Thursday, November 8, 2007


The Fifth String By John Philip Sousa

The Fifth String
By John Philip Sousa
The coming of Diotti to America
had awakened more than usual
interest in the man and his work. His
marvelous success as violinist in the
leading capitals of Europe, together with
many brilliant contributions to the
literature of his instrument, had long been
favorably commented on by the critics
of the old world. Many stories of his
struggles and his triumphs had found
their way across the ocean and had been
read and re-read with interest.
Therefore, when Mr. Henry Perkins,
the well-known impresario, announced
with an air of conscious pride and
pardonable enthusiasm that he had secured
Diotti for a ``limited'' number of
concerts, Perkins' friends assured that
wide-awake gentleman that his foresight
amounted to positive genius, and
they predicted an unparalleled success
for his star. On account of his wonderful
ability as player, Diotti was a
favorite at half the courts of Europe, and
the astute Perkins enlarged upon this
fact without regard for the feelings of
the courts or the violinist.
On the night preceding Diotti's debut
in New York, he was the center of
attraction at a reception given by Mrs.
Llewellyn, a social leader, and a devoted
patron of the arts. The violinist made
a deep impression on those fortunate
enough to be near him during the evening.
He won the respect of the men
by his observations on matters of
international interest, and the admiration of
the gentler sex by his chivalric estimate
of woman's influence in the world's
progress, on which subject he talked
with rarest good humor and delicately
implied gallantry.
During one of those sudden and
unexplainable lulls that always occur in
general drawing-room conversations, Diotti
turned to Mrs. Llewellyn and whispered:
``Who is the charming young
woman just entering?''
``The beauty in white?''
``Yes, the beauty in white,'' softly
echoing Mrs. Llewellyn's query. He
leaned forward and with eager eyes
gazed in admiration at the new-comer.
He seemed hypnotized by the vision,
which moved slowly from between the
blue-tinted portieres and stood for the
instant, a perfect embodiment of radiant
womanhood, silhouetted against the
silken drapery.
``That is Miss Wallace, Miss Mildred
Wallace, only child of one of New
York's prominent bankers.''
``She is beautiful--a queen by divine
right,'' cried he, and then with a mingling
of impetuosity and importunity,
entreated his hostess to present him.
And thus they met.
Mrs. Llewellyn's entertainments were
celebrated, and justly so. At her receptions
one always heard the best singers
and players of the season, and Epicurus'
soul could rest in peace, for her chef had
an international reputation. Oh,
remember, you music-fed ascetic, many,
aye, very many, regard the transition
from Tschaikowsky to terrapin, from
Beethoven to burgundy with hearts
aflame with anticipatory joy--and Mrs.
Llewellyn's dining-room was crowded.
Miss Wallace and Diotti had
wandered into the conservatory.
``A desire for happiness is our common
heritage,'' he was saying in his
richly melodious voice.
``But to define what constitutes
happiness is very difficult,'' she replied.
``Not necessarily,'' he went on; ``if
the motive is clearly within our grasp,
the attainment is possible.''
``For example?'' she asked.
``The miser is happy when he hoards
his gold; the philanthropist when he
distributes his. The attainment is identical,
but the motives are antipodal.''
``Then one possessing sufficient
motives could be happy without end?''
she suggested doubtingly.
``That is my theory. The Niobe of
old had happiness within her power.''
``The gods thought not,'' said she;
``in their very pity they changed her
into stone, and with streaming eyes she
ever tells the story of her sorrow.''
``But are her children weeping?''
he asked. ``I think not. Happiness
can bloom from the seeds of deepest
woe,'' and in a tone almost reverential,
he continued: ``I remember a picture in
one of our Italian galleries that always
impressed me as the ideal image of
maternal happiness. It is a painting of
the Christ-mother standing by the body
of the Crucified. Beauty was still hers,
and the dress of grayish hue, nun-like in
its simplicity, seemed more than royal
robe. Her face, illumined as with a light
from heaven, seemed inspired with this
thought: `They have killed Him--they
have killed my son! Oh, God, I thank
Thee that His suffering is at an end!'
And as I gazed at the holy face, another
light seemed to change it by
degrees from saddened motherhood to
triumphant woman! Then came: `He
is not dead, He but sleeps; He will
rise again, for He is the best beloved
of the Father!' ''
``Still, fate can rob us of our patrimony,''
she replied, after a pause.
``Not while life is here and eternity
beyond,'' he said, reassuringly.
``What if a soul lies dormant and
will not arouse?'' she asked.
``There are souls that have no motive
low enough for earth, but only high
enough for heaven,'' he said, with evident
intention, looking almost directly
at her.
``Then one must come who speaks
in nature's tongue,'' she continued.
``And the soul will then awake,'' he
added earnestly.
``But is there such a one?'' she
``Perhaps,'' he almost whispered, his
thought father to the wish.
``I am afraid not,'' she sighed. ``I
studied drawing, worked diligently and,
I hope, intelligently, and yet I was
quickly convinced that a counterfeit
presentment of nature was puny and
insignificant. I painted Niagara. My
friends praised my effort. I saw
Niagara again--I destroyed the picture.''
``But you must be prepared to
accept the limitations of man and his
work,'' said the philosophical violinist
``Annihilation of one's own identity
in the moment is possible in nature's
domain--never in man's. The resistless,
never-ending rush of the waters,
madly churning, pitilessly dashing
against the rocks below; the mighty
roar of the loosened giant; that was
Niagara. My picture seemed but a
smear of paint.''
``Still, man has won the admiration
of man by his achievements,'' he said.
``Alas, for me,'' she sighed, ``I have
not felt it.''
``Surely you have been stirred by the
wonders man has accomplished in
music's realm?'' Diotti ventured.
``I never have been.'' She spoke
sadly and reflectively.
``But does not the passion-laden theme
of a master, or the marvelous feeling of
a player awaken your emotions?'' persisted he.
She stood leaning lightly against a
pillar by the fountain. ``I never hear a
pianist, however great and famous, but
I see the little cream-colored hammers
within the piano bobbing up and down
like acrobatic brownies. I never hear
the plaudits of the crowd for the
artist and watch him return to bow his
thanks, but I mentally demand that
these little acrobats, each resting on an
individual pedestal, and weary from his
efforts, shall appear to receive a share
of the applause.
``When I listen to a great singer,''
continued this world-defying skeptic,
``trilling like a thrush, scampering over
the scales, I see a clumsy lot of ah, ah,
ahs, awkwardly, uncertainly ambling up
the gamut, saying, `were it not for us
she could not sing thus--give us our
meed of praise.' ''
Slowly he replied: ``Masters have
written in wondrous language and masters
have played with wondrous power.''
``And I so long to hear,'' she said,
almost plaintively. ``I marvel at the
invention of the composer and the skill
of the player, but there I cease.''
He looked at her intently. She was
standing before him, not a block of
chiseled ice, but a beautiful, breathing
woman. He offered her his arm and
together they made their way to the
``Perhaps, some day, one will come
who can sing a song of perfect love in
perfect tones, and your soul will be
attuned to his melody.''
``Perhaps--and good-night,'' she
softly said, leaving his arm and joining
her friends, who accompanied her to the
The intangible something that places
the stamp of popular approval on
one musical enterprise, while another
equally artistic and as cleverly managed
languishes in a condition of unendorsed
greatness, remains one of the unsolved
When a worker in the vineyard of
music or the drama offers his choicest
tokay to the public, that fickle coquette
may turn to the more ordinary and less
succulent concord. And the worker
and the public itself know not why.
It is true, Diotti's fame had preceded
him, but fame has preceded others and
has not always been proof against financial
disaster. All this preliminary,--and
it is but necessary to recall that on the
evening of December the twelfth Diotti
made his initial bow in New York, to
an audience that completely filled every
available space in the Academy of
Music--a representative audience,
distinguished alike for beauty, wealth and
When the violinist appeared for his
solo, he quietly acknowledged the cordial
reception of the audience, and
immediately proceeded with the business
of the evening. At a slight nod from
him the conductor rapped attention,
then launched the orchestra into the
introduction of the concerto, Diotti's
favorite, selected for the first number.
As the violinist turned to the
conductor he faced slightly to the left and in
a direct line with the second proscenium
box. His poise was admirable. He was
handsome, with the olive-tinted warmth
of his southern home--fairly tall, straightlimbed
and lithe--a picture of poetic
grace. His was the face of a man who
trusted without reserve, the manner of
one who believed implicitly, feeling
that good was universal and evil accidental.
As the music grew louder and the
orchestra approached the peroration of
the preface of the coming solo, the
violinist raised his head slowly. Suddenly
his eyes met the gaze of the solitary
occupant of the second proscenium box.
His face flushed. He looked inquiringly,
almost appealingly, at her. She sat
immovable and serene, a lace-framed
vision in white.
It was she who, since he had met
her, only the night before, held his very
soul in thraldom.
He lifted his bow, tenderly placing it
on the strings. Faintly came the first
measures of the theme. The melody,
noble, limpid and beautiful, floated in
dreamy sway over the vast auditorium,
and seemed to cast a mystic glamour
over the player. As the final note of
the first movement was dying away, the
audience, awakening from its delicious
trance, broke forth into spontaneous
Mildred Wallace, scrutinizing the
program, merely drew her wrap closer
about her shoulders and sat more erect.
At the end of the concerto the applause
was generous enough to satisfy the most
exacting virtuoso. Diotti unquestionably
had scored the greatest triumph of
his career. But the lady in the box had
remained silent and unaffected throughout.
The poor fellow had seen only her during
the time he played, and the mighty
cheers that came from floor and galleries
struck upon his ear like the echoes
of mocking demons. Leaving the stage
he hurried to his dressing-room and
sank into a chair. He had persuaded
himself she should not be insensible to
his genius, but the dying ashes of his
hopes, his dreams, were smouldering,
and in his despair came the thought:
``I am not great enough for her. I am
but a man; her consort should be a god.
Her soul, untouched by human passion
or human skill, demands the power of
god-like genius to arouse it.''
Music lovers crowded into his dressingroom,
enthusiastic in their praises.
Cards conveying delicate compliments
written in delicate chirography poured
in upon him, but in vain he looked for
some sign, some word from her.
Quickly he left the theater and sought
his hotel.
A menacing cloud obscured the wintry
moon. A clock sounded the midnight hour.
He threw himself upon the bed and
almost sobbed his thoughts, and their
burden was:
``I am not great enough for her. I
am but a man. I am but a man!''
Perkins called in the morning.
Perkins was happy--Perkins was
positively joyous, and Perkins was selfsatisfied.
The violinist had made a
great hit. But Perkins, confiding in
the white-coated dispenser who
concocted his matin Martini, very dry, an
hour before, said he regarded the success
due as much to the management as
to the artist. And Perkins believed it.
Perkins usually took all the credit for a
success, and with charming consistency
placed all responsibility for failure on the
shoulders of the hapless artist.
When Perkins entered Diotti's room
he found the violinist heavy-eyed and
dejected. ``My dear Signor,'' he began,
showing a large envelope bulging with
newspaper clippings, ``I have brought
the notices. They are quite the limit, I
assure you. Nothing like them ever
heard before--all tuned in the same
key, as you musical fellows would say,''
and Perkins cocked his eye.
Perkins enjoyed a glorious reputation
with himself for bright sayings, which
he always accompanied with a cock of
the eye. The musician not showing any
visible appreciation of the manager's
metaphor, Perkins immediately
proceeded to uncock his eye.
``Passed the box-office coming up,''
continued this voluble enlightener;
``nothing left but a few seats in the top
gallery. We'll stand them on their
heads to-morrow night--see if we
don't.'' Then he handed the bursting
envelope of notices to Diotti, who
listlessly put them on the table at his side.
``Too tired to read, eh?'' said
Perkins, and then with the advance-agent
instinct strong within him he selected a
clipping, and touching the violinist on
the shoulder: ``Let me read this one to
you. It is by Herr Totenkellar. He
is a hard nut to crack, but he did himself
proud this time. Great critic when
he wants to be.''
Perkins cleared his throat and began:
``Diotti combines tremendous feeling
with equally tremendous technique.
The entire audience was under the
witchery of his art.'' Diotti slowly
negatived that statement with bowed head.
``His tone is full, round and clear; his
interpretation lends a story-telling charm
to the music; for, while we drank deep
at the fountain of exquisite melody, we
saw sparkling within the waters the
lights of Paradise. New York never
has heard his equal. He stands alone,
pre-eminent, an artistic giant.''
``Now, that's what I call great,'' said
the impresario, dramatically; ``when
you hit Totenkellar that way you are
good for all kinds of money.''
Perkins took his hat and cane and
moved toward the door. The violinist
arose and extended his hand wearily.
``Good-day'' came simultaneously;
then ``I'm off. We'll turn 'em
away to-morrow; see if we don't!''
Whereupon Perkins left Diotti alone in
his misery.
It was the evening of the fourteenth,
In front of the Academy a stronglunged
and insistent tribe of gentry,
known as ticket speculators, were reaping
a rich harvest. They represented a
beacon light of hope to many tardy patrons
of the evening's entertainment,
especially to the man who had forgotten
his wife's injunction ``to be sure
to buy the tickets on the way down
town, dear, and get them in the family
circle, not too far back.'' This man's
intentions were sincere, but his newspaper
was unusually interesting that morning.
He was deeply engrossed in an
article on the causes leading to matrimonial
infelicities when his 'bus passed
the Academy box-office.
He was six blocks farther down town
when he finished the article, only to
find that it was a carefully worded
advertisement for a new patent medicine,
and of course he had not time to
return. ``Oh, well,'' said he, ``I'll get
them when I go up town to-night.''
But he did not. So with fear in his
heart and a red-faced woman on his
arm he approached the box-office.
