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Children of the Whirlwind by Leroy Scott

Part 3 out of 6

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ordinary motives, of possible happenings; but he could find none which
would reconcile her very keen and kindly feeling for Hunt with her
abstinence from all inquiries.

From his first day in his sanctuary Larry spent long hours every day
over the accounts and documents Miss Sherwood had put in his hands.
They were indeed a tangle. Originally the Sherwood estate had
consisted of solid real-estate holdings. But now that Larry had before
him the records of holdings and of various dealings he learned that
the character of the Sherwood fortune had altered greatly. Miss
Sherwood's father had neglected the care of this sober business in
favor of speculative investment and even outright gambling in stocks;
and Dick, possessing this strain of his father, and lacking his
father's experience, had and was speculating even more wildly.

Larry had followed the market since he had been in a broker's office
almost ten years earlier, so he knew what stock values had been and
had some idea of what they were now. The records, and some of the
stock Larry found in the safe, recalled the reputation of the elder
Sherwood. He had been known as a spirited, daring man who would buy
anything or sell anything; he had been several times victimized by
sharp traders, some of these out-and-out confidence men. Studying
these old records Larry remembered that the elder Sherwood a dozen
years before had lost a hundred thousand in a mining deal which Old
Jimmie Carlisle had helped manipulate.

Larry found hundreds and hundreds of thousands of stock in the safe
that were just so much waste paper, and he found records of other
hundreds of thousands in safety deposit vaults that had no greater
value. The real estate, the more solid and to the male Sherwoods the
less interesting part of the fortune, had long been in the care of
agents; and since Larry was prohibited from going out and studying the
condition and true value of these holdings, he had to depend upon the
book valuations and the agents' reports and letters. Upon the basis of
these valuations he estimated that some holdings were returning a
loss, some a bare one and a half per cent, and some running as high as
fifteen per cent. Larry found many complaints from tenants; some
threatening letters from the Building Department for failure to make
ordered alterations to comply with new building laws; and some rather
perfunctory letters of advice and recommendation from the agents
themselves.

From Miss Sherwood Larry learned that the agents were old men, friends
of her father since youth; that they had both made comfortable
fortunes which they had no incentive to increase. Larry judged that
there was no dishonesty on the part of the agents, only laxity, and an
easy adherence to the methods of their earlier years when there had
not been so much competition nor so many building laws. All the same
Larry judged that the real-estate holdings were in a bad way.

Larry liked the days and days of this work, although the farther he
went the worse did the tangle seem. It was the kind of work for which
his faculties fitted him, and this was his first chance to use his
faculties upon large affairs in an honest way. Thus far his work was
all diagnostic; cure, construction, would not come until later--and
perhaps Miss Sherwood would not trust him with such affairs. This
investigation, this checking up, involved no risk on her part as she
had frankly told him. The other would: it would mean at least partial
control of property, the handling of funds.

Miss Sherwood had many sessions with him; she was interested, but she
confessed herself helpless in this compilation and diagnosis of so
many facts and figures. Dick was prompt enough to report his stock
transactions, and he was eager enough to discuss the probable
fluctuation of this or that stock; but when asked to go over what
Larry had done, he refused flatly and good-humoredly to "sit in any
such slow, dead game."

"If my Solomon-headed sister is satisfied with what you're doing,
Captain Nemo, that's good enough for me," he would say. "So forget
that stuff till I'm out of sight. Open up, Captain--what do you think
copper is going to do?"

"I wish you could be put on an operating-table and have your
speculative streak knifed out of you, Dick. That oil stock you bought
the other day--why, a blind man could have seen it was wild-cat. And
you were wiped out."

"Oh, the best of 'em get aboard a bad deal now and then."

"I know. But I've been tabulating all your deals to date, and on the
total you're away behind. Better leave the market absolutely alone,
Dick, and quit taking those big chances."

"You've got to take some big chances, Captain Nemo"--Dick had clung
to the title he had lightly conferred on Larry the morning he had come
in to apologize--"or else you'll never make any big winnings. Besides,
I want a run for my money. Just getting money isn't enough. I want a
little pep in mine."

Larry saw that these talks on the unwisdom of speculation he was
giving Dick were not in themselves enough to affect a change in Dick.
Mere words were colorless and negative; something positive would be
required.

Larry hesitated before he ventured upon another matter he had long
considered. "Excuse my saying it, Dick. But a man who's trying to do
as much in a business way as you are, particularly since it's plain
speculation, can't afford to go to after-theater shows three times a
week and to late suppers the other four nights. Two and three o'clock
is no bedtime hour for a business man. And that boot-legged booze you
drink when you're out doesn't help you any. I know you think I'm
talking like a fossilized grand-aunt--but all the same, it's the
straight stuff I'm handing you."

"Of course it's straight stuff--and you're perfectly all right,
Captain Nemo." With a good-natured smile Dick clapped him on the
shoulder. "But I'm all right, too, and nothing and nobody is going to
hurt me. Got to have a little fun, haven't I? As for the booze, I'm
merely making hay while the sun shines. Soon there'll be no sun--I
mean no booze."

Larry dropped the subject. In his old unprincipled, days his practice
had been much what he had suggested to Dick; as little drink as
possible, and as few late nights as possible. He had needed all his
wits all the time. In this matter of hilarious late hours, as in the
matter of speculation, Larry recognized words alone, however good,
would have little effect upon the pleasure-loving, friendly, likable
Dick. An event, some big experience, would be required to check him
short and bring him to his senses.

While Larry was keeping at this grind something was happening to Larry
of which he was not then conscious: something which was part of the
big development in him that was in time to lead him far. A confidence
man is essentially a "sure-thing" gambler. It had been Larry's
practice, before the law had tripped him up, to study every detail of
an enterprise he was planning to undertake, to know the psychology of
the individuals with whom he was dealing, to eliminate every
perceivable uncertainty: that was what had made almost all of his
deals "sure things." Strip a clever knave of all intent or inclination
for knavery, and leave all his other qualities and practices intact
and eager, and you have the makings of a "sure-thing" business man:--a
man who does not cheat others, and who takes precious care that his
every move is sound and forward-looking. Aside from the moral element
involved, the difference between the two is largely a difference in
percentage: say the difference between a thousand per cent profit and
six per cent profit. The element of trying to play a "safe thing"
still remains.

This transformation of character, under the stimulus of hard, steady
work upon a tangled thing which contained the germ of great
constructive possibilities for some one, was what was happening
unconsciously to Larry.

CHAPTER XVI

All this while Maggie, and what he was to do about her, and how do it,
was in Larry's mind. Even this work he was doing for Miss Sherwood, he
was doing also for Maggie in the hope that in some unseen way it might
lead him to her and help lead her to herself. There were difficulties
enough between them, God knew; but of them all two were forever
presenting themselves as foremost: first, he did not dare go openly to
see her; and, second, even if he so dared he did not know where she
was.

When he had been with the Sherwoods some three weeks Larry determined
upon a preliminary measure. By this time he knew that the letters
mailed from Chicago, according to the plan he had arranged with Miss
Sherwood, had had their contemplated effect. He knew that he was
supposed by his enemies to be in Chicago or some other Western point,
and that New York was off its guard as far as he was concerned.

His preliminary measure was to discover, if possible, Maggie's
whereabouts. The Duchess seemed to him the most likely source of
information. He dared not write asking her for this, for he was
certain her mail was still being scrutinized. The safest method would
be to call at the pawnshop in person; the police, and his old friends,
and the Ginger Bucks would expect anything else before they would
expect him to return to his grandmother's. Of course he must use all
precautions.

Incidentally he was prompted to this method by his desire to see his
grandmother and Hunt. He had an idea or two which he had been mulling
over that concerned the artist.

He chose a night when a steady, blowing rain had driven all but
limousined and most necessitous traffic from the streets. The rain was
excuse for a long raincoat with high collar which buttoned under his
nose, and a cap which pulled down to his eyes, and an umbrella which
masked him from every direct glance. Thus abetted and equipped he
came, after a taxi ride and a walk, into his grandmother's street. It
was as seemingly deserted as on that tumultuous night when he had left
it; and on this occasion no figures sprang out of the cover of
shadows, shooting and cursing. He had calculated correctly and
unmolested he gained the pawnshop door, passed the solemn-eyed,
incurious Isaac, and entered the room behind.

His grandmother sat over her accounts at her desk in a corner among
her curios. Hunt, smoking a black pipe, was using his tireless right
hand in a rapid sketch of her: another of those swift, few-stroked,
vivid character notes which were about his studio by the hundreds. The
Duchess saw Larry first; and she greeted him in the same unsurprised,
emotionless manner as on the night he had come back from Sing Sing.

"Good-evening, Larry," said she.

"Good-evening, grandmother," he returned.

Hunt came to his feet, knocking over a chair in so doing, and gripped
Larry's hand. "Hello--here's our wandering boy to-night! How are you,
son?"

"First-rate, you old paint-slinger. And you?"

"Hitting all twelve cylinders and taking everything on high! But say,
listen, youngster: how about your copper friends and those gun-toting
schoolmates of yours?"

"Missed them so far."

"Better keep on missing 'em." Hunt regarded him intently for a moment,
then asked abruptly: "Never heard one way or another--but did you use
that telephone number I gave you?"

"Yes."

"Miss Sherwood take care of you?"

"Yes."

"Still there?"

"Yes."

