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XXXVIII


The evening had shaken Dick profoundly. David's appearance and Lucy's
grief and premonition, most of all the talk of Elizabeth, had
depressed and unnerved him. Even the possibility of his own
innocence was subordinated to an overwhelming yearning for the old
house and the old life.

Through a side window as he went toward the street he could see
Reynolds at his desk in the office, and he was possessed by a
fierce jealousy and resentment at his presence there. The
laboratory window was dark, and he stood outside and looked at it.
He would have given his hope of immortality just then to have been
inside it once more, working over his tubes and his cultures, his
slides and microscope. Even the memory of certain dearly-bought
extravagances in apparatus revived in him, and sent the blood to
his head in a wave of unreasoning anger and bitterness.

He had a wild desire to go in at the front door, confront Reynolds
in his smug complacency and drive him out; to demand his place in
the world and take it. He could hardly tear himself away.

Under a street lamp he looked at his watch. It was eleven o'clock,
and he had a half hour to spare before train-time. Following an
impulse he did not analyze he turned toward the Wheeler house. Just
so months ago had he turned in that direction, but with this
difference, that then he went with a sort of hurried expectancy,
and that now he loitered on the way. Yet that it somehow drew him
he knew. Not with the yearning he had felt toward the old brick
house, but with the poignancy of a long past happiness. He did not
love, but he remembered.

Yet, for a man who did not love, he was oddly angry at the sight
of two young figures on the doorstep. Their clear voices came to
him across the quiet street, vibrant and full of youth. It was
the Sayre boy and Elizabeth.

He half stopped, and looked across. They were quite oblivious of
him, intent and self-absorbed. As he had viewed Reynolds'
unconscious figure with jealous dislike, so he viewed Wallace Sayre.
Here, everywhere, his place was filled. He was angry with an
unreasoning, inexplicable anger, angry at Elizabeth, angry at the
boy, and at himself.

He had but to cross the street and take his place there. He could
drive that beardless youngster away with a word. The furious
possessive jealousy of the male animal, which had nothing to do
with love, made him stop and draw himself up as he stared across.

Then he smiled wryly and went on. He could do it, but he did not
want to. He would never do it. Let them live their lives, and let
him live his. But he knew that there, across the street, so near
that he might have raised his voice and summoned her, he was leaving
the best thing that had come into his life; the one fine and good
thing, outside of David and Lucy. That against its loss he had
nothing but an infatuation that had ruined three lives already, and
was not yet finished.

He stopped and, turning, looked back. He saw the girl bend down
and put a hand on Wallie Sayre's shoulder, and the boy's face
upturned and looking into hers. He shook himself and went on.
After all, that was best. He felt no anger now. She deserved
better than to be used to help a man work out his salvation. She
deserved youth, and joyousness, and the forgetfulness that comes
with time. She was already forgetting.

He smiled again as he went on up the street, but his hands as he
buttoned his overcoat were shaking.

It was shortly after that that he met the rector, Mr. Oglethorpe.
He passed him quickly, but he was conscious that the clergyman had
stopped and was staring after him. Half an hour later, sitting in
the empty smoker of the train, he wondered if he had not missed
something there. Perhaps the church could have helped him, a good
man's simple belief in right and wrong. He was wandering in a
gray no-man's land, without faith or compass.

David had given him the location of Bassett's apartment house, and
he found it quickly. he was in a state of nervous irritability by
that time, for the sense of being a fugitive was constantly
stressed in the familiar streets by the danger of recognition. It
was in vain that he argued with himself that only the police were
interested in his movements, and the casual roundsman not at all.
He found himself shying away from them like a nervous horse.

But if he expected any surprise from Bassett he was disappointed.
He greeted him as if he had seen him yesterday, and explained his
lack of amazement in his first words.

"Doctor Livingstone telephoned me. Sit down, man, and let me look
at you. You've given me more trouble than any human being on earth."

"Sorry," Dick said awkwardly, "I seem to have a faculty of involving
other people in my difficulties."

"Want a drink?"

"No, thanks. I'll smoke, if you have any tobacco. I've been afraid
to risk a shop."

