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The Caravan of Mystery. -


The Caravan of Mystery. By ROY NORTON. I Author of "The Plundexers The Vanishing Fleets," etc. I I Follow the fortunes of this pilgrim-an American down on his luck, picked up on a park bench 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 titled folks and famous musicians, doing unquestionJ.y 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 unique journey and we have no doubt you will regard this tale as the strangest and most fascinating you have ever read. (Continued). CHAPTER XI. "And you are positive that the count did net leave tho ruom at all after the opening' I asked after a time. Again she laughed. "For goodness sake," tsh e exclaimed, "are you still thinking of that? I won- dered whither your mind had wandered, ami waited to hear you say something about AIia or China, and you k- Yes, I a.m positive. The only person that left the roj-ra at the beginning was your queer little professor, and he came back in about un minutes looking as if bored to death, and apparently counting heads in th-o audi, nee to see if all were there or if he had missed any of them. I saw her to her cabin door, and made one m To round of the ship. Its decks were gradually deserted. I descended the forvwd stenand walked slowly past the coil of rope that had been my saviour, and looked at it. It was not coiled as I had left it, but the end wtraggled out, in a 1'tlle v;«& path, as if some one had inspected it and dropped it carelessly down in c'is-gust, after fathoming the part it had played in our game. I peered all around me in the half light, but could see no one watching me. I think I half expejted another attack, but none came. A group v.-iilk-ed backward and forward before m. as I stood by the rail, and at last I returned up the steps and to my stateroom. For the first time aboard the "Menduto," at th It late hour, the doer between the professor's room and mine was open, and the lights turned on. He was seated with hjs chin tilttd forward till it nearly rested on his breast, his slip- pered feet stretched out comfortably OIl a cabin stool, and his fingers interlaced in front of him. '•Well." he inquired affably, but with his queer, veiled stare, "how did you -enjüy the concert? I thought I missed you there at one time." It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him ail my strange adventure, but something restrained me. "V ery much indeed," I assured him. "The singing was excellent; also the playing." "You likÐd it, eh?" he grunted. Then he stretched hia hand upward, yawned, lowered his feet, and Jeaned forward, but without ever shifting his scrutiny from my fl-l-co. he suggested, "you wouldn't mind telling me what causes that curious stream of water that I rui-s Lorn beneath that. locker c-f yours across the floor ?'' I was so astonished that I glanced guiifjiy at the ?ocr and saw Ule slow tricki? that ran, a wavering black line, acro' to Lho c?rp?t' s edge. I looked back at him mth a tuciden mistrust that may iiave be,riyed it-self in my eyebrows. "Ho-tf ci.d you happen is vo,.Ice that I blurted out. ¡'Ûi:>servatio:l, my oon.! Observation he replied dryty. "Also 1 saw it when I came in, and opened the locker and found your wet suit of clothes. They were al- most as wet aa if-as if-we will say- you had fallen overboard a,!ia been saved by fiiitchiiig a Tope that was titd to the stancukn on the port side, abreast the I liwe t. I I I glared iit him with a dawn- ing suspicion, and perhaps tensed myself as if to leap upon him and strangle tho truth fn-m h's smiling ips. He did not r^'VT} much as to lower an eyelash. I-Oli, no," he r,marked blandly, as if answering a question that I ha.d put into word. "I didn't throw you overboard. In fact, I have sit h"e for rno.e than an hour wondering who cou!d have done it, and why." That," said I giimly, as I turned to- ward my door, ia something that I, too, wo-nd r ov-er, and that, before I am through, I shall find out." As I closed the door behind me his laughter followed, with infinite amuse- ment, as if bung dumped over into the Atlantic Ocea'. was too goxl a joke to be pas?d without tha tribute of a gentle "Ra Ha followed by c. rlk Tlk as if to a pair of horses. I slept that night after my peril with my door hxked, and hated myself far shooting ths bolt. It wPtJ like losing one's self respect in the inner sanctuary of one's own mipd. But what could I do to defend myself ? The count was the only man aboard the "Menduto" who, I waconvinced, hated me. A twisted nose not conducive to amity. And the count hid not been absent from the concert. The profees^r certainly hid no rea.