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The Caravan of Mystery.,


The Caravan of Mystery., Bv ROY NORTON. I w t Author of "The Plunderers," ,,rho Vai,,lslilng Mects," etc. Follow the fortunes of this pligrint-an American down on his luck, picked up on a park bench by ar. empoycr of infinite surprises follow him across the ) Atlantic, through the gipsy camps of Europe, among the Apaches of Paris, hob- nobbing with tiir-d folks and famous musicians, doing unqucstionly the bidding of his curious employer, searching for something that is not revealed till the amazing climax 01 the story-follow the pilgrim on his unique journey and we have no doubt you will regard this tale as the strangest snd mcst fascinating you have ever read. CHAPTER I. I There's no iL-e in my making any I excuses for the reasons or circum- stances that had brought me to the I park bench to sleep nor is there any reason to deny that for ten years I had been a vagabond, a drifter, a I floater, enamored with Adventure and careless where she beckoned. Trade? I had none. Occupations? It seemed to me that I had triel the-m all-yes, everything, from sailing before the mast to acrobatics in a circus. Per- haps the last was the easiest, because I had worked mv way through a uni- versity by being an instructor in ath- letics, and the bodily tricks one learns when young and supple are not quickly lost, if one cares enough for his machine to be abstemious, and I was that. But about the park bench. I re- member it very well, as if it were the great milepost of career; for it was there, on that chill morning of I -early May, that I made the acquaint- ance of Professor Algernon de Bert- rand. I wondered for a long time whether that. could be his real name. It sounded untrue. I said the morning was chill. I don't mean by that it would have been chill for one who had slept beneath blankets, but newspapers have a faculty for becoming disarranged when used for covering. Perhaps you've noticed it yourself. I awoke and found myself chilled and stiff, and, knowing of no better way to get my blood into circulation, began doine handsprings, somersaults, and twisters on the park path. The other "vags" on the benches paid no more attention to me than as if I had been a sparrow out there hopping around in search of food. Most of them were either tough or melancholy, drowsy or brooding. Breathing a little heavily through the violence of my exercise, I paused, and then, for the first time, saw the pro- fessor, who had come up unobserved And was watching me. And a queer little man he locked. The morning gave clear promise of a fair day but the professor had an umbrella under his arm. He wore an old-style "Prince Albert'' coat, an old- style collar and cravat, an old-style silk hat, and boots. Altogether he was like a man who had stepped from a picture of the "fifties"; but it was cot his clothes that drew attention so much as his eyes. They were quizzic- al, merry, humorous, and wi&e. They I appeared perpetually measuring any ¡ and everything they rested on. They I were eyes that bespoke a vast exper- ience o flife. and were inclined to ac- cept it as the greatest of all jokes. "i "A very good acrobat, indeed," he said. "Never saw that twist taken that way by any other man." He spoke almost meditatively, as if impelled to express an opinion entirely regardless of my personality, and with- out desire to compliment me. His voice was surprisingly rounded, sonor- ous, and deep, as if, befitting a giant's throat, it had come to his by acci- dent. His eyes swept from me to the bench I had occupied, and I knew he discerned the newspapers and fathom- ed their use. "Have a doughnut?" he asked, and from the tail of his ridiculous coat whipped a paper bag and proffered it for the alleviation of my hunger. I took one and nearly broke a tooth trying to bite it. The professor remarked pleasantly: "I buy them for the fcirds." I did not answer, being resolutely intent on robbing the birds of this one doughnut at least but the professor, observing my struggle, laughed and said: "Never mind it, man. Come with me to breakfast." And I went with him through the corner exit of the park and across to a cheap little place where we could ft at either table or stool, and where the air was heavy with the scent of morning ooffe-e and other smells vastly tempting to one who had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. My host gave me carte blanche. No millionaire could have done more. And my host smiled steadily all the time I ate, something that but few million- aires would have done. He preserved a becoming silence, as if fathoming that, being engrossed in food, I had no time to divide with tongue or ear. It was not- until I leaned back with a fine sigh of content that he spoke. "Can you fight ?" ked he, and I wondered for an instant if this little man thought me a mere New York gangster ready to pay for a meal with my fists. I didn't care to cancel my obliga- tion that way, but answered: "Yes, I suppose I can. I am considered a good amateur." I waited an instant for him to pro- ceed. "Rough and tumble?" he asked. "Yes. I've done that, too," I ad- mitted, with a grin. "Any incumbrances—-family de- pendents, or anything of that &o-r-td" he inquired. "Why?" I asked, as ray wonder in- creased. "Because if you fought for me you might have to go to jail," he replied with the utmost placidity, just as if going to jail were a mere incident. I shook my head with an air of re- luctance. "I'm afraid," said I, "that I'm not the sort of man you're looking for. For two reasons: one that I'm not a


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The Caravan of Mystery.,