Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Red Mouse
Author: Osborne, William Hamilton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Red Mouse" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                             The Red Mouse

                           A Mystery Romance

                      By WILLIAM HAMILTON OSBORNE


    ILLUSTRATED BY
    THE KINNEYS

    _A. L. BURT COMPANY
    Publishers         New York_

    COPYRIGHT, 1909
    BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

    Published, January, 1909

    _To_
    L. G. S. O.



[Illustration: "'DID YOU PUT _HIM_ IN THAT FRAME?'"]



I


For years--the best years of her life, for that matter, as she often
reflected in lonely moments--Miriam Challoner had been trying to prove
to her own satisfaction that her husband was no worse than the majority
of young men married to rich women, but she could never find the
arguments whereby she might arrive at the desired conclusion. It is not
to be wondered at, then, that eventually there came a day when the
information was brought to her that even in the gay and
ultra-fashionable world in which they moved people spoke of him as "that
mad Challoner," and were saying that he was going a pace that was
rapidly carrying him far beyond the horizon of anything like
respectability--going to the dogs, in truth, as fast as her money could
take him there.

Now Miriam Challoner was not one of those women who deceive themselves,
if not their friends, when they say that if ever they hear of their
husbands doing such-and-such-a-thing they know perfectly well what they
will do. It is true that, like them, she did nothing; nevertheless, she
could not be persuaded to discuss with any one the humiliating position
in which her husband had placed her.

In a way, this attitude of hers was unfortunate, for it was more or less
responsible for the note of melancholy cadence which crept into her
mind. And so it was that before very long she was dimly conscious of an
emotion quite unlike anything that she had hitherto experienced: all the
bitterness in her heart had given way to a sickening sensation that she,
as well as as he, had been tried in the matrimonial furnace and found
wanting. Somehow, she had fallen grievously in her own estimation!

And society's estimation? Illusions in that direction were hardly
possible; there, too, doubtless she would incur the loss of a certain
amount of consideration. And even the non-possession of a highly
imaginative temperament did not prevent her from fancying the expressive
shrugs, and "Oh, of course his wife is to blame," which, for the sake of
an inference that is obvious, would be voiced by more than one
impeccable dame of her acquaintance--as often as not superbly gullible
souls, whose eloquence increases in direct proportion to the world's
lack of belief in the fidelity of their liege lords.

Nor were comments of that kind the worst that she might expect! For, as
a penalty for belonging to a set which, to a greater degree, perhaps,
than any other, recognises the possibility of an up-to-date couple
having a mutually implied understanding that neither shall object to the
discreet--and more or less temporary--faithlessness of the other--she
knew that it would be well-nigh miraculous if some kindly disposed
persons did not go still further for an explanation of his conduct, and
point to her and her husband as a conspicuous example of such a precious
pair. But though her whole being rebelled at the mere thought that there
could be people who would regard her in such a light, she could not
bring herself to take decisive action of any kind. There was nothing
that could be said, she told herself, nothing that could be done--since
a most conscientious and pitiless self-analysis had failed to reveal any
wifely shortcoming--except to have faith that there were some of her
sex--not many, it is true, but still a few friends--who would continue
to believe her incapable of doing any of the things that so many others
did, for whom there was far less excuse than there would be for her.

But whatever were the opinions of the women, there was no disposition on
the part of the men to hold her in any way responsible for his
behaviour. Far from it. And in a favourite corner of an exclusive club,
when the names of fair ladies--mostly of the stage--were bandied about
as figuring in young Challoner's escapades, old cronies of his father,
between sips of their Scotch and sodas, were wont to boil over with
contemptuous indignation and explosively give thanks to the gods for
willing that their lovable, old-time friend should not live to see the
confirmation of his fears. And how well they recalled those fears!

For notwithstanding his very moderate circumstances, the elder Challoner
had been that rarest of mortals--a man blissfully content with his lot
in life, and, one who seldom missed an opportunity to deplore the
insatiable craze of the rich for more riches, forever protesting that
blatant commercialism, haste and artificiality were the gods of the
present day; and no picture in their gallery of lasting impressions
stood out more vividly than the one in which, surrounded by a group of
young fellows, who had "got him going," as they phrased it, he was
declaiming against--what was merely his pet hobby in another form--the
egregious folly of poor young men seeking riches through marriage.

"... and I, young gentlemen," he would conclude with great earnestness,
"will always maintain that such a union will make a man lose all
incentive to work out what the good Lord has put in him."

Little wonder, then, that on the announcement that a marriage had been
"arranged" between Challoner's son and a daughter of a man whose name
the world over was significant of fiscal potency, the day bid fair to be
a memorable one at the club, his contemporaries preparing to make merry
at the old fellow's expense. But in a sense his "showing up" there had
been a disappointment; one look at the face, which showed symptoms of
distress and a desire to be reassured, was sufficient to cause the
banter to die in their hearts before it had reached their lips.

It soon came out that there had been a scene between father and son.
These two, for many years, had been the only members of the family; and
probably better than any one in the world the father had known the son's
weaknesses: hypersensitive to new influences, vanity and inability to
say no; and he had pointed out to him the many disadvantages--dangers to
one of his temperament--which he could see in such an alliance. To the
father's thinking, the boy would have no home--only establishments,
yachts, racing-stables and motor-cars; and he had contended that there
were far more desirable things in life than the possession of
these--from which it can easily be surmised that J. Lawrence Challoner,
senior, was a man little in sympathy with the ideas of modern
fashionable society.

Now to appreciate the mental anguish of another organism--even if that
organism is one's own parent--is never an easy matter; and of all men,
the modern lover is apt to be the last to succumb to an argument that
predicts a blighted future because of an intention to marry an heiress.
And so it was only natural that Lawrence should have regarded his father
as an old fogy, have resented his warnings and have replied that he was
competent to look after his own affairs and that, anyhow, the consent of
the girl's parents had been obtained and no interference was possible.
And with that the father's manner had completely changed: he had wished
the boy the best of luck; sent him away happy. Obviously, all this was
years ago; parents on both sides had passed away; and yet things had
turned out pretty much as the old man had dreaded. Indeed, matters had
come to this pass: how long this indulgent wife would continue to keep
her eyes shut to her husband making ducks and drakes of her fortune, and
why she did it, were questions which interested all who knew this
couple, but which Challoner apparently thought wholly unnecessary to ask
himself.

An automobile--Mrs. Challoner's automobile--was largely instrumental in
bringing matters to a climax. As trouble-makers the "machines" rank
high; in fact, there are moments when it would seem as if the arch-fiend
himself were in them; otherwise, how account for the mysterious
influence that makes people lose command of themselves once they are in
command of them; that leads astray, as some one has said, the great and
the good as well as those of lesser clay; that produces the
extraordinary state of mind that rejoices in riding rough-shod over the
rights and feelings of others; while one and all claim to recognise his
handicraft in the ingenuity which the "machines" display in selecting
the most inopportune times and least accessible places for an exhibition
of their mechanical ailments.

But be that as it may, in this particular instance the devil was not
lurking in, tampering with the improvements and refinements of detail in
the big, red body of Mrs. Challoner's Mastodon model--no, it was not
with the machine that he was concerned, but with the man himself,
befuddling whatever brains he had left; and the devil it was and no
other that incited Challoner to leave a certain establishment,--about
which we shall have something to say later on,--take the wheel from the
chauffeur and embark on a sensational, bacchic career up the Avenue at
an hour when the view of that fashionable thoroughfare through the
silken, shimmery curtains falling over a window in a corner house facing
the Park was too alluring not to be irresistible.

And so it came about that the comments on the passing throng made by two
women, indulging in afternoon tea in Mrs. Challoner's white and gold
drawing-room, were interrupted in a manner that was as unexpected as it
was embarrassing.

"Look, Miriam!" Shirley Bloodgood was saying to her hostess, apropos of
a woman passing by whom they both knew, "did you ever see anything more
atrocious than that gown?"

The other smiled her appreciation; and again the voluble Miss Bloodgood
went on:--

"And do look at the Heath girls in those huge hats--what frights!"

But whatever were her thoughts on the subject, Miriam Challoner did not
answer, for precisely at that moment her attention was attracted by
something strangely familiar in an unusually insolent and insistent
honking of a motor-horn, which was causing a wave of apprehension to
sweep down the long line of vehicles. And a moment later they saw that
chauffeurs were rudely interrupting the purring of automobiles lazing
over their allotted miles; that drivers were swerving their horses into
closer relations with the curb; that hardly had these attained a
position of comparative safety than there flashed by them and fetched up
in front of Mrs. Challoner's house a big machine, which a distinguished
though dissipated looking man had been recklessly forcing with utter
disregard of the right of way, a performance which called forth a volley
of expletives not only from cabbies singularly unappreciative of his
dexterity in executing perilously close shaves, but likewise from angry
pedestrians, who had halted on hearing the groan with which the
machinery protested his sudden braking.

For a moment that seemed minutes the atmosphere in the drawing-room was
electric, the tension almost unbearable, for it was impossible for
either of the women to doubt that the other saw what she had seen: the
condition that the man was in who had leaped from the car and was now
crossing the sidewalk apparently oblivious to the exclamations of wonder
and lament that he had escaped authoritative vigilance.

Rising quickly, Shirley Bloodgood put out her hand. "Good-bye--thank you
so much, Miriam!" There was an amazement of question in the eyes that
involuntarily sought those of her friend; but her one thought was to
escape what she wisely interpreted as an oncoming scene between husband
and wife.

But though there was a mist before her eyes, a surging in her ears, not
a muscle of Miriam Challoner's face moved; and she permitted the girl
before her to perceive no emotion other than gentle surprise.

"Surely, my dear, you're not going?--What?--So soon?"

Conventional though they were, there could be no mistaking the tone of
sincerity in Mrs. Challoner's words as she took the girl's hand in both
of hers with an affectionate movement. Indeed, for the barest fraction
of a second it almost succeeded in convincing Shirley that the
distressing incident of the motor had entirely escaped her; at any rate,
it augmented the doubt whether the woman before her had even an inkling
of the stories in circulation concerning the doings of her husband. Nor
was such a conclusion at all illogical. Shirley Bloodgood could recall
not a word that Miriam Challoner had ever uttered during all the years
of her married life, nor a look that could be construed as implying a
knowledge of his dissipations; on the contrary, there had been times
when the girl had been so exasperated over the wife's outspoken
admiration for qualities in the man which Shirley knew that he did not
possess, that she had been sorely tempted to enlighten her friend as to
his escapades. But gratifying as was the thought of the wife's possible
ignorance, it by no means lessened the necessity of a hasty departure on
Shirley's part; and somewhat confusedly but affectionately she kissed
her hostess good-bye.

"Oh, my dear Miriam, but I must--your tea is perfectly delicious though.
If only I had time...." Shirley stopped abruptly; her endeavour to
conceal her anxiety to be gone was making her uncertain of her words.

"One's tea, like one's friends, my dear, should be of the best," Miriam
returned with a sweet smile. And apparently thinking of nothing but her
somewhat insipid little compliment, she laughed pleasantly, passed her
arm lovingly round the girl's waist, and accompanied her to the door of
the drawing-room.

Miriam's smile and manner touched Shirley deeply. The inclination to
offer words of comfort was strong in this tall, rangy girl, whose every
movement was as graceful as it was impulsive. How sweet, how easy it
would be, she thought, if Miriam would only give a hint that they would
be welcome. But like many another woman, Miriam Challoner had schooled
herself to face the world with a smile; had learned that to lay bare
one's heart, even to one's friends, is to court surprise, perhaps
ridicule; and that to dissimulate though it kills is to play well one's
part; and she gave no sign.

On reaching the hall below, Shirley was able to see through the open
door Challoner ascending swiftly but uncertainly the grey, stone steps.
With a quick movement she drew to one side while he sullenly pushed by
his wife's young butler, Stevens, and began to stumble up the
soft-carpeted, wide stairway; then, unnoticed and with a sigh of relief,
she fled out into the street.

Left rather abruptly alone, Mrs. Challoner went back into the
drawing-room, and resting her arms on the mantel, bowed her head upon
them and gave way to the misery of her reflections. It was not the first
time, to be sure, that Lawrence had returned in this condition, but
heretofore he had been gracious enough to have had it occur at night;
and she had cherished the belief that she was his only witness. Now,
there was an element connected with his home-coming that was still
harder to bear: the sympathy which pleaded for recognition on the face
of her friend, and which told more plainly than words that she had seen
all, understood all. Presently, lifting her head, she crossed the room
and seated herself; then raising her hands she let them drop
despairingly along the arms of the chair while the unbidden tears
overflowed. In this position she remained until the sound of footsteps
warned her of her husband's approach; then a moment of struggle for
self-control; a brushing away of tears, and finally, rising, she left
her seat for one behind the tea-table. And it was in this unquestioned
point of vantage, apparently cool and collected, in the act of pouring
herself out a cup of tea, that Challoner's gaze first rested upon his
wife as, lurching in his walk but his eyes holding a purpose, he came
into her presence.

"Well, Miriam, here I am ... I've come home, you see!" he blurted out in
a don't-care-what-happens sort of manner, and without waiting for an
answer slumped into a chair and added sneeringly: "You're not
over-demonstrative, my dear!"

Mrs. Challoner winced. During the long days and nights of suspense and
wonder as to his whereabouts, she had solaced herself with inventing
plausible excuses for his absence; how useless they were, his looks,
manner, and more than anything else the intonation of his voice now
showed; she dared not trust herself to speak lest she should give way to
foolish invective.

Challoner came to the point at once.

"Miriam, I must have some money!" It was not a request; it was a
command.

Up to this time the young wife had not lifted her eyes from the tea-cup
in her hand. She was a woman with brown eyes and very attractive brown
hair, but upon the face that still should have held the freshness of
youth deep lines were beginning to appear. Pretty she was, in a way,
though she had never been beautiful; and yet there was something that
spelt beauty in the brown eyes which she now fixed upon him.

"For three days you have been away--where have you been?" The necessity
for saying something alone was responsible for the question. Many days
afterward in reviewing the painful scene, she was positive that she had
not inquired nor had he volunteered the information.

"I don't know," he answered dully, half-truthfully. "All I know is that
I landed at Cradlebaugh's." And after a moment, noting the look of
mystification on her face, he snapped out: "Cradlebaugh's gambling
rooms--gambling rooms, there--now you know."

With the last words he rose excitedly, stalked over to a table and smote
it with his clenched hand. "I tell you I must have some money!"

Miriam Challoner would not have been human if again bitter words had not
risen to her lips. But one quick glance at the puffy face, the
red-rimmed eyes was sufficient to warn her of the danger of exciting his
anger while in his present condition; and instead she merely inclined
her head--an action which instantly caused hope to surge into the eyes
of Challoner.

"I want--I must have a thousand dollars." Here again, the attitude was
not that of a suppliant; in the demand was more of the highwayman than
of the beggar.

Mrs. Challoner's dark eyes met those of the man, held them steady; then
she said firmly, decisively:--

"Lawrence, much as it hurts me to refuse you, I feel that I must. It is
for your own good." The soft gown that clung to her figure seemed to
take more rigid lines as she drew herself up and went on with: "I can
give you nothing more--this sort of thing has gone quite far enough."

For an instant Challoner was stunned. His wife had never looked at him
like that; there was something in the catch of her breath, too, as she
ended, that meant denial, he was certain. But he took courage and
renewed his attack; and meeting with no success, he turned to imploring,
begging for the money. Did she not know that he would not ask her if he
did not _have_ to have it? Women never could understand why men had to
have money--she didn't understand. If she would only let him have the
money, he would pledge himself to mend his ways, anything--but he must
have money. When men had to have money, they _had_ to have it--that was
all there was to it. And then a violent irresistible impulse to be
perfectly truthful, to lay bare his mind before her, took hold of him;
and that mind was so warped, his need so desperate, that he came
perilously near to blurting out the real reason why he needed the money.
For an instant he actually thought that his wife would see, understand,
appreciate the reason as some of his male friends doubtless would.

"I'll tell you how it is, Miriam ..." he had begun, and then suddenly
stopped.

What was he about to do! Was there not something queer, something not
exactly right, in his telling Miriam about the other woman? After all,
that was the one thing in his life that he had never told her. She was
welcome to the rest, but that--she mustn't know that; and he ended by
pleading:--

"Surely, Miriam, you're not going to refuse me--come...."

"I am sorry, Lawrence, but I must." There was a sob in the refusal as
she turned away.

And still like a spoiled child the husband would not abandon his plea.
Besides, he had detected the sob. Once more his attitude underwent a
change: he moved toward her, holding out his arms as though to gather
her into them. It was a charm that always worked with Miriam; it would
now, he told himself.

But Challoner was doomed to disappointment. It was the last touch needed
to complete her humiliation; and waving him back, she cried:--

"Laurie, Laurie, anything but that!" There was a flood of tears behind
her look of pain.

"But I must ... Cradlebaugh...." he came to a helpless pause.

Mrs. Challoner slowly repeated the name:--

"Cradlebaugh! I wish you had never seen that man--that class of men!
Your money--my money very likely has been going to them! Well, if you
want money you will have to...." The tension snapped and she drew her
hand across her eyes, then broke down completely.

"A sign of weakening," Challoner said to himself, and promptly started
toward her.

"No, no,--go!" she cried, drawing her hands up to her face as if to shut
out the sight of him from her gaze.

A moment later Challoner was seated in the motorcar. As the chauffeur
threw in the clutch some instinct told Challoner to look back. He had a
fleeting impression that he had seen a woman's face in the doorway.
"Surely that's Miriam," he thought, and lifted his hat; but when he
looked again there was no one there. Yet if his senses had been
perfectly normal, he would have known that it was her face that he had
seen. But the fates had no intention of letting him know that with his
departure his wife's resolution had gone, and that she had come to the
door to beseech him to come back; for even then they were cunningly
spinning the web which was to encompass him about.



II


Cradlebaugh's,--Cradlebaugh's house of a thousand chances,--rearing its
four stories of brown stone, spreading itself out liberally on the north
side of one of the side streets which is fast being given over to
fashionable clubs and restaurants, is a thoroughly up-to-date
establishment. Here, the _jeunesse dore_ of the city are made
welcome--once the critical eye of the sentinel behind the triple steel
doors at the top of the brown stone steps has recognised in them the
essential qualifications. In appointments, the house is luxurious and
gorgeous, and is so closely shuttered that not a ray of light from
outside is permitted to penetrate it: Cradlebaugh's day and night, night
and day, is lit within by the glow of artificial lights; the sunlight
has no chance in Cradlebaugh's. In addition to the main hall of play,
there are accommodations for parties wishing to indulge in quiet games
among themselves. Meals are served at all hours,--supper being the
specialty of the house,--and notwithstanding that no charge whatever is
made for them, the cuisine and service are beyond reproach. It can truly
be said of Cradlebaugh's, that it has all the cheerfulness of the
hearth, the quiet of the sanctuary, mingled with the glare of
irresistible recklessness.

It was to this establishment, then, that Challoner directed a cabby to
take him after hours of unsuccessful attempts to borrow money from his
friends--unsuccessful, because they had come to know his
irresponsibility, and to realise that his obligations were not the
obligations of his wife. The consequence was that man after man invented
an excuse or refused him emphatically. And finally, in desperation, he
had offered to sell the Mastodon. But the dealers knew who owned the
car--one of the handsomest cars in town--and on Challoner disgustedly
ordering his chauffeur home, a dealer more daring than the others had
said to him with aggressive familiarity:--

"Get your wife's bill of sale, Challoner we'll buy it then, all right."

A spark of anger immediately lit up Challoner's eyes, resentment was
deep down in his inmost soul; but his brain had been absinthiated for
days, his sensibilities blunted, and indignities fell from him like the
proverbial water from a duck's back. Nor was it solely with his
mentalities that the dissipations of the last five years had played
havoc: his face, his body, were unnaturally thin, and his glance had
become fixed and strained. Nevertheless, over-indulgence had not
grossened him, he was still good-looking, and there was an air about him
that few men had. In all his recklessness, whenever he wanted money he
had not forgotten that fact. It had always counted with Miriam--until
now. It counted still with Miss Letty Love of the Frivolity!

There had been moments, it is true, when rushing madly about town for
funds, that he had felt it would surely have been better for him if he
had never gone to Cradlebaugh's; but then like a flash would come the
thought that if he had not gone to Cradlebaugh's he would never have
known Letty Love! And by no means had he arrived at the state where he
could have wished that ...

With the thought of Letty Love there came another indissolubly connected
with it: Was Colonel Hargraves slowly undermining, ousting him out of
her affections? Not without reason he argued that Colonel Hargraves had
plenty of money, and the man with money was going to win out in the
graces of the Frivolity actress! Challoner could see it, could feel it,
and now in this crisis he could not raise a paltry thousand or two ...

Suddenly a voice from overhead broke in upon his thoughts with:--

"Front entrance, sir?"

Challoner started. The query was pertinent, frequently important,
sometimes vital. But in all the times that Challoner had driven to
Cradlebaugh's, never until now had this question been put to him. The
entrance on the street above, he was quite well aware, was for those
whose livelihood supplied sufficient reason for preferring the more
secret way, while the man-about-town,--such as he flattered himself that
he still was,--the credential-bearing stranger, even those whose
reputation might suffer, found that the arrangement of the main entrance
furnished them with ample protection. Nevertheless, far from feazing
him, Challoner felt that in some subtle way the question fitted in with
his scheme of things. For a shadowy purpose was slowly forming in his
mind--a purpose that required thought. His answer was of paramount
importance, he must make no mistake ...

"The rear--no," he quickly corrected, "the front entrance."

Before the main street door the driver pulled up his horse, and
Challoner hurriedly walked--as one whose nose was straight and who
followed his nose--into the whited sepulchre called Cradlebaugh's.

No one greeted Challoner as he passed into the main hall: it happened
there was no one present at the table that he knew. In the old days it
had been the custom of Cradlebaugh, the human spider, frankly to exhibit
himself in the middle of his net, his grim smile and dry hand extended
to each guest who came or went. But of late years--since he had shuffled
off this mortal coil--there had been no one to make these obsequious
greetings; for, though Cradlebaugh's still was Cradlebaugh's, its
ownership remained a mystery. And whether it was a syndicate, an
association, a reincarnated spirit, or a man, no one could tell. Of one
thing, however, its patrons were certain: there was but one
Cradlebaugh's!

For fully half an hour Challoner stood at the buffet, every now and then
unsteadily tilting the decanter. And while this course of refreshment
may have dulled his wits, it certainly strengthened his courage, for
presently he said to himself:--

"I'll try him, yes, why not?"

And a moment later, still optimistic, he called a servant and asked:--

"Where is Pemmican?"

"Faro, sir."

Challoner ascended swiftly to the second floor, and paused at one room
whose door was open.

"How long?" he inquired, thrusting in his head, by way of greeting to
the group at the table.

Four of the men there did not glance up from their cards; hollow-eyed,
cigars between their teeth, they were alive only to the hundredth chance
that still eluded them. The fifth man, a railroad president, coatless,
alone nodded to Challoner, and said sententiously:--

"Forty hours--for me."

Half way down the corridor Challoner met Pemmican, head card-dealer of
Cradlebaugh's, a man with a pasty face, a low brow and shifty eyes--a
man who knew his business. This Pemmican seemed the all-and-all of
Cradlebaugh's, apparently general factotum; but though he simulated the
appearance of an owner, in reality he was a servile servant stamped with
a dread of the pseudo-Cradlebaugh, of the man higher up. Nevertheless,
whoever controlled the destinies of this gambling-house had chosen him
wisely.

Challoner came at once to the point.

"Pemmican, I want some money--about--" and broke off abruptly, for the
other was eyeing him coldly.

Instinctively Pemmican of the low brow knew that the game was up with
Challoner; moreover, he saw that, although the man seemed sober, in
reality he was very drunk. He walked away quickly, dismissing him
with:--

"I'm sorry, sir, but it's against the rules. I can't----"

"What rot!" interrupted Challoner.

But by this time Pemmican had reached the end of the hall, leaving the
other to gather what he could of his mumbled excuses.

In anything but an amiable mood, Challoner resumed his position at the
buffet. Suddenly he was conscious of a light touch on the arm. Turning
slowly, he found himself face to face again with Pemmican.

"Why don't you try Colonel Hargraves?" whispered the latter.

"What?" came from the clogged brain of Challoner.

"Try Hargraves," the other went on. "He's been down to Gravesend for two
days; and he's back...."

Pemmican's meaning was lost on Challoner, for he merely exclaimed:--

"Well?"

Before answering, Pemmican of the low brow shrugged his shoulders and
spread out his palms, then he said pointedly:--

"Only that he pulled out ten thousand on Flora McQueen--that's all!"

"What?" Challoner began to understand.

Pemmican nodded.

"Sure thing--ten thousand dollars!"

Slowly and deliberately Challoner refilled his glass to the brim. For a
moment there was silence, then Pemmican repeated tantalisingly:--

"Ten thousand dollars--not a cent less!"

Challoner thought for a moment.

"How did you come out?" he asked, much to the other's surprise.

Pemmican shook his head.

"I lost a cool thousand because I did not back the mare. I played on
Tigerskin. I've got to get that thousand back, somehow."

Challoner emptied his glass.

"Was Colonel Hargraves down there alone?" His voice was thick, hoarse.

"Where?" returned Pemmican, as if he had misunderstood.

"At Gravesend?"

Pemmican looked long and quizzically into Challoner's eyes.

"He was ... not," was his simple but significant answer, and moved away.

But Challoner followed him up, and seizing his arm, said somewhat
gruffly:--

"Look here, Pemmican, if Hargraves comes in--I want to see him--tell him
to wait for me."

For the first time Pemmican's eyes lost their curious tiredness, an
enigmatical smile played about the corners of his mouth.

"Yes," he said simply, and nodding, went his way.

Left alone, Challoner found himself a prey to all the black fiends of
rage, jealousy and desire for revenge. For a time everything was blotted
out from his vision except the face of Letty Love and the face of
Colonel Hargraves. "This small world," he muttered to himself, "is much
too small for me and Colonel Hargraves!" With that there loomed up out
of the mists of his mind the brilliantly lighted and ornate entrance of
a certain apartment-house a short distance away; and a few minutes
later, obedient to his subconscious will, his feet carried him down the
stairs to a door evidently leading to the outside. A few words of
explanation from Challoner to the man on duty there were necessary
before he would proceed to undo the complicated system of bolts; and
then he passed out and was under the starry skies. Challoner was not the
first man of social prominence in the community that could directly
trace the beginning of his life as an outcast to passing through that
door!



III


Hiram Edgar Love--so read a faded yellow card on the door-panel of Suite
10 in the "Drelincourt," an apartment hotel in a section of the city
which has ever been popular with a class that has been well termed the
"fringe of society." The name was not printed, not engraved, but written
in ancient India ink in copper-plate perfection by the careful, cleanly,
genteel Englishman that Hiram Edgar Love had been--Hiram Edgar Love,
that long since had been laid to rest in a quiet Surrey churchyard
leagues distant, though his name still did yeoman service, for it spelt
respectability; it covered a multitude of peccadilloes; his soul went
marching on! For was it not the shade of Hiram Edgar Love that had
rented the Love suite in the "Drelincourt," his shade that paid the
rent, his pipe and his slippers that lay near the fireplace for the
world to see?--Hiram Edgar Love the myth, the constantly expected but
never-coming master of the house!

Before the entrance of this suite Challoner came to a halt.

"I wonder if she's alone?" he mused, as with something like the
palpitating deference of a stranger he pressed the button underneath the
faded card and waited to learn his fate at the hands of the one woman in
all the world for him. Nor was it by any means the first time that he
had asked himself that question; all the way through the streets it had
been in his mind every moment, and so absorbed was he with the thought,
that he failed to see the familiar nod with which the diminutive god of
the "Drelincourt" lift acknowledged his advent as he proceeded to carry
upward his human freight.

"Same, sir, I suppose?" asked the boy.

Challoner made no answer; but leaving the car at the desired landing, he
had turned to the right and directed his steps to the extreme end of the
corridor.

It was a new experience to Challoner to wait among the shadows of the
dimly lighted hall; hitherto his custom had been to let himself in,
_sans_ ceremony; but the apparently successful campaign of the racing
Colonel had changed that--put him on a different footing.

"If _he's_ there," he assured himself as he pressed the button again
impatiently, "I'll know what to do, all right...."

But if Hargraves were not there! That was the contingency that sent a
chill over him. He could deal with a man--but the woman! A woman who had
never cared and who, he was only too well aware, would never even
pretend to care for him unless he had the wherewithal with which to lure
her back.

"If it were not for Hargraves--" he broke off abruptly, for the door had
opened with such unexpected suddenness that it required not a little
effort to pull himself together, and demand of the trim, little maid who
stood there:--

"Your mistress--is she at home?"

"Miss Love is not at home, sir."

Challoner was not so sure about that; in a trice he was past her, going
through room after room until he had covered the entire apartment; and
she had barely recovered from the shock that his strange behaviour had
given her than he was back again in the small, square hall, eyeing her
suspiciously.

"I want to see your mistress."

"Miss Love is not in, sir," she told him, just as if he did not already
know it.

"But you know where she went?" he asked meaningly.

"Indeed, sir, I do not," she replied, not at all disconcerted by his
manner; and her eyes as they fixed their gaze on his were as steady as
the lips that said: "She should be with her father, sir."

Challoner raged inwardly; he thought he detected a gleam of mockery in
her eyes. Once more he plunged through the apartment, seeking some
incriminating scrap of paper, some evidence that would betray his
divinity's whereabouts. But after a few minutes he was back again,
standing over the girl, menacingly.

"I want you to tell me where Letty is?" he said in a tone that told
plainly that such lies were not for him; but it had little effect on the
maid: long practice in fencing with Miss Love's admirers had made
trickery her forte.

"You might try Atlantic City, sir," she suggested blandly; "it's quite
possible that they went there."

At this, Challoner looked ugly, and seizing her roughly by the arm, he
led her to her mistress' boudoir, where, pointing to a Verne-Martin
cabinet that stood in a corner, he exclaimed:--

"Who put him there?"

For answer the girl shrugged her shoulders. She made no attempt to
disengage herself from his grasp, merely watched Challoner as his gaze
rested angrily on a plain gold frame in which was an unconventional
half-length photograph--Colonel Richard Hargraves, his arms akimbo upon
a table, his shoulders forward, his smug, full, self-satisfied face
thrust into the face of the world--of Challoner.

Even on paper Hargraves's lazy eyes seemed to insult and tantalise him,
and an insane desire to crush, batter and destroy this counterfeit
presentment came over him. For an instant he had a vague sensation of
suffocation, almost to choking, and releasing the girl, his hand sought
his throat; it encountered a scarf-pin--a trifle that his wife had given
him long ago. Tearing it quickly from his scarf, he extended it toward
the maid.

"That may fetch the truth from her," he said to himself, and aloud:
"Tell me where Letty is, and ... no"--the girl was reaching for the
jewel, but he held it from her--"no, tell me first," he added hoarsely,
toying with the pin.

"Well, then, if you must know, sir," she stammered, "she went to
Gravesend--the races, sir."

Challoner's mind received this information with a certain morbid
exultation; and thrusting his face into hers and pointing with the pin
to the portrait, he cried:--

"Then she _is_ with him?"

The girl was silent; she was figuring the value of the pin. It was worth
fifty dollars, she finally decided, and looking up at Challoner,
admitted the truth with a nod.

The pin fell into her ready grasp.

When Challoner spoke again his voice was calm and steady.

"Sit down there." He motioned to a seat and he took the one opposite.
"We'll wait until they come back--just wait."

For minutes that seemed hours they sat facing each other, Challoner
dogged but quiescent, the girl with a growing unrest upon her--a cat
with a cornered mouse.

At last a buzzer sounded.

"Stay where you are!" Challoner commanded, as the girl made a movement
to go. "If it's somebody else," he added quickly, still looking at her,
but with a changed eye, "we don't care about them; they can go away."

Again the buzzer sounded.

"Has she a key?" he whispered.

"Yes," she answered, matching his tone.

"Has he?" persisted Challoner.

The girl held up her hand for reply: the jingling of keys in the outer
hall, followed by the clink of metal in the lock, had reached their
ears; then came the closing of the door, the click of high heels, the
swish of skirts, the odour of violets, and then Letty Love, in all her
pink and white loveliness, tall, supreme, her face flushed, her lips
parted, her eyes sparkling, stood framed in the doorway. At the sight of
the man and the girl sitting there like two culprits, she burst into
laughter--a long peal of laughter that was her stock in trade, and which
ran the gamut of her deep, contralto voice. And still neither the man
nor the girl spoke, but continued to look ill at ease. To Miss Love the
situation was amusing--too amusing for words.

"Inconstant!--Naughty Lawrence!" she exclaimed, leaving his name
stranded in the air--a coquettish way she had in speaking--and pointing
her tiny gloved finger at him: "Perhaps I interrupt?" And now turning to
the girl: "Patricia, I didn't know you could be so interesting...."

The maid gasped with relief as she left the room in obedience to a
dismissing wave of her mistress' hand.

"Well, why don't the rest of you come in?" Challoner growled, fastening
his eyes on the woman.

Letty Love opened her blue eyes wide--eyes that could look the innocence
of a child or the wisdom of the ages--and feigned not to understand. And
then as if his meaning had dawned upon her, she said with a good-natured
smile:--

"Oh--why, I'm alone!"

"It's a good thing you are," he told her pointedly.

At once a hardness crept into her voice, and she asked coldly:--

"For whom?" And for a moment she delayed pulling off her wraps.

"For the other man."

"Silly boy! How ridiculous you are!" she returned lightly, as she tossed
her wraps over a chair and began to pull off her gloves.

Challoner went over to the photograph, picked it up and wheeling round
said threateningly:--

"Did you put _him_ in that frame?"

"I did," she answered sweetly. "I'm very domestic, you know," and she
smiled one of her most bewildering smiles; "I always arrange these
little things myself."

"And what did you do with mine?"

Letty looked dubious. She touched a button, and to the maid who entered
asked with mock anxiety:--

"Patricia, what did you do with the half-tone of this gentleman that I
gave you?"

The maid regarded first one and then the other somewhat curiously.

"It's in my room, Madam."

"With the other notables?" And Letty Love lifted her eyebrows.
"Patricia's room is quite a picture-gallery," she went on gaily. "You
may investigate it, if you like--no?" And dismissing the maid, went over
to the piano and began to strum the refrain of a popular song.

Challoner's lips emitted:--

"You--" They closed on a gasp of rage, disappointment, despair and
impotent admiration. Had he dared, he would have gone on his knees to
her then and there, taken her in his arms and kissed her; but the
woman's indifference appalled him, and instead he gritted his teeth, dug
his nails into the palms of his hand. Then, for the first time, it
dawned on him that she had worn for Hargraves the gown that he,
Challoner, had selected for her--a gown white, immaculate, simple, which
followed religiously the lines of the superb figure, that left nothing
to be desired, of Letty Love, full-throated, full-bosomed, with her
jet-black hair that gave no sign of fastening, with her blue eyes and
dark eyebrows, with her milk-white flesh, which, artificial though it
were, concealed nothing, revealed nothing but the loveliness of the
woman.

The man's eyes shone with pride as he observed her finished appearance;
for was it not he who had taught her to gown herself like that, showed
her how to live, lifted her into the high places?

"And this is how she repays me!" he muttered to himself, and then aloud:
"What's the matter with you, Letty--is it because my money has given
out...."

This startled the woman into earnestness, and rising to her feet, she
drew herself to her full height, and pointing to the door declared with
an injured air:--

"No man can talk to me of money in this house!"

Challoner's face was a study, but he did not move.

"Especially when it's all gone!" he sneered, searching her countenance.
Never until now had he realised the monumental, stupendous power of
money. Now that he had none and the car of juggernaut was slowly
crushing him, he could understand that he belonged in the ditch with the
maimed, the lame, the dying. There was no necessity for a reply from
Letty. The woman's face revealed the contempt with which she regarded
him. What mattered it to her that the man had surrendered everything
that was worth while in life, that he had sacrificed himself at her
shrine! She was one who demanded the firstlings of the flock; he was
nothing save carrion for daws to peck at. The fruit was devoured; of
what value was the rind?

"You had better go," she said superciliously; "there is no need of
coming any more."

In a sort of daze Challoner was shambling toward the door when the
telephone-bell rang. Instantly it roused all the deviltry and cunning
that had oozed from him the moment before. Seizing the receiver, he
thrust it silently against his ear.

"Hello!" began the voice at the other end.

Challoner did not answer.

"Is that you, Letty?" the voice went on.

Still Challoner did not answer. Then, as the woman stepped forward, he
handed the receiver to her, at the same time placing his left hand over
the mouthpiece, and said:--

"It's Hargraves--tell him to come up, will you?"

She shook her head.

Again the voice at the other end of the wire sounded, but she could not
answer, for the thickness of Challoner's hand lay between her and
communication. The suspense was unbearable--getting on her nerves. There
was nothing to do but to comply with his wish; and upon her eyes
suddenly yielding to his, he released the mouthpiece, standing on guard
the while she obeyed him. Then he drove her, literally drove her into a
far corner of the room.

"Now, let him come! We'll see ..." he exclaimed, holding a revolver in
his right hand; and as he stood there watching her as a tiger does a
tigress, it was with a certain sense of gratification that he noted
written across her face the altogether new sensation of fear, terror,
and therefore respect for him. And he rejoiced in the knowledge that the
hand that could no longer count out banknotes to her or sign cheques was
a hand that held life and death within its grasp. Letty Love realised
this, too, as she stood there cowed, trembling, listening, watching the
door. Suddenly there flashed through her mind a way out of the
situation, and smiling, she said lightly:--

"Oh, pshaw, Lawrence, the heavy is not your line! Come--suppose we have
something to drink."

And without waiting for him to answer, she crossed the room and pressed
the button there. Somewhat sheepishly Challoner slipped the revolver
back into his pocket and dropped into a chair, while she ordered the
maid to fetch some Bengal--a cordial, a distilled delight that had come
down to her from a period so remote that the memory of man runneth not
to the contrary. In his lifetime Hiram Edgar Love had possessed gallons
of it; it had come to him in the night from the mysterious East, in the
teeth of the revenue guns. And Challoner knowing it for the thing it
was, his face flushed with the pleasure of anticipation. Letty took her
place beside a small table, and presently a silver-topped, cut-glass
decanter was in her hand, which she held over a glass, saying:--

"Will you help yourself or shall I ..."

Challoner nodded.

"Go ahead--fill it for me, Letty."

Challoner drank--drank. He forgot Hargraves, forgot everything but the
face of Letty Love, a kiss that he wanted, but that somehow he could not
get, an utterance in a thick voice, a momentary hand-to-hand struggle,
not with Hargraves, but with her, then, somehow, she eluded him and he
was left alone--alone in the darkness that the Bengal had cast upon him!

But in all this there was no Hargraves.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few hours later when he awoke, he was still sitting at the table, but
he was alone. He rose hastily, even steadily, and scoured the other
rooms; there was no one there. He looked for the Bengal; but that, too,
had disappeared. All of a sudden the jewels that were on her
dressing-table--jewels that he had given her--caught his attention, and
for the moment the temptation was strong to take them for the money that
was in them. But even his dull wits soon recognised the folly of such a
proceeding, since it was for her that he needed the money, and somewhat
reluctantly he put them back in their case, muttering to himself as he
left the house:--

"Letty must believe in me--things are bound soon to come my way."

In a little while he was back again at Cradlebaugh's, wandering about
the rooms looking for Pemmican. Finally he saw him coming out of one of
the rooms and hailed him with:--

"Hargraves showed up yet?"

The unwholesome looking factotum shook his head; at the same time he
noted that Challoner was in a different mood than when he had talked
with him earlier in the evening. Pemmican wondered as he turned away;
but then it was not given to him to know that Challoner's experience
that night had served immeasurably to strengthen a desperate purpose.
True, that the joy that had been Challoner's--"his by rights," as he
told himself--had been wrested away from him, for he was satisfied that
Hargraves's absence from Cradlebaugh's meant that he was with Letty
Love. But little by little the agony of jealousy was becoming a
pleasurable sensation--a passion that obsessed him. So that far from
brooding, he felt as feels the man of destiny: Whatever was to happen
would happen. He would wait days, weeks, months, if necessary, for
Hargraves.

A day rolled round. Night again at Cradlebaugh's, and Challoner still at
his post of observation, waiting. It was past midnight when Colonel
Hargraves finally appeared. Challoner felt his presence even before he
stepped up to the buffet; and summoning to his aid all the suavity of
manner that he possessed, for he knew he must be careful, as the other,
doubtless, would be on his guard, he called out:--

"Colonel Hargraves!"

Hargraves turned quickly, and seeing it was Challoner, a flicker of a
self-congratulatory smile broke over his large, round face, as he
answered:--

"Why, hello, Challoner!"

The momentary gleam of triumph did not escape the other, and it required
a supreme effort to force back the blood that was rushing to his temple.

"I want a word with you, Colonel!" And with a wave of the hand: "Room
A--will that suit you?"

Colonel Hargraves hesitated for a moment; he moved a bit to one side and
stared hard; but the other bore his look of keen suspicion with perfect
serenity. The Colonel shrugged his shoulders. Finally he said:--

"Oh, very well, Challoner--that suits me."

To Room A they went; Pemmican followed with decanters. Possibly he
suspected, feared, realised that the air was charged with electricity.
In any event Pemmican was in charge of Cradlebaugh's; it was for
Pemmican to see and to know.

There was a table in Room A, with chairs about the table; and a stand
against the wall. There were also two large, heavy leather lounging
chairs with arms. Pemmican placed his burden upon the stand against the
wall, lingered for an instant, and then went softly out. Neither of the
men spoke until after he had left the room and closed the door. When
each had seated himself at the table, Challoner got down to business.

"Hargraves," he began with sinister familiarity, "you have ten thousand
dollars in your pocket, I believe?"

Colonel Hargraves repressed a movement of impatience with difficulty. He
nodded, and unconsciously took the attitude of the counterfeit
presentment in the apartment of Letty Love.

"Ten thousand dollars," repeated Challoner with provoking coolness, as
he likewise planted both elbows on the table, and added somewhat
ominously: "And I'm broke!"

There was a pause in which the men looked straight into each other's
eyes; then Challoner rose, walked over to the table, half filled two
glasses, and placing them on the table, leaned far over it, declaring:--

"And yet, Colonel Hargraves, you and I are going to sit in a ten
thousand dollar game to-night!"

Challoner drained his glass; his example, however, was not followed by
the Colonel. Instead, he put his arms akimbo, his fists resting on his
hips, and tilting back his head, he said with an air of contempt:--

"Indeed! What with?"

"With your ten thousand!" It was well said. Challoner's cool,
passionless voice gave to the declaration the character of
infallibility.

"And you--" Hargraves muttered in a puzzled way.

"Not a dollar," admitted Challoner.

