The first power
After their rencontre with the Unknown, Hamar and his companions did not get back to their respective quarters till the sun was high in the heavens, and the streets of the city were beginning to vibrate with the rattle and clatter of traffic.
"It's all very well—this wonderful compact of ours," Curtis grumbled, "but I'm deuced hungry, and Matt and I haven't a cent between us. As we went all that way last night to oblige you, Leon, I think it is only fair you should stand us treat. I'll bet you have some nickels stowed away, somewhere, in those pockets of yours—it wouldn't be you if you hadn't! What do you say, Matt?"
"I think as you do," Kelson replied. "We've stood by Leon, he should stand by us. How much have you, Leon?"
"How much have you?" Curtis echoed, "come, out with it—no jew-jewing pals for me."
"I might manage a dollar," Hamar said ruefully, as the prospect of a good meal all to himself, at his favourite restaurant, faded away. "Where shall we go?"
Just then, Kelson, happening to look behind him, saw a young woman of prepossessing appearance ascending the steps of a dive in Clay Street. He was instantly attracted, as he always was attracted by a pretty woman, and something—a kind of intuition he had never had before—told him that she was a waitress; that she was discontented with her present situation; that she was engaged to be married to a pen driver at Hastings & Hastings in Sacramento Street; and that she had a mother, of over seventy, whom she kept. All this came to Kelson like a flash of lightning.
Yielding to an impulse which he did not stay to analyse, he gripped Hamar and Curtis, each too astonished even to remonstrate, by the arm, and, dragging them along with him, followed the girl.
The dive had only just been opened, and was being dusted and swept by two slatternly women with dago complexions, and voices like hyenas. It still reeked of stale drink and tobacco.
"What's the good of coming to a place like this?" Hamar demanded, as soon as he had freed himself from Kelson's clutches. "We can't get breakfast here."
"Matt's mad, that's what's the matter with him," Curtis added in disgust. "Let's get out."
He turned to go—then, halted—and stood still. He appeared to be listening. "What's up with you?" Hamar asked. "Both you fellows are behaving like lunatics this morning—there's not a pin to choose between you."
"They're playing cards, that's all," Curtis said. "Can't you hear them?"
Hamar shook his head. "Not a sound," he said. "Just look at Matt!"
While the other two were talking, Kelson had followed the girl to the bar, and catching her up, just as she entered it, said in a manner that was peculiar to him—a manner seldom without effect upon girls of his class—"I beg your pardon, miss, are we too early to be served? Jerusalem! Haven't I met you somewhere before?"
The girl looked him square in the eyes and then smiled. "As like as not," she said. "I go pretty near everywhere! What do you want?"
"Well!" Kelson soliloquized; "breakfast is what we are particularly anxious for—but I suppose that is out of the question in a dive!"
"Then why did you come here?" the girl queried.
"Because of you! Simply because of you," Kelson replied. "You hypnotized me!"
"That being so, then I reckon you can have your breakfast," the girl laughed, "though we don't provide them as a rule before nine. Indeed, the management have only just decided—this morning—on providing them at all."
"Why odd?" the girl questioned, taking off her hat and arranging her curls before a mirror.
"Why, that I should have happened to strike the right moment! Had I come here yesterday it would have been useless. As I said, you hypnotized me. Evidently fate intended us to meet."
"Do you believe in fate?" the girl asked, shrugging her shoulders. "I believe in nothing—least of all in men!"
"You say so!" Kelson observed, before he knew what he was saying. "And yet you have just got engaged to one. But you've got a bad attack of the pip this morning, you have had enough of it here—you want to get another post."
The girl ceased doing her hair and eyed him in amazement. "Well!" she said. "Of all the queer men I've ever met you are the queerest. Are you a seer?"
"No!" Hamar observed, suddenly joining in. "He's only very hungry, miss. Hungry body and soul! hungry all over. And so are we."
