“Silk and Birds of Prey” by Homer King Gordon (1932)

From THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER MAGAZINE SECTION, FEBRUARY 28, 1932, here is a nearly 85 year old short story by Homer King Gordon that’s completely unknown (it’s not in the FictionMags Index so probably didn’t appear in the magazines (Homer King Gordon)). This was the only paper I found it listed in.

“Silk and Birds of Prey” by Homer King Gordon (as by Homer K. Gordon)

MILLIONS of dollars worth of silk lay in the warehouses which lined the dimly lighted street, deserted except for an occasional taxicab uptown-bound, and a lone uniformed figure.

SHORT STORIES – Oct. 25, 1933 with Homer King Gordon story

Clip Madigan walked slowly down toward the crosstown street marking the end of his beat. It was raising slightly, so he kept close to the buildings as he went from door to door.

He found the delivery door of the Maddox warehouse open, but old Chris Olsen, the Maddox watchman, was standing just inside the doorway.

“Hello, Chris, you lucky old stiff,” Clip hailed him, making a pass at the pudgy watchman’s stomach with the end of his nightstick. “You old-timers get all the breaks. It looks like my slicker for me.”

“Yas, it will be a vet vun tonight,” Chris agreed. “But maybe I’m not so lucky yet.”

“No, why not ?” Clip asked. The old watchman looked uneasily at the freight elevator before he answered.

“I ain’t so young yet,” he muttered, stroking the butt of his revolver and then letting his fingers wander restlessly to the time-clock hooked in his belt. “Maybe that’s it. Yas, you think so ?”

“Depends on what you’ve got on your mind,” Clip said gravely. “Anybody been hanging around here acting suspicious ? What’s happened ?”

TRIPLE-X WESTERN MAGAZINE – Dec. 1930 with Homer King Gordon story

Chris shook his head.

“It’s like somebody was watching me. I dunno. Tonight I felt like that, so I waited for you to come by.”

“Well, let’s have a look,” Clip suggested. “I’ll make the rounds through the building with you.”

THE old watchman’s fingers trembled as he locked the door. Clip followed him through the corridor into the big office room on the pavement level. The Maddox building consisted of four floors and a basement.

They started their tour of the building in the basement, reached by a narrow stairway at the rear of the building.

A squad of policemen could not have searched the basement thoroughly in the time it took the old watchman to complete his duties there, but Clip circled the room once and looked into as many of the possible hiding places as he could reach before Chris was ready to go upstairs.

He found nothing there to justify the old watchman’s fear, nor did he find anything in the floors above. However, he did not feel that his time had been wasted without cause. Chris was a former policeman with medals to prove his nerve and courage.

“Why don’t you call up your patrol chief and tell him what you told me ?” Clip Madigan urged.

Chris shook his head. “If I see something, yes,” he agreed. “But just because I feel something, no.”

Clip could understand his reluctance.

OVER THE TOP – Oct. 1929 with Homer King Gordon story

A night watchman with jumpy nerves got little sympathy from a hard-boiled patrol chief.

“I’ll look in when I come around this way again,” Clip promised.

A fortune in silk was stored on the two upper floors of the Maddox building.

Clip squared his shoulders and snapped his night stick out to the end of the leather thong so viciously that it cracked his knuckles when it flew back.

Naturally, the time-clock stations were wired to a central agency; and if old Chris did not punch in each station at the approximate time it should be punched, an emergency squad would come and investigate.

But in Clip’s opinion, by the time they got there it would be too late to do anything more than investigate, as far as any silk robbery was concerned. It was up to the police to see that the robbery was stopped before the stolen silk was carted away.

It was up to him.

WESTERN TRAILS – April 1930 with Homer King Gordon story

CLIP had not walked more than a block from the Maddox building when he saw the slinking figure of a man slip out of the recessed doorway of a cigar store and walk rapidly down one of the side streets.

Clip quickened his step and when he arrived at the corner he was not surprised to find the side street deserted. The tail-light of an automobile could be seen in the distance.

When he found nothing to justify an alarm or an extensive search of the neighborhood, Clip abandoned the side street. It was nearly time for him to ring in, and his call box was several blocks away.

That was an important bit of routine which had to be followed. Clip was a patrolman who let nothing interfere with the strict observance of his official duties; but half a block away from the call box he looked anxiously up and down the street then stepped into a small lunch counter restaurant. The red-headed girl dressed in white who sat on a stool behind the cash register would have provided an excellent excuse for any man to neglect his business for a cup of coffee.

The chef, a dark-faced fat man, sprawled across the lower end of the counter with his head pillowed on his arms, winked a bilious eye at Clip.

The red-headed girl was not to indifferent.

SHORT STORIES – Sept. 10, 1928 with Homer King Gordon story

“Hello, you,” she said smiling. “How’s crime tonight ?”

Clip leaned against the cigar counter and grinned. “How’s a cop to keep his mind on crime when it keeps him awake day and night worryin’ about you ?”

“Don’t lose any sleep over me, big boy,” she advised him. “Nothing’s ever happened to me, and won’t.”

He shook his head and sighed with mock seriousness.

“If Ziegfeld or any of them glorifiers ever get a flash at you, what chance would a poor cop have after that ?”

