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A Poor Wise Man by Mary Roberts Rinehart

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"I have no other home."

"I am offering you one."

Old Anthony was bewildered and angry. Elinor put out a hand to
touch him, but he drew back.

"After he has thrown you downstairs and injured you - "

"How did you hear that?"

"The servant you had here came to see me to-night, Elinor. She said
that that blackguard outside there had struck you and you fell down
the stairs. If you tell me that's the truth I'll break every bone
in his body."

Sheer terror for Anthony made her breathless.

"But it isn't true," she said wildly. "You mustn't think that. I
fell. I slipped and fell."

"Then," said Anthony, speaking slowly. "you are not a prisoner here?"

"A prisoner? I'd be a prisoner anywhere, father. I can't walk."

"That door was locked."

She was fighting valiantly for him.

"I can't walk, father. I don't require a locked door to keep me in.

He was too confused and puzzled to notice the evasion.

"Do you mean to say that you won't let me have you taken home? You
are still going to stay with this man? You know what he is, don't
you?"

"I know what you think he is." She tried to smile, and he looked
away from her quickly and stared around the room, seeing nothing,
however. Suddenly he turned and walked to the door; but he stopped
there, his hand on the knob, and us face twitching.

"Once more, Elinor," he said, "I ask you if you will let me take
you back with me. This is the last time. I have come, after a good
many years of bad feeling, to make my peace with you and to offer
you a home. Will you come?"

"No."

Her courage almost failed her. She lay back, her eyes closed and
her face colorless. The word itself was little more than a whisper.

Her father opened the door and went out. She heard him going down
the stairs, heard other footsteps that followed him, and listened
in an agony of fear that Doyle would drop him in the hall below.
But nothing happened. The outside door closed, and after a moment
she opened her eyes. Doyle was standing by the bed.

"So," he said, "you intend to give me the pleasure of your society
for some time, do you?"

She said nothing. She was past any physical fear for herself.

"You liar!" he said softly. "Do you think I don't understand why
you want to remain here? You are cleverer than I thought you were,
but you are not as clever as I am. You'd have done better to have
let him take you away."

"You would have killed him first."

"Perhaps I would." He lighted a cigarette. "But it is a pleasant
thought to play with, and I shall miss it when the thing is fait
accompli. I see Olga has left you without ice water. Shall I
bring you some?"

He was still smiling faintly when he brought up the pitcher,
some time later, and placed it on the stand beside the bed.

CHAPTER XXXV

In the Boyd house things went on much as before, but with a new
heaviness. Ellen, watching keenly, knew why the little house was
so cheerless and somber. It had been Willy Cameron who had brought
to it its gayer moments, Willy determinedly cheerful, slamming
doors and whistling; Willy racing up the stairs with something hot
for Mrs. Boyd's tray; Willy at the table, making them forget the
frugality of the meals with campaign anecdotes; Willy, lamenting
the lack of a chance to fish, and subsequently eliciting a rare
smile from Edith by being discovered angling in the kitchen sink
with a piece of twine on the end of his umbrella.

Rather forced, some of it, but eminently good for all of them. And
then suddenly it ceased. He made an effort, but there was no
spontaneity in him. He came in quietly, never whistled, and ate very
little. He began to look almost gaunt, too, and Edith, watching
him with jealous, loving eyes, gave voice at last to the thought
that was in her mind.

"I wish you'd go away," she said, "and let us fight this thing out
ourselves. Dan would have to get something to do, then, for one
thing."

"But I don't want to go away, Edith."

"Then you're a fool," she observed, bitterly. "You can't help me
any, and there's no use hanging mother around your neck."

"She won't be around any one's neck very long, Edith dear."

"After that, will you go away?"

"Not if you still want me."

"Want you!"

Dan was out, and Ellen had gone up for the invalid's tray. They were
alone together, standing in the kitchen doorway.

Suddenly Edith, beside him, ran her hand through his arm.

"If I had been a different sort of girl, Willy, do you think - could
you ever have cared for me?"

"I never thought about you that way," he said, simply. "I do care
for you. You know that."

She dropped her hand.

"You are in love with Lily Cardew. That's why you don't - I've
known it all along, Willy. I used to think you'd get over it, never
seeing her and all that. But you don't, do you?" She looked up at
him. "The real thing lasts, I suppose. It will with me. I wish to
heaven it wouldn't."

He was most uncomfortable, hut he drew her hand within his arm again
and held it there.

"Don't get to thinking that you care anything about me," he said.
"There's not as much love in the world as there ought to be, and
we all need to hold hands, but - don't fancy anything like that."

"I wanted to tell you. If I hadn't known about her I wouldn't have
told you, but - you said it when you said there's not as much love
as there ought to be. I'm gone, but I guess my caring for you
hasn't hurt me any. It's the only reason I'm alive to-day."

She freed her hand, and stood staring out over the little autumn
garden. There was such brooding trouble in her face that he watched
her anxiously.

"I think mother suspects," she said at last.

"I hope not, Edith."

"I think she does. She watches me all the time, and she asked to
see Dan to-night. Only he didn't come home."

"You must deny it, Edith," he said, almost fiercely. "She must not
know, ever. That is one thing we can save her, and must save her."

But, going upstairs as usual before he went out, he realized that
Edith was right, and that matters had reached a crisis. The sick
woman had eaten nothing, and her eyes were sunken and anxious.
There was an unspoken question in them, too, as she turned them on
him. Most significant of all, the little album was not beside her,
nor the usual litter of newspapers on the bed.

"I wish you weren't going out, Willy," she said querulously. "I want
to talk to you about something."

"Can't we discuss it in the morning?"

"I won't sleep till I get it off my mind, Willy." But he could not
face that situation then. He needed time, for one thing. Surely
there must be some way out, some way to send this frail little
woman dreamless to her last sleep, life could not be so cruel that
death would seem kind.

He spoke at three different meetings that night, for the election
was close at hand. Pink Denslow took him about in his car, and
stood waiting for him at the back of the crowd. In the intervals
between hall and hall Pink found Willy Cameron very silent and very
grave, but he could not know that the young man beside him was
trying to solve a difficult question. Which was: did two wrongs
ever make a right?

At the end of the last meeting Willy Cameron decided to walk home.

"I have some things to think over. Pink," he said. "Thanks for
the car. It saves a lot of time."

Pink sat at the wheel, carefully scrutinizing Willy. It struck
him then that Cameron looked fagged and unhappy.

"Nothing I can do, I suppose?"

"Thanks, no."

Pink knew nothing of Lily's marriage, nor of the events that had
followed it. To his uninquiring mind all was as it should be with
her; she was at home again, although strangely quiet and very sweet,
and her small world was at peace with her. It was all right with
her, he considered, although all wrong with him. Except that she
was strangely subdued, which rather worried him. It was not
possible, for instance, to rouse her to one of their old red-hot
discussions on religion, or marriage, or love.

"I saw Lily Cardew this afternoon, Cameron."

"Is she all right?" asked Willy Cameron, in a carefully casual tone.

"I don't know." Pink's honest voice showed perplexity. "She looks
all right, and the family's eating out of her hand.. But she's
changed somehow. She asked for you."

"Thanks. Well, good-night, old man."

Willy Cameron was facing the decision of his life that night, as he
walked home. Lily was gone, out of his reach and out of his life.
But then she had never been within either. She was only something
wonderful and far away, like a star to which men looked and sometimes
prayed. Some day she would be free again, and then in time she would
marry. Some one like Pink, her own sort, and find happiness.

But he knew that he would always love her, to the end of his days,
and even beyond, in that heaven in which he so simply believed.
All the things that puzzled him would be straightened out there,
and perhaps a man who had loved a woman and lost her here would
find her there, and walk hand in hand with her, through the bright
days of Paradise.

Not that that satisfied him. He was a very earthly lover, with the
hungry arms of youth. He yearned unspeakably for her. He would
have died for her as easily as he would have lived for her, but he
could do neither.

That was one side of him. The other, having put her away in that
warm corner of his heart which was hers always, was busy with the
practical problem of the Boyds. He saw only one way out, and that
way he had been seeing with increasing clearness for several days.
Edith's candor that night, and Mrs. Boyd's suspicions, clearly
pointed to it. There was one way by which to save Edith and her
child, and to save the dying woman the agony of full knowledge.

Edith was sitting on the doorstep, alone. He sat down on the step
below her, rather silent, still busy with his problem. Although
the night was warm, the girl shivered.

"She's not asleep. She's waiting for me to go up, Willy. She means
to call me in and ask me"

"Then I'd better say what I have to say quickly. Edith, will you
marry me?"

She drew off and looked at him.

"I'd better explain what I mean," he said, speaking with some
difficulty. "I mean - go through the ceremony with me. I don't
mean actual marriage. That wouldn't be fair to either of us,
because you know that I care for some one else."

"But you mean a real marriage?"

