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THE MIDNIGHT PASSENGER

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THE MIDNIGHT PASSENGER

RICHARD HENRY SAVAGE

BOOK I

UNDER THE ARCH

I. The Danube Picture

II. Tidings of Great Joy

III. In Magdal's Pharmacy

IV. Under the Shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge

V. Breakers Ahead! Checkmate! Mr. Arthur Ferris Works in the Dark

BOOK II

AN INSIDE RING

VI. Dreaming by the Sea

VII. "This May Be My Last Bank Deposit"

VIII. The Strange Tug's Voyage

IX. The Lightning Stroke of Fate

X. A Cruel Legacy

BOOK III

THE MESSAGE FROM AMOY

XI. The Girl Bride's Rebellion

XII. The Lonely Pursuer

XIII. On the Yacht "Rambler"

XIV. Irma Gluyas

XV. Miss Worthington Shares Her Secret

BOOK I.

UNDER THE ARCH.

CHAPTER I.

THE DANUBE PICTURE.

There was no air of uncertainty upon the handsome countenance of
Mr. Randall Clayton as he stepped out of the elevator of a sedate
Fourteenth Street business building and approvingly sniffed the
April morning breeze.

On this particular Saturday of ninety-seven the shopping multitude
was already pouring from the Scylla of Simpson Crawford & Simpson's
on Sixth Avenue--and its Charybdis of the Big Store--past the
jungles of Altman's Ehrich's and O'Neill's--to dash feebly upon
the buttressed corner of Macy's and then die away in refluent
diverted waves lost in the fastnesses of McCreery's and Wanamaker's
far down Broadway.

The pulses of the young man were vaguely thrilled with the coming
of spring and so he complacently took in the never-ceasing tide
of eager women on the street's shady side with one comprehensive
and kindly glance.

For six long years he had cautiously studied that same sea of
always anxious faces! He well knew all the types from the disdainful
woman of fashion the crafty daughter of sin the vacuous country
visitor down to the argus-eyed mere de famille sternly resolute
in her set purpose of making three dollars take the place of five
by some heaven-sent bargain.

Countless times he had threaded this restless multitude with an
alert devotion to the interests of the Western Trading Company. He
was to the ordinary lounger but the type of the average well-groomed
New York business man.

And yet his watchful eyes swept keenly to right and left as he
breasted the singularly inharmonious waves of the weaker sex.

His left hand firmly gripped a Russian leather portmanteau of
substantial construction while his right lay loosely in the pocket
of his modish spring overcoat.

To one having the gift of Asmodeus that well-gloved right hand
would have been revealed as resting upon the handle of a heavy
revolver and the contents of the tourist-looking portmanteau been
known as some thirty-eight thousand dollars in well-thumbed currency
and greasy checks of polyglot signatures.

It was the "short day" of the week's business and the usual route
for making his bank deposit lay before him. Down University Place
to Eighth Street he was bent thus avoiding the Broadway crush
and over to the shaded counting rooms of the Astor Place Bank.

Clayton's mind was concentrated as usual upon his important
business. Few of the neighbors in the great office building knew of
the vast interests represented by the modest sign "Western Trading
Company."

Certain gray-bearded bookkeepers a couple of brisk correspondents
a stony-faced woman stenographer with a couple of ferret-eyed
office boys were the office force besides the travelling manager
and Mr. Randall Clayton the cashier and personal representative of
the absent "head" who rarely left his Detroit home to interfere
with the well-oiled movements of the "New York end."

But daily rain or shine Mr. Randall Clayton himself took his
way to the bank to deposit the funds to meet their never-ceasing
outflow of Western exchange. There was an air of grave prosperity
in the sober offices of the great cattle company which impressed
even the casual wanderer.

Silence and decorum marked all the transactions of the weekly
messengers paying in the heavy accounts of the hundreds of New York
butchers who drew their daily supplies from these great occidental
cattle handlers. The various departments of the great business were
always kept as sealed books to each other and only Emil Einstein
Clayton's own office boy knew how much treasure was daily packed
away into that innocent looking portmanteau.

