Produced by Al Haines.
SHE CROUCHED, WATCHING, BREATHLESS AND UNCERTAIN. (PAGE109)]
_*The*_* SPLENDID OUTCAST*
AUTHOR OF THE SECRET WITNESS, THE GOLDEN BOUGH, THE YELLOW DOVE, ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE GIBBS
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK LONDON 1920
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1919, by THE RED BOOK CORPORATION
I. The Convalescent II. The Mystery Deepens III. The Goose IV. Outcast V. Piquette VI. Youth Triumphant VII. Awakening VIII. Threats IX. Piquette Takes a Hand X. The Samaritan XI. Confessions XII. Quinlevin Speaks XIII. Beginning a Journey XIV. A Night Attack XV. Green Eyes XVI. Nora Speaks XVII. Jim Makes a Guess XVIII. At Bay XIX. In the Dark XX. Freedom XXI. The Petit Bleu XXII. Mystery XXIII. Escape XXIV. The Clue XXV. The Conclusion
She crouched, watching, breathless and uncertain . . . _Frontispiece_
Moira talked gayly
Through Moira's clear intelligence the epic filtered
The mirror sent her back a haggard reflection, pale and somber
*THE SPLENDID OUTCAST*
Jim Horton awoke in high fever and great pain but the operation upon hisskull had been successful and it was believed that he would recover.Something as to the facts of the exploit of the wounded man had come tothe hospital and he was an object of especial solicitude by bothsurgeons and nurses. They had worked hard to save him that he might bealive for the decoration that was sure to come and the night had broughta distinct improvement in his condition. The nurse still watched hisbreathing eagerly and wrote down the new and favorable record upon thechart by his bedside. Miss Newberry was not in the least sentimentaland the war had blunted her sensibilities, but there was no denying thefact that when the dressing was removed from his head the patient wasextremely good to look at. He rewarded her on the morrow with a smile.
How long have I been here? he murmured hazily.
Six days, she replied; but you mustn't talk.
Sh--. In the head, shoulder and leg, but you're doing nicely.
Won't you tell me----? he began.
But she soothed him gently. Not now--later perhaps. You must sleepagain. Drink this--please.
Horton obeyed, for he found himself too weak to oppose her. It was veryrestful here; he wriggled his toes luxuriously against the soft sheetsfor a moment. If things would only stop whirling around.... And thepain ... but that seemed to cease again and he slept. Indeed hisawakening was only to half-consciousness. Other days and nightsfollowed when he lay in a sort of doze, aware of much suffering and agreat confusion of thought. But slowly, as he grew stronger, the factsof his present position emerged from the dimness and with them a mildcuriosity, scarcely lucid as yet, as to how he had gotten there. Atlast there came a morning when the fog upon his memory seemed to rollaside and he began to recall one by one the incidents that had precededhis unconsciousness.
There had been a fight. Some fight that was. Huns all over theplace--in a ring around the rocks, up in the branches of thetrees--everywhere. But he had held on until the Boches had started torun when the American line advanced. He remembered that the Engineerscould do other things besides build saps and bridges. Good oldEngineers! Something was wrong--somewhere.
Out of his clouded brain, slowly, the facts came to him--things that hadhappened before the fight--just before. Harry--his twin brother Harry,lying in the ditch just behind Jim's squad of Engineers, a coward, in ablue funk--afraid to carry out his Major's orders to go forward andinvestigate. A coward, of course! Harry would be. He had always beena coward.
Jim Horton sighed, his mind, ambling weakly into vacancy, suddenlyarrested by a query.
_What else?_--What else had happened? Something to do with theremarkable likeness between himself and Harry? The likeness,--so strongthat only their own mother had been able to tell them apart.
Memory came to him with a rush. He remembered now what had happened inthe darkness, what he had done. Taken Harry's lieutenant's uniform,giving the coward his own corporal's outfit. Then he, Jim Horton, hadgone on and carried out the Major's orders, leaving the coward writhingin the ditch.
By George!----the fight--he, Jim Horton, had won the victory atBoissiere Wood for the --th Infantry--_for Harry!--as Harry_!
Perhaps, he was really Harry and not Jim Horton at all? He glancedaround him curiously, as though somewhat amused at the metempyschosis.And then thoughtfully shook his head.