"Of course. Your child has the right to a name, dear. And, if
you don't mind telling a lie to save our souls, and for her peace
of mind, we can say that it took place some time ago."

She gazed at him dazedly. Then something like suspicion came into
her face.

"Is it because of what I told you to-night?"

"I had thought of it before. That helped, of course."

It seemed so surprisingly simple, put into words, and the light on
the girl's face was his answer. A few words, so easily spoken, and
two lives were saved. No, three, for Edith's child must be considered.

"You are like God," said Edith, in a low voice. "Like God." And
fell to soft weeping. She was unutterably happy and relieved. She
sat there, not daring to touch him, and looked out into the quiet
street. Before her she saw all the things that she had thought
were gone; honor, a place in the world again, the right to look
into her mother's eyes; she saw marriage and happy, golden days.
He did not love her, but he would be hers, and perhaps in His own
good time the Manager of all destinies would make him love her.
She would try so hard to deserve that.

Mrs. Boyd was asleep when at last Edith went up the staircase, and
Ellen, lying sleepless on her cot in the hot attic room, heard the
girl softly humming to herself as she undressed, and marveled.

CHAPTER XXXVI

When Lily had been at home for some time, and Louis Akers had made
no attempt to see her, or to announce the marriage, the vigilance
of the household began to relax. Howard Cardew had already
consulted the family lawyer about an annulment, and that gentleman
had sent a letter to Akers, which had received no reply.

Then one afternoon Grayson, whose instructions had been absolute
as to admitting Akers to the house, opened the door to Mrs. Denslow,
who was calling, and found behind that lady Louis Akers himself.
He made an effort to close the door behind the lady, but Akers was
too quick for him, and a scene at the moment was impossible.

He ushered Mrs. Denslow into the drawing room, and coming out,
closed the doors.

"My instructions, sir, are to say to you that the ladies are not at
home."

But Akers held out his hat and gloves with so ugly a look that
Grayson took them.

"I have come to see my wife," he said. "Tell her that, and that if
she doesn't see me here I'll go upstairs and find her."

When Grayson still hesitated he made a move toward the staircase,
and the elderly servant, astounded at the speech and the movement,
put down the hat and faced him.

"I do not recognize any one in the household by that name, sir.

"You don't, don't you? Very well. Tell Miss Cardew I am here, and
that either she will come down or I'll go up. I'll wait in the
library.

He watched Grayson start up the stairs, and then went into the
library. He was very carefully dressed, and momentarily exultant
over the success of his ruse, but he was uneasy, too, and wary,
and inclined to regard the house as a possible trap. He had made
a gambler's venture, risking everything on the cards he held, and
without much confidence in them. His vanity declined to believe
that his old power over Lily was gone, but he had held a purely
physical dominance over so many women that he knew both his
strength and his limitations.

What he could not understand, what had kept him awake so many nights
since he had seen her, was her recoil from him on Willy Cameron's
announcement. She had known he had led the life of his sort; he
had never played the plaster saint to her. And she had accepted
her knowledge of his connection with the Red movement, on his mere
promise to reform. But this other, this-accident, and she had
turned from him with a horror that made him furious to remember.
These silly star-eyed virgins, who accepted careful abstractions
and then turned sick at life itself, a man was a fool to put himself
in their hands.

Mademoiselle was with Lily in her boudoir when Grayson came up, a
thin, tired-faced, suddenly old Mademoiselle, much given those days
to early masses, during which she prayed for eternal life for the
man who had ruined Lily's life, and that soon. To Mademoiselle
marriage was a final thing and divorce a wickedness against God
and His establishment on earth.

Lily, rather like Willy Cameron, was finding on her spirit at that
time a burden similar to his, of keeping up the morale of the
household.

Grayson came in and closed the door behind him. Anger and anxiety
were in his worn old face, and Lily got up quickly. "What is it,
Grayson?"

"I'm sorry, Miss lily. He was in the vestibule behind Mrs. Denslow,
and I couldn't keep him out. I think he had waited for some one to
call, knowing I couldn't make a scene."

Mademoiselle turned to Lily.

"You must not see him," she said in rapid French. "Remain here, and
I shall telephone for your father. Lock your door. He May come up.
He will do anything, that man."

"I am going down," Lily said quietly. "I owe him that. You need not
be frightened. And don't tell mother; it will only worry her and do
no good."

Her heart was beating fast as she went down the stairs. From the
drawing room came the voices of Grace and Mrs. Denslow, chatting
amiably. The second man was carrying in tea, the old silver service
gleaming. Over all the lower floor was an air of peace and comfort,
the passionless atmosphere of daily life running in old and easy
grooves.

When Lily entered the library she closed the door behind her. She
had, on turning, a swift picture of Grayson, taking up his stand
in the hall, and it gave her a sense of comfort. She knew he would
remain there, impassively waiting, so long as Akers was in the house.

Then she faced the man standing by the center table. He made no
move toward her, did not even speak at once. It left on her the
burden of the opening, of setting the key of what was to come.
She was steady enough now.

"Perhaps it is as well that you came, Louis," she said. "I suppose
we must talk it over some time."

"Yes," he agreed, his eyes on her. "We must. I have married a
wife, and I want her, Lily."

"You know that is impossible."

"Because of something that happened before I knew you? I never made
any pretensions about my life before we met. But I did promise to
go straight if you'd have me, and I have. I've lived up to my
bargain. What about you?"

"It was not a part of my bargain to marry you while you - I have
thought and thought, Louis. There is only one thing to be done.
You will have to divorce me, and marry her."

"Marry her? A girl of the streets, who chooses to say that I am
the father of her child! It's the oldest trick in the word.
Besides - " He played his best card - "she won't marry me. Ask
Cameron, who chose to make himself so damned busy about my affairs.
He's in love with her. Ask him."

In spite of herself Lily winced. Out of the wreckage of the past
few weeks one thing had seemed to remain, something to hold to,
solid and dependable and fine, and that had been Willy Cameron.
She had found, in these last days, something infinitely comforting
in the thought that he cared for her. It was because he had cared
that he had saved her from herself. But, if this were true -

"I am not going back to you, Louis. I think you know that. No
amount of talking about things can change that."

"Why don't you face life and try to understand it?" he demanded,
brutally. "Men are like that. Women are like that - sometimes.
You can't measure human passions with a tape line. That's what
you good women try to do, and you make life a merry little hell."
He made an effort, and softened his voice. "I'll be true to you,
Lily, if you'll come back."

"No," she said, "you would mean to be, but you would not. You
have no foundation to build on."

"Meaning that I am not a gentleman."

"Not that. I know you, that's all. I understand so much that I
didn't before. What you call love is only something different.
When that was gone there would be the same thing again. You would
be sorry, but I would be lost."

Her coolness disconcerted him. Two small triangular bits of color
showed in his face. He had been prepared for tears, even for a
refusal to return, but this clear-eyed appraisal of himself, and
the accuracy of it, confused him. He took refuge in the only method
he knew; he threw himself on her pity; he made violent, passionate
love to her, but her only expression was one of distaste. When at
last he caught her to him she perforce submitted, a frozen thing
that told him, more than any words, how completely he had lost her.
He threw her away from him, then, baffled and angry.

"You little devil!" he said. "You cold little devil!"

"I don't love you. That's all. I think now that I never did."

"You pretended damned well."

"Don't you think you'd better go?" Lily said wearily. "I don't
like to hurt you. I am to blame for a great deal. But there is no
use going on, is there? I'll give you your freedom as soon as I
can. You will want that, of course."

"My freedom! Do you think I am going to let you go like that? I'll
fight you and your family in every court in the country before I give
you up. You can't bring Edith Boyd up against me, either. If she
does that I'll bring up other witnesses, other men, and she knows it."

Lily was very pale, but still calm. She made a movement toward the
bell, but he caught her hand before she could ring it.

"I'll get your Willy Cameron, too," he said, his face distorted
with anger. "I'll get him good. You've done a bad thing for your
friends and your family to-day, Lily. I'll go the limit on getting
back at them. I've got the power, and by God, I'll use it."

He flung out into the hall, and toward the door. There he
encountered Grayson, who reminded him of his hat and gloves, or he
would have gone without them.

Grayson, going into the library a moment later, found Lily standing
there, staring ahead and trembling violently. He brought her a cup
of tea, and stood by, his old face working, while she drank it.

CHAPTER XXXVII

The strike had apparently settled down to the ordinary run of strikes.
The newspaper men from New York were gradually recalled, as the mill
towns became orderly, and no further acts of violence took place.
Here and there mills that had gone down fired their furnaces again
and went back to work, many with depleted shifts, however.

But the strikers had lost, and knew it. Howard Cardew, facing the
situation with his customary honesty, saw in the gradual return of
the men to work only the urgency of providing for their families,
and realized that it was not peace that was coming, but an armed
neutrality. The Cardew Mills were still down, but by winter he was
confident they would be open again. To what purpose? To more
wrangling and bickering, more strikes? Where was the middle ground?
He was willing to give the men a percentage of the profits they made.
He did not want great wealth, only an honest return for his invested
capital. But he wanted to manage his own business. It was his risk.

