No, she could not face that.
Her own willfulness had brought her to this pass; she faced that uncompromisingly. She would marry Louis, and hold him to his promise, and so perhaps out of all this misery some good would come. But at the thought of marriage she found herself trembling violently. With no love and no real respect to build on, with an intuitive knowledge of the man's primitive violences, the reluctance toward marriage with him which she had always felt crystallized into something very close to dread.
But a few minutes later she went upstairs, quite steady again, and fully determined. At Elinor's door she tapped lightly, and she heard movements within. Then Elinor opened the door wide. She had been lying on her bed, and automatically after closing the door she began to smooth it. Lily felt a wave of intense pity for her.
"I wish you would go away from here, Aunt Elinor," she said.
Elinor glanced up, without surprise.
"Where could I go?"
"If you left him definitely, you could go home."
Elinor shook her head, dumbly, and her passivity drove Lily suddenly to desperation.
"You know what is going on," she said, her voice strained. "You don't believe it is right; you know it is wicked. Clothe it in all the fine language in the world, Aunt Elinor, and it is still wicked. If you stay here you condone it. I won't. I am going away."
"I wish you had never come, Lily."
"It's too late for that," Lily said, stonily. "But it is not too late for you to get away."
"I shall stay," Elinor said, with an air of finality. But Lily made one more effort.
"He is killing you."
"No, he is killing himself." Suddenly Elinor flared into a passionate outburst. "Don't you think I know where all this is leading? Do you believe for a moment that I think all this can lead to anything but death? It is a madness, Lily; they are all mad, these men. Don't you know that I have talked and argued and prayed, against it?"
"Then come away. You have done all you could, and you have failed, haven't you?"
"It is not time for me to go," Elinor said. And Lily, puzzled and baffled, found herself again looking into Elinor's quiet, inscrutable eyes.
Elinor had taken it for granted that the girl was going home, and together they packed almost in silence. Once Elinor looked up from folding a garment, and said:
"You said you had not understood before, but that now you do. What did you mean?"
"Pink Denslow was here."
"What does he know?"
"Do you think I ought to tell you, Aunt Elinor? It isn't that I don't trust you. You must believe that, but don't you see that so long as you stay here—he said that to me—you are one of them."
Elinor resumed her folding.
"Yes, I suppose I am one of them," she said quietly. "And you are right. You must not tell me anything. Pink is Henry Denslow's son, I suppose."
"Do they—still live in the old house?"
Elinor continued her methodical work.
Willy Cameron was free that evening. Although he had not slept at all the night before, he felt singularly awake and active. The Committee had made temporary quarters of his small back room at the pharmacy, and there had sat in rather depressed conclave during a part of the afternoon. Pink Denslow had come in late, and had remained, silent and haggard, through the debate.
There was nothing to do but to start again in an attempt to get files and card indexes. Greater secrecy was to be preserved and enjoined, the location of the office to be known only to a small inner circle, and careful policing of it and of the building which housed it to be established. As a further safeguard, two duplicate files would be kept in other places. The Committee groaned over its own underestimate of the knowledge of the radicals.
The two buildings chosen for destruction were, respectively, the bank building where their file was kept, and the club, where nine-tenths of the officers of the Committee were members. The significance of the double outrage was unquestionable.
When the meeting broke up Pink remained behind. He found it rather difficult to broach the matter in his mind. It was always hard for him to talk about Lily Cardew, and lately he had had a growing conviction that Willy Cameron found it equally difficult. He wondered if Cameron, too, was in love with Lily. There had been a queer look in his face on those rare occasions when Pink had mentioned her, a sort of exaltation, and an odd difficulty afterwards in getting back to the subject in hand.
Pink had developed an enormous affection and admiration for Willy Cameron, a strange, loyal, half wistful, totally unselfish devotion. It had steadied him, when the loss of Lily might have made him reckless, and had taken the form in recent weeks of finding innumerable business opportunities, which Willy Cameron cheerfully refused to take.
"I'll stay here until this other thing is settled," was Willy's invariable answer. "I have a certain amount of time here, and the fellows can drop in to see me without causing suspicion. In an office it would be different. And besides, I can't throw Mr. Davis down. His wife is in bad shape."
So, that afternoon, Pink waited until the Committee had dispersed, and then said, with some difficulty:
"I saw her, Cameron. She has promised to leave."
"This afternoon. I wanted to take her away, but she had some things to do."
"Then she hadn't known before?"
"No. She thought it was just talk. And they'd kept the papers from her. She hadn't heard about last night. Well, that's all. I thought you'd want to know."
Pink started out, but Willy Cameron called him back.
"Have any of your people any influence with the Cardews?"
"No one has any influence with the Cardews, if you mean the Cardew men. Why?"
"Because Cardew has got to get out of the mayoralty campaign. That's all."
"That's a-plenty," said Pink, grinning. "Why don't you go and tell him so?"
"I'm thinking of it. He hasn't a chance in the world, but he'll defeat Hendricks by splitting the vote, and let the other side in. And you know what that means."
"I know it," Pink observed, "but Mr. Cardew doesn't, and he won't after you've told him. They've put a lot of money in, and once a Cardew has invested in a thing he holds on like death. Especially the old man. Wouldn't wonder he was the fellow who pounded the daylights out of Akers last night," he added.
Willy Cameron, having carefully filled his pipe, closed the door into the shop, and opened a window.
"Akers?" he inquired.
"Noon edition has it," Pink said. "Claims to have been attacked in his rooms by two masked men. Probably wouldn't have told it, but the doctor talked. Looks as though he could wallop six masked men, doesn't he?"
"Yes," said Willy Cameron, reflectively. "Yes; he does, rather."
He felt more hopeful than he had for days. Lily on her way home, clear once more of the poisonous atmosphere of Doyle and his associates; Akers temporarily out of the way, perhaps for long enough to let the normal influences of her home life show him to her in a real perspective; and a rather unholy but very human joy that he had given Akers a part of what was coming to him—all united to cheer him. He saw Lily going home, and a great wave of tenderness flooded him. If only they would be tactful and careful, if only they would be understanding and kind. If they would only be normal and every-day, and accept her as though she had never been away. These people were so hedged about with conventions and restrictions, they put so much emphasis on the letter and so little on the spirit. If only—God, if only they wouldn't patronize her!
His mother would have known how to receive her. He felt, that afternoon, a real homesickness for his mother. He saw her, ample and comfortable and sane, so busy with the comforts of the body that she seemed to ignore the soul, and yet bringing healing with her every matter-of-fact movement.
If only Lily could have gone back to her, instead of to that great house, full of curious eyes and whispering voices.
He saw Mr. Hendricks that evening on his way home to supper. Mr. Hendricks had lost flesh and some of his buoyancy, but he was persistently optimistic.
"Up to last night I'd have said we were done, son," he observed. "But this bomb business has settled them. The labor vote'll split on it, sure as whooping cough."
"They've bought a half-page in all the morning papers, disclaiming all responsibility and calling on all citizens to help them in protecting private property."
"Have they, now," said Hendricks, with grudging admiration. "Can you beat that? Where do they get the money, anyhow? If I lost my watch these days I'd have to do some high-finance before I'd be able to advertise for it."
"All right, see Cardew," were his parting words. "But he doesn't want this election any more than I want my right leg. He'll stick. You can talk, Cameron, I'll say it. But you can't pry him off with kind words, any more than you can a porous plaster."
Behind Mr. Hendricks' colloquialisms there was something sturdy and fine. His very vernacular made him popular; his honesty was beyond suspicion. If he belonged to the old school in politics, he had most of its virtues and few of its vices. He would take care of his friends, undoubtedly, but he was careful in his choice of friends. He would make the city a good place to live in. Like Willy Cameron, he saw it, not a center of trade so much as a vast settlement of homes. Business supported the city in his mind, not the city business.
Nevertheless the situation was serious, and it was with a sense of a desperate remedy for a desperate disease that Willy Cameron, after a careful toilet, rang the bell of the Cardew house that night. He had no hope of seeing Lily, but the mere thought that they were under one roof gave him a sense of nearness and of comfort in her safety.
Dinner was recently over, and he found both the Cardews, father and son, in the library smoking. He had arrived at a bad moment, for the bomb outrage, coming on top of Lily's refusal to come home under the given conditions, had roused Anthony to a cold rage, and left Howard with a feeling of helplessness.
Anthony Cardew nodded to him grimly, but Howard shook hands and offered him a chair.
"I heard you speak some time ago, Mr. Cameron," he said. "You made me wish I could have had your support."
"I came to talk about that. I am sorry to have to come in the evening, but I am not free at any other time."
"When we go into politics," said old Anthony in his jibing voice, "the ordinary amenities have to go. When you are elected, Howard, I shall live somewhere else."
Willy Cameron smiled.
"I don't think you will be put to that inconvenience, Mr. Cardew."
"What's that?" Old Anthony's voice was incredulous. Here, in his own house, this whipper-snapper—
"I am sure Mr. Howard Cardew realizes he cannot be elected."
The small ragged vein on Anthony's forehead was the storm signal for the family. Howard glanced at him, and said urbanely:
"Will you have a cigar, Mr. Cameron? Or a liqueur?"
"Nothing, thank you. If I can have a few minutes' talk with you—"
"If you mean that as a request for me to go out, I will remind you that I am heavily interested in this matter myself," said old Anthony. "I have put in a great deal of money. If you people are going to drop out, I want to hear it. You've played the devil with us already, with your independent candidate who can't talk English."
Willy Cameron kept his temper.
"No," he said, slowly. "It wasn't a question of Mr. Hendricks withdrawing. It was a question of Mr. Cardew getting out."
Sheer astonishment held old Anthony speechless.
