Part 2 out of 6
whole grind that--that----"
The man who was the employer of hundreds concerning whom these
grim truths were uttered, stirred uneasily in his chair, and
there came a touch of color into the healthy brown of his cheeks
as he spoke his protest.
"I'm not their guardian. I can't watch over them after they
leave the store. They are paid the current rate of wages--as
much as any other store pays." As he spoke, the anger provoked
by this unexpected assault on him out of the mouth of a convict
flamed high in virtuous repudiation. "Why," he went on
vehemently, "no man living does more for his employees than I do.
Who gave the girls their fine rest-rooms upstairs? I did! Who
gave them the cheap lunch-rooms? I did!"
"But you won't pay them enough to live on!" The very fact that
the words were spoken without any trace of rancor merely made
this statement of indisputable truth obnoxious to the man, who
was stung to more savage resentment in asserting his impugned
"I pay them the same as the other stores do," he repeated,
Yet once again, the gently cadenced voice gave answer, an answer
informed with that repulsive insistence to the man who sought to
resist her indictment of him.
"But you won't pay them enough to live on." The simple lucidity
of the charge forbade direct reply.
Gilder betook himself to evasion by harking back to the
established ground of complaint.
"And, so, you claim that you were forced to steal. That's the
plea you make for yourself and your friends."
"I wasn't forced to steal," came the answer, spoken in the
monotone that had marked her utterance throughout most of the
interview. "I wasn't forced to steal, and I didn't steal. But,
all the same, that's the plea, as you call it, that I'm making
for the other girls. There are hundreds of them who steal
because they don't get enough to eat. I said I would tell you
how to stop the stealing. Well, I have done it. Give the girls
a fair chance to be honest. You asked me for the names, Mr.
Gilder. There's only one name on which to put the blame for the
whole business--and that name is Edward Gilder!... Now, won't you
do something about it?"
At that naked question, the owner of the store jumped up from his
chair, and stood glowering at the girl who risked a request so
full of vituperation against himself.
"How dare you speak to me like this?" he thundered.
There was no disconcertion exhibited by the one thus challenged.
On the contrary, she repeated her question with a simple dignity
that still further outraged the man.
"Won't you, please, do something about it?"
"How dare you?" he shouted again. Now, there was stark wonder
in his eyes as he put the question.
"Why, I dared," Mary Turner explained, "because you have done all
the harm you can to me. And, now, I'm trying to give you the
chance to do better by the others. You ask me why I dare. I
have a right to dare! I have been straight all my life. I have
wanted decent food and warm clothes, and--a little happiness, all
the time I have worked for you, and I have gone without those
things, just to stay straight.... The end of it all is: You are
sending me to prison for something I didn't do. That's why I
Cassidy, the officer in charge of Mary Turner, had stood
patiently beside her all this while, always holding her by the
wrist. He had been mildly interested in the verbal duel between
the big man of the department store and this convict in his own
keeping. Vaguely, he had marveled at the success of the frail
girl in declaiming of her injuries before the magnate. He had
felt no particular interest beyond that, merely looking on as one
might at any entertaining spectacle. The question at issue was
no concern of his. His sole business was to take the girl away
when the interview should be ended. It occurred to him now that
this might, in fact, be the time to depart. It seemed, indeed,
that the insistent reiteration of the girl had at last left he
owner of the store quite powerless to answer. It was possible,
then, that it were wiser the girl should be removed. With the
idea in mind, he stared inquiringly at Gilder until he caught
that flustered gentleman's eye. A nod from the magnate sufficed
him. Gilder, in truth, could not trust himself just then to an
audible command. He was seriously disturbed by the gently spoken
truths that had issued from the girl's lips. He was not prepared
with any answer, though he hotly resented every word of her
accusation. So, when he caught the question in the glance of the
officer, he felt a guilty sensation of relief as he signified an
affirmative by his gesture.
Cassidy faced about, and in his movement there was a tug at the
wrist of the girl that set her moving toward the door. Her
realization of what this meant was shown in her final speech.
"Oh, he can take me now," she said, bitterly. Then her voice
rose above the monotone that had contented her hitherto. Into
the music of her tones beat something sinister, evilly
vindictive, as she faced about at the doorway to which Cassidy
had led her. Her face, as she scrutinized once again the man at
the desk, was coldly malignant.
"Three years isn't forever," she said, in a level voice. "When I
come out, you are going to pay for every minute of them, Mr.
Gilder. There won't be a day or an hour that I won't remember
that at the last it was your word sent me to prison. And you are
going to pay me for that. You are going to pay me for the five
years I have starved making money for you--that, too! You are
going to pay me for all the things I am losing today, and----"
The girl thrust forth her left hand, on that side where stood the
officer. So vigorous was her movement that Cassidy's clasp was
thrown off the wrist. But the bond between the two was not
broken, for from wrist to wrist showed taut the steel chain of
the manacles. The girl shook the links of the handcuffs in a
gesture stronger than words. In her final utterance to the
agitated man at the desk, there was a cold threat, a prophecy of
disaster. From the symbol of her degradation, she looked to the
man whose action had placed it there. In the clashing of their
glances, hers won the victory, so that his eyes fell before the
menace in hers.
"You are going to pay me for this!" she said. Her voice was
little more than a whisper, but it was loud in the listener's
heart. "Yes, you are going to pay--for this!"
CHAPTER VI. INFERNO.
They were grim years, those three during which Mary Turner served
her sentence in Burnsing. There was no time off for good
behavior. The girl learned soon that the favor of those set in
authority over her could only be won at a cost against which her
every maidenly instinct revolted. So, she went through the
inferno of days and nights in a dreariness of suffering that was
deadly. Naturally, the life there was altogether an evil thing.
There was the material ill ever present in the round of wearisome
physical toil, the coarse, distasteful food, the hard, narrow
couch, the constant, gnawing irksomeness of imprisonment, away
from light and air, away from all that makes life worth while.
Yet, these afflictions were not the worst injuries to mar the
girl convict's life. That which bore upon her most weightily and
incessantly was the degradation of this environment from which
there was never any respite, the viciousness of this spot wherein
she had been cast through no fault of her own. Vileness was
everywhere, visibly in the faces of many, and it was brimming
from the souls of more, subtly hideous. The girl held herself
rigidly from any personal intimacy with her fellows. To some
extent, at least, she could separate herself from their
corruption in the matter of personal association. But, ever
present, there was a secret energy of vice that could not be
escaped so simply--nor, indeed, by any device; that breathed in
the spiritual atmosphere itself of the place. Always, this
mysterious, invisible, yet horribly potent, power of sin was like
a miasma throughout the prison. Always, it was striving to reach
her soul, to make her of its own. She fought the insidious,
fetid force as best she might. She was not evil by nature. She
had been well grounded in principles of righteousness.
Nevertheless, though she maintained the integrity of her
character, that character suffered from the taint. There
developed over the girl's original sensibility a shell of
hardness, which in time would surely come to make her less
scrupulous in her reckoning of right and wrong.
Yet, as a rule, character remains the same throughout life as to
its prime essentials, and, in this case, Mary Turner at the end
of her term was vitally almost as wholesome as on the day when
she began the serving of the sentence. The change wrought in her
was chiefly of an external sort. The kindliness of her heart and
her desire for the seemly joys of life were unweakened. But over
the better qualities of her nature was now spread a crust of
worldly hardness, a denial of appeal to her sensibilities. It was
this that would eventually bring her perilously close to
contented companioning with crime.
The best evidence of the fact that Mary Turner's soul was not
fatally soiled must be found in the fact that still, at the
expiration of her sentence, she was fully resolved to live
straight, as the saying is which she had quoted to Gilder. This,
too, in the face of sure knowledge as to the difficulties that
would beset the effort, and in the face of the temptations
offered to follow an easier path.
There was, for example, Aggie Lynch, a fellow convict, with whom
she had a slight degree of acquaintance, nothing more. This
young woman, a criminal by training, offered allurements of
illegitimate employment in the outer world when they should be
free. Mary endured the companionship with this prisoner because
a sixth sense proclaimed the fact that here was one unmoral,
rather than immoral--and the difference is mighty. For that
reason, Aggie Lynch was not actively offensive, as were most of
the others. She was a dainty little blonde, with a baby face, in
which were set two light-blue eyes, of a sort to widen often in
demure wonder over most things in a surprising and naughty world.
She had been convicted of blackmail, and she made no pretense
even of innocence. Instead, she was inclined to boast over her
ability to bamboozle men at her will. She was a natural actress
of the ingenue role, and in that pose she could unfailingly
beguile the heart of the wisest of worldly men.
Perhaps, the very keen student of physiognomy might have
discovered grounds for suspecting her demureness by reason of the
thick, level brows that cast a shadow on the bland innocence of
her face. For the rest, she possessed a knack of rather harmless
perversity, a fair smattering of grammar and spelling, and a
lively sense of humor within her own limitations, with a
particularly small intelligence in other directions. Her one art
was histrionics of the kind that made an individual appeal. In
such, she was inimitable. She had been reared in a criminal
family, which must excuse much. Long ago, she had lost track of
her father; her mother she had never known. Her one relation was
a brother of high standing as a pickpocket. One principal reason
of her success in leading on men to make fools of themselves over
her, to their everlasting regret afterward, lay in the fact that,
in spite of all the gross irregularities of her life, she
remained chaste. She deserved no credit for such restraint,
since it was a matter purely of temperament, not of resolve.
The girl saw in Mary Turner the possibilities of a ladylike
personality that might mean much financial profit in the devious
ways of which she was a mistress. With the frankness
characteristic of her, she proceeded to paint glowing pictures of
a future shared to the undoing of ardent and fatuous swains.
