MRS. WILSON WOODROW
JONE BELL presented himself at his flat in the Bronx with his derby hat broken, a discolored eye and a swelling on his jaw. CHAPTER IX. "For heaven's sake, John! You been in an accident?" shrilly demanded Mrs. Bell. She was a little woman with color-
less, blond hair, a pointed nose and possessed of an insatiable curiosity. "What ran over you?” "Nothing ran over me. Had a little mix-up.” He was examining the distorted outline of his round face in the glass over the dresser. “Get me the witch-hazel, will you?” "I thought you told me once,” said Mrs. Bell, pattering hack from the bathroom with the implements of first aid, "that crooks were harmless as kittens a detective was a.*s>3 bcir threatened bv 'em. and never hurt.” a crook” -shortly. "It was a judge.” A judgeMrs Bell's narrow eyes grew round; her imagination p cfared a dignified, venerable figure in a "Mercy, John! They'll send you up for It An.ls.-rxe you right, too fighting with a weak old "Huh winced as he dabbed at the mouse painfullV del under his left eye. "V eak old man! Well k Dempsey. You just connect with that k e 1 did. and you’ll think you've been up er. This bird's a regular Kentucky ll thrilled. She was an ardent follower of ssip in the newspapers, and could hurdle - entire social register from memory without rst name. Perry Gabriel that belongs to the Meadow: ?" she asked breathlessly. "The one that gahousand dollar diamond bar-pins to twenty chorus-girls at that dinner of his once?” "If he did. I’ll bet the diamonds were phony,” muttered the detective. "But you've called it right, old lady. And I'll say that he's the cheapest streak of yellow I ever got tied up with.” "And you and Perry Gabriel were both fighting this judge — Veil”—doubtfully—”1 wouldn’t exactly call it fighting---any more’n a coupla eggs fights with the eggbeater. That was just about the way it was—only, Labriel got the worst scrambled of the two of us. It took J:m Pe\ r.cs, the trainer out at the track, and two stable-
hand? to pry this Jeffries iff of him." "But what about, John?” "0 this Constance Lee h kmail affair. Gabriel ?aid something about h-1*, and the judge tore '.roo him.” Be;i answered more or .ess at random. He was ?t;!i worried about the look -if his eye. But he had r.o sooner spoken than he realized hi? mistake. In "e m;rr * r.e could see his w.r'-'j rr.'.\rh open and the Lee?” ' i he beautlíu. .Mr car. Lee, of Park Av Mr?. Hugo Wer. de il friend? Is she mix? H? iade ;t a rule to sir.ess and his h-me divorced. The bosom of his family, to his mind, was a place for the discussion oí film stars, the doings of the neighbors. the cleverness of the children, the extortions of butcher and baker, not to mull over the cases upon which he was engaged. But in the present instance he was helpless. Tre mention of those two names of the elect was like a taste of blood to a “Held on! Hold on” interrupting her flood of ou estions. "I’ll give you tito layout; only, you keep “-tat I te.l yon to yourself, understand. Don't be chewing it over with me
afterward, and be sure not to let it go any further.” lie sat down, still holding the witch-hazel and cotton
to his bruised cheek.
“To begin with,” he said, “this Gabriel got blackmailed out of a bunch of money.” ¡
“How?” asked Mrs. Bell. “Did they have something
“Sure they did! He’d been pulling some deals that weren’t just according to Hoyle, and he made the mistake of bragging about them to Mrs. Lee, who he was pretty soft
“And she held him up? A pretty young thing like her who goes with--”
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” he growled. “How’d you expect me to get anywhere with you breaking in on me all the time? I didn’t say that Constance Lee herself tapped Gabriel. It was her lawyer, Louis K. Beachey, who did that. But Gabriel couldn’t understand how Beachey got the information that was used except from her. So when a second call was made on him, he decided to smoke her out; and that’s where I came into the case.
“My instructions were to go at the investigation with a perfectly open mind. Nothing but straight work. If she was guilty, all right, but I had to prove it. You see, Gabriel, for all his mad, was still pretty well stuck on her. So the first thing I started to do was to look up her record. But, believe me, she didn’t have any. Talk about blank walls! That woman had fenced herself off so from her past that there was no way of getting through to it.” “That shows she’s smart,” said Mrs. Bell commendingly.
“A/fAYBE so,” replied Bell, “and then, again, maybe -L’-l not. Anyhow, I figured that I’d have to work it out along a different line. There was no use trying to fix anything on her that she’d already done. That was plain. And no use trying to connect her with the Gabriel job. If she was in on that, her tracks were too well covered up. What I had to do was to lay low and catch her when she
pulled off her next stunt; for it was a cinch if blackmailing was her game, that she’d be at it again before long.
“Sure enough; it was only a little while until I got a clue that there was something doing. Off to Atlantic City she goes, and me hotfoot after her.”
“Oh, that was the business that took you down there?”
“That was it. And it looked good, too. Right off the bat she nails this Judge Jeffries, a rich Kentucky lawyer and a horse-owner. And inside of twenty-four hours she has him goofy, jumping through hoops and rolling over to play dead at word of command. He’s come East on account of a big lawsuit over some coal-lands, it appears, and she’s so sympathetic that he spills all the inside dope on it to her. ‘Curtain!’ says I to myself. ‘Show’s over. Here’s where she cashes in.’
“But at this point things began to get twisted. Everything was set for the pushover, but it didn’t come. At first I couldn’t make it at all. Then I saw what was gumming the works. She’d fallen for Jeffries as hard as he’d fallen for her. No speculation about it; facts.
“Perry Gabriel came down and saw the two of them together. Oh, boy! He was the picture of a vicious rat. ‘You get that woman,’ he says to me. ‘If there’s nothing against her, frame it.’ Then he goes back to New York, never letting her know that he’d been there.
“Next day he telephones me to come to himÿ and when I get there he’s grinning all over his silly face. ‘No need to do any framing, Bell,’ he says. ‘I’ve got the straight goods on her. You catch the first train to Kentucky and find out all you can about Caroline C. Logan.’
“ ‘Who’s she?,’ I asked.
“ ‘The adopted daughter and residuary legatee Woodson Logan, deceased,’ he says, ‘and the principal defendant in this suit of Judge Jeffries to recover those coal-lands. A mysterious lady, Bell,’ he says meaningly. ‘She’s always represented in court by her lawyers, and no one else seems to know anything about her.’
“ ‘Oh?’ I says, beginning to see a light. ‘But what makes you think she’s Mrs. Constance Lee?’
“ ‘Pretty plain, I call it,’ he comes back at me. ‘Why else has she been playing Jeffries? Then, too, the initials: “C. L.”—Caroline Logan, Constance Lee. And, besides, got a tip from Louis Beachey, who is Mrs. Lee’s attorney. Now don’t stop to ask any more questions, but beat it, as quickly as possible, for Kentucky.’
“Well, as you know, I went. But the more I dug round the less I liked the look of things. It came too easy. Everything pointed to Caroline Logan being Mrs. Constance Lee, and if she was, the woman certainly had a record all right. But still I wasn’t satisfied. The evidence just fell short of an absolute identification of the two, and what I got might have been planted.
“I came back to New York and reported to Gabriel. ‘Give me a week here to trail the lady and cinch things up,’ I said, ‘and I’ll tell you for certain just what’s what.’ But that very day, for no reason on earth, she lights out with Delia, her maid, and disappears.
“Judge Jeffries is as much at sea over it as any one. Him and her had been sitting pretty, taking in the theatres and restaurants, and out to the track together to watch their horses. She got him to put one of his colts under Jim DeVries, her trainer. But she never gave him a word that she was going, nor any one else, either.”
“Not even Mrs. Hugo Wendell-—Nannie Wendell?” put in Mrs. Bell.
“Not even to her. What it’s all about, nobody seems able to guess. Maybe Beachey knows, but he’s not telling. Gabriel thinks it’s because she torpedoed Jeffries, coal
case with the information he blabbed to her, and don’t want to face him. Well, maybe that’s it. But I told him not to be too sure. It ain’t so dead certain yet that she is really and actually Caroline Logan. Could I hold him down?”—disgustedly. “Not that spiteful crane!
“What does he do this morning, without telling me what he’s up to, but hunt for Jeffries out at the track and sling it into him that Constance Lee and Caroline Logan are one and the same? ‘A highjacker, she is,’ he says,
‘and an adventuress, and she’s doublecrossed you to a fare-you-well.’
“Then, when Jeffries starts to come after him, he skips behind me and hollers for me to protect him. But, as I tell you, he got what was coming to him. You think I look like I’d been hit with a truck. You ought to see him. That Jeffries just naturally mauled him with everything in sight but the judge’s stand.
He’s in bed now. And so,”—Bell returned to the mirror for another examination of his bruises—“that’s that.”
“My! My!” Mrs. Bell was breathless.
“And what’s going to happen now?”
“Can’t say.” He shook his head gloomily. “Gabriel’s spilled the beans, of course. But that’s all the more reason I’ve got to go on. He’s made an assertion he can’t back up, and I’ve got to get the proof for him—if it’s there to be found.
I hate him like poison; but as long as I’m taking his money, I can’t lay down on him. I’d drop this job gladly enough, you can bet on that, if I could see some way of doing it that was half fair, but I don’t, so I suppose I have to go through with it.”
“I don’t see why you stay tied up with him if he’s that sort.”
“Well, I took him, my dear. He’s my medicine and I have to put up with him.”