Mr. Somers the head accountant with a grave bow always verified
the sealed delivery slip of the funds and compared it with the
returned bank books carefully filing away all these in his own
private safe with Clayton's returned list of Western and Southern
exchange.

On the sunny April morning Randall Clayton was weary of the confining
life of the silence haunted office rooms where he patiently bore
the strain of his grave duties with a cautious avoidance of useless
communication fencing him even from his fellow employees.

As he strode along the crowded street his jaded soul yearned for
the wild majesty of the far off Montana mountains and the untrammeled
life of the Western frontier given up perforce when his father's
death had left him twelve years before alone in the world.

"The same old daily grind" he murmured. "Oh! For one good long
gallop on the lonely prairies--a day in the forest with the antlered
elk an afternoon among the gray boulders of the McCloud River."

He sighed as he recalled his drudging rise in business since his
father's old partner had set his life work out before him when
the lonely boy had finished with honor his course at Ann Arbor.

Four years at college two with "the chief" under his own watchful
eye and then that six years of a dragging upward pull in the New
York office had made a man of him; but only a self-contained and
prematurely jaded man.

"It's too much to lose" he muttered as he thought of his hardly
earned promotion his four thousand a year and--the future
prospects. He was the envy of his limited coterie even though his
few intimates looked with a certain awe upon a man who was obliged
to file a bond of fifty thousand dollars for his vast pecuniary
handlings.

For the great association of Western cattle men were hard taskmasters
and only the head lawyers in Detroit knew that Hugh Worthington
had annually sent in his own personal check to the Fidelity Company
to pay the dues of the bond of the son of a man to whom he had owed
his own first rise.

"It's too hard" mused his patron "to spy on the lad and then
make him pay for it. But it has to be" he sighed. "There are the
snares and pitfalls."

Many an eye approvingly followed the stalwart young man still in
the flush of his unsapped vigor at twenty-eight as the tall form
swept on through the crowds of polyglot women.

There was a healthy tan on Clayton's face his brown hair crisply
curled upon a well-set head his keen blue eye and soldierly mustache
finely setting off a frank and engaging countenance.

The grave sense of gratitude his place of trust the stern admonitions
of his sententious patron Worthington and the counsel of his
only chum--a hard-headed young New York lawyer--had kept him so
far from the prehensile clutches of the Jezebel-infested Tenderloin.

Clay ton had fallen judiciously into the haven of a well-chosen
apartment sharing his intimacy only with Arthur Ferris the
brisk-eyed advocate whose curt office missive always enforced the
lagging collections of the New York branch.

Simultaneously with his last promotion however there came to
Clayton the knowledge that he was continuously and systematically
watched by the unseen agents of the Fidelity Company.

And yet strong in his own determination he bore as a galling
chain growing heavier with the months the knowledge that the eye
of the secret agent would surely follow him in all the "pleasures"
incident to his time of life and rising financial station.

The sword hung over his defenceless head!--too busy for the gad-fly
life of the clubs--a strong lonely swimmer in the tide of New York
life he was as yet a comparative stranger to Folly and her motley
crew of merry wantons in gay Gotham.

The theater some good music his athletics and the hastily
snatched pleasures of vacation together with the limp reading of
an overwearied man afforded him such desultory pleasures as fell
in his path.

On his way now to a luncheon engagement with his comrade Ferris
at Taylor's his mind was busied only with the care of the daily
treasure trust.

Serenely confident he swung along his two score thousand
of dollars being a mere ordinary deposit in a business which in
holiday seasons and at times of monthly settlements often stuffed
the portmanteau with sums rising the hundred thousand.

His callous eye vainly rested on the peopled loneliness of the
bustling crowd intent only upon the possibility of a sudden dash
of some sneak thief or the chance malignity of some swell "mobsman."

Suddenly Randall Clayton paused in his swinging stride. For a
face rapt in its intense earnestness broke in upon his gnawing
loneliness. A lovely vision a very Rose of Life's Garden!

