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- The Romance of Elaine - 30/62 -
seemed to be no way to get to them and there was no ladder in sight.
"We'll have to use the Dutch house-man's method," decided one.
Together they went around the house toward the laundry. It was only a few minutes later that they returned. No one was about. Quickly one of them took off his coat. Around his waist he had wound a coil of rope. Deftly he began to climb a tree whose upper branches fell over the roof. Cat-like he made his way out along a branch and managed to reach the roof. He made his way along the ridge pole to a chimney which was directly back of and in line with Elaine's windows. Then he uncoiled the rope and made one end fast to the chimney. Letting the other end fall free down the roof, he carefully lowered himself over the edge. Thus it was not difficult to get into Elaine's room by stepping on the window-sill and going through the open window.
The man began a rapid search of the room, turning up and pawing everything that Elaine had unpacked. Then he began on the little writing-desk, the dresser and the bureau drawers. A subtle smile flashed over his face as he came to one drawer that was locked. He pulled a sectional jimmy from his coat and forced it open.
There lay the precious torpedo.
The man clutched at it with a look of exultation. Without another glance at the room he rushed to the window, seized the rope and pulled himself to the roof, going as he had come.
. . . . . . .
It did not take me long to unpack the few things I had brought and I was soon back again in the living-room, where Aunt Josephine joined me in a few minutes.
Just as Elaine came hurriedly down the stairway and started toward me, Del Mar entered from the porch. She stopped. Del Mar watched her closely. Had she found anything? He was sure of it.
Her hesitation was only for a moment, however. "Walter," she said, "may I speak to you a moment? Excuse us, please?"
Aunt Josephine went out toward the back of the house to see how the servants were getting on, while I followed Elaine up-stairs. Del Mar with a bow seated himself and opened his magazine. No sooner had we gone, however, than he laid it down and cautiously followed us.
Elaine was evidently very much excited as she entered her dainty little room and closed the door. "Walter," she cried, "I've found the torpedo!"
We looked about at the general disorder. "Why," she exclaimed nervously, "some one has been here--and I locked the door, too."
She almost ran over to her bureau drawer. It had been jimmied open in the few minutes while she was down-stairs. The torpedo was gone. We looked at each other, aghast.
Behind us, however, we did not see the keen and watchful eyes of Del Mar, opening the door and peering in. As he saw us, he closed the door softly, went down-stairs and out of the house.
. . . . . . .
Perhaps half a mile down the road, the farmer abandoned his hay rack and now, followed by his peculiar dog, walked back. He stopped at a point in the road where he could see the Dodge house in the distance, sat on the rail fence and lighted a blackened corn-cob pipe.
There he sat for some time apparently engrossed in his own thoughts about the weather, the dog lying at his feet. Now and then he looked fixedly toward Dodge Hall.
Suddenly his vagrant attention seemed to be riveted on the house. He drew a field-glass from his pocket and levelled it. Sure enough, there was a man coming out of a window, pulling himself up to the roof by a rope and going across the roof tree. He lowered the glasses quickly and climbed off the fence with a hitherto unwonted energy.
"Come, Searchlight," he called to the dog, as together they moved off quickly in the direction he had been looking. Del Mar's men were coming through the hedge that surrounded the Dodge estate just as the farmer and his dog stepped out in front of them from behind a thicket.
"Just a minute," he called. "I want to speak to you."
He enforced his words with a vicious looking gun. It was two to one and they closed with him. Before he could shoot, they had knocked the gun out of his hand. Then they tried to break away and run.
But the farmer seized one of them and held him. Meanwhile the dog developed traits all his own. He ran in and out between the legs of the other man until he threw him. There he stood, over him. The man attempted to rise. Again the dog threw him and kept him down. He was a trained Belgian sheep hound, a splendid police dog.
"Confound the brute," growled the man, reaching for his gun.
As he drew it, the dog seized his wrist and with a cry the man dropped the gun. That, too, was part of the dog's training.
While the farmer and the other man struggled on the ground, the torpedo worked its way half from the man's pocket. The farmer seized it. The man fell back, limp, and the farmer, with the torpedo in one hand, grasped at the gun on the ground and straightened up.
He had no sooner risen than the man was at him again. His unconsciousness had been merely feigned. The struggle was renewed.
At that point, the hedge down the road parted and Del Mar stepped out. A glance was enough to tell him what was going on. He drew his gun and ran swiftly toward the combatants.
As Del Mar approached, his man succeeded in knocking the torpedo from the farmer's hand. There it lay, several feet away. There seemed to be no chance for either man to get it.
Quickly the farmer bent his wrist, aiming the gun deliberately at the precious torpedo. As fast as he could he pulled the trigger. Five of the six shots penetrated the little model.
So surprised was his antagonist that the farmer was able to knock him out with the butt of his gun. He broke away and fled, whistling on a police whistle for the dog just as Del Mar ran up. A couple of shots from Del Mar flew wild as the farmer and his dog disappeared.
Del Mar stopped and picked up the model. It had been shot into an unrecognizable mass of scrap. In a fury, Del Mar dashed it on the ground, cursing his men as he did so. The strange disappearance of the torpedo model from Elaine's room worried both of us. Doubtless if Kennedy had been there he would have known just what to do. But we could not decide.
"Really," considered Elaine, "I think we had better take Mr. Del Mar into our confidence."
"Still, we've had a great many warnings," I objected.
"I know that," she persisted, "but they have all come from very unreliable sources."
"Very well," I agreed finally, "then let's drive over to his bungalow."
Elaine ordered her little runabout and a few moments later we climbed into it and Elaine shot the car away.
As we rode along, the country seemed so quiet that no one would ever have suspected that foreign agents lurked all about. But it was just under such a cover that the nefarious bridge and harbor- mining work ordered by Del Mar's superiors was going ahead quietly.
As our car climbed a hill on the other side of which, in the valley, was a bridge, we could not see one of Del Mar's men in hiding at the top. He saw us, however, and immediately wigwagged with his handkerchief to several others down at the bridge where they were attaching a pair of wires to the planking.
"Some one coming," muttered one who was evidently a lookout.
The men stopped work immediately and hid in the brush. Our car passed over the bridge and we saw nothing wrong. But no sooner had we gone than the men crept out and resumed work which had progressed to the point where they were ready to carry the wires of an electric connection through the grass, concealing them as they went.
In the study of his bungalow, all this time, Del Mar was striding angrily up and down, while his men waited in silence.
Finally he paused and turned to one of them. "See that the coast is clear and kept clear," he ordered. "I want to go down."
The man saluted and went out through the panel. A moment later Del Mar gave some orders to the other man who also saluted and left the house by the front door, just as our car pulled up.
Del Mar, the moment the man was gone, put on his hat and moved toward the panel in the wall. He was about to enter when he heard some one coming down the hall to the study and stepped back, closing the panel. It was the butler announcing us.
We had entered Del Mar's bungalow and now were conducted to his library. There Elaine told him the whole story, much to his apparent surprise, for Del Mar was a wonderful actor.
"You see," he said as she finished telling of the finding and the losing of the torpedo, "just what I had feared would happen has happened. Doubtless the foreign agents have the deadly weapon, now. However, I'll not quit. Perhaps we may run them down yet."
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