xt776h4cp06c https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt776h4cp06c/data/mets.xml Harris, Credo Fitch, 1874-1956. 1920  books b92-206-30909107 English Small, Maynard & Co., : Boston : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Wings of the wind  / by Credo Harris. text Wings of the wind  / by Credo Harris. 1920 2002 true xt776h4cp06c section xt776h4cp06c 



WINGS OF THE

         WIND

             BY
        CREDO HARRIS



          Author of
    "TOBY," "SUNLIGHT PATCH,"
"WHERE THE SOULS OF MEN ARE CALLING,"
           ETC.












           BOSTON
 SMALL, MAYNARD  COMPANY
         PUBLISHERS

 


























          Copyright, 1920
BY SMALL, MAYNARD  COMPANY
          (INCORPORATED)

 































               TO
    S. TIRMUSTON BALLARD

 WITH WHOM THE AUTHOR HAS SHARED
    MANY A PLEASANT CAMP-FIRE
THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED

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       CONTENTS

"To ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE !"......
THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR..........
THE GIRL IN THE CAF1  ..............
NIRVANA ...........................
"TO THE VERY END!" ................
A VOICE FROM THE WATER...........



PAGE
  9
  16
  29
  43
  54
  70



A BONIB AND A DISCOVERY ............  80
THE CHASE BEGINS ..................   94
A SHOT FROM THE DARK ............. 104
A SILENT ENEMIY .................... 117
A STRANGE FIND .................... 129
THE HURRICANE ..................... 140
ON TO DEATH RIVER! ......   .......... 153
SMIILAX BRINGS NEWS ............... 161
EFAw KOTEE'S DEN .................. 174



THE CAVE MAN SETS FORTH.........
THE RESCUE.
DOLORIA.
ENLIGHTENING A PRINCESS.
SLEEPING BENEATH GOD'S TENT
PLANTING A MEMORY..
I LOVE You.
THE ATTACK........................
GERMAN CRUELTY....................
A FLYING THRONE.
A TREASURE Box....................
THE FINAL HOCUS-POCUS.



190
202
212
228
238
249
266
275
289
304
319
330



CHAPTER
     I.
     II.
   III.
   IV.
   V.
   VI.
   VII.
 VIII.
   IX.
     X.
   xi.
   XI.
   XII.
 XIII.
 XIV.
   XV.
   XVI.
 XVII.
 XVIII.
 XIX.
   XX.
   XXI.
 XXII.
 XXIII.
 XXIV.
 XXV.
 XXVI.
XX VII.

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WINGS OF THE WIND

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  WINGS OF THE WIND


                   CHAPTER I

          " TO ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE !"

  AT last out of khaki, and dressed in conventional
evening clothes, I felt as if I were indeed writing the
first words of another story on the unmarred page of
the incoming year. As I entered the library my mother,
forgetting that it was I who owed her deference, came
forward with outstretched arms and a sound in her
voice like that of doves at nesting time. Dad's welcome
was heartier, even though his eyes were dimmed with
happy tears. And old Bilkins, our solemn, irreproach-
able butler, grinned benignly as he stood waiting to
announce dinner. What a wealth of affection I had to
be grateful for!
  I did not lack gratitude, but with the old year touch-
ing the heels of the new, and Time commanding me to
get in step, my return to civil life held few inducements.
Instead of a superabundance of cheer, I had brought
from France jumpy nerves and a body lean with over
training-natural results of physical exhaustion coupled
with the mental reaction that must inevitably follow a
year and a half of highly imaginative living.
  But there was another aspect less tangible, perhaps
more permanent-and all members of combat divisions
                         9

 

