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Title: Against the Tide
Author: Wycliffe, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Against the Tide" ***



  (Henry Bedford-Jones)


  COPYRIGHT, 1924,





"The Hidden Things of Dishonesty"


"He Who Did Eat of My Bread"


"A Man's Heart Deviseth His Way"





The old-fashioned Deming mansion, for the hundredth time in its
sedate existence, was filled with a gayety which offset even the
menacing weather.

Although noon was close at hand, the morning was deeply gloomy and
ominous.  Thunder clouds of late summer brooded over the Ohio, and
rain, already sweeping across the wide crescent-bend of the river,
was threatening to burst upon Evansville.  Yet it was not because of
these clouds that the old house was ablaze with light from cellar to

From the twelve-foot ceilings of the huge rooms hung electric
clusters, whose glare was softened yet quickened by tinkling prisms
and pendants of crystal.  Along the walls twinkled sconces and
candelabra; this richer glow brought out the scarlet coats of
tapestried huntsmen, pursuing stags through indefinite forests of
Gobelin weave.  Everywhere was light and sound and laughter.

A babel of tongues filled the rooms--crisply concise northern speech,
mingled with the softer slur of southern accents.  A listener might
gather that this house was symbolic of Evansville itself, bordering
both north and south, drinking of its best from either section; an
Indiana city, yet of infinite variety, proudly exclusive, living more
in past than present, yet cordial and open-hearthed.

At noon, in this house, Dorothy Deming was to be married to Reese
Armstrong.  The wedding was yet some little distance away.  Macgowan,
who had been dressing for his part of best man and who was a house
guest, crossed the upstairs hall toward the stairway, just as Dorothy
herself appeared from a room which was aflutter with excited feminine
voices.  With the license of his age and position, he led her to the
window-nook and began to speak of Armstrong.  Dorothy, oblivious of
the confusion around, yielded to the detention and listened eagerly.

Why not?  When Lawrence Macgowan spoke, few men but would have
listened; not to mention a bride who was chatting with the groom's
most intimate and trusted friend, and hearing wondrous things about
the man whom she was soon to call her husband.

Macgowan was impressive.  More impressive than J. Fortescue Deming,
in whose features the Deming Food Products Company had seared deep
lines; more impressive than Deming's business directors and social
friends here gathered; more impressive by far than young Armstrong,
whose financial genius was making its mark so rapidly.

Despite the gray at his temples, Lawrence Macgowan possessed a charm
of personality, a steely keenness of intellect, a direct force of
character, which dominated all who came in contact with him.  Being
quite used to making this impression, he made it the more readily.
Men said of Macgowan that he disdained politics, had refused a
supreme court appointment, and preferred corporation law to marriage
as a means of advancement.  True,--perhaps.  Among the doctors of the
law, among those upright ones who lived rigorously by legal ethics
and by ethical illegality, Macgowan moved as a very Gamaliel, honored
in the Sanhedrim and respected by all those whose fortunes his brain
had made.

Men said, too, that some day he would set that brain to making his
own fortune.

"Then," Dorothy was inquiring, "you and Reese are looking this very
minute for some new business to take hold of?  And you haven't found

Macgowan evaded, smilingly.  His whole person seemed to radiate that
smile as some rich crystal radiates and warms the sunlight, and when
he thus smiled all the strong lines of his face were softened; his
level gaze lost its almost harsh intensity and became winning,
genial, intimate.

"We're not looking, exactly," he said.  "You see, we're more sought
after than seeking--though I should not include myself.  Reese is the
whole thing.  It's his genius that is the very breath of life in
Consolidated.  Do you know that he's put nearly sixteen thousand
investors on our books by his sheer selling ability?  He has actually
sold himself to them.  All small ones, people who can invest only a
few hundred dollars each year.  That is more than an accomplishment;
it is a triumph!"

The girl's cheeks were flushed, her blue eyes shone like stars.

"But it's your help, your faith and backing, which made such big
things possible for him.  To think that he's been in New York only a
year or two!  To think where he will be after ten years--"  Dorothy
broke off, caught her breath sharply, and laughed at her own
enthusiasm.  "Oh, I'm intoxicated with the very thought of what he's
accomplished and what he will accomplish!  Now tell me about the
companies you-all handle.  Do you buy them and then sell them later
for more money?"

Macgowan shook his head.  "No.  A manufacturing concern, let us say,
is poorly managed yet essentially sound.  We buy it.  We reorganize
it.  Consolidated Securities owns it and continues to own it.  A
minority of the stock is sold to our investors, to the people who own
Consolidated stock.  It is their privilege to buy stock in this
subsidiary company--"

"The preferred stock?" cut in Dorothy.  Macgowan chuckled at her
sapient air.

"Yes.  Two shares and no more to each investor, but with these two
shares goes one share of common at a nominal valuation.  Suppose we
start or reorganize two or three such companies in the course of a
year--and we hope to do better than that--the chances are very good
for our investors.  Consolidated sells the stock, owns the subsidiary
company, runs it!  Thus, Consolidated must make sure that the company
will not fail but succeed.  The investor shares the profit with
Consolidated; also, he shares Consolidated's profit from the whole
group of companies.  You see the idea?"

Dorothy nodded quickly, then was checked by Macgowan's air.

"There's just one thing."  His tone was hesitant, embarrassed.  Her
eyes leaped to his face; his voice seemed to bring a swift
apprehension into her mind.

"Yes?" she urged him with an eager word.

"There is one thing--"  Macgowan was unaccountably at a loss for
speech; to any who knew him well, an astounding thing.  "You
understand, the success of Reese Armstrong means everything to me; I
may call myself his closest friend, at least in New York.  And I
know, my dear, that with you at his elbow, with your faith and help
behind him, he is invincible."

Suspense flashed into the girl's eyes.  This prelude, this slightly
frowning air of embarrassment, hinted at some portentous secret.

"Yes?" she prompted again.

The lawyer regarded her a long moment, his eyes gravely steady.

"Well, there is one thing I want to say to you; that's why I dragged
you away for a few moments.  Yet I don't want to offend you, my dear."

"You won't--it's a promise!  What is it?"

"One thing, for his happiness and yours.  He is a wizard at finance;
success has not flung him off balance, for his one thought has ever
been of work.  Now, my dear Dorothy, don't let him drink too deeply
of this wine of wizardry!  No man can serve two masters.  Business
takes its toll of souls, I can assure you; it hardens the spirit,
until nothing is left sacred before its spell.  A man will rob his
best friend in the name of business.  He will take what he can grasp,
and call it finance.  You must see to it that Reese is not too
entirely absorbed in his work--that he is not dominated by the nimble

For a moment the girl met Macgowan's steady gaze, probing for the
meaning underneath his words.  In her eyes rose a question, a quick
protest, an argument.

Then, before she could respond, came a breathless outcry, a swish of
skirts, and two bridesmaids seized upon her.

"Dorothy, you shameless thing!  These brides--they all need a
guardian!  You've driven us perfectly _wild_!  Don't you know that
we've been looking everywhere for you?  It's time you were
dressed--your mother's waiting--"

Dorothy was hustled away in peremptory fashion.

Macgowan, smiling a little to himself, sauntered away and downstairs.
As he entered the great drawing-room he was instantly seized upon.
New guests were each moment arriving and Macgowan, who was to be best
man, was the lion of the hour.  Armstrong had not yet summoned him
for moral support, and he was momentarily free.

This home wedding in its very informality held a formal dignity which
was novel to the New Yorker, and which he found delightful.  Many of
those present were out-of-town house guests, and all were old friends
of the bride; Armstrong had invited only his best man.  Thus the
affair had a strong sense of family intimacy.

Macgowan was quick to feel any psychic and underlying influence.
Behind all this glitter he perceived a curious restraint, a pride, a
singular cool dignity.  Through the babel of voices, underneath the
laughing faces, he was vaguely aware of this thing.  It was as though
many of these people, guests in this house, shared some secret which
they were trying to banish from memory or thought.

Lawrence Macgowan knew exactly what this hidden thing was.

He was no untutored denizen of the metropolis who viewed the country
at large only through the uncertain eyes of the press.  He even had
direct connections with Evansville; across the room he saw his
cousin, Ried Williams, a director and treasurer of the Deming
company.  The relationship was not, however, known to many; even
Armstrong was unaware of it.  Macgowan made his way to the side of
Williams and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Well, Ried?  How are you?"

"Hello, Lawrence!"  The thin, sallow features of Williams suddenly
radiated delight.  "Here, I want you to meet Pete Slosson, our
assistant general manager.  Pete, this is Lawrence Macgowan; a man to
whom the law is a servitor and shield, the Constitution an act of
providence, and state legislatures mere soda-water bubbles--"

Laughing, Macgowan shook hands with Pete Slosson.  A young man, this,
of singularly clear-cut and intelligent features; yet the eyes were a
bit sullen, the lips a trifle full.  The entire face displayed a
nervous energy not wholly natural.  The man drank.

"Everything Lawrence touches," continued Williams warmly, "and every
one in touch with him, succeeds!  He simply never makes a failure of

"Then I'll make a touch," Slosson grinned, "because I'm going to be
broke one of these days."

Macgowan chuckled.  "Any time you like," he returned.  "But remember
that the golden touch of Midas went against him at the last!"

One watching these three men closely might have fancied that beneath
their light words lay some deeper significance.

At this moment the negro butler approached.  He deftly bore a huge
tray, upon which crowded tall silver cups, crowned with the rich
green of new mint and steaming frostily from their iced contents.

"Compliments of the bride, gentlemen!" he addressed them.  "If
you-all is prohibition, dishyer in de centuh is gwineteed not to
obstruct yo' feelin's or beliefs--"

"Not for us, Uncle Neb!" Slosson laughed loudly, as he extended one
of the juleps to Macgowan.  "Here's a treat for you, effete
easterner!  Uncle Neb's cocktails are famous from here to Nashville,
but his juleps are symphonic memories of the good old days.  Take a
long whiff of the mint first, mind; there's only one way to drink a
julep.  That right, Uncle Neb?"

"Dat sho' is de truth, Mistah Slosson!"  The old negro was beaming.
"Yas, suh.  Folks sho' do prove dey quality on de julep.  Ain't dat
de truth, Mistah Slosson?  M-mm!  And Mistah Deming he done growed
dat mint his own self, too--ain't nobody knows mint like he do!"

Macgowan sniffed deeply of the raw fragrance, and raised his goblet.

"Gentlemen, I give you the health of the bride!"

At these words, an almost imperceptible contraction occurred in the
features of Slosson.  Faint as was this movement of the facial
muscles, instantly as it vanished, Macgowan observed it.

After this, he took a deep and lively interest in Pete Slosson; and
Slosson, flattered, talked freely enough.  Any man would have been
flattered to hold the absorbed attention of Macgowan.

"You're wasting your talents here, Slosson," said Macgowan at last.
His tone was abrupt and incisive, and confidential in the extreme.
"You ought to have a year or two in Chicago or Indianapolis, handling
bigger things, then come on to New York.  There's no advancement for
a man like you in this town."

Slosson listened with sulky eyes.

"All very well," he returned.  "But I'm a director, and assistant
general manager of Food Products--which is a big thing here.  If I
went to Indianapolis, where'd I be?  I've no pull up there."

Macgowan's thin lips curved slightly at this.

"Then you don't care to handle bigger things?"

"Of course I do!" snapped Slosson.  "Will you give me a chance at

"Yes," said Macgowan coolly.  "Yes.  Not now, though.  Later on--when
some things that are in the air have worked around right."

"Good!  Then count on me.  Between the two of us, Food Products is
going to pieces soon."

Macgowan merely nodded indifferently.  "Why?" he asked.

Slosson shrugged.

"How the devil should I know?  Business depression, of course.  We
have a good line and it sells, but luck's against us.  There's Deming
now.  Good lord!  Look at his face!"

The two men turned.  Their host had halted in the doorway and was
signing the book of a messenger.  A telegram was in his hand.

Macgowan, not at all astonished by the information just confided to
him, searched the face of Deming.  He read there confirmation of
Slosson's words.  Indubitably, the man was keenly worried.  That
elderly, handsome face was deeply lined with care; a far and
deep-hidden weakness, a frightened panic, was about the eyes.  As he
stood there in the doorway, Deming tore open the envelope and glanced
at the telegram which unfolded in his hand.

Even by the artificial light, Macgowan saw the deathly pallor that
leaped into the man's face; he saw the fingers tremble, saw the
frightful despair that sprang to the eyes.  For one instant Deming
lifted his head, stared blankly around, then turned and was gone.
After him hurried Slosson, concerned and anxious.

Macgowan felt a touch at his elbow.  He turned to find Ried Williams,
who had perceived nothing of this happening in the doorway.  His
rather crafty eyes met the glance of Macgowan with a saturnine air.

"What d'you think of Slosson, Lawrence?"

"Good man."  Macgowan glanced at his watch.  "Well, I must be off to
find Armstrong--"

"You don't know about Slosson, then?"

Macgowan regarded his cousin steadily.

"Disappointed rival; he'd always counted on marrying Dorothy.  I've
been afraid he'd take a drop too much and make a scene, but he has a
good head.  And see here, Lawrence!  How long have I known you?"

"Longer than I like to think about," and Macgowan chuckled in his
hearty manner.

"Yes."  Williams looked at him appraisingly, keenly.  "Don't wriggle
with me, Lawrence.  You have devilish deep meanings to some things
you say.  When you said Slosson was a good man, you meant something.
What's in the air?"

Macgowan frowned slightly.  "Nothing, except wedding bells."

"Oh!"  An ironic smile lighted the face of Williams.  "Wriggling, are
you?  All right.  You had a special reason for wanting to meet
Slosson, and now you say he's a good man.  That's enough to show me a
few things--since I know you.  Just how much do you know?  Know that
Food Products is going bust inside of six weeks or six days?  I want
to get from under, so give me the benefit of your advice."

Macgowan regarded his cousin with a frowning air.

"Ried, if I had your brains I'd be in Wall Street--or the
penitentiary," he said slowly and smoothly, without offense in the
words.  "You and Slosson should both be in Indianapolis.  Should be
in the investment business there, brokerage, quite on your own hook,
of course."

"So!" exclaimed Williams quietly.  "What's in your mind, then?"

"Nothing save paternal advice."

"Have you enough confidence in our ability to underwrite the

"Strictly as a matter between cousins, yes!  If done quietly."

The two men looked at each other in silence, for a long moment.  It
was impossible to conceive what passed between them, what unspoken
comprehension, what tacit agreement, lay in their minds.  Williams
was furtively admiring, Macgowan was blandly imperturbable.  Yet one
gathered that, no matter what comprehension might exist between these
two men, Macgowan alone held the complete key to it.

Their talk was swiftly interrupted.

The noisy groups had become silenced and wondering, an ominous
whisper passed through the huge rooms, tongues were stilled and
hushed, only to rise again in subdued conjecture and low talk.
Obviously, something very untoward had happened somewhere.

To Macgowan and Williams, as they stood together, Pete Slosson came
hurriedly pushing his way.  From his face was stripped the mask of
polite amiability; that face was dark with passion, anger and fright
fought for possession of the eyes, the mouth was clenched and

"Macgowan, Armstrong wants you in Deming's library right away," he
said in a low tone.  "You too, Ried!  There's the devil to pay.  The
wedding's postponed for an hour."

Slosson shoved on into the throng, seeking some one else.  Macgowan
went to the doorway with Williams.  He laid his hand on the other's

"My dear Ried," he said quietly, "you predicted that something would
happen within six weeks or six days.  Decidedly, you must overcome
this habit of making inaccurate statements!"

"Eh?"  Williams looked bewildered.  "You--what d'you mean?"

"You should have said, within six minutes."  Macgowan chuckled again,
then halted.  "Here!  Where's the library?  You're not going

"It's up there," answered the other curtly, leading the way.

A hum of suppressed voices followed and surrounded the two men as
they mounted to the upper floor.  At this moment, one of the upper
hall doors opened, and the white-clad figure of Dorothy burst out
into the hall with excited words.

"I must find father at once!" she was exclaiming.  "A whole
hour--why, it's terrible!  I don't care what the reason is--oh, Mr.
Macgowan!  Where is Reese?  Where's father?"

Macgowan looked down into the flushed and beautiful face of the girl;
he gently and reassuringly patted the hand that had caught at his arm.

"Your father has had some bad news," he said quietly.

"Bad news!"  The eyes of Dorothy widened on his.  "But how--"

"A business matter."  Macgowan glanced at the others crowding around,
then with a quiet gesture he led Dorothy to that same window-nook
where they had been talking a few moments previously.  A subdued
exultation was in his eyes.

"Now, my dear girl, accept the matter calmly," he said.  "Do not
interfere; there is an important meeting in your father's library.
Let Reese have his way, I beg of you."

Dorothy caught her breath.

"It is Reese who has postponed the wedding?" she said.

"For business that could not wait."  Macgowan nodded, and lowered his
voice.  "You recall what I warned you about?  Well, this shows.
Reese is going to take your father's business away from him, for his
own sake.  It has to be done.  Consolidated will profit by it, of
course.  Don't mention this to any one, even to your mother.  It's
been all cut and dried for some time.  I'm sorry.  Don't blame Reese;
cure him."

He turned and went his way after Williams.

Dorothy stood motionless, as though his words had stricken something
far inside of her.  Her mother appeared, her bridesmaids crowded
about with wondering exclamations, questions, perturbed faces.  A
babel of voices surrounded them.

"It's nothing," said Dorothy, calmly enough, though her voice was
strained.  "A little matter of business that came up unexpectedly.
Father and Reese have had to hold a meeting.  Mother, I think I'll
sit down for a minute--"

She passed through them, went to her own room, closed the door.  Then
she sank down on the bed, a sudden fierce anger filling her blue eyes.

"Why did he say that?" she murmured.  "A lie--a lie!  And the venom
in his eyes--oh, I can't forget his eyes!  He hates me because I've
come between him and Reese.  He hates me, and now he tells me this
awful lie, tries to make trouble between us!  He can't.  I'll not
believe him.  I'll pay no attention to him--"

Her emotion culminated in a burst of tears.  It never really occurred
to her for a moment that the lie might have held any grain of truth.


Upon the issue of this meeting in the library of Fortescue Deming
there directly depended larger things than any of the men present
might guess.  "Food Products," otherwise the Deming Food Products
Company, was an old and honorable concern with large mills which
turned out all manner of delectables from raw flour to breakfast
foods.  The men who directed the destinies of this company now sat
about the library table of their president, wondering what the devil
Reese Armstrong and his lawyer were doing here.

Armstrong actually had a better comprehension of the company and its
situation than anybody could have dreamed.  The summons from Deming
had caught him while dressing, and he was in his shirt sleeves; but
his manner lacked the nervous anxiety of the others about him.  They
feared the blow that was about to fall, and dreaded its consequences.
Armstrong could have told them exactly what was going to happen to
Food Products and to them, within the next few moments.  He did not
know, however, just what the result of all this was going to be to

Lawrence Macgowan alone might have told him that.

It was now more than a year since Reese Armstrong turned up in New
York, quite unknown to fame.  He was armed with some money, which he
had made at various points between Manitoba and Evansville, and a
lawyer's education; with a firm conviction in his own ability; and
with a project for extracting the hoard from the well-known but
mythical sock of the small investor.  He had more than a project to
this end; he had a positive genius, which he was quite willing to

Despite his age, which was still short of thirty, this genius found
him a welcome.  It was a cautious welcome; still, those who dream
eternally of extracting that hoard from that sock would welcome
Mephisto himself if he were to present himself for the purpose.

Armstrong was no Mephisto.  He possessed qualities which did not
appear on the surface.  To the metropolitan eye, he was a green
lawyer from the verdant West, who might possibly get somewhere.  Yet,
in reality, he had behind him the culminative and driving power of

He had worked himself through law school by the unusual method of
playing the Italian harp, and playing it well.  Farther back were two
generations of Baptist circuit-riders, whose chief heritage to him
was a stern and rigid standard of moral values, so far as his
personal conduct was concerned, and an old-fashioned belief in legal
ethics.  Now, to play the harp one must be an idealist.  To cherish a
moral code, entails a sense of personal responsibility.  These two
qualities are rarely combined in one person; when the combination
does appear, that person is either famous or infamous--he is never

Besides all this, Armstrong had knocked about through Western Canada,
thereby attaining to an extensive knowledge of his fellow man which
did not appear in his ruddy and ingenuous countenance.  He was blond
and vigorous, with an eye whose peculiar steely acuity could be very
disconcerting.  A laugh came often to his lips, a smile rarely.  His
air was one of poise and confidence, of almost challenging assurance,
and he had a knack of imparting this assurance to those who came into
touch with him.

It is well known that the aforesaid metropolitan eye accepts a man at
face value.  This face value of Reese Armstrong was countersigned by
a clean, alert, inspiring brain; it was untouched by the corroding
fingers of greed or self-indulgence or crafty brooding.  One
instinctively perceived that this man held his given word above any
minted pledge.

Armstrong had sought a letter of introduction to the best corporation
lawyer in New York, and this letter brought him to Lawrence Macgowan.

After listening to all that Armstrong had to say, Macgowan took
action.  He put up Reese Armstrong at the Lawyers' Club, obtained a
hearing from certain men of his acquaintance--and Consolidated
Securities was incorporated.  Armstrong held no office but retained a
controlling interest.  Macgowan became a director and remained as
counsel.  The other men, of whom Judge Holcomb and Findlater were the
most prominent, became directors without salary, being paid outright
in stock for their support.  The first subsidiary was the Armstrong
Company, purely a stock-selling concern.

Not blinded by this success, Armstrong knew that he was only on
trial.  None of these men had great confidence in his scheme.  They
were willing to take a chance, hoping that some day would appear
Fortunatus, to loose for them the string that bound the sock of the
small investor.  Armstrong, to prove that he was the man, went to

About himself Armstrong gathered men devoted to him, an organization
covering New York and adjacent cities.  His chief helper was Jimmy
Wren--impulsive, ardent, imaginative; not a half-way man.  Somehow,
into all these men Armstrong injected his own personality; or,
perhaps, he picked them with extraordinary skill.  In any event, he
accomplished a miracle.  Through them he reached out and touched the
small investor, became acquainted with him, won his confidence,
induced him to become part owner of Consolidated.

From its inception the struggle was aureated with success.  Two small
manufacturing concerns were taken over, reorganized, placed on a
paying basis.  Here again Armstrong showed his value as a judge of
men.  Consolidated Securities became a material fact, and prospered,
and was ready to reach out anew.

At the end of the year's work, Armstrong went to Evansville to claim
his bride.

He had met Dorothy Deming in New York, renewing an old acquaintance
begun two years before in Evansville, and now upleaped between them a
swift and spontaneous mutual knowledge that they were one.  Almost
from the first there was a complete comprehension, a deep and
terrible kinship of spirit which, had there been barriers, would have
borne them down.  But there were no barriers to this love, save
Armstrong's ambition for what he deemed final success; and this
success came swiftly--all too swiftly, some said.

And now Armstrong, shirt-sleeved, sat at the library table of J.
Fortescue Deming.

As he glanced at the faces around him, Armstrong awaited quietly the
coming event.  He knew as well as they--perhaps better--what to
expect, but he had not imagined that it would come just yet, above
all at this day and hour.  Yet during the past few months he had seen
it approach, with an inevitable certainty, nor could he hinder it.
One does not, unfortunately, extend warnings of failure to a
prospective father-in-law; not, at least, with any great success.
Armstrong had refused to endanger his state of blessedness by
attempting to pry open the lids of a blind man.

As he looked around, Armstrong could not repress, did not try to
repress, the cold gleam in his eye.  For the broken Deming who stood
beside him fingering a telegram, he could feel pity; the others
deserved no such feeling.  They were either spoilers, or complacently
inefficient fools, these men.  All seven of them had together wrecked
the Deming Food Products Company, though their work in this direction
had not been by intent, but through folly, selfish calculation,
through lack of all vision beyond self-interest.  Deming, who had
built up the old company, had lost his once strong grip on things,
and his vision had overpowered his common sense.  Although he could
not realize it, he was not without his share of blame for this

And while Armstrong thus looked with unveiled scorn from man to man
about the table, Lawrence Macgowan, by himself in one corner of the
library, watched only Armstrong.  If his gaze held any expression, it
was hidden.

"Gentlemen," began Deming, with shaking voice, "I have hurriedly
called you here to receive bad news.  To get this message at such a
moment is more than a blow to me; it is a humiliation.  Yet I must
face it."

He paused, his gaze sweeping the circle of faces.  In them he read
not the slightest hint of fortitude or sympathy; only weakness,
fright, panicky comprehension.  A single strong, calm pair of eyes
might have bucked him up in this moment.  He found none, save

"This telegram," he blurted desperately, "is from the Northwestern
Millers Corporation.  Unless they receive ten thousand dollars to
apply on our account before noon to-morrow, their attorneys are
instructed to apply for a receiver and--and--"  He paused, then went
on.  "My friends, I need not say that unless we wire this money, the
Deming Company is a thing of the past.  I ask your help."

Deming somehow fumbled himself into a chair, become an old man in ten

About the table reigned silence.  Men looked one at another and dared
not speak.  Ried Williams, with a slight shrug, lighted a cigarette;
his sallow features were very cynical.  Slosson stared at Deming, at
Armstrong, with surly anger in his eyes.  One would have said that he
hated this man for whom he worked, this man whose daughter he had
failed to win, and the other man in shirt-sleeves who had won her.

Armstrong read that gaze, and smiled at the fright, the anger, the
bitter venom, of it.  Never did it enter his head that this Slosson
was to be feared, or even remembered.  Already his mind was turning
upon other matters.

"Will nobody--"  Deming looked up.  The words faltered on his tongue,
and died away.  One or two of his directors shuffled uneasy feet,
cleared their throats.  No one replied.

Then Armstrong, pushing back his chair, rose to his feet.

A flash of vigor shook Deming.  The man leaped up, held out his hand
in restraint, and found passionate, eager words of protest.

"Not you, Reese!"  His voice came like the snapping of a taut cord.
"Not you!  I did not summon you here for--to ask your charity!  Now
that you know the worst, I release you on Dorothy's behalf.  You
shall not marry the daughter of a pauper, a man who has not a cent, a
man facing bankruptcy--"

"Be quiet, please," said Armstrong.  Under his calm gaze, Deming's
voice died again, and Deming stared at him, wondering, agonized,
breathing hard.

"Don't intrude personalities into this; you cannot realize what your
words portend," said Armstrong in that same level, quiet tone.  "If
you or any other man tries to come between me and Dorothy, he'll be
set aside.  Do you think I'm marrying for money?  Do you think I give
a tinker's damn whether you're rich or poor, an honest man or a
thief--except for Dorothy's sake?  Sit down and listen to me.  I'm
not talking charity.  I'm talking business."

Deming dropped once more into his chair, an old man again.  He shaded
his eyes with his hand, and his fingers trembled.  No one regarded
him; every eye was now fastened upon Armstrong.

"I've very little time to talk with you, gentlemen," said the latter
crisply.  "More important matters await me downstairs and I want no
arguments.  I will make a proposal which you may either accept or
refuse.  I make it, understand, purely as a business proposition."

"Then you'll lend us the ten thousand?" asked a hopeful voice.

"I will not," said Armstrong.  "Rather, I cannot."

"What do you mean, then?"

Armstrong stood silent a moment.  This brief silence emphasized his
dominance; every man there was listening intently for his proposal.
When it came, it held an unspeakable bitterness.

"Gentlemen, we meet downstairs upon a social plane, but here I speak
to you as a business man, without the least personal animas.  I'll
not lend this money for the same reason that no bank will lend it,
for the same reason that you'll not lend it to yourselves.  Your
credit is totally exhausted.  The loan would result in nothing.

"For the past year or more," he went on inexorably, "your company has
gone from bad to worse.  It has been made a dumping ground for wholly
inefficient relatives and friends.  Your sales department is a joke.
Your purchasing department is topheavy with poor judgment and rotten
with graft.  Your advertising department is a byword in the trade for
doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Above all, your management
is so absolutely hopeless that the entire organization is affected.
I might better say, infected."

Some of the faces about the table flushed at these words; some turned
pale.  Deming did not move, until Armstrong uttered his final
sentence.  Then a slight quiver shook the man's shoulders.  This was
a confession, an admission, a realization.  Ruin opens the eyes that
prosperity has blinded.

Slosson, who was assistant general manager, leaped to his feet in a
blaze of anger.

"You lie, when you say we've dumped worthless men--"

"Let me prove it," cut in the inflexible voice of Armstrong.  "Two
months ago, Mr. Slosson, you put two of your relatives at the head of
the rolled oats department.  One of those men was an accountant to
whom no bonding house would furnish bond.  The other had been a
railroad clerk until you gave him a position of authority.  Will you
kindly sit down and let me finish, or do you wish further evidence?"

Slosson, rendered inarticulate by mingled fury and fear, sat down.
Armstrong's minute knowledge came as a shock; it terrorized him,
appalled him.  Other men about the table showed how deeply they, too,
were disconcerted.

"Mr. Williams," proceeded Armstrong calmly, "I believe you are the
treasurer of Food Products.  I understand that you recently obtained
licenses from some thirty states to market under the blue sky law an
issue of preferred stock to the amount of half a million.  Is this

"That--why, yes, it is!" stammered Ried Williams.  "That's so,
Armstrong.  We've had no opportunity to market the stock, of course;
arrangements haven't been made.  In the present condition of
industrial depression, it is very hard to market--"

"Thank you," said Armstrong incisively.  "Gentlemen, I propose to
find this ten thousand dollars which you need urgently, on the
following terms: The assets of your company will be appraised, and
within thirty days your company will be purchased upon an appraised
and agreed basis, by Consolidated Securities, who will thereafter own
the business.  I will require, on behalf of the Armstrong Company, a
contract to act as your fiscal agent and to market this stock issue
of yours.

"As a preliminary to this purchase of your company, I demand the
resignation of the entire management and directorate of Food
Products, in favor of men to be nominated by Consolidated; this to
take effect within three days.  Mr. Deming will remain as president,
but without power to interfere in the management of the business.
None other of the present officers will remain.  Should you refuse
this proposal, there is no alternative."

Armstrong sat down.

A silence of dismayed consternation, of incredulity pervaded by
anger, greeted his words.  Deming was the only man who seemed to make
no mental protest.  Wearily passing a hand across his brow, Deming
looked up.

"Reese, you don't know just how badly involved the company is--"

"I do--and I know something you don't know.  Your books show a
hundred and fifty thousand in assets which are either padded or
outright false, but which Consolidated will accept.  In justice to
our own stockholders, we shall write off these worthless assets at
once.  We are prepared to face this loss without demur."

A moment's pause.  This revelation struck absolute fear into some of
those present.  Then some one spoke up roughly:

"How the hell do we know your company will do all this?  Findlater is
president of it, not you.  How do we know Consolidated Securities
will back you up?"

For the first time, the cold poise of Armstrong's features was
broken.  The faintest shadow of a smile curved his lips.

"Because," he answered, "I am Consolidated Securities."

A chuckle from Macgowan's corner gave this statement emphatic
endorsement.  That chuckle reached every man present.  It dismayed
them afresh, startled them, struck a chill into their very souls.
Their faces contracted in furious anger, only to become impotent and
vacant again.  They were powerless to help themselves, to resent
insults.  Without Armstrong's help, they faced ruin.

Armstrong glanced at his watch.

"Speak up, please," he said.  "I want a decision at once.  Yes or no?"

"You can't market that stock!" broke out Ried Williams, a desperate
gleam in his dark and crafty eyes.  "Several companies have turned it

"I'm not asking you to talk, but to vote," said Armstrong coldly.
"If I contract to market that stock, it'll be done.  Yes or no, Mr.

"Yes," said Williams, speaking like a man of wood.

"And you, Mr. Slosson?"

Slosson glared, flushed, swallowed hard--nodded assent.  So it went,
with no dissenting voice, and came at last to Deming.  He rose
suddenly to his feet, his hand extended.

"God bless you, Reese!  Do it if you can, and thanks for your thought
of me.  But I'll not remain in the company.  I've lost my grip of
late years.  I'll get out entirely, with whatever can be saved from
the wreck.  And for what you're doing--"

"I'm doing nothing," said Armstrong quietly.  "Since this matter is
now settled, I suggest that the meeting be adjourned until to-night
at eight o'clock.  Mr. Macgowan will represent me in all future

"What about this loan?" Deming caught up the telegram.  "It demands
the cash--"

Armstrong nodded.  "I'll have to borrow the money from Consolidated.
Can you offer any security?"

"Nothing but notes," said Deming.  "Will our paper for twenty-five
thousand do?"

At this, the face of Lawrence Macgowan lighted suddenly, as though
some unexpected exultation had flashed into the man's soul.
Armstrong turned to him.

"Certainly.  Lawrence, will you be good enough to attend to it?  I'll
sign a check at once.  Obtain the money for me from Consolidated, and
turn over the securities to Consolidated--the loan will be to the
Armstrong Company.  Mr. Williams can wire these people that a check
is in the mails, and can send along my check.  I believe you have all
the papers necessary to settle things to-night with these gentlemen?"

Macgowan assented with a nod.  Armstrong was turning from the table
when up before him sprang Pete Slosson.  The latter's face was livid
with anger and wild suspicion.

"By the lord, Armstrong, I believe you had this all framed up!"
shouted Slosson, his fist banging the table.  "Did you and Macgowan
come here meaning to take over this company?  Did you have the
damnable nerve to do this?"

Armstrong, regarding him coldly, made a slight gesture of assent.

"Certainly I did," he said.  "I had not foreseen that the emergency
had come to-day, but was prepared."  He turned to Deming.  "I had
intended leaving Macgowan to talk things over with you and present
this course as a future means of saving Food Products.  Since this
crisis has turned up to-day, I took occasion to present it myself.
If you would prefer that I leave your company alone--"

Deming flushed, and took the arm of the younger man.

"Reese, you're worth all of us," he said simply.  "If you can save my
business reputation, let the rest go!  Now, gentlemen, business is
over; our guests await us downstairs.  Suppose we return to a social
status and account this meeting adjourned until to-night.  I am sure
that Mr. Macgowan will handle matters acceptably."

"He will," assented Armstrong, and left the room with Deming.

Chairs scraped back and men came to their feet, following.  Macgowan,
making some notes, and writing out the check for Williams, was the
last to depart.  At the door, he overtook Ried Williams, and put his
hand on the arm of his cousin.

"I'll have Reese sign this check right away.  Ried, we have just
witnessed a very interesting psychological study--the intolerance of
a young man.  You observed it?"

Williams frowned.  "You mean--Slosson?"

"I don't mean Slosson.  I mean the young Napoleon who issued his
dicta and made those dicta obeyed.  That is the vice of the young,
Ried; to lack sufferance of the errors that others make.  In a young
man, intolerance is a natural inheritance; in an older man, it is an
unpardonable fault."

The sallow features of Williams flushed a little.

"He talked to us as though we were--niggers!" he rasped.  The clasp
of Macgowan's fingers tightened slightly on his arm.

"Exactly, my dear Ried," came the smooth accents.  "But remember, he
is a young man!  His education is not yet finished."

With this cryptic remark, Macgowan hurried off to join the groom,
leaving Williams to stare after him in frowning surmise.


Dorothy glanced up from the letter which she was eagerly devouring.

"Father writes that the company is completely reorganized and that
he's retiring for good--and, Reese, he says to thank you for
everything!  Were things so bad as that?"

"Worse," said Armstrong laconically, then smiled as his wife's
fingers crept into his.

This man, to whose lips a smile came so rarely, had of a sudden
become a boy again, laughing from morning to night, adoring his bride
with a strangely fearful veneration yet partaking with her in a
joyous and exhilarating zest, a gayety unabashed and unashamed, a
sheer reckless enjoyment of youth and life--and partnership.

Partnership, that was it!  That was the mystery, oldest of the
world's life, before which men and women fall down and worship in
prayer and joyous laughter and exalted fear, the mystery wherein two
becomes as one, one in faith and hope and tears and laughter, one for
better or for worse; and each of them knowing with a deliberate
surety that though all the sky crash down in ruin, there remains to
welcome them one soul who cannot falter or fail--past life, past
death, into hell or heaven itself.

It is not every couple, however, who perceive this sort of thing in

The honeymoon was ten days gone.  Another four days and New York
would loom up ahead, and the deep, far-flung line of the future's
horizon would begin to circumscribe things and events and destiny for
these two.  Now, however, was no thought of the future.  Around them
hung the crisp, odorous freshness of the Carolina air; the long
yellow hills with their furred throats of piney woods lifted into the
sky and sang under the winds, and over the reaches of yellow sand, of
creamy adobe mud, of desolate green-tinged hills, there was no hint
that the summer had gone again and the days were shortening.

Dorothy laid aside her letter and looked up.

"That telegram, Reese?  Was it anything important?"

"From Macgowan, dear.  All arrangements have been made, and on the
first of the month Food Products passes into our hands.  The
stock-selling campaign will start moving just as soon as I get back
to New York and take things in hand.  I think I'll spread this stock
out over the whole country."

"Are you in a hurry to reach New York?"

Armstrong laughed, and pressed her fingers in his.

"Not a bit of it!  From this day forth, lady, business comes second
in my young life.  For your sake, business is necessary; I'm going to
give you the best there is in life, and to do that I make use of
business.  And I like it, too."

"You'll keep it your servant, dear?"

"You bet!  Afraid you'll have a rival?"  Armstrong caught her hand to
his lips.  "Never!  By this hand I swear it!"

"Don't be silly--oh, be as silly as you like; I love you!"  She broke
into a clear trill of laughter.  Then she sobered, and gave him a
swift, grave look.  "Tell me something, Reese.  The day we were
married--that meeting in father's library!  Was it because of some
emergency in his affairs that the wedding was delayed?"

Armstrong nodded.  He had meant to speak of this before, but no
opportunity had arisen.

"Sure, Dot.  You may as well know that your father's business was in
bad shape.  Those fellows who were running things, Williams, and the
rest, were heading to a smash--and the crisis happened to come that
day.  It's all over with, thank heaven!  We've chucked 'em out and
will run the business right."

"You're not going back to Evansville to manage it?"

Armstrong's gaze came to her suddenly, as he searched for the meaning
behind her words.

"Listen, Dot; are we partners?"

"In everything, my dear.  Why?"

"Then in business as in other things.  Good!  If Food Products had
not been taken over by Consolidated, it would now be out of
existence; we saved it from bankruptcy, and we'll make money by it.
In order to keep faith with the stockholders, in order to let your
father come clear and leave everything square and fair behind him, we
have to dig pretty deep; some of the assets must be totally written
off.  Ultimately the company will be a good investment, but it won't
be any exclusive affair for me, lady.

"You see, it's one of several companies owned and run by
Consolidated--which is under my control.  I can't attend to any one
of these companies myself; I pay other men to do that.  I attend to
the loan and financing business, the stock-selling campaigns, which
formed the prime object of Consolidated.  So, you see, if I leave New

Her hand fluttered swiftly over his mouth.

"I didn't mean that at all!" she exclaimed.  "I go with you, my dear,
not you with me!  I'm not trying to get you back to Evansville,
although of course I love it there.  But, Reese, father's whole life
has been bound up in Food Products; he was proud of it, proud to have
the company carry his name, proud of its past!  Was it necessary for
him to leave the company?"

Armstrong was startled by some undertone of her voice.  For a moment
he met her grave, steady gaze; he wondered what thoughts were
stirring behind those eyes of brilliant, steely blue, which could so
quickly change to a deeper violet.

And again, he wondered at the clear beauty of her--beauty of golden
hair, of skin like pink-and-white coral, beauty of thought and soul
within.  It brought an ache into his heart, an ache of sheer sweet
joy that this woman had found him worthy of her.  He must never fail
her--ah!  And if he did?

At least, she would never fail him.

Armstrong was smiling at this thought, when her words recurred to him
and his brain darted upon the answer.  Perhaps it was telepathy, for
he reached down and took the letter from her lap.  A newspaper
clipping came into his fingers.  Intuition had guided him aright.

He read the clipping thoughtfully:

"It is with great regret that we announce the retirement of J.
Fortescue Deming from the active management of the Deming Food
Products Company.  To many this announcement will come as a shock.
For a generation past, the name of J. Fortescue Deming has been
identified with the growth of Evansville--"

Armstrong's brow creased slightly as he read on, but he made no
comment.  Then he picked up the letter, asked permission with a
glance, and Dorothy nodded.  He read very carefully what Deming had
written, and folded up the letter again.

"Dot," he said slowly, "surely you don't believe that your father
cherishes any resentment because--"

"Why--Reese!" she broke out impulsively.  "Can you voice such a
thought, after what he wrote there?  Doesn't every word of that
letter show that he thinks you splendid and generous, that he feels
toward you only the warmest gratitude and appreciation?  Don't be

"The letter and the newspaper clipping are two very different things,
my dear," said Armstrong drily.  "I wanted your father to remain in
the company as titular president, _causa honoris_; he refused.  I
could not offer him control of the company, of course--"

"Listen to me, dear boy!"  Dorothy compelled his eyes to hers, and he
found them very grave and earnest.  "Get it out of your foolish head,
now and forever, that father could feel anything but the deepest

"It's not in my head," broke in Armstrong soberly.  "It's in yours,
I'm afraid."

"It's not!  Why, the last thing before we left home that day,
father--well, he wasn't there when I said good-by, and I found him
upstairs, all by himself; and, Reese, he was praying--for us--"

She broke off for a moment, struggling with swift-starting tears.

"He spoke of you, Reese; he was happy, happy!  I've never seen him so
happy that I can remember.  It seemed that a load was gone from him.
And whenever I've thought of how he spoke and what he said of you,
it's made me very humble to think that you were mine, my husband--"

Armstrong drew her to him, and their lips met.  His stab of
disturbing fear was quite gone; gladness surged through him and
faith, and wonder at the woman who was his.

Even the austere Cæsar, men say, once was young.

Later that day, Reese Armstrong sat in the hotel lobby, before a
glowing pyre of logs that swept the afternoon chill out of the air.
He was alone, for Dorothy was answering her father's letter.  As he
stared into the flicker of the flames and thought once more of that
newspaper clipping, he felt a lingering doubt.  Somehow it spelled
evil to him.

The tone of it, the unworded, tacit insinuation of it, held a barb
that stung him deeply.  He could see how the impression might go
forth that he had forced Deming out of Food Products and had grabbed
the company.  That was not true; yet here lay the hint, very cleverly

"And written with intent, or I'm a Dutchman!" thought Armstrong.

He had not far to seek for enemies; the former directorate of Food
Products hated him bitterly enough.  He had himself to blame for
this, since he had not hidden his scorn and despite of them; he
realized now the insolence of his own manner.  They would have
preferred to let the company crash, rather than be saved by him--but
their pride had given way before their selfish interests.  No doubt
one of them had been behind the publication of this innuendo in a
local newspaper.  Williams, it might be; that sallow, crafty
scoundrel was the sort to do such a thing.

Armstrong did not know that Williams and Macgowan were cousins.  Few
people did know it.

The fact that this innuendo had come in Dorothy's letter from her
father, hurt; though of course Deming had not perceived the hint in
the clipping.  Further, Armstrong was not unmindful of a slight rift
within the Consolidated lute.  Findlater, his nominal president, was
taking a new and active interest in the company's affairs.

Findlater, like the other directors, was a figurehead.  They had been
paid flatly in stock and drew no salaries.  With former bank
connections, Findlater had been valuable to Armstrong, and was paid
for that value.  Now, finding that Consolidated was a big thing,
Findlater was prying about and about, intruding here and there,
sniffing like a dog on the scent of game.  Armstrong's lip curled at
the thought of Findlater, whom he had come to dislike cordially.

"He and the rest--all of 'em on the scent, except Macgowan," he
reflected.  "Looking for pickings!  Well, they backed me, but I have
the control.  Consolidated is making money, they're making money, and
our investors are making money.  I wonder if this sly thrust from
Evansville could have any throwback to Findlater and his crowd?"

He thought of wiring Macgowan to look into this, and decided in the
negative.  Mac need not be troubled with such petty things.  This was
only some little spite-work, not worth attention.  Besides, Findlater
as yet knew nothing about the inside of the Food Products affair.
That lay between Armstrong and Macgowan and Jimmy Wren alone.

Macgowan!  There was a man for you!  Armstrong's face warmed at the
bare thought of his friend.  Only Macgowan, from the start, had gone
into Consolidated with a firm and unshaken faith.  Only Macgowan had
fought past one crisis after another with all the power of his keen
intellect.  Only Macgowan had forced those other men to stay in line
behind Armstrong.

Macgowan had seen the value of that queer and extraordinary idea
which Armstrong brought with him to New York.  The old notion of
finance as a war, said Armstrong, had seen its day and was doomed.
It was purely an Old Testament teaching, wherein one side was victor,
the other side vanquished; it was a preachment of conquest, of
destruction without compromise--of spoils.  It was a doctrine of
loot, and in the new world of to-day this old doctrine was as dead as

Instead, Armstrong brought forth a New Testament ideal; that, instead
of war, there should be mutual advancement.  He preached that finance
was a successful and worth-while thing only when all parties to the
transaction were gainers.  And how they had laughed!

"A fine socialistic theory!" they said.  "Mac, how much of a soviet
retainer are you handling?  Where'd you pick up this radical, anyhow?"

Macgowan did not laugh; he merely argued, on the basis of Armstrong's
detailed plan of operations.  When Lawrence Macgowan argued, the gods
were themselves confounded.  In this instance, Macgowan flung himself
into the fight whole-heartedly, with amazing vigor and energy.  One
would have said that he fought for himself, rather than for
Armstrong.  Or, perhaps, he fought for Armstrong's ideal, which he
was making his own.

