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Title:      Her Reputation (1923)
Author:     Talbot Mundy
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eBook No.:  0400221.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          February 2004
Date most recently updated: February 2004

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Her Reputation (1923)
Author:     Talbot Mundy


It has happened, times out of number, that in mid-Africa, in
India, in the deserts of Trans-Jordan--on an ant-heap in the
drought, or in the mud of the tropical rain--I have felt a
yearning for white lights, a dress suit and a tall silk hat, that
corresponds, I suppose, in some degree to the longing a city man
feels for those open spaces and far countries which it has been
my destiny to wander in and to write about.  A traveler, if he is
wise, comes home at intervals to meet old friends and to remind
himself that a gentler, more conventional world exists, in which
events occur and problems arise, and in which delightful people
live and move and have their being.

Writing books is only another phase of living life--reliving it,
perhaps, in which the appeal of the stiff white shirt transforms
itself into a desire to write "civilized" stories.  So this
story, which is in an entirely different field from my usual
haunts in Africa and India, may be said to represent a home-
coming, between long journeys;  and I hope the public, which has
followed me with such encouraging persistence to comparatively
unknown places, will concede that I still know how to behave
myself in a civilized setting.

But this story is no more mine than is the life of the big cities
into which I plunge at long, uncertain intervals.  To Bradley
King, chief of the Thomas H. Ince staff of editors, belongs the
credit for the plot;  her genius, art and imagination, and the
creative vision of my friend Thomas Ince combined to produce a
plan of narrative, now lavishly offered to the eye in a motion
picture, which appealed me so strongly that the impulse to
transform it into a written book was irresistible.  The writing
has been a delight to me, and I trust it may prove as
entertaining to the public.

Bradley King detected, tracked, ran down and caught the idea for
the story--a much more difficult thing to do than those who have
never hunted such elusive game will ever guess. She trained it to
perform;  I wrote this book;  and Mr. Ince has made the picture.
We hope the book will be accepted by the reader, as it was
written, purely to entertain;  and that fellow newspaper men will
recognize the friendly and entirely sympathetic illustration of
the way in which the mighty and far-reaching power of the Press
occasionally is abused by individuals.

- T.M.



I.  "A scene--a scandal--at church--on Easter Sunday of all days
in the year--with nearly everybody in the county looking on!"
II.  "One may safely leave fond nurses to discover ways and
III.  "Andres, I have distressing news for you."
IV.  "Come now.  Listen to me, Consuelo."
V.  "Put not your trust in princes, Jacqueline."
VI.  "Poison--brewed in mine own house!"
VII.  "Some one's going to suffer, Sherry Mansfield, but I'll
make it!"
VIII.  "You are a prince and I will put my trust in You!"
IX.  "Do it again, Desmio!"
X.  "Let me speak to her!  Just one word with her!"
XI.  "By God!  The devil's own!"
XII.  "Me--I'm made!"
XIII.  "Facts presented with a punch!"
XIV.  "Consuelo--what is a coroner?"
XV.  "Conchita!"
XVI.  Sherry and nuts
XVII.  "Who'd believe a word of it?"
XVIII.  "Tell me--Conchita--"
XIX.  "You to repay--"
XX.  "Not easy to trace."
XXI.  Bells obey the ears that listen
XXII.  The underworld
XXIII.  "The Tribune be damned!"
XXIV.  "Young nicee girlee--catchee lich man!"
XXV.  "Who's that girl?"
XXVI.  "I hate the Tribune!"
XXVII.  "All the news the public wants."
XXVIII.  "Does she remind you of any one?"
XXIX.  "Meat and drink for him!"
XXX.  "I've heard threats before--lots of 'em!"
XXXI.  "The devil--half-roasted!"
XXXII.  "D'you suppose we're very wicked people?"
XXXIII.  "And you shall sit in the patio all day long and boss
the niggers."


Chapter I.

"A scene--a scandal--at church--on Easter Sunday of all days in
the year--with nearly everybody in the county looking on!"

There is an hour of promise, and a zero hour;  the promise first;
and promises are sometimes even sweeter than fulfillment.
Jacqueline Lanier was unconscious of her hour of blossoming, and
so the outlines of young loveliness had not been hardened by
habitual self-assertion.  Since she came under Desmio's care her
lot had been cast in very pleasant places, and she was aware of
it, wondering a little now and then, between the thrills of
appreciation;  but at seventeen we are not much given to
philosophy, which comes later in life when we are forced to try
to explain away mistakes.

She had come into the world a stormy petrel, but Consuelo and
Donna Isabella were the only ones who remembered anything of
that, and Consuelo took as much pains to obscure the memory as
Donna Isabella did in trying to revive it.  Both women were
acceptable because everything whatever that belonged to Desmio
was perfect--must be.  Jacqueline used to wonder what under
heaven Desmio could have to confess to on the occasions when he
went into the private chapel to kneel beside Father Doutreleau.
She herself had no such difficulties;  there were always thoughts
she had allowed herself to think regarding Donna Isabella.  It
had cost Jacqueline as much as fifty pater nosters on occasion
for dallying with the thought of the resemblance between Donna
Isabella and the silver-and-enamel vinegar cruet on the dining-
room sideboard.  And there was always Consuelo, fruitful of
confessions;  for you accepted Consuelo, listened to her
comments, and obeyed sometimes--exactly as might happen.

Consuelo presumably had been born middle-aged and a widow, and so
would remain forever, as dependable as the silvery Louisiana moon
that made the plantation darkies love-sick, and as the sun that
peeped in every morning between the window-sill and the lower
edge of the blind.

You brush your own hair at the convent, but that makes it no less
desirable to have it brushed for you at home during the Easter
Conge, especially if the hair grows in long dark waves like
Jacqueline's.  At the convent you stand before a small plain
mirror, which in no way lessens the luxury of a chair at your own
dressing-table, in your own delightful room fronting on the patio
balcony, in Desmio's house, while Consuelo "fixes" you.

At the convent you wear a plain frock, all the girls dressed
alike;  but that does not detract from the virtue of silken
underwear and lacy frocks at home.

"Hold your head still, Conchita!"

All Easter week Consuelo had been irritable, and Jacqueline's
blue eyes watched curiously in the mirror the reflection of the
duenna's plump face and the discontented set of the flexible
mouth.  There was a new atmosphere about the house, and the whole
plantation vaguely resuggested it, as if Desmio's indisposition
were a blight.  Yet Desmio himself, and the doctor and Father
Doutreleau, and Consuelo had all been at pains to assure her that
the illness was nothing serious.  True, Donna Isabella had
dropped ominous hints;  but you could not take Donna Isabella's
opinions quite seriously without presupposing that there was
nothing good in the world, nor any use hoping for the best.

"Why are you worried, Consuelo?"

The critical lips pursed, and the expression reflected, in the
mirror became reminiscent of younger days, when a child asking
questions was discreetly foiled with an evasive answer.

"Because your hair is in knots, Conchita.  At the convent they
neglect you."

"I am supposed to look after myself in the convent."

"Tchutt!  There is no reason why they should teach you to
neglect yourself."

"They don't.  The sisters are extremely particular!"

"Tchutt!  They don't know what's what!  It's a mystery to me they
haven't spoilt your manners--"


"Nobody can fool me.  You'll never have to look after yourself,
Conchita--whoever says it!"

