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The Caravan of


The Caravan of <MysteryJ The, *(b t "A.,L ".& .ery. I —————- ————- By ROY NORTON. I Author of "The Plunderers," "The Vanishing Fleets, etc. I Follow the fortunes of this pilgrim-an American down on his luck, picked up on a park bercii by an employer of infinite surprises follow him across the Atlantic, through the gipsy camps of Europe, among the Apaches of Paris, hob. nobbing with tilled folks and famous musicians, doing unquestionly the bidding of his curious employer, searching for something that is not revealed till the amazing climax of the story—follow the pilgrim on his uniqae journey and we have no doubt you will regard this tale as the strangest and most fascinating you have ever read- (Continued). CHAPTER VI. I was rather -amused to discover the change of attitude in my fellow workman, Laurent, following hid reception by my strujigti employer. For the first day out be hovered in close proximity to the professor as if eager to restore nimseil o a good standing. Apparentlv he accept- ed the quaint little man's reticence as a sign of torgivenese, a.nd his self-confidence anose as feteadiJy as tiie mercury on a July day. Again I happened to be pre- sent when the professor reduced his staAure. It was on the third da.y, and the pro- feasor, as if remembering my exigence aboard the ship, paused ÍrOffi his pro- menade where I was leaning over the rail and passed some inconsequential remark about the smoothness of the sea, for in- deed we were having moat delightful weather. " you ever been in the interior of France?" he a?ked me abruptly, after eying me a few minutes with that pecu- liar scrutinising stare of his that I had come to believe gave his words some ulterior meaning. "No," I replied, "I have not had that pleasure. "Ah, mongieur." c/me an ecstatic shout from behind us which we had no difficulty in recognising as emanating from the throat of Laurent. "La Belle France f It is zee country magnificent. It is And as if English were too trying for him, he burst into his native tongue. "It is the country of fair woman it is there that I am at home.. Ah, I will ta,ke such gocd cre of you. I well tell you wha.t to do. I will tell you where to go. You may intrust your business to me, Francois Laurent." lie paused, and, unabashed bv the change of expreF-sion in the professor's eyes, threw out his chest, rubbed his founds, and rolled his eyes, after which he gave a fierce upward twirl to his mustRshes and expressed an inclination to take; full charge of everything. You have not favoured me, monsieur, he sa.:(1. "with your full confidence. You have not even asksd me for my advice. If you tell me where you are bound I, Francois Laurent, will to you, 'No, you must not go there,' or 'Yes, I think that is good. It meets with my appro- val. p, The pro fe-SOT suddenly bestowed on him a calm, chill stare, and answered him in slow. painstaking English, I rather think for my bensfit alfu ''Y ou will, eh ? You'll advise me. You are so kind. Now listen to me closely, because thesf are Tea-l travelling instructions. Where I am going, or where I intend to go. or where I think of going, is rone of your busi- ?' ? you ? me? The one ?in? I ^demand of every one who works for m? is that he keep his mouth shut and obevs my orders. If vou are not prepared to do that, you micrht just as well step over -the side and walk back to New York." The Frenchman visibly shriveled as these Aord6 were driven home to him, and looked flustered. tie tumbled with tue top buttons of his waistcoat. He opened ins lips and gasped, and his protruding eyes seemed to emerge still iartljar from his head. A --movement almost behind me caught my eye, and I turned to discover Mon- sieur Perard, who, wearing rubber-soled shoes, had appioached silently. He was walking very slowly and apparently un- observant, but I wondered it I was mis- taken in the impression that he had hoard every word and that he flashed a look from the corner of his eye at Laurent as he passed. As Iaurent disappeared, the professor watched hum, and his face resumed its customary bland good humour. He re- sumed our interrupted conversation as if IlJthing had taken place in the interim, and for ten minutes philosophised on Atlantic ships in general and the passen- gers of our own boat. "See," he said, pointing along the deck, "what strange fellow companions a voy- age makes. The handsome, whitehaired old gentleman you see sitting there is a distinguished actor and a courtly gentle- man. His is Collins, and he voy- ages to recuperate from his trying art. The foreign-looking man to whom he talks is a great bandmaster. Beyond sits a brewer fiom Sb. Louis. Next comes a Roumanian going home to dazzle his fel- low-countrymen with the money he has saved somewhere out West. The man fitting next to hLm with his wife is a Dutch harpist the solo harpist of the Metropolitan Opera House orchestra, and his wife. a Russian girl, 1.