By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
Beekman, or a man dressed as he was known to be dressed, had been seen by the police officers and others between three or four in the morning, driving through the lower part of the city in a small car the number of which no one had seen. What he was doing in that section of the city no one could imagine. During the course of the morning Harnash's car was found, badly smashed from a collision, lying on its side in a wretched alley off South Water Street. Beekman's overcoat and cap were in the car and that was all there was to it.
No matter what suspicions the crimp might have entertained, he kept his mouth shut and received the day after the one hundred dollar bill in an unmarked envelope which had been mailed at the general postoffice in the afternoon. Even if he had spoken, he could not have thrown much light on the situation. Not even the reward which was offered could tempt him. His business demanded secrecy, absolutely and inviolable, and too many men knew too much about him, which rendered it unsafe for him to open his head. He would not kill the goose that laid the golden egg for him by making further business on the same lines impossible. He really knew nothing, anyway.
The secret was shared between two men, Woywod on the sea and out of communication with New York, and Harnash himself. So long as they kept quiet no one would ever know. Even Beekman himself could not solve the mystery when he returned to New York. It was most ingeniously planned and most brilliantly carried out. Harnash congratulated himself. Stephanie Maynard would certainly be his long before Beekman could prevent it. Still, George Harnash was by no means so happy in the present state of affairs as he had planned and hoped to be. And his trials were not over. He had to meet Stephanie, the wedding party, old John Maynard, the public press, and the public-what would the day bring forth?
THE WEDDING THAT WAS NOT
Stephanie Maynard had passed a sleepless night. Her love for George Harnash grew stronger and her abhorrence of the marriage increased in the same degree as the hour drew nearer. Too late she repented of her determination. She wondered why she had not allowed Harnash to take her away and end it all. What, after all, were her father's wishes, or her own promises, or the worldly advantages they would gain, or anything else, compared to love?
Harnash had sent word to her the day before that she was not to give up hope, that something would happen surely, but now the last minute was at hand and nothing had happened. A dozen times she started to call her lover on the telephone and a dozen times she refrained. Finally the hour arrived when the victim must be garlanded for the sacrifice. At least, that is the way she regarded it.
She had not heard a word from her husband-to-be during the morning. Under other circumstances that would have alarmed her, but as it was she was only relieved. The wedding party was assembled at the brand new Maynard mansion on upper Fifth Avenue.
Two of the attendants were school friends from other cities and they were guests at the house. The wedding was to be followed by a breakfast and a great reception which the Maynard money and the Beekman position was to make the most wonderful affair of the kind that had ever been given in New York.
With the publicity which modern society courts and welcomes, while it pretends to deprecate it, the papers had published reams about the most private details of the engagement, even to descriptions and pictures of the most intimate under-linen of the bride. Presents of fabulous value, which lost nothing in their description by perfervid pens, were under constant guard in the mansion. Details of police kept back swarms of unaccredited reporters and adventurous sightseers. On the morning of the wedding day the street before the Cathedral was packed with the vulgarly curious long before eleven o'clock. The wedding was to be solemnized at high noon, and was to be the greatest social event which had excited easily aroused and intensely curious New York for a year or more.
The newer members of the exclusive social circle frankly enjoyed it. And such is the contagion of degeneration that the older members, while they affected disdain and annoyance, enjoyed it too. The newspapers had played it up tremendously, and the affair had even achieved the signal triumph of a veiled but well understood cartoon by F. Foster Lincoln, the scourge and satirist of high society, in a recent number of Life.
Everything was ready. The most famous caterer in New York had prepared the most sumptuous wedding breakfast. The most exclusive florist had decorated the church and residence. Society had put on its best clothes, slightly deploring the fact that as it was to be a noon wedding its blooming would be somewhat limited thereby. More tickets had been issued to the Cathedral than even that magnificent edifice could hold and it was filled to its capacity so soon as the doors were opened. The famous choir was in attendance to render a musical program of extraordinary beauty and appropriateness.
As it approached the hour of mid-day the excitement was intense. Women in the crowd were crushed, many fainted. Riot calls had to be sent out and the already strong detachment of police supplemented by reserves. Thus is the holy state of matrimony entered into among the busy rich. With the idle poor it is, fortunately, a simpler affair.