“This afternoon,” he continued, “I’ve got to hustle round and rake through Mrs. Lee’s apartment. I’ve been there once before—the superintendent of the place is a sort of side-kick of mine—and didn’t find anything; but I thought I’d take another try.”
His wife clasped her hands on her thin chest.
“Oh, John,” she pleaded, “can’t you take me with you? I’ve never seen one of those society homes.”
“I will not,” he said stubbornly. “This is business. I’ve let you in on it already more’n I ought to.”
But Mrs. Bell was the type of woman to whom a “No” is never final. She had long ago discovered that several of her husband’s “Noes,” could ultimately be translated into “Yes.” And she acted accordingly.
HIEF, meet the wife.”
Bell combined greeting and presentation as he ushered Mrs. Bell into the office of the Park Avenue apartment-house. He had already made arrangements by telephone with the superintendent for his visit of inspection.
The superintendent acknowledged the introduction, pushed forward a chair for the lady and then drew aside for a moment’s private conversation with Bell, during the course of which a bank-note unobtrusively changed hands. Then he turned back to Mrs. Bell, his manner distinctly more affable.
“That was a great little idea of your husband’s bringing you along,” he said approvingly. “Makes things look more on the level—if you get me. I can pass you off as parties looking for an apartment.”
He followed this ruse as he led them toward the elevator, speaking rather loudly for the benefit of the switchboard operator.
“No, ma’am; we haven’t got anything so large, vacant just at present. But, if, as you say, you don’t want to move in until the first of June, I might be able to arrange it. There’s a twelve-room on the eighth floor that I’ll show you. It has just the same outlook as the one I’m speaking of. Jasper,”—to the elevator boy—“take us up to Eightysix.”
Mrs. Bell tried to assume the languid sophistication of a matron who would be seeking quarters in so exclusive an environment.
The apartment, when they entered it, showed signs of a hasty departure. In the library was an unemptied wastebasket stuffed with torn-up letters, notes and bills, which had overflowed to the carpet.
Bell turned this upside down and painstakingly went through the contents, but found nothing to reward him for his trouble. It was all surface flotsam—social communications, appeals for charity, the statements and receipts of tradesmen—no indication of those deeper activities he was seeking to uncover.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Bell and the superintendent were making a tour of the apartment. He opened the door of
one of those chambers known to architects and builders as “Master bedrooms.”
“This is the maid’s room,” he said, “right next to Mrs. Lee’s, with a connecting door.”
“Why,” Mrs. Bell exclaimed as she glanced round, “this is most as good as the one for the lady of the house.” “Well, you see,” the superintendent explained, “Delia’s
not exactly what you’d call a regulation maid, more like a confidential one. I guess there isn’t much goes on but what she has a finger in the pie. Mrs. Lee relies on her to run things. She’s that sort— a smooth article, I’ll say. That’s her pictnre hanging there by the dresser, across from Mrs. Lee’s.”
Mrs. Bell stepped over and studied the photograph; then she looked from it to the portrait of Mrs. Lee.
“Not hard to tell which is the maid, is it?” she said.
“Oh, I’ve always claimed that Mrs. Lee was class,” agreed the superintendent. “That’s why I never could believe that your husband was on the right track. Sorry for him—but all this searching he’s doing is just time and labor thrown away. He won’t find anything here.” He turned toward the hallway. “Shall we go back to the library?”
THERE they found Bell replacing the torn litter of papers in the waste-basket as he had found it. He met them with a gloomy shake of the head.
“Didn’t I tell you so?” twitted the superintendent. “You bought a bunch of nothing this trip, old-timer.”
Bell made no answer, but began pulling out the drawers of the writing-desk. He had gone over it thoroughly on his previous visit, but he intended overlooking nothing now. This search was to be an exhaustive one.
For a few minutes he busied himself with a sheaf of cancelled checks and the stubs of an old check-book; but presently he flung these back where he found them and began turning over a collection of old photographs. He ran through these rapidly until he came to the bottom of the pile, then, snatching up the last one—a bit of cardboard not more than two and a half inches square— stepped with it to the light. For a minute he gazed at it in silence, and then turned triumphantly to the superintendent.
“Bought a bunch of nothing, did I?”—tapping the photograph with his finger. “Well, let me tell you that I’ve got here just the one thing I was hoping I’d have the luck to find. This clinches all the proof I picked up out in Kentucky and gives me an air tight case.”
The other two were already staring over his shoulder at the photograph—a faded, cheaply taken print of two girls in institutional dress, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen years old. Under one was written in ink the name “Delia Clark;” and under the other “Caroline Logan.”
“You see,” he explained proudly, “when I was out there in the Big Sandy country, I dug up that this Caroline Logan, the heir to all that coal property, was a
graduate from the state reformatory. When her time was up, so the story came to me, her folks had died and she had no one to look after her. One of the trustees of the institution was Woodson Logan, and finding out in talking to her that she was a distant relative of his, he offered to give her a home. She accepted, and in time he became so fond of her that he adopted her as his daughter and sent her abroad to be finished off. She was in Paris, it is said, when the old man died. That was during the war.
“Later, I verified the whole thing from the court records. It’s there all right in black and white—legal adoption, by Woodson Logan of Caroline Constance Wade—do you get that ‘Constance?’— and her assumption of the name of Logan.
“Well then,” he continued, “my next step was to see what I could find out at the reformatory. They had records there, too, naturally—an entry of her commitment as a juvenile delinquent, her measurements and description—not much to be gained from that, except that she was fair-haired and blue-eyed—her marks for good and bad conduct and, finally, her discharge.
“All O.K. as far as it went, you understand; but I was still short of the connecting link to prove that Caroline Logan was Mrs. Constance Lee. I quizzed all the old-timers at the place—teachers and attendants—even hunted up some of the former inmates. What they told me went to bear out the theory that it was the same woman. They said she had been pals with a fellow prisoner by the name of Delia Clark, and admitted that the picture I showed them of Mrs. Lee, allowing for the passage of time and the different way of wearing the hair, looked a good deal like the girl they had known. But not a darned one of them would positively identify the thing.
“Then I asked if there wasn’t a photograph of the girl at the time she had been at the institution. They said there ought to be one—the graduates of each year were always photographed in a group. But when we looked for it we found that it was missing. Trust her and Delia to have been shrewd enough to attend to that! Well, that pretty well cleaned up the Kentucky end of it; so back I came to New Y ork.
“T WAS dead sure now that Caroline Logan was Mrs.
1 Lee. I doped it out that over there during the confusion of the war she had dropped the old name and taken on this alias. Then I could see how the tying-up of a good part of her income through this Jeffries suit might have driven her to black-mail; she’d need the mazuma to keep up with the crowd she was in. And two smart women like her and Delia, with Louis K. Beachey to back ’em, could easy pull it off.
“It all fitted together fine, like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. Any way I could figure, there didn’t seem but one answer: Caroline Logan and Constance Lee were the same. But I still lacked that one little link of identifying evidence that would give me the legal proof.
“I seemed to be up against it for fair, but I didn’t give up. There was still one hope. ’Twas a pipe that Delia and Mrs. Lee had swiped that group photograph from the reformatory; and I knew how women will hang on to old pictures of themselves. I thought, if I could just get in here and have the time to rummage through every hole and corner, I’d probably come across it. And you see”—he waved the faded photograph—“I was right. Here’s the two of ’em cut right out of the group, and with their names written underneath. This settles it.”
The superintendent put on his glasses, and, taking the photograph from Bell’s hand, walked over to the window.
“What are you talking about, you simp?” He looked scornfully at Bell. “That one there”—pointing to the figure on the left—“is Delia all right. But if this other one, this Caroline Logan, is Mrs. Lee, then I’m an alligator.”
“Not Mrs. Lee?” Bell grabbed the photograph. “You’d better get some new glasses. Or, maybe, it’s the prison dress that throws you off. That, and seven or eight years off her age. Now, if you study this face from the eyebrows down--”
“Aw, how do you get that way? Why, this girl is a full head taller than Mrs. Lee. She’s got a square chin and the eyes are set different. Ask your wife.”
They both turned at this suggestion of an umpire to settle the dispute; but Mrs. Bell was not in the room.
“Coming!” her voice somewhat muffled, answered from down the hall in response to Bell’s shout of, “Mamma!”
It was several minutes, though, before she appeared, carrying in one hand the framed photograph of Mrs. Lee from the wall of Delia's room, while the other hand was at her bosom as if she had just tucked away something beneath her blouse She seemed a little out of breath.
“Here; let’s put the two pictures side by side,” she said practically. "Then we can be sure.”
She scrutinized the photographs, comparing them in every detail, then gave a slow shake of the head.
“You're wrong, John.” she said crisply. “That girl in the picture never was and never will be Mrs. Lee.” Bell, in defense of his theory, would have argued all day with the superintendent, but his wife’s decision was another matter. He hud proved the accuracy of thoee lynx-eyes before.
“Well”—he covered his disappointment with an affectation of philosophy—"it only goes to show that when you're surest of a thing it’s the time you’re most apt to go wrong. This certainly puts me up a tree.” Dejectedly he shoved the unlucky photograph into his pocket. “I guess there’s no use bothering you any further. Chief. I know when I’ve got enough, and one jolt like this is sure sufficiency. Come along, mamma!” Outside on the sidewalk, they walked in silence to the corner. Mrs. Bell's face was thoughtful; she seemed to b« turning something over in her mind. The detective was also absorbed in his reflections. At the corner he jerked his head toward the subway station a block to the east.
“You go on home, mamma. I’ve got a little errand across town, and I won't be along until dinner-time.” "Let me go with you, John.”
