Produced by Al Haines
The gem lay between them, a splash of crimson flame
The Paternoster Ruby
By CHARLES EDMONDS WALK
Author of “The Silver Blade,” “The Yellow Circle,” etc.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOR
BY J. V. McFALL
A. L. BURT COMPANY
A. C. McCLURG & CO.
Published, October 22, 1910
Entered at Stationers’ Hall, London, England
M. H. W.
|I||THE SHERIDAN PARK MYSTERY|
|II||THE PRIVATE SECRETARY|
|V||THE HIDDEN SAFE|
|VI||AN EXTRAORDINARY ERRAND|
|VII||HOW THE ERRAND ENDED|
|IX||TRACKS IN THE SNOW|
|X||THE SECOND STORY|
|XV||A WOMAN’S SCREAM|
|XVI||THE FACE IN THE ALCOVE|
|XVIII||A FIGHT IN THE DARK|
|XXII||ASHES OF OLD ROMANCE|
|XXVI||THE CIPHER SOLVED|
THE PATERNOSTER RUBY
THE SHERIDAN PARK MYSTERY
With a screaming of brakes, the elevated train on which I happened to be jerked to a stop, and passengers intending to disembark were catapulted toward the doorways—a convenience supplied gratis by all elevated roads, which, I have observed, is generally overlooked by their patrons. I crammed the morning paper into my overcoat pocket, fell in with the outrushing current of humanity, and was straightway swept upon the platform, pinched through the revolving gates, and hustled down the covered iron stairway to the street. Here the current broke up and diffused, like the current of a river where it empties into the sea.
This was the first wave of the daily townward tide—clerks, shop-girls, and stenographers, for the most part intent upon bread and butter in futuro. The jostling and crowding was like an old story to me; I went through the ordeal each morning with an indifference and abstraction born of long custom.
The time of the year was January, the year itself 1892. A clear, cold air with just enough frost in it to stir sluggish blood, induced one to walk briskly. It was still too early in the day for the usual down-town crowd, and I proceeded as fast as I wanted to, allowing my thoughts to dwell undisturbed on the big news topic of the day, which I had just been reading. And so I did, as I strode along, with the concern of one whose interest is remote, yet in a way affected.
So the great wheat corner was broken at last! The coterie of operators headed by Alfred Fluette had discovered to their dismay that the shorts were anything but “short,” for all day yesterday the precious grain had been pouring into the market in a golden flood. Grain-laden vessels were speeding from Argentine, where no wheat was supposed to be; trains were hurrying in from the far Northwest; and even the millers of the land had awakened to the fact that there was more profit in emptying their bins and selling for a dollar and sixty cents a bushel the wheat that had cost them seventy-six cents, than there was in grinding it into flour.
It was another pirate of the pit who had brought disaster to the bulls—no other than that old fox, Felix Page, himself a manipulator of successful big deals, and feared perhaps more than any other figure on the Board of Trade.
But his spectacular smashing of the memorable corner has passed into history. While Fluette’s brokers were buying and sending the price soaring—skyrocketing is more descriptive, though—Felix Page was selling in quantities that bewildered and, since it was Page, alarmed the bulls. Insurance on the lakes had ceased with the advent of winter; the granaries of the world were supposed to be scraped clean; so it seemed that he must be rushing headlong to certain destruction. Still, seeing that it was Felix Page who was doing most of the selling, Fluette’s crowd was nervous.
And the sequel, in all conscience, warranted their anxiety. For more than a week Felix Page’s iron-prowed ships had been crushing and smashing their way through the ice, opening a way for other ships; yesterday they had steamed into port with their precious cargoes, demoralizing the bull clique with a deluge of golden grain.
Page settled; he had sold five million bushels, and he delivered the goods. This was the opening fissure. Fluette was soon overwhelmed, and today he and his crowd would be holding a melancholy wake over the corpse.
This, however, is not a story of stupendous battles in the arena of Commerce. I have merely gone behind my proper starting-point by a matter of ten minutes or so—no more—to lay before you one of those inexplicable coincidences which, when they are flung at us, shake us from our self-possession. The stage was already set for me; serenely unsuspecting, I was headed straight toward it.
Police headquarters was my destination, and I had no sooner stepped across the threshold than I was told that the Captain was wanting to see me at once. So I went direct to his private office, where he was deep in conference with a party of four men, who, in spite of a general air of gloom which seemed to envelop them, looked like a quartet of prosperous brokers. It occurred to me that they might have been struck by the stick of the spent rocket.
As the Captain abruptly broke off an earnest speech to wheel his chair round and address me, the four men stared at me with a curious, unwavering interest.
Fancy how I was staggered by the first words. My chief thrust a card in my direction, on which was pencilled a street number.
“Go to this address at once, Swift,” said he. “It looks like murder—old Page.”
“Page!” I almost shouted. “You can’t mean Felix Page!”
“What’s the matter with you? Know anything about it?”