Saturday, November 10, 2007



I. The Panel of Light
II. A Cheerful Prodigal
III. Only Three Years
IV. Kisses and Kleptomania
V. The Victim of the Law
VI. Inferno
VII. Within the Law
VIII. A Tip from Headquarters
X. A Legal Document
X. Marked Money
XI. The Thief
XII. A Bridegroom Spurned
XIII. The Advent of Griggs
XIV. A Wedding Announcement
XV. Aftermath of Tragedy
XVI. Burke Plots
XVII. Outside the Law
XVIII. The Noiseless Death
XIX. Within the Toils
XX. Who Shot Griggs?
XXI. Aggie at Bay
XXII. The Trap That Failed
XXIII. The Confession
XXIV. Anguish and Bliss
The lids of the girl's eyes lifted slowly, and she stared at the
panel of light in the wall. Just at the outset, the act of
seeing made not the least impression on her numbed brain. For a
long time she continued to regard the dim illumination in the
wall with the same passive fixity of gaze. Apathy still lay upon
her crushed spirit. In a vague way, she realized her own
inertness, and rested in it gratefully, subtly fearful lest she
again arouse to the full horror of her plight. In a curious
subconscious fashion, she was striving to hold on to this
deadness of sensation, thus to win a little respite from the
torture that had exhausted her soul.
Of a sudden, her eyes noted the black lines that lay across the
panel of light. And, in that instant, her spirit was quickened
once again. The clouds lifted from her brain. Vision was clear
now. Understanding seized the full import of this hideous thing
on which she looked.... For the panel of light was a window, set
high within a wall of stone. The rigid lines of black that
crossed it were bars--prison bars. It was still true, then: She
was in a cell of the Tombs.
The girl, crouching miserably on the narrow bed, maintained her
fixed watching of the window--that window which was a symbol of
her utter despair. Again, agony wrenched within her. She did
not weep: long ago she had exhausted the relief of tears. She
did not pace to and fro in the comfort of physical movement with
which the caged beast finds a mocking imitation of liberty: long
ago, her physical vigors had been drained under stress of
anguish. Now, she was well-nigh incapable of any bodily
activity. There came not even so much as the feeblest moan from
her lips. The torment was far too racking for such futile
fashion of lamentation. She merely sat there in a posture of
collapse. To all outward seeming, nerveless, emotionless, an
abject creature. Even the eyes, which held so fixedly their gaze
on the window, were quite expressionless. Over them lay a film,
like that which veils the eyes of some dead thing. Only an
occasional languid motion of the lids revealed the life that
So still the body. Within the soul, fury raged uncontrolled.
For all the desolate calm of outer seeming, the tragedy of her
fate was being acted with frightful vividness there in memory.
In that dreadful remembrance, her spirit was rent asunder anew by
realization of that which had become her portion.... It was then,
as once again the horrible injustice of her fate racked
consciousness with its tortures, that the seeds of revolt were
implanted in her heart. The thought of revenge gave to her the
first meager gleam of comfort that had lightened her moods
through many miserable days and nights. Those seeds of revolt
were to be nourished well, were to grow into their flower--a
poison flower, developed through the three years of convict life
to which the judge had sentenced her.
The girl was appalled by the mercilessness of a destiny that had
so outraged right. She was wholly innocent of having done any
wrong. She had struggled through years of privation to keep
herself clean and wholesome, worthy of those gentlefolk from whom
she drew her blood. And earnest effort had ended at last under
an overwhelming accusation--false, yet none the less fatal to
her. This accusation, after soul-wearying delays, had culminated
to-day in conviction. The sentence of the court had been imposed
upon her: that for three years she should be imprisoned.... This,
despite her innocence. She had endured much--miserably
much!--for honesty's sake. There wrought the irony of fate. She
had endured bravely for honesty's sake. And the end of it all
was shame unutterable. There was nought left her save a wild
dream of revenge against the world that had martyrized her.
"Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord."... The
admonition could not touch her now. Why should she care for the
decrees of a God who had abandoned her!
There had been nothing in the life of Mary Turner, before the
catastrophe came, to distinguish it from many another. Its most
significant details were of a sordid kind, familiar to poverty.
Her father had been an unsuccessful man, as success is esteemed
by this generation of Mammon-worshipers. He was a gentleman, but
the trivial fact is of small avail to-day. He was of good birth,
and he was the possessor of an inherited competence. He had, as
well, intelligence, but it was not of a financial sort.
So, little by little, his fortune became shrunken toward
nothingness, by reason of injudicious investments. He married a
charming woman, who, after a brief period of wedded happiness,
gave her life to the birth of the single child of the union,
Mary. Afterward, in his distress over this loss, Ray Turner
seemed even more incompetent for the management of business
affairs. As the years passed, the daughter grew toward maturity
in an experience of ever-increasing penury. Nevertheless, there
was no actual want of the necessities of life, though always a
woful lack of its elegancies. The girl was in the high-school,
when her father finally gave over his rather feeble effort of
living. Between parent and child, the intimacy had been unusually
close. At his death, the father left her a character well
instructed in the excellent principles that had been his own.
That was his sole legacy to her. Of worldly goods, not the value
of a pin.
Yet, measured according to the stern standards of adversity, Mary
was fortunate. Almost at once, she procured a humble employment
in the Emporium, the great department store owned by Edward
Gilder. To be sure, the wage was infinitesimal, while the toil
was body-breaking soul-breaking. Still, the pittance could be
made to sustain life, and Mary was blessed with both soul and
body to sustain much. So she merged herself in the army of
workers--in the vast battalion of those that give their entire
selves to a labor most stern and unremitting, and most ill
Mary, nevertheless, avoided the worst perils of her lot. She did
not flinch under privation, but went her way through it, if not
serenely, at least without ever a thought of yielding to those
temptations that beset a girl who is at once poor and charming.
Fortunately for her, those in closest authority over her were not
so deeply smitten as to make obligatory on her a choice between
complaisance and loss of position. She knew of situations like
that, the cul-de-sac of chastity, worse than any devised by a
Javert. In the store, such things were matters of course. There
is little innocence for the girl in the modern city. There can
be none for the worker thrown into the storm-center of a great
commercial activity, humming with vicious gossip, all alive with
quips from the worldly wise. At the very outset of her
employment, the sixteen-year-old girl learned that she might eke
out the six dollars weekly by trading on her personal
attractiveness to those of the opposite sex. The idea was
repugnant to her; not only from the maidenly instinct of purity,
but also from the moral principles woven into her character by
the teachings of a father wise in most things, though a fool in
finance. Thus, she remained unsmirched, though well informed as
to the verities of life. She preferred purity and penury, rather
than a slight pampering of the body to be bought by its
degradation. Among her fellows were some like herself; others,
unlike. Of her own sort, in this single particular, were the two
girls with whom she shared a cheap room. Their common decency in
attitude toward the other sex was the unique bond of union. In
their association, she found no real companionship. Nevertheless,
they were wholesome enough. Otherwise they were illiterate,
altogether uncongenial.
In such wise, through five dreary years, Mary Turner lived. Nine
hours daily, she stood behind a counter. She spent her other
waking hours in obligatory menial labors: cooking her own scant
meals over the gas; washing and ironing, for the sake of that
neat appearance which was required of her by those in authority
at the Emporium--yet, more especially, necessary for her own
self-respect. With a mind keen and earnest, she contrived some
solace from reading and studying, since the free library gave her
this opportunity. So, though engaged in stultifying occupation
through most of her hours, she was able to find food for mental
growth. Even, in the last year, she had reached a point of
development whereat she began to study seriously her own position
in the world's economy, to meditate on a method of bettering it.
Under this impulse, hope mounted high in her heart. Ambition was
born. By candid comparison of herself with others about her, she
realized the fact that she possessed an intelligence beyond the
average. The training by her father, too, had been of a superior
kind. There was as well, at the back vaguely, the feeling of
particular self-respect that belongs inevitably to the possessor
of good blood. Finally, she demurely enjoyed a modest
appreciation of her own physical advantages. In short, she had
beauty, brains and breeding. Three things of chief importance to
any woman--though there be many minds as to which may be chief
among the three.
I have said nothing specific thus far as to the outer being of
Mary Turner--except as to filmed eyes and a huddled form. But,
in a happier situation, the girl were winning enough. Indeed,
more! She was one of those that possess an harmonious beauty,
with, too, the penetrant charm that springs from the mind, with
the added graces born of the spirit. Just now, as she sat, a
figure of desolation, there on the bed in the Tombs cell, it
would have required a most analytical observer to determine the
actualities of her loveliness. Her form was disguised by the
droop of exhaustion. Her complexion showed the pallor of
sorrowful vigils. Her face was no more than a mask of misery.
Yet, the shrewd observer, if a lover of beauty, might have found
much for delight, even despite the concealment imposed by her
present condition. Thus, the stormy glory of her dark hair,
great masses that ran a riot of shining ripples and waves. And
the straight line of the nose, not too thin, yet fine enough for
the rapture of a Praxiteles. And the pink daintiness of the
ear-tips, which peered warmly from beneath the pall of tresses.
One could know nothing accurately of the complexion now. But it
were easy to guess that in happier places it would show of a
purity to entice, with a gentle blooming of roses in the cheeks.
Even in this hour of unmitigated evil, the lips revealed a
curving beauty of red--not quite crimson, though near enough for
the word; not quite scarlet either; only, a red gently
enchanting, which turned one's thoughts toward tenderness--with a
hint of desire. It was, too, a generous mouth, not too large;
still, happily, not so small as those modeled by Watteau. It was
altogether winsome--more, it was generous and true, desirable for
kisses--yes!--more desirable for strength and for faith.
Like every intelligent woman, Mary had taken the trouble to
reinforce the worth of her physical attractiveness. The instinct
of sex was strong in her, as it must be in every normal woman,
since that appeal is nature's law. She kept herself supple and
svelte by many exercises, at which her companions in the chamber
scoffed, with the prudent warning that more work must mean more
appetite. With arms still aching from the lifting of heavy bolts
of cloth to and fro from the shelves, she nevertheless was at
pains nightly to brush with the appointed two hundred strokes the
thick masses of her hair. Even here, in the sordid desolation of
the cell, the lustrous sheen witnessed the fidelity of her care.
So, in each detail of her, the keen observer might have found
adequate reason for admiration. There was the delicacy of the
hands, with fingers tapering, with nails perfectly shaped,
neither too dull nor too shining. And there were, too, finally,
the trimly shod feet, set rather primly on the floor, small, and
arched like those of a Spanish Infanta. In truth, Mary Turner
showed the possibilities at least, if not just now the realities,
of a very beautiful woman.
Naturally, in this period of grief, the girl's mind had no
concern with such external merits over which once she had
modestly exulted. All her present energies were set to precise
recollection of the ghastly experience into which she had been
In its outline, the event had been tragically simple.
There had been thefts in the store. They had been traced
eventually to a certain department, that in which Mary worked.
The detective was alert. Some valuable silks were missed.
Search followed immediately. The goods were found in Mary's
locker. That was enough. She was charged with the theft. She
protested innocence--only to be laughed at in derision by her
accusers. Every thief declares innocence. Mr. Gilder himself was
emphatic against her. The thieving had been long continued. An
example must be made. The girl was arrested.
The crowded condition of the court calendar kept her for three
months in the Tombs, awaiting trial. She was quite friendless.
To the world, she was only a thief in duress. At the last, the
trial was very short. Her lawyer was merely an unfledged
practitioner assigned to her defense as a formality of the court.
This novice in his profession was so grateful for the first
recognition ever afforded him that he rather assisted than
otherwise the District Attorney in the prosecution of the case.
At the end, twelve good men and true rendered a verdict of guilty
against the shuddering girl in the prisoner's dock.
So simple the history of Mary Turner's trial.... The sentence of
the judge was lenient--only three years!
That which was the supreme tragedy to the broken girl in the cell
merely afforded rather agreeable entertainment to her former
fellows of the department store. Mary Turner throughout her term
of service there had been without real intimates, so that now
none was ready to mourn over her fate. Even the two room-mates
had felt some slight offense, since they sensed the superiority
of her, though vaguely. Now, they found a smug satisfaction in
the fact of her disaster as emphasizing very pleasurably their
own continuance in respectability.
As many a philosopher has observed, we secretly enjoy the
misfortunes of others, particularly of our friends, since they
are closest to us. Most persons hasten to deny this truth in its
application to themselves. They do so either because from lack of
clear understanding they are not quite honest with themselves,
from lack of clear introspection, or because, as may be more
easily believed, they are not quite honest in the assertion. As a
matter of fact, we do find a singular satisfaction in the
troubles of others. Contemplation of such suffering renders more
striking the contrasted well-being of our own lot. We need the
pains of others to serve as background for our joys--just as sin
is essential as the background for any appreciation of virtue,
even any knowledge of its existence.... So now, on the day of
Mary Turner's trial, there was a subtle gaiety of gossipings to
and fro through the store. The girl's plight was like a
shuttlecock driven hither and yon by the battledores of many
tongues. It was the first time in many years that one of the
employees had been thus accused of theft. Shoplifters were so
common as to be a stale topic. There was a refreshing novelty in
this case, where one of themselves was the culprit. Her fellow
workers chatted desultorily of her as they had opportunity, and
complacently thanked their gods that they were not as she--with
reason. Perhaps, a very few were kindly hearted enough to feel a
touch of sympathy for this ruin of a life.
Of such was Smithson, a member of the executive staff, who did
not hesitate to speak his mind, though none too forcibly. As for
that, Smithson, while the possessor of a dignity nourished by
years of floor-walking, was not given to the holding of vigorous
opinions. Yet, his comment, meager as it was, stood wholly in
Mary's favor. And he spoke with a certain authority, since he
had given official attention to the girl.
Smithson stopped Sarah Edwards, Mr. Gilder's private secretary,
as she was passing through one of the departments that morning,
to ask her if the owner had yet reached his office.
"Been and gone," was the secretary's answer, with the terseness
characteristic of her.
"Gone!" Smithson repeated, evidently somewhat disturbed by the
information. "I particularly wanted to see him."
"He'll be back, all right," Sarah vouchsafed, amiably. "He went
down-town, to the Court of General Sessions. The judge sent for
him about the Mary Turner case."
"Oh, yes, I remember now," Smithson exclaimed. Then he added,
with a trace of genuine feeling, "I hope the poor girl gets off.
She was a nice girl--quite the lady, you know, Miss Edwards."
"No, I don't know," Sarah rejoined, a bit tartly. Truth to tell,
the secretary was haunted by a grim suspicion that she herself
was not quite the lady of her dreams, and never would be able to
acquire the graces of the Vere De Vere. For Sarah, while a most
efficient secretary, was not in her person of that slender
elegance which always characterized her favorite heroines in the
novels she affected. On the contrary, she was of a sort to have
gratified Byron, who declared that a woman in her maturity should
be plump. Now, she recalled with a twinge of envy that the
accused girl had been of an aristocratic slimness of form. "Oh,
did you know her?" she questioned, without any real interest.
Smithson answered with that bland stateliness of manner which was
the fruit of floor-walking politeness.
"Well, I couldn't exactly say I knew her, and yet I might say,
after a manner of speaking, that I did--to a certain extent. You
see, they put her in my department when she first came here to
work. She was a good saleswoman, as saleswomen go. For the
matter of that," he added with a sudden access of energy, "she
was the last girl in the world I'd take for a thief." He
displayed some evidences of embarrassment over the honest feeling
into which he had been betrayed, and made haste to recover his
usual business manner, as he continued formally. "Will you
please let me know when Mr. Gilder arrives? There are one or two
little matters I wish to discuss with him."
"All right!" Sarah agreed briskly, and she hurried on toward the
private office.
The secretary was barely seated at her desk when the violent
opening of the door startled her, and, as she looked up, a cheery
voice cried out:
"Hello, Dad!"
At the same moment, a young man entered, with an air of care-free
assurance, his face radiant. But, as his glance went to the
empty arm-chair at the desk, he halted abruptly, and his
expression changed to one of disappointment.
"Not here!" he grumbled. Then, once again the smile was on his
lips as his eyes fell on the secretary, who had now risen to her
feet in a flutter of excitement.
"Why, Mr. Dick!" Sarah gasped.
"Hello, Sadie!" came the genial salutation. The young man
advanced and shook hands with her warmly. "I'm home again.
Where's Dad?"
Even as he asked the question, the quick sobering of his face
bore witness to his disappointment over not finding his father in
the office. For such was the relationship of the owner of the
department store to this new arrival on the scene. And in the
patent chagrin under which the son now labored was to be found a
certain indication of character not to be disregarded. Unlike
many a child, he really loved his father. The death of the
mother years before had left him without other opportunity for
affection in the home, since he had neither brother nor sister.
He loved his father with a depth of feeling that made between the
two a real camaraderie, despite great differences in temperament.
In that simple and sincere regard which he bore for his father,
the boy revealed a heart ready for love, willing to give of
itself its best for the one beloved. Beyond that, as yet, there
was little to be said of him with exactness. He was a spoiled
child of fortune, if you wish to have it so. Certainly, he was
only a drone in the world's hive. Thus far, he had enjoyed the
good things of life, without ever doing aught to deserve them by
contributing in return--save by his smiles and his genial air of
In the twenty-three years of his life, every gift that money
could lavish had been his. If the sum total of benefit was
small, at least there remained the consoling fact that the harm
was even less. Luxury had not sapped the strength of him. He
had not grown vicious, as have so many of his fellows among the
sons of the rich. Some instinct held him aloof from the grosser
vices. His were the trifling faults that had their origin
chiefly in the joy of life, which manifest occasionally in
riotous extravagancies, of a sort actually to harm none, however
absurd and useless they may be.
So much one might see by a glance into the face. He was well
groomed, of course; healthy, all a-tingle with vitality. And in
the clear eyes, which avoided no man's gaze, nor sought any
woman's unseemly, there showed a soul untainted, not yet
developed, not yet debased. Through all his days, Dick Gilder had
walked gladly, in the content that springs to the call of one
possessed of a capacity for enjoyment; possessed, too, of every
means for the gratification of desire. As yet, the man of him
was unrevealed in its integrity. No test had been put upon him.
The fires of suffering had not tried the dross of him. What real
worth might lie under this sunny surface the future must
determine. There showed now only this one significant fact:
that, in the first moment of his return from journeyings abroad,
he sought his father with all eagerness, and was sorely grieved
because the meeting must still be delayed. It was a little
thing, perhaps. Yet, it was capable of meaning much concerning
the nature of the lad. It revealed surely a tender heart, one
responsive to a pure love. And to one of his class, there are
many forces ever present to atrophy such simple, wholesome power
of loving. The ability to love cleanly and absolutely is the
supreme virtue.
Sarah explained that Mr. Gilder had been called to the Court of
General Sessions by the judge.
Dick interrupted her with a gust of laughter.
"What's Dad been doing now?" he demanded, his eyes twinkling.
Then, a reminiscent grin shaped itself on his lips. "Remember
the time that fresh cop arrested him for speeding? Wasn't he
wild? I thought he would have the whole police force
discharged." He smiled again. "The trouble is," he declared
sedately, "that sort of thing requires practice. Now, when I'm
arrested for speeding, I'm not in the least flustered--oh, not a
little bit! But poor Dad! That one experience of his almost
soured his whole life. It was near the death of him--also, of
the city's finest."
By this time, the secretary had regained her usual poise, which
had been somewhat disturbed by the irruption of the young man.
Her round face shone delightedly as she regarded him. There was
a maternal note of rebuke in her voice as she spoke:
"Why, we didn't expect you back for two or three months yet."
Once again, Dick laughed, with an infectious gaiety that brought
a smile of response to the secretary's lips.
"Sadie," he explained confidentially, "don't you dare ever to let
the old man know. He would be all swollen up. It's bad to let a
parent swell up. But the truth is, Sadie, I got kind of homesick
for Dad--yes, just that!" He spoke the words with a sort of
shamefaced wonder. It is not easy for an Anglo-Saxon to confess
the realities of affection in vital intimacies. He repeated the
phrase in a curiously appreciative hesitation, as one astounded
by his own emotion. "Yes, homesick for Dad!"
Then, to cover an excess of sincere feeling, he continued, with a
burst of laughter:
"Besides, Sadie, I was broke."
The secretary sniffed.
"The cable would have handled that end of it, I guess," she said,
There was no word of contradiction from Dick, who, from ample
experience, knew that any demand for funds would have received
answer from the father.
"But what is Dad doing in court?" he demanded.
Sarah explained the matter with her usual conciseness:
"One of the girls was arrested for stealing."
The nature of the son was shown then clearly in one of its best
aspects. At once, he exhibited his instinct toward the quality
of mercy, and, too, his trust in the father whom he loved, by his
eager comment.
"And Dad went to court to get her out of the scrape. That's just
like the old man!"
Sarah, however, showed no hint of enthusiasm. Her mind was ever
of the prosaic sort, little prone to flights. In that prosaic
quality, was to be found the explanation of her dependability as
a private secretary. So, now, she merely made a terse statement.
"She was tried to-day, and convicted. The judge sent for Mr.
Gilder to come down this morning and have a talk with him about
the sentence."
There was no lessening of the expression of certainty on the
young man's face. He loved his father, and he trusted where he
"It will be all right," he declared, in a tone of entire
conviction. "Dad's heart is as big as a barrel. He'll get her
Then, of a sudden, Dick gave a violent start. He added a
convincing groan.
"Oh, Lord!" he exclaimed, dismally. There was shame in his
voice. "I forgot all about it!"
The secretary regarded him with an expression of amazement.
"All about what?" she questioned.
Dick assumed an air vastly more confidential than at any time
hitherto. He leaned toward the secretary's desk, and spoke with
a new seriousness of manner:
"Sadie, have you any money? I'm broker My taxi' has been waiting
outside all this time."
"Why, yes," the secretary said, cheerfully. "If you will----"
Dick was discreet enough to turn his attention to a picture on
the wall opposite while Sarah went through those acrobatic
performances obligatory on women who take no chances of losing
money by carrying it in purses.
"There!" she called after a few panting seconds, and exhibited a
flushed face.
Dick turned eagerly and seized the banknote offered him.
"Mighty much obliged, Sadie," he said, enthusiastically. "But I
must run. Otherwise, this wouldn't be enough for the fare!" And,
so saying, he darted out of the room.
When, at last, the owner of the store entered the office, his
face showed extreme irritation. He did not vouchsafe any
greeting to the secretary, who regarded him with an accurate
perception of his mood. With a diplomacy born of long
experience, in her first speech Sarah afforded an agreeable
diversion to her employer's line of thought.
"Mr. Hastings, of the Empire store, called you up, Mr. Gilder,
and asked me to let him know when you returned. Shall I get him
on the wire?"
The man's face lightened instantly, and there was even the
beginning of a smile on his lips as he seated himself at the
great mahogany desk.
"Yes, yes!" he exclaimed, with evident enthusiasm. The smile grew
in the short interval before the connection was made. When,
finally, he addressed his friend over the telephone, his tones
were of the cheerfulest.
"Oh, good morning. Yes, certainly. Four will suit me
admirably.... Sunday? Yes, if you like. We can go out after
church, and have luncheon at the country club." After listening
a moment, he laughed in a pleased fashion that had in it a
suggestion of conscious superiority. "My dear fellow," he
declared briskly, "you couldn't beat me in a thousand years.
Why, I made the eighteen holes in ninety-two only last week." He
laughed again at the answer over the wire, then hung up the
receiver and pushed the telephone aside, as he turned his
attention to the papers neatly arranged on the desk ready to his
The curiosity of the secretary could not be longer delayed.
"What did they do with the Turner girl?" she inquired in an
elaborately casual manner.
Gilder did not look up from the heap of papers, but answered
rather harshly, while once again his expression grew forbidding.
"I don't know--I couldn't wait," he said. He made a petulant
gesture as he went on: "I don't see why Judge Lawlor bothered me
about the matter. He is the one to impose sentence, not I. I am
hours behind with my work now."
For a few minutes he gave himself up to the routine of business,
distributing the correspondence and other various papers for the
action of subordinates, and speaking his orders occasionally to
the attentive secretary with a quickness and precision that
proclaimed the capable executive. The observer would have
realized at once that here was a man obviously fitted to the
control of large affairs. The ability that marches inevitably to
success showed unmistakably in the face and form, and in the
fashion of speech. Edward Gilder was a big man physically,
plainly the possessor of that abundant vital energy which is a
prime requisite for achievement in the ordering of modern
business concerns. Force was, indeed, the dominant quality of
the man. His tall figure was proportionately broad, and he was
heavily fleshed. In fact, the body was too ponderous. Perhaps,
in that characteristic might be found a clue to the chief fault
in his nature. For he was ponderous, spiritually and mentally,
as well as materially. The fact was displayed suggestively in
the face, which was too heavy with its prominent jowls and
aggressive chin and rather bulbous nose. But there was nothing
flabby anywhere. The ample features showed no trace of weakness,
only a rude, abounding strength. There was no lighter touch
anywhere. Evidently a just man according to his own ideas, yet
never one to temper justice with mercy. He appeared, and was, a
very practical and most prosaic business man. He was not given
to a humorous outlook on life. He took it and himself with the
utmost seriousness. He was almost entirely lacking in
imagination, that faculty which is essential to sympathy.
"Take this," he directed presently, when he had disposed of the
matters before him. Forthwith, he dictated the following letter,
and now his voice took on a more unctuous note, as of one who is
appreciative of his own excellent generosity.
"The New York Herald.
"DEAR SIR: Inclosed please find my check for a thousand dollars
for your free-ice fund. It is going to be a very hard summer for
the poor, and I hope by thus starting the contributions for your
fine charity at this early day that you will be able to
accomplish even more good than usually.
"Very truly yours."
He turned an inquiring glance toward Sarah.
"That's what I usually give, isn't it?"
The secretary nodded energetically.
"Yes," she agreed in her brisk manner, "that's what you have
given every year for the last ten years."
The statement impressed Gilder pleasantly. His voice was more
mellow as he made comment. His heavy face was radiant, and he
smiled complacently.
"Ten thousand dollars to this one charity alone!" he exclaimed.
"Well, it is pleasant to be able to help those less fortunate
than ourselves." He paused, evidently expectant of laudatory
corroboration from the secretary.
But Sarah, though she could be tactful enough on occasion, did
not choose to meet her employer's anticipations just now. For
that matter, her intimate services permitted on her part some
degree of familiarity with the august head of the establishment.
Besides, she did not stand in awe of Gilder, as did the others in
his service. No man is a hero to his valet, or to his secretary.
Intimate association is hostile to hero-worship. So, now, Sarah
spoke nonchalantly, to the indignation of the philanthropist:
"Oh, yes, sir. Specially when you make so much that you don't
miss it."
Gilder's thick gray brows drew down in a frown of displeasure,
while his eyes opened slightly in sheer surprise over the
secretary's unexpected remark. He hesitated for only an instant
before replying with an air of great dignity, in which was a
distinct note of rebuke for the girl's presumption.
"The profits from my store are large, I admit, Sarah. But I
neither smuggle my goods, take rebates from railroads, conspire
against small competitors, nor do any of the dishonest acts that
disgrace other lines of business. So long as I make my profits
honestly, I am honestly entitled to them, no matter how big they
The secretary, being quite content with the havoc she had wrought
in her employer's complacency over his charitableness, nodded,
and contented herself with a demure assent to his outburst.
"Yes, sir," she agreed, very meekly.
Gilder stared at her for a few seconds, somewhat indignantly.
Then, he bethought himself of a subtle form of rebuke by
emphasizing his generosity.
"Have the cashier send my usual five hundred to the Charities
Organization Society," he ordered. With this new evidence of his
generous virtue, the frown passed from his brows. If, for a
fleeting moment, doubt had assailed him under the spur of the
secretary's words, that doubt had now vanished under his habitual
conviction as to his sterling worth to the world at large.
It was, therefore, with his accustomed blandness of manner that
he presently acknowledged the greeting of George Demarest, the
chief of the legal staff that looked after the firm's affairs.
He was aware without being told that the lawyer had called to
acquaint him with the issue in the trial of Mary Turner.
"Well, Demarest?" he inquired, as the dapper attorney advanced
into the room at a rapid pace, and came to a halt facing the
desk, after a lively nod in the direction of the secretary.
The lawyer's face sobered, and his tone as he answered was tinged
with constraint.
"Judge Lawlor gave her three years," he replied, gravely. It was
plain from his manner that he did not altogether approve.
But Gilder was unaffected by the attorney's lack of satisfaction
over the result. On the contrary, he smiled exultantly. His
oritund voice took on a deeper note, as he turned toward the
"Good!" he exclaimed. "Take this, Sarah." And he continued, as
the girl opened her notebook and poised the pencil: "Be sure to
have Smithson post a copy of it conspicuously in all the girls'
dressing-rooms, and in the reading-room, and in the lunch-rooms,
and in the assembly-room." He cleared his throat ostentatiously
and proceeded to the dictation of the notice:
"Mary Turner, formerly employed in this store, was to-day
sentenced to prison for three years, having been convicted for
the theft of goods valued at over four hundred dollars. The
management wishes again to draw attention on the part of its
employees to the fact that honesty is always the best policy....
Got that?"
"Yes, sir." The secretary's voice was mechanical, without any
trace of feeling. She was not minded to disturb her employer a
second time this morning by injudicious comment.
"Take it to Smithson," Gilder continued, "and tell him that I
wish him to attend to its being posted according to my directions
at once."
Again, the girl made her formal response in the affirmative, then
left the room.
Gilder brought forth a box of cigars from a drawer of the desk,
opened it and thrust it toward the waiting lawyer, who, however,
shook his head in refusal, and continued to move about the room
rather restlessly. Demarest paid no attention to the other's
invitation to a seat, but the courtesy was perfunctory on
Gilder's part, and he hardly perceived the perturbation of his
caller, for he was occupied in selecting and lighting a cigar
with the care of a connoisseur. Finally, he spoke again, and now
there was an infinite contentment in the rich voice.
"Three years--three years! That ought to be a warning to the rest
of the girls." He looked toward Demarest for acquiescence.
The lawyer's brows were knit as he faced the proprietor of the
"Funny thing, this case!" he ejaculated. "In some features, one
of the most unusual I have seen since I have been practicing
The smug contentment abode still on Gilder's face as he puffed in
leisurely ease on his cigar and uttered a trite condolence.
"Very sad!--quite so! Very sad case, I call it." Demarest went
on speaking, with a show of feeling: "Most unusual case, in my
estimation. You see, the girl keeps on declaring her innocence.
That, of course, is common enough in a way. But here, it's
different. The point is, somehow, she makes her protestations
more convincing than they usually do. They ring true, as it
seems to me."
Gilder smiled tolerantly.
"They didn't ring very true to the jury, it would seem," he
retorted. And his voice was tart as he added: "Nor to the judge,
since he deemed it his duty to give her three years."
"Some persons are not very sensitive to impressions in such
cases, I admit," Demarest returned, coolly. If he meant any
subtlety of allusion to his hearer, it failed wholly to pierce
the armor of complacency.
"The stolen goods were found in her locker," Gilder declared in a
tone of finality. "Some of them, I have been given to
understand, were actually in the pocket of her coat."
"Well," the attorney said with a smile, "that sort of thing makes
good-enough circumstantial evidence, and without circumstantial
evidence there would be few convictions for crime. Yet, as a
lawyer, I'm free to admit that circumstantial evidence alone is
never quite safe as proof of guilt. Naturally, she says some one
else must have put the stolen goods there. As a matter of exact
reasoning, that is quite within the measure of possibility. That
sort of thing has been done countless times."
Gilder sniffed indignantly.
"And for what reason?" he demanded. "It's too absurd to think
"In similar cases," the lawyer answered, "those actually guilty
of the thefts have thus sought to throw suspicion on the innocent
in order to avoid it on themselves when the pursuit got too hot
on their trail. Sometimes, too, such evidence has been
manufactured merely to satisfy a spite against the one unjustly
"It's too absurd to think about," Gilder repeated, impatiently.
"The judge and the jury found no fault with the evidence."
Demarest realized that this advocacy in behalf of the girl was
hardly fitting on the part of the legal representative of the
store she was supposed to have robbed, so he abruptly changed his
line of argument.
"She says that her record of five years in your employ ought to
count something in her favor."
Gilder, however, was not disposed to be sympathetic as to a
matter so flagrantly opposed to his interests.
"A court of justice has decreed her guilty," he asserted once
again, in his ponderous manner. His emphasis indicated that
there the affair ended.
Demarest smiled cynically as he strode to and fro.
"Nowadays," he shot out, "we don't call them courts of justice:
we call them courts of law."
Gilder yielded only a rather dubious smile over the quip. This
much he felt that he could afford, since those same courts served
his personal purposes well in deed.
"Anyway," he declared, becoming genial again, "it's out of our
hands. There's nothing we can do, now."
"Why, as to that," the lawyer replied, with a hint of hesitation,
"I am not so sure. You see, the fact of the matter is that,
though I helped to prosecute the case, I am not a little bit
proud of the verdict."
Gilder raised his eyebrows in unfeigned astonishment. Even yet,
he was quite without appreciation of the attorney's feeling in
reference to the conduct of the case.
"Why?" he questioned, sharply.
"Because," the lawyer said, again halting directly before the
desk, "in spite of all the evidence against her, I am not sure
that Mary Turner is guilty--far from it, in fact!"
Gilder uttered an ejaculation of contempt, but Demarest went on
"Anyhow," he explained, "the girl wants to see you, and I wish to
urge you to grant her an interview."
Gilder flared at this suggestion, and scowled wrathfully on the
lawyer, who, perhaps with professional prudence, had turned away
in his rapid pacing of the room.
"What's the use?" Gilder stormed. A latent hardness revealed
itself at the prospect of such a visitation. And along with this
hardness came another singular revelation of the nature of the
man. For there was consternation in his voice, as he continued
in vehement expostulation against the idea. If there was
harshness in his attitude there was, too, a fugitive suggestion
of tenderness alarmed over the prospect of undergoing such an
interview with a woman.
"I can't have her crying all over the office and begging for
mercy," he protested, truculently. But a note of fear lay under
the petulance.
Demarest's answer was given with assurance"
"You are mistaken about that. The girl doesn't beg for mercy.
In fact, that's the whole point of the matter. She demands
justice--strange as that may seem, in a court of law!--and
nothing else. The truth is, she's a very unusual girl, a long
way beyond the ordinary sales-girl, both in brains and in
"The less reason, then, for her being a thief," Gilder grumbled
in his heaviest voice.
"And perhaps the less reason for believing her to be a thief,"
the lawyer retorted, suavely. He paused for a moment, then went
on. There was a tone of sincere determination in his voice.
"Just before the judge imposed sentence, he asked her if she had
anything to say. You know, it's just a usual form--a thing that
rarely means much of anything. But this case was different, let
me tell you. She surprised us all by answering at once that she
had. It's really a pity, Gilder, that you didn't wait. Why,
that poor girl made a--damn--fine speech!"
The lawyer's forensic aspirations showed in his honest
appreciation of the effectiveness of such oratory from the heart
as he had heard in the courtroom that day.
"Pooh! pooh!" came the querulous objection. "She seems to have
hypnotized you." Then, as a new thought came to the magnate, he
spoke with a trace of anxiety. There were always the reporters,
looking for space to fill with foolish vaporings.
"Did she say anything against me, or the store?"
"Not a word," the lawyer replied, gravely. His smile of
appreciation was discreetly secret. "She merely told us how her
father died when she was sixteen years old. She was compelled
after that to earn her own living. Then she told how she had
worked for you for five years steadily, without there ever being
a single thing against her. She said, too, that she had never
seen the things found in her locker. And she said more than
that! She asked the judge if he himself understood what it means
for a girl to be sentenced to prison for something she hadn't
done. Somehow, Gilder, the way she talked had its effect on
everybody in the courtroom. I know! It's my business to
understand things like that. And what she said rang true. What
she said, and the way she said it, take brains and courage. The
ordinary crook has neither. So, I had a suspicion that she might
be speaking the truth. You see, Gilder, it all rang true! And
it's my business to know how things ring in that way." There was
a little pause, while the lawyer moved back and forth nervously.
Then, he added: "I believe Lawlor would have suspended sentence
if it hadn't been for your talk with him."
There were not wanting signs that Gilder was impressed. But the
gentler fibers of the man were atrophied by the habits of a
lifetime. What heart he had once possessed had been buried in
the grave of his young wife, to be resurrected only for his son.
In most things, he was consistently a hard man. Since he had no
imagination, he could have no real sympathy.
He whirled about in his swivel chair, and blew a cloud of smoke
from his mouth. When he spoke, his voice was deeply resonant.
"I simply did my duty," he said. "You are aware that I did not
seek any consultation with Judge Lawlor. He sent for me, and
asked me what I thought about the case--whether I thought it
would be right to let the girl go on a suspended sentence. I
told him frankly that I believed that an example should be made
of her, for the sake of others who might be tempted to steal.
Property has some rights, Demarest, although it seems to be
getting nowadays so that anybody is likely to deny it." Then the
fretful, half-alarmed note sounded in his voice again, as he
continued: "I can't understand why the girl wants to see me."
The lawyer smiled dryly, since he had his back turned at the
"Why," he vouchsafed, "she just said that, if you would see her
for ten minutes, she would tell you how to stop the thefts in
this store."
Gilder displayed signs of triumph. He brought his chair to a
level and pounded the desk with a weighty fist.
"There!" he cried. "I knew it. The girl wants to confess.
Well, it's the first sign of decent feeling she's shown. I
suppose it ought to be encouraged. Probably there have been
others mixed up in this."
Demarest attempted no denial.
"Perhaps," he admitted, though he spoke altogether without
conviction. "But," he continued insinuatingly, "at least it can
do no harm if you see her. I thought you would be willing, so I
spoke to the District Attorney, and he has given orders to bring
her here for a few minutes on the way to the Grand Central
Station. They're taking her up to Burnsing, you know. I wish,
Gilder, you would have a little talk with her. No harm in that!"
With the saying, the lawyer abruptly went out of the office,
leaving the owner of the store fuming.
"Hello, Dad!"
After the attorney's departure, Gilder had been rather fussily
going over some of the papers on his desk. He was experiencing a
vague feeling of injury on account of the lawyer's ill-veiled
efforts to arouse his sympathy in behalf of the accused girl. In
the instinct of strengthening himself against the possibility of
yielding to what he deemed weakness, the magnate rehearsed the
facts that justified his intolerance, and, indeed, soon came to
gloating over the admirable manner in which righteousness thrives
in the world. And it was then that an interruption came in the
utterance of two words, words of affection, of love, cried out in
the one voice he most longed to hear--for the voice was that of
his son. Yet, he did not look up. The thing was altogether
impossible! The boy was philandering, junketing, somewhere on the
Riviera. His first intimation as to the exact place would come
in the form of a cable asking for money. Somehow, his feelings
had been unduly stirred that morning; he had grown sentimental,
dreaming of pleasant things.... All this in a second. Then, he
looked up. Why, it was true! It was Dick's face there, smiling
in the doorway. Yes, it was Dick, it was Dick himself! Gilder
sprang to his feet, his face suddenly grown younger, radiant.
"Dick!" The big voice was softened to exquisite tenderness.
As the eyes of the two met, the boy rushed forward, and in the
next moment the hands of father and son clasped firmly. They
were silent in the first emotion of their greeting. Presently,
Gilder spoke, with an effort toward harshness in his voice to
mask how much he was shaken. But the tones rang more kindly than
any he had used for many a day, tremulous with affection.
"What brought you back?" he demanded.
Dick, too, had felt the tension of an emotion far beyond that of
the usual things. He was forced to clear his throat before he
answered with that assumption of nonchalance which he regarded as
befitting the occasion.
"Why, I just wanted to come back home," he said; lightly. A
sudden recollection came to give him poise in this time of
emotional disturbance, and he added hastily: "And, for the love
of heaven, give Sadie five dollars. I borrowed it from her to pay
the taxi'. You see, Dad, I'm broke."
"Of course!" With the saying, Edward Gilder roared Gargantuan
laughter. In the burst of merriment, his pent feelings found
their vent. He was still chuckling when he spoke, sage from much
experience of ocean travel. "Poker on the ship, I suppose."
The young man, too, smiled reminiscently as he answered:
"No, not that, though I did have a little run in at Monte Carlo.
But it was the ship that finished me, at that. You see, Dad,
they hired Captain Kidd and a bunch of pirates as stewards, and
what they did to little Richard was something fierce. And yet,
that wasn't the real trouble, either. The fact is, I just
naturally went broke. Not a hard thing to do on the other side."
"Nor on this," the father interjected, dryly.
"Anyhow, it doesn't matter much," Dick replied, quite unabashed.
"Tell me, Dad, how goes it?"
Gilder settled himself again in his chair, and gazed benignantly
on his son.
"Pretty well," he said contentedly; "pretty well, son. I'm glad
to see you home again, my boy." There was a great tenderness in
the usually rather cold gray eyes.
The young man answered promptly, with delight in his manner of
speech, and a sincerity that revealed the underlying merit of his
"And I'm glad to be home, Dad, to be"--there was again that
clearing of the throat, but he finished bravely--"with you."
The father avoided a threatening display of emotion by an abrupt
change of subject to the trite.
"Have a good time?" he inquired casually, while fumbling with
the papers on the desk.
Dick's face broke in a smile of reminiscent happiness.
"The time of my young life!" He paused, and the smile broadened.
There was a mighty enthusiasm in his voice as he continued: "I
tell you, Dad, it's a fact that I did almost break the bank at
Monte Carlo. I'd have done it sure, if only my money had held
"It seems to me that I've heard something of the sort before,"
was Gilder's caustic comment. But his smile was still wholly
sympathetic. He took a curious vicarious delight in the
escapades of his son, probably because he himself had committed
no follies in his callow days. "Why didn't you cable me?" he
asked, puzzled at such restraint on the part of his son.
Dick answered with simple sincerity.
"Because it gave me a capital excuse for coming home."
It was Sarah who afforded a diversion. She had known Dick while
he was yet a child, had bought him candy, had felt toward him a
maternal liking that increased rather than diminished as he grew
to manhood. Now, her face lighted at sight of him, and she smiled
a welcome.
"I see you have found him," she said, with a ripple of laughter.
Dick welcomed this interruption of the graver mood.
"Sadie," he said, with a manner of the utmost seriousness, "you
are looking finer than ever. And how thin you have grown!"
The girl, eager with fond fancies toward the slender ideal,
accepted the compliment literally.
"Oh, Mr. Dick!" she exclaimed, rapturously. "How much do you
think I have lost?"
The whimsical heir of the house of Gilder surveyed his victim
critically, then spoke with judicial solemnity.
"About two ounces, Sadie."
There came a look of deep hurt on Sadie's face at the flippant
jest, which Dick himself was quick to note.
He had not guessed she was thus acutely sensitive concerning her
plumpness. Instantly, he was all contrition over his unwitting
offense inflicted on her womanly vanity.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Sadie," he exclaimed penitently. "Please don't be
really angry with me. Of course, I didn't mean----"
"To twit on facts!" the secretary interrupted, bitterly.
"Pooh!" Dick cried, craftily. "You aren't plump enough to be
sensitive about it. Why, you're just right." There was
something very boyish about his manner, as he caught at the
girl's arm. A memory of the days when she had cuddled him caused
him to speak warmly, forgetting the presence of his father.
"Now, don't be angry, Sadie. Just give me a little kiss, as you
used to do." He swept her into his arms, and his lips met hers
in a hearty caress. "There!" he cried. "Just to show there's no
ill feeling."
The girl was completely mollified, though in much embarrassment.
"Why, Mr. Dick!" she stammered, in confusion. "Why, Mr. Dick!"
Gilder, who had watched the scene in great astonishment, now
interposed to end it.
"Stop, Dick!" he commanded, crisply. "You are actually making
Sarah blush. I think that's about enough, son."
But a sudden unaccustomed gust of affection swirled in the breast
of the lad. Plain Anglo-Saxon as he was, with all that implies
as to the avoidance of displays of emotion, nevertheless he had
been for a long time in lands far from home, where the habits of
impulsive and affectionate peoples were radically unlike our own
austerer forms. So now, under the spur of an impulse suggested
by the dalliance with the buxom secretary, he grinned widely and
went to his father.
"A little kiss never hurts any one," he declared, blithely. Then
he added vivaciously: "Here, I'll show you!"
With the words, he clasped his arms around his father's neck,
and, before that amazed gentleman could understand his purpose,
he had kissed soundly first the one cheek and then the other,
each with a hearty, wholesome smack of filial piety. This done,
he stood back, still beaming happily, while the astounded Sarah
tittered bewilderedly. For his own part, Dick was quite
unashamed. He loved his father. For once, he had expressed that
fondness in a primitive fashion, and he was glad.
The older man withdrew a step, and there rested motionless, under
the sway of an emotion akin to dismay. He stood staring intently
at his son with a perplexity in his expression that was almost
ludicrous. When, at last, he spoke, his voice was a rumble of
strangely shy pleasure.
"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed, violently. Then he raised a
hand, and rubbed first one cheek, and after it its fellow, with a
gentleness that was significant. The feeling provoked by the
embrace showed plainly in his next words. "Why, that's the first
time you have kissed me, Dick, since you were a little boy. God
bless my soul!" he repeated. And now there was a note of
The son, somewhat disturbed by this emotion he had aroused,
nevertheless answered frankly with the expression of his own
feeling, as he advanced and laid a hand on his father's shoulder.
"The fact is, Dad," he said quietly, with a smile that was good
to see, "I am awfully glad to see you again."
"Are you, son?" the father cried happily. Then, abruptly his
manner changed, for he felt himself perilously close to the
maudlin in this new yielding to sentimentality. Such kisses of
tenderness, however agreeable in themselves, were hardly fitting
to one of his dignity. "You clear out of here, boy," he
commanded, brusquely. "I'm a working man. But here, wait a
minute," he added. He brought forth from a pocket a neat sheaf
of banknotes, which he held out. "There's carfare for you," he
said with a chuckle. "And now clear out. I'll see you at
Dick bestowed the money in his pocket, and again turned toward
the door.
"You can always get rid of me on the same terms," he remarked
slyly. And then the young man gave evidence that he, too, had
some of his father's ability in things financial. For, in the
doorway he turned with a final speech, which was uttered in
splendid disregard for the packet of money he had just
received--perhaps, rather, in a splendid regard for it. "Oh,
Dad, please don't forget to give Sadie that five dollars I
borrowed from her for the taxi'." And with that impertinent
reminder he was gone.
The owner of the store returned to his labors with a new zest,
for the meeting with his son had put him in high spirits.
Perhaps it might have been better for Mary Turner had she come to
him just then, while he was yet in this softened mood. But fate
had ordained that other events should restore him to his usual
harder self before their interview. The effect was, indeed,
presently accomplished by the advent of Smithson into the office.
He entered with an expression of discomfiture on his rather
vacuous countenance. He walked almost nimbly to the desk and
spoke with evident distress, as his employer looked up
"McCracken has detained--er--a--lady, sir," he said, feebly.
"She has been searched, and we have found about a hundred dollars
worth of laces on her."
"Well?" Gilder demanded, impatiently. Such affairs were too
common in the store to make necessary this intrusion of the
matter on him. "Why did you come to me about it?" His staff
knew just what to do with shoplifters.
At once, Smithson became apologetic, while refusing to retreat.
"I'm very sorry, sir," he said haltingly, "but I thought it
wiser, sir, to--er--to bring the matter to your personal
"Quite unnecessary, Smithson," Gilder returned, with asperity.
