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The Complete Collection of Carolyn Wells
In the Onyx Lobby
Marjorie at Seacote
Marjorie's Busy Days
Marjorie's New Friend
Patty and Azalea
Patty at Home
Patty in Paris
Patty's Butterfly Days
Patty's Social Season
Patty's Summer Days
The Come Back
The Diamond Pin
The Gold Bag
The jingle Book
The Reecho Club
The Room with the Tassels
Two Little Women
Two Little Women on a Holiday
In the Onyx Lobby, by Carolyn Wells
IN THE ONYX LOBBY
BY CAROLYN WELLS
Author of "The Man Who Fell Through the Earth," "The Room With the Tassels," "Faulkner's Folly," etc.
NEW YORK GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I SUCH A FEUD!
II A TRICKY GAME
III THE SCRAWLED MESSAGE
IV THE BUSY POLICE
V WHO WERE THE WOMEN?
VI THE LITTLE DINNER
VII ENLIGHTENING INTERVIEWS
VIII JULIA BAXTER
IX THE LIBRARY SET
X SEEK THE WOMEN
XI THE OLD FEUD
XII ONE WOMAN AND ANOTHER
XIV PENNY WISE
XV AND ZIZI
XVII A WOMAN SCORNED
XVIII FITTED TO A T
IN THE ONYX LOBBY
Such a Feud!
"Well, by the Great Catamaran! I think it's the most footle business I ever heard of! A regulation, clinker-built, angle-iron, sunk-hinge family feud, carried on by two women! Women! conducting a feud! They might as well conduct a bakery!"
"I daresay they could do even that! Women have been known to bake--with a fair degree of success!"
"Of course, of course,--but baking and conducting a bakery are not identical propositions. Women are all right, in their place,--which, by the way, is not necessarily in the home,--but a family feud, of all things, calls for masculine management and skill."
Sir Herbert Binney stood by the massive mantelpiece in the ornate living-room of the Prall apartment. The Campanile Apartment House came into being with the century, and though its type was now superseded by the plain, flat stucco of the newer buildings, yet it haughtily flaunted its elaborate facade and its deeply embrasured windows with the pride of an elder day. Its onyx lobby, lined with massive pillars, had once been the talk of the neighborhood, and the black and white tessellated floor of the wide entrance hall was as black and as white as ever.
The location, between the Circle and the Square,--which is to say, between Columbus Circle and Times Square, in the City of New York,--had ceased to be regarded as the pick of the householders, though still called the heart of the city. People who lived there were continually explaining the reason for their stay, or moving across town.
But lots of worthwhile people yet tarried, and among them were none more so than certain dwellers in The Campanile.
Miss Letitia Prall, lessee of the mantelpiece already referred to, was a spinster, who, on dress parade, possessed dignity and poise quite commensurate with the quality of her home.
But in the shelter of her own fireside, she allowed herself latitude of speech and even loss of temper when she felt the occasion justified it. And any reference to or participation in the famous feud was such justification.
Her opponent in the deadly strife was one Mrs Everett, also an occupant of The Campanile, and equally earnest in prolonging the life and energy of the quarrel.
Sir Herbert Binney, an Englishman, knighted since the war, had come to America in the interests of its own business, no less an enterprise than the establishment of an American branch of the great and well-known "Binney's Buns."
Celebrated in England, he hoped and expected to make the admirable buns equally popular over here, and trusted to his engaging personality as well as his mercantile acumen to accomplish this purpose.
Not exactly related to Miss Prall, Sir Herbert was connected by the marriage of a relative. That is, his stepbrother's son, one Richard Bates, was also the son of Miss Prall's sister. This young gentleman, who, by the way, lived with his Aunt Letitia, was another reason for Sir Herbert's presence in New York. He had thought that if this nephew showed the right sort of efficiency he could be set to manage the American branch, or, at least, have a hand in the management.
And so, Binney of "Binney's Buns" had established himself in one of the smaller suites of The Campanile, had had his living-room repapered to his taste, had made arrangements for his proper service, and was comfortably domiciled.
The fly in his ointment was that young Bates didn't take at all kindly to the Bun proposition. For the chap was of an inventive turn, and had already secured patents for some minor accessories and improvements connected with aeroplanes. Without parents or fortune of his own, Richard Bates was dependent, so far, on the generosity of his Aunt Prall, which, though judicious, was sufficient for his bodily welfare. But Bates was ambitious, and desired large sums with which to carry on his inventions, certain that they, in turn, would repay a thousandfold.
As the only legal heir of both aunt and uncle, and with utmost faith in his own powers of success, Richard requested, almost, indeed, demanded advance on his inheritance, sufficient at least to put over his present great piece of work, which was expected to prove of decided value in aeronautic plans.
But such advances were positively refused; by Miss Prall, because Richard declined to accede to an accompanying condition, and by Uncle Binney, because he wanted his nephew for his Buns.
The recipe for the famous buns was of an age and tradition that made it a historical document in England, and, as yet unattained in this country, it was sought for by bakers and bunners of repute. But it was not for sale. Sir Herbert Binney would establish Binney's Buns in America, and all good Americans could eat thereof, but sell the recipe to some rival bakeshop he would not. This state of things had made necessary much parley and many important meetings of Baking Powers. Among these were the great Crippen's Cake Company, the Vail Bread Concern, the Popular Popovers and others of sufficient importance to get a hearing.
Genial and good-natured, Sir Herbert met them all, discussed their offers and reserved decision. He did not say, even to himself, that he was waiting on the will of one young man,--but, practically, that was the truth. If Bates would give up his fool inventing, and take hold of the Buns in earnest, Sir Herbert would put him through with bells on, would make him heir of the Buns and all the great English properties that the Buns possessed, and would do all in his power to make the life of young Bates a bed of choicest roses.
But Richard Bates had all the obstinacy and stubbornness of the born inventor. He knew he couldn't devote to Bun business a brain teeming with new notions for the furtherance of scientific attainment. And he was too honest and honorable to accept the Bun proposition and then turn to aeronautics on the side. Nor was a side issue of sufficient importance to satisfy his hunger for his own chosen work. He knew he could put up the goods that he had in mind, if he could only get the presently needed money for his experiments and models. If he could but make either uncle or aunt agree to his views, he could, later, select his own roses for his bed of life.
But Sir Herbert was as obstinate as his nephew and Miss Letitia Prall more so than either of them.