The coal miners were going out. The Cardews owned coal mines. The
miners wanted to work a minimum day for a maximum wage, but the
country must have coal. Shorter hours meant more men for the mines,
and they would have to be imported. But labor resented the
importation of foreign workers.

Again, what was the answer?

Still, he was grateful for peace. The strike dragged on, with only
occasional acts of violence. From the hill above Baxter a sniper
daily fired with a long range rifle at the toluol tank in the center
of one of the mills, and had so far escaped capture, as the tank had
escaped damage. But he knew well enough that a long strike was
playing into the hands of the Reds. It was impossible to sow the
seeds of revolution so long as a man s dinner-pail was full, his rent
paid, and his family contented. But a long strike, with bank
accounts becoming exhausted and credit curtailed, would pave the way
for revolution.

Old Anthony had had a drastic remedy for strikes.

"Let all the storekeepers, the country over, refuse credit to the
strikers, and we'd have an end to this mess," he said.

"We'd have an end to the storekeepers, too," Howard had replied,
grimly.

One good thing had come out of the bomb outrages. They had had a
salutary effect on the honest labor element. These had no sympathy
with such methods and said so. But a certain element, both native
and foreign born, secretly gloated and waited.

One thing surprised and irritated Howard. Public sentiment was not
so much with the strikers, as against the mill owners. The strike
worked a hardship to the stores and small businesses dependent on
the great mills; they forgot the years when the Cardews had brought
them prosperity, had indeed made them possible, and they felt now
only bitter resentment at the loss of trade. In his anger Howard
saw them as parasites, fattening on the conceptions and strength of
those who had made the city. They were men who built nothing,
originated nothing. Men who hated the ladder by which they had
climbed, who cared little how shaky its foundation, so long as it
stood.

In September, lured by a false security, the governor ordered the
demobilization of the state troops, save for two companies. The
men at the Baxter and Friendship plants, owned by the Cardews, had
voted to remain out, but their leaders appeared to have them well
in hand, and no trouble was anticipated. The agents of the
Department of Justice, however, were still suspicious. The
foreigners had plenty of money. Given as they were to hoarding
their savings in their homes, the local banks were unable to say
if they were drawing on their reserves or were being financed
from the outside.

Shortly before the mayoralty election trouble broke out in the
western end of the state, and in the north, in the steel towns.
There were ugly riotings, bombs were sent through the mails, the
old tactics of night shootings and destruction of property began.
In the threatening chaos Baxter and Friendship, and the city
nearby, stood out by contrast for their very orderliness. The
state constabulary remained in diminished numbers, a still
magnificent body of men but far too few for any real emergency,
and the Federal agents, suspicious but puzzled, were removed to
more turbulent fields.

The men constituting the Vigilance Committee began to feel a sense
of futility, almost of absurdity. They had armed and enrolled
themselves - against what? The growth of the organization slowed
down, but it already numbered thousands of members. Only its
leaders retained their faith in its ultimate necessity, and they
owed perhaps more than they realized to Willy Cameron's own
conviction.

It was owing to him that the city was divided into a series of
zones, so that notification of an emergency could be made rapidly
by telephone and messenger. Owing to him, too, was a new central
office, with some one on duty day and night. Rather ironically,
the new quarters were the dismantled rooms of the Myers
Housecleaning Company.

On the day after his proposal to Edith, Willy Cameron received an
unexpected holiday. Mrs. Davis, the invalid wife of the owner of
the Eagle Pharmacy, died and the store was closed. He had seen
Edith for only a few moments that morning, but it was understood
then that the marriage would take place either that day or the next.

He had been physically so weary the night before that he had slept,
but the morning found him with a heaviness of spirit that he could
not throw off. The exaltation of the night before was gone, and
all that remained was a dogged sense of a duty to be done.
Although he smiled at Edith, his face remained with her all through
the morning.

"I'll make it up to him," she thought, humbly. "I'll make it up to
him somehow."

Then, with Ellen out doing her morning marketing, she heard the
feeble thump of a cane overhead which was her mother's signal. She
was determined not to see her mother again until she could say that
she was married, but the thumping continued, and was followed by
the crash of a broken
glass.

"She's trying to get up!" Edith thought, panicky. "If she gets up
it will kill her."

She stood at the foot of the stairs, scarcely breathing, and listened.
There was a dreadful silence above. She stole up, finally, to where
she could see her mother. Mrs. Boyd was still in her bed, but lying
with open eyes, unmoving.

"Mother," she called, and ran in. "Mother."

Mrs. Boyd glanced at her.

"I thought that glass would bring you," she said sharply, but with
difficulty. "I want you to stand over there and let me look at you."

Edith dropped on her knees beside the bed, and caught her mother's
hand.

"Don't! Don't talk like that, mother," she begged. "I know what
you mean. It's all right, mother. Honestly it is. I - I'm married,
mother."

"You wouldn't lie to me, Edith?"

"No. I'm telling you. I've been married a long time. You - don't
you worry, mother. You just lie there and quit worrying. It's all
right."

There was a sudden light in the sick woman's eyes, an eager light
that flared up and died away again.

"Who to?" she asked. "If it's some corner loafer, Edie - " Edith
had gained new courage and new facility. Anything was right that
drove the tortured look from her mother's eyes.

"You can ask him when he comes home this evening."

"Edie! Not Willy?"

"You've guessed it," said Edith, and burying her face in the bed
clothing, said a little prayer, to be forgiven for the lie and for
all that she had done, to be more worthy thereafter, and in the end
to earn the love of the man who was like God to her.

There are lies and lies. Now and then the Great Recorder must put
one on the credit side of the balance, one that has saved intolerable
suffering, or has made well and happy a sick soul.

Mrs. Boyd lay back and closed her eyes.

"I haven't been so tickled since the day you were born," she said.

She put out a thin hand and laid it on the girl's bowed head. When
Edith moved, a little later, her mother was asleep, with a new look
of peace on her face.

It was necessary before Ellen saw her mother to tell her what she
had done. She shrank from doing it. It was one thing for Willy to
have done it, to have told her the plan, but Edith was secretly
afraid of Ellen. And Ellen's reception of the news justified her
fears.

"And you'd take him that way!" she said, scornfully. "You'd hide
behind him, besides spoiling his life for him! It sounds like him
to offer, and it's like you to accept."

"It's to save mother," said Edith, meekly.

"It's to save yourself. You can't fool me. And if you think I'm
going to sit by and let him do it, you can think again."

"It's as good as done," Edith flashed. "I've told mother."

"That you're going to be, or that you are?"

"That we are married."

"All right," Ellen said triumphantly. "She's quiet and peaceful
now, isn't she? You don't have to get married now, do you? You
take my advice, and let it go at that."

It was then that Edith realized what she had done. He would still
marry her, of course, but behind all his anxiety to save her had
been the real actuating motive of his desire to relieve her mother's
mind. That was done now. Then, could she let him sacrifice himself
for her?

She could. She could and she would. She set her small mouth firmly,
and confronted the future; she saw herself, without his strength to
support her, going down and down. She remembered those drabs of the
street on whom she had turned such cynical eyes in her virtuous youth,
and she saw herself one of that lost sisterhood, sodden, hectic,
hopeless.

When Willy Cameron left the pharmacy that day it was almost noon.
He went to the house of mourning first, and found Mr. Davis in a
chair in a closed room, a tired little man in a new black necktie
around a not over-clean collar, his occupation of years gone,
confronting a new and terrible leisure that he did not know how to
use.

"You know how it is, Willy," he said, blinking his reddened eyelids.
"You kind of wish sometimes that you had somebody to help you bear
your burden, and then it's taken away, but you're kind of bent over
and used to it. And you'd give your neck and all to have it back."

Willy Cameron pondered that on his way up the street.

There was one great longing in him, to see Lily again. In a few
hours now he would have taken a wife, and whatever travesty of
marriage resulted, he would have to keep away from Lily. He meant
to play square with Edith.

He wondered if it would hurt Lily to see him, remind her of things
she must be trying to forget. He decided in the end that it would
hurt her, so he did not go. But he walked, on his way to see Pink
Denslow at the temporary bank, through a corner of the park near
the house, and took a sort of formal and heart-breaking farewell of
her.

Time had been when life had seemed only a long, long trail, with
Lily at the end of it somewhere, like water to the thirsty traveler,
or home to the wanderer; like a camp fire at night. But now, life
seemed to him a broad highway, infinitely crowded, down which he
must move, surrounded yet alone.

But at least he could walk in the middle of the road, in the
sunlight. It was the weaklings who were crowded to the side. He
threw up his head.

