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Children of the Whirlwind by Leroy Scott

Part 4 out of 6

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belongs."

The Duchess gave no visible sign of emotion, but her ancient heart-
strings were set vibrating by that tense, low-pitched voice. She had a
momentary impulse to tell him the truth. But just then the Duchess was
a confusion of many conflicting impulses, and the balance of their
strength was for the moment against telling. So she said nothing.

Their talk drifted back to commonplaces, and presently Joe Ellison
went away. The Duchess sat motionless at her desk, again thinking--
thinking--thinking; and when Joe Ellison was back in his gardener's
cottage at Cedar Crest and was happily asleep, she still sat where he
had left her. During her generations of looking upon life from the
inside, she had seen the truth of many strange situations of which the
world had learned only the wildest rumors or the most respectable
versions; but during the long night hours, perhaps because the affair
touched her so closely, this seemed to her the strangest situation she
had ever known. A father believing with the firm belief of established
certainty that his daughter had been brought up free from all taint of
his own life, carefully bred among the best of people. In reality the
girl brought up in a criminal atmosphere, with criminal ideas
implanted in her as normal ideas, and carefully trained in criminal
ways and ambitions. And neither father nor daughter having a guess of
the truth.

Indeed it was a strange situation! A situation charged with all kinds
of unforeseeable results.

The Duchess now understood the unfatherly disregard Old Jimmie had
shown for the ordinary welfare of Maggie. Not being her father, he had
not cared. Superficially, at least, Jimmie Carlisle must have been a
much more plausible individual twenty years earlier, to have won the
implicit trust of Joe Ellison and to have become his foremost friend.
She understood one reason why Old Jimmie had always boarded Maggie in
the cheapest and lowest places; his hidden cupidity had thereby been
pocketing about a thousand dollars a year of trust money for over
sixteen years.

But there was one queer problem here to which the Duchess could not at
this time see the answer. If Jimmie Carlisle had wished to gratify his
cupidity and double-cross his friend, why had he not at the very start
placed Maggie in an orphanage where she would have been neither charge
nor cost to him, and thus have had the use of every penny of the trust
fund? Why had he chosen to keep her by him, and train her carefully to
be exactly what her father had most wished her not to be? There must
have been some motive in the furtive, tortuous mind of Old Jimmie,
that now would perhaps forever remain a mystery.

Of course she saw, or thought she saw, the reason for the report of
Old Jimmie's death to Joe Ellison. That report had been sent to escape
an accounting.

As she sat through the night hours the Duchess for the first time felt
warmth creep over her for Maggie. She saw Maggie in the light of a
victim. If Maggie had been brought up as her father had planned, she
might now be much the girl her father dreamed her. But Old Jimmie had
entered the scheme of things. Yes, the audacious, willful, confident
Maggie, bent on conquering the world in the way Old Jimmie and later
Barney Palmer had taught her, was really just a poor misguided victim
who should have had a far different fate.

And now the Duchess came to one of the greatest problems of her life.
What should she do? Considering the facts that Joe Ellison wished the
life of a recluse and desired to avoid all talk of the old days, the
chances were that he would never happen upon the real state of
affairs. Only she and Old Jimmie knew the essentials of the situation-
-and very likely Jimmie did not yet know that the friend who had once
trusted him was now a free man. She felt as though she held in her
hands the strings of destiny. Should she tell the truth?

She pondered long. All her considerations were given weight according
to what she saw as their possible effect upon Larry; for Larry was the
one person left whom she loved, and on him were fixed the aspirations
of these her final years. Therefore her thoughts and arguments were
myopic, almost necessarily specious. She wanted to see justice done,
of course. But most of all she wanted what was best for Larry. If she
told the truth, it might result in some kind of temporary breakdown in
Maggie's attitude which would bring her and Larry together. That would
be disastrous. If not disastrous at once, certainly in the end. Maggie
was a victim, and undoubtedly deserved sympathy. But others should not
be sacrificed merely because Maggie had suffered an injury. She had
been too long under the tutelage of Old Jimmie, and his teachings were
now too thoroughly the fiber of her very being, for her to alter
permanently. She might change temporarily under the urge of an
emotional revelation; but she would surely revert to her present self.
There was no doubt of that.

And the Duchess gave weight to other considerations--all human, yet
all in some measure specious. Joe Ellison was happy in his dream, and
would be happy in it all the rest of his life. Why tell the truth and
destroy his precious illusion?--especially when there was no chance to
change Maggie?

And further, she recalled the terrific temper that had lived within
the composed demeanor of Joe Ellison. The fires of that temper could
not yet be all burned out. If she told the truth, told that Jimmie
Carlisle was still alive, that might be just touching the trigger of a
devastating tragedy--might be disaster for all. What would be the use
when no one would have been benefited?

And so, in the wisdom of her old head and the entanglements of her old
heart, the Duchess decided she would never tell. And that loving,
human decision she was to cling to through the stress of times to
come.

But even while she was thus deciding upon a measure to checkmate them
both, Larry was pacing his room at Cedar Crest, at last excitedly
evolving the elusive plan which was to bring Maggie to her senses and
also to him; and Maggie, all unconscious of this new element which had
entered as a potential factor in her existence, all unconscious of how
far she had been guided from the course which had been charted for
her, was lying awake at the Grantham after a late party at which Dick
Sherwood had been her escort, and was exulting pridefully over the
seemingly near consummation of the plan that was to show Larry
Brainard how wrong he was and that was to establish her as the
cleverest woman in her line--better even than Barney or Old Jimmie
believed her.

And thus separate wills each strove to direct their own lives and
other lives according to their own separate plans; little thinking to
what extent they were all entangled in a common destiny; and thinking
not at all of the further seed that was being sown for the harvest-
time of the whirlwind.

CHAPTER XXII

After Larry's many days and nights of futile searching of his brain
for a plan that would accord with his fundamental idea for awakening
the unguessed other self of Maggie, the plan, which finally came to
him complete in all its details in a single moment, was so simple and
obvious that he marveled it could have been plainly before his eyes
all this while without his ever seeing it. Of course the plan was
dangerous and of doubtful issue. It had to be so, because it involved
the reactions of strong-tempered persons as yet unacquainted who would
have no foreknowledge of the design behind their new relationship; and
because its success or failure, which might also mean his own complete
failure, the complete loss of all he had thus far gained, depended
largely upon the twist of events which he could not foresee and
therefore could not guide.

Briefly, his plan was so to manage as to have Maggie received in the
Sherwood household as a guest, to have her receive the frank,
unquestioning hospitality (and perhaps friendship) of such a gracious,
highly placed, unpretentious woman as Miss Sherwood, so distinctly a
native of, and not an immigrant to, the great world. To be received as
a friend by those against whom she plotted, to have the generous,
unsuspecting friendship of Miss Sherwood--if anything just then had a
chance to open the blinded Maggie's eyes to the evil and error of what
she was engaged upon, if anything had a chance to appeal to the finer
things he believed to exist unrecognized or suppressed in Maggie, this
was that thing.

And best part of this plan, its effect would be only within Maggie's
self. No one need know that anything had happened. There would be no
exposure, no humiliation.

Of course there was the great question of how to get Miss Sherwood to
invite Maggie; and whether indeed Miss Sherwood would invite her at
all. And there was the further question, the invitation being sent, of
whether Maggie would accept.

Larry decided to manipulate his design through Dick Sherwood. Late
that afternoon, when Dick, just returned from the city, dropped into,
as was his before-dinner custom, the office-study which had been set
aside for Larry's use, Larry, after an adroit approach to his subject,
continued:

"And since I've been wished on you as a sort of step-uncle, there's
something I'd like to suggest--if I don't seem to be fairly jimmying
my way into your affairs."

"Door's unlocked and wide open, Captain," said Dick. "Walk right in
and take the best chair."

"Thanks. Remember telling me about a young woman you recently met? A
Miss Maggie--Maggie--"

"Miss Cameron," Dick prompted. "Of course I remember."

"And remember your telling me that this time it's the real thing?"

"And it IS the real thing!"

"You haven't--excuse me--asked her to marry you yet?"

"No. I've been trying to get up my nerve."

"Here's where you've got to excuse me once more, Dick--it's not my
business to tell you what should be your relations with your family--
but have you told your sister?"

"No." Dick hesitated. "I suppose I should. But I hadn't thought of it-
-yet. You see--" Again Dick hesitated.

"Yes?" prompted Larry.

"There are her relatives--that cousin and uncle. I guess it must have
been my thinking of them that prevented my thinking of what you
suggest."

"But you told me they hadn't interfered much, and never would
interfere." Larry gently pressed his point: "And look at it from Miss
Cameron's angle of view. If it's the real thing, and you're behaving
that way toward her, hasn't she good grounds for thinking it strange
that you haven't introduced her to your family?"

"By George, you're right, Captain! I'll see to that at once."

"Of course, Dick," Larry went on, carefully feeling his way, "you know
much better than I the proper way to do such things--but don't you
think it would be rather nice, when you tell your sister, that you
suggest to her that she invite Miss Cameron out here for a little
visit? If they are to meet, I know Miss Cameron, or any girl, would
take it as more of a tribute to be received in your own home than
merely to meet in a big commonplace hotel."

"Right again, Captain! I'd tell Isabel to-night, and ask her to send
the invitation--only I'm booked to scoot right back to the city for a
little party as soon as I get some things together, and I'll stay
overnight in the apartment. But I'll attend to the thing to-morrow
night, sure."

"May I ask just one favor in the meantime?"

"One favor? A dozen, Captain!"

"I'll take the other eleven later. Just now I only ask, since you
haven't proposed, that you won't--er--commit yourself any further, in
any way, with Miss Cameron until after you've told your sister and
until after Miss Cameron has been out here."

"Oh, I say now!" protested Dick.

