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Title: The Bartlett Mystery
Author: Tracy, Louis, 1863-1928
Language: English
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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.

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



 THE
 BARTLETT MYSTERY

 BY

 LOUIS TRACY

 Author of

 "The Wings of the Morning," "Number Seventeen,"
 etc., etc.

 NEW YORK

 EDWARD J. CLODE



 COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY

 EDWARD J. CLODE

 All rights reserved

 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



_By_ LOUIS TRACY


 THE WINGS OF THE MORNING
 THE CAPTAIN OF THE KANSAS
 THE WHEEL O' FORTUNE
 A SON OF THE IMMORTALS
 CYNTHIA'S CHAUFFEUR
 THE MESSAGE
 THE STOWAWAY
 THE PILLAR OF LIGHT
 THE SILENT BARRIER
 THE "MIND THE PAINT" GIRL
 ONE WONDERFUL NIGHT
 THE TERMS OF SURRENDER
 FLOWER OF THE GORSE
 THE RED YEAR
 THE GREAT MOGUL
 MIRABEL'S ISLAND
 THE DAY OF WRATH
 HIS UNKNOWN WIFE
 THE POSTMASTER'S DAUGHTER
 THE REVELLERS
 DIANA OF THE MOORLAND
 NUMBER SEVENTEEN
 THE BARTLETT MYSTERY



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                               PAGE

     I. A GATHERING AT A CLUB                            1
    II. A DARING CRIME                                  12
   III. WINIFRED BARTLETT HEARS SOMETHING               24
    IV. FURTHER SURPRISES                               39
     V. PERSECUTORS                                     54
    VI. BROTHER RALPH                                   67
   VII. STILL MERE MYSTERY                              81
  VIII. THE DREAM FACE                                  92
    IX. THE FLIGHT                                     102
     X. CARSHAW TAKES UP THE CHASE                     115
    XI. THE TWO CARS                                   128
   XII. THE PURSUIT                                    140
  XIII. THE NEW LINK                                   150
   XIV. A SUBTLE ATTACK                                162
    XV. THE VISITOR                                    173
   XVI. WINIFRED DRIFTS                                181
  XVII. ALL ROADS LEAD TO EAST ORANGE                  191
 XVIII. THE CRASH                                      201
   XIX. CLANCY EXPLAINS                                214
    XX. IN THE TOILS                                   225
   XXI. MOTHER AND SON                                 235
  XXII. THE HUNT                                       245
 XXIII. "HE WHO FIGHTS AND RUNS
         AWAY--"                                       257
  XXIV. IN FULL CRY                                    269
   XXV. FLANK ATTACKS                                  280
  XXVI. THE BITER BIT                                  293
 XXVII. THE SETTLEMENT                                 304



THE BARTLETT MYSTERY



CHAPTER I

A GATHERING AT A CLUB


That story of love and crime which figures in the records of the New
York Detective Bureau as "The Yacht Mystery" has little to do with
yachts and is no longer a mystery. It is concerned far more intimately
with the troubles and trials of pretty Winifred Bartlett than with
the vagaries of the restless sea; the alert, well-groomed figure of
Winifred's true lover, Rex Carshaw, fills its pages to the almost total
exclusion of the portly millionaire who owned the _Sans Souci_. Yet,
such is the singular dominance exercised by the trivial things of life
over the truly important ones, some hundreds of thousands of people in
the great city on the three rivers will recall many episodes of the nine
days' wonder known to them as "The Yacht Mystery" though they may never
have heard of either Winifred or Rex.

It began simply, as all major events do begin, and, of course, at the
outset, neither of these two young people seemed to have the remotest
connection with it.

On the evening of October 5, 1913--that is the date when the first entry
appears in the diary of Mr. James Steingall, chief of the Bureau--the
stream of traffic in Fifth Avenue was interrupted to an unusual degree
at a corner near Forty-second Street. The homeward-bound throng going
up-town and the equally dense crowd coming down-town to restaurants and
theater-land merely chafed at a delay which they did not understand, but
the traffic policeman knew exactly what was going on, and kept his head
and his temper.

A few doors down the north side of the cross street a famous club
was ablaze with lights. Especially did three great windows on the
first floor send forth hospitable beams, for the spacious room within
was the scene of an amusing revel. Mr. William Pierpont Van Hofen,
ex-commodore of the New York Yacht Club, owner of the _Sans Souci_,
and multi-millionaire, had just astonished his friends by one of the
eccentric jests for which he was famous.

The _Sans Souci_, notable the world over for its size, speed, and
fittings, was going out of commission for the winter. Van Hofen had
marked the occasion by widespread invitations to a dinner at his club,
"to be followed by a surprise party," and the nature of the "surprise"
was becoming known. Each lady had drawn by lot the name of her dinner
partner, and each couple was then presented with a sealed envelope
containing tickets for one or other of the many theaters in New York.
Thus, not only were husbands, wives, eligible bachelors, and smart
débutantes inextricably mixed up, but none knew whither the oddly
assorted pairs were bound, since the envelopes were not to be opened
until the meal reached the coffee and cigarette stage.

There existed, too, a secret within a secret. Seven men were bidden
privately to come on board the _Sans Souci_, moored in the Hudson
off the Eighty-sixth Street landing-stage, and there enjoy a quiet
session of auction bridge.

"We'll duck before the trouble gets fairly started," explained Van Hofen
to his cronies. "You'll see how the bunch is sorted out at dinner, but
the tangle then will be just one cent in the dollar to the pandemonium
when they find out where they're going."

Of course, everybody was acquainted with everybody else, or the joke
might have been in bad taste. Moreover, as the gathering was confined
exclusively to the elect of New York society, the host had notified the
Detective Bureau, and requested the presence of one of their best men
outside the club shortly before eight o'clock. None realized better than
he that where the carcass is there the vultures gather, and he wanted no
untoward incident to happen during the confusion which must attend the
departure of so many richly bejeweled ladies accompanied by unexpected
cavaliers.

Thus it befell that Detective-Inspector Clancy was detailed for the
job. Steingall and he were the "inseparables" of the Bureau, yet no two
members of a marvelously efficient service were more unlike, physically
and mentally. Steingall was big, blond, muscular, a genial giant whose
qualities rendered him almost popular among the very criminals he
hunted, whereas those same desperadoes feared the diminutive Clancy,
the little, slight, dark-haired sleuth of French-Irish descent. He,
they were aware instinctively, read their very souls before Steingall's
huge paw clutched their quaking bodies.

Idle chance alone decided that Clancy should undertake the half-hour's
vigil at the up-town club that evening. All unknowing, he became thereby
the controlling influence in many lives.

At eight o'clock an elderly man emerged from the building and edged
his way through the cheery, laughing people already grouped about the
doorway and awaiting automobiles. Mr. William Meiklejohn might have been
branded with the word "Senator," so typical was he of the upper house
at Washington. The very cut of his clothes, the style of his shoes, the
glossiness of his hat, even the wide expanse of pearl-studded white
linen marked him as a person of consequence.

A uniformed policeman, striving to keep the pavement clear of loiterers,
recognized and saluted him. The salute was returned, though its
recipient's face seemed to be gloomy, preoccupied, almost disturbed.
Therefore he did not notice a gaunt, angular-jawed woman--one whose
carriage and attire suggested better days long since passed--who had
been peering eagerly at the revellers pouring out of the club, and now
stepped forward impetuously as if to intercept him.

She failed. The policeman barred her progress quietly but effectually,
and the woman, if bent on achieving her purpose, must have either called
after the absorbed Meiklejohn or entered into a heated altercation with
the policeman when accident came to her aid.

Mrs. Ronald Tower, strikingly handsome, richly gowned and cloaked, with
an elaborate coiffure that outvied nature's best efforts, was crossing
the pavement to enter a waiting car when she stopped and drew her hand
from her escort's arm.

"Senator Meiklejohn!" she cried.

The elderly man halted. He doffed his hat with a flourish.

"Ah, Helen," he said smilingly. "Whither bound?"

"To see Belasco's latest. Isn't that lucky? The very thing I wanted.
Poor Ronald! I don't know what has become of him, or into what net he
may have fallen."

The Senator beamed. He knew that Ronald Tower was one of the eight
bridge-players, but was pledged to secrecy.

"I only hailed you to jog your memory about that luncheon to-morrow,"
went on Mrs. Tower.

"How could I forget?" he retorted gallantly. "Only two hours ago I
postponed a business appointment on account of it."

"So good of you, Senator," and Mrs. Tower's smile lent a tinge of
sarcasm to the words. "I'm awfully anxious that you should meet Mr.
Jacob. I'm deeply interested, you know."

Meiklejohn glanced rather sharply at the lady's companion, who, however,
was merely a vacuous man about town. It struck Clancy that the Senator
resented this incautious using of names. The shabby-genteel woman,
hovering behind the policeman, was following the scene with hawklike
eyes, and Clancy kept her, too, under close observation.

The Senator coughed, and lowered his voice.

"I shall be most pleased to discuss matters with him," he said. "It
will be a pleasure to render him a service if you ask it."

Mrs. Tower laughed lightly. "One o'clock," she said. "Don't be late!
Come along, Mr. Forrest. Your car is blocking the way."

Mr. Meiklejohn flourished his hat again. He turned and found himself
face to face with the hard-featured woman who had been waiting and
watching for this very opportunity. She barred his further
progress--even caught his arm.

Had the Senator been assaulted by the blue-coated guardian of law and
order he could not have displayed more bewilderment.

"You, Rachel?" he gasped.

The policeman was about to intervene, but it was the Senator, not the
shabbily dressed woman, who prevented him.

"It's all right, officer," he stammered vexedly. "I know this lady. She
is an old friend."

The man saluted again and drew aside. Clancy moved a trifle nearer. No
one would take notice of such an insignificant little man. Though he had
his back to this strangely assorted pair, he heard nearly every syllable
they uttered.

"He is here," snapped the woman without other preamble. "You must see
him."

"It is quite impossible," was the answer, and, though the words were
frigid and unyielding, Clancy felt certain that Senator Meiklejohn had
to exercise an iron self-control to keep a tremor out of his utterance.

"You dare not refuse," persisted the woman.

The Senator glanced around in a scared way. Clancy thought for an
instant that he meant to dart back into the security of the club. After
an irresolute pause, however, he moved somewhat apart from the crowd of
sightseers. The two stood together on the curb, and clear of the flood
of light pouring through the open doors. Clancy edged after them. He
gathered a good deal, not all, of what they said, as both voices were
harsh and tinged with excitement.

"This very night," the woman was saying. "Bring at least five hundred
dollars--If the police.... Says he will confess everything.... Do you
get me? This thing can't wait."

The Senator did not even try now to conceal his agitation. He looked at
the gaping mob, but it was wholly absorbed in the stream of fashionable
people pouring out of the club, while the snorting of scores of
automobiles created a din which meant comparative safety.

"Yes, yes," he muttered. "I understand. I'll do anything in reason. I'll
give _you_ the money, and you----"

"No. He means seeing you. You need not be afraid. He says you are going
to Mr. Van Hofen's yacht at nine o'clock----"

"Good Lord!" broke in Meiklejohn, "how can he possibly know that?" Again
he peered at the press of onlookers. A dapper little man who stood near
was raised on tiptoe and craning his neck to catch a glimpse of a noted
beauty who had just appeared.

"Oh, pull yourself together!" and there was a touch of scorn in the
woman's manner as she reassured this powerfully built man. "Isn't he
clever and fertile in device? Haven't the newspapers announced your
presence on the _Sans Souci_? And who will stop a steward's tongue
from wagging? At any rate, he knows. He will be on the Hudson in a small
boat, with one other man. At nine o'clock he will come close to the
landing-stage at Eighty-sixth Street. There is a lawn north of the
clubhouse, he says. Walk to the end of it and you will find him. You
can have a brief talk. Bring the money in an envelope."

"On the lawn--at nine!" repeated the Senator in a dazed way.

"Yes. What better place could he choose? You see, he is willing to play
fair and be discreet. But, quick! I must have your answer. Time is
passing. Do you agree?"

"What is the alternative?"

"Capture, and a mad rage. Then others will share in his downfall."

"Very well. I'll be there. I'll not fail him, or you."

"He says it's his last request. He has some scheme----"

"Ah, his schemes! If only I could hope that this will be the end!"

"That is his promise."

The woman dropped the conversation abruptly. She darted through the
line of cars and made off in the direction of Sixth Avenue. Senator
Meiklejohn gazed after her dubiously, but her tall figure was soon lost
in the traffic. Then, with bent head, and evidently a prey to harassing
thoughts, he crossed Fifth Avenue.

Clancy sauntered after him, and saw him enter a block of residential
flats in a side street. Then the detective strolled back to the club.

Most of Van Hofen's guests had gone. The policeman grinned and muttered
in Clancy's ear:

"The Senator's a giddy guy. Two of 'em at wanst. Mrs. Tower's a
good-looker, but I didn't think much of the other wan."

Clancy nodded. His black and beady eyes had just clashed with those of a
notorious crook, who suddenly remembered an urgent appointment
elsewhere.

Fifteen minutes later Senator Meiklejohn returned. He entered the club
without being waylaid a second time. Clancy consulted his watch.

"Keep a sharp lookout here, Mac," he said, _sotto voce_. "While I was
away just now Broadway Jim showed up. He's got cold feet, and there'll
be nothing more doing to-night, I think. Anyhow, I'm going up-town."

In Fifth Avenue he boarded a Riverside Drive bus. The weather was mild,
and he mounted to the roof.

"Now, who in the world will Senator Meiklejohn meet on the
landing-stage?" he mused. "Seems to me the chief may be interested. Five
hundred dollars, too! I wonder!"



CHAPTER II

A DARING CRIME


It was no part of Detective Clancy's business to pry into the private
affairs of Senator Meiklejohn. Senators are awkward fish to handle,
being somewhat similar to whales caught in nets designed to capture
mackerel. But the Bureau is no respecter of persons. Men much higher up
in politics and finance than William Meiklejohn would be disagreeably
surprised if they could read certain details entered opposite their
names in the _dossiers_ kept by the police department. Still, it
behooved Clancy to tread warily.

As it happened, he was just the man for this self-imposed duty. Two
Celtic strains mingled in his blood, while American birth and training
had not only quickened his intelligence but imparted a quality of
wide-eyed shrewdness to a daring initiative. When he and the bluff
Steingall worked together the malefactor on whose heels they pressed had
a woeful time. As one blood-stained rascal put it in a bitter moment
before the electric chair claimed him for the expiation of his last and
worst crime:

"Them two guys give a reg'lar fellow no chanst. When they're trailin'
you every road leads straight to Sing Sing. The big guy has a punch like
Jess Willard, an' the lil 'un a nose like a Montana wolf."

It was Clancy's nose for the more subtle elements in crime which brought
him to the small châlet on the private pier at the foot of Eighty-sixth
Street that night. He could not guess what game he might flush, but he
was keen as a bloodhound in the chase.

Meanwhile, Senator Meiklejohn encountered Ronald Tower the moment he
re-entered the palatial club. By this time he seemed to have regained
his customary air of geniality, being one of those rather uncommon men
whose apparent characteristics are never so marked as when they are
acting a part.

"H'lo, Ronnie," he cried affably, "I met Helen as she left for the
theater. She has an inquiring mind, but I headed her off. By the way,
will you be at this luncheon to-morrow?"

"Not I," laughed Tower. "I'm barred. She says I have no head for
business, and some deep-laid plan for filling the family coffers is
in hand."

The Senator obviously disliked these outspoken references to
money-making. He squirmed, but smiled as though Tower had made an
excellent joke.

"Try and get the ukase lifted," he urged. "I want you to be there."

"Nothing doing," and the other grinned. "Helen says I resemble you in
everything but brain power, Senator. I'm a good-looker as a husband, but
a poor mutt in Wall Street."

They laughed at the conceit. The two men were curiously alike in face
and figure, though a close observer like Clancy would have classed them
as opposite as the poles in character and temperament. Meiklejohn's
features were cast in the stronger mold. They showed lines which Ronald
Tower's placid existence would never produce. The Senator was suave,
too. He seldom pressed a point to the limit.

"Helen's good opinion is doubly flattering," he said. "She is a bright
woman, and knows how to command her friends."

Tower glanced at a clock in the hall.

"Time we were off," he announced. "Come with me. I'm taking Johnny Bell,
I think."

"Sorry. I have an important letter to write. But I'll join before the
crowd cuts in."

The Senator hurried up-stairs. He must take the journey alone, and
snatch an opportunity to attend that mysterious rendezvous while the
_Sans Souci's_ gig was ferrying some of the bridge-players to
the yacht.

Owing to a slight misunderstanding Tower missed the other man, and
traveled alone in his car. On that trivial circumstance hinged events
which not only affected many lives but disturbed New York society more
than any other incident within a decade.

Few among the thousands of summer promenaders who enjoy the magnificent
panorama of the North River from the wooded heights of the Drive know of
the pier at Eighty-sixth Street. For one thing, the clubhouse itself is
an unpretentious structure; for another, the narrow and winding stairway
leading down the side of the cliff gives no indication of its specific
purpose. Moreover, a light foot-bridge across the tracks is hardly
noticeable through the screen of trees and shrubs above, and the
water-front lies yet fifty yards farther on.

At night the approach is not well lighted. In fact, no portion of the
beautiful and precipitous riparian park is more secluded than the short
stretch between the landing-stage and the busy thoroughfare on the
crest.

That evening, as has been seen, Mr. Van Hofen was taking no risks for
himself or his guests. A patrolman from the local precinct was stationed
at the iron-barred gate on the landward end of the foot-bridge.

Clancy, on descending from the bus, stood for a few seconds and surveyed
the scene. The night was dark and the sky overcast, but the myriad
lights on the New Jersey shore were reflected in the swift current of
the Hudson. The superb _Sans Souci_ was easily distinguishable. All her
ports were a-glow; lamps twinkled beneath the awnings on her after deck,
and a boarding light indicated the lowered gangway.

The yacht was moored about three hundred feet from the landing-stage.
Her graceful outlines were clearly discernible against the black, moving
plain of the river. Just in that spot shone her radiance, lending a
sense of opulence and security. For the rest, that part of New York's
great waterway was dim and impalpable.

Try as he might, the detective could see no small craft afloat. The
yacht's gig, waiting at the clubhouse, was hidden from view. He sped
rapidly down the steps, and found the patrolman.

"That you, Nolan?" he said.

The man peered at him.

"Oh, Mr. Clancy, is it?" he replied.

"You know Senator Meiklejohn by sight?"

"Sure I do."

"When he comes along hail him. Say 'Good evening, Senator.' I'll hear
you."

Clancy promptly moved off along the path which runs parallel with the
railway. Nolan, though puzzled, put no questions, being well aware he
would be told nothing more.

Three gentlemen came down the cliff, and crossed the bridge. One was Van
Hofen himself. Now, the fates had willed that Ronald Tower should come
next, and alone. He was hurrying. He had seen figures entering the club,
and wanted to join them in the gig.

The policeman made the same mistake as many others.

"Good evenin', Senator," he said.

Tower nodded and laughed. He had no time to correct the harmless
blunder. Even so, he was too late for the boat, which was already well
away from the stage when he reached it. He lighted a cigarette, and
strolled along the narrow terrace between river and lawn.

Clancy, on receiving his cue, followed Tower. An attendant challenged
him at the iron gate, but Nolan certified that this diminutive stranger
was "all right."

It was on the tip of the detective's tongue to ask if Mr. Meiklejohn had
gone into the clubhouse when he saw, as he imagined, the Senator's tall
form silhouetted against the vague carpet of the river; so he passed on,
and this minor incident contributed its quota to a tragic occurrence. He
heard some one behind him on the bridge, but paid no heed, his wits
being bent on noting anything that took place in the semi-obscurity of
the river's edge.

Meanwhile, the patrolman, encountering a double of Senator Meiklejohn,
was dumbfounded momentarily. He sought enlightenment from the attendant.

"An', for the love of Mike, who was the first wan?" he demanded, when
assured that the latest arrival was really the Senator.

"Mr. Ronald Tower," said the man. "They're like as two peas in a pod,
ain't they?"

Nolan muttered something. He, too, crossed the bridge, meaning to find
Clancy and explain his error. Thus, the four men were not widely
separated, but Tower led by half a minute--long enough, in fact, to be
at the north end of the terrace before Meiklejohn passed the gate.

There, greatly to his surprise, he looked down into a small motor-boat,
with two occupants, keeping close to the sloping wall. The craft and its
crew could have no reasonable business there. They suggested something
sinister and furtive. The engine was stopped, and one of the men,
huddled up in the bows, was holding the boat against the pull of the
tide by using a boathook as a punting pole.

Tower, though good-natured and unsuspicious, was naturally puzzled by
this apparition. He bent forward to examine it more definitely, and
rested his hands on a low railing. Then he was seen by those below.

"That you?" growled the second man, standing up suddenly.

"It is," said Tower, speaking with strict accuracy, and marveling now
who on earth could have arranged a meeting at such a place and in such
bizarre conditions.

"Well, here I am," came the gruff announcement. "The cops are after me.
Some one must have tipped them off. If it was you I'll get to know and
even things up, P. D. Q. Chew on that during the night's festivities, I
advise you. Brought that wad?"

Tower was the last man breathing to handle this queer situation
discreetly. He ought to have temporized, but he loathed anything in the
nature of vulgar or criminal intrigue. Being quick-tempered withal, if
deliberately insulted, he resented this fellow's crude speech.

"No," he cried hotly. "What you really want is a policeman, and there's
one close at hand--Hi! Officer!" he shouted: "Come here at once. There
are two rascals in a boat--"

Something swirled through the darkness, and his next word was choked in
a cry of mortal fear, for a lasso had fallen on his shoulders and was
drawn taut. Before he could as much as lift his hands he was dragged
bodily over the railing and headlong into the river.

Clancy, forced by circumstances to remain at a distance, could only
overhear Tower's share in the brief conversation. The tones in the voice
perplexed him, but the preconcerted element in the affair seemed to
offer proof positive that Senator Meiklejohn had kept his appointment.
He was just in time to see Tower's legs disappearing, and a loud splash
told what had happened. He was not armed. He never carried a revolver
unless the quest of the hour threatened danger or called for a display
of force. In a word, he was utterly powerless.

Senator Meiklejohn, alive to the vital fact that some one on the terrace
had discovered the boat, hung back dismayed. He was joined by Nolan, who
could not understand the sudden commotion.

"What's up?" Nolan asked. "Didn't some wan shout?"

Clancy, in all his experience of crime and criminals, had never before
encountered such an amazing combination of unforeseen conditions. The
boat's motor was already chugging breathlessly, and the small craft was
curving out into the gloom. He saw a man hauling in a rope from the
stern, and well did he know why the cord seemed to be attached to a
heavy weight. Not far away he made out the yacht's gig returning to the
stage.

"_Sans Souci_ ahoy!" he almost screamed. "Head off that launch!
There's murder done!"

It was a hopeless effort, of course, though the sailors obeyed
instantly, and bent to their oars. Soon they, too, vanished in the murk,
but, finding they were completely outpaced, came back seeking for
instructions which could not be given. The detective thought he was
bewitched when he ran into Senator Meiklejohn, pallid and trembling,
standing on the terrace with Nolan.

"You?" he shrieked in a shrill falsetto. "Then, in heaven's name, who is
the man who has just been pulled into the river?"

"Tower!" gasped the Senator. "Mr. Ronald Tower. They mistook him for
me."

"Faith, an' I did that same," muttered the patrolman, whose slow-moving
wits could assimilate only one thing at a time.

Clancy, afire with rage and a sense of inexplicable failure, realized
that Meiklejohn's admission and its now compulsory explanation could
wait a calmer moment. The club attendant, attracted by the hubbub, raced
to the lawn, and the detective tackled him.

"Isn't there a motor launch on the yacht?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, but it'll be all sheeted up on deck."

"Have you a megaphone?"

"Yes."

The man ran and grabbed the instrument from its hook, so Clancy bellowed
the alarming news to Mr. Van Hofen and the others already on board the
_Sans Souci_ that Ronald Tower had been dragged into the river and
probably murdered. But what could they do? The speedy rescue of Tower,
dead or alive, was simply impossible.

The gig arrived. Clancy stormed by telephone at a police station-house
and at the up-river station of the harbor police, but such vain efforts
were the mere necessities of officialdom. None knew better than he that
an extraordinary crime had been carried through under his very eyes, yet
its daring perpetrators had escaped, and he could supply no description
of their appearance to the men who would watch the neighboring ferries
and wharves.

Van Hofen and his friends, startled and grieved, came ashore in the gig,
and Clancy was striving to give them some account of the tragedy without
revealing its inner significance when his roving glance missed
Meiklejohn from the distraught group of men.

"Where is the Senator?" he cried, turning on the gaping Nolan.

"Gee, he's knocked out," said the policeman. "He axed me to tell you
he'd gone down-town. Ye see, some wan has to find Mrs. Tower."

Clancy's black eyes glittered with fury, yet he spoke no word. A blank
silence fell on the rest. They had not thought of the bereaved wife, but
Meiklejohn had remembered. That was kind of him. The Senator always did
the right thing. And how he must be suffering! The Towers were his
closest friends!



CHAPTER III.

WINIFRED BARTLETT HEARS SOMETHING


Early next morning a girl attired in a neat but inexpensive costume
entered Central Park by the One Hundred and Second Street gate, and
walked swiftly by a winding path to the exit on the west side at One
Hundredth Street.

She moved with the easy swing of one to whom walking was a pleasure.
Without hurry or apparent effort her even, rapid strides brought her
along at a pace of fully four miles an hour. And an hour was exactly the
time Winifred Bartlett needed if she would carry out her daily program,
which, when conditions permitted, involved a four-mile detour by way of
Riverside Drive and Seventy-second Street to the Ninth Avenue "L." This
morning she had actually ten minutes in hand, and promised herself an
added treat in making little pauses at her favorite view-points on the
Hudson.

To gain this hour's freedom Winifred had to practise some harmless
duplicity, as shall be seen. She was obliged to rise long before the
rest of her fellow-workers in the bookbinding factory of Messrs. Brown,
Son & Brown, an establishment located in the least inviting part of
Greenwich Village.

But she went early to bed, and the beams of the morning sun drew her
forth as a linnet from its nest. Unless the weather was absolutely
prohibitive she took the walk every day, for she revelled in the
ever-changing tints of the trees, the music of the songbirds, and the
gambols of the squirrels in the park, while the broad highway of the
river, leading to and from she hardly knew what enchanted lands, brought
vague dreams of some delightful future where daily toil would not claim
her and she might be as those other girls of the outer world to whom
existence seemed such a joyous thing.

Winifred was not discontented with her lot--the ichor of youth and good
health flowed too strongly in her veins. But at times she was bewildered
by a sense of aloofness from the rest of humanity.

Above all did she suffer from the girls she met in the warehouse.
Some were coarse, nearly every one was frivolous. Their talk, their
thinly-veiled allusions to a night life in which she bore no part,
puzzled and disturbed her. True, the wild revels of which they boasted
did not sound either marvelous or attractive when analyzed. A couple of
hours at the movies, a frolic in a dance hall, a quarrel about some
youthful gallant, violent fluctuations from arm-laced friendship to
sparkling-eyed hatred and back again to tears and kisses--these joys
and cankers formed the limited gamut of their emotions.

For all that, Winifred could not help asking herself with ever
increasing insistence why she alone, among a crude, noisy sisterhood of
a hundred young women of her own age, should be with them yet not of
them. She realized that her education fitted her for a higher place in
the army of New York workers than a bookbinder's bench. She could soon
have acquired proficiency as a stenographer. Pleasant, well-paid
situations abounded in the stores and wholesale houses. There was even
some alluring profession called "the stage," where a girl might actually
earn a living by singing and dancing, and Winifred could certainly sing
and was certain she could dance if taught.

What queer trick of fate, then, had brought her to Brown, Son & Brown's
in the spring of that year, and kept her there? She could not tell. She
could not even guess why she dwelt so far up-town, while every other
girl in the establishment had a home either in or near Greenwich
Village.

Heigho! Life was a riddle. Surely some day she would solve it.

Her mind ran on this problem more strongly than usual that morning.
Still pondering it, she diverged for a moment at the Soldiers' and
Sailors' Monument, and stood on the stone terrace which commands such a
magnificent stretch of the silvery Hudson, with the green heights of the
New Jersey shore directly opposite, and the Palisades rearing their
lofty crests away to the north.

Suddenly she became aware that a small group of men had gathered there,
and were displaying a lively interest in two motor boats on the river.
Something out of the common had stirred them; voices were loud and
gestures animated.

"Look!" said one, "they've gotten that boat!"

"You can't be sure," doubted another, though his manner showed that he
wanted only to be convinced.

"D'ye think a police launch 'ud be foolin' around with a tow at this
time o' day if it wasn't something special?" persisted the first
speaker. "Can't yer see it's empty? There's a cop pointin' now to the
clubhouse."

"Good for you," pronounced the doubtful one. The pointing cop had
clinched the argument.

"An' they're headin' that way," came the cry.

Off raced the men. Winifred found that people on top of motor-omnibuses
scurrying down-town were also watching the two craft. Opposite the end
of Eighty-sixth Street such a crowd assembled as though by magic that
she could not see over the railings. She could not imagine why people
should be so worked up by the mere finding of an empty boat. She heard
allusions to names, but they evoked no echo in her mind. At last,
approaching a girl among the sightseers, she put a timid question:

"Can you tell me what is the matter?" she said.

"They've found the boat," came the ready answer.

"Yes, but what boat? Why any boat?"

"Haven't you read about the murder last night. Mr. Van Hofen, who owns
that yacht there, the _San Sowsy_, had a party of friends on board, an'
one of 'em was dragged into the river an' drowned. Nice goin's on. _San
Sowsy_--it's a good name for the whole bunch, I guess."

Winifred did not understand why the girl laughed.

"What a terrible thing!" she said. "Perhaps it was only an accident;
and sad enough at that if some poor man lost his life."

"Oh, no. It's a murder right enough. The papers are full of it. I was
walkin' here at nine o'clock with a fellow. It might ha' been done under
me very nose. What d'ye know about that?"

"It's very sad," repeated Winifred. "Such dreadful things seem to be
almost impossible under this blue sky and in bright sunshine. Even the
river does not look cruel."

She went on, having no time for further dawdling. Her informant glanced
after her curiously, for Winifred's cheap clothing and worn shoes were
oddly at variance with her voice and manner.

At Seventy-second Street Winifred bought a newspaper, which she read
instead of the tiny volume of Browning's poems carried in her hand-bag.
She always contrived to have a book or periodical for the train
journeys, since men had a way of catching her eye when she glanced
around thoughtlessly, and such incidents were annoying. She soon learned
the main details of "The Yacht Mystery." The account of Ronald Tower's
dramatic end was substantially accurate. It contained, of course, no
allusion to Senator Meiklejohn's singular connection with the affair,
but Clancy had taken care that a disturbing paragraph should appear
with the rest of a lurid write-up.

"Sinister rumors are current in clubland," read Winifred. "These warrant
the belief that others beside the thugs in the boat are implicated in
the tragedy. Indeed, it is whispered that a man high in the political
world can, if he chooses, throw light on what is, at this writing, an
inexplicable crime, a crime which would be incredible if it had not
actually taken place."

The reporter did not know, and Clancy did not tell him, just what this
innuendo meant. The detective was anxious that Senator Meiklejohn should
realize the folly of refusing all information to the authorities, and
this thinly-veiled threat of publicity was one way of bringing him to
his senses.

Winifred had never before come into touch, so to speak, with any deed of
criminal violence. She was so absorbed in the story of the junketing at
a fashionable club, with its astounding sequel in a locality familiar to
her eyes, that she hardly noticed a delay on the line.

She did not even know that she would be ten minutes late until she saw
a clock at Fourteenth Street. Then she raced to the door of a big,
many-storied building. A timekeeper shook his head at her, but, punctual
as a rule, on wet mornings she was invariably the first to arrive, so
the watch-dog compromised on the give-and-take principle. When she
emerged from the elevator at the ninth floor her cheeks were still
suffused with color, her eyes were alight, her lips parted under the
spell of excitement and haste. In a word, she looked positively
bewitching.

Two people evidently took this view of her as she advanced into the
workroom after hanging up her hat and coat.

"You're late again, Bartlett," snapped Miss Agatha Sugg, a forewoman,
whose initials suggested an obvious nickname among the set of flippant
girls she ruled with a severity that was also ungracious. "I'll not
speak to you any more on the matter. Next time you'll be fired. See?"

Winifred's high color fled before this dire threat. Even the few dollars
a week she earned by binding books was essential to the up-keep of her
home. At any rate this fact was dinned into her ears constantly, and
formed a ready argument against any change of employment.

"I'm sorry, Miss Sugg," she stammered. "I didn't think I had lost any
time. Indeed, I started out earlier than usual."

"Rubbish!" snorted Miss Sugg. "What're givin' me? It's a fine day."

"Yes," said Winifred timidly, "but unfortunately I stopped a while on
Riverside Drive to watch the police bringing in the boat from which Mr.
Tower was mur--pulled into the river last night."

"Riverside Drive!" snapped the forewoman. "Your address is East One
Hundred and Twelfth Street, ain't it? What were you doing on Riverside
Drive?"

"I walk that way every morning unless it is raining."

Miss Sugg looked incredulous, but felt that she was traveling outside
her own territory.

"Anyhow," she said, "that's your affair, not mine, an' it's no excuse
for bein' late."

"Oh, come now," intervened a man's voice, "this young lady is not so far
behind time as to cause such a row. She can pull out a bit and make up
for it."

Miss Sugg wheeled wrathfully to find Mr. Fowle, manager on that floor,
gazing at Winifred with marked approval. Fowle, a shifty-eyed man of
thirty, compactly built, and somewhat of a dandy, seldom gave heed to
any of the girls employed by Brown, Son & Brown. His benevolent attitude
toward Winifred was a new departure.

"Young lady!" gasped the forewoman. She was in such a temper that other
words failed.

"Yes, she isn't an old one," smirked Fowle. "That's all right, Miss
Bartlett, get on with your work. Miss Sugg's bark is worse than her
bite."

Though he had poured oil on the troubled waters his air was not
altogether reassuring. Winifred went to her bench in a flurry of
trepidation. She dreaded the vixenish Miss Sugg less than the too
complaisant manager. Somehow, she fancied that he would soon speak to
her again; when, a few minutes later, he drew near, and she felt rather
than saw that he was staring at her boldly, she flushed to the nape of
her graceful neck.

Yet he put a quite orthodox question.

"Did I get your story right when you came in?" he said. "I think you
told Miss Sugg that the harbor police had picked up the motor-boat in
that yacht case."

"So I heard," said Winifred. She was in charge of a wire-stitching
machine, and her deft fingers were busy. Moreover, she was resolved not
to give Fowle any pretext for prolonging the conversation.

"Who told you?"

The manager's tone grew a trifle less cordial. He was not accustomed to
being held at arm's length by any young woman in the establishment whom
he condescended to notice.

"I really don't know," and Winifred began placing her array of work in
sorted piles. "Indeed, I spoke carelessly. No one told me. I saw a
commotion on Riverside Drive, and heard a man arguing with others that a
boat then being towed by a police launch must be the missing one."

Fowle's whiff of annoyance had passed. He had jumped to the conclusion
that such an extremely pretty girl would surely own a sweetheart who
escorted her to and from work each day. He did not suspect that every
junior clerk downstairs had in turn offered his services in this regard,
but with such lack of success that each would-be suitor deemed Winifred
conceited.

"I wish I had been there," he said. "Do you go home the same way?"

"No."

Winifred was aware that the other girls were watching her furtively and
exchanging meaning looks.

"You take the Third Avenue L, I suppose?" persisted Fowle. Then Winifred
faced him squarely. For some reason her temper got the better of her.

"It is a house rule, Mr. Fowle," she said, "that the girls are forbidden
to talk during working hours."

"Nonsense," laughed Fowle. "I'm in charge here, an' what I say goes."

He left her, however, and busied himself elsewhere. Apparently, he was
even forgiving enough to call Miss Sugg out of the room and detain her
all the rest of the morning.

Winifred was promptly rallied by some of her companions.

"I must say this for you, Winnie Bartlett, you don't think you're the
whole shootin' match," said a stout, red-faced creature, who would have
been more at home on a farm than in a New York warehouse, "but it gets
my goat when you hand the mustard to Fowle in that way. If he made
goo-goo eyes at me, I'd play, too."

"I wish little Carlotta was a blue-eyed, golden-haired queen," sighed
another, a squat Neapolitan with the complexion of a Moor. "She's give
Fowle a chance to dig into his pocketbook, believe me."

The youthful philosopher won a chorus of approval. All the girls liked
Winifred. They even tacitly admitted that she belonged to a different
order, and seldom teased her. Fowle's obvious admiration, however,
imposed too severe a strain, and their tongues ran freely.

The luncheon-hour came, and Winifred hurried out with the others. They
patronized a restaurant in Fourteenth Street. At a news-stand she
purchased an evening paper, a rare event, since she had to account for
every cent of expenditure. Though allowed books, she was absolutely
forbidden newspapers!

But this forlorn girl, who knew so little of the great city in whose
life she was such an insignificant item, felt oddly concerned in "The
Yacht Mystery." It was the first noteworthy event of which she had even
a remote first-hand knowledge. That empty launch, its very abandonment
suggesting eeriness and fatality, was a tangible thing. Was she not one
of the few who had literally seen it? So she invested her penny, and
after reading of the discovery of the boat--it was found moored to a
wharf at the foot of Fort Lee--breathlessly read:

     As the outcome of information given by a well-known Senator,
     the police have obtained an important clue which leads
     straight to a house in One Hundred and Twelfth Street.

"Well," mused Winifred, wide-eyed with astonishment. "Fancy that! The
very street where I live!"

She read on:

     The arrest of at least one person, a woman, suspected of
     complicity in the crime may occur at any moment. Detectives
     are convinced that the trail of the murderers will soon be
     clearer.

     Every effort is being made to recover Mr. Tower's body, which,
     it is conceivable, may have been weighted and sunk in the
     river near the spot where the boat was tied.