> >n .-or trying to murder me. I was there on the ship by his own wish. More- over. I doubted whether his strength 1 would have be n sufficient, if he were a mani;:c, to throw me thus swiftly over the vir. But again, had r.ot his de-I ductions boon eritirdy too astute to justi- fy me in thus idly passing him by as j innocent of personal knowledge? I In a it cany* to me, the rendez- vous between Goliano, tho lithe, huge SyPsJ 'i'o'tl th? fteerage, and Perard that nig.'it when they believed themselves alon i here was not the slightest d<*ubt in my mind thai the fierce, musta-ched bravo dealt in murder, or would have at least done miud.n- with a. callous indif- fere, ce if ther wore a chance for gain. If the count winieJ me mu-,d-ted, G,.Ii- ano wou!d probably without compunction adcent th,) k..k for fifty dollars in gold, j Yet reason -whispered '-Why ? What have you done that could b2, cons'dored suffi- ,ci-ant cause for murder?" It did not seem possible. It were easier -to beheve that Perard would have done euch work personally th.ui intrust the actual execution of so &lm, ve a arime to one wl,,o alre,dv seemed to be black- mail ng him, and who, when need arose, terrified him. Certainly the count should have been too intelligent for that. but I resoved to have a closer look at Goliano the next morning. < It was ea,7 y 1 It was easy enough to find him, squat- ted, rather than sitting, on the tarpaulin cover of a hatch, his earrings shaking, his swift hands throwing tine dice, and each time he won thanking the virgin, or, when he lost, cursing Satan. He was surrounded by others scarcely ltss civil- ised than h. swarthy mon, w Ith knives at belts, scowling faces, and wearing nothing more than undershirts and trou- sers belted tightly. From a strange outlandish tongue they now and then swept to an Italian dialetto, or to the turgic language of the Pyrenees. Once one of them swore in English as I deliber- ately made my way round behind them arid stood erect where Goliano might see me when he ch use to look up. I waited patiently while he lost and won. At last, as if feeling the probe of my eyes, he lifted his held as swiftly as a v. ild animal might, and stared directly at m? For a full quarter minute our eyes remained fixed, and. then a harsh snarl stiffened and dragged down the eornars of his th;¡'k lower lip, and he challenged. ••Well, Americano, what for you sarld there and—ah—nwke tho eye at me ? Huh? B,h I a friendly gesture and s«id| "Surry to have disturbed you, I was merety watching you play," and turned on my heel. Before I had taken a dozen steps they were at it again, and appeared to have forgotten my intension. But, just the same, rega die-se cf everything, I resolved to keep a weather eye on Mister Goliano. The days following proved that I might have fpared myself the trouble, for neither by look or word did he disturb me. And now the da,) s passed swiitiy, with nothing untoward. had I not had that queer intuition that it was I, and no other, wlux-e life had been sought, I might have believed it a case of mis- taken identity. Day atter day I walked the deck with Marie, growing ever more intimate. Day after day I won more of her time from the count, who no longer attempted to screen his hatred and jealousy. And day after day the little professor, cynical, benevolent, bland, watched me and smiled. The voyage slipped behind with incredible rapidity. One noon the bulletin, with its tiny red-inked chart, told us that within thirty six hours we should see Bishop's Light Hash up from the e^ie.'n horizon. A strange quietude spread over the big '"Menduto"' as she swept more rapidly into the last lap of her homeward run and the night came on. The moon ap- ,pea-ed to oaten a million reflections from the points of languid waves, and, sitting on the boat deck, alone with mademois- elle, I, j.lone of al1 on the ship, was heavy-hepjrtedL Mademoiselle talked of her plana "First," she sa:d, "I shall go hack to the convent 111 France where I can meet the good sisters, and try to dissuade them from believing that I am utterly lost because 1 have chosen the operatic stage. Then I shall return to Paris and take lessons from one of the big teachers in a part I hope some day to achieve, and- a.fter that—well, I dSn't know. There are so many old scholmatei N%-ho have invited ma to visit them,.so many places I wish to see, so many things to look for, that it seems to me as if every moment of my vacation will be gone be- fore I can do more than half. I sat silent until she rallied me, and then O<'L.nk' new tc blurting out my misery. "And what of ms, mademoiselle?" I asked in utter dejection. "Am