“Well,” she reminded him, “I still buy my silk stockings at bargain counters.”

“Are you blaming me for that ?” he asked.

“The wife -”

“Of a common ordinary cop couldn’t even afford silk stockings,” Clip finished the remark when she hesitated. “Only, darlin’, my career is just started; and how’ll you expect to claim credit for my success if you wait until I’m an inspector before you marry me ?”

ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE – JULY 1932 with Homer King Gordon story

“No, Clip,” the red-headed girl told him quickly, “you’re not common and ordinary, but -”

Clip had known Ellen Fogarthy for eighteen of her twenty years. They lived in the same block and had played under the same fire department sprinklers as kids.

ARE you hintin’ that I should do a little graftin’ on the side – say, wink one eye and let a load of silk get out?” he demanded.

“You’re too dumb to be anything but honest,” she retorted with a smile.

“See any strangers drifting around here tonight ?” he asked.

“I don’t remember any,” she answered quickly. “Why ?”

Clip told her about old Chris, the Maddox watchman, and of the man he had seen sneaking out of the cigar store doorway.

“Why don’t you call in and have a car sent up ?” she suggested.

That was the same advice Clip had given the old watchman.

“And let the boys think I had a case of nerves ?” he said lightly.

TRIPLE-X MAGAZINE – July 1930 with Homer King Gordon story

“I suppose you’d rather play hero and have a swell funeral, even if it did mean that some company lost a hundred thousand dollars worth of silk ?” she commented, shrewdly enough to make Clip wince.

Clip’s jaws snapped shut.

“I’m not yelling wolf until I see one,” he stated stiffly.

“Some men hate to be laughed at,” Ellen observed. “Me, I’d rather have a few jeers than a few roses any time, especially if I had to get the roses as coffin decorations.”

“Some of us are dumb, I guess,” Clip agreed, turning toward the door. “See you later.”

“Don’t you want a cup of coffee ?” Ellen asked quickly.

“Got to ring in.”

He walked out of the restaurant without turning his head. The red-headed girl ran around the cigar counter and caught the door before he had time to close it completely.

“I’m sorry, Clip,” she begged. “I didn’t mean to be nasty.”

“Forget it,” he patted her hand. “I-”

SHORT STORIES – Aug. 10, 1927 with Homer King Gordon story

Without finishing the remark, he started past her down the street.

Coming toward them was a little boy three or four years old.

The youngster had his hands up over his face and was crying bitterly.

“Lost, poor kid,” Clip chuckled. “I wonder where the heck he come from.”

THE little boy screamed with terror as Clip squatted on the pavement in front of him.

When he found him too hysterical to be soothed in any other way, Clip took him in his arms and walked back to the restaurant door and gave him to the girl.

“Take him inside and we’ll see if we can’t get him quieted down,” he advised. “He’s just lost and scared. His clothes aren’t wet, so he must belong around here somewhere. Ever see him before ?”

There were two red fingermarks on the youngster’s face where someone had pinched or struck him.

“Clip, I saw this kid in an automobile that passed here about five minutes before you came in,” Ellen declared. “I was at the window when the car drove past, and I noticed the kid because he was crying then. He had his face up against the glass at though he was trying to get out. It was a big, closed car with two men in it.”

“No women ?”

“No. I’m sure.”

“That would account for his clothes being almost dry,” Clip commented. “Maybe the cars parked here somewhere. The kid may have been left in the car.”

“Clip, this boy never belonged in that car. Look at the bruise on his cheek. He’s been beaten. That’s why he’s crying so hard.”

Clip looked at the youngster’s clothes. The blouse was of cheap material and had been laundered many times. The shoes were cheap and worn.

“He might have been kidnapped,” he agreed quietly. “But if he was kidnapped, how did he get away from two men in a closed car and get here ? And why would anyone want to kidnap a kid that comes from as poor a family this one does, if he’s wearing his own clothes ?”

“Somebody wanted to lose it maybe,” offered the chef, coming up from the back of the restaurant to shove a thick sandwich into the little boy’s fists.

Clip looked out of the window just as a big car flashed past.

“That’s the car,” Ellen cried excitedly. “I’d swear it’s the car, Clip.”

By the time Clip reached the door the car had swung around the nearest center and had disappeared. He started after it and then slowly came back to the restaurant.

“Listen, sweetheart, he said earnestly. “I’ve got a hunch that kid was planted where I’d be sure to find him. If I’m right, the kid was planted here to keep me busy for ten or fifteen minutes. The men who left him here knew when I was due to ring in. I’m going over to the Maddox building. If I’m not back here or haven’t telephoned within fifteen minutes, call up headquarters and tell them to send up a squad car. I think there’s a silk job on.”

As he finished speaking a muffled explosion came faintly from the direction of the Maddox building.

Clip heard it and started to run.

When Clip turned the corner he could see a large van backed across the sidewalk in front of the Maddox shipping door.

Clip rapped the sidewalk with his night stick and while the street was still echoing with the noise of this call to the other officers in the neighborhood, he drew his gun and ran toward the truck.

The truck’s horn sounded one sharp blast of warning before the driver swung down to the pavement on the far side of the engine and began pumping buckshot at Clip from a sawed-off shotgun.

