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Mary Louise in the Country
by L. Frank Baum (AKA Edith Van Dyne)
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O'Gorman pressed her arm affectionately.

"Never you mind, my dear," in a consoling tone; "you have learned a lesson that will be of great value to you in your future work. I dare not blame you, indeed, for I myself, on the evidence you sent me, came rushing here on a wild-goose chase. One never knows what is on the other side of a page till he turns it, and if we detectives didn't have to turn so many pages, only to find them blank, we'd soon rid the country of its malefactors. But here we are at the Kenton gateway. Go to bed, Josie dear, and pleasant dreams to you."

"Will I see you again?" she asked.

"No; I'm off by the early train. But you must stay here and have your visit out with Mary Louise. It won't hurt you to have a free mind for awhile."

He kissed her tenderly and she went in.



CHAPTER XXVII NAN'S TRIUMPH

The night's events were not yet ended. An automobile left the edge of the stone-yard, followed a lane and turned into the main highway, where it encountered a woman standing in the middle of the road and waving her arms. She was distinctly visible in the moonlight.

The man with the monocle slowed the car and came to a sudden stop, rather than run her down.

"What's the matter?" he demanded impatiently.

"Wait a minute; I want to talk to you."

"Can't stop," he replied in a querulous tone. "I've got fifty miles to make before daylight. Out of my way, woman."

With a dexterous motion she opened the door and sprang into the seat beside him.

"Here! Get out of this," he cried.

"Drive on," she said calmly. "It'll save time, since you're in a hurry."

"Get out!"

"I'm going to ride with you. Why bother to argue?"

He turned nervously in his seat to get a look at her, then shifted the clutch and slowly started the car. The woman sat quiet. While bumping over the uneven road at a reckless speed the driver turned at times to cast stealthy glances at the person beside him. Finally he asked in exasperation:

"Do you know where I'm going?"

"You haven't told me."

"Do you know who I am?"

"How should I?"

"Oh, very well," with a sigh of relief. "But isn't this rather—er— irregular?"

"Very."

Again he drove for a time in silence. In the direction they were following they whirled by a village every three or four miles, but the country roads were deserted and the nearest city of any size lay a good fifty miles on.

"I don't know who you are," observed the woman presently, "but I can hazard a guess. You call yourself Joselyn—Ned Joselyn—but that isn't your name. It's the name you married Annabel Kenton under, but it doesn't belong to you."

He gave a roar of anger and started to slow down the car.

"Go ahead!" she said imperatively.

"I won't. You're going to get out of here, and lively, too, or I'll throw you out."

"Do you feel anything against your side?" she asked coolly.

"Yes," with a sudden start.

"It's the muzzle of a revolver. I think it's about opposite your heart and my finger is on the trigger. Go ahead!"

He turned the throttle and the car resumed its former speed.

"Who the deuce are you?" he demanded, in a voice that trembled slightly.

"Like yourself, I have many names," she said. "In Washington they call me Nan Shelley; at Cragg's Crossing I'm Mrs. Scammel, formerly Nan Cragg."

"Oh—ho!" with a low whistle of astonishment. "Nan Cragg, eh! So you've returned from your wanderings, have you?" with a derisive sneer.

"For a time. But in wandering around I've found my place in the world and I'm now a lady detective, not an especially high-class occupation but satisfactory as a bread-winner. I find I'm quite talented; I'm said to be a pretty fair detective."

She could feel him tremble beside her. He moved away from her as far as he could but the pressure against his side followed his movements. After a time he asked defiantly:

"Well, being a detective, what's your business with me? I hope you're not fool enough to think I'm a criminal."

"I don't think it; I know it. You're an unusual sort of a criminal, too," she replied. "You're mixed up in a somewhat lawless international plot, but it isn't my present business to bring you to book for that."

"What is your present business?"

"To discover what you've done with my father's money."

He laughed, as if relieved.

"Spent it for the cause of Ireland."

"Part of it, perhaps. But the bulk of the money you've taken from the Champions of Irish Liberty, most of which came out of my father's own pocket, and practically all the money he gave you to invest for him, you have withheld for your own use."

"You're crazy!"

"I know the bank it's deposited in."

Again he growled, like a beast at bay.

"Whatever I have on deposit is to be applied to the Cause," said he. "It's reserved for future promotion."

"Have you seen to-day's papers?" she inquired.

"No."

"The revolution in Ireland has already broken out."

"Great Scott!" There was sincere anxiety in his voice now.

"It is premature, and will result in the annihilation of all your plans."

"Perhaps not."

"You know better," said she. "Anyhow, your actions are now blocked until we see how the rebellion fares. The Irish will have no further use for American money, I'm positive, so I insist that my father receive back the funds he has advanced you, and especially his own money which he gave you to invest and you never invested."

"Bah! If I offered him the money he wouldn't take it.

"Then I'll take it for him," she asserted. "You'll give up that money because you know I can have you arrested for—well, let us say a breach of American neutrality. You are not a citizen of the United States. You were born in Ireland and have never been naturalized here."

"You seem well posted," he sneered.

"I belong to the Government Secret Service, and the Bureau knows considerable," she replied dryly.

He remained silent for a time, his eyes fixed upon the road ahead. Then he said:

"The Government didn't send you to get Cragg's money away from me. Nor did Cragg send you."

"No, my father is afraid of you. He has been forced to trust you even when he knew you were a treacherous defaulter, because of your threats to betray the Cause. But you've been playing a dangerous game and I believe my father would have killed you, long ago, if—"

"Well, if what?"

