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the novel in secret

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Title:InSecret
Author:RobertW.Chambers
PostingDate:September10,2012[EBook#5748]ReleaseDate:May,2004
FirstPosted:August23,2002
Language:English
***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKINSECRET***

ProducedbyDavidMoynihan,CharlesFranksandtheDistributedProofreading
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INSECRET
by
ROBERTW.CHAMBERS
AUTHOROF"THECOMMONLAW,""THERECKONING,""LORRAINE,"ETC.
NEWYORK



DEDICATION

Agratefulnation'sthanksaredue
ToArethusaandtoyou—Toherwhodauntlessatyourside
PneumoniaandFluedefied
Withphialsofformaldehyde!
II

ChiefofPolicewereyou,bygosh!
Goldingit!howyoubumpedtheBoche!
Handed'emonewithclubandgun
UntiltheHunwasontherun:
Andthat'sthewaythewarwaswon.
III

Easthampton'spride!Myhomagetake
ForFairestPhiladelphia'ssake.
RetireincompanywithBill;
RestbytheRacquet'swindowsill
And,undisturbed,consumeyourpill.


ENVOI

WhenCousinFeenixstartedwest
Andlandedeast,hedidhisbest;
AndsoI'vedonemyprettiest
Tomakethisrhymelongoverdue;
ForArethusaandforyou.
R.W.C.


INSECRET
CHAPTERI
CUPANDLIP

Thecaseinquestionconcernedaletterinayellowenvelope,whichwasdumped
alongwithotherincomingmailupononeofthemanylongtableswhere


hundredsofwomenandscoresofmensatopeningandreadingthousandsof
lettersfortheBureauofP.C.—whateverthatmaymean.
Induecourseofroutineagirlpickedupandslitopentheyellowenvelope,
studiedtheenclosedletterforafewmoments,returnedittoitsenvelope,wrotea
fewwordsonaslipofpaper,attachedthesliptotheyellowenvelope,and
passeditalongtotheD.A.C.—whoeverheorshemaybe.
TheD.A.C.,incourseoftime,openedthisletterforthesecondtime,inspected
it,returnedittotheenvelope,addedamemorandum,andsentitonuptotheA.
C.—whateverA.C.maysignify.
Seatedathisdesk,theA.C.perusedthememoranda,glancedovertheletterand
theattachedmemoranda,addedhistersecommenttotheotherslips,pinned
themtotheenvelope,androuteditthroughcertainchannelswhichultimately
carriedtheletterintoaroomwheresixsilentandpreoccupiedpeoplesatbusyat


sixseparatetables.
Fatehadtakenchargeofthatyellowenvelopefromthemomentitwasmailedin
Mexico;Chancenowlaiditonayellowoaktablebeforeayellow-hairedgirl;
Destinysquintedoverhershoulderasshedrewtheletterfromitstriplyviolated
envelopeandspreaditoutonthetablebeforeher.
Arich,warmflushmountedtohercheeksassheexaminedthedocument.Her
chancetodistinguishherselfhadarrivedatlast.Shedivineditinstantly.Shedid
notdoubtit.Shewasaremarkablegirl.
Theroomremainedverystill.ThefiveothercipherexpertsoftheP.I.Service
werehuddledovertheirtables,pencilinhand,absorbedintheirseveralungodly
complicationsandlaboriouscalculations.ButtheypossessednoRosettaStoneto
aidthemindecipheringhieroglyphics;toad-like,theycarriedthepreciousstone
intheirheads,M.D.!
Noindiscreetsoundinterruptedtheirmentalgymnastics,saveonlythestealthy
scrapeofapen,thesubduedrustleofwritingpaper,theflutterofacode-book's
leavesthumbedfurtively.
Theyellow-hairedgirlpresentlyrosefromherchair,carryinginherhandthe
yellowletteranditsyellowenvelopewithyellowslipsattached;andthis
harmoniouscombinationofcolourpassednoiselesslyintoasmalleradjoining
office,whereasolemnyoungmansatbitinganunlightedcigarandgazingwith
preternaturalsagacityatnothingatall.
Possiblyhisprettyaffiancedwastheobjectofhisdeeprevery—hehadher
photographinhisdesk—perhapsofficialcogitationasD.C.oftheE.C.D.—if
youunderstandwhatImean?—mayhavebeenresponsibleforhisowlish
abstraction.
Becausehedidnotnoticetheadventoftheyellowhairedgirluntilshesaidin
hersoft,attractivevoice:
"MayIinterruptyouamoment,Mr.Vaux?"
Thenheglancedup.
"Surely,surely,"hesaid."Hum—hum!—pleasebeseated,MissErith!