"I am merely suggesting that affairs remain in statu quo until after
Miss Cameron's visit with your sister. That's not asking much of you,
Dick--nor asking it for a very long time."

"Oh, of course I'll do it, Captain," grumbled Dick affectionately.
"You've got me where I'll do almost anything you want me to do."

But Dick did not speak to his sister the following evening. The next
morning news came to Miss Sherwood of a friend's illness, and she and
her novel-reading aunt hurried off at once on what was to prove to be
a week's absence. But this delay in his plan did not worry Larry
greatly as it otherwise would have done, for Dick repeated his promise
to hold a stiff rein upon himself until after he should have spoken to
his sister. And Larry believed he could rely upon Dick's pledged word.

During this week of waiting and necessary inactivity Larry
concentrated upon another phase of his many-sided plan--to make of
himself a business success. As has been said, he saw his chance of
this in the handling of Miss Sherwood's affairs; and saw it
particularly in an idea that had begun to grow upon him since he
became aware, through statements and letters from the agents turned
over to him, of the extent of the Sherwood real-estate holdings and
since he had got some glimmering of their condition. His previous
venturings about the city had engendered in him a sense of moderate
security; so he now began to make flying trips into New York in the
smart roadster Miss Sherwood had placed at his disposal.

On each trip Larry made swift visits to several of the properties,
until finally he had covered the entire list Miss Sherwood had
furnished him through the agents. His survey corroborated his surmise.
The property, mostly neglected apartment and tenement houses, was in
an almost equally bad way whether one regarded it from the standpoint
of sanitation, comfort, or cold financial returns. The fault for this
was due to the fact that the Sherwoods had left the property entirely
in the care of the agents, and the agents, being old, old-fashioned,
and weary of business to the point of being almost ready to retire,
had left the property to itself.

Prompted by these bad conditions, and to some degree by the then
critical housing famine, with its records of some thousands of
families having no place at all to go and some thousands of families
being compelled for the sake of mere shelter to pay two and three
times what they could afford for a few poor rooms, and with its
records of profiteering landlords, Larry began to make notes for a
plan which he intended later to elaborate--a plan which he
tentatively entitled: "Suggestions for the Development of Sherwood
Real-Estate Holdings." Larry, knowing from the stubs of Miss
Sherwood's checkbook what would be likely to please her, gave as much
consideration to Service as to Profit. The basis of his growing plan
was good apartments at fair rentals. That he saw as the greatest of
public services in the present crisis. But the return upon the
investment had to be a reasonable one. Larry did not believe in
Charity, except for extreme cases. He believed, and his belief had
grown out of a wide experience with many kinds of people, that
Charity, of course to a smaller extent, was as definitely a source of
social evil as the then much-talked-of Profiteering.

In the meantime he was seeing his old friend, Joe Ellison, every day;
perhaps smoking with Ellison in his cottage after he had finished his
day's work among the roses, perhaps walking along the bluff which hung
above the Sound, whose cool, clear waters splashed with vacation
laziness upon the shingle. The two men rarely spoke, and never of the
past. Larry was well acquainted with, and understood, the older man's
deep-rooted wish to avoid all talk bearing upon deeds and associates
of other days; that was a part of his life and a phase of existence
that Joe Ellison was trying to forget, and Larry by his silence
deferred to his friend's desire.

On the day after Joe Ellison's visit to the Duchess, Larry had
received a note from his grandmother, addressed, of course, to "Mr.
Brandon." There was no danger in her writing Larry if she took
adequate precautions: mail addressed to Cedar Crest was not bothered
by postal and police officials; it was only mail which came to the
house of the Duchess which received the attention of these gentlemen.

The note was one which the Duchess, after that night of thought which
had so shaken her old heart, had decided to be a necessity if her plan
of never telling of her discovery of Maggie's real paternity were to
be a success. The major portion of her note dwelt upon a generality
with which Larry already was acquainted: Joe's desire to keep clear of
all talk touching upon the deeds and the people of his past. And then
in a careless-seeming last sentence the Duchess packed the carefully
calculated substance of her entire note:

"It may not be very important--but particularly avoid ever mentioning
the mere name of Jimmie Carlisle. They used to know each other, and
their acquaintance is about the bitterest thing Joe Ellison has to
remember."

Of course he'd never mention Old Jimmie Carlisle, Larry said to
himself as he destroyed the note--never guessing, in making this
natural response to what seemed a most natural request, that he had
become an unconscious partner in the plan of the warm-hearted,
scheming Duchess.

There was one detail of Joe Ellison's behavior which aroused Larry's
mild curiosity. Directly beneath one of Joe's gardens, hardly a
hundred yards away, was a bit of beach and a pavilion which were used
in common by the families from the surrounding estates. The girls and
younger women were just home from schools and colleges, and at high
tide were always on the beach. At this period, whenever he was at
Cedar Crest, Larry saw Joe, his work apparently forgotten, gazing
fixedly down upon the young figures splashing about the water in their
bright bathing-suits or lounging about the pavilion in their smart
summer frocks.

This interest made Larry wonder, though to be sure not very seriously.
For he had never a guess of how deep Joe's interest was. He did not
know, could not know, that that tall, fixed figure, with its one
absorbing idea, was thinking of his daughter. He could not know that
Joe Ellison, emotionally elated and with a hungry, self-denying
affection that reached out toward them all, was seeing his daughter as
just such a girl as one of these--simple, wholesome, well-brought-up.
He could not know that Joe, in a way, perceived his daughter in every
nice young woman he saw.

Toward evening of the seventh day of her visit, Miss Sherwood
returned. Larry was on the piazza when the car bearing her swept into
the white-graveled curve of the drive. The car was a handsome,
powerful roadster. Larry had started out to be of such assistance as
he could, when the figure at the wheel, a man, sprang from the car and
helped Miss Sherwood alight. Larry saw that the man was Hunt--such a
different Hunt!--and he had begun a quick retreat when Hunt's voice
called after him:

"You there--wait a minute! I want a little chin-chin with you."

Larry halted. He could not help overhearing the few words that passed
between Hunt and Miss Sherwood.

"Thank you ever so much," she said in her even voice. "Then you're
coming?"

"I promised, didn't I?"

"Then good-bye."

"Good-bye."

They shook hands friendly enough, but rather formally, and Miss
Sherwood turned to the house. Hunt called to Larry:

"Come here, son."

Larry crossed to the big painter who was standing beside the power-
bulged hood of his low-swung car.

"Happened to drop in where she was--brought her home--aunt
following in that hearse with its five-foot cushions she always rides
in," Hunt explained. And then: "Well, I suppose you've got to give me
the once-over. Hurry up, and get it done with."

Larry obeyed. Hunt's wild hair had been smartly barbered, he had on a
swagger dust-coat, and beneath it flannels of the smartest cut.
Further, he bore himself as if smart clothes and smart cars had always
been items of his equipment.

"Well, young fellow, spill it," he commanded. "What do I look like?"

"Like Solomon in all his glory. No, more like the he-dressmaker of the
Queen of Sheba."

"I'm going to run you up every telephone post we come to for that
insult! Hop in, son, and we'll take a little voyage around the earth
in eighty seconds."

Larry got in. Once out of the drive the car leaped away as though
intent upon keeping to Hunt's time-table. But after a mile or two Hunt
quieted the roaring monster to a conversational pace.

"Get one of the invitations to my show?" he asked.

"Yes. Several days ago. That dealer certainly got it up in great
shape."

"You must have hypnotized Graham. That old paint pirate is giving the
engine all the gas she'll stand--and believe me, he's sure getting up
a lot of speed." Hunt grinned. "That private pre-exhibition show you
suggested is proving the best publicity idea Graham ever had in his
musty old shop. Everywhere I go, people are talking about the darned
thing. Every man, woman and child, also unmarried females of both
sexes, who got invitations are coming--and those who didn't get 'em
are trying to bribe the traffic cop at Forty-Second Street to let 'em
in."

Hunt paused for a chuckle. "And I'm having the time of my young life
with the people who always thought I couldn't paint, and who are now
trying to sidle up to me on the suspicion that possibly after all I
can paint. What's got that bunch buffaloed is the fact that Graham has
let it leak out that I'm likely to make bales of money from my
painting. The idea of any one making money out of painting, that's too
much for their heads. Oh, this is the life, Larry!"

Larry started to congratulate him, but was instantly interrupted with:

"I admit I'm a painter, and always will admit it. But this present
thing is all your doing. We'll try to square things sometime. But I
didn't ask you to come along to hear verbostical acrobatics about
myself. I asked you to learn if you'd worked out your plan yet
regarding Maggie? "

"Yes." And Larry proceeded to give the details of his design.

"Regular psychological stuff!" exclaimed Hunt. And then: "Say, you're
some stage-manager! Or rather same playwright! Playwrights that know
tell me it's one of their most difficult tricks--to get all their
leading characters on the stage at the same time. And here you've got
it all fixed to bring on Miss Sherwood, Dick, Maggie, yourself, and
the all-important me--for don't forget I shall be slipping out to
Cedar Crest occasionally."

"As for myself," remarked Larry, "I shall remain very much behind the
scenes. Maggie'll never see me."

"Well, here's hoping you're good enough playwright to manage your
characters so they won't run away from you and mix up an ending you
never dreamed of!"

The car paused again in the drive and Larry got out.

"I say, Larry," Hunt whispered eagerly, "who's that tall, white-haired
man working over there among the roses?"

"Joe Ellison. He's that man I told you about my getting to know in
Sing Sing. Remember?"

"Oh, yes! The crook who was having his baby brought up to be a real
person. Say, he's a sure-enough character! Lordy, but I'd love to
paint that face! . . . So-long, son."

The car swung around the drive and roared away. Larry mounted to the
piazza. Dick was waiting for him, and excitedly drew him down to one
corner that crimson ramblers had woven into a nook for confidences.

