an elderly village woman with her and went considerably out of his
way to take her home.
He got back to the office at half past six to find a red-eyed
Minnie in the hall.
AT half past five that afternoon David had let himself into the
house with his latch key, hung up his overcoat on the old walnut
hat rack, and went into his office. The strain of the days before
had told on him, and he felt weary and not entirely well. He had
fallen asleep in his buggy, and had wakened to find old Nettie
drawing him slowly down the main street of the town, pursuing an
erratic but homeward course, while the people on the pavements
watched and smiled.
He went into his office, closed the door, and then, on the old
leather couch with its sagging springs he stretched himself out to
finish his nap.
Almost immediately, however, the doorbell rang, and a moment later
Minnie opened his door.
"Gentleman to see you, Doctor David."
He got up clumsily and settled his collar. Then he opened the door
into his waiting-room.
"Come in," he said resignedly.
A small, dapper man, in precisely the type of clothes David most
abominated, and wearing light-colored spats, rose from his chair
and looked at him with evident surprise.
"I'm afraid I've made a mistake. A Doctor Livingstone left his seat
number for calls at the box office of the Annex Theater last night
- the Happy Valley company - but he was a younger man. I - "
David stiffened, but he surveyed his visitor impassively from under
his shaggy white eyebrows.
"I haven't been in a theater for a dozen years, sir."
Gregory was convinced that he had made a mistake. Like Louis
Bassett, the very unlikeliness of Jud Clark being connected with
the domestic atmosphere and quiet respectability of the old house
made him feel intrusive and absurd. He was about to apologize and
turn away, when he thought of something.
"There are two names on your sign. The other one, was he by any
chance at the theater last night?"
"I think I shall have to have a reason for these inquiries," David
He was trying to place Gregory, to fit him into the situation;
straining back over ten years of security, racking his memory,
"Just what have you come to find out?" he asked, as Gregory turned
and looked around the room.
"The other Doctor Livingstone is your brother?"
Gregory shot a sharp glance at him, but all he saw was an elderly
man, with heavy white hair and fierce shaggy eyebrows, a portly and
dignified elderly gentleman, rather resentfully courteous.
"Sorry to trouble you," he said. "I suppose I've made a mistake.
I - is your nephew at home?"
"May I see a picture of him, if you have one?"
David's wild impulse was to smash Gregory to the earth, to
annihilate him. His collar felt tight, and he pulled it away from
"Not unless I know why you want to see it."
"He is tall, rather spare? And he took a young lady to the theater
last night?" Gregory persisted.
"He answers that description. What of it?"
"And he is your nephew?"
"My brother's son," David said steadily.
Somehow it began to dawn on him that there was nothing inimical in
this strange visitor, that he was anxious and ill at ease. There
was, indeed, something almost beseeching in Gregory's eyes, as
though he stood ready to give confidence for confidence. And, more
than that, a sort of not unfriendly stubbornness, as though he had
come to do something he meant to do.
"Sit down," he said, relaxing somewhat. "Certainly my nephew is
making no secret of the fact that he went to the theater last night.
If you'll tell me who you are - "
But Gregory did not sit down. He stood where he was, and continued
to eye David intently.
"I don't know just what it conveys to you, Doctor, but I am Beverly
David lowered himself into his chair. His knees were suddenly weak
under him. But he was able to control his voice.
"I see," he said. And waited.
"Something happened last night at the theater. It may be important.
I'd have to see your nephew, in order to find out if it is. I can't
afford to make a mistake."
David's ruddy color had faded. He opened a drawer of his desk and
produced a copy of the photograph of Dick in his uniform. "Maybe
this will help you."
Gregory studied it carefully, carrying it to the window to do so.
When he confronted David again he was certain of himself and his
errand for the first time, and his manner had changed.
"Yes," he said, significantly. "It does."
He placed the photograph on the desk, and sitting down, drew his
chair close to David's. "I'll not use any names, Doctor. I think
you know what I'm talking about. I was sure enough last night.
I'm certain now."
David nodded. "Go on."
"We'll start like this. God knows I don't want to make any trouble.
