MRS. WILSON WOODROW
IN THE good old pre-psychoanalytical days when mid-
Victorian stencils drew broad lines of demarcation between good and evil, black and white, John Bell would either have engaged gloatingly to do Perry Gabriel's dirty work, or else, without a second's delay, have spurned his infamous requirements and knocked him for a row of antimaccassars.
Let us get the picture: Gabriel, a weedy, insolent representative of a Mew York fortune, standing with Bell, the private detective, on the board walk at Atlantic City, their attention focused on the lovely young widow, Constance Lee, who leaned against the railing gazing seaward with Judge Clay Jeffries, a leading lawyer of Kentucky and owner of the famous stock farm, Beeehlands.
Gabriel was interested in Mrs. Lee for two reasons. He had become infatuated with her and hoped to marry her; but when, after confiding certain business secrets to her. he found these used as a basis for blackmailing demands presented on behalf of unnamed clients by her lawyer. Louis K. Beachey, he wavered between suspicion and desire.
Determined to settle his doubts one way or the other, he engaged Bell to make a searching investigation of Mrs.
Lee's character and associates. The result was baffling. Bell found that Mrs. Lee, although living a perfectly open life, was more or less a questionmark. a woman of mystery. Previous to her appearance in New York two years before, and her enthusiastic adoption by the rich racing set, there was no available record of her antecedents. He encountered a blank wall.
Posing as an electrical inspector on the search for defective wiring, he ransacked her apartment and there came upon his single clue—a file of recent newspapers from the little Kentucky town of Bainbridge.
Mrs. Lee left for Atlantic City, Bell following. She manoeuvered, as it seemed to him, an acquaintance with Judge Jeffries, a Bainbridge man, and he promptly concluded that she was planning another blackmailing coup and set himself to watch developments.
But he was able to discover nothing beyond the facts that she had recently added to her racing string a former cast-off of the Jeffries’ stables, named Joybells, a full brother and almost the counterpart of a colt, Sleighbells, with which Jeffries was hoping to win a rich juvenile stakes at Latonia.
After trailing the two for several days Bell was forced to revise his opinion. Instead of trying to shear Jeffries, he decided that she was seeking to marry him.
At this point. Perry Gabriel arrived, impatient at the delay, and having seen Constance and Jeffries together, came to the same conclusion. Animated by jealousy and smarting for revenge, he ordered Bell to cease looking for proof against her and to manufacture it instead.
"Listen to me,” he muttered thickly. “You get that woman. We'll drop this ‘straight facts’ business. Get her! Money’s no object. Frame her if you have to, but— get her!”
Bell received the order imperturbably. He was like the rest of us—a mixed weave, neither pure black nor pure white. He was also a private detective with a wife and three children to support; and although he took a certain professional pride in being square, he had for years poked about in so many baskets of other people’s soiled linen that his conscience was somewhat calloused.
Therefore he listened with his usual stolidity to Gabriel's directions and nodded his comprehension. It was not the first time he had heard such a proposal; it probably would not be the last. He took them as they came, a part of the routine of business. Not for him, at ten dollars a day, to respond in melodramatic subtitles.
/CONSTANCE LEE and Jeffries had turned from the ^ railing on which they leaned looking out at the ocean and were strolling slowly down the board walk.
“Do you want ’em to see you?” Bell asked in his matterof-fact way.
“No!” snapped Gabriel.
“Then come this way.” The detective guided his employer through the crowds and down a short flight of steps to one of the city’s avenues, and then by a roundabout way back to Gabriel’s hotel.
“Nothing more you want of me, is there?” he asked at the elevator.
“Nothing more I want of you now or at any time,” Gabriel returned succinctly, “except to put this thing over as I told you. And don’t take forever to do it, either.
I’m not paying for waste motion; I want to get results.” “Shall I report to you here if anything turns up?”
“No. I am taking the first train to New York. Call me up there and make an appointment through my secretary when you’ve got something definite. In the mean time the less I see or hear of you the better. I can’t be involved in this—understand? I don’t even want to know what you’re up to. Only, get busy.”
Without a good-by, even a nod of the head, he entered the lift. Bell took a quick step as if to follow, hesitated,
reconsidering his impulse, and then thoughtfully made his way out to the boardwalk.
As he stood blinking a moment in the bright sunlight, he gave a slight start and drew back further into the entrance. Jeffries and Constance were just passing, and automatically, more from habit than inclination, he fell in behind them.
His mood was one of gloomy irritation, and yet as he edged through the groups of strolling sun-worshippers, his eyes always on the two before him, his expression changed to one of ùnwilling admiration.
“A woman who looks as good in sport clothes and sunshine as she does in a low-neck under the dim lights is some class. For the Lord’s sake,” he apostrophized Constance’s graceful back, “if you’re playing a crooked game, show up something! I don’t want to stack ’em on you; but if I don’t, that ferret-faced darning-needle can get plenty that will. Aw, what’s the use?”
Dictated by no loyalty to Gabriel, but still ruled by the force of habit, he did his best to gather what fragments he could of their conversation. But their talk was idle and unimportant, dotted and dashed with lapses into. contented silences.
“I’m hungry,” said Constance at last, looking at the tiny, diamond-starred watch on her wrist. “Quite normal of me to be so, too; it’s after one.”
“The Ambassador rises before you.” Jeffries waved his hand and then laughed. “Do you remember that Dickens character who was walking with his sweetheart and said: ‘Hello! here’s a church. Let’s go in and get married.’ I wish it was a church, and—well, anyway, here’s a hotel. Let’s go in and get luncheon.”
Bell gave up in disgust. It is only the superdetective of fiction who can enter a restaurant, take a table a few feet away from the persons he is shadowing and overhear the astounding information they are breaking their necks to guard.
Jeffries secured the inevitable corner table coveted by the man who wishes to be alone in a crowd with the one woman. Those corner-tables! A little in the dusk of the room, a little remote, invincibly intimate. If the words that have fallen across them had all been dictographed, no library would hold those endless volumes of a lover’s litany.
“It seems so quiet without Nannie,” Constance said, when the order had been given. “Since she left last night there has been a sort of hush over everything. I miss her —don’t you?”
“No,” he said hardily; “I do not. I am very fond of her,
but il don’t like a breeze blowing all the time.” He moved a vase of daffodils out of the way. “When I Want to talk to you and look at you, I don’t want interruptions and obstructions of any kind.”
Her smile always made him think of the dip of a swallow’s wing. It was there, and then it was gone. Absent-mindedly she was touching the petals of the flowers with the tips of her fingers. Her thoughts had gone back to the night before, when Nannie Wendell, who was leaving on an evening train, had come into her room just before dinner.
“DLACK?” she had remarked, “Of course you’ve no idea that it makes you look like a snowdrop and sets off your hair something wicked. What are you after, anyhow? Do you want to turn his head so completely that he’ll spend the rest of his life looking out over his shoulder-blades?” “There’s some aromatic ammonia in the bathroom, Delia,” Constance said pointedly to the maid, who was busy with the clasp of a string of pearls. “Get some for Mrs. Wendell. Haven’t you been warned enough, Nannie, about this hooch one gets from the bell-boys?”