That was one of those dark sayings that had prevailed all week.
Jacqueline lapsed into silence, frowning;  and that made Consuelo
smile, for as a frown it was incredible;  it was just a ripple
above lake-blue eyes.

"You can't tell me!" exclaimed Consuelo, nodding to her own
reflection in the mirror as she put the last few touches to the
now decorously ordered hair.  Next day's rearrangement at the
convent would fall short of this by a whole infinity.

"Can't tell you what, Consuelo?"

Pursed lips again.  But the evasive answer was forestalled by a
knock on the door, and Jacqueline drew the blue dressing-robe
about her;  for there was no doubt whose the knock was, and you
never, if you were wise, appeared in disarray before Donna
Isabella.  You stood up naturally when she entered.  As the door
moved Consuelo's face assumed that blank expression old servants
must fall back on when they dare not look belligerent, yet will
not seem suppressed.


Donna Isabella alone, in all that house, on all that plantation,
called her Jacqueline and not Conchita.

"--don't keep the car waiting."

Jacqueline glanced at the gilt clock on the dressing-table.
There was half an hour to spare, but she did not say so, having
learned that much worldly wisdom.  She watched Donna Isabella's
bright brown eyes as they met Consuelo's.  Consuelo left
the room.

Donna Isabella Miro stood still, looking like one of those old
engravings of Queen Elizabeth, until the door closed behind her
with a vicious snap in token of Consuelo's unspeakable opinion.

It was one of her characteristics that she kept you standing at
attention quite a while before she spoke.

She had her brother's features, lean and aquiline, almost her
brother's figure;  almost his way of standing.  Dressed in his
clothes, at a distance, she might even have been mistaken for
him.  But there the resemblance ended.  To Jacqueline, Don Andres
Miro had been Desmio ever since her three-year-old lips first
tried to lisp the name.  It had been easiest, too, to say
"Sabella," but at three and a half the Donna had crept in, and
remained.  At four years it had frozen into Donna Isabella,
without the slightest prospect of melting into anything
less formal.

"I hope, Jacqueline, that in the days to come you will appreciate
how pleasant your surroundings were."

"Do I seem not to appreciate them, Donna Isabella?"

The older woman smiled--her brother's smile, with only a certain
thinness added, and an almost unnoticeable tightening of the
corners of the lips.

"I hope Don Andres' kindness has not given you wrong ideas."

"Donna Isabella, how could Desmio give anybody wrong ideas?

Words always failed when Jacqueline tried to say what she thought
of Desmio.

"He is absurdly generous.  I hope he has not ruined you, as he
would have ruined himself long ago, but for my watchfulness."

"Ruined me?  How could he?"

"By giving you wrong notions, Jacqueline."

"Wrong, Donna Isabella?"

Jacqueline had all her notions of life's meaning from Desmio.
His notions!  None but Donna Isabella would have dreamed of
calling them by that   name!  They were ideals;  and they were
right--right--right--forever right!

"Wrong notions about your future, Jacqueline.  Fortunately"--how
fond she was of the word fortunately!  "Don Andres can never
adopt you legally.  There is no worse nonsense than adopting
other people's children to perpetuate a family name, and we have
cousins of the true stock."

Lanier blood is good, and Jacqueline knew it;  but, as Consuelo
said, the convent had not spoiled her manners.  She said nothing.

"So--incredibly kind though Don Andres has been to you--you have
no claim on him."

The frown again--and a half-choke in the quiet voice;  "Claim?
I'm grateful to him!  He's--"

But words failed.  Why try to say what Desmio was, when all the
world knew?

"Do you call it gratitude--after all he has done for you--knowing
what his good name and his position in the country means to him--
to make a scene--a scandal--at church on Easter Sunday, of all
days in the year, with nearly everybody in the county looking on?"

"I made no scene, Donna Isabella."

"Jacqueline!  If Don Andres knew that Jack Calhoun had walked up
the middle of the aisle during High Mass, and had given you an
enormous bouquet which you accepted--"

"Should I have thrown the flowers into the aisle?" Jacqueline
retorted indignantly.  "I put them under the seat--"

"Accepted them, with half the county looking on!"

"I didn't want to make a scandal--"

"So you encouraged him!"

Jacqueline controlled herself and answered calmly, but the
incorrigible frown suggested mirth in spite of her and Donna
Isabella's lean wrists trembled with suppressed anger.

"I have always avoided him.  He took that opportunity for lack of
a better, Donna Isabella."

"Can you imagine a young gallant bringing flowers to me during
High Mass?"

It was easy to believe that the whole world contained no gallant
brave enough for that effrontery!  Her narrow face was livid with
malice that had seemed to increase since Desmio's illness.

"If Don Andres knew that for months Jack Calhoun--"

"Let me tell him!" urged Jacqueline.  Her impulse had been to
tell him all about it long ago.  He would have known the fault
was not hers, and would have given her good advice, instead
of blaming her for what she could not help;  whereas
Donna Isabella--

Donna Isabella stamped her foot.

"I forbid!  You cause a scandal, but you never pause to think
what it will mean to those it most concerns!  As if your name
were not enough, you drag in one of the Calhouns--the worst
profligates in Louisiana.  The shock will kill him--I forbid you
to say a word!"

One learns obedience in convents.

"Put your frock on now, and remember not to keep the car waiting.
You can say good-by to Don Andres in the library, but don't stay
too long in there.  He mustn't be upset.  Try this once to be
considerate, Jacqueline."

There is virtue even in spitefulness, for it makes you glad when
people go, which is better after all than weeping for them.
Jacqueline's quick movement to open the door for Donna Isabella
failed to suggest regret.  Consuelo's--for her hand was on
the door-knob on the far side--deliberately did not hint at
eavesdropping;  she was buxom, bland, bobbing a curtsey to Donna
Isabella as she passed, and in haste to reach the closet where
the frocks hung in two alluring rows.

"The lilac frock, Conchita?"

Then the door closed, a pair of heels clip-clipped along the
balcony, and Consuelo's whole expression changed as instantly as
new moons change the surface of the sea.  With a frock over her
arm she almost ran to Jacqueline, fondling her as she drew off
the dressing robe.

"What did she say, honey?  Conchita--was she cruel?  Was
she unjust?"

But at seventeen we are like birds, who sing when the shadow of
the hawk has passed, and Jacqueline's smile was bright--invisible
for a moment--smothered under a cloud of lilac organdie.

"Careful, Consuelo!  There's a hook caught in my hair!"

Whereat much petting and apology.  Clumsy, Consuelo--kindness
crystallized--and adding injury to insult!  Consuelo self-abased:

"Mi querida--tell me--did she speak of that young cockerel?"

There are some fictions we observe more carefully the more opaque
they are.  Consuelo had been listening, and Jacqueline knew it.
The evasive answer works both ways.

"She said I must be quick, Consuelo."

Hats--a galaxy of hats--Consuelo would have had her try on half a
dozen, but Jacqueline snatched the first one and was gone, as a
young bird leaves the nest.  Sunlight streamed into the patio and
touched her with vague gold as she sped along the balcony.  Down
the wide stone stairs latticed shadows of the iron railing
produced the effect of flight, as if the lilac organdie were
wings.  Then--for they teach you how to walk in convents--across
the courtyard between flowers and past the gargoyle fountain
toward Desmio's library, Jacqueline moved as utterly unconscious
of her charm as Consuelo, watching in the bedroom doorway, was
aware of it.