“No: this isn’t exactly a pleasure expedition. I’ve got to report this knockout to Perry Gabriel. He’s sore already from the licking Jeffries gave him, and this won’t make him any better-tempered. He’ll know that he's apt to be cut in every club in New York if it get3 out that he made such an accusation against a lady without anything to back it up—not to speak of a lot of other trouble it might cause him.”
“That’s not your fault.”
“I know it; but Gabriel won’t stop to think of that. He’ll blame me for it. all right, and what he’ll call me would blister the hide of an elephant.”
He turned to go, but she stopped him.
“Wait a minute, John!” She seemed to be hesitating. Her hand, if he had noticed, still clutched her blouse. “Why don’t you wait and see Gabriel to-morrow?”
”No use putting it off.” He shook his head. “No: I’ll go ahead and get it over with. And don’t you worry, old lady. He can’t do any worse than fire me.”
He waved his hand and started across the avenue. She took a step after him, seemed about to call him back. then, compressing her thin lips, she walked briskly to the subway.
\\^HEN Bell reached home, two hours later, she was * * at the door, anxious to hear 1
the result of his ex-
“Oh, he gave me the air,” he said curtly; “just as I
“Was he nasty’ about it?”
“Well, he didn’t spare me any.” He brooded a moment. “Gosh! I’d like to get that low-life some
Mrs. Beil, her mouth a slit, went ahead with her preparations for dinner. Suddenly she came over and laid her hand on her husband’s shoulder.
“John, I've something to tell you. That picture you
found this afternoon was a plant.”
He stared at her.
“What do you mean?”
She laid before him the complete group photograph from which the square containing the two girlish figures
had been cut.
“I noticed,” she said, “when I looked at the picture you took from the desk, that the edges were fresh cut. I knew in a minute that a woman who’d go to the trouble to steal that group from the reformatory would never have left proof like that lying round where anybody could get it, with the names written on it. It was put there on purpose.”
“Delia!” Bell thumped on the table. “She schemed that out.”
“That’s what I thought, too. So while you and the superintendent were having it back and forth, I slipped out to Delia’s room to see if I couldn’t find the big picture that the little one had been cut out of. Something told me it was there. And I know where women hide things like that. Sure enough, I came across it, folded into a lot of winter clothes in her bottom bureau drawer. And Mrs. Lee is in the group, all right. That’s her—the fourth one from the end.”
Bell thought of his recent unpleasant interview with Gabriel.
“Fine time to be telling me about it!” he said witheringly’. “Why didn’t you say something before?”
“I wanted time to think. And I’ve been thinking, too, good and hard.”
“Well, keep on thinking.” He started to get up. “I'm off. I've got to get over to Gabriel with this.”
She held him down, both hands on his shoulders. "You're not going to do any such thing!” she cried. “You're through with Gabriel. What you’re going to do is to hitch up with the other side. Don’t you think Mrs. Lee would be willing to pay well for what you know?"
“Oh. 1 can't do that, mamma!” Bell was shocked. '1 never sold out a client in my life, and I never will.” "You're not selling anybody out. Gabriel’s fired you. Don't go back to that hound, John. You’ve done enough of his dirty work for him. Get on the right side. Do with Mrs. Lee.”
"The right side? Where do you get that? The woman’s a blackmailer.”
“She's nothing of the sort”—defiantly. “Suppose she has been in a reformatory. Suppose there are some things about her that you can’t understand. That don’t prove anything. She’s just being persecuted by this rotten Gabriel and others like him. Why, I knew it the moment I set foot inside of her home. That Delia —site might be up to anything. But Mrs. Lee? Oh, no!” Her husband looked at her admiringly.
“You’re a better detective than I am, old lady. And I’m pretty near betting that you’re right. I’ve always had that sort of a feeling about her myself. Maybe,” he went on reflectively, “it wouldn’t be what Hulsberg calls ‘unethical’ to hitch up with Mrs. Lee. It would certainly be a whole lot nicer than working for Gabriel, and there’s a lot I could tip her off to without giving any one away. By Gosh!” He straightened up. “I almost forgot. There’s a scheme on, I’m ’most certain, to do her in some way. I don’t know just what it is, but I think it’s connected with her horses. I first tumbled to it listening in on a telephone conversation between Delia and Jim DeVries, and I got another lead on it this afternoon when I went to Gabriel’s and came on him and DeVries together. DeVries was stuffing a check in his pocket as he came out, and I heard him say: ‘You’ve got a sure thing on getting even with the big bruiser now, Mr. Gabriel’—that meant Judge Jeffries—‘and you needn’t be afraid of the lady interfering. She’s safely stuck away for three months. I’ve got the low-down on that.’
“Now, suppose”—Bell pondered—“suppose I should dig out what Gabriel and DeVries are up to and go to her with the information. That would be strictly professional. Nobody could say I’d sold out on that. But shucks!” His jaw dropped ludicrously. “How am I going to find her to tell her? She seems to have crawled into a hole and pulled it in after her. Not even Jeffries can locate her, and he’s been breaking his neck to do it.” He sat pulling at his ear, thinking. > But he had not been a detective for twenty years without acquiring some skill at framing expedients.
“I’ve got it, mamma!” he exclaimed. “There’s one person, who sooner or later, is going to wherever she is to see her. What I’ve got to do is to trail Louis Beachey.” '
THE bare red earth of the ranges was sheeted with the pink and purple of flowering rhododendrons, the rosy white of mountain-laurel. The grass edging the brooks was dotted with bluets. The maples and poplars were out in full leaf, and the cedars showed a livelier green. The spicy fragrance of sassafras and fern wafted out from every ravine. The air was full of bird-notes— the clear flute-call of the thrush, the harsher one of the blue jay. Against the trunk of a lightning-blasted oak a woodpecker tapped industriously. May had come to the Cumberlands.
On a great outcropping of rock beside a noisy mountain stream, Constance Lee lay, her hands behind her head, staring up into the branches above her. A slender, relaxed figure in riding-breeches and a khaki shirt, she was, except for her bright head, almost invisible by reason of her protective coloration. But neither in outward decoration nor inward joy was she in accord with nature. There was no spring song in her heart; only a vast dissatisfaction with herself, circumstances and life. Her angling-rod lay near her, but she felt no impulse to employ it.
Eight weeks she had been away from New York, choosing for her self-elected exile these Kentucky mountains, where Jeffries would least dream of looking for her. He would never let her vanish as she had without turning many stones to find her—she knew him too well to doubt that. But this was surely the last place he would imagine her to be.
It was winter still in the mountains when she came, and at first the silence and the bleakness were soothing to her. She found the change from the luxurious to the primitive life stimulating; for she and Delia were practically camping out in Woodson Logan’s rambling old log house, and there was plenty of occupation of a different sort from any to which she had been accustomed. Servants, even of thé most untrained variety, were hard to get in this rugged region, and she had only one old man, who served as a hewer of wood and carrier of
water, and there his accomplishments as well as his usefulness ended.
But as the spring came on and she could spend more time out of doors, Constance was stirred by the subtle influences about her; the earth resurgently green under the soft, misty rains, the cloud vapors on the mountaintops, the wild flowers, the fragrance, the mating-call of birds.
She had come here for two reasons—one, to escape Jeffries, and to wound him as much as possible in doing so; the other, to find peace and forgetfulness. And all this rapture of nature afire with life only roused a sharper deeper remembrance of their days together.
She had determined to ask lock him out of her mind— the bolts and bars were strong, forged of her will and resolution. Yet he entered in spite of them. She loathed herself for those unguarded moments when he would come before her so vividly that it was as if he stood there in the flesh.
His dark face; the cool, meditative eyes with that warm flash at the sight of her; his smile—no one else she had seen had just that sort of a smile—-quick and proud and yet charming! Sometimes she felt that it was beyond endurance to be haunted in this uncanny way by a man she hated and had good reason to hate. It was not only the recent proof Beachey had given her of Jeffries’ scheming against her and his double-dealing; there was an older and more hostile barrier than that herween them—a bitter grudge of years, a memory that seared her soul and roused her to a passion of antagonism.
They had fenced together with the buttons off, and she had pricked him deep—to the heart. She was glad of that; and she would make him suffer still more. It was not the end between them; he should pay to the last farthing, and then add interest to that.
And yet—if only he had not made all other men seem stupid and uninteresting!
She drifted into a memory of their days at Atlantic City—and then sprang to her feet, scarlet with shame and exasperation. She stamped her foot on the rock and, picking up her cap and fishing-rod, started off. She would tramp until she was too tired to think, too dog-tired to do anything but sleep.
Leaping the little stream beside which she had been sitting, she started briskly off across the ridge. But she had not taken a dozen steps before she stopped and looked round her perplexedly.
She had wandered farther than she had realized, and now she found it hard to get her bearings. All the familiar landmarks were gone. Her perspective seemed strangely distorted. The blue, rounded peaks bulked nearer than they should; the valleys were curiously foreshortened. The sun had disappeared. A shadowless yellow light from a coppery sky lay over everything. The leaves of the trees turned up white, like the bellies of dead fish, in the heavy, lifeless air.
A storm coming on. A hurricane, perhaps. And she was lost!
STUMBLING as she ran, she climbed another hill and looked for some sign of shelter. Only an expanse of tree-tops. She began to get frightened. Great black clouds were rolling up from the west.
Then, as she topped another slope, she came upon an overgrown path, and saw rising from a hollow below a thin, filmy curl of wood smoke. She ran down through the trees to a little clearing with a tumble-down cabin in the middle of it.