"Captain, old scout," he said in a low, happy voice, "I've just told
sis. Put the whole proposition up to her, just as you told me. She
took it like a regular fellow. Your whole idea was one hundred per
cent right. Sis is inside now getting off that invitation to Miss
Cameron, asking her to come out day after to-morrow."

Larry involuntarily caught the veranda railing. "I hope it works out--
for the best," he said.

"Oh, it will--no doubt of it!" cried the exultant Dick. "And, Captain,
if it does, it'll be all your doing!"

CHAPTER XXIII

When Miss Sherwood's invitation reached Maggie, Barney and Old Jimmie
were with her. The pair had growled a lot, though not directly at
Maggie, at the seeming lack of progress Maggie had made during the
past week. Barney was a firm enough believer in his rogue's creed of
first getting your fish securely hooked; but, on the other hand, there
was the danger, if the hooked fish be allowed to remain too long in
the water, that it would disastrously shake itself free of the barb
and swim away. That was what Barney was afraid had been happening with
Dick Sherwood. Therefore he was thinking of returning to his abandoned
scheme of selling stock to Dick. He might get Dick's money in that
way, though of course not so much money, and of course not so safely.

And another item which for some time had not been pleasing Barney was
that Larry Brainard had not yet been finally taken care of, either by
the police or by that unofficial force to which he had given orders.
So he had good reason for permitting himself the relaxation of
scowling when he was not on public exhibition.

But when Maggie, after reading the invitation, tossed it, together
with a note from Dick, across to Barney without comment, the color of
his entire world changed for that favorite son of Broadway. The surly
gloom of the end of a profitless enterprise became magically an aurora
borealis of superior hopes:--no, something infinitely more substantial
than any heaven-painting flare of iridescent colors.

"Maggie, it's the real thing! At last!" he cried.

"What is it?" asked Old Jimmie.

Barney gave him the letter. Jimmie read it through, then handed it
back, slowly shaking his head.

"I don't see nothing to get excited about," said the ever-doubtful,
ever-hesitant Jimmie. "It's only an invitation."

"Aw, hell!" ejaculated the exasperated Barney in disgust. "If some one
handed you a government bond all you could see would be a cigar
coupon! That invitation, together with this note from Dick Sherwood
saying he'll call and take Maggie out, means that the fish is all
ready to be landed. Try to come back to life, Jimmie. If you knew
anything at all about big-league society, you'd know that sending
invitations to meet the family--that's the way these swells do things
when they're all set to do business. We're all ready for the killing--
the big clean-up!"

He turned to Maggie. "Great stuff, Maggie. I knew you could put it
over. Of course you're going?"

"Of course," replied Maggie with a composure which was wholly of her
manner.

A sudden doubt came out of this glory to becloud Barney's master mind.
"I don't know," he said slowly. "It's one proposition to make one of
these men swells believe that a woman is the real thing. And it's
another proposition to put it over on one of these women swells.
They've got eyes for every little detail, and they know the difference
between the genuine article and an imitation. I've heard a lot about
this Miss Sherwood; they say she's one of the cleverest of the swells.
Think you can walk into her house and put it over on her, Maggie?"

"Of course--why not?" answered Maggie, again with that composure which
was prompted by her pride's desire to make Barney, and every one else,
believe her equal to any situation.

Barney's animation returned. "All right. If you think you can swing
it, you can swing it, and the job's the same as finished and we're
made!"

Left to herself, and the imposing propriety and magnificent stupidity
of Miss Grierson, Maggie made no attempt to keep up her appearance of
confidence. All her thoughts were upon this opportunity which insisted
upon looking to her like a menace. She tried to whip her self-
confidence, of which she was so proud, into a condition of constant
regnancy. But the plain fact was that Maggie, the misguided child of a
stolen birthright, whose soaring spirit was striving so hard to live
up to the traditions and conventions of cynicism, whose young ambition
it was to outshine and surpass all possible competitors in this world
in which she had been placed, who in her pride believed she knew so
much of life--the plain fact was that Maggie was in a state bordering
on funk.

This invitation from Miss Sherwood was an ordeal she had never counted
on. She had watched the fine ladies at the millinery shop and while
selling cigarettes at the Ritzmore, when she had been modeling her
manners, and had believed herself just as fine a lady as they. But
that had been in the abstract. Now she was face to face with a
situation that was painfully concrete--a real test: she had to place
herself into close contrast with, and under the close observation of,
a real lady, and in that lady's own home. And in all her life she had
not once been in a fine home! In fine hotels, yes--but fine hotels
were the common refuge of butcher, baker, floor-walker, thief, swell,
and each had approximately the same attention; and all she now felt
she had really learned were a few such matters as the use of table
silver and finger bowls.

It came to her that Barney, in his moment of doubt, had spoken more
soundly than he had imagined when he had said that it was easier to
fool a man about a woman than it was to fool a woman. How tragically
true that was! While trying to learn to be a lady by working in smart
shops, she had learned that the occasional man who had ventured in
after woman's gear was hopelessly ignorant and bought whatever was
skillfully thrust upon him, but that it was impossible to slip an
inferior or unsuitable or out-dated article over on the woman who
really knew.

And Miss Sherwood was the kind of woman who really knew! Who knew
everything. Could she possibly, possibly pass herself off on Miss
Sherwood as the genuine article? . . .

Could Larry have foreseen the very real misery--for any doubt of her
own qualities, any fear of her ability to carry herself well in any
situation, are among the most acute of a proud woman's miseries--which
for some twenty-four hours was brought upon Maggie by the well-meant
intrigue of which he was pulling the hidden strings, he might, because
of his love for Maggie, have discarded his design even while he was
creating it, and have sought a measure pregnant with less distress.
But perhaps it was just as well that Larry did not know. Perhaps,
even, it was just as well that he did not know what his grandmother
knew.

Maggie's pride would not let her evade the risk; and her instinct for
self-preservation dictated that she should reduce the risk to its
minimum. So she wrote her acceptance--Miss Grierson attended to the
phrasing of her note--but expressed her regret that she would be able
to come only for the tea-hour. Drinking tea must be much the same,
reasoned Maggie, whether it be drunk in a smart hotel or in a smart
country home.

Maggie's native shrewdness suggested her simplest summer gown as
likely to have committed the fewest errors, and the invaluable
stupidity of Miss Grierson aided her toward correctness if not
originality. When Dick came he was delighted with her appearance. On
the way out he was ebulliently excited in his talk. Maggie averaged a
fair degree of sensibility in her responses, though only her ears
heard him. She was far more excited than he, and every moment her
excitement mounted, for every moment she was speeding nearer the
greatest ordeal of her life.

When at length they curved through the lawns of satin smoothness and
Dick slowed down the car before the long white house, splendid in its
simplicity, Maggie's excitement had added unto it a palpitant,
chilling awe. And unto this was added consternation when, as they
mounted the steps, Miss Sherwood smilingly crossed the piazza and
welcomed her without waiting for an introduction. Maggie mumbled some
reply; she later could not remember what it was. Indeed she never had
met such a woman: so finished, so gracious, so unaffected, with a
sparkle of humor in her brown eyes; and the rich plainness of her
white linen frock made Maggie conscious that her own supposed
simplicity was cheap and ostentatious. If Miss Sherwood had received
her with hostility, doubt, or even chilled civility, the situation
would have been easier; the aroused Maggie would then have made use of
her own great endowment of hauteur and self-esteem. But to be received
with this frank cordiality, on a basis of a equality with this
finished woman--that left Maggie for the moment without arms. She had,
in her high moments, believed herself an adventuress whose poise and
plans nothing could unbalance. Now she found herself suddenly just a
young girl of eighteen who didn't know what to do.

Had Maggie but known it that sudden unconscious confusion, which
seemed to betray her, was really more effective for her purpose than
would have been the best of conscious acting. It established her at
once as an unstagey ingenue--simple, unspoiled, unacquainted with the
formulas and formalities of the world.

Miss Sherwood, in her easy possession of the situation, banished Dick
with "Run away for a while, Dick, and give us two women a chance to
get acquainted." She had caught Maggie's embarrassment, and led her to
a corner of the veranda which looked down upon the gardens and the
glistering Sound. She spoke of the impersonal beauties spread before
their vision, until she judged that Maggie's first flutter had abated;
then she led the way to wicker chairs beside a table where obviously
tea was to be spread.

Miss Sherwood accepted Maggie for exactly what she seemed to be; and
presently she was saying in a low voice, with her smiling, unoffending
directness:

"Excuse the liberty of an older woman, Miss Cameron--but I don't
wonder that Dick likes you. You see, he's told me."

If Maggie had been at loss for her cue before, she had it now. It was
unpretentiousness.

"But, Miss Sherwood--I'm so crude," she faltered, acting her best.
"Out West I never had any chances to learn. Not any chances like your
Eastern girls."

"That's no difference, my dear. You are a nice, simple girl--that's
what counts!"

"Thank you," said Maggie.

"So few of our rich girls of the East know what it is to be simple,"
continued Miss Sherwood. "Too many are all affectation, and pose, and
forwardness. At twenty they know all there is to be known, they are
blasees--cynical--ready for divorce before they are ready for
marriage. By contrast you are so wholesome, so refreshing."

"Thank you," Maggie again murmured.

And as the two women sat there, sprung from the extremes of life, but
for the moment on the level of equals, and as the older talked on,
there grew up in Maggie two violently contradictory emotions. One was
triumph. She had won out here, just as she had said she would win out;
and won out with what Barney had declared to be the most difficult
person to get the better of, a finished woman of the world. Indeed,
that was triumph!

The other emotion she did not understand so well. And just then she
could not analyze it. It was an unexpected dismay--a vague but
permeating sickness--a dazed sense that she was being carried by
unfamiliar forces toward she knew not what.