Her unflinching and persistent adherence to her decisions was clearly shown in the matter of the long continued feud. Not every woman could meet an opponent frequently and casually for twenty years or so, and pursue an even tenor of enmity.
In the same social circles, Miss Prall and Mrs Everett attended the same teas, luncheons and bridge parties, yet never deviated one jot or one tittle from their original inimical attitude.
Never, or at least, very rarely, were there sharp words in the presence of others, but there were scathing silences, slighting inattentions and even venomous looks that could not pass unseen.
In fact, they carried on their feud after what would doubtless be conceded by connoisseurs the most approved methods.
And, indeed, after twenty years' experience it would be strange if the two ladies had not attained proficiency in the pursuit of quarreling as a fine art. Not always had they lived under the same roof. The Feud had begun when they were denizens of a small country town, and, fostered in that nourishing atmosphere, had attained its proportions gradually but steadily.
When circumstances took them to the city to live, and, as if afraid the unsociability of town life might interfere with their hobby, the Feudists acquired homes in two of the most desirable apartments of The Campanile.
Miss Prall, tall, spare and with the unmistakable earmarks of spinsterhood, directed her menage with the efficiency and capability of a general. She was nicknamed among her friends, the Grenadier, and her strong character and aggressive manner made the description an apt one.
Her one weakness was her adored nephew. As an orphaned infant, left to Miss Letitia a bequest from the dying mother, he had been immediately adopted into the child-hungry heart of the old maid and had held and strengthened his position throughout the years until, at twenty-five, he was the apple of one of her eyes, even as her precious feud was the apple of the other.
But hers was no doting, misguided affection. Miss Prall had brought up her nephew, as she did everything else, with wisdom and sound judgment.
To her training the young Richard owed many of his most admirable traits and much of his force of character. No man could have more successfully instilled into a boy's heart the fundamental requisites for true manliness, and only on rare occasions had his aunt's doting heart triumphed over her wise head in the matter of reproof or punishment.
And now, this upstart uncle, as Miss Prall considered him, had come over here from England, with all sorts of plans to take her boy from his chosen and desirable life work and set him to making buns!
Buns,--Binney's Buns! for her gifted inventive genius!
This impending disaster together with a new and regrettable development affecting the Feud had thrown Miss Prall into a state of nervous agitation quite foreign to her usual condition of calm superiority.
"Masculine management and skill!" she repeated, with a fine scorn; "because not every woman is fitted by nature and circumstances to conduct affairs of importance it does not follow that there are not some feminine spirits with all the force and power of the other sex!"
"By gad, madam, that is true," and Sir Herbert watched the Grenadier as she sat upright in her arm-chair, her fine head erect and her straight shoulders well back. "I apologize for my seeming slight to your quarrelsome abilities, and I concede your will and strength to fight your own battles. In fact, my sympathies are for your antagonist."
"Huh!" and Miss Prall looked at him sharply; for he had been known to express satirical sentiments under guise of suavity. "Don't waste your solicitude on her! She, too, is able to look out for herself."
"It would seem so, since she has taken part for twenty years in what is still a drawn battle."
"Let up, Oldsters," laughed young Bates, coming breezily into the room. "You know the main facts of the historic Feud, Uncle Herbert, and, take it from me, sir, no amount of argument or advice on your part will help, or in any way affect it. Aunt Letty will eat up your talk, and then floor you with----"
"Floor me! I think not! Binney, of Binney's Buns, is not of the floorable variety."
"You say that because you haven't yet really met Auntie Let in the arena. Binney's Buns would cut no better figure than,--let us say, Crippen's Cakes."
"Crippen's Cakes! Do you know Crippen?"
"Does she!" and Richard Bates grinned; "why, the Cake Crippen is one of Aunt Letitia's old beaux,--might have been my uncle, if----"
"Hush, Richard!" said the aunt.
"If he hadn't also shined up to Mrs Everett, the rival faction." Richard went on, with open relish of his aunt's discomfiture.
"Hush, Richard!" she said, again, and this time some veiled hint apparently was efficacious, for he changed the subject.
"I say, Uncle Herb, what about the Follies to-night? I've got a couple of seats,--and I know your tastes----"
"No; couldn't corral those,--but good ones, in the fourth."
"Nay, nay, Pauline. I don't see well enough to sit so far back. Use those yourself, Richard,--take your aunt, here! But I'll find a seat in the front row,--in some front row, if I have to buy their bloomin' theater to get it!"
"Good for you, Sir Herbert!" exclaimed Miss Prall, who admired determination wherever she met it. "I'll go with you. I like the front row, too."
"Sorry, madam, but I'm not taking guests." He winked at Richard.
"Naturally not," Miss Letitia sniffed. "I know why you want to go alone,--I know why you want the front row! You're going to attract a chorus girl, and invite her to supper with you."
"Marvelous, Holmes, marvelous!" Sir Herbert exclaimed, with mock amazement. "I am surprised at your clairvoyance, ma'am, but deeply pained that you should know of and be so familiar with such goings on. Do you learn of that sort of thing from your nephew? Really, Richard, I'm amazed at you!"
"Nonsense, Uncle Bin, I passed through that stage long ago. I used to girl around in my callow days, but I got fed up with it, and now life holds more worthwhile temptations. It's an old story to auntie, too. Why she used to chaperon my giddiest parties,--bless her!"
Sir Herbert's sharp eyes looked from one of his companions to the other.
"You're a pair," he opined, "both tarred with the same brush."
"And the brush?" asked Miss Prall, belligerently.
"Modern sophistication and the present-day fad of belittling everything that is interesting or pleasurable."
"That mental phase is the inevitable result of worldly experience," said the lady, with a cynical smile. "How is it that you preserve such youthful interest?"
"Well--" and the Englishman looked a little quizzical, "you see, the girls are still young."
"Very young," assented Bates, gravely. "There's a new bunch of Squabs at the Gaynight Revue that'll do you up! Better buy that place out, Unkie!"
"Perhaps; but now, young Richard, let's discuss some more imminent, if not more important, questions. Say, Buns, for instance."
"Nothing doing. I've said my last word on the Bun subject, and if you persist in recurring to it, you'll only get that last word over again,--repeated, reiterated, recapitulated and,--if necessary,--reenforced!"
"With some good, strong epithets, I suppose," remarked his uncle, calmly. "I don't blame you, Rick, for being bored by my persistency, but you see I haven't yet given up all hope of making you see reason. Why I do----"
"Well, when you do--what?"