Some of the shot ricocheted from the pavement and stung his legs, but Clip knew the range was too great for a shotgun.

He dodged into a doorway long enough to fire one bullet toward the crouching driver.

Throwing his shotgun away, the driver turned and ran, almost as though inviting pursuit.

CLIP ran out into the middle of the street and, dropping on one knee, took careful aim and fired again.

The fleeing gangster threw up his arms and pitched forward. It might have been a ruse to get him closer. Clip did not fall into the trap if it was such. The Maddox shipping doors were open, but so blocked by the truck that he had to get down on the pavement and crawl under it to get into the building.

Chris Olsen, the night watch-man, was lying on the floor by the elevator door.

Blood was running from his mouth, but he was conscious and able to speak faintly when Clip raised his head.

“They came through the penthouse,” he mumbled. “Man was hid on top elevator.”

He continued to mumble, but Clip laid him gently on the floor and turned to the stairway door. There was a chance that the silk thieves would use the elevator and try to make their escape with the truck, but Clip figured they would try to get out by the way they had entered.

Anyway, the elevator was at the top floor, according to the indicator, Clip saw as he opened the stairway door. By watching the indicator as he passed each floor level he would know if the elevator started down.

No one challenged him on the first three floors, and the elevator remained stationary. But as he opened the stairway on the fourth and last floor, he was greeted by a fusillade of bullets.

It was a steel-covered fire door, and that saved his life.

Hiding behind it, he fired at the flashes of the guns across the room.

In the darkness of the smoke-filled room he was unable to see the silk thieves, but he knew they were on the narrow stairway which led up to the elevator penthouse.

Risking the chance that one of the robbers might be waiting for him at the head of the penthouse stairs, he stumbled over the bales of silk to the foot of the stairs and sent one bullet up towards the door.

It was not answered.

But the battle was resumed the instant Clip stepped out on the roof.

A gun flashed on the next roof and a bullet flattened itself on the door just above Clip’s head.

There was enough light on the roof for Clip to see the shadowy figure of a man dodge behind the elevator shafthouse on the roof from which the shot had been fired.

Grimly resolved to hold his fire until he had a target Clip tried to run across the roof. Something warm and sticky filled his shoes and he felt his legs wobbling.

From all around him he heard the sirens of approaching fire apparatus and police cars. Ellen had certainly turned in enough alarms, or someone else had.

Three men suddenly stepped out into the open with level guns.

“Put ’em up,” Clip growled.

Their answer was a hail of lead.

Clip saw one of them drop before he himself went down.

He was not conscious of any pain, although he knew that he had been hit and that the men had left him for dead.

He saw two of them start across the roof-tops and watched two others join them.

In an instant later police reserves swarmed over the roofs.

WHEN they found him Clip was propped up on one elbow, snapping his empty gun at the spot where he had last seen the men who had shot him.

After they had taken him downstairs and were about to put him in the ambulance Clip recovered consciousness for a few seconds.

A girl was bending over him, talking and crying. It was Ellen.

“Clip,”, she sobbed. “Why did you have to go get yourself killed ? I didn’t mean it, Clip, honest I didn’t. I woulda married you any day if you’d only asked me. I was proud of you.”

“Listen, lady,” a hospital attendant pleaded, “give him a chance, will you ? He can’t hear a word you’re saying an’ he’s bleeding to death.” (I think it would have been lees awkward or confusing if it had been written as “ambulance attendant” – DLS).

Clip wanted to call him a liar but before he could get the words started everything faded away into drowsy blankness. He woke up in a hospital bed.

Ellen was in the room, but, as she was wearing her street dress and the sun seemed to be shining, Clip concluded it must be the morning after the battle.

She was right at his side the moment he opened his eyes. She kissed him first and then put her fingers firmly over his lips to keep him from trying to speak.

“You’ve been out of your head a whole week, Clip; but the doctors say you’ll get well if you’ll be quiet. I gave you a pint of my own blood and you had to get three pints more besides.” She exclaimed happily, “You killed two of the silk thieves and wounded another one, they caught the other three.”

The nurse warned Ellen not to excite him, but Ellen kept on talking.

“The kid was just a plant; you were right. I telephoned the police the minute you left and then I went out and turned in a fire alarm. As soon as you get well you’re gonna be promoted an’ get a medal. The Maddox Company let me pick out ten dress patterns from everything they had in the house.”

Clip’s stern look was not misunderstood.

“I know what you’re thinking.” Ellen admitted. “You’re saying to yourself that a cop’s wife shouldn’t accept rewards. But darn it, that’s why I picked out good ones. I’ll marry you an’ probably never get a good silk dress as long as I live, so I took enough to last me a few years.”

Ellen stopped to get her breath and Clip cautiously kissed her finger tips.

“No, don’t try to talk,” she warned. “Save your strength. As soon as you can say your part of the ceremony I’m going to marry you.”