``Not a seat left,'' sounded to his henpecked
ears like the concluding words
of the black-robed judge: ``and may the
Lord have mercy upon your soul.'' But
a reprieve came, for one of the aforesaid
beacon lights of hope rushed forward,
saying: ``I have two good seats, not
far back, and only ten apiece.'' And
the gentleman with fear in his heart
and the red-faced woman on his arm
passed in.
They saw the largest crowd in the
history of the Academy. Every seat was
occupied, every foot of standing room
taken. Chairs were placed in the side
aisles. The programs announced that
it was the second appearance in America
of Angelo Diotti, the renowed Tuscan
The orchestra had perfunctorily
ground out the overture to ``Der
Freischuetz,'' the baritone had stentorianly
emitted ``Dio Possente,'' the soprano
was working her way through the closing
measures of the mad scene from ``Lucia,''
and Diotti was number four on
the program. The conductor stood
beside his platform, ready to ascend as
Diotti appeared.
The audience, ever ready to act when
those on the stage cease that occupation,
gave a splendid imitation of the historic
last scene at the Tower of Babel.
Having accomplished this to its evident
satisfaction, the audience proceeded, like
the closing phrase of the
``Goetterdaemmerung'' Dead March, to become
exceedingly quiet--then expectant.
This expectancy lasted fully three
minutes. Then there were some impatient
handclappings. A few persons
whispered: ``Why is he late?'' ``Why
doesn't he come?'' ``I wonder where
Diotti is,'' and then came unmistakable
signs of impatience. At its height
Perkins appeared, hesitatingly. Nervous
and jerky he walked to the center of
the stage, and raised his hand begging
silence. The audience was stilled.
``Ladies and gentlemen,'' he falteringly
said, ``Signor Diotti left his hotel
at seven o'clock and was driven to the
Academy. The call-boy rapped at his
dressing-room, and not receiving a reply,
opened the door to find the room
empty. We have despatched searchers
in every direction and have sent out a
police alarm. We fear some accident
has befallen the Signor. We ask your
indulgence for the keen disappointment,
and beg to say that your money will be
refunded at the box-office.''
Diotti had disappeared as completely
as though the earth had swallowed him.
My Dearest Sister: You
doubtless were exceedingly mystified
and troubled over the report that
was flashed to Europe regarding my
sudden disappearance on the eve of my
second concert in New York.
Fearing, sweet Francesca, that you
might mourn me as dead, I sent the
cablegram you received some weeks
since, telling you to be of good heart
and await my letter. To make my action
thoroughly understood I must give
you a record of what happened to me
from the first day I arrived in
America. I found a great interest manifested
in my premiere, and socially
everything was done to make me happy.
Mrs. James Llewellyn, whom, you
no doubt remember, we met in Florence
the winter of 18--, immediately after I
reached New York arranged a reception
for me, which was elegant in the
extreme. But from that night dates
my misery.
You ask her name?--Mildred Wallace.
Tell me what she is like, I hear
you say. Of graceful height, willowy
and exquisitely molded, not over twentyfour,
with the face of a Madonna;
wondrous eyes of darkest blue, hair
indescribable in its maze of tawny color
--in a word, the perfection of womanhood.
In half an hour I was her abject
slave, and proud in my serfdom.
When I returned to the hotel that evening
I could not sleep. Her image ever
was before me, elusive and shadowy.
And yet we seemed to grow farther and
farther apart--she nearer heaven, I
nearer earth.
The next evening I gave my first and
what I fear may prove my last concert
in America. The vision of my dreams
was there, radiant in rarest beauty.
Singularly enough, she was in the direct
line of my vision while I played.
I saw only her, played but for her, and
cast my soul at her feet. She sat indifferent
and silent. ``Cold?'' you say. No!
No! Francesca, not cold; superior to
my poor efforts. I realized my
limitations. I questioned my genius. When
I returned to bow my acknowledgments
for the most generous applause I have
ever received, there was no sign on her
part that I had interested her, either
through my talent or by appeal to her
curiosity. I hoped against hope that
some word might come from her, but I
was doomed to disappointment. The
critics were fulsome in their praise and
the public was lavish with its plaudits,
but I was abjectly miserable. Another
sleepless night and I was determined to
see her. She received me most
graciously, although I fear she thought my
visit one of vanity--wounded vanity--
and me petulant because of her lack of
Oh, sister mine, I knew better. I
knew my heart craved one word, however
matter-of-fact, that would rekindle
the hope that was dying within me.
Hesitatingly, and like a clumsy yokel,
I blurted: ``I have been wondering
whether you cared for the performance
I gave?''
``It certainly ought to make little
difference to you,'' she replied; ``the
public was enthusiastic enough in its
``But I want your opinion,'' I pleaded.
``My opinion would not at all affect
the almost unanimous verdict, ``she
replied calmly.
``And,'' I urged desperately, ``you
were not affected in the least?''
Very coldly she answered, ``Not in
the least;'' and then fearlessly, like a
princess in the Palace of Truth: ``If
ever a man comes who can awaken my
heart, frankly and honestly I will
confess it.''
``Perhaps such a one lives,'' I said,
but has yet to reach the height to win
``Speak it,'' she said, ``to win my
``Yes,'' I cried, startled at her
candor, ``to win your love.'' Hope slowly
rekindled within my breast, and then
with half-closed eyes, and wooingly, she
``No drooping Clytie could be more
constant than I to him who strikes the
chord that is responsive in my soul.''
Her emotion must have surprised her,
but immediately she regained her placidity
and reverted no more to the subject.
I went out into the gathering gloom.
Her words haunted me. A strange
feeling came over me. A voice within
me cried: ``Do not play to-night.
Study! study! Perhaps in the full fruition
of your genius your music, like the
warm western wind to the harp, may
bring life to her soul.''
I fled, and I am here. I am delving
deeper and deeper into the mysteries of
my art, and I pray God each hour that
He may place within my grasp the
wondrous music His blessed angels
sing, for the soul of her I love is at.
tuned to the harmonies of heaven.
Your affectionate brother,
When Diotti left New York so
precipitately he took passage
on a coast line steamer sailing for the
Bahama Islands. Once there, he leased
a small cay, one of a group off the main
land, and lived alone and unattended,
save for the weekly visits of an old
fisherman and his son, who brought
supplies of provisions from the town
miles away. His dwelling-place,
surrounded with palmetto trees, was little
more than a rough shelter. Diotti arose
at daylight, and after a simple repast,
betook himself to practise. Hour after
hour he would let his muse run riot
with his fingers. Lovingly he wooed
the strings with plaintive song, then
conquering and triumphant would be
his theme. But neither satisfied him.
The vague dream of a melody more
beautiful than ever man had heard
dwelt hauntingly on the borders of his
imagination, but was no nearer realization
than when he began. As the day's
work closed, he wearily placed the
violin within its case, murmuring,
``Not yet, not yet; I have not found it.''
Days passed, weeks crept slowly
on; still he worked, but always
with the same result. One day,
feverish and excited, he played on
in monotone almost listless. His tired,
over-wrought brain denied a further
thought. His arm and fingers refused
response to his will. With an uncontrollable
outburst of grief and anger he
dashed the violin to the floor, where it
lay a hopeless wreck. Extending his
arms he cried, in the agony of despair:
``It is of no use! If the God of heaven
will not aid me, I ask the prince of
darkness to come.''
A tall, rather spare, but well-made
and handsome man appeared at the
door of the hut. His manner was that of
one evidently conversant with the usages
of good society.
``I beg pardon,'' said the musician,
surprised and visibly nettled at the
intrusion, and then with forced politeness
he asked: ``To whom am I indebted
for this unexpected visit?''
``Allow me,'' said the stranger taking
a card from his case and handing
it to the musician, who read: ``Satan,''
and, in the lower left-hand corner
``Prince of Darkness.''
``I am the Prince,'' said the stranger,
bowing low.
There was no hint of the pavementmade
ruler in the information he gave,
but rather of the desire of one gentleman
to set another right at the beginning.
The musician assumed a position
of open-mouthed wonder, gazing
steadily at the visitor.
``Satan?'' he whispered hoarsely.
``You need help and advice,'' said
the visitor, his voice sounding like that
of a disciple of the healing art, and
implying that he had thoroughly diagnosed
the case.
``No, no,'' cried the shuddering
violinist; ``go away. I do not need you.''
``I regret I can not accept that
statement as gospel truth,'' said Satan,
sarcastically, ``for if ever a man needed
help, you are that man.''
``But not from you,'' replied Diotti.
``That statement is discredited also
by your outburst of a few moments ago
when you called upon me.''
``I do not need you,'' reiterated the
musician. ``I will have none of you!''
and he waved his arm toward the door,
as if he desired the interview to end.
``I came at your behest, actuated
entirely by kindness of heart,'' said Satan.
Diotti laughed derisively, and Satan,
showing just the slightest feeling at
Diotti's behavior, said reprovingly: ``If
you will listen a moment, and not be so
rude to an utter stranger, we may reach
some conclusion to your benefit.''
``Get thee behind--''
``I know exactly what you were about
to say. Have no fears on that score.
I have no demands to make and no
impossible compacts to insist upon.''
``I have heard of you before,'' knowingly
spoke the violinist nodding his
head sadly.
``No doubt you have,'' smilingly.
``My reputation, which has suffered at
the hands of irresponsible people, is not
of the best, and places me at times in
awkward positions. But I am beginning
to live it down.'' The stranger
looked contrition itself. ``To prove my
sincerity I desire to help you win her
love,'' emphasizing her.
``How can you help me?''
``Very easily. You have been wasting
time, energy and health in a wild
desire to play better. The trouble lies
not with you.''
``Not with me?'' interrupted the
violinist, now thoroughly interested.
``The trouble lies not with you,''
repeated the visitor, ``but with the miserable
violin you have been using and have
just destroyed,'' and he pointed to the
shattered instrument.
Tears welled from the poor violinist's
eyes as he gazed on the fragments of his
beloved violin, the pieces lying scattered
about as the result of his unfortunate
``It was a Stradivarius,'' said Diotti,
``Had it been a Stradivarius, an Amati
or a Guarnerius, or a host of others rolled
into one, you would not have found in
it the melody to win the heart of the
woman you love. Get a better and
more suitable instrument.''
``Where is one?'' earnestly interrogated
Diotti, vaguely realizing that
Satan knew.
``In my possession,'' Satan replied.
``She would hate me if she knew I
had recourse to the powers of darkness
to gain her love,'' bitterly interposed
Satan, wincing at this uncomplimentary
allusion to himself, replied rather
warmly: ``My dear sir, were it not for
the fact that I feel in particularly good
spirits this morning, I should resent your
ill-timed remarks and leave you to end
your miserable existence with rope or
pistol,'' and Satan pantomimed both
suicidal contingencies.
``Do you want the violin or not?''
``I might look at it,'' said Diotti,
resolving mentally that he could go so
far without harm.
``Very well,'' said Satan. He gave
a long whistle.
An old man, bearing a violin case,
came within the room. He bowed to
the wondering Diotti, and proceeded to
open the case. Taking the instrument
out the old man fondled it with loving
and tender solicitude, pointing out its
many beauties--the exquisite blending
of the curves, the evenness of the grain,
the peculiar coloring, the lovely contour
of the neck, the graceful outlines of the
body, the scroll, rivaling the creations
of the ancient sculptors, the solidity of
the bridge and its elegantly carved heart,
and, waxing exceedingly enthusiastic,
holding up the instrument and looking
at it as one does at a cluster of gems, he
added, ``the adjustment of the strings.''
``That will do,'' interrupted Satan,
taking the violin from the little man,
who bowed low and ceremoniously
took his departure. Then the devil,
pointing to the instrument, asked: ``Isn't
it a beauty?''
The musician, eying it keenly,
replied: ``Yes, it is, but not the kind of
violin I play on.''
``Oh, I see,'' carelessly observed the
other, ``you refer to that extra string.''
``Yes,'' answered the puzzled violinist,
examining it closely.
``Allow me to explain the peculiar
characteristics of this magnificent instrument,''
said his satanic majesty. ``This
string,'' pointing to the G, ``is the
string of pity; this one,'' referring to the
third, ``is the string of hope; this,''
plunking the A, ``is attuned to love,
while this one, the E string, gives forth
sounds of joy.
``You will observe,'' went on the
visitor, noting the intense interest displayed
by the violinist, ``that the position
of the strings is the same as on any
other violin, and therefore will require
no additional study on your part.''
``But that extra string?'' interrupted
Diotti, designating the middle one on
the violin, a vague foreboding rising
within him.
``That,'' said Mephistopheles,
solemnly, and with no pretense of sophistry,
``is the string of death, and he who
plays upon it dies at once.''
``The--string--of--death!'' repeated
the violinist almost inaudibly.
``Yes, the string of death,'' Satan
repeated, ``and he who plays upon it dies
at once. But,'' he added cheerfully,
``that need not worry you. I noticed a
marvelous facility in your arm work.
Your staccato and spiccato are wonderful.
Every form of bowing appears
child's play to you. It will be easy for
you to avoid touching the string.''
``Why avoid it? Can it not be cut off?''
``Ah, that's the rub. If you
examine the violin closely you will find
that the string of death is made up of
the extra lengths of the other four
strings. To cut it off would destroy the
others, and then pity, hope, love and joy
would cease to exist in the soul of the
``How like life itself,'' Diotti
reflected, ``pity, hope, love, joy end in
death, and through death they are born
``That's the idea, precisely,'' said
Satan, evidently relieved by Diotti's
logic and quick perception.
The violinist examined the instrument
with the practised eye of an expert, and
turning to Satan said: ``The four
strings are beautifully white and transparent,
but this one is black and odd
``What is it wrapped with?'' eagerly
inquired Diotti, examining the death
string with microscopic care.
``The fifth string was added after an
unfortunate episode in the Garden of
Eden, in which I was somewhat
concerned,'' said Satan, soberly. ``It is
wrapped with strands of hair from the
first mother of man.'' Impressively then
he offered the violin to Diotti.