Mary Turner listened with curiosity, but she was in no wise moved
to follow such a life, even though it did not necessitate
anything worse than a fraudulent playing at love, without
physical degradation. So, she steadfastly continued her
refusals, to the great astonishment of Aggie, who actually could
not understand in the least, even while she believed the other's
declaration of innocence of the crime for which she was serving a
sentence. But, for her own part, such innocence had nothing to
do with the matter. Where, indeed, could be the harm in making
some old sinner pay a round price for his folly? And always, in
response to every argument, Mary shook her head in negation. She
would live straight.
Then, the heavy brows of Aggie would draw down a little, and the
baby face would harden.
"You will find that you are up against a hell of a frost," she
would declare, brutally.
Mary found the profane prophecy true. Back in New York, she
experienced a poverty more ravaging than any she had known in
those five lean years of her working in the store. She had been
absolutely penniless for two days, and without food through the
gnawing hours, when she at last found employment of the humblest
in a milliner's shop. Followed a blessed interval in which she
worked contentedly, happy over the meager stipend, since it
served to give her shelter and food honestly earned.
But the ways of the police are not always those of ordinary
decency. In due time, an officer informed Mary's employer
concerning the fact of her record as a convict, and thereupon she
was at once discharged. The unfortunate victim of the law came
perilously close to despair then. Yet, her spirit triumphed, and
again she persevered in that resolve to live straight. Finally,
for the second time, she secured a cheap position in a cheap
shop--only to be again persecuted by the police, so that she
speedily lost the place.
Nevertheless, indomitable in her purpose, she maintained the
struggle. A third time she obtained work, and there, after a
little, she told her employer, a candy manufacturer in a small
way, the truth as to her having been in prison. The man had a
kindly heart, and, in addition, he ran little risk in the matter,
so he allowed her to remain. When, presently, the police called
his attention to the girl's criminal record, he paid no heed to
their advice against retaining her services. But such action on
his part offended the greatness of the law's dignity. The police
brought pressure to bear on the man. They even called in the
assistance of Edward Gilder himself, who obligingly wrote a very
severe letter to the girl's employer. In the end, such tactics
alarmed the man. For the sake of his own interests, though
unwillingly enough, he dismissed Mary from his service.
It was then that despair did come upon the girl. She had tried
with all the strength of her to live straight. Yet, despite her
innocence, the world would not let her live according to her own
conscience. It demanded that she be the criminal it had branded
her--if she were to live at all. So, it was despair! For she
would not turn to evil, and without such turning she could not
live. She still walked the streets falteringly, seeking some
place; but her heart was gone from the quest. Now, she was
sunken in an apathy that saved her from the worst pangs of
misery. She had suffered so much, so poignantly, that at last
her emotions had grown sluggish. She did not mind much even when
her tiny hoard of money was quite gone, and she roamed the city,
starving.... Came an hour when she thought of the river, and was
Mary remembered, with a wan smile, how, long ago, she had thought
with amazed horror of suicide, unable to imagine any trouble
sufficient to drive one to death as the only relief. Now,
however, the thing was simple to her. Since there was nothing
else, she must turn to that--to death. Indeed, it was so very
simple, so final, and so easy, after the agonies she had endured,
that she marveled over her own folly in not having sought such
escape before.... Even with the first wild fancy, she had
unconsciously bent her steps westward toward the North River.
Now, she quickened her pace, anxious for the plunge that should
set the term to sorrow. In her numbed brain was no flicker of
thought as to whatever might come to her afterward. Her sole
guide was that compelling passion of desire to be done with this
unbearable present. Nothing else mattered--not in the least!
So, she came through the long stretch of ill-lighted streets,
crossed some railroad tracks to a pier, over which she hurried to
the far end, where it projected out to the fiercer currents of
the Hudson. There, without giving herself a moment's pause for
reflection or hesitation, she leaped out as far as her strength
permitted into the coil of waters.... But, in that final second,
natural terror in the face of death overcame the lethargy of
despair--a shriek burst from her lips.
But for that scream of fear, the story of Mary Turner had ended
there and then. Only one person was anywhere near to catch the
sound. And that single person heard. On the south side of the
pier a man had just tied up a motor-boat. He stood up in alarm
at the cry, and was just in time to gain a glimpse of a white
face under the dim moonlight as it swept down with the tide, two
rods beyond him. On the instant, he threw off his coat and
sprang far out after the drifting body. He came to it in a few
furious strokes, caught it. Then began the savage struggle to
save her and himself. The currents tore at him wrathfully, but he
fought against them with all the fierceness of his nature. He
had strength a-plenty, but it needed all of it, and more, to win
out of the river's hungry clutch. What saved the two of them was
the violent temper of the man. Always, it had been the demon to
set him aflame. To-night, there in the faint light, within the
grip of the waters, he was moved to insensate fury against the
element that menaced. His rage mounted, and gave him new power
in the battle. Maniacal strength grew out of supreme wrath.
Under the urge of it, he conquered--at last brought himself and
his charge to the shore.
When, finally, the rescuer was able to do something more than
gasp chokingly, he gave anxious attention to the woman whom he
had brought out from the river. Yet, at the outset, he could not
be sure that she still lived. She had shown no sign of life at
any time since he had first seized her. That fact had been of
incalculable advantage to him in his efforts to reach the shore
with her. Now, however, it alarmed him mightily, though it
hardly seemed possible that she could have drowned. So far as he
could determine, she: had not even sunk once beneath the surface.
Nevertheless, she displayed no evidence of vitality, though he
chafed her hands for a long time. The shore here was very
lonely; it would take precious time to summon aid. It seemed,
notwithstanding, that this must be the only course. Then just as
the man was about to leave her, the girl sighed, very faintly,
with an infinite weariness, and opened her eyes. The man echoed
the sigh, but his was of joy, since now he knew that his strife
in the girl's behalf had not been in vain.
Afterward, the rescuer experienced no great difficulty in
carrying out his work to a satisfactory conclusion. Mary revived
to clear consciousness, which was at first inclined toward
hysteria, but this phase yielded soon under the sympathetic
ministrations of the man. His rather low voice was soothing to
her tired soul, and his whole air was at once masterful and
gently tender. Moreover, there was an inexpressible balm to her
spirit in the very fact that some one was thus ministering to
her. It was the first time for many dreadful years that any one
had taken thought for her welfare. The effect of it was like a
draught of rarest wine to warm her heart. So, she rested
obediently as he busied himself with her complete restoration,
and, when finally she was able to stand, and to walk with the
support of his arm, she went forward slowly at his side without
so much even as a question of whither.
And, curiously, the man himself shared the gladness that touched
the mood of the girl, for he experienced a sudden pride in his
accomplishment of the night, a pride that delighted a starved
part of his nature. Somewhere in him were the seeds of
self-sacrifice, the seeds of a generous devotion to others. But
those seeds had been left undeveloped in a life that had been
lived since early boyhood outside the pale of respectability.
To-night, Joe Garson had performed, perhaps, his first action
with no thought of self at the back of it. He had risked his
life to save that of a stranger. The fact astonished him, while
it pleased him hugely. The sensation was at once novel and
thrilling. Since it was so agreeable, he meant to prolong the
glow of self-satisfaction by continuing to care for this waif of
the river. He must make his rescue complete. It did not occur to
him to question his fitness for the work. His introspection did
not reach to a point of suspecting that he, an habitual criminal,
was necessarily of a sort to be most objectionable as the
protector of a young girl. Indeed, had any one suggested the
thought to him, he would have met it with a sneer, to the effect
that a wretch thus tired of life could hardly object to any one
who constituted himself her savior.
In this manner, Joe Garson, the notorious forger, led the
dripping girl eastward through the squalid streets, until at last
they came to an adequately lighted avenue, and there a taxicab
was found. It carried them farther north, and to the east still,
until at last it came to a halt before an apartment house that
was rather imposing, set in a street of humbler dwellings. Here,
Garson paid the fare, and then helped the girl to alight, and on
into the hallway. Mary went with him quite unafraid, though now
with a growing curiosity. Strange as it all was, she felt that
she could trust this man who had plucked her from death, who had
worked over her with so much of tender kindliness. So, she
waited patiently; only, watched with intentness as he pressed the
button of a flat number. She observed with interest the thick,
wavy gray of his hair, which contradicted pleasantly the
youthfulness of his clean-shaven, resolute face, and the spare,
yet well-muscled form.
The clicking of the door-latch sounded soon, and the two entered,
and went slowly up three flights of stairs. On the landing beyond
the third flight, the door of a rear flat stood open, and in the
doorway appeared the figure of a woman.
"Well, Joe, who's the skirt?" this person demanded, as the man
and his charge halted before her. Then, abruptly, the round,
baby-like face of the woman puckered in amazement. Her voice
rose shrill. "My Gawd, if it ain't Mary Turner!"
At that, the newcomer's eyes opened swiftly to their widest, and
she stared astounded in her turn.
"Aggie!" she cried.
CHAPTER VII. WITHIN THE LAW.
In the time that followed, Mary lived in the flat which Aggie
Lynch occupied along with her brother, Jim, a pickpocket much
esteemed among his fellow craftsmen. The period wrought
transformations of radical and bewildering sort in both the
appearance and the character of the girl. Joe Garson, the
forger, had long been acquainted with Aggie and her brother,
though he considered them far beneath him in the social scale,
since their criminal work was not of that high kind on which he
prided himself. But, as he cast about for some woman to whom he
might take the hapless girl he had rescued, his thoughts fell on
Aggie, and forthwith his determination was made, since he knew
that she was respectable, viewed according to his own peculiar
lights. He was relieved rather than otherwise to learn that
there was already an acquaintance between the two women, and the
fact that his charge had served time in prison did not influence
him one jot against her. On the contrary, it increased in some
measure his respect for her as one of his own kind. By the time
he had learned as well of her innocence, he had grown so
interested that even her folly, as he was inclined to deem it,
did not cause any wavering in his regard.