& gifted with a brilliant voice. We have one other singer aboard. Mademoiselle Marie Dorion. She i not only talented as a singer, but has an attractive personality, and will some day doubtless appear as a great star. She also oomes from the Metropolitan Grand Opera Company where she has been an understudy that she may gain experience. He went on with hiq catalogue, but I fear that I wabsent-minded, for my eyes were fixed upon Mademoiselle Made, and I had a secret satisfaction in the knowledge that now I knew her name and who she was..but after the pro- cessor Iiid left me, I could not avoid a lively sense of amazement at the know- ledge he had displayed so unexpectedly. Curiously enough, in less than an hour after De Bertrand had left me, accident, trivial, found mademoiselle and I on a conversational plane, she tolerant of com- panionship in an idle hour. and I bravely earnestly intent on making the most of my opportunity. Of one singularity I was speedily awafre that, unlike most professional persons, she did not care to discuss her own work, "I understand, mademoiselle," I said "that you are studving for grand opera. "Who told you that?" asked she, as if surprised by my knowledge. It was Oil the tip of mv tongue tha-t this information came from my employer but I checked myself in time and said "1 do not exactly remember who told I me." "Yes," she said "it is true, although I can scarcely understand who on this ship knows that, save one," and I surmised that she referred to Monsieur Perard. She changed the topic, and led me away from it by gradual steps, until to my surprised I awoke to learn that I had been talking of myself. Proof positive of my mental state. I am neither com- municative, as a rule, nor endowed with the gift of entertainment, but she led me on to speak, to recount experiences, and sometimes she laughed—sure sign of good will. Time fled unheeded by us, but I observed at last that Monsieur Perard who had several times passed us, began to exhibit signs of annoyance, for which I cared not a whit until it seemed to grow to a ridiculous hostility. It was so open that I spoke of it to my com- panion. I think," I said, scarcely above a whisper, "that I had best leave. I fear your friend over there considers my be- } ing here an intrusion." Her response was gratifying. "Pray keep you chair," said she mis- chievously. "I find you much more en- tertaining." I was about to thank her when I dis- covered a petulant little frown shaping itself between her eyebrows, and she add- ed "Monaieur Perard is not a friend of mine, but an acquaintance of a year's standing, perhaps; but—well, I shall not call him friend. Monsieur Perard again toured the length of the deck and concluded to in- terrupt, for when he next came in front of ua he paused and addressed her in French "You seem to have found an in- teresting companion, mademoiselle. Does he speak French ?" With as blank an expression as I could possibly command, I stared out over the sea. She turned her head slovyly toward me and said "Mr. Carter, my friend wishes to know if you speak French." There was even a little malicious tinge to her question. I treated it as a jest, and avoided a direct lie. "Does one ever speak French, Mamamoiselle Dorion, unless he is born in that country? I was not born there. I am sorry, for I understand that it is your native tongue." Monsieur Perard seemed highly pleased and did not hesitate to begin a conver- sation with her in the tongue of which I was supposed to be ignorant. "I thought," he said, "I should not have an opportunity of speaking to you at all this afternoon unless I interjected myself. You seem very much taken up with your new friend. By the way, who and' what is e. There are certain advantages in posses- sing a face that is immobile; otherwise I doubt not that Monsieur Perard might have read a considerate desire on my part to immediately rise to my feetand smack his face, for there was a well-bred impu- dence not only in his words, but in his tone To my surprise, however, I had a champion unawares. "Save for what he told me of himself," she replied quietly, "I don't know; but for that matter, monsieur, he stands on exactly the same footing- as you. I don't know who you are save what you've told me, and I nave no more reason to doubt his accounting for himself than I have of yours. Her speech was followed with a laugh so cool and impudent that the French- man's face flushed dairklv, but he finished adroitly, and pretended to take it as a joke. Bah! But there is a difference, for am I not a very old friend as well as a tellow countryman ?" "Yes," she' -retorted. "if one's usual friendships are so short that a year may be said to constitute age, also 'to a cos- mopolitan, it doesn't matter from what country a friend comes. But perhaps it would be more polite, monsieur, if we < were to continue our conversation in English, a tongue which my companion understands. She spoke the suggestion in my own tongue so that Monsieur Perard was put on the defensive; but so quick was his adroitness he instantly turned! to me and said, in quite good English "I must beg your pardon but I am not so familiar with your language as to dare to speak it when I may avoid it." Without further ado he dropped into an unoccupied steamer chair on the op- posite side of mademoiselle, and entered into a polite conversation. I saw that he had no intention of relinquishing this vantage ground, and, as soon as I might withdraw without appearing boorish, found an excuse to make my departure. I was gratified by mademoiselle's insis- tence that I remain, but nevertheless went my way. I sauntered out to the lower deck, aft, where a crude boat deck had been super- imposed in obedience to recent laws com- pelling every ship to carry passengers to make ample provision for all aboard. CHAPTER VII. On that balmy evening the after por- tiltH of the main deck was crowded. Near- ly every nationality could be seen, and nearly every tongue could be heard. Here a group of Austrian labourers chattered of home and smoked huge pipes; there a little mob of voluble Frenchmen dis- cussed aeroplane; some Hungarians from the steel 'mills of Pittsburgh played cards upon the white deck, and beyond them a group of Italians gambled with their fin- gers. Among these latter I was particularly interested by the appearance of one man w ho I decided must be of gypsy parent- age, and never have I seen one who oould more fittingly have stood as a model for a pirate. Gold earrings were in his ears, his profusion of irongray hair was un- kempt, and long, sweeping mustaches, trimmed well dohw to the corners of his chin, added to his