Again Hunt was silent for a moment. Larry expected questions about
Miss Sherwood, for he knew the quality of the painter's interest. But
Hunt seemed quite as determined to avoid any personal question
relating to Miss Sherwood as she had been about personal questions
relating to him; for his next remark was:

"Young fellow, still keeping all those commandments you wrote for
yourself?"

"So far, my bucko."

"Keep on keeping 'em, and write yourself a few more, and you'll have a
brand-new decalogue. And we'll have a little Moses of our own. But in
the meantime, son, what's the great idea of coming down here?"

"For one thing, I came to ask for a couple of your paintings."

"My paintings!" Hunt regarded the other suspiciously. "What the hell
you want my paintings for?"

"They might make good towels if I can scrape the paint off."

"Aw, cut out the vaudeville stuff! I asked you what you wanted my
paintings for? Give me a straight answer!"

"All right--here's your straight answer: I want your paintings to sell
them."

"Sell my paintings! Say, are you trying to say something still
funnier?"

"I want them to sell them. Remember I once told you that I could sell
them--that I could sell anything. Let me have them, and then just
see."

"You'd sure have to be able to sell anything to sell them!" A
challenging glint had come into Hunt's eyes. "Young fellow, you're so
damned fresh that if you had any dough I'd bet you five thousand, any
odds you like, that you couldn't even GIVE one of the things away!"

"Loan me five thousand," Larry returned evenly, "and I'll cover the
bet with even money--it being understood that I'm to sell the picture
at a price not less than the highest price you ever received for one
of your 'pretty pictures' which you delight to curse and which made
your fortune. Now bring down your pictures--or shut up!"

Hunt's jaw set. "Young fellow, I take that bet! And I'll not let you
off, either--you'll have to pay it! Which pictures do you want?"

"That young Italian woman sitting on the curb nursing her baby--and
any other picture you want to put with it."

Hunt went clumping up the stairway. When he was out of earshot, the
Duchess remarked quietly:

"What did you really come for, Larry?"

Larry was somewhat taken aback by his grandmother's penetration, but
he did not try to evade the question nor the steady gaze of the old
eyes.

"I thought you might know where Maggie is, and I came to ask."

"That's what I thought."

"Do you know where she is?"

"Yes."

"Where is she?"

The old eyes were still steady upon him. "I don't know that I should
tell you. I want you to get on--and the less you have to do with
Maggie, the better for you."

"I'd like to know, grandmother."

The Duchess considered for a long space. "After all, you're of age--
and you've got to decide what's best for yourself. I'll tell you.
Maggie was here the other day--dressed simple--to get some letters
she'd forgotten to take and which I couldn't find. We had a talk.
Maggie is living at the Grantham under the name of Margaret Cameron.
She has a suite there."

"A suite at the Grantham!" exclaimed Larry, astounded. "Why, the
Grantham is in the same class with the Ritzmore, where she used to
work--or the Plaza! A suite at the Grantham!"

And then Larry gave a twitching start. "At the Grantham--alone?"

"Not alone--no. But it's not what just came into your mind. It's a
woman that's with her; a hired companion. And they're doing everything
on a swell scale."

"What's Maggie up to?"

"She didn't tell me, except to say that the plan was a big one. She
was all excited over it. If you want to know just what it is, ask
Barney Palmer and Old Jimmie."

"Barney and Old Jimmie!" ejaculated Larry. And then: "Barney and Old
Jimmie--and a suite at the Grantham!"

At that moment Hunt came back down the stairway, carrying a roll
wrapped in brown paper.

"Here you are, young fellow," he announced. De-mounted 'em so the junk
would be easier to handle. The Dago mother you asked for--the second
painting may be one you'd like to have for your own private gallery.
I'm not going to let you get away with your bluff--and don't you
forget it! . . . Duchess, don't you think he'd better beat it before
Gavegan and his loving friends take a tumble to his presence and mess
up the neighborhood?"

"Yes," said the Duchess. "Good-night, Larry."

"Good-night," said he.

Mechanically he took the roll of paintings and slipped it under his
raincoat; mechanically he shook hands; mechanically he got out of the
pawnshop; mechanically he took all precautions in getting out of the
little rain-driven street and in getting into a taxicab which he
captured over near Cooper Institute. All his mind was upon what the
Duchess had told him and upon a new idea which was throbbingly growing
into a purpose. Maggie and Barney and Old Jimmie! Maggie in a suite at
the Grantham!

What Larry now did, as he got into the taxi, he would have called
footless and foolhardy an hour before, and at any other hour his
judgment might have restrained him. But just now he seemed controlled
by a force greater than smooth-running judgment--a composite of many
forces: by sudden jealousy, by a sudden desire to shield Maggie, by a
sudden desire to see her. So as he stepped into the taxi, he said:

"The Grantham--quick!"

CHAPTER XVII

The taxi went rocking up Fourth Avenue. But now that decision was made
and he was headed toward Maggie, a little of judgment reasserted
itself. It would not be safe for him to walk openly into the Grantham
with a mouthful of questions. He did not know the number of Maggie's
suite. And Maggie might not be in. So he revised his plan slightly. He
called to his driver:

"Go to the Claridge first."

Five minutes later the taxi was in Forty-Fourth Street and Larry was
stepping out. Fortune favored him in one fact--or perhaps his
subconscious mind had based his plan upon this fact: the time was
half-past ten, the theaters still held their crowds, the streets were
empty, the restaurants were practically unoccupied. He was incurring
the minimum of risk.

"Wait for me," he ordered the driver. "I'll be out in five minutes."

In less than the half of the first of these minutes Larry had attained
his first objective: the secluded telephone-room down behind the
grill. It was unoccupied except for the telephone girl who was gazing
raptly at the sorrowful, romantic, and very soiled pages of "St.
Elmo." The next moment she was gazing at something else--a five-
dollar bill which Larry had slipped into the open book.

"That's to pay for a telephone call; just keep the change," he said
rapidly. "You're to do all the talking, and say just what I tell you."

"I got you, general," said the girl, emerging with alacrity from
romance to reality. "Shoot."

"Call up the Hotel Grantham--say you're a florist with an order to
deliver some flowers direct to Miss Margaret Cameron--and ask for the
number of her suite--and keep the wire open."

The girl obeyed promptly. In less than a minute she was reporting to
Larry:

"They say 1141-1142-1143."

"Ask if she's in. If she is, get her on the 'phone, tell her long
distance is calling, but doesn't want to speak to her unless she is
alone. You get it?"

"Sure, brother. This ain't the first time I helped a party out."

There was more jabbing with the switch-board plug, evident switching
at the other end, several questions, and then the girl asked: "Is this
Miss Margaret Cameron? Miss Cameron--" and so on as per Larry's
instructions.

The operator turned to Larry: "She says she's alone."

"Tell her to hold the wire till you get better connections--the storm
has messed up connections terribly--and keep your own wire open and
make her hold her end."

As Larry went out he heard his instructions being executed while an
adept hand safely banked the bill inside her shirt-waist. Within two
minutes his taxi set him down at the Grantham; and knowing that
whatever risks he ran would be lessened by his acting swiftly and
without any suspicious hesitation, he walked straight in and to the
elevators, in the manner of one having business there, his collar
again pulled up, his cap pulled down, and his face just then covered
with a handkerchief which was caring for a sniffling nose in a highly
natural manner.

With his heart pounding he got without mishap to the doors numbered
1141, 1142, and 1143. Instinctively he knew in a general way what the
apartment was like: a set of rooms of various character which the
hotel could rent singly or throw together and rent en suite. But which
of the three was the main entrance? He dared not hesitate, for the
slightest queer action might get the attention of the floor clerk down
the corridor. So Larry chose the happy medium and pressed the mother-
of-pearl button of 1142.

The door opened, and before Larry stood a large, elderly, imposing
woman in a rigidly formal evening gown--a gown which, by the way, had
been part of Miss Grierson's equipment for many a year for helping raw
young things master the art of being ladies. Larry surmised at once
that this was the "hired companion" his grandmother had spoken of. In
other days Larry had had experience with this type and before Miss
Grierson could bar him out or ask a question, Larry was in the room
and the door closed behind him--and he had entered with the easiest,
most natural, most polite manner imaginable.

"You were expecting me?" inquired Larry with his disarming and wholly
engaging smile.

Neither Miss Grierson's mind nor body was geared for rapid action. She
was taken aback, and yet not offended. So being at a loss, she
resorted to the chief item in her stock in trade, her ever dependable
dignity.

"I cannot say that I was. In fact, sir, I do not know who you are."

"Miss Cameron knows--and she is expecting me," Larry returned
pleasantly. His quick eyes had noted that this was a sitting-room: an
ornate, patterned affair which the great hotels seem to order in
hundred lots. "Where is Miss Cameron?"

"In the next room," nodding at the connecting door. "She is engaged.
Telephoning. A long-distance call. I'm quite sure she is not expecting
you," Miss Grierson went on to explain ponderously and elaborately,
but with politeness, for this young man was handsome and pleasant and
well-bred and might prove to be some one of real importance. "We were
to have had a theater party with supper afterwards; but owing to Miss
Cameron's indisposition we did not go to the theater. But she insisted
on keeping the engagement for the supper, but changing it to here.
Besides herself and myself, there are to be only her uncle, her
cousin, and just one guest. That is why I am so certain, sir, she is
not expecting you."

"But you see," smiled Larry, "I am that one guest."

Miss Grierson shook her carefully coiffured transformation. "I've met
the guest who is coming, and I certainly have not met you."