A barking dog rushed out, snarling and showing his teeth, but she kept him off with her rod. Big drops of rain had begun to fall. It had grown very dark, and a great sword of lightning flashed down, followed by a reverberating peal of thunder.
She ran to the sagging door of the cabin and beat on it with her fists. After a moment it was opened by an old woman, who stood surveying her with surly suspicion. “What do yuh want?” she asked gruffly.
“Let me in,” Constance panted. “Don’t you see the storm?”
The old woman peered squintingly into the gloom. “Looks like we might have a mite of rain. All right” —grudgingly. “Come in an’ set, ef yuh wTant to.”
The door was hardly shut before the tempest broke. In those swooping gusts of wind, it seemed as if the flimsy cabin must be swept away. The tumult was tremendous, sheets of rain beating down on the roof, the thunder like a deafening ball of sound tossed from one mountain to another.
Constance, clutching at the seat of her chair, cowered in the darkness, for the interior of the cabin was like midnight, lit only by a tiny blaze from a few sticks on the hearth and the white glare of the lightning.
The old woman, apparently undisturbed by the racket, filled her pipe and calmly resumed an interrupted occupation—laying out cards from a dingy pack on a board across her knees. Drawn by curiousity in spite of her tremors, Constance stepped over to her.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Tellin’ my fortun’.” She looked up, and her mouth fell open.
Constance had taken off her cap; and as the woman drew out a stick from the fire-place to light her pipe, the leaping blaze reflected itself in the red burnished gold of her braided hair.
“Blessed, ef ’tain’t a gal! What yuh doin’ in them boy’s clothes, gal? Hain’t yuh got no modesty?” Constance laughed.
“You wouldn’t expect me to go roaming over these hills and fish and shoot in skirts?” she asked gaily.
Her questioner sniffed and disdainfully puffed at her pipe.
“Wa’n’t no sech goin’s-on, when I was a gal. Wimmen was wimmen then.” Then, as if Constance had suddenly become an object of real interest to her, she looked at her closely. “Whar’re yuh frum?”
“The Woodson Logan place on Stony Creek. I own it now.”
“So yuh are that woman?” The emphasis was unflattering. “The old Logan place.”
She twisted her shriveled lips. “Huh. I know all about that. Logan stole that place frum th’ Jeffrieses. My pap told me; he was a surveyor, an’ he run them lines one time fer Tom Logan, Woodson’s father. The Logans knowed they hadn’t no right to it; but they kep’ on holdin’ it jest the same.”
Constance threw up her head haughtily.
She would not listen to anything that cast a doubt on her title to the property. This old hag was probably a witness bought up by Jeffries. She changed the subject.
“Could you tell my fortune?”
“Mebbe.” It seemed to Constance that the eyes fixed on her so steadily were extraordinarily piercing. “Sure yuh want to hear it?”
The question seemed to hold some meaning obscure and sinister. Constance shrank involuntarily, then rallied her courage. If it was a dare, she’d take it; she never could refuse one.
She nodded. Anything was better than a discussion of the Jeffries claim.
“All right, then.” The mountain woman held out her clawlike hand. “Cross my palm with silver. Shuffle an’ cut—cut ’em three times.”
This done to her satisfaction, she breathed on the greasy pack, muttered something that sounded like an incantation, and then began laying out the cards in a wide circle.
She bent her head as she studied the spread. The firelight etched her witchlike profile grotesquely against the shadow.
The effect was so eery in that dark cabin, with the storm raging outside, that Constance put up her hand to stop her before she began, and then drew it back.
The fortune-teller shook her head as she looked over the cards. Then she began to mumble: “Trouble! Trouble! Nothing but black keerds round yuh, gal. Death, an’ destruction, an’ loss, an’ disgrace!” Sometimes she raised her voice, and sometimes she mumbled so that Constance could not hear the half she said—could only catch words and phrases here and there.
“A true lover”—pointing to the king of clubs. “Save yuh ef yuh go to him—Crawlin’ sarpints yuh think are yer true friends, but ain’t. This queen o’ di’monds an’ the jack that’s here with her—most of all, the jack o’ spades that follers an’ follers yuh—p’isens yer ears.
“Stay with ’em, an’ all these troubles”—she waved her pipe over the array of black cards—“is bound to fall on yuh. That jack o’ spades—he’s closer ’n yuh think. He’s smooth an’ slick an’ oily, an’ bound to git yuh. But yuh give in to him, an’ yuh’ll rue it all th’ days o’ yer life. Beware of him, gal!”
Again the mumble was indistinguishable. She laid her hands flat over the cards, and looked steadily at Constance.
“Go back to yer true love, gal. Go back an’ make it up with him. Or else the sun’ll never shine fer yuh again.” She pushed the cards together in a heap. “There’s more I could tell yuh”—mysteriously—“but I won’t.”
She craned her neck to peer through the window and yawned widely, showing her toothless gums.
“Storm’s over. But that’ll be another cornin’ soon. We’re in fer a spell o’ weather. Ef yuh wanter git back afore night to that place yuh’ve no right to, be movin’.” Thus dismissed, Constance curtly asked for directions as to the shortest way home; then taking up her rod and laying some money on the table, she went out.
TT WAS an immeasurable relief to breathe the fresh air once more after having been cooped up in that stifling, smoky cabin. The rain was still falling, but gently; the landscape began to grow familiar. She was going home. She would get into dry clothes and Delia would give her hot tea and cakes. Thank heaven she
had seen the last of that malevolent, old creature!
She was hurrying up the path when she saw a man coming down it. She made a startled, convulsive movement. For a moment she had thought it was Jeffries— It was Jeffries!
She turned to fly back to the hut in the clearing. But his casual, moody glance had already fallen on those red-gold braids, her white face. In a few strides he was beside her.
“Constance!” There was amazed, incredulous joy in that first cry. “I have found you at last!” He caught her cold hands in his. “And here!” The joy was slowly blotted from his face, but still he held his ground against
a doubt that he would not admit, would never admit unless she confirmed it. “Why are you here in the Cumberlands?”
She drew away her hands, her head tilting back, an insolent smile on her lips.
The muscles of his cheeks contracted; a spreading pallor showed under hi« tan.
“I don’t know”—sternly. “I never shall know until you tell me.”
She gave the faintest shrug and began to walk rapidly up the path. It was a narrow, rocky one, but he kept abreast of her.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“I have an appointment to meet Beachey in Cincinnati day after to-morrow, and before keeping it wanted to see some of your co-defendants here along the creek.”
“And I,” she said distinctly, “am here at my own home—the Logan place.”
The rain pattered on the leaves. The wind rustled the branches. When he spoke, his voice was strange to her; there were tones in it she had never heard before.
“Then you really are Caroline Logan?”
“Of course I am!” She was contemptuously impatient now. “Why pretend? You’ve known it all the time.”
“No”—dully—“I have not. I wouldn’t believe any one else. Why didn’t you tell me so yourself, there at Atlantic City?”
She wras defiantly silent; he couldn’t try those legal tactics on her, make her the defendant and put her in the witness-box for cross-examination. She refused to answer. He did not repeat the question. They were half-way up the slope before he spoke again.
“But why did you run away? Why should you have given me a blow like that when you knew I loved you? Even if Caroline Logan had gained for Beachey the knowledge of how I stood with the coal corporation, Constance Lee might have been kinder. Don't hurry so.” He laid his hand on her arm. “You owe me an explanation, and I’m here to collect the debt.”
“Your debt!” she said fiercely, and clenched her teeth
to keep hack a vitriolic stream of words. On an occasion, vividly remembered by her and long ago forgotten by him, she had never imagined him capable of the duplicity he was showing now. Did he still think that she was ignorant of his setting a detective to watch her, of his code-teleg; am, his whole elaborate scheme to identify Constance Lee with Caroline Logan, as Beachey had revealed it to her?
She pictured the scene between them if she Set her temper go. Accusations and counter-accusations — he denying to the last; she accusing to the last.
“I repudiate any hypothetical debt to you,” she said icily. “If you want to prove its existence you car. take it to court with our other diffieuHie.s.”
He looked down at her with an odd, -happy smile.
“No court will adjust any of our difficulties,” he said definitely.
She frowned over the enigmatic statement and groped for its meaning. But before sne could question him he went on:
“You were badly advised.” He spoke wdth a slow scorn that made lier fingers tighten over her angling-rod and wish it were a riding-crop. “You would have done better if you had relied on your own wits. You underestimate your power. You might have told me frankly at Atlantic City that you were Caroline Logan, and I would still have confided to you how I stood with the coal corporation if you had asked me. The subterfuge was so unnecessary. You didn’t have to resort to the methods you used and that Beachey, no doubt, advised. But if you have any idea that you are fighting me. put it out of your mind. I renounce all claim to the Logan coal-lands.”
She stopped in her rapid walk and leaned against the trunk of a tree, her hands clutching at the bark. Her eyes were blazing.
“I mean it,” he said emphatically. ‘T shall take the legal steps at once. The property is yours, unencumbered by any rights of mine.”
“How generous”—the sneer was like a blemish on her face—“to make a gift to me of what is my own. If you are withdrawing from the suit, Judge Jeffries, it is because you know how absurd and iniquitous your claim really is, and you are afraid to have it shown up in the final court, where your influence doesn't count. Oh!” She was shaking with passionate indignation. “How dare you take such an attitude with me?"
