determination to drink no more. For nothing was to be hoped for from
the sots, prostitutes, and parasites who made up the balance of that
company: one and all, either too indifferent or too sophisticated, if
not in active sympathy with the practices of the establishment, to
lift a hand to interfere....
Testimony in support of this inference P. Sybarite received within the
next few minutes, when the boy's temper abruptly veered from
good-natured obduracy to open irritation.
"Damn it, no!" he cried in a high voice and with an impatient movement
struck the glass from November's hand.
Though it went to the floor with a splintering crash, the incident
attracted little more than casual glances from those at neighbouring
November's countenance, however, turned grey with anger beneath its
Momentarily his glance clashed with the woman's; and of a sudden the
paint upon her cheeks and lips stood out as starkly artificial as
carmine splashed upon a whitewashed wall. At the same time he flashed
a like warning to his two followers at the next table; and the legs of
their chairs grated on the tiled flooring as they shifted position,
making ready for the signal to "mix in."
At this, P. Sybarite rose and nonchalantly moved over to November; his
approach remarked by the latter with an evil leer; by the woman with a
start of consternation; by the boy with sudden suspicion. Indubitably
this last was beginning to question a hospitality that would not
permit him to do as to him seemed best. With relief P. Sybarite noted
symptoms of this dawning distrust. It made the problem simpler, to
have the boy alive to his peril.
Pausing, P. Sybarite met November's glare with eyes informed with an
expression amazingly remote and dispassionate, and in a level and
toneless voice addressed him.
"I've a message for you - a hurry call - won't keep - "
"Well?" snapped the gangster. "What's it about? Spit it out!"
"Why, Nella says - " P. Sybarite began deliberately; and paused to
cough politely behind his hand; and leaned confidentially over the
At this juncture the boy pushed back his chair and rose.
"Pardon me, m' dear," he said thickly to the woman; "'m goin' home."
"Ah, sit down," November interrupted quickly, pitching his protean
accents to a key of cajolery - "sit down and have another. What's your
His eyes caught the woman's.
"That's right, dearie," she chimed in hurriedly, laying a soft
detaining hand on the boy's forearm. "Be a good fellow. Stake me to
just one more pint - "
"No," the boy insisted, shaking free - "I'm going home. Le' me alone."
"Nella," P. Sybarite interpolated in an imperative tone, momentarily
distracting November's attention - "Nella says to tell you she wants
you - now - immediately. Do you get that?"
"Damn Nella!" snapped the gang leader. "Tell her to go to the devil.
And you" - he menaced P. Sybarite with a formidable look - "you slide
outa here - in a hurry! See?"
With this, rising in his place, he put forth a hand to detain the boy,
who was sullenly pushing past the woman.
"Wait!" he insisted. "You can't go before you pay up - "
Whipping from his pocket a note (of what denomination he never
knew - but it was large) P. Sybarite slapped it down upon the table.
"That'll pay whatever he owes," he announced, and to the boy: "Clear
out - quick - do you hear! - while you've got a chance - "
"What t'ell business is it of yours?" November demanded, turning upon
With an enigmatic smile, P. Sybarite dexterously tipped up his side of
the table and, overturning it, caught the gangster unprepared for any
such manoeuvre and pinned him squirming in the angle of wall and
Immediately the woman came to her feet shrieking; while the little man
seized the befuddled boy and swung him toward the door actually before
he realised what was happening.
Simultaneously, November's henchmen at the adjoining table leapt into
the brawl with an alacrity that sent their chairs clattering back upon
But in his magnificent assurance P. Sybarite had foreseen and planned
cunningly against precisely that same contingency. No sooner had he
sent the boy staggering on his way than he whirled completely round
with a ready guard - and in no more than the very wink of exigence.
Already one of the creatures was almost on his back - the other hanging
off and singularly employed (it seemed, considering) with his hands;
just what he was up to P. Sybarite had time neither to see nor to
Sidestepping a wild swing, he planted a left full on the nose of the
nearer assailant and knocked him backwards over a sprawling chair.
Then turning attention to the other, he was barely in time to duck an
uppercut - and out of the corners of his eyes caught the glint of
brass-knuckles on the fist that failed to land.
Infuriated, he closed in, sent a staggering left to the thug's heart
and a murderous right to his chin, so that he reeled and fell as if
shot - while P. Sybarite with a bound again caught the boy by the arm
and whirled him out through the doorway into the hall.
"Hurry!" he panted. "We've one chance in ten thousand - "
Beyond doubt they had barely that.