It had never occurred to him that he was in any, danger, either
from Louis Akers or from the unseen enemy he was fighting. He had
a curious lack of physical fear. But once or twice that day, as he
went about, he happened to notice a small man, foreign in appearance
and shabbily dressed. He saw him first when he came out of the
marriage license office, and again when he entered the bank.

He had decided to tell Pink of his approaching marriage and to ask
him to be present. He meant to tell him the facts. The intimacy
between them was now very close, and he felt that Pink would
understand. He neither wanted nor expected approval, but he did
want honesty between them. He had based his life on honesty.

Yet the thing was curiously hard to lead up to. It would be hard
to set before any outsider the conditions at the Boyd house, or his
own sense of obligation to help. Put into everyday English the
whole scheme sounded visionary and mock-heroic.

In the end he did not tell Pink at all, for Pink came in with
excitement written large all over him.

"I sent for you," he said, "because I think we've got something at
last. One of our fellows has just been in, that storekeeper I told
you about from Friendship, Cusick. He says he has found out where
they're meeting, back in the hills. He's made a map of it. Look,
here's the town, and here's the big hill. Well, behind it, about
a mile and a half, there's a German outfit, a family, with a farm.
They're using the barn, according to this chap."

"The barn wouldn't hold very many of them."

"That's the point. It's the leaders. The family has an alibi.
It goes in to the movies in the town on meeting nights. The place
has been searched twice, but he says they have a system of patrols
that gives them warning. The hills are heavily wooded there, and
he thinks they have rigged up telephones in the trees."

There was a short silence. Willy Cameron studied the rug.

"I had to swear to keep it to ourselves," Pink said at last.
"Cusick won't let the Federal agents in on it. They've raided him
for liquor twice, and he's sick as a poisoned pup."

"How about the county detectives?"

"You know them. They'll go in and fight like hell when the time
comes, but they're likely to gum the game where there's any finesse
required. We'd better find out for ourselves first."

Willy Cameron smiled.

"What you mean is, that it's too good a thing to throw to the other
fellow. Well, I'm on, if you want me. But I'm no detective."

Pink had come armed for such surrender. He produced a road map of
the county and spread it on the desk.

"Here's the main road to Friendship," he said, "and here's the road
they use. But there's another way, back of the hills. Cusick said
it was a dirt lane, but dry. It's about forty miles by it to a point
a mile or so behind the farm. He says he doesn't think they use
that road. It's too far around."

"All right," said Willy Cameron. "We use that road, and get to the
farm, and what then? Surrender?"

"Not on your life. We hide in the barn. That's all."

"That's enough. They'll search the place, automatically. You're
talking suicide, you know."

But his mind was working rapidly. He was a country boy, and he
knew barns. There would be other outbuildings, too, probably a
number of them. The Germans always had plenty of them. And the
information was too detailed to be put aside lightly.

"When does he think they will meet again?"

"That's the point," Pink said eagerly. "The family has been all
over the town this morning. It is going on a picnic, and he says
those picnics of theirs last half the night. What he got from the
noise they were making was that they were raising dust again, and
something's on for to-night."

"They'll leave somebody there. Their stock has to be looked after."

"This fellow says they drop everything and go. The whole outfit.
They're as busy raising an alibi as the other lot is raising the
devil."

But Willy Cameron was a Scot, and hard-headed.

"It looks too simple, Pink," he said reflectively. He sat for some
time, filling and lighting his pipe, and considering as he did so.
He was older than Pink; not much, but he felt extremely mature and
very responsible.

"What do we know about Cusick?" he asked, finally.

"One of the best men we've got. They've fired his place once, and
he's keen to get them."

"You're anxious to go?"

"I'm going," said Pink, cheerfully.

"Then I'd better go along and look after you. But I tell you how I
see it. After I've done that I'll go as far as you like. Either
there is nothing to it and we're fools for our pains, or there's a
lot to it, and in that case we are a pair of double-distilled
lunatics to go there alone."

Pink laughed joyously.

Life had been very dull for him since his return from France. He
had done considerable suffering and more thinking than was usual
with him, but he had had no action. But behind his boyish zest
there was something more, something he hid as he did the fact that
he sometimes said his prayers; a deep and holy thing, that always
gave him a lump in his throat at Retreat, when the flag came slowly
down and the long lines of men stood at attention. Something he
was half ashamed and half proud of, love of his country.

* * * * *

At the same time another conversation was going on in the rear room
of a small printing shop in the heart of the city. It went on to
the accompaniment of the rhythmic throb of the presses, and while
two printers, in their shirt sleeves, kept guard both at the front
and rear entrances.

Doyle sat with his back to the light, and seated across from him,
smoking a cheap cigar, was the storekeeper from Friendship, Cusick.
In a corner on the table, scowling, sat Louis Akers.

"I don't know why you're so damned suspicious, Jim," he was saying.
"Cusick says the stall about the Federal agents went all right."

"Like a house a-fire," said Cusick, complacently.

"I think, Akers," Doyle observed, eyeing his subordinate, that you
are letting your desire to get this Cameron fellow run away with
your judgment. If we get him and Denslow, there are a hundred ready
to take their places."

"Cameron is the brains of the outfit," Akers said sulkily.

"How do you know Cameron will go?"

Akers rose lazily and stretched himself.

"I've got a hunch. That's all."

A girl came in from the composing room, a bundle of proofs in her
hand. With one hand Akers took the sheets from her; with the other
he settled his tie. He smiled down at her.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

Ellen was greatly disturbed. At three o'clock that afternoon she
found Edith and announced her intention of going out.

"I guess you can get the supper for once," she said ungraciously.

Edith looked up at her with wistful eyes.

"I wish you didn't hate me so, Ellen."

"I don't hate you." Ellen was slightly mollified. "But when I see
you trying to put your burdens on other people - "

Edith got up then and rather timidly put her arms around Ellen's
neck.

"I love him so, Ellen," she whispered, "and I'll try so hard to
make him happy."

Unexpected tears came into Ellen's eyes. She stroked the girl's
fair hair.

"Never mind," she said. "The Good Man's got a way of fixing things
to suit Himself. And I guess He knows best. We do what it's
foreordained we do, after all."

Mrs. Boyd was sleeping. Edith went back to her sewing. She had
depended all her life on her mother's needle, and now that that
had failed her she was hastily putting some clothing into repair.
In the kitchen near the stove the suit she meant to be married
in was hung to dry, after pressing. She was quietly happy.

Willy Cameron found her there. He told her of Mrs. Davis' death,
and then placed the license on the table at her side.

"1 think it would be better to-morrow, Edith," he said. He glanced
down at the needle in her unaccustomed fingers; she seemed very
appealing, with her new task and the new light in her eyes. After
all, it was worth while, even if it cost a lifetime, to take a
soul out of purgatory.

"I had to tell mother, Willy."

"That's all right Did it cheer her any?"

"Wonderfully. She's asleep now."

He went up to his room, and for some time she heard him moving about.
Then she heard the scraping of his chair as he drew it to his desk,
and vaguely wondered. When he came down he had a sealed envelope
in his hand.

"I am going out, Edith," he said. "I shall be late getting back,
and - I am going to ask you to do something for me."

She loved doing things for him. She flushed slightly.

"If I am not back here by two o'clock to-night," he said, "I want
you to open that letter and read it. Then go to the nearest
telephone, and call up the number I've written down. Ask for the
man whose name is given, and read him the message."

"Willy!" she gasped. "You are doing something dangerous!"

"What I really expect," he said, smiling down at her, "is to be
back, feeling more or less of a fool, by eleven o'clock. I'm
providing against an emergency that will almost surely never
happen, and I am depending on the most trustworthy person I know."

Very soon after that he went away. She sat for some time after
he had gone, fingering the blank white envelope and wondering, a
little frightened but very proud of his trust.

Dan came in and went up the stairs. That reminded her of the
dinner, and she sat down in the kitchen with a pan of potatoes
on her knee. As she pared them she sang. She was still singing
when Ellen came back.

Something had happened to Ellen. She stood in the kitchen, her hat
still on, drawing her cotton gloves through her fingers and staring
at Edith without seeing her.

"You're not sick, are you, Ellen?"

Ellen put down her gloves and slowly took off her hat, still with
the absorbed eyes of a sleep-walker.

"I'm not sick," she said at last. "I've had bad news."

"Sit down and I'll make you a cup of tea. Then maybe you'll feel
like talking about it."

"I don't want any tea. Do you know that that man Akers has married
Lily Cardew?"

"Married her!"

"The devil out of hell that he is." Ellen's voice was terrible.
"And all the time knowing that you - She's at home, the poor child,
and Mademoiselle just sat and cried when she told me. It's a
secret," she added, fiercely. "You keep your mouth shut about it.
She never lived with him. She left him right off. I wouldn't know
it now but the servants were talking about the house being forbidden
to him, and I went straight to Mademoiselle. I said: 'You keep him
away from Miss Lily, because I know something about him.' It was
when I told her that she said they were married."