Colonel Hargraves rose; he threw into his glance all his knowledge of
Challoner's past.

"You must take me for a fool!" he burst out, and started for the door.

But he had gone only a few steps when he felt Challoner's clutch;
turning, he felt the power of Challoner's eyes; and presently under
their compelling influence he found himself once more taking his seat.
He made no attempt to analyse his sensations, but he realised that
Challoner had made a new impression. In all the eventualities he had
foreseen, he calculated on Challoner's being a weakling, a wreck. But to
his astonishment he saw within those eyes nothing but success. Challoner
had become a man not to be disregarded--a man of strength.

"My proposition is a perfectly fair one," went on Challoner. "You put up
ten thousand cash----"

"And then--go on----"

Challoner lifted his arm and pointed silently in the direction of the
"Drelincourt."

Incredulity shone in the eyes of Hargraves; his scorn found vent in an
attempt at levity.

"Rather like putting up something that doesn't belong to you, eh,
Challoner?"

Challoner was not feazed; it was the answer he expected.

"It looks that way, Hargraves," and suddenly thrusting himself forward,
"but I can make it uncommonly disagreeable for the other claimant. You
don't know me--I'm an uncertain quantity--and women are blamed queer. If
I win, I keep the ten thousand--and my chances."

"And if you don't win?" a bit breathlessly.

"If you win," went on Challoner, "you keep your ten thousand, and--I'll
quit without a murmur."

In the pause Hargraves thought hard--never in his life had he thought
harder. The more he studied Challoner, the better he liked the
proposition. The moment was fraught with something new and significant.
In more ways than one he feared Challoner, for he was by no means
certain of his own place in the woman's affections. And then in his mind
there was one certainty--Hargraves knew that the game was already his;
knew that Challoner, steady though he seemed, was unquestionably drunk.
Never was victory more certain than at the present time.

"If I win," at last he said with great earnestness, "you will swear to
leave me--you will leave _us_ alone?"

Challoner nodded.

Hargraves seized his glass and extended it to bind the bargain.
Challoner seized his, but found it empty. He left his seat and came back
with it filled.

"It's a go!" he said, and pressed a button.

With the same sense of responsibility upon him, Pemmican responded; and
on Challoner's order he went out and returned with ten new packs of
cards, tossing them on the table with their wrappers unbroken.

"Cold hands," announced Challoner, "five hundred a throw."

Hargraves pulled forth his roll of bills and placed it on the table;
then, placing a hand on the arm of Challoner, he exclaimed vehemently,
so that the other should not forget it:--

"It's understood now, Challoner, that if I win you're to leave us
alone--sure?"

Pemmican left the room and closed the door behind him. Challoner smiled
across the table, and a new, strange expression crossed his features
that Hargraves did not, could not understand.

"Sure," repeated Challoner, placing the decanter upon the table. Then
they started in to play.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty minutes later Pemmican rushed pell-mell into Room A.

"There's a big row on," he said to himself; "a row over a lady and a
game of cards."

And so it proved.

There was a row on between the men who occupied Room A, and but for the
isolation of the room it was a row that might well have roused the
house.

"You've lost, I tell you!" one of the men exclaimed; the other laughed
boisterously, defiantly, victoriously.

"If I've lost, so have you!" he answered.

What followed happened in an instant and before Pemmican had been in
Room A thirty seconds. For suddenly one of the men there had whipped
from his coat-pocket a weapon that glinted in the white light; as
suddenly he had taken aim, and then came a flash, a report, a cloud of
smoke.

Pemmican looked on, speechless.

Presently one of the men crossed the room and sank into a chair in a
dazed sort of fashion, his head lolling across the upholstered arm;
while the other glanced about him for an instant, looked at Pemmican,
looked at the figure lying on the chair, and then started suddenly
toward the door.

Three minutes later Pemmican switched off the lights and plunged the
room in darkness.

"A row over a lady," he murmured breathlessly, "a row over a lady and a
game of cards."

At two o'clock that morning, Officer Keogh of the night squad,
patrolling a dimly lighted thoroughfare in the rear of Cradlebaugh's,
stumbled over an object lying in deep shadow.

"Good Lord! It's a man!" said Keogh, stooping down suddenly and as
suddenly drawing back. He drew himself together, bent down again, felt
cautiously about, wiped his hands and shuddered, and drew back once
again, as he whispered to himself:--

"A dead man--shot to death!"

He rapped wildly with his night-stick--the wild, irregular tattoo that
makes the slumberer rise suddenly in bed and tremble, and then crouch
between the bed-clothes shivering--and pending the arrival of assistance
he stooped once more and fumbled in the pockets of the dead man.
Presently from the breast-pocket of the coat he drew forth a yellow
pigskin wallet, and upon its corner in glaring gold, that even in the
dim light glittered garishly, appeared the letters, "R. H."

In this wise the body of Colonel Richard Hargraves, man-about-town, was
found lying in the gloom at two o'clock that morning.



IV


Officer Keogh, an hour later, under the white light of the desk lamps
over at the ---- Precinct, was telling his story to the desk-sergeant
behind the rail. The desk-sergeant listened disinterestedly until he
heard mentioned the name Cradlebaugh. At that juncture he held up his
hand, placed a warning finger on his lips, nodded toward the drowsy
doorman and toward two of the reserve squad in the room, and looking
Keogh in the eyes, whispered:--

"Officer, speak low."

Keogh, taken aback for the moment, dropped his voice as he went on with
his story. Once more the sergeant stopped him.

"The most important thing is just where the body was found. Be exact
now, if possible; it's important."

Keogh went on to give a minute description, and wound up by saying:--

"The man was dragged, all right, after he was dead."

The desk-sergeant's eyes narrowed to pin points as he demanded:--

"In which direction?"

"To the west."

The desk-sergeant shook his head portentously, and observed:--

"Looks for sure like this was pulled off in Cradlebaugh's."

"_That's_ what _I've_ been telling everybody," returned Keogh, the pride
of proper diagnosis resting cheerfully upon him.

The desk-sergeant shot out his forefinger and exclaimed:--

"The least you have to say about the matter the better. This is not a
case for you or for me, but for the captain in the morning."

The captain appeared unusually early in the morning with some half-dozen
papers in his hand. Slapping the morning editions, scareheads, uppermost
in front of the sergeant, he blurted out:--

"What's this here?"

The sergeant glanced at the topmost sheet and skimmed rapidly over the
details.

"Don't know where they got the facts, but it looks like they got 'em
_right_."

The captain scratched his head, then for the next few minutes he looked
out of the window and watched the passing throng; he was pondering
deeply. Finally he inquired:--

"What did you do?"

The desk-sergeant grinned.

"Not a bloomin' thing," he answered.

The captain shot a glance of surprised approval at his inferior.

"For once, by gum," he conceded, "you hit the nail upon the head. This
isn't a case for the police--not yet."

"Then for who?" The desk-sergeant looked dubious.

"For Peter Broderick," said the captain, nodding.

"What's Peter Broderick got to do with it?" inquired the desk-sergeant,
still doubtful.

The captain seized the telephone, but paused to explain:--

"Peter Broderick has got everything to do with it, since the people put
this blatherskite Murgatroyd into the prosecutor's office. You know as
well as I do that there's been too many rumpuses in Cradlebaugh's--and
Murgatroyd sent word from the court-house that the place would be closed
up, cleaned out, if there was any more trouble there."

"And Broderick?" persisted the sergeant.

"Broderick gave me orders to be tipped off hard when anything happens to
Cradlebaugh's--no matter what. And that," concluded the captain, "is
enough for you and me; we've got to obey orders--see?"

He removed the receiver from its hook and was about to talk to Central,
but changed his mind, hung up the receiver, wheeled round on the
sergeant and asked:--

"Were you going home?"

The other stretched his arms and yawned.

"Yes. Why?"

The captain passed over two black cigars.

"Smoke 'em--they'll keep you awake. And say," he went on, placing his
hand soothingly upon the other's arm, "you wouldn't mind looking up
Chairman Peter Broderick, would you? It isn't everybody I can trust."

He seized a pad and wrote hastily for a moment, and finally handing the
slip of paper to the sergeant, added:--

"First, try these four addresses. If he's not at any of these, then try
his home; you'll be sure to find him there. But see him--don't take no
for an answer, and after you have told him the whole story, get his
orders--see?"

It took an hour and a half to locate Chairman Peter Broderick; the
sergeant found him home--in his rooms on the ground floor of the
Iroquois Club. He waited for some time before he could gain access to
that estimable gentleman, for Peter Broderick's hour for rising was high
noon. The boy who aroused him awakened a slumbering lion; the Iroquois
Club cowered when Broderick woke up; others cowered, too. Broderick's
word was law everywhere, and yet he wore no badge of authority, held no
office--he did not even want one. He was higher than authority, stronger
than civic force: he was power personified. He had attained that
mystical position in the universe, known wherever men cast ballots as
Chairman of the County Committee, which meant to owe no man a duty, but
to demand servitude and fealty from every man. It meant more--it meant
to hold the bag! It meant that whatever Peter Broderick wanted he got.

"Well!" roared Broderick to the sergeant; "what in thunder do you want?"

The desk-sergeant briefly set forth his credentials and authority, and
then plunged boldly into the purpose of his presence.

"The captain wants to know what he's to do about this Hargraves murder?"

Broderick stared hard at him.

"Hargraves murder?" he repeated. "What Hargraves?"

The sergeant told him.

"Great Scott! So he's dead. Confound him! He bled me like thunder at
draw the last time I met him!"

The sergeant went on to give him the facts; Broderick the while was
thinking deeply. Finally he interrupted the other with the question:--

"Look here, sergeant, what was there to prevent Hargraves being shot
down by a highwayman or a thug? Can you tell me that?"

"Officer Keogh says----"

"Hang Officer Keogh!" yelled Broderick. "Keogh is going to say nothing
but what he's told to say. Look here--do you know who killed Hargraves?"

"No."

"Does anybody know?"

"Not yet."

"So far so good. Now, then, that's a dark street, isn't it? And other
houses as well as Cradlebaugh's have an opening on that street, haven't
they? I say that this thing wasn't pulled off inside of Cradlebaugh's;
it was the work of an unknown assassin--a thug. Do you understand?" he
declared emphatically.

"You want the captain to work it out on that theory! Isn't that it?"

"I don't want the captain to work it out on any theory!" yelled
Broderick. "Let the captain sit still--do nothin'!--say nothin'! I'm
doin' this thing--I'll work out all the necessary theories! Do you
hear?"

"The captain told me to remind you that Prosecutor Murgatroyd----"

Broderick sprang to his feet and stood glowering over the sergeant.

"Murgatroyd! Nobody has to remind me of Murgatroyd--confound him! I'm
always being reminded of him. He's the only office-holder in this burgh
that hasn't got the decency to know that what _I_ say goes! Sergeant,"
he went on confidentially, "this is a blamed important thing, and before
I do anything I'm going down-town to consult Mr. Graham Thorne. I'll
bring him up to Cradlebaugh's; you tell your captain to meet us there in
an hour and a half. That's all he's got to do--all you've got to
do--I'll do the rest. Now go!"

Twenty minutes later Broderick waddled into the private office of Graham
Thorne, Esquire, counsellor at law.

"Thorne," he exclaimed, lounging back comfortably in a chair, "have you
seen about this thing? Do you know what happened _there_ last night?"

Thorne smiled grimly and pointed to the pile of morning papers on his
desk.

"I knew about it at six o'clock this morning. I've been waiting for you
to turn up for the last four hours." There was a note of superiority in
his voice, which, strange to say, Broderick in nowise resented.

Broderick ever since he had met Thorne, had felt an admiration for this
tall, handsome, dignified young man, with the grey just commencing to
creep in his hair. Thorne possessed all the qualities that go to make up
a clever, astute counsellor at law. Of his antecedents, it is true, no
one knew aught; he had merely arrived a few short years before, opened
his big law office, stalked into the courts and out of them, into the
clubs and out of them. It cannot be denied that he made his best
impression upon laymen and not upon the lawyers, although even the
members of the Bar conceded that Thorne had ability. That he earned a
great deal of money was quite manifest, for he spent it with a free
hand, if a trifle too ostentatiously. He was not a politician in any
sense of the word, and yet unquestionably he had the air and the
earmarks of the man who some day might become a statesman. He hobnobbed
with the best people, knew everybody worth while, and everybody worth
while knew him. Broderick felt that if fate could regenerate him he
should like to be Thorne.

"Well," blurted out the politician, "what are you going to do about it?"

"What are _we_ going to do about it?" asked the lawyer in turn.

"I can handle the police," Broderick affirmed.

"That goes without saying; but we're up against something more than the
police."

"If Tom Martin or Sam Apgar was the prosecutor now," wailed Broderick,
"we'd have no trouble. They used to come to me regularly for
instructions----"

Thorne rose slowly, paced the entire length of his long private office,
treading noiselessly the thick, green carpet like a cat.

"But," he protested, "Martin isn't prosecutor, neither is Apgar.
Murgatroyd is prosecutor, and----"

"Confound the man!" interrupted Broderick. "He's so straight that he
leans over backwards. It was he who said six weeks ago that the Tweedale
suicide was the last straw; that if another fracas occurred inside of
Cradlebaugh's it would be good-bye to Cradlebaugh's. And now there's
this blamed murder!"

Thorne looked Broderick in the eye for a moment and asked:--

"Do you know that this murder happened inside of Cradlebaugh's?"

"No; but I'm satisfied it did."

"Have you talked to Pemmican?"

Broderick stared in surprise.

"No; but haven't you?"

Thorne shook his head.

"You forget that I waited here for you. Now that you're here, my idea is
to see Pemmican and get the facts."

"The captain of the ---- Precinct will be there," explained Broderick.
"He understands that you're counsel for Cradlebaugh's--see?"

"Come on," repeated Thorne; "we'll go and see Pemmican."

Broderick remained seated. Presently he said hesitatingly:--

"Just a second, counsellor--I wish you'd draw a cheque for five for me."

"Dollars?"

"No."

"Hundreds?"

"No."

"Five thousand!" Thorne whistled. "Coming it just a bit strong,
Broderick."

Broderick vigorously shook his head.

"Now, look here, Thorne, I've got no complaint to make of you, and
you've got no complaint to make of me. You've paid me well, but you've
had blamed good returns for it, haven't you? Come now!"

"Yes," admitted Thorne. "But----"

"No buts," interrupted Broderick. "This is a crisis."

Thorne drew down the corners of his mouth.

"Do you think that I don't know it's a crisis?" He went back to his
desk, drew forth a cheque-book and wrote a cheque. Before passing it
over to Broderick, he looked him squarely in the eye, and added:--

"Peter, I've always paid you by cheque and taken your receipt."

"Sure!" returned Broderick. "I'm no office-holder. You could publish it
in the newspapers; nobody could find fault."

"The point is," continued Thorne, referring to a memorandum, "that I've
passed over to you a sight of money."

"And you got a sight of influence in return," retorted Broderick.

Thorne passed over the five thousand dollar cheque, seized Broderick by
the arm, marched him out, then he began to relieve his mind.

"Broderick, I want more influence. I've got a pet scheme, a great
ambition that is overweening, overwhelming. It won't down; it owns me
body and soul." He paused a moment before finally coming to the point.
"I want some day to sit in the Senate of the United States."

"Phew!" whistled Broderick. "Nothing stingy about you!"

"I shall want every iota of your influence," Thorne went on; "I shall
need it. And, Peter, I want to know whether I'm going to have it. I want
to know that _now_."

Broderick stopped him in the middle of the sidewalk and shook him by the
hand.

"Thorne," he exclaimed, "there isn't a man I'd rather send to the United
States Senate than you! I mean it; there's my hand on it." And pushing
Thorne into the waiting taxicab he commanded the driver to take them to
Cradlebaugh's back entrance.

"Quick as you can!" he added, as they drove off.

Once in Cradlebaugh's, the domineering influence of Broderick again
asserted itself.

"Where's Pemmican?" he inquired gruffly; and without waiting for an
answer: "send him along right away!"

The liveried man who did his bidding bowed a bit familiarly to him, but
very deferentially to Thorne. The latter he knew as a patron of the
place, but one who did not play.

Almost instantly Pemmican came. His face was haggard, pale, his eyes
heavy with sleeplessness, and upon him generally was the air of a man
who had passed through some nightmare that with the dawn had turned out
to be hideously true. He took them at once to the private room where the
captain of police was waiting.

"Captain," said Broderick, "this is my counsel. He's a rattler for
advice when a man's in a tight hole, and I thought I'd just fetch him
along. Captain Whally--Counsellor Thorne." And turning at once upon
Pemmican, Broderick proceeded to interrogate him.

"Now just where did this thing happen?"

Pemmican looked at the captain, at Broderick and then at Thorne before
answering. Then he said:--

"Room A."

"Then it _was_ pulled off in here?"

"Yes."

"And how did he get out there on the street?"

Pemmican rubbed his hands together, looking first to Thorne and then to
the captain for approval.

"I dragged him out."

"Good work!" was Broderick's brief comment.

"Who did this thing?" asked Thorne.

Pemmican gulped. After a second he answered:--

"Challoner."

"Laurie Challoner? You don't say!" ejaculated Broderick. That was all
the surprise manifested. Challoner's proclivities were too well known to
everybody in the room; besides, Cradlebaugh's was always expecting the
unexpected to happen.

"Challoner," exclaimed Thorne with a show of satisfaction, "is a client
of mine!"

Broderick's eyes brightened.

"Great! That simplifies matters. You'll defend him?"

"I shall," admitted Thorne, "if he be apprehended."

"But we must fix it so that he won't be," remarked Broderick.

"Or, if apprehended," continued Thorne, "so that he won't be brought to
trial." And turning again to Pemmican: "Where is Challoner?"

Pemmican spread his hands apart, shrugged his shoulders and finally
answered:--

"Gone--nobody knows where."

Just then the telephone bell rang. Pemmican answered it, listened for an
instant and then resigned the receiver as he called:--

"Captain, it's for you."

The captain with some trepidation seized the instrument, and talked in
low tones while the rest remained silent. Finally he hung up the
receiver and announced:--

"It's my office. Murgatroyd is there now." The captain looked worried as
he declared: "He wants to talk to me."

"Let him wait!" Broderick blustered out. Nevertheless a shadowy gloom
settled down upon them all. Thorne was the first to break the silence.

"If Murgatroyd drags Cradlebaugh's into this murder case there'll be the
devil to pay."

"He's got to keep it out," insisted Broderick. "Confound it! If he drags
Cradlebaugh's into it, he'll drag into it his own organisation! He
doesn't know the men who are behind it--its party affiliations, its
patrons. If he makes this case a handle for his confounded
investigations--well----"

"He will!" interrupted the captain of police. "See if he don't..."

"What if he does?" protested Broderick. "There isn't a grand jury ever
been picked that would indict Cradlebaugh's! And there you are!"

"So long as public opinion don't get to work," ventured the captain.

Broderick started.

"You've hit the nail upon the head, captain," he assented, as he smote
the table with his clenched fist. "That's why I'm worried. If public
opinion gets to work, why say, it will----"

"Keep cool now, keep cool," counselled Thorne. "I'll see Murgatroyd," he
went on; "this is the time of all times that he's got to do what we tell
him to do; and if he don't--we'll break him on the wheel!"

Thorne smiled and jerked his head toward Pemmican.

"We even have the sole witness to this tragedy in the hollow of our
hands."

There was a gentle tap on the door. Pemmican opened it and held a
whispered conversation with one of the attendants of the house. Then he
came back into the room and looking at the captain, he said:--

"They say down-stairs that two of the prosecutor's men were seen leaving
the 'Elevated' a few minutes ago, and that they were working their way
over to the West."

"Jumpin' Jerusalem!" exclaimed the captain, leaping to his feet.
"They're coming here. That ends me--I'm off!" He caught up his cap and
disappeared.

Pemmican once more locked the door; then Broderick resumed the
conversation.

"By George, that's so!" he said to Thorne. "Pemmican is _the_ witness;
we can keep him muzzled."

Pemmican edged forward from his position near the wall. Advancing to the
table he placed both hands upon it and looked at the two men
belligerently.

"But you won't keep me muzzled!" he exclaimed.

Broderick gasped:

"W--what?"

Pemmican drew himself together. Hitherto his attitude had been one of
fearful deference toward Thorne; now he was defiant.

"You can't keep me muzzled!" he repeated.

Broderick took a long breath and rose as though to throttle Pemmican.
Thorne waved him to his seat.

"Pemmican," said Thorne, "you need some sleep."

"I don't need sleep nor coaching either," retorted Pemmican. "I'm going
to tell the truth about this murder."

"Well," said Broderick soothingly; "you've told it--to us."

Thorne fastened Pemmican with his cold, penetrating glance of
displeasure. Pemmican shivered, but was game.

"This murder," Pemmican maintained desperately, "was committed by
Challoner in Room A of this gambling house! I don't care if the house
does pay me my salary, I don't care if I am in charge here, the house
can't make me lie!" He paused for a moment and then went on:--

"This killing followed a row over a game of cards. I heard the row; I
saw the shooting; and it's up to me to lay my cards down on the table.
I'll give up what I know!"

"You'll do nothing of the sort!" said Thorne threateningly.

"I'll do nothing else!" retorted Pemmican hotly.

"If Murgatroyd comes here," suggested Broderick, "or sends for you, you
keep mum--do you understand? That's your game! We'll take care of you
the same as we are going to take care of the captain. He's true blue;
and you've got to be true blue." And pointing toward Thorne, he added:--

"There's Thorne--he's your counsel, too. You do as he says, and he'll
take care of you."

"I can take care of myself," returned Pemmican, doggedly, "and I'm going
to do it. I'm going to tell the truth about this thing to Murgatroyd!"

There was another knock upon the door--a short, sharp, curt, commanding
knock. Pemmican sprang to the door, unlocked it and threw it open.

Three men entered: One was Mixley; another McGrath--both detectives in
the employ of the prosecutor's office in the court-house; and the third
man was William Murgatroyd, the newly elected prosecutor of the pleas.



V


The yellow light of the early June afternoon grew softer as it sank
into, and was absorbed by, the deepening dusk; but to Miriam Challoner,
propped up with red silk cushions in a strange attitude of expectancy,
these things had ceased to matter; for out of her life a living presence
had gone, leaving a void more harsh than death. For weeks now she had
patiently waited, her ear strained at every sound, trying to associate
it somehow with her husband's return; the servants seemed to tread on
tiptoe, as they went about their duties; the house was curiously hushed
as though listening, always listening.

The room that she was in was beautifully proportioned and panelled in
dull red; there were numerous divans well furnished with cushions and
upholstered in the same hue as the walls; and as her eyes wandered over
its rare pictures, bronzes and costly knick-knacks, she was reminded of
the early days of her married life, when it had been her purpose to make
this--Lawrence's room--as attractive and pleasing to him as money could
make it. Fate, indeed, had played havoc with their lives; nothing was
left but the memory of the happiness that once had been hers.

"Oh, why doesn't he come!" she cried, an agony of despair in her voice,
and began to pace the room in nervous agitation.

At that moment a man noiselessly entered the room. She did not hear him
until, suddenly looking round, she saw Stevens, the butler, advancing
respectfully toward her. For an instant it startled her; disappointment
and embarrassment struggled within her; finally she asked somewhat
fretfully:--

"What are you doing here, Stevens--I did not ring--I----"

Stevens held the silver salver before her, on which were several
letters. Taking them apathetically from him, she sank back limp among
the cushions, her nerves on edge as she proceeded to scan each in turn.
There were nine in all--the last of which she quickly tore open as the
sole missive fraught with possibility. But she was doomed to
disappointment; and handing them back to him, she told him to put them
on the desk.

The man complied, and then stood quietly at attention.

"And, Stevens," she added falteringly, "send Foster to me at once."

Stevens turned on the instant and found Foster in a passage-way,
shuddering.

"What's the matter with you?" he whispered, at the same time placing his
arm about her.

"What are you doing?" exclaimed Foster with indignation, but made no
attempt to release herself from his embrace. "Don't you hear the
newsboys? What are they saying?" she went on, nestling closer to him.
"Listen!"

They did not have long to wait, for just then the hoarse, raucous voices
of the newsboys calling early specials reached their ears; but such
words as were at first distinguishable seemed of no importance to them.
Then like a bolt from the blue rang out the words:

        CHALLONER
    CAUGHT IN CHICAGO!

"They've caught him!" the maid almost shrieked, pushing Stevens
violently away from her; and starting in obedience to her mistress'
commands, she added sympathetically:--

"I hope she hasn't heard----"

And as fortune would have it Mrs. Challoner had not heard, but went on
to inform the maid that she was going to her room to lie down for a
while, ending with:--

"There are some things which I wish you to attend to first, Foster."

On reaching her room, however, Mrs. Challoner abandoned her intention to
lie down; apparently calm and collected, she took a seat near the light
and started mentally to place her house once more in order. Item after
item she checked off from her memorandum upon her household pad until at
last, with her finger upon one hasty entry, she looked up and said:--

"Foster, ask Stevens if the stone masons have finished patching up the
cellar wall; and then you may fetch me those letters I left on Mr.
Challoner's desk."

Meanwhile, the French window looking on the rear porch in Challoner's
room slowly opened, and a man quickly but stealthily entered, directed
his steps to the table-desk, switched on the green-shaded light there,
picked up several letters and proceeded to scan each carefully in
turn--just as Mrs. Challoner had done a few moments previous. Suddenly
the sound of footsteps reached his ears, and with the same movement that
characterised his entrance he retreated to the balcony and disappeared,
leaving the French window open behind him. The night was cool, there was
a strong breeze from the east, and the chill, spring air poured into the
room.

When Foster came into the room a little while later, she saw at once
that the green-shaded light on the table-desk had been switched on, and
that the letters that her mistress sent for were not there. Then all of
a sudden she noticed that the window was open and there was a general
air of mystery about the room. She fled into the hall and called:--

"Stevens! Stevens!"

Stevens, who dogged the maid's footsteps and who was generally to be
found in her vicinity, was soon on the scene.

"See! The window's open!" she whispered tremblingly.

Stevens shook his head.

"I locked it myself," he said, going over to it to examine the lock.

"It has been forced," he informed her, and beckoned to her to come and
look at it.

With the gloom which the newsboys' cry had cast over them, the sight of
the broken fastening filled them with horror.

"Who did it?" wailed Foster.

Stevens stepped out upon the porch; there was no one there. He glanced
into the restricted space below; he saw nothing, heard nothing. So he
stepped back into the room and closed the window, and looked at Foster
with significance. Finally he answered:--

"One of those stone masons must have done it. He looked queer, acted
queer; that is, to me."

Foster caught him by the arm.

"Could he have anything to do--with the case?" she gulped.

Stevens pointed hastily about the room at various objects of value
easily appropriated.

"Just like as not," he answered. "If it was a thief, he'd have taken
that an' that an' that----"

"Isn't it terrible!" gasped Foster; "and isn't it shivery and cold!" She
seized a match, crossed over to the fireplace and lit the fire.

"What's that?" she started suddenly.

There was an almost unheard tinkle of an altogether unseen bell; and
before its sound died away Stevens had stolen from the room and plunged
almost headlong down the stairs. Foster quickly followed him to the
door, where she encountered Mrs. Challoner coming down the hall.

"I thought I heard the door-bell just now?" she asked; for while
oblivious to the noises of the street, there was little that occurred
indoors these days that escaped her notice.

"Yes, ma'am," Foster stammered; "Stevens is answering it."

One glance at the maid's face, however, had sufficed to convince her
mistress that something had happened; and for a moment it took all the
courage she could summon to her aid to keep her from breaking down
completely.

"What is it? Speak!" she exclaimed in a tremulous voice; and then
without waiting for an answer, for the sound of voices in the hall below
reached her ears: "If that's somebody to see me, I don't want to see
them--I don't want to see anybody--I can't see anybody--I won't!..." she
ended almost hysterically; and gathering her trailing skirts in her
hands, she fled to her room.

But no sooner had she reached the door than Shirley Bloodgood followed
on her heels.

"It's I, Miriam," she began; "and how are you, dear?" And without
further ceremony she pulled off her gloves, tossed off her hat and
planted herself in a chair.

"I just simply couldn't stay away from you any longer," she declared. "I
know you don't want me here, but I can't leave you."

Miriam Challoner sank weakly at a table and covered her face with her
hands. Alone with the servants, she had borne up, but in the presence of
the strong, sympathetic girl, Mrs. Challoner's courage vanished. Finally
she leaned toward her visitor, and asked, a world of pathos in the
question:--

"Is--is there any news outside?"

Shirley glanced at the fire sputtering in the grate; she hesitated
imperceptibly, then she answered:--

"None--I--I haven't seen the papers--no, there's nothing new."

Mrs. Challoner rose, staggered across the room to the girl and threw her
arms about her.

"Shirley, Shirley, I'd have gone mad, I think, if you hadn't come!" she
cried, and fell to sobbing; but after a moment she straightened up
again. There was a defiant look in her face now, a tremor in the voice
that said: "I don't care what he's done--I want Laurie to come back, do
you understand? I want him back--I want him...."

Shirley Bloodgood bit her lips.

"I know, I know, Miriam--I do understand----"

"Oh, but you can't understand," she persisted; "you haven't a husband
and you don't know ..."

"Yes, yes, Miriam, I know," were the only words that rose to the girl's
lips to comfort her, for at that moment the faint sound of the insistent
door-bell broke in upon them.

Mrs. Challoner's slight frame shook with sudden agitation as she
exclaimed:--

"That door-bell will drive me crazy!" And almost instantly recovering
her composure she gasped:--

"If it should be Laurie!"

The girl glanced at the smouldering fire in the grate, where to her
excited fancy in all their hideousness rose before her the headlines she
had read in the evening papers: "Challoner Caught In Chicago!"

"It isn't Laurie," Miriam went on; "no, of course not; but whoever it
is, Shirley, you must see them for me--unless it should be--" she
faltered. "Then come back, but don't leave me to-night--you'll stay,
won't you?"

"Yes," the girl assured her. "But you must promise me that you'll rest
for a little while--there--on that sofa. Then we'll have a bite
together, and----"

Without a word Miriam Challoner went over to the sofa, and soon gave way
to the first sleep she had had in many days.

"How are we ever going to break the news to her," sighed Shirley, as she
noiselessly crept from the room. Just outside of the door she
encountered Stevens, and quickly placing her finger on her lips, she
motioned him to be silent. When they were well out of hearing he
announced in a confidential tone:--

"Mr. Murgatroyd, Miss Bloodgood."

"Mr. Murgatroyd! William Murgatroyd? What does he want, Stevens?" She
was plainly excited.

"Sh-h-h!" warned Stevens gently; "he's the prosecutor of the pleas."

"Oh, then it _is_ Mr. William Murgatroyd. But what does he want?"

Stevens shook his head, for they were now well in hearing. The next
moment Shirley Bloodgood had entered the drawing-room and stood gazing
into the face of William Murgatroyd.

For an instant the man started back; he could not believe his own eyes.

"Shirley Bloodgood!" The name fell incredulously from his lips. "You
here?"

Shirley held out her hand.

"And you--what are you doing here?" she asked quickly. "I didn't know
that you were a friend of the family?"

Tall, well-built, with a smooth-shaven face, a square chin and a nose
that stood well out into the air, Murgatroyd was a man who appeared to
be without enthusiasm; but although sharp and business-like, his manner
was easy. Turning to Shirley, he came to the point at once.

"I want to see Mrs. Challoner," he announced. "But I'm glad you're here,
for I don't know her very well, and----"

"You can't very well see her now," Shirley interrupted, shaking her
head. "She's frightfully unstrung--she's ill. You know it's almost three
weeks now since Laurie first went away, and----"

"I know," he broke in just a bit impatiently.

"What?" Shirley gasped, the truth at last dawning upon her; "you don't
mean to say that you're here in--in your official capacity?"

Murgatroyd smiled grimly.

"It's the only capacity in which I'm likely to be here, Shirley," he
reminded her.

"But," she protested, "I thought they left these things to----"

"The police," he finished; and again smiled grimly. "They do, but there
are reasons--You see," he went on to explain, "since I was appointed
prosecutor of the pleas, I've turned up a thing or two in the Police
Department, and, well, the Police Department and I are somewhat out of
tune. This case they have put up to me and my men----"

"Surely you can't mean to imply that you have to do this kind of thing
yourself?" The girl looked askance.

Murgatroyd raised his eyebrows.

"Yes, it's up to me...."

Shirley shifted her position. She didn't like Murgatroyd in this new
rôle, and yet there was something in the grim determination of the man
that pleased her.

"I am sorry to remind you," he went on, the full responsibility of his
office upon him, "that I am here to see Mrs. Challoner; to find out
where Challoner is; to persuade her to persuade him to come back."
Murgatroyd chopped out the sentences as though he were a machine.

"Then he wasn't caught in Chicago!" Shirley exclaimed almost jubilantly;
and then touching him on the arm a bit familiarly, she added:--

"Billy, you don't really believe that Laurie murdered Colonel
Hargraves?"

Murgatroyd laughed a short laugh.

"If I didn't know you, Shirley, I should imagine you were sparring for
time.... If I didn't know you I wouldn't answer your questions. As it
is, I must answer them in the same way that I would do anything you
asked of me--short of crime."

"If you put it that way," returned Shirley, drawing away from him, her
tone growing cold, "you needn't answer me at all."

Murgatroyd did not heed her.

"I don't know," he went on evasively, "whether Challoner murdered
Hargraves or not."

"You don't know ..."

"No," returned the prosecutor; "so far the evidence is purely
circumstantial."

Shirley Bloodgood had been hanging on his words. She drew a long breath
and echoed excitedly: "Circumstantial--" There was a flicker of a smile
on her face as she added:--

"Then the newspapers were wrong when they said it was a certainty!..."

Murgatroyd held up his hand and went on to explain:--

"What I tell you is confidential--you understand?"

"Yes, yes," she said impatiently; "but tell me about it--the real
facts--that is, if you can."

"There's no reason why I shouldn't, I suppose," said the prosecutor of
the pleas. "The real facts as we have them ... as we have them, mind,
are simple. Challoner quarrelled with Colonel Hargraves----"

"What about?" asked Shirley impulsively.

Murgatroyd flushed.

"That makes no difference," he answered with some confusion; "the point
is that they were enemies. It was a quarrel in which the passions of
each were roused to the utmost. To make a long story short, Colonel
Hargraves won ten thousand dollars at Gravesend--the men met in
Cradlebaugh's--another quarrel followed----"

"And then?"

"Then," went on the prosecutor, "they parted. That was all--save at two
o'clock next morning Hargraves was found in the street back of
Cradlebaugh's with a bullet through his heart."

Shirley was quivering with suppressed excitement; nevertheless, she
managed to ask:--

"What does that prove?"

"Nothing--only a man named Pemmican of Cradlebaugh's witnessed both
quarrels--and Challoner has run away. Looks bad for Challoner, I should
say."

"But," persisted Shirley, "surely that evidence is not conclusive...."

"One moment, please," went on the prosecutor calmly; "Hargraves had the
ten thousand dollars in cash with him, and----"

"That is conclusive," she commented. "Surely you don't think Lawrence
would steal?"

Prosecutor Murgatroyd paused for an instant and placed finger-tip
against finger-tip, then he answered slowly:--

"Frankly speaking, I do. I believe," he went on, speaking as though with
conviction, "that Challoner would do anything."

Shirley shook her head.

"It's impossible! Why, the Challoners have any amount of money!"

Murgatroyd shrugged his shoulders.

"Challoner's wife has, but----"

"It's the same thing," Shirley protested; "and she just adores him--you
do not know how much she adores him, Billy!"

Again Murgatroyd shrugged his shoulders.

"But how about him?"

The girl shook her head and answered somewhat sadly:--

"I know, I know, she's blind to everything, Miriam is ..."

Once more she placed her hand on Murgatroyd's arm, unconsciously,
impersonally but impulsively.

"Oh, it's perfectly dreadful, the whole thing!"

Unwittingly, Murgatroyd changed his mood to meet hers.

"Yes," he said, "to have ruined himself like this! It's a tragedy to see
a man like Challoner go down hill. In the old days he was such a decent
chap."

"You were a friend of his, weren't you?"

"Yes, before he married, when he was poor and decent like the rest of
us--yes, I was a friend of his."

Shirley Bloodgood drew her brows together.

"Indeed! You must have been a good friend to let him take his downward
course."

For an instant this imputation seemed to rest heavily on Murgatroyd's
shoulders; but he cast it from him quickly with a sigh, and answered:--

"A man's best friends are like a man's good wife; they do not desert
him, whatever happens; he deserts them. And so it was with Challoner."

"And so at the last he has no friends?"

"Evidently not, save a flock of vampires that feed upon his purse and
will continue to feed so long as he has a purse." He pulled out his
watch. "But," he protested, "I am wasting time--I--Oh, pardon me," he
quickly corrected, flushing with embarrassment, "I did not mean my time,
exactly; but frankly, I must see Mrs. Challoner."

Shirley shook her head.

"Miriam Challoner is ill, much too ill to see any one. She gave
orders----"

"Excuse me, but Mrs. Challoner is not too ill," persisted Murgatroyd,
"to walk from room to room. My men have seen her through the windows. I
wish you would say to her, please, that I must see her."

Seeing the futility of resisting further, Shirley made a movement to go.

"Oh, I can't tell her!" she cried. "I'll ring for Stevens." She rang.
"Stevens," she said, as he came into the room, "will you tell your
mistress--Oh, I can't--I can't," she faltered.

Murgatroyd stepped into the breach.

"I am the prosecutor of the pleas," he said to Stevens, "tell her that,
and that I'm sorry to disturb her, but I must see her."

The servant left the room. Shirley sank into a chair and half covered
her face with her hands.

"I don't believe--I never will believe that Lawrence did these things!"

There was a pause. After a moment Murgatroyd remarked half aloud:--

"There is but one way to reform a man like that----"

The prosecutor did not finish, for standing in the doorway was Miriam
Challoner, pale as a ghost, a look of interrogation in her eyes. Shirley
ran quickly to her.

"Miriam, dear, I didn't send for you!" she cried, placing an arm around
her. "It was Mr. Murgatroyd...."

Mrs. Challoner bowed and smiled faintly.

"I believe I have met Mr. Murgatroyd before," she said with a grace
peculiarly her own.

Murgatroyd returned her greeting with:--

"I need not assure you, Mrs. Challoner, that this is a very painful
duty."

Mrs. Challoner moistened her lips and held herself together with great
effort.

"Please don't apologise," she said gently, "I understand. It may be
easier for me to have some one whom I've met."

Murgatroyd bowed; and placing a chair for Mrs. Challoner, begged her to
be seated.

"If you don't mind, Miriam," spoke up Shirley, "I'll leave you now, but
if you need me--call me."

Miriam clutched the girl by the shoulder, and cried excitedly:--

"No, Shirley, stay where you are--I want you here with me!"

Murgatroyd placed a chair for the girl beside that of Mrs. Challoner; he
took a seat opposite.

"Mrs. Challoner," he began in a voice that was even more gentle than at
any time before, "believe me that I've no desire to give you trouble
unnecessarily."

"Please don't apologise," Mrs. Challoner repeated holding fast to
Shirley, as though she pinned her faith to that young woman.

"I shall begin at the beginning, Mrs. Challoner," he said. "I suppose,
of course, that you have had the report that your husband has been found
in Chicago?"

"What! Found?" To the great surprise of the prosecutor no emotions other
than joy and relief were visible on the woman's face.

"Laurie has been found!" she went on. "Thank heaven! I'm so glad--now he
must come back home."

"I had thought," said the prosecutor, in even, business-like tones,
"that the news of his arrest would--would have been an unpleasant shock
to you ... I find that the shock is yet to come."

Quick as a flash Miriam Challoner read the truth in the man's face.

"You don't mean--you can't mean that----"

Murgatroyd bowed.

"I have already told Miss Bloodgood that the report was a mistake. Your
husband was not arrested in Chicago."

At that Mrs. Challoner really broke down. She sobbed silently on the
shoulder of the girl beside her. "Oh, Laurie, Laurie, then you're not
coming home!" she cried. "Most three weeks, Shirley, he's been away!"

Murgatroyd waited patiently until she had recovered, never once
forgetting that he was the servant of the people. His was a double duty.
He must apprehend the guilty, and so do it as to save the community
great expense. Of late murders had been expensive luxuries. Murgatroyd
knew that in this case he would be hampered by lack of funds.

"Mrs. Challoner," he said with simple directness, "the whole substance
of the matter is this: I believe--we believe that Mr. Challoner has not
left the East, and that he may still be here in town--in this house
even." He had reseated himself, but suddenly rose again.

"In this house!" Miriam returned with a faint smile. "I wish he were,
indeed I do wish he were----"

"Mrs. Challoner," the prosecutor went on, ignoring her words, "it is
necessary that my men, now while I am here, while you are here, should
search these premises--this house----"

Shirley Bloodgood shook herself from the grasp of Miriam; she stood
erect, her slender form tense.

"This is an imposition; it is preposterous, Mr. Murgatroyd, that you
should doubt her word!"

Murgatroyd was unmoved.

"It is necessary for my men to search this house," he repeated; and not
unwisely, for he well knew that there is something that brings
men--good, bad and indifferent men--back to their homes.

But Shirley was adamant.

"No, I won't allow it!" she exclaimed indignantly.

Mrs. Challoner placed a restraining hand on the girl, for Miriam
Challoner once more held a strong grip upon herself.

"Search the house if you wish, Mr. Murgatroyd," she consented; "if you
find my husband, no one will be more pleased than I."

Murgatroyd left the room and returned almost instantly followed by two
men--Mixley and McGrath. It was one of these men a short while before
who had stolen in through the French window and tampered with the
letters on the desk.

"You will search here first," he ordered; and turning to the women:
"Would you prefer to go or stay?"

"We'll go, of course," Shirley flung at him as she drew Miriam toward
the door.

"Of course not, we shall stay," said Miriam, freeing herself from the
girl.

The men passed in unceremoniously and proceeded to search the
room--places that even Miriam had forgotten about; they overlooked
nothing, but silently, quietly in their business-like way turned
everything topsy-turvy, replacing things, in the end, as they found
them. Presently they turned to their chief, and said:--

"It's all right, Prosecutor."

"Cover the rest of the house," again ordered Murgatroyd.

They grinned sheepishly.

"That's all done," they answered.

"What?"

McGrath nodded.

"Yes, while you were talking in here," he said, "we showed our shields
and they showed us through." He drew near and whispered: "We thought it
best to take 'em by surprise; they hadn't no time to fix things, don't
you see?"

"Nothing found?" asked Murgatroyd.

Simultaneously they shook their heads, and answered:--

"Nothing."

Murgatroyd waved his hand and commanded them to wait for him at the
door, ending with:--

"I won't be a minute." And turning to Mrs. Challoner, he said a trifle
apologetically: "My men tell me that your husband is not in the house.
One thing more, however; if you know where Mr. Challoner is--"

"She doesn't!" snapped Shirley.

