The Penalty eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about The Penalty.

Rose sat at the window of her room looking upward into a night of stars.  She could not sleep.  Twice she had heard the legless man pass her door upon his crutches.  Each time he had hesitated, and once, or so she thought, he had laid his hand upon the door-knob.  She wondered how much of her wakefulness was due to fright; and how much to the excitement of being well launched upon a case of tremendous importance, for the secret service knew that Blizzard was engaged upon a colossal plot of some sort, and just what that was Rose had volunteered, at the risk of her life, and of her honor, to find out.


The next morning, at the appointed hour, Blizzard climbed the stairs to Barbara’s studio, knocked, and was admitted.  That he was welcome, if only for his head’s sake, was at once evident.

“Something told me that you wouldn’t fail me,” said Barbara.

“You can be quite easy about that,” said Blizzard.  “I am in the habit of keeping my word.”

He climbed to the model’s platform and seated himself as upon the previous morning, with a kind of business-like directness.

“Ready when you are,” he said.

Barbara withdrew the damp cloths from the clay, looked critically from the bust to the original and back again.  “My work,” she said, “still looks right to me.  But you don’t.”

Blizzard smiled.

“Yesterday,” she said, “you looked as if you were suffering like,” she laughed, “like the very devil.  To-day you look well fed and contented.  Now that won’t do.  Try to remember what you were thinking about when I first saw you.”

At once, as a fresh slide is placed in a magic-lantern, the legless man’s expression of well-being vanished, and that dark tortured look of Satan fallen which had so fired Barbara’s imagination, once more possessed his features.  Barbara’s eyes flashed with satisfaction.

“It wasn’t hard for you to remember what you were thinking about, was it?” she said.

“It was not,” said Blizzard, and his voice was cold as a well-curb.  “When I first saw you, I was thinking thoughts that can never be forgotten.”

“Lift your chin, please,” she said, “just a fraction.  So.  Turn your head a fraction more toward me.  Good.  And please don’t think of anything pleasant until I tell you.  Anybody can make an exact copy of a head.  Expressions are the things that only lucky people can catch.”

“I believe you are one of them,” said Blizzard.  “I believe you will catch mine—­if you keep on wanting to.”

“I must,” she said simply.

And then for half an hour there was no sound in the studio but the long-drawn breathing of the legless man.  Barbara worked in a kind of grim, exalted silence.

Meanwhile Bubbles was climbing the back stair to his bedroom, where he had left Harry, the secret-service agent, on guard over Barbara.  The boy, all out of breath with haste, opened his right fist and disclosed a narrow slip of paper with writing on it.

Project Gutenberg
The Penalty from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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