron gratebar, was Henry!

Peter Hemming, weighted by three score and ten years and further hampered by a whirling succession of emotions to which he was unaccustomed, found now in his emergency that he was utterly voiceless; found, too, that he had lost the last ounce of power from his flaccid muscles, and so stood gazing, in a torturing agony of waiting, unable to warn, unable to move.

In the eternity of the ensuing second he could only pray with all the fervor of his spirit that to the man in danger might come even yet a saving impulse. And even as the madman was upon him this prayer was answered.

The chauffeur discovering a gold trinket on the floor almost at his feet, all at once stooped down to recover it, and the blow, aimed with crushing intent at his head, fell with deflected and diminished force on his bent back.

In the struggle which ensued, Henry Hemming, although evincing a strength and agility quite marvelous considering his years, was easily overpowered, his adversary throwing him, finally, unarmed, weak and panting, into the depths of his own worn leather chair before the hearth.

There Peter, now restored, distressed lest his brother should have been harmed, came to him and bending solicitously over him murmured soothingly, as might a mother to a hurt child.

"Poor boy! Poor boy!" he crooned comfortingly. "You are not hurt, lad, are you? Tell me! Do you hear? You are not hurt? Tell me you are not hurt!"

He took one of the imbecile's thin, knob-knuckled hands in his own and began to stroke it, while the chauffeur smiled sneeringly and muttered, as he balanced the heavy grate-bar of which he had disarmed him.

"Why—why," exclaimed the ministering brother in pained surprise, "what's this? He is hurt. His hand is hurt, here, on the inside. There's blood on it! Poor boy!"

But at that moment there was an almost simultaneous discovery on the part of the chauffeur, whose eyes were bent, scrutinizingly on the grate-bar that he held.

"Good God!" he cried. "What's this? There's blood here—clotted blood; and there's hair, too!"

The tall old man rose in dumb alarm. And then there entered, trembling, from the hall, the hunchbacked Abijah. His mouth was open; he was staring with wide, frightened eyes and holding in his arms, as he might have held a baby, a white-cased pillow.

Peter saw him first, but the younger man, quick now to suspect the slightest sound, turned, too, almost instantly.

"Mr. Peter! Mr. Peter!" the old servitor was stammering. "Look at this, Mr. Peter!"

On the pillow case was a great uneven dark red stain.

"Murdered!" The voice of the chauffeur echoed through the great room. "Murdered! And by that fiend!" With shaking hand he pointed to the demented Henry, crouching silent, unheeding in the chair by the hearth. "It's her blood on the pillow! It's her blood and her hair on this!"

Old Peter Hemming swayed backward, caught himself, and stumbled gropingly for his chair, opposite Henry's, into which he relaxed with a wailing cry. He covered his wrinkled face with his wrinkled hands and broke into violent sobbing, his tears trickling between his long, bony fingers.

In his struggle with the lunatic the chauffeur's cap had been dislodged, and his dark sandy hair, set awry now by his own excitedly tormenting hands, stood bristling.

"I'll show you!" he raged. "I'll show the lot of you! Don't you think I can't see that pretended safe-robbery was a blind! You had it all fixed. That's why I was brought in here. I was to be interested, so that crazy man could come upon me from behind and brain me. But I was too smart for him." His hand went to the pocket of his great fur coat. "And here's something else! A locket I found on the floor—her locket. Some one of you dropped it, here, in this room. Murdered and robbed! I know. I know what a fortune in jewels she had on her when she came here. Where are they? This was the least valuable of the lot."

He looked about for his cap, and found it. When he had put it on, he turned to Abijah, who was still standing where he had stopped, the pillow dropped to the floor beside him.

"I'm not sure about you," he said sternly. "I don't believe, though, that you are in it. If you were, you wouldn't have brought in that evidence," and with a motion of his foot he indicated the pillow. "I'm going to trust you, anyhow. I'm going to leave these two women-killers in your charge. And if you want things to go well with you, just be sure not to let 'em get away! I'm off to Stamford now for the police! Maybe you can find out while I'm gone where they've hidden my employer's body."