``I dare not take it,'' said the
perplexed musician; ``it's from--''
``Yes, it is directly from there, but I
brought it from heaven when I--I left,''
said the fallen angel, with remorse in
his voice. ``It was my constant
companion there. But no one in my
domain--not I, myself--can play upon it
now, for it will respond neither to our
longing for pity, hope, love, joy, nor
even death,'' and sadly and retrospectively
Satan gazed into vacancy; then,
after a long pause: ``Try the instrument!''
Diotti placed the violin in position
and drew the bow across the string of
joy, improvising on it. Almost instantly
the birds of the forest darted hither and
thither, caroling forth in gladsome
strains. The devil alone was sad, and
with emotion said:
``It is many, many years since I
have heard that string.''
Next the artist changed to the string
of pity, and thoughts of the world's
sorrows came over him like a pall.
``Wonderful, most wonderful!'' said
the mystified violinist; ``with this
instrument I can conquer the world!''
``Aye, more to you than the world,''
said the tempter, ``a woman's love.''
A woman's love--to the despairing
suitor there was one and only one in this
wide, wide world, and her words, burning
their way into his heart, had made
this temptation possible: ``No drooping
Clytie could be more constant than
I to him who strikes the chord that is
responsive in my soul.''
Holding the violin aloft, he cried
exultingly: ``Henceforth thou art mine,
though death and oblivion lurk ever
near thee!''
Perkins, seated in his office,
threw the morning paper aside.
``It's no use,'' he said, turning to the
office boy, ``I don't believe they ever
will find him, dead or alive. Whoever
put up the job on Diotti was a past
grand master at that sort of thing. The
silent assassin that lurks in the shadow
of the midnight moon is an explosion of
dynamite compared to the party that
made way with Diotti. You ask, why
should they kill him? My boy, you
don't know the world. They were
jealous of his enormous hit, of our
dazzling success. Jealousy did it.''
The ``they'' of Perkins comprised
rival managers, rival artists, newspaper
critics and everybody at large
who would not concede that the
attractions managed by Perkins were the
``greatest on earth.''
``We'll never see his like again--
come in!'' this last in answer to a knock.
Diotti appeared at the open door.
Perkins jumped like one shot from a
catapult, and rushing toward the silent
figure in the doorway exclaimed: ``Bless
my soul, are you a ghost?''
``A substantial one,'' said Diotti with
a smile.
``Are you really here?'' continued
the astonished impresario, using Diotti's
arm as a pump handle and pinching
him at the same time.
When they were seated Perkins plied
Diotti with all manner of questions;
``How did it happen?'' ``How did you
escape?'' and the like, all of which Diotti
parried with monosyllabic replies, finally
saying: ``I was dissatisfied with my
playing and went away to study.''
``Do you know that the failure to fulfill
your contract has cost me at least ten
thousand dollars?'' said the shrewd
manager, the commercial side of his
nature asserting itself.
``All of which I will pay,'' quietly
replied the artist. ``Besides I am ready
to play now, and you can announce a
concert within a week if you like.''
``If I like?'' cried the hustling Perkins.
``Here, James,'' calling his office
boy, ``run down to the printer's
and give him this,'' making a note of
the various sizes of ``paper'' he desired,
``and tell Mr. Tompkins that Diotti is
back and will give a concert next Tuesday.
Tell Smith to prepare the newspaper
`ads' and notices immediately.''
In an hour Perkins had the entire
machinery of his office in motion.
Within twenty-four hours New York
had several versions of the disappearance
and return, all leading to one
common point--that Diotti would give
a concert the coming Tuesday evening.
The announcement of the reappearance
of the Tuscan contained a line
to the effect that the violinist would play
for the first time his new suite--a
meditation on the emotions.
He had not seen Mildred.
As he came upon the stage that night
the lights were turned low, and naught
but the shadowy outlines of player and
violin were seen. His reception by the
audience was not enthusiastic. They
evidently remembered the disappointment
caused by his unexpected disappearance,
but this unfriendly attitude
soon gave way to evidences of kindlier
Mildred was there, more beautiful
than ever, and to gain her love Diotti
would have bartered his soul that moment.
The first movement of the suite was
entitled ``Pity,'' and the music flowed
like melodious tears. A subdued sob
rose and fell with the sadness of the
Mildred's eyes were moistened as
she fixed them on the lone figure of the
Now the theme of pity changed to
hope, and hearts grew brighter under the
spell. The next movement depicted joy.
As the virtuoso's fingers darted here and
there, his music seemed the very laughter
of fairy voices, the earth looked roses
and sunshine, and Mildred, relaxing her
position and leaning forward in the box,
with lips slightly parted, was the picture
of eager happiness.
The final movement came. Its subject
was love. The introduction depicted
the Arcadian beauty of the
trysting place, love-lit eyes sought each
other intuitively and a great peace
brooded over the hearts of all. Then
followed the song of the Passionate Pilgrim:
``If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
When must the love be great 'twixt thee and me
Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other.
Thou lov'st to hear the sweet melodious sound
That Phoebus' lute (the queen of music) makes;
And I in deep delight, am chiefly drown'd
When as himself to singing he betakes.
One god is god of both, as poets
One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.''
Grander and grander the melody
rose, voicing love's triumph with wondrous
sweetness and palpitating rhythm.
Mildred, her face flushed with excitement,
a heavenly fire in her eyes and in
an attitude of supplication, reveled in
the glory of a new found emotion.
As the violinist concluded his
performance an oppressive silence pervaded
the house, then the audience, wild with
excitement, burst into thunders of
applause. In his dressing-room Diotti
was besieged by hosts of people,
congratulating him in extravagant terms.
Mildred Wallace came, extending her
hands. He took them almost reverently.
She looked into his eyes, and
he knew he had struck the chord responsive
in her soul.
The sun was high in the heavens
when the violinist awoke. A great
weight had been lifted from his heart;
he had passed from darkness into dawn.
A messenger brought him this note:
My Dear Signor Diotti--I am at home this
afternoon, and shall be delighted to see you and
return my thanks for the exquisite pleasure you
gave me last evening. Music, such as yours,
is indeed the voice of heaven. Sincerely,
Mildred Wallace.
The messenger returned with this reply:
My Dear Miss Wallace--I will call at three to-day.
Angelo Diotti.
He watched the hour drag from eleven
to twelve, then counted the minutes to
one, and from that time until he left the
hotel each second was tabulated in his
mind. Arriving at her residence, he
was ushered into the drawing-room. It
was fragrant with the perfume of violets,
and he stood gazing at her portrait
expectant of her coming.
Dressed in simple white, entrancing
in her youthful freshness, she entered,
her face glowing with happiness, her
eyes languorous and expressive. She
hastened to him, offering both hands.
He held them in a loving, tender grasp,
and for a moment neither spoke. Then
she, gazing clearly and fearlessly into
his eyes, said: ``My heart has found its
He, kneeling like Sir Gareth of old:
``The song and the singer are yours
forever. ''
She, bidding him arise: ``And I forever
yours.'' And wondering at her
boldness, she added, ``I know and feel
that you love me--your eyes confirmed
your love before you spoke.'' Then,
convincingly and ingenuously, ``I knew
you loved me the moment we first met.
Then I did not understand what that
meant to you, now I do.''
He drew her gently to him, and the
motive of their happiness was defined
in sweet confessions: ``My love, my
life--My life, my love.''
The magic of his music had changed
her very being, the breath of love was
in her soul, the vision of love was dancing
in her eyes. The child of marble,
like the statue of old, had come to life:
``And not long since
I was a cold, dull stone! I recollect
That by some means I knew that I was stone;
That was the first dull gleam of consciousness;
I became conscious of a chilly self,
A cold, immovable identity.
I knew that I was stone, and knew no more!
Then, by an imperceptible advance,
Came the dim evidence of outer things,
Seen--darkly and imperfectly--yet seen
The walls surrounding me, and I, alone.
That pedestal--that curtain--then a voice
That called on Galatea! At that word,
Which seemed to shake my marble to the core,
That which was dim before, came evident.
Sounds, that had hummed around me, indistinct,
Vague, meaningless--seemed to resolve themselves
Into a language I could understand;
I felt my frame pervaded by a glow
That seemed to thaw my marble into flesh;
Its cold, hard substance throbbed with active life,
My limbs grew supple, and I moved--I lived!
Lived in the ecstasy of a new-born life!
Lived in the love of him that fashioned me!
Lived in a thousand tangled thoughts of hope.''
Day after day he came; they told their
love, their hopes, their ambitions. She
assumed absolute proprietorship in him.
She gloried in her possession.
He was born into the world, nurtured
in infancy, trained in childhood and
matured into manhood, for one express
purpose--to be hers alone. Her
ownership ranged from absolute despotism
to humble slavery, and he was happy
through it all.
One day she said: ``Angelo, is it your purpose
to follow your profession always?''
``Necessarily, it is my livelihood,'' he replied.
``But do you not think that after we
stand at the altar, we never should be
``We will be together always,'' said
he, holding her face between his palms,
and looking with tender expression into
her inquiring eyes.
``But I notice that women cluster
around you after your concerts--and
shake your hand longer than they
should--and talk to you longer than
they should--and go away looking selfsatisfied!''
she replied brokenly, much
as a little girl tells of the theft of her
``Nonsense,'' he said, smiling, ``that
is all part of my profession; it is not
me they care for, it is the music I
give that makes them happy. If, in my
playing, I achieve results out of the
common, they admire me!'' and he kissed
away the unwelcome tears.
``I know,'' she continued, ``but
lately, since we have loved each other,
I can not bear to see a woman near
you. In my dreams again and again
an indefinable shadow mockingly comes;
and cries to me, `he is not to be yours,
he is to be mine.' ''
Diotti flushed and drew her to him
``Darling,'' his voice carrying conviction,
``I am yours, you are mine, all in
all, in life here and beyond!'' And as
she sat dreaming after he had gone, she
murmured petulantly, ``I wish there
were no other women in the world.''
Her father was expected from Europe
on the succeeding day's steamer. Mr.
Wallace was a busy man. The various
gigantic enterprises he served as president
or director occupied most of his
time. He had been absent in Europe
for several months, and Mildred was
anxiously awaiting his return to tell him
of her love.
When Mr. Wallace came to his residence
the next morning, his daughter
met him with a fond display of filial
affection; they walked into the drawingroom,
hand in hand; he saw a picture
of the violinist on the piano. ``Who's
the handsome young fellow?'' he asked,
looking at the portrait with the satisfaction
a man feels when he sees a splendid
type of his own sex.
``That is Angelo Diotti, the famous
violinist,'' she said, but she could not
add another word.
As they strolled through the rooms
he noticed no less than three likenesses
of the Tuscan. And as they passed her
room he saw still another on the chiffonnier.
``Seems to me the house is running wild with
photographs of that fiddler,'' he said.
For the first time in her life she was
self-conscious: ``I will wait for a more
opportune time to tell him,'' she thought.
In the scheme of Diotti's appearance
in New York there were to be two
more concerts. One was to be given
that evening. Mildred coaxed her
father to accompany her to hear the
violinist. Mr. Wallace was not fond
of music; ``it had been knocked out of
him on the farm up in Vermont, when
he was a boy,'' he would apologetically
explain, and besides he had the old
puritanical abhorrence of stage people--
putting them all in one class--as puppets
who danced for played or talked for an
idle and unthinking public.
So it was with the thought of a
wasted evening that he accompanied
Mildred to the concert.
The entertainment was a repetition
of the others Diotti had given, and at
its end, Mildred said to her father:
``Come, I want to congratulate Signor
Diotti in person.''
``That is entirely unnecessary,'' he
``It is my desire,'' and the girl led
the unwilling parent back of the scenes
and into Diotti's dressing-room.
Mildred introduced Diotti to her
father, who after a few commonplaces
lapsed into silence. The daughter's
enthusiastic interest in Diotti's performance
and her tender solicitude for his
weariness after the efforts of the evening,
quickly attracted the attention of
Mr. Wallace and irritated him exceedingly.
When father and daughter were
seated in their carriage and were hurriedly
driving home, he said: ``Mildred,
I prefer that you have as little to say to
that man as possible.''
``What do you object to in him?''
she asked.
``Everything. Of what use is a man
who dawdles away his time on a fiddle;
of what benefit is he to mankind? Do
fiddlers build cities? Do they delve into
the earth for precious metals? Do they
sow the seed and harvest the grain?
No, no; they are drones--the barnacles
of society.''
``Father, how can you advance such
an argument? Music's votaries offer no
apologies for their art. The husbandman
places the grain within the breast
of Mother Earth for man's material
welfare; God places music in the heart of
man for his spiritual development. In
man's spring time, his bridal day, music
means joy. In man's winter time,
his burial day, music means comfort.
The heaven-born muse has added to the
happiness of the world. Diotti is a
great genius. His art brings rest and
tranquillity to the wearied and despairing,''
and she did not speak again until
they had reached the house.
The lights were turned low when
father and daughter went into the
drawing-room. Mr. Wallace felt that
he had failed to convince Mildred of the
utter worthlessness of fiddlers, big or
little, and as one dissatisfied with the
outcome of a contest, re-entered the
``He has visited you?''
``Yes, father.''
``Yes, father,'' spoken calmly.
``Often?'' louder and more imperiously
repeated the father, as if there
must be some mistake.
``Quite often,'' and she sat down,
knowing the catechizing would be likely
to continue for some minutes.
``How many times, do you think?''
She rose, walked into the hallway;
took the card basket from the table,
returned and seated herself beside her
father, emptying its contents into her
lap. She picked up a card. It read
``Angelo Diotti,'' and she called the
name aloud. She took up another and
again her lips voiced the beloved name.
``Angelo Diotti,'' she continued, repeating
at intervals for a minute. Then
looking at her father: ``He has called
thirty-two times; there are thirty-one
cards here and on one occasion he forgot
his card-case.''
``Thirty-two!'' said the father, rising
angrily and pacing the floor.
