ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
AUTHOR OF "THE COMMON LAW" "THE RECKONING" "LORRAINE" ETC.
A grateful nation's thanks are due
To Arethusa and to you---
To her who dauntless at your side
Pneumonia and Flue defied
With phials of formaldehyde!
Chief of Police were you by gosh!
Gol ding it! how you bumped the Boche!
Handed 'em one with club and gun
Until the Hun was on the run:
And that's the way the war was won.
Easthampton's pride! My homage take
For Fairest Philadelphia's sake.
Retire in company with Bill;
Rest by the Racquet's window sill
And undisturbed consume your pill.
When Cousin Feenix started west
And landed east he did his best;
And so I've done my prettiest
To make this rhyme long overdue;
For Arethusa and for you.
R. W. C.
CUP AND LIP
The case in question concerned a letter in a yellow envelope which
was dumped along with other incoming mail upon one of the many long
tables where hundreds of women and scores of men sat opening and
reading thousands of letters for the Bureau of P. C.--whatever that
In due course of routine a girl picked up and slit open the yellow
envelope studied the enclosed letter for a few moments returned it
to its envelope wrote a few words on a slip of paper attached the
slip to the yellow envelope and passed it along to the D. A.
C.--whoever he or she may be.
The D. A. C. in course of time opened this letter for the second
time inspected it returned it to the envelope added a memorandum
and sent it on up to the A. C.--whatever A. C. may signify.
Seated at his desk the A. C. perused the memoranda glanced over
the letter and the attached memoranda added his terse comment to
the other slips pinned them to the envelope and routed it through
certain channels which ultimately carried the letter into a room
where six silent and preoccupied people sat busy at six separate
Fate had taken charge of that yellow envelope from the moment it was
mailed in Mexico; Chance now laid it on a yellow oak table before a
yellow-haired girl; Destiny squinted over her shoulder as she drew
the letter from its triply violated envelope and spread it out on
the table before her.
A rich warm flush mounted to her cheeks as she examined the
document. Her chance to distinguish herself had arrived at last. She
divined it instantly. She did not doubt it. She was a remarkable
The room remained very still. The five other cipher experts of the
P. I. Service were huddled over their tables pencil in hand
absorbed in their several ungodly complications and laborious
calculations. But they possessed no Rosetta Stone to aid them in
deciphering hieroglyphics; toad-like they carried the precious
stone in their heads M. D.!
No indiscreet sound interrupted their mental gymnastics save only
the stealthy scrape of a pen the subdued rustle of writing paper
the flutter of a code-book's leaves thumbed furtively.
The yellow-haired girl presently rose from her chair carrying in
her hand the yellow letter and its yellow envelope with yellow slips
attached; and this harmonious combination of colour passed
noiselessly into a smaller adjoining office where a solemn young
man sat biting an unlighted cigar and gazing with preternatural
sagacity at nothing at all.
Possibly his pretty affianced was the object of his deep revery--he
had her photograph in his desk--perhaps official cogitation as D.
C. of the E. C. D.--if you understand what I mean?--may have been
responsible for his owlish abstraction.
Because he did not notice the advent of the yellow haired girl until
she said in her soft attractive voice:
"May I interrupt you a moment Mr. Vaux?"
Then he glanced up.
"Surely surely" he said. "Hum--hum!--please be seated Miss Erith!
She laid the sheets of the letter and the yellow envelope upon the
desk before him and seated herself in a chair at his elbow. She was
VERY pretty. But engaged men never notice such details.
"I'm afraid we are in trouble" she remarked.
He read placidly the various memoranda written on the yellow slips
of paper scrutinised! the cancelled stamps postmarks
superscription. But when his gaze fell upon the body of the letter
his complacent expression altered to one of disgust!
"What's this Miss Erith?"
"Code-cipher I'm afraid."
Miss Erith smiled. She was one of those girls who always look as
though they had not been long out of a bathtub. She had hazel eyes
a winsome smile and hair like warm gold. Her figure was youthfully
straight and supple--But that would not interest an engaged man.
The D. C. glanced at her inquiringly.
"Surely surely" he muttered "hum--hum!--" and tried to fix his
mind on the letter.
In fact she was one of those girls who unintentionally and
innocently render masculine minds uneasy through some delicate
indefinable attraction which defies analysis.
"Surely" murmured the D. C. "surely! Hum--hum!"