Mrs. Wendell threw herself on the bed, and, lighting a cigarette, twinkled her eyes and showed her teeth in a wide smile. ‘
“Look at her!”—waving her hand dramatically at Constance. “Bangs away with her eyes shut, and knocks over the fleetest bird on the wing! Good old“ Clay, that every sharpshooter below the Ohio River has been stalking for years! And don’t fancy that there aren’t some smooth little man-hunters out there in the sticks, either.
“Why, Connie, sweet thing, it was worth the trip down here just to hear the artistic way you redeemed your bonehead buy of Joybells by explaining it as a tribute to the brute’s blood.
' Priceless! And that reverential look in
your eyes when you spoke of Bonny Bells. It was wonderful of you.”
Constance changed the angle of a comb in her hair.
“I wasn’t pretending when I explained why I bought Joybells. It was as I said solely because of my faith in the Bonny Bells strain. I can’t believe that any of that get is really a quitter.”
Nannie Wendell sat up with a spring.
“You won’t get any argument out of me on that score,” she agreed. “But don’t forget that it takes the exception to prove the rule. Not two exceptions, though. That colt, Sleighbells, looks good to me. I’m going to take a chance on him in the winter books, even to the extent of mortgaging the old farm.” •
“I wouldn’t,” dissuaded Constance. . “Not with his regular trainer laid up.”
“Pouf!” Nannie crushed out her cigarette contemptuously. “If this colt is all that Clay says he is—the almost perfect duplicate of Joybells—I’ll risk a bit of change on him, trainer or no trainer. .That old skate you bought may be a bum now, Constance; but in his two-year old form he was a race-horse.”
Constance related to Jeffries the latter part of this conversation.
“I’ll have to advise her differently then,” he said somberly. “It’s foolish to put one cent on Sleighbells until he shows what’s in him.”
He was looking at her, but his face did not clear, although he saw a picture that was worth a gleam of appreciation. The dull blue of her frock, the dull blue of her hat, the vivid living blue of her eyes with the freshness of the sea-winds and the sparkle of the sun in them.
“Don’t scowl so over it,” Constance admonished. “Nannie is probably just talking.”
“Oh, that? I had forgotten about that. I was thinking of something far more serious. I’ve got to go to New York to-morrow, away from—-from all this. That coallands business. I’ve spoken to you about-it, haven’t I?”
“I think you mentioned it once.”
She did not say, “Tell me about it”—merely waited. But the hands that lay in her lap were tightly clasped.
“It has its complications. I'll try and simplify them. You see, after the Revolution, my great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Jeffries, a Virginian, received for his services in the Continental army a large grant of land in Kentucky. A part of it was in the Cumberland Mountains—waste land, useless for cultivation. It passed down with the rest from father to son, and we have always paid taxes on the number of acres named in the original grant largely as a matter of sentiment./ A friend of my grandfather’s named Logan, a painter of sorts, fell in love with the picturesque scenery and with my grandfather’s consent built a house on the mountainside and lived there much of his time, his descendants following his example. The property, indeed, was known all through that part of the country as the ‘Logan place.’ ”
“And you—none of your family—ever in all those years attempted to assert your claim of ownership?” There was a slight, indefinable edge of irony to her question. “You allowed these Logans—is that the name?—to occupy your property rent free, and even to pose as the proprietors? That seems rather odd.”
“Not to any one familiar with that region.” He laughed. “This land, as I told you, was considered utterly worthless. Then, too, there was another reason. Nathaniel Jeffries’ grant, according to the original survey, was described as following the meanderings of Stony Creek, but in the course of years the stream materially changed its channel, so that the tract occupied by the Logans was cut off and shifted to the farther side. Visiting the property so seldom, and holding it of so little value, we remained ignorant of this deflection and continued erroneously to regard the banks of Stony Creek as our boundary line. If the question had been put to us, we would probably have said, as did everybody else, that the land on the other side • of the creek belonged to the Logans.”
“And didn’t it?” she contended, smiling perversely. “I don’t know much about law. But you had done nothing to improve the land—just let it lie there. Hadn’t you —what is it, they say?—slept on your rights?”
“Except for one thing.” He nodded his appreciation of her quick readiness in scoring the point. “Let me remind you that we had regularly paid the taxes on our full acreage—a paltry amount even in the aggregate, I must admit, but still indisputable • evidence that we had never relinquished ownership to a single foot of the Nathaniel Jeffries grant or allowed it to lapse.
“And now,” he went on, “we come to the denouement. About fifteen years ago coal was discovered on the Logan place, and Woodson Logan, a grandson of the painter, laying claim to the land by adverse possession or squatter’s right, leased it at a substantial figure to the Stony Creek Coal Corporation, a company which had large adjacent holdings. Then, on making a resurvey of the old grant, I learned to my surprise that this coal-land was really mine. I at once entered suit to establish my title, and at the same time endeavored to effect an equitable compromise with Logan. But . the old fellow was obstinate—nr, rather, his attorneys were—and the case has dragged along into a bitter fight. Woodson Logan himself has died since the action was started, leaving his coalland together with other property to an adopted daughter, ’’ and this girl, Caroline C. Logan, is now the principal defendant.”
“I see. It makes an interesting situation, doesn’t it? So far as I can make out, there is only one satisfactory solution.” Her: eyes flashed up at him in provocative mockery. “You will have to marry her, Judge.”
"Not on your life!” he dis. claimed emphatically.
“ ‘A hard man, reaping where he hath not sown, and gathering where he hath not strawed,’ ” she murmured. “Nothing will appease you but this maid, wife or widow’s mite; is that it?”
She still spoke playfully.
There was no suggestion of innuendo in her tone. And yet it stung him—not the phrasing, but her point of view.
“It sounds rather grasping, doesn’t it?” he said quietly, regarding her intently. He wanted to stretch out his hands and clasp hers and cry out, “Constance, you couldn’t think that of me after these days together!” But pride repressed the impulse.
“You misunderstand me. I am merely asking the courts to
decide the justice of our respective claims. If she wins, all right; if I do, I shall certainly make some arrangement with her. Ethically, I consider that she has a certain claim. I shouldn’t care to feel that I had deprived any woman of her income.”
“But if the courts decide in your favor, such an arrangement as you suggest could only mean—charity— Chivalrous of you; but if I were Caroline C. Logan, I would not accept it.”
Her tone was quite impersonal. She even made a little grimace which turned into a smile, but it failed to dissipate his bewildered sense of her disapproval, almost antagonism.
“Not being Caroline Logan, you can hardly speak for her,” he retorted quickly, and regretted the words as he uttered them. They might so easily lead to an argument.
BUT she did not take advantage of the opening.
“Caroline C. Logan,” she said slowly, musingly. “It’s a distinctive name at least. She interests me. The underdog always interests me. What is she like?” She was watching him keenly through her veiling lashes.
“I have never seen her. She is always represented by her counsel—able men, too, with a brilliant but dubious one among them—Louis Beachey.”