``Yes, thirty-two. I remember all
of them distinctly.''
Her father came over to her, half
coaxingly, half seriously. ``Mildred, I
wish his visits to cease; people will
imagine there is a romantic attachment
between you.''
``There is, father,'' out it came, ``he
loves me and I love him.''
``What!'' shouted Mr. Wallace, and
then severely, ``this must cease immediately.''
She rose quietly and led her father
over to the mantel. Placing a hand on
each of his shoulders she said:
``Father, I will obey you implicitly
if you can name a reasonable objection
to the man I love. But you can not.
I love him with my whole soul. I love
him for the nobility of his character,
and because there is none other in the
world for him, nor for me.''
Old Sanders as boy and man
had been in the employ of the
banking and brokerage firm of Wallace
Brothers for two generations. The firm
gradually had advanced his position until
now he was confidential adviser and
general manager, besides having an
interest in the profits of the business.
He enjoyed the friendship of Mr.
Wallace, and had been a constant visitor
at his house from the first days of
that gentleman's married life. He himself
was alone in the world, a confirmed
bachelor. He had seen Mildred creep
from babyhood into childhood, and bud
from girlhood to womanhood. To Mildred
he was one of that numerous army
of brevet relations known as ``granpop,''
``pop,'' or ``uncle.'' To her he
was Uncle Sanders.
If the old man had one touch of human
nature in him it was a solicitude
for Mildred's future--an authority arrogated
to himself--to see that she married
the right man; but even that was
directed to her material gain in this
world's goods, and not to any sentimental
consideration for her happiness.
He flattered himself that by timely
suggestion he had ``stumped'' at least half
a dozen would-be candidates for Mildred's
hand. He pooh-poohed love as a
necessity for marital felicity, and would
enforce his argument by quoting from
the bard:
``All lovers swear more performance
than they are able, and yet reserve an
ability that they never perform; vowing
more than the perfection of ten, and
discharging less than the tenth part of one.''
``You can get at a man's income,''
he would say, ``but not at his heart.
Love without money won't travel as far
as money without love,'' and many
married people whose bills were overdue
wondered if the old fellow was
not right.
He was cold-blooded and generally
disliked by the men under him. The
more evil-minded gossips in the bank
said he was in league with ``Old
Nick.'' That, of course, was absurd,
for it does not necessarily follow,
because a man suggests a means looking
to an end, disreputable though it be,
that he has Mephistopheles for a silent
partner. The conservative element
among the employees would not openly
venture so far, but rather thought if his
satanic majesty and old Sanders ran a
race, the former would come in a bad
second, if he were not distanced altogether.
The old man always reached the office
at nine. Mr. Wallace usually arrived a
half hour later, seldom earlier, which was
so well understood by Sanders that he
was greatly surprised when he walked
into the president's office, the morning
after that gentleman had attended
Diotti's concert, to find the head of the
firm already there and apparently waiting for him.
``Sanders,'' said the banker, ``I
want your advice on a matter of great
importance and concern to me.''
Sanders came across the room and
stood beside the desk.
``Briefly as possible, I am much
exercised about my daughter.''
The old man moved up a chair and
buried himself in it. Pressing his elbows
tightly against his sides, he drew
his neck in, and with the tips of his
right hand fingers consorted and
coquetted with their like on the opposite
hand; then he simply asked, ``Who is
the man?''
``He is the violinist who has created
such a sensation here, Angelo Diotti.''
``Yes, I've seen the name in print,''
returned the old man.
``He has bewitched Mildred. I never
have seen her show the least interest in
a man before. She never has appeared
to me as an impressionable girl or one
that could easily be won.''
``That is very true,'' ejaculated
Sanders; ``she always seemed tractable and
open to reason in all questions of love
and courting. I can recall several
instances where I have set her right by
my estimation of men, and invariably
she has accepted my views.''
``And mine until now,'' said the
father, and then he recounted his
experience of the night before. ``I had
hoped she would not fall in love, but
be a prop and comfort to me now that
I am alone. I am dismayed at the
prospect before me.''
Then the old man mused: ``In the
chrysalis state of girlhood, a parent
arranges all the details of his daughter's
future; when and whom she shall marry.
`I shall not allow her to fall in love
until she is twenty-three,' says the fond
parent. `I shall not allow her to marry
until she is twenty-six,' says the fond
parent. `The man she marries will be
the one I approve of, and then she will
live happy ever after,' concludes the
fond parent.''
Deluded parent! false prophet! The
anarchist, Love, steps in and disdains
all laws, rules and regulations. When
finally the father confronts the defying
daughter, she calmly says, ``Well,
what are you going to do about it?''
And then tears, forgiveness, complete
capitulation, and, sometimes, she and
her husband live happily ever afterwards.
``We must find some means to end
this attachment. A union between a
musician and my daughter would be
most mortifying to me. Some plan
must be devised to separate them, but
she must not know of it, for she is
impatient of restraint and will not brook
``Are you confident she really loves
this violinist?''
``She confessed as much to me,''
said the perturbed banker.
Old Sanders tapped with both hands
on his shining cranium and asked,
``Are you confident he loves her?''
``No. Even if he does not, he no doubt
makes the pretense, and she believes
him. A man who fiddles for money
is not likely to ignore an opportunity to
angle for the same commodity,'' and
the banker, with a look of scorn on his
face, threw himself back into the chair.
``Does she know that you do not
approve of this man?''
``I told her that I desired the
musician's visits to cease.''
``And her answer?''
``She said she would obey me if I
could name one reasonable objection to
the man, and then, with an air of absolute
confidence in the impossibility of
such a contingency, added, `But you
can not.' ''
``Yes, but you must,'' said Sanders.
``Mildred is strangely constituted. If
she loves this man, her love can be
more deadly to the choice of her heart
than her hate to one she abhors. The
impatience of restraint you speak of and
her very inability to brook opposition
can be turned to good account now.''
And old Sanders again tapped in the
rhythm of a dirge on his parchmentbound
``Your plan?'' eagerly asked the
father, whose confidence in his secretary
was absolute.
``I would like to study them together.
Your position will be stronger with
Mildred if you show no open opposition
to the man or his aspirations; bring us
together at your house some evening,
and if I can not enter a wedge of
discontent, then they are not as others.''
Mildred was delighted when her
father told her on his return in the
evening that he was anxious to meet
Signor Diotti, and suggested a dinner
party within a few days. He said he
would invite Mr. Sanders, as that
gentleman, no doubt, would consider it a
great privilege to meet the famous
musician. Mildred immediately sent an
invitation to Diotti, adding a request
that he bring his violin and play for
Uncle Sanders, as the latter had found
it impossible to attend his concerts during
the season, yet was fond of music,
especially violin music.
The little dinner party passed off
pleasantly, and as old Sanders
lighted his cigar he confided to Diotti,
with a braggart's assurance, that when
he was a youngster he was the best fiddler
for twenty miles around. ``I tell
you there is nothing like a fiddler to
catch a petticoat,'' he said, with a sharp
nudge of his elbow into Diotti's ribs.
``When I played the Devil's Dream
there wasn't a girl in the country could
keep from dancing, and `Rosalie, the
Prairie Flower,' brought them on their
knees to me every time;'' then after a
pause, ``I don't believe people fiddle as
well nowadays as they did in the good
old times,'' and he actually sighed in
Mildred smiled and whispered to
Diotti. He took his violin from the case
and began playing. It seemed to her
as if from above showers of silvery
merriment were falling to earth. The old
man watched intently, and as the player
changed from joy to pity, from love
back to happiness, Sanders never withdrew
his gaze. His bead-like eyes followed
the artist; he saw each individual
finger rise and fall, and the bow bound
over the finger-board, always avoiding,
never coming in contact with the middle
string. Suddenly the old man beat a
tattoo on his cranium and closed his
eyes, apparently deep in thought.
As Diotti ceased playing, Sanders
applauded vociferously, and moving
toward the violinist, said: ``Magnificent!
I never have heard better playing!
What is the make of your violin?''
Diotti, startled at this question,
hurriedly put the instrument in its case;
``Oh, it is a famous make,'' he drawled.
``Will you let me examine it?'' said
the elder, placing his hand on the case.
``I never allow any one to touch my
violin,'' replied Diotti, closing the cover
``Why; is there a magic charm about
it, that you fear other hands may
discover?'' queried the old man.
``I prefer that no one handle it,''
said the virtuoso commandingly.
``Very well,'' sighed the old man
resignedly, ``there are violins and violins,
and no doubt yours comes within that
category,'' this half sneeringly.
``Uncle,'' interposed Mildred tactfully,
``you must not be so persistent. Signor
Diotti prizes his violin highly and will
not allow any one to play upon it but
himself,'' and the look of relief on
Diotti's face amply repaid her.
Mr. Wallace came in at that moment,
and with perfunctory interest in his
guest, invited him to examine the splendid
collection of revolutionary relics in
his study.
``I value them highly,'' said the
banker, ``both for patriotic and ancestral
reasons. The Wallaces fought and
died for their country, and helped to
make this land what it is.''
The father and the violinist went to
the study, leaving the daughter and old
Sanders in the drawing-room. The
old man, seating himself in a large armchair,
said: ``Mildred, my dear, I do
not wonder at the enormous success of
this Diotti.''
``He is a wonderful artist,'' replied
Mildred; ``critics and public alike place
him among the greatest of his profession.''
``He is a good-looking young fellow,
too,'' said the old man.
``I think he is the handsomest man I
ever have seen,'' replied the girl.
``Where does he come from?''
continued Sanders.
``St. Casciano, a small town in Tuscany.''
``Has he a family?''
``Only a sister, whom he loves
dearly,'' good-naturedly answered the
``And no one else?'' continued the
seemingly garrulous old man.
``None that I have heard him speak
of. No, certainly not,'' rather impetuously
replied Mildred.
``How old is he?'' continued the old man.
``Twenty-eight next month; why do you
wish to know?'' she quizzically asked.
``Simply idle curiosity,'' old Sanders
carelessly replied. ``I wonder if he is
in love with any one in Tuscany?''
``Of course not; how could he be?''
quickly rejoined the girl.
``And why not?'' added old Sanders.
``Why? Because, because--he is in
love with some one in America.''
``Ah, with you, I see,'' said the old
man, as if it were the greatest discovery
of his life; ``are you sure he has not
some beautiful sweetheart in Tuscany
as well as here?''
``What a foolish question,'' she
replied. ``Men like Angelo Diotti do
not fall in love as soldiers fall in line.
Love to a man of his nobility is too
serious to be treated so lightly.''
``Very true, and that's what has
excited my curiosity!'' whereupon the old
man smoked away in silence.
``Excited your curiosity!'' said
Mildred. ``What do you mean?''
``It may be something; it may be
nothing; but my speculative instinct has
been aroused by a strange peculiarity in
his playing.''
``His playing is wonderful!'' replied
Mildred proudly.
``Aye, more than wonderful! I
watched him intently,'' said the old
man; ``I noted with what marvelous
facility he went from one string to the
other. But however rapid, however difficult
the composition, he steadily avoided
one string; in fact, that string remained
untouched during the entire hour he
played for us.''
``Perhaps the composition did not
call for its use,'' suggested Mildred,
unconscious of any other meaning in the
old man's observation, save praise for
her lover.
``Perhaps so, but the oddity
impressed me; it was a new string to me.
I have never seen one like it on a violin
``That can scarcely be, for I do not
remember of Signor Diotti telling me
there was anything unusual about his
``I am sure it has a fifth string.''
``And I am equally sure the string
can be of no importance or Angelo
would have told me of it,'' Mildred
quickly rejoined.
``I recall a strange story of
Paganini,'' continued the old man,
apparently not noticing her interruption; ``he
became infatuated with a lady of high
rank, who was insensible of the admiration
he had for her beauty.
``He composed a love scene for two
strings, the `E' and `G,' the first was
to personate the lady, the second himself.
It commenced with a species of
dialogue, intending to represent her
indifference and his passion; now sportive,
now sad; laughter on her part and
tears from him, ending in an apotheosis
of loving reconciliation. It affected the
lady to that degree that ever after she
loved the violinist.''
``And no doubt they were happy?''
Mildred suggested smilingly.
``Yes,'' said the old man, with
assumed sentiment, ``even when his
profession called him far away, for she had
made him promise her he never would
play upon the two strings whose music
had won her heart, so those strings were
mute, except for her.''
The old man puffed away in silence
for a moment, then with logical directness
continued: ``Perhaps the string
that's mute upon Diotti's violin is mute
for some such reason.''
``Nonsense,'' said the girl, half impatiently.
``The string is black and glossy as
the tresses that fall in tangled skeins on
the shoulders of the dreamy beauties of
Tuscany. It may be an idle fancy, but
if that string is not a woven strand from
some woman's crowning glory, then I
have no discernment.''
``You are jesting, uncle,'' she
replied, but her heart was heavy already.
``Ask him to play on that string; I'll
wager he'll refuse,'' said the old man,
``He will not refuse when I ask him,
but I will not to-night,'' answered the
unhappy girl, with forced determination.
Then, taking the old man's hands,
she said: ``Good-night, I am going to
my room; please make my excuses to
Signor Diotti and father,'' and wearily
she ascended the stairs.
Mr. Wallace and the violinist soon
after joined old Sanders, fresh cigars
were lighted and regrets most earnestly
expressed by the violinist for Mildred's
``sick headache.''
``No need to worry; she will be all
right in the morning,'' said Sanders,
and he and the violinist buttoned their
coats tightly about them, for the night
was bitter cold, and together they left
the house.
In her bed-chamber Mildred stood
looking at the portrait of her lover. She
studied his face long and intently, then
crossing the room she mechanically took
a volume from the shelf, and as she
opened it her eyes fell on these lines:
``How art thou fallen from Heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the Morning!''
Old Sanders builded better than he knew.
