Part 3 out of 6
steadiness of bearing that the food had already strengthened her
"She would come," Aggie explained. "I thought she ought to rest
for a while longer anyhow." She half-shoved the girl into a
chair opposite the desk, in an absurd travesty on the maternal
"I'm all right, I tell you," came the querulous protest.
Whereupon, Aggie gave over the uncongenial task of mothering, and
settled herself comfortably in a chair, with her legs merely
crossed as a compromise between ease and propriety.
"Are you quite sure?" Mary said to the girl. And then, as the
other nodded in assent, she spoke with a compelling kindliness.
"Then you must tell us all about it--this trouble of yours, you
know. What is your name?"
Once again the girl had recourse to the swift, searching, furtive
glance, but her voice was colorless as she replied, listlessly:
Mary regarded the girl with an expression that was inscrutable
when she spoke again.
"I don't have to ask if you have been in prison," she said
gravely. "Your face shows it."
"I--I came out--three months ago," was the halting admission.
Mary watched the shrinking figure reflectively for a long minute
before she spoke again. Then there was a deeper resonance in her
"And you'd made up your mind to go straight?"
"Yes." The word was a whisper.
"You were going to do what the chaplain had told you," Mary went
on in a voice vibrant with varied emotions. "You were going to
start all over again, weren't you? You were going to begin a new
life, weren't you?" The bent head of the girl bent still lower
in assent. There came a cynical note into Mary's utterance now.
"It doesn't work very well, does it?" she asked, bitterly.
The girl gave sullen agreement.
"No," she said dully; "I'm whipped."
Mary's manner changed on the instant. She spoke cheerfully for
the first time.
"Well, then," she questioned, "how would you like to work with
The girl looked up for a second with another of her fleeting,
"You--you mean that----?"
Mary explained her intention in the matter very explicitly. Her
voice grew boastful.
"Our kind of work pays well when you know how. Look at us."
Aggie welcomed the opportunity for speech, too long delayed.
"Hats from Joseph's, gowns from Lucile's, and cracked ice from
Tiffany's. But it ain't ladylike to wear it," she concluded with
a reproachful glance at her mentor.
Mary disregarded the frivolous interruption, and went on speaking
to the girl, and now there was something pleasantly cajoling in
"Suppose I should stake you for the present, and put you in with
a good crowd. All you would have to do would be to answer
advertisements for servant girls. I will see that you have the
best of references. Then, when you get in with the right people,
you will open the front door some night and let in the gang. Of
course, you will make a get-away when they do, and get your bit
There flashed still another of the swift, sly glances, and the
lips of the girl parted as if she would speak. But she did not;
only, her head sagged even lower on her breast, and the shrunken
form grew yet more shrunken. Mary, watching closely, saw these
signs, and in the same instant a change came over her. Where
before there had been an underlying suggestion of hardness, there
was now a womanly warmth of genuine sympathy.
"It doesn't suit you?" she said, very softly. "Good! I was in
hopes it wouldn't. So, here's another plan." Her voice had
become very winning. "Suppose you could go West--some place
where you would have a fair chance, with money enough so you
could live like a human being till you got a start?"
There came a tensing of the relaxed form, and the head lifted a
little so that the girl could look at her questioner. And, this
time, the glance, though of the briefest, was less furtive.
"I will give you that chance," Mary said simply, "if you really
That speech was like a current of strength to the wretched girl.
She sat suddenly erect, and her words came eagerly.
"Oh, I do!" And now her hungry gaze remained fast on the face of
the woman who offered her salvation.
Mary sprang up and moved a step toward the girl who continued to
stare at her, fascinated. She was now all wholesome. The memory
of her own wrongs surged in her during this moment only to make
her more appreciative of the blessedness of seemly life. She was
moved to a divine compassion over this waif for whom she might
prove a beneficent providence. There was profound conviction in
the emphasis with which she spoke her warning.
"Then I have just one thing to say to you first. If you are
going to live straight, start straight, and then go through with
it. Do you know what that means?"
"You mean, keep straight all the time?" The girl spoke with a
force drawn from the other's strength.
"I mean more than that," Mary went on earnestly. "I mean, forget
that you were ever in prison. I don't know what you have done--I
don't think I care. But whatever it was, you have paid for it--a
pretty big price, too." Into these last words there crept the
pathos of one who knew. The sympathy of it stirred the listener
to fearful memories.
"I have, I have!" The thin voice broke, wailing.
"Well, then," Mary went on, "just begin all over again, and be
sure you stand up for your rights. Don't let them make you pay a
second time. Go where no one knows you, and don't tell the first
people who are kind to you that you have been crooked. If they
think you are straight, why, be it. Then nobody will have any
right to complain." Her tone grew suddenly pleading. "Will you
promise me this?"
"Yes, I promise," came the answer, very gravely, quickened with
"Good!" Mary exclaimed, with a smile of approval. "Wait a
minute," she added, and left the room.
"Huh! Pretty soft for some people," Aggie remarked to Garson,
with a sniff. She felt no alarm lest she wound the sensibilities
of the girl. She herself had never let delicacy interfere
between herself and money. It was really stranger that the
forger, who possessed a more sympathetic nature, did not scruple
to speak an assent openly. Somehow, he felt an inexplicable
prejudice against this abject recipient of Mary's bounty, though
not for the world would he have checked the generous impulse on
the part of the woman he so revered. It was his instinct on her
behalf that made him now vaguely uneasy, as if he sensed some
malign influence against her there present with them.
Mary returned soon. In her hand she carried a roll of bills.
She went to the girl and held out the money. Her voice was
business-like now, but very kind.
"Take this. It will pay your fare West, and keep you quite a
while if you are careful."
But, without warning, a revulsion seized on the girl. Of a
sudden, she shrank again, and turned her head away, and her body
"I can't take it," she stammered. "I can't! I can't!"
Mary stood silent for a moment from sheer amazement over the
change. When she spoke, her voice had hardened a little. It is
not agreeable to have one's beneficence flouted.
"Didn't you come here for help?" she demanded.
"Yes," was the faltering reply, "but--but--I didn't know--it was
you!" The words came with a rush of desperation.
"Then, you have met me before?" Mary said, quietly.
"No, no!" The girl's voice rose shrill.
Aggie spoke her mind with commendable frankness.
And, once again, Garson agreed. His yes was spoken in a tone of
complete certainty. That Mary, too, was of their opinion was
shown in her next words.
"So, you have met me before? Where?"
The girl unwittingly made confession in her halting words.
"I--I can't tell you." There was despair in her voice.
"You must." Mary spoke with severity. She felt that this
mystery held in it something sinister to herself. "You must," she
The girl only crouched lower.
"I can't!" she cried again. She was panting as if in exhaustion.
"Why can't you?" Mary insisted. She had no sympathy now for the
girl's distress, merely a great suspicious curiosity.
"Because--because----" The girl could not go on.
Mary's usual shrewdness came to her aid, and she put her next
question in a different direction.
"What were you sent up for?" she asked briskly. "Tell me."
It was Garson who broke the silence that followed.
"Come on, now!" he ordered. There was a savage note in his voice
under which the girl visibly winced. Mary made a gesture toward
him that he should not interfere. Nevertheless, the man's
command had in it a threat which the girl could not resist and
she answered, though with a reluctance that made the words seem
dragged from her by some outside force--as indeed they were.
"Stealing what?" Mary said.
A reply came in a breath so low that it was barely audible.
In a flash of intuition, the whole truth was revealed to the
woman who stood looking down at the cowering creature before her.
"The Emporium!" she repeated. There was a tragedy in the single
word. Her voice grew cold with hate, the hate born of innocence
long tortured. "Then you are the one who----"
The accusation was cut short by the girl's shriek.
"I am not! I am not, I tell you."
For a moment, Mary lost her poise. Her voice rose in a flare of
"You are! You are!"
The craven spirit of the girl could struggle no more. She could
only sit in a huddled, shaking heap of dread. The woman before
her had been disciplined by sorrow to sternest self-control.