But I'll put a hypothetical case. Suppose that a man when drunk
commits a crime and then disappears; suppose he leaves behind him
a bad record and an enormous fortune; suppose then he reforms and
becomes a useful citizen, and everything is buried."
Doctor David listened stonily. Gregory lowered his voice.
"Suppose there's a woman mixed up in that situation. Not guiltily,
but there's a lot of talk. And suppose she lives it down, for ten
years, and then goes back to her profession, in a play the families
take the children to see, and makes good. It isn't hard to suppose
that neither of those two people wants the thing revived, is it?"
David cleared his throat.
"You mean, then, that there is danger of such a revival?"
"I think there is," Gregory said bitterly. "I recognized this man
last night, and called a fellow who knew him in the old days,
Saunders, our stage manager. And a newspaper man named Bassett
wormed it out of Saunders. You know what that means."
David heard him clearly, but as though from a great distance.
"You can see how it appears to Bassett. If he's found it, it's the
big story of a lifetime. I thought he'd better be warned."
When David said nothing, but sat holding tight to the arms of his
old chair, Gregory reached for his hat and got up.
"The thing for him to do," he said, "is to leave town for a while.
This Bassett is a hound-hog on a scent. They all are. He is
Bassett of the Times-Republican. And he took Jud - he took your
nephew's automobile license number."
Still David sat silent, and Gregory moved to the door.
"Get him away, to-night if you can."
"Thank you," David said. His voice was thick. "I appreciate your
He got up dizzily, as Gregory said, "Good-evening" and went out.
The room seemed very dark and unsteady, and not familiar. So this
was what had happened, after all the safe years! A man could work
and build and pray, but if his house was built on the sand -
As the outer door closed David fell to the floor with a crash.
Bassett lounged outside the neat privet hedge which it was Harrison
Miller's custom to clip with his own bachelor hands, and waited.
And as he waited he tried to imagine what was going on inside,
behind the neatly curtained windows of the old brick house.
He was tempted to ring the bell again, pretend to have forgotten
something, and perhaps happen in on what might be drama of a rather
high order; what, supposing the man was Clark after all, was fairly
sure to be drama. He discarded the idea, however, and began again
his interested survey of the premises. Whoever conceived this sort
of haven for Clark, if it were Clark, had shown considerable
shrewdness. The town fairly smelt of respectability; the tree-shaded
streets, the children in socks and small crisp-laundered garments,
the houses set back, each in its square of shaved lawn, all peaceful,
middle class and unexciting. The last town in the world for Judson
Clark, the last profession, the last house, this shabby old brick
He smiled rather grimly as he reflected that if Gregory had been
right in his identification, he was, beyond those windows at that
moment, very possibly warning Clark against himself. Gregory would
know his type, that he never let go. He drew himself up a little.
The house door opened, and Gregory came out, turning toward the
station. Bassett caught up with him and put a hand on his arm.
"Well?" he said cheerfully. "It was, wasn't it?"
Gregory stopped dead and stared at him. Then:
"Old dog Tray!" he said sneeringly. "If your brain was as good
as your nose, Bassett, you'd be a whale of a newspaper man."
"Don't bother about my brain. It's working fine to-day, anyhow.
Well, what had he to say for himself?"
Gregory's mind was busy, and he had had a moment to pull himself
"We both get off together," he said, more amiably. "That fellow
isn't Jud Clark and never was. He's a doctor, and the nephew of
the old doctor there. They're in practice together."
"Did you see them both?"
Bassett eyed him. Either Gregory was a good actor, or the whole
trail ended there after all. He himself had felt, after his
interview, with Dick, that the scent was false. And there was
this to be said: Gregory had been in the house scarcely ten
minutes. Long enough to acknowledge a mistake, but hardly long
enough for any dramatic identification. He was keenly disappointed,
but he had had long experience of disappointment, and after a
moment he only said:
"Well, that's that. He certainly looked like Clark to me."
"I'll say he did."
"Rather surprised him, didn't you?"
"Oh, he was all right," Gregory said. "I didn't tell him anything,
Bassett looked at his watch.