10       WINGS OF THE WIND

will understand exactly what I mean. When America
picked up the gauntlet, an active conscience jerked me
from a tuneful life and drove me out to war-for
whether men are driven by conscience, or a government
draft board, makes no difference in the effect upon those
who come through. Time after time, for eighteen
months, I made my regular trips into hell-into a hell
more revolting than mid-Victorian evangelists ever pic-
tured to spellbound, quaking sinners. Never in this
world had there been a parallel to the naked dangers
and nauseous discomforts of that western front; never
so prolonged an agony of head-splitting noises, lacera-
tions of human flesh, smells that turned the body sick,
blasphemies that made the soul grow hard, frenzied
efforts to kill, and above all a spirit, fanatical, that
urged each man to bear more, kill more, because he was
a Crusader for the right.
  Into this red crucible I had plunged, and now emerged
-remolded. In one brief year and a half I had lived
my life, dreamed the undreamable, accomplished the
unaccomplishable. Much had gone from me, yet much
had come-and it was this which had come that dis-
torted my vision of future days; making them drab,
making my fellows who had not taken the plunge seem
purposeless and immature. Either they were out of
tune, or I was-and I thought, of course, that they
were. What freshness could I bring to an existence of
peace when my gears would not mesh with its humdrum
machinery!
  My mother, ever quick to detect the workings of my
mind as well as the variations of my body, had noticed
these changes when I disembarked the previous week,
and had become obsessed with the idea that I stood tot-
tering on the brink of abysmal wretchedness. So, while

 

"ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE!" 11



I was marking time the few days at camp until the hour
of demobilization, she summoned into hasty conference
my father, our family doctor, and the select near rel-
atives whose advice was a matter of habit rather than
value, to devise means of leading me out of myself.
  This, I afterward learned, had been a weighty confer-
ence, resulting in the conclusion that I must have com-
plete rest and diversion. But as my more recent letters
home had expressed a determination to rush headlong
into business-as a sort of fatuous panacea for jumpy
nerves, no doubt-and since the conferees possessed an
intimate knowledge of the mulish streak that coursed
through my blood, their plans were laid behind my back
with the greatest secrecy. Therefore, when entering the
library this last night in December and hurrying to my
mother 's arms, I had no suspicion that I was being
drawn into a very agreeable trap, gilded by my father's
abundant generosity.
  We sat late after dinner. Somewhere in the hall Bil-
kins hovered with glasses and tray to be on hand when
the whistles began their screaming. In twenty years
he had not omitted this New Year's Eve ceremony.
  "Your wound never troubles you'" my mother asked,
her solicitation over a scratch I had received ten months
before not disguising a light of pride that charmed me.
  "I've forgotten it, Mater. Never amounted to any-
thing. "
  " Still, you did leave some blood on French soil," Dad
spoke up, for this conceit appealed to him.
  "Enough to grow an ugly rose, perhaps," I admitted.
  "I'll bet you grew pretty ones on the cheeks of those
French girls," he chuckled.
  "Pretty ones don't grow any more, on cheeks or any-
where else, " I doggedly replied. " Materialism's the

 

12   WINGS OF THE WIND



keynote now-that's why I'm going back to work, at
once. "
  " Oh, " the Mater laughed, "don't think of your
father's stupid office, yet! "
  "There's nothing left to think of," I grumbled.
  "Isn't there" he exclaimed. "What 'd you say if
Gates has the yacht in commission, and you take a run
down to 'Miami-"
  "Or open the cottage, if you'd rather," she excitedly
interrupted him. "I hadn't intended leaving New York
this winter, but will chaperon a house party if you
like! "
  "Fiddlesticks! Cruise, by all means," he spoke with
good-natured emphasis. "Get another fellow, and go
after adventures and romances and that kind of thing!
Go after 'em hammer and tongs! By George, that's
what I'd do if I were a boy, and had the chance !"
  They waited, rather expectantly.
  " Cruising's all right," I said, without enthusiasm.
"But it's a waste of time to go after romance and ad-
venture. They died with the war."
  " Ho!-they did, did theyI" he laughed in mock de-
rision. "What's become of your imagination-your
vaporings  You used to be full of it!" And the Mater
supported him by exclaiming:
  "Why, Jack Bronx! And I used to call you my
Pantheist! Don't tell me your second sight for discover-
ing the beautiful in things has failed you!"
  "It got put out by mustard gas, maybe," I mur-
mured, remembering with bitterness some of the fellows
who had been with me.
  What was romance here to the colorful, high-tensioned
thing I had seen in devastated areas where loves of all

 

"ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE I" 18



gradations were torn and scattered and trampled into
the earth like chaff! Fretfully I told them this.
  They exchanged glances, yet she continued in coaxing
vein:
  "You're such a big baby to 've been such a big sol-
dier! Don't you know that romance is always just over
the hill, hand in hand with adventure-both lonely for
someone to play with Wars can't kill them! It's after
wars, when a nation is wounded, that they become price-
less! "
  " By George, that's right, " Dad cried. " Come to
think of it, that's exactly right! And Gates has the
same crew of six-men you've always known! Even
that rascal, Pete, cooks better 'n ever! The Whim, you
can't deny, is. the smartest ninety-six foot schooner
yacht that sails! I say again that if I had the chance
I'd turn her free on whatever magic course the wings of
the wind would take her! That I would-by Georgel"
  And there was a note of deep appeal in the Mater's
voice as she asked:
  "Why not get that boy you wrote so much about-
Tommy what's-his-name, the Southerner I like himI"
  This plan, which I now saw had been so carefully pre-
pared-fruit of the secret conference-was but one in
the million or so of others throughout America nurtured
and matured by the brave army of fathers, mothers,
wives, sisters, daughters, who stayed at home and gave
their all, waiting with alternate hopes and fears, looking
with prayerful eyes to the day that would bring a cer-
tain one back into their arms. What difference if some
plans were elaborate and some as modest as a flower
Who would dare distinguish between the cruise on a
private yacht and the cake endearingly made in a hot
little kitchen for the husky lad just returned from over-

 

14  WINGS OF THE WIND



seas Each was its own best expression of pride and
love. Each said in its tenderest way: "Well done, my
own! "
  A lump came into my throat.
  "It's rather decent of a fellow to have two such cork-
ing forbears," I murmured.
  The Mater turned her gentle eyes to the fire, and Dad,
clearing his throat in a blustering way-though he was
not at all a blustering man-replied:
  "Perhaps it 's rather decent of us to have a son who-
er, I mean, who-well, er-"
  "A cruise hits me right," I exclaimed, hurriedly
coming to his rescue, for neither of us wanted a scene.
"And I'll wire Tommy Davis, Mater-the chap you
mentioned. He's a corking fellow! I didn't write you
how the battalion started calling him 'Rebel' till he
closed up half a dozen eyes, did I You see, in the be-
ginning, when we were rookies, the sergeant had us up
in formation to get our names, and when he came to
Tommy that innocent drawled: 'Mr. Thomas Jefferson
Davis, suh, of Loui 'ville, Jefferson county, Kentucky,
suh.' You could have heard a pin drop. The sergeant,
as hard-boiled as they come, stood perfectly still and
let a cold eye bore into him for half a minute, then
gasped: 'Gawd! What a wicked little rebel!'
  They laughed.
  "Why didn't you bring him home with you"
  "Same reason he couldn 't take me home with him.
There were people waiting, and turkey, and-but he
won't want to go," I added. "He's crazy about a girl
down there!"
  "Fiddlesticks," my father chuckled. "Any normal
fellow '11 want to cruise! I'll wire him myself-this
very night!"

 

  "ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE 1" 15

  Bilkins entered with the tray, wishing us a happy
new year. Outside the whistles were beginning to blow.
After we had pledged each other, and drunk to 1919,
the Mater, a light of challenge in her eyes, looked at me
and gave another toast:
  "To a cruise and an adventure, Jack!"
  "To romance," Dad cried, gallantly raising her fin-
gers to his lips.
  There was no use being a wet blanket, so with a laugh
I said:
  "To adventure and romance!-Mlater, if they're still
on earth I'll bring them home to you !"
  I knew it was a very silly toast, but let it go to please
them-for why disillusion those who believe in the ac-
tuality of nonexistence


 

CHAPTER II



             THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR

  TEN days later Tommy and I-and Bilkins, whom I
had begged of my father at the eleventh hour-stepped
off the train at Miami, stretched our arms and breathed
deep breaths of balmy air. Gates, his ruddy face an
augury of good cheer, was there to meet us, and as he
started off well laden with a portion of our bags, Tommy
whispered:
  "Reminds me of the old chap in that picture 'The
Fisherman 's Daughter'! "
  The description did fit Gates like an old glove, yet
his most dominant characteristic was an unfailing loy-
alty to our family and an honest bluntness, both of
which had become as generally recognized as his skill
in handling the Whimn-"the smartest schooner yacht,"
he would have told you on a two-minute acquaintance-
ship, "that ever tasted salt."
  "We might open the cottage for a few days, Gates,"
I said, as we were getting into the motor.
  "Bless you, sir," he replied, caressing a weather-
beaten chin with thumb and finger, "the TVhim 's been
tugging at her cable mighty fretful this parst fortnight!
The crew hoped you'd be coming aboard at once, sir.
Fact is, we're wanting to be told how you and Mr.
Thomas, here, licked those Germans."
  "Angels of the Marne protect me," Tommy groaned.
"Gates, I wouldn't resurrect those scraps for the Kai-
ser's scalp!"
                        16