Though racked by emotions most intolerable, Mary soon mastered
their expression to such an extent that when she spoke again, as
if in self-communion, her words came quietly, yet with overtones
of a supreme wo.
"She did it!" Then, after a little, she addressed the girl with a
certain wondering before this mystery of horror. "Why did you
throw the blame on me?"
The girl made several efforts before her mumbling became
intelligible, and then her speech was gasping, broken with fear.
"I found out they were watching me, and I was afraid they would
catch me. So, I took them and ran into the cloak-room, and put
them in a locker that wasn't close to mine, and some in the
pocket of a coat that was hanging there. God knows I didn't know
whose it was. I just put them there--I was frightened----"
"And you let me go to prison for three years!" There was a menace
in Mary's voice under which the girl cringed again.
"I was scared," she whined. "I didn't dare to tell."
"But they caught you later," Mary went on inexorably. "Why didn't
you tell then?"
"I was afraid," came the answer from the shuddering girl. "I
told them it was the first time I had taken anything and they let
me off with a year."
Once more, the wrath of the victim flamed high.
"You!" Mary cried. "You cried and lied, and they let you off
with a year. I wouldn't cry. I told the truth --and----" Her
voice broke in a tearless sob. The color had gone out of her
face, and she stood rigid, looking down at the girl whose crime
had ruined her life with an expression of infinite loathing in
her eyes. Garson rose from his chair as if to go to her, and his
face passed swiftly from compassion to ferocity as his gaze went
from the woman he had saved from the river to the girl who had
been the first cause of her seeking a grave in the waters. Yet,
though he longed with every fiber of him to comfort the stricken
woman, he did not dare intrude upon her in this time of her
anguish, but quietly dropped back into his seat and sat watching
with eyes now tender, now baleful, as they shifted their
Aggie took advantage of the pause. Her voice was acid.
"Some people are sneaks--just sneaks!"
Somehow, the speech was welcome to the girl, gave her a touch of
courage sufficient for cowardly protestations. It seemed to
relieve the tension drawn by the other woman's torment. It was
more like the abuse that was familiar to her. A gush of tears
"I'll never forgive myself, never!" she moaned.
Contempt mounted in Mary's breast.
"Oh, yes, you will," she said, malevolently. "People forgive
themselves pretty easily." The contempt checked for a little the
ravages of her grief. "Stop crying," she commanded harshly.
"Nobody is going to hurt you." She thrust the money again toward
the girl, and crowded it into the half-reluctant, half-greedy
"Take it, and get out." The contempt in her voice rang still
Even the puling creature writhed under the lash of Mary's tones.
She sprang up, slinking back a step.
"I can't take it!" she cried, whimpering. But she did not drop
"Take the chance while you have it," Mary counseled, still with
the contempt that pierced even the hardened girl's sense of
selfishness. She pointed toward the door. "Go!--before I change
The girl needed, indeed, no second bidding. With the money still
clutched in her hand, she went forth swiftly, stumbling a little
in her haste, fearful lest, at the last moment, the woman she had
so wronged should in fact change in mood, take back the
money--ay, even give her over to that terrible man with the eyes
of hate, to put her to death as she deserved.
Freed from the miasma of that presence, Mary remained motionless
for a long minute, then sighed from her tortured heart. She
turned and went slowly to her chair at the desk, and seated
herself languidly, weakened by the ordeal through which she had
"A girl I didn't know!" she said, bewilderedly; "perhaps had
never spoken to--who smashed my life like that! Oh, if it wasn't
so awful, it would be--funny! It would be funny!" A gust of
hysterical laughter burst from her. "Why, it is funny!" she
cried, wildly. "It is funny!"
"Mary!" Garson exclaimed sharply. He leaped across the room to
face her. "That's no good!" he said severely.
Aggie, too, rushed forward.
"No good at all!" she declared loudly.
The interference recalled the distressed woman to herself. She
made a desperate effort for self-command. Little by little, the
unmeaning look died down, and presently she sat silent and
moveless, staring at the two with stormy eyes out of a wan face.
"You were right," she said at last, in a lifeless voice. "It's
done, and can't be undone. I was a fool to let it affect me like
that. I really thought I had lost all feeling about it, but the
sight of that girl--the knowledge that she had done it--brought
it all back to me. Well, you understand, don't you?"
"We understand," Garson said, grimly. But there was more than
grimness, infinitely more, in the expression of his clear,
Aggie thought that it was her turn to voice herself, which she
did without undue restraint.
"Perhaps, we do, but I dunno! I'll tell you one thing, though.
If any dame sent me up for three years and then wanted money from
me, do you think she'd get it? Wake me up any time in the night
and ask me. Not much--not a little bit much! I'd hang on to it
like an old woman to her last tooth." And that was Aggie's final
summing up of her impressions concerning the scene she had just
CHAPTER XII. A BRIDEGROOM SPURNED.
After Aggie's vigorous comment there followed a long silence.
That volatile young person, little troubled as she was by
sensitiveness, guessed the fact that just now further discussion
of the event would be distasteful to Mary, and so she betook
herself discreetly to a cigarette and the illustrations of a
popular magazine devoted to the stage. As for the man, his
reticence was really from a fear lest in speaking at all he might
speak too freely, might betray the pervasive violence of his
feeling. So, he sat motionless and wordless, his eyes carefully
avoiding Mary in order that she might not be disturbed by the
invisible vibrations thus sent from one to another. Mary herself
was shaken to the depths. A great weariness, a weariness that
cried the worthlessness of all things, had fallen upon her. It
rested leaden on her soul. It weighed down her body as well,
though that mattered little indeed. Yet, since she could
minister to that readily, she rose and went to a settee on the
opposite side of the room where she arranged herself among the
cushions in a posture more luxurious than her rather precise
early training usually permitted her to assume in the presence of
others. There she rested, and soon felt the tides of energy
again flowing in her blood, and that same vitality, too, wrought
healing even for her agonized soul, though more slowly. The
perfect health of her gave her strength to recover speedily from
the shock she had sustained. It was this health that made the
glory of the flawless skin, white with a living white that
revealed the coursing blood beneath, and the crimson lips that
bent in smiles so tender, or so wistful, and the limpid eyes in
which always lurked fires that sometimes burst into flame, the
lustrous mass of undulating hair that sparkled in the sunlight
like an aureole to her face or framed it in heavy splendors with
its shadows, and the supple erectness of her graceful carriage,
the lithe dignity of her every movement.
But, at last, she stirred uneasily and sat up. Garson accepted
this as a sufficient warrant for speech.
"You know--Aggie told you--that Cassidy was up here from
Headquarters. He didn't put a name to it, but I'm on." Mary
regarded him inquiringly, and he continued, putting the fact with
a certain brutal bluntness after the habit of his class. "I
guess you'll have to quit seeing young Gilder. The bulls are
wise. His father has made a holler.
"Don't let that worry you, Joe," she said tranquilly. She allowed
a few seconds go by, then added as if quite indifferent: "I was
married to Dick Gilder this morning." There came a squeal of
amazement from Aggie, a start of incredulity from Garson.
"Yes," Mary repeated evenly, "I was married to him this morning.
That was my important engagement," she added with a smile toward
Aggie. For some intuitive reason, mysterious to herself, she did
not care to meet the man's eyes at that moment.
Aggie sat erect, her baby face alive with worldly glee.
"My Gawd, what luck!" she exclaimed noisily. "Why, he's a king
fish, he is. Gee! But I'm glad you landed him!"
"Thank you," Mary said with a smile that was the result of her
sense of humor rather than from any tenderness.
It was then that Garson spoke. He was a delicate man in his
sensibilities at times, in spite of the fact that he followed
devious methods in his manner of gaining a livelihood. So, now,
he put a question of vital significance.
"Do you love him?"
The question caught Mary all unprepared, but she retained her
self-control sufficiently to make her answer in a voice that to
the ordinary ear would have revealed no least tremor.