Hum!Surely!"
Shelaidthesheetsoftheletterandtheyellowenvelopeuponthedeskbefore
himandseatedherselfinachairathiselbow.ShewasVERYpretty.But
engagedmennevernoticesuchdetails.
"I'mafraidweareintrouble,"sheremarked.
Hereadplacidlythevariousmemorandawrittenontheyellowslipsofpaper,
scrutinised!thecancelledstamps,postmarks,superscription.Butwhenhisgaze
felluponthebodyoftheletterhiscomplacentexpressionalteredtooneof
disgust!
"What'sthis,MissErith?"
"Code-cipher,I'mafraid."
"Thedeuce!"
MissErithsmiled.Shewasoneofthosegirlswhoalwayslookasthoughthey
hadnotbeenlongoutofabathtub.Shehadhazeleyes,awinsomesmile,and
hairlikewarmgold.Herfigurewasyouthfullystraightandsupple—Butthat
wouldnotinterestanengagedman.
TheD.C.glancedatherinquiringly.
"Surely,surely,"hemuttered,"hum—hum!—"andtriedtofixhismindonthe
letter.
Infact,shewasoneofthosegirlswhounintentionallyandinnocentlyrender
masculinemindsuneasythroughsomedelicate,indefinableattractionwhich
defiesanalysis.
"Surely,"murmuredtheD.C.,"surely!Hum—hum!"
Asubtlefreshnesslikethebreathofspringinayoungorchardseemedtolinger
abouther.Shewasexquisitelyfashionedtotroublemen,butshedidn'twishto
dosucha—
Vaux,whowasinlovewithanothergirl,tookanotheruneasylookather,


sideways,thenpickeduphisunlightedcigarandbrowseduponit.
"Yes,"hesaidnervously,"thisisoneofthoseaccursedcode-ciphers.They
alwaysroutethemthroughtome.Whydon'ttheynotifythefive—"
"AreyougoingtoturnTHISovertothePostalInspectionService?"
"Whatdoyouthinkaboutit,MissErith?Youseeit'soneofthosehopeless
arbitraryciphersforwhichthereisnoearthlysolutionexceptbydiscoveringand
securingthecodebookandworkingitoutthatway."7
Shesaidcalmly,butwithheightenedcolour:
"Acopyofthatbookis,presumably,inpossessionofthemantowhomthisletter
isaddressed."
"Surely—surely.Hum—hum!What'shisname,MissErith?"—glancingdownat
theyellowenvelope."Oh,yes—HermanLauffer—hum!"
Heopenedabigbookcontainingthenamesofenemyaliensandperusedit,
frowinng.ThenameofHermanLaufferwasnotlisted.Heconsultedother
volumescontainingsupplementarylistsofsuspectsandundesirables—lists
furnisheddailybycertainservicesunnecessarytomention.
"Hereheis!"exclaimedVaux;"—HermanLauffer,picture-framerandgilder!
That'shisnumberonMadisonAvenue!"—pointingtothetype-written
paragraph."Youseehe'sprobablyalreadyundersurveillance-oneoftheseveral
servicesisdoubtlesskeepingtabsonhim.IthinkI'dbettercallupthe—"
"Please!—Mr.Vaux!"shepleaded.
Hehadalreadytouchedthetelephonereceivertounhookit.Miss
Erithlookedathimappealingly;hereyeswerevery,veryhazel.
"Couldn'twehandleit?"sheasked.
"WE?"

"YouandI!"


"Butthat'snotouraffair,MissErith—"
"Makeitso!Oh,pleasedo.Won'tyou?"
Vaux'sarmfelltothedesktop.Hesatthinkingforafewminutes.Thenhe
pickedupapencilinanabsent-mindedmannerandbegantotracelittlecircles,
squares,andcrossesonhispad,stringingthemalonglineafterlineasthoughat
hazardandapparentlythinkingofanythingexceptwhathewasdoing.
Thepaperonwhichheseemedtobesoidlyemployedlayonhisdeskdirectly
underMissErith'seyes;andafterawhilethegirlbegantolaughsoftlyto
herself.
"Thankyou,Mr.Vaux,"shesaid."ThisistheopportunityIhavelongedfor."
Vauxlookedupatherasthoughhedidnotunderstand.Butthegirllaidone
fingeronthelinesofcircles,squares,dashesandcrosses,and,stilllaughing,
readthemoff,translatingwhathehadwritten:
"Youareaveryclevergirl.I'vedecidedtoturnthiscaseovertoyou.Afterall,
yourbusinessistodeciphercipher,andyoucan'tdoitwithoutthebook."
Theybothlaughed.
"Idon'tseehowyoueversolvedthat,"hesaid,delightedtoteaseher.
"Howinsulting!—whenyouknowitisoneoftheoldestandmostfamiliarof
codes—the1-2-3anda-b-ccombination!"
"Ratherrudeofyoutoreaditovermyshoulder,MissErith.Itisn'tdone—"
"YoumeanttoseeifIcould!Youknowyoudid!"
"DidI?"
"Ofcourse!Thatold'SealofSolomon'cipherisperfectlytransparent."
"Really?ButhowaboutTHIS!"—touchingthesheetsoftheLaufferletter
—"howareyougoingtoreadthissequenceofArabicnumerals?"
"Ihaven'ttheslightestidea,"saidthegirl,candidly.