Noisily he stamped towards the door. But at the threshold the voice of old Peter Hemming, who all the while, up until now, had not stirred, arrested him.

"Stop!" he cried, as hastily he rose from his chair. "Stop! I must speak with you!" The old gentleman's eyes were red from weeping, and his voice shook with the stress of his emotion.

The sturdy figure of the excited chauffeur halted and turned quickly.

"Well!" he demanded. "What have you to say now?"

"Nothing, here," Peter answered. His tone was abject. "I wish to speak to you alone. I want you to come into the dining-room for a moment."

Sullenly the young man gestured a reluctant consent.

"Maybe it's a trap," he muttered, "but I'm not scared of fossils. I'll risk it." In the scantily-furnished wainscoted room to which Peter led him he took a place with his back to the wall, declining a proffered chair. The master of the house stood, too, one hand resting on the oak table, black with age.

"Before you go," Peter began, after nervously clearing his throat, "I have one request to make of you; and after that, perhaps, one plea. I can not but admit that appearances—the circumstances, indeed—are terribly in favor of your contention. But you must concede that until the body is found, or some more conclusive evidence of this woman's death is adduced, we should still have the benefit of the doubt. My request is, therefore, that you accompany me, now, in a thorough search of the house."

Again the chauffeur sullenly acquiesced.

"I meant to have a look in that room she slept in, anyhow," he said.

But when they came to inspect that, they found little to aid in a determination. The blood-stained pillow seemed to have been the only damning exhibit. Her clothes were gone; every scintilla of her belongings was gone, from the traveling-bag she was so particular to have had fetched, even to her hairpins. And her chauffeur seemed disappointed.

"That foxy servant of yours has done this," he growled. "He's cleaned out the place."

His guide made no denial. He led him to a store-room, or large closet, which adjoined. But the inspection here was no more fruitful. The kitchen, likewise, produced, at first, no clew—not, indeed, until the young man, on his own initiative, approached the cellar door with the intention of descending. Then, chancing to look down, he made a discovery. On the bare boards was a sanguinary splotch as large as a quarter of a dollar.

"See!" he cried, with all the feverish turbulence of a hound that has found ascent. "See! It is down here she was carried!" And impetuously he rushed down the cellar stairs.

When Peter, following, perforce more slowly, reached the stair-foot, conviction was there to meet him. The chauffeur was holding a lighted match over a long, fresh-turned pile of earth in one of the stone-arched alcoves. Besides it, earth-stained, lay the coal-shovel as added testimony to the recentness of the work.

Just what quickly followed in the way of added evidence—how from one corner and another this brawny, red-haired Nemesis brought forth damning, irrefutable, dumb testimony, old Peter Hemming never specifically remembered. But from a horrid complexity of impressions a blackened bone dragged from amid the cinders of the stone-cold furnace, and a strand of hair, gore-matted, plucked from an ash-bin, loomed grimly foremost in his brief after-memory.

During the unspeakable moments of this condemnatory unfolding, while staring in dazed horror, his wits had yet been busily conjuring means to save the poor demented perpetrator whom he loved and for whose fate he trembled. For his brother's life, of course, he had no fear. His insanity would protect that. But he dreaded for him that incarceration, worse even, it seemed to him, than death, which exposure of the crime would unquestionably involve. And he dreaded, too, though in secondary place, the smirch on the family name.

Yet how were these consequences to be evaded? Two courses alone presented themselves. And one seemed as difficult of accomplishment as the other. This solitary witness must be quieted, either by bribery or by death. As for Abijah, he felt no concern. In his keeping, any secret of the Hemmings was inviolate.

By the time the chauffeur had exhausted his production of evidence Peter had made up his mind. He would offer to buy the fellow's silence. If he failed in this, then with the dread alternative he must succeed.