"If you know where he is," Murgatroyd repeated, ignoring the
interruption, "if you have any means of communicating with him----"

"She hasn't!" once more interposed the girl sharply.

"I want you to use your influence with him to make him come back. His
flight amounts to a moral confession of crime. He has nothing to gain,
you see," he went on to explain, "by staying away. He is bound to be
caught; he cannot escape!"

"I want him to come back," stammered Mrs. Challoner. "Yes, yes, he must
come back and face this charge. You--you don't think him guilty, Mr.
Murgatroyd?"

Murgatroyd walked toward the door. If he had spoken his mind he would
have answered in the affirmative; but instead, he compromised with:--

"I don't know;" and abruptly left the house.



VI


"Brutes every one of them--and Billy Murgatroyd the worst of all!" The
exclamation fell from Shirley Bloodgood's lips.

Miriam Challoner had been resting her head forlornly on her arms as she
sat at a table, but on hearing the young woman's bitter remark she
raised her head and smiled a wan smile.

"Mr. Murgatroyd?" The tone was one of surprise. "Why, I thought you
liked him, Shirley?"

The girl hunched her shoulders expressively.

"You have things badly twisted, Miriam--_he_ likes _me_." And suddenly
rising to her feet, she clapped her hands impulsively. "Oh, Miriam, I
almost forgot--I've good news--good news for you!" Then she ran swiftly
toward Mrs. Challoner and swiftly back again to the window. "No, they're
out of sight--almost...."

"Good news? What good news?" Miriam asked incredulously.

Shirley placed a hand upon her lips.

"Prosecutor Murgatroyd," she began, "told me in confidence----"

"In confidence!" Miriam repeated; "then you had better not----"

Shirley shook her head belligerently.

"Oh, no!" she laughed. "It's all right! Billy Murgatroyd likes to tell
things to me. He told me once that he believed that to be one of the
controlling motives that led to matrimony.... That a man should have
somebody to tell things to."

Mrs. Challoner's curiosity got the better of her.

"And he told you--" she inquired eagerly.

"He told me the facts--gave away his evidence to me." Shirley tossed her
head.

"But--" again protested Miriam.

Once more Shirley silenced her.

"No--I shall tell you--this may be a matter of life and death; besides,
you are entitled to know the truth."

"Yes, yes," assented Miriam, "tell me--I must know--but first, wait a
moment." She pushed a button and Stevens entered.

"Stevens," she said in a low, strained voice, "don't let any one in the
house. Do you understand? I simply cannot stand it--to see another
person."

When Stevens had left the room the girl resumed:--

"Murgatroyd told me, Miriam, the greatest cock-and-bull story you ever
heard." Miriam looked as if her brain would snap. "It seems that the
papers have distorted, exaggerated everything. The fact is, Miriam,
dear, the case is the flimsiest...."

Miriam drew a deep breath.

"How? Explain yourself!"

Then Shirley went on to tell that nobody had seen Hargraves killed,
nobody had seen the shot fired; that they had only got some disreputable
gambler or other who claimed to have witnessed a quarrel between them.

"And, oh, yes," she added a moment later, "the man that killed Hargraves
robbed him of ten thousand dollars--and of course Lawrence Challoner
wouldn't rob a man, much less kill one--so don't you see, there's
nothing in the story at all."

"I don't know," answered Miriam slowly, "whether he would or not."

"What!" gasped the girl.

"Don't misunderstand me," pleaded the woman. "There are two Lawrence
Challoners--one is the man I love--that loves me; the other is the
Lawrence Challoner who--well--I don't care," she added fiercely, "what
he's done, I want him back." She sobbed for an instant. "You didn't
know, Shirley, that we had a quarrel--I treated him badly, shamefully;
he hasn't come back since."

"You quarrelled--you, Miriam!" The girl opened her eyes wide. "What
about?"

"Money," admitted the conscience-stricken woman--"money. He wanted me to
give him some--a perfectly natural request, wasn't it?--Men have got to
have money," she went on, repeating his words, "and I wouldn't give him
any. It was brutal in me--I can never forgive myself!"

A look of astonishment crossed Shirley's face.

"You wouldn't give him any money? And he didn't have any when he went
away?"

Miriam wept. After a moment she answered:--

"No. My poor Laurie--think of him starving, freezing, perhaps dying!"

Shirley Bloodgood drew a long breath.

"And Colonel Hargraves was robbed," she murmured to herself.

"I don't think you understand," Miriam went on, breaking in upon her
thoughts. "Of course I don't believe that Laurie is guilty of the things
they charge him with; but he must come back and stand trial and be
acquitted--and I must stand by his side through it all." She broke down
completely.

"On the evidence they have," Shirley returned, trying to comfort her,
"they'll----"

"What's that?" inquired Mrs. Challoner, starting up nervously, in alarm.
"It's that horrible bell ringing again," she went on breathlessly.
"Don't you hear voices below? Listen--I thought I heard...."

Shirley stole to the door and listened. Presently she called back:--

"Don't worry--whoever it is, Stevens is sending them away!"

"I hope so," sighed Miriam, "for I can't see any one--I won't see any
one, unless--Oh, Laurie, Laurie," she cried out, "why don't you come
home!"

Suddenly Shirley fell back from the door; it was being stealthily pushed
open.

"Oh," she gasped, "it's only Stevens! How you frightened me!"

Stevens stood in the door at attention, looking neither to the right nor
to the left, but straight over the heads of the women. He drew a long
intake of breath, then he spoke the name:--

"_Mr. Challoner._"

And hardly were the words out of his mouth than he was thrust aside, and
there stood in his place a spare, gaunt, tottering figure--a man
dishevelled, soiled, exhausted--James Lawrence Challoner had come home!

At the sound of the name the young wife's face turned pale, and for a
moment words failed her. Then all of a sudden she sprang to her feet and
rushed to him, crying in an ecstasy of joy:--

"Laurie, Laurie, you've come home to me at last!" And throwing her arms
around his neck, she kissed him many times, laughing hysterically and
crying the while: "You've come back to me!" And once more the freshness
of youth, joy and hope were in her voice.

But Challoner, still standing just within the entrance of the room, did
not heed her; he cast her off with a frantic sweep of the arm.

"Keep away--keep away from me!" he cried. "I'm tired, dog-tired--I've
got to sleep, sleep."

Painful as was the scene, Shirley was keenly alive to what his presence
there might mean.

"Stevens," she called, pointing to a window, "pull that curtain down. I
pulled it up after _they_ went; pull it down."

Challoner now turned upon her.

"Leave the curtain alone, I tell you," he said, "I don't care if it is
up. I don't care about you either--nor you," looking at his wife. "I
don't know you. I must have sleep--sleep--sleep."

Deep down in her soul Shirley knew that she should not hear all this,
and she would have fled if she had not promised Miriam not to leave her.
Suddenly she wheeled upon Stevens as if she and not Miriam were the
mistress of the house, exclaiming peremptorily:--

"Stevens, leave the room!"

Stevens obeyed her as he would his mistress, and left the room post
haste.

Miriam now went over to the girl.

"You're not going to leave me!" she exclaimed, clinging to her. "You and
Laurie are the only friends I have--you must stay here with Laurie and
me."

Shirley saw the agony in her face and patted her affectionately as she
promised:--

"There, there, Miriam, dear, of course I shall stay." And Miriam, at
once reassured, darted back to her husband, and cried:--

"Laurie, dear," kissing him and pushing the hair back from his forehead,
"so tired--so tired."

But Challoner, a wolf now and not a man, jerked away from her, and
answered:--

"I came home, didn't I? Well, then, I must have sleep, sleep, I tell
you, sleep." And tottering over to a dainty silken covered sofa, he
threw himself upon it with a deep sigh, saying as though to himself:
"Sleep--I must have sleep."

Spellbound, Miriam watched him for a moment, then following him to the
sofa, she went down on her knees and drew him to her in a close embrace.

"Everything's all right now that you've come back," she told him in
soothing tones. "And, dear, you'll forgive me for quarrelling with
you--I'm so sorry, yes, I am, Laurie," kissing him on the lips, the
face, the forehead. "Say you'll forgive me, Laurie, dear?"

His answer was a snore. Challoner lay supinely where he had thrown
himself, sleeping as does the beast that has crept back to his lair
after days of hunting by the man pack.

"Miriam," the whispered name came from Shirley, "you and I, dear, must
now think of things. We must not forget that Murgatroyd and his men have
only just left. We must not let him lie here; it was lucky they searched
the house when they did...."

Miriam waved the other back.

"No," she objected strenuously, "he must sleep; we must let him alone."

"No, no, Miriam," persisted Shirley, putting great emphasis on the
words, "we ought to tell him what kind of evidence is against him. He
ought to know that. If we didn't warn him in time, he'd never forgive
us--he'd never forgive you. He's a man...."

"Perhaps you're right, Shirley--you seem to be always right. Yes, I
suppose he ought to know." Gently Miriam shook him, rocked him to and
fro upon the sofa, as some fond mother might wake a drowsy, growing boy
on a lazy summer morn.

"Lawrence," she cried softly in his ear, "wake up! Wake up, dear, wake
up!"

For an instant Challoner stirred. Presently there came in guttural
tones:--

"Yes, yes, that's all right...." But he slept, and kept on sleeping.

"I can hardly realise that Laurie is back," murmured Miriam, happily.
Unconscious of the other's words, she remained kneeling at the side of
the dainty sofa with its far from dainty burden, her arm still about the
neck of the man who slept upon it.

"Yes, yes," returned the girl, "but don't you think we had better warn
him? He must not be found----"

The other laughed joyously, trying lovingly to smooth out his tangled
hair. After a moment she answered absently:--

"They'll find him now, I suppose; but I don't care--I've got him back."
She turned and kissed him once again. "My Laurie," she murmured in his
ear. Somehow she thought he heard and was glad to hear.

The girl stooped down and caught her by the shoulder.

"But, Miriam," she expostulated, "we must take no chances--we ought to
wake him."

Miriam looked up at the girl helplessly.

"You must not stop, Miriam," insisted Shirley, "we must wake him----"

At that instant as they stood clustered about the sleeping thing, the
bell once more broke out in feeble clamour. They clung to each other in
abject fear.

"The bell!" chorused the women, and stood frozen, silent. They heard
Stevens toiling up the stairs; waited; watched the door; finally they
saw him enter. Neither of the women spoke, but gazed at him
questioningly.

Stevens met their gaze with frightened eyes. At last he found his voice.

"It's the prosecutor's men again, Madam. They've come to----"

"Stevens," interrupted Shirley, "surely you didn't tell them that----"

"Not one word, Miss Bloodgood. But they said they saw him----"

Shirley groaned and pointed to the sofa; Mrs. Challoner rose to her feet
and stood before it as if to hide the man upon it.

"You left them outside, Stevens?" Miriam was calm and apparently in full
control of herself now.

"One of them--the other forced his way in and sent after the
prosecutor."

There was a tap at the door, and the maid, quivering with fear,
excitement and indignation, entered, bursting forth with:--

"There's a man coming upstairs, Madam--but I stopped him. He said he'd
wait out there on the landing to see you--said he knew Mr. Challoner was
in the house and he was going to arrest him."

Challoner continued to sleep noisily.

"Oh, dear, there's nothing to be done, I suppose, but to let the man
in." Mrs. Challoner was speaking to Shirley now; and then without
waiting for a reply she ordered Foster to show the man up, adding: "I
hope he'll wait until Laurie wakes."

Instantly Miriam crossed to the sofa and once more rested her soft, warm
face on his, hoping that he could feel the love that she bore for him,
then she shook him somewhat roughly.

"Laurie, dear, you must wake up." And then like a flash the thought of
resistance crossed her mind. She sprang up with a cry, rushed past
Shirley, past Stevens, reached the door, closed it, fumbled for an
instant, and finding the key locked it tight.

"No, no," she muttered, "they shan't take him--I won't let them--he
belongs to me!"

In a frenzy she piled up the light chairs and tables, and pushed them
against the door to form a barricade, crying the while to Stevens: "Help
me, quick! We've got to keep them out! We must not let them in, must
not...."

Shirley went over to her and caught her in her arms, whispering while
she affectionately rested her head on Miriam's shoulder:--

"Don't, dear, don't! We can't help it, don't you see? There's no other
way out of it but to let the men come in."

"Of course we can't help it," after a moment Miriam said resignedly, and
proceeded to pull the chairs and tables away that she had so vigorously
piled up. "Yes, yes, let them in," and wearily fell into a chair.

Stevens unlocked the door, and Mixley entered the room, McGrath
following soon after.

"There's no help for it, ma'am," they spoke as one man.

At the sight of them Miriam rushed back to her husband and shook him
slightly, speaking his name softly. Then she turned plaintively to the
men:--

"If you would only let him sleep--just a little while longer," she said
falteringly.

"You must leave him to us, ma'am," spoke up Mixley; and pointing to the
far corner of the room, added: "Will you take that chair, there, please?
Don't be afraid, ladies," he went on, glancing at Shirley; "we won't
hurt the gentleman, see if we do."

And suddenly, together, the men bodily lifted Challoner from the sofa
and as suddenly dropped him back again.

At this use of physical force Miriam covered her face with her hands and
cried:--

"Don't do that--please don't...."

They desisted, but for quite another reason.

"There's a hump here that we'd best attend to," said Mixley to the other
detective, meaningly, running his hand over the outline of Challoner's
clothing. "He may not be so sound asleep as he seems to be."

At this juncture Shirley motioned to Stevens to leave the room; the next
instant revealed a revolver which they took from Challoner's hip-pocket.

"Is the thing loaded?" queried McGrath. Together they examined it; then
simultaneously they glanced in the direction of the women.

"Ma'am--ladies," said Mixley, crossing the room, "we're fair people, and
Prosecutor Murgatroyd is fair. You seen us take this here firearm from
Mr. Challoner just now, didn't you?"

Miriam and Shirley nodded in acknowledgment. Challoner dropped back into
his former position and continued to snore.

Mixley came closer to them and requested that they take a good look at
it.

"Don't give it to me," cried Shirley, eluding the outstretched hand and
its contents.

"Give it to me," said Miriam, unhesitatingly.

McGrath crowded up.

"You see that there's five chambers loaded, don't you, Mrs. Challoner?"

Mrs. Challoner turned the revolver upside down and looked at it
helplessly.

"Five chambers loaded?" she asked innocently, unsuspectingly.

"Here," broke in Mixley, "let me show you." And he counted slowly: "One,
two, three, four, five--all full, see?"

"Yes, five chambers," Mrs. Challoner agreed.

There was a pause in which Mixley looked meaningly at McGrath; then he
said:--

"And one chamber empty?"

"Oh, yes," she acknowledged almost eagerly, as he placed his finger on
it, "there's surely one chamber empty--I see it now."

McGrath hesitated, but Mixley went on:--

"Will you smell it please--just the end of it--the muzzle. What do you
smell?"

Mrs. Challoner smiled faintly.

"A Fourth of July smell," she ventured; "gunpowder, of course."

"Burnt powder, exactly, ma'am," they said, and smiled, too. But McGrath
had still another card to play.

"Look at this here figure on this here gun, will you, ma'am? Here--there
it is. I want you to tell me what it is."

"What is it, Shirley?" asked Miriam, bringing it closer to the light.

Shirley shook her head.

"I'd rather not."

"Please," asked Mrs. Challoner.

Shirley peered at it. Finally she declared:--

"It's '.38,'" touching the gun lightly; "the figures are '.38.'"

Mixley fell back admiringly.

"There now--no one can say we ain't been fair. You saw us take it from
him; you examined it; and you told us what you saw. That's fair. You're
fair and we're fair--see?"

"Yes. But what of it?" asked Shirley and Miriam in one breath.

McGrath opened his eyes in mock wonder.

"Why bless me, didn't you know? This here Colonel Hargraves was shot by
a bullet that came out of a thirty-eight calibre revolver. That's all.
We wanted to be fair."

Shirley rubbed vigorously the hand with which she had touched the gun.

"Fair!" she cried bitterly. "And Mr. Murgatroyd sanctions such
methods--will use us for evidence--make a case by us?"

But even then Miriam did not understand. She was watching Mixley, who
had returned to Challoner; watching Mixley and McGrath, who were lifting
Challoner up and dropping him--watching them draw him up to a standing
posture and then throw him back again on the sofa, calling the while:--

"Wake up! Wake up!"

"I've got to sleep," was all they could get out of Challoner.

At last, however, a lift and a drop a trifle more vigorous than the
preceding ones caused Challoner to open his eyes and look about him.
Then he closed them again.

"Are you James Lawrence Challoner?" asked Mixley loudly, peremptorily.

"I am," Challoner answered; "now leave me alone."

And now again the bell; and a moment later Murgatroyd, the prosecutor,
stood in the doorway. The heat of much haste was on his brow; he looked
neither at Mrs. Challoner nor at Shirley; it was toward Challoner and
his men that he directed his gaze.

"Has he talked?" Murgatroyd asked, standing over Challoner.

"No," answered the men, "he ain't awake yet."

"Lift him to his feet," ordered the prosecutor.

The men did so.

And then it was that the women heard him say in a tone that cut into
their souls:--

"Challoner, wake up! This is Murgatroyd, prosecutor of the pleas." It
was a summons; Challoner obeyed it. He opened his eyes, closed them,
yawned stupidly, and then, awake, stood squarely on his feet without any
help.

"Hello, Murgatroyd!" he said.

"Challoner," said Murgatroyd severely, "remember that I am not here as
your friend--I am the prosecutor, do you hear?"

"I understand," said Challoner.

"Very well then," went on Murgatroyd, "you know why I am here. You are
charged--I charge you now, Challoner, with the murder of Colonel Richard
Hargraves. Do you understand me?"

"Perfectly," was Challoner's reply. "You want to take me into custody?
All right--only let me sleep when I get there, will you? I----"

"Wait a minute, Challoner," persisted Murgatroyd. "It's my duty to
inform you that anything you say will be used against you. You must not
forget that I am the prosecutor."

Miriam came forward quickly.

"Oh, Laurie, dear, don't say anything, just yet," she cried in alarm.

Shirley seconded her warning, saying quickly:--

"Don't say a word to Mr. Murgatroyd until you have seen a lawyer."

Challoner, still sullen, looked over his shoulder at his wife.

"Who's saying all this? Only a lot of women--what do they know?" And
turning back to Murgatroyd: "See here, Murgatroyd, let's get this
straight, shall we?" And he looked him full in the eye. "You're the
prosecutor--and anything I say will be used against me. Is that right?
Well, this little matter is just as simple as A, B, C." And suddenly
drawing himself up to his full height, he went on in a loud, clear
voice:--

"I waited for Richard Hargraves with----"

"I warned you," cried Murgatroyd, stretching forth a hand.

Challoner scornfully refused to listen.

"... and when I found him--" he glanced about him defiantly and gave an
imitation of a man taking aim and shooting. "There, now, you know the
facts."

Murgatroyd turned to his two men.

"It's a case of wilful, deliberate, premeditated murder--murder in the
first degree. Take him away!"

Shirley was on her feet in an instant.

"Oh, Mr. Challoner," she cried, springing forward, "why did you tell
him?"

"Come on!" Challoner called out gruffly to the men. "Take me away!" He
did not even glance at his wife, who clung to the girl, and sobbed on
her breast.

The prosecutor nodded to his subordinates, and immediately they seized
Challoner by the arm and started toward the door.

"No, no," cried Miriam, tearing herself from Shirley's hold, "don't take
him away!" And again and again with all the force left in her: "No! No!
No!--Oh, Laurie!----"

The doors closed behind the men. Then Miriam sank down upon the soiled
sofa where he had lain, and sobbed as though her heart would break.



VII


On the morning after Challoner's arrest the prosecutor of the pleas was
sitting at his desk in his private office in the court-house when Mixley
and McGrath entered.

"You've done as I instructed? You've got Challoner outside?" the
prosecutor asked.

The men replied in the affirmative.

"Bring him in," commanded Murgatroyd.

In a few minutes they returned with the prisoner. Challoner looked
better than he had the night before. In a thoroughly impersonal way,
curtly but not unpleasantly, Murgatroyd addressed him.

"Good-morning! How do you feel?"

The prisoner, still half man, growled:--

"Better. I got some sleep, but I'm still tired as thunder."

"I sent for you this morning," went on the prosecutor, "because of what
you said last night. I am not sure that you meant all you said--indeed
whether you remember it?"

This interrogation evidently struck Challoner as amusingly superfluous,
for he laughed aloud; but the laughter had a note of aching bravado.

"Of course, I remember it," he said presently, and pointing with a
steady forefinger to a weapon on the prosecutor's desk, "I shot him with
that gun there."

Murgatroyd could not restrain a movement of surprise at Challoner's
_Sang Froid_; neither could those trained witnesses, Mixley and McGrath,
leaning well forward lest they should miss a word.

"Most decidedly, then," continued the prosecutor, "you do not recall
that I told you that anything you might say would----"

"I heard all you said," the prisoner broke in, shrugging his shoulders,
"but what's the use--it had to come--I knew it. I was getting tired of
hiding in out-of-the-way places, and never having a wink of sleep.
Besides, I knew that Pemmican--Cradlebaugh's man--saw the whole affair.
There was no sense in trying to escape."

Murgatroyd's face adequately expressed his approval of the prisoner's
point of view. His voice, however, was distinctly non-committal in tone
when he observed easily:--

"Pemmican saw it all, then?"

"Certainly he did," Challoner volunteered.

There was a short pause, in which the prosecutor turned over some papers
lying on his desk; when he spoke again he did so without looking up from
the documents he was scanning.

"I haven't examined Pemmican--my men have, though," he said. "I've got
him under lock and key; he's in the house of detention; and he'll have
to stay there until----"

Challoner moistened his lips.

"Until my trial, I suppose," he interposed. "Poor devil! That's hard
lines!"

The prosecutor ignored the comment, but he reminded the prisoner again
that he must be careful not to say anything that could be used against
him, concluding with:--

"You came here from the jail quite willingly this morning?"

"Don't you think we can cut all that sort of thing out, Mr. Prosecutor?"
a little scornfully.

Before answering, Murgatroyd shot a glance at his men as if to sharpen
their attention.

"Very well, then," he said finally, "if you're quite willing I should
like to know the exact details. As I understand it, both Hargraves and
you were fatally infatuated with an actress at the Frivolity--quarrelled
over her--is that right?"

Challoner reddened. For an instant a wild look came into his eyes.

"Surely there is no necessity of bringing any other names into this," he
answered hotly; and then little by little calming down he recounted
graphically all the incidents leading to and of that memorable night,
saying in conclusion:--

"... And then Room A at Cradlebaugh's and----"

A most unusual performance on the part of the prosecutor cut him short.
All the time Challoner had been laying bare the facts as he remembered
them, Murgatroyd had been toying silently with a pigskin wallet on which
appeared in gold the initials: "R. H."; and just when his prisoner was
on the point of ending his story, he tossed it over to him.

Challoner caught it "on the fly."

"Do you recognise that?" Murgatroyd demanded. The prosecutor desired, if
possible, to add robbery to the motive in the case.

Challoner never winked an eyelash.

"Know it?" he replied glibly, "I should think I did! It was Hargraves's.
When I saw it last there was ten thousand dollars in it." And turning it
almost inside out, he asked in an offhand manner:--

"Where's the money gone?"

Murgatroyd's eyes searched the face of the man before him as if he would
read his very soul.

"You took it," he asserted coldly.

Challoner passed his hand across his face, striving to clear away his
muddled recollections.

"I took it? Decidedly not!" he exclaimed indignantly. But the man's
dipsomaniacal doubts and fears tinged the tone of his voice and lessened
the impressiveness of his denial, though he added: "Why, your witness,
Pemmican, can tell you that--he saw the whole thing."

Mixley and McGrath had something to say now. In chorus they wanted
particularly to know whether Challoner was positive that Pemmican saw
"the whole thing." This joint interrogation seemed to have an irritating
effect on the prisoner; and when Murgatroyd silenced them by inquiring
of Challoner whether it was not a fact that he had tried to borrow money
all over town, the "Yes" he elicited was muttered angrily.

"But I didn't touch that," Challoner resumed, the beads of perspiration
standing out on his brow. "In any event, it is not one of the main facts
in my memory. If I did take the money, what in the world have I done
with it--tell me that? But look here, Murgatroyd, let's get down to
business and have this over with. I'm tired of the whole affair. I told
you that I waited for Hargraves for two nights. We had a game in Room
A--there was a compact--Hargraves won out! Hang him, he always won out!
We had a row then and there.... I pulled that gun and fired at him point
blank!"

"And then?"

"I killed him; and I would do it over again, I assure you. I don't
remember any more--but Pemmican was there--you've got his story--he
knows all about it."

"His story," observed Murgatroyd, laying a forefinger on the edge of the
desk, "amounts to just what you said last night--that drunk and sober,
you watched your chance, and when you got it, you made good--or bad,
whichever way you please."

"You've got it," returned Challoner, "now take me back."

There was a loud rap on the door. Mixley answered it, and left the room,
holding a conversation in somewhat strenuous tones on the other side. He
returned in an instant.

"It's Counsellor Thorne," he announced to the prosecutor. "He wants to
see you."

Murgatroyd shook his head impatiently. He and Thorne did not pull well
together.

"Tell him to wait," he said brusquely.

"He won't wait," persisted Mixley. "He insists...."

"You tell him that he's got to wait," returned Murgatroyd.

But Thorne did not wait. No sooner had Mixley left the room than Thorne
entered and strode up to the prosecutor's desk. Mixley followed him.

Resting one hand on the table Thorne waved the other toward Challoner.

"Murgatroyd," he cried fiercely, with an injured air, "what's this? You
call yourself a reputable member of the bar; you call yourself a reform
prosecutor of the pleas; this is a most unfair advantage."

Murgatroyd sighed wearily.

"What now, Thorne, what now?"

"Most unfair," repeated the other counsellor-at-law. "You've got my
client here--my client!"

Murgatroyd looked at Mixley and then at McGrath.

"Your client! Where is your client?"

"There he is," pointing, "James Lawrence Challoner!"

Murgatroyd rose and said suavely:--

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Thorne. Are you retained? I didn't know.
Challoner said nothing of it. Why didn't you tell me, Mr. Challoner?"

"I didn't know it," Challoner told him shortly. "But it's all right--I
suppose Mrs. Challoner retained him."

"Yes, she did," Thorne informed him.

"Well, I'm sorry, Thorne," said Murgatroyd. "If I had known you were in
the case----"

"Sorry!" echoed Thorne. "This is outrageous! I went up to the jail this
morning and my client was not there." He waved his arm as if addressing
a jury. "And when they told me that you--you had the effrontery to have
him brought down here--for the third degree--This is a matter for the
_Morning Mail_."

Murgatroyd lolled back in his chair and lit a fresh cigar. Presently he
said:--

"Thorne, my duty is to the people as well as to your client; so far I've
done my duty to both. Go to the _Morning Mail_ if you want to."

"And leave my client here alone!" said Thorne, doggedly. He shook his
head to let Challoner see what a determined man he was.

Murgatroyd leaned back over his desk and for a moment busied himself
with his papers. Then he announced:--

"Mr. Thorne, your client is going back to jail at once;" and added
jokingly: "If you wish to ride with him in the van, you may do so." And
with that he ordered Challoner taken away.

Before going, Challoner stretched out his hand and said half genially:--

"I've no fault to find with you, Mr. Prosecutor; it had to come to
this."

"But I won't forget this--not for a moment, Prosecutor Murgatroyd," said
Thorne grandiloquently, as he stalked out of the door, followed by the
prisoner and his guards.

After the men had left Murgatroyd paced the floor for a while in deep
meditation. Something in the prisoner's attitude had moved him, puzzled
him. "There's a discrepancy somewhere," he told himself; "and yet where
the deuce is it?--Challoner killed this man as sure as fate. The motive,
the opportunity, were there.... And then there's his confession....
But--" He pushed a button; and when McGrath answered the call he was
ordered to have Pemmican sent down from the house of detention, his
order ending with: "I wish to see him at once."

"Yes, sir." The officer then placed a card upon the prosecutor's desk
and added: "That's a party who wants to see you, sir."

Murgatroyd picked up the card negligently and glanced at it out of the
corner of his eye. Instantly a dull flush mounted to his face, and
rising to his feet, he said:--

"Tell the lady to come in, please."



VIII


There was a flush on the face of Shirley Bloodgood as she entered the
prosecutor's office, which was fully as deep as that on the face of the
man eagerly awaiting her. Jauntily she held out a gloved hand and said
with a breeziness that was perhaps a trifle forced:--

"You must excuse me, Mr. Prosecutor; I'm quite alone--" and she drew
attention to her unconventional act by placing her finger on her lips,
which were pursed into a big O--"I have no chaperone."

"Won't I answer?" suggested the prosecutor lightly, as he took her hand;
and placing a chair close to his desk, "Sit here, please."

"The fact that I'm alone," went on Shirley, taking; the seat indicated,
but moving it a little farther away from him, "should prove conclusively
that I'm not afraid to beard the lion in his den."

"Did it require so very--much courage?" he asked with mock seriousness.

Shirley made a little moue.

"After last night, seems to me you're a bear."

Murgatroyd seated himself; it was thoroughly characteristic that he
should waste little time on a preliminary skirmish with any one.

"Then it _is_ about this Challoner affair that you have come to see me?"
he asked tactlessly. "I warn you, Shirley--don't! Hands off!----"

At once Shirley assumed an aggressive, business-like attitude; close to
his desk she drew her chair, and then leaning on both elbows looked
Murgatroyd squarely in the face and said with great earnestness:--

"Billy Murgatroyd, you've got to help these people out!"

Murgatroyd flushed and answered with a smile:--

"If such a thing were possible, Shirley, you're the one person to make
me do it."

His compliment found her unresponsive; she was too preoccupied with her
own thoughts.

"You must do it," she persisted, and looked at him appealingly. "Of
course the man could not have been himself."

"Probably not," he said coldly. "But of one thing you may be sure,
Challoner had a purpose in all this."

Shirley frowned; the man changed the tone of his voice with a
versatility that she declared to herself was little short of scandalous;
he went on:--

"That purpose was to kill Hargraves. Last night you heard his confession
to that effect; this morning he substantiated it in detail."

Shirley wrapped one hand over the other and sat looking at Murgatroyd
with white drawn face.

"I suppose you realise that this thing is going to kill Miriam
Challoner?"

The man shook his head vigorously.

"Bosh! If grief could kill the woman, living with Challoner would have
accomplished that long ago."

"How unfeeling! How like a man! You understand women so well!" she
declared, looking up at him with a mocking smile; and then went on to
plead: "You must do something--you must get him free! Surely it remains
for his friend to do this much for him! You will--won't you?" There was
a suspicion of moisture in the girl's eyes.

Shaking his head, Murgatroyd rose and began to pace the floor, not
because he wanted to think, but merely to give the girl time to regain
her composure. At last he stopped directly in front of her.

"Shirley"--it was surprising how gentle his voice could be at times--"I
want you to realise the circumstances of this case, which you seem to
have forgotten. In the presence of several people, including yourself,
this man has deliberately confessed to a premeditated murder; a man in
my custody is a witness to the facts; at least five men know of the
motive--his quarrel with Colonel Hargraves. No," he concluded severely,
"if Challoner were my brother or my father, more than that, if you were
in Challoner's place to-day, I should have to try you--convict you.
There would be no escape."

"But the condition that made him do this thing was abnormal," she
persisted; "bad companions and bad habits had warped his mind."

"Like other men of his kind," returned Murgatroyd, "Challoner's decent
at times--conducts himself like a man; but generally speaking, he's
irretrievably bad."

"But can't you delay the trial--get him off in some way--some time?
There are ways--the thing is done every day, and you know it."

Murgatroyd smiled grimly.

"My dear girl, if I would do this thing, I couldn't. I shall go a step
farther. If I could do it, I wouldn't. I couldn't look you in the face,
guilty as I should be of gross malfeasance in my office." He waved his
hand in finality. "Not another word on the subject, please."

"You're immovable! You're cruel!" she cried, rising to her feet. "I
ought not to have come! However, I have done what I could for a friend,"
she flung back at him, looking him straight in the eye, and started
toward the door.

Murgatroyd blocked her way.

"No," he said good-humouredly, not the least disconcerted by her parting
shot, "it's my turn now. You have attempted to corrupt me, swerve me
from my duty and----"

"And wasted your time, I suppose, as you were good enough to remind me
on a previous occasion," she returned, looking up saucily at him under
her lashes.

Murgatroyd was quick to detect her change of mood and took his courage
in both hands, saying:--

"Won't you for the moment forget the Challoners, Shirley? Be kind--you
give me little opportunity to see you alone these days. Think only of
yourself and me----"

"If you're going to make love to me in that awfully serious way of yours
or, for that matter, in any other way, I'll go."

"Aren't you going to marry me, Shirley?" he demanded with characteristic
directness.

"Same old story," laughed the girl.

"Yes, this is the sixth time now that I've asked you. Again, will you
marry me?"

"Don't be silly! This is hardly the place, Billy...."

"I quite agree with you. But one has to make the most of opportunity. As
I said before, the occasions are all too rare when I find myself alone
with you. And unless you want me to keep asking you, speak the word now,
Shirley--make me happy. You may as well say it first as last, for I'm
determined to win you--I'm going to have you!" he wound up
energetically.

"Sure of that, Billy?" she asked coquettishly.

"Positive." And there was a world of determination in the way he said
it.

"Then why bother about my consent?" A flicker of a smile hovered around
her lips.

"Why do you persist in refusing me?"

Shirley flushed. She seemed amused and serious, in turn. Finally she
looked up at him quizzically for a moment, then asked:--

"Do you really want to know?"

He did not answer the question, but ventured:--

"Is it because of Thorne? Is he my successful rival?"

Shirley looked perturbed. She was struggling for expression.

"No, it's not because of Thorne. I wish it were ..." And after a moment:
"Do you still want to know?"

"Yes. I've got to know, Shirley." And he waited for her words as though
his life hinged upon them.

"Will you be very quiet and stay right where you are if I tell you?"

"I promise," raising his right hand half playfully.

"Well, then, it's because--I love you," she said easily.

Murgatroyd sprang toward her, the colour rising in his face, fire
flashing from his eye.

"Shirley!"

The girl quickly waved him back.

"It's because I love you or believe that I do that I shall never marry
you. I mean it," she hastened to add, for the faintest shade of doubt
had appeared on his face.

"But why?" he faltered, turning his eyes inquisitively on her.

Shirley sighed unconsciously.

"It is time that I made myself plain, understood to you. Not because
you're entitled to an explanation, but because, well, because I like you
just a bit----"

Again Murgatroyd took a step forward; but with laughter still lingering
in her eyes, the girl made a pretty little movement of her wrist and
motioned toward his chair. Instantly he stopped, catching his breath in
sheer admiration of her beauty. He was dimly conscious of putting his
hands behind his back; it seemed the only means of preventing them from
touching her. But now as he gazed upon her, he saw that there was
something behind those laughing eyes. A serious look was on her face.
She seemed suddenly to have changed. The thousand and one little
mannerisms that were so large a part of the girl's attractiveness were
all there, but the voice was no longer the mirthful voice of the Shirley
that he knew and loved. She spoke as though in a trance:--

"Can you understand me when I say that I have got to have something more
than love? I am too practical, Billy, to fool myself--or you! Perhaps
I'm cursed with the instincts of my kind--of the American girl. Oh, let
me tell you how it is!" she exclaimed impulsively. "All my life I've
been surrounded by men who were failures. My grandfather was a failure;
my father was a failure; and my brothers are failures. They have tainted
my happiness--don't misunderstand me--I love them, but I can't look up
to them."

Murgatroyd nodded appreciatively. He believed that he should feel the
same way about these men.

"But--you don't want money?" he protested. "You're too much the right
sort of an American girl for that."

"No, not exactly money; but the man who appeals to me is one who can
surmount all obstacles," she answered with grave tenderness; "who has
success running in his veins." Not a shade of her former gravity now
showed on the speaker's face; it lighted as if a flame of enthusiasm had
escaped from the temple of her soul. She paused for a moment and lifted
her head, and in the transporting gaze that seemed to pass beyond him
and was lost into space, for the first time the man read and understood
the girl's nature.

"Have you ever lain awake at night, Billy, ever curled up on a
window-seat in the daytime and planned your future?" She did not wait
for an answer, but kept on: "I have; and in these dreams of mine I would
always take my place by the side of my great knight errant, helping him
to become greater--the damsel riding on the pillion of my lord's
war-horse as he goes to war. At times he has been a diplomatist, a
jurist, a law-maker; and I have always lent him strength. When I marry,
Billy, my husband's work will be my work; his struggles, my struggles;
but the man must have greatness running through his veins."

Murgatroyd smiled sheepishly. He had his full proportion of conceit, and
he did not quite relish this.

"Then I haven't figured often in the limelight of your dreams?"

"If only you had, Billy, but you haven't, much as I have tried my best
to fit my knight's armour on you and place you on his war-horse. Now
can't you see what it would mean if we tried the experiment of marriage?
Marriage would not make me happy; it would be misery----"

"Misery?" he snatched the word from her lips.

"Yes, misery for you," she finished. "Can the girl who must have money
make a poor man happy, much as she may love him? Can the butterfly make
a bookworm happy, much as she may love him? A woman with social
ambitions loves a man with none; can she make him happy? No! And while I
am none of these, yet, somehow, I've got to fulfil my destiny; and I'm
not going to chafe, anger and everlastingly offend the man who doesn't
belong--doesn't fit in with my ideas!"

"But I do fit in, as you phrase it," Murgatroyd maintained. "Haven't I
ambition? And am I not a fighter?--You'd think so if you knew the devil
of a fight I am having right now with my own organisation--with
Cradlebaugh's; and I'm going to win!"

Shirley smiled faintly at his almost boyish earnestness, but she shook
her head.

"You are too much of a reformer, too much of a crank--no, I'm sorry to
tell you so, but in my inmost soul I believe you will fail. You're built
that way! I don't know why, but men of influence have weighed you in the
balance and found you wanting. William Murgatroyd, politically you're
dead--that's what they tell me. There's no future for you; you have
ruthlessly antagonised every valuable interest needlessly. That's not
success!"

Murgatroyd's face paled; his hand trembled as he raised it in protest.

"But the people--the people believe in me?"

Shirley smiled again in spite of herself.

"You haven't an ounce of diplomacy in your whole body!"

"Not if you call obeying orders from Peter Broderick, diplomacy."

Still the girl was merciless.

"You hit from the shoulder wildly; it lands on and hurts your opponent,
but it kills you. You're only honest, Billy, nothing else."

Murgatroyd swung about nervously and glanced out of the window as he
cried:--

"Only honest! Doesn't that count with you--doesn't it signify?"

"It's easy enough to be honest, but it is great to make your honesty
save and not destroy you. To get these men behind you instead of opposed
to you; to make your organisation do what you want it to do; to rise
upon its shoulders because you make it lift you up--Ah!..."

"But, Shirley," interposed Murgatroyd, "can't you see that the man who
stands up for a principle cannot fail?"

"What have you done so far?" she kept on persistently. "You're
prosecutor of the pleas, your first, last and only office. Am I right?"

"I'm afraid you are," he answered dully. "In a way what you say is the
truth. Politically I shall die--" Murgatroyd shuddered as he
spoke--"unless I can force this issue to a finish while my office
lasts."

"And then?" Her manner in putting the question nettled him.

"Well, then I suppose I shall live and die poor. But at least I shall
die honest," he added.

Shirley shifted her mode of attack.

"Look at Mr. Thorne!"

"Ah, it _is_ Thorne, then."

"A while ago I told you it was not Mr. Thorne." She paused a moment and
then, as if speaking to herself, said: "But some day I shall meet the
man I'm looking for--some day----"

"When you do, Shirley Bloodgood," he was quick to remind her, "it's an
even chance that he won't care for you."

Shirley lost no time in retorting:--

"It's a chance I'm going to take! I can love," she went on wistfully,
"yes," and then blushing, added very tenderly: "I am laying my soul bare
to you, William Murgatroyd, because I believe somehow that you have a
right to see it. Again I repeat: Look at Mr. Thorne!--a prospective
United States senator!"

"You admire him?"

"He succeeds."

"Do you know why it may be possible for him to get the nomination for
senator? Have you any idea, young woman, what it costs in this State to
be chosen senator?"

"Does it cost anything?" was her naïve rejoinder.

"Just about three-quarters of a million to swing the thing! Thorne has
money and backing and----"

"And you have neither," she finished for him.

"Precisely."

"Why not emulate Mr. Thorne and get both? To be a United States senator
is one of the few great real successes possible of achievement in this
country."

"His methods are not mine," pleaded the prosecutor, falling back upon
his platform.

"Exactly. He secures support; you, opposition."

"Would you have me adopt his methods?"

"I would have you secure his results," she declared firmly.

There was a hungry look in the man's eyes as he spoke:--

"And if I do?..."

"Oh, if you only would!" her young voice rang out clearly, hopefully.

"And I'll find you waiting for me?"

"At the top of the hill, Billy!" She held out her hand. "Think over what
I've said--Good-bye!"



IX


After seeing Miss Bloodgood to her carriage Murgatroyd's thoughts were
in a maze of bewildering complexity. As a matter of fact, his peace of
mind was wholly gone; and it was with a far different feeling than any
he had heretofore experienced that he sought his down-town club for
luncheon. It chanced to be at a time when stocks were buoyant, and in
consequence the atmosphere of the dining-room was charged with
cheerfulness. But Murgatroyd was in no mood to join any of the various
groups lunching together; on the contrary, he took particular pains to
seat himself at a small table apart from the others, where he gave
himself up at once to a mental rehearsal of the scene in his office a
half hour ago.

Success at any cost! Yes, that was the way she had put it. Well, and why
not? Was not that the modern idea--the spirit of the age? And should he
hold a mere slip of a girl responsible for putting into words what every
woman thinks? Ridiculous!... And the United States Senate was her
conception of greatness! Ah, that was for Thorne! The organisation, the
brewers, the railroads, would send him there--buy him the job! Yes, her
friend Thorne would be a success, achieve greatness; while he, William
Murgatroyd, would be likely at the expiration of his present term of
office to find himself dead politically, become a cipher professionally
as well.

Presently the waiter brought his luncheon. None of the dishes suited
him; the servant was taken to task; the head-waiter was summoned; the
dishes were changed, and still they did not taste right. Finally
muttering to himself comments derogatory to the club's cuisine,
Murgatroyd pushed away his plate, lit a cigar and hastened out of the
building.

Lost in an abyss of depression he sank wearily into the seat at his
desk. It was thus that McGrath found him when he entered to announce
that he had brought down Pemmican.

Murgatroyd stared at him dully.

"Pemmican?" he repeated. "Who the deuce is Pemmican?"

"Thunderation!" burst from the lips of McGrath. "Why, your star witness
in the Challoner case!"