A subtle freshness like the breath of spring in a young orchard
seemed to linger about her. She was exquisitely fashioned to trouble
men but she didn't wish to do such a--
Vaux who was in love with another girl took another uneasy look at
her sideways then picked up his unlighted cigar and browsed upon
"Yes" he said nervously "this is one of those accursed
code-ciphers. They always route them through to me. Why don't they
notify the five--"
"Are you going to turn THIS over to the Postal Inspection Service?"
"What do you think about it Miss Erith? You see it's one of those
hopeless arbitrary ciphers for which there is no earthly solution
except by discovering and securing the code book and working it out
She said calmly but with heightened colour:
"A copy of that book is presumably in possession of the man to
whom this letter is addressed."
"Surely--surely. Hum--hum! What's his name Miss Erith?"--glancing
down at the yellow envelope. "Oh yes--Herman Lauffer--hum!"
He opened a big book containing the names of enemy aliens and
perused it frowinng. The name of Herman Lauffer was not listed. He
consulted other volumes containing supplementary lists of suspects
and undesirables--lists furnished daily by certain services
unnecessary to mention.
"Here he is!" exclaimed Vaux; "--Herman Lauffer picture-framer and
gilder! That's his number on Madison Avenue!"--pointing to the
type-written paragraph. "You see he's probably already under
surveillance-one of the several services is doubtless keeping tabs
on him. I think I'd better call up the--"
"Please!--Mr. Vaux!" she pleaded.
He had already touched the telephone receiver to unhook it. Miss
Erith looked at him appealingly; her eyes were very very hazel.
"Couldn't we handle it?" she asked.
"You and I!"
"But that's not our affair Miss Erith--"
"Make it so! Oh please do. Won't you?"
Vaux's arm fell to the desk top. He sat thinking for a few minutes.
Then he picked up a pencil in an absent-minded manner and began to
trace little circles squares and crosses on his pad stringing
them along line after line as though at hazard and apparently
thinking of anything except what he was doing.
The paper on which he seemed to be so idly employed lay on his desk
directly under Miss Erith's eyes; and after a while the girl began
to laugh softly to herself.
"Thank you Mr. Vaux" she said. "This is the opportunity I have
Vaux looked up at her as though he did not understand. But the girl
laid one finger on the lines of circles squares dashes and
crosses and still laughing read them off translating what he had
"You are a very clever girl. I've decided to turn this case over to
you. After all your business is to decipher cipher and you can't
do it without the book."
They both laughed.
"I don't see how you ever solved that" he said delighted to tease
"How insulting!--when you know it is one of the oldest and most
familiar of codes--the 1-2-3 and _a-b-c_ combination!"
"Rather rude of you to read it over my shoulder Miss Erith. It
"You meant to see if I could! You know you did!"
"Of course! That old 'Seal of Solomon' cipher is perfectly
"Really? But how about THIS!"--touching the sheets of the Lauffer
letter--"how are you going to read this sequence of Arabic
"I haven't the slightest idea" said the girl candidly.
"But you request the job of trying to find the key?" he suggested
"There is no key. You know it."
"I mean the code book."
"I would like to try to find it."
"How are you going to go about it?"
"I don't know yet."
Vaux smiled. "All right; go ahead my dear Miss Erith. You're
officially detailed for this delightful job. Do it your own way but
"Thank you so much!"
"--In twenty-four hours" he added grimly. "Otherwise I'll turn it
over to the P.I."
"Oh! That IS brutal of you!"
"Sorry. But if you can't get the code-book in twenty-four hours I'll
have to call in the Service that can."
The girl bit her lip and held out her hand for the letter.
"I can't let it go out of my office" he remarked. "You know that
"I merely wish to copy it" she said reproachfully. Her eyes were
"I ought not to let you take a copy out of this office" he
"But you will won't you?"
"All right. Use that machine over there. Hum--hum!"
For twenty minutes the girl was busy typing before the copy was
finally ready. Then comparing it and finding her copy accurate she
returned the original to Mr. Vaux and rose with that disturbing
grace peculiar to her every movement.
"Where may I telephone you when you're not here?" she inquired
diffidently resting one slim white hand on his desk.
"At the Racquet Club. Are you going out?"
"What! You abandon me without my permission?"
She nodded with one of those winsome smiles which incline young men
to revery. Then she turned and walked toward the cloak room.