She went out and up the stairs, moving slowly and heavily. Edith
sat still, the pan on her knee, and thought. Did Willy know? Was
that why he was willing to marry her? She was swept with bitter
jealousy, and added to that came suspicion. Something very near
the truth flashed into her mind and stayed there. ln her
bitterness she saw Willy telling Lily of Akers and herself, and
taking her away, or having her taken. It must have been something
like that, or why had she left him?

But her anger slowly subsided; in the end she began to feel that
the new situation rendered her own position more secure, even
justified her own approaching marriage. Since Lily was gone, why
should she not marry Willy Cameron? If what Ellen had said was
true she knew him well enough to know that he would deliberately
strangle his love for Lily. If it were true, and if he knew it.

She moved about the kitchen, making up the fire, working
automatically in that methodless way that always set Ellen's teeth
on edge, and thinking. But subconsciously she was listening, too.
She had heard Dan go into his mother's room and close the door.
She was bracing herself against his coming down.

Dan was difficult those days, irritable and exacting. Moody, too,
and much away from home. He hated idleness at its best, and the
strike was idleness at its worst. Behind the movement toward the
general strike, too, he felt there was some hidden and sinister
influence at work, an influence that was determined to turn what
had commenced as a labor movement into a class uprising.

That very afternoon, for the first time, he had heard whispered the
phrase: "when the town goes dark." There was a diabolical
suggestion in it that sent him home with his fists clenched.

He did not go to his mother's room at once. Instead, he drew a
chair to his window and sat there staring out on the little street.
When the town went dark, what about all the little streets like
this one?

After an hour or so of ominous quiet Edith heard him go into his
mother's room. Her hands trembled as she closed her door.

She heard him coming down at last, and suddenly remembering the
license, hid it in a drawer. She knew that he would destroy it if
he saw it. And Dan's face justified the move. He came in and
stood glowering at her, his hands in his pockets.

"What made you tell that lie to mother?" he demanded,

"She was worried, Dan. And it will be true to-morrow. You - Dan,
you didn't tell her it was a lie, did you?"

"I should have, but I didn't. What do you mean, it will be true
to-morrow?"

"We are going to be married to-morrow."

"I'll lock you up first," he said, angrily. "I've been expecting
something like that. I've watched you, and I've seen you watching
him. You'll not do it, do you hear? D'you think I'd let you get
away with that? Isn't it enough that he's got to support us,
without your coaxing him to marry you?"

She made no reply, but went on with a perfunctory laying of the
table. Her mouth had gone very dry.

"The poor fish," Dan snarled. "I thought he had some sense.
Letting himself in for a nice life, isn't he? We're not his kind,
and you know it. He knows more in a minute than you'll know all
your days. In about three months he'll hate the very sight of you,
and then where'll you be?"

When she made no reply, he called to the dog and went out into the
yard. She saw him there, brooding and sullen, and she knew that
he had not finished. He would say no more to her, but he would
wait and have it out with Willy himself.

Supper was silent. No one ate much, and Ellen, coming down with
the tray, reported Mrs. Boyd as very tired, and wanting to settle
down early.

"She looks bad to me," she said to Edith. "I think the doctor
ought to see her."

"I'll go and send him."

Edith was glad to get out of the house. She had avoided the
streets lately, but as it was the supper hour the pavements were
empty. Only Joe Wilkinson, bare-headed, stood in the next doorway,
and smiled and flushed slightly when he saw her.

"How's your mother?" he asked.

"She's not so well. I'm going to get the doctor."

"Do you mind if I get my hat and walk there with you?"

"I'm going somewhere else from there, Joe."

"Well, I'll walk a block or two, anyhow."

She waited impatiently. She liked Joe, but she did not want him
then. She wanted to think and plan alone and in the open air,
away from the little house with its odors and its querulous
thumping cane upstairs; away from Ellen's grim face and Dan's
angry one.

He came out almost immediately, followed by a string of little
Wilkinsons, clamoring to go along.

"Do you mind?" he asked her. "They can trail along behind. The
poor kids don't get out much."

"Bring them along, of course," she said, somewhat resignedly. And
with a flash of her old spirit: "I might have brought Jinx, too.
Then we'd have had a real procession.

They moved down the street, with five little Wilkinsons trailing
along behind, and Edith was uncomfortably aware that Joe's eyes
were upon her.

"You don't look well," he said at last. "You're wearing yourself
out taking care of your mother, Edith."

"I don't do much for her."

"You'd say that, of course. You're very unselfish."

"Am I?" She laughed a little, but the words touched her. "Don't
think I'm better than I am, Joe."

"You're the most wonderful girl in the world. I guess you know how
I feel about that."

"Don't Joe!"

But at that moment a very little Wilkinson fell headlong and burst
into loud, despairing wails. Joe set her on her feet, brushed her
down with a fatherly hand, and on her refusal to walk further picked
her up and carried her. The obvious impossibility of going on with
what he had been saying made him smile sheepishly.

"Can you beat it?" he said helplessly, "these darn kids - !" But
he held the child close.

At the next corner he turned toward home. Edith stopped and watched
his valiant young back, his small train of followers. He was going
to be very sad when he knew, poor Joe, with his vicarious fatherhood,
his cluttered, noisy, anxious life.

Life was queer. Queer and cruel.

>From the doctor's office, the waiting room lined with patient figures,
she went on. She had a very definite plan in mind, but it took all
her courage to carry it through. Outside the Benedict Apartments she
hesitated, but she went in finally, upheld by sheer determination.

The chair at the telephone desk was empty, but Sam remembered her.

"He's out, miss," he said. "He's out most all the time now, with
the election coming on."

"What time does he usually get in?"

"Sometimes early, sometimes late," said Sam, watching her.
Everything pertaining to Louis Akers was of supreme interest those
days to the Benedict employees. The beating he had received, the
coming election, the mysterious young woman who had come but once,
and the black days that had followed his return from the St. Elmo
- out of such patchwork they were building a small drama of their
own. Sam was trying to fit in Edith's visit with the rest.

The Benedict was neither more moral nor less than its kind. An
unwritten law kept respectable women away, but the management showed
no inclination to interfere where there was no noise or disorder.
Employees were supposed to see that no feminine visitors remained
after midnight, that was all.

"You might go up and wait for him," Sam suggested. "That is, if
it's important."

"It's very important."

He threw open the gate of the elevator hospitably.

At half past ten that night Louis Akers went back to his rooms. The
telephone girl watched him sharply as he entered.

"There's a lady waiting for you, Mr. Akers."

He swung toward her eagerly.

"A lady? Did she give any name?"

"No. Sam let her in and took her up. He said he thought you
wouldn't mind. She'd been here before."

The thought of Edith never entered Akers' head. It was Lily, Lily
miraculously come back to him. Lily, his wife.

Going up in the elevator he hastily formulated a plan of action.
He would not be too ready to forgive; she had cost him too much.
But in the end he would take her in his arms and hold her close.
Lily! Lily!

It was the bitterness of his disappointment that made him brutal.
Wicked and unscrupulous as he was with men, with women he was as
gentle as he was cruel. He put them from him relentlessly and
kissed them good-by. It was his boast that any one of them would
come back to him if he wanted her.

Edith, listening for his step, was startled at the change in his
face when he saw her.

"You!" he said thickly. "What are you doing here?"

"I've been waiting all evening. I want to ask you something."

He flung his hat into a chair and faced her.

"Well?"

"Is it true that you are married to Lily Cardew?"

"If I am, what are you going to do about it?" His eyes were wary,
but his color was coming back. He was breathing more easily.

"I only heard it to-day. I must know, Lou. It's awfully important."

"What did you hear?" He was watching her closely.

"I heard you were married, but that she had left you."

It seemed to him incredible that she had come there to taunt him,
she who was responsible for the shipwreck of his marriage. That
she could come there and face him, and not expect him to kill her
where she stood.

He pulled himself together.

"It's true enough." He swore under his breath. "She didn't leave
me. She was taken away. And I'll get her back if I - You little
fool, I ought to kill you. If you wanted a cheap revenge, you've got it."

"I don't want revenge, Lou."

He caught her by the arm.

"Then what brought you here?"

"I wanted to be sure Lily Cardew was married."

"Well, she is. What about it?"

"That's all."

"That's not all. What about it?"

She looked up at him gravely.

"Because, if she is, I am going to marry Mr. Cameron tomorrow." At
the sight of his astounded face she went on hastily: "He knows, Lou,
and he offered anyhow."

"And what," he said slowly, "has my wife to do with that?"

"I wanted to be fair to him. And I think he is - I think he used
to be terribly in love with her."

Quite apart from his increasing fear of Willy Cameron and his
Committee, there had been in Akers for some time a latent jealousy
of him. In a flash he saw the room at the Saint Elmo, and a
cold-eyed man inside the doorway. The humiliation of that scene
had never left him, of his own maudlin inadequacy, of hearing from
beyond a closed and locked door, the closing of another door behind
Lily and the man who had taken her away from him. A mad anger and
jealousy made him suddenly reckless.

