THE GHOST OF AN OLD REGIME
It was a quick, silent struggle. The intruder wore no shoes. It would be a test of endurance. Fitzgerald recalled some tricks he had learned in Japan; but even as he stretched out his arm to perform one, the arm was caught by the wrist, while a second hand passed under his elbow.
“Don’t!” he gasped lowly. “I’ll give in.” His arm would have snapped if he hadn’t spoken.
A muttered oath in German. “Fitzgerald?” came the query, in a whisper.
“Yes. For God’s sake, is this you, Breitmann?”
“Sh! Not so loud! What are you doing here?”
“Listen! It has stopped. He has heard our scuffling.”
“It seems, then, that we are both here for the same purpose?” said Fitzgerald, pulling down his cuffs, and running his fingers round his collar.
“Yes. You came too late or too soon.” Breitmann stooped, and ran his hands over the rug.
The other saw him but dimly. “What’s the matter?”
“I have lost one of my studs,” with the frugal spirit of his mother’s forebears. “You are stronger than I thought.”
“It’s a good thing you did not get that hold first. You’d have broken my arm.”
“Wouldn’t have given in, eh? I simply cried quits in order to start over again. There’s no fair fighting in the dark, you know.”
“Well, we have frightened him away. It is too bad.”
“What have you on your feet?”
“Are you afraid of the cold?”
A laugh. “Not I!”
“Come with me.”
“First to the cellar. Remember that hot-air box from the furnace, that backs the chimney, way up?”
“I looked only at the bricks.”
“We’ll go and have a look at that box. It just occurred to me that there is a cellar window within two feet of that box.”
“Let us hurry. Can you find the way?”
“I can try.”
Fitzgerald exhibited his electric pocket lamp. “This will do.”
After some mistakes they found their way to the cellar. The window was closed, but not locked, and resting against the wall was a plank. It leaned obliquely, as if left in a hurry. Fitzgerald took it up, and bridged between the box and the window ledge. Breitmann gave him a leg up, and in another moment he was examining the brick wall of the great chimney under a circular white patch of light. A dozen rows of bricks had been cleverly loosened. There were also evidences of chalk marks, something on the order of a diagram; but it was rather uncertain, as it had been redrawn four or five times. The man hadn’t been sure of his ground.
“Can you see?” asked Fitzgerald.