This brought Murgatroyd to earth.

"Well, don't bring him in," he said impatiently; "I'll ring when I want
you."

McGrath was dumbfounded. In fact, his astonishment at his superior's
evident disinclination to proceed immediately with the examination of
Pemmican was such that it came very near to making him forget that there
was another reason for his presence there.

"Another lady to see you, counsellor," said McGrath half-apologetically.
"It's Mrs. Challoner this time."

Murgatroyd looked up quickly.

"Mrs. Challoner! Why didn't you say so before? Show her in at once!" And
as that person came through the door Murgatroyd rose and went forward to
meet her, saying:--

"How do you do, Mrs. Challoner? If you had let me know that you wished
to see me, I should have been glad to call on you. What can I do for
you?"

For a moment Mrs. Challoner did not answer, but looked suspiciously
about to see whether any one else was present.

"Mr. Murgatroyd, I do not wish it to be known that I have come here,"
she began, as she dropped into a chair. She looked haggard, pale and
worn. Her manner, the tone of her voice, at once indicated to the
prosecutor that she was labouring under some suppressed excitement. It
was a situation not at all to his liking, and he watched her narrowly
while she proceeded:--

"I have come to see what can be done for my husband."

"Miss Bloodgood was here a short time ago on the same errand," he
observed, to put her at ease.

"Miss Bloodgood!" Amazement leaped into the young wife's tired, brown
eyes. "She did not tell me she was coming--but that's just like her--she
never tells half the good things she does. She's a friend--indeed,
Shirley's a good friend."

There was an embarrassing pause in which both were silent. Apparently
she was nerving herself to go on. Presently courage came, and she
said:--

"Will you tell me, please, what my husband's chances are?"

"Every man is supposed to be innocent until he is proven guilty.... But
first as last, I may as well inform you, Mrs. Challoner, that I can do
nothing, absolutely nothing for you. Your husband must stand trial!"

"Yes, yes, I know. But you don't quite understand. The man was not
himself. Surely you must know that! Let him live, Mr. Murgatroyd; he's
worth saving. Give him time--a chance. He'll be good--I shall make him
good. I have tried, and I shall continue to try all the harder...."

Murgatroyd sat motionless. His profile was toward Mrs. Challoner. It was
a clean-cut profile, and upon its contour there was no sign of yielding.
After a while he looked up and said:--

"I am very sorry for you, Mrs. Challoner, and I dislike intensely to
hurt your feelings. But do you realise that your husband ... shot this
man in a quarrel over----"

Mrs. Challoner quickly cut him short.

"That woman! What do I care for that! You don't know what my husband is
to me! I love him no matter what he has done. Besides, it was all my
fault. Let me tell you how it was. Laurie wanted money--his money was
gone--he had spent it all, and----"

Murgatroyd held up his hand.

"I cannot let you speak this way. You are simply supplying me with
evidence against him."

"And I refused him," continued the woman, too excited to hear what the
prosecutor was saying. "I hardened my heart against him--drove him from
home, and then--this dreadful thing happened."

"It would be dastardly in me to listen further. You are making your
husband's guilt more evident with every word. When Hargraves was found
he had been robbed of ten thousand dollars!" And with that Murgatroyd
rose as if to indicate that the interview was at an end. "There is
nothing I can do, Madam," he declared flatly; and then added: "There
never was but one way to cure a man like Challoner; it's too late now."

Minutes passed.... Murgatroyd watched her intently; but she did not
move: she sat rigid as if preparing herself for some ordeal yet to come.
All of a sudden her attitude changed. Mistrustfully she peered about her
once more, then leaning far over toward Murgatroyd, she whispered:--

"We are alone?"

The lawyer regarded her with pardonable curiosity before he answered:--

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

Mrs. Challoner wrung her hands; she seemed uncertain how to proceed. In
the end she said:--

"I am going to do a terrible thing. It frightens me almost to death. I
don't know how to begin, but my love for Laurie is my excuse for what I
have to say. I hope you won't misunderstand me. Supposing Shirley was in
Laurie's place--if she were accused of crime, what wouldn't you do for
her?"

"The cases are hardly parallel," he answered indifferently.

"They are precisely parallel," she maintained. "You love Shirley as I
love Laurie--I know you do. Don't say no--women have a way of knowing
those things." Her eyes sought his for confirmation. "Am I not right?"

"I would do anything to win her," he spoke up quickly; evidently she
took the rest for granted, for she continued to persevere:--

"I know that you have great ambitions; and with such a girl at your side
there is no reason why you should not become a great man."

This sudden interest on her part in matters concerning his future, for
the moment rattled him. Nevertheless, he was conscious of a decided
sensation of relief that the conversation had taken its present course;
and her words: "With such a girl at your side" found a welcome in his
heart. On her part, Mrs. Challoner was becoming more and more composed.
And now in a voice that seemed to him ringing with conviction, she went
on:--

"You will have up-hill work, I know. Your party is against you and all
that sort of thing; but if only for Shirley's sake, I want you--you must
succeed!"

For some reason which he did not attempt to explain Murgatroyd found
himself actually confessing to this woman that he thought he deserved to
win out.

"It's only money that you lack, I know," she ventured now. "With money
they couldn't keep you down. With money of your own--" she stopped
abruptly; the tension was getting too much for her. Presently she cried
out: "Oh, Mr. Murgatroyd, don't you see what I mean, and won't you help
me?"

But he failed to understand her meaning, and was obliged to ask her to
explain herself. He was staring hard at her now.

And then at last it came out.

"Only this, Mr. Murgatroyd," she said, meeting his gaze. "I will give
you one hundred thousand dollars to set my husband free!"

Murgatroyd instantly sprang to his feet.

"You mean to bribe me!"

Miriam Challoner cowered before him. She had not put the matter to him
in quite the way she had intended. She was desperately afraid that she
had destroyed all hope of success by blurting it out like this. "Please
don't be hard on me--condemn me," she begged as one before the judgment
seat. "I know it's awful!"

For a full half minute Murgatroyd fastened his gaze on her face. Then he
walked to the door, stepped inside the vault and satisfied himself that
there was no one there, looked into every corner of the room and
underneath the table; and when at last he was convinced that he had
taken every precaution, he came back and stood directly in front of the
woman and told her to repeat what she had said.

In fear and trembling she reiterated her words:--

"I will give you one hundred thousand dollars to set my husband free!"

"Mrs. Challoner," the prosecutor asked, falling into his habit of
putting finger-tip to finger-tip, "how much money have you?"

"In all?"

Murgatroyd nodded.

"In just a minute...."

With a hard look on his face Murgatroyd watched her pull a little book
from a bag, watched her take out the stub of a pencil, waited while she
busied herself in adding figures, waited until at the end of a short
calculation she looked up at him and made known the result.

"In all, I have about eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars left."

"What?" exclaimed the prosecutor, unable to conceal his astonishment.
For since he had begun his investigations it had come to him that Mrs.
Challoner's affairs were in a bad way. A moment later he said: "And that
eight hundred thousand dollars or so is----"

"All in negotiable securities," she promptly assured him, "payable to
bearer. I get six and seven per cent. on some of them--the old ones."

"Where are these securities?"

"In the Fidelity Safe Deposit vaults."

"In addition to these," went on Murgatroyd, "you have your house on the
Avenue?"

"Yes. There's a small equity in it."

He raised his eyebrows.

"It is subject to mortgage, then?"

"Of course," she answered glibly. "I get six per cent. on most of my
securities, and have to pay only four and a half on my mortgage. It
would have been foolish to pay it off."

Murgatroyd smiled a cold smile.

"You're quite a business woman, Mrs. Challoner."

"I have to be," she acknowledged with a smile that was intensely
pathetic.

"And that's all you have?" he asked a moment later.

"Absolutely."

"Your house," mused Murgatroyd, half to himself, "will take care of
Thorne's fee."

"How much will that be?"

Murgatroyd jerked his head nervously.

"Thorne?--Oh, he'll take all he can get!" There was a short silence
which Murgatroyd suddenly broke. "Mrs. Challoner, your attempt to bribe
is no longer an attempt. You have succeeded. I shall set your husband
free!"

Mrs. Challoner smiled while the tears trickled down her cheeks.

"I shall get you the hundred thousand dollars right away," she said, as
if it were a mere bagatelle.

"Just one moment, please," continued Murgatroyd, waving her back into
her seat, for she had risen. "I shall set your husband free for _eight
hundred and sixty thousand dollars_!"

Miriam Challoner leaned back in her chair. She seemed to hesitate.

"For everything I have!" she muttered half aloud.

Murgatroyd reached over and touched her on the arm, and repeated in the
same tone:--

"Everything you have!" And added: "Surely you did not think that I would
sell myself for less?"

"No, no, of course not," she faltered. "I wish I had millions to give
you. You are a good man--you are doing a good act."

Murgatroyd shook his head and said somewhat impatiently:--

"Mrs. Challoner, this is a business transaction; let us close it. You
can get those securities to-day, I suppose?"

"Yes," she replied in the next breath, the flush of joy still on her
face.

"Then do so, please." His voice was hoarse now. "And bring them to me
here wrapped up in brown paper. You understand that nobody must know
about this. You know what it would mean to me, to you, to Challoner ..."

"Yes, yes," she cried eagerly, and held out her hand. "It's an
agreement."

But Murgatroyd purposely ignored her hand and abruptly turned away,
saying:--

"This matter must be closed at once."

And with a confident "I'll be back in half an hour," Mrs. Challoner
passed out of the door, which Murgatroyd had softly and noiselessly
unlocked.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man who presently was brought out of the barred ante-room and taken
before the prosecutor might have been anything from a floor-walker of a
big department store to a manager of a renowned rathskeller. It was
evident from the manner in which he bore himself while under the
constant surveillance of the minions of the law, that he was perfectly
at home in the presence of strangers, and that unusual situations did
not feaze him. In the matter of general adornment of the person,
however, Pemmican of the low brow was an exception to his class: no
diamond blazed from his shirt-front or fingers; moreover, he was dressed
in the most sombre of blacks, and under his soft felt hat of the same
colour the hair was brushed forward with scrupulous care. The long,
thin, smooth-shaven face, the little, deep-set eyes, the abnormally low
brow, which was accentuated by this odd arrangement of his hair, the
pasty complexion, all gave one the impression of dignified sleekness. In
other words, one could easily have pictured the man as performing in a
most impressive manner the last offices needed by man here below. To sum
up, the attitude of the man now waiting for the prosecutor to address
him--Pemmican of the low brow always knew his place--produced the effect
of distressed meekness.

"Pemmican," said Murgatroyd, all geniality and good-fellowship now, "how
are they treating you?" And then, with a chuckle: "You look peaked, my
man!"

It was second nature to Pemmican to swallow his indignation and simulate
cheerfulness, but he answered peevishly:--

"No wonder I'm all to the bad. But why am I kept locked up in this house
of detention?"

McGrath grinned and spoke for the prosecutor.

"Witnesses is wary game and scarce; it ain't always the open season, so
we got to keep 'em in cold storage, see?"

Pemmican ignored this remark, but turned to the prosecutor, and there
was a whine in the voice that said:--

"You made my bail so infernally large that my friends would not put it
up for me."

"I did it purposely," Murgatroyd declared, still smiling. "This is an
important case; you are the only witness; and I've got to keep you where
your friends cannot reach you--" here a faint flush spread over the
prosecutor's countenance--"cannot corrupt you, Pemmican."

Suddenly Murgatroyd rose from his revolving chair. He nodded a dismissal
to McGrath; and then going over to a table in the centre of the room, he
drew to him a sheet of foolscap from a pile lying there, and said:--

"Come over here, Pemmican!" There was an article of some kind in the
hand that rested on the table. "Just sketch me here--on this paper--a
little plan showing the position of the men in Room A that night."

"Sure," volunteered Pemmican, taking the proffered pencil; "now, here
was Colonel Hargraves, here was----"

He stopped abruptly. For he had seen that the article in Murgatroyd's
hand was a wallet marked "R. H."

"Go on!" said Murgatroyd.

"And here was--" Pemmican stopped again.

"What are you looking at?" Murgatroyd asked. "Oh, that?" he said
casually, and passed the wallet to Pemmican.

Pemmican started and backed away.

"I don't want it. It ain't mine. I don't know what it is--what is it,
anyhow?" he gulped. "No, counsellor," he added; "and besides, I wasn't
looking at it."

Murgatroyd patted the wallet.

"It was Colonel Hargraves's pocketbook," he said. "I thought you
recognised it."

"Never saw it before, counsellor," he repeated sulkily; "never saw it
before."

"You must have seen it," persisted Murgatroyd; "it's pretty well worn,
and he must have carried it a long time. He was one of your patrons. The
fact is, Pemmican," he went on, "this wallet was the occasion of my
sending for you just now. I am informed that when Hargraves last carried
it the wallet was full of bills; and when he was found in the street it
was quite empty. It is a mere detail, but I should like to know whether
Challoner robbed this man as well as killed him."

Pemmican slowly shook his head.

"Can't help you out," he answered, "for I never saw the wallet. I don't
know...."

Murgatroyd went off on another tack.

"Very well, then; but there's another thing that you may clear up.... By
the way, Pemmican, perhaps you don't know that Challoner has confessed?"

Pemmican's physiognomy lost its doleful appearance. And he cried
joyfully:--

"Confessed? Gee, that's good--great! Confessed? Well, say, counsellor,
it just had to come to that!"

"Yes," conceded Murgatroyd; "but there's another thing which bothers me,
though I don't know that it complicates matters exactly. It's a mere
detail again. Challoner says he shot his man in Room A in Cradlebaugh's;
you say the quarrel took place there, that Hargraves went out first, and
that Challoner followed him. Hargraves, as we know, was found dead in
the street above. That's right--isn't it?"

"Sure," returned Pemmican, positively. "I didn't see him fire the shot;
nobody saw that. It's a good thing, though, because between you and me,
Prosecutor, notwithstanding my testimony I thought that you'd have some
trouble in making out a case. Circumstances is something, but they ain't
everything, you know."

Murgatroyd agreed to this, and added:--

"We've got certainty now, because he's confessed--but he's mixed as to
the place of the shooting. He thinks it was in your place--that you were
present, that's all."

Murgatroyd seemed satisfied. He sat down at his desk and from a drawer
he drew a box of cigars. Now he leaned toward Pemmican and said
confidentially:--

"Pemmican, I want your testimony in this case--I want it _right_. Have a
cigar?"

Pemmican accepted, and finding a ready match in his pocket, struck it on
the heel of his boot and lighted the cigar before the slow-moving
Murgatroyd could pass him his matchbox.

"Thank you, counsellor, I have one," he said, and blew a cloud of smoke
to the ceiling. "You can depend on me; I'll tell the truth--the whole
truth and nothing but the truth, so help me--" His gaze returned again
to the pigskin wallet on the desk. "But say, I never saw that thing
before."

Murgatroyd picked it up and spoke in a still lower tone now.

"Pemmican, suppose I were to fill this with, well, say ten thousand
dollars and give it to you; how would you testify in this case, eh?"

"But," protested Pemmican, "I never saw ten thousand dollars in
it--No...."

"No," repeated Murgatroyd; "but if you should right now have it filled
with ten thousand dollars, how would you testify for me?"

Pemmican stolidly shook his head and answered:

"To the truth, counsellor--I'm an honest man."

Murgatroyd still persisted.

"How much would you take, Pemmican," he went on, "to swear that
Challoner did not commit this crime?"

Pemmican started back in alarm, and once more shook his head.

"Counsellor, I'm an honest man," he answered doggedly.

Murgatroyd gave it up as a bad job.

"You're honest, all right, Pemmican," he said. "You can go back now; but
I'll have you down again before the trial, and together we'll go over
the testimony carefully." He placed his hand upon the other's arm. "You
see, I'm most particular about this case." The next moment Mixley and
McGrath entered and took Pemmican away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fifteen minutes later Mrs. Challoner arrived. She was accompanied by
Stevens, the butler, carrying a large parcel, which he deposited on the
prosecutor's table as directed. He was then dismissed; and when the door
had closed on him, the man and the woman stood for a few minutes
listening in silence to his retreating footsteps. Then in low, rapid
tones Mrs. Challoner assured the prosecutor that she had accomplished
her purpose without arousing the suspicions of any one--not even the
servant. Murgatroyd noiselessly locked the door, and putting his hand
upon the parcel on the table, looked at her interrogatively.

"Yes--the securities--they're all there," she hastened to assure him.

"Shall I----"

Mrs. Challoner's hand waved her permission. The big, heavy parcel had
been clumsily tied up with brown paper. This, Murgatroyd tore off, and
there stood revealed two long, sheet-iron boxes, old and somewhat
battered. They were heavily sealed, and across each on a pasted piece of
paper appeared in big letters the name "Miriam Challoner."

"I brought them just as they were," she went on to explain. "You may
break the seals, scratch off my name, and then they will be yours to do
with as you please."

"For the present," Murgatroyd told himself, as his eyes fell on the
vault door, "that will be their resting place." And turning to her, he
said aloud:--

"The deal is closed. You understand the terms? Everything is left to
me--I am to free your husband--I am to keep your money?"

"Yes," she breathed, as if some heavy burden had rolled from her young
shoulders.

And now for the first time Murgatroyd looked Miriam Challoner full in
the face, and said solemnly:--

"One thing more: absolutely no one must know of this. Not Challoner, nor
Thorne, and above all, not Miss Bloodgood. Everything depends on your
silence--your silence is the essence of this contract. You agree?"

Mrs. Challoner bowed.

"I do." And she might have been taking an oath from the way she said it.

"Remember you will say nothing to Miss Bloodgood...."

"Shirley will never know of it."

"Most decidedly not Shirley." But the prosecutor remarked this to
himself when once more he was alone.



X


The trial of James Lawrence Challoner had progressed with uncommon
haste, the fourth day finding all the witnesses heard and the case ready
to sum up to the jury. The court-room was crowded: the newspapers were
there; the people were there; public opinion was there. Brief and to the
point had been the State's case--made up out of Pemmican's evidence and
the confession of the prisoner. But in the prosecutor's presentment of
his evidence there had been an undercurrent as unusual as it was
unexpected: every question that he hurled at Pemmican had a hidden
meaning; every interrogation point had a sting hidden in its tail. Not
that he made any attempt to switch the issue or to side-track the facts,
but it was clearly apparent that from start to finish he was making a
supreme effort to include within his facts, to embrace within the issue
and to place on trial, together with the prisoner, one other culprit in
this celebrated case--Cradlebaugh's.

However, if such were the prosecutor's chief purpose, it failed. Thorne,
the counsel for the defence--who represented more than one client in
this case--met him at every turn, parried his every thrust.

"Objection sustained," the Court had ruled wearily many times during the
trial, "the prosecutor will proceed."

And upon such occasions Graham Thorne, from the counsel's table in the
front, had flashed a triumphant glance at Peter Broderick; and Peter
Broderick, in turn, from his seat in the rear of the court-room, would
return the gaze with a smile, the brilliancy of which was outshone only
by the big diamond that blazed from where it rested comfortably on his
highly coloured shirt-front. To these two--not in the least interested
in the outcome of the trial, so far as Challoner was concerned--the case
was highly satisfactory. There was no crevice in the mystery of
Cradlebaugh's in which Murgatroyd could insert the thin edge of a wedge;
its foundation still remained unshaken after the impact of his battering
ram; the Challoner case was to be the Challoner case, and nothing more.

"... That's all, Mr. Pemmican," were the words with which the prosecutor
had concluded the examination of his principal witness.

On Pemmican of the low brow leaving the witness stand, he had glanced
expectantly toward the counsel for the defence. Throughout the trial
there was in his manner a peculiar deference toward Thorne which had
been there from the first day. Under Murgatroyd's sharp interrogation he
had seemed quite at ease; but his attitude toward Thorne had always
appeared to be that of a man whose hand was constantly kept raised to
ward off blows. However, notwithstanding that he had been recalled at
least five times, Pemmican, on the whole, apparently was well satisfied
with his performance. Unquestionably he had been loyal and wary, and had
confined his testimony as to motive to the woman in the case--a row over
a lady--keeping that portentous game of cards well into the
background--out of sight.

"Surely you're not going to detain me any longer?" whispered Pemmican to
the officers who had placed themselves on either side of him. "What!
You're not going to let me go?"

"Not on your life!" remarked one of them genially; and showing to the
prisoner a slip of paper which he drew from his pocket: "There's a
warrant for your arrest."

Pemmican for a moment looked bewildered and murmured incredulously:--

"... my arrest?"

"Sure," replied the officer. "The chiefs begun his raid on
Cradlebaugh's, and you're one of the main guys...."

Pemmican wiped his forehead and stammered sulkily:--

"And--and the prosecutor's goin' to lock me up after all I've done for
him?"

"That's what!" replied the officer, and a moment later added
complacently: "Unless you can get bail."

"Confound 'em!" exclaimed Pemmican. "They won't go my bail!"

The detective placed his ear quite close to Pemmican.

"_Who_ won't go your bail?" he queried interestedly.

Pemmican smiled.

"They," he returned, not for an instant off his guard.

"If Prosecutor Murgatroyd only knew who _they_ are," went on the
detective, "if he knew who backed you up, there'd be some interesting
goings on 'round here."

"He won't find out from me," replied Pemmican, doggedly. "I play a
straight game with the men who hand out my bread and butter. You can lay
your bets on that!"

"Sh-h-h-! The prosecutor's talkin' over there," whispered the detective,
raising his hand, and he hustled the prisoner out of the room, as
Murgatroyd, rising once more, bowed toward the bench and announced:--

"The State rests, if the Court please."

And then Thorne at his end of the table also rose to his feet and
declared:--

"The defence rests."

Presently he began to address the Jury. During the trial his line of
defence had been insanity--the defence of the defenceless, the forlorn
hope of the hopeless. The Bench had frowned at it; the Jury had shaken
its head as one man: insanity to juries in the metropolis had become as
a red rag to a bull. But the crowd in the court-room had leaned forward
with huge expectation,--waiting for the hidden places to be revealed
with much the same anticipation and interest one experiences in waiting
for the dénouement of a stage drama.

Before turning to the jury, however, for his last effort, Thorne stooped
down for an instant and whispered to Mrs. Challoner:--

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Challoner, that we couldn't do better with our facts.
It seems to me to be the weakest defence I have ever seen put up in any
case. Indeed, it seems to me we have no defence at all."

But somewhat to his astonishment this remark was received by Miriam
Challoner with that same degree of confidence that had characterised her
attitude all through the trial. On her face was a certain unexplainable
something which not only he had noted but which the people had noted,
the men at the press-table had noted, and commented upon freely in their
copy--a glow that had never faded from the eyes of the woman, a flush
upon her cheek that had never paled, and which said more plainly than
words that she was certain of the acquittal of her husband.

"Devilish fine actress!" Thorne thought to himself, for such optimism in
a case like this was wholly beyond his comprehension; and it was with a
certain feeling of admiration that he heard her whisper with a
reassuring smile:--

"You're making a glorious fight, Mr. Thorne; you're bound to succeed."

And indeed, such was her marvellous hopefulness, that it succeeded in
enheartening him, and was reflected in his illustrations to the jury
when dwelling at some length on the many fine points in the character of
the accused. He was particularly happy in impressing upon his hearers
that Challoner was a man with a most peculiar temperament and mental
bias; that if Challoner had taken the life of Colonel Hargraves, it was
only after the man's soul and mind had eaten poison from the hands of
his enemy--Colonel Hargraves.

Of the life and character of that gentleman, he had little to add to
what was already known, and was seemingly content to dismiss him with:--

"The least said of him the better, now that he is gone."

Thorne paused.

Suddenly he assumed a dramatic pose, and now turning toward a beautiful
and fashionably gowned young woman with a bar of sunlight streaming down
her face, who occupied a seat underneath the third high window in the
court-room, he riveted his gaze on her, all eyes following in that
direction.

"There," he said, his voice sinking to a whisper, but a whisper that
could be heard all over the court-room, "is the woman in the case--the
real culprit! A temptress! A vampire! A Circe! A woman who has made a
mess of the lives of two men, and only God knows how many others! A
woman who played the game to her own selfish ends!... And here you have
the result!"

For a full minute Letty Love unblushingly returned the lawyer's probing
glances; plainly she rejoiced in the stares which she felt were focused
upon her,--for no one knew better than she that her beauty was infecting
all present,--and it was not until she had drunk her fill of the cup of
publicity that she turned her head away and looked out upon the sunlit
street.

From where he sat Challoner, too, was able for a brief moment to see the
face of the woman who was responsible for his misfortunes. That same
second, however, brought his wife also into his line of vision, making
it possible for him to contrast the two countenances; and he was
surprised to find himself not only admiring the wealth of colouring and
glow upon Miriam's face, but actually loathing himself for ever having
admired the ugly lines which he now saw on the sunlit face of Letty
Love; and his whole nature revolted against her.

"If only I had left her to Colonel Hargraves," he muttered to himself;
and immersed in similar bitter reflections, he lost all but his
counsel's concluding words:--

"... and all that I want, all that I ask of you, gentlemen of the jury,
is that you give us what we have not had so far--a fair, square deal!"

Thorne sat down, satisfied that he had made an impression. At all
events, he had done the best he could--under the circumstances. Out of
his material he had hewn the inevitable result--debauchery; out of this
debauchery he fashioned the conclusion--insanity; out of a victim he had
made a murderer; out of a murderer he had made a hero whose
irresponsible emotions cried out to a jury of his peers for justice,
even for retribution against the murdered man. Base metal though it
were, it seemed pure gold to his listeners. Even the jurors drew long
breaths and looked each other questioningly in the eye; the crowd
murmured its sympathy; and Thorne, glancing at the little coterie behind
the prisoner, was pleased to see that even in the eyes of Shirley
Bloodgood he had raised a new hope for Challoner.

In the interim that followed Shirley and Miriam leaned over and shook
hands with Thorne.

"We can't lose," whispered Miriam; and again there returned to her face
that mysterious expression of confidence which was decidedly
inexplicable to her lawyer. And so it was that a little while later he
turned to Shirley and said:--

"Does she understand that we must lose?"

Miss Bloodgood shook her head.

"Oh, no! No one can tell her that." And bestowing on him a rare smile,
she added: "And now, Mr. Thorne, after what you have said no one can
tell _me_ that either."

Well pleased with her flattery, Thorne returned the smile, but he warned
her that when those twelve men got into the jury room they would get
down to facts.

And it so happened that the twelve men got down to the facts before they
even started for the jury room, for already the prosecutor had begun his
speech and was stripping the case of everything save the truth.

"This, gentlemen," he now told the jury, quietly, "is not an unusual
case; it's an every-day story growing out of jealousy and hatred; one
bad man shot another bad man--that's all."

At this the temperature of the crowd dropped from the fever-heat of
frenzied sympathy down to the freezing-point of common-sense. Challoner
stirred uneasily; Shirley Bloodgood shivered; only Miriam Challoner sat
with the same placid look on her face.

Murgatroyd now left his jury, walked to the table where the prisoner
sat, and without taking his eyes from the face of the accused, he
continued:--

"... This man Challoner is a wilful, deliberate murderer! This is not
his first offence--he began to murder years ago...."

At this point the prosecutor went back to the time when Challoner
married a beautiful young girl, emphasising the fact that he had married
this mere slip of a girl for her money.

"Her money! And he has never earned a dollar since!" he told his
listeners with great scorn. "And his life! What has he made of it? Ah!
You men know the things that are done in this city between midnight and
morning, and the up-hill fight that is being made to clean it of
corruption and vice! Well, this degenerate, this profligate, did these
things of the under-world. They appealed to him; he was no mere youth to
be led astray!"

Challoner winced; not that he quailed before the menacing posture that
the prosecutor had assumed, but because of a guilty consciousness that
the accusing lips meant every word that they uttered. The audience
shifted uneasily in their seats; Shirley Bloodgood held her breath as
she placed a protecting arm about Miriam, which Miriam gently shook off;
for what need had she for sympathy?

Murgatroyd returned to his place in front of the jury rail, and briefly
reviewed the evidence.

Then with great emotion in his voice he went on:--

"And what part, gentlemen, did the wife have in all this? His wife, who
sat through the weary hours of the night waiting for the thing she
loved, while her husband not only lavished his affections but her money
on others--his friends. His friends! Had he friends? If so, where are
they? No, long ago he turned his back on his real friends; they were in
the light; he sought the darkness."

As the prosecutor went on with his merciless flaying, Challoner grew hot
and cold by turns.

"... Gentlemen, behold the result of riotous living!" he declared,
pointing his finger at the prisoner. "The pace that kills!...

"And so, in view of these facts, in view of the prisoner's private
history, I tell you that the defence here is absurd, ridiculous.
Gentlemen, on behalf of the people, in the name of justice, I ask you to
convict this man."

For an instant he stood eyeing the twelve jurors. Then, raising his
right hand solemnly he brought it down with full sudden force upon the
railing between himself and them.

"And let me warn you, gentlemen of the jury," he continued ominously,
"that the honour, the integrity of this metropolis hangs in the balance.
If you acquit this defendant and set him free, the people of this State,
the people of the country, will say henceforth that all that a murderer
need have to secure an acquittal--his freedom, is money, money, money."

As the prosecutor seated himself, there was a gasp of relief from the
people in the court-room. Broderick ventured inside of the railed space
set aside for counsel and shook hands with Thorne.

"Counsellor," he said, "you certainly handled that trial like a veteran.
You saw your duty and you did it."

Thorne nodded his thanks, and answered:--

"I held Murgatroyd down to the woman in the case, all right. He had to
stick to that one motive. This verdict will let everybody out----"

"But Challoner," added Broderick.

"Everybody but Challoner," agreed Thorne; "and the incident will be
closed."

Broderick, with a certain self-satisfied air, went on:--

"When you were talking, I put up ten dollars with a chap back there in
the court-room that Challoner'd go free."

"Not in a thousand years!" declared Thorne, flatly.

"I'm afraid you're right," said Broderick, and added with a twinkle in
his eye: "I hate to lose that ten. Still if I do lose it, it'll be
tougher for Challoner and her--" he jerked his head toward Mrs.
Challoner at the other end of the table--"than it will be for me. Oh,
well, such is life! The world is full of the wives of criminals, and
they all marry again and have children and live happily ever after."

Once more, he glanced in the direction of Miriam Challoner, and
presently commented in a low voice:--

"There's a plucky little woman, Thorne; nothin' can feaze her. I've been
watchin' her; and she's just as sure of that jury as I am of my own
assembly district after it has gone through my trousers pockets the
night before election." And clapping Thorne on the shoulder familiarly,
he took his departure, saying:--

"I'll be back to hear the verdict."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly two o'clock. The Court had charged the jury; the jury had
filed out; they were still locked up in the jury-room. The crowd had
left the court-room, Challoner had been taken down-stairs, Pemmican had
been housed in jail under the gambling warrants; only Thorne, Miriam and
Shirley remained.

"Wasn't that a terrible arraignment of Prosecutor Murgatroyd!" exclaimed
Shirley. "When he faced Laurie and told him what he thought of him--it
was simply awful!" and the girl covered her face with her hands as if to
shut out the sight of it all.

"Why, Shirley," said Miriam quietly, "it's a prosecutor's business to
say these things about a prisoner. It's all in a day's work, isn't it,
Mr. Thorne?" And she smiled faintly.

Thorne was about to speak when a uniformed attendant suddenly entered at
one door and swung across the court-room to another. In passing, he
called to Thorne:--

"The jury has agreed!" He disappeared in the direction of the
prosecutor's private office.

A moment later another court-officer strode toward the judge's private
chambers, and likewise announced in passing:--

"The jury's coming in!"

Thorne looked cheerful, by way of encouragement to the women. Shirley
blanched, her lips whitened, she trembled from head to foot; but Thorne
noted that Miriam's eyes only grew brighter; she concealed her agitation
well.

"It will all be over in a minute now," Miriam exclaimed joyfully, "and
he'll be free, free!"

Without, within, everywhere was bustle, expectation. The crowd filed
back into the court-room; Murgatroyd came in from his private office;
the Court took its seat upon the bench; and then just as Broderick
waddled in, the barred door in the far corner opened, and Challoner, as
though in a daze, walked down the aisle, an officer in front and one
behind him. The clerk glanced about him to see that all was in
readiness, and then nodding to an officer, he said:--

"Bring 'em in!"

A minute that seemed minutes elapsed, and then the jury filed in--a jury
whose faces, whose demeanour told nothing, gave no sign. Then there was
an interval of silence, and in that interval a cutting pang seized upon
the soul of every human present--the agony of suspense, the travail that
precedes the birth of a verdict.

"Gentlemen of the jury," said the clerk rapidly, "have you agreed upon
your verdict?"

"We have," came in chorus.

"Who do you say shall answer for you?"

The eleven men pointed toward their foreman.

"Gentlemen of the jury," said the clerk, "look upon the prisoner;
prisoner, look upon the jury. Gentlemen of the jury, how do you say you
find--guilty or not guilty?"

The foreman glanced upon the piece of paper which he held in his left
hand and gripped the rail before him with his right.

"Guilty," he replied.

"What's that?" exclaimed Graham Thorne in affected astonishment.

"What?" came from Miriam Challoner shrilly; and the next moment all the
colour had left her face; she was pale as death.

"Guilty, your Honour," repeated the foreman in a louder tone.

"Guilty of what?" queried the Court impatiently.

"Of murder in the first degree," answered the jury as one man.

"Gentlemen of the jury, your verdict is guilty of murder in the first
degree, and so say all of you?" reeled off the clerk, looking at his
minutes.

They nodded.

"You are discharged, gentlemen, with the thanks of the Court," announced
the Court with approval. "Be here to-morrow morning at ten o'clock."

Meanwhile Challoner sat sullen, desperate, his chin resting on his hand,
glaring into space. Around him was confusion, expostulation. The
spectators were pressing forward toward the rail to get another look at
the accused, while the jury was passing out. All of a sudden the sound
of buzzing whispers died down and was followed in a moment by an
intenser silence. There was a stir among those in the front seats, and
the judge, looking up, was surprised to see that it was caused by the
defendant's wife, who had moved from her place and was making her way to
the prosecutor's desk, determination standing out on her countenance.
Immediately all eyes were fixed on her, as she placed her hand upon
Murgatroyd's arm, and looking him full in the face, exclaimed
hysterically:--

"They found him guilty--guilty, do you understand? What have you got to
say?"

Murgatroyd looked at her, but he did not answer. Her grasp became a
clutch as she repeated:--

"What have you got to say to me? Speak!"

Murgatroyd was imperturbable.

Miriam, aghast at his coolness, stared at him; then she began again:--

"You--you--" Her voice failed her, and relaxing her grasp, she clung to
the table for support. Shirley ran to her, held her, saying gently:--

"Miriam, dear, you are beside yourself--come, come away!"

But Miriam braced herself and resolutely shook herself free from her
friend.

"No," she replied evenly, "I am not going!" and her voice rose as she
went on: "Don't let anybody go! What I have to say I want all of you to
hear!" And tottering over toward the bench as the spectators pressed
tumultuously forward, Peter Broderick among the rest, she exclaimed:--

"Your Honour! Your Honour!"

"What is it, Madam?" asked the justice. And considering that the Court
believed that it had to deal with a case of hysteria, the voice was
surprisingly little tinged with irritability; but then the learned judge
felt that he must make some concession to a woman of Mrs. Challoner's
high social standing; and therefore he added politely: "You must be
brief."

"I shall be brief," answered Mrs. Challoner, sending an accusing glance
toward the prosecutor. "I desire to make a charge against Mr.
Murgatroyd, the prosecutor of the pleas!" She was well contained, but
her tone was harsh, cutting.

The Court glanced sympathetically at her, and then smiled gently,
indulgently in the direction of the prosecutor.

"I accuse him of bribery!" she went on. "He promised to set my husband
free!"

Shirley Bloodgood clutched her once more, pleading with her to stop.

"Miriam, what are you saying? You must stop this...."

"Bribery?" asked the justice, somewhat startled. "Bribery?"

For an instant there was a subdued uproar. Graham Thorne pressed forward
toward the Court; Broderick from the crowd behind pushed his way into
the enclosure; reporters thrust their pads and pencils into the scene;
spectators stirred, became noisy; but Murgatroyd never moved.

"Let Mrs. Challoner go on," demanded Thorne.

The Court rapped loudly with his gavel; the crowd slumped into silence.

"Clear this court-room!" ordered the justice, standing up until his
command was obeyed.

The process took five minutes. At the end of that period none was left
within the room except the officers and those within the rail, which
included Broderick. No court-officer who valued his position dared to
disturb Broderick.

"Now close the doors!" ordered the justice.

That took an instant more. At last, the Court said:--

"Now, Mrs. Challoner...."

Miriam's Challoner's eyes flashed fire.

"I want everybody here," she cried, "to know and understand what this
man has done! He arrested my husband," she went on, her face still
turned toward Murgatroyd, her eyes holding his glance; "I begged of him
to set him free--he refused. He told me he could do nothing for
me--could do nothing but his duty. I couldn't move him; he wouldn't
budge an inch until finally I offered him money."

She paused. Peter Broderick moved a few steps nearer, gnawing his
finger-nails; Thorne watched Murgatroyd closely; but Murgatroyd was
unmoved. He returned Miriam's glance with interest; he gave no sign.

"... until I offered money," she repeated. "I offered him one hundred
thousand dollars; he refused to take it."

"Naturally," interposed the Court.

"He refused to take it," went on Miriam, irritated by the interruption,
"because he knew there was more. He demanded eight hundred and sixty
thousand dollars--all I had,--to set my husband free! He took it and
agreed to set him free. And now," she concluded, advancing toward
Murgatroyd as though with a threat upon her tongue, "see how he has kept
his word!"

"It can't be true," Shirley Bloodgood was heard to say, half aloud.

Broderick crept up close to Thorne and nudged him. The latter
interpreted correctly the action.

"Let Mrs. Challoner go on," suggested Thorne; and the Court ordered Mrs.
Challoner to proceed.

"That's all," said Miriam, quite close to the prosecutor now, "except
what I have to say to Mr. Murgatroyd."

And now as she stood before him, her eyes glistening, her breast
heaving, remembering only that she was a woman robbed of her mate, she
cried:--

"I am going to make you suffer for this as you made him suffer in this
court-room," and she waved her hand toward Challoner. "I'll invoke every
law against you," she went on, "and if the law can't help me, I'll spend
my life to make you pay for this. You made an agreement with me and you
must keep it, or I will...." Suddenly she sank exhausted into the chair
next to Challoner and buried her face upon the prisoner's shoulder.

"Laurie, Laurie," she sobbed in her despair. For the first time
Challoner showed some feeling; he found her hand and patted it with
affection for a moment.

The justice shook his head. Presently he said incredulously:--

"Mrs. Challoner, this is a terrible charge to make."

She sprang up but immediately sank back again.

"It's true, it's true," she wailed.

Shirley turned to Thorne and said feelingly:--

"The trial has been too much for her. She's overwrought."

Broderick, who overheard the remark, grinned sardonically. Turning to
Thorne, he remarked:--

"I'm an expert in these matters. It's got all the earmarks of the real
thing. Murgatroyd did well." And then, as one who enjoyed all the
privileges of the court-room, he advanced close to the bench, and
shading his mouth, while he spoke, suggested genially:--

"Your Honour, get out the Penal Code."

But the Court merely beckoned to Thorne and suggested that he take
charge of his client; that the strain had been too much for her. And
much as Thorne wanted to believe her story, he felt as the Court felt:
that the tale was little short of preposterous.

"But--it's true," Miriam persisted to her counsel, "incredible as it may
seem."

Thorne eyed her steadily for a few moments. At last, he said:--

"At any rate, it may have some effect upon the verdict." And then
addressing himself to the bench, he exclaimed: "Your Honour, Mrs.
Challoner assures me that this charge is absolutely true." And finally
turning to Murgatroyd: "I should like to hear from Prosecutor Murgatroyd
as to the truth or falsity of this?"

As the two men faced each other, Shirley once more touched Miriam's arm,
and said affectionately:--

"Miriam, do you realise all that you are saying?--Look into my eyes,
dear, and tell me candidly is it true?..."

"Before God, I swear it." And a moment later she added: "And he never
kept his word."

"Well, Mr. Prosecutor, what have you got to say?" asked the Court, a
trifle apologetically.

During the pause that immediately ensued, Miriam Challoner wondered what
Murgatroyd would say; what he could say; what was left for him to say.
The prosecutor stood in the centre of an open space, and looking first
at Miriam, then at Thorne, and finally at the Court, he answered
gravely:--

"Your Honour, I have heard the charge. I don't see that it behooves me
to answer it at this time, nor indeed," bowing toward the Court, "before
this tribunal. If it be a charge made in earnest--as it seems to
be--then the only question that can possibly interest this Court, is
whether I have done my duty toward the people of the State. The charge
assumes the proportions of a bribe to free a guilty man. My answer is, I
have convicted Challoner. If there was a bribe, it was a bribe that
didn't work."

The Court stared with the rest. Peter Broderick gazed at Murgatroyd in
open-mouthed admiration; even Miriam felt baffled unaccountably.

"Mr. Thorne," said the Court, "if this charge be made in good faith, and
even assuming it to be literally true, isn't the prosecutor right? It
cannot be that this charge is true; but if Mrs. Challoner claims it to
be true, if you believe it to be true, her remedy, then, is to go to the
Grand Jury and indict, to the legislature and impeach." He paused
judicially, and added: "The fullest refutation, after all, is that the
prosecutor did convict."

Thorne considered for an instant.

"I agree entirely with your Honour," he assented, bowing.

"The incident is closed," went on the Court, rising. "You have your
remedy--Good afternoon!" And he left the court-room.

And still Murgatroyd stood his ground while the others stood aloof.
Presently two officers seized Challoner and disappeared with him through
the barred door. Graham Thorne then approached the prosecutor and
exclaimed:--

"Prosecutor, we have wondered all along just what your price might be.
Now we know."

"The last dollar that a woman has," sneered Peter Broderick.

And still Murgatroyd gave no sign. It was only when Shirley Bloodgood
approached him and he heard the tremor in her voice that the man
trembled imperceptibly.

"Mr. Murgatroyd," she declared, "I am forced to believe all that Miriam
has said. Oh, Billy, Billy, it is inconceivable that you are the man
that I have respected all these years! You have lost the one thing I
admired most in you." Her voice broke, and turning to Miriam, she cried:
"Come, Miriam, dear, we're going home."

Mrs. Challoner touched Thorne upon the arm, and said with a final look
at Murgatroyd:--

"I want you to take every legal measure to indict, to impeach this man,
and I want you to begin at once."

After all had gone, Murgatroyd remained for some time where they had
left him, imperturbable, inscrutable, gazing doggedly into space.



XI


"I came here again, thinking perhaps you might wish to explain your
action." The words came from Mrs. Challoner, who, unattended, had found
her way into the prosecutor's office.