"I was after you, all right," he said, cheerfully. "But if I was
barking up the wrong tree, I'm done. I don't have to be hit on the
head to make me stop. Come and have a soda-water on me," he
finished amiably. "There's no train until seven."
But Gregory refused.
"No, thanks. I'll wander on down to the station and get a paper."
The reporter smiled. Gregory was holding a grudge against him, for
a bad night and a bad day.
"All right," he said affably. "I'll see you at the train. I'll
walk about a bit."
He turned and started back up the street again, walking idly. His
chagrin was very real. He hated to be fooled, and fooled he had
been. Gregory was not the only one who had lost a night's sleep.
Then, unexpectedly, he was hailed from the curbstone, and he saw
with amazement that it was Dick Livingstone.
"Take you anywhere?" Dick asked. "How's the headache?"
"Better, thanks." Bassett stared at him. "No, I'm just walking
around until train-time. Are you starting out or going home,
at this hour?"
"Going home. Well, glad the head's better."
He drove on, leaving the reporter gazing after him. So Gregory had
been lying. He hadn't seen this chap at all. Then why - ? He
walked on, turning this new phase of the situation over in his mind.
Why this elaborate fiction, if Gregory had merely gone in, waited
for ten minutes, and come out again?
It wasn't reasonable. It wasn't logical. Something had happened
inside the house to convince Gregory that he was right. He had
seen somebody, or something. He hadn't needed to lie. He could
have said frankly that he had seen no one. But no, he had built
up a fabric carefully calculated to throw Bassett off the scent.
He saw Dick stop in front of the house, get out and enter. And
coming to a decision, he followed him and rang the doorbell. For a
long time no one answered. Then the maid of the afternoon opened
the door, her eyes red with crying, and looked at him with hostility.
"Doctor Richard Livingstone?"
"You can't see him."
"Well, you can't see him. Doctor David has just had a stroke. He's
in the office now, on the floor."
She closed the door on him, and he turned and went away. It was
all clear to him; Gregory had seen, not Clark, but the older man;
had told him and gone away. And under the shock the older man had
collapsed. That was sad. It was very sad. But it was also
He sat up late that night again, running over the entries in his
notebook. The old story, as he pieced it out, ran like this:
It had been twelve years ago, when, according to the old files,
Clark had financed Beverly Carlysle's first starring venture. He
had, apparently, started out in the beginning only to give her the
publicity she needed. In devising it, however, he had shown a sort
of boyish recklessness and ingenuity that had caught the interest
of the press, and set newspaper men to chuckling wherever they got
He had got together a dozen or so of young men like himself, wealthy,
idle and reckless with youth, and, headed by him, they had made the
exploitation of the young star an occupation. The newspapers
referred to the star and her constellation as Beverly Carlysle and
her Broadway Beauties. It had been unvicious, young, and highly
entertaining, and it had cost Judson Clark his membership in his
father's conservative old clubs.
For a time it livened the theatrical world with escapades that were
harmless enough, if sensational. Then, after a time, newspaper row
began to whisper that young Clark was in love with the girl. The
Broadway Beauties broke up, after a wild farewell dinner. The
audiences ceased to expect a row of a dozen youths, all dressed
alike with gardenias in their buttonholes and perhaps red neckties
with their evening suits, to rise in their boxes on the star's
appearance and solemnly bow. And the star herself lost a little
of the anxious look she frequently wore.
The story went, after a while, that Judson Clark had been refused,
and was taking his refusal badly. Reporters saw him, carelessly
dressed, outside the stage door waiting, and the story went that
the girl had thrown him over, money and all, for her leading man.
One thing was clear; Clark, not a drinker before, had taken to
drinking hard, and after a time, and some unpleasant scenes probably,
she refused to see him any more.
When the play closed, in June, 1911, she married Howard Lucas, her
leading man; his third wife. Lucas had been not a bad chap, a
good-looking, rather negligible man, given to all-day Sunday poker,
carefully valeted, not very keen mentally, but amiable. They had
bought a house on East Fifty-sixth Street, and were looking for a
new play with Lucas as co-star, when he unaccountably went to pieces
nervously, stopped sleeping, and developed a slight twitching of
his handsome, rather vacuous face.
