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A Business Buccaneer

This 1912 film was adapted into a short story for the People's Popular Monthly in October 1915

People's Popular Monthly, Vol. XX, no. 10, October 1915

Header for Alice Joyce series in People's Popular Monthly
Presents to People's Popular Monthly Readers a Story of Business Trickery and Deceit

A Business Buccaneer

by E.M. Wickes

For fully five minutes Agnes listened patiently to the platitudes of he cousin, Roy Gray, wondering at the same time as to the real reason for his visit. He had not been near her for six months, not since the day she flatly refused to marry him.

"It doesn't seem possible that you called just to discuss the weather," she remarked.

"Not exactly," he replied, patting his small black mustache. "The truth is I'm in a pretty bad fix, and I thought you might have enough cousinly love to help me out."

"I don't understand you--better make yourself more clear."

"This war has put my firm in a tight hole," he said. "We have several large contracts but can't fill them because we can't get hold of the dyes. Now your fiance, Hopewell, has returned from South America with a secret process for making dyes, and I have been told that he has given you a duplicate of the formula to keep for him. I thought you might let me in on the secret for the time being."

"Who told you I had the formula in my possession?" she asked, surprised and amazed that he should know of her possession of the formula.

"The servant you discharged last week overheard some of your conversation and carried it to me."

She left her seat, walked to a small table, and then faced him.

"And you have the nerve to come here and suggest that I betray my friend. Roy, you are a bigger cad than I thought. I wish you would leave the house and never speak to me again."

"There is no reason for becoming wrought up over the matter," he said. "I simply made a request and thought you might have enough cousinly affection to save me from ruin."

"I'm not the least bit interested in you or your business affairs."

"And you refuse to assist me?" he inquired, rising to his feet.

Scenes (supposedly) from the Alice Joyce film A Business Buccaneer

Caption left: That boy has always been a scamp. Caption top center: She stood with the money clutched in her fingers. Caption bottom center: She saw two strange men peering at her. Caption right: Just follow my advice.

"I don't wish to discuss the matter with you," she answered, as she turned her back toward him.

For several seconds there was a dead silence, Then to her amazement she felt his arms encircle her waist. She quickly turned her head and flushed crimson.

"Must I call for assistance?" she panted, trying to break his hold.

"Oh, no," he smiled. "I have a few words to say, dear cousin, that will probably make you see matters in a different light. Better listen before it is too late."

"But I have no desire to listen to anything you have to say. Please remove your arms! The touch is distasteful."

Gray bit into his lip and complied with a mock bow.

"When you read in the newspapers what I want to tell you now you'll regret that you did not hear me when I gave you the opportunity."

"That sounds like a threat," she observed, eyeing him keenly.

Without offering any comment he picked up his hat and started for the door. For Hopewell's sake she thought it wise to hear him out. At her invitation to unburden his mind Gray returned to his seat, a smile of triumph in his eyes, and said:

"Now Hopewell figures on clearing up a fortune from this process for making dyes, and with that fortune he hopes to marry you and make you happy."

"Which is nothing to be ashamed of."

"No; provided he had secured the process in an honest way."

"Roy, you are making some very rash statements. And I warn you to be careful what you say concerning him."

"I'm sure of my ground in this case," he rejoined. "When your tall, handsome lover slipped away to South America, after having learned that an old man down there possessed a secret process for making the kind of dyes we have been receiving from the other side, he did not dream that we sent two men down at the same time. Hopewell made several unsuccessful attempts to purchase the formula, then made love to the old man's daughter, and even promised to marry her in order to wean the secret from her."

Agnes glared at him and dug her nails into her palms. Her breath came in short gasps as she leaned against the table for support.

"I don't believe a word of it!" she exclaimed.

"You don't have to, my dear cousin," he returned. "But you will before many more days. And you had better let me finish. When Hopewell went to South America he assumed a false name, and after betraying the girl he quietly skipped out. And on such ill gotten gains he expects to marry you. I suppose you love him too dearly to object to such methods."