“Really?” Again for an inscrutable second he felt the cloud deepen between them; then it vanished. She was smiling, gazing at him with a contrite appeal, her most adorable self once more. “I always take the woman’s side instinctively, even in this case where I know that you wouldn’t, couldn’t be anything but fair.” She put a warmth, a sweetness in the words which blotted out her previous lack of faith. “But I don’t understand why you should let this suit bother you or drag you away just now. There is no new question about it, is there? And
you said the other day—did you not; or was it Nannie— that you had already won in two courts?”
“Oh, the suit?” He waved it aside as a matter of small concern. “Yes; I am pretty sure of winning that. This ia more an affair of ‘conditions subsequent,’ as we say. I told you, I believe, that the property was leased to the Stony Creek Coal Corporation; and they are the only people who would want to or could operate there to advantage. The present arrangement must, of course, terminate with a decision in my favor; and I’ve got to know where I stand.
I take it for granted that they would as soon lease the land from me as from Caroline Logan; but—”
Her eyebrows went up in surprise.
“You mean to say,” she interrupted incredulously, “that you have no definite assurance from them—no contract?”
“An understanding with them—naturally. They are joined with me, although that is merely to protect their own interests, as plaintiffs in the suit. But I have nothing essentially binding. It had not seemed necessary; their advantage so manifestly lay in renewing the lease. Recently, though, it has struck me that I should have something more explicit. My own affairs, you see, are— Forgive me.” He jerked himself up short. “Really, I didn’t mean—It’s all your fault. That interested, sympathetic manner of yours is very stimulating to a man’s ego.”
“ ‘Oh, wise, young judge’!” She looked at him sideways, a whimsical dimple in her cheek. “That’s just a flattering way of telling me that you don’t care to go on; it’s none of my business. The canny counselor suddenly remembers that it’s dangerous to confide in a woman.” “I’d confide anything to you, and you know it.” His voice was almost rough.She moved slightly .under the intensity of his glance. “That is, if you are really interested in matters which concern me.”
“You know that I am.” It was a whisper that reached him thrillingly. She leaned imperceptibly nearer.
He stretched out his hand to take hers, and then drew back— there were too many people about. He covered the impulsive movement by lighting a cigarette.
“The facts are simply these; I am being urged to go into politics, and my own ambitions lie that way. But a political campaign can absorb a good deal of money. I have the reputation of being a wealthy man, and it is true that my professional earnings are large; but I have already heavy demands on my income. Beechlands is atremendous expense; there are years when it doesn’t even pay for its upkeep. And so, you will understand, it is necessary for me to have something more from the Stony Creek Coal Corporation than a mere vague promise. I want them committed to me in writing.”
“Yes; I see.” She had dropped her eyes and was drawing lines on the table-cloth with her coffee-spoon.
“I have been in correspondence with their attorneys, and this morning I received word from them requesting me to come up to New York to-morrow for a conference. You know how these things go; we shall probably dilly-dally along for a week, threshing over immaterial details. And by the time I am free to come back, you will have left. Hang the whole thing!” he muttered, crossing his arms on the table. “It’s spoiling the only real holiday I ever had. It’s taking me away from you. I hate the thought of it.”
HE DID hate the thought of it. He wanted to go on living through these shadowless days and not permit them to become a memory—the mornings when they rode on the beach, the surf curling about their horses’ feet, or back through the scrub-oak of the mainland— hours when they walked, or rode lazily in chairs; evening when they dined and danced to¿ether He sa» a great deal oí her, and yet not half enough; for both she and Nannie Wendell had met a number of friends, and he soon realized that she was a
very popular woman
He had always intended to marry, but he had been a busy and ambitious man. The flirtations of his twenties, more or less serious, ended in nothing. In his thirties he had decided that "the love which should flame through heaven" was not (or him. He looked at life too steadily and comprehensively to be blinded b\ its handfulls of golden dust He would choose a w ife as he did a racehorse, soberly and advisedly; and so much the better for
the future line of Jeffries. _
But to every man his moment of illumination. His came to him on a night of sleet and snow, when a mad wmd blew into hts arms the loveliness that was Constance Lee One moment he was what he had always been—the cool, competent master of his fate: the next he was glor-
iously. irresponsibly in love.
He did not blind himself to the difficulties in his path. A widow, young and independent, would not be easy of th* winning; he took that for granted. Vet it was the phases of the matter which troubled him. There »s/an undoubted sympathy of nature which drew them together: there was also some strange disparity which separated them. More than once he had caught her eyes f,\rd on him with a cold, still resentment, which passed before he could even wonder at its cause.
But there was no suggestion of this in her expression r a-s she lifted her face to him. Her glance held a sparkle of allurement, her lips were coaxing.
If you hate it so. why do you go? There is nothing so dreadfully imperative about the matter that I can see. And ¿t never pays to appear too eager. Can’t you induce these people to wait until next week?"
'I might" hesitating. “I had not thought of that. As you sav. there is no particular reason for any mad haste.” He rose! his face clearing. "Will you excuse me while I telephone? Maybe I can save my holiday after all?”
**And mine, too,” she added, with arch persuasion.
But fifteen minutes later, when he returned, jubilant, to inform her that he had made the desired arrangement, he found her mood again changed. He wanted to sit there and talk; but she insisted that she must return to the Funchalit was after three o’clock. And on the way back she seemed strangely withdrawn and absorbed :r, her own thoughts. That puzzling, cloudy barrier had once more erected itself between them. At the door of the hotel, she nodded a hasty, indifferent good-by and left
In her own room, Constance threw off her hat and turned at once to the desk. Taking up a pen, she wrote readily, almost feverishly, covering several pages without stopping. Having finished, she folded the letter and placed it in an envelope which she addressed to Beachey, affixing to it a special-delivery stamp.
This done, she lay back in her chair and sat with her eyes half-closed, looking seaward. The expression of hard determination faded from her face, leaving it agitated and uncertain; and then the earlier resolution returned. For p■ api minutes the conflict of emotions went on. She balanced the letter to Beachey on her hand.
ally, the stronger impulse prevailed. With a violent decisive motion she tore the letter in half and threw it in
Th® next morning, before the chambermaid came in, Delia retrieved the fragments, and while Constance was out on her morning ride, carefully pasted them together.
THE night of his return from Atlantic City, Perry Gabriel attended a public dinner given for the benefit of some cause or other at one of the larger hotels, and found himself seated next to the sprightly and loquacious . ky colonel to whom Bell had turned for information of Jeffries.
The colonel, although not gratified at this contiguity, rtheless began to voice some fluent amenities; but he was almost immediately interrupted by Gabriel.
“What’s that crook doing here?” He did not bother to lower hiä thin, high-pitched voice.
Such raw lapses from good breeding annoyed the colyet he was not wholly without sympathy in the present instance. His eye had followed Gabriel’s glance across the room.
“You refer to Louis K. Beachey, suh? If you will pardon me. I’d advise you to be more careful. He might take advantage of such actionable language.”
Gabriel’s face twitched, but he did not repeat the epithet.
“Oh, I see”—insolently. “He’s from Kentucky, too. Both members of this club and all that sort of thing. He is from Kentucky, isn’t he?”
‘Strictly speaking,” admitted the colonel, “he is, but not from my part of the state, suh; not from my part of the state. He has made more or less of a name for himself here; but—well, we don’t exactly claim him.”