Bassett talked cheerfully as he found cigarettes and matches. "The
old boy had a different ring to his voice to-night. He was going
down pretty fast, Livingstone; was giving up the fight. But I fancy
you've given him a new grip on the earth." When they were seated,
however, a sort of awkwardness developed. To Dick, Bassett had been
a more or less shadowy memory, clouded over with the details and
miseries of the flight. And Bassett found Dick greatly altered. He
was older than he remembered him. The sort of boyishness which had
come with the resurrection of his early identity had gone, and the
man who sat before him was grave, weary, and much older. But his
gaze was clear and direct.

"Well, a good bit of water has gone over the dam since we met,"
Bassett said. "I nearly broke a leg going down that infernal
mountain again. And I don't mind telling you that I came within
an ace of landing in the Norada jail. They knew I'd helped you get
away. But they couldn't prove it."

"I got out, because I didn't see any need of dragging you down with
me. I was a good bit of a mess just then, but I could reason that
out, anyhow. It wasn't entirely unselfish, either. I had a better
chance without you. Or thought I did."

Bassett was watching him intently.

"Has it all come back?" he inquired.

"Practically all. Not much between the thing that happened at the
ranch and David Livingstone's picking me up at the cabin."

"Did it ever occur to you to wonder just how I got in on your
secret?"

"I suppose you read Maggie Donaldson's confession."

"I came to see you before that came out."

"Then I don't know, I'm afraid."

"I suppose you would stake your life on the fact that Beverly
Carlysle knows nothing of what happened that night at the ranch?"

Dick's face twitched, but he returned Bassett's gaze steadily.

"She has no criminal knowledge, if that is what you mean.

"I am not so sure of it."

"I think you'd better explain that."

At the cold anger in Dick's voice Bassett stared at him. So that
was how the wind lay. Poor devil! And out of the smug complacence
of his bachelor peace Bassett thanked his stars for no women in his
life.

"I'm afraid you misunderstand me, Livingstone," he said easily.
"I don't think that she shot Lucas. But I don't think she has ever
told all she knows. I've got the coroner's inquest here, and we'll
go over it later. I'll tell you how I got onto your trail. Do you
remember taking Elizabeth Wheeler to see "The Valley?'"

"I had forgotten it. I remember now."

"Well, Gregory, the brother, saw you and recognized you. I was
with him. He tried to deny you later, but I was on. Of course he
told her, and I think she sent him to warn David Livingstone. They
knew I was on the trail of a big story. Then I think Gregory
stayed here to watch me when the company made its next jump. He
knew I'd started, for he sent David Livingstone the letter you got.
By the way, that letter nearly got me jailed in Norada."

"I'm not hiding behind her skirts," Dick said shortly. "And there's
nothing incriminating in what you say. She saw me as a fugitive,
and she sent me a warning. That's all."

"Easy, easy, old man. I'm not pinning anything on her. But I want,
if you don't mind, to carry this through. I have every reason to
believe that, some time before you got to Norada, the Thorwald woman
was on my trail. I know that I was followed to the cabin the night
I stayed there, and that she got a saddle horse from her son that
night, her son by Thorwald, either for herself or some one else."

"All right. I accept that, tentatively."

"That means that she knew I was coming to Norada. Think a minute;
I'd kept my movements quiet, but Beverly Carlysle knew, and her
brother. When they warned David they warned her."

"I don't believe it."

"If you had killed Lucas," Bassett asserted positively, "the
Thorwald woman would have let the Sheriff get you, and be damned
to you. She had no reason to love you. You'd kept her son out of
what she felt was his birthright."

He got up and opened a table drawer.

"I've got a copy of the coroner's inquest here. It will bear
going over. And it may help you to remember, too. We needn't
read it all. There's a lot that isn't pertinent."

He got out a long envelope, and took from it a number of typed
pages, backed with a base of heavy paper.

"'Inquest in the Coroner's office on the body of Howard Lucas,'"
he read. "'October 10th, 1911.' That was the second day after.
'Examination of witnesses by Coroner Samuel J. Burkhardt. Mrs.
Lucas called and sworn.'" He glanced at Dick and hesitated. "I
don't know about this to-night, Livingstone. You look pretty well
shot to pieces."

"I didn't sleep last night. I'm all right. Go on."

During the reading that followed he sat back in his deep chair, his
eyes closed. Except that once or twice he clenched his hands he
made no movement whatever.

Q. "What is your name

A. "Anne Elizabeth Lucas. My stage name is Beverly Carlysle."

Q. "Where do you live, Mrs. Lucas?"

A. "At 26 East 56th Street, New York City."

Q. "I shall have to ask you some questions that are necessarily
painful at this time. I shall be as brief as possible.
Perhaps it will be easier for you to tell so much as you know
of what happened the night before last at the Clark ranch."

