The Adventures of Detective Barney/Though Mountains Meet Not
THOUGH MOUNTAINS MEET NOT
To the other passengers in the Pullman car, the pair in section 7 were a prosperous business man of a rotund middle age, who was sedately absorbed in his afternoon papers, and a healthy youngster in his later ’teens who watched the window fascinatedly. The man had an air of unworried well-being; he read as if he were contented with the world and tolerant of its doings, as these appeared in print; and when, in turning the paper, he glanced at the boy, he showed an appraising eye of interest in that silent young alertness that did not irritate with questions. The boy remained oblivious. The Hudson River was making a moving picture of itself in the frame of the car window, for his benefit—swaying and flickering as it unrolled on a sun-dazzled film—and he and the other passengers might have been sitting in the darkness of orchestra chairs, for all he saw of them.
The man was Walter Babbing. The boy was Barney Cook. They were supposed to be on their way to Philadelphia, to work on a case. And Babbing was waiting to see how long it would take young Barney to remember that the road to Philadelphia did not lead up the west bank of the Hudson River.
Hence his appraising glances. Hence, also, the questions that he began to ask, from behind his paper, every now and then, as he turned from one news item to the next: “Were you ever in Philadelphia?” “How far have you been from New York?” “Where is Philadelphia?” “Well, in what direction do you think it is, from New York?” And to these queries, Barney had to answer that he had never been in Philadelphia, that he had never been farther from New York than Coney Island, that he did not know where Philadelphia was, nor in what direction it lay, nor how long it would take to get there. He admitted his ignorance reluctantly—to the back sheet of the newspaper which Babbing continued to read—but he admitted it. He had too much respect for Babbing’s penetration to attempt to tell him anything but the truth.
If he had told the whole truth, he would have confessed that Philadelphia was not a city to him at all, but a baseball team.
Babbing put aside his paper. “You ’re a real New Yorker,” he concluded, with sarcasm. He opened his satchel on the seat beside him, took a book from it, and settled down again to read. Barney returned his eyes to the window, smiling doubtfully.
He did not notice Babbing’s book. Yet he might well have done so. It was a curious book for a detective to be reading—a sort of boudoir volume of Elizabethan poetry, bound in white vellum elaborately tooled in gold leaf. It was called “The Queen’s Choir,” and the poem to which he first applied himself was in the middle of the book: “A Fiction: How Cupid made a Nymph wound herself with his Arrows.” In the last stanza, there was a couplet that read:
Though mountains meet not, lovers may;
So others do, and so do they.
And the first line of the couplet was heavily underscored.
Babbing regarded that line with satisfaction before he went back to the blank fly leaves and began to examine page after page with leisurely particularity. “Have you ever heard of the Catskills?”
He passed several pages before he asked: “What are they?”
Barney looked out the window as if he expected to see them floating down the Hudson on a Haverstraw brick barge. “I don’ know,” he replied, at last. “I forget.”
“They ’re mountains,” Babbing said. “And we ’re going there.”
Barney glanced furtively out the window again, to make sure that he had not overlooked them. He knew what mountains were. He had seen pictures of them. There were none in sight. “Yes, sir,” he said.
Babbing brushed the newspapers from the seat beside him and put his satchel on the floor. “Sit over here, and I ’ll tell you what I want you to do.”
Barney obeyed him, eager, interested, important. He forgot the window as completely as if it had been a childish toy, and his face became grave with an elderly attention, large-eyed.
Babbing continued to occupy himself with his book. “We have a case against a man named Langton,” he said as he scrutinized and turned the pages. “William K. Langton. For wrecking a trust company that he was president of. He’s out on bail. We can’t complete our case against him without the evidence of the treasurer of the company—a young fellow—James Whately. James Parkin Whately. Whately has disappeared. He ’s keeping out of the way, so as to protect old Langton.
“He ’s engaged to Langton’s daughter, Mary. Mary Langton.
“I don’t think he ’s guiltily involved, but we ’ve got a warrant for him, on indictment, so as to hold him if we can find him. That ’s why the newspapers suppose he defaulted.”
He paused a moment on the book. He continued, drily: “The Langtons have a house on Forty-fifth Street. One of their servants has been on our payroll ever since we started on the case. We ’ve been watching the daughter to see if we could connect her with Whately, and find out where he is. Yesterday, she disappeared. We learned that she received this volume of poetry by book-post before she went, but we weren’t able to get the postmark. She had destroyed the wrapper. My theory is that it came from Whately. There’s a line in it that reads like an invitation to meet him in the mountains.