It had been arranged that Derrick Beekman and George Harnash should present themselves at the Maynard mansion not later than eleven o'clock. From there they would drive to the Cathedral in plenty of time to receive the wedding party at the chancel steps. At eleven o'clock a big motor forced its way through the crowd and drew up before the door. From it descended George Harnash alone.
That young man showed the effect of the night he had passed. He was excessively nervous and as gray as the gloves he carried in his hands. He was admitted at once and ushered into the drawing room, which was filled with a dozen young ladies in raiment which even Solomon in all his glory might have envied, who were to make up the wedding party. There also had just arrived the young gentlemen who were to accompany them, who had all been at the bachelor dinner. None of them exhibited any evidence of unusual dissipation. They had slept late and were in excellent condition.
"George, alone!" cried young Van Brunt, who was next in importance to the best man, as Harnash entered the room.
"Where's Beekman?" asked Harnash apparently in great surprise, as he glanced at the little group.
"Not here. You were to bring him. It's time for us to get up to the Cathedral anyway. I'll bet the people are clamoring at the doors now."
"They weren't to be opened till eleven-fifteen," said Grant, one of the fittest members of the party. "It's only eleven now. We've plenty of time."
"Well, you better beat it up now, then. Beekman will be here in a minute, I'm sure," said Harnash. "We'll follow you in half an hour."
As the young men who were to usher left the room the girls fell upon Harnash.
"Mr. Harnash," said Josephine Treadway, who was the maid-of-honor, "will you please tell us where Derrick Beekman is, and why you didn't bring him along?"
"I can't," said Harnash. "As a matter of fact I-"
"You'll tell me, certainly," interposed the voice that he loved.
He turned and found that Stephanie, having completed her toilet, had descended the stair and entered the room. She was whiter than Harnash himself, but her lack of color was infinitely becoming to her in her sumptuous bridal robes, and the adoring young man decided then and there that whatever happened she was worth it.
"Mr. Beekman," continued the girl, "was to be here at eleven o'clock with you. It's after that now and you're here alone. Where is he? Why didn't you bring him?"
"Miss Maynard," said Harnash formally, and in spite of himself he could not prevent his lip from trembling, "I don't know where he is."
"What!" exclaimed the girl, really astonished, as the whole assembly broke into exclamations. Had Harnash accomplished the impossible, as he had threatened?
"I can't find him," went on Harnash. He could scarcely sustain Stephanie's direct and piercing gaze. He forced himself to look at her, however. "I don't know where he is," he repeated.
"But have you searched?"
"Everywhere. I called up his apartment on Park Avenue at ten o'clock. They said he wasn't there and hadn't been there all night. I started my man out at once in a taxicab, jumped into my own car, and I've been everywhere-the office, his clubs-I've even had my secretary and clerks telephone all the hotels on the long chance that he might be at one of them."
"And you haven't found a trace of him? George Harnash-" began Stephanie, but Harnash was too quick for her; he did not allow her to finish.
"You will forgive me," he went on; "I did even more than that in my alarm. I finally notified the police on the chance that he might have been er-er-brought in."
He shot a warning look at Stephanie that checked further inquiries from her.
"Why should he be brought in?" asked Josephine Treadway, who had no reason for not asking the question.
"Why, you see," went on Harnash, "it's desperately hard to tell, and I'd rather die than mention it, but under the circumstances I suppose-"
"Out with it at once," cried Stephanie.
"Well, we had a little dinner last night at-well, never mind where."
"We had a dinner, too," said Josephine.
"Yes, but I imagine ours was-er-different. At any rate, it didn't break up until quite late, or, I should say, early in the morning, and we were not-quite ourselves."
"But Derrick is the most abstemious of men."
"Exactly; so am I, and when that kind go under it's worse than-you understand," he added helplessly.
"When did you see him last?"
"Why-er-I'll make a clean breast of it."
"Do so, I beg you."
"Well, then, we were right enough when the dinner broke up. Derrick and I left the others to their own devices. He had arranged to spend the night with me. We stopped at one or two places down town, but reached my quarters in Washington Square about two or three o'clock."
Harnash paused and swallowed hard. It was an immensely difficult task to which he had compelled himself, although so far he had told nothing but the truth.
"Go on," said Josephine Treadway impatiently as the pause lengthened.
"He changed his mind after we put the limousine in the garage and insisted on going back to his own rooms."
"Did you let him go?"
"Well, Miss Treadway, I couldn't help it, and, to be frank, I didn't try. You see we were neither of us very sure of ourselves and-and-"
"He took my runabout, drove off and-that's all."