Hardened though they were to scenes of violence, the clients of the
dive had stilled in apprehension the moment November lifted his voice
in anger; while P. Sybarite's first overtly offensive move had struck
them all dumb in terror.
Red November was one who had shot down his man in cold blood on the
steps of the Criminal Courts Building and, through the favour of The
Organisation that breeds such pests, escaped scot-free under the
convenient fiction of "suspended sentence"; and knowing well the
nature and the power of the man, the primal concerted thought had been
to flee the place before bullets began to fly. In blind panic like
that of sheep, they rose as one in uproar and surged toward the outer
doors. November himself, struggling up from beneath the table, was
caught and swept on willy-nilly in the front rank of the stampede. In
a thought he found himself wedged tight in a press clogging the door.
Before his enraged vision P. Sybarite was winning away with the boy.
Maddened, the gang leader managed to free his right arm and send a
haphazard shot after them.
Only the instinctive recoil of those about him deflected his aim.
The report was one with a shock of shattered plate-glass: the
soft-nosed bullet, splashing upon the glazed upper half of the door,
caused the entire pane to collapse and disappear with the quickness of
Halting, P. Sybarite wheeled and dropped a hand to the pocket wherein
rested Mrs. Inche's automatic.
"Get that door open!" he cried to the boy. "I've got a taxi waiting - "
His words were drowned out by the thunderous detonations set up by a
second shot in that constricted space.
With a thick sob, the boy reeled and swung against the wall as sharply
as though he had been struck with a sledge-hammer.
Whimpering with rage, P. Sybarite tugged at the weapon; but it stuck
fast, caught the lining of his coat-pocket.
Most happily before he could get it in evidence, the door was thrust
sharply in, and through it with a rush materialised that most rare of
metropolitan phenomena - the policeman on the spot.
Young and ardent, with courage as unique as his ubiquity, he blustered
in like a whirlwind, brushing P. Sybarite to one side, the wounded boy
to the other, and pausing only a single instant to throw back the
skirts of his tunic and grasp the butt of the revolver in his
hip-pocket, demanded in the voice of an Irish stentor:
"Robbery!" P. Sybarite replied, mastering with difficulty a giggle of
hysterical relief. "Robbery and attempted murder! Arrest that man - Red
November - with the gun in his hand."
With an inarticulate roar, the patrolman swung on toward the
gangster - and P. Sybarite plucked the boy by the sleeve and drew him
quickly to the sidewalk.
By the never-to-be-forgotten grace of _Kismet_ his taxicab was
precisely where he had left it, the chauffeur on the seat.
"Quick!" he ordered the reeling boy - "into that cab unless you want to
be treated by a Bellevue sawbones - held as a witness besides. Are you
"Not badly," gasped the boy - "shot through the shoulder - can wait for
treatment - must keep out of the papers - "
"Right!" P. Sybarite jerked open the door, and his charge stumbled
into the cab. "Drive anywhere - like sin," he told the chauffeur - "tell
you where to stop when we get clear of this mess - "
Privately he blessed that man; for the cab was in motion almost before
he could swing clear of the sidewalk. He tumbled in upon the floor,
and picked himself up in time to close the door only when they were
swinging on two wheels round the corner of Seventh Avenue.
SUCH STUFF AS PLOTS ARE MADE OF
"How is it?" P. Sybarite asked solicitously.
"Aches," replied the boy huddled in his corner of the cab.
Then he found spirit enough for a pale, thin smile, faintly visible in
a milky splash from an electric arc rocking by the vehicle in its
"Aches like hell," he added. "Makes one feel a bit sickish."
"Anything I can do?"
"No - thanks. I'll be all right - as soon as I find a surgeon to draw
that slug and plaster me up."
"That's the point: where am I to take you?"
"Home - the Monastery - Forty-third Street."
"Yes; I herd by my lonesome."
"Praises be!" muttered P. Sybarite, relieved.
For several minutes he had been entertaining a vision of himself
escorting this battered and bloody young person to a home of shrieking
feminine relations, and poignantly surmising the sort of welcome apt
to be accorded the good Samaritan in such instances.
And while he was about it, he took time briefly to offer up thanks
that the shock of his wound seemed to have sobered the boy completely.
Opening the door, he craned his neck out to establish communication
with the ear of the chauffeur; to whom he repeated the address, adding
an admonition to avoid the Monastery until certain he had shaken off
pursuit, if any; and dodged back.