“Her father has been a great fellow for fishing—trout fishing. We found that he owns a neck of the woods up here, with a trout stream—and a bungalow on the mountain overlooking a place called Careyville. Two of our boys have just reported, from Careyville, that Mary Langton ’s in that bungalow, with an old woman, a servant who ’s been in the family for years.
“The girl drew all her money out of her private account before she left. My theory is that she ’s going to persuade Whately to get away where we can’t find him, and she intends to use the money to help him do it. We haven’t much time to lose. She probably knows that we ’ve been watching her. She won’t want to have any delay. But he knows that we have n’t been able to get on his trail. He ’ll feel more confident than she does. And unless she intends to go with him, she ’ll have difficulty persuading him to start. Understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Barney answered.
“Well, that ’s our opportunity.” He said it as coolly as if he were a bird hunter watching a nest of young to which he knew the frightened mother would return—to be shot.
“The boys up at Careyville report that they can’t get near the Langton bungalow without rousing suspicion. We have to be careful. We can’t cover the woods. Whately could travel for days in any one of a half-dozen different directions without showing himself. And he knows how to do it. He has hunted all through these hills. If we ’re to catch him, we ’ll have to do it before either he or the girl suspects that we ’re even looking for him up here.
“That ’s where you come in. You ’ve got to get into the Langton bungalow and watch her. He ’s probably hiding somewhere near. The boys at Careyville can see the house with field glasses, and they report that no man has shown himself yet. He may come out at night. Or she may go to see him. That ’s what you ’ve got to find out.
“We ’ll arrange a system of signals, so that you can summon us as soon as you locate him. The boys are to meet us, with an auto, at Beaverton—the station this side of the one where passengers get out for Careyville. We ’ll make the arrangements with them, for your signals, so as to be sure they ’ll be practicable. And we ’ll take you in the auto up the road as far as we dare go towards the bungalow, and drop you. We ’ll go on to Careyville in the machine. Then, to-morrow morning, you ’ll have to talk your way into the girl ’s confidence, some way or other. Have you brought those old clothes with you?”
“Well, you can put them on in the auto. I ’ll lay out a story for you as soon as we see the boys. I don’t know the locality. We ’ll have to have something about getting lost in the woods, I suppose. We ’ll decide that later. Did you ever hear of Sir Walter Raleigh?”
Barney shook his head. “No, sir.”
“He ’s the scoundrel that started you smoking cigarettes. Here ’s his picture. That ’s what tobacco does to a man.”
He gave Barney “The Queen’s Choir” opened at a picture of Raleigh wearing a corseted doublet, a fluted ruff, a sash that was tied on his shoulder in a puffy bow as big as his head, a hat with feminine feathers in it, and lace falls on his wrists. “Gee!” Barney said. “Was he bug?”
Babbing laughed. “Sit over there and amuse yourself. I have to go through these reports. See if you can think of some way of talking yourself into the Langtons’ bungalow.”
Barney glanced at the book. It opened naturally at the marked page—because Mary Langton, crying over that passage, had hugged it hysterically to her bosom and broken the binding. Barney saw no suggestion of her there. The underscored line seemed merely silly. “Though mountains meet not, lovers may!” Pickles!
For him, all books were divided into three classes: school books, religious books, and books to read. “The Queen’s Choir” was evidently a hybrid of the first and second, combining the offensiveness of both. The pictures told no story, and therefore, probably, they were intended to be instructive; the binding was fit only for a First Communion souvenir; the contents were merely verse. In school, he had been made to commit poems to memory from the pages of his reader, and he supposed that all verses were rhymed to make them more easily remembered. He knew that they were always nauseatingly moral and hence supposed to be medicinal. Out of school, he would no more read them than he would order a drink of castor oil at a soda fountain.
He dropped “The Queen’s Choir” and gave his mind to thoughts of the Langton bungalow. He was not sure what a bungalow was, but among his mother’s china were some cheap modern imitations of old willow-pattern plates in blue; and his sister had once told him the nursery story of the Chinese lovers whose history was pictured in the design; and he recalled the house in her story as a bungalow. Consequently, he saw the Langton cottage in Prussian blue with scroll-work eaves and a pagoda’s finials. Consequently, also, the Langton trout stream was as broad as the Chinese river, and it floated a junk with a shed in its stern.