"Time enough to answer that question when it's time to ask it. Instead, let me recount the advantages I can offer you----"
"Oh, Lord!--pardon my interrupting,--but that recounting is an old story, you know. Those advantages are as familiar to my wearied mind as my own name,--or at least as yours,--and your precious Buns----"
"Stop, sir! Don't you speak slightingly of Binney's Buns! They were eaten before you were born and will be eaten after you are dead and forgotten."
"Not forgotten if I put my invention over!"
"You'll never do it. Your success is problematical. The Buns are an assured fact. They were eaten before the war,--they will be eaten again now that the war is over. They are eaten in England,--they will be eaten in America. If not with the help of your interest and energy, then with that of some one else. Think well, my boy, before you throw away fame and fortune----"
"To acquire fame and fortune!"
"To strive for it and fail--for that is what you will do! You're riding for a fall, and you're going to get it!"
"Not if I can prevent it," Miss Prall interposed, in her low yet incisive tones. "I'm ready to back Ricky's prospects to the uttermost, if only--"
"If only what? What is this condition you impose on the lad? And why keep it so secret? Tell me, nephew, I'll let you in on the Buns in spite of any blot on your scutcheon. What is it that troubles your aunt?"
"What always troubles her? What has spoiled and embittered her whole life? Hardened her heart? Corroded her soul? What, but her old ridiculous, absurd, contemptible, damnable Feud!"
"There, there, my boy, remember your aunt is a lady, and such expressions are not permissible before her----"
"Pish! Tush!" snorted Miss Prall, who would not have herself objected to that descriptive verb, since it gives the very impression she wanted to convey, "If I did not permit such expressions Richard would not use them, rest assured of that."
Bates smiled and lighted a fresh cigarette. These tilts between his elders greatly amused him, they seemed so futile and inane, yet of such desperate interest to the participants.
"Then that's all right," Sir Herbert conceded. "Now, Richard, for the last time, I offer you the chance to fall in with my wishes, to consent to my fondest desire, and attach yourself to my great, my really stupendous enterprise. I want, with my whole soul, to keep Binney's Buns in the family,--I want a worthy partner and successor, and one of my own blood kin,--but, I can't force you into this agreement,--I can only urge you, with all the powers of my persuasion, to see it rightly, and to realize that your refusal will harm you more than any one else."
"I'll take a chance on that, Uncle Bin." Bates gave him a cheery smile that irritated by its very carelessness.
"You'll lose, sir! You'll see the day that you'll wish you had taken up with my offers. You'll regret, when it's too late----"
"Why, what's your alternative plan?"
"Aha! Interested, are you? Well, young sir, my alternative plan is to find somebody with more common sense and good judgment than your rattle-pated, pig-headed self! That's my alternative plan."
"Got anybody in view?"
"And if I have?"
"Go to it! Take my blessing, and stand not on the order of your going to it,--but skittle! You can't go too fast to suit me!"
"You're an impudent and disrespectful young rascal! Your bringing-up is sadly at fault if it allows you to speak thus to your elders!"
"Oh, come off, Uncle Binney! You may be older than I in actual years, but you've got to hand it to me on the score of temperamental senescence! Why, you're a very kid in your enthusiasm for the halls of dazzling light and all that in them is! So, and, by the way, old top, I mean no real disrespect, but I consider it a compliment to your youth and beauty to recognize it in a feeling of camaraderie and good-fellowship. Are we on?"
"Yes, that's all right, son, but can't your good-fellowship extend itself to the Buns?"
"Nixy. Nevaire! Cut out all Bun talk, and I'm your friend and pardner. Bun, and you Bun alone!"
A long, steady gaze between the eyes of the young man and the old seemed to convince each of the immutability of this decision, and, with a deep sigh, the Bun promoter changed the subject.
"This Gayheart Review, now, Richard,----" he began.
"Don't consider the question settled, Sir Herbert," said Miss Letitia Prall, with a note of anxiety in her voice, quite unusual to it. "Give me a chance to talk to Ricky alone, and I feel almost certain I can influence his views."
"A little late in the day, ma'am," Binney returned, shortly. "I have an alternative plan, but if I wait much longer to make use of it, the opportunity may be lost. Unless Richard changes his mind to-day, he needn't change it at all,--so far as I am concerned."
"Going to organize a Bakery of ex-chorus girls?" asked Bates, flippantly. "Going to persuade them to throw in their fortunes with yours?"
A merry, even affectionate smile robbed this speech of all unpleasant effect, and Sir Herbert smiled back.
"Not that," he returned; "I'd be ill fitted to attend to a bakery business with a horde of enchanting damsels cavorting around the shop! No, chorus girls are all right in their place,--which is not in the home, nor yet in a business office."
"That's true, and I take off my hat to you, Uncle, as a real live business man, with his undivided attention on his work,--in business hours,--and outside of those, his doings are nobody's business."
"With your leanings toward the fair sex, it's a wonder you never married," observed Miss Prall, inquisitively.
"My leanings toward them in no way implies their leanings toward me," returned the bachelor, his eyes twinkling. "And, moreover, a regard for one of the fair sex that would imply a thought of marriage with her, would be another matter entirely from a liking for the little stars of the chorus. To me they are not even individuals, they are merely necessary parts of an entertaining picture. I care no more for them, personally, than for the orchestra that makes music for their dancing feet, or for the stage manager who produces the setting for their engaging gracefulness."
"That's so, Uncle," Bates agreed; "you're a stage Johnny, all right, but you're no Lothario."
"Thank you, Son, such discriminating praise from Sir Hubert Stanley, makes me more than ever regret not having his association in my business affairs."
"Don't be too sure that you won't have him," Miss Prall temporized; "when does his time for decision expire?"
"To-night," said Sir Herbert, briefly, and at that, with a gesture of bored impatience, Bates got up and went out.
A Tricky Game
The Prall apartment was on the eighth floor, but Richard Bates passed by the elevator and went down the stairs. Only one flight, however, and on the seventh floor, he walked along the hall, whistling in a subdued key. The air was an old song, a one-time favorite, "Won't you come out and play wiz me?" and the faint notes grew stronger as he passed a certain door. Then he went on, but soon turned, retraced his steps, and went up again the one flight of stairs. Pausing at the elevator, he pushed the down button and was soon in the car and smiling on the demure young woman in uniform who ran it.
"This car of yours, Daisy," he remarked, "is like the church of Saint Peter at Rome, it has an atmosphere of its own. But if the church had this atmosphere there'd be mighty few worshipers! How can you stand it? Doesn't it make you ill?"
