Mr. Burthon was like many other men accustomed to modern business methods: he believed there was always an indirect way to accomplish whatever he desired. Also, like many others who have little or no use for such a contrivance, he owned a motor car. His chauffeur was a little, wizen featured man named Totham Tyler, familiarly called “Tot” by his chums, a chauffeur who knew automobiles backward and forward and might have progressed beyond his present station had he not been recognized as so “tricky” that no one had any confidence in him.
About two weeks after Orissa had left the office Mr. Burthon said to his man one morning:
“Tyler, would you like to do a little detective work?”
“Anything to oblige, sir,” answered Totham, pricking up his ears.
“Have you ever met a fellow around town named Kane?”
“Steve Kane, sir? Oh, yes. He used to be 97foreman of Cunningham’s repair shop. Quit there some time ago, I believe. Clever fellow, sir, this Kane.”
“Yes; he has invented a new sort of aëroplane.”
Tyler whistled, reflectively. All motor car people have a penchant for flying. As Mr. Cumberford would have said: it “interests them.”
“Kane is keeping the matter a secret,” continued Mr. Burthon, “and I’m curious to know what he’s up to. Find out, Tyler, and let me know.”
“Very good, sir. Where is he working?”
“At home. He lives out Beverly way. Take a Beverly car and get off at Sandringham avenue. Walk north up the lane to the first bungalow.”
“Ever been there, sir?”
“No; but Kane’s sister has described the place to me. When you get there, try to hire out as an assistant, but in any case keep your eyes open and observe everything in sight. I’ll pay you extra for this work, according to the value of the information you obtain.”
“I understand, sir,” answered Tyler, wrinkling his leathery face into a shrewd smile; “I know how to work a game of that sort, believe me.”
In pursuance of this mission the little chauffeur came to the Kane residence that very afternoon. As he approached the bungalow he heard the 98sound of pounding upon metal coming from the canvas covered hangar; otherwise the country lay peacefully sunning itself. An automobile stood in the lane. On the front porch a woman sat knitting, but raised her head at the sound of footsteps. Tyler touched his cap, but there was no response. Looking at her closely he saw the woman was blind, so he passed her stealthily and tiptoed up the narrow path toward the hangar. The top canvas had been drawn back on wires to admit the air, but the entrance was closed by curtains. Tyler listened to the hammering a moment, and summoning his native audacity to his aid boldly parted the curtains and entered.
“Hello, Kane!” he called; then paused and took in the scene before him at a glance.
Stephen was at the bench pounding into shape an aluminum propeller-blade; a tall man with a drooping mustache stood near, watching him. A young girl was busily sewing strips of canvas. On its rack lay a huge flying machine—its planes spread, the motors in place, the running gear complete—seemingly almost ready for action.
But Tyler was not the only one with eyes. Kane paused with uplifted hammer and regarded the intruder with a frown of annoyance; Orissa stared in startled surprise; the tall man’s spectacles glittered maliciously.
99“Burthon’s chauffeur!” he muttered; “I remember him.” Swiftly his long arm shot out, seized Tyler’s shoulder and whirled him around. The square toe of a heavy shoe caught the little man unprepared and sent him flying through the entrance, where he sprawled full length upon the ground.
In an instant he was up, snarling with rage. The curtains were closed and before them stood his assailant calmly lighting a cigarette.
“Mr. Cumberford, sir,” gasped Tyler, “you shall smart for this! It’s actionable, sir. It’s—it’s—assault ’n’ battery; that’s what it is!”
“Want any more?” asked the man coolly.
“Not to-day, thank you. This’ll cost you plenty.”
“Then go back to Burthon and tell him we know his game. You’re trespassing, sir. I could wring your neck—perhaps I will—and the law would uphold me. If you want to escape alive, make tracks.”
Totham Tyler took the hint. He walked away with as much dignity as he could muster, considering his anatomy had so recently been jarred; but he did not take the car home. Oh, no. There was much more to discover inside that hangar. He would wait until night, and then take his time to explore the place fully.
100With this end in view the chauffeur secreted himself in the outskirts of the orange grove, creeping underneath a tree with thick branches that nearly touched the ground. He could pick ripe fruit from where he lay, and was well content to rest himself until night came.
An hour later Mr. Cumberford whirled by in his motor car, headed for the city. Tyler shook his fist at his enemy and swore effectively to relieve his feelings. Then he sank into a doze.