 

THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 17



  "Yes, he will," I promised, smiling at the old fellow's
look of disappointment. "He'll probably talk you to
death, though; that's the only trouble."
  "I'll tell you what," Tommy said, "we'll chuck the
cottage idea and go aboard; then tonight, Gates, you
pipe the crew-if that's the nautical term-whereupon
I'll hold a two-hour inquest over our deceased war, on
condition that we bury the subject forever more. We
came down here to lose the last eighteen months of
our lives, Gates, not keep 'em green. Maybe you don't
know it, but we're after the big adventure!"
  His eyes twinkled as he said this, and his face was
lighted by a rare smile that no one possessed more
engagingly than Tommy. While he treated the prob-
ability of an adventure with tolerant amusement, such
was his inherent love of it and so developed was his ca-
pacity for "playing-true," that he sometimes made
me think almost anything might turn up. I was quite
unaware that my mother had written him, or that he,
in return, had promised to keep her fully advised of
my improvement-a state which was already begin-
ning.
  "I carn't see how you help talking of it, sir-all that
gas, and liquid fire, and bursting shells," Gates stared
at him in perplexity.
  "It's an effort, but I refuse to turn phonograph like
some of the old timers-not that I love 'em any less
for it, Lord knows!" Then he began to laugh, and
turned to mae, adding: "One of the first things I did
after getting home was to drop in on a very dear gen-
tleman who's been a friend of our family since the
Ark. He came at me with open arms, crying: 'Well,
Thomas, sit right down and tell me about your ex-
periences!' I side-tracked that-for I hate the word.

 

18  WINGS OF THE WIND



We didn't go over for experiences! But he wouldn't
be denied.   'Try to think,' he commanded.   'Why,
Thomas, old as I am, I remember when Stonewall Jack-
son struck that brilliant blow-' and you can shoot
me for a spy, Jack, if he didn't keep me there five hours
while he fought the entire Civil War! No sir-ee! After
tonight, never again!"
  But Tommy's talk, to which the crew listened in rapt
attention, consumed nearer six than two, or even five
hours. These men were hungry for authentic first-
hand information-being too old to have sought it for
themselves.
  It must not be inferred that the Whim's crew con-
sisted of the ancient and decrepit. More than once
my father had said that if ever he should get in a
tight place there was no band of six he would rather
have at his back than this one headed by Gates; nor
did he except Pete, the prince of cooks. Yet who, by
the wildest stretch of fancy, could have contemplated
tight places or dangers as the trim yacht rode peace-
fully at anchor an eighth of a mile off our dock at smil-
ing Miami To every man aboard such things as death
and the shedding of blood had ceased with the armistice,
and Gates would have taken his oath, were it asked of
him, that our course pointed only toward laughing wa-
ters, blue skies, and emerald shore-lines.
  Early next morning we were under way when Tommy
pounded on my stateroom door, challenging me to a dip
overboard. There was a glorious joy in his voice,
as far reaching as reveille, that found response in
the cockles of my heart. Gates, never happier than
when standing beneath stretched canvas, hove-to as
he saw us dash stark naked up the companionway
stairs and clear the rail head-first, but he laid by only

 

   THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 19

while we had our splash and continued the course south-
ward the moment our hands grasped the gangway.
  "We're cruising, not swimming, " he said bluntly,
as we reached the deck. "But I'll say this," he called
after us, "you're both in about as fine condition as men
get to be. I'll give that to the Army!" Which was
true, except for the fact that I might have been pro-
nounced overtrained. Tommy and I were as hard as
nails, our skin glowed like satin-but, better than this,
his spirit was quick with the love of living, charged
with a contagion that had already begun to touch my
own.
  Half an hour later he mumbled through a crumbling
biscuit:
  "If Pete ever cooked better grub than this it was
in a previous incarnation!"
  "Man achieves his greatest triumph but once in
life," I admitted. "It's self-evident."
  One loses track of time while sailing in south Florida
waters  There is a lassitude that laughs at clocks; the
lotus floats over the waves even as over the land, and a
poetic languor steals into the soul breeding an indiffer-
ence to hours and days-wretched things, at best, that
were only meant for slaves! Neither of us realized our
passing into Barnes Sound, and saw only that the
Whim, sails gracefully drawing, cut the water as cleanly
as a knife.
  Another day passed during which we shot at sharks,
or trawled, or lay on deck smoking and occasionally
gazing over the side at displays of fish and flora twenty
feet beneath us. But upon the third morning I asked:
  "Where are we bound, Gates"
  "Mr. Thomas says Key West, sir, and then Ha-
vana. "

