MRS. WILSON WOODROW
ARAT with the stregth of a lion would still be-a rat. But, proverbially, a cornered rat will fight. And if,when cornered, he has a lion’s strength —well, in that case, it might be wise to look out for him.
Perry Gabriel was a cornered rat, plus a lion’s strength; and this plus included his inherited wealth, his social connections and certain important business affiliations.
The opportunity which a crooked horseman had presented to him of secretly backing a scheme to win a pot of money at the Latonia race-track through the introduction of a “ringer” had strongly appealed to hii furtive and avaricious temperament. And now, wfaen, by an unexpected turn of events, he was threatened with exposure and heavy financial loss, he turned to his powerful connections in an effort to avert the disaster.
Conditions for a turf-swindle of the sort planned were never more propitious. The trainer, Jim DeVries, had under his care two horses that were full brothers by breeding, and except for a difference of three years in age and some easily disguised details of appearance, as much alike as twins.
The five-year-old, Joybells, a sensational performer in his youth, but later, from one cause and another, discredited and in eclipse, had been purchased that spring by Constance Lee—Mrs. Norman Lee, of the New York racing set—and in his work-outs had shown signs of a return to his early form.
The other, Sleighbells, a two-year-old, was owned by Judge Clay Jeffries, a prominent Kentucky lawyer, and owner of the celebrated blue-grass stock farm, Beechlands.
Both sons of a famous sire, Bonny Bells, they happened that season to be under the schooling of DeVries. The ambition of Judge Jeffries was to win the Wideawake, the big juvenile stakes at Latonia, with his two-year-old, while Mrs. Lee hoped for a dramatic come-back for her Joybells at Saratoga in August.
The resemblance between the two horses was so marked that the idea was hatched in DeVries’ brain of playing the old role of the nurse in the fairy-tale and exchanging his charges. He turned it over in his mind, dwelling on its fascinating possibilities and weighing its hazards.
If the strong and seasoned Joybells could be cleverly
While DeVries considered ' he various aspects, pro and con, of such a short cut to fortune, something occurred which made his decision easy and affirmative. Mrs.
Lee, for reasons of her own, sequestered herself in the Cumberland Mountains; and business and politics were absorbing so much of Judge Jeffries’ attention that he had no time to give to his racing interests.
DeVries was therefore left free to follow his own devices without either oversight or interference; but he could not proceed very far with his plans without a backer. And for that post Perry Gabriel seemed made to order. He was rich; he was unscrupulous, and he had a deep personal grudge against both Jeffries and Constance Lee.
insinuated into the Wideawake, there was no question that he could walk away from its field of youngsters. And if the colt, Sleighbells, were so mishandled on his one or two public appearances as greatly to heighten the betting odds against him— why, there was no limit to the amount that might be won.
It did not take DeVries and Gabriel long to reach an agreement, and the trainer then moved his horses to an obscure track near Cincinnati to prepare for his great coup.
He had been there for a month now, busily engaged in training Joybells down to the semblance of a twoyear-old, filing off his teeth, adroitly touching up his coat with dyes, counterfeiting the appearance of Sleighbells in every detail. AND at last the race was at hand. The Wide-awake • would be run at Latonia on Saturday, and this was Thursday evening. Gabriel, as financier of the enterprise, had come out to Cincinnati, and a hundred thousand dollars of his money was already in the hands of agents and commissioners to be placed in pool-rooms all over the country at the proper moment. He and DeVries were counting confidently on a haul of over a million dollars.
Then, as Gabriel was in his hotel rooms dressing for dinner, DeVries burst in with a telegram from Mrs. Lee’s maid, Delia, every word of which spelled ruin to their venture as well as to themselves. A detective named Bell had in some impossible way discovered their purpose and had informed Mrs. Lee, who was leaving post-haste for Cincinnati to prevent it.
Gabriel steadied under the shock of the catastrophe. He thought of the hundred thousand dollars he had put up, of the huge profits he would lose, of the ghastly position in which he would be placed if his part in the affair became known. In the confused welter of his thoughts one idea was uppermost, and he voiced it viciously.
“That woman must be stopped!”
“How?” DeVries gave a gesture of helplessness. “How? You can always get what you want, if you’re willing to pay for it. Wreck her train—blow up a bridge —anything to keep her from getting here!”
As he spoke, he was thinking. His words suggested an expedient. He called to his valet.
“Bring me a railroad guide!” he snapped. “And then get out. I’ve business to attend to.”
When the book was brought, he hurriedly thumbed over the pages until he found a map of the region where Mrs. Lee had taken refuge. After studying this carefully, he whipped over to a table of train-schedules.
“We’re in luck!” he exclaimed. “The only way she can get out is on a little branch road running down from the mountains, and there’s no train she can take before eleven o’clock. It’s only seven now—” He
glanced at the traveling-clock on the table. “WTe’ve
four hours to work in but there’s not a minute to spare.”
Turning to the telephone, he put in a call to New York for President Allison of the Stony Creek Coa! Corporation. When the connection was effected, he spoke tersely and with the accent of authority. As a heavy stockholder in the company, he knew that Allison could not afford to disregard his wishes.
"Perry Gabriel talking,” he announced. “Say, Allison: I want something of you. You must have some fellow in the Stony Creek district that you keep for—well, confidential work. You understand? A sort of strong-arm
proposition.” . . . “Sure,” he broke in impatiently. “I realize that you don’t know anything about such things yourself. But your secretary does, or your
manager, or superintendent, or some-
The answer to this was evidently more satisfactory; for when he spoke again his tone was mollified, although still peremptory.
“All right, then. But you’ll have to move fast, Allison. There’s less than four hours at your disposal, and there mustn’t be any slip-ups or blundering. Now, listen; you know the Logan coal-property? Well, for the next forty-eight hours I want it absolutely cut off from the rest of the w’orld; no chance of any communication getting out of there by railroad, wagon-road, telephone, telegraph, messenger or— . . What’s
that?” His voice became ugly. “Impossible? Don’t try to pull anything like that on me! And don’t waste any more time talking. I’ve told y’ou what I want. Now do I get it or don’t I?”
There was a pause, and then Gabriel cut in again.