"You know my views on the subject of property. Tell McCracken to
have the thief arrested."
Smithson cleared his throat doubtfully, and in his stress of
feeling he even relaxed a trifle that majestical erectness of
carriage that had made him so valuable as a floor-walker.
"She's not exactly a--er--a thief," he ventured.
"You are trifling, Smithson," the owner of the store exclaimed,
in high exasperation. "Not a thief! And you caught her with a
hundred dollars worth of laces that she hadn't bought. Not a
thief! What in heaven's name do you call her, then?"
"A kleptomaniac," Smithson explained, retaining his manner of
mild insistence. "You see, sir, it's this way. The lady happens
to be the wife of J. W. Gaskell, the banker, you know."
Yes, Gilder did know. The mention of the name was like a spell
in the effect it wrought on the attitude of the irritated owner
of the store. Instantly, his expression changed. While before
his features had been set grimly, while his eyes had flashed
wrathfully, there was now only annoyance over an event markedly
"How extremely awkward!" he cried; and there was a very real
concern in his voice. He regarded Smithson kindly, whereat that
rather puling gentleman once again assumed his martial bearing.
"You were quite right in coming to me." For a moment he was
silent, plunged in thought. Finally he spoke with the
decisiveness characteristic of him. "Of course, there's nothing
we can do. Just put the stuff back on the counter, and let her
But Smithson had not yet wholly unburdened himself. Instead of
immediately leaving the room in pursuance of the succinct
instructions given him, he again cleared his throat nervously,
and made known a further aggravating factor in the situation.
"She's very angry, Mr. Gilder," he announced, timidly.
"She--er--she demands an--er--an apology."
The owner of the store half-rose from his chair, then threw
himself back with an exclamation of disgust. He again ejaculated
the words with which he had greeted his son's unexpected kisses,
but now there was a vast difference in the intonation.
"God bless my soul!" he cried. From his expression, it was clear
that a pious aspiration was farthest from his thought. On the
contrary! Again, he fell silent, considering the situation which
Smithson had presented, and, as he reflected, his frown betrayed
the emotion natural enough under the circumstances. At last,
however, he mastered his irritation to some degree, and spoke his
command briefly. "Well, Smithson, apologize to her. It can't be
helped." Then his face lighted with a sardonic amusement. "And,
Smithson," he went on with a sort of elephantine playfulness, "I
shall take it as a personal favor if you will tactfully advise
the lady that the goods at Altman and Stern's are really even
finer than ours."
When Smithson had left the office, Gilder turned to his
"Take this," he directed, and he forthwith dictated the following
letter to the husband of the lady who was not a thief, as
Smithson had so painstakingly pointed out:
"J. W. GASKELL, ESQ., "Central National Bank, New York.
"MY DEAR Mr. GASKELL: I feel that I should be doing less than my
duty as a man if I did not let you know at once that Mrs. Gaskell
is in urgent need of medical attention. She came into our store
to-day, and----"
He paused for a moment. "No, put it this way," he said finally:
"We found her wandering about our store to-day in a very nervous
condition. In her excitement, she carried away about one hundred
dollars' worth of rare laces. Not recognizing her, our store
detective detained her for a short time. Fortunately for us all,
Mrs. Gaskell was able to explain who she was, and she has just
gone to her home. Hoping for Mrs. Gaskell's speedy recovery, and
with all good wishes, I am, "Yours very
Yet, though he had completed the letter, Gilder did not at once
take up another detail of his business. Instead, he remained
plunged in thought, and now his frown was one of simple
bewilderment. A number of minutes passed before he spoke, and
then his words revealed distinctly what had been his train of
"Sadie," he said in a voice of entire sincerity, "I can't
understand theft. It's a thing absolutely beyond my
On the heels of this ingenuous declaration, Smithson entered the
office, and that excellent gentleman appeared even more perturbed
than before.
"What on earth is the matter now?" Gilder spluttered,
"It's Mrs. Gaskell still," Smithson replied in great trepidation.
"She wants you personally, Mr. Gilder, to apologize to her. She
says that the action taken against her is an outrage, and she is
not satisfied with the apologies of all the rest of us. She says
you must make one, too, and that the store detective must be
discharged for intolerable insolence."
Gilder bounced up from his chair angrily.
"I'll be damned if I'll discharge McCracken," he vociferated,
glaring on Smithson, who shrank visibly.
But that mild and meek man had a certain strength of pertinacity.
Besides, in this case, he had been having multitudinous troubles
of his own, which could be ended only by his employer's placating
of the offended kleptomaniac.
"But about the apology, Mr. Gilder," he reminded, speaking very
deferentially, yet with insistence.
Business instinct triumphed over the magnate's irritation, and
his face cleared.
"Oh, I'll apologize," he said with a wry smile of discomfiture.
"I'll make things even up a bit when I get an apology from
Gaskell. I shrewdly suspect that that estimable gentleman is
going to eat humble pie, of my baking, from his wife's recipe.
And his will be an honest apology--which mine won't, not by a
damned sight!" With the words, he left the room, in his wake a
hugely relieved Smithson.
Alone in the office, Sarah neglected her work for a few minutes
to brood over the startling contrast of events that had just
forced itself on her attention. She was not a girl given to the
analysis of either persons or things, but in this instance the
movement of affairs had come close to her, and she was compelled
to some depth of feeling by the two aspects of life on which
to-day she looked. In the one case, as she knew it, a girl under
the urge of poverty had stolen. That thief had been promptly
arrested, finally she had been tried, had been convicted, had
been sentenced to three years in prison. In the other case, a
woman of wealth had stolen. There had been no punishment. A
euphemism of kleptomania had been offered and accepted as
sufficient excuse for her crime. A polite lie had been written
to her husband, a banker of power in the city. To her, the
proprietor of the store was even now apologizing in courteous
phrases of regret.... And Mary Turner had been sentenced to three
years in prison. Sadie shook her head in dolorous doubt, as she
again bent over the keys of her typewriter. Certainly, some
happenings in this world of ours did not seem quite fair.
It was on this same day that Sarah, on one of her numerous trips
through the store in behalf of Gilder, was accosted by a
salesgirl, whose name, Helen Morris, she chanced to know. It was
in a spot somewhere out of the crowd, so that for the moment the
two were practically alone. The salesgirl showed signs of
embarrassment as she ventured to lay a detaining hand on Sarah's
arm, but she maintained her position, despite the secretary's
manner of disapproval.
"What on earth do you want?" Sarah inquired, snappishly.
The salesgirl put her question at once.
"What did they do to Mary Turner?"
"Oh, that!" the secretary exclaimed, with increased impatience
over the delay, for she was very busy, as always. "You will all
know soon enough."
"Tell me now." The voice of the girl was singularly compelling;
there was something vividly impressive about her just now, though
her pallid, prematurely mature face and the thin figure in the
regulation black dress and white apron showed ordinarily only
insignificant. "Tell me now," she repeated, with a monotonous
emphasis that somehow moved Sarah to obedience against her will,
greatly to her own surprise.
"They sent her to prison for three years," she answered, sharply.
"Three years?" The salesgirl had repeated the words in a tone
that was indefinable, yet a tone vehement in its incredulous
questioning. "Three years?" she said again, as one refusing to
"Yes," Sarah said, impressed by the girl's earnestness; "three
"Good God!" There was no irreverence in the exclamation that
broke from the girl's lips. Instead, only a tense horror that
touched to the roots of emotion.
Sarah regarded this display of feeling on the part of the young
woman before her with an increasing astonishment. It was not in
her own nature to be demonstrative, and such strong expression of
emotion as this she deemed rather suspicious. She recalled, in
addition, the fact that his was not the first time that Helen
Morris had shown a particular interest in the fate of Mary
Turner. Sarah wondered why.
"Say," she demanded, with the directness habitual to her, "why
are you so anxious about it? This is the third time you have
asked me about Mary Turner. What's it to you, I'd like to know?"
The salesgirl started violently, and a deep flush drove the
accustomed pallor from her cheeks. She was obviously much
disturbed by the question.
"What is it to me?" she repeated in an effort to gain time.
"Why, nothing--nothing at all!" Her expression of distress
lightened a little as she hit on an excuse that might serve to
justify her interest. "Nothing at all, only--she's a friend of
mine, a great friend of mine. Oh, yes!" Then, in an instant, the
look of relief vanished, as once again the terrible reality
hammered on her consciousness, and an overwhelming dejection
showed in the dull eyes and in the drooping curves of the white
lips. There was a monotone of desolation as she went on speaking
in a whisper meant for the ears of no other. "It's awful--three
years! Oh, I didn't understand! It's awful!--awful!" With the
final word, she hurried off, her head bowed. She was still
murmuring brokenly, incoherently. Her whole attitude was of
wondering grief.
Sarah stared after the girl in complete mystification. She could
not at first guess any possible cause for an emotion so poignant.
Presently, however, her shrewd, though very prosaic, commonsense
suggested a simple explanation of the girl's extraordinary
"I'll bet that girl has been tempted to steal. But she didn't,
because she was afraid." With this satisfactory conclusion of
her wonderment, the secretary hurried on her way, quite content.
It never occurred to her that the girl might have been tempted to
steal--and had not resisted the temptation.
It was on account of this brief conversation with the salesgirl
that Sarah was thinking intently of Mary Turner, after her return
to the office, from which Gilder himself happened to be absent
for the moment. As the secretary glanced up at the opening of
the door, she did not at first recognize the figure outlined
there. She remembered Mary Turner as a tall, slender girl, who
showed an underlying vitality in every movement, a girl with a
face of regular features, in which was a complexion of blended
milk and roses, with a radiant joy of life shining through all
her arduous and vulgar conditions. Instead of this, now, she saw
a frail form that stood swaying in the opening of the doorway,
that bent in a sinister fashion which told of bodily impotence,
while the face was quite bloodless. And, too, there was over all
else a pall of helplessness--helplessness that had endured much,
and must still endure infinitely more.
As a reinforcement of the dread import of that figure of wo, a
man stood beside it, and one of his hands was clasped around the
girl's wrist, a man who wore his derby hat somewhat far back on
his bullet-shaped head, whose feet were conspicuous in shoes with
very heavy soles and very square toes.
It was the man who now took charge of the situation. Cassidy,
from Headquarters, spoke in a rough, indifferent voice, well
suited to his appearance of stolid strength.
"The District Attorney told me to bring this girl here on my way
to the Grand Central Station with her."
Sarah got to her feet mechanically. Somehow, from the raucous
notes of the policeman's voice, she understood in a flash of
illumination that the pitiful figure there in the doorway was
that of Mary Turner, whom she had remembered so different, so
frightfully different. She spoke with a miserable effort toward
her usual liveliness.
"Mr. Gilder will be right back. Come in and wait." She wished
to say something more, something of welcome or of mourning, to
the girl there, but she found herself incapable of a single word
for the moment, and could only stand dumb while the man stepped
forward, with his charge following helplessly in his clutch.
The two went forward very slowly, the officer, carelessly
conscious of his duty, walking with awkward steps to suit the
feeble movements of the girl, the girl letting herself be dragged
onward, aware of the futility of any resistance to the inexorable
power that now had her in its grip, of which the man was the
present agent. As the pair came thus falteringly into the center
of the room, Sarah at last found her voice for an expression of
"I'm sorry, Mary," she said, hesitatingly. "I'm terribly sorry,
terribly sorry!"
The girl, who had halted when the officer halted, as a matter of
course, did not look up. She stood still, swaying a little as if
from weakness. Her voice was lifeless.
"Are you?" she said. "I did not know. Nobody has been near me
the whole time I have been in the Tombs." There was infinite
pathos in the tones as she repeated the words so fraught with
dreadfulness. "Nobody has been near me!"
The secretary felt a sudden glow of shame. She realized the
justice of that unconscious accusation, for, till to-day, she had
had no thought of the suffering girl there in the prison. To
assuage remorse, she sought to give evidence as to a prevalent
"Why," she exclaimed, "there was Helen Morris to-day! She has
been asking about you again and again. She's all broken up over
your trouble."
But the effort on the secretary's part was wholly without
"Who is Helen Morris?" the lifeless voice demanded. There was no
interest in the question.
Sarah experienced a momentary astonishment, for she was still
remembering the feverish excitement displayed by the salesgirl,
who had declared herself to be a most intimate friend of the
convict. But the mystery was to remain unsolved, since Gilder
now entered the office. He walked with the quick, bustling
activity that was ordinarily expressed in his every movement. He
paused for an instant, as he beheld the two visitors in the
center of the room, then he spoke curtly to the secretary, while
crossing to his chair at the desk.
"You may go, Sarah. I will ring when I wish you again."
There followed an interval of silence, while the secretary was
leaving the office and the girl with her warder stood waiting on
his pleasure. Gilder cleared his throat twice in an
embarrassment foreign to him, before finally he spoke to the
girl. At last, the proprietor of the store expressed himself in
a voice of genuine sympathy, for the spectacle of wo presented
there before his very eyes moved him to a real distress, since it
was indeed actual, something that did not depend on an
appreciation to be developed out of imagination.
"My girl," Gilder said gently--his hard voice was softened by an
honest regret--"my girl, I am sorry about this."
"You should be!" came the instant answer. Yet, the words were
uttered with a total lack of emotion. It seemed from their
intonation that the speaker voiced merely a statement concerning
a recondite matter of truth, with which sentiment had nothing
whatever to do. But the effect on the employer was unfortunate.
It aroused at once his antagonism against the girl. His instinct
of sympathy with which he had greeted her at the outset was
repelled, and made of no avail. Worse, it was transformed into
an emotion hostile to the one who thus offended him by rejection
of the well-meant kindliness of his address
"Come, come!" he exclaimed, testily. "That's no tone to take
with me."
"Why? What sort of tone do you expect me to take?" was the
retort in the listless voice. Yet, now, in the dullness ran a
faint suggestion of something sinister.
"I expected a decent amount of humility from one in your
position," was the tart rejoinder of the magnate.
Life quickened swiftly in the drooping form of the girl. Her
muscles tensed. She stood suddenly erect, in the vigor of her
youth again. Her face lost in the same second its bleakness of
pallor. The eyes opened widely, with startling abruptness, and
looked straight into those of the man who had employed her.
"Would you be humble," she demanded, and now her voice was become
softly musical, yet forbidding, too, with a note of passion,
"would you be humble if you were going to prison for three
years--for something you didn't do?"
There was anguish in the cry torn from the girl's throat in the
sudden access of despair. The words thrilled Gilder beyond
anything that he had supposed possible in such case. He found
himself in this emergency totally at a loss, and moved in his
chair doubtfully, wishing to say something, and quite unable. He
was still seeking some question, some criticism, some rebuke,
when he was unfeignedly relieved to hear the policeman's harsh
"Don't mind her, sir," Cassidy said. He meant to make his manner
very reassuring. "They all say that. They are innocent, of
course! Yep--they all say it. It don't do 'em any good, but just
the same they all swear they're innocent. They keep it up to the
very last, no matter how right they've been got."
The voice of the girl rang clear. There was a note of insistence
that carried a curious dignity of its own. The very simplicity
of her statement might have had a power to convince one who
listened without prejudice, although the words themselves were of
the trite sort that any protesting criminal might utter.
"I tell you, I didn't do it!"
Gilder himself felt the surge of emotion that swung through these
moments, but he would not yield to it. With his lack of
imagination, he could not interpret what this time must mean to
the girl before him. Rather, he merely deemed it his duty to
carry through this unfortunate affair with a scrupulous attention
to detail, in the fashion that had always been characteristic of
him during the years in which he had steadily mounted from the
bottom to the top.
"What's the use of all this pretense?" he demanded, sharply.
"You were given a fair trial, and there's an end of it."
The girl, standing there so feebly, seeming indeed to cling for
support to the man who always held her thus closely by the wrist,
spoke again with an astonishing clearness, even with a sort of
vivacity, as if she explained easily something otherwise in
"Oh, no, I wasn't!" she contradicted bluntly, with a singular
confidence of assertion. "Why, if the trial had been fair, I
shouldn't be here."
The harsh voice of Cassidy again broke in on the passion of the
girl with a professional sneer.
"That's another thing they all say."
But the girl went on speaking fiercely, impervious to the man's
coarse sarcasm, her eyes, which had deepened almost to purple,
still fixed piercingly on Gilder, who, for some reason wholly
inexplicable to him, felt himself strangely disturbed under that
"Do you call it fair when the lawyer I had was only a boy--one
whom the court told me to take, a boy trying his first case--my
case, that meant the ruin of my life? My lawyer! Why, he was
just getting experience--getting it at my expense!" The girl
paused as if exhausted by the vehemence of her emotion, and at
last the sparkling eyes drooped and the heavy lids closed over
them. She swayed a little, so that the officer tightened his
clasp on her wrist.
There followed a few seconds of silence. Then Gilder made an
effort to shake off the feeling that had so possessed him, and to
a certain degree he succeeded.
"The jury found you guilty," he asserted, with an attempt to make
his voice magisterial in its severity.
Instantly, Mary was aroused to a new outburst of protest. Once
again, her eyes shot their fires at the man seated behind the
desk, and she went forward a step imperiously, dragging the
officer in her wake.
"Yes, the jury found me guilty," she agreed, with fine scorn in
the musical cadences of her voice. "Do you know why? I can tell
you, Mr. Gilder. It was because they had been out for three
hours without reaching a decision. The evidence didn't seem to
be quite enough for some of them, after all. Well, the judge
threatened to lock them up all night. The men wanted to get
home. The easy thing to do was to find me guilty, and let it go
at that. Was that fair, do you think? And that's not all,
either. Was it fair of you, Mr. Gilder? Was it fair of you to
come to the court this morning, and tell the judge that I should
be sent to prison as a warning to others?"
A quick flush burned on the massive face of the man whom she thus
accused, and his eyes refused to meet her steady gaze of
"You know!" he exclaimed, in momentary consternation. Again, her
mood had affected his own, so that through a few hurrying seconds
he felt himself somehow guilty of wrong against this girl, so
frank and so rebuking.
"I heard you in the courtroom," she said. "The dock isn't very
far from the bench where you spoke to the judge about my case.
Yes, I heard you. It wasn't: Did I do it? Or, didn't I do it?
No; it was only that I must be made a warning to others."
Again, silence fell for a tense interval. Then, finally, the
girl spoke in a different tone. Where before her voice had been
vibrant with the instinct of complaint against the mockery of
justice under which she suffered, now there was a deeper note,
that of most solemn truth.
"Mr. Gilder," she said simply, "as God is my judge, I am going to
prison for three years for something I didn't do."
But the sincerity of her broken cry fell on unheeding ears. The
coarse nature of the officer had long ago lost whatever elements
of softness there might have been to develop in a gentler
occupation. As for the owner of the store, he was not
sufficiently sensitive to feel the verity in the accents of the
speaker. Moreover, he was a man who followed the conventional,
with never a distraction due to imagination and sympathy. Just
now, too, he was experiencing a keen irritation against himself
because of the manner in which he had been sensible to the
influence of her protestation, despite his will to the contrary.
That irritation against himself only reacted against the girl,
and caused him to steel his heart to resist any tendency toward
commiseration. So, this declaration of innocence was made quite
in vain--indeed, served rather to strengthen his disfavor toward
the complainant, and to make his manner harsher when she voiced
the pitiful question over which she had wondered and grieved.
"Why did you ask the judge to send me to prison?"
"The thieving that has been going on in this store for over a
year has got to stop," Gilder answered emphatically, with all his
usual energy of manner restored. As he spoke, he raised his eyes
and met the girl's glance fairly. Thought of the robberies was
quite enough to make him pitiless toward the offender.
"Sending me to prison won't stop it," Mary Turner said, drearily.
"Perhaps not," Gilder sternly retorted. "But the discovery and
punishment of the other guilty ones will." His manner changed to
a business-like alertness. "You sent word to me that you could
tell me how to stop the thefts in the store. Well, my girl, do
this, and, while I can make no definite promise, I'll see what
can be done about getting you out of your present difficulty."
He picked up a pencil, pulled a pad of blank paper convenient to
his hand, and looked at the girl expectantly, with aggressive
inquiry in his gaze. "Tell me now," he concluded, "who were your
The matter-of-fact manner of this man who had unwittingly wronged
her so frightfully was the last straw on the girl's burden of
suffering. Under it, her patient endurance broke, and she cried
out in a voice of utter despair that caused Gilder to start
nervously, and even impelled the stolid officer to a frown of
"I have no pals!" she ejaculated, furiously. "I never stole
anything in my life. Must I go on telling you over and over
again?" Her voice rose in a wail of misery. "Oh, why won't any
one believe me?"
Gilder was much offended by this display of an hysterical grief,
which seemed to his phlegmatic temperament altogether unwarranted
by the circumstances. He spoke decisively.
"Unless you can control yourself, you must go." He pushed away
the pad of paper, and tossed the pencil aside in physical
expression of his displeasure. "Why did you send that message,
if you have nothing to say?" he demanded, with increasing
But now the girl had regained her former poise. She stood a
little drooping and shaken, where for a moment she had been erect
and tensed. There was a vast weariness in her words as she
"I have something to tell you, Mr. Gilder," she said, quietly.
"Only, I--I sort of lost my grip on the way here, with this man
by my side."
"Most of 'em do, the first time," the officer commented, with a
certain grim appreciation.
"Well?" Gilder insisted querulously, as the girl hesitated.
At once, Mary went on speaking, and now a little increase of
vigor trembled in her tones.
"When you sit in a cell for three months waiting for your trial,
as I did, you think a lot. And, so, I got the idea that if I
could talk to you, I might be able to make you understand what's
really wrong. And if I could do that, and so help out the other
girls, what has happened to me would not, after all, be quite so
awful--so useless, somehow." Her voice lowered to a quick
pleading, and she bent toward the man at the desk. "Mr. Gilder,"
she questioned, "do you really want to stop the girls from
"Most certainly I do," came the forcible reply.
The girl spoke with a great earnestness, deliberately.
"Then, give them a fair chance."
The magnate stared in sincere astonishment over this absurd, this
futile suggestion for his guidance.
"What do you mean?" he vociferated, with rising indignation.
There was an added hostility in his demeanor, for it seemed to
him that this thief of his goods whom he had brought to justice
was daring to trifle with him. He grew wrathful over the
suspicion, but a secret curiosity still held his temper within
bounds "What do you mean?" he repeated; and now the full force
of his strong voice set the room trembling.
The tones of the girl came softly musical, made more delicately
resonant to the ear by contrast with the man's roaring.
"Why," she said, very gently, "I mean just this: Give them a
living chance to be honest."
"A living chance!" The two words were exploded with dynamic
violence. The preposterousness of the advice fired Gilder with
resentment so pervasive that through many seconds he found
himself unable to express the rage that flamed within him.
The girl showed herself undismayed by his anger.
"Yes," she went on, quietly; "that's all there is to it. Give
them a living chance to get enough food to eat, and a decent room
to sleep in, and shoes that will keep their feet off the pavement
winter mornings. Do you think that any girl wants to steal? Do
you think that any girl wants to risk----?"
By this time, however, Gilder had regained his powers of speech,
and he interrupted stormily.
"And is this what you have taken up my time for? You want to
make a maudlin plea for guilty, dishonest girls, when I thought
you really meant to bring me facts."
Nevertheless, Mary went on with her arraignment uncompromisingly.
There was a strange, compelling energy in her inflections that
penetrated even the pachydermatous officer, so that, though he
thought her raving, he let her rave on, which was not at all his
habit of conduct, and did indeed surprise him mightily. As for
Gilder, he felt helpless in some puzzling fashion that was
totally foreign to his ordinary self. He was still glowing with
wrath over the method by which he had been victimized into giving
the girl a hearing. Yet, despite his chagrin, he realized that
he could not send her from him forthwith. By some inexplicable
spell she bound him impotent.
"We work nine hours a day," the quiet voice went on, a curious
pathos in the rich timbre of it; "nine hours a day, for six days
in the week. That's a fact, isn't it? And the trouble is, an
honest girl can't live on six dollars a week. She can't do it,
and buy food and clothes, and pay room-rent and carfare. That's
another fact, isn't it?"
Mary regarded the owner of the store with grave questioning in
her violet eyes. Under the urgency of emotion, color crept into
the pallid cheeks, and now her face was very beautiful--so
beautiful, indeed, that for a little the charm of its loveliness
caught the man's gaze, and he watched her with a new respect,
born of appreciation for her feminine delightfulness. The
impression was far too brief. Gilder was not given to esthetic
raptures over women. Always, the business instinct was the
dominant. So, after the short period of amazed admiration over
such unexpected winsomeness, his thoughts flew back angrily to
the matters whereof she spoke so ridiculously.
"I don't care to discuss these things," he declared peremptorily,
as the girl remained silent for a moment.
"And I have no wish to discuss anything," Mary returned evenly.
"I only want to give you what you asked for--facts." A faint
smile of reminiscence curved the girl's lips. "When they first
locked me up," she explained, without any particular evidence of
emotion, "I used to sit and hate you."
"Oh, of course!" came the caustic exclamation from Gilder.
"And then, I thought that perhaps you did not understand," Mary
continued; "that, if I were to tell you how things really are, it
might be you would change them somehow."
At this ingenuous statement, the owner of the store gave forth a
gasp of sheer stupefaction.
"I!" he cried, incredulously. "I change my business policy
because you ask me to!"
There was something imperturbable in the quality of the voice as
the girl went resolutely forward with her explanation. It was as
if she were discharging a duty not to be gainsaid, not to be
thwarted by any difficulty, not even the realization that all the
effort must be ultimately in vain.
"Do you know how we girls live?--but, of course, you don't.
Three of us in one room, doing our own cooking over the
two-burner gas-stove, and our own washing and ironing evenings,
after being on our feet for nine hours."
The enumeration of the sordid details left the employer
absolutely unmoved, since he lacked the imagination necessary to
sympathize actually with the straining evil of a life such as the
girl had known. Indeed, he spoke with an air of just
remonstrance, as if the girl's charges were mischievously faulty.
"I have provided chairs behind the counters," he stated.
There was no especial change in the girl's voice as she answered
his defense. It continued musically low, but there was in it the
insistent note of sincerity.
"But have you ever seen a girl sitting in one of them?" she
questioned, coldly. "Please answer me. Have you? Of course
not," she said, after a little pause during which the owner had
remained silent. She shook her head in emphatic negation. "And
do you understand why? It's simply because every girl knows that
the manager of her department would think he could get along
without her, if he were to see her sitting down ----loafing, you
know! So, she would be discharged. All it amounts to is that,
after being on her feet for nine hours, the girl usually walks
home, in order to save carfare. Yes, she walks, whether sick or
well. Anyhow, you are generally so tired, it don't make much
difference which you are."
Gilder was fuming under these strictures, which seemed to him
altogether baseless attacks on himself. His exasperation steadily
waxed against the girl, a convicted felon, who thus had the
audacity to beard him.
"What has all this to do with the question of theft in the
store?" he rumbled, huffily. "That was the excuse for your
coming here. And, instead of telling me something, you rant
about gas-stoves and carfare."
The inexorable voice went on in its monotone, as if he had not
"And, when you are really sick, and have to stop work, what are
you going to do then? Do you know, Mr. Gilder, that the first
time a straight girl steals, it's often because she had to have a
doctor--or some luxury like that? And some of them do worse than
steal. Yes, they do--girls that started straight, and wanted to
stay that way. But, of course, some of them get so tired of the
whole grind that--that----"
The man who was the employer of hundreds concerning whom these
grim truths were uttered, stirred uneasily in his chair, and
there came a touch of color into the healthy brown of his cheeks
as he spoke his protest.
"I'm not their guardian. I can't watch over them after they
leave the store. They are paid the current rate of wages--as
much as any other store pays." As he spoke, the anger provoked
by this unexpected assault on him out of the mouth of a convict
flamed high in virtuous repudiation. "Why," he went on
vehemently, "no man living does more for his employees than I do.
Who gave the girls their fine rest-rooms upstairs? I did! Who
gave them the cheap lunch-rooms? I did!"
"But you won't pay them enough to live on!" The very fact that
the words were spoken without any trace of rancor merely made
this statement of indisputable truth obnoxious to the man, who
was stung to more savage resentment in asserting his impugned
"I pay them the same as the other stores do," he repeated,
Yet once again, the gently cadenced voice gave answer, an answer
informed with that repulsive insistence to the man who sought to
resist her indictment of him.
"But you won't pay them enough to live on." The simple lucidity
of the charge forbade direct reply.
Gilder betook himself to evasion by harking back to the
established ground of complaint.
"And, so, you claim that you were forced to steal. That's the
plea you make for yourself and your friends."
"I wasn't forced to steal," came the answer, spoken in the
monotone that had marked her utterance throughout most of the
interview. "I wasn't forced to steal, and I didn't steal. But,
all the same, that's the plea, as you call it, that I'm making
for the other girls. There are hundreds of them who steal
because they don't get enough to eat. I said I would tell you
how to stop the stealing. Well, I have done it. Give the girls
a fair chance to be honest. You asked me for the names, Mr.
Gilder. There's only one name on which to put the blame for the
whole business--and that name is Edward Gilder!... Now, won't you
do something about it?"
At that naked question, the owner of the store jumped up from his
chair, and stood glowering at the girl who risked a request so
full of vituperation against himself.
"How dare you speak to me like this?" he thundered.
There was no disconcertion exhibited by the one thus challenged.
On the contrary, she repeated her question with a simple dignity
that still further outraged the man.
"Won't you, please, do something about it?"
"How dare you?" he shouted again. Now, there was stark wonder
in his eyes as he put the question.
"Why, I dared," Mary Turner explained, "because you have done all
the harm you can to me. And, now, I'm trying to give you the
chance to do better by the others. You ask me why I dare. I
have a right to dare! I have been straight all my life. I have
wanted decent food and warm clothes, and--a little happiness, all
the time I have worked for you, and I have gone without those
things, just to stay straight.... The end of it all is: You are
sending me to prison for something I didn't do. That's why I
Cassidy, the officer in charge of Mary Turner, had stood
patiently beside her all this while, always holding her by the
wrist. He had been mildly interested in the verbal duel between
the big man of the department store and this convict in his own
keeping. Vaguely, he had marveled at the success of the frail
girl in declaiming of her injuries before the magnate. He had
felt no particular interest beyond that, merely looking on as one
might at any entertaining spectacle. The question at issue was
no concern of his. His sole business was to take the girl away
when the interview should be ended. It occurred to him now that
this might, in fact, be the time to depart. It seemed, indeed,
that the insistent reiteration of the girl had at last left he
owner of the store quite powerless to answer. It was possible,
then, that it were wiser the girl should be removed. With the
idea in mind, he stared inquiringly at Gilder until he caught
that flustered gentleman's eye. A nod from the magnate sufficed
him. Gilder, in truth, could not trust himself just then to an
audible command. He was seriously disturbed by the gently spoken
truths that had issued from the girl's lips. He was not prepared
with any answer, though he hotly resented every word of her
accusation. So, when he caught the question in the glance of the
officer, he felt a guilty sensation of relief as he signified an
affirmative by his gesture.
Cassidy faced about, and in his movement there was a tug at the
wrist of the girl that set her moving toward the door. Her
realization of what this meant was shown in her final speech.
"Oh, he can take me now," she said, bitterly. Then her voice
rose above the monotone that had contented her hitherto. Into
the music of her tones beat something sinister, evilly
vindictive, as she faced about at the doorway to which Cassidy
had led her. Her face, as she scrutinized once again the man at
the desk, was coldly malignant.
"Three years isn't forever," she said, in a level voice. "When I
come out, you are going to pay for every minute of them, Mr.
Gilder. There won't be a day or an hour that I won't remember
that at the last it was your word sent me to prison. And you are
going to pay me for that. You are going to pay me for the five
years I have starved making money for you--that, too! You are
going to pay me for all the things I am losing today, and----"
The girl thrust forth her left hand, on that side where stood the
officer. So vigorous was her movement that Cassidy's clasp was
thrown off the wrist. But the bond between the two was not
broken, for from wrist to wrist showed taut the steel chain of
the manacles. The girl shook the links of the handcuffs in a
gesture stronger than words. In her final utterance to the
agitated man at the desk, there was a cold threat, a prophecy of
disaster. From the symbol of her degradation, she looked to the
man whose action had placed it there. In the clashing of their
glances, hers won the victory, so that his eyes fell before the
menace in hers.
"You are going to pay me for this!" she said. Her voice was
little more than a whisper, but it was loud in the listener's
heart. "Yes, you are going to pay--for this!"
They were grim years, those three during which Mary Turner served
her sentence in Burnsing. There was no time off for good
behavior. The girl learned soon that the favor of those set in
authority over her could only be won at a cost against which her
every maidenly instinct revolted. So, she went through the
inferno of days and nights in a dreariness of suffering that was
deadly. Naturally, the life there was altogether an evil thing.
There was the material ill ever present in the round of wearisome
physical toil, the coarse, distasteful food, the hard, narrow
couch, the constant, gnawing irksomeness of imprisonment, away
from light and air, away from all that makes life worth while.
Yet, these afflictions were not the worst injuries to mar the
girl convict's life. That which bore upon her most weightily and
incessantly was the degradation of this environment from which
there was never any respite, the viciousness of this spot wherein
she had been cast through no fault of her own. Vileness was
everywhere, visibly in the faces of many, and it was brimming
from the souls of more, subtly hideous. The girl held herself
rigidly from any personal intimacy with her fellows. To some
extent, at least, she could separate herself from their
corruption in the matter of personal association. But, ever
present, there was a secret energy of vice that could not be
escaped so simply--nor, indeed, by any device; that breathed in
the spiritual atmosphere itself of the place. Always, this
mysterious, invisible, yet horribly potent, power of sin was like
a miasma throughout the prison. Always, it was striving to reach
her soul, to make her of its own. She fought the insidious,
fetid force as best she might. She was not evil by nature. She
had been well grounded in principles of righteousness.
Nevertheless, though she maintained the integrity of her
character, that character suffered from the taint. There
developed over the girl's original sensibility a shell of
hardness, which in time would surely come to make her less
scrupulous in her reckoning of right and wrong.
Yet, as a rule, character remains the same throughout life as to
its prime essentials, and, in this case, Mary Turner at the end
of her term was vitally almost as wholesome as on the day when
she began the serving of the sentence. The change wrought in her
was chiefly of an external sort. The kindliness of her heart and
her desire for the seemly joys of life were unweakened. But over
the better qualities of her nature was now spread a crust of
worldly hardness, a denial of appeal to her sensibilities. It was
this that would eventually bring her perilously close to
contented companioning with crime.
The best evidence of the fact that Mary Turner's soul was not
fatally soiled must be found in the fact that still, at the
expiration of her sentence, she was fully resolved to live
straight, as the saying is which she had quoted to Gilder. This,
too, in the face of sure knowledge as to the difficulties that
would beset the effort, and in the face of the temptations
offered to follow an easier path.
There was, for example, Aggie Lynch, a fellow convict, with whom
she had a slight degree of acquaintance, nothing more. This
young woman, a criminal by training, offered allurements of
illegitimate employment in the outer world when they should be
free. Mary endured the companionship with this prisoner because
a sixth sense proclaimed the fact that here was one unmoral,
rather than immoral--and the difference is mighty. For that
reason, Aggie Lynch was not actively offensive, as were most of
the others. She was a dainty little blonde, with a baby face, in
which were set two light-blue eyes, of a sort to widen often in
demure wonder over most things in a surprising and naughty world.
She had been convicted of blackmail, and she made no pretense
even of innocence. Instead, she was inclined to boast over her
ability to bamboozle men at her will. She was a natural actress
of the ingenue role, and in that pose she could unfailingly
beguile the heart of the wisest of worldly men.
Perhaps, the very keen student of physiognomy might have
discovered grounds for suspecting her demureness by reason of the
thick, level brows that cast a shadow on the bland innocence of
her face. For the rest, she possessed a knack of rather harmless
perversity, a fair smattering of grammar and spelling, and a
lively sense of humor within her own limitations, with a
particularly small intelligence in other directions. Her one art
was histrionics of the kind that made an individual appeal. In
such, she was inimitable. She had been reared in a criminal
family, which must excuse much. Long ago, she had lost track of
her father; her mother she had never known. Her one relation was
a brother of high standing as a pickpocket. One principal reason
of her success in leading on men to make fools of themselves over
her, to their everlasting regret afterward, lay in the fact that,
in spite of all the gross irregularities of her life, she
remained chaste. She deserved no credit for such restraint,
since it was a matter purely of temperament, not of resolve.
The girl saw in Mary Turner the possibilities of a ladylike
personality that might mean much financial profit in the devious
ways of which she was a mistress. With the frankness
characteristic of her, she proceeded to paint glowing pictures of
a future shared to the undoing of ardent and fatuous swains.
Mary Turner listened with curiosity, but she was in no wise moved
to follow such a life, even though it did not necessitate
anything worse than a fraudulent playing at love, without
physical degradation. So, she steadfastly continued her
refusals, to the great astonishment of Aggie, who actually could
not understand in the least, even while she believed the other's
declaration of innocence of the crime for which she was serving a
sentence. But, for her own part, such innocence had nothing to
do with the matter. Where, indeed, could be the harm in making
some old sinner pay a round price for his folly? And always, in
response to every argument, Mary shook her head in negation. She
would live straight.
Then, the heavy brows of Aggie would draw down a little, and the
baby face would harden.
"You will find that you are up against a hell of a frost," she
would declare, brutally.
Mary found the profane prophecy true. Back in New York, she
experienced a poverty more ravaging than any she had known in
those five lean years of her working in the store. She had been
absolutely penniless for two days, and without food through the
gnawing hours, when she at last found employment of the humblest
in a milliner's shop. Followed a blessed interval in which she
worked contentedly, happy over the meager stipend, since it
served to give her shelter and food honestly earned.
But the ways of the police are not always those of ordinary
decency. In due time, an officer informed Mary's employer
concerning the fact of her record as a convict, and thereupon she
was at once discharged. The unfortunate victim of the law came
perilously close to despair then. Yet, her spirit triumphed, and
again she persevered in that resolve to live straight. Finally,
for the second time, she secured a cheap position in a cheap
shop--only to be again persecuted by the police, so that she
speedily lost the place.
Nevertheless, indomitable in her purpose, she maintained the
struggle. A third time she obtained work, and there, after a
little, she told her employer, a candy manufacturer in a small
way, the truth as to her having been in prison. The man had a
kindly heart, and, in addition, he ran little risk in the matter,
so he allowed her to remain. When, presently, the police called
his attention to the girl's criminal record, he paid no heed to
their advice against retaining her services. But such action on
his part offended the greatness of the law's dignity. The police
brought pressure to bear on the man. They even called in the
assistance of Edward Gilder himself, who obligingly wrote a very
severe letter to the girl's employer. In the end, such tactics
alarmed the man. For the sake of his own interests, though
unwillingly enough, he dismissed Mary from his service.
It was then that despair did come upon the girl. She had tried
with all the strength of her to live straight. Yet, despite her
innocence, the world would not let her live according to her own
conscience. It demanded that she be the criminal it had branded
her--if she were to live at all. So, it was despair! For she
would not turn to evil, and without such turning she could not
live. She still walked the streets falteringly, seeking some
place; but her heart was gone from the quest. Now, she was
sunken in an apathy that saved her from the worst pangs of
misery. She had suffered so much, so poignantly, that at last
her emotions had grown sluggish. She did not mind much even when
her tiny hoard of money was quite gone, and she roamed the city,
starving.... Came an hour when she thought of the river, and was
Mary remembered, with a wan smile, how, long ago, she had thought
with amazed horror of suicide, unable to imagine any trouble
sufficient to drive one to death as the only relief. Now,
however, the thing was simple to her. Since there was nothing
else, she must turn to that--to death. Indeed, it was so very
simple, so final, and so easy, after the agonies she had endured,
that she marveled over her own folly in not having sought such
escape before.... Even with the first wild fancy, she had
unconsciously bent her steps westward toward the North River.
Now, she quickened her pace, anxious for the plunge that should
set the term to sorrow. In her numbed brain was no flicker of
thought as to whatever might come to her afterward. Her sole
guide was that compelling passion of desire to be done with this
unbearable present. Nothing else mattered--not in the least!
So, she came through the long stretch of ill-lighted streets,
crossed some railroad tracks to a pier, over which she hurried to
the far end, where it projected out to the fiercer currents of
the Hudson. There, without giving herself a moment's pause for
reflection or hesitation, she leaped out as far as her strength
permitted into the coil of waters.... But, in that final second,
natural terror in the face of death overcame the lethargy of
despair--a shriek burst from her lips.
But for that scream of fear, the story of Mary Turner had ended
there and then. Only one person was anywhere near to catch the
sound. And that single person heard. On the south side of the
pier a man had just tied up a motor-boat. He stood up in alarm
at the cry, and was just in time to gain a glimpse of a white
face under the dim moonlight as it swept down with the tide, two
rods beyond him. On the instant, he threw off his coat and
sprang far out after the drifting body. He came to it in a few
furious strokes, caught it. Then began the savage struggle to
save her and himself. The currents tore at him wrathfully, but he
fought against them with all the fierceness of his nature. He
had strength a-plenty, but it needed all of it, and more, to win
out of the river's hungry clutch. What saved the two of them was
the violent temper of the man. Always, it had been the demon to
set him aflame. To-night, there in the faint light, within the
grip of the waters, he was moved to insensate fury against the
element that menaced. His rage mounted, and gave him new power
in the battle. Maniacal strength grew out of supreme wrath.
Under the urge of it, he conquered--at last brought himself and
his charge to the shore.
When, finally, the rescuer was able to do something more than
gasp chokingly, he gave anxious attention to the woman whom he
had brought out from the river. Yet, at the outset, he could not
be sure that she still lived. She had shown no sign of life at
any time since he had first seized her. That fact had been of
incalculable advantage to him in his efforts to reach the shore
with her. Now, however, it alarmed him mightily, though it
hardly seemed possible that she could have drowned. So far as he
could determine, she: had not even sunk once beneath the surface.
Nevertheless, she displayed no evidence of vitality, though he
chafed her hands for a long time. The shore here was very
lonely; it would take precious time to summon aid. It seemed,
notwithstanding, that this must be the only course. Then just as
the man was about to leave her, the girl sighed, very faintly,
with an infinite weariness, and opened her eyes. The man echoed
the sigh, but his was of joy, since now he knew that his strife
in the girl's behalf had not been in vain.
Afterward, the rescuer experienced no great difficulty in
carrying out his work to a satisfactory conclusion. Mary revived
to clear consciousness, which was at first inclined toward
hysteria, but this phase yielded soon under the sympathetic
ministrations of the man. His rather low voice was soothing to
her tired soul, and his whole air was at once masterful and
gently tender. Moreover, there was an inexpressible balm to her
spirit in the very fact that some one was thus ministering to
her. It was the first time for many dreadful years that any one
had taken thought for her welfare. The effect of it was like a
draught of rarest wine to warm her heart. So, she rested
obediently as he busied himself with her complete restoration,
and, when finally she was able to stand, and to walk with the
support of his arm, she went forward slowly at his side without
so much even as a question of whither.
And, curiously, the man himself shared the gladness that touched
the mood of the girl, for he experienced a sudden pride in his
accomplishment of the night, a pride that delighted a starved
part of his nature. Somewhere in him were the seeds of
self-sacrifice, the seeds of a generous devotion to others. But
those seeds had been left undeveloped in a life that had been
lived since early boyhood outside the pale of respectability.
To-night, Joe Garson had performed, perhaps, his first action
with no thought of self at the back of it. He had risked his
life to save that of a stranger. The fact astonished him, while
it pleased him hugely. The sensation was at once novel and
thrilling. Since it was so agreeable, he meant to prolong the
glow of self-satisfaction by continuing to care for this waif of
the river. He must make his rescue complete. It did not occur to
him to question his fitness for the work. His introspection did
not reach to a point of suspecting that he, an habitual criminal,
was necessarily of a sort to be most objectionable as the
protector of a young girl. Indeed, had any one suggested the
thought to him, he would have met it with a sneer, to the effect
that a wretch thus tired of life could hardly object to any one
who constituted himself her savior.
In this manner, Joe Garson, the notorious forger, led the
dripping girl eastward through the squalid streets, until at last
they came to an adequately lighted avenue, and there a taxicab
was found. It carried them farther north, and to the east still,
until at last it came to a halt before an apartment house that
was rather imposing, set in a street of humbler dwellings. Here,
Garson paid the fare, and then helped the girl to alight, and on
into the hallway. Mary went with him quite unafraid, though now
with a growing curiosity. Strange as it all was, she felt that
she could trust this man who had plucked her from death, who had
worked over her with so much of tender kindliness. So, she
waited patiently; only, watched with intentness as he pressed the
button of a flat number. She observed with interest the thick,
wavy gray of his hair, which contradicted pleasantly the
youthfulness of his clean-shaven, resolute face, and the spare,
yet well-muscled form.
The clicking of the door-latch sounded soon, and the two entered,
and went slowly up three flights of stairs. On the landing beyond
the third flight, the door of a rear flat stood open, and in the
doorway appeared the figure of a woman.
"Well, Joe, who's the skirt?" this person demanded, as the man
and his charge halted before her. Then, abruptly, the round,
baby-like face of the woman puckered in amazement. Her voice
rose shrill. "My Gawd, if it ain't Mary Turner!"
At that, the newcomer's eyes opened swiftly to their widest, and
she stared astounded in her turn.
"Aggie!" she cried.
In the time that followed, Mary lived in the flat which Aggie
Lynch occupied along with her brother, Jim, a pickpocket much
esteemed among his fellow craftsmen. The period wrought
transformations of radical and bewildering sort in both the
appearance and the character of the girl. Joe Garson, the
forger, had long been acquainted with Aggie and her brother,
though he considered them far beneath him in the social scale,
since their criminal work was not of that high kind on which he
prided himself. But, as he cast about for some woman to whom he
might take the hapless girl he had rescued, his thoughts fell on
Aggie, and forthwith his determination was made, since he knew
that she was respectable, viewed according to his own peculiar
lights. He was relieved rather than otherwise to learn that
there was already an acquaintance between the two women, and the
fact that his charge had served time in prison did not influence
him one jot against her. On the contrary, it increased in some
measure his respect for her as one of his own kind. By the time
he had learned as well of her innocence, he had grown so
interested that even her folly, as he was inclined to deem it,
did not cause any wavering in his regard.
Now, at last, Mary Turner let herself drift. It seemed to her
that she had abandoned herself to fate in that hour when she
threw herself into the river. Afterward, without any volition on
her part, she had been restored to life, and set within an
environment new and strange to her, in which soon, to her
surprise, she discovered a vivid pleasure. So, she fought no
more, but left destiny to work its will unhampered by her futile
strivings. For the first time in her life, thanks to the
hospitality of Aggie Lynch, secretly reinforced from the funds of
Joe Garson, Mary found herself living in luxurious idleness,
while her every wish could be gratified by the merest mention of
it. She was fed on the daintiest of fare, for Aggie was a
sybarite in all sensuous pleasures that were apart from sex. She
was clothed with the most delicate richness for the first time as
to those more mysterious garments which women love, and she soon
had a variety of frocks as charming as her graceful form
demanded. In addition, there were as many of books and magazines
as she could wish. Her mind, long starved like her body, seized
avidly on the nourishment thus afforded. In this interest, Aggie
had no share--was perhaps a little envious over Mary's absorption
in printed pages. But for her consolation were the matters of
food and dress, and of countless junketings. In such directions,
Aggie was the leader, an eager, joyous one always. She took a
vast pride in her guest, with the unmistakable air of elegance,
and she dared to dream of great triumphs to come, though as yet
she carefully avoided any suggestion to Mary of wrong-doing.