Mentally the old man ran over what he knew of Beachey. Born in that jutting angle of the Cumberlands between Virginia and West Virginia, spelling out an education. like a far better man, by the pine torch at the cabin
hearthstone, a school-teacher at sixteen, then working his way through the Cincinnati Law School by no creditable expedients—it was said that he served as a “shill” at one of the "Over the Rhine” crap-joints—after his graduation a struggling young practitioner at Gattlettsburg, a brief career as a dogmatic politician with a term in the state legislature at Frankfort, where, after the giving-out of certain valuable franchises, came a marked rise in his financial condition, then his removal to New York and the building-up of a lucrative if somewhat questionable practise.
These were the bare bones of his biography. They attested his ability and determination. But they did not explain the metamorphosis of the clay-eater into a dignified, astute counselor, the soap-box orator into the social bandit.
"Frankly, suh, the man is a puzzle to me,” the colonel confessed, with a wag of his gray goatee. “He doesn’t run true to form in any particular. His private life is, I understand, above reproach. He is a student as profound as Crittenden, as brilliant as Blackburn; and yet—well, it would be idle to deny his reputation.
“I reckon, suh, it’s just the mountaineer in him. He was bred up to ruses and deceptions and ambushes in the fued warfare of the Cumberlands, and he has simply applied the lesson to outside life. He realizes that the best screen for lawlessness is the law, and he does all his sharpshooting from behind it. He’s had some tight squeaks, I admit, but so far he has never been caught. You’ll have to grant that he’s a damn fine lawyer, provided you dare trust him.”
Gabriel was listening with a more polite attention than he usually bestowed on any one. The colonel picked up many odd bits of information; he might give him a crumb of value without knowing it.
“I wonder how the fellow came to be attorney for Mrs. Constance Lee.”
He was just a shade too eager. And anything he thought Gabriel wanted to know, it pleased the colonel to withold.
“Really, I could not inform you, suh. I am not to that extent in the lady’s confidence. It might be that she acted on the recommendation of some friend, as she did on yours, I understand, when she took on that scalawag of a DeVries as her trainer.”
Having paid Gabriel back in his own coin and set him firmly in his place, the colonel turned his shoulder and entered into a long conversation with his neighbor on the other side.
GABRIEL left the dinner early. While he was waiting for his hat and coat he started at the sound of a low, urbane voice—Beachey’s.
“Ah, Mr. Gabriel! You are just the person I was hoping to see.”
Gabriel had little doubt of that. Beachey had followed him, and he had no difficulty in guessing the reason.
“This is a fortunate encounter for me”—the lawyer disregarded the surly mutter that served as an answer to his greeting—“as I want very much to have a little talk with you. If you can spare me half an hour now, we can go up to my apartment here in the hotel.” Gabriel began an excusé; but under the affable repetition of the invitation there was a hint of command, and the hand laid on his arm tightened, impelling him toward the elevator. In spite of himself he yielded, although with his usual bad grace, to the stronger will.
Beachey’s apartment was Spartan for a man of his reputed income; the furniture and decorations simple and severe. They were met by a Japanese servant, who, after placing drinks and cigars upon the table, left the room.
Beachey waved his guest to a chair under a tall lamp, and himself took one that was more in the shadow.
“You haven’t yet told me, Mr. Gabriel”—when Perry had sulkily declined his liquor and tobacco— “just what you intend doing in regard to that matter I laid before you. Time is passing, and my clients are becoming impatient.”
Sliding his hands down in his pockets, he leaned back in his chair and waited for an answer; but Gabriel merely shuffled his feet irritably and twisted one hand in the palm of the other.
“Quite a material sum to disburse,” Beachey said reflectively, “even for so wealthy a man as you. And I suppose it doesn’t add any gratification to know that one is paying for a bit of folly. It was a bit of folly, wasn’t it?” He lifted his eyebrows inquiringly. “1 am not fully in the confidence of my clients, but I gathered in some way that'the basis of this claim lies in a certain —what shall we say?—overloquacity on your part. Ah, how often we lawyers are forced to realize the truth of the old maxim; ‘Silence is golden’! Golden in this case to the extent of sixty thousand dollars, Mr. Gabriel; for how can you escape paying?”
“Sixty thousand?” Gabriel leaped in his chair. “You said fifty thousand before.”
“Yes; but that was ten days ago. And I told you my clients would raise the amount ten thousand dollars for each week of delay.”
Gabriel stood up, shaking with anger, his face white and distorted.
“You can’t bluff me this way, Beachey. I’ve laid the whole thing before Kent, Hulsberg & Greeley, and if I say the word they’ll have you arrested for blackmail. Get that, for it’s straight.” He sat down and shakily lit a cigarette.
Beachey turned his head lazily on the back of his chair and took Gabriel’s measure, a flicker of scorn in his saurian eyes.
“No doubt your lawyers would be delighted if they could take action against me. But how would that be possible? My clients have led me to believe that they have sustained financial injury because of your betrayal of certain business secrets, and I am asked to present their claim to you. They may have misled me. If so, your redress is easy.
“In a case of blackmail, Mr. Gabriel, there are just two courses for the victim to pursue. One is; Ignore the demand and take the consequences; the other is: pay.”
Gabriel twitched his shoulders, and taking out his handkerchief dabbed at his forehead.
“Look here, Beachey,” he broke out desperately; “let’s settle things. You’re open to a deal of course. I’ve offered mighty liberal terms already. But tell me who’s behind this hold-up, and I’ll go further.”
The lawyer flopped a languid hand.
“A waste of time, Gabriel. I don’t sell out my clients.” “Well, I know who it is, all right,” Gabriel muttered huskily. “And, by God, I’ll prove it before I’m through!” There was a flash of fire in Beachey’s eyes, immediately suppressed.
“Go ahead and try. But it will cost you just ten thousand a week.
“Yet why discuss unpleasant contingencies?” He picked up a paper-knife and bent it back and forth between his fingers. “I sought this interview to-night, not so much to push this claim as to adjust it.”
“Yes; a suggestion has come to me whereby we may reach a compromise. I don’t want to be overoptimistic, but it may be an absolute withdrawal of the claim.” “You mean you’ll drop it?”
“Possibly—under certain conditions.” Beachey replaced the paper-knife on the table and ceased to lounge. “Gabriel, you are, I believe, rather closely associated with Sinclair Jamison and Isidor Käthe in a number of your corporations, aren’t you?”
“Well, what of it?”
“Those two would be likely to do anythingjyou asked them, wouldn’t they? Anything in reason, that is. Especially if it didn’t mean much to them one way or the other.”
“Why, yes; I suppose so.” Gabriel was still wary, although he was beginning to catch Beachey’s drift. “By George, they’d have to, no matter what it meant to them, if I chose to put the screws on. But where do Jamison and Käthe fit into this thing?”
“Through their control of the Stony Creek Coal Corporation.What I want of you is to see these two men and have them instruct counsel for the coal corporation to withdraw from any further participation in the suit of Clay Jeffries versus Caroline Logan et al, and to break off all support or dealings with the plaintiff, Jeffries, of whatever nature.”
