Read CHAPTER VII. of Mona, free online book, by Mrs. Georgie Sheldon, on ReadCentral.com.

A DESPERATE SITUATION.

For a moment all Raymond Palmer’s strength fled, leaving him almost as helpless as a child, while he gazed wildly up and down the street, vainly searching for the woman who had so cunningly duped him, for he knew, if his suspicions were correct, the firm of Amos Palmer & Co. would lose thousands of dollars by that day’s operations.

But the young man was no irresolute character.  He knew that he must act, and promptly, if he would regain the treasure he had lost, and this thought soon restored strength and energy to both heart and limb.

“I have been robbed!” he cried hoarsely, as he rushed back to the table and seized his hat and gloves, intent only upon getting out upon the street to trace the clever woman who had so outwitted him.  Doctor Wesselhoff was also a victim of the sharpers; for, of course, it will be readily understood that the whole matter was only a deeply laid and cunningly executed scheme to rob the wealthy jewelers of diamonds to a large amount.  He was watching Ray’s every movement with keenest interest, and with a resolute purpose written upon his intelligent face.  He quietly approached him, laid his hand gently upon his arm, and his magnetic power was so strong that Ray was instantly calmed, to a certain extent, in spite of his exceeding dismay at the terrible and unexpected calamity that had overtaken him.

“My young friend,” he said soothingly, “you say you have been robbed.  Please explain yourself.  There is no one in this house who would rob you.”

Ray searched the man’s face with eager, curious eyes.  Then he shook off his hand with an impatient movement.

“Explain myself!” he repeated hotly.  “I have had a small fortune stolen from me, and I believe that you are an accomplice in the transaction.”

“No, no; I assure you I am not,” returned the gentleman gravely, and exactly as he would have addressed a person whom he believed to be perfectly sane.  “I was told that a caller wished to see me, and I find a man claiming that he has been robbed in my house.  What do you mean?  Tell me, and perhaps I can help you in your emergency.”

The young man was impressed by his courteous manner, in spite of his suspicions, and striving to curb his excitement, he gave him a brief explanation of what had occurred.

His account tallied so exactly with the statements of his visitor of the previous day that Doctor Wesselhoff became more and more interested in the singular case, and was convinced that his patient was indeed afflicted with a peculiar monomania.

“Who was this woman?” he inquired, to gain time, while he should consider what course to pursue with his patient.

“I do not know-she was an utter stranger to me-never saw her before.  She called herself Mrs. Vanderbeck.”

That was the name of the “sister” whom Mrs. Walton had told him she would send with her son, so the celebrated physician had no suspicion of foul play.

“And who are you?” he asked, searching the fine face before him with increasing interest.

“My name is Palmer,” Ray answered.  “I am the son of Amos Palmer, a jeweler of this city.”

Doctor Wesselhoff glanced keenly at him, while he thought that, if he was mad, there was certainly method in his madness to make him deny his own name, and claim to be some one else.

The physician had always been a profound student, he was thoroughly in love with his profession, devoting all his time and energies to it, consequently he was not posted regarding the jewelers of New York, or, indeed, business firms of any kind, fore he did not know Amos Palmer-if indeed there was such a man-from any other dealer in the vanities of the world.

He firmly believed the young man before him to be a monomaniac of an unusual type, although he could plainly see that, naturally, he was a person of no ordinary character and intelligence.

“I regret very much that you should find yourself in such deep trouble,” he remarked in his calm, dignified manner, “and if you have been decoyed here in the way you claim, you are certainly the victim of a very clever plot.  Perhaps I can help you, however; just come this way with me.  I will order my carriage, for of course you must act quickly, and we will try our best to relieve you in this unpleasant predicament.”

“Thank you sir; you are very kind to be so interested,” returned Ray, beginning to think the man had also been made a tool to further the schemes of the thieves, and wholly unsuspicious that he was being led still farther into the trap laid for his unwary feet.  “My first act,” he continued, “will be to go to the superintendent of police, and put the matter in his hands.”

“Yes, yes-that would be the wisest course to pursue, no doubt.  This way, Mr.-Palmer.  It will save time if we go directly to the stable,” and Doctor Wesselhoff opened a door opposite the one by which Ray had entered, and politely held it for him to pass through.