I never to see nor hear from you again? Are we, afttr all, mere casual acquaintances thrown together aboard a ship ?" I think she was glad but embarrassed when I asked that question, for I looked I at her as she sat there- transfigured by the moonlight that shono full on her beautiful face, and saw that it was very grave ,-jid unsm.ling, and that she dropped her eyes until I could no longer see more tiian the long, dark lashes against the wiiitcive.s of her face. "Acquaintances!" she repeated, almost in a murmur. "We are moro than that, I hope. I should feel sorry, Jolin Carter, if we nero not at least friends. That is-" She stopped in embarrassment, as if the implication conveyed in that "at least" had slipped from her unawares. It had not escaped me. My heart beat tumul- tuously, but I succeeded in controlling my voice as I leaned forward and said-, "Then, if we are friends, you will let me know where you are after we separate? I may write to you—may call upon you if I am w here you are? You will not forget me?" She turned, her eye sfull upon me, their depths appearing d.a.rk and serious there in the light of the night, and said, with the utmost simplicity—"No, I shall not forget you. I shall remember you always the courteous gentleman who became much more than an acquaintance on this happy voyage. And I think-I thi-ilc- I should grieve 11 I felt that I had slipped indifferently, unheeded, unremembered from your life." I stood up beside her, but could not refrain from seeking her eyes. For an instant she m?t mine bravely, then turned and led the way past the shroud- ed boats and the half-open skylights above the engine rooms, and thence to the steps descending to the promenade deck. At their very felt, lounging again t a ventilator, we discovered the professor. At sight of us he doffed his cap and came quietly forward. I resented his intrusion, foi the desire was still strong to have a few more words with mademoi- selle before parting for the night, but he insisted on accompanying us to her cabin door, and then walked beside me as I turned back toward our own state- rooms. I wished to be alone tCD think, and this was exactly what he evidently intended to frustrate. We haltad at the rooms, and 1 waited for him to enter. He did not do so, but waved his hand for me to precede him. I declined the im- plied invitation, for I wished to escape him. "No," I said. "I think I shall walk about for a little while. I am not-I am not quite sleepy enough to turn in yet." "Nor I," he instantly responded, and walked beside mo down the promenade deck. At the oompanionway leading down to t-lie main deck, I halted, hoping thus to lose him, but he followed immediatdy after me, TnHent apparently on keeping me company w hether I wished it or not. He suddenly took the initiative and said quietly—" Suppose we go clear forward. The fact i", I think it about time I said something to you that I have been con- sidering for nearly a week." What he said to me I shall not repeat, but it had to do with Marie. It showed me how impossible it was that I, an adventurer, a failure, should dream of linking my life with that of the girl standing, radiant and hopeful, on the low;T stepa of a brilliant stairway. It was all sa;d kindly and as man to man, and, although it hurt, I knew I it was the truth. I felt a great wave of gratitude to- ward the professor for having told me i the truth. I could scarcely speak, but I put my hand out and said miserably— "I thnnk you! I see better now than I dd." He held my hand for a moment, patted my arm, and said, "Y ou are the gentle- man I had hoped you were. "Come he said. "It hurts, sometimes, the truth; but one must not brood over it. One can hope to fight conditions as j he fights men, and make himself some- thing worth while. We shall see! We j shall see!" He turned, as if to leave mf, but now it waa my turn to follow him, as he led the way back toward the companionway leading up to the promenade deck. The moon made more than bright the white- ne-ss of the freshly painted superstructure of the boat, stretching upward, bridge above bridge, like a phantom building í erected there in the sea. Straight ahead I of us yawned the darkness of the passage- way that led back to the stern, now a broad tunnel pricked at the end by a star of light. The professor started to ascend the steps, and then abruptly paused, leaned over, and looked downward. I wondered what could have so suddenly absorbed him, and found that he stared at what seemed to be a man's feet projecting from the darkness beyond. He gave a slight exclamation and walked around into the shadows and bent over, while I followed. He