"Well, then, go into the room over there," the girl cried, pointing in the direction of a half-open door, "and breakfast will be brought you in half a jiffy."
"Who's that playing cards?" Curtis asked.
"How do you know any one is playing cards?" the girl queried with an incredulous stare. "You can't see through walls, can you?"
"No! and I'm hanged if I can explain," Curtis said, "I seem to hear them. There are two—one is called Arnold, and the other Lemon, or some such name, and they are rehearsing certain card tricks they mean to play to-night."
"That's right," the girl said, "two men named Arnold and Lemon are here. They were playing all last night with two of the clerks in Willows Bank, in Sacramento Street, and they cleared them out of every cent. You knew it!"
"No! I didn't," Curtis growled, "I don't lie for fun, and I'm just as much in a fog, as to how I know, as you are. Let's have breakfast now, and we'll look up these two gents afterwards, if they haven't gone."
"Your friend's a brute, I don't like him," the girl whispered to Kelson. "Let him lose all he's got—you stay out here."
"Nothing I should like better," Kelson said, "it's a bargain!"
The breakfast was so good that they lingered long over it, and the bar-room had a fair sprinkling of people when they re-entered it. Leaving Kelson to chat with the girl, Hamar and Curtis, obeying her directions, found their way to a small parlour in the rear of the building, where two men were lolling over a card table, smoking and drinking, and reading aloud extracts from a pink sporting paper.
"It's a funny thing," one of them exclaimed, "we can't be allowed to sit here in peace—when there's so much spare space in the house."
"We beg your pardon for intruding," Curtis said, "but my friend and I came in here for a quiet game of cards. We're farmers down Missouri way, and don't often get the chance to run up to town."
"Farmers, are you!" the man who had not yet spoken said, eyeing them both closely. "You don't look it. My friend Lemon, here, and I were also wanting to have a game—would you care to join us?"
"By all means," Curtis at once exclaimed. "What do you play?"
"Poker!" the man said, "Nap! Don! But I'll show you something first, which, being fresh from the country, you've probably never seen before, though they do tell me people in Missouri are mighty cute." He then proceeded to show them what he called the Bull and Buffalo trick, the secret of which he offered to sell them for ten dollars.
"I wouldn't give you a cent for it!" Curtis snapped. "Any one can see how it is done."
"You can't!" the man retorted, turning red. "I'll wager twenty dollars you can't." Curtis accepted the wager, and at once did the trick. He had seen through it at a glance—there appeared no difficulty in it at all; and yet he was quite certain if he had been asked to do it the day before, he would have utterly failed.
"Now," he said, "give me the money,"—and the man complied with an oath.
"Any more tricks?" Curtis asked complacently.
"I know heaps," the man rejoined. "There's one you won't guess—the seven card trick."
He did it. And so did Curtis.
"Well I'm——" the man called Lemon ejaculated.
"He's the dandiest cove at tricks we've ever struck. Try him with the Prince and Slipper, Arnold!"
Arnold rather reluctantly assented, and Curtis burst out laughing.
"Why!" he said, "that's the simplest of all! See!" And it was done. "You two had better come to an understanding with us or you'll not shine to-night. How about a game of Don?"
Lemon and Arnold agreed, but they had barely begun before Curtis cried out, "It's no use, Lemon, I can see those deuces up your sleeve. You've some up yours, too, Arnold—the deuce of clubs and the deuce of hearts. Moreover, you can tell our cards by notches and thumb smears on the backs. I'll show you how." He told the cards correctly—there was no gainsaying it. The men were overwhelmed.
"What are you, anyway?" Lemon asked; "tecs?"
"Never mind what we are!" Curtis said savagely. "We know what you are—and that's where the rub comes in. Now what are you going to pay us to hold our tongues?"
"Pay you!" Lemon hissed. "Why, damn you—nothing. We're not bankers. All we've got to do is clear out and try somewhere else."