Winifred gave more attention to the newspaper report than to her frugal
meal. Resolving, however, that Miss Sugg should have no further cause
for complaint that day, she returned to the factory five minutes before
time. An automobile was standing outside the entrance, but she paid no
heed to it.

The checker tapped at his little window as she passed.

"The boss wants you," he said.

"Me!" she cried. Her heart sank. Between Miss Sugg and Mr. Fowle she had
already probably lost her situation!

"Yep," said the man. "You're Winifred Bartlett, I guess. Anyhow, if
there's another peach like you in the bunch I haven't seen her."

She bit her lip and tears trembled in her eyes. Perhaps the gruff
Cerberus behind the window sympathized with her. He lowered his voice to
a hoarse whisper: "There's a cop in there, an' a 'tec,' too."

Winifred was startled out of her forebodings.

"They cannot want me!" she said amazedly.

"You never can tell, girlie. Queer jinks happen sometimes. I wouldn't
bat an eyelid if they rounded up the boss hisself."

She was sure now that some stupid mistake had been made. At any rate,
she no longer dreaded dismissal, and the first intuition of impending
calamity yielded to a nervous curiosity as she pushed open a door
leading to the general office.



CHAPTER IV

FURTHER SURPRISES


A clerk, one of the would-be swains who had met with chilling
discouragement after working-hours, was evidently on the lookout for
her. An ignoble soul prompted a smirk of triumph now.

"Go straight in," he said, jerking a thumb. "A cop's waitin' for you."

Winifred did not vouchsafe him even an indignant glance. Holding her
head high, she passed through the main office, and made for a door
marked "Manager." She knocked, and was admitted by Mr. Fowle. Grouped
around a table she saw one of the members of the firm, the manager, a
policeman, and a dapper little man, slight of figure, who held himself
very erect. He was dressed in blue serge, and had the ivory-white
face and wrinkled skin of an actor. She was conscious at once of the
penetration of his glance. His eyes were black and luminous. They
seemed to pierce her with an X-ray quality of comprehension.

"This is the girl," announced Mr. Fowle deferentially.

The little man in the blue suit took the lead forthwith.

"You are Winifred Bartlett?" he said, and by some subtle inter-flow of
magnetism Winifred knew instantly that she had nothing to fear from this
diminutive stranger.

"Yes," she replied, looking at him squarely.

"You live in East One Hundred and Twelfth Street?"

"Yes."

"With a woman described as your aunt, and known as Miss Rachel Craik?"

"Yes."

Each affirmative marked a musical crescendo. Especially was Winifred
surprised by the sceptical description of her only recognized relative.

"Well," went on Clancy, suppressing a smile at the girl's naïve
astonishment, "don't be alarmed, but I want you to come with me to
Mulberry Street."

Now, Winifred had just been reading about certain activities in Mulberry
Street, and her eyebrows rounded in real amazement.

"Isn't that the Police Headquarters?" she asked.

Fowle chuckled, whereupon Clancy said pleasantly:

"Yes. One man here seems to know the address quite intimately. But that
fact need not set your heart fluttering. The chief of the Detective
Bureau wishes to put a few questions. That is all."

"Questions about what?"

Winifred's natural dignity came to her aid. She refused to have this
grave matter treated as a joke.

"Take my advice, Miss Bartlett, and don't discuss things further until
you have met Mr. Steingall," said Clancy.

"But I have never even heard of Mr. Steingall," she protested. "What
right have you or he to take me away from my work to a police-station?
What wrong have I done to any one?"

"None, I believe."

"Surely I have a right to some explanation."

"If you insist I am bound to answer."

"Then I do insist," and Winifred's heightened color and wrathful eyes
only enhanced her beauty. Clancy spread his hands in a gesture inherited
from a French mother.

"Very well," he said. "You are required to give evidence concerning the
death of Mr. Ronald Tower. Now, I cannot say any more. I have a car
outside. You will be detained less than an hour. The same car will bring
you back, and I think I can guarantee that your employers will raise no
difficulty."

The head of the firm growled agreement. As a matter of fact the staid
respectability of Brown, Son & Brown had sustained a shock by the mere
presence of the police. Murder has an ugly aspect. It was often bound up
in the firm's products, but never before had it entered that temple of
efficiency in other guise.

Clancy sensed the slow fermentation of the pharisaical mind.

"If I had known what sort of girl this was I would never have brought a
policeman," he muttered into the great man's ear. "She has no more to do
with this affair than you have."

"It is very annoying--very," was the peevish reply.

"What is? Assisting the police?"

"Oh, no. Didn't mean that, of course."

The detective thought he might do more harm than good by pressing for a
definition of the firm's annoyance. He turned to Winifred.

"Are you ready, Miss Bartlett?" he said. "The only reason the Bureau has
for troubling you is the accident of your address."

Almost before the girl realized the new and astounding conditions which
had come into her life she was seated in a closed automobile and
speeding swiftly down-town.

She was feminine enough, however, to ply Clancy with questions, and he
had to fence with her, as it was all-important that such information as
she might be able to give should be imparted when he and Steingall could
observe her closely. The Bureau hugged no delusions. Its vast experience
of the criminal world rendered misplaced sympathy with erring mortals
almost impossible. Young or old, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, the
strange procession which passes in unending review before the police
authorities is subjected to impartial yet searching analysis. Few of the
guilty ones escape suspicion, no matter how slight the connecting clue
or scanty the evidence. On the other hand, Steingall and his trusty aid
seldom made a mistake when they decided, as Clancy had already done in
Winifred's case, that real innocence had come under the shadow of crime.

Steingall shared Clancy's opinion the instant he set eyes on the new
witness. He gazed at her with a humorous dismay that was wholly genuine.

"Sit there, Miss Bartlett," he said, rising to place a chair for her.
"Please don't feel nervous. I am sure you understand that only those who
have broken the law need fear it. Now, _you_ haven't killed anybody,
have you?"

Winifred smiled. She liked this big man's kindly manner. Really, the
police were not such terrifying ogres when you came to close quarters
with them.

"No, indeed," she said, little guessing that Clancy had indulged in a
Japanese grimace behind her back, thereby informing his chief that "The
Yacht Mystery" was still maintaining its claim to figure as one of the
most sensational crimes the Bureau had investigated during many a year.

Steingall, wishing to put the girl wholly at ease, affected to consult
some notes on his desk, but Winifred was too wrought up to keep silent.

"The gentleman who brought me here told me that I would be required to
give evidence concerning the murder of Mr. Ronald Tower," she said.
"Believe me, sir, that unfortunate gentleman's name was unknown to me
before I read it in this morning's paper. I have no knowledge of the
manner of his death other than is contained in the account printed here
in this newspaper."

She proffered the newspaper purchased before lunch, which she still held
in her left hand. The impulsive action broadened Steingall's smile. He
was still utterly at a loss to account for this well-mannered girl's
queer environment.

"Why," he cried, "I quite understand that. Mr. Clancy didn't tell you we
regarded you as a desperate crook, did he?"

Winifred yielded to the chief's obvious desire to lift their talk out of
the rut of formality. She could not help being interested in these two
men, so dissimilar in their characteristics, yet each so utterly unlike
the somewhat awesome personage she would have sketched if asked to
define her idea of a "detective." Clancy, who had taken a chair at the
side of the table, sat on it as though he were an automaton built of
steel springs and ready to bounce instantly in any given direction.
Steingall's huge bulk lolled back indolently. He had been smoking when
the others entered, and a half-consumed cigar lay on an ash-tray.
Winifred thought it would be rather amusing if she, in turn, made things
comfortable.

"Please don't put away your cigar on my account," she said. "I like the
smell of good tobacco."

"Ha!" cackled Clancy.

"Thank you," said Steingall, tucking the Havana into a corner of his
mouth. The two men exchanged glances, and Winifred smiled. Steingall's
look of tolerant contempt at his assistant was distinctly amusing.

"That little shrimp can't smoke, Miss Bartlett," he explained, "so he is
an anti-tobacco maniac."

"You wouldn't care to take poison, would you?" and Clancy shot the words
at Winifred so sharply that she was almost startled.

"No. Of course not," she agreed.

"Yet that is what that mountain of brawn does during fourteen hours out
of the twenty-four. Nicotine is one of the deadliest poisons known to
science. Even when absorbed into the tissues in minute doses it corrodes
the brain and atrophies the intellect. Did you see how he grinned when
you described that vile weed as 'good tobacco'? Now, you don't know
good, meaning real, tobacco from bad, do you?"

"I know whether or not I like the scent of it," persisted Winifred. She
began to think that officialdom in Mulberry Street affected the methods
of the court circles frequented by Alice and the Mad Hatter.

"Don't mind him," put in Steingall genially. "He's a living example of
the close alliance between insanity and genius. On the tobacco question
he's simply cracked, and that is all there is to it. Now we're wasting
your time by this chatter. I'll come to serious business by asking a
question which you will not find embarrassing for a good many years yet
to come. How old are you?"

"Nineteen last birthday."

"When were you born?"

"On June 6, 1894."

"And where?"

Winifred reddened slightly.

"I don't know," she said.

"What?"

Steingall seemed to be immensely surprised, and Winifred proceeded
forthwith to throw light on this singular admission, which was exactly
what he meant her to do.

"That is a very odd statement, but it is quite true," she said
earnestly. "My aunt would never tell me where I was born. I believe it
was somewhere in the New England States, but I have only the vaguest
grounds for the opinion. What I mean is that aunty occasionally reveals
a close familiarity with Boston and Vermont."

"What is her full name?"

"Rachel Craik."

"She has never been married?"

Winifred's sense of humor was keen. She laughed at the idea of "Aunt
Rachel" having a husband.

"I don't think aunty will ever marry anybody now," she said. "She holds
the opposite sex in detestation. No man is ever admitted to our house."

"It is a small, old-fashioned residence, but very large for the
requirements of two women?" continued Steingall. He took no notes, and
might have been discussing the weather, now that the first whiff of
wonderment as to Winifred's lack of information about her birth-place
had passed.

"Yes. We have several rooms unoccupied."

"And unfurnished?"

"Say partly furnished."

"Ever had any boarders?"

"No."

"No servants, of course?"

"No."

"And how long have you been employed in Messrs. Brown, Son & Brown's
bookbinding department?"

"About six months."

"What do you earn?"

"Eight dollars a week."

"Is that the average amount paid to the other girls?"

"Slightly above the average. I am supposed to be quick and accurate."

"Well now, Miss Bartlett, you seem to be a very intelligent and
well-educated young woman. How comes it that you are employed in such
work?"

"It was the best I could find," she volunteered.

"No doubt. But you must be well aware that few, if any, among the girls
in the bookbinding business can be your equal in education, and, may I
add, in refinement. Now, if you were a bookkeeper, a cashier or a
typist, I could understand it; but it does seem odd to me that you
should be engaged in this kind of job."

"It was my aunt's wish," said Winifred simply.

"Ah!"

Steingall dwelt on the monosyllable.

"What reason did she give for such a singular choice?" he went on.

"I confess it has puzzled me," was the unaffected answer. "Although
aunty is severe in her manner she is well educated, and she taught me
nearly all I know, except music and singing, for which I took lessons
from Signor Pecci ever since I was a tiny mite until about two years
ago. Then, I believe, aunty lost a good deal of money, and it became
necessary that I should earn something. Signor Pecci offered to get me a
position in a theater, but she would not hear of it, nor would she allow
me to enter a shop or a restaurant. Really, it was aunty who got me work
with Messrs. Brown, Son & Brown."

"In other words," said Steingall, "you were deliberately reared to fill
a higher social station, and then, for no assignable reason, save a
whim, compelled to sink to a much lower level?"

"I do not know. I never disputed aunty's right to do what she thought
best."

"Well, well, it is odd. Do you ever entertain any visitors?"

"None whatever. We have no acquaintances, and live very quietly."

"Do you mean to say that your aunt never sees any one but yourself and
casual callers, such as tradespeople?"

"So far as I know, that is absolutely the case."

"Very curious," commented Steingall. "Does your aunt go out much?"

"She leaves the house occasionally after I have gone to bed at ten
o'clock, but that is seldom, and I have no idea where she goes. Every
week-day, you know, I am away from home between seven in the morning and
half past six at night, excepting Saturday afternoons. If possible, I
take a long walk before going to work."

"Do you go straight home?"

Winifred remembered Mr. Fowle's query, and smiled again.

"Yes," she said.

"Now last night, for instance, was your aunt at home when you reached
the house?"

"No; she was out. She did not come in until half past nine."

"Did she go out again last night?"

"I do not know. I was tired. I went to bed rather early."

Steingall bent over his notes for the first time since Winifred
appeared. His lips were pursed, and he seemed to be weighing certain
facts gravely.

"I think," he said at last, "that I need not detain you any longer,
Miss Bartlett. By the way, I'll give you a note to your employers to say
that you are in no way connected with the crime we have under
investigation. It may, perhaps, save you needless annoyance."

"Thank you, sir," said the girl. "But won't you tell me why you have
asked me so many questions about my aunt and her ways?"

Steingall looked at her thoughtfully before he answered: "In the first
place, Miss Bartlett, tell me this. I assume Miss Craik is your mother's
sister. When did your mother die?"

Winifred blushed with almost childish discomfiture. "It may seem very
stupid to say such a thing," she admitted, "but I have never known
either a father or a mother. My aunt has always refused to discuss our
family affairs in any way whatever. I fear her view is that I am
somewhat lucky to be alive at all."

"Few people would be found to agree with her," said the chief gallantly.
"Now I want you to be brave and patient. A very extraordinary crime has
been committed, and the police occasionally find clues in the most
unexpected quarters. I regret to tell you that Miss Craik is believed to
be in some way connected with the mysterious disappearance, if not the
death, of Mr. Ronald Tower, and she is being held for further
inquiries."

Winifred's face blanched. "Do you mean that she will be kept in prison?"
she said, with a break in her voice.

"She must be detained for a while, but you need not be so alarmed. Her
connection with this outrage may be as harmless as your own, though I
can inform you that, without your knowledge, your house last night
certainly sheltered two men under grave suspicion, and for whom we are
now searching."

"Two men! In our house!" cried the amazed girl.

"Yes. I tell you this to show you the necessity there is for calmness
and reticence on your part. Don't speak to any one concerning your visit
here. Above all else, don't be afraid. Have you any one with whom you
can go to live until Miss Craik is"--he corrected himself--"until
matters are cleared up a bit?"

"No," wailed Winifred, her pent-up feelings breaking through all
restraint. "I am quite alone in the world now."

"Come, come, cheer up!" said Steingall, rising and patting her on the
shoulder. "This disagreeable business may only last a day or two. You
will not want for anything. If you are in any trouble all you need do is
to let me know. Moreover, to save you from being afraid of remaining
alone in the house at night, I'll give special instructions to the
police in your precinct to watch the place closely. Now, be a brave
girl and make the best of it."

The house in One Hundred and Twelfth Street would, of course, be an
object of special interest to the police for other reasons apart from
those suggested by the chief. Nevertheless, his kindness had the desired
effect, and Winifred strove to repress her tears.

"Here is your note," he said, "and I advise you to forget this temporary
trouble in your work. Mr. Clancy will accompany you in the car if you
wish."

"Please--I would rather be alone," she faltered. She was far from
Mulberry Street before she remembered that she had said nothing about
seeing the boat that morning!



CHAPTER V

PERSECUTORS


During the brief run up-town Winifred managed to dry her tears, yet the
mystery and terror of the circumstances into which she was so suddenly
plunged seemed to become more distressful the longer she puzzled over
them. She could not find any outlet from a labyrinth of doubt and
uncertainty. She strove again to read the printed accounts of the crime,
in order to wrest from them some explanation of the extraordinary charge
brought against her aunt, but the words danced before her eyes. At last,
with an effort, she threw the paper away and bravely resolved to follow
Steingall's parting advice.

When she reached the warehouse she was naturally the object of much
covert observation. Neither Miss Sugg nor Mr. Fowle spoke to her, but
Winifred thought she saw a malicious smile on the forewoman's face. The
hours passed wearily until six o'clock. She was about to quit the
building with her companions--many of whom meant bombarding her with
questions at the first opportunity--when she was again requested to
report at the office.

A clerk handed her one of the firm's pay envelopes.

"What's comin' to you up to date," he blurted out, "and a week's salary
instead of notice."

She was dismissed!

Some girls might have collapsed under this final blow, but not so
Winifred Bartlett. Knowing it was useless to say anything to the clerk,
she spiritedly demanded an interview with the manager. This was refused.
She insisted, and sent Steingall's letter to the inner sanctum, having
concluded that the dismissal was in some way due to her visit to the
detective bureau.

The clerk came back with the note and a message: "The firm desire me to
tell you," he said, "that they quite accept your explanation, but they
have no further need of your services."

Explanation! How could a humble employee explain away the unsavory fact
that the smug respectability of Brown, Son & Brown had been outraged by
the name of the firm appearing in the evening papers as connected, even
in the remotest way, with the sensational crime now engaging the
attention of all New York?

Winifred walked into the street. Something in her face warned even the
most inquisitive of her fellow-workers to leave her alone. Besides, the
poor always evince a lively sympathy with others in misfortune. These
working-class girls were consumed with curiosity, yet they respected
Winifred's feelings, and did not seek to intrude on her very apparent
misery by inquiry or sympathetic condolence. A few among them watched,
and even followed her a little way as she turned the corner into
Fourteenth Street.

"She goes home by the Third Avenue L," said Carlotta. "Sometimes I've
walked with her that far. H'lo! Why's Fowle goin' east in a taxi! He
lives on West Seventeenth. Betcher a dime he's after Winnie."

"Whadda ya mean--after her?" cried another girl.

"Why, didn't you hear how he spoke up for her this mornin' when Ole
Mother Sugg handed her the lemon about bein' late?"

"But he got her fired."

"G'wan!"

"He did, I tell you. I heard him phonin' a newspaper. He made 'em wise
about Winnie's bein' pinched, and then took the paper to the boss. I was
below with a packin' check when he went in, so I saw that with my own
eyes, an' that's just as far as I'd trust Fowle."

The cynic's shrewd surmise was strictly accurate. Fowle had, indeed,
secured Winifred's dismissal. Her beauty and disdain had stirred his
lewd impulses to their depths. His plan now was to intercept her before
she reached her home, and pose as the friend in need who is the most
welcome of all friends. Knowing nothing whatsoever of her domestic
surroundings he deemed it advisable to make inquiries on the spot. His
crafty and vulpine nature warned him against running his head into a
noose, since Winifred might own a strong-armed father or brother, but no
one could possibly resent a well-meant effort at assistance.

The mere sight of her graceful figure as she hurried along with pale
face and downcast eyes inflamed him anew when his taxi sped by. She
could not avoid him now. He would go up-town by an earlier train, and
await her at the corner of One Hundred and Twelfth Street.

But the wariest fox is apt to find his paw in a trap, and Fowle, though
foxy, was by no means so astute as he imagined himself. Once again that
day Fate was preparing a surprise for Winifred, and not the least
dramatic feature thereof connoted the utter frustration and undoing of
Fowle.

About the time that Winifred caught her train it befell that Rex
Carshaw, gentleman of leisure, the most industrious idler who ever
extracted dividends from a business he cared little about, drove a
high-powered car across the Harlem River by the Willis Avenue Bridge,
and entered that part of Manhattan which lies opposite Randall's Island.

This was a new world to the eyes of the young millionaire. Nor was it
much to his liking. The mixed citizenry of New York must live somewhere,
but Carshaw saw no reason why he and his dainty car should loiter in a
district which seemed highly popular with all sorts of undesirable
folks; so, after skirting Thomas Jefferson Park he turned west, meaning
to reach the better roadway and more open stretches of Fifth Avenue.

A too hasty express wagon, however, heedless of the convenience of
wealthy automobilists, bore down on Carshaw like a Juggernaut car, and
straightway smashed the differential, besides inflicting other grievous
injuries on a complex mechanism. A policeman, the proprietor of a
neighboring garage, and a greatly interested crowd provided an impromptu
jury for the dispute between Carshaw and the express man.

The latter put up a poor case. It consisted almost entirely of the
bitter and oft-repeated plaint:

"What was a car like that doin' here, anyhow?"

The question sounded foolish. It was nothing of the kind. Only the
Goddess of Wisdom could have answered it, and she, being invisible, was
necessarily dumb.

At last, when the damaged car was housed for the night, Carshaw set out
to walk a couple of blocks to the elevated railway, his main objective
being dinner with his mother in their apartment on Madison Avenue. He
found himself in a comparatively quiet street, wherein blocks of cheap
modern flats alternated with the dingy middle-class houses of a by-gone
generation. He halted to light a cigarette, and, at that moment, a girl
of remarkable beauty passed, walking quickly, yet without apparent
effort. She was pallid and agitated, and her eyes were swimming with
ill-repressed tears.

As a matter of fact, Winifred nearly broke down at sight of her empty
abode. It was a cheerless place at best, and now the thought of being
left there alone had induced a sense of feminine helplessness which
overcame her utterly.

Carshaw was distinctly impressed. In the first place, he was young and
good-looking, and human enough to try and steal a second glance at such
a lovely face, though the steadily decreasing light was not altogether
favorable. Secondly, he thought he had never seen any girl who carried
herself with such rhythmic grace. Thirdly, here was a woman in distress,
and, to one of Carshaw's temperament and upbringing, that in itself
formed a convincing reason why he should wish to help her.

He racked his brain for a fitting excuse to offer his services. He could
find none. Above all else, Rex Carshaw was a gentleman.

Of course, he could not tell that the way was being made smooth for
knight-errantry by a certain dragon named Fowle. He did not even quicken
his pace, and was musing on the curious incongruity of the maid in
distress with the rather squalid district in which she had her being
when he saw a man bar her path.

This was Fowle, who, with lifted hat, was saying deferentially: "Miss
Bartlett, may I have a word?"

Winifred stopped as though she had run into an unseen obstruction. She
even recoiled a step or two.

"What do you want?" she said, and there was a quality of scorn, perhaps
of fear, in her voice that sent Carshaw, now five yards away, into the
open doorway of a block of flats. He was an impulsive young man. He
liked the girl's face, and quite as fixedly disliked Fowle's. So he
adopted the now world-famous policy of watchful waiting, being not
devoid of a dim belief that the situation might evolve an overt act.

"I want to tell you how sorry I am for what happened to-day," said
Fowle, trying to speak sympathetically, but not troubling to veil the
bold admiration of his stare. "I tried hard to stop unpleasantness, and
even risked a row with the boss. But it was no use. I couldn't do a
thing."

"But why are you here?" demanded Winifred, and those sorrow-laden eyes
of hers might have won pity from any but one of Fowle's order.

"To help, of course," came the ready assurance. "I can get you a far
better job than stitchin' octavos at Brown's. You're not meanin' to stay
home with your folks, I suppose?"

"That is kind of you," said Winifred. "I may have to depend altogether
on my own efforts, so I shall need work. I'll write to you for a
reference, and perhaps for advice."

She had unwittingly told Fowle just what he was eager to know--that she
was friendless and alone. He prided himself on understanding the ways of
women, and lost no more time in coming to the point.

"Listen, now, Winnie," he said, drawing nearer, "I'd like to see you
through this worry. Forget it. You can draw down twice or three times
the money as a model in Goldberg's Store. I know Goldberg, an' can fix
things. An', say, why mope at home evenings? I often get orders for two
for the theaters an' vaudeville shows. What about comin' along down-town
to-night? A bit of dinner an' a cabaret'd cheer you up after to-day's
unpleasantness."

Winifred grew scarlet with vexation. The man had always been a repulsive
person in her eyes, and, unversed though she was in the world's wiles,
she knew instinctively that his present pretensions were merely a cloak
for rascality. One should be fair to Winifred, too. Like every other
girl, she had pictured the Prince Charming who would come into her life
some day. But--Fowle! Her gorge rose.

"How dare you follow me here and say such vile things?" she cried
hysterically.

"What's up now?" said Fowle in mock surprise. "What have I said that you
should fly off the trolley in that way?"

"I take it that this young lady is telling you to quit," broke in
another voice. "Go, now! Go while the going is good."

Quietly but firmly elbowing Fowle aside, Rex Carshaw raised his hat and
spoke to Winifred.

"If this fellow is annoying you he can soon be dealt with," he said. "Do
you live near? If so, he can stop right here. I'll occupy his mind till
you are out of sight."

The discomfited masher was snarling like a vicious cur. The first swift
glance that measured the intruder's proportions did not warrant any
display of active resentment on his part. Out of the tail of his eye,
however, he noticed a policeman approaching on the opposite side of the
street. The sight lent a confidence which might have been lacking
otherwise.

"Why are you buttin' in?" he cried furiously. "This young lady is a
friend of mine. I'm tryin' to pull her out of a difficulty, but she's
got me all wrong. Anyhow, what business is it of yours?"

Fowle's anger was wasted, since Carshaw seemed not to hear. Indeed, why
should a chivalrous young man pay heed to Fowle when he could gaze his
fill into Winifred's limpid eyes and listen to her tuneful voice?

"I am very greatly obliged to you," she was saying, "but I hope Mr.
Fowle understands now that I do not desire his company and will not seek
to force it on me."

"Sure he understands. Don't you, Fowle?" and Carshaw gave the
disappointed wooer a look of such manifest purpose that something had to
happen quickly. Something did happen. Fowle knew the game was up, and
behaved after the manner of his kind.

"You're a cute little thing, Winifred Bartlett," he sneered, with a
malicious glance from the girl to Carshaw, while a coarse guffaw
imparted venom to his utterance. "Think you're taking an easier road to
the white lights, I guess?"

"Guess again, Fowle," said Carshaw.

He spoke so quietly that Fowle was misled, because the pavement rose and
struck him violently on the back of his head. At least, that was his
first impression. The second and more lasting one was even more
disagreeable. When he sat up, and fumbled to recover his hat, he was
compelled to apply a handkerchief to his nose, which seemed to have been
reduced to a pulp.

"Too bad you should be mixed up in this disturbance," Carshaw was
assuring Winifred, "but a pup of the Fowle species can be taught manners
in only one way. Now, suppose you hurry home!"

The advice was well meant, and Winifred acted on it at once. Fowle had
scrambled to his feet and the policeman was running up. From east and
west a crowd came on the scene like a well-trained stage chorus rushing
in from the wings.

"Now, then, what's the trouble?" demanded the law, with gruff
insistency.

"Nothing. A friend of mine met with a slight accident--that's all," said
Carshaw.

"It's--it's--all right," agreed Fowle thickly. Some glimmer of reason
warned him that an exposé in the newspapers would cost him his job with
Brown, Son & Brown. The policeman eyed the damaged nose. He grinned.

"If you care to take a wallop like that as a friendly tap it's your
affair, not mine," he said. "Anyhow, beat it, both of you!"

Carshaw was not interested in Fowle or the policeman. He had been
vouchsafed one expressive look by Winifred as she hurried away, and he
watched the slim figure darting up half a dozen steps to a small
brown-stone house, and opening the door with a latch-key. Oddly enough,
the policeman's attention was drawn by the girl's movements. His air
changed instantly.

"H'lo," he said, evidently picking on Fowle as the doubtful one of these
two. "This must be inquired into. What's your name?"

"No matter. I make no charge."

Fowle was turning away, but the policeman grabbed him.

"You come with me to the station-house," he said determinedly. "An' you,
too," he added jerking his head at Carshaw.

"Have you gone crazy with the heat?" inquired Carshaw.

"I hold you for fighting in the public street, an' that's all there is
to it," was the firm reply. "You can come quietly or be 'cuffed, just as
you like. Clear off, the rest of you."

An awe-stricken mob backed hastily. Fowle was too dazed even to
protest, and Carshaw sensed some hidden but definite motive behind
the policeman's strange alternation of moods. He looked again at the
brown-stone house, but night was closing in so rapidly that he could
not distinguish a face at any of the windows.

"Let us get there quickly--I'll be late for dinner," he said, and the
three returned by the way Carshaw had come.

Thus it was that Rex Carshaw, eligible young society bachelor, was drawn
into the ever-widening vortex of "The Yacht Mystery." He did not
recognize it yet, but was destined soon to feel the force of its
swirling currents.

Gazing from a window of the otherwise deserted house Winifred saw both
her assailant and her protector marched off by the policeman. It was
patent, even to her benumbed wits, that they had been arrested. The
tailing-in of the mob behind the trio told her as much.

She was too stunned to do other than sink into a chair. For a while she
feared she was going to faint. With lack-lustre eyes she peered into a
gulf of loneliness and despair. Then outraged nature came to her aid,
and she burst into a storm of tears.



CHAPTER VI

BROTHER RALPH.


Clancy forced Senator Meiklejohn's hand early in the fray. He was at the
Senator's flat within an hour of the time Ronald Tower was dragged into
the Hudson, but a smooth-spoken English man-servant assured the
detective that his master was out, and not expected home until two or
three in the morning.

This arrangement obviously referred to the Van Hofen festivity, so
Clancy contented himself with asking the valet to give the Senator a
card on which he scribbled a telephone number and the words, "Please
ring up when you get this."

Now, he knew, and Senator Meiklejohn knew, the theater at which Mrs.
Tower was enjoying herself. He did not imagine for an instant that the
Senator was discharging the mournful duty of announcing to his friend's
wife the lamentable fate which had overtaken her husband. Merely as a
perfunctory duty he went to the theater and sought the manager.

"You know Mrs. Ronald Tower?" he said.

"Sure I do," said the official. "She's inside now. Came here with Bobby
Forrest."

"Anybody called for her recently?"

"I think not, but I'll soon find out."

No. Mrs. Tower's appreciation of Belasco's genius had not been disturbed
that evening.

"Anything wrong?" inquired the manager.

Clancy's answer was ready.

"If Senator Meiklejohn comes here within half an hour, see that the lady
is told at once," he said. "If he doesn't show up in that time, send for
Mr. Forrest, tell him that Mr. Tower has met with an accident, and leave
him to look after the lady."

"Wow! Is it serious? Why wait?"

"The slight delay won't matter, and the Senator can handle the situation
better than Forrest."

Clancy gave some telephonic instruction to the man on night duty at
headquarters. He even dictated a paragraph for the press. Then he went
straight to bed, for the hardiest detectives must sleep, and he had a
full day's work before him when next the sun rose over New York.

He summed up Meiklejohn's action correctly. The Senator did not
communicate with Mulberry Street during the night, so Clancy was an
early visitor at his apartment.

"The Senator is ill and can see no one," said the valet.

"No matter how ill he may be, he must see me," retorted Clancy.

"But he musn't be disturbed. I have my orders."

"Take a fresh set. He's going to be disturbed right now, by you or me.
Choose quick!"

The law prevailed. A few minutes later Senator Meiklejohn entered the
library sitting-room, where the little detective awaited him. He looked
wretchedly ill, but his sufferings were mental, not physical. Examined
critically now, in the cold light of day, he was a very different man
from the spruce, dandified politician and financier who figured so
prominently among Van Hofen's guests the previous evening. Yet Clancy
saw at a glance that the Senator was armed at all points. Diplomacy
would be useless. The situation demanded a bludgeon. He began the attack
at once.

"Why didn't you ring up Mulberry Street last night, Senator?" he said.

"I was too upset. My nerves were all in."

"You told the patrolman at Eighty-sixth Street that you were hurrying
away to break the news to Mrs. Tower, yet you did not go near her?"

Meiklejohn affected to consult Clancy's card to ascertain the
detective's name.

"Perhaps I had better get in touch with the Bureau now," he said, and a
flush of anger darkened his haggard face.

"No need. The Bureau is right here. Let us get down to brass tacks,
Senator. A woman named Rachel met you outside the Four Hundred Club at
eight o'clock as you were coming out. You had just spoken to Mrs. Tower,
when this woman told you that you must meet two men who would await you
at the Eighty-sixth landing-stage at nine. You were to bring five
hundred dollars. At nine o'clock these same men killed Mr. Tower, and
you yourself admitted to me that they mistook him for you. Now, will you
be good enough to fill in the blanks? Who is Rachel? Where does she
live? Who were the two men? Why should you give them five hundred
dollars, apparently as blackmail?"

Clancy was exceedingly disappointed by the result of this thunderbolt.
Any ordinary man would have shrivelled under its crushing impact. If
the police knew so much that might reasonably be regarded as secret,
of what avail was further concealment? Yet Senator Meiklejohn bore up
wonderfully. He showed surprise, as well he might, but was by no means
pulverized.

"All this is rather marvelous," he said slowly, after a long pause. He
had avoided Clancy's gaze after the first few words, and sank into an
armchair with an air of weariness that was not assumed.

"Simple enough," commented the detective readily. Above all else he
wanted Meiklejohn to talk. "I was on duty outside the club, and heard
almost every word that passed between you and Rachel."

"Well, well."

The Senator arose and pressed an electric bell.

"If you don't mind," he explained suavely, "I'll order some coffee and
rolls. Will you join me?"

This was the parry of a skilled duelist to divert an attack and gain
breathing-time. Clancy rather admired such adroitness.

"Sorry, I can't on principle," he countered.

"How--on principle?"

"You see, Senator, I may have to arrest you, and I never eat with any
man with whom I may clash professionally."

"You take risks, Mr. Clancy."

"I love 'em. I'd cut my job to-day if it wasn't for the occasional
excitement."

The valet appeared.

"Coffee and rolls for two, Phillips," said Meiklejohn. He turned to
Clancy. "Perhaps you would prefer toast and an egg?"

"I have breakfasted already, Senator," smiled the detective, "but I may
dally with the coffee."

When the door was closed on Phillips, his master glanced at a clock on
the mantelpiece. The hour was eight-fifteen. Some days elapsed before
Clancy interpreted that incident correctly.

"You rose early," said the Senator.

"Yes, but worms are coy this morning."

"Meaning that you still await answers to your questions. I'll deal with
you fully and frankly, but I'm curious to know on what conceivable
ground you could arrest me for the murder of my friend Ronald Tower."

"As an accessory before the act."

"But, consider. You have brains, Mr. Clancy. I am glad the Bureau sent
such a man. How can a bit of unthinking generosity on my part be
construed as participation in a crime?"

"If you explain matters, Senator, the absurdity of the notion may become
clear."

"Ah, that's better. Let me assure you that my coffee will not affect
your fine sensibilities. Miss Rachel Craik is a lady I have known nearly
all my life. I have assisted her, within my means. She resides in East
One Hundred and Twelfth Street, and the man about whom she was so
concerned last night is her brother. He committed some technical offense
years ago, and has always been a ne'er-do-well. To please his sister,
and for no other reason, I undertook to provide him with five hundred
dollars, and thus enable him to start life anew. I have never met the
man. I would not recognize him if I saw him. I believe he is a desperate
character; his maniacal behavior last night seems to leave no room for
doubt in that respect. Don't you see, Mr. Clancy, that it was I, and not
poor Tower, whom he meant attacking? But for idle chance, it is my
corpse, not Tower's, that would now be floating in the Hudson. You heard
what Tower said. I did not. I assume, however, that some allusion was
made to the money--which, by the way, is still in my pocketbook--and
Tower scoffed at the notion that he had come there to hand over five
hundred dollars. There you have the whole story, in so far as I can tell
it."

"For the present, Senator."

"How?"

"It should yield many more chapters. Is that all you're going to say?
For instance, did you call on Rachel Craik after leaving Eighty-sixth
Street?"

Meiklejohn's jaws closed like a steel trap. He almost lost his temper.

"No," he said, seemingly conquering the desire to blaze into anger at
this gadfly of a detective.

"Sure?"

"I said 'no.' That is not 'yes.' I was so overcome by Tower's miserable
fate that I dismissed my car and walked home. I could not face any one,
least of all Helen--Mrs. Tower."

"Or the Bureau?"

"Mr. Clancy, you annoy me."

Clancy stood up.

"I must duck your coffee, Senator," he said cheerfully. "Is Miss Craik
on the phone?"

"No. She is poor, and lives alone--or, to be correct, with a niece, I
believe."

"Well, think matters over. I'll see you again soon. Then you may be able
to tell me some more."

"I have told you everything."

"Perhaps _I_ may do the telling."

"Now, as to this poor woman, Miss Craik. You will not adopt harsh
measures, I trust?"

"We are never harsh, Senator. If she speaks the truth, and all the
truth, she need not fear."

In the hall Clancy met the valet, carrying a laden tray.

"Do you make good coffee, Phillips?" he inquired.

"I try to," smiled the other.

"Ah, that's modest--that's the way real genius speaks. Sorry I can't
sample your brew to-day. So few Englishmen know the first thing about
coffee."

"Nice, friendly little chap," was Phillips's opinion of the detective.
Senator Meiklejohn's description of the same person was widely
different. When Clancy went out, he, too, rose and stretched his stiff
limbs.

"I got rid of that little rat more easily than I expected," he
mused--that is to say, the Senator's thoughts may be estimated in some
such phrase. But he was grievously mistaken in his belief. Clancy was no
rat, but a most stubborn terrier when there were rats around.

While Meiklejohn was drinking his coffee the telephone rang. It was Mrs.
Tower. She was heartbroken, or professed to be, since no more selfish
woman existed in New York.

"Are you coming to see me?" she wailed.

"Yes, yes, later in the day. At present I dare not. I am too unhinged.
Oh, Helen, what a tragedy! Have you any news?"

"News! My God! What news can I hope for except that Ronald's poor,
maimed body has been found?"

"Helen, this is terrible. Bear up!"

"I'm doing my best. I can hardly believe that this thing has really
happened. Help me in one small way, Senator. Telephone Mr. Jacob and
explain why our luncheon is postponed."

"Yes, I'll do that."

Meiklejohn smiled grimly as he hung up the receiver. In the midst of
her tribulations Helen Tower had not forgotten Jacob and the little
business of the Costa Rica Cotton Concession! The luncheon was only
"postponed."

An inquiry came from a newspaper, whereupon he gave a curt order that no
more calls were to be made that day, as the apartment would be empty. He
dressed, and devoted himself forthwith to the task of overhauling
papers. He had a fire kindled in the library.

Hour after hour he worked, until the grate was littered with the ashes
of destroyed documents. Sending for newspapers, he read of Rachel
Craik's arrest. At last, when the light waned, he looked at his watch.
Should he not face his fellow-members at the Four Hundred Club? Would it
not betray weakness to shirk the ordeal of inquiry, of friendly scrutiny
and half-spoken wonder that he, the irreproachable, should be mixed up
in such a weird tragedy. Once he sought support from a decanter of
brandy.