Now, at last, Mary Turner let herself drift. It seemed to her
that she had abandoned herself to fate in that hour when she
threw herself into the river. Afterward, without any volition on
her part, she had been restored to life, and set within an
environment new and strange to her, in which soon, to her
surprise, she discovered a vivid pleasure. So, she fought no
more, but left destiny to work its will unhampered by her futile
strivings. For the first time in her life, thanks to the
hospitality of Aggie Lynch, secretly reinforced from the funds of
Joe Garson, Mary found herself living in luxurious idleness,
while her every wish could be gratified by the merest mention of
it. She was fed on the daintiest of fare, for Aggie was a
sybarite in all sensuous pleasures that were apart from sex. She
was clothed with the most delicate richness for the first time as
to those more mysterious garments which women love, and she soon
had a variety of frocks as charming as her graceful form
demanded. In addition, there were as many of books and magazines
as she could wish. Her mind, long starved like her body, seized
avidly on the nourishment thus afforded. In this interest, Aggie
had no share--was perhaps a little envious over Mary's absorption
in printed pages. But for her consolation were the matters of
food and dress, and of countless junketings. In such directions,
Aggie was the leader, an eager, joyous one always. She took a
vast pride in her guest, with the unmistakable air of elegance,
and she dared to dream of great triumphs to come, though as yet
she carefully avoided any suggestion to Mary of wrong-doing.
In the end, the suggestion came from Mary Turner herself, to the
great surprise of Aggie, and, truth to tell, of herself.
There were two factors that chiefly influenced her decision. The
first was due to the feeling that, since the world had rejected
her, she need no longer concern herself with the world's opinion,
or retain any scruples over it. Back of this lay her bitter
sentiment toward the man who had been the direct cause of her
imprisonment, Edward Gilder. It seemed to her that the general
warfare against the world might well be made an initial step in
the warfare she meant to wage, somehow, some time, against that
man personally, in accordance with the hysterical threat she had
uttered to his face.
The factor that was the immediate cause of her decision on an
irregular mode of life was an editorial in one of the daily
newspapers. This was a scathing arraignment of a master in high
finance. The point of the writer's attack was the grim sarcasm
for such methods of thievery as are kept within the law. That
phrase held the girl's fancy, and she read the article again with
a quickened interest. Then, she began to meditate. She herself
was in a curious, indeterminate attitude as far as concerned the
law. It was the law that had worked the ruin of her life, which
she had striven to make wholesome. In consequence, she felt for
the law no genuine respect, only detestation as for the epitome
of injustice. Yet, she gave it a superficial respect, born of
those three years of suffering which had been the result of the
penalty inflicted on her. It was as an effect of this latter
feeling that she was determined on one thing of vital importance:
that never would she be guilty of anything to pit her against the
law's decrees. She had known too many hours of anguish in the
doom set on her life because she had been deemed a violator of
the law. No, never would she let herself take any position in
which the law could accuse her.... But there remained the fact
that the actual cause of her long misery was this same law,
manipulated by the man she hated. It had punished her, though
she had been without fault. For that reason, she must always
regard it as her enemy, must, indeed, hate it with an intensity
beyond words--with an intensity equal to that she bore the man,
Gilder. Now, in the paragraph she had just read she found a clue
to suggestive thought, a hint as to a means by which she might
satisfy her rancor against the law that had outraged her--and
this in safety since she would attempt nought save that within
Mary's heart leaped at the possibility back of those three words,
"within the law." She might do anything, seek any revenge, work
any evil, enjoy any mastery, as long as she should keep within
the law. There could be no punishment then. That was the lesson
taught by the captain in high finance. He was at pains always in
his stupendous robberies to keep within the law. To that end, he
employed lawyers of mighty cunning and learning to guide his
steps aright in such tortuous paths.
There, then, was the secret. Why should she not use the like
means? Why, indeed? She had brains enough to devise, surely.
Beyond that, she needed only to keep her course most carefully
within those limits of wrong-doing permitted by the statutes.
For that, the sole requirement would be a lawyer equally
unscrupulous and astute. At once, Mary's mind was made up.
After all, the thing was absurdly simple. It was merely a matter
for ingenuity and for prudence in alliance.... Moreover, there
would come eventually some adequate device against her
arch-enemy, Edward Gilder.
Mary meditated on the idea for many days, and ever it seemed
increasingly good to her. Finally, it developed to a point where
she believed it altogether feasible, and then she took Joe Garson
into her confidence. He was vastly astonished at the outset and
not quite pleased. To his view, this plan offered merely a
fashion of setting difficulties in the way of achievement.
Presently, however, the sincerity and persistence of the girl won
him over. The task of convincing him would have been easier had
he himself ever known the torment of serving a term in prison.
Thus far, however, the forger had always escaped the penalty for
his crimes, though often close to conviction. But Mary's
arguments were of a compelling sort as she set them forth in
detail, and they made their appeal to Garson, who was by no means
lacking in a shrewd native intelligence. He agreed that the
experiment should be made, notwithstanding the fact that he felt
no particular enthusiasm over the proposed scheme of working. It
is likely that his own strong feeling of attraction toward the
girl whom he had saved from death, who now appeared before him as
a radiantly beautiful young woman, was more persuasive than the
excellent ideas which she presented so emphatically, and with a
logic so impressive.
An agreement was made by which Joe Garson and certain of his more
trusted intimates in the underworld were to put themselves under
the orders of Mary concerning the sphere of their activities.
Furthermore, they bound themselves not to engage in any devious
business without her consent. Aggie, too, was one of the company
thus constituted, but she figured little in the preliminary
discussions, since neither Mary nor the forger had much respect
for the intellectual capabilities of the adventuress, though they
appreciated to the full her remarkable powers of influencing men
to her will.
It was not difficult to find a lawyer suited to the necessities
of the undertaking. Mary bore in mind constantly the high
financier's reliance on the legal adviser competent to invent a
method whereby to baffle the law at any desired point, and after
judicious investigation she selected an ambitious and experienced
Jew named Sigismund Harris, just in the prime of his mental
vigors, who possessed a knowledge of the law only to be equalled
by his disrespect for it. He seemed, indeed, precisely the man
to fit the situation for one desirous of outraging the law
remorselessly, while still retaining a place absolutely within
Forthwith, the scheme was set in operation. As a first step,
Mary Turner became a young lady of independent fortune, who had
living with her a cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch. The flat was
abandoned. In its stead was an apartment in the nineties on
Riverside Drive, in which the ladies lived alone with two maids
to serve them. Garson had rooms in the neighborhood, but Jim
Lynch, who persistently refused the conditions of such an
alliance, betook himself afar, to continue his reckless gathering
of other folk's money in such wise as to make him amenable to the
law the very first time he should be caught at it.
A few tentative ventures resulted in profits so large that the
company grew mightily enthusiastic over the novel manner of
working. In each instance, Harris was consulted, and made his
confidential statement as to the legality of the thing proposed.
Mary gratified her eager mind by careful studies in this chosen
line of nefariousness. After a few perfectly legal
breach-of-promise suits, due to Aggie's winsome innocence of
demeanor, had been settled advantageously out of court, Mary
devised a scheme of greater elaborateness, with the legal acumen
of the lawyer to endorse it in the matter of safety.
This netted thirty thousand dollars. It was planned as the
swindling of a swindler--which, in fact, had now become the
secret principle in Mary's morality.
A gentleman possessed of some means, none too scrupulous himself,
but with high financial aspirations, advertised for a partner to
invest capital in a business sure to bring large returns. This
advertisement caught the eye of Mary Turner, and she answered it.
An introductory correspondence encouraged her to hope for the
victory in a game of cunning against cunning. She consulted with
the perspicacious Mr. Harris, and especially sought from him
detailed information as to partnership law. His statements gave
her such confidence that presently she entered into a partnership
with the advertiser. By the terms of their agreement, each
deposited thirty thousand dollars to the partnership account.
This sum of sixty thousand dollars was ostensibly to be devoted
to the purchase of a tract of land, which should afterward be
divided into lots, and resold to the public at enormous profit.
As a matter of fact, the advertiser planned to make a spurious
purchase of the tract in question, by means of forged deeds
granted by an accomplice, thus making through fraud a neat profit
of thirty thousand dollars. The issue was, however,
disappointing to him in the extreme. No sooner was the sixty
thousand dollars on deposit in the bank than Mary Turner drew out
the whole amount, as she had a perfect right to do legally. When
the advertiser learned of this, he was, naturally enough, full to
overflowing with wrath. But after an interview with Harris he
swallowed this wrath as best he might. He found that his
adversary knew a dangerous deal as to his various swindling
operations. In short, he could not go into court with clean
hands, which is a prime stipulation of the law--though often
honored in the breach. But the advertiser's hands were too
perilously filthy, so he let himself be mulcted in raging
The event established Mary as the arbiter in her own coterie.
Here was, in truth, a new game, a game most entertaining, and
most profitable, and not in the least risky. Immediately after
the adventure with the advertiser, Mary decided that a certain
General Hastings would make an excellent sacrifice on the altar
of justice--and to her own financial profit. The old man was a
notorious roue, of most unsavory reputation as a destroyer of
innocence. It was probable that he would easily fall a victim to
the ingenuous charms of Aggie. As for that precocious damsel, she
would run no least risk of destruction by the satyr. So,
presently, there were elaborate plottings. General Hastings met
Aggie in the most casual way. He was captivated by her freshness
and beauty, her demureness, her ignorance of all things vicious.
