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I assure you that it will be cleaner than his. It
wasn't the money I cared about so much as the un-
fair way in which he has treated me."

Mary was silent. Her heart was beating fast.
Thoughts crowded fast one upon the other in her
brain. She the mistress of the Argyle millions! It
was too good to be true. She was sorry, of course,
for Bruce; but, after all, her conscience was clear.
She was not the cause of the rupture. On the con-
trary, she had done everything possible to restore
amicable relations. If the banker did not leave his
fortune to her, it would probably go to some hospital.
She would be less than human if this totally unex-
pected news did not thrill her and fill her with a
strange sensation of exaltation. Then a sudden
dread seized her. Suppose her benefactor should
again change his mind, and take a sudden dislike
to her as he had done to his son. With such a pe-
culiar man everything was possible.

Both were silent, each distrustful of the other,
stirred by different emotions, vaguely antagonistic,


the one's heart full of hate and bitterness at the cruel
injustice done him, the other elated by the unex-
pected good fortune which had befallen her. Finally
Mary broke the silence:

"So you are determined to go away?"

He nodded.

"Yes; as soon as possible. I can't go without
means. He must let me have some of grandfather's
money. He refused just now, but I'll come and see
him again to-morrow. He must do that. I'll make

The young girl hesitated. Finally she said,

"Won't you let me lend you some? I have a few
hundred dollars that I've saved up."

He shook his head.

"No; I wouldn't think of it. Grandfather left
me that money, and father must advance me some
of it. I'll make him "

"How can you make him if he refuses?"


Before the sentence could be completed there was
a commotion in the outside hall. The library door
was suddenly thrown open, and the housekeeper
rushed in, disheveled, and in a state of considerable
excitement. Startled at her appearance, they start-
ed forward.

"Whatever is the matter, Mrs. Wyatt?"

"Oh, my dear! Such perfectly dreadful things as
happen nowadays! It's perfectly shocking and in-
credible really outrageous! I don't know what
we're coming to. The police, of course, are to blame.
You know what I mean. They ought to be well



ashamed of themselves. I think I'll write a letter
to the papers. There's no knowing what will hap-
pen next. We might all be kidnapped or murdered
some day. A decent woman isn't safe in her own
house. You know what I mean!"

The words, a volley of disconnected, incoherent
phrases, came from her mouth with the velocity and
force of a broadside. There was no understanding
what it was about. All one heard was a mere
jumble of senseless sentences uttered by a woman
whose gestures and manner were as eccentric and
hysterical as her speech.

Mrs. Wyatt was the kind of woman usually re-
ferred to in polite literature as of a certain age.
She might be over fifty, or, again, she might be on
the sunny side of forty. How she looked depended
largely on the state of the weather and her stomach.
She was a lady with a past, who after a stormy and
chequered career with a worthless husband, who had
at last succumbed to her voluble tongue, had found
a haven in the home of John Argyle as housekeeper,
a person rendered absolutely necessary by the ad-
vent of the adopted daughter in the banker's house-

When, at last, for sheer lack of breath she stopped
her tirade, Bruce managed to make himself heard.

"What's the trouble?"

The question was perhaps unfortunate in that it
was an invitation for another broadside of excited

"Didn't you hear? Everybody's talking about
it. And so close to us, too! Really, it makes one
feel most uncomfortable. I sha'n't be able to sleep



all night. Such things get on one's nerves. You
know what I mean?"

"But what is it?" demanded Mary.

"Our next-door neighbor has been robbed!"

"Robbed!" echoed Bruce and Mary together.

Only too glad of an opportunity to give her tongue
free rein, Mrs. Wyatt again burst out:

"The Wilkinsons, next door. They went to the
opera last night, and Mrs. Wilkinson wore that mag-
nificent diamond tiara which her husband gave her
recently for her silver wedding. You know the one
I mean. It's perfectly regal. It's always been my
dream to have a tiara like that, but they're hardly
for a woman in my position. One has to have every-
thing else in proportion. You know what I mean

"Yes, yes," interrupted Bruce, testily; "but what
about the robbery?"