When Diotti and old Sanders left
the house they walked rapidly
down Fifth Avenue. It was after eleven,
and the streets were bare of pedestrians,
but blinking-eyed cabs came up the avenue,
looking at a distance like a trail
of Megatheriums, gliding through the
darkness. The piercing wind made the
men hasten their steps, the old man by
a semi-rotary motion keeping up with
the longer strides and measured tread of
the younger.
When they reached Fourteenth Street,
the elder said, ``I live but a block from
here,'' pointing eastward; ``what do
you say to a hot toddy? It will warm
the cockles of your heart; come over to
my house and I'll mix you the best
drink in New York.''
The younger thought the suggestion
a good one and they turned toward the
house of old Sanders.
It was a neat, red brick, two-story
house, well in from the street, off the
line of the more pretentious buildings on
either side. As the old man opened the
iron gate, the police officer on the beat
passed; he peered into the faces of the
men, and recognizing Sanders, said,
``tough night, sir.''
``Very,'' replied the addressed.
``All good old gentlemen should be in
bed at this hour,'' said the officer, lifting
one foot after the other in an effort
to keep warm, and in so doing showing
little terpsichorean grace.
``It's only the shank of the evening,
officer,'' rejoined the old man, as he
fumbled with the latch key and finally
opened the door. The two men entered
and the officer passed on.
Every man has a fad. One will tell
you he sees nothing in billiards or pool
or golf or tennis, but will grow enthusiastic
over the scientific possibilities of
mumble-peg; you agree with him, only
you substitute ``skittles'' for ``mumblepeg.''
Old Sanders' fad was mixing toddies
and punches.
``The nectar of the gods pales into
nothingness when compared with a toddy
such as I make,'' said he. ``Ambrosia
may have been all right for the
degenerates of the old Grecian and
Roman days, but an American gentleman
demands a toddy--a hot toddy.'' And
then he proceeded with circumspection
and dignity to demonstrate the process
of decocting that mysterious beverage.
The two men took off their overcoats
and went into the sitting-room. A pile
of logs burned brightly in the fire-place.
The old man threw another on the burning
heap, filled the kettle with water and
hung it over the fire. Next he went to
the sideboard and brought forth the
various ingredients for the toddy.
``How do you like America?'' said
the elder, with commonplace indifference,
as he crunched a lump of sugar in
the bottom of the glass, dissolving the
particles with a few drops of water.
``Very much, indeed,'' said the
Tuscan, with the air of a man who had
answered the question before.
``Great country for girls!'' said
Sanders, pouring a liberal quantity of Old
Tom gin in the glass and placing it
where it gradually would get warm.
``And for men!'' responded Diotti,
``Men don't amount to much here,
women run everything,'' retorted the
elder, while he repeated the process of
preparing the sugar and gin in the second
glass. The kettle began to sing.
``That's music for you,'' chuckled the
old man, raising the lid to see if the
water had boiled sufficiently. ``Do you
know I think a dinner horn and a singing
kettle beat a symphony all hollow
for real down-right melody,'' and he
lifted the kettle from the fire-place.
Diotti smiled.
With mathematical accuracy the old man
filled the two tumblers with boiling water.
``Try that,'' handing a glass of the
toddy to Diotti; ``you will find it all
right,'' and the old man drew an armchair
toward the fire-place, smacking his
lips in anticipation.
The violinist placed his chair closer to
the fire and sipped the drink.
``Your country is noted for its beautiful women?''
``We have exquisite types of femininity
in Tuscany,'' said the young man,
with patriotic ardor.
``Any as fine looking as--as--as--well,
say the young lady we dined with to-night?''
``Miss Wallace?'' queried the Tuscan.
``Yes, Miss Wallace,'' this rather impatiently.
``She is very beautiful,'' said Diotti,
with solemn admiration.
``Have you ever seen any one prettier?''
questioned the old man, after a
second prolonged sip.
``I have no desire to see any one
more beautiful,'' said the violinist, feeling
that the other was trying to draw
him out, and determined not to yield.
``You will pardon the inquisitiveness
of an old man, but are not you musicians
a most impressionable lot?''
``We are human,'' answered the violinist.
``I imagined you were like sailors and
had a sweetheart in every port.''
``That would be a delightful prospect
to one having polygamous aspirations,
but for myself, one sweetheart is enough,''
laughingly said the musician.
``Only one! Well, here's to her!
With this nectar fit for the gods and
goddesses of Olympus, let us drink to her,''
said old Sanders, with convivial dignity,
his glass raised on high. ``Here's wishing
health and happiness to the dreamyeyed
Tuscan beauty, whom you love and
who loves you.''
``Stop!'' said Diotti; ``we will drink
to the first part of that toast,'' and holding
his glass against that of his bibulous
host, continued: ``To the dreamy-eyed
women of my country, exacting of
their lovers; obedient to their parents
and loyal to their husbands,'' and his
voice rose in sonorous rhythm with the
``Now for the rest of the toast, to the
one you love and who loves you,'' came
from Sanders.
``To the one I love and who loves me,
God bless her!'' fervently cried the guest.
``Is she a Tuscan?'' asked old Sanders slyly.
``She is an angel!'' impetuously answered
the violinist.
``Then she is an American!'' said the
old man gallantly.
``She is an American,'' repeated
Diotti, forgetting himself for the instant.
``Let me see if I can guess her
name,'' said old Sanders. ``It's--it's
Mildred Wallace!'' and his manner
suggested a child solving a riddle.
The violinist, about to speak, checked
himself and remained silent.
``I sincerely pity Mildred if ever she
falls in love,'' abstractedly continued
the host while filling another glass.
``Pray why?'' was anxiously asked.
The old man shifted his position and
assumed a confidential tone and attitude:
``Signor Diotti, jealousy is a more
universal passion than love itself.
Environment may develop our character,
influence our tastes and even soften our
features, but heredity determines the
intensity of the two leading passions, love
and jealousy. Mildred's mother was a
beautiful woman, but consumed with an
overpowering jealousy of her husband.
It was because she loved him. The
body-guard of jealousy--envy, malice
and hatred--were not in her composition.
When Mildred was a child of
twelve I have seen her mother suffer
the keenest anguish because Mr. Wallace
fondled the child. She thought the
child had robbed her of her husband's
``Such a woman as Miss Wallace
would command the entire love and
admiration of her husband at all times,''
said the artist.
``If she should marry a man she
simply likes, her chances for happiness
would be normal.''
``In what manner?'' asked the lover.
``Because she would be little
concerned about him or his actions.''
``Then you believe,'' said the
musician, ``that the man who loves her and
whom she loves should give her up
because her chances of happiness would be
greater away from him than with him?''
``That would be an unselfish love,''
said the elder.
``Suppose they have declared their
passion?'' asked Diotti.
``A parting before doubt and jealousy
had entered her mind would let the image
of her sacrificing lover live within
her soul as a tender and lasting memory;
he always would be her ideal,'' and the
accent old Sanders placed on ALWAYS left
no doubt of his belief.
``Why should doubt and jealousy enter
her life?'' said the violinist, falling
into the personal character of the discussion
despite himself.
``My dear sir, from what I observed
to-night, she loves you. You are a dangerous
man for a jealous woman to love.
You are not a cloistered monk, you are
a man before the public; you win the
admiration of many; some women do not
hesitate to show you their preference. To
a woman like Mildred that would be torture;
she could not and would not separate
the professional artist from the lover
or husband.''
And Diotti, remembering Mildred's
words, could not refute the old man's
``If you had known her mother as I
did,'' continued the old man, realizing
his argument was making an impression
on the violinist, ``you would see the
agony in store for the daughter if she
married a man such as you, a public servant,
a public favorite.''
``I would live my life not to excite her
suspicions or jealousy,'' said the artist,
with boyish enthusiasm and simplicity.
``Foolish fellow,'' retorted Sanders,
skeptically; ``women imagine, they don't
reason. A scented note unopened on
the dressing table can cause more
unhappiness to your wife than the loss of
his country to a king. My advice to you
is: do not marry; but if you must, choose
one who is more interested in your
gastronomic felicity than in your marital
Diotti was silent. He was pondering
the words of his host. Instead of seeing
in Mildred a possibly jealous woman,
causing mental misery, she appeared a
vision of single-hearted devotion. He
felt: ``To be loved by such a one is
bliss beyond the dreams of this world.''
A tipsy man is never interesting,
and Sanders in that condition
was no exception. The old man arose
with some effort, walked toward the
window and, shading his eyes, looked
out. The snow was drifting, swept
hither and thither by the cutting wind
that came through the streets in great
gusts. Turning to the violinist, he said,
``It's an awful night; better remain here
until morning. You'll not find a cab; in
fact, I will not let you go while this
storm continues,'' and the old man
raised the window, thrusting his head
out for an instant. As he did so the icy
blast that came in settled any doubt in
the young man's mind and he concluded
to stop over night.
It was nearly two o'clock; Sanders
showed him to his room and then
returned down stairs to see that everything
was snug and secure. After changing
his heavy shoes for a pair of old slippers
and wrapping a dressing gown around
him, the old man stretched his legs
toward the fire and sipped his toddy.
``He isn't a bad sort for a violinist,''
mused the old man; ``if he were worth
a million, I believe I'd advise Wallace to
let him marry her. A fiddler! A million!
Sounds funny,'' and he laughed
He turned his head and his eyes
caught sight of Diotti's violin case resting
on the center table. He staggered
from the chair and went toward it; opening
the lid softly, he lifted the silken
coverlet placed over the instrument and
examined the strings intently. ``I am
right,'' he said; ``it is wrapped with
hair, and no doubt from a woman's head.
Eureka!'' and the old man, happy in the
discovery that his surmises were correct,
returned to his chair and his toddy.
He sat looking into the fire. The
violin had brought back memories of the
past and its dead. He mumbled, as if
to the fire, ``she loved me; she loved
my violin. I was a devil; my violin
was a devil,'' and the shadows on the
wall swayed like accusing spirits. He
buried his face in his hands and cried
piteously, ``I was so young; too young
to know.'' He spoke as if he would
conciliate the ghastly shades that moved
restlessly up and down, when suddenly
--``Sanders, don't be a fool!''
He ambled toward the table again.
``I wonder who made the violin? He
would not tell me when I asked him tonight;
thank you for your pains, but I
will find out myself,'' and he took the
violin from the case. Holding it with
the light slanting over it, he peered
inside, but found no inscription. ``No
maker's name--strange,'' he said. He
tiptoed to the foot of the stairs and
listened intently; ``he must be asleep; he
won't hear me,'' and noiselessly he
closed the door. ``I guess if I play a
tune on it he won't know.''
He took the bow from its place in the
case and tightened it. He listened
again. ``He is fast asleep,'' he whispered.
``I'll play the song I always
played for her--until,'' and the old man
repeated the words of the refrain:
``Fair as a lily, joyous and free,
Light of the prairie home was she;
Every one who knew her felt the gentle power
Of Rosalie, the Prairie Flower.''
He sat again in the arm-chair and
placed the violin under his chin.
Tremulously he drew the bow across the
middle string, his bloodless fingers moving
slowly up and down.
The theme he played was the melody
to the verse he had just repeated, but the
expression was remorse.
Diotti sat upright in bed. ``I am
positive I heard a violin!'' he said, holding
one hand toward his head in an attitude
of listening. He was wide awake. The
drifting snow beat against the window
panes and the wind without shrieked like
a thousand demons of the night. He
could sleep no more. He arose and
hastily dressed. The room was bitterly
cold; he was shivering. He thought of
the crackling logs in the fire-place below.
He groped his way along the darkened
staircase. As he opened the door leading
into the sitting-room the fitful gleam
of the dying embers cast a ghastly light
over the face of a corpse.
Diotti stood a moment, his eyes
transfixed with horror. The violin and bow
still in the hands of the dead man told
him plainer than words what had happened.
He went toward the chair, took
the instrument from old Sanders' hands
and laid it on the table. Then he knelt
beside the body, and placing his ear
close over the heart, listened for some
sign of life, but the old man was beyond
human aid.
He wheeled the chair to the side of
the room and moved the body to the
sofa. Gently he covered it with a robe.
The awfulness of the situation forced
itself upon him, and bitterly he blamed
himself. The terrible power of the
instrument dawned upon him in all its
force. Often he had played on the strings
telling of pity, hope, love and joy, but
now, for the first time, he realized what
that fifth string meant.
``I must give it back to its owner.''
``If you do you can never regain it,''
whispered a voice within.
``I do not need it,'' said the violinist,
almost audibly.
``Perhaps not,'' said the voice, ``but
if her love should wane how would you
rekindle it? Without the violin you
would be helpless.''
``Is it not possible that, in this old man's death,
all its fatal power has been expended?''
He went to the table and took the
instrument from its place. ``You won her
for me; you have brought happiness
and sunshine into my life. No! No!
I can not, will not give you up,'' then
placing the violin and bow in its case he
locked it.
The day was breaking. In an hour
the baker's boy came. Diotti went to
the door, gave him a note addressed to
Mr. Wallace and asked him to deliver it
at once. The boy consented and drove
rapidly away.
Within an hour Mr. Wallace arrived;
Diotti told the story of the night. After
the undertaker had taken charge of the
body he found on the dead man's neck,
just to the left of the chin, a dullish,
black bruise which might have been
caused by the pressing of some blunt
instrument, or by a man's thumb. Considering
it of much importance, he notified
the coroner, who ordered an inquest.
At six o'clock that evening a jury was
impaneled, and two hours later its
verdict was reported.
On leaving the house of the dead man
Diotti walked wearily to his hotel.
In flaring type at every street corner he
saw the announcement for Thursday
evening, March thirty-first, of Angelo
Diotti's last appearance: ``To-night I
play for the last time,'' he murmured in
a voice filled with deepest regret.
The feeling of exultation so common
to artists who finally reach the goal of
their ambition was wanting in Diotti this
morning. He could not rid himself of
the memory of Sanders' tragic death.