When they reascended the stairs Abijah was in the kitchen, perfunctorily preparing breakfast. The tragedy had scarcely scratched the surface of his aged stolidity. And in the sitting-room to which Peter, haggard, wan, pallid as a cadaver, now led the way with dragging steps, Henry, monster in miniature, slept crumpled in his chair. The elder brother, in passing, bent his eyes upon him for a full second, not in horror nor repulsion, not even in reprobation, but with an expression of all-excusing, all-forgiving love and ineffable pity.

In the far corner, opposite the depleted fireproof safe, was an antique mahogany secretary, and on the straight-backed chair before it Peter sank as one woefully weary. And as the chauffeur, now rid of his heavy fur coat, which he had removed the better to prosecute his work in the cellar, took the seat he indicated opposite him, the old gentleman listlessly, as if from sheer nervousness, drew partially open a drawer at his right hand.

At the same moment his eyes roved to the open safe and, catching sight for the first time of the bolts protruding from the edge of the heavy steel door, he realized that last night in the dusk he could not have fully closed it before throwing off the combination. And then there came to him a mental picture of his mad brother, his brain iniquitously distorted by that strange influence of the moon at its noon, prowling here in the night betwixt theft and murder, murder and theft. He even wondered, in that second, where Henry could have hidden the jewels; wondered if he could have buried them with parts of the woman's corpse, and decided that in such an event, since nothing in the world would ever induce him to disturb that mound in the alcove, that they were gone beyond recovery.

The moment of silence between the two seated men was as though Peter, who had craved the interview', had either not quite gathered what he wished to say or was at a loss for breath with which to say it. When, however, eventually he spoke, it was without preliminaries. Headlong he plunged into his proposal.

"I must buy you off," he said bluntly. "The authorities must not be informed. You are not a rich man. I will make you rich; and I will trust you."

The fellow's face, as red now, almost, from excitement as it had been the night before from cold, took on a cynical smile.

" Don't you wish you could? " he sneered.

"I can and I will," the old gentleman persisted. "I'll give you anything in reason to save my poor brother from the madhouse."

"And yourself from the chair," the other added with the same smile.

"I have no fear for myself."

"Well, I've a lot of fear for myself," said the chauffeur frankly enough. "I'm responsible for that lady your brother put an end to. How far do you suppose I'd get before they'd be after me to explain what became of her?"

"You can—you must, get away," Peter Hemming urged vehemently. "It's worth it, man. It means a fortune for you. A life without any more work. Think of that!"

"Oh, I'm thinking all right," was the response, "but I don't see it. I'm not taking any chances for a few measly thousand dollars. Besides, what's the use? She and I'd be traced here, and——"

"My denial that you were ever in the house would be enough. My denial that you ever asked shelter here—that we ever heard of your mistress or you. I am honored and respected in this State. No one would doubt my word."

The chauffeur silently shook his head in dissent.

"Come!" pleaded Peter, "let me give you——" and as his hand went tremblingly into the open drawer of the secretary he watched with tense scrutiny the other man's florid face; watched with a prayer that he might, after all yield; with a dread lest he should voice a final refusal.

It was a long, an interminable moment. Then, from the chauffeur came the question: "What do you call a fortune?" And Peter Hemming's sigh was audible. His hand came from the drawer empty.

"Twenty thousand dollars," he said, quickly.

Again the red head turned from side to side. "Twenty-five thousand."

"Too little." But the refusal lacked emphasis.

"Thirty thousand."

In the chauffeur's eyes the light of cupidity began to burn.

"Thirty thousand. In cash!" the old gentleman emphasized. He was straining forward. His breath was coming quick. "Make it forty; and——-"

"You'll say yes? " He gasped it. It was a tense whisper, scarcely audible.

"I'll say yes."

"Forty thousand."

The drawer of the secretary closed with a snap. Of the loaded revolver it contained Peter Hemming now had no need.


