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- The Romance of Elaine - 3/62 -


haunts. I thought it was an old woman's fear--but last night I heard the strangest noises out there, and I thought I saw a face at the window--a face in a helmet. And when Joshua went out, this is what he found on the ground under my window."

She handed Kennedy a box, a peculiar affair which she touched gingerly and only with signs of the greatest aversion.

Kennedy opened it. There, in the bottom of the box, was a little ivory devil-god. He looked at it curiously a moment.

"Let me see," he ruminated, still regarding the sign. "The house you bought for Aunt Tabby, once belonged to Bennett, didn't it?"

Elaine nodded her head. "Yes, but I don't see what that can have to do with it," she agreed, adding with a shudder, "Bennett is dead."

Kennedy had taken a piece of paper from the desk where he had put it away carefully. "Have you ever seen anything that looks like this?" he asked, handing her the paper.

Elaine looked at the plan carefully, as Kennedy and I scanned her face. She glanced up, her expression showing plainly the wonder she felt.

"Why, yes," she answered. "That looks like Aunt Tabby's fireplace in the living-room."

Kennedy said nothing for a moment. Then he seized his hat and coat.

"If you don't mind," he said, "we'll go back there with you."

"Mind?" she repeated. "Just what I had hoped you would do."

. . . . . . .

Wu Fang, the Chinese master mind, had arrived in New York.

Beside Wu, the inscrutable, Long Sin, astute though he was, was a mere pigmy--his slave, his advance agent, as it were, a tentacle sent out to discover the most promising outlet for the nefarious talents of his master.

New York did not know of the arrival of Wu Fang, the mysterious-- yet. But down in the secret recesses of Chinatown, in the ways that are devious and dark, the oriental crooks knew--and trembled.

Thus it happened that Long Sin was not permitted to enjoy even the foretaste of Bennett's spoils which he had forced from him after his weird transformation into his real self, the Clutching Hand, when the Chinaman had given him the poisoned draught that had put him into his long sleep.

He had obtained the paper showing where the treasure amassed by the Clutching Hand was hidden, but Wu Fang, his master, had come.

Wu had immediately established himself in the most sumptuous of apartments, hidden behind the squalid exterior of the ordinary tenement building in Chinatown.

The night following his arrival, Wu Fang was reclining on a divan, when his servant announced that Long Sin was at the door.

As Long Sin entered, it was evident that, cunning and shrewd though he was himself, Wu was indeed his master. He approached in fear and awe, cringing low.

"Have you brought the map with you?" asked Wu.

Long Sin bowed low again, and drew from under his coat the paper which he had obtained from Bennett. For a moment the two, master and slave in guile, bent over, closely studying it.

At one point in the map Long Sin's bony finger paused over a note which Bennett had made:

BEWARE POISONED GAS UPON OPENING COMPARTMENT.

"And you think you can trace it out?" asked Wu.

"Without a doubt," bowed Long Sin.

He went over to a bag near-by, which he had already sent up by another servant, and opened it. Inside was an oxygen helmet. He replaced it, after showing it to Wu.

"With the aid of the science of the white devil, we shall overcome the science of the white devil," purred Long Sin subtly.

Outside, Wu had already ordered a car to wait, and together the two drove off rapidly. Into the country, they sped, until at last they came to a lonely turn in a lonely road, somewhat removed from the section that was rapidly being built up as population reached out from the city, but on a single-tracked trolley line.

Long Sin alighted and disappeared with a parting word of instruction from Wu who remained in the car. The Chinaman carried with him the heavy bag with the oxygen helmet.

Along this interurban trolley the cars made only half-hourly trips at this time of night. Long Sin hurried down the road until he came to a trolley pole, then looked hastily at his watch. It was twenty minutes at least before the next car would pass.

Quickly, almost monkey-like, he climbed up the pole, carrying with him the end of a wire which he had taken from the bag.

Having thrown this over the feed wire, he slid quickly to the ground again. Then, carrying the other end of the wire in his rubber-gloved hands, he made his way through the underbrush, in and out, almost like the serpent he was, until he came to a passageway in the rough and uncleared hillside--a small opening formed by the rocks.

It was dark inside, but he did not hesitate to enter, carrying the wire and the bag with him.

. . . . . . .

It was nightfall before we arrived with Elaine at Aunt Tabby's. We entered the living-room and Elaine introduced us both to Aunt Tabby and her husband.

It was difficult to tell whether Elaine's old nurse was more glad to see her than the faithful Rusty who almost overwhelmed her even after so short an absence.

In the midst of the greetings, I took occasion to look over the living-room. It was a very cozy room, simply and tastefully furnished, and I fancied that I could see in the neatness of Aunt Tabby a touch of Elaine's hand, for she had furnished it for her faithful old friend.

I followed Kennedy's eyes, and saw that he was looking at the fireplace. Sure enough, it was the same in design as the fireplace which the heat had so unexpectedly brought out in sympathetic ink on the blank sheet of paper.

Kennedy lost no time in examining it, and we crowded around him as he went over it inch by inch, following the directions on the drawing.

At one point in the drawing a peculiar protuberance was marked. Kennedy was evidently hunting for that. He found it at last and pressed the sort of lever in several ways. Nothing seemed to happen. But finally, almost by chance, he seemed to discover the secret.

A small section at the side of the fireplace opened up, disclosing an iron ladder, leading down into one of those characteristic hiding-places in which the Clutching Hand used to delight.

Kennedy looked at the mysterious opening some time, as if trying to fathom the mystery.

"Let's go down and explore it," I suggested, taking a step toward the ladder.

Kennedy reached out and pulled me back. Then without a word he pressed the little lever and the door closed.

"I think we'd better wait a while, Walter," he decided. "I would rather hear Aunt Tabby's haunts myself."

He carefully went over not only the rest of the house but the grounds about it, without discovering anything.

Aunt Tabby, with true country hospitality, seemed unable to receive guests without feeding them, and, although we had had a big dinner at a famous road-house on the way out, still none of us could find it in our hearts to refuse her hospitality. Even that diversion, however, did not prevent us from talking of nothing else but the strange noises, and I think, as we waited, we all got into the frame of mind which would have manufactured them even if there had been none.

We were sitting about the room when suddenly the most weird and uncanny rappings began. Rusty was on his feet in a moment, barking like mad. We looked from one to another.

It was impossible to tell where the noises came from, or even to describe them. They were certainly not ghostly rappings. In fact, they sounded more like some twentieth century piece of machinery.

We listened a moment, then Kennedy walked over to the fireplace. "You can explore it with me now, Walter," he said quietly, touching the lever and opening the panel which disclosed the ladder.

He started down the ladder and I followed closely. Elaine was about to join us, when Kennedy paused on the topmost round and looked up at her.

"No, no, young lady," he said with mock severity, "you have been through enough already--you stay where you are."

Elaine argued and begged but Kennedy was obdurate. It was only when Aunt Tabby and Joshua added their entreaties that she


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