“Might be a loss of life, you sayr? Oh, look here; I don’t want to listen to a lot of old-woman objections. W’hat I’m after is action, and damn quick action at that—. . . Hello! . . . Yes, this is Gabriel . . . What d’ y’ say? . . . How the hell do I know how it’s to be done? That’s up to you. If you can’t manage a little thing like this, seems to me it’s about time we were getting some brains at the head of that company of yours.”
The open threat obviously’ bludgeoned Allison into compliance; for, listening to the reply, some of the lines of irritability on Gabriel’s face smoothed out.
“Well, tHat sounds better,” he said grudgingly. “But remember—no stalling, Allison. This means a lot to me, and I won’t stand for any excuses. Get busy.”
With that he clapped the receiver on its hook, and turned scowling to DeVries.
“That fellow’s got a crust,” he grumbled, “trying to argue with me. By gad, if he isn’t careful I will put the skids under that two-by-fcur jcb of his. I guess I made it plain, though, what he can expect if he don’t deliver. For all his prayer-meeting scruples, he won’t dare fall down on me.”
manager, or superintendent, or somebody you can pass a tip to. And I’m counting on you to help me out of a hole.”
AND this assumption of Gabriel’s proved correct; for from some mysterious source a message came that night to the cabin of Bud Fordney, a Stony Creek mountaineer, who. with no visible means of support beyond a little desultory hunting and fishing. seemed to be always well supplied with money.
The message, innocent enough on its face, was nevertheless conducive of great activity. Bud Fordney. as soon as he had decoded it. roused up his brothers. Smith and Joel; and the three hastened up the mountain side.
By covert routes they made their way over rocks and through the underbrush, until they reached the edge of an artificial lake maintained as a fishing-preserve by a number of wealthy men in nearby Ohio River towns.
A natural pool, fed by’ several mountain streams, it had been widened and deepened so as to cover twenty or thirty acres by means of a dam constructed at the lower end. At present its size was increased; for
Warily skirting the edge, and careful to leave no tracks, the Fordney brothers satisfied themselves that no one was about and the old caretaker safely asleep in his shack.
Bud tugged a gold-filled watch with an illuminated dial from his trousers pocket. “Got to bony up,“ bo muttered. “Smith, you tote the bos up the and Joel, you fetch me down the
a season of rain had swelled the brooks and runs of the section, and the lake was brimfull. with a foaming cascade pouring over the spillway of the dam.
Ho dueled down into the ravine below the dam and burr • • d into the rocks that formed its foundation. In a few minuta» he emerged, dragging two strand» of wire whieh he connected with those brought him by • • 1 «ee wires of Joel's ran back to the square box
on the hilltop, whieh Smith had unalung from his
Satisfied with their preparations. Bud and Joel climbed swiftly up to join Smith beside the "box,” a battery of the usual type used in blasting operations.
There was a murtled detonation which shook the Kilk and then a roar as the dam went out in a spouting eruption of foam and rocks. The water held for a moment, then leaped through the opening and with the solidity of a wedge swirled out of the ravine and down the valley—carrying with it great boulders and sections of masonry, uprooting trees, shearing away masses of earth and stone, obliterating everything in its path.
With the first crash of the explosion. Bud and Joel Fordney began jerking in the wires, while Smith swung the battery back to his shoulders; and, with the escaping » »ater pounding on their ears, the three vvfv off up tht? ¿*lopt?.
As they rea hed the crest of the rise above the lake, slipping shadowlike among the trees, they heard the whistle of a train—the train which Constance Lee and John Bell were taking for the junction.
Joel Fordney turned and looked back, with something
? ‘leaven o’clock a-pullin’ out from th' old Logan place." he said. "By gorry, she’ll jest about git ketched. crossin’ the long trestle.”
none of our lookout.” Bud shoved him "C'm on, ye darn fool. We.want to be
IN JOHN BELL'S lofig career as a private detective, * he had never before changed sidefe; and although he tified in his present course, his settled habit y acted as a prod to conscience all the way, journeyed from Cincho 'i I retreat
the time he reached the little railway station in scruples had become so exigent that he ümœt ready to abandon his purpose and go back
stepped to the platform the first person is Mr». Lee herself. She looked so young, so n every way so unfitted to cope with the machinations of such case-hardened sinners as De\ ries. Beachey and Gabriel, that his decision was He would stand by his wife’s judgment iclinations. This woman needed him, if
■engers. and as she saw that no one else followed i. a shadow of disappointment fell over her face.
a quality in Constance Lee’s beauty which peal to the protective instinct in man. ontrast of her wistful eyes and radiant supplied the provocative touch of some grace of temperament she robbed of assertion and allowed it to steal Î observer, continually charming him by
He had drawn a worn silver badge from his pocket, and he showed it to her, half-hidden in his palm. She gave him a startled glance, and drew back.
“Don’t be frightened,” he said. “I only want to out. I’ve got hold of some information that I think you’d like to know.”
She studied him keenly before she put the cautious
"What sort of information?”
"The whole bag of tricks.” He gave a comprehensive wave of his hand, the thumb thrown out, the fingers spread. "Lord! I’ve been shadowing you for four months, Mrs. Lee, working for the other side. This isn’t the first time I’ve been up in this country. I know things about your affairs that would make you jump.”
dli (lay .Jeffries off and fastidious • • lfish -h~lL of I'~rr:. r4t er-of-fact h-tective - -pe~l.
• `ai~n. he lifted hi~ hat • •~,ut I'd like to have •Jhri Bell; I'm a l'in» statement, instead of reassuring her, only increased he: distrust. She looked at him haughtily through half closed eyelids.
If \ on know anything that you think would be of advantage to me. you bad better see my lawyer, Mr. Beachey. He attends to all my business matters.”
\\ ith a curt bow, she turned to cross the village street toward the general store. But Bell was not to be shaken off. followed, keeping in step with her.
"Beachey’d be one to see, all right,” he said, "if 1 was selling out my clients or figuring on a shake-down. That’s what you think I’m up to. But you’ve got me wrong. Mrs. Lee, and if you’ll give me five minutes I’ll prove it to you. Besides,” he added, “this isn’t all business. There’s a personal slant to it. So I prefer to deal direct.”