"Confound it!" he muttered, "why am I so shaky. _I_ didn't murder Tower.
My whole life may be ruined by one false step!"

He was still pondering irresolutely a visit to the club when Phillips
came. The valet seemed flurried.

"There's a gentleman outside, sir, who insists on seeing you," he said
nervously. "He's a very violent gentleman, sir. He said if I didn't
announce him he----"

"What name?" interrupted Meiklejohn.

"Name of Voles, sir."

"Voles?"

"Yes, sir, but he says you'll recognize him better by the initials R. V.
V."

Men of Meiklejohn's physique--big, fleshy, with the stamp of success on
them--are rare subjects for nervous attacks. They seem to defy events
which will shock the color out of ordinary men's cheeks, yet Meiklejohn
felt that if he dared encounter the eyes of his discreet servant he
would do something outrageous--shriek, or jump, or tear his hair. He
bent over some papers on the table.

"Send Mr. Voles in," he murmured. "If any other person calls, say I'm
engaged."

The man who was ushered into the room was of a stature and demeanor
which might well have cowed the valet. Tall, strongly built, altogether
fitter and more muscular than the stalwart Senator, he carried with him
an impression of truculence, of a savage forcefulness, not often clothed
in the staid garments of city life. Were his skin bronze, were he decked
in the barbaric trappings of a Pawnee chief, his appearance would be
more in accord with the chill and repellant significance of his
personality. His square, hard features might have been chiseled out of
granite. A pair of singularly dark eyes blazed beneath heavy and
prominent eyebrows. A high forehead, a massive chin, and a well-shaped
nose lent a certain intellectuality to the face, but this attribute was
negatived by the coarse lines of a brutal mouth.

From any point of view the visitor must invite attention, while
compelling dislike--even fear. In a smaller frame, such qualities might
escape recognition, but this man's giant physique accentuated the evil
aspect of eyes and mouth. Hardly waiting till the door was closed, he
laughed sarcastically.

"You are well fixed here, brother o' mine," he said.

The man whom he addressed as "brother" leaned with his hands on the
table that separated them. His face was quite ghastly. All his
self-control seemed to have deserted him.

"You?" he gasped. "To come here! Are you mad?"

"Need you ask? It will not be the first time you have called me a
lunatic, nor will it be the last, I reckon."

"But the risk, the infernal risk! The police know of you. Rachel is
arrested. A detective was here a few hours ago. They are probably
watching outside."

"Bosh!" was the uncompromising answer. "I'm sick of being hunted. Just
for a change I turn hunter. Where's the mazuma you promised Rachel?"

Meiklejohn, using a hand like one in a palsy, produced a pocketbook and
took from it a bundle of notes.

"Here!" he quavered. "Now, for Heaven's sake----"

"Just the same old William," cried the stranger, seating himself
unceremoniously. "Always ready to do a steal, but terrified lest the law
should grab him. No, I'm not going. It will be good nerve tonic for you
to sit down and talk while you strain your ears to hear the tramp of
half a dozen cops in the hall. What a poor fish you are!" he continued,
voice and manner revealing a candid contempt, as Meiklejohn did indeed
start at the slamming of a door somewhere in the building. "Do you think
I'd risk my neck if I were likely to be pinched? Gad! I know my way
around too well for that."

"But you don't understand," whispered the other in mortal terror. "By
some means the detective bureau may know of your existence. Rachel
promised to be close-lipped, but--"

"Oh, take a bracer out of that decanter. At the present moment I am
registered in a big Fifth Avenue hotel, a swell joint which they
wouldn't suspect in twenty years."

"How can that be? Rachel said you were in desperate need."

"So I was until I went through that idiot's pockets. He had two hundred
dollars in bills and chicken-feed. I knew I'd get another wad from you
to-night."

"Why did you want to murder me, Ralph?"

"Murder! Oh, shucks! I didn't want to kill anybody. But I don't trust
you, William. I'm always expecting you to double-cross me. Last night it
was a lasso. To-night it is this." And he suddenly whipped out a
revolver.



CHAPTER VII

STILL MERE MYSTERY


Meiklejohn pushed his chair back so quickly that it caught the fender
and brought down some fire-irons with a crash.

"More nerves!" croaked his grim-visaged relative, but the revolver
disappeared.

"Tell me," said the tortured Meiklejohn; "why have you returned to New
York? Above all, why did you straightway commit a crime that cannot fail
to stir the whole country?"

"That's better. You are showing some sort of brotherly interest. I came
back because I was sick of mining camps and boundless sierras. I had a
hankering after the old life--the theaters, dinners, race-meetings, wine
and women. As to 'the crime,' I thought that fool was you. He called for
the cops."

"For the police! Why?"

"Because my line of talk was a trifle too rough, I suppose."

"Did he know you were there to meet me?"

"Can't say. The whole thing was over like a flash. I am quick on the
trigger."

"But if you had killed me what other goose would lay golden eggs?"

"You forget that the goose was unwilling to lay any more eggs. I only
meant scaring you. To haul you neck and crop into the river was a good
scheme. You see, we haven't met for some years."

"Then why--why murder Ronald Tower?"

"There you go again. Murder! How you chew on the word. I never touched
the man, only to haul him into the boat and go through his pockets. I
guess he had a weak heart, due to over-eating, and the cold water upset
him."

"But you left him in the river?"

"Wrong every time. I chucked him into a barge and covered him tenderly
with a tarpaulin."

Meiklejohn sprang upright. "Good God," he cried, "he may be alive!"

"Sit down, William, sit down," was the cool response. "If he's alive,
he'll turn up. In any case, he'll be found sooner or later. Shout the
glad news now and you go straight to the Tombs."

This was obviously so true that the Senator collapsed into his chair
again, and in so doing disturbed the fire-irons a second time.

The incident amused the unbidden guest. "I see you won't be happy till I
leave you," he laughed, "so let's go on with the knitting. That
girl--she is becoming a woman--what is to be done with her?"

"Rachel takes every care--"

"Rachel is excellent in her way. But she is growing old. She may die.
The girl is the living image of her mother. It's a queer world, and a
small one at times. For instance, who would have expected your double to
walk onto the terrace at the landing-stage at nine o'clock precisely
last night? Well, some one may recognize the likeness. Inquiries might
be instituted. That would be very awkward for you."

"Far more awkward for you."

"Not a bit of it. I've lived with my neck in the loop for eighteen
years. I'm getting used to it. But you, William, with your Senatorship
and high record in Wall Street--really the downfall would be terrible!"

"What can we do with her? Murder her, as you--"

"The devil take you and your parrotlike repetition of one word!" roared
brother Ralph, bringing his clenched fist down on the table with a bang.
"I never laid violent hands on a woman yet, whatever I may have done to
men. Who has reaped the reward of my misdeeds, I'd like to know--I, an
outcast and a wanderer, or you, living here like Lord Tomnoddy? None of
your preaching to me, you smug Pharisee! We're six of one and half a
dozen of the other."

When this self-proclaimed adventurer was really aroused he dropped the
rough argot of the plains. His diction showed even some measure of
culture.

Meiklejohn walked unsteadily to the door. He opened it. There was no one
in the passage without.

"I'm sorry," he said in a strangely subdued voice. "What do you want?
What do you suggest?"

"This," came the instant reply. "It was a piece of folly on Rachel's
part to educate the girl the way she did. You stopped the process too
late. In a year or two Miss Winifred will begin to think and ask
questions, if she hasn't done so already. She must leave the
East--better quit America altogether."

"Very well. When this affair of Tower's blows over I'll arrange it."

The other man seemed to be somewhat mollified. He lighted a cigarette.
"That rope play was sure a mad trick," he conceded sullenly, "but I
thought you were putting the cops on my trail."

A bell rang and the Senator started. Many callers, mostly reporters, had
been turned away by Phillips already that day, but brother Ralph's
untimely visit had made the position peculiarly dangerous. Moreover,
the valet's protests had proved unavailing this time. The two heard his
approaching footsteps.

Meiklejohn's care-worn face turned almost green with fright, and even
his hardier companion yielded to a sense of peril. He leaped up, moving
catlike on his toes.

"Where does that door lead to?" he hissed, pointing.

"A bedroom. But I've given orders--"

"You dough-faced dub, don't you see you create suspicion by refusing to
meet people? And, listen! If this is a cop, bluff hard! I'll shoot up
the whole Bureau before they get me!"

He vanished, moving with a silence and celerity that were almost uncanny
in so huge a man. Phillips knocked and thrust his head in. He looked
scared yet profoundly relieved.

"Mr. Tower to see you, sir," he said breathlessly.

"What?" shrieked the Senator in a shrill falsetto.

"Yes, sir. It's Mr. Tower himself, sir."

"H'lo, Bill!" came a familiar voice. "Here I am! No spook yet, thank
goodness!"

Meiklejohn literally staggered to the door and nearly fell into Ronald
Tower's arms. Of the two men, the Senator seemed nearer death at that
moment. He blubbered something incoherent, and had to be assisted to a
chair. Even Tower was astonished at the evident depth of his friend's
emotion.

"Cheer up, old sport!" he cried affectionately. "I had no notion you
felt so badly about my untimely end, as the newspapers call it. I tried
to get you on the phone, but you were closed down, the exchange said, so
Helen packed me off here when she was able to sit up and take
nourishment. Gad! Even my wife seems to have missed me!"

Many minutes elapsed before Senator Meiklejohn's benumbed brain could
assimilate the facts of a truly extraordinary story. Tower, after being
whisked so unceremoniously into the Hudson, remembered nothing further
until he opened his eyes in numb semi-consciousness in the cubbyhole of
a tug plodding through the long Atlantic rollers off the New Jersey
coast.

When able to talk he learned that the captain of the tug _Cygnet_,
having received orders to tow three loaded barges from a Weehawken pier
to Barnegat City, picked up his "job" at nine-thirty the previous night,
and dropped down the river with the tide. In the early morning he was
amazed by the sight of a man crawling from under the heavy tarpaulin
that sheeted one of the barges--a man so dazed and weak that he nearly
fell into the sea.

"Cap' Rickards slowed up and took me aboard," explained Tower volubly.
"Then he filled me with rock and rye and packed me in blankets. Gee, how
they smelt, but how grateful they were! What between prime old whiskey
inside and greasy wool outside I dodged a probable attack of pneumonia.
When the _Cygnet_ tied up at Barnegat at noon to-day I was fit as a
fiddle. Cap' Rickards rigged me out in his shore-going suit and lent me
twenty dollars, as that pair of blackguards in the launch had robbed me
of every cent. They even took a crooked sixpence I found in London
twenty years ago, darn 'em! I phoned Helen, of course, but didn't
realize what a hubbub my sad fate had created until I read a newspaper
in the train. When I reached home poor Helen was so out of gear that she
hadn't told a soul of my escape. I do believe she hardly accepted my own
assurance that I was still on the map. However, when I got her calmed
down a bit, she remembered you and the rest of the excitement, so I
phoned the detective bureau and the club, and came straight here."

"That is very good of you, Tower," murmured Meiklejohn brokenly. He
looked in far worse plight than the man who had survived such a
desperate adventure.

"Well, my dear chap, I was naturally anxious to see you, because--but
perhaps you don't know that those scoundrels meant to attack you, not
me?"

Meiklejohn smiled wanly. "Oh, yes," he said. "The police found that out
by some means. I believe the authorities actually suspected me of being
concerned in the affair."

Tower laughed boisterously. "That's the limit!" he roared. "Come with me
to the club. We'll soon spoil that yarn. What a fuss the papers made!
I'm quite a celebrity."

"I'll follow you in half an hour. And, look here, Tower, this matter did
really affect me. There was a woman in the case. I butted into an old
feud merely as a friend. I think matters will now be settled amicably.
Allow me to make good your loss in every way. If you can persuade the
police that the whole thing was a hoax--"

For the first time Tower looked non-plussed. He was enjoying the
notoriety thrust on him so unexpectedly.

"Well, I can hardly do that," he said. "But if I can get them to drop
further inquiries I'll do it, Meiklejohn, for your sake. Gee! Come to
look at you, you must have had a bad time.... Well, good-by, old top!
See you later. Suppose we dine together? That will help dissipate this
queer story as to you being mixed up in an attack on me. Now, I must be
off and play ghost in the club smoking-room."

Meiklejohn heard his fluttering man-servant let Tower out. He tottered
to a chair, and Ralph Voles came in noiselessly.

"Well, what about it?" chuckled the reprobate. "We seem to have struck
it lucky."

"Go away!" snarled the Senator, goaded to a sudden rage by the other
man's cynical humor. "I can stand no more to-day."

"Oh, take a pull at this!" And the decanter was pushed across the table.
"Didn't Dr. Johnson once say that claret is the liquor for boys, port
for men, but he who aspires to be a hero should drink brandy? And you
must be a hero to-night. Get onto the Bureau and use the soft pedal.
Then beat it to the club. You and Tower ought to be well soused in an
hour. He's a good sport, all right. I'll mail him that sixpence if it's
still in my pants."

"Do nothing of the sort!" snapped Meiklejohn. "You're--"

"Ah, cut it out! Tower wants plenty to talk about. His crooked sixpence
will fill many an eye, and the more he spiels the better it is for you.
Gee, but you're yellow for a two-hundred pounder! Now, listen! Make
those cops drop all charges against Rachel. Then, in a week or less,
I'll come along and fix things about the girl. She's the fly in the
amber now. Mind she doesn't get out, or the howl about Mr. Ronald
Tower's trip to Barnegat won't amount to a row of beans against the
trouble pretty Winifred can give you. _Dios!_ It's a pity. She's a real
beauty, and that's more than any one can say for you, Brother William."

"You go to--"

"That's better! You're reviving. Well, good-by, Senator! _Au revoir sans
adieux!_"

The big man swaggered out. Meiklejohn drank no spirits. He needed a
clear brain that evening. After deep self-communing he rang up police
headquarters and inquired for Mr. Clancy.

"Mr. Clancy is out," he was told by some one with a strong, resonant
voice. "Anything we can do, Senator?"

"About that poor woman, Rachel Craik--"

"Oh, she's all right! She gave us a farewell smile two hours ago."

"You mean she is at liberty?"

"Certainly, Senator."

"May I ask to whom I am speaking?"

"Steingall, Chief of the Bureau."

"This wretched affair--it's merely a family squabble between Miss Craik
and a relative--might well end now, Mr. Steingall."

"That is for Mr. Tower and Mr. Van Hofen to decide."

"Yes, I quite understand. I have seen Mr. Tower, and he shares my
opinion."

"Just so, Senator. At any rate, the yacht mystery is almost cleared up."

"I agree with you most heartily."

For the first time in nearly twenty-four hours Senator Meiklejohn looked
contented with life when he hung up the receiver. Therefore, it was well
for his peace of mind that he could not hear Steingall's silent comment
as he, in turn, disconnected the phone.

"That old fox agreed with me too heartily," he thought. "The yacht
mystery is only just beginning--or I'm a Dutchman!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE DREAM FACE


That evening of her dismissal from Brown's, and her meeting with Rex
Carshaw, Winifred opened the door of the dun house in One Hundred and
Twelfth Street the most downhearted girl in New York. Suddenly, mystery
had gathered round her. Something threatened, she knew not what. When
the door slammed behind her her heart sank--she was alone not only in
the house, but in the world. This thought possessed her utterly when the
excitement caused by Carshaw and Fowle, and their speedy arrest, had
passed.

That her aunt, the humdrum Rachel Craik, should have any sort of
connection with the murder of Ronald Tower, of which Winifred had
chanced first to hear on Riverside Drive that morning, seemed the
wildest nonsense. Then Winifred was overwhelmed afresh, and breathed to
herself, "I must be dreaming!"

And yet--the house was empty! Her aunt was not there--her aunt was held
as a criminal! It was not a dream, but only like one, a waking nightmare
far more terrifying. Most of the rooms in the house had nothing but
dust in them. Rachel Craik had preferred to live as solitary in teeming
Manhattan as a castaway on a rock in the midst of the sea.

Winifred's mind was accustomed now to the thought of that solitude
shared by two. This night, when there were no longer two, but only one,
the question arose strongly in her mind--why had there never been more
than two? Certainly her aunt was not rich, and might well have let some
of the rooms. Yet, even the suggestion of such a thing had made Rachel
Craik angry. This, for the first time, struck Winifred as odd.
Everything was puzzling, and all sorts of doubts peeped up in her, like
ghosts questioning her with their eyes in the dark.

When the storm of tears had spent its force she had just enough interest
in her usual self to lay the table and make ready a meal, but not enough
interest to eat it. She sat by a window of her bedroom, her hat still on
her head, looking down. The street lamps were lit. It grew darker and
darker. Down there below feet passed and repassed in multitudes, like
drops of the eternal cataract of life.

Winifred's eyes rested often on the spot where Rex Carshaw had spoken to
her and had knocked down Fowle, her tormentor. In hours of trouble, when
the mind is stunned, it will often go off into musings on trivial
things. So this young girl, sitting at the window of the dark and empty
house, let her thoughts wander to her rescuer. He was well built, and
poised like an athlete. He had a quick step, a quick way of talking, was
used to command; his brow was square, and could threaten; he had the
deepest blue eyes, and glossy brown hair; he was a tower of strength to
protect a girl; and his wife, if he had one, must have a feeling of
safety. Thoughts, or half-thoughts, like these passed through her mind.
She had never before met any young man of Carshaw's type.

It became ten o'clock. She was tired after the day's work and trouble of
mind. The blow of her dismissal, the fright of her interview with the
police, the arrest of her aunt--all this sudden influx of mystery and
care formed a burden from which there was no escape for exhausted nature
but in sleep. Her eyes grew weary at last, and, getting up, she
discarded her hat and some of her clothes; then threw herself on the
bed, still half-dressed, and was soon asleep.

The hours of darkness rolled on. That tramp of feet in the street grew
thin and scattered, as if the army of life had undergone a repulse. Then
there was a rally, when the theaters and picture-houses poured out their
crowds; but it was short, the powers of night were in the ascendant, and
soon the last stragglers retreated under cover. Of all this Winifred
heard nothing--she slept soundly.

But was it in a dream, that voice which she heard? Something somewhere
seemed to whisper, "She must be taken out of New York--she is the image
of her mother."

It was a hushed, grim voice.

The room, the whole house, had been in darkness when she had thrown
herself on the bed. But, somewhere, had she not been conscious of a
light at some moment? Had she dreamed this, or had she seen it? She sat
up in bed, staring and startled. The room was in darkness. In her ears
were the words: "She is the image of her mother."

She had heard them in some world, she did not know in which. She
listened with the keen ears of fear. Not a wagon nor a taxi any longer
moved in the street; no step passed; the house was silent.

But after a long ten minutes the darkness seemed to become pregnant with
a sound, a steady murmur. It was as if it came from far away, as if a
brook had spurted out of the granite of Manhattan, and was even more
like a dream-sound than those words which still buzzed in Winifred's
ear. Somehow that murmur as of water in the night made Winifred think of
a face, one which, as far as she could remember, she had never
consciously seen--a man's face, brown, hard, and menacing, which had
looked once into her eyes in some state of semi-conscious being, and
then had vanished. And now this question arose in her mind: was it not
that face, hard and brown, which she had never seen, and yet once had
seen--were not those the cruel lips which somewhere had whispered: "She
is the image of her mother?"

Winifred, sitting up in bed, listened to the steady, dull murmuring a
long time, till there came a moment when she said definitely: "It is in
the house."

For, as her ears grew accustomed to its tone, it seemed to lose some of
its remoteness, to become more local and earthly. Presently this sound
which the darkness was giving out became the voices of people talking in
subdued undertones not far off. Nor was it long before the murmur was
broken by a word sharply uttered and clearly heard by her--a gruff and
unmistakable oath. She started with fright at this, it sounded so near.
She was certain now that there were others in the house with her. She
had gone to bed alone. Waking up in the dead of the small hours to find
men or ghosts with her, her heart beat horribly.

But ghosts do not swear--at least such was Winifred's ideal of the
spirit world. And she was brave. Nerving herself for the ordeal, she
found the courage to steal out of bed and make her way out of the room
into a passage, and she had not stood there listening two minutes when
she was able to be certain that the murmur was going on in a back room.

How earnest that talk was--how low in pitch! It could hardly be burglars
there, for burglars do not enter a house in order to lay their heads
together in long conferences. It could not be ghosts, for a light came
out under the rim of the door.

After a time Winifred stole forward, tapped on a panel, and her heart
jumped into her mouth as she lifted her voice, saying:

"Aunty, is it you?"

There was silence at this, as though they had been ghosts, indeed, and
had taken to flight at the breath of the living.

"Speak! Who is it?" cried Winifred with a fearful shrillness now. A
chair grated on the floor inside, hurried steps were heard, a key
turned, the door opened a very little, and Winifred saw the gaunt face
of Rachel Craik looking dourly at her, for she had frightened this
masterful woman very thoroughly.

"Oh, aunt, it _is_ you!" gasped Winifred with a flutter of relief.

"You are to go to bed, Winnie," said Rachel.

"It is you! They have let you out, then?"

"Yes."

"Tell me what happened; let me come in--"

"Go back to bed; there's a good girl. I'll tell you everything in the
morning."

"Oh, but I am glad! I was so lonely and frightened! Aunt, what was it
all about?"

"About nothing; as far as I can discover," said Rachel Craik--"a mere
mare's-nest found by a set of stupid police. Some man--a Mr. Ronald
Tower--was supposed to have been murdered, and I was supposed to have
some connection with it, though I had never seen the creature in my
life. Now the man has turned up safe and sound, and the pack of noodles
have at last thought fit to allow a respectable woman to come home to
her bed."

"Oh, how good! Thank heaven! But, you have some one in there with you?"

"In here--where?"

"Why, in the room, aunt."

"I? No, no one."

"I am sure I heard--"

"Now, really, you must go to bed, Winifred! What are you doing awake at
this hour of the morning, roaming about the house? You were asleep half
an hour ago--"

"Oh, then, it was your light I saw in my sleep! I thought I heard a man
say: 'She is the image--'"

"Just think of troubling me with your dreams at this unearthly hour! I'm
tired, child; go to bed."

"Yes--but, aunt, this day's work has cost me my situation. I am
dismissed!"

"Well, a holiday will do you good."

"Good gracious--you take it coolly!"

"Go to bed."

A sudden din of tumbling weights and splintering wood broke out behind
the half-open door. For, within the room a man had been sitting on a
chair tilted back on its two hind legs. The chair was old and slender,
the man huge; and one of the chair-legs had collapsed under the weight
and landed the man on the floor.

"Oh, aunt! didn't you say that no one--" began Winifred.

The sentence was never finished. Rachel Craik, her features twisted in
anger, pushed the young girl with a force which sent her staggering, and
then immediately shut the door. Winifred was left outside in the
darkness.

She returned to her bed, but not to sleep. It was certain that her aunt
had lied to her--there was more in the air than Winifred's quick wits
could fathom. The fact of Rachel Craik's release did not clear up the
mystery of the fact that she had been arrested. Winifred lay, spurring
her fancy to account for all that puzzled her; and underlying her
thoughts was the man's face and those strange words which she had heard
somewhere on the borders of sleep.

She fancied she had seen the man somewhere before. At last she recalled
the occasion, and almost laughed at the conceit. It was a picture of
Sitting Bull, and that eminent warrior had long since gone to the happy
hunting-grounds.

Meantime, the murmur of voices in the back room had recommenced and was
going on. Then, towards morning, Winifred became aware that the murmur
had stopped, and soon afterward she heard the click of the lock of the
front door and a foot going down the front steps.

Rising quickly, she crept to the window and looked out. Going from the
door down the utterly empty street she saw a man, a big swaggerer, with
something of the over-seas and the adventurer in his air. It was Ralph
"Voles," the "brother" of Senator William Meiklejohn. But Winifred could
not distinguish his features, or she might have recognized the man she
had seen in her half-dreams, and who had said: "She must be taken out of
New York--she is the image of her mother."

Voles had hardly quitted the place before a street-car conductor, who
had taken temporary lodgings the previous evening in a house opposite,
hurried out into the coldness of the hour before dawn. He seemed pleased
at the necessity of going to work thus early.

"Oh, boy!" he said softly. "I'm glad there's somethin' doin' at last. I
was getting that sleepy. I could hardly keep me eyes open!"

When Detective Clancy came to the Bureau a few hours later he found a
memorandum to the effect that a Mr. Ralph V. Voles, of Chicago, stopping
at a high-grade hotel in Fifth Avenue, had dined with Rachel Craik in a
quiet restaurant, had parted from her, and met her again, evidently by
appointment. The two had entered the house in One Hundred and Twelfth
Street separately shortly before midnight, and Voles returned to his
hotel at four o'clock in the morning.

Clancy shook his head waggishly.

"Who'd have thought it of you, Rachel?" he cackled. "And, now that I've
seen _you_, what sort of weird specimen can Mr. Ralph V. Voles, of
Chicago, be? I'll look him up!"



CHAPTER IX

THE FLIGHT


Carshaw and Fowle enjoyed, let us say, a short but almost triumphal
march to the nearest police-station. Their escort of loafers and small
boys grew quickly in numbers and enthusiasm. It became known that the
arrest was made in East One Hundred and Twelfth Street, and that street
had suddenly become famous. The lively inhabitants of the East Side do
not bother their heads about grammatical niceties, so the gulf between
"the yacht murder" and "the yacht murderers" was easily bridged. The
connection was clear. Two men in a boat, and two men in the grip of
the law! It needed only Fowle's ensanguined visage to complete the
circle of reasoning. Consciousness of this ill-omened popularity
infuriated Carshaw and alarmed Fowle. When they arrived at the precinct
station-house each was inclined to wish he had never seen or heard of
Winifred Bartlett!

Their treatment by the official in charge only added fuel to the flame.
The patrolman explained that "these two were fighting about the girl
who lives in that house in East One Hundred and Twelfth," and this vague
statement seemed all-sufficient. The sergeant entered their names and
addresses. He went to the telephone and came back.

"Sit there!" he said authoritatively, and they sat there, Carshaw
trying to take an interest in a "drunk" who was brought in, and Fowle
alternately feeling the sore lump at the back of his head and the sorer
cartilage of his nose. After waiting half an hour Carshaw protested, but
the sergeant assured him that "a man from the Bureau" was _en route_ and
would appear presently. At last Clancy came in. That is why he was "out"
when Senator Meiklejohn inquired for him.

"H'lo!" he cried when he set eyes on Fowle. "My foreman bookbinder! Your
folio looks somewhat battered!"

"Glad it's you, Mr. Clancy," snuffled Fowle. "You can tell these cops--"

"Suppose _you_ tell me," broke in the detective, with a glance at
Carshaw.

"Yes, Fowle, speak up," said Carshaw. "You've a ready tongue. Explain
your fall from grace."

"There's nothing to it," growled Fowle. "I know the girl, an' asked her
to come with me this evening. She'd been fired by the firm, an'--"

"Ah! Who fired her?" Clancy's inquiry sounded most matter-of-fact.

"The boss, of course."

"Why?"

"Well--this newspaper stuff. He didn't like it."

"He told you so?"

"Yes. That is--the department is a bit crowded. He--er--asked me--Well,
we reckoned we could do without her."

"I see. Go on."

"So I just came up-town, meanin' to talk things over, an' find her a new
job, but she took it all wrong."

Clancy whirled around on Carshaw. Evidently he had heard enough from
Fowle.

"And you?" he snapped.

"I know nothing of either party," was the calm answer. "I couldn't help
overhearing this fellow insulting a lady, so put him where he
belongs--in the gutter."

"Mr. Clancy," interrupted the sergeant, "you're wanted on the phone."

The detective was detained a good five minutes. When he returned he
walked straight up to Fowle.

"Quit!" he said, with a scornful and sidelong jerk of the head. "You got
what you wanted. Get out, and leave Miss Bartlett alone in the future."

Fowle needed no second bidding.

"As for me?" inquired Carshaw, with arched eyebrows.

"May I drop you in Madison Avenue?" said Clancy. Once the police car was
speeding down-town he grew chatty.

"Wish I had seen you trimming Fowle," he said pleasantly. "I've a notion
he had a finger in the pie of Winifred Bartlett's dismissal."

"It may be."

Carshaw's tone was indifferent. Just then he was aware only of a very
definite resentment. His mother would be waiting for dinner, and
alarmed, like all mothers who own motoring sons. The detective looked
surprised, but made his point, for all that.

"I suppose you'll be meeting that very charming young lady again one of
these days," he said.

"I? Why? Most unlikely."

"Not so. Do you floor every man you see annoying a woman in the
streets?"

"Well--er--"

"Just so. Winifred interested you. She interests me. I mean to keep an
eye on her, a friendly eye. If you and she come together again, let me
know."

"Really--"

"No wonder you are ready with a punch. You won't let a man speak.
Listen, now. The patrolman held you and Fowle because he had orders to
arrest, on any pretext or none, any one who seemed to have the remotest
connection with the house in One Hundred and Twelfth Street, where
Winifred Bartlett lives with her aunt. You've read of the Yacht Mystery
and the lassoing of Ronald Tower?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Tower are my close friends."

"Exactly. Now, Rachel Craik, Winifred's aunt, was released from custody
an hour ago. She would have been charged with complicity in the supposed
murder of Tower. I say 'supposed' because there was no murder. Mr. Tower
has returned home, safe and sound--"

"By Jove, that's good news! But what a strange business it is! My mother
was with Helen Tower this morning, trying to console her."

"Good! Now, perhaps, you'll sit up and take notice. The truth is that
the mystery of this outrage on Tower is not--cannot be--of recent
origin. I'm sure it is bound up with some long-forgotten occurrence,
possibly a crime, in which the secret of the birth and parentage of
Winifred Bartlett is involved. That girl is no more the niece of her
'aunt' than I am her nephew."

"But one is usually the niece of one's aunt."

"I think you need a cigarette," said Clancy dryly. "Organisms accustomed
to poisonous stimulants often wilt when deprived too suddenly of such
harmful tonics."

Carshaw edged around slightly and looked at this quaint detective.

"I apologize," he said contritely. "But the crowd got my goat when it
jeered at me as a murderer. And the long wait was annoying, too."

Clancy, however, was not accustomed to having his confidences slighted.
He was ruffled.

"Perhaps what I was going to say is hardly worth while," he snapped. "It
was this. If, by chance, your acquaintance with Winifred Bartlett goes
beyond to-day's meeting, and you learn anything of her life and history
which sounds strange in your ears, you may be rendering her a far
greater service than by flattening Fowle's nose if you bring your
knowledge straight to the Bureau."

"I'll not forget, Mr. Clancy. But let me explain. It will be a miracle
if I meet Miss Bartlett again."

"It'll be a miracle if you don't," retorted the other.

So there was a passing whiff of misunderstanding between these two, and,
like every other trivial phase of a strange record, it was destined to
bulk large in the imminent hazards threatening one lone girl. Thus,
Clancy ceased being communicative. He might have referred guardedly to
Senator Meiklejohn. But he did not. Oddly enough, his temperament was
singularly alike to Carshaw's, and that is why sparks flew.

The heart, however, is deceitful, and Fate is stronger than an irritated
young man whose conventional ideals have been besmirched by being
marched through the streets in custody. The garage in which Carshaw's
automobile was housed temporarily was located near One Hundred and
Twelfth Street. He went there on the following afternoon to see the
machine stripped and find out the exact extent of the damage. Yet he
passed Winifred's house resolutely, without even looking at it. He
returned that way at half past six, and there, on the corner, was posted
Fowle--Fowle, with a swollen nose! There also was their special
patrolman, with an eye for both!

The mere sight of Fowle prowling in unwholesome quest stirred upwrath
in Carshaw's mind; and the heart, always subtle and self-deceiving,
whispered elatedly: "Here you have an excuse for renewing an
acquaintance which you wished to make yourself believe you did not
care to renew."

He walked straight to the door of the brown-stone house and rang. Then
he rapped. There was no answer. When he had rapped a second time he
walked away, but he had not gone far when he was almost startled to
find himself face to face with Winifred coming home from making some
purchases, with a bag on her arm.

He lifted his hat. Winifred, with a vivid blush, hesitated and stopped.
From the corner Fowle stared at the meeting, and made up his mind that
it was really a rendezvous. The patrolman thought so, too, but he had
new orders as to these two.

"Pardon me, Miss Bartlett," said Carshaw. "Ah, you see I know your name
better than you know mine. Mine is Carshaw--Rex Carshaw, if I may
introduce myself. I have this moment tapped at your door, in the hope of
seeing you."

"Why so?" asked Winifred.

"Do you wish to forget the incident of yesterday evening?"

"No; hence my stopping to hear what you have to say."

"Well, then, I am here to see to the repairing of my car--not in the
hope of seeing _you_, you know"--Carshaw said this with a twinkle in his
eye; "though, perhaps, if the truth were known, a little in that hope,
too. Then, there at the corner, I find the very man who molested you
last night looking at your house, and this spurred me to knock in order
to ask a favor. Was I wrong?"

"What favor, sir?"

"That, if ever you have the least cause to be displeased with the
conduct of that man in the future, you will consider it as _my_
business, and as an insult offered to _me_--as it will be after the
trouble of last night--and that you will let me know of the matter by
letter. Here is my address."

Winifred hesitated, then took the proffered card.

"But--" she faltered.

"No; promise me that. It really is my business now, you know."

"I cannot write to you. I--don't--know you."

"Then I shall only have to stand sentinel a certain number of hours
every day before your house, to see that all goes well. You can't
prevent me doing that, can you? The streets are free to everybody."

"You are only making fun."

"That I am not. See how stern and solemn I look. I shall stand sentinel
and gaze up at your window on the chance of seeing your face. Will you
show yourself sometimes to comfort me?"

"No."

"I'm sure you will."

"I'd better promise to write the letter--"

"There now, that's a point for me!"

"Oh, don't make me laugh."

"Point number two--for you have been crying, Miss Winifred!"

"I?"

"Yes, I'm sorry to say. Oh, I only wish--"

"How do you know my name?"

"What, the 'Winifred' and the 'Bartlett?' Winifred was always one of my
favorite names for a girl, and you look the name all through. Well,
Fowle and I were taken to the station-house last night, and in the
course of the inquiry I heard your name, of course."

"Did they do anything to you for knocking down Mr. Fowle?"

"No, no. Of course, they didn't do anything to me. In fact, they seemed
rather pleased. Were you anxious, then, about me?"

"I was naturally anxious, since it was I who--"

"Ah, now, don't spoil it by giving a reason. You were anxious, that is
enough; let me be proud, as a recompense. And now I want to ask you two
favors, one of them a great favor. The first is to tell me all you know
about this Fowle. And the second--why you look so sad and have been
crying. May we walk on a little way together, and then you will tell
me?"

They walked on together, and for a longer time than either of them
realized. Winifred was rather bewitched. Carshaw was something of a
revelation to her in an elusive quality of mind or manner which she in
her heart could only call "charming."

She spoke of life at Brown, Son & Brown's, in Greenwich Village. She
even revealed that she had been crying because of dark clouds which had
gathered round her of a sudden, doubts and fears for which she had no
name, and because of a sort of dream the previous night in which she had
seen a man's Indian face, and heard a hushed, grim voice say: "She must
be taken out of New York--she is the image of her mother."

"Ah! And your mother--who and where is she?" asked Carshaw.

"I don't know. I can't tell. I never knew her," answered Winifred
droopingly, with a shake of her head.

"And as to your father?"

"I have no father. I have only my aunt."

"Winifred," said Carshaw solemnly, "will you consider me your friend
from this night?"

"You are kind. I trust you," she murmured.

"A friend is a person who acts for another with the same zeal as for
himself, and who has the privilege of doing whatever seems good to him
for that other. Am I to regard myself as thus privileged?"

Winifred, who had never flirted with any young man in her life, fancied
she knew nothing about the rules of the game. She was confused. She
veiled her eyes.

"I don't know--perhaps--we shall see," she stammered. Which was not so
bad for a novice.

They parted with a warm hand-shake. Ten minutes later Carshaw was in a
telephone booth with Clancy's ear at the other end of the wire.

"I have just had a chat with Miss Bartlett," he began.

"Tut, tut! How passing strange!" cackled the detective. "The merest
chance in the world, I'm sure."

"Yes. The miracle came off, so you're entitled to your gibe. But I have
news for you. It's about a dream and a face."

"Gee! Throw the picture on the screen, Mr. Carshaw."

Then Carshaw spoke, and Clancy listened and bade him work more miracles,
even though he might have to report such phenomena to the Psychical
Research Society. Next morning Carshaw, a hard man when offended,
visited Brown, Son & Brown, who had executed a large rebinding order for
his father's library, and Fowle was speedily out of a job. The
ex-foreman knew the source of his misfortune, and vowed vengeance.

In the evening, about half past six, Carshaw was back in One Hundred and
Twelfth Street. There had been no promise of a meeting between him and
Winifred--no promise, but, by those roundabout means by which people in
sympathy understand each other, it was perfectly well understood that
they would happen to meet again that night.

He waited in the street, but Winifred did not appear. The brown-stone
house was in total darkness. An hour passed, and the waiting was weary,
for it was drizzling. But Carshaw waited, being a persistent young man.
At last, after seven, a pang of fear shot through his breast. He
remembered the girl's curious account of the dream-man.

He determined to knock at the door, relying on his wits to invent some
excuse if any stranger opened. But to his repeated loud knockings there
came no answer. The house seemed abandoned. Winifred was gone! Even a
friendly patrolman took pity on his drawn face and drew near.

"No use, sir!" he confided. "They've skipped. But don't let on _I_ told
you. Call up the Detective Bureau!"



CHAPTER X

CARSHAW TAKES UP THE CHASE


"Busy, Mr. Carshaw?" inquired some one when an impatient young man got
in touch with Mulberry Street after an exasperating delay.

"Not too busy to try and defeat the scoundrels who are plotting against
a defenseless girl," he cried.

"Well, come down-town. We'll expect you in half an hour."

"But, Mr. Clancy asked me--"

"Better come," said the voice, and Carshaw, though fuming, bowed to
authority.

It is good for the idle rich that they should be brought occasionally
into sharp contact with life's realities. During his twenty-seven years
Rex Carshaw had hardly ever known what it meant to have a purpose
balked. Luckily for him, he was of good stock and had been well reared.