The figure of the old man clutching the
violin and staring with glassy eyes into
the dying fire would not away.
When he reached the hotel he tried to
rest, but his excited brain banished
every thought of slumber. Restlessly
he moved about the room, and finally
dressing, he left the hotel for his daily
call on Mildred. It was after five o'clock
when he arrived. She received him coldly
and without any mark of affection.
She had heard of Mr. Sanders' death;
her father had sent word. ``It shocked
me greatly,'' she said; ``but perhaps the
old man is happier in a world far from
strife and care. When we realize all the
misery there is in this world we often
wonder why we should care to live.''
Her tone was despondent, her face was
drawn and blanched, and her eyes gave
evidence of weeping.
Diotti divined that something beyond
sympathy for old Sanders' sudden death
racked her soul. He went toward her
and lovingly taking her hands, bent low
and pressed his lips to them; they were
cold as marble.
``Darling,'' he said; ``something has
made you unhappy. What is it?''
``Tell me, Angelo, and truly; is your
violin like other violins?''
This unexpected question came so
suddenly he could not control his agitation.
``Why do you ask?'' he said.
``You must answer me directly!''
``No, Mildred; my violin is different
from any other I have ever seen,'' this
hesitatingly and with great effort at
``In what way is it different?'' she
almost demanded.
``It is peculiarly constructed; it has
an extra string. But why this sudden
interest in the violin? Let us talk of
you, of me, of both, of our future,'' said
he with enforced cheerfulness.
``No, we will talk of the violin. Of
what use is the extra string?''
``None whatever,'' was the quick reply.
``Then why not cut it off?''
``No, no, Mildred; you do not
understand,'' he cried; ``I can not do
``You can not do it when I ask it?''
she exclaimed.
``Oh Mildred, do not ask me; I can
not, can not do it,'' and the face of the
affrighted musician told plainer than
words of the turmoil raging in his soul.
``You made me believe that I was the
only one you loved,'' passionately she
cried; ``the only one; that your happiness
was incomplete without me. You led
me into the region of light only to make
the darkness greater when I descended
to earth again. I ask you to do a simple
thing and you refuse; you refuse because
another has commanded you.''
``Mildred, Mildred; if you love me do
not speak thus!''
And she, with imagination greater than
reasoning power, at once saw a Tuscan
beauty and Diotti mutually pledging their
love with their lives.
``Go,'' she said, pointing to the door,
``go to the one who owns you, body and
soul; then say that a foolish woman threw
her heart at your feet and that you
scorned it!'' She sank to the sofa.
He went toward the door, and in a
voice that sounded like the echo of
despair, protested: ``Mildred, I love you;
love you a thousand times more than I
do my life. If I should destroy the
string, as you ask, love and hope would
leave me forevermore. Death would
not be robbed of its terror!'' and with
bowed head he went forth into the twilight.
She ran to the window and watched
his retreating figure as he vanished.
``Uncle Sanders was right; he loves
another woman, and that string binds them
together. He belongs to her!'' Long
and silently she stood by the window,
gazing at the shadowing curtain of the
coming night. At last her face softened.
``Perhaps he does not love her now, but
fears her vengeance. No, no; he is not
a coward! I should have approached
him differently; he is proud, and maybe
he resented my imperative manner,''
and a thousand reasons why he should
or should not have removed that string
flashed through her mind.
``I will go early to the concert tonight
and see him before he plays.
Uncle Sanders said he did not touch that
string when he played. Of course he
will play on it for me, even if he will not
cut it off, and then if he says he loves
me, and only me, I will believe him. I
want to believe him; I want to believe
him,'' all this in a semi-hysterical way
addressed to the violinist's portrait on
the piano.
When she entered her carriage an hour
later, telling the coachman to drive direct
to the stage-door of the Academy, she
appeared more fascinating than ever before.
She was sitting in his dressing-room
waiting for him when he arrived. He
had aged years in a day. His step was
uncertain, his eyes were sunken and his
hand trembled. His face brightened as
she arose, and Mildred met him in the
center of the room. He lifted her hand
and pressed a kiss upon it.
``Angelo, dear,'' she said in repentant tone;
``I am sorry I pained you this afternoon;
but I am jealous, so jealous of you.''
``Jealous?'' he said smilingly; ``there
is no need of jealousy in our lives; we
love each other truly and only.''
``That is just what I think, we will
never doubt each other again, will we?''
``Never!'' he said solemnly.
He had placed his violin case on the
table in the room. She went to it and
tapped the top playfully; then suddenly
said: ``I am going to look at your violin,
Angelo,'' and before he could interfere,
she had taken the silken coverlet off and
was examining the instrument closely.
``Sure enough, it has five strings; the
middle one stands higher than the rest
and is of glossy blackness. Uncle Sanders
was right; it is a woman's hair!
``Why is that string made of hair?''
she asked, controlling her emotion.
``Only a fancy,'' he said, feigning
``Though you would not remove it at my wish
this afternoon, Angelo; I know you will not
refuse to play on it for me now.''
He raised his hands in supplication.
``Mildred! Mildred! Stop! do not ask it!''
``You refuse after I have come
repentant, and confessing my doubts and
fears? Uncle Sanders said you would
not play upon it for me; he told me it
was wrapped with a woman's hair, the
hair of the woman you love.''
``I swear to you, Mildred, that I love but you!''
``Love me? Bah! And another woman's
tresses sacred to you? Another
woman's pledge sacred to you? I asked
you to remove the string; you refused.
I ask you now to play upon it; you refuse,''
and she paced the room like a
caged tigress.
``I will watch to-night when you
play,'' she flashed. ``If you do not use
that string we part forever.''
He stood before her and attempted to
take her hand; she repulsed him savagely.
Sadly then he asked: ``And if I do
play upon it?''
``I am yours forever--yours through
life--through eternity,'' she cried
The call-boy announced Diotti's turn;
the violinist led Mildred to a seat at the
entrance of the stage. His appearance
was the signal for prolonged and enthusiastic
greeting from the enormous audience
present. He clearly was the idol
of the metropolis.
The lights were lowered, a single
calcium playing with its soft and silvery
rays upon his face and shoulders. The
expectant audience scarcely breathed as
he began his theme. It was pity--pity
molded into a concord of beautiful
sounds, and when he began the second
movement it was but a continuation of
the first; his fingers sought but one
string, that of pity. Again he played,
and once more pity stole from the violin.
When he left the stage Mildred rushed
So him. ``You did not touch that string;
you refuse my wish?'' and the sounds
of mighty applause without drowned his
pleading voice.
``I told you if you refused me I was
lost to you forever! Do you understand?''
Diotti returned slowly to the center of
the stage and remained motionless until
the audience subsided. Facing Mildred,
whose color was heightened by the intensity
of her emotion, he began softly
to play. His fingers sought the string
of Death. The audience listened with
breathless interest. The composition
was weirdly and strangely fascinating.
The player told with wondrous power
of despair,--of hope, of faith; sunshine
crept into the hearts of all as he pictured
the promise of an eternal day; higher
and higher, softer and softer grew the
theme until it echoed as if it were afar in
the realms of light and floating o'er the
waves of a golden sea.
Suddenly the audience was startled by
the snapping of a string; the violin and
bow dropped from the nerveless hands of
the player. He fell helpless to the stage.
Mildred rushed to him, crying,
``Angelo, Angelo, what is it? What has
happened?'' Bending over him she
gently raised his head and showered unrestrained
kisses upon his lips,
oblivious of all save her lover.
``Speak! Speak!'' she implored.
A faint smile illumined his face; he
gazed with ineffable tenderness into her
weeping eyes, then slowly closed his own
as if in slumber.
The Conspirators
Arriving opposite the Franklin
house, Tom Foley took position in a
near-by alley, where he could keep close
watch on the front gate. After hours of
nervous waiting, little Lillian Franklin
came out, and Tom's heart gave a jump.
She was alone, and began to roll a hoop,
which her friend Sandy had given her
that morning. Down the street she
tripped, all smiles and happiness.
Tom watched her until she had turned
a corner, then he rushed up the alley
to intercept her. When he emerged into
the street, he saw her resting on a rustic
bench, and hastened to join her. As he
came up, he was greeted with:
``Why, Tom, I thought you went fishing
with Gil, and papa, and Sandy, and
the rest.''
``No, Lily. I felt so bad 'bout my
dad being arrested yest'day I couldn't git
up no courage to go,'' answered the boy
with simulated contrition. What d'yer
say? let's s'prise Gil, and go down to
the landin' an' meet him when he comes
in from fishin','' suggested Foley, knowing
the intense love she had for her brother.
``That'll be lovely, won't it? And
Gil will be so glad if I come.''
Lillian whipped the hoop rapidly, and
Tom kept pace with her.
``Gil will be surprised, sure enough,
when he sees me coming, won't he?''
``Yes, he'll be s'prised, you bet!'' said
the boy, taking a firmer hold of her hand.
The night was fast approaching and
Foley was leading the child through
unfrequented alleys and streets.
``But maybe Gil won't come back
this way, and it's getting awful dark.''
``Oh, he'll come back this way, all right.''
They were now on the shore of the
river, dark and desolate in its winter
dress. The restless splash of the water
sent icy sprays over the child, and,
clinging still closer to her treacherous
companion, she stopped him for a second
and begged him to return.
``Don't be afear'd, nuthin's goin' ter
happen to yer,'' he said, jerking her
savagely, and almost breaking into a run
at the same time.
``Oh, Tom, please let's go back,''
supplicated the child.
They were now at the old wharf. He
gave a low whistle, and, without waiting
for an answer, pulled the helpless child
through the entrance. Then, groping his
way over the slimy stones and through
the oozing mud, he dragged the affrighted
little one after him, to the mouth of the
cave, and called:
``Dad, I'm here.''
``Come right in,'' answered a voice.
``I've got her, an' I got her easy as
dirt,'' said the son, pushing the terrified
child into the cave, and then roughly
into the arms of his father.
``Don't yell, yer brat!'' said the older,
clasping his hand over mouth, and drawing
her brutally toward him. ``Shut
up, or I'll kill yer.''
Foley now called Hildey, who was,
asleep in the corner, and said, ``Cul,
we've got to git out er this place jest as
quick as possible. It's too near the
city, an' if we're tracked here we'll stand
no more chance than a snowball on
Beelzebub's gridiron.''
``What's yer lay, Dennis?'' questioned Hildey.
``Move up the river,'' was the reply.
``I knows jest the place where we wouldn't
be found in a thousand years.''
``When d'yer want to start?'' asked Tom.
In ten minutes the abductors, with
the stolen child, were slowly winding
their way along the deserted beach.
It was now very dark. No stars
were shining, and it had become bitterly
cold. Suddenly voices were heard, and
the abductors stopped to listen. They
were in a ravine near the magazine
landing, not more than fifty feet from the
spot where the Lillian was launched.
Foley, Tom, and Hildey crouched low,
and drew the little girl closer.
The steady dip of oars was heard up
stream, and the voices grew plainer.
Out of the mingled sounds was heard,
``I agrees with Sandy, he's the dirtiest
coward as ever went unhung.''
Lillian started, for she recognized the
voice of the Jedge, who with Colonel Franklin,
Sandy, Dink, Leander and Gilbert,
were returning from a sail up the river
Foley became frightened, and bending
over, hissed into the child's ear:
``Remember what I tol' yer: if yer
utter a sound, I'll kill yer.''
The sailing party meantime had reached
the landing and stepped ashore. Sandy
and the other three boys lowered the sail,
rolled and carried it into the boat-house.
The whole party then, marching three
abreast, with steady step, went up the
graveled walk of the old magazine road,
singing in unison:
Shoot that ni**er if he don't keep step.
Shoot that ni**er if he don't keep step.''
While its cadence was continued by
Colonel Franklin and the Jedge, the four
boys, in marching rhythm, sang out
cheerily into the crisp cold night:
``When other lips and other hearts,
Their tales of love shall tell,
In accents whose excess imparts
The power they feel so well.
There may, perhaps, in such a scene,
Some recollection be,
Of days that have as happy been,
And you'll remember me.''
The three scoundrels listened, as the
voices rose and fell on the air. The
child, with the fear of death before her,
and in the clutches of her horrible captor,
gave one convulsive sob and sank swooning
at his feet.
Foley picked her up and, walking
quickly, placed her in the very boat her
father and friends had left but a moment
before. He wrapped her in a ragged
coat, loosened the hasp of the door on the
boat-house, and took out the oars.
Quickly the captors pushed the craft
into deep water, and with muffled stroke
moved through the inky waves, a somber
specter sneaking along the banks of the
sleeping marches.
When they neared the upper bridge,
Foley ran the boat ashore and abandoned
it. Picking up the exhausted and benumbed
child, he led his two companions
along the causeway and over the road
leading to the bridge.
The wind came out of the north,
howling through the leafless boughs of
the mighty monarchs of the forest. The
last flickering light of the town was left
far behind, and darkness, like a great
shroud, enveloped river, valley and woods.
In due time Colonel Franklin and his
party reached home, hungry after their fine
sail on the river, and all in high spirits.
``Jedge, you and the boys sit right
down, and we'll have supper in a jiffy.''
The guests thoroughly enjoyed the
evening meal. The repast was about
concluded when Edith, who had just
returned from the parsonage, came in,
and called cheerily:
``Hurry up, Lily, it's time to go to the
festival. They're going to light up thet
tree at half-past eight, and it's nearly
that now.''
``Why, chil', Lily ain't here. She's
wif yo' folks,'' exclaimed Delia.
``With us? She hasn't been with us
at all,'' responded Edith.
``It's likely she's at one of the
neighbors,'' ventured the Colonel.
``I'll fin' her, Muster Franklin, an'
I'se gwine to scol' her good an' hard fo'
worryin' her ol' mammy. At this she
put a shawl over her head and shoulderst
and started in search of the absent one
``Suppose I go too,'' suggested Gilbert, rising.
``I don't think that's necessary,''
interposed the Colonel.