She held fast to her sense of triumph. That was the more apprehendable
and positive; triumph was what she had set forth to win. This sense of
triumph was at its highest, and she was resting in its elating
security, when a car stopped before the house and a large man got out
and started up the steps. From the first moment there was something
familiar to Maggie in his carriage, but not till Miss Sherwood, who
had risen and crossed toward him, greeted him as "Mr. Hunt," did
Maggie recognize the well-dressed visitor as the shabby, boisterous
painter whom she had last seen down at the Duchess's.

Panic seized upon her. Miss Sherwood was leading him toward where she
sat and his first clear sight of her would mean the end. There was no
possible escape; she could only await her fate. And when she was
denounced as a fraud, and her glittering victory was gone, she could
only take herself away with as much of the defiance of admitted defeat
as she could assume--and that wouldn't be much.

She gazed up at Hunt, whitely, awaiting extermination. Miss Sherwood's
voice came to her from an infinite distance, introducing them. Hunt
bowed, with a formally polite smile, and said formally, "I'm very glad
to meet you, Miss Cameron."

Not till he and Miss Sherwood were seated and chatting did Maggie
realize the fullness of the astounding fact that he had not recognized
her. This was far more upsetting to her than would have been
recognition and exposure; she had been all braced for that, but not
for what had actually happened. She was certain he must have known
her; nothing had really changed about her except her dress, and only a
few weeks had passed since he had been seeing her daily down at the
Duchess's, and since she had been his model, and he had studied every
line and expression of her face with those sharp painter's eyes of
his.

And so as the two chatted, she putting in a stumbling phrase when they
turned to her, Maggie Carlisle, Maggie Cameron, Maggie Ellison, that
gallant and all-confident adventuress who till the present had never
admitted herself seriously disturbed by a problem, sat limply in her
chair, a very young girl, indeed, and wondered how this thing could
possibly be.

CHAPTER XXIV

Presently Miss Sherwood said something about tea, excused herself, and
disappeared within the house. Maggie saw that Hunt watched Miss
Sherwood till she was safely within doors; then she was aware that he
was gazing steadily at her; then she saw him execute a slow, solemn
wink.

Maggie almost sprang from her chair.

"Shall we take a little stroll, Miss Cameron?" Hunt asked. "I think it
will be some time before Miss Sherwood will want us for tea."

"Yes--thank you," Maggie stammered.

Hunt led her down a walk of white gravel to where a circle of Hiawatha
roses were trained into a graceful mosque, now daintily glorious with
its solid covering of yellow-hearted red blooms. Within this retreat
was a rustic bench, and on this Hunt seated her and took a place
beside her. He looked her over with the cool, direct, studious eyes
which reminded her of his gaze when he had been painting her.

"Well, Maggie," he finally commented, "you certainly look the part you
picked out for yourself, and you seem to be putting it over. Always
had an idea you could handle something big if you went after it. How
d'you like the life, being a swell lady crook?"

She had hardly heard his banter. She needed to ask him no questions
about his presence here; his ease of bearing had conveyed to her
unconsciously from the first instant that her previous half-
contemptuous estimate of him had been altogether wrong and that he was
now in his natural element. Her first question went straight to the
cause of her amazement.

"Didn't you recognize me when you first saw me with Miss Sherwood?"

"Yes."

"Weren't you surprised?"

"Nope," he answered with deliberate monosyllabicness.

"Why not?"

"I'd been wised up that I'd be likely to meet you--and here."

"Here! By whom?"

"By advice of counsel I must decline to answer."

"Why didn't you tell Miss Sherwood who I am and show me up?"

"Because I'd been requested not to tell."

"Requested by whom?"

"Maggie," he drawled, "you seem to be making a go of this lady crook
business--but I think you might have been even more of a shining light
as a criminal cross-examiner. However, I refuse to be cross-examined
further. By the way," he drawled on, "how goes it with those dear
souls, Barney and Old Jimmie?"

She ignored his question.

"Please! Who asked you not to tell?"

There was a sudden glint of good-humored malice in his eyes. "Mind if
I smoke?"

"No."

He drew out a silver cigarette case and opened it. "Empty!" he
exclaimed. "Excuse me while I get something from the house to smoke.
I'll be right back."

Without waiting for her permission he stepped out of the arbor and she
heard his footsteps crunching up the gravel path. Maggie waited his
return in pulsing suspense. Her situation had been developing beyond
anything she had ever dreamed of; she was aquiver as to what might
happen next. So absorbed was she in her chaos of feeling and thoughts
that she did not even hear the humble symphony of the hundreds of bees
drawing their treasure from the golden hearts of the roses; and did
not see, across the path a score of yards away, the tall figure of Joe
Ellison among the rosebushes, pruning-shears in hand, with which he
had been cutting out dead blossoms, gazing at her with that hungry,
admiring, speculative look with which he had regarded the young women
upon the beach.

Presently she heard Hunt's footsteps coming down the path. Then she
detected a second pair. Dick accompanying him, she thought. And then
Hunt appeared before her, and was saying in his big voice: "Miss
Cameron, permit me to present my friend, Mr. Brandon." And then he
added in a lowered voice, grinning with the impish delight of an
overgrown boy who is playing a trick: "Thought I'd better go through
the motions of introducing you people, so it would look as if you'd
just met for the first time." And with that he was gone.

Maggie had risen galvanically. For the moment she could only stare.
Then she got out his name.

"Larry!" she whispered. "You here?"

"Yes."

Astounded as she was, she had caught instantly the total lack of
amazement on Larry's part.

"You're--you're not surprised to see me?"

"No," he said evenly. "I knew you were here. And before that I knew
you were coming."

That was almost too much for Maggie. Hunt had known and Larry had
known; both were people belonging to her old life, both the last
people she expected to meet in such circumstances. She could only
stare at him--entirely taken aback by this meeting.

And indeed it was a strangely different meeting from the last time she
had seen him, at the Grantham; strangely different from those earlier
meetings down at the Duchess's when both had been grubs as yet
unmetamorphosized. Now standing in the arbor they looked a pair of
weekend guests, in keeping with the place. For, as Maggie had noted,
Larry in his well-cut flannels was as greatly transformed as Hunt.

It was Larry who ended the silence. "Shall we sit down?"

She mechanically sank to the bench, still staring at him.

"What are you doing here?" she managed to breathe.

"I belong here."

"Belong here?"

"I work here," he explained. "I'm called 'Mr. Brandon,' but Miss
Sherwood knows exactly who I am and what I've been."

"How long have you been here?"

"Since that night when Barney and Old Jimmie took you away to begin
your new career--the same night that I ran away from those gunmen who
thought I was a squealer, and from Casey and Gavegan."

"And all the while that Barney and my father and the police have
thought you hiding some place in the West, you've been with the
Sherwoods?"

"Yes. And I've got to remain in hiding until something happens that
will clear me. If the police or Barney and his friends learn where I
am--you can guess what will happen."

She nodded.

"Hunt got me here," he went on to explain. "I'm assisting in trying to
get the Sherwood business affairs in better shape. I might as well
tell you, Maggie," he added quietly, "that Dick Sherwood is my very
good friend."

"Dick Sherwood!" she breathed.

"And I might as well tell you," he went on, "that since that night at
the Grantham when I heard his voice, I've known that Dick is the
sucker you and Barney and Old Jimmie are trying to trim."

She half rose, and her voice sounded sharply: "Then you've got me
caught in a trap! You've told them about me?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Not so loud, or we may attract attention," he warned her. "I haven't
told because you had your chance to give me away to Barney that night
at the Grantham. And you didn't give me away."

She sank slowly back to the bench. "Is that your only reason?"

"No," he answered truthfully. "Exposing you would merely mean that
you'd feel harder toward me--and harder toward every one else. I don't
want that."

She pondered this a moment. "Then--you're not going to tell?"

He shook his head. "I don't expect to. I want you to be free to decide
what you're going to do--though I hope you'll decide not to go through
with this thing you're doing."

She made no response. Larry had spoken with control until now, but his
next words burst from him.

"Don't you see what a situation it's put me in, Maggie--trying to
play square with my friends, the Sherwoods, and trying to play square
with you?"

Again she did not answer.

"Maggie, you're too good for what you're doing--it's all a terrible
mistake!" he cried passionately. Then he remembered himself, and spoke
with more composure. "Oh, I know there's not much use in talking to
you now--while you feel as you do about yourself--and while you feel
as you do about me. But you know I love you, and want to marry you--
when--" He halted.

"When?" she prompted, almost involuntarily.

"When you see things differently--and when I can go around the world a
free man, not a fugitive from Barney and his gunmen and the police."

Again Maggie was silent for a moment. It was as if she were trying to
press out of her mind what he had said about loving her. Truly this
was, indeed, different from their previous meetings. Before, there had
almost invariably been a defiant attitude, a dispute, a quarrel. Now
she had no desire to quarrel.

Finally she said with an effort to be that self-controlled person
which she had established as her model:

"You seem to have your chance here to put over what you boasted to me
about. You remember making good in a straight way."

"Yes. And I shall make good--if only they will let me alone." He
paused an instant. "But I have no illusions about the present," he
went on quietly. "I'm in quiet water for a time; I've got a period of
safety; and I'm using this chance to put in some hard work. But
presently the police and Barney and the others will learn where I am.
Then I'll have all that fight over again--only the next time it'll be
harder."

She was startled into a show of interest. "You think that's really
going to happen?"

"It's bound to. There's no escaping it. If for no other reason, I
myself won't be able to stand being penned up indefinitely. Something
will happen, I don't know what, which will pull me out into the open
world--and then for me the deluge!"

He made this prediction grimly. He was not a fatalist, but it had been
borne in upon him recently that this thing was inescapable. As for
him, when that time came, he was going to put up the best fight that
was in him.

He caught the strained look which had come into Maggie's face, and it
prompted him suddenly to lean toward her and say:

"Maggie, do you still think I'm a stool and a squealer?"

