Press enter after choosing selection

A Dark Night's Work

A Dark Night's Work image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

" Guing to try your luck at faro, Blais011 ■(' " No," was tlie answer ; " I never gamble. lui only goiug up to look on." " Humpu ! l'iu off. Good-night." " Guud-uight." Harry Blaisdell paused on the stoue steps of a moderate loking house, situated in upper Bioadway, and watohed hisfriend's inauly loriu uutil it disappeared in the crowd that thronged tht brilliantly-lighted street. Tliere was a aad, half wistfui look iti his haiidsouie, brown ejes, seldom lo ïie seeu there. " 1 wonder what bas come over me," he uiutteied, wilh an iuipatieiit shrug. - ■' Suiiiehow it sterns as ïf to-night were goiug to be a tuining point in my career. i eau t couque r the impression any more thau I could have overeóme the incomprehensible luagnetism that drew myfeet 10 this place ot all others." He glanced up quickly at the dark front of the building before which he t-tood, uesitated still anotber instant, as if temp ted 10 follow his friend down town, after all, then slowly turued the door-knob and went in. He found himself in a epacious hall, diuily lighted by a single gas-jet. A staircase, heavily carved and thickly carpeted, led up iroin the center, and an attendant stood leauing against the wall near a marble Ariadne, a little to the right of the entrance. Harry Blaisdell barely uodded to the man, and then passed up the stairs as if well acquainted with the place, though, truth to teil, he had never penetrated to the vile ganibling den - for such, in reality it was - but onco hefore in all his life. Pushing open the nearest door upon the landing, ha euternd a large, brilliantlylighted room, furnished with the mostexquisite taste. A velvet pile covered the üoor ; soft folds of filmy laoe screeued the windows ; handsome mirrors adorned the wulls, and heavily carved divans were arranged about the apartment. In one corner stood a massive sideboard, all of a glitter with cut glass, and silver, and swinging gas-jets. Harry hurried shudderingly past it, as if it had been souie hundred-headed dragon, and entered the room beyond. Here the great game of faro was goiug on round a baize table at the upper end. The hour was late, and very few persons were in the room, though occaglonally a muttered curse or a discordant Uugh issued t'roni apartments beyond, indicatiug that the place was not deserted by any means, and that different games were goiug on. Harry paused near the faro-table, and his glance at. once singled out a handsome, well dressed young gentleman, who, in company with two other men of quite a different stamp, seemed to be playing against the game. The young man was frightfully pale ; lus eyes were bloodshot, but burned with au unnatural glitter, and the hand resting against ime corner of the table trembled hke an aspen leaf. " I'in ruined !" he cried out, suddenly, with a íearful oath. " Humph," said the dealer, sneeringly. " Got enough of it for one night, eh 'e" The youug man hesitated a moment pressed both hands against bis burning temples, and exclahued, iu a hoarse voice ; " I believe you have swindled me ! Bat it's of no use complaining. '11 üght it out with you yet." He tore a diamond pin froni his sbirtfrout, and slung it across the table, with the words: " Lt-nd me a bundreil on that." "All right said the dealer, with an assuring siiüle ; and he passed over checks tor the required amouiit. Again ihe game proceeded. Hany almost held his breath as he watohed its progresa, and saw great beads of perspiratioti on the young man '8 forehead. Luck was still against hiui, and he lost. "I demand another chance to redeeui myselt," he cried, hoarsely ; and this time a handsome gold watch and cbain was pushed into the dealers haud. At this instant two moistfingers tapped again8t Harry's cheek, and a leering, sarcaatic face was pressed closo up to his own. "I say, 8r," piped a shrill voice, " what . prccious fooi that youngster is making of bimself. He ought to know ho is playing against decoys, and his not a gbost of a chunce." " Who is he'r" asked Harry, too curious to resent the familiarity. "Theson of a Wall street banker - Dick Van Alstine by name." " Ah !" exclaimed Harry, involuntarily. The name was quite familiar to him as belonging to one of the New York millionaires. A brief silence followed which was broken by a startled cry trom his new acquaintance. " Good Heaven ! Look yonder. See that lad standing behind Van Alstine's chair !" Harry's eyes were already turning in that direction. A handsome youth had glided quite unobserved into the apartment, and now stood, as if transfixed, watching the progresa of the game. He had a round, fair face, delicate as anv woman's, great, loug-lashed velvety eyes, blue as fringed gentians, a little red, ripe mouth, and a profusión of yellowish hair, curling around a low, white brow. lt was a singular face to encounter in such a place. Harry feit a sudden thrill of mingled delight and pain as he gazed upon it. He reeoiled, as from a sudden shock, without knowing why. From the faro-table there came an abrupt ejaculation presen tly. " Lost again !" It was Van Alstine's voice. Ho rose up, white as death, fumbled in his vest pocket a moment, and brought out a gold