"It's like this," Willy Cameron said. "Your son knows it. Even if we drop out he won't get it. Justly or unjustly—and I mean that—nobody with the name of Cardew can be elected to any high office in this city. There's no reflection on anybody in my saying that. I am telling you a fact."
Howard had listened attentively and without anger. "For a long time, Mr. Cameron," he said, "I have been urging men of—of position in the city, to go into politics. We have needed to get away from the professional politician. I went in, without much hope of election, to—well, you can say to blaze a trail. It is not being elected that counts with me, so much as to show my willingness to serve."
Old Anthony recovered his voice.
"The Cardews made this town, sir," he barked. "Willingness to serve, piffle! We need a business man to run the city, and by God, we'll get it!"
"You'll get an anarchist," said Willy Cameron, slightly flushed.
"If you want my opinion, young man, this is a trick, a political trick. And how do we know that your Vigilance Committee isn't a trick, too? You try to tell us that there is an organized movement here to do heaven knows what, and by sheer terror you build up a machine which appeals to the public imagination. You don't say anything about votes, but you see that they vote for your man. Isn't that true?"
"Yes. If they can keep an anarchist out of office. Akers is an anarchist. He calls himself something else, but that's what it amounts to. And those bombs last night were not imaginary."
The introduction of Louis Akers' name had a sobering effect on Anthony Cardew. After all, more than anything else, he wanted Akers defeated. The discussion slowly lost its acrimony, and ended, oddly enough, in Willy Cameron and Anthony Cardew virtually uniting against Howard. What Willy Cameron told about Jim Doyle fed the old man's hatred of his daughter's husband, and there was something very convincing about Cameron himself. Something of fearlessness and honesty that began, slowly, to dispose Anthony in his favor.
It was Howard who held out.
"If I quit now it will look as though I didn't want to take a licking," he said, quietly obstinate. "Grant your point, that I'm defeated. All right, I'll be defeated—but I won't quit."
And Anthony Cardew, confronted by that very quality of obstinacy which had been his own weapon for so many years, retired in high dudgeon to his upper rooms. He was living in a strange new world, a reasonable soul on an unreasonable earth, an earth where a man's last sanctuary, his club, was blown up about him, and a man's family apparently lived only to thwart him.
With Anthony gone, Howard dropped the discussion with the air of a man who has made a final stand.
"What you have said about Mr. Doyle interests me greatly," he observed, "because—you probably do not know this—my sister married him some years ago. It was a most unhappy affair."
"I do know it. For that reason I am glad that Miss Lily has come home."
"Has come home? She has not come home, Mr. Cameron. There was a condition we felt forced to make, and she refused to agree to it. Perhaps we were wrong. I—"
Willy Cameron got up.
"Was that to-day?" he asked.
"But she was coming home to-day. She was to leave there this afternoon."
"How do you know that?"
"Denslow saw her there this afternoon. She agreed to leave at once. He had told her of the bombs, and of other things. She hadn't understood before, and she was horrified. It is just possible Doyle wouldn't let her go."
"But—that's ridiculous. She can't be a prisoner in my sister's house."
"Will you telephone and find out if she is there?" Howard went to the telephone at once. It seemed to Willy Cameron that he stood there for uncounted years, and as though, through all that eternity of waiting, he knew what the answer would be. And that he knew, too, what that answer meant, where she had gone, what she had done. If only she had come to him. If only she had come to him. He would have saved her from herself. He—
"She is not there," Howard Cardew said, in a voice from which all life had gone. "She left this afternoon, at four o'clock. Of course she has friends. Or she may have gone to a hotel. We had managed to make it practically impossible for her to come home."
Willy Cameron glanced at his watch. He had discounted the worst before it came, and unlike the older man, was ready for action. It was he who took hold of the situation.
"Order a car, Mr. Cardew, and go to the hotels," he said. "And if you will drop me downtown—I'll tell you where—I'll follow up something that has just occurred to me."
In one way Howard had been correct in his surmise. It had been Lily's idea to go to a hotel until she had made some definite plan. She would telephone Louis then, and the rest—she did not think beyond that. She called a taxi and took a small bag with her, but in the taxicab she suddenly realized that she could not go to any of the hotels she knew. She would be recognized at once.
She wanted a little time to herself, time to think. And before it was discovered that she had left Cardew Way she must see Louis, and judge again if he intended to act in good faith. While he was with her, reiterating his promises, she believed him, but when he was gone, she always felt, a curious doubt.
She thought then of finding a quiet room somewhere, and stopping the cab, bought a newspaper. It was when she was searching for the "rooms for rent" column that she saw he had been attacked and slightly injured.
They had got him. He had said that if they ever suspected him of playing them false they would get him, and now they had done so. That removed the last doubt of his good faith from her mind. She felt indignation and dismay, and a sort of aching consciousness that always she brought only trouble to the people who cared for her; she felt that she was going through her life, leaving only unhappiness behind her.
He had suffered, and for her.
She told the chauffeur to go to the Benedict Apartments, and sitting back read the notice again. He had been attacked by two masked men and badly bruised, after putting up a terrific resistance. They would wear masks, of course. They loved the theatrical. Their very flag was theatrical. And he had made a hard fight That was like him, too; he was a fighter.
She was a Cardew, and she loved strength. There were other men, men like Willy Cameron, for instance, who were lovable in many ways, but they were not fighters. They sat back, and let life beat them, and they took the hurt bravely and stoically. But they never got life by the throat and shook it until it gave up what they wanted.
She had never been in a bachelors' apartment house before, and she was both frightened and self-conscious. The girl at the desk eyed her curiously while she telephoned her message, and watched her as she moved toward the elevator. "Ever seen her before?" she said to the hall boy.
"No. She's a new one."
"Face's kind of familiar to me," said the telephone girl, reflectively. "Looks worried, doesn't she? Two masked men! Huh! All Sam took up there last night was a thin fellow with a limp."
The hall boy grinned.
"Then his limp didn't bother him any. Sam says y'ought to seen that place."
In the meantime, outside the door of Akers' apartment, Lily's fine courage almost left her. Had it not been for the eyes of the elevator man, fixed on her while he lounged in his gateway, she might have gone away, even then. But she stood there, committed to a course of action, and rang.
Louis himself admitted her, an oddly battered Louis, in a dressing gown and slippers; an oddly watchful Louis, too, waiting, after the manner of men of his kind the world over, to see which way the cat would jump. He had had a bad day, and his nerves were on edge. All day he had sat there, unable to go out, and had wondered just when Cameron would see her and tell her about Edith Boyd. For, just as Willy Cameron rushed him for the first time, there had been something from between clenched teeth about marrying another girl, under the given circumstances. Only that had not been the sort of language in which it was delivered.
"I just saw about it in the newspaper," Lily said. "How dreadful, Louis."
He straightened himself and drew a deep breath. The game was still his, if he played it right.
"Bad enough, dear," he said, "but I gave them some trouble, too." He pushed a chair toward her. "It was like you to come. But I don't like your seeing me all mussed up, little girl."
He made a move then to kiss her, but she drew back.
"Please!" she said. "Not here. And I can't sit down. I can't stay. I only came because I wanted to tell you something and I didn't want to telephone it. Louis, Jim Doyle knew about those bombs last night. He didn't want it to happen before the election, but—that doesn't alter the fact, does it?"
"How do you know he knew?"
"I do know. That's all. And I have left Aunt Elinor's."
"I couldn't stay, could I?" She looked up at him, the little wistful glance that Willy always found so infinitely touching, like the appeal of a willful but lovable child, that has somehow got into trouble. "And I can't go home, Louis, unless I—"
"Unless you give me up," he finished for her. "Well?"
She hesitated. She hated making terms with him, and yet somehow she must make terms.
"Well?" he repeated. "Are you going to throw me over?"
Apparently merely putting the thought into words crystallized all his fears of the past hours; seeing her there, too, had intensified his want of her. She stood there, where he had so often dreamed of seeing her, but still holding him off with the aloofness that both chilled and inflamed him, and with a question in her eyes. He held out his arms, but she drew back.
"Do you mean what you have said, Louis, about leaving them, if I marry you, and doing all you can to stop them?"
"You know I mean it."
"Then—I'll not go home."
"You are going to marry me? Now?"
"Whenever you say."
Suddenly she was trembling violently, and her lips felt dry and stiff. He pushed her into a chair, and knelt down beside her.
"You poor little kid," he said, softly.
Through his brain were racing a hundred thoughts; Lily his, in his arms, in spite of that white-faced drug clerk with the cold eyes; himself in the Cardew house, one of them, beating old Anthony Cardew at his own cynical game; and persistently held back and often rising again to the surface, Woslosky and Doyle and the others, killers that they were, pursuing him with their vengeance over the world. They would have to be counted in; they were his price, as he, had he known it, was Lily's.
"My wife!" he said. "My wife."
She stiffened in his arms.
"I must go, Louis," she said. "I can't stay here. I felt very queer downstairs. They all stared so."
There was a clock on the mantel shelf, and he looked at it. It was a quarter before five.
"One thing is sure, Lily," he said. "You can't wander about alone, and you are right—you can't stay here. They probably recognized you downstairs. You are pretty well known."
For the first time it occurred to her that she had compromised herself, and that the net, of her own making, was closing fast about her.
"I wish I hadn't come."
"Why? We can fix that all right in a jiffy."
But when he suggested an immediate marriage she made a final struggle. In a few days, even to-morrow, but not just then. He listened, impatiently, his eyes on the clock. Beside it in the mirror he saw his own marred face, and it added to his anger. In the end he took control of the situation; went into his bedroom, changed into a coat, and came out again, ready for the street. He telephoned down for a taxicab, and then confronted her, his face grim.
"I've let you run things pretty much to suit yourself, Lily," he said. "Now I'm in charge. It won't be to-morrow or next week or next month. It will be now. You're here. You've given them a chance to talk downstairs. You've nowhere to go, and you're going to marry me at once."