No. He was Jim Horton, all right--Jim Horton. There was no mistakeabout that.
But Harry! Imagine meeting Harry in a situation like that after allthese years! A coward! Not that that was a very surprising thing.Harry had always been a quitter. There was nothing that Harry could door be that wasn't utterly despicable in the eyes of his brother Jim, andafter having spent the best part of five years trying to live the memoryof Harry down----
The nurse appeared silently and looked into Jim Horton's eyes. Heclosed them a moment and then smiled at her.
How do you feel? she asked.
Better--lots better, he answered; you see, I can really think----
I wouldn't try to do that--not yet.
Oh, I'm all right. And the nurse was ready for the first time tobelieve that her patient was to remain this side of the border line ofthe dim realm into which she had seen so many go, for his eyes wereclear and he spoke with definite assurance. But the question that heasked made her dubious again.
I say, nurse, would you mind telling me what my name is?
She gazed at him a moment as though a little disappointed and thenreplied quietly: Lieutenant Henry G. Horton, of the --th Infantry.
Oh, said the patient, I see.
I think you'd better sleep a while, then I want the Major to see you.
Oh, don't bother; I'm coming through all right, now. I'm sure of it.But I want to tell you----
The nurse silenced him gently, then felt his pulse and after anotherglance at him moved to the next bed. It had been a wonderful operation,but then they couldn't expect the impossible.
Jim Horton closed his eyes, but he didn't sleep. With the shadow ofdeath still hovering over him, he was trying to think charitably ofHarry, of the man who had worked such havoc in the lives of thosenearest him. The five years that had passed since the death of theirmother--poor, tired soul who until the end believed the whole thing amistake--could not have been fruitful in anything but evil in the lifeof the reprobate twin-brother who had robbed the family of what had beenleft of the estate and then fled away from the small town where theylived to the gay lights of New York. And now here he was--an officer ofthe United States Army where commissions do not come without merit.What did it mean? Harry was always clever enough, too clever by half.Had he quit drinking? Was he living straight? There seemed but oneanswer to these questions, or he could not have held his job in thearmy. His job! His commission wouldn't last long if his commandingofficer knew what Jim Horton did.
They all thought that the patient in the hospital bed was Harry Horton,a Lieutenant of the --th Infantry, The corporal had won the lieutenantsome glory, it seemed, instead of the ruin that awaited the discovery ofthe cowardice and disobedience of orders. But the substitution would bediscovered unless Jim Horton could find his brother Harry. And how washe going to manage that from his hospital bed?
A gentle perspiration exuded from Jim Horton's pores. Being surroundedby Boches in the wood was distinctly less hazardous than this. And sowhen the nurse returned with the Major, he did his best to straightenout the tangle. The Major was much pleased at the patient's progress,made a suggestion or two about a change in the treatment and was on thepoint of turning away when Horton spoke.
Would you mind, sir--just a word?
Of course. Something bothering you?
Yes. You see---- the patient hesitated again, his lip twisting, thiswhole thing is a mistake.
The doctor eyed the sick man narrowly.
A mistake? And then kindly, I don't understand.
Horton frowned at the bed-rail. You see, sir, I'm not Henry G. Horton.I--I'm somebody else.
He saw the nurse and the doctor exchange glances,
Ah, well, said the medical man with a smile, I wouldn't bother aboutit.
But I _do_ bother about it, sir. I've got to tell you. I'm anotherman. I changed uniforms with--with another fellow in the dark, hefinished uneasily.
The same look passed between nurse and surgeon and then he saw MissNewberry's head move slightly from left to right. The doctor rose.
Oh, very well. Don't let it bother you, my man. We'll get you alluntangled presently. Just try not to think; you're doing nicely.
And the Major moved slowly down the ward.
Jim Horton frowned at the medical officer's broad back.
Thinks I'm nutty, he muttered to himself, and then grinned. The story_was_ a little wild.
When the Major had left the ward, the nurse came back and smoothedHorton's pillow. You're to be very quiet, she said gently, and sleepall you can.
But, nurse, he protested, I don't want to sleep any more. I told himthe truth. I've taken another man's place.
You did it very well, from all accounts, she said with a smile; andyou'll take another man's before long, they say.
What do you mean?