He struggled vaguely with the absurdities of this fancy, but without succeeding in correcting them. The sight of the Hudson River distracted him. After a great deal of kaleidoscopic meditation, he arrived at nothing better than a picture of himself, disguised in his former uniform of a telegraph messenger, climbing over a zigzag fence of Chinese lattice to deliver a forged telegram to Mary Langton. He was neither worried nor unpleasantly excited by the uncertainty of his expectation. He waited to hear Babbing’s plans and follow his instructions, confidently.
When they arrived at Middletown, Babbing said: “There is n’t any dining-car on. I ’m going out to get something to eat. You stay where you are.” He added, in explanation: “You ’ll have to be hungry when you get to Langtons’.” And Barney understood that the plan of campaign was being prepared and his part in it decided on.
He sat back in his seat and dutifully began to nurse his hunger.
It was dark when they arrived at Beaverton and came out of the heat and glare of the Pullman into the coolness of a mountain night and the moist gusts of a wind that threatened rain. They were met at the car steps by an operative who took Babbing’s handbag without a word and led the way to a waiting automobile—a covered touring car that throbbed with an impatient engine, its lights glaring on the ruts and dust flurries of a macadam road. The driver was putting on storm curtains. “Rain coming, Sam?” Babbing asked, as he passed Barney into the tonneau.
“Sure ’s you live, Chief,” the driver answered, busily.
“Good! That ’ll help,” Babbing said.
His operative followed him in. The driver fastened down the curtains. Babbing drew out a little electric pocket-lamp and flashed it on Barney’s suit-case. “Get into your old clothes,” he ordered the boy. “We ’ll sit here.”
He gave Barney the big rear seat, with his suit-case. “Let me see your road map,” he said to his operative. “This is Barney Cook. We want to get as near as we can to the Langton bungalow—without leaving the main road—and then drop him out, to do the roping. I ’ll stay in Careyville with you. He ’s to give us the signal as soon as he locates young Whately. Give me the lay of the land, will you? There ’s the rain.”
A few scattered drops began to patter on the hood. “You ’ll get wet enough to show you ’ve been out all night, anyway,” he said to Barney, and spread the map on his knees.
Barney was peeling off his clothes. “I can swim,” he volunteered pertly, “if I don’t get cramps.”
Babbing nudged his operative with a secret elbow. They had their heads together over the map. “Here ’s our road, now,” Babbing said. “Where does Langton’s property begin?”
The highway from the Beaverton station ran for five miles up a tilted valley to the top of a ridge of rolling land whose slopes had been cleared for farms. Where the ridge joined the shoulder of Knob Top, the road began to wind down to the Careyville valley, in falling turns and angles; and, at the first turn, a narrower road forked off, into the woods of Knob Top, to find the Langton bungalow where it sat high above Careyville with its back to the mountain.
At the entrance to this wood-road, the auto slowed in a sightless downpour, blinded by lightning, deafened by a thunder that shook the hills, struggling against a stampede of wind and rain that had gone wild with the night. A hand raised the storm curtains; the door opened; Barney jumped out; and the cold rain doused him dripping wet in an instant, as if buckets had been emptied on him. He hunched up his shoulders, pulling down his hat, and he ran for the shelter of the trees, crouching. A bright explosion of lightning that burst the sky showed a blanched world of rock and field in gray greens, the woods before him lashed and reeling, the road ankle-deep in a muddy torrent. It was all blotted out instantly in a roar of thunder. When the next stab of lightning cut the darkness, the auto had vanished down the mountain-side and Barney was hidden by the woods.
He had run to them as instinctively as he would have taken shelter in a doorway from a city downpour, but it was no comfortable doorway that he found. The rain was drumming on the leaves in a confused uproar; the branches were tossing, the trees creaking; and the water poured down on him in broken streams. A blaze of lightning lit up the green depths around him with an unearthly cold incandescence. He saw a wide perspective of black tree trunks, overhung with threshing branches and fluttering leaves transparently green—a confusion of frightened underbrush, dripping rocks, ferns tremulously swaying—and the ruts and stones and ditch gullies of a road that was arched with tree limbs and drenched foliage like an arbor.
It all glowed vitreously bright for one blinking instant, and then darkness snatched it away; the thunder crashed and reverberated as if he were in a cave that split and rocked around him; a new fury of rain rushed through the tree tops with a hissing rage; a wet leaf slapped him smartly across his cheek and ear. He started and struck at it, and shook it from his fingers, and stood trembling.
