Carshaw phoned the Bureau, asking for Clancy or the chief. Both were out.
“Mr. Steingall will be here to-morrow,” said the official in charge. “Mr.
Clancy asked me to tell you, if you rang up, that he would be away till Monda_ext.”
This was Wednesday evening. Carshaw felt that fate was using him ill, fo_lancy was the one man with whom he wanted to commune in that hour of agony.
He dined with his mother. She, deeming him crazy after a severe attack o_alf-love, humored his mood. She was calm now, believing that a visit to th_awyers next day, and her own influence with the mill-manager and the estat_uperintendent, would soon put a different aspect on affairs.
A telegram came late: “No news.”
He sought Senator Meiklejohn at his apartment, but the fox, scenting hounds, had broken covert.
“The Senator will be in Washington next week,” said the discreet Phillips. “A_resent, sir, he is not in town.”
Carshaw made no further inquiry; he knew it was useless. In the mornin_nother telegram: “No news!”
He set his teeth, and smilingly agreed to accompany his mother to th_awyers’. She came away in tears. Those serious men strongly approved of he_on’s project.
“Rex has all his father’s grit,” said the senior partner. “In a little tim_ou will be convinced that he is acting rightly.”
“I shall be dead!” she snapped.
The lawyer lifted his hands with a deprecating smile. “You have no secret_rom me, Mrs. Carshaw,” he said. “You are ten years my junior, and insuranc_ctuaries give women longer lives than men when they have attained a certai_ge.”
Carshaw visited Helen Tower. She was fluttered. By note he had asked for _tête-à-tête_ interview. But his first words undeceived her.
“Where is Meiklejohn?” he asked.
“Do you mean Senator Meiklejohn?” she corrected him.
“Yes; the man who acted in collusion with you in kidnapping my intended wife.”
“How dare you—”
“Sit down, Helen; no heroics, please. Or perhaps you would prefer that Ronal_hould be present?”
“This tone, Rex—to me!” She was crimson with surprise.
“You are right: it is better that Tower should not be here. He might get _orse _douche_ than his plunge into the river. Now, about Meiklejohn? Why di_e conspire with you and my mother to carry off Winifred Bartlett?”
“Surely there was some motive?”
“You are speaking in enigmas. I heard of the girl from you. I have never see_er. If your mother interfered, it was for your good.”
He smiled cynically. The cold, far-away look in his eyes was bitter to he_oul, yet he had never looked so handsome, so distinguished, as in this momen_hen he was ruthlessly telling her that another woman absorbed him utterly.
“What hold has Meiklejohn over you?” he went on.
She simulated tears. “You have no right to address me in that manner,” sh_rotested.
“There is a guilty bond somewhere, and I shall find it out,” he said coldly.
“My mother was your catspaw. You, Helen, may have been spiteful, bu_eiklejohn—that sleek and smug politician—I cannot understand him. The stor_ent that owing to an accidental likeness to Meiklejohn your husband wa_early killed. His assailant was a man named Voles. Voles was an associate o_achel Craik, the woman who poses as Winifred’s aunt. That is the line o_nquiry. Do you know anything about it?”
“Not a syllable.”
“Then I must appeal to Ronald.”
“Do so. He is as much in the dark as I am.”
“I fancy you are speaking the truth, Helen.”
“Is it manly to come here and insult me?”
“Was it womanly to place these hounds on the track of my poor Winifred? _hall spare no one, Helen. Be warned in time. If you can help me, do so. I ma_ave pity on my friends, I shall have none for my enemies.”
He was gone. Mrs. Tower, biting her lips and clenching her hands in shee_age, rushed to an escritoire and unlocked it. A letter lay there, a lette_rom Meiklejohn. It was dated from the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, Atlanti_ity.
> “Dear Mrs. Tower,” it ran, “the Costa Rica cotton concession is almos_ecure. The President will sign it any day now. But secrecy is more than eve_mportant. Tell none but Jacob. The market must be kept in the dark. He ca_egin operations quietly. The shares should be at par within a week, and a_ive in a month. Wire me the one word ‘settled’ when Jacob says he is ready.”
“At five in a month!”
Mrs. Tower was promised ten thousand of those shares. Their nominal value wa_ne dollar. To-day they stood at a few cents. Fifty thousand dollars! What _elief it would be! Threatening dressmakers, impudent racing agents asking fo_npaid bets, sneering friends who held her I. O. U.’s for bridge losses, an_poke of asking her husband to settle; all these paid triumphantly, and plent_n hand to battle in the whirlpool for years—it was a stake worth fightin_or.
And Meiklejohn? As the price of his help in gaining a concession granted by _ew competitor among the cotton-producing States, he would be given fiv_hares to her one. Why did he dread this girl? That was a fruitful affair t_robe. But he must be warned. Her lost lover might be troublesome at _ritical stage in the affairs of the cotton market.
She wrote a telegram: “Settled, but await letter.” In the letter she gave hi_ome details—not all—of Carshaw’s visit. No woman will ever reveal that sh_as been discarded by a man whom she boasted was tied to her hat-strings.
Carshaw sought the detective bureau, but Steingall was away now, as well a_lancy. “You’ll be hearing from one of them” was the enigmatic message he wa_iven.
Eating his heart out in misery, he arranged his affairs, received those tw_aily telegrams from Miss Goodman with their dreadful words, “No news,” an_aunted the bookbinder’s, and Meiklejohn’s door hoping to see some of the cre_f Winifred’s persecutors. At the bookbinder’s he learned of the visit of th_upposed clergyman, whose name, however, did not appear in the lists of an_enomination.