Promotion, she laughed; but you won't get it if you have a relapse.
I'm not going to have a relapse. I'm all right. Better every day, andI'd like you to understand that I know exactly what I'm saying. I tookanother man's job. He was--was sick and I took his place. I'm notLieutenant Horton, nurse.
You may be whatever you please, if you'll only go to sleep.
Bless your heart! That isn't going to change my identity.
His positiveness rather startled her and made her pause and stare at himsoberly. But in a moment her lips curved into a smile, rather tenderand sympathetic. It wouldn't do to let this illusion grow, so gentlyshe said: Your authenticity is well vouched for. The report of yourcompany Captain--the Sergeant-Major of your battalion. You see, you'vebecome rather a famous person in the --th. I've seen some of yourpapers, they're all quite regular. Even your identification disk. It'shere in the drawer with some other things that were in your pockets, soplease relax and sleep again, won't you? I mustn't talk to you. It'scontrary to orders.
She patted him gently on the arm, put a warning finger to her lips, andsilently stole away. His gaze followed her the length of the room untilshe disappeared through the door when he sank back on his pillows with agroan.
Nutty! he muttered to himself; wonder if I am. He touched thebandage and realized that his head was beginning to throb again. No,I'm Jim Horton all right, there's no doubt about that, but how I'm goingto make these seraphic idiots believe it is more than I can see. ThatSergeant! And the men.... By George! And the Sergeant-Major. Probablylooked me over at the dressing station. Oh, Lord, what a mess!
Things began whirling around and Jim Horton closed his eyes; he wasn'tquite as strong as he thought he was, and after a while he slept again.
Downstairs in the Major's office two surgeons and the nurse in chargewere discussing the case.
Queer obsession that. Thinks he's another man. There may be somepressure there yet. It ought to have cleared up by this.
It's shock, sir, I think. He'll come out of it. He's coming on, MissNewberry?
Splendidly. That's what I can't understand. He _looks_ as though heknew what he was saying.
Any chance of there being a mistake?
None at all, sir. Doctor Rawson came down with him in the ambulance,his own company captain was there when the patient was given first aid.He would have known his own lieutenant, sir. There can't be anymistake, but he has scarcely any fever----
Never mind, keep an extra eye on him. The wound is healing nicely.He'll come through all right.
So Nurse Newberry returned to the ward, somewhat gratified to find hercharge again peacefully asleep.
The next day the patient did not revert to his obsession, but lay veryquiet looking out of the window. His failure to reveal his secret lefthim moody and thoughtful. But his temperature was normal and he waswithout pain.
You say there were some things in the pockets of--of my blouse, heasked of the nurse.
Yes, would you like to have them? The patient nodded and she gavethem to him, the identification disk, a wrist watch, some money, anote-book and some papers. He looked them over in an abstracted way,sinking back on his pillow at last, holding the letters in his hand.Then at last as though coming to a difficult decision, he took one ofthe letters out of its envelope and began reading.
It was in a feminine hand and added more heavily to the burden of hisresponsibilities.
Dear Harry (it ran):
I'm just back to my room, a wife of three hours with a honeymoon in arailway station! It all seems such a mistake--without even an old shoeto bless myself with. If I've helped you I'm glad of it. But I'm notgoing to lie just to square us two with the Almighty for the mockeryI've been through. I don't love you, Harry, and you know that. I didwhat Dad asked me to do and I'd do it again if he asked me.
He seems restless to-night, and talks about going back to Paris. Isuppose I could do something over there for I've lost all impulse for mywork. Perhaps we'll come and then you could run up and see us. I'lltry to be nice to you, Harry, I will really. You know there's alwaysbeen something lacking in me. I seem to have given everything to mypainting, so there's very little left for you, which is the Irish in mesaying I'm a heartless hussy.
Soon I'll be sending you the pair of gray socks which I knitted with myown hands. They're bunchy in spots and there's a knot or two here andthere, but I hope you can wear them--for the Deil's own time I hadmaking them. Good-night. I suppose that I should be feeling proud at mysacrifice; I don't, somehow, but I'll be feeling glad if you haveanother bar to your shoulder. That might make me proud, knowing thatI'd helped.
P. S. Don't be getting killed or anything; I never wanted to marryanybody but I don't want you done away with. Besides, I've a horror ofcrepe.