A. "I cannot tell very much. I am confused, too. I was given
a sleeping powder last night. I can only say that I heard a
shot, and thought at first that it was fired from outside.
I ran down the stairs, and back to the billiard room. As I
entered the room Mr. Donaldson came in through a window. My
husband was lying on the floor. That is all."

Q. "Where was Judson Clark?"

A. "He was leaning on the roulette table, staring at the - at
my husband."

Q. "Did you see him leave the room

A. "No. I was on my knees beside Mr. Lucas. I think when I got
up he was gone. I didn't notice."

Q. "Did you see a revolver?"

A. "No. I didn't look for one."

Q. "Now I shall ask you one more question, and that is all. Had
there been any quarrel between Mr. Lucas and Mr. Clark that
evening in your presence?"

A. "No. But I had quarreled with them both. They were drinking
too much. I had gone to my room to pack and go home. I was


Witness excused and Mr. John Donaldson called.

Q. "What is your name

A. "John Donaldson."

Q. "Where do you live?"

A. "At the Clark ranch."

Q. "What is your business?"

A. "You know all about me. I'm foreman of the ranch."

Q. "I want you to tell what you know, Jack, about last night.
Begin with where you were when you heard the shot."

A. "I was on the side porch. The billiard room opens on to it.
I'd been told by the corral boss earlier in the evening that
he'd seen a man skulking around the house. There'd been a
report like that once or twice before, and I set a watch. I
put Ben Haggerty at the kitchen wing with a gun, and I took
up a stand on the porch. Before I did that I told Judson,
but I don't think he took it in. He'd been lit up like a
house afire all evening. I asked for his gun, but he said
he didn't know where it was, and I went back to my house and
got my own. Along about eight o'clock I thought I saw some
one in the shrubbery, and I went out as quietly as I could.
But it was a woman, Hattie Thorwald, who was working at the
ranch.

"When I left the men were playing roulette. I looked in as
I went back, and Judson had a gun in his hand. He said; 'I
found it, Jack.' I saw he was very drunk, and I told him to
put it up, I'd got mine. It had occurred to me that I'd
better warn Haggerty to be careful, and I started along the
verandah to tell him not to shoot except to scare. I had
only gone a few steps when I heard a shot, and ran back. Mr.
Lucas was on the floor dead, and Judson was as the lady said.
He must have gone out while I was bending over the body."

Q. "Did you see the revolver in his hand?"

A. "No."

Q. "How long between your warning Mr. Clark and the shot?"

A. "I suppose I'd gone a dozen yards."

Q. "Were you present when the revolver was found?"

A. "No, sir.

Q. "Did you see Judson Clark again?"

A. "No, sir. From what I gather he went straight to the corral
and got his horse."

Q. "You entered the room as Mrs. Lucas came in the door?"

A. "Well, she's wrong about that. She was there a little ahead
of me. She'd reached the body before I got in. She was
stooping over it."

Bassett looked up from his reading.

"I want you to get this, Livingstone," he said. "How did she reach
the billiard room? Where was it in the house?"

"Off the end of the living-room."

"A large living-room?"

"Forty or forty-five feet, about."

"Will you draw it for me, roughly?"

He passed over a pad and pencil, and Dick made a hasty outline.
Bassett watched with growing satisfaction.

"Here's the point," he said, when Dick had finished. "She was there
before Donaldson, or at the same time," as Dick made an impatient
movement. "But he had only a dozen yards to go. She was in her
room, upstairs. To get down in that time she had to leave her room,
descend a staircase, cross a hall and run the length of the
living-room, forty-five feet. If the case had ever gone to trial
she'd have had to do some explaining."

"She or Donaldson," Dick said obstinately.

Bassett read on:

Jean Melis called and sworn.

Q. "Your name?"

A. "Jean Melis."

Q. "Have you an American residence, Mr. Melis?"

A. "Only where I am employed. I am now living at the Clark
ranch."

Q. "What is your business?"

A. "I am Mr. Clark's valet."

Q. "It was you who found Mr. Clark's revolver?"

A. "Yes."

Q. "Tell about how and where you found it."

A. "I made a search early in the evening. I will not hide from
you that I meant to conceal it if I discovered it. A man who is
drunk is not guilty of what he does. I did not find it. I went
back that night, when the people had gone, and found it beneath
the carved woodbox, by the fireplace. I did not know that the
Sheriff had placed a man outside the window."