When Gray had ceased talking she remained speechless for fully a minute, becoming completely at a loss for a reply. She did not credit a word he had uttered, and yet she felt that he would not have made such a charge against her lover unless he had some means at his disposal to convince others. Of course, if such a thing were possible, that Hopewell had procured the process by such despicable methods, she would never wish to see him again; but he must first be given an opportunity to defend himself. And it was her duty to be his defender until he had been heard.

"And why do you bring this news to me?" she asked.

"I thought that rather than see the account of it in the newspapers you would be willing to let me in on the secret--for the time being at least."

"But even if I were inclined to do so, I have nothing but the word of a cad as proof."

"Suppose I could furnish you with proof--positive proof?"

"I don't see how you can prove anything. You haven't the girl."

"I don't need her presence. I can prove it without her. To the newspapers I can furnish suitable proof. In return for saving you from marrying such a man you should be willing to share the secret with me."

She was on the verge of openly defying him, when she thought it would be more profitable to pretend to play into his hands.

And what would you have me do?" she queried.

"Why, agree to let me in on the secret, provided I can furnish you with proof of his duplicity. I will agree to destroy the evidence, thereby keeping your name as well as his from being dragged in the mire."

"Very well, I'll agree to that," she said. "But don't come near me again until you have positive proof. Are you satisfied?"

Gray nodded, then picked up his hat and departed. As soon as he was out of the house, she started for her own den where the formula was concealed with some of her own money in a little safe in the wall. As she passed the door of the reading room her niece called to her. Agnes entered and was about to bend down to kiss her when she saw two strange men peering at her from between the parted portieres. She gripped the edge of the table to steady her nerves. The faces suddenly disappeared, and as soon as she had recovered her wits she hurried to the hallway but could find no trace of the intruders. Her first thought that was they had been sent by Gray to seal the formula.

An hour later she came to the conclusion that the only course for her to follow would be to consult her own lawyer. To confront Hopewell with such a story would make it appear that she doubted him, and she would never be able to forgive herself. And he would be justified in feeling hurt at her lack of confidence. She had changed her dress and was about to start away when she decided to speak to her grandfather about the matter. He had been a man of the world and would know how to advise her. She found him in the garden and brought him to her own room. When he had heard her story, he said:

"I don't believe a word of it, Agnes. That Ray has always been more or less of a scamp, and all his talk about proof is rot! You did a wise thing by telling him to produce this so-called proof. If I were you I would go see Hopewell and tell him all. Give him a chance to beat these rogues before their lies do any real damage. If it was anybody else but Roy I would tell you to have him arrested for slander.

Agnes was about to question him concerning her proposed visit to her lawyer but the maid's entrance checked her.

"You just run along and do as I tell you," the old man advised. "And everything will come out all right.

On reaching the street Agnes decided to telephone to Hopewell's apartment and make an appointment with him. She knew that he usually returned there for luncheon. The operator at the apartment, however, notified her that Hopewell had not come in for luncheon and had not sent in any word, as was his custom when detained.

"Perhaps he is detained at the office," she mused.

She asked Central for his office number, and after waiting five minutes she was told that there was "no answer." When she left the booth she carried a worried look. Had he been suddenly called out of town? And if he had, she thought it strange he had not notified her.

Instead of proceeding to her lawyer she went back home intending to call up Hopewell at the office later on.

Fearing that someone might have entered the house during her absence she hurried to her den to see if the formula was still in her private safe. With trembling fingers she unlocked the safe and extracted a large stack of bills, and peered in among them for the little slip of blue paper. It was there, and she gave a sigh of relief.

As she stood with the money clutched in her fingers she heard the voice of her cousin downstairs, and immediately thrust the money into the safe. Scarcely had she locked the safe when her maid knocked.

"Your cousin, Mr. Gray, wishes to see you," the maid announced.

Agnes dismissed her saying that she [had?] not the slightest idea as to what he would offer her in the shape of proof, and she would be down in a few minutes. She had no intention of surrendering the formula until after she had seen Hopewell, or had conclusive proof that he was really the rogue that Gray had painted him. And she did not believe that her cousin could offer any real proof.

Gray was amusing himself by twirling his moustache when she entered the reception room. He rose and greeted her with a smile, but she gave him a cold bow in return.