Straightway, he set his snares, being himself already limed. He
showered every gallant attention on the naive bread-and-butter
miss, and succeeded gratifyingly soon in winning her heart--to
all appearance. But he gained nothing more, for the coy creature
abruptly developed most effective powers of resistance to every
blandishment that went beyond strictest propriety. His ardor
cooled suddenly when Harris filed the papers in a suit for ten
thousand dollars damages for breach of promise.
Even while this affair was still in the course of execution, Mary
found herself engaged in a direction that offered at least the
hope of attaining her great desire, revenge against Edward
Gilder. This opportunity came in the person of his son, Dick.
After much contriving, she secured an introduction to that young
man. Forthwith, she showed herself so deliciously womanly, so
intelligent, so daintily feminine, so singularly beautiful, that
the young man was enamored almost at once. The fact thrilled
Mary to the depths of her heart, for in this son of the man whom
she hated she saw the instrument of vengeance for which she had
so longed. Yet, this one thing was so vital to her that she said
nothing of her purposes, not even to Aggie, though that observant
person may have possessed suspicions more or less near the truth.
It was some such suspicion that lay behind her speech as, in
negligee, she sat cross-legged on the bed, smoking a cigarette in
a very knowing way, while watching Mary, who was adjusting her
hat before the mirror of her dressing-table, one pleasant spring
"Dollin' up a whole lot, ain't you?" Aggie remarked, affably,
with that laxity of language which characterized her natural
"I have a very important engagement with Dick Gilder," Mary
replied, tranquilly. She vouchsafed nothing more definite as to
"Nice boy, ain't he?" Aggie ventured, insinuatingly.
"Oh, I suppose so," came the indifferent answer from Mary, as she
tilted the picture hat to an angle a trifle more jaunty.
The pseudo cousin sniffed.
"You s'pose that, do you? Well, anyhow, he's here so much we
ought to be chargin' him for his meal-ticket. And yet I ain't
sure that you even know whether he's the real goods, or not."
The fair face of Mary Turner hardened the least bit. There shone
an expression of inscrutable disdain in the violet eyes, as she
turned to regard Aggie with a level glance.
"I know that he's the son--the only son!--of Edward Gilder. The
fact is enough for me."
The adventuress of the demure face shook her head in token of
complete bafflement. Her rosy lips pouted in petulant
"I don't get you, Mary," she admitted, querulously. "You never
used to look at the men. The way you acted when you first run
round with me, I thought you sure was a suffragette. And then
you met this young Gilder --and--good-night, nurse!"
The hardness remained in Mary's face, as she continued to regard
her friend. But, now, there was something quizzical in the
glance with which she accompanied the monosyllable:
Again, Aggie shook her head in perplexity.
"His old man sends you up for a stretch for something you didn't
do--and you take up with his son like----"
"And yet you don't understand!" There was scorn for such gross
stupidity in the musical voice.
Aggie choked a little from the cigarette smoke, as she gave a
gasp when suspicion of the truth suddenly dawned on her slow
"My Gawd!" Her voice came in a treble shriek of apprehension.
"But you must understand this," Mary went on, with an
authoritative note in her voice. "Whatever may be between young
Gilder and me is to be strictly my own affair. It has absolutely
nothing to do with the rest of you, or with our schemes for
money-making. And, what is more, Agnes, I don't want to talk
about it. But----"
"Yes?" queried Aggie, encouragingly, as the other paused. She
hopefully awaited further confidences.
"But I do want to know," Mary continued with some severity, "what
you meant by talking in the public street yesterday with a common
Aggie's childlike face changed swiftly its expression from a sly
eagerness to sullenness.
"You know perfectly well, Mary Turner," she cried indignantly,
"that I only said a few words in passin' to my brother Jim. And
he ain't no common pickpocket. Hully Gee! He's the best dip in
"But you must not be seen speaking with him," Mary directed, with
a certain air of command now become habitual to her among the
members of her clique. "My cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch, must be
very careful as to her associates."
The volatile Agnes was restored to good humor by some subtle
quality in the utterance, and a family pride asserted itself.
"He just stopped me to say it's been the best year he ever had,"
she explained, with ostentatious vanity.
Mary appeared sceptical.
"How can that be," she demanded, "when the dead line now is John
"The dead line!" Aggie scoffed. A peal of laughter rang merrily
from her curving lips.
"Why, Jim takes lunch every day in the Wall Street Delmonico's.
Yes," she went on with increasing animation, "and only yesterday
he went down to Police Headquarters, just for a little
excitement, 'cause Jim does sure hate a dull life. Say, he told
me they've got a mat at the door with 'Welcome' on it--in letters
three feet high. Now, what--do--you--think--of that!" Aggie
teetered joyously, the while she inhaled a shockingly large
mouthful of smoke. "And, oh, yes!" she continued happily, "Jim,
he lifted a leather from a bull who was standing in the hallway
there at Headquarters! Jim sure does love excitement."
Mary lifted her dark eyebrows in half-amused inquiry.
"It's no use, Agnes," she declared, though without entire
sincerity; "I can't quite keep up with your thieves' argot--your
slang, you know. Just what did this brother of yours do?"
"Why, he copped the copper's kale," Aggie translated, glibly.
Mary threw out her hands in a gesture of dismay.
Thereupon, the adventuress instantly assumed a most ladylike and
mincing air which ill assorted with the cigarette that she held
between her lips.
"He gently removed a leathern wallet," she said sedately,
"containing a large sum of money from the coat pocket of a member
of the detective force." The elegance of utterance was
inimitably done. But in the next instant, the ordinary vulgarity
of enunciation was in full play again. "Oh, Gee!" she cried
gaily. "He says Inspector Burke's got a gold watch that weighs a
ton, an' all set with diamon's!--which was give to 'im
by--admirin' friends!... We didn't contribute."
"Given to him," Mary corrected, with a tolerant smile.
Aggie sniffed once again.
"What difference does it make?" she demanded, scornfully. "He's
got it, ain't he?" And then she added with avaricious intensity:
"Just as soon as I get time, I'm goin' after that watch--believe
Mary shook her head in denial.
"No, you are not," she said, calmly. "You are under my orders
now. And as long as you are working with us, you will break no
"But I can't see----" Aggie began to argue with the petulance of
a spoiled child.
Mary's voice came with a certainty of conviction born of fact.
"When you were working alone," she said gravely, did you have a
home like this?"
"No," was the answer, spoken a little rebelliously.
"Or such clothes? Most of all, did you have safety from the
"No," Aggie admitted, somewhat more responsively. "But, just the
same, I can't see----"
Mary began putting on her gloves, and at the same time strove to
give this remarkable young woman some insight into her own point
of view, though she knew the task to be one well-nigh impossible.
"Agnes," she said, didactically, "the richest men in this country
have made their fortunes, not because of the law, but in spite of
the law. They made up their minds what they wanted to do, and
then they engaged lawyers clever enough to show them how they
could do it, and still keep within the law. Any one with brains
can get rich in this country if he will engage the right lawyer.
Well, I have the brains--and Harris is showing me the law--the
wonderful twisted law that was made for the rich! Since we keep
inside the law, we are safe."
Aggie, without much apprehension of the exact situation, was
moved to a dimpled mirth over the essential humor of the method
"Gee, that's funny," she cried happily. "You an' me an' Joe
Garson handin' it to 'em, an' the bulls can't touch us! Next
thing you know, Harris will be havin' us incorporated as the
American Legal Crime Society."
"I shouldn't be in the least surprised," Mary assented, as she
finished buttoning her gloves. She smiled, but there was a hint
of grimness in the bending of her lips. That grimness remained,
as she glanced at the clock, then went toward the door of the
room, speaking over her shoulder.
"And, now I must be off to a most important engagement with Mr.
CHAPTER VIII. A TIP FROM HEADQUARTERS.
Presently, when she had finished the cigarette, Aggie proceeded
to her own chamber and there spent a considerable time in making
a toilette calculated to set off to its full advantage the
slender daintiness of her form. When at last she was gowned to
her satisfaction, she went into the drawing-room of the apartment
and gave herself over to more cigarettes, in an easy chair,
sprawled out in an attitude of comfort never taught in any
finishing school for young ladies. She at the same time indulged
her tastes in art and literature by reading the jokes and
studying the comic pictures in an evening paper, which the maid
brought in at her request. She had about exhausted this form of
amusement when the coming of Joe Garson, who was usually in and
out of the apartment a number of times daily, provided a welcome
diversion. After a casual greeting between the two, Aggie
explained, in response to his question, that Mary had gone out to
keep an engagement with Dick Gilder.
There was a little period of silence while the man, with the
resolute face and the light gray eyes that shone so clearly
underneath the thick, waving silver hair, held his head bent
downward as if in intent thought. When, finally, he spoke, there
was a certain quality in his voice that caused Aggie to regard
"Mary has been with him a good deal lately," he said, half
"That's what," was the curt agreement.
Garson brought out his next query with the brutal bluntness of
his kind; and yet there was a vague suggestion of tenderness in
his tones under the vulgar words.
"Think she's stuck on him?" He had seated himself on a settee
opposite the girl, who did not trouble on his account to assume a
posture more decorous, and he surveyed her keenly as he waited
for a reply.
"Why not?" Aggie retorted. "Bet your life I'd be, if I had a
chance. He's a swell boy. And his father's got the coin, too."
At this the man moved impatiently, and his eyes wandered to the
window. Again, Aggie studied him with a swift glance of
interrogation. Not being the possessor of an over-nice
sensibility as to the feelings of others, she now spoke briskly.
"Joe, if there's anything on your mind, shoot it."
Garson hesitated for a moment, then decided to unburden himself,
for he craved precise knowledge in this matter.