"No," she said. She offered no explanation, no excuse, merely
stated the fact in all its finality.
Aggie was really shocked, though for a reason altogether sordid,
not one whit romantic.
"Ain't he young?" she demanded aggressively. "Ain't he
good-looking, and loose with his money something scandalous? If
I met up with a fellow as liberal as him, if he was three times
his age, I could simply adore him!"
It was Garson who pressed the topic with an inexorable curiosity
born of his unselfish interest in the woman concerned.
"Then, why did you marry him?" he asked. The sincerity of him
was excuse enough for the seeming indelicacy of the question.
Besides, he felt himself somehow responsible. He had given back
to her the gift of life, which she had rejected. Surely, he had
the right to know the truth.
It seemed that Mary believed her confidence his due, for she told
him the fact.
"I have been working and scheming for nearly a year to do it,"
she said, with a hardening of her face that spoke of indomitable
resolve. "Now, it's done." A vindictive gleam shot from her
violet eyes as she added: "It's only the beginning, too."
Garson, with the keen perspicacity that had made him a successful
criminal without a single conviction to mar his record, had
seized the implication in her statement, and now put it in words.
"Then, you won't leave us? We're going on as we were before?"
The hint of dejection in his manner had vanished. "And you won't
live with him?"
"Live with him?" Mary exclaimed emphatically. "Certainly not!"
Aggie's neatly rounded jaw dropped in a gape of surprise that was
"You are going to live on in this joint with us?" she
"Of course." The reply was given with the utmost of certainty.
Aggie presented the crux of the matter.
"Where will hubby live?"
There was no lessening of the bride's composure as she replied,
with a little shrug.
"Anywhere but here."
Aggie suddenly giggled. To her sense of humor there was
something vastly diverting in this new scheme of giving bliss to
a fond husband.
"Anywhere but here," she repeated gaily. "Oh, won't that be
nice--for him? Oh, yes! Oh, quite so! Oh, yes, indeed--quite
Garson, however, was still patient in his determination to
apprehend just what had come to pass.
"Does he understand the arrangement?" was his question.
"No, not yet," Mary admitted, without sign of embarrassment.
"Well," Aggie said, with another giggle, "when you do get around
to tell him, break it to him gently."
Garson was intently considering another phase of the situation,
one suggested perhaps out of his own deeper sentiments.
"He must think a lot of you!" he said, gravely. "Don't he?"
For the first time, Mary was moved to the display of a slight
confusion. She hesitated a little before her answer, and when
she spoke it was in a lower key, a little more slowly.
"I--I suppose so."
Aggie presented the truth more subtly than could have been
expected from her.
"Think a lot of you? Of course he does! Thinks enough to marry
you! And believe me, kid, when a man thinks enough of you to
marry you, well, that's some thinking!"
Somehow, the crude expression of this professional adventuress
penetrated to Mary's conscience, though it held in it the truth
to which her conscience bore witness, to which she had tried to
shut her ears.... And now from the man came something like a
draught of elixir to her conscience--like the trump of doom to
her scheme of vengeance.
Garson spoke very softly, but with an intensity that left no
doubt as to the honesty of his purpose.
"I'd say, throw up the whole game and go to him, if you really
There fell a tense silence. It was broken by Mary herself. She
spoke with a touch of haste, as if battling against some
"I married him to get even with his father," she said. "That's
all there is to it.... By the way, I expect Dick will be here in
a minute or two. When he comes, just remember not to--enlighten
Aggie sniffed indignantly.
"Don't worry about me, not a mite. Whenever it's really wanted,
I'm always there with a full line of that lady stuff."
Thereupon, she sprang up, and proceeded to give her conception of
the proper welcoming of the happy bridegroom. The performance
was amusing enough in itself, but for some reason it moved
neither of the two for whom it was rendered to more than
perfunctory approval. The fact had no depressing effect on the
performer, however, and it was only the coming of the maid that
put her lively sallies to an end.
"Mr. Gilder," Fannie announced.
Mary put a question with so much of energy that Garson began
finally to understand the depth of her vindictive feeling.
"Any one with him?"
"No, Miss Turner," the maid answered.
"Have him come in," Mary ordered.
Garson felt that he would be better away for the sake of the
newly married pair at least, if not for his own. He made hasty
excuses and went out on the heels of the maid. Aggie, however,
consulting only her own wishes in the matter, had no thought of
flight, and, if the truth be told, Mary was glad of the
sustaining presence of another woman.
She got up slowly, and stood silent, while Aggie regarded her
curiously. Even to the insensitive observer, there was something
strange in the atmosphere.... A moment later the bridegroom
He was still clean-cut and wholesome. Some sons of wealthy
fathers are not, after four years experience of the white lights
of town. And the lines of his face were firmer, better in every
way. It seemed, indeed, that here was some one of a resolute
character, not to be wasted on the trivial and gross things. In
an instant, he had gone to her, had caught her in his arms with,
"Hello, dear!" smothered in the kiss he implanted on her lips.
Mary strove vainly to free herself.
"Don't, oh, don't!" she gasped.
Dick Gilder released his wife from his arms and smiled the
beatific smile of the newly-wed.
"Why not?" he demanded, with a smile, a smile calm, triumphant,
"Agnes!" ... It was the sole pretext to which Mary could turn for
a momentary relief.
The bridegroom faced about, and perceived Agnes, who stood
closely watching the meeting between husband and wife. He made
an excellent formal bow of the sort that one learns only abroad,
and spoke quietly.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Lynch, but"--a smile of perfect
happiness shone on his face--"you could hardly expect me to see
any one but Mary under the circumstances. Could you?"
Aggie strove to rise to this emergency, and again took on her
best manner, speaking rather coldly.
"Under what circumstances?" she inquired.
The young man exclaimed joyously.
"Why, we were married this morning."
Aggie accepted the news with fitting excitement.
"Goodness gracious! How perfectly lovely!"
The bridegroom regarded her with a face that was luminous of
"You bet, it's lovely!" he declared with entire conviction. He
turned to Mary, his face glowing with satisfaction.
"Mary," he said, "I have the honeymoon trip all fixed. The
Mauretania sails at five in the morning, so we will----"
A cold voice struck suddenly through this rhapsodizing. It was
that of the bride.
"Where is your father?" she asked, without any trace of emotion.
The bridegroom stopped short, and a deep blush spread itself over
his boyish face. His tone was filled full to overflowing with
compunction as he answered.
"Oh, Lord! I had forgotten all about Dad." He beamed on Mary
with a smile half-ashamed, half-happy. "I'm awfully sorry," he
said earnestly. "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll send Dad a
wireless from the ship, then write him from Paris."
But the confident tone brought no response of agreement from
Mary. On the contrary, her voice was, if anything, even colder
as she replied to his suggestion. She spoke with an emphasis that
brooked no evasion.
"What was your promise? I told you that I wouldn't go with you
until you had brought your father to me, and he had wished us
happiness." Dick placed his hands gently on his wife's shoulders
and regarded her with a touch of indignation in his gaze.
"Mary," he said reproachfully, "you are not going to hold me to
The answer was given with a decisiveness that admitted of no
question, and there was a hardness in her face that emphasized
"I am going to hold you to that promise, Dick."
For a few seconds, the young man stared at her with troubled
eyes. Then he moved impatiently, and dropped his hands from her
shoulders. But his usual cheery smile came again, and he
"All right, Mrs. Gilder," he said, gaily. The sound of the name
provoked him to new pleasure. "Sounds fine, doesn't it?" he
demanded, with an uxorious air.
"Yes," Mary said, but there was no enthusiasm in her tone.
The husband went on speaking with no apparent heed of his wife's
"You pack up what things you need, girlie," he directed. "Just a
few--because they sell clothes in Paris. And they are some class,
believe me! And meantime, I'll run down to Dad's office, and have
him back here in half an hour. You will be all ready, won't
Mary answered quickly, with a little catching of her breath, but
"Yes, yes, I'll be ready. Go and bring your father."