 

20       WINGS OF THE WIND

  " Mr. Thomas, indeed," I laughed, for it was exactly
like Tommy to take over the command of a ship, or
anything else that struck his fancy.
  Before leaving Miami he had received a twenty page
letter from the Bluegrass region of Kentucky which
threw him into a state of such volatile ineptitude that
I was well satisfied to let him give what orders he would,
sending us to the world's end for all I cared. In a very
large measure Tommy 's happiness was my own, as I
knew that mine would always be dear to him.
  During our most trying hours in France, thoughts
of this wonderful girl, whose name was Nell, unfailingly
kept his spirits high. In moments of confidence that
come to pals on the eve of battle I saw that some day
they might be eternal "buddies"-certainly if he had
his way; and toward this achievement he had been,
since graduating from the University of Virginia, di-
recting every effort to build up a stock farm which his
family had more or less indifferently carried for gen-
erations. Next to winning Nell, his greatest ambition
was to raise a Derby winner-according to him a more
notable feat than being President.
  The sixth of April, 1917, had caught him with a prom-
ising string of yearlings, each an aristocrat in the equine
world of blue-bloods, each a hope for that most classic
of American races. But he had thrown these upon the
hands of a trainer and submerged his personal interests
six hours after Congress declared war. At the same
moment, indeed, all of Kentucky was turning to a
greater tradition than that of "horses and whiskey";
and, by the time the draft became operative, the board
of one county searched it from end to end without find-
ing a man to regis:ter-because those in the fighting age,
married or single, with dependents or otherwise, had

 

  THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 21

previously rushed to the Colors. This, and the fact
that his state, with three others, headed the nation
with the highest percentage in physical examinations,
added luster to the shield of his old Commonwealth-
though he roundly insisted that 'twas not Kentucky's
manhood, but her womanhood, who deserved the credit.
After our cruise he was going back to the thorough-
breds, now within a few months of the required Derby
age; and of course I had promised to be on hand at
Churchill Downs when his colors flashed past the grand-
stand.
  Late in the afternoon the Whim docked at Key West
and, while Gates was ashore arranging for our clear-
ance, Tommy and I ambled up town in search of daily
papers. We were seated in the office of a rather seedy
hotel when its proprietor approached, saying:
  " 'Scuse me, gents,-are you from that boat down
there  "
  I answered in the affirmative.
  " Going to Havana I "
  This, too, I admitted.
  "Well, there's a feller by the desk who missed the
steamer, and he hoped-er--"
  "We'd take him over," Tommy supplied the halt-
ing words. "Where is he"
  Turning, we easily distinguished the man by his
timid glances in our direction.
  "Whiz-bang," Tommy whispered. "What the deuce
would you call it, Jack"
  Except for his age, that might have been sixty, he
was most comical to look upon-in stature short and
round, suggesting kinship with a gnome. His head
seemed too large for the body, yet this might have been
because it carried a plenteous shock of straw-colored

 

22  WINGS OF THE WIND



hair, with mustache and beard to match. He was at-
tired in "knickers" and pleated jacket, that looked
as if he'd slept in them, and his fat legs were knock-
kneed. On the floor about his feet lay almost every
conceivable type and age of traveling bag, with the in-
evitable camera.
  "What's his name" Tommy asked, not that that
would have made any difference if his passport were in
order.
  "Registered as 'Monsieur Dragot, of Roumania,'"
the proprietor answered.
  "Roumania!" Tommy looked at me. "Let's go meet
him, Jack."
  Monsieur Dragot turned out to be the original singed
cat, for assuredly he possessed more attractive qualities
inside than were exteriorly visible, and from a first
shyness that did not lack charm he expanded briskly.
After visiting a "dry" cafe, to seal this fortunate ac-
quaintanceship-as he insisted upon calling it-he
warmed up to us and we to him, with the result that
his bags were soon carried down and stowed in our spare
stateroom. Leaving him there, we went on deck.
  "Dragot," Tommy mused. "Speaks with a slight
accent, but I can't make out what!"
  "Roumanian, possibly," I suggested, "as he comes
from there."
  "You rather excel yourself," he smiled. "Register-
ing from Roumania, however, isn't prima facie evidence
that he's a Roumanian."
  "He's a clever little talker, all the same."
  "Right O! Too clever. I'm wondering if we aren't
a pair of chumps to take him."
  " Why  "
  "He may be a crook, for all we know. Did you no-