“Clay Jeffries?” Gabriel’s pale eyes narrowed. _ “You don’t mean, by any chance, Judge Clay Jeffries, of Bainbridge,. Kentucky?”
“That is the man. You know him, then?”
“No. But I saw him down at—that is, I’ve had him pointed out to me. But that doesn’t matter. Let s get the rest of it straight. You want me to tell Jamison and Käthe to put the kibosh on this Jeffries in a suit against--”
“Caroline C. Logan et al.”
Gabriel drew a card and pencil from his pocket and noted down the style of the litigation.
“And if I fix Jamison and Käthe, you’ll agree to call off this hold-up?”
“Why, yes, Mr. Gabriel,” Beachey assented, after his usual deliberative pause. “If satisfactory action is taken by the Stony Creek Coal Corporation, I think I may safely promise that you will be bothered no further by my client. There would, of course”—he pursed his lips—“be a moderate fee for -my services in the premises—say, ten thousand dollars. But that would end the matter so far as you are concerned.” Gabriel was puzzled. The interview had taken a strangely confusing turn. What possible connection could there be between the demands of the blackmailers and this coal-company litigation? He felt as if he held in his hand a mass of tangled threads, and yet they might lead to something if he only knew which to follow.
He glanced down again at the card in his hand. “Who is this Caroline Logan?” he asked.
“A client of mine, the residuary legatee of Woodson Logan, deceased.”
“That doesn’t tell much. What is she? WhereBeachey held up a deterrent hand to stay the flood of questions.
“Information of that sort was not stipulated in our agreement,” he said dryly.
“Who’s the ‘et al.,’ then? You can tell me that?”
“Oh, yes. That includes some mountaineers down in Kentucky—small squatters. This is an action brought by Jeffries, you see, to recover title to certain coal-lands.”
“Then this Caroline Logan is the one that counts, the real loser in case Jeffries should win?”
• “That is about the substance of the matter.”
AB RIEL sat tapping his pencil on the card. He was not without a certain uncanny penetration where his own affairs were concerned; and as he put two and two together, he found that it made a rather startling four.
Caroline Logan was Beachey’s client. So, also, was the unknown blackmailer. And so, also, was Constance Lee. But he was already convinced that Constance Lee and the blackmailer were one.
Now, according to Beachey, the blackmailer was willing to give way to Caroline Logan. Did not that indicate that Caroline Logan and the blackmailer were one? It looked like it. But the blackmailer and Constance Lee were one.
What conclusion was to be drawn? Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. Caroline Logan must be Constance Lee.
He placed the card carefully in his billfold and got up.
• Ï,1! see Jamison and Käthe first thing in the morning, he promised, and took his leave.
Down in the lobby of the hotel he stepped into a telephone-booth and, calling up Bell at Atlantic City, instructed the detective to come to New York at once and present himself at Gabriel’s house before nine o clock the next morning.
Bell welcomed the summons. If anything had occurred to side-track Gabriel, so much the better, and he was further heartened when, on keeping the appointment, he was greeted with more good humor than his .employer had yet shown.
Nothing done yet, I suppose, along the íine I laid out for you?”
-Nothing I’m ready to report,” Bell temporized.
It takes a little time to set up the pins and stretch the wires.”
You’re slow.” Gabriel spoke patronizingly. “While you fool round, I go in myself and get everything that’s needed. Straight stuff, too; no frame-up. Here!” He handed Bell a slip of paper on which he had copied the memorandum from his card.
You take that and start for Kentucky by the first train. Find out all you can about all the people involved, and especially about this Caroline Logan.' Trace her up from the cradle to the present time. And let’s see” —-jocularly—“if for once you can show half-way ordinary intelligence.”
Bell blinked at him, devoted several minutes to a study of the memorandum and then looked up with a dawning comprehension.
‘If I get you right,” he said, “you think that this Caroline Logan is--”
“Constance Lee,” interrupted Gabriel. “Of course. Any fool ought to dope that out. Why, the initials alone are enough—C.L. I caught it the minute I heard the name.”
The telephone-bell broke in upon him, and he reached out for the instrument.
You’ve got your lead now.” He threw the words over his shoulder. “And you ought to know what to do. So beat it for Kentucky.”
^~\N THE day that Jeffries and Constance Lee arrived in New York on an early afternoon train, they were met at the Pennsylvania Station by Nannie Wendell, full of plans for the afternoon that included
them both. But these projects Constance firmly waved aside.
She had arranged to see her stable-manager at four o’clock, and she had a dozen other things on hand. Her time, she said, would be fully occupied until she saw them again, reminding Nannie that they were all to dine together that evening.
“You won’t let her forget,” she said to Jeffries. “A quarter to eight.”
“How could I; when I’ll be counting the minutes to that far-away time?” he asked, standing hatless before the door of her car, and in a voice so low that it could not reach Delia.
“Au revoir,” she said, under her breath. The doorclosed. She was gone. -
The swirl and roar and tangle of the city engulfed him. Hither and thither Nannie flew. He felt' like a penguin trying to follow the dartings of a hummingbird. Shopping. Tea later, at the Wendell home, with more people than he cared to see..
But at last it was over, and they were rolling down Fifth Avenue, every revolution of the wheels bringing him nearer to Constance. There were wings in his heart as the lift carried them up to her apartment.”
But when he met her he felt a shock of surprise, a pang of self-reproach. He had forgotten, or worse, had never realized before the wonder and charm of her. Hopelessness, not lasting but poignant, succeeded. Down on the coast her background had been the sea, the sunshine, the stars; but here her environment seemed so much a part of her. It was all so settled, so complete. The flower bloomed in its chosen spot. How dared he suggest a transplanting?
There were no other guests; he-became happier when he saw that. Just Nannie and Hugo, himselfand Constance.
Hugo, stout and ruddy, was something of a gourmet. He insisted that his coming was no compliment to his hostess. He never dined in the houses of lone women. That he made an exception of Mrs. Lee was due to his respect for her cook. To have secured such a treasure was a proof, he was convinced, not of Constance’s genius but of a sort of invincible good luck that followed her.
“After that,” she retorted, “the soup will of course be burned, the fish stale. I’m sorry, Judge Jeffries.”
Her prophecy was false. Even Hugo, past master of the art of dining, and captiously critical, exuded compliments and envy.
Later, they had just finished a rubber of bridge when Delia entered and murmured in Constance’s ear that De Vries wished to see her on a matter of importance.
A line creased her forehead.
“Oh, have him in here!” cried Nannie, who had overheard the message. “I’m dying to hear how things have been going.”
Constance hesitated, then nodde'd acquiescently to the maid.
De Vries was a thin, little man with the weatherbeaten, wizened, tight face of a horseman.
How re you, Judge Jeffries?” he said, after he had spoken to the others. “I haven’t seen you since last summer at Churchill Downs.” He turned immediately to Constance. “Sorry to disturb your party, Mrs. Lee but I had to see you to-night. I’ve been’with King ever since I left you this afternoon. He’s finally agreed to our figure on Lady Lou; but he’s sailing to-morrow morning and he wants to get the purchase closed before he goes. So, if you’ll give me a note ratifying the terms
of the sale, I’ll take it right down to him.”