"It's Mary," he explained, with some embarrassment; "her and
"Well?" came the crisp question.
"Well, somehow," Garson went on, still somewhat confusedly, "I
can't see any good of it, for her."
"Why?" Aggie demanded, in surprise.
Garson's manner grew easier, now that the subject was well
"Old man Gilder's got a big pull," he vouchsafed, "and if he
caught on to his boy's going with Mary, he'd be likely to send
the police after us--strong! Believe me, I ain't looking for any
trip up the river."
Aggie shook her head, quite unaffected by the man's suggestion of
possible peril in the situation.
"We ain't done nothin' they can touch us for," she declared, with
assurance. "Mary says so."
Garson, however, was unconvinced, notwithstanding his deference
to the judgment of his leader.
"Whether we've done anything, or whether we haven't, don't
matter," he objected. "Once the police set out after you,
they'll get you. Russia ain't in it with some of the things I
have seen pulled off in this town."
"Oh, can that 'fraid talk!" Aggie exclaimed, roughly. "I tell you
they can't get us. We've got our fingers crossed."
She would have said more, but a noise at the hall door
interrupted her, and she looked up to see a man in the opening,
while behind him appeared the maid, protesting angrily.
"Never mind that announcing thing with me," the newcomer rasped
to the expostulating servant, in a voice that suited well his
thick-set figure, with the bullet-shaped head and the bull-like
neck. Then he turned to the two in the drawing-room, both of
whom had now risen to their feet.
"It's all right, Fannie," Aggie said hastily to the flustered
maid. "You can go."
As the servant, after an indignant toss of the head, departed
along the passage, the visitor clumped heavily forward and
stopped in the center of the room, looking first at one and then
the other of the two with a smile that was not pleasant. He was
not at pains to remove the derby hat which he wore rather far
back on his head. By this single sign, one might have recognized
Cassidy, who had had Mary Turner in his charge on the occasion of
her ill-fated visit to Edward Gilder's office, four years before,
though now the man had thickened somewhat, and his ruddy face was
grown even coarser.
"Hello, Joe!" he cried, familiarly. "Hello, Aggie!"
The light-gray eyes of the forger had narrowed perceptibly as he
recognized the identity of the unceremonious caller, while the
lines of his firmly set mouth took on an added fixity.
"Well?" he demanded. His voice was emotionless.
"Just a little friendly call," Cassidy announced, in his strident
voice. "Where's the lady of the house?"
"Out." It was Aggie who spoke, very sharply.
"Well, Joe," Cassidy went on, without paying further heed to the
girl for a moment, "when she comes back, just tell her it's up to
her to make a get-away, and to make it quick."
But Aggie was not one to be ignored under any circumstances.
Now, she spoke with some acerbity in her voice, which could at
will be wondrous soft and low.
"Say!" she retorted viciously, "you can't throw any scare into
us. You hadn't got anything on us. See?"
Cassidy, in response to this outburst, favored the girl with a
long stare, and there was hearty amusement in his tones as he
"Nothing on you, eh? Well, well, let's see." He regarded Garson
with a grin. "You are Joe Garson, forger." As he spoke, the
detective took a note-book from a pocket, found a page, and then
read: "First arrested in 1891, for forging the name of Edwin
Goodsell to a check for ten thousand dollars. Again arrested
June 19, 1893, for forgery. Arrested in April, 1898, for forging
the signature of Oscar Hemmenway to a series of bonds that were
counterfeit. Arrested as the man back of the Reilly gang, in
1903. Arrested in 1908 for forgery."
There was no change in the face or pose of the man who listened
to the reading. When it was done, and the officer looked up with
a resumption of his triumphant grin, Garson spoke quietly.
"Haven't any records of convictions, have you?"
The grin died, and a snarl sprang in its stead.
"No," he snapped, vindictively. "But we've got the right dope on
you, all right, Joe Garson." He turned savagely on the girl, who
now had regained her usual expression of demure innocence, but
with her rather too heavy brows drawn a little lower than their
wont, under the influence of an emotion otherwise concealed.
"And you're little Aggie Lynch," Cassidy declared, as he thrust
the note-book back into his pocket. "Just now, you're posing as
Mary Turner's cousin. You served two years in Burnsing for
blackmail. You were arrested in Buffalo, convicted, and served
your stretch. Nothing on you? Well, well!" Again there was
triumph in the officer's chuckle.
Aggie showed no least sign of perturbation in the face of this
revelation of her unsavory record. Only an expression of
half-incredulous wonder and delight beamed from her widely opened
blue eyes and was emphasized in the rounding of the little mouth.
"Why," she cried, and now there was softness enough in the cooing
notes, "my Gawd! It looks as though you had actually been
The sarcasm was without effect on the dull sensibilities of the
officer. He went on speaking with obvious enjoyment of the
extent to which his knowledge reached.
"And the head of the gang is Mary Turner. Arrested four years
ago for robbing the Emporium. Did her stretch of three years."
"Is that all you've got about her?" Garson demanded, with such
abruptness that Cassidy forgot his dignity sufficiently to answer
with an unqualified yes.
The forger continued speaking rapidly, and now there was an
undercurrent of feeling in his voice.
"Nothing in your record of her about her coming out without a
friend in the world, and trying to go straight? You ain't got
nothing in that pretty little book of your'n about your going to
the millinery store where she finally got a job, and tipping them
off to where she come from?"
"Sure, they was tipped off," Cassidy answered, quite unmoved.
And he added, swelling visibly with importance: "We got to
protect the city."
"Got anything in that record of your'n," Garson went on
venomously, "about her getting another job, and your following
her up again, and having her thrown out? Got it there about the
letter you had old Gilder write, so that his influence would get
"Oh, we had her right the first time," Cassidy admitted,
Then, the bitterness of Garson's soul was revealed by the
fierceness in his voice as he replied.
"You did not! She was railroaded for a job she never done. She
went in honest, and she came out honest."
The detective indulged himself in a cackle of sneering merriment.
"And that's why she's here now with a gang of crooks," he
Garson met the implication fairly.
"Where else should she be?" he demanded, violently. "You ain't
got nothing in that record about my jumping into the river after
her?" The forger's voice deepened and trembled with the
intensity of his emotion, which was now grown so strong that any
who listened and looked might guess something of the truth as to
his feeling toward this woman of whom he spoke. "That's where I
found her--a girl that never done nobody any harm, starving
because you police wouldn't give her a chance to work. In the
river because she wouldn't take the only other way that was left
her to make a living, because she was keeping straight!... Have
you got any of that in your book?"
Cassidy, who had been scowling in the face of this arraignment,
suddenly gave vent to a croaking laugh of derision.
"Huh!" he said, contemptuously. "I guess you're stuck on her,
At the words, an instantaneous change swept over Garson.
Hitherto, he had been tense, his face set with emotion, a man
strong and sullen, with eyes as clear and heartless as those of a
beast in the wild. Now, without warning, a startling
transformation was wrought. His form stiffened to rigidity after
one lightning-swift step forward, and his face grayed. The eyes
glowed with the fires of a man's heart in a spasm of hate. He
was the embodiment of rage, as he spoke huskily, his voice a
whisper that was yet louder than any shout.
The eyes of the two men locked. Cassidy struggled with all his
pride against the dominant fury this man hurled on him.
"What?" he demanded, blusteringly. But his tone was weaker than
"I mean," Garson repeated, and there was finality in his accents,
a deadly quality that was appalling, "I mean, cut it out--now,
here, and all the time! It don't go!" The voice rose slightly.
The effect of it was more penetrant than a scream. "It don't
go!... Do you get me?"
There was a short interval of silence, then the officer's eyes at
last fell. It was Aggie who relieved the tension of the scene.
"He's got you," she remarked, airily. "Oi, oi! He's got you!"
There were again a few seconds of pause, and then Cassidy made an
observation that revealed in some measure the shock of the
experience he had just undergone.
"You would have been a big man, Joe, if it hadn't been for that
temper of yours. It's got you into trouble once or twice
already. Some time it's likely to prove your finish."
Garson relaxed his immobility, and a little color crept into his
"That's my business," he responded, dully.
"Anyway," the officer went on, with a new confidence, now that
his eyes were free from the gaze that had burned into his soul,
"you've got to clear out, the whole gang of you--and do it
Aggie, who as a matter of fact began to feel that she was not
receiving her due share of attention, now interposed, moving
forward till her face was close to the detective's.
"We don't scare worth a cent," she snapped, with the virulence of
a vixen. "You can't do anything to us. We ain't broke the law."
There came a sudden ripple of laughter, and the charming lips
curved joyously, as she added: "Though perhaps we have bent it a
Cassidy sneered, outraged by such impudence on the part of an
"Don't make no difference what you've done," he growled. "Gee!"
he went on, with a heavy sneer. "But things are coming to a
pretty pass when a gang of crooks gets to arguing about their
rights. That's funny, that is!"
"Then laugh!" Aggie exclaimed, insolently, and made a face at the
officer. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"Well, you've got the tip," Cassidy returned, somewhat
disconcerted, after a stolid fashion of his own. "It's up to you
to take it, that's all. If you don't, one of you will make a
long visit with some people out of town, and it'll probably be
Mary. Remember, I'm giving it to you straight."
Aggie assumed her formal society manner, exaggerated to the point
"Do come again, little one," she chirruped, caressingly. "I've
enjoyed your visit so much!"
But Cassidy paid no apparent attention to her frivolousness; only
turned and went noisily out of the drawing-room, offering no
return to her daintily inflected good-afternoon.