Ray, wholly unsuspicious, stepped eagerly forward and entered the room beyond, when the door was quickly closed after him, and the sound of a bolt shooting into its socket startled him to a knowledge of the fact that he was a prisoner.

A cry of indignation and dismay burst from him, as it again flashed upon him that his companion of a moment before must be in league with the woman who had decoyed him to that place.

He sprang back to the door, and sternly demanded to be instantly released.

There was no reply-there was not even a movement in the other apartment, and he was suddenly oppressed with the fear that he was in the power of an organized gang of robbers who might be meditating putting him out of the way, and no one would ever be the wiser regarding his fate.

He felt that he had been very heedless, for he did not even know the name of the street he was on.  His fascinating companion had so concentrated his attention upon herself that he had paid no heed to locality.

He repeated his demand to be released, beating loudly upon the door to enforce it.

But no notice was taken of him, and a feeling almost of despair began to settle over him.

He glanced about the room he was in, to see if there was any other way of escape, when, to his dismay, he found that the apartment was padded from floor to ceiling, and thus no sound within it could be heard outside.

It was lighted only from above, where strong bars over the glass plainly indicated to him that the place was intended as a prison, although there were ventilators at the top and bottom, which served to keep the air pure.

The place was comfortably, even elegantly, furnished with a bed, a lounge, a table and several chairs.  There were a number of fine pictures on the walls, handsome ornaments on the mantel, besides books, papers and magazines on the table.

But Ray could not stop to give more than a passing glance to all this.  He was terribly wrought up at finding himself in such a strait, and paced the room from end to end, like a veritable maniac, while he tried to think of some way to escape.

But he began to realize, after a time, that giving way to such excitement would do no good-that it would be far wiser to sit quietly down and try to exercise his wits; but his mind was a perfect chaos, his head ached, his temples throbbed, his nerves tingled in every portion of his body, and to think calmly in such a state was beyond his power.

Suddenly, however, he became conscious of a strange sensation-he felt a peculiar influence creeping over him; it almost seemed as if there was another presence in the room-a power stronger than himself controlling him.

This impression grew upon him so rapidly that he began to look searchingly about the apartment, while his pulses throbbed less heavily, his mind grew more composed, his blood began to cool, and he ceased his excited passings up and down the floor.

All at once, in the wall opposite to him, he espied a hole about the size of a teacup, and through this aperture he caught the gleam of a pair of human eyes, which seemed to be looking him through and through.

Once meeting that gaze, he could not seem to turn away from it, and he began to feel very strangely-to experience a sense of weariness, amounting almost to exhaustion, then a feeling of drowsiness began to steal over him-all antagonism, indignation, and rebellion against the cruel fate that had so suddenly overtaken him appeared to be gradually fading from his mind, and he could only think of how tired he was.

“What can it mean?” he asked himself, and made a violent effort to break away from the unnatural influence.

He believed that those eyes belonged to the man whom he had met in the other room-that having hopelessly ensnared his victim he was now availing himself of a panel in the wall to watch and see how he would bear his imprisonment.

“Who and what are you, sir, and what is the meaning of this barbarous treatment?” he demanded; but somehow the tones of his own voice did not sound quite natural to him.  “You are aiding and abetting a foul wrong,” he went on, “even if you are not directly concerned in it, and I command you to release me at once.”

There came no word of reply, however, to this demand; but those strange, magnetic eyes remained fixed upon him with the same intense, masterful expression.

He tried to meet them defiantly, to resist their influence with all the strength of his own will; but that feeling of excessive weariness only seemed to increase, and, heaving a long sigh, he involuntarily began to retreat step by step before those eyes until he reached the lounge, when he sank upon it, and his head dropped heavily upon the pillow.

The next moment his eyelids began to close, as if pressed down by invisible weights, though he was still vaguely conscious of the gaze of those wonderful orbs gleaming at him through the hole in the wall.

But even this faded out of his consciousness after another moment, and a profound slumber locked all his senses.  Ray Palmer was hypnotized and a helpless prisoner in the hands of one of the most powerful mesmerists of the world.