There was no slum or dive in New York City where Barney would have been afraid—for there was no human being, from the policeman on the beat to the gangster in the cellar, whom he would not have known how to wheedle with his frank eyes and his innocent smile. But the woods were new to him. His feet, used to pavements, were nervous in the yielding mud that seemed treacherous and slimy. Everything about him was unstable, disordered, bewilderingly agitated; he had a feeling that it would all be squashy to the touch; and he apprehended that it concealed snakes and rat-like animals that might scuttle over his feet. He had been assured that there were no bears, or such, “nearer than the Central Park menagerie.”
Babbing and the men in the auto had torn the band from his hat and stained the light felt with spots of oil, artistically. They had pried the heel off one of his shoes and split the other at the bend of the toe. They had broken apart a pair of handcuffs, snapped one on his left wrist, and fastened his shirt cuff over it to conceal it and its dangling chain links. As a further disguise of guilt, they had made a sling for his left arm out of a handkerchief, and buttoned his coat over the bandage. And all the time that they had been thus making him up as a fugitive from justice, they had been coaching him in the story that he was to tell in the Langton bungalow when he should come upon it in the morning, after a night spent in the woods.
“Gather all the mud and scratches you can, now,” Babbing counseled finally. “And don’t forget to be hungry, I don’t suppose you ’ll be able to look thirsty if this storm keeps up. Go ahead.”
Barney had gone ahead, his mind fixed on the moment of his arrival at Langton’s door. He had overlooked the interval that must elapse. And when the touch of the wet leaf startled him, he was standing shivering in the mud and water, facing the impossible prospect of a whole night spent in this storm-mad wilderness.
He began to move forward nervously up the road, with a vague idea that he might find some sort of shelter; but the darkness was so intimidating that after a few hesitating steps he stopped again and waited for the lightning. It showed him the road rising before him in a long uneven slant. He began to hurry, tripping over stones and floundering into ruts and puddles. In the black tumult of the rain, the woods seemed to be rushing past on both sides of him; they halted, when it lightened, cowering; but when the darkness and the thunder leaped on them, they started off again in a panic.
Soon the panic was in Barney’s legs. He had forgotten the loss of his boot heel, and the road seemed to rock under his uneven steps. A tree fell with a splitting crash of branches somewhere near him, and he leaped to escape it. His heart stampeded him. He ran blindly, fell on his elbows, scrambled up and stumbled into some bushes, and fought his way through them. An arm caught him across the chest and held him; and when the lightning flared again, he found himself struggling with a sapling. He clung to it, out of breath and bareheaded, with the rain trickling down the mud on his face.
He stayed there till he had regained control of himself. He found his hat. He fumbled his way back to the road and began to move up it again. He was careful, deliberate, apparently composed. But his nerve was gone, and he knew it. He knew that he had to be cautious with himself. He was trembling internally, and his legs jerked. The lightning and the thunder struck and vibrated in him as if he had been jarred loose inside. He had to stifle an impulse lifting him to yell and run back, with the wind, a part of the uproar, blown along with the rain.
The lightning disclosed a tall hemlock by the road-side, with branches like great fronds that looked as if they would shelter him. He felt his way to it through the brush in the ditch, and stood there hesitating. Its trunk was wet, its roots in a sodden moss; and although he was already as wet as the moss was, he goose-fleshed at the thought of sitting down in it.
He wondered what he was going to do—how he was to spend the night.
He wanted to And a cave and crawl into it, away from all this intolerable noise and discomfort—a deep, dry cave, dark and still.
And then the lightning burst in the tree-top over his head. The bark of the hemlock under his hand exploded like a shell. He was thrown into the ditch and he sprang to his feet and ran with his mouth open, panting out a hoarse whisper that he thought was shrill, bounding along in great leaps, without falling, without leaving the road, with a curious sensation as if the lower part of him were a runaway horse that carried him clinging to it. And he ran up the road, instead of down. And the storm hooted and whipped him. But over all his panic and the incredible swiftness of the motion that bore him along, his mind seemed to ride coolly alert and exultant and at the same time mad.