For her own part, as she heard the outer door close behind the
detective, Aggie's expression grew vicious, and the heavy brows
drew very low, until the level line almost made her prettiness
"The truck-horse detective!" she sneered. "An eighteen collar,
and a six-and-a-half hat! He sure had his nerve, trying to bluff
But it was plain that Garson was of another mood. There was
anxiety in his face, as he stood staring vaguely out of the
"Perhaps it wasn't a bluff, Aggie," he suggested.
"Well, what have we done, I'd like to know?" the girl demanded,
confidently. She took a cigarette and a match from the tabouret
beside her, and stretched her feet comfortably, if very
inelegantly, on a chair opposite.
Garson answered with a note of weariness that was unlike him.
"It ain't what you have done," he said, quietly. "It's what they
can make a jury think you've done. And, once they set out to get
you--God, how they can frame things! If they ever start out after
Mary----" He did not finish the sentence, but sank down into his
chair with a groan that was almost of despair.
The girl replied with a burst of careless laughter.
"Joe," she said gaily, "you're one grand little forger, all
right, all right. But Mary's got the brains. Pooh, I'll string
along with her as far as she wants to go. She's educated, she is.
She ain't like you and me, Joe. She talks like a lady, and,
what's a damned sight harder, she acts like a lady. I guess I
know. Wake me up any old night and ask me--just ask me, that's
all. She's been tryin' to make a lady out of me!"
The vivaciousness of the girl distracted the man for the moment
from the gloom of his thoughts, and he turned to survey the
speaker with a cynical amusement.
"Swell chance!" he commented, drily.
"Oh, I'm not so worse! Just you watch out." The lively girl
sprang up, discarded the cigarette, adjusted an imaginary train,
and spoke lispingly in a society manner much more moderate and
convincing than that with which she had favored the retiring
Cassidy. Voice, pose and gesture proclaimed at least the
"How do you do, Mrs. Jones! So good of you to call!... My dear
Miss Smith, this is indeed a pleasure." She seated herself
again, quite primly now, and moved her hands over the tabouret
appropriately to her words. "One lump, or two?... Yes, I just
love bridge. No, I don't play," she continued, simpering; "but,
just the same, I love it." With this absurd ending, Aggie again
arranged her feet according to her liking on the opposite chair.
"That's the kind of stuff she's had me doing," she rattled on in
her coarser voice, "and believe me, Joe, it's damned near killing
me. But all the same," she hurried on, with a swift revulsion of
mood to the former serious topic, "I'm for Mary strong! You stick
to her, Joe, and you'll wear diamon's.... And that reminds me! I
wish she'd let me wear mine, but she won't. She says they're
vulgar for an innocent country girl like her cousin, Agnes Lynch.
Ain't that fierce?... How can anything be vulgar that's worth a
hundred and fifty a carat?"
CHAPTER IX. A LEGAL DOCUMENT.
Mary Turner spent less than an hour in that mysteriously
important engagement with Dick Gilder, of which she had spoken to
Aggie. After separating from the young man, she went alone down
Broadway, walking the few blocks of distance to Sigismund
Harris's office. On a corner, her attention was caught by the
forlorn face of a girl crossing into the side street. A closer
glance showed that the privation of the gaunt features was
emphasized by the scant garments, almost in tatters. Instantly,
Mary's quick sympathies were aroused, the more particularly since
the wretched child seemed of about the age she herself had been
when her great suffering had befallen. So, turning aside, she
soon caught up with the girl and spoke an inquiry.
It was the familiar story, a father out of work, a sick mother, a
brood of hungry children. Some confused words of distress
revealed the fact that the wobegone girl was even then fighting
the final battle of purity against starvation. That she still
fought on in such case proved enough as to her decency of nature,
wholesome despite squalid surroundings. Mary's heart was deeply
moved, and her words of comfort came with a simple sincerity that
was like new life to the sorely beset waif. She promised to
interest herself in securing employment for the father, such care
as the mother and children might need, along with a proper
situation for the girl herself. In evidence of her purpose, she
took her engagement-book from her bag, and set down the street
and number of the East Side tenement where the family possessed
the one room that mocked the word home, and she gave a banknote
to the girl to serve the immediate needs.
When she went back to resume her progress down Broadway, Mary
felt herself vastly cheered by the warm glow within, which is the
reward of a kindly act, gratefully received. And, on this
particular morning, she craved such assuagement of her spirit,
for the conscience that, in spite of all her misdeeds, still
lived was struggling within her. In her revolt against a world
that had wantonly inflicted on her the worst torments, Mary
Turner had thought that she might safely disregard those
principles in which she had been so carefully reared. She had
believed that by the deliberate adoption of a life of guile
within limits allowed by the law, she would find solace for her
wants, while feeling that thus she avenged herself in some slight
measure for the indignities she had undergone unjustly. Yet, as
the days passed, days of success as far as her scheming was
concerned, this brilliant woman, who had tried to deem herself
unscrupulous, found that lawlessness within the law failed to
satisfy something deep within her soul. The righteousness that
was her instinct was offended by the triumphs achieved through so
devious devices, though she resolutely set her will to suppress
any spiritual rebellion.
There was, as well, another grievance of her nature, yet more
subtle, infinitely more painful. This lay in her craving for
tenderness. She was wholly woman, notwithstanding the virility
of her intelligence, its audacity, its aggressiveness. She had a
heart yearning for the multitudinous affections that are the
prerogative of the feminine; she had a heart longing for love, to
receive and to give in full measure.... And her life was barren.
Since the death of her father, there had been none on whom she
could lavish the great gifts of her tenderness. Through the days
of her working in the store, circumstances had shut her out from
all association with others congenial. No need to rehearse the
impossibilities of companionship in the prison life. Since then,
the situation had not vitally improved, in spite of her better
worldly condition. For Garson, who had saved her from death, she
felt a strong and lasting gratitude--nothing that relieved the
longing for nobler affections. There was none other with whom
she had any intimacy except that, of a sort, with Aggie Lynch,
and by no possibility could the adventuress serve as an object of
deep regard. The girl was amusing enough, and, indeed, a most
likable person at her best. But she was, after all, a
shallow-pated individual, without a shred of principle of any
sort whatsoever, save the single merit of unswerving loyalty to
her "pals." Mary cherished a certain warm kindliness for the
first woman who had befriended her in any way, but beyond this
there was no finer feeling.
Nevertheless, it is not quite accurate to say that Mary Turner
had had no intimacy in which her heart might have been seriously
engaged. In one instance, of recent happening, she had been much
in association with a young man who was of excellent standing in
the world, who was of good birth, good education, of delightful
manners, and, too, wholesome and agreeable beyond the most of his
class. This was Dick Gilder, and, since her companionship with
him, Mary had undergone a revulsion greater than ever before
against the fate thrust on her, which now at last she had chosen
to welcome and nourish by acquiescence as best she might.
Of course, she could not waste tenderness on this man, for she
had deliberately set out to make him the instrument of her
vengeance against his father. For that very reason, she suffered
much from a conscience newly clamorous. Never for an instant did
she hesitate in her long-cherished plan of revenge against the
one who had brought ruin on her life, yet, through all her
satisfaction before the prospect of final victory after continued
delay, there ran the secret, inescapable sorrow over the fact
that she must employ this means to attain her end. She had no
thought of weakening, but the better spirit within her warred
against the lust to repay an eye for an eye. It was the new
Gospel against the old Law, and the fierceness of the struggle
rent her. Just now, the doing of the kindly act seemed somehow to
gratify not only her maternal instinct toward service of love,
but, too, to muffle for a little the rebuking voice of her inmost
So she went her way more at ease, more nearly content again with
herself and with her system of living. Indeed, as she was shown
into the private office of the ingenious interpreter of the law,
there was not a hint of any trouble beneath the bright mask of
her beauty, radiantly smiling.
Harris regarded his client with an appreciative eye, as he bowed
in greeting, and invited her to a seat. The lawyer was a man of
fine physique, with a splendid face of the best Semitic type, in
which were large, dark, sparkling eyes--eyes a Lombroso perhaps
might have judged rather too closely set. As a matter of fact,
Harris had suffered a flagrant injustice in his own life from a
suspicion of wrong-doing which he had not merited by any act.
This had caused him a loss of prestige in his profession. He
presently adopted the wily suggestion of the adage, that it is
well to have the game if you have the name, and he resolutely set
himself to the task of making as much money as possible by any
means convenient. Mary Turner as a client delighted his heart,
both because of the novelty of her ideas and for the munificence
of the fees which she ungrudgingly paid with never a protest.
So, as he beamed on her now, and spoke a compliment, it was
rather the lawyer than the man that was moved to admiration.
"Why, Miss Turner, how charming!" he declared, smiling. "Really,
my dear young lady, you look positively bridal."
"Oh, do you think so?" Mary rejoined, with a whimsical pout, as
she seated herself. For the moment her air became distrait, but
she quickly regained her poise, as the lawyer, who had dropped
back into his chair behind the desk, went on speaking. His tone
now was crisply business-like.
"I sent your cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch, the release which she is
to sign," he explained, "when she gets that money from General
Hastings. I wish you'd look it over, when you have time to
spare. It's all right, I'm sure, but I confess that I appreciate
your opinion of things, Miss Turner, even of legal
documents--yes, indeed, I do!--perhaps particularly of legal
"Thank you," Mary said, evidently a little gratified by the frank
praise of the learned gentleman for her abilities. "And have you
heard from them yet?" she inquired.
"No," the lawyer replied. "I gave them until to-morrow. If I
don't hear then, I shall start suit at once." Then the lawyer's
manner became unusually bland and self-satisfied as he opened a
drawer of the desk and brought forth a rather
formidable-appearing document, bearing a most impressive seal.