"That might not be so easy as you imagine," Hamar interposed. "We would make it our business to have a scene first. Why not come to terms? We'll not be over exorbitant—and consider the convenience of not having to shift your quarters."
"Well, of all the blooming frousts I've struck, none beats this," Lemon said. "Fancy being pipped by a couple of suckers like these. Farmers, indeed! Why don't you call yourselves parsons? How much do you want?"
After a prolonged haggling, Hamar and Curtis agreed to take fifty dollars; and, considering their penniless condition, they were by no means dissatisfied with their bargain.
They were now ready to go, and looking round for Kelson, found him engaged in a desperate tête-à-tête with the young lady at the bar, who, despite her avowed lack of faith in mankind, counted half the room her friends. She promised Kelson that she would meet him at eight o'clock that evening; but as both she and he were quite used to making such promises and subsequently forgetting all about them, their rencontre resulted in only one thing, namely, in furnishing the three allies with the nucleus of the big fortune they intended making.
On finding themselves outside the dive Hamar, Curtis and Kelson first of all divided the spoil. They then went to a clothes depot and rigged themselves out in fashionably cut garments; after which they took rooms at a presentable hotel in Kearney Street, next door to Knobble's boot store. Then, dressed for the first time in their lives like Nob Hill dukes, they paraded the pet resorts of the beau-monde—of the bonanza and railroad set—and making eyes at all the pretty wives and daughters they met, cogitated fresh devices for making money. As they sauntered across Pacific Avenue, in the direction of Californian Street, Kelson suddenly gave vent to a whistle.
"What the deuce is wrong with you?" Hamar exclaimed. "Seen your grandmother's ghost?"
"No! but I've seen the inner readings of that lady yonder," Kelson replied, indicating with a jerk of his finger a fashionably dressed woman walking towards them on the other side of the road. "The deuce knows how it all comes to me, but I know everything about her, just the same as I did with the girl in the dive—though I've never seen her before. She is the wife of D.D. Belton, the cotton magnate, who lives in a big, white house at the corner of Powell Street—and a beauty, I can assure you. Supposed to be most devoted to her husband, she is now on her way to keep an appointment with the Rev. J.T. Calthorpe of Sancta Maria's Church in Appleyard Street, with whom she has been holding clandestine meetings for the past six months."
"Whew!" Hamar ejaculated. "You speak as if it was all being pumped into you by some external agency—automatically."
"That's just about what I feel!" Kelson said, "I feel as if it were some one else saying all this—some one else speaking through me. Yet I know all about that woman, just as much as if I had been acquainted with her all my life!"
"It's the first power," Hamar said excitedly, "the power of divination. It takes that form with you, and the form of card tricks with Ed—with me nothing so far."
"But what shall I do?" Kelson cried. "How can I benefit by it?"
"How can't you?" Curtis growled. "Why, blackmail her! If it is true, she will pay you anything to keep your mouth shut. If once you can tell a woman's secret, your future's made. All San Francisco will be at your mercy—God knows who'll escape! After her at once, you idiot!"
"Now?" Kelson gasped.
"Yes! Now! Follow her to Calthorpe's and waylay her as she comes out. You can refer to us as witnesses."
"I feel a bit of a blackguard," Kelson pleaded.
"You look it, anyway," Curtis grinned. "But cheer up—it's the clothes. Clothes are responsible for everything!"
After a little persuasion Kelson gave in, but he had to make haste as the lady was nearly out of sight. She took a taxi from the stand opposite Kitson's hotel, and Kelson took one, too. Two hours later, raising his hat, he accosted her as she stood tapping the pavement of Battery Street with a daintily shod foot, waiting to cross. "Mrs. Belton, I think," he said. The lady eyed him coldly.
"Well!" she said, "what do you want? Who are you?"
"My name can scarcely matter to you," Kelson responded, "though my business may. I have been engaged to watch you, and am fully posted as to your meetings and correspondence with the Rev. J.T. Calthorpe."