At all events, Macgowan won the fight.  Consolidated went through,
and Armstrong found himself secure in the control of this holding
company, free to embark upon the larger dream.  Nor was he blind to
the danger that now threatened.  Macgowan had once or twice warned
him that Findlater had scented blood, that the other directors were
sniffing uneasily; all except old Judge Holcomb, who was true as
steel.  Jimmy Wren had perceived it, too.

Small good it would do them!  Armstrong's control was secure.  The
Armstrong Company, the selling organization through which he reached
out to those thousands of investors, was devoted to him, was his
alone.  Jimmy Wren, its manager, held for Armstrong a dog-like trust
and affection.  The investors themselves were his; a supremely
important fact, this!  It was not the organization but Reese
Armstrong whom they trusted.

Macgowan held a block of stock in Consolidated, and was content; he
drew fees only for his services as Armstrong's personal attorney.  In
all the months of their close fellowship, Armstrong had never known
his friend to ask an unworthy favor.  There were no relatives to be
given soft jobs.  There were no hangers-on to be handed sinecures.
Mac stood four-square.

A few short weeks before his marriage, when first arose this
suspicion of loot-madness on the part of Findlater and his friends,
Armstrong instructed Macgowan to handle the matter.  He himself would
be busy, would be away; he had more implicit confidence in Macgowan's
ability to handle things smoothly than in his own.

"I'll take care of it," said the attorney.  "But time has run along
since we mapped out Consolidated's scheme of operations.  That voting
trust, for example."

Armstrong reflected briefly.  At the formation of the selling
company, the Armstrong Company, he had placed most of his common or
voting stock of Consolidated Securities in a voting trust.  Macgowan,
Findlater and Jimmy Wren, who was secretary of consolidated as well
as manager of the Armstrong Company, controlled this trust, all
shares being pooled.  Since Macgowan and Jimmy Wren were unalterably
Armstrong's spokesmen, this let him control Consolidated without
figuring too prominently in that control.

Now, as he stared into the log fire and remembered these things,
Armstrong recalled verbatim that short conversation with Lawrence

"Then the trust has expired, Mac?"

"Two weeks ago."

"Renew it--say, until the end of next March, up to but not including
the next annual meeting," directed Armstrong.  "That leaves me free.
You and Wren can handle anything that Findlater or his crowd may
bring up.  Send over the papers at once.  Findlater won't object?
He's rather puffed up over his job of president, these days."

"I'd like to see him object!" said Macgowan, drily.

Thus it had been arranged.

Now, watching visions in the ruddy flames, Armstrong's heart warmed
to the thought of his friend.  Few men had such a bar of steel at
their back!  Best of all, he had not bought Macgowan with gold.  He
had bought him with friendship, with the fairy coin of a mutual dream.

"I must be luckier than most," mused Armstrong.  "They say that a man
has only one person who'll never go back on him--his wife.  But I
have two.  My wife, and Mac."

"A penny for your thoughts!" said a laughing voice in his ear.

Armstrong started, came to his feet, and smiled into the eyes of

"It'll take something better than a penny," he retorted gayly.

"Not here--not here in the lobby, you shameless creature!"  Dorothy
drew back hastily, her eyes dancing.  "I'll pay, and with interest!
What were you thinking about, as you sat there smiling into the fire?"

"About you," he answered promptly.  "And how lucky I am to have both
you and a friend!  Your faith and love, and the friendship of
Lawrence Macgowan."

He fancied that a faint shadow leaped into her eyes.  The fancy was
dissipated by her burst of hearty laughter.

"Oh!  You should put it the other way--he's lucky to have you for a
friend!  Well, my letters are finished and I'm ready for a walk.  Are

"With you--always!  I hope everybody in sight knows we're bride and

"They do, and I don't care a bit!  Come on."

They went out arm in arm, laughing together.


There are two dreams which every developed and normal woman
cherishes.  One, of wee hands at her breast.  The other, that she may
some day have either the building, or the complete rebuilding, of a
home; and it is always more enjoyable to correct and profit by the
mistakes of other folk than it is to make our own mistakes.

Aircastle Point fulfilled this latter dream for Dorothy Armstrong.

The point itself was private property, owned by the dozen men who had
their homes here; around its islands and properties swept the
sea-tides, with Long Island Sound opening out beyond.  Lying within
the corporate limits of a town once famed as being forty-five minutes
from Broadway, Aircastle Point was both remote from the citied roar
yet near enough to New York.

When Dorothy viewed this future home of hers, the delight that
upsprang in her became a rapture, an ecstasy of eager planning, that
fully verified Armstrong's choice of a location.  She found an old
Dutch farmhouse with wall panels, corner fireplaces and other
treasures of a once comfortable and simple home life.  On three
sides, a lawn swept down to the sea, barred by a low wall of rough
stone.  Huge elms and oaks overshadowed the house, and across the
lawn were flung old cedars and pines, contorted and blown by the salt
winds into fantastic shapes.

Armstrong slyly suggested decorators, then refrained from further
intrusion.  He had certain ideas of his own, but watched
unobtrusively to see what would happen.  Thus, thinking to please
him, Dorothy called in a gentleman from Fifth Avenue, who made two
very accurately beautiful paintings of her home-interior as it should
be.  Reese accompanied his wife to view the results, and blandly
expressed himself as charmed.  Dorothy eyed him, then turned to the
decorator with her sweetest air.

"These pictures are exquisite.  I should like to buy them from you."

"You flatter us, Mrs. Armstrong!" came the unctuous response, with
the usual simper.  "We try to express an individualistic taste, of
course--this dining room, for example.  You will notice that it is
entirely correct; Jacobean throughout.  People are doing these things
so much this season, of course!  This touch of color over the buffet
is a splendid bit of tapestry that I have in mind; really quite good,
don't you think?  An excellent bit of still life--game--"

"I'm sure your ideas are excellent," said Dorothy.  "What is the
price of these?"

"Oh, say fifty dollars for both pictures; we do not make a practice
of selling these things, you know, and if you decide to confide the
work to us, as I am confident you will, we shall be very glad to
deduct the amount from our fee."

Dorothy paid for the two pictures.  Something in her air aroused the
decorator to questions, to an unfortunate probing.  So Dorothy gave
him the truth which he sought.

"You see," she explained sweetly, "I want them because they are
really very nice, and also in order to show what we've escaped.  My
taste in decorating is quite hopeless, you know, for I want a home
and not an inane color effect--"

Armstrong exploded in a burst of laughter and hastened to escort
Dorothy from the outraged precincts.  Safely in the car, she turned
dancing eyes to him.

"Then you don't insist on a decorator?"


A sigh of relief, and she settled back comfortably.

"I'm so glad!  Just think of that absurd man, actually intending to
tear out all those beautiful old panels!  Reese, I'm going to spend
some money, but in three weeks we'll have a home--a real home, too!
It was good of you to wait and let me do it, instead of trying to
surprise me with everything done."

"Go ahead, the sky's the limit," said Armstrong, who was hugely
delighted by the whole affair.

Three weeks, in fact, saw them settled in the finished portion of the
house, while a small army of workmen still struggled with unfinished
rooms and grounds and garden, under Dorothy's direction.

Lawrence Macgowan was the first guest to view the new home, or rather
the completed portion of it.  Armstrong brought him down from the
city over a week-end, and eagerly displayed the grounds and house.
He was delighted by his friend's unchecked enthusiasm and endorsement
of everything that was being done.

At dinner, Macgowan heard the story about the decorators, and roared
over it.  When they had adjourned to the living room and were
discussing Dorothy's choice of rugs, Macgowan stood with his back to
the log fire, fingering his cigar; then he turned impulsively to
Dorothy, and spoke.

"My dear Dorothy, may I make a frank confession?"

Dorothy's smile belied the flash of steel in her glance.  "Certainly,
if Reese may be a party to it!"

"Oh, he's a part of it."  Macgowan chuckled, in his odd manner of
being inwardly amused over something unspoken.  "You see, like every
confirmed bachelor who beholds his best friend embarking on the
wine-dark sea of matrimony, I have hitherto, my dear Dorothy, been
ungallant enough to congratulate you--quite irrespective of your
charming qualities--upon the acquisition of your husband."

He paused, regarding Dorothy with his slightly aggressive,
straightforward gaze.  His air was half reflective, half admiring.

"Well, where's the crime in that?" she demanded brightly.  "Don't you
suppose that women ever think they are fortunate?  We're not all
stuck-up prigs, grandly convinced of the blessings we bestow--not a
bit of it!"

Macgowan waved his cigar.

"Ah, but I confess my error!  It is Reese who deserves the
congratulations which I now tender with all my heart, not with the
lips alone!  Wives are easily found, my dear fellow," turning to
Armstrong, "but home-makers are rare, I assure you.  So rare, indeed,
that I--"

He ended with a sigh and a gesture, as though the rarity of
home-makers accounted for his own single state.  Then, with a sudden
thrust of his cigar, he indicated the rooms beyond.

"Look at this place!  Look at that burnt-ivory woodwork, those rugs,
these bits of polished wood that we call furniture!  Look at those
bright yellow valences, those blue curtains, that pinkish splendor of
a Kirman on the floor!  Why, the raw fighting colors are as sweetly
harmonious, as delicately blended, as the vivid hues of some old
Chinese embroidery!  Only an artist can blend raw colors.

"Thank the lord, there's no formality about this house.  Good things
in plenty, but no useless frippery made for effect and expenditure.
When one comes in here, it's to find a home that's lived in, used,
created for comfort and enjoyment.  Reese, old man, you're to be
congratulated!  With the cynical egotism of one who is too largely
surrounded by a world of sham, I say that I myself could have done no
better with this house.  It is perfection."

"And that's a huge compliment, Dot, for Lawrence Macgowan to pay!"
exclaimed the beaming Armstrong.  "He's a famous critic of the arts.
Everybody up and down the Avenue looks to Mac to pass on worthy
furniture, Serbian sculpture and all the professional forms of art!
On the strength of this compliment, you can go into the
house-decorating business and become rich in a month."

"Nonsense, I mean it!" protested Macgowan earnestly.  "Absolutely."

"And I do thank you."  Dorothy's eyes were dancing under the praise,
yet the blue-steel gleam still lingered in their depths.  "You make
amends very pleasantly."

"Amends?" Macgowan's brows lifted.  "For what, pray?"

"For a remark you made in Evansville, the day we were married.  You

Macgowan regarded her, frowning slightly in puzzled retrospection.

"I'm afraid not," he said.  "Surely, it was nothing to require

As he said this, his eyelids lowered the barest trifle.  The movement
was entirely involuntary.  So trivial was it, so subtly evanescent,
as to be almost imperceptible; only one watching him keenly would
have observed this slight muscular reflex.

Dorothy observed it.  If she knew it for the sign of a lie, she made
no comment.

"Oh, not in the least!" she responded, a smile on her lips.  "And I
dare Reese to try dragging business into this home and spoiling it!
Just to show that I'm not a bit afraid of the consequences, I want to
ask you two men something about business."

Armstrong settled deeper into his chair and lighted his cigar.

"Fire away, Dot!  Any time I don't drop business the minute I leave
the office, just you jump on me.  Want to invest some surplus cash,
or what?"

She laughed.  "No, thank you!  You can play with other people's money
all you like.  I want to ask about Food Products, that's all--what
you're doing with it.  And do sit down, Lawrence.  You make me
nervous, handling that cigar like a baton; besides, you cut off all
the beauty of the fire."

"Cruel lady!" sighed Macgowan.  "Can you not appreciate the
magnificence of such a fire-screen?  Well, I obey.  Reese, tell the
lady all about Food Products."

He sat down, gazing at the ceiling, and puffed reflectively at his
cigar.  He appeared to be rather thoughtful about something.

"Well, Dot?" inquired Armstrong.  "What do you want to know?"

"Oh, everything in general!  Is that stock issue on the market?"

"We start the campaign in a couple of weeks; one thing and another
has held us up.  Our investors will eat it up, too.  Consolidated is
going to do big things for them--"

"Food Products, please!"  Dorothy stuck to her point.  "Is the plant
at work?"

"Full capacity; it has never ceased work.  Within the next month or
two the reorganization will begin to show big results.  We're going
to work with a real advertising campaign.  If you could see the
difference between our operating cost-sheet and that of the old
organization, you'd realize what one trouble back there has been."

"With father's company?" asked Dorothy, a little doubtfully.

"Exactly.  By the way, Dot, I wrote your father to-day asking him to
reconsider his resignation and come back into the company.  I think
he's been out of the harness long enough to realize that he'll rust
out unless he keeps busy.  I hope he'll accept."

"Good, good!" put in Macgowan heartily.  "Glad to hear that, Reese!
His name is worth a good deal to the company, as is his active
interest.  I don't imagine he'll accept, though, unless he's given
real powers.  This figurehead business may not appeal to him any more
now than it did before--"

"Figurehead?"  Dorothy glanced from one man to the other.  "Just what
does that mean?  If he came back as president, wouldn't he have all
the powers he always had?"

Macgowan started to speak, but was forestalled.  Armstrong suddenly
sensed what was in his wife's mind, and was startled.  He leaned
forward, giving a decisive thrust to his words.

"Dorothy, we want your father as president.  Not with full powers,
but to guide the company from a consultant position.  I've pulled
some of the best men in this country from their jobs, to work for
Food Products.  I've guaranteed these men a free hand, no
interference.  Your father can help them tremendously with his
advice, his knowledge of the whole business; he would be an
invaluable asset to us!"

"I see," murmured Dorothy, with a nod of comprehension.  Her eyes
rested for a moment on Macgowan, then returned to Armstrong.  "Have
you any idea when the sale of this stock issue will be completed?"

"Yes."  Armstrong leaned back, relaxed, satisfied that she understood
matters beyond any miscomprehension.  "Within three or four months.
The old directors failed to accomplish anything; they could not even
start the ball rolling.  With our investors to work on, nearly
sixteen thousand of 'em, we'll put Food Products over."

"By the first of the year, eh?"  Dorothy studied him a moment.  "Why,
I thought such things took a lot of time and work--a long campaign!"

Armstrong smiled.  "Ordinarily they do.  In this case, our
organization is all ready to fall to work when the word comes.
Besides, your father's company had the foundations laid; they got the
blue sky licenses and so forth.  We simply step in and sell."

"I see."  Dorothy glanced again at Macgowan.  "By the way, Lawrence,
isn't Ried Williams some relation of yours?  I think Pete Slosson
spoke of it to me one day--"

Macgowan's gaze dwelt upon her for a moment.  Undoubtedly, he
recognized in the casualness of this question something beneath the
surface.  Perhaps he sensed attack.

"A distant cousin or something of the sort," he responded easily.
"Nothing to be proud of in any case; eh, Reese?  The relationship is
so vague that it's only a matter of family mention.  By the way, what
has become of those two chaps, Williams and Slosson?  They were
rather bitter over our getting control and throwing them out.  Do you
ever hear from Pete Slosson, Dorothy?"

So nonchalant was the air of Macgowan that to Armstrong the words
conveyed nothing.  But to Dorothy they conveyed a declaration of war.
From her wedding day, she had sensed Lawrence Macgowan as an enemy.
She had ceased to grope in bewilderment for the cause, and accepted
the fact itself; yet the fact did not cease to hurt.

"I can't possibly keep up with all my old flames," and she laughed.
Then, rising, she dismissed the matter.  "Thank you for the business
information, gentlemen.  Now, shall we have some music?  Reese,
kindly tune up that harp--you've hardly touched it since we were

Macgowan heartily acclaimed the suggestion.  With Dorothy at the
piano, Armstrong got his harp in shape and they settled down for an
hour of music, while Macgowan smoked and listened with critical
appreciation, or discussed the vicissitudes of that harp.

"A man can never be known for what he really is," he exclaimed during
a pause, "until he can be observed either at the height of fortune,
or at the lowest point of disaster.  Observing you, Reese, at the
summit of success, I find you exactly the same person you were the
first day you entered my office.  Feel any different inside?"

"Not a bit."

Armstrong laughed.  Nor was he ashamed of past days, for there was no
petty snobbery in him.  He spoke gayly of old times when his harp had
boasted strings of cord or baling-wire, _faute d'argent_; or of how
he had read Blackstone by day and troubadoured by night with his
college friends.  Far away were those days, but as he recalled them
one could see that the memory was sweet within him.

Later, when they were alone in their own room, Dorothy came to her
husband, arms out to his, and met his kiss with gravely serious gaze.

"Reese, dear, there's one thing I want you to promise me.  Only one;
but it means more to me than I can tell you."

"Anything in the world, dear lady," he promised, looking into her
eyes and wondering what had caused their deep violet glow.  "Speak!
Your slave is ready."

"I'm serious.  Am I really to be your partner in everything?"

"Not to be, but are."

"Well, I don't want you to drag business home with you.  I want you
to leave business behind and come to me and to your home.  I don't
want you to think that you have to retail to me every bit of business
complexity that turns up.  But--dear!  I want to have a part in your
dreams.  I want you to come first to me, always, when you conceive
some great ambition.  Will you?"

"Always, dear lady!  I promise--"

"Wait!"  She checked him, finger on lips.  "That's not what I want
you to promise.  I want something far more important to both of us!
I want you to promise me just this one thing: That when some real
business trouble comes to worry you, you will bring it to me.  First
to me, ahead of your friends, ahead of your lawyers, ahead of your
business men.  Not for my poor advice, perhaps, but just to let me
share it with you first."

Armstrong, as he smiled at her, wondered why her face was so strained
and anxious.

"I promise, lady.  Why, dear--you don't think I'd take my troubles to
Mac in preference to you?"

"Oh, I'm jealous of course, but that has nothing to do with it.
There's a deeper reason that I'm not going to tell now."  Her fingers
tightened on his arms, tensely earnest.  "It's a promise, now?"

"Surely, sweetheart," he said gravely.  "Why--lady!  You're crying--"

"Because I love you, that's all.  Kiss me!"

Armstrong, rendered more than a little uneasy by her manner, was
relieved to find that she said no more on the subject.  He would not
have been so relieved had he known how she lay awake that night,
staring into the darkness, her brain struggling with the problem of

Intuition told her that the man was an enemy; she could not forget
those words of his on her wedding-day.  Against all this balanced his
friendship and help for Armstrong, and weighed down the scales with
fact.  Yet she could not dismiss her fear of him; that it was
baseless and apparently unfounded, only served to increase her hurt
and anxiety.  Still, she knew that she dare not so much as hint such
a thing to her husband.

And to Armstrong himself, who was very sensitive to Dorothy's mental
reactions, this incident recurred more than once.  He was quite aware
that marriage will seldom endure old comradeships.  It was natural
that Dorothy should feel a twinge of jealousy; had she not frankly
admitted the fact?  Down there in the city, it was Macgowan who was
Armstrong's alter ego, who handled all Armstrong's affairs, who was
friend and practically business partner as well.  So far as the city
was concerned, that was all very well.

"But I'll have to leave Mac in the city," thought Armstrong.  "Dot is
going to resent it if I bring him home too often.  I'll bring Jimmy
Wren down one of these days--he's pure boy and hasn't any of Mac's
cynical loftiness.  Dot has too many ideals to be enthralled by Mac's
attitude, maybe."

Which was all very nice, and all entirely wrong.  Like most men,
Armstrong was blind to the inner motivations of the woman he loved.

Dorothy, seeing this, prayed that he might continue blind--for a time.


Macgowan swung into Armstrong's office one morning, bringing with him
a keen breath of late November.

"Well, how goes the sales company?" he exclaimed breezily, flinging
down his hat and coat.  "Too busy to talk?"

"Not yet."  Armstrong dismissed his secretary and set forth cigars.
"Everything fine."

"Sure, but let's have details.  I need 'em this morning."  Macgowan
chuckled as he surveyed his friend.  "You're looking fit.  How's the
country estate?"

"Fine.  What do you want details on--winter gardens or sales

"Food Products, mostly.  I'm curious to know what's going on."

Armstrong opened a drawer of his desk and brought forth some typed

Consolidated Securities occupied the three top floors of a building
in the late thirties, but was cramped for room.  Already Armstrong
was planning the lease of an entire building in the forties--a lease
to become ownership later.  The New Year would be time enough to take
that up.  For the present, he wanted to get upon absolutely solid
ground, financially.  He had no ambition to be the center of a wild
selling drive which would go smash upon the rocks of inflation.

His own office was quietly handsome without being ornate.  Just as he
wanted the business to be out of Wall Street and well uptown, so he
wanted everything around him to be of the best without ostentation.
The looks of a business, like the dress of a man, have a certain
definite value; Armstrong did not make the error of either over- or
under-estimating that value.

"Food Products," he responded, "is sold.  The campaign is going well,
and it'll be a profitable campaign for the Armstrong Company if it
ends as well as it has begun.  By the way, I'm going to merge the
company into Consolidated later on.  It's a bit loose; too much my
own affair.  I want everything in Consolidated."

"Isn't it merged enough now to suit you?"

"No.  At present, I could draw the Armstrong Company out bodily, and
I'm going to change that--say, next spring, after the annual meeting
of Consolidated.  But never mind that now.  I have another and more
immediate change afoot.  I've determined to keep Food Products in the
hands of our own original investors in this part of the country.  The
stock-selling organization is spread too far out."

"Isn't it doing the work?" Macgowan frowned slightly.

"Yes.  But, Mac, do you realize that we had to dig deep in writing
off those worthless assets?  I want to save money."

"Yes, and that hurt."  Macgowan chuckled.  "Findlater was moaning
about it the other day.  Asked why we hadn't let those assets ride
for a while."

Armstrong's eyes chilled, as they usually did at mention of Findlater.

"You told him?"

"That we were too cursed honest; or rather, you.  If I'd been in your
shoes, I'd have been tempted to do otherwise."

"Yes, you would!"  Armstrong laughed.  "You old rascal, you'd have
been the first one to come clean!  But see here, Mac.  I'm cutting
down my organization.  I'm going to eliminate all the Pacific Coast,
everything west of the Mississippi, in fact."

The broad, finely chiseled features of Macgowan underwent a certain
change at this information--so decided a change that Armstrong
wondered.  For an instant he fancied that those piercingly aggressive
eyes bored into him with a look bordering on suspicion.

"What the devil!" ejaculated the lawyer.  "Why, only last week you
spoke of branching out farther!"

Armstrong leaned back and drew at his cigar.

"Yes, but that was last week.  Most of our old investors are here in
the East, scattered between here and Chicago.  Over fifteen thousand
of 'em.  Our schedule of operation is airtight.  Consolidated, for
example, owns Food Products, pockets some of the commission for
selling the stock, profits by the operation of the company--and it
all comes back to the investors.  And our corporate funds are growing

"Then what's to hinder the spread?" asked Macgowan, teeth clamped on

"Too much expense."  Armstrong puffed thoughtfully.  "We don't want
to splurge, to go after the whole country and over-reach ourselves.
I don't want to be classed with these birds who flood the country
with stock not worth half its price.  For next year, we'll play safe
with what we have.  We can lay out a big program, but hold back with

"You're selling stock on the coast now," argued Macgowan.

"Yes, but only a small allotment of Food Products is being handled
there."  Armstrong became crisp, decisive, closed to all protest.
"I'm writing our men out there to-day, calling them in by the first
of the year.  The less they sell of Food Products out there, the
better pleased I'll be; but if they can get rid of their allotment
next month, all right."

Behind his veil of gray smoke, Macgowan's brilliant, arrogant eyes
narrowed in reflection.  One would have thought that this change of
program on Armstrong's part, instead of being a mere detail of
organization, was something that affected him vitally.  Even
Armstrong was mildly surprised that Macgowan should be so interested
in this detail.

"You see, Mac," he explained, "I'm going to cut down all expenses.
Food Products is the biggest thing we've taken over, and I'm getting
stingy.  The time to retrench is before the pinch comes.  Some day,
trouble will hit us; when it hits, I want the organization as compact
and impervious as possible, and funds all in shape.  We have
competitors and--"

The lawyer threw up his hands.

"You're right, Reese, dead right!  I suppose I'm like the others; a
bit hypnotized by our success and the size of the bankroll.  Then
you'll not draw in your horns before the first of the year?"


Macgowan puffed for a moment in silence, nodding thoughtfully.  Then
he glanced up.

"You know there's a meeting of the Consolidated directors next week.
Instruct me about that note of yours--whether to renew or take it up."

"What note?"

"Covered by the twenty-five thousand in Food Products' paper.  You
borrowed ten thousand from Consolidated, if you remember, on behalf
of the Armstrong Company, and turned the money over to Deming."

"Oh, that!"  Armstrong thought for a moment.  "Why, I'll renew the
loan to Food Products for another three months--to pay me now would
rather handicap them.  No use taking up the paper from Consolidated
until Food Products can make good.  Suppose you renew for three
months--or better make it four months.  Then Food Products will be on
its feet."

Macgowan nodded.

"I'll tell Jimmy Wren, and if Findlater objects we'll show him who
runs the voting Trust.  By the way, you people going to be in town
over Christmas, or not?"

"No, we'll be in Evansville.  Dorothy's folks are going to Europe
right after the holidays, and we'll spend Christmas with them, then
bring 'em East.  Christmas in Evansville listens good, Mac!"
Armstrong's rare smile leaped out.  "Real juleps, remember 'em?  And
the kind of turkey that isn't grown around here.  And 'possum.  And
ladies with the Kentucky slur to their tongues--the soft slur that
leaves mighty few bachelors in those parts!  Better come along with
us, old man.  What say?"

Macgowan shook his head.

"Thanks, but I can't.  Deming isn't doing anything?"

"No, he's definitely out of business.  By the way, we had a caller at
the house the other evening--that chap from Evansville who's a
relative of yours.  Ried Williams."

Macgowan glanced up in astonishment.

"Williams!  Is he in town?  Hope he doesn't look me up."

Armstrong laughed.  "Why?  Aren't you on good terms?"

"I suppose so." Macgowan shrugged lightly.  "I never had much use for
that chap; he's no good.  Look how he cut up when we threw him out of
Food Products!"

"While I never claimed to love him, I'd hate to insult your
relatives, Mac," and Armstrong laughed cheerily.  "His injured
dignity has recovered; at least, he appeared very amiable.  He's an
old friend of Dorothy's; not a dear friend, but he forms a link with
her home town, you know."

Macgowan stirred uneasily.  "He isn't locating here, is he?"

"No."  Armstrong leaned back.  "He's in the brokerage business in
Indianapolis, I gather.  You recall that other man on the Food
Products board, the one who looked like a dissipated Adonis, and who
aspired to Dorothy?  Pete Slosson?"

"Yep," grunted Macgowan.  His eyes, under veiling lids, were very
bright and keen.

"The two are in partnership and doing well, according to Williams.  I
always thought they both hated me like sin for dumping them out of
Food Products, but they've gotten over it.  Williams showed up pretty
well, though I'd not trust him very far."

"Hope he leaves me alone in my glory," said Macgowan.  Then his face
cleared.  "Say, one reason I dropped in was about Findlater.  I think
our merry little president is going to spring a motion at next week's
meeting for salaried directors."

Armstrong's face tightened ominously.

"So he wants a cut of the melon?"

"Probably.  He has some of the others with him, and figures that by
springing a good argument he can get away with it.  Judge Holcomb is
dead against him, of course."

"Naturally; Holcomb's square.  What's your advice?"

Macgowan's gaze searched Armstrong with a steady and appraising

"If it was my affair, Reese, I'd throw 'em out.  Bounce them hard,
get rid of them for good!  They're under contract to serve for three
years, without salary, in return for stock allotted them; we're where
we can do without 'em, and we owe them no debt of gratitude for
getting Consolidated under way.  A bunch of real live men on the
board would help us tremendously just now.  I say, if they start any
fuss, bounce them and begin over!"

Armstrong settled back in his chair, and shook his head slightly.

"Well, why not?" demanded Macgowan.

"For the very reasons you name."  Armstrong stared out the window and
puffed silently.  This immobility irritated Macgowan.

"What reasons?" he exclaimed harshly.

"I do owe them a certain gratitude for backing me.  They did it
selfishly, but they did it.  And I'm too darned human to forget that
they did it."

"Too darned inhuman, you mean," interjected Macgowan cynically.

Armstrong shrugged.  "I'm not an automatic machine, and don't want
the reputation of being one.  It's because I'm human, Mac, that we've
got nearly sixteen thousand investors on our books, letting us handle
their money.  Next year, twenty thousand.  I don't believe in using a
man for what you can get out of him, then kicking him off the
pedestal.  Findlater may be a fool and a crook, but he helped us.  I
don't care to be known as a business machine; can't afford it.  The
business of to-day and to-morrow isn't being run that way."

"Chivalric balderdash!" Macgowan growled and mouthed his cigar.
"Ever hear of Don Quixote?"

Armstrong, eyeing his friend, burst suddenly into a laugh.

"What's got into you, Mac?  Are you talking what you believe, or what
you think is for my good?"

"For your own good, Reese!  Damn it, I know this game better than
you!"  Macgowan's burst of words came with the fury of repressed
energy.  Now appeared the hitherto unguessed side of the man, the
angry, passionate arrogance of his mind which was usually so well
covered from sight.  "Those fellows would kick you out this minute if
they could--you and me both!  That shyster Findlater would knife you
in the back if he had a chance.  The very thought of our earnings, of
our funds, makes 'em sweat to get their paws on the money!  You fool,
you're in business!  Why don't you realize it?"

Armstrong surveyed him with cheerful good humor, refusing to take
this outburst seriously.

"Regular line of Old Testament bunk, Mac!  And you don't mean a word
of it.  As you know very well, we're in business with a New
Testament; a covenant of success to all, not merely to those who have
the quickest gun."

Macgowan uttered a savage oath.

"You fool, I mean it, every word of it!  Throw Findlater out or
you'll be thrown out!"

"Nothing doing."  Armstrong shrugged, but eyed his friend curiously.
"You handle him with the voting trust, and avoid trouble.  Be a

"Diplomat, hell!"  Macgowan leaped up, faced Armstrong with a bitter
snarl.  "Wake up!  Are you a dursed weak-kneed idealist, blind to
everything but your ideals?  Can't you see that at times you have to
be something else?  Are you one of these temperamental cusses, strong
one minute and up in the clouds the next?  Cut out this drivel!  I
tell you, Findlater is a danger spot!  Want to wake up and find you
and your sentiment landed in the gutter, do you?"

Armstrong was stung.  He leaned forward, suddenly tense, concentrated.

"Mac, are you trying to tempt me--trying to see if you can shake me?
Don't try it.  You know I brought a new creed into this investment
game, and I'm here to play the game square and fair.  Once I falter
in that creed, once I begin to cheat at the game--good night!  Now,
quit calling me a fool.  Look at it through the eyes of our
investors.  If they see me kick out Findlater, they'll think that it
looks queer; you can't blame them!  I'd think so too.  It isn't time
yet for fireworks.  Wait until the annual meeting next April.  Then
we'll start the slate with a new crowd and go in for big
things--honest things with honest men."

Macgowan drew a quick breath.

"Reese, you have a brain somewhere on the premises.  I concede it.
You're right, as usual.  Say, do you sit up nights thinking of those

"Nope; daytimes only."  Armstrong was too deeply stirred up to call a
halt now.  He went on with a growing earnestness and conviction.
"It's those investors who have put Consolidated on its feet.  Not a
bunch of spoilers sitting around a directors' table, but those little
investors.  Their confidence in me is a terrible thing, Mac; it
frightens me sometimes, it humbles me--why, Mac, it's their very
faith which puts me over, makes me make good!  This mass psychology
is nothing new, even in business.  We started out to get that very
thing behind us.  Now that we've got it, sometimes it frightens me by
its very force.  They talk about prayer and its effect--here's the
same thing, man!  When every investor in our lists is behind me, when
I'm the apex of a triangle with every atom of force at my back,
shoving me forward--do you think I can fail?  Do you think anybody
can rise up and whip me?  Not much!"

Macgowan sat in spellbound silence.  As he listened, a singular awe
and wonder crept into his face.  His eyes, fascinated by Armstrong's
swordlike gaze, began to waver; an indefinite something showed there
that might have gripped Armstrong's attention, had he only seen it.
One never sees such expressions, however, when they are foreign to
all that one is expecting to see.  Armstrong went on rapidly, fired
by his thought.

"That's what put Napoleon over--the knowledge that every man in his
army knew he would win; and, damn it, he had to win!  Same with me,
Mac.  You've made Consolidated airtight, you've left me nothing to
fear at my back.  I can look squarely ahead and can meet anything
that comes.  With the faith and will-power of sixteen thousand people
at my back, what can beat me?  Nothing!  Nothing!  It's not
self-confidence; it's confidence in the power behind me, the power
instilled into me!  Can't you see that?"

Macgowan shifted his pose restlessly, before he came to his feet,
jabbing at Armstrong with his cigar, an oath of admiration breaking
on his lips.  He seemed swept away, enthused beyond words, almost.

"Reese--oh, what's the use!"  He made a despairing gesture.  "I'm
proud to have a share in your vision, proud to take orders from you.
Now, if Findlater starts any fuss, you want him soft-pedaled.  Is
that it?"

Armstrong relaxed, nodding, a bit self-conscious and ashamed of his

"Yes.  That's what you and Jimmy Wren have the voting trust for!"

"Oh!  That reminds me--"

Macgowan was picking up his coat and hat and stick.  He turned and
came back to the desk, looking thoughtfully down at Armstrong.

"I nearly forgot something.  About Wren."

Armstrong glanced up inquiringly.  Wren was not only his right-hand
man in the Armstrong Company, but was secretary of Consolidated.
Although not so young in years, Jimmy Wren possessed that eternal
buoyancy, that youthfulness of spirit, which older men envy.  His
imagination and impulsiveness added to his ability; he was all or

"What about Jimmy?"

Macgowan looked serious.  "It may not be true.  I just heard that,
before Wren came to us, he was mixed up in a nasty affair back in
Ohio.  A small country bank, which went bust.  Wren was cashier, and
squeaked through, but it was close.  Know anything about it?"

Armstrong squared himself in his chair.

"I know all about it."

"Good.  Then I've no more to say."

"Hold on!"  Armstrong's voice cracked out suddenly.  "You _have_
something more to say, Mac.  I want to know where this report came

Macgowan met those clear, angry eyes with unruffled mien.

"From a federal man.  You know, I've a good many friends in
Washington.  One of them, in the revenue service, was going over some
income tax returns with me.  We got to talking about the company, and
he mentioned this about young Wren.  He knew few details."

"Then it was simply a friendly tip?"


Armstrong nodded.  His face cleared.

"Then forget it, Mac.  I'll go to the mat for Jimmy any day!  That
bank affair was no fault of his; the bonding company exonerated him
absolutely.  He came to me with the whole business when I sent for
him to join me.  I've known him for years, and he's true blue.  By
the way, Mac, who's the lady he's been shining up to lately?  He
keeps unusually mum on the subject, I notice.  Weren't you in on the
party the other day at the Biltmore?"

Macgowan chuckled, and shrugged.

"I saw your eagle eye fastened on us from across the room.  Good
lord, don't ask me!  I just wandered in on that party, and we lunched
together.  Don't even recall her name--from the South, I think.  She
wasn't a bad sort at all.  Well, I'll drift along.  See you later!"

Macgowan departed.

Armstrong felt very glad of this conversation; he felt that it had
cleared the air for him, had left him more cheerfully disposed, in
better control of himself.  When Findlater entered his office ten
minutes later, Armstrong glanced up and nodded amiably.

"Good morning, Mr. President!  What's on your mind?"

"This report."  Findlater tapped the paper in his hand.  "Have you
examined it?"

Armstrong smiled.  "My dear chap, I wrote it!"

Findlater, a New Yorker by birth, tried very hard to live up to the
fact that his immediate ancestors had come from Boston.  His grooming
was perfect.  A clipped red mustache, firm lips set in eternal
repression, a coldly challenging gaze from a pink and chubby
face--all went to make up an air of aggressive importance.  Findlater
studiously cultivated an aloof manner.  One gathered that his fingers
touched only supremely great things.

Armstrong, who detested this affectation, perhaps made the mistake of
under-estimating the qualities which lay beneath it.

"What's wrong with the report?" he asked.

"I'm afraid it will give our investors a wrong impression," said
Findlater, with his best judicial air.  "We have poured a good deal
of money into this Food Products concern.  Instead of spreading our
money among various enterprises, we are plunging on one or two
things.  The heavy surplus and corporate funds should be retained
more carefully against a rainy day, and more carefully spread out."

Armstrong nodded.  "We make money work for us," he said in perfect
good humor.  "We can't afford to have it lie idle, you know.  As for
Food Products, everything that we put in will come back with heavy
interest; it'll be our finest property in course of time.  You speak
of spreading out our money.  Have you some enterprise in mind?"

"Well," Findlater showed a bit of hesitation, "a very promising
affair has been brought to my attention--a new process for refining
and producing turpentine--"

"A going enterprise?" asked Armstrong quietly.

"Not exactly.  A most promising invention--a friend of mine--"

Armstrong leaned back and regarded the other man amusedly.

"Too clumsy, Findlater; I'm really surprised!  Of course, you'd like
us to build a plant and experiment with your friend's invention.
Perhaps we might buy the invention outright, eh?  I'm afraid it won't
do, Findlater.  We're not a get-rich-quick concern at all.  If you
want to do any juggling with the funds of Consolidated, you'll do it
when I'm no longer connected with the company.  That's all."

Findlater's pink-and-white face grew very red; without a word, he
turned and left the room.  Armstrong smiled to himself and resumed
his interrupted work.


Dorothy went to the city on a Tuesday, in order to inspect some
furniture that was being done over to suit her scheme of things, and
also in order to do some early Christmas shopping.  Armstrong knew
nothing of her coming.  When she dropped into the office about noon,
she discovered that he was downtown on business and would not be back
until later in the afternoon.

Jimmy Wren passed through the reception room, turned to her with a
delighted greeting, and Dorothy at once commandeered him.

"Reese is somewhere downtown, and I want to take advantage of his
absence to find him a Christmas present.  You're a sensible young
man, Jimmy, so I'll call on you for advice--if it'll not interfere.
Can you get away to go shopping with me?"

"You bet!" exclaimed Wren heartily.  "You've not lunched?  Good.
We'll get a bite to eat and then go sleuthing for something that'll
make the old boy's eyes stand out when he lamps it Christmas morning.
Eh?  Fine!  I'll be out in a second."

"If you're sure it won't interfere--"

"Not a bit of it!  I wouldn't miss the chance for worlds--chance to
spend your money, I mean--"

With a grin, Jimmy Wren rushed off for his hat and coat, and they
went out together.

Dorothy liked Wren, liked his unspoiled enthusiasm; beneath his
impulsive warmth there was a great fund of shrewdness and ability.
None the less, he possessed a certain open ingenuousness of
character, a wide-eyed confidence in people, as though his boyish
illusions had never been shattered.  In the office, Wren's whiplash
keenness was all to the fore.  Out of the office, he was
himself--clean and frank and unafraid.  Behind his black-rimmed
spectacles, his gray eyes danced with energy and high humor.  One
liked Jimmy Wren at sight, and Jimmy either liked or disliked the
other person with swift impulse.

They walked to the Biltmore, and were presently seated at a
window-table _à deux_.

The order given, Jimmy lighted a cigarette.  Dorothy observed that he
was glancing about as though in search of some one, and suddenly his
eyes lighted up eagerly.  There was no mistaking this radiant
delight, and she was not surprised when he excused himself for a
moment to speak to some one, and rose.

Smiling, Dorothy glanced after him.

"Jimmy ought to marry and settle down," she reflected, with all the
shameless match-making instinct of the happily married bride.  "I
wonder who she could be?  He's never breathed a word to Reese, I'm

Dorothy's instinct was not at fault.  As her glance followed the
wide-shouldered figure of Jimmy Wren, it rested upon a table near the
entrance.  At this table sat two men and a woman, very handsomely
gowned and furred in white, to whom Wren was speaking.

Both the men were unknown to Dorothy.  The face of the woman was
hidden until Wren turned to leave; then she had one swift, clear
glimpse of the profile--a striking and unforgettable profile.  The
eyes of Dorothy widened suddenly, widened with astounded incredulity;
and their steely blue was altered to a stormy violet.

Beaming all over, Jimmy Wren returned and slid into his chair.

"That friend of mine--by George, I wish you knew her!" he exclaimed
enthusiastically.  "A wonderful woman, Mrs. Armstrong, and from the
South, too.  Mrs. Bird Fowler of Paducah.  Talk about your Kentucky
belles!  Perhaps you know her, though?  Isn't Paducah somewhere near

Dorothy, smiling, shook her head.

"There are a number of Fowlers; the river-packets used to be named
after them, you know, but I don't think I know your friend.  Of
course, one can't keep track of every member of a famous family."

"I suppose not," assented Wren.

"Is she a widow?"

"Yes.  Had a frightful time with her husband, I understand.  Poor

At this, Dorothy bit her lip.

"I caught a glimpse of the lady's face," she said sweetly.  "She
looked like some one I used to know in Evansville."

A peculiar nuance of her voice held Wren's attention.

"Eh?  She's the same one?"

"Oh, of course not--merely a fancied resemblance," responded Dorothy
with assurance.  "You see, Jimmy, this Evansville girl was very
unfortunate; Viola Bland was her name.  She was a stunning beauty,
and her mother forced her to marry for money, and--well, poor Viola
just didn't care, I suppose!"

"How do you mean?" queried Wren, staring at her.  Dorothy made an
indescribable gesture.

"A terrible scandal, my dear Jimmy!  She became quite the talk of the
town.  Finally she decamped with another lady's husband and there
were divorces and everything.  I always felt very sorry for poor

Jimmy Wren blushed faintly, but looked relieved.

"Mrs. Fowler might not be flattered by the resemblance, then," he
said drily.  "She's awfully keen on the proprieties and all that sort
of thing."

"How did you come to meet her, if I may ask?"

"Came in here one day with Macgowan to luncheon, and met her; she was
lunching with a chap he knew--that's the man over there now, with
her; his back to us.  Harry Lorenz.  He's a broker or something that
doesn't take work."

Dorothy nodded.  She had heard Armstrong speak of Macgowan's intimacy
with Harry Lorenz, and now she frowned slightly.

"Is she a friend of Lawrence Macgowan?" she enquired.

"I don't think he knows her, except casually," said Wren.  Then he
kindled.  "I've been up to her place several times; she has a
wonderful little apartment uptown, and gives small musical affairs
there.  She has the voice of an angel!  She's thinking of giving some
big recitals later in the season.  Not for the money--she doesn't
need that: but for some charity she's interested in.  She knows all
the big musical people.  They say Caruso advised her to go into
opera, but she won't do that."

Luncheon arrived.  Wren was too absorbed in his subject to be
observant, or he might have noticed a singular change in Dorothy's
manner.  Her careless gayety had quite departed.  In its stead, there
appeared an active and keen interest, a tense eagerness.  She seemed
suddenly all on the alert, as though she had glimpsed some antagonist
and were seeking an opening for her weapons.

And so, in fact, she had.

"Do you know Macgowan well, Jimmy?" she asked presently.

"Not very much, outside the office.  A wonderful chap, isn't he?
Been splendid to me, too; put me up at clubs and that sort of thing.
He's pretty deep, too."

"Just what do you mean by that?"

"Well, it's hard to say."  Wren hesitated.  "He seems to be all on
the surface, but he's not.  He knows more than you'd think.  There
are good solid depths to him."

Dorothy abruptly changed the subject.

When they rose to leave, the party of three near the entrance were
still in place.  Jimmy Wren was close behind Dorothy.  As they passed
the table, the woman who called herself Mrs. Bird Fowler glanced up,
met the gaze of Dorothy--and into her eyes leaped sudden, startled
recognition.  Dorothy halted, with every appearance of delighted

"Dorothy Deming!" exclaimed the other woman, almost mechanically.

"Why, Viola Bland!" broke from Dorothy at the same instant.  "Who on
earth would have thought of meeting you here--and how well you're
looking!  I'm so glad to see you!"

"Won't you sit down--"

"Oh, my dear, I'm simply rushed to death!  We're very late now--I
daren't stop even for a minute.  Call me up some day, won't you?
Mrs. Reese Armstrong, you know--good-by!"

Dorothy swept on.  At the entrance she turned to Jimmy Wren.  His
face was indescribable.

"Leave the wraps, Jimmy.  Come and sit down.  I want to talk with

He obeyed meekly, a man inwardly stricken.  They turned into the
lounge and Dorothy took possession of a sofa.

"Light a cigarette, Jimmy.  You need it."

"I do," he assented bitterly, and drew a deep breath.  "By gad!
Isn't there a mistake?"

His very tone showed that he knew there was no mistake.  Dorothy
leaned back and in silence studied him for a moment or two.  She was
not enjoying her triumph; when Wren looked up and met her eyes, he
realized this.

"Jimmy, it hurt," she said simply.  "Can't you see why I did it?
Because I like you.  Because Reese likes you.  I suppose she always
wears white?  Some people do; it seems to be a matter of necessity."

Wren started at that.

"It's not true!" he exclaimed, but his impulsive speech died in

Dorothy shrugged.  "My dear Jimmy, just stop and think what was said.
I don't believe any argument is necessary."

Wren was in torment.  He saw, clearly enough, the absolute finality
of the whole thing.  When "Mrs. Bird Fowler" gave vent to her
recognition of Dorothy, she had been lost beyond any appeal of error.
Now Dorothy continued coolly.

"If you have any doubts in the matter, take a trip to Evansville and
ask questions.  You might as well get it all in one blunt and brutal
shock, and have it over.  I'm sorry for your sake, Jimmy, but I'd be
much sorrier if--if I had just let things go on."

Wren nodded miserably.