"I presume that you have called to present your proof," she said rather tersely.

"My!" he smiled. "You are anything but a congenial cousin! Once upon a time you thought I was quite an interesting and entertaining chap."

"We won't discuss the past or what I used to think. Whatever cousinly feeling I did possess has been killed by our recent actions. All I care to know now is the extent of your proof."

The smile faded from Gray's eyes as he slowly and deliberately drew from his inside coat pocket a large envelope.

"Here you are," he remarked in an icy tone. "Read it for yourself and be convinced."

Agnes removed a sheet of paper from the envelope, and after unfolding it, read:

Dear Agnes: When you have finished reading this I suppose you will no longer cherish any affection for me. I am another unfortunate who has allowed his ambition to ruin him. I went to South America to secure by honest methods the secret process for making dyes, but finding this impossible, I was cad enough to make love to the owner's daughter with a promise to marry her in order to obtain the secret. A rival firm has discovered my method and has threatened to expose me and drag your name into the affair unless I clear out of town and agree to destroy the formula. You can tear up the duplicate I gave you.

I leave, hoping to blot out the past, and pray that you will meet some one more worthy of your love.

Sincerely yours,

Guy Hopewell.

She read the typewritten letter twice and then studied the signature. She recognized it as his handwriting, and yet she could not believe that he had written that letter. She felt that there was some trickery beneath it all, but was at a loss how to combat it. If he had been guilty of such a deed why had he not come to her with his story instead of sending it by a rival business? And she loved Hopewell too well to discard him on such short notice. She would give him time--a week or two weeks to put in an appearance.

"Well, are you satisfied?" Gray asked.

"It is simply a typewritten letter with his signature."

"And isn't that sufficient? It would be held as conclusive evidence if presented in court."

"But I am not fully convinced yet" she remarked quietly. "You must give me a little time to think over the matter."

Gray forced a smile to his lips and bowed in cold courtesy.

"Very well," he uttered with an air of resignation. "I suppose I'll have to put up with your whims. I'll be back in the morning at ten." Then he went out.

Agnes took no further steps in the matter until five o'clock, when she again telephoned to Hopewell's apartment. This time she received word that Hopewell had been suddenly called out of town and could not tell just when he would return. This proved to be quite a shock to her nerves, and it took her several minutes to recover from it. In the past he had never neglected to tell her when he was about to leave town.

She knew she could accomplish nothing by keeping to the house and remaining inactive, and as she was unable to make connections with Hopewell for the present, she felt the next best thing to do would be to consult his intimate friend, Owen Burton. Perhaps Burton might be able to throw some light on the case--something that would allay her fears for the present.

She reached Burton's office about a quarter to five. The lights in the stores were beginning to gleam, marking the close of another day. He was still in his office waiting to keep an appointment, and when he had heard her story he was the most surprised man she had ever seen.

"It is all news to me," he said. "And a pack of lies in the bargain. It is not in Hopewell to do such a dirty trick--not for a billion!"

"Why do you suppose he didn't send me word?" she asked, her hand resting on the railing.

"I don't know. Why those fellows may have kidnapped him and telephoned to her apartment. I thought it rather strange that he did not phone me this afternoon. He usually does right after luncheon."

"You frighten me!" she cried.

"I didn't mean to. But it is better to think of him as being kidnapped than that of being a rogue. Before I put any stock in such a yarn Guy would have to swear to it."

"I'm so glad to hear you say that,--glad to know that someone else has unbounded faith in him. What a blessing to have such a staunch friend!"

"I'll tell you what to do, Miss Wills," Burton remarked. "You go home and wait for me. On my way to your house I'll call in a friend of mine who is a detective, and we'll sift this matter to the bottom.

Agnes thanked him for his advice and encouragement and then left, feeling confident that Hopewell was innocent. But not she was worried over his personal safety. As she came within sight of the building where Hopewell had his offices she looked up and was startled to see a light in one of the rooms.

"I wonder who can be up there?" she mused. "Surely not Guy! Possibly his stenographer has returned for something. I wonder if she could tell me anything. But no." she added, looking at her watch, "It is after six, and not likely for the girl to be there. It must be Guy or some one that has no business there. I am going up."