"I don't understand you," the lady said, her cheeks flaming. "You have made a mistake—a very serious mistake for you."
For a moment Kelson's heart failed. He was still a clerk, with all the humility of an office stool and shining trousers' seat thick on him, whilst she was a grande dame accustomed to the bows and scrapes of employers as well as employed.
Several people passed by and stared at him—as he thought—suspiciously, and he felt that this was the most critical time in his life, and unless he pulled through, smartly in fact, he would be done once and for all. If he didn't make haste, too, the woman would undoubtedly call a policeman. It was this thought as well as—though, perhaps, hardly as much as—the look of her that stimulated Kelson to action. He hated behaving badly to women; but was this thing, dressed in a skirt that fitted like a glove and showed up every detail of her figure—this thing with the paint on her cheeks, and eyebrows, and lips—artistically done, perhaps, but done all the same—this thing all loaded with jewellery and buttons—this thing—a woman! No! She was not—she was only a millionaire's plaything—brainless, heartless—a hobby that cost thousands, whilst countless men such as he—starved. He detested—abominated such luxuries! And thus nerved he retorted, borrowing some of her imperiousness—
"Do you deny, madam, that for the past two hours you've been sitting on the sofa of the end room of the third floor of No. 216, Market Street, flirting with the Rev. J.T. Calthorpe, whom you call 'Mickey-moo'; that you gave him a photo you had taken at Bell's Studio in Clay Street, specially for him; that you gave him five greenbacks to the value of one hundred and fifty dollars, and that you've planned a moonlight promenade with him to-morrow, when your husband will be in Denver?"
"Don't talk so loud," the lady said in a low voice. "Walk along with me a little and then we shan't be noticed. I see you do know a good deal—how, I can't imagine, unless you were hidden somewhere in the room. Who has employed you to watch me?"
"That, madam, I can't say," Kelson truthfully responded.
"And I can't think," the lady said, "unless it is some woman enemy. But, after all, you can't do much since you hold no proofs—your word alone will count for nothing."
"Ah, but I have strong corroborative evidence," Kelson retorted. "I have the testimony of at least two other people who know quite as much as I do."
"Adventurers like yourself," the lady sneered. "My husband would neither believe you nor your friends."
"He would believe your letters, any way," said Kelson.
"My letters!" the lady laughed, "You've no letters of mine."
"No, but I know where the correspondence that has passed between you and the Rev. J. T. Calthorpe is to be found. He has sixty-nine letters from you all tied up in pink ribbon, locked up in the bottom drawer of the bureau in his study at the Vicarage. Some of the letters begin with 'Dearest, duckiest, handsomest Herby'—short for Herbert; and others, 'Fondest, blondest, darlingest Micky-moo!' Some end with 'A thousand and one kisses from your loving and ever devoted Francesca,' and others with 'Love and kisses ad infinitum, ever your loving, thirsting, adoring one, Toosie!' Nice letters from the wife of a respectable Nob Hill magnate to a married clergyman!"
The lady walked a trifle unsteadily, and much of her colour was gone. "I can't understand it," she panted; "somebody has played me false."
"As the Rev. J.T. Calthorpe is on his way to Sacramento, where he has to remain till to-morrow," Kelson went on pitilessly, "it will be the easiest thing in the world to get those letters. I have merely to call at the house and tell his wife."
"And what good will that do you?" the lady asked.
"Revenge! I hate the rich," Kelson said. "I would do anything to injure them."
"You are a Socialist?"
"An Anarchist! But come, you see I know all about you and that I have you completely in my power. If once either your husband or Mrs. Calthorpe gets hold of those letters—you and your lover would have a very unpleasant time of it."
"You're a devil!"
"Maybe I am—at all events I'm talking to one. But that's neither here nor there. I want money. Give me a thousand dollars and you'll never hear from me again."
"Blackmail! I could have you arrested!"
"Yes, and I would tell the court the whole history of your intrigues! That wouldn't help you,"—and Kelson laughed.