"Then she must have asked two of us. Anyhow, I'll just speak to her,
and if I'm mistaken and de trop, I'll withdraw." And ere Miss Grierson
could even stir up an intention to intervene further, this well-
mannered young man had smiled his disarming smile and bowed to her and
had passed through the door, closing it behind him.

He halted, the knob in his hand. Maggie was standing sidewise to him,
holding a telephone in her hand, its receiver at her ear. She must
have supposed that it was Miss Grierson who had so quietly entered,
for she did not look around.

"Yes, I'm still waiting," she was saying impatiently. "Can't you ever
get that connection?"

Larry had seen Maggie only in the plain dark suit which she had worn
to her daily business of selling cigarettes at the Ritzmore; and once,
on the night of his return from Sing Sing, in that stage gypsy
costume, which though effective was cheap and impromptu and did not at
all lift her out of the environment of the Duchess's ancient and grimy
house. But Larry was so startled by this changed Maggie that for the
moment he could not have moved from the door even had he so desired.
She was accoutered in the smartest of filmy evening gowns, with the
short skirt which was then the mode, with high-heeled silver
slippers, her rounded arms and shoulders and bosom bare, her abundant
black hair piled high in careful carelessness. The gown was cerise in
color, and from her forearm hung a great fan of green plumes. In all
the hotels and theaters of New York one could hardly have come upon a
figure that night more striking in its finished and fresh young
womanhood. Larry trembled all over; his heart tried to throb madly up
out of his throat.

At length he spoke. And all he was able to say was:

"Maggie."

She whirled about, and telephone and receiver almost fell from her
hands. She went pale, and stared at him, her mouth agape, her dark
eyes wide.

"La-Larry!" she whispered.

"Maggie!" he said again.

"La-Larry! I thought you were in Chicago."

"I'm here now, Maggie--especially to see you." He did not know it, but
his voice was husky. He noted that she was still holding the telephone
and receiver. "It was I who put in that long-distance call. But I came
instead. So you might as well hang up."

She obeyed, and set the instrument upon its little table.

"Larry--where have you been all this while?"

He was now conscious enough to note that there was tense concern in
her manner. He exulted at it, and crossed and took her hand.

"Right here in New York, Maggie."

"In hiding?"

"In mighty good hiding."

"But, Larry--don't you know it's dangerous for you to come out? And to
come here of all places?"

"I couldn't help myself. I simply had to see you, Maggie."

He was still holding her hand, and there was an instinctive grip of
her fingers about his. For a moment--the moment during which her
outer or more conscious self was startled into forgetfulness--they
gazed at each other silently and steadily, eye into eye.

And then the things the Duchess had said crept back into his mind, and
he said:

"Maggie, I've come to take you out of all this. Get ready--let's leave
at once."

That broke the spell. She jerked away from him, and instantly she was
the old Maggie: the Maggie who had jeered at him and defied him the
night of his return from prison when he had announced his new plan--
the Maggie who had flaunted him as "stool" and "squealer" the evening
she had left the Duchess's to enter upon this new career.

"No, you're not going to take me out of this!" she flung at him. "I
told you once before that I wasn't going your way! I told you that I
was going my own way! That held for then, and it holds for now, and it
will hold for always!"

The softer mood which had come upon him by surprise at sight of her
and filled him, now gave way to grim determination. "Yes, you are
coming my way--sometime, if not now! And now if I can make you!"

Their embattled gazes gripped each other. But now Larry was seeing
more than just Maggie. He was also taking in the room. It was close
kin to the room in which he had left Miss Grierson: ornate,
undistinguished, and very expensive. He noted one slight difference: a
tiny hallway giving on the corridor, its inner door now opened.

But the greatest difference was what he saw over Maggie's smooth white
shoulders: a table all set with china and glass and silver, and
arranged for five.

"Maggie, what's this game you're up to?" he demanded.

"It's none of your business!" she said fiercely, but in a low tone--
for both were instinctively remembering Miss Grierson in the adjoining
room. And then she added proudly: "But it's big! Bigger than anything
you ever dreamed of! And you can see I am putting it across so far--
and I'll be putting it across at the finish! Compare it to the cheap
line you talked about. Bah!"

"Listen, Maggie!" In his intensity he gripped her bare forearm. "This
is bad business, and if you had any sense you'd know it! Don't you
think I get the layout? Barney is your cousin, Old Jimmie is your
uncle, that dame in the next room and this suite and your swell
clothes to help put up a front! And your sickness that wouldn't let
you go to the theater is just a fake, so that, not wanting to
disappoint them entirely, you'd have an excuse for having supper
here--and thus adroitly draw some person into the trap of a more
intimate relationship. It's a clever and classy layout. Maggie,
exactly what's your game?"

"I'll not tell you!"

"Who's that man that's coming here?"

"I'll not tell you!"

"Is he the sucker you're out to trim?"

"I'll not tell you!"

"You will tell me!" he cried dominantly. "And you're going to get out
of all this! You hear me? It may look good to you now. But I tell you
it has only one finish! And that's a rotten finish!"

She tore free from his punishing grip, and pantingly glared at
him--her former defiance now an egoistic fury.

"I won't have you interfering with my life!--you fake preacher!--you
stool, you squealer!" she flung at him madly. "Stool--squealer!" she
repeated. "I tell you I'm going my own way--and it's a big way--and I
tell you again nothing you can say or do can stop me! If I could have
my best wish, all I'd wish for would be something to keep you from
always interfering--something to get you out of my way!"

Panting, she paused. Her tense figure, with hands closing and
unclosing, expressed the very acme of furious defiance--of desire to
annihilate--of ultimate hatred. Larry was astounded by the very
extent, the profundity, of her passion. And so they stood, silent
except for their quick breathing, eyes fixed upon eyes, for several
moments.

And then a key sounded in the outer door of the little hallway.
Instantly there was an almost unbelievable transformation in Maggie.
From an imperious, uncontrollable fury, she changed to a white,
quivering thing.

"Barney!" she whispered; and sprang to the inner door of the little
hallway, closed and locked it.

She turned on Larry a face that was ghastly in its pallor.

"Barney always carries a pistol," she whispered.

They had heard the outer door close with a click of its automatic
lock. They now heard the knob of the inner door turn and tugged at;
and then heard Barney call:
"What's the matter, Maggie? Let us in."

Maggie made a supreme effort to reply in a controlled voice:

"Just a minute. I'm not quite ready."

Then a second voice sounded from the other side of the door:

"Don't keep us too long, Maggie. Please!"

There was a distantly familiar quality to Larry in that second voice.
But he did not try to place it then: he was too poignantly concerned
in his own situation, and in the bewildering change in Maggie.

She slipped a hand through his arm. "Oh, La-Larry, why did you ever
take such a risk!" she breathed. Her whisper was piteous, aquiver with
fright. "Come this way!" and she quickly pulled him into the room
where he had met Miss Grierson and to the door by which he had
entered.

Maggie opened this door. "They're all in the little hallway--I don't
think they'll see you," her rapid, agitated whisper went on. "Don't
take the elevators in this corridor, they're in plain sight. There are
elevators just around the corner. Take them; they're safer. Good-bye,
Larry--and, oh, Larry, don't ever take such a risk again!"

With that she pushed him out and closed the door.

Larry followed her instructions about the elevator; he used the same
precautions in leaving that he had used in coming, and twenty minutes
later he was back in his room in the Sherwood apartment. For an hour
or more he sat motionless--thinking--thinking: asking himself
questions, but in his tumultuous state of mind and emotions not able
to keep to a question long enough to reason out its possible answer.

Just what was that game in which Maggie was involved?--a game which
required that Grantham setting, that eminently respectable companion,
and Maggie's accouterment as a young lady of obvious wealth.

Whose was that vaguely familiar second voice?--that voice which he
still could not place.

But what he thought about most of all was something very different.
What had caused that swift change in Maggie?--from a fury that was
both fire and granite, to that pallid, quivering, whispering girl who
had so rapidly led him safely out of his danger.

To and fro, back and forth, shuttled these questions. Toward two
o'clock he stood up, mind still absorbed, and mechanically started to
undress. He then observed the roll of paintings Hunt had given him.
Better for them if they were flattened out. Mechanically he removed
string and paper. There on top was the Italian mother he had asked
for. A great painting--a truly great painting. Mechanically he lifted
this aside to see what was the second painting Hunt had included.
Larry gave a great start and the Italian mother went flapping to the
floor.

The second painting was of Maggie; the one on which Hunt had been
working the day Larry had come back: Maggie in her plain working
clothes, looking out at the world confidently, conqueringly; the
painting in which Hunt, his brain teeming with ideas, had tried to
express the Maggie that was, the many Maggies that were in her, and
the Maggie that was yet to be.

CHAPTER XVIII

The next morning Larry tried to force his mind to attend strictly to
Miss Sherwood's affairs. But in this effort he was less than fifty per
cent effective. His experience of the night before had been too
exciting, too provocative of speculation, too involved with what he
frankly recognized to be the major interest of his life, to allow him
to apply himself with perfect and unperturbed concentration to the
day's routine. Constantly he was seeing the transformed Maggie in the
cerise evening gown with the fan of green plumes--seeing her elaborate
setting in her suite at the Grantham--hearing that vaguely familiar
but unplaceable voice outside her door--recalling the frenzied effort
with which Maggie had so swiftly effected his escape.