In the cab he explained more fully. They would get a license, and then go to one of the hotels. There they could be married, in their own suite.
"All regularly and in order, honey," he said, and kissed her hand. She had hardly heard. She was staring ahead, not thinking, not listening, not seeing, fighting down a growing fear of the man before her, of his sheer physical proximity, of his increasing exuberance.
"I'm mad about you, girl," he said. "Mad. And now you are going to be mine, until death do us part."
She shivered and drew away, and he laughed a little. Girls were like that, at such times. They always took a step back for every two steps forward. He let her hand go, and took a careful survey of his face in the mirror of the cab. The swelling had gone down, but that bruise below his eye would last for days. He cursed under his breath.
It was after nine o'clock when one of the Cardew cars stopped not far from the Benedict Apartments, and Willy Cameron got out.
He was quite certain that Louis Akers would know where Lily was, and he anticipated the interview with a sort of grim humor. There might be another fight; certainly Akers would try to get back at him for the night before. But he set his jaw. He would learn where Lily was if he had to choke the knowledge out of that leering devil's thick white throat. His arrival in the foyer of the Benedict Apartments caused more than a ripple of excitement.
"Well, look who's here!" muttered the telephone girl, and watched his approach, with its faint limp, over the top of her desk. Behind, from his cage, the elevator man was staring with avid interest.
"I suppose Mr. Akers is in?" said Willy Cameron, politely. The girl smiled up at him.
"I'll say he ought to be, after last night! What're you going to do now? Kill him?"
In spite of his anxiety there was a faint twinkle in Willy Cameron's eyes.
"No," he said slowly. "No. I think not. I want to talk to him."
"Sam," called the telephone girl, "take this gentleman up to forty-three."
"Forty-three's out." Sam partly shut the elevator door; he had seen Forty-three's rooms the night before, and he had the discretion of his race. "Went out with a lady at quarter to five."
Willy Cameron took a step or two toward the cage.
"You don't happen to be lying, I suppose?"
"No, sir!" said Sam. "I'll take you up to look, if you like. And about an hour ago he sent a boy here with a note, to get some of his clothes. The young lady at the desk was out at the movies at the time."
"I was getting my supper, Sam."
Willy Cameron had gone very white.
"Did the boy say where he was taking the things?"
"To the Saint Elmo Hotel, sir."
On the street again Willy Cameron took himself fiercely in hand. There were a half-dozen reasons why Akers might go to the Saint Elmo. He might, for one thing, have thought that he, Cameron, would go back to the Benedict. He might be hiding from Dan, or from reporters. But there had been, apparently, no attempt to keep his new quarters secret. If Lily was at the Saint Elmo—
He found a taxicab, and as it drew up at the curb before the hotel he saw the Cardew car moving away. It gave him his first real breath for twenty minutes. Lily was not there.
But Louis Akers was. He got his room number from a clerk and went up, still determinedly holding on to himself. Afterwards he had no clear recollection of any interval between the Benedict and the moment he found himself standing outside a door on an upper floor of the Saint Elmo. From that time on it was as clear as crystal, his own sudden calm, the overturning of a chair inside, a man's voice, slightly raised, which he recognized, and then the thin crash of a wineglass dropped or thrown to the floor.
He opened the door and went in.
In the center of the sitting room a table was set, and on it the remains of a dinner for two. Akers was standing by the table, his chair overturned behind him, a splintered glass at his feet, staring angrily at the window. Even then Willy Cameron saw that he had had too much to drink, and that he was in an ugly mood. He was in dinner clothes, but with his bruised face and scowling brows he looked a sinister imitation of a gentleman.
By the window, her back to the room, was Lily.
Neither of them glanced at the door. Evidently the waiter had been moving in and out, and Akers considered him as little as he would a dog.
"Come and sit down," he said angrily. "I've quit drinking, I tell you. Good God, just because I've had a little wine—and I had the hell of a time getting it—you won't eat and won't talk. Come here."
"I'm not hungry."
"Stay where you are, Lily," said Willy Cameron, from inside the closed door. "Or perhaps you'd better get your wraps. I came to take you home."
Akers had wheeled at the voice, and now stood staring incredulously. First anger, and then a grin of triumph, showed in his face. Drink had made him not so much drunk as reckless. He had lost last night, but to-day he had won.
"Hello, Cameron," he said.
Willy Cameron ignored him.
"Will you come?" he said to Lily.
"I can't, Willy."
"Listen, Lily dear," he said gravely. "Your father is searching the city for you. Do you know what that means? Don't you see that you must go home at once? You can't dine here in a private suite, like this, and not expose yourself to all sorts of talk."
"Go on," said Akers, leering. "I like to hear you."
"Especially," continued Willy Cameron, "with a man like this."
Akers took a step toward him, but he was not too sure of himself, and he knew now that the other man had a swing to his right arm like the driving rod of a locomotive. He retreated again to the table, and his hand closed over a knife there.
"Louis!" Lily said sharply.
He picked up the knife and smiled at her, his eyes cunning. "Not going to kill him, my dear," he said. "Merely to give him a hint that I'm not as easy as I was last night."
That was a slip, and he knew it. Lily had left the window and come forward, a stricken slip of a girl, and he turned to her angrily.
"Go into the other room and close the door," he ordered. "When I've thrown this fellow out, you can come back."
But Lily's eyes were fixed on Willy Cameron's face.
"It was you last night?"
"Because," Willy Cameron said steadily, "he had got a girl into trouble, and then insulted her. I wouldn't tell you, but you've got to know the truth before it's too late."
Lily threw out both hands dizzily, as though catching for support. But she steadied herself. Neither man moved.
"It is too late, Willy," she said. "I have just married him."
At midnight Howard Cardew reached home again, a tired and broken man. Grace had been lying awake in her bedroom, puzzled by his unexplained absence, and brooding, as she now did continually, over Lily's absence.
At half past eleven she heard Anthony Cardew come in and go upstairs, and for some time after that she heard him steadily pacing back and forth overhead. Sometimes Grace felt sorry for Anthony. He had made himself at such cost, and now when he was old, he had everything and yet nothing.
They had never understood women, these Cardews. Howard was gentle with them where Anthony was hard, but he did not understand, either. She herself, of other blood, got along by making few demands, but the Cardew women were as insistent in their demands as the men. Elinor, Lily—She formed a sudden resolution, and getting up, dressed feverishly. She had no plan in her mind, nothing but a desperate resolution to put Lily's case before her grandfather, and to beg that she be brought home without conditions.
She was frightened as she went up the stairs. Never before had she permitted things to come to an issue between herself and Anthony. But now it must be done. She knocked at the door.
Anthony Cardew opened it. The room was dark, save for one lamp burning dimly on a great mahogany table, and Anthony's erect figure was little more than a blur of black and white.
"I heard you walking about," she said breathlessly. "May I come in and talk to you?"
"Come in," he said, with a sort of grave heaviness. "Shall I light the other lamps?"
"Will you sit down? No? Do you mind if I do? I am very tired. I suppose it is about Lily?"
"Yes. I can't stand it any longer. I can't."
Sitting under the lamp she saw that he looked very old and very weary. A tired little old man, almost a broken one.
"She won't come back?"
"Not under the conditions. But she must come back, father. To let her stay on there, in that house, after last night—"
She had never called him "father" before. It seemed to touch him.
"You're a good woman, Grace," he said, still heavily. "We Cardews all marry good women, but we don't know how to treat them. Even Howard—" His voice trailed off. "No, she can't stay there," he said, after a pause.
"But—I must tell you—she refuses to give up that man."
"You are a woman, Grace. You ought to know something about girls. Does she actually care for him, or is it because he offers the liberty she thinks we fail to give her? Or"—he smiled faintly—"is it Cardew pig-headedness?"
Grace made a little gesture of despair.
"I don't know. She wanted to come home. She begged—it was dreadful." Grace hesitated. "Even that couldn't be as bad as this, father," she said. "We have all lived our own lives, you and Howard and myself, and now we won't let her do it."
"And a pretty mess we have made of them!" His tone was grim. "No, I can't say that we offer her any felicitous examples. But the fellow's plan is transparent enough. He is ambitious. He sees himself installed here, one of us. Mark my words, Grace, he may love the child, but his real actuating motive is that. He's a Radical, because since he can't climb up, he'll pull down. But once let him get his foot on the Cardew ladder, and he'll climb, over her, over all of us."
He sat after that, his head dropped on his chest, his hands resting on the arms of his chair, in a brooding reverie. Grace waited.
"Better bring her home," he said finally. "Tell her I surrender. I want her here. Let her bring that fellow here, too, if she has to see him. But for God's sake, Grace," he added, with a flash of his old fire, "show her some real men, too."
Suddenly Grace bent over and kissed him. He put up his hand, and patted her on the shoulder.
"A good woman, Grace," he said, "and a good daughter to me. I'm sorry. I'll try to do better."
As Grace straightened she heard the door close below, and Howard's voice. Almost immediately she heard him coming up the staircase, and going out into the hall she called softly to him.
"Where are you?" he asked, looking up. "Is father there?"
"I want you both to come down to the library, Grace."
She heard him turn and go slowly down the stairs. His voice had been strained and unnatural. As she turned she found Anthony behind her.
"Something has happened!"
"I rather think so," said old Anthony, slowly.
They went together down the stairs.
In the library Lily was standing, facing the door, a quiet figure, listening and waiting. Howard had dropped into a chair and was staring ahead. And beyond the circle of lights was a shadowy figure, vaguely familiar, tall, thin, and watchful. Willy Cameron.