"You bet I will," Dick cried heartily. He would have taken her
in his arms again, but she evaded the caress. "What's the
matter?" he demanded, plainly at a loss to understand this
"Nothing!" was the ambiguous answer.
"Just one!" Dick pleaded.
"No," the bride replied, and there was determination in the
It was evident that Dick perceived the futility of argument.
"For a married woman you certainly are shy," he replied, with a
sly glance toward Aggie, who beamed back sympathy. "You'll
excuse me, won't you, Miss Lynch,... Good-by, Mrs. Gilder." He
made a formal bow to his wife. As he hurried to the door, he
expressed again his admiration for the name. "Mrs. Gilder!
Doesn't that sound immense?" And with that he was gone.
There was silence in the drawing-room until the two women heard
the closing of the outer door of the apartment. Then, at last,
Aggie relieved her pent-up emotions in a huge sigh that was near
"Oh Gawd!" she gasped. "The poor simp!"
CHAPTER XIII. THE ADVENT OF GRIGGS.
Later on, Garson, learning from the maid that Dick Gilder had
left, returned, just as Mary was glancing over the release, with
which General Hastings was to be compensated, along with the
return of his letters, for his payment of ten thousand dollars to
Miss Agnes Lynch.
"Hello, Joe," Mary said graciously as the forger entered. Then
she spoke crisply to Agnes. "And now you must get ready. You
are to be at Harris's office with this document at four o'clock,
and remember that you are to let the lawyer manage everything."
Aggie twisted her doll-like face into a grimace.
"It gets my angora that I'll have to miss Pa Gilder's being led
like a lamb to the slaughter-house." And that was the nearest
the little adventuress ever came to making a Biblical quotation.
"Anyhow," she protested, "I don't see the use of all this monkey
business here. All I want is the coin." But she hurried
obediently, nevertheless, to get ready for the start.
Garson regarded Mary quizzically.
"It's lucky for her that she met you," he said. "She's got no
more brains than a gnat."
"And brains are mighty useful things, even in our business," Mary
replied seriously; "particularly in our business."
"I should say they were," Garson agreed. "You have proved that."
Aggie came back, putting on her gloves, and cocking her small
head very primly under the enormous hat that was garnished with
costliest plumes. It was thus that she consoled herself in a
measure for the business of the occasion--in lieu of cracked ice
from Tiffany's at one hundred and fifty a carat. Mary gave over
the release, and Aggie, still grumbling, deposited it in her
"It seems to me we're going through a lot of red tape," she said
Mary, from her chair at the desk, regarded the malcontent with a
smile, but her tone was crisp as she answered.
"Listen, Agnes. The last time you tried to make a man give up
part of his money it resulted in your going to prison for two
Aggie sniffed, as if such an outcome were the merest bagatelle.
"But that way was so exciting," she urged, not at all convinced.
"And this way is so safe," Mary rejoined, sharply. "Besides, my
dear, you would not get the money. My way will. Your way was
blackmail; mine is not. Understand?"
"Oh, sure," Aggie replied, grimly, on her way to the door. "It's
clear as Pittsburgh." With that sarcasm directed against legal
subtleties, she tripped daintily out, an entirely ravishing
vision, if somewhat garish as to raiment, and soon in the glances
of admiration that every man cast on her guileless-seeming
beauty, she forgot that she had ever been annoyed.
Garson's comment as she departed was uttered with his accustomed
"She's a darling, anyway!" Mary declared, smiling. "You really
don't half-appreciate her, Joe!"
"Anyhow, I appreciate that hat," was the reply, with a dry
"Mr. Griggs," Fannie announced. There was a smile on the face of
the maid, which was explained a minute later when, in accordance
with her mistress's order, the visitor was shown into the
drawing-room, for his presence was of an elegance so
extraordinary as to attract attention anywhere--and mirth as well
from ribald observers.
Meantime, Garson had explained to Mary.
"It's English Eddie--you met him once. I wonder what he wants?
Probably got a trick for me. We often used to work together."
"Nothing without my consent," Mary warned.
"Oh, no, no, sure not!" Garson agreed.
Further discussion was cut short by the appearance of English
Eddie himself, a tall, handsome man in the early thirties, who
paused just within the doorway, and delivered to Mary a bow that
was the perfection of elegance. Mary made no effort to restrain
the smile caused by the costume of Mr. Griggs. Yet, there was no
violation of the canons of good taste, except in the aggregate.
From spats to hat, from walking coat to gloves, everything was
perfect of its kind. Only, there was an over-elaboration, so
that the ensemble was flamboyant. And the man's manners precisely
harmonized with his clothes, whereby the whole effect was
emphasized and rendered bizarre. Garson took one amazed look,
and then rocked with laughter.
Griggs regarded his former associate reproachfully for a moment,
and then grinned in frank sympathy.
"Really, Mr. Griggs, you quite overcome me," Mary said,
The visitor cast a self-satisfied glance over his garb.
"I think it's rather neat, myself." He had some reputation in
the under-world for his manner of dressing, and he regarded this
latest achievement as his masterpiece.
"Sure some duds!" Garson admitted, checking his merriment.
"From your costume," Mary suggested, "one might judge that this
is purely a social call. Is it?"
"Well, not exactly," Griggs answered with a smile.
"So I fancied," his hostess replied. "So, sit down, please, and
tell us all about it."
While she was speaking, Garson went to the various doors, and
made sure that all were shut, then he took a seat in a chair near
that which Griggs occupied by the desk, so that the three were
close together, and could speak softly.
English Eddie wasted no time in getting to the point.
"Now, look here," he said, rapidly. "I've got the greatest game
in the world.... Two years ago, a set of Gothic tapestries, worth
three hundred thousand dollars and a set of Fragonard panels,
worth nearly as much more, were plucked from a chateau in France
and smuggled into this country."
"I have never heard of that," Mary said, with some interest.
"No," Griggs replied. "You naturally wouldn't, for the simple
reason that it's been kept on the dead quiet."
"Are them things really worth that much?" Garson exclaimed.
"Sometimes more," Mary answered. "Morgan has a set of Gothic
tapestries worth half a million dollars."
Garson uttered an ejaculation of disgust.
"He pays half a million dollars for a set of rugs!" There was a
note of fiercest bitterness come into his voice as he
sarcastically concluded: "And they wonder at crime!"
Griggs went on with his account.
"About a month ago, the things I was telling you of were hung in
the library of a millionaire in this city." He hitched his chair
a little closer to the desk, and leaned forward, lowering his
voice almost to a whisper as he stated his plan.
"Let's go after them. They were smuggled, mind you, and no
matter what happens, he can't squeal. What do you say?"
Garson shot a piercing glance at Mary.
"It's up to her," he said. Griggs regarded Mary eagerly, as she
sat with eyes downcast. Then, after a little interval had
elapsed in silence, he spoke interrogatively:
Mary shook her head decisively. "It's out of our line," she
Griggs would have argued the matter. "I don't see any easier way
to get half a million," he said aggressively.
Mary, however, was unimpressed.
"If it were fifty millions, it would make no difference. It's
against the law."
"Oh, I know all that, of course," Griggs returned impatiently.
"But if you can----"
Mary interrupted him in a tone of finality.
"My friends and I never do anything that's illegal! Thank you for
coming to us, Mr. Griggs, but we can't go in, and there's an end
of the matter."
"But wait a minute," English Eddie expostulated, "you see this
chap, Gilder, is----"
Mary's manner changed from indifference to sudden keen interest.
"Gilder?" she exclaimed, questioningly.
"Yes. You know who he is," Griggs answered; "the drygoods man."
Garson in his turn showed a new excitement as he bent toward
"Why, it's old Gilder, the man you----"
Mary, however, had regained her self-control, for a moment rudely
shaken, and now her voice was tranquil again as she replied:
"I know. But, just the same, it's illegal, and I won't touch it.
That's all there is to it."
Griggs was dismayed.