struck a match", and both of us gave a gaspj for from a prone figure there trlclked a dark stream that had made its way tortuously across the white deck. My monitor struck another match, and held it closer. It was hor- Tible! The man was dead, and his throat bad been cut from ear to ear in one savage slash. CHAPTER XII. As the professor and I stood there above the murdered man, I suffered that shock which, despite the vicisstudes of my wandering life, always overcomes me at the sight of violent death. Dead men I have seen in plenty, but yet had to be inured to gazing unmoved upon the remains. Faster than words the thought swept through my mind in the form of a question which asked whether or not the attempt upon my own life had not been one of error, my assailant thinking that I was the object of his wrath, and that when the mistake was discovered he had taken a more certain means of muxder I hea.rd the professor's voice speaking in a perfectly calm, matter-of-fact, if not., indeed, cheerful tone. he said, "the earth has one less parasite to support. I suppose we'd better notify somebody." He promptly turned and took a few steps forward untik he could look up at the bridge, put his fingers between his lips, and whistled with such a shrill scream that it seemed to me, in all that stillness and standing, that it must arouse every one on the ship, save the quieter sleiper. Evidently an offier or quarter- master, startled, looked down from the bridge at this disturbance, and the pro- fessor cupped his hands and hailed him. he shouted. "Better send an offic r down hxe. A man has been mur- dered. His body lies here underneath the stai-is." Fir wh.:t seemed an inoredibly long time to me, who stood guard there in the dark beside this murdered wretch, no one came; yet I suppose it could have been but two or three minutes, no longer before several men came hurrying down- ward. One of them carried a lantern, and by its dim ra.ys I saw another man wearing the gold luoe of an officer's uni- form. In obedience to his curt command another man ran back through the pas- sageway. There was the flick of an elec- tric switch, and a light directly above us sprang into illumination. I then dis- covered that the officer was the captain, for his braid took on the dull shine of insignia, and his clean, determined Eng- lish fare was recognisable. He took the lantern from the quartermaster's hand and swung it over as if the electric light was not suflicientto enable him to scru- tinise the victim. He straightened up and flung an order over his shoulder to another sailor. "Here you!" he said, "Run back to the doctor's cabin and tell him to come down here as quickly as he can, and that I said so. Urgently,-mind you, urgent!" The man's feet pattered over the deck and up the stairs, but before they had reached the top, the captain nad lifted his lantern and looked at me. "Was it you that hailed the bridge?" ho asked brusquely. "No," sa;d 1. "It was "It was I, interjected the professor, who was still sitting at the foot of the steps and apparently uninterested. The captain stepped around until he oould peer at the professor, whom he seemed to recognise. He had no need to ask questions. "Carter and I," said my employer suc- cinctly, "had been forward, talking, for perhaps a half hour. We heard a noise, no scuffle, no sound of excitement. We came back to the companions ay, headed for our stateroom, and found this. I gave the alarm. And there our knowledge ends. The master held the lantern a little higher, until the professor's undisturbed eyes could be looked into, and I 6urmdsed that the officer was studying and per- haps seeking a solution from the pro- fessor's face. He repeated a portion of my employer's words aloud, as if to be certain that they that covered the ground "N.o noise, no scuffle, no sound of excitement. Half aPt hour." The lantern lowered itself, lifted again, marking in its movement the hesitancy of the captain's mind, indicating the possi- bility of another question, the futility of asking it, and a waiting pause for further investigation. The ship's doctor, with ao overcoat thrown over his shoulders, and but partially concealing his pyjamas and slippered feet, came running down the step.