"Ill?" and the girl rolled weary eyes at him; "I'm dead! You can bring the flowers when you're ready, Gridley!"
"Poor child," and Bates looked compassionately at the white face, that even a vanity case failed to keep in blooming condition, so moisty warm was the stuffy elevator. "It's wicked to shut you up in such a cage----"
"Oh, I'm all right," she responded, hurriedly, as her bell sounded a sharp, impatient ring. "I'm not complaining. But people are so trying on a day like this. That's Mr. Binney's ring."
"How do you know. Do you know everybody's touch?"
"Not everybody's,--but lots of them. Mr. Binney, he hates elevator girls----"
"Oh, come now,--my uncle is a great admirer of all women----"
"Not if they work. He talks a good deal, you know,--talks all the time,--and he's everlastingly knocking girls who do the work he thinks men ought to do."
"But it's none of his business,--in this house!"
"Mr. Binney is particularly and especially interested in what's none of his business!"
The girl spoke so bitterly that Bates looked at her in surprise.
But he was at the ground floor, and as he left the elevator he forgot all else in anticipation of a certain coming delight.
He strolled the length of the great onyx lobby, its sides a succession of broad mirrors between enormous onyx columns with massive gilded capitals. Tall palms were at intervals, alternating with crimson velvet sofas and on one of these, near the vestibule, Bates sat down to wait for the delight.
And in the course of time, she came, tripping along the black and white diamonds of the marble floor, her high heels tapping quickly, her lithe gracefulness hurrying to keep the tryst.
Dorcas Everett was of the type oftenest seen among the well-to-do young girls of New York, but she was one of the best examples of that type.
Wise, sparkling eyes, soft, rounded chin held alertly up, dark, curly hair arranged in a pleasant modification of the latest fashion, her attire was of the most careful tailor-made variety, and her little feathered toque was put on at just the right angle and was most engagingly becoming.
She said no word but gave a happy smile as Bates rose and eagerly joined her and together they passed out through the imposing portal.
"It's awful," she murmured, as they walked across to Fifth Avenue. "I said I wouldn't do it again, you know, and then--when I heard your whistle,--I just couldn't help it! But don't do it any more--will you? You promised you wouldn't."
"Oh, I didn't promise, dear; I said I'd try not to. And I did try, but--it seems I failed."
"Bad boy! Very bad Rikki-tikki-tavi. But what are we going to do?"
"First of all, where are we going? Tea Room? Some place where I can talk to you."
"No; it's too stuffy to-day to be indoors. Let's walk up to the Park and go in."
"All right. Now, Dorrie, we trust face this thing. We can't go on meeting secretly,--neither of us likes it,----"
"I should say not! I hate it a thousand times worse'n you do. But Rick, mother is more obstinate than ever. She says if I see you again, or speak to you, she'll pack up and move out of New York. Think of that!"
"I can't think of it! It is unthinkable! Now, Dorcas, darling, there's only one thing to do. You must marry me----"
"Hush that nonsense! I don't propose----"
"Naturally not! I'm doing the proposing----"
"Don't think because you make me laugh you're going to bamboozle me into consent! I decline, refuse and renounce you, if you're going to take that tack. I shall never marry you without the consent of my mother and your aunt, and you know it!"
"I do know it, Dork, and that's what breaks me all up. Confound that old Feud! But, I say, Uncle Binney is on our side. I sounded him and he approves of my marrying at once,--doesn't care who the girl is,--and will make me his heir and all that,----"
"If you give up your inventing and go into his Bunny business."
"Yes; that's his game. Shall I do it?"
"No! A thousand times no. I don't want to marry a bakery!"
"And anyway, it wouldn't help the Feud----"
"No; nothing will help that. It would seem that we could move the hearts of those two women, but my mother is hard as adamant."
"And my aunt is hard as nails. After all these years they're not going to be moved by a pair of broken young hearts."
"No; mother says that because I'm so young, my heart will heal up in plenty of time to break over somebody else."
"Oh, mother doesn't try to be pleasant about it. She makes my life a burden by harping on my undutifulness and all that,--and when she isn't bally-ragging me, Kate is."
"Kate! A servant!"
"But Kate doesn't look upon herself as a servant, exactly. She's lady's maid now,--to mother and me,--but she was my nurse, you know, and she thinks she sort of owns me. Anyway, she acts so."
"And she stands for the feud?"
"Rath-er! She believes in the feud and all its works. And she's a spy, too. If she hadn't believed my yarn that I was headed for Janet's to-day, she'd been downstairs trailing me!"
"Clever Dork, to outwit her!"
"That's nothing--I'm clever enough to hoodwink her and mother, too, but I don't want to. I hate it, Rick; I hate anything underhanded or deceitful. Only my love for you made me come out here to-day."
The big, dark eyes looked wistfully into Bates' blue ones. The troubled look on Dorcas' dear little face stirred the depths of his soul, and his heart struggled between his appreciation of her high-mindedness and his yearning love.
"I want you, Dorrie," he said, simply; "I want you terribly,--desperately,--and I--I admit it--would be willing to take you on any terms. I'd run away with you in a minute, if you'd go! To be sure, I honor your truthfulness and all that,--but, oh, little girl, can't you put me ahead of your mother?"
"I don't know,----"
"You're hesitating! You've thought about it! Oh, Dork, will you?"
"There, there, don't go so fast! No, I won't! But, tell me this: Would your uncle stand for it,--and let you go on with your own work?"
"Oh, no! It's Buns or nothing with him and me. But I'm his heir, if he should drop off suddenly, I'd have his whole fortune----"
"Dead men's shoes! Oh, Ricky, for shame?"
"Not at all. If he can make a will, I can talk about it. And he told me he has made a will in my favor,--but he's going to change it if I don't adopt his Buns."
"What nonsense,--even to think about it. Let him change it, then, for you'll never be a Bun man!"
"I wonder if it would help matters if you met Uncle Binney?"
"Let's try it. Though I'm sure I should call him Uncle Bunny! Does he like girls?"
"Adores them,--that is, some sorts. He likes nice girls properly. He likes naughty girls,--perhaps improperly. But the girls in the house,--the elevator kids and the telephone girls, he just hates."
"They irritate him somehow. He thinks all such positions should be filled by men or boys. He says the war is over, and he wants all the girls taken off those jobs."
"How unjust and unreasonable."