"But half a million!" he exclaimed, disconsolately. "There's a
stake worth playing for. Think of it!" He turned pleadingly to
Garson. "Half a million, Joe!"
The forger repeated the words with an inflection that was
"Half a million!"
"And it's the softest thing you ever saw."
The telephone at the desk rang, and Mary spoke into it for a
moment, then rose and excused herself to resume the conversation
over the wire more privately in the booth. The instant she was
out of the room, Griggs turned to Garson anxiously.
"It's a cinch, Joe," he pleaded. "I've got a plan of the house."
He drew a paper from his breast-pocket, and handed it to the
forger, who seized it avidly and studied it with intent,
"It looks easy," Garson agreed, as he gave back the paper.
"It is easy," Griggs reiterated. "What do you say?"
Garson shook his head in refusal, but there was no conviction in
"I promised Mary never to----"
Griggs broke in on him.
"But a chance like this! Anyhow, come around to the back room at
Blinkey's to-night, and we'll have a talk. Will you?"
"What time?" Garson asked hesitatingly, tempted.
"Make it early, say nine," was the answer. "Will you?"
"I'll come," Garson replied, half-guiltily. And in the same
moment Mary reentered.
Griggs rose and spoke with an air of regret.
"It's 'follow the leader,' " he said, "and since you are against
it, that settles it."
"Yes, I'm against it," Mary said, firmly.
"I'm sorry," English Eddie rejoined. "But we must all play the
game as we see it.... Well, that was the business I was after,
and, as it's finished, why, good-afternoon, Miss Turner." He
nodded toward Joe, and took his departure.
Something of what was in his mind was revealed in Garson's first
speech after Griggs's going.
"That's a mighty big stake he's playing for."
"And a big chance he's taking!" Mary retorted. "No, Joe, we
don't want any of that. We'll play a game that's safe and sure."
The words recalled to the forger weird forebodings that had been
troubling him throughout the day.
"It's sure enough," he stated, "but is it safe?"
Mary looked up quickly.
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
Garson walked to and fro nervously as he answered.
"S'pose the bulls get tired of you putting it over on 'em and try
some rough work?"
Mary smiled carelessly.
"Don't worry, Joe," she advised. "I know a way to stop it."
"Well, so far as that goes, so do I," the forger said, with
"Just what do you mean by that?" Mary demanded, suspiciously.
"For rough work," he said, "I have this." He took a magazine
pistol from his pocket. It was of an odd shape, with a barrel
longer than is usual and a bell-shaped contrivance attached to
"No, no, Joe," Mary cried, greatly discomposed. "None of
The forger smiled, and there was malignant triumph in his
"Pooh!" he exclaimed. "Even if I used it, they would never get
on to me. See this?" He pointed at the strange contrivance on
Mary's curiosity made her forget for a moment her distaste.
"What is it?" she asked, interestedly. "I have never seen
anything like that before."
"Of course you haven't," Garson answered with much pride. "I'm
the first man in the business to get one, and I'll bet on it. I
keep up with the times." For once, he was revealing that
fundamental egotism which is the characteristic of all his kind.
"That's one of the new Maxim silencers," he continued. "With
smokeless powder in the cartridges, and the silencer on, I can
make a shot from my coat-pocket, and you wouldn't even know it
had been done. . .. And I'm some shot, believe me."
"Impossible!" Mary ejaculated.
"No, it ain't," the man asserted. "Here, wait, I'll show you."
"Good gracious, not here!" Mary exclaimed in alarm. "We would
have the whole place down on us."
"You just watch that dinky little vase on the table across the
room there. 'Tain't very valuable, is it?"
"No," Mary answered.
In the same instant, while still her eyes were on the vase, it
fell in a cascade of shivered glass to the table and floor. She
had heard no sound, she saw no smoke. Perhaps, there had been a
faintest clicking noise. She was not sure. She stared
dumfounded for a few seconds, then turned her bewildered face
toward Garson, who was grinning in high enjoyment.
"I would'nt have believed it possible," she declared, vastly
"Neat little thing, ain't it?" the man asked, exultantly.
"Where did you get it?" Mary asked.
"In Boston, last week. And between you and me, Mary, it's the
only model, and it sure is a corker for crime."
The sinister association of ideas made Mary shudder, but she said
no more. She would have shuddered again, if she could have
guessed the vital part that pistol was destined to play. But she
had no thought of any actual peril to come from it. She might
have thought otherwise, could she have known of the meeting that
night in the back room of Blinkey's, where English Eddie and
Garson sat with their heads close together over a table.
"A chance like this," Griggs was saying, "a chance that will make
a fortune for all of us."
"It sounds good," Garson admitted, wistfully.
"It is good," the other declared with an oath. "Why, if this
goes through, we're set up for life. We can quit, all of us."
"Yes," Garson agreed, "we can quit, all of us." There was
avarice in his voice.
The tempter was sure that the battle was won, and smiled
"Well," he urged, "what do you say?"
"How would we split it?" It was plain that Garson had given over
the struggle against greed. After all, Mary was only a woman,
despite her cleverness, and with all a woman's timidity. Here
was sport for men.
"Three ways would be right," Griggs answered. "One to me, one to
you and one to be divided up among the others."
Garson brought his fist down on the table with a force that made
the glasses jingle.
"You're on," he said, strongly.
"Fine!" Griggs declared, and the two men shook hands. "Now, I'll
"Get nothing!" Garson interrupted. "I'll get my own men.
Chicago Red is in town. So is Dacey, with perhaps a couple of
others of the right sort. I'll get them to meet you at Blinkey's
at two to-morrow afternoon, and, if it looks right, we'll turn
the trick to-morrow night."
"That's the stuff," Griggs agreed, greatly pleased.
But a sudden shadow fell on the face of Garson. He bent closer
to his companion, and spoke with a fierce intensity that brooked
"She must never know."
Griggs nodded understandingly.
"Of course," he answered. "I give you my word that I'll never
tell her. And you know you can trust me, Joe."
"Yes," the forger replied somberly, "I know I can trust you."
But the shadow did not lift from his face.
CHAPTER XIV. A WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT.
Mary dismissed Garson presently, and betook herself to her
bedroom for a nap. The day had been a trying one, and, though
her superb health could endure much, she felt that both prudence
and comfort required that she should recruit her energies while
there was opportunity. She was not in the least surprised that
Dick had not yet returned, though he had mentioned half an hour.
At the best, there were many things that might detain him, his
father's absence from the office, difficulties in making
arrangements for his projected honeymoon trip abroad--which would
never occur--or the like. At the worst, there was a chance of
finding his father promptly, and of that father as promptly
taking steps to prevent the son from ever again seeing the woman
who had so indiscreetly married him. Yet, somehow, Mary could
not believe that her husband would yield to such paternal
coercion. Rather, she was sure that he would prove loyal to her
whom he loved, through every trouble. At the thought a certain
wistfulness pervaded her, and a poignant regret that this
particular man should have been the one chosen of fate to be
entangled within her mesh of revenge. There throbbed in her a
heart-tormenting realization that there were in life
possibilities infinitely more splendid than the joy of vengeance.
She would not confess the truth even to her inmost soul, but the
truth was there, and set her a-tremble with vague fears.
Nevertheless, because she was in perfect health, and was much
fatigued, her introspection did not avail to keep her awake, and
within three minutes from the time she lay down she was
blissfully unconscious of all things, both the evil and the good,
revenge and love.
She had slept, perhaps, a half-hour, when Fannie awakened her.
"It's a man named Burke," she explained, as her mistress lay
blinking. "And there's another man with him. They said they
must see you."
By this time, Mary was wide-awake, for the name of Burke, the
Police Inspector, was enough to startle her out of drowsiness.
"Bring them in, in five minutes," she directed.
She got up, slipped into a tea-gown, bathed her eyes in cologne,
dressed her hair a little, and went into the drawing-room, where
the two men had been waiting for something more than a quarter of
an hour--to the violent indignation of both.
"Oh, here you are, at last!" the big, burly man cried as she
entered. The whole air of him, though he was in civilian's
clothes, proclaimed the policeman.