}. With a professional directness, he took the lantern from the captain's hand, held it at arm's length, then dropped to his knees be ide the corpse. "Whoever did it," he said, after a hasty examination, "made a sure job. Not only is the fellow's throat cut, but he's been sttbbed in the heart. Nothing here that I can do; the man is dead." "How long would you pay, doctor?" de- manded the captain, stepping forward a little; and the doctor examined the wounds, felt the body, and replied—"Oh, not more than twenty or thirtv minutes, I should say." "And you gentlemen," asked the cap- tain, turning toward me, "say that you vroro out in the bows for at least half an hour and heard no noise whatever?" "That is true," I replied. "Humph Quick work," said the cap- tain turning toward me, "saying that you ware out in the bows for at least half an hour and heard no noise whatever?" "That is true," I replied. "'Humph Quick work," said the cap- Is in, and faced the doctor. "Do you know who the man is? he asked. Man from out of the steerage, I should sa.y," replied the doctor. The captain leaned forward and thrust his fingers into the dead man's pockets. Into one and another he plunged his hand to bring it out empty, to my in- creasing astonishment, for there is scarce- ly a man in the world who has not some- thing of his personal possessions about him. But in this instance there was neither coin, a key ring, a pocketknife, nor a letter. The singularity of this dis- covery impresse d the captain alsoi for he renewed the search in a more careful manner. This time he was rewarded by finding in the dead man's vest, a little roil of paper-tIghtly rolled-but not in- significant. as if the man had taken care to carry whatever information it con- tained in as small a space as possible. While the doctor held the lantern, and all of us save the professor crowded eagerly forward in the hope of discover- ing in this mere fragment a key to the tragedy, the captain. carefully unrolled the little cylinder. He held it closely to the light to read the lead pencil scrawl thereon, and spelled aloud—"John Car- ter. I was astonished. Indeed almost strick- en aghast by this disclosure. My name There was a subdued movement, and I knew that every one was looking at me. Even the professor had lost his sphinx- like attitude and suddenly To':e from his seat. "Carter! John Carter Why, that is my name!" I said. "Here, let me see it I took the scrap of paper in my hand and convinced myself, as if the captain could have been mistaken in his reading, and scanned it carefully. It was the handwriting of a foreigner, seeming to me to present the peculiarities of a German chirography, but it was unmis- takably my name. "Do you know the man, Mr. Carter?" asked the captain quietly, and I reached over for the lantern, bent forward, and looked at the dead man's face. It was the face of a man scarcely more than thirty years old, fairly clean cut, quite determined, and bearing the sun's imprint o fan outdoor life.' One of the listless hands that lay palm upward was calloused as if by toil. The clothing, of t good, plain quality, was that of a labour- ing man. For a long time I sought to recognise and identify the upturned face. I could not. I had no recollection of ever having seen it before. Still bewil- dered by the stra/nge fact that my name scrawled on a piece of paper was his only possession, I rose to my feet and faced the officer. "No," I said. "I don't know him. In- deed, sir, I don't believe that I have ever before seen him, even here on the ship. How my name came to him, and was his only possession, is more than I can answer; also it is something I should like very much to know." For another minute the captain moved the lantern backward and forward, and then, apparently annoyed by the fact that four or five others, stokers off watch, a passenger or two, and a steward, had swelled the group, turned to the quarter- master and said, "Carry it below." Then addressing me, "Mr. Carter, will you and the professor please come with me to my cabin ? We must try and get to the bottom of this some way." I Wfi obediently followed him to his I cabin, where lights glared brightly. The I The captain smoothed out the slip of I paper and switched on the desk lamp above his .table. "What do you make of it?" he asked, whirling his swivel chair so that he could face me. "Is it your handwriting?" "No," I replied, "I am sura it ie not. Let me have another leok. The captain opened a drawer and took out a powerful reading glass, and we took turns in looking at those words while the professor whistled absently through his teeth. "What do you make of it, sir?" asked the captain, holding the glass toward the professor, who thereupon crossed the cabin to the desk, focused the glass to suit his eyes and scanned our only sorap of evidence. Quietly he broke into that whistling noise again, so swiftly as to be almost inaudible, then laid the glass down, leaned back in the chair, and said, Writ- ten by a German. Did it in a hurry, too on a scrap of paper torn from the flyleaf of a