THE car started off. It turned the corner. John Bruce looked around him. He was standing on precisely the same spot from which he had entered the car. He had been driven around the block, that was all!

He caught his breath. Was it real? That wondrous face which, almost as though at the touch of some magician's wand, had risen before him out of the blackness! His blood afire was leaping through his veins again. That face!

He ran to the corner and peered down the street. The car was perhaps a hundred yards away—and suddenly John Bruce started to run again, following the car. Madness! His lips had set grim and hard. Who was she that prowled the night in that bizarre traveling pawn-shop? Where did she live? Was it actually the Arabian Nights back again? He laughed at himself—not mirthfully. But still he ran on.

The car was outdistancing him. Fool! For a woman's face! Even though it were a divine symphony of beauty! Fool? Love-smitten idiot? Not at all! It was his job! Nice sound to that word in conjunction with that haunting memory of loveliness—job!

The traveling pawn-shop turned into Fourth Avenue, and headed downtown. John Bruce caught the sound of a street car gong, spurted and swung breathlessly to the platform of a car going in the same direction.

Of course, it was his job! The exquisite Monsieur Henri de Lavergne was mixed up in this.


The street car conductor stared at him. John Bruce scowled. He swore again—but this time under his breath. It brought a sudden wild, unreasonable rage and rebellion, the thought that there should be anything, even of the remotest nature, between the glorious vision in that car and the mincing, silken-tongued manager of Larmon's gambling hell. But there was, for all that, wasn't there? How else had she come there? It was the usual thing, wasn't it? And—beware of the conductor! The warning now appeared to be very apt! And how well he had profited by it! A fool chasing a siren's beauty!

His face grew very white.

“John Bruce,” he whispered to himself, “if I could get at you I'd pound your face to pulp for that!”

He leaned out from the platform. The traveling pawn-shop had increased its speed and was steadily leaving the street car behind. He looked back in the opposite direction. The street was almost entirely deserted as far as traffic went. The only vehicle in sight was a taxi bowling along a block in the rear. He laughed out again harshly. The conductor eyed him suspiciously.

John Bruce dropped off the car, and planted himself in the path of the on-coming taxi. Call it his job, then, if it pleased him! He owed it to Larmon to get to the bottom of this. How extremely logical he was! The transaction in the traveling pawn-shop had been so fair-minded as almost to exonerate Monsieur Henri de Lavergne on the face of it, and if it had not been for a certain vision therein, and a fire in his own veins, and a fury at the thought that even her acquaintance with the gambling manager was profanity, he could have heartily applauded Monsieur Henri de Lavergne for a unique and original——

The taxi bellowed at him, hoarsely indignant.

John Bruce stepped neatly to one side—and jumped on the footboard.

“Here, you! What the hell!” shouted the chauffeur. “You——”

“Push your foot on it a little,” said John Bruce calmly. “And don't lose sight of that closed car ahead.”

“Lose sight of nothin'!” yelled the chauffeur. “I've got a fare, an'——”

“I hear him,” said John Bruce composedly. He edged in beside the chauffeur, and one of the crisp, new, fifty-dollar banknotes passed into the latter's possession. “Keep that car in sight, and don't make it hopelessly obvious that you are following it. I'll attend to your fare.”

He screwed around in his seat. An elderly, gray-whiskered gentleman, a patently irate gentleman, was pounding furiously on the glass panel.

“We should be turnin' down this street we're just passin',” grinned the chauffeur.

John Bruce lowered the panel.

“What's the meaning of this?” thundered the fare.

“I'm very sorry, sir,” said John Bruce respectfully.

“A little detective business.” He coughed. It was really quite true. His voice became confidential. “The occupants of that car ahead got away from me. I—I want to arrest one of them. I'm very sorry to put you to any inconvenience, but it couldn't be helped. There was no other way than to commandeer your taxi. It will be only for a matter of a few minutes.”

“It's preposterous!” spluttered the fare. “Outrageous! I—I'll——”

“Yes, sir,” said John Bruce. “But there was nothing else I could do. You can report it to headquarters, of course.”

He closed the panel.

“Fly-cop—not!” said the chauffeur, with his tongue in his cheek. “Any fly-cop that ever got his mitt on a whole fifty-dollar bill all at one time couldn't be pried lose from it with a crowbar!”

“It lets you out, doesn't it?” inquired John Bruce pleasantly. “Now let's see you earn it.”

“I'll earn it!” said the chauffeur with unction. “You leave it to me, boss!”

The quarry, in the shape of the traveling pawn shop, directed its way into the heart of the East Side. Presently it turned into a hiving, narrow street, where hawkers with their push-carts in the light of flaring, spitting gasoline banjoes were doing a thriving business. The two cars went more slowly now. There was very little room. The taxi almost upset a fish vendor's wheeled emporium. The vendor was eloquent—fervently so. But the chauffeur's eyes, after an impersonal and indifferent glance at the other, returned to the car ahead. The taxi continued on its way, trailing fifty yards in the rear of the traveling pawn-shop.