“I dare more than that.” There was a blaze in his eyes now. He dragged her hands from the rough tree-bark and pressed his lips first to one and then to the other. “That is for Constance Lee. And this for Caroline Logan.” He jerked her to him, his arms close about her. “I wouldn't have dared with Mrs. Lee, but Caroline Logan is—different.”
He kissed her again and again, and then his arms fell. She was free. She stood frozen, immovable, dumb. He picked up her rod and handed it to her. Her fingers mechanically closed about it, and without a glance at him she ran blindly up the hill.
REACHING the crest of the rise, Constance knew that in a moment she would be beyond the sight of Jeffries’ following eyes. She felt instinctively that he was still standing there.
A few more steps and she was on the down slope. The house was in sight. But what was happening títere? A huckboard stood before the door and a figure in a raincoat was on the porch.
She paused and drew a quick breath. Beachey! Was she beset with hallucinations—persons popping up without rime or reason as in a nightmare? Site had not expected Beachey. He had sent her no word. Why had he come?
She dropped down on a stone, feeling that site had not the strength to meet him. Never fit iter life had she so wanted to be alone. The emotional strain of the last five minutes had been more titan site could bear. She was sobbing, and the tears were running down. ' cheeks.
But she cou'd not stay out there in the wood«. Tiu v would soon he organizing a searching party for her There was nothing to do but carry on — meet Beachey and play the delighted hostess in such fashion as site could. Screened by the bushes, site could steal into the house by way of the kitchen, ru’d eve Delia’s anxiety and get into some dry things before situ saw him.
She dragged herself up and. diverging from the ¡iath, cut across the vegetable garden and softly opened the kitchen door. As site entered the sound of voices reached her from the living-room.
“Why, you know her, Mr. Beachey.’’ Delia was
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saying, evidently in answer to some question of his. “She’s the proudest thing on earth, and sore and bitter all the way through. She wouldn’t see him or listen to him, not if he came crawling to her on his knees. Oh, no; you needn’t bother about that. Anyhow, I’ve kept a pretty sharp lookout for him myself, like you told me to. Gee! He must have been in some state when she left him flat— wasn’t he?”
Beachey’s reserved tone was shot with sardonic satisfaction.
“Hm! Yes. Orpheus certainly sought his lost Eurydice. You are perhaps not familiar with the allusion, Delia, but, although classical, it is apt. He sought her, if one might judge from his expression, through the length and breadth of hell. Then recently he came back to Kentucky.”
“Kentucky?”—sharply. “Why, he might show up here any minute!”
“Just so. That is one reason for my visit. I think you and I must persuade Mrs. Lee to return East.”
“Thank the Lord! I’ve had enough of these old mountains, and I guess she has, too. And he’s the kind you’ve got to watch out for. Jim wrote me that he’d been out to the track and put him through a regular third degree more than once.”
“Ah! You have heard from DeVries then? But of course,” Constance knew that when Beachey adopted that indifferent tone, he was alertly interested. “He has been more or less in Perry Gabriel’s company. What is the game there?” He was wasting no subtleties on Delia. He came out with his questions flat.
“Perry Gabriel?” Delia was disappointingly astonished. “Why, Jim hasn’t written me anything about it? What do you suppose he can be doing with him, Mr. Beachey?”
“That”—-dryly—“is what I hoped to learn from you. If you are holding anything back, Delia, you had better tell me at once, and save DeVries and yourself trouble. If he is trying to put over something with Gabriel without my knowledge, he will find himself in—well, rather a bad box.”
“Oh, Mr. Beachey, I am sure it isn’t anything like that! Jim’s off the old line for good. He promised me. He--”
“Go on.” The voice was iron sheathed in velvet.
“He—well, he’s got some big scheme on. I don’t know what it is, but it’s straight. I’m sure it is. And he says it means a killing. He won’t even tell me about it, except that it’s a horse-deal. And if he’s so thick with Perry Gabriel, that must be it.”
“No doubt.” He dropped the subject.
Constance knew that he had either gained the information he wanted or that Delia had convinced him of her ignorance of DeVries’ plans. She heard him walk to the window.
He had done with Delia. There would be no further disclosures. And Constance, understanding this, rous-d herself to the need of immediate and concealing action.
Tiptoeing back to the d or, she opened and slammed it, and ran across the floor, calling.
Delia hurried out. “Oh, here you are at last! What do you think?” excitedly. “Mr. Beachey’s here!”
With a fine simulation of pleased Sfirprisç Constance dropped her rod clattering to a chair.
“And look at me!” She was astonished at the naturalness of her voice, the cool way in which her brain functioned independent of her emotions.
She dashed up the stairs, and as Delia started to follow, waved her back.
“No, no! I’ll do for myself. Mr. Beachey must be hungry, and I’m ravenous. You give all your attention to dinner.”
ALONE in her own room, she stood clasping and unclasping her hands. She was crazy! She must be. The things that had happened to her to-day could not be true. Jeffries! That scene with him in the woods. His kisses still burning on her face! And now this. It was all monstrous and incomprehensible. Delia and Beachey! Surely a series of hallucinations. In a daze she unbraided her hair and began to dry it with a towel.
She had heard—heard with her own
ears—Delia and Beachey discussing her private affairs. And the evident understanding between them showed that it was not for the first time. Delia, on whose fidelity she would have staked her life, was Beachey’s spy, and Beachey, her guide and mentor, on whose worldly and professional knowledge she had relied so long and trustingly, had stooped to this indecent, indelicate prying.
It could not be! She must in some way have misinterpreted, misunderstood them. It was their way of protecting her. But how she resented that way! And what was this mystery about DeVries? His full attention belonged to her stable. And yet Delia had just spoken of some scheme of his to make a “killing” of which she was ignorant.
Was all the world in a conspiracy to cheat and deceive her? Was there no truth or loyalty anywhere? Why were the two persons she had trusted utterly conniving and conspiring behind her back?
Although her anger grew more intense, her heart burned with pain. She wanted to sweep down to them like one of the Furies, tell them what she had overheard and drive them from the house. And she wanted to sob to them like a heartbroken child and beg them to tell her that she was wrong.
She had no idea how to meet the situation. But as she dressed her cooler judgment asserted itself. She visualized herself confronting them, just as she had visualized herself confronting Jeffries, and foresaw the results—Delia protesting her devotion and justifying her motives; Beachey using all his plausibility to make the incident trivial and inconsequential —a few idle words between the maid and himself, indiscreet—he admitted it—and in rather bad taste, but prompted by his desire to protect her from annoyance, and surely forgivable.
The unexplainable, smarting something in their confidential manner, she would never be able to put into words—the feeling that Beachey was using her for his own ends and had in some way coerced Delia into helping him.
But—she shut her white teeth—there were other methods of impelling confidence. Clay Jeffries had told her that she underestimated her powers. Well, at least she knew her power over Beachey. And she would use it mercilessly this evening—play Delilah until she had coaxed from him the secrets she wanted.
Just about to slip into a frock, she looked at it consideringly and discarded it, and searched for another more alluring. Of all times in her life she must look the siren to-night. She chose, finally, a filmy pale-green thing that fell away from her shoulders and brought out the whiteness of her skin, the red gleams in her hair, deepened the blue of her eyes and the feverish glow on her cheeks. She tried the effect of a wreath of glittery green leaves, and an ethereal, entrancing witch looked back at her from the mirror —the beautiful lady without mercy.
She ran down the stairs and into the living-room. Beachey had heard her coming and was at the door to meet her.
“Ah-h!” He looked at her, as if he could not drag his eyes from her. “Constance!” His voice caught.
She drew her hands \?ay and moved over to the fire. He followed.
“Good Lord!” He passed his hand across his forehead. “You blinded me. You’re no sight for a monkish old man.” He stepped back and surveyed her with exaggerated awe. “Undine, just risen from some fountain in the forest! You must come away from this place at once; you can’t go on growing more beautiful every minute.”
“I’ve only begun,” she said wickedly. “I’ll be twice as beautiful when I’ve had my dinner. Now I am just a poor little starved wolf. Oh, Delia, here you are with the cocktails! Lift your glass high. Mr. Beachey. To the confusion of our enemies, the prosperity of our friends!”
She was so warm in her welcome that Beachey could not doubt her pleasure in seeing him again. And she was flatteringly cast down when he told her that he was leaving on the eleven-o’clock train, he had a case coming on before the Federal Court in Cincinnati and had stopped over between trains to see her.
“And, by the way,” he added. “I have to ask your forgiveness. Just before I
started I found that a stupid clerk had forgotten to remail your letters. So I brought them with me.” He was a shade too easy in his explanations.
“Forgive you? I thank you for not having bothered me with them before. I knew that I had left no loose ends which you could not gather up.”
But she was wondering what motive he could have had in withholding her letters and bringing them to her now.
DURING the delicious little dinner that Delia served them, Constance insisted that Beachey do all the talking; she wanted to listen and ask questions. Had he seen Nannie Wendell? How was DeVries getting on with Joybells?
“You must come back and find out all those things for yourself,” he said. “Seriously, after your escapade to-day I sha’n’t be able to sleep nights. Go to some place on the coast, where you can enjoy yourself and where I can keep in touch with you more readily than I can here. I want you within call when this coal-lands case comes up. You agree, don’t you?”
She nodded brightly.
“I’ll leave in a day or two. I’m about fed up on the wilderness.”
He showed his satisfaction, and was about to put it into words when he stopped with a sudden recollection.
“Oh, I have some good news for you. I was advised to sell that N. Y. P. stock of yours, and did so. It dropped five points the next day and is still tobogganing. You are twenty thousand dollars richer.”