At this juncture the taxicab was slipping busily up Eighth Avenue,
having gained that thoroughfare via Forty-first Street. A little later
it turned eastwards....
"No better, I presume?" P. Sybarite enquired.
"Not so's you'd notice it," the boy returned bravely.... "First time
anything like this ever happened to me," he went on. "Funny
sensation - precisely as if somebody had lammed me for a home run - with
a steel girder for a bat ..."
"Must be tough!" said P. Sybarite blankly, experiencing a qualm at the
thought of a soft-nosed bullet mushrooming through living flesh.
"Guess I can stand it.... Where are we?"
P. Sybarite took observations."
"Forty-seventh, near Sixth Avenue," he reported finally.
"Good: we'll be home in five minutes."
"Think you can hold out that long?"
"Sure - got to; if I keel over before we reach my digs ... chances are
it'll get you into trouble ... besides, I want to fight shy of the
papers ... no good airing this scandal ..."
"None whatever," affirmed P. Sybarite heartily. "But - how did you get
"Just by way of being a natural-born ass."
"Oh, well! If it comes to that, I admit it's none of my business - "
"The deuce it isn't! After all you've done for me! Good Lord, man,
where _would_ I be...!"
"Sleeping the sleep of the doped in some filthy corner of Dutch House,
"And you saved me from that!"
"And got this hole drilled through you instead."
"Got me away; I'd've collected the lead anyhow - wasn't meaning to stay
without a fight."
"Then you weren't as drunk as you seemed?"
"Didn't you catch me making a move the minute you created a diversion?
Of course, I'd no idea you were friendly - "
"Look here," P. Sybarite interrupted sharply: "doesn't it hurt you to
"No - helps me forget this ache."
"All right, then - tell me how this came about. What has Red November
got on you, to make him so anxious - ?"
"Nothing, as far as I know; unless it was Brian Shaynon's doing - "
"You know that old blighter?"
"Slightly - very slightly."
"Friend of yours?"
The accent of P. Sybarite's laugh rendered the disclaimer conclusive.
"Glad to hear that," said the boy gravely: "I'd despise to be beholden
to any friend of his ..."
"Well.... But what's the trouble between you and old man Shaynon?"
"Search me - unless he thought I was spying on him. I say!" the boy
exclaimed excitedly - "what business could he have had with Red
November there, to-night?"
"That _is_ a question," P. Sybarite allowed.
"Something urgent, I'll be bound! - else he wouldn't ever have dared
show his bare map in that dump."
"One would think so...."
"I'd like to figure this thing out. Perhaps you can help. To begin
with - I went to a party to-night."
"I know," said P. Sybarite, with a quiet chuckle: "the Hadley-Owen
"How did you know?"
"_Kismet!_ It had to be."
"Are you by any chance - mad?"
"I shouldn't be surprised. Anyhow, I'm a bit mad I wasn't invited.
Everybody I know or meet - almost - is either bidden to that party or
knows somebody who is. Forgive the interruption.... Anyway," he added,
The taxicab was drawing up before an apartment house entrance.
Hastily recovering his hoard of gold-pieces, P. Sybarite jumped out
and presented one to the driver.
"Can't change that," said the latter, staring. "Besides, this was a
"I know," said P. Sybarite apologetically; "but this is for you."
"Good God!" cried the chauffeur.
"And yet," mused P. Sybarite, "they'd have you believe all taxicab
Recklessly he forced the money into the man's not altogether
"For being a good little tight-mouth," he explained gravely.
"Forever and ever, amen!" protested the latter fervently. "And thank
"If you're satisfied, we're quits," returned P. Sybarite, offering a
hand to the boy.
"I can manage," protested this last, descending without assistance.
"And it's better so," he explained as they crossed to the door; "I
don't want the hallboys here to suspect - and I can hold up a few
minutes longer, never fear."
"Business of taking off my hat to you," said P. Sybarite in unfeigned
admiration; "for pure grit, you're a young wonder."
A liveried hallboy opened the door. A second waited in the elevator.
Promptly ascending, they were set down at one of the upper floors.
Throughout the boy carried himself with never a quiver, his
countenance composed and betraying what pain he suffered only to eyes
keen to discern its trace of pallor. Now as he left the elevator and
fitted a key to the lock of his private front door, he addressed the
attendant, over his shoulder, in a manner admirably casual:
"By the way, Jimmy - "
"Call up Dr. Higgins for me."
"Tell him I've an attack of indigestion and will be glad if he'll turn
out and see if he can't fix me up for the night."