"So," he said, "he is terribly in love with my wife, and he intends
to marry you. That's - interesting. Because, my sweet child, he's
got a damn poor chance of marrying you, or anybody."

"Lou!"

"Listen," he said deliberately. "Men who stick their heads into the
lion's jaws are apt to lose them. Our young friend Cameron has done
that. I'll change the figure. When a man tries to stop a great
machine by putting his impudent fingers into the cog wheels, the
man's a fool. He may lose his hand, or he may lose his life."

Fortunately for Edith he moved on that speech to the side table, and
mixed himself a highball. It gave her a moment to summon her
scattered wits, to decide on a plan of action. Her early training
on the streets, her recent months of deceit, helped her now. If he
had expected any outburst from her it did not come.

"If you mean that he is in danger, I don't believe it."

"All right, old girl. I've told you."

But the whiskey restored his equilibrium again.

"That is," he added slowly, "I've warned you. You'd better warn
him. He's doing his best to get into trouble."

She knew him well, saw the craftiness come back into his eyes, and
met it with equal strategy.

"I'll tell him," she said, moving toward the door. "You haven't
scared me for a minute and you won't scare him. You and your
machine!"

She dared not seem to hurry.

"You're a boaster," she said, with the door open. "You always
were. And you'll never lay a hand on him. You're like all bullies;
you're a coward!"

She was through the doorway by that time, and in terror for fear,
having told her so much, he would try to detain her. She saw the
idea come into his face, too, just as she slipped outside. He made
a move toward her.

"I think - " he began.

She slammed the door and ran down the hallway toward the stairs.
She heard him open the door and come out into the hall, but she was
well in advance and running like a deer.

"Edith!" he called.

She stumbled on the second flight of stairs and fell a half-dozen
steps, but she picked herself up and ran on. At the bottom of the
lower flight she stopped and listened, but he had gone back. She
heard the slam of his door as he closed it.

But the insistent need of haste drove her on, headlong. She shot
through the lobby, past the staring telephone girl, and into the
street, and there settled down into steady running, her elbows
close to her sides, trying to remember to breathe slowly and evenly.
She must get home somehow, get the envelope and follow the
directions inside. Her thoughts raced with her. It was almost
eleven o'clock and Willy had been gone for hours. She tried to
pray, but the words did not come.

CHAPTER XXXIX

At something after seven o'clock that night Willy Cameron and Pink
Denslow reached that point on the Mayville Road which had been
designated by the storekeeper, Cusick. They left the car there,
hidden in a grove, and struck off across country to the west. Willy
Cameron had been thoughtful for some time, and as they climbed a
low hill, going with extreme caution, he said:

"I'm still skeptical about Cusick, Pink. Do you think he's
straight?"

"One of the best men we've got," Pink replied, confidently. "He's
put us on to several things."

"He's foreign born, isn't he?"

"That's his value. They don't suspect him for a minute."

"But - what does he get out of it?"

"Good citizen," said Pink, with promptness. "You've got to remember,
Cameron, that a lot of these fellows are better Americans than we
are. They're like religious converts, stronger than the ones born
in the fold. They're Americans because they want to be. Anyhow,
you ought to be strong for him, Cameron. He said to tell you, but
no one else."

"I'll tell you how strong I am for him later," Willy Cameron said,
grimly. "Just at this minute I'm waiting to be shown."

They advanced with infinite caution, for the evening was still light.
Going slowly, it was well after eight and fairly dark before they
came within sight of the farm buildings in the valley below. Long
unpainted, they were barely discernable in the shadows of the hills.
The land around had been carefully cleared, and both men were
dismayed at the difficulty of access without being seen.

"Doesn't look very good, does it?" Pink observed. "I will say this,
for seclusion and keeping away unwanted visitors, it has it all
over any dug-out I ever saw in France."

"Listen!" Willy Cameron said, tensely.

They stood on the alert, but only the evening sounds of country
and forest rewarded them.

"What was it?" Pink inquired, after perhaps two minutes of waiting.

"Plain scare on my part, probably. I don't so much mind this little
excursion, Pink, as I hate the idea that a certain gentleman named
Cusick may have a chance to come to our funerals and laugh himself
to death."

When real darkness had fallen, they had reached the lower fringe
of the woods. Pink had the fault of the city dweller, however, of
being unable to step lightly in the dark, and their progress had
been less silent than it should have been. In spite of his handicap,
Willy Cameron made his way with the instinctive knowledge of the
country bred boy, treading like a cat.

"Pretty poor," Pink said in a discouraged whisper, after a twig had
burst under his foot with a report like the shot of a pistol. "You
travel like a spook, while I - "

"Listen, Pink. I'm going in alone to look around. Stop muttering
and listen to me. It's poor strategy not to have a reserve
somewhere, isn't it?"

"I'm a poor prune at the best," Pink said stubbornly, "but I am not
going to let you go into that place alone. You can rave all you
want."

"Very well. Then we'll both stay here. You are about as quiet as
a horse going through a corn patch."

After some moments Pink spoke again.

"If you insist on stealing the whole show," he said, sulkily, "what
am I to do? Run to town for help, if you need it?"

"I'm not going to round up the outfit, if there is one. I haven't
lost my mind. I'll see what is going on, or about to go on. Then
I'll come back."

"Here?"

Cameron considered.

"Better meet at the machine," he decided, after a glance at the sky.
"In half an hour you won't be able to see your hand in front of you.
Wait here for a half-hour or so, and then start back, and for
heaven's sake don't shoot at anything you see moving. As a matter
of fact, I might as well have your revolver. I won't need it, but
it may avoid any accidental shooting by a youth I both love and
admire!"

"If I hear any shooting, I'll come in," Pink said, still sulky.

"Come in and welcome," said Willy Cameron, and Pink knew he was
smiling.

He took the revolver and slipped away into the darkness, leaving
Pink both melancholy and disturbed. Unaccustomed to night in the
woods, he found his nerves twitching at every sound. In the war
there had been a definite enemy, definitely placed. Even when
he had gone into that vile strip between the trenches, there had
been a general direction for the inimical. Here -

He moved carefully, and stood with his back against a tree.

Not a sound came from the farm buildings. Willy Cameron's progress,
too, was noiseless. With no way to tell the lapse of time, and
gauging it by his war experience, when an hour had apparently
passed by, he knew that Cameron had been gone about ten minutes.

Time dragged on. A cow, unmilked, lowed plaintively once or twice.
A September night breeze set the dying leaves on the trees to
rustling, and stirred the dried ones about his feet. Pink's mind,
gradually reassured, turned to other things. He thought of Lily
Cardew, for one. Like Willy Cameron, he knew he would always love
her, but unlike Willy, the first pain of her loss was gone. He
was glad that time was over. He was glad that she was at home
again, safe from those - Some one was moving near him, passing
within twenty feet. Whoever it was was stepping cautiously but
blunderingly. It was not Cameron, then. He was a footfall only,
not even an outline. Before Pink could decide on a line of action,
the sound was lost.

Every sense acute, he waited. He had decided that if the incident
were repeated, he would make an effort to get the fellow from
behind, but there was no return. The wind had died again, and
there was no longer even the rustling of the leaves to break the
utter stillness.

Suddenly he saw a red flash near the barn, and an instant later
heard the report of a pistol. Came immediately after that a brief
fusillade of shots, a pause, then two or three scattering ones.

With the first shot Pink started running. He was vaguely conscious
of other steps near him, running also, but he could see nothing.
His whole mind was set on finding Willy Cameron. Alone he had not
a chance, but two of them together could put up a fight. He pelted
along, stumbling, recovering, stumbling again.

Another shot was fired. They hadn't got him yet, or they wouldn't
be shooting. He raised his voice in a great call.

"Cameron! Here! Cameron!"

He ran into a low fence then, and it threw him. He had hardly got
to his knees before the other running figure had hurled itself on
him, and struck him with the butt of a revolver. He dropped flat
and lay still.

* * * * *

For weeks Woslosky had known of the growing strength of the
Vigilance Committee, and that it was arming steadily.

It threatened absolutely the success of his plans. Even the
election of Akers and the changes he would make in the city police;
even the ruse of other strikes and machine-made riotings to call
away the state troops, - none of these, or all of them, would be
effectual against an organized body of citizens, duly called to
the emergency.

And such an organization was already effected. Within a week, when
the first card reached his hands, it had grown to respectable
proportions. Woslosky went to Doyle, and they made their
counter-moves quickly. No more violence. A seemingly real but
deceptive orderliness. They were dealing with inflammatory material,
however, and now and then it got out of hand. Unlike Doyle the
calculating, who made each move slowly and watched its results with
infinite zest, the Pole chafed under delay.