He fell and struck his forehead against something immovable from which his head seemed to rebound with a swimming lightness that was exhilarating; his amazing body lifted him again unhurt, and sprang ahead with him. It carried him without effort, and fell and rose under him, dipping and soaring like a bird. Once the lightning showed a fallen tree-trunk in his way, and he leaped with the flash, and cleared it, and sailed along unwearied. He felt that he would never tire, and when he began to sink in on himself, it was as if his body were a punctured balloon that had begun to flatten but not to collapse.
His feet seemed to be dragging. He feared that they might catch against something and bring down his head, which still floated. When another arm caught him across his chest, he hung on it weakly and let the world blow by, happily anchored in a surge that rose and fell with him, his eyes on a shore light that burned steadily on the horizon.
He had struck against a pole gate, and the lightning revealed a clearing in the woods and a house beyond it. He hung there a long time, watching it come and go in flashes, and he had not the slightest idea why it disappeared, any more than if the whole thing were a night-mare. First there would be the darkness with the small ray of yellow light in it; then the open field and the house, as distinct as daylight; then the darkness again—over and over, in a dizzy, drunken sort of blinking iteration. He felt seasick.
It occurred to him that he might crawl through the gate and sneak up and grab a pillar of the veranda when it rose to show itself, and clamber aboard it. If he made no noise, the crew would not come out and throw him off into the water again. He could sleep there comfortably. He needed sleep.
He got the upper part of his body through the gate, between the poles, without much difficulty, but his legs hung back and impeded him; and when he began to crawl along the road, watching cunningly for the reappearance of the house, he found that his knees were unwilling to help him. Under these conditions his progress was necessarily slow. Besides, the house seldom reappeared in the place where it had vanished. It kept moving all around the horizon. He discovered that it followed the yellow light—that if he could hold this steady with his eyes, he could control the house. Then he began to gain on it. He was swimming “dog fashion,” of course. On account of the weight of his legs he had all he could do to keep his chin above water, and the spray splashed in his eyes.
When he got hold of the veranda steps, he clung there, floating. He was unable to drag himself out. Several times, when he was almost up, his knee slipped and he fell back again; but he never lost his grip. He concluded that he would have to raise himself by the shoulders alone, independent of his legs; and he came up the steps on his belly, holding to the edge of one step with his chin while he got his hands on the next one. He was making more noise than he had expected, and he was admonishing himself to be quiet, in a panting mumble, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and a woman stood in the light. He lay perfectly still and watched her, his chin on the edge of the veranda floor.
He was an incredible, a shocking sight. He had cut his forehead, and the blood was over his face. One eye was almost closed in a bruise; the other wavered like a drunken man’s. He was plastered with mud to the hair. His coat was torn from his shoulder. His mouth was open, and his breath came in hoarse gasps.
The woman screamed “My God!” and backed into the room. It ’s a murdered man!” she cried, there. “He ’s dyin’! He ’s dyin’ on the doorstep!”
A younger woman put her aside swiftly and came out with a lamp. The grimace that Barney made was an attempt to smile at her. He raised himself slowly on his hands, and his head nodded and swayed. He saw her at a great distance, very small, in a little circle of light that gradually closed in upon her till she and the light vanished.
When she put her lamp down on the porch table and turned to help him, she found that he had fainted.
He regained consciousness lying on his back, looking up at the dark beams and lemon-yellow plaster of a living-room ceiling. The head of a young woman came between him and the beams, and her eyes were very large and brown. He saw them disassociated from all else, moving with an independent intelligence of their own, between long lashes, under dark eyebrows. A warm, wet cloth shut off his puzzled scrutiny by applying itself to his forehead.
When the cloth withdrew, she put an arm gently under his neck and shoulders and raised him. She was on one knee, on the floor beside him, and she propped him with the other knee while she took a steaming glass from somewhere behind her, and held it to his lips. He drank with his eyes on her hand. The smooth plump delicacy of her fingers interested him. He put his own muddy paw up to regulate the flow of the choking liquor, and felt the softness of her flesh. He looked up at her. She smiled at him, without moving to free her hand. “Better?” she asked.
He regarded her smile with an impersonal interest. It was a very pleasant, slow smile. He looked into her eyes, and was fascinated. She asked: “What is your name?”
He answered, after a moment, as if he were in doubt: “Barney. Barney . . . Cook.”
“Where do you live?”
“How did you come here?”
Evidently, he could not remember.
“Take the glass, Annie,” she said.
Some one took the glass. In order to move him she freed her fingers from his, slipping her hand down his wrist. It was his left wrist, and she touched the metal there. “What ’s that?” His head came over on her bosom as she shifted him. “Annie!” She raised his hand. “Annie!”