This last matter puzzled him greatly. If she were so angered at him as
she had declared, if she so distrusted him, why had she not given him
up when she had had him at her mercy? Could it be that, despite her
words, she had an unacknowledged liking for him? He did not dare let
himself believe this.

Again and again he thought of this adventure in whose very middle
Maggie now was, and of whose successful issue she had proudly boasted
to him. It was indeed something big, as she had said; that
establishment at the Grantham was proof of this. Larry could now
perceive the adventure's general outlines. There was nothing original
in what he perceived; and the plan, so far as he could see it, would
not have interested him in the least as a novel creation of the brain
were not Maggie its central figure, and were not Barney and Old Jimmie
her directing agents. A pretty woman was being used as a lure to some
rich man, and his infatuation for her was to cause him to part with a
great deal of money: some variation of this ancient idea, which has a
thousand variations--that was the plan.

Obviously the enterprise was not directed at some gross victim whose
palate might permit his swallowing anything. If any one item
essentially proved this, it was the item of the overwhelmingly
respectable chaperon. Maggie was being presented as an innocent,
respectable, young girl; and the victim, whoever he was, was the type
of man for whom only such a type of girl would have a compelling
appeal.

And this man--who was he? Ever and again he tried to place the man's
voice, with its faintly familiar quality, but it kept dodging away
like a dream one cannot quite recall.

The whole business made Larry rage within himself. Maggie to be used
in such a way! He did not blame Maggie, for he understood her. Also he
loved her. She was young, proud, willful, had been trained to regard
such adventures as colorful and legitimate; and had not lived long
enough for experience to teach her otherwise. No, Maggie was not to
blame. But Old Jimmie! He would like to twist Old Jimmie's neck! But
then Old Jimmie was Maggie's father; and the mere fact of Old Jimmie
being Maggie's father would, he knew, safeguard the old man from his
wrath even were he at liberty to go forth and act.

He cursed his enforced seclusion. If only he were free to go out and
do his best in the open! But then, even if he were, his best endeavors
would have little influence upon Maggie--with her despising and
distrusting him as she did, and with her so determined to go ahead in
her own way.

Once during the morning, he slipped from the library into his room and
gazed at the portrait of Maggie that Hunt had given him the night
before: Maggie, self-confident, willful, a beautiful nobody who was
staring the world out of countenance; a Maggie that was a thousand
possible Maggies. And as he gazed he thought of the wager he had made
with Hunt, and of his own rather scatter-brained plannings concerning
it. He removed Maggie's portrait from the fellowship of the picture of
the Italian mother, and hid it in his chiffonier. Whatever he might do
in his endeavor to make good his boast to Hunt, for the present he
would regard Maggie's portrait as his private property. To use the
painting as he had vaguely planned, before he had been surprised to
find it Maggie's portrait, would be to pass it on into other
possession where it might become public--where, through some chance,
the Maggie of the working-girl's cheap shirt-waist might be identified
with the rich Miss Cameron of the Grantham, to Maggie's great
discomfiture, and possibly to her entanglement with the police.

When Miss Sherwood came into the library a little later, Larry tried
to put Maggie and all matters pertaining to his previous night's
adventure out of his mind. He had enough other affairs which he was
trying adroitly to handle--for instance, Miss Sherwood and Hunt; and
when his business talk with her was ended, he remarked:

"I saw Mr. Hunt last evening."

He watched her closely, but he could detect no flash of interest at
Hunt's name.

"You went down to your grandmother's?"

"Yes."

"That was a very great risk for you to take," she reproved him. "I'm
glad you got back safely."

Despite the disturbance Maggie had been to his thoughts, part of his
brain had been trying to make plans to forward this other aim; so he
now told Miss Sherwood of his wager with Hunt and his bringing away a
picture--he said "one picture." He wanted to awaken the suppressed
interest each had in the other; to help bridge or close the chasm
which he sensed had opened between them. So he brought the picture of
the Italian mother from his room. She regarded it critically, but with
no sign of approval or disapproval.

"What do you think of it?" she asked.

"It's a most remarkable piece of work!" he said emphatically--wishing
he could bring in that picture of Maggie as additional evidence
supporting his opinion.

She made no further comment, and it was up to Larry to keep the
conversation alive. "What is the most Mr. Hunt ever was paid for a
painting? I mean one of what he swears at as his `pretty pictures'?"

"I believe about two thousand dollars."

That was part of the information necessary to Larry's plan.

"Miss Sherwood, I'm going to ask another favor of you. In connection
with a bet I made with Mr. Hunt. I want to talk with a picture
dealer--the best one there is. I can't very well go to him. Can you
manage to have him come here?"

"Easily. I know the man best for your purpose. I'll telephone, and if
he's in New York he'll come to see you this afternoon."

"Thank you."

She started out, then turned. "Better finish your business with him
to-day if you can. We go to the country to-morrow or the day after.
I've just had word that the workmen are finally out of the house;
though the grounds, of course, are in bad shape, and will probably
remain so. With this labor situation, it's practically impossible to
get men."

Larry remembered something else. "Miss Sherwood, you recall my once
speaking about a man I got to be friends with in prison--Joe Ellison?"

"Yes."

"I've written him, under an assumed name, of course, and have had an
answer. He'll be out in a very few days now. He's through with his old
ways. I know he'd like nothing better than a quiet place to work, off
to himself somewhere. I'm sure you can trust him."

"We'll arrange to have him come out to Cedar Crest. Oh, don't think
I'm being generous or sentimental," she interrupted smilingly as he
started to thank her. "I'd be glad to put two or three more
ex-convicts to work on our place if I could get them. And so would my
friends; they can't get workmen of any kind."

That afternoon the picture dealer came. Miss Sherwood introduced Larry
to him as Mr. Brandon, her cousin, and then left the two men together.
Larry appraised Mr. Graham as a shrewd man who knew his business and
who would like to score a triumph in his own particular field. He
decided that the dealer had to be handled with a great deal of
frankness, and with some stiff bluffing which must appear equally
frank. The secret of Larry's earlier success had been to establish
confidence and even enthusiasm in something which had little or no
value. In selling an honest thing at an honest price, the first and
fundamental procedure was the same, to establish confidence and, if
possible, enthusiasm.

From the moment of introduction Larry quietly assumed the manner of an
art collector who was very sure of himself; which manner was abetted
by the setting of the Sherwood library. He felt something of the old
zest when wits had been matched against wits, even though this was to
be a strictly honorable enterprise.

"You know the work of Mr. Jerome Hunt?" he asked.

"I have handled practically all his work since he began to sell,"
replied Mr. Graham.

"I was referring to work in his recent manner."

"He has not been doing any work recently," corrected Mr. Graham.

"No?" Larry picked up the Italian mother which for this occasion he
had mounted with thumb-tacks upon a drawing-board, and stood it upon a
chair in the most advantageous light. "There is a little thing in Mr.
Hunt's recent manner which I lately purchased."

Mr. Graham regarded the painting long and critically.

Finally he remarked:

"At least it is different."

"Different and better," said Larry with his quiet positiveness. "So
much better that I paid him three thousand dollars for it."

"Three thousand!" The dealer regarded Larry sharply. "Three thousand
for that?"

"Yes. And I consider that I got a bargain."

Mr. Graham was silent for several moments. Then he said "For what
reason have I been asked here?"

"I want you to undertake to sell this picture."

"For how much?"

"Five thousand dollars."

"Five thousand dollars!"

"It is easily worth five thousand," Larry said quietly.

"If you value it so highly, why do you want to sell?"

"I am pressed by the present money shortage. Also I secured a second
picture when I got this one. That second picture I shall not sell. You
should have no difficulty in selling this," Larry continued, "if you
handle the matter right. Think of how people have started again to
talk about Gaugin: about his starting to paint in a new manner down
there in the Marquesas Islands, of his trading a picture for a stick
of furniture or selling it for a few hundred francs--which same
paintings are now each worth a small fortune. Capitalize this Gaugin
talk; also the talk about poor mad Blakeslie. You've got a new
sensation. One all your own."

"You can't start a sensation with one painting," Mr. Graham remarked
dryly.

This had been the very remark Larry had adroitly been trying to draw
from the dealer.

"Why, that's so!" he exclaimed. And then as if the thought had only
that moment come to him: "Why not have an exhibition of paintings done
in his new manner? He's got a studio full of things just as
characteristic as this one."

Larry caught the gleam which came into the dealer's eyes. It was
instantly masked.

"Too late in the spring for a picture show. Couldn't put on an
exhibition before next season."

"But why not have a private pre-exhibition showing?" Larry argued--
"with special invitations sent to a small, carefully chosen list,
putting it over strong to them that you were offering them the chance
of a first and exclusive view of something very remarkable. Most of
them will feel flattered and will come. And that will start talk and
stir up interest in your public exhibition in the fall. That's the
idea!"

Again there was the gleam, quickly masked, in the dealer's eyes. But
Larry got it.

"How do I know this picture here isn't just an accident?--the only
one of the sort Mr. Hunt has ever painted, or ever will paint?"
cautiously inquired Mr. Graham. "You said you had a second picture.
May I see it?"

Larry hesitated. But he believed he had the dealer almost "sold"; a
little more and Mr. Graham would be convinced. So he brought in
Maggie's portrait. The dealer looked it over with a face which he
tried to keep expressionless.

"How much is this one?" he asked at length.

"It is not for sale."

"It will bring more money than the other. It's a more interesting
subject."