"We can't hold them much longer," he complained, bitterly. "This
thing of holding them off until after the election - and until
Akers takes office - it's got too many ifs in it."

"It was haste lost Seattle," said Doyle, as unmoved as Woslosky
was excited.

Woslosky did not like Louis Akers. What was more important, he
distrusted him. When he heard of his engagement to Lily Cardew
he warned Doyle about him.

"He's in this thing for what he can get out of it," he said. "He'll
go as far as he can, with safety, to be accepted by the Cardews."

"Exactly," was Doyle's dry comment, "with safety, you said. Well,
he knows you and he knows me, and he'll he straight because he's
afraid not to be."

"When there's a woman in it!" said the Pole, skeptically.

But Doyle only smiled. He had known many women and loved none of
them, and he was temperamentally unable to understand the type
of man who saw the world through a woman's eyes and in them.

So Woslosky was compelled to watch the growth of Willy Cameron's
organization, and to hold in check the violent passions he had
himself roused, and to wait, gnawing his nails with inaction and
his heart with rage. But these certain things he discovered:

That the organization's growth was coincident with a new interest
in local politics, as though some vital force had wakened the
plain people to a sense of responsibility.

That a drug clerk named Cameron was the founder and moving spirit
of the league, and that he was, using Hendricks' candidacy as a
means, rousing the city to a burning patriotic activity that Mr.
Woslosky regarded as extremely pernicious.

And that this same Willy Cameron had apparently a knowledge of
certain plans, which was rather worse than pernicious. Mr.
Woslosky's name for it was damnable.

For instance, there were the lists of the various city stores and
their estimated contents, missing from Mr. Woslosky's own
inconspicuous trunk in a storage house. On that had been based
the plan for feeding the revolution, by the simple expedient of
exchanging by organized pillage the contents of the city stores
for food stuffs from the farmers in outlying districts.

Revolution, according to Mr. Woslosky, could only be starved out.
He had no anxiety as to troops which would be sent against them,
because he had a cynical belief that a man's country was less to
him than various other things, including his stomach. He believed
that all armies were riddled with sedition and fundamentally
opposed to law.

Copies of other important matters, too, were missing. Lists of
officials for the revolutionary city government and of deputies to
take the places of the disbanded police, plans for manning, by the
radicals, the city light, water and power plants; a schedule of
public eating houses to take the place of the restaurants.

Woslosky began to find this drug clerk with the ridiculous given
name getting on his nerves. He considered him a dangerous enemy
to progress, that particular form of progress which Mr. Woslosky
advocated, and he suspected him of a lack of ethics regarding
trunks in storage. Mr. Woslosky had the old-world idea that the
best government was a despotism tempered by assassination. He
thought considerably about Willy Cameron.

But the plan concerning the farm house was, in the end, devised by
Louis Akers. Woslosky was skeptical. It was true that Cameron
might stick his head into the lion's jaws, but precautions had been
known to be taken at such times to prevent their closing. However,
the Pole was desperate.

He took six picked men with him that afternoon to the farm, and
made a strategic survey of the situation. The house was closed
and locked, but he was not concerned with the house. Cusick had
told Denslow the meetings were held late at night in the barn,
and to the barn Woslosky repaired, sawed-off shotgun under his
coat and cigarette in mouth, and inspected it with his evil smile.
Two men, young and reckless, might easily plan to conceal
themselves under the hay in the loft, and -

Woslosky put down his gun and went down into the cow barn below,
whistling softly to himself. He began to enjoy the prospect. He
gathered some eggs from the feed boxes, carrying them in his hat,
and breaking the lock of the kitchen door he and his outfit looted
the closet there and had an early supper, being careful to
extinguish the fire afterwards.

Not until dusk was falling did he post his men, three outside among
the outbuildings, one as a sentry near the woods, and two in the
barn itself. He himself took up his station inside the barn door,
sitting on the floor with his gun across his knees. Looking out
from there, he saw the sharp flash of a hastily extinguished match,
and snarled with anger. He had forbidden smoking.

"I've got to go out," he said cautiously. "Don't you fools shoot
me when I come back."

He slipped out into what was by that time complete blackness.

Some five minutes later he came back, still noiselessly, and treading
like a cat. He could only locate the barn door by feeling for it,
and above the light scraping of his fingers he could hear, inside,
cautious footsteps over the board floor. He scowled again. Damn
this country quiet, anyhow! But he had found the doorway, and was
feeling his way through when he found himself caught and violently
thrown. The fall and the surprise stunned him. He lay still for
an infuriated helpless second, with a knee on his chest and both
arms tightly held, to hear one of his own men above him saying:

"Got him, all right. Woslosky, you've got the rope, haven't you?"

"You fool!" snarled Woslosky from the floor, "let me up. You've
half killed me. Didn't I tell you I was going out?"

He scrambled to his feet, and to an astounded silence.

"But you came in a couple of minutes ago. Somebody came in. You
heard him, Cusick, didn't you?"

Woslosky whirled and closed and fastened the barn doors, and almost
with the same movement drew a searchlight and flashed it over the
place. It was apparently empty.

The Pole burst into blasphemous anger, punctuated with sharp
questions. Both men had heard the cautious entrance they had
taken for his own, both men had remained silent and unsuspicious,
and both were positive whoever had come in had not gone out again.

He stationed one man at the door, and commenced a merciless search.
The summer's hay filled one end, but it was closely packed below
and offered no refuge. Armed with the shotgun, and with the flash
in his pocket, Woslosky climbed the ladder to the loft, going
softly. He listened at the top, and then searched it with the
light, holding it far to the left for a possible bullet. The loft
was empty. He climbed into it and walked over it, gun in one hand
and flash in the other, searching for some buried figure. But there
was nothing. The loft was fragrant with the newly dried hay, sweet
and empty. Woslosky descended the ladder again, the flash
extinguished, and stood again on the barn floor, considering.
Cusick was a man without imagination, and he had sworn that some
one had come in. Then -

Suddenly there was a whirr of wings outside and above, excited
flutterings first, and then a general flight of the pigeons who
roosted on the roof. Woslosky listened and slowly smiled.

"We've got him, boys," he said, without excitement. "Outside, and
call the others. He's on the roof."

Cusick whistled shrilly, and as the Pole ran out he met the others
coming pell-mell toward him. He flung a guard of all five of them
around the barn, and himself walked off a hundred feet or so and
gazed upward. The very outline of the ridge pole was
indistinguishable, and he swore softly. In the hope of drawing an
answering flash he fired, but without result. The explosion echoed
and reechoed, died away.

He called to Cusick, and had him try the same experiment, following
the line of the gutter as nearly as possible in the darkness, on
that side, and emptying his revolver. Still silence.

Woslosky began to doubt. The pigeons might have seen his flashlight,
might have heard his own stealthy movements. He was intensely
irritated. The shooting, if the alarm had been false, had ruined
everything. He saw, as in a vision, Doyle's sneering face when he
told him. Beside him Cusick was reloading his revolver in the
darkness.

Then, out of the night, came a call from the direction of the woods,
and unintelligible at that distance.

"What's that?" Cusick said hoarsely.

Woslosky made no reply. He was listening. Some one was approaching,
now running, now stopping as though confused. Woslosky held his gun
ready, and waited. Then, from a distance, he heard his name called.

He stepped inside the door of the barn and showed the light for a
moment. Soon after the sentry floundered in, breathless and excited.

"I got one of them," he gasped. "Hit him with my gun. He's lying
back by the stone fence."

"Did you call out, or did he?"

"He did. That's how I knew it wasn't one of our fellows. He called
Cameron, so he's the other one."

Woslosky drew a deep breath. Then it was Cameron on the roof. It
was Cameron they wanted.

"He'll sleep for an hour or two, if he ever wakes up," Pink's
assailant boasted. But Woslosky was taking no chances that night.
He sent two men after Pink, and began to pace the floor thoughtfully.
If he could have waited for daylight it would have been simple
enough, but he did not know how much time he had. He did not
underestimate young Cameron's intelligence, and it had occurred to
him that that young Scot might cannily have provided against his
failure to return. Then, too, the state constabulary had an
uncomfortable habit of riding lonely back roads at night, and shots
could be heard a long distance off.

He had never surveyed the barn roof closely, but he knew that it
was steeply pitched. Cameron, then, was probably braced somewhere
in the gutter. The departure of the two men had left him
short-handed, and he waited impatiently for their return. With a
ladder, provided it could be quietly placed, a man could shoot from
a corner along two sides of the roof. With two ladders, at diagonal
corners, they could get him. But a careful search discovered no
ladders on the place.

He went out, and standing close against the wall for protection,
called up.

"We know you're there, Cameron," he said. "If you come down we
won't hurt you. If you don't, we'll get you, and you know it."

But he received no reply.