In the end, the suggestion came from Mary Turner herself, to the
great surprise of Aggie, and, truth to tell, of herself.
There were two factors that chiefly influenced her decision. The
first was due to the feeling that, since the world had rejected
her, she need no longer concern herself with the world's opinion,
or retain any scruples over it. Back of this lay her bitter
sentiment toward the man who had been the direct cause of her
imprisonment, Edward Gilder. It seemed to her that the general
warfare against the world might well be made an initial step in
the warfare she meant to wage, somehow, some time, against that
man personally, in accordance with the hysterical threat she had
uttered to his face.
The factor that was the immediate cause of her decision on an
irregular mode of life was an editorial in one of the daily
newspapers. This was a scathing arraignment of a master in high
finance. The point of the writer's attack was the grim sarcasm
for such methods of thievery as are kept within the law. That
phrase held the girl's fancy, and she read the article again with
a quickened interest. Then, she began to meditate. She herself
was in a curious, indeterminate attitude as far as concerned the
law. It was the law that had worked the ruin of her life, which
she had striven to make wholesome. In consequence, she felt for
the law no genuine respect, only detestation as for the epitome
of injustice. Yet, she gave it a superficial respect, born of
those three years of suffering which had been the result of the
penalty inflicted on her. It was as an effect of this latter
feeling that she was determined on one thing of vital importance:
that never would she be guilty of anything to pit her against the
law's decrees. She had known too many hours of anguish in the
doom set on her life because she had been deemed a violator of
the law. No, never would she let herself take any position in
which the law could accuse her.... But there remained the fact
that the actual cause of her long misery was this same law,
manipulated by the man she hated. It had punished her, though
she had been without fault. For that reason, she must always
regard it as her enemy, must, indeed, hate it with an intensity
beyond words--with an intensity equal to that she bore the man,
Gilder. Now, in the paragraph she had just read she found a clue
to suggestive thought, a hint as to a means by which she might
satisfy her rancor against the law that had outraged her--and
this in safety since she would attempt nought save that within
the law.
Mary's heart leaped at the possibility back of those three words,
"within the law." She might do anything, seek any revenge, work
any evil, enjoy any mastery, as long as she should keep within
the law. There could be no punishment then. That was the lesson
taught by the captain in high finance. He was at pains always in
his stupendous robberies to keep within the law. To that end, he
employed lawyers of mighty cunning and learning to guide his
steps aright in such tortuous paths.
There, then, was the secret. Why should she not use the like
means? Why, indeed? She had brains enough to devise, surely.
Beyond that, she needed only to keep her course most carefully
within those limits of wrong-doing permitted by the statutes.
For that, the sole requirement would be a lawyer equally
unscrupulous and astute. At once, Mary's mind was made up.
After all, the thing was absurdly simple. It was merely a matter
for ingenuity and for prudence in alliance.... Moreover, there
would come eventually some adequate device against her
arch-enemy, Edward Gilder.
Mary meditated on the idea for many days, and ever it seemed
increasingly good to her. Finally, it developed to a point where
she believed it altogether feasible, and then she took Joe Garson
into her confidence. He was vastly astonished at the outset and
not quite pleased. To his view, this plan offered merely a
fashion of setting difficulties in the way of achievement.
Presently, however, the sincerity and persistence of the girl won
him over. The task of convincing him would have been easier had
he himself ever known the torment of serving a term in prison.
Thus far, however, the forger had always escaped the penalty for
his crimes, though often close to conviction. But Mary's
arguments were of a compelling sort as she set them forth in
detail, and they made their appeal to Garson, who was by no means
lacking in a shrewd native intelligence. He agreed that the
experiment should be made, notwithstanding the fact that he felt
no particular enthusiasm over the proposed scheme of working. It
is likely that his own strong feeling of attraction toward the
girl whom he had saved from death, who now appeared before him as
a radiantly beautiful young woman, was more persuasive than the
excellent ideas which she presented so emphatically, and with a
logic so impressive.
An agreement was made by which Joe Garson and certain of his more
trusted intimates in the underworld were to put themselves under
the orders of Mary concerning the sphere of their activities.
Furthermore, they bound themselves not to engage in any devious
business without her consent. Aggie, too, was one of the company
thus constituted, but she figured little in the preliminary
discussions, since neither Mary nor the forger had much respect
for the intellectual capabilities of the adventuress, though they
appreciated to the full her remarkable powers of influencing men
to her will.
It was not difficult to find a lawyer suited to the necessities
of the undertaking. Mary bore in mind constantly the high
financier's reliance on the legal adviser competent to invent a
method whereby to baffle the law at any desired point, and after
judicious investigation she selected an ambitious and experienced
Jew named Sigismund Harris, just in the prime of his mental
vigors, who possessed a knowledge of the law only to be equalled
by his disrespect for it. He seemed, indeed, precisely the man
to fit the situation for one desirous of outraging the law
remorselessly, while still retaining a place absolutely within
Forthwith, the scheme was set in operation. As a first step,
Mary Turner became a young lady of independent fortune, who had
living with her a cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch. The flat was
abandoned. In its stead was an apartment in the nineties on
Riverside Drive, in which the ladies lived alone with two maids
to serve them. Garson had rooms in the neighborhood, but Jim
Lynch, who persistently refused the conditions of such an
alliance, betook himself afar, to continue his reckless gathering
of other folk's money in such wise as to make him amenable to the
law the very first time he should be caught at it.
A few tentative ventures resulted in profits so large that the
company grew mightily enthusiastic over the novel manner of
working. In each instance, Harris was consulted, and made his
confidential statement as to the legality of the thing proposed.
Mary gratified her eager mind by careful studies in this chosen
line of nefariousness. After a few perfectly legal
breach-of-promise suits, due to Aggie's winsome innocence of
demeanor, had been settled advantageously out of court, Mary
devised a scheme of greater elaborateness, with the legal acumen
of the lawyer to endorse it in the matter of safety.
This netted thirty thousand dollars. It was planned as the
swindling of a swindler--which, in fact, had now become the
secret principle in Mary's morality.
A gentleman possessed of some means, none too scrupulous himself,
but with high financial aspirations, advertised for a partner to
invest capital in a business sure to bring large returns. This
advertisement caught the eye of Mary Turner, and she answered it.
An introductory correspondence encouraged her to hope for the
victory in a game of cunning against cunning. She consulted with
the perspicacious Mr. Harris, and especially sought from him
detailed information as to partnership law. His statements gave
her such confidence that presently she entered into a partnership
with the advertiser. By the terms of their agreement, each
deposited thirty thousand dollars to the partnership account.
This sum of sixty thousand dollars was ostensibly to be devoted
to the purchase of a tract of land, which should afterward be
divided into lots, and resold to the public at enormous profit.
As a matter of fact, the advertiser planned to make a spurious
purchase of the tract in question, by means of forged deeds
granted by an accomplice, thus making through fraud a neat profit
of thirty thousand dollars. The issue was, however,
disappointing to him in the extreme. No sooner was the sixty
thousand dollars on deposit in the bank than Mary Turner drew out
the whole amount, as she had a perfect right to do legally. When
the advertiser learned of this, he was, naturally enough, full to
overflowing with wrath. But after an interview with Harris he
swallowed this wrath as best he might. He found that his
adversary knew a dangerous deal as to his various swindling
operations. In short, he could not go into court with clean
hands, which is a prime stipulation of the law--though often
honored in the breach. But the advertiser's hands were too
perilously filthy, so he let himself be mulcted in raging
The event established Mary as the arbiter in her own coterie.
Here was, in truth, a new game, a game most entertaining, and
most profitable, and not in the least risky. Immediately after
the adventure with the advertiser, Mary decided that a certain
General Hastings would make an excellent sacrifice on the altar
of justice--and to her own financial profit. The old man was a
notorious roue, of most unsavory reputation as a destroyer of
innocence. It was probable that he would easily fall a victim to
the ingenuous charms of Aggie. As for that precocious damsel, she
would run no least risk of destruction by the satyr. So,
presently, there were elaborate plottings. General Hastings met
Aggie in the most casual way. He was captivated by her freshness
and beauty, her demureness, her ignorance of all things vicious.
Straightway, he set his snares, being himself already limed. He
showered every gallant attention on the naive bread-and-butter
miss, and succeeded gratifyingly soon in winning her heart--to
all appearance. But he gained nothing more, for the coy creature
abruptly developed most effective powers of resistance to every
blandishment that went beyond strictest propriety. His ardor
cooled suddenly when Harris filed the papers in a suit for ten
thousand dollars damages for breach of promise.
Even while this affair was still in the course of execution, Mary
found herself engaged in a direction that offered at least the
hope of attaining her great desire, revenge against Edward
Gilder. This opportunity came in the person of his son, Dick.
After much contriving, she secured an introduction to that young
man. Forthwith, she showed herself so deliciously womanly, so
intelligent, so daintily feminine, so singularly beautiful, that
the young man was enamored almost at once. The fact thrilled
Mary to the depths of her heart, for in this son of the man whom
she hated she saw the instrument of vengeance for which she had
so longed. Yet, this one thing was so vital to her that she said
nothing of her purposes, not even to Aggie, though that observant
person may have possessed suspicions more or less near the truth.
It was some such suspicion that lay behind her speech as, in
negligee, she sat cross-legged on the bed, smoking a cigarette in
a very knowing way, while watching Mary, who was adjusting her
hat before the mirror of her dressing-table, one pleasant spring
"Dollin' up a whole lot, ain't you?" Aggie remarked, affably,
with that laxity of language which characterized her natural
"I have a very important engagement with Dick Gilder," Mary
replied, tranquilly. She vouchsafed nothing more definite as to
her intentions.
"Nice boy, ain't he?" Aggie ventured, insinuatingly.
"Oh, I suppose so," came the indifferent answer from Mary, as she
tilted the picture hat to an angle a trifle more jaunty.
The pseudo cousin sniffed.
"You s'pose that, do you? Well, anyhow, he's here so much we
ought to be chargin' him for his meal-ticket. And yet I ain't
sure that you even know whether he's the real goods, or not."
The fair face of Mary Turner hardened the least bit. There shone
an expression of inscrutable disdain in the violet eyes, as she
turned to regard Aggie with a level glance.
"I know that he's the son--the only son!--of Edward Gilder. The
fact is enough for me."
The adventuress of the demure face shook her head in token of
complete bafflement. Her rosy lips pouted in petulant
"I don't get you, Mary," she admitted, querulously. "You never
used to look at the men. The way you acted when you first run
round with me, I thought you sure was a suffragette. And then
you met this young Gilder --and--good-night, nurse!"
The hardness remained in Mary's face, as she continued to regard
her friend. But, now, there was something quizzical in the
glance with which she accompanied the monosyllable:
Again, Aggie shook her head in perplexity.
"His old man sends you up for a stretch for something you didn't
do--and you take up with his son like----"
"And yet you don't understand!" There was scorn for such gross
stupidity in the musical voice.
Aggie choked a little from the cigarette smoke, as she gave a
gasp when suspicion of the truth suddenly dawned on her slow
"My Gawd!" Her voice came in a treble shriek of apprehension.
"I'm wise!"
"But you must understand this," Mary went on, with an
authoritative note in her voice. "Whatever may be between young
Gilder and me is to be strictly my own affair. It has absolutely
nothing to do with the rest of you, or with our schemes for
money-making. And, what is more, Agnes, I don't want to talk
about it. But----"
"Yes?" queried Aggie, encouragingly, as the other paused. She
hopefully awaited further confidences.
"But I do want to know," Mary continued with some severity, "what
you meant by talking in the public street yesterday with a common
Aggie's childlike face changed swiftly its expression from a sly
eagerness to sullenness.
"You know perfectly well, Mary Turner," she cried indignantly,
"that I only said a few words in passin' to my brother Jim. And
he ain't no common pickpocket. Hully Gee! He's the best dip in
the business."
"But you must not be seen speaking with him," Mary directed, with
a certain air of command now become habitual to her among the
members of her clique. "My cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch, must be
very careful as to her associates."
The volatile Agnes was restored to good humor by some subtle
quality in the utterance, and a family pride asserted itself.
"He just stopped me to say it's been the best year he ever had,"
she explained, with ostentatious vanity.
Mary appeared sceptical.
"How can that be," she demanded, "when the dead line now is John
"The dead line!" Aggie scoffed. A peal of laughter rang merrily
from her curving lips.
"Why, Jim takes lunch every day in the Wall Street Delmonico's.
Yes," she went on with increasing animation, "and only yesterday
he went down to Police Headquarters, just for a little
excitement, 'cause Jim does sure hate a dull life. Say, he told
me they've got a mat at the door with 'Welcome' on it--in letters
three feet high. Now, what--do--you--think--of that!" Aggie
teetered joyously, the while she inhaled a shockingly large
mouthful of smoke. "And, oh, yes!" she continued happily, "Jim,
he lifted a leather from a bull who was standing in the hallway
there at Headquarters! Jim sure does love excitement."
Mary lifted her dark eyebrows in half-amused inquiry.
"It's no use, Agnes," she declared, though without entire
sincerity; "I can't quite keep up with your thieves' argot--your
slang, you know. Just what did this brother of yours do?"
"Why, he copped the copper's kale," Aggie translated, glibly.
Mary threw out her hands in a gesture of dismay.
Thereupon, the adventuress instantly assumed a most ladylike and
mincing air which ill assorted with the cigarette that she held
between her lips.
"He gently removed a leathern wallet," she said sedately,
"containing a large sum of money from the coat pocket of a member
of the detective force." The elegance of utterance was
inimitably done. But in the next instant, the ordinary vulgarity
of enunciation was in full play again. "Oh, Gee!" she cried
gaily. "He says Inspector Burke's got a gold watch that weighs a
ton, an' all set with diamon's!--which was give to 'im
by--admirin' friends!... We didn't contribute."
"Given to him," Mary corrected, with a tolerant smile.
Aggie sniffed once again.
"What difference does it make?" she demanded, scornfully. "He's
got it, ain't he?" And then she added with avaricious intensity:
"Just as soon as I get time, I'm goin' after that watch--believe
Mary shook her head in denial.
"No, you are not," she said, calmly. "You are under my orders
now. And as long as you are working with us, you will break no
"But I can't see----" Aggie began to argue with the petulance of
a spoiled child.
Mary's voice came with a certainty of conviction born of fact.
"When you were working alone," she said gravely, did you have a
home like this?"
"No," was the answer, spoken a little rebelliously.
"Or such clothes? Most of all, did you have safety from the
"No," Aggie admitted, somewhat more responsively. "But, just the
same, I can't see----"
Mary began putting on her gloves, and at the same time strove to
give this remarkable young woman some insight into her own point
of view, though she knew the task to be one well-nigh impossible.
"Agnes," she said, didactically, "the richest men in this country
have made their fortunes, not because of the law, but in spite of
the law. They made up their minds what they wanted to do, and
then they engaged lawyers clever enough to show them how they
could do it, and still keep within the law. Any one with brains
can get rich in this country if he will engage the right lawyer.
Well, I have the brains--and Harris is showing me the law--the
wonderful twisted law that was made for the rich! Since we keep
inside the law, we are safe."
Aggie, without much apprehension of the exact situation, was
moved to a dimpled mirth over the essential humor of the method
"Gee, that's funny," she cried happily. "You an' me an' Joe
Garson handin' it to 'em, an' the bulls can't touch us! Next
thing you know, Harris will be havin' us incorporated as the
American Legal Crime Society."
"I shouldn't be in the least surprised," Mary assented, as she
finished buttoning her gloves. She smiled, but there was a hint
of grimness in the bending of her lips. That grimness remained,
as she glanced at the clock, then went toward the door of the
room, speaking over her shoulder.
"And, now I must be off to a most important engagement with Mr.
Dick Gilder."
Presently, when she had finished the cigarette, Aggie proceeded
to her own chamber and there spent a considerable time in making
a toilette calculated to set off to its full advantage the
slender daintiness of her form. When at last she was gowned to
her satisfaction, she went into the drawing-room of the apartment
and gave herself over to more cigarettes, in an easy chair,
sprawled out in an attitude of comfort never taught in any
finishing school for young ladies. She at the same time indulged
her tastes in art and literature by reading the jokes and
studying the comic pictures in an evening paper, which the maid
brought in at her request. She had about exhausted this form of
amusement when the coming of Joe Garson, who was usually in and
out of the apartment a number of times daily, provided a welcome
diversion. After a casual greeting between the two, Aggie
explained, in response to his question, that Mary had gone out to
keep an engagement with Dick Gilder.
There was a little period of silence while the man, with the
resolute face and the light gray eyes that shone so clearly
underneath the thick, waving silver hair, held his head bent
downward as if in intent thought. When, finally, he spoke, there
was a certain quality in his voice that caused Aggie to regard
him curiously.
"Mary has been with him a good deal lately," he said, half
"That's what," was the curt agreement.
Garson brought out his next query with the brutal bluntness of
his kind; and yet there was a vague suggestion of tenderness in
his tones under the vulgar words.
"Think she's stuck on him?" He had seated himself on a settee
opposite the girl, who did not trouble on his account to assume a
posture more decorous, and he surveyed her keenly as he waited
for a reply.
"Why not?" Aggie retorted. "Bet your life I'd be, if I had a
chance. He's a swell boy. And his father's got the coin, too."
At this the man moved impatiently, and his eyes wandered to the
window. Again, Aggie studied him with a swift glance of
interrogation. Not being the possessor of an over-nice
sensibility as to the feelings of others, she now spoke briskly.
"Joe, if there's anything on your mind, shoot it."
Garson hesitated for a moment, then decided to unburden himself,
for he craved precise knowledge in this matter.
"It's Mary," he explained, with some embarrassment; "her and
young Gilder."
"Well?" came the crisp question.
"Well, somehow," Garson went on, still somewhat confusedly, "I
can't see any good of it, for her."
"Why?" Aggie demanded, in surprise.
Garson's manner grew easier, now that the subject was well
"Old man Gilder's got a big pull," he vouchsafed, "and if he
caught on to his boy's going with Mary, he'd be likely to send
the police after us--strong! Believe me, I ain't looking for any
trip up the river."
Aggie shook her head, quite unaffected by the man's suggestion of
possible peril in the situation.
"We ain't done nothin' they can touch us for," she declared, with
assurance. "Mary says so."
Garson, however, was unconvinced, notwithstanding his deference
to the judgment of his leader.
"Whether we've done anything, or whether we haven't, don't
matter," he objected. "Once the police set out after you,
they'll get you. Russia ain't in it with some of the things I
have seen pulled off in this town."
"Oh, can that 'fraid talk!" Aggie exclaimed, roughly. "I tell you
they can't get us. We've got our fingers crossed."
She would have said more, but a noise at the hall door
interrupted her, and she looked up to see a man in the opening,
while behind him appeared the maid, protesting angrily.
"Never mind that announcing thing with me," the newcomer rasped
to the expostulating servant, in a voice that suited well his
thick-set figure, with the bullet-shaped head and the bull-like
neck. Then he turned to the two in the drawing-room, both of
whom had now risen to their feet.
"It's all right, Fannie," Aggie said hastily to the flustered
maid. "You can go."
As the servant, after an indignant toss of the head, departed
along the passage, the visitor clumped heavily forward and
stopped in the center of the room, looking first at one and then
the other of the two with a smile that was not pleasant. He was
not at pains to remove the derby hat which he wore rather far
back on his head. By this single sign, one might have recognized
Cassidy, who had had Mary Turner in his charge on the occasion of
her ill-fated visit to Edward Gilder's office, four years before,
though now the man had thickened somewhat, and his ruddy face was
grown even coarser.
"Hello, Joe!" he cried, familiarly. "Hello, Aggie!"
The light-gray eyes of the forger had narrowed perceptibly as he
recognized the identity of the unceremonious caller, while the
lines of his firmly set mouth took on an added fixity.
"Well?" he demanded. His voice was emotionless.
"Just a little friendly call," Cassidy announced, in his strident
voice. "Where's the lady of the house?"
"Out." It was Aggie who spoke, very sharply.
"Well, Joe," Cassidy went on, without paying further heed to the
girl for a moment, "when she comes back, just tell her it's up to
her to make a get-away, and to make it quick."
But Aggie was not one to be ignored under any circumstances.
Now, she spoke with some acerbity in her voice, which could at
will be wondrous soft and low.
"Say!" she retorted viciously, "you can't throw any scare into
us. You hadn't got anything on us. See?"
Cassidy, in response to this outburst, favored the girl with a
long stare, and there was hearty amusement in his tones as he
"Nothing on you, eh? Well, well, let's see." He regarded Garson
with a grin. "You are Joe Garson, forger." As he spoke, the
detective took a note-book from a pocket, found a page, and then
read: "First arrested in 1891, for forging the name of Edwin
Goodsell to a check for ten thousand dollars. Again arrested
June 19, 1893, for forgery. Arrested in April, 1898, for forging
the signature of Oscar Hemmenway to a series of bonds that were
counterfeit. Arrested as the man back of the Reilly gang, in
1903. Arrested in 1908 for forgery."
There was no change in the face or pose of the man who listened
to the reading. When it was done, and the officer looked up with
a resumption of his triumphant grin, Garson spoke quietly.
"Haven't any records of convictions, have you?"
The grin died, and a snarl sprang in its stead.
"No," he snapped, vindictively. "But we've got the right dope on
you, all right, Joe Garson." He turned savagely on the girl, who
now had regained her usual expression of demure innocence, but
with her rather too heavy brows drawn a little lower than their
wont, under the influence of an emotion otherwise concealed.
"And you're little Aggie Lynch," Cassidy declared, as he thrust
the note-book back into his pocket. "Just now, you're posing as
Mary Turner's cousin. You served two years in Burnsing for
blackmail. You were arrested in Buffalo, convicted, and served
your stretch. Nothing on you? Well, well!" Again there was
triumph in the officer's chuckle.
Aggie showed no least sign of perturbation in the face of this
revelation of her unsavory record. Only an expression of
half-incredulous wonder and delight beamed from her widely opened
blue eyes and was emphasized in the rounding of the little mouth.
"Why," she cried, and now there was softness enough in the cooing
notes, "my Gawd! It looks as though you had actually been
The sarcasm was without effect on the dull sensibilities of the
officer. He went on speaking with obvious enjoyment of the
extent to which his knowledge reached.
"And the head of the gang is Mary Turner. Arrested four years
ago for robbing the Emporium. Did her stretch of three years."
"Is that all you've got about her?" Garson demanded, with such
abruptness that Cassidy forgot his dignity sufficiently to answer
with an unqualified yes.
The forger continued speaking rapidly, and now there was an
undercurrent of feeling in his voice.
"Nothing in your record of her about her coming out without a
friend in the world, and trying to go straight? You ain't got
nothing in that pretty little book of your'n about your going to
the millinery store where she finally got a job, and tipping them
off to where she come from?"
"Sure, they was tipped off," Cassidy answered, quite unmoved.
And he added, swelling visibly with importance: "We got to
protect the city."
"Got anything in that record of your'n," Garson went on
venomously, "about her getting another job, and your following
her up again, and having her thrown out? Got it there about the
letter you had old Gilder write, so that his influence would get
her canned?"
"Oh, we had her right the first time," Cassidy admitted,
Then, the bitterness of Garson's soul was revealed by the
fierceness in his voice as he replied.
"You did not! She was railroaded for a job she never done. She
went in honest, and she came out honest."
The detective indulged himself in a cackle of sneering merriment.
"And that's why she's here now with a gang of crooks," he
Garson met the implication fairly.
"Where else should she be?" he demanded, violently. "You ain't
got nothing in that record about my jumping into the river after
her?" The forger's voice deepened and trembled with the
intensity of his emotion, which was now grown so strong that any
who listened and looked might guess something of the truth as to
his feeling toward this woman of whom he spoke. "That's where I
found her--a girl that never done nobody any harm, starving
because you police wouldn't give her a chance to work. In the
river because she wouldn't take the only other way that was left
her to make a living, because she was keeping straight!... Have
you got any of that in your book?"
Cassidy, who had been scowling in the face of this arraignment,
suddenly gave vent to a croaking laugh of derision.
"Huh!" he said, contemptuously. "I guess you're stuck on her,
At the words, an instantaneous change swept over Garson.
Hitherto, he had been tense, his face set with emotion, a man
strong and sullen, with eyes as clear and heartless as those of a
beast in the wild. Now, without warning, a startling
transformation was wrought. His form stiffened to rigidity after
one lightning-swift step forward, and his face grayed. The eyes
glowed with the fires of a man's heart in a spasm of hate. He
was the embodiment of rage, as he spoke huskily, his voice a
whisper that was yet louder than any shout.
"Cut that!"
The eyes of the two men locked. Cassidy struggled with all his
pride against the dominant fury this man hurled on him.
"What?" he demanded, blusteringly. But his tone was weaker than
its wont.
"I mean," Garson repeated, and there was finality in his accents,
a deadly quality that was appalling, "I mean, cut it out--now,
here, and all the time! It don't go!" The voice rose slightly.
The effect of it was more penetrant than a scream. "It don't
go!... Do you get me?"
There was a short interval of silence, then the officer's eyes at
last fell. It was Aggie who relieved the tension of the scene.
"He's got you," she remarked, airily. "Oi, oi! He's got you!"
There were again a few seconds of pause, and then Cassidy made an
observation that revealed in some measure the shock of the
experience he had just undergone.
"You would have been a big man, Joe, if it hadn't been for that
temper of yours. It's got you into trouble once or twice
already. Some time it's likely to prove your finish."
Garson relaxed his immobility, and a little color crept into his
"That's my business," he responded, dully.
"Anyway," the officer went on, with a new confidence, now that
his eyes were free from the gaze that had burned into his soul,
"you've got to clear out, the whole gang of you--and do it
Aggie, who as a matter of fact began to feel that she was not
receiving her due share of attention, now interposed, moving
forward till her face was close to the detective's.
"We don't scare worth a cent," she snapped, with the virulence of
a vixen. "You can't do anything to us. We ain't broke the law."
There came a sudden ripple of laughter, and the charming lips
curved joyously, as she added: "Though perhaps we have bent it a
Cassidy sneered, outraged by such impudence on the part of an
"Don't make no difference what you've done," he growled. "Gee!"
he went on, with a heavy sneer. "But things are coming to a
pretty pass when a gang of crooks gets to arguing about their
rights. That's funny, that is!"
"Then laugh!" Aggie exclaimed, insolently, and made a face at the
officer. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"Well, you've got the tip," Cassidy returned, somewhat
disconcerted, after a stolid fashion of his own. "It's up to you
to take it, that's all. If you don't, one of you will make a
long visit with some people out of town, and it'll probably be
Mary. Remember, I'm giving it to you straight."
Aggie assumed her formal society manner, exaggerated to the point
of extravagance.
"Do come again, little one," she chirruped, caressingly. "I've
enjoyed your visit so much!"
But Cassidy paid no apparent attention to her frivolousness; only
turned and went noisily out of the drawing-room, offering no
return to her daintily inflected good-afternoon.
For her own part, as she heard the outer door close behind the
detective, Aggie's expression grew vicious, and the heavy brows
drew very low, until the level line almost made her prettiness
"The truck-horse detective!" she sneered. "An eighteen collar,
and a six-and-a-half hat! He sure had his nerve, trying to bluff
But it was plain that Garson was of another mood. There was
anxiety in his face, as he stood staring vaguely out of the
"Perhaps it wasn't a bluff, Aggie," he suggested.
"Well, what have we done, I'd like to know?" the girl demanded,
confidently. She took a cigarette and a match from the tabouret
beside her, and stretched her feet comfortably, if very
inelegantly, on a chair opposite.
Garson answered with a note of weariness that was unlike him.
"It ain't what you have done," he said, quietly. "It's what they
can make a jury think you've done. And, once they set out to get
you--God, how they can frame things! If they ever start out after
Mary----" He did not finish the sentence, but sank down into his
chair with a groan that was almost of despair.
The girl replied with a burst of careless laughter.
"Joe," she said gaily, "you're one grand little forger, all
right, all right. But Mary's got the brains. Pooh, I'll string
along with her as far as she wants to go. She's educated, she is.
She ain't like you and me, Joe. She talks like a lady, and,
what's a damned sight harder, she acts like a lady. I guess I
know. Wake me up any old night and ask me--just ask me, that's
all. She's been tryin' to make a lady out of me!"
The vivaciousness of the girl distracted the man for the moment
from the gloom of his thoughts, and he turned to survey the
speaker with a cynical amusement.
"Swell chance!" he commented, drily.
"Oh, I'm not so worse! Just you watch out." The lively girl
sprang up, discarded the cigarette, adjusted an imaginary train,
and spoke lispingly in a society manner much more moderate and
convincing than that with which she had favored the retiring
Cassidy. Voice, pose and gesture proclaimed at least the
excellent mimic.
"How do you do, Mrs. Jones! So good of you to call!... My dear
Miss Smith, this is indeed a pleasure." She seated herself
again, quite primly now, and moved her hands over the tabouret
appropriately to her words. "One lump, or two?... Yes, I just
love bridge. No, I don't play," she continued, simpering; "but,
just the same, I love it." With this absurd ending, Aggie again
arranged her feet according to her liking on the opposite chair.
"That's the kind of stuff she's had me doing," she rattled on in
her coarser voice, "and believe me, Joe, it's damned near killing
me. But all the same," she hurried on, with a swift revulsion of
mood to the former serious topic, "I'm for Mary strong! You stick
to her, Joe, and you'll wear diamon's.... And that reminds me! I
wish she'd let me wear mine, but she won't. She says they're
vulgar for an innocent country girl like her cousin, Agnes Lynch.
Ain't that fierce?... How can anything be vulgar that's worth a
hundred and fifty a carat?"
Mary Turner spent less than an hour in that mysteriously
important engagement with Dick Gilder, of which she had spoken to
Aggie. After separating from the young man, she went alone down
Broadway, walking the few blocks of distance to Sigismund
Harris's office. On a corner, her attention was caught by the
forlorn face of a girl crossing into the side street. A closer
glance showed that the privation of the gaunt features was
emphasized by the scant garments, almost in tatters. Instantly,
Mary's quick sympathies were aroused, the more particularly since
the wretched child seemed of about the age she herself had been
when her great suffering had befallen. So, turning aside, she
soon caught up with the girl and spoke an inquiry.
It was the familiar story, a father out of work, a sick mother, a
brood of hungry children. Some confused words of distress
revealed the fact that the wobegone girl was even then fighting
the final battle of purity against starvation. That she still
fought on in such case proved enough as to her decency of nature,
wholesome despite squalid surroundings. Mary's heart was deeply
moved, and her words of comfort came with a simple sincerity that
was like new life to the sorely beset waif. She promised to
interest herself in securing employment for the father, such care
as the mother and children might need, along with a proper
situation for the girl herself. In evidence of her purpose, she
took her engagement-book from her bag, and set down the street
and number of the East Side tenement where the family possessed
the one room that mocked the word home, and she gave a banknote
to the girl to serve the immediate needs.
When she went back to resume her progress down Broadway, Mary
felt herself vastly cheered by the warm glow within, which is the
reward of a kindly act, gratefully received. And, on this
particular morning, she craved such assuagement of her spirit,
for the conscience that, in spite of all her misdeeds, still
lived was struggling within her. In her revolt against a world
that had wantonly inflicted on her the worst torments, Mary
Turner had thought that she might safely disregard those
principles in which she had been so carefully reared. She had
believed that by the deliberate adoption of a life of guile
within limits allowed by the law, she would find solace for her
wants, while feeling that thus she avenged herself in some slight
measure for the indignities she had undergone unjustly. Yet, as
the days passed, days of success as far as her scheming was
concerned, this brilliant woman, who had tried to deem herself
unscrupulous, found that lawlessness within the law failed to
satisfy something deep within her soul. The righteousness that
was her instinct was offended by the triumphs achieved through so
devious devices, though she resolutely set her will to suppress
any spiritual rebellion.
There was, as well, another grievance of her nature, yet more
subtle, infinitely more painful. This lay in her craving for
tenderness. She was wholly woman, notwithstanding the virility
of her intelligence, its audacity, its aggressiveness. She had a
heart yearning for the multitudinous affections that are the
prerogative of the feminine; she had a heart longing for love, to
receive and to give in full measure.... And her life was barren.
Since the death of her father, there had been none on whom she
could lavish the great gifts of her tenderness. Through the days
of her working in the store, circumstances had shut her out from
all association with others congenial. No need to rehearse the
impossibilities of companionship in the prison life. Since then,
the situation had not vitally improved, in spite of her better
worldly condition. For Garson, who had saved her from death, she
felt a strong and lasting gratitude--nothing that relieved the
longing for nobler affections. There was none other with whom
she had any intimacy except that, of a sort, with Aggie Lynch,
and by no possibility could the adventuress serve as an object of
deep regard. The girl was amusing enough, and, indeed, a most
likable person at her best. But she was, after all, a
shallow-pated individual, without a shred of principle of any
sort whatsoever, save the single merit of unswerving loyalty to
her "pals." Mary cherished a certain warm kindliness for the
first woman who had befriended her in any way, but beyond this
there was no finer feeling.
Nevertheless, it is not quite accurate to say that Mary Turner
had had no intimacy in which her heart might have been seriously
engaged. In one instance, of recent happening, she had been much
in association with a young man who was of excellent standing in
the world, who was of good birth, good education, of delightful
manners, and, too, wholesome and agreeable beyond the most of his
class. This was Dick Gilder, and, since her companionship with
him, Mary had undergone a revulsion greater than ever before
against the fate thrust on her, which now at last she had chosen
to welcome and nourish by acquiescence as best she might.
Of course, she could not waste tenderness on this man, for she
had deliberately set out to make him the instrument of her
vengeance against his father. For that very reason, she suffered
much from a conscience newly clamorous. Never for an instant did
she hesitate in her long-cherished plan of revenge against the
one who had brought ruin on her life, yet, through all her
satisfaction before the prospect of final victory after continued
delay, there ran the secret, inescapable sorrow over the fact
that she must employ this means to attain her end. She had no
thought of weakening, but the better spirit within her warred
against the lust to repay an eye for an eye. It was the new
Gospel against the old Law, and the fierceness of the struggle
rent her. Just now, the doing of the kindly act seemed somehow to
gratify not only her maternal instinct toward service of love,
but, too, to muffle for a little the rebuking voice of her inmost
So she went her way more at ease, more nearly content again with
herself and with her system of living. Indeed, as she was shown
into the private office of the ingenious interpreter of the law,
there was not a hint of any trouble beneath the bright mask of
her beauty, radiantly smiling.
Harris regarded his client with an appreciative eye, as he bowed
in greeting, and invited her to a seat. The lawyer was a man of
fine physique, with a splendid face of the best Semitic type, in
which were large, dark, sparkling eyes--eyes a Lombroso perhaps
might have judged rather too closely set. As a matter of fact,
Harris had suffered a flagrant injustice in his own life from a
suspicion of wrong-doing which he had not merited by any act.
This had caused him a loss of prestige in his profession. He
presently adopted the wily suggestion of the adage, that it is
well to have the game if you have the name, and he resolutely set
himself to the task of making as much money as possible by any
means convenient. Mary Turner as a client delighted his heart,
both because of the novelty of her ideas and for the munificence
of the fees which she ungrudgingly paid with never a protest.
So, as he beamed on her now, and spoke a compliment, it was
rather the lawyer than the man that was moved to admiration.
"Why, Miss Turner, how charming!" he declared, smiling. "Really,
my dear young lady, you look positively bridal."
"Oh, do you think so?" Mary rejoined, with a whimsical pout, as
she seated herself. For the moment her air became distrait, but
she quickly regained her poise, as the lawyer, who had dropped
back into his chair behind the desk, went on speaking. His tone
now was crisply business-like.
"I sent your cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch, the release which she is
to sign," he explained, "when she gets that money from General
Hastings. I wish you'd look it over, when you have time to
spare. It's all right, I'm sure, but I confess that I appreciate
your opinion of things, Miss Turner, even of legal
documents--yes, indeed, I do!--perhaps particularly of legal
"Thank you," Mary said, evidently a little gratified by the frank
praise of the learned gentleman for her abilities. "And have you
heard from them yet?" she inquired.
"No," the lawyer replied. "I gave them until to-morrow. If I
don't hear then, I shall start suit at once." Then the lawyer's
manner became unusually bland and self-satisfied as he opened a
drawer of the desk and brought forth a rather
formidable-appearing document, bearing a most impressive seal.
"You will be glad to know," he went on unctuously, "that I was
entirely successful in carrying out that idea of yours as to the
injunction. My dear Miss Turner," he went on with florid
compliment, "Portia was a squawking baby, compared with you."
"Thank you again," Mary answered, as she took the legal paper
which he held outstretched toward her. Her scarlet lips were
curved happily, and the clear oval of her cheeks blossomed to a
deeper rose. For a moment, her glance ran over the words of the
page. Then she looked up at the lawyer, and there were new
lusters in the violet eyes.
"It's splendid," she declared. "Did you have much trouble in
getting it?"
Harris permitted himself the indulgence of an unprofessional
chuckle of keenest amusement before he answered.
"Why, no!" he declared, with reminiscent enjoyment in his manner.
"That is, not really!" There was an enormous complacency in his
air over the event. "But, at the outset, when I made the
request, the judge just naturally nearly fell off the bench.
Then, I showed him that Detroit case, to which you had drawn my
attention, and the upshot of it all was that he gave me what I
wanted without a whimper. He couldn't help himself, you know.
That's the long and the short of it."
That mysterious document with the imposing seal, the request for
which had nearly caused a judge to fall off the bench, reposed
safely in Mary's bag when she, returned to the apartment after
the visit to the lawyer's office.
Mary had scarcely received from Aggie an account of Cassidy's
threatening invasion, when the maid announced that Mr. Irwin had
"Show him in, in just two minutes," Mary directed.
"Who's the gink?" Aggie demanded, with that slangy diction which
was her habit.
"You ought to know," Mary returned, smiling a little. "He's the
lawyer retained by General Hastings in the matter of a certain
breach-of-promise suit."
"Oh, you mean yours truly," Aggie exclaimed, not in the least
abashed by her forgetfulness in an affair that concerned herself
so closely. "Hope he's brought the money. What about it?"
"Leave the room now," Mary ordered, crisply. "When I call to you,
come in, but be sure and leave everything to me. Merely follow
my lead. And, Agnes--be very ingenue."
"Oh, I'm wise--I'm wise," Aggie nodded, as she hurried out toward
her bedroom. "I'll be a squab--surest thing you know!"
Next moment, Mary gave a formal greeting to the lawyer who
represented the man she planned to mulct effectively, and invited
him to a chair near her, while she herself retained her place at
the desk, within a drawer of which she had just locked the
formidable-appearing document received from Harris.
Irwin lost no time in coming to the point.
"I called in reference to this suit, which Miss Agnes Lynch
threatens to bring against my client, General Hastings."
Mary regarded the attorney with a level glance, serenely
expressionless as far as could be achieved by eyes so clear and
shining, and her voice was cold as she replied with significant
"It's not a threat, Mr. Irwin. The suit will be brought."
The lawyer frowned, and there was a strident note in his voice
when he answered, meeting her glance with an uncompromising stare
of hostility.
"You realize, of course," he said finally, "that this is merely
plain blackmail."
There was not the change of a feature in the face of the woman
who listened to the accusation. Her eyes steadfastly retained
their clear gaze into his; her voice was still coldly formal, as
"If it's blackmail, Mr. Irwin, why don't you consult the police?"
she inquired, with manifest disdain. Mary turned to the maid,
who now entered in response to the bell she had sounded a minute
before. "Fanny, will you ask Miss Lynch to come in, please?"
Then she faced the lawyer again, with an aloofness of manner that
was contemptuous. "Really, Mr. Irwin," she drawled, "why don't
you take this matter to the police?"
The reply was uttered with conspicuous exasperation.
"You know perfectly well," the lawyer said bitterly, "that
General Hastings cannot afford such publicity. His position would
be jeopardized."
"Oh, as for that," Mary suggested evenly, and now there was a
trace of flippancy in her fashion of speaking, "I'm sure the
police would keep your complaint a secret. Really, you know, Mr.
Irwin, I think you had better take your troubles to the police,
rather than to me. You will get much more sympathy from them."
The lawyer sprang up, with an air of sudden determination.
"Very well, I will then," he declared, sternly. "I will!"
Mary, from her vantage point at the desk across from him, smiled
a smile that would have been very engaging to any man under more
favorable circumstances, and she pushed in his direction the
telephone that stood there.
"3100, Spring," she remarked, encouragingly, "will bring an
officer almost immediately." She leaned back in her chair, and
surveyed the baffled man amusedly.
The lawyer was furious over the failure of his effort to
intimidate this extraordinarily self-possessed young woman, who
made a mock of his every thrust. But he was by no means at the
end of his resources.
"Nevertheless," he rejoined, "you know perfectly well that
General Hastings never promised to marry this girl. You
know----" He broke off as Aggie entered the drawing-room,
Now, the girl was demure in seeming almost beyond belief, a
childish creature, very fair and dainty, guileless surely, with
those untroubled eyes of blue, those softly curving lips of
warmest red and the more delicate bloom in the rounded cheeks.
There were the charms of innocence and simplicity in the manner
of her as she stopped just within the doorway, whence she
regarded Mary with a timid, pleading gaze, her slender little
form poised lightly as if for flight
"Did you want me, dear?" she asked. There was something
half-plaintive in the modulated cadences of the query.
"Agnes," Mary answered affectionately, "this is Mr. Irwin, who
has come to see you in behalf of General Hastings."
"Oh!" the girl murmured, her voice quivering a little, as the
lawyer, after a short nod, dropped again into his seat; "oh, I'm
so frightened!" She hurried, fluttering, to a low stool behind
the desk, beside Mary's chair, and there she sank down, drooping
slightly, and catching hold of one of Mary's hands as if in mute
pleading for protection against the fear that beset her chaste
"Nonsense!" Mary exclaimed, soothingly. "There's really nothing
at all to be frightened about, my dear child." Her voice was
that with which one seeks to cajole a terrified infant. "You
mustn't be afraid, Agnes. Mr. Irwin says that General Hastings
did not promise to marry you. Of course, you understand, my
dear, that under no circumstances must you say anything that
isn't strictly true, and that, if he did not promise to marry
you, you have no case--none at all. Now, Agnes, tell me: did
General Hastings promise to marry you?"
"Oh, yes--oh, yes, indeed!" Aggie cried, falteringly. "And I wish
he would. He's such a delightful old gentleman!" As she spoke,
the girl let go Mary's hand and clasped her own together
The legal representative of the delightful old gentleman scowled
disgustedly at this outburst. His voice was portentous, as he
put a question.
"Was that promise made in writing?"
"No," Aggie answered, gushingly. "But all his letters were in
writing, you know. Such wonderful letters!" She raised her blue
eyes toward the ceiling in a naive rapture. "So tender, and
so--er--interesting!" Somehow, the inflection on the last word
did not altogether suggest the ingenuous.
"Yes, yes, I dare say," Irwin agreed, hastily, with some
evidences of chagrin. He had no intention of dwelling on that
feature of the letters, concerning which he had no doubt
whatsoever, since he knew the amorous General very well indeed.
They would be interesting, beyond shadow of questioning, horribly
interesting. Such was the confessed opinion of the swain himself
who had written them in his folly--horribly interesting to all
the reading public of the country, since the General was a
conspicuous figure.
Mary intervened with a suavity that infuriated the lawyer almost
beyond endurance.
"But you're quite sure, Agnes," she questioned gently, "that
General Hastings did promise to marry you?" The candor of her
manner was perfect.
And the answer of Aggie was given with a like convincing
"Oh, yes!" she declared, tensely. "Why, I would swear to it."
The limpid eyes, so appealing in their soft lusters, went first
to Mary, then gazed trustingly into those of the routed attorney.
"You see, Mr. Irwin, she would swear to that," emphasized Mary.
"We're beaten," he confessed, dejectedly, turning his glance
toward Mary, whom, plainly, he regarded as his real adversary in
the combat on his client's behalf. "I'm going to be quite frank
with you, Miss Turner, quite frank," he stated with more
geniality, though with a very crestfallen air. Somehow, indeed,
there was just a shade too much of the crestfallen in the fashion
of his utterance, and the woman whom he addressed watched warily
as he continued. "We can't afford any scandal, so we're going to
settle at your own terms." He paused expectantly, but Mary
offered no comment; only maintained her alert scrutiny of the
man. The lawyer, therefore, leaned forward with a semblance of
frank eagerness. Instantly, Aggie had become agog with greedily
blissful anticipations, and she uttered a slight ejaculation of
joy; but Irwin paid no heed to her. He was occupied in taking
from his pocket a thick bill-case, and from this presently a
sheaf of banknotes, which he laid on the desk before Mary, with a
little laugh of discomfiture over having been beaten in the
As he did so, Aggie thrust forth an avaricious hand, but it was
caught and held by Mary before it reached above the top of the
desk, and the avaricious gesture passed unobserved by the
"We can't fight where ladies are concerned," he went on,
assuming, as best he might contrive, a chivalrous tone. "So, if
you will just hand over General Hastings' letters, why, here's
your money."
Much to the speaker's surprise, there followed an interval of
silence, and his puzzlement showed in the knitting of his brows.
"You have the letters, haven't you?" he demanded, abruptly.
Aggie coyly took a thick bundle from its resting place on her
rounded bosom.
"They never leave me," she murmured, with dulcet passion. There
was in her voice a suggestion of desolation--a desolation that
was the blighting effect of letting the cherished missives go
from her.
"Well, they can leave you now, all right," the lawyer remarked
unsympathetically, but with returning cheerfulness, since he saw
the end of his quest in visible form before him. He reached
quickly forward for the packet, which Aggie extended willingly
enough. But it was Mary who, with a swift movement, caught and
held it.
"Not quite yet, Mr. Irwin, I'm afraid," she said, calmly.
The lawyer barely suppressed a violent ejaculation of annoyance.
"But there's the money waiting for you," he protested,
The rejoinder from Mary was spoken with great deliberation, yet
with a note of determination that caused a quick and acute
anxiety to the General's representative.
"I think," Mary explained tranquilly, "that you had better see
our lawyer, Mr. Harris, in reference to this. We women know
nothing of such details of business settlement."
"Oh, there's no need for all that formality," Irwin urged, with a
great appearance of bland friendliness.
"Just the same," Mary persisted, unimpressed, "I'm quite sure you
would better see Mr. Harris first." There was a cadence of
insistence in her voice that assured the lawyer as to the
futility of further pretense on his part.
"Oh, I see," he said disagreeably, with a frown to indicate his
complete sagacity in the premises.
"I thought you would, Mr. Irwin," Mary returned, and now she
smiled in a kindly manner, which, nevertheless, gave no pleasure
to the chagrined man before her. As he rose, she went on
crisply: "If you'll take the money to Mr. Harris, Miss Lynch will
meet you in his office at four o'clock this afternoon, and, when
her suit for damages for breach of promise has been legally
settled out of court, you will get the letters....
Good-afternoon, Mr. Irwin."
The lawyer made a hurried bow which took in both of the women,
and walked quickly toward the door. But he was arrested before
he reached it by the voice of Mary, speaking again, still in that
imperturbable evenness which so rasped his nerves, for all its
mellow resonance. But this time there was a sting, of the
sharpest, in the words themselves.