"That's why I'm keeping it," said Larry. "I think you'll admit, Mr.
Graham, that this proves that Mr. Hunt is not now painting accidents."

"You're right." The mask suddenly dropped from Mr. Graham's face; he
was no longer merely an art merchant; he was also an art enthusiast.
"Hunt has struck something bold and fresh, and I think I can put him
over. I'll try that scheme you mentioned. Tell me where I can find him
and I'll see him at once."

"That picture has got to be sold before I give you his address. No use
seeing him until then; he'd laugh at you, and not listen to anything.
He's sore at the world; thinks it doesn't understand him. An actual
sale would be the only argument that would have weight with him."

"All right--I'll buy the picture myself. Hunt and I have had a falling
out, and I'd like him to have proof that I believe in him." Again Mr.
Graham was the art merchant. "Though, of course, I can't pay the five
thousand you ask. Hunt's new manner may catch on, and it may not. It's
a big gamble."

"What will you pay?"

"What you paid for it--three thousand."

"That's an awful drop from what I expected. When can you pay it?"

"I'll send you my check by an assistant as soon as I get back to my
place."

"I told you I was squeezed financially--so the picture is yours. I'll
send you Mr. Hunt's present address when I receive your check. Make it
payable to 'cash.'"

When Mr. Graham had gone with the Italian mother--it was then the
very end of the afternoon--Larry wondered if his plan to draw Hunt out
of his hermitage was going to succeed; and wondered what would be the
result, if any, upon the relationship between Hunt and Miss Sherwood
if Hunt should come openly back into his world an acclaimed success,
and come with the changed attitude toward every one and every thing
that recognition bestows.

But something was to make Larry wonder even more a few minutes later.
Dick, that habitual late riser, had had to hurry away that morning
without speaking to him. Now, when he came home toward six o'clock,
Dick shouted cheerily from the hallway:

"Ahoy! Where you anchored, Captain Nemo?"

Larry did not answer. He sat over his papers as one frozen. He knew
now whose had been the elusively familiar voice he had heard outside
Maggie's door. It was Dick Sherwood's.

Dick paused without to take some messages from Judkins, and Larry's
mind raced feverishly. Dick Sherwood was the victim Maggie and Barney
and Old Jimmie were so cautiously and elaborately trying to trim! It
seemed an impossible coincidence. But no, not impossible, after all.
Their net had been spread for just such game: a young man,
impressionable, pleasure-loving, with plenty of money, and with no
strings tied to his spending of it. That Barney should have made his
acquaintance was easily explained; to establish acquaintance with such
persons as Dick was Barney's specialty. What more natural than that
the high-spirited, irresponsible Dick should fall into this trap?--or
indeed that he should have been picked out in advance as the ideal
victim and have been drawn into it?

"Hello, there!" grumbled Dick, entering. "Why didn't you answer a
shipmate's hail?"

"I heard you; but just then I was adding a column of figures, and I
knew you'd look in."

At that moment Larry noted the portrait of Maggie, looking up from the
chair beside him. With a swiftness which he tried to disguise into a
mechanical action, he seized the painting and rolled it up, face
inside.

"What's that you've got?" demanded Dick.

"Just a little daub of my own."

"So you paint, too. What else can you do? Let's have a look."

"It's too rotten. I'd rather let you see something else--though all my
stuff is bad."

"You wouldn't do any little thing, would you, to brighten this
tiredest hour in the day of a tired business man," complained Dick.
"I've really been a business man to-day, Captain. Worked like the
devil--or an angel--whichever works the harder."

He lit a cigarette and settled with a sigh on the corner of Larry's
desk. Larry regarded him with a stranger and more contradicting
mixture of feelings than he had ever thought to contain: solicitude
for Dick--jealousy of him--and the instinct to protect Maggie. This
last seemed to Larry grotesquely absurd the instant it seethed up in
him, but there the instinct was: was Dick treating Maggie right?

"How was the show last night, Dick?"

"Punk!"

"I thought you said you were to see 'The Jest.' I've heard it's one of
the best things for years."

"Oh, I guess the show's all right. But the company was poor. My
company, I mean. The person I wanted to see couldn't come."

"Hope you had a supper party that made up for the disappointment,"
pursued Larry, adroitly trying to lead him on.

"I sure had that, Captain!"

Dick slid to a chair beside Larry, dropped a hand on Larry's knee, and
said in a lowered tone:

"Captain, I've recently met a new girl--and believe me, she's a knock-
out!"

"Better keep clear of those show girls, Dick."

"Never again! The last one cured me for life. Miss Cameron--Maggie
Cameron, how's that for a name?--is no Broadway girl, Captain. She's
not even a New York girl."

"No?"

"She's from some place out West. Father owned several big ranches. She
says that explains her crudeness. Her crude? I should say not! They
don't grow better manners right here in New York. And she's pretty,
and clever, and utterly naive about everything in New York. Though I
must say," Dick added, "that I'm not so keen about her cousin and her
uncle. I'd met the cousin a few times the last year or two around
town; he belongs here. The two are the sort of poor stock that crops
out in every good family. They've got one merit, though: they don't
try to impose on her too much."

"What is your Miss Cameron doing in New York?"

"Having her first look at the town before going to some resort for the
summer; perhaps taking a cottage somewhere. I say, Captain"--leaning
closer--"I wish you didn't feel you had to stick around this apartment
so tight. I'd like to take you out and introduce you to her."

Larry could imagine the resulting scene if ever this innocently
proposed introduction were given.

"I guess that for the present I'll have to depend upon your reports,
Dick."

"Well, you can take it from me that she's just about all right!"

It was Larry's strange instinct to protect Maggie that prompted his
next remark:

"You're not just out joy-riding, are you, Dick?"

Dick flushed. "Nothing of that sort. She's not that kind of girl.
Besides--I think it's the real thing, Captain."

The honest look in Dick's eyes, even more than his words, quieted
Larry's fear for Maggie. Presently Dick walked out leaving Larry yet
another problem added to his life. He could not let anything happen to
Maggie. He could not let anything happen to Dick. He had to protect
each; he had to do something. Yet what could he do?

Yes, this certainly was a problem! He paced the room, another victim
of the ancient predicament of divided and antagonistic duty.

CHAPTER XIX

The night of Larry's unexpected call upon her at the Grantham, Maggie
had pulled herself together and aided by the imposing Miss Grierson
had done her best as ingenue hostess to her pseudo-cousin, Barney, and
her pseudo-uncle, Old Jimmie, and to their quarry, Dick Sherwood, whom
they were so cautiously stalking. But when Dick had gone, and when
Miss Grierson had withdrawn to permit her charge a little visit with
her relatives, Barney had been prompt with his dissatisfaction.

"What was the matter with you to-night, Maggie?" he demanded. "You
didn't play up to your usual form."

"If you don't like the way I did it, you may get some one else,"
Maggie snapped back.

"Aw, don't get sore. If I'm stage-managing this show, I guess it's my
business to tell you how to act the part, and to tell you when you're
endangering the success of the piece by giving a poor performance."

"Maybe you'd better get some one else to take my part right now."

Maggie's tone and look were implacable. Barney moved uneasily. That
was the worst about Maggie: she wouldn't take advice from any one
unless the advice were a coincidence with or an enlargement of her own
wishes, and she was particularly temperish to-night. He hastened to
appease her.

"I guess the best of us have our off days. It's all right unless"--
Barney hesitated, business fear and jealousy suddenly seizing him--
"unless the way you acted tonight means you don't intend to go through
with it?"

"Why shouldn't I go through with it?"

"No reason. Unless you acted as you did to-night because"--again
Barney hesitated; again jealousy prompted him on--"because you've
heard in some way from Larry Brainard. Have you heard from Larry?"

Maggie met his gaze without flinching. She would take the necessary
measures in the morning with Miss Grierson to keep that lady from
indiscreet talking.

"I have not heard from Larry, and if I had, it wouldn't be any of your
business, Barney Palmer!"

He chose to ignore the verbal slap in his face of her last phrase.
"No, I guess you haven't heard from Larry. And I guess none of us will
hear from him--not for a long time. He's certainly fixed himself for
fair!"

"He sure has," agreed Old Jimmie.

Maggie said nothing.

"Seems to me we've got this young Sherwood hooked," said Old Jimmie,
who had been impatient during this unprofitable bickering. "Seems to
me it's time to settle just how we're going to get his dough. How
about it, Barney?"

"Plenty of time for that, Jimmie. This is a big fish, and we've got to
be absolutely sure we've got him hooked so he can't get off. We've got
to play safe here; it's worth waiting for, believe me. Besides, all
the while Maggie's getting practice."

"Seems to me we ought to make our clean-up quick. So that--so that--"

"See here--you think you got some other swell game you want to use
Maggie in?"

Old Jimmie's shifty gaze wavered before Barney's glare.

"No. But she's my daughter, ain't she?"

"Yes. But who's running this?" Barney demanded. Thank Heavens, Old
Jimmie was one person he did not have to treat like a prima donna!

"You are."

"Then shut up, and let me run it!"

"You might at least tell if you've decided how you're going to run
it," persisted Old Jimmie.

"Will you shut up!" snapped Barney.

Old Jimmie said no more. And having asserted his supremacy over at
least one of the two, Barney relented and condescended to talk,
lounging back in his chair with that self-conscious grace which had
helped make him a figure of increasing note in the gayer restaurants
of New York.