"Uncle Herbert has both of those admirable qualities. But he'd adore you,--unless he found out you disapprove of the Buns, and then he'd turn and rend you!"
"I don't disapprove of them,--except for you."
"That's what I mean,--for me."
"Then I guess I'd better not meet Friend Bunny."
"Oh, Dorcas, I don't know what to do! There's no light from any direction. There's no hope from your mother, my aunt or Sir Herbert. If you won't cut and run with me,--and if you're in earnest about not meeting me secretly any more,--what can we do?"
"Nothing, Rick,--nothing at all."
Dorcas spoke very seriously,--even sadly, and Bates realized how much in earnest she was. They were in the Park now, and by tacit consent they sat down on a bench near the Mall.
Their eyes met dumbly. Though Bates was only twenty-five and Dorcas twenty-two, they were both older than their years, and were of fine temper and innate strength of character.
They had known one another as children in their little home town, and later, as the feud developed and gained strength, the young people had been sent away to schools. Later, the war took Richard from home, and only very recently had propinquity brought about the interest that soon ripened to love. And a deeper, more lasting love than is often found between two young hearts. Both took it very seriously, and each thoroughly realized the tragedy of the attitude of their respective guardians.
"Good gracious, Richard, I shall go straight home and tell your aunt!"
This speech was from the stern-faced woman who paused in front of the pair on the bench.
"Good gracious, Eliza, go straight ahead and do so!"
Bates' eyes shot fire and his face flushed with anger.
Eliza Gurney was his aunt's companion, indeed, her tame cat, her chattel, and partly from charity, partly because of need of her services, Miss Prall kept Eliza with her constantly.
Of a fawning, parasitic nature, the companion made the best of her opportunities, and, without being an avowed spy, she kept watch on Richard's movements as far as she conveniently could. And in this instance, suspecting his intent, she had followed the young couple at a discreet distance, and now faced them with an accusing eye.
"No, don't," pleaded Dorcas, as Miss Gurney turned to follow up Richard's suggestion. "Oh, dear Miss Gurney, help us, won't you? We're in such a hopeless tangle. You were young once, and----"
Dorrie could scarcely have chosen a worse argument,--for that her youth had slipped away from her, was Miss Gurney's worst fear.
"I am forbidden to speak to this girl, Richard," Miss Gurney said, with pursed lips and heightened color. She addressed herself carefully to Bates and ignored the presence of Dorcas. "You are, too, as you well know, and though you have so far forgotten yourself as to disobey your aunt, I've no intention of committing a like sin."
"Fudge, Eliza, don't go back on me like that. You used to be my friend,--have you forsaken me entirely?"
"If you've forsaken your aunt,--not unless. Leave this girl instantly and go home with me, and there'll be no question of 'forsaking.'"
"Forsake Miss Everett! Not while this machine is to me! Go home yourself, Eliza; be a tattletale, if you want to, but get out of here!"
Bates became furious because of a malevolent gleam in Miss Gurney's eye as she looked at Dorcas.
"I'll go, Richard,--and I shall not only tell your aunt what I have seen, but I shall feel it my duty to acquaint Mrs Everett with the facts."
"Don't you dare!" cried Dorcas, springing up, and facing the unpleasant faced one with uncontrollable indignation. "What I do, I tell my mother myself,--I don't have the news carried to her by her enemy's spy!"
"Hoity-toity, miss, you're a chip off the old block, I see!"
"And you're a trustworthy soul, to be talking to me when you're forbidden to do so!"
The triumph in Dorcas' tone was quite as galling to Eliza Gurney as her own chagrin at having broken her word. But, once in the moil, she saw no reason for backing out, and proceeded to pick an open quarrel.
"I can explain my speech with you to Miss Prall's satisfaction," she went on, acidly, "and I'll inform you, Miss Everett, that you've spoiled Mr. Bates' life by this clandestine affair of yours. I happen to know that his uncle, Sir Herbert Binney, was just about to make him his heir, but he will change his mind when he hears of this escapade."
"Oh, clear out, Eliza," stormed Bates; "you've given us enough of that drivel, now hook it! Hear me?"
Miss Gurney stared at him. "Your companionship with this young woman has corrupted your good manners," she began, quite undeterred by his wrath.
Whereupon Bates took her firmly by the shoulder, spun her round, and said, "Go!" in such a tone that she fairly scurried away.
"I vanquished her," he said, a little ruefully, "but I'm afraid it's a frying pan and fire arrangement. She'll tell Aunt Letitia, and either aunt or Eliza herself will go at once to your mother with the tale,----"
"Well, I'd really rather they'd be told. I had to tell mother,--for truly, Rick, I can't live in an atmosphere of deceit. I may be a crank or a craven, but much as I love you, I can't stand keeping it a secret."
"I know it, dear, and I don't like it a bit better than you do, only to tell is to be separated,--at once, and maybe, forever."
"No!" cried Dorcas, looking at his serious face. "Not forever!"
"Yes; even you don't realize the lengths to which those two women will go. I hate to speak so of your mother, I hate to speak so of my aunt,--but I know they'll move out of town, one or both, and they'll go to the ends of the earth to keep us apart."
"But they've always lived near each other,--for years, in the same building."
"Yes; that was so they could quarrel and annoy and tantalize each other. But now the necessity of separating us two will be their paramount motive, and you'll see;--they'll do it!"
"Then let's get married, and go off by ourselves? Darling, if we only could! And I'll go into the Buns, in a minute, if you say so. Much as I hate to give up my own work, I'd not hesitate, except for your sake----"
"No, I don't want to marry a bakery man! And, I've too much ambition for you to let you throw your talent away! Yet, we couldn't live on nothing a year! And, until your inventions are farther along, you can't realize anything on them."
"Bless me, what a little business woman it is! Well, we've both common sense enough not to make fools of ourselves,--but oh, Dork, I do want you so! And if it were not for that foolish, ridiculous feud, we could be so happy!"
"It isn't exactly the feud,--I mean, of course it is that, but it's back of that,--it's the determined, never-give-up natures of the two women. I don't know which is more obstinate, mother or Miss Prall, but I know,--oh, Ricky, I know neither of them will ever surrender!"
"Of course they won't,--I know that, too. So, must we give up?"
"What choice have we? What alternative?"
"None." Bates' face was blankly hopeless. "But, Dork, dear, I can't live without you! Can't you look ahead to--to something?"