"Oh, you forgot your marked money, Mr. Irwin," Mary said.
The lawyer wheeled, and stood staring at the speaker with a
certain sheepishness of expression that bore witness to the
completeness of his discomfiture. Without a word, after a long
moment in which he perceived intently the delicate, yet subtly
energetic, loveliness of this slender woman, he walked back to
the desk, picked up the money, and restored it to the bill-case.
This done, at last he spoke, with a new respect in his voice, a
quizzical smile on his rather thin lips.
"Young woman," he said emphatically, "you ought to have been a
lawyer." And with that laudatory confession of her skill, he
finally took his departure, while Mary smiled in a triumph she
was at no pains to conceal, and Aggie sat gaping astonishment
over the surprising turn of events.
It was the latter volatile person who ended the silence that
followed on the lawyer's going.
"You've darn near broke my heart," she cried, bouncing up
violently, "letting all that money go out of the house.... Say,
how did you know it was marked?"
"I didn't," Mary replied, blandly; "but it was a pretty good
guess, wasn't it? Couldn't you see that all he wanted was to get
the letters, and have us take the marked money? Then, my simple
young friend, we would have been arrested very neatly indeed--for
Aggie's innocent eyes rounded in an amazed consternation, which
was not at all assumed.
"Gee!" she cried. "That would have been fierce! And now?" she
questioned, apprehensively.
Mary's answer repudiated any possibility of fear.
"And now," she explained contentedly, "he really will go to our
lawyer. There, he will pay over that same marked money. Then,
he will get the letters he wants so much. And, just because it's
a strictly business transaction between two lawyers, with
everything done according to legal ethics----"
"What's legal ethics?" Aggie demanded, impetuously. "They sound
some tasty!" With the comment, she dropped weakly into a chair.
Mary laughed in care-free enjoyment, as well she might after
winning the victory in such a battle of wits.
"Oh," she said, happily, "you just get it legally, and you get
twice as much!"
"And it's actually the same old game!" Aggie mused. She was doing
her best to get a clear understanding of the matter, though to
her it was all a mystery most esoteric.
Mary reviewed the case succinctly for the other's enlightenment.
"Yes, it's the same game precisely," she affirmed. "A shameless
old roue makes love to you, and he writes you a stack of silly
The pouting lips of the listener took on a pathetic droop, and
her voice quivered as she spoke with an effective semblance of
virginal terror.
"He might have ruined my life!"
Mary continued without giving much attention to these
"If you had asked him for all this money for the return of his
letters, it would have been blackmail, and we'd have gone to jail
in all human probability. But we did no such thing--no, indeed!
What we did wasn't anything like that in the eyes of the law.
What we did was merely to have your lawyer take steps toward a
suit for damages for breach of promise of marriage for the sum of
ten thousand dollars. Then, his lawyer appears in behalf of
General Hastings, and there follow a number of conferences
between the legal representatives of the opposing parties. By
means of these conferences, the two legal gentlemen run up very
respectable bills of expenses. In the end, we get our ten
thousand dollars, and the flighty old General gets back his
letters... . My dear," Mary concluded vaingloriously, "we're
inside the law, and so we're perfectly safe. And there you are!"
Mary remained in joyous spirits after her victorious matching of
brains against a lawyer of high standing in his profession. For
the time being, conscience was muted by gratified ambition. Her
thoughts just then were far from the miseries of the past, with
their evil train of consequences in the present. But that past
was soon to be recalled to her with a vividness most terrible.
She had entered the telephone-booth, which she had caused to be
installed out of an extra closet of her bedroom for the sake of
greater privacy on occasion, and it was during her absence from
the drawing-room that Garson again came into the apartment,
seeking her. On being told by Aggie as to Mary's whereabouts, he
sat down to await her return, listening without much interest to
the chatter of the adventuress.... It was just then that the maid
"There's a girl wants to see Miss Turner," she explained.
The irrepressible Aggie put on her most finically elegant air.
"Has she a card?" she inquired haughtily, while the maid
tittered appreciation.
"No," was the answer. "But she says it's important. I guess the
poor thing's in hard luck, from the look of her," the kindly
Fannie added.
"Oh, then she'll be welcome, of course," Aggie declared, and
Garson nodded in acquiescence. "Tell her to come in and wait,
Fannie. Miss Turner will be here right away." She turned to
Garson as the maid left the room. "Mary sure is an easy boob,"
she remarked, cheerfully. "Bless her soft heart!"
A curiously gentle smile of appreciation softened the immobility
of the forger's face as he again nodded assent.
"We might just as well pipe off the skirt before Mary gets here,"
Aggie suggested, with eagerness.
A minute later, a girl perhaps twenty years of age stepped just
within the doorway, and stood there with eyes downcast, after one
swift, furtive glance about her. Her whole appearance was that of
dejection. Her soiled black gown, the cringing posture, the
pallor of her face, proclaimed the abject misery of her state.
Aggie, who was not exuberant in her sympathies for any one other
than herself, addressed the newcomer with a patronizing
inflection, modulated in her best manner.
"Won't you come in, please?" she requested.
The shrinking girl shot another veiled look in the direction of
the speaker.
"Are you Miss Turner?" she asked, in a voice broken by nervous
"Really, I am very sorry," Aggie replied, primly; "but I am only
her cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch. But Miss Turner is likely to be
back any minute now."
"Can I wait?" came the timid question.
"Certainly," Aggie answered, hospitably. "Please sit down."
As the girl obediently sank down on the nearest chair, Garson
addressed her sharply, so that the visitor started uneasily at
the unexpected sound.
"You don't know Miss Turner?"
"No," came the faint reply.
"Then, what do you want to see her about?"
There was a brief pause before the girl could pluck up courage
enough for an answer. Then, it was spoken confusedly, almost in
a whisper.
"She once helped a girl friend of mine, and I thought--I
"You thought she might help you," Garson interrupted.
But Aggie, too, possessed some perceptive powers, despite the
fact that she preferred to use them little in ordinary affairs.
"You have been in stir--prison, I mean." She hastily corrected
the lapse into underworld slang.
Came a distressed muttering of assent from the girl.
"How sad!" Aggie remarked, in a voice of shocked pity for one so
inconceivably unfortunate. "How very, very sad!"
This ingenuous method of diversion was put to an end by the
entrance of Mary, who stopped short on seeing the limp figure
huddled in the chair.
"A visitor, Agnes?" she inquired.
At the sound of her voice, and before Aggie could hit on a
fittingly elegant form of reply, the girl looked up. And now,
for the first time, she spoke with some degree of energy, albeit
there was a sinister undertone in the husky voice.
"You're Miss Turner?" she questioned.
"Yes," Mary said, simply. Her words rang kindly; and she smiled
A gasp burst from the white lips of the girl, and she cowered as
one stricken physically.
"Mary Turner! Oh, my God! I----" She hid her face within her arms
and sat bent until her head rested on her knees in an abasement
of misery.
Vaguely startled by the hysterical outburst from the girl, Mary's
immediate thought was that here was a pitiful instance of one
suffering from starvation.
"Joe," she directed rapidly, "have Fannie bring a glass of milk
with an egg and a little brandy in it, right away."
The girl in the chair was shaking soundlessly under the stress of
her emotions. A few disjointed phrases fell from her quivering
"I didn't know--oh, I couldn't!"
"Don't try to talk just now," Mary warned, reassuringly. "Wait
until you've had something to eat."
Aggie, who had observed developments closely, now lifted her
voice in tardy lamentations over her own stupidity. There was no
affectation of the fine lady in her self-reproach.
"Why, the poor gawk's hungry!" she exclaimed! "And I never got
the dope on her. Ain't I the simp!"
The girl regained a degree of self-control, and showed something
of forlorn dignity.
"Yes," she said dully, "I'm starving."
Mary regarded the afflicted creature with that sympathy born only
of experience.
"Yes," she said softly, "I understand." Then she spoke to Aggie.
"Take her to my room, and let her rest there for a while. Have
her drink the egg and milk slowly, and then lie down for a few
minutes anyhow."
Aggie obeyed with an air of bustling activity.
"Sure, I will!" she declared. She went to the girl and helped
her to stand up. "We'll fix you out all right," she said,
comfortingly. "Come along with me.... Hungry! Gee, but that's
Half an hour afterward, while Mary was at her desk, giving part
of her attention to Joe Garson, who sat near, and part to a
rather formidable pile of neatly arranged papers, Aggie reported
with her charge, who, though still shambling of gait, and
stooping, showed by some faint color in her face and an increased
steadiness of bearing that the food had already strengthened her
"She would come," Aggie explained. "I thought she ought to rest
for a while longer anyhow." She half-shoved the girl into a
chair opposite the desk, in an absurd travesty on the maternal
"I'm all right, I tell you," came the querulous protest.
Whereupon, Aggie gave over the uncongenial task of mothering, and
settled herself comfortably in a chair, with her legs merely
crossed as a compromise between ease and propriety.
"Are you quite sure?" Mary said to the girl. And then, as the
other nodded in assent, she spoke with a compelling kindliness.
"Then you must tell us all about it--this trouble of yours, you
know. What is your name?"
Once again the girl had recourse to the swift, searching, furtive
glance, but her voice was colorless as she replied, listlessly:
"Helen Morris."
Mary regarded the girl with an expression that was inscrutable
when she spoke again.
"I don't have to ask if you have been in prison," she said
gravely. "Your face shows it."
"I--I came out--three months ago," was the halting admission.
Mary watched the shrinking figure reflectively for a long minute
before she spoke again. Then there was a deeper resonance in her
"And you'd made up your mind to go straight?"
"Yes." The word was a whisper.
"You were going to do what the chaplain had told you," Mary went
on in a voice vibrant with varied emotions. "You were going to
start all over again, weren't you? You were going to begin a new
life, weren't you?" The bent head of the girl bent still lower
in assent. There came a cynical note into Mary's utterance now.
"It doesn't work very well, does it?" she asked, bitterly.
The girl gave sullen agreement.
"No," she said dully; "I'm whipped."
Mary's manner changed on the instant. She spoke cheerfully for
the first time.
"Well, then," she questioned, "how would you like to work with
The girl looked up for a second with another of her fleeting,
stealthy glances.
"You--you mean that----?"
Mary explained her intention in the matter very explicitly. Her
voice grew boastful.
"Our kind of work pays well when you know how. Look at us."
Aggie welcomed the opportunity for speech, too long delayed.
"Hats from Joseph's, gowns from Lucile's, and cracked ice from
Tiffany's. But it ain't ladylike to wear it," she concluded with
a reproachful glance at her mentor.
Mary disregarded the frivolous interruption, and went on speaking
to the girl, and now there was something pleasantly cajoling in
her manner.
"Suppose I should stake you for the present, and put you in with
a good crowd. All you would have to do would be to answer
advertisements for servant girls. I will see that you have the
best of references. Then, when you get in with the right people,
you will open the front door some night and let in the gang. Of
course, you will make a get-away when they do, and get your bit
as well."
There flashed still another of the swift, sly glances, and the
lips of the girl parted as if she would speak. But she did not;
only, her head sagged even lower on her breast, and the shrunken
form grew yet more shrunken. Mary, watching closely, saw these
signs, and in the same instant a change came over her. Where
before there had been an underlying suggestion of hardness, there
was now a womanly warmth of genuine sympathy.
"It doesn't suit you?" she said, very softly. "Good! I was in
hopes it wouldn't. So, here's another plan." Her voice had
become very winning. "Suppose you could go West--some place
where you would have a fair chance, with money enough so you
could live like a human being till you got a start?"
There came a tensing of the relaxed form, and the head lifted a
little so that the girl could look at her questioner. And, this
time, the glance, though of the briefest, was less furtive.
"I will give you that chance," Mary said simply, "if you really
want it."
That speech was like a current of strength to the wretched girl.
She sat suddenly erect, and her words came eagerly.
"Oh, I do!" And now her hungry gaze remained fast on the face of
the woman who offered her salvation.
Mary sprang up and moved a step toward the girl who continued to
stare at her, fascinated. She was now all wholesome. The memory
of her own wrongs surged in her during this moment only to make
her more appreciative of the blessedness of seemly life. She was
moved to a divine compassion over this waif for whom she might
prove a beneficent providence. There was profound conviction in
the emphasis with which she spoke her warning.
"Then I have just one thing to say to you first. If you are
going to live straight, start straight, and then go through with
it. Do you know what that means?"
"You mean, keep straight all the time?" The girl spoke with a
force drawn from the other's strength.
"I mean more than that," Mary went on earnestly. "I mean, forget
that you were ever in prison. I don't know what you have done--I
don't think I care. But whatever it was, you have paid for it--a
pretty big price, too." Into these last words there crept the
pathos of one who knew. The sympathy of it stirred the listener
to fearful memories.
"I have, I have!" The thin voice broke, wailing.
"Well, then," Mary went on, "just begin all over again, and be
sure you stand up for your rights. Don't let them make you pay a
second time. Go where no one knows you, and don't tell the first
people who are kind to you that you have been crooked. If they
think you are straight, why, be it. Then nobody will have any
right to complain." Her tone grew suddenly pleading. "Will you
promise me this?"
"Yes, I promise," came the answer, very gravely, quickened with
"Good!" Mary exclaimed, with a smile of approval. "Wait a
minute," she added, and left the room.
"Huh! Pretty soft for some people," Aggie remarked to Garson,
with a sniff. She felt no alarm lest she wound the sensibilities
of the girl. She herself had never let delicacy interfere
between herself and money. It was really stranger that the
forger, who possessed a more sympathetic nature, did not scruple
to speak an assent openly. Somehow, he felt an inexplicable
prejudice against this abject recipient of Mary's bounty, though
not for the world would he have checked the generous impulse on
the part of the woman he so revered. It was his instinct on her
behalf that made him now vaguely uneasy, as if he sensed some
malign influence against her there present with them.
Mary returned soon. In her hand she carried a roll of bills.
She went to the girl and held out the money. Her voice was
business-like now, but very kind.
"Take this. It will pay your fare West, and keep you quite a
while if you are careful."
But, without warning, a revulsion seized on the girl. Of a
sudden, she shrank again, and turned her head away, and her body
"I can't take it," she stammered. "I can't! I can't!"
Mary stood silent for a moment from sheer amazement over the
change. When she spoke, her voice had hardened a little. It is
not agreeable to have one's beneficence flouted.
"Didn't you come here for help?" she demanded.
"Yes," was the faltering reply, "but--but--I didn't know--it was
you!" The words came with a rush of desperation.
"Then, you have met me before?" Mary said, quietly.
"No, no!" The girl's voice rose shrill.
Aggie spoke her mind with commendable frankness.
"She's lying."
And, once again, Garson agreed. His yes was spoken in a tone of
complete certainty. That Mary, too, was of their opinion was
shown in her next words.
"So, you have met me before? Where?"
The girl unwittingly made confession in her halting words.
"I--I can't tell you." There was despair in her voice.
"You must." Mary spoke with severity. She felt that this
mystery held in it something sinister to herself. "You must," she
repeated imperiously.
The girl only crouched lower.
"I can't!" she cried again. She was panting as if in exhaustion.
"Why can't you?" Mary insisted. She had no sympathy now for the
girl's distress, merely a great suspicious curiosity.
"Because--because----" The girl could not go on.
Mary's usual shrewdness came to her aid, and she put her next
question in a different direction.
"What were you sent up for?" she asked briskly. "Tell me."
It was Garson who broke the silence that followed.
"Come on, now!" he ordered. There was a savage note in his voice
under which the girl visibly winced. Mary made a gesture toward
him that he should not interfere. Nevertheless, the man's
command had in it a threat which the girl could not resist and
she answered, though with a reluctance that made the words seem
dragged from her by some outside force--as indeed they were.
"For stealing."
"Stealing what?" Mary said.
"Where from?"
A reply came in a breath so low that it was barely audible.
"The Emporium."
In a flash of intuition, the whole truth was revealed to the
woman who stood looking down at the cowering creature before her.
"The Emporium!" she repeated. There was a tragedy in the single
word. Her voice grew cold with hate, the hate born of innocence
long tortured. "Then you are the one who----"
The accusation was cut short by the girl's shriek.
"I am not! I am not, I tell you."
For a moment, Mary lost her poise. Her voice rose in a flare of
"You are! You are!"
The craven spirit of the girl could struggle no more. She could
only sit in a huddled, shaking heap of dread. The woman before
her had been disciplined by sorrow to sternest self-control.
Though racked by emotions most intolerable, Mary soon mastered
their expression to such an extent that when she spoke again, as
if in self-communion, her words came quietly, yet with overtones
of a supreme wo.
"She did it!" Then, after a little, she addressed the girl with a
certain wondering before this mystery of horror. "Why did you
throw the blame on me?"
The girl made several efforts before her mumbling became
intelligible, and then her speech was gasping, broken with fear.
"I found out they were watching me, and I was afraid they would
catch me. So, I took them and ran into the cloak-room, and put
them in a locker that wasn't close to mine, and some in the
pocket of a coat that was hanging there. God knows I didn't know
whose it was. I just put them there--I was frightened----"
"And you let me go to prison for three years!" There was a menace
in Mary's voice under which the girl cringed again.
"I was scared," she whined. "I didn't dare to tell."
"But they caught you later," Mary went on inexorably. "Why didn't
you tell then?"
"I was afraid," came the answer from the shuddering girl. "I
told them it was the first time I had taken anything and they let
me off with a year."
Once more, the wrath of the victim flamed high.
"You!" Mary cried. "You cried and lied, and they let you off
with a year. I wouldn't cry. I told the truth --and----" Her
voice broke in a tearless sob. The color had gone out of her
face, and she stood rigid, looking down at the girl whose crime
had ruined her life with an expression of infinite loathing in
her eyes. Garson rose from his chair as if to go to her, and his
face passed swiftly from compassion to ferocity as his gaze went
from the woman he had saved from the river to the girl who had
been the first cause of her seeking a grave in the waters. Yet,
though he longed with every fiber of him to comfort the stricken
woman, he did not dare intrude upon her in this time of her
anguish, but quietly dropped back into his seat and sat watching
with eyes now tender, now baleful, as they shifted their
Aggie took advantage of the pause. Her voice was acid.
"Some people are sneaks--just sneaks!"
Somehow, the speech was welcome to the girl, gave her a touch of
courage sufficient for cowardly protestations. It seemed to
relieve the tension drawn by the other woman's torment. It was
more like the abuse that was familiar to her. A gush of tears
"I'll never forgive myself, never!" she moaned.
Contempt mounted in Mary's breast.
"Oh, yes, you will," she said, malevolently. "People forgive
themselves pretty easily." The contempt checked for a little the
ravages of her grief. "Stop crying," she commanded harshly.
"Nobody is going to hurt you." She thrust the money again toward
the girl, and crowded it into the half-reluctant, half-greedy
"Take it, and get out." The contempt in her voice rang still
sharper, mordant.
Even the puling creature writhed under the lash of Mary's tones.
She sprang up, slinking back a step.
"I can't take it!" she cried, whimpering. But she did not drop
the money.
"Take the chance while you have it," Mary counseled, still with
the contempt that pierced even the hardened girl's sense of
selfishness. She pointed toward the door. "Go!--before I change
my mind."
The girl needed, indeed, no second bidding. With the money still
clutched in her hand, she went forth swiftly, stumbling a little
in her haste, fearful lest, at the last moment, the woman she had
so wronged should in fact change in mood, take back the
money--ay, even give her over to that terrible man with the eyes
of hate, to put her to death as she deserved.
Freed from the miasma of that presence, Mary remained motionless
for a long minute, then sighed from her tortured heart. She
turned and went slowly to her chair at the desk, and seated
herself languidly, weakened by the ordeal through which she had
"A girl I didn't know!" she said, bewilderedly; "perhaps had
never spoken to--who smashed my life like that! Oh, if it wasn't
so awful, it would be--funny! It would be funny!" A gust of
hysterical laughter burst from her. "Why, it is funny!" she
cried, wildly. "It is funny!"
"Mary!" Garson exclaimed sharply. He leaped across the room to
face her. "That's no good!" he said severely.
Aggie, too, rushed forward.
"No good at all!" she declared loudly.
The interference recalled the distressed woman to herself. She
made a desperate effort for self-command. Little by little, the
unmeaning look died down, and presently she sat silent and
moveless, staring at the two with stormy eyes out of a wan face.
"You were right," she said at last, in a lifeless voice. "It's
done, and can't be undone. I was a fool to let it affect me like
that. I really thought I had lost all feeling about it, but the
sight of that girl--the knowledge that she had done it--brought
it all back to me. Well, you understand, don't you?"
"We understand," Garson said, grimly. But there was more than
grimness, infinitely more, in the expression of his clear,
glowing eyes.
Aggie thought that it was her turn to voice herself, which she
did without undue restraint.
"Perhaps, we do, but I dunno! I'll tell you one thing, though.
If any dame sent me up for three years and then wanted money from
me, do you think she'd get it? Wake me up any time in the night
and ask me. Not much--not a little bit much! I'd hang on to it
like an old woman to her last tooth." And that was Aggie's final
summing up of her impressions concerning the scene she had just
After Aggie's vigorous comment there followed a long silence.
That volatile young person, little troubled as she was by
sensitiveness, guessed the fact that just now further discussion
of the event would be distasteful to Mary, and so she betook
herself discreetly to a cigarette and the illustrations of a
popular magazine devoted to the stage. As for the man, his
reticence was really from a fear lest in speaking at all he might
speak too freely, might betray the pervasive violence of his
feeling. So, he sat motionless and wordless, his eyes carefully
avoiding Mary in order that she might not be disturbed by the
invisible vibrations thus sent from one to another. Mary herself
was shaken to the depths. A great weariness, a weariness that
cried the worthlessness of all things, had fallen upon her. It
rested leaden on her soul. It weighed down her body as well,
though that mattered little indeed. Yet, since she could
minister to that readily, she rose and went to a settee on the
opposite side of the room where she arranged herself among the
cushions in a posture more luxurious than her rather precise
early training usually permitted her to assume in the presence of
others. There she rested, and soon felt the tides of energy
again flowing in her blood, and that same vitality, too, wrought
healing even for her agonized soul, though more slowly. The
perfect health of her gave her strength to recover speedily from
the shock she had sustained. It was this health that made the
glory of the flawless skin, white with a living white that
revealed the coursing blood beneath, and the crimson lips that
bent in smiles so tender, or so wistful, and the limpid eyes in
which always lurked fires that sometimes burst into flame, the
lustrous mass of undulating hair that sparkled in the sunlight
like an aureole to her face or framed it in heavy splendors with
its shadows, and the supple erectness of her graceful carriage,
the lithe dignity of her every movement.
But, at last, she stirred uneasily and sat up. Garson accepted
this as a sufficient warrant for speech.
"You know--Aggie told you--that Cassidy was up here from
Headquarters. He didn't put a name to it, but I'm on." Mary
regarded him inquiringly, and he continued, putting the fact with
a certain brutal bluntness after the habit of his class. "I
guess you'll have to quit seeing young Gilder. The bulls are
wise. His father has made a holler.
"Don't let that worry you, Joe," she said tranquilly. She allowed
a few seconds go by, then added as if quite indifferent: "I was
married to Dick Gilder this morning." There came a squeal of
amazement from Aggie, a start of incredulity from Garson.
"Yes," Mary repeated evenly, "I was married to him this morning.
That was my important engagement," she added with a smile toward
Aggie. For some intuitive reason, mysterious to herself, she did
not care to meet the man's eyes at that moment.
Aggie sat erect, her baby face alive with worldly glee.
"My Gawd, what luck!" she exclaimed noisily. "Why, he's a king
fish, he is. Gee! But I'm glad you landed him!"
"Thank you," Mary said with a smile that was the result of her
sense of humor rather than from any tenderness.
It was then that Garson spoke. He was a delicate man in his
sensibilities at times, in spite of the fact that he followed
devious methods in his manner of gaining a livelihood. So, now,
he put a question of vital significance.
"Do you love him?"
The question caught Mary all unprepared, but she retained her
self-control sufficiently to make her answer in a voice that to
the ordinary ear would have revealed no least tremor.
"No," she said. She offered no explanation, no excuse, merely
stated the fact in all its finality.
Aggie was really shocked, though for a reason altogether sordid,
not one whit romantic.
"Ain't he young?" she demanded aggressively. "Ain't he
good-looking, and loose with his money something scandalous? If
I met up with a fellow as liberal as him, if he was three times
his age, I could simply adore him!"
It was Garson who pressed the topic with an inexorable curiosity
born of his unselfish interest in the woman concerned.
"Then, why did you marry him?" he asked. The sincerity of him
was excuse enough for the seeming indelicacy of the question.
Besides, he felt himself somehow responsible. He had given back
to her the gift of life, which she had rejected. Surely, he had
the right to know the truth.
It seemed that Mary believed her confidence his due, for she told
him the fact.
"I have been working and scheming for nearly a year to do it,"
she said, with a hardening of her face that spoke of indomitable
resolve. "Now, it's done." A vindictive gleam shot from her
violet eyes as she added: "It's only the beginning, too."
Garson, with the keen perspicacity that had made him a successful
criminal without a single conviction to mar his record, had
seized the implication in her statement, and now put it in words.
"Then, you won't leave us? We're going on as we were before?"
The hint of dejection in his manner had vanished. "And you won't
live with him?"
"Live with him?" Mary exclaimed emphatically. "Certainly not!"
Aggie's neatly rounded jaw dropped in a gape of surprise that was
most unladylike.
"You are going to live on in this joint with us?" she
questioned, aghast.
"Of course." The reply was given with the utmost of certainty.
Aggie presented the crux of the matter.
"Where will hubby live?"
There was no lessening of the bride's composure as she replied,
with a little shrug.
"Anywhere but here."
Aggie suddenly giggled. To her sense of humor there was
something vastly diverting in this new scheme of giving bliss to
a fond husband.
"Anywhere but here," she repeated gaily. "Oh, won't that be
nice--for him? Oh, yes! Oh, quite so! Oh, yes, indeed--quite
Garson, however, was still patient in his determination to
apprehend just what had come to pass.
"Does he understand the arrangement?" was his question.
"No, not yet," Mary admitted, without sign of embarrassment.
"Well," Aggie said, with another giggle, "when you do get around
to tell him, break it to him gently."
Garson was intently considering another phase of the situation,
one suggested perhaps out of his own deeper sentiments.
"He must think a lot of you!" he said, gravely. "Don't he?"
For the first time, Mary was moved to the display of a slight
confusion. She hesitated a little before her answer, and when
she spoke it was in a lower key, a little more slowly.
"I--I suppose so."
Aggie presented the truth more subtly than could have been
expected from her.
"Think a lot of you? Of course he does! Thinks enough to marry
you! And believe me, kid, when a man thinks enough of you to
marry you, well, that's some thinking!"
Somehow, the crude expression of this professional adventuress
penetrated to Mary's conscience, though it held in it the truth
to which her conscience bore witness, to which she had tried to
shut her ears.... And now from the man came something like a
draught of elixir to her conscience--like the trump of doom to
her scheme of vengeance.
Garson spoke very softly, but with an intensity that left no
doubt as to the honesty of his purpose.
"I'd say, throw up the whole game and go to him, if you really
There fell a tense silence. It was broken by Mary herself. She
spoke with a touch of haste, as if battling against some
hindrance within.
"I married him to get even with his father," she said. "That's
all there is to it.... By the way, I expect Dick will be here in
a minute or two. When he comes, just remember not to--enlighten
Aggie sniffed indignantly.
"Don't worry about me, not a mite. Whenever it's really wanted,
I'm always there with a full line of that lady stuff."
Thereupon, she sprang up, and proceeded to give her conception of
the proper welcoming of the happy bridegroom. The performance
was amusing enough in itself, but for some reason it moved
neither of the two for whom it was rendered to more than
perfunctory approval. The fact had no depressing effect on the
performer, however, and it was only the coming of the maid that
put her lively sallies to an end.
"Mr. Gilder," Fannie announced.
Mary put a question with so much of energy that Garson began
finally to understand the depth of her vindictive feeling.
"Any one with him?"
"No, Miss Turner," the maid answered.
"Have him come in," Mary ordered.
Garson felt that he would be better away for the sake of the
newly married pair at least, if not for his own. He made hasty
excuses and went out on the heels of the maid. Aggie, however,
consulting only her own wishes in the matter, had no thought of
flight, and, if the truth be told, Mary was glad of the
sustaining presence of another woman.
She got up slowly, and stood silent, while Aggie regarded her
curiously. Even to the insensitive observer, there was something
strange in the atmosphere.... A moment later the bridegroom
He was still clean-cut and wholesome. Some sons of wealthy
fathers are not, after four years experience of the white lights
of town. And the lines of his face were firmer, better in every
way. It seemed, indeed, that here was some one of a resolute
character, not to be wasted on the trivial and gross things. In
an instant, he had gone to her, had caught her in his arms with,
"Hello, dear!" smothered in the kiss he implanted on her lips.
Mary strove vainly to free herself.
"Don't, oh, don't!" she gasped.
Dick Gilder released his wife from his arms and smiled the
beatific smile of the newly-wed.
"Why not?" he demanded, with a smile, a smile calm, triumphant,
"Agnes!" ... It was the sole pretext to which Mary could turn for
a momentary relief.
The bridegroom faced about, and perceived Agnes, who stood
closely watching the meeting between husband and wife. He made
an excellent formal bow of the sort that one learns only abroad,
and spoke quietly.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Lynch, but"--a smile of perfect
happiness shone on his face--"you could hardly expect me to see
any one but Mary under the circumstances. Could you?"
Aggie strove to rise to this emergency, and again took on her
best manner, speaking rather coldly.
"Under what circumstances?" she inquired.
The young man exclaimed joyously.
"Why, we were married this morning."
Aggie accepted the news with fitting excitement.
"Goodness gracious! How perfectly lovely!"
The bridegroom regarded her with a face that was luminous of
"You bet, it's lovely!" he declared with entire conviction. He
turned to Mary, his face glowing with satisfaction.
"Mary," he said, "I have the honeymoon trip all fixed. The
Mauretania sails at five in the morning, so we will----"
A cold voice struck suddenly through this rhapsodizing. It was
that of the bride.
"Where is your father?" she asked, without any trace of emotion.
The bridegroom stopped short, and a deep blush spread itself over
his boyish face. His tone was filled full to overflowing with
compunction as he answered.
"Oh, Lord! I had forgotten all about Dad." He beamed on Mary
with a smile half-ashamed, half-happy. "I'm awfully sorry," he
said earnestly. "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll send Dad a
wireless from the ship, then write him from Paris."
But the confident tone brought no response of agreement from
Mary. On the contrary, her voice was, if anything, even colder
as she replied to his suggestion. She spoke with an emphasis that
brooked no evasion.
"What was your promise? I told you that I wouldn't go with you
until you had brought your father to me, and he had wished us
happiness." Dick placed his hands gently on his wife's shoulders
and regarded her with a touch of indignation in his gaze.
"Mary," he said reproachfully, "you are not going to hold me to
that promise?"
The answer was given with a decisiveness that admitted of no
question, and there was a hardness in her face that emphasized
the words.
"I am going to hold you to that promise, Dick."
For a few seconds, the young man stared at her with troubled
eyes. Then he moved impatiently, and dropped his hands from her
shoulders. But his usual cheery smile came again, and he
shrugged resignedly.
"All right, Mrs. Gilder," he said, gaily. The sound of the name
provoked him to new pleasure. "Sounds fine, doesn't it?" he
demanded, with an uxorious air.
"Yes," Mary said, but there was no enthusiasm in her tone.
The husband went on speaking with no apparent heed of his wife's
"You pack up what things you need, girlie," he directed. "Just a
few--because they sell clothes in Paris. And they are some class,
believe me! And meantime, I'll run down to Dad's office, and have
him back here in half an hour. You will be all ready, won't
Mary answered quickly, with a little catching of her breath, but
still coldly.
"Yes, yes, I'll be ready. Go and bring your father."
"You bet I will," Dick cried heartily. He would have taken her
in his arms again, but she evaded the caress. "What's the
matter?" he demanded, plainly at a loss to understand this
"Nothing!" was the ambiguous answer.
"Just one!" Dick pleaded.
"No," the bride replied, and there was determination in the
It was evident that Dick perceived the futility of argument.
"For a married woman you certainly are shy," he replied, with a
sly glance toward Aggie, who beamed back sympathy. "You'll
excuse me, won't you, Miss Lynch,... Good-by, Mrs. Gilder." He
made a formal bow to his wife. As he hurried to the door, he
expressed again his admiration for the name. "Mrs. Gilder!
Doesn't that sound immense?" And with that he was gone.
There was silence in the drawing-room until the two women heard
the closing of the outer door of the apartment. Then, at last,
Aggie relieved her pent-up emotions in a huge sigh that was near
a groan.
"Oh Gawd!" she gasped. "The poor simp!"
Later on, Garson, learning from the maid that Dick Gilder had
left, returned, just as Mary was glancing over the release, with
which General Hastings was to be compensated, along with the
return of his letters, for his payment of ten thousand dollars to
Miss Agnes Lynch.
"Hello, Joe," Mary said graciously as the forger entered. Then
she spoke crisply to Agnes. "And now you must get ready. You
are to be at Harris's office with this document at four o'clock,
and remember that you are to let the lawyer manage everything."
Aggie twisted her doll-like face into a grimace.
"It gets my angora that I'll have to miss Pa Gilder's being led
like a lamb to the slaughter-house." And that was the nearest
the little adventuress ever came to making a Biblical quotation.
"Anyhow," she protested, "I don't see the use of all this monkey
business here. All I want is the coin." But she hurried
obediently, nevertheless, to get ready for the start.
Garson regarded Mary quizzically.
"It's lucky for her that she met you," he said. "She's got no
more brains than a gnat."
"And brains are mighty useful things, even in our business," Mary
replied seriously; "particularly in our business."
"I should say they were," Garson agreed. "You have proved that."
Aggie came back, putting on her gloves, and cocking her small
head very primly under the enormous hat that was garnished with
costliest plumes. It was thus that she consoled herself in a
measure for the business of the occasion--in lieu of cracked ice
from Tiffany's at one hundred and fifty a carat. Mary gave over
the release, and Aggie, still grumbling, deposited it in her
"It seems to me we're going through a lot of red tape," she said
Mary, from her chair at the desk, regarded the malcontent with a
smile, but her tone was crisp as she answered.
"Listen, Agnes. The last time you tried to make a man give up
part of his money it resulted in your going to prison for two
Aggie sniffed, as if such an outcome were the merest bagatelle.
"But that way was so exciting," she urged, not at all convinced.
"And this way is so safe," Mary rejoined, sharply. "Besides, my
dear, you would not get the money. My way will. Your way was
blackmail; mine is not. Understand?"
"Oh, sure," Aggie replied, grimly, on her way to the door. "It's
clear as Pittsburgh." With that sarcasm directed against legal
subtleties, she tripped daintily out, an entirely ravishing
vision, if somewhat garish as to raiment, and soon in the glances
of admiration that every man cast on her guileless-seeming
beauty, she forgot that she had ever been annoyed.
Garson's comment as she departed was uttered with his accustomed
"Solid ivory!"
"She's a darling, anyway!" Mary declared, smiling. "You really
don't half-appreciate her, Joe!"
"Anyhow, I appreciate that hat," was the reply, with a dry
"Mr. Griggs," Fannie announced. There was a smile on the face of
the maid, which was explained a minute later when, in accordance
with her mistress's order, the visitor was shown into the
drawing-room, for his presence was of an elegance so
extraordinary as to attract attention anywhere--and mirth as well
from ribald observers.
Meantime, Garson had explained to Mary.
"It's English Eddie--you met him once. I wonder what he wants?
Probably got a trick for me. We often used to work together."
"Nothing without my consent," Mary warned.
"Oh, no, no, sure not!" Garson agreed.
Further discussion was cut short by the appearance of English
Eddie himself, a tall, handsome man in the early thirties, who
paused just within the doorway, and delivered to Mary a bow that
was the perfection of elegance. Mary made no effort to restrain
the smile caused by the costume of Mr. Griggs. Yet, there was no
violation of the canons of good taste, except in the aggregate.
From spats to hat, from walking coat to gloves, everything was
perfect of its kind. Only, there was an over-elaboration, so
that the ensemble was flamboyant. And the man's manners precisely
harmonized with his clothes, whereby the whole effect was
emphasized and rendered bizarre. Garson took one amazed look,
and then rocked with laughter.
Griggs regarded his former associate reproachfully for a moment,
and then grinned in frank sympathy.
"Really, Mr. Griggs, you quite overcome me," Mary said,
The visitor cast a self-satisfied glance over his garb.
"I think it's rather neat, myself." He had some reputation in
the under-world for his manner of dressing, and he regarded this
latest achievement as his masterpiece.
"Sure some duds!" Garson admitted, checking his merriment.
"From your costume," Mary suggested, "one might judge that this
is purely a social call. Is it?"
"Well, not exactly," Griggs answered with a smile.
"So I fancied," his hostess replied. "So, sit down, please, and
tell us all about it."
While she was speaking, Garson went to the various doors, and
made sure that all were shut, then he took a seat in a chair near
that which Griggs occupied by the desk, so that the three were
close together, and could speak softly.
English Eddie wasted no time in getting to the point.
"Now, look here," he said, rapidly. "I've got the greatest game
in the world.... Two years ago, a set of Gothic tapestries, worth
three hundred thousand dollars and a set of Fragonard panels,
worth nearly as much more, were plucked from a chateau in France
and smuggled into this country."
"I have never heard of that," Mary said, with some interest.
"No," Griggs replied. "You naturally wouldn't, for the simple
reason that it's been kept on the dead quiet."
"Are them things really worth that much?" Garson exclaimed.
"Sometimes more," Mary answered. "Morgan has a set of Gothic
tapestries worth half a million dollars."
Garson uttered an ejaculation of disgust.
"He pays half a million dollars for a set of rugs!" There was a
note of fiercest bitterness come into his voice as he
sarcastically concluded: "And they wonder at crime!"
Griggs went on with his account.
"About a month ago, the things I was telling you of were hung in
the library of a millionaire in this city." He hitched his chair
a little closer to the desk, and leaned forward, lowering his
voice almost to a whisper as he stated his plan.
"Let's go after them. They were smuggled, mind you, and no
matter what happens, he can't squeal. What do you say?"
Garson shot a piercing glance at Mary.
"It's up to her," he said. Griggs regarded Mary eagerly, as she
sat with eyes downcast. Then, after a little interval had
elapsed in silence, he spoke interrogatively:
Mary shook her head decisively. "It's out of our line," she
Griggs would have argued the matter. "I don't see any easier way
to get half a million," he said aggressively.
Mary, however, was unimpressed.
"If it were fifty millions, it would make no difference. It's
against the law."
"Oh, I know all that, of course," Griggs returned impatiently.
"But if you can----"
Mary interrupted him in a tone of finality.
"My friends and I never do anything that's illegal! Thank you for
coming to us, Mr. Griggs, but we can't go in, and there's an end
of the matter."
"But wait a minute," English Eddie expostulated, "you see this
chap, Gilder, is----"
Mary's manner changed from indifference to sudden keen interest.
"Gilder?" she exclaimed, questioningly.
"Yes. You know who he is," Griggs answered; "the drygoods man."
Garson in his turn showed a new excitement as he bent toward
"Why, it's old Gilder, the man you----"
Mary, however, had regained her self-control, for a moment rudely
shaken, and now her voice was tranquil again as she replied:
"I know. But, just the same, it's illegal, and I won't touch it.
That's all there is to it."
Griggs was dismayed.
"But half a million!" he exclaimed, disconsolately. "There's a
stake worth playing for. Think of it!" He turned pleadingly to
Garson. "Half a million, Joe!"
The forger repeated the words with an inflection that was
"Half a million!"
"And it's the softest thing you ever saw."
The telephone at the desk rang, and Mary spoke into it for a
moment, then rose and excused herself to resume the conversation
over the wire more privately in the booth. The instant she was
out of the room, Griggs turned to Garson anxiously.
"It's a cinch, Joe," he pleaded. "I've got a plan of the house."
He drew a paper from his breast-pocket, and handed it to the
forger, who seized it avidly and studied it with intent,
avaricious eyes.
"It looks easy," Garson agreed, as he gave back the paper.
"It is easy," Griggs reiterated. "What do you say?"
Garson shook his head in refusal, but there was no conviction in
the act.
"I promised Mary never to----"
Griggs broke in on him.
"But a chance like this! Anyhow, come around to the back room at
Blinkey's to-night, and we'll have a talk. Will you?"
"What time?" Garson asked hesitatingly, tempted.
"Make it early, say nine," was the answer. "Will you?"
"I'll come," Garson replied, half-guiltily. And in the same
moment Mary reentered.
Griggs rose and spoke with an air of regret.
"It's 'follow the leader,' " he said, "and since you are against
it, that settles it."
"Yes, I'm against it," Mary said, firmly.
"I'm sorry," English Eddie rejoined. "But we must all play the
game as we see it.... Well, that was the business I was after,
and, as it's finished, why, good-afternoon, Miss Turner." He
nodded toward Joe, and took his departure.
Something of what was in his mind was revealed in Garson's first
speech after Griggs's going.
"That's a mighty big stake he's playing for."
"And a big chance he's taking!" Mary retorted. "No, Joe, we
don't want any of that. We'll play a game that's safe and sure."
The words recalled to the forger weird forebodings that had been
troubling him throughout the day.
"It's sure enough," he stated, "but is it safe?"
Mary looked up quickly.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
Garson walked to and fro nervously as he answered.
"S'pose the bulls get tired of you putting it over on 'em and try
some rough work?"
Mary smiled carelessly.
"Don't worry, Joe," she advised. "I know a way to stop it."
"Well, so far as that goes, so do I," the forger said, with
significant emphasis.
"Just what do you mean by that?" Mary demanded, suspiciously.
"For rough work," he said, "I have this." He took a magazine
pistol from his pocket. It was of an odd shape, with a barrel
longer than is usual and a bell-shaped contrivance attached to
the muzzle.
"No, no, Joe," Mary cried, greatly discomposed. "None of
The forger smiled, and there was malignant triumph in his
"Pooh!" he exclaimed. "Even if I used it, they would never get
on to me. See this?" He pointed at the strange contrivance on
the muzzle.
Mary's curiosity made her forget for a moment her distaste.
"What is it?" she asked, interestedly. "I have never seen
anything like that before."
"Of course you haven't," Garson answered with much pride. "I'm
the first man in the business to get one, and I'll bet on it. I
keep up with the times." For once, he was revealing that
fundamental egotism which is the characteristic of all his kind.
"That's one of the new Maxim silencers," he continued. "With
smokeless powder in the cartridges, and the silencer on, I can
make a shot from my coat-pocket, and you wouldn't even know it
had been done. . .. And I'm some shot, believe me."
"Impossible!" Mary ejaculated.
"No, it ain't," the man asserted. "Here, wait, I'll show you."
"Good gracious, not here!" Mary exclaimed in alarm. "We would
have the whole place down on us."
Garson chuckled.
"You just watch that dinky little vase on the table across the
room there. 'Tain't very valuable, is it?"
"No," Mary answered.
In the same instant, while still her eyes were on the vase, it
fell in a cascade of shivered glass to the table and floor. She
had heard no sound, she saw no smoke. Perhaps, there had been a
faintest clicking noise. She was not sure. She stared
dumfounded for a few seconds, then turned her bewildered face
toward Garson, who was grinning in high enjoyment.
"I would'nt have believed it possible," she declared, vastly
"Neat little thing, ain't it?" the man asked, exultantly.
"Where did you get it?" Mary asked.
"In Boston, last week. And between you and me, Mary, it's the
only model, and it sure is a corker for crime."
The sinister association of ideas made Mary shudder, but she said
no more. She would have shuddered again, if she could have
guessed the vital part that pistol was destined to play. But she
had no thought of any actual peril to come from it. She might
have thought otherwise, could she have known of the meeting that
night in the back room of Blinkey's, where English Eddie and
Garson sat with their heads close together over a table.
"A chance like this," Griggs was saying, "a chance that will make
a fortune for all of us."
"It sounds good," Garson admitted, wistfully.
"It is good," the other declared with an oath. "Why, if this
goes through, we're set up for life. We can quit, all of us."
"Yes," Garson agreed, "we can quit, all of us." There was
avarice in his voice.
The tempter was sure that the battle was won, and smiled
"Well," he urged, "what do you say?"
"How would we split it?" It was plain that Garson had given over
the struggle against greed. After all, Mary was only a woman,
despite her cleverness, and with all a woman's timidity. Here
was sport for men.
"Three ways would be right," Griggs answered. "One to me, one to
you and one to be divided up among the others."
Garson brought his fist down on the table with a force that made
the glasses jingle.
"You're on," he said, strongly.
"Fine!" Griggs declared, and the two men shook hands. "Now, I'll
"Get nothing!" Garson interrupted. "I'll get my own men.
Chicago Red is in town. So is Dacey, with perhaps a couple of
others of the right sort. I'll get them to meet you at Blinkey's
at two to-morrow afternoon, and, if it looks right, we'll turn
the trick to-morrow night."
"That's the stuff," Griggs agreed, greatly pleased.
But a sudden shadow fell on the face of Garson. He bent closer
to his companion, and spoke with a fierce intensity that brooked
no denial.
"She must never know."
Griggs nodded understandingly.
"Of course," he answered. "I give you my word that I'll never
tell her. And you know you can trust me, Joe."
"Yes," the forger replied somberly, "I know I can trust you."
But the shadow did not lift from his face.
Mary dismissed Garson presently, and betook herself to her
bedroom for a nap. The day had been a trying one, and, though
her superb health could endure much, she felt that both prudence
and comfort required that she should recruit her energies while
there was opportunity. She was not in the least surprised that
Dick had not yet returned, though he had mentioned half an hour.
At the best, there were many things that might detain him, his
father's absence from the office, difficulties in making
arrangements for his projected honeymoon trip abroad--which would
never occur--or the like. At the worst, there was a chance of
finding his father promptly, and of that father as promptly
taking steps to prevent the son from ever again seeing the woman
who had so indiscreetly married him. Yet, somehow, Mary could
not believe that her husband would yield to such paternal
coercion. Rather, she was sure that he would prove loyal to her
whom he loved, through every trouble. At the thought a certain
wistfulness pervaded her, and a poignant regret that this
particular man should have been the one chosen of fate to be
entangled within her mesh of revenge. There throbbed in her a
heart-tormenting realization that there were in life
possibilities infinitely more splendid than the joy of vengeance.
She would not confess the truth even to her inmost soul, but the
truth was there, and set her a-tremble with vague fears.
Nevertheless, because she was in perfect health, and was much
fatigued, her introspection did not avail to keep her awake, and
within three minutes from the time she lay down she was
blissfully unconscious of all things, both the evil and the good,
revenge and love.
She had slept, perhaps, a half-hour, when Fannie awakened her.
"It's a man named Burke," she explained, as her mistress lay
blinking. "And there's another man with him. They said they
must see you."
By this time, Mary was wide-awake, for the name of Burke, the
Police Inspector, was enough to startle her out of drowsiness.
"Bring them in, in five minutes," she directed.
She got up, slipped into a tea-gown, bathed her eyes in cologne,
dressed her hair a little, and went into the drawing-room, where
the two men had been waiting for something more than a quarter of
an hour--to the violent indignation of both.
"Oh, here you are, at last!" the big, burly man cried as she
entered. The whole air of him, though he was in civilian's
clothes, proclaimed the policeman.