"Butyourequestthejoboftryingtofindthekey?"hesuggestedironically.
"Thereisnokey.Youknowit."
"Imeanthecodebook."
"Iwouldliketotrytofindit."
"Howareyougoingtogoaboutit?"
"Idon'tknowyet."
Vauxsmiled."Allright;goahead,mydearMissErith.You'reofficiallydetailed
forthisdelightfuljob.Doityourownway,butdoit—"
"Thankyousomuch!"
"—Intwenty-fourhours,"headdedgrimly."OtherwiseI'llturnitovertotheP.I."
"Oh!ThatISbrutalofyou!"
"Sorry.Butifyoucan'tgetthecode-bookintwenty-fourhoursI'llhavetocallin
theServicethatcan."
Thegirlbitherlipandheldoutherhandfortheletter.
"Ican'tletitgooutofmyoffice,"heremarked."Youknowthat,
MissErith."
"Imerelywishtocopyit,"shesaidreproachfully.Hereyeswerehazel.
"Ioughtnottoletyoutakeacopyoutofthisoffice,"hemuttered.
"Butyouwill,won'tyou?"
"Allright.Usethatmachineoverthere.Hum—hum!"
Fortwentyminutesthegirlwasbusytypingbeforethecopywasfinallyready.
Then,comparingitandfindinghercopyaccurate,shereturnedtheoriginalto
Mr.Vaux,androsewiththatdisturbinggracepeculiartohereverymovement.


"WheremayItelephoneyouwhenyou'renothere?"sheinquireddiffidently,
restingoneslim,whitehandonhisdesk.
"AttheRacquetClub.Areyougoingout?"
"Yes."
"What!Youabandonmewithoutmypermission?"
Shenoddedwithoneofthosewinsomesmileswhichinclineyoungmento
revery.Thensheturnedandwalkedtowardthecloakroom.
TheD.C.wasdeeplyinlovewithsomebodyelse,yethefoundithardto
concentratehismindforawhile,andhechewedhisunlightedcigarintoapulp.
Alas!Menarethatway.Notsometimes.Always.
Finallyheshovedasidethepileofletterswhichhehadbeentryingtoread,
unhookedthetelephonereceiver,calledanumber,gotit,andinquiredfora
gentlemannamedCassidy.
Tothevoicethatansweredhegavethename,businessandaddressofHerman
Lauffer,andaddedarequestthatunduelibertiesbetakenwithanyoutgoing
lettersmailedandpresumablycomposedandwrittenbyMr.Lauffer'sownfair
hand.
"Muchobliged,Mr.Vaux,"cooedCassidy,inavoicesosuavethat
Vauxnoticeditsunusualblandnessandaskedifthatparticular
Servicealreadyhad"anythingonLauffer."
"Notsoonbutyet!"repliedMr.Cassidyfacetiously,"thanks
ENTIRELYtoyourkindtip,Mr.Vaux."
AndVaux,suspiciousofsuchurbanepleasantries,rangoffandresumedhis
mutilatedcigar.
"Now,whatthedevildoesCassidyknowaboutHermanLauffer,"hemused,
"andwhythedevilhasn'thisBureauinformedus?"Afterlongponderinghe
foundnoanswer.Besides,hekeptthinkingatmomentsaboutMissErith,which
confusedhimanddivertedhismindfromthebusinessonhand.