—- END

ENJOY PULPS – David Lee Smith

“The Pot of Gold” by Eudora Ramsay Richardson (a Pre-Spider/Richard Wentworth Story)

“Calling RICHARD WENTWORTH – Grow a Back-Bone – Stat !!!” (1932)

Eudora Ramsay Richardson

Eudora Ramsay Richardson around 1958

Jamaica NY Long Island Daily Press 1932

THE POT of GOLD by Eudora Ramsay Richardson

Here’s a SPIDER/RICHARD WENTWORTH story pre-First SPIDER – Oct.1933 !!!

To make it more Pulp related feminist, Eudora Ramsay Richardson (1891-1973) wrote two stories for WEIRD TALES: March 1924 “The Voice of Euphemia” and April 1925 “The Haunting Eyes”.
There’s also “Slippery Stevens” in REAL DETECTIVE TALES and MYSTERY STORIES – April 1925 and “The Silent Years” in ARGOSY ALL-STORY WEEKLY – Nov. 21, 1925, amongst other stories not in the Pulps.

Where else are you going to find this story besides here ? Surely not in any place that I know of.

I can’t say that it’s good, having proof-read it, but it can’t be any worse than other soupy, sappy stories in the Love Pulps. Oh, the drama !

Plus it’s historical, can’t say how much though, for the Pre-SPIDER/ RICHARD WENTWORTH reference !!!

THE POT of GOLD by Eudora Ramsay Richardson

— DICK’S Older Sister, Apparently Intent Upon Marrying Him Off to Money, Steers Both the Boy and Herself Into a Real Love Match —

DR. RICHARD WENTWORTH, 25 and consciously handsome in the uniform Uncle Sam prescribes for his army surgeons, sat stiffly on the edge of his sister’s bed. It was clear that the young doctor was distinctly unhappy.

“The woods around here are full of millionaires,” Jeanne Wentworth was saying with the flintlike edge to her voice which Richard had learned to dread. “The pages, for instance, have a country place near the hotel. There was a Page I might have married if I hadn’t fallen in love with an engaging smile and a lock of waving bronze hair. A cousin of these Pages, of course. Pages are all related.”

Jeanne sighed as she shook out a last year’s evening dress and slipped it over a hanger. Richard sighed, too, remembering his brother-in-law and the romance that had terminated when the philanderer’s wandering eye roamed elsewhere. Jeanne had been a celebrated beauty in those days, and she had changed little – crystallized as she was into the mode of the Gibson Girl. A vestigial pompadour still lingered in her hair. “A part would reveal streaks of gray,” she often explained, but Richard knew that the pompadour, like the skirts whose length still compromised with modernity and the cheeks and lips still innocent of rouge, constituted a heritage she could never abandon. For fifteen years this younger brother had been the pivot around which Jeanne Wentworth revolved. Richard did not remember his father, and the memory of his mother was a wraithlike thing kept alive by Jeanne. Yes, he owed his sister more than he could ever hope to repay; but marriage to a girl he did not love—surely Jeanne was asking too much.

“Maybe the Pages haven’t a daughter,” he suggested hopefully.

“There’s a Betty Lee Page I saw coming in from the golf links,” Jeanne countered. “All the Pages have Lee for a middle name, and all the Lees have Page.”

“Gosh, sis, Richard protested. “I want to marry for love.”

Jeanne wrung her hands in a momentary despair that was very genuine.

“Stop talking like all your destitute ancestors,” she begged. “I married for love. See how long love lasted. Mother married for love. When father died he left her $20,000 in life insurance and a house not quite paid for. Everything’s gone now but my pitiful alimony—and that’s mortgaged for a year at least. You can’t fail me now — after—after all the sacrifice that’s been made.”

JEANNE’S voice trailed into the little sob that always made Richard wriggle uncomfortably.

“You shouldn’t have done it,” he argued. “Four years at college, four years at medical school. I wanted to help.”

“Wait on the table, I suppose, or serve as steward in your frat house. I couldn’t have stood it. You’ve been my lifework, and I’ve made a fair Job of you. I tell you, Dick, there’s no happiness in poverty.”

“What about my making a little money when this internship is over ?”

“Don’t be funny !” Jeanne sniffed, if the delicate nose of a Gibson girl can be said to sniff. “A doctor making money ! You talk like all the Wentworths and Breckenridges—the sort of Southern gentlemen who need money and never make any. Try to fall in love with Betty Lee Page. Please, Dickie !”

Richard nodded soberly, though there was still doubt beneath the surface of his eyes. “All right,” he groaned. “There’s a good chance the heiress won’t want to buy a product like me.”

Jeanne’s eyes glowed with pride in her handiwork.

“I’d like to see the girl who would refuse you,” she said. “You’re the handsomest, sweetest thing that ever lived.”

Richard laughed boyishly. He liked his sisters compliments, but they embarrassed him.

“Too bad the estimate can’t be made unanimous,” he said.

“Well, slip into the white uniform, and we’ll see,” Jeanne urged. “There’s dancing in the hotel ballroom tonight. Betty Lee Page is sure to be on hand.”

The metamorphosis an evening gown effected in Betty Lee Page proved not at all baffling to Jeanne Wentworth’s trained eye.

“There she is,” Jeanne pointed out with a decorous nod in the direction of a group entering the ballroom. “Pages, all of them dashed with Lee. Look, Dick, at the blonde girl in the greenish chiffon.”