And something of the fear that she had seen in Don Andres' eyes
of late, clutched at the old nurse's heart.  Lanier beauty--
Lanier grace--the Lanier heritage of sex attraction--Jacqueline
had them all.  An exquisite tropical butterfly, fluttering on
life's threshold, unconscious of covetous hands and covetous
hearts that would reach out to possess her.  What lay ahead of
those eager little feet?

"Oh, Mary, take care of her!" she muttered--adding more softly,
"Poor Calhoun!"  Then thoughts reverting to Donna Isabella--"She
would turn my honey-lamb out into the world!  Not while I live!
Not while I have breath in me!"

But Jacqueline's only thought was Desmio.  It banished for the
moment even the memory of Donna Isabella.  We can be whole-
hearted at seventeen;  emotions and motives are honest,
unconcerned with side-issues.  She entered the library as she
always did, frank and smiling, glad to see him and have word with
him, and as she stood for a moment with the sunlight behind her
in the doorway, he rose to greet her.  Father Doutreleau rose
too, out of the depths of an armchair, eager to persuade his
friend to sit down again, but neither priest nor physician lived
who could persuade Don Andres to forego courtesy.

"So you are on your way again, Conchita--and so soon!"

"It was your wish that I should attend the convent Desmio."

"How is the heart?" she asked him.

"Yours, Conchita!  You should know best!"

So he had always spoken to her.  Never, from the day when
Consuelo carried her in under the portico, and Desmio had taken
her into his arms and keeping, had he ever treated her as less
than an equal, less than a comrade.

He was not more than middle-aged, but his hair and the grandee
beard were prematurely gray.  Short lines about the corners of
his bright brown eyes hinted that to walk the earth with no
dignity is no way of avoiding trouble and responsibility.  He sat
in the high-backed chair as one of his forebears might have sat
to be painted by Valasquez, and it called for no great power of
imagination to visualize a long rapier at his waist, or lace over
the lean, strong wrists.  Yet, you were at ease in his presence.

"You will come to see me, Desmio?"

His answering smile was much more eloquent than if he had said
"of course."  It implied that his indisposition was only
temporary;  it mocked his present weakness, and promised
improvement, asking no more for himself than a moment's
forbearance.  If he had said wild horses should not prevent him
from visiting Jacqueline at the convent, words would have
conveyed less than the smile.

"I shall come to the convent to listen to the Sister Superior's
report of you--and shall return to Father Doutreleau to sit
through a sermon on pride!"

"Desmio, you are incorrigible."

"So says Father Doutreleau!  The fault is yours, Conchita.  How
shall I not be proud of you?"

Jacqueline leaned on the arm of the chair and kissed him, making
a little moue at Father Doutreleau, who sat enjoying the scene as
you do enjoy your patron's happiness.  There was a world of
understanding in the priest's round face, and amusement, and
approval;  better than most, he knew Don Andres' sheer sincerity;
as priest and family confessor, it was his right to approve the
man's satisfaction in such innocent reward.  But it was the
priest's face that cut short the farewell.  Jacqueline detected
the swift movement of his eyes, and turned to see Donna Isabella
in the door.

"Consuelo is waiting for you in the car, Jacqueline."

Don Andres frowned.  He disliked thrusts at Jacqueline.  For
a moment his eyes blazed, but the anger died in habitual
courtliness toward his sister.  Blood of his blood, she was a
Miro and entitled to her privileges.

"Good-by, Conchita," he said, smiling.

Jacqueline's hand, and Father Doutreleau's kept him down in the
chair, but he was on his feet the moment she had started for the
door.  She glanced over her shoulder to laugh good-by to him, but
did not see the spasm of pain that crossed his face, or the
uncontrolled movement of the hand that betrayed the seat of pain.
She did not see Father Doutreleau leaning over him or hear the
priest's urging:

"Won't you understand you must obey the doctor?"

All Jacqueline heard was Donna Isabella's voice beside her, as
usual finding fault:

"Perhaps, while you are at the convent we may be able to keep Don
Andres quiet.  At the convent try to remember how much you owe to
Don Andres' generosity, Jacqueline--and don't dally with the
notion that he owes you anything.  Good-by."

Chapter II.

"One may safely leave fond nurses to discover ways and means."

And so to the convent, with Donna Isabella's farewell pleasantry
not exactly ringing (nothing about that acid personage could be
said to ring, true or otherwise) but dull in her ears.  Consuelo
did not help much, she was alternately affectionate and fidgety
beside her--fearful of Zeke's driving, and more afraid yet of the
levees, where the gangs were heaping dirt and piling sand-bags
against the day of the Mississippi's wrath.

Consuelo bemoaned the dignified dead days of well matched horses.
But, like everything else that was Desmio's, Jacqueline loved the
limousine.  Stately and old-fashioned like its owner, it was
edged with brass, and high above the road on springs that
swallowed bumps with dignity.  Desmio's coat-of-arms was
embroidered on the window-straps;  and, if the speed was nothing
to be marveled at, and Zeke's driving a series of hair-breadth
miracles, it had the surpassing virtue that it could not be
mistaken for anybody else's car.  Men turned, and raised their
hats before they could possibly have seen whether Desmio was
within or not.

"You throw away your smiles, Conchita!"

"Should I scowl at them, Consuelo?"

"Nonsense, child!  But if you look like an angel at every
jackanapes along the road, what kind of smile will you have left
for the right man, when the time comes--the Blessed Virgin knows,
that's why young Jack Calhoun--"

Jacqueline frowned.

"Mary, have pity on women!" she muttered half under her breath.
"I wish I might tell Desmio."

"Tchutt!  You must learn for yourself, Conchita.  Don Andres has
enough to trouble him."

The frown again.  Learn for herself.  In the convent they teach
you the graces;  not how to keep at bay explosive lovers.  Though
he had seized every opportunity for nearly a year to force
himself on her notice, she had never been more than polite to
Jack Calhoun, and she had been a great deal less than polite
since she had grown afraid of him.

Consuelo had studied that frown for seventeen years.

"You'll be safe from him in the convent, honey," she said,
nodding, and Jacqueline smiled.

But as they drove along the convent wall toward the old arched
gateway--the smile changed suddenly, and something kin to fear--
bewilderment at least--wonder, perhaps, that the world could
contain such awkward problems--brought back the frown, as
Consuelo clutched her hand.

"Look daggers at him, child!"

You can't look daggers with a face like Jacqueline's.  That is
the worst of it.  You must feel them first, and faces are the
pictured sentiments that we are born with, have felt, and wish to
feel.  Not even at Jack Calhoun could she look worse than
troubled.  And it needed more than trouble--more than Consuelo's
scolding--more than Zeke's efforts at the throttle and
scandalized, sudden manipulation of the wheel, to keep Jack
Calhoun at a distance.  He had been waiting, back to the wall,
twenty paces from the gate, and came toward them sweeping his hat
off gallantly.  One hand was behind him, but it would have needed
two men's backs to hide the enormous bouquet.  Love--Calverly--
Calhoun brand, which is burning desire--was in eyes and face--
handsome face and eyes--lips a little too much curled--chin far
too impetuous--bold bearing, bridled--consciousness of race and
caste in every well-groomed inch of him.  He jumped on the
running-board as Zeke tried vainly to crowd him to the wall, and
the bouquet almost choked the window as he thrust it through.