Mary smiled. The housekeeper's loquaciousness
was something they had all suffered from for years.
There was no use hurrying her. She had to tell a
story in her own way. With an indignant glance at
the interrupter, Mrs. Wyatt proceeded:

"When they returned from the opera Mrs. Wil-
kinson took off the tiara and placed it temporarily
in a jewel-box on her bureau. She distinctly remem-
bers doing that. It was too late to open the safe.
She was too sleepy to remember the combination,
so she thought it would be all right there till morn-
ing. Of course, it was a most unwise thing to do.
Opportunity makes the thief, as the French say.
You know what I mean?"

"Yes, yes," groaned Bruce.

"Well, when she awoke in the morning the tiara



was gone. Some one had entered the bedroom while
she and her husband were asleep. Only the tiara
was taken. Money, rings, and other valuables were
untouched. The thief, whoever he was, knew just
where the tiara was to be found, and went away
satisfied with that. Well he might. It's worth at
least ten thousand dollars. Mrs. Wilkinson, poor
woman, is completely prostrated. I think it is one
of the servants, but so far the police have made no
arrests. Mr. Wilkinson has sent for Kayton. He'll
solve the mystery."

"Kayton!" exclaimed Mary, who had been an in-
terested listener. "Who's he?"

"Asche Kayton, the well-known detective," ex-
plained Bruce, quickly. "He's extraordinarily clever.
They call him the new Sherlock Holmes. He's
never yet failed in getting his man."

"Just so," went on the housekeeper; "that's what
everybody says. If Mr. Kayton can't find the thief
nobody can. I only hope there's no scandal con-
nected with the case. One never can tell. You
know what I mean."

Mary did not know, and was about to ask further
questions when the butler entered.

"Mr. Hurley has called, Miss, to see Mr. Argyle.
He has an appointment."

Bruce gave the young girl a significant glance,
but she was so busy listening to the servant that
she did not notice it. Hastily Mary said:

"Show Mr. Hurley in here, Finley, and inform
your master that he has arrived."

The butler withdrew, and the young girl turned
to the housekeeper.



"We had better leave the library to dad and his
lawyer. They have business to talk over."

Bruce extended his hand, which the young girl
clasped in silence.

"You won't go before I see you again," she mur-

He shook his head. All his life, since his earliest
boyhood days, he and Mary had been chums. He
did not intend to let anything come between them
now. It was not her fault if she was the favorite.
He wished her all the happiness and luck there was
in the world. With a smile he said:

"No, I won't say good-by now. I'm coming to
see father again. I'll see you to-morrow night."


TF you'll wait a moment in here, sir, Mr. Argyle

* will join you immediately."

The obsequious butler made a low bow and ushered
into the library a tall, heavily built man who walked
with a quick, nervous stride. Dressed in a frock-
coat, patent-leather shoes, drab gaiters, and silk hat,
he looked prosperous, although the cut of his clothes
and his manner of wearing them did not quite sug-
gest the gentleman. Handing the servant his hat
and cane, and flinging himself into an easy-chair, he

"Yes, I'll wait. I'm in no hurry. Your master
expects me."

The butler withdrew, and Mr. James T. Hurley,
counselor at law, sat down and carelessly picked up
a newspaper. But it was plain that the visitor's
mind was not on the printed page. His eyes, small
and black like those of a ferret, wandered restlessly
over the room, as if taking a mental inventory of
each object it contained, and at times he raised his
head and listened intently. He had a nervous
trick of tapping one foot constantly on the floor, and
every now and again he would turn round quickly
in his chair as if expecting to find some one at his

Jim Hurley was one of those lawyers, shrewd,



crafty, unscrupulous, who enter the profession not
so much to interpret and enforce the law as to evade
it. No one knew much about him except that he
was a self-made man and came originally from the
West. Having some ability as a speaker, and un-
usual skill at cross-examination, he had built up a
fair-sized practice. He boasted openly that he had
only one ambition in life to get rich, and to him
a dirty dollar was every bit as attractive as a clean
one. This philosophy had enabled him to secure
remunerative work of a kind usually shunned by
reputable attorneys, and brought him in close touch
with a lot of very questionable people. Accused
several times of sharp practice, the Bar Association
on more than one occasion had threatened dis-
ciplinary proceedings, but nothing had come of it,
and, quite indifferent to public opinion, he had gone
his own way.