The instinct of sport, fostered by triumphs at Harvard, had developed an
innate quality of self-reliance and given him a physical hardihood which
revelled in conquest over difficulties. Each winter, instead of lounging
in flannels at the Poinciana, he was out with guides and dogs in the
Northwest after moose and caribou.

He preferred polo to tennis. He would rather pass a fortnight in
oilskins with the rough and ready fisher-folk of the Maine coast than
don the white ducks and smart caps of his wealthy yachting friends. In a
word, society and riches had not spoiled him. But he did like to have
his own way, and the suspicion that he might be thwarted in his desire
to help Winifred Bartlett cut him now like a sword. So he chafed against
the seeming slowness of the Subway, and fuel was added to the fire when
he was kept waiting five minutes on arriving at police headquarters.

He found Clancy closeted with a big man who had just lighted a fat
cigar, and this fact in itself betokened official callousness as to
Winifred's fate. Hot words leaped from his lips.

"Why have you allowed Miss Bartlett to be spirited away? Is there no law
in this State, nor any one who cares whether or not the law is obeyed?
She's gone--taken by force. I'm certain of it."

"And we also are certain of it, Mr. Carshaw," said Steingall placidly.
"Sit down. Do you smoke? You'll find these cigars in good shape," and he
pushed forward a box.

"But, is nothing being done?" Nevertheless, Carshaw sat down and took a
cigar. He had sufficient sense to see that bluster was useless and only
meant loss of dignity.

"Sure. That's why I asked you to come along."

"You see," put in Clancy, "you short-circuited the connections the night
before last, so we let you cool your heels in the rain this evening. We
want no 'first I will and then I won't' helpers in this business."

Carshaw met those beady brown eyes steadily. "I deserved that," he said.
"Now, perhaps, you'll forget a passing mood. I have come to like
Winifred."

Clancy stared suddenly at a clock.

"Tick, tick!" he said. "Eight fifteen. _Nom d'un pipe_, now I
understand."

For the first time the true explanation of Senator Meiklejohn's covert
glance at the clock the previous morning had occurred to him. That wily
gentleman wanted Winifred out of the house for her day's work before the
police interviewed Rachel Craik. He had fought hard to gain even a few
hours in the effort to hinder inquiry.

"What's bitten you, Frog?" inquired the chief.

Probably--who knows?--but there was some reasonable likelihood that the
Senator's name might have reached Carshaw's ears had not the telephone
bell jangled. Steingall picked up the receiver.

"Long-distance call. This is it, I guess," and his free hand enjoined
silence. The talk was brief and one-sided. Steingall smiled as he
replaced the instrument.

"Now, we're ready for you, Mr. Carshaw," he said, lolling back in his
chair again. "The Misses Craik and Bartlett have arrived for the night
at the Maples Inn, Fairfield, Connecticut. Thanks to you, we knew that
some one was desperately anxious that Winifred should leave New York.
Thanks to you, too, she has gone. Neither her aunt nor the other
interested people cared to have her strolling in Central Park with an
eligible and fairly intelligent bachelor like Mr. Rex Carshaw."

Carshaw's lips parted eagerly, but a gesture stayed him.

"Yes. Of course, I know you're straining at the leash, but please don't
go off on false trails. You never lose time casting about for the true
line. This is the actual position of affairs: A man known as Ralph V.
Voles, assisted by an amiable person named Mick the Wolf--he was so
christened in Leadville, where they sum up a tough accurately--hauled
Mr. Ronald Tower into the river. For some reason best known to himself,
Mr. Tower treats the matter rather as a joke, so the police can carry
it no further. But Voles is associated with Rachel Craik, and was in her
house during several hours on the night of the river incident and the
night following. It is almost safe to assume that he counseled the
girl's removal from New York because she is 'the image of her mother.'
One asks why this very natural fact should render Winifred Bartlett an
undesirable resident of New York. There is a ready answer. She might be
recognized. Such recognition would be awkward for somebody. But the girl
has lived in almost total seclusion. She is nineteen. If she is so like
her mother as to be recognized, her mother must have been a person of no
small consequence, a lady known to and admired by a very large circle of
friends. The daughter of any other woman, presumably long since dead,
who was not of social importance, could hardly be recognized. You follow
this?"

"Perfectly." Carshaw was beginning to remodel his opinion of the Bureau
generally, and of its easy-going, genial-looking chief in particular.

"This fear of recognition, with its certain consequences," went on
Steingall, pausing to flick the ash off his cigar, "is the dominant
factor in Winifred's career as directed by Rachel Craik. This woman,
swayed by some lingering shreds of decent thought, had the child well
educated, but the instant she approaches maturity, Winifred is set to
earn a living in a bookbinding factory. Why? Social New York does not
visit wholesale trade houses, nor travel on the elevated during rush
hours. But it does go to the big stores and fashionable milliners where
a pretty, well proportioned girl can obtain employment readily.
Moreover, Rachel Craik would never 'hear of' the stage, though Winifred
can sing, and believes she could dance. And how prompt recognition might
be in a theater. It all comes to this, Mr. Carshaw: the Bureau's hands
are tied, but it can and will assist an outsider, whom it trusts, who
means rescuing Miss Bartlett from the exile which threatens her. We have
looked you over carefully, and think you are trustworthy--"

"The Lord help you if you're not!" broke in Clancy. "I like the girl. It
will be a bad day for the man who works her evil."

Carshaw's eyes clashed with Clancy's, as rapiers rasp in thrust and
parry. From that instant the two men became firm friends, for the young
millionaire said quietly:

"I have her promise to call for help on me, first, Mr. Clancy."

"You'll follow her to Fairfield then?" and Steingall sat up suddenly.

"Yes. Please advise me."

"That's the way to talk. I wish there was a heap more boys like you
among the Four Hundred. But I can't advise you. I'm an official.
Suppose, however, I were a young gentleman of leisure who wanted to
befriend a deserving young lady in Winifred Bartlett's very peculiar
circumstances. I'd persuade her to leave a highly undesirable 'aunt,'
and strike out for herself. I'd ask my mother, or some other lady of
good standing, to take the girl under her wing, and see that she was
cared for until a place was found in some business or profession suited
to her talents. And that's as far as I care to go at this sitting. As
for the ways and means, in these days of fast cars and dare-devil
drivers who are in daily danger of losing their licenses--"

"By gad, I'll do it," and Carshaw's emphatic fist thumped the table.

"Steady! This Voles is a tremendous fellow. In a personal encounter you
would stand no chance. And he's the sort that shoots at sight. Mick the
Wolf, too, is a bad man from the wild and woolly West. The type exists,
even to-day. We have gunmen here in New York who'd clean up a whole
saloonful of modern cowboys. Voles and Mick are in Fairfield, but I've a
notion they'll not stay in the same hotel as Winifred and her aunt. I
think, too, that they may lie low for a day or two. You'll observe, of
course, that Rachel Craik, so poverty-stricken that Winifred had to
earn eight dollars a week to eke out the housekeeping, can now afford to
travel and live in expensive hotels. All this means that Winifred ought
to be urged to break loose and come back to New York. The police will
protect her if she gives them the opportunity, but the law won't let us
butt in between relatives, even supposed ones, without sufficient
justification. One last word--you must forget everything I've said."

"And another last word," cried Clancy. "The Bureau is a regular old
woman for tittle-tattle. We listen to all sorts of gossip. Some of it is
real news."

"And, by jing, I was nearly omitting one bit of scandal," said
Steingall. "It seems that Mick the Wolf and a fellow named Fowle met in
a corner saloon round about One Hundred and Twelfth Street the night
before last. They soon grew thick as thieves, and Fowle, it appears,
watched a certain young couple stroll off into the gloaming last night."

"Next time I happen on Fowle!" growled Carshaw.

"You'll leave him alone. Brains are better than brawn. Ask Clancy."

"Sure thing!" chuckled the little man. "Look at us two!"

"Anyhow, I'd hate to have the combination working against me," and with
this deft rejoinder Carshaw hurried away to a garage where he was
known. At dawn he was hooting an open passage along the Boston Post Road
in a car which temporarily replaced his own damaged cruiser.

Within three hours he was seated in the dining-room of the Maples Inn
and reading a newspaper. It was the off season, and the hotel contained
hardly any guests, but he had ascertained that Winifred and her aunt
were certainly there. For a long time, however, none but a couple of
German waiters broke his vigil, for this thing happened before the war.
One stout fellow went away. The other, a mere boy, remained and flecked
dust with a napkin, wondering, no doubt, why the motorist sat hours at
the table. At last, near noon, Rachel Craik, with a plaid shawl draped
around her angular shoulders, and Winifred, in a new dress of French
gray, came in.

Winifred started and cast down her eyes on seeing who was there.
Carshaw, on his part, apparently had no eyes for her, but kept a look
over the top of his newspaper at Rachel Craik, to see whether she
recognized him, supposing it to be a fact that he had been seen with
Winifred. She seemed, however, hardly to be aware of his presence.

The girl and the woman sat some distance from him--the room was
large--near a window, looking out, and anon exchanging a remark in
quiet voices. Then a lunch was brought into them, Carshaw meantime
buried in the newspaper except when he stole a glance at Winifred.

His hope was that the woman would leave the girl alone, if only for one
minute, for he had a note ready to slip into Winifred's hand, beseeching
her to meet him that evening at seven in the lane behind the church for
some talk "on a matter of high importance."

But fortune was against him. Rachel Craik, after her meal, sat again at
the window, took up some knitting, and plied needles like a slow
machine. The afternoon wore on. Finally, Carshaw rang to order his own
late lunch, and the German boy brought it in. He rose to go to table;
but, as if the mere act of rising spurred him to further action, he
walked straight to Winifred. The hours left him were few, and his
impatience had grown to the point of desperateness now. He bowed and
held out the paper, saying:

"Perhaps you have not seen this morning's newspaper?" At the same time
he presented her the note.

Miss Craik was sitting two yards away, half-turned from Winifred, but at
this afternoon offer of the morning's paper she glanced round fully at
Winifred, and saw, that as Winifred took the newspaper, she tried to
grasp with it a note also which lay on it--tried, but failed, for the
note escaped, slipped down on Winifred's lap, and lay there exposed.

Miss Craik's eyebrows lifted a little, but she did not cease her
knitting. Winifred's face was painfully red, and in another moment pale.
Carshaw was not often at his wits' end, but now for some seconds he
stood embarrassed.

Rachel Craik, however, saved him by saying quickly: "The gentleman has
dropped something in your lap, Winifred." Whereupon Winifred handed back
the unfortunate note.

What was he to do now? If he wrote to Winifred through the ordinary
channels of the hotel she might, indeed, soon receive the letter, but
the risks of this course were many and obvious. He ate, puzzling his
brains, spurring all his power of invention. The time for action was
growing short.

Suddenly he noticed the German boy, and had a thought. He could speak
German well, and, guessing that Rachel Craik probably did not understand
a word of it, he said in a natural voice to the boy in German:

"Fond of American dollars, boy?"

"_Ja, mein Herr_," answered the boy.

"I'm going to give you five."

"You are very good, _mein Herr_," said the boy, "beautiful thanks!"

"But you have to earn them. Will you do just what I tell you, without
asking for any reason?"

"If I can, _mein Herr_."

"Nothing very difficult. You have only to go over yonder by that chair
where I was sitting, throw yourself suddenly on the floor, and begin to
kick and wriggle as though you had a fit. Keep it up for two minutes,
and I will give you not five but ten. Will you do this?"

"From the heart willingly, _mein Herr_," answered the boy, who had a
solemn face and a complete lack of humor.

"Wait, then, three minutes, and then--suddenly--do it."

The three minutes passed in silence; no sound in the room, save the
clicking of Carshaw's knife and fork, and the ply of Rachel Craik's
knitting-needles. Then the boy lounged away to the farther end of the
room; and suddenly, with a bump, he was on the floor and in the promised
fit.

"Halloo!" cried Carshaw, while from both Winifred and Rachel came little
cries of alarm--for a fit has the same effect as a mouse on the nerves
of women.

"He's in a fit!" screamed the aunt.

"Please do something for him!" cried Winifred to Carshaw, with a face of
distress. But he would not stir from his seat. The boy still kicked and
writhed, lying on his face and uttering blood-curdling sounds. This was
easy. He had only to make bitter plaint in the German tongue.

"Oh, aunt," said Winifred, half risen, yet hesitating for fear, "do help
that poor fellow!"

Whereupon Miss Craik leaped up, caught the water-jug from the table with
a rather withering look at Carshaw, and hurried toward the boy. Winifred
went after her and Carshaw went after Winifred.

The older woman turned the boy over, bent down, dipped her fingers in
the water, and sprinkled his forehead. Winifred stood a little behind
her, bending also. Near her, too, Carshaw bent over the now quiet form
of the boy.

A piece of paper touched Winifred's palm--the note again. This time her
fingers closed on it and quickly stole into her pocket.



CHAPTER XI

THE TWO CARS


"It is highly improper on my part to come here and meet you," said
Winifred. "What can it be that you have to say to me of such 'high
importance'?"

The two were in the lane behind the church, at seven that same evening.
Winifred, on some pretext, had escaped the watchful eyes of Rachel
Craik, or fancied that she had, and came hurriedly to the waiting
Carshaw. She was all aflutter with expectancy not untinged by fear, she
knew not of what. The nights were beginning to darken early, and it was
gloomy that evening, for the sky was covered with clouds and a little
drizzle was falling.

"You are not to think that there is the least hint of impropriety about
the matter," Carshaw assured her. "Understand, please, Winifred, that
this is no lovers' meeting, but a business one, on which your whole
future life depends. You cannot suppose that I have followed you to
Fairfield for nothing."

"How could you possibly know that I was here?"

"From the police."

"The police _again_? What a strange thing!"

"Yes, a strange thing, and yet not so strange. They are keenly
interested in you and your movements, for your good. And I, of course,
still more so."

"You are wonderfully good to care. But, tell me quickly, I cannot stay
ten minutes. I think my aunt suspects something. She already knows about
the note dropped to-day into my lap."

"And about the boy in the fit. Does she suspect that, too?"

"What, was that a ruse? Good gracious, how artful you must be! I'm
afraid of you--"

"Endlessly artful for your sake, Winifred."

"You are kind. But tell me quickly."

"Winifred, you are in danger, from which there is only one way of escape
for you--namely, absolute trust in me. Pray understand that the dream in
which you heard some one say, 'She must be taken away from New York' was
no dream. You are here in order to be taken. This may be the first stage
of a long journey. Understand also that there is no bond of duty which
forces you to go against your will, for the shrewdest men in the New
York police have reason to think you are not who you imagine you are,
and that the woman you call your aunt is no relative of yours."

"What reason have they?" asked Winifred.

"I don't care--I don't know, they have not told me. But I believe them,
and I want you to believe me. The persons who have charge of your
destiny are not normal persons--more or less they have done, or are
connected with wrong. There is no doubt about that. The police know it,
though they cannot yet drag that wrong into the light. Do you credit
what I say?"

"It is all very strange."

"It is _true_. That is the point. Have you, by the way, ever seen a man
called Voles?"

"Voles? No."

"Yet that man at this moment is somewhere near you. He came in the same
train with you from New York. He is always near you. He is the most
intimate associate of your aunt. Think now, and tell me whether it is
not a disturbing thing that you never saw this man face to face?"

"Most disturbing, if what you say is so."

"But suppose I tell you what I firmly believe--that you _have_ seen him;
that it was _his_ face which bent over you in your half-sleep the other
night, and his voice which you heard?"

"I always thought that it was no dream," said Winifred. "It was--not a
nice face."

"And remember, Winifred," urged Carshaw earnestly, "that to-day and
to-morrow are your last chances. You are about to be taken far
away--possibly to France or England, as surely as you see those clouds.
True, if you go, I shall go after you."

"You?"

"Yes, I. But, if you go, I cannot be certain how far I may be able to
defend and rescue you there, as I can in America. I know nothing of
foreign laws, and those who have you in their power do. On that field
they may easily beat me. So now is your chance, Winifred."

"But what am I to do?" she asked in a scared tone, frightened at last by
the sincerity blazing from his eyes.

"Necessity has no rules of propriety," he answered. "I have a car here.
You should come with me this very night to New York. Once back there, it
is only what my interest in you gives me the right to expect that you
will consent to use my purse for a short while, till you find suitable
employment."

Winifred covered her face and began to cry. "Oh, I couldn't!" she
sobbed.

"Don't cry," said Carshaw tenderly. "You must, you know, since it is the
only way. You cry because you do not trust me."

"Oh! I do. But what a thing it is that you propose! To break with all my
past on a sudden. I hardly even know you; last week I had not seen
you--"

"There, that is mistrust. I know you as well as if I had always known
you. In fact, I always did, in a sense. Please don't cry. Say that you
will come with me to-night. It will be the best piece of work that you
ever did for yourself, and you will always thank me for having persuaded
you."

"But not to-night! I must have time to reflect, at least."

"Then, when?"

"Perhaps to-morrow night. I don't know. I must think it over first in
all its bearings. To-morrow morning I will leave a letter in the office,
telling you--"

"Well, if you insist on the delay. But it is dangerous, Winifred--it is
horribly dangerous!"

"I can't help that. How could a girl run away in that fashion?"

"Well, then, to-morrow night at eleven, precisely. I shall be at the end
of this lane in my car, if your letter in the morning says 'Yes.' Is
that understood?"

"Yes."

"Let me warn you against bringing anything with you--any clothes or a
grip. Just steal out of the inn as you are. And I shall be just there at
the corner--at eleven."

"Yes."

"I may not have the chance of speaking to you again before--"

But Carshaw's pleading stopped short; from the near end of the lane a
tall form entered it--Rachel Craik. She had followed Winifred from the
hotel, suspecting that all was not well--had followed her, lost her, and
now had refound her. She walked sedately, with an inscrutable face,
toward the spot where the two were talking. The moment Carshaw saw this
woman of ill omen he understood that all was lost, unless he acted with
bewildering promptness, and quickly he whispered in Winifred's ear:

"It must be to-night or never! Decide now. 'Yes' or 'No.'"

"Yes," said Winifred, in a voice so low that he could hardly hear.

"At eleven to-night?"

"Yes," she murmured.

Rachel Craik was now up to them. She was in a vile temper, but contrived
to curb it.

"What is the meaning of this, Winifred? And who is this gentleman?" she
said.

Winifred, from the habit of a lifetime, stood in no small awe of that
austere woman. All the blood fled from the girl's face. She could only
say brokenly:

"I am coming, aunt," and went following with a dejected air a yard
behind her captor. In this order they walked till they arrived at the
door of the Maples Inn, neither having uttered a single word to the
other. There Miss Craik halted abruptly. "Go to your room," she
muttered. "I'm ashamed of you. Sneaking out at night to meet a strange
man! No kitchen-wench could have behaved worse."

Winifred had no answer to that taunt. She could not explain her motives.
Indeed, she would have failed lamentably had she attempted it. All she
knew was that life had suddenly turned topsy-turvy. She distrusted her
aunt, the woman to whom she seemed to owe duty and respect, and was
inclined to trust a young man whom she had met three times in all. But
she was gentle and soft-hearted. Perhaps, if this Mr. Rex Carshaw, with
his earnest eyes and wheedling voice, could have a talk with "aunty,"
his queer suspicions--so oddly borne out by events--might be dissipated.

"I'm sorry if I seem to have done wrong," she said, laying a timid hand
on Rachel Craik's arm. "If you would only tell me a little, dear. Why
have we left New York? Why--"

"Do you want to see me in jail?" came the harsh whisper.

"No. Oh, no. But--"

"Obey me, then! Remain in your room till I send for you. I'm in danger,
and you, you foolish girl, are actually in league with my enemies. Go!"

Winifred sped through the porch, and hied her to a window in her room on
the first floor which commanded a view of the main street. She could see
neither Carshaw nor Aunt Rachel, the one having determined to lie low
for a few hours, and the other being hidden from sight already as she
hastened through the rain to the small inn where Voles and Mick the Wolf
were located.

These worthies were out. The proprietor said they had hired a car and
gone to Bridgeport. Miss Craik could only wait, and she sat in the
lobby, prim and quiet, the picture of resignation, not betraying by a
look or gesture the passions of anger, apprehension, and impatience
which raged in her breast.

Voles did not come. An hour passed; eight struck, then nine. Once the
word "carousing"! passed Miss Rachel's lips with an intense bitterness;
but, on the whole, she sat with a stiff back, patient as stone.

Then after ten there came the hum and whir of an automobile driven at
high speed through the rain-sodden main street. It stopped outside the
inn. A minute later the gallant body of Voles entered, cigar in his
mouth, and a look of much champagne in his eyes.

"What, Rachel, girl, you here!" he said in his offhand way.

"Are you sober?" asked Rachel, rising quickly.

"Sober? Never been really soused in my life! What's up?"

He dropped a huge paw roughly on her shoulder, and her hard eyes
softened as she looked at his face and splendid frame, for Ralph "Voles"
was Rachel Craik's one weakness.

"What's the trouble?" he went on, seeing that her lips were twitching.

"You should have been here," she snapped. "Everything may be lost. A man
is down here after Winifred, and I've caught her talking to him in
secret."

"A cop?" and Voles glanced around the otherwise deserted lobby.

"I don't know--most probably. Or he may be that same man who was walking
with her on Wednesday night in Central Park. Anyway, this afternoon he
tried to hand her a note in offering her a newspaper. The note fell, and
I saw it. Afterward he managed to get it to her in some way, though I
never for a moment let her out of my sight; and they met about seven
o'clock behind the church."

"The little cat! She beat you to it, Rachel!"

"There is no time for talk, Ralph. That man will take her from us, and
then woe to you, to William, to us all. Things come out; they do, they
do--the deepest secrets! Man, man--oh, rouse yourself, sober yourself,
and act! We must be far from this place before morning."

"No more trains from here--"

"You could hire a car for your own amusement. Rush her off in that.
Snatch her away to Boston. We may catch a liner to-morrow."

"But we can't have her seeing us!"

"We can't help that. It is dark; she won't see your face. Let us be
gone. We must have been watched, or how could that man have found us
out? Ralph! Don't you understand? You must do something."

"Where's this spy you gab of? I'll--"

"This is not the Mexican border. You can't shoot here. The man is not
the point, but the girl. She must be gotten away at once."

"Nothing easier. Off, now to the hotel, and be ready in half an hour.
I'll bring the car around."

Rachel Craik wanted no further discussion. She reached the Maples Inn in
a flurry of little runs. Before the door she saw two glaring lights, the
lamps of Carshaw's automobile. It was not far from eleven. Even as she
approached the hotel, Carshaw got in and drove down the street. He drew
up on a patch of grass by the roadside at the end of the lane behind
the church. Soon after this he heard a clock strike eleven.

His eyes peered down the darkness of the lane to see Winifred coming, as
she had promised. It was still drizzling slightly--the night was heavy,
stagnant and silent. Winifred did not come, and Carshaw's brows puckered
with care and foreboding. A quarter of an hour passed, but no light
tread gladdened his ear. Fairfield lay fast asleep.

Carshaw could no longer sit still. He paced restlessly about the wet
grass to ease his anxious heart. And so another quarter of an hour wore
slowly. Then the sound of a fast-moving car broke the silence. Down the
road a pair of dragon-eyes blazed. The car came like the chariots of
Sennacherib, in reckless flight. Soon it was upon him. He drew back out
of the road toward his own racer.

Though rather surprised at this urgent flight he had no suspicion that
Winifred might be the cause of it. As the car dashed past he clearly saw
on the front seat two men, and in the tonneau he made out the forms of
two women. The faces of any of the quartet were wholly merged in speed
and the night, but some white object fluttered in the swirl of air and
fell forlornly in the road, dropping swiftly in its final plunge, like a
stricken bird. He darted forward and picked up a lady's handkerchief.
Then he knew! Winifred was being reft from him again. He leaped to his
own car, started the engine, turned with reckless haste, and in a few
seconds was hot in chase.



CHAPTER XII

THE PURSUIT


The two automobiles rushed along the Boston Post Road, heading for
Bridgeport. The loud rivalry of their straining engines awoke many a
wayside dweller, and brought down maledictions on the heads of all
midnight joy-riders.

Carshaw knew the road well, and his car was slightly superior to the
other in speed. His hastily evolved plan was to hold the kidnappers
until they were in the main street of Bridgeport. There he could dash
ahead, block further progress, risking a partial collision if necessary,
and refer the instant quarrel to the police, bidding them verify his
version of the dispute by telephoning New York.

He could only hope that Winifred would bear him out as against her
"aunt," and he felt sure that Voles and his fellow-adventurer dare not
risk close investigation by the law. At any rate, his main object at
present was to overtake the car in front, which had gained a flying
start, and thus spoil any maneuvering for escape, such as turning into a
side road. In his enthusiasm he pressed on too rapidly.

He was seen, and his intent guessed. The leading car slowed a trifle in
rounding a bend; as Carshaw careened into view a revolver-shot rang out,
and a bullet drilled a neat hole in the wind-screen, making a noise like
the sharp crack of a whip. Simultaneously came a scream!

That must be Winifred's cry of terror in his behalf. The sound nerved
him anew. He saw red. A second shot, followed by a wilder shriek, spat
lead somewhere in the bonnet. Carshaw set his teeth, gave the engine
every ounce of power, and the two chariots of steel went raging,
reckless of consequences, along the road.

There must be a special Providence that looks after chauffeurs, as well
as after children and drunkards, for at some places the road, though
wide enough, was so dismal with shadow that if any danger lurked within
the darkness it would not have been seen in time to be avoided.

"Drunkenness" is, indeed, the word to describe the state of mind of the
two drivers by this time--a heat to be on, a wrath against obstacles, a
storm in the blood, and a light in the eyes. Voles would have whirled
through a battalion of soldiers on the march, if he had met them, and
would have hissed curses at them as he pitched over their bodies. He
knew how to handle an automobile, having driven one over the rough
tracks of the Rockies, so this well-kept road offered no difficulties.
For five minutes the cars raged ahead, passed through a sleeping village
street and down a hill into open country beyond.

No sound was made by their occupants, whose minds and purposes remained
dark one to the other. Voles might have fancied himself chased by the
flight of witches who harried Tam o' Shanter, while Carshaw might have
been hunting a cargo of ghosts; only the running hum of the cars droned
its music along the highway, with a staccato accompaniment of
revolver-shots and Winifred's appeals to heaven for aid. Meantime, the
rear car still gained on the one in front. And, on a sudden, Carshaw was
aware of a shouting, though he could not make out the words. It was Mick
the Wolf, who had clambered into the tonneau and was bellowing:

"Pull up, you--Pull up, or I'll get you sure!"

Nor was the threat a waste of words, for he had hardly shouted when
again a bullet flicked past Carshaw's head.

Just then a bend of the road and a patch of woodland hid the two cars
from each other; but they had hardly come out upon a reach of straight
road again when another shot was fired. Carshaw, however, was now
crouched low over the steering wheel, and using the hood of the car as a
breast-work; though, since he was obliged to look out, his head was
still more or less exposed.

He bated no whit of speed on this account, but raced on; still, that
firing in the dark had an effect upon his nerves, making him feel rather
queer and small, for every now and again at intervals of a few seconds,
it was sure to come, the desperado taking slow, cool aim with the
perseverance of a man plying his day's work, of a man repeating to
himself the motto:

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again."

Those shots, moreover, were coming from a hand whose aim seldom
failed--a dead shot, baffled only by the unconquerable vibration. And
yet Carshaw was untouched. He could not even think. He was conscious
only of the thrum of the car, the spurts of flame, the whistle of lead,
the hysterical frenzy of Winifred's plaints.

The darkness alone saved him, but the more he caught up with the
fugitive the less was this advantage likely to stand him in good stead.
And when he should actually catch them up--what then? This question
presented itself now to his heated mind. He had no plan of action. None
was possible. Even in Bridgeport what could he do? There were two
against one--he would simply be shot as he passed the other car.

It was only the heat of the hunt that had created in him the feeling
that he must overtake them, though he died for it; but when he was
within thirty yards of the front car, and two shots had come dangerously
near in swift succession, a flash of reason warned him, and he
determined to slacken speed a little. He was not given time to do this.
There was an outcry on the car in front from three throats in it.

A mob of oxen, being driven to some market, blocked the road just beyond
a bend. The men in charge had heard the thunder of the oncoming racers,
with its ominous obbligato of screams and shooting. They had striven
desperately to whack the animals to the hedge on either side, and were
bawling loud warnings to those thrice accursed gunmen whom they imagined
chased by police. Their efforts, their yells, were useless. Sixty miles
an hour demands at least sixty yards for safety. When Voles put hand and
foot to the brakes he had hardly a clear space of ten. An obstreperous
bullock was the immediate cause of disaster. Facing the dragon eyes, it
charged valiantly!

Mick the Wolf, running short of cartridges, was about to ask Voles to
slow down until he "got" the reckless pursuer, when he found himself
describing a parabola backward through the air. He landed in the
roadway, breaking his left arm.

Voles had an extraordinary lurid oath squeezed out of his vast bulk as
he was forced onto the steering-wheel, the pillar snapping like a
carrot. Winifred and Rachel Craik were flung against the padded back of
the driving seat, but saved from real injury because of their crouching
to avoid Mick the Wolf.

Voles was as quick as a wildcat in an emergency like this. He was on his
feet in a second, with a leg over the door, meaning to shoot Carshaw ere
the latter could do anything to protect himself. But luck, dead against
honesty thus far, suddenly veered against crime. Carshaw's car smashed
into the rear of the heavy mass composed of crushed bullock and
automobile no longer mobile, and dislocated its own engine and feed
pipes. The jerk threw Voles heavily, and nearly, not quite, sprained his
ankle. So, during a precious second or two, he lay almost stunned on the
left side of the road.

Carshaw, given a hint of disaster by the slightest fraction of time, and
already braced low in the body of his car, was able to jump unobserved
from the wreck. As though his brain were illumined by a flash of
lightning, he remembered that the signal handkerchief had fluttered from
the off side of the flying car, so he ran to the right, and grabbed a
breathless bundle of soft femininity out of the ruin.

"Winifred," he gasped.

"Oh, are you safe?" came the strangled sob. So that was her first
thought, his safety! It is a thrilling moment in a man's life when he
learns that his well-being provides an all-sufficing content for some
dear woman. Come weal, come woe, Carshaw knew then that he was clasping
his future wife in his arms. He ran with her through a mob of frightened
cattle, and discovered a gate leading into a field.

"Can you stand if I lift you over?" he said, leaning against the bars.

"Of course! I can run, too," and, in maidenly effort to free herself,
she hugged him closer. They crossed the gate and together breasted a
slight rise through scattered sheaves of corn-shucks. Meanwhile, Voles
and the cattlemen were engaged in a cursing match until Rachel Craik,
recovering her wind, screamed an eldrich command:

"Stop, you fool! They're getting away. He has taken her down the road!"

Voles limped off in pursuit, and Mick the Wolf took up the fierce
argument with the drivers. At that instant the wreck blazed into flame.
Rachel had to move quickly to avoid a holocaust in which a hapless
bullock provided the burnt offering. The light of this pyre revealed the
distant figures of Winifred and Carshaw, whereupon the maddened Voles
tried pot shots at a hundred yards. Bullets came close, too. One cut
the heel of Carshaw's shoe; another plowed a ridge through his motoring
cap. Realizing that Voles would aim only at him, he told Winifred to run
wide.

She caught his hand.

"Please--help!" she breathed. "I cannot run far."

He smothered a laugh of sheer joy. Winifred's legs were supple as his.
She was probably the fleeter of the two. It was the mother-instinct that
spoke in her. This was her man, and she must protect him, cover him from
enemies with her own slim body.

Soon they were safe from even a chance shot. On climbing a rail fence,
Carshaw led the girl clearly into view until a fold in the ground
offered. Then they doubled and zigzagged. They saw some houses, but
Carshaw wanted no explanation or parleying then and pressed on. They
entered a lane, or driveway, and followed it. There came a murmuring of
mighty waters, the voice of the sea; they were on the beach of Long
Island Sound. Far behind, in the gloom, shone a lurid redness, marking
the spot where the two cars and the bullock were being converted into
ardent gasses.

Carshaw halted and surveyed a long, low line of blackness breaking into
the deep-blue plain of the sea to the right.

"I know where we are," he said. "There's a hotel on that point. It's
about two miles. You could walk twenty, couldn't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Winifred unthinkingly.

"Or run five at a jog-trot?" he teased her.

"Well--er--"

She blushed furiously, and thanked the night that hid her from his eyes.
No maid wishes a man to think she is in love with him before he has
uttered the word of love. When next she spoke, Winifred's tone was
reserved, almost distant.

"Now tell me what has caused this tornado," she said. "I have been
acting on impulse. Please give me some reasonable theory of to-night's
madness."

It was on the tip of Carshaw's tongue to assure her that they were going
to New York by the first train, and would hie themselves straight to the
City Hall for a marriage license. But--he had a mother, a prized and
deeply reverenced mother. Ought he to break in on her placid and
well-balanced existence with the curt announcement that he was married,
even to a wife like Winifred. Would he be playing the game with those
good fellows in the detective bureau? Was it fair even to Winifred that
she should be asked to pay the immediate price, as it were, of her
rescue? So the fateful words were not uttered, and the two trudged on,
talking with much common sense, probing the doubtful things in
Winifred's past life, and ever avoiding the tumult of passion which must
have followed their first kiss.

In due course an innkeeper was aroused and the mishap of a car
explained. The man took them for husband and wife; happily, Winifred did
not overhear Carshaw's smothered:

"Not yet!"

The girl soon went to her room. They parted with a formal hand-shake;
but, to still the ready lips of scandal, Carshaw discovered the
landlord's favorite brand of wine and sat up all night in his company.



CHAPTER XIII

THE NEW LINK


Steingall and Clancy were highly amused by Carshaw's account of the
"second burning of Fairfield," as the little man described the struggle
between Winifred's abductors and her rescuer. The latter, not so well
versed in his country's history as every young American ought to be, had
to consult a history of the Revolution to learn that Fairfield was
burned by the British in 1777. The later burning, by the way, created a
pretty quarrel between two insurance companies, the proprietors of two
garages and the owner of a certain bullock, with Carshaw's lawyer and a
Bridgeport lawyer, instructed by "Mr. Ralph Voles," as interveners.

"And where is the young lady now?" inquired Steingall, when Carshaw's
story reached its end.

"Living in rooms in a house in East Twenty-seventh Street, a quiet place
kept by a Miss Goodman."

"Ah! Too soon for any planning as to the future, I suppose?"

"We talked of that in the train. Winifred has a voice, so the stage
offers an immediate opening. But I don't like the notion of musical
comedy, and the concert platform demands a good deal of training, since
a girl starts there practically as a principal. There is no urgency.
Winifred might well enjoy a fortnight's rest. I have counseled that."

"A stage wait, in fact," put in Clancy, sarcastically.

By this time Carshaw was beginning to understand the peculiar quality of
the small detective's wit.

"Yes," he said, smiling into those piercing and brilliant eyes. "There
are periods in a man's life when he ought to submit his desires to the
acid test. Such a time has come now for me."

"But 'Aunt Rachel' may find her. Is she strong-willed enough to resist
cajoling, and seek the aid of the law if force is threatened?"

"Yes, I am sure now. What she heard and saw of those two men during the
mad run along the Post Road supplied good and convincing reasons why she
should refuse to return to Miss Craik."

"Why are you unwilling to charge them with attempted murder?" said
Steingall, for Carshaw had stipulated there should be no legal
proceedings.

"My lawyers advise against it," he said simply.

"You've consulted them?"

"Yes, called in on my way here. When I reached home after seeing
Winifred fixed comfortably in Miss Goodman's, I opened a letter from my
lawyers, requesting an interview--on another matter, of course. Meaning
to marry Winifred, if she'll take me, I thought it wise to tell them
something about recent events."

Steingall carefully chose a cigar from a box of fifty, all exactly
alike, nipped the end off, and lighted it. Clancy's fingers drummed
impatiently on the table at which the three were seated. Evidently he
expected the chief to play Sir Oracle. But the head of the Bureau
contented himself with the comment that he was still interested in
Winifred Bartlett's history, and would be glad to have any definite
particulars which Carshaw might gather.

Clancy sighed so heavily on hearing this "departmental" utterance that
Carshaw was surprised.

"If I could please myself, I'd rush Winifred to the City Hall for a
marriage license to-day," he said, believing he had fathomed the other's
thought.

"I'm a bit of a Celt on the French and Irish sides," snapped Clancy,
"and that means an ineradicable vein of romance in my make-up. But I'm
a New York policeman, too--a guy who has to mind his own business far
more frequently than the public suspects."

And there the subject dropped. Truth to tell, the department had to
tread warily in stalking such big game as a Senator. Carshaw was a
friend of the Towers, and "the yacht mystery" had been deliberately
squelched by the highly influential persons most concerned. It was
impolitic, it might be disastrous, if Senator Meiklejohn's name were
dragged into connection with that of the unsavory Voles on the flimsy
evidence, or, rather, mere doubt, affecting Winifred Bartlett's early
life.

Winifred herself lived in a passive but blissful state of dreams during
the three weeks. Perhaps, in her heart of hearts, she wondered if every
young man who might be in love with a girl imposed such rigid restraint
on himself as Rex Carshaw when he was in her company. The unspoken
language of love was plain in every glance, in every tone, in the merest
touch of their hands. But he spoke no definite word, and their lips had
never met.

Miss Goodman, who took an interest in the pretty and amiable girl, spent
many an hour of chat with her. Every morning there arrived a present of
flowers from Carshaw; every afternoon Carshaw himself appeared as
regularly as the clock and drank of Miss Goodman's tea. They were weeks
of _Nirvana_ for Winifred, and, but for her fear of being found out and
her continued lack of occupation, they were the happiest she had ever
known. Meantime, however, she was living on "borrowed" money, and felt
herself in a false position.

"Well, any news?" was always Carshaw's first question as he placed his
hat over his stick on a chair. And Winifred might reply:

"Not much. I saw such-and-such a stage manager, and went from such an
agent to another, and had my voice tried, with the usual promises. I'm
afraid that even your patience will soon be worn out. I am sorry now
that I thought of singing instead of something else, for there are
plenty of girls who can sing much better than I."