"Yes, Inspector," Mary replied pleasantly, as she advanced into
the room. She gave a glance toward the other visitor, who was of
a slenderer form, with a thin, keen face, and recognized him
instantly as Demarest, who had taken part against her as the
lawyer for the store at the time of her trial, and who was now
holding the office of District Attorney. She went to the chair
at the desk, and seated herself in a leisurely fashion that
increased the indignation of the fuming Inspector. She did not
trouble to ask her self-invited guests to sit.
"To whom do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Inspector?" she
remarked coolly. It was noticeable that she said whom and not
what, as if she understood perfectly that the influence of some
person brought him on this errand.
"I have come to have a few quiet words with you," the Inspector
declared, in a mighty voice that set the globes of the
chandeliers a-quiver. Mary disregarded him, and turned to the
other man.
"How do you do, Mr. Demarest?" she said, evenly. "It's four
years since we met, and they've made you District Attorney since
then. Allow me to congratulate you."
Demarest's keen face took on an expression of perplexity.
"I'm puzzled," he confessed. "There is something familiar,
somehow, about you, and yet----" He scrutinized appreciatively
the loveliness of the girl with her classically beautiful face,
that was still individual in its charm, the slim graces of the
tall, lissome form. "I should have remembered you. I don't
understand it."
"Can't you guess?" Mary questioned, somberly. "Search your
memory, Mr. Demarest."
Of a sudden, the face of the District Attorney lightened.
"Why," he exclaimed, "you are--it can't be--yes--you are the
girl, you're the Mary Turner whom I--oh, I know you now."
There was an enigmatic smile bending the scarlet lips as she
"I'm the girl you mean, Mr. Demarest, but, for the rest, you
don't know me--not at all!"
The burly figure of the Inspector of Police, which had loomed
motionless during this colloquy, now advanced a step, and the big
voice boomed threatening. It was very rough and weighted with
"Young woman," Burke said, peremptorily, "the Twentieth Century
Limited leaves Grand Central Station at four o'clock. It arrives
in Chicago at eight-fifty-five to-morrow morning." He pulled a
massive gold watch from his waistcoat pocket, glanced at it,
thrust it back, and concluded ponderously: "You will just about
have time to catch that train."
Mary regarded the stockily built officer with a half-amused
contempt, which she was at no pains to conceal.
"Working for the New York Central now?" she asked blandly.
The gibe made the Inspector furious.
"I'm working for the good of New York City," he answered
Mary let a ripple of cadenced laughter escape her.
"Since when?" she questioned.
A little smile twisted the lips of the District Attorney, but he
caught himself quickly, and spoke with stern gravity.
"Miss Turner, I think you will find that a different tone will
serve you better."
"Oh, let her talk," Burke interjected angrily. "She's only got a
few minutes anyway."
Mary remained unperturbed.
"Very well, then," she said genially, "let us be comfortable
during that little period." She made a gesture of invitation
toward chairs, which Burke disdained to accept; but Demarest
seated himself.
"You'd better be packing your trunk," the Inspector rumbled.
"But why?" Mary inquired, with a tantalizing assumption of
innocence. "I'm not going away."
"On the Twentieth Century Limited, this afternoon," the Inspector
declared, in a voice of growing wrath.
"Oh, dear, no!" Mary's assertion was made very quietly, but with
an underlying firmness that irritated the official beyond
"I say yes!" The answer was a bellow.
Mary appeared distressed, not frightened. Her words were an
ironic protest against the man's obstreperous noisiness, no more.
"I thought you wanted quiet words with me."
Burke went toward her, in a rage.
"Now, look here, Mollie----" he began harshly.
On the instant, Mary was on her feet, facing him, and there was a
gleam in her eyes as they met his that bade him pause.
"Miss Turner, if you don't mind." She laughed slightly. "For
the present, anyway." She reseated herself tranquilly.
Burke was checked, but he retained his severity of bearing.
"I'm giving you your orders. You will either go to Chicago, or
you'll go up the river."
Mary answered in a voice charged with cynicism.
"If you can convict me. Pray, notice that little word 'if'."
The District Attorney interposed very suavely.
"I did once, remember."
"But you can't do it again," Mary declared, with an assurance
that excited the astonishment of the police official.
"How do you know he can't?" he blustered.
Mary laughed in a cadence of genial merriment.
"Because," she replied gaily, "if he could, he would have had me
in prison some time ago."
Burke winced, but he made shift to conceal his realization of the
truth she had stated to him.
"Huh!" he exclaimed gruffly. "I've seen them go up pretty easy."
Mary met the assertion with a serenity that was baffling.
"The poor ones," she vouchsafed; "not those that have money. I
have money, plenty of money--now."
"Money you stole!" the Inspector returned, brutally.
"Oh, dear, no!" Mary cried, with a fine show of virtuous
"What about the thirty thousand dollars you got on that
partnership swindle?" Burke asked, sneering. "I s'pose you
didn't steal that!"
"Certainly not," was the ready reply. "The man advertised for a
partner in a business sure to bring big and safe returns. I
answered. The business proposed was to buy a tract of land, and
subdivide it. The deeds to the land were all forged, and the
supposed seller was his confederate, with whom he was to divide
the money. We formed a partnership, with a capital of sixty
thousand dollars. We paid the money into the bank, and then at
once I drew it out. You see, he wanted to get my money
illegally, but instead I managed to get his legally. For it was
legal for me to draw that money--wasn't it, Mr. Demarest?"
The District Attorney by an effort retained his severe expression
of righteous disapprobation, but he admitted the truth of her
"Unfortunately, yes," he said gravely. "A partner has the right
to draw out any, or all, of the partnership funds."
"And I was a partner," Mary said contentedly. "You, see,
Inspector, you wrong me--you do, really! I'm not a swindler; I'm
a financier."
Burke sneered scornfully.
"Well," he roared, "you'll never pull another one on me. You can
gamble on that!"
Mary permitted herself to laugh mockingly in the face of the
badgered official.
"Thank you for telling me," she said, graciously. "And let me
say, incidentally, that Miss Lynch at the present moment is
painlessly extracting ten thousand dollars from General Hastings
in a perfectly legal manner, Inspector Burke."
"Well, anyhow," Burke shouted, "you may stay inside the law, but
you've got to get outside the city." He tried to employ an
elephantine bantering tone. "On the level, now, do you think you
could get away with that young Gilder scheme you've been
Mary appeared puzzled.
"What young Gilder scheme?" she asked, her brows drawn in
"Oh, I'm wise--I'm wise!" the Inspector cried roughly. "The
answer is, once for all, leave town this afternoon, or you'll be
in the Tombs in the morning."
Abruptly, a change came over the woman. Hitherto, she had been
cynical, sarcastic, laughing, careless, impudent. Now, of a
sudden, she was all seriousness, and she spoke with a gravity
that, despite their volition, impressed both the men before her.
"It can't be done, Inspector," she said, sedately.
The declaration, simple as it was, aroused the official to new
"Who says it can't?" he vociferated, overflowing with anger at
this flouting of the authority he represented.
Mary opened a drawer of the desk, and took out the document
obtained that morning from Harris, and held it forth.
"This," she replied, succinctly.
"What's this?" Burke stormed. But he took the paper.
Demarest looked over the Inspector's shoulder, and his eyes grew
larger as he read. When he was at an end of the reading, he
regarded the passive woman at the desk with a new respect.
"What's this?" Burke repeated helplessly. It was not easy for
him to interpret the legal phraseology. Mary was kind enough to
make the document clear to him.
"It's a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court,
instructing you to let me alone until you have legal proof that I
have broken the law.... Do you get that, Mr. Inspector Burke?"
The plethoric official stared hard at the injunction.
"Another new one," he stuttered finally. Then his anger sought
vent in violent assertion. "But it can't be done!" he shouted.
"You might ask Mr. Demarest," Mary suggested, pleasantly, "as to
whether or not it can be done. The gambling houses can do it,
and so keep on breaking the law. The race track men can do it,
and laugh at the law. The railroad can do it, to restrain its
employees from striking. So, why shouldn't I get one, too? You
see, I have money. I can buy all the law I want. And there's
nothing you can't do with the law, if you have money enough....
Ask Mr. Demarest. He knows."
Burke was fairly gasping over this outrage against his authority.
"Can you beat that!" he rumbled with a raucously sonorous
vehemence. He regarded Mary with a stare of almost reverential
wonder. "A crook appealing to the law!"
There came a new note into the woman's voice as she answered the
"No, simply getting justice," she said simply. "That's the
remarkable part of it." She threw off her serious air. "Well,
gentlemen," she concluded, "what are you going to do about it?"
Burke explained.
"This is what I'm going to do about it. One way or another, I'm
going to get you."
The District Attorney, however, judged it advisable to use more
persuasive methods.
"Miss Turner," he said, with an appearance of sincerity, "I'm
going to appeal to your sense of fair play."
Mary's shining eyes met his for a long moment, and before the
challenge in hers, his fell. He remembered then those doubts
that had assailed him when this girl had been sentenced to
prison, remembered the half-hearted plea he had made in her
behalf to Richard Gilder.
"That was killed," Mary said, "killed four years ago."
But Demarest persisted. Influence had been brought to bear on
him. It was for her own sake now that he urged her.
"Let young Gilder alone."
Mary laughed again. But there was no hint of joyousness in the
musical tones. Her answer was frank--brutally frank. She had
nothing to conceal.
"His father sent me away for three years--three years for
something I didn't do. Well, he's got to pay for it."
By this time, Burke, a man of superior intelligence, as one must
be to reach such a position of authority, had come to realize
that here was a case not to be carried through by blustering, by
intimidation, by the rough ruses familiar to the force. Here was
a woman of extraordinary intelligence, as well as of peculiar
personal charm, who merely made sport of his fulminations, and
showed herself essentially armed against anything he might do, by
a court injunction, a thing unheard of until this moment in the
case of a common crook. It dawned upon him that this was,
indeed, not a common crook. Moreover, there had grown in him a
certain admiration for the ingenuity and resource of this woman,
though he retained all his rancor against one who dared thus to
resist the duly constituted authority. So, in the end, he spoke
to her frankly, without a trace of his former virulence, with a
very real, if rugged, sincerity.
"Don't fool yourself, my girl," he said in his huge voice, which
was now modulated to a degree that made it almost unfamiliar to
himself. "You can't go through with this. There's always a weak
link in the chain somewhere. It's up to me to find it, and I
His candor moved her to a like honesty.
"Now," she said, and there was respect in the glance she gave the
stalwart man, "now you really sound dangerous."
There came an interruption, alike unexpected by all. Fannie
appeared at the door.
"Mr. Edward Gilder wishes to see you, Miss Turner," she said,
with no appreciation of anything dynamic in the announcement.
"Shall I show him in?"
"Oh, certainly," Mary answered, with an admirable pretense of
indifference, while Burke glared at Demarest, and the District
Attorney appeared ill at ease.
"He shouldn't have come," Demarest muttered, getting to his feet,
in reply to the puzzled glance of the Inspector.
Then, while Mary sat quietly in her chair at the desk, and the
two men stood watching doubtfully the door, the maid appeared,
stood aside, and said simply, "Mr. Gilder."
There entered the erect, heavy figure of the man whom Mary had
hated through the years. He stopped abruptly just within the
room, gave a glance at the two men, then his eyes went to Mary,
sitting at her desk, with her face lifted inquiringly. He did
not pause to take in the beauty of that face, only its strength.
He stared at her silently for a moment. Then he spoke in his
oritund voice, a little tremulous from anxiety.
"Are you the woman?" he said. There was something simple and
primitive, something of dignity beyond the usual conventions, in
his direct address.
And there was the same primitive simplicity in the answer.
Between the two strong natures there was no subterfuge, no
suggestion of polite evasions, of tergiversation, only the plea
of truth to truth. Mary's acknowledgment was as plain as his own
"I am the woman. What do you want?" ... Thus two honest folk had
met face to face.
"My son." The man's answer was complete.
But Mary touched a tragic note in her question. It was asked in
no frivolous spirit, but, of a sudden, she guessed that his
coming was altogether of his own volition, and not the result of
his son's information, as at first she had supposed.
"Have you seen him recently?" she asked.
"No," Gilder answered.
"Then, why did you come?"
Thereat, the man was seized with a fatherly fury. His heavy face
was congested, and his sonorous voice was harsh with virtuous
"Because I intend to save my boy from a great folly. I am
informed that he is infatuated with you, and Inspector Burke
tells me why--he tells me--why--he tells me----" He paused,
unable for a moment to continue from an excess of emotion. But
his gray eyes burned fiercely in accusation against her.
Inspector Burke himself filled the void in the halting sentence.
"I told you she had been an ex-convict."
"Yes," Gilder said, after he had regained his self-control. He
stared at her pleadingly. "Tell me," he said with a certain
dignity, "is this true?"
Here, then, was the moment for which she had longed through weary
days, through weary years. Here was the man whom she hated,
suppliant before her to know the truth. Her heart quickened.
Truly, vengeance is sweet to one who has suffered unjustly.
"Is this true?" the man repeated, with something of horror in
his voice.
"It is," Mary said quietly.
For a little, there was silence in the room. Once, Inspector
Burke started to speak, but the magnate made an imperative
gesture, and the officer held his peace. Always, Mary rested
motionless. Within her, a fierce joy surged. Here was the time
of her victory. Opposite her was the man who had caused her
anguish, the man whose unjust action had ruined her life. Now,
he was her humble petitioner, but this servility could be of no
avail to save him from shame. He must drink of the dregs of
humiliation--and then again. No price were too great to pay for
a wrong such as that which he had put upon her.
At last, Gilder was restored in a measure to his self-possession.
He spoke with the sureness of a man of wealth, confident that
money will salve any wound.
"How much?" he asked, baldly.
Mary smiled an inscrutable smile.
"Oh, I don't need money," she said, carelessly. "Inspector Burke
will tell you how easy it is for me to get it."
Gilder looked at her with a newly dawning respect; then his
shrewdness suggested a retort.
"Do you want my son to learn what you are?" he said.
Mary laughed. There was something dreadful in that burst of
spurious amusement.
"Why not?" she answered. "I'm ready to tell him myself."
Then Gilder showed the true heart of him, in which love for his
boy was before all else. He found himself wholly at a loss
before the woman's unexpected reply.
"But I don't want him to know," he stammered. "Why, I've spared
the boy all his life. If he really loves you--it will----"
At that moment, the son himself entered hurriedly from the
hallway. In his eagerness, he saw no one save the woman whom he
loved. At his entrance, Mary rose and moved backward a step
involuntarily, in sheer surprise over his coming, even though she
had known he must come--perhaps from some other emotion, deeper,
hidden as yet even from herself.
The young man, with his wholesome face alight with tenderness,
went swiftly to her, while the other three men stood silent,
motionless, abashed by the event. And Dick took Mary's hand in a
warm clasp, pressed it tenderly.
"I didn't see father," he said happily, "but I left him a note on
his desk at the office."
Then, somehow, the surcharged atmosphere penetrated his
consciousness, and he looked around, to see his father standing
grimly opposite him. But there was no change in his expression
beyond a more radiant smile.
"Hello, Dad!" he cried, joyously. "Then you got my note?"
The voice of the older man came with a sinister force and
"No, Dick, I haven't had any note."
"Then, why?" The young man broke off suddenly. He was become
aware that here was something malignant, with a meaning beyond
his present understanding, for he saw the Inspector and Demarest,
and he knew the two of them for what they were officially.
"What are they doing here?" he demanded suspiciously, staring at
the two.
"Oh, never mind them," Mary said. There was a malevolent gleam
in her violet eyes. This was the recompense of which she had
dreamed through soul-tearing ages. "Just tell your father your
news, Dick."
The young man had no comprehension of the fact that he was only a
pawn in the game. He spoke with simple pride.
"Dad, we're married. Mary and I were married this morning."
Always, Mary stared with her eyes steadfast on the father. There
was triumph in her gaze. This was the vengeance for which she
had longed, for which she had plotted, the vengeance she had at
last achieved. Here was her fruition, the period of her
Gilder himself seemed dazed by the brief sentence.
"Say that again," he commanded.
Mary rejoiced to make the knowledge sure.
"I married your son this morning," she said in a matter-of-fact
tone. "I married him. Do you quite understand, Mr. Gilder? I
married him." In that insistence lay her ultimate compensation
for untold misery. The father stood there wordless, unable to
find speech against this calamity that had befallen him.
It was Burke who offered a diversion, a crude interruption after
his own fashion.
"It's a frame-up," he roared. He glared at the young man. "Tell
your father it ain't true. Why, do you know what she is? She's
done time." He paused for an instant, then spoke in a voice that
was brutally menacing. "And, by God, she'll do it again!"
The young man turned toward his bride. There was disbelief,
hope, despair, in his face, which had grown older by years with
the passing of the seconds.
"It's a lie, Mary," he said. "Say it's a lie!" He seized her
hand passionately.
There was no quiver in her voice as she answered. She drew her
hand from his clasp, and spoke evenly.
"It's the truth."
"It's the truth!" the young man repeated, incredulously.
"It is the truth," Mary said, firmly. "I have served three years
in prison."
There was a silence of a minute that was like years. It was the
father who broke it, and now his voice was become tremulous.
"I wanted to save you, Dick. That's why I came."
The son interrupted him violently.
"There's a mistake--there must be."
It was Demarest who gave an official touch to the tragedy of the
"There's no mistake," he said. There was authority in his
"There is, I tell you!" Dick cried, horrified by this conspiracy
of defamation. He turned his tortured face to his bride of a
"Mary," he said huskily, "there is a mistake."
Something in her face appalled him. He was voiceless for a few
terrible instants. Then he spoke again, more beseechingly.
"Say there's a mistake."
Mary preserved her poise. Yes--she must not forget! This was the
hour of her triumph. What mattered it that the honey of it was
as ashes in her mouth? She spoke with a simplicity that admitted
no denial.
"It's all quite true."
The man who had so loved her, so trusted her, was overwhelmed by
the revelation. He stood trembling for a moment, tottered,
almost it seemed would have fallen, but presently steadied
himself and sank supinely into a chair, where he sat in impotent
The father looked at Mary with a reproach that was pathetic.
"See," he said, and his heavy voice was for once thin with
passion," see what you've done to my boy!"
Mary had held her eyes on Dick. There had been in her gaze a
conflict of emotions, strong and baffling. Now, however, when the
father spoke, her face grew more composed, and her eyes met his
coldly. Her voice was level and vaguely dangerous as she
answered his accusation.
"What is that compared to what you have done to me?"
Gilder stared at her in honest amazement. He had no suspicion as
to the tragedy that lay between him and her.
"What have I done to you?" he questioned, uncomprehending.
Mary moved forward, passing beyond the desk, and continued her
advance toward him until the two stood close together, face to
face. She spoke softly, but with an intensity of supreme feeling
in her voice.
"Do you remember what I said to you the day you had me sent
The merchant regarded her with stark lack of understanding.
"I don't remember you at all," he said.
The woman looked at him intently for a moment, then spoke in a
colorless voice.
"Perhaps you remember Mary Turner, who was arrested four years
ago for robbing your store. And perhaps you remember that she
asked to speak to you before they took her to prison."
The heavy-jowled man gave a start.
"Oh, you begin to remember. Yes! There was a girl who swore she
was innocent--yes, she swore that she was innocent. And she
would have got off--only, you asked the judge to make an example
of her."
The man to whom she spoke had gone gray a little. He began to
understand, for he was not lacking in intelligence. Somehow, it
was borne in on him that this woman had a grievance beyond the
usual run of injuries.
"You are that girl?" he said. It was not a question, rather an
Mary spoke with the dignity of long suffering--more than that,
with the confident dignity of a vengeance long delayed, now at
last achieved. Her words were simple enough, but they touched to
the heart of the man accused by them.
"I am that girl."
There was a little interval of silence. Then, Mary spoke again,
"You took away my good name. You smashed my life. You put me
behind the bars. You owe for all that.... Well' I've begun to
The man opposite her, the man of vigorous form, of strong face
and keen eyes, stood gazing intently for long moments. In that
time, he was learning many things. Finally, he spoke.
"And that is why you married my boy."
"It is." Mary gave the answer coldly, convincingly.
Convincingly, save to one--her husband. Dick suddenly aroused,
and spoke with the violence of one sure.
"It is not!"
Burke shouted a warning. Demarest, more diplomatic, made a
restraining gesture toward the police official, then started to
address the young man soothingly.
But Dick would have none of their interference.
"This is my affair," he said, and the others fell silent. He
stood up and went to Mary, and took her two hands in his, very
gently, yet very firmly.
"Mary," he said softly, yet with a strength of conviction, "you
married me because you love me."
The wife shuddered, but she strove to deny.
"No," she said gravely, "no, I did not!"
"And you love me now!" he went on insistingly.
"No, no!" Mary's denial came like a cry for escape.
"You love me now!" There was a masterful quality in his
declaration, which seemed to ignore her negation.
"I don't," she repeated bitterly.
But he was inexorable.
"Look me in the face, and say that."
He took her face in his hands, lifted it, and his eyes met hers
"Look me in the face, and say that," he repeated.
There was a silence that seemed long, though it was measured in
the passing of seconds. The three watchers dared not interrupt
this drama of emotions, but, at last, Mary, who had planned so
long for this hour, gathered her forces and spoke valiantly. Her
voice was low, but without any weakness of doubt.
"I do not love you."
In the instant of reply, Dick Gilder, by some inspiration of
love, changed his attitude. "Just the same," he said cheerfully,
"you are my wife, and I'm going to keep you and make you love
Mary felt a thrill of fear through her very soul.
"You can't!" she cried harshly. "You are his son!"
"She's a crook!" Burke said.
"I don't care a damn what you've been!" Dick exclaimed. "From now
on you'll go straight. You'll walk the straightest line a woman
ever walked. You'll put all thoughts of vengeance out of your
heart, because I'll fill it with something bigger--I'm going to
make you love me."
Burke, with his rousing voice, spoke again:
"I tell you, she's a crook!"
Mary moved a little, and then turned her face toward Gilder.
"And, if I am, who made me one? You can't send a girl to prison,
and have her come out anything else."
Burke swung himself around in a movement of complete disgust.
"She didn't get her time for good behavior."
Mary raised her head, haughtily, with a gesture of high disdain.
"And I'm proud of it!" came her instant retort. "Do you know
what goes on there behind those stone walls? Do you, Mr.
District Attorney, whose business it is to send girls there? Do
you know what a girl is expected to do, to get time off for good
behavior? If you don't, ask the keepers."
Gilder moved fussily.
"And you----"
Mary swayed a little, standing there before her questioner.
"I served every minute of my time--every minute of it, three
full, whole years. Do you wonder that I want to get even, that
some one has got to pay? Four years ago, you took away my
name--and gave me a number.... Now, I've given up the number--and
I've got your name."
The Gilders, both father and son, endured much suffering
throughout the night and day that followed the scene in Mary
Turner's apartment, when she had made known the accomplishment of
her revenge on the older man by her ensnaring of the younger.
Dick had followed the others out of her presence at her command,
emphasized by her leaving him alone when he would have pleaded
further with her. Since then, he had striven to obtain another
interview with his bride, but she had refused him. He was denied
admission to the apartment. Only the maid answered the ringing
of the telephone, and his notes were seemingly unheeded.
Distraught by this violent interjection of torment into a life
that hitherto had known no important suffering, Dick Gilder
showed what mettle of man lay beneath his debonair appearance.
And that mettle was of a kind worth while. In these hours of
grief, the soul of him put out its strength. He learned beyond
peradventure of doubt that the woman whom he had married was in
truth an ex-convict, even as Burke and Demarest had declared.
Nevertheless, he did not for an instant believe that she was
guilty of the crime with which she had been originally charged
and for which she had served a sentence in prison. For the rest,
he could understand in some degree how the venom of the wrong
inflicted on her had poisoned her nature through the years, till
she had worked out its evil through the scheme of which he was
the innocent victim. He cared little for the fact that recently
she had devoted herself to devious devices for making money, to
ingenious schemes for legal plunder. In his summing of her, he
set as more than an offset to her unrighteousness in this regard
the desperate struggle she had made after leaving prison to keep
straight, which, as he learned, had ended in her attempt at
suicide. He knew the intelligence of this woman whom he loved,
and in his heart was no thought of her faults as vital flaws. It
seemed to him rather that circumstances had compelled her, and
that through all the suffering of her life she had retained the
more beautiful qualities of her womanliness, for which he
reverenced her. In the closeness of their association, short as
it had been, he had learned to know something of the tenderer
depths within her, the kindliness of her, the wholesomeness.
Swayed as he was by the loveliness of her, he was yet more
enthralled by those inner qualities of which the outer beauty was
only the fitting symbol.
So, in the face of this catastrophe, where a less love must have
been destroyed utterly, Dick remained loyal. His passionate
regard did not falter for a moment. It never even occurred to
him that he might cast her off, might yield to his father's
prayers, and abandon her. On the contrary, his only purpose was
to gain her for himself, to cherish and guard her against every
ill, to protect with his love from every attack of shame or
injury. He would not believe that the girl did not care for him.
Whatever had been her first purpose of using him only as an
instrument through which to strike against his father, whatever
might be her present plan of eliminating him from her life in the
future, he still was sure that she had grown to know a real and
lasting affection for himself. He remembered startled glances
from the violet eyes, caught unawares, and the music of her voice
in rare instants, and these told him that love for him stirred,
even though it might as yet be but faintly, in her heart.
Out of that fact, he drew an immediate comfort in this period of
his misery. Nevertheless, his anguish was a racking one. He
grew older visibly in the night and the day. There crept
suddenly lines of new feeling into his face, and, too, lines of
new strength. The boy died in that time; the man was born, came
forth in the full of his steadfastness and his courage, and his
The father suffered with the son. He was a proud man, intensely
gratified over the commanding position to which he had achieved
in the commercial world, proud of his business integrity, of his
standing in the community as a leader, proud of his social
position, proud most of all of the son whom he so loved. Now,
this hideous disaster threatened his pride at every turn--worse,
it threatened the one person in the world whom he really loved.
Most fathers would have stormed at the boy when pleading failed,
would have given commands with harshness, would have menaced the
recalcitrant with disinheritance. Edward Gilder did none of
these things, though his heart was sorely wounded. He loved his
son too much to contemplate making more evil for the lad by any
estrangement between them. Yet he felt that the matter could not
safely be left in the hands of Dick himself. He realized that
his son loved the woman--nor could he wonder much at that. His
keen eyes had perceived Mary Turner's graces of form, her
loveliness of face. He had apprehended, too, in some measure at
least, the fineness of her mental fiber and the capacities of her
heart. Deep within him, denied any outlet, he knew there lurked
a curious, subtle sympathy for the girl in her scheme of revenge
against himself. Her persistent striving toward the object of
her ambition was something he could understand, since the like
thing in different guise had been back of his own business
success. He would not let the idea rise to the surface of
consciousness, for he still refused to believe that Mary Turner
had suffered at his hand unjustly. He would think of her as
nothing else than a vile creature, who had caught his son in the
toils of her beauty and charm, for the purpose of eventually
making money out of the intrigue.
Gilder, in his library this night, was pacing impatiently to and
fro, eagerly listening for the sound of his son's return to the
house. He had been the guest of honor that night at an important
meeting of the Civic Committee, and he had spoken with his usual
clarity and earnestness in spite of the trouble that beset him.
Now, however, the regeneration of the city was far from his
thought, and his sole concern was with the regeneration of a
life, that of his son, which bade fair to be ruined by the wiles
of a wicked woman. He was anxious for the coming of Dick, to
whom he would make one more appeal. If that should fail--well,
he must use the influences at his command to secure the forcible
parting of the adventuress from his son.
The room in which he paced to and fro was of a solid dignity,
well fitted to serve as an environment for its owner. It was
very large, and lofty. There was massiveness in the desk that
stood opposite the hall door, near a window. This particular
window itself was huge, high, jutting in octagonal, with leaded
panes. In addition, there was a great fireplace set with tiles,
around which was woodwork elaborately carved, the fruit of
patient questing abroad. On the walls were hung some pieces of
tapestry, where there were not bookcases. Over the octagonal
window, too, such draperies fell in stately lines. Now, as the
magnate paced back and forth, there was only a gentle light in
the room, from a reading-lamp on his desk. The huge chandelier
was unlighted.... It was even as Gilder, in an increasing
irritation over the delay, had thrown himself down on a couch
which stood just a little way within an alcove, that he heard the
outer door open and shut. He sprang up with an ejaculation of
"Dick, at last!" he muttered.
It was, in truth, the son. A moment later, he entered the room,
and went at once to his father, who was standing waiting, facing
the door.
"I'm awfully sorry I'm so late, Dad," he said simply.
"Where have you been?" the father demanded gravely. But there
was great affection in the flash of his gray eyes as he scanned
the young man's face, and the touch of the hand that he put on
Dick's shoulder was very tender. "With that woman again?"
The boy's voice was disconsolate as he replied:
"No, father, not with her. She won't see me."
The older man snorted a wrathful appreciation.
"Naturally!" he exclaimed with exceeding bitterness in the heavy
voice. "She's got all she wanted from you --my name!" He
repeated the words with a grimace of exasperation: "My name!"
There was a novel dignity in the son's tone as he spoke.
"It's mine, too, you know, sir," he said quietly.
The father was impressed of a sudden with the fact that, while
this affair was of supreme import to himself, it was, after all,
of still greater significance to his son. To himself, the chief
concerns were of the worldly kind. To this boy, the vital thing
was something deeper, something of the heart: for, however absurd
his feeling, the truth remained that he loved the woman. Yes, it
was the son's name that Mary Turner had taken, as well as that of
his father. In the case of the son, she had taken not only his
name, but his very life. Yes, it was, indeed, Dick's tragedy.
Whatever he, the father, might feel, the son was, after all, more
affected. He must suffer more, must lose more, must pay more
with happiness for his folly.
Gilder looked at his son with a strange, new respect, but he
could not let the situation go without protest, protest of the
most vehement.
"Dick," he cried, and his big voice was shaken a little by the
force of his emotion; "boy, you are all I have in the world. You
will have to free yourself from this woman somehow." He stood
very erect, staring steadfastly out of his clear gray eyes into
those of his son. His heavy face was rigid with feeling; the
coarse mouth bent slightly in a smile of troubled fondness, as he
added more softly: "You owe me that much."
The son's eyes met his father's freely. There was respect in
them, and affection, but there was something else, too, something
the older man recognized as beyond his control. He spoke
gravely, with a deliberate conviction.
"I owe something to her, too, Dad."
But Gilder would not let the statement go unchallenged. His heavy
voice rang out rebukingly, overtoned with protest.
"What can you owe her?" he demanded indignantly. "She tricked
you into the marriage. Why, legally, it's not even that.
There's been nothing more than a wedding ceremony. The courts
hold that that is only a part of the marriage actually. The fact
that she doesn't receive you makes it simpler, too. It can be
arranged. We must get you out of the scrape."
He turned and went to the desk, as if to sit, but he was halted
by his son's answer, given very gently, yet with a note of
finality that to the father's ear rang like the crack of doom.
"I'm not sure that I want to get out of it, father."
That was all, but those plain words summed the situation, made
the issue a matter not of advice, but of the heart.
Gilder persisted, however, in trying to evade the integral fact
of his son's feeling. Still he tried to fix the issue on the
known unsavory reputation of the woman.
"You want to stay married to this jail-bird!" he stormed.
A gust of fury swept the boy. He loved the woman, in spite of
all; he respected her, even reverenced her. To hear her thus
named moved him to a rage almost beyond his control. But he
mastered himself. He remembered that the man who spoke loved
him; he remembered, too, that the word of opprobrium was no more
than the truth, however offensive it might be to his
sensitiveness. He waited a moment until he could hold his voice
even. Then his words were the sternest protest that could have
been uttered, though they came from no exercise of thought, only
out of the deeps of his heart.
"I'm very fond of her."
That was all. But the simple sincerity of the saying griped the
father's mood, as no argument could have done. There was a
little silence. After all, what could meet such loving loyalty?
When at last he spoke, Gilder's voice was subdued, a little
"Now, that you know?" he questioned.
There was no faltering in the answer.
"Now, that I know," Dick said distinctly. Then abruptly, the
young man spoke with the energy of perfect faith in the woman.
"Don't you see, father? Why, she is justified in a way, in her
own mind anyhow, I mean. She was innocent when she was sent to
prison. She feels that the world owes her----"
But the older man would not permit the assertion to go
uncontradicted. That reference to the woman's innocence was an
arraignment of himself, for it had been he who sent her to the
term of imprisonment.
"Don't talk to me about her innocence!" he said, and his voice
was ominous. "I suppose next you will argue that, because she's
been clever enough to keep within the law, since she's got out of
State Prison, she's not a criminal. But let me tell you--crime
is crime, whether the law touches it in the particular case, or
whether it doesn't."
Gilder faced his son sternly for a moment, and then presently
spoke again with deeper earnestness.
"There's only one course open to you, my boy. You must give this
girl up."
The son met his father's gaze with a level look in which there
was no weakness.
"I've told you, Dad----" he began.
"You must, I tell you," the father insisted. Then he went on
quickly, with a tone of utmost positiveness. "If you don't, what
are you going to do the day your wife is thrown into a patrol
wagon and carried to Police Headquarters--for it's sure to
happen? The cleverest of people make mistakes, and some day
she'll make one."
Dick threw out his hands in a gesture of supreme denial. He was
furious at this supposition that she would continue in her
irregular practices.
But the father went on remorselessly.
"They will stand her up where the detectives will walk past her
with masks on their faces. Her picture, of course, is already in
the Rogues' Gallery, but they will take another. Yes, and the
imprints of her fingers, and the measurements of her body."
The son was writhing under the words. The woman of whom these
things were said was the woman whom he loved. It was blasphemy
to think of her in such case, subjected to the degradation of
these processes. Yet, every word had in it the piercing, horrible
sting of truth. His face whitened. He raised a supplicating
"That's what they will do to your wife," Gilder went on harshly;
"to the woman who bears your name and mine." There was a little
pause, and the father stood rigid, menacing. The final question
came rasping. "What are you going to do about it?"
Dick went forward until he was close to his father. Then he spoke
with profound conviction.
"It will never happen. She will go straight, Dad. That I know.
You would know it if you only knew her as I do."
Gilder once again put his hand tenderly on his son's shoulder.
His voice was modulated to an unaccustomed mildness as he spoke.
"Be sensible, boy," he pleaded softly. "Be sensible!"
Dick dropped down on the couch, and made his answer very gently,
his eyes unseeing as he dwelt on the things he knew of the woman
he loved.
"Why, Dad," he said, "she is young. She's just like a child in a
hundred ways. She loves the trees and the grass and the
flowers--and everything that's simple and real! And as for her
heart--" His voice was low and very tender: "Why, her heart is
the biggest I've ever known. It's just overflowing with
sweetness and kindness. I've seen her pick up a baby that had
fallen in the street, and mother it in a way that--well, no one
could do it as she did it, unless her soul was clean."
The father was silent, a little awed. He made an effort to shake
off the feeling, and spoke with a sneer.
"You heard what she said yesterday, and you still are such a fool
as to think that."
The answer of the son came with an immutable finality, the
sublime faith of love.
"I don't think--I know!"
Gilder was in despair. What argument could avail him? He cried
out sharply in desperation.
"Do you realize what you're doing? Don't go to smash, Dick, just
at the beginning of your life. Oh, I beg you, boy, stop! Put
this girl out of your thoughts and start fresh."
The reply was of the simplest, and it was the end of argument.
"Father," Dick said, very gently, "I can't."
There followed a little period of quiet between the two. The
father, from his desk, stood facing his son, who thus denied him
in all honesty because the heart so commanded. The son rested
motionless and looked with unflinching eyes into his father's
face. In the gaze of each was a great affection.
"You're all I have, my boy," the older man said at last. And now
the big voice was a mildest whisper of love.
"Yes, Dad," came the answer--another whisper, since it is hard to
voice the truth of feeling such as this. "If I could avoid it, I
wouldn't hurt you for anything in the world. I'm sorry, Dad,
awfully sorry----" He hesitated, then his voice rang out clearly.
There was in his tone, when he spoke again, a recognition of that
loneliness which is the curse and the crown of being:
"But," he ended, "I must fight this out by myself--fight it out
in my own way.... And I'm going to do it!"
The butler entered.
"A man to see you, sir," he said.
Gilder made a gesture of irritation, as he sank into the chair at
his desk.
"I can't see any one to-night, Thomas," he exclaimed, sharply.
"But he said it was most important, sir," the servant went on.
He held out the tray insistently.
The master took the card grudgingly. As his eyes caught the
name, his expression changed slightly.
"Very well," he said, "show him up." His glance met the
wondering gaze of his son.
"It's Burke," he explained.
"What on earth can he want--at this time of night?" Dick
The father smiled grimly.
"You may as well get used to visits from the police." There was
something ghastly in the effort toward playfulness.
A moment later, Inspector Burke entered the room.
"Oh, you're here, too," he said, as his eyes fell on Dick.
"That's good. I wanted to see you, too."
Inspector Burke was, in fact, much concerned over the situation
that had developed. He was a man of undoubted ability, and he
took a keen professional pride in his work. He possessed the
faults of his class, was not too scrupulous where he saw a safe
opportunity to make a snug sum of money through the employment of
his official authority, was ready to buckle to those whose
influence could help or hinder his ambition. But, in spite of
these ordinary defects, he was fond of his work and wishful to
excel in it. Thus, Mary Turner had come to be a thorn in his
side. She flouted his authority and sustained her incredible
effrontery by a restraining order from the court. The thing was
outrageous to him, and he set himself to match her cunning. The
fact that she had involved Dick Gilder within her toils made him
the more anxious to overcome her in the strife of resources
between them. After much studying, he had at last planned
something that, while it would not directly touch Mary herself,
would at least serve to intimidate her, and as well make further
action easier against her. It was in pursuit of this scheme that
he now came to Gilder's house, and the presence of the young man
abruptly gave him another idea that might benefit him well. So,
he disregarded Gilder's greeting, and went on speaking to the
"She's skipped!" he said, triumphantly.
Dick made a step forward. His eyes flashed, and there was anger
in his voice as he replied:
"I don't believe it."
The Inspector smiled, unperturbed.
"She left this morning for Chicago," he said, lying with a manner
that long habit rendered altogether convincing. "I told you
she'd go." He turned to the father, and spoke with an air of
boastful good nature. "Now, all you have to do is to get this boy
out of the scrape and you'll be all right."
"If we only could!" The cry came with deepest earnestness from
the lips of Gilder, but there was little hope in his voice.
The Inspector, however, was confident of success, and his tones
rang cheerfully as he answered:
"I guess we can find a way to have the marriage annulled, or
whatever they do to marriages that don't take."
The brutal assurance of the man in thus referring to things that
were sacred, moved Dick to wrath.
"Don't you interfere," he said. His words were spoken softly,
but tensely.
Nevertheless, Burke held to the topic, but an indefinable change
in his manner rendered it less offensive to the young man.
"Interfere! Huh!" he ejaculated, grinning broadly. "Why, that's
what I'm paid to do. Listen to me, son. The minute you begin
mixing up with crooks, you ain't in a position to give orders to
any one. The crooks have got no rights in the eyes of the
police. Just remember that."
The Inspector spoke the simple truth as he knew it from years of
experience. The theory of the law is that a presumption of
innocence exists until the accused is proven guilty. But the
police are out of sympathy with such finical methods. With them,
the crook is presumed guilty at the outset of whatever may be
charged against him. If need be, there will be proof a-plenty
against him--of the sort that the underworld knows to its sorrow.
But Dick was not listening. His thoughts were again wholly with
the woman he loved, who, as the Inspector declared, had fled from
"Where's she gone in Chicago?"
Burke answered in his usual gruff fashion, but with a note of
kindliness that was not without its effect on Dick.
"I'm no mind-reader," he said. "But she's a swell little girl,
all right. I've got to hand it to her for that. So, she'll
probably stop at the Blackstone--that is, until the Chicago
police are tipped off that she is in town."
Of a sudden, the face of the young man took on a totally
different expression. Where before had been anger, now was a
vivid eagerness. He went close to the Inspector, and spoke with
intense seriousness.
"Burke," he said, pleadingly, "give me a chance. I'll leave for
Chicago in the morning. Give me twenty-four hours start before
you begin hounding her."
The Inspector regarded the speaker searchingly. His heavy face
was drawn in an expression of apparent doubt. Abruptly, then, he
smiled acquiescence.
"Seems reasonable," he admitted.
But the father strode to his son.
"No, no, Dick," he cried. "You shall not go! You shall not go!"
Burke, however, shook his head in remonstrance against Gilder's
plea. His huge voice came booming, weightily impressive.
"Why not?" he questioned. "It's a fair gamble. And, besides, I
like the boy's nerve."
Dick seized on the admission eagerly.
"And you'll agree?" he cried.
"Yes, I'll agree," the Inspector answered.
"Thank you," Dick said quietly.
But the father was not content. On the contrary, he went toward
the two hurriedly, with a gesture of reproval.
"You shall not go, Dick," he declared, imperiously.
The Inspector shot a word of warning to Gilder in an aside that
Dick could not hear.
"Keep still," he replied. "It's all right."
Dick went on speaking with a seriousness suited to the magnitude
of his interests.
"You give me your word, Inspector," he said, "that you won't
notify the police in Chicago until I've been there twenty-four
"You're on," Burke replied genially. "They won't get a whisper
out of me until the time is up." He swung about to face the
father, and there was a complete change in his manner. "Now,
then, Mr. Gilder," he said briskly, "I want to talk to you about
another little matter----"
Dick caught the suggestion, and interrupted quickly.
"Then I'll go." He smiled rather wanly at his father. "You
know, Dad, I'm sorry, but I've got to do what I think is the
right thing."
Burke helped to save the situation from the growing tenseness.
"Sure," he cried heartily; "sure you have. That's the best any
of us can do." He watched keenly as the young man went out of
the room. It was not until the door was closed after Dick that
he spoke. Then he dropped to a seat on the couch, and proceeded
to make his confidences to the magnate.
"He'll go to Chicago in the morning, you think, don't you?"
"Certainly," Gilder answered. "But I don't like it."
Burke slapped his leg with an enthusiasm that might have broken a
weaker member.
"Best thing that could have happened!" he vociferated. And then,
as Gilder regarded him in astonishment, he added, chuckling: "You
see, he won't find her there."
"Why do you think that?" Gilder demanded, greatly puzzled.
Burke permitted himself the luxury of laughing appreciatively a
moment more before making his exclamation. Then he said quietly:
"Because she didn't go there."
"Where did she go, then?" Gilder queried wholly at a loss.
Once again the officer chuckled. It was evident that he was well
pleased with his own ingenuity.
"Nowhere yet," he said at last. "But, just about the time he's
starting for the West I'll have her down at Headquarters.
Demarest will have her indicted before noon. She'll go for trial
in the afternoon. And to-morrow night she'll be sleeping up the
river.... That's where she is going."
Gilder stood motionless for a moment. After all, he was an
ordinary citizen, quite unfamiliar with the recondite methods
familiar to the police.
"But," he said, wonderingly, "you can't do that."
The Inspector laughed, a laugh of disingenuous amusement, for he
understood perfectly the lack of comprehension on the part of his
"Well," he said, and his voice sank into a modest rumble that was
none the less still thunderous. "Perhaps I can't!" And then he
beamed broadly, his whole face smiling blandly on the man who
doubted his power. "Perhaps I can't," he repeated. Then the
chuckle came again, and he added emphatically: "But I will!"
Suddenly, his heavy face grew hard. His alert eyes shone
fiercely, with a flash of fire that was known to every patrolman
who had ever reported to the desk when he was lieutenant. His
heavy jaw shot forward aggressively as he spoke.
"Think I'm going to let that girl make a joke of the Police
Department? Why, I'm here to get her--to stop her anyhow. Her
gang is going to break into your house to-night."
"What?" Gilder demanded. "You mean, she's coming here as a
"Not exactly," Inspector Burke confessed, "but her pals are
coming to try to pull off something right here. She wouldn't
come, not if I know her. She's too clever for that. Why, if she
knew what Garson was planning to do, she'd stop him."
The Inspector paused suddenly. For a long minute his face was
seamed with thought. Then, he smote his thigh with a blow strong
enough to kill an ox. His face was radiant.
"By God! I've got her!" he cried. The inspiration for which he
had longed was his at last. He went to the desk where the
telephone was, and took up the receiver.
"Give me 3100 Spring," he said. As he waited for the connection
he smiled widely on the astonished Gilder. " 'Tain't too late,"
he said joyously. "I must have been losing my mind not to have
thought of it before." The impact of sounds on his ear from the
receiver set him to attention.
"Headquarters?" he called. "Inspector Burke speaking. Who's in
my office? I want him quick." He smiled as he listened, and he
spoke again to Gilder. "It's Smith, the best man I have. That's
luck, if you ask me." Then again he spoke into the mouthpiece of
the telephone.
"Oh, Ed, send some one up to that Turner woman. You have the
address. Just see that she is tipped off, that Joe Garson and
some pals are going to break into Edward Gilder's house to-night.
Get some stool-pigeon to hand her the information. You'd better
get to work damned quick. Understand?"
The Inspector pulled out that watch of which Aggie Lynch had
spoken so avariciously, and glanced at it, then went on speaking:
"It's ten-thirty now. She went to the Lyric Theater with some
woman. Get her as she leaves, or find her back at her own place
later. You'll have to hustle, anyhow. That's all!"
The Inspector hung up the receiver and faced his host with a
contented smile.
"What good will all that do?" Gilder demanded, impatiently.
Burke explained with a satisfaction natural to one who had
devised something ingenious and adequate. This inspiration filled
him with delight. At last he was sure of catching Mary Turner
herself in his toils.
"She'll come to stop 'em," he said. "When we get the rest of the
gang, we'll grab her, too. Why, I almost forgot her, thinking
about Garson. Mr. Gilder, you would hardly believe it, but
there's scarcely been a real bit of forgery worth while done in
this country for the last twenty years, that Garson hasn't been
mixed up in. We've never once got him right in all that time."
The Inspector paused to chuckle. "Crooks are funny," he
explained with obvious contentment. "Clever as he is, Garson let
Griggs talk him into a second-story job, and now we'll get him
with the goods.... Just call your man for a minute, will you, Mr.
Gilder pressed the electric button on his desk. At the same
moment, through the octagonal window came a blinding flash of
light that rested for seconds, then vanished. Burke, by no means
a nervous man, nevertheless was startled by the mysterious
"What's that?" he demanded, sharply.
"It's the flashlight from the Metropolitan Tower," Gilder
explained with a smile over the policeman's perturbation. "It
swings around this way about every fifteen minutes. The servant
forgot to draw the curtains." As he spoke, he went to the
window, and pulled the heavy draperies close. "It won't bother
us again."
The entrance of the butler brought the Inspector's thoughts back
to the matter in hand.
"My man," he said, authoritatively, "I want you to go up to the
roof and open the scuttle. You'll find some men waiting up
there. Bring 'em down here."
The servant's usually impassive face showed astonishment, not
unmixed with dismay, and he looked doubtfully toward his master,
who nodded reassuringly.
"Oh, they won't hurt you," the Inspector declared, as he noticed
the man's hesitation. "They're police officers. You get 'em down
here, and then you go to bed and stay there till morning.