Richard looked and responded with the little thrill a pretty girl always sent through him.

“You win, sis,” he smiled. “What are we going to do about it?”

“My affair,” Jeanne replied. “Dance with Mrs. Harper-Smith, the plump dowager you met five minutes ago, and pause afterward near the palm in the corner. Betty Lee sees you already. The white uniform. Really you’re stunning in spite of the little twist football gave to your nose.”

As Richard moved toward mechanical obedience, he was conscious of feeling exceedingly foolish. Twenty-five and played by an older sister like a puppet on a chessboard ! If he were half a man he would stalk through those French doors out into the garden and declare his freedom to the reverberating hills. Halting indecisively, he caught sight of Jeanne surrounded by the newly arrived Pages. Jeanne of all people foisting herself upon strangers ! No, the old lady who wore black sequins and a white ostrich fan had brought about the introduction. Clever Jeanne ! Count on her to observe the proprieties! If he bolted through those open doors he would be free for the evening.

Then across the length of the ballroom his eyes met Betty Lee Page’s, and his quick decision reversed itself. The girl was lovely—exquisitely gold and white against green chiffon as cool and clear as a mountain stream. Not conventionally pretty, perhaps. Mouth a bit too wide but slanting upward at the corners delightfully. Nose with the slight patrician arch hardly according with the modern mode. But the figure. There really was no very good reason for disappointing Jeanne. So Richard danced obediently with Mrs. Harper-Smith and contrived to reach the palm just as the music gave pause to the dancers.

Dutifully he suffered Jeanne to lead him to Betty Lee Page, and forthwith forgot that Jeanne was on earth. Since his sister’s efforts in his behalf considerably antedated the vacation at the Springs, Richard had known many daughters of Croesus and had found them all spoiled little wretches with vision extending not an inch beyond the tips of their powdered noses.

BETTY LEE was distinctly different from the others. During all the dances that he gratefully bestowed upon her not once did she express any preference for uniforms or comment upon the deep cleft in his chin which Richard had hated many a girl for liking, or remarking that the music was heavenly and the floor divine. Amazingly she did not say that tall, dark men constituted her most recent weakness.

In fact, Richard decided, with momentary indulgence in similes, her conversation bore about as much resemblance to the chatter of other girls as the vibrations of a flivver to the purr of a straight eight. Not that Betty Lee talked a great deal. That was just it – she listened well and actually conveyed ideas when she spoke.

“I like this hotel,” she said. “There’s a cross-section of life here that you don’t find in other resorts.”

“Yes,” Richard agreed, “the Old South meeting the New.”

“Mingling with meat packers from the West and Northern soap magnates. Scarcely an American type missing.”

“Mr. Page, for instance, one of the last survivors of the old school, still doing the glide waltz—and with Mrs. Harper-Smith.”

Betty Lee’s smile utilized her eyes and lips and two flickering dimples. A very good smile, Richard decided.

“Cary Lee Page is an anachronism,” she said. “And so is your sister.; I’ve never met a live Gibson Girl before. Stepped from the cover of an old magazine, didn’t she ?”

“Jeanne’s cue sort that stays the same easily. There isn’t anything I can do about it.”

“Surely you wouldn’t want to. It’s people like her and Cary Lee Page and my artist friend on the hillside that make life interesting.”

“Your artist friend !”

Richard was angry with himself for the alarm that crept into his voice. Betty Lee’s laugh was reassuring, however.

“Don’t tell the Pages—but I sit all morning watching him paint. He lives alone without being lonely.”

“Where ?” Richard demanded almost sternly.

“Off the path that leads from the Page house straight up the mountain.”

“Tell the hermit his gallery is in danger of being enlarged.”

SOME one came then for a dance with Betty Lee. Afterward, though Richard felt that he pursued the girl as persistently as a fox terrier retrieves a bone repeatedly tossed from him by a playful boy, there was little chance for conversation.

After the orchestral “Home, Sweet Home” had scattered the dancers, Jeanne followed Richard into his room. Her face was drawn in its eagerness.

“You like her, Dickie; you could more than like her ?” she asked with the imploring quality in her voice which invariably sent shivers down Richard’s spine.

“Could speak feelingly on the subject,” he shrugged. “But an artist has the innings.”

Jeanne executed the very best sniff of which she was capable.

“An artist! What’s an artist compared with a doctor, an army surgeon in a white uniform ? Is the girl brainless ?”

“Diana sprang from the head of Jupiter. There’s the rub. Sense enough to be suspicious of fortune-hunting young men and their sisters. She spends her days in an artist’s cabin, watching the fellow daub colors on canvas.”

“Well find the cabin,” Jeanne announced, letting her jaws click together audibly.

“Really now, wouldn’t that be forcing Cupid’s hand ?”

There was a spasmodic tightening of the muscles in Jeanne’s face. Her gray eyes narrowed to tiny slits, with a glint that was almost feline in their depths.

“Forcing—oh, Dickie, forcing!” she echoed, her voice hard and cold like silver goblets clicking on a metal tray. “You’ve got to marry this girl.”