"But don't be so eager about the matter, Winifred," he would say. "It is
an anxious little heart that eats itself out and will not learn repose.
Isn't it? And it chafes at being dependent on some one who is growing
weary of the duty. Doesn't it?"

"No, I didn't mean that," said Winifred with a rueful and tender smile.
"You are infinitely good, Rex." They had soon come to the use of
Christian names. Outwardly they were just good friends, while inwardly
they resembled two active volcanoes.

"Now I am 'infinitely good,' which is really more than human if you
think it out," he laughed. "See how you run to extremes with nerves and
things. No, you are not to care at all, Winnie. You have a more or less
good voice. You know more music than is good for you, and sooner or
later, since you insist on it, you will get what you want. Where is the
hurry?"

"You don't or won't understand," said Winifred. "I know what I want, and
must get some work without delay."

"Well, then, since it upsets you, you shall. I am not much of an
authority about professional matters myself, but I know a lady who
understands these things, and I'll speak to her."

"Who is this lady?" asked Winifred.

"Mrs. Ronald Tower."

"Young--nice-looking?" asked Winifred, looking down at the crochet work
in her lap. She was so taken up with the purely feminine aspect of
affairs that she gave slight heed to a remarkable coincidence.

"Er--so-so," said Carshaw with a smile borne of memories, which
Winifred's downcast eyes just noticed under their raised lids.

"What is she like?" she went on.

"Let me see! How shall I describe her? Well, you know Gainsborough's
picture of the Duchess of Devonshire? She's like that, full-busted,
with preposterous hats, dashing--rather a beauty!"

"Indeed!" said Winifred coldly. "She must be awfully attractive. A
_very_ old friend?"

"Oh, rather! I knew her when I was eighteen, and she was _elancée_
then."

"What does _elancée_ mean?"

"On the loose."

"What does _that_ mean?"

"Well--a bit free and easy, doesn't it? Something of that sort. Smart
set, you know."

"I see. Do _you_, then, belong to the smart set?"

"I? No. I dislike it rather. But one rubs with all sorts in the grinding
of the mill."

"And this Mrs. Ronald Tower, whom you knew at eighteen, how old was she
then?"

"About twenty-two or so."

"And she was--gay then?"

"As far as ever society would let her."

"How--did you know?"

"I--well, weren't we almost boy and girl together?"

"I wonder you can give yourself the pains to come to spend your precious
minutes with me when that sort of woman is within--"

"What, not jealous?" he cried joyously. "And of that _passée_ creature?
Why, she isn't worthy to stoop and tie the latchets of your shoes, as
the Scripture saith!"

"Still, I'd rather not be indebted to that lady for anything," said
Winifred.

"But why not? Don't be excessive, little one. There is no reason, you
know."

"How does she come to know about singing and theatrical people?"

"I don't know that she does. I only assume it. A woman of the world,
cutting a great dash, yet hard up--that kind knows all sorts and
conditions of men. I am sure she could help you, and I'll have a try."

"But is she the wife of the Ronald Tower who was dragged by the lasso
into the river?"

"The same."

"It is odd how that name keeps on occurring in my life," said Winifred
musingly. "A month ago I first heard it on Riverside Drive, and since
then I hear it always. I prefer, Rex, that you do not say anything to
that woman about me."

"I shall!" said Rex playfully. "You mustn't start at shadows."

Winifred was silent. After a time she asked:

"Have you seen Mr. Steingall or Mr. Clancy lately?"

"Yes, a couple of days ago. We are always more or less in communication.
But I have nothing to report. They're keeping track of Voles and Mick
the Wolf, but those are birds who don't like salt on their tails. You
know already that the Bureau never ceases to work at the mystery of your
relation with your impossible 'aunt,' and I think they have information
which they have not passed on to me."

"Is my aunty still searching for me, I wonder?" asked Winifred.

"Oh, don't call her aunty--call her your antipodes! It is more than that
woman knows how to be your aunt. Of course, the whole crew of them are
moving heaven and earth to find you! Clancy knows it. But let them
try--they won't succeed. And even if they do, please don't forget that
I'm here now!"

"But why should they be so terribly anxious to find me? My aunty always
treated me fairly well, but in a cold sort of a way which did not betray
much love. So love can't be their motive."

"Love!" And Carshaw breathed the word softly, as though it were pleasing
to his ear. "No. They have some deep reason, but what that is is more
than any one guesses. The same reason made them wish to take you far
from New York, though what it all means is not very clear. Time,
perhaps, will show."

The same night Rex Carshaw sat among a set which he had not frequented
much of late--in Mrs. Tower's drawing-room. There were several tables
surrounded with people of various American and foreign types playing
bridge. The whole atmosphere was that of Mammon; one might have fancied
oneself in the halls of a Florentine money-changer. At the same table
with Carshaw were Mrs. Tower, another society dame, and Senator
Meiklejohn, who ought to have been making laws at Washington.

Tower stood looking on, the most unimportant person present, and anon
ran to do some bidding of his wife's. Carshaw's only relation with Helen
Tower of late had been to allow himself to be cheated by her at bridge,
for she did not often pay, especially if she lost to one who had been
something more than a friend. When he did present himself at her house,
she felt a certain gladness apart from the money which he would lose;
women ever keep some fragment of the heart which the world is not
permitted to scar and harden wholly.

She grew pensive, therefore, when he told her that he wished to place a
girl on the concert stage, and wished to know from her how best to
succeed. She thought dreamily of other days, and the slightest pin-prick
of jealousy touched her, for Carshaw had suddenly become earnest in
broaching this matter, and the other pair of players wondered why the
game was interrupted for so trivial a cause.

"What is the girl's name?" she asked.

"Her name is of no importance, but, if you must know, it is Winifred
Bartlett," he answered.

Senator Meiklejohn laid his thirteen cards face upward on the table.
There had been no bidding, and his partner screamed in protest:

"Senator, what are you doing?"

He had revealed three aces and a long suit of spades.

"We must have a fresh deal," smirked Mrs. Tower.

"Well, of all the wretched luck!" sighed the other woman. Meiklejohn
pleaded a sudden indisposition, yet lingered while a servant summoned
Ronald Tower to play in his stead.

Carshaw knew Winifred--that same Winifred whom he and his secret
intimates had sought so vainly during three long weeks! Voles and his
arm-fractured henchman were recuperating in Boston, but Rachel Craik and
Fowle were hunting New York high and low for sight of the girl.

Fowle, though skilled in his trade, found well-paid loafing more to his
choice, for Voles had sent Rachel to Fowle, guessing this man to be of
the right kidney for underhanded dealings. Moreover, he knew Winifred,
and would recognize her anywhere. Fowle, therefore, suddenly blossomed
into a "private detective," and had reported steady failure day after
day. Rachel Craik had never ascertained Carshaw's name, as it was not
necessary that he should register in the Fairfield Inn, and Fowle, with
a nose still rather tender to the touch, never spoke to her of the man
who had smashed it.

So these associates in evil remained at cross-purposes until Senator
Meiklejohn, when the bridge game was renewed and no further information
was likely to ooze out, went away from Mrs. Tower's house to nurse his
sickness. He recovered speedily. A note was sent to Rachel by special
messenger, and she, in turn, sought Fowle, whose mean face showed a
blotchy red when he learned that Winifred could be traced by watching
Carshaw.

"I'll get her now, ma'am," he chuckled. "It'll be dead easy. I can make
up as a parson. Did that once before when--well, just to fool a bunch of
people. No one suspects a parson--see? I'll get her--sure!"



CHAPTER XIV

A SUBTLE ATTACK


Voles was brought from Boston. Though Meiklejohn dreaded the man,
conditions might arise which would call for a bold and ruthless
rascality not quite practicable for a Senator.

The lapse of time, too, had lulled the politician's suspicions of the
police. They seemed to have ceased prying. He ascertained, almost by
chance, that Clancy was hot on the trail of a gang of counterfeiters.
"The yacht mystery" had apparently become a mere memory in the Bureau.

So Voles came, with him Mick the Wolf, carrying a left arm in splints,
and the Senator thought he was taking no risk in calling at the up-town
hotel where the pair occupied rooms the day after Carshaw blurted out
Winifred's name to Helen Tower. He meant paying another visit that day,
so was attired _de rigueur_, a fact at which Voles, pipe in mouth and
lounging in pajamas, promptly scoffed.

"Gee!" he cried. "Here's the Senator mooching round again, dressed up to
the nines--dust coat, morning suit, boots shining, all the frills--but
visiting low companions all the same. Why doesn't the man turn over a
new leaf and become good?"

"Oh, hold your tongue!" said William. "We've got the girl, Ralph!"

"Got the girl, have we? Not the first girl you've said that about--is
it, my wily William?"

"Listen, and drop that tone when you're speaking to me, or I'll cut you
out for good and all!" said Meiklejohn in deadly earnest. "If ever you
had need to be serious, it is now. I said we've got her, but that only
means that we are about to get her address; and the trouble will be to
get herself afterward."

"Tosh! As to that, only tell me where she is, an' I'll go and grab her
by the neck."

"Don't be such a fool. This is New York and not Mexico, though you
insist on confounding the two. Even if the girl were without friends,
you can't go and seize people in that fashion over here, and she has at
least one powerful friend, for the man who beat you hollow that night,
and carried her off under your very nose, is Rex Carshaw, a determined
youngster, and rich, though not so rich as he thinks he is. And there
must be no failure a second time, Ralph. Remember that! Just listen to
me carefully. This girl is thinking of going on the stage! Do you
realize what that means, if she ever gets there? You have yourself said
she is the living image of her mother. You know that her mother was well
known in society. Think, then, of her appearing before the public, and
of the certainty of her being recognized by some one, or by many, if she
does. Fall down this time, and the game's up!"

"The thing seems to be, then, to let daylight into Carshaw," said Voles.

"Oh, listen, man! Listen! What we have to do is to place her in a lonely
house--in the country--where, if she screams, her screams will not be
heard; and the only possibility of bringing her there is by ruse, not by
violence."

"Well, and how get her there?"

"That has to be carefully planned, and even more carefully executed. It
seems to me that the mere fact of her wishing to go on the stage may be
made a handle to serve our ends. If we can find a dramatic agent with
whom she is in treaty, we must obtain a sheet of his office paper, and
write her a letter in his name, making an appointment with her at an
empty house in the country, some little distance from New York. None of
the steps presents any great difficulty. In fact, all that part I
undertake myself. It will be for you, your friend Mick, and Rachel Craik
to receive her and keep her eternally when you once have her. You may
then be able so to work upon her as to persuade her to go quietly with
you to South America or England. In any case, we shall have shut her
away from the world, which is our object."

"Poor stuff! How about this Carshaw? Suppose he goes with her to keep
the appointment, or learns from her beforehand of it? Carshaw must be
wiped out."

"He must certainly be dealt with, yes," said Meiklejohn, "but in another
manner. I think--I think I see my way. Leave him to me. I want this girl
out of New York State in the first instance. Suppose you go to the
Oranges, in New Jersey, pick out a suitable house, and rent it? Go
to-day."

Voles raised his shaggy eyebrows.

"What's the rush?" he said amusedly. "After eighteen years--"

"Will you never learn reason? Every hour, every minute, may bring
disaster."

"Oh, have it your way! I'll fix Carshaw if he camps on my trail a second
time."

Meiklejohn returned to his car with a care-seamed brow. He was bound now
for Mrs. Carshaw's apartment.

If he was fortunate enough to find her in, and alone, he would take that
first step in "dealing with" her son which he had spoken of to Voles. He
made no prior appointment by phone. He meant catching her unawares, so
that Rex could have no notion of his presence.

Mrs. Carshaw was a substantial lady of fifty, a society woman of the
type to whom the changing seasons supply the whole duty of man and
woman, and the world outside the orbit of the Four Hundred is a rumor of
no importance.

She had met Senator Meiklejohn in so many places for so many years that
they might be called comrades in the task of dining and making New York
look elegant. She was pleased to see him. Their common fund of scandal
and epigram would carry them safely over a cheerful hour.

"And as to the good old firm of Carshaw--prosperous as usual, I hope,"
said Meiklejohn, balancing an egg-shell tea-cup.

Mrs. Carshaw shrugged.

"I don't know much about it," she said, "but I sometimes hear talk of
bad times and lack of capital. I suppose it is all right. Rex does not
seem concerned."

"Ah! but the mischief may be just there," said Meiklejohn. "The rogue
may be throwing it all on the shoulders of his managers, and letting
things slide."

"He may--he probably is. I see very little of him, really, especially
just lately."

"Is it the same little influence at work upon him as some months ago?"
asked Meiklejohn, bending nearer, a real confidential crony.

"Which same little influence?" asked the lady, agog with a sense of
secrecy, and genuinely anxious as to anything affecting her son.

"Why, the girl, Winifred Bartlett."

"Bartlett! As far as I know, I have never even heard her name."

"Extraordinary! Why, it's the talk of the club."

"Tell me. What is it all about?"

"Ah, I must not be indiscreet. When I mentioned her, I took it for
granted that you knew all about it, or I should not have told tales out
of school."

"Yes, but you and I are of a different generation than Rex. He belongs
to the spring, we belong to the autumn. There is no question of telling
tales out of school as between you and him. So now, please, you are
going to tell me _all_."

"Well, the usual story: A girl of lower social class; a young man's head
turned by her wiles; the conventions more or less defied; business
yawned at; mother, friends, everything shelved for the time being, and
nothing important but the one thing. It's not serious, perhaps. So long
as business is not _too_ much neglected, and no financial consequences
follow, society thinks not a whit worse of a young man on that
account--on one condition, mark you! There must be no question of
marriage. But in this case there _is_ that question."

"But this is merely ridiculous!" laughed Mrs. Carshaw shrilly.
"Marriage! Can a son of mine be so quixotic?"

"It is commonly believed that he is about to marry her."

"But how on earth has it happened that I never heard a whisper of this
preposterous thing?"

"It _is_ extraordinary. Sometimes the one interested is the last to hear
what every one is talking about."

"Well, I never was so--amused!" Yet Mrs. Carshaw's wintry smile was not
joyous. "Rex! I must laugh him out of it, if I meet him anywhere!"

"That you will not succeed in doing, I think."

"Well, then I'll frown him out of it. This is why--I see all now."

"There you are hardly wise, to think of either laughing or frowning him
out of it," said Meiklejohn, offering her worldly wisdom. "No, in such
cases there is a better way, take my word for it."

"And that is?"

"Approach the girl. Avoid carefully saying one word to the young man,
but approach _the girl_. That does it, if the girl is at all decent, and
has any sensibility. Lay the facts plainly before her. Take her into
your confidence--this flatters her. Invoke her love for the young man
whom she is hurting by her intimacy with him--this puts her on her
honor. Urge her to fly from him--this makes her feel herself a martyr,
and turns her on the heroic tack. That is certainly what I should do if
I were you, and I should do it without delay."

"You're right. I'll do it," said Mrs. Carshaw. "Do you happen to know
where this girl is to be found?"

"No. I think I can tell, though, from whom you might get the
address--Helen Tower. I heard your son talking to her last night about
the girl. He was wanting to know whether Helen could put him in the way
of placing her on the stage."

"What! Is she one of those scheming chorus-girls?"

"It appears so."

"But has he had the effrontery to mention her in this way to other
ladies? It is rather amusing! Why, it used to be said that Helen Tower
was his _belle amie_."

"All the more reason, perhaps, why she may be willing to give you the
address, if she knows it."

"I'll see her this very afternoon."

"Then I must leave you at leisure now," said Meiklejohn sympathetically.

An hour later Mrs. Carshaw was with Helen Tower, and the name of
Winifred Bartlett arose between them.

"But he did not give me her address," said Mrs. Tower. "Do you want it
pressingly?"

"Why, yes. Have you not heard that there is a question of marriage?"

"Good gracious! Marriage?"

The two women laid their heads nearer together, enjoying the awfulness
of the thing, though one was a mother and the other was pricked with
jealousy in some secret part of her nature.

"Yes--marriage!" repeated the mother. Such an enormity was dreadful.

"It sounds too far-fetched! What will you do?"

"Senator Meiklejohn recommends me to approach the girl."

"Well, perhaps that is the best. But how to get her address? Perhaps if
I asked Rex he would tell it, without suspecting anything. On the other
hand, he might take alarm."

"Couldn't you say you had secured her a place on the stage, and make him
send her to you, to test her voice, or something? And then you could
send her on to me," said the elder woman.

"Yes, that might be done," answered Helen Tower. "I'd like to see her,
too. She must be extraordinarily pretty to capture Rex. Some of those
common girls are, you know. It is a caprice of Providence. Anyway, I
shall find her out, or have her here somehow within the next few days,
and will let you know. First of all, I'll write Rex and ask him to come
for bridge to-night."

She did this, but without effect, for Carshaw was engaged elsewhere,
having taken Winifred to a theater.

However, Meiklejohn was again at the bridge party, and when he asked
whether Mrs. Carshaw had paid a visit that afternoon, and the address of
the girl had been given, Helen Tower answered:

"I don't know it. I am now trying to find out."

The Senator seemed to take thought.

"I hate interfering," he said at last, "but I like young Carshaw, and
have known his mother many a year. It's a pity he should throw himself
away on some chit of a girl, merely because she has a fetching pair of
eyes or a slim ankle, or Heaven alone knows what else it is that first
turns a young man's mind to a young woman. I happen to have heard,
however, that Winifred Bartlett lives in a boarding-house kept by Miss
Goodman in East Twenty-seventh Street. Now, my name must not--"

Helen Tower laughed in that dry way which often annoyed him.

"Surely by this time you regard me as a trustworthy person," she said.

So Fowle had proven himself a capable tracker, and Winifred's
persecutors were again closing in on her. But who would have imagined
that the worst and most deadly of them might be the mother of her Rex?
That, surely, was something akin to steeping in poison the assassin's
dagger.



CHAPTER XV

THE VISITOR


"Are you Miss Winifred Bartlett?" asked Mrs. Carshaw the next afternoon
in that remote part of East Twenty-seventh Street which for the first
time bore the rubber tires of her limousine.

"Yes, madam," said Winifred, who stood rather pale before that large and
elegant presence. It was in the front room of the two which Winifred
occupied.

"But--where have I seen you before?" asked Mrs. Carshaw suddenly, making
play with a pair of mounted eye-glasses.

"I cannot say, madam. Will you be seated?"

"What a pretty girl you are!" exclaimed the visitor, wholly unconscious
of the calm insolence which "society" uses to its inferiors. "I'm
certain I have seen you somewhere, for your face is perfectly familiar,
but for the life of me I cannot recall the occasion."

Mrs. Carshaw was not mistaken. Some dim cell of memory was stirred by
the girl's likeness to her mother. For once Senator Meiklejohn's
scheming had brought him to the edge of the precipice. But the
dangerous moment passed. Rex's mother was thinking of other and more
immediate matters. Winifred stood silent, scared, with a foreboding of
the meaning of this tremendous visit.

"Now, I am come to have a quiet chat with you," said Mrs. Carshaw, "and
I only hope that you will look on me as a friend, and be perfectly at
your ease. I am sorry the nature of my visit is not of a quite pleasant
nature, but no doubt we shall be able to understand each other, for you
look good and sweet. Where have I seen you before? You are a sweetly
pretty girl, do you know? I can't altogether blame poor Rex, for men
are not very rational creatures, are they? Come, now, and sit quite
near beside me on this chair, and let me talk to you."

Winifred came and sat, with tremulous lip, not saying a word.

"First, I wish to know something about yourself," said Mrs. Carshaw,
trying honestly to adopt a motherly tone. "Do you live here all alone?
Where are your parents?"

"I have none--as far as I know. Yes, I live here alone, for the
present."

"But no relatives?"

"I have an aunt--a sort of aunt--but--"

"You are mysterious--'a sort of aunt.' And is this 'sort of aunt' with
you here?"

"No. I used to live with her, but within the last month we
have--separated."

"Is that my son's doings?"

"No--that is--no."

"So you are quite alone?"

"Yes."

"And my son comes to see you?"

"He comes--yes, he comes."

"But that is rather defiant of everything, is it not?"

A blush of almost intense carmine washed Winifred's face and neck. Mrs.
Carshaw knew how to strike hard. Every woman knows how to hurt another
woman.

"Miss Goodman, my landlady, usually stays in here when he comes," said
she.

"All the time?"

"Most of the time."

"Well, I must not catechise you. No one woman has the right to do that
to another, and you are sweet to have answered me at all. I think you
are good and true; and you will therefore find it all the easier to
sympathize with my motives, which have your own good at heart, as well
as my son's. First of all, do you understand that my son is very much in
love with you?"

"I--you should not ask me--I may have thought that he liked me.
Has--he--told you so?"

"He has never mentioned your name to me. I never knew of your existence
till yesterday. But it is so; he is fond of you, to such an unusual
extent, that quite a scandal has arisen in his social set--"

"Not about me?"

"Yes."

"But there is nothing----"

"Yes; it is reported that he intends to marry you."

"And is that what the scandal is about? I thought the scandal was when
you did not marry, not when you did."

Mrs. Carshaw permitted herself to be surprised. She had not looked for
such weapons in Winifred's armory. But she was there to carry out what
she deemed an almost sacred mission, and the righteous can be horribly
unjust.

"Yes, in the middle classes, but not in the upper, which has its own
moral code--not a strictly Biblical one, perhaps," she retorted glibly.
"With us the scandal is not that you and my son are friends, but that he
should seriously think of marrying you, since you are on such different
levels. You see, I speak plainly."

Winifred suddenly covered her face with her hands. For the first time
she measured the great gulf yawning between her and that dear hope
growing up in her heart.

"That is how the matter stands before marriage," went on Mrs. Carshaw,
sure that she was kind in being merciless. "You can conceive how it
would be afterwards. And society is all nature--it never forgives; or,
if it forgives, it may condone sins, but never an indiscretion. Nor must
you think that your love would console my son for the great social loss
which his connection with you threatens to bring on him. It will console
him for a month, but a wife is not a world, nor, however beloved, does
she compensate for the loss of the world. If, therefore, you love my
son, as I take it that you do--do you?"

Winifred's face was covered. She did not answer.

"Tell me in confidence. I am a woman, too, and know--"

A sob escaped from the poor bowed head. Mrs. Carshaw was moved. She had
not counted on so hard a task. She had even thought of money!

"Poor thing! That will make your duty very hard. I wish--but there is no
use in wishing! Necessity knows no pity. Winifred, you must summon all
your strength of mind, and get out of this false position."

"What am I to do? What can I do?" wailed Winifred. She was without means
or occupation, and could not fly from the house.

"You can go away," said Mrs. Carshaw, "without letting him know whither
you have gone, and till you go you can throw cold water on his passion
by pretending dislike or indifference--"

"But could I do such a thing, even if I tried?" came the despairing cry.

"It will be hard, certainly, but a woman should be able to accomplish
everything for the man she loves. Remember for whose sake you will be
doing it, and promise me before I leave you."

"Oh, you should give me time to think before I promise anything," sobbed
Winifred. "I believe I shall go mad. I am the most unfortunate girl that
ever lived. I did not seek him--he sought me; and now, when I--Have you
no pity?"

"You see that I have--not only pity, but confidence. It is hard, but I
feel that you will rise to it. I, and you, are acting for Rex's sake,
and I hope, I believe, you will do your share in saving him. And now I
must go, leaving my sting behind me. I am so sorry! I never dreamed that
I should like you so well. I have seen you before somewhere--it seems to
me in an old dream. Good-by, good-by! It had to be done, and I have done
it, but not gladly. Heaven help us women, and especially all mothers!"

Winifred could not answer. She was choked with sobs, so Mrs. Carshaw
took her departure in a kind of stealthy haste. She was far more
unhappy now than when she entered that quiet house. She came in
bristling with resolution. She went out, seemingly victorious, but
feeling small and mean.

When she was gone Winifred threw herself on a couch with buried head,
and was still there an hour later when Miss Goodman brought up a letter.
It was from a dramatic agent whom she had often haunted for work--or
rather it was a letter on his office paper, making an appointment
between her and a "manager" at some high-sounding address in East
Orange, New Jersey, when, the writer said, "business might result."

She had hardly read it when Rex Carshaw's tap came to the door.

About that same time Steingall threw a note across his office table to
Clancy, who was there to announce that in a house in Brooklyn a fine
haul of coiners, dies, presses, and other illicit articles, human and
inanimate, had just been made.

"Ralph V. Voles and his bad man from the West have come back to New York
again," said the chief. "You might give 'em an eye."

"Why on earth doesn't Carshaw marry the girl?" said Clancy.

"I dunno. He's straight, isn't he?"

"Strikes me that way."

"Me, too. Anyhow, let's pick up a few threads. I've a notion that
Senator Meiklejohn thinks he has side-stepped the Bureau."

Clancy laughed. His mirth was grotesque as the grin of one of those
carved ivories of Japan, and to the effect of the crinkled features was
added a shrill cackle. The chief glanced up.

"Don't do that," he said sharply. "You get my goat when you make that
beastly noise!"

These two were beginning again to snap at each other about the Senator
and his affairs, and their official quarrels usually ended badly for the
other fellow.



CHAPTER XVI

WINIFRED DRIFTS


Winifred, pale as death, rose to receive her lover, with that letter in
her hand which made an appointment with her at a house in East Orange; a
letter which she believed to have been written by a dramatic agent, but
which was actually inspired by Senator Meiklejohn. It was the bait of
the trap which should put her once more in the power of Meiklejohn and
his accomplices.

During a few tense seconds the girl prayed for power to play the bitter
part which had been thrust upon her--to play it well for the sake of the
man who loved her, and whom she loved. The words of his mother were
still in her ears. She had to make him think that she did not care for
him. In the last resort she had to fly from him. She had tacitly
promised to do this woeful thing.

Far enough from her innocent mind was it to dream that the visit of
Rex's mother had been brought about by her enemies in order to deprive
her of a protector and separate her from her lover at the very time
when he was most necessary to save her.

Carshaw entered in high spirits. "Well, I have news--" he began. "But,
hello! What's the matter?"

"With whom?" asked Winifred.

"You look pale."

"Do I? It is nothing."

"You have been crying, surely."

"Have I?"

"Tell me. What is wrong?"

"Why should I tell _you_, if anything is wrong?"

He stood amazed at this speech. "Odd words," said he, looking at her in
a stupor of surprise, almost of anger. "Whom should you tell but me?"

This touched Winifred, and, struggling with the lump in her throat, she
said, unsteadily: "I am not very well to-day; if you will leave me now,
and come perhaps some other time, you will oblige me."

Carshaw strode nearer and caught her shoulder.

"But what a tone to me! Have I done something wrong, I wonder? Winnie,
what is it?"

"I have told you I am not very well. I do not desire your
company--to-day."

"Whew! What majesty! It must be something outrageous. But what? Won't
you be dear and kind, and tell me?"

"You have done nothing."

"Yes, I have. I think I can guess. I spoke of Helen Tower yesterday as
of an old sweetheart--was that it? And it is all jealousy. Surely I
didn't say much. What on earth did I say? That she was like a
Gainsborough; that she was rather a beauty; that she was _elancée_ at
twenty-two. But I didn't mean any harm. Why, it's jealousy!"

At this Winifred drew herself up to discharge a thunderbolt, and though
she winced at the Olympian effort, managed to say distinctly:

"There can be no jealousy where there is no love."

Carshaw stood silent, momentarily stunned, like one before whom a
thunderbolt has really exploded. At last, looking at the pattern of a
frayed carpet, he said humbly enough:

"Well, then, I must be a very unfortunate sort of man, Winifred."

"Don't believe me!" Winifred wished to cry out. But the words were
checked on her white lips. The thought arose in her, "He that putteth
his hand to the plow and looketh back--"

"It is sudden, this truth that you tell me," went on Carshaw. "Is it a
truth?"

"Yes."

"You are not fond of me, Winnie?"

"I have a liking for you."

"That's all?"

"That is all."

"Don't say it, dear. I suffer."

"Do you? No, don't suffer. I--can't help myself."

"You are sorry for me, then?"

"Oh, yes."

"But how came I, then, to have the opposite impression so strongly? I
think--I can't help thinking--that it was your fault, dear. You made me
hope, perhaps without meaning me to, that--that life was to be happy for
me. When I entered that door just now no man in New York had a lighter
step than I, or a more careless heart. I shall go out of it--different,
dear. You should not have allowed me to think--what I did; and you
should not have told me the truth so--quite so--suddenly."

"Sit down. You are not fair to me. I did not know you cared--"

"You--you did not know that I cared? Come, that's not true, girl!"

"Not so much, I mean--not quite so much. I thought that you were
flirting with me, as I--perhaps--was flirting with you."

"Who is that I hear speaking? Is it Winifred? The very sound of her
voice seems different. Am I dreaming? She flirting with me? I don't
realize her--it is a different girl! Oh! this thing comes to me like a
falling steeple. It had no right to happen!"

"You should sit down, or you should go; better go--better, better go,"
and Winifred clutched wildly at her throat. "Let us part now, and let us
never meet!"

"If you like, if you wish it," said Carshaw, still humbly, for he was
quite dazed. "It seems sudden. I am not sure if it is a dream or not. It
isn't a happy one, if it is. But have we no business to discuss before
you send me away in this fashion? Do you mean to throw off my help as
well as myself?"

"I shall manage. I have an offer of work here in my hands. I shall soon
be at work, and will then send the amount of the debt which I owe you,
though you care nothing about that, and I know that I can never repay
you for all."

"Yes, that is true, too, in a way. Am I, then, actually to go?"

"Yes."

"But you are not serious? Think of my living on, days and years, and not
seeing you any more. It seems a pitiable thing, too. Even you must be
sorry for me."

"Yes, it seems a pitiable thing!"

"So--what do you say?"

"Good-by. Go--go!"

"But you will at least let me know where you are? Don't be quite lost to
me."

"I shall be here for some time. But you won't come. I mustn't see you. I
demand that much."

"No, no. I won't come, you may be sure. And you, on your part, promise
that if you have need of money you will let me know? That is the least I
can expect of you."

"I will; but go. I will have you in my--memory. Only go from me now, if
you--love--"

"Good-by, then. I do not understand, but good-by. I am all in, Winnie;
but still, good-by. God bless you--"

He kissed her hand and went. Her skin was cold to his lips, and, in a
numb way, he wondered why. A moment after he had disappeared she called
his name, but in an awful, hushed voice which he could not hear; and she
fell at her length on the couch.

"Rex! My love! My dear love," she moaned, and yet he did not hear, for
the sky had dropped on him.

There she lay a little while, yet it was not all pain with her. There is
one sweetest sweet to the heart, one drop of intensest honey, sweeter to
it than any wormwood is bitter, which consoled her--the consciousness of
self-sacrifice, of duty done, of love lost for love's sake. Mrs. Carshaw
had put the girl on what Senator Meiklejohn cynically called "the heroic
tack"; and, having gone on that tack, Winifred deeply understood that
there was a secret smile in it, and a surprising light. She lay catching
her breath till Miss Goodman brought up the tea-tray, expecting to find
the cheery Carshaw there as usual, for she had not heard him go out.

Instead, she found Winifred sobbing on the couch, for Winifred's grief
was of that depth which ceases to care if it is witnessed by others. The
good landlady came, therefore, and knelt by Winifred's side, put her arm
about her, and began to console and question her. The consolation did no
good, but the questions did. For, if one is persistently questioned, one
must answer something sooner or later, and the mind's effort to answer
breaks the thread of grief, and so the commonplace acts as a medicine to
tragedy.

In the end Winifred was obliged to sit up and go to the table where the
tea-things were. This was in itself a triumph; and her effort to secure
solitude and get rid of Miss Goodman was a further help toward throwing
off her mood of despair. By the time Miss Goodman was gone the storm was
somewhat calmed.

During that sad evening, which she spent alone, she read once more the
letter making the appointment with her at East Orange. Now, reading it a
second time, she felt a twinge of doubt. Who could it be, she wondered,
whom she would have to see there? East Orange was some way off. A
meeting of this sort usually took place in New York, at an office.

Her mind was not at all given to suspicions, but on reading over the
letter for the third time, she now noticed that the signature was not in
the handwriting of the agent. She knew his writing quite well, for he
had sent her other letters. This writing was, indeed, something like
his, but certainly not his. It might be a clerk's; the letter was typed
on his office paper.

To say that she was actually disturbed by these little rills of doubt
would not be quite true. Still, they did arise in her mind, and left her
not perfectly at ease. The touch of uneasiness, however, made her ask
herself why she should now become a singer at all. It was Carshaw who
had pressed it upon her, because she had insisted on the vital necessity
of doing something quickly, and he had not wished her to work again with
her hands. In reality, he was scheming to gain time.

Now that they were parted she saw no reason why she should not throw off
all this stage ambition, and toil like other girls as good as she. She
had done it. She was skilled in the bookbinding craft; she might do it
again. She counted her money and saw that she had enough to carry her
on a week, or even two, with economy. Therefore, she had time in which
to seek other work.

Even if she did not find it she would have not the slightest hesitation
in "borrowing" from Rex; for, after all, all that he had was hers--she
knew it, and he knew it. Before she went to bed she decided to throw up
the singing ambition, not to go to the appointment at East Orange, but
to seek some other more modest occupation.

About that same hour Rex Carshaw walked desolately to the apartment in
Madison Avenue. He threw himself into a chair and propped his head on a
hand, saying: "Well, mother!" for Mrs. Carshaw was in the room.

His mother glanced anxiously at him, for though Winifred had promised to
keep secret the fact of her visit, she was in fear lest some hint of it
might have crept out; nor had she foreseen quite so deadly an effect on
her son as was now manifest. He looked care-worn and weary, and the
maternal heart throbbed.

She came and stood over him. "Rex, you don't look well," said she.

"No; perhaps I'm not very well, mother," said he listlessly.

"Can I do anything?"

"No; I'm rather afraid that the mischief is beyond you, mother."

"Poor boy! It is some trouble, I know. Perhaps it would do you good to
tell me."

"No; don't worry, mother. I'd rather be left alone, there's a dear."

"Only tell me this. Is it very bad? Does it hurt--much?"

"Where's the use of talking? What cannot be cured must be endured. Life
isn't all a smooth run on rubber tires."

"But it will pass, whatever it is. Bear up and be brave."

"Yes; I suppose it will pass--when I am dead."

She tried to smile.

"Only the young dream of death as a relief," she said. "But such wild
words hurt, Rex."

"That's all right, only leave me alone; you can't help. Give me a kiss,
and then go."

A tear wet his forehead when Mrs. Carshaw laid her lips there.



CHAPTER XVII

ALL ROADS LEAD TO EAST ORANGE


The next day Winifred set about her new purpose of finding some other
occupation than that connected with the stage, though she rose from bed
that morning feeling ill, having hardly slept throughout the night.

First, she read over once more the "agent's" letter, and was again
conscious of an extremely vague feeling of something queer in it when
she reflected on the lateness of the hour of the rendezvous--eight in
the evening. She decided to write, explaining her change of purpose, and
declining the interview with this nebulous "client." She did not write
at once. She thought that she would wait, and see first the result of
the day's search for other employment.

Soon after breakfast she went out, heading for Brown's, her old
employers in Greenwich Village, who had turned her away after the yacht
affair and the arrest of her aunt.

As she waited at the crossing where the cars pass, her eyes rested on a
man--a clergyman, apparently--standing on the opposite pavement. He was
not at the moment looking that way, and she took little notice of him,
though her subconsciousness may have recognized something familiar in
the lines of his body.

It was Fowle in a saintly garb, Fowle in a shovel hat, Fowle interested
in the comings and goings of Winifred. Fowle, moreover, in those days,
floated on the high tide of ease, and had plenty of money in his pocket.
He not only looked, but felt like a person of importance, and when
Winifred entered a street-car, Fowle followed in a taxi.

There was a new foreman at Brown's now, and he received the girl kindly.
She laid her case before him. She had been employed there and had given
satisfaction. Then, all at once, an event with which she had nothing
more to do than people in China, had caused her to be dismissed. Would
not the firm, now that the whole business had blown over, reinstate her?

The man heard her attentively through and said:

"Hold on. I'll have a talk with the boss." He left her, and was gone ten
minutes. Then he returned, with a shaking head. "No, Brown's never take
any one back," said he; "but here's a list of bookbinding firms which
he's written out for you, and he says he'll give you a recommendation if
any of 'em give you a job."

With this list Winifred went out, and, determined to lose no time,
started on the round, taking the nearest first, one in Nineteenth
Street. She walked that way, and slowly behind her followed a clergyman.
The firm in Nineteenth Street wanted no new hand. Winifred got into a
Twenty-third Street cross-town car. After her sped a taxi.

And now, when she stopped at the third bookbinder's, Fowle knew her
motive. She was seeking work at the old trade. He was puzzled, knowing
that she had wished to become a singer, and being aware, too, of the
appointment for the next night at East Orange. Had she, then, changed
her purpose? Perhaps she was seeking both kinds of employment, meaning
to accept the one which came first. If the bookbinding won out that
might be dangerous to the rendezvous.

In any case, Fowle resolved to nip the project in the bud. He would go
later in the day to all the firms she had visited, ask if they had
engaged her, and, if so, drop a hint that she had been dismissed from
Brown's for being connected with the crime committed against Mr. Ronald
Tower. A bogus clergyman's word was good for something, anyhow.

From Twenty-third Street, where there was no work, Winifred made her way
to Twenty-ninth Street, followed still by the taxi. Here things turned
out better for her. She was seen by a manager who told her that they
would be short-handed in three or four days, and that, if she could
really produce a reference from Brown's he would engage her permanently.
Winifred left him her address, so that he might write and tell her when
she could come.

She lunched in a cheap restaurant and walked to her lodgings. Color
flooded her cheeks, but she was appalled by her loneliness, by the
emptiness of her life. To bind books and to live for binding books, that
was not living. She had peeped into Paradise, but the gate had been shut
in her face, and the bookbinding world seemed an intolerably flat and
stale rag-fair in comparison.

How was she to live it through, she asked herself. When she went up to
her room the once snug and homely place disgusted her. How was she to
live through the vast void of that afternoon alone in that apartment?
How bridge the vast void of to-morrow? The salt had lost its savor; she
tasted ashes; life was all sand of the desert; she would not see him any
more. The resolution which had carried her through the interview with
Carshaw failed her now, and she blamed herself for the murder of
herself.

