“Well—it makes one feel that anything can happen here—that the city is quicksand where a chance step would engulf one.” Billy stared frowningly out on the vivid street ahead of him. A pretty English bride and her soldier husband were out exercising their dogs. Two ladies in a victoria were advertising their toilettes. A blond baby toddled past with his black nurse. It was all very peaceful and charming. It did not look like quicksand.... Into the picture came a one-eyed man with a stuffed crocodile on his head, stalking slowly along, scanning the veranda with his single, penetrating eye, calling his wares in harsh gutturals, and with him came suddenly the sense of that strange background before which all this bright tourist life was played, that dark watching, secret East, curious and incalculable.
Falconer folded his paper with a sharp crackle that recalled young Hill’s wandering thought. “That’s all very well, but it doesn’t apply,” he observed, with conviction.
“Then where is she?” Billy was bluntly belligerent.
The other put his paper in his pocket. “In Alexandria, to be sure, and not at all pleased, either, to have you bring her name into such questioning.” He looked squarely at Billy as he said that, and the eyes of the two young man met and exchanged a secret challenge of hostility.
Billy rose. “Oh, all right,” he returned. “I daresay I am as much a fool as you take me for.... She may be all right. But if not—I thought I’d give you a chance to take a hand in it.”
“The sporting chance,” said Falconer, with an appreciable smile. “I’m much obliged—but I don’t at all share your misgivings.... And what in the world do you propose to do about it?”
For a minute Billy’s gaze blankly interrogated the sunlit distances. His eyes were fixed, but empty; his forehead knitted in an uncertain frown. Then quite suddenly he turned and flashed at Falconer a look of odd and unforeseen decision.
“I’m going to buy a crocodile,” he imparted, with a wide, boyish grin. “I’m going to buy a crocodile of a one-eyed man.”
Stolidly Falconer eyed his departing back. Stolidly, definitely, comprehensively, he pronounced judgment. “Mad,” said he. “Mad as the March Hare.”
THE MIDNIGHT VISITOR
That stealthy touch brought Arlee half upright, shot with ghastly alarms. Her heart stopped beating; it stood still in the cold clutch of terror. The breath seemed to have left her body.
Once more she felt the hands gropingly upon her. It came from the back side of her bed, reaching apparently from the very wall. And then she heard a voice whispering, “Be still—I do not hurt you. Be still.”
It was a woman’s voice, soft, sibilant, hushed, and the frozen grip of fear was broken. She was trembling now uncontrollably.
“Who is there?”