``It'll only take me a minute,'' assured
the son, as he began to put on his overcoat.
``Go if you like then,'' consented the Colonel.
``An' if yer don't mind, Miss Deed,''
volunteered Sandy, ``I'll go up to church
with yer, an' then come back an' fetch
Lily and Gil.''
``That's a good idea,'' answered Edith,
``bring her right over to the church, and
I'll be waiting for you there.''
``I guess I'll go up to my house an'
look. Mebbe Lily is playin' with Zorah,
an' if she is, I'll come right back an' tell
yer,'' put in Dink.
Edith, Delia and the three boys
departed, leaving the Colonel and the
Jedge alone, smoking their pipes and
discussing the sensational events of the week,
in which Dennis Foley was the central
The conversation was stopped by the
appearance of Delia and Gilbert, who
declared that not one of the neighbors
had seen Lillian that afternoon.
``It seems almost incredible that she
could be lost,'' said the father, ``she must
be somewhere about here. Perhaps she
went to the church, and fell asleep in
one of the pews.''
The searching party set out once more,
this time accompanied by the Colonel
himself, and by the Jedge. At the church
they heard from Sandy and Dink that
no trace of the child had been found,
so the father requested the minister to
inquire of the congregation if the missing
one had been seen anywhere. There was no
response from those present, and the family
and friends began to show grave concern.
Another effort at finding her was
immediately made. The police sergeant was
notified, and he sent out a general alarm.
All night long, and all the next day the
hunt was continued. Wells were explored,
basements, cellars and out-of-the-way
places were ransacked, lumber yards and
coal yards were gone through most carefully.
In fact, not a foot of the town was
left unsearched, but all to no avail, and
the once happy home of the Franklins
was steeped in sorrow and despair.
The morning after Lillian's disappearance,
Mrs. Foley inquired of the boys
in the neighborhood if they had seen
anything of her son Tom, who, she
declared, had been gone since the
previous morning.
From Sandy she learned that Tom
had taken dinner at Gilbert's the day
before, but that when the party had
started for the river he had dropped
out, claiming he was too down-hearted
to join in the pleasure.
``That's the way he acted at home,''
said the widow, ``and it seemed to me
it was almost unnacheral for him to
talk against his father, as he did.
However, I'm not bothered about him, for
he comes and goes just as he pleases,
and when he gets good and ready he'll
turn up, like a bad penny. I've stopped
worryin' about him years an' years ago.''
``If I see Tom,'' volunteered the boy,
``I'll tell him yer want him,''--and he
hurried away.
The next morning Sandy left home
earlier than usual, and on his own account
began a search for Lillian. A new theory
had taken possession of him, and he
started at once for the river. At the
magazine gate he chatted with the sentry
about the mysterious disappearance, and
passed on. When he reached the shore
half a mile beyond, he was surprised to
find that the padlock on the door of the
shed had been pried off, and that his
boat was missing.
Opening the door he saw that his
oars and blankets were gone, and he began
to feel that his theory might lead him
to important discoveries. For fully five
minutes he stood motionless, and gazed
into the river, buried deep in his own
thoughts. Then he soliloquized: ``I
wonder if Lily's been stolen? S'pose,
while we've been searchin' fer her high
an' low, Foley an' the galoot what
whacked me jest took the little girl an'
carried her off in my boat? That 'ere
story 'bout Dennis Foley buyin' a ticket
for Philadelphy struck me as fishy when
I fust heerd it, an' now I don't believe
it a t'all. They couldn't git through the
magazine gate 'thout the guards seein'
them, an' whoever took my boat either
came up the shore or down the shore.
'Tain't likely they came from up shore,
'cause they could 'a' found a hundred
boats 'tween here an' the upper bridge.''
Turning around, Sandy started down
the beach toward the cemetery. He was
studying carefully the ground beyond the
point of high tide, and in a few moments
reached the ravine where, two nights
before, the three abductors had stopped,
upon hearing Colonel Franklin and his
sailing party approach.
``Well, I'll be durned,'' he exclaimed,
for in the sand before his very eyes was
the impress of four pairs of shoes. Two
were evidently those of men, one small
enough to be that of a boy, and one so tiny
as to convince him it was that of a child.
``This is the way they come,'' he continued,
``and there wuz three of 'em in
the gang besides the little one, an' I'm
sure er that.''
He followed the footprints until he
reached the old wharf. Peering through
the rotten timbers, he said:
``That's a rum ol' hole. I don't
believe Satan hisself would go in there,
but I'm goin', an' see what I kin see.''
Sandy had no difficulty in entering the
cave, which he found strewn with whisky
bottles, pieces of bread and newly-picked
bones, evidence enough that some one
had been there but a short time before.
Penetrating deeper in his search, he
made a find of the utmost importance.
Lying at one side, and near a bed of
rags, was an envelop addressed to
Dennis Foley, and, on a peg which had
been driven into the wall, was hanging
an old hat, which he had often seen on
Hildey's head.
Elated at the results of his quest, he
began to retrace his steps, and in eager
haste he left the cave. Picking his way
along the slimy stones under the wharf,
he soon neared the outlet and there was
startled by the most significant of all
his discoveries. Right before him lay
the identical hoop which he had given
the lost child only Christmas Day, and
which bore the inscription, ``From Sandy
Coggles to Lillian Franklin.''
Every suspicion now was confirmed, and
he was sure he knew the culprits. Taking
the hoop, he returned to his boathouse
with all possible speed, and leaping
into his skiff, paddled up the river,
his eyes scanning the marsh lines on
either bank of the channel. Arriving at
the bridge, he learned by inquiry from
the tender stationed there that he had
not seen the Lillian coming up stream
within the past three days.
``But,'' explained the bridge-tender,
``I'm only on from six to six during
daylight, and of course if anything
comes through at night I wouldn't know
about it. I'm pretty sure, though, there's
been nothing up this way for a month
of Sundays, 'cept Buck Wesley, who
creeped up 'bout two hours ago, following
a gang of ducks that uses right over
there above Mayhew's Meadows. And
the way Buck's been shooting for the last
hour, he must be having a time and no
``Well, so long,'' called Sandy. ``I
guess I'll go up the river a little further
and have a look.'' And once more he
took up his paddles. As he came abreast
of the Meadows he saw Buck Wesley
coming out of the creek in his gunning
``Is that you, Sandy?'' shouted the gunner.
``That's me,'' was the boy's answer.
``Come over here, I want to talk to you,''
requested Buck.
When Sandy got alongside the hunter's boat, he asked:
``Well, Buck, what's the trouble?''
``No trouble, Sandy, but when I come
up the river this mornin'--I ain't been
up for three weeks, it's been such pore
weather for ducks--I seen a bunch of
widgeon go down right over here, an'
as I skims up by the collard patch t'other
side of the bridge, I noticed a boat lyin'
in the mud, and when I gits near to her,
I knows by the cut of her jib that she's
yer Lillian.''
``My Lillian? Wher'd yer say yer seen her?''
asked Sandy excitedly.
``Why, by the collard patch, not fifty
yards from the Causeway. She looked
like she'd drifted on the marsh. I calc'lated
when I got through shootin' that
I'd pick her up an' take her down to
yer landin'. The oars wuz in, an' I
guess she must 'a' strayed from the shore,
through somebody fergettin' to tie her up.''
``I'm much 'bliged, Buck,'' thanked
Sandy, ``but yer needn't bother. I'll
bring her down, an' the next galoot that
takes her an' lets her git away from him,
is goin' to hear from me.''
Sandy retraced the course he had come,
and after turning on the other side of
the bridge, had no trouble in finding
his boat. She was lying on a sand-bar,
but he soon succeeded in floating her
and bringing her ashore.
Safely securing the skiff and the boat,
he began another search along the beach,
and almost immediately was rewarded
by finding a knot of blue ribbon, such as
he had often seen Lillian wear in her
hair. Farther along, he discovered tracks
in the sand. These he followed, Indian
fashion, up the embankment, lost trace
of them for a moment on the hardened
surface of the carriage way, but speedily
picked them up again in the soft soil
that ran downward on the other side.
Then, it was easy to pursue them along
a pathway that led to a graveled beach
where a dozen or more skiffs had been
drawn up and tied to stakes for the
winter. From here on, all further traces
were obliterated.
Thoroughly familiar with all the river
craft belonging there, even to the individual
ownership, Sandy noticed at once
that one of the boats was missing, and
that its painter had only recently been cut.
``Why, it's Willie Bagner's boat they've
got,'' he said to himself as he recognized
which boat was missing, ``an' I'll bet my
life the scalawags are hidin' somewhere
up the river.''
Hurrying back, he rowed to the landing
and started in haste for his home, with
a plan of rescue fully developed in his
mind. He sought out Leander, Dink and
Gilbert, and asked them to call at his
house without delay.
While Sandy's investigation had
convinced him that Lillian was stolen, Colonel
Franklin had been made to realize the
same terrible fact in another and more
brutal way. When he reached his office
on the same afternoon, he found on his
desk a letter that read as follows:
dere sur--if U meen bizness i can put
U on to whar your dorter is but its goin
to kost U sum muney if U evr want to
see her agin theres a big gang got her hid
where U woodnt find hur in a 100 yerze
but if U will plank down 10000 dolers
sheze yourze if U dont you'll nevr see
hur no moar if sheze wurth thet much
to U U can git her by not blabin to
nobudy that yer got this leter an plankin
down the rino taint no use fer U to try
an git the police on our trax fer one uv
the gang is alwayz with the kid an we
have sworn to kill her if enny of us is
jugged if U meen bizness an will leeve
a noat under the big stone in front of
the ded tree by oyster shell landin up
the river we will git it an rite U where to
meet us to bring the muney and git the
child member we dont stand fer no
trechery an if U squeel we ll no it and we ll
take it out on the kid mums the word
if yer want ter see the kid again c o d
and fare deelin is our moto a word to
the wize is sufishent
yourze trooley a frend
The Colonel was completely unnerved
by the horrible knowledge that his little
daughter was in the hands of desperate
criminals. Without delay he wrote a note
offering to pay the money demanded,
agreeing to deliver it at any spot they
might name, and vowing to share his
secret with no one.
Sealing the missive, he placed it
carefully in his pocket, and drove out along
the river turnpike to a point about a
quarter of a mile from the place
designated by the anonymous writer. Tying
his horse to a tree, he walked through
the woods, and hid the note under the
stone mentioned in the letter. It was
after nightfall when he reached home,
where he was met with the heartrending
and oft-repeated question,
``Have you heard anything from Lily?''
Fearing to betray himself, even to his
family, and thus perhaps endanger the
life of his child, he was compelled to
answer, ``No, not a thing.'' With a
heavy heart, he passed into his study.
Supper was announced shortly afterward,
and as the family gathered about
the table, the father noticed that his
son was not present.
``Where is Gilbert?'' he inquired nervously.
``Sandy was here and asked Gilbert
to come over and spend the night with
him,'' answered Mrs. Franklin. ``I hadn't
the heart to refuse him, for I don't believe
any one has worked harder to find our
lost darling than Sandy, and he seems to
be the only one that can give Gilbert
any consolation.''
``I think it's better that the boys stop
searching,'' said the father. ``They might
get themselves into trouble; it's too
``I don't believe you could stop those
boys from hunting for Lillian, if they
had to go into the very jaws of death,''
interposed the grandmother.
``Oh, well,'' spoke the father; ``they
must not wear themselves out, and tomorrow,
I will tell Gilbert and Sandy
to leave the investigation to the police.''
``They'll never do it,'' objected the
grandmother, ``they love Lillian too
much. You mark my words.''
At this very moment, Sandy, Leander,
Gilbert and Dink were together, in Sandy's
little garret room. Sandy closed the
door carefully, locked it, and called his
companions about him in the middle
of the room.
``Boys,'' he whispered, ``afore I sez
anythin', I wants yer to gimme yer
word, honor bright, an' cross yer heart
three times, that yer won't spout a syllable
of what I tells yer to a soul.''
All were agreed, and the boy began:
``Now, it's this 'ere way. My boat
wuz stolen an' left, right below the upper
bridge, an' I foun' footprints an' this
'ere piece of ribbon, which Gil knows
b'longed to his sister, for she wore it
round her hair. Willie Bagner's skiff's
bin stolen, an' I believe the party that
took it hez got little Lily, because I foun'
the hoop I give her, an' this envellup in
the same place, an' it seems to me the
galoot whose name's on it is hid somewhere
up the river, an' I'm goin' after
him if I has to go alone.''
``But you won't go alone, while I'm alive,''
insisted Leander, intensely excited.
``An' I'm goin', too, even if I never
come back,'' added Dink, taking it for
granted that he was needed.
``And you must take me,'' said Gilbert
The four boys grasped one another's
hands, and Sandy declared in a solemn
``We'll stick together to the bitter end.''
``What's your plan?'' asked Leander,
with great interest.
``Without breathin' a word to a soul,
to-night about nine o'clock we wants
to leave the boat-house, you an' Dink
in one skiff, an' me an' Gil in t'other,
an' sneak up the river, an' try so nobody
won't see us. When we gits to the upper
bridge, paddle in as close to the Causeway
on the right, as we kin, huggin'
the marsh all the way. Jest before we
git to Beaver Dam, there's a deep gut
that runs 'longside of it fer a hundred
yards or more. Foller me in there,
Leander, an' stay hid till I sez move.
Don't speak a word, from the time we
push off till I sez so. Beaver Dam is
the lonesomest creek in the world, an'
mebbe Gil's little sister is kept in one of
them ol' shacks what muskrat hunters
live in, in the spring an' summer. If
them galoots is in there, they're mighty
apt ter come out late at night, when they
don't expec' nobody's roun'. Of course,
nacherelly they have some plan about
gettin' paid fer little Lily, an' they ain't
a-goin' to stay in hidin' without tryin'
to find out the lay er the land, an' jest
how hot the police is on their trail. My
idee is to go an' lay in ambush fer 'em
all night. If they don't come out, we'll
explore in the mornin', an' if we don't
find 'em hidin' roun' Beaver Dam, then
we'll lay low all day, an' push up the river
to-morrow night. But somehow, I think
that's the place they would pick out to
hide in. 'Tain't one person out er a
million that would know how to git
through Beaver Dam without gittin' lost,
an' I'm a recollectin' I took Tom Foley
through there onct an' that's why I'm
goin' there to-night. I knows it so well,
I could go through with my eyes shet.