"People always seem to make a fool out of me," he said boyishly.
"There was a bank back in Ohio--I was the cashier.  Another fellow
pulled some dirty work, and I came mighty close to going over the
road.  Only plain fool luck saved me!  And now--"

"Reese doesn't think you're a fool, and neither do I," said Dorothy.
"Forget all that silly talk, Jimmy!  Don't blame yourself.  You've
made me terribly afraid, this morning--something you said--"

Her words fell off.  Wren stared at her, puzzled.

"I've made you afraid?  Of what?"

Dorothy smiled, but with an effort.

"I don't know; I can't say, Jimmy.  Did you ever read _Othello_?"

"Shakespeare?  Oh, sure.  What's that got to do with it?"

"Nothing, perhaps.  But there are some men like Iago, either in big
or small ways.  Do you believe that a man could have a corrosive
touch--a touch that corrodes every one with whom he comes in contact,
morally or in other ways?  A man who makes use of everybody and
twists them to his own desires, and leaves them all broken or rotted
out behind him?"

Jimmy Wren frowned over this.

"Why, I suppose so," he answered vaguely.  "I've read about women
like that, in stories, but I never ran up against any men--"

Dorothy rose, with a silvery laugh.

"Oh, it was a passing fancy; never mind.  Now look here, Jimmy Wren!
You brace up and forget this.  It's our secret, understand?  If any
more handsome widows from Kentucky show up on the horizon, let me
know and I'll throw a party at a hotel up in the forties where there
are loads of Kentucky people--and you'll see fireworks!  Now, forget

"All right, I promise."  Jimmy Wren forced a rueful grin.  "Now,
about the Christmas present for Reese--"

"Go get the wraps, please.  I'll wait here."

Dorothy smiled to herself after Wren's departing figure, and this
time her smile was not forced.

"Poor Jimmy!" she murmured.  "He's not so badly hurt as he thinks he
is; he'll forget all about it in a week.  Macgowan and this Harry
Lorenz and Viola Bland--hm!  I don't like it.  Maybe I'm all wrong,
of course, but I don't like it.  Now, why would Macgowan want to get
poor Jimmy Wren in that crowd, I wonder?  If only I could reason it
out!  I'd give a good deal to learn just how well Lawrence Macgowan
knows Viola, and how long he's known her!  I hope she will ring me up
some day."

She never did.  But she rang up Jimmy Wren about a little musicale;
and Jimmy, having his full share of unspoiled human nature, did not
refuse the invitation.  His boyishness rather resented Dorothy's
severe judgment of the other woman; after all, he considered, the
world judges harshly, without knowing everything!

And he was gradually confirmed in this opinion.  He did not consider
it necessary to bring up the matter again with Dorothy, however.


Armstrong had arranged to start for Evansville four days before
Christmas.  He and Dorothy were to leave New York by a night train.

That same morning, he learned something that staggered him,
frightened him, yet filled him with a great veneration and joy.  When
he looked across the breakfast-table at Dorothy, when he met the
consuming happiness of her eyes, she had suddenly become like another
person to him--another and more wondrous woman.

"You're not afraid?" he asked.

"Afraid?  Good heavens, no!  Reese, I'm the happiest woman on earth!
Aren't you glad?  You don't look it.  You look frightened."

"I am, for your sake," he said, and smiled.  "Oh, I'm happy too!  I
want to tell every one--"

"Don't you dare!"

"Oh, I shan't.  But I should think you'd dread the long months ahead,
and all the pain and suffering--"

Dorothy silenced him with a peremptory gesture as the maid appeared.
Then, when they were alone again, she laughed gayly at him.

"You funny man!  Everything's going to be wonderful--even the
suffering.  It's all we need to make us really happy, to give us a
real home!  Now, don't say another word about it, or that maid will
suspect.  You pay attention to breakfast or you'll miss your train."

"Be sure to put my bag in the car when John drives you in," said
Armstrong, after the meal was over and he was leaving.  "Have him
bring you to the office about six, and we'll get dinner somewhere
before the train leaves.  Good-by, lady!"

In their parting kiss at the door there was a new tenderness, born of
the knowledge lying in their hearts.

All the way to town that knowledge kept pounding at Armstrong's
brain.  His first awe and fear passed into a burning joy.  Little by
little, he began to visualize how from this minute everything was
changed, how his plans and Dorothy's must be made to conform with
greater events, how their whole scheme of things must be brought to
defer to the arrival of this welcome guest.

Armstrong was quite determined on one thing.  He must expend every
energy to insure Dorothy's peace of mind during the months to come.
Physicians would take care of the body; he must make it his business
to see that, when this baby arrived, it should have an heritage of
untroubled nerves in the mother, and a peaceful spirit.

"And I'll do it," he told himself.  "Thank God, she's got plenty of
plain common sense, and doesn't go into hysterics every time a pin
falls!  She shan't have one troubled thought in the whole time, if I
can manage it."

Upon this resolve, he reached his office.

Almost before he had gone through his mail, a memorandum was handed
in from the president's office.  To his irritated astonishment,
Armstrong found this to be a proposal to finance the National
Reduction Company--the same turpentine scheme which Findlater had
previously broached in vain.

Armstrong reached for his desk telephone.  "I'd like to see Mr.
Findlater at once."

"Mr. Macgowan is with him just now, sir."

"Ask them both to come over to my office."

A moment later the door opened and Armstrong nodded to the two men.

"Good morning.  I'd like to see you, Findlater, about this National
Reduction affair.  Sit down and make yourself comfortable."

Findlater, who appeared rather nervous, drew up a chair.  Macgowan
lighted a cigar and stretched himself on the lounge across the
office.  He seemed to anticipate what was coming and appeared to be
enjoying himself hugely.

"That is merely a tentative outline, reduced to writing," began
Findlater, indicating the paper in Armstrong's hand.  "I felt that
perhaps in speaking of it I had not presented the matter fairly to

Armstrong regarded him for a moment, then spoke crisply.

"We may just as well have an understanding here and now, Findlater.
I see the proposal is that Consolidated shall spend over a hundred
thousand to finance the ideas of an inventor.  Our stockholders get
nothing for their money except the chance of experimenting in
turpentine reduction.  That's the idea, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Findlater aggressively.  "Add to that, the fact that the
inventor is personally known to and vouched for by me.  His invention
is a proven success.  Once a plant is built, it will make big money
from the start."

Armstrong glanced at the paper again.

"I note here that the whole thing seems cut and dried.  For example,
this item about stock.  Fifteen hundred shares of the proposed
Reduction stock are to be divided among certain directors of
Consolidated Securities, as a free personal bonus.  A bonus for what,
may I ask?"

Findlater took courage from this quiet manner.

"For service," he returned.  "Five hundred shares to you, since the
Armstrong Company will naturally peddle the stock.  Five hundred to
me, for my personal interest in the affair.  The other five hundred
will be divided among Macgowan, for legal services, and our other

Armstrong shot a look at his friend.

"You in on this too?"

Macgowan waved his cigar.  "Henry C. Findlater is making the
proposal; I'm not!  It's all news to me."

Armstrong turned his attention to Findlater.

"Let's see.  We finance this plant out of Consolidated funds, which
belong to the stockholders of Consolidated.  My selling organization
takes this stock out and sells it to our investors.  A good many of
them buy it on our unsupported word, because they have faith in us.
They pay so much down, so much per month, all out of their savings.

Findlater, a bit puzzled, nodded assent.

"In other words," went an Armstrong, "you propose that we take an
extremely long chance with a hundred thousand of trust funds, and
employ the confidence of our investors to draw their money into the
scheme also.  For doing so, we split fifteen hundred shares of the
stock free.  This, Findlater, is nothing short of bribery.  The whole
scheme is a misuse of confidence; or, if you prefer the word--theft."

Findlater came to his feet, his face purple.

"I won't stand such words, Armstrong!" he cried passionately.  "I
won't stand--"

"Then get out," snapped Armstrong, who was white with anger.

Findlater stood motionless, silent, under that unwavering gaze.  His
flushed features betrayed a tremendous effort to hold his anger in

"You'll be damned sorry for this!" he said slowly.

"Is that a threat?" asked Macgowan, sitting up.

Findlater whirled on him.  "Shut up!  I've had enough of your
hectoring and bullying; you change your ways or I'll make trouble!"

"Look here, Findlater," cut in Armstrong's quiet voice, and the other
turned again.  "You're under a three year contract to serve this
company as president, in consideration of a thousand shares of
Consolidated common.  Let's have it straight, now.  You're
threatening me?"

"No, I'm not," said Findlater, trembling with rage.  "I'm saying that
you'll be damned sorry if you turn down this proposition!  Some one
else will take it up and make big money."

"Oh," said Armstrong, and relaxed.  "Let them have it and welcome.
That's final.  Now, may I ask how you'll make trouble for Macgowan?"

Findlater mastered himself, and made response in a calmer tone.

"I propose to be treated as a gentleman, that's all.  Mac comes in
and orders me about like a dog; and I want it to stop!  As for making
trouble, that meant nothing.  I--I think my nerves are jangled this
morning.  Since you won't consider the matter at all, that ends it."

"Conceded," said Armstrong, and held out the paper.

Findlater took it, nodded, and left the room.

Armstrong looked at Macgowan and smiled thinly.  "You seem to be on
the gentleman's nerves, Mac.  An obstinate devil, isn't he?"

"He climbed off his perch mighty quick," returned Macgowan.  "I don't
know when I've seen a better job of dismounting from a high horse!
Well, I must run along.  See you later.  You're leaving to-night?"

Armstrong assented, and Macgowan left.

There would be no further trouble with the nominal president, at
least for a while, felt Armstrong.  Blocked in his efforts to vote
directors' salaries, he had conceived this other scheme of looting;
he would now, doubtless, turn his attention to matters outside

So Armstrong forgot the matter of the National Reduction Company.

He picked up Jimmy Wren for luncheon, and found himself immensely
benefited by that young man's eager exuberance.  The Armstrong
Company was to all intents under the hand of Wren, who was given a
free rein like other of Armstrong's chief men; this vastly aided
their self confidence and sense of responsibility, and any
interference by Armstrong was made indirectly.  It was good for the
company to have men like Jimmy Wren feel that their executive ability
was recognized and given scope to work.

Armstrong tried to induce Wren to join the Christmas festivities at
Evansville, but met with an embarrassed refusal which vaguely puzzled
him.  He knew nothing of Dorothy's encounter with "Mrs. Bird Fowler."
He did know, however, that of late Jimmy Wren had been not quite
himself, and appeared to be in need of a vacation.  Upon returning
from luncheon, Armstrong took Wren to his own office.

"Come in and go over this Food Products campaign," he said.  "There
are one or two points I'd like to discuss--hello!"

He threw open the office door to disclose the figure of Macgowan,
striding up and down the room.  Macgowan swung around hastily and
showed a disturbed countenance.

"Ha, Reese!  I had to see you at once--something infernally bad!
Come along, Jimmy; you're in on it too."

The manner of Macgowan was startling.  Armstrong threw off hat and
coat, and Macgowan went on speaking rapidly.

"It's a good thing this turned up before you left, Reese.  I don't
know just what to make of it.  Either this is an outrageous lie, or
there's something queer going on."

Advancing to Armstrong's desk, he spread out a letter.  The other two
men leaned over, reading it with incredulous eyes.  It was addressed
to Macgowan, was written from Seattle, and was signed by one Elmer
Lewis, junior partner in a Seattle law firm.

"Lewis is an old friend of mine," said Macgowan.  "He's straight."

The letter set forth that the Armstrong Company salesmen on the coast
were using everything but violence in the effort to unload Food
Products, were sticking at no misrepresentation.  It went on:

"I am writing this, Mac, so you may stave off trouble.  These
Armstrong salesmen are using your name freely, in connection with
obviously untrue statements.

"Since these stock sales appear to be managed from New York by mail,
the matter may become serious.  I understand that complaints have
already been made to Washington, and that an investigation by the
postal authorities may be under way."

Jimmy Wren straightened up with a grunt of disgust.

"This guy Lewis had better get investigated for mental chaos!  Did
you ever see anything to beat this?"

Armstrong looked up, frowning.

"Mac, what the devil can it mean?"

"How do I know?"  Macgowan shrugged.  "All I know is right there.  If
these men of yours are getting into trouble and making use of my

"It's a lie from start to finish!" snapped Armstrong.

"There's something queer about this letter.  Jimmy, do your coast
reports show any such situation out there?"

"Not a thing," said Wren promptly.  "The entire allotment of Food
Products stock will be sold out before the coast men quit work, the
first of the year.  They are furious because we're quitting the
territory.  Looks like all they do out there is to show the prospect
where the dotted line is.  This letter is bunk!"

"It's not that," returned Armstrong thoughtfully.  "It's written by a
friend who wants to save Mac from trouble.  It's possible that some
disgruntled investor has raised some kind of howl--"

"In such case," interposed Wren with some heat, "can't he turn in his
stock and get his money back?  Haven't we a standing agreement to
protect every dissatisfied investor?  Is there the least excuse for
anybody running to the postal authorities?"

Armstrong shook his head.  "It's past me.  What about it, Mac?"

Macgowan had entirely lost his nervous air.  He was watching
Armstrong closely.  Now he lighted a cigar, flourished the match, and
responded with some deliberation.

"As you say, it's possible that some one has sent in a complaint;
perhaps to a newspaper which has played the matter up strong.  Maybe
Lewis saw something in the paper and wrote me without knowing all the
circumstances.  Of course, the whole thing is absurd--"

"Your friend Lewis does not substantiate his statements," said
Armstrong.  "But if the authorities are starting any investigation,
we want to know it!  There's no foundation for anything of the kind,
but the fact that we're under investigation will hurt us.  There's no
protection except by going direct to the source."

He sat down at the desk and took up the telephone.

"Get me the Dorns Detective Agency.  I want Robert Dorns personally."

Macgowan swung around as though he had been shot.

"Wait!  Give me a word first!"

At this swift, imperative command, Armstrong's eyes widened.  He had
never heard Macgowan use such a tone.  He told the operator to hold
up the call.

"What is it, Mac?"

"Just this.  If you call Dorns into the matter, he may cause

"He's the biggest detective in the country, absolutely responsible."

"Sure.  At the same time, the matter can be better handled from the
inside.  I'll run down to Washington to-night.  You know, I have a
good many friends there, Federal men and others.  If any
investigation is going on, I can check it quicker than Dorns could."

"I don't want it checked!" said Armstrong angrily.  "I want
everything wide open!  And I want these reports run down to the

"Leave that to me," returned Macgowan, with assurance.  "Wren can
give me all his letters and instructions to agents.  I'll guarantee
to satisfy the postal men in an hour's time.  Then I'll take up the
letter itself with Lewis and see what's back of it; I'll wire him at
once, in fact.  You'll do better to keep these things in the family,
Reese, than to call in any outside help."

Armstrong considered this, and found it good.  That any breath of
suspicion should be cast on his methods, angered him intensely; on
the other hand, there was so obviously some inexplicable mistake
involved that it behooved him to go slow.

His business was founded upon confidence.  The only way in which
Consolidated could be attacked, the only way in which Armstrong
himself could be attacked, was by attacking the confidence of the
thousands of investors.  That this letter from Seattle indicated any
such attack, never for an instant occurred to him.

"All right," he said at length.  "Take care of it in your own way,
Mac.  Advise me at Evansville just what's behind this, or what's
going on."

Macgowan assented briefly, and seized his things.  If he were to
catch the Washington flyer that night, he had much to do.  When he
had departed, Jimmy Wren frowned and lighted a dead cigar.

"Mac was sweating.  All worked up; notice it?  Hope he'll handle
things right.  I'm off to wire the coast.  If I get any answers
before you leave, I'll let you know."

Armstrong found himself alone.

Gradually his indignation died away.  Nothing so stings the soul of a
man as injustice, and the entire content of that Seattle letter was
false to the core--falser even than Armstrong dreamed at the moment.
It was not the threatened trouble which hurt, not the warning sent
Macgowan, but the black falsity of the whole affair.

Armstrong laughed at the thought of heading off the threatened
inquiry.  Any probe into the methods of Consolidated or of the
Armstrong Company, would only result in exoneration.  That the
salesmen were misrepresenting Food Products was ridiculously untrue.
Armstrong knew his salesmen.

"Yet that letter worries me," thought Armstrong.  "I wish now that
I'd gone ahead and employed Dorns.  Why the devil was Mac so worried
over a Federal inquiry?  We've nothing to fear from that end.
Something queer about it all; I don't savvy it."

At this moment he remembered the promise he had made to Dorothy.

The thought disturbed him.  That request had not been empty words.
When she asked for his promise, she meant exactly what she said;
perhaps, he reflected, that request of hers had some unguessed reason
behind it.

Armstrong frowned.  He realized that now he must either break his
promise to her, or keep it.  Some such emergency as this, some such
threat of trouble, was just what she must have had in mind when she
had extracted the promise.  Business was no overwhelming mystery to
her.  Yet this letter from Seattle--nonsense!  There was no trouble
here.  The whole thing was absurd.  Nothing could come of this; there
was no basis.  And just now the important thing was to keep Dorothy's
peace of mind secure and serene.

"I wouldn't bother her now if the whole organization were
collapsing--which it's not!" thought Armstrong.

At four-thirty Jimmy Wren appeared beaming, and displayed a telegram
from the Seattle sales manager, branding the report as wholly false.
There was not a single dissatisfied investor in the coast territory,
so far as was known.

"Want to stop Macgowan?" asked Wren.  "I can catch him at his office."

"Let him go," said Armstrong.  "If there's anything at all in this,
he'd better ferret it out and kill it.  You wire the Seattle manager
to investigate Elmer Lewis.  That letter looks queer to me.  Let me
know at Evansville what you learn."

When Armstrong met Dorothy for dinner, he had dismissed the affair
from his mind, and said nothing to her about it.


Christmas in Evansville to some degree reflected the warm holiday
celebration of the South, which is not individual but general in
scope, not personal but social; making up in its own way for the lack
of snow and more vigorous Northern traditions.

Dwindling stores of sherry and bourbon were opened with unreserved
bounty, while "white mule" from across the river had its own share in
affairs.  Old recipes provided for egg-nogg, smooth as silk and
strong as black-label Bacardi, or for fruit-cake whose fragrance was
an almost forgotten memory, to be passed about by more skilled or
fortunate housewives to others.  In such matters Dorothy was busy
almost from the moment of her arrival, for these delicately adjusted
recipes were not left to the hands of servants.

Armstrong found himself engulfed in a whirl of hospitality whose
spontaneous gayety and open-hearted sincerity took him back to
college days, and banished worry.  Having heard nothing from
Macgowan, he knew that all was well behind him, and forgot his

Both Williams and Slosson came down over the holidays from
Indianapolis, where their brokerage business was thriving, and called
at the Deming residence.  Their greeting to Armstrong was heartily
cordial, and all the former ill feeling seemed past and forgotten.
For this, Dorothy was grateful.  Not that she particularly cared for
either man, but she did want Armstrong's memories of Evansville to be
untroubled by contact with any who were not warm-hearted friends.
She need not have worried; Armstrong gave not a second thought to
either Slosson or Ried Williams.

The winter of Dorothy's discontent and unrest, however, was ushered
in with the dinner dance at the Country Club.  It was Friday night,
with Christmas only a day away.

The club was in gala dress, with fireplaces blazing merrily, a
"string band" of darkies whose music made the toes tingle, a huge
tree, and a repast to make Epicurus envious.  In the course of the
evening, Dorothy was captured by one Joel Giddings, an antique beau
who was very deaf, and whose dancing was execrable.  Being quite
accustomed to requests that he "sit out" a dance, Giddings yielded
amiably to Dorothy's wishes and guided her to a very secluded nook
behind the Christmas tree.

They sat there, almost hidden from sight, while Giddings rattled on
about nothing.  Then, as Dorothy listened, she heard another voice--a
voice which came from close by, although the glittering tree hid the
speaker from sight.

"Armstrong doesn't worry much about showing up here," it said.  "I
suppose he figures that nobody knows just how he got control of Food
Products, anyhow!  What I can't understand is why Deming endures him,
after the way he chucked Deming out of his own business!"

Dorothy felt the red come flooding into her cheeks, while Joel
Giddings rattled obliviously along.  She did not need to seek, to
know that the voice belonged to Ried Williams.  After some inaudible
response, it came again, fairly burning into her.

"Perhaps Deming never suspected--there was a good deal he didn't know
about the frame-up that Armstrong put over.  I shouldn't wonder if he
still thinks Armstrong was his best friend that day!  It was the same
day of Dorothy's wedding, you know.  The whole affair was mighty
cleverly done, if you ask me!  No, of course she never knew anything
about it; Armstrong kept the machinery all out of sight.  He sure did
have it running smooth, too."

The voice died away, as the speaker moved off.  Dorothy leaned
forward to see with whom Williams had been talking, but she was too

Here, then, was the old dreadful thought actually put into words!

She had never entertained a definite suspicion, despite Macgowan's
words to her before the wedding.  She had never even dared to think
of such a thing as had now been bluntly laid before her mind.  Her
first impulse was to seek Williams, denounce him as a liar, publicly
settle this calumny before every one.  The fact that his hatred of
Armstrong still persisted, for all his hypocritical friendliness,
infuriated her.

The impulse was swiftly killed.  Doubt killed it; her first doubt of
her husband.

Her mind flew back to the wedding-day, to those words from Macgowan,
to the honeymoon and the little Armstrong had ever said about the
manner in which he had taken over Food Products.  She found herself
recalling little things, hitherto unnoted; words, acts, looks.  Could
there be some truth, after all, in the calumny?  Had Armstrong really
put her father out of the company--was that why he had persistently
remained out?  Williams ought to know, if any one did.

Shame flamed into her--shame, anger at herself for allowing such
thoughts entrance in her mind.  Of course it was a lie, a calumny!
All of it!

For the remainder of that evening, Dorothy was in turmoil.  She made
no mention of all this to Armstrong.  Later, while he slept, she lay
beside him wide-eyed and sleepless, and there fought out the decision
within her own heart.

It did not occur to her that Ried Williams might have directed those
words at her ear, instead of being ignorant that she overheard them.

It was perhaps unfortunate for Dorothy that she had never been one of
the "wise virgins" who predominate in social life.  She was not one
of those charmingly sophisticated damsels who find in wedded life
nothing very new or startling, and who are almost as conversant with
the symptoms and experiences of motherhood before the fact as they
are after it.  Dorothy's education and nurture had all trended in the
other direction; in the direction of old-fashioned delicacy, of
hopelessly antiquated reverence for the facts of life.  With all the
charm of her upbringing, the moderns could have argued that she had
been left a little too ignorant, for to her there were yet countless
mysteries unguessed and depths unfathomed.

Convinced of her own expectant motherhood, it was perhaps for this
reason that she found herself a prey to shrinking timidity, to a
mental fear and terror which had small basis in actual fact.  On some
unremembered occasion, from some half-understood conversation, she
had received an implanted seed which now blossomed and bore dark
fruit.  She firmly believed that a woman in a "delicate condition"
was liable to strange mental reactions, was subject to delusions and
obsessions.  She had a terrible fear lest some such delusion take
hold upon her.

She did not know that this fear might in itself provoke the thing
that was feared.

"I must say nothing of all this to Reese," she thought, firmly
pressing the resolve into her whole self, as she lay there staring
into the darkness.  "I must dismiss it, forget it!  I know that it is
a contemptible lie.  I must never think of it again.  It is too low,
too utterly despicable, too unclean, ever to gain harborage in my
mind.  So is that man Williams.  I shall never think of him again.  I
shall shut my mind to the whole thing; it is unworthy of me, unworthy
of Reese!  Unless I do, it may become an obsession, it may make me
cruel and unjust and may hurt the little one--"

She drew a deep breath, closed her eyes, forced herself by sheer
exertion of will into calm.  And presently she fell asleep, secure in
her resolution.

One cannot, unfortunately, altogether eject a lodger from the cells
of the brain, however unwelcome that lodger may be, as the Freudian
experiences of St. Anthony bear witness.  Its presence may be
forgotten; it may be lulled into sleep; but no writ of ejection is
valid when issued against the brain.

Upon the following morning Deming went downtown to take care of some
last-minute purchases.  He went by street car, since Mrs. Deming had
need of the limousine to distribute her quota of egg-nogg and fruit

Dorothy was to aid in this laudable task, and Armstrong volunteered
to accompany them and to serve as burden-bearer.  It was nearly
eleven when he helped the chauffeur carry out the baskets and
beribboned packages to the car.  Dorothy and her mother were already
leaving the house.

A screech of brakes from the street caused Armstrong to turn.  He saw
a taxicab dash wildly to the curb before the house, the driver
snatching at a greenback extended from the car window.  The door flew
open, and a figure fairly leaped from the cab and began to run up
from the street to the house.

"Hey, Jimmy!" shouted Armstrong in astonishment.  "Jimmy Wren!  Come
around to the side!"

Wren halted, stared about, changed his direction.  Armstrong, here
getting his first sight of the man's face, was inexpressibly shocked.
Wren was white as a sheet, hollow-eyed, upon his countenance the look
of one who has been plunged into some living hell.

"Glad to see you, Jimmy!" exclaimed Armstrong, meeting him with
extended hand.  "But what's the matter with you, old man?  Sick?"

"Got to see you--quick--alone!" panted Wren.  Panic was in his eyes,
and fright, as they roved about.  For a moment Armstrong thought him

"Brace up," he commanded sharply.  "Here's Mrs. Deming--mother, this
is my friend Jimmy Wren.  You've heard me speak of him--"

Wren removed his hat, mumbled something, looked at Dorothy with
terrified eyes, and then turned upon Armstrong a glance of terrible
and unutterable appeal.

"Must see you--quick!"

"I'll give up the trip," said Armstrong to Mrs. Deming.  "Something
must have come up; Wren has news for me.  You'll excuse me?  Come
into the house, Jimmy."

They started inside.  Dorothy, after a word to her astonished mother,
joined them in the doorway.

"I'm staying home too,"' she said simply.  "Has something happened,

Wren uttered a groan.


Jimmy Wren refused to utter a word until behind closed doors.
Armstrong led him upstairs to the library, while Dorothy, discovering
that Wren had eaten nothing since the previous day and had just come
in on the morning train, ordered Uncle Neb to fetch something after

In the library, Armstrong procured a bottle of whisky, poured a stiff
drink for Wren, and forced him to swallow it.  Dorothy closed the

"All set, Jimmy," said Armstrong, watching Wren calmly.  "What is it?"

"Trouble," blurted Wren, desperation in his face.  "Federal
investigation--indictments!  We're all going to be indicted--you and
me, all of us!  By this time there's been a fraud order issued
against us.  The business is wrecked.  We'll be arrested--"

From Armstrong broke a laugh of angry incredulity.

"Man, are you drunk?  What's wrong with you?"

Wren stared at him from terrible eyes.

"What's wrong with me?  I don't know--except that, maybe, I've always
trusted you, Armstrong!  If you've lied to us, deceived us, then
you'll land us all in jail.  Nothing's wrong with me if--if you're
straight.  Nobody knows that except you.  Because I had faith in you,
believed in you, I came straight here--Macgowan didn't want me to,
and said he might get things settled without bothering you--but it's
gone too far.  If they close up the business--"

Armstrong's hand gripped his shoulder and set him back in the chair
from which he had half risen in his excited burst of speech.

"Sit down, Jimmy.  There must be a cursed good explanation of what
you've just said!  Take it easy, now.  Start at the beginning of all
this nonsense.  Let's have all that has happened.  Did Macgowan go to
Washington the night I left New York?"

"Yes.  He didn't know what Findlater was up to.  Nobody did."

Armstrong's eyes glinted.  "Findlater!  What's he done?"

"I guess he was back of that letter from Seattle."

At this moment Dorothy interposed.  She had been watching Jimmy Wren,
a pallor rising in her face.  Now she looked at Armstrong and spoke.

"What letter do you mean?"

Armstrong was burning with anxiety to hear what had happened.  The
business wrecked, indictments in the air, Jimmy Wren in wild
panic--all this meant some disaster out of the blue.  Something
inconceivable had been going on in New York.  He was profoundly
stirred by Wren's almost incoherent words.

It was characteristic of Armstrong that, apparently cool as ever, he
now turned to Dorothy and quietly told her of the letter Macgowan had
received from Seattle.  His poise had an immediate effect on Jimmy

"Why did you keep all that from me?" asked Dorothy.  "Did you forget
that promise you made me, Reese?"

She checked herself.  Something in her eyes frightened Armstrong;
some singular quality in her voice startled him.

"It was not worth bothering you with, dear," he responded.  "It
seemed too trivial, too small!  It was evidently some mistake.  It's
impossible that there could be anything back of it.  Now, Jimmy--ah,
here's Uncle Neb!"

Armstrong rose, brought in the tray of food, set it before Wren.  He
returned to his own chair and lighted a cigar, repressing his
impatience anew.

"Get a bite to eat, Jimmy, and straighten up.  Then let's have the
whole thing."

Wren obeyed, for he was dominated by Armstrong.  After a few bites,
he turned from the tray, to the anxious eyes fastened upon him.

"Mac came back from Washington and said everything was cleared up,"
he began, speaking more calmly now.  "Then, two days ago, Findlater
came into the office and took off the roof.  He had received a letter
from Spokane, like the one Mac got, and he also had a letter from
Washington.  It seems that his name had been used out West, and he
was wild about it--going to sue the Armstrong Company and so forth.

"While we were arguing with him, Macgowan and I, a postal inspector
came in and ordered all our books opened to him.  An investigation is
going on this minute, Reese!  Findlater is behind it all, we think--"

"Hold on," cut in Armstrong coolly.  "The postal authorities don't
investigate any one without cause, Jimmy.  You know, and I know, that
they have no just cause to go after us."

"But they have!" burst out Wren.  "They have!  There are a dozen
complaints, letters from investors!  They say the stock was
misrepresented, that they've been tricked into buying it, that it was
sold them by absolute fraud!  Findlater is trying to have all the
officers of the Armstrong Company indicted for perjury and fraud; he
says he'll spend his last cent to keep his name clear of our doings!
He was going to file suit against the company when I left--why, he
told me he'd land every one of us in jail!"

Armstrong regarded his friend with judicial calm.

"Jimmy, is everybody in the office as badly stirred up as you are?"

"Just about."  Wren made a despairing gesture.  "Nobody knows what to
think.  Macgowan is working hard to protect us.  Findlater swears
that you've double-crossed the company, that you've deceived every
one and are playing a crooked game--"

"Looks to me," said Armstrong, with a slight smile, "as though
Findlater had sort of got your goat, Jimmy!  I suppose he's been
rubbing it in pretty hard, eh?  Doing a lot of talking, eh?  Well,
you listen to me for a minute.  First, when a man talks as much as
all that, he's not particularly dangerous.  Second, what does an
indictment amount to anyway?  Not a thing.  Anybody can trump up
charges and get an indictment."

Jimmy Wren's eyes widened at this.

"But, Reese!  It means ruin--"

"It means nothing," said Armstrong crisply.  "If Findlater is out to
fight us, he can't do any real harm.  What if he does get indictments
issued?  He can't get convictions--and indictments without
convictions mean absolutely nothing.  What does Mac say about it?"

"Mac is scared."

"What?"  Armstrong was astounded and showed it.  Wren continued

"Mac thinks that Findlater and his friends went to work and procured
those complaints, and are behind the whole business.  He thinks they
started the investigation."

"But--did you say that Mac is scared?"

Wren nodded, miserably.  "He told me so.  That's what got me going.
If Mac says we're up against it, then we are!  You know it, too.  Mac
says that Findlater must have made all his plans a long time ahead,
to take advantage of your absence right now, and that he wouldn't
have started this thing unless he had the cards up his sleeve to
finish it.  I tell you, Mac is all up in the air!  By this time a
fraud order may be out against us, and if that's the case, Findlater
can get us all indicted in no time!"

Armstrong glanced at his watch.  It was eleven thirty.  He looked up,
regarded Jimmy Wren with a slight smile, and motioned toward the food.

"Eat, Jimmy; don't say another word, but listen hard.  There's a
train north at twelve five, connecting at Terre Haute with the
Pennsylvania limited for New York.  You're going to be back in New
York to-morrow.  I hate to make you travel on Christmas Day, but it's
got to be done.  Eat, now, and listen."

Indescribably impressed by Armstrong's manner, dominated by this cool
refusal to find his news very terrifying, Wren obeyed the order.
Dorothy sat in silence, her gaze fastened upon her husband.

Armstrong went on speaking, with that same calm deliberation which
acted upon Jimmy Wren like a settling acid that reduced all his
chaotic panic to order.

"There's nothing to be worried over, Jimmy.  Stop and think.  You'll
realize that I have no secrets; the business of the company is
entirely open, and the postal inspector is welcome to pry until
Judgment Day.  The farther he goes, the more convinced he'll be that
we're all right.

"The stock has not been misrepresented by our men.  Anybody can go
out and find some stockholders who can be made to think that they've
been deceived and robbed.  Findlater is a fool to start anything of
this sort; he's settled his own hash, that's all.  Don't worry about
his having any cards up his sleeve.  He has nothing, unless it's more
fraud.  You go back and tell Lawrence Macgowan to keep his head."

Wren stared.  "Aren't you coming?"

"Later."  Armstrong smiled.  He perceived that his own confidence and
quiet certitude had already worked wonders in Wren's heart.  "You go
back and call a meeting of the directors of Consolidated Securities
for Wednesday at eleven.  Give no reason and tell no one that you've
seen me--"

"But they all know I came to see you!"

"Never mind.  Keep your mouth shut, Jimmy.  Tell Macgowan and nobody
else that I shall be present at that meeting on Wednesday morning.  I
want Findlater's resignation as president and director.  I want every
share of his stock bought up or taken away from him.  You and Mac
will use the voting trust to that end.  In the meantime, tell Mac
that if he can logically connect Findlater with this faked-up
trouble, to start suit against him for conspiracy or anything else
that's possible.  Those are your orders."

"Good!" said Wren, his mouth full.  "Fine!  I'll do it.  But I
haven't any money, Reese; I haven't the price of a ticket back!  I
came away in a rush--"

Armstrong laughed, and glanced at Dorothy.

"Dear, will you be good enough to get my pocketbook?  I think it's on
the dresser."

Dorothy nodded, rose, and left the room.  Armstrong's manner had had
its effect upon her too; her pallor had departed, and as she left,
she threw a reassuring smile back at Jimmy Wren.

Suddenly the latter started, looking up at Armstrong with new

"Reese--I forgot about it--meant to write you!  It has nothing to do
with this affair, but it's something you ought to know.  I found it
out the day after you left, while I was going through everything,

"Cool off, Jimmy.  What is it?"  Armstrong passed a cigar across the
table.  "Light that first, then spill the news.  Discovered

Wren nodding, lighted his cigar.

"You remember that when we put Food Products stock on the market, we
simply went ahead and used the issue that Deming's directors had
arranged for?  They had secured licenses from the blue sky
commissioners everywhere, you know."

Armstrong silently assented, his gaze on Wren.

"Well, I found something.  In getting those licenses, Deming's
directorate had sworn to facts regarding the financial condition of
the old company which were untrue.  About those assets we wrote off,
among other things.  They concealed the real shape of the company, in
other words."

A whistle broke from Armstrong.

"Sure of that, Jimmy?"

"Positive.  Nobody knows it, and probably it won't amount to
anything.  I asked Mac about it.  He said to keep mum; that the
Armstrong Company was not involved, and that we couldn't be held
responsible for what Deming's directors had done.  Besides, he
thought there would never be any fuss made over it."

"Mac spoke the truth that time."  Armstrong smiled.  "This is the
first I ever knew of it, but there's nothing to be done.  That
directorate was a sweet bunch of crooks, all right!  We've nothing to
fear from that angle, fortunately.  Well, forget it!  You get back to
New York and don't let any one but Mac know that I'll be there
Wednesday morning."

"Throw Findlater out, eh?" queried Wren, his eyes snapping excitedly.

"Neck and heels.  Clear into the alley."

Dorothy returned, and Armstrong handed Wren a roll of bills.

"I've ordered a taxi," said Dorothy.  "It'll be here in five minutes."

"Good for you, Mrs. Armstrong!"  Jimmy Wren broke into a laugh.  "I'm
mighty sorry for the way I must have startled you.  I was in a panic,
that's all."

"Got over it now?" demanded Armstrong, his eyes twinkling.

"You bet!  I must have been a fool to let Findlater work me up that

Armstrong accompanied Jimmy Wren to the station, and saw him off.
The last state of that young man was considerably better than the
first; whereas he had arrived an hour previously in the depths of
violent and nervous panic, he departed beaming, radiating assured

"Jimmy's all right," thought Armstrong, as he went home from the
station.  "That devil Findlater simply knew how to drive him frantic,
and did it!  No wonder the whole office bunch is scared.  The threat
of indictment is enough to scare anybody who isn't absolutely sure of
his standing.  We'll soon show Findlater where he gets off!"

When Armstrong reached home, Dorothy was waiting for him, and drew
him back upstairs to the library.  He perceived that she was very
serious; but not until they were alone behind the closed doors did
she speak.  Then, turning to him, she took his hands in hers and
looked into his eyes.

"Well?" he asked, smiling.  "Jimmy hasn't scared you, too?"

"No.  Reese, there's something I must say to you now--no, I shan't
sit on your lap!  I have to keep my head clear, and if your arms are
around me I can't think of anything else.  Listen, dear!  Do you
remember our wedding day?"

"I hope so," returned Armstrong whimsically.  "Don't you?"

But her serious, grave eyes did not respond to his flippancy.

"Macgowan was talking to me, Reese, just before that meeting here in
the library.  He went out of his way to say something to me that was
quite needless.  Now, it wasn't at all what he said, but what I could
read in his mind as he said it that made me afraid of him.  What he
said, made me cry.  What I could sense in his thought and his soul,
frightened me!"

Armstrong was frowning.  "Why, lady, this is the first time you ever
mentioned such a thing!  Surely Mac didn't--"

"He said nothing that was wrong, dear; but from that day I have
feared him.  Intuition, if you like.  And now I want to warn you
against him.  That man is no friend of yours, Reese.  He's using you
for his own purposes.  Don't trust him!  Don't let him know your
secrets!  Be on your guard against him, always!"

Armstrong looked into her eyes, and for a moment her intense
earnestness shook him to the very depths.  Then his reason asserted
itself.  He remembered other things.  Could this be a touch of
jealousy?  It could be nothing else.

"Dear lady," he said gently, clasping her hands in his, "I owe a
great deal to Lawrence Macgowan.  You don't ask that I break with him
sharply, for no definite reason?"

"No, no!" she said, and caught her breath.  "Oh, Reese!  It's for
your sake--that's all.  I've nothing to go on.  I can only feel, just
as I have felt from the first, that there is something--something
treacherous and deadly, in him!  I don't want to make trouble between
you.  All I ask is that you be on your guard against him."

"Very well," said Armstrong quietly.  "I'll remember the warning,
Dot.  More than that, I can't say now.  I need Mac now more than
ever, and can't afford to break with him.  But I'll remember your

As she met her husband's intent gaze, Dorothy shivered slightly.
Perhaps she realized how terribly unreasonable and baseless was her
charge; perhaps she realized that Armstrong could not receive it as
she imparted it--that he could not feel her aversion for Macgowan.

She knew that her warning was futile.

"Very well, dear,"' she said, and forced a smile to her lips.  "Did I
startle you?"

Armstrong nodded, gravely searching her face.  "Yes, Dot.  I've never
thought of Mac except as a trusted confidant, a friend who would
never fail me."

"There's only one person who'll never fail you, dear," she murmured,
then started at a sound from below.  "Oh--mother's home!  Don't tell
them about Jimmy Wren's news.  It would only worry them--"

"Then pay me for my silence," exclaimed Armstrong happily.

Dorothy felt again that her warning had been useless.  And she was
right.  As he went downstairs, Armstrong was thinking only of
Findlater--and the following Wednesday.




Mrs. Bird Fowler's apartment reflected, in a high degree, the
personality and beauty of its occupant.  The large living room was
chastely but exquisitely furnished in suspiciously solid mahogany
which had, of course, belonged to Mrs. Fowler's great-grandmother.  A
portrait of the great-grandmother hung over the black marble mantel.
Mrs. Fowler's resemblance to that long-dead belle of the blue-grass
was quite remarkable; the same sweetly curving features, the same
Grecian profile, so purely drawn as to seem chiseled, the same rare
hazel eyes and delicately rippling brown hair.

Jimmy Wren thought of this resemblance as he looked up at the
portrait and waited.  Mrs. Fowler had been summoned to the telephone.
He glanced around, relaxing in the beauty and soft luxury of the
room; the invisible lighting over piano and music cabinet, the quiet
tones of walls and hangings and curtains, the few but excellent

There was not a book in the room.  This was a point, however, of
which the usual guests were quite oblivious.

Jimmy glanced up eagerly as his hostess appeared.  She wore white, as
she usually did; and even now, on Christmas night, she wore it with
flawless taste and distinction that set off the clear beauty of face
and figure.  She came and sat beside him, on the lounge that faced
the fireplace, and stretched forth a hand to the smoking stand.

"You'll not change your mind?" asked Jimmy Wren pleadingly.

"Dear Jimmy, I can't!" she responded, after lighting her cigarette
and sinking back among the cushions.  "And you may stay just half an
hour and no more.  I have my packing to do, and the train goes at
midnight, you know."

"You'll let me see you off, anyhow?"

She smiled as she denied this request.  "You poor boy, you've been
traveling like mad for two days!  I want you to go home and sleep,
not come downtown and fuss around a railroad station when we could
only see each other for a minute."

"By gad," exclaimed Wren, "I don't see why you have to go chasing off
to Tampa like this, just at the time I need you most!  You don't know
how much it means to me to be able to come up here and talk with
you--why, it gets me into another world!  A touch of music, and your
understanding of everything--"

"Confession is good for the soul, they say," and she laughed lightly.
"I don't know, for I'm such an insignificant little person that I
haven't much to confess.  No, Jimmy, I must leave for Tampa to-night;
I have some property down there that has to be attended to at once.
Why don't you take a vacation and run down to Florida too?"

"You know why."  Jimmy Wren shook his head.  "Well, there's going to
be a battle around these parts when Armstrong comes, that's all!
You'll only be gone a couple of weeks?  That's one good thing."

"You'll write me how things go with you?"

"You bet!  Maybe, with Armstrong and Macgowan in action, everything
will be settled very quickly.  You don't know Macgowan?"'

"I have just met him."  Mrs. Fowler carefully shook the ash from her
cigarette.  "He seems to be a very charming sort of man.  I know that
Harry Lorenz thinks highly of him."

"So does everybody," said Jimmy Wren.  "Even Armstrong, who takes
advice from mighty few men, listens with all his ears to Mac."

"He's on your side in this fight, isn't he?"

"Who, Mac?  You bet he is.  I wish I could be as certain of the
outcome as Armstrong is!  There's a real man, I tell you.  Mighty few
like him alive!"

Mrs. Fowler sighed.

"I wish I could encourage you, Jimmy dear," she said softly.  "But
you see, I know so much about this man Findlater and his associates!"

"Eh?"  Jimmy Wren looked up at her.  "You know him?"

"Not personally, no.  But I do wish that you had almost any other man
in town to fight against!  They say that Henry C. Findlater never
opens battle until he has all his wires laid--and then he simply
blows up his opponents."

"He'll have a hard job blowing us up," said Wren, but the worried and
anxious look began to creep back about his eyes.

"Let's hope so!  You know, Jimmy, he's said to be in pretty strong
with the political crowd, both here and upstate.  He's no giant
himself, I gather, but he's in with the big ones.  Wasn't there some
story about his having such a strong pull that he once landed a
prominent banker in the penitentiary--just because the poor man
differed with him?"

"I don't know," murmured Wren.  "Never heard it.  Henry C. is a poor
pill, himself."

"Never underestimate an enemy, particularly in New York, Jimmy--but
there!  All this is silly.  You'll win out, of course, and when I
come home we'll celebrate the victory.  Shall we?"

"You've said something!" declared Jimmy promptly.  "Where?  Sherry's
new place?"

"Anywhere you say."  Mrs. Fowler rose.  "Now, my dear man, I'm
frightfully sorry to send you away--but I'll look forward to seeing
you again.  It was delightful of you to devote your Christmas evening
to a poor lonely--"

"To a goddess, you mean," struck in Jimmy, as he rose and took her
hand in his.  Their eyes met and held, and something that he read in
those hazel depths brought the color to Wren's cheeks.

"Good-by, and come home soon," he said unsteadily, "and don't forget
our celebration.  Oh, I do wish you weren't going!  Won't you change
your mind and stay?"

"I can't."  Her fingers tightened on his.  "But I wish you luck and
success, dear Jimmy!  And it's Christmas night--"

She leaned forward and kissed him, frankly--and Jimmy Wren departed
with a lilt of song in his heart and a shining gladness in his eyes.

Mrs. Fowler went to the telephone in her boudoir, sat down, and
called a number.

"I'd like to speak to Mr. Macgowan, please," she said when the
response came.  And, a moment later, she put her lips to the
telephone.  "Hello, Lawrence?  Is this you?"

"Why, hello!  Merry Christmas to you!" came Macgowan's cheerful,
incisive tones.  "You don't mean that he's back already?"

"Yes.  He'll see you first thing in the morning."

"Things are all right, then?"

"Yes, absolutely.  There's not a shadow of suspicion anywhere.  Henry
C. is the supposed nigger in the woodpile.  And, Lawrence, he's
pitifully easy to work on; I've got him all worked up this minute
about Henry C."

"Fine!" Macgowan's chuckle came over the wire.  "Fine!  You're
getting off to-night?"

"Of course."