Another voice said, in a whisper: “It ’s the police! It ’s a handcuff!”
The liquor had made him drowsy, and her breast was a soft pillow. In their horrified silence he rested weakly, his head swimming in pain. Somewhere he heard a muffled thumping. That was her heart.
The voices went on: “They ’ll be after ’m.” “Lock the door. Draw the curtains.” “Will yuh keep him—here!” “I—I don’t know.” Footsteps were busy about him.
She whispered, close: “What have you done? Boy?” When he did not answer, she lowered him into her lap and roused him, one arm about him, a hand laid on his cheek. “Tell me. What has happened?” He studied the concern in her eyes. “The handcuff,” she said. She raised his wrist to show it to him. “Who did that?”
He groped in the misty blankness of his brain. He frowned, and found the seat of pain in his forehead. She asked. “Were you arrested?”
He said, at last, faintly; “Yes.”
“For what? What had you done?”
He could not remember. He remembered that—that some one had told him—something. “I jumped,” he said. “I jumped off the train.”
“Why? . . . Why did you jump from a train?”
He raised himself a little and put a hand to his forehead. His head felt huge. “What ’s the matter with it?” he complained.
“You ’ve hurt yourself—when you jumped, perhaps.”
“How did you get up here?”
“I—I don’ know. I was in the woods. Runnin’. I—I guess I was scared.” He saw the room, in the rich lamplight. “Where am I?”
“You ’re safe,” she said, deeply. “Don’t be afraid.”
“I ’m wet, ain’t I? . . . I was swimmin’ . . . That’s how I got here.” And then, after long thought, he added: “Gee, I ’m mixed.”
He felt her shaking. It was in the hysterical relief of nervous laughter. He smiled up at her, with the wreck of his engaging grin. He said: “I ’m—I ’m glad I ’m here, anyway. . . . Where am I?”
She regained her gravity. “My name is Langton—Mary Langton. This is my father’s house.”
“Langton?” He had heard the name before. He could not remember where, and the pain dulled his effort to recollect. “I ’m on the blink,” he sighed, and sank back in her arms again, drowsily.
“Help me put him on the couch, Annie,” she said.
The rest was between waking and sleeping. They carried him to a roomy leather couch beside the fire-place, and made him comfortable with cushions, and bandaged his head, and took off his wet clothing, and wrapped him in warm blankets. He was fast asleep when they were pulling off his shoes. He was big for his age, but his mouth pouted in his dreams like a child’s; and Mary Langton, flushing a little, bent over him maternally as she tucked the blanket under his bare, boyish shoulders, and her hand lingered in a comforting touch of pity on his round young neck.
There were three to sit down for breakfast in the Langton bungalow, next morning; and one of them was Barney with a clean bandage fastened diagonally over his forehead and his bruised eye. He had regained his color and his smile, which beamed—with some doubtful intervals—on Mary Langton. She was wearing a lace cap and negligee, enchantingly adorned with old rose ribbons; and she replied to Barney’s smile with one of a protecting benevolence that remembered putting him to bed.
The third at the table was an athletic-looking young man in a shooting costume, whom Barney had recognized as the missing Whately in spite of his new mustache that continually attracted his fingers. Hat in hand, he had wakened Barney in a bedroom upstairs, where Barney had been as much surprised to find himself as to see Whately; but no questions had been asked on either side. He had brought Barney some underclothes and a dressing gown that were too large for him. “Your own things are still drying in the kitchen,” he said. “Breakfast ’s ready.”
It was he who bandaged Barney’s wounds, amused by the boy’s blinking and troubled silence. “We ’ll have to get that off with a file,” he remarked of Barney’s handcuff, as he helped to roll up the sleeves of the dressing gown. He brought a pair of bath slippers. “That ’s the best we can do.”
Barney said nothing. His mind was as busy as a hive of bees, and the swarming activity of his thoughts showed in his face. Whately was enjoying his own superiority in deception; he talked with an easy naturalness, smiling inwardly at Barney’s bewilderment. He could imagine what the boy was thinking. “Ready?” he asked, when Barney was washed and dressed and bandaged.
Barney nodded. “I guess I was struck by lightnin’,” he volunteered.
“Were you?” Whately replied cheerfully. “Tell us about it downstairs. Are n’t you hungry?”
“Gee!” Barney sighed. “Hungry!”
“Come along then.”
