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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 16
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The Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 16 Post by :Terence Category :Long Stories Author :Harold Macgrath Date :May 2012 Read :968

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The Drums Of Jeopardy - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

About nine o'clock that same night a certain rich man, having established himself comfortably under the reading lamp, a fine book in his hands and a fine after-dinner cigar between his teeth, was exceedingly resentful when his butler knocked, entered, and presented a card.

"My orders were that I was not at home to any one."

"Yes, sir. But he said you would see him because he came to see you regarding a Mr. Gregory."

"What?"

"Yes, sir."

"Damn these newspapers!... Wait, wait!" the banker called, for the butler was starting for the door to carry the anathema to the appointed head. "Bring him in. He's a big bug, and I can't afford to affront him."

"Yes, sir"--with the colourless tone of a perfect servant.

When the visitor entered he stopped just beyond the threshold. He remained there even after the butler closed the door. Blue eye and gray clashed; two masters of fence who had executed the same stroke. The banker laughed and Cutty smiled.

"I suppose," said the banker, "you and I ought to sign an armistice, too."

"Agreed."

"And you've always been rather a puzzle to me. A rich man, a gentleman, and yet sticking to the newspaper game."

"And you're a puzzle to me, too. A rich man, a gentleman, and yet sticking to the banking game."

"What the devil was our row about?"

"Can't quite recall."

"Whatever it was it was the way you went at it."

"A reform was never yet accomplished by purring and pussyfooting," said Cutty.

"Come over and sit down. Now, how the devil did you find out about this Gregory affair?" The banker held out his hand, which Cutty grasped with honest pressure. "If you are here in the capacity of a newspaper man, not a word out of me. Have a cigar?"

"I never smoke anything but pipes that ruin curtains. You should have given your name to Miss Conover."

"I was under promise not to explain my business. But before we proceed, an answer. Newspaper?"

"No. I represent the Department of Justice. And we'll get along easier when I add that I possess rather unlimited powers under that head. How did you happen to stumble into this affair?"

"Through Captain Rathbone, my prospective son-in-law, who is in Coblenz. A cable arrived this morning, instructing me to proceed precisely in the manner I did. Rathbone is an intimate friend of the man I was actually seeking. The apartment of this man Gregory was mentioned to Rathbone in a cable as a possible temporary abiding place. What do you want to know?"

"Whether or not he is undesirable."

"Decidedly, I should say, desirable."

"You make that statement as an American citizen?"

"I do. I make it unreservedly because my future son-in-law is rather a difficult man to make friends with. I am acting merely as Rathbone's agent. On the other hand, I should be a cheerful liar if I told you I wasn't interested. What do you know?"

"Everything," answered Cutty, quietly.

"You know where this young man is?"

"At this moment he is in my apartment, rather seriously battered and absolutely penniless."

"Well, I'll be tinker-dammed! You know who he is, of course?"

"Yes. And I want all your information so that I may guide my future actions accordingly. If he is really undesirable he shall be deported the moment he can stand on his two feet."

The banker pyramided his fingers, rather pleased to learn that he could astonish this interesting beggar. "He has on account at my bank half a million dollars. Originally he had eight hundred thousand. The three hundred thousand, under cable orders from Yokohama, was transferred to our branch in San Francisco. This was withdrawn about two weeks ago. How does that strike you?"

"All in a heap," confessed Cutty. "When was this fund established with you?"

"Shortly before Kerensky's government blew up. The funds were in our London bank. There was, of course, a lot of red tape, excessive charges in exchange, and all that. Anyhow, about eight hundred thousand arrived."

"What brought him to America? Why didn't he go to England? That would have been the safest haven."

"I can explain that. He intends to become an American citizen. Some time ago he became the owner of a fine cattle ranch in Montana."

"Well, I'll be tinker-dammed, too!" exploded Cutty.

"A young man with these ideas in his head ought eventually to become a first-rate citizen. What do you say?"

"I am considerably relieved. His forbears, the blood--"

"His mother was a healthy Italian peasant--a famous singer in her time. His fortune, I take it, was his inheritance from her. She made a fortune singing in the capitals of Europe and speculating from time to time. She sent the boy, at the age of ten, to England. Afraid of the home influence. He remained there, under the name of Hawksley, for something like fourteen years, under the guardianship of this fellow Gregory. Of Gregory I know positively nothing. The young fellow is, to all purposes, methods of living, points of view, an Englishman. Rathbone, who was educated at Oxford, met him there and they shared quarters. But it was only in recent years that he learned the identity of his friend. In 1914 the young fellow returned to Russia. Military obligations. That's all I know. Mighty interesting, though."