Soon after that the two men carried in Pink Denslow, and laid him
on the floor of the barn. Then Woslosky tried again, more reckless
this time with anger. He stood out somewhat from the wall and
called:

"One more chance, Cameron, or we'll put a bullet through your friend
here. Come down, or we'll - "

Something struck him heavily and he fell, with a bullet in the
shoulder. He struggled to his feet and gained the shelter of the
wall, his face twisted with pain.

"All right," he said, "if that's the way you feel about it!"

He regained the barn and had his arm supported in an extemporized
sling. Then he ordered Pink to be tied, and fighting down his pain
considered the situation. Cameron was on the roof, and armed. Even
if he had no extra shells he still had five shots in reserve, and he
would not waste any of them. Whoever tried to scale the walls would
be done in at once; whoever attempted to follow him to the roof by
way of the loft would be shot instantly. And his own condition
demanded haste; the bullet, striking from above, had broken his arm.
Every movement was torture.

He thought of setting fire to the barn. Then Cameron would have
the choice of two things, to surrender or to be killed. He might
get some of them first, however. Well, that was a part of the game.

He delivered a final ultimatum from the shelter of the doorway.

"I've just thought of something, Cameron," he called. "We're going
to fire the barn. Your young friend is here, tied, and we'll leave
him here. Do you get that? Either throw down that gun of yours,
and come down, or I'm inclined to think you'll be up against it.
I'll give you a minute or so to think it over."

At half-past eleven o'clock that night the first of four automobiles
drove into Friendship. It was driven by a hatless young man in a
raincoat over a suit of silk pajamas, and it contained four County
detectives and the city Chief of Police. Behind it, but well
outdistanced, came the other cars, some of them driven by leading
citizens in a state of considerable deshabille.

At a cross street in Friendship the lead car drew up, and flashlights
were turned on a road map in the rear of the car. There was some
argument over the proper road, and a member of the state constabulary,
riding up to investigate, showed a strong inclination to place them
under arrest.

It took a moment to put him right.

"Wish I could go along," he said, wistfully. "The place you want is
back there. I can't leave the town, but I'll steer you out. You'll
probably run into some of our fellows back there."

He rode on ahead, his big black horse restive in the light from the
lamps behind him. At the end of a lane he stopped.

"Straight ahead up there," he said. "You'll find - "

He broke off and stared ahead to where a dull red glare, reflected
on the low hanging clouds, had appeared over the crest of the hill.

"Something doing up there," he called suddenly. "Let's go."

He jerked his revolver free, dug his heels into the flanks of his
horse, and was off on a dead run. Half way up the hill the car
passed him, the black going hard, and its rider's face, under the
rim of his uniform hat, a stern profile. His reins lay loose on
the animal's neck, and he was examining his gun.

The road mounted to a summit, and dipped again. They were in a
long valley, and the burning barn was clearly outlined at the far
end of it. One side was already flaming, and tongues of fire
leaped out through the roof. The men in the car were standing now,
doors open, ready to leap, while the car lurched and swayed over
the uneven road. Behind them they heard the clatter of the oncoming
horse.

As they drew nearer they could see three watching figures against
the burning building, and as they turned into the lane which led to
the barnyard a shot rang out and one of the figures dropped and lay
still. There was a cry of warning from somewhere, and before the
detectives could leap from the car, the group had scattered, running
wildly. The state policeman threw his horse back on its hunches, and
fired without apparently taking aim at one of the running shadows.
The man threw up his arms and fell. The state policeman galloped
toward him, dismounted and bent over him.

Firing as they ran, detectives leaped out of the car and gave chase,
and so it was that the young gentleman in bedroom slippers and
pajamas, standing in his car and shielding his eyes against the
glare, saw a curious thing.

First of all, the roof blazed up brightly, and he perceived a human
figure, hanging by its hands from the eaves and preparing to drop.
The young gentleman in pajamas was feeling rather out of things by
that time, so he made a hasty exit from his car toward the barn,
losing a slipper as he did so, and yelling in a slightly hysterical
manner. It thus happened that he and the dropping figure reached
the same spot at almost the same moment, one result of which was that
the young gentleman in pajamas found himself struck a violent blow
with a doubled-up fist, and at the same moment his bare right foot
was tramped on with extreme thoroughness.

The young gentleman in pajamas reeled back dizzily and gave tongue,
while standing on one foot. The person he addressed was the state
constable, and his instructions were to get the fugitive and kill
him. But the fugitive here did a very. strange thing. Through
the handkerchief which it was now seen he wore tied over his mouth,
he told the running policeman to go to perdition, and then with
seeming suicidal intent rushed into the burning barn. From it he
emerged a moment later, dragging a figure bound hand and foot,
blackened with smoke, and with its clothing smoldering in a dozen
places; a figure which alternately coughed and swore in a strangled
whisper, but which found breath for a loud whoop almost immediately
after, on its being immersed, as it promptly was, in a nearby
horse-trough.

Very soon after that the other cars arrived. They drew up and men
emerged from them, variously clothed and even more variously armed,
but all they saw was the ruined embers of the barn, and in the glow
five figures. Of the five one lay, face up to the sky, as though
the prostrate body followed with its eyes the unkillable traitor
soul of one Cusick, lately storekeeper at Friendship. Woslosky,
wounded for the second time, lay on an automobile rug on the ground,
conscious but sullenly silent. On the driving seat of an automobile
sat a young gentleman with an overcoat over a pair of silk pajamas,
carefully inspecting the toes of his right foot by the light of a
match, while another young gentleman with a white handkerchief
around his head was sitting on the running board of the same car,
dripping water and rather dazedly staring at the ruins.

And beside him stood a gaunt figure, blackened of face, minus
eyebrows and charred of hair, and considerably torn as to clothing.
A figure which seemed disinclined to talk, and which gave its
explanations in short, staccato sentences. Having done which, it
relapsed into uncompromising silence again.

Some time later the detectives returned. They had made no further
captures, for the refugees had known the country, and once outside
the light from the burning barn search was useless. The Chief of
Police approached Willy Cameron and stood before him, eyeing him
severely.

"The next time you try to raid an anarchist meeting, Cameron," he
said, "you'd better honor me with your confidence. You've probably
learned a lesson from all this."

Willy Cameron glanced at him, and for the first time that night,
smiled.

"I have," he said; "I'll never trust a pigeon again." The Chief
thought him slightly unhinged by the night's experience.

CHAPTER XL

Edith Boyd's child was prematurely born at the Memorial Hospital
early the next morning. It lived only a few moments, but Edith's
mother never knew either of its birth or of its death.

When Willy Cameron reached the house at two o'clock that night he
found Dan in the lower hall, a new Dan, grave and composed but
very pale.

"Mother's gone, Willy," he said quietly. "I don't think she knew
anything about it. Ellen heard her breathing hard and went in, but
she wasn't conscious." He sat down on the horse-hair covered chair
by the stand. "I don't know anything about these things," he
observed, still with that strange new composure. "What do you do
now?"

"Don't worry about that, Dan, just now. There's nothing to do
until morning."

He looked about him. The presence of death gave a new dignity to
the little house. Through the open door he could see in the
parlor Mrs. Boyd's rocking chair, in which she had traveled so
many conversational miles. Even the chair had gained dignity; that
which it had once enthroned had now penetrated the ultimate mystery.

He was shaken and very weary. His mind worked slowly and torpidly,
so that even grief came with an effort. He was grieved; he knew
that. Some one who had loved him and depended on him was gone;
some one who loved life had lost it. He ran his hand over his
singed hair.

"Where is Edith?"

Dan's voice hardened.

"She's out somewhere. It's like her, isn't it?"

Willy Cameron roused himself.

"Out?" he said incredulously. "Don't you know where she is?"

"No. And I don't care."

Willy Cameron was fully alert now, and staring down at Dan.

"I'll tell you something, Dan. She probably saved my life to-night.
I'll tell you how later. And if she is still out there is
something wrong."

"She used to stay out to all hours. She hasn't done it lately, but
I thought - "

Dan got up and reached for his hat.

"Where'll I start to look for her?"

But Willy Cameron had no suggestion to make. He was trying to
think straight, but it was not easy. He knew that for some reason
Edith had not waited until midnight to open the envelope. She had
telephoned her message clearly, he had learned, but with great
excitement, saying that there was a plot against his life, and
giving the farmhouse and the message he had left in full; and she
had not rung off until she knew that a posse would start at once.
And that had been before eleven o'clock.

Three hours. He looked at his watch. Either she had been hurt or
was a prisoner, or - he came close to the truth then. He glanced
at Dan, standing hat in hand.

"We'll try the hospitals first, Dan," he said. "And the best way
to do that is by telephone. I don't like Ellen being left alone
here, so you'd better let me do that."

Dan acquiesced unwillingly. He resumed his seat in the hail, and
Willy Cameron went upstairs. Ellen was moving softly about, setting
in order the little upper room. The windows were opened, and
through them came the soft night wind, giving a semblance of life
and movement under it to the sheet that covered the quiet figure on

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