She stopped and studied him again, keeping her poise with an effort. A stodgy man in black clothes, with a commonplace face under a derby hat. Private detectives, »he bad always heard, were, like princes, not to be trusted they were unreliable and despicably venal. Yet. as she doubtfully, even contemptuously surveyed Bell, she caught an impression of friendliness and sincerity.
She softened faintly but perceptibly.
"1 am waiting for the mail to be distributed.” She motioned toward the store, which was also the postoffice. “That will take about five or ten minutes—Aime enough for you to convince me that it is worth my while to listen to you. Go on—or, no”—quickly— "there are some questions I want to ask you first. You say that you have been shadowing me for four months and have been in the Cumberlands before. For whom were you acting?”
Her gaze was so earnest and searching that Bell, noting also that her voice, in spite of her efforts to control it. was tremulous, realized how tremendously important his answer was to her.
"I can’t answer that,” he said slowly, “I’ve already told you I'm not here to sell out.”
"Oh. your scruples!”—in angry scorn. “You can spare them. We knew when you were here before, and we knew, too, that you were sent by—Judge Jeffries.” In her heart she did not believe that it was Jeffries: but she threw the assertion out as a bait, hoping to draw from the man some inkling of his real connections and purpose. A thrill of joy went over her as she saw Bell's expression of surprise.
“Judge Jeffries?” he stammered.
She was quick to follow up her advantage.
"Oh, don’t appear so astonished.” Her lip curled. "Who else had any interest in identifying me as Caroline Logan, graduate of a reform school and adopted waif? And why make a secret of it? In his suit for the recovery of this coal-land, it was natural, I suppose, that he should try to find out all he could about me.”
Bell looked at her gravely.
"If you really think that,” he said, “you’re wrong. Judge Jeffries never had any idea that you were Caroline Logan until Perry Gabriel told him so.”
"Perry Gabriel?” Her voice harsh with amazement. "Yes, ma’am. It was out at the Jamaica track. Didn’t DeVries ever write you about it? I was with Gabriel, and I’d cautioned him to keep his mouth shut. But the first thing he did was to pick a quarrel with Judge Jeffries and blurt out that you were a highjacking adventuress, traveling under a false name. Then the judge started for him, and the yellow cur jumped behind me and began hollering for me to protect him. But it didn’t do him any good. I guess the judge would have finished him if DeVries and a bunch of stable-hands hadn’t pulled him off.”
She listened as one in a dream. Gabriel had done this? Gabriel, who had pursued her feverishly and unremittingly, who had asked her to marry him and then had drifted out of her life, accepting her refusal, she supposed, as final?
"Perry Gabriel?” she repeated. “But why should
he--She asked the question as much of herself as
of Bell. She did not doubt Bell’s story. It was too circumstantial, too straight. And, accepting it, her mind leaped to another conclusion.
"Was it Gabriel, then, who sent you out here before to look me up?”
Bell had not expected this. He covered his temporary confusion with one of his owlishly blank stares and tried to counter.
"Who was it told you that Judge Jeffries was the one?” he asked. “Beachey?”
She gave him a frowning glance and stood silent, thinking. Beachey had never told her directly that it was .Jeffries; but he had always intimated it.
Two days ago she would have staked everything on her faith in Beachey and his devotion to her interests. But since then he had visited her, and she had discovered by chance that he was using her maid as a spy upon her movements. Thereupon, by employing various feminine ruses, she had trapped him into an unconscious admission that he had been disingenuous with her in o ther matters. And if he had deceived her in one respect, why not in all? He was in love with her, she knew. She knew, too, his subtle, circuitous way of achieving a purpose. So she could not help but wonder if the curious chain of events which had served to separate Jeffries and herself had not been of Beachey’s forging, aided and abetted by Perry Gabriel. Did this detective know? How much did he know? It was on her lips to ask him, but she checked the impulse. Within the last forty-eight hours she had found herself in such a web of intrigue and deception that she was fearful of every one, apprehensive that his offer of aid was only another trick. And yet he seemed genuine.
As she stood there, confused, unsure of herself, doubting all the world, the little crowd about the post office began to push inside. The mail was ready for delivery.
“Wait a moment,” she said to Bell, welcoming the interruption. “I wish to see if there are any letters for me. Then, if you don’t mind, we will walk out to my house and can talk on the way.”
She hurried across the street. As Bell had suspected, she had gone to the station in the hope of finding Jeffries on the train ; for after that conversation with Beachey two nights before she had at once written to Jeffries—a mere request to place some money for her on his horse in the forthcoming Wide-awake, but enough, she believed, to bring him to her.
He had not come. But perhaps there was a letter from him?
THE wrinkled, old postmaster, however, simply shook his head as she presented herself at the window. She turned away; and Bell noticed the expression of hurt pride and disappointment on her face as she came out of the store and beckoned him to join her.
They walked along in silence until they were clear of the village and trudging together up the rutted mountain road. It was a murky day; there had been what the natives called, a “long wet spell,” and although it was not raining now, the sky was heavy and overcast, and it looked as though it might pour again at any moment.
"Mr. Bell,” Constance said at last, “had you any especial reason for asking if Louis Beachey was the one who suggested that Judge Jeffries was responsible for your investigation of me?”
He considered this, his gaze on the mist-hidden hills. "Only that it was Beachey who tipped off my client that you were Caroline Logan. Or so, at least, my client said.”
"Beachey told that to Gabriel? But why—Why?”
“I haven’t said it was Gabriel.”
“Stop quibbling!” she cried. "Y'ou said you wanted to help me, and heaven knows I need it. If we are to get anywhere, you and I must be candid and frank. I am willing to take the risk if you are.”
“Fair enough,” Bell conceded, after another pause for thought. “That is, if. like in court, I’m not compelled to answer regarding privileged communications."
She threw out her hands impatiently.
"Answer, or refuse to answer what you please, so long as you straighten out this tangle for me.”
"I think, maybe, I can do that, ma'am."
"Very well, then. For my part, I have begun to suspect every one with whom I am closely connected. They all— my maid, my attorney, every one—seem to be in a conspiracy to deceive me. Will you tell me why, of all people. Perry Gabriel should have employed a detective to look me up?”