"I--"

She broke off. She had a surging impulse to go on and say something to
Larry. A great deal. She was not conscious of what that great deal
was. She was conscious only of the impulse. There was too great a
turmoil within her, begotten by the strain of her visit on Miss
Sherwood and these unexpected meetings, for any motive, impulse, or
decision to emerge to even a brief supremacy. And so, during this
period when her brain would not operate, she let herself be swept on
by the momentum of the forces which had previously determined her
direction--her pride, her self-confidence, her ambition, the alliance
of fortune between her and Barney and Old Jimmie.

They were sitting in this silence when footsteps again sounded on the
gravel, and a shadow blotted the arbor floor.

"Excuse me, Larry," said a man's voice.

"Sure. What is it, Joe?"

Before her Maggie saw the tall, thin man in overalls, his removed
broad-brimmed hat revealing his white hair, whom she had noticed a
little earlier working among the flowers. He held a bunch of the
choicest pickings from the abundant rose gardens, their stems bound in
maple leaves as temporary protection against their thorns. He was
gazing at Maggie, respectful, hungry admiration in his somber eyes.

"I thought perhaps the young lady might care for these." He held out
the roses to her. And then quickly, to forestall refusal: "I cut out
more than we can use for the house. And I'd like to have you have
them."

"Thank you," and Maggie took the flowers.

For an instant their eyes held. In every outward circumstance the
event was a commonplace--this meeting of father and daughter, not
knowing each other. It was hardly more than a commonplace to Maggie:
just a tall, white-haired gardener respectfully offering her roses.
And it was hardly more to Joe Ellison: just a tribute evoked by his
hungry interest in every well-seeming girl of the approximate age of
his daughter.

At the moment's end Joe Ellison had bowed and started back for his
flower beds. "Who is that man?" asked Maggie, gazing after him. "I
never saw such eyes."

"We used to be pals in Sing Sing," Larry replied. He went on to give
briefly some of the details of Joe Ellison's story, never dreaming how
he and Maggie were entangled in that story, nor how they were to be
involved in its untanglement. Perhaps they were fortunate in this
ignorance. Within the boundaries of what they did know life already
held enough of problems and complications.

Larry had just finished his condensed history when Dick Sherwood
appeared and ordered them to the veranda for tea. There were just the
five of them, Miss Sherwood, Maggie, Hunt, Dick, and Larry. Miss
Sherwood was as gracious as before, and she seemingly took Maggie's
strained manner and occasional confusions as further proof of her
genuineness. Dick beamed at the impression she was making upon his
sister.

As for Maggie, she was living through the climax of that afternoon's
strain. And she dared not show it. She forced herself to do her best
acting, sipping her tea with a steady hand. And what made her
situation harder was that two of the party, Larry and Hunt, were
treating her with the charmed deference they might accord a charming
stranger, when a word from either of them might destroy the fragile
edifice of her deception.

At last it was over, and all was ready for her to start back to town
with Dick. When Miss Sherwood kissed her and warmly begged her to come
again soon, the very last of her control seemed to be slipping from
her--but she held on. Larry and Hunt she managed to say goodbye to in
the manner of her new acquaintanceship.

"Isn't she simply splendid!" exclaimed Miss Sherwood when Dick had
stepped into the car and the two had started away.

Larry pretended not to have heard. He felt precariously guilty toward
this woman who had befriended him. The next instant he had forgotten
Miss Sherwood and his pulsing thoughts were all on Maggie in that
speeding car. She had been profoundly shaken by that afternoon's
experience, this much he knew. But what was going to be the real
effect upon her of his carefully thought-out design? Was it going to
be such as to save her and Dick?--and eventually win her for himself?

In the presence of Miss Sherwood Larry tried to behave as if nothing
had happened more than the pleasant interruption of an informal tea:
but beneath that calm all his senses were waiting breathless, so to
speak, for news of what had happened within Maggie, and what might be
happening to her.

CHAPTER XXV

When Maggie sped away from Cedar Crest in the low seat of the roadster
beside the happy Dick, she felt herself more of a criminal than at any
time in her life, and a criminal that miraculously was making her
escape out of an inescapable set of circumstances.

Beyond her relief at this escape she did not know these first few
minutes what she thought or felt. Too much had happened, and what had
happened had all turned out so differently from what she had expected,
for her to set in orderly array this chaos of reactions within herself
and read the meaning of that afternoon's visit. She managed, with a
great effort, to keep under control the outer extremities of her
senses, and thus respond with the correct "yes" or "no" or "indeed"
when some response from her was required by Dick's happy conversation.

Near Roslyn they swung off the turnpike into an unfrequented, shady
road. Dick steered to one side beneath a locust-tree and silenced the
motor.

"Why are you stopping?" she asked in sudden alarm.

"So we can talk without a piece of impertinent machinery roaring
interruptions at us," replied Dick with forced lightness. And then in
a voice he could not make light: "I want to talk to you about--about
my sister. Isn't she splendid?"

"She is!" There was no wavering of her thoughts as Maggie emphatically
said this.

"I'm mighty glad you like her. She certainly liked you. She's all the
family I've got, and since you two hit it off so well together I hope-
-I hope, Maggie--"

And then Dick plunged into it, stammeringly, but earnestly. He told
her how much he loved her, in old phrases that his boyish ardor made
vibrantly new. He loved her! And if she would marry him, her influence
would make him take the brace all his friends had urged upon him.
She'd make him a man! And she could see how pleased it would make his
sister. And he would do his best to make Maggie happy--his very best!

The young super-adventuress--she herself had mentally used the word
"adventuress" in thinking of herself, as being more genteel and
mentally aristocratic than the cruder words by which Barney and Old
Jimmie and their kind designated a woman accomplice--this young super-
adventuress, who had schemed all this so adroitly, and worked toward
it with the best of her brain and her conscious charm, was seized with
new panic as she listened to the eager torrent of his imploring words,
as she gazed into the quivering earnestness of his frank, blue-eyed
face. She wished she could get out of the machine and run away or sink
through the floor-boards of the car. For she really liked Dick.

"I'm--I'm not so good as you think," she whispered. And then some
unsuspected force within her impelled her to say: "Dick, if you knew
the truth--"

He caught her shoulders. "I know all the truth about you I want to
know! You're wonderful, and I love you! Will you marry me? Answer
that. That's all I want to know!"

He had checked the confession that impulsively had surged toward her
lips. Silent, her eyes wide, her breath coming sharply, she sat gazing
at him. . . . And then from out the portion of her brain where were
stored her purposes, and the momentum of her pride and determination,
there flashed the realization that she had won! The thing that Barney
and Old Jimmie had prepared and she had so skillfully worked toward,
was at last achieved! She had only to say "yes," and either of those
two plans which Barney had outlined could at once be put in operation-
-and there could be no doubt of the swift success of either. Dick's
eager, trusting face was guarantee that there would come no
obstruction from him.

She felt that in some strange way she had been caught in a trap. Yes,
what they had worked for, they had won! And yet, in this moment of
winning, as elements of her vast dizziness, Maggie felt sick and
ashamed--felt a frenzied desire to run away from the whole affair. For
Maggie, cynical, all-confident, and eighteen, was proving really a
very poor adventuress.

"Please, Maggie"--his imploring voice broke in upon her--"won't you
answer me? You like me, don't you?--you'll marry me, won't you?"

"I like you, Dick," she choked out--and it was some slight comfort to
her to be telling this much of the truth--but--but I can't marry
you."

"Maggie!" It was a cry of surprised pain, and the pain in his voice
shot acutely into her. "From the way you acted toward me--I thought--I
hoped--" He sharply halted the accusation which had risen to his lips.
"I'm not going to take that answer as final, Maggie," he said
doggedly. "I'm going to give you more time to think it over--more time
for me to try. Then I'll ask you again."

That which prompted Maggie's response was a mixture of impulses: the
desire, and this offered opportunity, to escape; and a faint
reassertion of the momentum of her purpose. For with one such as
Maggie, the set purposes may be seemingly overwhelmed, but death comes
hard.

"All right," she breathed rapidly. "Only please get me back as quickly
as you can. I'm to have dinner with my--my cousin, and I'll be very
late."

Dick drove her into the city in almost unbroken silence and left her
at the great doors of the Grantham, abustle with a dozen lackeys in
purple livery. She stood a moment and watched him drive away. He
really was a nice boy--Dick.

As she shot up the elevator, she thought of a hitherto forgotten
element of that afternoon's bewildering situation. Barney Palmer! And
Barney was, she knew, now up in her sitting-room, impatiently waiting
for her report of what he had good reason to believe would prove a
successful experience. If she told the truth--that Dick had proposed,
just as they had planned for him to do--and she had refused him--why,
Barney--!

She seemed caught on every side!

Maggie got into her suite by way of her bedroom. She wanted time to
gather her wits for meeting Barney. When Miss Grierson told her that
her cousin was still waiting to take her to dinner, she requested her
companion to inform Barney that she would be in as soon as she had
dressed. She wasted all the time she legitimately could in changing
into a dinner-gown, and when at length she stepped into her sitting-
room she was to Barney's eye the same cool Maggie as always.

Barney rose as she entered. He was in smart dinner jacket; these days
Barney was wearing the smartest of everything that money could secure.
There was a shadow of impatience on his face, but it was instantly
dissipated by Maggie's self-composed, direct-eyed beauty.

"How'd you come out with Miss Sherwood?" he whispered eagerly.

"Well enough for her to kiss me good-bye, and beg me to come again."

"I've got to hand it to you, Maggie! You're sure some swell actress--
you've sure got class!" His dark eyes gleamed on her with half a dozen
pleasures: admiration of what she was in herself--admiration of what
she had just achieved--anticipation of results, many results--
anticipation of what she was later to mean to him in a personal way.
"If you can put it over on a swell like Miss Sherwood, you can put it
over on any one!" He exulted. "As soon as we clean up this job in
hand, we'll move on to one big thing after another!"