The discovery that Lily had left his house threw Jim Doyle into a frenzy. The very manner of her going filled him with dark suspicion. Either she had heard more that morning than he had thought, or—In his cunning mind for weeks there had been growing a smoldering suspicion of his wife. She was too quiet, too acquiescent. In the beginning, when Woslosky had brought the scheme to him, and had promised it financial support from Europe, he had taken a cruel and savage delight in outlining it to her, in seeing her cringe and go pale.
He had not feared her then. She had borne with so much, endured, tolerated, accepted, that he had not realized that she might have a breaking point.
The plan had appealed to his cynical soul from the first. It was the apotheosis of cynicism, this reducing of a world to its lowest level. And it had amused him to see his wife, a gentlewoman born, bewildered before the chaos he depicted.
"But—it is German!" she had said.
"I bow before intelligence. It is German. Also it is Russian. Also it is of all nations. All this talk now, of a League of Nations, a few dull diplomats acting as God over the peoples of the earth!" His eyes blazed. "While the true league, of the workers of the world, is already in effect!"
But he watched her after that, not that he was afraid of her, but because her re-action as a woman was important. He feared women in the movement. It had its disciples, fervent and eloquent, paid and unpaid women agitators, but he did not trust them. They were invariably women without home ties, women with nothing to protect, women with everything to gain and nothing to lose. The woman in the home was a natural anti-radical. Not the police, not even the army, but the woman in the home was the deadly enemy of the great plan.
He began to hate Elinor, not so much for herself, as for the women she represented. She became the embodiment of possible failure. She stood in his path, passively resistant, stubbornly brave.
She was not a clever woman, and she was slow in gathering the full significance of a nation-wide general strike, that with an end of all production the non-producing world would be beaten to its knees. And then she waited for a world movement, forgetting that a flame must start somewhere and then spread. But she listened and learned. There was a great deal of talk about class and mass. She learned that the mass, for instance, was hungry for a change. It would welcome any change. Woslosky had been in Russia when the Kerensky regime was overthrown, and had seen that strange three days when the submerged part of the city filled the streets, singing, smiling, endlessly walking, exalted and without guile.
No problems troubled them. They had ceased to labor, and that was enough.
Had it not been for its leaders, the mass would have risen like a tide, and ebbed again.
Elinor had struggled to understand. This was not Socialism. Jim had been a Socialist for years. He had believed that the gradual elevation of the few, the gradual subjection of the many, would go on until the majority would drag the few down to their own level. But this new dream was something immediate. At her table she began to hear talk of substituting for that slow process a militant minority. She was a long time, months, in discovering that Jim Doyle was one of the leaders of that militant minority, and that the methods of it were unspeakably criminal.
Then had begun Elinor Doyle's long battle, at first to hold him back, and that failing, the fight between her duty to her husband and that to her country. He had been her one occupation and obsession too long to be easily abandoned, but she was sturdily national, too. In the end she made her decision. She lived in his house, mended his clothing, served his food, met his accomplices, and—watched.
She hated herself for it. Every fine fiber of her revolted. But as time went on, and she learned the full wickedness of the thing, her days became one long waiting. She saw one move after another succeed, strike after strike slowing production, and thus increasing the cost of living. She saw the growing discontent and muttering, the vicious circle of labor striking for more money, and by its own ceasing of activity making the very increases they asked inadequate. And behind it all she saw the ceaseless working, the endless sowing, of a grim-faced band of conspirators.
She was obliged to wait. A few men talking in secret meetings, a hidden propaganda of crime and disorder—there was nothing to strike at. And Elinor, while not clever, had the Cardew shrewdness. She saw that, like the crisis in a fever, the thing would have to come, be met, and defeated.
She had no hope that the government would take hold. Government was aloof, haughty, and secure in its own strength. Just now, too, it was objective, not subjective. It was like a horse set to win a race, and unconscious of the fly on its withers. But the fly was a gadfly.
Elinor knew Doyle was beginning to suspect her. Sometimes she thought he would kill her, if he discovered what she meant to do. She did not greatly care. She waited for some inkling of the day set for the uprising in the city, and saved out of her small house allowance by innumerable economies and subterfuges. When she found out the time she would go to the Governor of the State. He seemed to be a strong man, and she would present him facts. Facts and names. Then he must act—and quickly.
Cut off from her own world, and with no roots thrown out in the new, she had no friends, no one to confide in or of whom to ask assistance. And she was afraid to go to Howard. He would precipitate things. The leaders would escape, and a new group would take their places. Such a group, she knew, stood ready for that very emergency.
On the afternoon of Lily's departure she heard Doyle come in. He had not recovered from his morning's anger, and she heard his voice, raised in some violent reproof to Jennie. He came up the stairs, his head sagged forward, his every step deliberate, heavy, ominous. He had an evening paper in his hand, and he gave it to her with his finger pointing to a paragraph.
"You might show that to the last of the Cardews," he sneered.
It was the paragraph about Louis Akers. Elinor read it. "Who were the masked men?" she asked. "Do you know?"
"I wish to God I did. I'd—Makes him a laughing stock, of course. And just now, when—Where's Lily?"
Elinor put down the paper.
"She is not here. She went home this afternoon."
He stared at her, angrily incredulous.
She passed him and went out into the hall. But he followed her and caught her by the arm as she reached the top of the staircase.
"What made her go home?"
"I don't know, Jim."
"She didn't say?"
"Don't hold me like that. No."
She tried to free her arm, but he held her, his face angry and suspicious.
"You are lying to me," he snarled. "She gave you a reason. What was it?"
Elinor was frightened, but she had not lost her head. She was thinking rapidly.
"She had a visitor this afternoon, a young man. He must have told her something about last night. She came up and told me she was going."
"You know he told her something, don't you?"
"Yes." Elinor had cowered against the wall. "Jim, don't look like that. You frighten me. I couldn't keep her here. I—"
"What did he tell her?"
"He accused you."
He was eyeing her coldly, calculatingly. All his suspicions of the past weeks suddenly crystallized. "And you let her go, after that," he said slowly. "You were glad to have her go. You didn't deny what she said. You let her run back home, with what she had guessed and what you told her to-day. You—"
He struck her then. The blow was as remorseless as his voice, as deliberate. She fell down the staircase headlong, and lay there, not moving.
The elderly maid came running from the kitchen, and found him half-way down the stairs, his eyes still calculating, but his body shaking.
"She fell," he said, still staring down. But the servant faced him, her eyes full of hate.
"You devil!" she said. "If she's dead, I'll see you hang for it."
But Elinor was not dead. Doctor Smalley, making rounds in a nearby hospital and answering the emergency call, found her lying on her bed, fully conscious and in great pain, while her husband bent over her in seeming agony of mind. She had broken her leg. He sent Doyle out during the setting. It was a principle of his to keep agonized husbands out of the room.
Life had beaten Lily Cardew. She went about the house, pathetically reminiscent of Elinor Doyle in those days when she had sought sanctuary there; but where Elinor had seen those days only as interludes in her stormy life, Lily was finding a strange new peace. She was very tender, very thoughtful, insistently cheerful, as though determined that her own ill-fortune should not affect the rest of the household.
But to Lily this peace was not an interlude, but an end. Life for her was over. Her bright dreams were gone, her future settled. Without so putting it, even to herself, she dedicated herself to service, to small kindnesses, and little thoughtful acts. She was, daily and hourly, making reparation to them all for what she had cost them, in hope.
That was the thing that had gone out of life. Hope. Her loathing of Louis Akers was gone. She did not hate him. Rather she felt toward him a sort of numbed indifference. She wished never to see him again, but the revolt that had followed her knowledge of the conditions under which he had married her was gone. She tried to understand his viewpoint, to make allowances for his lack of some fundamental creed to live by. But as the days went on, with that healthy tendency of the mind to bury pain, she found him, from a figure that bulked so large as to shut out all the horizon of her life, receding more and more.
But always he would shut off certain things. Love, and marriage, and of course the hope of happiness. Happiness was a thing one earned, and she had not earned it.
After the scene at the Saint Elmo, when he had refused to let her go, and when Willy Cameron had at last locked him in the bedroom of the suite and had taken her away, there had followed a complete silence. She had waited for some move or his part, perhaps an announcement of the marriage in the newspapers, but nothing had appeared. He had commenced a whirlwind campaign for the mayoralty and was receiving a substantial support from labor.
The months at the house on Cardew Way seemed more and more dream-like, and that quality of remoteness was accentuated by the fact that she had not been able to talk to Elinor. She had telephoned more than once during the week, but a new maid had answered. Mrs. Doyle was out. Mrs. Doyle was unable to come to the telephone. The girl was a foreigner, with something of Woslosky's burr in her voice.
Lily had not left the house since her return. During that family conclave which had followed her arrival, a stricken thing of few words and long anxious pauses, her grandfather had suggested that. He had been curiously mild with her, her grandfather. He had made no friendly overtures, but he had neither jibed nor sneered.
"It's done," he had said briefly. "The thing now is to keep her out of his clutches." He had turned to her. "I wouldn't leave the house for few days, Lily."
It was then that Willy Cameron had gone. Afterwards she thought that he must have been waiting, patiently protective, to see how the old man received her.
Her inability to reach Elinor began to dismay her, at last. There was something sinister about it, and finally Howard himself went to the Doyle house. Lily had come back on Thursday, and on the following Tuesday he made his call, timing it so that Doyle would probably be away from home. But he came back baffled.
"She was not at home," he said. "I had to take the servant's word for it, but I think the girl was lying."
"She may be ill. She almost never goes out."
"What possible object could they have in concealing her illness?" Howard said impatiently.
But he was very uneasy, and what Lily had told him since her return only increased his anxiety. The house was a hotbed of conspiracy, and for her own reasons Elinor was remaining there. It was no place for a sister of his. But Elinor for years had only touched the outer fringes of his life, and his days were crowded with other things; the increasing arrogance of the strikers, the utter uselessness of trying to make terms with them, his own determination to continue to fight his futile political campaign. He put her out of his mind.