“Well,” Bell answered reluctantly, “he figured that you were the one who had been blackmailing him.
"Blackmailing him! Blackmailing! I? What are you talking about? Blackmailing him?”
"Yes, ma’am.” Bell stood his ground. "Beachey had been squeezing him out of a lot of money, you see. on the strength of some crooked business deals that Gabriel had bragged about to you, and Perry couldn't see it any other way but that you were back of the hold-up."
Constance gave a horrified gasp and closed her eyes. For a moment Bell thought she was going to faint.
"I remember," she said dazedly, "that one night, at my apartment, he was boasting of the money he had made in some rascally transactions. I don't remember what they were; I only recall being disgusted at the idea of a man of his wealth stooping to such things. And to think that ho dared suspect me of—” She broke off. “And Beachey. you say, got money from him on the strength of it? Oh. 1 don’t believe it! Beachey would have killed him for such an accusation.”
"As I understand it," Bell said dryly. "Beachey rather led him along to think that it was so. Beachey s deep. Mrs. Lee hard to tell what he's up to. Exactly what his game was in this case I don't know. I might guess, but the chances are that you could guess better. So it strikes me that my play is to spill the whole works and let you decide what you want to do.
"To begin then, I was hired by Gabriel to get the goods on you as a blackmailer. 1 followed you down to Atlantic City and saw you make the acquaintance of .Judge Jeffries. You’ll forgive me”—apologetically -"but 1 believed then you were out to trim him. I hadn't any doubt of it. when I found that lie had given you the inside on this lawsuit of his to recover the Logan coal-lands. ‘Here’s where she and Beachey cashes,’ I said to myself. Then I tumbled to the truth. You weren’t vamping him; it was straight goods. You were—well you like him pretty well, and he was certainly in love with you.”
Constance looked quickly away, the color flooding up to her face. But Bell went on, without appearing to notice her embarrassment.
“Gabriel came down, and I showed him the two of you together. Even that pinhead could see what was on, and
She’s the mysterious Logan heiress that Jeffries is suing for those coallands. You go out to Kentucky and trace up Caroline Logan.
“I did. I found out that Caroline Logan, the adopted daughter and heir of Woodson Logan, had been in a reform school; but I couldn’t get the one link of evidence to positively identify her with Mrs. Norman Lee.
Gabriel wouldn’t wait, though; he had to throw it in Jeffries face—and get punched for his pains.
“It was up to me then to hustle for the proof. But, instead, I stumbled on to something that made it look like we’d been wrong, and I went to Gabriel with it. ‘Mrs. Lee’s not Caroline Logan any more than I am,’ I said, and he fired me.
“Then afterward I found I’d been handed a bum steer. Maybe you know about it. It was a picture of some reform-school girls. It was in a drawer of your desk, and the name,
‘Caroline Logan,’ was written under one of them that wasn’t you.”
She puckered her brows.
“There was such a picture,” she said, “but I didn’t know I had it. I haven’t seen or thought of it for years.”
“No? Well, I guess, then, your maid, Delia, planted it there. She’s a slick one. But let that pass. What I’m getting at is that later on I dug up an unquestionable photograph of you in your reform-school dress. At last, I had my proof.
“My first idea was to light out ta Gabriel with it. But my wife says,
‘No. He’s treated you like a dog,’ she says, ‘and you’re through with him.
What you’re going to do now is to get on the right side,’ she says. ‘You're going to swing over to Mrs. Lee.’
So that’s the way I happen to be here.”
Constance looked at him with a tremulous smile on her lips. There was then, some generosity, some kindness left in the world.
“Some day I shall try to thank Mrs. Bell for that.” There were tears in her eyes.
“And what is your idea now?” she asked. “What do you want to do?”
he went up in the air. ‘You frame that woman!’ he tells me, and chases back to New York. Next day he sends for me, and I find him licking his chops. ‘No need to frame her,’ he says. ‘I’ve had a tip from Beachey.
“Well, my wife thought you’d probably want me to work for you, and I believe I could make myself useful.”
“I am sure you could,” Constance said. “But what is there to do? it’s such a dirty mess, and all past history. What would be the advantage of stirring it up again? I have already decided to cut myself off entirely from all those people.”
“But it isn’t past history, Mrs. Lee.” Bell spoke sternly “They’re still at it. There’s ascheme on right now between Gabriel and DeVries to use your stable to pull off the biggest swindle in the history of the turf. And Beachey has ho/ned in on ’em for his bit, too.”
“Use my stable—the biggest swindle—” She clutched his arm. “What are you saying now?”
As briefly as he could, although with many interruptions on her part, he gave her the details. Before he had finished she turned and started to run towards the village.
“What are you going to do?” demanded Bell, catching up with her.
“Why, stop them, of course—telephone, telegraph.” “No!” Bell halted her. “That would only give them a chance to cover up. What you want to do is to catch them dead to rights. Now, listen; you and me’ll go to Cincinnati and drop down on ’em without a word of warning. If you telephone, they’d only say I’d lied.”
The prey of doubts again, she looked at him piercingly. “How do I know that you are not lying?” “Come with me to Cincinnati, and find out. We can’t get a train before eleven o’clock to-night, but that will get us there in plenty of time. W ill you go, ma’am?”
“Yes, I’ll go,” she said determinedly. “Nothing could keep me back.”
DELIA sitting on the porch preparing some vegetables for dinner, rose hastily, gathering them up in her apron, as she saw Constance and Bell far down the road. She flew into the house and peeped cautiously from the
window. Who was this man, and why had he come? And then, as the two turned in at the gate and came up the weed-grown drive, she saw Bell plainly and recognized him at once. It was the detective who had been at the apartment that morning in February.
Why was he here? Her mind leaped to one conclusion: it must be for her. Too frightened to reason the thing out, she gave way to panic. And as Bell and Mrs. Lee reached the house, she ran down the cellar steps and hid behind a pile of packing-boxes.
She heard Constance move through the rooms, calling her, but she only crouched lower and made no answer. Constance returned to the porch.
“Queer,” Delia heard her say to Bell. “She rarely goes out. Shall we sit here until she comes?"