"Get that, too," Bassett said, putting down the paper. "The
Frenchman was fond of you, and he was doing his blundering best.
But the Sheriff expected you back and had had the place watched,
so they caught him. But that's not the point. A billiard room
is a hard place to hide things in. I take it yours was like the
average."

Dick nodded.

"All right. This poor boob of a valet made a search and didn't
find it. Later he found it. Why did he search? Wasn't it the
likely thing that you'd carried it away with you? Do you suppose
for a moment that with Donaldson and the woman in the room you hid
it there, and then went back and stood behind the roulette table,
leaning on it with both hands, and staring? Not at all. Listen to
this:

Q. "You recognize this revolver as the one you found?"

A. "Yes."

. "You are familiar with it?"

A. "Yes. It is Mr. Clark's."

Q. "You made the second search because you had not examined the
woodbox earlier?"

A. "No. I had examined the woodbox. I had a theory that - "

Q. "The Jury cannot listen to any theories. This is an inquiry
into facts."

"I'm going to find Melis," the reporter said thoughtfully, as he
folded up the papers. "The fact is, I mailed an advertisement to
the New York papers to-day. I want to get that theory of his. It's
the servants in the house who know what is going on. I've got an
idea that he'd stumbled onto something. He'd searched for the
revolver, and it wasn't there. He went back and it was. All that
conflicting evidence, and against it, what? That you'd run away !"

But he saw that Dick was very tired, and even a little indifferent.
He would be glad to know that his hands were clean, but against the
intimation that Beverly Carlysle had known more than she had
disclosed he presented a dogged front of opposition. After a time
Bassett put the papers away and essayed more general conversation,
and there he found himself met half way and more. He began to get
Dick as a man, for the first time, and as a strong man. He watched
his quiet, lined face, and surmised behind it depths of tenderness
and gentleness. No wonder the little Wheeler girl had worshipped him.

It was settled that Dick was to spend the night there, and such
plans as he had Bassett left until morning. But while he was
unfolding the bed-lounge on which Dick was to sleep, Dick opened a
line of discussion that cost the reporter an hour or two's sleep
before he could suppress his irritation.

"I must have caused you considerable outlay, one way and another,"
he said. "I want to defray that, Bassett, as soon as I've figured
out some way to get at my bank account."

Bassett jerked out a pillow and thumped it.

"Forget it." Then he grinned. "You can fix that when you get your
estate, old man. Buy a newspaper and let me run it!"

He bent over the davenport and put the pillow in place. "All you'll
have to do is to establish your identity. The institutions that got
it had to give bond. I hope you're not too long for this bed."

But he looked up at Dick's silence, to see him looking at him with a
faint air of amusement over his pipe.

"They're going to keep the money, Bassett."

Bassett straightened and stared at him.

"Don't be a damned fool," he protested. "It's your money. Don't
tell me you're going to give it to suffering humanity. That sort
of drivel makes me sick. Take it, give it away if you like, but
for God's sake don't shirk your job."

Dick got up and took a turn or two around the room. Then, after
an old habit, he went to the window and stood looking out, but
seeing nothing.

"It's not that, Bassett. I'm afraid of the accursed thing. I
might talk a lot of rot about wanting to work with my hands. I
wouldn't if I didn't have to, any more than the next fellow. I
might fool myself, too, with thinking I could work better without
any money worries. But I've got to remember this. It took work
to make a man of me before, and it will take work to keep me going
the way I intend to go, if I get my freedom."

Sometime during the night Bassett saw that the light was still
burning by the davenport, and went in. Dick was asleep with a
volume of Whitman open on his chest, and Bassett saw what he had
been reading.

'You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you short-lived ennuis;
Ah, think not you shall finally triumph, my real self has yet to come forth.
It shall march forth over-mastering, till all lie beneath me,
It shall stand up, the soldier of unquestioned victory."

Bassett took the book away and stood rereading the paragraph. For
the first time he sensed the struggle going on at that time behind
Dick's quiet face, and he wondered. Unquestioned victory, eh?
That was a pretty large order.





The Breaking Point by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Category:
General Fiction

Mystery and detective stories
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