And then out came the question Maggie had been bracing herself for:
"How about Dick Sherwood? Did he finally come across with that
proposal?"

"No," Maggie answered steadily.

"No? Why not?" exclaimed Barney sharply. "I thought that was all that
was holding him back--waiting for his sister to look you over and
give you her O.K.?"

Maggie had decided that her air of cool, indifferent certainty was the
best manner to use in this situation with Barney. So she shrugged her
white shoulders.

"How can I tell what makes a man do something, and what makes him not
do it?"

"But did he seem any less interested in you than before?" Barney
pursued.

"No," replied Maggie.

"Then maybe he's just waiting to get up his nerve. He'll ask you, all
right; nothing there for us to worry about. Come on, let's have
dinner. I'm starved."

On the roof of the Grantham they were excellently served; for Barney
knew how to order a dinner, and he knew the art, which is an
alchemistic mixture of suave diplomacy and the insinuated power and
purpose of murder, of handling head-waiters and their sub-autocrats.
Having no other business in hand, Barney devoted himself to that
business which ran like a core through all his businesses--paying
court to Maggie. And when Barney wished to be a courtier, there were
few of his class who could give a better superficial interpretation of
the role; and in this particular instance he was at the advantage of
being in earnest. He forced the most expensive tidbits announced by
the dinner card upon Maggie; he gallantly and very gracefully put on
and removed, as required by circumstances, the green cobweb of a scarf
Maggie had brought to the roof as protection against the elements; and
when he took the dancing-floor with her, he swung her about and hopped
up and down and stepped in and out with all the skill of a master of
the modern perversion of dancing. Barney was really good enough to
have been a professional dancer had his desires not led him toward
what seemed to him a more exciting and more profitable career.

Maggie, not to rouse Barney's suspicions, played her role as well as
he did his own. And most of the other diners, a fraction of the
changing two or three hundred thousand people from the South and West
who choose New York as the best of all summer resorts, gazed upon this
handsome couple with their intricate steps which were timed with such
effortless and enviable accuracy, and excitedly believed that they
were beholding two distinguished specimens of what their home papers
persisted in calling New York's Four Hundred.

Maggie got back to her room with the feeling that she had staved off
Barney and her numerous other dilemmas for the immediate present. Her
chief thought in the many events of the day had been only to escape
her dangers and difficulties for the moment; all the time she had
known that her real thinking, her real decisions, were for a later
time when she was not so driven by the press of unexpected
circumstances. That less stressful time was now beginning.

What was she to do next? What were to be her final decisions? And
what, in all this strange ferment, was likely to germinate as possible
forces against her?

She mulled these things over for several days, during which Dick came
to see her twice, and twice proposed, and was twice put off. She had
quiet now, and was most of the time alone, but that clarity which she
had expected, that quickness and surety of purpose which she had
always believed to be unfailingly hers, refused to come.

She tried to have it otherwise, but the outstanding figure in her
meditations was Larry. Larry, who had not exposed her at the
Sherwoods', and whose influence had caused Hunt also not to expose
her--Larry, who without deception was on a familiar footing at the
Sherwoods' where she had been received only through trickery--Larry,
a fugitive in danger from so many enemies, perhaps after all
undeserved enemies--Larry, who looked to be making good on his boast
to achieve success through honesty--Larry, who had again told her that
he loved her. She liked Dick Sherwood--she really did. But Larry--that
was something different.

And thus she thought on, drawn this way and that, and unable to reach
a decision. But with most people, when in a state of acute mental
turmoil, that which has been most definite in the past, instinct,
habit of mind, purpose, tradition, becomes at least temporarily the
dominant factor through the mere circumstance that it has existed
powerfully before, through its comparative stability, through its
semi-permanence. And so with Maggie. She had for that one afternoon
almost been won over against herself by the workings of Larry's secret
diplomacy. Then had come the natural reaction. And now in her turmoil,
in so far as she had any decision, it was instinctively to go right
ahead in the direction in which she had been going.

But on the sixth day of her uncertainty, just after Dick had called on
her and she had provisionally accepted an invitation to Cedar Crest
for the following afternoon, a danger which she had half seen from the
start burst upon her without a moment's warning. It came into her
sitting-room, just before her dinner hour, in the dual form of Barney
and Old Jimmie. The faces of both were lowering.

"Get rid of that boob chaperon of yours!" gritted Barney. "We're going
to have some real talk!"

Maggie stepped to the connecting door, sent Miss Grierson on an
inconsequential errand, and returned.

"You're looking as pleasant as if you were sitting for a new
photograph, Barney. What gives you that sweet expression?"

"You'll cut out your comic-supplement stuff in just one second,"
Barney warned her. "We both saw young Sherwood awhile ago as he was
leaving the Grantham, and he told us everything!"

Persiflage did indeed fail Maggie. "Everything?" she exclaimed.
"What's everything?"

"He told us about proposing to you almost a week ago, and about your
refusing him. And you lied to us--kept us sitting round, wasting our
time--and all the while you've been double-crossing us!"

Those visitors from South and West, especially the women, who a few
nights before on the roof had regarded Barney as the perfect courtier,
would not have so esteemed him if they had seen him at the present
moment. He seized Maggie's wrists, and all the evil of his violent
nature glared from his small bright eyes.

"Damn you!" he cried. "Jimmie, she's yours, and a father's got a right
to do anything he likes to his own daughter. Give it to her proper if
she don't come across with the truth!"

Jimmie stepped closer to her and bared his yellow teeth. "I haven't
given you a basting since you were fifteen--but I'll paste you one
right in the mouth if you don't talk straight talk!"

"You hear that!" Barney gritted at her. He believed there was justice
in his wrath--as indeed there was, of a sort. "Think what Jimmie and
I've put into this, in time and hard coin! We've given you your
chance, we've made you! And then, after hard work and waiting and our
spending so much, and everything comes out exactly as we figured, you
go and throw us down--not just yourself, but us and our rights! Now
you talk straight stuff! Tell us, why did you refuse Sherwood when he
proposed? And why did you tell me that lie about his not proposing?"

Maggie realized she was in a desperate plight, with these two inflamed
gazes upon her. Never had she felt so little of a daughter's liking
for Old Jimmie as now when she looked into his lean, harsh, yellow-
fanged face. And she had no illusions about Barney. He might love her,
as she knew he did; but that would not be a check upon his
ruthlessness if he thought himself balked or betrayed.

Just then her telephone began to ring. She started to move toward it,
but Barney's grip checked her short.

"You're going to answer me--not any damned telephone! Let it ring!"

The bell rang for a minute or two before it stilled its shrill clamor.
Its ringing was in a way a brief respite to Maggie, for it gave her
additional time to consider what should be her course. She realized
that she dared not let Barney believe at this moment that she had
turned against him. Again she fell back upon her cool, self-confident
manner.

"You want to know why? The answer is simple enough. I thought I might
try out an improvement of our plan--something that might suit me
better."

"What's that?" Barney harshly demanded.

"Since Miss Sherwood fell for me so easy, it struck me that she'd be
pretty sure to fall for me if I told her the whole truth about myself.
That is, everything except our scheme to play Dick for a sucker."

"What're you driving at?"

"Don't you see? If she forgave me being what I am, and I rather think
she would, and with Dick liking me as he does--why, it struck me as
the best thing for yours truly to marry Dick for keeps."

"What?" Though Barney's voice was low, it had the effect of a startled
and savage roar. "And chuck us over-board?"

"Not at all. If I married Dick for keeps, I intended to pay you a lump
sum, or else a regular amount each year."

"No, you don't!" Barney cried in the same muffled roar.

"Perhaps not--I haven't decided," Maggie said evenly. "I've merely
been telling you, as you requested me, why I did as I did. I refused
Dick, and lied to you, so that I might have more time to think over
what I really wanted to do."

Instinctively she had counted on rousing Barney's jealousy in order to
throw him off the track of her real thoughts. She succeeded.

"I can tell you what you're going to do!" Barney flung at her with
fierce mastery. "You're not going to put over a sure-enough marriage
with any Dick Sherwood! When there's that kind of a marriage, I'm
going to be the man! And you're going to go right straight ahead with
our old plan! Dick'll propose again if you give him half a chance. And
when he does, you say 'yes'! Understand? That's what you're going to
do!"

There was no safety in openly defying Barney. And as a matter of fact
what he had ordered was what, in the shifting currents of her
thoughts, the steady momentum of her old ambitions and purposes had
been pushing her toward. So she said, in her even voice:

"You waste such a lot of your good energy, Barney, by exploding when
there's nothing to blow up. That's exactly what I'd decided to do.
Miss Sherwood has asked me out to Cedar Crest to-morrow afternoon, and
I'm going."

Barney let go the hold he had kept upon her wrists, and the dark look
slowly lifted from his face. "Why didn't you tell a fellow this at
first?" he half grumbled. then with a grim enthusiasm: "And when you
come back, you're going to tell us it's all settled!"

Of course--if he asks me. And now suppose you two go away. You've
given me a headache, and I want to rest."

"We'll go," said Barney. "But there may be some more points about this
that we may want to talk over a little later to-night. So better get
all the rest you can."

But when they had gone and left her to the silence of her pretentious
and characterless suite, Maggie did not rest. She had made up her
mind; she was going to do as she had said. But there was still that
same turmoil within her.

Again she thought of Larry. But she would not admit to herself that
her real motive for suddenly deciding to go to Cedar Crest on the
morrow was the chance of seeing him.

CHAPTER XXVI

During all these days Larry waited for news of the result of the
experiment in psychology which meant so much to his life. He had not
expected to hear directly from Maggie; but he had counted upon
learning at once from Dick, if not by words, then either from eloquent
dejection which would proclaim Dick's refusal (and Larry's success) or
from an ebullient joy which would proclaim that Maggie had accepted
him. But Dick's sober but not unhappy behavior announced neither of
these two to Larry; and the matter was too personal, altogether too
delicate, to permit Larry to ask Dick the result, however subtly he
might ask it.