Judson Clark had taken his yacht and gone to Europe, and was
reported from here and there not too favorably. But when he came
back, in early September, he had apparently recovered from his
infatuation, was his old, carefully dressed self again, and when
interviewed declared his intention of spending the winter on his
Of course he must have heard of Lucas's breakdown, and equally, of
course, he must have seen them both. What happened at that
interview, by what casual attitude he allayed Lucas's probable
jealousy and the girl's own nervousness, Bassett had no way of
discovering. It was clear that he convinced them both of his good
faith, for the next note in the reporter's book was simply a date,
September 12, 1911.
That was the day they had all started West together, traveling in
Clark's private car, with Lucas, twitching slightly, smiling and
waving farewell from a window.
The big smash did not come until the middle of October.
Bassett sat back and considered. He had a fairly clear idea of the
conditions at the ranch; daily riding, some little reading, and a
great deal too much of each other. A sick man, too, unhappy in his
exile, chafing against his restrictions, lonely and irritable. The
girl, early seeing her mistake, and Clark's jealousy of her husband.
The door into their apartment closing, the thousand and one
unconscious intimacies between man and wife, the breakfast for two
going up the stairs, and below that hot-eyed boy, agonized and
passionately jealous, yet meeting them and looking after them, their
host and a gentleman.
Lucas took to drinking, after a time, to allay his sheer boredom.
And Jud Clark drank with him. At the end of three weeks they were
both drinking heavily, and were politely quarrelsome. Bassett
could fill that in also. He could see the girl protesting, watching,
increasingly anxious as she saw that Clark's jealousy was matched
by her husband's.
A queer picture, he reflected, the three of them shut away on the
great ranch, and every day some new tension, some new strain.
Then, one night at dinner, they quarreled, and Beverly left the
table. She was going to pack her things and go back to New York.
She had felt, probably, that something was bound to snap. And while
she was upstairs Clark had shot and killed Howard Lucas, and himself
He had run, testimony at the inquest revealed, to the corral, and
saddled a horse. Although it was only October, it was snowing hard,
but in spite of that he had turned his horse toward the mountains.
By midnight a posse from Norada had started out, and another up the
Dry River Canyon, but the storm turned into a blizzard in the
mountains, and they were obliged to turn back. A few inches more
snow, and they could not have got their horses out. A week or so
later, with a crust of ice over it, a few of them began again, with
no expectation, however, of finding Clark alive. They came across
his horse on the second day, but they did not find him, and there
were some among them who felt that, after all, old Elihu Clark's
boy had chosen the better way.
Bassett closed his notebook and lighted a cigar.
There was a big story to be had for the seeking, a whale of a story.
He could go to the office, give them a hint, draw expense money and
start for Norada the next night. He knew well enough that he would
have to begin there, and that it would not be easy. Witnesses of
the affair at the ranch would be missing now, or when found the
first accuracy of their statements would either be dulled by time or
have been added to with the passing years. The ranch itself might
have passed into other hands. To reconstruct the events of ten
years ago might be impossible, or nearly so. But that was not his
problem. He would have to connect Norada with Haverly, Clark with
Livingstone. One thing only was simple. If he found Livingstone's
story was correct, that he had lived on a ranch near Norada before
the crime and as Livingstone, then he would acknowledge that two men
could look precisely alike and come from the same place, and yet not
be the same. If not -
But, after he had turned out his light and got into bed, he began
to feel a certain distaste for his self-appointed task. If
Livingstone were Clark, if after years of effort he had pulled
himself up by his own boot-straps, had made himself a man out of
the reckless boy he had been, a decent and useful citizen, why pull
him down? After all, the world hadn't lost much in Lucas; a sleek,
not over-intelligent big animal, that had been Howard Lucas.
He decided to sleep over it, and by morning he found himself not
only disinclined to the business, but firmly resolved to let it drop.
Things were well enough as they were. The woman in the case was
making good. Jud was making good. And nothing would restore Howard
Lucas to that small theatrical world of his which had waved him
good-bye at the station so long ago.