At the end of the block the car ahead turned the corner. As the taxi, in turn, rounded the corner, John Bruce saw that the traveling pawn-shop was drawn up before a small building that was nested in between two tenements. The blood quickened in his pulse. The girl had alighted, and was entering the small building.

“Hit it up a little to the next corner, turn it, and let me off there,” directed John Bruce.

“I get you!” said the chauffeur.

The taxi swept past the car at the curb. Another minute and it had swung the next corner, and was slowing down. John Bruce jumped to the ground before the taxi stopped.

“Good-night!” he called to the chauffeur.

He waved his hand debonairly at the scowling, whiskered visage that was watching him from the interior of the cab, and hurriedly retraced his way back around the corner.

The traveling pawn-shop had turned and was driving away. John Bruce moderated his pace, and sauntered on along the street. He smiled half grimly, half contentedly to himself. The “trip to Persia” had led him a little farther afield than Monsieur Henri de Lavergne had perhaps counted on—or than he, John Bruce, himself had, either! But he knew now where the most glorious woman he had ever seen in his life lived, or, at least, was to be found again. No, it wasn't the moon! To him, she was exactly that. And he had not seen her for the last time, either! That was what he was here for, though he wasn't so mad as to risk, or, rather, invite an affront to begin with by so bald an act as to go to the front door, say, and ring the bell—which would be tantamount to informing her that he had—er—played the detective from the moment he had left her in the car. To-morrow, perhaps, or the next day, or whenever fate saw fit to be in a kindly mood, a meeting that possessed all the hall-marks of being quite inadvertent offered him high hopes. Later, if fate still were kind, he would tell her that he had followed her, and what she would be thoroughly justified in misconstruing now, she might then accept as the tribute to her that he meant it to be—when she knew him better.

John Bruce was whistling softly to himself.

He was passing the house now, his scrutiny none the less exhaustive because it was apparently casual. It was a curious little two-story place tucked away between the two flanking tenements, the further one of which alone separated the house from the corner he was approaching. Not a light showed from the front of the house. Yes, it was quite a curious place! Although curtains were on the lower front windows, indicating that it was purely a dwelling, the windows themselves were of abnormal size, as though, originally perhaps, the ground floor had once been a shop of some kind.

John Bruce turned the corner, and from a comparatively deserted street found himself among the vendors' push-carts and the spluttering gasoline torches again. He skirted the side of the tenement that made the corner, discovered the fact that a lane cut in from the street and ran past the rear of the tenement, which he mentally noted must likewise run past the rear of the little house that was now so vitally interesting to him—and halted on the opposite side of the lane to survey his surroundings. Here a dirty and uninviting café attracted his attention, which, if its dingy sign were to be believed, was run by one Palasco Ratti, a gentleman of parts in the choice of wines which he offered to his patrons. John Bruce surveyed Palasco Ratti's potential clientele—the street was full of it; the shawled women, the dark-visaged, ear-ringed men. He smiled a little to himself. No—probably not the half-naked children who sprawled in the gutter and crawled amongst the push-carts' wheels! How was it that she should ever have come to live in a neighborhood to which the designation “foreign,” as far as she was concerned, must certainly apply in particularly full measure? It was strange that she——

John Bruce's mental soliloquy came to an abrupt end. Half humorously, half grimly his eyes were riveted on the push-cart at the curb directly opposite to him, the proprietor of which dealt in that brand of confection so much in favor on the East Side—a great slab of candy from which, as occasion required, he cut slices with a large carving knife. A brown and grimy fist belonging to a tot of a girl of perhaps eight or nine years of age, who had crept in under the pushcart, was stealthily feeling its way upward behind the vendor's back, its objective being, obviously, a generous piece of candy that reposed on the edge of the push-cart. There was a certain fascination in watching developments. It was quite immoral, of course, but his sympathies were with the child. It was a gamble whether the grimy little hand would close on the coveted prize and disappear again victorious, or whether the vendor would turn in time to frustrate the raid.

The tot's hand crept nearer and nearer its goal.

No one, save himself of the many about, appeared to notice the little cameo of primal instinct that was on exhibition before them. The small and dirty fingers touched the candy, closed on it, and were withdrawn—but were withdrawn too quickly. The child, at the psychological moment under stress of excitement, eagerness and probably a wildly thumping heart, had failed in finesse. Perhaps the paper that covered the surface of the push-cart and on which the wares were displayed rattled; perhaps the sudden movement in itself attracted the vendor's attention. The man whirled and made a vicious dive for the child as she darted out from between the wheels. And then she screamed. The man had hit her a brutal clout across the head.