"Could I count on you not molesting me again if I were to pay you?" the lady said mockingly.
"Do you ever speak the truth?"
"You needn't judge every one by your own standard of morality—the standard set up by the millionaire's wife," Kelson said. "I swear that if you pay me a thousand dollars I will never trouble you again."
The lady grew thoughtful, and for some minutes neither of them spoke. Then she suddenly jerked out: "I think, after all, I'll accept your proposal. Wait outside here and you shall have what you want within an hour."
"Not good enough," Kelson said, "I prefer to come with you to your house and wait there."
The lady protested, and Kelson consented to wait in the street outside her house, where, eventually, she delivered the money into his hands.
"I've kept my word," she said, "and if you're half a man you'll keep yours."
Kelson reassured her, and more than pleased with himself, made for the hotel, where the three of them were now stopping.
This was merely a beginning. Before the day was out he had secured two more victims. No woman whose character was not without blemish was safe from him—his wonderful newly acquired gift enabling him to detect any vice, no matter how snugly hidden. And this wonderful power of discernment brought with it an expression of mystery and penetration which, by enhancing the effect of the power, made the application of it comparatively easy. Kelson had only to glide after his victim, and with his eyes fixed searchingly on her, to say, "Madam, may I have a word with you?"—and the battle was more than half won—the women were too fascinated to think of resistance.
For example, shortly after his initial adventure, he saw a very smartly dressed woman in Van Ness Avenue peep about furtively, and then stop and speak to a little child, who was walking with its nurse. Divination at once told him everything—the lady was the mother of the child, but its father was not her legitimate husband, W.S. Hobson, the millionaire mine owner.
When Kelson courteously informed her he was in possession of her secret—a secret she had felt positively certain only one other person knew, she went the colour of her pea-green sunshade and attempted to remonstrate. But Kelson's appearance, no less than his marvellous knowledge of her life, and character dumbfounded her—she was simply paralysed into admission; and before he left her, Kelson had added another thousand dollars to his hoard.
That evening, close to the Academy of Science in Market Street, he saw a lady get out of a taxi and quickly enter a pawnbroker's. Her whole life at once rose up before him. She was Ella Crockford, the wife of the Californian Street Sugar King, and, unknown to her husband, she spent her afternoons at a gambling saloon in Kearney Street, where she ran through thousands.
She was now about to pledge her husband's latest present to her—a diamond tiara, one of the most notable pieces of jewellery in the country—in the hope that she would soon win back sufficient money at cards to redeem it.
Kelson stopped her as she came out, and in a marvellously few words, proved to her that he knew everything. Her amazement was beyond description.
"You must be a magician," she said, "because I'm certain no one saw me take my jewel-case out of the drawer—no one was in the room! And as I put it in my muff immediately, no one could have seen it as I left the house. Besides, I never told a soul I intended pawning it, so how is it possible you could know—and be able to repeat the whole of the conversation I had with Walter Le-Grand, to whom I lost so heavily last night? Tell me, how do you know all this?"
But Kelson would tell her nothing—nothing beyond her own sins and misfortunes.
"I have nothing to give you," she told him. "I dare not ask my husband for more money."
"What, nothing!" Kelson replied, "When the pawnbroker has just advanced you fifty thousand dollars. You call that nothing? Be pleased to give me one thousand, and congratulate yourself that I do not ask for all your 'nothing.'" And as neither tears nor prayers had any effect, she was obliged to pay him the sum he asked.
Flushed and excited with victory, and thinking, perhaps, that he had done enough for one day, Kelson took his spoils to a bank near the Palace Hotel, and for the first time in his career opened a banking account. As he was leaving the building he ran into Hamar, bent on a similar errand. The two gleefully compared notes.