“Really? Why, Mr. Beachey, you are better than Santa Claus. I wish you came round with such news every day.” “I will, if you make a point of it.” The long look that accompanied the words made them serious.
Delia removed the cloth, transformed the dining-table into a library one and brought their coffee.
When Constance rose, Beachey went over to his suitcase on the window-seat and took from it a quantity of letters. These he brought over and laid on the table beside her chair. One packet of them, separate from the others, was secured by a rubber band. She recognized Jeffries’ handwriting. She pushed the whole heap aside.
“Thank you for bringing them,” she said; “but I won’t look over them now. You are only here until eleven.” She smiled up at him engagingly.
He still lingered.
“These,” he said, tapping the packet, “are from Jeffries, I think.”
“Are they?”—glancing at them languidly. “What an impertinence!”
But to her, at that moment, the real impertinence lay in Beachey’s having separated the letters and then standing guard over them.
“If that’s the way you feel,” he said, gathering them up swiftly, “let us dispose of them.” He slipped off the band and held them toward the fire.
She suppressed a sharp expostulation, realizing that if she stopped him his jealous suspicions of her deeper interest in Jeffries would be confirmed and that he would be on guard and reticent for the rest of the evening.
“Burn them by all means,” she said indifferently; and as he obeyed her she sat motionless, watching the paper curl and blacken with a strange feeling at her heart. Her whole spirit rose up against this daring disregard of her rights, and she promised herself reprisals.
Beachey threw a fresh log on the fire and sank back in a deep chair, his coffee on the little pie-crust table beside him. He looked and felt thoroughly contented. The tricky ruse had not failed.
“Tell me,” said Constance, when he had lighted his cigar, “are there any new developments in the coal-lands case? It is still set for June?”
“Still set,” he replied; “but I have an idea that it won’t come up. I have an appointment to meet Jeffries in Cincinnati on my present trip, and my suspicion is that he’s planning to offer a compromise.”
“In Cincinnati? He’s in Kentucky, then?”
“Yes; he came out to attend a conference of politicians, I believe.”
“If he wants to compromise”—Beachey pressed the tips of his fingers together— “I can probably effect a good settlement. But remembering what you said about making him bite the dust, I have hesitated. What do you think?”
She threw out her arms in a wide gesture, bending forward as if courtesying to him and looking up at him through her lashes.
“I am leaving it entirely in your competent hands. What does my poor judgment amount to?”
BEACHEY turned slightly in his chair and, resting his cheek on his hand, looked at her steadily. As he gazed, his thin, sallow face flushed, his eyes burned.
In this quaint, old-fashioned room, with the firelight flickering over her, the night outside showing black against the windowpanes, she seemed nearer to him than she had ever been before, and certainly more disturbingly, enchainingly lovely.
Suddenly she began to laugh—that gay, infectious laughter which was one of her greatest charms.
“You spend your life in reading other people’s thoughts, Mr. Beachey, and keeping your own in a secret vault with a patent lock. But I know the combination, and can walk in quite easily. You’re still wondering if I did not, as Nannie Wendell,, would phrase it, fall more or less for Judge Jeffries.”
His gaze wavered. Her sudden turning of the tables on him was disconcerting, but only for a moment.
“You are the wizard’s daughter,” he said. “I confess that such an idea did occur to me. But, my dear girl, wasn’t it justified by your own actions? You were, you remember, to send me a report from Atlantic City, and you didn’t do it—after you had the information you went to get.”
“And you attributed that to sentimental reasons?” She was mockingly reproachful. “Can’t you see that it was a point of honor? I thought that, no matter what his limitations might be, he was honest and, in a way, high-minded. He gave me his confidence, and I felt foolishly that I couldn’t use it for lay own advantage. One must have some illusions, some faith in human nature, if one is to live at all.” Her face quivered. She was thinking not only of Jeffries but of Delia and Beachey as well. “And when I learned from you that he had had me shadowed by a detective—Mr. Beachey, how did you discover that the detective was hired by him?”
“By whom else?”
She noticed the evasion of a direct reply. Nevertheless, his question was unanswerable. Of course it must have been Jeffries. Still, she was almost sure of one thing: that he was drawing deductions and not speaking from certain knowledge.
“True,” she said thoughtfully. “No one else would have had a motive for watching me. But how did Jeffries get his inkling that I was Caroline Logan? Have you any idea?”
Sitting here so negligently smoking, he was yet on guard, and she knew it. The slight pause he always made before answering a question was the least bit accentuated. He was twirling a pencil in his fingers, and the veil of inscrutability had fallen over his eyes—sure signs that he had something to conceal.
She pouted adorably.
“Louis, I am disappointed in you. I thought maybe some agent you had investigating his affairs had found that out.” She had never before called him by his first name. As she said it, it was a caress. The fever she stirred in him flamed through the torpidity of his eyes. He threw down the pencil and stretched out his hand to take hers.
“My dear child, I had no agents on this case until he went to Atlantic City—and then i sent you.”
Her heart leaped and then stopped. An admission at last! An admission that nullified all those other things he had told her.
Afraid that she might show her agitation and that he would notice some change in her expression, she rose, and, moving over to the piano, began to play, humming under her breath. She wanted to cry out. “Then how did you know of that code-telegram you said he received in Philadelphia and which caused him to take the train I was on?”
His statements—all of them—had been a tissue of falsehood meant to separate her from Jeffries. People had warned her of Beachey. Hugo and Nannie Wendell had told her of his reputation. But she had never believed them.
He had risen and was standing on the
hearth-rug. By some trick of light the shadow of his face was thrown on the wall beyond her—a sharply etched profile, thin-lipped, predatory—the knave of spades! Her hands crashed on the keys. She shivered and, turning from the piano, came slowly back to him.
“ ‘Beside me, singing in the wilderness,’ ” he murmured. He threw aside all pretences of friendship and showed openly his consuming passion for her. “Shut out from the world together. Constance, do you know what you are to me? The beauty of the universe, a strain of music always in my ears, the—”
She shook her head doubtfully.
“But you think strange things of me, Louis. That morning in your office, you thought— What sort of a man do you fancy I might most care for, anyway?”
“I don’t know. Tell me.”
“More than anything else, he must be a companion. And what companionship could I have with a man who has always lived above the experiences and struggles I have known. He, too, must have fought with the beasts of Ephesus, and suffered famine and shipwreck, and thrown away all finicky scruples to reach his goal.”
A white flame of triumph swept over his face. He caught her in his arms, but she pushed him back.
“How far would you go for me, Louis?” “To the limit—beyond the limit! I never stopped at anything yet to get what I wanted for myself. And for you— I’d wreck the world. Once sure of you, Constance, I could go on and achieve anything.”
“You’d lie and steal for me?”
His mouth twitched up at one corner. “You haven’t included murder and treason.” He was crushing her hands in his. “Those, too—unhesitatingly. I’d smash the whole decalogue at once for you. Set me a task, my dear, which involves all those peccadillos, and I’ll perform it.”
“I know it, Louis. Oh”—with a glance at the clock—“there is the buckboard for you! You have just time to catch the train. Delia! Delia!” She called twice before he could stop her. “Gather up Mr. Beachey’s things and put them in the buckboard. Good-by, Louis. I will see you in New York next week.”
THE horses started. Constance, still forcing herself to smile, waved her hand. The buckboard passed from the radius of light pouring from the open door and was at once engulfed in the darkness. Constance turned to the stairs.
“Don’t come up, Delia,” she said. “I’m dead beat.” Her feet were like lead; she could hardly drag them from step to step.
Locking her door, she began slowly to undress. As the green frock slipped to the floor she looked down at it, and then, in a spasm of disgust, picked it up and hurled it to the farthest corner of the room.
She rose very early in the morning and began a letter to Clay. She covered many sheets of paper, and then, stopping to read them over, tore them up. Her explanation sounded foolish and apologetic. Even if she had wronged him, she was in a measure excused by Beachey’s misrepresentation of the facts. But there was no excuse for Jeffries’ outrageous leavetaking of her.
She reached for a fresh supply of paper and began again—a formal line or two, asking if he could make it convenient to come and see her before she left for the East, as there was a matter of importance she wished to discuss with him.
This, too, displeased her. In making the request she humbled herself and imposed something on him. If she could only word the note so as to leave the burden of decision—to come, or not to come—with him!
She tried a different phrasing, but the effect was the same. She was about to throw her pen down and give up when suddenly an idea came to her—a puregold ingot of an idea which committed her to nothing and left him free to act as he chose. She had recollected the windfall of twenty thousand dollars that Beachey had mentioned the night before. Dipping her pen in ink, she wrote a check and then her letter-
My Dear Judge Jeffries:
My faith in your colt, Sleighbells, is so great that I am venturing to ask you if you will be good enough to undertake a commission for me, and place the amount of the enclosed check, ten thousand dollars, on him to win in the forthcoming Wide-awake Stakes at Latonia. Trusting
that I am not asking too great a favor, I
Folding the note, she addressed it to Beechlands and put it in her pocket, deciding to walk down to the village after breakfast and post it with her own hands.
She pretended to be absorbed in this during breakfast. But although she drank her coffee she ate nothing, and Delia was quick to notice it.
“Don’t you feel well this morning?” she asked solicitously. “You look tired. I guess that long tramp yesterday was too much for you.”
“I am tired, and more than tired.” Constance pushed the letters from her. “Delia, I want to tell you that I heard every word you and Mr. Beachey said last night.”
Delia dropped one of the cups to the floor and stooped to pick up the pieces.