The fact that he lived in better style and spent
more money than the amount of business done would
seem to justify led many to believe that he enjoyed
a private income, but from what source no one had
the slightest idea. He was a good deal of a mys-
tery, a reserved, secretive kind of man that no one
liked. Practically his only friend was John Argyle,
who was also his best client. No one could explain
why the banker had taken up Hurley when there
were so many more capable and reputable lawyers
to be had; yet the fact remained that they were on
the closest terms of intimacy, and that no one was
better acquainted than Mr. Hurley with the busi-
ness and family affairs of the eccentric millionaire.

The lawyer did not have long to wait. In a few



minutes the library door suddenly opened and Mr.
Argyle came in. The banker lost no time in un-
necessary preliminaries. Coming right to the point,
he said:

"Hurley, I want to remake my will."

The document had been made and remade so
often that the caller could hardly repress a smile,
which, fortunately, the older man did not notice.

"Yes, sir," he answered, with a certain deference
he always employed, for diplomatic reasons of his
own, when addressing his wealthy client. "That's
a very easy matter."

"Easy or difficult," snapped the old gentleman,
"it's got to be changed. That's why I sent for you."

The lawyer sat down at the table and, taking from
his pocket pencil and memorandum, waited for in-

"Very well, sir. What are the changes to be?"

For a moment there was no reply. The promoter
paced the floor of the library in meditative silence.
Suddenly he turned.

"Everything to my adopted daughter every-
thing, do you hear? Not a cent to my son."

The lawyer looked up in surprise.

"Nothing to Bruce?"

"No not a cent."

Mr. Hurley shook his head.

"As your attorney, sir, I would not advise leav-
ing him out entirely. No matter what your feel-
ings toward him may be, it is hardly possible for a
father to ignore so entirely his own flesh and blood
in favor of a stranger, and the courts might sustain
the plaintiff if the will were contested."
3 25


"Then what do you advise?"

"I would leave him a small sum, in trust if neces-
sary, so that he could not say that he had been for-
gotten. Your will would be the stronger for it."

"Very well. We'll put aside a certain sum say
fifteen thousand dollars to be left in trust, and
from which he is to receive each week the income.
At his death the principal shall go to some hospital
that we will decide upon. I also name you as

Hr. Hurley bowed, and there was a crafty smile
hovering about the corners of his mouth as he said :

"Thank you, sir, I am much honored. Might I
suggest something in regard to the trust?"

"What is it?"

"It is usual for trustees to be put under bond by
the state to insure their carrying out faithfully the
provisions of the will. It is sometimes inconvenient
for trustees to furnish such bonds. It would be in
my case. If that were necessary I would rather de-
cline the honor you confer on me."

The millionaire waved his hand.

"That's all right, Hurley. You and I have been
doing business together too long for me not to trust
you. Put in the will that no bond is required."

"Yes, sir thank you."

The promoter watched the lawyer closely while
he drafted the will. Presently he asked :

"When can you have it ready for the signature?"

"To-morrow if agreeable to you."

The millionaire nodded.

"That suits me. Will you bring it here?"

"Yes; I don't quite know when. I may have it



ready to bring it up in the afternoon, or I may run
up with it in the evening."

"Very well; I'll expect you."

Mr. Argyle rose from his chair as if he considered
the interview at an end, but Mr. Hurley did not
stir. The lawyer had not yet terminated all the
business that had brought him there. Yet he hesi-
tated to speak out what was on his mind. His client
was not an easy man to handle. That he had often
discovered to his own discomfiture. Finally he
blurted out:

"Mr. Argyle, there is still a little matter I wish
to talk over with you. You can probably guess what
it is."

The millionaire turned and looked sharply at his

"What is it, Mr. Hurley? Out with it!" Testily
he added: "You know I never like to beat about
the bush."

Thus encouraged, the lawyer spoke up. Boldly he

"We need more money."

The promoter's face darkened. If there was
anything that would put John Argyle in a bad
humor, it was the mention of money or the ap-
prehension that he was about to be approached
for a loan. A man of a suspicious nature, he had
a fixed idea that every one had designs against his

"Money?" he grumbled. "You're always want-
ing money. What did you do with that last two
thousand ? You got it only a week ago."