So,inhisperplexity,heswitchedontheelectricfoot-warmer,spreadhisfur
overcoatoverhisknees,uncorkedasmallbottleandswallowedaprecautionary
formaldehydetablet,unlockedadrawerofhisdesk,fishedoutaphotograph,and
gazedintentlyuponit.
ItwasthephotographofhisPhiladelphiaaffianced.Herfirstnamewas
Arethusa.Tohimtherewasanamelessfragranceabouthername.Andsweetly,
subtly,graduallythelovelyphantasmofMissEvelynErithfaded,vanishedinto
thethinandfrigidatmosphereofhisoffice.
ThatwashisantidotetoMissErith—theintentinspectionofhisfiancee'svery
beautifulfeaturesasinadequatelyreproducedbyanexpensiveandfashionable
Philadelphiaphotographer.
ItdidthebusinessforMissEritheverytime.
TheeveningwasbecomingoneofthecoldesteverrecordedinNewYork.The
thermometerhaddroppedto8degreesbelowzeroandwasstillfalling.Fifth
Avenueglittered,sheathedinfrost;trafficpoliceonpoststampedandswung
theirarmstokeepfromfreezing;drysnowunderfootsqueakedwhentroddenon;
crossingsweregreasywithglareice.
Itwas,also,oneofthosemeatless,wheatless,heatlessnightswhentheprivation
whichhadhithertoamusedNewYorksuddenlybecameanuglymenace.There
wasnocoaltobehadandonlygreenwood.Thepoorquietlydied,asusual;the
well-to-doventuredahodandastickortwoinopengrates,orsathuddledunder
rugsoveroilorelectricstoves;ormigratedtocomfortablehotels.Andbachelors
tooktotheirclubs.ThatiswhereCliffordVauxwentfromhischillybachelor
lodgings.Hefledinataxi,buriedcheek-deepinhisfurcollar,hatingallcold,all
coalcompanies,andallKaisers.
IntheRacquetClubhefoundmanyfriendssimilarlyself-dispossessed,similarly
obsessedbydiscomfortandhatred.Butthereseemedtobesomesteamheat
there,andseveralopenfires;andwhenthewheatless,meatlessmealwasended
andtheusualcoteriesdriftedtotheirusualcorners,Mr.Vauxfoundhimself
seatedatatablewithaglassofsomethingorotherathiselbow,whichsteamed
slightlyandhadalongspooninit;andhepresentlyheardhimselfsayingto
threeothergentlemen:"Fourhearts."
Hisvoicesoundedagreeablyinhisownears;thegentleglowofalignum-vitae


woodfiresmotehisattenuatedshins;hebalancedhiscardsinonehand,along
cigarintheother,exhaledasatisfactorywhiffofaromaticsmoke,andsmiled
comfortablyuponthetable.
"Fourhearts,"herepeatedaffably."Doesanybody—"
ThevoiceofDoominterruptedhim:
"Mr.Vaux,sir—"
Theyoungmanturnedinhiseasy-chairandbeheldbehindhimaclubservant,
alloversilverbuttons.
"Thetelephone,Mr.Vaux,"continuedthatsepulchralvoice.
"Allright,"saidtheyoungman."Bill,willyoutakemycards?"—helaidhis
hand,facedown,roseandleftthepleasantwarmthofthecard-roomwitha
premonitoryshiver.
"Well?"heinquired,withoutcordiality,pickingupthereceiver.
"Mr.Vaux?"cameadistinctvoicewhichhedidnotrecognise.
"Yes,"hesnapped,"whoisit?"
"MissErith."
"Oh—er—surely—surely!GOOD-evening,MissErith!"
"Good-evening,Mr.Vaux.Areyou,byanyhappychance,quitefreethis
evening?"
"Well—I'mratherbusy—unlessitisimportant—hum—hum!—inlineofduty,
youknow—"
"Youmayjudge.I'mgoingtotrytosecurethatcode-bookto-night."
"Oh!Haveyoucalledinthe—"
"No!"


"Haven'tyoucommunicatedwith—"
"No!"
"Whynot?"
"Becausethere'stoomuchconfusionalready—toomuchpettyjealousyand
workingatcross-purposes.Ihavebeenthinkingovertheentireproblem.You
yourselfknowhowmanypeoplehaveescapedthroughjealousorover-zealous
officersmakingprematurearrests.Wehavesixdifferentsecret-serviceagencies,
eachindependentoftheotherandeachresponsibletoitsownindependentchief,
alloperatingfortheGovernmentinNewYorkCity.Youknowwhatthese
agenciesare—theUnitedStatesSecretService,theDepartmentofJustice
BureauofInvestigation,theArmyIntelligenceService,NavalIntelligence
Service,NeutralitySquadsoftheCustoms,andthePostalInspection.Then
there'stheStateServiceandthepoliceandseveralotherservices.Andthereis
noproperco-ordination,nosingleheadforalltheseagencies.Theresultisa
ghastlyconfusionandshamefulinefficiency.
"ThisaffairwhichIaminvestigatingisadelicateone,asyouknow.Any
blunderingmightloseusthekeytowhatmaybeaverydangerousconspiracy.
SoIprefertooperateentirelywithinthejurisdictionofourownService—"
"WhatyouproposetodoisOUTSIDEofourprovince!"heinterrupted.
"I'mnotsosure.Areyou?"
"Well—hum—hum!—whatisityouproposetodoto-night?"
"IshouldliketoconsultmyChiefofDivision."
"Meaningme?"
"Ofcourse."
"When?"
"Now!"
"Whereareyoujustnow,MissErith?"