"Yes, Inspector," Mary replied pleasantly, as she advanced into
the room. She gave a glance toward the other visitor, who was of
a slenderer form, with a thin, keen face, and recognized him
instantly as Demarest, who had taken part against her as the
lawyer for the store at the time of her trial, and who was now
holding the office of District Attorney. She went to the chair
at the desk, and seated herself in a leisurely fashion that
increased the indignation of the fuming Inspector. She did not
trouble to ask her self-invited guests to sit.
"To whom do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Inspector?" she
remarked coolly. It was noticeable that she said whom and not
what, as if she understood perfectly that the influence of some
person brought him on this errand.
"I have come to have a few quiet words with you," the Inspector
declared, in a mighty voice that set the globes of the
chandeliers a-quiver. Mary disregarded him, and turned to the
"How do you do, Mr. Demarest?" she said, evenly. "It's four
years since we met, and they've made you District Attorney since
then. Allow me to congratulate you."
Demarest's keen face took on an expression of perplexity.
"I'm puzzled," he confessed. "There is something familiar,
somehow, about you, and yet----" He scrutinized appreciatively
the loveliness of the girl with her classically beautiful face,
that was still individual in its charm, the slim graces of the
tall, lissome form. "I should have remembered you. I don't
"Can't you guess?" Mary questioned, somberly. "Search your
memory, Mr. Demarest."
Of a sudden, the face of the District Attorney lightened.
"Why," he exclaimed, "you are--it can't be--yes--you are the
girl, you're the Mary Turner whom I--oh, I know you now."
There was an enigmatic smile bending the scarlet lips as she
"I'm the girl you mean, Mr. Demarest, but, for the rest, you
don't know me--not at all!"
The burly figure of the Inspector of Police, which had loomed
motionless during this colloquy, now advanced a step, and the big
voice boomed threatening. It was very rough and weighted with
"Young woman," Burke said, peremptorily, "the Twentieth Century
Limited leaves Grand Central Station at four o'clock. It arrives
in Chicago at eight-fifty-five to-morrow morning." He pulled a
massive gold watch from his waistcoat pocket, glanced at it,
thrust it back, and concluded ponderously: "You will just about
have time to catch that train."
Mary regarded the stockily built officer with a half-amused
contempt, which she was at no pains to conceal.
"Working for the New York Central now?" she asked blandly.
The gibe made the Inspector furious.
"I'm working for the good of New York City," he answered
Mary let a ripple of cadenced laughter escape her.
"Since when?" she questioned.
A little smile twisted the lips of the District Attorney, but he
caught himself quickly, and spoke with stern gravity.
"Miss Turner, I think you will find that a different tone will
serve you better."
"Oh, let her talk," Burke interjected angrily. "She's only got a
few minutes anyway."
Mary remained unperturbed.
"Very well, then," she said genially, "let us be comfortable
during that little period." She made a gesture of invitation
toward chairs, which Burke disdained to accept; but Demarest
"You'd better be packing your trunk," the Inspector rumbled.
"But why?" Mary inquired, with a tantalizing assumption of
innocence. "I'm not going away."
"On the Twentieth Century Limited, this afternoon," the Inspector
declared, in a voice of growing wrath.
"Oh, dear, no!" Mary's assertion was made very quietly, but with
an underlying firmness that irritated the official beyond
"I say yes!" The answer was a bellow.
Mary appeared distressed, not frightened. Her words were an
ironic protest against the man's obstreperous noisiness, no more.
"I thought you wanted quiet words with me."
Burke went toward her, in a rage.
"Now, look here, Mollie----" he began harshly.
On the instant, Mary was on her feet, facing him, and there was a
gleam in her eyes as they met his that bade him pause.
"Miss Turner, if you don't mind." She laughed slightly. "For
the present, anyway." She reseated herself tranquilly.
Burke was checked, but he retained his severity of bearing.
"I'm giving you your orders. You will either go to Chicago, or
you'll go up the river."
Mary answered in a voice charged with cynicism.
"If you can convict me. Pray, notice that little word 'if'."
The District Attorney interposed very suavely.
"I did once, remember."
"But you can't do it again," Mary declared, with an assurance
that excited the astonishment of the police official.
"How do you know he can't?" he blustered.
Mary laughed in a cadence of genial merriment.
"Because," she replied gaily, "if he could, he would have had me
in prison some time ago."
Burke winced, but he made shift to conceal his realization of the
truth she had stated to him.
"Huh!" he exclaimed gruffly. "I've seen them go up pretty easy."
Mary met the assertion with a serenity that was baffling.
"The poor ones," she vouchsafed; "not those that have money. I
have money, plenty of money--now."
"Money you stole!" the Inspector returned, brutally.
"Oh, dear, no!" Mary cried, with a fine show of virtuous
"What about the thirty thousand dollars you got on that
partnership swindle?" Burke asked, sneering. "I s'pose you
didn't steal that!"
"Certainly not," was the ready reply. "The man advertised for a
partner in a business sure to bring big and safe returns. I
answered. The business proposed was to buy a tract of land, and
subdivide it. The deeds to the land were all forged, and the
supposed seller was his confederate, with whom he was to divide
the money. We formed a partnership, with a capital of sixty
thousand dollars. We paid the money into the bank, and then at
once I drew it out. You see, he wanted to get my money
illegally, but instead I managed to get his legally. For it was
legal for me to draw that money--wasn't it, Mr. Demarest?"
The District Attorney by an effort retained his severe expression
of righteous disapprobation, but he admitted the truth of her
"Unfortunately, yes," he said gravely. "A partner has the right
to draw out any, or all, of the partnership funds."
"And I was a partner," Mary said contentedly. "You, see,
Inspector, you wrong me--you do, really! I'm not a swindler; I'm
Burke sneered scornfully.
"Well," he roared, "you'll never pull another one on me. You can
gamble on that!"
Mary permitted herself to laugh mockingly in the face of the
"Thank you for telling me," she said, graciously. "And let me
say, incidentally, that Miss Lynch at the present moment is
painlessly extracting ten thousand dollars from General Hastings
in a perfectly legal manner, Inspector Burke."
"Well, anyhow," Burke shouted, "you may stay inside the law, but
you've got to get outside the city." He tried to employ an
elephantine bantering tone. "On the level, now, do you think you
could get away with that young Gilder scheme you've been
Mary appeared puzzled.
"What young Gilder scheme?" she asked, her brows drawn in
"Oh, I'm wise--I'm wise!" the Inspector cried roughly. "The
answer is, once for all, leave town this afternoon, or you'll be
in the Tombs in the morning."
Abruptly, a change came over the woman. Hitherto, she had been
cynical, sarcastic, laughing, careless, impudent. Now, of a
sudden, she was all seriousness, and she spoke with a gravity
that, despite their volition, impressed both the men before her.
"It can't be done, Inspector," she said, sedately.
The declaration, simple as it was, aroused the official to new
"Who says it can't?" he vociferated, overflowing with anger at
this flouting of the authority he represented.
Mary opened a drawer of the desk, and took out the document
obtained that morning from Harris, and held it forth.
"This," she replied, succinctly.
"What's this?" Burke stormed. But he took the paper.
Demarest looked over the Inspector's shoulder, and his eyes grew
larger as he read. When he was at an end of the reading, he
regarded the passive woman at the desk with a new respect.
"What's this?" Burke repeated helplessly. It was not easy for
him to interpret the legal phraseology. Mary was kind enough to
make the document clear to him.
"It's a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court,
instructing you to let me alone until you have legal proof that I
have broken the law.... Do you get that, Mr. Inspector Burke?"
The plethoric official stared hard at the injunction.
"Another new one," he stuttered finally. Then his anger sought
vent in violent assertion. "But it can't be done!" he shouted.