Jim Horton read the letter through furtively with a growing sense ofintrusion. It was like listening at a confessional or peering through akeyhole. And somehow its ingenuous frankness aroused his interest.Harry had been married to this girl who didn't love him and she hadconsented because her father had wanted her to. He felt unaccountablyindignant on her account against Harry and the father. Prettyname--Moira! Like something out of a book. She seemed to breathe bothyouth and hope tinged horribly with regret. He liked her handwritingwhich had dashed into her thoughts impulsively, and he also liked theslight scent of sachet which still clung to the paper. He liked thegirl better, pitied her the more, because her instinct had been sounerring. If she had thrown herself away she had done it with her eyeswide open. A girl who could make such a sacrifice from lofty motives,would hardly condone the thing that Harry had been guilty of. Acoward....
There was another letter, of a much later date, in a masculine hand.Jim Horton hesitated for a moment! and then took it out of its envelope.
Harry boy, he read, so far as I can see at this writing the wholething has gone to the demnition bow-wows. Suddenly, without aby-your-leave, the money stopped coming. I wrote de V. and cabled, butthe devil of a reply did he give. So I'm coming to Paris with Moira atonce and it looks as though we'd have to put the screws on. But I'd befeeling better if the papers were all ship-shape and Bristol fashion.You'll have to help. Maybe the uniform will turn the odd trick. If itdon't we'll find some way.
I feel guilty as Hell about Moira. If you ever make her unhappy I'llhave the blood of your heart. But I'm hoping that the love will come ifyou play the game straight with her.
Meanwhile we'll feather the nest if we can. He's got to 'come across.'There's some agency working against us--and I've got to be on the sceneto ferret--_instanter_. Moira got some portraits to do or we wouldn'thave had the wherewithal for the passage. As it is, I'll be having tomake the move with considerable skill, leaving some obligations behind.But it can't be helped, and Moira won't know. The world is but a poorplace for the man who doesn't make it give him a living. Mine has beenwretched enough, God knows, and the whisky one buys over the bar in NewYork is an insult to an Irishman's intelligence, to say nothing of beinga plague upon his vitals.
Enough of this. Come to the Rue de Tavennes, No. 7, in your nextfurlough, and we'll make a move. By that time I'll have a plan. Moirasends her love.
Yours very faithfully, BARRY QUINLEVIN.
P. S. There was a pretty squall brewing over the Stamford affair, but Ireefed sail and weathered it. So you can sleep in peace.
Jim Horton lay for a while thinking and then read the two letters again.The masculine correspondent was the girl's father. Barry Quinlevin, itseemed, was a scoundrel of sorts--and the girl adored him. Many of thepassages in the letter were mystifying. Who was de V----? And what wasHarry's connection with this affair? It was none of Jim Horton'sbusiness, but in spite of himself he began feeling an intense sympathyfor the girl Moira, who was wrapped in the coils of what seemed on itsface to be an ugly intrigue, if it wasn't something worse.
Strange name, Quinlevin. It was Moira's name too, Irish. The phraseabout having Harry's heart's blood showed that Barry Quinlevin wasn'tbeyond compunctions about the girl. But why had he connived at thisloveless marriage? There must have been a reason for that.
Jim Morton put the letters in the drawer and gave the problem up. Itwasn't his business whom Harry had married or why. The main thing wasto get well and out of the hospital so that he could find his brotherand set the tangle straight.
He couldn't imagine just how the substitution was to be accomplished,but if Harry had played the game there was a chance that it might yet bedone. He didn't want Harry's job. And he silently cursed himself forthe unfortunate impetuous moment that had brought about all the trouble.But how had he known that he was going to be hit? If he had onlysucceeded in getting back to the spot where Harry was waiting for him,no one would ever have been the wiser. No one knew now, but of coursethe masquerade couldn't last forever. The situation was impossible.
Meanwhile what was Harry doing? Had he succeeded in playing out thegame during Jim Horton's sickness, or had he found himself in a tightplace and quit? It would have been easy enough. Horton shiveredslightly. Desertion, flight, ignominy, disgrace. And it wasn't HarryHorton's good name that would be in question, but his own, that of JimHorton, Corporal of Engineers. As a name, it didn't stand for much yet,even out in Kansas City, but he had never done anything to dishonor itand he didn't want the few friends he had to think of him as a quitter.Nobody had ever accused him of being that. What a fool he had been totake such a chance for a man like Harry!