John Bruce straightened suddenly, a dull red creeping from his set jaw to his cheeks. Still clutching the candy in her hand the child was running blindly and in terror straight toward him. The man struck again, and the child staggered, and, reeling, sought sanctuary between John Bruce's legs. A bearded, snarling face in pursuit loomed up before him—and John Bruce struck, struck as he had once struck before on a white moon-flooded deck when a man, a brute beast, had gone down before him—and the vendor, screaming shrilly, lay kicking in pain on the sidewalk.

It had happened quickly. Not one, probably, of those on the street had caught the details of the little scene. And now the tiny thief had wriggled through his legs, and with the magnificent irresponsibility of childhood had darted away and was lost to sight. It had happened quickly—but not so quickly as the gathering together of an angry, surging crowd around John Bruce.

Some one in the crowd shrieked out above the clamor of voices:

“He kill-a Pietro! Kill-a da dude!”

It was a fire-brand.

John Bruce backed away a little—up against the door of Signor Pascalo Ratti's wine shop. A glance showed him that, with the blow he had struck, his light overcoat had become loosened, and that he was flaunting an immaculate and gleaming shirt-front in the faces of the crowd. And between their Pietro with a broken jaw and an intruder far too well dressed to please their fancy, the psychology of the crowd became the psychology of a mob.

The fire-brand took.

“Kill-a da dude!” It was echoed in chorus—and then a rush.

It flung John Bruce heavily against the wine shop door, and the door crashed inward—and for a moment he was down, and the crowd, like a snarling wolf pack, was upon him. And then the massive shoulders heaved, and he shook them off and was on his feet; and all that was primal, elemental in the man was dominant, the mad glorying in strife upon him, and he struck right and left with blows before which, again and again, a man went down.

But the rush still bore him backward, and the doorway was black and jammed with reenforcements constantly pouring in. Tables crashed to the floor, chairs were overturned. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a white-mustached Italian leap upon the counter and alternately wave his arms and wring his hands together frantically.

“For the mercy of God!” the man screamed—and then his voice added to the din in a flood of impassioned Italian.

It was Signor Pascalo Ratti, probably.

John Bruce was panting now, his breath coming in short, hard gasps. It was not easy to keep them in front of him, to keep his back free. He caught the glint of knife blades now.

He was borne back foot by foot, the space widening as he retreated from the door, giving room for more to come upon him at the same time. A knife blade lunged at him. He evaded it—but another glittering in the ceiling light at the same instant, flashing a murderous arc in its downward plunge, caught him, and, before he could turn, sank home.

A yell of triumph went up. He felt no pain. Only a sudden sickening of his brain, a sudden weakness that robbed his limbs of strength, and he reeled and staggered, fighting blindly now.

And then his brain cleared. He flung a quick glance over his shoulder. Yes, there was one chance. Only one! And in another minute, with another knife thrust, it would be too late. He whirled suddenly and raced down the length of the café. In the moment's grace earned through surprise at his sudden action, he gained a door he had seen there, and threw himself upon it. It was not fastened, though there was a key in the lock. He whipped out the key, plunged through, locked the door on the outside with the fraction of a second to spare before they came battering upon it—and stumbled and fell headlong out into the open.

It was as though he were lashing his brain into action and virility. It kept wobbling and fogging. Didn't the damned thing understand that his life, was at stake! He lurched to his feet. He was in a lane.

In front of him, like great looming shadows, shadows that wobbled too, he saw the shapes of two tenements, and like an inset between them, a small house with a light gleaming in the lower window.

That was where the vision lived. Only there was a fence between. Sanctuary! He lunged toward the fence. He had not meant to—to make a call to-night—she—she might have misunderstood. But in a second now they would come sweeping around into the lane after him from the street.

He clawed his way to the top of the fence, and because his strength was almost gone fell from the top of the fence to the ground on the other side.

And now he crawled, crawled with what frantic haste he could, because he heard the uproar from the street. And he laughed. The kid was probably munching her hunk of candy now. Queer things—kids! Got her candy—happy——

He reached up to the sill of an open window, clawed his way upward, as he had clawed his way up the fence, straddled the sill unsteadily, clutched at nothingness to save himself, and toppled inward to the floor of the room.

A yell from the head of the lane, a cry from the other end of the room, spurred him into final effort. He gained his feet, and swept his hand, wet with blood, across his eyes. That was the vision there running toward him, wasn't it?—the wonderful, glorious vision!

“Pardon me!” said John Bruce in a sing-song voice, and with a desperate effort reached up and pulled down the window shade. He tried to smile “Queer—queer things—kids—aren't they? She—she just ducked out from under.”

The girl was staring at him wildly, her hands tightly clasped to her bosom.

“Pardon me!” whispered John Bruce thickly. He couldn't see her any more, just a multitude of objects whirling like a kaleidoscope before his eyes. “She—she got the candy,” said John Bruce, attempting to smile again—and pitched unconscious to the floor.

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