Then, at the end of another week, a curious thing happened. Anthony and Lily were in the library. Old Anthony without a club was Old Anthony lost, and he had developed a habit, at first rather embarrassing to the others, of spending much of his time downstairs. He was no sinner turned saint. He still let the lash of his tongue play over the household, but his old zest in it seemed gone. He made, too, small tentative overtures to Lily, intended to be friendly, but actually absurdly self-conscious. Grace, watching him, often felt him rather touching. It was obvious to her that he blamed himself, rather than Lily, for what had happened.
On this occasion he had asked Lily to read to him.
"And leave out the politics," he had said, "I get enough of that wherever I go."
As she read she felt him watching her, and in the middle of a paragraph he suddenly said:
"What's become of Cameron?"
"He must be very busy. He is supporting Mr. Hendricks, you know."
"Supporting him! He's carrying him on his back," grunted Anthony. "What is it, Grayson?"
"A lady—a woman—calling on Miss Cardew."
Lily rose, but Anthony motioned her back.
"Did she give any name?"
"She said to say it was Jennie, sir."
"Jennie! It must be Aunt Elinor's Jennie!"
"Send her in," said Anthony, and stood waiting Lily noticed his face twitching; it occurred to her then that this strange old man might still love his daughter, after all the years, and all his cruelty.
It was the elderly servant from the Doyle house who came in, a tall gaunt woman, looking oddly unfamiliar to Lily in a hat.
"Why, Jennie!" she said. And then: "Is anything wrong?"
"There is and there isn't," Jennie said, somberly. "I just wanted to tell you, and I don't care if he kills me for it. It was him that threw her downstairs. I heard him hit her."
Old Anthony stiffened.
"He threw Aunt Elinor downstairs?"
"That's how she broke her leg."
Sheer amazement made Lily inarticulate.
"But they said—we didn't know—do you mean that she has been there all this time, hurt?"
"I mean just that," said Jennie, stolidly. "I helped set it, with him pretending to be all worked up, for the doctor to see. He got rid of me all right. He's got one of his spies there now, a Bolshevik like himself. You can ask the neighbors."
Howard was out, and when the woman had gone Anthony ordered his car. Lily, frightened by the look on his face, made only one protest.
"You mustn't go alone," she said. "Let me go, too. Or take Grayson—anybody."
But he went alone; in the hall he picked up his hat and stick, and drew on his gloves.
"What is the house number?"
Lily told him and he went out, moving deliberately, like a man who has made up his mind to follow a certain course, but to keep himself well in hand.
Acting on Willy Cameron's suggestion, Dan Boyd retained his membership in the union and frequented the meetings. He learned various things, that the strike vote had been padded, for instance, and that the Radicals had taken advantage of the absence of some of the conservative leaders to secure such support as they had received. He found the better class of workmen dissatisfied and unhappy. Some of them, men who loved their tools, had resented the order to put them down where they were and walk out, and this resentment, childish as it seemed, was an expression of their general dissatisfaction with the autocracy they had themselves built up.
Finally Dan's persistent attendance and meek acquiescence, added to his war record, brought him reward. He was elected member of a conference to take to the Central Labor Council the suggestion for a general strike. It was arranged that the delegates take the floor one after the other, and hold it for as long as possible. Then they were to ask the President of the Council to put the question.
The arguments were carefully prepared. The general strike was to be urged as the one salvation of the labor movement. It would prove the solidarity of labor. And, at the Council meeting a few days later, the rank and file were impressed by the arguments. Dan, gnawing his nails and listening, watched anxiously. The idea was favorably received, and the delegates went back to their local unions, to urge, coerce and threaten.
Not once, during the meeting, had there been any suggestion of violence, but violence was in the air, nevertheless. The quantity of revolutionary literature increased greatly during the following ten days, and now it was no longer furtively distributed. It was sold or given away at all meetings; it flooded the various headquarters with its skillful compound of lies and truth. The leaders notified of the situation, pretended that it was harmless raving, a natural and safe outlet for suppressed discontents.
Dan gathered up an armful of it and took it home. On a Sunday following, there was a mass meeting at the Colosseum, and a business agent of one of the unions made an impassioned speech. He recited old and new grievances, said that the government had failed to live up to its promises, that the government boards were always unjust to the workers, and ended with a statement of the steel makers' profits. Dan turned impatiently to a man beside him.
"Why doesn't he say how much of that profit the government gets?" he demanded.
But the man only eyed him suspiciously.
Dan fell silent. He knew it was wrong, but he had no gift of tongue. It was at that meeting that for the first time he heard used the word "revolution."
Old Anthony's excursion to his daughter's house had not prospered. During the drive to Cardew Way he sat forward on the edge of the seat of his limousine, his mouth twitching with impatience and anger, his stick tightly clutched in his hand. Almost before the machine stopped he was out on the pavement, scanning the house with hostile eyes.
The building was dark. Paul, the chauffeur, watching curiously, for the household knew that Anthony Cardew had sworn never to darken his daughter's door, saw his erect, militant figure enter the gate and lose itself in the shadow of the house. There followed a short interval of nothing in particular, and then a tall man appeared in the rectangle of light which was the open door.
Jim Doyle was astounded when he saw his visitor. Astounded and alarmed. But he recovered himself quickly, and smiled.
"This is something I never expected to see," he said, "Mr. Anthony Cardew on my doorstep."
"I don't give a damn what you expected to see," said Mr. Anthony Cardew. "I want to see my daughter."
"Your daughter? You have said for a good many years that you have no daughter."
"Stand aside, sir. I didn't come here to quibble."
"But I love to quibble," sneered Doyle. "However, if you insist—I might as well tell you, I haven't the remotest intention of letting you in."
"I'll ask you a question," said old Anthony. "Is it true that my daughter has been hurt?"
"My wife is indisposed. I presume we are speaking of the same person."
"You infernal scoundrel," shouted Anthony, and raising his cane, brought it down with a crack on Doyle's head. The chauffeur was half-way up the walk by that time, and broke into a run. He saw Doyle, against the light, reel, recover and raise his fist, but he did not bring it down.
"Stop that!" yelled the chauffeur, and came on like a charging steer. When he reached the steps old Anthony was hanging his stick over his left forearm, and Doyle was inside the door, trying to close it. This was difficult, however, because Anthony had quietly put his foot over the sill.
"I am going to see my daughter, Paul," said Anthony Cardew. "Can you open the door?"
"Open it!" Paul observed truculently. "Watch me!"
He threw himself against the door, but it gave suddenly, and sent him sprawling inside at Doyle's feet. He was up in an instant, squared to fight, but he only met Jim Doyle's mocking smile. Doyle stood, arms folded, and watched Anthony Cardew enter his house. Whatever he feared he covered with the cynical mask that was his face.
He made no move, offered no speech.
"Is she upstairs?"
"She is asleep. Do you intend to disturb her?"
"I do," said old Anthony grimly. "I'll go first, Paul. You follow me, but I'd advise you to come up backwards."
Suddenly Doyle laughed.
"What!" he said, "Mr. Anthony Cardew paying his first visit to my humble home, and anticipating violence! You underestimate the honor you are doing me."
He stood like a mocking devil at the foot of the staircase until the two men had reached the top. Then he followed them. The mask had dropped from his face, and anger and watchfulness showed in it. If she talked, he would kill her. But she knew that. She was not a fool.
Elinor lay in the bed, listening. She had recognized her father's voice, and her first impulse was one of almost unbearable relief. They had found her. They had come to take her away. For she knew now that she was a prisoner; even without the broken leg she would have been a prisoner. The girl downstairs was one of them, and her jailer. A jailer who fed her, and gave her grudgingly the attention she required, but that was all.
Just when Doyle had begun to suspect her she did not know, but on the night after her injury he had taken pains to verify his suspicions. He had found first her little store of money, and that had angered him. In the end he had broken open a locked trinket box and found a notebook in which for months she had kept her careful records. Here and there, scattered among house accounts, were the names of the radical members of The Central Labor Council, and other names, spoken before her and carefully remembered. He had read them out to her as he came to them, suffering as she was, and she had expected death then. But he had not killed her. He had sent Jennie away and brought in this Russian girl, a mad-eyed fanatic named Olga, and from that time on he visited her once daily. In his anger and triumph over her he devised the most cunning of all punishments; he told her of the movement's progress, of its ingeniously contrived devilments in store, of its inevitable success. What buildings and homes were to be bombed, the Cardew house first among them; what leading citizens were to be held as hostages, with all that that implied; and again the Cardews headed the list.
When Doctor Smalley came he or the Russian were always present, solicitous and attentive. She got out of her bed one day, and dragging her splinted leg got to her desk, in the hope of writing a note and finding some opportunity of giving it to the doctor. Only to discover that they had taken away her pen, pencils and paper.
She had been found there by Olga, but the girl had made no comment. Olga had helped her back into bed without a word, but from that time on had spent most of her day on the upper floor. Not until Doyle came in would she go downstairs to prepare his food.
Elinor lay in her bed and listened to her father coming up the stairs. She knew, before he reached the top, that Doyle would never let her be taken away. He would kill her first. He might kill Anthony Cardew. She had a sickening sense of tragedy coming up the staircase, tragedy which took the form of her father's familiar deliberate step. Perhaps had she known of the chauffeur's presence she might have chanced it, for every fiber of her tired body was crying for release. But she saw only her father, alone in that house with Doyle and the smoldering Russian.
The key turned in the lock.
Anthony Cardew stood in the doorway, looking at her. With her long hair in braids, she seemed young, almost girlish. She looked like the little girl who had gone to dancing school in short white frocks and long black silk stockings, so many years ago.