It did not enter into Barney's calculations, present or for the
future, to make Maggie the mistress of any man. Not that Barney was
restrained by moral considerations. The thing was just bad business.
Such a woman makes but comparatively little; and what is worse, if she
chooses, she makes it all for herself. And Barney, in his cynical
wisdom of his poor world, further knew that the average man enticed
into this poor trap, after the woman has said yes, and after the first
brief freshness has lost its bloom, becomes a tight-wad and there is
little real money to be got from him for any one.

"It's like this: once we've got this Sherwood bird safely hooked,"
expanded Barney with the air of an authority, flicking off his
cigarette ash with his best restaurant manner, "we can play the game a
hundred ways. But the marriage proposition is the best bet, and there
are two best ways of working that."

"Which d'you think we ought to use, Barney?" inquired Old Jimmie.

But Barney went on as if the older man had not asked a question. "Both
ways depend upon Sherwood being crazy in love, and upon his coming
across with a proposal and sticking to it. The first way, after being
proposed to, Maggie must break down and confess she's married to a man
she doesn't love and who doesn't love her. This husband would probably
give her a divorce, but he's a cagy guy and is out for the coin, and
if he smelled that she wanted to remarry some one with money he would
demand a large price for her freedom. Maggie must further confess that
she really has no money, and is therefore helpless. Then Sherwood
offers to meet the terms of this brute of a husband. If Sherwood falls
for this we shove in a dummy husband who takes Sherwood's dough--and a
big bank roll it will be!--and that'll be the last Sherwood'll ever
see of Maggie."

Old Jimmie nodded. "When it's worked right, that always brings home
the kale."

"The only question is," continued Barney, "can Maggie put that stuff
over? How about it, Maggie? Think you're good enough to handle a
proposition like that?"

Looking the handsome Barney straight in the eyes, Maggie for the
moment thought only of his desire to manage her and of the challenge
in his tone. Larry and the appeal he had made to her were forgotten,
as was also Dick Sherwood.

"Anything you're good enough to think up, Barney Palmer, I guess I'm
good enough to put over," she answered coolly.

And then: "What's the other way?" she asked.

"Old stuff. Have to be a sure-enough marriage. Sherwoods are big-time
people, you know; a sister who's a regular somebody. After marriage,
family permitted to learn truth--perhaps something much worse than
truth. Family horrified. They pay Maggie a big wad for a separation--
same as so many horrified families get rid of daughters-in-law they
don't like. Which of the ways suits you best, Maggie?"

Maggie shrugged her shoulders with indifference. It suited her present
mood to maintain her attitude of being equal to any enterprise.

"Which do you like best, Barney?" Old Jimmie asked.

"The second is safer. But then it's slower; and there would be
lawyers' fees which would eat into our profits; and then because of
the publicity we might have to wait some time before it would be safe
to use Maggie again. The first plan isn't so complicated, it's quick,
and at once we've got Maggie free to use in other operations. The
first looks the best bet to me--but, as I said, we don't have to
decide yet. We can let developments help make the actual decision for
us."

Barney did not add that a further reason for his objecting to the
second plan was that he didn't want Maggie actually tied in marriage
to any man. That was a relationship his hopes were reserving for
himself.

Barney's inborn desire for acknowledged chieftainship again craved
assertion and pressed him on to say:

"You see, Maggie, how much depends on you. You've got a whale of a
chance for a beginner. I hope you take a big brace over to-night and
play up to the possibilities of your part."

"You take care of your end, and I'll take care of mine!" was her sharp
retort.

Barney was flustered for a moment by his second failure to dominate
Maggie. "Oh, well, we'll not row," he tried to say easily. "We
understand each other, and we're each trying to help the other
fellow's game--that's the main point."

The two men left, Jimmie without kissing his daughter good-night. This
caused Maggie no surprise. A kiss, not the lack of it, would have been
the thing that would have excited wonder in Maggie.

Barney went away well satisfied on the whole with the manner in which
the affair was progressing, and with his management of it and of
Maggie. Maggie was obstinate, to be sure; but he'd soon work that out
of her. He was now fully convinced of the soundness of his explanation
of Maggie's poor performance of that night: she had just had an off
day.

As for Maggie, after they had gone she sat up long, thinking--and her
thoughts reverted irresistibly to Larry. His visit had been most
distracting. But she was not going to let it affect her purpose. If
anything, she was more determined than ever to be what she had told
him she was going to be, to prove to him that he could not influence
her.

She tried to keep her mind off Larry, but she could not. He was for
her so many questions. How had he escaped?--thrown off both police
and old friends? Where was he now? What was he doing? And when and how
was he going to reappear and interfere?--for Maggie had no doubt, now
that she knew him to be in New York, that he would come again; and
again try to check her.

And there was a matter which she no more understood than Larry, and
this was another of her questions: Why had she gone into a panic and
aided his escape?

Of course, she now and then thought of Dick Sherwood. She rather liked
Dick. But thus far she regarded him exactly as her scheme of life had
presented him to her: as a pleasant dupe who, in an exciting play in
which she had the thrilling lead, was to be parted from his money. She
was rather sorry for him; but this was business, and her sorrow was
not going to interfere with what she was going to do.

Maggie Cameron, at this period of her life, was not deeply
introspective. She did not realize what, according to other standards,
this thing was which she was doing. She was merely functioning as she
had been taught to function. And if any change was beginning in her,
she was thus far wholly unconscious of it.

CHAPTER XX

Larry's new problem was the most difficult and delicate dilemma of his
life--this divided loyalty: to balk Maggie and the two men behind her
without revealing the truth about Maggie to Dick, to protect Dick
without betraying Maggie. It certainly was a trying, baffling
situation.

He had no such foolish idea that he could change Maggie by exposing
her. At best he would merely render her incapable of continuing this
particular course; he would increase her bitterness and hostility to
him. Anyhow, according to the remnants of his old code, that wouldn't
be playing fair--particularly after her aiding his escape when he had
been trapped.

Upon only one point was he clear, and on this he became more settled
with every hour: whatever he did he must do with the idea of a
fundamental awakening in Maggie. Merely to foil her in this one scheme
would be to solve the lesser part of his problem; Maggie would be left
unchanged, or if changed at all the change would be toward a greater
hardness, and his major problem would be made more difficult of
solution.

He considered many ways. He thought of seeing Maggie again, and once
more appealing to her. That he vetoed, not because of the danger to
himself, but because he knew Maggie would not see him; and if he again
did break in upon her unexpectedly, in her obstinate pride she would
heed nothing he said. He thought of seeing Barney and Old Jimmie and
somehow so throwing the fear of God into that pair that they would
withdraw Maggie from the present enterprise; but even if he succeeded
in so hazardous an undertaking, again Maggie would be left unchanged.
He thought of showing Miss Sherwood the hidden portrait of Maggie, of
telling her all and asking her aid; but this he also vetoed, for it
seemed a betrayal of Maggie.

He kept going back to one plan: not a plan exactly, but the idea upon
which the right plan might be based. If only he could adroitly, with
his hand remaining unseen, place Maggie in a situation where
circumstances would appeal conqueringly to her best self, to her
latent sense of honor--that was the idea! But cudgel his brain as he
would, Larry could not just then develop a working plan whose
foundation was that idea.

But even if Larry had had a brilliant plan it would hardly have been
possible for him to have devoted himself to its execution, for two
days after his visit to Maggie at the Grantham, the Sherwoods moved
out to their summer place some forty miles from the city on the North
Shore of Long Island; and Larry was so occupied with routine duties
pertaining to this migration that at the moment he had time for little
else. Cedar Crest was individual yet typical of the better class of
Long Island summer residences. It was a long white building of many
piazzas and many wings, set on a bluff looking over the Sound, with a
broad stretch of silken lawn, and about it gardens in their June
glory, and behind the house a couple of hundred acres of scrub pine.

On the following day, according to a plan that had been worked out
between Larry and Miss Sherwood, Joe Ellison appeared at Cedar Crest
and was given the assistant gardener's cottage which stood apart on
the bluff some three hundred yards east of the house. He was a tall,
slightly bent, white-haired man, apparently once a man of physical
strength and dominance of character and with the outer markings of a
gentleman, but now seemingly a mere shadow of the forceful man of his
prime. As a matter of fact, Joe Ellison had barely escaped that
greatest of prison scourges, tuberculosis.

The roses were given over to his care. For a few brief years during
the height of his prosperity he had owned a small place in New Jersey
and during that period had seemingly been the country gentleman.
Flowers had been his hobby; so that now he could have had no work
which would have more suited him than this guardianship of the roses.
For himself he desired no better thing than to spend what remained of
his life in this sunlit privacy and communion with growing things.

He gripped Larry's hand when they were first alone in the little
cottage. "Thanks, Larry; I'll not forget this," he said. He said
little else. He did not refer to his prison life, or what had gone
before it. He had never asked Larry, even while in prison together,
about Larry's previous activities and associates; and he asked no
questions now. Apparently it was the desire of this silent man to have
the bones of his own past remain buried, and to leave undisturbed the
graves of others' mistakes.

A retiring, unobtrusive figure, he settled quickly to his work. He
seemed content, even happy; and at times there was a far-away,
exultant look in his gray eyes. Miss Sherwood caught this on several
occasions; it puzzled her, and she spoke of it to Larry. Larry
understood what lay behind Joe's bearing, and since the thing had
never been told to him as a secret he retold that portion of Joe's
history he had recited to the Duchess: of a child who had been brought
up among honorable people, protected from the knowledge that her
father was a convict--a child Joe never expected to see and did not
even know how to find.