"I thought," Hamar said, "my turn would never come, and that I must have done something to get out of favour with the Unknown; but as I was sitting in the Pig and Whistle Saloon in Corn Street drinking a lager, I suddenly felt a peculiar throbbing sensation run up my left leg into my left hand, and the floor seemed to open up, and I saw deep below me, in a black pit, a skeleton clutching hold of a linen bag, full of coins. I could see the gold quite distinctly—Spanish doubles, none newer than the eighteenth century. I knew then that the Unknown had not forgotten me. 'Look here, boss,' I said to old man Moss—the proprietor, you know—'You're a bit of a juggins to go on working with so much money under here,'—and I pointed to the floor.
"'I'm surprised at you, Hamar,' Moss said, cocking an eye at me, 'and lager, too!'
"'No, old man!' I said, 'I'm not drunk. I'm sober and serious. You've got a cellar below here, haven't you?'
"'Well, and what if I have!' Moss retorted, drawing a step closer and running his eyes carefully over me. 'What if I have! There's no harm in that, is there?'
"'You keep all your stock down there,' I went on, 'and more beside. I can see a hat-pin with a gold nob, that's not your wife's, and a pair of shoes with dandy silver buckles, that's not intended for your wife, nohow.'
"At that Moss made a queer noise in his throat, and I thought he was going to have a fit. 'What—what the devil are you talking about?' he gurgled.
"'I wish I had had you with me—then, Matt, for you could have doubtless summed up the woman to him—she was a blank to me—I only divined one had been there. 'Yes, Mr. Mossy,' I said, 'you're a gay deceiver and no mistake! I know all about it!'
"'Do you,' he said, eyeing me excitedly. 'Do you know all about it? I'm not so sure, but in order to avoid running any risks, drop your voice a bit and have a cocktail with me!'
"He poured me out one, and I went on softly, 'Well, boss Moss,' I said, 'we'll leave the female out of the question for the present. Underneath this cellar of yours, is a pit.'
"'I'm damned if there is!' Moss snorted; 'leastways, it's the first I've ever heard of it.'
"'And in this pit,' I said, 'is the skeleton of a Spanish buccaneer called Don Guzman, who landed in this port on August 10, 1699, and after robbing and slicing up a family of the name of Hervada, who lived on the site of what is now the Copthorne Hotel, was hurrying off with all their money and jewels, when he fell into a pit, covered with brambles and briars, and broke his neck.'
"'And you expect me to believe this cock and bull story,' Moss growled. 'Being out of a job so long has made you balmy.'
"'It hasn't made me too balmy not to see through the way you deceive your wife, Moss,' I said. 'I'll bet she would think me sane enough if I were to tell her all I know. But I'll spare you if you will take me into your cellar and help me to do a bit of excavation there. But promise, mind you, that we will go shares in what we find.'
"'Oh, I'll promise right enough,' Moss replied. 'I'll promise anything—if only to keep you from talking such moonshine.'
"Well, in the end I prevailed upon him to accompany me, and we went into the cellar—just as I had depicted it—armed with a pick-axe and crowbar. Moss growling and jeering every step he took, and I, deadly in earnest.
"'It's under here,' I said, halting over a flagstone in the corner of the vault. 'But before we do anything you had better hide that hat-pin and these shoes, or your missis will find them. She'll hear us scraping and come to see what's up.'
"Moss, who was in a vile temper all the time, made a grab at the things, pricking his finger and swearing horribly. In the meanwhile I had set to work, and, with his aid, raised the stone. We dug for pretty nearly an hour, Moss calling upon me all the time to 'chuck it,' when I suddenly struck something hard—it was the skeleton and close beside it, was the bag. You should have seen Moss then. He was simply overcome—called me a wizard, a magician, and heaven alone knows what, and fairly stood on his head with delight when we opened the bag, and hundreds of gold coins and precious stones rolled out on the floor. He wanted to go back on his word then, and only give me a handful; but I was too smart for him, and swore I would tell his wife about the girl unless he gave me half. When we were leaving the cellar, of course, he wanted me to go first, so that he could follow with the pickaxe, but here again I was too sharp for him—and I got safely out of the place with my pockets bulging. I went right away to Prescott's in Clay Street, and let the lot go for three thousand dollars. I wonder how Curtis has got on!"