The D. C. was deeply in love with somebody else yet he found it
hard to concentrate his mind for a while and he chewed his
unlighted cigar into a pulp. Alas! Men are that way. Not sometimes.
Finally he shoved aside the pile of letters which he had been trying
to read unhooked the telephone receiver called a number got it
and inquired for a gentleman named Cassidy.
To the voice that answered he gave the name business and address of
Herman Lauffer and added a request that undue liberties be taken
with any out going letters mailed and presumably composed and
written by Mr. Lauffer's own fair hand.
"Much obliged Mr. Vaux" cooed Cassidy in a voice so suave that
Vaux noticed its unusual blandness and asked if that particular
Service already had "anything on Lauffer."
"Not soon but yet!" replied Mr. Cassidy facetiously "thanks
ENTIRELY to your kind tip Mr. Vaux."
And Vaux suspicious of such urbane pleasantries rang off and
resumed his mutilated cigar.
"Now what the devil does Cassidy know about Herman Lauffer" he
mused "and why the devil hasn't his Bureau informed us?" After long
pondering he found no answer. Besides he kept thinking at moments
about Miss Erith which confused him and diverted his mind from the
business on hand.
So in his perplexity he switched on the electric foot-warmer
spread his fur overcoat over his knees uncorked a small bottle and
swallowed a precautionary formaldehyde tablet unlocked a drawer of
his desk fished out a photograph and gazed intently upon it.
It was the photograph of his Philadelphia affianced. Her first name
was Arethusa. To him there was a nameless fragrance about her name.
And sweetly subtly gradually the lovely phantasm of Miss Evelyn
Erith faded vanished into the thin and frigid atmosphere of his
That was his antidote to Miss Erith--the intent inspection of his
fiancee's very beautiful features as inadequately reproduced by an
expensive and fashionable Philadelphia photographer.
It did the business for Miss Erith every time.
The evening was becoming one of the coldest ever recorded in New
York. The thermometer had dropped to 8 degrees below zero and was
still falling. Fifth Avenue glittered sheathed in frost; traffic
police on post stamped and swung their arms to keep from freezing;
dry snow underfoot squeaked when trodden on; crossings were greasy
with glare ice.
It was also one of those meatless wheatless heatless nights when
the privation which had hitherto amused New York suddenly became an
ugly menace. There was no coal to be had and only green wood. The
poor quietly died as usual; the well-to-do ventured a hod and a
stick or two in open grates or sat huddled under rugs over oil or
electric stoves; or migrated to comfortable hotels. And bachelors
took to their clubs. That is where Clifford Vaux went from his
chilly bachelor lodgings. He fled in a taxi buried cheek-deep in
his fur collar hating all cold all coal companies and all
In the Racquet Club he found many friends similarly
self-dispossessed similarly obsessed by discomfort and hatred. But
there seemed to be some steam heat there and several open fires;
and when the wheatless meatless meal was ended and the usual
coteries drifted to their usual corners Mr. Vaux found himself
seated at a table with a glass of something or other at his elbow
which steamed slightly and had a long spoon in it; and he presently
heard himself saying to three other gentlemen: "Four hearts."
His voice sounded agreeably in his own ears; the gentle glow of a
lignum-vitae wood fire smote his attenuated shins; he balanced his
cards in one hand a long cigar in the other exhaled a satisfactory
whiff of aromatic smoke and smiled comfortably upon the table.
"Four hearts" he repeated affably. "Does anybody--"
The voice of Doom interrupted him:
"Mr. Vaux sir--"
The young man turned in his easy-chair and beheld behind him a club
servant all over silver buttons.
"The telephone Mr. Vaux" continued that sepulchral voice.
"All right" said the young man. "Bill will you take my cards?"--he
laid his hand face down rose and left the pleasant warmth of the
card-room with a premonitory shiver.
"Well?" he inquired without cordiality picking up the receiver.
"Mr. Vaux?" came a distinct voice which he did not recognise.
"Yes" he snapped "who is it?"
"Oh--er--surely--surely! GOOD-evening Miss Erith!"
"Good-evening Mr. Vaux. Are you by any happy chance quite free
"Well--I'm rather busy--unless it is important--hum--hum!--in line
of duty you know--"
"You may judge. I'm going to try to secure that code-book to-night."
"Oh! Have you called in the--"
"Haven't you communicated with--"