Joe Ellison became a figure that moved Miss Sherwood deeply: content
to busy himself in his earthly obscurity, ever dreaming and gloating
over his one great sustaining thought--that he had given his child the
best chance which circumstances permitted; that he had removed himself
from his child's life; that some unknown where out in the world his
child was growing to maturity among clean, wholesome people; that he
never expected to make himself known to his child. The situation also
moved Larry profoundly whenever he looked at his old friend, merging
into a kindly fellowship with the earth.

But while busy with new affairs at Cedar Crest, Larry was all the
while thinking of Maggie, and particularly of his own dilemma
regarding Maggie and Dick. But the right plan still refused to take
form in his brain. However, one important detail occurred to him which
required immediate attention. If his procedure in regard to Hunt's
pictures succeeded in drawing the painter from his hermitage, nothing
was more likely than that Hunt unexpectedly would happen upon Maggie
in the company of Dick Sherwood. That might be a catastrophe to
Larry's unformed plan; it had to be forestalled if possible. Such a
matter could not be handled in a letter, with the police opening all
mail coming to the Duchess's house. So once more he decided upon a
secret visit to the Duchess's house. He figured that such a visit
would be comparatively without risk, since the police and Barney
Palmer and the gangsters Barney had put upon his trail all still
believed him somewhere in the West.

Accordingly, a few nights after they had settled at Cedar Crest, he
motored into New York in a roadster Miss Sherwood had placed at his
disposal, and after the necessary precautions he entered Hunt's
studio. The room was dismantled, and Hunt sat among his packed
belongings smoking his pipe.

"Well, young fellow," growled Hunt after they had shaken hands, "you
see you've driven me from my happy home."

"Then Mr. Graham has been to see you?"

"Yes. And he put up to me your suggestion about a private exhibition.
And I fell for it. And I've got to go back among the people I used to
know. And wear good clothes and put on a set of standardized good
manners. Hell!"

"You don't like it?"

"I suppose, if the exhibition is a go, I'll like grinning at the bunch
that thought I couldn't paint. You bet I'll like that! You, young
fellow--I suppose you're here to gloat over me and to try to collect
your five thousand."

"I never gloat over doing such an easy job as that was. And I'm not
here to collect my bet. As far as money is concerned, I'm here to give
you some." And he handed Hunt the check made out to "cash" which Mr.
Graham had sent him for the Italian mother.

"Better keep that on account of what I owe you," advised Hunt.

"I'd rather you'd hold it for me. And better still, I'd rather call
the bet off in favor of a new bargain."

"What's the new proposition for swindling me?"

"You need a business nursemaid. What commission do you pay dealers?"

"Been paying those burglars forty per cent."

"That's too much for doing nothing. Here's my proposition. Give me ten
per cent to act as your personal agent, and I'll guarantee that your
total percentage for commissions will be less than at present, and
that your prices will be doubled. Of course I can't do much while the
police and others are so darned interested in me, so if you accept
we'll just date the agreement from the time I'm cleared."

"You're on, son--and we'll just date the agreement from the present
moment, A.D." Again Hunt gripped Larry's hand. "You're all to the
good, Larry--and I'm not giving you half enough."

That provided Larry with the opening he had desired. "You can make it
up to me."

"How?"

"By helping me out with a proposition of my own. To come straight to
the point, it's Maggie."

"Maggie?"

"I guess you know how I feel there. She's got a wrong set of ideas,
and she's fixed in them--and you know how high-spirited she is. She's
out in the world now, trying to put something crooked over which she
thinks is big. I know what it is. I want to stop her, and change her.
That's my big aim--to change her. The only way I can at this moment
stop what she is now doing is by exposing her. And mighty few people
with a wrong twist are ever set right by merely being exposed."

"I guess you're right there, Larry."

"What I want is a chance to try another method on Maggie. If she's
handled right I think she may turn out a very different person from
what she seems to be--something that may surprise both of us."

Hunt nodded. "That was why I painted her picture. Since I first saw
her I've been interested in how she was going to come out. She might
become anything. But where do I fit in?"

"She's flying in high company. It occurred to me that, when you got
back to your own world, you might meet her, and in your surprise you
might speak to her in a manner which would be equivalent in its effect
to an intentional exposure. I wanted to put you on your guard and to
ask you to treat her as a stranger."

"That's promised. I won't know her."

"Don't promise till you know the rest."

"What else is there to know?"

"Who the sucker is they're trying to trim." Larry regarded the other
steadily. "You know him. He's Dick Sherwood."

"Dick Sherwood!" exploded Hunt. "Are you sure about that?"

"I was with Maggie the other night when Dick came to have supper with
her; he didn't see me. Besides, Dick has told me about her."

"How did they ever get hold of Dick?"

"Dick's the easiest kind of fish for two such smooth men as Barney and
Old Jimmie when they've got a clever, good-looking girl as bait, and
when they know how to use her. He's generous, easily impressed, thinks
he is a wise man of the world and is really very gullible."

"Have they got him hooked?"

"Hard and fast. It won't be his fault if they don't land him."

The painter gazed at Larry with a hard look. Then he demanded
abruptly:

"Show Miss Sherwood that picture of Maggie I painted?"

"No. I had my reasons."

"What you going to do with it?"

"Keep it, and pay you your top price for it when I've got the money."

"H'm! Told Miss Sherwood what's doing about Dick?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I thought of doing it, then I decided against it. For the same reason
I just gave you--that it might lead to exposure, and that exposure
would defeat my plans."

"You seem to be forgetting that your plan leaves Dick in danger. Dick
deserves some consideration."

"And I'm giving it to him," argued Larry. "I'm thinking of him as much
as of Maggie. Or almost as much. His sister and friends have pulled
him out of a lot of scrapes. He's not a bit wiser or better for that
kind of help. And it's not going to do him any good whatever to have
some one step in and take care of him again. He's been a good friend
to me, but he's a dear fool. I want to handle this so he'll get a jolt
that will waken him up--make him take his responsibilities more
seriously--make him able to take care of himself."

"Huh!" grunted Hunt. "You've certainly picked out a few man-sized jobs
for yourself: to make a success of the straight life for yourself--to
come out ahead of the police and your old pals--to make Maggie love
the Ten Commandments--to put me across--to make Dick into a level-
headed citizen. Any other little item you'd like to take on?"

Larry ignored the irony of the question. "Some of those things I'm
going to do," he said confidently. "And any I see I'm going to fail
in, I'll get warning to the people involved. But to come back to your
promise: are you willing to give your promise now that you know all
the facts?"

Hunt pulled for a long moment at his pipe. Then he said almost
gruffly:

"I guess you've guessed that Isabel Sherwood is about the most
important person in the world to me?"

That was the nearest Hunt had ever come to telling that he loved Miss
Sherwood. Larry nodded.

"I'm in bad there already. Suppose your foot slips and everything
about Dick goes wrong. What'll be my situation when she learns I've
known all along and have just stood by quietly and let things happen?
See what I'll be letting myself in for?"

"I do," said Larry, his spirits sinking. "And of course I can
understand your decision not to give your promise."

"Who said I wouldn't give my promise?" demanded Hunt. "Of course I
give my promise! All I said was that the weather bureau of my bad toe
predicts that there's likely to be a storm because of this--and I
want you to use your brain, son, I want you to use your brain!"

He upreared his big, shag-haired figure and gripped Larry's hand.
"You're all right, Larry--and here's wishing you luck! Now get to
hell out of here before Gavegan and Casey drop in for a cup of tea, or
your old friends begin target practice with their hip artillery. I
want a little quiet in which to finish my packing.

"And say, son," he added, as he pushed Larry through the door, "don't
fall dead at the sight of me when you see me next, for I'm likely to
be walking around inside all the finery and vanity of Fifth Avenue."

CHAPTER XXI

Larry came down the stairway from Hunt's studio in a mood of high
elation. Through Hunt's promise of cooperation he had at least made a
start in his unformed plan regarding Maggie. Somehow, he'd work out
and put across the rest of it.

Then Hunt's prediction of the trouble that might rise through his
silence recurred to Larry. Indeed, that was a delicate situation!--
containing all kinds of possible disasters for himself as well as for
Hunt. He would have to be most watchful, most careful, or he would
find himself entangled in worse circumstances than at present.

As he came down into the little back room, his grandmother was sitting
over her interminable accounts, each of which represented a little
profit to herself, some a little relief to many, some a tragedy to a
few; and many of which were in code, for these represented
transactions of a character which no pawnshop, particularly one
reputed to be a fence, wishes ever to have understood by those
presumptive busy-bodies, the police. When Larry had first entered, she
had merely given him an unsurprised "good-evening" and permitted him
to pass on. But now, as he told her good-night and turned to leave,
she said in her thin, monotonous voice:

"Sit down for a minute, Larry. I want to talk to you."

Larry obeyed. "Yes, grandmother."

But the Duchess did not at once speak. She held her red-rimmed,
unblinking eyes on him steadily. Larry waited patiently. Though she
was so composed, so self-contained, Larry knew her well enough to know
that what was passing in her mind was something of deep importance, at
least to her.

At length she spoke. "You saw Maggie that night you hurried away from
here?"

"Yes, grandmother. Have you heard from her since the?--or from Barney
or Old Jimmie?"