At last arrived a telegram from Burlington, Vermont. “Come and see me.
Clancy.” Grown wary by experience, Carshaw ascertained first that Clancy wa_eally at Burlington. Then he instructed Miss Goodman to telegraph to him i_he north, and quitted New York by the night train.
In the sporting columns of an evening paper he read of the sale of his pol_onies. The scribe regretted the suggested disappearance from the game of “on_f the best Number Ones” he had ever seen. The Long Island estate was le_lready, and Mrs. Carshaw would leave her expensive flat when the leas_xpired.
Early next day he was greeted by Clancy.
“Glad to see you, Mr. Carshaw,” said the little man. “Been here before? No?
Charming town. None of the infernal racket of New York about life i_urlington. Any one who got bitten by that bug here would be afflicted lik_he Gadarene swine and rush into Lake Champlain. Walk to the hotel? It’s _ine morning, and you’ll get some bully views of the Adirondacks as you clim_he hill.”
“Winifred is gone. Hasn’t the Bureau kept you informed?”
“I’ve had Winifred on my mind for days,” he said irritably. “Can’t you forge_er for half an hour?”
“She’s gone, I tell you. Spirited away the very day I asked her to marry me.”
“Well, well. Why didn’t you ask her sooner?”
“I had to arrange my affairs. I am poor now. How could I marry Winifred unde_alse pretenses?”
“What, then? Did she love you for your supposed wealth?”
“Mr. Clancy, I am tortured. Why have you brought me here?”
“To stop you from playing Meiklejohn’s game. I hear that you camp outside hi_partment-house. You and I are going back to New York this very day, and th_ureau will soon find your Winifred. By the way, how did you happen onto th_enator’s connection with the affair?”
Taking hope, Carshaw told his story. Clancy listened while they breakfasted.
Then he unfolded a record of local events.
“The Bureau has known for some time that Senator Meiklejohn’s past offere_ome rather remarkable problems,” he said, dropping his bantering air an_peaking seriously. “We have never ceased making guarded inquiries. I am her_ow for that very purpose. Some thirty years ago, on the death of his father, he and his brother, Ralph Vane Meiklejohn, inherited an old-establishe_anking business in Vermont. Ralph was a bit of a rake, but local opinio_egarded William as a steady-going, domesticated man who would uphold th_amily traditions. There was no ink on the blotter during upward of ten years, and William was already a candidate for Congress when Ralph was involved in _candal which caused some talk at the time. The name of a governess in a loca_ouse was associated with his, and her name was Bartlett.”
Carshaw glanced at the detective with a quick uneasiness, which Clanc_retended not to notice.
“I have no proof, but absolutely no doubt,” he continued, “that this woman i_ow known as Rachel Craik. She fell into Ralph Meiklejohn’s clutches then, an_as remained his slave ever since. Two years later there was a terrifi_ensation here. A man named Marchbanks was found lying dead in a lakesid_uarry, having fallen or been thrown into it. This quarry was situated nea_he Meiklejohn house. Mrs. Marchbanks, a ward of Meiklejohn’s father, died i_hildbirth as the result of shock when she heard of her husband’s death, an_nquiry showed that all her money had been swallowed up in loans to he_usband for Stock Exchange speculation. Mrs Marchbanks was a noted beauty, an_er fortune was estimated at nearly half a million dollars. It was all th_ore amazing that her husband should have lost such a great sum in reckles_ambling, seeing that those who remember him say he was a nice-mannere_entleman of the old type, devoted to his wife, and with a passion fo_ultivating orchids. Again, why should Mrs. Marchbanks’s bankers and guardian_llow her to be ruined by a thoughtless fool?”
Clancy seemed to be asking himself these questions; but Carshaw, so far fro_ew York, and with a mind ever dwelling on Winifred, said impatiently:
“You didn’t bring me here to tell me about some long-forgotten mystery?”
“Ah, quit that hair-trigger business!” snapped Clancy. “You just listen, an’ maybe you’ll hear something interesting. Ralph Vane Meiklejohn left Vermon_oon afterward. Twelve years ago a certain Ralph Voles was sentenced to fiv_ears in a penitentiary for swindling. Mrs. Marchbanks’s child lived. It was _irl, and baptized as Winifred. She was looked after as a matter of charity b_illiam Meiklejohn, and entrusted to the care of Miss Bartlett, the ex- governess.”
Carshaw was certainly “interested” now.
“Winifred! My Winifred!” he cried, grasping the detective’s shoulder in hi_xcitement.
“Tut, tut!” grinned Clancy. “Guess the story’s beginning to grip. Yes.
Winifred is ‘the image of her mother,’ said Voles. She must be ‘taken awa_rom New York.’ Why? Why did this same Ralph vanish from Vermont after he_ather’s death ‘by accident’? Why does a wealthy and influential Senator joi_n the plot against her, invoking the aid of your mother and of Mrs. Tower?
These are questions to be asked, but not yet. First, you must get back you_inifred, Carshaw, and take care that you keep her when you get her.”
“But how? Tell me how to find her!” came the fierce demand.
“If you jump at me like that I’ll make you stop here another week,” sai_lancy. “Man alive, I hate humbug as much as any man; but don’t you see tha_he Bureau must make sure of its case before it acts? We can’t go before _udge until we have better evidence than the vague hearsay of twenty year_go. But, for goodness’ sake, next time you grab Winifred, rush her to th_earest clergyman and make her Mrs. Carshaw, Jr. That’ll help a lot. Leave m_o get the Senator and the rest of the bunch. Now, if you’ll be good, I’l_how you the house where your Winifred was born!”