So Larry could only wait--and wonder. The truth did not occur to
Larry; he did not see that there might be another alternative to the
two possible reactions he had calculated upon. He did not bear in mind
that Maggie's youthful obstinacy, her belief in herself and her ways,
were too solid a structure to yield at once to one moral shock,
however wisely planned and however strong. He did not at this time
hold in mind that any real change in so decided a character as Maggie,
if change there was to be, would be preceded and accompanied by a
turbulent period in which she would hardly know who she was, or where
she was, or what she was going to do--and that at the end of such a
period there might be no change at all.

Inasmuch as just then Maggie was his major interest, it seemed to
Larry in his safe seclusion that he was merely marking time, and
marking time with feet that were frantically impatient. He felt he
could not stand much longer his own inactivity and his ignorance of
what Maggie was doing and what was happening to her. He could not
remain in this sanctuary pulling strings, and very long and fragile
strings, and strings which might be the mistaken ones, for any much
greater period. He felt that he simply had to walk out of this
splendid safety, back into the dangers from which he had fled, where
he might at least have the possible advantage of being in the very
midst of Maggie's affairs and fight for her more openly and have a
more direct influence upon her.

He knew that, sooner or later, he was going to throw caution aside and
appear suddenly among his enemies, unless something of a definite
character developed. But for these slow, irritating days he held
himself in check with difficulty, hoping that things might come to
him, that he would not have to go forth to them.

He had brought Hunt's portrait of Maggie to Cedar Crest in the bottom
of his trunk, and kept it locked in his chiffonier. During these days,
more frequently than before, he would take out the portrait and in the
security of his locked room would gaze long at that keen-visioned
portrayal of her many characters. No doubt of it: there was a possible
splendid woman there! And no doubt of it: he loved that woman utterly!

During these days of his ignorance, while Maggie was struggling in the
darkness of her unexplored being, Larry drove himself grimly at the
business to which under happier circumstances he would have gone under
the irresistible suasion of pure joy. One afternoon he presented to
Miss Sherwood an outline for his growing plan for the development of
the Sherwood properties on the basis of good homes at fair rentals. He
discovered that, in spite of her generous giving, she had much the
same attitude toward Charity as his own: that the only sound Charity,
except for those temporarily or permanently handicapped or disabled,
was the giving of honest values for honest returns--and that was not
Charity at all.

The project of reforming the shiftless character of the Sherwood
properties, and of relieving even in a small degree New York's housing
congestion, appealed at once to her imagination and her sensible
idealism.

"A splendid plan!" she exclaimed, regarding Larry with those wise,
humorous eyes of hers, which were now very serious and penetrating.
"You have been working much harder than I had thought. And if you will
pardon my saying it, you have more of the soundly humane vision which
big business enterprise should have than I had thought."

"Thank you!" said Larry.

"That's a splendid dream," she continued; "but it will take hard work
to translate that dream into a reality. We shall need architects,
builders, a heavy initial expense, time--and a more modern and alert
management."

"Yes, Miss Sherwood."

She did not speak for a moment. Her penetrating eyes, which had been
fixed on him in close thought, were yet more penetrating. Finally she
said:

"That's a big thing, a useful thing. The present agents wish to be
relieved of our affairs as soon as I can make arrangements--and I'd
like nothing better than for Dick to drop what he's doing and get into
something constructive and useful like this. But Dick cannot do it
alone; he's too unsettled, and too inexperienced to cope with some of
the sharper business practices."

She paused again, still regarding him with those keen eyes, which
seemed to be weighing him. Finally she said, almost abruptly:

"Will you take charge of this with Dick? He likes you and respects
your judgment; I'm sure you'd help steady him down. Of course you lack
practical experience, but you can take in a practical man who will
supply this element. Practical experience is one of the commonest
articles on the market; vision and initiative are among the rarest--
and you have them. What do you say?"

Larry could not say anything at once. The suddenness of her offer, the
largeness of his opportunity, bewildered him for the moment. And his
bewilderment was added to by his swift realization of quite another
element involved in her frank proposition. He was now engaged in the
enterprise of foisting a bogus article, Maggie, upon this woman who
was offering him her complete confidence--an enterprise of most
questionable ethics and very dubious issue. If he accepted her offer,
and the result of this enterprise were disaster, what would Miss
Sherwood then think of him?

He took refuge in evasion. "I'm not going to try to tell you how much
I appreciate your proposition, Miss Sherwood. But do you mind if I
hold back my answer for the present and think it over? Anyhow, to do
all that is required I must be able to work in the open--and I can't
do that until I get free of my entanglements with the police and my
old acquaintances."

Thus it was agreed upon. Miss Sherwood turned to another subject. The
pre-public show of Hunt's pictures had opened the previous day.

"When you were in the city yesterday, did you get in to see Mr. Hunt's
exhibition?"

"No," he answered. "Although I wanted to. But you know I've already
seen all of Mr. Hunt's pictures that Mr. Graham has in his gallery.
How was the opening?"

"Crowded with guests. And since they had been told that the pictures
were unusual and good, of course the people were enthusiastic."

"What kind of prices was Mr. Graham quoting?"

"He wasn't quoting any. He told me he wasn't going to sell a picture,
or even mention a price, until the public exhibition. He's very
enthusiastic. He thinks Mr. Hunt is already made--and in a big way."

And then she added, her level gaze very steady on Larry:

"Of course Mr. Hunt is really a great painter. But he needed a jolt to
make him go out and really paint his own kind of stuff. And he needed
some one like you to put him across in a business way."

When she left, she left Larry thinking: thinking of her saying that
Hunt "needed a jolt to make him go out and really paint his own kind
of stuff." Hidden behind that remark somewhere could there be the
explanation for the break between these two? Larry began to see a
glimmer of light. It was entirely possible that Miss Sherwood, in so
finished and adroit a manner that Hunt had not discerned her purpose,
had herself given him this jolt or at least contributed to its force.
It might all have been diplomacy on her part, applied shrewdly to the
man she understood and loved. Yes, that might be the explanation. Yes,
perhaps she had been doing in a less trying way just what he was
seeking to do under more stressful circumstances with Maggie: to
arouse him to his best by indirectly working at definite psychological
reactions.

That afternoon Hunt appeared at Cedar Crest, and while there dropped
in on Larry. The big painter, in his full-blooded, boyish fashion,
fairly gasconaded over the success of his exhibit. Larry smiled at the
other's exuberant enthusiasm. Hunt was one man who could boast without
ever being offensively egotistical, for Hunt, added to his other
gifts, had the divine gift of being able to laugh at himself.

Larry saw here an opportunity to forward that other ambition of his:
the bringing of Hunt and Miss Sherwood together. And at this instant
it flashed upon him that Miss Sherwood's seemingly casual remarks
about Hunt had not been casual at all. Perhaps they had been carefully
thought out and spoken with a definite purpose. Perhaps Miss Sherwood
had been very subtly appointing him her ambassador. She was clever
enough for that.

"Stop declaiming those self-written press notices of your
unapproachable superiority," Larry interrupted. "If you use your
breath up like that you'll drown on dry land. Besides, I just heard
something better than this mere articulated air of yours. Better
because from a person in her senses."

"Heard it from whom?"

"Miss Sherwood."

"Miss Sherwood! What did she say?"

"That you were a really great painter."

"Huh!" snorted Hunt. "Why shouldn't she say that? I've proved it!"

"Hunt," said Larry evenly, "you are the greatest painter I ever met,
but you also have the distinction of being the greatest of all damned
fools."

"What's that, young fellow?"

"You love Miss Sherwood, don't you? At least you've the same as told
me that in words, and you've told me that in loud-voiced actions every
time you've seen her."

"Well--what if I do?"

"If you had the clearness of vision that is in the glassy eye of a
cold boiled lobster you would see that she feels the same way about
you."

"See here, Larry"--all the boisterous quality had gone from Hunt's
voice, and it was low-pitched and a bit unsteady--"I don't mind your
joshing me about myself or my painting, but don't fool with me about
anything that's really important."

"I'm not fooling you. I'm sure Miss Sherwood feels that way."

"How do you know?"

"I've got a pair of eyes that don't belong to a cold boiled lobster.
And when I see a thing, I know I see it."

"You're all wrong, Larry. If you'd heard what she said to me less than
a year ago--"

"You make me tired!" interrupted Larry. "You two were made for each
other. She's waiting for you to step up and talk man's talk to her--
and instead you sulk in your tent and mumble about something you think
she might have thought or said a year ago! You're too sensitive;
you're too proud; you've got too few brains. It's a million dollars to
one that in your handsome, well-bred way you've fallen out with her
over something that probably never existed and certainly doesn't exist
now. Forget it all, and walk right up and ask her!"

"Larry, if I thought there was a chance that you are right--"

"A single question will prove whether I'm right!"

Hunt did not speak for a moment. "I guess I've never seen my part of
it all in the way you put it, Larry." He stood up, his whole being
subdued yet tense. "I'm going to slide back into town and think it all
over."

Larry followed him an hour later, bent on routine business of the
Sherwood estate. Toward seven o'clock he was studying the present
decrepitude and future possibilities of a row of Sherwood apartment
houses on the West Side, when, as he came out of one building and
started into another, a firm hand fell upon his shoulder and a voice
remarked:

"So, Larry, you're in New York?"

Larry whirled about. For the moment he felt all the life go out of
him. Beside him stood Detective Casey, whom he had last seen on the
night of his wild flight when Casey had feigned a knockout in order to
aid Larry's escape from Gavegan. Any other man affiliated with his
enemies Larry would have struck down and tried to break away from. But
not Casey.

"Hello, Casey. Well, I suppose you're going to invite me to go along
with you?"

"Where were you going?"

"Into this house."

