JOHN BRUCE turned the corner, and, on the opposite side of the street, drew back under the shelter of a door porch where he could command a view of the entrance to Paul Veniza's house. And now he stood motionless, waiting with cold patience, his eyes fixed on the doorway across the street. He was there because Crang was either at the present moment within the house, or presently would come to the house. It was nearly eight o'clock. The old traveling pawn-shop was drawn up before the door.

He had no definite plan now. No plan was needed. He was simply waiting for Crang.

His eyes had not left the doorway. Suddenly, tense, he leaned a little forward. The door opened. No; it was only Hawkins! He relaxed again.

Only Hawkins! John Bruce's face grew a little sterner, his lips a little more tightly compressed. Only Hawkins—only an old man who swayed there outside the door, and whose face was covered with his hands.

He watched Hawkins. The old cabman moved blindly along the sidewalk for the few steps that took him to the corner, and turning the corner, out of sight of the house, sat down on the edge of the curb, and with his shoulders sunk forward, buried his face in his hands again.

And John Bruce understood; and his fingers, in his pocket, snuggled curiously around the revolver that was hidden there. He wanted to go to that old bent figure there in its misery and despair, who was fighting now so obviously to get a grip upon himself. But he did not move. He could not tell Hawkins what he meant to do.

Were they minutes or were they hours that passed? Again the front door of Paul Veniza's house opened, and again John Bruce leaned tensely forward. But this time he did not relax. Claire! His eyes drank in the slim, little, dark-garbed figure, greedy that no smallest gesture, no movement, no single line of face or form should escape him. It was perhaps the last time that he would see her. He would not see her in his prison cell—he would not let her go there.

A queer sound issued from his throat, a strange and broken little cry. She was gone now. She had crossed the sidewalk and entered the traveling pawn-shop. The curtains were down, and she was hidden from sight. And for a moment there seemed a blur and mist before John Bruce's eyes—then Hawkins, still around the corner, still with crouched shoulders, still with his face hidden in his hands, took form and grew distinct again. And then after a little while, Hawkins rose slowly, and came back along the street, and climbed into the driver's seat of the traveling pawnshop, and sat fumbling at the wheel with his hands.

The door of Paul Veniza's house opened for the third time—and now John Bruce laughed in a low, grim 'way, and his hand, hugging the revolver in his pocket, tightened and grew vise-like in its grip upon the weapon. It was Crang at last!

And then John Bruce's hand came out from his pocket—empty.

Not in front of Claire!

He swept his hand across his forehead. It was as though a sudden shock had aroused him to some stark reality to which he had been strangely oblivious. Not in front of Claire! Claire was in the car there. He felt himself bewildered for a moment. Hawkins had said nothing about driving Claire too.

Crang's voice reached him from across the street:

“All right, Hawkins! Go ahead!”

Where was Paul Veniza? Crang had got into the car, and the car was moving forward. Wasn't Paul Veniza going too?

Well, it did not matter, did it? Crang was there. And it was a long way to Staten Island, and before then a chance would come, must come; he would make one somehow, and——-

John Bruce ran swiftly out into the street, and, as the car turned the corner, swung himself lightly and silently in beside Hawkins. Crang would not know. The curtained panel at the back of the driver's seat hid the interior of the car from view.

Hawkins turned his head, stared into John Bruce's face for an instant, half in a startled, half in a curiously perplexed way, made as though to speak—and then, without a word, gave his attention to the wheel again.

The car rattled on down the block.

John Bruce, as silent as Hawkins, stared ahead. On the ferry! Yes, that was it! It was a long way to Staten Island. Claire would not stay cooped up in a closed car below; she would go up on deck to get the air. And even if Crang accompanied her, it would not prove very difficult to separate them.

He looked around suddenly and intercepted a furtive, puzzled glance cast at him by Hawkins.

And then Hawkins spoke for the first time.

“You'd better get off, John Bruce,” he said in a choked voice. “You've done all you could, and God bless you over and over again for it, but you can't do anything more now, and it won't do you any good to come any further.”

“No,” said John Bruce, “I'm going all the way, Hawkins.”

Hawkins relapsed into silence. They were near the Battery when he spoke again.

“All the way,” Hawkins repeated then, as though it were but a moment gone since John Bruce had spoken. “All the way. Yes, that's it—after twenty years. That's when I pawned her—twenty years ago. And I couldn't never redeem her the way Paul Veniza said. And she ain't never known, and thank God she ain't never going to know, that I—that I——” A tear trickled down the old face, and splashed upon the wrinkled skin of the hand upon the wheel. And then old Hawkins smiled suddenly, and nodded toward the clock on the cowl-board—and the speed of the car increased. “I looked up the ferry time,” said Hawkins.

They swung out in front of the ferry house, and the car stopped. A ferry, just berthing, was beginning to disgorge its stream of motors and pedestrians.

“We're first in line,” said Hawkins, nodding his head. “We'll have to wait a minute or two.”