"Don't see anything to look ahead to. We might say we'll wait for each other,--I'm willing,--and something tells me you are! But,--that's an unsatisfactory arrangement----"
"It's all of that! Oh, hang it all, Dork, I'll go into some respectable business and earn a living. I'll give up my plans and----"
"If you do that, you may as well go in for Buns."
"Buns! I thought you scorned the idea!"
"Principally because I want you to be an inventor. But if you give up your life work,--oh, Rick, what could you do?"
"Nothing much at first. I'd have to take a clerk-ship or something and work up."
"I'm willing to share poverty with you,--in theory,--but you don't realize what the reality would mean to us. Not only because we're both accustomed to having everything we want, but more especially because in these days it's too dangerous. Suppose we lived on the tiniest possible income, and then you fell ill,--or I did,--or you lost your position,--or anything that interrupted our livelihood,--then, we'd have to go back to mother or to your aunt,--and--dost like the picture?"
"I dost not! It's out of the question. I love you too much, and too truly to take such desperate chances. I think, after all, Dork, the Buns are our one best bet!"
"Binny's Buns! 'Get a Bun!' Oh, Rikki, couldn't hold up my head!"
"I know it,--you little inborn aristocrat! And I feel the same way about it. Well, we've got to go home and face the music, I suppose."
"Yes, and we've got to go now. I'll get more and worse scolding for every minute I stay here."
"Also, if Eliza tells your mother, she'll be sending Kate for you."
"Yes, or coming herself. Come along, let's start."
The walk home was saddened by the thought that it was the last. Able to face the situation, both knew there was no hope that they should be allowed to continue their acquaintance, and knew that now it was discovered, they would very soon be as widely separated as the efforts of their elders could arrange.
Their pace slowed down as they neared The Campanile.
"Dear old place," said Dorcas, as the house came into their ken.
"Dear old nothing," returned Bates. "I think it's an eyesore, don't you? That bunch of Mexican onyx ought to be taken away to make kings' sarcophagi!"
"What a thought! Yes, it's hideous,--but I didn't mean its appearance. Its dear to me because we've lived here together, and I've a premonition that before long widely separated roofs will cover our heads."
"I'll conquer somehow!" Bates declared. "I haven't made many protestations, but I tell you, Dork, I'm coming out on top of this heap!"
"What are you going to do? Something desperate?"
"Maybe so,--maybe only something queer. But get you, I shall and I will! You're intended for my mate by an Omniscient Fate, and I'm going to find some way to help said Fate along. She seems to be sidetracked for the moment."
"I wish I had more faith in your Fate helping. Oh, don't look like that! I've faith enough in you,--but helping Fate is a tricky game."
"All right, I'm willing to play a tricky game, then!"
"You are, son! Against whom?"
And the pair entering the wide doorway, met Sir Herbert Binney coming out.
"Oh, hello, Uncle," cried Bates, grasping the situation with both hands. "Let me present you to Miss Everett; Dorcas, this is my uncle."
"How do you do, Uncle Bunny?" said Dorcas, quite unwitting that, in her surprised embarrassment, she had used the very word she had feared she would utter!
And an unfortunate mistake it proved. The smiling face of the Englishman grew red and wrathful, assuming, as he did, and not without cause, that the young woman intended to guy him.
"Daughter of your own mother, hey?" he said to her. "Ready with a sharp tongue for any occasion!"
Apology was useless, all that quick-witted Dorcas could think of was to carry it off as a jest.
"No, sir," she said, with an adorable glance of coquetry at the angry face, "but I have an unbreakable habit of using nicknames,--and as I've heard of you from Ricky, and I almost feel as if I knew you,--I, why, I just naturally called you Bunny for a pet name."
"Oho, you did! Well, I can't believe that. I think you're making fun of my trade! And that's the one thing I won't stand! Perhaps when your precious Ricky depends on those same buns for his daily food, you won't feel so scornful of them!"
"I never dreamed you were ashamed of them, sir," and Dorcas gave up the idea of peacemaking and became irritating.
"Nor am I!" he blazed. "You are an impertinent chit, and I bid you good-day!"
"Now you have done it!" said Bates.
The Scrawled Message
But, as it turned out, Dorcas hadn't "done it" at all. Bates on reaching his aunt's apartment found no one at home. But very soon Sir Herbert Binney appeared.
"Look here, Richard," he began, "I've taken a fancy to that little girl of yours----"
"She isn't mine."
"You'd like her to be?"
"Very much; in conditions that would please us both."
"Meaning Bunless conditions. I can't offer you those, but I do say now, and, for the last time, if you will take hold of my Bun proposition, I'll give you any salary you want, any interest in the business you ask, and make you my sole heir. I've already done the last, but unless you fall in with my plans now, I'm going to make another will and your name will be among the missing."
"But, Uncle Herbert----"
"I've no time for discussion, my boy; I've to dress for dinner,--I'm going out,--but this thing must be settled now, as far as you're concerned. You've had time enough to think it over, you've had time to discuss it with that pretty little girl of yours,--my, but her eyes flashed as she called me Uncle Bunny! It was a slip,--I saw that, and I pretended to be annoyed, but I liked her all the better for her sauciness. Well, Richard,--yes or no?"
"Can't you give me another twenty-four hours?"
"Not twenty-four minutes! You've hemmed and hawed over this thing as long as I'll stand it! No. You know all the details, all the advantages that I offer you. You know I mean what I say and I'll stand by every word. I'm going to meet the head of a big American concern to-night, and if you turn me down, I shall probably make a deal with him. I'd rather keep my business and my fortune in the family, but if you say no, out you go! So, as a countryman of yours expressed it to-day, you can put up or shut up!"
"All right, sir,--I'll shut up!" and Richard Bates turned on his heel, while Sir Herbert Binney went out of the apartment and slammed the door behind him.
Almost immediately Miss Gurney came in.
"My stars, Ricky!" she exclaimed, "I met Sir Binney Bun in the hall and he looked as if somebody had broken his heart! Has his pet chorus girl given him the mitten?"
"No; I gave it to him. He wants me to sell his precious pies over a counter,--and I can't see myself doing it."
"I should say not! It's a mystery to me how the aristocracy of England go into trade, and if it's a big enough deal, they think it's all right. If it's tea or bread or soap, it doesn't matter, so they sell enough of it. Well, young man, what about your escapade in the Park? Shall I tell your aunt?"
"You said you intended to,--do as you like."
"I won't tell her, if----"
"Oh, you'd better tell me--what is it?"
The cool, incisive tones of Miss Prall interrupted the speakers and Richard's aunt calmly gazed at him and then at Miss Gurney, as she came into the room, seated herself, and began drawing off her gloves.