In the midst of these troublesome meditations, he was aware of NurseNewberry approaching from the end of the ward. Following her were twopeople who stopped at his bed, a man and a girl. The man was strong,with grizzled hair, a bobbed Imperial and a waxed mustache. The girl hadblack hair and slate-blue eyes. And even as Jim Horton stared at them,he was aware of the man confidently approaching and taking his hand.
Well, Harry, don't you know me? a voice said. Rather hazy, eh? Idon't wonder....
Who the devil were these people? There must be a mistake. Jim Hortonmumbled something. The visitor's eyes were very dark brown shot withtiny streaks of yellow and he looked like an amiable satyr.
I've brought Moira--thought ye'd like to see her.
The patient started--then recovered himself. He had forgotten the lapseof time since the letters had been written.
Moira, he muttered.
The girl advanced slowly as the man made place. Her expression had beenserious, but as she came forward she smiled softly.
Harry, she was whispering, as he stared at her loveliness, don't youknow me?
Moira! he muttered weakly. I'm not---- But his hands made nomovement toward her and a warm flush spread over the part of his facethat was visible.
You've been very sick, Harry. But we came as soon as they'd let us.And you're going to get well, thank the Holy Virgin, and then----
I'm not---- the words stuck in Jim Horton's throat. And he couldn'tutter them.
You're not what? she questioned anxiously.
Another pause of uncertainty.
I--I'm not--very strong yet, he muttered weakly, turning his head toone side.
And as he said it, he knew that in sheer weakness of fiber, spiritual aswell as physical, he had made a decision.
The Satyr behind her laughed softly.
Naturally, he said, but ye're going to be well very soon.
They were both looking at him and something seemed to be required ofhim. So with an effort,
How long--how long have you been in France? he asked.
Only three weeks, said Quinlevin, watching the bulletins daily fornews of you. I found out a week ago, but they wouldn't let us in untilto-day. And we can stay only five minutes.
Then Moira spoke again, with a different note in her voice.
Are you glad that I came? she asked. It was the least I could do.
The word seemed sufficient. Jim Horton seemed glad to utter it. If shewould only recognize the imposture and relieve him of the terriblemoment of confession. But she didn't. She had accepted him asQuinlevin, as all the others had done, for his face value, without asign of doubt.
And Barry Quinlevin stood beaming upon them both, his bright eyessnapping benevolence.
If ye get the V.C., Harry boy, she'll sure be worshiping ye.
Jim Horton's gaze, fixed as though fascinated upon the quiet slate-blueeyes, saw them close for a moment in trouble, while a quick little frownpuckered the white forehead. And when she spoke again, her voiceuttered the truth that was in her heart.
One cannot deny valor, she said coolly. It is the greatest thing inthe world.
She wanted no misunderstandings. She only wanted Harry Horton to knowthat love was not for her or for him. The fakir under the bed clothesunderstood. She preferred to speak of valor. Valor! If she only knew!
Jim Horton gathered courage. If he wasn't to tell the truth he wouldhave to play his part.
Everybody is brave--out there, he said, with a gesture.
But not brave enough for mention, said Quinlevin genially. It won'tdo, Harry boy. A hero ye were and a hero ye'll remain.
Horton felt the girl's calm gaze upon his face.
I'm so glad you've made good, Harry. I am. And I want you to believeit.
Thanks, he muttered.
Why did she gaze at him so steadily? It almost seemed as though she hadread his secret. He hoped that she had. It would have simplifiedthings enormously. But she turned away with a smile.
You're to come to us, of course, as soon as they let you out, she saidquietly.
Well, rather, laughed Quinlevin.
The nurse had approached and the girl Moira had moved to the foot of thebed. Barry Quinlevin paused a moment, putting a slip of paper inHorton's hand.
Well, _au revoir_, old lad. In a few days again----
The wounded man's gaze followed the girl. She smiled back once at himand then followed the nurse down the ward. Jim Horton sank back intohis pillows with a gasp.
Well--now you've done it. Now you _have_ gone and done it, hemuttered.