Her curiosity overmastering her fears, Delia stole over to one of the small cellar windows just at the side of the porch. The voices came to her distinctly enough for her to gather the gist of the conversation.
As she listened, her personal apprehension vanished, but a new anxiety took its place. De Vries and his scheme were threatened. And what a scheme it was! No wonder he had called it a "killing.” At once she saw its opportunities. DeVries had not exaggerated. If he could put it through, it meant all the things she had longed for. dreamed of—marriage, diamonds, luxurious jazzy days at one gay racing-resort after another. And now this prying detective had spotted it, and was here planning with Mrs. Lee to prevent it.
Her fingers curved. She wanted to throttle him. He shouldn’t get away with it. She vowed he should not. But what could she do? She was helpless—one against two. Yet some way she must get word to De\ ries—and at
This would have been an easy matter if Constance were still the trustful mistress of two days ago. But ever since the evening when Mrs. Lee had overheard the con-
Delia, however, was quick at expedients, and soon one suggested itself. The two on the porch still had their heads together; she felt fairly safe. So, creeping up the cellar steps at the back of the house, she ran across the kitchen garden between two rows of blackberry bushes and climbed the hillside to where the old man who chopped their wood was clearing out underbrush.
She handed him a slip of paper on which she had stopped to scribble a message before leaving the cellar.
“Take this down to the telegraph office at the station,” she directed, “and don’t waste any time getting there. You’d better go this way — pointing to a path which led out of sight of the house.
“And here”—she turned away for a moment to get a five-dollar bill from her stocking—“after you’ve paid for the wire, you can keep what's left for yourself.”
She knew that, with such an amount to expend on moonshine whisky, there was small chance of his turning up again that evening, to be questioned about his absence.
Then, with him despatched on his errand, she hastily wove a loose basket of rushes and. having filled it with wild strawberries to serve as an excuse for her disappearance, returned to the house.
Mrs. Lee came in from the porch at the sound of her step in the back entry.
“Delia, you won’t mind being left here alone to-night, will you. The quick glance of surprise Delia gave was an admirable piece of acting. I am compelled to go. Constance continued, "to leave at once this evening. I shall take only a bag with me, and leave you behind to pack up and close the house. Then you can come on and join me in New ''t ork.’ “Oh. that will be all right." Delia nodded. "I don’t mind being alone at all."
versation between Beachey and herself, she had been under suspicion, and she wisely guessed that any excuse she made to go to the station would be promptly investigated by Bell.
Her tone was impassive, but there was a slight stiffness in it which she could not control. She had noticed and jealously resented the unaccustomed reserve, the evasion b\ Mrs.
“And. by the way, Delia, there is a—a Mr. Bell here. He will stay for dinner and leave with me on the eleveno’clock train.”
Again that look of well-feigned surprise. Delia knew that any other attitude on her part would rouse question, for during all their stay in the mountains, Beachey had
been theonly other visitor—therefore the lifting of the eyebrows and a compression of the lips, as if shutting off an involuntary question.
But Constance did not bother to explain. Indeed, she found a certain satisfaction in making Delia feel that she was no longer worthy of trust.
She went back to the porch, and thereafter, until train-time, she and Bell were most guarded in their communications.
Lee of any mention of her decision to go to Cincinnati, so leaving the inference that she was bound directK for New York. It was a significant departure from the old frank confidence between them.
Delia, as she listened to them at the dinner-table, exchanging their careful commonplaces about the country and the weather, had to turn her head to hide a contemptuous smile. For all their assiduous precautions, she had spiked their guns. Let them go to Cincinnati if they wanted to. Jim was forewarned, and he was smart enough to outwit them in some way. Her stormy spirit exulted in the trick she had played them. At last they were gone, the buckboard which took them to the station splashing through the puddles on the dark, mountain road.
Continued on page 33
Continued from page 19
DELIA stood in the doorway, looking after them until they were swallowed up in the rainy murk.
Rain-drops pattered outside on the shingles of the porch roof; the wind moaned in the trees; the old house gave voice to eerie noises. But, on edge with excitement and suspense, Delia paid no heed to the loneliness and the night. To quiet her nerves she got a thin bundle of letters from DeVries out of her trunk, and seated herself by the lamp to reread them.
There were only four brief scrawls, written on half-sheets of paper, and they told very little. DeVries had certainly been chary enough of information. Never ottce did he give a hint as to the nature of his plans. But in each letter was a somewhat indefinite promise—that, if she stood by him, she would soon wear diamonds.
As she finished with them Delia hissed angrily, Now that she had a fair idea of the scheme and its magnitude, she was indignant that she had not been told of it and allowed to copie in as a partner.
She wondered how he would meet this new situation without her. If he had any sense, he would kidnap the detective and chloroform Connie until the race was over, and he had collected and made his getaway.
As she sat there, she began to picture ¡DeVries with his pockets full of money, and perhaps the necessity of a rapid departure before him. How much thought would he give to her—or, how little?
In a violent reaction, she tore the twisted letters across, and, throwing them on the floor, got up and paced restlessly back and forth, her hands pressed to her temples.
But still those thronging pictures filled her mind. DeVries, free, rich, moving from one foreign racing-resort to another with never a thought of her. And she, dismissed by Mrs. Lee, out on her own.
She stopped abruptly and sat down on the nearest chair, suddenly calm.
This was a contingency that had never occurred to her, but, considering the events of the last two days, and Constance’s changed manner to her, it was almost a certainty.
Dismissed by Connie! No longer with her, to look after her, to share her difficulties and rejoice in her successes! Delia had never before stopped to reckon with the depth and strength of her maternal love for the bright-haired, daring little girl whom she, the older one, had taken under her wing at the reform school.
They had clung together there, and later, when Constance became heiress to the Logan fortune, her first thought had been for her, Delia. She had offered to set lier old schoolmate up in business; but Delia had no desire for a business career, and had chosen to remain as Mrs. Lee’s maid, a position which suited her exactly.
And now, for the sake of a man who had used her to feather his own nest and had refused her even his confidence, who had always—she saw that now with a sort of dreadful clarity—taken her blind love with careless indifference, she had sold Connie out, she had estranged her for ever.
She started up wildly. But as she did so, there was a sudden rumble and roar from back in the hills which shook the house and set the windows to rattling.