"I'll tell you myself, Aunt Letitia," said Bates. "I'm old enough not to be bossed and ballyragged by you two women! Forgive me, Aunt Letty, but, truly, Eliza makes me so mad----"
"Go out, Eliza," said Miss Prall, and Eliza went.
"Now, Ricky boy, what is it? About Sir Herbert of course. And I'll stand by you,--if you don't want to go into his business, you shan't----"
"It isn't that at all, Aunt Letitia. Or, at least, that is in the air, too,--up in the air, in fact,--but what Eliza is going to tell you,--and I prefer to tell you myself,--is that I'm in love with----"
"Oh, Richard, I am so glad! You dear boy. I've felt for a long time that if you were interested in one girl--some sweet young girl,--you'd have a sort of anchor and----"
"Yes, but wait a minute,--you don't know who she is."
"And I don't care! I mean, I know you'd love only a dear, innocent nature,--but tell me all about her."
Miss Prall's plain face was lighted with happy smiles of interest and eager anticipation, and she drew her chair nearer her nephew as she waited for him to speak.
Bates looked at her, dreading to shatter her hopes,--as he knew his next words must do.
"Well, to begin with,--she is Dorcas Everett."
Miss Prall's eyes opened in a wide, unbelieving stare, her face paled slowly, her very lips seemed to grow white, so intense and concentrated was her anger.
"No!" she said, at last, in a low tense voice, "you don't mean that. Richard! you can't mean it,--after all I've done for you, after all I've hoped for you,--and,--I've loved you so----"
"Now, auntie, listen; just you forget and forgive all this old feud business,--for my sake,--and Dorcas'; be noble, rise above your old, petty quarrel with Mrs Everett, and give us your bond of peace as a wedding present."
His pleading tones, his hopeful smile held Miss Prall's attention for a moment, and then she blazed forth:
"Richard Bates, I cannot believe it. Ingrate! Snake in the grass! To deceive me,--to carry on an affair like this, for you must have done so,--under my very nose, and keep it all so sly! Dorcas Everett! daughter of my enemy,--my long time foe,--the most despicable woman in the world! And, knowing all about it, you deliberately cultivate the acquaintance of her daughter and secretly go on to the point of wanting to marry her! I can't believe it! It's too monstrous! Were there no other girls in the world,--in your life,--that you must choose that one? You can't have been so diabolical as to have done it purposely to break my heart!"
"Oh, no, Auntie, I didn't do that! I chanced to meet Dorcas,--one day at Janet Fayre's,--and, somehow, we both fell in love at once!"
"Stop! don't tell me another word! Get out, Eliza!" as Miss Gurney reappeared at the door. "I told you to get out! Now, stay out! Get away from me, Richard; you can't help any by trying to fawn around me! You don't know what you've done,--I grant you that! You don't know--you can't know,--how you've crucified me!"
Springing up from her chair, Miss Prall darted from the room, and out into the hall. Down one flight of stairs she ran, and furiously pealed the bell of Mrs Everett's apartment on the floor below.
The maid who opened the door was startled at the visitor's appearance, but the angry caller asked for no one; she pushed her way past the servant, and faced Mrs Everett in her own reception room.
"Do you know what's going on, Adeline Everett? Do you know that your daughter is--is interested in my nephew? Answer me that!"
"I don't know it, and I don't believe it," returned Mrs Everett, a plump, blonde matron, whose touched-up golden hair was allowed to show no gray, and whose faintly pink cheeks were solicitously cared for.
"Ask her!" quivered Letitia Prall's angry voice, and she clenched her long thin fingers in ill-controlled rage.
"I will; she's in the next room. Come in here, Dorcas. Tell Miss Prall she is mistaken,--presumptuously mistaken."
The haughty stare with which the hostess regarded her guest continued until Dorcas, coming in, said, with a pretty blush and smile, "I'm afraid she isn't mistaken, Mother."
"Just what do you mean?" Mrs Everett asked, icily, transferring her gaze to her daughter.
Very sweet and appealing Dorcas looked as she realized the crucial moment had arrived. Now she must take her stand for all time. Her big, dark eyes turned from one furious face to the other as the two women waited her response. Her face paled a little as she saw their attitude, their implacable wrath, their hatred of each other, and their momentarily suspended judgment of herself. Yet she stood her ground. With a pretty dignity, she spoke quietly and in a calm, steady voice:
"I heard what Miss Prall said," she began, "I couldn't help it, as I was so near, and all I can say is, that it is true. I am not only interested in Richard Bates, but I love him. He loves me,--and we hope--oh, mumsie,--be kind!--we hope you two will make up your quarrel for our sakes!"
"Go to your room, Dorcas," her mother said, and in those words the girl read her doom. She knew her mother well, and she saw beyond all shadow of doubt that there was no leniency to be hoped for. She sensed in her mother's expression as she pronounced the short sentence, an absolute and immutable decision. She might as well plead for the moon, as for her mother's permission to be interested in Letitia Prall's nephew.
"Wait a minute," countermanded Miss Prall. "Answer me this, Dorcas. Are you and my nephew engaged? Has it come to that?"
"Yes," the girl answered, thinking quickly, and deciding it best to force the issue.
"Hush!" commanded her mother; "go to your room!"
Mrs Everett fairly pushed her daughter through the door, closed it, and then said: "There is little need of further remark on this subject. We might have known it would come,--at least we might have feared it. One of us must leave this house. Will you go or shall I?"
"You take no thought of the young people's heart-break?"
"I do not! Dorcas will get over it; I don't care whether your nephew does or not. I can take care of my child, and that's all that interests me."
"You think you can,--but perhaps you do not know the depth of their attachment or the strength of their wills."
"It is not for you, an unmarried woman, to instruct me in the ways of young lovers! I repeat, Letitia Prall, I can take care of my daughter. Her welfare in no way concerns you. I am only thankful we discovered this state of things before it is too late. Good Heavens! You don't suppose it is too late, do you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You don't suppose those young idiots are--married!"
"Of course not! My Richard is above such clandestine ways!"
"Your Richard isn't above anything! My Dorcas is, but--he might have persuaded her--oh, well, I'll attend to Dorcas. There is no need for you to tarry longer."
The exaggerated courtesy of her manner goaded Miss Prall to rudeness.