"Miss Jacqueline--"

But a kettle boiling over on the stove was a mild affair compared
to Consuelo.  She snatched the flowers and flung them through the
opposite window.

"There, that for you!"  She snapped her fingers at him, and
Jacqueline learned what looking daggers means.  "I know you
Calhouns!  Be off with you!"

Jack Calhoun laughed.  He liked it.  Lambs in the fold are
infinitely more sweet than lambs afield.  He loved her.  He
desired her.  So should a Calhoun's wife be, as unattainable as
Grail and Golden Fleece, that a Calhoun might prove his mettle in
the winning.  He had a smile of approval to spare for Consuelo;
her wet cat welcome left him untouched, just as Jacqueline's
embarrassment only piqued his gallantry.

"Miss Jacqueline--"

He had a set speech ready.  He had phrased and memorized it while
he waited.  By the look of his horse, tied under a tree a hundred
yards away, he had been there for hours, and it was a pity that
the fruit of all that meditation should be nipped by the united
efforts of a Consuelo and a negro coachman.  But so it fell;  for
Zeke leaned far out from the driver's seat and tugged at the big
bellhandle by the gate;  and Consuelo, leaning her fat shoulder
on the car door, opened it suddenly, thrust herself through the
opening and, forced Jack Calhoun down into the dust.

"That much for you!" she exploded, and he laughed at her good-
naturedly;  so that even Consuelo's angry brown eyes softened for
the moment.  He had breeding, the young jackanapes, and the easy
airy Calhoun manners.  She almost smiled;  but she could afford
it, for the convent gate swung open and lay-sister Helena stepped
out under the arch to greet Jacqueline.

Jack Calhoun was balked, and realized the fact a second too late.
He ran around the limousine;  but by the front wheel Zeke blocked
the way with the wardrobe trunk, and Jacqueline was already
exchanging with Sister Helena the kiss the convent rules permitted.

Accept defeat at the hands of women and a negro coachman, God
forbid!  Jack Calhoun ran around the limousine again, jumped
through the door and out on the conventside, too quick for
Consuelo, who tried in vain to interpose her bulk.

"Miss Jacqueline--!"

Sister Helena drew Jacqueline over the threshold.  That was
sanctuary.  Not even a Calhoun would trespass there without
leave;  and there were Zeke and Consuelo, beside ample lay-help
near at hand.  Also, there was human curiosity--the instinct of
the woman who had taken vows, which in no way precluded interest
in another's love-affair.

"May I--won't you say good-by to me, Jacqueline?"

Why not!  What wrong in shaking hands at convent gates?  Sister
Helena glanced at Consuelo, but Consuelo was inclined to pass
responsibility;  her guardianship ended where the convent wall
began, and she was definitely frankly jealous of the sisters.
She looked vinegary, non-committal.

"It will be so long before I can see you again!"

Jacqueline shrank back for no clear reason, but instinctively.
There was a look in his eye that she did not understand.  It
suggested vaguely things the convent teaching did not touch on,
except by way of skirting deftly around them with mysterious
warnings and dim hints.  The wolf knows he is hungry.  The lamb
knows she is afraid.  The onlooker reckons a sheepfold or a
convent wall is barrier enough.

"Won't you tell me good-by, Jacqueline?"

She held out her hand, with the other arm around Sister Helena,
ashamed of her own reluctance.  Why!  By what right should she
refuse him common courtesy?  He had never done a thing to her but
pay her compliments.  Jack Calhoun crossed the threshold, seized
her hand and kissed it.  She snatched the hand away, embarrassed-
-half-indignant--still ignorant of causes.

"There--there--now you've had your way--be off with you!"
Consuelo thrust herself between them, back toward Jacqueline and
face to the enemy.

Calhoun backed away, hardly glancing at Consuelo, watching
Jacqueline over the fat black-satined shoulders.  There was
acquisition in his eyes now--the look of the practised hunter
whose time is not quite yet, but who has gauged his quarry's
points and weakness.  Three paces back he bumped into Zeke with
the trunk.  The trunk fell on his feet but he ignored it;  if it
hurt him, none but he knew;  Zeke's protestations fell on deaf
ears.  Midway between gate and limousine he stood watching the
trunk rolled in, and Consuelo's wet-eyed leave-taking--watched
Consuelo come away, and saw the great gate slowly closing--
watched like a hunter.  Then, with the gate half-shut, he caught
Sister Helena's eye, and the appeal in his made her pause.
Hearts melt under dark-blue habits easily.  The gate re-opened by
as much as half a foot, disclosing Jacqueline again.  Eyes met
hers brimming full of tenderness for Consuelo, who had said such
foolishness as nurses do say--tender, and then big with
new surprise.

It was Jack Calhoun's heart leaping now.  Had he won already?
Was she as glad as all that for another glimpse of him?  The hot
blood rose to his temples, and the hot assurance to his lips.  He
would have been no Calverly-Calhoun if he could keep that tide
within limits.

"I love you, Jacqueline--I love you!" he almost shouted.  Then
the gate shut--tight.  He heard the chainlock rattle and the key
turn;  and he laughed.

Consuelo's voice beside him brought him out of reverie.

"She's not for you--not for the likes of you!"

"Did you hear me say I love her, Consuelo?"

He was watching Consuelo's face, pondering how to turn an
adversary into a confederate, probing to uncover her weakness.
She being Consuelo, and he a Calverly-Calhoun, he was
absolutely certain to guess wrong as he was sure his guess
would be infallible.

Consuelo looked almost panic-stricken, and Jack Calhoun's lip
curled again in that heredity-betraying smile.  He thought he saw
the joint in her armor.  Old nurses, pension in view, may well
dread dismissal and the search for new employment.  Doubtless Don
Andres would visit his wrath on Consuelo if he should think she
had failed in her task as duenna.  He knew the Calhoun reputation
and could guess what Don Andres thought of it.

"I will call on Don Andres," he repeated.

"No, no!"  She was almost imploring now.  "Worry on Miss
Jacqueline's account would kill him!  He is seriously ill.
You must--"

"What then," he interrupted.  His hand went to his pockets, and
the offer of a bribe was plain enough if she would care to
take it.

"What then, Senor?  Aren't you a Calhoun?  Aren't you
a gentleman?"

He put his hands behind him--legs apart--head thrown back
handsomely.  He had Consuelo at his mercy;  he was sure
of it;  and none ever accused the Calverly-Calhouns of
being weakly merciful.

"To oblige you, Consuelo, I'll say nothing to Don Andres at
present--provided you reciprocate."

"In what way, Senor?"

He laughed.  "One may safely leave fond nurses to discover ways
and means," he answered.  "Are letters mailed to young ladies at
the convent censored by the nuns?"

"Of course, Senor.  What are you thinking of?"

"If you will smuggle in a letter to Miss Jacqueline, I will not
mention to Don Andres that you have permitted me more than one
interview with her.  Otherwise,--my sentiments toward her being
what they are--you leave me no alternative."