"Well, leave the rest to me," said Macgowan.  "I'll have him in Tampa
inside of two days, and the passports will follow as quickly as they
can be rushed down there.  I'll send you a check to cover all
expenses.  Work it any way you like, but get him out of the country,
understand!  A sea voyage to Spain and back will brace you up a
lot--and don't go and do anything foolish, old girl."

"You play your game as well as I play mine, and you'll win," said
Mrs. Fowler with emphasis.

"I believe you," laughed Macgowan.  "Good night, then, and good-by!
I'll not come to see you off; he might be hanging around.  Good-by!"


Mrs. Fowler hung up the receiver, and smiled into the mirror.


Armstrong should have reached New York at nine o'clock on the
Wednesday following Christmas, but his train was forty minutes late.
Dorothy had remained in Evansville, to come East in a few days with
her parents.

At precisely ten o'clock, Armstrong entered his own office.  He sat
down at his desk, shoved aside the waiting pile of mail, drew up the
telephone and asked for Jimmy Wren.  To his astonishment, he was
informed that Wren was out of the city.

"Send Mr. Evarts here," he said curtly.

Evarts was sales manager of the Armstrong Company, under
Wren--another of Armstrong's own men, devoted to him.  Far from being
the nervous, high-strung type of Wren, this Evarts was imperturbable,
well poised, thoroughly alert and aggressive; a good man in all
respects, and substantial.

The door opened and Evarts appeared.

"Where's Jimmy Wren?" demanded Armstrong.

Evarts closed the door behind him and stared blankly.  Then Armstrong
perceived that his face was haggard, seared with the brand of worry
and of sleepless nights.  Evarts came slowly forward, his eyes
fastened upon Armstrong; that gaze betrayed a doubt, a wild anxiety,
tormenting the inner man.

"Jimmy's gone,"' he said slowly.


Evarts waved his hand in vague fashion.

"My heavens, chief!  Don't you know what's going on here?
Everything's paralyzed.  No one knows what to expect, when
indictments will be--"

"Stop your drooling!  Where's Wren?"

"In Tampa, by this time.  On his way to Europe."

"Tampa?  Europe?"  Armstrong was astounded.  "Why, in the devil's

Evarts made a desperate effort, forced himself to comparative

"Skipped out ahead of the crash, that's all.  We're expecting every
minute to have the records seized.  Two postal inspectors were here
yesterday, going into things with Macgowan.  The Wilmington office
'phoned in yesterday to Wren that we could look for a fraud order
to-day, and also for indictments.  Jimmy had a conference with
Macgowan, and skipped out.  Bangs has resigned and gone.  I've been
thinking of it myself, only--"

Armstrong sat back in his chair, and his eyes bit out like steel.

"Where do you fellows think you are--in Sing Sing already?  What's
all this foolery about indictments?  You men ought to know better.  I
sent Wren back here ready to pull off his coat and fight.  What's

Evarts hesitated, flushed, and then broke into impulsive speech.

"You weren't here--that's the main thing!  There was ugly talk
floating all around; one report was that you had skipped.  Nothing
definite has happened; the general idea seems to be that you're a
crook, that you've floated Food Products on a false bottom, and that
there's hell to pay on account of the way the stock's been handled by
our men.  If you think it's easy for a fellow to stick around and
face indictments when the chief is gone, then think again!"

Armstrong sat motionless.  The ghastly humor of all this brought a
mirthless and angry smile to his lips.  Poor Wren fled in blind,
unreasoning panic for the second time; Evarts in a state of funk;
Bangs gone, the heads of the organization shattered and reeling--and
all because of false rumors!  It seemed incredible.  It was
incredible.  There was more in this than had appeared yet.

"What made you stick around, then?" demanded Armstrong.

"Blamed if I know," said Evarts bluntly.  "Because I couldn't quite
get you as a crook, I guess.  Wired you twice yesterday--no answer.
I've been working like hell, going over letters and records.  Can't
find a thing wrong.  I don't know what the postal men have found
wrong either.  But Mac says things look pretty bad for us all."

"Mac?"  Armstrong looked up.  "Findlater, you mean.  It was Findlater
who got Jimmy Wren filled up with dope.  It was Findlater who started
this mess!"

Evarts lifted his brows.

"Maybe so.  But it's Mac who has done the talking, and he's done a
lot of it in the last day or two!  That's what scared the guts out of
us all.  And it's Mac who sent Wren on to Tampa and is getting his
passports to Europe."

Armstrong, bewildered and angry, held himself in check by an effort.

"I ordered Jimmy to call a directors' meeting for eleven to-day.  Did
he do it?"

"Yes.  Findlater mentioned it last night.  He and Mac were talking
about it."

"Evarts, either you're crazy or I am.  Your talk about Macgowan is
past me."  Armstrong reached for his telephone.  "I'll get Mac over
here and--"

"He's in Findlater's office now."

"Go get him, will you?"

Evarts disappeared.  Armstrong lighted a cigar and began to pace up
and down the room, furiously disconcerted.  He could not understand
what had happened or who was his enemy.  He was baffled.  Then the
door opened and he swung around.

On the threshold was Macgowan, debonair as ever, some papers in his
hand.  Evarts was about to enter when Macgowan dismissed him with a
gesture.  Armstrong promptly interfered.

"Hold on!  Evarts, come along in.  Now, Mac, what's been going on

"Reese, this is something for private discussion--"

"Not by a damned sight!  I've nothing to discuss in private,"
exploded Armstrong.  "You come in, Evarts.  Now, Mac, let's have the
whole thing."

After momentary hesitation, Macgowan shrugged slightly and came
forward to the desk.  He calmly drew up a chair and seated himself,
disposed his papers before him, and produced a cigar and lighted it.
Then, casually looking up, he invited Armstrong to be seated.

In this instant, Armstrong beheld a new Lawrence Macgowan.

Gone was all the genial amiability of the man.  Gone was the
brilliant warmth from his eyes, now cold and hard and piercing,
bitterly masterful.  Out of those eyes there looked the real
Macgowan--a predatory, merciless man of steel and iron, armed and
ready for battle.

The sight of this face struck Armstrong like a blow.  He sat down,
wondering yet not suspecting.

"I thought, Mac, that you had attended to this Washington

"I did.  If you want it straight, I caused it."

As he spoke, Macgowan met the gaze of Armstrong with a cold, sneering
challenge in his eyes.  The deliberate cruelty of that regard, its
insolent brutality, gave Armstrong a swift premonition of the truth,
staggered him with its force.  Macgowan went on smoothly.

"You know there's a meeting of the directors of Consolidated at
eleven, Reese."  His voice was level, unimpassioned, stinging.  "Here
are two papers which I wish to lay before the board for immediate
action, if you'll kindly sign them."

Armstrong looked at the typed sheets which were slid over the desk to
him.  He read the words.  Incredulity gripped him; he read them
again, his brain whirling.  Anger surged up in him, he was stupefied
by a frightful bewilderment.

One of those papers was his resignation as a director of
Consolidated.  The other was a cancellation of the contract by which
the Armstrong Company was handling Food Products stock.

He lifted an uncomprehending gaze to Macgowan.

"Mac--what sort of a joke is this?"

"No joke," came the inflexible answer.  It was smoothly deliberate,
that voice.  But the eyes that met Armstrong--the eyes were terrible!
"No joke at all, Reese.  Unless you sign here and now, this letter
goes out to-day.  You had better read it carefully."

He placed a third paper in front of Armstrong.  The latter
mechanically picked it up, read it through with blundering senses.
From the corner, Evarts looked on wide-eyed, not understanding, yet
gripped by the scene.

The letter was signed by Macgowan and Findlater, as attorney and
president of Consolidated Securities.  It was addressed to the
commissioner of securities of Ohio, related various complaints of the
manner in which Food Products stock had been handled by the Armstrong
Company, and charged misrepresentation and fraud on the part of that
company.  It went on to demand a full investigation, a withdrawal of
the license granted Armstrong in Ohio, and full penalties.

"We have affidavits to back up these complaints," went on that deadly
voice.  "A Federal investigation is under way; I caused it, being
satisfied that you were playing crooked.  A fraud order will be
issued against you to-day at my request."

He paused an instant, then proceeded slowly, giving full force to his

"To protect ourselves against you, Consolidated is forced to take
this step.  This letter and similar ones will go out to every state
in which the Armstrong Company operates.  We demand full publicity.
The alternative is your resignation--now.  Either resign, or we show
you up to the whole country as a crook."

Armstrong stared at the letter.  He was dazed, shocked into chaotic

"But this isn't true!  It's damnably false!"  Then he looked up into
those brilliant, pitiless eyes that bored into him, and read the
bitter truth.  A hoarse cry broke from him.  "You--Judas!  Judas!"

The word died on his lips.  Too late, he saw himself betrayed, lured
to destruction by this man whom he had trusted.  A spasm of fury
seized him.  He crushed the letter into his pocket, half rose from
his chair; his hands darted out toward Macgowan, a madness of rage
blinding him--

Barely in time, he mastered himself, controlled the impulse, sank
back into his chair.  Perhaps it was not wholly true, not so bad as
he thought.  Perhaps Macgowan was sincere.

"You can't mean this, Mac!"  That hurt and stricken voice made the
other man wince for an instant.  "You know how false all these
charges are.  If that letter went out--why, it'd mean ruin for me, no
matter how it ended!  That letter, sent out by my own company, would
finish me!  You haven't betrayed me, Mac?  You're not trying to chuck
me out--"

"You poor hick!"  Macgowan took this appeal for weakness.  His voice
seared like acid.  "We're tired of your altruistic vaporings.  We've
endured your bombastic dreams long enough.  We're going to take over
this concern on a business basis.  Here's another paper you may also
sign; an agreement to turn over your Consolidated stock to us.  The
best thing you can do is to fade out quietly.  This meeting at eleven
will blow you up if you don't."

Armstrong quivered under the scornful words.  Then, raging, he came
to his feet.

"All right!  Let's have the meeting--"

Macgowan's cold smile froze the speech on his lips.

"Reese, I'll vote your stock in the best interest of the company.  I
have Jimmy Wren's resignation as secretary.  He has empowered me to
assume his interest in the voting trust, though I don't need it,
since I'll vote with Findlater."

The voting trust!  Armstrong sank back into his chair, doubting no
longer; and the will to fight broke asunder within him.  Macgowan had
betrayed him, with deliberate cold-blooded planning.  Armstrong could
not vote his own stock.  Though Macgowan and Findlater together could
control the voting trust.  Jimmy Wren was safely out of the way--got
rid of!  Armstrong had been stripped of every helper, every aid.

From this instant, Reese Armstrong felt himself lost beyond recovery.
He had been lured into a trap from which there was no escape, no
possible rescue.  A frightful despair overwhelmed him--it was
Macgowan who had done this thing.  Macgowan!  There was the
paralyzing factor.

Not the lies, not the hatred and intrigue, not the threats and
falsity around him, could prevail--but the treachery of his friend.
A profound melancholy gripped him, and he could not fight it away.
Oblivious of those cruelly exultant eyes across the desk, oblivious
of the wondering stare of Evarts, he lowered his head and stared at
the papers before him, with eyes that saw not.

He was absolutely in the power of Macgowan; there was no hope, for he
had depended upon nobody else.  Macgowan, joined to Findlater, held
him powerless.  Trusted and given authority, Macgowan could ruin
him--had already done so!  Swung against him, the voting trust would
smash him, and that letter from the directors would make his ruin

It was the deliberate treachery which struck Armstrong as no other
blow could have done.  It reached into his very soul like a hot
brand, burning everything in its course.  His brain was in chaos.  He
could think of nothing coherent, could plan nothing, could find no
evasion.  He sat broken, his senses reeling, his ability numbed and
stupefied.  And Macgowan, watching with the cruel eyes of a hawk,
smiled upon the ruin of the man whose friend he had been, and knew
the moment had come to strike.

"Sign!" said the inflexible voice.  "Sign--or take your medicine!
Time's up."

Armstrong lifted his head.  Sign!  He could do nothing else.  He was
lost.  Everything was in the grip of Macgowan.  Out of his own soul
all the fight had been crushed.  With fumbling hands, he groped at
the papers.  Anguish blinded him, a bitter surge of despair held him
fettered.  He had no heart left to struggle, or even to evade; he
could do nothing, for his spirit was broken.  He felt a pen thrust
into his fingers, and blindly scrawled his name across the papers.
Then he relaxed and sat with chin fallen on breast.

Macgowan, smiling thinly, gathered up the papers and left the room.

Armstrong did not see the man go.  He sat as in a daze, seeing
nothing.  Somewhere in the back of his brain was throbbing that
warning which Dorothy had tried to impress upon him; the memory only
served to make worse the hurt.

Then, suddenly, he was aware of a hand that clutched his arm, a voice
ringing in his ear.  He looked up, dully, to see Evarts standing over
him in a blaze of excitement.

"Armstrong!  I see the whole thing now--it can't end like this, it
can't!" Evarts cried out the words in frantic tones.  "Wake up, man!
Do something--don't sit there like a fool!  Oh, why the devil did you
sign those papers!  Wake up, chief, I'm with you!  I'll stick till
hell freezes over!  Wake up and tell me what to do."

Armstrong struggled to his feet.  He swayed, caught at the desk,
gathered himself together.

"Nothing to do, Evarts," he said, mumbling the words miserably.
"Nothing to do.  I'm sick.  Let me get out of here--"

Somehow he took his hat and coat and got out of the room, which had
suddenly become hateful to him.


Armstrong went to his hotel room and dropped into a chair.  He felt
the need of being alone.  He was glad that Dorothy was in Evansville,
ignorant of all this disaster.  He wanted no sympathy, no loving
touch; he was in too bitter a mood.

The hours following his interview with Macgowan were the darkest of
his life.  Now that it was all over, the reaction hit him hard.  The
absolute and deliberate falseness of his most trusted friend was so
deadly and incredible that his brain was slow to waken.  This
wormwood was a drug, numbing all his senses save that of inward
torture.  Every thought of Macgowan was a new stab.

Financially he was little injured; the blow went deeper.  He was
stripped of all interest in Consolidated.  Everything to which he had
given his energy and thought was lifted out of his grasp.  He was
left with nothing.  To all that body of nearly sixteen thousand
investors whose confidence had so inflated his pride--he was now less
than nothing.

Dorothy's warning recurred to him, wrenched a wondering groan from
his spirit.  How those clear, cool eyes of her had pierced to the
rotten heart of Macgowan!  If he had only heeded it--if he had only
received it sooner!  Armstrong dropped his face in his hands,
fighting desperately if unavailingly for a foothold on sanity, for a
clear brain.  He could find no outstanding point, nothing on which to
build; tumult and chaos still engulfed him, and the will to do was
dead.  He could think only of Lawrence Macgowan, and his soul was
plunged into a frightful despair.

Slowly he realized what he had lost; slowly he came to a
comprehension of how this astounding treachery had won the fight
against him.  Now that everything was finished, he could by degrees
perceive what a frightful act of folly he had that morning committed.
With a perfectly clean conscience, with nothing whatever to
fear--why, why had he not made some semblance of a fight?  His act in
signing those papers had been the act of a coward, a fool!  He
shivered at thought of himself that morning, shivered at the
remembrance of what he had passed through.

Macgowan, with superb craft and diabolical certainty, had counted on
that very thing, of course; had delivered blow upon blow, each
following close upon the quivering impact of the other; had in fact
brought his whole campaign of treachery to a culmination, had won
everything, almost before Armstrong so much as knew himself in
danger.  Oh, clever, infernally clever, Macgowan!  How cunningly he
had planned, knowing that Armstrong would be stunned, rendered
incapable of fighting, at a loss to do anything!  It was the voting
trust, of course, which had served as the final weapon--

Armstrong started suddenly.  How far back did this duplicity extend?
How long had Macgowan been concerting his treachery around his
control of the voting trust?

This thought electrified him, sent his brain reaching out at last.
The terrible conviction grew upon him that he had been duped from the
start, tricked and played as a pawn from the very outset of his
career in New York!  All this while, he had been building up a
business system in order that Macgowan, sitting back and watching,
might grab it when the time came.

And the time had come.  Consolidated had slipped from his grasp.
Macgowan had set that brain of his to making his own fortune.

Armstrong sat staring before him, fingers twisting and gripping, his
face seamed with drawn lines.  All the cheerful, genial youth of him
was crying out in agony of its hurt from a friend's hand; all the man
of him was wrenched by the realization that another would reap where
he had sowed, that he was in a moment robbed and despoiled of an
institution to which he had dedicated his future life.  The same
stern self-repression which that morning had kept him from gripping
Macgowan by the throat, now held him motionless, his body relaxed,
his brain at work.

Another man would have cursed.  Reese Armstrong thought.

One thing after another--petty and hitherto unregarded details uprose
before his mind's eye in damning surety.  How Macgowan had done this,
had done that; how, for example, that voting trust had been renewed.
Little things, yet all combining to show that Macgowan had planned
his coup long ago.  His confidence in Armstrong had been sincere; he
had believed that Consolidated would succeed.  Therefore he had laid
his schemes, looking to the time when he might seize Consolidated.

And now he had gripped his prey.  But--why?

That pretended distrust of Findlater and the other men!  Armstrong
flinched at the recollection.  Even now, Macgowan and Findlater were
chortling together over their easy conquest.  All the time they had
been playing a deep and crafty game, those two.

But--to what end?

Armstrong stiffened, as the truth smashed him squarely between the
eyes.  They had driven him out, they had shorn him of his power in
Consolidated, they had bludgeoned his chief men and his sales
organization--why?  So that they could loot, of course.  They had let
him put Consolidated squarely on its feet.  Now they would reap the
benefit, careless of what later happened, careless whether
Consolidated blew up, so long as they could loot--loot!

And what would they loot?  Not Consolidated alone.  Not one solitary
financial concern.  This institution stood not by itself, but in it
were bound up the faith and backing of sixteen thousand people.  The
company would be looted, and these investors would be looted.  And
these people had thought that their money would be handled
conservatively, not juggled and played with!

A shiver passed through Armstrong's body.  Then his wide eyes came
back to normal; his tensed muscles relaxed.  A long breath came into
his lungs.  He had found the thing he needed, the mental spur, the
point of departure.

Macgowan had not waged his treacherous fight for the control of
Consolidated Securities alone; not alone had he won the fat corporate
funds, the subsidiary companies, the money-making powers.  This
crafty lawyer, who had not invested a single cent, had also captured
sixteen thousand people, men and women--and they would be milled,
robbed, looted to the very limit!

Armstrong had fought hard to gain the trust of these people.  He had
expended untold energy and money to win their faith.  He had felt
them behind him, the thrust of their will and faith driving him
onward with assured confidence.  And now, now!  They would see in the
newspapers that he was out of Consolidated.  Within a few short weeks
or months they would find themselves helpless, prostrate, unable to
prevent the looting.  Their very faith in Consolidated would be used
to rob them.

It was not what they would think of him that so stung Armstrong, that
stirred him into life and action, that wakened the numbed spirit in
him.  It was the thought of what would happen to them.  He knew well
what would happen, with Macgowan's smoothly accurate hand at the
wheel.  He saw Macgowan in a new light, now.  Their fate would be as
his own--betrayed before they knew it.  And who would fight for them?

A slow, bitter smile curled Armstrong's lips.

"Who will fight for them?  Who can fight for them?  One man, who
failed to put up a fight for himself.  One poor dupe, smashed like a
rotten reed, wrecked largely by his own folly!  But, by the lord,
I'll do it!  My own hand is lost.  I can't win back what I've thrown
away.  But I can fight for the people who trusted me."

Then, for an instant, he faltered.

Again a memory of the little things, the tricks and sly snares, rose
up to jeer at him.  He recalled now how insistently Macgowan had
prevented his bringing Robert Dorns into the affair of that Seattle
letter--with good reason!  Dorns would have discovered the truth,
would have spoiled all the culminative effect of Macgowan's carefully
planned surprise blow.  And how smoothly had Macgowan averted that
danger, only to go to Washington and start his campaign?

So, Armstrong faltered.  How could he fight, after all?  He was
alone, powerless, stripped of all connection with Consolidated.  He
had even agreed to sell his stock to Macgowan; unless he broke this
agreement, he had nothing to fight with.  A struggle now would mean
battle to the death, without quarter; a battle of lies and deceit and
powerfully entrenched men against one man who had nothing at his
back.  Nothing?  Ah!  This one man had behind him the faith of
sixteen thousand people.  Was that a little thing?  "If ye have faith
as a grain of mustard seed ... nothing shall be impossible!"

Suddenly Armstrong rose to his feet, laughed almost happily, and
glanced at his watch.  He crossed the room to the wall telephone.

Three minutes later he had declared war.


Late in the afternoon of this same fateful Wednesday, Armstrong sat
across the desk from that hard-jawed, hard-eyed old man, head of the
Dorns Detective Agency, and told his story.

From the walls around looked down the pictured features of princes
and artists, men of wealth or dignity, distinguished folk in all
walks of life.  These pictures were inscribed to the hard-eyed old
man behind the desk--Robert Dorns.  Some of them he had protected,
some of them he had saved, some of them he had merely served.  For
this man, whose name had been famous for a generation past, life had
no illusions whatever; the husks of pretense were stripped away
before that bitter eye of his, and he perceived only realities.

Behind that powerful, almost brutal, face was a head of intellectual
power.  In that brain reposed secrets unguessed, facts which, if
revealed, would menace and shake the structure of politics and
finance.  This man would never have the satisfaction of writing his
memoirs; for his memoirs, if written, would betray the world.

Armstrong was in this office for an hour.  In that hour, he
accomplished the greatest feat of his career--a feat which few other
men could have duplicated.  In the face of every cynical doubt and
mistrust which must have attacked his listener, he "sold" Robert
Dorns, absolutely and beyond cavil.  He used no appeals, made no
arguments, until he had told his story.  Dorns, chewing on a cigar,
said not a word until Armstrong had finished.  Then:

"Going through with it for the sake of the investors, huh?  Who's
paying the cost of the fight--if you win?"

"I am," said Armstrong.  "I'll make it plain that I'm not fighting to
get any office in Consolidated; I want none.  My stock will give me
control, and that's all I want--unless I have to turn over that
stock.  But that stock is tied up for another three months in the
voting trust, Macgowan must be blocked somehow."

"Humph!" grunted Dorns, the hard eyes boring into him.  "D'you know
that you're up against a real fight?  You are, me lad; no mistake
about it.  This bird Macgowan, now--I know him.  He's hand in fist
with Tammany, and likewise with Albany; any lad who can play both
ends o' that game is a slick one!  What've ye got to fight him with?"

"The trust that sixteen thousand people have in me," said Armstrong

The bitter eyes stared at him, a slow wonder stirring in their
depths.  Then came a startling and incredible speech.

"Either you're a damned fool--or you're somethin' big.  And you're no
fool, me lad.  I'm with you, win, lose or draw.  If we lose, I'll
take no fee; you're the first man in years who has come for my help
in an unselfish cause.  I'm with you, and I'm damned proud to be with
you, me lad!"

Armstrong had not expected such a speech.  The unsuspected quality he
had evoked from this man left him wordless, unable to respond.

"Now," said Dorns with his incisive crispness, "are you going into
this thing alone?"

"Not if I can help it."  Armstrong smiled faintly.  "I've learned my
lesson.  I'll need all the assistance I can get."

"You'll want the best lawyer in the city.  Got anybody?"

Armstrong shook his head.  "I'm a lawyer, but not in Macgowan's

"You'll take my advice?"

"I didn't come here to talk baseball."

Dorns grinned at that, and turned to his desk telephone.  He called a

"Robert Dorns talking; give me Mr. Mansfield," he said curtly.  Then,
after a pause: "Hello!  This you, Q. Adams?  Dorns on the wire.  Say,
did you ever know me to go wrong on a man?"

He paused, chuckled, then went on:

"I'm sending a man up to see you.  Name's Armstrong.  It ain't law he
needs; he's a lawyer himself.  What he needs is you, and all you got!
Him and you and I are going to bust Lawrence Macgowan.  Think we can
do it?"

He glanced over the instrument at Armstrong, a whimsical glance, and

"Willin' to try the impossible, huh?  All right.  When and where?"

An instant later he grunted, pushed aside the telephone, swung his
chair around, and faced Armstrong.

"You go see Quincy Adams Mansfield at seven o'clock, Union League
Club, and talk to him like you've just talked to me, see?  Now let's
get to work, me lad.  This man of yours, Wren.  Where is he?"

"Tampa.  Macgowan has him on the way to Europe."

"Want him back?"


"He'll be here on the next train.  What's my first job?"

"Go after this fool investigation," said Armstrong promptly.
"Macgowan started it as part of the scheme to scare me.  Kill it."

"I'll take care of that," said Dorns grimly.  "This bird has sent
around to a bunch of stockholders and persuaded 'em to sign
affidavits; it's easy done, me lad.  Sell a man a ten-dollar gold
piece for a dollar, and somebody can make him think he's been
swindled.  Now, I'll handle this with Q. Adams, and we'll see it
through.  Your letter files, instructions to agents, and a few
questions to the disgruntled guys--it's a pipe!  I'll knock that
investigation sky high.  What next?"

"I don't know yet," said Armstrong.  "The annual meeting of
Consolidated will take place the first Monday in April--the third.
The voting trust will have expired then."

"You'll not turn over your stock to Macgowan, as you agreed?"

"No!"  Armstrong's jaw set.  "The agreement was signed through fraud.
I'll refuse to keep it.  If I kept it, Consolidated would be
absolutely gone!"

"Humph!  In three months he can loot hell out of the company anyhow.
Now, I want some operatives scattered through that place of yours by
to-morrow night.  Who does the hiring, anybody you can trust?  I want
to keep tabs on Macgowan."

Armstrong mentioned Evarts, who would be able to place the operatives.

"All right.  Now, what you got to be afraid of in the past?"


"Aw, come clean!  Macgowan is goin' to rake hell with a fine-toothed
comb the minute he gets wise that you're after him.  Where'd you come
from?  Ever arrested?"

Armstrong laughed.  "No."

He gave a brief sketch of his life to date.  When he had finished,
Dorns nodded.

"You're lucky, me lad.  Well, I guess we're all set to go!  Work out
some plan of action with Mansfield.  When I get Wren here, we'll
start to use our heads; meantime, get Q. Adams to work."

Armstrong had entered Robert Dorns' office with the feeling of a
crushed and overwhelmed man fighting against fate.  He left with
something of his old self restored.  Once more he was cool,
level-headed, clear-brained.  He was no longer daunted by his
situation.  The worst of the blow was past; now there remained to

At seven that evening, he entered the Union League Club.  Mansfield
joined him in the reception room, shook hands, and led him to the

"Come to one of the library rooms, where we can talk in peace."

In the small, narrow room where books crowded to the ceiling,
Mansfield took one of the easy chairs across from Armstrong.  Between
them was the glass-topped table with its bronze fittings, its racks
of writing equipment.  Mansfield laid down cigars, settled himself

"I'm ready," he said laconically.

Following the advice of Dorns, Armstrong repeated his tale as told to
the detective, giving his story completely and briefly.  He realized
that Mansfield was studying him the while, though he could not tell
what impressions the man gained.

Quincy Adams Mansfield, one of the most celebrated yet least-known
attorneys of the city, with a practice that was very exclusive, was a
non-committal person.  His manners were like Findlater's:
authoritative, impervious, slightly offish.  The great width of the
eyes and brow, however, showed quite another sort of man here, and
the steady gaze was deliberate and judicial.  He said not a word
until Armstrong had concluded.  Then he spoke quietly.

"That letter which Macgowan threatened to send out.  You haven't it,
I suppose?"

When Armstrong felt in his pockets, Mansfield's brows lifted.  He
took the letter, glanced over it, then looked up.  For the first
time, his features warmed in the semblance of a smile.

"I congratulate you on the possession of this letter," he said drily.

"Why?  It was only by chance that I retained it."

"Really?"  Mansfield laughed a little.  "The cleverest man is bound
to slip up; it is astonishing that Macgowan let you keep this letter.
With it to aid us, we shall apply for the removal of Macgowan,
Findlater and these other men from the control of Consolidated
Securities, and ultimately we shall jail them for conspiracy and
criminal extortion."

Armstrong started.  Fool that he was to call himself a lawyer!
Undoubtedly this letter was actionable, yet he had preserved it by
the merest chance.  And Macgowan had been so filled with triumph that
he had overlooked--

"It is regrettable," came the precise voice of Mansfield, "that you
allowed yourself to be coerced, but I can quite understand your
situation.  There is no doubt that the charge of fraud and
misrepresentation can be met by your own documents, and the testimony
of your subordinates?"'

"None.  There's absolutely no ground for complaint from any investor.
Put a few on the stand and you'll see how quickly they'll backwater."

"Then you have virtually nothing to fear from that quarter."
Mansfield tapped his pince-nez on his fingers, reflectively.  "You
will not make delivery of your Consolidated stock to Macgowan,
naturally; an agreement made under duress is not binding, legally or
morally.  Macgowan, in the face of our charges, will not dare to
force a delivery."

"But will a jury believe," queried Armstrong, "that I'd be fool
enough to submit to extortion, when I was perfectly innocent?"

The lawyer smiled, as though from a weary knowledge of mankind.

"My dear sir, that action was forced by Macgowan's control of the
voting trust; and, further, by your state of mind upon discovery of
his treachery.  Every man in the world has at some time been betrayed
by the friend he trusted; such, at least, is the supposition upon
which I shall go.  One or two men on a jury will certainly have had
such an experience."

Armstrong nodded, then produced an evening paper.  "Here's a little

He found the column which he had marked, and handed it to Mansfield,
who read over carefully a report of the special meeting of
Consolidated's directors that morning.  The resignations of both Wren
and Armstrong had been promptly acted upon, and a shift of officers
had taken place, leaving Findlater as president but putting in
Macgowan as secretary and treasurer.  Mansfield returned the paper
without comment.

"You think we have a chance to win, then?" asked Armstrong.

"Some day--yes."  Mansfield frowned.  "That phrase covers a good deal
of time, Mr. Armstrong.  We shall have to meet every legal twist and
turn, every subterfuge, every possible form of corruption, even;
further, we shall find strong political influence arrayed against us.
The petition for removal of Macgowan and Findlater must go before the
state's attorney general at once.  In the end, we shall win."

"In the end!" repeated Armstrong, dismayed.  "But before April third,
at least?"

"Not before April of next year, or the next, or perhaps the year
after," declared the lawyer gravely.  "You may expect to be attacked
most bitterly in every possible quarter.  Macgowan may even manage to
have that voting trust continued after its expiration, I warn you.
But, if I find things as you have related them, we shall ultimately
break this man Macgowan.  Do you wish to go ahead?"

"Yes," said Armstrong.  "Do you wish to handle the case, and also to
act as counsel for me in general?"

"I should esteem it a privilege," said Quincy Adams Mansfield.  "What
is your plan of campaign?"

Until this moment, Armstrong had entertained no plan.  But now:

"I'll establish the Armstrong Company in new offices, across the
street from Consolidated.  I'll open a fight upon the present
directorate, as soon as Dorns learns what they're doing.  A good many
of my own men over there will resign when they discover what's taken

"One moment, please," intervened Mansfield.  "Didn't you mention
Judge Holcomb as one of your directors?"

"Ostensibly, yes.  He has never taken a very active part in affairs.
He is elderly, and has rather given up active business."

A singular smile twisted the lawyer's lips.

"I know Judge Holcomb very well, Mr. Armstrong; we are friends of
long standing.  Old as he is, no man has a more reputable position,
and no man can fight harder.  I suggest that the entire truth be laid
before him at once, and his help invited by you."

"I'll do it," assented Armstrong.  "Now, I propose making an active
campaign to reach each individual investor in Consolidated
Securities.  Of course, I have as yet no direct proof that Macgowan
and his friends mean to loot the company; once that proof is secured,
I'll go ahead strong."

Mansfield nodded.  "Very well.  Get your campaign mapped out and make
all your plans.  I shall see Robert Dorns when he gets this man Wren
back to town, and we shall decide upon things.  Until you hear from
us, secure Judge Holcomb to our side and await events."

Armstrong returned to his hotel feeling rejuvenated, a new man in
very fact.  The sense of crushing defeat was clean gone from him.
True, the defeat was no less severe, yet the sting was out of it.
Now he would fight!

He went to bed and slept, a smile upon his lips.  When he wakened, it
was to see Dorothy at his bedside, sitting there watching him.  He
stared dazedly, then sat up in astounded wonder.

"A telegram came from Evarts just after you left for New York," she
said quietly.  "I read it, and knew there was trouble.  So I came."

"Thank God for you!" said Armstrong, and pressed her fingers to his
lips.  "Yesterday I--I was glad you were not here.  But now I can
tell you about it."

"Let's go home first, dear."


Within four days, the Armstrong Company was established in new
offices directly across the street from the stronghold of
Consolidated Securities.  The separation was not accomplished without
pain, and considerable effort as well.

There was no objection from Consolidated; could be none.  Bickering
in the parlor was echoed below-stairs, however; a violent controversy
raged through the offices between Armstrong's men and those whom
Macgowan had attached to himself.  Among these latter, Armstrong
found some of his own experts ranked.  His disillusionment was
rapidly becoming complete.

Judge Holcomb, being made acquainted with full details, quietly
resigned from the directorate of Consolidated; an occurrence which,
though passing without great comment, was destined to have momentous
results later.

Jimmy Wren returned.  He was contrite and exceedingly ashamed of his
flight, without knowing exactly how it had come about, except that
Macgowan's suggestions had prevailed.  When he learned all that had
happened, he set forth to hammer Macgowan with his fists; Armstrong
checked this impulse with peremptory words, and Wren soon forgot past
things in a furious rush of work that lasted into the next week.
Indeed, this work involved in the change of offices was a godsend to
Armstrong himself.  For, even following Wren's return, he heard
nothing from either Dorns or Mansfield.  When he impatiently called
up Mansfield, he was told to be patient and wait for further notice.
And the notice did not come.

This silence endured over the week-end and New Year's Day.  To
Armstrong, the suspense of those few days at length became horrible.
The mere fact that he was doing nothing, taking no action against
Macgowan, grew portentous in his mind beyond its true value.  He
could work out no plan of campaign until hearing further from
Mansfield and Dorns; meantime, he had made a dozen plans and could go
ahead with none of them.

Doubts assailed him, strange doubts and suspicions of those two men.
The deliberate unmasking of Macgowan had shaken his faith, shaken his
confidence in himself and in his judgment of other men.  He began to
imagine that Dorns had lied to him, that Mansfield lacked interest.
Perhaps Macgowan had approached them!  This last thought terrified

Nor was it an inconceivable thought.  He knew now what had been going
on during his absence in Evansville over Christmas.  Nothing was seen
of any postal inspectors at the new offices, nothing further was
heard of any proceedings; yet Macgowan had set that investigation
afoot, had caused it in Washington.  The letter from Seattle had been
a blind, a mere nothing, written at Macgowan's dictation.  Armstrong
was rapidly getting a true focus on the _modus operandi_ of his
former friend.

With work to occupy him, Armstrong was all right; out of the office,
he became a prey to despondency.  His initiative was blocked.  He
brooded over the silence of Dorns and Mansfield, tried to force his
mind to other things, and succeeded only indifferently.  In those
black days it was Dorothy who kept him balanced, who restored the
threatened loss of control and poise, devoting herself to meeting the
danger.  She kept his thoughts off Macgowan as much as possible.
Before the arrival of her parents for a short visit preceding their
trip to Europe, she insisted that Armstrong make no mention to the
Demings of his altered affairs.

"But I'd like to have your father's advice, Dot!" he expostulated.

"You'll get advice from Dorns in due time."  She saw his face darken
at this, and went hurriedly on.  "Besides, father would give up his
trip and stay right here to fight it out beside you--and he must have
the voyage.  He needs the vacation; he needs to learn all over how to
play.  And I don't want their visit spoiled by a lot of worry, dear;
we want them to have a good time."

"All right," agreed Armstrong.  "We'll say nothing about it all."
Yet he was aware that Dorothy's pleading was largely for his own
sake, and to keep him off the subject while at home.

On the following Monday, Armstrong received a telephone request from
Mansfield that he send Wren over to the latter's office at once.  The
lawyer was curt and noncommittal, or so Armstrong fancied.  Wren did
not return before Armstrong left for home, nor was there any chance
to see Wren in the morning, for the Demings were to arrive by an
early train and Armstrong motored in with Dorothy to meet them.  His
worry had redoubled.

The train was late.  Armstrong left Dorothy at the train exit and
went to a telephone booth.  He called the office, discovered that
Jimmy Wren was out--and that Robert Dorns had left a call there for
him.  Two minutes later he thrilled to the voice of Dorns.

"Hello, Armstrong!  Can you come over to Mansfield's office at three
this afternoon?"

"You bet!  Any news?"

"Nope.  I'll have some by that time, though.  So long."

When Armstrong rejoined Dorothy before the train exit, her eyes
widened at sight of his radiant face.  She seized his arm eagerly.

"Reese!  What is it?  Good news?"'

He smiled.  "Conference this afternoon with Dorns and Mansfield."

"Now!  Aren't you ashamed of the way you've worried?  Reese, there's
something that has just occurred to me.  You remember Muirhead, that
Western man we met at the Grays' on Christmas day--the one who was
telling about the Stockmen's Protective Association?  I think that
was the name of his cattle organization--"

Armstrong nodded.  "Sure.  What about it?"

"Why, it suggested something to me!  Last night, you were talking
about forming some organization of the stockholders to fight
Macgowan.  Couldn't you give it that very name--Stockholders'
Protective Association?  It's a splendid name!"

"Good!"  Armstrong's eyes kindled.  "Fine idea, Dot!  Sure, I'll take
up the idea, and if Mansfield approves--but here comes the crowd.
Train's in."

"Oh--there's father--Reese, don't you dare breathe a word of trouble!"

The Demings joined them with hearty greetings.  J. Fortescue Deming
clapped his son-in-law on the shoulder admiringly.

"Reese, you're looking like a fighting-cock!  When Dot left us so
hurriedly, I had a notion you were in some sort of a business fight.
Win out?"

"Well, I'm winning!"  Armstrong laughed as the words left his lips.
He knew suddenly that he was all right again, that he was indeed
winning.  After those few words from Robert Dorns, ten minutes ago,
the clouds had lifted.

The faith of men still endured.

When he entered Mansfield's office, at three that afternoon,
Armstrong discovered that the lawyer had not been idle these past few
days.  Mansfield greeted him heartily; Dorns had not yet arrived.

"Well, Mr. Armstrong, I have some definite word for you.  That postal
investigation is no longer to be feared."

"I never feared it."  Armstrong smiled.  "You have blocked it, then?"'

The other assented.  "Yes, dependent upon my production of certain
evidence.  I have got this from Mr. Wren; the rest is a matter of
routine.  You've had no further trouble?"

"None.  I've been awaiting word from you and have kept quiet."

"Good.  Judge Holcomb should be here at any moment now."

"Holcomb?"  Armstrong's brows went up.  He had not seen the judge
since the latter had resigned from Consolidated, and had fancied him
out of town.

"He has been lending me some assistance in this affair," said
Mansfield.  "Ah, here's Dorns now!  He seems to bear tidings."

Robert Dorns appeared.  He came into the room, stopped, regarded them
with an expansive grin, and waved his unlighted cigar.

"By glory, we got 'em!" he uttered.  "We got 'em cold!"'

Armstrong leaped to his feet.  "How?  Why?"

"Consolidated had a directors' meeting this morning.  Macgowan and
Findlater got into the trough with both feet--back salaries, fees,
and so forth--they only touched the treasury for about thirty-five
thousand!  How does that suit you, Q. Adams?"

During the amazed silence that greeted this information, Judge
Holcomb entered and was apprised of the news.

Dorns had reliable word of the directors' meeting from one of his men
now employed by Consolidated; his guarantee of satisfactory evidence
later on was more than sufficient for his auditors.  Mansfield, quite
aware of Armstrong's leashed eagerness, interrupted the discussion.

"Gentlemen, one moment!  This audacity is astounding.  What do you
think should be done, Mr. Armstrong?"

"We'll have to direct our fight at Findlater," said Armstrong.
"Macgowan has left him in as president in order to use him as a
shield and figurehead.  The only way we can hit at Macgowan is
through Findlater.  Do you think we can have him removed on the
strength of this looting, or both of them?"

"Certainly--but not before April.  We must not conceal from ourselves
Macgowan's ability to use the law.  The eyes of Justice are hooded,
unfortunately, and we cannot expect haste from the legal machinery."

"Then," said Armstrong, "I'll tell you what I propose doing, and get
your advice; it looks as though we must make up our minds to a long
fight.  First, we must take all personalities out of the fight.  I
want to figure in it as little as possible.  There will be an
understanding that I am not fighting for any office in Consolidated;
this fact will serve tremendously in retaining for us the confidence
of the stockholders."

Holcomb and Mansfield nodded tacit assent.

"Now," went on Armstrong, "I don't want to climb on any pedestal of
altruistic virtue.  I suggest that we form a Stockholders' Protective
Association, composed of all the Consolidated investors we can round
up.  At the head of this, place a committee of three men, of whom I
suggest Judge Holcomb as one.  The others may be selected later.
From now until the annual meeting on April third, let this
association carry on a campaign of publicity against the Consolidated
looters, particularly against Macgowan, since he's the power behind
Findlater.  Make clear that this campaign is not directed against
Consolidated, but for Consolidated.

"While Mr. Mansfield is at work with Mr. Dorns, let us reach every
investor in the company through this association; hold meetings,
write letters, reach them by every means!  Use the radio.  The
Armstrong Company publishes a monthly pamphlet for its _clientèle_,
and this pamphlet may be distributed to reach the entire list of

"With what object?" interjected Judge Holcomb.

"That of obtaining their proxies for use at the annual meeting."

This unexpected retort brought a new and frowning attention to the
eyes of his auditors.  He went on quickly.

"Oh, I've given up hope of a quick fight!  We'll not down Macgowan in
a hurry.  Judge, your thousand shares of common are tied up in that
voting trust, along with mine; Macgowan is going to fight to keep
that voting trust from being dissolved a few days before the meeting,
I'm afraid.  We must take no chances.  I have some stock outside the
voting trust.  We must campaign for votes and leave no effort
unexpended.  We have something definite to go on, now.  How much of
that thirty-five thousand was voted for back salaries, Dorns?"

The detective shook his head.  "No details yet.  Get 'em in a day or

"No matter," put in Mansfield, a gleam in his eye.  "Back salary in
any amount is illegal."

"Exactly," went on Armstrong.  "That's my scheme,
gentlemen--publicity!  We have nothing to conceal; they have
everything.  I have written agreements from these men to act without
salary for three years, and the time isn't up by a long shot.  We
must count largely upon Mr. Dorns to supply evidence from the books
of Consolidated, as we go along, in regard to what Macgowan does; but
we can obtain information without much trouble.

"I can prophesy one thing that'll be done soon.  Findlater has a
friend with some scheme for refining turpentine, which I rejected as
a wild dream.  The new directorate will finance this scheme, mark me!
We shan't lack ammunition.  The main thing is to reach every investor
quickly, giving him the truth about the new management and what can
be expected of it."

There was a moment of silence.  Judge Holcomb fingered his gray beard
frowningly.  Mansfield was gazing reflectively at the ceiling.  Dorns
chewed hard on a cigar.  The silence was at length broken by Holcomb.

"By gad, Armstrong, that plan is excellent!  You may count on me to
the limit.  Whom else shall we call in to form this Protective

"Me," said Dorns.  The others looked at him.

"You?" said Armstrong.  "But you're not an investor--"

"Is that so, huh?"  Dorns held out his cigar and grinned.  "I bought
me five hundred shares of Consolidated on Saturday!  I know a good
thing when I see it, or when somebody hits me over the head like you
did last Wednesday.  Yep, you count me in, see?"

"I suggest," said Mansfield in his quiet way, "that Mr. Armstrong and
Judge Holcomb take up this association matter between them.  I shall
at once apply for the removal of Findlater and Macgowan, and shall
confer with you to-morrow, Mr. Armstrong, regarding the extortion
charge.  Judge, an excellent man to serve on your committee would be
Frederic Bruton, the president of Baliol University--a man of the
very highest character and reputation, well known through the East,
and if he could be induced to serve--"

"He can," put in Armstrong.  "He was one of my professors at college.
I know him well, and shall run up to Baliol the end of the week and
see him."

"In that case, sir, you may make such use of my name as you deem
proper,"' said Mansfield unexpectedly.

Armstrong looked at these men--the burly detective, the attorney, the
retired financier and judge--and found himself all at once wordless.
He remembered the wreck he had been only a few days previously; yet
now these men were with him, supporting him not only with their
effort and money, but with their names and reputations.

"Gentlemen," he said abruptly, "I--I don't know how to tell you how I
appreciate your confidence in me--"

He broke off abruptly as he had begun.

"Don't mention it, Armstrong--our confidence is in you because you
stand for something," said Judge Holcomb.  He added, a smile twisting
at his lips: "I don't mind saying, too, that Macgowan's law firm
handed me a mean jolt a year or two ago, and I haven't forgotten it
by a good deal!  Maybe I'm not altogether altruistic in this affair."

"Oh, hell!"  Dorns rose.  "Macgowan's a crook and we know it.  So
long, gentlemen!  See you again, Armstrong."

The conference had ended.  The fight had begun.


Dorothy's parents remained only a few days at Aircastle Point, as
their visit was no more than a stop-off en route to Europe.  While it
was not in the nature of things that they should remain entirely
ignorant of Armstrong's business trouble, they were far from
comprehending its scope or gravity.  Armstrong himself defined it to
Deming as "a general shake-up," and no more was said on the subject.

On the last evening of their stay, Mrs. Deming confided a secretly
cherished ambition to Dorothy.  This was at the dinner table.

