Hilde had been sitting on the dock waiting for her father. Since he had landed at Kastrup, shetheta math symbol had thought of him every fifteen minutes, trying to imagine where he was now, and how he was taking it. She had noted all the times down on a slip of paper and kept it with her all day.
Aggie thought that it wsolana coin live chartas her turn to voice herself, which shedid without undue restraint."Perhaps, we do, but I dunno! I'll tell you one thing, though.
If any dame sent me up for three years and then wanted money fromme, do you think she'd get it? Wake me up any time in the nightand ask me. Not much--not a little bit much! I'd hang on to itlike an old woman to her last tooth." And that was Aggie's finalsumming up of her impressions concerning the scene she had justwitnessed.Chapter 12 A Bridegroom SpurnedAfter Aggie's vigorous comment there followed a long silence.That volatile young person, little troubled as she was bysensitiveness, guessed the fact that just now further discussionof the event would be distasteful to Mary, and so she betookherself discreetly to a cigarette and the illustrations of apopular magazine devoted to the stage. As for the man, hisreticence was really from a fear lest in speaking at all he mightspeak too freely, might betray the pervasive violence of hisfeeling. So, he sat motionless and wordless, his eyes carefullyavoiding Mary in order that she might not be disturbed by theinvisible vibrations thus sent from one to another. Mary herselfwas shaken to the depths. A great weariness, a weariness thatcried the worthlessness of all things, had fallen upon her. Itrested leaden on her soul. It weighed down her body as well,though that mattered little indeed. Yet, since she couldminister to that readily, she rose and went to a settee on theopposite side of the room where she arranged herself among thecushions in a posture more luxurious than her rather preciseearly training usually permitted her to assume in the presence ofothers. There she rested, and soon felt the tides of energyagain flowing in her blood, and that same vitality, too, wroughthealing even for her agonized soul, though more slowly. Theperfect health of her gave her strength to recover speedily fromthe shock she had sustained. It was this health that made theglory of the flawless skin, white with a living white thatrevealed the coursing blood beneath, and the crimson lips thatbent in smiles so tender, or so wistful, and the limpid eyes inwhich always lurked fires that sometimes burst into flame, thelustrous mass of undulating hair that sparkled in the sunlightlike an aureole to her face or framed it in heavy splendors withits shadows, and the supple erectness of her graceful carriage,the lithe dignity of her every movement.But, at last, she stirred uneasily and sat up. Garson acceptedthis as a sufficient warrant for speech.
"You know--Aggie told you--that Cassidy was up here fromHeadquarters. He didn't put a name to it, but I'm on." Maryregarded him inquiringly, and he continued, putting the fact witha certain brutal bluntness after the habit of his class. "Iguess you'll have to quit seeing young Gilder. The bulls arewise. His father has made a holler."Don't let that worry you, Joe," she said tranquilly. She alloweda few seconds go by, then added as if quite indifferent: "I wasmarried to Dick Gilder this morning." There came a squeal ofamazement from Aggie, a start of incredulity from Garson.But Mary's next words came wholly as a surprise, seeminglytotally irrelevant to this instant of crisis. Yet they ranga-throb with an hysterical anxiety.
"Dick," she cried, "what are those tapestries worth?" With thequestion, she pointed toward the draperies that shrouded thegreat octagonal window.The young man was plainly astonished, disconcerted as well by theobtrusion of a sordid detail into the tragedy of the time."Why in the world do you----?" he began, impatiently.Mary stamped her foot angrily in protest against the delay.
"Tell me--quick!" she commanded. The authority in her voice andmanner was not to be gainsaid.Dick yielded sullenly.
"Oh, two or three hundred dollars, I suppose," he answered."Why?""Never mind that!" Mary exclaimed, violently. And now the girl'svoice came stinging like a whiplash. In Garson's face, too, wasgrowing fury, for in an instant of illumination he guessedsomething of the truth. Mary's next question confirmed his ragingsuspicion."How long have you had them, Dick?"By now, the young man himself sensed the fact that somethingmysteriously baneful lay behind the frantic questioning on thisseemingly trivial theme."Ever since I can remember," he replied, promptly.
Mary's voice came then with an intonation that broughtenlightenment not only to Garson's shrewd perceptions, but alsoto the heavier intelligences of Dacey and of Chicago Red."And they're not famous masterpieces which your father boughtrecently, from some dealer who smuggled them into this country?"So simple were the words of her inquiry, but under them beatsomething evil, deadly.The young man laughed contemptuously."I should say not!" he declared indignantly, for he resented theimplication against his father's honesty.
"It's a trick! Burke's done it!" Mary's words came with accusingvehemence.There was another single step made by Griggs toward the door intothe passage.
Mary's eye caught the movement, and her lips soundlessly formedthe name:"Griggs!"The man strove to carry off the situation, though he knew wellthat he stood in mortal peril. He came a little toward the girlwho had accused him of treachery. He was very dapper in hisevening clothes, with his rather handsome, well-groomed face setin lines of innocence.
