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THE VOICE IN THE FOG

by

HAROLD MACGRATH

Author of
The Man on the Box, Hearts and Masks,
The Million Dollar Mystery, etc.

With Illustrations by A. B. Wenzell

New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

1915







[Frontispiece: Kitty Killigrew]




TO

CAV. GIOVANNI PICCININI

IN MEMORY OF MANY HAPPY FLORENTINE DAYS




THE VOICE IN THE FOG


CHAPTER I

Fog.

A London fog, solid, substantial, yellow as an old dog's tooth or a
jaundiced eye. You could not look through it, nor yet gaze up and down
it, nor over it; and you only thought you saw it. The eye became
impotent, untrustworthy; all senses lay fallow except that of touch;
the skin alone conveyed to you with promptness and no incertitude that
this thing had substance. You could feel it; you could open and shut
your hands and sense it on your palms, and it penetrated your clothes
and beaded your spectacles and rings and bracelets and shoe-buckles.
It was nightmare, bereft of its pillows, grown somnambulistic; and
London became the antechamber to Hades, lackeyed by idle dreams and
peopled by mistakes.

There is something about this species of fog unlike any other in the
world. It sticks. You will find certain English cousins of yours, as
far away from London as Hong-Kong, who are still wrapt up snugly in it.
Happy he afflicted with strabismus, for only he can see his nose before
his face. In the daytime you become a fish, to wriggle over the
ocean's floor amid strange flora and fauna, such as ash-cans and
lamp-posts and venders' carts and cab-horses and sandwich-men. But at
night you are neither fish, bird nor beast.

The night was May thirteenth; never mind the year; the date should
suffice: and a Walpurgis night, if you please, without any Mendelssohn
to interpret it.

That happy line of Milton's--"Pandemonium, the high capital of Satan
and his peers"--fell upon London like Elijah's mantle. Confusion and
his cohort of synonyms (why not?) raged up and down thoroughfare and
side-street and alley, east and west, danced before palace and tenement
alike: all to the vast amusement of the gods, to the mild annoyance of
the half-gods (in Mayfair), and to the complete rout of all mortals
a-foot or a-cab. Imagine: militant suffragettes trying to set fire to
the prime minister's mansion, _Siegfried_ being sung at the opera, and
a yellow London fog!

The press about Covent Garden was a mathematical problem over which
Euclid would have shed bitter tears and hastily retired to his arbors
and citron tables. Thirty years previous (to the thirteenth of May,
not Euclid) some benighted beggar invented the Chinese puzzle; and
tonight, many a frantic policeman would have preferred it, sitting with
the scullery maid and the pantry near by. Simple matter to shift about
little blocks of wood with the tip of one's finger; but cabs and
carriages and automobiles, each driver anxious to get out ahead of his
neighbor!--not to mention the shouting and the din and discord of horns
and whistles and sirens and rumbling engines!

"It's hard luck," said Crawford, sympathetically. "It will be half an
hour before they get this tangle straightened out."

"I shouldn't mind, Jim, if it weren't for Kitty," replied his wife. "I
am worried about her."

"Well, I simply could not drag her into this coupé and get into hers
myself. She's a heady little lady, if you want to know. As it is,
she'll get back to the hotel quicker than we shall. Her cab is five
up. If you wish, I'll take a look in and see if she's all right."

"Please do;" and she smiled at him, lovely, enchanting.

"You're the most beautiful woman in all this world!"

"Am I?"

Click! The light went out. There was a smothered laugh; and when the
light flared up again, the aigrette in her copper-beech hair was all
askew.

"If anybody saw us!"--secretly pleased and delighted, as any woman
would have been who possessed a husband who was her lover all his
waking hours.

"What! in this fog? And a lot I'd care if they did. Now, don't stir
till I come back; and above all, keep the light on."

"And hurry right back; I'm getting lonesome already."

He stepped out of the coupé. Harlequin, and Colombine, and
Humpty-Dumpty; shapes which came out of nowhere and instantly vanished
into nothing, for all the world like the absurd pantomimes of his
boyhood days. He kept close to the curb, scrutinizing the numbers as
he went along. Never had he seen such a fog. Two paces away from the
curb a headlight became an effulgence. Indeed, there were a thousand
lights jammed in the street, and the fog above absorbed the radiance,
giving the scene a touch of Brocken. All that was needed was a witch
on a broomstick. He counted five vehicles, and stopped. The
door-window was down.

"Miss Killigrew?" he said.

"Yes. Is anything wrong?"