"You know, dear, when your father and I used to come to New York, we
always went to the Waldorf.  I'd like to go there again--couldn't we
take luncheon there to-morrow?"

Dorothy turned eagerly to her father.  He smiled and shook his head.

"I'm lunching with Reese and a friend of his to-morrow; sorry!  We go
aboard at four, you know.  Can we change it, Reese?"

"Not very well," said Armstrong.  "Judge Holcomb wants us at the Phi
Gam club--it's a birthday luncheon in his honor.  Suppose we get away
early and meet you at the Waldorf?  You can lunch there, and we'll
spend an hour with you looking over old ground and reviving honeymoon
recollections.  That right, J. Fortescue?"

"Honeymoon is correct."  Deming laughed.  "Mother has a positive
affection for the Waldorf--eh, my dear?  Will the program suit you?"

Thus it happened, on the following day, that Dorothy and Mrs. Deming
entered the Waldorf together about one o'clock.  Scarcely were they
inside, when a pleasurably astonished voice greeted them with eager

"Why--Mrs. Deming!  Dorothy!  This is a joyful encounter sure enough!"

It was Pete Slosson.

"You-all must lunch with me--please!" he went on quickly.  "I'm
lonely; don't know a soul around here--and then you turn up!  Will
you befriend a stranger?  Please!"

Mrs. Deming, who had always rather liked Slosson, was quick to
accept, and Dorothy had no reason to decline.  True, Slosson was
associated in business with Ried Williams, and since that country
club dance she had felt detestation and even hatred for Williams;
but, in her eyes, Slosson had ever been no more than an impulsive
boy, too abundantly endowed with youth and vitality for his own good.

Slosson secured a window table.  Dorothy sat with her back to the
room, before her all the passing pomp and glitter of the Avenue,
while Mrs. Deming chose to enjoy the dining-room itself.  Their host
was obviously on his best behavior.  Usually there was in Slosson's
bearing a good deal of self-consciousness; he liked to pose a little.
To-day, the meeting was so unexpected that he revealed himself
sincerely enough.

Dorothy was rather glad of the meeting.  She had known Pete Slosson
all her life.  In the way of women, she saw him not as men saw the
real Pete Slosson.  She saw only the better part of him, lying far
underneath the surface--the man of dreams and might-have been.

Once she had even fancied herself in love with him.  Dorothy could
not forget this; she did not have it to forgive, since Slosson had
never known it.  Because he had been genuinely in love with her, she
held him in some measure of friendship and sympathetic regard.

"I'm glad you're doing so well in Indianapolis, Pete," she said
frankly.  "Are you often in New York?"

"No, unless something special comes up.  I got in last night, and am
leaving again to-night--I've no time for frivolity any more.  When I
come, it's on business that demands quick action."

"You're certainly looking in fine shape!"  Dorothy regarded him with
a smile.  "You seem a lot more human, Pete!"

Slosson colored a little.  "Well, I've come more in contact with
people, for a fact," he said awkwardly.  "It's hard to explain--"

"No, it isn't!" she countered.  "You're in constructive business,
Pete.  Happiness always comes to the builder, don't you think?  Only
a positive and constructive person can perceive the real good in
things and people--"

She checked herself abruptly, conscious that some one had come to a
stop almost behind her chair.  She saw Slosson glance up and change
countenance.  Then a genially maudlin voice broke in upon her--a
voice whose liquor-tinged accents sent a shiver through her whole

"Hullo, Slosson!  In town and throwing a party, eh?  By gad, old

Dorothy turned her head.  Her inquiring gaze met the eyes of
Macgowan.  His words died out, and for an instance there was dead

Macgowan was sobered by his incredible and ghastly error.  For once
his glib tongue was daunted; under Dorothy's gaze, a slow, deep flush
crept into his cheeks.  Sweat started upon his brow.  Dorothy
regarded him calmly, without apparent recognition.

"Why, it's Mr. Macgowan!" exclaimed Mrs. Deming.

"Yes," echoed Dorothy, still gazing at him.  "Yes, it's Mr. Macgowan,
the liar and traitor, the Judas who betrayed his friend.  He seems to
have been celebrating his treachery, to judge from his voice.  I
suppose we should diagnose his ailment as spiritual leprosy.  Be
careful you're not infected, Pete!  I'd be sorry to think of you as
being in the same class with this man."

She calmly turned her back on Macgowan.  The effect of her impersonal
arraignment was frightful.  A mortal pallor in his face, Macgowan
managed a slight, stiff bow, turned, and went his way.  Under the
circumstances, that bow was more than a parting gesture; it was an

Mrs. Deming was staring at her daughter with horrified eyes.

"My dear!  You simply can't realize what you're saying--"

"Nonsense, mother.  This man Macgowan has tried his best to ruin and
disgrace Reese, betraying all the trust that was placed in him.  He
can't do it, but he has made trouble.  Now, don't worry!  I know what
I'm saying, and I'm glad I had the chance to say it to his face.
After this, he won't be quite so free and easy when he sees his
friends dining in public.  He made a mistake to-day that he'll
remember--drunk or sober!"

"See here, Dot!" exclaimed Slosson hurriedly, almost too hurriedly.
"Don't call him a friend of mine!  I hardly know the man; haven't
seen him since your wedding!"'

Dorothy, instantly contrite, reached out and quickly patted his hand.

"I didn't mean to be catty, Pete; honest!  If I had thought you and
he were friends, I'd not be sitting here with you, be sure of that!
And mother, please stop looking so disconcerted!  Macgowan has passed
out of our lives, that's all."'

Slosson drew a quick breath, gazed at her admiringly.

"By the lord, Dot, you sure handed it to him!  And the look on his
face when he saw you!  Well, I don't know the circumstances, but I
should say that no matter what he did to Reese, you've repaid a good
share of it to-day!"

Dorothy smiled.  "I tried to.  Mother, please don't say anything
about this to Reese."

Mrs. Deming sighed and assented, her eyes troubled.

"Very well, dear.  I'm dreadfully sorry to learn about this.  I can
realize, too, how you and Reese must feel.  Your poor father felt the
same way when he found Food Products wrecked and lost to him."

Dorothy turned pale.  Slosson fumbled with his cigarette case.  Mrs.
Deming, quite unconscious of the effect produced by her perfectly
casual words, sipped her tea.

"What do you mean, mother?" asked Dorothy in a strained voice.  "You
don't mean that--that any one was to blame for father's losing the
company?  Why, I thought he was so delighted over the way Reese
handled it!"

Mrs. Deming quickly assented.

"So he was, child, of course!  No, no one was to blame--and your
father never let anybody dream that he was hurt.  But I could see how
he felt it.  Now, we must not talk about such things any more.  Let's
everybody be bright and pleasant!  This is our last day in the United
States--and I'm sure we'll be miserable enough in Europe without
borrowing trouble here.  I just know the house will be in dreadful
shape when we get home!"

Dorothy glanced at Slosson, who was lighting a cigarette.  For a
moment his eyes met hers, and in them she read a startled uneasiness.
It frightened her.  So did his words, despite the smile upon his lips.

"That's right, Mrs. Deming--never mind what's past and gone!  Let the
dead bury their dead, eh?  Only stirs up trouble and does no good, to
rake over the past."

Dorothy glance at her watch.  "Mercy!  We must meet father and
Reese--come along, Pete!  They'll be delighted to see you.  We're to
meet them in the parlors--"

"For a moment only."  Slosson rose.  "I'm overdue now for an
appointment, Dot.  I'll come along and shake hands, then duck."

It did not occur to Dorothy to ask with whom he had an appointment.
And Slosson certainly had no intention of volunteering that it was
with Lawrence Macgowan.

As a matter of fact, Dorothy could think only of one thing--those
words, so terrible because so innocent, which her mother had uttered.
With this, the air and speech of Slosson, as though he too knew some
dread secret in regard to Food Products and the manner in which it
had changed hands.

She had seized the opportunity afforded her by Macgowan with an avid,
fierce exultancy.  Now this was all fled.  Upon her spirit settled
the old haunting terror, with the clear-cut vividness of some
horrible dream.  Was the thing possible, after all?  Could there have
been any truth in those malicious words of Macgowan, the day of the

Here at last she had definite knowledge of how her father had
regarded his practical expulsion from Food Products.  Now, as she met
her father and Armstrong, as Slosson made his greetings and
farewells, she was scarcely conscious of what passed; her eyes went
from her father to her husband, searching and probing.  What was it
that Slosson knew?  What was there that she did not know, about that
change of management?

Or was it all imagination?  Now, as that night in Evansville, she
found herself fighting doubt with doubt, distrust with distrust.
Here in the hotel, on the way to the steamer, in the stateroom
itself--again and again she was impelled to speak out, to utter
everything, to force a complete understanding.  Yet she dared not.
What had she to utter?  Suspicion.  Suspicion--of her husband!  It
was unthinkable.  Each time the temptation came, pride and love--love
most of all--exorcised the thought.  In her father's face she read
the lines of hidden hurt; or was it all her own fancy?  Tormented,
doubtful of herself, she held her peace.

And now that other fear returned upon her, the fear upspringing from
knowledge of the life beneath her heart.  Was it possible that she
was allowing some unnatural obsession to prey on her mind?  She
dreaded this possibility, dreaded it unspeakably!  And now, as
before, she struggled against it all, fought desperately with heart
and soul and mind against it.

When she and Reese had waved the last adieu and were being driven
back through the city, Armstrong talked of things that had occurred
that morning.  He was enthused, beaming, radiating energy and

"Your Stockholders' Protective Association is now a fact, lady!" he
declared happily.  "Judge Holcomb is to head the committee of three;
we've written President Bruton of Baliol and I'm to run up there
to-morrow and see him, and if possible secure him for second place.
And for the third man, whom do you think we've secured?  Rupert

"What!"  Dorothy was startled out of her troubled train of thought.
"Sessions--the lecturer and novelist?  The man who wrote all those
business novels?  Why, he lectured in Evansville just before we were

"The same!"  Armstrong laughed in delight.  "Some one found that he
was a stockholder and lived just outside town.  We had him up at the
office this morning, laid everything before him; he's with us.  And
to-morrow we file suit on behalf of the Association--suit for one
million dollars against Macgowan and Findlater, on the grounds of
conspiracy, and demand their removal.  Things are looking up, I tell

Dorothy stared through the car window, her brain riotous.  With such
men as Rupert Sessions, Dorns, Holcomb, Bruton, behind this husband
of hers, nationally known figures, backing him with their faith and
high repute and money--was she to entertain such vague and shadowy
doubts, such petty and base doubts, of him?

"It's a wonderful thing, lady!"  His voice reached her, now more
restrained and thoughtful.  "The Association is the only thing now
between Macgowan and his loot; it's not me they're behind, however.
We're not fighting for ourselves, at heart--though we're not prating
about our altruism, naturally.  It's for the sixteen thousand
investors, the people scattered up and down the country--the fishes
in Macgowan's net!"

"Ah!" said Dorothy suddenly.  "But it's a fight of sixteen thousand
and one, Reese--with the one man at the head of it who's worth it

This thought dominated her, filled her with ecstasy, banished her
shadows.  And so, with wonder and love and admiration for the man she
called husband, to aid her, she won her fight for faith.

Yet this fight had been harder to win than the first battle, back in


February drew on apace, arrived, began to spend its length.

Armstrong was healthily busy, up to his ears in work; with each day
the fight proved more drawn-out.  The campaign against Findlater and
Macgowan swept along steadily.  The financial press was full of it,
even the newspapers were airing the affair; and Macgowan, beyond flat
denials of all the charges, was keeping quiet.

His quiet was ominous.

The Armstrong Company was now completely reorganized as a financial
service corporation, restricted to New York and seaboard cities.  For
the moment, Armstrong was forced to forget Macgowan and give his
energies to putting the Armstrong Company on its feet, able to get
along under Wren's management.  As soon as counter blows began to
smash home he would have to sweep aside all else; so, for the
present, he worked over the Armstrong Company, flinging himself into
it with driving energy.  In one of its offices was domiciled the
Stockholders' Protective Association, under its committee of three.

With every day that passed, Armstrong found himself more impressed
with Mansfield's advice as to this committee.  Judge Holcomb had
entered the fight with the ardor of a boy; a jurist of the highest
integrity, a financier intimately associated with men in high places,
he was invaluable.  So, too, was Bruton--a man whom Macgowan could
not possibly attack on any grounds.  As for Rupert Sessions, a fiery
but scholarly publicist and lecturer--Armstrong could not but feel
sufficiently grateful for the chance which had flung such a man to
his support.

Sessions had outlined a campaign for the month of March which would
reach every investor.  His broadside letters were already causing a
sensation.  It was as a direct result of one of these letters, that
Armstrong was one afternoon hastily summoned to a conference with the
committee.  He found them gravely discussing a telegram which had
just arrived from Mansfield in Albany.

"Armstrong," said Judge Holcomb, with a grim smile, "you recall that
last letter Session sent out?"

"Yes."  Armstrong chuckled at the memory.  "About the National
Reduction Company which Consolidated has undertaken to finance.  You
certainly called a spade a spade, Sessions!  And right, too; this
private graft of Findlater's is bound to be a failure, so far as the
stockholders are concerned."

"Findlater will file suit to-morrow for a hundred thousand in
damages, also asking punitive damages.  Libel."

Armstrong grunted sarcastically.

"Let him file!  It's all he can do to save his face, judge.  I'll
guarantee to pay all the damages he'll ever collect, too."

"Oh, the suit will never go to trial."  Sessions took up a telegram.
"But see here, Armstrong!  This is what we called you in for.  We'll
have bad news to send out next week."

Armstrong took the message and read it.

The attorney general of the state had refused to institute suit for
removal of Findlater and Macgowan.  At the hearing, a certain lawyer
famed for his political affiliations--not named in the telegram--had
obtained the dismissal of the action, on the technical ground that
Consolidated Securities had been organized under the laws of South
Dakota; and therefore being a foreign corporation, was not amenable
to the New York jurisdiction.

"Check," said Armstrong quietly, giving no sign of his
disappointment.  "Well, we were warned that we were up against
politics!  You can make capital of this, Sessions.  The dismissal is
purely technical and does not clear Macgowan.  This simply saves them
from producing the books--play up their refusal to stand
investigation!  They're not vindicated by this; they're merely

While still speaking, he was summoned to the telephone.  He sat down
at a desk near by.

"Armstrong?  Robert Dorns on the wire.  Say, Findlater and Macgowan
have quarreled; it don't amount to much, but it's a symptom.  Do you
know a fellow over there named Henderson?"

"Yes.  Assistant treasurer of Consolidated.  A good man, too.  What
about him?"

"I think he'd like to quit his job.  Suppose we make him an offer if
he'll quit and bring his copies of records--"

"See here, Dorns, none of that!" snapped Armstrong angrily, while the
committee eyed him in startled wonder.  "I'll not pay out one cent of
bribery for anything--and I don't think Henderson is the sort who'd
take a bribe.  Did he suggest that?"

"No.  I thought it up all by my own little self, me lad.  S'pose we
pry him loose?"

"All right.  In that case, I can use him here.  He can give us more
inside dope on Consolidated's doings than any one else.  But not a
cent for bribery, understand!  If Henderson would take any money for
coming over here, I'd not have him and I'd not trust him.  We just
had word from Mansfield.  The suit is dismissed on technical grounds."

"Political, you mean.  All right.  So long."

Armstrong swung around to meet the intent gaze of Judge Holcomb.

"Henderson is leaving Consolidated?"

"Dorns thinks he can be persuaded to leave."

"Then things are coming well.  Henderson can give us all the details
we need.  Well, when do you look for an attack from Macgowan?"

"When we least expect it."

The attack came soon enough, with a savage disregard for truth.
Macgowan, indeed, had perforce to disregard truth if he were to make
any attack.

As secretary and treasurer, Macgowan was the real head of
Consolidated Securities.  This was a crafty move, for it outwardly
relegated Macgowan to the background and left Findlater to enjoy his
prominence as president--and also to bear the brunt of attack from
the Protective Association.

This arrangement had other uses, also.  Macgowan's law firm or firms,
for he was interested in more than one, could profit largely, while
Macgowan himself drew a thousand a month for his personal services.
Thus the cream of the loot fell to Macgowan.  Findlater, although
recompensing himself in full, had at least some idea of retaining
Consolidated as a going concern.  Macgowan, more shrewd and crafty,
knew better--knew that some day his joy-ride must come to an end.
Findlater did not take in just how far he was serving as a tool in
the cunning hand of his associate.

He was only too well aware, however, of Macgowan's dictatorial
manner, and resented it.

Thus, when the attack on Armstrong and the Protective Association was
opened, the guns were fired by Findlater, as president of
Consolidated.  A full broadside was delivered; a broadside of calumny
which even extended to Doctor Bruton and Rupert Sessions, but which
was aimed at Armstrong.  By the very audacity of its charges and
vilifications it was calculated to stagger its recipients.  It came
in the form of a _Consolidated Magazine_, sent out to investors
generally as a reply to the _Armstrong Review_ the house organ of the
Armstrong Company, which was at present being used by the Association

Macgowan had employed writers of some talent, and under cover of
Findlater's name he went the limit.  Adopting a tone of dignified
censure, the president set forth that the Armstrong Company had been
"discharged" as the fiscal agent of Consolidated; he gave copies of
the affidavits which had "caused" the postal investigation; he
charged that Armstrong and his hirelings were now attacking
Consolidated for the purpose of getting at its funds.  In effect, the
charges made by Armstrong were simply turned back on him, yet with no
more evidence than truth.

The result was well calculated, however, to impress the small
investor.  Covert attacks were made upon the integrity of the
Association committee.  A special article, venomously penned,
purported to set forth Armstrong's biography--a combination of actual
untruths and of innuendoes which made Armstrong first laugh, then
whiten with fury.

He laid the matter before Mansfield, who glanced through the articles
and then smiled.

"Well?  I suppose we'll file libel suits immediately?"

"Of course," said Armstrong.  "But more--get an injunction against
Findlater at once, to prevent his using this magazine to serve his
own ends.  It bears the name of Consolidated and is company property.
Also, prevent his using company funds for the same purpose.  If he is
going to present his personal affairs to the investors, let him pay
for it himself!"

"Good!" exclaimed Mansfield.  "A good point!  We'll do it; he can't
keep us from getting that injunction.  This publication appears to be
a tissue of falsehood, too."

"It is, from start to finish."

"Congratulations, Mr. Armstrong!  We have them badly scared, or they
would never go to such lengths.  This libelous matter is astounding!"

"It shows that we've scared them, all right," assented Armstrong.
"Also, it shows that Macgowan is trying to discredit me and is going
after proxies for the annual meeting.  Mansfield, isn't there any
earthly way of smashing that voting trust?"

The lawyer shook his head.  "No.  And I am afraid that, as we feared,
Macgowan will find some way of postponing its expiration until after
the meeting.  That would enable him to remain in power for another
year, of course."

Armstrong's lips contracted for an instant.

"Then we must get enough investors behind us to override his control.
We'll do it.  We have two thousand of them now enrolled in the
Association, and our real campaign doesn't open until March--another
week yet.  You've filed suit against 'em in South Dakota?"

"Yes.  Your own company is organized under the laws of that state, I

"It is; they were both organized at the same time.  By the way,
there's something I want to ask you about--"

Armstrong had not forgotten the information which Jimmy Wren had laid
before him, that day when Wren turned up in Evansville.  He now told
Mansfield how the Deming Food Products Company had been taken over
and reorganized.  He went on to relate Wren's discovery--that
Deming's directors, probably without Deming's knowledge, had sworn to
a false financial condition in obtaining licenses to market their
stock issue.

"Can Macgowan rake that up against us in any possible way?" he
concluded.  "At the time the licenses were issued, we had nothing to
do with Food Products, you know."

"No; you're entirely safe there, I think," promptly declared
Mansfield.  "Don't let it worry you for a minute--it has nothing
whatever to do with you."

There was something else, however, which in the rush of business
Armstrong had quite forgotten.  Upon the following Monday, the last
Monday in February, he was reminded of his delinquency in abrupt and
terrible fashion.

By this time the fight between Findlater and the Protective
Association was not only public property but was being keenly
followed by banking circles and kindred interests.  Among all these
there was a cynically lucid understanding of the real issue; it was
no secret to them that the struggle lay between looters and honest
men.  Yet they looked on with a phlegmatic acuity; it was to them
only another battle wherein the dreamer would probably lose to the
clever fighter who knew how to hit foul and hard.

Armstrong knew this.  He felt that he knew exactly how to appraise
the spoken word from his bankers, his friends, his acquaintances.  In
this he was wrong; he was still too conscious of himself and his
campaign, and it tended to give him a false view.  A man is at his
best only when he can forget himself.  His best work is done only
when his "office clothes" are forgotten.

On this eventful Monday, Armstrong was taken unawares, in a moment of

He took the day off, for it was his birthday, and spent it quietly at
home with Dorothy before going into the city in the evening for
_Lohengrin_.  Before a blazing log fire in the wide hearth of the
living room that afternoon, he was recounting to Dorothy the
prospects for the final few weeks of the campaign; he had given up
hope of ousting Findlater and Macgowan before the annual meeting.
Then, in the gathering dusk, a caller arrived, a stranger.  Armstrong
had the man shown in.

He found himself promptly served with a sheriff's attachment notice.
Suit for two millions in damages--a new suit--had been filed against
the Armstrong Company by Findlater, on trumped-up charges of fraud,
deceit, slander.  Almost at the same moment he was summoned to the
telephone, to hear the furious voice of Wren.  The offices, bank
accounts, mail receipts, files--all were tied up by the attachment.

Further, unless Armstrong's note for ten thousand dollars, held by
Consolidated, were paid in cash by noon of the following day, the
security for that note would be sold, promptly at noon, at the weekly
auction sales in Vesey Street.

Then Armstrong remembered the thing he had forgotten--the renewal of
this loan, which had come due.  Food Products had not been heard from
in regard to it.

"Get in touch with Mansfield at once," he told Jimmy Wren.  "The suit
is only an excuse to tie us up so we can't get the cash to meet this
note.  They got the attachment because we're a foreign corporation,
and Mansfield will get it released in a day or two.  You attend to
that.  I'm going to have my hands full raising ten thousand in cash."

He made light of it to Dorothy, assuaged her alarm and indignation,
pointed out the utter absurdity of the charges, and packed her off to
dress for dinner and opera.  But he remained staring into the fire,
his face set in drawn lines.

Crafty Macgowan!  This blow had driven home.  The morning papers,
hungry for news from this financial battle, would headline the filing
of this suit.

With everything tied up by the attachment, it was impossible for
Armstrong to raise the money necessary to meet that note.  But that
was not the worst of it.  Macgowan did not want the ten thousand in
cash; he had filed this suit, had played his cards, so that Armstrong
could not possibly pay the money.  What Macgowan wanted was the
security, the Food Products notes for twenty-five thousand dollars!
That was the stake Macgowan would win at noon to-morrow.

"He'll have his fingers hooked into Food Products," thought Armstrong
bitterly.  "He may try to throw the company into receivership--no
telling what he'll do!  And unless I show up at the auction rooms by
noon, he wins."

How to get that money?  His imagination pictured what would meet him
as he went from bank to bank, asking for ten thousand in
cash--without security!  Macgowan would see to it that news of this
suit and attachment filled all the morning papers.  Everywhere he
went, Armstrong would be faced by that news.

He would be charged publicly with fraud, branded in all eyes as a
perjurer and trickster; the whole financial district would be ringing
with the news.  No matter how baseless the charge, it would clang
against him like a death-knell.  It would be dismissed soon enough,
after serving its purpose; even so, lies have nine lives, and the
story of the charge would go further than news of the dismissal.

"I've got to do everything between ten and twelve to-morrow," said
Armstrong, turning from the fire.  "I expect I'll find mighty few
friends anxious to be interviewed to-morrow morning--it takes small
noise to flush the bird of credit.  Well, I'll go down fighting!"


Armstrong entered his own office a little after nine in the morning,
crushing a newspaper in his hand; what he had read there had rendered
him livid with helpless anger.  He found Jimmy Wren awaiting him.

"Hello!" exclaimed Wren.  "I saw Mansfield last night.  He said that
he'd attend to releasing this attachment by this afternoon anyhow.
There's a check from Food Products in the mail, but we can't use it;
everything tied up."

Armstrong only nodded, and handed Wren a penciled list of names.

"Call up these fellows, Jimmy, or their secretaries, and make
appointments for me between ten and twelve this morning.  Spread the
appointments as well as you can.  If I don't raise that ten

"As bad as that, is it?"' asked Jimmy Wren, his eyes anxious.
"You're borrowing?"

"How the devil can I get it without?"

"Well, I sort of figured on that last night."  Jimmy Wren came to the
desk, and began to disgorge bills from his pockets.  He looked up at
the astounded Armstrong with a grin.  "I'm darned sorry I couldn't do
better, Reese.  Here's twelve hundred to throw into the pot, anyhow."

For an instant Armstrong was speechless.  Then:

"By gad, Jimmy!  You can't mean--where did you get this cash?"

Wren colored slightly.

"I had some in my sock, and I borrowed the rest--from a friend.  Now,
get it tied up and I'll go sit over the telephone.  I'll have a taxi
here.  You cool off and we'll make the rounds together."

Jimmy departed hastily, leaving Armstrong staring at the pile of
bills.  Jimmy Wren the impulsive, the warm-hearted, the devoted!

At one minute of twelve, Armstrong reached the auction rooms in Vesey
Street.  When he entered, the Food Products notes were being offered
for sale.  Armstrong handed over ten thousand in cash for them.

How he had collected that money, he scarcely knew; he knew, however,
that he had in his thoughts wronged his friends.  That
two-million-dollar suit had rung like a bugle-blast across the pages
of the morning papers, yet his friends had rallied.  He had seen man
after man, stating his case briefly, setting his simple word against
all the thunderous allegations of the enemy--and he had won.

The moment his victory was assured, he came near going to pieces.
For two hours he had been under a tremendous strain, pouring forth
every atom of his energy and will-power; now he was shaken, broken by
the effort, exhausted.  He knew that Findlater was somewhere here,
and Macgowan, but he ignored them.  He got away as quickly as
possible, in the taxicab that Jimmy had hired.

Of what took place during the remainder of that day, he was scarcely
conscious.  The blow had been warded, however.  And, in the
afternoon, he had Mansfield's grim assurance that the suit would
never come into court, that the attachment was released.

As though that victory turned the tide of affairs, the succeeding
days witnessed a steady ebb in the fortunes of Findlater and
Macgowan, a corresponding flood in the prospects of the Protective
Association.  Mansfield was hammering away energetically.  He
obtained an injunction which cut short Findlater's campaign with the
money and property of Consolidated; this forced the enemy to spend
actual money of his own, and was a shrewd blow.

The annual meeting of the stockholders of Consolidated was called,
and the place named was Wilmington.  Upon this fact Sessions seized
with avidity.  He flooded the mails with letters, pointing out that
Findlater was afraid to hold the meeting under the jurisdiction of
South Dakota courts, pointing out that Wilmington was not readily
accessible to many of the investors, driving home new charges of
trickery and fraud.

Now the fight was becoming serious for Macgowan, and the latter knew
it.  Thousands of the investors were registered with the Association,
proxies were pouring in, and the denials and camouflage used by the
Consolidated directors availed little.  Findlater was himself
carrying on a desperate battle for proxies, under the guidance of
Macgowan, and neglected nothing in the effort to avert disaster.
Armstrong wondered how the two of them would get out from under the
swelling tide of libel and perjury which they were creating.

Then the campaign rose to a smashing climax--all that Armstrong could
have desired.

Into Armstrong's office, late one afternoon, walked Henderson, the
assistant treasurer of Consolidated Securities.  He looked at
Armstrong with a wry smile.

"I want to get into this Protective Association and turn over my
voting proxy to you," he said quietly.  "And if there's any
information I can furnish, just ask."

"What's the answer?" demanded Armstrong curtly.  He knew Henderson
was square, yet--

"I've resigned." Henderson read his thought.  "Things are getting too
rotten over there to suit me.  If you can use me in your company, I'd
like a job--but I'm not offering you information to get it.  My ten
shares of stock look pretty big to me, and if the Association doesn't
win this fight they're going to look pretty small.  Job or no, I'm
with you."

"That's straight talk," said Armstrong.  "Come over and see Judge

Within an hour the Association was in possession of affidavits from
Henderson which went into type and print the following day.  At last
the inside operation of Consolidated, under Findlater's management,
was exposed to public scrutiny.  To sum up Henderson's information:

1.  The National Reduction Company, Findlater's pet scheme, had been
put through just as proposed to Armstrong, with large free gifts of
stock to Consolidated directors, and had to date cost the
stockholders of Consolidated something over a hundred thousand.

2.  Further, Macgowan was purchasing all the preferred stock of
Consolidated that he could secure around seventy, using company funds
paid out on company checks.  This stock was being resold to new
investors at nearly double that price.  About a thousand shares per
week were changing hands in this fashion, and on each share Macgowan
and Findlater received ten dollars commission as private loot.

3.  The back salaries given Macgowan and the other looters were
confirmed.  Henderson also swore to a statement regarding the
financial solvency of Consolidated--a statement showing that the
value of Consolidated stock was dropping with alarming rapidity.

With these affidavits, the Protective Association swept into action.
Burton, Sessions and Holcomb took the stump, addressing meetings
wherever two or three investors could be gathered together.  They
blew away the dust from Macgowan's tracks, centered the entire battle
upon the management of Findlater and his associates, appealed to the
investors to alter this management at the forthcoming annual meeting.

Dorns armed them well with photographic copies from Consolidated's
books and with letters written or received by Findlater.  Henderson's
affidavits fortified them with startling facts.  And all the while
the _Armstrong Review_ hammered away, reaching each individual
investor, backing up everything with the printed word.

Nor did the committee end here.  To the stockholders they presented a
constructive program, with guarantees that the proxies would be used
to put it into effect.  The chief points of this program were the
removal of the present management, a strict investigation of the
company's affairs, and an enforced accounting for misused funds.
Through all these weeks of campaigning swept the battle-cry of "Show
the books!"--a cry to which Findlater turned a deaf ear.  Neither he
nor Macgowan were insensible to the danger that threatened them,

They darted forth sudden and vicious attacks in a desperate effort so
to discredit Armstrong and his associates that the investors would
withhold proxies from them.  The hand that launched these attacks was
that of Findlater, but the brain behind them all was that of
Macgowan, bitter and virulent.  In half a dozen states Macgowan was
seeking to obtain indictments against Armstrong on any sort of
charge--but Armstrong, too, was fighting.  Dorns and his men were
vigilant, Mansfield was quick to parry and strike back.  So
transparent were the artifices of Macgowan that Armstrong was almost
lulled into a feeling of security.

The tide steadily set in favor of the Protective Association.  The
body of stockholders were whipped into a frantic condition; suit and
counter-suit, charge and counter-charge, all contributed to lash them
into wild alarm.  Upon some the crafty wiles of Macgowan prevailed;
his campaign for proxies was reaching a desperate climax.  The
majority, however, came to realize the actual facts, and the magic of
Armstrong's name and personality was not lost.  For, despite the most
incredible efforts, Macgowan was unable to discredit this man who had
been his friend.  One would have said that every move of Macgowan's
was blocked by some invisible hand, or was brought to fruitless issue
by some unseen agent.

By the final week in March, the campaign ended.  Weary, still athrill
with the fight they had waged, the committee of three returned to the
city, ready for the meeting at Wilmington.  Armstrong had remained in
charge of the home offices, attending to the vast detail work that
was necessary.  Now, when he came to check up with his associates,
they found cause for exultation indeed.

"Nearly all the outstanding shares," said Judge Holcomb, as they went
over the lists, "are owned in lots of one or two.  So far, we seem to
be in control of a good ten thousand votes--"

"And more coming in with every mail," put in Sessions.  "Besides what
we've bought up in the open market.  How does she stand, Armstrong?"

"A total of thirty-five thousand outstanding," said Armstrong, who
knew the figures by heart.  "At this minute we own or control twenty

There was a moment of silence.  Then Mansfield, who was present,
intervened to cut short the jubilant expressions of victory.

"Including those in the voting trust?"

"Yes.  Three thousand there."

"Suppose we defer celebrations," said Judge Holcomb shrewdly.
"Everything's going to change before the meeting; it's bound to.  If
I were you, I'd look for a last minute blow from those rascals.
Therefore, go slow--and don't let up!"

This was good advice.  Armstrong realized that, notwithstanding the
apparent victory, both his personal credit and that of the Armstrong
Company had suffered an extraordinary amount of damage, not to
mention the harm that this fight was causing Consolidated as a
business concern.  The damage would be assessed at law, but it was

That Macgowan had met with some success in his campaign for proxies,
was evident.  His methods had been to utilize falsehood, brazen
filing of suits which would never be tried, desperate attempts to
publicize Armstrong as a trickster and cheat.  Yet with all this, the
control of Consolidated was bound to pass to Armstrong at the annual
meeting.  His three thousand shares tied up in the voting trust
would, when released, confirm the victory.

But Judge Holcomb, keen old veteran that he was, had prophesied truly.

Six days before the annual meeting, the blow fell.  Macgowan came
into the open as plaintiff, filing suit upon absolutely baseless
charges which, however, served as grounds for making an attachment.
Upon the voting trustees--Macgowan, Findlater and Jimmy Wren, whom
Armstrong had continued in the voting trust--were served the
attachment papers.  By those papers, the Sheriff of New York
commanded that Armstrong's stock should not be released from the
voting trust until the attachment should be satisfied.

Mansfield came to the office, read the papers, listened in silence to
Armstrong's furious outburst of denunciation.  Then he spoke, calmly.

"Surely, I warned you of such action, and you expected it--"

"Such action as this?"  Armstrong struck the papers violently.  "Do
you realize that these charges have not a particle of truth, of
substantiation--that the suit is illegal, the whole action a mockery
of the law?"

Mansfield, imperturbably, assented.

"Quite so.  I realize, also, that we are helpless.  After the
election this suit will be dismissed.  Make up your mind, sir, that
Macgowan is going to vote your stock at this meeting!  At any cost!
He cares not what punitive action we take afterward.  He can fight
that in the courts, postpone retribution, evade from pillar to post.
In the end, he must settle; before that time comes, he will have
milked Consolidated to the limit, and will be well able to settle.
Our one hope is and must be to beat this trickster by the votes of
your stockholders."

Armstrong turned to Judge Holcomb, who was present with Bruton.

"Can we do that, gentlemen?"

Bruton had been swiftly checking over a paper in his hand.  Now he
glanced up.

"We have at this moment one hundred votes in excess of a majority."

"What?  You mean--"

"Even granting him the voting trust, Macgowan has lost.  Proxies for
three hundred shares came in to-day.  We are actually at this moment
on the safe side, and with what comes in during the next few days, we
shall be indisputably in control."

Mansfield rose.

"Gentlemen, I congratulate you on having won your own fight.  I think
you have no further need of my advice and encouragement--for the

He bowed and departed, and left them still incredulous, amazed by
their own achievement, even now scarce able to realize the swift
change from defeat into victory.


Dorothy had greatly desired to accompany Armstrong to Wilmington;
for, though she said nothing of it to him, a premonition of evil was
strong upon her.  But nature denied the wish.  Dorothy was given to
sudden spells of illness, and her physical condition was becoming
manifest.  Further, she quite realized the danger to her of a tense
emotional and nervous strain for days on end, such as this meeting
would involve.  Reluctantly, she stayed at home.

On the day of the meeting, Armstrong left very early.  She went with
him to the station, walking up and down as they waited for the train.
On this day of all days, she wanted to send forth her husband with
the full and perfect assurance of her love, with no drag of domestic
anxiety to weaken his efforts.  Yet, somewhere in the shadows of her
being, those casual words of her mother's lingered and recurred to
her mind; why it was, she refused to admit to herself.

"I'm uneasy about Jimmy Wren," said Armstrong, as they paced up and
down.  "I'm afraid he's tied up with some woman, and I don't like his
close-mouthed ways about it.  It's not natural for Jimmy to be

"Jimmy!" exclaimed Dorothy quickly.  "What woman?"

"That's just the point--I'm not even sure that the guess is right.
But he's not been himself lately.  I heard him getting a curb opinion
out of Mansfield the other day, on the divorce laws in this state,
and I know he bought some confoundedly expensive French perfume last
week.  He's been running into debt, too."

Dorothy halted.  "Reese!  Surely you don't think--"

"There's nothing wrong, if that's what you mean; Jimmy is square and
clean.  But he's just the man to get hooked by some gold-digger.
Well, I'll see about it later if the chance comes--there's the
train!"  Armstrong turned and kissed her quickly.  "Take good care of
yourself, now!  If you need me, call the Wilmington office; Wren will
be in charge there and can get me in a hurry.  I'll call you up every
day, at noon and evening, and let you know how things go."

"There's only one way for them to go.  Good-by, dear, and luck!"

She stood waving after him until the train had gone, then returned to
the car.  Her mind was busy with Jimmy Wren, and in the days that
followed she wondered more than once about him, until more tragically
important affairs drove him from her thoughts.

Two days passed, and Reese Armstrong made uneventful reports to her
from Wilmington.  The meeting was going slowly.  Nothing would be
done until after the roll call of the stockholders was taken, which
would be on the third or fourth day.  So far everything was
excellent, and the Protective Association apparently in decisive

Upon the morning of the third day, while Dorothy was dressing,
Slosson arrived at Aircastle Point.

Dorothy had passed a bad night, and her nerves were quivering.  In
her dreams, the voice of her mother had again whispered that old
doubt.  She no longer had any great fear that any mental obsession
would take hold of her, and this was a bad sign.  Had Reese actually
driven her father out of Food Products?  She was wondering now, this
morning, whether she should bring up the whole matter with Reese, as
soon as his Wilmington battle was over; she felt that he must be
absolutely cleared in the eyes of every one, Williams and the rest.
This, at least, was her conscious thought.

She had no doubt that everything would be explained.  She told
herself that her love and faith in Reese were supreme, and she
believed it.  None the less, the mental reflex of her physical
condition was a curious one--and one that she did not realize.

It was at this moment that Slosson arrived.  Dorothy heard his name
with astonishment.

"At this hour!  What does he want?"

"He asked for Mr. Armstrong, and seemed a good deal put out to learn
he was gone," said the maid.  "Then he asked for you.  He says it's
extremely important."

"Tell him I'll be down in a few minutes."

Dorothy turned to her mirror, wondering at this unheralded call from
Pete Slosson.

Instantly there darted into her remembrance the thought of how
Slosson had spoken that day at the Waldorf--his manner, rather than
his words themselves.  He had been so anxious to smooth over her
mother's innocent remark, that he must have known more than he said.

"I wish now I'd made him say more," reflected Dorothy, giving her
hair a final pat.  "He seemed genuinely uneasy that day.  There was
always a lot of good in Pete, for all his reckless ways, and now he
seems to have settled down--"

She smiled at the reflection which told of her beauty, and there was
wonder in her smile, too.  For Dorothy was one of those rare women
who do not lose, but gain, by the added life within them, and never
had the fine, clear lines of her face been so filled with a spiritual
grace as now.

Pete Slosson was striding restlessly up and down the living room when
she found him.  At sight of her, he turned.  There was no mistaking
the light that sprang into his face as he warmly gripped her hands,
and this look wakened a slight color in Dorothy's cheeks.

"Dot!" he exclaimed impulsively.  "Tell me where I can reach Reese!
I called up his office when I reached New York this morning, but
couldn't get any information except that he was not there and
wouldn't be there to-day.  I came on here, sure of catching him--and
now he's gone!  I must get in touch with him immediately."

Her eyes widened on his.

"Why, Pete, you'll have to go to Wilmington!  He's there, at the
annual meeting of Consolidated.  There's a big fight going on--"

"Yes, yes, I know--but good heavens, Dot!  I have to catch an
afternoon train for Indianapolis, sure!"

Slosson stared at her, anxiety and dismayed hesitation evident in his
features.  He was better looking than of old; cleaner about the eyes,
firmer of mouth.  Dorothy thought that he must have been not only
prospering, but behaving himself.

He refused to sit down, but resumed his nervous pacing back and forth.

"This is terrible, Dot!" he burst out.  "I've risked everything to
come here--and now Reese is gone!  If I could only get ten minutes
with him--"

"Tell me, instead."  Dorothy realized that something of serious
import must be in the air; his agitated manner conveyed the fact.
"Is it business?  Reese and I have no secrets, Pete.  If you like,
why not telephone?  I think we can reach him."

"No, no, it's impossible!  I daren't telephone--or tell you either--"

He stopped short and stared at her, biting his lip.  In his air was
an alarmed hesitation, as though her suggestion had startled and
frightened him.

"I'll say frankly, Dot, that it's for your sake I've come here to
warn Reese.  I'm risking everything in doing it--"

"For my sake?"

"Yes."  He faced her squarely, on his lips a slight smile tinged with
bitterness.  "Your happiness has always meant a good deal to me, Dot.
It's for your sake that I came here--I'm not ashamed to admit it.
But I can't deliver this warning to you.  There are things--oh, well,
it's out of the question."

"Reese and I have no secrets from each other," repeated Dorothy

Slosson regarded her, smiling once more.  That smile was a triumph of
irony, of subtle suggestion, of tacit implication.

"My dear Dot, I simply can't tell you what's going on!  I--hang it,
I'd say too much.  Let me think.  If there were only some way--"

He turned his back to her and stared out of the window.

Dorothy was conscious of alarm stirring within her.  She had always
suspected Pete Slosson of being a poseur, a very clever actor where
women were concerned.  At this moment, she forgot everything except
the implied suggestion of his words.  The desperate earnestness of
his manner was convincing.

"You might leave a note," she began.

Slosson swung around on her with a quick, hard laugh.

"And implicate myself?  Not much.  I'm in it deep enough already.  I
never dreamed until too late how that infernal Ried Williams must be
working for Macgowan--"

He broke off, shrugged, checked himself.

Mention of those names electrified Dorothy.  She leaned forward.  Her
brain leaped to the conclusion that here was a chance to get some
information, some warning, which must reach Reese at once.  Perhaps
it had something to do with the Wilmington meeting, or could be used
there.  It was her chance to help her husband.

"Sit down, Pete--sit down!" she said sharply.  "You have to tell me
what's on your mind.  I'm with Reese in this fight against Macgowan.
Tell me, at once."

Slosson dropped into a chair.  Her incisive words seemed to shatter
his indecision.  He broke out into a petulant flood of speech.

"Damn it, Dot, how can I tell you?  There are things you don't know,
never did know, must not know!  I don't want to tell you--yet, if I
don't reach Reese, it means jail!  Can't you see the position I'm in?
If I tell you the truth, I'm bound to hurt you deeply; and I don't
want to do that.  If I don't tell you, if I don't get this message to
Reese--it's jail for him."

His mental despair, his torturing uncertainty, lay written in his

"Jail!" repeated Dorothy, low-voiced.  Slosson made a gesture of
assent, and dropped his chin on his breast.  From beneath lowered
lids, he was watching keenly, however.

Dorothy's first impulse was to bid him go, leave his message
unspoken.  If Reese actually had any dark secret which had been
carefully kept from her knowledge, she did not wish to know it.

The impulse was checked.  What had this to do with Macgowan, with
Ried Williams?  The thought was as a goad to her spirit.  She leaned
forward again to speak.  As Slosson glanced up, he met her eyes full.
Her blue-steel gaze was so imperative, so penetrating, that the man
gave an involuntary start.

"Tell me the whole thing, Pete," she ordered swiftly.  "I have a
right to know.  Out with it!"

Slosson gestured despairingly.

"I'll have to," he muttered.  "Reese is going to be indicted in
Illinois--perhaps has been indicted by now.  He must act at once to
save himself."

"Indicted!  For what?"

"For the way he handled Food Products--for fraud in selling the

Dorothy closed her eyes for an instant.  The dreaded words had come;
the impact of them burned her.  Food Products!  And Slosson's bitter
voice continued.

"Williams got me to sign the affidavits before I realized what was
going on.  If I'd dreamed that he was working with Macgowan, that the
affidavits were to be used--"

"Stop, wait!" exclaimed Dorothy, her eyes terrified.  "Tell me
exactly what's the trouble, what he did that's wrong!  I'll have to
understand it all."

Slosson lowered his lids and looked down at his hands--perhaps to
hide the swift gleam of triumph he could not keep from his eyes.

"As things stood, when your father was in charge, we were unable to
market that big stock-issue which would have saved us.  Reese took
hold and showed us how to manage it.  We made a list of assets that
was--well, it was padded!  We filed our sworn statements with the
various state commissioners of securities, and got permission to sell
the stock.  Salvation was just in sight for the company when your
wedding-day came--and you know what happened then.  Reese threw us
all out and took over the company."

Dorothy watched him with burning gaze.  Across her face had slowly
spread a mortal pallor.

"You don't mean that everything was prepared before-hand--even that
meeting in father's library, that telegram--and what happened then?"

This was the moment of crisis, and Slosson met it firmly.  He lifted
his face, white with the lie that was on his lips.  To Dorothy, it
seemed the pallor of confession.  He met her intent, flaming eyes,
and nodded.

"Yes.  We didn't expect it, of course.  Reese and Macgowan and his
man Wren had it all framed up.  They knew we couldn't raise the money
that telegram demanded--I believe they arranged to have the telegram
sent at the proper time.  Wren came to Evansville, on the quiet,
about a month before your wedding, and looked up the company's
affairs thoroughly--"

"Wren did?" whispered Dorothy, her eyes wide and stricken.  "Jimmy

Slosson nodded, caught his breath sharply.