"I've just learned about it, Elinor," he said. He moved to the bed and stood beside it, looking down, but he did not touch her. "Are you able to be taken away from here?"
She knew that Doyle was outside, listening, and she hardened her heart for the part she had to play. It was difficult; she was so infinitely moved by her father's coming, and in the dim light he, too, looked like himself of years ago.
"Taken away? Where?" she asked.
"You don't want to stay here, do you?" he demanded bluntly.
"This is my home, father."
"Good God, home! Do you mean to tell me that, with all you must know about this man, you still want to stay with him?"
"I have no other home."
"I am offering you one."
Old Anthony was bewildered and angry. Elinor put out a hand to touch him, but he drew back.
"After he has thrown you downstairs and injured you—"
"How did you hear that?"
"The servant you had here came to see me to-night, Elinor. She said that that blackguard outside there had struck you and you fell down the stairs. If you tell me that's the truth I'll break every bone in his body."
Sheer terror for Anthony made her breathless.
"But it isn't true," she said wildly. "You mustn't think that. I fell. I slipped and fell."
"Then," said Anthony, speaking slowly, "you are not a prisoner here?"
"A prisoner? I'd be a prisoner anywhere, father. I can't walk."
"That door was locked."
She was fighting valiantly for him.
"I can't walk, father. I don't require a locked door to keep me in."
He was too confused and puzzled to notice the evasion.
"Do you mean to say that you won't let me have you taken home? You are still going to stay with this man? You know what he is, don't you?"
"I know what you think he is." She tried to smile, and he looked away from her quickly and stared around the room, seeing nothing, however. Suddenly he turned and walked to the door; but he stopped there, his hand on the knob, and us face twitching.
"Once more, Elinor," he said, "I ask you if you will let me take you back with me. This is the last time. I have come, after a good many years of bad feeling, to make my peace with you and to offer you a home. Will you come?"
Her courage almost failed her. She lay back, her eyes closed and her face colorless. The word itself was little more than a whisper.
Her father opened the door and went out. She heard him going down the stairs, heard other footsteps that followed him, and listened in an agony of fear that Doyle would drop him in the hall below. But nothing happened. The outside door closed, and after a moment she opened her eyes. Doyle was standing by the bed.
"So," he said, "you intend to give me the pleasure of your society for some time, do you?"
She said nothing. She was past any physical fear for herself.
"You liar!" he said softly. "Do you think I don't understand why you want to remain here? You are cleverer than I thought you were, but you are not as clever as I am. You'd have done better to have let him take you away."
"You would have killed him first."
"Perhaps I would." He lighted a cigarette. "But it is a pleasant thought to play with, and I shall miss it when the thing is fait accompli. I see Olga has left you without ice water. Shall I bring you some?"
He was still smiling faintly when he brought up the pitcher, some time later, and placed it on the stand beside the bed.
In the Boyd house things went on much as before, but with a new heaviness. Ellen, watching keenly, knew why the little house was so cheerless and somber. It had been Willy Cameron who had brought to it its gayer moments, Willy determinedly cheerful, slamming doors and whistling; Willy racing up the stairs with something hot for Mrs. Boyd's tray; Willy at the table, making them forget the frugality of the meals with campaign anecdotes; Willy, lamenting the lack of a chance to fish, and subsequently eliciting a rare smile from Edith by being discovered angling in the kitchen sink with a piece of twine on the end of his umbrella.
Rather forced, some of it, but eminently good for all of them. And then suddenly it ceased. He made an effort, but there was no spontaneity in him. He came in quietly, never whistled, and ate very little. He began to look almost gaunt, too, and Edith, watching him with jealous, loving eyes, gave voice at last to the thought that was in her mind.
"I wish you'd go away," she said, "and let us fight this thing out ourselves. Dan would have to get something to do, then, for one thing."
"But I don't want to go away, Edith."
"Then you're a fool," she observed, bitterly. "You can't help me any, and there's no use hanging mother around your neck."
"She won't be around any one's neck very long, Edith dear."
"After that, will you go away?"
"Not if you still want me."
Dan was out, and Ellen had gone up for the invalid's tray. They were alone together, standing in the kitchen doorway.
Suddenly Edith, beside him, ran her hand through his arm.
"If I had been a different sort of girl, Willy, do you think—could you ever have cared for me?"
"I never thought about you that way," he said, simply. "I do care for you. You know that."
She dropped her hand.
"You are in love with Lily Cardew. That's why you don't—I've known it all along, Willy. I used to think you'd get over it, never seeing her and all that. But you don't, do you?" She looked up at him. "The real thing lasts, I suppose. It will with me. I wish to heaven it wouldn't."
He was most uncomfortable, but he drew her hand within his arm again and held it there.
"Don't get to thinking that you care anything about me," he said. "There's not as much love in the world as there ought to be, and we all need to hold hands, but—don't fancy anything like that."
"I wanted to tell you. If I hadn't known about her I wouldn't have told you, but—you said it when you said there's not as much love as there ought to be. I'm gone, but I guess my caring for you hasn't hurt me any. It's the only reason I'm alive to-day."
She freed her hand, and stood staring out over the little autumn garden. There was such brooding trouble in her face that he watched her anxiously.
"I think mother suspects," she said at last.
"I hope not, Edith."
"I think she does. She watches me all the time, and she asked to see Dan to-night. Only he didn't come home."
"You must deny it, Edith," he said, almost fiercely. "She must not know, ever. That is one thing we can save her, and must save her."
But, going upstairs as usual before he went out, he realized that Edith was right, and that matters had reached a crisis. The sick woman had eaten nothing, and her eyes were sunken and anxious. There was an unspoken question in them, too, as she turned them on him. Most significant of all, the little album was not beside her, nor the usual litter of newspapers on the bed.
"I wish you weren't going out, Willy," she said querulously. "I want to talk to you about something."
"Can't we discuss it in the morning?"
"I won't sleep till I get it off my mind, Willy." But he could not face that situation then. He needed time, for one thing. Surely there must be some way out, some way to send this frail little woman dreamless to her last sleep, life could not be so cruel that death would seem kind.
He spoke at three different meetings that night, for the election was close at hand. Pink Denslow took him about in his car, and stood waiting for him at the back of the crowd. In the intervals between hall and hall Pink found Willy Cameron very silent and very grave, but he could not know that the young man beside him was trying to solve a difficult question. Which was: did two wrongs ever make a right?
At the end of the last meeting Willy Cameron decided to walk home.
"I have some things to think over. Pink," he said. "Thanks for the car. It saves a lot of time."
Pink sat at the wheel, carefully scrutinizing Willy. It struck him then that Cameron looked fagged and unhappy.
"Nothing I can do, I suppose?"
Pink knew nothing of Lily's marriage, nor of the events that had followed it. To his uninquiring mind all was as it should be with her; she was at home again, although strangely quiet and very sweet, and her small world was at peace with her. It was all right with her, he considered, although all wrong with him. Except that she was strangely subdued, which rather worried him. It was not possible, for instance, to rouse her to one of their old red-hot discussions on religion, or marriage, or love.
"I saw Lily Cardew this afternoon, Cameron."
"Is she all right?" asked Willy Cameron, in a carefully casual tone.
"I don't know." Pink's honest voice showed perplexity. "She looks all right, and the family's eating out of her hand.. But she's changed somehow. She asked for you."
"Thanks. Well, good-night, old man."
Willy Cameron was facing the decision of his life that night, as he walked home. Lily was gone, out of his reach and out of his life. But then she had never been within either. She was only something wonderful and far away, like a star to which men looked and sometimes prayed. Some day she would be free again, and then in time she would marry. Some one like Pink, her own sort, and find happiness.
But he knew that he would always love her, to the end of his days, and even beyond, in that heaven in which he so simply believed. All the things that puzzled him would be straightened out there, and perhaps a man who had loved a woman and lost her here would find her there, and walk hand in hand with her, through the bright days of Paradise.
Not that that satisfied him. He was a very earthly lover, with the hungry arms of youth. He yearned unspeakably for her. He would have died for her as easily as he would have lived for her, but he could do neither.
That was one side of him. The other, having put her away in that warm corner of his heart which was hers always, was busy with the practical problem of the Boyds. He saw only one way out, and that way he had been seeing with increasing clearness for several days. Edith's candor that night, and Mrs. Boyd's suspicions, clearly pointed to it. There was one way by which to save Edith and her child, and to save the dying woman the agony of full knowledge.
Edith was sitting on the doorstep, alone. He sat down on the step below her, rather silent, still busy with his problem. Although the night was warm, the girl shivered.
"She's not asleep. She's waiting for me to go up, Willy. She means to call me in and ask me."
"Then I'd better say what I have to say quickly. Edith, will you marry me?"
She drew off and looked at him.
"I'd better explain what I mean," he said, speaking with some difficulty. "I mean—go through the ceremony with me. I don't mean actual marriage. That wouldn't be fair to either of us, because you know that I care for some one else."
"But you mean a real marriage?"
"Of course. Your child has the right to a name, dear. And, if you don't mind telling a lie to save our souls, and for her peace of mind, we can say that it took place some time ago."
She gazed at him dazedly. Then something like suspicion came into her face.
"Is it because of what I told you to-night?"
"I had thought of it before. That helped, of course."
It seemed so surprisingly simple, put into words, and the light on the girl's face was his answer. A few words, so easily spoken, and two lives were saved. No, three, for Edith's child must be considered.
"You are like God," said Edith, in a low voice. "Like God." And fell to soft weeping. She was unutterably happy and relieved. She sat there, not daring to touch him, and looked out into the quiet street. Before her she saw all the things that she had thought were gone; honor, a place in the world again, the right to look into her mother's eyes; she saw marriage and happy, golden days. He did not love her, but he would be hers, and perhaps in His own good time the Manager of all destinies would make him love her. She would try so hard to deserve that.
