“He says the moving picture people have an office down-town. We can make it if we go now.”
So he called a cab, and we started at a gallop. There was no sign of the detective. “Upon my word,” Richey said, “I feel lonely without him.”
The people at the down-town office of the cinematograph company were very obliging. The picture had been taken, they said, at M-, just two miles beyond the scene of the wreck. It was not much, but it was something to work on. I decided not to go home, but to send McKnight’s Jap for my clothes, and to dress at the Incubator. I was determined, if possible, to make my next day’s investigations without Johnson. In the meantime, even if it was for the last time, I would see Her that night. I gave Stogie a note for Mrs. Klopton, and with my dinner clothes there came back the gold bag, wrapped in tissue paper.
THE SHADOW OF A GIRL
Certain things about the dinner at the Dallas house will always be obscure to me. Dallas was something in the Fish Commission, and I remember his reeling off fish eggs in billions while we ate our caviar. He had some particular stunt he had been urging the government to for years—something about forbidding the establishment of mills and factories on river-banks—it seems they kill the fish, either the smoke, or the noise, or something they pour into the water.
Mrs. Dallas was there, I think. Of course, I suppose she must have been; and there was a woman in yellow: I took her in to dinner, and I remember she loosened my clams for me so I could get them. But the only real person at the table was a girl across in white, a sublimated young woman who was as brilliant as I was stupid, who never by any chance looked directly at me, and who appeared and disappeared across the candles and orchids in a sort of halo of radiance.
When the dinner had progressed from salmon to roast, and the conversation had done the same thing—from fish to scandal—the yellow gown turned to me. “We have been awfully good, haven’t we, Mr. Blakeley?” she asked. “Although I am crazy to hear, I have not said ‘wreck’ once. I’m sure you must feel like the survivor of Waterloo, or something of the sort.”
“If you want me to tell you about the wreck,” I said, glancing across the table, “I’m sorry to be disappointing, but I don’t remember anything.”
“You are fortunate to be able to forget it.” It was the first word Miss West had spoken directly to me, and it went to my head.
“There are some things I have not forgotten,” I said, over the candles. “I recall coming to myself some time after, and that a girl, a beautiful girl—”
“Ah!” said the lady in yellow, leaning forward breathlessly. Miss West was staring at me coldly, but, once started, I had to stumble on.
“That a girl was trying to rouse me, and that she told me I had been on fire twice already.” A shudder went around the table.