"No. Just wanted to see if you were all right. Better let me take
your place and you ride with Mrs. Crawford."

"Good of you; but you've had enough trouble. I shall stay right here."

"Where's your light?"

"The globe is broken. I'd rather be in the dark. Its fun to look
about. I never saw anything to equal it."

"Not very cheerful. We'll be held up at least half an hour. You are
not afraid?"

"What, I?" She laughed. "Why should I be afraid? The wait will not
matter. But the truth is, I'm worried about mother. She would go to
that suffragette meeting; and I understand they have tried to burn up
the prime minister's house."

"Fine chance! But don't you worry. Your mother's a sensible woman.
She'll get back to the hotel, if she isn't there already."

"I wish she had not gone. Father will be tearing his hair and twigging
the whole Savoy force by the ears."

Crawford smiled. Readily enough he could conjure up the picture of Mr.
Killigrew, short, thick-set, energetic, raging back and forth in the
lobby, offering to buy taxicabs outright, the hotel, and finally the
city of London itself; typically money-mad American that he was.
Crawford wanted to laugh, but he compromised by saying: "He must be
very careful of that hair of his; he hasn't much left."

"And he pulls out a good deal of it on my account. Poor dad! Why in
the world should I marry a title?"

"Why, indeed!"

"Mrs. Crawford was beautiful tonight. There wasn't a beauty at the
opera to compare with her. Royalties are frumps, aren't they? And
that ruby! I don't see how she dares wear it!"

"I am not particularly fond of it; but it's a fad of hers. She likes
to wear it on state occasions. I have often wondered if it is really
the Nana Sahib's ruby, as her uncle claimed. Driver, the Savoy, and
remember it carefully; the Savoy."

"Yes, sir; I understand, sir. But we'll all be some time, sir.
Collision forward is what holds us, sir."

Alone again, Kitty Killigrew leaned back, thinking of the man who had
just left her and of his beautiful wife. If only she might some day
have a romance like theirs! Presently she peered out of the
off-window. A brood of _Siegfried_-dragons prowled about, now going
forward a little, now swerving, now pausing; lurid eyes and threatening
growls.

Once upon a time, in her pigtail days, when her father was going to be
rich and was only half-way between the beginning and the end of his
ambition, Kitty had gone to a tent-circus. Among other things she had
looked wonderingly into the dim, blurry glass-tank of the "human fish,"
who was at that moment busy selling photographs of himself. To-night,
in searching for comparisons, this old forgotten picture recurred to
her mind; blithely memory brought it forth and threw it upon the
screen. All London had become a glass-tank, filled with human
pollywogs.

She did not want to marry a title; she did not want to marry money; she
did not want to marry at all. Poor kindly dad, who believed that she
could be made happy only by marrying a title. As if she was not as
happy now as she was ever destined to be!

Voices. Two men were speaking near the curb-door. She turned her head
involuntarily in this direction. There were no lights in the frontage
before which stood her cab, which intervened between the Brocken haze
in the street, throwing a square of Stygian shadow against the fog,
with right and left angles of aureola. She could distinguish no shapes.

"Cheer up, old top; you're in hard luck."

"I'm a bally ass."

"No, no; only a ripping good sporty game all the way through."

Oddly enough, Kitty sensed the irony. She wondered if the speaker's
companion did.

"Well, a wager's a wager."

"And you're the last chap to welch a square bet. What's the odds? My
word, I didn't urge you to change the stakes."

"Didn't you?"

The voice was young and pleasant; and Kitty was sure that the owner's
face was even as pleasant as his voice. What had he wagered and lost?

"If you're really hard pressed. . . ."

"Hard pressed! Man, I've nothing in God's world but two guineas, six."

"Oh, I say now!"

"Its the truth."

"If a fiver will help you. . . ."

"Thanks. A wager's a wager. I've lost. I was a bally fool to play
cards. Deserve what I got. Six months; that's the agreement. A
madman's wager; but I'll stick."

"Six months; twelve o'clock, midnight, November thirteenth. It's the
date, old boy; that's what hoodooed you, as the Americans say."

Kitty wasn't sure that the speaker was English; if he was, he had lost
the insular significance of his vowels. Still, it was, in its way, as
pleasant a voice as the other's. There was no doubt about the younger
man; he was English to the core, English in his love of chance, English
in his loyalty to his word; stupidly English. That he was the younger
was a trifling matter to deduce: no young man ever led his elder into
mischief, harmful or innocuous.

"Six months.



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