They walked together to the hotel, and found Curtis busily engaged eating. "I've worked hard," he said, "and now I'm in for enjoying myself. I've made them get out a special menu for me, and I'm going to eat till I can't hold another morsel. I've starved all my life and now I intend making up for it."
"Been successful?" Hamar asked, winking at Kelson.
"Pretty well! Nothing to grumble at," Curtis rejoined, pouring himself out a glass of champagne. "First of all I went to Simpson's Dive in Sacramento Street, and started doing the tricks we discovered yesterday. Not a soul in the place could see through them, and I made about two hundred dollars before I left. I then had lunch."
"Why you had lunch with us!" Hamar laughed.
"Well, can't I have as many lunches as I like?" Curtis replied. "I had lunch, I say, at a place in Market Street, and there I read in a paper that Peters & Pervis, the tin food people, were offering a prize of three thousand dollars for a solution to a puzzle contained on the inside cover of one of their tins. I immediately determined to enter for it. I bought a tin and saw through the puzzle at once. Bribing a policeman to go with me to see fair play, off I set to Peters & Pervis'.
"'I want to see your boss,' I said to the first clerk I saw.
"'Which of them?' the clerk grunted, his cheeks turning white at the sight of the policeman.
"'Either will do,' I replied, 'Peters or Pervis. Trot 'em up, time is precious.'
"Away he went, but in a couple of minutes was back again, looking scared, 'They're both engaged,' he says.
"'Then they'll have to break it off,' I responded, 'and mighty quick. I'm here to talk with them, so get a move on you again and give that message.'
"If it hadn't been for the policeman I don't think he would have gone, but the policeman backed me up, and the clerk hurried off again; and in the end the bosses decided they had better see me. They looked precious cross, I can assure you, but before I had done speaking they looked crosser still.
"'You say you've done that puzzle,'—they shouted—'the puzzle that has stuck all the mathematical guns at Harvard and Yale—you—a nonentity like you—begone, sir, don't waste our time with such humbug as that.'
"'All right,' I said, 'give me some paper and a pen, and I'll prove it.'
"'That's very reasonable,' the policeman chipped in, 'do the thing fair and square—I'm here as a witness.'
"Well, with much grunting and grumbling they handed me paper and ink, and in a trice the puzzle was done; and it appeared so easy that the policeman clapped his hands and broke out into a loud guffaw. My eyes! you should have seen how the faces of Pervis and Peters fell, and have heard what they said. But it was no use swearing and cursing, the thing was done, and there was the policeman to prove it.
"'We'll give you five hundred dollars,' they said, 'to clear out and say no more about it.'
"'Five hundred dollars when you've advertised three thousand,' I cried. 'What do you take me for? I'll have that three thousand or I'll show you both up.'
"'A thousand, then?' they said.
"'No!' I retorted; 'three! Three, and look sharp. And look here,' I added, as my glance rested on some of the samples of their pastes they had round them, 'I understand the secrets of all these so-called patents of yours—there isn't one of them I couldn't imitate. Take that "Rabsidab," for instance. What is it? Why, a compound of horseflesh, turnips and popcorn, flavoured with Lazenby's sauce—for the infringement of which patent you are liable to prosecution—and coloured with cochineal. Then there's the stuff you label "Ironcastor,"'—but they shut me up. 'There, take your three thousand dollars, write us out a receipt for it, and clear.'"
"Nine thousand dollars in one day! We've done well," Kelson ejaculated. "What's the programme for to-morrow?"
"Same as to-day and plenty of it," Curtis said, pouring himself out another glass of champagne and making a vigorous attack on a chicken. "I think I'll let you two fellows do all the work to-morrow, and content myself here. Waiter! What time's breakfast?"