Richard crossed to the window that looked toward black hills against a purple sky. Betty Lee Page reduced by Jeanne to the sordid symbol of the dollar mark ! When he turned, however, Jeanne had gone, had slipped away because she must have sensed the drift of thoughts clamoring to be vocalized.

THERE was nothing surprising, of course, about Jeanne’s announcing the next morning that she had discovered the dwelling place of the hermit.

“His name is Robert Lasalle,” she told Richard. “Come with me. We’ll find him and perhaps Betty Lee.”

An autumn sun, cool and clear as massed topazes, spattered the path that wound toward the mountain. It seemed to Richard that there was something about Jeanne’s profile to suggest the determination of those reformers who had stood on soapboxes and carried hatchets for the furtherance of their causes. With a cinematic flash, a turn in the road revealed a cottage surrounded by wide flag terraces. Two splashes of color against a white background were recognizable in a moment as a girl in an orange sweater and a man wearing a smock of green. Betty Lee Page, with an easel before her, sat by the side of her artist, busily applying paints to canvas. Her hair was blowing misty-gold in the sunlight, and her face was flushed in its earnestness.

“Look,” whispered Jeanne, “the man isn’t young. Iron gray hair and deep lines in his face.”

Richard quickened his step and emitted a long, low whistle. Betty Lee Page looked up from her work.

“You are clever,” she called. “I thought you’d miss the trail. It wasn’t blazed for strangers.”

“You bet I didn’t miss the trail,” Richard laughed.

ROBERT LASALLE acknowledged the introduction with a growl resembling that of a caged bear whose midday meal was being interrupted. He looked the artist, however, with his rumbled hair, his scholarly stoop, and his long, slim fingers that worked nervously even when they were not holding the brush. Richard glanced toward the artist’s canvas. Robert Lasalle was painting a portrait of Betty Lee Page as she sat before her easel.

“I’m modeling in payment for lessons,” the girl explained. “I’ve learned more in this one vacation than in all the years I’ve studied.”

Richard crossed to Betty Lee’s easel. The canvas stretched there had caught the gorgeous warmth and color of the mountains in autumn.

“She didn’t do this—not alone !” gasped Jeanne.

“She did,” Robert Lasalle affirmed with a grunt that sounded almost approving.

Betty Lee laid down her brush and palette.

“I’m stiff from sitting so long. Let’s have a tramp to Sloans Cave,” she said.

“Not I,” Jeanne vetoed.

“I’m going to work,” Robert Lasalle growled again.

Richard took a moment to be sorry for Jeanne. She was used to courtesy from men—not to growls and grunts that ignored her presence. But Jeanne was unruffled. Then quickly Richard forgot Jeanne. Betty Lee was flashing down the mountain, a vivid splotch of orange merging into the autumn foliage. She turned into a trail that led upward, Richard at her heels. Single file they climbed to a clearing that overlooked a panoramic sweep of lowland. Betty Lee perched herself upon a rock and motioned Richard to a smooth spot beside her.

“What do you think of my artist ?” she asked.

“A grouchy old introvert who should be banished from society,” the young physician diagnosed ruthlessly.

“That grouch is his defense. It’s only skin deep.”

“I suppose some woman wronged him. That’s according to the precedents of fiction.”

Betty Lee nodded. “I’ve pieced the story together from facts everybody knows and from what Mr. Lasalle has let fall from time to time. The woman liked money and hated art. She couldn’t wait for Robert Lasalle’s work to be recognized. So she hounded him till he did commercial stuff which didn’t pay because it wasn’t even good commercial stuff. A real artist’s wouldn’t be, you know. Now she’s married a man who has money and nothing else.”

“And the heartbroken husband has fled to the hills to try to forget ?”

“Not heartbroken,” Betty Lee contradicted. “Merely trying to get a new start. He’s staging the biggest comeback you ever heard of.”

“How did you two find each other ?” Richards asked, intent upon keeping the conversation personal to Betty Lee.

“Each other ! Good heavens ! I found him and stuck like a leech. He tolerates me for some quality he seems to have found in my work.”

“It’s there in your canvas—that quality,” Richard agreed. “Though I’m no judge of art, I feel it. But imagine a man having to find it in order to bear your pretense ! Aren’t you a humorist ?”

BETTY LEE chose to ignore the compliment. As though suddenly remembering a duty overlooked, she jumped to her feet.

“We’d better rescue your sister,” she said. “If she disturbs Robert Lasalle, she may be torn into bits.”

When Richard and Betty Lee returned to the shack, however, the artist was before his canvas, painting with slow, steady strokes. Jeanne, silent and still, sat watching him. The look on Jeanne’s face was wholly new to Richard. The little worried lines had gone. That ageless peace that takes no account of time or place or the outcome of human endeavor seemed to have come to her.

“And the heartbroken husband has fled to the hills to try to forget ?”

“Not heartbroken,” Betty Lee contradicted. “Merely trying to get a new start. He’s staging the biggest comeback you ever heard of.”

“How did you two find each other ?” Richards asked, intent upon keeping the conversation personal to Betty Lee.

“Each other ! Good heavens ! I found him and stuck like a leech. He tolerates me for some quality he seems to have found in my work.”

