The Destroying Angel

       Louis Joseph Vance / Romance & Love
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The Destroying Angel
THE DESTROYING ANGEL

by

LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

Author of ”The Brass Bowl,” ”The Bronze Bell,” ”The Bandbox,” ”Cynthiaof the Minute,” Etc.

With Four Illustrations by Arthur I. Keller

A. L. Burt CompanyPublishers New York

Copyright, 1912,By Louis Joseph Vance.

All rights reserved, including those of translation into foreignlanguages, including the Scandinavian.

Published, October, 1912.

TO

ROBERT HOBART DAVIS

Whitaker's jaw dropped and his eyes widened with wonderand pity]

CONTENTS

I. DOOM

II. THE LAST STRAW

III. ”MRS. MORTEN”

IV. MRS. WHITAKER

V. WILFUL MISSING

VI. CURTAIN

VII. THE LATE EXTRA

VIII. A HISTORY

IX. ENTR'ACTE

X. THE WINDOW

XI. THE SPY

XII. THE MOUSE-TRAP

XIII. OFFSHORE

XIV. DEBACLE

XV. DISCLOSURES

XVI. THE BEACON

XVII. DISCOVERY

XVIII. BLIGHT

XIX. CAPITULATION

XX. TEMPERAMENTAL

XXI. BLACK OUT

ILLUSTRATIONS

Whitaker's jaw dropped and his eyes widened with wonder and pity

Her eyes fastened dilating, upon his. The scene faltered perceptibly

Whitaker felt land beneath his feet

”I do not love you. You are mad to think it”

THE DESTROYING ANGEL

I

DOOM

”Then I'm to understand there's no hope for me?”

”I'm afraid not....” Greyerson said reluctantly, sympathy in his eyes.

”None whatever.” The verdict was thus brusquely emphasized by Hartt, oneof the two consulting specialists.

Having spoken, he glanced at his watch, then at the face of hiscolleague, Bushnell, who contented himself with a tolerant waggle of hishead, apparently meant to imply that the subject of their deliberationsreally must be reasonable: anybody who wilfully insists on footing themeasures of life with a defective constitution for a partner has nological excuse for being reluctant to pay the Piper.

Whitaker looked quickly from one to the other of his three judges,acutely sensitive to the dread significance to be detected in theexpression of each. He found only one kind and pitiful: no more thanmight have been expected of Greyerson, who was his friend. Of theothers, Hartt had assumed a stony glare to mask the nervousness soplainly betrayed by his staccato accents; it hurt him to inflict pain,and he was horribly afraid lest the patient break down and ”make ascene.” Bushnell, on the other hand, was imperturbable by nature: a manto whom all men were simply ”cases”; he sat stroking his long chin andhoping that Whitaker would have the decency soon to go and leave themfree to talk shop--his pet dissipation.

Failing to extract the least glimmering of hope from the attitude of anyone of them, Whitaker drew a long breath, unconsciously bracing himselfin his chair.

”It's funny,” he said with his nervous smile--”hard to realize, I mean.You see, I _feel_ so fit--”

”Between attacks,” Hartt interjected quickly.

”Yes,” Whitaker had to admit, dashed.

”Attacks,” said Bushnell, heavily, ”recurrent at intervals constantlymore brief, each a trifle more severe than its predecessor.”

He shut his thin lips tight, as one who has consciously pronounced thelast word.

Greyerson sighed.

”But I don't understand,” argued the prisoner at the bar, plaintivelybewildered. ”Why, I rowed with the Crew three years hand-running--not asign of anything wrong with me!”

”If you had then had proper professional advice, you would have sparedyourself such strains. But it's too late now; the mischief can't beundone.”

Evidently Bushnell considered the last word his prerogative. Whitakerturned from him impatiently.

”What about an operation?” he demanded of Greyerson.

The latter looked away, making only a slight negative motion with hishead.

”The knife?” observed Hartt. ”That would merely hasten matters.”

”Yes,” Bushnell affirmed....

There was a brief uneasy silence in the gloomy consulting room. ThenWhitaker rose.

”Well, how long will you give me?” he asked in a strained voice.

”Six months,” said Greyerson, miserably avoiding his eye.

”Three,” Hartt corrected jerkily.

”Perhaps....” The proprietor of the last word stroked his chin with acontemplative air.

”Thanks,” said Whitaker, without irony. He stood for an instant with hishead bowed in thought. ”What a damned outrage,” he observedthoughtfully. And suddenly he turned and flung out of the room.

Greyerson jumped to follow him, but paused as he heard the crash of thestreet door. He turned back with a twitching, apologetic smile.

”Poor devil!” he said, sitting down at his desk and fishing a box ofcigars from one of the drawers.

”Takes it hard,” commented Hartt.

”You would, too, at his age; he's barely twenty-five.”

”Must feel more or less like a fellow whose wife has run off with hisbest friend.”

”No comparison,” said Bushnell bluntly. ”Go out, get yourself arrestedfor a brutal murder you didn't commit, get tried and sentenced to deathwithin six months, the precise date being left to the discretion of theexecutioner--_then_ you'll know how he feels.”

”If you ask me”--Greyerson handed round the box--”he feels pretty shakyand abused, and he wants a drink badly--the same as me.”

He unlocked a cellaret.

”Married?” Hartt inquired.

”No. That's the only mitigating circumstance,” said Greyerson,distributing glasses. ”He's quite alone in the world, as far as Iknow--no near relatives, at least.”

”Well off?”

”Tolerably. Comes of good people. Believe his family had a lot of moneyat one time. Don't know how much of it there was left for Whitaker. He'sjunior partner in a young law firm down-town--senior a friend orclassmate of his, I understand: Drummond & Whitaker. Moves with theright sort of people. Young Stark--Peter Stark--is his closestfriend.... Well.... Say when.”


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