Again, the butler looked at his master for guidance in this very
peculiar affair, as he deemed it. Receiving another nod, he
"Very well, sir." He regarded the Inspector with a certain
helpless indignation over this disturbance of the natural order,
and left the room.
Gilder himself was puzzled over the situation, which was by no
means clear to him.
"How do you know they're going to break into the house to-night?"
he demanded of Burke; "or do you only think they're going to
break into the house?"
"I know they are." The Inspector's harsh voice brought out the
words boastfully. "I fixed it."
"You did!" There was wonder in the magnate's exclamation.
"Sure," Burke declared complacently, "did it through a
"Oh, an informer," Gilder interrupted, a little doubtfully.
"Yes," Burke agreed. "Stool-pigeon is the police name for him.
Really, he's the vilest thing that crawls."
"But, if you think that," Gilder expostulated, "why do you have
anything to do with that sort of person?"
"Because it's good business," the Inspector replied. "We know
he's a spy and a traitor, and that every time he comes near us we
ought to use a disinfectant. But we deal with him just the
same--because we have to. Now, the stool-pigeon in this trick is
a swell English crook. He went to Garson yesterday with a scheme
to rob your house. He tried out Mary Turner, too, but she
wouldn't stand for it--said it would break the law, which is
contrary to her principles. She told Garson to leave it alone.
But he met Griggs afterward without her knowing anything about
it, and then he agreed to pull it off. Griggs got word to me
that it's coming off to-night. And so, you see, Mr. Gilder,
that's how I know. Do you get me?"
"I see," Gilder admitted without any enthusiasm. As a matter of
fact, he felt somewhat offended that his house should be thus
summarily seized as a trap for criminals.
"But why do you have your men come down over the roof?" he
inquired curiously.
"It wasn't safe to bring them in the front way," was the
Inspector's prompt reply. "It's a cinch the house is being
watched. I wish you would let me have your latch-key. I want to
come back, and make this collar myself."
The owner of the house obediently took the desired key from his
ring and gave it to the Inspector with a shrug of resignation.
"But, why not stay, now that you are here?" he asked.
"Huh!" Burke retorted. "Suppose some of them saw me come in?
There wouldn't be anything doing until after they see me go out
The hall door opened and the butler reentered the room. Behind
him came Cassidy and two other detectives in plain clothes. At a
word from his master, the disturbed Thomas withdrew with the
intention of obeying the Inspector's directions that he should
retire to bed and stay there, carefully avoiding whatever
possibilities of peril there might be in the situation so foreign
to his ideals of propriety.
"Now," Burke went on briskly, as the door closed behind the
servant, "where could these men stay out of sight until they're
There followed a little discussion which ended in the selection
of a store-room at the end of the passage on the ground floor, on
which one of the library doors opened.
"You see," Burke explained to Gilder, when this matter had been
settled to his satisfaction, and while Cassidy and the other
detectives were out of the library on a tour of inspection, "you
must have things right, when it comes to catching crooks on a
frame-up like this. I had these men come to Number Twenty-six on
the other street, then round the block on the roofs."
Gilder nodded appreciation which was not actually sincere. It
seemed to him that such elaborate manoeuvering was, in truth,
rather absurd.
"And now, Mr. Gilder," the Inspector said energetically, "I'm
going to give you the same tip I gave your man. Go to bed, and
stay there."
"But the boy," Gilder protested. "What about him? He's the one
thing of importance to me."
"If he says anything more about going to Chicago--just you let
him go, that's all! It's the best place for him for the next few
days. I'll get in touch with you in the morning and let you know
then how things are coming out."
Gilder sighed resignedly. His heavy face was lined with anxiety.
There was a hesitation in his manner of speech that was wholly
unlike its usual quick decisiveness.
"I don't like this sort of thing," he said, doubtfully. "I let
you go ahead because I can't suggest any alternative, but I don't
like it, not at all. It seems to me that other methods might be
employed with excellent results without the element of treachery
which seems to involve me as well as you in our efforts to
overcome this woman."
Burke, however, had no qualms as to such plotting.
"You must have crooked ways to catch crooks, believe me," he said
cheerfully. "It's the easiest and quickest way out of the
trouble for us, and the easiest and quickest way into trouble for
The return of the detectives caused him to break off, and he gave
his attention to the final arrangements of his men.
"You're in charge here," he said to Cassidy, "and I hold you
responsible. Now, listen to this, and get it." His coarse voice
came with a grating note of command. "I'm coming back to get this
bunch myself, and I'll call you when you're wanted. You'll wait
in the store-room out there and don't make a move till you hear
from me, unless by any chance things go wrong and you get a call
from Griggs. You know who he is. He's got a whistle, and he'll
use it if necessary.... Got that straight?" And, when Cassidy
had declared an entire understanding of the directions given, he
concluded concisely. "On your way, then!"
As the men left the room, he turned again to Gilder.
"Just one thing more," he said. "I'll have to have your help a
little longer. After I've gone, I want you to stay up for a
half-hour anyhow, with the lights burning. Do you see? I want to
be sure to give the Turner woman time to get here while that gang
is at work. Your keeping on the lights will hold them back, for
they won't come in till the house is dark, so, in half an hour
you can get off the job, switch off the lights and go to bed and
stay there--just as I told you before." Then Inspector Burke,
having in mind the great distress of the man over the unfortunate
entanglement of his son, was at pains to offer a reassuring word.
"Don't worry about the boy," he said, with grave kindliness.
"We'll get him out of this scrape all right." And with the
assertion he bustled out, leaving the unhappy father to miserable
Gilder scrupulously followed the directions of the Police
Inspector. Uneasily, he had remained in the library until the
allotted time was elapsed. He fidgeted from place to place, his
mind heavy with distress under the shadow that threatened to
blight the life of his cherished son. Finally, with a sense of
relief he put out the lights and went to his chamber. But he did
not follow the further directions given him, for he was not
minded to go to bed. Instead, he drew the curtains closely to
make sure that no gleam of light could pass them, and then sat
with a cigar between his lips, which he did not smoke, though
from time to time he was at pains to light it. His thoughts were
most with his son, and ever as he thought of Dick, his fury waxed
against the woman who had enmeshed the boy in her plotting for
vengeance on himself. And into his thoughts now crept a doubt,
one that alarmed his sense of justice. It occurred to him that
this woman could not have thus nourished a plan for retribution
through the years unless, indeed, she had been insane, even as he
had claimed--or innocent! The idea was appalling. He could not
bear to admit the possibility of having been the involuntary
inflicter of such wrong as to send the girl to prison for an
offense she had not committed. He rejected the suggestion, but
it persisted. He knew the clean, wholesome nature of his son.
It seemed to him incredible that the boy could have thus given
his heart to one altogether undeserving. A horrible suspicion
that he had misjudged Mary Turner crept into his brain, and would
not out. He fought it with all the strength of him, and that was
much, but ever it abode there. He turned for comfort to the
things Burke had said. The woman was a crook, and there was an
end of it. Her ruse of spoliation within the law was evidence of
her shrewdness, nothing more.
Mary Turner herself, too, was in a condition utterly wretched,
and for the same cause--Dick Gilder. That source of the father's
suffering was hers as well. She had won her ambition of years,
revenge on the man who had sent her to prison. And now the joy
of it was a torture, for the puppet of her plans, the son, had
suddenly become the chief thing in her life. She had taken it
for granted that he would leave her after he came to know that
her marriage to him was only a device to bring shame on his
father. Instead, he loved her. That fact seemed the secret of
her distress. He loved her. More, he dared believe, and to
assert boldly, that she loved him. Had he acted otherwise, the
matter would have been simple enough.... But he loved her, loved
her still, though he knew the shame that had clouded her life,
knew the motive that had led her to accept him as a husband.
More--by a sublime audacity, he declared that she loved him.
There came a thrill in her heart each time she thought of
that--that she loved him. The idea was monstrous, of course, and
yet---- Here, as always, she broke off, a hot flush blazing in
her cheeks.... Nevertheless, such curious fancies pursued her
through the hours. She strove her mightiest to rid herself of
them, but in vain. Ever they persisted. She sought to oust them
by thinking of any one else, of Aggie, of Joe. There at last was
satisfaction. Her interference between the man who had saved her
life and the temptation of the English crook had prevented a
dangerous venture, which might have meant ruin to the one whom
she esteemed for his devotion to her, if for no other reason. At
least, she had kept him from the outrageous folly of an ordinary
Mary Turner was just ready for bed after her evening at the
theater, when she was rudely startled out of this belief. A note
came by a messenger who waited for no answer, as he told the
yawning maid. As Mary read the roughly scrawled message, she was
caught in the grip of terror. Some instinct warned her that this
danger was even worse than it seemed. The man who had saved her
from death had yielded to temptation. Even now, he was engaged in
committing that crime which she had forbidden him. As he had
saved her, so she must save him. She hurried into the gown she
had just put off. Then she went to the telephone-book and
searched for the number of Gilder's house.
* * * * *
It was just a few moments before Mary Turner received the note
from the hands of the sleepy maid that one of the leaves of the
octagonal window in the library of Richard Gilder's town house
swung open, under the persuasive influence of a thin rod of
steel, cunningly used, and Joe Garson stepped confidently into
the dark room.
A faint radiance of moonlight from without showed him for a
second as he passed between the heavy draperies. Then these fell
into place, and he was invisible, and soundless as well. For a
space, he rested motionless, listening intently. Reassured, he
drew out an electric torch and set it glowing. A little disc of
light touched here and there about the room, traveling very
swiftly, and in methodical circles. Satisfied by the survey,
Garson crossed to the hall door. He moved with alert assurance,
lithely balanced on the balls of his feet, noiselessly. At the
hall door he listened for any sound of life without, and found
none. The door into the passage that led to the store-room where
the detectives waited next engaged his business-like attention.
And here, again, there was naught to provoke his suspicion.
These preliminaries taken as measures of precaution, Garson went
boldly to the small table that stood behind the couch, turned the
button, and the soft glow of an electric lamp illumined the
apartment. The extinguished torch was thrust back into his
pocket. Afterward he carried one of the heavy chairs to the door
of the passage and propped it against the panel in such wise that
its fall must give warning as to the opening of the door. His
every action was performed with the maximum of speed, with no
least trace of flurry or of nervous haste. It was evident that
he followed a definite program, the fruit of precise thought
guided by experience.
It seemed to him that now everything was in readiness for the
coming of his associates in the commission of the crime. There
remained only to give them the signal in the room around the
corner where they waited at a telephone. He seated himself in
Gilder's chair at the desk, and drew the telephone to him.
"Give me 999 Bryant," he said. His tone was hardly louder than a
whisper, but spoken with great distinctness.
There was a little wait. Then an answer in a voice he knew came
over the wire.
But Garson said nothing more. Instead, he picked up a penholder
from the tray on the desk, and began tapping lightly on the rim
of the transmitter. It was a code message in Morse. In the room
around the corner, the tapping sounded clearly, ticking out the
message that the way was free for the thieves' coming.
When Garson had made an end of the telegraphing, there came a
brief answer in like Morse, to which he returned a short
For a final safeguard, Garson searched for and found the
telephone bell-box on the surbase below the octagonal window. It
was the work of only a few seconds to unscrew the bells, which he
placed on the desk. So simply he made provision against any
alarm from this source. He then took his pistol from his
hip-pocket, examined it to make sure that the silencer was
properly adjusted, and then thrust it into the right side-pocket
of his coat, ready for instant use in desperate emergency. Once
again, now, he produced the electric torch, and lighted it as he
extinguished the lamp on the table.
Forthwith, Garson went to the door into the hall, opened it, and,
leaving it ajar, made his way in silence to the outer doorway.
Presently, the doors there were freed of their bolts under his
skilled fingers, and one of them swung wide. He had put out the
torch now, lest its gleam might catch the gaze of some casual
passer-by. So nicely had the affair been timed that hardly was
the door open before the three men slipped in, and stood mute and
motionless in the hall, while Garson refastened the doors. Then,
a pencil of light traced the length of the hallway and Garson
walked quickly back to the library. Behind him with steps as
noiseless as his own came the three men to whom he had just given
the message.
When all were gathered in the library, Garson shut the hall door,
touched the button in the wall beside it, and the chandelier
threw its radiant light on the group.
Griggs was in evening clothes, seeming a very elegant young
gentleman indeed, but his two companions were of grosser type, as
far as appearances went: one, Dacey, thin and wiry, with a ferret
face; the other, Chicago Red, a brawny ruffian, whose stolid
features nevertheless exhibited something of half-sullen good
"Everything all right so far," Garson said rapidly. He turned to
Griggs and pointed toward the heavy hangings that shrouded the
octagonal window. "Are those the things we want?" he demanded.
"Yes," was the answer of English Eddie.
"Well, then, we've got to get busy," Garson went on. His alert,
strong face was set in lines of eagerness that had in it
something of fierceness now.
But, before he could add a direction, he was halted by a soft
buzzing from the telephone, which, though bell-less, still gave
this faint warning of a call. For an instant, he hesitated while
the others regarded him doubtfully. The situation offered
perplexities. To give no attention to the summons might be
perilous, and failure to respond might provoke investigation in
some urgent matter; to answer it might easily provide a larger
"We've got to take a chance." Garson spoke his decision curtly.
He went to the desk and put the receiver to his ear.
There came again the faint tapping of some one at the other end
of the line, signaling a message in the Morse code. An
expression of blank amazement, which grew in a flash to deep
concern, showed on Garson's face as he listened tensely.
"Why, this is Mary calling," he muttered.
"Mary!" Griggs cried. His usual vacuity of expression was cast
off like a mask and alarm twisted his features. Then, in the next
instant, a crafty triumph gleamed from his eyes.
"Yes, she's on," Garson interpreted, a moment later, as the
tapping ceased for a little. He translated in a loud whisper as
the irregular ticking noise sounded again.
"I shall be there at the house almost at once. I am sending this
message from the drug store around the corner. Have some one
open the door for me immediately."
"She's coming over," Griggs cried incredulously.
"No, I'll stop her," Garson declared firmly.
"Right! Stop her," Chicago Red vouchsafed.
But, when, after tapping a few words, the forger paused for the
reply, no sound came.
"She don't answer," he exclaimed, greatly disconcerted. He tried
again, still without result. At that, he hung up the receiver
with a groan. "She's gone----"
"On her way already," Griggs suggested, and there was none to
doubt that it was so.
"What's she coming here for?" Garson exclaimed harshly. "This
ain't no place for her! Why, if anything should go wrong now----"
But Griggs interrupted him with his usual breezy cheerfulness of
"Oh, nothing can go wrong now, old top. I'll let her in." He
drew a small torch from the skirt-pocket of his coat and crossed
to the hall door, as Garson nodded assent.
"God! Why did she have to come?" Garson muttered, filled with
forebodings. "If anything should go wrong now!"
He turned back toward the door just as it opened, and Mary darted
into the room with Griggs following. "What do you want here?" he
demanded, with peremptory savageness in his voice, which was a
tone he had never hitherto used in addressing her.
Mary went swiftly to face Garson where he stood by the desk,
while Griggs joined the other two men who stood shuffling about
uneasily by the fireplace, at a loss over this intrusion on their
scheme. Mary moved with a lissome grace like that of some wild
creature, but as she halted opposite the man who had given her
back the life she would have thrown away, there was only tender
pleading in her voice, though her words were an arraignment.
"Joe, you lied to me."
"That can be settled later," the man snapped. His jaw was thrust
forward obstinately, and his clear eyes sparkled defiantly.
"You are fools, all of you!" Mary cried. Her eyes darkened and
distended with fear. They darted from Garson to the other three
men, and back again in rebuke. "Yes, fools! This is burglary. I
can't protect you if you are caught. How can I? Oh, come!" She
held out her hands pleadingly toward Garson, and her voice
dropped to beseeching. "Joe, Joe, you must get away from this
house at once, all of you. Joe, make them go."
"It's too late," was the stern answer. There was no least
relaxation in the stubborn lines of his face. "We're here now,
and we'll stay till the business is done."
Mary went a step forward. The cloak she was wearing was thrown
back by her gesture of appeal so that those watching saw the
snowy slope of the shoulders and the quick rise and fall of the
gently curving bosom. The beautiful face within the framing scarf
was colorless with a great fear, save only the crimson lips, of
which the bow was bent tremulously as she spoke her prayer.
"Joe, for my sake!"
But the man was inexorable. He had set himself to this thing,
and even the urging of the one person in the world for whom he
most cared was powerless against his resolve.
"I can't quit now until we've got what we came here after," he
declared roughly.
Of a sudden, the girl made shift to employ another sort of
"But there are reasons," she said, faltering. A certain
embarrassment swept her, and the ivory of her cheeks bloomed
rosily. "I--I can't have you rob this house, this particular
house of all the world." Her eyes leaped from the still obdurate
face of the forger to the group of three back of him. Her voice
was shaken with a great dread as she called out to them.
"Boys, let's get away! Please, oh, please! Joe, for God's sake!"
Her tone was a sob.
Her anguish of fear did not swerve Garson from his purpose.
"I'm going to see this through," he said, doggedly.
"But, Joe----"
"It's settled, I tell you."
In the man's emphasis the girl realized at last the inefficacy of
her efforts to combat his will. She seemed to droop visibly
before their eyes. Her head sank on her breast. Her voice was
husky as she tried to speak.
"Then----" She broke off with a gesture of despair, and turned
away toward the door by which she had entered.
But, with a movement of great swiftness, Garson got in front of
her, and barred her going. For a few seconds the two stared at
each other searchingly as if learning new and strange things,
each of the other. In the girl's expression was an outraged
wonder and a great terror. In the man's was a half-shamed pride,
as if he exulted in the strength with which he had been able to
maintain his will against her supreme effort to overthrow it.
"You can't go," Garson said sharply. "You might be caught."
"And if I were," Mary demanded in a flash of indignation, "do you
think I'd tell?"
There came an abrupt change in the hard face of the man. Into
the piercing eyes flamed a softer fire of tenderness. The firm
mouth grew strangely gentle as he replied, and his voice was
overtoned with faith.
"Of course not, Mary," he said. "I know you. You would go up
for life first."
Then again his expression became resolute, and he spoke
"Just the same, you can't take any chances. We'll all get away
in a minute, and you'll come with us." He turned to the men and
spoke with swift authority.
"Come," he said to Dacey, "you get to the light switch there by
the hall door. If you hear me snap my fingers, turn 'em off.
With instant obedience, the man addressed went to his station by
the hall door, and stood ready to control the electric current.
The distracted girl essayed one last plea. The momentary
softening of Garson had given her new courage.
"Joe, don't do this."
"You can't stop it now, Mary," came the brisk retort. "Too late.
You're only wasting time, making it dangerous for all of us."
Again he gave his attention to carrying on the robbery.
"Red," he ordered, "you get to that door." He pointed to the one
that gave on the passageway against which he had set the chair
tilted. As the man obeyed, Garson gave further instructions.
"If any one comes in that way, get him and get him quick. You
understand? Don't let him cry out."
Chicago Red grinned with cheerful acceptance of the issue in such
an encounter. He held up his huge hand, widely open.
"Not a chance," he declared, proudly, "with that over his mug."
To avoid possible interruption of his movements in an emergency,
he removed the chair Garson had placed and set it to one side,
out of the way.
"Now, let's get to work," Garson continued eagerly. Mary spoke
with the bitterness of defeat.
"Listen, Joe! If you do this, I'm through with you. I quit."
Garson was undismayed by the threat.
"If this goes through," he countered, "we'll all quit. That's why
I'm doing it. I'm sick of the game."
He turned to the work in hand with increased energy.
"Come, you, Griggs and Red, and push that desk down a bit so that
I can stand on it." The two men bent to the task, heedless of
Mary's frantic protest.
"No! no! no! no! no, Joe!"
Red, however, suddenly straightened from the desk and stood
motionless, listening. He made a slight hissing noise that
arrested the attention of the others and held them in moveless
"I hear something," he whispered. He went to the keyhole of the
door leading into the passage. Then he whispered again, "And
it's coming this way."
At the words, Garson snapped his fingers. The room was plunged
in darkness.
There was absolute silence in the library after the turning of
the switch that brought the pall of darkness. Long seconds
passed, then a little noise--the knob of the passage door
turning. As the door swung open, there came a gasping breath
from Mary, for she saw framed in the faint light that came from
the single burner in the corridor the slender form of her
husband, Dick Gilder. In the next instant he had stepped within
the room and pulled to the door behind him. And in that same
instant Chicago Red had pounced on his victim, the huge hand
clapped tight over the young man's mouth. Even as his powerful
arm held the newcomer in an inescapable embrace, there came a
sound of scuffling feet and that was all. Finally the big man's
voice came triumphantly.
"I've got him."
"It's Dick!" The cry came as a wail of despair from the girl.
At the same moment, Garson flashed his torch, and the light fell
swiftly on young Gilder, bowed to a kneeling posture before the
couch, half-throttled by the strength of Chicago Red. Close
beside him, Mary looked down in wordless despair over this final
disaster of the night. There was silence among the men, all of
whom save the captor himself were gathered near the fireplace.
Garson retired a step farther before he spoke his command, so
that, though he held the torch still, he like the others was in
shadow. Only Mary was revealed clearly as she bent in alarm
toward the man she had married. It was borne in on the forger's
consciousness that the face of the woman leaning over the
intruder was stronger to hold the prisoner and to prevent any
outcry than the might of Chicago Red himself, and so he gave the
"Get away, Red."
The fellow let go his grip obediently enough, though with a
trifle of regret, since he gloried in his physical prowess.
Thus freed of that strangling embrace, Dick stumbled blindly to
his feet. Then, mechanically, his hand went to the lamp on the
table back of the couch. In the same moment Garson snapped his
torch to darkness. When, after a little futile searching, Dick
finally found the catch, and the mellow streamed forth, he
uttered an ejaculation of stark amazement, for his gaze was
riveted on the face of the woman he loved.
"Good God!" It was a cry of torture wrung from his soul of souls.
Mary swayed toward him a little, palpitant with fear --fear for
herself, for all of them, most of all for him.
"Hush! hush!" she panted warningly. "Oh, Dick, you don't
Dick's hand was at his throat. It was not easy for him to speak
yet. He had suffered severely in the process of being throttled,
and, too, he was in the clutch of a frightful emotion. To find
her, his wife, in this place, in such company--her, the woman
whom he loved, whom, in spite of everything, he had honored, the
woman to whom he had given his name! Mary here! And thus!
"I understand this," he said brokenly at last. "Whether you ever
did it before or not, this time you have broken the law." A
sudden inspiration on his own behalf came to him. For his love's
sake, he must seize on this opportunity given of fate to him for
mastery. He went on with a new vehemence of boldness that became
him well.
"You're in my hands now. So are these men as well. Unless you do
as I say, Mary, I'll jail every one of them."
Mary's usual quickness was not lacking even now, in this period
of extremity. Her retort was given without a particle of
"You can't," she objected with conviction. "I'm the only one
you've seen."
"That's soon remedied," Dick declared. He turned toward the hall
door as if with the intention of lighting the chandelier.
But Mary caught his arm pleadingly.
"Don't, Dick," she begged. "It's--it's not safe."
"I'm not afraid," was his indignant answer. He would have gone
on, but she clung the closer. He was reluctant to use over-much
force against the one whom he cherished so fondly.
There came a diversion from the man who had made the capture, who
was mightily wondering over the course of events, which was
wholly unlike anything in the whole of his own rather extensive
housebreaking experience.
"Who's this, anyhow?" Chicago Red demanded.
There was a primitive petulance in his drawling tones.
Dick answered with conciseness enough.
"I'm her husband. Who are you?"
Mary called a soft admonition.
"Don't speak, any of you," she directed. "You mustn't let him
hear your voices."
Dick was exasperated by this persistent identification of herself
with these criminals in his father's house.
"You're fighting me like a coward," he said hotly. His voice was
bitter. The eyes that had always been warm in their glances on
her were chill now. He turned a little way from her, as if in
instinctive repugnance. "You are taking advantage of my love.
You think that because of it I can't make a move against these
men. Now, listen to me, I----"
"I won't!" Mary cried. Her words were shrill with mingled
emotions. "There's nothing to talk about," she went on wildly.
"There never can be between you and me."
The young man's voice came with a sonorous firmness that was new
to it. In these moments, the strength of him, nourished by
suffering, was putting forth its flower. His manner was
"There can be and there will be," he contradicted. He raised his
voice a little, speaking into the shadows where was the group of
silent men.
"You men back there!" he cried. "If I give you my word to let
every one of you go free and pledge myself never to recognize one
of you again, will you make Mary here listen to me? That's all I
ask. I want a few minutes to state my case. Give me that.
Whether I win or lose, you men go free, and I'll forget
everything that has happened here to-night." There came a
muffled guffaw of laughter from the big chest of Chicago Red at
this extraordinarily ingenuous proposal, while Dacey chuckled
more quietly.
Dick made a gesture of impatience at this open derision.
"Tell them I can be trusted," he bade Mary curtly.
It was Garson who answered.
"I know that you can be trusted," he said, "because I know you
lo----" He checked himself with a shiver, and out of the darkness
his face showed white.
"You must listen," Dick went on, facing again toward the girl,
who was trembling before him, her eyes by turns searching his
expression or downcast in unfamiliar confusion, which she herself
could hardly understand.
"Your safety depends on me," the young man warned. "Suppose I
should call for help?"
Garson stepped forward threateningly.
"You would only call once," he said very gently, yet most grimly.
His hand went to the noiseless weapon in his coat-pocket.
But the young man's answer revealed the fact that he, too, was
determined to the utmost, that he understood perfectly the
"Once would be quite enough," he said simply.
Garson nodded in acceptance of the defeat. It may be, too, that
in some subtle fashion he admired this youth suddenly grown
resolute, competent to control a dangerous event. There was even
the possibility that some instinct of tenderness toward Mary
herself made him desire that this opportunity should be given for
wiping out the effects of misfortune which fate hitherto had
brought into her life.
"You win," Garson said, with a half-laugh. He turned to the
other men and spoke a command.
"You get over by the hall door, Red. And keep your ears open
every second. Give us the office if you hear anything. If we're
rushed, and have to make a quick get-away, see that Mary has the
first chance. Get that, all of you?"
As Chicago Red took up his appointed station, Garson turned to
"Make it quick, remember."
He touched the other two and moved back to the wall by the
fireplace, as far as possible from the husband and wife by the
Dick spoke at once, with a hesitancy that betrayed the depth of
his emotion.
"Don't you care for me at all?" he asked wistfully.
The girl's answer was uttered with nervous eagerness which
revealed her own stress of fear.
"No, no, no!" she exclaimed, rebelliously.
Now, however, the young man had regained some measure of
"I know you do, Mary," he asserted, confidently; "a little,
anyway. Why, Mary," he went on reproachfully, "can't you see
that you're throwing away everything that makes life worth while?
Don't you see that?"
There was no word from the girl. Her breast was moving
convulsively. She held her face steadfastly averted from the
face of her husband.
"Why don't you answer me?" he insisted.
Mary's reply came with all the coldness she could command.
"That was not in the bargain," Mary said, indifferently.
The man's voice grew tenderly winning, persuasive with the
longing of a lover, persuasive with the pity of the righteous for
the sinner.
"Mary, Mary!" he cried. "You've got to change. Don't be so hard.
Give the woman in you a chance."
The girl's form became rigid as she fought for self-control. The
plea touched to the bottom of her heart, but she could not, would
not yield. Her words rushed forth with a bitterness that was the
cover of her distress.
"I am what I am," she said sharply. "I can't change. Keep your
promise, now, and let's get out of this."
Her assertion was disregarded as to the inability to change.
"You can change," Dick went on impetuously. "Mary, haven't you
ever wanted the things that other women have, shelter, and care,
and the big things of life, the things worth while? They're all
ready for you, now, Mary.... And what about me?" Reproach leaped
in his tone. "After all, you've married me. Now it's up to you
to give me my chance to make good. I've never amounted to much.
I've never tried much. I shall, now, if you will have it so,
Mary; if you'll help me. I will come out all right, I know
that--so do you, Mary. Only, you must help me."
"I help you!" The exclamation came from the girl in a note of
incredulous astonishment.
"Yes," Dick said, simply. "I need you, and you need me. Come
away with me."
"No, no!" was the broken refusal. There was a great grief
clutching at the soul of this woman who had brought vengeance to
its full flower. She was gasping. "No, no! I married you, not
because I loved you, but to repay your father the wrong he had
done me. I wouldn't let myself even think of you, and then--I
realized that I had spoiled your life."
"No, not spoiled it, Mary! Blessed it! We must prove that yet."
"Yes, spoiled it," the wife went on passionately. "If I had
understood, if I could have dreamed that I could ever care----
Oh, Dick, I would never have married you for anything in the
"But now you do realize," the young man said quietly. "The thing
is done. If we made a mistake, it is for us to bring happiness
out of that error."
"Oh, can't you see?" came the stricken lament. "I'm a
"But you love me--you do love me, I know!" The young man spoke
with joyous certainty, for some inflection of her voice had told
the truth to his heart. Nothing else mattered. "But now, to come
back to this hole we're in here. Don't you understand, at last,
that you can't beat the law? If you're caught here to-night,
where would you get off--caught here with a gang of burglars?
Tell me, dear, why did you do it? Why didn't you protect
yourself? Why didn't you go to Chicago as you planned?"
"What?" There was a new quality in Mary's voice. A sudden throb
of shock masked in the surface indifference of intonation.
Dick repeated his question, unobservant of its first effect.
"Why didn't you go to Chicago as you had planned?"
"Planned? With whom?" The interrogation came with an abrupt
force that cried of new suspicions.
"Why, with Burke." The young man tried to be patient over her
density in this time of crisis.
"Who told you that I had arranged any such thing?" Mary asked.
Now the tenseness in her manner got the husband's attention, and
he replied with a sudden gravity, apprehensive of he knew not
"Burke himself did."
"When?" Mary was standing rigid now, and the rare color flamed
in her cheeks. Her eyes were blazing.
"Less than an hour ago." He had caught the contagion of her mood
and vague alarm swept him.
"Where?" came the next question, still with that vital
"In this room."
"Burke was here?" Mary's voice was suddenly cold, very
dangerous. "What was he doing here?"
"Talking to my father."
The seemingly simple answer appeared the last straw to the girl's
burden of frenzied suspicion. Her voice cut fiercely into the
quiet of the room, imperious, savage.
"Joe, turn on that light! I want to see the face of every man in
this room."
Something fatally significant in her voice set Garson a-leap to
the switch, and, in the same second, the blaze of the chandelier
flamed brilliantly over all. The others stood motionless,
blinking in the sudden radiance--all save Griggs, who moved
stealthily in that same moment, a little nearer the door into the
passage, which was nearest to him.
But Mary's next words came wholly as a surprise, seemingly
totally irrelevant to this instant of crisis. Yet they rang
a-throb with an hysterical anxiety.
"Dick," she cried, "what are those tapestries worth?" With the
question, she pointed toward the draperies that shrouded the
great octagonal window.
The young man was plainly astonished, disconcerted as well by the
obtrusion of a sordid detail into the tragedy of the time.
"Why in the world do you----?" he began, impatiently.
Mary stamped her foot angrily in protest against the delay.
"Tell me--quick!" she commanded. The authority in her voice and
manner was not to be gainsaid.
Dick yielded sullenly.
"Oh, two or three hundred dollars, I suppose," he answered.
"Never mind that!" Mary exclaimed, violently. And now the girl's
voice came stinging like a whiplash. In Garson's face, too, was
growing fury, for in an instant of illumination he guessed
something of the truth. Mary's next question confirmed his raging
"How long have you had them, Dick?"
By now, the young man himself sensed the fact that something
mysteriously baneful lay behind the frantic questioning on this
seemingly trivial theme.
"Ever since I can remember," he replied, promptly.
Mary's voice came then with an intonation that brought
enlightenment not only to Garson's shrewd perceptions, but also
to the heavier intelligences of Dacey and of Chicago Red.
"And they're not famous masterpieces which your father bought
recently, from some dealer who smuggled them into this country?"
So simple were the words of her inquiry, but under them beat
something evil, deadly.
The young man laughed contemptuously.
"I should say not!" he declared indignantly, for he resented the
implication against his father's honesty.
"It's a trick! Burke's done it!" Mary's words came with accusing
There was another single step made by Griggs toward the door into
the passage.
Mary's eye caught the movement, and her lips soundlessly formed
the name:
The man strove to carry off the situation, though he knew well
that he stood in mortal peril. He came a little toward the girl
who had accused him of treachery. He was very dapper in his
evening clothes, with his rather handsome, well-groomed face set
in lines of innocence.
"He's lying to you!" he cried forcibly, with a scornful gesture
toward Dick Gilder. "I tell you, those tapestries are worth a
million cold."
Mary's answer was virulent in its sudden burst of hate. For
once, the music of her voice was lost in a discordant cry of
"You stool-pigeon! You did this for Burke!"
Griggs sought still to maintain his air of innocence, and he
strove well, since he knew that he fought for his life against
those whom he had outraged. As he spoke again, his tones were
tremulous with sincerity--perhaps that tremulousness was born
chiefly of fear, yet to the ear his words came stoutly enough for
"I swear I didn't! I swear it!"
Mary regarded the protesting man with abhorrence. The perjured
wretch shrank before the loathing in her eyes.
"You came to me yesterday," she said, with more of restraint in
her voice now, but still with inexorable rancor. "You came to me
to explain this plan. And you came from him--from Burke!"
"I swear I was on the level. I was tipped off to the story by a
pal," Griggs declared, but at last the assurance was gone out of
his voice. He felt the hostility of those about him.
Garson broke in ferociously.
"It's a frame-up!" he said. His tones came in a deadened roar of
On the instant, aware that further subterfuge could be of no
avail, Griggs swaggered defiance.
"And what if it is true?" he drawled, with a resumption of his
aristocratic manner, while his eyes swept the group balefully.
He plucked the police whistle from his waistcoat-pocket, and
raised it to his lips.
He moved too slowly. In the same moment of his action, Garson
had pulled the pistol from his pocket, had pressed the trigger.
There came no spurt of flame. There was no sound--save perhaps a
faint clicking noise. But the man with the whistle at his lips
suddenly ceased movement, stood absolutely still for the space of
a breath. Then, he trembled horribly, and in the next instant
crashed to the floor, where he lay rigid, dead.
"Damn you--I've got you!" Garson sneered through clenched teeth.
His eyes were like balls of fire. There was a frightful grin of
triumph twisting his mouth in this minute of punishment.
In the first second of the tragedy, Dick had not understood.
Indeed, he was still dazed by the suddenness of it all. But the
falling of Griggs before the leveled weapon of the other man,
there to lie in that ghastly immobility, made him to understand.
He leaped toward Garson--would have wrenched the pistol from the
other's grasp. In the struggle, it fell to the floor.
Before either could pick it up, there came an interruption. Even
in the stress of this scene, Chicago Red had never relaxed his
professional caution. A slight noise had caught his ear, he had
stooped, listening. Now, he straightened, and called his warning.
"Somebody's opening the front door!"
Garson forgot his weapon in this new alarm. He sprang to the
octagonal window, even as Dick took possession of the pistol.
"The street's empty! We must jump for it!" His hate was forgotten
now in an emotion still deeper, and he turned to Mary. His face
was all gentleness again, where just before it had been evil
incarnate, aflame with the lust to destroy. "Come on, Mary," he
Already Chicago Red had snapped off the lights of the chandelier,
had sprung to the window, thrown open a panel of it, and had
vanished into the night, with Dacey at his heels. As Garson
would have called out to the girl again in mad anxiety for haste,
he was interrupted by Dick:
"She couldn't make it, Garson," he declared coolly and
resolutely. "You go. It'll be all right, you know. I'll take
care of her!"
"If she's caught----!" There was an indescribable menace in the
forger's half-uttered threat.
"She won't be." The quality of sincerity in Dick's voice was
more convincing than any vow might have been.
"If she is, I'll get you, that's all," Garson said gravely, as
one stating a simple fact that could not be disputed.
Then he glanced down at the body of the man whom he had done to
"And you can tell that to Burke!" he said viciously to the dead.
"You damned squealer!" There was a supremely malevolent content
in his sneer.
The going of Garson left the room deathly still. Dick stared for
a moment at the space of window left uncovered by the draperies
now, since the man had hurried past them, without pausing to draw
them after him. Then, presently, the young man turned again to
Mary, and took her hand in his. The shock of the event had
somehow steadied him, since it had drawn his thoughts from that
other more engrossing mood of concern over the crisis in his own
life. After all, what mattered the death of this crook? his
fancy ran. The one thing of real worth in all the world was the
life that remained to be lived between him and her.... Then,
violently, the selfishness of his mood was made plain to him.
For the hand he held was shaking like some slender-stalked lily
in the clutch of the sirocco. Even as he first perceived the
fact, he saw the girl stagger. His arm swept about her in a
virile protecting embrace--just in time, or she would have
A whisper came from her quivering lips. Her face was close to
his, else he could not have caught the uncertain murmuring. That
face now was become ghastly pale. The violet eyes were widened
and dull. The muscles of her face twitched. She rested supinely
against him, as if bereft of any strength of body or of soul.
Yet, in the intensity of her utterance, the feeble whisper struck
like a shriek of horror.
"I--I--never saw any one killed before!"
The simple, grisly truth of the words--words that he might have
spoken as well--stirred the man to the deeps of his being. He
shuddered, as he turned his eyes to avoid seeing the thing that
lay so very near, mercifully merged within the shadows beyond the
gentle radiance from the single lamp. With a pang of infinite
pity for the woman in his arms, he apprehended in some degree the
torture this event must have inflicted on her. Frightful to him,
it must in truth be vastly worse to her. There was her womanly
sensitiveness to enhance the innate hideousness of the thing that
had been done here before their eyes. There was, too, the fact
that the murderer himself had been the man to whom she owed her
life. Yes, for him, Dick realized with poignant sympathy, the
happening that night was terrible indeed: for her, as he guessed
now at last, the torture must be something easily to overwhelm
all her strength. His touch on her grew tender beyond the
ordinary tenderness of love, made gentler by a great underlying
compassion for her misery.
Dick drew Mary toward the couch, there let her sink down in a
huddled attitude of despair.
"I never saw a man--killed before!" she said again. There was a
note of half-hysterical, almost childish complaint in her voice.
She moved her head a little, as if to look into the shadows where
*IT lay, then checked herself violently, and looked up at her
husband with the pathetic simplicity of terror.
"You know, Dick," she repeated dully, "I never saw a man killed
Before he could utter the soothing words that rose to his lips,
Dick was interrupted by a slight sound at the door. Instantly,
he was all alert to meet the exigencies of the situation. He
stood by the couch, bending forward a little, as if in a posture
of intimate fondness. Then, with a new thought, he got out his
cigarette-case and lighted a cigarette, after which he resumed
his former leaning over the woman as would the ardent lover. He
heard the noise again presently, now so near that he made sure of
being overheard, so at once he spoke with a forced cheerfulness
in his inflection.
"I tell you, Mary," he declared, "everything's going to be all
right for you and me. It was bully of you to come here to me
like this."
The girl made no response. She lived still in the nightmare of
murder--that nightmare wherein she had seen Griggs fall dead to
the floor.
Dick, in nervous apprehension as to the issue, sought to bring
her to realization of the new need that had come upon them.
"Talk to me," he commanded, very softly. "They'll be here in a
minute. When they come in, pretend you just came here in order
to meet me. Try, Mary. You must, dearest!" Then, again, his
voice rose to loudness, as he continued. "Why, I've been trying
all day to see you. And, now, here we are together, just as I
was beginning to get really discouraged.... I know my father will
He was interrupted by the swift swinging open of the hallway
door. Burke stood just within the library, a revolver pointed
"Hands up!--all of you!" The Inspector's voice fairly roared the
The belligerent expression of his face vanished abruptly, as his
eyes fell on Dick standing by the couch and Mary reclining there
in limp helplessness. His surprise would have been ludicrous but
for the seriousness of the situation to all concerned. Burke's
glance roved the room sharply, and he was quickly convinced that
these two were in fact the only present spoil of his careful
plotting. His face set grimly, for the disappointment of this
minute surged fiercely within him. He started to speak, his eyes
lowering as he regarded the two before him.
But Dick forestalled him. He spoke in a voice coldly repellent.
"What are you doing in this house at this time of night?" he
demanded. His manner was one of stern disapproval. "I recognize
you, Inspector Burke. But you must understand that there are
limits even to what you can do. It seems to me, sir, that you
exceed your authority by such an intrusion as this."
Burke, however, was not a whit dismayed by the rebuke and the air
of rather contemptuous disdain with which it was uttered. He
waved his revolver toward Mary, merely as a gesture of
inquisitiveness, without any threat.
"What's she doing here?" he asked. There was wrath in his rough
voice, for he could not avoid the surmise that his shrewdly
concocted scheme to entrap this woman had somehow been set awry.
"What's she doing here, I say?" he repeated heavily. His keen
eyes were darting once more about the room, questing some clue to
this disturbing mystery, so hateful to his pride.
Dick's manner became that of the devoted husband offended by
impertinent obtrusion.
"You forget yourself, Inspector," he said, icily. "This is my
wife. She has the right to be with me--her husband!"
The Inspector grinned sceptically. He was moved no more
effectively by Mary's almost hysterical effort to respond to her
husband's leading.
"Why shouldn't I be here? Why? Why? I----"
Burke broke in on the girl's pitiful histrionics ruthlessly. He
was not in the least deceived. He was aware that something
untoward, as he deemed it, had occurred. It seemed to him, in
fact, that his finical mechanisms for the undoing of Mary Turner
were in a fair way to be thwarted. But he would not give up the
cause without a struggle. Again, he addressed himself to Dick,
disregarding completely the aloof manner of the young man.
"Where's your father?" he questioned roughly.
"In bed, naturally," was the answer. "I ask you again: What are
you doing here at this time of night?"
Burke shook his shoulders ponderously in a movement of impatience
over this prolonging of the farce.
"Oh, call your father," he directed disgustedly.
Dick remonstrated with an excellent show of dignity.
"It's late," he objected. "I'd rather not disturb him, if you
don't mind. Really, the idea is absurd, you know." Suddenly, he
smiled very winningly, and spoke with a good assumption of
"Inspector," he said briskly, "I see, I'll have to tell you the
truth. It's this: I've persuaded my wife to go away with me.
She's going to give all that other sort of thing up. Yes, we're
going away together." There was genuine triumph in his voice
now. "So, you see, we've got to talk it over. Now, then,
Inspector, if you'll come back in the morning----"
The official grinned sardonically. He could not in the least
guess just what had in very deed happened, but he was far too
clever a man to be bamboozled by Dick's maunderings.
"Oh, that's it!" he exclaimed, with obvious incredulity.
"Of course," Dick replied bravely, though he knew that the
Inspector disbelieved his pretenses. Still, for his own part, he
was inclined as yet to be angry rather than alarmed by this
failure to impress the officer. "You see, I didn't know----"
And even in the moment of his saying, the white beam of the
flashing searchlight from the Tower fell between the undrawn
draperies of the octagonal window. The light startled the
Inspector again, as it had done once before that same night. His
gaze followed it instinctively. So, within the second, he saw the
still form lying there on the floor--lying where had been
shadows, where now, for the passing of an instant, was brilliant
There was no mistaking that awful, motionless, crumpled posture.
The Inspector knew in this single instant of view that murder had
been done here. Even as the beam of light from the Tower shifted
and vanished from the room, he leaped to the switch by the door,
and turned on the lights of the chandelier. In the next moment,
he had reached the door of the passage across the room, and his
whistle sounded shrill. His voice bellowed reinforcement to the
"Cassidy! Cassidy!"
As Dick made a step toward his wife, from whom he had withdrawn a
little in his colloquy with the official, Burke voiced his
command viciously:
"Stay where you are--both of you!"
Cassidy came rushing in, with the other detectives. He was
plainly surprised to find the room so nearly empty, where he had
expected to behold a gang of robbers.
"Why, what's it all mean, Chief?" he questioned. His peering
eyes fell on Dick, standing beside Mary, and they rounded in
"They've got Griggs!" Burke answered. There was exceeding rage
in his voice, as he spoke from his kneeling posture beside the
body, to which he had hurried after the summons to his aides. He
glowered up into the bewildered face of the detective. "I'll
break you for this, Cassidy," he declared fiercely. "Why didn't
you get here on the run when you heard the shot?"
"But there wasn't any shot," the perplexed and alarmed detective
expostulated. He fairly stuttered in the earnestness of his
self-defense. "I tell you, Chief, there hasn't been a sound."
Burke rose to his feet. His heavy face was set in its sternest
"You could drive a hearse through the hole they've made in him,"
he rumbled. He wheeled on Mary and Dick. "So!" he shouted, "now
it's murder!... Well, hand it over. Where's the gun?"
Followed a moment's pause. Then the Inspector spoke harshly to
Cassidy. He still felt himself somewhat dazed by this
extraordinary event, but he was able to cope with the situation.
He nodded toward Dick as he gave his order: "Search him!"
Before the detective could obey the direction, Dick took the
revolver from his pocket where he had bestowed it, and held it
And it so chanced that at this incriminating crisis for the son,
the father hastily strode within the library. He had been
aroused by the Inspector's shouting, and was evidently greatly
perturbed. His usual dignified air was marred by a patent alarm.
"What's all this?" he exclaimed, as he halted and stared
doubtfully on the scene before him.
Burke, in a moment like this, was no respecter of persons, for
all his judicious attentions on other occasions to those whose
influence might serve him well for benefits received.
"You can see for yourself," he said grimly to the dumfounded
magnate. Then, he fixed sinister eyes on the son. "So," he went
on, with somber menace in his voice, "you did it, young man." He
nodded toward the detective. "Well, Cassidy, you can take 'em
both down-town.... That's all."
The command aroused Dick to remonstrance against such indignity
toward the woman whom he loved.
"Not her!" he cried, imploringly. "You don't want her,
Inspector! This is all wrong!"
Now, at last, Mary interposed with a new spirit. She had
regained, in some measure at least, her poise. She was speaking
again with that mental clarity which was distinctive in her.
"Dick," she advised quietly, but with underlying urgency in her
gently spoken words, "don't talk, please."
Burke laughed harshly.
"What do you expect?" he inquired truculently. "As a matter of
fact, the thing's simple enough, young man. Either you killed
Griggs, or she did."
The Inspector, with his charge, made a careless gesture toward
the corpse of the murdered stool-pigeon. For the first time,
Edward Gilder, as his glance unconsciously followed the officer's
movement, looked and saw the ghastly inanimate heap of flesh and
bone that had once been a man. He fairly reeled at the gruesome
spectacle, then fumbled with an outstretched hand as he moved
stumblingly until he laid hold on a chair, into which he sank
helplessly. It suddenly smote upon his consciousness that he
felt very old and broken. He marveled dully over the
sensation--it was wholly new to him. Then, soon, from a long way
off, he heard the strident voice of the Inspector remorselessly
continuing in the vile, the impossible accusation.... And that
grotesque accusation was hurled against his only son--the boy
whom he so loved. The thing was monstrous, a thing incredible.
This whole seeming was no more than a chimera of the night, a
phantom of bad dreams, with no truth under it.... Yet, the stern
voice of the official came with a strange semblance of reality.
"Either you killed him," the voice repeated gratingly, "or she
did. Well, then, young man, did she kill him?"
"Good God, no!" Dick shouted, aghast.
"Then, it was you!" Such was the Inspector's summary of the case.
Mary's words came frantically. Once again, she was become
desperate over the course of events in this night of fearful
"No, no! He didn't!"