"You might ask Mr. Demarest," Mary suggested, pleasantly, "as to
whether or not it can be done. The gambling houses can do it,
and so keep on breaking the law. The race track men can do it,
and laugh at the law. The railroad can do it, to restrain its
employees from striking. So, why shouldn't I get one, too? You
see, I have money. I can buy all the law I want. And there's
nothing you can't do with the law, if you have money enough....
Ask Mr. Demarest. He knows."
Burke was fairly gasping over this outrage against his authority.
"Can you beat that!" he rumbled with a raucously sonorous
vehemence. He regarded Mary with a stare of almost reverential
wonder. "A crook appealing to the law!"
There came a new note into the woman's voice as she answered the
"No, simply getting justice," she said simply. "That's the
remarkable part of it." She threw off her serious air. "Well,
gentlemen," she concluded, "what are you going to do about it?"
"This is what I'm going to do about it. One way or another, I'm
going to get you."
The District Attorney, however, judged it advisable to use more
"Miss Turner," he said, with an appearance of sincerity, "I'm
going to appeal to your sense of fair play."
Mary's shining eyes met his for a long moment, and before the
challenge in hers, his fell. He remembered then those doubts
that had assailed him when this girl had been sentenced to
prison, remembered the half-hearted plea he had made in her
behalf to Richard Gilder.
"That was killed," Mary said, "killed four years ago."
But Demarest persisted. Influence had been brought to bear on
him. It was for her own sake now that he urged her.
"Let young Gilder alone."
Mary laughed again. But there was no hint of joyousness in the
musical tones. Her answer was frank--brutally frank. She had
nothing to conceal.
"His father sent me away for three years--three years for
something I didn't do. Well, he's got to pay for it."
By this time, Burke, a man of superior intelligence, as one must
be to reach such a position of authority, had come to realize
that here was a case not to be carried through by blustering, by
intimidation, by the rough ruses familiar to the force. Here was
a woman of extraordinary intelligence, as well as of peculiar
personal charm, who merely made sport of his fulminations, and
showed herself essentially armed against anything he might do, by
a court injunction, a thing unheard of until this moment in the
case of a common crook. It dawned upon him that this was,
indeed, not a common crook. Moreover, there had grown in him a
certain admiration for the ingenuity and resource of this woman,
though he retained all his rancor against one who dared thus to
resist the duly constituted authority. So, in the end, he spoke
to her frankly, without a trace of his former virulence, with a
very real, if rugged, sincerity.
"Don't fool yourself, my girl," he said in his huge voice, which
was now modulated to a degree that made it almost unfamiliar to
himself. "You can't go through with this. There's always a weak
link in the chain somewhere. It's up to me to find it, and I
His candor moved her to a like honesty.
"Now," she said, and there was respect in the glance she gave the
stalwart man, "now you really sound dangerous."
There came an interruption, alike unexpected by all. Fannie
appeared at the door.
"Mr. Edward Gilder wishes to see you, Miss Turner," she said,
with no appreciation of anything dynamic in the announcement.
"Shall I show him in?"
"Oh, certainly," Mary answered, with an admirable pretense of
indifference, while Burke glared at Demarest, and the District
Attorney appeared ill at ease.
"He shouldn't have come," Demarest muttered, getting to his feet,
in reply to the puzzled glance of the Inspector.
Then, while Mary sat quietly in her chair at the desk, and the
two men stood watching doubtfully the door, the maid appeared,
stood aside, and said simply, "Mr. Gilder."
There entered the erect, heavy figure of the man whom Mary had
hated through the years. He stopped abruptly just within the
room, gave a glance at the two men, then his eyes went to Mary,
sitting at her desk, with her face lifted inquiringly. He did
not pause to take in the beauty of that face, only its strength.
He stared at her silently for a moment. Then he spoke in his
oritund voice, a little tremulous from anxiety.
"Are you the woman?" he said. There was something simple and
primitive, something of dignity beyond the usual conventions, in
his direct address.
And there was the same primitive simplicity in the answer.
Between the two strong natures there was no subterfuge, no
suggestion of polite evasions, of tergiversation, only the plea
of truth to truth. Mary's acknowledgment was as plain as his own
"I am the woman. What do you want?" ... Thus two honest folk had
met face to face.
"My son." The man's answer was complete.
But Mary touched a tragic note in her question. It was asked in
no frivolous spirit, but, of a sudden, she guessed that his
coming was altogether of his own volition, and not the result of
his son's information, as at first she had supposed.
"Have you seen him recently?" she asked.
"No," Gilder answered.
"Then, why did you come?"
Thereat, the man was seized with a fatherly fury. His heavy face
was congested, and his sonorous voice was harsh with virtuous
"Because I intend to save my boy from a great folly. I am
informed that he is infatuated with you, and Inspector Burke
tells me why--he tells me--why--he tells me----" He paused,
unable for a moment to continue from an excess of emotion. But
his gray eyes burned fiercely in accusation against her.
Inspector Burke himself filled the void in the halting sentence.
"I told you she had been an ex-convict."
"Yes," Gilder said, after he had regained his self-control. He
stared at her pleadingly. "Tell me," he said with a certain
dignity, "is this true?"
Here, then, was the moment for which she had longed through weary
days, through weary years. Here was the man whom she hated,
suppliant before her to know the truth. Her heart quickened.
Truly, vengeance is sweet to one who has suffered unjustly.
"Is this true?" the man repeated, with something of horror in
"It is," Mary said quietly.
For a little, there was silence in the room. Once, Inspector
Burke started to speak, but the magnate made an imperative
gesture, and the officer held his peace. Always, Mary rested
motionless. Within her, a fierce joy surged. Here was the time
of her victory. Opposite her was the man who had caused her
anguish, the man whose unjust action had ruined her life. Now,
he was her humble petitioner, but this servility could be of no
avail to save him from shame. He must drink of the dregs of
humiliation--and then again. No price were too great to pay for
a wrong such as that which he had put upon her.
At last, Gilder was restored in a measure to his self-possession.
He spoke with the sureness of a man of wealth, confident that
money will salve any wound.
"How much?" he asked, baldly.
Mary smiled an inscrutable smile.
"Oh, I don't need money," she said, carelessly. "Inspector Burke
will tell you how easy it is for me to get it."
Gilder looked at her with a newly dawning respect; then his
shrewdness suggested a retort.
"Do you want my son to learn what you are?" he said.
Mary laughed. There was something dreadful in that burst of
"Why not?" she answered. "I'm ready to tell him myself."
Then Gilder showed the true heart of him, in which love for his
boy was before all else. He found himself wholly at a loss
before the woman's unexpected reply.
"But I don't want him to know," he stammered. "Why, I've spared
the boy all his life. If he really loves you--it will----"
At that moment, the son himself entered hurriedly from the
hallway. In his eagerness, he saw no one save the woman whom he
loved. At his entrance, Mary rose and moved backward a step
involuntarily, in sheer surprise over his coming, even though she
had known he must come--perhaps from some other emotion, deeper,
hidden as yet even from herself.
The young man, with his wholesome face alight with tenderness,
went swiftly to her, while the other three men stood silent,
motionless, abashed by the event. And Dick took Mary's hand in a
warm clasp, pressed it tenderly.
"I didn't see father," he said happily, "but I left him a note on
his desk at the office."
Then, somehow, the surcharged atmosphere penetrated his
consciousness, and he looked around, to see his father standing
grimly opposite him. But there was no change in his expression
beyond a more radiant smile.
"Hello, Dad!" he cried, joyously. "Then you got my note?"
The voice of the older man came with a sinister force and
"No, Dick, I haven't had any note."
"Then, why?" The young man broke off suddenly. He was become
aware that here was something malignant, with a meaning beyond
his present understanding, for he saw the Inspector and Demarest,
and he knew the two of them for what they were officially.
"What are they doing here?" he demanded suspiciously, staring at
"Oh, never mind them," Mary said. There was a malevolent gleam
in her violet eyes. This was the recompense of which she had
dreamed through soul-tearing ages. "Just tell your father your
The young man had no comprehension of the fact that he was only a
pawn in the game. He spoke with simple pride.