For a second his eyes glanced away from Consuelo's.  She
understood the glance;  Zeke was listening.  Jack Calhoun's smile
left his lips and crept into his eyes.  Consuelo began to stammer
something, but he interrupted.

"I will write a letter to Miss Jacqueline.  Tomorrow I will call
on Don Andres to inquire after his health.  If you should meet me
in the patio, and take the letter, I will make no intimate
disclosures to Don Andres.  Are we agreed?"

Consuelo bit her lip, and nodded.

"Tomorrow then--in the patio--shortly before noon.  Don't
disappoint me!"

Consuelo could not trust herself to answer, but stepped into the
limousine, nodding to him a second time through the window.
Words would have choked her.  Jack Calhoun, smiling as his father
used to smile when ships left port with contraband, gave Zeke a
fifty-dollar bill--checked the old darky's exclamations with a
gesture--waved the limousine on its way--and stood watching until
it was nearly out of sight.  Then he went for his horse and rode
homeward at full gallop, using the spurs unmercifully.

"My Jacqueline!  My Jacqueline!" he sang as he rode.  "I love her
and she's mine!  My Jacqueline!"

The gangs mending a levee had to stop work and scatter to let him
pass.  His horse knocked a man down, and a foreman cursed him for
it, calling him by name.

"Ye daren't get off that horse and act like a man!  Ye're all
dogs, you Calhouns!"

Jack did not hesitate a second, but reined it and dismounted.
When he rode away five minutes later the foreman was a bruised
and bleeding wreck, unfit for work for a week to come.

Chapter III.

"Andres, I have distressing news far you."

Consuelo, leaning back against the cushions in the limousine, her
fat bosom heaving as if she had run uphill, did not dare trust
herself to let a thought take shape for twenty minutes.  She
could not have defined her own emotions.  Fury--indignation--fear
for Jacqueline--contempt for Zeke, who had accepted a bribe--an
old nurse's faithful love, that can be tigerish as well as
sacrificing--a ghastly, sinking sense of the dilemma facing her--
and helplessness, were all blended into one bewildering
sensation.  And through that drummed the certainty that she,
Consuelo, must do something about it.

She knew that Don Andres loved Jacqueline with infinitely more
delight that he had loved his own daughter, whose resemblance to
Donna Isabella had been too obvious, even at the age of ten, to
stir paternal sympathies.  Her death, leaving him with no direct
heir and a widower, had hurt his family pride more than his
affection, and it was not until Jacqueline entered his household
that his inmost heart was really touched.  Jacqueline, at three,
had stepped into an empty place, and filled it.  Spanish herself,
Consuelo knew the depths of Don Andres' distaste for public
scandal.  Gossip and the name of Calverly-Calhoun were almost
synonymous terms.  Gossip and Don Andres Miro were as fire
and water.

Zeke being nearest, was the first who must be dealt with.  She
began at once:

"How much did he give you, Zeke?" she asked, sliding back the
glass panel behind the driver's seat.

Zeke attended to the driving thoughtfully for a good long minute
before he showed her the crow's-footed corner of an eye and a
silhouette of snub nose over pursed protruding lips.

"Didn't yo' see?"

He returned to his driving.  His shoulders grew eloquent of
marvelous unconcern for Consuelo, or anything connected with her.

"You--Zeke--why did he give it to you?"

Another minute's silence--then Zeke's eye, wide-open trying to
look around the corner of his head, and thick lips opened

"He likes muh--don't you s'pose?"

Enough of Zeke.  He would tell what he knew, or not tell, with or
without exaggerations, as Calhoun might instruct.  Meanwhile, he
would use his own discretion, and by night the servants' hall
would have three versions of the affair, as surely as Zeke would
have a headache on the morrow.  And by morning Donna Isabella
would have her own embittered version of the scandal.

Consuelo leaned back again against the cushions, thinking.  Hers
was a lone hand.  Somewhere midway between master and domestics,
with no clearly defined position in the household now that
Jacqueline was growing up, she had the distrust of both sides to
contend with.  Insofar as she ever came in contact with Don
Andres he was kind and courteous to her, but Donna Isabella had
taken care to prevent confidential relations between master and
nurse, and pride kept Don Andres from interfering with his
sister's authority in the household.  Yet she did not dare go to
Donna Isabella and take her into confidence.  As well ask a she-
wolf to be sympathetic.

And she knew the Calverly-Calhouus--knew that Jack Calhoun would
hesitate at nothing.  Worse still--the boy had brains.  It was
likely enough to dawn on him that Donna Isabella was the key to
the situation.  What was to prevent him from approaching her?
And what was more likely than that Donna Isabella would
exaggerate the scandal?  Her jealousy knew no limits.  She might
succeed in convincing Don Andres that marriage to Jack Calhoun
was the only way to prevent Jacqueline from becoming a subject of
light gossip of the countryside.

There was one way left then--deadly dangerous to herself.  She
must go to Don Andres, and tell him everything.  That thought
brought memories.  Once--a year or two before the convent days--
there had been a governess, who had dared to approach Don Andres
with complaints about Donna Isabella's injustice to Jacqueline.
Of all insufferable indignities the one Don Andres tolerated
least was tale-bearing against those whom it pleased him to
honor, and the governess had left the house that night.  She had
been young, with new positions open to her;  Consuelo, well past
fifty, with about three hundred dollars in a savings bank, had no
delusions as to how the world would treat her, once dismissed.
But she thought of Jacqueline, and the little dancing frown above
the lake-blue eyes:

"Mother of God, protect me!  I will tell Don Andres," she said,
half-aloud, as if afraid to hear her own voice.  She crossed
herself, knelt in the limousine, and prayed.

She was dry-eyed--dry-lipped--businesslike, when the limousine
rolled under the portico and Zeke waited for her to climb out as
she pleased.  Consuelo would have scolded him for it at any other
time, but she was in no mood for trivialities;  great resolution
had her by the shoulders;  she rang the old-fashioned door-bell
with a jerk and a clang that startled her.  But they knew it was
only Consuelo, and the footman kept her waiting.

She heard his footsteps at last on the tiles, and heard him pause
in the hall, midway between patio and front door, where dining-
room and drawing-room opened off to the right and left.  When he
came to the door his black face was a dumb enigma, and she saw
beyond him the figure of Donna Isabella, frowning sourly under
the drawingroom portiere.  She would have walked past with the
usual old-fashioned bobbing curtsey, but Donna Isabella
stopped her:

"Why do you use the front door, Consuelo?"

Silence.  Pursed lips.  Attention.

"The fact that you are an old servant is no excuse for forgetting
your manners."

Consuelo's manners at that moment were a galleon's in full sail
down-wind.  She had cut her cables--thrown away her charts--was
forth on life's last adventure.

Forget her manners?  She dipped her pennant and sailed on,
leaving Donna Isabella to put what construction she might choose
on utter silence.

Straight to her own room.  Off with her hat and cape, firm-lipped
and resolute--crossing herself before the image of the Virgin.
Out again, straight to the patio and toward the library.

Then, at the library door, sudden weak knees and emptiness.  The
zero hour!  She was keyed up for sacrifice;  but what if it
should be in vain?

Her knuckles rapped the door--so hard that they hurt before she
could prevent them.