"Have you found the runabout?"
"Yes, the police found it in an alley near South Water Street, badly smashed. Beekman's overcoat and cap were in the car."
"Do you think he has been hurt?" questioned Stephanie, who had listened breathlessly to the conversation between her lover and her maid-of-honor.
"I'm sure that he can't have been," returned Harnash with definiteness which carried conviction to his questioner, and no one else caught the meaning look he shot at her.
"And that's all?" asked Josephine.
"Absolutely all I can tell you," he replied truthfully, none noticing the equivoke but Stephanie, who of course could not call attention to it.
"You poor girl," said Josephine, gathering Stephanie in her arms.
"It's outrageous. It's horrible," cried the girl, biting her lip to keep back her tears.
She really could scarcely tell whether she was glad or sorry, now that it had come; not that her feelings had changed, but there was the public scandal, the affront, the-but she had not time to speculate.
"What is outrageous, what is horrible?" asked John Maynard, coming into the room and catching her words. "What can be outrageous or horrible in such a wedding as we have arranged? Why, Stephanie, what's the matter? You're as white as a sheet, and Harnash, are you ill? You're a pretty looking spectacle for a best man."
"Father," said his daughter, "they can't find Derrick."
"Can't find him!" exclaimed Maynard. "Does he have to be sought for on his wedding day? If I were going to marry a stunning girl like you, for all you're as pale as a ghost, I-"
"There's not going to be any wedding," said Stephanie, mechanically.
"No wedding!" roared Maynard, surprised intensely. "What do you mean? Are you backing out at the last minute?"
"No, it's not I."
"Look here, will some one explain this mystery to me?" asked the man, turning to the rather frightened bevy of girls. "It's eleven-thirty; we ought to be starting. What's the meaning of this infernal foolishness? You, Harnash, what are you standing there looking like a ghost for? One would think you were going to be married yourself."
"Mr. Maynard," said Josephine, taking upon herself the task, "Stephanie has told you the truth. Mr. Harnash has just come and he doesn't know where Mr. Beekman is."
"Doesn't know where he is?"
"He can't be found, sir," said Harnash.
"Do you mean to tell me that he has run away and left my girl in the lurch? By God, he'll-"
"I'm sure it isn't that," said Harnash earnestly, "but the fact is we had a bachelor dinner last night."
"Of course you did, but what has that to do with it?"
"Everything. I guess we indulged a little too much."
"Well, bachelors have done that fool thing since time and the world began."
"Yes, but Beekman hasn't been seen since early this morning, two or three o'clock."
"Who saw him last?"
"I did," said Harnash, briefly repeating his explanation.
"What did you do?"
"I 'phoned to his house and they said he hadn't been there all night. I dressed, sent my man out in a taxi, took my own car, summoned the office force to my assistance, and Dougherty's detectives, and I've scoured the city for him."
"I have notified them, of course, as soon as they reported the finding of my runabout. They're on the hunt, too. We have even called up every hotel in the city. He's not to be found."
"It must be foul play," said Maynard, taking Harnash's account of it at its face value.
"I suppose so," said Harnash, wincing a little, although he would fain not, and again shooting a quick glance at Stephanie, and then daringly following it with a quick gesture of negation to reassure her.
"Where that car was found it wouldn't take much to interest a thief."
"No. He had a watch, jewelry, money. Indeed, I have a dim remembrance of his flashing a roll in some place or other."
"That will be it."
"Meanwhile what is to be done, sir?"
"It's a quarter to twelve now," said Josephine Treadway.
"God, how I hate this," said old Maynard. "Here," he stepped to the door and called his private secretary, "Bentley, drive up to the Cathedral like mad, tell the Bishop that the wedding is called off. Yes, don't stand there like a fish; get out."
"But we'll have to give some reason to the people, explain to the guests in the church," expostulated the secretary.
"Reason be damned," said Maynard, roughly.
"Excuse me," said Harnash, "it would be better for all concerned, and especially Miss Maynard, if the matter were explained at once, and fully. You wouldn't like to have anyone think for a moment that she had been left in the lurch."
"Mr. Harnash is right, sir. It must be explained as well as it can."