"Then I'll invite myself to go along with you."

He quickly pushed Larry before him into the hallway, which was empty
since all the tenants were at their dinner. Larry remembered the scene
down in Deputy Police Commissioner Barlow's office, when the Chief of
Detectives had demanded that he become a stool-pigeon working under
Gavegan and Casey, and the grilling and the threats, more than
fulfilled, which had followed.

"Going to give me a little private quiz first, Casey," he asked, "and
then call in Gavegan and lead me down to Barlow?"

"Not unless Gavegan or some one else saw and recognized you, which I
know they didn't since I was watching for that very thing. And not
unless you yourself feel hungry for a visit to Headquarters."

"If I feel hungry, it's an appetite I'm willing to make wait."

"You know I don't want to pinch you. My part in this has been a dirty
job that was just pushed my way. You know that I know you've been
framed and double-crossed, and that I won't run you in unless I can't
get out of it."

"Thanks, Casey. You're too white to have to run with people like
Barlow and Gavegan. But if it wasn't to pinch me, why did you stop me
out there in the street?"

"Been hoping I might some day run into you on the quiet. There are
some things I've learned--never mind how--that I wanted to slip you
for your own good."

"Go to it, Casey."

"First, I've got a hunch that it was Barney Palmer who tipped off the
police about Red Hannigan and Jack Rosenfeldt, and then spread it
among all the crooks that you were the stool and squealer."

"Yes, I'd guessed that much."

"Second, I've got a hunch that it really was from Barney Palmer that
Barlow got his idea of making you become a stool-pigeon. Barney is a
smooth one all right, and he figured what would happen. He knew you
would refuse, and he knew Barlow would uncork hell beneath you. Barney
certainly called every turn."

"What--what--" stammered Larry. "Why, then Barney must be--" He
paused, utterly astounded by the newness of the possibility that had
just risen in his mind.

"You've got it, Larry," Casey went on. "Barney is a police stool. Has
been one for years. Works directly for Barlow. We're not supposed to
know anything about it. He's turned up a lot of big ones. That's why
it's safe for Barney to pull off anything he likes."

"Barney a police stool!" Larry repeated in the stupor of his
amazement.

"Guess that's all the news I wanted to hand you, Larry, so I'll be on
my way. Here's wishing you luck--and for God's sake, don't let
yourself be pinched by us. So-long." And with that Casey slipped out
of the hallway.

For a moment Larry stood moveless where Casey had left him. Then
fierce purpose, and a cautious recklessness, surged up and took
mastery of him. It had required what Casey had told him to end his
irksome waiting and wavering. No longer could he remain in his hiding-
place, safe himself, trying to save Maggie by slow, indirect endeavor.
The time had now come for very different methods. The time had come to
step forth into the open, taking, of course, no unnecessary risk, and
to have it out face to face with his enemies, who were also Maggie's
real enemies, though she counted them her friends--to save Maggie
against her own will, if he could save her in no other way.

And having so decided, Larry walked quickly out of the hallway into
the street.

CHAPTER XXVII

On the sidewalk Larry glanced swiftly around him. Half a block down
the street on the front of a drug-store was a blue telephone flag. A
minute later he was inside a telephone booth in the drug-store, asking
first for the Hotel Grantham, and then asking the Grantham operator to
be connected with Miss Maggie Cameron.

There was a long wait. While he listened for Maggie's voice he blazed
with terrible fury against Barney Paler. For Maggie to be connected
with a straight crook, that idea had been bad enough. But for her to
be under the influence of the worst crook of all, a stool, a cunning
traitor to his own friends--that was more than could possibly be
stood! In his rage in Maggie's behalf he forgot for the moment the
many evils Barney had done to himself. He thought of wild, incoherent,
vaguely tremendous plans. First he would get Maggie away from Barney
and Old Jimmie--somehow. Then he would square accounts with those
two--again by an undefined somehow.

Presently the tired, impersonal voice of the Grantham operator
remarked against his ear-drum: "Miss Cameron don't answer."

"Have her paged, please," he requested.

Larry, of course, could not know that his telephone call was the very
one which had rung in Maggie's room while Barney and Old Jimmie were
with her, and which Barney had harshly forbidden her to answer.
Therefore he could not know that any attempt to get Maggie by
telephone just then was futile.

When he came out of the booth, the impersonal voice having informed
him that Miss Cameron was not in, it was with the intention of calling
Maggie up between eight and nine when she probably would have returned
from dinner where he judged her now to be. He knew that Dick Sherwood
had no engagement with her, for Dick was to be out at Cedar Crest that
evening, so he judged it almost certain Maggie would be at home and
alone later on.

Having nothing else to do for an hour and a half, he thought of a note
he had received from the Duchess in that morning's mail asking him to
come down to see her when he was next in town. Thirty minutes later he
was in the familiar room behind the pawnshop. The Duchess asked him if
he had eaten, and on his reply that he had not and did not care to,
instead of proceeding to the business of her letter she mumbled
something and went into the pawnshop.

She left Larry for the very simple reason that now that she had him
here she was uncertain what she should say, and how far she should go.
Unknown to either, one thread of the drama of Larry and Maggie was
being spun in the brain and heart of the Duchess; and being spun with
pain to her, and in very great doubt. True, she had definitely
decided, for Larry's welfare, that the facts about Maggie's parentage
should never be known from her--and since the only other person who
could tell the truth was Jimmie Carlisle, and his interests were all
apparently in favor of silence, then it followed that the truth would
never be known from any one. But having so decided, and decided
definitely and finally, the Duchess had proceeded to wonder if she had
decided wisely.

Day and night this had been the main subject of her thought. Could she
be wrong in her estimate of Maggie's character, and what she might
turn out to be? Could she be wrong in her belief that, given enough
time, Larry would outgrow his infatuation for Maggie? And since she
was in such doubt about these two points, had she any right, and was
it for the best, to suppress a fact that might so gravely influence
both matters? She did not know. What she wanted was whatever was best
for Larry--and so in her doubt she had determined to talk again to
Larry, hoping that the interview might in some way replace her
uncertainty with stability of purpose.

Presently she returned to the inner room, and in her direct way and
using the fewest possible words, which had created for her her
reputation of a woman who never spoke and who was packed with strange
secrets, she asked Larry what he had done concerning Maggie. He told
her of the plan he had evolved, of Maggie's visit to Cedar Crest, of
his ignorance of Maggie's reactions. To all this his grandmother made
response neither by word nor by change of expression. He then went on
to tell her of what he had just learned from Casey of Barney's
maneuvering his misfortunes.

The old head nodded. "Yes, Barney's just that sort," she said in her
flat monotone.

And then she came to the purpose of her sending for him. "How do you
feel about Maggie now?"

"The same as before."

"You love her?"

"Yes--and always will," he said firmly.

She was silent once more. Then, "What are you going to do next?"

"Break things up between her and Barney and her father. Get her away
from them."

She asked no further questions. Larry was as settled as a man could
be. But was Maggie worth while?--that was the great question still
unanswered.

"Just what did you want me for, grandmother?" he asked her finally.

"Something which I thought might have developed, but which hasn't."

And so she let him go away without telling him. And wishing to shape
things for the best for him, she was troubled by the same doubts as
before.

His visit with his grandmother had had no meaning to Larry, since he
had no guess of the struggle going on within that ancient, inscrutable
figure. The visit had for him merely served to fill in a nervous,
useless hour. His rage against Barney had all the while possessed him
too thoroughly for him to give more than the mere surface of his mind
to what had passed between his grandmother and himself. And when he
had left her, his rage at Barney's treachery and his impetuous desire
to snatch Maggie away from her present influences, so stormed within
him that his usually cautious judgment was blown away and recklessness
swept like a gale into control of him.

When he called up the Grantham a second time, at nine o'clock,
Maggie's voice came to him:

"Hello. Who this, please?"

"Mr. Brandon."

He heard a stilted "Oh!" at the other end of the line "I'm coming
right up to see you," he said.

"I--I don't think you--"

"I'll be there in then minutes," Larry interrupted the startled voice
and hung up.

He counted that Maggie, after his sparing her at Cedar Crest, would
receive him and treat him at least no worse than an enemy with whom
there was a half hour's truce. Sure enough, when he rang the bell of
her suite, Maggie herself admitted him to her sitting-room. She was
taut and pale, her look neither friendly nor unfriendly.

"Don't you know the risk you're running," she whispered when the door
was closed--"coming here like this, in the open?"

"The time has come for risks, Maggie," he announced.

"But you were safe enough where you were. Why take such risks?"

"For your sake."

"My sake?"

"To take you away from these people you're tied up with. Take you away
now."

At an earlier time this would have been a fuse to a detonation of
defiance from her. But now she said nothing at all, and that was
something.

"Since I've come out into the open, everything's going to be in the
open. Listen, Maggie!" The impulse had suddenly come upon him, since
his plan to awaken Maggie by her psychological reactions had
apparently failed, to tell her everything. "Listen, Maggie! I'm going
to lay all my cards on the table, and show you every card I've played.
You were invited to come out to Cedar Crest because I schemed to have
you come. And the reason I schemed to have you invited was, I reasoned
that being received in such a frank, generous, unsuspecting way, by a
woman like Miss Sherwood, would make you sick of what you were doing
and you would drop it of your own accord. But it seems I reasoned
wrong."

"So--you were behind that!" she breathed.

"I was. Though I couldn't have done it if Dick Sherwood hadn't been
honestly infatuated with you. But now I'm through with working under
cover, through with indirect methods. From now on every play's in the
open, and it's straight to the point with everything. So get ready.
I'm going to take you away from Barney and Old Jimmie."

The mention of these two names had a swift and magical effect upon
her. But instead of arousing belligerency, they aroused an almost
frantic agitation.

"You must leave at once, Larry. Barney and my father were here before
dinner, and they've just telephoned they were coming back!"

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