Hopewell's suite was on the tenth floor of a large building that kept an elevator in service all night. The suite was at the end of the hall and out of the range of the average passerby. On reaching the door to his general office she stopped to listen. Inside several men were talking, but she could not make out just what they were saying.

"While she stood there straining her ears to catch some scrap of the conversation she felt herself suddenly caught from behind. Her arms were pinioned and a hand was flattened against her lips. The door was opened by one of her captors and she was roughly pushed into the room.

"Now you just utter one sound and we'll chloroform you!" a short- sallow-faced man growled.

Agnes was too frightened to say a word, and too powerless to prevent her captors from trying her to a chair and placing a cloth over her mouth. As she gazed about in a bewildered fashion she saw two masked men working at the door of the safe in the next room, and another masked man looking on. From the build of the man on his feet she felt sure that he was her cousin; but as he did not speak she was left in doubt. His figure and street clothes were concealed by a long raincoat. When she had been securely bound her captors took her into the other room and closed the door.

She surmised that the men working at the safe were after the formula which they evidently believed was inside, and she was unable to remove her gaze from them. All the time she prayed that they would fail to open it. First one would turn the combination, then he would stop and put his ear to the door. His companion would do likewise. They continued working in silence for fully fifteen minutes without as much as giving her a glance. After another ten minutes of patient labor they finally opened the safe.

"At last!" one of the men before the safe uttered in a hoarse whisper. And as he did, Agnes felt he heart sink.

Immediately the man in the raincoat dropped to his knees and began to pull out some papers. Then the three set to work to sort through them.

"I have it!" one said in an undertone, holding up a blue slip of paper, similar to the one she had in her own private safe. As soon as they had returned the other papers to the safe they closed the door and started to gather up some tools strewn about the floor. The man in the raincoat opened the window and looked out, and as he drew in his head the door leading to the outer office was flung open and in dashed Hopewell and two other men, each holding a revolver in his hand.

"Up with your hands!" commanded Hopewell.

All hands went up, and as the man in the long coat raised his he shot the blue paper out of the window. Hopewell was in a position to see the act, but he made no effort to stop him, and Agnes was at a loss to account for his indifference. She wanted to laugh, to cry, and to swoon, but she kept her wits.

While Hopewell's friends kept the men covered he cut her bonds and removed the cloth.

Don't be alarmed, dear," he smiled. Then he turned to the men backed against the wall. Walking over to the man in the long coat he ripped the mask from his face.

"So it's you, Gray, is it?" he said. "And you're the one I suppose that sent the fake telegram from Brooklyn saying my brother had been killed. I've just had Burton on the phone and he told me all about the letter that you tried to palm off on Miss Wills. And I've a good mind to wring your neck! You dirty scoundrel! It's a lucky thing you are related to her!"

"And you might be doing a good job if you did," one of Hopewell's friends chimed in.

Gray listened with set lips but made no effort to speak. Agnes sat there eyeing him with contempt.

"I knew you were after that formula," Hopewell went on, "but I didn't believe that you would stoop so low. When I reached Brooklyn and found I had gone on a wild chase I surmised you had a hand in it. You wanted me out of the way to make your letter appear genuine and to get a crack at the safe. Playing from both ends! I figured that you would be here."

"He threw the paper out of the window," Agnes put in, fearing that Hopewell might forget it.

"Don't worry about that paper," Hopewell smiled. "That was a recipe for a cold. Now, Gray," he added, turning to her cousin, "I'll give you the choice of clearing out of town tonight, or in the morning I'll have you arrested for burglary and give you a chance to prove the South American story; which will mean a suit for slander. And before you leave here you will turn over that letter. You will have just one minute to make your choice," And saying this Hopewell took out his watch.

"Slowly Gray took out the envelope and handed to Hopewell.

"I think I'll go." he muttered.

"You may go as soon as you drop whatever weapons you have," Hopewell said.

The men deposited their revolvers on the desk and then left in sullen silence. As the door closed behind them Hopewell turned to Agnes.

"Now, little girl," he laughed, "I'll take you home and explain all the mysterious parts of this affair."

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