"I am much obliged to you. The white elephant becomes a normal drab pachyderm," said Cutty.

"Still something of an elephant on your hands. I see. Bring him here if you wish."

"And sic the Bolshevik at your door."

"That's so. You spoke of his having been beaten and robbed. Bolshevik?"

"Yes. An old line of reasoning first put into effect by Oliver Cromwell. The axe."

"The poor devil!"

"Fact. I'm sorry for him, but I wish he would blow away conveniently."

"Rathbone says he's handsome, gay, but decent, considering. Humanity is being knocked about some. The hour has come for our lawyers to go back to their offices. Politics must step aside for business. We ought to hang up signs in every state capitol in the country: 'Men Wanted--Specialists.' A steel man from Pittsburgh, a mining man from Idaho, a shipowner from Boston, a meat packer from Omaha, a grain man from Chicago. What the devil do lawyers know about these things--the energies that make the wheels of this country go round? By the way, that Miss Conover was a remarkably pretty girl. She seemed to be a bit suspicious of me."

"Good reasons. That chap went to Gregor's--Gregor is his name--and was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. She saved his life."

"Good Lord! Does she know?"

"No. And what's more, I don't want her to. I am practically her guardian."

"Then you ought to get her out of that roost."

"Hang it, I can't get her to leave. I'm not legally her guardian; self-appointed. But she has agreed to leave in May."

"I'm glad you dropped in. Command me in any way you please."

"That's very good of you, considering."

"The war is over. We'd be a fine pair of fools to let an ancient grudge go on. They tell me you've a wonderful apartment on top of that skyscraper of yours."

"Will you come to dinner some night?"

"Any time you say. I should like to bring my daughter."

"She doesn't know?"

"No. Heard of Hawksley; thinks he's English."

"I am certainly agreeable." This would be a distinct advantage to Kitty. "I see you have a good book there. I'll take myself off."

In the Avenue Cutty loaded his pipe. He struck a match on the flagstone and cupped it over the bowl of his pipe, thereby throwing his picturesque countenance into ruddy relief. Opposite emotions filled the hearts of the two men watching him--in one, chagrin; in the other, exultation.

Cutty decided to walk downtown, the night being fine. He set his foot to a long, swinging stride. An elephant on his hands, truly. Poor devil, for a fad! Nobody wanted him, not even those who wished him well. Wanted to become an American citizen. He would have been tolerably safe in England. Here he would never be free of danger. A ranch. The beggar would have a chance out there in the West. The anarchist and the Bolshevik were town cooties. His one chance, actually. The poor devil! Kitty had the right idea. It was a mighty fine thing, these times, to be a citizen under the protection of the American doctrine.

Three hundred thousand! And Karlov had got that along with the drums. The devil's own for luck! The fool would be able to start some fine ructions with all that capital behind him. Episodes in the night.

Kitty dreamed of wonderful rose gardens, endless and changing; but strive as she would she could not find Cutty anywhere, which worried her, even in her dream.

The nurse heard the patient utter a single word several times before he fell asleep.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Fan!" And he smiled.

She hunted for the palm leaf, but with a slight gesture he signified that that was not what he wanted.

Cutty played solitaire with his chrysoprase until the telephone broke in upon his reveries. What he heard over the wire disturbed him greatly.

"You were followed from the Avenue to the apartment."

"How do you know?"

"I am Henderson. You assigned me to watch the apartment in Eightieth through the night. I followed the man who followed you. He saw your face when you lit the pipe. When the banker left Miss Conover he was followed home. That established him in the affair. The follower hung round, and so did I. You appeared. He took a chance shot in the dark. Not sure, but doing a bit of clever guessing."

"You still followed him?"

"Yes."

"Where did he wind up?"

"A house in the warehouse district. Vacant warehouses on each side. Some new nest. I can lead you to it, sir, any time you wish."

"Thanks."

Cutty pushed aside the telephone and returned to his green stones. After all, why worry? It was unfortunate, of course, but the apartment was more inaccessible than the top of the Matterhorn. Still, they might discover what his real business was and interfere seriously with his future work on the other side. A ruin in the warehouse district? A good place to look for Stefani Gregor--if he were still alive.

He was. And in his dark room he cried piteously for water--water--water!

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