John Bruce nodded back indifferently. His eyes were fixed on the ferry that he could just see through the ferry house. Certainly, Claire would not stay down in the confined space of the ferry's run-way all the trip; or if she did, Crang wouldn't. His face set. Quite unconsciously his hand had gone to his pocket, and he found his fingers now snuggling again around the weapon that lay there.

And then he looked at Hawkins—and stared again at the other, startled. Strange, he had not noticed it before! The smile on Hawkins' face did not hide it. The man seemed to have aged a thousand years; the old face was pinched and worn, and deep in the faded, watery blue eyes were hurt and agony. And a great sympathy for the man surged upon John Bruce. He could not tell Hawkins, but—— He reached out, and laid his hand on the other's arm.

“Don't take it too hard, Hawkins,” he said gently. “I—perhaps—perhaps, well, there's always a last chance that something may happen.”

“Me?” said Hawkins, and bent down over his gears as he got the signal to move forward. “Do I look like that? I—I thought it all out last night, and I don't feel that way. I'll tell you what I was thinking about. I was just thinking that I did something to-day when I left my room that I haven't done before—in twenty years. I've left the light burning.”

John Bruce stared a little helplessly.

“Yes,” said Hawkins. He smiled at John Bruce. “Don't you worry about me. Mabbe you don't understand, but that's all I've been thinking about since we've been waiting here. I've left the light burning.”

Sick at heart, John Bruce turned his head away. He made no response.

Hawkins paid the fare, ran the car through the ferry house, and aboard the ferry itself. He was fumbling with a catch of some kind behind his seat, as he proceeded slowly up the run-way.

“He'll want a little air in there,” said Hawkins, “because it's close down here. It opens back, you know—the whole panel. I had it made that way when the car was turned into a traveling pawn-shop—didn't know what tough kind of a customer Paul might run into sometime, and I'd want to get in beside him quick to help, and I——” The old cabman straightened up.

The car was at the extreme forward end of the ferry—and suddenly it leaped forward. “Jump, John Bruce! Jump clear!” old Hawkins cried. “There's only two of us going all the way—and that's Crang and me! Claire and Paul 'll be along in another car—tell them it was an accident, and——”

John Bruce was on his feet—too late. There was a crash, and the collapsible steel gates went down before the plunging car, and the guard chain beyond was swept from its sockets. He reeled and lost his balance as something, a piece of wreckage from the gates or chain posts, struck him. He felt the hot blood spurt from shoulder and arm. And then, as the car shot out in mid-air, diving madly for the water below, and he was thrown from his feet, he found himself clinging to the footboard, fighting wildly to reach the door handle. Claire was in there! Claire was in there!

There was a terrific splash. A mighty rush of water closed over him. Horror, fear, madness possessed his soul. Claire was in there! Claire was in there—and somehow Hawkins had not known! Yes, he had the door handle now! He wrenched and tore at the door. The pressure of the water seemed to pit itself against his strength. He worked like a maniac. It opened. He had it now! It opened. He could scarcely see in the murky water—only the indistinct outlines of two forms undulating grotesquely, the hands of one gripped around the throat of the other—only that, and floating within his reach a woman's dress. He snatched at the dress. His lungs were bursting. Claire! It was Claire! She was in his arms—then blackness—then sunlight again—and then, faintly, he heard a cheer.

He held her head above the water. She was motionless, inert.

“Claire! Claire!” he cried. Fear, cold, horrible, seized upon him. He swam in mad haste for the iron ladder rungs at the side of the slip.

Faces, a multitude of them, seemed to peer at him from above, from the brink of this abyss in which he was struggling. He heard a cheer again. Why were they cheering? Were they cheering because two men were locked in a death grip deep down there in the water below?

“Claire!” he cried out again.

And then, as his hand grasped the lower rung, she opened her eyes slowly, and a tremor ran through her frame.

She lived! Was he weak with the sudden revulsion that swept upon him now? Was that it? He tried to carry her up—and found that it was beyond his strength. And he could only cling there and wait for assistance from above, thankful even for the support the water gave his weight. It was strange! What were those red stains that spread out and tinged the water around him? His arm! Yes, he remembered now! His shoulder and arm! It was the loss of blood that must have sapped his strength, that must be sapping it now so that—-

“John!” Claire whispered. “You—John!”

He buried his face in the great wet masses of hair that fell around her. Weak? No, he was not weak! He could hold her here always—always.

He felt her clutch spasmodically at his arm.

“And—and Hawkins, John?” she faltered.

He lifted his head and stared at the water. Little waves rippled across its surface, gamboling inconsequentially—at play. There wasn't anything else there. There never would be. He made no answer.

A sob shook her shoulders.

“How—how did it happen?” she whispered again.

“I think a—a gear jammed, or something,” he said huskily.

He heard her speak again, but her voice was very low. He bent his head until it rested upon hers to catch the words.

She was crying softly.

“Dear, dear Hawkins—dear Daddy Hawkins,” she said.

A great mist seemed to gather before John Bruce's eyes. A voice seemed to come again, Hawkins' voice; and words that he understood now, Hawkins' words:

“I've left the light burning.”


Share on Twitter Share on Facebook