They came downstairs to the living room together, and Mary Langton included them both in her affectionate air of greeting. She put one hand on Barney’s shoulder, as she led him to the table, patting him as if he were a child. He was a child, forthwith. Instinctively, quite without craft, and almost unconscious of the fact that he was acting a part, he became an ingenuous youngster without a trace of guile.
Whately did not notice the change at first; for Mary, as they crossed the room, secretly found his hand and spoke to it in a dumb pressure that was eloquent: it took all his mind to her, warmly.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked Barney.
“I don’t remember,” he said—and joined in their amusement, naïvely unabashed.
He stared around at the room like an interested infant. It was a sort of room that he had never seen before—with silvery gray woodwork and yellow sash-curtains, silk rugs and a hardwood floor, a bear skin before a huge fireplace, a cottage piano, furniture of severe oak upholstered in Spanish leather, books and flowers. It was an immense room, full of sunlight and color; and the table was set at one end in an alcove of windows that looked out on the valley far below. The sight of the fruit piled in a great wicker tray in the center of the table took his eyes and held them. “I have n’t had anything to eat since—” It seemed ages—“since I don’t know when.”
“Help yourself, Barney,” she said, as they sat down. “To the fruit. And tell us how you got here.”
He reached an orange, bit a wound in it—transparently embarrassed—and began to skin it with his fingers. “He—he lef’ me on the train,” he said, “fer a minute, an’ I jumped ’n—’n’ beat it—’n’ piked up the road—till I got here.”
“Who left you on the train?” Whately asked.
He looked up furtively at old Annie, who was bringing in the coffee. “The detective,” he said.
“What did the detective want you for?”
“Nothin’. I— It was my brother done it, ’n’—’n’ they got him but I got away—t’ Oswego. ’N I wrote home to my mother. ’N I guess that ’s how they foun’ out where I was.”
“And you had n’t done anything wrong, at all, had you, Barney?” she asked.
Barney gave her the gaze of utter innocence. “No ’m.”
Whately eyed him. This was not the troubled, silent face that he had watched upstairs. “How did you get the other handcuff off?”
Barney had filled his mouth with orange. He shook his head and gulped everything. “They don’t put ’em onto both yer hands. He puts one onto your wrist an’ one onto his. He took his off, when he lef’ me in the car fer a minute—’n’ I broke it off the chain with a couple o’ stones—after I got away.”
“Don’t bother him now, dear,” she said, faintly. “He ’s hungry.”
Whately saw her pale look of distress. “What ’s the matter?”
“I don’t like to hear of—handcuffs,” she said.
And Barney understood. For the first time, he realized what he was going to do to her when he gave the signal to Careyville that Whately was in the bungalow. He devoted himself to his breakfast silently. He did not care about Whately; that fellow thought himself too smart, anyway. But she—
He looked aside, out the window, and saw the white frame houses of the village among the trees in the valley. “That ’s Careyville,” she explained.
“Who lives in the big house? The one with the peak in the middle?”
“It ’s the summer hotel.”
He had guessed as much. He could see the window, in that central gable, behind which an operative sat with field glasses, watching the bungalow. He returned to his plate.
Whately asked: “Where are you going, from here?”
“It does n’t cut much ice where I go,” Barney answered. “They ’ll get me.”
“Please don’t,” she entreated Whately. “Talk about something else. Were you flooded out, last night?”
Barney gathered that he was camping in the woods nearby, but the location of the camp was not indicated. They began to talk about the news that they had read in the previous day’s paper. Barney heard them, inattentively. His mind was occupied. He looked, once, for a long time, at Mary Langton. He liked her.
She knew it. “What is it, Barney?”
“Nothin’,” he said, reddening.
“Have some bacon?”
“I had some.”
“Have some more.”
“Nuh-uh. Had enough.”
Whately ht a cigarette and inhaled it thoughtfully.
“I ’m goin’ out on the veranda,” Barney said, at last—having eaten all he could. He wanted to think things over; they would be clearer, perhaps, if he had Mary Langton out of his eyes and the operative’s window before him. And he had to show himself, so that Babbing would understand that he had made his entrance into the bungalow successfully.