"Dad, we're married. Mary and I were married this morning."
Always, Mary stared with her eyes steadfast on the father. There
was triumph in her gaze. This was the vengeance for which she
had longed, for which she had plotted, the vengeance she had at
last achieved. Here was her fruition, the period of her
Gilder himself seemed dazed by the brief sentence.
"Say that again," he commanded.
Mary rejoiced to make the knowledge sure.
"I married your son this morning," she said in a matter-of-fact
tone. "I married him. Do you quite understand, Mr. Gilder? I
married him." In that insistence lay her ultimate compensation
for untold misery. The father stood there wordless, unable to
find speech against this calamity that had befallen him.
It was Burke who offered a diversion, a crude interruption after
his own fashion.
"It's a frame-up," he roared. He glared at the young man. "Tell
your father it ain't true. Why, do you know what she is? She's
done time." He paused for an instant, then spoke in a voice that
was brutally menacing. "And, by God, she'll do it again!"
The young man turned toward his bride. There was disbelief,
hope, despair, in his face, which had grown older by years with
the passing of the seconds.
"It's a lie, Mary," he said. "Say it's a lie!" He seized her
There was no quiver in her voice as she answered. She drew her
hand from his clasp, and spoke evenly.
"It's the truth."
"It's the truth!" the young man repeated, incredulously.
"It is the truth," Mary said, firmly. "I have served three years
There was a silence of a minute that was like years. It was the
father who broke it, and now his voice was become tremulous.
"I wanted to save you, Dick. That's why I came."
The son interrupted him violently.
"There's a mistake--there must be."
It was Demarest who gave an official touch to the tragedy of the
"There's no mistake," he said. There was authority in his
"There is, I tell you!" Dick cried, horrified by this conspiracy
of defamation. He turned his tortured face to his bride of a
"Mary," he said huskily, "there is a mistake."
Something in her face appalled him. He was voiceless for a few
terrible instants. Then he spoke again, more beseechingly.
"Say there's a mistake."
Mary preserved her poise. Yes--she must not forget! This was the
hour of her triumph. What mattered it that the honey of it was
as ashes in her mouth? She spoke with a simplicity that admitted
"It's all quite true."
The man who had so loved her, so trusted her, was overwhelmed by
the revelation. He stood trembling for a moment, tottered,
almost it seemed would have fallen, but presently steadied
himself and sank supinely into a chair, where he sat in impotent
The father looked at Mary with a reproach that was pathetic.
"See," he said, and his heavy voice was for once thin with
passion," see what you've done to my boy!"
Mary had held her eyes on Dick. There had been in her gaze a
conflict of emotions, strong and baffling. Now, however, when the
father spoke, her face grew more composed, and her eyes met his
coldly. Her voice was level and vaguely dangerous as she
answered his accusation.
"What is that compared to what you have done to me?"
Gilder stared at her in honest amazement. He had no suspicion as
to the tragedy that lay between him and her.
"What have I done to you?" he questioned, uncomprehending.
Mary moved forward, passing beyond the desk, and continued her
advance toward him until the two stood close together, face to
face. She spoke softly, but with an intensity of supreme feeling
in her voice.
"Do you remember what I said to you the day you had me sent
The merchant regarded her with stark lack of understanding.
"I don't remember you at all," he said.
The woman looked at him intently for a moment, then spoke in a
"Perhaps you remember Mary Turner, who was arrested four years
ago for robbing your store. And perhaps you remember that she
asked to speak to you before they took her to prison."
The heavy-jowled man gave a start.
"Oh, you begin to remember. Yes! There was a girl who swore she
was innocent--yes, she swore that she was innocent. And she
would have got off--only, you asked the judge to make an example
The man to whom she spoke had gone gray a little. He began to
understand, for he was not lacking in intelligence. Somehow, it
was borne in on him that this woman had a grievance beyond the
usual run of injuries.
"You are that girl?" he said. It was not a question, rather an
Mary spoke with the dignity of long suffering--more than that,
with the confident dignity of a vengeance long delayed, now at
last achieved. Her words were simple enough, but they touched to
the heart of the man accused by them.
"I am that girl."
There was a little interval of silence. Then, Mary spoke again,
"You took away my good name. You smashed my life. You put me
behind the bars. You owe for all that.... Well' I've begun to
The man opposite her, the man of vigorous form, of strong face
and keen eyes, stood gazing intently for long moments. In that
time, he was learning many things. Finally, he spoke.
"And that is why you married my boy."
"It is." Mary gave the answer coldly, convincingly.
Convincingly, save to one--her husband. Dick suddenly aroused,
and spoke with the violence of one sure.
"It is not!"
Burke shouted a warning. Demarest, more diplomatic, made a
restraining gesture toward the police official, then started to
address the young man soothingly.
But Dick would have none of their interference.
"This is my affair," he said, and the others fell silent. He
stood up and went to Mary, and took her two hands in his, very
gently, yet very firmly.
"Mary," he said softly, yet with a strength of conviction, "you
married me because you love me."
The wife shuddered, but she strove to deny.
"No," she said gravely, "no, I did not!"
"And you love me now!" he went on insistingly.
"No, no!" Mary's denial came like a cry for escape.
"You love me now!" There was a masterful quality in his
declaration, which seemed to ignore her negation.
"I don't," she repeated bitterly.
But he was inexorable.
"Look me in the face, and say that."
He took her face in his hands, lifted it, and his eyes met hers
"Look me in the face, and say that," he repeated.
There was a silence that seemed long, though it was measured in
the passing of seconds. The three watchers dared not interrupt
this drama of emotions, but, at last, Mary, who had planned so
long for this hour, gathered her forces and spoke valiantly. Her
voice was low, but without any weakness of doubt.
"I do not love you."
In the instant of reply, Dick Gilder, by some inspiration of
love, changed his attitude. "Just the same," he said cheerfully,
"you are my wife, and I'm going to keep you and make you love
Mary felt a thrill of fear through her very soul.
"You can't!" she cried harshly. "You are his son!"
"She's a crook!" Burke said.
"I don't care a damn what you've been!" Dick exclaimed. "From now
on you'll go straight. You'll walk the straightest line a woman
ever walked. You'll put all thoughts of vengeance out of your
heart, because I'll fill it with something bigger--I'm going to
make you love me."
Burke, with his rousing voice, spoke again:
"I tell you, she's a crook!"
Mary moved a little, and then turned her face toward Gilder.
"And, if I am, who made me one? You can't send a girl to prison,
and have her come out anything else."
Burke swung himself around in a movement of complete disgust.
"She didn't get her time for good behavior."
Mary raised her head, haughtily, with a gesture of high disdain.
"And I'm proud of it!" came her instant retort. "Do you know
what goes on there behind those stone walls? Do you, Mr.
District Attorney, whose business it is to send girls there? Do
you know what a girl is expected to do, to get time off for good
behavior? If you don't, ask the keepers."
Gilder moved fussily.
Mary swayed a little, standing there before her questioner.
"I served every minute of my time--every minute of it, three
full, whole years. Do you wonder that I want to get even, that
some one has got to pay? Four years ago, you took away my
name--and gave me a number.... Now, I've given up the number--and
I've got your name."
CHAPTER XV. AFTERMATH OF TRAGEDY.
The Gilders, both father and son, endured much suffering
throughout the night and day that followed the scene in Mary
Turner's apartment, when she had made known the accomplishment of
her revenge on the older man by her ensnaring of the younger.
Dick had followed the others out of her presence at her command,
emphasized by her leaving him alone when he would have pleaded
further with her. Since then, he had striven to obtain another
interview with his bride, but she had refused him. He was denied
admission to the apartment. Only the maid answered the ringing
of the telephone, and his notes were seemingly unheeded.
Distraught by this violent interjection of torment into a life
that hitherto had known no important suffering, Dick Gilder
showed what mettle of man lay beneath his debonair appearance.
And that mettle was of a kind worth while. In these hours of
grief, the soul of him put out its strength. He learned beyond