Too late!  "O Mother of God, put courage into me, and words into
my mouth!  I don't know what to say to him "

The door was shut behind her, and she was midway across the room,
hardly knowing how it had happened.  Don Andres was in the high-
backed chair, laying down a book, his other lean, long, veined
hand resting on the chair-arm.

"What is it, Consuelo?"

Then, suddenly, all fear and all discretion to the winds!  Words
came--from somewhere--sounding to Consuelo like another woman's
speaking in a voice she hardly knew.

"Don Andres--have I been a good servant to you?"

"I have always thought so, Consuelo."

He was too courteous to seem surprised.  His eyes looked kind,
not critical.  How could it be that such a man had enemies?
Consuelo dropped on her knees on the floor beside the footstool,
clasping her hands on her bosom.

"Don Andres--I come to you as your servant now!  I mean no harm
to any one, and if I offend you, dismiss me and I will go in
silence.  Only hear me to the end first!"

"You may tell me what is in your mind, Consuelo."

"Don Andres--it is about Miss Jacqueline--Mr. Jack Calhoun is
making love to her.  He made a scene at the convent gate, and I
could not keep him away from her, although I tried!"

He nodded, looking grave.  He was perfectly sure how faithfully
Consuelo would have tried.

"He made a scene at church on Easter Sunday."

Don Andres frowned.

"Why has Jacqueline not told me of all this?"

"She was forbidden--she wished to, Don Andres,--she was forbidden
months ago to tell you anything."

"Did you advise her not to tell me?"

"God forbid!  Don Andres, that innocent has never had another
secret from you.  As God is my witness, there is nothing in her
life until this, that you did not know."

He nodded again.  There was only one other individual in the
household who might have imposed restraint.  But his nod was
in recognition of Consuelo's tact in not mentioning the
individual's name.

"Does she respond to Mr. Calhoun's attentions?"

"She fears him, Don Andres!  What does she know of men?  She
shrinks away from him, and he pursues her!  She does not
understand.  She only knows there is something that she doesn't
understand.  He fascinates her--he has made up his mind--he
is set on winning her--and--Don Andres--you know those

He overlooked the last part of her speech.  The Calverly-Calhouns
for generations had been his equals.

"Have you had speech with him with reference to this?" he asked
after a moment's pause.

So Consuelo told him all that Jack Calhoun had said, and of the
bribe to Zeke, and of her own unspoken promise to meet Jack
Calhoun in the patio next day and take a letter from him.  She
stammered over the last part, for she had not been in that
household fourteen years without knowing the master's method with
servants who consented to intrigue.  His deep frown frightened
her--it was only a matter of moments now.

"Stand up, Consuelo," he said at last, and she struggled to her
feet, biting her lip, awaiting her dismissal.

"Did he offer you money?" he asked.

"I don't think he dared, Don Andres."

"You agreed to smuggle his letter into the convent?"

"Don Andres--what else could I dot?--I haven't the power to
manage him otherwise--I'm an old woman, and he laughs at me--
unless he thinks he can use me he'll go to--to some one else--and
they'll make a scandal between them to--to--"

The nod again--cryptic--dry.  The dark eyes deadly serious.  A
too long pause, as if he were unmercifully framing words.  The
thin lips tightly set.

"You were always a good servant, Consuelo."

Were!  So the end had come.  Her heart sank, for the awaited is
not less terrible when it arrives.  She bowed her head,
remembering she would go in silence.

"I am not ungrateful for good service, or unconscious of my
obligation to reward it.  You may leave that part to me.
But I will tolerate no insubordination in my house.  You
understand me?"

She did not.  She looked hurt now--amazed.  She had never been
insubordinate.  A little of the meekness left her:  She would not
go in silence after all.  She would tell him to his face what a
faithful servant suffered constantly at Donna Isabella's lips--
how much had to be endured for his sake--she would seize an old
woman's privilege of speech and pour out all she knew!  But he
spoke again before she could begin and even in that moment of
indignation she could not force herself to interrupt him.

"You must continue as if this interview with me had never taken
place.  You understand?"

Slowly his meaning dawned on her.

"Am I not dismissed?" she asked, her face reddening.

He ignored the question.  "There must be no impudence or
disobedience.  No dark looks, Consuelo.  No suggestion of an
understanding with me behind another's back.  No Spying.  No
tales to me.  No indignities to--any one."

Consuelo bobbed her old-fashioned curtsey.  Words would have been
empty in the presence of that magnificent consistency.  For his
pride's sake she would let Donna Isabella drive nails into her--
poison her--malign her--and she would say nothing!  Followed
emotion, making the stout bosom nearly burst the black satin
bodice.  Tears.  Smothered, sobs into a handkerchief.

"There--that will do."  He loathed anything undignified.  "I
will ask Donna Isabella to excuse you from duty until
tomorrow morning."

Consuelo went without another word.  Don Andres did not pick up
the book again but sat staring into vacancy--alone--dismally
lonely, and too proud to admit it even to himself.  The house,
and his whole life, were empty without Jacqueline.  She was all
the brightness he had ever known and to send her to school at the
convent was his master-sacrifice.  He broke into a smile as he
thought of her, and the smile died away into a swordsman's frown,
teeth showing through the parted lips, as he remembered stage by
stage the fight he had waged for her--a memory that Consuelo's
news had only sharpened.  So an affair with Jack Calhoun was to
be the next difficulty!  He wondered how deeply Isabella was
already mixed in it.

Well he understood his sister Isabella.  She had opposed his
determination to accept the child's guardianship;  and that
failing, she had tried to wean Jacqueline away from him and make
her a dried-up image of herself--even as she had succeeded in
doing with his own only child.  But his own child had been a
Miro.  He did not disguise from himself that the Miro blood was
dying--the direct Miro line near its end.  Isabella had succeeded
with that daughter of his;  the weak twig of an ancient tree had
come easily under her sway, had wilted under it, and died.  But
nothing in Jacqueline's nature had provided Isabella any thing to
work on.  Rather she responded to his own lavished affection and
Consuelo's mothering;  and that had given Isabella deeper
offense than the original crime of introducing the child into
the household.

He had made up for Isabella's bitterness, by giving Jacqueline
every advantage and every privilege within his means.  And the
means of the Miros in Louisiana are beyond the scope of most
men's dreams.

So the house was lonely now Jacqueline was at the convent--felt
like a tomb, for all its decorous luxury.  Don Andres Miro,
possibly the best loved, certainly the richest and most respected
among the old Louisiana Settlers, felt like a man with no
occupation left.  He was much too proud to feel sorry for
himself;  he would have smiled if run through with a rapier.  But
pride heals no heart-ache--fills no empty nest.

And Calverly-Calhoun?  He knew that breed!  No scion of that
stock for Jacqueline!  He had intimately known two generations of
Calhouns, and could guess the hourly anguish of the women they
had married.  Good women don't reform bad men, they only irritate
them;  he knew that.  He would rather, if necessary, see
Jacqueline married to some young fellow without family, but of
decent means and good repute, who would know enough to appreciate
her and treat her with respect.  But there was fortunately no
hurry about that, and only need for vigilance.  Meanwhile--

He would have one more try--if necessary he would call in the
United States Attorney-General himself--to find some flaw in the
Miro trust deed.  If, subject to provision for his sister
Isabella, he might leave by will the whole of his estates to
Jacqueline, then--

Again the proud smile.  That would be a true gift given from the
heart--the reply complete to Isabella--and, by no means the least
amusing part of it, a full expression of contempt for John Miro,
his distant cousin, now heir legal and presumptive, whose Lynn
shoe-factory was a disgrace and scandal to the Miro name.  If by
any legal means it might be possible, he would bequeath to
Jacqueline every last acre and investment of the Miro fortune.