"Oh, how could I have done such a thing!" she cried, bursting into
tears, with her hat still on and her head on the table.

She had to write a letter to the "agent," telling him that she did not
mean to keep the rendezvous at East Orange, since she had obtained other
work, and with difficulty summoned the requisite energy. Every effort
was nauseous to her. Her whole nature was absorbed in digesting her one
great calamity.

Next morning it was the same. Her arms hung listlessly by her side. She
evaded little domestic tasks. Though her clothes were new, a girl can
always find sewing and stitching. A certain shirtwaist needed slight
adjustment, but her fingers fumbled a simple task. She passed the time
somehow till half past four. At that hour there was a ring at the outer
door. In the absorption of her grief she did not hear it, though it was
"his" hour. A step sounded on the stairs, and this she heard; but she
thought it was Miss Goodman bringing tea.

Then, brusquely, without any knock, the door opened, and she saw before
her Carshaw.

"Oh!" she screamed, in an ecstasy of joy, and was in his arms.

The rope which bound her had snapped thus suddenly for the simple reason
that Carshaw had promised never to come again, and was very strict, as
she knew, in keeping his pledged word. Therefore, until the moment when
her distraught eyes took in the fact of his presence, she had not the
faintest hope or thought of seeing him for many a day to come, if ever.

Seeing him all at once in the midst of her desert of despair, her reason
swooned, all fixed principles capsized, and instinct swept her
triumphantly, as the whirlwind bears a feather, to his ready embrace.
He, for his part, had broken his promise because he could not help it.
He had to come--so he came. His dismissal had been too sudden to be
credible, to find room in his brain. It continued to have something of
the character of a dream, and he was here now to convince himself that
the dream was true.

Moreover, in her manner of sending him away, in some of her words, there
had been something unreal and unconvincing, with broken hints of love,
even as she denied love, which haunted and puzzled his memory. If he had
made a thousand promises he would still have to return to her.

"Well," said he, his face alight for joy as she moaned on his breast,
"what is it all about? You unreliable little half of a nerve, Winnie!"

"I can't help it; kiss me--only once!" panted Winifred, with tears
streaming down her up-turned face.

Carshaw needed no bidding. Kiss her once! Well, a man should smile.

"What is it all about?" he demanded, when Winifred was quite breathless.
"Am I loved, then?"

Her forehead was on his shoulder, and she did not answer.

"It seems so," he whispered. "Silence is said to mean consent. But why,
then, was I not loved the day before yesterday?"

Still Winifred dared not answer. The frenzy was passing, the moral
nature re-arising, stronger than ever, claiming its own. She had
promised and failed! What she did was not well for him.

"Tell me," he urged, with a lover's eagerness. "You'll have to, some
time, you know."

"You promised not to come. You promised definitely," said Winifred,
disengaging herself from him.

"Could I help coming?" cried he. "I was in the greatest bewilderment and
misery!"

"So you will always come, even if you promise not to?"

"But I won't promise not to! Where is the need now? You love me, I love
you!"

Winifred turned away from him, went to the window and looked out, seeing
nothing, for the eyes of the soul were busy. Her lips were now firmly
set, and during the minute that she stood there a rapid train of thought
and purpose passed through her mind. She had promised to give him up,
and she would go through with it. It was for him--and it was sweet,
though bitter, to be a martyr. But she recognized clearly that so long
as he knew where to find her the thing could never be done. She made up
her mind to be gone from those lodgings by that hour the next day, and
to be buried from him in some other part of the great city. She would
never in that case be able to ask him for help to keep going, without
giving her address, but in a few days she would have work at the new
bookbinder's. This well settled in her mind, she turned inward to him,
saying:

"Miss Goodman will soon bring up tea. Come, let us be happy to-day.
You want to know if I love you? Well, the answer is yes, yes; so
now you know, and can never doubt. I want you to stay a long time
this afternoon, and I invite you to be my dear, dear guest on one
condition--that you don't ask me why I told you that awful fib the
day before yesterday, for I don't mean to tell you!"

Of course Carshaw took her again in his arms, and, without breaking her
conditions, stayed with her till nearly six. She was sedately gay all
the time, but, on kissing him good-by, she wept quietly, and as quietly
she said to her landlady when he was gone:

"Miss Goodman, I am going away to-morrow--for always, I'm afraid."

Soon after this six o'clock struck. At ten minutes past the hour Miss
Goodman brought up two letters.

Without looking at the handwriting on the envelopes, Winifred tore open
one, laying the other on a writing-desk, this latter being from the
agent in answer to the one she had written. She had told him that she
did not mean to keep the appointment at East Orange, and he now assured
her that he had certainly never made any appointment for her at East
Orange. The thing was some blunder. New York impresarios did not make
appointments in East Orange. He asked for an explanation.

Pity that she did not open this letter before the other--or the other
was of a nature to drive the existence of the agent's letter--of any
letter--out of her head; for days afterward that all-important message
lay on the table unopened.

The note which Winifred did read was from the bookbinding manager who
had all but engaged her that day. He now informed her that he would have
no use for her services. The clergyman in the taxi had followed very
effectively on Winifred's trail.

She was stunned by this final blow. Her eyes gazed into vacancy. What
she was to do now she did not know. The next day she had to go away into
strange lodgings, with hardly any money, without any possibility of her
applying again to Rex, without support of any sort. She had never known
real poverty, for her "aunt" had always more or less been in funds; and
the prospect appalled her. She would face it, however, at all costs,
and, the bookbinding failing her, her mind naturally recurred, with a
gasp of hope, to the singing.

There was the appointment at East Orange at eight. She looked at the
clock; she might have time, though it would mean an instant rush. She
would go. True, she had written the agent to say that she would not, and
he might have so advised his client. But perhaps he had not had time to
do this, since she had written him so late. In any case, there was a
chance that she should meet the person in question, and then she could
explain. Suddenly she leaped up, hurried on her hat and coat, and ran
out of the house. In a few minutes she was at the Hudson Tube, bound for
Hoboken and East Orange.

Of course it was a mad thing to leave an unopened letter on the table,
but just then poor Winifred was nearly out of her mind.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE CRASH


When Carshaw came, with lightsome step and heart freed from care--for in
some respects he was irresponsible as any sane man could be--to visit
his beloved Winifred next day, he was met by a frightened and somewhat
incoherent Miss Goodman.

"Not been home all night! Surely you can offer some explanation further
than that maddening statement?" cried he, when the shock of her news had
sent the color from his face and the joy from his eyes.

"Oh, sir, I don't know what to say. Indeed, I am not to blame."

Miss Goodman, kind-hearted soul, was more flurried now by Carshaw's
manner than by Winifred's inexplicable disappearance.

"Blame, my good woman, who is imputing blame?" he blazed at her. "But
there's a hidden purpose, a convincing motive, in her going out and not
returning. Give me some clue, some reason. A clear thought now, the
right word from you, may save hours of useless search."

"How can I give any clues?" cried the bewildered landlady. "The dear
young creature was crying all day fit to break her heart after the lady
called--"

"The lady! What lady?"

"Your mother, sir. Didn't she tell you? Mrs. Carshaw was here the day
before yesterday, and she must have spoken very cruelly to Winifred to
make her so downcast for hours. I was that sorry for her--"

Now, Carshaw had the rare faculty--rare, that is, in men of a
happy-go-lucky temperament--of becoming a human iceberg in moments of
danger or difficulty. The blank absurdity of Miss Goodman's implied
assertion that Winifred had run away--though, indeed, running away was
uppermost in the girl's thoughts--had roused him to fiery wrath.

But the haphazard mention of his mother's visit, the coincidence of
Winifred's unexpectedly strange behavior and equally unexpected
transition to a wildly declared love, revealed some of the hidden
sources of events, and over the volcano of his soul he imposed a layer
of ice. He even smiled pleasantly as he begged Miss Goodman to dry her
eyes and be seated.

"We are at loggerheads, you see," he said, almost cheerfully. "Just let
us sit down and have a quiet talk. Tell me everything you know, and in
the order in which things happened. Tell me facts, and if you are
guessing at probabilities, tell me you are guessing. Then we shall soon
unravel the tangled threads."

Thus reassured, Miss Goodman took him through the records of the past
forty-eight hours, so far as she knew them. After the first few words he
required no explanations of his mother's presence in that middle-class
section of Manhattan. She had gone there in her stately limousine to awe
and bewilder a poor little girl--to frighten an innocent out of loving
her son and thus endangering her own grandiose projects for his future.

It was pardonable, perhaps, from a worldly woman's point of view. That
there were other aspects of it she should soon see, with a certain
definiteness, the cold outlines of which already made his mouth stern,
and sent little lines to wrinkle his forehead. He had spared her
hitherto--had hoped to keep on sparing her--yet she had not spared
Winifred! But who had prompted her to this heartless deed? He loved his
mother. Her faults were those of society, her virtues were her own. She
had lived too long in an atmosphere of artificiality not to have lost
much of the fine American womanliness that was her birthright. That
could be cured--he alone knew how. The puzzling query, for a little
while, was the identity of the cruel, calculating, ruthless enemy who
struck by her hand.

There was less light shed on Winifred's own behavior. He recalled her
words: "You want to know if I love you--yes, yes--I want you to stay a
long time this afternoon--don't ask me why I told you that awful fib--"

And then her confession to Miss Goodman: "I am going away to-morrow--for
always, I'm afraid."

What did that portend? Ah, yes; she was going to some place where he
could not find her, to bury herself away from his love and because of
her love for him. It was no new idea in woman's heart, this. For long
ages in India sorrowing wives burned themselves to death on the funeral
pyres of their lords. Poor Winifred only reversed the method of the
sacrifice--its result would be the same.

"But 'to-morrow'--to-day, that is. You are quite sure of her words?" he
persisted.

"Oh, yes, sir; quite sure. Besides she has left her clothes and letters,
and little knick-knacks of jewelry. Would you care to see them?"

For an instant he hesitated, for he was a man of refinement, and he
hated the necessity of prying into the little secrets of his dear one.
Then he agreed, and Miss Goodman took him from her own sitting-room to
that tenanted by Winifred. Her presence seemed to linger in the air.
His eyes traveled to the chair from which she rose with that glad
crooning cry when he came to her so few hours earlier.

On the table lay her tiny writing-case. In it, unopened, and hidden by
the discouraging missive from the bookbinder's, rested the note from the
dramatic agent, with the thrice-important clue of its plain statement:
"I have made no appointment for you at any house near East Orange."

But Miss Goodman had already thrown open the door which led to
Winifred's bedroom.

"You can see for yourself, sir," she said, "the room was not occupied
last night. Nor that she could be in the house without me knowing
it, poor thing. There are her clothes in the wardrobe, and the
dressing-table is tidy. She's extraordinarily neat in her ways, is Miss
Bartlett--quite different from the empty-headed creatures girls mostly
are nowadays."

Miss Goodman spoke bitterly. She was fifty, gray-haired, and a hopeless
old maid. This point of view sours the appearance of saucy eighteen with
the sun shining in its tresses.

Carshaw swallowed something in his throat. The sanctity of this inner
room of Winifred's overwhelmed him. He turned away hastily.

"All right, Miss Goodman," he said; "we can learn nothing here. Let us
go back to your apartment, and I'll tell you what I want you to do
now."

Passing the writing-desk again he looked more carefully at its contents.
A small packet of bills caught his eye. There were the receipts for such
simple articles as Winifred had bought with his money. Somehow, the mere
act of examining such a list struck him with a sense of profanation. He
could not do it.

His eyes glazed. Hardly knowing what the words meant, he glanced through
the typed document from the bookbinder. It was obviously a business
letter. He committed no breach of the etiquette governing private
correspondence by reading it. So great was his delicacy in this respect
that he did not even lift the letter from the table, but noted the
address and the curt phraseology. Here, then, was a little explanation.
He would inquire at that place.

"I want you to telegraph me each morning and evening," he said to the
landlady. "Don't depend on the phone. If you have news, of course you
will give it, but if nothing happens say that there is no news. Here is
my address and a five-dollar bill for expenses. Did Miss Bartlett owe
you anything?"

"No, sir. She paid me yesterday when she gave me notice."

"Ah! Kindly retain her rooms. I don't wish any other person to occupy
them."

"Do you think, sir, she will not come back to-day?"

"I fear so. She is detained by force. She has been misled by some one. I
am going now to find out who that some one else is."

He drove his car, now rejuvenated, with the preoccupied gaze of one who
seeks to pierce a dark and troubled future. From the garage he called up
the Long Island estate where his hacks and polo ponies were housed for
the winter. He gave some instructions which caused the man in charge to
blink with astonishment.

"Selling everything, Mr. Carshaw!" he said. "D'ye really mean it?"

"Does my voice sound as if I were joking, Bates?"

"No-no, sir; I can't say it does. But--"

"Start on the catalogue now, this evening. I'll look after you. Mr. Van
Hofen wants a good man. Stir yourself, and that place is yours."

He found his mother at home. She glanced at him as he entered her
boudoir. She saw, with her ready tact, that questions as to his state of
worry would be useless.

"Will you be dining at home, Rex?" she asked.

"Yes. And you?"

"I--have almost promised to dine _en famille_ with the Towers."

"Better stop here. We have a lot of things to arrange."

"Arrange! What sort of things?"

"Business affairs for the most part."

"Oh, business! Any discussion of--"

"I said nothing about discussion, mother. For some years past I have
been rather careless in my ways. Now I am going to stop all that. A good
business maxim is to always choose the word that expresses one's meaning
exactly."

"Rex, you speak queerly."

"That shows I'm doing well. Your ears have so long been accustomed to
falsity, mother, that the truth sounds strangely."

"My son, do not be so bitter with me. I have never in my life had other
than the best of motives in any thought or action that concerned you."

He looked at her intently. He read in her words an admission and a
defense.

"Let us avoid tragedy, mother, at least in words. Who sent you to
Winifred?"

"Then she has told you?"

"She has not told me. Women are either angels or fiends. This harmless
little angel has been driven out of her Paradise in the hope that her
butterfly wings may be soiled by the rain and mud of Manhattan. Who sent
you to her?"

"Senator Meiklejohn," said Mrs. Carshaw defiantly.

"What, that smug Pharisee! What was his excuse?"

"He said you were the talk of the clubs--that Helen Tower--"

"She, too! Thank you. I see the drift of things now. It was heartless of
you, mother. Did not Winifred's angel face, twisted into misery by your
lies, cause you one pang of remorse?"

Mrs. Carshaw rose unsteadily. Her face was ghastly in its whiteness.

"Rex, spare me, for Heaven's sake!" she faltered. "I did it for the
best. I have suffered more than you know."

"I am glad to hear it. You have a good nature in its depths, but the
canker of society has almost destroyed it. That is why you and I are
about to talk business."

"I am feeling faint. Let matters rest a few hours."

He strode to the bell and summoned a servant. "Bring some brandy and two
glasses," he said when the man came.

It was an unusual order at that hour. Silently the servant obeyed.
Carshaw looked out of the window, while his mother, true to her caste,
affected nonchalance before the domestic.

"Now," said he when they were alone, "drink this. It will steady your
nerves."

She was frightened at last. Her hand shook as it took the proffered
glass.

"What has happened?" she asked, with quavering voice. She had never seen
her son like this before. There was a hint of inflexible purpose in him
that terrified her. When he spoke the new crispness in his voice shocked
her ears.

"Mere business, I assure you. Not another word about Winifred. I shall
find her, sooner or later, and we shall be married then, at once. But,
by queer chance, I have been looking into affairs of late. The manager
of our Massachusetts mills tells me that trade is slack. We have been
running at a loss for some years. Our machinery is antiquated, and we
have not the accumulated reserves to replace it. We are in debt, and our
credit begins to be shaky. Think of that, mother--the name of Carshaw
pondered over by bank managers and discounters of trade bills!"

"Senator Meiklejohn mentioned this vaguely," she admitted.

"Dear me! What an interest he takes in us! I wonder why? But, as a
financial magnate, he understands things."

"Your father always said, Rex, that trade had its cycles--fat years and
lean years, you know."

"Yes. He built up our prosperity by hard work, by spending less than
half what he earned, not by living in a town house and gadding about in
society. Do you remember, mother, how he used to laugh at your pretty
little affectations? I think I own my share of the family brains,
though, so I shall act now as he would have acted."

"Do you wish to goad me into hysteria? What are you driving at?" she
shrieked.

"That is the way to reach the heart of the mystery--get at the facts,
eh? They're simple. The business needs three hundred thousand dollars to
give it solidity and staying power; then four or five years' good and
economical management will set it right. We have been living at the rate
of fifty thousand dollars a year. For some time we have been executing
small mortgages to obtain this annual income, expecting the business to
clear them. Now the estates must come to the help of the business."

"In what way?" she gasped.

"They must be mortgaged up to the hilt to pay off the small sums and
find the large one. It will take ten years of nursing to relieve them of
the burden. Not a penny must come from the mills."

"How shall we live?" she demanded.

"I have arranged that. Your marriage settlement of two thousand five
hundred dollars a year is secured; that is all. How big it seemed in
your eyes when you were a bride! How little now, though your real
needs are less! I shall take a sufficient salary as assistant manager
while I learn the business. It means two thousand dollars a year for
housekeeping, and I have calculated that the sale of all our goods will
pay our personal debts and leave you and me five thousand each to set up
small establishments."

Mrs. Carshaw flounced into a chair. "You must be quite mad!" she cried.

"No, mother, sane--quite sane--for the first time. Don't you believe me?
Go to your lawyers; the scheme is really theirs. They are good business
men, and congratulated me on taking a wise step. So you see, mother, I
really cannot afford a fashionable wife."

"I am--choking!" she gasped. For the moment anger filled her soul.

"Now, be reasonable, there's a good soul. Five thousand in the bank,
twenty-five hundred a year to live on. Why, when you get used to it you
will say you were never so happy. What about dinner? Shall we start
economizing at once? Let's pay off half a dozen servants before we sit
down to a chop! Eh, tears! Well, they'll help. Sometimes they're good
for women. Send for me when you are calmer!"

With a look of real pity in his eyes he bent and kissed her forehead.
She would have kept him with her, but he went away.

"No," he said, "no discussion, you remember; and I must fix a whole heap
of things before we dine!"



CHAPTER XIX

CLANCY EXPLAINS


Carshaw phoned the Bureau, asking for Clancy or the chief. Both were
out.

"Mr. Steingall will be here to-morrow," said the official in charge.
"Mr. Clancy asked me to tell you, if you rang up, that he would be away
till Monday next."

This was Wednesday evening. Carshaw felt that fate was using him ill,
for Clancy was the one man with whom he wanted to commune in that hour
of agony. He dined with his mother. She, deeming him crazy after a
severe attack of calf-love, humored his mood. She was calm now,
believing that a visit to the lawyers next day, and her own influence
with the mill-manager and the estate superintendent, would soon put a
different aspect on affairs.

A telegram came late: "No news."

He sought Senator Meiklejohn at his apartment, but the fox, scenting
hounds, had broken covert.

"The Senator will be in Washington next week," said the discreet
Phillips. "At present, sir, he is not in town."

Carshaw made no further inquiry; he knew it was useless. In the morning
another telegram: "No news!"

He set his teeth, and smilingly agreed to accompany his mother to the
lawyers'. She came away in tears. Those serious men strongly approved of
her son's project.

"Rex has all his father's grit," said the senior partner. "In a little
time you will be convinced that he is acting rightly."

"I shall be dead!" she snapped.

The lawyer lifted his hands with a deprecating smile. "You have no
secrets from me, Mrs. Carshaw," he said. "You are ten years my junior,
and insurance actuaries give women longer lives than men when they have
attained a certain age."

Carshaw visited Helen Tower. She was fluttered. By note he had asked for
a _tête-à-tête_ interview. But his first words undeceived her.

"Where is Meiklejohn?" he asked.

"Do you mean Senator Meiklejohn?" she corrected him.

"Yes; the man who acted in collusion with you in kidnapping my intended
wife."

"How dare you--"

"Sit down, Helen; no heroics, please. Or perhaps you would prefer that
Ronald should be present?"

"This tone, Rex--to me!" She was crimson with surprise.

"You are right: it is better that Tower should not be here. He might get
a worse _douche_ than his plunge into the river. Now, about Meiklejohn?
Why did he conspire with you and my mother to carry off Winifred
Bartlett?"

"I--don't know."

"Surely there was some motive?"

"You are speaking in enigmas. I heard of the girl from you. I have never
seen her. If your mother interfered, it was for your good."

He smiled cynically. The cold, far-away look in his eyes was bitter to
her soul, yet he had never looked so handsome, so distinguished, as in
this moment when he was ruthlessly telling her that another woman
absorbed him utterly.

"What hold has Meiklejohn over you?" he went on.

She simulated tears. "You have no right to address me in that manner,"
she protested.

"There is a guilty bond somewhere, and I shall find it out," he said
coldly. "My mother was your catspaw. You, Helen, may have been spiteful,
but Meiklejohn--that sleek and smug politician--I cannot understand him.
The story went that owing to an accidental likeness to Meiklejohn your
husband was nearly killed. His assailant was a man named Voles. Voles
was an associate of Rachel Craik, the woman who poses as Winifred's
aunt. That is the line of inquiry. Do you know anything about it?"

"Not a syllable."

"Then I must appeal to Ronald."

"Do so. He is as much in the dark as I am."

"I fancy you are speaking the truth, Helen."

"Is it manly to come here and insult me?"

"Was it womanly to place these hounds on the track of my poor Winifred?
I shall spare no one, Helen. Be warned in time. If you can help me, do
so. I may have pity on my friends, I shall have none for my enemies."

He was gone. Mrs. Tower, biting her lips and clenching her hands in
sheer rage, rushed to an escritoire and unlocked it. A letter lay there,
a letter from Meiklejohn. It was dated from the Marlborough-Blenheim
Hotel, Atlantic City.

    "Dear Mrs. Tower," it ran, "the Costa Rica cotton concession is
    almost secure. The President will sign it any day now. But
    secrecy is more than ever important. Tell none but Jacob. The
    market must be kept in the dark. He can begin operations
    quietly. The shares should be at par within a week, and at five
    in a month. Wire me the one word 'settled' when Jacob says he
    is ready."

"At five in a month!"

Mrs. Tower was promised ten thousand of those shares. Their nominal
value was one dollar. To-day they stood at a few cents. Fifty thousand
dollars! What a relief it would be! Threatening dressmakers, impudent
racing agents asking for unpaid bets, sneering friends who held her
I. O. U.'s for bridge losses, and spoke of asking her husband to settle;
all these paid triumphantly, and plenty in hand to battle in the
whirlpool for years--it was a stake worth fighting for.

And Meiklejohn? As the price of his help in gaining a concession granted
by a new competitor among the cotton-producing States, he would be given
five shares to her one. Why did he dread this girl? That was a fruitful
affair to probe. But he must be warned. Her lost lover might be
troublesome at a critical stage in the affairs of the cotton market.

She wrote a telegram: "Settled, but await letter." In the letter she
gave him some details--not all--of Carshaw's visit. No woman will ever
reveal that she has been discarded by a man whom she boasted was tied to
her hat-strings.

Carshaw sought the detective bureau, but Steingall was away now, as well
as Clancy. "You'll be hearing from one of them" was the enigmatic
message he was given.

Eating his heart out in misery, he arranged his affairs, received those
two daily telegrams from Miss Goodman with their dreadful words, "No
news," and haunted the bookbinder's, and Meiklejohn's door hoping to see
some of the crew of Winifred's persecutors. At the bookbinder's he
learned of the visit of the supposed clergyman, whose name, however, did
not appear in the lists of any denomination.

At last arrived a telegram from Burlington, Vermont. "Come and see me.
Clancy." Grown wary by experience, Carshaw ascertained first that Clancy
was really at Burlington. Then he instructed Miss Goodman to telegraph
to him in the north, and quitted New York by the night train.

In the sporting columns of an evening paper he read of the sale of his
polo ponies. The scribe regretted the suggested disappearance from the
game of "one of the best Number Ones" he had ever seen. The Long Island
estate was let already, and Mrs. Carshaw would leave her expensive flat
when the lease expired.

Early next day he was greeted by Clancy.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Carshaw," said the little man. "Been here before?
No? Charming town. None of the infernal racket of New York about life in
Burlington. Any one who got bitten by that bug here would be afflicted
like the Gadarene swine and rush into Lake Champlain. Walk to the hotel?
It's a fine morning, and you'll get some bully views of the Adirondacks
as you climb the hill."

"Winifred is gone. Hasn't the Bureau kept you informed?"

Clancy sighed.

"I've had Winifred on my mind for days," he said irritably. "Can't you
forget her for half an hour?"

"She's gone, I tell you. Spirited away the very day I asked her to marry
me."

"Well, well. Why didn't you ask her sooner?"

"I had to arrange my affairs. I am poor now. How could I marry Winifred
under false pretenses?"

"What, then? Did she love you for your supposed wealth?"

"Mr. Clancy, I am tortured. Why have you brought me here?"

"To stop you from playing Meiklejohn's game. I hear that you camp
outside his apartment-house. You and I are going back to New York this
very day, and the Bureau will soon find your Winifred. By the way, how
did you happen onto the Senator's connection with the affair?"

Taking hope, Carshaw told his story. Clancy listened while they
breakfasted. Then he unfolded a record of local events.

"The Bureau has known for some time that Senator Meiklejohn's past
offered some rather remarkable problems," he said, dropping his
bantering air and speaking seriously. "We have never ceased making
guarded inquiries. I am here now for that very purpose. Some thirty
years ago, on the death of his father, he and his brother, Ralph Vane
Meiklejohn, inherited an old-established banking business in Vermont.
Ralph was a bit of a rake, but local opinion regarded William as a
steady-going, domesticated man who would uphold the family traditions.
There was no ink on the blotter during upward of ten years, and William
was already a candidate for Congress when Ralph was involved in a
scandal which caused some talk at the time. The name of a governess in a
local house was associated with his, and her name was Bartlett."

Carshaw glanced at the detective with a quick uneasiness, which Clancy
pretended not to notice.

"I have no proof, but absolutely no doubt," he continued, "that this
woman is now known as Rachel Craik. She fell into Ralph Meiklejohn's
clutches then, and has remained his slave ever since. Two years later
there was a terrific sensation here. A man named Marchbanks was found
lying dead in a lakeside quarry, having fallen or been thrown into it.
This quarry was situated near the Meiklejohn house. Mrs. Marchbanks, a
ward of Meiklejohn's father, died in childbirth as the result of shock
when she heard of her husband's death, and inquiry showed that all her
money had been swallowed up in loans to her husband for Stock Exchange
speculation. Mrs Marchbanks was a noted beauty, and her fortune was
estimated at nearly half a million dollars. It was all the more amazing
that her husband should have lost such a great sum in reckless gambling,
seeing that those who remember him say he was a nice-mannered gentleman
of the old type, devoted to his wife, and with a passion for cultivating
orchids. Again, why should Mrs. Marchbanks's bankers and guardians allow
her to be ruined by a thoughtless fool?"

Clancy seemed to be asking himself these questions; but Carshaw, so far
from New York, and with a mind ever dwelling on Winifred, said
impatiently:

"You didn't bring me here to tell me about some long-forgotten mystery?"

"Ah, quit that hair-trigger business!" snapped Clancy. "You just listen,
an' maybe you'll hear something interesting. Ralph Vane Meiklejohn left
Vermont soon afterward. Twelve years ago a certain Ralph Voles was
sentenced to five years in a penitentiary for swindling. Mrs.
Marchbanks's child lived. It was a girl, and baptized as Winifred. She
was looked after as a matter of charity by William Meiklejohn, and
entrusted to the care of Miss Bartlett, the ex-governess."

Carshaw was certainly "interested" now.

"Winifred! My Winifred!" he cried, grasping the detective's shoulder in
his excitement.

"Tut, tut!" grinned Clancy. "Guess the story's beginning to grip. Yes.
Winifred is 'the image of her mother,' said Voles. She must be 'taken
away from New York.' Why? Why did this same Ralph vanish from Vermont
after her father's death 'by accident'? Why does a wealthy and
influential Senator join in the plot against her, invoking the aid of
your mother and of Mrs. Tower? These are questions to be asked, but not
yet. First, you must get back your Winifred, Carshaw, and take care that
you keep her when you get her."

"But how? Tell me how to find her!" came the fierce demand.

"If you jump at me like that I'll make you stop here another week," said
Clancy. "Man alive, I hate humbug as much as any man; but don't you see
that the Bureau must make sure of its case before it acts? We can't go
before a judge until we have better evidence than the vague hearsay of
twenty years ago. But, for goodness' sake, next time you grab Winifred,
rush her to the nearest clergyman and make her Mrs. Carshaw, Jr.
That'll help a lot. Leave me to get the Senator and the rest of the
bunch. Now, if you'll be good, I'll show you the house where your
Winifred was born!"



CHAPTER XX

IN THE TOILS


East Orange seemed to be a long way from New York when Winifred hastened
to the appointment at "Gateway House," traveling thither by way of the
Tube and the Lackawanna Railway.

More and more did it seem strange that a theatrical agent should fix on
such a rendezvous, until a plausible reason suggested itself: possibly,
some noted impresario had chosen this secluded retreat, and the agent
had arranged a meeting there between his client and the great man whose
Olympian nod gave success or failure to aspirants for the stage.

The letter itself was reassuringly explicit as to the route she should
follow.

"On leaving the station," it said, "turn to the right and walk a mile
along the only road that presents itself until you see, on the left, a
large green gate bearing the name 'Gateway House.' Walk in. The house
itself is hidden by trees, and stands in spacious grounds. If you follow
these directions, you will have no need to ask the way."

The description of the place betokened that it was of some local
importance, and hope revived somewhat in her sorrowing heart at the
impression that perhaps, after all, it was better she had failed in
finding work at the bindery.

Notwithstanding the charming simplicity of her nature, Winifred would
not be a woman if she did not know she was good-looking. The stage
offered a career; work in the factory only yielded existence. Recent
events had added a certain strength of character to her sweet face; and
Miss Goodman, who happened to be an expert dressmaker, had used the
girl's leisure in her lodgings to turn her nimble fingers to account.
Hence, Winifred was dressed with neat elegance, and the touch of winter
keenness in the air gave her a splendid color as she hurried out of the
station many minutes late for her appointment.

Would she be asked to sing, she wondered? She had no music with her, and
had never touched a piano since her music-master's anxiety to train her
voice had been so suddenly frustrated by Rachel Craik. But she knew many
of the solos from "Faust," "Rigoletto," and "Carmen"; surely, among
musical people, there would be some appreciation of her skill if tested
by this class of composition, as compared with the latest rag-time
melody or gushing cabaret ballad.

Busy with such thoughts, she hastened along the road, until she awoke
with a start to the knowledge that she was opposite Gateway House.
Certainly the retreat was admirable from the point of view of a man
surfeited with life on the Great White Way. Indeed, it looked very like
a private lunatic asylum or home for inebriates, with its lofty walls
studded with broken glass, and its solid gate crowned with iron spikes.

Winifred tried the door. It opened readily. She was surprised that so
pretentious an abode had no lodge-keeper's cottage. There were signs of
few vehicles passing over the weed-grown gravel drive, and such marks as
existed were quite recent.

She was so late, however, that her confused mind did not trouble about
these things, and she sped on gracefully, soon coming in full view of
the house itself. It was now almost dark, and the grounds seemed very
lonely; but the presence of lights in the secluded mansion gave earnest
of some one awaiting her there. She fancied she heard a noise, like the
snapping of a latch or lock behind her. She turned her head, but saw no
one. Fowle, hiding among the evergreens, had run with nimble feet and
sardonic smile to bolt the gate as soon as she was out of sight.

And now Winifred was at the front door, timidly pulling a bell. A man
strolled with a marked limp around the house from a conservatory. He was
a tall, strongly built person, and something in the dimly seen outline
sent a thrill of apprehension through her.

But the door opened.

"I have come--" she began.

The words died away in sheer affright. Glowering at her, with a queer
look of gratified menace, was Rachel Craik!

"So I see," was the grim retort. "Come in, Winnie, by all means. Where
have you been all these weeks?"

"There is some mistake," she faltered, white with sudden terror and
nameless suspicions. "My agent told me to come here--"

"Quite right. Be quick, or you'll miss the last train home," growled the
voice of Voles behind her.

Roughly, though not violently, he pushed her inside, and the door
closed.

He snapped at Rachel: "She'd be yelling for help in another second, and
you never know who may be passing."

Now, Winifred was not of the order of women who faint in the presence of
danger. Her love had given her a great strength; her suffering had
deepened her fine nature; and her very soul rebelled against the cruel
subterfuge which had been practised to separate her from her lover. She
saw, with the magic intuition of her sex, that the very essence of a
deep-laid plot was that Rex and she should be kept apart.

The visit of Mrs. Carshaw, then, was only a part of the same determined
scheme? Rex's mother had been a puppet in the hands of those who carried
her to Connecticut, who strove so determinedly to take her away when
Carshaw put in an appearance, and who had tricked her into keeping this
bogus appointment. She would defy them, face death itself rather than
yield.

In the America of to-day, nothing short of desperate crime could long
keep her from Rex's arms. What a weak, silly, romantic girl she had been
not to trust in him absolutely! The knowledge nerved her to a fine
scorn.

"What right have you to treat me in this way?" she cried vehemently.
"You have lied to me; brought me here by a forged letter. Let me go
instantly, and perhaps my just indignation may not lead me to tell my
agent how you have dared to use his name with false pretense."

"Ho, ho!" sang out Voles. "The little bird pipes an angry note. Be
pacified, my sweet linnet. You were getting into bad company. It was the
duty of your relatives to rescue you."

"My relatives! Who are they who claim kinship? I see here one who posed
as my aunt for many years--"

"Posed, Winnie?"

Miss Craik affected a croak of regretful protest.

Winifred's eyes shot lightnings.

"Yes. I am sure you are not my aunt. Many things I can recall prove it
to me. Why do you never mention my father and mother? What wrong have I
done to any living soul that, ever since you were mixed up in the attack
on Mr. Ronald Tower, you should deal with me as if I were a criminal or
a lunatic, and seek to part me from those who would befriend me?"

"Hush, little girl," interposed Voles, with mock severity. "You don't
know what you're saying. You are hurting your dear aunt's feelings. She
is your aunt. I ought to know, considering that you are my daughter!"

"Your daughter!"

Now, indeed, she felt ready to dare dragons. This coarse, brutal giant
of a man her father! Her gorge rose at the suggestion. Almost fiercely
she resolved to hold her own against these persecutors who scrupled not
to use any lying device that would suit their purpose.

"Yes," he cried truculently. "Don't I come up to your expectations?"

"If you are my father," she said, with a strange self-possession that
came to her aid in this trying moment, "where is my mother?"

"Sorry to say she died long since."

"Did you murder her as you tried to murder Mr. Tower?"

The chance shot went home, though it hit her callous hearer in a way she
could not then appreciate. He swore violently.

"You're my daughter, I tell you," he vociferated, "and the first thing
you have to learn is obedience. Your head has been turned, young lady,
by your pretty Rex and his nice ways. I'll have to teach you not to
address me in that fashion. Take her to her room, Rachel."

Driven to frenzy by a dreadful and wholly unexpected predicament,
Winifred cast off the hand her "aunt" laid on her shoulder.

"Let me go!" she screamed. "I will not accompany you. I do not believe a
word you say. If you touch me, I shall defend myself."

"Spit-fire, eh?" she heard Voles say. There was something of a struggle.
She never knew exactly what happened. She found herself clasped in his
giant arms and heard his half jesting protest:

"Now, my butterfly, don't beat your little wings so furiously, or you'll
hurt yourself."

He carried her, screaming, up-stairs, and pushed her into a large room.
Rachel Craik followed, with set face and angry words.

"Ungrateful girl!" was her cry. "After all I've done for you!"

"You stole me from my mother," sobbed Winifred despairingly. "I am sure
you did. You are afraid now lest some one should recognize me. I am 'the
image of my mother' that horrible man said, and I am to be taken away
because I resemble her. It is you who are frightened, not I. I defy you.
Even Mrs. Carshaw knew my face. I scorn you, I say, and if you think
your devices can deceive me or keep Rex from me, you are mistaken.
Before it is too late, let me go!"

Rachel Craik was, indeed, alarmed by the girl's hysterical outpouring.
But Winifred's taunts worked harm in one way. They revealed most surely
that the danger dreaded by both Voles and Meiklejohn did truly exist.
From that instant Rachel Craik, who felt beneath her rough exterior some
real tenderness for the girl she had reared, became her implacable foe.

"You had better calm yourself," she said quietly. "If you care to eat,
food will soon be brought for you and Mr. Grey. He is your
fellow-boarder for a few days!"

Then Winifred saw, for the first time, that the spacious room held
another occupant. Reclining in a big chair, and scowling at her, was
Mick the Wolf, whose arm Carshaw had broken recently.

"Yes," growled that worthy, "I'm not the most cheerful company, missy,
but my other arm is strong enough to put that fellow of yours out o'
gear if he butts in on me ag'in. So just cool your pretty lil head, will
you? I'm boss here, and if you rile me it'll be sort o' awkward for
you."

How Winifred passed the next few hours she could scarcely remember
afterward. She noted, in dull agony, that the windows of the
sitting-room she shared with Mick the Wolf were barred with iron.
So, too, was the window of her bedroom. The key and handle of the
bedroom lock had been taken away. Rachel Craik was her jailer, a
maimed scoundrel her companion and assistant-warder.

But, when the first paroxysms of helpless pain and rage had passed, her
faith returned. She prayed long and earnestly, and help was vouchsafed.
Appeal to her captors was vain, she knew, so she sought the consolation
that is never denied to all who are afflicted.

Neither Rachel Craik, nor the sullen bandit, nor the loud-voiced rascal
who had dared to say he was her father, could understand the cheerful
patience with which she met them next day.

"She's a puzzle," said Voles in the privacy of the apartment beneath. "I
must dope out some way of fixin' things. She'll never come to heel
again, Rachel. That fool Carshaw has turned her head."