"Very good, Mr. Kenny."
The gate clanged and the cage dropped from sight as Mr. Kenny opened
the door and stood aside to let P. Sybarite precede him.
"Rot!" objected the little man forcibly. "Go in and turn up the
lights. Punctilio from a man in your condition - !"
The boy nodded wearily, passed in, and switched up the lights in a
comfortably furnished sitting-room.
"As a matter of fact," he said thoughtfully, when P. Sybarite had
followed him in and shut the door - "I'm wondering how much of a bluff
I may be, after all."
"Meaning - ?"
"By all literary precedent I ought to faint now, after my magnificent
exhibition of superhuman endurance. But I'm not going to."
"That's rather sporting of you," P. Sybarite grinned.
"Not at all; I just don't want to - don't feel like it. That sick
feeling is gone - nothing but a steady agony like a hot iron through my
shoulder - something any man with teeth to grit could stand."
"We'll find out soon enough. I don't pretend to be any sort of a dab
at repairs on punctured humanity, but I read enough popular fiction
myself to know that the only proper thing to do is to ruin that
handsome coat of yours by cutting it off your back. We can anticipate
the doctor to that extent, at least."
"That's one thing, at least, that the popular novelist knows _right_,"
asserted Mr. Kenny with conviction. "Sorry for the coat - but you'll
find scissors yonder, on my desk."
And when P. Sybarite fetched them, he sat himself sideways in a
straight-backed chair and cheerfully endured the little man's
impromptu essays in first-aid measures.
A very little snipping and slashing sufficed to do away with the
shoulder and sleeve of the boy's coat and to lay open his waistcoat as
well, exposing a bloodstained shirt. And then, at the instant when P.
Sybarite was noting with relief that the stain showed both in back and
in front, the telephone shrilled.
"If you don't mind answering that - " grunted Mr. Kenny.
P. Sybarite was already at the instrument.
"Yes?" he answered. "Dr. Higgins?"
"Sorry, sir," replied a strange voice: "Dr. Higgins isn't in yet. Any
"Tell him Mr. Kenny needs him at the Monastery, and the matter's
urgent.... Doctor not in," he reported superfluously, returning to cut
away collar, tie, shirt, and undershirt. "Never mind, I shouldn't be
surprised if we could manage to do without him, after all."
"Meaning it's not so bad - ?"
"Meaning," said the other, exposing the naked shoulder, "I'm beginning
to hope you've had a marvellously narrow escape."
"Feels like it," said Kenny, ironic.
P. Sybarite withheld response while he made close examination. At the
base of Mr. Kenny's neck, well above the shoulder-blade, dark blood
was welling slowly from an ugly puncture. And in front there was a
corresponding puncture, but smaller. And presently his deft and gentle
fingers, exploring the folds of the boy's undershirt, closed upon the
"I don't believe," he announced, displaying his find, "you deserve
such luck. Somehow you managed to catch this just right for it to slip
through without either breaking bone or severing artery. And by a
special dispensation of an all-wise Providence, Red November must have
been preoccupied when he loaded that gun, for somehow a steel-jacketed
instead of a soft-nosed bullet got into the chamber he wasted on you.
Otherwise you'd have been pretty badly smashed. As it is, you'll
probably be laid up only a few days."
"I told you I wasn't so badly hurt - "
"God's good to the Irish. Where's your bathroom?"
With a gesture Kenny indicated its location.
"And handkerchiefs - ?"
"Upper bureau drawer in the bedroom."
In a twinkling P. Sybarite was off and back again with materials for
an antiseptic wash and a rude bandage.
"How'd you know I was Irish?" demanded the patient.
"By yoursilf's name," quoth P. Sybarite in a thick brogue as natural
as grass, while he worked away busily. "'Tis black Irish, and well I
know it. 'Twas me mither's maiden name - Kenny. She had a brother,
Michael he was and be way av bein' a rich conthractor in this very
town as ever was, befure he died - God rist his sowl! He left two
children - a young leddy who mis-spells her name M-a-e A-l-y-s - keep
still! - and Peter, yersilf, me cousin, if it's not mistaken I am."
"The Lord save us!" said the boy. "You're never Percy Sybarite!"
P. Sybarite winced. "Not so loud!" he pleaded in a stage whisper.
"Some one might hear you."
"What the devil's the matter with you?"
"I am that man you named - but, prithee, Percy me no Percevals, an'
you'd be my friend. For fifteen years I've kept my hideous secret
well. If it becomes public now ..."