Murgatroyd quickly laid down his cigar. Doubtless he was annoyed, but in
spite of himself he could not help admiring the pluck which she showed
in coming directly to him; and as he came forward to meet her, he saw
that it was with difficulty that she kept on her feet. For a moment they
faced each other in silence, yet in the eyes of each there was a look of
fearful misunderstanding. Again the woman spoke.

"What have you to say to me?"

Murgatroyd frowned, his bearing slipped off some of its deference when
he retorted in a voice full of emotion:--

"What have _you_ to say to _me_?..."

The prosecutor's perfect self-possession and earnestness unnerved her
for an instant.

"I--" she faltered and stopped before his scornful glance.

"Yes, you, Mrs. Challoner. Do you recall our compact? Your silence was
the essence of it. Why did you break it?"

Miriam Challoner checked a wild desire to laugh hysterically.

"But you broke it first!"

Murgatroyd smiled.

"How?"

The woman looked steadily at him.

"By this conviction!"

"What was our compact?" he asked sternly.

Miriam's courage was returning; it was with an indignant tone that she
replied:--

"That you should set my husband free!"

Murgatroyd tapped the table with his hand.

"And have I failed as yet?"

"Yes," she answered fiercely. "You have convicted him."

Murgatroyd drew his head slightly to one side; pursed up his lips; drew
his brows together; and narrowed his eyes before he spoke:--

"Did you assume for an instant, Mrs. Challoner, that I was such a
bungler as to release your husband at the first trial--for all the world
to know--to suspect? When I said to you that I would set your husband
free, did I say--_when_?"

Of the scene that followed Miriam Challoner never retained a very clear
impression. She remembered that at first, as if in a trance, she kept
repeating his last word, while by degrees its meaning stole in upon her;
then of a sensation of being about to faint through mere excess of joy.
Suddenly the thought of her temerity flashed through her brain--the
enormity of the thing she had done; and she would have gone on her knees
at his feet had he not caught her in time. Quickly recovering, she
looked up at him. Somehow his face seemed to hold little resentment
now--too little, in fact, to suit her surprising desire to humble
herself in his sight.

"After all, she's rather a fool of a woman," his expression had plainly
said to her overwrought senses, "and I will spare her." And yet she
craved so to hear words of pardon from his lips, that she broke out
almost breathlessly:--

"You will forgive me--you must.... I have done you an unutterable
injury, I know." She stopped, and then with a sudden lapse to her old
air of fear: "Oh, but what will happen now--what will happen to Laurie?
I have failed you; you have the right to ..."

Once more cold and indifferent, Murgatroyd looked out of the window,
though he interrupted her last words by saying frigidly:--

"When I make agreements, Mrs. Challoner, I keep them. You may be sure
that I shall keep this one."

Still awed in a measure by his masterful personality, but with joy in
her heart, Miriam Challoner started to leave the office.

With a gesture Murgatroyd checked her quickly.

"Mrs. Challoner," he said with reproof still lingering in his voice,
"there is no necessity henceforth for personal interviews. In the future
if you have anything to say to me, kindly let it come through your
counsel, Mr. Thorne. It is much better so--much safer. I prefer to deal
with him only."

Miriam bowed acquiescence.

Directly on leaving him Miriam Challoner went to Thorne's office. It was
in accordance with her promise to aid him in formulating the charges
which he was preparing against the prosecutor on her behalf. These
charges were for the legislature and the Grand Jury: on the one hand,
impeachment; on the other, indictment. Now whether the accusation had
been true or false mattered little to Thorne. On the whole, perhaps, he
was inclined to disbelief; but Broderick, his colleague in the
organisation, was by no means of that opinion. In any event, since it
came from such an authoritative source--the lips of Mrs. Challoner--it
was a charge that possessed merit, inasmuch as it would injure
Murgatroyd--and Thorne was not slow to recognise that. In consequence,
then, there was, unmistakably, a note of gratification in the words with
which he greeted Mrs. Challoner that afternoon in his office.

"Here it is--in the form of an affidavit--just what you told me, Mrs.
Challoner. Please read it."

Trembling slightly while searching her mind for some clever way in which
she might express her change of plan, Miriam Challoner slowly read the
document. Nothing was left out, nothing exaggerated, and without a word
she returned it.

"Will you sign here, please?"

There was no time to arrange any idea she may have had for new tactics:
it was Thorne's voice that was insisting; it was Thorne who was holding
a pen for her and indicating the correct place for her signature. And
with a violent effort, Mrs. Challoner braced herself for the first lie
in her life.

"It's not true. I cannot sign it."

Thorne started back. Instantly he was spluttering his annoyance at what
he considered merely a woman's whim.

"Not true! Why only a short time ago you declared it was true."

"So it was--but only in a way," she said laboriously. Her face burned
and paled. "I tried to bribe him, but----"

"Bribe him! How?..."

"With the money--the money I had left," she replied cautiously.

"What have you left?" he ventured.

Curiously enough, Mrs. Challoner found herself taking a certain amount
of satisfaction in telling her lawyer what now was unquestionably true.

"My home--only."

"But that's mortgaged, I understand?" There was more than idle curiosity
in the speaker's eyes.

"Yes. But there's an equity of about twenty or twenty-five thousand,"
she explained.

"And you tried to bribe Murgatroyd with twenty thousand dollars?"

There was no answer; and interpreting her silence as assent, he went on
persistently:--

"And he refused?"

Miriam was very white now.

"He did."

"I should think so," returned Thorne. "Two hundred and fifty would be
more like Murgatroyd's price--if he can be bought."

"No, he cannot be bought," Miriam ventured with perhaps a trifle more
confidence in her tone than Mr. Thorne liked; and then she added, in a
changed voice: "I want you, please, to retract this story. I want to
take it all back. I was unstrung, I----"

"I will retract nothing," he cut in rudely. "Not a thing. Leave it as it
is. If you begin to retract you'll get yourself in trouble. If
Murgatroyd desires to make a move, let him...."

And with a promise to that effect, a hurried acknowledgment with an
inclination of the head that she accepted his words as ending her
interview, she left the office, leaving him far from certain that Peter
Broderick's appraisement of Murgatroyd's character was not a correct
one.

That night when the papers came out, people read them in anger and
dismay; by the next morning they merely laughed; likewise the Court.

"If he were bribed," said public comment, "it was a bribe that didn't
work."

And Murgatroyd, submitting to interview after interview, reiterated over
and over again to the reporters:--

"I point with pride, gentlemen, to the conviction of Lawrence Challoner.
That's all I have to say."

The fiasco had helped Murgatroyd infinitely more than it had hurt him,
Thorne felt in his inmost soul. For once the masses refused to believe
what on its face appeared to be true.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening a few weeks later, while Murgatroyd was dressing to dine at
his club, as was his custom nearly every night, his servant handed him a
note which the bearer had said was to be delivered immediately. It was
but seldom that a square white envelope came at this time, and with a
pardonable look of surprise and curiosity on his face Murgatroyd opened
it and read:

     "I must see you. Will you come to the house to-night?

     "S. H. B."

An hour more, and he was in Mrs. Bloodgood's drawing-room, waiting more
nervously than he would have cared to acknowledge to himself for the
daughter of the house to appear. It was the first time that she had ever
sent for him to go to her, and he was conscious of some degree of
anxiety as to her motive. Clever lawyer though he was, he dreaded her
catechising, particularly so, because he knew that whether she
acknowledged it to herself or not, that it was at her instigation that
he had adopted the rôle which, with or without her approval, he was now
determined to play through to the end. The sound of a light step on the
threshold of the room checked his disturbing speculations, and he looked
up to see Shirley Bloodgood entering the room. As usual she did not
permit him to open the conversation after the preliminary courtesies of
greeting between them.

"Something very urgent made me send for you, Mr. Murgatroyd," she began,
but her lips trembled so that she stopped abruptly after adding: "I want
to talk with you."

An instinct told Murgatroyd that it would be a grievous mistake not to
accept without a protesting word the note of aloofness, the desire to
avoid any suggestion of former intimacy that was in her tone. Rightly he
told himself that the slightest advances on his part would result in
adding to her distress; that however much he would like to break down
the barrier that had arisen between them, he must bide his time and
trust to her emotional nature to accomplish that. And he was not
mistaken, for presently an impulse to speak her mind at any cost took
possession of her, and she burst forth:--

"Billy, why did you take this money? Why?..."

Carried away by the tender accents with which she pronounced his name,
Murgatroyd essayed to speak, but she interrupted him.

"Don't"--covering her ears with her hands--"don't tell me! I know you
did it--because I--I--oh, why did you listen to me! I thought I knew
what I was talking about," she went on, while he sought control of
himself by looking away from her; "but I knew nothing of conditions; of
men. I thought that a man--that you could accomplish anything you really
wanted to do. But you were right. There are impossibilities. I
understand now--now that it's too late. I have had my lesson. Only a few
months ago you were honest, and now you are corrupt, and I alone am
responsible!"

By the time she had finished speaking Murgatroyd had become as
imperturbable as he had been at the trial, and there was only a hint of
tenderness in the reassuring words that he now uttered.

"You must not blame yourself--" he was neither admitting nor denying the
impeachment--"for anything I may have done."

"But I do, I do," she cried bitterly. "And you must blame me. I always
thought Adam was a coward to cast the blame on Eve. But now my
sympathies are with him--the woman was to blame then--I am to blame now.
I gave you of the apple, and you--Oh, there would have been no
apple--nothing but Eden if I had only listened to you and you had closed
your ears to me."

"Eden," he said wistfully. "Yes, but hardly the Eden you cared for."

Abruptly her mood changed. She lost all semblance of calm, and her voice
rang with a scorn that, before she ceased, seemed to include him as well
as herself.

"What do I care for success or failure! I could cut my tongue out for
telling you that my father was a failure. A failure! Why, I know that
not only was he not a failure, but that he was really great! A man in
the highest sense of the word--and that's all I want you to be. I don't
care an iota that you should be a senator--I don't want you to be a
senator. I have sent for you to-night to tell you so--to stop for good
and all the thing I set in motion." She was silent for an instant; and
then suddenly with a quick return to gentleness, and with appeal in her
eyes, she murmured: "I want you to come back--come back."

In turn he murmured words that sounded to her like "to you."

Shirley shook her head as though that were a thing out of the question.

"No, to your honest self," she said earnestly but kindly. "To the Billy
Murgatroyd that was."

For a moment they looked steadily into each other's eyes. From the time
of Miriam's exposure of him in the court-room there had never been any
admission, any concession on Murgatroyd's part. Nor was there any now;
but unknown to himself, there was an air of appeal, not wholly free from
anxiety even, for her face was again showing signs of hardness as he
spoke:--

"I can hardly do that. I cannot stop. And if I should--where is the
inducement? You have no apple to offer me; you are beyond my reach."

And as if to disprove his own words, an impulse of adoration, too
powerful to be checked, seized him, and he caught her hand and pressed
it.

A brief moment only Shirley allowed it to rest in his, then slowly
withdrew it; and her action told him plainer than words that there was
to be nothing further between them--she was through with him--she must
despise him. As an evangelist, as the good friend she had sent for him,
but as lovers--no, that was all over. And yet, had she faltered once,
had she but opened her arms to him, if only for the last time,
Murgatroyd could not tell what he would have done. In all probability he
would have suffered exile--sackcloth and ashes for his huge misdeed.

And the girl! Shirley felt, knew that there could be no compromise.
Murgatroyd must purge himself, even though it involved a lifetime of
shame. And after he had yielded up his shameless gains, what then?
Shirley did not know--she could not tell. But it was not given to
Murgatroyd to know that he was the subject of her perplexities; nor
could he read, as he should have, any hope in the words which she now
spoke:--

"And if I am out of your reach--it's your own fault. If you had been
half the man I thought, you would never have listened to me. But you
never cared for me, even though you said so," Shirley said, casting her
eyes down, not daring to look him in the face. "What you did, you did
for yourself and not for me. You were weak from the start. Any man who
would surrender his honesty even for a woman is not a man. I see now
that I ought not to have sent for you. I take back everything I have
said." She paused, and then concluded with a little shake of the head:--

"I wouldn't marry you now if you were the last man on earth!"

Both rose to their feet. Habit, perhaps, rather than any regret for her
words, induced her to dismiss him with a tender expression on her face.
And Murgatroyd bowed low over the hand she offered him, pressed it and
without a word of protest went out of the room. With his departure went
out the last glimmer of hope that he would ever return to his better
self. Nothing could stop him now. As for Shirley? The moment the door
closed on him she sank with a moan into a chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thorne took an appeal from the verdict of conviction. He had been
careful to take exception to each bit of questionable evidence.

"I think," he assured Mrs. Challoner, "that I have found more than one
hook to hang a hat on. It looks to me like a reversal."

"I am sure it will be," she replied.

Her assurance was the same assurance that had sustained her in the
trial. There was still that mysterious something that Thorne could not
understand. She seemed the incarnation of hope.

"What do you think, chief?" asked McGrath of Murgatroyd, one day after
the appeal had been argued.

Murgatroyd shrugged his shoulders.

"That verdict will stick," was his only comment.

"By the way," said McGrath, "Pemmican keeps mum up there in jail; but
he's getting restless as thunder. He wants to know how soon you're going
to try him on this gambling charge."

Murgatroyd smiled.

"In due course," he returned, "but you can tell Pemmican unofficially
that the quickest way for him to get on trial--or in fact the quickest
way for him to get off without trial--to get out of jail, is to let me
know the name of the man higher up. I'm looking for John Doe, and I
expect to keep Pemmican under lock and key until I get him. You
understand?"

"He sure does kick," laughed McGrath.

Shirley and Miriam and even Challoner watched the course of events with
great interest. Miriam's mouth was sealed upon the question of the
bribe, but Challoner absorbed what he had heard in the court-room, and
hazy though it had been, he noted that Miriam's manner was still
hopeful, in fact, certain. Shirley, too, felt, rather than knew, that
Murgatroyd had removed from himself not the taint of bribery, but the
violation of his compact. She felt the thing was cut and dried.

One day the Clerk of the Court of Errors and Appeals placed in the hands
of a special messenger a document some five pages long. It was a carbon
copy.

"Take that to the prosecutor of the pleas," he commanded, "and tell him
it's advance. The original," he added, "will be on file to-morrow."

Murgatroyd received and read it with inward satisfaction. As he was
perusing it, Mixley rushed into his private room, and yelled in alarm:--

"Chief! Chief! Look at this!" He, too, held in his hand a document
composed of several sheets of yellow paper, scribbled over with a soft,
black, lead-pencil. "It's from the warden--" he whispered.

Murgatroyd laid down his carbon copy and took Mixley's yellow sheets. He
read the first page and rose to his feet.

"When did all this happen, Mixley?" he asked in a tense voice, with
difficulty restraining his excitement.

"About an hour ago."

"Who was the keeper that took this down?"

"Jennings."

Murgatroyd tapped the yellow sheets impatiently, and asked:--

"How did he kill himself?"

"Cyanide! Smuggled in somehow, nobody knows."

Murgatroyd read the yellow sheets again.

"Great Cæsar!" he exclaimed.

Mixley, still lingering, now asked:--

"Any news from the Court of Errors and Appeals?"

Murgatroyd nodded.

"Here's their opinion--just handed down."

"Reversal?"

Murgatroyd shook his head.

"No. Affirmed. By the way, Mixley," he added, "take this carbon copy
over to Thorne, will you? He'll want to see it."

"Shall I tell him?" faltered Mixley.

"Tell him nothing," Murgatroyd replied. "Officially I know nothing of
this other thing. I'll investigate it first, then I can talk to him."

That very day, Thorne, disappointed as he was, sent a copy of the
opinion up to Mrs. Challoner, without comment. Later over the phone he
told her:--

"There is no hope."

But Miriam Challoner was not downcast. She had doubted once; but now she
held to her faith in Murgatroyd; she knew that Murgatroyd would keep his
word. Shirley, though, shook her head. She felt that Challoner was
doomed. But when Thorne told her, she begged him not to tell Challoner
until it was absolutely necessary.

And also on that same day Murgatroyd jumped into a cab and rode off on a
tour of private inspection. Entering a large building he asked:--

"I want to see Jennings, if you please."

The next day he sent for Thorne.

"Before making things public, Thorne," he said, "I wanted you to read
that."

Thorne read with bulging eyes the yellow sheets that were thrust before
him. Over and over again he read them; then he leaned over and touched
Murgatroyd on the arm, saying:--

"Don't make it public."

"Why not?"

"There are political reasons--many of them," pleaded Thorne.

"But it's bound to leak out----"

"Never mind. I don't want it made public." Thorne seemed terribly
uneasy.

But again Murgatroyd persisted:--

"What of Mrs. Challoner?"

"I'll take care of Mrs. Challoner," responded Thorne. "Just leave the
whole thing to me. I'll see that everything is done."

"I'll go with you before the Court at any time you please," said
Murgatroyd.

And that very day they did go before the Court. The Court opened its
eyes and heard what they had to say.

"Well, well!" exclaimed the Court.

A little while afterward Broderick and Thorne sat closeted. Every crisis
found them with their heads together.

"Broderick," said the lawyer, "this is going to hurt Cradlebaugh's more
than ever. The Challoner case has jumped from the frying pan into the
fire." His grip tightened on Broderick. "This thing has got to be hushed
up."

"If it's got to be, it can be," declared the politician.

"But there's the Court order?"

Broderick grinned as he said:--

"There's men has got to file it--men that know how to file papers so
blamed far in the pigeon-holes that even a newspaper man can't crawl in
after 'em. They'll do just as I say."

"Somebody's bound to find it out."

"Not if I stretch out this hand," answered Broderick. "That there hand
has covered a multitude of sins." He squinted at Thorne. "But there's
just one person I'm afraid of in this thing."

Thorne's nod seemed to say:

"Murgatroyd."

Broderick shook his head.

"No, not a bit of it. You take my word for it, Murgatroyd will never
open his mouth again on the subject of the Challoner case. He took that
cash--he can't fool me!"

Thorne sighed:--

"You think we're safe with him?"

Broderick dismissed the subject of the prosecutor with a wave of the
hand.

"Mrs. Challoner is the fly in the ointment."

Thorne, in turn, quite as vigorously dissented:--

"You're wrong there. I'll handle Mrs. Challoner. If she ever asks
questions, I'll answer her with the right kind of answers. Don't worry,
Broderick," and looking at his watch, added: "You'd better be about it
and do your little part."

"I'll do mine as soon as you do yours."

"What's mine now?"

Broderick held out his hand, and said:--

"A little cheque, counsellor."

And again on that very day the doors of the big building that Murgatroyd
had visited opened wide. From them there stepped forth a man--no, four
men--four men laden heavily. With these four men was a fifth, but he was
unseen. Between them, in the full light of day, the four men carried a
long, oak box, carried it quietly but swiftly, and swung it suddenly
into a battered-looking hearse.

"That's the end of him!" they said among themselves.



XII


Somewhere on the East Side, beyond Gramercy Park and Irving Place, with
their beautiful old houses; beyond Stuyvesant Square, once equally
famous for the princely hospitality of its residents; still further on
in that section which lies toward the river, where the women and
children as well as the men toil unceasingly for the bare necessities of
life, where evidences of poverty and suffering are all about, and which
is commonly termed "the slums"; somewhere there, we say, in one of the
smaller tenement buildings, some months later, Miriam Challoner, one
time wealthy and fashionable woman of society, took refuge.

Within this new-found home--a nest consisting of two rooms--everything
was scrupulously neat; but except for a small gilt chair that caught the
rays of the sunlight, and that seemed fully as incongruous to its
surroundings as was the woman herself, there was nothing in its
furnishings to remind one of former prosperity. In a far corner of the
adjoining room was a stove on which a frugal meal was cooking, sending
its odour throughout the small apartment--a meal that in former days she
would not have thought possible even for her servants. At the window of
this room,--which was bedroom and living-room combined,--upon a small
table was a typewriter, before which sat Miriam Challoner, clad in a
sombre dress that was almost nun-like in its severity. She was pale, and
on her face was the look of a woman acquainted with grief.

She read as she wrote:--

"Now this indenture witnesseth,--comma,--that the said party of the
first part,--comma,--for the better securing the payment of the said sum
of money mentioned in the condition of the said bond or
obligation,--comma,--with interest thereon,--comma,--according to the
true intent and meaning thereof,--semicolon,--and also for and in
consideration of the sum of one dollar,--comma,--to him in hand well and
duly paid----"

Suddenly she halted and fingered the copy lying on the table at her
right.

"Twenty more pages--I can't do them now ..." she muttered half-aloud,
and crossing the room unsteadily, threw herself upon the bed--a cheap
bed that groaned and creaked as if it felt her weight upon it.

"... tired--I'm so tired," she moaned, as she lay there supinely for
some time. All of a sudden, she sat bolt upright in bed, for the sound
of a timid knock on the door had reached her ears; but thinking,
perhaps, that she had been dreaming, she waited until the knock was
repeated, and only then did she cry out:--

"Well? What is it?"

There was no answer. A moment more, and she was at the door confronting
a man and a woman, both gaily caparisoned. They stood hand in hand,
sheepishly, smilingly, the woman looking more like some guilty child,
who was being brought to task by an over-indulgent parent. For a brief
second, that seemed interminably long to Mrs. Challoner waiting for them
to speak, they stood thus; and it was not until they called her name
that she recognised them.

"Mrs. Challoner--we thought--" they stammered in chorus.

"Why, it's Stevens," Mrs. Challoner broke in, at last, "and you too,
Foster!" and the colour instantly went flying from her lips to her
cheeks.

"Yes, ma'am," again came in chorus from Stevens and Foster, late butler
and lady's maid to Mrs. Challoner, and still hand in hand.

"Oh, Mrs. Challoner," then spoke up Foster, "what do you think? We've
gone and got married!"

"Married? Foster! Stevens! Why, yes, of course, you do look like bride
and groom," said Mrs. Challoner, her heart for the moment sinking at all
this happiness; and then: "Come in, and do tell me all about it."

"Mrs. Challoner," quickly put in Stevens, as they came into the room,
"she pestered me 'till I had to marry her--there was no getting rid of
her."

A faint smile crossed Miriam's face, and soon she found herself entering
into the happiness of this couple, just as she would have done in the
old days; and so well did they succeed in making her forget her present
position, that she was actually trying to determine what would be a most
appropriate and, at the same time, a most pleasing gift to them.
Absorbed, therefore, in her laudable perplexities, it was quite a long
time before she fully realised that there were but two chairs, a fact
which had not escaped the eyes of these well-trained servants, who still
remained standing in the centre of the room; and when, at last, the
truth dawned upon her, it was with the greatest difficulty that she kept
back the tears, as half-coaxingly, half-authoritatively she prevailed
upon the terribly embarrassed pair to occupy them, while she seated
herself on the edge of the bed.

"Yes, ma'am," resumed Foster, determined to tell all there was to tell,
"there were about six men that I could have married as well as not--not
like Stevens, but big, fine-looking men, every one of them. But Stevens
here got in such a way about it, that I felt sorry for him, and I gave
them all the go-by for him. But there's one thing certain," she
concluded with a sigh, "I didn't marry for good looks, nor for money
either, for that matter."

"You married for love, Foster, and that is so much better," commented
Mrs. Challoner, revelling in their joy.

"I dare say," conceded Foster, "that I'll come to love him in time."

"Yes, ma'am," put in Stevens, eager to get in a word, "she bothered me
until I finally succumbed, though my tastes were--well, ma'am, I must
admit that I like 'em a little plumper."

To Miriam Challoner, it was indeed a treat to hear their good-natured
banter. Presently she asked with interest:--

"What are you doing now, Stevens?"

"He's a _sho_fer, ma'am," spoke up Foster quickly with pride.

"A what?" inquired Mrs. Challoner.

"A show_fure_, ma'am," corrected Stevens with dignity. "She'll learn in
time.... I'm working for Bernhardt, the brewer--a hundred dollars a
month, ma'am."

"Indeed! So you're a chauffeur, and earning one hundred dollars a
month!" exclaimed Miriam Challoner. "Why that's fine!" And a hundred
dollars never seemed larger to any one's eyes.

Stevens shrugged his shoulders as he answered in an offhand manner:--

"What's a hundred----"

"A hundred dollars a month!" again sighed Mrs. Challoner; and fell to
planning what that sum would do for her.

Suddenly, Stevens broke in upon her thoughts, with:--

"What a cosy little place you have, ma'am!" And turning to Foster: "I
hope we can have just such a little place as this some day. It's great!"

"I'd know in a minute, ma'am, that you had arranged things," said
Foster, falling in readily with her husband's enthusiasm.

For an instant Mrs. Challoner shaded her eyes with her hand. The room,
she knew only too well, was the very last expression of poverty, yet
these two had shown a delicacy and kindness that she had supposed to be
far beyond them.

"But where's your manners, Foster?" suddenly demanded Stevens. "Surely
you might put your hands to fixing up that supper on the stove! Do now,
like a good girl ..."

"Indeed, she must not--and in that lovely gown, too--besides, there is
really nothing to do," Miriam Challoner quickly returned, for she could
not bear to have Foster see what was cooking there.

"Oh, I'll be very careful, besides, it will seem natural to be doing
things for you," persisted her former maid.

"Yes, take a look at the roast baking there in the oven, anyway," said
Stevens; and no sooner had his wife turned her steps toward the kitchen,
than he quickly leaned over to Mrs. Challoner, and thrusting something
in her hand, he said in an undertone:--

"She's treasurer, ma'am, and I have to account for every penny; but this
she knows nothing about. It's for you--please take it."

In an instant Mrs. Challoner was on her feet, and putting the money back
in his hand, she exclaimed:--

"Why, Stevens, I can't take this! Really, I have money ..."

For a moment Stevens's eyes wandered about the poorly furnished room,
betraying his thoughts to the contrary. This was not lost on Mrs.
Challoner, who immediately went on to explain:--

"Yes, Stevens, and I earn it, too." And she pointed to the typewriter
with a certain pride.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said her former butler contritely, returning
the money quickly to his pocket. "Only, don't let her know ..."

When Foster came back into the room, they were standing over the
typewriter, Mrs. Challoner explaining its mechanism.

"Oh, what a fine thing it is to have an education!" exclaimed the young
wife, looking sharply at her husband; but her penetrating glance was too
much for Stevens, and turning quickly on his heel, he proceeded to
rearrange the chairs.

"Hey, there!" suddenly called out Foster. "Why aren't you more of a
gentleman--where's your manners? Run along there, like a good fellow,
and put some water in the tea-kettle!" Stevens lost no time in obeying;
then drawing close to Mrs. Challoner, Foster whispered:--

"This is for you, ma'am, but don't let Stevens know, for he's as tight
as a drum-head."

"But," protested Mrs. Challoner, looking at the other in astonishment.

"Please, I saved it just for you," insisted Foster, with a look of
disappointment on her face.

"Really, Foster, I don't need it," declared Mrs. Challoner stoutly but
kindly. "I can't take it. Some day, perhaps, I may need money, and then
I'll send for you." And then quietly changing the subject: "How fresh
you look, Foster! And what a man you've married! There is no need to ask
if you are happy, for----"

"Well," said Stevens, approaching them, "we must be going now, for
Bernhardt will be waiting for us."

"It was good of you to see us, ma'am," said Foster, putting out her
hand, just as she had seen the ladies do in the old days at the big
Challoner house on the Avenue.

"So you married for love," said Miriam Challoner, as they started to go.

"Well, _he_ did," conceded Foster.

"_She_ did, ma'am," corrected Stevens; and presently they were sailing
down the street like a pair of lovers "walking out" on a Sunday
afternoon.

"One hundred dollars a month!" sighed Miriam, reseating herself at the
typewriter. "And they were going to give me twenty-five dollars--the
faithful dears!"

Once more engrossed in her work, she did not hear the door-bell, which
had been ringing persistently. At the end of a page she paused and bent
her head low over her work.

"... for love," she mused, half-aloud.

Meanwhile, her caller, determined to be admitted, had stolen softly into
the room, though it was not until she stood beside her that she
attracted Miriam's attention. For a moment Miriam glared hard at her;
she could not believe her own eyes; then, suddenly rising to her feet,
she cried half-joyfully, half-regretfully:--

"Why, it's Shirley Bloodgood! Oh, why did you come! You must not stay,
you must not see ..."

"Why did you hide from me?" quickly returned Shirley. "I have searched
for you for months, and it was only yesterday that I learned from
Stevens where you were, who, by the way, had orders not to reveal your
whereabouts. You might as well have moved a thousand miles away, as
everybody thinks you have."

Miriam sighed weakly.

"It takes money to move a thousand miles away," she protested feebly.

"You are like a needle in a hay stack over here," continued Shirley.

"But why did you come?" Miriam kept on protesting. "Why, Shirley ..."

Shirley stretched forth her arms, saying:--

"And you didn't want to see me!"

"Yes, yes," cried Miriam, suddenly catching Shirley and clinging to her
affectionately. "Yes, I have wanted you to come so much, but I hoped you
never would see this!" And she spread out her arms as though to exhibit
the room.

"What a poor opinion you have of me! Why, Miriam, if I wanted to see
handsome apartments, I need not have taken all this trouble to find you.
No, indeed, I value your friendship too highly to desert you on account
of this."

And now the two women fell to talking about things past and present.
After a while, it was Shirley who delicately broached the subject of
Laurie.

"And Laurie--how is he?" she asked.

Miriam's eyes kindled for an instant, but its fire soon died out.

"Poor boy," she answered, "he's under such a strain. It's a wonder he
doesn't break down. He's so good and kind through it all, too. He's a
fine fellow, now," she went on with great enthusiasm.

"Let me see," said Shirley, reminiscently, "his conviction was reversed
on appeal, wasn't it?"

"Why, no; don't you remember that it was affirmed--affirmed ..."

"I do remember now. And it was that day or the next one that you ran
away from me, you bad girl, and I've never seen you since.
Affirmed--affirmed," she mused; and then suddenly leaned forward and
inquired eagerly:--

"Then how did he get off?"

Miriam shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know," she said, "nobody knows; not even Laurie knows that. One
day after the affirmance, the jail doors were opened, and he was
free--that's all--and he came back to me."

"Surely Murgatroyd knows," said Shirley.

"Oh, yes, of course he knows; but we have never asked any questions. Why
should we? I shall never forget Murgatroyd though--I remember him in my
prayers. He was honest; he kept his word----"

Shirley smiled a grim smile.

"Murgatroyd, the man with a _price_! Well, I suppose it's just as well
that there are people in this world who can be bought now and then."

"I have never forgiven myself," sighed Miriam.

Shirley looked up at her questioningly.

"You? What for, pray?"

"For blurting out in the court-room what I did when the jury found
Laurie guilty. Why, it was abominable! it was treachery! I had promised,
don't you see?"

"That was clever in Murgatroyd," admitted Shirley. "He would have been a
fool to acquit Laurie on that trial. Oh, yes," she added, with a sneer,
"he's clever, all right!"

Mrs. Challoner straightened up.

"Fortunately my outbreak did no great harm; nobody believed me."

"Except myself," observed Shirley, "and Murgatroyd!"

"Even Laurie didn't believe me," went on Miriam, "until--well, I don't
know whether he's quite sure about it to-day. We never discuss the
subject, anyway. It's barely possible," she said, flushing, "that he
thinks we spent the money long ago."

There was a pause that was a trifle embarrassing to both women. Miriam
was the first to speak.

"Murgatroyd is making a name for himself, isn't he?"

Shirley threw up her hands in indignation.

"Who wouldn't, with that stolen money to back him!" she exclaimed
fiercely.

Miriam shook her head.

"He's doing good work with it. He's breaking up the organisation--the
inside ring. I'm sure that the effect of his work is felt even over
here." And then she added vehemently: "But his best work will be over
when he has succeeded in breaking Cradlebaugh's. When he does that----"

"After he downs Cradlebaugh's," interrupted Shirley, "if he ever does, I
hope he'll down himself. That's my wish for Billy Murgatroyd!"

"Murgatroyd is honest," protested Miriam.

Shirley smiled a hard smile.

"You mistake his motive, Miriam. He's ambitious--frightfully ambitious.
Why even now he's planning to go to the Senate," declared Shirley; but
she did not add that it was she who had put the idea into his head.
"Think of Billy Murgatroyd's being Senator! He'll ask a billion the next
time he's bought, instead of a million!" she wound up, scornfully.

"You forget," quietly but forcibly reminded Miriam, "that I stand up for
Murgatroyd."

"Poor Miriam," sighed Shirley to herself, "she always was easily
fooled." A moment later, she exclaimed: "A typewriter!"

"I don't wonder at your surprise," said Miriam. "But it is easy work and
I like it immensely. I work for different people in the neighbourhood,"
she went on to explain. "A real estate dealer, one or two lawyers,
it's----"

She broke off abruptly, for they were interrupted by a faint whistle.

"It's the speaking tube," said Miriam, tremblingly; but the next instant
she was in a little dark alcove calling down the tube.

Meanwhile, Shirley allowed her gaze to wander about the apartment;
nothing had escaped her notice, not even the cooking that was going on
in the kitchen.

"Somebody whistled up the tube," said Miriam, returning, "but I couldn't
get an answer. I can't imagine who it is."

Then suddenly for the third time that afternoon, the outer door opened;
but this time it was thrust open with great violence, and James Lawrence
Challoner came into the room with the stamp of the gutter upon him.

Shirley was dumbfounded. Quickly her mind went back to that afternoon,
long ago it seemed, when he had come home after the tragedy. Then, it is
true, he was unkempt, soiled, but now ... and she asked herself whether
it were possible that Miriam could not see the man as he really was. The
answer was immediately forthcoming, for Miriam went over and caught him
in her embrace.

"Poor Laurie, tired, aren't you, dear?" she said fondly; and then
turning toward the girl: "Here's an old friend of ours--Shirley
Bloodgood!"

"So I see," he growled; and without more ado he turned to Miriam and
demanded gruffly:--

"Well, where's your money? I've got to have some money right away."

Miriam fumbled for an instant at her waist. She did this more for
appearance' sake than anything else, for she well knew that she had none
to give him. Every day she had given him about everything she made.

"Yes, Laurie," she faltered, "yes, of course." And turning to Shirley,
added by way of apology for him: "Such an ordeal as Laurie has been
through--such a strain."

Shirley was in a panic. What she had seen was enough to make her
heart-sick.

"Oh," she suddenly exclaimed, "I have forgotten all about father! I left
him alone--I simply must go now. You don't know how glad ..." And
turning to Challoner, she held out her hand to him. But ignoring her
completely, he again said to his wife:--

"Miriam, where is that money?"

"Laurie is such a business man now, Shirley," said Miriam, smiling
bravely at the girl.

But the contempt which Shirley felt for the man before her was too great
for words; and she merely repeated:--

"Yes, I must be going now!"

Half way across the room she halted, hesitated for a moment, and then
finally opening her purse, took from it a fifty dollar bill.

"There, Miriam," she said with a note of relief, "I have been meaning
for a long time to pay back that fifty dollars I borrowed from you a few
years ago--when I was so hard up for money. I'm ashamed not to have
returned it before; and it's just like you not to remind me. There,
dear, I've put it on the chiffonier; and now, good-bye!" And she was
gone before Miriam could even protest against her action.

For Miriam knew quite as well as did Shirley that there never had been
such a loan between them; and rushing out into the hall, she called to
the other to come back; but Shirley by this time was well out of
hearing.

"She's gone!" Miriam declared forlornly, panting from her fruitless
chase.

Shirley's flight did not worry Challoner. He took advantage of Miriam's
temporary absence to steal to the chiffonier and to seize the fifty
dollar bill. Miriam entered the room in time to see him thrusting it
into his pocket, and cried out angrily:--

"Laurie, I wish you to put that back! We are not thieves; it does not
belong to us; and I'm going to send it back to Shirley."

Challoner grinned.

"What do you think I am?" he finally asked. "A fool?"

He tried to pass her; she blocked his way, and repeated:--

"I want you to put that back!"

"I have got to have some money," he maintained sulkily, stowing it still
further in his trousers pocket.

"Give me that fifty dollar bill, I say!" went on Miriam, clutching at
him.

"No, I will not!" returned her husband, stubbornly, and sought to
escape; but she caught him by the arm and pulled him back. He tried to
wrench himself away; but for once her strength was superior to his. She
was beside herself with sudden anger, with shame, with ignominy, with
agony.

"You give that bill to me!" she said through her closed teeth.

"You let me go!" he growled, almost jerking himself out of her grasp.
Then followed a struggle that was short, sharp but decisive, inasmuch as
he finally succeeded in wrenching himself free from her. And now,
turning quickly, he smote her with his clenched hand full in the face.

Miriam staggered back; her eyes opened wide in humiliated astonishment.

"Oh! Laurie!" she cried, not with physical pain, although there upon her
face, now red, now white, was a broad, blotched mark--the bruise that
the brute had left there.

He made a movement to go; but again she was in time to prevent him; for
quick as a flash she had darted to the chiffonier, opened the top drawer
and drawn forth a weapon.

"Stop!" she cried in a hard voice. "Don't you dare to leave this room
with that money!"

Challoner blinked at her stupidly.

"What are you going to do?" he demanded.

Miriam laughed hysterically.

"What am I going to do? I know what you're going to do! You're going to
bring that fifty dollars back here to me!"

"Indeed? Well I'm not!" reiterated Challoner.

Miriam tapped the pistol in her hand.

"Do you see this?"

He grunted fearlessly.

"Well, what of it?"

"Give me that money," she insisted, approaching him. As yet she had not
levelled the weapon; and Challoner, seeing his opportunity, started once
more.

"_Stop!_" It was a new voice that spoke now: the blow that had struck
her face had suddenly transformed her into a desperate woman.

Challoner stopped; for he saw the weapon trained upon him. Again,
without affecting her aim, she tapped it.

"Listen to me!" she cried, her voice growing hoarser as she went on,
"this thing has been responsible for one murder, and now, Lawrence
Challoner, I'm going to kill you with it. It's the last straw that
breaks the camel's back. I hate you! I despise you!" she raged. "I loved
you once, I have always loved you until now; you loved me once, too, I
know--though other people thought that you had married me for my money.
But I knew different--you couldn't fool me about that! And it was
because of that love that I have lived for you and nothing else. You
have been everything in the world to me--my god, almost. But it is all
over now! I'm through with you, and I'm going to have you thrown like
some soiled rag into the gutters of humanity--where you belong!"

She paused for breath, but not once did her weapon falter.

"There are two things," she resumed, "that stand out in my memory just
now. The first is the night when you did not come home! Do you remember
that night?--No--there were too many of them later on! But I have never
forgotten that night I spent in the torture chamber! It was a white
night for me."

Again she paused, and her voice deepened as she said:--

"Lawrence Challoner, the time will come when you will wail and whine and
wonder why I don't come to you--why it is not my footsteps that you
hear! But you will wait for me through a long, long night, and I shall
never come....

"Oh, it does me good when I recall the day that Prosecutor Murgatroyd
told those twelve men the kind of a man you were," she declared
scornfully. "It does me good, too, to recall how you writhed under the
lash and quivered when he cut you to the quick. But now I'm going to do
more to you than you ever did to me--more than Murgatroyd did to
you...."

She stopped, and then went on mercilessly:--

"I'm going to tear your soul out--yes, you've got a soul, or I would
never have gone down into the depths with you! But now I'm through
serving you without receiving so much as a smile," she continued
fiercely, her body swaying, but her aim still true. "I don't ask for my
rights or my just dues; a smile and a kind word now and then is all I
ask. My pride is not all gone; I'd like to be proud of you just once. I
lie about you to my friends--to my dearest friends--and you convict me
with the miserable truth! I clung to you through all your vices, I clung
to you even when you killed, I clung to you because I knew that
somewhere within you there was something that clamoured for me, that
clung to my affection. But feeble as it was, it is dead now. And you are
the shell, the ugly hulk, a thing without the soul that I cared for! But
I'm through with you--I'm going to kill you--don't you move--I'm through
with you--through--" The next moment she dropped the weapon, and it fell
clattering to the floor.

"No, no," she cried, apparently calm now. "I won't kill you--I wouldn't
be guilty of such a thing. You're not worth it," she burst out into a
wild laugh. "You're not worth it--no--no--no--" she cried, trailing off
into hysteria.

At that instant Shirley Bloodgood once more entered the room. Some
instinct had brought her back again.

"Miriam!" she exclaimed.

Miriam burst forth into another wild laugh, and then threw herself into
the arms of the girl, where she lay unconscious for some moments.

"She's fainted," said Shirley, glancing at Challoner, accusingly.

Challoner stood stupidly where he was for an instant. Then he thrust his
hand into his trousers pocket and pulled out a fifty dollar bill, saying
in a new strange tone:--

"Shirley, I took this fifty dollar bill from the drawer over
there--you'd better take it--it belongs to you."

The girl took it wonderingly.

"I'll take care of her," Challoner went on, gently taking the form of
his young wife from Shirley and holding her in his arms.

It was thus that Shirley Bloodgood left them; and as the door closed on
her, Challoner leaned over Miriam and stroked her face and kissed her
affectionately while the tears rolled down his cheeks. That same night
she was taken to a hospital with a raging fever.



XIII


The following morning, James Lawrence Challoner did that which he had
never done since his marriage: he started out to look for a job.
Something, which he could not explain, was forcing him to try to get
work; but had he been given to self-analysis, he would have known that
it was Miriam's wrath in her adversity that had kindled into flame the
flickering, dying spark of his manhood.

Until now, Challoner had assumed that work was to be had by any man for
the mere asking of it; but he was surprised, startled, shocked, to find
that it was not; that is to say, the clerkships and such work as he
thought would be to his liking; and each night he returned to his
cheerless, lonely room in the tenement, sore, leg-weary, after a long
unsuccessful quest. Work? Little by little he was learning that there
was no work "lying round loose" for the James Lawrence Challoners of
this world! And yet he persevered.

"I must find something to do," he kept saying over and over again to
himself.

And then one day at the end of two weeks he found himself at the end of
a long line of Italian labourers who were seeking employment.

When the foreman came to Challoner, he called out in surprise:--

"What do you want?"

"Work!" replied the man inside the shell of Challoner.

"With the 'ginneys'?"

"With the 'ginneys,'" assented Challoner.

The foreman stared.

"All right," he said, after thinking a bit, "let's have your name."

For a brief second Challoner hesitated; there was a new light in his
eyes when he said:--

"Challoner--J. L."

And all that day he worked--worked with his hands, and with his
feet--worked with the gang tamping concrete. It is a simple enough
process when one stands aside and looks at it; but after two hours of
it, Challoner thought he would drop in his tracks.

It so happened that his work was on a new department store going up in
town. Concrete suddenly had come into prominence as a building material.
Challoner and the gang stood inside a wooden mould some two or three
feet wide and as long as the wall which they were building; another gang
poured in about them a mixture of sand, cement, and stone. Sand, cement,
and stone meant nothing to Challoner, except that when those three
things were mixed with water and dumped down into his trench, he had to
lift up his tamper and pound, pound, pound the mixture into solidity, in
order to fill the crevices, and to make the wall hard and smooth.
Meanwhile, his feet were soaked; his boots were caked with cement; his
hands were blistered frightfully; and his face was burned by the sun.
Nevertheless, Challoner sweated, toiled on.