"Athome.Couldyoucometome?"
Vauxshiveredagain.
"Whered-doyoulive?"heasked,withchatteringteeth.
Shegavehimthenumberofaprivatehouseon83dStreetjustoffMadison
Avenue.Andashelistenedhebegantoshiveralloverintheanticipatedservice
ofhiscountry.
"Verywell,"hesaid,"I'lltakeataxi.ButthishasValleyForgestungtodeath,
youknow."
Shesaid:
"ItookthelibertyofsendingmycartotheRacquetClubforyou.
Itshouldbetherenow.There'safoot-warmerinit."
"Thankyousomuch,"herepliedwithaburstofshivers."I'llb-b-berightup."
Asheleftthetelephonethedoormaninformedhimthatanautomobilewas
waitingforhim.
So,swearingunderhisfrostybreath,hewenttothecloak-room,gotintohisfur
coat,walkedbacktothecard-roomandgazedwrathfullyuponthefestivities.
"Whatdidmyhanddo,Bill?"heinquiredglumly,whenatlastthescorerpicked
uphispadandthedealerpolitelyshovedthepacktowardhisneighbourfor
cutting.
"Youruinedmewithyourfoursillyhearts,"repliedthemanwhohadtakenhis
cards."Didyouthinkyouwereplayingcoon-can?"
"Sorry,Bill.Sitinforme,there'sagoodchap.I'mnotlikelytobebackto-night
—hangit!"
Perfunctoryregretswereofferedbytheothers,alreadyengrossedintheirnew
hands;Vauxglancedunhappilyatthetall,steamingglass,whichhadbeen
untouchedwhenheleft,butwhichwasnowmerelyhalffull.Then,withanother
lingeringlookatthecheerfulfire,hesighed,buttonedhisfurcoat,placedhishat


firmlyuponhiscarefullypartedhair,andwalkedouttoperishbravelyforhis
nativeland.
Onthesidewalkaraccoon-furredchauffeursteppedupwithalltheabandonofa
Kadiakbear:
"Mr.Vaux,sir?"
"Yes."
"MissErith'scar."
"Thanks,"gruntedVaux,climbingintotheprettycoupeandcuddlinghisshanks
underabigminkrobe,where,presently,hediscoveredafoot-warmer,and
embraceditvigorouslybetweenhispatent-leathershoes.
IthadnowbecomethecoldestnightonrecordinNewYorkCity.
Fortunatelyhedidn'tknowthat;hemerelysatthereandhatedFate.
UpthestreetandintoFifthAvenueglidedthecarandspednorthwardthrough
thecold,silverylustreofthearc-lightshanginglikeglobesofmoonliticefrom
theirfrozenstalksofbronze.
Thenobleavenuewasalmostdeserted;nobodycaredtofacesuchterriblecold.
Fewmotorswereabroad,fewomnibuses,andscarcelyawayfarer.Everysound
rangmetallicintheblackandbitterair;thewindowsofthecoupecloudedfrom
hisbreath;thepanelscreaked.
AtthePlazahepeeredfearfullyoutuponthedesertedCircle,wherethebronze
ladyofthefountain,whoissupposedtorepresentPlenty,loomedhighinthe
electricglow,withhermagicbasketpiledhighwithicicles.
"Yes,plentyofice,"sneeredVaux."Iwishshe'dbringusahodortwoofcoal."
ThewintrylandscapeoftheParkdiscouragedhimprofoundly.
"Aman'sanasstolingeranywherenorthoftheequator,"hegrumbled.
"Dickybirdshavemoresense."Andagainhethoughtofthewoodfireintheclub
andthepartlyemptybutsteamingglass,andthearomaithadwaftedtoward
him;andthetemperatureitmusthaveimpartedto"Bill."


Hewasimmersedinarcticgloomwhenatlengththecarstopped.Abutler
admittedhimtoabrown-stonehouse,thestepsofwhichhadbeenthoughtfully
strewnwithfurnacecinders.
"MissErith?"
"Yes,sir."
"AnnounceMr.Vaux,partlyfrozen."
"Thelibrary,ifyouplease,sir,"murmuredthebutler,takinghatandcoat.
SoVauxwentupstairswiththelivelinessofacrippledspider,andMissErith
camefromaglowingfiresidetowelcomehim,givinghimafirmandslender
hand.
"YouAREcold,"shesaid."I'msosorrytohavedisturbedyouthisevening."
Hesaid:
"Hum—hum—verykind—m'sure—hum—hum!"
Thereweretwodeeparmchairsbeforetheblaze;MissErithtookone,
Vauxcollapsedupontheother.
Shewasdisturbinglyprettyinhereveninggown.Therewerecigarettesona
littletableathiselbow,andhelightedoneathersuggestionandpuffedfeebly.
"Which?"sheinquiredsmilingly.
Heunderstood:"Irish,please."
"Hot?"
"Thankyou,yes,"
Whenthebutlerhadbroughtit,theyoungmanbegantoregretthe
RacquetClublessviolently.
"It'shorriblycoldout,"hesaid."There'sscarcelyasoulonthestreets."