Burke's rasping voice reiterated the accusation with a certain
complacency in the inevitability of the dilemma.
"One of you killed Griggs. Which one of you did it?" He scowled
at Dick. "Did she kill him?"
Again, the husband's cry came with the fierceness of despair over
the fate of the woman.
"I told you, no!"
The Inspector, always savagely impressive now in voice and look
and gesture, faced the girl with saturnine persistence.
"Well, then," he blustered, "did he kill him?"
The nod of his head was toward Dick. Then, as she remained
silent: "I'm talking to you!" he snapped. "Did he kill him?"
The reply came with a soft distinctness that was like a crash of
Dick turned to his wife in reproachful amazement.
"Mary!" he cried, incredulously. This betrayal was something
inconceivable from her, since he believed that now at last he
knew her heart.
Burke, however, as usual, paid no heed to the niceties of
sentiment. They had small place in his concerns as an official
of police. His sole ambition just now was to fix the crime
definitely on the perpetrator.
"You'll swear he killed him?" he asked, briskly, well content
with this concrete result of the entanglement.
Mary subtly evaded the question, while seeming to give
unqualified assent.
"Why not?" she responded listlessly.
At this intolerable assertion as he deemed it, Edward Gilder was
reanimated. He sat rigidly erect in his, chair. In that
frightful moment, it came to him anew that here was in verity the
last detail in a consummate scheme by this woman for revenge
against himself.
"God!" he cried, despairingly. "And that's your vengeance!"
Mary heard, and understood. There came an inscrutable smile on
her curving lips, but there was no satisfaction in that smile, as
of one who realized the fruition of long-cherished schemes of
retribution. Instead, there was only an infinite sadness, while
she spoke very gently.
"I don't want vengeance--now!" she said.
"But they'll try my boy for murder," the magnate remonstrated,
"Oh, no, they can't!" came the rejoinder. And now, once again,
there was a hint of the quizzical creeping in the smile. "No,
they can't!" she repeated firmly, and there was profound relief
in her tones since at last her ingenuity had found a way out of
this outrageous situation thrust on her and on her husband.
Burke glared at the speaker in a rage that was abruptly grown
suspicious in some vague way.
"What's the reason we can't?" he stormed.
Mary sprang to her feet. She was radiant with a new serenity,
now that her quick-wittedness had discovered a method for
baffling the mesh of evidence that had been woven about her and
Dick through no fault of their own. Her eyes were glowing with
even more than their usual lusters. Her voice came softly
modulated, almost mocking.
"Because you couldn't convict him," she said succinctly. A
contented smile bent the red graces of her lips.
Burke sneered an indignation that was, nevertheless, somewhat
fearful of what might lie behind the woman's assurance.
"What's the reason?" he demanded, scornfully. "There's the
body." He pointed to the rigid form of the dead man, lying there
so very near them. "And the gun was found on him. And then,
you're willing to swear that he killed him.... Well, I guess
we'll convict him, all right. Why not?"
Mary's answer was given quietly, but, none the less, with an
assurance that could not be gainsaid.
"Because," she said, "my husband merely killed a burglar." In
her turn, she pointed toward the body of the dead man. "That
man," she continued evenly, "was the burglar. You know that! My
husband shot him in defense of his home!" There was a brief
silence. Then, she added, with a wonderful mildness in the music
of her voice. "And so, Inspector, as you know of course, he was
within the law!"
In his office next morning, Inspector Burke was fuming over the
failure of his conspiracy. He had hoped through this plot to
vindicate his authority, so sadly flaunted by Garson and Mary
Turner. Instead of this much-to-be-desired result from his
scheming, the outcome had been nothing less than disastrous. The
one certain fact was that his most valuable ally in his warfare
against the criminals of the city had been done to death. Some
one had murdered Griggs, the stool-pigeon. Where Burke had meant
to serve a man of high influence, Edward Gilder, by railroading
the bride of the magnate's son to prison, he had succeeded only
in making the trouble of that merchant prince vastly worse in the
ending of the affair by arresting the son for the capital crime
of murder. The situation was, in very truth, intolerable. More
than ever, Burke grew hot with intent to overcome the woman who
had so persistently outraged his authority by her ingenious
devices against the law. Anyhow, the murder of Griggs could not
go unpunished. The slayer's identity must be determined, and
thereafter the due penalty of the law inflicted, whoever the
guilty person might prove to be. To the discovery of this
identity, the Inspector was at the present moment devoting
himself by adroit questioning of Dacey and Chicago Red, who had
been arrested in one of their accustomed haunts by his men a
short time before.
The policeman on duty at the door was the only other person in
the room, and in consequence Burke permitted himself, quite
unashamed, to employ those methods of persuasion which have risen
to a high degree of admiration in police circles.
"Come across now!" he admonished. His voice rolled forth like
that of a bull of Bashan. He was on his feet, facing the two
thieves. His head was thrust forward menacingly, and his eyes
were savage. The two men shrank before him--both in natural
fear, and, too, in a furtive policy of their own. This was no
occasion for them to assert a personal pride against the man who
had them in his toils.
"I don't know nothin'!" Chicago Red's voice was between a snarl
and a whine. "Ain't I been telling you that for over an hour?"
Burke vouchsafed no answer in speech, but with a nimbleness
surprising in one of his bulk, gave Dacey, who chanced to be the
nearer of the two, a shove that sent the fellow staggering
half-way across the room under its impetus.
With this by way of appreciable introduction to his seriousness
of purpose, Burke put a question:
"Dacey, how long have you been out?"
The answer came in a sibilant whisper of dread.
"A week."
Burke pushed the implication brutally.
"Want to go back for another stretch?" The Inspector's voice was
freighted with suggestions of disasters to come, which were well
understood by the cringing wretch before him.
The thief shuddered, and his face, already pallid from the prison
lack of sunlight like some noxious growth of a cellar, became
livid. His words came in a muffled moan of fear.
"God, no!"
Burke left a little interval of silence then in which the thieves
might tremble over the prospect suggested by his words, but
always he maintained his steady, relentless glare on the cowed
creatures. It was a familiar warfare with him. Yet, in this
instance, he was destined to failure, for the men were of a type
different from that of English Eddie, who was lying dead as the
meet reward for treachery to his fellows.... When, at last, his
question issued from the close-shut lips, it came like the crack
of a gun.
"Who shot Griggs?"
The reply was a chorus from the two:
"I don't know--honest, I don't!"
In his eagerness, Chicago Red moved toward his
"Honest to Gawd, I don't know nothin' about it!"
The Inspector's fist shot out toward Chicago Red's jaw. The
impact was enough. The thief went to his knees under the blow.
"Now, get up--and talk!" Burke's voice came with unrepentant
noisiness against the stricken man.
Cringingly, Chicago Red, who so gloried in his strength, yet was
now altogether humble in this precarious case, obeyed as far as
the getting to his feet was concerned.... It never occurred to
him even that he should carry his obedience to the point of
"squealing on a pal!" Had the circumstances been different, he
might have refused to accept the Inspector's blow with such
meekness, since above all things he loved a bit of bodily strife
with some one near his own strength, and the Inspector was of a
sort to offer him a battle worth while.
So, now, while he got slowly to his feet, he took care to keep at
a respectful distance from the official, though his big hands
fairly ached to double into fists for blows with this man who had
so maltreated him.
His own self-respect, of its peculiar sort, was saved by the
interference of Cassidy, who entered the Inspector's office to
announce the arrival of the District Attorney.
"Send 'im in," Burke directed at once. He made a gesture toward
the doorman, and added: "Take 'em back!"
A grin of evil humor writhed the lips of the police official, and
he added to the attentive doorman a word of direction that might
well be interpreted by the malevolent expression on his face.
"Don't be rough with 'em, Dan," he said. For once, his
dominating voice was reduced to something approaching softness,
in his sardonic appreciation of his own humor in the conception
of what these two men, who had ventured to resist his
importunities, might receive at the hands of his faithful
satellites.... The doorman grinned appreciatively, and herded his
victims from the place. And the two went shamblingly in sure
knowledge of the things that were in store. Yet, without thought
of treachery. They would not "squeal"! All they would tell of
the death of Eddie Griggs would be: "He got what was coming to
The Inspector dropped into his swivel chair at the desk whilst he
awaited the arrival of Demarest, the District Attorney. The
greetings between the two were cordial when at last the public
prosecutor made his appearance.
"I came as soon as I got your message," the District Attorney
said, as he seated himself in a chair by the desk. "And I've
sent word to Mr. Gilder.... Now, then, Burke, let's have this
thing quickly."
The Inspector's explanation was concise:
"Joe Garson, Chicago Red, and Dacey, along with Griggs, broke
into Edward Gilder's house, last night! I knew the trick was
going to be pulled off, and so I planted Cassidy and a couple of
other men just outside the room where the haul was to be made.
Then, I went away, and after something like half an hour I came
back to make the arrests myself." A look of intense disgust
spread itself over the Inspector's massive face. "Well," he
concluded sheepishly, "when I broke into the room I found young
Gilder along with that Turner woman he married, and they were
just talking together."
"No trace of the others?" Demarest questioned crisply.
At the inquiry, Burke's face crimsoned angrily, then again set in
grim lines.
"I found Griggs lying on the floor--dead!" Once again the disgust
showed in his expression. "The Turner woman says young Gilder
shot Griggs because he broke into the house. Ain't that the
"What does the boy say?" the District Attorney demanded.
Burke shook his head dispiritedly.
"Nothing," he answered. "She told him not to talk, and so, of
course, he won't, he's such a fool over her."
"And what does she say?" Demarest asked. He found himself
rather amused by the exceeding chagrin of the Inspector over this
Burke's voice grew savage as he snapped a reply.
"Refuses to talk till she sees a lawyer. But a touch of
cheerfulness appeared in his tones as he proceeded. "We've got
Chicago Red and Dacey, and we'll have Garson before the day's
over. And, oh, yes, they've picked up a young girl at the Turner
woman's place. And we've got one real clue--for once!" The
speaker's expression was suddenly triumphant. He opened a drawer
of the desk, and took out Garson's pistol, to which the silencer
was still attached.
"You never saw a gun like that before, eh?" he exclaimed.
Demarest admitted the fact after a curious examination.
"I'll bet you never did!" Burke cried, with satisfaction. "That
thing on the end is a Maxim silencer. There are thousands of them
in use on rifles, but they've never been able to use them on
revolvers before. This is a specially made gun," he went on
admiringly, as he took it back and slipped it into a pocket of
his coat. "That thing is absolutely noiseless. I've tried it.
Well, you see, it'll be an easy thing--easiest thing in the
world!--to trace that silencer attachment. Cassidy's working on
that end of the thing now."
For a few minutes longer, the two men discussed the details of
the crime, theorizing over the baffling event. Then, presently,
Cassidy entered the office, and made report of his investigations
concerning the pistol with the silencer attachment.
"I got the factory at Hartford on the wire," he explained, "and
they gave me Mr. Maxim himself, the inventor of the silencer. He
said this was surely a special gun, which was made for the use of
Henry Sylvester, one of the professors at Yale. He wanted it for
demonstration purposes. Mr. Maxim said the things have never
been put on the market, and that they never will be."
"For humane reasons," Demarest commented, nodding approbation.
"Good thing, too!" Burke conceded. "They'd make murder too
devilish easy, and it's easy enough now.... Well, Cassidy?"
"I got hold of this man, Sylvester," Cassidy went on. "I had him
on the 'phone, too. He says that his house was robbed about
eight weeks ago, and among other things the silencer was stolen."
Cassidy paused, and chuckled drily. "He adds the startling
information that the New Haven police have not been able to
recover any of the stolen property. Them rube cops are immense!"
Demarest smiled slyly, as the detective, at a nod from his
superior, went toward the door.
"No," he said, maliciously; "only the New York police recover
stolen goods."
"Good-night!" quoth Cassidy, turning at the door, in admission of
his discomfiture over the thrust, while Burke himself grinned
wryly in appreciation of the gibe.
Demarest grew grave again, as he put the question that was
troubling him most.
"Is there any chance that young Gilder did shoot Griggs?"
"You can search me!" the Inspector answered, disconsolately. "My
men were just outside the door of the room where Eddie Griggs was
shot to death, and none of 'em heard a sound. It's that infernal
silencer thing. Of course, I know that all the gang was in the
"But tell me just how you know that fact," Demarest objected very
crisply. "Did you see them go in?"
"No, I didn't," the Inspector admitted, tartly. "But Griggs----"
Demarest permitted himself a sneer born of legal knowledge.
"Griggs is dead, Burke. You're up against it. You can't prove
that Garson, or Chicago Red, or Dacey, ever entered that house."
The Inspector scowled over this positive statement.
"But Griggs said they were going to," he argued.
"I know," Demarest agreed, with an exasperating air of
shrewdness; "but Griggs is dead. You see, Burke, you couldn't in
a trial even repeat what he told you. It's not permissible
"Oh, the law!" the Inspector snorted, with much choler. "Well,
then," he went on belligerently, "I'll charge young Gilder with
murder, and call the Turner woman as a witness."
The District Attorney laughed aloud over this project.
"You can't question her on the witness-stand," he explained
patronizingly to the badgered police official. "The law doesn't
allow you to make a wife testify against her husband. And,
what's more, you can't arrest her, and then force her to go into
the witness-stand, either. No, Burke," he concluded
emphatically, "your only chance of getting the murderer of Griggs
is by a confession."
"Then, I'll charge them both with the murder," the Inspector
growled vindictively. "And, by God, they'll both go to trial
unless somebody comes through." He brought his huge fist down on
the desk with violence, and his voice was forbidding. "If it's
my last act on earth," he declared, "I'm going to get the man who
shot Eddie Griggs."
Demarest was seriously disturbed by the situation that had
developed. He was under great personal obligations to Edward
Gilder, whose influence in fact had been the prime cause of his
success in attaining to the important official position he now
held, and he would have gone far to serve the magnate in any
difficulty that might arise. He had been perfectly willing to
employ all the resources of his office to relieve the son from
the entanglement with a woman of unsavory notoriety. Now, thanks
to the miscarried plotting of Burke to the like end, what before
had been merely a vicious state of affairs was become one of the
utmost dreadfulness. The worst of crimes had been committed in
the house of Edward Gilder himself, and his son acknowledged
himself as the murderer. The District Attorney felt a genuine
sorrow in thinking of the anguish this event must have brought on
the father. He had, as well, sympathy enough for the son. His
acquaintance with the young man convinced him that the boy had
not done the deed of bloody violence. In that fact was a
mingling of comfort and of anxiety. It had been better,
doubtless, if indeed Dick had shot Griggs, had indicted a just
penalty on a housebreaker. But the District Attorney was not
inclined to credit the confession. Burke's account of the plot
in which the stool-pigeon had been the agent offered too many
complications. Altogether, the aspect of the case served to
indicate that Dick could not have been the slayer.... Demarest
shook his head dejectedly.
"Burke," he said, "I want the boy to go free. I don't believe
for a minute that Dick Gilder ever killed this pet stool-pigeon
of yours. And, so, you must understand this: I want him to go
free, of course."
Burke frowned refusal at this suggestion. Here was a matter in
which his rights must not be invaded. He, too, would have gone
far to serve a man of Edward Gilder's standing, but in this
instance his professional pride was in revolt. He had been
defied, trapped, made a victim of the gang who had killed his
most valued informer.
"The youngster'll go free when he tells what he knows," he said
angrily, "and not a minute before." His expression lightened a
little. "Perhaps the old gentleman can make him talk. I can't.
He's under that woman's thumb, of course, and she's told him he
mustn't say a word. So, he don't." A grin of half-embarrassed
appreciation moved the heavy jaws as he glanced at the District
Attorney. "You see," he explained, "I can't make him talk, but I
might if circumstances were different. On account of his being
the old man's son, I'm a little cramped in my style."
It was, in truth, one thing to browbeat and assault a convict
like Dacey or Chicago Red, but quite another to employ the like
violence against a youth of Dick Gilder's position in the world.
Demarest understood perfectly, but he was inclined to be
sceptical over the Inspector's theory that Dick possessed actual
cognizance as to the killing of Griggs.
"You think that young Gilder really knows?" he questioned,
"I don't think anything--yet!" Burke retorted. "All I know is
this: Eddie Griggs, the most valuable crook that ever worked for
me, has been murdered." The official's voice was charged with
threatening as he went on. "And some one, man or woman, is going
to pay for it!"
"Woman?" Demarest repeated, in some astonishment.
Burke's voice came merciless.
"I mean, Mary Turner," he said slowly.
Demarest was shocked.
"But, Burke," he expostulated, "she's not that sort." The
Inspector sneered openly.
"How do you know she ain't?" he demanded. "Well, anyhow, she's
made a monkey out of the Police Department, and, first, last, and
all the time, I'm a copper. . . And that reminds me," he went
on with a resumption of his usual curt bluntness, "I want you to
wait for Mr. Gilder outside, while I get busy with the girl
they've brought down from Mary Turner's flat."
Burke, after the lawyer had left him, watched the door
expectantly for the coming of the girl, whom he had ordered
brought before him. But, when at last Dan appeared, and stood
aside to permit her passing into the office, the Inspector gasped
at the unexpectedness of the vision. He had anticipated the
coming of a woman of that world with which he was most familiar
in the exercise of his professional duties--the underworld of
criminals, some one beautiful perhaps, but with the brand of
viciousness marked subtly, yet visibly for the trained eye to
see. Then, even in that first moment, he told himself that he
should have been prepared for the unusual in this instance, since
the girl had to do with Mary Turner, and that disturbing person
herself showed in face and form and manner nothing to suggest
aught but a gentlewoman. And, in the next instant, the Inspector
forgot his surprise in a sincere, almost ardent admiration.
The girl was rather short, but of a slender elegance of form that
was ravishing. She was gowned, too, with a chic nicety to arouse
the envy of all less-fortunate women. Her costume had about it
an indubitable air, a finality of perfection in its kind. On
another, it might have appeared perhaps the merest trifle garish.
But that fault, if in fact it ever existed, was made into a
virtue by the correcting innocence of the girl's face. It was a
childish face, childish in the exquisite smoothness of the soft,
pink skin, childish in the wondering stare of the blue eyes, now
so widely opened in dismay, childish in the wistful drooping of
the rosebud mouth.
The girl advanced slowly, with a laggard hesitation in her
movements obviously from fear. She approached the desk, from
behind which the Inspector watched, fascinated by the fresh and
wholesome beauty of this young creature. He failed to observe
the underlying anger beneath the girl's outward display of alarm.
He shook off his first impression by means of a resort to his
customary bluster in such cases.
"Now, then, my girl," he said roughly, "I want to know----"
There came a change, wrought in the twinkling of an eye. The
tiny, trimly shod foot of the girl rose and fell in a wrathful
"How dare you!" The clear blue eyes were become darkened with
anger. There was a deepened leaf of red in either cheek. The
drooping lips drooped no longer, but were bent to a haughtiness
that was finely impressive.
Before the offended indignation of the young woman, Burke sat
bewildered by embarrassment for once in his life, and quite at a
"What's that?" he said, dubiously.
The girl explained the matter explicitly enough.
"What do you mean by this outrage?" she stormed. Her voice was
low and rich, with a charming roundness that seemed the very
hallmark of gentility. But, now, it was surcharged with an
indignant amazement over the indignity put upon her by the
representatives of the law. Then, abruptly, the blue eyes were
softened in their fires, as by the sudden nearness of tears.
"What do you mean?" the girl repeated. Her slim form was tense
with wrath. "I demand my instant release." There was
indescribable rebuke in her slow emphasis of the words.
Burke was impressed in spite of himself, in spite of his
accustomed cold indifference to the feelings of others as
necessity compelled him to make investigation of them. His
harsh, blustering voice softened perceptibly, and he spoke in a
wheedling tone, such as one might employ in the effort to
tranquillize a spoiled child in a fit of temper.
"Wait a minute," he remonstrated. "Wait a minute!" He made a
pacifically courteous gesture toward one of the chairs, which
stood by an end of the desk. "Sit down," he invited, with an
effort toward cajoling.
The scorn of the girl was superb. Her voice came icily, as she
"I shall do nothing of the sort. Sit down, indeed!--here! Why, I
have been arrested----" There came a break in the music of her
tones throbbing resentment. A little sob crept in, and broke the
sequence of words. The dainty face was vivid with shame. "I--"
she faltered, "I've been arrested--by a common policeman!"
The Inspector seized on the one flaw left him for defense against
her indictment.
"No, no, miss," he argued, earnestly. "Excuse me. It wasn't any
common policeman--it was a detective sergeant."
But his effort to placate was quite in vain. The ingenuous
little beauty with the child's face and the blue eyes so widely
opened fairly panted in her revolt against the ignominy of her
position, and was not to be so easily appeased. Her voice came
vibrant with disdain. Her level gaze on the Inspector was of a
sort to suggest to him anxieties over possible complications
"You wait!" she cried violently. "You just wait, I tell you,
until my papa hears of this!"
Burke regarded the furious girl doubtfully.
"Who is your papa?" he asked, with a bit of alarm stirring in
his breast, for he had no mind to offend any one of importance
where there was no need.
"I sha'n't tell you," came the petulant retort from the girl.
Her ivory forehead was wrinkled charmingly in a little frown of
obstinacy. "Why," she went on, displaying new symptoms of
distress over another appalling idea that flashed on her in this
moment, "you would probably give my name to the reporters." Once
again the rosebud mouth drooped into curves of sorrow, of a great
self-pity. "If it ever got into the newspapers, my family would
die of shame!"
The pathos of her fear pierced through the hardened crust of the
police official. He spoke apologetically.
"Now, the easiest way out for both of us," he suggested, "is for
you to tell me just who you are. You see, young lady, you were
found in the house of a notorious crook."
The haughtiness of the girl waxed. It seemed as if she grew an
inch taller in her scorn of the Inspector's saying.
"How perfectly absurd!" she exclaimed, scathingly. "I was calling
on Miss Mary Turner!"
"How did you come to meet her, anyhow?" Burke inquired. He
still held his big voice to a softer modulation than that to
which it was habituated.
Yet, the disdain of the girl seemed only to increase momently.
She showed plainly that she regarded this brass-buttoned official
as one unbearably insolent in his demeanor toward her.
Nevertheless, she condescended to reply, with an exaggeration of
the aristocratic drawl to indicate her displeasure.
"I was introduced to Miss Turner," she explained, "by Mr. Richard
Gilder. Perhaps you have heard of his father, the owner of the
"Oh, yes, I've heard of his father, and of him, too," Burke
admitted, placatingly.
But the girl relaxed not a whit in her attitude of offense.
"Then," she went on severely, "you must see at once that you are
entirely mistaken in this matter." Her blue eyes widened further
as she stared accusingly at the Inspector, who betrayed evidences
of perplexity, and hesitated for an answer. Then, the doll-like,
charming face took on a softer look, which had in it a suggestion
of appeal.
"Don't you see it?" she demanded.
"Well, no," Burke rejoined uneasily; "not exactly, I don't!" In
the presence of this delicate and graceful femininity, he
experienced a sudden, novel distaste for his usual sledge-hammer
methods of attack in interrogation. Yet, his duty required that
he should continue his questioning. He found himself in fact
between the devil and the deep sea--though this particular devil
appeared rather as an angel of light.
Now, at his somewhat feeble remark in reply to her query, the
childish face grew as hard as its curving contours would permit.
"Sir!" she cried indignantly. Her little head was thrown back in
scornful reproof, and she turned a shoulder toward the official
"Now, now!" Burke exclaimed in remonstrance. After all, he could
not be brutal with this guileless maiden. He must, however, make
the situation clear to her, lest she think him a beast--which
would never do!
"You see, young lady," he went on with a gentleness of voice and
manner that would have been inconceivable to Dacey and Chicago
Red; "you see, the fact is that, even if you were introduced to
this Mary Turner by young Mr. Gilder, this same Mary Turner
herself is an ex-convict, and she's just been arrested for
At the dread word, a startling change was wrought in the girl.
She wheeled to face the Inspector, her slender body swaying a
little toward him. The rather heavy brows were lifted slightly
in a disbelieving stare. The red lips were parted, rounded to a
tremulous horror.
"Murder!" she gasped; and then was silent.
"Yes," Burke went on, wholly at ease now, since he had broken the
ice thus effectually. "You see, if there's a mistake about you,
you don't want it to go any further --not a mite further, that's
sure. So, you see, now, that's one of the reasons why I must
know just who you are." Then, in his turn, Burke put the query
that the girl had put to him a little while before. "You see
that, don't you?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" was the instant agreement. "You should have told
me all about this horrid thing in the first place." Now, the
girl's manner was transformed. She smiled wistfully on the
Inspector, and the glance of the blue eyes was very kind, subtly
alluring. Yet in this unbending, there appeared even more
decisively than hitherto the fine qualities in bearing of one
delicately nurtured. She sank down in a chair by the desk, and
forthwith spoke with a simplicity that in itself was somehow
peculiarly potent in its effect on the official who gave
attentive ear.
"My name is Helen Travers West," she announced.
Burke started a little in his seat, and regarded the speaker with
a new deference as he heard that name uttered.
"Not the daughter of the railway president?" he inquired.
"Yes," the girl admitted. Then, anew, she displayed a serious
agitation over the thought of any possible publicity in this
"Oh, please, don't tell any one," she begged prettily. The blue
eyes were very imploring, beguiling, too. The timid smile that
wreathed the tiny mouth was marvelously winning. The neatly
gloved little hands were held outstretched, clasped in
supplication. "Surely, sir, you see now quite plainly why it
must never be known by any one in all the wide, wide world that I
have ever been brought to this perfectly dreadful place--though
you have been quite nice!" Her voice dropped to a note of musical
prayerfulness. The words were spoken very softly and very
slowly, with intonations difficult for a man to deny. "Please
let me go home." She plucked a minute handkerchief from her
handbag, put it to her eyes, and began to sob quietly.
The burly Inspector of Police was moved to quick sympathy.
Really, when all was said and done, it was a shame that one like
her should by some freak of fate have become involved in the
sordid, vicious things that his profession made it obligatory on
him to investigate. There was a considerable hint of the paternal
in his air as he made an attempt to offer consolation to the
afflicted damsel.
"That's all right, little lady," he exclaimed cheerfully. "Now,
don't you be worried--not a little bit. Take it from me, Miss
West.... Just go ahead, and tell me all you know about this
Turner woman. Did you see her yesterday?"
The girl's sobs ceased. After a final dab with the minute
handkerchief, she leaned forward a little toward the Inspector,
and proceeded to put a question to him with great eagerness.
"Will you let me go home as soon as I've told you the teensy
little I know?"
"Yes," Burke agreed promptly, with an encouraging smile. And for
a good measure of reassurance, he added as one might to an
alarmed child: "No one is going to hurt you, young lady."
"Well, then, you see, it was this way," began the brisk
explanation. "Mr. Gilder was calling on me one afternoon, and he
said to me then that he knew a very charming young woman,
Here the speech ended abruptly, and once again the handkerchief
was brought into play as the sobbing broke forth with increased
violence. Presently, the girl's voice rose in a wail.
"Oh, this is dreadful--dreadful!" In the final word, the wail
broke to a moan.
Burke felt himself vaguely guilty as the cause of such suffering
on the part of one so young, so fair, so innocent. As a culprit,
he sought his best to afford a measure of soothing for this grief
that had had its source in his performance of duty.
"That's all right, little lady," he urged in a voice as nearly
mellifluous as he could contrive with its mighty volume. "That's
all right. I have to keep on telling you. Nobody's going to
hurt you--not a little bit. Believe me! Why, nobody ever would
want to hurt you!"
But his well-meant attempt to assuage the stricken creature's wo
was futile. The sobbing continued. With it came a plaintive
cry, many times repeated, softly, but very miserably.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"
"Isn't there something else you can tell me about this woman?"
Burke inquired in desperation before the plaintive outburst. He
hoped to distract her from such grief over her predicament.
The girl gave no least heed to the question.
"Oh, I'm so frightened!" she gasped.
"Tut, tut!" the Inspector chided. "Now, I tell you there's
nothing at all for you to be afraid of."
"I'm afraid!" the girl asserted dismally. "I'm afraid you
will--put me--in a cell!" Her voice sank to a murmur hardly
audible as she spoke the words so fraught with dread import to
one of her refined sensibilities.
"Pooh!" Burke returned, gallantly. "Why, my dear young lady,
nobody in the world could think of you and a cell at the same
time--no, indeed!"
Instantly, the girl responded to this bald flattery. She fairly
radiated appreciation of the compliment, as she turned her eyes,
dewy with tears, on the somewhat flustered Inspector.
"Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed, with naive enjoyment.
Forthwith, Burke set out to make the most of this favorable
"Are you sure you've told me all you know about this woman?" he
"Oh, yes! I've only seen her two or three times," came the ready
response. The voice changed to supplication, and again the
clasped hands were extended beseechingly.
"Oh, please, Commissioner! Won't you let me go home?"
The use of a title higher than his own flattered the Inspector,
and he was moved to graciousness. Besides, it was obvious that
his police net in this instance had enmeshed only the most
harmless of doves. He smiled encouragingly.
"Well, now, little lady," he said, almost tenderly, "if I let you
go now, will you promise to let me know if you are able to think
of anything else about this Turner woman?"
"I will--indeed, I will!" came the fervent assurance. There was
something almost--quite provocative in the flash of gratitude
that shone forth from the blue eyes of the girl in that moment of
her superlative relief. It moved Burke to a desire for
rehabilitation in her estimation.
"Now, you see," he went on in his heavy voice, yet very kindly,
and with a sort of massive playfulness in his manner," no one has
hurt you--not even a little bit, after all. Now, you run right
home to your mother."
The girl did not need to be told twice. On the instant, she
sprang up joyously, and started toward the door, with a final
ravishing smile for the pleased official at the desk.
"I'll go just as fast as ever I can," the musical voice made
assurance blithely.
"Give my compliments to your father," Burke requested
courteously. "And tell him I'm sorry I frightened you."
The girl turned at the door.... After all, too great haste might
be indiscreet.
"I will, Commissioner," she promised, with an arch smile. "And I
know papa will be so grateful to you for all your kindness to
It was at this critical moment that Cassidy entered from the
opposite side of the office. As his eyes fell on the girl at the
door across from him, his stolid face lighted in a grin. And, in
that same instant of recognition between the two, the color went
out of the girl's face. The little red lips snapped together in
a line of supreme disgust against this vicissitude of fate after
all her manoeuverings in the face of the enemy. She stood
motionless in wordless dismay, impotent before this disaster
forced on her by untoward chance.
"Hello, Aggie!" the detective remarked, with a smirk, while the
Inspector stared from one to the other with rounded eyes of
wonder, and his jaw dropped from the stark surprise of this new
The girl returned deliberately to the chair she had occupied
through the interview with the Inspector, and dropped into it
weakly. Her form rested there limply now, and the blue eyes
stared disconsolately at the blank wall before her. She realized
that fate had decreed defeat for her in the game. It was after a
minute of silence in which the two men sat staring that at last
she spoke with a savage wrath against the pit into which she had
fallen after her arduous efforts.
"Ain't that the damnedest luck!"
For a little interval still, Burke turned his glances from the
girl to Cassidy, and then back again to the girl, who sat
immobile with her blue eyes steadfastly fixed on the wall. The
police official was, in truth, totally bewildered. Here was
inexplicable mystery. Finally, he addressed the detective curtly.
"Cassidy, do you know this woman?"
"Sure, I do!" came the placid answer. He went on to explain with
the direct brevity of his kind. "She's little Aggie Lynch--con'
woman, from Buffalo--two years for blackmail--did her time at
With this succinct narrative concerning the girl who sat mute and
motionless in the chair with her eyes fast on the wall, Cassidy
relapsed into silence, during which he stared rather perplexedly
at his chief, who seemed to be in the throes of unusual emotion.
As the detective expressed it in his own vernacular: For the
first time in his experience, the Inspector appeared to be
actually "rattled."
For a little time, there was silence, the while Burke sat staring
at the averted face of the girl. His expression was that of one
who has just undergone a soul-stirring shock. Then, presently,
he set his features grimly, rose from his chair, and walked to a
position directly in the front of the girl, who still refused to
look in his direction.
"Young woman----" he began, severely. Then, of a sudden he
laughed. "You picked the right business, all right, all right!"
he said, with a certain enthusiasm. He laughed aloud until his
eyes were only slits, and his ample paunch trembled vehemently.
"Well," he went on, at last, "I certainly have to hand it to you,
kid. You're a beaut'!"
Aggie sniffed vehemently in rebuke of the gross partiality of
fate in his behalf.
"Just as I had him goin'!" she said bitterly, as if in
self-communion, without shifting her gaze from the blank surface
of the wall.
Now, however, Burke was reminded once again of his official
duties, and he turned quickly to the attentive Cassidy.
"Have you got a picture of this young woman?" he asked
brusquely. And when Cassidy had replied in the negative, he
again faced the adventuress with a mocking grin--in which
mockery, too, was a fair fragment for himself, who had been so
thoroughly within her toils of blandishment.
"I'd dearly love to have a photograph of you, Miss Helen Travers
West," he said.
The speech aroused the stolid detective to a new interest.
"Helen Travers West?" he repeated, inquiringly.
"Oh, that's the name she told me," the Inspector explained,
somewhat shamefacedly before this question from his inferior.
Then he chuckled, for he had sense of humor sufficient to triumph
even over his own discomfiture in this encounter. "And she had
me winging, too!" he confessed. "Yes, I admit it." He turned to
the girl admiringly. "You sure are immense, little one
--immense!" He smiled somewhat more in his official manner of
mastery. "And now, may I have the honor of asking you to accept
the escort of Mr. Cassidy to our gallery."
Aggie sprang to her feet and regarded the Inspector with eyes in
which was now no innocence, such as had beguiled him so recently
from those ingenuous orbs.
"Oh, can that stuff!" she cried, crossly. "Let's get down to
business on the dot--and no frills on it! Keep to cases!"
"Now you're talking," Burke declared, with a new appreciation of
the versatility of this woman--who had not been wasting her time
hitherto, and had no wish to lose it now.
"You can't do anything to us," Aggie declared, strongly. There
remained no trace of the shrinking violet that had been Miss
Helen Travers West. Now, she revealed merely the business woman
engaged in a fight against the law, which was opposed definitely
to her peculiar form of business.
"You can't do anything to me, and you know you can't!" she went
on, with an almost convincing tranquillity of assertion. "Why,
I'll be sprung inside an hour." There came a ripple of laughter
that reminded the Inspector of the fashion in which he had been
overcome by this woman's wiles. And she spoke with a certitude
of conviction that was rather terrifying to one who had just
fallen under the stress of her spells.
"Why, habeas corpus is my lawyer's middle name!"
"On the level, now," the Inspector demanded, quite unmoved by the
final declarations, "when did you see Mary Turner last?"
Aggie resorted anew to her practices of deception. Her voice held
the accents of unimpeachable truth, and her eyes looked
unflinchingly into those of her questioner as she answered.
"Early this morning," she declared. "We slept together last
night, because I had the willies. She blew the joint about
half-past ten."
Burke shook his head, more in sorrow than in anger.
"What's the use of your lying to me?" he remonstrated.
"What, me?" Aggie clamored, with every evidence of being deeply
wounded by the charge against her veracity. "Oh, I wouldn't do
anything like that--on the level! What would be the use? I
couldn't fool you, Commissioner."
Burke stroked his chin sheepishly, under the influence of
memories of Miss Helen Travers West.
"So help me," Aggie continued with the utmost solemnity, "Mary
never left the house all night. I'd swear that's the truth on a
pile of Bibles a mile high!"
"Have to be higher than that," the Inspector commented, grimly.
"You see, Aggie Lynch, Mary Turner was arrested just after
midnight." His voice deepened and came blustering. "Young
woman, you'd better tell all you know."
"I don't know a thing!" Aggie retorted, sharply. She faced the
Inspector fiercely, quite unabashed by the fact that her vigorous
offer to commit perjury had been of no avail.
Burke, with a quick movement, drew the pistol from his pocket and
extended it toward the girl.
"How long has she owned this gun?" he said, threateningly.
Aggie showed no trace of emotion as her glance ran over the
"She didn't own it," was her firm answer.
"Oh, then it's Garson's!" Burke exclaimed.
"I don't know whose it is," Aggie replied, with an air of boredom
well calculated to deceive. "I never laid eyes on it till now."
The Inspector's tone abruptly took on a somber coloring, with an
underlying menace.
"English Eddie was killed with this gun last night," he said.
"Now, who did it?" His broad face was sinister. "Come on, now!
Who did it?"
Aggie became flippant, seemingly unimpressed by the Inspector's
"How should I know?" she drawled. "What do you think I am--a
"You'd better come through," Burke reiterated. Then his manner
changed to wheedling. "If you're the wise kid I think you are,
you will."
Aggie waxed very petulant over this insistence.
"I tell you, I don't know anything! Say, what are you trying to
hand me, anyway?"
Burke scowled on the girl portentously, and shook his head.
"Now, it won't do, I tell you, Aggie Lynch. I'm wise. You
listen to me." Once more his manner turned to the cajoling.
"You tell me what you know, and I'll see you make a clean
get-away, and I'll slip you a nice little piece of money, too."
The girl's face changed with startling swiftness. She regarded
the Inspector shrewdly, a crafty glint in her eyes.
"Let me get this straight," she said. "If I tell you what I know
about Mary Turner and Joe Garson, I get away?"
"Clean!" Burke ejaculated, eagerly.
"And you'll slip me some coin, too?"
"That's it!" came the hasty assurance. "Now, what do you say?"
The small figure grew tense. The delicate, childish face was
suddenly distorted with rage, a rage black and venomous. The
blue eyes were blazing. The voice came thin and piercing.
"I say, you're a great big stiff! What do you think I am?" she
stormed at the discomfited Inspector, while Cassidy looked on in
some enjoyment at beholding his superior being worsted. Aggie
wheeled on the detective. "Say, take me out of here," she cried
in a voice surcharged with disgust. "I'd rather be in the cooler
than here with him!"
Now Burke's tone was dangerous.
"You'll tell," he growled, "or you'll go up the river for a
"I don't know anything," the girl retorted, spiritedly And, if I
did, I wouldn't tell--not in a million years!" She thrust her
head forward challengingly as she faced the Inspector, and her
expression was resolute. "Now, then," she ended, "send me up--if
you can!"
"Take her away," Burke snapped to the detective.
Aggie went toward Cassidy without any sign of reluctance.
"Yes, do, please!" she exclaimed with a sneer. "And do it in a
hurry. Being in the room with him makes me sick! She turned to
stare at the Inspector with eyes that were very clear and very
hard. In this moment, there was nothing childish in their gaze.
"Thought I'd squeal, did you?" she said, evenly. Yes, I
will"--the red lips bent to a smile of supreme scorn--"like
Burke, despite his quality of heaviness, was blest with a keen
sense of humor, against which at times his professional labors
strove mutinously. In the present instance, he had failed
utterly to obtain any information of value from the girl whom he
had just been examining. On the contrary, he had been befooled
outrageously by a female criminal, in a manner to wound deeply
his professional pride. Nevertheless, he bore no grudge against
the adventuress. His sense of the absurd served him well, and he
took a lively enjoyment in recalling the method by which her
plausible wiles had beguiled him. He gave her a real respect for
the adroitness with which she had deceived him--and he was not
one to be readily deceived. So, now, as the scornful maiden went
out of the door under the escort of Cassidy, Burke bowed
gallantly to her lithe back, and blew a kiss from his thick
fingertips, in mocking reverence for her as an artist in her way.
Then, he seated himself, pressed the desk call-button, and, when
he had learned that Edward Gilder was arrived, ordered that the
magnate and the District Attorney be admitted, and that the son,
also, be sent up from his cell.
"It's a bad business, sir," Burke said, with hearty sympathy, to
the shaken father, after the formal greetings that followed the
entrance of the two men. "It's a very bad business."
"What does he say?" Gilder questioned. There was something
pitiful in the distress of this man, usually so strong and so
certain of his course. Now, he was hesitant in his movements,
and his mellow voice came more weakly than its wont. There was a
pathetic pleading in the dulled eyes with which he regarded the
"Nothing!" Burke answered. "That's why I sent for you. I
suppose Mr. Demarest has made the situation plain to you."
Gilder nodded, his face miserable.
"Yes," he has explained it to me," he said in a lifeless voice.
"It's a terrible position for my boy. But you'll release him at
once, won't you?" Though he strove to put confidence into his
words, his painful doubt was manifest.
"I can't," Burke replied, reluctantly, but bluntly. "You ought
not to expect it, Mr. Gilder."
"But," came the protest, delivered with much more spirit, "you
know very well that he didn't do it!"
Burke shook his head emphatically in denial of the allegation.
"I don't know anything about it--yet," he contradicted.
The face of the magnate went white with fear.
"Inspector," he cried brokenly, "you--don't mean--"
Burke answered with entire candor.
"I mean, Mr. Gilder, that you've got to make him talk. That's
what I want you to do, for all our sakes. Will you?"
"I'll do my best," the unhappy man replied, forlornly.
A minute later, Dick, in charge of an officer, was brought into
the room. He was pale, a little disheveled from his hours in a
cell. He still wore his evening clothes of the night before.
His face showed clearly the deepened lines, graven by the
suffering to which he had been subjected, but there was no
weakness in his expression. Instead, a new force that love and
sorrow had brought out in his character was plainly visible. The
strength of his nature was springing to full life under the
stimulus of the ordeal through which he was passing.
The father went forward quickly, and caught Dick's hands in a
mighty grip.
"My boy!" he murmured, huskily. Then, he made a great effort,
and controlled his emotion to some extent. "The Inspector tells
me," he went on, "that you've refused to talk--to answer his
Dick, too, winced under the pain of this meeting with his father
in a situation so sinister. But he was, to some degree,
apathetic from over-much misery. Now, in reply to his father's
words, he only nodded a quiet assent.
"That wasn't wise under the circumstances," the father
remonstrated hurriedly. "However, now, Demarest and I are here
to protect your interests, so that you can talk freely." He went
on with a little catch of anxiety in his voice. "Now, Dick, tell
us! Who killed that man? We must know. Tell me."
Burke broke in impatiently, with his blustering fashion of
"Where did you get----?"
But Demarest raised a restraining hand.
"Wait, please!" he admonished the Inspector. "You wait a bit."
He went a step toward the young man. "Give the boy a chance," he
said, and his voice was very friendly as he went on speaking.
"Dick, I don't want to frighten you, but your position is really
a dangerous one. Your only chance is to speak with perfect
frankness. I pledge you my word, I'm telling the truth, Dick."
There was profound concern in the lawyer's thin face, and his
voice, trained to oratorical arts, was emotionally persuasive.
"Dick, my boy, I want you to forget that I'm the District
Attorney, and remember only that I'm an old friend of yours, and
of your father's, who is trying very hard to help you. Surely,
you can trust me. Now, Dick, tell me: Who shot Griggs?"
There came a long pause. Burke's face was avid with desire for
knowledge, with the keen expectancy of the hunter on the trail,
which was characteristic of him in his professional work. The
District Attorney himself was less vitally eager, but his
curiosity, as well as his wish to escape from an embarrassing
situation, showed openly on his alert countenance. The heavy
features of the father were twisting a little in nervous spasms,
for to him this hour was all anguish, since his only son was in
such horrible plight. Dick alone seemed almost tranquil, though
the outward calm was belied by the flickering of his eyelids and
the occasional involuntary movement of the lips. Finally he
spoke, in a cold, weary voice.
"I shot Griggs," he said.
Demarest realized subtly that his plea had failed, but he made ar
effort to resist the impression, to take the admission at its
face value.
"Why?" he demanded.
Dick's answer came in the like unmeaning tones, and as wearily.
"Because I thought he was a burglar."
The District Attorney was beginning to feel his professional
pride aroused against this young man who so flagrantly repelled
his attempts to learn the truth concerning the crime that had
been committed. He resorted to familiar artifices for entangling
one questioned.
"Oh, I see!" he said, in a tone of conviction. "Now, let's go
back a little. Burke says you told him last night that you had
persuaded your wife to come over to the house, and join you
there. Is that right?"
"Yes." The monosyllable was uttered indifferently. "And,
while the two of you were talking," Demarest continued in a
matter-of-fact manner. He did not conclude the sentence, but
asked instead: "Now, tell me, Dick, just what did happen, won't
There was no reply; and, after a little interval, the lawyer
resumed his questioning.
"Did this burglar come into the room?"
Dick nodded an assent.
"And he attacked you?"
There came another nod of affirmation.
"And there was a struggle?"
"Yes," Dick said, and now there was resolution in his answer.
"And you shot him?" Demarest asked, smoothly.
"Yes," the young man said again.
"Then," the lawyer countered on the instant, "where did you get
the revolver?"
Dick started to answer without thought:
"Why, I grabbed it----" Then, the significance of this crashed on
his consciousness, and he checked the words trembling on his
lips. His eyes, which had been downcast, lifted and glared on
the questioner. "So," he said with swift hostility in his voice,
"so, you're trying to trap me, too!" He shrugged his shoulders in
a way he had learned abroad. "You! And you talk of friendship.
I want none of such friendship."
Demarest, greatly disconcerted, was skilled, nevertheless, in
dissembling, and he hid his chagrin perfectly. There was only
reproach in his voice as he answered stoutly:
"I am your friend, Dick."
But Burke would be no longer restrained. He had listened with
increasing impatience to the diplomatic efforts of the District
Attorney, which had ended in total rout. Now, he insisted on
employing his own more drastic, and, as he believed, more
efficacious, methods. He stood up, and spoke in his most
threatening manner.
"You don't want to take us for fools, young man," he said, and
his big tones rumbled harshly through the room. "If you shot
Griggs in mistake for a burglar, why did you try to hide the
fact? Why did you pretend to me that you and your wife were
alone in the room--when you had *THAT there with you, eh? Why
didn't you call for help? Why didn't you call for the police, as
any honest man would naturally under such circumstances?"
The arraignment was severely logical. Dick showed his
appreciation of the justice of it in the whitening of his face,
nor did he try to answer the charges thus hurled at him.
The father, too, appreciated the gravity of the situation. His
face was working, as if toward tears.
"We're trying to save you," he pleaded, tremulously.
Burke persisted in his vehement system of attack. Now, he again
brought out the weapon that had done Eddie Griggs to death.
"Where'd you get this gun?" he shouted.
Dick held his tranquil pose.
"I won't talk any more," he answered, simply. "I must see my
wife first." His voice became more aggressive. "I want to know
what you've done to her."
Burke seized on this opening.
"Did she kill Griggs?" he questioned, roughly.
For once, Dick was startled out of his calm.
"No, no!" he cried, desperately.
Burke followed up his advantage.
"Then, who did?" he demanded, sharply. "Who did?"
Now, however, the young man had regained his self-control. He
answered very quietly, but with an air of finality.
"I won't say any more until I've talked with a lawyer whom I can
trust." He shot a vindictive glance toward Demarest.
The father intervened with a piteous eagerness.
"Dick, if you know who killed this man, you must speak to protect
Burke's voice came viciously.
"The gun was found on you. Don't forget that."
"You don't seem to realize the position you're in," the father
insisted, despairingly. "Think of me, Dick, my boy. If you
won't speak for your own sake, do it for mine."
The face of the young man softened as he met his father's
beseeching eyes.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he said, very gently. "But I--well, I can't!"
Again, Burke interposed. His busy brain was working out a new
scheme for solving this irritating problem.