 

  THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 23

tice what he said about holding a commission from
Azuria, and then hurrying to explain that Azuria isn't
on the ordinary maps-just a wee bit of a kingdom up in
the Carpathians, yet in the confines of Roumania I
call that fishy! "
  "Not entirely so, Tommy. When you said it might
now be turning into a republic, did you notice how
proudly he declared that the descendants of Basil the
Wolf couldn't be humbled-that, situated in Moldavia,
and escaping the ravages of the Bulgarian army, they
were stronger today than ever"
  " Sounds like raving, sonny. Who the dickens is
Basil the Wolf No, Jack, that doesn't tell us any-
thing. "
  "It tells us he couldn't have been inspired like that
unless the place and people were real to him!"
  "Well, pirate or priest," Tommy laughed, "he'll do
if he waltzes us up to the big adventure. You're about
fit enough to tackle one now!"  During the past forty-
eight hours he had openly rejoiced with Gates at my
improvement and tried, with the indifferent success of
an unbeliever, to play up at top speed that silly idea
of an approaching adventure.
  We had strolled aft, and now stopped to watch a tall
Jamaica negro-or so we thought him to be-asking
Gates for a place in the crew. His clothing was too
scant to hide the great muscles beneath, and Tommy
touched my arm, saying:
  "There's a specimen for you!"
  Had he been cast in bronze a critic might have said
that the sculptor, by over-idealizing masculine perfec-
tion, had made the waist too small, the hips too slender,
for the powerful chest and shoulders; the wrists and
ankles might have been thought too delicate as ter-

 

24  WINGS OF THE WIND



minals for the massive sinews leading into them. He
smiled continually, and spoke in a soft, almost timid
voice.
  "I like that big fellow," I said. Perhaps I had been
well called a pantheist, having always extravagantly
admired the perfect in form or face or the wide out-
doors.
  Feeling my interests he turned from Gates, looking at
me with dog-like pathetic trustfulness. Among the
things he told us briefly-for the crew stood ready to
cast off-was that he once followed the sea, but in
more recent years lived by fishing up sponges and at
times supplying shark meat to the poorer quarter of
Key West. The carcass of a water fowl tied to his
boat, while he occupied himself with sponges, would
sometimes attract a shark; then he would strip, take
a knife in his teeth, and dive.
  I glanced at Gates, but saw no incredulity in his
face.
  In another hour, at nearly dusk, Key West had grown
small and finally sank below the horizon, leaving only
its three skeleton-like towers standing against the sky
-standing erect with all nerves strained, watch-dogs of
the darkening sea; ears cocked to catch a distressed
cry from some waif out in the mysterious night.
  Looking back along our wake I imagined the big black
man standing as we had left him on the dock, gazing
after us with patient regret; and I was glad to have
given him the handful of coins at parting, little dream-
ing how many times that loaf upon the water would
come floating in to me.
  Monsieur Dragot revealed himself more and more
to our astonished eyes as we sat that night on deck.
He had been a professor in the University of Bucharest,

 

  THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 25

and hinted at an intimate entente with the reigning
house of Azuria. Besides being versed in many sciences,
including medicine, he spoke seven languages and read
several others. But these things were drawn from him
by Tommy's artful questions, rather than being said
in boastfulness. Indeed, Monsieur was charmingly, al-
most touchily, modest. Of his business in Havana he
gave no hint, yet this happened to be the one piece of
information that Tommy seemed most possessed to find
out.
  "You'll be in Cuba long, Monsieur" he asked.
  "No one can say. A day, a week, a month, a year
-it is an elusive search I follow, my young friends.
May I call you that"
  We bowed, and I deferentially suggested:
  "If we can help you in any way -"
  "It is the beautiful spirit of America," he sighed,
"to help those in distress, yet there is nothing to do
but watch-watch. For you have not yet been here
long enough to see a child in these waters-no"
  Tommy, perhaps because he came from the South
and was on more or less friendly terms with super-
stitions, glanced over the rail as if an infant might be
floating around almost anywhere. Our strange guest's
mysterious hints were, indeed, rather conducive to
creeps.
  Then, without further comment, hI arose, tossed his
cigar overboard, ran his fingers through his mass of
hair, and went below.
  "What d 'you suppose he meant" I asked, in a
guarded voice.
  "Simple enough," Tommy whispered. "He's got
apartments to let upstairs."