The Duchess shook her head. "Do you mind telling me what happened that
night--and what Maggie's doing?"

Larry told her of the scene in Maggie's suite at the Grantham, told of
the plan in which Maggie was involved and of his own added
predicament. This last the Duchess seemingly ignored.

"Just about what I supposed she was doing," she said. "And you tried
again to get her to give it up?"

"Yes."

"And she refused?"

"Yes." And he added: "Refused more emphatically than before."

The Duchess studied him a long moment. Then: "You're not trying to
make her give that up just because you think she's worth saving. You
like her a lot, Larry?"

"I love her," Larry admitted.

"I'm sorry about that, Larry." There was real emotion in the old voice
now. "I've told you that you're all I've got left. And now that you've
at last started right, I want everything to go right with you.
Everything! And Maggie will never help things go right with you. Your
love for her can only mean misery and misfortune. You can't change
her."

Larry came out with the questions he had asked himself so frequently
these last days. "But why did her manner change so when she heard
Barney and the others? Why did she help me escape?"

"That was because, deep down, she really loves you. That's the worst
part of it: you both love each other." The Duchess slowly nodded her
head. "You both love each other. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't care
what you tried to do. But I tell you again you can't change her. She's
too sure of herself. She'll always try to make you go _her way_--and
if you don't, you'll never get a smile from her. And because you love
each other, I'm afraid you'll give in and go her way. That's what I'm
afraid of. Won't you just cut her out of your life, Larry?"

It had been a prodigiously long speech for the Duchess. And Larry
realized that the emotion behind it was a thousand times what showed
in the thin voice of the bent, gestureless figure.

"For your sake I'm sorry, grandmother. But I can't."

"Then it's only fair to tell you, Larry," she said in a more composed
tone which expressed a finality of decision, "that if there's ever
anything I can do to stop this, I'll do it. For she's bad for you--
what with her stiff spirit--and the ideas Old Jimmie has put into
her--and the way Old Jimmie has brought her up. I'll stop things if
I can."

Larry made no reply. The Duchess continued looking at him steadily for
a long space. He knew she was thinking; and he was wondering what was
passing through that shrewd old brain, when she remarked:

"By the way, Larry, I just remembered what you told me of that old
Sing Sing friend--Joe Ellison. Have you heard from him recently?"

"He's out, and he's working where I am."

"Yes? What's he doing?"

"He's working there as a gardener."

Again she was silent a space, her sunken eyes steady With thought.
Then she said:

"From the time he was twenty till he was thirty I knew Joe Ellison
well--better than I've ever told you. He knew your mother when she
was a girl, Larry. I wish you'd ask him to come in to see me. As soon
as he can manage it."

Larry promised. His grandmother said no more about Maggie, and
presently Larry bade her good-night and made his cautious way, ever on
the lookout for danger, to where he had left his roadster, and thence
safely out to Cedar Crest. But the Duchess sat for hours exactly as he
had left her, her accounts unheeded, thinking, thinking, thinking over
an utterly impossible possibility that had first presented itself
faintly to her several days before. She did not see how the thing
could be; and yet somehow it might be, for many a strange thing did
happen in this border world where for so long she had lived. When
finally she went to bed she slept little; her busy conjectures would
not permit sleep. And though the next day she went about her shop
seemingly as usual, she was still thinking.

That night Joe Ellison came. They met as though they had last seen
each other but yesterday.

"Good-evening, Joe."

"Glad to see you, Duchess."

She held out to him a box of the best cigars, which she had bought
against his coming, for she had remembered Joe Ellison's once
fastidious taste regarding tobacco. He lit one, and they fell into the
easy silence of old friends, taking up their friendship exactly where
it had been broken off. As a matter of fact, Joe Ellison might have
been her son-in-law but for her own firm attitude. He had known her
daughter very much better than her words to Larry the previous evening
had indicated. Not only had Joe known her while a girl down here, but
much later he had learned in what convent she was going to school and
there had been surreptitious love-making despite convent rules and
boundaries--till the Duchess had learned what was going on. She had
had a square out-and-out talk with Joe; the romance had suddenly
ended; and later Larry's mother had married elsewhere. But the
snuffed-out romance had made no difference in the friendship between
the Duchess and Joe; each had recognized the other as square, as that
word was understood in their border world.

To Joe Ellison the Duchess was changed but little since twenty-odd
years ago. She had seemed old even then; though as a youth he had
known old men who had talked of her beauty when a young woman and of
how she had queened it among the reckless spirits of that far time.
But to the Duchess the change in Joe Ellison was astounding. She had
last seen him in his middle thirties: black-haired, handsome, careful
of dress, powerful of physique, dominant, fiery-tempered, fearless of
any living thing, but with these hot qualities checked into a surface
appearance of unruffled equanimity by his self-control and his
habitual reticence. And now to see him thin, white-haired, bent, his
old fire seemingly burned to gray ashes--the Duchess, who had seen
much in her generations, was almost appalled at the transformation.

At first the Duchess skillfully guided the talk among commonplaces.

"Larry tells me you're out with him."

"Yes," said Joe. "Larry's been a mighty good pal."

"What're you going to do when you get back your strength?"

"The same as I'm doing now--if they'll let me."

And after a pause: "Perhaps later, if I had the necessary capital, I'd
like to start a little nursery. Or else grow flowers for the market."

"Not going back to the old thing, then?"

Joe shook his white head. "I'm all through there. Flowers are a more
interesting proposition."

"Whenever you get ready to start, Joe, you can have all the capital
you want from me. And it will cost you nothing. Or if you'd rather
pay, it'll cost you the same as at a bank--six per cent."

"Thanks. I'll remember." Joe Ellison could not have spoken his
gratitude more strongly.

The Duchess now carefully guided the talk in the direction of the
thing of which she had thought so constantly.

"By the way, Joe, Larry told me something about you I'd never heard
before--that you had been married, and had a child."

"Yes. You didn't hear because I wasn't telling anybody about it when
it happened, and it never came out."

"Mind telling me about it, Joe?"

He pulled at his perfecto while assembling his facts; and then he made
one of the longest speeches Joe Ellison--"Silent Joe" some of his
friends had called him in the old days--was ever known to utter. But
there was reason for its length; it was an epitome of the most
important period of his life.

"I had a nice little country place over in Jersey for three or four
years. It all happened there. No one knew me for what I was; they took
me for what I pretended to be, a small capitalist whose interests
required his taking occasional trips. Nice neighbors. That's where I
met my wife. She was fine every way. That's why I kept all that part
of my life from my pals; I was afraid they might leak and the truth
would spoil everything. My wife was an orphan, niece of the widow of a
broker who lived out there. She never knew the truth about me. She
died when the baby was born. When the baby was a year and a half my
big smash came, and I went up the river. But I was never connected up
with the man who lived over in Jersey and who suddenly cancelled his
lease and moved away."

The Duchess drew nearer to the heart of her thoughts.

"Was the baby a boy or girl, Joe?"

"Girl."

The Duchess did not so much as blink. "How old would she be by this
time?"

"Eighteen."

"What was her name?"

"Mary--after her mother. But of course I ordered it to be changed. I
don't know what her name is now."

The Duchess pressed closer.

"What became of her, Joe?"

A glow began to come into the somber eyes of Joe Ellison. "I told you
her mother was a fine woman, and she never knew anything bad about me.
I wanted my girl to grow up like her mother. I wanted her to have as
good a chance as any of those nice girls over in Jersey--I wanted her
never to know any of the lot I've known--I wanted her never to have
the stain of knowing her father was a crook--I wanted her never to
know even who her father was."

"How did you manage it?"

"Her mother had left a little fortune, about twenty-five thousand--
twelve or fifteen hundred a year. I turned the money and the girl over
to my best pal--and the squarest pal a man ever had--the only one I'd
let know about my Jersey life. I told him what to do. She was an
awfully bright little thing; at a year and a half, when I saw her
last, she was already talking. She was to be brought up among nice,
simple people--go to a good school--grow up to be a nice, simple girl.
And especially never to know anything about me. She was to believe
herself an orphan. And my pal did just as I ordered. He wrote me how
she was getting on till about four years ago, then I had news that he
was dead and that the trust fund had been transferred to a firm of
lawyers, though I wasn't given the name of the lawyers. That doesn't
make any difference since she's getting the money just the same.

"What was your pal's name, Joe?"

"Jimmie Carlisle."

The Duchess had been certain what this name would be, but nevertheless
she could not repress a start.

"What's the matter?" Joe asked sharply. "Did you know him?"

"Not in those days," said the Duchess, recovering her even tone.
"Though I got to know him later. By the way," she added casually, "did
Jimmie Carlisle have any children of his own?"

"Not before I went away. He wasn't even married."

There was now no slightest doubt left in the Duchess's mind. Maggie
was really Joe Ellison's daughter.

Joe Ellison went on, the glow of his sunken eyes becoming yet more
exalted. He was almost voicing his thoughts to himself alone, for his
friendship with the Duchess was so old that her presence was no
inhibition. His low words were almost identical in substance with what
Larry had told--a summary of what had come to be his one great hope
and dream, the nearest thing he had to a religion.

"Somewhere, in a nice place, my girl is now growing up like her
mother. Clean of everything I was and I knew. She must be practically
a woman now. I don't know where she is--there's now no way for me to
learn. And I don't want to know. And I don't want her ever to know
about me. I don't ever want to be the cause of making her feel
disgraced, or of dragging her down from among the people where she

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