For days after this first day of labour he was stiff, lame, and sore all
over. In his soul he wanted to die; but he lived on. And then, much to
his amazement, he found that the harder he worked, the better he felt:
the poison of his dissolute living was working toward the surface.

At last the day came when the doctors allowed him to visit Miriam in the
hospital.

"I've got a job, dear," he whispered to her. That was all he told her
then; but those five words were a history to Miriam.

Another day when again visiting her at the hospital, he told her how
they mixed the stuff, how they made the wooden moulds, and about the
crowds that gathered around them, for the process was a new one.

"People don't believe in it, don't think it will stand," he said,
watching her closely.

On her face came the interested look that he so desired, and she
asked:--

"Will it, Laurie?"

"Like a rock," he assured her.

But Challoner was ignorant of the danger then, for he had not reckoned
with the human element in the character of construction. All he knew was
that he worked from morning until night at the cheapest of all cheap,
unskilled labour.

After a little while Miriam put out a thin hand and let it rest in his,
saying:--

"How much do they give you, dear?"

Not without a suggestion of pride in his voice, the man answered:--

"A dollar and a half a day."

A dollar and a half a day! Surely a mere pittance; and yet the woman's
face was radiant with joy.

It was not long before Challoner found that his arms and back and
shoulders were perceptibly enlarging. At first it was merely at his
physical strength that he rejoiced; but this, in turn, soon made way for
a greater joy: he realised that his soul was surging back into his body;
he had driven it out, but it would not stay away.

From time to time, Challoner noted that the tamping was developing him
too much on one side. With the long broom handle, the weight down at the
end, his downward stroke had been a right-handed one. So now he tried
using force from the left side. And with that Challoner made a
discovery!

After many experiments it had been gradually borne in upon him that
light but incessant and vigorous tamping in one spot was more effective
than the heavy, battering strokes employed by the Italians. The stuff
was smooth and slippery when it first came in, and, consequently, all
that was necessary was something to induce the stones to slip gently
into solidity.

"If the tampers were only light enough," he argued to himself, "a fellow
could almost use two of them, one in each hand."

And so he tried it with the two tampers that were on the work; but they
proved to be too heavy. Then, one night, he made a pair of lighter ones
and experimented with them. It was too much of a strain; he could not
handle them satisfactorily. Somehow, the work needed the concentrated
effort of two arms.

All one night he sat up trying to figure it out. "And yet," he assured
himself repeatedly, "I'm on the right track." And so it proved. For at
four o'clock in the morning the idea came.

"I've got it!" he exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "A pump handle!"

A week later, Challoner rigged up a simple contrivance depending upon
strong leverage--one that would do the work of a man much more easily.

"It will do the work of _two_," he told himself.

But when Challoner had taken it to the works, the authorities refused
him permission to use it.

"This here is a real job. We haven't time to monkey with things like
that!" they told him with a sneer.

But Challoner was not to be turned aside so easily; and still he
persisted:--

"It will do the work of two."

Now it must not be supposed that Challoner was of a particularly
inventive nature; not a bit of it. Simply, he was a man of average
intelligence, working at a dollar and a half a day. His intelligence,
however, was superior to that of the men about him. Moreover, his brain
was independently busy, while his hands worked.

So now he rigged himself up a small trial mould, bought some sand and
cement and rock, and demonstrated the superiority of his pump-handle
contrivance with its strong leverage, its regularity and its strong,
steady beat, beat, beat, with two light tampers upon adjacent spots.
When they knocked off the mould, these same authorities found that
Challoner was right: this bit of concrete wall was as solid as if it had
been cut out of smooth azoic rock. So they called out:--

"All right, Challoner--try it on!"

Challoner tried it on the big wall. It worked like a charm.

At the pay-window, at the end of the week Challoner said:--

"I want two dollars and a half--two dollars and a half a day, now."

"What for?" came from the voice inside.

Challoner replied firmly:--

"Because I've done the work of more than two men." The next day he was
paid at the rate of two dollars a day.

Now he was allowed to have one of the corners all to himself for his
contrivance. The week after that they laid off two men: Challoner now
was doing the work of three men. In fact, from that time he and his
machine were made the pace-makers for the entire line of workmen.

The boss was jubilant.

"Gee! I guess we'll get this job done on time after all!" he was heard
to say. "I thought for a while the old man was in for a few fines sure."

Nobody else tried Challoner's device; nobody else knew how to use it. In
a way, that was a satisfaction to him. It was a toy, something that he
had created to lighten his labours. On the other hand, he found that in
his eagerness he laboured three times as hard as before; besides, he was
even better at the work than the Italians who knew it, had become
accustomed to it, and who were better fitted for it. And yet, there was
nothing wonderful in this contrivance of his. But Challoner was
convinced that if, sometime, he could induce the boss to put it into
constant operation, it would save that gentleman a great deal of money.
Nor did it ever enter Challoner's head to have it patented. Its
principle was that of the lever, and, of course, even if he had tried,
he could not have obtained a patent. In no way was there a dollar in it.

"But," he told himself, "if ever I go into this concrete business, I
shall insist upon its use. As a business," he went on, "what can be more
profitable than concrete? It produces a wall as solid as a rock and as
indestructible as brick. Bricklayers receive five and six dollars a
day,--and brick costs money. But this sand, cement, stone and
_unskilled_ labour...." Challoner could see millions in it!

Meanwhile, he was useful at two and a half dollars a day. As we have
seen, they had made him a pacemaker; now, they determined to put his
brain to work for them: it became his duty to direct the mixing-gang at
his end of the new store.

"Don't forget, now, watch out," said the superintendent, taking him
aside. "So many barrels of cement, so many barrels of sand, and so much
stone. Now say it as I told you."

And Challoner repeated for him: so many barrels of cement, so many
barrels of sand, and so much stone. But when he was again alone, he said
half aloud:--

"So, that's all there is to the concrete business!"

Challoner little knew.

The very first day that he watched the mixing process, he discovered
that the mixer had put in too much rock and too much sand--and too
little cement.

"Look here!" cried Challoner, "you've made a mistake! Two more barrels
of cement go in there--do you understand?"

But the mixer merely grinned.

"Two more barrels of cement, I told you," persisted Challoner. The
head-superintendent had given him his instructions, and Challoner meant
to see that they were properly carried out.

Another grin from the mixer was all the satisfaction that he received.
Instantly, Challoner leaped up on the platform and stood over the mixer.
At that, the man waved his arm; his signal brought not the
head-superintendent, but the general foreman of the work, who demanded
gruffly:--

"What's the trouble here?"

Challoner explained in a few words.

"You blamed idiot!" burst out the raging foreman. "You leave the man
alone! Do you think that he don't know how to mix concrete? Leave him
alone, I say!"

But Challoner, now, was not a man to be so easily turned from his
orders; and again he insisted:--

"Two more barrels of cement, I told you!"

And he kept on insisting so strenuously, that a little knot of labourers
gathered around them to await the result. Finally, the foreman saw that
the head-superintendent was coming toward them from far down the street.

"All right, then," he conceded reluctantly, "make it two more barrels of
cement."

But that same afternoon, the foreman singled Challoner out and paid him.
Then he lunged out, and striking Challoner on the shoulder lightly, he
exclaimed:--

"There, you infernal jackass! You're discharged!"

"Discharged!" The exclamation fell from his lips before Challoner could
check it; and notwithstanding his great disappointment, he made no
further comment, but turned on his heel and left. The next day, however,
he brought his case before the head-superintendent, who said:--

"If Perkins discharged you, I can't help it. I won't interfere."

"But what was I discharged for?"

"Oh, come now!" cried the superintendent; "you must know that you were
discharged for stealing cement!"

Stunned for a moment, Challoner said not a word. Then slowly he began to
understand. Graft! Yes, that was the solution of the matter. Cement was
worth money in any market; and in the concrete business, nobody could
tell,--until it was too late,--just how many barrels went into the
mixture. With _bricks_--there was no doubt about bricks. A brick was
good or bad; you could tell that by a trowel. But concrete was bound to
be a problem henceforth to the end of time.

So it turned out that Challoner was discharged for doing the thing the
foreman was guilty of doing. At the time he had little thought of
resentment. It is true that he might have "peached" on the foreman,
complained to the head-superintendent, and got them to test the walls
with a testing-hammer. But it was too late, besides, he knew now that
the head-superintendent was tarred with the same stick.

After this incident, Challoner cultivated a habit of strolling into the
offices of the various dealers in the city.

"What are the proper concrete proportions?" was his request in all of
them.

Charts were taken out and consulted. There was no difference of opinion:
all agreed that the head-superintendent's figures were out of the way,
and by one barrel of cement.

Graft! There was no doubt about it in his mind; and he proceeded to
figure out just where the trouble lay. On that department-store job
there were several mixers. On every mixing the head-superintendent made
one barrel of cement. There were several foremen. On every individual
mixing, the foremen, severally, made two barrels of cement. In every
mixing three barrels of cement were left out.

"But what about the _wall_?" Challoner asked himself when once more
alone.

And so it came about that he found that in this business, of all
businesses, there was a chance for an honest man. After a little while,
he found another job--still at two dollars a day. It was beginning once
more at the bottom, and working up, yet he did it. But the instant he
had worked up, he was again confronted with a similar situation. It was
a question of "shut up or get out!" Gradually, it is true, the burden of
the song of these men shifted slightly, and became, "Come in with us, or
keep silent."

A few more experiences of this sort, and it was given to Challoner to
perceive that he had knowledge of these things in advance of the general
public. People looked upon concrete as something marvellous. The
agitation among the construction men, the newspaper accounts about its
cheapness, together with the wonderful results obtained by its use in
other cities, all combined to dazzle owners about to build.

From day to day, Challoner could see the demand for concrete increasing.
He saw, too, that the price of brick was falling off, because concrete
had awakened a new interest in the minds of the people, had aroused
their enthusiasm. Plainly, Challoner was excited. He could see, could
talk of nothing else. While Miriam was in the hospital he had begun to
talk concrete with her; when she was convalescing and had returned to
their rooms,--they had three now,--figuratively speaking, they had
cement for breakfast and for supper. But it was his business now, and
his whole mind was concentrated upon it.

And in all this there was a singular and valuable fact: Challoner was
the only man in town,--literally the only man, because of the
circumstances of the case,--outside of the contractors, who knew the
business, and yet who had intelligence enough to understand the danger
in concrete. Naturally, the contractors did not tell owners about graft.
They did not warn their customers; they took chances; and needless to
say, the owners themselves did not know.

Challoner was quick to seize his opportunity; besides, he was conscious
that a duty rested upon him. Day and night he scanned the papers, and
when he found a concrete contract recorded, he looked up the owner, saw
him personally and told him facts. Of course, most of this was done at
night and on holidays.

"You don't say so," the owner would respond, opening wide his eyes.

But Challoner mentioned no names; he merely outlined conditions. Some
contractors, he acknowledged, were honest, perhaps most of them, but
many were careless. And then the foremen on these jobs unquestionably
were poorly paid. Surely the temptations were great.

"You don't say so," the owner would repeat.

And when the job started, this owner would put a competent man on to
oversee it. Frequently it happened that this man was J. L. Challoner.
The time came when he made five dollars a day. Moreover, the time came
when many of the good concrete walls in town owed their strength to him.

But even though his time was full, and money was plentiful, it did not
interfere with Challoner's interest in the evolution of concrete and
concrete graft; nor was he slow to recognise its value to politicians;
and so when the "ring"--for there was still a "ring" in spite of the
efforts of Murgatroyd--sprang its little surprise, Challoner knew what
was coming.

"A new concrete hospital," said the "ring," and saw in it the thin edge
of the wedge, for they foresaw a new concrete jail. Possibly they could
go still further: if they could educate the people up to it, they might
have more new concrete city buildings.

However, the new concrete hospital came first. It was one-third finished
when J. L. Challoner applied for, and secured a job as foreman of the
mixing-gang on the east wing. The men who employed him did not know him;
if they had, they would have dismissed him at once.

"Great Scott! The graft in cement is appalling!" Challoner exclaimed
before he had been on the work twenty minutes. He voiced his protest; he
would not stop voicing it: for he found that the hospital was being
built chiefly of sand and broken stone.

And so it was that the superintendent said:--

"I'll have to _see_ him, boys. We must have him in with us on this."

But Challoner could not be "seen."

The superintendent shook his head, and later to the contractors he
remarked:--

"Challoner is a dangerous man, I'm afraid."

The contractors laughed.

"Oh, he'll come around, all right!" they assured him. "They all do,
after a bit."

But in this case, the superintendent happened to be right. And the
"ring,"--the inner circle of the political organisation,--descended upon
Challoner like a thousand of brick.

"Come, come," they said, "what's your game? What's your price? Name it
and shut up. How many barrels of cement a day? Come, come now----"

Challoner still shook his head.

"Hang it!" they exclaimed; "he's too noisy."

Then they reasoned with him; but it did no good.

"It's a case of using force," they told each other. "To-morrow
night----"

But to-morrow night never came for Challoner. The game of graft had
sickened him.

"I have got to tell somebody about this," he assured himself. And then
an inspiration came to him. "I know, I'll go to Murgatroyd!"

"Murgatroyd!" He shuddered as he repeated the name, for the prosecutor
had been connected with the thing that had become to Challoner and his
wife a subject forbidden and unmentioned.

But, nevertheless, he went to Murgatroyd.



XIV


It is, of course, not given us to know what dreams of fame were in
Murgatroyd's heart when he determined to throw down the gage at the feet
of Cradlebaugh's; but, at all events, it took the best kind of courage
and mettle; and certainly from the hour that he had sent for Pemmican
and placed him on the rack in a vain attempt to get evidence, not to
speak of the time when Mrs. Challoner exposed him in the court-room, he
had never ceased his investigations of the secrets of the big
gambling-house. But no sooner had he come to the conclusion that he had
penetrated the mystery than he found himself in the centre of a vast
maelstrom of his own creation: Cradlebaugh's was but a patch in a
wilderness of riot and corruption, an incident in a series of big
events; and Murgatroyd discovered that he was battling not only with a
single institution, but with a huge political principle--he was at war
with a big city.

Another man might have been discouraged, for millionaires, large
property owners, reputable tax-payers, statesmen of the highest order,
and even his best friends came to him and begged him to call off his
crusade; but he only shook his head. As he proceeded, he made the
discovery that a political organisation is not an organisation--it is a
man; that crime is personified; and that corruption is concrete. And as
the battle waged, he found himself constantly seeking his old
stamping-ground--Cradlebaugh's. That, somehow, seemed to be the keystone
of the edifice that he assaulted.

Then, one day, agitated, breathless but triumphant, Mixley and McGrath
burst into the prosecutor's office.

"Chief," spoke out Mixley joyously, "we followed your instructions to
the letter." And beckoning to his partner, "McGrath and me has got the
goods!" McGrath pulled from his pocket a bulky document made up of
depositions, and said:--

"This here is the report, sir."

While Murgatroyd read the document, his subordinates stood watching him
with anxious eyes. Long before he had concluded they saw in his face the
expression that they had waited for.

"By George, you don't mean it!" exclaimed Murgatroyd, suddenly rising to
his feet and smiting his desk with terrific force.

"You can bet your bottom dollar that we do!" returned Mixley.

Murgatroyd clenched his teeth with inward satisfaction. Presently he
said:--

"I've waited for this for many months."

After re-reading the report he ordered his men to go to Broderick and
Thorne with the request that they come to him immediately.

An hour later Graham Thorne made his appearance, Broderick waddling in
after him. Murgatroyd passed over a box of cigars.

Broderick lighted, and after puffing contentedly for a time,
commented:--

"Good cigars, these. Strikes me that they're your first contribution to
the campaign fund, eh?" And helping himself to three more out of the
box, he tucked them away in his pocket with a wink at Murgatroyd, and
asked:--

"Any Challoner money in these?"

Murgatroyd smiled grimly.

"You seem ready enough to burn it, anyhow," he answered. And puffing
also on his cigar he said, "I wanted to have a little confidential talk
with you gentlemen."

Broderick nudged Thorne and remarked:--

"Perhaps the prosecutor's goin' to divvy with us, Thorne!"

Murgatroyd smiled and laughed; but somehow the smile and laugh did not
include Thorne.

"I'm not going to divvy up, as you call it, just yet--not _just_ yet,"
he replied, pointedly.

Broderick shut his eyes and digested the glance and the reply. Both
seemed to satisfy him, for he nodded genially.

Rising now, and sitting lazily across one corner of his desk, Murgatroyd
turned his attention to Thorne.

"I wanted to have a talk," he said casually, "with the man who owns
Cradlebaugh's."

Thorne looked about the room, then he inquired innocently:--

"He doesn't seem to have arrived as yet--where is he?"

Murgatroyd blew a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling, and answered:--

"Oh, yes he has--his name is Graham Thorne." Murgatroyd could see the
pallor of Thorne's face turn to a deeper white; he could feel that the
ruddiness upon the countenance of Broderick had deepened into scarlet.

There was a pause. After a moment, Thorne rose and said indignantly:--

"Say that again!"

"With pleasure," returned Murgatroyd, "I say that you are the hitherto
unknown owner of the most notorious gambling-house within the State."

There was another pause in which Thorne looked at Broderick and
Broderick looked at Thorne.

"This is preposterous!" exclaimed Thorne.

Murgatroyd made no answer. Then he proceeded with assertions.

"And with the earnings of that gambling-house," he said evenly, "you
have stopped the mouths, closed the eyes and ears, and paralysed the
hands of the authorities. With the earnings of that gambling-house, you
have bought the influence of Chairman Peter Broderick, who lives upon
those earnings--grows fat upon them."

Broderick's eyes bulged; he, too, rose and started toward the
prosecutor.

"Say," he yelled, "I'll open up my anatomy to you! Pick out any ounce o'
fat and tell me Cradlebaugh's put it there! Come on--my fat is my own--I
earned it by the sweat of my brow!"

With perfect coolness, Murgatroyd continued:--

"Thorne, ever since you sprang into prominence here, you have posed in
this community as a self-made man--boasted of carving your success by
industry, integrity and brains. And yet--" pointing a finger of
accusation toward him--"you have bought every item of your reputation,
every iota of your respectability!" He stopped for an instant, and then:
"Every inch of your political progress, you've bought with this tainted
money, and with the same kind of money you'd buy the United States
Senatorship--if you could."

"Lies--all deliberate lies!" Thorne ejaculated.

"Worse than slanderin' my fat!" added Peter Broderick.

Before Murgatroyd could speak again, Thorne took another tack.

"What evidence have you, I should like to know?" he said; "you can't
prove these things, Murgatroyd."

"That," returned Murgatroyd, "is for me to worry about--not you. I'm
going on, and when I'm through, you can stake your last dollar that I'll
know all about this rotten system that you call your organisation--from
the most insignificant ward politician up to Peter Broderick!"

The accusing forefinger shifted from Thorne to the County Chairman;
under it the avoirdupois of that gentleman seemed to shrivel and grow
less. In all his career no man had ever honoured Broderick with this
kind of talk, and he wasn't used to it. All at once, he felt that his
courage was slipping from him.

"I've got to see a man--" he began, looking nervously at his watch; then
hunching his shoulders, he stole softly and almost on tiptoe to the
door.

"_Broderick!_" sung out the prosecutor sharply.

Broderick stopped, but did not look back.

"Broderick!" thundered Murgatroyd, "I want you in this office to-morrow
afternoon at four o'clock--I want to have a talk with you--alone. If you
don't come, I'll--send for you. Do you understand?"

Broderick did not answer; he opened the door, and slipping through it,
disappeared.

Murgatroyd laughed, and turning to Thorne, he went on:--

"Thorne, I sent for you to tell you to close up Cradlebaugh's--to close
it up at once. If you don't----"

But Thorne's self-possession had come back, and he demanded
fearlessly:--

"And what about you, Murgatroyd? Are your hands clean?"

The tiger leaped into Murgatroyd's face; his eyes flashed fire; the
accuser became the fighter.

"I can take care of myself!" he answered quickly. "I'm talking about
you, now. You are sworn as a counsellor to uphold the law; you have
lined your pockets and built up your career with the coin of suicides,
profligates, drunkards, like Challoner, for instance.

"Yes," he went on, "and there is something more between you and me than
this, Thorne." His voice now dropped almost to a whisper: "You have the
effrontery to pay attentions to----"

Thorne interrupted him, his tone, his glance, his manner leaping at once
into insolence.

"So that's how the land lies, is it? Well, let me tell you something
that possibly you already know. All my life I have had the things I
wanted--all my desires have been fulfilled. I wanted money--I got it. I
wanted power, social and political--I got it. I have never stopped; I
have always progressed. You have already said that I would be Senator of
the United States--if I could. I tell you that I shall! Again, you have
hinted at a woman who is worth while.... Well, I'm going on and on and
on, in spite of you----"

"You are going on to your finish," returned Murgatroyd. "I have only
just begun with you. Before I go further, it may be just as well for you
to relinquish the last two of your desires. I don't demand it--I advise
it."

Thorne glanced uncertainly at the prosecutor, who had spoken with
complete assurance. Thorne recognised the danger. Murgatroyd had been
getting indictments lately, and for every indictment, a conviction.
Thorne did not know what proof Murgatroyd had in his possession, and he
knew of no way that he could find out. Besides, the people liked
Murgatroyd. Thorne believed in compromise, therefore he extended his
hand.

"Look here, Murgatroyd," he said, "you know neither of us can afford to
have things like these talked about. Don't let us sling mud--let's fight
in the open. A fair fight and no favour--let's be decent."

"Why don't you get your ammunition in the open, then?" asked the
prosecutor.

Thorne flared up.

"Why didn't you?"

Murgatroyd smiled and said:--

"You'll find my ammunition in the open, Thorne, the next time the
legislature meets to choose a Senator!"

Thorne's insolence had returned as he demanded:--

"Do you mean to tell me that your name will be presented in the caucus?"

"That's precisely what I mean."

"Of course you'll try to buy votes with the Challoner money you have."

"I'll get the votes--never fear."

"Try it, then--I'll match you dollar for dollar."

"Not with dollars coined from Cradlebaugh's, nor from corruptions,"
declared Murgatroyd.

Thorne's eyes narrowed.

"Murgatroyd," said he, "you reckon without your host--no matter who owns
Cradlebaugh's--or runs it. The organisation has its finger on every
Grand Jury, every petit jury, every judge. You can't accomplish the
impossible until you've beaten Peter Broderick and the organisation, and
until you do this you can't beat me--you can't prove your
assertions--your hands are tied. The organisation backs me up."

"If your name," retorted Murgatroyd deliberately, "is presented for
Senator, it will be withdrawn; and mine will be presented in its place."

"Who'll present it?" sneered Thorne.

"That," smiled Murgatroyd, mysteriously, "is my business and not yours.
But inasmuch as you told me your story, Thorne," he went on, "let me
tell you mine now. All my life I've struggled like the devil to get the
things I wanted; and I failed. But a big change is about to take
place--here and now. You stop right here; and where you stop, I begin.
It's my turn! The things you want--I want. Your surest and your best
desires are my desires. If you've got them in your hand, as you think
you have, why then--" he clenched his hands--"I'll take them away from
you. The time has come, Thorne, when you are going to get the things
that you don't want,--and you are going to get them hard. I'm going to
get the things you want, yes, and by George, I'll get you too! That's
all I've----"

Murgatroyd did not finish; Thorne had departed.

The next day at four o'clock there was a resounding rap on the
prosecutor's private office door.

"Come in!" said Murgatroyd.

The door opened, and Peter Broderick came puffing into the room with
perfect nonchalance. He had had a day to think things over, and he had
made up his mind that the outburst of the prosecutor had been all
bluster. Seizing a chair, he drew it up to the desk and sat down,
saying:--

"I never refuse an invitation to see a man alone; and now that we are
alone, I don't mind telling you that I'm ready for another one of them
good cigars."

The prosecutor passed a box, from which Broderick helped himself to a
cigar, lit it, and after sending a few clouds of smoke in the air, went
on:--

"Do you know, Murgatroyd, that I haven't had a good chance to talk to
you since the Challoner case--you've been so blamed offish all the time.
But now, here I am sittin' here with you,--you, the only mugwump in the
town that I ever used to be afraid of,--and you know I can say any
blamed thing I please to you, and you got to take it and say nothin'. Do
you know that I'm one of the few that believe the truth about that
bribe?"

Murgatroyd smiled.

"In other words, you think we're both in the same boat--is that it?"

"Not a bit of it!" returned Broderick. "I'm in a coal barge; you're in a
motor boat. Why, Murgatroyd, there's many a man been in honest politics
all his life, like me, for instance, and who's never pulled out three
quarters of a million! Not much! And out of one deal, too! Why, look at
me?" he went on glibly, "I've been in a lot of deals; but that gets me!
Three quarters of a million and more on just one deal! Confound it, man,
do you know the most I ever made out of any one deal?"

Murgatroyd lit a cigar, leaned back in his chair and inquired in an
offhand manner:--

"How much?"

Broderick shook his finger at him.

"Foxy, foxy boy! Do you think I'd give up to you so easy? This
particular deal I'm tellin' you about, is away back outside the statute
of limitations. You couldn't get me on it if you would. It was the
Terwilliger tract--I was chairman of the common council, finance
committee, you remember? Bought the tract for twenty-five hundred and
sold it to the city for two hundred and eighty thousand. That's me!"

"Good work!" said Murgatroyd, with genuine admiration. "I didn't know
that you were in on that."

"In on it?" snorted Broderick. "I was the whole show! That's where I'm
coy, my dear boy; it takes Broderick to do these things; but it takes a
bigger man than Broderick to find 'em out."

Murgatroyd shook his head.

"They found _me_ out, all right," he said.

Broderick waved his hand, and answered:--

"Not a bit of it! It's all blown over, and if it hasn't, it will. All
they'll remember, after a while, is that you've got a wad of money.
They'll forget how you got it, and they won't care." He puffed away and
purred contentedly.

"You're a giant," he went on, "an intellectual giant to bag six
figures." Then he waved his hand about the room and said: "You take this
old court-house, for instance; I was on the buildin' committee, but to
save my life--hold on a minute--" he pulled himself up with a round
turn, "that was outside the statute, of course it was. Well, to save my
life I couldn't pull more 'n a hundred and twenty-three thousand out of
it. I came near gettin' caught, too," he admitted, laughing.

"But you weren't," commented Murgatroyd.

"No, sir!" said Broderick. "I don't do jobs that way. You could have
gone through the thing with a microscope, and you wouldn't have found
hair nor hide of Broderick."

Murgatroyd lazily closed his eyes, and murmured:--

"Tell me about the new hospital--that little concrete job."

Broderick leaned forward, his face growing crimson as he did so, and
peered into the face of Murgatroyd.

"What are you gettin' at?"

Murgatroyd opened a drawer within his desk and took out a bulky batch of
papers.

"Broderick," he said severely, "do you know that I've got you implicated
in more than thirty different violations of the law right here in town?"

"Me?" Broderick looked incredulous.

"Yes, you!" answered Murgatroyd, evenly.

Broderick held out his hand, and asked with a show of interest:--

"What are they, anyway?"

"See for yourself," returned Murgatroyd; and leaning back in his chair
comfortably, he gave himself up to watching the changes in the
countenance of the other, who proceeded to scan the batch of papers with
marked interest. And, although Broderick made no comments, he did a lot
of thinking. Finally eyeing Murgatroyd with suspicion, he asked:--

"Without prejudice to anybody's rights, I'd like to know how you got all
this?"

"It's easy when you know how," returned Murgatroyd, smiling; "and I've
learned how."

Broderick's face broke into a confused, distorted smile.

"Now, without making any damaging admissions," he conceded, "do you know
it would be blamed uncomfortable for me if I were dealing with any other
prosecutor than you?"

The prosecutor smiled again.

"How do you know it won't be uncomfortable for you as it is?"

Broderick burst into a laugh.

"You an' me is two of a kind--grafters together, tarred with the same
stick. That's why."

Murgatroyd nodded, took back the list and laid it down.

"That's all right, Broderick," he assented, "I didn't send for you about
these things. I've got a little job for you to do."

"Out with it!" said Broderick.

Murgatroyd leaned forward and told him in a low voice:--

"Broderick, I want to sit in the Senate of the United States."

Broderick jumped to his feet, exclaiming:--

"What!"

"Yes, I want to sit in the Senate," repeated Murgatroyd.

Broderick burst into a peal of laughter that well-nigh shook the
building.

"And you want me to help you?" roared Broderick.

"Yes, of course," persisted Murgatroyd.

Once more Broderick laughed immoderately.

"You'll be the death of me," he said, sinking into his chair.

"You laugh too soon," remarked Murgatroyd.

"Is there more comin'?" questioned Broderick, with a howl. "You know the
valvular workin's of my heart ain't over strong. You're crazy, man!" he
added; "the whole organisation is against you!"

"The whole organisation," repeated Murgatroyd, "except _you_."

"You blamed idiot!" roared Broderick. "The organisation's against you
because I am."

"I've got to be the next Senator," persisted Murgatroyd; "and you've got
to put me there."

"I can't put you there."

Murgatroyd cast an appealing glance at the other.

"But--you want to, don't you?"

"Indeed I do not!" returned Broderick, indignantly.

Murgatroyd rose to his feet, saying, as though speaking to a spoiled
child:--

"I don't like to see that spirit; it looks as though you were opposed to
me."

"Have I ever been anythin' else?" returned Broderick. "Will I ever be
anythin' else?"

Murgatroyd continued to reprove him.

"I prefer to see a man do with a good grace that which he has to do."

"And who has got to do?" queried Broderick, also rising.

"I have just told you," went on Murgatroyd, looking him full in the
face, "that you've got to put me in the Senate."

Instantly Broderick became doggedly belligerent.

"I'll spend my last dollar to keep you out of it--I'll work against you
till I drop in my tracks!"

Murgatroyd seized a small thick book and leafed it over.

"You'll do both," he remarked, "and when you drop in your tracks,
Broderick, it will be with hard labour. Sit down, and take that pencil
and piece of paper--I want you to do some figuring."

Broderick, wondering, seated himself; Murgatroyd peered over the little
book.

"Seven and seven are fourteen," he mused, "and six are twenty, and
eleven----"

"What have you got there?" Broderick asked with mild interest.

"The Penal Code," answered Murgatroyd, lightly.

"Look under B. for Bribe," suggested Broderick, with an accusing glance.

Murgatroyd shook his head.

"I'm just figuring up the number of years you'd have to serve----"

"But I'm not goin' to the Senate," protested the politician.

"No, but I am," retorted the prosecutor. "Four times six are
twenty-four; besides the amount of fines you'll have to pay. Take the
first on the list, Broderick. You'll get seven years on that, and seven
thousand dollars fine. Put that down."

"I'll put nothin' down--I never was a hand at figures."

"Then I'll do it. Twenty indictments for corrupting voters--I've got the
goods on that; twenty years and twenty thousand dollars fines. Hold on a
minute, we won't add up just yet. There's your interest in
Cradlebaugh's; there's the hospital; there's your pool-rooms;
log-rolling with police-headquarters--Why, say, Broderick," he exclaimed
suddenly, gasping with surprise, "it will cost you in the neighbourhood
of one hundred thousand cash in fines!"

"You don't say!" sarcastically returned the chairman.

"And," continued Murgatroyd, suavely, "about one hundred and thirty-five
years to serve in sentences."

"I'm booked for a ripe old age," returned Broderick, still with sarcasm
in his voice.

"So that eliminates you from the Senate," facetiously continued the
prosecutor; "you'll go up for the rest of your unnatural life." He
paused and shot at Broderick a glance that went home--one that meant
business.

Broderick squirmed.

"You don't mean to tell me, prosecutor," he exclaimed, "that you're
going to prosecute me for these things?"

The other shrugged his shoulders.

"How can I help it?"

"You don't dare prosecute me! You blamed idiot!" screamed Broderick. "If
you do, I'll send you up myself--you with three-quarters of a million
dirty money in your clothes."

Murgatroyd thought over his words and weighed them. Presently, he
said:--

"I would get out in five years; you would be there for a hundred and
thirty more."

Broderick snorted with rage.

"What are you driving at, anyway?"

The prosecutor was silent for a moment, then he said:--

"Broderick, since I've been prosecutor, I have achieved a reputation for
just three things: first, whenever I have tried to induce the Grand Jury
to indict, I've succeeded; second, whenever they indicted, I have
secured a verdict of conviction; third, my verdicts of conviction are
always affirmed upon appeal." He stood over Broderick, threateningly,
and finally declared:--

"Now, you put me in the United States Senate, or I'll put you where the
penal code provides! What are you going to do about it?"

Broderick swelled with anger.

"I'm going to call your bluff, Murgatroyd!" he yelled. "You can't work
me! And you don't dare touch me, either! Why, there ain't a man in this
whole State who dares to lay a hand on me! By George, I call your
bluff!"

Murgatroyd sat at his desk and pressed a button; the door opened and two
men entered.

"Mixley, McGrath," said Murgatroyd, picking up some rectangular slips of
paper from his desk and passing them over to them, "Chairman Peter
Broderick is going to leave this room inside of thirty seconds----"

"You bet I am!" Broderick interposed.

"There are ten warrants for his arrest," went on the prosecutor; "take
him into custody the instant he leaves this room."

"'Right, Chief!" the men replied in chorus, and, facing about, left the
room.

"Now, Broderick," said Murgatroyd, "you called my bluff--you may go."

The politician strode to the door angrily, blustering, but with his hand
on the knob, he paused. A new situation was confronting him--a thing
imminent, concrete. To cross the threshold meant a blow; Broderick crept
back to Murgatroyd.

"Do you mean this, Murgatroyd?" he queried.

Murgatroyd was busy at his desk and did not look up as he remarked:--

"This interview is over."

Rebuffed once more, Broderick crept to the door, but again he came back,
and whispered uncertainly:--

"So you want to be United States Senator, eh? The best job that we've
got?" He hesitated for an instant before asking:--

"Can I be of any help?"

Murgatroyd laid down his pen and looked up, smiling.

"Now you are talking sense, Broderick. Yes, you and Thorne can help me."

"Thorne! Great Scott! I never thought of him! Why, he's the organisation
nominee, and I'm tied up with him! Say, honest, Murgatroyd, I can't go
back on him--Murgatroyd, you can't make it--for even I can't undo all
that's been done. Thorne has been slated for that job for months."

"You've got to sponge him off the slate, then," returned the prosecutor.

"I'll be everlastingly confounded if I do!" returned Broderick.

Murgatroyd pressed a button; Mixley came in on the jump.

"Mixley," began Murgatroyd.

"Hold on!" said Broderick, "I'll help you----"

Murgatroyd nodded.

"Warmly, energetically, enthusiastically----"

"Oh, all that," interrupted Broderick.

"Mixley," said the chief, "you can hold those warrants--until after the
next Senatorial election."

Broderick gasped; Mixley's nod as he left the room spoke volumes.

"Broderick," said Murgatroyd, looking him in the eye, "you mean
business--you're going to back me straight?"

"Not because I want to, but because I've got to," returned the
politician. "It seems I must...."

He paused and returned Murgatroyd's glance significantly. After a
moment, he said:--

"Well, fork over, then...."

Murgatroyd smiled.

"How much?..."

"Thorne will spend and has spent a lot of money," answered Broderick;
"and you've got to----"

"How much will it take?" asked Murgatroyd.

"How much have you got left?" responded Broderick.



XV


One afternoon, many, many months after the interview just described, a
few keen observers among the passengers on an incoming Southwestern
Express--pulling with final, smooth, exhaustive effort into its eastern
terminal--noted with considerable amusement that the pulses of one of
their number had quickened to such a degree, that evidently their owner
found it quite impossible to resist the temptation to leave her seat and
politely push forward to the vestibule of the car, where she waited
until the train came to a full stop. And so it happened that Shirley
Bloodgood led the first flight of men who were hurrying up the long
lanes of the station toward a roped-off space where groups of people
waited expectantly for relatives and friends. Not that Shirley looked
forward to seeing a familiar face among them; on the contrary she was
fully aware,--since she had neglected to telegraph to any one the time
of her arrival,--that there was not one chance in a thousand of any of
her acquaintances being there; it was merely that she had fallen under
the spell of that subtle spirit of unrest and haste, which all
travellers, however phlegmatic, recognise the moment they breathe the
air of the metropolis. One quick, scrutinising glance, it is true, the
girl threw around and about her, as she passed through the crowd, but
there was no disappointment on her face as now, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, she brushed past what seemed to her a hundred
cabbies each intent on making her their legitimate human prey.

Once clear of the exit she turned to the porter who was carrying her
bag, tipped him, and directing his attention to an urchin in the centre
of a howling mob of youthful street Arabs ready to pounce upon her bag
the instant the porter dropped it, she cried:--

"Give it to him--him!"

It was a chubby, little, Russian Jew with red cheeks and glistening eyes
whom she selected, and, with a howl of disappointment, the other
ragamuffins opened up a lane to let the victor get his spoils, stood
while Shirley and her escort marched off, and then swooped down upon
another victim.

"Come with me," said Shirley to the boy; and suiting her pace to his
running stride, she turned her face toward the west.

As Shirley walked rapidly along, the even pavement felt resilient to her
well-shod feet. The keen air brought new vigour into her face, into her
body, and in it--partial stranger as she was--she detected that which
the metropolitan never scents: the salt vapour of the sea. Thousands of
men and women passed her, and to one and all, figuratively speaking, she
opened wide her arms. The glitter of a thousand lights found an
answering sparkle in her eyes.

"There is nothing in the world like it! It will ever be home--the real
home to me!" cried Shirley, half-aloud. "The noise, the bustle, the
crowds, the life--Oh, how I do love it all!"

For a considerable time Shirley had been living on the heights of
Arizona--a wilderness crowded with space, dotted here and there with
human beings. Leaving her mother out there until, under new and altered
circumstances, she could arrange their home in the big city that
belonged to her,--and to-day, more than ever, she knew that she belonged
to the big city, that in truth she was one of its people,--she had come
all the way through without stopping, reasoning that in that way just so
much less time would elapse before she could return and fetch her. In
the West--a land where men stood out in bold relief, because they were
few, they had pointed out to her rugged specimens noted for their
physical prowess, their dare-devil recklessness of life. And viewing
these swaggering heroes, with the sense of personal achievement, however
remote, strong upon them, a vague longing had crept into her inner
consciousness.

"Oh, if I were only a man!" she had said to herself.

But now, as she swept along on the right side of the sidewalk, facing
the crowd that passed her on the left, she knew and felt that here was
the place of the real struggle, the battle-ground, the fiery furnace
that men were tested in. Out in Arizona, it had been man to man; but
here in New York, it was one man against a million. And yet, woman-like,
she thought that were she unsexed, she could meet this struggle with
tireless energy, could strike where men had failed, could crowd her way
up, inch by inch, to the top. And thus communing with herself, Shirley
walked on and on, feeling that she could walk on forever through this
rush of home-going-folk--people who had done something that day with
their hands--people who had unconsciously pushed the earth another
twenty-four hours upon his journey.

All of a sudden there came a strong tug at her skirts followed by a
youthful voice that called:--

"Say, lady,"--setting down Shirley's bag in mild protest--"youse don't
belong so far away! Ain't we got too far?"

After an instant of confusion, Shirley conceded the fact with a frank
laugh.

"What am I thinking of!" she cried, "I want to go to the Bellerophon."

"This way then, lady," returned her small guide; and picking up her bag
he turned southwards.

At sight of the unpretentious hostelry, which rejoiced in the
distinction of possessing such a resounding name, Shirley was conscious
of a variety of emotions. For a time, in the old days, it had been the
fashion to patronise the Bellerophon, and Murgatroyd had been the first
to take her there. On more than one occasion she had lunched with him
and he had always been most enthusiastic over the respectful service,
the wonderful cuisine and the quiet of the place. It was infinitely
nicer, he had said, to have their luncheon there than to go to any of
the huge, noisy caravansaries like the skyscraping, five-acre, concrete
Monolith on the avenue. And she had agreed with him. Another time, he
had explained to her that he was a one-club man; a man with few friends;
and that, when tired out after a long, hard day's work, he greatly
preferred a corner, all to himself, in the Bellerophon to dining with
half-formed acquaintances at the club. In this, likewise, she had
sympathised thoroughly with his point of view. And so, not unnaturally,
it came about that Shirley had had little difficulty, on her long
journey east, in convincing herself that it was merely her liking for
the Bellerophon, and not at all anything more subtle that had caused her
to decide upon this quaint, old hotel for her lonely stay in the
metropolis. Besides, Miriam and she had often been there together, and
for that matter, had grown to regard it as their own especial discovery.
But, now, when she had crossed the portal, when the boy had dropped her
bag at the feet of the Bellerophon porter,--charging her quite double,
as the price of her unpardonable absentmindedness,--a flood of memories
swept over her, and her face flushed and she laughed in an irritated
sort of way on realising that all the time she had been thinking solely
of Murgatroyd.

Murgatroyd! Would the man's name never be out of her thoughts! For a
time, out west, it is true, she had been so engrossed in the cares and
griefs of her almost hermit-like existence, that she had been able to
look back upon the old scenes as chapters in some pathetic story book;
but now, the odd, little prints on the walls all about her, the slender
old gentlemen--aristocrats--who strolled to and fro, everything about
the place recalled vividly the man who, not so very long ago, had been a
part and parcel of her existence.

They showed her to her room--a wonderfully old-fashioned room without a
particle of brass or glitter in it. Even the bedstead was of wood--a
good, solid invitation to home-like rest and slumber.

"Get me an evening paper, please," she said to the bell-boy.

"Which one?" he asked.

"All of them," she replied with a beaming smile; after that the boy was
not long in bringing them.

In Arizona Shirley had been reading news which was, generally, three,
four days--frequently a week old. Out there her home papers had
straggled in, stale and unprofitable. But these--of even date; why, they
were damp from the press. Indeed, it was good to have them!

"Home, home," she whispered to herself as she sank into a chair. She
decided that she would not dine until much later, for she wanted to
think, wanted to classify the emotions which had rushed in upon her so
suddenly. The easy chair responded to her mood; and with a sigh, and
placing her hands behind her head, she leaned back contentedly, little
knowing that she looked wonderfully pretty in that old room--a goddess
in a travelling gown. All the care and sorrow that she had passed
through in these last months had made a woman of the girl, had deepened
her beauty. Time had rounded her gently. Travel-stained and feverish
with the glow of a new experience upon her, she was more inviting, more
human, more beautiful than she could possibly be in the latest Paris
creation. And yet one of the fittest mates in a great metropolis was
alone. East and west, everywhere she had wandered, men, great men,
wonderful men had held out their hands to her beseechingly--drawn by a
certain undefinable magnetism and attractiveness which she possessed--a
charm of manner which few could resist. And Shirley had passed on, and
had given no sign.