cheap German novel picked up from a steamer chair on the promen- ade deck. Ship's pencil, borrowed, per- haps from one of the stewards." He put the tips of his fingers together, and began that whistling noise once more and, in my eagerness to know how he conjectured all this, I might have im- pulsively begged him to stop whistling and explain his reasoning, had he not, with that queer way he had of answering j unasked questions, done so of his own violation. "The handwriting is distinctly German," he said, staring at the lamp shade and speaking as if voicing his de- ductions aloud to see how they sounded to his own ears. "The paper is from a German novel, because that kind of paper is quite individual to them, and, further- 1 more, I saw one lying on a steamer chair on the promenade deck at three ,o'cloèk yesteiday afternoon, and was amused by the title, 'Dc.r Landspitler.' Whoever wrote the name 'John Carter' evidently had no paper in his pocket. He wrote in haste, probably against the side of the deck housing, for, between the 'C 'I and the 'a' in 'Carter,' he ran against' a. large round obstruction like a bolthead, and shifted his paper. He would have been in no such haste had he not borrowed the pencil. His memory would have lasted him until he could go below. He was from the steerage, so therefore he had no business on the first- class deck, and that also would have im- polled him to haste. Had he a pencil of his own, he would probably have waited until he was clear of forbidden territory before jotting down a name. I wonder," he said, in an abrupt, jerky fashion, and directly addressing us, "if it isn't pos- sible that he visited the promenade deck for the express purpose of learning who a certain niaii was, and then, after mak- ing a casual inquiry from the person nearest at hand, did not then and there jot down the name ? Bv Geortle. I believe that must have been it, and- Cap- tain, why don't you ask the stewards, one by one, to take a look at the dead man and say whether or not such a man was seen on deck yesterday afternoon ?" The capta:n's action expressed his ap- proval of the suggestion. He swung round and pressed a. button on the wall, and when his steward appeared in answer to his summons but a minute later, as if he had been waiting, the ship's master said to him, "Jones, go below and find out what steward did deck duty yester- day afternoon, a.nd bring him up here at once." "Yes, sir." The steward was gone on his errand, and the captain sat there looking first at the professor, then at me. I think it was on me that he be- stowed most of his scrutiny, as if he were still unconvinced that I had told all I knew. Indeed, I believe he was actually skeptical of me, for w hen the two stewards appeared after what had dragged to a long interval of speechless waiting on our part, the captain gave evidence of it. The new steward's jacket was a little awry, and his hair tumbled proving that he had been hastily roused from bed. "You are Martin, aren't you?" the master asked abruptly, and the steward said "Yes, sir." "All right. You're the 'man I want. Come below with me." The professor and I both got to our feet, and for the first time the captain displayed a slight awkwardness, but a-so his mastery. "If you gentlemen don't mind," he said quietly, "I think you had best remain here until I return. I shall conduct this part of the examination in my own way." There was a oertain coolness in his voice that botrayed his suspicions, or at least a determination to be alone when questioning the man who might prove to be a witness. He returned in a few minutes, and I was relieved to note that he smiled with an evidence of grave satisfaction. "Right the first time he exclaimed, as he dropped into a chair and tossed his cap on the table. "Martin recognised him at once. Saw him up on the promenade deck at about four-thirty yesterday after- noon. Started to tell him that steerage passengers weren't allowed there when the chap said he'd come there to find out who a certain man was. Pointed Mr. Carter out w here he stood talking to Miss Dorion. Said 'That's the man.' Martin thinks the fellow was German because he talked broken English. Mar- tin told him the name for Cartef, and sure enough, this steerage man fumbles for a paper and pencil. Can't find any. Martin admits he tore a piece out a book some passenger had left on a steamer chair and gave it to tlÙ; fellow, together with a lead pencil. Man writes down name, makes some sort of apology for coming on to the deck, says it was im- portant for him to know, and slides back to the lower deck. Professor, you were right, after all." (To be Continued.)