Nelse Ackerman’s home was far out in the suburbs of the city, upon a knoll surrounded by forest. It was a couple of miles from the nearest trolley line, which forced Peter to take a hot walk in the sun. Apparently the great banker, in selecting the site of his residence, had never once thought that anybody might want to get to it without an automobile. Peter reflected as he walked that if he continued to move in these higher circles, he too would have to join the motor-driving class.
About the estate there ran a great bronze fence, ten feet high, with sharp, inhospitable spikes pointing outwards. Peter had read about this fence a long time ago in the American City “Times”; it was so and so many thousand yards long, and had so and so many spikes, and had cost so and so many tens of thousands of dollars. There were big bronze gates locked tight, and a sign that said: “Beware the dogs!” Inside the gates were three guards carrying rifles and walking up and down; they were a consequence of the recent dynamite conspiracy, but Peter did not realize this, he took them for a regular institution, and a symbol of the importance of the man he was to visit.
He pressed a button by the side of the gate, and a lodgekeeper came out, and Peter, according to orders, gave the name “Arthur G. McGillicuddy.” The lodge-keeper went inside and telephoned, and then came back and opened the gate, just enough to admit Peter. “You’re to be searched,” said the lodge-keeper; and Peter, who had been arrested many times, took no offense at this procedure, but found it one more evidence of the importance of Nelse Ackerman. The guards went thru his pockets, and felt him all over, and then one of them marched him up the long gravel avenue thru the forest, climbed a flight of marble steps to the palace on the knoll, and turned him over to a Chinese butler who walked on padded slippers.
If Peter had not known that this was a private home he would have thought it was an art gallery. There were great marble columns, and paintings bigger than Peter, and tapestries with life-size horses; there were men in armor, and battle axes and Japanese dancing devils, and many other strange sights. Ordinarily Peter would have been interested in learning how a great millionaire decorated his house, and would have drunk deep of the joy of being amid such luxury. But now all his thoughts were taken up with his dangerous business. Nell had told him what to look for, and he looked. Mounting the velvet-carpeted staircase, he noted a curtain behind which a man might hide, and a painting of a Spanish cavalier on the wall just opposite. He would make use of these two sights.