“It’s there in your canvas—that quality,” Richard agreed. “Though I’m no judge of art, I feel it. But imagine a man having to find it in order to bear your pretense ! Aren’t you a humorist ?”

BETTY LEE chose to ignore the compliment. As though suddenly remembering a duty overlooked, she jumped to her feet.

“We’d better rescue your sister,” she said. “If she disturbs Robert Lasalle, she may be torn into bits.”

When Richard and Betty Lee returned to the shack, however, the artist was before his canvas, painting with slow, steady strokes. Jeanne, silent and still, sat watching him. The look on Jeanne’s face was wholly new to Richard. The little worried lines had gone. That ageless peace that takes no account of time or place or the outcome of human endeavor seemed to have come to her.

Silently the sister and brother retraced their steps down the mountain. On the veranda of the hotel Jeanne turned to Richard as though about to make a damning confession.

“Robert Lasalle is going to paint my portrait,” she said. “He wants it to hang by the side of Betty Lee Page’s. Said something about contrasting types. Sittings begin tomorrow morning.”

Jeanne paused, pensive for a moment, and then laughed in three or four strained metallic notes, as though to shake off a mood that annoyed her.

“Funny, isn’t it ?” she continued. “I agreed so that you could have Betty Lee to yourself. Work fast, sonny. Days are short, and life is fleeting.”

Richard turned away without replying. He was wondering if he had ever known the real Jeanne, wondering if his sister had not deliberately grown a crust to cover depths she would rather not have plumbed.

During the days that followed Richard Wentworth took no time to wonder about Jeanne. In the evenings he danced with Betty Lee Page in the hotel ballroom or strolled with her upon the terrace beneath an ornate October moon that burned like a giant orange in an inverted purple basket. In the morning he and Betty Lee rode through the hills on horses supplied from the Page stables. In the afternoons they played golf across the hotel links.

“This is my first vacation in years,” Betty Lee told Richard. “I meant to play all summer and instead I found Robert Lasalle and worked harder than ever. I’m glad he’s banished me.”

Richard looked at the girl hungrily as she rested slim arms upon the balcony, the soft oval of her face tilted upward that she might level her eyes with his. The earnest girls he had known—those in his classes at medical college, the conscientious nurses in the hospitals were all plain. The pretty girls who had crossed his path were never in the least earnest. Here was a girl who dangerously combined brains and the lure men found irresistible.

“You feel about art as I feel about medicine,” he said.

“You couldn’t be happy without it.”

“No—not without it. Work isn’t happiness, but for some of us there couldn’t be happiness without work. Tell me what you hope to do. I’ve wanted to hear.”

Boyish restraint was broken down as Richard told of ambitions that had lain abortive within him, of dreams to which he had never before given expression.

“You’ll be a great physician,” Betty Lee said gently, “but you’ll never be rich. Thank goodness, you’re not the sort of person who cares.”

THEN suddenly Richard Wentworth remembered the Page millions and was frightened. His tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, dry and feathery and cutting off the words he should have spoken. He and his sister were of that lowest of human species—fortune-hunters with their traps set for an heiress. He wanted this girl desperately. Perhaps she wanted him, too.

Some day she would find out why he and Jeanne had come to the Springs. Then she would hate him. He couldn’t stand to have Betty Lee hate him. If she were a pauper, he would still want her. He couldn’t go on like this, couldn’t bear the thought of having Betty Lee discover him later.

It was Betty Lee who finally broke the terrible silence. “If I don’t hurry, the Pages will be having dinner without me,” she said. Richard shouldered the two golf bags and walked with Betty Lee to the green-and-nickel roadster that waited near the hotel steps.

“I’m coming for you at 9,” he said. “You’ll be ready ?”

“Always when there’s dancing,” she replied. “Art isn’t my only passion. Dancing’s another.”

The car rounded the curving drive and shot into temporary oblivion. Richard hurried into the hotel and through the deserted lobby, like a man suddenly conscious of some new purpose in life. He found Jeanne standing before her mirror in a fluffy white frock that made her look more than ever like the reincarnation of Charles Dana Gibson’s ideal.

“I’m having dinner with Robert Lasalle on the mountain top,” she said, without meeting his eye.

“I don’t care what you’re doing,” the young man snapped. “You’ve done a lot for me, sis, but I can’t forgive you for making me a hopeless fool.”

“Think of the material I had to work with, dear.”

“The Wentworths and Breckenridges were at least honest, and we’re cheats.”

“And how ?”

“You’ve been trying to make me marry for money and not for love.”

“Have I succeeded ?”

“You have not. I’m in love with Betty Lee Page. I adore her—I—”

“Then why demolish me with your ravings ? You aren’t marrying for money after all.”

“I’m not marrying at all—not after I followed the rainbow for a pot of gold.”

“How flowery love makes you !” Jeanne said, with the semblance of a yawn. “Heredity is powerful. Wentworths and Breckenridges are always like that when similarly stimulated.”

“Now listen to me, sis. I’m through being treated like a kid,” Richard exploded. “I’m going to make a clean breast to Betty Lee Page. She’ll hear the state of our finances, why we came here—everything. Then she’s going to hate me—and I—I’m going to hell where I belong.”