Mr. Hurley gave a cautious glance round as if to



make sure that the door was shut before he an-
swered :

"It takes a lot of money to run the business. The
plates have to be made and new presses purchased,
all with the utmost secrecy. The specially woven
paper is also very expensive. We can't expect to
reap unless we sow. You're enough of a business
man to know that, Mr. Argyle."

The millionaire frowned as he snapped:

"I'm not a cow to be milked, Mr. Hurley."

"If there's no milk to be had, you can't expect
to get any cream, Mr. Argyle."

"I don't expect any cream," rejoined the promoter,
testily. "You know perfectly well that I did not
go into the affair to make money. It was the
novelty of the thing that appealed to me more than
anything else. It isn't often one gets a chance of
getting even with the government."

The lawyer leaned forward. In a dramatic under-
tone he said:

" That's why you must help us. You have gone
too far to draw back now."

The millionaire clenched his teeth. Doggedly he

" I'll go no further than I choose. I've had enough,
I tell you."

"It's too late, Mr. Argyle. You are as deeply
involved as the rest of us. If our plans fail for lack
of capital, and the government Secret Service agents
get wind of our plans, there is no telling what might
happen. You don't want it known that John
Argyle is a promoter of counterfeit money, do



"Damn you! Shut up! Do you want my ser-
vants to hear?"

The millionaire, his face livid with rage, sprang for-
ward, and going to the door, opened it quickly to
see if any one was listening. Finding no one, and
reassured, he returned to where the lawyer was

"Is this blackmail?" he demanded, contemptu-

The lawyer's face assumed a grieved expression.
Rising, he replied:

"Mr. Argyle, I had hoped that our relations in the
past had been such as to make it impossible for you
even to imagine such a thing of me. I asked you for
money because Kreisler told me he must have it if
he is to get the new notes out. He has exhausted
all his own resources. I have exhausted mine. We
need at least five thousand dollars."

"You won't get it!" replied the old man, dog-
gedly. "I've had my fun, and it's cost me a pretty
penny. This is where I stop for good. Your secret
is safe with me, but no more money. You must find
another capitalist to finance you."

Hiding his disappointment as much as he could,
the lawyer bowed politely.

"Very well, Mr. Argyle. Of course, you are at
liberty to retire from the partnership whenever you
see fit, but one can't help wondering why you came
in at all unless you were willing to see it through."

The old gentleman chuckled.

"It is simple enough. I joined your counterfeit-
ing gang partly because I had a grudge against the
government for making me pay one hundred thou-



sand dollars' fine on a shipment not properly de-
clared, and partly because I enjoyed the fun. It
was as good a way of spending my money and getting
some excitement out of life as any other. I began
here as a speculator in real estate in boom times. In
my land deals I capitalized the future earnings of
this town, as you might say. You understand, of
course, a town lot has no value except what comes
to it from the industry and success of the citizens
of the town. I capitalized the future earning power
and production of these citizens overcapitalized it
and they are still working to pay interest on that
interest, if you understand what I mean."

The lawyer, deeply interested, bowed and listened
intently to this self-denunciation of a man who had
no shame in confessing how he had prospered by
preying on his fellow-men. Certainly this Argyle
was original. It was something new in his experi-
ence to find a millionaire risking many years in
state prison merely to enjoy the dubious amusement
of helping in the manufacture and circulation of
counterfeit money. Mr. Argyle continued:

"I put into my own pocket the public increment
on huge blocks of land here money that, in its final
aspect, belonged to the city itself. Then I purchased
the street-railway, another property that had no
value except such as was given to it by the industrial
and commercial success of the city. And I over-
capitalized this, too, so as to collect at once upon
the future of the city, and I sold out the stock and
put that money also to my credit. In this case I
had to use some of the money to purchase civic
officials who would otherwise have defended their



electorate from exploitation. And in doing so I
was only doing what 'promoters' make a business
of doing generally in this country, you under-

The lawyer nodded, lost in admiration at this
financial genius who so well understood the act of
turning crooked politicians to his own advantage.
Mr. Argyle proceeded:

"Then I went into loans collecting upon the
commercial distress which my previous operations
had helped to create. I bought a controlling inter-
est in several industrial companies, and reorganized
them sometimes by means of a sales company in
such a way that all the profits of the industries
came to us and the original stockholders received
only a small income on their investments. These
operations are quite common. Men are performing
them to-day in every city, perhaps, in the country.
Why should we draw the line at promoting counter-

Mr. Hurley smiled. The conclusion was logical
enough. Looking up, he said:

"Would you mind telling me how a man in your
position and of your standing came to meet Fried-
rick Kreisler, the famous counterfeiter?"