``Each of us wants his pistol loaded
fer keeps, a knife, an' about three yards
er rope he can tie round his waist. Let's
have a bite o' supper right here in my
house, an' then we'll start fer the river,
but each feller goin' alone, an' in a different
way. Now, remember, no talkin'
to nobody, an' let's all say honor bright,
an' cross our hearts three times ag'in.''
Sandy was the first to arrive at the
boat-house. Securing the paddles, he put
them into the skiffs and watched for his
companions. He had not long to wait.
Gilbert came in a few moments, then
Leander, and shortly afterward, Dink.
Not a word was spoken. Sandy motioned
Gilbert to sit in the center seat of the
Dolly, while he took his accustomed
place at the stern. Noiselessly they
pushed into the stream, followed by
Leander and Dink.
The tide was going out, and had,
perhaps, two hours to ebb. The boys
hugged the channel bank on the right,
passed under the bridge unnoticed, and
kept on their silent and anxious way,
mile after mile. Finally, Sandy steered
into a creek and glided softly against the
mud bank, holding his skiff firmly by driving
a paddle into the soft soil. Leander
and Dink followed suit. That they might
be screened from any one coming out of
Beaver Dam, which was separated by
a narrow strip of marsh-land, they lay
flat on the bottom of their boats.
The night was not especially dark, for
the moon was looking through a mist
of hazy clouds. It was bitingly cold,
and though the boys became numb from
the many minutes of inactivity, not
one of them moved. For fully an hour
they had remained motionless, when
faintly over the water was heard the
splash, splash, splash, of paddles, far away.
The searching party were all alert in
an instant, and with raised heads, peered
cautiously over the top of the marsh
line in the direction of the sounds. Hardly
a minute had passed, when out of the
shadows that hid the entrance to Beaver
Dam, there came slowly a skiff into the
clear water. It approached to within
fifteen feet of the hidden boys, when they
recognized a voice, distinctly saying:
``I hope that guy Franklin's ben up
to the landin' an' left the note where I
tol' him to, an' don't try no shenanigan.''
``He ain't goin' to try no flapdoodles
with us,'' was the quick answer.
``Well, if he knows when he's well off,''
the first voice resumed, ``he'll come
round with the rhino mighty quick, an'
give us no more trouble.''
``I kin see us livin' like gent'men, a'ready.''
``Gent'men born an'--'' the other began,
but the last of his sentence was lost as
the boat turned up the river, and the
cadence of the paddles died in the distance.
Sandy waited until the rascals had
disappeared around the bend, then shoving
his skiff quickly alongside Leander's,
he whispered into the latter's ear:
``Me an' Gil is goin' in to Beaver Dam.
Yer knows them two fellers, an' so do I.
One of 'em is the feller what whacked me,
an' the t'other is that bum Hildey. If
they gits here afore I come back, you an'
Dink'll have to do somethin' desp'ret.''
``All right,'' said Leander, clutching
his pistol, ``you can trust me.''
Sandy rounded the point that divided
the two creeks, and in a short time had
paddled past the trees and vines that
hung over and partly covered the entrance
to Beaver Dam. The boat was managed
with consummate skill, now left, now
right, through the sinuous waterway,
and the two boys had gone fully half
a mile, when, without warning, they
were rudely jolted as the skiff grated
harshly on a bar. Ordinarily, such an
incident would have been without effect
upon them, but now their nerves were
so highly strung, that the noise of the
boat rubbing against the gravel seemed
as loud as the report of a cannon.
Using all possible force, Sandy and
Gilbert succeeded in shoving their craft
back into the water. Then they pressed
forward into the shadow of an embankment
on the left, and not a moment too
soon did they reach Gover, for the door
of a hut was thrown open, and the voice
of Tom Foley was heard, asking:
``Is that you, dad?''
An instant later Foley was seen standing
in the dim light of the doorway, shading his
eyes and peering into the darkness.
``I say, dad, is that you?'' came again.
``I'll be doggoned if I didn't think I heerd
somebody comin'. I guess 'tain't
nuthin',''--looking anxiously to the right
and left. ``I cert'nly does git scared out
er my boots aroun' here, though, when
I'm left alone. I'm goin' to wake up the
brat an' make her keep me comp'ny,''--
and the door closed with a bang.
He had hardly gone inside when the
piteous cry of a child was heard, ``Please
don't beat me, Tom.''
``I ain't beatin' yer; go ahead, dance fer me.''
Sandy and Gilbert were fairly crazed,
and in their anger rushed up toward the hut.
Again came the cry, ``Please don't hit me, Tom.''
``Dance, I say,''--and the sharp swish
of a whip was heard.
It took but a second for Sandy to
bound into the room. Surprised and
terrified, Foley made a dart for the door,
but was met by Gilbert, who, pistol in
hand, held him stock still. In desperation
Foley reached for a club and ran
back of the frightened child in the hope
that she might serve as guard against
his assailant. Like a flash, Sandy followed,
and knocked the cowardly brute
senseless with the barrel of his pistol.
Gilbert ran to his sister, and, taking her
up, showered loving kisses upon her.
With her arms clasped about his neck and
her head nestling on his shoulder, she cried:
``Oh, Gil, I'm so glad you've come. I've
been waiting all this time for you. I knew
Sandy would come, because he ain't afraid
of robbers, or anybody else, even if he had
his hands tied behind him. I've been
praying for you every minute, and here
you are.'' Again Gilbert pressed his sister
to his heart, and kissed her.
Young Foley was still lying unconscious,
as the result of the blow he had received,
and Sandy was clutching him tightly
by the throat.
``Take yer sister, little codger,'' said
Sandy, ``wrap her up, git in the skiff,
an' I'll be with yer as soon as I tie
this chuckle-headed idiot fast and tight.''
Gilbert left the hut with Lillian, while
the other boy remained long enough to
loosen the rope around his waist, and
bind the young ruffian securely. Then
he placed him in a corner of the room.
Locking the door behind him, Sandy
joined Gilbert in the skiff, and together
they paddled furiously out of the creek
into the river.
The moon was up in all her splendor,
and objects on the water were plainly
visible for some distance. Lillian was
seated in the bow, facing the two boys
at the paddles. Leander and Dink fell
in the wake of Sandy's skiff, about ten
yards in the rear.
As the party reached the middle of
the channel, a skiff came into view from
the bend, a short way above, and steered
directly toward them. With a cry,
Lillian stood up:
``Oh, Gil, here come those two bad
men that took me away.''
The boys turned, and they, too,
recognized Dennis Foley and Hildey as the
occupants of the approaching boat.
``Lie flat, little one,'' whispered Sandy,
``an' don't move till I tells yer.''
The child obeyed, but already Foley
and his partner had espied her, and it
was evident they were using all their
efforts to catch up. Leander now called:
``It's the same gang, Sandy, that came
out of the creek. What shall we do?''
``Paddle fer all ye're worth,'' was
shouted back.
``Hold up, or we'll shoot,'' yelled Dennis Foley.
With that a pistol-shot was heard
coming from the direction of the
pursuers, but the bullet went wide of its
mark, and the boys sped on.
``Don't waste yer load unless yer haveto,''
cautioned Sandy, `` 'cause yer won't have
time to put in 'nother, an' I don't want er
draw their fire, fer fear they might hit Lily.''
The race had become one of life and
death. The boys strained to the utmost
their strong young muscles, and, with
paddles bent almost double, drove their
little craft like the wind before them.
Down past Turtle Creek they flew; Licking
Banks were soon left behind, and
shortly, they were alongside the
Sycamores. Dink looked back over his
shoulder, and whispered:
``We ain't gained on 'em a bit, an'
they seem to be goin' strong.''
When the Meadows were reached, Dink
said again:
``They're comin' like everythin'.''
``Don't weaken,'' urged Leander; ``as
long as we're between them and Sandy's
skiff, they'll have to kill us before they
can get to Lillian.''
The moon was casting its light on the
waters like a great silvery path, and the
splashing of the paddles was the only
sound that awakened the echoes. Again
came the sharp report of a pistol, and
Dink dodged, as if by instinct. He
wheeled in his seat and shot point-blank
at Foley, but the ball imbedded itself
in the side of the skiff behind and did
no further damage.
``That's tit for tat,'' said Dink, ``but
it wuz a mighty close call fer me. When
the bullet whizzed past my ear I thought
I was plugged, sure.''
There were now not more than fifteen
yards between the boys and their
pursuers. Turning about, Leander saw
Hildey raise his pistol and take careful aim
at him. Quick as thought, the boy
fired first, and Hildey uttered a sharp
cry of pain, as his right arm fell helpless,
and his pistol dropped into the water.
``Curse the luck!'' muttered Foley.
``Don't give up, pard; we'll ketch 'em
afore they git much further.''
Though Hildey's right arm was useless,
he plied the paddle with his left, and the
men continued to gain. As the boys
passed through under the bridge, Leander's
boat was abreast of Sandy, who
``I'll take the swash on the right that
goes through the big marsh and comes
out at the Devil's Elbow. You hug the
channel bank, an' mebbe we'll fool 'em.''
Sandy knew that, after the river left
the bridge, it went almost southerly for
half a mile, then made an abrupt turn
at right angles, pursued its way westward
for another quarter of a mile, and
then met the swash channel, which cut
diagonally through the big marsh. At
this junction of the two streams a whirlpool
called the Devil's Elbow had been
formed, a treacherous spot for small
craft, and requiring rare skill to pass
in safety.
When Sandy told Leander to take the
main channel, it was with a desperate
hope that Foley and Hildey would be
in doubt, for the moment, which skiff to
follow as they came out under the bridge.
Within himself, he reasoned that this
hesitation, on their part, would consume
sufficient time to permit the boys to
gain a lead and reach in safety the landing,
two miles below.
``The chances are jest even-Stephen,''
he said to Gilbert, ``though it separates
us from Leander, till we reach the Devil's
But alas! Sandy's reasoning failed him
for once this time.
As Foley and Hildey came through
under the bridge, the former cried:
``Steer to the right channel an' foller
that boat; that's the one the kid's in.''
``They're after us, darn 'em,'' said
Sandy, ``but we're gittin' ahead bully.
Keep it up, Gil, an' we'll come out all
right, see if we don't.''
Dripping with perspiration, and with
hands burned and blistered, Sandy and
Gilbert were forging ahead and gaining
on their pursuers, straining every nerve
to increase their lead. As they rounded
a bend in the channel, Hildey shouted:
``There's yer chance to plug 'em, pard. Shoot!''
Foley obeyed, and the boys' skiff, which was
a metallic one, was bored through by the
pistol ball. The water poured through
the hole, and Sandy shouted to Gilbert:
``Drop yer paddle; take yer hat an'
put it over the leak, tight as yer kin;
bale with the other hand, or we'll sink
in a minit. Lily, sit up, so yer won't
get wet; but don't show yer head,''
and with a courage born of despair, Sandy
renewed his efforts.
Foley was gaining rapidly, and it
seemed that only a miracle could prevent
the boy's capture before they reached the
Devil's Elbow.
Three minutes passed with only the
sound of the lightning-like dip of the
paddles. Another short bend in the channel,
and a hundred yards ahead was the
confluence of the two currents, which
were ever at war.
``Keep on bailing, Gil,'' cried Sandy,
``an' when we git past the Elbow, if
they're too close to us, I'm goin' to use
my pistol on 'em, but I don't want ter
shoot till I can make the shot tell fer all
it's worth. Steady, Lily; hold tight,
Gil; don't move, I'll git yer through
without swampin', 'cause I knows every
current in the Elbow.''
Through the mad swirl of waters the
boy held his boat, and steered her into
the quiet tide beyond.
Leander and Dink were just turning
the bend of the main channel an eighth
of a mile away, and the skiff containing
Foley and Hildey had reached the outer
current of the eddy.
``Now you've got 'em,'' yelled Hildey,
as Sandy's skiff veered to the left, not
twenty yards from the other.
``Not if I knows it,'' cried Sandy as
he shot square at Foley, the ball going
through the sleeve of his coat, but leaving
him unharmed.
``Curse yer fer a fool!'' came from
Foley, dropping his paddle and standing
up in the skiff, which now had nothing
to guide it but Hildey's exhausted arm.
The skiff was rocking violently. Foley
attempted to balance himself as he raised
his pistol to shoot. In a flash the frail craft
was caught in the conflicting currents, it
careened and capsized, and the two men
were battling for life in the whirlpool.
Sandy was so intent on escape that
he had gone some distance down stream
before realizing he was no longer
pursued. Suddenly an agonizing cry was
borne on the midnight air:
``Help! Help! I'm drownin'!''
The boy rested on his paddle, and
scanned the river in the direction of the
``Don't let's let 'em drown like rats in
a hole,'' said Sandy, and he started his
boat back toward the bend.
``Gil, gimme yer pistol. They may be
tryin' to play some trick on us, an' if
they are, we'll be ready for 'em.''
The precaution was unnecessary, for
when they came near, they saw the
upturned skiff circling around in the eddy,
its paddles bobbing with the waves, and
the hats of Foley and Hildey slowly
drifting toward the bank.
Leander and Dink, meanwhile, had
come up, and with the other two boys
remained for fully half an hour waiting
for some sign of the two robbers, but
in vain; for far beneath the surface of
the water in the maddening current, the
ill-spent lives of Foley and Hildey were
ended. They were dead in the cruel
embrace of the Devil's Elbow.

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