ferocious appearance. Bushy eyebrows projecting over deep-set and fiercely cast eyes gave him a sinister look. He was in shirt sleeves, and in the excitement of the game had thrown open his blue flannel shirt at the throat, exposing a hairy and tattooed chest. Fas- tened to an old leathern belt was a scab- bard containing a knife, the handle of which was much worn. I surmised from the attention which this group attracted that the stakes were remarkably high for a homeward-bound steerage. The gamo threatened for an instant to end in tragedy when a dispute arose between the man with the earrings and one other, and their voices rose high and shrill in anger. All other games stopped, and the players crowded round the point of promised conflict. I happened to be in the very inner circle, a position which I should not crave in case the disputants resorted to extreme measures. Words were exchanged in angry cresendo until the piratical man with a motion incredibly quick and veno- mous, whipped his hand to the haft of his knife and started to draw it; but before he could carry out his intention, a powerful giant of a man behind caught his wrist with both hands, gave it a thTdik and knife fell alattering to the deck. At the same instant the crowd rove backward and forward, twiRted. and gave way; and into the midst of it came the burly boatswair. "Hey, stop that!" he shouted. "What's the matter here?" As no one answered, he seemed to take it for granted that he had not been un derstood and. polyglot that he was as ked in bastard French "Who does that knife belong to?" The piratical man his temper recovered, stepped forward and vouched for its ownership by piling it up and putting it back into itR sheath "It is mine," he said in French, thus proving that he also had a knowledge of I ) that language. "Perhans, officer, he was in the right. I don't know. It doesn't j j matter." r ) He turned with a snarling grin, upon j his Late opponent, and said something ex- plosive that I did not understand, but the bos'n, master of all seagoing langua- ges, did. "Not on this ship," he bellowed. "I know what you said. You told him you'd settle his lash later. It don't go here. You kick up any more fuss aboard this craft and I'll put you in irons. Give me that knife Before the big, obstreperous man could recover from his amazement, the bo'n dragged the knife from its scabbard and slipped it into his own pocket. "N ow," he said, "all of you clear out of this! And as for you, Mister Man, I'll give you this knife when you land. After that, I don't care what becomes of you. You can cut his throat if you want to, but you can't do it on this ship." It was astonishing how he overawed those passengers and how they obeyed him. The crowd broke up on the in- stant, leaving the man with the earrings standing alone. For a moment he glared savagely at the boatswain's back, then walked to the rail and spat into the sea as a method of expressing his contempt, but he no longer had his knife, a condi- 'I tion for which several of those who had witnessed the encounter seemed thankful. I was to see this formidable character onoe more that day, and under circum- stances which by no stretch of imagina- tion could I have anticipated. It was late in the afternoon, and the majority of our passengers had retired. The pro- menade decks were deserted, and in the music saloon of the "Menduto" an im- provised concert was taking place for which the harpist had volunteered his services, a pianist of more than usual merit had been discovered, and the Rus- sian girl was singing. Nearly all those who had not retired. were in attend- ance but, having no craving for music, and thinking more than I would have confessed of my day's meeting with Mademoiselle Dorion, I preferred to be alone with my thoughts, and so wan- dered aimlessly backward and forward until I descended the companion-way to the main deck, where I might have a longer walk reaching up to the bows. There was no moonlight, but the night was so filled with stars that it lent a ghostly dimness and distorted the out- lines of everything around me. The don- key engines, with their dingy canvas coverings, had become mammoths, squat- ted here and there beneath huge cover- ings. It was an ideal night in which to dream, and I came to rest in the folds of canvas by one of the donkey engines, lounging backward with my head pil- lowed in my arms and my hat over my face. The call of the lookout with the immemorial cry of the sea, "All's well," followed by the repeated and mellow cl a'7 of six bells, warned me that the hour was getting late. Indeed, I was on the point of rising to seek mv stateroom when a voice close at hand made me hesitate. It was preceded by a sharp hiss as if to attract some one's attention and then I heard, uttered in a sharp undertone: "Is that you, Goliano?" "Yes," came the response in the same subdued tone, and I knew that on the other side of the donkey engine two men had met stealthily, as if desirous of es- caping observation. I arose to a sitting posture, and by bending over to one side could see the heads of the two men silhouetted against the light, and instantly I recognised them. One was the turbulent man of the knife from the steeraee, and the other Monsieur Perard of the first class I wondered what could bring these two me/I together at such a time. "Is there any one around who can hear overcome with anger, returned and said in a, low voice, vehement and malevolent r "Another thing! If you ever undertake to play double on me, do you know what I'll do? I'll get you behind bars!" Proof" scornfully retorted the man with the earrings. "Provided that I don't get you there first. Maybe I'll do that yet. We'll see." After which ho laughed sourly, and I heard the angry steps of Perard as he made his way back amidships.