To that end he must preserve his health.  It was important that
he should have his wits about him and the strength to see
possible law-suits to a conclusion;  for it was no part of his
determination to leave a mere document behind him, over which and
his dead body Jacqueline should have to fight the gum shoe-maker.
She would have no chance unless, he, Andres Miro, should do the
fighting for her.  He would do that, bitter though he knew the
fight might be.

The difficult days, he recognized, were coming.  All that lay
behind was child's-play compared to the road ahead.  Obstruct
Calhoun and there would be other suitors to be fenced with.  When
a rumor should creep abroad, as it inevitably must, that the
estates might fall to Jacqueline, every needy adventurer on the
countryside would add his importunities to the confusion.  Then
more than ever Jacqueline would need his comradeship and
guidance.  He must throw the weight of years aside, and attend to
it that his company should be a pleasure to her and not a burden.
To that end, he must resume his youth and be more spirited and
companionable than any of the young bloods she should meet.
Well--he considered that not impossible.  Only he must get well.
A man needs health before he can be young again;  and doctors--he
did not know how much faith to place in even his family
physician;  the man never seemed to know his own mind--but then,
the Miros were ever a long-lived breed.  Why theorize about
disease, when long life was hereditary fact?

His reverie was interrupted by Father Doutreleau who came and
went in that house pretty much as his own pleasure dictated.  He
was as close to Andres on the one hand as Jacqueline was on the
other, so that apart altogether from his office of confessor,
Francois Doutreleau was intimate in Miro's councils, knew his
secrets, and was one of the three men who discussed them
with him.

"Forgive me if I remain seated, Francois.  It's your own
medicine!  Ring the bell, won't you, and we'll have some wine
brought in."

There was wine enough in the Miro cellar to last another
generation, and it was normal routine to have sherry and biscuits
served in the library on afternoons when Miro was home.  As a
rule Doutreleau looked forward to it;  his well filled figure and
declining years responded gratefully to Old-World hospitality,
and he knew good wine.  But on this occasion he showed less than
his usual satisfaction, and a hesitation that was rare with him.
When Andres had filled two glasses, Doutreleau merely raised his
glass and set it down untasted.

"What is new, Francois?  Have you seen the papers?"

"Andres, I have distressing news for you.  Be a brave man, and
prepare yourself."

Doutreleau swallowed his wine at a gulp then.  He had crossed
the Rubicon.

"I trust it is not distressing to yourself, Francois.  If it
concerns me alone I shall find a way to bear it."

"It concerns us all.  Andres--Doctor Beal has been to see me."

"I can well imagine your distress!  The man has bored me with his
platitudes for thirty years!  Has he said you are too fat?  I
disagree with him.  Take courage, Francois, and be comfortable.
I am lean, and I assure you it has disadvantages."

"Andres, he has told me what he had not the courage to tell you."

"Pusillanimity!  However--I myself have often confessed to you,
Francois, sins that I would detest to have to tell the world."

"He spoke of you, Andres."

"And that distressed you, Francois!  Take some more sherry.
Choose a livelier subject for discussion next time!"

He understood there was genuinely bad news coming, and he
prepared to meet it as he would meet death, or any other evil,
proudly--conceding it no right to disturb his outer dignity.

"Andres, he has told me you have not long to live."

Not a flinch.  Not a tremor of the steady eyelids.  Not a
moment's relaxation of the smile;  rather it increased, and grew

"So you were distressed to hear that of me, my friend?  I am
grateful for the compliment.  Did Beal in his omniscience set the
date of termination of my mortal activities?"

"He gives you a few months, Andres.  Possibly a year."

"I hope he doesn't think I suspect him of malpractice!  Assure
him, I am convinced he has done his best!"

"Andres, I admire your courage.  But to Jacqueline--to your
household and dependents--to the parish--to myself--this is
disaster.  Won't you promise me to do all in your power to remain
with us as long as possible?  Won't you obey Beal?  Won't you let
him call in specialists?  I want your promise, Andres, as friend
to friend."

For a full minute Miro did not answer.  When he spoke at last
his voice was normal, suggesting no echo of battles going on
within him.

"I would prefer to exact a promise from you first, Francois."

"Name it, my friend.  If it is anything permissible--"

"Oh, none of the deadly sins!  Promise to keep this news a
secret, and to impress on Beal the same obligation."

"For myself, of course, I promise.  But Beal will want to call in
the specialists, and--"

"Let Beal be answerable for their silence.  Impress that on him."

"Then you will see the specialists?"

"On that condition, yes.  But not in this house, or there would
be talk about it.  Let Beal arrange for me to visit them."

Francois Doutreleau rose, turning his back to Miro, and then,
still keeping his face averted, went behind Miro's chair, where
he laid his hand on the iron-gray head that he had blessed so
often, but never before so fervently.

"Brother--my friend--" he began, but his voice choked and he
could not trust himself to speak.

Miro reached upward for the fat hand and drew it down to
the chair-arm.

"I am proud of our friendship, Francois, although I am unworthy
of it," he said in a steady voice;  but he did not look up at
the priest.  "We shall be making an indecorous exhibition of
ourselves unless we're careful.  Would you care to leave me for a
while to think this out alone?  Suppose you take dinner with us?
After dinner we can talk again."

Doutreleau walked to the door, saying a prayer under his breath,
and Miro watched him, still smiling,--until the priest turned at
the door.

"You will dine with us tonight then, Francois?"

Doutreleau nodded, for he could not trust himself to speak, and
left the room.

Then, with no witnesses, Don Andres Miro sat at bay, looking
death and its full consequences in the eyes.  Little by little it
dawned on him what his death would mean to Jacqueline.  He had
given so much thought to caring for her that his mind refused at
first to readjust itself, and for a while he still thought of
her as his ward, his heart's darling, whose destiny was in
his keeping.

So this was the end of his plans!  It might need years to engage
the best legal talent in the land and force through the courts a
new trust deed that should settle the estates on Jacqueline!  If
Beal was right, in a year at most the gum shoe-maker would be
in possession, and Jacqueline at the mercy of the world and
Isabella, with a few paltry thousands in cash to make her an even
choicer prey for wolves.

He had raised her in exquisite luxury, and his death now would
plunge her helpless and unprotected into the world he had
prevented her from understanding!

What had he taught her, except gentleness and goodness?
Nothing--unless pride, that would make her suffer in silence.
He supposed that Consuelo perhaps might have told her things that a
mother usually tells a young girl, but he rather doubted it, he
had said nothing to Consuelo about that, and she was not given to
taking liberties.

Haggard and worn--older than he had ever seemed--he leaned back
in the chair and faced the facts--then suddenly grew resolute
again.  He was a Miro.  He had months to live!  The fire returned
into his eye--the Miro heritage--the stubbornly resourceful Miro
spirit that had never confessed defeat, nor ever yielded to a
lesser force than Providence.  Had he wronged Jacqueline?  Then
he had will to set the matter right, and time in which to think.