“Certainly. I’m glad to have it settled so satisfactorily.” Constance rose and went to her desk.
Nannie at once began to ply De Vries with questions about Joybells.
“Joybells, eh?”-with a sidelong glance at Jeffries and a complacent smack which the Kentuckian felt was for his benefit. “Joybells is coming back, Mrs. Wendell. I guess I can’t tell you much about the Bonny Bells colts, Judge, but they sure have got most awful strong likes and dislikes, and are full of cranks and whims." They can’t bear this stable-boy, and they love that one. They want attention all the time, and they eat up praise. You’ve got to pet ’em when you want to swear at ’em. But most of ’em, now, have got ambition Joybells hasn’t—not a grain. He certainly had me puzzled. But Mrs. Lee got his number, and he sure fell in love with her. Why, she brought him out a fool black kitten and he went crazy over it— —can’t bear it out of his sight. He’s coming on something wonderful under the butter-and-soft-soap treatment she prescribed for him.”
“Do you hear that, Judge Jeffries?” Constance asked, coming back to the table, her face glowing.
“I’m mighty glad to hear it.” He tried tospeak ^incerely, but to himself his voice sounded cold and unresponsive. He did not believe a wórd De Vries had said. Joybells had been too long a liability suddenly to be transformed into an asset; the horse was fundamentally unreliable. De Vries was rated a good trainer, but his personal reputation was against him. Whispers, nothing proved; the. man wouldn’t find it easy to get a job in a first-class stable. And all this enthusiasm about Joybells was unconvincing. His object was too plain. He was merely rousing false hopes in Constance in order to strengthen his own position with her.
Jeffries made a rapid decision. De Vries was her employee, and the way in which she chose to run her own stable was none of his, Jeffries’s, business. Nevertheless, he wanted a few words with the trainer alone.
“Did you say that Mr. King is sailing to-morrow?” he asked De Vries. “Hm. Then I have no doubt that he has been keeping the telegraph and telephone wires humming, trying to get in touch with me. I have been attending to some business for him, and he will want to know the result before he leaves. Mrs. Lee, you’ll understand and forgive me, won’t you, if I go now with Mr. De Vries to King’s hotel?”
“Of course,” Constance said. “I’m sorry, but I quite see the urgency of it.”
Under cover of the last half-dozen questions Nannie Wendell was putting to De Vries, Clay found an opportunity to say to Constance, as he bade her goodnight: “I hate this, but it’s really necessary. And the worst of it is, that I’ll be tied up with the coal-company’s attorneys all day to-morrow. But I shall see you tomorrow night, shall I not?”
The anxiety of his tone, the eagerness of his eyes made her flush. It gave him fresh hope.
“AÄ/’HERE is King stopping?” he asked De Vries,
■ * as the elevator was carrying them down.
“At the Biltmore.”
“We might as well walk, then.”
Outside, they turned down Fifth Avenue, the lights of an endless procession of cars floating by them like huge fireflies.
Continued on page 40
Continued from page 29
“De Vries”—Jeffries was the first to break the silence—“to be quite frank with you, I take that story of yours about Joybells with an appreciable quantity of salt. Mrs. Lee has asked me to look over her string, and I have agreed to do so. If Joybells is really coming on as you say, I shall be delighted. But let me remind you that I am from Kentucky—which is ‘horse’ for Missouri.” De Vries stripped a stick of chewinggum and put it in his mouth.
“I get you.” De Vries’s tone was cool enough, but the corner-lamp under which they were just passing showed that his upper lip was drawn tight. “I get you all right,” he repeated. “But honest, Judge Jeffries, I’m giving it to you straight. You come out to-morrow, and I’ll show you a work-out.”
“Judge,” De Vries continued, “I can’t
pretend I don’t know what you mean or that my foot hasn’t slipped a little once or twice. But not so bad as they’ve made out. I’ve been lied about more than any man on the turf. I’m not bellowing about it; what’s thé use? All I’m telling you is that I’ve done my best for Mrs. Lee. I’m building her up as nice a little stable as any one could want. Come out and see for yourself, Judge; for it’s God’s truth.”
The opportunity to go out to the track occurred sooner than he expected. The following morning, finding the coal corporation attorney’s desired postponement until the following day, he called up Constance and found her eager to accompany him. Arriving at the famous oval, filled with exercising thoroughbreds, they found De Vries apparently surprised, though reluctantly consenting to a trial*.
THEY had not long to wait. In a few minutes McEvoy, thé jockey selected, crouched on the back of the big chestnut, came jogging down the course. And in spite of his prejudices against both the old rogue and De Vries, Jeffries had to admit that Joybells looked every inch a race-horse. His head was up, his neck arched, and he moved with the light, dancing step peculiar to his strain.
“Take him back three furlongs, McEvoy,” she directed, “and then come on. Let him out for all he’s worth. Show us everything he’s got. Joybells”—caressingly—“do your prettiest. I’m banking on you.”
The horse lifted his head at the sound of his name and pawed the ground. The jockey nodded his understanding, and they trotted slowly away to the starting-
point, where McEvoy wheeled and waited for the signal.
At the fall of Constance’s handkerchief he began to ride.
As. Joybells flashed past the first furlong-post, Jeffries looked up from his. watch with a startled .expression.
“I caught it in twelve seconds flat!” he exclaimed incredulously.
".Me, too!” Her face aglow with excitement. “But watch him come'” For Joybells was now fully in his stride Jeffries caught the second furlong in eleven and three-fifths seconds, although Constance made it a fifth slower A thudding of hoofs, a blur of gold under the wire, and it was over As McEvoy drew up and, turning, rode slowly back, De Vries came bounding up the steps of the stand, two at a time “Thirty-five and a fifth! I clocked it'” he shouted gleefully. “What does your watch say, Judge?”
“Mrs. Lee and I both caught it at thirty-five and two-fifths,” said Jeffries. “De Vries, I take back everything I’ve thought against you. It seems almost a special providence that I came out here to-day. I’ve been looking everywhere for a trainer for my colt, Sleighbells, and now I ve found him. If you say the word and with Mrs. Lee’s permission, of course—I 11 wire out to-night to have him shipped on and placed under your charge.”
The trainer caught his breath.
Why why, sure, Judge!” he stammeredin his surprise and gratification.
And I 11 handle him right, too. I think I’ve got the hand of these Bonny Bells horses now.”
“But don’t make a mistake, De Vries and get him mixed up with my Joybells ” Constance laughed. “They say the two look so much alike you can hardly tell them apart.”
'T'HAT_ evening, on her return from x Jamaica, Constanceffound a note from Beachey asking her to be at his office at eleven o clock the next morning to discuss a matter of immediate importance the “immediate importance” stressed by a heavy line drawn beneath it.
She had come in humming under her breath, vibrant with the eestacy of youth and triumph. And then—this letter. The shadow of Beachey fell across her as she held it in her hand. She drooped into a chair, her radiance gone and as she read it her spirit flickered and fell. —
Then it soared in her again—a flame of mutiny. She crumpled the summons, threw it aside and resolutely put it out of her mind. She and Nannie and
Jeffries were doing a play that evening; she was not going with them companioned by the unseen presence of Beachey.