Shenoddedbrightly:
"It'sawonderfulnightforwhatwehavetodo.AndIdon'tmindthecoldvery
much."
"AreyouproposingtogoOUT?"heasked,alarmed.
"Why,yes.Youdon'tmind,doyou?"
"AmItogo,too?"
"Certainly.Yougavemeonlytwenty-fourhours,andIcan'tdoitaloneinthat
time."
Hesaidnothing,buthisthoughtsconcentrateduponasingleunprintableword.
"WhathaveyoudonewiththeoriginalLaufferletter,Mr.Vaux?"sheinquired
rathernervously.
"Theusual.Noinvisibleinkhadbeenused;nothingmicroscopic.Therewas
nothingontheletterorenvelope,either,exceptwhatwesaw."
Thegirlnodded.Onalargetablebehindherchairlayaportfolio.
Sheturned,drewittowardher,andlifteditintoherlap.
"Whathaveyoudiscovered?"heinquiredpolitely,baskinginthegrateful
warmthofthefire.
"Nothing.Thecipheris,asIfeared,purelyarbitrary.It'sexasperating,isn'tit?"
Henodded,toastinghisshins.
"Yousee,"shecontinued,openingtheportfolio,"hereismycopyofthis
wretchedcipherletter.Ihavetransferredittoonesheet.It'snothingbutastring
ofArabicnumbersinterspersedwithmeaninglesswords.Thesenumbersmost
probablyrepresent,intheorderinwhichtheyarewritten,firstthenumberofthe
pageofsomebook,thenthelineonwhichthewordistobefound—say,the
tenthlinefromthetop,ormaybefromthebottom—andthenthepositionofthe
word—secondfromtheleftorperhapsfromtheright."


"It'sutterlyimpossibletosolvethatunlessyouhavethebook,"heremarked;
"therefore,whyspeculate,MissErith?"
"I'mgoingtotrytofindthebook."
"How?"
"BybreakingintotheshopofHermanLauffer."
"House-breaking?Robbery?"
"Yes."
Vauxsmiledincredulously:
"GrantedthatyougetintoLauffer'sshopwithoutbeingarrested,whatthen?"
"Ishallhavethiscipherwithme.Therearenotlikelytobemanybooksinthe
shopofagilderandmakerofpictureframes.Ishall,byreferringtothisletter,
searchwhatbooksIfindthereforasinglecoherentsentence.WhenIdiscover
suchasentenceIshallknowthatIhavetherightbook."
Theyoungmansmokedreflectivelyandgazedintotheburningcoals.
"Soyouproposetobreakintohisshopto-nightandstealthebook?"
"Thereseemstobenothingelsetodo,Mr.Vaux."
"Ofcourse,"heremarkedsarcastically,"wecouldturnthismatterovertothe
properauthorities—"
"IWON'T!PLEASEdon't!"
"Whynot?"
"BecauseIhaveconcludedthatitISpartofourwork.AndI'vebegunalready.I
wenttoseeLauffer.Itookaphotographtobeframed."
"Whatdoeshelooklike?"
"Amink—anotter—oneofthosesharp-muzzledlittleanimals!—Twotinyeyes,


ratherclosetogether,alongnosethatwrinkleswhenhetalks,asthoughhewere
sniffingatyou;aragged,blackmoustache,likethefurrymuzzle-bristlesofsome
wildthing—thatisasketchofHermanLauffer."
"Aprettyman,"commentedVaux,muchamused.
"He'slittleandfatofabdomen,buthelookspowerful."
"Prettierandprettier!"
Theybothlaughed.Apleasantsteamarosefromthetallglassathiselbow.
"Well,"shesaid,"Ihavetochangemygown—"
"GoodLord!Arewegoingnow?"heremonstrated.
"Yes.Idon'tbelievetherewillbeasoulonthestreets."
"ButIdon'twishtogoatall,"heexplained."I'mveryhappyhere,discussing
things."
"Iknowit.Butyouwouldn'tletmegoallalone,wouldyou,Mr.
Vaux?"
"Idon'twantyoutogoanywhere."
"ButI'mGOING!"
"Here'swhereIperish,"groanedVaux,risingasthegirlpassedhimwithher
pretty,humoroussmile,movinglithely,swiftlyassomegracefulwildthing
passingconfidentlythroughitsowndomain.
Vauxgazedmeditativelyuponthecoals,glassinonehand,cigaretteintheother.
Patriotismisatoughcareer.
"Thisisworsethaninhuman,"hethought."IfIgooutonsuchanerrandto-night
Isureamdoingmybitterbit.…Probablysomepolicemanwillshootme—
unlessIfreezetodeath.Thisisavastlyunpleasantaffair….Vastly!"
HewasstillcaressingthefirewithhisregardwhenMissErithcameback.