He shaved and dressed, his resolution still holding. He had indeed
almost a conscious glow of virtue, for he was making one of those
inglorious and unsung sacrifices which ought to bring a man credit
in the next world, because they certainly got him nowhere in this.
He was quite affable to the colored waiter who served his breakfasts
in the bachelor apartment house, and increased his weekly tip to a
dollar and a half. Then he sat down and opened the Times-Republican,
skimming over it after his habit for his own space, and frowning over
a row of exclamation and interrogation points unwittingly set behind
the name of the mayor.
On the second page, however, he stopped, coffee cup in air. "Is
Judson Clark alive? Wife of former ranch manager makes confession."
A woman named Margaret Donaldson, it appeared, fatally injured by
an automobile near the town of Norada, Wyoming, had made a confession
on her deathbed. In it she stated that, afraid to die without
shriving her soul, she had sent for the sheriff of Dallas County and
had made the following confession:
That following the tragedy at the Clark ranch her husband, John
Donaldson, since dead, had immediately following the inquest, where
he testified, started out into the mountains in the hope of finding
Clark alive, as he knew of a deserted ranger's cabin where Clark
sometimes camped when hunting. It was his intention to search for
Clark at this cabin and effect his escape. He carried with him food
That, owing to the blizzard, he was very nearly frozen; that he was
obliged to abandon his horse, shooting it before he did so, and that,
close to death himself, he finally reached the cabin and there found
Judson Clark, the fugitive, who was very ill.
She further testified that her husband cared for Clark for four days,
Clark being delirious at the time, and that on the fifth day he
started back on foot for the Clark ranch, having left Clark locked
in the cabin, and that on the following night he took three horses,
two saddled, and one packed with food and supplies. That accompanied
by herself they went back to the cabin in the mountains and that she
remained there to care for Clark, while her husband returned to the
ranch, to prevent suspicion.
That, a day or so later, looking out of her window, she had
perceived a man outside in the snow coming toward the cabin, and
that she had thought it one of the searching party. That her first
instinct had been to lock him outside, but that she had finally
admitted him, and that thereafter he had remained and had helped
her to care for the sick man.
Unfortunately for the rest of the narrative it appeared that the
injured woman had here lapsed into a coma, and had subsequently
died, carrying her further knowledge with her.
But, the article went on, the story opened a field of infinite
surmise. In all probability Judson Clark was still alive, living
under some assumed identity, free of punishment, outwardly
respectable. Three years before he had been adjudged legally
dead, and the estate divided, under bond of the legatees.
Close to a hundred million dollars had gone to charities, and
Judson Clark, wherever he was, would be dependent on his own efforts
for existence. He could have summoned all the legal talent in the
country to his defense, but instead he had chosen to disappear.
The whole situation turned on the deposition of Mrs. Donaldson, now
dead. The local authorities at Norada maintained that the woman
had not been sane for several years. On the other hand, the cabin
to which she referred was well known, and no search of it had been
made at the time. Clark's horse had been found not ten miles from
the town, and the cabin was buried in snow twenty miles further away.
If Clark had made that journey on foot he had accomplished the
Certain facts, according to the local correspondent, bore out
Margaret Donaldson's confession. Inquiry showed that she was
supposed to have spent the winter following Judson Clark's crime
with relatives in Omaha. She had returned to the ranch the
A detailed description of Judson Clark, and a photograph of him
accompanied the story. Bassett re-read the article carefully, and
swore a little, under his breath. If he had needed confirmation of
his suspicions, it lay to his hand. But the situation had changed
over night. There would be a search for Clark now, as wide as the
knowledge of his disappearance. Local police authorities would
turn him up in every city from Maine to the Pacific coast. Even
Europe would be on the lookout and South America.
But it was not the police he feared so much as the press. Not all
of the papers, but some of them, would go after that story, and send
their best men on it. It offered not so much a chance of solution
as an opportunity to revive the old dramatic story. He could see,
when he closed his eyes, the local photographers climbing to that
cabin and later sending its pictures broadcast, and divers gentlemen
of the press, eager to pit their wits against ten years of time and