NERVOUS in a thunder-storm, Delia stepped to the window to close the shutters. But as she threw up the sash and leaned out, she paused. There were no flashes in the sky,no coming black pall •overhead. Instead, the clouds were breaking away toward the east, and through them she caught glimpses of the moon. Also, although the pealing crash had sounded two minutes before, the deep reverberations still continued.
Wondering what it could mean, she peered out into the darkness and listened. Lights were beginning to twinkle from cabins along the ridge; the whole countryside seemed to be awakened. And still that mysterious, rolling rumble filled the ai".
he heard the thud of hoof-beats on the road, and a horseman passed at a gallop. Delia threw a cloak about her and, lighting a lantern herself, hurried down to the road.
“What is it?” She intercepted a lank, bearded moonshiner.
“Dam at th’ fishin’-camp went out. They say ez how th’ ’leven-o’clock train on the branch got ketched at the long trestle, an’ everybody on it was kilt.”
“O, my God!” She reeled and would have fallen, if he had not caught her.
“Hold up thar! What’s wrong with yuh?” he asked, as he steadied her.
She did not stop to answer. Jerking loose from him, she was off down the road, her flying footsteps leaving him distanced.
Panting, stumbling over the ruts, she reached the tracks. Here the lanternswere thicker; a steady stream of people was bobbing along the ties. She wondered dully where they all came from, chiefly ! because they hindered her progress and got j in her way.
Round a curve she ran. The roar of rushing waters rose louder in her ears. Then she suddenly stopped.
The track ended abruptly on a sea of wild water. The torrent from the broken dam had spread out here over a stretch of low-lying bottom land. Across it the railroad had been built on a long trestle, leading to a bridge about three-quarters of a mile away.
But now the trestle was gone. Only bent and twisted stumps of its supports projected above the swirling flood.
Delia pushed down into the crowd on the bank. Her breath was coming in sobbing gasps; the tears were streaming down her face.
“Wasn’t any one saved?” She clutched the arm of a man beside her. “The whole train was swept away?”
“All but that.” He pointed across the welter of foam to a preserved span, and Delia saw that a single railway-coach still hung to the end of the structure, half in and half out of the water. “The train was out on the trestle when the flood poured out of the ravine.” The man was one of those eager narrators always found at the scene of catastrophe. “Jack Hayes, the engineer, seen it coming—a solid wall of water twelve-foot high, they say—and he knew he could never reach ‘tother side of it, nor yet reverse and back off before it hit. So he stopped there on that high spot, hoping the weight of the train would hold her. It did, long enough for the folks aboard to pile out and make their way back to shore.”
“But the passengers were saved?” Delia shrilly interrupted him. She caught him with both trembling hands. “The people got off—all of them.”
“Didn’t I tell you? Sure they got off. They’re up there in a bunch now.” He waved his hand toward the top of the bank.”
Delia dashed up the slope and pushed into the center of the group. She ran her eyes over the ring of lantern-lit faces; then turned wildly to the conductor who, notebook in hand, was getting material for his report.
“Where’s Mrs. Lee?” she demanded— “Mrs. Constance Lee? She was on that train.”
The conductor made a gesture of exasperation.
“Ain’t I got nothing to do except be j bothered about Mrs. Lee?” he barked. I “When she found out that there was no way of getting through, and maybe won’t j be for a week—road-bed’ll be washed out all the way down, the wagon-roads in just about as bad shape, and the telephoneand telegraph-wires all out of commission —she hunted up a rowboat and her and a fellow named Bell started off. We tried to stop them—it’s nothing short of suicide— but they wouldn’t listen, and pulled out about twenty minutes ago. There they go now, down by the bridge.”
He pointed out far across the dark, tumbling waters to a tiny spark of lantern light. Delia’s horrified eyes followed the direction. The little, far-away glimmer of light twinkled for a moment on an uplifting wave, rocked far to one side, and then swept out of sight as the boat passed round a bend.
THE craft which Constance had commandeered for her hazardous voyage was one of those flat-bottomed, scowlike j punts, known along the Ohio River, and its tributaries as “john-boats”—merely a I few un pain ted boards nailed together and provided w it h a rude pair of oars.
Bow and stern exactly alike, and without sembla nee of a keel exeept for a thin strip of plank along the bottom, it was under ordinary eonditions a slow, awkward and unwieldy means of transportation. But in a freshet like this, one eould make progress by simply letting it travel with the current: and it possessed two distinct advantages; it was not easy to upset, and since it drew but an inch or two of water, it eould slide o\ er hidden rocks and sandbars where a shapelier vessel would quickly come to grief.
Bell, when Mrs. Lee first proposed the trip, looked dubiously from the clumsy thing to the swirling drift-laden torrent and shook his head. He could only think that the experience they had just been through had shocked her out of her senses.
"Nothing doing!” he said emphatically. "About all that's left us now is to hire some fellow to take a message for you, and have it relayed as a telegram to the track officials or judges."
“And let DeVries or Gabriel get it through some convenient leak? I thought we had agreed that the only safe plan was to take them by surprise.”
“Yes. But how are we going to take them bysurprise if we're drowned?” asked Bell, with gloomy pertinence.
"But we're not going to be drowned. It won’t be the first time I’ve tackled high water in a john-boat—far riskier ones than this too. You forget that I was born and raised on the Kentucky River, and when a rise came I would ride the swift current on a log, a raft—anything that came handy. Do you think I am going to back down now, when so much depends on it?”
“All right. But how are we going to manage it? I’m about as much use in a boat as fins to a cat.”
“Oh, I’ll handle the boat. All you have to do is sit and hold the lantern.”
He picked up the bags and started dowrn the bank.
“If you’re game for it,” he said stolidly, “I am. Let’s go.”
Railroad men and flood-wise mountaineers gathered about them, dissuading them, urging them not to take such a desperate chance. Nothing could induce one of them, they' said, to adventure it.
Constance, listening unmoved to the Cassandra chorus, directed Bell to go forward with the bags and lantern and seat himself in the stern; and then, having pushed off, she took the oars and rowed out into the booming stream.