"If you hadn't been his own nephew."

He turned upon her with sudden fierceness.

"Look out!" she called. "I've not the same objection to killing my cousin."

"Your cousin!"

"To be sure. You are the son of Peter Cragg, my father's brother, who returned to Ireland many years ago, when he was a young man. Ned Joselyn is an assumed name; you are Ned Cragg, condemned by the British government for high treason. You are known to be in America, but only I knew where to find you."

"Oh, you knew, did you?"

"Yes; all your various hiding-places are well known to me."

"Confound you!"

"Exactly. You'd like to murder me, Cousin Ned, to stop my mouth, but I'll not give you the chance. And, really, we ought not to kill one another, for the Cragg motto is 'a Cragg for a Cragg.' That has probably influenced my poor father more than anything else in his dealings with you. He knew you are a Cragg."

"Well, if I'm a Cragg, and you're a Cragg, why don't you let me alone?"

"Because the family motto was first ignored by yourself."

For a long time he drove on without another word. Evidently he was in deep thought and the constant pressure of the revolver against his side gave him ample food for reflection. Nan was thinking, too, quietly exulting, the while. As a matter of fact she had hazarded guess after guess, during the interview, only to find she had hit the mark. She knew that Ned Cragg had been condemned by the British government and was supposed to have escaped to America, but not until now was she sure of his identity with Ned Joselyn. Her father had told her much, but not this. Her native shrewdness was alone responsible for the discovery.

"We're almost there, aren't we?" asked Nan at last.

"Where?"

"At the house where you're at present hiding. We've entered the city, I see, and it's almost daybreak."

"Well?"

"I know the Chief of Police here. Am I to have that, money, Cousin Ned, or—"

"Of course," he said hastily.



CHAPTER XXVIII PLANNING THE FUTURE

It was nearly a month later when Mary Louise, walking down to the river on an afternoon, discovered Ingua sitting on the opposite bank and listlessly throwing pebbles into the stream. She ran across the stepping-stones and joined her little friend.

"How is your grandfather this morning?" she asked.

"I guess he's better," said Ingua. "He don't mumble so much about the Lost Cause or the poor men who died for it in Ireland, but Ma says his broken heart will never mend. He's awful changed, Mary Louise. To-day, when I set beside him, he put out his hand an' stroked my hair an' said: 'poor child—poor child, you've been neglected. After all,' says he, 'one's duties begin at home.' He hasn't had any fits of the devils lately, either. Seems like he's all broke up, you know."

"Can he walk yet?" inquired Mary Louise.

"Yes, he's gett'n' stronger ev'ry day. This mornin' he walked to the bridge an' back, but he was ruther wobbly on his legs. Ma said she wouldn't have left him, just now, if she wasn't sure he'd pick up."

"Oh. Has your mother gone away, then?"

"Left last night," said Ingua, "for Washington."

"Is her vacation over?"

"It isn't that," replied the child. "Ma isn't going to work any more, just now. Says she's goin' to take care o' Gran'dad. She went to Washington because she got a telegram saying that Senator Ingua is dead."

"Senator Ingua?"

"Yes; he was my godfather, you see. I didn't know it myself till Ma told me last night. He was an uncle of Will Scammel, my father that died, but he wasn't very friendly to him an' didn't give him any money while he lived. Ma named me after the Senator, though, 'cause she knew which side her bread was buttered on, an' now he's left me ten thousand dollars in his will."

"Ten thousand!" exclaimed Mary Louise, delightedly, "why, you Craggs are going to be rich, Ingua. What with all the money your mother got back from Ned Joselyn and this legacy, you will never suffer poverty again."

"That's what Ma says," returned the child, simply. "But I dunno whether I'll like all the changes Ma's planned, or not. When she gets back from Washington she's goin' to take me an' Gran'dad away somewheres for the winter, an' I'm to go to a girls' school."

"Oh, that will be nice."

"Will it, Mary Louise? I ain't sure. And while we're gone they're goin' to tear down the old shack an' build a fine new house in its place, an' fix up the grounds so's they're just as good as the Kenton Place."

"Then your mother intends to live here always?"

"Yes. She says a Cragg's place is at Cragg's Crossing, and the fambly's goin' to hold up its head ag'in, an' we're to be some punkins around here. But—I sorter hate to see the old place go, Mary Louise," turning a regretful glance at the ancient cottage from over her shoulder.

"I can understand that, dear," said the other girl, thoughtfully; "but I am sure the change will be for the best. Do you know what has, become of Ned Joselyn?"

"Yes; he an' Annabel Kenton—that's his wife—have gone away somewheres together; somewheres out West, Ma says. He didn't squander Ann's money, it seems; not all of it, anyhow; didn't hev time, I s'pose, he was so busy robbin' Gran'dad. Ned run away from Ann, that time he disappeared, 'cause English spies was on his tracks an' he didn't want to be took pris'ner. That was why he kep' in hidin' an' didn't let Ann know where he was. He was afraid she'd git rattled an' blab."

"Oh; I think I understand. But he will have to keep in hiding always, won't he?"

"I s'pose so. Ma says that'll suit her, all right. Am I talkin' more decent than I used to, Mary Louise?"

"You're improving every day, Ingua."

"I'm tryin' to be like you, you know. Ma says I've been a little Arab, but she means to make a lady of me. I hope she will. And then—"

"Well, Ingua?"

"You'll come to visit me, some time, in our new house; won't you?"

"I sure will, dear," promised Mary Louise.

THE END

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