"He's lying to you!" he cried forcibly, with a scornful gesturetoward Dick Gilder. "I tell you, those tapestries are worth amillion cold."Mary's answer was virulent in its sudden burst of hate. Foronce, the music of her voice was lost in a discordant cry ofdetestation."You stool-pigeon! You did this for Burke!"Griggs sought still to maintain his air of innocence, and hestrove well, since he knew that he fought for his life againstthose whom he had outraged. As he spoke again, his tones weretremulous with sincerity--perhaps that tremulousness was bornchiefly of fear, yet to the ear his words came stoutly enough fortruth:"I swear I didn't! I swear it!"Mary regarded the protesting man with abhorrence. The perjuredwretch shrank before the loathing in her eyes."You came to me yesterday," she said, with more of restraint inher voice now, but still with inexorable rancor. "You came to meto explain this plan. And you came from him--from Burke!""I swear I was on the level. I was tipped off to the story by apal," Griggs declared, but at last the assurance was gone out ofhis voice. He felt the hostility of those about him.Garson broke in ferociously."It's a frame-up!" he said. His tones came in a deadened roar ofwrath.
On the instant, aware that further subterfuge could be of noavail, Griggs swaggered defiance."And what if it is true?" he drawled, with a resumption of hisaristocratic manner, while his eyes swept the group balefully.
He plucked the police whistle from his waistcoat-pocket, andraised it to his lips.He moved too slowly. In the same moment of his action, Garsonhad pulled the pistol from his pocket, had pressed the trigger.
There came no spurt of flame. There was no sound--save perhaps afaint clicking noise. But the man with the whistle at his lipssuddenly ceased movement, stood absolutely still for the space ofa breath. Then, he trembled horribly, and in the next instantcrashed to the floor, where he lay rigid, dead."Damn you--I've got you!" Garson sneered through clenched teeth.
His eyes were like balls of fire. There was a frightful grin oftriumph twisting his mouth in this minute of punishment.In the first second of the tragedy, Dick had not understood.Indeed, he was still dazed by the suddenness of it all. But thefalling of Griggs before the leveled weapon of the other man,there to lie in that ghastly immobility, made him to understand.He leaped toward Garson--would have wrenched the pistol from theother's grasp. In the struggle, it fell to the floor.
Before either could pick it up, there came an interruption. Evenin the stress of this scene, Chicago Red had never relaxed hisprofessional caution. A slight noise had caught his ear, he hadstooped, listening. Now, he straightened, and called his warning."Somebody's opening the front door!"Garson forgot his weapon in this new alarm. He sprang to theoctagonal window, even as Dick took possession of the pistol.
"The street's empty! We must jump for it!" His hate was forgottennow in an emotion still deeper, and he turned to Mary. His facewas all gentleness again, where just before it had been evilincarnate, aflame with the lust to destroy. "Come on, Mary," hecried.Already Chicago Red had snapped off the lights of the chandelier,had sprung to the window, thrown open a panel of it, and hadvanished into the night, with Dacey at his heels. As Garsonwould have called out to the girl again in mad anxiety for haste,he was interrupted by Dick:
"She couldn't make it, Garson," he declared coolly andresolutely. "You go. It'll be all right, you know. I'll takecare of her!""If she's caught----!" There was an indescribable menace in theforger's half-uttered threat."She won't be." The quality of sincerity in Dick's voice wasmore convincing than any vow might have been.
"If she is, I'll get you, that's all," Garson said gravely, asone stating a simple fact that could not be disputed.Then he glanced down at the body of the man whom he had done todeath."And you can tell that to Burke!" he said viciously to the dead."You damned squealer!" There was a supremely malevolent contentin his sneer.
Chapter 19 Within The TollsThe going of Garson left the room deathly still. Dick stared fora moment at the space of window left uncovered by the draperiesnow, since the man had hurried past them, without pausing to drawthem after him. Then, presently, the young man turned again toMary, and took her hand in his. The shock of the event hadsomehow steadied him, since it had drawn his thoughts from thatother more engrossing mood of concern over the crisis in his ownlife. After all, what mattered the death of this crook? hisfancy ran. The one thing of real worth in all the world was thelife that remained to be lived between him and her.... Then,violently, the selfishness of his mood was made plain to him.
For the hand he held was shaking like some slender-stalked lilyin the clutch of the sirocco. Even as he first perceived thefact, he saw the girl stagger. His arm swept about her in avirile protecting embrace--just in time, or she would havefallen.A whisper came from her quivering lips. Her face was close tohis, else he could not have caught the uncertain murmuring. Thatface now was become ghastly pale. The violet eyes were widenedand dull. The muscles of her face twitched. She rested supinelyagainst him, as if bereft of any strength of body or of soul.
Yet, in the intensity of her utterance, the feeble whisper strucklike a shriek of horror."I--I--never saw any one killed before!"The simple, grisly truth of the words--words that he might havespoken as well--stirred the man to the deeps of his being. Heshuddered, as he turned his eyes to avoid seeing the thing thatlay so very near, mercifully merged within the shadows beyond thegentle radiance from the single lamp. With a pang of infinitepity for the woman in his arms, he apprehended in some degree thetorture this event must have inflicted on her. Frightful to him,it must in truth be vastly worse to her. There was her womanlysensitiveness to enhance the innate hideousness of the thing thathad been done here before their eyes. There was, too, the factthat the murderer himself had been the man to whom she owed herlife. Yes, for him, Dick realized with poignant sympathy, thehappening that night was terrible indeed: for her, as he guessednow at last, the torture must be something easily to overwhelmall her strength. His touch on her grew tender beyond theordinary tenderness of love, made gentler by a great underlyingcompassion for her misery.