Mrs. Boyd was asleep when at last Edith went up the staircase, and Ellen, lying sleepless on her cot in the hot attic room, heard the girl softly humming to herself as she undressed, and marveled.
When Lily had been at home for some time, and Louis Akers had made no attempt to see her, or to announce the marriage, the vigilance of the household began to relax. Howard Cardew had already consulted the family lawyer about an annulment, and that gentleman had sent a letter to Akers, which had received no reply.
Then one afternoon Grayson, whose instructions had been absolute as to admitting Akers to the house, opened the door to Mrs. Denslow, who was calling, and found behind that lady Louis Akers himself. He made an effort to close the door behind the lady, but Akers was too quick for him, and a scene at the moment was impossible.
He ushered Mrs. Denslow into the drawing room, and coming out, closed the doors.
"My instructions, sir, are to say to you that the ladies are not at home."
But Akers held out his hat and gloves with so ugly a look that Grayson took them.
"I have come to see my wife," he said. "Tell her that, and that if she doesn't see me here I'll go upstairs and find her."
When Grayson still hesitated he made a move toward the staircase, and the elderly servant, astounded at the speech and the movement, put down the hat and faced him.
"I do not recognize any one in the household by that name, sir."
"You don't, don't you? Very well. Tell Miss Cardew I am here, and that either she will come down or I'll go up. I'll wait in the library."
He watched Grayson start up the stairs, and then went into the library. He was very carefully dressed, and momentarily exultant over the success of his ruse, but he was uneasy, too, and wary, and inclined to regard the house as a possible trap. He had made a gambler's venture, risking everything on the cards he held, and without much confidence in them. His vanity declined to believe that his old power over Lily was gone, but he had held a purely physical dominance over so many women that he knew both his strength and his limitations.
What he could not understand, what had kept him awake so many nights since he had seen her, was her recoil from him on Willy Cameron's announcement. She had known he had led the life of his sort; he had never played the plaster saint to her. And she had accepted her knowledge of his connection with the Red movement, on his mere promise to reform. But this other, this accident, and she had turned from him with a horror that made him furious to remember. These silly star-eyed virgins, who accepted careful abstractions and then turned sick at life itself, a man was a fool to put himself in their hands.
Mademoiselle was with Lily in her boudoir when Grayson came up, a thin, tired-faced, suddenly old Mademoiselle, much given those days to early masses, during which she prayed for eternal life for the man who had ruined Lily's life, and that soon. To Mademoiselle marriage was a final thing and divorce a wickedness against God and His establishment on earth.
Lily, rather like Willy Cameron, was finding on her spirit at that time a burden similar to his, of keeping up the morale of the household.
Grayson came in and closed the door behind him. Anger and anxiety were in his worn old face, and Lily got up quickly. "What is it, Grayson?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Lily. He was in the vestibule behind Mrs. Denslow, and I couldn't keep him out. I think he had waited for some one to call, knowing I couldn't make a scene."
Mademoiselle turned to Lily.
"You must not see him," she said in rapid French. "Remain here, and I shall telephone for your father. Lock your door. He may come up. He will do anything, that man."
"I am going down," Lily said quietly. "I owe him that. You need not be frightened. And don't tell mother; it will only worry her and do no good."
Her heart was beating fast as she went down the stairs. From the drawing room came the voices of Grace and Mrs. Denslow, chatting amiably. The second man was carrying in tea, the old silver service gleaming. Over all the lower floor was an air of peace and comfort, the passionless atmosphere of daily life running in old and easy grooves.
When Lily entered the library she closed the door behind her. She had, on turning, a swift picture of Grayson, taking up his stand in the hall, and it gave her a sense of comfort. She knew he would remain there, impassively waiting, so long as Akers was in the house.
Then she faced the man standing by the center table. He made no move toward her, did not even speak at once. It left on her the burden of the opening, of setting the key of what was to come. She was steady enough now.
"Perhaps it is as well that you came, Louis," she said. "I suppose we must talk it over some time."
"Yes," he agreed, his eyes on her. "We must. I have married a wife, and I want her, Lily."
"You know that is impossible."
"Because of something that happened before I knew you? I never made any pretensions about my life before we met. But I did promise to go straight if you'd have me, and I have. I've lived up to my bargain. What about you?"
"It was not a part of my bargain to marry you while you—I have thought and thought, Louis. There is only one thing to be done. You will have to divorce me, and marry her."
"Marry her? A girl of the streets, who chooses to say that I am the father of her child! It's the oldest trick in the word. Besides—" He played his best card—"she won't marry me. Ask Cameron, who chose to make himself so damned busy about my affairs. He's in love with her. Ask him."
In spite of herself Lily winced. Out of the wreckage of the past few weeks one thing had seemed to remain, something to hold to, solid and dependable and fine, and that had been Willy Cameron. She had found, in these last days, something infinitely comforting in the thought that he cared for her. It was because he had cared that he had saved her from herself. But, if this were true—
"I am not going back to you, Louis. I think you know that. No amount of talking about things can change that."
"Why don't you face life and try to understand it?" he demanded, brutally. "Men are like that. Women are like that—sometimes. You can't measure human passions with a tape line. That's what you good women try to do, and you make life a merry little hell." He made an effort, and softened his voice. "I'll be true to you, Lily, if you'll come back."
"No," she said, "you would mean to be, but you would not. You have no foundation to build on."
"Meaning that I am not a gentleman."
"Not that. I know you, that's all. I understand so much that I didn't before. What you call love is only something different. When that was gone there would be the same thing again. You would be sorry, but I would be lost."
Her coolness disconcerted him. Two small triangular bits of color showed in his face. He had been prepared for tears, even for a refusal to return, but this clear-eyed appraisal of himself, and the accuracy of it, confused him. He took refuge in the only method he knew; he threw himself on her pity; he made violent, passionate love to her, but her only expression was one of distaste. When at last he caught her to him she perforce submitted, a frozen thing that told him, more than any words, how completely he had lost her. He threw her away from him, then, baffled and angry.
"You little devil!" he said. "You cold little devil!"
"I don't love you. That's all. I think now that I never did."
"You pretended damned well."
"Don't you think you'd better go?" Lily said wearily. "I don't like to hurt you. I am to blame for a great deal. But there is no use going on, is there? I'll give you your freedom as soon as I can. You will want that, of course."
"My freedom! Do you think I am going to let you go like that? I'll fight you and your family in every court in the country before I give you up. You can't bring Edith Boyd up against me, either. If she does that I'll bring up other witnesses, other men, and she knows it."
Lily was very pale, but still calm. She made a movement toward the bell, but he caught her hand before she could ring it.
"I'll get your Willy Cameron, too," he said, his face distorted with anger. "I'll get him good. You've done a bad thing for your friends and your family to-day, Lily. I'll go the limit on getting back at them. I've got the power, and by God, I'll use it."
He flung out into the hall, and toward the door. There he encountered Grayson, who reminded him of his hat and gloves, or he would have gone without them.
Grayson, going into the library a moment later, found Lily standing there, staring ahead and trembling violently. He brought her a cup of tea, and stood by, his old face working, while she drank it.
The strike had apparently settled down to the ordinary run of strikes. The newspaper men from New York were gradually recalled, as the mill towns became orderly, and no further acts of violence took place. Here and there mills that had gone down fired their furnaces again and went back to work, many with depleted shifts, however.
But the strikers had lost, and knew it. Howard Cardew, facing the situation with his customary honesty, saw in the gradual return of the men to work only the urgency of providing for their families, and realized that it was not peace that was coming, but an armed neutrality. The Cardew Mills were still down, but by winter he was confident they would be open again. To what purpose? To more wrangling and bickering, more strikes? Where was the middle ground? He was willing to give the men a percentage of the profits they made. He did not want great wealth, only an honest return for his invested capital. But he wanted to manage his own business. It was his risk.
The coal miners were going out. The Cardews owned coal mines. The miners wanted to work a minimum day for a maximum wage, but the country must have coal. Shorter hours meant more men for the mines, and they would have to be imported. But labor resented the importation of foreign workers.
Again, what was the answer?
Still, he was grateful for peace. The strike dragged on, with only occasional acts of violence. From the hill above Baxter a sniper daily fired with a long range rifle at the toluol tank in the center of one of the mills, and had so far escaped capture, as the tank had escaped damage. But he knew well enough that a long strike was playing into the hands of the Reds. It was impossible to sow the seeds of revolution so long as a man's dinner-pail was full, his rent paid, and his family contented. But a long strike, with bank accounts becoming exhausted and credit curtailed, would pave the way for revolution.
Old Anthony had had a drastic remedy for strikes.
"Let all the storekeepers, the country over, refuse credit to the strikers, and we'd have an end to this mess," he said.
"We'd have an end to the storekeepers, too," Howard had replied, grimly.
One good thing had come out of the bomb outrages. They had had a salutary effect on the honest labor element. These had no sympathy with such methods and said so. But a certain element, both native and foreign born, secretly gloated and waited.
One thing surprised and irritated Howard. Public sentiment was not so much with the strikers, as against the mill owners. The strike worked a hardship to the stores and small businesses dependent on the great mills; they forgot the years when the Cardews had brought them prosperity, had indeed made them possible, and they felt now only bitter resentment at the loss of trade. In his anger Howard saw them as parasites, fattening on the conceptions and strength of those who had made the city. They were men who built nothing, originated nothing. Men who hated the ladder by which they had climbed, who cared little how shaky its foundation, so long as it stood.