“I don’t understand it,” Constance continued. “I never shall understand it. Does Mr. Beachey pay you to spy on me and report to him? You might as well tell me everything, for I mean to know just how far this thing goes.”
Delia’s face was working. She began to cry.
“I never spied on you, never! Mr. Beachey said that you were in a terrible position and he didn’t want you bothered by that Jeffries man. He said that it would be helping you if I let him know everything that came up.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever given either you or Beachey reason to treat me as a child.”
“He said you were in danger. Why, Mrs. Lee—Connie—I’ve always taken care of you since we were girls together. I’m older. You know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. You’ve just about killed me, asking if I’d taken pay for—for spying on you!”
Constance leaned back in her chair. Delia was merely Beachey’s tool. It was idle either to blame her or to try and rouse in her any feeling of culpability.
“Very well,” she said coldly. “We’ll say no more about it. But if you try to play watch-dog for Beachey again, you and I will have to part. Now, what is this scheme of DeVries’ that you were speaking of?”
Delia’s sobs increased.
“I don’t know anything about it. I told Mr. Beachey I didn’t. All I know is that the day we left New York Jim telephoned me and said that we’d be married and go to Havana next winter and that I’d be wearing diamonds.”
“I see.” Constance picked up her letters and moved away from the table. She stood at the fireplace, her foot on the fender, frowning over the puzzle. “Well, I guess the sooner I get back to my stable, the better.”
WHETHER or not her suspicions of DeVries were justified, she knew that during her absence the trainer had had an unusually free hand.
Toward the end of April he had taken Mrs. Lee’s string of horses, including Joybells and Jeffries’ Sleighbells, to the West, as all his engagements before the August meeting at Saratoga were in that territory.
Joybells had made a fair showing in one or two starts at Lexington—nothing sensational. It was DeVries’ policy, as he explained in his reports to Mrs. Lee, to hold the horse more or less under cover, giving him just enough racing to keep him on edge for a dramatic comeback at Saratoga. And, so far, his performances had been satisfactory and encouraging.
But the trainer’s reports to Jeffries on Sleighbells were not so cheering. He complained that, although the colt was in fair condition, the animal was showing signs of the same temperamental fault that characterized his brother, Joybells—the same lackadaisical unwillingness to try. On the two occasions that he had faced the barrier he had been spiritless and indifferent, and in DeVries’s opinion, his chances for the Wide-awake, the big juvenile stake at Latonia, which Jeffries had set his heart on winning, were unquestionably thin.
After the colt’s second defeat in a field of mediocre quality, Jeffries, who had come to Lexington to see the trial, looked up DeVries in the paddock.
“We might as well retire that fellow,” he said curtly. “He hasn’t got it in him.” DeVries rolled his gum in his mouth. “Oh, I wouldn’t take snap judgment,” he temporized. “Many a sicker cat’n him has got well. I don’t deny that he’s dogged it in his two outs, but he’s still green. He
might come round and surprise you yet, Judge.”
“After what I’ve seen to-day, DeVries, he’ll have to come around considerably to have a chance in the Wide-awake,” he said shortly. “Ship him back to Beechlands.”
DeVries realized that he had gone too far. He had a settled plan, and Jeffries mustn’t be allowed to interfere with it.
“Oh, look here, Judge,” he urged hastily; “don’t do that just yet. We’re through here this week, and I’d about made up my mind to lay off the Louisville meeting anyhow—got nothing just right for what’s there—and move my string over to the old Oakley track to get ready for Latonia. I’ll have a chance then to try out a theory I’ve got in regard to this colt and maybe clear up what’s ailing him. If it works, we might land the Wide-awake even yet. And, meanwhile, it won’t cost you a cent unless I make good.”
“You’re crazy, DeVries!”
“No; just interested. And I’ve got enough faith left to gamble my services and a month’s feed-bills that I am right. How about it, Judge? Shall we let things ride until Latonia opens, and see how we make out?” He saw that Jeffries was impressed by his belief in Sleighbells, and he became more urgent. “Just give me a free hand for a month, Judge. Trust this youngster entirely to me. I bragged that I can handle the Bonny Bells get, and I want to prove it. Give me a chance to try out my theory without you even looking him over for a month.”
Jeffries was rather touched. The Bonny Bells colts meant a great deal to him, and DeVries’ faith in them was heartening. There was wistfulness as well as disappointment in his eyes as he looked at the splendid two-year-old which had just disgraced his colors.
“Very well,” he said; “have it your own way. You needn’t be afraid of any interference from me”—recalling his political engagements. “I shall be too busy for the next month even to think of a race-track. Take Sleighbells with my blessing, and if, by a miracle, you should succeed with him, no one will give you fuller credit than I.”
He shook hands and turned back to the club-house. DeVries, with a canny smile on his hard, weather-beaten face, watched him until he disappeared from the paddock, and then left the track to look up the railroad agent and make arrangement for the shipment of his horses.
TWO days later he was comfortably quartered with his outfit in the line of stables at the back of the Oakley racetrack on the outskirts of Cincinnati—a spot well chosen for his purpose, free from interference, since there were practically no other horses there at the time, and so conveniently near Latonia on the other side of the Ohio River that when the time came to move there, he could jog his charges over without any of the nervous fret incident to a railroad journey.
If there was anything in his plan of schooling Sleighbells in seclusion, conditions could not have been better. And yet, after they were settled, he pursued a course which he would have found hard to explain to Jeffries.
He left the colt which he was supposed to be training for the Wide-awake almost entirely to his assistants and devoted his time and attention to Joybells. Morning, noon and night he fussed over the fiveyear-old.
An expert would have said that in view of the fact he had no immediate race in sight, Joybells was being trained too fine. The stable-hands didn’t hesitate to comment on it among themselves.
But DeVries permitted no criticism from his staff and followed his own peculiar methods. He would often have the two horses worked together, and as he noted their similarity in that high, dancing step and the forward thrust of the head, a gleam of avid satisfaction would come and go in his narrow, squinting eyes.
He spent hours in experimenting with toe weights and boots and bandages so as to make Joybells on the next test conform more closely to the younger horse’s loose, less practised stride.
Again, he would lean across the paddock fence, studying their movements and the different shades of color in their satin coats as intently as if he were an equine artist and they his models.
As the date neared for the opening of Latonia, his attention to the one horse and neglect of the other increased. Any one would have been justified in concluding from his attitude that it was Joybells who
was a candidate for the Wide-awake and Sleighbells who was being reserved for the later contests at Saratoga.
He even routed Uncle Ike, the dean of the stable-hands, out of his quarters back of Joybells’ stall, and slept there himself. And late at night, when the crap-games were over and the swipes had all bedded down in the straw, he would steal in on the sleeping horse with a lantern and, hanging a blanket over the door, engage in certain mysterious rites.
One night a stable-boy returning late from town, had his curiosity excited by a flicker of lantern-light from the dark stallDeVries for once had been careless—and had peeped through a knot-hole. Inside he saw Joybells tethered in such a way as to make protest impossible, while the trainer seemed to be performing some sort of dental operation on his mouth.
But the boy was a cocaine addict, called “Snowbird,” about the stables; so when he told his story the next morning he was merely accused of having taken one sniff too many.
WHILE the snowbird pried into his secrets, DeVries sat in the lobby of a Cincinnati hotel, holding a low-toned conversation with Perry Gabriel—so lowtoned that it was tantalizing in the extreme to a scrunched-up figure with a derby hat pulled down to his ears who had manouvered himself to a position on the other side of a pillar and was trying vainly to overhear what was said.
It was due to no foresight or detective acumen that John Bell was present at the interview. He was following another trail; and no one could have been more surprised than he when, looking up from his newspaper, he saw Gabriel and DeVries meet.
But he was not one to overlook a gift of the gods so adventitiously tossed in his lap, and at once he began to work his unobtrusive way towards them. Yet, as already said, he gained little for his pains. Strain his ears as he might, he could catch only an occasional detached word or phrase. Once, Gabriel raised his voice querulously.
“Can’t you put it through on less money? The odds, you say, will be as good as twenty to one.”
“Maybe they will; maybe they won’t,” DeVries said stubbornly. “You never can tell. S’pose a hint should get out and there’d be a heavy play at the track. Down the price would go. There’s already some whispering among those niggers of mine. I’m going to put ’em wise to-night and let ’em clean up on the race. That’ll keep their mouths shut. But, all things considered, I figure we’ll be lucky if we get the money down at an average of ten to one. Besides, Mr. Gabriel, what difference does it make? You ain’t really risking anything—just lending ’em the jack for an hour or so. This is a sure thing, I tell you. Come out to the barn with me and see for yourself.”
“No, no!” Gabriel’s tone was panicky. “I can’t be mixed up in this in any way— no connection with it, that could possibly come out. That was the reason I didn’t want you to come up to my room, but to see me here in the lobby as if we’d met by accident. Now, as to putting out this money—” His voice dropped again, and Bell could catch nothing further.
They talked on a few minutes longer; then, as an elevator door clanged open on the other side of the lobby, Bell heard a stifled gasp—“Good God!”—from Gabriel and, peeping round his pillar, saw Beachey emerging from the car.
“Hell!” muttered DeVries, almost as much shaken. “What’s he doing here?” But the lawyer’s appearance was no surprise to Bell. He had followed Beachey all the way out from New York, except for one brief interval when he had found his man missing from their train after it had left a little junction up at the eastern tip of Kentucky. Even then, he was not long in putting two and two together. The junction, as he knew from his previous visit to this locality, was the point from which a little branch road wound off up into the mountains, with a station near the Logan coal property, and he immediately drew the conclusion that Beachey had gone there to see Constance Lee. This was the hiding-place she had chosen—her old home back in Cumberlands.