Sheworeafurcoatbuttonedtothethroat,afurtoque,furgloves.
Asheroseshenaivelydisplayedajimmyandtwoflashlights.
"Isee,"hesaid,"verynice,veryhandy!Butwedon'tneedthesetoconvictus."
Shelaughedandhandedhimtheinstruments;andhepocketedthemand
followedherdownstairs.
Hercarwaswaiting,enginerunning;shespoketotheKadiakchauffeur,gotin,
andVauxfollowed.
"Youknow,"hesaid,pullingtheminkrobeoverherandhimself,"you're
behavingverybadlytoyoursuperiorofficer."
"I'msoexcited,sointerested!IhopeI'mnotlackingindeferencetomy
honouredChiefofDivision.AmI,Mr.Vaux?"
"Youcertainlyhustlemearoundsome!Thisisacrazythingwe'redoing."
"Oh,I'msorry!"
"You'reanautocrat.You'realady-Nero!Tellme,MissErith,wereyouever
afraidofanythingonearth?"
"Yes."
"What?"
"Lightningandcaterpillars."
"ThoseareprobablytheonlyreallydangerousthingsIneverfeared,"hesaid.
"Youseemtobeyoungandhumanandfeminine.Areyou?"
"Oh,very."
"Thenwhyaren'tyouafraidofbeingshotforaburglar,andwhydoyougoso
gailyaboutgrandlarceny?"
Thegirl'slightlaughterwasfriendlyandfearless.
"Doyoulivealone?"heinquiredafteramoment'ssilence.


"Yes.Myparentsarenotliving."
"Youareratheranunusualgirl,MissErith."
"Why?"
"Well,girlsofyoursortareseldomasmuchinearnestabouttheirwarworkas
youseemtobe,"heremarkedwithgentleirony.
"HowaboutthenursesanddriversinFrance?"
"Oh,ofcourse.Imeannicegirls,likeyourself,whodonear-warworkherein
NewYork—"
"YouAREbrutal!"sheexclaimed."IammadtogotoFrance!Itisasacrifice—a
renunciationformetoremaininNewYork.IunderstandnursingandIknow
howtodriveacar;butIhavestayedherebecausemyknowledgeofciphers
seemedtofitmeforthiswork."
"Iwasteasingyou,"hesaidgently.
"Iknowit.ButthereisSOmuchtruthinwhatyousayaboutnear-warwork.I
hatethatsortofwoman….Whydoyoulaugh?"
"Becauseyou'rejustachild.Butyouarefullofabilityandpossibility,Miss
Erith."
"IwishmyabilitymightlandmeinFrance!"
"Surely,surely,"hemurmured.
"Doyouthinkitwill,Mr.Vaux?"
"Maybeitwill,"hesaid,notbelievingit.Headded:"Ithink,however,your
undoubtedabilityisgoingtolandusbothinjail."
Atwhichpessimisticprognosistheybothbegantolaugh.Shewasverylovely
whenshelaughed.
"Ihopethey'llgiveusthesamecell,"shesaid."Don'tyou?"


"Surely,"herepliedgaily.
OnceherememberedthephotographofArethusainhisdeskatheadquarters,
andthoughtthatperhapshemightneeditbeforetheeveningwasover.
"Surely,surely,"hemutteredtohimself,"hum—hum!"
HercoupestoppedinFifty-sixthStreetnearMadisonAvenue.
"Thecarwillwaithere,"remarkedthegirl,asVauxhelpedhertodescend.
"Lauffer'sshopisjustaroundthecorner."Shetookhisarmtosteadyherselfon
theicysidewalk.Helikedit.
Inthebitterdarknesstherewasnotasoultobeseenonthestreet;notramcars
wereapproachingonMadisonAvenue,althoughfaruponthecrestofLenox
Hilltherecedinglightsofonewerejustvanishing.
"Doyouseeanypolicemen?"sheaskedinalowvoice.
"Notone.They'reallfrozentodeath,Isuppose,aswewillbeinafewminutes."
TheyturnedintoMadisonAvenuepasttheHotelEssex.Therewasnotasoulto
beseen.Eventhesilver-lacedporterhadretiredfromthefreezingvestibule.A
fewmomentslaterMissErithpausedbeforeashoponthegroundfloorofan
old-fashionedbrownstoneresidencewhichhadbeenalteredforbusiness.
Overtheshop-windowwasasign:"H.Lauffer,FramesandGilding."The
curtainsoftheshop-windowswerelowered.Nolightburnedinside.
OverLauffer'sshopwastheemptyshow-windowofanothershop—onthe
secondfloor—thesortofplacethatmillinersandtea-shopkeepersdelightin—
butinsidetheblankshow-windowwaspastedthesign"ToLet."
Abovethisshopwerethreefloors,evidentlyapartments.Thewindowswerenot
lighted.
"Laufferlivesonthefourthfloor,"saidMissErith."Willyoupleasegivemethe
jimmy,Vaux?"
Hefisheditoutofhisovercoatpocketandlookeduneasilyupanddownthe