In September, lured by a false security, the governor ordered the demobilization of the state troops, save for two companies. The men at the Baxter and Friendship plants, owned by the Cardews, had voted to remain out, but their leaders appeared to have them well in hand, and no trouble was anticipated. The agents of the Department of Justice, however, were still suspicious. The foreigners had plenty of money. Given as they were to hoarding their savings in their homes, the local banks were unable to say if they were drawing on their reserves or were being financed from the outside.
Shortly before the mayoralty election trouble broke out in the western end of the state, and in the north, in the steel towns. There were ugly riotings, bombs were sent through the mails, the old tactics of night shootings and destruction of property began. In the threatening chaos Baxter and Friendship, and the city nearby, stood out by contrast for their very orderliness. The state constabulary remained in diminished numbers, a still magnificent body of men but far too few for any real emergency, and the Federal agents, suspicious but puzzled, were removed to more turbulent fields.
The men constituting the Vigilance Committee began to feel a sense of futility, almost of absurdity. They had armed and enrolled themselves—against what? The growth of the organization slowed down, but it already numbered thousands of members. Only its leaders retained their faith in its ultimate necessity, and they owed perhaps more than they realized to Willy Cameron's own conviction.
It was owing to him that the city was divided into a series of zones, so that notification of an emergency could be made rapidly by telephone and messenger. Owing to him, too, was a new central office, with some one on duty day and night. Rather ironically, the new quarters were the dismantled rooms of the Myers Housecleaning Company.
On the day after his proposal to Edith, Willy Cameron received an unexpected holiday. Mrs. Davis, the invalid wife of the owner of the Eagle Pharmacy, died and the store was closed. He had seen Edith for only a few moments that morning, but it was understood then that the marriage would take place either that day or the next.
He had been physically so weary the night before that he had slept, but the morning found him with a heaviness of spirit that he could not throw off. The exaltation of the night before was gone, and all that remained was a dogged sense of a duty to be done. Although he smiled at Edith, his face remained with her all through the morning.
"I'll make it up to him," she thought, humbly. "I'll make it up to him somehow."
Then, with Ellen out doing her morning marketing, she heard the feeble thump of a cane overhead which was her mother's signal. She was determined not to see her mother again until she could say that she was married, but the thumping continued, and was followed by the crash of a broken glass.
"She's trying to get up!" Edith thought, panicky. "If she gets up it will kill her."
She stood at the foot of the stairs, scarcely breathing, and listened. There was a dreadful silence above. She stole up, finally, to where she could see her mother. Mrs. Boyd was still in her bed, but lying with open eyes, unmoving.
"Mother," she called, and ran in. "Mother."
Mrs. Boyd glanced at her.
"I thought that glass would bring you," she said sharply, but with difficulty. "I want you to stand over there and let me look at you."
Edith dropped on her knees beside the bed, and caught her mother's hand.
"Don't! Don't talk like that, mother," she begged. "I know what you mean. It's all right, mother. Honestly it is. I—I'm married, mother."
"You wouldn't lie to me, Edith?"
"No. I'm telling you. I've been married a long time. You—don't you worry, mother. You just lie there and quit worrying. It's all right."
There was a sudden light in the sick woman's eyes, an eager light that flared up and died away again.
"Who to?" she asked. "If it's some corner loafer, Edie—" Edith had gained new courage and new facility. Anything was right that drove the tortured look from her mother's eyes.
"You can ask him when he comes home this evening."
"Edie! Not Willy?"
"You've guessed it," said Edith, and burying her face in the bed clothing, said a little prayer, to be forgiven for the lie and for all that she had done, to be more worthy thereafter, and in the end to earn the love of the man who was like God to her.
There are lies and lies. Now and then the Great Recorder must put one on the credit side of the balance, one that has saved intolerable suffering, or has made well and happy a sick soul.
Mrs. Boyd lay back and closed her eyes.
"I haven't been so tickled since the day you were born," she said.
She put out a thin hand and laid it on the girl's bowed head. When Edith moved, a little later, her mother was asleep, with a new look of peace on her face.
It was necessary before Ellen saw her mother to tell her what she had done. She shrank from doing it. It was one thing for Willy to have done it, to have told her the plan, but Edith was secretly afraid of Ellen. And Ellen's reception of the news justified her fears.
"And you'd take him that way!" she said, scornfully. "You'd hide behind him, besides spoiling his life for him! It sounds like him to offer, and it's like you to accept."
"It's to save mother," said Edith, meekly.
"It's to save yourself. You can't fool me. And if you think I'm going to sit by and let him do it, you can think again."
"It's as good as done," Edith flashed. "I've told mother."
"That you're going to be, or that you are?"
"That we are married."
"All right," Ellen said triumphantly. "She's quiet and peaceful now, isn't she? You don't have to get married now, do you? You take my advice, and let it go at that."
It was then that Edith realized what she had done. He would still marry her, of course, but behind all his anxiety to save her had been the real actuating motive of his desire to relieve her mother's mind. That was done now. Then, could she let him sacrifice himself for her?
She could. She could and she would. She set her small mouth firmly, and confronted the future; she saw herself, without his strength to support her, going down and down. She remembered those drabs of the street on whom she had turned such cynical eyes in her virtuous youth, and she saw herself one of that lost sisterhood, sodden, hectic, hopeless.
When Willy Cameron left the pharmacy that day it was almost noon. He went to the house of mourning first, and found Mr. Davis in a chair in a closed room, a tired little man in a new black necktie around a not over-clean collar, his occupation of years gone, confronting a new and terrible leisure that he did not know how to use.
"You know how it is, Willy," he said, blinking his reddened eyelids. "You kind of wish sometimes that you had somebody to help you bear your burden, and then it's taken away, but you're kind of bent over and used to it. And you'd give your neck and all to have it back."
Willy Cameron pondered that on his way up the street.
There was one great longing in him, to see Lily again. In a few hours now he would have taken a wife, and whatever travesty of marriage resulted, he would have to keep away from Lily. He meant to play square with Edith.
He wondered if it would hurt Lily to see him, remind her of things she must be trying to forget. He decided in the end that it would hurt her, so he did not go. But he walked, on his way to see Pink Denslow at the temporary bank, through a corner of the park near the house, and took a sort of formal and heart-breaking farewell of her.
Time had been when life had seemed only a long, long trail, with Lily at the end of it somewhere, like water to the thirsty traveler, or home to the wanderer; like a camp fire at night. But now, life seemed to him a broad highway, infinitely crowded, down which he must move, surrounded yet alone.
But at least he could walk in the middle of the road, in the sunlight. It was the weaklings who were crowded to the side. He threw up his head.
It had never occurred to him that he was in any, danger, either from Louis Akers or from the unseen enemy he was fighting. He had a curious lack of physical fear. But once or twice that day, as he went about, he happened to notice a small man, foreign in appearance and shabbily dressed. He saw him first when he came out of the marriage license office, and again when he entered the bank.
He had decided to tell Pink of his approaching marriage and to ask him to be present. He meant to tell him the facts. The intimacy between them was now very close, and he felt that Pink would understand. He neither wanted nor expected approval, but he did want honesty between them. He had based his life on honesty.
Yet the thing was curiously hard to lead up to. It would be hard to set before any outsider the conditions at the Boyd house, or his own sense of obligation to help. Put into everyday English the whole scheme sounded visionary and mock-heroic.
In the end he did not tell Pink at all, for Pink came in with excitement written large all over him.
"I sent for you," he said, "because I think we've got something at last. One of our fellows has just been in, that storekeeper I told you about from Friendship, Cusick. He says he has found out where they're meeting, back in the hills. He's made a map of it. Look, here's the town, and here's the big hill. Well, behind it, about a mile and a half, there's a German outfit, a family, with a farm. They're using the barn, according to this chap."
"The barn wouldn't hold very many of them."
"That's the point. It's the leaders. The family has an alibi. It goes in to the movies in the town on meeting nights. The place has been searched twice, but he says they have a system of patrols that gives them warning. The hills are heavily wooded there, and he thinks they have rigged up telephones in the trees."
There was a short silence. Willy Cameron studied the rug.
"I had to swear to keep it to ourselves," Pink said at last. "Cusick won't let the Federal agents in on it. They've raided him for liquor twice, and he's sick as a poisoned pup."
"How about the county detectives?"
"You know them. They'll go in and fight like hell when the time comes, but they're likely to gum the game where there's any finesse required. We'd better find out for ourselves first."
Willy Cameron smiled.
"What you mean is, that it's too good a thing to throw to the other fellow. Well, I'm on, if you want me. But I'm no detective."
Pink had come armed for such surrender. He produced a road map of the county and spread it on the desk.
"Here's the main road to Friendship," he said, "and here's the road they use. But there's another way, back of the hills. Cusick said it was a dirt lane, but dry. It's about forty miles by it to a point a mile or so behind the farm. He says he doesn't think they use that road. It's too far around."
"All right," said Willy Cameron. "We use that road, and get to the farm, and what then? Surrender?"
"Not on your life. We hide in the barn. That's all."
"That's enough. They'll search the place, automatically. You're talking suicide, you know."
But his mind was working rapidly. He was a country boy, and he knew barns. There would be other outbuildings, too, probably a number of them. The Germans always had plenty of them. And the information was too detailed to be put aside lightly.
"When does he think they will meet again?"
"That's the point," Pink said eagerly. "The family has been all over the town this morning. It is going on a picnic, and he says those picnics of theirs last half the night. What he got from the noise they were making was that they were raising dust again, and something's on for to-night."
"They'll leave somebody there. Their stock has to be looked after."
"This fellow says they drop everything and go. The whole outfit. They're as busy raising an alibi as the other lot is raising the devil."
But Willy Cameron was a Scot, and hard-headed.
"It looks too simple, Pink," he said reflectively. He sat for some time, filling and lighting his pipe, and considering as he did so. He was older than Pink; not much, but he felt extremely mature and very responsible.