The current met them and set their cranky bark to careening dangerously; but with skilful management she quickly headed it about. The john-boat, sullenly yielding, hung poised a moment, then, catching the impetus of the flood, shot down toward the bend and the wrecked ruins of the bridge below.
Just this side was a low-lying point covered w-ith stunted willows, which was now completely inundated, and the water from above, seeking the shortest cut, was pouring across it like a tide-race. Almost irresistibly the heavyboat was drawn in toward it— to be caught and swamped in those clutching branches—but flinging all her strength against the starboard oar, Constance fought inch by inch to the outer edge of the channel, and swung at its widest arc round into the river.
This maneuver, successful though it was, nearly proved their undoing; for in making the turn they were sw-ept directly toward the central pier of the ruined bridge. Bell saw the solid pile of masonry looming ahead He shut his eyes in anticipation of the inevitable crash. But again, by dexterous oarsmanship, she avoided the obstacle. They passed it with scarcely a foot to spare —so close that she had hurriedly to ship the oar on that side as they shot by.
And now for a moment the way was clear. She had a brief breathing-spell, if you could call it that with the short, choppy waves tossing them about and the flotsam a constant menace.
Great logs catapulted at them, sometimes leaping out of the water and splashing back so near that they were drenched with spray. Timbers, hen-coops, fence rails, pig-pens—all the nondescriptwreckage of a freshet floated by-.
SO THEY traveled mile after mile at express-train speed, pitching, tossing, yawing off on unexpected tacks, taking sudden, arrowlike dashes, whirled round to drift sidewise twenty feet before the boat could be righted, grazing hidden obstructions, rocking and reeling, bumped and battered—every second a new hazard, eternal vigilance the price not only of a safety but of life itself—two bugs on a chip in a rain-flooded gutter.
The sky clouded over again, and the moon, which had been feebly trying to shine was obscured. To their other perils was added that of a shrouding darkness.
All things end, though, one way or another. As they sped on, the blackness began to lift like a succession of veils. The trees along the shore, which had been a blur of denser black, commenced to assume individual shapes. The first gray light of morning stole across the water.
They rounded a bend, and saw a huddle of houses and a dominating church spire or two on the left bank. A tethered wharfboat was lying up almost even with the top of the levee.
Constance rested on her oars a moment to gaze at the little town. Her wrists were numbed and swollen, her muscles aching from the long strain.
But the river, as if watching for a moment of negligence, caught them in a swirl, and drove the john-boat with a crash against a projecting snag.
Frantically she backed water, and by her efforts saved them from capsizing, but the damage was done. As they floated free again, the river came pouring in through a jagged hole in the side.
“Get the bucket!” she shrieked to Bell. “Bail!”
And as he obeyed and struggled against the rushing inflow, she threw the last of her strength into an endeavor to reach the shore. It was a close call, but they made it. At the racing-stroke, she drove the clumsy scow in alongside the wharf-boat. Bell lifted her to its deck, flung the bags after her, and then, as the john-boat filled to the gunwales and sank, leaped himself.
A blue-capped wharfmaster came running out to lend them assistance.
“What place is this?” Bell asked.
When he told them, they could hardly believe their ears. They had come sixty miles in a little over three hours.
“Any chance to get a train out of here?”
“That’s as may be.” The wharfmaster waggled his beard. “We’re open to the main line, and they’re running, I understand; but with all the upper end of the branch out of commission, whether they’d make up a train just to go twenty miles to the junction, I don’t—”
“Never mind,” Constance interrupted decisively. “We haven’t come this far to be beaten. There must be some way of getting through—hand-car, wagon, automobile or something, even another boat. At the moment what I want more than anything else is a cup of hot coffee and a chance to dry myself.”
Fortunately the wharfmaster was in a position to meet both requirements. He made up a roaring fire in the little stove in his office, and as they stood about it, their damp garments steaming in the grateful warmth while they recounted their adventures, he brewed them strong coffee.
Two cups of this, and Constance announced that she was ready to start for the railroad station.
Bell looked at her in incredulous wonder. She had been through a terrific ordeal. She was jaded, fagged for want of sleep, bedraggled. Her arms were so wrenched and sore from the tug of the oars that when she drank her coffee he had had to hold the cup to her lips. And yet she was undaunted. Bell recognized it as a triumph of the spirit over the weary flesh. The job she had taken on was not finished, and until it was, no matter what demand was made upon her this woman would never show herself a quitter.
THAT same Friday morning DeVries was also out early. At seven o’clock he was at breakfast in a lunch-room just outside the Latonia track, with a morning paper propped up before him, eagerly absorbing the news of the flood over his bacon and eggs.
It was not, of course, his first tidings of the calamity in the Cumberlands. He had waited up with Gabriel the night before, until the bulletins of it were posted in front of the newspaper offices. Consequently, he had not reached Latonia, whither he had moved on Thursday with the metamorphosed Joybells and one or two other horses until it was almost time for the early morning work-outs.
These proved entirely to his liking. True, he had not permitted Joybells to extend himself, for fear of revealing something to the watchful eyes of dockers and rail-birds, but the old horse was manifestly on edge, in perfect racing-fettle.
He was pretty sure, too, that no hint of the great secret had escaped. He had taken Uncle Ike and one or two of the other hands into his confidence, and these assured him that in all the track-gossip there was no suspicion of what was going on.
So, on the whole, DeVries, perched on his tall stool at the lunch-counter, was inclined to regard the world as pretty well all right. Those coal-company roughnecks had certainly done their work well. Now let Mrs. Lee and her wise-cracking bull know as much as they pleased; they’d have a hard time proving anything after the race was over and the winnings pocketed.
He had paid his check and was leaving the eating-place, when a reporter for one of the Cincinnati papers hailed him.
“You’re stable-manager for Mrs. Constance Lee, aren’t you?”
“Well, what’s she got entered for the opening to-morrow?”
“Mrs. Lee? Nothing. I’ve got a colt of Judge Jeffries’, that’s a candidate for the Wide-awake; but it isn’t fully settled yet that he’ll start. He’s been off all season and he’s not yet exactly in shape to—”
The reporter was not interested.
“Then why is Mrs. Lee so anxious to make the opening of Latonia?” he probed. “Going through hell and high water to reach here in time? ’ ’
“Going through—” DeVries’s jaw dropping, his ey es bulged.