Jeffries thought he had never seen her so brilliantly beautiful; but her gaiety was no longer spontaneous and natural. It had a brittle, cerebral quality that held him at arm’s length.
However, when he and Nannie left her at two o clock, she had promised to make that visit to Kentucky for which he had been pleading. His thanks were mute; he couldn’t say the things he wanted to, with Nannie there.
“I’ll give you three days. And then” —lowering his voice—“we’ll be in Beechlands in time to find the trailing arbutus up in the hills.”
Her face softened, and grew wistful. “In three days, then. It’s a prom'se.” In utter disregard of Beachey she made an engagement for luncheon with Nannie, and accepting Jeffries’s invitation to d'ir.e with him the next evening, said goodnight.
She was still in a perverse mood regarding her lawyer’s request when she awoke in the morning. She told Delia, when the maid brought her coffee, that she intended to spend the forenoon in shopping. At the last moment, though, she changed her mind and ordered her chauffeur to take her down to Beaehey’s office.
Beachey met her, sauve and smiling, his tone as composed, his manner as tempered as usual. But as he conducted her to his private office, Constance, who knew him, felt as if she were a child being led to correction. Beachey began: “You remained longer in Atlantic City than you intended. Yet I heard nothing from you. You have been at home two days, and yet you did not let me know.” He spoke quite gently.
“There was nothing to tell.”
“Nothing to tell?” The satirical wrinkles showed in his cheeks. “You were with him day after day down there. At the same hotel. Breakfasting, dining, lunching with him. Driving, walking, sailing, dancing together. And still— nothing to tell?” In spite of his admirable self-control, a trace of bitterness infused his tone.
“But”—she enunciated the words distinctly—“I failed. Possibly you overrated my powers, or--”
“Or, more possibly, I overrated your inclination.”
“Put it as you please. You will remember that I objected when you proposed my going down there. I am not fitted for that sort of thing. I detest it. But there is no use in holding a post-mortem. You will simply have to do the best you can without the information you wanted.”
He shook his head, smiling at her quizzically and yet darkly.
“Non sequitur, dear lady. I generally manage to have more than one string to my bow.”
He was watching her now through halfclosed lids.
“This other agent was a woman, also, and Jeffries, I imagine, is rather waxlike in the proper feminine hands.”
“Yes?” Constance was polite, but uninterested. The tiniest dimple showed at the corner of her mouth. Beachey was playing his game crudely.
“However”—he laid down his penholder—“that part of it is immaterial. The point is that we have the facts. I wanted to give you that crumb of consolation, since I surmised, from your failure to communicate with me, that you had —well, to put it bluntly, fallen down on the job. But don’t let that disturb you, my dear. As I say, we have what we required—the ‘inside dope,’ you racing people would call it. And I think we can use it to advantage. I believe I can
now promise you with reasonable certainty that we shall win your case.”
“Mr. Beachey”—she lifted her bent head; there was constraint in her voice —;“you know that I don’t wish to seem critical or ungrateful. You have been so wonderful, so efficient in handling my affairs, so staunch - and untiring that I hesitate even to raise a question. But why is this necessary—this underhand business of spying and intrigue, I mean?” Beachey drew down his lean jaw and stroked it with his fingers.
“Judge Jeffries is an attorney,” he said laconically, “and a very shrewd one—” He paused. “Since you force the remark,” he went on, eyeing her watchfully, “I would say that it is not improbable, he may have been playing the same game at Atlantic City that we were.”
Her mouth twitched. Beachey was really going too far; he was becoming crude again.
“You mean”—the smile still hovering about her lips, “that he was seeking my society only to find out something that would help his case?”
“Unflattering, but, I fear, true.” His voice purred. “You know, my dear Constance, that I would not be making these statements without proof. That meeting at the station, now? Was it not a trifle too coincidental?”
She stared at him, bewildered and incredulous. At last, he saw, he had succeeded in instilling suspicion into her mind.
“Then why did‘you allow me to stay there?” she countered. “Why did you . not call me back when you learned?”
“I felt—how could I help but feel?—• that your anxiety to win your suit, in addition to your more personal reasons for wishing to see him bite the dust,would make you fully a match for him, the most effective agènt that I could use.' Constance”—his voice deepening—“I wonder at you! Jeffries seems to have cast some kind of spell over you. You, of all women! You know what sort of man he is at rock bottom. Have you
forgotten that day-”
She threw her hands out blindly.
“No! No! I haven’t! I never can! Only—only, he seemed down there so different—as if he were some one else. A man I could like. Mr. Beachey”— imploringly—“help me to see things
straight. I seem to be in a fog. I--”
“Look at this!” He held out a sheet of paper. “A letter from our representative at Cattlettsburg, advising me that there’s been a man down there turning heaven and earth to get intelligence of the antecedents and present whereabouts of Caroline Logan. Who is back of that?” She did not reply. She had snatched the letter from him and was reading it. Her face was as white as chalk. Evén after she had finished she still gazed at the paper with blank eyes, and at last let it drift unnoticed from her fingers to the floor.
“Oh, what a fool I have been—what a fool!” Her voice was dull and bitter. “To dream that he was softened and, maybe, sorry—that he could ever change! Mr. Beachey”—she stretched out her hands to him—“you are, you always have been the best friend I have in the world. Will you forgive me?”
She stood up tall and straight, her eyes glittering, her voice hard.
“Go as far as you please. Meet trick with trick. Use all your brains, your powers of resource, any and every method you choose to make him—what was it you said?—bite the dust. And, oh, let me be there to see that downfall of the mighty, to help it along if I can!” When Constance returned home John Bell happened to be talking to his ally,
the superintendent. Thus he was on the job opportunely enough to see Mrs. Lee return in a furious temper, repressed but evident. He wondered whether there had been a quarrel between her and the judge, and then had just time to hide behind a screen a few minutes later when he saw Delia come down to the switch-board to telephone. What message could this be that she didn’t want Mrs. Lee to overhear? He spoke sharply to the superintendent, under his breath:
“Tip off your switchboard operator out there to plug you in on the booth.” He caught up the telephone from the desk and forced it into the other’s hands. “That maid, Delia, is calling somebody up and I want to get next to what it’s all about.”
So compelling was his manner that the superintendent automatically complied, and the moment the order had been given Bell seized the instrument, getting the receiver to his ear just as Delia secured her connection.
i “Is this the Leigh stable?” he heard her ask. “I want to speak to Mr. DeVries.”
There was a wait of four or five minutes, and then DeVries’s dry, curt voice twanged over the wire.
“Oh, Jim dear, is that you at last? Listen; you must come to town right away. I’ve got to see you.”
“Come to town? Drop everything here, when— Say; how do you get that way?”
“But you must come!”—excitedly. “You don’t know all that’s happened. Honey, everything’s off between her and Jeffries—I’m sure of it from something she said. We’re packing up now, going to get out to-night. She says she won’t stay in New York another day. So I’ve just got to see you.”