 

26       WINGS OF THE WIND

  "Get out, man," I laughed. "That chap has more
sense than either of us!"
  "Then he'd better come across with some of it. You
remember the freckled lad at Soissons who got fuzzy-
headed from too much concussion Well, he saw chil-
dren around everywhere, too! It's a sure sign, Jack!"
But now he laughed, adding: "Oh, I suppose our little
Roumanian 's all right, only-"
  He was interrupted by Monsieur, himself, who
emerged from the companionway door.
  "I come again," he smiled apologetically, "because
tomorrow our journeys part, and I have shown scant
consideration for your kindness."
  "It's we who feel the obligation," Tommy murmured.
"Now, if we could only help you find the child-sup-
posing, of course, that's what you're watching for!"
  Monsieur gave a deep sigh, appearing to be quite
overcome by a secret grief; but after a moment he
looked at us, asking ingenuously:
  "You think my behavior unusual"
  "Well, since you make a point of it," I laughed, and
hesitated.
  "I see, I see! But, my young friends, you must take
my word that I cannot tell you much." He drew us
nearer. "This I may say: that, after Roumania dropped
out of the war, the new Chancellor of Azuria wired
imploringly for me to leave my classes at the Uni-
versity and come to him-because for years I have
advised with Azurian statesmen, frequently going on
special missions. By the recent death of the old Chan-
cellor a certain paper came to light. This was a secret
agent's report sent from Havana in 1914     I may
not divulge its contents. But for the war it would
have been followed up at once. Whether the same

 

  THE MYSTERIOUS MONSIEUR 27

hopes exist now-well, I am here to discover. Ah,
my young friends," his voice trembled, "much de-
pends upon this! I must-I must find the child if it
lives! "
  Tommy's eyes grew round.
  "I can say no more," Monsieur added. "Accept my
thanks and gratitude for the help you have given me.
And now-bon sair."
  He bowed, backing himself toward the stairs as
though leaving a royal presence, doing it so easily, so
naturally, that we did not even smile. When he had
quite disappeared we turned and faced each other.
  "What do you think now" I asked.
  "I think he's a treasure," Tommy cried. His face
had lighted with a new excitement. "If we want any
fun on this trip, don't let him get out of our sight!
Stick to him! I won't deny he has a screw loose,
but-"
  "That makes it all the better," I laughed, adding:
"Looks like the later's toast might come true, after
all, doesn't it!'"-for I had described our New Year's
Eve to Tommy.
  " Sonny, I 've a hunch we won 't even have to tip-
toe over the hill to find adventures with him around!
He's their regular hanging-out place!"
  Gates came up, and seemed vastly amused when we
told him of our hopes.
  "He doesn't look like much of an adventurer, sir, but
he's certainly a change from the great run of people
I've met. Still, I carn't see how we're going to keep
him against his will!"
  "Neither can I, Tommy."
  " Use a little persuasion."

 

28      WINGS OF THE WIND

"But suppose he won't persuade"
"What 's the use of crossing bridges," Tommy
grinned. "If he won't persuade, then sit on his head-
anything, I don't care! The main thing is-keep him! "


 

CHAPTER III



                THE GIRL IN THE CAFP

  NEXT morning began the conversion, or rather the
persuasion, of Monsieur Dragot to remain a while long-
er with the Whim. Pete started off with another tri-
umphant breakfast and before our guest had gone far
with it his face was agleam with pleasure. Tommy
and I put ourselves out to be agreeable, telling him
jokes that sometimes registered but frequently did not.
Yet we were on most affable terms when, stuffed to re-
pletion, we leaned back and lighted cigarettes.
  "Professor," Tommy suggested, "I think if you stay
with us you'll have a better chance to find that child!"
  Our guest beamed agreeably at the appelative, then
looked toward me.
  "I'm sure of it," I said. "We've nowhere to go
but anywher