“Sure! We just got a message. She and a fellow named Bell rede out that flood in a john-boat. Hadn’t you heard about it? They’re up at some burg on the branch now, waiting for railroad connections to get through, and expect to reach Cincinnati by this evening.”
De Vries’s face was gray.
“I’ve got to see about this,” he muttered, starting off on a run. At the Latonia gate he picked up a battered flivver that served as a taxi-cab and, giving directions to make speed, set out for Cincinnati to consult with Gabriel.^
But he had hardly covered half a mile before he changed his mind, and told the driver to take him to a house on the outskirts of Covington, the home-of a deputy sheriff, a former tout with whom he was acquainted.
Bursting in on the official, he explained that he had come to ask a favor, and added that any assistance extended would not go unrewarded. Was there, he asked, a noted woman criminal wanted anywhere, who was slender, blue-eyed, and with red-gold hair?
The deputy sheriff, with complete understanding, began to paw over his collection of police-cards.
“Here’s one that fills the bill, I reckon,” he said presently. “ ‘Torpedo-boat Sue,’ Wanted in Philadelphia for a diamond robbery.”
DeVries gave one glance at the card; then hustled the man out to the waiting cab and ordered the driver to take them to Gabriel’s hotel in Cincinnati.
Three-quarters of an hour later, while flood extras were being called on the street, luridly featuring the exploit of Mrs. Lee, the deputy sheriff, a comfortable bulge of Gabriel’s money in his inside pocket, filed the following telegram to the police authorities of various towns along the Ohio Valley:
Arrest and hold Madge Larrimore, alias “Torpedo-boat Sue,” wanted for diamond robbery in Philadelphia. Slender, young, and has blue eyes and golden hair. Refined in manner. Is traveling with male accomplice who poses as a detective. They are reported as headed for Cincinnati. Woman will probably claim to be Mrs. Constance Lee, of New York. Detain both man and woman and notify me at once. Also do not allow them to communicate with any one before my arrival.
THERE is perhaps nothing in the world quite so hopeless as the attempt to get information at a country railroad station when the lines are in a tangle.
Constance and Bell, trying to find out when and how they could continue their journey, encountered only a maddening confusion, officials gruffly preoccupied and too busy to answer questions.
On such indefinite assurances as they could gather, they waited, held at the station from hour to hour by unfulfilled promises. Noon came, with its hells and whistles; one o’clock, two. And still the irritating delay.
At last, about four o'clock in the afternoon, a wheezing locomotive coupled to a passenger-coach and a string of freight-cars pulled out, and they were aboard. The engine crawled along, stopping at every culvert and bridge, and fill to make sure that it was safe before venturing across.
Constance sat upright on the worn red plush seat of the dingy day-coach, and stared out of the window at the dreary, rain soaked landscape. She dared not let herself relax, or even recognize her weariness. Time enough for that, after she had settled with DeVries.
More than once, during the uncertainty of their tedious wait at the station, Bell had urged her to telegraph the track officials. She was not made of iron, he reminded her. Why must she take the whole burden of the thing on herself? Already overtaxed, she was simply heading for a collapse.
But she merely listened with her queer, little, I-have-just-begun-to-fight smile and ignored his protest. Her obstinacy on this point was inexplicable to him; but he finally understood that she was not to be swerved from her intention.
Her determination to meet the situation herself and sweep down like a whirlwind on Gabriel and DeVries was the incentive that had buoyed her up through the hazards of the past twenty-four hours and made her indifferent to the hardships. She must avoid notoriety, publicity at any cost. She would not have her reputation as a sportswoman smirched by even a whisper.
Upon her fatigue-numbed brain the rattle of the car-wheels beat a rhythmicrefrain, and half-remembered words began to fit themselves to it:
Of some one, who breasted high water,
And swam the North Fork and all that,
The rest of it evaded her. Just what some one had breasted high water to do she could not recall. But, at any rate, merit had been acquired thereby. And as the words kept running over and over in her mind to the accompaniment of the wheels, she pictured Jeffries’ face when he heard the story. She could see warm approval shining in his eyes.
But the palms and the paeans were not yet for her. The sequel to her adventure was not to be so easy, she found, when they arrived at the junction and were met by the announcement that the main-line express had been diverted to another route on account of flood-damage. All that was left them was to take a local to Portsmouth, where they would have, to ferry across the Ohio and might get a train on a different line to Cincinnati.
Another tiresome, red-plush ride; but finally, Portsmouth. As they stepped to the platform and gazed about in the darkness for some indication of the way to the ferry, a hawk-nosed citizen in faded blue accosted them.
“Where are you folks bound to, may I ask?” He studied them from under his down-drawn hat brim.
“We’re looking for the ferry,” Bell answered. “We want to get a train on the other side for Cincinnati.”
“Oh, you do? Well, instead, suppose you take a walk with me.”
He threw back his lapel, and showed a badge inscribed with the words: “Town Marshal.”
“Come along quiet now, and avoid trouble.”
“Say, Captain, who do you think we are?” he asked, amused. “Why, look here, old top; I’m a detective myself.” He brought out his own badge. “And this lady is Mrs. Constance Lee, of New York.”
“Eggszackly.” The uncertainty was gone from the marshal’s tone; he spoke with authority. “Mrs. Constance Lee, alias Madge Larrimore, alias ‘Torpedoboat Sue,’ alias I don’t know what else. S’pose you never heard of that Philadelphia diamond robbery? Well, we won’t argue about it. March up the street there, you two. Keep ahead of me and don’t try no funny business. Lively now! Watch your step!”
Constance was inclined to resist indignantly; but Bell, knowing the autocratic methods of village officials, persuaded her to accept the situation until he could get the affair straightened out.
At the town lockup, Bell again endeavored to convince the man of the absurdity of his mistake. But, with the prospect of a big reward and the eclat of nabbing two famous criminals, the marshal was in no mood to listen to anything he might advance.
One single concession he was willing to make; Constance, instead of being assigned to a cell, might occupy a room at his home. So, having placed the disgusted Bell behind the bars, he escorted her to his own modest frame dwelling and put her in charge of his wife.
To be continued