"You will be glad to know," he went on unctuously, "that I was
entirely successful in carrying out that idea of yours as to the
injunction. My dear Miss Turner," he went on with florid
compliment, "Portia was a squawking baby, compared with you."
"Thank you again," Mary answered, as she took the legal paper
which he held outstretched toward her. Her scarlet lips were
curved happily, and the clear oval of her cheeks blossomed to a
deeper rose. For a moment, her glance ran over the words of the
page. Then she looked up at the lawyer, and there were new
lusters in the violet eyes.
"It's splendid," she declared. "Did you have much trouble in
Harris permitted himself the indulgence of an unprofessional
chuckle of keenest amusement before he answered.
"Why, no!" he declared, with reminiscent enjoyment in his manner.
"That is, not really!" There was an enormous complacency in his
air over the event. "But, at the outset, when I made the
request, the judge just naturally nearly fell off the bench.
Then, I showed him that Detroit case, to which you had drawn my
attention, and the upshot of it all was that he gave me what I
wanted without a whimper. He couldn't help himself, you know.
That's the long and the short of it."
That mysterious document with the imposing seal, the request for
which had nearly caused a judge to fall off the bench, reposed
safely in Mary's bag when she, returned to the apartment after
the visit to the lawyer's office.
CHAPTER X. MARKED MONEY.
Mary had scarcely received from Aggie an account of Cassidy's
threatening invasion, when the maid announced that Mr. Irwin had
"Show him in, in just two minutes," Mary directed.
"Who's the gink?" Aggie demanded, with that slangy diction which
was her habit.
"You ought to know," Mary returned, smiling a little. "He's the
lawyer retained by General Hastings in the matter of a certain
"Oh, you mean yours truly," Aggie exclaimed, not in the least
abashed by her forgetfulness in an affair that concerned herself
so closely. "Hope he's brought the money. What about it?"
"Leave the room now," Mary ordered, crisply. "When I call to you,
come in, but be sure and leave everything to me. Merely follow
my lead. And, Agnes--be very ingenue."
"Oh, I'm wise--I'm wise," Aggie nodded, as she hurried out toward
her bedroom. "I'll be a squab--surest thing you know!"
Next moment, Mary gave a formal greeting to the lawyer who
represented the man she planned to mulct effectively, and invited
him to a chair near her, while she herself retained her place at
the desk, within a drawer of which she had just locked the
formidable-appearing document received from Harris.
Irwin lost no time in coming to the point.
"I called in reference to this suit, which Miss Agnes Lynch
threatens to bring against my client, General Hastings."
Mary regarded the attorney with a level glance, serenely
expressionless as far as could be achieved by eyes so clear and
shining, and her voice was cold as she replied with significant
"It's not a threat, Mr. Irwin. The suit will be brought."
The lawyer frowned, and there was a strident note in his voice
when he answered, meeting her glance with an uncompromising stare
"You realize, of course," he said finally, "that this is merely
There was not the change of a feature in the face of the woman
who listened to the accusation. Her eyes steadfastly retained
their clear gaze into his; her voice was still coldly formal, as
"If it's blackmail, Mr. Irwin, why don't you consult the police?"
she inquired, with manifest disdain. Mary turned to the maid,
who now entered in response to the bell she had sounded a minute
before. "Fanny, will you ask Miss Lynch to come in, please?"
Then she faced the lawyer again, with an aloofness of manner that
was contemptuous. "Really, Mr. Irwin," she drawled, "why don't
you take this matter to the police?"
The reply was uttered with conspicuous exasperation.
"You know perfectly well," the lawyer said bitterly, "that
General Hastings cannot afford such publicity. His position would
"Oh, as for that," Mary suggested evenly, and now there was a
trace of flippancy in her fashion of speaking, "I'm sure the
police would keep your complaint a secret. Really, you know, Mr.
Irwin, I think you had better take your troubles to the police,
rather than to me. You will get much more sympathy from them."
The lawyer sprang up, with an air of sudden determination.
"Very well, I will then," he declared, sternly. "I will!"
Mary, from her vantage point at the desk across from him, smiled
a smile that would have been very engaging to any man under more
favorable circumstances, and she pushed in his direction the
telephone that stood there.
"3100, Spring," she remarked, encouragingly, "will bring an
officer almost immediately." She leaned back in her chair, and
surveyed the baffled man amusedly.
The lawyer was furious over the failure of his effort to
intimidate this extraordinarily self-possessed young woman, who
made a mock of his every thrust. But he was by no means at the
end of his resources.
"Nevertheless," he rejoined, "you know perfectly well that
General Hastings never promised to marry this girl. You
know----" He broke off as Aggie entered the drawing-room,
Now, the girl was demure in seeming almost beyond belief, a
childish creature, very fair and dainty, guileless surely, with
those untroubled eyes of blue, those softly curving lips of
warmest red and the more delicate bloom in the rounded cheeks.
There were the charms of innocence and simplicity in the manner
of her as she stopped just within the doorway, whence she
regarded Mary with a timid, pleading gaze, her slender little
form poised lightly as if for flight
"Did you want me, dear?" she asked. There was something
half-plaintive in the modulated cadences of the query.
"Agnes," Mary answered affectionately, "this is Mr. Irwin, who
has come to see you in behalf of General Hastings."
"Oh!" the girl murmured, her voice quivering a little, as the
lawyer, after a short nod, dropped again into his seat; "oh, I'm
so frightened!" She hurried, fluttering, to a low stool behind
the desk, beside Mary's chair, and there she sank down, drooping
slightly, and catching hold of one of Mary's hands as if in mute
pleading for protection against the fear that beset her chaste
"Nonsense!" Mary exclaimed, soothingly. "There's really nothing
at all to be frightened about, my dear child." Her voice was
that with which one seeks to cajole a terrified infant. "You
mustn't be afraid, Agnes. Mr. Irwin says that General Hastings
did not promise to marry you. Of course, you understand, my
dear, that under no circumstances must you say anything that
isn't strictly true, and that, if he did not promise to marry
you, you have no case--none at all. Now, Agnes, tell me: did
General Hastings promise to marry you?"
"Oh, yes--oh, yes, indeed!" Aggie cried, falteringly. "And I wish
he would. He's such a delightful old gentleman!" As she spoke,
the girl let go Mary's hand and clasped her own together
The legal representative of the delightful old gentleman scowled
disgustedly at this outburst. His voice was portentous, as he
put a question.
"Was that promise made in writing?"
"No," Aggie answered, gushingly. "But all his letters were in
writing, you know. Such wonderful letters!" She raised her blue
eyes toward the ceiling in a naive rapture. "So tender, and
so--er--interesting!" Somehow, the inflection on the last word
did not altogether suggest the ingenuous.
"Yes, yes, I dare say," Irwin agreed, hastily, with some
evidences of chagrin. He had no intention of dwelling on that
feature of the letters, concerning which he had no doubt
whatsoever, since he knew the amorous General very well indeed.
They would be interesting, beyond shadow of questioning, horribly
interesting. Such was the confessed opinion of the swain himself
who had written them in his folly--horribly interesting to all
the reading public of the country, since the General was a
Mary intervened with a suavity that infuriated the lawyer almost
"But you're quite sure, Agnes," she questioned gently, "that
General Hastings did promise to marry you?" The candor of her
manner was perfect.
And the answer of Aggie was given with a like convincing
"Oh, yes!" she declared, tensely. "Why, I would swear to it."
The limpid eyes, so appealing in their soft lusters, went first
to Mary, then gazed trustingly into those of the routed attorney.
"You see, Mr. Irwin, she would swear to that," emphasized Mary.
"We're beaten," he confessed, dejectedly, turning his glance
toward Mary, whom, plainly, he regarded as his real adversary in
the combat on his client's behalf. "I'm going to be quite frank
with you, Miss Turner, quite frank," he stated with more
geniality, though with a very crestfallen air. Somehow, indeed,
there was just a shade too much of the crestfallen in the fashion
of his utterance, and the woman whom he addressed watched warily
as he continued. "We can't afford any scandal, so we're going to
settle at your own terms." He paused expectantly, but Mary
offered no comment; only maintained her alert scrutiny of the
man. The lawyer, therefore, leaned forward with a semblance of
frank eagerness. Instantly, Aggie had become agog with greedily
blissful anticipations, and she uttered a slight ejaculation of
joy; but Irwin paid no heed to her. He was occupied in taking
from his pocket a thick bill-case, and from this presently a
sheaf of banknotes, which he laid on the desk before Mary, with a
little laugh of discomfiture over having been beaten in the
As he did so, Aggie thrust forth an avaricious hand, but it was
caught and held by Mary before it reached above the top of the
desk, and the avaricious gesture passed unobserved by the
"We can't fight where ladies are concerned," he went on,
assuming, as best he might contrive, a chivalrous tone. "So, if
you will just hand over General Hastings' letters, why, here's
Much to the speaker's surprise, there followed an interval of
silence, and his puzzlement showed in the knitting of his brows.
"You have the letters, haven't you?" he demanded, abruptly.
Aggie coyly took a thick bundle from its resting place on her
"They never leave me," she murmured, with dulcet passion. There
was in her voice a suggestion of desolation--a desolation that
was the blighting effect of letting the cherished missives go
"Well, they can leave you now, all right," the lawyer remarked
unsympathetically, but with returning cheerfulness, since he saw
the end of his quest in visible form before him. He reached
quickly forward for the packet, which Aggie extended willingly
enough. But it was Mary who, with a swift movement, caught and
"Not quite yet, Mr. Irwin, I'm afraid," she said, calmly.
The lawyer barely suppressed a violent ejaculation of annoyance.
"But there's the money waiting for you," he protested,
The rejoinder from Mary was spoken with great deliberation, yet
with a note of determination that caused a quick and acute
anxiety to the General's representative.