A BRIEF pause ensued of eminent relief for both. Then the old man, rising, turned totteringly toward the safe. But before he reached it, the sharp jingle of approaching sleigh-bells checked him in apprehension, and he stood alertly listening, with lips parted. The younger man, hearing the sound, rose too; and when, after having waxed louder, it suddenly ceased and was succeeded by the doorbell's echoing clangor, he reached impulsively for his coat and his face went a shade less florid.

"Come now," he urged hoarsely. "I can't wait all day. It won't do for me to be seen here, you know."

"It's probably only a tradesman," said Peter reassuringly. "I suppose the back door is closed by the snow-drifts."

As he stooped to the safe he heard Abijah shuffling through the uncarpeted hall. His finger was on the secret spring when the creak of the opening house door held him for another second inert; held him, indeed, until loud and insistent voices reaching his ears startled him upright again in swift alarm.

Briskly, with short hurrying steps he traversed the room, to meet insolent invasion on the threshold. For the two burly intruders in rain-soaked garments, ignoring his questioning presence, bent their searching gaze over his shoulders to where poor Henry slumbered in his chair; to where, with back turned, the chauffeur crouched in the shadow of the ancient mahogany secretary.

Having recognized in one of the two the town constable, seamed of visage and tawny mustached, Peter was swept by an unreasoning accession of fear. That in some way which he did not stop to question tidings of his brother's crime had got abroad, he could now entertain no doubt. His effort to save him by financial sacrifice had proved futile at the very moment of fancied success. But there was still an alternative. Henry must be spared at all hazards.

"Gentlemen!" he cried, in desperation, "gentlemen! I am at your service. I confess, fully and freely. I—I alone—am responsible!"

The constable turned to him; but the other, taller and less corpulent, paying no heed, strode by him.

"Responsible!" echoed the constable. "Responsible for what, Mr. Hemming?"

A nervous, venerable hand fell agitatedly upon his wet coat-sleeve.

"For the death of the woman," the old voice faltered. " My brother knew nothing of it. I assure you he didn't."

Perplexity and pity were mixed in the officer's expression. He was slow-minded, and he had had a stirring morning.

"Yonder's the fellow, we're——" he began; but the sentence trailed as he sprang forward to the assistance of his partner, who was grappling with the chauffeur for possession of a promptly drawn revolver.

At these odds the scuffle was brief, and Peter, confused and scarcely believing, saw the handcuffs slipped on the fellow's wrists.

"I guess he won't make no more trouble for a while," the constable volunteered as he readjusted his overcoat. "It'll be ten years or more for him and his woman pal."

Peter Hemming shivered. It was evident to him now that the woman's murder was still his secret. The constable had not understood. He wondered why they were arresting the man. He supposed they must both have been fleeing from justice when they were overtaken by the snow-storm.

"We got the jewelry, Mr. Hemming," the constable continued, "and if you'll come up to the court house, any time to-day, we'll——"

The old gentleman stared at him dumbly.

It was the other officer who interrupted.

"We want you to make an affidavit, too," he added. "I suppose it was the old game they worked two years ago in Indiana. And then you can identify the woman, as well."

"The woman!" gasped Peter.

"Sure, the woman," returned the constable. "Come here, and I'll show you something!"

He led him to a front window which overlooked the snow-piled driveway before the house. A two-seated sleigh waited in the rain before the door. On the front seat was the driver, and beside him a female figure wrapped in furs. As Peter gazed the latter turned her head impatiently towards the house, and the old white-haired man cried out in excess of emotion.

"He'll identify her, all right," said the constable to the other, as he supported his shaking charge to a chair. And then, leaning over he explained:

"Clever crooks, these two, Mr. Hemming. The man's one of the smartest safe-crackers in the country, and the woman's a crackerjack on fixin' up a plant. Out in Indiana, they say, she did it with such things as false hair, beef-blood and veal-bones."

Peter's eyes traveled to where his demented brother with chin on chest was still wrapped in peaceful slumber. And as he nodded to the constable in token of understanding, his wrinkled face lighted with a smile of thanksgiving.