"I'm going to give him a little more time to think things over,"
he said, curtly. He went back to his chair. "Perhaps he'll get
to understand the importance of what we've been saying pretty
soon." He scowled at Dick. "Now, young man," he went on briskly,
"you want to do a lot of quick thinking, and a lot of honest
thinking, and, when you're ready to tell the truth, let me know."
He pressed the button on his desk, and, as the doorman appeared,
addressed that functionary.
"Dan, have one of the men take him back. You wait outside."
Dick, however, did not move. His voice came with a note of
"I want to know about my wife. Where is she?"
Burke disregarded the question as completely as if it had not
been uttered, and went on speaking to the doorman with a
suggestion in his words that was effective.
"He's not to speak to any one, you understand." Then he
condescended to give his attention to the prisoner. "You'll know
all about your wife, young man, when you make up your mind to
tell me the truth."
Dick gave no heed to the Inspector's statement. His eyes were
fixed on his father, and there was a great tenderness in their
depths. And he spoke very softly:
"Dad, I'm sorry!"
The father's gaze met the son's, and the eyes of the two locked.
There was no other word spoken. Dick turned, and followed his
custodian out of the office in silence. Even after the shutting
of the door behind the prisoner, the pause endured for some
Then, at last, Burke spoke to the magnate.
"You see, Mr. Gilder, what we're up against. I can't let him
The father strode across the room in a sudden access of rage.
"He's thinking of that woman," he cried out, in a loud voice.
"He's trying to shield her."
"He's a loyal kid, at that," Burke commented, with a grudging
admiration. "I'll say that much for him." His expression grew
morose, as again he pressed the button on his desk. "And now,"
he vouchsafed, "I'll show you the difference." Then, as the
doorman reappeared, he gave his order: "Dan, have the Turner
woman brought up." He regarded the two men with his bristling
brows pulled down in a scowl. "I'll have to try a different game
with her," he said, thoughtfully. "She sure is one clever little
dame. But, if she didn't do it herself, she knows who did, all
right." Again, Burke's voice took on its savage note. "And some
one's got to pay for killing Griggs. I don't have to explain why
to Mr. Demarest, but to you, Mr. Gilder. You see, it's this way:
The very foundations of the work done by this department rest on
the use of crooks, who are willing to betray their pals for coin.
I told you a bit about it last night. Now, you understand, if
Griggs's murder goes unpunished, it'll put the fear of God into
the heart of every stool-pigeon we employ. And then where'd we
be? Tell me that!"
The Inspector next called his stenographer, and gave explicit
directions. At the back of the room, behind the desk, were three
large windows, which opened on a corridor, and across this was a
tier of cells. The stenographer was to take his seat in this
corridor, just outside one of the windows. Over the windows, the
shades were drawn, so that he would remain invisible to any one
within the office, while yet easily able to overhear every word
spoken in the room.
When he had completed his instructions to the stenographer, Burke
turned to Gilder and Demarest.
"Now, this time," he said energetically, "I'll be the one to do
the talking. And get this: Whatever you hear me say, don't you
be surprised. Remember, we're dealing with crooks, and, when
you're dealing with crooks, you have to use crooked ways."
There was a brief period of silence. Then, the door opened, and
Mary Turner entered the office. She walked slowly forward,
moving with the smooth strength and grace that were the proof of
perfect health and of perfect poise, the correlation of mind and
body in exactness. Her form, clearly revealed by the clinging
evening dress, was a curving group of graces. The beauty of her
face was enhanced, rather than lessened, by the pallor of it, for
the fading of the richer colors gave to the fine features an
expression more spiritual, made plainer the underlying qualities
that her accustomed brilliance might half-conceal. She paid
absolutely no attention to the other two in the room, but went
straight to the desk, and there halted, gazing with her softly
penetrant eyes of deepest violet into the face of the Inspector.
Under that intent scrutiny, Burke felt a challenge, set himself
to match craft with craft. He was not likely to undervalue the
wits of one who had so often flouted him, who, even now, had
placed him in a preposterous predicament by this entanglement
over the death of a spy. But he was resolved to use his best
skill to disarm her sophistication. His large voice was
modulated to kindliness as he spoke in a casual manner.
"I just sent for you to tell you that you're free."
Mary regarded the speaker with an impenetrable expression. Her
tones as she spoke were quite as matter-of-fact as his own had
been. In them was no wonder, no exultation.
"Then, I can go," she said, simply.
"Sure, you can go," Burke replied, amiably.
Without any delay, yet without any haste, Mary glanced toward
Gilder and Demarest, who were watching the scene closely. Her
eyes were somehow appraising, but altogether indifferent. Then,
she went toward the outer door of the office, still with that
almost lackadaisical air.
Burke waited rather impatiently until she had nearly reached the
door before he shot his bolt, with a fine assumption of
carelessness in the announcement.
"Garson has confessed!"
Mary, who readily enough had already guessed the essential
hypocrisy of all this play, turned and confronted the Inspector,
and answered without the least trace of fear, but with the
firmness of knowledge:
"Oh, no, he hasn't!"
Her attitude exasperated Burke. His voice roared out wrathfully.
"What's the reason he hasn't?"
The music in the tones of the answer was a vocal rebuke.
"Because he didn't do it." She stated the fact as one without a
hint of any contradictory possibility.
"Well, he says he did it!" Burke vociferated, still more loudly.
Mary, in her turn, resorted to a bit of finesse, in order to
learn whether or not Garson had been arrested. She spoke with a
trace of indignation.
"But how could he have done it, when he went----" she began.
The Inspector fell a victim to her superior craft. His question
came eagerly.
"Where did he go?"
Mary smiled for the first time since she had been in the room,
and in that smile the Inspector realized his defeat in the first
passage of this game of intrigue between them.
"You ought to know," she said, sedately, "since you have arrested
him, and he has confessed."
Demarest put up a hand to conceal his smile over the police
official's chagrin. Gilder, staring always at this woman who had
come to be his Nemesis, was marveling over the beauty and verve
of the one so hating him as to plan the ruin of his life and his
Burke was frantic over being worsted thus. To gain a diversion,
he reverted to his familiar bullying tactics. His question burst
raspingly. It was a question that had come to be constant within
his brain during the last few hours, one that obsessed him, that
fretted him sorely, almost beyond endurance.
"Who shot Griggs?" he shouted.
Mary rested serene in the presence of this violence. Her answer
capped the climax of the officer's exasperation.
"My husband shot a burglar," she said, languidly. And then her
insolence reached its culmination in a query of her own: "Was his
name Griggs?" It was done with splendid art, with a splendid
mastery of her own emotions, for, even as she spoke the words,
she was remembering those shuddering seconds when she had stood,
only a few hours ago, gazing down at the inert bulk that had been
a man.
Burke betook himself to another form of attack.
"Oh, you know better than that," he declared, truculently. "You
see, we've traced the Maxim silencer. Garson himself bought it up
in Hartford."
For the first time, Mary was caught off her guard.
"But he told me----" she began, then became aware of her
indiscretion, and checked herself.
Burke seized on her lapse with avidity.
"What did he tell you?" he questioned, eagerly.
Now, Mary had regained her self-command, and she spoke calmly.
"He told me," she said, without a particle of hesitation, "that
he had never seen one. Surely, if he had had anything of the
sort, he would have shown it to me then."
"Probably he did, too!" Burke rejoined, without the least
suspicion that his surly utterance touched the truth exactly.
"Now, see here," he went on, trying to make his voice affable,
though with small success, for he was excessively irritated by
these repeated failures; "I can make it a lot easier for you if
you'll talk. Come on, now! Who killed Griggs?"
Mary cast off pretense finally, and spoke malignantly.
"That's for you to find out," she said, sneering.
Burke pressed the button on the desk, and, when the doorman
appeared, ordered that the prisoner be returned to her cell.
But Mary stood rebellious, and spoke with a resumption of her
cynical scorn.
"I suppose," she said, with a glance of contempt toward Demarest,
"that it's useless for me to claim my constitutional rights, and
demand to see a lawyer?"
Burke, too, had cast off pretense at last.
"Yes," he agreed, with an evil smirk, "you've guessed it right,
the first time."
Mary spoke to the District Attorney.
"I believe," she said, with a new dignity of bearing, "that such
is my constitutional right, is it not, Mr. Demarest?"
The lawyer sought no evasion of the issue. For that matter, he
was coming to have an increasing respect, even admiration, for
this young woman, who endured insult and ignominy with a spirit
so sturdy, and met strategem with other strategem better devised.
So, now, he made his answer with frank honesty.
"It is your constitutional right, Miss Turner."
Mary turned her clear eyes on the Inspector, and awaited from
that official a reply that was not forthcoming. Truth to tell,
Burke was far from comfortable under that survey.
"Well, Inspector?" she inquired, at last.
Burke took refuge, as his wont was when too hard pressed, in a
mighty bellow.
"The Constitution don't go here!" It was the best he could do,
and it shamed him, for he knew its weakness. Again, wrath surged
in him, and it surged high. He welcomed the advent of Cassidy,
who came hurrying in with a grin of satisfaction on his stolid
"Say, Chief," the detective said with animation, in response to
Burke's glance of inquiry, "we've got Garson."
Mary's face fell, though the change of expression was almost
imperceptible. Only Demarest, a student of much experience,
observed the fleeting display of repressed emotion. When the
Inspector took thought to look at her, she was as impassive as
before. Yet, he was minded to try another ruse in his desire to
defeat the intelligence of this woman. To this end, he asked
Gilder and the District Attorney to withdraw, while he should
have a private conversation with the prisoner. As she listened to
his request, Mary smiled again in sphinx-like fashion, and there
was still on her lips an expression that caused the official a
pang of doubt, when, at last, the two were left alone together,
and he darted a surreptitious glance toward her. Nevertheless,
he pressed on his device valiantly.
"Now," he said, with a marked softening of manner, "I'm going to
be your friend."
"Are you?" Mary's tone was non-committal.
"Yes," Burke declared, heartily. "And I mean it! Give up the
truth about young Gilder. I know he shot Griggs, of course. But
I'm not taking any stock in that burglar story--not a little bit!
No court would, either. What was really back of the killing?"
Burke's eyes narrowed cunningly. "Was he jealous of Griggs?
Well, that's what he might do then. He's always been a worthless
young cub. A rotten deal like this would be about his gait, I
guess.... Tell me, now: Why did he shoot Eddie Griggs?"
There was coarseness a-plenty in the Inspector's pretense, but it
possessed a solitary fundamental virtue: it played on the heart
of the woman whom he questioned, aroused it to wrath in defense
of her mate. In a second, all poise fled from this girl whose
soul was blossoming in the blest realization that a man loved her
purely, unselfishly. Her words came stumblingly in their haste.
Her eyes were near to black in their anger.
"He didn't kill him! He didn't kill him!" she fairly hissed.
"Why, he's the most wonderful man in the world. You shan't hurt
him! Nobody shall hurt him! I'll fight to the end of my life for
Dick Gilder!"
Burke was beaming joyously. At last--a long last! --his finesse
had won the victory over this woman's subtleties.
"Well, that's just what I thought," he said, with smug content.
"And now, then, who did shoot Griggs? We've got every one of the
gang. They're all crooks. See here," he went on, with a sudden
change to the respectful in his manner, "why don't you start
fresh? I'll give you every chance in the world. I'm dead on the
level with you this time."
But he was too late. By now, Mary had herself well in hand
again, vastly ashamed of the short period of self-betrayal caused
by the official's artifice against her heart. As she listened to
the Inspector's assurances, the mocking expression of her face
was not encouraging to that astute individual, but he persevered
"Just you wait," he went on cheerfully, "and I'll prove to you
that I'm on the level about this, that I'm really your friend....
There was a letter came for you to your apartment. My men
brought it down to me. I've read it. Here it is. I'll read it
to you!"
He picked up an envelope, which had been lying on the desk, and
drew out the single sheet of paper it contained. Mary watched
him, wondering much more than her expression revealed over this
new development. Then, as she listened, quick interest touched
her features to a new life. In her eyes leaped emotions to make
or mar a life.
This was the letter:
"I can't go without telling you how sorry I am. There won't
never be a time that I won't remember it was me got you sent up,
that you did time in my place. I ain't going to forgive myself
ever, and I swear I'm going straight always.
"Your true friend, "HELEN
For once, Burke showed a certain delicacy. When he had finished
the reading, he said nothing for a long minute--only, sat with
his cunning eyes on the face of the woman who was immobile there
before him. And, as he looked on her in her slender elegance of
form and gentlewomanly loveliness of face, a loveliness
intelligent and refined beyond that of most women, he felt borne
in on his consciousness the fact that here was one to be
respected. He fought against the impression. It was to him
preposterous, for she was one of that underworld against which he
was ruthlessly at war. Yet, he could not altogether overcome his
instinct toward a half-reverent admiration.... And, as the letter
proved, she had been innocent at the outset. She had been the
victim of a mistaken justice, made outcast by the law she had
never wronged.... His mood of respect was inevitable, since he
had some sensibilities, though they were coarsened, and they
sensed vaguely the maelstrom of emotions that now swirled in the
girl's breast.
To Mary Turner, this was the wonderful hour. In it, the
vindication of her innocence was made complete. The story was
there recorded in black and white on the page written by Helen
Morris. It mattered little--or infinitely much!--that it came
too late. She had gained her evil place in the world, was a
notorious woman in fact, was even now a prisoner under suspicion
of murder. Nevertheless, she felt a thrill of ecstasy over this
written document--which it had never occurred to her to wrest
from the girl at the time of the oral confession. Now that it had
been proffered, the value of it loomed above almost all things
else in the world. It proclaimed undeniably the wrong under
which she had suffered. She was not the thief the court had
adjudged her. Now, there's nobody here but just you and me. Come
on, now--put me wise!"
Mary was again the resourceful woman who was glad to pit her
brain against the contriving of those who fought her. So, at
this moment, she seemed pliant to the will of the man who urged
her thus cunningly. Her quick glance around the office was of a
sort to delude the Inspector into a belief that she was yielding
to his lure.
"Are you sure no one will ever know?" she asked, timorously.
"Nobody but you and me," Burke declared, all agog with
anticipation of victory at last. "I give you my word!"
Mary met the gaze of the Inspector fully. In the same instant,
she flashed on him a smile that was dazzling, the smile of a
woman triumphant in her mastery of the situation. Her face was
radiant, luminous with honest mirth. There was something simple
and genuine in her beauty that thrilled the man before her, the
man trying so vindictively to trap her to her own undoing. For
all his grossness, Burke was of shrewd perceptions, and
somewhere, half-submerged under the sordid nature of his calling,
was a love of things esthetic, a responsiveness to the appeals of
beauty. Now, as his glance searched the face of the girl who was
bubbling with mirth, he experienced an odd warming of his heart
under the spell of her loveliness--a loveliness wholly feminine,
pervasive, wholesome. But, too, his soul shook in a premonition
of catastrophe, for there was mischief in the beaming eyes of
softest violet. There was a demon of mockery playing in the
curves of the scarlet lips, as she smiled so winsomely.
All his apprehensions were verified by her utterance. It came in
a most casual voice, despite the dancing delight in her face.
The tones were drawled in the matter-of-fact fashion of statement
that leads a listener to answer without heed to the exact import
of the question, unless very alert, indeed.... This is what she
said in that so-casual voice:
"I'm not speaking loud enough, am I, stenographer?"
And that industrious writer of shorthand notes, absorbed in his
task, answered instantly from his hidden place in the corridor.
"No, ma'am, not quite."
Mary laughed aloud, while Burke sat dumfounded. She rose swiftly,
and went to the nearest window, and with a pull at the cord sent
the shade flying upward. For seconds, there was revealed the busy
stenographer, bent over his pad. Then, the noise of the
ascending shade, which had been hammering on his consciousness,
penetrated, and he looked up. Realization came, as he beheld the
woman laughing at him through the window. Consternation beset
him. He knew that, somehow, he had bungled fatally. A groan of
distress burst from him, and he fled the place in ignominious
There was another whose spirit was equally desirous of
flight--Burke! Yet once again, he was beaten at his own game, his
cunning made of no avail against the clever interpretation of
this woman whom he assailed. He had no defense to offer. He did
not care to meet her gaze just then, since he was learning to
respect her as one wronged, where he had regarded her hitherto
merely as of the flotsam and jetsam of the criminal class. So, he
avoided her eyes as she stood by the window regarding him
quizzically. In a panic of confusion quite new to him in his
years of experience, he pressed the button on his desk.
The doorman appeared with that automatic precision which made him
valuable in his position, and the Inspector hailed the ready
presence with a feeling of profound relief.
"Dan, take her back!" he said, feebly.
Mary was smiling still as she went to the door. But she could
not resist the impulse toward retort.
"Oh, yes," she said, suavely; "you were right on the level with
me, weren't you, Burke? Nobody here but you and me!" The words
came in a sing-song of mockery.
The Inspector had nothing in the way of answer--only, sat
motionless until the door closed after her. Then, left alone, his
sole audible comment was a single word--one he had learned,
perhaps, from Aggie Lynch:
Burke was a persistent man, and he had set himself to getting the
murderer of Griggs. Foiled in his efforts thus far by the
opposition of Mary, he now gave himself over to careful thought
as to a means of procedure that might offer the best
possibilities of success. His beetling brows were drawn in a
frown of perplexity for a full quarter of an hour, while he
rested motionless in his chair, an unlighted cigar between his
lips. Then, at last, his face cleared; a grin of satisfaction
twisted his heavy mouth, and he smote the desk joyously.
"It's a cinch it'll get 'im!" he rumbled, in glee.
He pressed the button-call, and ordered the doorman to send in
Cassidy. When the detective appeared a minute later, he went
directly to his subject with a straightforward energy usual to
him in his work.
"Does Garson know we've arrested the Turner girl and young
Gilder?" And, when he had been answered in the negative: "Or
that we've got Chicago Red and Dacey here?"
"No," Cassidy replied. "He hasn't been spoken to since we made
the collar.... He seems worried," the detective volunteered.
Burke's broad jowls shook from the force with which he snapped
his jaws together.
"He'll be more worried before I get through with him!" he
growled. He regarded Cassidy speculatively. "Do you remember the
Third Degree Inspector Burns worked on McGloin? Well," he went
on, as the detective nodded assent, "that's what I'm going to do
to Garson. He's got imagination, that crook! The things he don't
know about are the things he's afraid of. After he gets in here,
I want you to take his pals one after the other, and lock them up
in the cells there in the corridor. The shades on the corridor
windows here will be up, and Garson will see them taken in. The
fact of their being there will set his imagination to working
overtime, all right."
Burke reflected for a moment, and then issued the final
directions for the execution of his latest plot.
"When you get the buzzer from me, you have young Gilder and the
Turner woman sent in. Then, after a while, you'll get another
buzzer. When you hear that, come right in here, and tell me that
the gang has squealed. I'll do the rest. Bring Garson here in
just five minutes.... Tell Dan to come in."
As the detective went out, the doorman promptly entered, and
thereat Burke proceeded with the further instructions necessary
to the carrying out of his scheme.
"Take the chairs out of the office, Dan," he directed, "except
mine and one other--that one!" He indicated a chair standing a
little way from one end of his desk. "Now, have all the shades
up." He chuckled as he added: "That Turner woman saved you the
trouble with one."
As the doorman went out after having fulfilled these commands,
the Inspector lighted the cigar which he had retained still in
his mouth, and then seated himself in the chair that was set
partly facing the windows opening on the corridor. He smiled
with anticipatory triumph as he made sure that the whole length
of the corridor with the barred doors of the cells was plainly
visible to one sitting thus. With a final glance about to make
certain that all was in readiness, he returned to his chair, and,
when the door opened, he was, to all appearances, busily engaged
in writing.
"Here's Garson, Chief," Cassidy announced.
"Hello, Joe!" Burke exclaimed, with a seeming of careless
friendliness, as the detective went out, and Garson stood
motionless just within the door.
"Sit down, a minute, won't you?" the Inspector continued,
affably. He did not look up from his writing as he spoke.
Garson's usually strong face was showing weak with fear. His
chin, which was commonly very firm, moved a little from uneasy
twitchings of his lips. His clear eyes were slightly clouded to
a look of apprehension, as they roved the room furtively. He
made no answer to the Inspector's greeting for a few moments, but
remained standing without movement, poised alertly as if sensing
some concealed peril. Finally, however, his anxiety found
expression in words. His tone was pregnant with alarm, though he
strove to make it merely complaining.
"Say, what am I arrested for?" he protested. "I ain't done
Even now, Burke did not look up, and his pen continued to hurry
over the paper.
"Who told you you were arrested?" he remarked, cheerfully, in
his blandest voice.
Garson uttered an ejaculation of disgust.
"I don't have to be told," he retorted, huffily. "I'm no college
president, but, when a cop grabs me and brings me down here, I've
got sense enough to know I'm pinched."
The Inspector did not interrupt his work, but answered with the
utmost good nature.
"Is that what they did to you, Joe? I'll have to speak to
Cassidy about that. Now, just you sit down, Joe, won't you? I
want to have a little talk with you. I'll be through here in a
second." He went on with the writing.
Garson moved forward slightly, to the single chair near the end
of the desk, and there seated himself mechanically. His face thus
was turned toward the windows that gave on the corridor, and his
eyes grew yet more clouded as they rested on the grim doors of
the cells. He writhed in his chair, and his gaze jumped from the
cells to the impassive figure of the man at the desk. Now, the
forger's nervousness increased momently it swept beyond his
control. Of a sudden, he sprang up, and stepped close to the
"Say," he said, in a husky voice, "I'd like--I'd like to have a
"What's the matter with you, Joe?" the Inspector returned,
always with that imperturbable air, and without raising his head
from the work that so engrossed his attention. "You know, you're
not arrested, Joe. Maybe, you never will be. Now, for the love
of Mike, keep still, and let me finish this letter."
Slowly, very hesitatingly, Garson went back to the chair, and
sank down on it in a limp attitude of dejection wholly unlike his
customary postures of strength. Again, his fear-fascinated eyes
went to the row of cells that stood silently menacing on the
other side of the corridor beyond the windows. His face was
tinged with gray. A physical sickness was creeping stealthily on
him, as his thoughts held insistently to the catastrophe that
threatened. His intelligence was too keen to permit a belief
that Burke's manner of almost fulsome kindliness hid nothing
ominous--ominous with a hint of death for him in return for the
death he had wrought.
Then, terror crystallized. His eyes were caught by a figure, the
figure of Cassidy, advancing there in the corridor. And with the
detective went a man whose gait was slinking, craven. A
cell-door swung open, the prisoner stepped within, the door
clanged to, the bolts shot into their sockets noisily.
Garson sat huddled, stricken--for he had recognized the victim
thrust into the cell before his eyes.... It was Dacey, one of his
own cronies in crime--Dacey, who, the night before, had seen him
kill Eddie Griggs. There was something concretely sinister to
Garson in this fact of Dacey's presence there in the cell.
Of a sudden, the forger cried out raucously:
"Say, Inspector, if you've got anything on me, I--I would----"
The cry dropped into unintelligible mumblings.
Burke retained his manner of serene indifference to the other's
agitation. Still, his pen hurried over the paper; and he did not
trouble to look up as he expostulated, half-banteringly.
"Now, now! What's the matter with you, Joe? I told you that I
wanted to ask you a few questions. That's all."
Garson leaped to his feet again resolutely, then faltered, and
ultimately fell back into the chair with a groan, as the
Inspector went on speaking.
"Now, Joe, sit down, and keep still, I tell you, and let me get
through with this job. It won't take me more than a minute
But, after a moment, Garson's emotion forced hint to another
"Say, Inspector----" he began.
Then, abruptly, he was silent, his mouth still open to utter the
words that were now held back by horror. Again, he saw the
detective walking forward, out there in the corridor. And with
him, as before, was a second figure, which advanced slinkingly.
Garson leaned forward in his chair, his head thrust out, watching
in rigid suspense. Again, even as before, the door swung wide,
the prisoner slipped within, the door clanged shut, the bolts
clattered noisily into their sockets.
And, in the watcher, terror grew--for he had seen the face of
Chicago Red, another of his pals, another who had seen him kill
Griggs. For a time that seemed to him long ages of misery,
Garson sat staring dazedly at the closed doors of the tier of
cells. The peril about him was growing--growing, and it was a
deadly peril! At last, he licked his dry lips, and his voice
broke in a throaty whisper.
"Say, Inspector, if you've got anything against me, why----"
"Who said there was anything against you, Joe?" Burke rejoined,
in a voice that was genially chiding. "What's the matter with you
to-day, Joe? You seem nervous." Still, the official kept on
with his writing.
"No, I ain't nervous," Garson cried, with a feverish effort to
appear calm. "Why, what makes you think that? But this ain't
exactly the place you'd pick out as a pleasant one to spend the
morning." He was silent for a little, trying with all his
strength to regain his self-control, but with small success.
"Could I ask you a question?" he demanded finally, with more
firmness in his voice.
"What is it?" Burke said.
Garson cleared his throat with difficulty, and his voice was
"I was just going to say--" he began. Then, he hesitated, and
was silent, at a loss.
"Well, what is it, Joe?" the Inspector prompted.
"I was going to say--that is--well, if it's anything about Mary
Turner, I don't know a thing--not a thing!"
It was the thought of possible peril to her that now, in an
instant, had caused him to forget his own mortal danger. Where,
before, he had been shuddering over thoughts of the death-house
cell that might be awaiting him, he now had concern only for the
safety of the woman he cherished. And there was a great grief in
his soul; for it was borne in on him that his own folly, in
disobedience to her command, had led up to the murder of
Griggs--and to all that might come of the crime. How could he
ever make amends to her? At least, he could be brave here, for
her sake, if not for his own.
Burke believed that his opportunity was come.
"What made you think I wanted to know anything about her?" he
"Oh, I can't exactly say," Garson replied carelessly, in an
attempt to dissimulate his agitation. "You were up to the house,
you know. Don't you see?"
"I did want to see her, that's a fact," Burke admitted. He kept
on with his writing, his head bent low. "But she wasn't at her
flat. I guess she must have taken my advice, and skipped out.
Clever girl, that!"
Garson contrived to present an aspect of comparative
"Yes," he agreed. "I was thinking of going West, myself," he
"Oh, were you?" Burke exclaimed; and, now, there was a new note
in his voice. His hand slipped into the pocket where was the
pistol, and clutched it. He stared at Garson fiercely, and spoke
with a rush of the words:
"Why did you kill Eddie Griggs?"
"I didn't kill him!" The reply was quick enough, but it came
weakly. Again, Garson was forced to wet his lips with a dry
tongue, and to swallow painfully. "I tell you, I didn't kill
him!" he repeated at last, with more force.
Burke sneered his disbelief.
"You killed him last night--with this!" he cried, viciously. On
the instant, the pistol leaped into view, pointed straight at
Garson. "Why?" the Inspector shouted. "Come on, now! Why?"
"I didn't, I tell you!" Garson was growing stronger, since at
last the crisis was upon him. He got to his feet with lithe
swiftness of movement, and sprang close to the desk. He bent his
head forward challengingly, to meet the glare of his accuser's
eyes. There was no flinching in his own steely stare. His
nerves had ceased their jangling under the tautening of
"You did!" Burke vociferated. He put his whole will into the
assertion of guilt, to batter down the man's resistance. "You
did, I tell you! You did!"
Garson leaned still further forward, until his face was almost
level with the Inspector's. His eyes were unclouded now, were
blazing. His voice came resonant in its denial. The entire pose
of him was intrepid, dauntless.
"And I tell you, I didn't!"
There passed many seconds, while the two men battled in silence,
will warring against will. ... In the end, it was the murderer
who triumphed.
Suddenly, Burke dropped the pistol into his pocket, and lolled
back in his chair. His gaze fell away from the man confronting
him. In the same instant, the rigidity of Garson's form relaxed,
and he straightened slowly. A tide of secret joy swept through
him, as he realized his victory. But his outward expression
remained unchanged.
"Oh, well," Burke exclaimed amiably, "I didn't really think you
did, but I wasn't sure, so I had to take a chance. You
understand, don't you, Joe?"
"Sure, I understand," Garson replied, with an amiability equal to
the Inspector's own.
Burke's manner continued very amicable as he went on speaking.
"You see, Joe, anyhow, we've got the right party safe enough.
You can bet on that!"
Garson resisted the lure.
"If you don't want me----" he began suggestively; and he turned
toward the door to the outer hall. "Why, if you don't want me,
I'll--get along."
"Oh, what's the hurry, Joe?" Burke retorted, with the effect of
stopping the other short. He pressed the buzzer as the agreed
signal to Cassidy. "Where did you say Mary Turner was last
At the question, all Garson's fears for the woman rushed back on
him with appalling force. Of what avail his safety, if she were
still in peril?
"I don't know where she was," he exclaimed, doubtfully. He
realized his blunder even as the words left his lips, and sought
to correct it as best he might. "Why, yes, I do, too," he went
on, as if assailed by sudden memory. "I dropped into her place
kind of late, and they said she'd gone to bed--headache, I
guess.... Yes, she was home, of course. She didn't go out of the
house, all night." His insistence on the point was of itself
suspicious, but eagerness to protect her stultified his wits.
Burke sat grim and silent, offering no comment on the lie.
"Know anything about young Gilder?" he demanded. "Happen to know
where he is now?" He arose and came around the desk, so that he
stood close to Garson, at whom he glowered.
"Not a thing!" was the earnest answer. But the speaker's fear
rose swiftly, for the linking of these names was
significant--frightfully significant!
The inner door opened, and Mary Turner entered the office.
Garson with difficulty suppressed the cry of distress that rose
to his lips. For a few moments, the silence was unbroken. Then,
presently, Burke, by a gesture, directed the girl to advance
toward the center of the room. As she obeyed, he himself went a
little toward the door, and, when it opened again, and Dick
Gilder appeared, he interposed to check the young man's rush
forward as his gaze fell on his bride, who stood regarding him
with sad eyes.
Garson stared mutely at the burly man in uniform who held their
destinies in the hollow of a hand. His lips parted as if he were
about to speak. Then, he bade defiance to the impulse. He
deemed it safer for all that he should say nothing--now!... And
it is very easy to say a word too many. And that one may be a
word never to be unsaid--or gainsaid.
Then, while still that curious, dynamic silence endured, Cassidy
came briskly into the office. By some magic of duty, he had
contrived to give his usually hebetudinous features an expression
of enthusiasm.
"Say, Chief," the detective said rapidly, "they've squealed!"
Burke regarded his aide with an air intolerably triumphant. His
voice came smug:
"Squealed, eh?" His glance ran over Garson for a second, then
made its inquisition of Mary and of Dick Gilder. He did not give
a look to Cassidy as he put his question. "Do they tell the same
story?" And then, when the detective had answered in the
affirmative, he went on speaking in tones ponderous with
self-complacency; and, now, his eyes held sharply, craftily, on
the woman.
"I was right then, after all--right, all the time! Good enough!"
Of a sudden, his voice boomed somberly. "Mary Turner, I want you
for the murder of----"
Garson's rush halted the sentence. He had leaped forward. His
face was rigid. He broke on the Inspector's words with a gesture
of fury. His voice came in a hiss:
"That's a damned lie!... I did it!"
Joe Garson had shouted his confession without a second of
reflection. But the result must have been the same had he taken
years of thought. Between him and her as the victim of the law,
there could be no hesitation for choice. Indeed, just now, he
had no heed to his own fate. The prime necessity was to save
her, Mary, from the toils of the law that were closing around
her. For himself, in the days to come, there would be a ghastly
dread, but there would never be regret over the cost of saving
her. Perhaps, some other he might have let suffer in his
stead--not her! Even, had he been innocent, and she guilty of the
crime, he would still have taken the burden of it on his own
shoulders. He had saved her from the waters--he would save her
until the end, as far as the power in him might lie. It was thus
that, with the primitive directness of his reverential love for
the girl, he counted no sacrifice too great in her behalf. Joe
Garson was not a good man, at the world esteems goodness. On the
contrary, he was distinctly an evil one, a menace to the society
on which he preyed constantly. But his good qualities, if few,
were of the strongest fiber, rooted in the deeps of him. He
loathed treachery. His one guiltiness in this respect had been,
curiously enough, toward Mary herself, in the scheme of the
burglary, which she had forbidden. But, in the last analysis,
here his deceit had been designed to bring affluence to her. It
was his abhorrence of treachery among pals that had driven him to
the murder of the stool-pigeon in a fit of ungovernable passion.
He might have stayed his hand then, but for the gusty rage that
swept him on to the crime. None the less, had he spared the man,
his hatred of the betrayer would have been the same.... And the
other virtue of Joe Garson was the complement of this--his own
loyalty, a loyalty that made him forget self utterly where he
loved. The one woman who had ever filled his heart was Mary, and
for her his life were not too much to give.
The suddenness of it all held Mary voiceless for long seconds.
She was frozen with horror of the event.
When, at last, words came, they were a frantic prayer of protest.
"No, Joe! No! Don't talk--don't talk!"
Burke, immensely gratified, went nimbly to his chair, and thence
surveyed the agitated group with grisly pleasure.
"Joe has talked," he said, significantly.
Mary, shaken as she was by the fact of Garson's confession,
nevertheless retained her presence of mind sufficiently to resist
with all her strength.
"He did it to protect me," she stated, earnestly.
The Inspector disdained such futile argument. As the doorman
appeared in answer to the buzzer, he directed that the
stenographer be summoned at once.
"We'll have the confession in due form," he remarked, gazing
pleasedly on the three before him.
"He's not going to confess," Mary insisted, with spirit.
But Burke was not in the least impressed. He disregarded her
completely, and spoke mechanically to Garson the formal warning
required by the law.
"You are hereby cautioned that anything you say may be used
against you." Then, as the stenographer entered, he went on with
lively interest. "Now, Joe!"
Yet once again, Mary protested, a little wildly.
"Don't speak, Joe! Don't say a word till we can get a lawyer for
The man met her pleading eyes steadily, and shook his head in
"It's no use, my girl," Burke broke in, harshly. "I told you I'd
get you. I'm going to try you and Garson, and the whole gang for
murder--yes, every one of you.... And you, Gilder," he continued,
lowering on the young man who had defied him so obstinately,
"you'll go to the House of Detention as a material witness." He
turned his gaze to Garson again, and spoke authoritatively: "Come
on now, Joe!"
Garson went a step toward the desk, and spoke decisively.
"If I come through, you'll let her go--and him?" he added as an
afterthought, with a nod toward Dick Gilder.
"Oh, Joe, don't!" Mary cried, bitterly. "We'll spend every
dollar we can raise to save you!"
"Now, it's no use," the Inspector complained. "You're only
wasting time. He's said that he did it. That's all there is to
it. Now that we're sure he's our man, he hasn't got a chance in
the world."
"Well, how about it?" Garson demanded, savagely. "Do they go
clear, if I come through?"
"We'll get the best lawyers in the country," Mary persisted,
desperately. "We'll save you, Joe--we'll save you!"
Garson regarded the distraught girl with wistful eyes. But there
was no trace of yielding in his voice as he replied, though he
spoke very sorrowfully.
"No, you can't help me," he said, simply. "My time has come,
Mary.... And I can save you a lot of trouble."
"He's right there," Burke ejaculated. "We've got him cold. So,
what's the use of dragging you two into it?"
"Then, they go clear?" Garson exclaimed, eagerly. "They ain't
even to be called as witnesses?"
Burke nodded assent.
"You're on!" he agreed.
"Then, here goes!" Garson cried; and he looked expectantly toward
the stenographer.
The strain of it all was sapping the will of the girl, who saw
the man she so greatly esteemed for his service to her and his
devotion about to condemn himself to death. She grew
half-hysterical. Her words came confusedly:
"No, Joe! No, no, no!"
Again, Garson shook his head in absolute refusal of her plea.
"There's no other way out," he declared, wearily. "I'm going
through with it." He straightened a little, and again looked at
the stenographer. His voice came quietly, without any
"My name is Joe Garson."
"Alias?" Burke suggested.
"Alias nothing!" came the sharp retort. "Garson's my monaker. I
shot English Eddie, because he was a skunk, and a stool-pigeon,
and he got just what was coming to him." Vituperation beyond the
mere words beat in his voice now.
Burke twisted uneasily in his chair.
"Now, now!" he objected, severely. "We can't take a confession
like that."
Garson shook his head--spoke with fiercer hatred. "because he was
a skunk, and a stool-pigeon," he repeated. "Have you got it?"
And then, as the stenographer nodded assent, he went on, less
violently: "I croaked him just as he was going to call the bulls
with a police-whistle. I used a gun with smokeless powder. It
had a Maxim silencer on it, so that it didn't make any noise."
Garson paused, and the set despair of his features lightened a
little. Into his voice came a tone of exultation indescribably
ghastly. It was born of the eternal egotism of the criminal,
fattening vanity in gloating over his ingenuity for evil.
Garson, despite his two great virtues, had the vices of his
class. Now, he stared at Burke with a quizzical grin crooking
his lips.
"Say," he exclaimed, "I'll bet it's the first time a guy was ever
croaked with one of them things! Ain't it?"
The Inspector nodded affirmation. There was sincere admiration
in his expression, for he was ready at all times to respect the
personal abilities of the criminals against whom he waged
relentless war.
"That's right, Joe!" he said, with perceptible enthusiasm.
"Some class to that, eh?" Garson demanded, still with that
gruesome air of boasting. "I got the gun, and the Maxim-silencer
thing, off a fence in Boston," he explained. "Say, that thing
cost me sixty dollars, and it's worth every cent of the money....
Why, they'll remember me as the first to spring one of them
things, won't they?"
"They sure will, Joe!" the Inspector conceded.
"Nobody knew I had it," Garson continued, dropping his braggart
manner abruptly.
At the words, Mary started, and her lips moved as if she were
about to speak.
Garson, intent on her always, though he seemed to look only at
Burke, observed the effect on her, and repeated his words
swiftly, with a warning emphasis that gave the girl pause.
"Nobody knew I had it--nobody in the world!" he declared. "And
nobody had anything to do with the killing but me."
Burke put a question that was troubling him much, concerning the
motive that lay behind the shooting of Griggs.
"Was there any bad feeling between you and Eddie Griggs?"
Garson's reply was explicit.
"Never till that very minute. Then, I learned the truth about
what he'd framed up with you." The speaker's voice reverted to
its former fierceness in recollection of the treachery of one
whom he had trusted.
"He was a stool-pigeon, and I hated his guts! That's all," he
concluded, with brutal candor.
The Inspector moved restlessly in his chair. He had only
detestation for the slain man, yet there was something morbidly
distasteful in the thought that he himself had contrived the
situation which had resulted in the murder of his confederate.
It was only by an effort that he shook off the vague feeling of
"Nothing else to say?" he inquired.
Garson reflected for a few seconds, then made a gesture of
"Nothing else," he declared. "I croaked him, and I'm glad I done
it. He was a skunk. That's all, and it's enough. And it's all
true, so help me God!"
The Inspector nodded dismissal to the stenographer, with an air
of relief.
"That's all, Williams," he said, heavily. "He'll sign it as soon
as you've transcribed the notes."
Then, as the stenographer left the room, Burke turned his gaze on
the woman, who stood there in a posture of complete dejection,
her white, anguished face downcast. There was triumph in the
Inspector's voice as he addressed her, for his professional pride
was full-fed by this victory over his foes. But there was, too,
an undertone of a feeling softer than pride, more generous,
something akin to real commiseration for this unhappy girl who
drooped before him, suffering so poignantly in the knowledge of
the fate that awaited the man who had saved her, who had loved
her so unselfishly
"Young woman," Burke said briskly, "it's just like I told you.
You can't beat the law. Garson thought he could--and now----!"
He broke off, with a wave of his hand toward the man who had just
sentenced himself to death in the electric-chair.
"That's right," Garson agreed, with somber intensity. His eyes
were grown clouded again now, and his voice dragged leaden.
"That's right, Mary," he repeated dully, after a little pause.
"You can't beat the law!"
There followed a period of silence, in which great emotions were
vibrant from heart to heart. Garson was thinking of Mary, and,
with the thought, into his misery crept a little comfort. At
least, she would go free. That had been in the bargain with
Burke. And there was the boy, too. His eyes shot a single swift
glance toward Dick Gilder, and his satisfaction increased as he
noted the alert poise of the young man's body, the strained
expression of the strong face, the gaze of absorbed yearning with
which he regarded Mary. There could be no doubt concerning the
depth of the lad's love for the girl. Moreover, there were manly
qualities in him to work out all things needful for her
protection through life. Already, he had proved his devotion,
and that abundantly, his unswerving fidelity to her, and the
force within him that made these worthy in some measure of her.
Garson felt no least pang of jealousy. Though he loved the woman
with the single love of his life, he had never, somehow, hoped
aught for himself. There was even something almost of the
paternal in the purity of his love, as if, indeed, by the fact of
restoring her to life he had taken on himself the responsibility
of a parent. He knew that the boy worshiped her, would do his
best for her, that this best would suffice for her happiness in
time. Garson, with the instinct of love, guessed that Mary had
in truth given her heart all unaware to the husband whom she had
first lured only for the lust of revenge. Garson nodded his head
in a melancholy satisfaction. His life was done: hers was just
beginning, now.... But she would remember him --oh, yes, always!
Mary was loyal.
The man checked the trend of his thoughts by a mighty effort of
will. He must not grow maudlin here. He spoke again to Mary,
with a certain dignity.
"No, you can't beat the law!" He hesitated a little, then went
on, with a certain curious embarrassment. "And this same old law
says a woman must stick to her man."
The girl's eyes met his with passionate sorrow in their misty
deeps. Garson gave a significant glance toward Dick Gilder, then
his gaze returned to her. There was a smoldering despair in that
look. There were, as well, an entreaty and a command.
"So," he went on, "you must go along with him, Mary.. . .
Won't you? It's the best thing to do."
The girl could not answer. There was a clutch on her throat just
then, which would not relax at the call of her will.
The tension of a moment grew, became pervasive. Burke, accustomed
as he was to scenes of dramatic violence, now experienced an
altogether unfamiliar thrill. As for Garson, once again the surge
of feeling threatened to overwhelm his self-control. He must not
break down! For Mary's sake, he must show himself stoical, quite
undisturbed in this supreme hour.
Of a sudden, an inspiration came to him, a means to snap the
tension, to create a diversion wholly efficacious. He would turn
to his boasting again, would call upon his vanity, which he knew
well as his chief foible, and make it serve as the foil against
his love. He strove manfully to throw off the softer mood. In a
measure, at least, he won the fight--though always, under the
rush of this vaunting, there throbbed the anguish of his heart.
"You want to cut out worrying about me," he counseled, bravely.
"Why, I ain't worrying any, myself--not a little bit! You see,
it's something new I've pulled off. Nobody ever put over
anything like it before."
He faced Burke with a grin of gloating again.
"I'll bet there'll be a lot of stuff in the newspapers about
this, and my picture, too, in most of 'em! What?"
The man's manner imposed on Burke, though Mary felt the torment
that his vainglorying was meant to mask.
"Say," Garson continued to the Inspector, "if the reporters want
any pictures of me, could I have some new ones taken? The one
you've got of me in the Gallery is over ten years old. I've
taken off my beard since then. Can I have a new one?" He put
the question with an eagerness that seemed all sincere.
Burke answered with a fine feeling of generosity.
"Sure, you can, Joe! I'll send you up to the Gallery right now."
"Immense!" Garson cried, boisterously. He moved toward Dick
Gilder, walking with a faint suggestion of swagger to cover the
nervous tremor that had seized him.
"So long, young fellow!" he exclaimed, and held out his hand.
"You've been on the square, and I guess you always will be."
Dick had no scruple in clasping that extended hand very warmly in
his own. He had no feeling of repulsion against this man who had
committed a murder in his presence. Though he did not quite
understand the other's heart, his instinct as a lover taught him
much, so that he pitied profoundly--and respected, too.
"We'll do what we can for you," he said, simply.
"That's all right," Garson replied, with such carelessness of
manner as he could contrive. Then, at last, he turned to Mary.
This parting must be bitter, and he braced himself with all the
vigors of his will to combat the weakness that leaped from his
As he came near, the girl could hold herself in leash no longer.
She threw herself on his breast. Her arms wreathed about his
neck. Great sobs racked her.
"Oh, Joe, Joe!" The gasping cry was of utter despair.
Garson's trembling hand patted the girl's shoulder very softly, a
caress of infinite tenderness.
"That's all right!" he murmured, huskily. "That's all right,
Mary!" There was a short silence; and then he went on speaking,
more firmly. "You know, he'll look after you."
He would have said more, but he could not. It seemed to him that
the sobs of the girl caught in his own throat. Yet, presently, he
strove once again, with every reserve of his strength; and,
finally, he so far mastered himself that he could speak calmly.
The words were uttered with a subtle renunciation that was this
man's religion.
"Yes, he'll take care of you. Why, I'd like to see the two of
you with about three kiddies playing round the house."
He looked up over the girl's shoulder, and beckoned with his head
to Dick, who came forward at the summons.
"Take good care of her, won't you?"
He disengaged himself gently from the girl's embrace, and set her
within the arms of her husband, where she rested quietly, as if
unable to fight longer against fate's decree.
"Well, so long!"
He dared not utter another word, but turned blindly, and went,
stumbling a little, toward the doorman, who had appeared in
answer to the Inspector's call.
"To the Gallery," Burke ordered, curtly.
Garson went on without ever a glance back.... His strength was at
an end.
* * * * *
There was a long silence in the room after Garson's passing. It
was broken, at last, by the Inspector, who got up from his chair,
and advanced toward the husband and wife. In his hand, he
carried a sheet of paper, roughly scrawled. As he stopped before
the two, and cleared his throat, Mary withdrew herself from
Dick's arms, and regarded the official with brooding eyes from
out her white face. Something strange in her enemy's expression
caught her attention, something that set new hopes alive within
her in a fashion wholly inexplicable, so that she waited with a
sudden, breathless eagerness.
Burke extended the sheet of paper to the husband.
"There's a document," he said gruffly. "It's a letter from one
Helen Morris, in which she sets forth the interesting fact that
she pulled off a theft in the Emporium, for which your Mrs.
Gilder here did time. You know, your father got your Mrs. Gilder
sent up for three years for that same job--which she didn't do!
That's why she had such a grudge against your father, and against
the law, too!"
Burke chuckled, as the young man took the paper, wonderingly.
"I don't know that I blame her much for that grudge, when all's
said and done.... You give that document to your father. It sets
her right. He's a just man according to his lights, your father.
He'll do all he can to make things right for her, now he knows."
Once again, the Inspector paused to chuckle.
"I guess she'll keep within the law from now on," he continued,
contentedly, "without getting a lawyer to tell her how.... Now,
you two listen. I've got to go out a minute. When I get back, I
don't want to find anybody here--not anybody! Do you get me?"
He strode from the room, fearful lest further delay might involve
him in sentimental thanksgivings from one or the other, or
both--and Burke hated sentiment as something distinctly
* * * * *
When the official was gone, the two stood staring mutely each at
the other through long seconds. What she read in the man's eyes
set the woman's heart to beating with a new delight. A bloom of
exquisite rose grew in the pallor of her cheeks. The misty light
in the violet eyes shone more radiant, yet more softly. The
crimson lips curved to strange tenderness.... What he read in her
eyes set the husband's pulses to bounding. He opened his arms in
an appeal that was a command. Mary went forward slowly, without
hesitation, in a bliss that forgot every sorrow for that blessed
moment, and cast herself on his breast.

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