"That was curious," replied the banker, smiling
reminiscently. " Some months ago I began to dream
continually of being in a locality that was quite un-
familiar to me. I could not in my waking moments
remember ever having seen it. Yet it became ex-
traordinarily vivid in my mind from these dreams.
Last month I had occasion to go to a town where
we were reorganizing a gas and electric company that


wanted a new franchise to supply light and power.
And one day, as I walked away from my hotel, I
recognized the street. I could have told you the
names on the shop signs before I came to them. I
remembered particularly the gilt lettering on the
plate-glass windows of a bank. And when I came
to a hitching-post in front of a hardware store it was
a metal figure of a negro boy holding up a tie-ring
I recollected that there should have been a man
waiting for me with his hand on that post. That
was the way we had met in my dreams. He was
not there. I went back again in the evening, but
he was not there. On the following morning, as I
approached, I saw him. I went up to him and said :
'You are looking for me?'

"He replied that he was looking for some one
with money who would be willing to back him
in an enterprise in which there would be large re-

"I explained that I was evidently the man he
wanted, since I was a promoter by profession. He
made an appointment to call on me at my hotel.
And he came.

"He told me then that he was an engraver; that
he had worked hard all his life, honestly, and had re-
mained poor; that he had been reading much about
modern business methods, and had concluded that
he, too, had a right to use his ability to make money
regardless of the honesty of the means. He pointed
out to me that in selling watered stock I had really
been selling a sort of counterfeit stock certificate.
He argued, too, that we would do no one an in-
justice by issuing counterfeit money, since, as long



as it was kept in circulation, it would be worth its
face value. If a man suspected it he could pass it
on to some one else, just as he would with stocks.
He was very convincing. Then he sent you to me.
You used further arguments. You know the rest.
I finally agreed to finance your scheme."

Mr. Hurley laughed loudly.

"It's been a splendid partnership. You the back-
er, Kreisler the engraver, I the business head. We
got out as fine a ten-dollar bill as ever deceived a
bank-teller, and distributed it in large quantities all
over the country. It was a golden harvest."

"A harvest I didn't participate in," interrupted
the millionaire, dryly. "I let you and Kreisler en-
joy the profits. All I wanted was the fun."

The lawyer looked glum.

"Yes, it was good while it lasted, but money
made so easily is soon spent. Kreisler has gone
through every cent of his. He's living in the great-
est poverty with that woman."

Mr. Argyle nodded.

" Poor Masuret's wife. She never was much good,
but I was never able to see what induced her to de-
sert her husband for a man who has spent a con-
siderable part of his life in state prison."

Hurley shrugged his shoulders. Dryly he replied :

"It's easy to understand. Women love a dash
of romance. Her life with Masuret had been ex-
ceptionally humdrum. Kreisler suddenly appeared
upon the scene. He was handsome, picturesque,
quite the opposite of her commonplace husband.
At that time Kreisler was flush. She couldn't resist
him. They have been together ever since."



"Where are they now?"

"In a bare attic on the top floor of an East Side
tenement hiding from the police. Kreisler is des-
perately hard up. He is working hard on his new
bill. If he succeeds in putting it out we'll all be
flush again. But to complete the job he must have

The millionaire shook his head.

"Not from me!" he said, determinedly. "I'm
done with it for good."

Mr. Hurley's face darkened as he leaned forward
and exclaimed:

"You can't leave us in the lurch now. We won't
be trifled with like that. You must help us."

The old gentleman elevated his eyebrows.

"Must, Mr. Hurley? Surely that's a strong word
to use."

"Not stronger than it should be, Mr. Argyle," re-
joined the lawyer. "You ought to realize our posi-
tion. Don't drive us to extremes."

The millionaire looked keenly at his companion.

"Is this a threat, Mr. Hurley?"

The lawyer laughed loudly as he rose. With re-

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Online LibraryArthur HornblowThe Argyle case → online text (page 2 of 14)