The approaching chug of an engine aroused him. He found it was nearly dark, so he must have slept for some hours. Here was Cumberford, back with his car and speeding up the lane so swiftly that Tot could only see a cage-like affair occupying the rear section of the automobile.
The chauffeur wondered what this could be, puzzling his brain for a solution of the problem. Even while considering the matter Cumberford passed him again, smoking his eternal cigarette and running the car more deliberately, now, toward the city.
“All right,” mumbled the chauffeur; “he’s out of the way for the night, anyhow. But he left the cage somewhere. What the blazes could he have had in it?”
He ate a few more oranges for his supper, smoked his pipe, snoozed again and awoke to find it was nearly midnight.
101“Good!” said he; “now’s my time. I don’t mind a bit of a wait if I get the goods in the end; and here’s where I get ’em. It takes a pretty good man to outwit Tot Tyler. They’ll agree to that, by’m’by.”
He crept down the lane and kept on the south side of the hedge until he came opposite the hangar, thus avoiding the house and grounds. The canvas top of the shed showed white in the moonlight, not twenty feet from where he stood, and the chauffeur was pressing aside the thick hedge to find an opening when a deep bay, followed by a growl, smote his ears. He paused, his head thrust half through the foliage, his blood chilled with terror as there bounded from the hangar a huge bloodhound, its eyes glaring red in the dim light, its teeth bared menacingly.
Tot thought he was “done for,” as he afterward told Mr. Burthon, when with a jerk the great beast stopped—a yard from the hedge—and the clank of a chain showed it could come no farther.
Tyler caught his breath, broke from the hedge and sprinted down the lane at his best gait, followed by a succession of angry bays from the hound.
“Confound Cumberford!” he muttered. “The brute was in that cage, and he went to town to get 102it, so’s to keep me out of the hangar. That’s two I owe this guy, an’ I’ll get even with him in time, sure’s fate.”
There was no car at this hour, so the discomfited chauffeur had to trudge seven miles to the city, where he arrived at early dawn.
The man was not in an amiable frame of mind when he brought Mr. Burthon’s automobile to the club, where his master lived, at nine o’clock. As he drove the broker to the office he related his news.
“Cumberford!” cried Mr. Burthon. “Are you sure it was Cumberford?”
“Yes, sir; I remember him well. Took him to your office and the bank, you know, the time you had some deal with him; and he tried to tell me how to run the car. Me! I spotted him right away for a fresh guy from the East, an’ now he’s kicked me out of Kane’s hangar an’ set a dog on me. Oh, yes; I know Cumberford.”
“So do I,” said Burthon, grimly.
Tyler caught the tone.
“I’ll do him yet, sir. Leave it to me. I couldn’t get much of a pointer on Kane’s aëroplane; hadn’t time, you know; but it looked like a rosebud an’ I guess he’s got something good. I’m going to find out. I’ll take out a dose for the dog that’ll put him to sleep in a wink, and then I’ll go all over the thing careful.”
103“Never mind the airship,” said Mr. Burthon. “I’ve found out what I wanted to know.”
“What! you have, sir?” exclaimed the chauffeur, amazed.
“Yes,” was the quiet reply. “That is, if you’re positive the man at the Kanes was Cumberford.”
“Sure? Why, I’d stake my life on it, sir.”
“Then I’ll follow the clue in my own way,” said Mr. Burthon, alighting from the car.
The discovery made by Tyler necessitated a change in the proposed campaign. The broker entered his office, sat down at his desk and fell into one of his fits of deep abstraction. The new “secretary,” noting this, chewed her gum reflectively a moment and then began to read a novel, keeping the volume concealed behind her desk.
“If Cumberford was in the hangar,” Mr. Burthon mused, “he has undertaken to back Kane’s aëroplane, and I’m too late to get hold of the machine in the way I planned. I suppose the fool offered better terms than I did, to blind those simple children, and so the Kanes turned me down. Never mind. Cumberford has beaten me on two deals, but the third trick shall be mine. I must get hold of the designs of Kane’s aëroplane in some way; perhaps I may find them at the patent office. Then I’ll regulate things so the boy’s invention 104will prove a failure. The result ought to satisfy me: it would cause Cumberford serious loss, ruin young Kane, and—bring Orissa to me for assistance. But Tyler can’t manage the job; I must have a man more clever than he is, and direct the intrigue in person.”
The secretary read and chewed most of the day. When she quit “work” at five o’clock, Mr. Burthon was still thinking.