JEANNE’S lips moved, but no sound was audible to Richard. As she covered her face with slim Victorian hands, Richard turned away and left the room, for the first time in his life adamant to his sister’s tears. Shortly before 9 that night Dr. Richard Wentworth in white flannels and blue coat that differentiated him not at all from the civilian guests in the hotel backed a second-hand flivver out of the row of cars parked just off the drive. He was making the first of the many defiant gestures planned for the evening. Jeanne had decreed that the terrible car which had conveyed the brother and sister to the Springs should be socially ostracized during the holiday.

As preliminary to the confession Richard had planned to make, Betty Lee and all the Pages must see the shabby vehicle and hear its raucous clatter—symbol as it was of the poverty to which the Wentworths had descended.

Unfortunately there was not a Page on the veranda when Richard banged on the brakes ready for the tragedy that would wreck his life. Betty Lee was waiting on the steps more alluring than ever in a white chiffon frock and a velvet wrap the color of the moon that would soon be rising over the mountains. Richard squared his jaw and swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. What he never could have he must try not to want with such devastating intensity.

“Can you ride in a coffee mill ?” he asked. “Even this is better than the Wentworths can afford.”

Betty Lee slipped through the open door before a helping hand could reach her.

“I’ve ridden many, times in worse and probably will many times again,” she said.

RICHARD stepped resolutely upon the clutch. The ancient vehicle lunged forward like an angry bronco, finally settling into a pace that combined all the disagreeable features of a gallop and a trot.

“We’re not going to dance just now.” Richard’s voice was cold and far away, like distant hammering upon steel framework. “Well ride, and I’ll talk. Please listen.”

“Of course,” came the sibilant whisper, while Richard looked straight ahead upon the road that unwound before him like white tape from a cardboard wheel.

“I love you,” he went on with a voice alien to the uses of lovers. “I love you so much that I think I can’t stand it.”

Betty Lee’s hand slipped over one of those that gripped the steering wheel, and Richard almost forgot his lines. “But—but,” he continued stoically, “I’m not going to ask you to marry me. We’ve got to the end of our rope—Jeanne and I. We’ve nothing on earth but debts, Jeanne’s absurd alimony and the pittance I make. We came to the Springs to find an heiress. You—you were the victim selected. You needn’t see me again. But loving you like this, I couldn’t go away without telling you. I couldn’t leave you wondering perhaps.”

The words trailed into silence. The old car clattered ceaselessly.

“You mean you wanted to marry me because of the Page money ?”

“Until I knew you. After that I loved you—loved you enough to tell you this and to make you hate me forever.”

“And nobody told you that my father was a distant cousin of Cary Lee Page’s, that I haven’t a cent in the world and never will have unless I earn it by painting pictures some one will buy, that Cousin Cary stumbled upon me by accident and decided to give me this vacation, and to make a thorough job of his charity ?”

Richard stopped the car with a perilous bang. “Are you telling me the truth ?” he demanded.

“If you and your sister had made the simplest investigation, you could have been saved time and trouble. I thought you knew. Every one else does.”

Flashes of lightning. Skyrockets bursting about him. Richard himself a meteor flashing through space. Betty Lee Page held tight against him, resisting at first, then resisting no longer. Betty Lee admitting that she loved him. The riotous moment ended in coherence at last.

“You will paint great pictures,” said Richard. “I will try to be a good doctor. Together—always.”

“Your sister! ” Betty Lee faltered. “Poor Jeanne !”

“We’ll tell her now. That much is due her. She’s with your artist.”

THEY drove to the foot of the trail and climbed upward, stones scarring Betty Lee’s silver slippers, underbrush snagging the chiffon on her dress. A long light trailing through the windows of the shack. Voices coming clear through the silence of the night. With an arm about Betty Lee, Richard paused shamelessly to listen. Robert Lasalle was speaking.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” he was saying. “I have nothing to offer but a name that may some day mean something. What I’m making now is enough for the mountain top but not for the valleys where others live.”

Jeanne’s reply came in staccato jerks. “l want the mountain. I’ve lived so long in the valley. When Wentworths and Breckenridges love, there’s no use resisting. Dick will marry the little Page girl who has nothing but her art —and I’ll marry you, Robert Lasalle. Since the first night at the hotel I’ve known that Betty Lee was not the Page heiress. It doesn’t matter. We have our rainbows—the sort that never lead to pots of gold.”

Richard Wentworth held Betty Lee Page close and was silent. Later he would go in to Jeanne and the artist— but not just then—for Jeanne’s sake and his own.

SPIDER - August 1941 ''The Spider and the Scarlet Surgeon'' I had to stay with the Doctor theme

SPIDER – August 1941 ”The Spider and the Scarlet Surgeon”
I had to stay with the Doctor theme

 

— END —

Jamaica NY Long Island Daily Press 1932

That paper’s small print says “Copyright by Public Ledger”

(probably not now, but we’re not making any money off it).

ENJOY PULPS – David Lee Smith

(“Where else are you going to find this story”… truthfully, the 1ST edition (had to keep the newspaper theme going) showed up at my Group first, Oct. 2015). If it wasn’t printed here now it probably would have been great for an issue of Girasol Collectables The SPIDER reprints or a PULPSTER.