He tramped to and fro impatiently. His ankle had not yet forgotten the
wrench it received on the Boston Post Road. Suddenly he banged a huge
fist on a sideboard.

"Gee!" he cried, "that should turn the trick! I'll marry her off to
Fowle. If it wasn't for other considerations I'd be almost tempted--"

He paused. Even his fierce spirit quailed at the venom that gleamed from
Rachel Craik's eyes.



CHAPTER XXI

MOTHER AND SON


A telegram reached Carshaw before he left Burlington with Clancy. He
hoped it contained news of Winifred, but it was of a nature that imposed
one more difficulty in his path.

"Not later than the twentieth," wired the manager of the Carshaw Mills
in Massachusetts. Carshaw himself had inquired the latest date on which
he would be expected to start work.

The offer was his own, and he could not in honor begin the new era by
breaking his pledge. The day was Saturday, November 11. On the following
Monday week he must begin to learn the rudiments of cotton-spinning.

"What's up?" demanded Clancy, eying the telegram, for Carshaw's face had
hardened at the thought that, perhaps, in the limited time at his
disposal his quest might fail. He passed the typed slip to the
detective.

"Meaning?" said the latter, after a quick glance.

Carshaw explained. "I'll find her," he added, with a catch of the
breath. "I must find her. God in Heaven, man, I'll go mad if I don't!"

"Cut out the stage stuff," said Clancy. "By this day week the Bureau
will find a bunch of girls who're not lost yet--only planning it."

Touched by the misery in Carshaw's eyes, he added:

"What you really want is a marriage license. The minute you set eyes on
Winifred rush her to the City Hall."

"Once we meet we'll not part again," came the earnest vow. Somehow, the
pert little man's overweening egotism was soothing, and Carshaw allowed
his mind to dwell on the happiness of holding Winifred in his arms once
more rather than the uncertain prospect of attaining such bliss.

Indeed, he was almost surprised by the ardor of his love for her. When
he could see her each day, and amuse himself by playing at the pretense
that she was to earn her own living, there was a definite satisfaction
in the thought that soon they would be married, when all this pleasant
make-believe would vanish. But now that she was lost to him, and
probably enduring no common misery, the complacency of life had suddenly
given place to a fierce longing for a glimpse of her, for the sound of
her voice, for the shy glance of her beautiful eyes.

"Now, let's play ball," said Clancy when they were in a train speeding
south. "Has any complete search of Winifred's rooms been made?"

"How do you mean?"

"Did you look in every hole and corner for a torn envelope, a twisted
scrap of paper, a car transfer, any mortal thing that might reveal why
she went out and did not return?"

"I told you of the bookbinder's note--"

"You sure did," broke in Clancy. "You also went to the bookbinder s'teen
times. Are you certain there was nothing else?"

"No--I didn't like--how could I peer and pry--"

"You'd make a bum detective. Imagine that poor girl crying her eyes out
in a cold dark cell all because you were too squeamish to give her
belongings the once over!"

Carshaw was not misled by Clancy's manner. He knew that his friend was
only consumed by impatience to be on the trail.

"You've fired plenty of questions at me," he said quietly. "Now it's my
turn. I understand why you came to Burlington, but where is Steingall
all this time?"

"That big stiff! How do I know?"

In a word, Clancy was uncommunicative during a whole hour. When the mood
passed he spoke of other things, but, although it was ten at night when
they reached New York, he raced Carshaw straight to East Twenty-seventh
Street and Miss Goodman.

There, in a few seconds, he was reading the agent's genuine note to
Winifred--that containing the assurance that no appointment had been
made for "East Orange."

The letter concluded:

     "At first I assumed that a message intended for some other
     correspondent had been sent to me by error. Now, on reperusal,
     I am almost convinced that you wrote me under some
     misapprehension. Will you kindly explain how it arose?"

Clancy, great as ever on such occasions, refrained from saying: "I told
you so."

"We'll call up the agent Monday, just for the sake of thoroughness," he
said. "Meanwhile, be ready to come with me to East Orange to-morrow at 8
A.M."

"Why not to-night?" urged Carshaw, afire with a rage to be up and doing.

"What? To sleep there? Young man, you don't know East Orange. Run away
home to your ma!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Where have you been?" inquired Mrs. Carshaw when her son entered. Her
air was subdued. She had suffered a good deal these later days.

"To Vermont."

"Still pursuing that girl?"

"Yes, mother."

"Have you found her?"

"No, mother."

"Rex, have you driven me wholly from your heart?"

"No; that would be impossible. Winifred would not wish it, callous as
you were to her."

"Do not be too hard on me. I am sore wounded. It is a great deal for a
woman to be cast into the outer darkness."

"Nonsense, mother, you are emerging into light. If your friends are so
ready to drop you because you are poor--with the exceeding poverty of
twenty-five hundred a year--of what value were they as friends? When you
know Winifred you will be glad. You will feel as Dante felt when he
emerged from the Inferno."

"So you are determined to marry her?"

"Unquestionably. And mark you, mother, when the clouds pass, and we are
rich again, you will be proud of your daughter-in-law. She will bear all
your skill in dressing. Gad! how the women of your set will envy her
complexion."

Mrs. Carshaw smiled wanly at that. She knew her "set," as Rex termed the
Four Hundred.

"Why is she called Bartlett?" she inquired after a pause, and Rex looked
at her in surprise. "I have a reason," she continued. "Is that her real
name?"

"Now," he cried, "I admit you are showing some of your wonted
cleverness."

"Ah! Then I am right. I have been thinking. Cessation from society
duties is at least restful. Last night, lying awake and wondering where
you were, my thoughts reverted to that girl. I remembered her face. All
at once a long-forgotten chord of memory hummed its note. Twenty years
ago, when you were a little boy, Rex, I met a Mrs. Marchbanks. She was a
sweet singer. Does your Winifred sing?"

Carshaw drew his chair closer to his mother and placed an arm around her
shoulder.

"Yes," he said.

"Rex," she murmured brokenly, hiding her face, "do you forgive me?"

"Mother, I ask you to forgive me if I said harsh things."

There was silence for a while. Then she raised her eyes. They were wet,
but smiling.

"This Mrs. Marchbanks," she went on bravely, "had your Winifred's face.
She was wealthy and altogether charming. Her husband, too, was a
gentleman. She was a ward of the elder Meiklejohn, the present Senator's
father. My recollection of events is vague, but there was some scandal
in Burlington."

"I know all, or nearly all, about it. That is why I was called to
Vermont. Mother, in future, you will work with me, not against me?"

"I will--indeed I will," she sobbed.

"Then you must not drop your car. I have money to pay for that. Keep in
with Helen Tower, and find out what hold she has on Meiklejohn. You are
good at that, you know. You understand your quarry. You will be worth
twenty detectives. First, discover where Meiklejohn is. He has bolted,
or shut himself up."

"You must trust me fully, or I shall not see the pitfalls. Tell me
everything."

He obeyed. Before he had ended, Mrs. Carshaw was weeping again, but this
time it was out of sympathy with Winifred. Next morning, although it was
Sunday, her smart limousine took her to the Tower's house. Mrs. Tower
was at home.

"I have heard dreadful things about you, Sarah," she purred. "What on
earth is the matter? Why have you given up your place on Long Island?"

"A whim of Rex's, my dear. He is still infatuated over that girl."

"She must have played her cards well."

"Yes, indeed. One does not look for such skill in the lower orders. And
how she deceived me! I went to see her, and she promised better
behavior. Now I find she has gone again, and Rex will not tell me where
she is. Do you know?"

"I? The creature never enters my mind."

"Of course not. She does not interest you, but I am the boy's mother,
and you cannot imagine, Helen, how this affair worries me."

"My poor Sarah! It is too bad."

"Such a misfortune could not have happened had his father lived. We
women are of no use where a headstrong man is concerned. I am thinking
of consulting Senator Meiklejohn. He is discreet and experienced."

"But he is not in town."

"What a calamity! Do tell me where I can find him."

"I have reason to know that Rex would not brook any interference from
him."

"Oh, no, of course not. It would never do to permit his influence to
appear. I was thinking that the Senator might act with the girl, this
wonderful Winifred. He might frighten her, or bribe her, or something of
the sort."

Now, Helen Tower was not in Meiklejohn's confidence. He was compelled to
trust her in the matter of the Costa Rica concession, but he was far too
wise to let her into any secret where Winifred was concerned. Anxious to
stab with another's hand, she thought that Mrs. Carshaw might be used to
punish her wayward son.

"I'm not sure--" She paused doubtfully. "I do happen to know Mr.
Meiklejohn's whereabouts, but it is most important he should not be
troubled."

"Helen, you used to like Rex more than a little. With an effort, I can
save him still."

"But he may suspect you, have you watched, your movements tracked."

Mrs. Carshaw laughed. "My dear, he is far too much taken up with his
Winifred."

"Has he found her, then?"

"Does he not see her daily?"

Here were cross purposes. Mrs. Tower was puzzled.

"If I tell you where the Senator is, you are sure Rex will not follow
you?"

"Quite certain."

"His address is the Marlborough-Blenheim, Atlantic City."

"Helen, you're a dear! I shall go there to-morrow, if necessary. But it
will be best to write him first."

"Don't say I told you."

"Above all things, Helen, I am discreet."

"I fear he cannot do much. Your son is so wilful."

"Don't you understand? Rex is quite unmanageable. I depend wholly on the
girl--and Senator Meiklejohn is just the man to deal with her."

They kissed farewell--alas, those Judas kisses of women! Both were
satisfied, each believing she had hoodwinked the other. Mrs. Carshaw
returned to her flat to await her son's arrival. If the trail at East
Orange proved difficult he promised to be home for dinner.

"There will be a row if Rex meets Meiklejohn," she communed. "Helen will
be furious with me. What do I care? I have won back my son's love. I
have not many years to live. What else have I to work for if not for his
happiness?"

So one woman in New York that night was fairly well _content_. There may
be, as the Chinese proverb has it, thirty-six different kinds of
mothers-in-law, but there is only one mother.



CHAPTER XXII

THE HUNT


Steingall, not Clancy, presented his bulk at Carshaw's apartment next
morning. He contrived to have a few minutes' private talk with Mrs.
Carshaw while her son was dressing. Early as it was, he lighted a second
cigar as he stepped into the automobile, for Carshaw thought it an
economy to retain a car.

"Surprised to see me?" he began. "Well, it's this way. We may drop in
for a rough-house to-day. Between them, Voles and 'Mick the Wolf,' own
three sound legs and three strong arms. I can't risk Clancy. He's too
precious. He kicked like a mule, of course, but I made it an order."

"What of the local police?" said Carshaw.

"Nix on the cops," laughed the chief. "You share the popular delusion
that a policeman can arrest any one at sight. He can do nothing of the
sort, unless he and his superior officers care to face a whacking demand
for damages. And what charge can we bring against Voles and company?
Winifred bolted of her own accord. We must tread lightly, Mr. Carshaw.
Really, I shouldn't be here at all. I came only to help, to put you on
the right trail, to see that Winifred is not detained by force if she
wishes to accompany you. Do you get me?"

"I believe there is good authority for the statement that the law is an
ass," grumbled the other.

"Not the law. Personal liberty has to be safeguarded by the law.
Millions of men have died to uphold that principle. Remember, too, that
I may have to explain in court why I did so-and-so. Strange as it may
sound, I've been taught wisdom by legal adversity. Now, let's talk of
the business in hand. It's an odd thing, but people who wish to do evil
deeds often select secluded country places to live in. I don't mind
betting a box of cigars that 'East Orange' means a quiet, old-fashioned
locality where there isn't a crime once in a generation."

"Some spot one would never suspect, eh?"

"Yes, in a sense. But if ever I set up as a crook--which is unlikely, as
my pension is due in eighteen months--I'll live in a Broadway flat."

"I thought the city police kept a very close eye on evil-doers."

"Yes, when we know them. But your real expert is not known; once held
he's done for. Of course he tries again, but he is a marked man--he has
lost his confidence. Nevertheless, he will always try to be with the
crowd. There is safety in numbers."

"Do you mean that East Orange is a place favorable to our search?"

"Of course it is. The police, the letter-carriers, and the storekeepers,
know everybody. They can tell us at once of several hundred people
who certainly had nothing to do with the abduction of a young lady.
There will remain a few dozens who might possibly be concerned in
such an affair. Inquiry will soon whittle them down to three or four
individuals. What a different job it would be if we had to search a New
York precinct, which, I take it, is about as populous as East Orange."

This was a new point of view to Carshaw, and it cheered him
proportionately. He stepped on the gas, and a traffic policeman at
Forty-second Street and Seventh Avenue cocked an eye at him.

"Steady," laughed Steingall. "It would be a sad blow for mother if we
were held for furious driving. These blessed machines jump from twelve
to forty miles an hour before you can wink twice."

Carshaw abated his ardor. Nevertheless, they were in East Orange forty
minutes after crossing the ferry.

Unhappily, from that hour, the pace slackened. Gateway House had been
rented from a New York agent for "Mr. and Mrs. Forest," Westerners who
wished to reside in New Jersey a year or so.

Its occupants had driven thither from New York. Rachel Craik, heavily
veiled and quietly attired, did her shopping in the nearest suburb, and
had choice of more than one line of rail. So East Orange knew them not,
nor had it even seen them.

In nowise discouraged, the man from the Bureau set about his inquiry
methodically. He interviewed policemen, railway officials, postmen, and
cabmen. Although the day was Sunday, he tracked men to their homes and
led them to talk. Empty houses, recently let houses, houses tenanted by
people who were "not particular" as to their means of getting a living,
divided his attention with persons who answered to the description of
Voles, Fowle, Rachel, or even the broken-armed Mick the Wolf; while he
plied every man with a minutely accurate picture of Winifred.

Hither and thither darted the motor till East Orange was scoured and
noted, and among twenty habitations jotted in the detective's notebook
the name of Gateway House figured. It was slow work, this task of
elimination, but they persisted, meeting rebuff after rebuff, especially
in the one or two instances where a couple of sharp-looking strangers
in a car were distinctly not welcome. They had luncheon at a local
hotel, and, by idle chance, were not pleased by the way in which the
meal was served.

So, when hungry again, and perhaps a trifle dispirited as the day waned
to darkness with no result, they went to another inn to procure a meal.
This time they were better looked after. Instead of a jaded German
waiter they were served by the landlord's daughter, a neat, befrilled
young damsel, who cheered them by her smile; though, to be candid, she
was anxious to get out for a walk with her young man.

"Have you traveled far?" she asked, by way of talk while laying the
table.

"From New York," said Steingall.

"At this hour--in a car?"

"Yes. Is that a remarkable thing here?"

"Not the car; but people in motors either whizz through of a morning
going away down the coast, or whizz back again of an evening returning
to New York."

"Ah!" put in Carshaw, "here is a pretty head which holds brains. It goes
in for ratiocinative reasoning. Now, I'll be bound to say that this
pretty head, which thinks, can help us."

A good deal of this was lost on the girl, but she caught the compliment
and smiled.

"It all depends on what you want to know," she said.

"I really want to find a private prison of some sort," he said. "The
sort of place where a nice-looking young lady like you might be kept in
against her will by nasty, ill-disposed people."

"There is only one house of that kind in the town, and that is out of
it, as an Irishman might say."

"And where is it?"

"It's called Gateway House--about a mile along the road from the depot."

Steingall, inclined at first to doubt the expediency of gossip with the
girl, now pricked up his ears.

"Who lives in Gateway House?" he asked.

"No one that I know of at the moment," she answered. "It used to belong
to a mad doctor. I don't mean a doctor who was mad, but----"

"No matter about his sanity. Is he dead?"

"No, in prison. There was a trial two years ago."

"Oh! I remember the affair. A patient was beaten to death. So the house
is empty?"

"It is, unless some one has rented it recently. I was taken through the
place months ago. The rooms are all right, and it has beautiful
grounds, but the windows frightened me. They were closely barred with
iron, and the doors were covered with locks and chains. There were some
old beds there, too, with straps on them. Oh, I quite shivered!"

"After we have eaten will you let us drive you in that direction in my
car?" said Carshaw.

She simpered and blushed slightly. "I've an appointment with a friend,"
she admitted, wondering whether the swain would protest too strongly if
she accepted the invitation.

"Bring him also," said Carshaw. "I assume it's a 'he.'"

"Oh, that'll be all right!" she cried.

So in the deepening gloom the automobile flared with fierce eyes along
the quiet road to Gateway House, and in its seat of honor sat the hotel
maid and her young man.

"That is the place," she said, after the, to her, all too brief run.

"Is this the only entrance?" demanded the chief, as he stepped out to
try the gate.

"Yes. The high wall runs right round the property. It's quite a big
place."

"Locked!" he announced. "Probably empty, too."

He tried squinting through the keyhole to catch a gleam of interior
light.

"No use in doin' that," announced the young man. "The house stands way
back, an' is hidden by trees."

"I mean having a look at it, wall or no wall," insisted Carshaw.

"But the gate is spiked and the wall covered with broken glass," said
the girl.

"Such obstacles can be surmounted by ladders and folded tarpaulins, or
even thick overcoats," observed Steingall.

"I'm a plumber," said the East Orange man. "If you care to run back to
my place, I c'n give you a telescope ladder and a tarpaulin. But perhaps
we may butt into trouble?"

"For shame, Jim! I thought you'd do a little thing like that to help a
girl in distress."

"First I've heard of any girl."

"My name is Carshaw," came the prompt assurance. "Here's my card; read
it by the lamp there. I'll guarantee you against consequences, pay any
damages, and reward you if our search yields results."

"Jim--" commenced the girl reproachfully, but he stayed her with a
squeeze.

"Cut it out, Polly," he said. "You don't wish me to start housebreaking,
do you? But if there's a lady to be helped, an' Mr. Carshaw says it's
O.K., I'm on. A fellow who was with Funston in the Philippines won't
sidestep a little job of that sort."

Polly, appeased and delighted with the adventure, giggled. "I'd think
not, indeed."

"It is lawbreaking, but I am inclined to back you up," confided
Steingall to Carshaw when the car was humming back to East Orange. "At
the worst you can only be charged with trespass, as my evidence will be
taken that you had no unlawful intent."

"Won't you come with me?"

"Better not. You see, I am only helping you. You have an excuse; I, as
an official, have none--if a row springs up and doors have to be kicked
open, for instance. Moreover, this is the State of New Jersey and
outside my bailiwick."

"Perhaps the joker behind us may be useful."

"He will be, or his girl will know the reason why. He may have fought in
every battle in the Spanish War, but she has more pep in her."

The soldierly plumber was as good as his word. He produced the ladder
and the tarpaulin, and a steel wrench as well.

"If you do a thing at all do it thoroughly. That's what Funston taught
us," he grinned.

Carshaw thanked him, and in a few minutes they were again looking at the
tall gate and the dark masses of the garden trees silhouetted against
the sky. They had not encountered many wayfarers during their three
journeys. The presence of a car at the entrance to such a pretentious
place would not attract attention, and the scaling of the wall was only
a matter of half a minute.

"No use in raising the dust by knocking. Go over," counseled Steingall.
"Try to open the gate. Then you can return the ladder and tarpaulin at
once. Otherwise, leave them in position. If satisfied that the house is
inhabited by those with whom you have no concern, come away unnoticed,
if possible."

Carshaw climbed the ladder, sat on the tarpaulin, and dropped the ladder
on the inner side of the wall. They heard him shaking the gate. His head
reappeared over the wall.

"Locked," he said, "and the key gone. I'll come back and report
quickly."

Jim, who had been nudged earnestly several times by his companion, cried
quickly:

"Isn't your friend goin' along, too, mister?"

"No. I may as well tell you that I am a detective," put in Steingall.

"Gee whizz! Why didn't you cough it up earlier? Hol' on, there! Lower
that ladder. I'm with you."

"Good old U. S. Army!" said Steingall, and Polly glowed with pride.

Jim climbed rapidly to Carshaw's side, the latter being astride the
wall. Then they vanished.

For a long time the two in the car listened intently. A couple of
cyclists passed, and a small boy, prowling about, took an interest in
the car, but was sternly warned off by Steingall. At last they caught
the faint but easily discerned sound of heavy blows and broken woodwork.

"Things are happening," cried Steingall. "I wish I had gone with them."

"Oh, I hope my Jim won't get hurt," said Polly, somewhat pale now.

They heard more furious blows and the crash of glass.

"Confound it!" growled Steingall. "Why didn't I go?"

"If I stood on the back of the car against the gate, and you climbed
onto my shoulders, you might manage to stand between the spikes and jump
down," cried Polly desperately.

"Great Scott, but you're the right sort of girl. The wall is too high,
but the gate is possible. I'll try it," he answered.

With difficulty, having only slight knowledge of heavy cars, he backed
the machine against the gate. Then the girl caught the top with her
hands, standing on the back cushions.

Steingall was no light weight for her soft shoulders, but she uttered no
word until she heard him drop heavily on the gravel drive within.

"Thank goodness!" she whispered. "There are three of them now. I only
wish I was there, too!"



CHAPTER XXIII

"HE WHO FIGHTS AND RUNS AWAY--"


"I don't like the proposition, an' that's a fact," muttered Fowle,
lifting a glass of whisky and glancing furtively at Voles, when the
domineering eyes of the superior scoundrel were averted for a moment.

"Whether you like it or not, you've got to lump it," was the ready
answer.

"I don't see that. I agreed to help you up to a certain point----"

Voles swung around at him furiously, as a mastiff might turn on a
wretched mongrel.

"Say, listen! If I'm up to the neck in this business, you're in it over
your ears. You can't duck now, you white-livered cur! The cops know you.
They had you in their hands once, and warned you to leave this girl
alone. If I stand in the dock you'll stand there, too, and I'm not the
man to say the word that'll save you."

"But she's with her aunt. She's under age. Her aunt is her legal
guardian. I know a bit about the law, you see. This notion of yours is
a bird of another color. Sham weddings are no joke. It will mean ten
years."

"Who wants you to go in for a sham wedding, you swab?"

"You do, or I haven't got the hang of things."

Voles looked as though he would like to hammer his argument into Fowle
with his fists. He forebore. There was too much at stake to allow a
sudden access of bad temper to defeat his ends.

He was tired of vagabondage. It was true, as he told his brother long
before, that he hungered for the flesh-pots of Egypt, for the life and
ease and gayety of New York. An unexpected vista had opened up before
him. When he came back to the East his intention was to squeeze funds
out of Meiklejohn wherewith to plunge again into the outer wilderness.
Now events had conspired to give him some chance of earning a fortune
quickly, had not the irony of fate raised the winsome face and figure of
Winifred as a bogey from the grave to bar his path.

So he choked back his wrath, and shoved the decanter of spirits across
the table to his morose companion. They were sitting in the hall of
Gateway House, about the hour that Carshaw and the detective, tired by
their weary hunt through East Orange, sought the inn.

"Now look here, Fowle," he said, "don't be a poor dub, and don't kick at
my way of speaking. _Por Dios!_ man, I've lived too long in the sage
country to scrape my tongue to a smooth spiel like my--my friend, the
Senator. Let's look squarely at the facts. You admire the girl?"

"Who wouldn't? A pippin, every inch of her."

"You're broke?"

"Well--er--"

"You were fired from your last job. You're in wrong with the police. You
adopted a disguise and told lies about Winifred to those who would
employ her. What chance have you of getting back into your trade, even
if you'd be satisfied with it after having lived like a plute for
weeks?"

"That goes," said Fowle, waving his pipe.

"You'd like to hand one to that fellow Carshaw?"

"Wouldn't I!"

"Yet you kick like a steer when I offer you the girl, a soft, well-paid
job, and the worst revenge you can take on Carshaw."

"Yes, all damn fine. But the risk--the infernal risk!"

"That's where I don't agree with you. You go away with her and her
father--"

"Father! You're not her father!"

"You should be the first to believe it. Her aunt will swear it to you or
to any judge in the country. Once out of the United States, she will be
only too glad to avail herself of the protection matrimony is supposed
to offer. What are you afraid of?"

"You talked of puttin' up some guy to pretend to marry us."

"Forget it. We can't keep her insensible or dumb for days. But, in the
company of her loving father and her devoted husband, what can she do?
Who will believe her? Depend on me to have the right sort of boys on the
ship. They'll just grin at her. By the time she reaches Costa Rica
she'll be howling for a missionary to come aboard in order to satisfy
her scruples. You can suggest it yourself."

"I believe she'd die sooner."

"What matter? You only lose a pretty wife. There's lots more of the same
sort when your wad is thick enough. Why, man, it means a three-months'
trip and a fortune for life, however things turn out. You're tossing
against luck with an eagle on both sides of the quarter."

Fowle hesitated. The other suppressed a smile. He knew his man.

"Don't decide in a minute," he said seriously. "But, once settled, there
must be no shirking. Make up your mind either to go straight ahead by my
orders or clear out to-night. I'll give you a ten-spot to begin life
again. After that don't come near me."

"I'll do it," said Fowle, and they shook hands on their compact.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not in Winifred's nature to remain long in a state of active
resentment with any human being. A prisoner, watched diligently during
the day, locked into her room at night, she met Rachel Craik's grim
espionage and Mick the Wolf's evil temper with an equable cheerfulness
that exasperated the one while mollifying the other.

She wondered greatly what they meant to do with her. It was impossible
to believe that in the State of New Jersey, within a few miles of New
York, they could keep her indefinitely in close confinement. She knew
that her Rex would move heaven and earth to rescue her. She knew that
the authorities, in the person of Mr. Steingall, would take up the hunt
with unwearying diligence, and she reasoned, acutely enough, that a plot
which embraced in its scope so many different individuals could not long
defy the efforts made to elucidate it.

How thankful she was now that she had at last written and posted that
long-deferred letter to the agent. Here, surely, was a clue to be
followed--she had quite forgotten, in the first whirlwind of her
distress, the second letter which reached her in the Twenty-seventh
Street lodgings, but pinned her faith to the fact that her own note
concerning the appointment "near East Orange" was in existence.

Perhaps her sweetheart was already rushing over every road in the place
and making exhaustive inquiries about her. It was possible that he had
passed Gateway House more than once. He might have seen amid the trees
the tall chimneys of the very jail against whose iron bars her spirit
was fluttering in fearful hope. Oh, why was she not endowed with that
power she had read of, whose fortunate possessors could leap time and
space in their astral subconsciousness and make known their thoughts and
wishes to those dear to them?

She even smiled at the conceit that a true wireless telegraphy did exist
between Carshaw and herself. Daily, nightly, she thought of him and he
of her. But their alphabet was lacking; they could utter only the
thrilling language of love, which is not bound by such earthly things as
signs and symbols.

Yet was she utterly confident, and her demeanor rendered Rachel Craik
more and more suspicious. Since the girl had scornfully disowned her
kinship, the elder woman had not made further protest on that score. She
frankly behaved as a wardress in a prison, and Winifred as frankly
accepted the rôle of prisoner. There remained Mick the Wolf. Under the
circumstances, no doctor or professional nurse could be brought to
attend his injured arm. The broken limb had of course been properly set
after the accident, but it required skilled dressing daily, and this
Winifred undertook. She had no real knowledge of the subject, but her
willingness to help, joined to the instruction given by the man himself,
achieved her object.

It was well-nigh impossible for this rough, callous rogue, brought in
contact with such a girl for the first time in his life, to resist her
influence. She did not know it, but gradually she was winning him to her
side. He swore at her as the cause of his suffering, yet found himself
regretting even the passive part he was taking in her imprisonment.

On the very Sunday evening that Voles and Fowle were concocting their
vile and mysterious scheme, Mick the Wolf, their trusted associate,
partner of Voles in many a desperate enterprise in other lands, was
sitting in an armchair up-stairs listening to Winifred reading from a
book she had found in her bedroom. It was some simple story of love and
adventure, and certainly its author had never dreamed that his exciting
situations would be perused under conditions as dramatic as any pictured
in the novel.

"It's a queer thing," said the man after a pause, when Winifred stopped
to light a lamp, "but nobody pipin' us just now 'ud think we was what we
are."

She laughed at the involved sentence. "I don't think you are half so bad
as you think you are, Mr. Grey," she said softly. "For my part, I am
happy in the belief that my friends will not desert me."

"Lookut here," he said with gruff sympathy, "why don't you pull with
your people instead of ag'in' 'em. I know what I'm talkin' about. This
yer Voles--but, steady! Mebbe I best shut up."

Winifred's heart bounded. If this man would speak he might tell her
something of great value to her lover and Mr. Steingall when they came
to reckon up accounts with her persecutors.

"Anything you tell me, Mr. Grey, shall not be repeated," she said.

He glanced toward the door. She understood his thought. Rachel Craik was
preparing their evening meal. She might enter the room at any moment,
and it was not advisable that she should suspect them of amicable
relations. Assuredly, up to that hour, Mick the Wolf's manner admitted
of no doubt on the point. He had been intractable as the animal which
supplied his oddly appropriate nickname.

"It's this way," he went on in a lower tone. "Voles an' Meiklejohn are
brothers born. Meiklejohn, bein' a Senator, an' well in with some of the
top-notchers, has a cotton concession in Costa Rica which means a pile
of money. Voles is cute as a pet fox. He winded the turkey, an' has
forced his brother to make him manager, with a whackin' salary and an
interest. I'm in on the deal, too. Bless your little heart, you just
stan' pat, an' you kin make a dress outer dollar bills."

"But what have I to do with all this? Why cannot you settle your
business without pursuing me?" was the mournful question, for Winifred
never guessed how greatly the man's information affected her.

"I can't rightly say, but you're either with us or ag'in' us. If you're
on our side it'll be a joy-ride. If you stick to that guy, Carshaw--"

To their ears, as to the ears of those waiting in the car at the gate,
came the sound of violent blows and the wrenching open of the door. In
that large house--in a room situated, too, on the side removed from the
road--they could not catch Carshaw's exulting cry after a peep through
the window:

"I have them! Voles and Fowle! There they are! Now you, who fought with
Funston, fight for a year's pay to be earned in a minute. Here! use this
wrench. You understand it. Use it on the head of any one who resists
you. These scoundrels must be taken red-handed."

Voles at the first alarm sprang to his feet and whipped out a revolver.
He knew that a vigorous assault was being made on the stout door.
Running to the blind of the nearest window, he saw Carshaw pull out an
iron bar by sheer strength and use it as a lever to pry open a sash.
Tempted though he was to shoot, he dared not. There might be police
outside. Murder would shatter his dreams of wealth and luxury. He must
outwit his pursuers.

Rachel Craik came running from the kitchen, alarmed by the sudden
hubbub.

"Fowle," he said to his amazed confederate, "stand them off for a minute
or two. You, Rachel, can help. You know where to find me when the coast
is clear. They cannot touch you. Remember that. They're breaking into
this house without a warrant. Bluff hard, and they cannot even frame a
charge against you if the girl is secured--and she will be if you give
me time."

Trusting more to Rachel than to vacillating Fowle, he raced up-stairs,
though his injured leg made rapid progress difficult. He ran into a room
and grabbed a small bag which lay in readiness. Then he rushed toward
the room in which Winifred and Mick the Wolf were listening with mixed
feelings to the row which had sprung up beneath.

He tried the door. It was locked. Rachel had the key in her pocket. A
trifle of that nature did not deter a man like Voles. With his shoulder
he burst the lock, coming face to face with his partner in crime, who
had grasped a poker in his serviceable hand.

"Atta-boy!" he yelled. "Down-stairs, and floor 'em as they come. You've
one sound arm. Go for 'em--they can't lay a finger on you."

Now, it was one thing to sympathize with a helpless and gentle girl, but
another to resist the call of the wild. The dominant note in Mick the
Wolf was brutality, and the fighting instinct conquered even his pain.
With an oath he made his way to the hall, and it needed all of
Steingall's great strength to overpower him, wounded though he was.

It took Carshaw and Jim a couple of minutes to force their way in. There
was a lively fight, in which the detective lent a hand. When Mick the
Wolf was down, groaning and cursing because his fractured arm was broken
again; when Fowle was held to the floor, with Rachel Craik, struggling
and screaming, pinned beneath him by the valiant Jim, Carshaw sped to
the first floor.

Soon, after using hand-cuffs on the man and woman, and leaving Jim in
charge of them and Mick the Wolf, Steingall joined him. But, search as
they might, they could not find either Winifred or Voles. Almost beside
himself with rage, Carshaw rushed back to the grim-visaged Rachel.

"Where is she?" he cried. "What have you done with her? By Heaven, I'll
kill you--"

Her face lit up with a malignant joy. "A nice thing!" she screamed.
"Respectable folk to be treated in this way! What have we done, I'd like
to know? Breaking into our house and assaulting us!"

"No good talking to her," said the chief. "She's a deep one--tough as
they make 'em. Let's search the grounds."



CHAPTER XXIV

IN FULL CRY


Polly, the maid from the inn, waiting breathlessly intent in the car
outside the gate, listened for sounds which should guide her as to the
progress of events within.

Steingall left her standing on the upholstered back of the car, with her
hands clutching the top of the gate. She did not descend immediately. In
that position she could best hear approaching footsteps, as she could
follow the running of the detective nearly all the way to the house.

Great was her surprise, therefore, to find some one unlocking the gate
without receiving any preliminary warning of his advent. She was just in
time to spring back into the tonneau when one-half of the ponderous door
swung open and a man appeared, carrying in his arms the seemingly
lifeless body of a woman.

It will be remembered that the lamps of the car spread their beams in
the opposite direction. In the gloom, not only of the night but of the
high wall and the trees, Polly could not distinguish features.

She thought, however, the man was a stranger. Naturally, as the rescuers
had just gone toward the point whence the newcomer came, she believed
that he had been directed to carry the young lady to the waiting car.
Her quick sympathy was aroused.

"The poor dear!" she cried. "Oh, don't tell me those horrid people have
hurt her."

Voles who had choked Winifred into insensibility with a mixture of
alcohol, chloroform, and ether--a scientific anesthetic used by all
surgeons, rapid in achieving its purpose and quite harmless in its
effects--was far more surprised than Polly. He never expected to be
greeted in this way, but rather to be met by some helper of Carshaw's
posed there, and he was prepared to fight or trick his adversary as
occasion demanded.

He had carried Winifred down a servants' stairs and made his way out of
the house by a back door. The exit was unguarded. In this, as in many
other country mansions, the drive followed a circuitous sweep, but a
path through the trees led directly toward the gate. Hence, his passage
had neither been observed from the hall nor overheard by Polly.

It was in precisely such a situation as that which faced him now that
Voles was really superb. He was an adroit man, with ready judgment and
nerves of steel.

"Not much hurt," he said quietly. "She has fainted from shock, I think."

Though he spoke so glibly, his brain was on fire with question and
answer. His eyes glowered at the car and its occupant, and swept the
open road on either hand.

To Polly's nostrils was wafted a strange odor, carrying reminiscences of
so-called "painless" dentistry. Winifred, reviving in the open air when
that hateful sponge was removed from mouth and nose, struggled
spasmodically in the arms of her captor. Polly knew that women in a
faint lie deathlike. That never-to-be-forgotten scent, too, caused a
wave of alarm, of suspicion, to creep through her with each heart-beat.

"Where are the others?" she said, leaning over, and striving to see
Voles's face.

"Just behind," he answered. "Let me place Miss Bartlett in the car."

That sounded reasonable.

"Lift her in here, poor thing," said Polly, making way for the almost
inanimate form.

"No; on the front seat."

"But why? This is the best place--oh, help, _help_!"

For Voles, having placed Winifred beside the steering-pillar, seized
Polly and flung her headlong onto the grass beneath the wall. In the
same instant he started the car with a quick turn of the wrist, for the
engine had been stopped to avoid noise, and there was no time to
experiment with self-starters. He jumped in, released the brakes,
applied the first speed, and was away in the direction to New York.
Polly, angry and frightened, ran after him, screaming at the top of her
voice.

Voles was in such a desperate hurry that he did not pay heed to his
steering, and nearly ran over a motor-cyclist coming in hot haste to
East Orange. The rider, a young man, pulled up and used language. He
heard Polly, panting and shrieking, running toward him.

"Good gracious, Miss Barnard, what's the matter?" he cried, for Polly
was pretty enough to hold many an eye.

"Is that you, Mr. Petch? Thank goodness! There's been murder done in
Gateway House. That villain is carrying off the young lady he has
killed. He has escaped from the police. They're in there now. Oh, catch
him!"

Mr. Petch, who had dismounted, began to hop back New York-ward, while
the engine emulated a machine-gun.

"It's a big car--goes fast--I'll do my best--" Polly heard him say, and
he, too, was gone. She met Carshaw and the chief half-way up the drive.
To them, in gasps, she told her story.

"Cool hand, Voles!" said Steingall.

"The whole thing was bungled!" cried Carshaw in a white heat. "If Clancy
had been here this couldn't have happened."

Steingall took the implied taunt coolly.

"It would have been better had I followed my original plan and not
helped you," he said. "You or our East Orange friend might have been
killed, it is true, but Voles could not have carried the girl off so
easily."

Carshaw promptly regretted his bitter comment. "I'm sorry," he said,
"but you cannot realize what all this means to me, Steingall."

"I think I can. Cheer up; your car is easily recognizable. We have a
cyclist known to this young lady in close pursuit. Even if he fails to
catch up with Voles, he will at least give us some definite direction
for a search. At present there is nothing for us to do but lodge these
people in the local prison, telephone the ferries and main towns, and go
back to New York. The police here will let us know what happens to the
cyclist; he may even call at the Bureau. I can act best in New York."

"Do you mean now to arrest those in the house?"

"Yes, sure. That is, I'll get the New Jersey police to hold them."

"On what charge?"

"Conspiracy. At last we have clear evidence against them. Miss Polly
here has actually seen Voles carrying off Miss Bartlett, who had
previously been rendered insensible. If I am not mistaken in my man,
Fowle will turn State's evidence when he chews on the proposition for a
few hours in a cell."

"Pah--the wretch! I don't want these reptiles to be crushed; what I want
is to recover Miss Bartlett. Would it not be best to leave them their
liberty and watch them?"

"I've always found a seven days' remand very helpful," mused the
detective.

"In ordinary crime, yes. But here we have Rachel Craik, who would suffer
martyrdom rather than speak; Fowle, a mere tool, who knows nothing
except what little he is told; and a thick-headed brute named Mick the
Wolf, who does what his master bids him. Don't you see that in prison
they are useless. At liberty they may help by trying to communicate with
Voles."