"By Jove!" he murmured as with a new-born craft he lingered for
a moment before a window with an "art" display only to watch the
receding form of the unknown beauty whose single glance had left
him standing there spellbound.

There was an exquisite artist proof of a romantic scene upon the
Danube displayed in the place of honor a view of one of the grandly
witching defiles where the mighty stream immortalized by Strauss
breaks out of the smiling Austrian plains dashing along into the
Iron Gates of gallant Hungary.

He could not as yet tell what manner of woman she might be but
his spirit burned within him as he felt the lingering spell of
those dark witching eyes for they had rested upon his own in an
instant unguarded glance of sympathy.

Mechanically following on Clayton noted the refinement of the
daintily cut dark dress veiling a form of ravishing symmetry.
There was a single red rose in the Polish toque and that one touch
of color guided him as he followed the gracefully gliding unknown
beauty.

Strangely stirred at heart he marked the distinction of the lady's
bearing her well-gloved hand clasping a music roll--and even
the natty bottines had not escaped him. He saw all this before he
was aware that he had passed on beyond University Place with no
other purpose than to gaze into those sweetly earnest eyes again.
"Twenty-three--no twenty-five" his keen perception told him by
right of the supple and imperially moulded form of womanly ripeness.
And he wondered vaguely what daughter of the gods this might be--what
heiress of the graces of the laughter-loving goddesses of old!

He quickened his pace in the narrow space between University Place
and Broadway fearful that he would lose that dark-eyed vision in
the human breakers at the Broadway curve. But his grasp mechanically
tightened upon his treasure his right hand clutched the pistol
butt more firmly as his cheek reddened with an involuntary blush.

He had seen just such faces on the Prater in sparkling Vienna and
in the antique streets of Buda-Pesth on the one summer European
run snatched from the Moloch worship of the Almighty Dollar!

Such eyes now soft and dreamy then lit up with a merry challenge
had rested on the handsome young American tourist in the vaulted
halls of the Wiener Cafe where the Waltz King's witching melodies
ruled the happy hour.

And supple forms like this he had often seen flitting among the
copses of the Margarethe Insel when the yellow sunset rays shone
golden on the gleaming Danube and the purple shadows began to steal
over the old fortress high uplifted there above Hungary's capital.
Here was a truant beauty escaped from a land of dreams.

Clayton had followed the unknown over Broadway's dangerously choked
throat before the music roll gave him his clue. He was now in the
musical center of New York and in proximity to the modest foreign
theaters where a conscientious art flourishes as yet unknown to
the garish play-houses of upper Broadway.

Some visiting singer some transplanted "Kunstlerinn" he conjectured
as never ceasing that queenly stride the unknown crossed Fourth
Avenue toward the vicinity of Steinway's and the Irving Place
Theater.

As yet he had not seen that bewitching face again for he was a
laggard in pursuit his coward conscience smiting him for his first
errant detour.

It seemed as if the money in that portmanteau rustled a portentous
warning but "a spirit in his feet" led him to execute a quick
left-flank movement as he sped first across the triangle passing
under the shadow of the Washington statue (pride of the job brass
founder) and with a stolen side glance he surveyed the lady
once more as she leisurely mounted the steps of the "Restaurant
Bavaria."

His eyes dropped in a strange confusion as he once more met the
sweetly serious glance of those wonderful eyes now resting upon
him with a gleam of vaguely timid inquiry. The delicately moulded
arm and slender hand were revealed as with a graceful sweep the
lady lifted her rustling drapery and disappeared within the doors
of the one foreign cafe lingering reluctant on Union Square.

With a sigh Randall Clayton turned back toward the south for a
hasty glance at a clock face told him that there was left him but
fifteen minutes wherein to reach the Bank before the brazen bells
would clang high noon. His heart was beating strangely as he retraced
his steps for the ichor of young blood was boiling in his veins
at last.

He was lost in a clouding day dream as he recrossed Fourth Avenue
and only dimly saw the foxy face of his office boy flash out of
the jostling crowd on the corner before he darted over.