locket, thickly studdod with jewels. The fair-faced youtb gave a sudden start at sight of the glittering trinket. " Give me oue more trial," said Van Alstine, in a sharp, excited voice ; " luck cminot always be against me." This time the dealer shook his head. " I can't advance you any more checks to night." Van Alstine muttered an impatient curse, and glanced wildly round the table. " This bauble cost me five hundred dollars," said he, holding up the locket; " Will anybody give me half that sum for it now?" There was a moment's silence, Then the fair-faced youth (who had entirely eseaped Van Alstine's observation) suddenly pushed a pretty, slender hand over his shoulder. " I will," he said, in accents soft as the tinkle of a silver bell. At the sound of that voice Van Alstine wheeled round suddenly in his tracks, lis face was ghastly already, but a wild, cared look spread all over it, as he stood and glared at the youth a moment in half ncredulous amazement. He waBshaking torn head to toot, and could scarely tand. " My God !" he gasped. Then, as if coinpelled by some stern necessity for self-coutrol, he brought the treugth back to his nerveless limbs, and catching tiercely hoid ot' the youth's arm, ed him quickly to one side. "Harry saw them pauso in a recess at no great distance. Impelled by a feeling over which he had no coutroi, ho still watched and listened. " Eloise," he heard Van Alstine say, in a shrill, hissing whisper, " why are you lere, and in thiR disguise?" " I came to find you, Dick," was the answer, in a low, flrin voice. " My God !" and great drops of agony came out on the poor fellow's forehead. - " Come away, this instant - come away. Do you know, do you guess the fearful isk you have run iu veuturing into this lace '(" The lovely eyes still looked straight into lis own. " You were here, Dick, and I could uot teep away." " Silly looi," he said, half fondly, balf n anger. At this instant one of the garablers rose 'rom the table, and stepped toward theiu. "Van Alstiue, I would like a word with ou in private before you leave the house." The young man started, flashed a quick flanee from the man back to his conipauons at the table, but there was nothing suspicious in the demeanor of nny one of hem. " Certainly, sir," he Baid, and turned to :ollow the gambler into one of the side apartments. He turned back hastily before reaching the door, however, and, coming up to his recent companion, said, in a rapid whisper. " I must go, or these ruffians will suspect something wrong. Walk boldly down stairs, and out of the house - that is your only way. For God's sake, don't linger, Eloise ! I will presently join you at the first corner." Then with a last imploring glance, he was gone. Not a word, not a moveinent, of all this had been lost upon Harry Blaisdell. Here. was a romance under his very nose, and Providence had called him here on purpose to play a role in it, perhaps. At any rate, he could not think of leaving the place until he had seen the end of the affair. 80 he drew back in the shadow of the window drapery, when nobody was observing him, and crouched there close against the wall, mentelly lalling himselt' a fooi, and a thousand ther complimentary nanues for lingering ind hiding there, yetfeeling no inclina;o go away. Fortunately, his friend of the piping roice and sarcastic face had vanished, and here was no fear of espionage frora him. What an odd affair it was altogether ! 3f course, the fair-faced stranger was a woinan ! There could not be a doubt of that; and his imagination wove a very pretty romance, in which this Eloise was the heroine, and Van Alstine her lover. And yet - strange contradiction ! - he feit a keen pang whenever he thought of them in that light; and he thought of nothing else while watching the further ievelopments from his hiding-place. Eloise - we may as well give her a name - did not leave the room, as she had been bidden. Instead, she squeezed herself into the remotest corner of the recess, and waited there in silence, glancing npprehensively round the apartment every now and then. A full half-hour went by, and atill Van Alstine did not make his appearance. - Eloise gre w nervous at last ; so did Harry He had observed what she did not - tha the rocms were rapidly being vacated by all except the ruffianly crowd belonging there. Prenently a sudden confusión rose in one of the inner rooms. " You villain ! - you mean, cowardly villain !" roared a stifled voice, evidentl; Vn Alstine's. Then carne the sound o a scuffle. Eloise started up with a . suppressec cry. " Merciful Heaven !" She darted to the green-baize door tugged at it with all her strength, anc flung it wide. She seemed to forget her disguise, her own danger, herself in ever way, ia the awful fear that was upon he) Harry was lcss than thrce feet behind her when she entered that inner room. Tbey were just in time to see two tall figures confroutiiig each other under the chandelier, a bludgeon swuu high in air, and Van Alstine roll upon the flúor like a log, stark, still, srnseless. Kloise darted forwiird. " My God !" she sbrieked, throwingherelf upon tho body - " they lia. ve killed hiin !" The ruffian turned and looked down at her with a slow, sneering laugli. " It was his own fault," he growled. Then, in a wheedling voice : " Come, don't take on so, pretty one ; you'll spoii your eyes. We've found you out, in spite of that clever disguise. So look up and suiile upon us, like the charuiing little witch you are." He leaned over, and would have raised Eloise in his aruis, but Harry, with the bound of a tiger, was upon hun, and had sent hira sprawling upon the floor with a well-directed blow. The ruffian drew a revolver where he lay, and, muttering a fearful curse, covered Harry's heart with a deadly aim of steel. But the young man, springing i'uriously upon him, wrenched the woapon from his grasp, but not before one of its chambers had exploded. The bullet whizzed through the air, only to bury itself harmlessly in the ceiling, however. Hsrry swung the still smoking revolver like lightnmg above his head, and shouted : " Now the game is in my hands ! If you make another inovement, I will put a bullet through your heart !" The villain was rising stealthily to his feet, but he quailed, and dropped suddenly back again when he saw the dangerous glare in Harry's eyes. With the deadly muzzle of the revolver still covering the cowardly rogue, our he10 now leaned over Eloise, and raised her from the inanimate body of Van Alstine. " My poor young lady," he said, in a low voice, " bear up, for God's sake. That poor fellow is past your help. Think of your own peril, and come away before it is too late." It was too .late already. Even as he spoke half a dozen rough-looking men came rushing into the apartment. " Down with him !" they yelled, furiously. "The infernal spy ! He can't leave this place alive !" Harry realized his terrible situation at glance. The rooms were now deserted y all save the proprietors and their tools. Of course the villains were desperate. The body upon the floor was a terrible witness against them. Their only safety ay in a doublé murder and they knew " Kill him ! Cut his throat !" they hised, venomously. There was not a moment to lose. - irawing Eloise's trembling figure still more closely to him with one hand, he aised the revolver in the other, and rapdly discharged iti several chambers into be shrieking crowd. Groans, a heavy f all or two, aud a voley of the most fearful curses folio wed. In the inidst of the contusión that enued, a shrill voice suddenly screained : " Beaks ! pólice ! They're cracking the rib!" At the same instant the sound of crashng blows was heard below, aud the riugug of policemen's clubs upon the flags. ièPut out the lights," yelled oue ot the uffians. There waa a hurried scramble toward tie metre, and in another moment the whole place was enveloped in darkness. Han y heard a quick bound or two and omething whizz sharply in the air. The evils meant to make sure of him, alter 11. He dodged and sprang nimbly to ne side, just as a bludgeon of some sort ame down on the floor with crashiug 'orce. " That's your game, is it," he cried, and mslimg Eloise behind him, struck out )lindly to the right and left. He could see nothing distinctly ; but lis fist flattened against somebody's nose, nd there was the sound of a piecipitate etreat. The next instant heavy footsteps came ushing up-stairs, aud through the anteoom, and several dark-lanterns flashed heir light upon the scène. It was wild beyond desoription. Hary Blaisdell, with his precious charge, tood leaning against the wall, so tuint and weak, now that the welcome sight of )lue coats and bras buttons met his gaze, ie could scarcely stand. Three of the gamblers lay upon the [oor near Van Alstine's body, weltering n their blood. The others had escaped y means of a secret entrance at the rear. From the appearance of things Harry tnew that an effort had been made to ïuar away the bodies of those who had jeen wounded, but the pólice came too [uickly upon the scène, and frustrated he attempt. While he still stood glaring around him in a somewhat bewildered manner, Eloise stepped out of his arms and staggered to the spot where Van Alstine lay. " Dick, Dick !" she screamed, suddenly, and burst into a hysterical sob of joy. - " Oh, thank God ! thank God ! He is not dead !" It was true. Van Alstine had been knocked senseless by the blow upou his head, but was now slowly regainiug his consciousness. In a very few moments hu was well enough to sit up. It would appear that the gamblers had discovered Eloise's sex before Van Alstine was decoyed into that inner room. - What their purpose was we are unable to say. But two of their number sprang upon Van Alstine and securely gagged lim before he could znake an outcry. He continued to struggle, however, and, when one of them left the apartment ;or s moment, succeeded in breaking away from tho other. It was then he ut:ered the exclaniation that had reached Eloise'a ears as well as Harry Blaisdell's. The rest is soon told. Dick was Eloise's Orother- the locket held her picture. - For months he had been leading a tast life, and this night his loving sister had resolved to make a desperate effort to reclaim him. Henee she had followed bim in disguise to the gaming den. Dick Van Alstine never sought the faro-table after that night. Our story would not be complete unless Harry feil iu lovo with Eloise. Six months later she becauie his wife, and he knew then why that night in uppe Broadway was a turning point in hi destiny.


Old News
Michigan Argus