"I shall stay as long as I like," she returned, stubbornly sitting still. "There is more to be said, Adeline Everett. There is more to be done. I want your assurance that you will move away,--it doesn't suit my plans to leave this house,--and that you will take your forward and designing daughter far enough to keep her from maneuvering to ensnare my nephew."
"I shall be only too glad to take my daughter away from the vicinity of your crack-brained charge! What has Dick Bates ever done? He has never earned a dollar for himself!"
"He doesn't need to. He is a genius; he will yet astonish the world with his inventions. You know me well enough to know that I speak truth. Moreover, he is his uncle's sole heir!"
"Binney, the Bun man!"
"Yes, Sir Herbert Binney, proprietor of the famous Binney's Buns. But, look here, Adeline," the absorption in her nephew's interest blotted out for the moment her scorn of the other woman, "Uncle Binney favors the match."
"What match?" Mrs Everett was honestly blank.
"Between Richard and Dorcas."
"Why, he doesn't know Dorcas."
"He has seen her, and anyway, he'd approve of any nice girl that Rick cared for. You see, Sir Herbert wanted the boy to marry and settle down and become the American branch of Binney's Buns."
"My daughter the wife of a baker! No, thank you! You know me, Letitia Prall, well enough to know my ambitions for Dorcas. She shall marry the man I choose for her,--and he will not be a baker! Nor," and her face was drawn with sudden anger, "nor will he be Richard Bates!"
"Indeed he will not!" and Miss Prall rose and flounced out of the place.
In his own small but attractive apartment, Sir Herbert Binney was dressing for dinner. Always a careful dresser, he was unusually particular this evening. His man, Peters, thought he had never seen his master so fussed over the minor details of his apparel. Also, Sir Herbert was preoccupied. Usually he chatted cheerily, but to-night he was thoughtful, almost moody.
"A cab, sir?" said Peters, half afraid that he'd be snapped at for asking an unnecessary question, yet not quite certain that a cab was desired.
"Yes," was the absent-minded response, and Peters passed on the word by telephone to the doorman below.
Then, satisfactorily turned out, Sir Herbert left his rooms and touched the elevator bell.
Once in the car, and seeing the pretty elevator girl, his mood brightened.
"Good evening, Daisy," he said, "give me one kiss for good luck. This is my busy day."
He carelessly put an arm round her, and kissed her lightly on the lips, even as he spoke. The girl was taken by surprise, and anger surged up in her soul.
"You coward!" she cried, wrenching herself free with difficulty and mindful of her elevator gear. "Take shame to yourself, sir, for insulting a defenseless girl!"
"Oh, come now, chicken, that didn't hurt you! I'm only a jollier. Forget it, and I'll give you a big box of candy."
"I'll never forget it, sir, and if you try that again----"
The dire threat was not pronounced, for just then the car reached the ground floor, and the girl flung the door open.
Nearby at the telephone switchboard was another girl, who looked up curiously as the Bun man came out of the elevator. She had overheard the angry voice that seemed to be threatening him, and she was not without knowledge of his ways herself.
But Sir Herbert waved his hand gayly at the telephone girl and also at the news stand girl. Indeed all girls were, in Binney's estimation, born to be waved at.
He had recovered his good nature, and he went along the onyx lobby with a quick stride, looking at his watch as he walked.
"Taxi ready?" he said to the obsequious doorman.
"Yes, sir,--yes, Sir Herbert. Here you are."
"And here you are," the Englishman returned, with a generous bestowal of silver.
"To the Hotel Magnifique," he said, and his cab rolled away.
During the evening hours the attendants of The Campanile shifted. The elevator girls were replaced by young men, and the telephone operator was changed. The doorman, too, was another individual, and by midnight no one was on duty who had been on at dusk.
After midnight, the attendants were fewer still, and after two o'clock Bob Moore, the capable and efficient night porter, was covering the door, telephone and elevator all by himself.
This arrangement was always sufficient, as most of the occupants of The Campanile were average citizens, who, if at theater or party, were rarely out later than one or two in the morning.
On this particular night, Moore welcomed four or five theater-goers back home, took them up to their suites and then sat for a long time uninterruptedly reading a detective story, which was his favorite brand of fiction.
At two o'clock Mr Goodwin came in, and Moore took him up to the twelfth floor.
Returning to his post and to his engrossing book, the next arrival was Mr Vail. He belonged on the tenth floor and as they ascended, Moore, full of his story, said:
"Ever read detective stories, Mr Vail?"
"Occasionally; but I haven't much time for reading. Business men like more active recreation."
"Likely so, sir. But I tell you this yarn I'm swallowing is a corker!"
"What's it called?"
"'Murder Will Out,' by Joe Jarvis. It's great! Why, Mr Vail, the victim was killed,--killed, mind you,--in a room that was all locked up----"
"How did the murderer get in?"
"That's just it! How did he? And he left his revolver,----"
"Left his revolver? Then he did get in and get out! Must have been a secret passage----"
"No, sir, there wasn't! That is, the author says so, and all the people,--the characters, you know, try to find one, and they can't! Oh, it's exciting, I'll say! I can't guess how it's coming out."
"I suppose you wouldn't peek over to the last page?"
"No, that spoils a story for me. The fun I get out of it is the trying to ferret out the solution, on my own. That's sport for me. Why, you see, Mr Vail,--but, excuse me, sir, I'm keeping you."
The elevator had stopped at the tenth floor, and Vail had left the car, but he stood waiting till the enthusiastic Moore should pause.
"Oh, well, go on,--what were you saying?"
"Only this, sir. To me, a good detective story is not the one that keeps you guessing,--nor the one that keeps you in fearful suspense as to the outcome, but the one that gives you a chance to solve the riddle yourself. The one that puts all the cards on the table, and gives you a chance at it."
"And you can usually work it out?"
"Sometimes,--not always. But the fun is in trying."
"You ought to have been a detective, Moore. You've the taste for it evidently. Well, good-night; hope you discover the clue and solve the mystery. Shall you finish your book to-night?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I'm more than half way through it."
"Well, tell me in the morning if you guessed right. Good-night, Moore."
"Good-night, Mr. Vail."
The elevator went down, and Bob Moore left the car to return to his book.
But he did not return to the story. A more engrossing one was opened to him at that moment. A glance toward the front doorway showed him a figure of a man, lying in a contorted heap on the floor, about half way between himself and the entrance.
He went wonderingly toward it, his heart beating faster as he drew near.
"Dead!" he breathed softly, to himself, "no, not dead!--oh, my God, it's Sir Herbert Binney!"