As he resolutely stemmed the tide pouring eastward he had turned
down Broadway before he realized that there had been a half smile
of recognition on those rich red Hungarian lips a wordless message
in the dark splendors of the gleaming eyes.

Could it be? They had lingered but a few moments together gazing
on the pictured glories of the distant Danube. Clayton felt that
some new influence had suddenly loosened all the pent-up longings
of his ardent nature. He was above all the vulgar pretenses of
the "boulevardier." He now realized in a single moment the hollow
loneliness of a life made up only of so many monthly pay days and
so many dull returns of the four unheeded seasons. For his life had
only been a heavy pathway of toil up an inclined plane of manifold
resistances.

He recalled how on his one European voyage the distant gleam
of a single silver sail far out on the blue rim of the pathless
ocean had suddenly broken in upon the eternal loneliness of that
watery waste.

And now in all the peopled loneliness of all New York--hitherto
a human desert for him--the glance of these same alien eyes had
suddenly awakened him to yearnings for another life.

He was half way down the bustling Broadway to the bank before he
dared ask himself if the bright shy glances of these unforgotten
eyes were meant for him.

"Perhaps" he muttered and then his whole nature stifled the
unworthy suggestion. No! On that fair face only truth and honor
were mirrored. He was left alone absently checking up his deposit
list before he recalled all the proud and womanly bearing of the
beautiful unknown.

There was in her every motion the distinction of an isolation from
the contact of the meaner world! How hungrily he had watched her
onward path he only knew now.

And with a secret pride he recalled how daintily like the swift
Camilla she had sped onward through all those human billows heaving
to and fro "the world forgetting by the world forgot."

He pocketed all his deposit slips then glanced mechanically at
the bank-book's entries and wearily parried the badinage of the
bright-faced young bank-teller.

Clayton slowly wandered over toward Taylor's and he was still lost
in his day-dream when he joined his chum Arthur Ferris finding
the modest feast already on the table.

"By Jove old man! You're 'way behind time" began the nervous
lawyer. "I've got to hustle. I leave for Detroit on the evening
train."

"What's up Arthur?" demanded the laggard.

"I've just had a wire from Worthington" seriously replied his
room-mate. "He is going to take a trip around the world via San
Francisco. It seems that Miss Alice's health is precarious. And
the 'Chief' is going to put me in special charge of all his personal
interests during this stay of six or nine months. I am to go out
for my instructions travel on to the Pacific Coast with them and
then returning inspect all the cattle ranches on my way back to
Detroit."

"I'm right glad to hear it Arthur" said Clayton warmly grasping
his friend's hand. "I know Hugh Worthington's mental processes well!
He wants some one to watch over all his home business machinery
while he makes the grand tour. And he has selected one not in the
local ring. It means a substantial promotion for you."

"I fondly hope so" replied Ferris. "He must have some such ideas
for I'm to turn over all my New York matters here to the senior
in our firm and I'm also to have a special power of attorney from
the Chief. The annual election comes off before his return."

The two young men had finished their luncheon before Clayton thought
of the loneliness which his chum's absence would entail upon him.
There were many matters of detail to talk over and Clayton hastened
his return to the office to deposit his bank-book in order to be
free to give the afternoon to his departing friend.

"I've only my office desk to clear up; it's a short horse and soon
curried" laughed Ferris. "I'll run over to my place and then meet
you at our rooms so you can see the last of me. We can talk things
over while I pack up."

Ferris was busied with the cashier as young Einstein darted into
Taylor's. The lad's face brightened as he saw Clayton.

"I brought you down this telegram marked 'Rush'" he said all out
of breath. "I feared that you might go away for the afternoon." He
was off like a shot before Clayton tore open the yellow envelope.

It was a private despatch from Hugh Worthington announcing his own
impending departure and then directing all his mail to be forwarded
to the Palace Hotel San Francisco.

The last words were: "Kindly send me a private letter by Ferris and
give me any personal suggestions for handling the firm's business
in my absence. Will write you fully on private affairs from San
Francisco."

When Clayton parted with Ferris at the door of Taylor's the two
young men wended their separate ways each busied with the vision
of a fair woman.
...



 
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