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- The Net - 1/63 -


[Illustration: "I DO NOT KNOW WHY I HAVE SUMMONED YOU," SHE SAID]

THE NET

A NOVEL

By REX BEACH

Author of "The Spoilers," "The Barrier," "The Silver Horde," Etc.

WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY WALTER TITTLE

CONTENTS

CHAP.

I. THE TRAIN FROM PALERMO

II. A CONFESSION AND A PROMISE

III. THE GOLDEN GIRL

IV. THE FEAST AT TERRANOVA

V. WHAT WAITED AT THE ROADSIDE

VI. A NEW RESOLVE

VII. THE SEARCH BEGINS

VIII. OLD TRAILS

IX. "ONE WHO KNOWS"

X. MYRA NELL WARREN

XI. THE KIDNAPPING

XII. LA MAFIA XIII. THE BLOOD OF HIS ANCESTORS

XIV. THE NET TIGHTENS

XV. THE END OF THE QUEST

XVI. QUARANTINE

XVII. AN OBLIGATION IS MET

XVIII. BELISARIO CARDI

XIX. FELICITE

XX. THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS

XXI. UNDER FIRE

XXII. A MISUNDERSTANDING

XXIII. THE TRIAL AND THE VERDICT

XXIV. AT THE FEET OF THE STATUE

XXV. THE APPEAL

XXVI. AT THE DUSK

ILLUSTRATIONS

"I DO NOT KNOW WHY I HAVE SUMMONED YOU,' SHE SAID _Frontispiece_

"SILENZIO!" HE GROWLED, "I PLAY MY OWN GAME, AND I LOSE"

HE WRESTLED FOR POSSESSION OF THE GUN

"P-PLEASE DON'T KILL YOURSELF, DEAR? I COULDN'T HELP IT"

I

THE TRAIN FROM PALERMO

The train from Palermo was late. Already long, shadowy fingers were reaching down the valleys across which the railroad track meandered. Far to the left, out of an opalescent sea, rose the fairy-like Lipari Islands, and in the farthest distance Stromboli lifted its smoking cone above the horizon. On the landward side of the train, as it reeled and squealed along its tortuous course, were gray and gold Sicilian villages perched high against the hills or drowsing among fields of artichoke and sumac and prickly pear.

To one familiar with modern Sicilian railway trains the journey eastward from Palermo promises no considerable discomfort, but twenty-five years ago it was not to be lightly undertaken--not to be undertaken at all, in fact, without an unusual equipment of patience and a resignation entirely lacking in the average Anglo-Saxon. It was not surprising, therefore, that Norvin Blake, as the hours dragged along, should remark less and less upon the beauties of the island and more and more upon the medieval condition of the rickety railroad coach in which he was shaken and buffeted about. He shifted himself to an easier position upon the seat and lighted a cheroot; for although this was his first glimpse of Sicily, he had watched the same villages come and go all through a long, hot afternoon, had seen the same groves of orange and lemon and dust-green olive-trees, the same fields of Barbary figs, the same rose-grown garden spots, until he was heartily tired of them all. He felt at liberty to smoke, for the only other occupant of the compartment was a young priest in flowing mantle and silk beaver hat.

Finding that Blake spoke Italian remarkably well for a foreigner, the priest had shown an earnest desire for closer acquaintance and now plied him eagerly with questions, hanging upon his answers with a childlike intensity of gaze which at first had been amusing.

"And so the Signore has traveled all the way from Paris to attend the wedding at Terranova. Veramente! That is a great journey. Many wonderful adventures befell you, perhaps. Eh?" The priest's little eyes gleamed from his full cheeks, and he edged forward until his knees crowded Blake's. It was evident that he anticipated a thrilling tale and did not intend to be disappointed.

"It was very tiresome, that's all, and the beggars at Naples nearly tore me asunder."

"Incredible! You will tell me about it?"

"There's nothing to tell. These European trains cannot compare with ours."

Evidently discouraged at this lack of response, the questioner tried a new line of approach.

"The Signore is perhaps related to our young Conte?" he suggested. "And yet that can scarcely be, for you are Inglese--"

"Americano."

"Indeed?"

"Martel and I are close friends, however. We met in Paris. We are almost like brothers."

"Truly! I have heard that he spends much time studying to be a great painter. It is very strange, but many of our rich people leave Sicily to reside elsewhere. As for me, I cannot understand it."

"Martel left when his father was killed. He says this country is behind the times, and he prefers to be out in the world where there is life and where things progress."

But the priest showed by a blank stare that he did not begin to grasp the meaning of this statement. He shook his head. "He was always a wild lad. Now as to the Signorina Ginini, who is to be his beautiful Contessa, she loves Sicily. She has spent most of her life here among us."

With a flash of interest Blake inquired: "What is she like? Martel has spoken of her a great many times, but one can't place much dependence on a lover's description."

"Bellissima!" the priest sighed, and rolled his eyes eloquently. "You have never seen anything like her, I assure you. She is altogether too beautiful. If I had my way all the beautiful women would be placed in a convent where no man could see them. Then there would be no fighting and no flirting, and the plain women could secure husbands. Beautiful women are dangerous. She is rich, too."

"Of course! That's what Martel says, and that is exactly the way he says it. But describe her."

"Oh, I have never seen her! I merely know that she is very rich and very beautiful." He went off into a number of rapturous "issimas!" "Now as for the Conte, I know him like a book. I know his every thought."

"But Martel has been abroad for ten years, and he has only returned within a month."

"To be sure, but I come from the village this side of San Sebastiano,


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