“All right. I’ll be in. Meet you at the regular place about three o’clock. Goodby—or, hold on a mimite! 'Does Louis K. know about this?”
“Sure! She just came back from his office. But I don’t think she’s told him yet that she’s going away.”
“Where’s she planning to go?” . -
“She don’t know yet. Some place where she can hide from Jeffries until this trial is over.”
“Until the trial is over?”—with a note of stronger interest. “Let’s see; that’ll be when?”
“The last of June.”
“And she’s plumb off the judge all that time? Won’t see him or hear from him? Say, kid”—there was a crackle in the trainer’s voice—“I’ve got an idea. But ring off now if you expect me to get to town by three o’clock. By.”
Bell held the instrument until Delia had come out of the booth and gone up-stairs. Then he set it back on the, desk with a disappointed shrug. He turned to go, but stopped abruptly.
“Well, look who’s here!” he.exclaimed; for the tall figure of Jeffries had emerged from a taxi-cab at the curb and was crossing the entrance. Jeffries’s pre-occupation was noticeable. His mouth was a thin, grim line; there were sharp, vertical creases between his eyebrows. Walking up to the switchboard, he requested that his name be announced.
“He’s been slipped the bad news.by the lady, and. now he’s around to try and square himself,” was Bell’s conclusion.
The surmise was erroneous. It was not Constance who had administered the blow Jeffries had just received, but the precise,^ imperturbable lawyers of the Stony Creek' Coal Corporation, who, acting under orders that wound circuitously back to Perry Gabriel, told him with no waste of words that that organization had virtually washed its hands of him.
Realizing that this astounding change of front meant a reversal of all his plans, Jeffries, before going more deeply into the__ matter, had come at once to Constance to explain to her something of the situation and ask a postponement of the contemplated visit to Beechlands.
But the switchboard operator stolidly reported:
“Mrs. Lee asks to be excused. She can see nr.-one this morning.”
Some mistake, of course.
“I wish to speak to Mrs. Lee myself,” he said curtly.
The plug was again pushed in, and his request was preferred, but only to receive a more chilling answer. Mrs. Lee was engaged and Cuuld not come to the telephone.
Incredible! Another impossible happening of an unbelievable day! He hesitated a second, and then, tossing down a coin, walked across the sidewalk to his waiting cab.
What could have happened overnight, or even this morning to change so her, attitude toward him? He searched his mind for some sin either of omission^ or commission; his conscience acquitted him.
Suddenly he thought of Nannie Wendell. She, if any one, might be able to give some clue to the enigma. So he tapped on the window of the cab and gave the driver the number of her house.. v
Fortunately for his shaken poise he found her at home and alone; but after he had explained the incident to her, she was unable, in spite of her voluble sympathy, to supply any solution to the problem.
“It isn’t a bit like her,” she said. “Probably some airiness of Delia’s that Connie knows nothing about. She gives that hussy too free a rein, anyway: I’m busy
this afternoon, but we’ll both go ’round there tonight and pide her up after dinnner. You come around and dine with us—early.”
HE WAS too early in his -arrival at Nannie’s home, and dinner, with Hugo as a talkative host, seemed interminable. But at last it was over, and he and Nannie were at the door of the Park Avenue apartment-house.
“We won’t bother to have ourselves announced,” Nannie told him. “Just go up and walk in on her and ask her what t’ell. She’ll be at home, all right—probably bawling her eyes out. Come on!” She led the way toward the elevator.
But the uniformed West Indian at the door of the car did not step aside at their approach.
“Don’c tell me that Mrs. Lee isn’t in, Jasper,” Nannie spoke sharply. “She will see me.”.
The negro goggled his eyes at her.
“Didn’t Mrs. Lee inform you that she was leaving town, ma’am?”
“Leaving town?” Nannie and Jeffries exclaimed together.
“Yes, sare. Yes, Mistress Wendell. She took her departure not more than half an hour ago.”
“Where did she go?”
“That I cannot inform you, ma’am. She did not confide her destination.” Nannie was speechless for a moment. “Well, of all the—” she gasped. But Jeffries already had her by the arm and was hurrying her toward the door.
“You go to the Grand Central Station.” He thrust her into her limousine. “I’ll look for her at the Pennsylvania and tome back to meet you.”
But he knew that the quest was futile even when he proposed it. So he was not surprised by Nannie’s shake of the head when he rejoined her three-quarters of an hour later.
“If only I had passed up that rotten bridge this afternoon!” she wailed, stricken by the sight of his drawn face. “If only—But who would ever have dreamed of her doing anything so absolutely senseless?” Jeffries could not answer. He saw Nannie home, then went back to his hotel where he indited a letter ten _ pages long, and mailed it to Constance, in care of Beachey.
THREE days passed, four, five, six, a week. And still no answer. Neither could he through his own inquiries or those of Nannie discover the slightest trace of her. So far as New York was concerned, Constance Lee seemed simply to have dropped off the earth.
Jeffries was too unsettled to attend to business, too harassed and perplexed to enjoy the amusements _ in which his cousin tried to engross him. His affairs were in a muddle; his heart was in chaos.
Then, one morning, DeVries telephoned him that the colt, Sleighbells, had arrived, and he decided to go out to the track.
DeVries was not at the barn when Jeffries arrived, and Clay sat down on a bench outside to wait for him.
As he lounged in the sunshine, Perry Gabriel in a motor-coat and cap, with John Bell at his side, strolled slowly down the line of stables. They, too, had come out to question DeVries concerning the absence of his employer, and they stopped a few feet away from Jeffries.
Gabriel, with a supercilious glance at Clay, waved his hand toward the row of box stalls.
“There’s where some of the money went that she blackmailed me out of.” He raised his voice for Jeffries’s benefit. “This is her string of horses, and a damn poor lot if anybody should ask you. They tell me she paid twenty thousand dollars for Joybells. Ain’t it always that way? The smoother the crook the bigger the sucker. Little Constance is no exception to the rule.”
Jeffries’s spring to his feet was as light as that of a cat. He reached Gabriel in a step.
“I don’t know you, sir,” he said in a low voice; “and I never will know you. ButJ don’t like the color of your hair, your philosophy of life, your manners, morals, your eyes or your necktie. I don’t like anything about you, especially the sound of your voice. I’d advise you to keep it between your teeth from now on; for if I ever hear of you slandering a woman again I’ll travel a thousand miles to break you square in two.”
Gabriel turned a sickly yellow, but felt secure enough in Bell’s company to indulge in insolence.
“It’s Judge Clay Jeffries, of Kentucky, I believe,” he drawled. “Well, I’m Perry Gabriel, if you want to know, and I’ll say what I please about Constance Lee. the dirty little high-jacking—” He finished with an explosive, “Oof!” for Jeffries knocked him down.
Gabriel scrambled up and, hurriedly sheltering himself behind Bell, glared poisonously at Clay.
“You poor fish!” he gibbered. “Where do you get off? She pumped you inside out at Atlantic City, and on the strength of what she found out queered you with the coal corporation and then gave you the gate. Here, Bell—” wildly—“hold the crazy come-on off until I tell him who the lady of his dreams really is—the exconvict and adventuress, Caroline Logan!”
To be continued in next issue.