"He was only obeying orders, of course.  It was through him that
Reese handled things--showed us how to get that stock issue on the
market.  We never dreamed that the company was going to be grabbed
from us.  And," he added reflectively, "I'm not blaming Reese for
that.  I don't think it was all his scheme.  I blame Macgowan, for it
was Macgowan who learned about all the details--"

He came to his feet and resumed his restless pacing back and forth.
"You see, Dot, Reese will have to act immediately--"

"Why," suddenly struck in Dorothy, "why has Macgowan, through all
these weeks and months of bitter enmity, never raised the question of
this stock issue against Reese?  Was he involved in it?"

Slosson shook his head.  "I don't think he even knew of it until
recently.  That was Armstrong's own private affair; the Armstrong
Company, you see, was to handle the stock and sell it.  Of course, if
Macgowan ever brings up this matter it means the ruin of Reese.  And
now Macgowan knows about it, and is bringing it up.

"I've learned through Williams," he went on quickly, "that Macgowan
is obtaining an indictment against Reese in Illinois, on charges of
fraud in connection with the stock sales.  That will amount to
nothing, probably.  This other business, however, can be raised
against him everywhere, in every state!  And Macgowan knows about it.
That's why Reese must act at once, get to Macgowan without delay,
call off the whole fight and patch up a peace!"

Dorothy started slightly.  For one instant she dimly suspected the
truth behind all this talk; for an instant only.  It was gone at once
and forgotten.

"He won't do that," she said steadily.  "He can't do that, Pete.
He's fighting now for all the men and women who believe in him, for
the investors--"

Slosson turned bitter eyes upon her.

"Have you fallen for that talk?"  He laughed harshly.  "Listen!  I
want to help Reese--for your sake.  I want to save him, if I can.
But don't give me that campaign bunk--it's nothing else.  Listen to
facts!  Don't you know why he's pretending to fight for the sixteen
thousand investors?  Because that's his only possible shield.  If
Macgowan came out and charged him with wrecking Food Products and
stealing it from your father, Reese could stand on his dignity and
deny the charge.  But what can he say to the law--to indictments and
proof, and conviction?  A grand jury has to be shown facts.  If
Macgowan shows those affidavits that I signed with Williams--good

"Don't think that Reese meant wrong," hurried on Slosson.  "He really
saw only the one way to save Food Products, and took it.  The rest of
us had run things into the ground, sure enough.  About this stock
issue, he took the same chances that four out of five business men
take every day.  Why, I can see now that when he kicked us all out,
it was for the best all around!  It's been the makings of me.  And
your father has realized that the company was better off without
him--he was glad to be saved from the wreck at any price."

A faint tremor passed through Dorothy's body.  If every word that
Slosson was uttering had been craftily calculated to pierce her
heart, the end could not have been better attained.

Slosson concluded rapidly.  "Dot, I tell you that this man Macgowan
is a terrible enemy.  He is vindictive, cunning, treacherous!  He's
all that's bad--and now he has Reese absolutely by the neck.  Reese
will be indicted and jailed in every state where the stock was sold,
unless he acts at once and ends the fight with Macgowan."

Dorothy was watching him now with terrified eyes.  Her doubts had
fled, dissipated by his tremendous earnestness.

"But he can't give in--"

"He has to.  Do you know whom I met on the train coming to town?  Tom

She was caught by the name.  Dorothy knew Tom Windsor very well.  He
was an Evansville boy, and every one there knew him.  Now he was in
Indianapolis, assistant state's attorney general.  Dorothy, in common
with every one, knew him for a man of the most unimpeachable
integrity, of the most sterling character.  His name was commonly
linked with that of Federal Judge Sanderson--the two men were known
to stand for the same stern, rigid, unwavering application of the
law, Roman in its severity, recognizing neither influence nor wealth
nor position in any offender.  It was Windsor who had placed the
mayor and entire council of one Indiana city in the penitentiary.

"You know Windsor," went on Slosson's voice.  "You know there's
nothing loose or crooked about him.  From something he said to me on
the train, I gathered that he was coming to New York to see Macgowan.
Probably he has been appointed special investigator into this Food
Products affair, and Macgowan will lay those affidavits before him.
If Tom Windsor thought his own brother guilty, he'd land him behind
the bars!"

Dorothy caught her breath.  For a moment everything went black before
her; she recovered to find Slosson gripping her arm, his face
frightened, contrite.

"Oh--I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he cried out.  In his voice was a touch
of real sincerity.  "I should never have told you--"

"Please--go," she whispered faintly.

Slosson regarded her for a moment with a dejected and mournful air,
then he took his hat and went to the door.  There, he turned.

"Forgive me, Dot!  There was no other way--"

She did not respond.  She did not even see him go.  After a time she
found herself at the telephone, calling the Wilmington office.
Presently Jimmy's voice came to her.

"Tell me, please!"  She wondered at the cool steadiness of her own
tone.  All her brain was in a mad tumult.  "Tell me--were you in
Evansville about a month before Reese and I were married?  Were you
making arrangements then, gathering information and all, for that
Food Products reorganization?"

"Why, sure!" came the surprised answer.  "I didn't know that any one
knew of it, but I was on the job all right.  Why?"

"All right--good-by."

Dorothy hung up the receiver.  The warning which she was supposed to
deliver had been stricken out of her mind.  Trembling, she dropped
her face in her hands.

"True--it's all true!" she moaned.  "Oh--Reese!  And I would have
stuck to you through everything--"


From  the moment when Lawrence Macgowan, as secretary of Consolidated
Securities, called the annual meeting to order, a sense of impending
drama filled the auditorium.  The Gayety Theater!  What irony in the
name!  Here was a struggle for more than life and death, a titanic
combat between looters and looted.

Every one knew that the issue lay between Armstrong and Macgowan; the
batteries of lawyers and advisers and experts and friends were but
incidentals of the stage setting.  The life of Consolidated was at
stake--now this outward and visible symbol of sixteen thousand
investors would either be saved to its owners, or would be despoiled
and bled white.

From the start, Macgowan let himself go full sweep, in all his real
nature.  Arbitrary, domineering, a sneering viciousness in eyes and
voice, he ruled the meeting with a hand of iron.  Save for his own
little group, the hundreds of people around were enemies; they hated,
feared, distrusted him--and were helpless before him.

Macgowan, knowing that these people had gathered to watch his power
stripped away, took savage pleasure in making them feel that power,
in making them feel their own impotence before him, in making them
realize that he, and he alone, was the master of Consolidated

And people had gathered to watch.  Several hundred were here, the
majority from near-by points, others from a distance.  These, almost
to a man, were behind Armstrong and his committee.  Before and during
the meeting they were thronging about the hotel rooms, shaking hands,
encouraging, pouring their enthusiasm and confidence into the men who
were fighting for them.

While that long roll of the thousands of investors was being called
they sat silent, tense, listening and checking off proxies.  Never
was the magnificent audacity of Macgowan more manifest than now, as
he sat there snarling at those who had come to pull him from his
position of power.

This arrogant, confident manner of Macgowan's was causing Armstrong
worry; he sought for the reason perpetually, and found none.  Hour
after hour went by.  The first day dragged out its length, the second
followed.  Somewhere in the crowd Armstrong caught a glimpse of a
sallow, saturnine visage, lost it again instantly; after a time he
remembered that darkly vulpine countenance as the face of Ried
Williams.  Williams!  What was the man doing here?  No matter.

And now the third day of the meeting.  That afternoon would be
finished the long roll of the sixteen thousand and more investors.

With each name that was called, during these two days and a half, the
Protective Association showed its power more clearly.  The proxies
held by Macgowan's satellites were clearly in the minority.  As the
totals mounted up, victory became more and more assured to Armstrong.
And ever Mansfield sat aloof in thoughtful silence, scrutinizing
every word and act of the opposition with that lightning brain of his
ready to pounce; and Macgowan, realizing his peril, stepped

Noon came--noon of the third day.

It was an exultant noontide.  Sessions was holding the newspaper and
financial writers at bay; Judge Holcomb and Doctor Bruton rested.
Armstrong and Mansfield lunched with Robert Dorns, who had come down
to enjoy the triumph.  Calling up Aircastle Point, Armstrong was told
that Dorothy was asleep, and left word for her of the victory.

The afternoon session opened with a growing tension.  The finish was
in sight.  The last of the T's was called, and the end would now come
soon.  Armstrong heard the droning rasp of Macgowan's voice, heard
the responses, mechanically checked off his own list.  He swiftly
computed his figures.  Close--but certain!

"We've beaten the voting trust!" he thought exultantly.  "Beaten it!"

True.  Of the thirty-five thousand shares of common outstanding, the
Association would vote a full nineteen thousand.  Macgowan, despite
his control of the voting trust, would lose by fifteen hundred votes.
The illegal attachment had not availed him--

Suddenly Armstrong's head shot up.  He was conscious of the
electrified thrill that passed through the entire audience.  He was
conscious of a new name, not on his list, which had passed the lips
of Macgowan.

It was the name of Ried Williams.

A dead, tense hush fell upon all, through which pierced the voice of
Williams in its response.  The wondering surprise passed into a low
gasp of incredulity.  Macgowan sat sneering, defiant, his gaze
sweeping about in exultant challenge.  The faces that stared up at
him had lost their glow of confidence and triumph; consternation was
in every eye, a dismayed stupefaction, despair!

Armstrong was dumbfounded, staggered.  For Ried Williams answered for
ten thousand shares!

A low mutter passed through the crowd; it swelled and swelled into a
vibrant, angry roar of protest.  The supercilious smile vanished from
the lips of Findlater.  Macgowan, furious, bellowed for silence.  At
last, unable to get it, he held out his hand toward the standing
figure of Mansfield in tacit permission.  The uproar quieted.

As Mansfield voiced objection, Armstrong's attention was suddenly
dragged away.  He found Jimmy Wren at his elbow, gripping his arm,
agitated and tense.

"Come to the telephone--long distance--French at Chicago wants you--"

"Damn the telephone!"  Armstrong was trying to catch Mansfield's
voice.  "Tell 'em--"

"You've got to come!  It's the Chicago office--come and hear for
yourself!  It's more important than anything here--"

One look into the eyes of Wren, and Armstrong obeyed.  He rose,
suffered Wren to pilot him out, wondering what new stroke of fate was
to fall upon him.  Ten thousand shares that did not exist!  This was
more than audacity; it was insolence.  Macgowan could never get away
with such action as this.  He had passed the limit at last.  His
effrontery had now over-reached itself--

"Hello!"  Armstrong spoke into the telephone.  "Armstrong speaking.
Who is it?"

He listened for a moment; his face changed.  A start escaped him, as
though from some invisible blow.

"What's that again?" he demanded vibrantly.  "Repeat it!"

Then, after a moment: "All right, French.  Don't lose any sleep over
it.  Much obliged to you."

He hung up the receiver and turned to Jimmy Wren.  He was laughing,
but his eyes were dancing with the cold flame of sun-smitten ice.

"You heard, Jimmy?  Want to start for Europe?"

Jimmy Wren gaped at him, then grinned and swung palm to palm with a
hearty grip.

"Damn Europe!  I'm with you till hell freezes over, and you know it!"

"All right.  Let's get back--"

He was too late.  He found that the meeting had been adjourned until
next morning.  Cursing, angry men were pouring from the place.  He
encountered Mansfield and Dorns in company; the lawyer was white with
suppressed fury.  Dorns regarded Armstrong grimly and bit hard at a

"Well?" demanded Armstrong, as they got clear of the crowd.  "Did you
stop him?"

Mansfield shook his head.

"There was a directors' meeting a week ago--a secret one," he said
crisply.  "Ten thousand shares of stock were issued to Ried Williams.
His note for five thousand dollars was issued in payment.  Then the
transfer books were closed."

Armstrong froze.

"Note--five thousand!" he said, unbelieving.  "For stock worth two
hundred thousand on the market?  Impossible!"

"It is illegal, but it's not impossible," said Mansfield.  "It is a
fact.  All Macgowan wants is to remain in power.  This gives him a
clear voting majority, of course."

Armstrong pulled himself together.

"Wait!" he said.  "Wait!  There's something else you don't know--"

The two men looked at him, startled by his manner.  He met the gaze
of Dorns, and laughed bitterly.

"Good thing you're here, Dorns," he said.  "I just had a long
distance call from our Chicago manager.  He had some information for
me.  I've been indicted in Springfield, Illinois, for perjury in
connection with the sale of Food Products stock.  Macgowan wanted the
indictment for use during the campaign, of course--well, he has it


"The difference between you and Macgowan," said Robert Dorns, "is
that he's got the law on his side--and you're on the side of the law.
It ain't much difference at first sight, but when you get down to
cases it's a whale of a difference!"

Armstrong smiled wearily.

They were in Armstrong's rooms at the hotel--Dorns, Mansfield,
Bruton, Holcomb and Sessions.  Jimmy Wren listened in a corner.  It
was the evening of the third day; and in another room Armstrong's
full battery of legal experts were arguing and contending, vainly
striving to find some way out of the disaster.  Mansfield knew the
fight was lost, and admitted it.  The committee of three admitted it.
The silence of Dorns, who never admitted anything, was eloquent.

Armstrong alone refused to admit defeat.

"I was talking with Garvin to-night," said Mansfield slowly.  "He's
their chief counsel, you know.  He intimated that Findlater would be
glad to make some peaceful settlement."

Judge Holcomb made a despondent gesture.

"They have us, of course.  Shall we open negotiations, Armstrong?"

"Not with my consent," replied Armstrong.  "We have won our fight
honestly.  They have beaten us by illegal trickery.  If Findlater and
Macgowan are elected by means of this block of ten thousand votes, I
mean to contest it."

Mansfield regarded him quietly.

"Look at the facts impartially," he said.  "It is true that their
actions are illegal.  It is true that this farcical stock issue to
Williams was made merely to carry the election, just as that
indictment in Illinois was obtained merely to discredit you.  It is
true that we shall obtain the dismissal of this indictment, that we
can contest the election, and that we must ultimately win the
fight--if we push it.

"But, my dear fellow, do we want to push it?  Is the game worth the
candle?  Ask yourself that question fairly.  Garvin intimated to me
to-night that Findlater would be only too glad to throw Macgowan
overboard and make peace.  There has been friction between them;
Findlater, I think, is terrified by Macgowan's audacity and absolute
disregard for any legal ethics.  Now is our time to compromise, get
what we can out of their differences!  Garvin is in this hotel now.
If you'll let me interview him, I fancy that he'll be all ready to
present terms for our acceptance."

"I don't compromise," said Armstrong quietly.

"Then give in, surrender!" put in Judge Holcomb, gloomily enough.
"Consider what a protracted fight will involve, Reese!  It means that
we'll be battling in the courts for months to come, perhaps years.
It means lengthy and continuous expense--and you know what this
campaign has cost us.  What if we win?  We get nothing out of it.
Macgowan can juggle the books of Consolidated and use the investors'
money to fight us--"

"That's exactly it," said Armstrong.  "He's fighting us with our own
money!  And if we fail, he'll rob us.  We must not fail."

"Besides," spoke up Doctor Bruton, "consider the effect upon the
company itself, Reese!  Already this fight has hurt it tremendously."

"Not as much as Macgowan has hurt it," said Armstrong.  "Not as much
as he will hurt it!"

They were silent for a moment, staring at him.  Then Robert Dorns
moved in his chair, took his cigar from his mouth, and spoke.

"Listen here, Armstrong.  Who's runnin' Consolidated now?"

"Macgowan, of course."

"If he's out o' the company, who's runnin' it?"

Armstrong was silent a space, his gaze fastened on Dorns, his lips

"I see," he said at length.  "Yes.  I see."

Dorns waved his cigar, drove home his point.

"We ain't in this fight for selfish reasons, but for the good of the
company.  Now, at the very minute Macgowan gets into the saddle--what
happens?  His crowd goes back on him.  Findlater is ready to ditch
him.  S'pose we make terms?

"Then our stock is back in control.  Leave Findlater there if we have
to!  Believe me, when we're dealin' with Findlater and not Macgowan,
we can handle him!  It's Macgowan's infernal brains that have been
makin' this fight, me lad; don't mistake that.  Why not let Mansfield
have a little talk, learn what we can do?  They can't put anything
over on Q. Adams, and you know it!"

Armstrong was silent again.  Then he rose to his feet.

"Go ahead, Mansfield," he said.  "I'm going to telephone my
wife--excuse me."

He went into the adjacent room and closed the door.

For a little he was unable to get a connection; he waited.  At length
he heard the maid's voice on the line, and asked for Dorothy.
Another wait.  Then came the voice of Dorothy, coolly speaking his
name.  Something in her tone startled him.

"Are you well, lady?"

"Well enough in body, Reese," she said.  "Not in mind.  There is
something you must do for me."

"Yes?  What is it?"

"Make peace with Macgowan."

Armstrong was staggered.  "What do you mean, Dorothy?"

"I can't explain over the telephone.  Will you do it?"

He laughed shortly.  "Very likely.  We've been beaten.  We're
discussing peace terms now.  But what on earth made you ask me to do
such a thing?"

"A belated understanding of some things, Reese."

"Good heavens, Dot, what's happened?  Why, you speak as though
something were wrong!"  He heard her laugh without mirth.

"No, nothing's wrong.  When shall you be home?"

"Not to-night.  Probably to-morrow morning, unless you need me now.
Do you?"

"No, dear.  Morning will do.  Good-by, and all luck!"

Armstrong dropped into a chair, a prey to furious indecision and
tumultuous thought.  From the very tone Dorothy had used, he knew
that something was amiss, something had happened at home.  What was
it?  What on earth had caused that coldness in her voice?

It did not occur to him then that Macgowan might have struck him in a
vital spot.

He was tempted to rush home at once, seek the cause of the trouble,
remove it.  Dorothy had said no word, yet he understood that for some
reason she was angered against him.  But he could not leave here now;
it was impossible.

A knock at the door.  Mansfield appeared, closed the door behind him,
looked at Armstrong.  He seemed startled by the tortured face, the
distracted frown, that met his eyes.

"Reese!  What's happened?  Anything new come up?"

"No."  Armstrong made a vague gesture.  "Some trouble at home--I
don't know what.  I feel buffeted on every side--a whirlwind all
around me--storm--"

Mansfield regarded him in a singular manner.

"God is never in the whirlwind," he said, his voice and his words
strange.  "Always in the still, small voice."

"What do you mean?"  Armstrong looked up, caught by the extraordinary
air of the lawyer.  "Eh?"

Mansfield's face changed, altered to its usual dry alertness.  He
shrugged, took a cigar from his pocket, lighted it, sat down.

"I have an offer direct from Findlater," he said, and looked at
Armstrong.  "Before presenting it, I wish to say that the answer must
come from you alone.  I cannot advise you.  I can say only one thing:
Consider it well!  It is the only offer that we can get."

"Name it," said Armstrong, collecting himself.

"The election of officers takes place to-morrow.  Findlater agrees to
drop Macgowan from all connection with Consolidated.  This means that
Macgowan will fight bitterly.  In order to insure beating him, the
Stockholders' Protective Association is to throw its votes to
Findlater and continue him in office.  The issue of ten thousand
shares to Williams will be withdrawn.  Holcomb and Bruton will be
placed on the directorate."

Armstrong stared.

"You say that the Association must vote with Findlater?"

"That is the _sine qua non_.  No counter offer will be considered.
The answer must come at once."

Armstrong fell into thought.

The offer was seemingly fair enough.  Macgowan would be smashed
utterly and beyond recall--this was certain.  Victory!  Judge Holcomb
and Doctor Bruton would become directors.  It would mean a tremendous
personal triumph for Armstrong--

At a price.

He started, stung to the quick as he perceived the truth.  Now he saw
why Mansfield would give no advice, why the answer to this proposal
must come from him and from no other!

Week after week, by letter and word of mouth and press notices, the
present management of Consolidated Securities had been under the
bitterest fire from the Association.  The attack had been directed
overwhelmingly against Findlater and his associates.  They had been
publicly exposed and branded as grafters, thieves, looters.  Under
the surface, the attack was upon Macgowan, but Findlater and his
associates were the ostensible targets.

It was for the overthrow of this management that the Protective
Association had been working day and night.  The object of this whole
campaign had been that of getting Consolidated Securities into honest
hands, out of Findlater's grip.  For that purpose proxies were held
from far and near, thousands of them, proxies of those who had
entrusted their votes to the Protective Association, for the common
cause, for the common welfare.

A harsh, hard laugh rang from Armstrong.

"Did Garvin make you this proposal?"

"Yes," said Mansfield, imperturbable and cold.

"You have a singular code of legal ethics in these parts," said
Armstrong, his voice like acid.  "Garvin stands remarkably high as a
lawyer--almost as high as you do, Mansfield.  But I know lawyers out
West who would kick a client out of the office if they asked him to
carry such a proposal as this."

Mansfield's face stirred slightly, wakened from its cold calm.

"Garvin," he said after a moment, "will resign as chief counsel to
Consolidated.  He bore the message as a part of his duty, and so
informed me."

"In that case," said Armstrong, "I should be glad to retain his

Mansfield raised his brows.

"Ah!  But your answer to this proposal?"

"There can be but one answer," said Armstrong.  "They ask us to
betray the people who have trusted us, to take these votes, given for
the express purpose of removing Findlater's management, and use them
to retain that management.  In order to do this, they try to bribe
me, to appeal to my personal enmity, by kicking Macgowan out."

"If you refuse," answered the lawyer reflectively, "it accomplishes
nothing.  If you refuse, Macgowan remains in power; the issue of
stock to Williams will stand; the Association faces a blank wall.
You are under indictment.  You will be discredited among many of the
investors.  I merely present these facts that you may understand the

Armstrong laughed bitterly.

"Don't worry--I understand them!  Go out there and tell Holcomb and
the others about it.  Tell them that my answer is: No!  Tell them to
quit if they want to.  I shall go on fighting, alone.  That is all."

For a moment Mansfield studied the unyielding face of Armstrong, then

"Ah--perhaps you do not recall what Philip de Commines said of his
royal master?  He said: 'I never knew any man so wise in his
misfortunes.'  To be wise in misfortune, Mr. Armstrong, is to
overcome fate.  I--by gad, sir, I congratulate you with all my heart
upon this decision!  You shall not go on fighting alone."

He held out his hand.  Armstrong gripped it, and was astonished to
perceive that the eyes of this man were suffused with emotion.

Thus ended the Wilmington meeting.


It was after ten the next morning when Armstrong entered his own home.

Wearily, he discarded his things and turned to the living room, where
he glimpsed the figure of Dorothy.  Why she had not come to meet him,
he did not know or care.  He thought only of the news he bore,
hesitating to face her with word of complete defeat.  He was
overwhelmed by a sense of futility.  Even though the defeat were
temporary, even though his conscience were clear, even though that
indictment were certain to be dismissed--what was being gained by a
prolonged fight?

"I might still get out of it, turn over my Consolidated stock to
Findlater, and be rid of it all," he thought in despondency.  "I've
failed at every point, and might better acknowledge it.  I could go
to work at something else--"

So the temptation gnawed, as he came forward to join his wife.  He
was too dejected even to observe her manner or the distinct challenge
of her greeting.  He threw himself into a chair and stared at the

"I've failed," he said abruptly.  "Macgowan has beaten us all along
the line, lady.  Last night we tried to compromise, and failed.
We've lost, but he's beaten us illegally; we'll fight on and in the
end, we'll win.  But that's not the worst news I have."

Dorothy did not answer.  Armstrong stole a glance, found her gaze
fastened steadily upon him.  Something in her eyes frightened him.
He realized that she had not welcomed him home.

"Dot!  What's the matter?"

"Nothing," she responded calmly.  "I'm sorry you were beaten, Reese.
I have some news for you, too, but finish what you have to say."

The dreadful quietude of her manner shook him to the depths.  One
blow after another had reached him; now he began to fear something
vaster and deeper--he knew not what.

"I've been indicted in Illinois for perjury, in connection with Food
Products stock," he said.  "Macgowan got the indictment in order to
discredit me.  He got it fraudulently and it'll be dismissed.  But
it's one more thing."

"I know."

Armstrong jerked up his head.  "You know?"

"Yes.  A man was here to warn you.  He told me.  I learned other
things, too.  That is not the only indictment you'll have to face;
Macgowan is going to push you to the wall.  And, Reese, I'm afraid he
can do it."

"What do you mean, Dot?  What do you know?"

"I know everything."  A hot torrent of words broke from her.
"Everything, Reese!  I know how you've deceived me all this time;
I've suspected it a long while, but now I know it.  How you planned
everything, took advantage of our wedding-day, even postponed our
wedding in order that you might steal father's company from him.
I've stuck by you through it all, Reese.  I've tried to do my duty by
you, tried to make my love and faith blind to everything; but now a
time has come to speak.  You must give up this fight against
Macgowan, at once, to-day!"

"Stop, stop!"' cried out Armstrong.  The agonized incredulity of his
voice made her wince, but her steely eyes remained steady.  "Dot, you
don't know what you're saying!  Good heavens, girl--do you realize
what you're charging me with?  It's preposterous!"

Sudden anger blazed in Dorothy's face.

"Can you deny that you planned to take father's company away from
him?  Can you deny that it was all arranged in advance, with this
same Macgowan?  Can you deny that at the very hour we were to be
married, you were robbing my father of his life-work--basely striking
him in the back?  And then you dared to complain when Macgowan turned
on you and did the same to you, after I had given you warnings!  Poor
father, there was none to warn _him_."

"Dot!" exclaimed Armstrong, in bewildered horror of her words.
"Don't say--"

"Can you deny these things?" she persisted coldly.

"Absolutely!"  Armstrong came to his feet.  "It's a lie, all of it!
A cursed lie!  Dot, I give you my word of honor--"

"Don't," she said coldly.  "I don't believe you."

These words delivered the worst blow that Armstrong had ever
received.  For a moment he actually reeled under their impact,
disbelieving his own senses.  He stared at Dorothy from distended
eyes; then a rush of frightful anger flamed into his face.

"You don't believe me!" he repeated.  "God forgive you for saying
such a thing--"

"Oh, let's have no heroics, Reese," she intervened.  Her savage and
relentless cruelty stung him to the very soul.  "I've discovered the
whole affair, and now I am laying a choice before you.  I know why
you are fighting Macgowan so desperately.  I know why you pretend to
fight on behalf of the sixteen thousand investors--"

"Pretend!" he uttered in a strangled voice.  "Pretend!"

"--and now it is going to end."  She was cold, inexorable,
emotionless.  "You may as well learn that if you keep up this fight,
you'll end by being branded as a felon.  I would stick by you through
that disgrace, Reese, if it were achieved in a just cause.  Now that
I know the truth, now that I know retribution is upon you for what
you did to my father--it's all ended for me."

She paused an instant, then went on.

"Go and see Macgowan.  It may be too late, but at least make the
effort.  Give up this fight.  Abandon this righteous pose of yours,
and be done with it.  Either that, or I shall leave this house

Armstrong was stupefied.  He could only stand staring at her like a
man paralyzed.

The most frightful part of it was his absolute ignorance of what had
so aroused her anger and bitterness.  He could not imagine how she
had gained this idea that he had stolen her father's company, that
retribution for such a theft was facing him.  This was all so
preposterous to him that he could not even view the accusation in any
correct perspective.

And then the scorn of her words reached to the quick, seared him
intolerably.  That she should so turn upon him in this hour of defeat
and black despair, evoked from him a passionate fury.

"Tell me what's behind all this!" he demanded hotly.  "Out with it,
Dot!  What basis have you for uttering such damnable lies about me?"

He received a frigid glance.

"That is gentlemanly language to use, Reese," was her response.  "I
was not brought up to hear such words addressed to me--but I shan't
argue with you.  Do you intend to give up this fight or not?"

"Dot, listen to me!" he broke out frantically, desperately.
"Whatever has come over you, at least listen to me!  Surely you can't
ask such a thing, in all sanity?  Oh, the devil himself must be in
this!  You can't mean it, Dot; you've been with me from the first,
helping and backing me--and now you ask that I submit!  You know I'm
not fighting for myself alone--"

Her eyes, dark with anger, flashed at this.

"I thought it was not for yourself, but I've learned better.  I've
learned that you are using these investors as a shield for yourself.
Do you think it's for myself alone that I'm making this demand?  No,
no!  It's not for my sake that I want this mad obstinacy of yours

The wild vehemence of her words frightened him, sent him into a cold
chill of stark terror.  He had never seen her in so blazing an anger,
so passionate a fury--he had not dreamed such a condition would be
possible to Dorothy Armstrong.

"I'll not have my child branded the child of a felon!" she rushed on
in an impetuous burst.  "I know better than you yourself where you
are heading; so far as I'm concerned, it ends now!  My marriage vow
to you has ended.  My obligations to you have ended.  What I now have
to do, is to live and act and hope for the child that I shall bring
into the world.  If you persist in your course, the blame is not mine
but yours.  I am giving you your chance."

Armstrong was absolutely stunned, as much by the savage conviction of
her manner as by what she said.  He comprehended that she was
speaking from a terrible sincerity--but he could not understand it.

"Dot--"  He checked himself, paused, forced himself into a semblance
of calmer speech.  "Dot, I swear before heaven that I don't know what
you're talking about!  Somehow, Macgowan must have reached you--"

"He has not.  Will you give up this fight, or give me up?" she
demanded coldly.

He was terrified afresh by her air.

"I can't talk about it now, Dot.  I'm all unstrung--in no shape to
think or speak calmly.  I can only hope that what you've said is
assignable to your condition, that you can't realize what you are

"You dare to attack my sanity, do you?" she burst forth.

Armstrong made a despairing gesture.  "I'm not attacking you--for
heaven's sake, Dot, try and be calm!"  The cry was wrenched from him.
"We'll take this thing up again after luncheon, dear; I'll have to
learn what's in your mind.  You know I'll not give up this fight.
You know I simply can't give up, abandon the people who trust and
look to me!  I'll not do it, no matter who asks it."

"Very well.  If that's your decision--"

"It is my decision--and I'll not change it!" he exclaimed in a gust
of anger.  "It's bitterly wrong of you to ask such a thing.  But let
all that go now, Dot; we'll take it up after luncheon and thrash it
out calmly.  I'll have to get calmed down a bit."

He turned and strode from the room, and so upstairs.

There in his own room, he strove desperately to get himself in hand.
The touch of cold water on his skin cooled his blood, but only made
him more aware of the awful chaos into which he was plunged.  Who was
responsible for this attitude on the part of Dorothy?  What had
caused it?

He changed his clothes, his brain in tumult.  Dorothy seemed to know
as much as he did about this indictment.  He was frightened, too; in
her condition she was receptive to delusion, obsession, madness!
This thought made him frantic in his very solicitude for her, and
lessened his resentment of her words and manner.  It was not his wife
who had been speaking downstairs--it was the woman who carried a
child under her heart, the woman whose entire physical and nervous
system was for the moment thrown out of balance.

He was longer than usual about dressing, but at length descended the
stairs.  At their foot, he encountered the maid, and thought that she
regarded him with a singular air.  He halted her curtly.

"Who was here yesterday or the day before?"

"Nobody, sir, but a Mr. Slosson, I think the name was--yesterday
morning early."

"Slosson!"  The name broke from Armstrong.  He clenched his lips for
an instant, and flung an appearance of calm into his reply.  "Very
well.  You may serve luncheon whenever it's ready."

"It's ready now, sir."  The maid's face was frightened.  "If--if Mrs.
Armstrong is coming back--"

"Coming back?"  Armstrong looked at the maid with terrible eyes.
"What do you mean?"

"She called the car and went out, just after you went upstairs, sir.
And--and she had her traveling-bag--"

Armstrong put out a hand to the stair-rail.  For a moment he stood
speechless, his face gray as death.  The maid started forward to stay
him from falling, then she shrank back from his burning gaze.

"Never mind luncheon," he said thickly.




Upon the Saturday after the triumphal return from Wilmington,
Lawrence Macgowan sat in the office that had once belonged to
Armstrong.  A thin, malicious smile drew at his lips as he studied a
typed document which lay on the desk before him.  He leaned back and
lighted a cigar, laughing silently and amusedly to himself.

The door opened, to admit Findlater.

"Good morning, Mr. President!" exclaimed Macgowan heartily.  "I was
just thinking about you!  Come in and make yourself at home."

Findlater, looking well pleased with the world, lowered himself into
a chair.  Success had agreed with him.  It had even given him a
slightly superior air with Macgowan.

"Er--something I'd like to inquire about, Mac.  How do you expect to
meet these suits that have been brought by Armstrong's crowd?"

Macgowan waved his cigar genially.  "Tut, tut, my boy!  Never worry
over little things like that."

"But it may become serious."  Findlater frowned, as though displeased
by this light response.  "Everything's being done in my name, and I
should have a clear idea of the program ahead of us."

"Oh, leave the legal affairs to me," and Macgowan's shoulders shook
in a hearty laugh.  "Haven't I taken care of them pretty well so far?"

Findlater reddened.  He was ruffled, irritated by this evasion.

"Confound it, Mac, why can't you be talked to?  Why, look at
Armstrong!  He'd let a man sit down and talk an hour.  With all his
cursed blue-law character, he'd listen to any proposition--he's big
enough to do it.  But not you.  Why are you stalling about these

Macgowan's eyes narrowed, then a smile crept into them; not a nice
smile.  This unfavorable comparison with his enemy, particularly
coming from Findlater, stung him unbearably.

"All right, have your way--and pay for it," he said, a rasp in his
voice.  "You want to know how I'm going to deal with that crowd, eh?"

"Exactly.  But what do you mean by paying for it?"

Macgowan waved this query aside, ignored it temporarily.

"Armstrong's going to give up this fight," he said, mouthing his
cigar and regarding Findlater with an air which appeared to cause
that gentleman some uneasiness.  "Our suits against Armstrong can be
dismissed any time now.  As for the suits against us, they can be
postponed.  All we want is delay.  Armstrong will give up."

Findlater grunted.  "Maybe--and maybe not.  I know Armstrong as well
as you do."

"Not quite as well.  You don't know where he's vulnerable; I do."
Macgowan chuckled.  "He's the heart and soul of the crowd that's
fighting us.  If he quits, we'll have a clean sweep, eh?"

"Yes," admitted Findlater.

Macgowan smiled as he regarded his confederate.

"D'you know what's happened?  Armstrong's wife has left him--gone

Findlater stared for a long moment, until gradual realization came to
him.  Something in the voice and eye of Macgowan wakened his
comprehension, conveyed to his brain that these brief words not only
constituted a statement of fact, but also held a note of triumphant

Even Findlater was stupefied by this admission.  Bad though he was,
Findlater had certain bounds which he disliked to cross.

"Lord!" he ejaculated.  "You--Mac, you didn't do this?"

"I?"  Macgowan's brows went up.  "Certainly not, certainly not!  I've
not spoken a word to Mrs. Armstrong in months."

A momentary snarl lifted his lip, as the memory of that scene in the
Waldorf smote into him.  The snarl crept into his voice as he went on

"But I'll not say that I knew nothing about it.  When I go after a
man, Findlater, he's gone!  I went after Armstrong, and I'll finish
him.  You thought during the campaign that I was taking wild chances
in my attacks; perhaps I was, but haven't we won?  Libel suits don't
worry me.  We'll not press our own suits.  That Illinois indictment
against Armstrong came too late to do us any good; let it be
dismissed.  But wait--just wait!"

He leaned back, deliberately checking himself, not wishing to reveal
too much of his inner feeling to this confederate of his.  His usual
suave calmness returned to him.

Findlater nervously cleared his throat.  He had not missed that
quick, vindictive snarl.  During the past few weeks he had become
much better acquainted with Macgowan than ever before; and in his
heart he had grown terribly afraid of the man, having learned with
what reckless and even criminal audacity Macgowan could act.  He now
realized that he himself had been drawn slowly but surely into the
meshes of a net, the drawstrings of which lay in the powerful grip of

Now, in his cowardice, he made an effort to change the subject--only
to find that it drove back again upon him with new insistence.

"Something else I wanted to ask you, Mac.  There's a check on my desk
to be counter-signed--five thousand dollars to a man named Slosson.
I can't locate the record of any transaction--"

Macgowan cut in blandly, with all his suave poise to the fore.

"It's quite correct, I assure you.  The check goes to him for--shall
we say, legal services?

"Slosson," went on Macgowan, "has executed a slight commission for
which Consolidated can well afford to pay.  He is a partner of our
friend Ried Williams, by the way, and is waiting to get this check
before returning to Indianapolis.  If all goes as I expect, we shall
issue checks in a similar amount both to Williams and Slosson, within
a few more days.  Perhaps at once."

This was all news to Findlater, and inwardly it infuriated him to
perceive that Macgowan was handling funds and making plans without a
word of consultation.

"I'd like to know more about this," he said aggressively.

"Of course!  Did you ever hear of a gentleman named Windsor?"

Findlater shook his head.  "Who is he?"

"Assistant attorney general of Indiana," said Macgowan smoothly.  "At
present he is a special investigator, appointed to probe into
something connected with the Food Products stock that Armstrong
marketed.  Somehow, word of something rotten about this stock issue
reached him--unfortunately, I can't explain the entire matter just
now.  I assure you, however, that the checks going to Slosson and
Williams have been well earned."

Findlater made an angry, irritated gesture.

"This pouring out money by the thousands is sheer waste," he
exclaimed heatedly.  "You've admitted that the Illinois indictment
amounts to nothing, that we'll not press any of the suits we've
filed.  Then why the devil are you spending all this money to get an
Indiana indictment on the same grounds?"

"Ah, but I'm not!"  Macgowan chuckled amusedly.  "On materially
different grounds, my dear chap.  This Mr. Windsor is a man who
cannot be bribed or coerced, a man whose acumen is keen, whose
integrity is as Cæsar's wife."

He paused and surveyed Findlater blandly.

"Such a man becomes an invaluable tool in the proper hand.  I may
inform you that he will not only indict Armstrong, but will convict
him.  He is now collecting the proofs, and upon his return to
Indiana, he will send Armstrong to prison."

"What have you found against Armstrong, anyway?"

"That remains a secret in which I have no concern," responded
Macgowan cheerfully.  "A secret which is supposedly locked within the
breast of Mr. Windsor and one or two--"

"Damn it, why can't you come into the open with me?" exploded

"I shall, presently." For an instant the gleam in Macgowan's eyes was
wolfish.  "Since you have demanded my program, I am presenting it.
Armstrong will be indicted, tried, and convicted; this is certain.
He is already ruined in his home, with his wife departed.  He will be
a broken man.  The Armstrong Company will go to pieces with him.  The
fight being waged against us will die of inertia.  This is

Macgowan puffed his cigar alight, then went on.

"You see, then, why I am not concerned over these legal affairs?  The
suits against us will hardly be pressed, with Armstrong a convict.
Our own suits we calmly dismiss."

"But are you sure of convicting him?" asked Findlater, a glow of hope
in his eyes.

Macgowan smiled cynically.  "I prepared the evidence myself.  Need I
say more?"

Findlater leaned back and drew a long breath.  At this moment,
however, Macgowan changed the subject.  He regarded Findlater with
latent cruelty, a steady appraisal which showed how absolutely he
held the other man in his power.

"There is a little matter which you and I must settle," he said.  His
tone made the other man jerk around.  "Suppose you affix your
signature to this."

He held out the typed document which lay before him.

Findlater took it, adjusted his glasses and glanced at the paper.  He
looked more attentively.  Slowly the color faded out of his cheeks,
and the paper shook in his hand.  He looked up, caught his breath.

"I--I don't understand!" he began.  The challenging gaze of Macgowan
seemed to sap the man's vitality.  His voice failed.

"Can't you read?" asked Macgowan coldly.  "Your resignation as
president of Consolidated, undated; also, an agreement empowering me
to vote your control in the voting trust.  It seems very simple."

Findlater rallied.  His countenance purpled with a rush of anger.

"Damn you, Mac, you can't force me out--I'm not to be bullied into
walking out of here like Armstrong did!  If you think you'll stab me
in the back, you can guess again.  I know too much about you and how
you've run things--"

"You'll tell it, will you?" cut in Macgowan, chuckling.

Findlater glared at him, trembling with rage and fright.  Like a rat
backed into a corner, one touch would either lend him a devastating
fury to fight at all costs, or would send him scurrying away in blind

Macgowan, watching him, applied the touch very deftly.

"I don't want to use that resignation now; it may never be used.  As
to talking, everything in the campaign has been done over your name,
as president, so talk all you like, and I'll leave you to settle
matters with the other crowd.  And I will leave you, unless you sign.
Why shouldn't I?  What about that proposition you made Armstrong over
in Wilmington?  All ready to sell me out, weren't you!  And you
thought I'd never know it."

At this, Findlater turned white again.  Macgowan laughed thinly.

"I'll take no more chances on you, Henry C. Findlater!  From now on,
you'll be in my pocket, under my hand--or else I'll walk out of here
and give a statement to the press that will wake things up!  Who
issued those ten thousand shares to Williams?  You did."

"At your orders!" cried Findlater wildly.  "It was you who did

"Prove it."  Macgowan, abruptly, flamed with arrogance and tumultuous
violence.  His fist crashed on the desk as he leaned forward and
transfixed Findlater with his wolfish, menacing stare.

"Sign that paper and get out of here!" he roared.  "Throw me over,
will you?  I'll show you where you get off, you dirty hound!  We'll
have this paper signed and witnessed, and if you ever again try to
knife me--Lord help you!  Get busy!"

Findlater, his brow streaming with perspiration, laid the paper on
the desk and reached out trembling fingers for a pen.


Jimmy Wren looked with harassed eyes at Armstrong, who sat at his
desk listlessly going over a report.

"Reese," he broke out impulsively, "what the devil can I do?  How can
I help?"

Armstrong looked up at him soberly.

"Nothing, Jimmy, thanks," he answered in a flat voice.

"You've not heard from Dorothy?"

Armstrong shook his head.  "No.  She's in Evansville, and has opened
her father's house there, I understand."

Jimmy Wren was aware only of the troubled fact, and not of the
details that lay behind Dorothy's desertion.  Armstrong had closed
Aircastle Point the day after she left, and was now in an uptown

Reese Armstrong was still bewildered, dazed, by this private tragedy,
which over-shadowed everything else.  He could not spur himself to
take any interest in the winding-up of the campaign, and accepted
without question what was done by Holcomb and the others.  Dorothy
had returned no answer to his one implorant letter; this silence hurt
more deeply than her words.

A profound apathy was upon him.  Somehow, he felt, Macgowan had been
responsible for this final and crushing blow; but how, he was at a
loss to know.  His apathy was continually pierced by the thought of
going to Indianapolis and wringing an explanation out of Slosson, yet
he could not stir himself to the action.  He had not the slightest
idea what Slosson had implanted in Dorothy's mind.  He could not
imagine why she had been so insistent upon his guilt, how he had been
so utterly damned in her eyes.  He must face Slosson with nothing but
surmise--and the heart was gone out of him.  He knew it, as did those
around him; but only Jimmy Wren knew that his domestic separation was
the cause of it all.

"Damn Slosson!" he burst forth despairingly.  "If I had him here I'd
choke the truth out of his--"

He checked himself abruptly, with an effort.  Jimmy Wren stared.

"Slosson!  The fellow on the old Food Products board?  Why, I met him
in Evansville.  What's he got to do with this, Reese?"

"Oh, nothing, Jimmy, nothing I can go into!" groaned Armstrong,
flinging the paper in his hand across the desk.  "Don't ask me, old
man.  It's hell, that's all."

He reached for a cigar and lighted it, biting hard on the weed, his
brow furrowed and lined by the stormy mood within.

Armstrong had ceased to evince interest in the various suits and
legal activities; their issue or rather lack of issue now mattered
nothing to him.  What did matter was Dorothy's accusation.  Upon what
had she based her arraignment?  She must have acted after deliberate
thought, with apparently firm grounds.  He could only lay hold upon
the obsession that he had robbed her father of Food Products; any
other surmise could only appear weak and unsatisfactory.  He had been
tempted to cable the Demings to come home and help straighten the
thing out--

"Look here, Reese!" broke in the voice of Jimmy Wren again.  Wren
seated himself on one corner of the desk and lowered his voice to a
confidential pitch.  The warm geniality of his features, however, was
obviously an attempt, an effort, and could not quite disguise the
anxiety in his eyes as he regarded Armstrong.

"If you're not doing anything to-night," he went on, "s'pose you let
me take you uptown and meet a friend of mine, will you?  This is just
between you and me, Reese.  I'd like to have you meet her--haven't
mentioned it before, because we've all been so infernally balled up
with this campaign."

Armstrong smiled slightly at him.  "What, Jimmy!  Are you hooked at

"Not yet, but I'd like to be!  You come along with me to-night,
Reese, and we'll have a bit of real music that'll take the edge off
your nerves.  Come on, now, will you?  Or wait--this is Saturday!
I'll call her up, and we may run up there this afternoon, and all
have dinner and a show later on.  What say?"

Armstrong hesitated.  Although he was well enough aware that this
proposal was made to provide some distraction for him, he knew that
he needed the distraction.  Besides, he was curious about Jimmy
Wren's very secret love affair.

"You've kept quiet about her, Jimmy--why?"

"Well, she wanted me to," admitted Jimmy Wren, reddening a bit.  "You
see, she doesn't go in for gay life and all that sploshy stuff--to
tell the truth, she's given me a lot of help these days--well, it's
just that she understands, see?  We're not engaged yet or anything
like that; she just lets me come around, and we have some music, and
talk.  You'd have to know her to understand, Reese."

Armstrong's lips twitched; this took him back to college days.  He
was upon the point of accepting Jimmy's invitation, when the
telephone rang.  He pulled forward the instrument.

"Armstrong?  This is Todrank speaking."