Peter Kenny laughed in spite of his pain.
"I'll keep your secret, too," he volunteered, "since you feel that way
about it.... But, I say: what have you been doing with yourself
since - since - " He stammered.
"Since the fall of the House of Sybarite?"
"Yes. I didn't know you were in New York, even."
"Your mother and Mae Alys knew it - but kept it quiet, the same as me,"
said the little man.
"But - well - what _have_ you been doing, then?"
"Going to and fro like a raging lion - more or less - seeking what I
"And the devourings have been good, eh? You're high-spirited enough."
"I think," said P. Sybarite quietly - "I may say - though you can't see
it - that my present smile would, to a shrewd observer, seem to
indicate I'd swallowed a canary-bird ... a nice, fat, golden
canary-bird!" he repeated, smacking his lips with unction.
"You talk as if you'd swallowed a dictagraph," said Peter Kenny.
"It's my feeling," sighed P. Sybarite. "But yourself? Let's see; when
I saw you last you were the only authentic child pest of your day and
generation - six or seven at most. How long have you been out of
"A year - not quite."
"And sporting bachelor rooms of your own!"
"I'm of age. Besides, if you must know, mother and Mae Alys are both
dotty on the society game, and I'm not. I won't be rushed round to
pink teas and - and all that sort of thing."
"Far more wholesome than pink whiskeys at Dutch House."
"You don't understand - "
"No; but I mean to. There!" announced P. Sybarite, finishing the
bandage with a tidy flat knot - make yourself comfortable on that
couch, tell me where you keep your whiskey, and I'll mix myself a
drink and listen to your degrading confession....
"Now," he added, when Peter Kenny, stretched out on the couch, had
suffered himself to be covered up - "not being an M.D., I've no
conscience at all about letting you talk yourself to death; eaten
alive as I am with curiosity; and knowing besides that you can't kill
a Kenny but with kindness."
"You'll find the whiskey on the buffet," said the boy.
"Obliged to you," P. Sybarite replied, finding it.
"And I suppose I - "
"You're quite right; you've had enough. Alcohol is nothing to help
mend a wound. If your friend Higgins permits it, when he comes - well
and good.... Meanwhile," he added, taking a seat near the head of the
couch, and fixing his youthful relation with a stern enquiring
eye - "what were you doing in Dutch House the night?"
"I've been trying to tell you - "
"And now you must.... Is there a cigar handy?... Thanks.... This
whiskey is prime stuff.... Go on. I'm waiting."
"Well," Peter Kenny confessed sheepishly. "I'm in love - "
"And you proposed to her to-night at the ball?"
"Yes, and - "
"She refused you."
"Yes, but - "
"So you decided to do the manly thing - go out and pollute yourself
"That's about the size of it," Peter admitted, shamefaced.
"It's no good reason," announced P. Sybarite. "Now, if you'd been
celebrating your happy escape, I'd be the last to blame you."
"You don't understand, and you won't give me a chance - "
"I'm waiting - all ears - but not the way _you_ mean."
"It wasn't as if she'd left me any excuse to hope ... but she told me
flat she didn't care for me."
"That's bad, Peter. Forgive my ill-timed levity: I didn't mean it
meanly, boy," P. Sybarite protested.
"It's worse than you think," Peter complained. "I can stand her not
caring for me. Why should she?"
"It's because she's gone and promised to marry Bayard Shaynon."
P. Sybarite looked dazed.
"She? Bayard Shaynon? Who's the girl?"
"Marian Blessington. Why do you ask? Do you know her?"
There was a pause. P. Sybarite blinked furiously.
"I've heard that name," he said quietly, at length. "Isn't she old
Brian's ward - the girl who disappeared recently?"
"She didn't disappear, really. She's been staying with friends - told
me so herself. That's all the foundation the _Journal_ had for its
"So she said."
"Did she name them?"
"No - "
"Or say where?"
"No; but some place out of town, of course."
"Of course," P. Sybarite repeated mechanically. He eyed fixedly the
ash on the end of his cigar. "And she told you she meant to marry
Bayard Shaynon, did she!"
"She said she'd promised.... And that," the boy broke out, "was what
drove me crazy. He's - he's - well, you know what he is."
"His father's son," said P. Sybarite gloomily.
"He was there to-night - the old man, too; and after what Marian had
told me, I just couldn't trust myself to meet or speak to either of
them. So I bolted back here, took a stiff drink, changed from costume
to these clothes, and went out to make a besotted ass of myself.