desertedavenuewhilethegirlsteppedcalmlyintotheopenentryway.There
weretwodoors,aglassoneopeningonthestairsleadingtotheupperfloors,and
theshopdoorontheleft.
Shestoopedoverforarapidsurvey,thenwithincredibleswiftnessjimmiedthe
shopdoor.
Thenoiseoftheillegaloperationsawoketheicyandsilentavenuewithaloud,
splittingcrash!Thedoorswunggentlyinward.
"Quick!"shesaid.Andhefollowedherguiltilyinside.
Theshopwasquitewarm.Astoveintherearroomstillemittedheatandadull
redlight.Onthestovewasapotofglue,orsomeothersubstanceusedbygilders
andframemakers.Steamcurledlanguidlyfromit;alsoasmellnotquiteas
languid.
Vauxhandedheranelectrictorch,thenflashedhisown.Thenextmomentshe
foundapushbuttonandswitchedonthelightsintheshop.Thenthey
extinguishedtheirtorches.
Stacksofframesinrawwood,framesin"compo,"samplesgildedandinnatural
finishlitteredtheuntidyplace.Afewprocess"mezzotints"hungonthewalls.
Therewasacounteronwhichlaytwine,shearsandwrappingpaper,andacopy
ofthemostrecenttelephonedirectory.Itwastheonlybookinsight,andMiss
Erithopeneditandspreadhercopyofthecipher-letterbesideit.Thenshebegan
toturnthepagesaccordingtothenumberswritteninhercopyofthecipher
letter.
Meanwhile,Vauxwasprowling.Therewerenobooksintherearroom;ofthis
hewaspresentlyassured.Hecamebackintothefrontshopandbeganto
rummage.Afewtradecataloguesrewardedhimandhesolemnlylaidthemon
thecounter.
"ThetelephonedirectoryisNOTthekey,"saidMissErith,pushingitaside.A
fewmomentsweresufficienttoconvincethemthatthekeydidnotliewithinany
ofthetradecatalogueseither.
"Haveyousearchedverycarefully?"sheasked.


"There'snotanotherbookintheballyshop."
"Well,then,Lauffermusthaveitinhisapartmentupstairs."
"Whichapartmentisit?"
"Thefourthfloor.Hisnameisunderabellonabrassplateintheentry.Inoticed
itwhenIcamein."Sheturnedofftheelectriclight;theywenttothedoor,
reconnoitredcautiously,sawnobodyontheavenue.However,atramcarwas
passing,andtheywaited;thenVauxflashedhistorchonthebell-plate.
Underthebellmarked"FourthFloor"wasengravedHermanLauffer'sname.
"Youknow,"remonstratedVaux,"wehavenowarrantforthissortofthing,and
itmeansserioustroubleifwe'recaught."
"Iknowit.Butwhatotherwayisthere?"sheinquirednaively."Youallowedme
onlytwenty-fourhours,andIWON'Tbackout!"
"Whatproceduredoyouproposenow?"heasked,grimlyamused,andbeginning
tofeelratherrecklesshimself,andenjoyingthefeeling."Whatdoyouwishto
do?"herepeated."I'mgame."
"Ihaveanautomaticpistol,"sheremarkedseriously,tappingherfur-coatpocket,
"—andapairofhandcuffs—thesortthatopenandlockwhenyoustrikeaman
onthewristwiththem.Youknowthekind?"
"Surely.Youmeantocommitassaultandrobberyinthefirstdegreeuponthe
bodyoftheaforesaidHerman?"
"I-isthatit?"shefaltered.
"Itis."
Shehesitated:
"Thatisratherdreadful,isn'tit?"
"Somewhat.Itinvolvesalmostanythingshortoflifeimprisonment.
ButIdon'tmind."


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