But now in the silence of her room, her loneliness appalled her. The
insistent memories closed in around her. And suddenly she knew that she
wanted to live as other women lived--with a man of her own choosing. But
where could she find the man in whom she could put her faith?

After a while, Shirley picked up one of the papers lying on the table.
At the first glance she started and laughed guiltily. There at the head
of the third column, a word, a name had caught her eye: Murgatroyd!
Paper after paper she now scanned, and all mentioned his name: some on
the first page, others on the second; and with it invariably was coupled
another name: Thorne! Finally, she rejected all but one, the
_Pillar_,--the most conservative evening paper in the city,--and
concentrated her attention upon it. At a glance, Shirley could see that
with all its conservatism, the _Pillar_ was holding up its hands in
reverential hero-worship. In a two-column article it reviewed
Murgatroyd's record from its invariably impartial viewpoint. "Murgatroyd
had been clean," it said, "his reputation was unsullied." It even
referred to the Challoner incident as a pitiful piece of falsehood which
had strengthened Murgatroyd in his position. Shirley laid down the paper
with a cry:--

"Oh, what a hypocrite he is!"

So Murgatroyd was still playing a game! The root of his record was
dishonesty! Shirley was thoroughly sincere in her indignation. And yet
after a little while she began to wonder whether his conscience troubled
him--whether it had cost him anything? Oh, if only she could be sure of
that! For she well knew, and a little sigh of shame escaped her, that if
only he had abandoned all pose, shown himself in true colours, even
become a machine politician, she could have forgiven him everything. Not
a little distressed, therefore, she read on and on, marvelling at the
_Pillar's_ devotion, but soon it became apparent to her that its editor
was picturing Murgatroyd more in the light of a losing martyr than as a
successful saint. For the article pointed out the strength of the
railroads, of Wall Street, of the brewers, of the machine, and predicted
mournfully that Murgatroyd was bound to fall before all his powerful
enemies, concluding with: "More the pity, more the pity."

Presently she read the other papers; all contained more or less adverse
criticism of him. One thing, however, stood out: fanatic though some of
them called him, they were unanimous as to his honesty of purpose--a man
who could not be bought, who could not be swerved from the straight and
narrow path. Moreover, in none of them was there any reference to the
existence of Challoner. The Challoners had been forgotten--had dropped
completely out of sight.

It was after eight o'clock when Shirley was reminded of a sudden that
she was desperately hungry. Once in the dining-room, she directed her
steps to the small alcove--the corner which Miriam and she had always
occupied, after the first of those memorable occasions when she had
lunched there with Murgatroyd. Taking her place at the table with a sigh
of satisfaction, Shirley threw a glance around the room. Palms screened
her table, making it impossible for her to be seen, although it was
perfectly easy for her to see every one in the room. There were few
dining at that hour, and so after ordering her meal, she was thrown back
once more on her reflections--reflections of Murgatroyd; and she fell to
wondering in what way had the possession of almost a million dollars
changed him. Had he grown stout? Was he full-faced, or possibly a bit
insolent, overbearing and aggressively genial with a wide laugh? In any
event, she was quite positive that he was prosperous-looking--too
prosperous-looking; and, all in all, it was anything but a pleasant
picture which she mentally drew of him.

The waiter brought the chosen viands and withdrew. Shirley ate eagerly.
The air of the city was full of life and body; it gave her an appetite.
Being quite a material personage, she enjoyed her dinner thoroughly.
Things tasted deliciously to her, and yet her thoughts wandered.

"If only Billy had been different ..." she kept saying to herself.

Suddenly the palms were parted, and a fat man approached her table. On
seeing it occupied, he mumbled his surprise and backed out again. But
while pushing his way through the palms he extended a short arm and
said:--

"That table over there, then."

The remark was made to a companion, whom as yet Shirley could not see.
An answer, however, came in a man's voice; both men seemed disappointed:
evidently, this corner was a favourite with others as well as herself.
And the fat man--his face was strangely familiar. Who might he be?
Shirley was sure....

Broderick. That was the man: the funny, vulgar politician who had been
pointed out to her at the Challoner trial. Shirley wondered what a man
of his stamp was doing in the quietude of the Bellerophon. Somehow, he
did not seem to belong there; she laughed silently to herself as through
the palms she watched him settle himself laboriously at a table in
another corner. The seat he had taken faced away from her, and she noted
how broad, how terribly broad was his back.

"But a power in politics--the real thing!" she cried half-aloud. It was
not surprising, she told herself, that men of refinement hesitated a
long time before going into politics, if this were a type of the men
they had to compete with. Her thoughts running on in this strain, she
determined out of curiosity to get a glimpse of Broderick's companion.
It was not difficult to get a good look at him, as the man sat facing
her.

At the first glance, Shirley had a faint suspicion that likewise she
knew that face; then she looked again and for a moment she was startled.
"No, it can't be possible that--" At that instant the stranger looked up
and dispelled her doubts. She was face to face with the man who had
filled her thoughts for the last two hours.

"And so that is Billy Murgatroyd!" she murmured to herself. He was the
same Murgatroyd she had known, but different from the man she had
pictured. And she would have gone on indefinitely criticising his looks,
but she was suddenly interrupted by the sound of voices. It was
Broderick talking, his big voice filling the room. Shirley listened
attentively.

"Blamed good place to get away from the gang," he was saying; and there
was a satisfied look on his face as he glanced about the room.

While Broderick ordered the dinner, Murgatroyd leaned forward and made
some remark. Instantly something in the tone of his voice, or it may
have been his manner, told the girl that the relations between the two
men were, in a degree, confidential. The back of Broderick assumed the
attitude of a political adviser. Shirley observed that he gesticulated a
great deal and often wiped his brow with a handkerchief which, even at a
distance, she could see was over-embroidered, but in none of his
movements so far was there the slightest suggestion of hostility.

"And this is the use that Murgatroyd has made of poor Miriam's money!"
she cried to herself. "He's bribing the enemy!"

Shirley bowed her head in shame.

Presently she lifted it again, for before their dinner had arrived and
while Broderick talked on, Murgatroyd rose and walked for a brief while
up and down behind the table; and, unseen herself, she scrutinised him
closely.

The first thing that her woman's eye noted was that Murgatroyd was not
in evening clothes; he wore a business suit, not altogether new, which
to her thinking, needed pressing; it looked as if he had lived in it
from daybreak to daybreak. He was no stouter than when she had last seen
him; if anything he appeared to have lost flesh, yet his figure still
retained its strong but fine lines. And Shirley was forced to
acknowledge to herself that it had lost none of its grace. But on his
face was the dull flush that results from the strain of enthusiasm, of
excitement, of overwork. He looked fagged out, and his eyes were
restless, though they glowed with steadiness of purpose. From time to
time he glanced quickly about him, taking in every detail of the room,
studying the people in it, and even peering through the palms that hid
the girl, as though he wondered what interloper had had the temerity to
rob him of his lair. One thing, however, impressed her more than
anything else: his demeanour toward Broderick. There was within it not a
particle of that confidential concession that Broderick seemed ever
ready to offer; on the contrary, it suggested a suspicious watchfulness.
Murgatroyd had every appearance of being a zealous, jealous taskmaster
who had set himself over a paid but uncertain servant.

And Broderick,--only once did Broderick turn his head so that Shirley
might see his face; but in that one instant the girl divined what she
believed to be the situation, the true force of the drama that was being
played by the two men. Broderick's face, glance, his whole being,
indicated the cunning of the man; he was treachery personified, at
least, so he appeared to Shirley; and she told herself, as she sat there
and studied him, that any one with half an eye could see that he was
hoodwinking the man opposite him.

"Murgatroyd was being fooled!" There was no doubt about it. The attitude
of both men expressed it; but, more than anything else, Murgatroyd's air
of feverish endeavour, of expenditure of energy, confirmed it. With
Miriam's thousands he had paid for something that had not been
delivered. Broderick had taken the money--every dollar of it, of that
Shirley was thoroughly convinced,--and had given nothing in return. In
the girl's mind there was no accounting otherwise for Broderick's leer;
in no other way was it possible to explain the desperate effort that
Murgatroyd seemed to be making. But, at last, the lawyer grew angry; he
hit the table repeatedly with his fist and glared at Broderick. And the
huge politician pretended to cower and tried to propitiate him.

"Yes, they are fooling him!" she repeated to herself. Miriam's money had
been of no avail; Murgatroyd had failed to accomplish his purpose.

After a while this feeling of contempt for his failure gave way to a
wave of pity. What right had she to judge him at all; what manner of
woman was she, that she should set herself up to determine whether his
lesson was deservedly bitter or not; and what should be his punishment.
"Money so gotten will never do him any good," Miriam had said after the
scene in the court-room; and how true her words had proved! Why, the
papers, even though they believed in his honesty, had as much as said
that he was going down to defeat. And then, in turn, her feeling of
compassion was succeeded by one of gladness. She was not a little
surprised to find herself fervently wishing that Broderick had robbed
him of every dollar; but, later on, her cheeks burned furiously when an
honest introspection disclosed to her the real motive of this desire.
For, after all, what if Murgatroyd would come to her and say:--

"I have sinned, and I have lost; be merciful to me, a miserable sinner."

What if some day he should come to her free of all hypocrisy, stripped
of all save truth, a beaten man, what then? Well, she felt unutterably
lonely, she wanted to be loved, and after all, he had helped her friend
by setting her husband free.



XVI


A few days later, dressed in light mourning, Shirley Bloodgood for the
second time in her life wended her way to a certain tenement house not
far from the East River.

"Surely I cannot be mistaken,--this must be the place," she told
herself, groaning in spirit.

In reply to her timid knock and inquiry for Mrs. Challoner, a little
girl directed her to the apartment above, the door of which was
presently opened by a woman with full rounded face; and entering a neat,
well-furnished, five-room flat, Shirley was soon seated at the window
chatting with happy eagerness.

The young woman with the full, fresh, rounded face, it can readily be
imagined, was Miriam Challoner.

"You've been away more than three years, Shirley," she sighed, as she
bent over a bit of fancy work. "It seems a century almost."

"It hasn't seemed so long to me," returned Shirley. "Though when we
first went west, I thought it would be nothing short of a
nightmare--waiting for an old man to die."

"It must have been," assented Miriam.

Shirley held up her head proudly, and answered:--"No, it wasn't, because
for the first time in my life I really came to know my father. I thought
I had known him long before, but I made a mistake. I never knew him
until these last three years in Arizona--I found out almost too late."

"I always liked your father, Shirley, and I think he always liked me,"
was Miriam's remark.

"Yes, he did. But did you ever stop to think," went on Shirley hastily,
"why, my father never wronged anybody! My father was good--my father was
honest! Oh, I could scourge myself," she declared sadly, "for the things
I used to think about father. I even told Murgatroyd, once, that though
I loved my father, I could never admire him, respect him."

Miriam raised her eyebrows and protested mildly:--

"You never told me that, Shirley."

"No!" exclaimed the girl; "my friends don't know the worst side of me!
My father a failure! Fortunately in these three years I have come to
look upon things differently--have come to know that he was a success,
simply because he was real. Money! What is money? My father was a man!"

Miriam rose suddenly and went over to her and kissed her.

"I'm glad, Shirley," she said with feeling, "that you found it out. I
knew it always."

All this time, Shirley had been watching with growing curiosity, the
fancy work on which Miriam sewed so industriously. At last, she
ventured:--

"Miriam, I'm a regular old maid. I haven't been one hour in your house,
and already I'm burning up with curiosity to know just what you're
making."

Miriam glanced a moment out of the window, then she answered somewhat
evasively:--

"Why, it's just a bit of embroidery...."

But Shirley was not yet satisfied, and went on to protest:--

"But what is it? Miriam, I must know...."

Miriam Challoner hesitated for an instant, then holding up in the air a
tiny infant's dress, she said softly:--

"Well, if you must know, why, you must."

There was a long pause. At last, Shirley exclaimed:--

"Isn't it dainty! Who is it for, Miriam?"

Miriam raised her head and looked squarely into the eyes of her friend;
the next moment Shirley had her arms about Miriam, and drawing her close
to her, she cried joyfully:--

"You precious thing! I'm so glad, oh, so glad! But why didn't you say so
before?"

Miriam smiled softly.

"I'm just a bit old-fashioned, I'm afraid," she murmured. "Nowadays,
it's the thing to make such announcements through a megaphone from the
housetops."

For some time, she continued to sew in silence, Shirley watching her the
while. All of a sudden Shirley drew a long breath and said:--

"Miriam, I wish I were happily married. It's the only life for a woman."

"Yes, you are right," assented Miriam joyously, from whom had fled the
recollection of all but the last few years.

"I have always taken the keenest interest in the romances of others, but
I want something more than a mere vicarious interest in
romances--marriage. I'm a marrying woman," declared the girl, "and I
dread the thought of being an old maid."

Miriam laughed.

"And yet they say that they're the happiest women...."

"Oh, but a real woman is one who has a husband and children--" Shirley
stretched forth her arms, as though to grasp all life within
them,--"children to bring up; to wipe their noses and dress them for
school, and to hear them say their prayers at night. That's life! It
isn't pride with me; it's instinct." Miriam thought a moment. Finally
she ventured:--

"But you've had chances. There was Murgatroyd...."

"Murgatroyd," broke in the girl, "is not my ideal. No, indeed, not after
what he did...."

"Then, there was Thorne," persisted Miriam, "and Thorne may be United
States Senator, too--he's forged ahead."

Shirley laughed and flushed in turn. Presently, she said:--

"I'll tell you a secret, Miriam."

Miriam smiled.

"We seem to be full of secrets to-day."

"Yes," returned Shirley, "only yours is a respectable married woman's
secret; mine mustn't be told ... Well," she confessed at last, "I've
seen Thorne since I came back, and----"

"No!" Miriam ejaculated.

"Yes! He proposed to me once more, and----"

Miriam leaned forward eagerly.

"You accepted him?"

Shirley frowned.

"No--if I had accepted him, it wouldn't be a secret."

Miriam looked at her blankly.

"Why did you refuse him?"

Shirley seemed puzzled.

"That's just what I want to know myself. I don't know why.... Somehow, I
couldn't marry Thorne."

"Well, for some unexplainable reason, I'm glad of that," assented
Miriam.

"Tell me about Murgatroyd," said Shirley suddenly, reseating herself. "I
haven't seen him----"

"There isn't much to tell," answered Miriam. "As a reformer, he's been a
success. He's serving his second term as prosecutor, you know. It seems
he wanted to finish his work there."

Shirley tossed her head.

"Who couldn't, with all that money!"

"He and Thorne," went on Miriam, "are rivals for the United States
Senatorship. Things are growing warm, too, I hear; but it's only a
question of a day or two now...."

Shirley laughed, but her voice was hard when she spoke:--

"He told me once that it cost over half a million dollars in this state
to be chosen Senator. Well, he's got the money, anyway----"

Miriam raised her eyebrows.

"He told you that?"

"Yes--before he got the money."

Mrs. Challoner deprecated.

"Shirley, aren't you hard on Murgatroyd? He's a man of character in the
city," and she poised her needle in the air and glanced at the girl in a
quizzical way. "I think," she went on slowly, "that I understand
Murgatroyd. I think he's a man who could go wrong once, and only once."

Shirley shrugged her shoulders. But whatever may have been her opinion
to the contrary, she was prevented from expressing it by the sound of
approaching footsteps on the stairs.

"Not a word of Murgatroyd," whispered Miriam quickly.

"It must be Laurie," thought the girl to herself, and sprang up like a
frightened hare. The next moment the door opened, and Lawrence Challoner
came into the room.

Dressed in rough, clean, business clothes, he was as different from the
Challoner of five years before as she could imagine. This man was
strong, healthy, with a ruddy flush upon his face. He had the appearance
of being a bit heavier, but better set up. He looked solid, respectable.
In fact, he looked so good that it was a willing hand that went out to
him in greeting.

"Well, this is a pleasure that is a pleasure," said Shirley, smiling. "I
need not ask how you are, Laurie, for you're the picture of health."

"And you, Shirley--why, you never looked better," and he looked at his
wife for a confirmation of his words. "What have you been doing with
yourself all these years...." The tide of his words receded there,
leaving his eyes stranded upon hers. The same thought came
simultaneously to them both.

Miriam's happiness at their spontaneous greeting was good to see.

"If I dared, I'd kiss you," Laurie went on, laughing good-naturedly; but
he compromised on his wife, who had been holding, all this time, the bit
of fancy work on which she sewed. Suddenly she glanced down at it.

"Oh," she said, conscience stricken, and running across the room,
hurriedly thrust it into a closet. Challoner watched her in surprise;
and when she returned, he put his arm about her and kissed her once
again.

"So much happiness," commented Shirley, with a pretty little pout, "and
poor me...."

Challoner laughed.

"Oh, we'll have to look after you, Shirley! I've got a dozen likely
chaps down at the works--Americans, too. Real men, every one of
them--men who work with their hands."

"The works?" Shirley looked in astonishment, first at one, and then the
other. "Oh, the selfish jades we've been--Miriam and I have talked about
every man in creation but you! Aren't you ashamed, Miriam? I am!" She
drew up her chair, and settling herself back comfortably into it, turned
to Challoner and went on excitedly:--"Now tell me about yourself."

"We've saved five hundred dollars," began Miriam, answering for him.
"And----"

"Five hundred dollars!" interrupted Shirley, entering completely into
the spirit of things. "How did you ever do it?"

Miriam turned to Challoner, and said with a smile:--

"Laurie, do you remember the day when we had saved our first ten
dollars?"

"Shall I ever forget it," returned her husband, devoutly; and turning to
Shirley: "The fact is, somehow or other I've made good--and done it in
five years, too! But you don't know what it means to me, to us.... When
Miriam went to the hospital that day, I started in--one dollar and a
half a day----"

"Yes?" said Shirley eagerly. "What kind of work?"

"Tell her about your invention, Laurie," suggested his young wife with
pride.

Not waiting for a second invitation, Challoner immediately launched
forth on his favourite topic, Shirley listening with great interest. But
toward the close, he said something about concrete and frauds which
instantly caused her to interrupt him.

"Frauds? What frauds?"

"Why, where have you been that you haven't seen the papers?" he
inquired. "The papers the world over, almost, have had something to say
about this political exposé. I was at work on the hospital job at the
time, and it was I who made the discovery that everybody connected with
the job was stealing cement: bosses, superintendents, inspectors,
politicians, why, even I was invited into the ring. There was money in
it," he continued, "money for me--hundreds, thousands...." He paused,
and then wound up with: "But, what good would that do me when the
hospital fell down?"

"Think what would have happened," interposed Miriam, "if it had been
full of patients. It was good they found it out in time! It has to be
rebuilt."

"But I wouldn't stand for the steal," Challoner went on, in his
legitimate pride. "Maybe you know the rest?" He looked up questioningly;
and convinced that she did not, he proceeded: "I went to Murgatroyd; he
did the rest. I helped him, of course, by testifying, and all that sort
of thing; in other words, I had to make good my accusations. But perhaps
Murgatroyd didn't smite those chaps hip and thigh! You know what it
meant, don't you? It well-nigh smashed the ring! Anyhow, it has crippled
the organisation, and Murgatroyd did it!"

"Good for Murgatroyd!" ejaculated Shirley; and then added quickly with a
blush: "Good for _you_!"

"Laurie's in business for himself," Miriam presently informed her.

"No!" exclaimed Shirley. "Concrete?"

"Yes," answered Challoner enthusiastically. "I've got a bit of a
reputation for honesty, now. People that want an honest job done come to
me. Of course, for a time, the hospital scandal killed concrete to some
extent 'round here; but there's going to be a quick recover. The trouble
is not with concrete, but with men...." Challoner sighed longingly. "I
could swing that hospital job," he said wistfully, "if only I could get
the bonds and the cash with which to start me. But I suppose I have got
to stick to the small work for a while. However, I'm getting there,
Shirley, and I'm proud of it, too. You'll begin to think I'm suffering
from exaggerated Ego," he finished with a smile.

"Well," said Miriam in justification, "any man who saves five hundred
dollars in so short a time has a right to blow his own horn."

"I believe in giving praise where it is due," protested her husband. "It
was you, my dear, who saved it."

"I?" returned Miriam, who never seemed happier than when sacrificing
herself.

"Yes, by not buying hats like Shirley's, for instance," he answered,
although he glanced at the girl in admiration.

Miriam sighed with joy. It was good to be appreciated--good to have some
one to talk with who could appreciate their struggle.

"I won't deny," presently she said with a smile, "that it was rather
trying at times; but it was a work of love, and we've succeeded."

Shirley sprang to her feet.

"Lawrence Challoner, I'm going to kiss you--you're the kind of a man I'm
looking for!" And on the impulse of the moment she went over to him and
made good her word. "I'm proud of you," she went on. "You're the real
thing--you're a success!"

Challoner laughed as now he drew his wife closer to him.

"They are like a pair of doves," said Shirley to herself; and then
aloud, as she started for the door: "Miriam, I'm going to fix up a bit
for dinner. I hope we're going to have a dozen courses, for I'm
starved."

When the door had closed behind her, Miriam rose and started for the
kitchen.

"Miriam, girl," said Challoner, gently, "never mind about the dinner
now--that can wait."

"I haven't much to do, anyway," answered his wife.

"What have you been hiding from me for the past few weeks, Miriam?"
presently asked Challoner.

She looked quickly up at him and repeated:--

"Hiding----"

He pointed toward the closet.

"What have you been putting away there every night for the last few
weeks? What is in that closet now?"

Miriam Challoner hesitated. When she found her voice, she asked
tremblingly:--

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes," he answered in the same tone.

Miriam stepped to the closet, fumbled there among some things, and
returning thrust something into his hands.

"There," she said, blushing.

Challoner held it up, looked at it a moment, finally he said, with just
a tinge of suspicion in his voice:--

"This tiny dress--what?" He looked at his wife stupidly, and after a
time, he added: "Why, Miriam, you never told me.... A little child for
you and me?"

"Yes, Laurie," she whispered softly.

Challoner was visibly affected. For an instant he held the infinitesimal
garment up before him; then acting upon a sudden impulse, he cuddled it
down into the crook of his arm and held it there.

"A child--for me," he mused, and suddenly passed the dress back to her,
but as suddenly he held out his hands for it again, saying: "Give it
back to me!" After a moment, he looked up and exclaimed: "I wonder if it
is given to mere man to appreciate thoroughly the anticipation of
motherhood--the hours that are given to fashioning little garments like
this, for instance! And yet it seems to me now that I could work forever
for--" he broke off abruptly, quite overcome.

Miriam was deeply touched.

"Never fear, dear, there will be plenty of responsibility for you later
on."

At that moment Shirley poked her head in through the door, and called:--

"Miriam! Miriam, the potatoes are burning!"

Miriam left the room hastily, leaving her husband still nursing the
small garment in the crook of his arm.

"A father of a child!" he mused. "It's good to be a father--a good
father." Suddenly he seated himself at the table and buried his face in
his arms. For some time he remained thus; but when he raised his head
again there were tears in his eyes.

"A little child for me--and I shot Hargraves," he moaned.

Just then Miriam came back into the room. At a glance she realised what
was going on in his mind; and going over to him, placed her hand
affectionately on his shoulder and with great tenderness said:--

"Don't think any more about that, Laurie, it's past and gone. You're a
new man, don't you see?"

"I haven't thought of it for five years!" cried Challoner, fiercely. "I
haven't dared to think of it--I haven't had time to think of it...." He
paused a moment to pull himself together, and then suddenly went on:
"But now I have got to think about it, if I'm going to be a father." He
sighed reminiscently. "Poor Hargraves, I can see him now, Miriam, as he
put up his arm...."

"Don't, Laurie!" she pleaded. "Don't! The forbidden subject--forget it,
dear!"

"I can't forget it!" he returned. "It's all before me now." He glared
into space, as a man might who witnessed before his very eyes some
conflict. "I can see it now, just as it happened----"

He stopped suddenly, fiercely, caught her roughly by the arm, and cried
in a loud voice:--

"Miriam, Miriam, thank Heaven I have thought about it! Listen, dear--I
can see it now--just as it happened." He stopped and looked down at her.
"Can you stand it, dear?"

"What is it?" asked his young wife, trembling with the horror of it all.

Challoner gripped her arm with painful force.

"I did not kill Richard Hargraves!" he cried in sudden joy. "No, I did
_not_ kill him!"

Miriam caught her husband about the neck and tried to soothe him.

"Laurie," she said gently, "you're beside yourself."

"No," he answered calmly enough, though evidently labouring under great
excitement, "no, I know! I did not kill Hargraves! It's the first time I
have thought about it. Five years ago everything was muddled--life was a
muddle then; and on that night at Cradlebaugh's everything was hazy. But
now, Miriam, it's as clear as day. I can see it--I do see it!" He lifted
his arm, his forefinger crooked significantly, and declared:--

"I shot...."

"Yes," she said eagerly, "you shot...."

"I shot at Hargraves, but I did not hit him. It's all come back; I can
see it now!" And pointing toward the junction of the side wall and the
ceiling, he went on to explain: "The bullet lodged in the panel of the
wall. Hargraves put up his arm like this--I meant to kill him and I
shot; but I didn't hit him. It was the last thing I remembered before I
toppled over in the big chair--that, and his starting over toward the
door. I remember that. It's all come back in a flash. But I never saw
him after that."

"Yet," she protested, "you confessed...."

"Yes," he answered, "I tell you everything was muddled--life was hazy. I
knew I shot at him--I knew I shot to kill. Of course I thought that I
had done it; but it's not so. I tried to do it, and then----"

She caught him wildly about the body and cried hysterically:--

"Laurie--are you sure...."

"I know, I tell you," he answered, and hastened to add:--"Yes, and
there's another man that knows--Pemmican, that's the chap!"

He stopped again and looked down at the small dress, which through all
his excitement he had _held_ tenderly in the crook of his arm.

"I'm going to be a father," he went on, "and it's well that I didn't
kill Hargraves. But I have got to prove it--the world must know that I
didn't kill him. I must prove it--Pemmican will prove it for me--he was
there."

Miriam shook her head.

"You remember his testimony at the trial, Laurie; besides," she added
softly, taking an old newspaper clipping from a small drawer of her
desk, "Pemmican is dead."

"Dead!" His voice rang out in astonishment. "Dead! I didn't know it. Why
didn't you tell me?"

For answer she placed her finger on her lips.

"Why, he died in the county jail, not long after I was tried!" exclaimed
Challoner, who was now reading the newspaper clipping. "Poor chap, the
confinement killed him, I imagine. Well, I never killed Hargraves, and
I'm going to prove it, somehow." He leaned over and kissed a tiny bit of
ruffle. "I'm going to prove it for you and the little one."

"Laurie," insisted Miriam, quivering, "are you sure?"

"I was never surer of anything in my life than this," replied Challoner.
"I tell you, it has all come back to me like a flash. It was you, little
one," he said, bending once more over something imaginary in his arm,
"that brought it back to me."

Miriam had watched him closely.

"Yes, yes," she conceded, "it is true, I can see it--I know." And
sobbing, dropped her head upon his shoulder.

"I've got to prove it," he repeated over and over again, patting her
head affectionately.

"But--Murgatroyd--why, if you were innocent ..." suddenly cried Miriam.

"Well?"

"He ought to know it."

"What do I care about Murgatroyd! What do I care about anybody but you
and the little one that is coming--coming to you and to me!"

"Laurie," breathed Miriam softly, "I'm happy, oh, so happy! I knew--I
felt, somehow, that things would come out right. I don't care whether
you ever prove this--so long as we know. Happy?" she repeated as she
nestled closer to him. "I should think so, with five hundred dollars in
the bank and a small business, and after a while...."

"The most important thing, now, is that I'm certain I did not kill
Hargraves. That makes it easy for the next important thing--for you--my
baby--my little baby."

Reluctantly he yielded the lilliputian garment to Miriam. There was a
knock on the inner door that Miriam had closed; it was followed by
Shirley's entrance into the room.

"I hope," she said gaily, little knowing what had happened, "that we are
going to eat pretty soon, for I never was more hungry in my life."

"The dinner will be an hour late," apologised her hostess, "but you
won't mind, I'm sure, when I tell you _why_."



XVII


In the prosecutor's office, to which they had access at all hours of the
day, were Mixley and McGrath, the latter occupying a strategic position,
in that he held in his hand the latest edition of the _Morning Mail_.

"How's the joint ballot?" called Mixley from across the room.

"Oh, it's hot, I tell you--both houses up all night!" returned the other
from over his paper. "The hands of the clock moved back about ten times,
and still going it. Still in session."

Again Mixley called:--

"Let's see the extra!"

McGrath tossed it over to him. Across its face, in huge letters,
appeared the single significant word:

    "DEADLOCK"

"Oh, but it's Murgatroyd that gives them the fight!" exclaimed Mixley,
with enthusiasm.

McGrath smiled.

"Sure," he answered. "He's holdin' 'em, but that's all he's doin'. But
what of that? He's got nothin' to hold 'em on. Why, everybody knows that
he hasn't any money. It's my opinion," declared McGrath, "that the job
goes to Thorne!"

Mixley read the first page of the _Morning Mail_ with care. After a
while he read:--

"I guess you're right. Thorne will be the next Senator, all right. Hang
the luck!"

"How can it be helped?" reasoned McGrath. "Look at them brewers putting
up maybe a quarter of a million to help Thorne out! I say, what do you
think the votes of the 'wise' assemblymen were quoted at--on the market
last night?"

"I don't know. I wish I was an assemblyman at that," sighed Mixley.

"Twenty-five thousand dollars apiece, and a rising market growing
stronger every minute," answered McGrath. "And them brewers'll pay it,
too. One fellow wanted fifty thousand--an' he'll get it--see if he
don't."

"I wish I was an assemblyman," repeated Mixley wistfully.

"If you were, and there was Thorne and twenty-five thousand on one side
for you, and Murgatroyd without a dollar on the other, who would you
vote for? Come, now, answer!"

Mixley waved his hand.

"You'd vote for Murgatroyd," yelled McGrath, "you know you would--you
couldn't help yourself."

Mixley sighed again.

"But I ain't an assemblyman," he answered; and in the next breath he
added: "There's somebody at that there door."

McGrath crossed to the door and opened it; and Challoner, Mrs. Challoner
and Shirley Bloodgood entered.

McGrath, who remembered them well, and who knew Challoner especially
well since the hospital investigation, bowed low, and announced that the
prosecutor was out.

Shirley stepped forward and said determinedly:--

"But we must see him."

"He's expected any moment," said Mixley from across the room.

"We'll wait," chorused the three visitors.

McGrath bowed again and went back to his seat near the window.

Presently Miriam turned to Shirley, and said regretfully:--

"You ought not to have come, Shirley. Perhaps you had better not stay."

Shirley looked narrowly at Challoner and at his wife. After a moment she
inquired:--

"Don't you want me to stay?"

"Yes, yes, of course we do," Miriam assured her, "but you don't want to
stay, do you?"

"Indeed I do," was the girl's quick answer.

"What good will it do," sighed Miriam; but, nevertheless, she found
herself clinging to the girl as she did in every crisis when Shirley
happened to be on hand.

"Do you suppose I'd miss being in at the death?" said Shirley after a
moment.

"At the death?"

"Yes, I could see him hanged, drawn and quartered!" she exclaimed, with
mock ferociousness.

Meanwhile, Mixley and McGrath were still holding their desultory
conversation upon the situation of the day.

"They said," Mixley remarked to the other, "that the chief was
politically dead after he had blackjacked the organisation; maybe he
was--maybe he is, but he fights all right."

"He certainly cleaned things up," admitted McGrath, feeling of his
biceps. "We helped him, eh?"

"He didn't do a thing to Cradlebaugh's," mused Mixley.

"Nor to the machine," smiled McGrath.

"Well, anyhow," said Mixley, "if he hasn't got the machine and the
brewers and the twenty-five-thousand-dollar assemblymen back of him,
he's got the people, all right. They know he's honest."

"Oh, yes, he's honest, and they know it," assented the other. "But hang
it! The people can't get him into the Senate. It takes more than the
people--it takes good money to do that. At least," he added
emphatically, "it always has, up to date."

Mixley shook his head.

"If he only had half a million behind him now...."

The other snorted.

"It's well he hasn't--well he never had. If he had half a million, he
wouldn't be running for United States Senator! Just like as not, he'd be
playin' golf or running a devil wagon."

"Gee, what a scorcher he'd be!"

"And he'd be so loaded with golf medals," added the other, "that he
couldn't walk."

"Well, it's a man's fight he's got on hand, now, and no mistake--and
with nothing but his honesty to back him."

The three visitors had been listeners to this conversation in silence;
but Shirley could contain herself no longer; and turning to her
companions, she said sneeringly:--

"Nothing but his honesty to back him! Why, lynching's too good for him!"

And as though her utterance of the phrase were the prosecutor's cue,
Murgatroyd sauntered into the room. He looked as fresh and unconcerned
as though he did not know that a bloodless battle was being fought for
him down at the State Capitol--a close battle, at that.

Challoner rose at once, and said nervously:--

"Billy, I----"

At the sound of his name, Murgatroyd turned. He had not seen them
sitting there, and now bowed impersonally to all three.

"Want to see me?" he inquired suavely.

"Yes," faltered Challoner; and with a quick glance in the direction of
the prosecutor's men, he added: "and alone, please."

Murgatroyd turned to his men and queried:--

"Anything new?"

Mixley pointed to the _Morning Mail_ and to an unopened telegram upon
the desk.

"That, from the assembly," he returned.

Murgatroyd shook his head, saying:--

"No, I don't mean that. I mean in the Tannenbaum case."

McGrath gasped.

"Gee!" he exclaimed, "we was so excited about this here that we clean
forgot about it."

Murgatroyd took from his drawer a bundle of papers and handed it to
Mixley, saying:--

"Look up that excise violation--right away. And, McGrath," he continued,
"there are three witnesses in the Tannenbaum case that we've got to
have. It's up to you to get them. If you can't find them by two o'clock,
let me know. You may go."

And now seating himself at his desk Murgatroyd turned to Challoner
with:--

"Well, Challoner, what can I do for you?"

Challoner advanced quickly toward the desk.

"Prosecutor Murgatroyd," he began, gulping, "it's up to you to clear me
of that Hargraves affair. I'm not the murderer of Hargraves!"

Miriam and Shirley had risen, but they did not move; they hung upon the
prosecutor's answer.

Murgatroyd leaned back in his chair, and returned calmly:--

"I know it."

"You know it?" gasped the three visitors; and the next moment the women
were grouped around the prosecutor's desk.

Murgatroyd proceeded to open his mail.

"Yes," he mused, "I have known it for almost five years--you must have
known it, too."

"Not until a few hours ago," Challoner quickly informed him.

"You don't say so," was Murgatroyd's answer; and presently he added:
"though perhaps it is not so very surprising."

Challoner's eyes narrowed; his pulse was beating fast. Suddenly he
said:--

"But somebody killed Hargraves--who did it?"

The prosecutor looked at the man incredulously.

"Do you mean to tell me, that though you know now that you didn't kill
Hargraves--that you don't know who _did_ kill him?"

"I'm here to find out," was Challoner's determined answer.

"Why thunderation!" ejaculated Murgatroyd; and looking the other
squarely in the eyes, went on: "I knew that everybody didn't know, but I
thought you knew long ago that it was Pemmican of Cradlebaugh's who did
it."

"Pemmican," repeated Challoner, as if to himself, "was the only man who
knew, and he's dead."

"Yes," assented Murgatroyd, "he killed himself in jail. He confessed
just before the Court of Appeals filed its opinion of affirmance in your
case. It was a game on his part, that murder. He had stolen ten thousand
dollars from the management of Cradlebaugh's, and had been threatened
with prosecution for it. It was necessary for him to replace the money.
The opportunity came and he seized it. He knew that there was bad blood
between you and Hargraves; knew that there was a motive on your part;
knew that you shot and missed; knew that Hargraves had a lot of money on
his person, and he set out to get it. It was safe--he got it, and
Hargraves, too--shot him dead with another gun,--after you missed
him,--and paid back the money to Cradlebaugh's."

Miriam could not restrain herself, and burst out:--

"And you have known this for years?"

"Yes," he told her quietly, his eyes wandering over Miriam's face; "but
it's plain to me now that you haven't known it."

"How should we?" protested Challoner.

Murgatroyd frowned, then he answered:--

"How? Because I advised your counsel, Thorne, and he was present when
the order releasing you was signed. It was his duty, not mine, to
communicate with you. I represented the people; he was the counsel for
the defence."

"Thorne--Thorne knew...." cried Miriam.

"Yes, Thorne knew...." admitted Murgatroyd.

"... and he never told us," came finally from Challoner's lips.

"Possibly he didn't dare," explained Murgatroyd, with an enigmatical
smile. "Just at that time, Thorne and Thorne's crowd held the public in
the hollow of their hands. So perhaps," he added sarcastically, "the
news about Pemmican was suppressed for the public good."

"And you--" spoke up Shirley, her eyes flashing, but got no further, for
Murgatroyd went on addressing Challoner.

"I had no trouble, then, of course, in setting you free."

Challoner blinked stupidly at the prosecutor, but Miriam's face at once
was wreathed in smiles; for she knew that their future happiness was
assured--that the name of Challoner would be cleared of its stain.

But Shirley was not yet satisfied. And her eyes were blazing as she
exclaimed hotly:--

"It was not you who set him free! The law set him free! He was innocent,
and----" She paused and drew a deep breath before going on: "You took a
million dollars to set him free!"

Murgatroyd rose suddenly, and turning to Mrs. Challoner, he said with
great earnestness:--

"This is the second time this charge has been made against me: once at
the trial, and again here. You understand the nature of this charge?" he
asked Shirley, looking her full in the eyes. "What proofs have you?"

Shirley pointed to Challoner's wife, and answered:--

"Mrs. Challoner is my proof."

Murgatroyd turned his gaze now on Miriam, whose expression of joy had
not changed, and asked:--

"Mrs. Challoner, do you renew this charge?"

But before Mrs. Challoner could answer, Shirley broke in with:--

"Prosecutor Murgatroyd, a moment please!" And on the prosecutor's
turning his gaze on her, she continued: "You know I am speaking the
truth! Mrs. Challoner has tried to convince me that this bribe was not a
crime, inasmuch as you had kept faith with her; but she knows as well as
you do what my opinion is on the subject. I told you in the court-room
what I thought, and again on another occasion--I have not changed. No,
you are not honest," she concluded, mercilessly; "you've stolen, you're
a----"

She balked at the word; the next moment there came a loud knock upon the
door.

"Come in!" called Murgatroyd.

"Sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Prosecutor," said Mixley, on entering, "but
Mr. Thorne is outside----"

Murgatroyd shook his head.

"Tell Mr. Thorne I'm busy."

But no sooner had Mixley left the room than he was back again.

"Counsellor Thorne says that he must see you--he won't wait."

The prosecutor ordered his man to keep him out, ending with:--

"I can't see him!"

On Mixley's retreating, Shirley once more stepped forward, and her lips
were parted to speak when suddenly the door was thrust open violently
and Thorne stalked in. Behind him came Mixley, trying to hold him back;
but the other jerked himself free, and on reaching the prosecutor's
desk, he held out his hand, and called out loudly:--

"SENATOR MURGATROYD!"

"W-what!" exclaimed Murgatroyd, rising.

"I want to shake hands with you. Then I'm the first to announce it?
Good!"

And he proceeded to tell Murgatroyd that the latter had just been chosen
on joint ballot, majority in both houses, for the Senatorship, ending
with:--

"Allow me--allow me to congratulate you!"

His voice rang true, even though he did not mean it; and Murgatroyd
shook his hand, saying:--

"I thought it would be you, Thorne; you put up a good fight."

"We did, you mean," protested Thorne. "My crowd did, as usual. But you,
Murgatroyd, deserve your honours--it was one man against the field, one
man against illimitable backing. Senator," he declared, bowing, "I take
off my hat to you! You have done what has never been done before, and
you've done it without a dollar! You're the first man in the State," he
went on frankly, "to be chosen by the people, literally by the people,
and without a dollar behind you."

Still Murgatroyd shook his head, and repeated:--

"Thorne, it looked like you."

"No; and we've learned something by all this," Thorne went on; "we're
beginning to find out that the people worship honesty above all
things.--Oh, yes, I'm honest," he continued hastily; "I understand that.
But you--your honesty is the real thing--and the people know it, too."

Turning to her friends, Shirley muttered satirically:--

"Honest!"

Now McGrath, as usual, had followed close on the footsteps of Mixley;
and standing in the door, he yelled:--

"Three cheers for Senator Murgatroyd!"

And Mixley and Thorne,--born and bred to political meetings,--gave them
with a will; while Shirley and the Challoners sat in the corner in deep
silence.

Murgatroyd looked at his men in surprise.

"Where have you been all this time?" he queried.

"Outside," they answered sheepishly, "waiting for the news."

Murgatroyd strode down upon them and thundered out:--

"You get that evidence and have it here by two o'clock."

The men piled out in confusion. A moment later, Thorne took up his hat,
and holding out his hand, repeated:--

"Accept my congratulations once more, Senator!" He turned to go, and
then for the first time he saw the three people huddled together in the
corner of the room. "Well," he suddenly exclaimed, "I thought we were
alone. I didn't know...."

Challoner stepped out in front of him, and blurted out:--

"Mr. Thorne, I wish to know if it is true----"

Thorne, still not seeing who it was, nodded.

"Yes," he said in reply, "the prosecutor has been chosen--I'm down and
out."

"You don't understand," returned Challoner; "is it true, true----"

"True?" repeated Thorne.

"True that you have known all these years that I was innocent of
murder?" And Challoner squared his shoulders and lifted his head while
he waited for his reply.

"Yes, of course it's true," answered Thorne, seeing, at last, whom he
faced.

"You never told me," fiercely returned Challoner. Thorne apparently was
dumbfounded.

"Never told you? Why I must have told you," he stammered feebly.

"You never--" Challoner's voice suddenly broke. "And I thought all these
years--and because I thought----"

He paused abruptly. Then Thorne, turning to Murgatroyd, boldly
equivocated:

"It's preposterous! Of course I told him...."

Murgatroyd smiled grimly, and added gently to himself:--

"Never ... 'till now."

Thorne now waved Challoner aside, saying:--

"You must be mistaken, Mr. Challoner; I certainly told you--" And
picking up his hat, once more turned his attention to the prosecutor.

"Well, Senator, good-day!" At the door, he called back: "You've made a
clean and honest fight--you deserve success! Good-day!"

But no sooner had the words passed his lips, than Shirley, almost beside
herself, again broke forth:--

"A clean, honest fight! Oh!"

Murgatroyd resumed his seat, smiling. "Yes," he said, as if wholly
unconscious of the girl's irony, "it is hard work to be chosen Senator
without half a million or so behind you."