Todrank was his banker, not a warm personal friend, but a man of wide
influence and connections.  His interest in the fight on Findlater
and Macgowan had been keen and tense, because Todrank was a man who
never relented unto an enemy.  And, at some period in the past,
Todrank and Lawrence Macgowan had been bitter enemies.  Macgowan
might have, probably had, forgotten this fact, but with Todrank there
was no past tense.  If he liked Armstrong, it was largely because he
hated Macgowan.

"Do you know anything about Tom Windsor," he went on, "assistant
attorney general of Indiana?"

"No," said Armstrong.  "I think I've met him in Evansville.  A tall,
lean-jawed chap?"

"Yep.  He's a friend of mine; straight as a string and can't be
reached. He was in to see me yesterday.  Didn't know that I knew you,
and asked questions.  You'll regard this as confidential?"

"Absolutely," returned Armstrong.  He made a gesture, and Jimmy Wren
closed the door.

"Didn't you market a stock issue of the Deming Food Products Company,
around the end of last year?"

"Most of the issue, yes.  It's a subsidiary of Consolidated
Securities.  Why?"

"Windsor intimated that there'd been something crooked about that

"Oh, that's all old stuff," cut in Armstrong wearily.  "You know all
about it.  Macgowan has tried to get indictments--"

"Wake up, Armstrong!" snapped the banker curtly.  "This is something
else again--something different!  Windsor swears that Macgowan has
nothing to do with it--doesn't even know Mac by sight.  Get this man
right, or you'll make the mistake of your life!  He's so straight
that he'll fall over backward some day.  And he's hot on your trail."

Armstrong's curiosity was slightly stirred, no more.

"Let him go as far as he likes.  I've nothing to hide.  He can come
around here and go through the books if he likes."

Todrank uttered a disgusted oath.

"Damn it, that's just what he won't do!  That's why I'm trying to
warn you!  He isn't going, either--he's gone!  He appears to have a
hatful of the most damning evidence against you.  I don't know what
it is, but if Tom Windsor thinks you're a crook--then look out.  He's
stubborn as the devil.  I believe that Macgowan is in it somewhere,
although Windsor laughed at the idea.  I gave him the inside stuff on
your fight, and he merely showed his teeth.

"You wake up, now!" went on the banker earnestly.  "This is serious.
I gathered that the license to market the stock was gained under
false pretenses--"

Armstrong was stirred at last.  "That was arranged by the former
company.  I only took over the issue and marketed it."

"Well, there's a nigger in the woodpile somewhere.  Windsor thinks
you're the nigger; I'm suspecting Macgowan of some hidden stuff.
This is no fake, now; you can't afford to let it go through.  If
Windsor once gets action in the courts, he'll shove till hell freezes
over, because he's absolutely honest.  He's a fanatic in this
respect, the most dangerous sort!  He's got the goods, or he'd never
talk as he did to me."

"Why, confound it," burst out Armstrong, roused at last, "it's rankly
impossible that he could have anything on me!"

"You fool, don't you know Macgowan yet?" roared the banker angrily.
"Listen here!  Windsor mentioned another thing.  He's been offered a
ten-thousand-dollar job here in town, with the firm of Milligan,
Milligan, Hoyt & Brainard; a corporation law firm, fair to middling
but nothing extra.  The opening takes effect in about four months; it
came to him through Western sources entirely.  Personally, I smell
Macgowan in the whole game.  So far as I know, though, that firm has
no connection with Mac, so it's a wild guess."

"Where can I get in touch with Windsor?" said Armstrong.

Todrank laughed.  The laugh was hard, sharp.

"You'll have your job cut out to get in touch with him!  That lad
wants facts, not personalities.  He figures that the whole crowd of
you are a gang of cut-throat financial crooks, and wants to keep away
from you."

"But it's absurd!" cried Armstrong.

"Sure.  Our jail system is absurd too, but the fact doesn't empty
Sing Sing," came the caustic reply.  "You act, and act quick!  I know
Tom Windsor, and he's the only and original leader of the bloodhound
chorus, once he gets after a crook.  And he really thinks you're one.
Don't mention my name to him."

"All right, Todrank, and many thanks.  Is Windsor in town?"

"He's at the Pennsylvania, or was.  No telling now; he's a vigorous
young devil."

"Good.  Thanks again."

"Good luck!"

Todrank rang off.

Armstrong began to pace up and down, wrestling with this information.
He found himself lifted out of his lethargy, found the old hot anger
running and leaping again, found the apathetic and muffling impotency
stripped suddenly away.  The very mystery of this new blow roused him
to fight.  In what way could he be reached for any illicit operation
of Food Products?  He knew of none; yet Todrank had supplied the
hint, and he knew better than to disregard the warning.  He turned,
and found Jimmy Wren staring at him from the corner.  Abruptly,
memory wakened within him.

"Say, Jimmy--why, what's the matter?"

Wren laughed aloud.  "Nothing, only you look waked up!  Good news?"

"No.  More bad news.  That party for this afternoon is all off,
Jimmy; thanks just the same.  Do you remember when you came to
Evansville, the day before Christmas?"

"You bet I do," said Wren, blinking.

"You told me about an irregularity in the issue of Food Products
stock.  What was it?"

"Why, the Deming directors could never have marketed that stock issue
under the blue sky laws if they'd revealed the actual condition of
the company.  They falsified it."

Armstrong nodded.  "Yes, that's what I remember.  It was all their
doing?  It had no connection with us at all?"

"Not a shadow," said Wren confidently.  "Not even Macgowan could make
that stick on us."

"So Mansfield said.  He should know.  I'll call him up--"

"He's in Albany."

"Judge Holcomb around?"


"Well, you keep quiet about this." Armstrong rose.  "It may all come
to nothing, as usual."

He went to the office used by the committee of the Protective
Association, where he found Judge Holcomb.  The latter gave Armstrong
a keen glance, and smiled.

"Congratulations, my boy!  You look yourself--got your fighting
clothes on again?"

"Lord, I must have been moping around here like a wet hen!  Judge,
I'm trying to run down something.  Did you ever hear of a downtown
law firm by the name of Milligan, Milligan, Hoyt & Brainard?"

The old judge leaned back.

"Did I ever hear of them?  I did, to my sorrow.  Haven't I ever told
you about the time that Macgowan's law firm hooked me hard and fast?"

Armstrong thrilled suddenly.  "But that firm isn't his--"

"That firm," said Judge Holcomb with decision, "is the one that
handled my case for me.  On the other side of the case was Macgowan's
firm.  And Macgowan was a very silent but active partner in Milligan
et cetera!  Oh, yes, they hooked me."

"Can you prove that statement?" demanded Armstrong sharply.

"I cannot.  As we know to our cost, any one who can obtain definite
evidence against Lawrence Macgowan is a miracle worker.  Still, a
number of attorneys are convinced of the fact."

"All right, thanks." Armstrong nodded and rose.  "I may see you later
about it."

Returning to his own office, he summoned his secretary.  Already a
keen exultation was thrilling inside of him; already he felt that at
last he was going to score a point against Macgowan.  This Windsor
would never suspect that he was being bribed, that Macgowan had any
connection with the legal firm offering him a job.  Armstrong
accepted Todrank's estimate of Windsor implicitly, knowing that it
would be accurate.

He gave his secretary Windsor's name and asked her to call him at the
Pennsylvania and make an appointment for that afternoon.  She left on
her errand.  Armstrong sat for a space in silence, eagerly awaiting a
call.  None came.  Presently the secretary returned.

"Did you get him?"

She hesitated.  "I--yes, I got him, but--"


"He said that he was leaving for Indianapolis in half an hour and had
no time for--for crooks.  He said the only appointment he would make
with you was before a Federal judge, and that he'd make this
appointment in his own good time.  I'm sorry, sir--"

"Never mind."  Armstrong shrugged.  "Get Mr. Dorns on the wire if you

He reflected rapidly.  The situation was undoubtedly serious.
Windsor would never have given such a message unless he had some
incriminatory evidence--yet what could he have?

The telephone rang.  Armstrong picked up the receiver.

"Hello, Dorns?  Oh, pretty well, thanks!  Something very important
has just come up.  I must get to Indianapolis Monday morning
sure--I'll catch a late train to-night.  When I get there I'll want
help.  Can you put me in touch with your agent there?"

"Better'n that," responded Dorns quickly.  "I've got to be in Chicago
next Saturday.  I can spare a few days in Indianapolis.  But can't
you catch that train at five this afternoon?"


"Good.  That gives us a clear night's sleep in a bed before Monday
wakes up.  Same old fight, is it?"

"Yes, only something new this time.  A fighting chance to put the
enemy down and out.  Bully for you, Dorns!  I'll get that five
o'clock train."

"All right.  You get the reservations--I'll meet you at the gate five
minutes before the train goes.  I'm busy.  So long."

Armstrong turned from the telephone.  The thought of Dorothy leaped
into his mind with a swiftly searching pang; he could not conquer it.
After all, Indianapolis was so close to Evansville!  He had no
definite reason for seeing Tom Windsor, other than to demand a
hearing.  Perhaps, despite warnings, he would not have bothered about
going except that--

"Maybe I'm a fool," he thought moodily.  "I wonder if I've let this
Windsor menace impress me too strongly--because of Evansville?  It's
not too late to change my mind--no, I'll go!"

It did not occur to him that this urge and pull of spiritual forces,
this compellant thought of Dorothy, might have any connection with
practical things.  Men are slow to believe in guardian angels.


Late in the afternoon of that same Saturday that saw Armstrong's
departure for Indianapolis, the same Saturday that saw Findlater
placed completely in the power of Lawrence Macgowan, Jimmy Wren
called to see Mrs. Bird Fowler.  The call was unheralded and purely
on impulse, for Wren was harassed and at his wits' end to serve
Armstrong; the latter had not confided in him about Todrank's
warning, but Jimmy Wren had guessed the purport from what Armstrong
had said.  He was worried and nervous.

Wren was sent up to the apartment and was received by the maid, who
knew that he was a favored visitor.

"Mrs. Fowler is out, sir," she told him, "but I'm expecting her back
at any minute now.  I know she'd not want to miss you.  If you'd care
to wait--"

"Why, thanks, I will," said Jimmy Wren gratefully.

"Would you care for a fire, or tea--"

"No, nothing, until Mrs. Fowler comes," he rejoined, handing over his
things.  "I'll just sit around and smoke."

"Make yourself at home, sir.  If you want anything, I'll be in the

Jimmy Wren made his way to the cushioned window-seat, and with a sigh
of relaxation settled down with a cigar.  Mrs. Fowler's apartment was
on the second floor, the windows overlooking the flashing street
below, and the cool green distances of Central Park across the way
were just emerging into the virginal glow of springtime.

The restful quiet of the room soothed Jimmy Wren's nerves; the
silence, the sense of being at home, were grateful in the extreme.
He watched the slithering motors in the street below, the glint of
water and the thronging people in the park opposite, and felt himself
gradually return to normal.  Presently Mrs. Fowler would come, and a
bit of music, a little sympathetic talk, would clear the blues from
his mind.

After a bit he rose, abandoned his occupation, and began to walk
about the room, seeking something to divert his thoughts.  In one
corner stood Mrs. Fowler's desk.  It was open, and the noon edition
of a paper lay upon it, an inkwell weighting down the newspaper.
Pausing idly beside the desk, never thinking that the newspaper might
have been so placed designedly, Jimmy Wren removed it and opened it
out, glancing through the columns and scanning the headlines with
careless gaze.

Then he turned and put down the paper--and as he did so, observed two
objects over which it had originally been laid.  One of these objects
was a check; the other was an unsigned note.

Jimmy Wren stared down, absolutely petrified by the thing he saw, his
eyes widening in fearful and terrible comprehension.  For a long
moment the written words did not penetrate to his consciousness.  It
was only the handwriting that he saw, the handwriting that smote into
him with an actual physical shock, blinding him to everything but the
staggering realization of its presence here on Mrs. Fowler's desk.

No one who had ever seen it could forget that bold, angular,
masterful handwriting of Lawrence Macgowan.

Wren wet his lips, swallowed hard, stunned beyond any swift recovery.
Mrs. Fowler did not know Macgowan, except very slightly indeed, and
certainly had no use whatever for the man; indeed, Wren had very
often discussed Macgowan's acts and schemes with her, feeling a
sympathy and comprehension on her part which was very grateful.  Her
detestation of Macgowan's type of man was intense.

Then, why this letter--this communication with Macgowan?

Startled, angered, a flood of horrible suspicion searing into his
soul, Jimmy Wren reached down and picked up that sheet of notepaper
bearing the few lines of writing.  Not until then did the words
achieve impact upon his brain, but now that impact came with
astounding and terrific force:

"Dear Viola: Herewith a check in the usual form, on account.  During
the next few days I want the fullest possible information.  Then
we'll hold that party of celebration."

Wren replaced the note, and let his eyes drop to the check.  It did
not bear Macgowan's name, and the signature was wholly strange to

After a moment he drew a quick breath, looked down at the desk,
replaced the newspaper and weight as they had been originally, then
turned and walked to the window-seat.  There he sank down, staring
out at the street and park beyond.

His brain was at work now, dreadfully at work.  Viola!  So Macgowan
knew her by that other name, the same name Dorothy Armstrong had
used.  Viola Bland!  And what information did Macgowan want--how long
had Mrs. Fowler been collecting information for Macgowan?  A little
shiver passed through Wren's body.  He remembered now about his
flight to Tampa, and putting two and two together, began to form an
unescapable certainty.

Presently he took off his black-rimmed glasses and polished them
methodically.  Fiery and impulsive as Jimmy Wren was, in a moment of
crisis he was anything but emotional.  The blow was sudden and
severe, staggering him and sending all his scheme of things into
reeling chaos; yet it was not in him to take it with any hysterical
whirlwind of outward display.  Instead, as he came to cold
realization of the truth, all the acute perception of his character
was wakened and rallied to face the situation.

The hurt was there, and it was deep, but not so deep as Jimmy Wren
thought with the first blaze of pain.  His quick, sharp wakening was
proof sufficient of this.  In Macgowan's handwriting he was given a
broadly comprehensive vision of Mrs. Fowler to which he could not
blind himself.  Nor did he doubt or quibble for an instant.  The
feeling which he had taken for love was wrenched out of him with
fearful abruptness, but no vacuum remained.

Fright deadened the force and the pain of it; a horrified fright, as
the man comprehended what had been going on during these weeks and
months of the campaign against Macgowan.  All this while, Armstrong's
right-hand man had been confiding everything in his heart, hopes and
fears and plans, to the ear of a hired spy.  That was the cold fact
of it.

"By golly, but I've been a fool!" murmured Wren abjectly.  "To think
that she'd do me that way--why, she's lied like a Trojan to me!"

Suddenly he reacted; it was characteristic of him.  Another man might
have pondered his folly, mourned the consequences of his blindness.
Jimmy Wren was abruptly stirred to sanity, to a cold anger, to a keen
lust of fight.  His one thought now was how best he could strike
back, repay this blow, use this bitter knowledge to repair the damage
he must have unwillingly caused Armstrong.

Face Mrs. Fowler down?  No.  To let the enemy know they were
discovered, would effect nothing.  Outwardly cool, inwardly a
seething mass of activity, Jimmy Wren decided upon that keynote of
caution--and then leaned forward, his attention drawn by a taxicab
which had just pulled up at the curb below his window.  A man
alighted and assisted his companion out; his companion was Mrs.

But the man--the man himself!  Jimmy Wren's eyes blazed as he craned
forward, unable to recognize the figure, as the two below him stood a
moment in talk.  Then the man doffed his hat, and a low whistle broke
from Wren.  He had not seen that face in long months, yet he knew it
again at sight, knew it and thought of Armstrong's deadly trouble.
Pete Slosson!

"What the devil have I stumbled upon, anyhow?" muttered Wren, as he
hastily drew back from the window.  "Here's a connection between
Slosson, the lady, and Macgowan--but what's the connection?  Damned
if I can see any.  A fine fool, I am!  If I'd trusted Mrs. Armstrong
enough to--"

He started, and a slow smile came to his lips.  Dorothy Armstrong!
Somehow, Slosson was connected with the private trouble of the
Armstrongs; just how, he did not know.  But Dorothy would know.  Here
was the weapon laid ready to his hand, could he but use it!

"By the gods, I'll use it, too!" he exclaimed to himself, flaming at
the thought.  "Reese has gone West.  I'll beat it to Evansville and
make a clean breast of the whole thing to Dorothy; got to do that,
now.  Whatever the reason she left Reese, this business will throw
some light on it, I'll bet.  How did Slosson come to know Mrs.
Fowler, anyhow?  Why, Macgowan put him next, that's all.  And it was
Lorenz, Mac's friend, who introduced me--well, I'm getting a line on
this thing, right enough!"

The apartment door opened and closed again.

When Mrs. Fowler stepped into the room, Jimmy Wren was puffing away
at a fresh cigar and making some notes in a memorandum book, too
absorbed to hear her entry.  She shot one swift glance at the desk,
then came forward.  Wren was on his feet instantly, his face beaming
with surprise and delight.

"Hello--I didn't hear you come in!  May I stop and talk to you for a

"My dear boy, I'm delighted!" she greeted him warmly.  "Why didn't
you call up and I'd have been here?"

"I came in a rush, as usual," and Jimmy grinned as he helped Mrs.
Fowler doff her wraps, and handed them to the maid.  "You see, I'm
leaving town to-night for a day or so, and I wanted to get a last
glimpse of you before going."

"Mercy!  You're not starting for the North Pole?"  Smiling, the lady
seated herself among the pillows of the window-seat, and accepted the
cigarette which Jimmy procured for her.  "Thank you.  What's this
sudden trip about?  More business?"

"Nope," responded Jimmy Wren.  "An aunt of mine is dying in Chicago,
and I'll have to run out there and do the decent thing.  Haven't seen
the old lady for uncounted years, but that doesn't matter.  Too bad I
didn't get the wire a few hours earlier.  I might have gone with
Reese.  He's off this afternoon--gone to Chicago to look into some
bond issue they want him to take over."

Wren rattled all this off in a breath.  Mrs. Fowler smiled.

"My, Jimmy, but I wish I had your eager vitality!  You seem to have
more pep to-day than you've had in a month!  Does the passing of an
elderly relative always affect you this way?"

Wren grinned, but took warning.  He shook his head.

"No, but the prospect of a change of scene probably is responsible.
Things are in bad shape at the office, you know.  Macgowan has
completely won his fight, and Armstrong has given up the battle
entirely.  I'm glad to get away from the gloom."

The lady's eyes gleamed, and the gleam was swiftly hidden.

"Poor boy!" she commiserated softly.  "And you're so devoted to
Armstrong, too!  I do hope that things will take a turn for the
better from now on."

"They will," said Jimmy devoutly.  "Now that the fight's over, even
if we've been well beaten, we'll try to take out the smart by going
ahead with other things and forgetting the defeat."

He knew better than to try and extract any information, and contented
himself with supplying as mendacious an account as possible to be
taken to Macgowan's ears.  Presently he glanced at his watch and
rose, giving an exclamation of dismay.

"I didn't dream how the time has gone--I'll have to rush for it!  A
thousand things to do yet!  If I'm back Tuesday, may I see you?"

"The first minute you can, my dear Jimmy!"  Mrs. Fowler rose and held
out both hands to him warmly.  "Will the aunt leave you a fortune?"

"No chance," and Wren laughed with an amusement that was unaffected.
"Nothing like that in our family, I'm afraid!"

Mrs. Fowler accompanied him to the door, and Jimmy Wren congratulated
himself upon a very graceful exit.  When the door had closed behind
him and he was in the elevator, he uttered a long sigh of relief.

"There's an extra fare train on the Pennsylvania to-night," he
reflected.  "I can make it, connect at Terre Haute, and get into
Evansville to-morrow morning--good!  And I sure hope Mrs. Armstrong
can make some sense out of this affair--more, at least, than I can!
But Slosson's the nigger in the woodpile, and maybe she can pull him
out.  Whew!  I've got some confessing to do and no mistake!"

His smile was rueful at the thought.


Jimmy Wren made his train without difficulty that evening.  He spent
half an hour in the diner and then made his way forward to the club
car, anticipating a smoke and an hour of talk before retiring.  To
his infinite disgust, he found the car crowded.

As he stood beside the magazine rack and scanned the smoke-filled
body of the car, he was suddenly aware that most of the men were
amusedly watching one of their number--and Jimmy Wren, following the
general gaze, found himself looking at the flushed features of Pete

Obviously having ordered innocuous drinks for himself and a
protesting fellow-traveler, Slosson was putting into the drinks a
heavy "stick" from a large pocket-flask.  It was his maudlin
ostentation that had drawn all eyes, in tolerant amusement, for he
was flourishing the flask and delivering a general address upon
prohibition, while inviting all and sundry to join his libations.

Uttering a grunt of contempt, Jimmy Wren turned and retraced his
steps to the rear of the train.  Gaining the observation platform, he
found himself alone, and settled down in a corner chair.  He lighted
his cigar and stared out into the night across the rails that flashed
in the track of the train.

"Confound the fellow!" 'he thought angrily.  "Confound the luck that
brought me on the same train with him!"

He removed his black-rimmed glasses, pocketed them, and cursed the
cinders and Slosson impartially.

In reality, Jimmy Wren meant his oaths to apply liberally to himself;
his folly was magnified in his own eyes.  There was no telling how
much harm his intimacy with Mrs. Fowler had done Armstrong's cause in
the past few weeks; and now that he had to sit here inactively and
think about it, he was tormented anew.

Again, that glimpse of Pete Slosson revived in his mind the memory of
how he had looked from the window to see Slosson bring Mrs. Fowler
home.  All tenderness and fond imaginings had been ripped out of
Wren's soul at one quick wrench, yet the hurt was there.  Unable to
vent his anger on the lady in the case, he scowled blackly at thought
of Slosson's vaguely-guessed hand in all this game, and cursed
himself for a fool.

Jimmy tossed away his cigar and produced another one.  As he was
lighting it within cupped hands, the car door opened and another man
came out beneath the dome light of the observation platform.  In no
mood for conversation, Jimmy Wren did not glance at him.

"Hell of a conductor on this train!" said the other, with voice
uplifted above the roar.  "Hell of a conductor, that's all I've got
to say!  Idea of tellin' me to go to bed an' behave myself!"

Jimmy Wren looked up.  Slosson stood there, swaying unsteadily to the
swinging lurch of the train, trying to extract his flask from his
hip-pocket.  As he labored, Slosson looked down at Wren, but entirely
without recognition.  The absence of Wren's usual glasses, and the
light from directly above, combined with Slosson's befogged condition
to render him entirely oblivious of the identity of the person whom
he now addressed.

"Ain't that the limit, I'm asking you?  What right's a conductor got
to put passenger out o' the  club car, eh?  I've paid my fare and I'm
'titled to ride where I like.  You see what happens when I write in
to the company about this, that's all!  Here, have a li'l drink?
Don't be 'fraid; no white mule in this, brother."

"To hell with you," snapped Jimmy Wren, and turned his shoulder to
the intruder.  He saw that he was unrecognized, and was glad of the
fact.  None the less, his temper was hot and at the surface.

Slosson uttered a propitiatory laugh.

"Oh, it's all right!  Bonded stuff, I'm tellin' you, brother!  Go
far's you like; more where this comes from.  Can't fool me on liquor,
you bet!  Here, take a li'l sample, just to prove you'n me--"

He thrust the flask under Wren's nose.  Irritated beyond endurance,
Wren angrily struck it aside; there came a shivering crash of glass
and an odor of raw whisky as the flask shivered on the brass

"Hey!" cried Slosson's indignant voice.  "Now look what you've done!
What's matter with you, eh?"

His hand clamped down suddenly on Wren's shoulder.  Wren took the
cigar from his mouth and shoved the glowing end into Slosson's hand.

"Get to hell out of here," he snarled.

A howl of agony burst from Slosson, then his fist drove into Wren's
face and sent him sprawling.  A long train of sparks flew out into
the night from the cigar as it shivered; the train clattered over a
crossing and the brakes screeched slightly, slowing down for a stop
at a large town ahead.

To everything except each other, the two men on the observation
platform were blinded.

Wren rose and hurled himself on Slosson, lashing out in wildcat fury.
Every restraint was gone from him, swept away by a whirlwind of rage;
he forgot everything except that detested face, and slammed his fists
into it frantically.

It was well for Jimmy Wren that Slosson's muddled brain could not
exert its usual keen cunning.  Aghast before the unexpected passion
of this attack, Slosson was slow to answer it in kind, until the
sting and batter of Wren's blows hammering into his face roused him
to response.  Then, bearing forward with a storm of oaths, he beat
back the more slender figure of Wren, his arms working like
piston-rods.  Both men were too beside themselves to hit vitally for
the body; they struck only for the face, for punishment, insensate
with mutual madness and battle-fever.

Wren had the worse of this slugging-match.  Backed into a corner of
the guard-rail, he received terrific punishment--until he seized an
opening and got in a whip-crack blow to the mouth whose impact
staggered Slosson.  Enraged afresh, the latter flung himself bodily
at Wren; the two men clinched, and went reeling back and forth across
the narrow platform to the lurches of the train.

Slosson, panting forth curses, got his fingers locked about Wren's
throat, and the latter tried desperately but vainly to free himself
of that death-grip.  One of the folding chairs tripped them both.
The train swung sharply; for an instant Wren felt the brass rail at
his back--then he was over, falling into the night, and Slosson with
him.  A crash, the keen edge of cutting gravel in his face, and Wren
found the hold upon his throat loosened as they struck and rolled
over together.

The train went thundering on.

After a moment Wren pulled himself to hands and knees, dazed by the
shock, and stared about.  Dotting lights showed him that he was in
the precincts of a town; then, with a low exclamation, he drew
himself to where Slosson lay motionless under the stars.

"Stunned--thank heaven he's not dead!" murmured Wren.  "Why both of
us weren't killed, is more than I know--"

The whistle of another train warned him that they were yet in danger.
He stooped, dragged Slosson's inert figure down the embankment, and
then relaxed, panting.  A brief examination served to show that he
was badly bruised and knocked about, a mass of cuts and scratches,
but sound in wind and limb.  His quick wits took stock of the

"Hm!  Nobody saw that scrap," he reflected swiftly.  "They'll think
we got left at this station or some other one, when they find we're
gone.  Well, I sure bit off more than I could chew this time--if we
hadn't gone over, that devil would have choked the life out of me!"

He bent over Slosson again, and this time made a more careful search.
He could find no serious injury, and as he worked, Slosson's
stertorous breathing became regular and deep.  The man's coma had
passed into a drunken sleep.

Jimmy Wren laughed softly.  He removed Slosson's coat, emptied it of
everything, and then rolled it up and put it under the head of its
owner.  Stiff and sore, he dragged himself to his feet.

"Sleep hearty!" he admonished his unconscious enemy.  "And if I ever
hit you again, it'll be with a crowbar--'and let no mournful
yesterdays disturb thy peaceful heart!'  Pleasant dreams."

Gaining the track, he took up his slow and painful way toward the


Tom Windsor reached Indianapolis on Sunday, spent a few hours with
his family, and the same evening boarded a train for Evansville.  It
was the same train from which Armstrong and Robert Dorns alighted.
Windsor's business in Evansville was slight but highly important.

One who knew the reputation of Tom Windsor, would have visualized an
altogether different type of man.  He possessed a long, hard jaw; no
mistake about that!  For the rest, his appearance gave no indication
of undue rigidity; quite the contrary, in fact.  His cheerful smile
was much in evidence, and he wore an air of alert optimism.  He was a
man of many friends, always in demand as a speaker at Rotarian or
"uplift" banquets, and shared with Will Ross the distinction of being
the most popular pall-bearer in southern Indiana.

Reaching Evansville toward noon, Windsor took his way at once to the
hotel where he had a particular errand.  He had relatives in
Evansville, but was seeing no one this trip.  He was keenly on the
scent of the final bit of evidence that he desired to establish his
case against Armstrong.  In this case he was entirely ready to
suspect anything and every one, particularly after learning in New
York what a network of intrigue underlay the Armstrong-Macgowan
battle.  Windsor intended to be nobody's tool.

He went direct to the office of the hotel manager, whom he knew very
well personally.  He met with an uproarious welcome, and an offer of
a quart of rye.  All roads led to the river towns, from the earliest
days of prohibition in the state.

Windsor waved aside the offer with his usual smile.

"Judge Sanderson'll get you yet, Norman, and up you'll go!  But
to-day I want another sort of favor.  I'm going to lunch in your
esteemed hostelry, and my time is short--I want the next train back
to Indianapolis.  While I'm lunching, will you look up your registers
for last July?  I believe a man named Wren was here, between the
first and fifteenth, and I must verify the fact."

"Sure thing!" was the hearty response.  "Everything in the house
except the cellar is at the service of the law!  I'll have the
evidence waiting for you after lunch."

Windsor promptly repaired to the dining room.  As soon as luncheon
was over, he found the manager as good as his word.  With keen
satisfaction he discovered that Jimmy Wren had been here during the
second week in.  July, and he carried away with him the loose-leaf
page of the register which confirmed the fact.  The final link in his
chain of evidence was complete.

He left the hotel, meaning to get a taxicab at the corner and spend
his remaining half-hour in the city making a quick round of his
relatives.  As he came to the curb, he paused and turned.  A passing
car had swerved in suddenly, and he heard his name called.  The
chauffeur gestured to him.

Windsor stepped forward.  The sedan door opened, and he found himself
facing Dorothy Armstrong.  She was leaning forward eagerly, her hand
extended; and the startling change in her appearance since his last
view of her, astonished and alarmed Windsor.  He shook hands
heartily, yet with the fervent inward wish that he were elsewhere.
She could not know of the case on which he was working, yet--

"Get in, Tom, and I'll take you wherever you're going," Dorothy was
saying.  "There's something I want very much to ask you about.  No,
keep your cigar--I adore it, and you always picked such good ones!"

Windsor was caught off guard, and for once his ready brain failed
him.  He meekly entered the sedan, murmuring that he was on his way
to the station.

"Then we can have a little talk," said Dorothy.  "You're looking
splendid, Tom, and I hear such fine things about you!  Tell me--is it
true that you're working on a case that involves Mr. Armstrong?"

For one instant Windsor was staggered, panic-stricken; even to the
average eye Dorothy's condition was evident, and he hesitated whether
to lie or tell the truth.  Then he rallied, squared himself to meet
pleas and protests, and the gaze that he turned to Dorothy was keenly

"I can't discuss the matter, Dot," he said quietly.  "I'm sorry,

"Now, Tom, please don't be silly!"  Her calm look disquieted him to a
singular degree.  "You have already answered my question.  When I was
in New York, I heard that you were about to involve Reese in some
business matter, and I'm not going to ask you to discuss it in any
way.  But it's providential that we met, because there's something I
want to ask you.  And I'm not going to defend Reese or stand up for

Windsor could find no response, and waited.  He was acutely
embarrassed, but he was thoroughly on the alert.  Dorothy's next
words startled him afresh.

"Do you know anything about the business fight between Reese and a
man named Macgowan?"

"Something," returned Windsor cautiously.  The car was driving slowly
along Main Street toward the railroad station, and he wished most
heartily that it would quicken pace.

"Well," Dorothy spoke with an air of seeking exact words to express
her thought, "for a long time I have known that Macgowan was seeking
in every underhand way to hurt Reese, even in ways of which Reese
knows nothing.  Macgowan's a very clever man, Tom.  I should like to
ask you--and I think you can answer the question fairly--whether this
present matter came to your ears, in any possible way, through or
from Macgowan?"

Windsor considered this question a moment.  He could discern no trap,
and made up his mind to accept Dorothy's words at their face value.
He turned to her.

"I understand what you're driving at, Dot," he answered quietly.
"I'll be frank.  Had it come to me through Macgowan, I'd have
distrusted the whole thing, although I've never seen the man himself.
But the affair came to me directly from two small investors in Food
Products stock, who wrote in to the office about it."

"Couldn't Macgowan have prompted them to write?" she demanded sharply.

"Of course."  Windsor nodded.  "But they had nothing to do with
the--the actual crime that was committed, Dot.  I have traced that
independent of any one else.  The stock of this company was placed on
the market in a fraudulent manner, that's all.  I have absolute
evidence that it was done by your husband.  I'm sorry to say this;
it's hard for me--"

"Never mind, Tom.  I know you're only doing your duty, and I'm not
trying to argue the point.  It had, however, more than once occurred
to me that behind this there might be the hand of Macgowan, and I
meant to write you about the possibility.  If there were any least
connection with that man--"

"I get you," he said with a curt nod.  "There is absolutely none!
I've gone over everything very carefully to avoid that possibility,
in fact.  A relative of this same Macgowan is involved--you know Ried
Williams, of course."

Dorothy caught her breath.

"Williams!  But he hates Reese, hates him bitterly!  And he's a

"I know all that, Dot." Windsor smiled grimly.  "Don't think for a
moment that Williams came forward to tell what he knows!  On the
contrary, I went after Williams and forced him to a showdown; he's
incriminated in the affair himself, you see.  No, Dot, you may be
sure of one thing--I'm trying to be just.  I'm not letting any one
use me for a tool if I can help it."

"I know, Tom, I know," she responded, and sighed.  "Well, I suppose
that's all.  I know you can't talk about the case, and I don't want
to hear about it.  But, Tom!  You'll be careful?  You will?  Not to
let Macgowan reach you in any way?"

Windsor laughed shortly.  "Do you think I'm easily reached?"

"Oh, you know what I mean.  That man is so clever, and he hates Reese
so vindictively!  And he knows so well how to hide himself behind
other people."

Tom Windsor patted her hand as it lay beside him.

"My dear Dot, I read law, as they used to call it, under old Judge
Williamson--one of your father's best friends.  He used to say that
the law was an institution for the protection of honest men against
rascals, but that the rascals have turned it into a protection
against honest men.  I've remembered that saying, Dot, mighty often;
and as long as I have any connection with the practice of law, I'll
try to keep the institution in its original channels.  Well, I must
say good-by--and I'm glad we've had this little talk."

"So am I, Tom," said Dorothy simply.  He alighted and said good-by,
and as he turned into the station, Dorothy ordered the car out into
the country.

She wanted to get away from home, from town, from every one she knew,
out into the open air.  Her last hope, faint and half-cherished as it
was, had been destroyed by this meeting with Windsor.  Only within
the past few days had the vague fancy arisen within her--that
Macgowan might somehow be connected with the charges against Reese.
Now it was gone.  There remained only the bitter hurt of her mortal

She knew well enough what she must now expect of the immediate
future, and the thought sickened her.  Even the sweet springtide all
about her furthered the hurt; spring in the world, and winter in her

For her life ahead, Dorothy could make no plans, could take no
thought; it was bleak.  In another month her parents would be home
from Europe, and then something could be settled, some decisive
course of action taken.  She remembered how, after the wedding, she
had surprised her father upon his knees, praying for her happiness;
and he cheated and robbed in that very moment by the man she had just

It was hours later when Dorothy came home--to find Jimmy Wren
awaiting her.


Upon Monday morning Armstrong and Dorns ascertained very speedily
that Tom Windsor was still out of the city.  His office reported that
he had come and gone, and was expected back again Tuesday morning by

Overnight, Dorns heard Armstrong's tale and strongly commended the
impulse to seek out Windsor.

"I've heard of this bird," said the detective musingly.  "He's all
they say of him, and then some.  He's nobody's fool, but it looks as
though Macgowan had made a fool out of him this time, with that
ten-thousand-dollar job."

"He's an innocent party."

"Sure.  Well, you got to see him quick and find out what's been
hatched.  It must be something slick, to get past this Windsor party.
He figures to work up a fine case against you, resign his present job
in a blaze of glory, and then start life in New York as a famous man.
The straighter they are, the harder they fall--when they're
approached the right way.  Bet you ten bucks that when you get to the
bottom of this, you'll find there ain't a single peg to hang Macgowan
on, not a one!"

Armstrong feared that his friend was right.

Upon learning that Windsor would not be back until the following
morning, Dorns hastily consulted a timetable, then proposed that he
catch the next train to Chicago, arrange his business there, and
return to Indianapolis the next morning.  Armstrong nodded assent.

"You get a line on Windsor," said Dorns.  "I'll be here by nine or
ten o'clock in the morning, maybe earlier.  If you can't get to him,
I will.  He ain't going to refuse to see me--not much!"

So, bidding Dorns farewell, Armstrong went about his business frankly
and bluntly, going direct to the office of the state commissioner of

He found himself welcomed by the commissioner, if not with suspicion
certainly with a lack of cordiality mingled with astonishment.
Obviously, his name was unfavorably known; but he lost no time in
stating his case.  The commissioner listened, eyed him appraisingly,
and shook his head.

"I'm afraid it would do you no good to see him--"

"You misunderstand," cut in Armstrong curtly.  "I want a hearing from
Mr. Windsor before he acts further--that's all.  I am ignorant of
what charges are laid at my door; I know only that nothing can be
brought against me or the Armstrong Company unless backed by fraud.
I am acquainted with Mr. Windsor's character, and I believe that he
has been made use of by other parties.  If that's the case, I want a
chance to show him the facts before this thing, whatever it is,
attains publicity.  I've nothing to conceal."

"Personally," returned the commissioner slowly, "I have no knowledge
of the exact case upon which Mr. Windsor is working.  Certain facts
came to his attention; he requested that he be appointed special
investigator to look into your handling of the Deming Food Products
stock.  More than this I don't know.  But, Mr. Armstrong, I do know
something of recent publicity which has come your way.  The fight
which has centered around Consolidated Securities has been widely
advertised.  You have, for example, been indicted in Illinois--"

Armstrong uttered an angry laugh.

"If you'll keep your eye on that Illinois indictment, you'll see it
dismissed next week.  However, I am not here to defend myself, nor do
I wish to see Mr. Windsor for that purpose.  Will you try to prevail
upon him to see me to-morrow, out of common justice to me?"

The commissioner nodded.

"I will.  I had a wire half an hour ago saying that he would get in
on a night train and that means we'll see him early in the morning.
Where can I reach you?"

"At the Claypool."

"I shall telephone you at eight-thirty--but don't be too sanguine.  I
fear that he'll refuse absolutely to see you."

"Thank you."

Armstrong left, confident that he had done all that was humanly
possible.  If the stubborn Windsor still refused an interview, things
could take their course and be damned to them.  Whatever evolved from
this tangled skein, Armstrong felt that no great harm could be done
him.  And he could not forget that, only a few hours and miles away,
was Dorothy.

"If I fail to-morrow, I'll jump the next train to Evansville and see
her," he said to himself, as he walked the streets that afternoon.
"Perhaps time has softened her--at least, she may give me a calm
hearing.  Confound it all, what have I done that I should have to go
about the country begging for hearings!  It's outrageous, it's

Back at the hotel, his mood passed again into one of despair, for
loneliness took hold upon him.  It seemed that he was engaged in an
interminable struggle in which he achieved only new defeat at every
turn.  The amazing insolence of Macgowan was insuperable; the man was
a very Antæus, rising from every onset with fresh strength and new
cunning.  At length, dreading the return of his old despondent
apathy, Armstrong forced himself to a moving picture theater, which
afforded him an hour of mental relief and sent him to bed with the
issue of things confided to the knees of the morrow's gods.

At eight-thirty on Tuesday morning, Armstrong was nervously pacing
his room when the door was flung open and Robert Dorns entered,
unannounced.  At the same instant, the telephone rang; with a gesture
to Dorns, Armstrong turned quickly to the instrument.

"Yes, this is Mr. Armstrong--"

"The commissioner speaking, sir.  I've just seen Mr. Windsor.  I
regret to say that he refuses absolutely to see you."

Armstrong turned and shot a glance at Dorns, watching and listening.

"He refuses, eh?  Does he give any reason?"

"None.  I'm sorry."

Armstrong hung up the receiver, and with a gesture of despair turned
about.  Dorns eyed him, produced a cigar, bit on it.

"Back, is he?"

"Yes.  No chance."

"Huh!  Had breakfast?"


"So've I.  Let's go!  I want to get this thing cleaned up and catch a
noon train East.  Got to be in New York to-morrow night sure.  Come
on!  This bird sees us inside of ten minutes."

Armstrong shrugged, caught up his hat, and followed Dorns.  They
found a taxicab at the hotel entrance.  Dorns growled at the driver.

"Statehouse.  Make it quick."

Neither man spoke for a moment, until suddenly Dorns reached out,
violently struck Armstrong's knee, and looked the startled Armstrong
in the eye.

"Wake up!" he said.  "You're at the breakin' point; to-day is either
the start or the finish for you, me lad.  I can see it in your eye.
There's just so much any man can stand, and you're at the end of your
rope.  Buck up, now!  Don't play Macgowan's game for him; he's been
tryin' all the while to wear you down, blast his soul!  I know him.
He figures that if he can devil you just so long, you'll go smash at
last.  And he's right--you will.  But, me lad, hang on a bit longer.
Don't play his game for him."

Armstrong nodded soberly.  This thought about Macgowan was new to
him; he admitted its truth without demur.

"You're right.  I suppose I'm pretty close to the edge.  Well, thanks
for the advice!  I'll hang on."

Before the statehouse, Dorns left the taxicab.

"Don't come with me, now.  Come right after me.  Where's his office?"

"With that of the attorney general."

"All right.  Loaf along after me."

Dorns swung up the steps, entered the building, with Armstrong in his
wake.  He went direct to Windsor's office and sent his card in to
Windsor.  A moment later, Windsor himself appeared with outstretched
hand and welcoming smile.

"Mr. Dorns?  I'm very glad to meet you.  This is an unexpected

Dorns grunted.  "Want to see you in private a minute."

"Gladly.  Come along!"

When they stood inside Windsor's private office, Dorns regarded his
man steadily, refused to sit down, and then spoke with a blunt

"I'm informed that you've been offered a job in New York, with the
law firm of Milligan, Milligan, Hoyt & Brainard.  Is that a fact or

Windsor's eyes widened slightly.

"Eh?  Sure, it's a fact.  I wasn't aware that it had become widely
known, however.  I have accepted the offer, which does not go into
effect for some months."

"That's bad news--for you."

Windsor sensed antagonism in that hard eye, and stiffened.  A flush
crept into his face.

"What d'you mean by saying that?" he demanded sharply.

Dorns jerked his head toward the door.

"Armstrong's out there and wants to see you.  If you don't let him
in, you'll go up for conspiracy and for acceptin' a bribe--and I'll
send you up, me lad!  Macgowan is back o' that fine job in New York;
he's a silent partner in this Milligan law firm.  Lord help ye,
Windsor, if this ever busts loose in the papers!  Now, I know you're
square.  I know ye weren't aware to Macgowan's part in this.  Going
to see Armstrong or not?  You're in a deep hole, me lad; crawl out of
it quick!"

Windsor stared at his informant; into his face crept a species of
horrified comprehension.  Those blunt words hit him like so many
hammers, jarring the truth into him with smashing impact.  Nor did he
so much as protest the veracity of this information.

"Dorns--is this a fact--about Macgowan?"

"A cold fact," said Dorns.  "We know you're square; that's why we're
holdin' nothing back.  Give Armstrong a hearing--that's all I ask.
If you're still satisfied he's a crook, then go ahead; we'll never
bleat a word about this bribery thing.  But, if ye don't so much as
give us a show for our white alley, I'll raise hell's roof with it!
Yes or no, me lad?"

Windsor drew a deep breath, realizing that Dorns meant every word,
and assented.

"All right.  Bring him in.  Are you acting with him, for him?"

"Nope.  I'm listening with him, that's all.  I know he's on the

Dorns turned to the door.  The gaze of Windsor followed him in
puzzled and startled surmise, provoked by those final curt words.

When Armstrong came in, Windsor was seated at his desk, and looked up
with a brief nod of greeting; he was once more himself, and motioned
silently to chairs.  Both men sat down.

"What is it you want?" asked Windsor, steadily regarding Armstrong.

"A chance to show that whatever charges you hold against me are

Windsor swung his chair around, took a cigar from his pocket, and
lighted it.  For a moment he looked through the window with unseeing
eyes, collecting his thoughts; then he swung about again, and faced

"You have a job ahead," he said ominously.  "I'm going after you
because you obtained a license to market that stock issue of the
Deming Company in this state--and obtained it by fraud and perjury
and conspiracy.  Is that enough?"

Armstrong looked incredulous.  "Enough?  You don't mean to say that
that's the basis of this affair?"

Windsor merely nodded, studying his antagonist through the cigar
smoke.  Armstrong caught his breath as the tension snapped within
him, and broke into a laugh.

"Good Lord, Windsor!  That's the simplest thing on earth to answer.
When the license was obtained, I had no connection with that company;
it was obtained by the previous directorate, before we took over
Deming's plant!"

Windsor smiled thinly.

"Sure," he said.  "Armstrong, when I called you a crook in New
York--if you got my message--I meant the words.  I still mean them.
I expected exactly that answer from you.  It merely confirms my
opinion.  You're clever, but in this case I have the goods on you."

Armstrong was irritated.  "By Macgowan's aid?"

"Not a bit of it."  Windsor in turn showed a temptation to anger, but
held himself in check.  "He had nothing to do with it.  The proofs of
your crookedness were obtained by me alone.  Macgowan's own cousin,
Ried Williams, is involved in the conspiracy."

Armstrong stifled his resentment.  He was startled, alert,

"Very well," he said crisply.  "Since you already know that I had no
connection with that stock issue, except to market it later on, what
the devil is there against me?"

Windsor smiled genially.

"I only said that I expected such an answer from you, Armstrong.
Here are the facts, straight from the shoulder.  Ostensibly, you had
nothing to do with that stock issue.  In reality, you had everything
to do with it.  At your suggestion, false statements were sworn to by
the Deming directors; the entire scheme of operations as laid out by
you was followed by them.  The fraud originated with you.  Your man,
Jimmy Wren, came to Evansville and completed secret arrangements with
Williams, at that time Food Products' treasurer.  I have absolute
proof of all this.