"Very well, Bentley," said his employer. "Tell the Bishop that Mr. Beekman has disappeared, that we are of the opinion that he has met with foul play, that under the circumstances there is nothing to do but call off the wedding and have the explanation announced in the Cathedral in any way he likes, and then get back here as quickly as possible. Stephanie, I'd rather have lost half my fortune than have this happen, but keep up your courage. I feel that nothing but some dastardly work would have kept Beekman away. He is the soul of honor and he was passionately devoted to you. Don't faint, my dear girl."
"I'm not going to faint," said Stephanie, resolutely. "Girls, I'm awfully sorry for your disappointment," she faltered.
"Don't mind us," said Josephine.
"I'm afraid that perhaps you-you-"
"We're going at once," explained one of the bridesmaids, "if you will have our motors called up."
"Of course," said Maynard. "Harnash, you attend to that and then come to me in the library. William," he added to the footman who came in obedience to his summons, "get me the chief of police on the telephone and when the reporters come, and they will be here just as soon as the announcement is made at the church, show them into the library in a body. I've got to see them and I'll see them all at once. Harnash, you come, too. You can tell the story better than anyone."
STEPHANIE IS GLAD AFTER ALL
The sudden disappearance of one of the principals in the Maynard-Beekman wedding was the sensation of the hour. John Maynard was deeply hurt and terribly concerned because he was very fond of Beekman, and because in spite of his bold front the young man's failure to appear had reflected upon his daughter. The lewd papers of the baser sort, playing up the bachelor dinner, did not hesitate to point this out, and insinuations, so thinly disguised that every one who read understood, appeared daily. That there was not a word of truth in them was of little consequence either to the writers who knew they were lying or to the public, which did not. The clientele of such papers was ready to believe anything or everything bad; especially of the idle rich.
Reportorial and even editorial-which is worse-imagination was unrestrained. As the newspapers had devoted so much space to the preparations, they did not stint themselves in discussing the aftermath of the affair. The police bent every energy to solve the mystery. Maynard was a big power in public affairs and they were stimulated by a reward of one hundred thousand dollars which Maynard offered for tidings of the missing man, a reward which made the wiseacres put their tongues in their cheeks as they read of it.
The gorgeous wedding presents were returned. The lovely lingerie of the bride, which had been so talked about, was laid away and the bride herself was denied to every caller. Even George Harnash sought access to her person in vain. The scandal, the humiliation, had made her seriously ill, and by her physician's orders she was allowed to see no one.
However, the first person she did admit was George Harnash. Indeed, so soon as she was able to be about she called him up and demanded his immediate presence. He had been waiting for such a summons. He knew it was unavoidable. It had to come. He dropped everything to go to her. He was horrified when he saw her. He had got back some of his nerve and equipoise to the casual observation, although he still showed what he had gone through to a close scrutiny. He had been catechized and cross-questioned, even put through a mild form of the third degree by the police, but little to their satisfaction. He could tell them nothing definite. They got no more out of him than he had volunteered at first. They were completely and entirely mystified.
Several steamers had sailed for various ports that day and night, but it was easily established, when they reached port, that they had not carried the missing man. They completely overlooked the Susquehanna for reasons which will appear. Beekman's disappearance remained one of those unexplained mysteries for which New York was notorious. The reward still stood and the authorities were still very much on the alert, but they were absolutely without any clue whatsoever. Derrick Beekman had disappeared from the face of the earth. Besides Harnash, there was only one person in the city who had any definite idea as to the cause of his departure, and that was Stephanie Maynard. A proud, high-spirited girl, she had suffered untold anguish in the publicity and scandal and innuendo.
"My God, Stephanie!" cried Harnash, as she received him in a lovely neglig?e in her boudoir. "You look like death itself."
"And I have passed through it," said the girl, "in the last week. Now, I want you to tell me where Derrick is."
"Stephanie," answered Harnash, "it would be foolish for me to pretend that I don't know."
"It certainly would."
"I told you that I meant to have you and that I would stop the wedding if I had to take you from the altar steps."
"But we didn't get that far."
"It amounts to the same thing. I-er-took him. It was easier."
"Where and how did you take him?"
"Don't ask. I can't tell."
"And you have covered me with shame inexpressible. I shall never get over it as long as I live. How could you do it? How could you?"
"Are you reproaching me?"
"Reproaching you!" cried Stephanie. "Do you think I could tamely endure this public scandal, this abandonment, without a word?"
"But I did it for you."
"Yes, I suppose so, but that doesn't make it any less humiliating."
"Stephanie, tell me, do you love Derrick Beekman?"скачать книгу бесплатно