He came out the door upon his first real sight of the depth and breadth and distance of a mountain view; and it held him staring. Down the broad valley before him, a river looped its way like a garden path, among low hills of farmland that lay asleep in the sunlight, round and indolent; and some had been only half clipped of woods that bristled on their backs like patches of hair on a French poodle. Across the valley, the Catskills shouldered one another to look over the ridge at the farms that had been marching up through the forest, along the river, nearer and nearer, year by year. At the foot of the ridge lay the summer hotel, above Careyville, in a pine grove. The single upper window in its central gable watched Barney like an eye.
He came out on the steps in his dressing gown, to show himself, and cautiously semaphored with his right arm, raising it stiffly over his head. After a moment, he saw something white drop over the window sill and hang fluttering. It was their signal that they saw him.
He was to raise both arms if he had located Whately.
He turned back to the house.
After all, there was no need of haste. Whately was not going to run away.
His bath slippers made his footstep noiseless as he approached the door. He heard her say, in a low broken utterance: “I could n’t help thinking of you dear, just like that, somewhere—all blood—in handcuffs—running all night. It ’s terrible! I can’t bear it. You must—”
“But, dearest,” he protested, under his voice, “I ’m not a child. I can take care of myself better than that. Besides, I have n’t done anything wrong and they know it. That indictment was all a bluff. They have no more right to arrest me—”
“Then why not go back and face it? You—”
“Because your governor—”
“I tell you, father wants you to. He does n’t want you to sacrifice yourself for him. And me? What ’s to become of me, if I ’m never to be able to see you—if you ’re always to be hiding and—and hunted! I know what father has done. It was illegal—but he didn’t think it was criminal. And I don’t. If they send him to jail—”
“We ’ll all be disgraced. For life.”
“We ’re disgraced, now. We ’re only making it worse by having it thought that you—when you ’re innocent— Please do it, dearest. Please. For my sake.” There were tears in her voice.
Barney hurried back to the steps and threw both arms up over his head. The signal came out again on the window sill, instantly.
It was done. They were coming.
When he returned to the room, guiltily, Mary was still at the table and Whately was walking up and down. “I guess, I ’ll get my clothes on,” Barney explained, “an’ go ’n’ look up my hat—down the road.”
Whately was near the inner door. “I ’ll get them,” he said. Mary did not speak. She was sitting with her elbows on the table, her hands lying clasped before her, staring aside at the window; and Barney understood that she was concealing tears. He took the clothes from Whately and hurried upstairs to dress. They would be coming in the automobile. He had only one idea—to get away before they came.
He limped down stairs very quietly in his broken shoes, his coat ripped at the shoulder, his trouser legs torn at the knees. He had intended to slip out without her noticing him, but she was sitting on the couch beside the fireplace near the foot of the stairs. “Come here, Barney,” she said. “We must get Annie to mend those tears.” She fingered and patted them with a futile solicitude, smiling at him wanly. “Are n’t you afraid that they might see you looking for your hat? They ’ll be searching for you, won’t they?”
“I don’t care if they do see me.” He looked down at his feet.
She drew him to her and put an arm about him. “Why not?”
“I guess I might as well let them pick me up.”
Her arm tightened around him. She said, in a low voice: “That ’s right, now. If you have n’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of. And if you have, you ought to be brave enough to take your punishment. . . . Your mother will help you, won’t she?”
Barney nodded, hanging his head.
“Will you write to me, if I can do anything?”
He nodded again.
She gave him her town address. “And, Barney, be a good boy. Won’t you? I want you to be such a big, brave, honest man.”
Poor Barney could not answer. He was crying.
She held him close. “Kiss me good-by, then—in case you don’t come back.”
He put his arm around her neck childishly, and kissed her—and then he broke away from her caress and ran.
He found his hat on the wood road, and He had no more than put it on before he snatched it off again to flag the approaching automobile, with Babbing in the front seat. “What has happened?” Babbing asked. “What ’s the matter with your head?”
Barney waited till the car had stopped. He jumped on the running board. “Don’t tell them it was me,” he pleaded. “An’—’n’ don’t put the cuffs on him there—in the house—will you, Chief? Not while she can see you. She—she ’s—”
“That’s all right,” Babbing interrupted, with a sudden gruff kindliness. “We ’ll fix everything all right for her. You trot along down to Careyville now, and Sam ’ll pick you up there later. Go ahead, Sam.”
The car started with a jerk. Barney dropped back to the road, and ran away limping, his lips trembling, pale with a self-pitying shame. He had seen that Babbing knew and understood.
What he did not guess was that Babbing had foreseen and—in the broken handcuff and the story that went with it—had prophetically “planted.”