“You are wrong!” he cried. “She’s been at home waiting for you. She thinks you have deserted her and your baby. I tell you she loves you, you fool, she loves you!”
The fingers on his throat suddenly relaxed; the flaming eyes of Ashton, glaring into his, wavered and grew wide with amazement.
“Loves me,” he whispered. “Who loves me?”
“Your wife,” protested Ford; “the girl at the Savoy, your wife.”
Again the fingers of Ashton pressed deep around his neck.
“That is not my wife,” he whispered. His voice was unpleasantly cold and grim. “That’s ‘Baby Belle,’ with her hair dyed, a detective lady of the Pinkertons, hired to find me. And you know it. Now, who are you?”
To permit him to reply Ashton released his hand, but at the same moment, in a sudden access of fear, dug the revolver deeper into the pit of Ford’s stomach.
“Quick!” he commanded. “Never mind the girl. Who are you?”
Ford collapsed against the cushioned corner of the cab. “And she begged me to find you,” he roared, “because she loved you, because she wanted to believe in you!” He held his arms above his head. “Go ahead and shoot!” he cried. “You want to know who I am?” he demanded. His voice rang with rage. “I’m an amateur. Just a natural born fool-amateur! Go on and shoot!”
The gun in Ashton’s hand sank to his knee. Between doubt and laughter his face was twisted in strange lines. The cab was whirling through a narrow, unlit street leading to Covent Garden. Opening the door Ashton called to the chauffeur, and then turned to Ford.
“You get off here!” he commanded. “Maybe you’re a ‘Pink,’ maybe you’re a good fellow. I think you’re a good fellow, but I’m not taking any chances. Get out!”
Ford scrambled to the street, and as the taxicab again butted itself forward, Ashton leaned far through the window. “Good-by, son,” he called. “Send me a picture-postal card to Paris. For I am off to Maxim’s,” he cried, “and you can go to—”
“Not at all!” shouted the amateur detective indignantly. “I’m going back to take supper with ’Baby Belle’!”
THE MAKE-BELIEVE MAN
I had made up my mind that when my vacation came I would spend it seeking adventures. I have always wished for adventures, but, though I am old enough—I was twenty-five last October—and have always gone half-way to meet them, adventures avoid me. Kinney says it is my fault. He holds that if you want adventures you must go after them.