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Chapter 19 CLANCY EXPLAINS

  • 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?”
  • “I—don’t know.”
  • “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?”
  • Clancy sighed.
  • “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!”