There were of course a dozen other plausible reasons that might have led the lawyer to stop over for a run up to the disputed tract; but Bell was so sure he was right that he did not even consider them.
From the next stopping-place hurried back to the junction; but while he was waiting for a train out up the branch, Beachey returned on an incoming one and crossed over to the main-line platform with the evident intention taking the west-bound express due in five minutes.
This threw Bell into something of quandary. Should he undertake what might be a wild-goose chase up the branch, or should he for the present hold to the trail of the lawyer and come back to investigate the possibilities of the Logan tract later on?
Obviously, the latter was the wiser course, and therefore he followed Beachey on board the express, left it with him at Cincinnati the next morning, and having seen him to his hotel, sat down in the lobby to wait further developments.
IT WAS at this point that, peering round the corner of his newspaper, he was startled at seeing the meeting between DeVries and Gabriel. At first he could scarcely believe his eyes; then the suggestion came that possibly they were here to confer with Beachey. But their manifest consternation at the sight of the lawyer quickly undeceived him on that score. Their mutual presence was plainly pure coincidence.
Beachey, as he stepped from the elevator, was probably as astounded to see Gabriel and DeVries as they were to see him. But beyond a slight start, which might have been assumed—it was hard to teli when Beachey was acting—he gave no hint of it.
His filmed glance rested upon them for a moment, and then he came toward them.
“Ah, Mr. Gabriel? DeVries! An unexpected pleasure to find you two here—and together.” He was never more bland, and yet both men seemed oddly flushed and embarrassed. “Rather a far cry from Broadway, isn’t it, Mr. Gabriel?” he asked pleasantly.
“Rather.” Gabriel gave a poor imitation of a man completely at ease.
“Mr. Gabriel’s out for the opening at Latonia,” DeVries broke in. “We just ran into each other a minute ago.” He swallowed, as he saw Beachey’s eyes drop to the cigarette stubs and ashes strewn about Gabriel’s chair. “Er—that is, only a few minutes ago. He’s been asking what I think of my prospects for the meeting.” “Naturally,” Beachey nodded. “And what do you think, DeVries? Now I”— with a smile—“take very little interest in racing; and yet down here in this atmosphere my Kentucky blood asserts itself.” He drew up a chair and sat down.
“I am here on a case in the Federal Court which will hold me until next week.
I should have arrived last night, but I decided to run up to the old Logan place, and that delayed me.” He was looking directly at DeVries as he spoke, and the trainer’s muscles jerked in spite of himself. “However, that is immaterial,” Beachey continued. He had the air of a man who, out to kill time, had met two agreeable acquaintances and meant to stick by them“What I started to say is that since I will be here over Saturday, I also might use a little inside information. Anything good for that afternoon, DeVries?”
“Well, I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to give an opinion.” DeVries eased his collar. “Got nothing of my own except in the Wide-awake, and two-year olds are always an uncertain quantity.”
He twisted in his chair. Beachey’s eyes were on him, a saturnine twinkle in them. DeVries shot a sidelong glance at Gabriel; but his backer showed no disposition to respond to the S. O. S. call.
The trainer’s thoughts were becoming more confused every second. Beachey had been at the Logan place. He had seen Delia. Mrs. Lee might have asked him to go out to the Oakley Stables. If he did, he’d be sure to look over both Joybells and Sleighbells. The contingencies frightened DeVries. He lost his head.
“Weil, I’ll tell you, Mr. Beachey”—he fished for a fresh piece of gum—“just as I’ve been giving it to Mr. Gabriel here, I have got a possible sleeper—this colt of Judge Jeffries’ in the Wide-awake. He’s made a poor showing so far, and there’s bound to be a long price against him. But think I’ve got him about right, and — I’ll slip it to you in confidence—I’m out to win.”
“A colt of Judge Jeffries’, eh?” said Beachey thoughtfully.
“Yes, sir; Sleighbells, by Bonny Bells, out of Fawnette. But for God’s sake don’t breathe a word of it to anybody. And if
you decide to put a bet down, don’t do it at the track. Just let me know how much you’d like to risk, Mr. Beachey, and I’ll see that it’s placed for you.”
“And you really think it’s worth a gamble? You know I don’t like to lose, DeVries.” There was a meaning note in the lawyer’s voice. “Neither do I like to overlook a chance of winning. How high would you advise me to go—five dollars or five thousand?”
“As high as you like,” said DeVries reluctantly. “You can’t go wrong on this baby.”
“Then, let us say twenty-five thousand. And as I shall probably not see you again, may I not ask you and Mr. Gabriel to put up the money for me? Now”—rising slowly, oblivious to the anguish and dismay that his thinly veiled extortion had caused—“I am afraid I shall have to ask you gentlemen to excuse me. But, like the witches in ‘Macbeth,’ we three shall meet again, ‘when the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost or won.’ And you will note, too,” he mused mirthfully, “how appropriately the quotation goes on: ‘Paddock calls anon. Fair is foul, and foul is fair.’ ”
He waved his hand affably to the two stricken conspirators and moved on toward the desk.
“You damned jackass!” snarled Gabriel. “What the devil did you have to tell him for?”
“Tell him?” DeVries was still sweating. “He knew. Didn’t you hear him say he’d been to— Well, anyhow, he knew. You can’t keep anything from that bird.”
“And he expects us to put up twentyfive thousand for his account?”
“Sure he does! And if it loses we’re out. You’d never get it back from him.”
“I’ll be damned if a cent of mine goes—” “Then you can count me out of the deal right now.” DeVries put out his hand, palm down. “I wouldn’t cross him —not for ten times the money I expect to get out of this thing.”
BELL slipped away from his shielding pillar and, leaving the two still wrangling, edged his way out of the hotel. Slightly stunned by the value of the information he had gathered, he wanted to mull it over a bit, co-ordinate his facts and then decide on his course of action.
He strolled about the streets, thinking. His first conclusion was that it was no longer necessary to watch Beachey—he would be in Cincinnati for the rest of the week. Next, his suspicion that Mrs. Lee was at the Logan place had been confirmed. His impulse was to take a train back to the Cumberlands and have an interview with her.
But here his professional pride came in. He could tell her that her trainer was involved with Perry Gabriel in some shady transaction of the turf—a transaction of such magnitude that they were willing to let Beachey hold them up for twenty-five thousand dollars. But he could give her no details, and Bell liked his reports to be explicit and exact.
“Why,” he asked himself, “wasn’t it possible to make this one so?” DeVries headquarters were at the Oakley track; it was surely worth the short journey out there on the chance of picking up a clue.
“In a crooked stable,” he philosophized, i “the crowd is mostly crooked. There’ll be somebody I can buy up. The only thing is to find the one that’s got a grouch.”
He took a taxi and went out to the track, and, arriving there, was properly cast down to find that Mr. DeVries was in town for the day. He loafed about, watching one or two work-outs, and ingratiating himself with the stablemen.
The Snowbird’s failing, he had recognized at a glance, and, professing the same weakness, it didn’t take him long to get on confidential terms and learn that the boy’s stock of white powder was distressingly low. With promises of a further supply and the additional salve of a twenty dollar bill Snowbird readily revealed all he knew.
“Yeah”—with a cynical cock of the head—“the boss’s got a hen on all right even if the rest of these boobs round here ain’t dropped to it. Why”—he dropped his voice—“DeVries is workin’ over that old skate every night. He’s runnin’ him lean and paintin’ him up and filin’ off his teeth, and—”
“Filing off his teeth?” Bell exclaimed. “What’s that for?”
“So as to make him look like a two-yearold. Don’t you know that hawsess grows a ring on their teeth for every year, just like a tree? Why, say, pardner; DeVries’s got that Joybells lookin’ so much like Sleighbells that no one can tell the two apart. Aih’t hard to guess the answer to that, is it. He’s fixin’ to run the old dog in Sleighbells’ place in the Wideawake? A good five-year-old is bound to beat a field of youngsters, don’t you see?”
“Oh, a ringer?”
“You said it! A ringer. And the best job of Ihe kind that was ever pulled off. There’ll be one grand little clean-up, I’ll tell the world.”
Bell had nothing to go on but the word of a coke fiend and the slender evidence of a yellow-stained rag. But, after the conversation he had heard in the hotel lobby, he was sufficiently convinced to take the first train to the mountains.
Next evening, as Perry Gabriel was dressing for dinner, DeVries burst into his room. Gabriel faced about savagely.
“Didn’t I tell you not to come round me?” he snapped. “I can’t afford—” _
“Hell!” DeVries’s face was a sickly yellow; he had a telegram in his hand. “No time for that now. Do you know a detective named Bell? Well”—as Gabriel nodded—“he’s got to Mrs. Lee up at the Logan place and spilled the whole works. Told her what we’re up to. And the two of them are starting for Cincinnati to crab the game.”
“How do you know?” Gabriel steadied himself by dropping a hand to the dresser. “Is it straight?”
“Wire direct from Delia.” He held out the telegram. “What are we going to do? They’ll be here to-morrow morning.”
Gabriel read the message, then crushed it in his hand.
“And a hundred thousand of my money out!” His twitching face steadiedand grew dark. “By God, they’ve got to be stopped!”
“How? Hell’s bells! You can get anything if you pay for it. Wreck a train— burn a bridge—anything! I say—that woman sha’n’t get here!”
To be continued