"I think," Mary explained tranquilly, "that you had better see
our lawyer, Mr. Harris, in reference to this. We women know
nothing of such details of business settlement."
"Oh, there's no need for all that formality," Irwin urged, with a
great appearance of bland friendliness.
"Just the same," Mary persisted, unimpressed, "I'm quite sure you
would better see Mr. Harris first." There was a cadence of
insistence in her voice that assured the lawyer as to the
futility of further pretense on his part.
"Oh, I see," he said disagreeably, with a frown to indicate his
complete sagacity in the premises.
"I thought you would, Mr. Irwin," Mary returned, and now she
smiled in a kindly manner, which, nevertheless, gave no pleasure
to the chagrined man before her. As he rose, she went on
crisply: "If you'll take the money to Mr. Harris, Miss Lynch will
meet you in his office at four o'clock this afternoon, and, when
her suit for damages for breach of promise has been legally
settled out of court, you will get the letters....
Good-afternoon, Mr. Irwin."
The lawyer made a hurried bow which took in both of the women,
and walked quickly toward the door. But he was arrested before
he reached it by the voice of Mary, speaking again, still in that
imperturbable evenness which so rasped his nerves, for all its
mellow resonance. But this time there was a sting, of the
sharpest, in the words themselves.
"Oh, you forgot your marked money, Mr. Irwin," Mary said.
The lawyer wheeled, and stood staring at the speaker with a
certain sheepishness of expression that bore witness to the
completeness of his discomfiture. Without a word, after a long
moment in which he perceived intently the delicate, yet subtly
energetic, loveliness of this slender woman, he walked back to
the desk, picked up the money, and restored it to the bill-case.
This done, at last he spoke, with a new respect in his voice, a
quizzical smile on his rather thin lips.
"Young woman," he said emphatically, "you ought to have been a
lawyer." And with that laudatory confession of her skill, he
finally took his departure, while Mary smiled in a triumph she
was at no pains to conceal, and Aggie sat gaping astonishment
over the surprising turn of events.
It was the latter volatile person who ended the silence that
followed on the lawyer's going.
"You've darn near broke my heart," she cried, bouncing up
violently, "letting all that money go out of the house.... Say,
how did you know it was marked?"
"I didn't," Mary replied, blandly; "but it was a pretty good
guess, wasn't it? Couldn't you see that all he wanted was to get
the letters, and have us take the marked money? Then, my simple
young friend, we would have been arrested very neatly indeed--for
Aggie's innocent eyes rounded in an amazed consternation, which
was not at all assumed.
"Gee!" she cried. "That would have been fierce! And now?" she
Mary's answer repudiated any possibility of fear.
"And now," she explained contentedly, "he really will go to our
lawyer. There, he will pay over that same marked money. Then,
he will get the letters he wants so much. And, just because it's
a strictly business transaction between two lawyers, with
everything done according to legal ethics----"
"What's legal ethics?" Aggie demanded, impetuously. "They sound
some tasty!" With the comment, she dropped weakly into a chair.
Mary laughed in care-free enjoyment, as well she might after
winning the victory in such a battle of wits.
"Oh," she said, happily, "you just get it legally, and you get
twice as much!"
"And it's actually the same old game!" Aggie mused. She was doing
her best to get a clear understanding of the matter, though to
her it was all a mystery most esoteric.
Mary reviewed the case succinctly for the other's enlightenment.
"Yes, it's the same game precisely," she affirmed. "A shameless
old roue makes love to you, and he writes you a stack of silly
The pouting lips of the listener took on a pathetic droop, and
her voice quivered as she spoke with an effective semblance of
"He might have ruined my life!"
Mary continued without giving much attention to these
"If you had asked him for all this money for the return of his
letters, it would have been blackmail, and we'd have gone to jail
in all human probability. But we did no such thing--no, indeed!
What we did wasn't anything like that in the eyes of the law.
What we did was merely to have your lawyer take steps toward a
suit for damages for breach of promise of marriage for the sum of
ten thousand dollars. Then, his lawyer appears in behalf of
General Hastings, and there follow a number of conferences
between the legal representatives of the opposing parties. By
means of these conferences, the two legal gentlemen run up very
respectable bills of expenses. In the end, we get our ten
thousand dollars, and the flighty old General gets back his
letters... . My dear," Mary concluded vaingloriously, "we're
inside the law, and so we're perfectly safe. And there you are!"
CHAPTER XI. THE THIEF.
Mary remained in joyous spirits after her victorious matching of
brains against a lawyer of high standing in his profession. For
the time being, conscience was muted by gratified ambition. Her
thoughts just then were far from the miseries of the past, with
their evil train of consequences in the present. But that past
was soon to be recalled to her with a vividness most terrible.
She had entered the telephone-booth, which she had caused to be
installed out of an extra closet of her bedroom for the sake of
greater privacy on occasion, and it was during her absence from
the drawing-room that Garson again came into the apartment,
seeking her. On being told by Aggie as to Mary's whereabouts, he
sat down to await her return, listening without much interest to
the chatter of the adventuress.... It was just then that the maid
"There's a girl wants to see Miss Turner," she explained.
The irrepressible Aggie put on her most finically elegant air.
"Has she a card?" she inquired haughtily, while the maid
"No," was the answer. "But she says it's important. I guess the
poor thing's in hard luck, from the look of her," the kindly
"Oh, then she'll be welcome, of course," Aggie declared, and
Garson nodded in acquiescence. "Tell her to come in and wait,
Fannie. Miss Turner will be here right away." She turned to
Garson as the maid left the room. "Mary sure is an easy boob,"
she remarked, cheerfully. "Bless her soft heart!"
A curiously gentle smile of appreciation softened the immobility
of the forger's face as he again nodded assent.
"We might just as well pipe off the skirt before Mary gets here,"
Aggie suggested, with eagerness.
A minute later, a girl perhaps twenty years of age stepped just
within the doorway, and stood there with eyes downcast, after one
swift, furtive glance about her. Her whole appearance was that of
dejection. Her soiled black gown, the cringing posture, the
pallor of her face, proclaimed the abject misery of her state.
Aggie, who was not exuberant in her sympathies for any one other
than herself, addressed the newcomer with a patronizing
inflection, modulated in her best manner.
"Won't you come in, please?" she requested.
The shrinking girl shot another veiled look in the direction of
"Are you Miss Turner?" she asked, in a voice broken by nervous
"Really, I am very sorry," Aggie replied, primly; "but I am only
her cousin, Miss Agnes Lynch. But Miss Turner is likely to be
back any minute now."
"Can I wait?" came the timid question.
"Certainly," Aggie answered, hospitably. "Please sit down."
As the girl obediently sank down on the nearest chair, Garson
addressed her sharply, so that the visitor started uneasily at
the unexpected sound.
"You don't know Miss Turner?"
"No," came the faint reply.
"Then, what do you want to see her about?"
There was a brief pause before the girl could pluck up courage
enough for an answer. Then, it was spoken confusedly, almost in
"She once helped a girl friend of mine, and I thought--I
"You thought she might help you," Garson interrupted.
But Aggie, too, possessed some perceptive powers, despite the
fact that she preferred to use them little in ordinary affairs.
"You have been in stir--prison, I mean." She hastily corrected
the lapse into underworld slang.
Came a distressed muttering of assent from the girl.
"How sad!" Aggie remarked, in a voice of shocked pity for one so
inconceivably unfortunate. "How very, very sad!"
This ingenuous method of diversion was put to an end by the
entrance of Mary, who stopped short on seeing the limp figure
huddled in the chair.
"A visitor, Agnes?" she inquired.
At the sound of her voice, and before Aggie could hit on a
fittingly elegant form of reply, the girl looked up. And now,
for the first time, she spoke with some degree of energy, albeit
there was a sinister undertone in the husky voice.
"You're Miss Turner?" she questioned.
"Yes," Mary said, simply. Her words rang kindly; and she smiled
A gasp burst from the white lips of the girl, and she cowered as
one stricken physically.
"Mary Turner! Oh, my God! I----" She hid her face within her arms
and sat bent until her head rested on her knees in an abasement
Vaguely startled by the hysterical outburst from the girl, Mary's
immediate thought was that here was a pitiful instance of one
suffering from starvation.
"Joe," she directed rapidly, "have Fannie bring a glass of milk
with an egg and a little brandy in it, right away."
The girl in the chair was shaking soundlessly under the stress of
her emotions. A few disjointed phrases fell from her quivering
"I didn't know--oh, I couldn't!"
"Don't try to talk just now," Mary warned, reassuringly. "Wait
until you've had something to eat."
Aggie, who had observed developments closely, now lifted her
voice in tardy lamentations over her own stupidity. There was no
affectation of the fine lady in her self-reproach.
"Why, the poor gawk's hungry!" she exclaimed! "And I never got
the dope on her. Ain't I the simp!"
The girl regained a degree of self-control, and showed something
of forlorn dignity.
"Yes," she said dully, "I'm starving."
Mary regarded the afflicted creature with that sympathy born only
"Yes," she said softly, "I understand." Then she spoke to Aggie.
"Take her to my room, and let her rest there for a while. Have
her drink the egg and milk slowly, and then lie down for a few
Aggie obeyed with an air of bustling activity.
"Sure, I will!" she declared. She went to the girl and helped
her to stand up. "We'll fix you out all right," she said,
comfortingly. "Come along with me.... Hungry! Gee, but that's
Half an hour afterward, while Mary was at her desk, giving part
of her attention to Joe Garson, who sat near, and part to a
rather formidable pile of neatly arranged papers, Aggie reported
with her charge, who, though still shambling of gait, and
stooping, showed by some faint color in her face and an increased