"I'm half inclined to agree with you. Now to frighten them. Keep your
face and tongue under control; I'll try a dodge that seldom fails."

They re-entered the house. Jim was doing sentry-go in the hall. The
prisoners were sitting mute, save that Mick the Wolf uttered an
occasional growl of pain; his wounded arm was hurting him sorely.

"We're not going to worry any more about you," said Steingall
contemptuously as he unlocked the hand-cuffs with which he had been
compelled to secure Rachel and Fowle.

"Yes, you will," was the woman's defiant cry. "Your outrageous
conduct--"

"Oh, pull that stuff on some one likely to be impressed by it. It comes
a trifle late in the day when Miss Winifred Marchbanks is in the hands
of her friends and Voles on his way to prison. I don't even want you,
Rachel Bartlett, unless the State attorney decides that you ought to be
prosecuted."

The woman's eyes gleamed like those of a spiteful cat. The detective's
cool use of Winifred's right name, and of the name by which Rachel Craik
herself ought to be known, was positively demoralizing. Fowle, too, was
greatly alarmed. The police-officer said nothing about not wanting him.
With Voles's superior will withdrawn, he began to quake again. But
Rachel was a dour New Englander, of different metal to a man from the
East Side.

"If you're speaking of my niece," she said, "you have been misled by the
hussy, and by that man of hers there. Mr. Voles is her father. I have
every proof of my words. You can bring none of yours."

Steingall, eying Fowle, laughed. "You will be able to tell us all about
it in the witness-box, Rachel Bartlett," he said.

"How dare you call me by that name?"

"Because it's your right one. Craik was your mother's name. If friend
Voles had only kept his hands clean, or even treated you honorably, you
might now be Mrs. Ralph Meiklejohn, eh?"

He was playing with her with the affable gambols of a cat toying with a
doomed mouse. Each instant Fowle was becoming more perturbed. He did not
like the way in which the detective ignored him. Was he to be swallowed
at a gulp when his turn came?

Even Rachel Craik was silenced by this last shot. She wrung her hands;
this stern, implacable woman seemed to be on the point of bursting into
tears. All the plotting and devices of years had failed her suddenly. An
edifice of deception, which had lasted half a generation, had crumbled
into nothingness. This man had callously exposed her secret and her
shame. At that moment her heart was bitter against Voles.

The detective, skilled in the phases of criminal thought, knew exactly
what was passing through the minds of both Rachel and Fowle. Revenge in
the one case, safety in the other, was operating quickly, and a crisis
was at hand.

But just then the angry voice of the East Orange plumber reached him:
"Just imagine Petch turnin' up; him, of all men in the world! An' of
course you talked nicey-nicey, an' he's such an obligin' feller that he
beats it after the car! Petch, indeed!"

There was a snort of jealous fury. Polly's voice was raised in protest.

"Jim, don't be stupid. How could I tell who it was?"

"I'll back you against any girl in East Orange to find another string to
your bow wherever you may happen to be," was the enraged retort.

The detective hastened to stop this lovers' quarrel, which had broken
out after a whispered colloquy. He was too late. Miss Polly was on her
dignity.

"Well, Mr. Petch is a real man, anyhow," came her stinging answer. "He's
after them now, and he won't let them slip through his fingers like you
did."

The sheer injustice of this statement rendered Jim incoherent. Petch was
an old rival. When next they met, gore would flow in East Orange. But
the detective's angry whisper restored the senses of both.

"Can't you two shut up?" he hissed. "Your miserable quarrel has warned
our prisoners. They were on the very point of confessing everything when
you blurted out that the chief rascal had escaped. I'm ashamed of you,
especially after you had behaved so well."

His rebuke was merited; they were abashed into silence--too late. When
he returned to the pair in the corner of the room he saw Rachel Craik's
sour smile and Fowle's downcast look of calculation.

"A lost opportunity!" he muttered, but faced the situation quite
pleasantly.

"You may as well remain here," he said. "I may want you, and you should
realize without giving further trouble that you cannot hide from the
police. Come, Mr. Carshaw, we have work before us in East Orange. Miss
Winifred should be all right by this time."

Rachel Craik actually laughed. She wondered why she had lost faith in
Voles for an instant.

"I'll send a doctor," went on Steingall composedly. "Your friend there
needs one, I guess."

"I'd sooner have a six-shooter," roared Mick the Wolf.

"Doctors are even more deadly sometimes."

So the detective took his defeat cheerfully, and that is the worst thing
a man can do--in his opponent's interests. He was rather silent as he
trudged with Carshaw and the others back to the train, however.

He was asking himself what new gibe Clancy would spring on him when the
story of the night's fiasco came out.



CHAPTER XXV

FLANK ATTACKS


Somewhat tired, having ridden that day to Poughkeepsie and back, Petch,
nevertheless, put up a great race after the fleeing motor-car.

His muscles were rejuvenated by Polly Barnard's exciting news and no
less by admiration for the girl herself. Little thinking that Jim, the
plumber, was performing deeds of derring-do in the hall of Gateway
House, he congratulated himself on the lucky chance which enabled him to
oblige the fair Polly. He dashed into the road to Hoboken, and found, to
his joy, that the dust raised by the passage of the car gave an
unfailing clue to its route. Now, a well-regulated motor-cycle can run
rings round any other form of automobile, no matter how many horses may
be pent in the cylinders, if on an ordinary road and subjected to the
exigencies of traffic.

Voles, break-neck driver though he was, dared not disregard the traffic
regulations and risk a smash-up. He got the best out of the engine, but
was compelled to go steadily through clusters of houses and around
tree-shaded corners. To his great amazement, as he was tearing through
the last habitations before crossing the New Jersey flats, he was hailed
loudly from behind:

"Hi, you--pull up!"

He glanced over his shoulder. A motor-cyclist, white with dust, was
riding after him with tremendous energy.

"Hola!" cried Voles, snatching another look. "What's the matter?"

Petch should have temporized, done one of a hundred things he thought of
too late; but he was so breathless after the terrific sprint in which he
overtook Voles that he blurted out:

"I know you--you can't escape--there's the girl herself--I see her!"

"Hell!"

Voles urged on the car by foot and finger. After him pelted Petch, with
set teeth and straining eyes. The magnificent car, superb in its
energies, swept through the night like the fiery dragon of song and
fable, but with a speed never attained by dragon yet, else there would
be room on earth for nothing save dragons. And the motor-cycle leaped
and bounded close behind, stuttering its resolve to conquer the monster
in front.

The pair created a great commotion as they whirred past scattered houses
and emerged into the keen, cold air of the marshland. A few cars met en
route actually slowed up, and heads were thrust out to peer in wonder.
Women in them were scared, and enjoined drivers to be careful, while men
explained laughingly that a couple of joy-riders were being chased by a
motor "cop."

It was neck or nothing now for Voles, and when these alternatives
offered, he never hesitated as to which should be chosen. He knew he was
in desperate case.

The pace; the extraordinary appearance of a hatless man and a girl with
her hair streaming wild--for Winifred's abundant tresses had soon shed
all restraint of pins and twists before the tearing wind of their
transit--would create a tumult in Hoboken. Something must be done. He
must stop the car and shoot that pestiferous cyclist, who had sprung out
of the ground as though one of Medusa's teeth had lain buried there
throughout the ages, and become a panoplied warrior at a woman's cry.

He looked ahead. There was no car in sight. He peered over his shoulder.
There was no cyclist! Petch had not counted on this frenzied race, and
his petrol-tank was empty. He had pulled up disconsolately half a mile
away, and was now borrowing a gallon of gas from an Orange-bound car,
explaining excitedly that he was "after" a murderer!

Voles laughed. The fiend's luck, which seldom fails the fiend's
votaries, had come to his aid in a highly critical moment. There
remained Winifred. She, too, must be dealt with. Now, all who have
experienced the effect of an anesthetic will understand that after the
merely stupefying power of the gas has waned there follows a long period
of semi-hysteria, when actual existence is dreamlike, and impressions of
events are evanescent. Winifred, therefore, hardly appreciated what was
taking place until the car stopped abruptly, and the stupor of cold
passed almost simultaneously with the stupor of anesthesia.

But Voles had his larger plan now. With coolness and daring he might
achieve it. All depended on the discretion of those left behind in
Gateway House. It was impossible to keep Winifred always in durance, or
to prevent her everlastingly from obtaining help. That fool of a
cyclist, for instance, had he contented himself with riding quietly
behind until he reached the ferry, would have wrecked the exploit beyond
repair.

There remained one last move, but it was a perfect one in most ways.
Would Fowle keep his mouth shut? Voles cursed Fowle in his thought. Were
it not for Fowle there would have been no difficulty. Carshaw would
never have met Winifred, and the girl would have been as wax in the
hands of Rachel Craik. He caught hold of Winifred's arm.

"If you scream I'll choke you!" he said fiercely.

Shaken by the chloroform mixture, benumbed as the outcome of an
unprotected drive, the girl was physically as well as mentally unable to
resist. He coiled her hair into a knot, gagged her dexterously with a
silk handkerchief--Voles knew all about gags--and tied her hands behind
her back with a shoe-lace. Then he adjusted the hood and side-screens.

He did these things hurriedly, but without fumbling. He was losing
precious minutes, for the telephone-wire might yet throttle him; but the
periods of waiting at the ferry and while crossing the Hudson must be
circumvented in some way or other. His last act before starting the car
was to show Winifred the revolver he never lacked.

"See this!" he growled into her ear. "I'm not going to be held by any
cop. At the least sign of a move by you to attract attention I'll put
the first bullet through the cop, the second through you, and the third
through myself, if I can't make my get-away. Better believe that. I mean
it."

He asked for no token of understanding on her part. He was stating only
the plain facts. In a word, Voles was born to be a great man, and an
unhappy fate had made him a scoundrel. But fortune still befriended him.
Rain fell as he drove through Hoboken. The ferry was almost deserted,
and the car was wedged in between two huge mail-vans on board the boat.

Hardened rascal though he was, Voles breathed a sigh of relief as he
drove unchallenged past a uniformed policeman on arriving at Christopher
Street. He guessed his escape was only a matter of minutes. In reality,
he was gone some ten seconds when the policeman was called to the phone.
As for Petch, that valorous knight-errant crossed on the next boat, and
the Hoboken police were already on the _qui vive_.

Every road into and out of New York was soon watched by sharp eyes on
the lookout for a car bearing a license numbered in the tens of
thousands, and tenanted by a hatless man and a girl in indoor costume.
Quickly the circles lessened in concentric rings through the agencies of
telephone-boxes and roundsmen.

At half past nine a patrolman found a car answering the description
standing outside an up-town saloon on the East Side. Examining the
register number he saw at once that blacking had been smeared over the
first and last figures. Then he knew. But there was no trace of the
driver. Voles and Winifred had vanished into thin air.

Mrs. Carshaw, breakfasting with a haggard and weary son, revealed that
Senator Meiklejohn was at Atlantic City. He kissed her for the news.

"Meiklejohn must wait, mother," he said. "Winifred is somewhere in New
York. I cannot tear myself away to Atlantic City to-day. When I have
found her, I shall deal with Meiklejohn."

Then came Steingall, and he and Mrs. Carshaw exchanged a glance which
the younger man missed.

Mrs. Carshaw, sitting a while in deep thought after the others had gone,
rang up a railway company. Atlantic City is four hours distant from New
York. By hurrying over certain inquiries she wished to make, she might
catch a train at midday.

She drove to her lawyers. At her request a smart clerk was lent to her
for a couple of hours. They consulted various records. The clerk made
many notes on foolscap sheets in a large, round hand, and Mrs. Carshaw,
seated in the train, read them many times through her gold-mounted
lorgnette.

It was five o'clock when a taxi brought her to the Marlborough-Blenheim
Hotel, and Senator Meiklejohn was the most astonished man on the Jersey
coast at the moment when she entered unannounced, for Mrs. Carshaw had
simply said to the elevator-boy: "Take me to Senator Meiklejohn's
sitting-room."

Undeniably he was startled; but playing desperately for high stakes had
steadied him somewhat. Perhaps the example of his stronger brother had
some value, too, for he rose with sufficient affability.

"What a pleasant _rencontré_, Mrs. Carshaw," he said. "I had no notion
you were within a hundred miles of the Board Walk."

"That is not surprising," she answered, sinking into a comfortable
chair. "I have just arrived. Order me some sandwiches and a cup of tea.
I'm famished."

He obeyed.

"I take it you have come to see me?" he said, quietly enough, though
aware of a queer fluttering about the region of his heart.

"Yes. I am so worried about Rex."

"Dear me! The girl?"

"It is always a woman. How you men must loathe us in your sane moments,
if you ever have any."

"I flatter myself that I am sane, yet how could I say that I loathe
_your_ sex, Mrs. Carshaw?"

"I wonder if your flattery will bear analysis. But there! No serious
talk until I am refreshed. Do ring for some biscuits; sandwiches are apt
to be slow in the cutting."

Thus by pretext she kept him from direct converse until a tea-tray, with
a film of _paté de fois_ coyly hidden in thin bread and butter, formed,
as it were, a rampart between them.

"How did you happen on my address?" he asked smilingly.

It was the first shell of real warfare, and she answered in kind: "That
was quite easy. The people at the detective bureau know it."

The words hit him like a bullet.

"The Bureau!" he cried.

"Yes. The officials there are interested in the affairs of Winifred
Marchbanks."

He went ashen-gray, but essayed, nevertheless, to turn emotion into mere
amazement. He was far too clever a man to pretend a blank negation. The
situation was too strenuous for any species of ostrich device.

"I seem to remember that name," he said slowly, moistening his lips with
his tongue.

"Of course you do. You have never forgotten it. Let us have a friendly
chat about her, Senator. My son is going to marry her. That is why I am
here."

She munched her sandwiches and sipped her tea. This experienced woman of
the world, now boldly declared on the side of romance, was far too
astute to force the man to desperation unless it was necessary. He must
be given breathing-time, permitted to collect his wits. She was sure of
her ground. Her case was not legally strong. Meiklejohn would discover
that defect, and, indeed, it was not her object to act legally. If
others could plot and scheme, she would have a finger in the pie--that
was all. And behind her was the clear brain of Steingall, who had camped
for days near the Senator in Atlantic City, and had advised the mother
how to act for her son.

There was a long silence. She ate steadily.

"Perhaps you will be good enough to state explicitly why you are here,
Mrs. Carshaw," said Meiklejohn at last.

She caught the ring of defiance in his tone. She smiled. There was to be
verbal sword-play, and she was armed _cap-à-pie_.

"Just another cup of tea," she pleaded, and he wriggled uneasily in his
chair. The delay was torturing him. She unrolled her big sheets of
notes. He looked over at them with well-simulated indifference.

"I have an engagement--" he began, looking at his watch.

"You must put it off," she said, with sudden heat. "The most important
engagement of your life is here, now, in this room, William Meiklejohn.
I mentioned the detective bureau when I entered. Which do you prefer to
encounter--me or an emissary of the police?"

He paled again. Evidently this society lady had claws, and would use
them if annoyed.

"I do not think that I have said anything to warrant such language to
me," he murmured, striving to smile deprecatingly. He succeeded but
poorly.

"You sent me to drive out into the world the girl whom my son loved,"
was the retort. "You made a grave mistake in that. I recognized her,
after a little while. I knew her mother. Now, am I to go into details?"

"I--really--I--"

"Very well. Eighteen years ago your brother, Ralph Vane Meiklejohn,
murdered a man named Marchbanks, who had discovered that you and your
brother were defrauding his wife of funds held by your bank as her
trustees. I have here the records of the crime. I do not say that your
brother, who has since been a convict and is now assisting you under the
name of Ralph Voles, could be charged with that crime. Maybe 'murderer'
is too strong a word for him where Marchbanks was concerned; but I do
say that any clever lawyer could send you and him to the penitentiary
for robbing a dead woman and her daughter, the girl whom you and he have
kidnapped within the last week."

Here was a broadside with a vengeance. Meiklejohn could not have endured
a keener agony were he facing a judge and jury. It was one thing to
have borne this terrible secret gnawing at his vitals during long years,
but it was another to find it pitilessly laid bare by a woman belonging
to that very society for which he had dared so much in order to retain
his footing.

He bent his head between his hands. For a few seconds thoughts of
another crime danced in his surcharged brain. But Mrs. Carshaw's
well-bred syllables brought him back to sanity with chill
deliberateness.

"Shall I go on?" she said. "Shall I tell you of Rachel Bartlett; of the
scandal to be raised about your ears, not only by this falsified trust,
but by the outrageous attack on Ronald Tower?"

He raised his pallid face. He was a proud man, and resented her
merciless taunts.

"Of course," he muttered, "I deny everything you have said. But, if it
were true, you must have some ulterior motive in approaching me. What is
it?"

"I am glad you see that. I am here to offer terms."

"Name them."

"You must place this girl, Winifred Marchbanks, under my care--where she
will remain until my son marries her--and make restitution of her
mother's property."

"No doubt you have a definite sum in your mind?"

"Most certainly. My lawyers tell me you ought to refund the interest as
well, but Winifred may content herself with the principal. You must hand
her half a million dollars!"

He sprang to his feet, livid. "Woman," he yelled, "you are crazy!"



CHAPTER XXVI

THE BITER BIT


Mrs. Carshaw focused him again through her gold-rimmed eye-glasses.
"Crazy?" she questioned calmly. "Not a bit of it--merely an old woman
bargaining for her son. Rex would not have done it. After thrashing you
he would have left you to the law, and, were the law to step in, you
would surely be ruined. I, on the other hand, do not scruple to compound
a felony--that is what my lawyers call it. My extravagance and
carelessness have contributed to encumber Rex's estates with a heavy
mortgage. If I provide his wife with a dowry which pays off the mortgage
and leaves her a nice sum as pin-money, I shall have done well."

"Half a million! I--I repudiate your statements. Even if I did not, I
have no such sum at command."

"Yes, you have, or will have, which is the same thing. Shall I give you
details of the Costa Rica cotton concession, arranged between you, and
Jacob, and Helen Tower? They're here. As for repudiation, perhaps I have
hurried matters. Permit me to go through my story at some length,
quoting chapter and verse."

She spread open her papers again, after having folded them.

"Stop this wretched farce," he almost screamed, for her coolness broke
up his never too powerful nervous system. "If--I agree--what guarantee
is there--"

"Ah! now you're talking reasonably. I can ensure the acceptance of my
terms. First, where is Winifred?"

He hesitated. Here was the very verge of the gulf. Any admission implied
the truth of Mrs. Carshaw's words. She did not help him. He must take
the plunge without any further impulsion. But the Senator's nerve was
broken. They both knew it.

"At Gateway House, East Orange," he said sullenly. "I must tell you that
my--my brother is a dare-devil. Better leave me to----"

"I am glad you have told the truth," she interrupted. "She is not at
Gateway House now. Rex and a detective were there last night. There was
a fight. Your brother, a resourceful scoundrel evidently, carried her
off. You must find him and her. A train leaves for New York in half an
hour. Come back with me and help look for her. It will count toward your
regeneration."

He glanced at his watch abstractedly. He even smiled in a sickly way as
he said:

"You timed your visit well."

"Yes. A woman has intuition, you know. It takes the place of brains. I
shall await you in the hall. Now, don't be stupid, and think of
revolvers, and poisons, and things. You will end by blessing me for my
interference. Will you be ready in five minutes?"

She sat in the lounge, and soon saw some baggage descending. Then
Meiklejohn joined her. She went to the office and asked for a telegraph
form. The Senator had followed.

"What are you going to do?" he asked suspiciously.

"I'm wiring Rex to say that you and I are traveling to New York
together, and advising him to suspend operations until we arrive. That
will be helpful. You will not be tempted to act foolishly, and he will
not do anything to prejudice your future actions."

He gave her a wrathful glance. Mrs. Carshaw missed no point. A man
driven to desperation might be tempted to bring about an "accident" if
he fancied he could save himself in that way. But, clever as a mother
scheming for her son's welfare proved herself, there was one thing she
could not do. Neither she nor any other human being can prevent the
unexpected from happening occasionally. Sound judgment and astute
planning will often gain a repute for divination; yet the prophet is
decried at times. Steingall had discovered this, and Mrs. Carshaw
experienced it now.

It chanced that Mick the Wolf, lying in Gateway House on a bed of pain,
his injuries aggravated by the struggle with the detective, and his
temper soured by Rachel Craik's ungracious ministrations, found his
thoughts dwelling on the gentle girl who had forgotten her own sorrows
and tended him, her enemy.

Such moments come to every man, no matter how vile he may be, and this
lorn wolf was a social castaway from whom, during many years, all
decent-minded people had averted their faces. His slow-moving mind was
apt to be dominated by a single idea. He understood enough of the Costa
Rican project to grasp the essential fact that there was money in it for
all concerned, and money honestly earned, if honesty be measured by the
ethics of the stock manipulator.

He realized, too, that neither Voles nor Rachel Craik could be moved by
argument, and he rightly estimated Fowle as a weak-minded nonentity. So
he slowly hammered out a conclusion, and, having appraised it in his
narrow circle of thought, determined to put it into effect.

An East Orange doctor, who had received his instructions from the
police, paid a second visit to Mick the Wolf shortly before the hour of
Mrs. Carshaw's arrival in Atlantic City.

"Well, how is the arm feeling now?" he said pleasantly, when he entered
the patient's bedroom.

The answer was an oath.

"That will never do," laughed the doctor. "Cheerfulness is the most
important factor in healing. Ill-temper causes jerky movements and
careless--"

"Oh, shucks," came the growl. "Say, listen, boss! I've been broke up
twice over a slip of a girl. I've had enough of it. The whole darn thing
is a mistake. I want to end it, an' I don't give a hoorah in Hades who
knows. Just tell her friends that if they look for her on board the
steamer _Wild Duck_, loadin' at Smith's Pier in the East River, they'll
either find her or strike her trail. That's all. Now fix these bandages,
for my arm's on fire."

The doctor wisely put no further questions. He dressed the wounded limb
and took his departure. A policeman in plain clothes, hiding in a
neighboring barn, saw him depart and hailed him: "Any news, Doc?"

"Yes," was the reply. "If my information is correct you'll not be kept
there much longer."

He motored quickly to the police-station. Within the hour Carshaw, with
frowning face and dreams of wreaking physical vengeance on the burly
frame of Voles, was speeding across New York with Steingall in his
recovered car. He simply hungered for a personal combat with the man who
had inflicted such sufferings on his beloved Winifred.

The story told by Polly Barnard, and supplemented by Petch, revealed
very clearly the dastardly trick practised by Voles the previous
evening, while the dodge of smearing out two of the figures on the
automobile's license plate explained the success attained in traversing
the streets unnoticed by the police.

Steingall was inclined to theorize.

"The finding of the car puzzled me at first, I admit," he said. "Now,
assuming that Mick the Wolf has not sent us off on a wild-goose chase,
the locality of the steamer explains it. Voles drove all the way to the
East Side, quitted the car in the neighborhood of the pier, deposited
Miss Bartlett on board the vessel under some plausible pretext, and
actually risked the return journey into the only part of New York where
the missing auto might not be noticed at once. He's a bold rogue, and no
mistake."

But Carshaw answered not. The chief glanced at him sideways, and smiled.
There was a lowering fire in his companion's eyes that told its own
story. Thenceforward, the run was taken in silence. But Steingall had
decided on his next move. When they neared Smith's Pier Carshaw wished
to drive straight there.

"Nothing of the sort," was the sharp official command. "We have failed
once. Perhaps it was my fault. This time there shall be no mistakes.
Turn along the next street to the right. The precinct station is three
blocks down."

Somewhat surprised by Steingall's tone, the other obeyed. At the
station-house a policeman, called from the men's quarters, where he was
quietly reading and smoking, stated that he was on duty in the
neighborhood between eight o'clock the previous evening and four o'clock
that morning. He remembered seeing a car, similar to the one standing
outside, pass about 9.15 P.M. It contained two people, he believed, but
could not be sure, as the screens were raised owing to the rain. He did
not see the car again; some drunken sailors required attention during
the small hours.

The local police captain and several men in plain clothes were asked to
assemble quietly on Smith's Pier. A message was sent to the river
police, and a launch requisitioned to patrol near the _Wild Duck_.

Finally, Steingall, who was a born strategist, and whose long experience
of cross-examining counsel rendered him wary before he took irrevocable
steps in cases such as this, where a charge might fail on unforeseen
grounds, made inquiries from a local ship's chandler as to the _Wild
Duck_, her cargo, and her destination.

There was no secret about her. She was loading with stores for Costa
Rica. The consignees were a syndicate, and both Carshaw and Steingall
recognized its name as that of the venture in which Senator Meiklejohn
was interested.

"Do you happen to know if there is any one on board looking after the
interests of the syndicate?" asked the detective.

"Yes. A big fellow has been down here once or twice. He's going out as
the manager, I guess. His name was--let me see now--"

"Voles?" suggested Steingall.

"No, that wasn't it. Oh, I've got it--Vane, it was."

Carshaw, dreadfully impatient, failed to understand all this preliminary
survey; but the detective had no warrant, and ship's captains become
crusty if their vessels are boarded in a peremptory manner without
justification. Moreover, Steingall quite emphatically ordered Carshaw to
remain on the wharf while he and others went on board.

"You want to strangle Voles, if possible," he said. "From what I've
heard of him he would meet the attempt squarely, and you two might do
each other serious injury. I simply refuse to permit any such thing. You
have a much more pleasant task awaiting you when you meet the young
lady. No one will say a word if you hug her as hard as you like."

Carshaw, agreeing to aught but delay, promised ruefully not to
interfere. When the river police were at hand a nod brought several
powerfully built officers closing in on the main gangway of the _Wild
Duck_. The police-captain, in uniform, accompanied Steingall on board.

A deck hand hailed them and asked their business.

"I want to see the captain," said the detective.

"There he is, boss, lookin' at you from the chart-house now."

They glanced up toward a red-faced, hectoring sort of person who
regarded them with evident disfavor. Some ships, loading for Central
American ports at out-of-the-way wharves, do not want uniformed police
on their decks.

The two climbed an iron ladder. Men at work in the forehold ceased
operations and looked up at them. Their progress was followed by many
interested eyes from the wharf. The captain glared angrily. He, too, had
noted the presence of the stalwart contingent near the gangway, nor had
he missed the police boat.

"What the--" he commenced; but the detective's stern question stopped an
outburst.

"Have you a man named Voles or Vane on board?"

"Mr. Vane--yes."

"Did he bring a young woman to this ship late last night?"

"I don't see--"

"Let me explain, captain. I'm from the detective bureau. The man I am
inquiring for is wanted on several charges."

The steady official tone caused the skipper to think. Here was no
cringing foreigner or laborer to be brow-beaten at pleasure.

"Well, I'm--" he growled. "Here, you," roaring at a man beneath, "go aft
and tell Mr. Vane he's wanted on the bridge."

The messenger vanished.

"I assume there _is_ a young lady on board?" went on Steingall.

"I'm told so. I haven't seen her."

"Surely you know every one who has a right to be on the ship?"

"Guess that's so, mister, an' who has more right than the daughter of
the man who puts up the dough for the trip? Strikes me you're makin' a
hash of things. But here's Mr. Vane. He'll soon put you where you
belong."

Advancing from the after state-rooms came Voles. He was looking at
the bridge, but the police-captain was hidden momentarily by the
chart-room. He gazed at Steingall with bold curiosity. He had a foot
on the companion ladder when he heard a sudden commotion on the wharf.
Turning, he saw Fowle, livid with terror, writhing in Carshaw's grasp.

Then Voles stood still. The shades of night were drawing in, but he had
seen enough to give him pause. Perhaps, too, other less palpable shadows
darkened his soul at that moment.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE SETTLEMENT


The chief disliked melodrama in official affairs. Any man, even a crook,
ought to know when he is beaten, and take his punishment with a stiff
upper lip. But Voles's face was white, and in one of his temperament,
that was as ominous a sign as the bloodshot eyes of a wild boar.
Steingall had hoped that Voles would walk quietly into the chart-room,
and, seeing the folly of resistance, yield to the law without a
struggle. Perhaps, under other conditions, he might have done so. It was
the coming of Fowle that had complicated matters.

The strategic position was simple enough. Voles had the whole of the
after-deck to himself. In the river, unknown to him, was the police
launch. On the wharf, plain in view, were several policemen, whose
clothes in nowise concealed their character. On the bridge, visible now,
was the uniformed police-captain. Above all, there was Fowle, wriggling
in Carshaw's grasp, and pointing frantically at him, Voles.

"Come right along, Mr. Vane," said Steingall encouragingly; "we'd like a
word with you."

The planets must have been hostile to the Meiklejohn family in that
hour. Brother William was being badly handled by Mrs. Carshaw in
Atlantic City, and Brother Ralph was receiving a polite request to come
up-stairs and be cuffed.

But Ralph Vane Meiklejohn faced the odds creditably. People said
afterward it was a pity he was such a fire-eater. Matters might have
been arranged much more smoothly. As it was, he looked back, perhaps,
through a long vista of misspent years, and the glance was not
encouraging. Of late, his mind had dwelt with somewhat unpleasant
frequency on the finding of a dead body in the quarry near his Vermont
home.

His first great crime had found him out when he was beginning to forget
it. He had walked that moment from the presence of a girl whose
sorrowful, frightened face reminded him of another long-buried victim of
that quarry tragedy. He knew, too, that this girl had been defrauded by
him and his brother of a vast sum of money, and a guilty conscience made
the prospect blacker than it really was. And then, he was a man of
fierce impulses, of ungovernable rage, a very tiger when his baleful
passions were stirred. A wave of madness swept through him now. He saw
the bright prospect of an easily-earned fortune ruthlessly replaced by a
more palpable vision of prison walls and silent, whitewashed corridors.
Perhaps the chair of death itself loomed through the red mist before his
eyes.

Yet he retained his senses sufficiently to note the police-captain's
slight signal to his men to come on board, and again he heard
Steingall's voice:

"Don't make any trouble, Voles. It'll be all the worse for you in the
end."

The detective's warning was not given without good cause. He knew the
faces of men, and in the blazing eyes of this man he read a maniacal
fury.

Voles glanced toward the river. It was nearly night. He could swim like
an otter. In the sure confusion he might--Then, for the first time, he
noticed the police launch. His right hand dropped to his hip.

"Ah, don't be a fool, Voles!" came the cry from the bridge. "You're only
making matters worse."

A bitter smile creased the lips of the man who felt the world slipping
away beneath him. His hand was thrust forward, not toward the occupants
of the bridge, but toward the wharf. Fowle saw him and yelled. A report
and the yell merged into a scream of agony. Voles was sure that Fowle
had betrayed him, and took vengeance. There was a deadly certainty in
his aim.

Steingall, utterly fearless when action was called for, swung himself
down by the railings. He was too late. A second report, and Voles
crumpled up.

His bold spirit had not yielded nor his hand failed him in the last
moment of his need. A bullet was lodged in his brain. He was dead ere
the huge body thudded on the deck.

When Carshaw found Winifred in a cabin--to open the door they had to
obtain the key from Voles's pocket--the girl was sobbing pitifully. She
heard the revolver shots, and knew not what they betokened. She was so
utterly shaken by these last dreadful hours that she could only cling to
her lover and cry in a frightened way that went to his heart:

"Oh, take me away, Rex! It was all my fault. Why did I not trust you?
Please, take me away!"

He fondled her hair and endeavored to kiss the tears from her eyes.

"Don't cry, little one!" he whispered. "All your troubles have ended
now."

It was a simple formula, but effective. When repeated often enough,
with sufficiently convincing caresses, she became calmer. When he
brought her on deck all signs of the terrible scene enacted there had
been removed. She asked what had caused the firing, and he told her that
Voles was arrested. It was sufficient. So sensitive was she that the
mere sound of the dead bully's name made her tremble.

"I remember now," she whispered. "I was sure he had killed you. I knew
you would follow me, Rex. When I saw you I forgot all else in the joy of
it. Are you sure you are not injured?"

At another time he would have laughed, but her worn condition demanded
the utmost forbearance.

"No, dearest," he assured her. "He did not even try to hurt me. Now let
me take you to my mother."

The captain, thoroughly scared by the events he had witnessed, came
forward with profuse apologies and offers of the ship's hospitality.
Carshaw felt that the man was not to blame, but the _Wild Duck_ held no
attractions for him. He hurried Winifred ashore.

Steingall came with them. The district police would make the official
inquiries as a preliminary to the inquest which would be held next day.
Carshaw must attend, but Winifred would probably be excused by the
authorities. He conveyed this information in scraps of innuendo.
Winifred did not know of Voles's death or the shooting of Fowle till
many days had passed.

Fowle did not die. He recovered, after an operation and some months in a
hospital. Then Carshaw befriended him, obtained a situation for him, and
gave him money to start life in an honest way once more.

There was another scene when Mrs. Carshaw brought Meiklejohn to her
apartment and found Rex and Winifred awaiting them. Winifred, of course,
had never seen the Senator, and there was nothing terrifying to her in
the sight of a haggard, weary-looking, elderly gentleman. She was far
more fluttered by meeting Rex's mother, who figured in her mind as a
domineering, cruel, old lady, elegantly merciless, and gifted with a
certain skill in torture by words.

Mrs. Carshaw began to dispel that impression promptly.

"My poor child!" she cried, with a break in her voice, "what you have
undergone! Can you ever forgive me?"

Carshaw, ignoring Meiklejohn, whispered to his mother that Winifred
should be sent to bed. She was utterly worn out. One of the maids should
sleep in her room in case she awoke in fright during the night.

When left alone with Meiklejohn he intended to scarify the man's soul.
But he was disarmed at the outset. The Senator's spirit was broken. He
admitted everything; said nought in palliation. He could have taken no
better line. When Mrs. Carshaw hastened back, fearing lest her plans
might be upset, she found her son giving Winifred's chief persecutor a
stiff dose of brandy.

The tragedy of Smith's Pier was allowed to sink into the obscurity of an
ordinary occurrence. Fowle's unhappily-timed appearance was explained by
Rachel Craik when her frenzy at the news of Voles's death had subsided.

A chuckling remark by Mick the Wolf that "There'd been a darned sight
too much fuss about that slip of a girl, an' he had fixed it," alarmed
her.

She sent Fowle at top speed to Smith's Pier to warn Voles. He arrived in
time to be shot for his pains.

Carshaw and Winifred were married quietly. Their honeymoon consisted
of the trip to Massachusetts when he began work in the cotton mill.
Meiklejohn fulfilled his promise. When the Costa Rica cotton concession
reached its zenith he sold out, resigned his seat in the Senate and
transferred to Winifred railway cash and gilt-edged bonds to the total
value of a half a million dollars. So the young bride enriched her
husband, but Carshaw refused to desert his business. He will die a
millionaire, but he hopes to live like one for a long time.

Petch and Jim fought over Polly. There was talk about it in East Orange,
and Polly threw both over; the latest gossip is that she is going to
marry a police-inspector.

Mrs. Carshaw, Sr., still visits her "dear friend," Helen Tower. Both of
them speak highly of Meiklejohn, who lives in strict seclusion. He is
very wealthy; since he ceased to strive for gold it has poured in on
him.

Winifred secured an allowance for Rachel Craik sufficient to live on,
and Mick the Wolf, whose arm was never really sound again, was given a
job on the Long Island estate as a watcher.

Quite recently, when the young couple came in to New York for a
week-end's shopping--rendered necessary by the establishment of day and
night nurseries--they entertained Steingall and Clancy at dinner in the
Biltmore. Naturally, at one stage of a pleasant meal, the talk turned on
those eventful months, October and November, 1913. As usual, Clancy
waxed sarcastic at his chief's expense.

"He's as vain as a star actor in the movies," he cackled. "Hogs all the
camera stuff. Wouldn't give me even a flash when the big scene was put
on."

Steingall pointed a fat cigar at him.

"Do you know what happened to a frog when he tried to emulate a bull?"
he said.

"I know what happened to a bull one night in East Orange," came the
ready retort.

"The solitary slip in an otherwise unblemished career," sighed the
chief. "Make the most of it, little man. If I allowed myself to dwell on
your many blunders I'd lie down and die."

Winifred never really understood these two. She thought their bickering
was genuine.

"Why," she cried, "you are wonderful, both of you! From the very
beginning you peered into the souls of those evil men. You, Mr. Clancy,
seemed to sense a great mystery the moment you heard Rachel Craik speak
to the Senator outside the club that night. As for you, Mr. Steingall,
do you know what the lawyers told Rex and me soon after our marriage?"

"No, ma'am," said Steingall.

"They said that if you hadn't sent Rex's mother to Atlantic City we
might never have recovered a cent of the stolen money. Sheer bluff, they
called it. We would have had the greatest difficulty in establishing a
legal case."

Steingall weighed the point for a moment.

"Sometimes I'm inclined to think that the police know more about human
nature than any other set of men," he said, at last, evidently choosing
his words with care. "Perhaps I might except doctors. They, too, see us
as we are. But the dry legal mind does not allow sufficiently for what
is called in every-day speech a guilty conscience. In this case these
people knew they had done you and your father and mother a great wrong,
and that knowledge was never absent from their thoughts. It colored
every word they uttered, governed every action. That's a heavy handicap,
ma'am. It's the deciding factor in the never-ending struggle between the
police and the criminal classes. The most callous crook walking Broadway
in freedom to-night--a man who would scoff at the notion that he is
bothered by any conscience at all--never passes a policeman without an
instinctive sense of danger. And that is what beats him in the long run.
Crime may be a form of lunacy--indeed, I look on it in that light
myself--but, luckily for mankind, crime cannot stifle conscience."

The chief's tone had become serious; he appeared to awake to its gravity
when he found the young wife's eyes fixed on his with a certain awe. He
broke off the lecture suddenly.

"Why," he cried, smiling broadly, and jerking the cigar toward Clancy,
"why, ma'am, if we cops hadn't some sort of a pull, what chance would a
shrimp like him have against any one of real intelligence?"

"That's what he regards as handing me a lemon for my Orange," grinned
Clancy.

Winifred laughed. The curtain can drop on the last act of her adventures
to the mirthful music of her happiness.


THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and
intent.





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