Up to this time, Shirley had held her indignation within bounds; but at
this remark, she lost all control over herself.

"Why you--you're a thief!" she cried.

Instantly, Mrs. Challoner stepped forward, and raising a reproving hand,
she said with great determination:--

"No, no, Shirley, I won't have you say such things! You must leave the
room! You and Laurie--I insist upon it!"

Such an outburst from Miriam was so unusual that for a moment both
Shirley and Challoner were taken aback. It was clear that unknown to
them, Miriam had made up her mind to some course of action; in fact, so
completely had she taken the situation in hand, that it was easy to
imagine that she had forgotten that she was in the prosecutor's office
and not in her own home.

Fierce anger burned in Shirley's impulsive heart, as glancing at
Murgatroyd, she perceived that he was as impassive as ever, apparently
taking little interest in the scene that was being enacted before him. A
few moments elapsed before she could bring herself to agree to Miriam's
demand.

"Very well," assented Shirley, "we'll wait outside, but don't keep us
waiting long." And, as reluctantly she left the room with Challoner, she
said in a loud whisper so that Murgatroyd could hear it: "What on earth
can Miriam want to see him alone for?"

For answer, Challoner merely shook his head.

Left alone with the prosecutor, Miriam asked permission to lock the
door; and although surprised at such a request, Murgatroyd went over to
the door and locked it. Then, motioning politely for her to be seated,
he took a chair opposite to hers and asked severely:--

"Mrs. Challoner, what do you mean by this? Do you recall the compact
made nearly six years ago?"

"Yes, yes," she answered, in a manner that showed plainly her desire to
conciliate him.

"Your husband went free," Murgatroyd continued, "and when we made our
compact, we did not know whether he was innocent or not, whether it was
within the power of the law to hold him or to free him. But I kept my
part of the compact in good faith--innocent or guilty, he finally went
free."

"Yes, yes, I know," she returned eagerly.

"Your part of the compact was silence,--you promised to keep
silent,--and yet, twice in this building you have broken your word, and
Heaven knows how many times outside," he concluded solemnly.

"Yes, yes," she answered contritely, "I know. Don't think for a moment
that I have any fault to find with you, Mr. Murgatroyd. None, whatever.
I have always upheld you, always believed in you, I believe in you
now...."

"That's more than Shirley does," and Murgatroyd smiled grimly, "for I
heard her say that she would like to lynch me--she would, if you would
let her," he added lightly.

"But she doesn't understand, Mr. Murgatroyd. She is frightfully
impulsive; you must not take her so seriously. Besides, what can a mere
girl know of the troubles of--" She paused for a brief moment; and
continuing, said in a changed tone: "But I'm glad, very glad that my
money could help to put the right man in the right place, glad that my
money has done so much good at last. Yes, I was wrong to speak----"

All the while she had been talking, Murgatroyd eyed her strangely.

"What do you want of me?" he broke in suddenly.

"Yes, yes, I must get to the point," she answered timidly, and then
looked up at him as if searching for some expression on his face which
would help her to go on; but she saw there only impatience, and it was
with some trepidation that she proceeded: "Of course you know how
splendidly Lawrence has done these last five years--what a man he has
made of himself? Why certainly you know, because he helped you with that
concrete affair, and--" She paused to see the effect of her words; but
again they had been received with apparent indifference. Nevertheless,
she said proudly: "Lawrence has gone in business for himself. Yes," she
added quickly, nervously tapping the desk before her with her fingers,
"and Lawrence can get that hospital job. He wants it--wants it badly,
for he knows he would do it right. Mr. Murgatroyd, it would be the
making of his business----"

She paused, while her mind struggled helplessly to find the fitting
words with which to frame the difficult request that was to come.

"Lawrence needs a bondsman to get that job--a man with one hundred
thousand dollars to go on his bond. And you know it is very hard,
particularly hard for him to find a man who is worth that much to go on
his bond--a bond that he'll do the work, and do it right. Oh, Mr.
Murgatroyd, would it be asking too much of you to----"

Murgatroyd rose and gazed at her steadily.

"And you are asking me to go on a hundred-thousand-dollar bond for your
husband?"

The tone of his voice told Miriam what she had to expect, and her heart
grew chill, but she braced herself to go on:--

"Yes," she answered; and her voice was very gentle and very winning as
she proceeded: "And if he could get a little money, just a little to buy
materials. We have saved five hundred dollars, but that will not go far.
Oh, he has worked so hard, and I don't want him to get discouraged! He
wouldn't ask these things for himself--No, indeed! You'll go on his
bond, won't you?" she asked with a wan smile. "And loan him a few
thousand dollars to start the job?"

There was a long silence; finally Murgatroyd spoke in an even voice:--

"You want me to go on his bond and loan him some thousands of dollars,
too?"

Mrs. Challoner inclined her head.

"Why, Mrs. Challoner," Murgatroyd exclaimed, holding up his hands in
amazement, "I haven't got the money! I couldn't go on a bond for a
hundred thousand dollars; and as for lending him money! Well...."

To Mrs. Challoner, the prosecutor in refusing was acting merely within
his rights. However, her feminine instinct had made her conscious of
some indefinable change in him; so she persisted:--

"If only you could--"

Miriam ceased abruptly and watched him as he sprang to his feet and for
a long time paced up and down the room, gazing at her face each time he
passed her. After a while, he came and stood over her, apparently trying
to make up his mind whether or not to take a certain course of action.
Finally he said with great feeling:--

"Mrs. Challoner, you are the bravest woman I have ever known. Yes,
perhaps I can arrange it for you. But first, won't you please call
Lawrence--call them both back."



XVIII


Meanwhile outside in the waiting-room, Lawrence Challoner walked
dismally to and fro. For, notwithstanding, that in the last hour a great
joy had come to him, this room had awakened memories of that other
occasion, when, likewise, waiting for Murgatroyd, his life had hung in
the balance. A wave of pity took possession of him--pity for himself for
his then mistaken views of life, pity for the little wife, who had stood
so nobly by him; and, suddenly, he quickened his steps, as if impatient
for the time to come when he could make amends for the great wrong he
had done her. In a measure, entering into his thoughts, though her own
were somewhat complex, Shirley Bloodgood, from where she sat in a far
corner of the room, also waited nervously for the door to open. And it
was thus that Miriam Challoner came upon them, her eyes glistening, a
happy smile on her face.

"Laurie, Shirley," she stammered, "Mr. Murgatroyd says--no, come, he'll
tell you himself." And taking their willing hands into hers, she led
them back into the prosecutor's private office, from which they had been
so unceremoniously evicted a little while before.

Miriam Challoner's intimation that good news would be forthcoming was
indeed rather vague; nevertheless, unconsciously, both were affected by
her mood, and came into the room, smiling. Perhaps it affected
Murgatroyd, too, for it was with his most genial manner that the
hitherto imperturbable prosecutor, from where he sat on the edge of the
table, his arms folded, singled out Shirley, and said:--

"Ready for the lynching, Miss Bloodgood?"

A look of surprise crossed Shirley's features, but she scorned to
answer.

Murgatroyd was now standing, his back still to the table.

"Would you mind locking that door," he called to Challoner; and turning
to the ladies: "Mrs. Challoner, take that chair, please," pointing to
one nearest to him, "and, Miss Bloodgood, that," indicating one next to
Miriam's.

Meantime, Challoner had returned, and was waiting, hesitatingly, near
the door.

"Aren't you going to join the family circle, Laurie?" the prosecutor
said lightly.

Challoner then came forward, and placed his chair between the two women.

Murgatroyd's manner suddenly became chilly, stern, in short, once more
he was the prosecutor of the pleas. Addressing Challoner, whom he looked
well in the eye, he began:--

"Mrs. Challoner has asked me to go on a hundred thousand dollar
construction-bond for you; also, to loan you considerable money."

There was a dramatic pause. And except for a questioning glance from
Challoner and Shirley, which found a ready answer in the eyes of Miriam,
his listeners did not move nor speak.

"There it is," announced Murgatroyd, in the same business-like tone; and
stepping aside from the table, revealed two old, battered, dust-covered,
sheet-iron boxes.

"Those boxes!" exclaimed Mrs. Challoner, who was visibly excited. "What
is in them?" she asked in bewilderment.

"I don't know," returned Murgatroyd calmly.

There was no question in the minds of the prosecutor's visitors but that
these boxes were the same that Miriam had brought to him so long ago,
filled with negotiable securities, to the extent,--as Miriam was not
likely to forget,--of eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars; but, as
to their present contents, all, naturally, were at a loss to conjecture.
So, no one spoke, but continued to wait expectantly for Murgatroyd to
make the next move. Apparently, however, that was far from his
intention, and after a moment Shirley broke out with:--

"Do you mean to say that you don't know what is in them?"

"Miss Bloodgood, there's only one person in this room who knows that,"
he replied quietly. Then turning to Mrs. Challoner, he went on in the
same tone:--

"Do you see these seals?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Unbroken, are they not?"

"Yes," again she assented faintly.

"Well, then, you know what is inside of them; I do not."

"I?--" faltered Miriam. "Why----"

Then followed a moment of racking suspense for all, except, perhaps,
Murgatroyd.

"Mrs. Challoner," he resumed, "you told me once that there were eight
hundred and sixty thousand dollars in negotiable securities in these
boxes. If what you then said was true, there they are, coupons and all."

"But, Mr. Murgatroyd," protested Mrs. Challoner, "you said that you did
not have any money...."

Murgatroyd smiled.

"I spoke the truth. But you...." And now, to Challoner's great surprise,
Murgatroyd fixed his eyes on him, and said in a voice that impressed
them all the more, inasmuch as it was filled with a kindly confidence
rather than with distrust:--

"There's eight hundred and sixty thousand dollars in those boxes,
Challoner, belonging to your wife. Can you stand having it back again?"

Challoner looked puzzled; for as Miriam had told Shirley, he had had no
reason to believe that his wife's fortune had not all been spent by
them. Slowly he began to understand, but he was too overcome to speak.
Presently he found his voice and said:--

"Can I stand----"

"Yes," interrupted Murgatroyd, "you know what money did for you
before--what it led to--" He broke off abruptly, and turning to Shirley
he added: "I told you once, Miss Bloodgood, that there was but one way
to cure a bad millionaire, but one way to reform him, and that was to
take away his millions. Well, I took away his!"

All eyes now rested on Challoner, who, oblivious to his surroundings,
seemed lost in thought,--and who can tell what dreams may come to one
suddenly lifted from the depths of poverty back again to affluence. But
in any event, looking the prosecutor straight in the face he said in an
easy, determined voice:--

"Billy Murgatroyd, a little while ago you asked whether I could stand
having all this again; the past five years of my life is my answer to
that."

This reply brought to his wife's face a look of pride, and unconsciously
she straightened up in her chair; while Shirley sighed perceptibly.

"Laurie," went on Murgatroyd, still probing, but not unkindly, "what are
you going to do with all this money?"

"You'll have to ask Miriam about that," he returned quickly; and then
with a charming smile, he added: "I have learned that a man's mission is
to make money, and a woman's...."

Suddenly, Challoner grew thoughtful again.

"To think of the time," he said, half-aloud, "that it took Miriam and me
to save five hundred dollars!"

"That five hundred that you saved," commented Murgatroyd solemnly, "is
worth more to you than all this eight hundred and sixty thousand."

"There's no mistake about that either, Murgatroyd," spoke up Challoner
promptly; but bending over his wife, he added with a fascinating
smile:--

"Miriam, you're going to let me build that hospital, aren't you?"

Simultaneously with Miriam's monosyllabic answer, Murgatroyd glanced at
Challoner sharply, not forgetting, quite naturally, how easy in the past
it had been for the husband to get whatever he wanted from his wife; his
doubts, however, were only momentary, for presently he pushed the boxes
toward them, saying:--

"There it is--it all belongs to you."

But in all this Shirley had been strangely silent.

"Mr. Murgatroyd," she now said icily, "do you mean to tell us that your
only motive in taking this money was to save Mr. Challoner?"

Murgatroyd took a few steps toward her and regarded her coolly.

"No--and you alone were right. I was bribed--I was corrupt--I was a
thief."

"No, no," cried out Shirley, relenting.

"Yes," he went on mercilessly, "it is true. It was my ambition that did
it. Besides, I was tempted by a woman----"

"A woman----" faltered the girl.

"Like Adam, I'm blaming it on Eve. This woman wanted me to be, well,
really great----"

"You----"

"Yes," he persisted, "I was bribed. I took the money. Oh, you don't know
about me! You don't know what I was five years ago! It seemed to me then
that money was the only thing that could make me really great. I knelt
at the shrine of money--loved it as a dipsomaniac loves his bottle."

He paused; then he continued in a low voice:--

"Yes, I took money to acquit Challoner, and then I convicted him. Why?
Because the instinct within me to do my duty was too strong to allow me
to do otherwise. All the evidence was against him; he had confessed; I
had to convict him."

"And the money--" ventured Shirley.

"Like a dipsomaniac,--a reformed dipsomaniac,--I put that money as he
might have his bottle, on the shelf--corked. There it was--I could have
it any time I wanted it." His face became more serious as he proceeded:
"Then I kept on being a thief, for there was a new and overpowering
motive that got the best of me. Like the reformed dipsomaniac I was
determined to see what I could do without it. It became a passion with
me. I knew that every move I made meant the expenditure of money. A
hundred times, yes, a thousand times I have had my fingers on those
seals about to break them, and then have crawled away--once more to do
without the money. Somehow, I knew, that my time must come. Besides,
there was that overwhelming ambition,--prompted by a woman."

Shirley hung her head.

"Yes," he went on fiercely, "a woman who must have her due; it was up to
me to be something more than merely honest. Anybody could be honest, she
told me, but not everybody could be great!"

Shirley ventured to look up at him, but meeting his gaze fixed on her
face, she shifted her eyes instantly.

"Then there was the United States senatorship,--the fairest office in
the State,--which I knew I could buy with the money for which I had sold
my soul. Again and again I came into this office and went to that vault
there, determined to break the seals of the covers on those boxes--to
buy the United States senatorship. But I could not bring myself to do
it. Something always said to me: 'YOU MUST DO WITHOUT IT! YOU MUST BE
HONEST! YOU MUST MAKE A CLEAN FIGHT!' Yet, still, I was a thief: holding
thousands that didn't belong to me. But always upon me was that
all-absorbing passion,--a passion, not to use, but to do without the
thing which was at my finger's ends,--an incentive without which I could
not succeed. And so," he concluded, "I went in and won without it."

A tense silence followed the prosecutor's amazingly frank revelation of
his temptation and the success which he extorted from it. Unconsciously,
he assumed an attitude which it would not be unfair to describe as a
defensive one, in readiness, as it were, for any possible strictures on
his conduct. Nothing of the sort, however, was forthcoming. On the
contrary, at least, as far as Mrs. Challoner was concerned, at no time,
not even when his self-arraignment had been the most severe, had his
terrible words succeeded in driving the happy light from her eyes. There
were moments, it is true, when a dull pallour had spread over her
features, a pallour, however, caused solely by sudden stings of
agonising memories, and those soft brown eyes had been raised to his
questioningly; but his personality had ever been more or less baffling
and mysterious to her; and so, whether semi-fascinated or not, they left
him thoroughly satisfied with their scrutiny.

Probably better than any one present, Challoner realised to the full
what Murgatroyd had suffered. Manlike, however, he was more than willing
to permit the great work that Murgatroyd had done to overshadow
completely his questionable proceedings. Of course, Challoner was quite
well aware that the prosecutor's actions viewed in the light of a
successful campaign wore an entirely different aspect than they would
had he failed to obtain the senatorship. In the latter case it was
inevitable, no matter what moral satisfaction he could derive from the
return of the money,--and in fairness to Challoner be it said that he
never once questioned it,--that in addition to the humiliation of a
ruined career, the prosecutor would have to endure the mortification of
knowing that his loss of self-respect was wholly futile. But in any
event, Challoner was too generous not to accept without reservation
Murgatroyd's contention that, at least in part, he was actuated by a
praiseworthy desire to save his wife and him from the results of his
dissipations. To a man, such as Challoner now was, it can easily be
imagined, therefore, that he would regard that alone as sufficient
reason to overlook everything else, and so rising, he grabbed
impulsively Murgatroyd's hand, saying:--

"Not another word, old man! It's all right!"

Murgatroyd was visibly affected.

"Thank you," he said simply; and then added: "Only one thing more
remains to be done. Mrs. Challoner, I must ask you to break these
seals."

Miriam demurred.

"Oh, no, Mr. Murgatroyd!" she said. "Surely you must know that I believe
you!"

But Murgatroyd insisted; and obeying him finally, Miriam broke the
seals, and presently she showed to them the securities, undisturbed,
just as Murgatroyd had taken them, dollar for dollar, bond and bond.

Suddenly Murgatroyd felt a touch on the arm.

"And I believe you, Billy," said Shirley contritely.

An enigmatical smile passed across the prosecutor's face.

"Do you, indeed?" he said dryly; and added: "That's, perhaps, more than
I had any right to expect."

A slight pucker showed on Miss Bloodgood's beautiful brow, but she
replied, quite unruffled:--

"Why, of course, I do. After all, you were honest, weren't you?" And not
waiting for his answer, added ingenuously: "You were not a thief!"

Instantly the expression on Murgatroyd's face became a very serious one.

"Yes, I was," he protested, "I was a thief." And with that he turned to
Challoner and said in a voice of great feeling: "Challoner, this money
is your wife's. Take it. And great God, man," he groaned, "don't, don't
forget what it did to you--what it made you, years ago."

Mrs. Challoner shivered at the prosecutor's earnestness; but Challoner,
hesitating for a moment only, advanced and said:--

"We'll take it. I'm not a bit afraid now, Murgatroyd--for I _know_." And
then holding out his hand, he continued kindly: "Billy, if you hadn't
taken it--where would I have been to-day?"

"Free--free as you are now," said the other man in a low, strained tone.

"Yes," assented Challoner, "out of prison, but----"

Mrs. Challoner quickly rose and put an end to the conversation going on
between the men.

"Come, Laurie," she said abruptly; and holding out her hand, "good-bye,
Mr. Murgatroyd! I'm afraid we have taken up altogether too much of your
time."

Murgatroyd shook hands with the Challoners; but on Shirley making her
adieus, he said:--

"May I have a moment with you, Miss Bloodgood? Won't you wait, please?"

Mrs. Challoner answered for the girl:--

"Shirley, don't be in any hurry. Laurie and I will wait for you in the
ante-room--" And as they passed out Challoner called: "Wait until you
see that concrete hospital, Murgatroyd!"

For moments that seemed hours Shirley and Murgatroyd stood facing each
other, neither having the courage to speak, the girl filled with shame
at the great wrong she had done to the man she loved; while he, feeling
as if the burden that had rested upon his soul had at last rolled away,
was drawing deep breaths--breathing like a man who has suddenly come out
of darkness into the daylight. Shirley was the first to break the
silence; and now looking up at Murgatroyd, with a little shake of the
head she asked:--

"Billy, do you care to know what I think of you?"

"Perhaps, if I had cared less, I----"

But not for a moment would Shirley listen now to his censuring himself
further, and quickly she cut him off.

"I think it was a far finer thing to take the money and not touch it,"
she declared with true feminine logic, "than never to have taken it at
all."

"But what if this habit should grow upon me," he retorted smilingly.
"Evidently Miss Bloodgood doesn't know what graft awaits me in
Washington?"

Shirley laughed softly.

"To think that you accomplished all this without money," she said
happily.

"But the worst is yet to come," he observed quickly. "It means that one
has to keep up the social game, the club game, the political game, and
the Lord knows what other games on five thousand--or is it now
seventy-five hundred a year? It means that an unmarried man must starve;
and Heaven help the married senator! For he and his family must live on
a back street in the capital and freeze. That's what it means to a
senator who lives on his salary."

"But doesn't poverty always travel hand in hand with greatness," she
remarked enthusiastically, and with superb disdain for anything that she
may have said heretofore to the contrary.

Murgatroyd looked at her with admiration. Never before had her eyes
seemed to him so blue and so lovely.

"There's one thing--one thing that I didn't tell Challoner and his
wife," he said, lowering his voice almost to a whisper. "Can you guess
what that something was that always made me keep my hands off those iron
boxes?"

Shirley lifted her eyes to his in quick understanding.

"It was my love for the woman who wanted me to be great," he went on in
a voice so shaken with emotion, that she scarcely recognised it as
belonging to him. "That was the motive that beat down all others."

"And will you forgive the foolish lips that told you to go wrong?"

For answer he held out his arms to her and she came to them. Then he
stooped down, and catching her face between his hands, raised it slowly,
and kissed the lips tenderly, murmuring lovingly:--

"Her soul would not let me go wrong."

After a moment Shirley slowly drew herself out of his arms and placing a
hand on each of his shoulders, asked laughingly, looking deep into his
eyes:--

"And we'll go to Washington?"

"Yes, dear," he smiled back. "We're going to Washington--to freeze and
starve together on that back street--Yes, my revenge is now complete."

Before he could kiss her a second time, Shirley darted to the door,
opened it and called:--

"Miriam, Laurie, come here--come back!"

One look at the face of the girl that she had left in the office was
sufficient to tell Miriam that she had great news to communicate.
Nevertheless, she asked innocently:--

"What for, my dear? Are you going to lynch him?"

Blushing furiously, Shirley waved her hand at the boxes on the table and
said:--

"Billy says that you've gone off and forgotten all your money!"


THE END



Popular Copyright Books


Circle, The. By Katherine Cecil Thurston (author of "The Masquerader,"
"The Gambler").

Colonial Free Lance, A. By Chauncey C. Hotchkiss.

Conquest of Canaan, The. By Booth Tarkington.

Courier of Fortune, A. By Arthur W. Marchmont.

Darrow Enigma, The. By Melvin Severy.

Deliverance, The. By Ellen Glasgow.

Divine Fire, The. By May Sinclair.

Empire Builders. By Francis Lynde.

Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. By A. Conan Doyle.

Fighting Chance, The. By Robert W. Chambers.

For a Maiden Brave. By Chauncey C. Hotchkiss.


Fugitive Blacksmith, The. By Chas. D. Stewart

God's Good Man. By Marie Corelli.

Heart's Highway, The. By Mary E. Wilkins.

Holladay Case, The. By Burton Egbert Stevenson.

Hurricane Island. By H. B. Marriott Watson.

In Defiance of the King. By Chauncey C. Hotchkiss.

Indifference of Juliet, The. By Grace S. Richmond.

Infelice. By Augusta Evans Wilson.



Lady Betty Across the Water. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

Lady of the Mount, The. By Frederic S. Isham.

Lane That Had No Turning, The. By Gilbert Parker.

Langford of the Three Bars. By Kate and Virgil D. Boyle.

Last Trail, The. By Zane Grey.

Leavenworth Case, The. By Anna Katharine Green.

Lilac Sunbonnet, The. By S. R. Crockett.

Lin McLean. By Owen Wister.

Long Night, The. By Stanley T. Weyman.


Maid at Arms, The. By Robert W. Chambers.

Man from Red Keg, The. By Eugene Thwing.

Marthon Mystery, The. By Burton Egbert Stevenson.

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. By A. Conan Doyle.

Millionaire Baby, The. By Anna Katharine Green.

Missourian, The. By Eugene P. Lyle, Jr.

Mr. Barnes, American. By A. C. Gunter.

Mr. Pratt. By Joseph C. Lincoln.

My Friend the Chauffeur. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

My Lady of the North. By Randall Parrish.

Mystery of June 13th. By Melvin L. Severy.

Mystery Tales. By Edgar Allan Poe.

Nancy Stair. By Elinor Macartney Lane.

Order No. 11. By Caroline Abbot Stanley.

Pam. By Bettina von Hutten.

Pam Decides. By Bettina von Hutten.

Partners of the Tide. By Joseph C. Lincoln.

Phra the Phoenician. By Edwin Lester Arnold.

President, The. By Alfred Henry Lewis.

Princess Passes, The. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

Princess Virginia, The. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

Prisoners. By Mary Cholmondeley.

Private War, The. By Louis Joseph Vance.

Prodigal Son, The. By Hall Caine.


Quickening, The. By Francis Lynde.

Richard the Brazen. By Cyrus T. Brady and Edw. Peple.

Rose of the World. By Agnes and Egerton Castle.

Running Water. By A. E. W. Mason.

Sarita the Carlist. By Arthur W. Marchmont.

Seats of the Mighty, The. By Gilbert Parker.

Sir Nigel. By A. Conan Doyle.

Sir Richard Calmady. By Lucas Malet.

Speckled Bird, A. By Augusta Evans Wilson.


The Shepherd of the Hills. By Harold Bell Wright.

Jane Cable. By George Barr McCutcheon.

Abner Daniel. By Will N. Harben.

The Far Horizon. By Lucas Malet.

The Halo. By Bettina von Hutten.

Jerry Junior. By Jean Webster.

The Powers and Maxine. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

The Balance of Power. By Arthur Goodrich.

Adventures of Captain Kettle. By Cutcliffe Hyne.

Adventures of Gerard. By A. Conan Doyle.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. By A. Conan Doyle.

Arms and the Woman. By Harold MacGrath.

Artemus Ward's Works (extra illustrated).

At the Mercy of Tiberius. By Augusta Evans Wilson.

Awakening of Helena Richie. By Margaret Deland.

Battle Ground, The. By Ellen Glasgow.

Belle of Bowling Green, The. By Amelia E. Barr.

Ben Blair. By Will Lillibridge.

Best Man, The. By Harold MacGrath.

Beth Norvell. By Randall Parrish.

Bob Hampton of Placer. By Randall Parrish.

Bob, Son of Battle. By Alfred Ollivant.

Brass Bowl, The. By Louis Joseph Vance.

Brethren, The. By H. Rider Haggard.

Broken Lance, The. By Herbert Quick.

By Wit of Women. By Arthur W. Marchmont.

Call of the Blood, The. By Robert Hitchens.

Cap'n Eri. By Joseph C. Lincoln.

Cardigan. By Robert W. Chambers.

Car of Destiny, The. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine. By Frank R. Stockton.

Cecilia's Lovers. By Amelia E. Barr.

Spirit of the Border, The. By Zane Grey.

Spoilers, The. By Rex Beach.

Squire Phin. By Holman F. Day.

Stooping Lady, The. By Maurice Hewlett.

Subjection of Isabel Carnaby. By Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler.

Sunset Trail, The. By Alfred Henry Lewis.

Sword of the Old Frontier, A. By Randall Parrish.

Tales of Sherlock Holmes. By A. Conan Doyle.

That Printer of Udell's. By Harold Bell Wright.

Throwback, The. By Alfred Henry Lewis.

Trail of the Sword, The. By Gilbert Parker.

Treasure of Heaven, The. By Marie Corelli.

Two Vanrevels, The. By Booth Tarkington.

Up From Slavery. By Booker T. Washington.

Vashti. By Augusta Evans Wilson.

Viper of Milan, The (original edition). By Marjorie Bowen.

Voice of the People, The. By Ellen Glasgow.

Wheel of Life, The. By Ellen Glasgow.


When Wilderness Was King. By Randall Parrish.

Where the Trail Divides. By Will Lillibridge.

Woman in Grey, A. By Mrs. C. N. Williamson.

Woman in the Alcove, The. By Anna Katharine Green.

Younger Set, The. By Robert W. Chambers.

The Weavers. By Gilbert Parker.

The Little Brown Jug at Kildare. By Meredith Nicholson.

The Prisoners of Chance. By Randall Parrish.

My Lady of Cleve. By Percy J. Hartley.

Loaded Dice. By Ellery H. Clark.

Get Rich Quick Wallingford. By George Randolph Chester.

The Orphan. By Clarence Mulford.

A Gentleman of France. By Stanley J. Weyman.

Purple Parasol, The. By George Barr McCutcheon.

Princess Dehra, The. By John Reed Scott.

Making of Bobby Burnit, The. By George Randolph Chester.

Last Voyage of the Donna Isabel, The. By Randall Parrish.

Bronze Bell, The. By Louis Joseph Vance.

Pole Baker. By Will N. Harben.

Four Million, The. By O. Henry.

Idols. By William J. Locke.

Wayfarers, The. By Mary Stewart Cutting.

Held for Orders. By Frank H. Spearman.

Story of the Outlaw, The. By Emerson Hough.

Mistress of Brae Farm, The. By Rosa N. Carey.

Explorer, The. By William Somerset Maugham.

Abbess of Vlaye, The. By Stanley Weyman.

Alton of Somasco. By Harold Bindloss.

Ancient Law, The. By Ellen Glasgow.

Barrier, The. By Rex Beach.

Bar 20. By Clarence E. Mulford.

Beloved Vagabond, The. By William J. Locke.

Beulah. (Illustrated Edition.) By Augusta J. Evans.

Chaperon, The. By C. N. and A. M. Williamson.

Colonel Greatheart. By H. C. Bailey.

Dissolving Circle, The. By Will Lillibridge.

Elusive Isabel. By Jacques Futrelle.

Fair Moon of Bath, The. By Elizabeth Ellis.

54-40 or Fight. By Emerson Hough.

Four Pool's Mystery, The. By Jean Webster.

Ganton and Co. By Arthur J. Eddy.

Heart of Jessy Laurie, The. By Amelia E. Barr.

Inez. (Illustrated Edition.) By Augusta J. Evans.

Into the Primitive. By Robert Ames Bennet.

Katrina. By Roy Rolfe Gilson.

King Spruce. By Holman Day.

Macaria. (Illustrated Edition.) By Augusta J. Evans.

Meryl. By Wm. Tillinghast Eldredge.

Old, Old Story, The. By Rosa Nouchette Carey.

Quest Eternal, The. By Will Lillibridge.

Silver Blade, The. By Charles E. Walk.

St. Elmo. (Illustrated Edition.) By Augusta J. Evans.

Uncle William. By Jennette Lee.

Under the Red Robe. By Stanley J. Weyman.



BURT'S SERIES OF STANDARD FICTION.


DARNLEY. A Romance of the times of Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey. By
G. P. R. James. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.


     As a historical romance "Darnley" is a book that can be taken up
     pleasurably again and again, for there is about it that subtle
     charm which those who are strangers to the works of G. P. R. James
     have claimed was only to be imparted by Dumas.

     If there was nothing more about the work to attract especial
     attention, the account of the meeting of the kings on the historic
     "field of the cloth of gold" would entitle the story to the most
     favorable consideration of every reader.

     There is really but little pure romance in this story, for the
     author has taken care to imagine love passages only between those
     whom history has credited with having entertained the tender
     passion one for another, and he succeeds in making such lovers as
     all the world must love.


WINDSOR CASTLE. A Historical Romance of the Reign of Henry VIII.
Catharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. By Wm. Harrison Ainsworth. With
four illustrations by George Cruikshank.


     "Windsor Castle" is the story of Henry VIII., Catharine, and Anne
     Boleyn. "Bluff King Hal," although a well-loved monarch, was none
     too good a one in many ways. Of all his selfishness and
     unwarrantable acts, none was more discreditable than his divorce
     from Catharine, and his marriage to the beautiful Anne Boleyn. The
     King's love was as brief as it was vehement. Jane Seymour, waiting
     maid on the Queen, attracted him, and Anne Boleyn was forced to the
     block to make room for her successor. This romance is one of
     extreme interest to all readers.


HORSESHOE ROBINSON. A tale of the Tory Ascendency in South Carolina in
1780. By John P. Kennedy. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     Among the old favorites in the field of what is known as historical
     fiction, there are none which appeal to a larger number of
     Americans than Horseshoe Robinson, and this because it is the only
     story which depicts with fidelity to the facts the heroic efforts
     of the colonists in South Carolina to defend their homes against
     the brutal oppression of the British under such leaders as
     Cornwallis and Tarleton.

     The reader is charmed with the story of love which forms the thread
     of the tale, and then impressed with the wealth of detail concerning
     those times. The picture of the manifold sufferings of the people,
     is never overdrawn, but painted faithfully and honestly by one who
     spared neither time nor labor in his efforts to present in this
     charming love story all that price in blood and tears which the
     Carolinians paid as their share in the winning of the republic.

     Take it all in all, "Horseshoe Robinson" is a work which should be
     found on every book-shelf, not only because it is a most
     entertaining story, but because of the wealth of valuable
     information concerning the colonists which it contains. That it
     has been brought out once more, well illustrated, is something
     which will give pleasure to thousands who have long desired an
     opportunity to read the story again, and to the many who have tried
     vainly in these latter days to procure a copy that they might read
     it for the first time.


THE PEARL OF ORR'S ISLAND. A story of the Coast of Maine. By Harriet
Beecher Stowe. Illustrated.


     Written prior to 1862, the "Pearl of Orr's Island" is ever new; a
     book filled with delicate fancies, such as seemingly array
     themselves anew each time one reads them. One sees the "sea like an
     unbroken mirror all around the pine-girt, lonely shores of Orr's
     Island," and straightway comes "the heavy, hollow moan of the surf
     on the beach, like the wild angry howl of some savage animal."

     Who can read of the beginning of that sweet life, named Mara, which
     came into this world under the very shadow of the Death angel's
     wings, without having an intense desire to know how the premature
     bud blossomed? Again and again one lingers over the descriptions of
     the character of that baby boy Moses, who came through the tempest,
     amid the angry billows, pillowed on his dead mother's breast.

     There is no more faithful portrayal of New England life than that
     which Mrs. Stowe gives in "The Pearl of Orr's Island."


RICHELIEU. A tale of France in the reign of King Louis XIII. By G. F. R.
James. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     In 1829 Mr. James published his first romance, "Richelieu," and
     was recognized at once as one of the masters of the craft.

     In this book he laid the story during those later days of the
     great cardinal's life, when his power was beginning to wane,
     but while it was yet sufficiently strong to permit now and then
     of volcanic outbursts which overwhelmed foes and carried
     friends to the topmost wave of prosperity. One of the most
     striking portions of the story is that of Cinq Mar's
     conspiracy; the method of conducting criminal cases, and the
     political trickery resorted to by royal favorites, affording a
     better insight into the statecraft of that day than can be had
     even by an exhaustive study of history. It is a powerful
     romance of love and diplomacy, and in point of thrilling and
     absorbing interest has never been excelled.


A COLONIAL FREE-LANCE. A story of American Colonial Times. By Chauncey
C. Hotchkiss. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     A book that appeals to Americans as a vivid picture of
     Revolutionary scenes. The story is a strong one, a thrilling one.
     It causes the true American to flush with excitement, to devour
     chapter after chapter, until the eyes smart, and it fairly smokes
     with patriotism. The love story is a singularly charming idyl.


THE TOWER OF LONDON. A Historical Romance of the Times of Lady Jane Grey
and Mary Tudor. By Wm. Harrison Ainsworth. With four illustrations by
George Cruikshank.

     This romance of the "Tower of London" depicts the Tower as
     palace, prison and fortress, with many historical associations.
     The era is the middle of the sixteenth century.

     The story is divided into two parts, one dealing with Lady Jane
     Grey, and the other with Mary Tudor as Queen, introducing other
     notable characters of the era. Throughout the story holds the
     interest of the reader in the midst of intrigue and conspiracy,
     extending considerably over a half a century.


IN DEFIANCE OF THE KING. A Romance of the American Revolution. By
Chauncey C. Hotchkiss. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     Mr. Hotchkiss has etched in burning words a story of Yankee
     bravery, and true love that thrills from beginning to end, with the
     spirit of the Revolution. The heart beats quickly, and we feel
     ourselves taking a part in the exciting scenes described. His whole
     story is so absorbing that you will sit up far into the night to
     finish it. As a love romance it is charming.


GARTHOWEN. A story of a Welsh Homestead. By Allen Raine. With four
illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     "This is a little idyl of humble life and enduring love, laid bare
     before us, very real and pure, which in its telling shows us some
     strong points of Welsh character--the pride, the hasty temper, the
     quick dying out of wrath.... We call this a well-written story,
     interesting alike through its romance and its glimpses into another
     life than ours. A delightful and clever picture of Welsh village
     life. The result is excellent."--Detroit Free Press.


MIFANWY. The story of a Welsh Singer. By Allan Raine. With four
illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     "This is a love story, simple, tender and pretty as one would care
     to read. The action throughout is brisk and pleasing; the
     characters, it is apparent at once, are as true to life as though
     the author had known them all personally. Simple in all its
     situations, the story is worked up in that touching and quaint
     strain which never grows wearisome, no matter how often the lights
     and shadows of love are introduced. It rings true, and does not tax
     the imagination."--Boston Herald.


THE SPIRIT OF THE BORDER. A Romance of the Early Settlers in the Ohio
Valley. By Zane Grey. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     A book rather out of the ordinary is this "Spirit of the
     Border." The main thread of the story has to do with the work
     of the Moravian missionaries in the Ohio Valley. Incidentally
     the reader is given details of the frontier life of those hardy
     pioneers who broke the wilderness for the planting of this
     great nation. Chief among these, as a matter of course, is
     Lewis Wetzel, one of the most peculiar, and at the same time
     the most admirable of all the brave men who spent their lives
     battling with the savage foe, that others might dwell in
     comparative security.

     Details of the establishment and destruction of the Moravian
     "Village of Peace" are given at some length, and with minute
     description. The efforts to Christianize the Indians are
     described as they never have been before, and the author has
     depicted the characters of the leaders of the several Indian
     tribes with great care, which of itself will be of Interest to
     the student.

     By no means least among the charms of the story are the vivid
     word pictures of the thrilling adventures, and the intense
     paintings of the beauties of nature, as seen in the almost
     unbroken forests.

     It is the spirit of the frontier which is described, and one
     can by it, perhaps, the better understand why men, and women,
     too, willingly braved every privation and danger that the
     westward progress of the star of empire might be the more
     certain and rapid. A love story, simple and tender, runs
     throughout the book.


CAPTAIN BRAND, OF THE SCHOONER CENTIPEDE. By Lieut. Henry A. Wise, U. S.
N. (Harry Gringo). With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     The re-publication of this story will please those lovers of
     sea yarns who delight in so much of the salty flavor of the
     ocean as can come through the medium of a printed page, for
     never has a story of the sea and those "who go down in ships"
     been written by one more familiar with the scenes depicted.

     The one book of this gifted author which is best remembered,
     and which will be read with pleasure for many years to come, is
     "Captain Brand," who, as the author states on his title page,
     was a "pirate of eminence in the West Indies." As a sea story
     pure and simple, "Captain Brand" has never been excelled, and
     as a story of piratical life, told without the usual
     embellishments of blood and thunder, it has no equal.


NICK OF THE WOODS. A story of the Early Settlers of Kentucky. By Robert
Montgomery Bird. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     This most popular novel and thrilling story of early frontier life
     in Kentucky was originally published in the year 1837. The novel,
     long out of print, had in its day a phenomenal sale, for its
     realistic presentation of Indian and frontier life in the early
     days of settlement in the South, narrated in the tale with all the
     art of a practiced writer. A very charming love romance runs
     through the story. This new and tasteful edition of "Nick of the
     Woods" will be certain to make many new admirers for this
     enchanting story from Dr. Bird's clever and versatile pen.


GUY FAWKES. A Romance of the Gunpowder Treason. By Wm. Harrison
Ainsworth. With four illustrations by George Cruikshank.

     The "Gunpowder Plot" was a modest attempt to blow up Parliament,
     the King and his Counsellors. James of Scotland, then King of
     England, was weak-minded and extravagant. He hit upon the efficient
     scheme of extorting money from the people by imposing taxes on the
     Catholics. In their natural resentment to this extortion, a handful
     of bold spirits concluded to overthrow the government. Finally the
     plotters were arrested, and the King put to torture Guy Fawkes and
     the other prisoners with royal vigor. A very intense love story
     runs through the entire romance.


TICONDEROGA: A Story of Early Frontier Life in the Mohawk Valley. By G.
P. R. James. With four page illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     The setting of the story is decidedly more picturesque than any
     ever evolved by Cooper: The frontier of New York State, where
     dwelt an English gentleman, driven from his native home by
     grief over the loss of his wife, with a son and daughter.
     Thither, brought by the exigencies of war, comes an English
     officer, who is readily recognized as that Lord Howe who met
     his death at Ticonderoga. As a most natural sequence, even amid
     the hostile demonstrations of both French and Indians, Lord
     Howe and the young girl find time to make most deliciously
     sweet love, and the son of the recluse has already lost his
     heart to the daughter of a great sachem, a dusky maiden whose
     warrior-father has surrounded her with all the comforts of a
     civilized life.

     The character of Captain Brooks, who voluntarily decides to
     sacrifice his own life in order to save the son of the
     Englishman, is not among the least of the attractions of this
     story, which holds the attention of the reader even to the last
     page. The tribal laws and folk lore of the different tribes of
     Indians known as the "Five Nations," with which the story is
     interspersed, shows that the author gave no small amount of
     study to the work in question, and nowhere else is it shown
     more plainly than by the skilful manner in which he has
     interwoven with his plot the "blood" law, which demands a life
     for a life, whether it be that of the murderer or one of his
     race.

     A more charming story of mingled love and adventure has never
     been written than "Ticonderoga."


ROB OF THE BOWL: A Story of the Early Days of Maryland. By John P.
Kennedy. With four page illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     It was while he was a member of Congress from Maryland that the
     noted statesman wrote this story regarding the early history of
     his native State, and while some critics are inclined to
     consider "Horse Shoe Robinson" as the best of his works, it is
     certain that "Rob of the Bowl" stands at the head of the list
     as a literary production and an authentic exposition of the
     manners and customs during Lord Baltimore's rule. The greater
     portion of the action takes place in St. Mary's--the original
     capital of the State.

     As a series of pictures of early colonial life in Maryland,
     "Rob of the Bowl" has no equal, and the book, having been
     written by one who had exceptional facilities for gathering
     material concerning the individual members of the settlements
     in and about St. Mary's, is a most valuable addition to the
     history of the State.

     The story is full of splendid action, with a charming love
     story, and a plot that never loosens the grip of its interest
     to its last page.


BY BERWEN BANKS. By Allen Raine.

     It is a tender and beautiful romance of the idyllic. A charming
     picture of life in a Welsh seaside village. It is something of a
     prose-poem, true, tender and graceful.


IN DEFIANCE OF THE KING. A romance of the American Revolution. By
Chauncey C. Hotchkiss. With four illustrations by J. Watson Davis.

     The story opens in the month of April, 1775, with the provincial
     troops hurrying to the defense of Lexington and Concord. Mr.
     Hotchkiss has etched in burning words a story of Yankee bravery and
     true love that thrills from beginning to end with the spirit of the
     Revolution. The heart beats quickly, and we feel ourselves taking a
     part in the exciting scenes described. You lay the book aside with
     the feeling that you have seen a gloriously true picture of the
     Revolution. His whole story is so absorbing that you will sit up
     far into the night to finish it. As a love romance it is charming.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Red Mouse" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home