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The Substitute Prisoner   By: (1879-1948)

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First Page:

THE SUBSTITUTE PRISONER

by

MAX MARCIN

Author of "Are You My Wife?" "Britz of Headquarters," etc.

Copyright, 1911, by Moffat, Yard and Company New York Published October, 1911

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Mrs. Collins ( Frontispiece )

He looked about him in a bewildered way

She felt herself seized with a desire to weep

She did not repel the arm

THE SUBSTITUTE PRISONER

CHAPTER I

Did she come to threaten or to plead?

The question, darting swiftly through his mind as his eyes took in the unfamiliar outline of her figure, produced a storm of agitation which left him gazing stupidly at her, with fixed eyes in which surprise and terror mingled.

He had never seen her before his first moment of survey impressed that clearly on him. Yet her presence in his home at this compromising hour signified that she was involved, remotely or intimately, in his own tangled affairs. The thought impelled him to closer scrutiny of her.

She was pleasing to the eye. But whether her beauty was soft and alluring or hard and repelling, his bewildered senses could not determine. Her toilet, fresh and elegant, rich and clinging, harmonizing with the velvet drapings and melting lights of the room, seemed to invest her with an air of breeding, gave her an outward show of refinement. Yet she betrayed certain signs of doubtful comfort, as if all this magnificence had been borrowed for the occasion.

He came forward noiselessly, his footsteps deadened in the soft pile of the Brussels carpet. She regarded his approach with cold, impassive demeanor, nodding slightly as he paused near the carved rosewood table above which hung an exquisitely wrought silver lamp, suspended by four silver chains from the ceiling.

"Mr. Herbert Whitmore?" she asked, not without trace of anxiety in her voice.

He observed that her skin had a warm and pearly tone, that her abundant hair was of a dark reddish tinge, and that her eyes, of turquoise blue, gleamed with a strange, impenetrable hue. He was still gazing vacantly at her, but his mind was working furiously, striving to answer the harrowing questions that presented themselves in tumultuous succession before it.

Who was she? What motive prompted this visit at ten in the evening? Did she come to plead a financial matter? or was she here for purposes of blackmail? Did she have knowledge of his incriminating conduct, and was she sent to ensnare him into further complications? Above all, what attitude should he adopt toward her?

"What can I do for you?" he inquired in a tone frigidly polite, yet not devoid of an anxious note.

They regarded each other a moment.

"I hardly know how to begin," she said, lowering her eyes.

He did not credit her hesitancy. It was a deceit, he felt, a bit of theatricalism, the simulated modesty of a woman of experience.

"Begin by being seated," he said rather sharply, as if he meant to convey that he penetrated her sham diffidence.

Ignoring his brusqueness, she dropped into one of the ornate rosewood chairs near the table.

"It is such a delicate matter on which I have come," she began timorously, eying him for a sign of encouragement. "Now that I am here I wish I hadn't come it's so difficult for me to begin."

His keen gray eyes narrowed on her, but she read no encouragement in his glance. He had regained control of himself and assumed a non committal attitude, as of one ready to listen, but indifferent as to whether she proceeded or withdrew.

"You haven't revealed the purpose of your visit as yet," he said, crossing his legs. "If you regret having come, you are at liberty to go without further explanation."

He hurled it at her as a challenge, but with a positive feeling that it would not be accepted.

"I have come to warn you," she said with sudden resolution.

"To warn me of what?" His brow knitted in puzzled surprise.

"I have come to tell you that he knows and has worked himself into a murderous fury... Continue reading book >>




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