"I have forced confessions from Slosson and from Williams--affidavits
which give away the whole game so far as you're concerned, and which
completely bare your little conspiracy.  My attention was directed to
the matter in the first place by certain small investors who demanded
an investigation; this led me to uncover the facts; these in turn led
me to Williams and Slosson--and there you are."

Windsor replaced his cigar between his teeth and benignly regarded

The latter sat in silence, his brain working at high speed.  In a
flash he perceived the whole scheme, and realized the danger.
Macgowan had cooked up this affair with Williams and Slosson, of
course, had laid a very crafty train which would lead Windsor to
them.  He had carefully covered his own tracks, and had placed
Armstrong in a serious predicament.

The cool audacity of the thing was staggering.  No wonder Windsor was
convinced by the evidence furnished him!  Affidavits from two of the
former Deming directors, actually implicating themselves, probably
supported by cunning additional evidence twisted out of the truth to
suit the occasion--why, it was damning!

Armstrong realized instantly that unless either Williams or Slosson
could be shaken in their statements, he was doomed.  If they stuck by
their guns, nothing could save him.  He turned suddenly on Robert
Dorns, the flicker of a smile on his lips.

"I'd like to have Mansfield here!" he observed whimsically.  "I told
him about those fraudulent statements when Wren first discovered
them, and he was certain that the matter could never be raised
against me."

"Why didn't you report them, if you knew they were fraudulent?" shot
out Windsor, pouncing on this apparent admission of guilt.  "Why
cover them up?"

"It was no business of mine."  Armstrong faced him, realized that the
crucial fight was on.  "I had nothing to do with the statements filed
by Deming's directors.  So far as I know, they were made out by the
treasurer, Williams, and he was the only one who knew them to be
false, unless the other directors were in on the deal with him."'

Windsor leaned back.  "Going to stick to that story?"

"You bet!  It's the truth," snapped Armstrong.  "That devil Macgowan
is back of this whole thing, just as he's behind that offer to you."

Windsor's eyes narrowed uneasily, but he shook his head.

"I can't agree with you.  I'll look into that New York job; and I'll
say that it was white of you to give me warning about it.  But
there's no tracing these charges back to Macgowan."

"He's behind it, none the less.  He knew about those fraudulent

Windsor quietly dissented.  "Armstrong, I've gone through things
carefully, looking for just such a connection; I was warned of the
possibility in New York.  I was in Evansville yesterday and met
Dorothy on the street; she suggested the same idea to me--that
Macgowan had framed you.  I'm sorry for her, cursed sorry!  But the
facts are open.  You're the boss in this thing, and there's enough
contributory evidence to put you behind the bars."

"I don't doubt it; Macgowan seems to have done this job up brown!"
Armstrong leaned forward earnestly.  From the look on Dorns' face, he
knew that he was at a critical point.  "Now, Windsor, I insisted on
seeing you because I knew you were honestly convinced.  You believe
I'm a crook, don't you?"

"Absolutely," said Windsor calmly.

"On the evidence of two men whom I threw out of Food Products because
they had wrecked that company.  Good.  Suppose we call on Williams
and Slosson.  Let me talk to 'em in your presence.  If they stick to
their lies, I'm through.  Let the matter come up in court and be
fought out.  If not--it's up to you."

Windsor removed his cigar and surveyed Armstrong with an indolent air
which masked his keen eagerness.

"Either you're the nerviest devil I've ever met or--well, I'll take
you up!  Wait till I get copies of those affidavits.  Back in a

He sprang to his feet and went into the adjoining office.

Armstrong waited.  Inwardly, his thoughts had been wrenched aside by
Windsor's mention of Evansville, of Dorothy; a fierce, fighting
exultation swept through him.  So she had appealed to Windsor--she
had cared enough to do this thing!

"By gad, that means a lot!" he muttered.  "A lot!  She's had time to
think it over, and there's still hope--"

The voice of Windsor came from the next room, addressing his

"If anything important comes up, call me at the office of Williams &
Slosson, across from the Board of Trade--you know where it is."

Windsor appeared.  "All right," he said.  "Let's go!"


The brokerage firm of Williams & Slosson had not yet arrived at the
point of throwing away money on externals.  The offices consisted of
a reception room and outer office, and two private offices, in one of
the old buildings across from the Board of Trade.

Under their windows was Monument Place.  All the life of the city
flowed around and through and under the monument; from his desk, Ried
Williams had beneath his eyes the pulsing heart of Indianapolis.
Upon this particular Tuesday morning, however, he was taking no
interest whatever in the view.  He had arrived early at the office
and was in irritable humor.

"No word yet from Mr. Slosson?" he snapped at the typist.

"No, sir."

"Confound it!  Nine o'clock now--here, call up his hotel and get him
on the line if he's there.  If not, see if they've heard from him."

Five minutes later, Williams uttered a grunt of satisfaction as he
seized his desk telephone and heard the sleepy accents of his partner.

"Where've you been, Pete?  Why didn't you show up here
yesterday--what?"  He paused, listening, and changed countenance.
"What's that?  Robbed and thrown off the train?  What have you done
about it?"

He listened anew, his sallow features tightening with anxiety.

"Well, I suppose you did right to say nothing," he admitted.  "You
don't know who it was, eh?  Were you drunk?  Oh, never mind all
that--I know you.  Well, get dressed and get down here right away.
You've had a fine long spree in New York, and now you're going to
watch your step--what?  Yes, the checks came in this morning's mail;
Macgowan must have sent them out first thing yesterday morning.  Get
down here, now, and get down at once.  All right."

Williams hung up the receiver.  As he did so, his door opened and the
typist appeared.

"There are three men here to see you," she said.  "Mr. Windsor--"

The eyes of Williams darted to his desk.  He hastily dropped certain
papers into the top drawer, closed it, and nodded.

"Very well, bring them in,"' he said.

"Good morning," said Windsor, as he entered the office.  "Mr.
Williams, here are Mr. Armstrong and his friend Mr. Dorns.  I've
consented to let Armstrong ask a few questions about those
affidavits, if you don't mind.  Where's Slosson?"

At hearing this, at sight of Armstrong and Robert Dorns, Williams
stiffened.  His darkly vulpine features turned a shade lighter; his
crafty eyes settled on the gaze of Armstrong with a species of crafty
boldness.  Beholding himself unexpectedly cornered, he rose to the
occasion with an outward display of assurance which, however
desperate it was, betrayed no weakness or hesitation.

"I am entirely at your service, gentlemen," he said coldly.  "Mr.
Slosson has been in New York--"

"Why, I thought he'd be back before this!" exclaimed Windsor.

"He should have been.  I had a telephone message from him, a moment
ago that he would be at the office in a few moments.  It appears that
en route here he was assaulted and robbed and thrown off his train.
I had not learned of it before now, and know no details.  Sit down,
please.  We might as well be comfortable."

Armstrong perceived danger in this admirable sang-froid, and from
that moment despaired of his purpose.  This man was not to be
browbeaten or tricked; only some accident, some slight word or
action, could overcome him.  Accordingly Armstrong, who now had
himself perfectly in hand, plunged straight into the midst of things
with as quiet and businesslike an air as he could summon up.  He
glanced at the copy of the affidavit in his hand, then spoke calmly.

"You know what I want to ask you, of course.  This affidavit that you
gave Mr. Windsor is the cause of our visit."

"So I presume."  Williams was imperturbable.  "As you may imagine, it
was not given of my own choice, but from necessity."

"Every statement in this affidavit," went on Armstrong coolly, "is

"One moment, if you please," intervened Williams, and looked up at
Windsor.  "May I inquire whether this conversation is to be made a
matter of record?  In such event, I should like to have my lawyer

Windsor nodded.  "If you like, of course.  But this is entirely
informal and between ourselves.  You are compelled to answer nothing."

"Thank you.  In that case, Mr. Armstrong, proceed.  I have nothing to

Armstrong faced defeat, and knew it.

"The statements in this affidavit will have to be backed up on the
stand," he continued.  "You realize that?"


"You say that I corresponded with you in regard to the Deming
Company's affairs, in June of last year, urging you to put upon the
market a stock issue which I might handle.  What proof have you of
such a statement?  Are you able to produce the correspondence?"

"As you are aware," and Williams smiled slightly, "you instructed me
to destroy the two letters which I had from you.  I so did.  Mr.
Slosson read them, however, and will be able to reproduce their gist."

Armstrong compressed his lips.  At every step, the trap was closing
more firmly.

"Then," he went on slowly, "you say that complete instructions
regarding this stock issue were given you verbally, by my
representative Wren, in Evansville on the tenth of July last--"

"Mr. Slosson was a witness to the conversation," struck in Williams

"--and that he advised you," pursued Armstrong, "to falsify the
company's financial statement in such a manner that blue sky licenses
might be obtained."

"Do you deny that Wren did so?"

"Of course," said Armstrong impatiently.  "He was in Evansville then,
and I believe that he interviewed you, gaining certain information
about the standing of the company.  I understood that it was in bad
shape, due to incompetent directors, and was making plans to the end
of helping Mr. Deming to retrieve the lost ground--but Wren certainly
never made such proposals as you here assert."

Windsor was intent, Dorns was frowning; Ried Williams shrugged and
spoke with an assumed helplessness that was very well done.

"Of course, Armstrong, passing the lie does no good here and now."

Armstrong looked at him.

"Williams, how long has Slosson been in New York?"

This question brought a narrowing of the other man's lids.

"A week, or a little over."

"Did you or Macgowan send him to my house?"

To all three of his listeners, this question brought startled
surprise, for Dorns knew nothing of Armstrong's recent domestic
trouble.  For an instant Williams was so badly shaken that Armstrong
thought the victory won.

"Your house?" repeated Williams, bewildered and wildly alarmed.
"What the devil was he doing there?"

"Talking," said Armstrong.  Perceiving the advantage of reticence,
and being himself ignorant of Slosson's exact errand at Aircastle
Point, he gave the frowning Windsor a slight smile.  Obviously, that
gentleman thought that Slosson had given Armstrong warning of this
whole affair, and was disturbed thereby.  Armstrong shifted his
ground quickly.

"As you very well know, at the time you charge that I was conspiring
with you, my affairs were all in the hands of Lawrence Macgowan.
Just where does he enter into this matter?"

Williams hesitated slightly before this shrewd demand.

"So far as I know," he responded, "he was not connected with it at

"Really?"  Armstrong laughed.  "When, at the time, he was my personal
adviser and chief aid?  You never suspected that he was involved or
had knowledge of this?"

"No," said Williams stubbornly.

"Not even when, after my marriage, he handled on my behalf all the
negotiations which ended in Consolidated Securities taking over Food

Williams rallied.  "The matter was never discussed between us," he
responded.  "If Macgowan was aware of the matter, he never mentioned

"Yet you are relatives," persisted Armstrong.  "And you have been
very intimate with him, particularly of late.  You were in Wilmington
at the annual meeting of Consolidated, and voted ten thousand shares
of stock, paid for with your note for five thousand dollars.  Before
you went to Wilmington, you must have been aware of Mr. Windsor's
active interest in this present affair--isn't that so, Windsor?"

"Yes," said Windsor quietly.  Armstrong looked at Williams.

"Then you did not discuss the matter with Macgowan while you were in

"No."  Williams clenched his thin lips for an instant.  "No.  He was
too much occupied with his campaign to give time to outside matters."

"That is very extraordinary."  Armstrong laughed again.  "You'll have
to fix up a better story on that before you go on the witness stand,
I warn you!  Then you don't know about Slosson coming to my house, or
what took place as a result of his call?"

Fear leaped into the eyes of Williams again, yet he answered quickly
and with obvious sincerity that impressed even Armstrong.

"No.  We went to New York together, and separated.  I haven't seen
him since, and he certainly did not intend seeing you."

Windsor intervened quietly.

"Mr. Armstrong, may I ask just what did take place as a result of his
call on you?"

"I can't answer that question now."  Armstrong paled slightly; a
spark leaped into his eyes.  "Wait until Slosson gets here, and we'll
have the matter out then."

So far as Williams was concerned, he knew himself beaten.  Dorns, who
was sitting close to Williams' desk, must have known it also; but the
sharp eye of Dorns had been prying about that desk.  Now Dorns leaned
forward, and reached out one long arm.

"D'ye mind if I look at this?" he said, and extricated a
half-concealed check from among the papers there.  Williams did not
answer, but sat immobile, silent, his eyes narrowed upon Dorns.  The
latter shrugged, and handed the check to Windsor.

"This ain't my funeral," he said.  "But you might like to ask
questions yourself."

Windsor inspected the check, and glanced up at Ried Williams.

"A check for five thousand from Consolidated?"

Armstrong thrilled to those words, but Williams only nodded slightly.

"Certainly.  What is wrong about that?"

"Nothing," said Windsor slowly.  "But I don't like your close
connection with Macgowan.  May I ask what this check is to cover?"

"Of course."  Williams, with perfect aplomb, leaned over and drew a
second check from the top drawer of his desk.  "Here is another check
of similar amount drawn to Mr. Slosson.  Both are dated April tenth,
you will observe.  They constitute payment to us for services
rendered in placing a stock issue for them."

"What stock issue?" demanded Armstrong crisply.

"That of the National Reduction Company."  Williams met his gaze

"Ten thousand dollars commission, eh?  So you're in on the looting
too.  Whew!  You got a fine slice, Williams.  Do you happen to have
any record of the transaction?"

"I have records showing that we placed this entire stock issue with
brokerage houses in Chicago," returned Williams.  "But I've no
intention of exposing the business of a client to the active enemy of
that client.  If Mr. Windsor wants to see the records, that's another
thing entirely."

"I think I'd like to see them," spoke up Windsor quietly.

Ried Williams touched a button on his desk, and his typist entered.
He instructed her to bring the records in regard to the National
Reduction stock issue, and she retired.

Armstrong, who had hoped for a moment that they had at last stumbled
upon something, immediately perceived that Williams had fortified
himself against every contingency.  Those two checks had undoubtedly
come for services rendered at Wilmington; unless, indeed, they had
come as payment for the perjury and fraud which Williams and Slosson
were perpetrating in this very affair with Windsor!  No matter if
Windsor's suspicions were now aroused, the crafty Ried Williams would
scrape through.

The typist appeared, but without the records.

"Mr. Windsor is wanted at the telephone," she announced.  "By his

"Give me the call here, please."  Windsor reached for the desk
telephone.  "Yes?"  He listened for a moment, then an expression of
amazement crossed his face.  "Who?  Wait a minute--say that over
again!  What's the amount?  Give me the date, please."

The typist entered, handed the records required to Williams, and
closed the door again.

"Very well," said Windsor.  "You're sure of that date, are you?
Good.  Why, you'd better come over here right away.  Yes, bring them

He hung up the receiver.  It appeared that his call had no relation
to the business in hand, for he turned to Williams at once.

"Ah!  You have the records?"

He took the typed sheets and glanced through them rapidly.  Then,
with a nod, he returned them to Williams.

"What other sums have you received lately from Macgowan's company?"
he asked.

"None," said Williams composedly.  "As you see, this transaction is

"Then you and Slosson have no further business under way with


"And these two checks dated the tenth are the final step in the


Windsor nodded.  "I see.  This appears to be perfectly straight,
Armstrong.  Are there any further questions you'd like to ask?"

Armstrong knew that he was checked.  He was in a trap from which
there was no way out; all the exits had been blocked by so cleverly
woven a fabric of perjury that he could do nothing except struggle in
futile passion.

At this instant the door opened and Pete Slosson appeared on the


Slosson stared at the men facing him.  Dorns he did not know; the
sight of Windsor and Armstrong here together brought an angry glint
into his eyes.  One of those eyes was very discolored, his face was
bruised and cut, and his right hand was half concealed in bandages.

"Come in, Mr. Slosson," said Windsor genially, yet with a certain
repressed eagerness in his voice which caused Armstrong to wonder.
"You know Mr. Armstrong, I think; this is Mr. Robert Dorns.  We came
over here in order that you and Mr. Williams might answer a few
questions in regard to these affidavits, if you don't mind.  Nothing
compulsory at all.  Mr. Armstrong merely wishes to satisfy himself on
certain points.  You look as though you'd had a pretty bad accident."

"I did."  Slosson entered, dropped his hat on a chair, and himself
into another.  "I was robbed and dropped off my train--had a devil of
a time.  Well, what can I do for you?"

He flung a glance at Dorns which was half defiant, half alarmed.  The
name must have startled him.  Dorns, being the man he was, took
instant advantage of what he read in Slosson's glance, and leaned

"I'd like to know," he said, hard of eye and voice, "just what took
place at Armstrong's house when you called there--"

"Not so fast, Mr. Dorns," cut in Windsor coolly.  "Mr. Armstrong is
doing the questioning here, if you please, and so am I.  Do you care
to answer that question Mr. Slosson?  This is a conversation among
ourselves, understand, and not a matter of record."

"It's none of his business, then," shot out Slosson defiantly.

Windsor smiled in his cordial manner, and glanced at Armstrong.

"Do you care to ask the question now, or defer it?" he inquired.

Armstrong suddenly perceived something tense in the manner of
Windsor, and this query startled him into swift thought.

"I'd like to see Slosson in your presence, or in private," he
rejoined calmly.  Under his look, Slosson's bold gaze wavered.  "I'll
defer my questions, if you wish."

"Very well, then."  Windsor produced a cigar and mouthed it,
unlighted.  "Mr. Slosson, there's something I'd like to ask you
myself.  A check for five thousand dollars was made out to you by
Consolidated Securities on the eighth day of April, Saturday last--"

"It was made out on--"  The intervention of Williams was swiftly

"Be quiet, please!" cut in Windsor curtly.  "I'm asking this

Williams sat back in his chair, his furtive eyes filled with
uneasiness.  Windsor looked again at Slosson, who was frowning
suspiciously.  Armstrong and Dorns, equally puzzled to understand
what Tom Windsor was driving at, awaited some clue.

"This check was made out to you on April eighth.  I'd like you to
tell me why it was given you--for what service."

Slosson was obviously doing some quick thinking.  Windsor took from
the desk the two checks and idly fingered them, as though the
discrepancy in his dates were of no moment.  Slosson darted a look at
his partner, then made response with a shrug.

"Why, we put over a deal in the stock of a new company for
Consolidated, and those checks were given in payment for our

"I see," said Windsor, and nodded.  He regarded Slosson, a reflective
look in his clear gaze.  "Mr. Williams has already given us the
details of the affair.  You see, our friend Armstrong, here,
suspected that there might be some connection between my case against
him and Lawrence Macgowan.  We are endeavoring to disabuse his mind
of that impression, and it is important that both you and Williams be
absolutely frank and open with me."

Slosson threw Armstrong an angry, defiant glance.

"You'll not get away with any of your fancy bluffs around here--"

"Just a moment, please!" intervened Windsor pleasantly.  Both
Armstrong and Dorns were now watching him keenly.  Ried Williams was
watching both him and Slosson, in uneasy and anxious suspense.  "Mr.
Slosson, I understand that you've had no further relations with
Macgowan, beyond this transaction?"

"That's right," affirmed Slosson.

"These two checks are all that you have received or will receive?"

"Sure.  We want nothing else to do with Macgowan or his company, I
can tell you!" rejoined Slosson easily.

"Oh!" said Windsor.  "But it is a most extraordinary fact that these
two checks are dated yesterday--the tenth!  Whereas, the other check,
also in the sum of five thousand dollars, issued to you on the

He paused meditatively.

In the moment of silence that ensued, Slosson realized that he had
made a frightful blunder.  As the others realized that Windsor must
have some information of which they knew nothing, they tensed; the
air of the room became charged, vibrant.  Slosson burst out in a
swift and angry denial, as vehement as it was inspired.

"There was another check, yes!  I called up Macgowan about this ten
thousand, on Saturday morning--told him we wanted the money.  He said
he'd mail out the check Monday.  I told him that wouldn't do.  He
said he'd send me one for five thousand then, to my hotel, and would
mail Williams another for five thousand on Monday, and I assented.
That check was in my pocket when I was robbed.  How the devil you
knew about it, I don't know or care!  I called up Macgowan long
distance on Sunday morning, from the town where I was picked up, and
he agreed to stop payment on that check and send me another with
Ried's on Monday.  That's how there were two checks issued."

In the eyes of Ried Williams gleamed admiration, but only for an
instant.  Windsor nodded assent.

"I see," he said suggestively.  "Then of course your explanation can
be easily proven."

"Sure it can!" blustered Slosson.  "Call up Macgowan long distance
and see."

A knock sounded at the door.  The typist entered, and looked at

"There are some people here to see you, sir--"

Windsor leaped to his feet.  "I'll see them outside.  Wait here,

He went out, closed the door, but almost instantly was back in the
room.  In his hand was a slip of paper.  He went to the desk, and
then turned to Slosson.  All the genial tolerance was suddenly gone
from his air; here was the assistant attorney general, curt, crisp,
suspicious.  His words came like a whipcrack:

"Come here and endorse this check, Slosson.  We'll send it out to a
bank and have them call up New York about the number of this check."

Mechanically Slosson stepped forward.  It was a moment before he
could actually realize that this was the check, the identical bit of
paper, of which he had been robbed.  Then a tide of color leaped into
his cheeks, and with an abrupt outburst of fury he caught up the
check and tore it asunder.

"So you hired a thug to waylay me, did you?" he cried out at
Armstrong.  "Thought you'd lay a trap for me, did you?"'

The words died upon his lips as he perceived the absolute futility of
speech.  Williams had sunk back in his chair, ashen to the lips;
Windsor was cold and accusative, though silent.  Armstrong and Dorns
were on their feet, eager, watching, tense.  Then, in the moment of
silence, Windsor went to the office door and opened it.

"Come in, please," he said.  Jimmy Wren and Dorothy Armstrong entered.

Armstrong stiffened as he met the jubilant grin of Wren and looked
past him to see Dorothy.  Into her cheeks mounted a faint color upon
meeting the gaze of her husband, but she was given no chance to
speak, for the moment.  Windsor addressed Jimmy Wren curtly.

"Wren, where did you get this check?"

Jimmy Wren regarded the bruised features of Slosson, and chuckled

"Out of that bird's pocket.  We had a scrap on the train, and went
over the rail--he was pretty drunk, and got a grip on my throat
that's there yet!"  He grinned again as a low exclamation broke from
Slosson.  "Didn't know me, did you?  Well, I knew you, Slosson!  Why,
as to the check, Mr. Windsor, I took all the papers I found on him.
Yep, deliberately and with malice aforethought, you might say.  Got
that check, and a few other things, and Mrs. Armstrong helped me
figure matters out and then brought me here to see you.  Looks like
I'd landed right in the middle of a party, too!  By the way, Windsor,
here's a letter of introduction you might like to glance over.
Macgowan sent Slosson to that Milligan law firm and told 'em to lay
the town at his feet, and said what a good friend Slosson was--

"Give me those papers!" burst forth Slosson.  "I demand--"

The huge hand of Robert Dorns dropped on his shoulder and crushed him
into a chair.

"Sit there, me lad!  Your demands don't go here."

From the broken figure of Ried Williams sounded a low groan.  Windsor
quietly glanced over the letter that Jimmy Wren handed him, and a
flame shot into his eyes.  He looked at Slosson with contempt, then
turned to Ried Williams.

"So that offer of a job in New York was a bribe, was it?"

Williams swallowed hard.  "It--Macgowan thought it--that it would
repay you--"

His voice died out.  Windsor swung from him.  "Gentlemen, kindly
remember those words.  Mr. Armstrong, I withdraw all my previous
words to you, and apologize for them.  I'm going to the bottom of
this thing--and I don't think the bottom's very deep now.  Williams,
here is your one and only chance: Do you wish to withdraw those
affidavits in regard to how Armstrong handled Food Products stock, or

"Yes," said Williams in a hollow voice.  "Yes.  They--we were
mistaken about his part in things--"

"Very well," said Tom Windsor crisply.  "Mr. Armstrong, I
congratulate you.  I'm going through with this thing whether you
prosecute or not.  Now, Williams, turn around to that desk and write
out a statement for me."

Armstrong found Dorns pulling at his elbow.  "Let me have a word with
you outside, quick!  Mr. Windsor, I'm glad to have met you; I want to
catch a noon train for New York.  Let me know if you want any
testimony from me in this matter, and you'll get it."

Armstrong followed him outside and closed the door.  Dorns turned and
caught his hand in a hard, cordial grip that spoke more than words.

"We've done it, me lad--hurray!  Talk quick, now.  D'you want to
prosecute Macgowan or will you make terms?  Windsor is goin' after
him anyhow, I take it."

"If we can chuck him and Findlater out of Consolidated, I'll make
terms," said Armstrong promptly.  "But we've no direct evidence on
Macgowan yet--"

"Windsor's getting it now." Dorns grinned.  "We'll take a leaf out o'
Mac's own book, and arrest him anyhow.  I'll get hold of Judge
Holcomb to-morrow and we'll nab him for conspiracy.  You see to it at
this end that no warning is sent him.  Trust me and Holcomb to
arrange a settlement, will you?"

"Of course.  But I'll want both him and Findlater out of the company."

"Listen!"  Dorns tapped him on the breast.  "When I get done with
that crook to-morrow night, he'll be clean--clean!  So long, and good
luck.  I got to rush.  Where'll I wire you?"

Armstrong's face brightened in a smile.

"Wire me--well, wire me at Evansville, and hope for the best!"

Dorns clapped him on the shoulder, and was gone.

Armstrong went back into the private office.  Slosson, in a dazed
panic, had just been checked in an outburst of speech by Windsor.  As
for Ried Williams, he was a broken man.

"I have a little matter to settle with Slosson," said Armstrong
quietly.  "Strictly a personal matter, Mr. Windsor.  Dorothy, will
you kindly go into the adjoining office and wait for us?"

He received a smiling assent from her that made his heart leap, and
she left the room.  Windsor put out a hand to Armstrong.

"Hold on a second!  What was that about Slosson being at your house?"

"That's what I'm going to find out now."  Armstrong turned to
Slosson.  "Come along!"

"What for?" demanded the other with a show of defiance.

Armstrong answered very softly.

"Either you come or I'll force you.  Why, you damned cur, do you want
me to drag you in there by the collar?"

Slosson turned to the door without a word.  Armstrong paused for an
instant to grip the hand of Jimmy Wren, and to utter a quick word.

"Jimmy, you're all right!  Watch out, now, that no warning message is
sent Macgowan.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

Dorothy was seated before the desk in Slosson's office.  When the two
men entered, she looked up at them; under her gaze, the sullen eyes
of Slosson dropped.

"Our friend is going to tell us something, Dorothy."  Armstrong
motioned to a chair.  "Sit down, Slosson."

The other man stole a half-frightened glance at him, flinching under
the crisp asperity of the words.  He was startled and perturbed at
the very manner of Armstrong, which was all untouched by victory.
The intoxication of that sweeping triumph in the other office had now
gone entirely from him.  No trace of emotion, of exultancy, of
domination, showed in him.  He was his usual cool self, as though
this affair were of no very great import.

Yet to Slosson this imperturbable calm was terrible; behind it, he
sensed an inexorable and frightful force which was moving to crush
him.  Despite his guilty conscience he did not entirely comprehend
what was coming next.  His own wretched blunders, the abject
breakdown they had caused in Williams, his exposure at the hands of
Jimmy Wren--all had left him confused and helpless.  Behind his
remnants of effrontery, he was conscious that he faced prison.  All
the fabric of his strutting and posturing had been stripped away.  He
beheld himself as these other people beheld him, and the reality
staggered him.

"When I was away in Wilmington," said Armstrong, watching him
closely, "you came one morning to my home.  Suppose you relate what
passed between you and Mrs. Armstrong."

A sudden pallor crept across the face of Slosson.  According to the
code by which men of his caliber lived and moved, he saw himself
facing a retribution of swift and brutal personal violence--a bullet,
perhaps.  He knew no other code.

Then, as he hesitated, Dorothy spoke quietly.  "I can tell you,
Reese."  Armstrong turned to her.  He was conscious of a sense of
relief in her manner, a gladness that everything at last was coming
open before them.  She went on, without heat:

"He came with a pretended warning for you, Reese.  He had learned, he
said, about this case of Tom Windsor's and wanted to warn you.  Now I
know that he lied to me.  Also, he told me that you had robbed my
father, that you had planned long ahead of time to take Food Products
away from him--oh, it was so cleverly done, Reese!  I was completely
taken in.  I had been led to suspect the Food Products affair, from
little things--it was Macgowan all the time, making me think so!  I
believe now that it was all a terrible lie, Reese.  Well, after
Slosson went away, I called Jimmy Wren at Wilmington.  He admitted
that he had been in Evansville a month before our wedding--"

Armstrong nodded, no trace of any emotion marring the even calm of
his features.

"Yes, Jimmy was there.  We knew that Food Products was going under.
Jimmy was observing the general conduct of things at the plant, and I
was trying to formulate some method of saving the company."

"According to Slosson," and Dorothy looked squarely at the man,
"Jimmy was then making arrangements with the directors to take the
company out of father's hands!"

Armstrong laughed.  "And according to Macgowan, Jimmy was then
arranging to issue the stock, acting as a go-between from me to the
old directors.  Well, Pete?  How about it?"

Under their gaze, Slosson whitened still further, wet his lips, could
not answer.  His whole cosmos of artifice and peacock lies had
crashed down about him.  No longer was he a fine arbiter of destiny,
one whose subtle genius could control things around--but a petty
trickster, unmasked, facing retribution.  One could see the horror of
this exposure, the bitter physical fear of Armstrong, working in his

"Speak up!" snapped Armstrong.  He moved slightly; a movement of
swift restraint.  It became suddenly evident that this calm manner of
his was deceptive; his was the quiet of effort, of tension, of a sane
mind controlling surging impulses.  "Do you want me to make you
speak, you cur?"

Slosson broke.

"No, no!"  The wretched man threw out his hands in a miserable
gesture of despair.  "I--it was all false, Dorothy.  It--that
visit--Macgowan wanted me to do it all, to tell you those things--"

He paused.  His dead and lifeless voice rang upon the stillness of
the room with inert tones.

"He wanted you to think that--that Armstrong had robbed your father.
He'd been working a long time to make you believe that.  When you
were in Evansville at Christmas, Williams said something that was
meant to be overheard by you--"

He lifted his glance to Dorothy.  What he read in her eyes caused the
words to falter on his lips, brought a slow, deep tide of color into
his face.  He came to his feet and went stumblingly out of the
office; nor was his departure stayed.

When the door had closed, Armstrong rose and went to Dorothy's side.

"Lady!" he said softly.  She raised her face to him.

"Reese--can you forgive me?"

A happy laugh shook him as his arm went about her shoulders.

"Dear lady--forget everything but our gladness!  Everything's won,
but the best of all is that I've won you back.  Nothing else matters
now; Macgowan, all the rest of it!"

She was silent a long moment, trembling against him, blinded with
quick tears of joy.  Then, suddenly, she moved.

"Dear--is it true?  That everything is won, and the fight over?"

"I think so," he said gravely.  "Yes."

"I'm so glad!  And I know what's in your heart, Reese, what your eyes
are shining about!  The sixteen thousand--"

"Oh, plague take the sixteen thousand!"  His laugh rang out clear and
vibrant.  "It's you, my dear, you!  Just ourselves, set right again."

A tremulous smile broke on her lips.  "Yes--and I've been so jealous
of those sixteen thousand!  Now kiss me--and forget everything--"

Their lips met.


Wednesday night in New York--a warm, sweet night of April.  The
windows of Mrs. Fowler's apartment were open to the touch of melting
spring that drifted in from Central Park, just across the street.

Lawrence Macgowan glanced across the room, caught the eye of Mrs.
Fowler, and a slight smile touched his lips.  Undoubtedly his hostess
quite comprehended the subtle depths of that smile, for her answering
glance was whimsical and flitted lightly to Mrs. Findlater.  For
Henry C. Findlater was here, pursily important, and his wife--a meek,
colorless woman who was distinctly not at her ease.

Here, too, was Milligan, of the law firm in which Macgowan was
silently interested; and Harry Lorenz, a cynically genial bachelor
who cherished a fancied resemblance to John Drew; and finally Mrs.
Fowler's accompanist, one Percival Hemingway.  This last was a
smoothly sweet person who spoke in lisping accents mild and was a
delicately cultured soul.  His affiliations with a musical journal
made him quite useful at times.

Over this gathering Macgowan reigned supreme, for various and sundry
reasons.  He was deferred to and lionized, and enjoyed himself
mightily--enjoyed the half-frightened toadying of Findlater, enjoyed
above all the art of his hostess.  For Mrs. Fowler could sing, and
Macgowan, possessing a real discrimination, laid at her feet a
tribute of appreciation which was sincere.

When she rose and asked for suggestions, it was at Macgowan that she

"Don't let Percival trot out any of his favorite problem pieces," he
responded.  "Save 'em for the concerts, Percy--sweet angel!  Let's
have something with music in it, and none of this French and Swedish
stuff.  The older the better, I say."

Harry Lorenz spoke up, his mustache lifting in a thin and ironic

"Quite so, quite so!" he approved smoothly.  "There's one thing, Mrs.
Fowler, which I should like to hear you sing.  I believe it would be
distinctly appropriate, and is quite in line with Mac's suggestion.
My request number is--'He Shall Feed His Flock.'"

At this, Milligan broke into a roar of laughter, while Findlater
discreetly smothered his smile.  Macgowan, relishing the cynicism of
his friend, tendered Mrs. Fowler a smiling nod of assent.

"By all means!  It's one of the few perfect things; the simplest is
always the best in music, despite the critics.  Percival, don't look
so pained!  It won't hurt you to get back to the farm for once and
see where real music came from.  Have you the number?  And look up
some Cherubini while you're about it."

Hemingway began to rustle through the cabinet.  Macgowan turned to
the others, with his amused chuckle.

"Harry, there's more truth than poetry in your palpable hit!  I've a
grand idea for Consolidated to take hold of, if our esteemed
president in the corner yonder doesn't sit on the notion.  How about
an Academy of Musical Art, eh?  Plenty of money in the idea--at
least, in the stock end of it.  Something new in the stock line, too."

Findlater started slightly.  "Come, Lawrence!  You're not serious?"

"Dead serious."  Macgowan eyed his uneasy victim and chuckled again.
"Put Mrs. Fowler at the head of it.  Get some of these vaudeville
hicks from the Village, plaster 'em with Russian names and titles,
call it the Imperial Russian Academy.  How's that?  Can't you see the
provinces falling for that stuff, Harry?"

"Splendid!" responded Lorenz with enthusiasm.  "You've said
something, Mac!  Why not widen out into a general cultural
establishment?  Teach the fine arts, writing, painting, dancing, a
course on social accuracy and when to tuck napkins in the neck!
Anybody can teach anything.  With a prince or a countess in charge of
each department you'll put the S.R.O. sign up in a month's time!
Even Broadway will fall for it hard."

Findlater struggled for air.  "But, Macgowan--er--you don't really
purpose that Consolidated should back such a project?"

"Surely you'd not veto it?" returned Macgowan.  His genial words,
however, were accompanied by a sudden flashing glance which caused
Findlater to change countenance.  "Think of it, Henry C.!  Every one
who buys a share of stock can send the young hopeful to the Imperial
Russian Academy at reduced rates; think how the nobility worshipers
will eat it up!  What say, Milligan?"

The lawyer nodded thoughtful approval.

"It looks like a good scheme.  As a stock proposition, can you get
away with it?"

"Wait and see.  Didn't we get away with Consolidated?"

Findlater flung an uneasy glance at his wife.  Harry Lorenz turned

"Don't shout until you're out of the woods; you're not through with
that case yet!  What's become of your old pal Armstrong?"

"He's headed for the high places," said Macgowan coolly.  "Going to
jail, and soon."  He glanced up and smiled slightly at Mrs. Fowler.
"Academically speaking, he's headed for prison.  At least, I had a
tip that such is the case.  I'm shedding no tears."

There was a general laugh, and then Hemingway intervened.

"Ready, Mrs. Fowler?" he piped up hopefully, and a chord from the
piano silenced the talk.

Macgowan leaned forward, intent, drinking in the music with eager
senses.  He was supremely content with the world, supremely confident
in himself and his ability.  This was his hour of relaxation, of
triumph.  Success had crowned his talents, and in the past week he
had been drinking deep from the cup of victory.

As the final chords of the music died away, Macgowan was aware of the
maid, who leaned over his shoulder with a quiet word.

"There's a gentleman in the hall, sir, who wants to see you.  He
wouldn't give his name or come inside."

Macgowan nodded, and under cover of the applause, rose and left the
room.  He passed out into the entrance-hall and closed the room door
behind him.  The closing of that door was symbolic, had he but known

He found himself face to face with Robert Dorns, and behind Dorns was
the blue-clad figure of an officer.

"Come along, Mac," said Dorns.


The old-fashioned Deming mansion in Evansville, so often a witness to
scenes of gayety or sorrow or boredom, was to-day shrouded in a
singular and terrible air of hushed expectancy.  Voices were low,
every action was tense.  Old Doctor Irvin, curator of the family's
health these two-score years and more, had come over from Louisville,
and through the high halls flitted two white-capped nurses.  The
servants were tremulous, afraid, gulping in their throats.

Thus Armstrong found the place when he arrived on the noon train from
New York.  Deming took him into the library, and to his flood of
questions lifted a protesting hand.  Dorothy was ill before her time,
and no one knew what was happening upstairs.

"Irvin's got those rooms to himself--he's turned us all out and has
refused to give out any information," said Deming brokenly.
"Something's wrong, we know, but there's nothing to be done.  Irvin
has never lost a case in sixty years of practice--well, well, hope
for the best.  How did things turn out?  No more trouble?"

Armstrong, pacing up and down the room, laughed harshly.

"No more trouble," he repeated, almost bitterly.  He was fresh from
victory, master of those who had sought his destruction; destiny lay
in his hand, yet he turned on Deming with a swift irony.  "The
trouble's over.  We smashed Macgowan--but that devil has a most
uncanny brain.  The very last thing, he gave me a word and a look
that I'll never forget.  'How long,' he said to me, with his damnable
sneer, 'how long will these folks let you go on playing with their
money?' That was all.  And it started me to thinking--"

Armstrong resumed his nervous stride up and down.  Deming nodded
slowly, wearily.

"The easiest thing on earth, Reese, is for a man to fool himself--"

At this instant the door swung open.  The nurse appeared, but shook
her head at Deming.

"The doctor wants Mr. Armstrong upstairs."

Armstrong left the library and hastened to the upper hall.  There he
found old Doctor Irvin, outside the closed door of Dorothy's room.
Irvin swung around to meet Armstrong, faced him, put hands to
shoulders with a sudden air of challenging defiance.  In the
narrowed, keen old eyes Armstrong read a momentary flare of vivid
enmity which astounded him.  "What is it?" he demanded swiftly.  "Is
she so ill--"

"You call yourself a husband?" said Irvin, the Donegal burr coming
harshly from his tongue.  "What've ye been lookin' at all these
months, eh?  Why haven't ye been gripping at the big things instead
o' the dollars?  No, not you.  Grip, grip, grip!  That's all ye can
see or do.  Well, there's one thing you can't grip, my man."

"What d'you mean?" Armstrong exclaimed, wondering.  "Is Dorothy--"

"There's one thing ye can't grip, as you'll learn.  No; I'm telling
the truth when I tell ye that I don't know about Dorothy.  This thing
is mental and spiritual with her.  She's been so bent on having it
out with ye that it'll either kill or cure--oh, ye poor blind fool!
There's no fool like a sincere fool--"

Armstrong smiled suddenly.  "I know it, Irvin," he said quietly.  "I
should have written Dorothy--but it's one of those things that's
mighty hard to write.  I think I know what you mean, and if I'd only
known earlier that Dorothy realized it also--well, no matter now.  Is
she very ill?"

"She is," said Irvin, staring at him with penetrating gaze.  "D'you
mean to say that you've seen this thing for yourself?  Well, go your
way to her and talk it out, and heaven send ye may cool down the
fever that's in her heart!  It's her only chance."

He swung Armstrong to the door.

The room was empty save for the figure on the bed.  Armstrong crossed
the floor, knelt beside Dorothy, felt her fingers creep into his.
Her blue eyes fluttered open, her look fell upon him like a caress.

"Dear!" she said, faintly.  "What kept you away?  You wrote that
you'd won--"

"Yes, we won," said Armstrong, yet cold sweat sprang on his face.
Dorothy's voice, her mortal pallor, above all the look in her
eyes--these things pierced him.  He knew that he must talk swiftly to
keep her from talking, as Irvin had ordered him.

"There was more trouble that kept me," he went on.  "Macgowan made a
remark that opened my eyes--dear girl, I've had a tough time trying
to realize the truth of it all, now I've seen it at last."

He paused, trying to find words, and a sudden wondering smile came to
her lips.

"Reese!  Nothing has been visible to you except the things you have
seen--do you understand?  The things which are seen are temporal--but
those which are not seen are eternal; and you never saw them.  Is
that it?  Have you--"

"Hush, my dear," he commanded, and smiled down into her eyes.  "Yes,
that's one way of putting it.  And the queer thing is that it should
have come to me from Macgowan--"

"It didn't--it came to you from me, from my heart and mind!"'

"Well, it came," he went on hastily.  "It's like Irvin said--I've
done nothing but grip.  I've denied it, I've never believed it, but
it's been true.  Oh, it's hard to see myself as I really have been,
stripped bare of my fine theories and plausible words!  Yes, I've
reached out only for the things actual and temporal.  All my fine
reasonings were false at bottom--I was blinded by everything."

Even now, clearly as he saw the fact, he shrank from the admission;
he moved dry lips, trying to deny it, yet forced himself on to lay
bare his inmost self before those blue eyes that stared up at him, to
expose to this wife of his all the struggle through which he had so
lately passed.

It was the veriest truth that behind all his actions for others had
been his action for himself.  Had it been to save Deming that he had
gripped so hard, on his wedding-day?  So he had thought, yet now he
found the thought crumbling before the deeper truth.  Had it been for
the sixteen thousand that he had fought Macgowan--or to keep himself
from going under?  He understood now the flaming will to victory
which even in his own sight had been masked.  He could no longer
delude himself, hypnotize himself.  The truth faced him in naked
guise, and it was ugly.

All this poured from his lips, and Dorothy's fingers gripped ever
more tightly on his, and tears came into her eyes until she closed
them to ease the smart.  Here, where least expected, she found a new
Reese Armstrong--a man never glimpsed ere this, glowing with
discovery and eager with action, yet humble and bitterly penitent

"I fought it out with myself, Dorothy, and then I took action,"
concluded Armstrong.  "I realized that when it came down to rock
bottom, that last bitter jibe of Macgowan's had a ring of truth.
After all, I've been playing with other people's money--just that.
Nothing criminal in it, nothing wrong in it; yet there's dynamite
underneath.  I've managed to readjust my whole viewpoint on things,
Dorothy--or I hope that I have."

"To find the things which are not seen, dear?" came the faint voice.

"I hope so."  Armstrong nodded and drew a long breath.  "Well, here's
what happened!  I had the whip-hand, so I came down to the office
four days ago and began to clean house.  First, I got clear out of
Consolidated,--lock, stock and barrel.  I turned over every scrap of
stock and practically all the ready money I had and could raise--in
return for which I procured a controlling interest in the Deming Food
concern here.  Then I went to work and smashed Consolidated--put it
into liquidation.  I don't dare leave that structure to be grabbed by
other men like Macgowan once I'm out of it.  I've personally
guaranteed that every investor gets his money back in full anytime,
if he doesn't care to wait for the profits of the liquidation--but
they'll all wait, never fear!  Consolidated can get rid of all the
other companies and then liquidate itself; and the result will be a
good profit for every investor who hangs on.  And as for me--"

"Yes, Reese?" asked Dorothy quickly, as he paused.  A smile touched
his lips.

"Well, as for me, Dorothy--that's up to you.  I've sort of figured on
selling our little estate, coming back here, settling down and
running the Deming concern, if your father wants to go into
partnership with me.  What do you say?  I'm through with the big town
and the whole game--through for good.  I don't want to play with
other people's money any more, Dorothy--just with my own, after this.
And besides--"

"The things which are seen are temporal," said Dorothy, and a low
laugh came from her throat.  "Oh, Reese, you've made me so happy!
And now we'll find the other things together--the things that are

Armstrong felt her fingers reach out to him.  He put down his face
and kissed the soft palms, gently, and then knelt there silently for
a long while.  When at last he lifted his head and looked at her
again, she was asleep, and a smile was on her lips.  The hall door
was opening, and he looked up to see Irvin coming across the room.
Quietly he disengaged himself and went to the door.  Irvin, after a
brief examination, joined him in the hall, closed the door, then
caught Armstrong's shoulder.

"Look here--what have you done to her?" he snapped out.

Armstrong smiled wearily and wiped his forehead.  He was very pale.

"I don't know, Irvin.  I think the only thing I did was to make her
happy," he said simply.  "How is she looking--"

"You're a better doctor than I am, for she's turned the corner this
blessed minute," said Irvin emphatically--then suddenly struck
Armstrong on the shoulder and gripped his hand.  "Oh!  By the piper,
I clear forgot to tell you!  I wouldn't let a soul know about it
until I was sure which way Dorothy was goin'--go on into the next
room across the hall--"

"What for?" demanded Armstrong, in astonishment at this outburst.

Irvin seized his arm and propelled him across the hall-way, abruptly
giving vent to a low and whimsical cackle of laughter.  He flung open
the door.

"Go in, ye big rascal, and see what the stork left for ye!"


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Against the Tide" ***

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