He thanked God that he saw the wrong before it was altogether too
late.  He was ready to flinch from nothing.  Somehow, by some
means, Jacqueline should not be loser by his guardianship;  he,
Andrew Miro, would attend to that, and then die cheerfully.

But how?  Isabella could be absolutely counted on to thwart
whatever plans he might make;  he could not take Isabella into
confidence.  He could provide a moderate sum of money out of cash
in hand, and deliver it to a trustee, to be paid to Jacqueline
after his death;  but the income from it would be no more than a
pittance, and Jacqueline would be almost as unprotected as
before.  Nevertheless;  that was something nothing like enough,
but he would do that first.

He could make good provision for Consuelo, on condition that she
keep watch over Jacqueline.  But Consuelo's influence would wane
as Jacqueline grew older, and, besides, he could hardly expect a
spirited girl to submit forever to the dictates of an old nurse.
To an extent, too, that would imply indignity to Jacqueline.

She was worthy of dignity--fitted by breeding and character to be
heiress of the Miro fortune and estates.  Yet he could not make
her that, unless--unless--

There came another, new light in his eyes.  He sat bolt-upright--
smiled.  The invisible, long rapier again.  He hardly resembled a
sick man, but a great adventurer, when the library door opened
and Donna Isabella looked in, even more sourly than her wont.  He
rose with his usual courtesy to greet her.

"No wonder this house lacks discipline and the servants give
themselves airs!" she grumbled.

"Surely nothing has displeased you, Isabella!"

"Something seems to have pleased you!" she retorted.  "It will be
dinner time in ten minutes, Andres, and you sit there grinning to
yourself like a lunatic.  How can you expect a well ordered
household, when the master is late for his meals?  Is it
fair to me!"

Don Andres smiled without a visible trace of sarcasm, and bowed
to her cavalierly as he left the room.

Donna Isabella nodded after him, thin lipped and exasperated.
She would have liked him much better if he had turned on her and
shown ill-temper.

Chapter IV.

"Come now.  Listen to me, Consuelo."

"No disobedience!  No insubordination!  No indignities to
any one!"

Consuelo went about her duties with those all too definite
limitations humming in her head.  All morning long Donna Isabella
invented aggravating tasks, as if with the deliberate intention
to force rebellion.  All her efforts were unsatisfying;
weariness was dubbed unwillingness;  silent endurance was the
sulks;  a breathless answer was impertinence.

And it neared noon.  Jack Calhoun was coming.  Consuelo had made
up her mind to get that letter from Jack Calhoun and to take it
straight in to Don Andres.  There would be no insubordination
about that.  Don Andres thereafter could take any course he
pleased about it, and surely not even Donna Isabella could accuse
her of remissness or intrigue.

But the worst of it was that Donna Isabella had a chair set in
the patio, not far from the front hall, whence she could oversee
everything, and Consuelo could think of no excuse for getting
between her and the front door.

At last in desperation she suggested putting fresh flowers in the

"Always some excuse for being lazy!" snorted Donna Isabella.  "Go
and change the curtains on the bedroom windows."

No disobedience!  No insubordination!  But what were the Blessed
Virgin and the saints all doing?  Consuelo, with aching thighs,
mounted the stairs to the balcony, and from one of the bedroom
windows watched Jack Calhoun come cavaliering in to pay his
compliments.  She was not surprised that Donna Isabella should
receive him courteously;  Zeke had already disgorged his several
versions of the scene at the convent gate, and Donna Isabella was
no fool, to begin by snubbing a man who might help her to be rid
of Jacqueline;  she invited young Calhoun to sit beside her.
Consuelo saw him glance repeatedly to right and left, and knew
what he was looking for, but she could not make him see her at
the bedroom window, though she prayed to at least a dozen saints
to make him look upward, instead of around.

And, as Consuelo had admitted to herself, young Jack Calhoun
had brains.

He was a man of his word, of course, but he had not promised to
say nothing to Donna Isabella.  He and Donna Isabella sat
considering each other while he made polite inquiries about
Miro's health;  and he made a much better guess at her character
than he had done at Consuelo's.  In turn Donna Isabella summed
him up perfectly.  He was the necessary man headstrong, handsome,
with a fortune not yet squandered.

"Don Andres is not well enough to see you.  Have you any
particular message for him?" she asked;  and something in her
bright eyes suggested expectation.  He did not hesitate.

"Is he too ill for me to talk to him about Miss Jacqueline?"

"You may talk to me."

He proved a fluent talker, without convincing Donna Isabella in
the least.  But jealousy will hesitate no more than passion does,
to gain its end.

"What chance have I?" he asked her finally.

"None, if you go to Don Andres and ask him."

"I am asking you."

"That is different.  You say that she reciprocates
your feelings?"

"My God!  I believe so.  Donna Isabella, I can see her eyes now--
innocent and pure and wonderful!  I said good-by to her at the
convent gate.  I kissed her hand.

And she stood watching me as I went, with her eyes full of love--
My God!  Donna Isabella, I would go through fire for Jacqueline!
Her eyes haunt me!"

"Consuelo, of course, permitted you to talk with her?"

For a second his eyes met Donna Isabella's in a flash of scrutiny
as swift as pistol-fire.  The Calverly-Calhouns are born quick on
the trigger.

"Aha!  Yes.  She's diplomatic, Consuelo is.  I'm told the nuns
read love-letters, and that's not decent--no more decent than it
would be for me to employ Consuelo with out your knowledge.  I
have hopes of Consuelo's stocking, however, if you've no absolute
objection!  Of course, I give you my word I wouldn't put anything
into a letter to Jacqueline that shouldn't pass a reasonable
censor--but you know what nuns are."

Donna Isabella smiled--a wee bit mischievously, as old ladies may
who are asked to forward love-affairs.

"What do you think Don Andres would say, if he heard I ever
contemplated permitting anything of the sort?"

"Who cares what he'd say as long as he doesn't know?" Calhoun
answered with one of his contagious laughs.  "Come now, Donna
Isabella, you were young once, and I'll bet you've been in love!
Haven't I been frank with you?  Aren't you going to lend a pair
of surreptitious wings to Cupid?  Jack Calhoun's your worshiper
for ever more if you'll help him this once!"

"Don Andres would never forgive me."

"No need.  He'll never know."

"Have you brought the letter with you?"

He produced it, and Consuelo, watching through the bedroom
window, saw it change hands.  Donna Isabella sat still for
several minutes, turning it over and over in her fingers.
Fascinated--unable to wrench her gaze away--Consuelo saw the
library door open, and then close again, as if Don Andres had
seen, or overheard, and, after deciding to interrupt, had changed
his mind.

Donna Isabella heard the movement of the door, and took the hint.
The letter went into her bosom.  Jack Calhoun received his conge
and was shown out by the footman.  Donna Isabella went to the
drawing-room, which Andres never visited if he could invent
excuse for staying away, and five minutes later the footman came
in search of Consuelo.  On her way across the patio she passed
Don Andres, but he gave her no inkling whether he knew what was
going on or not.  Nevertheless, the sight of him encouraged her.

Donna Isabella, seated in shadow in the drawing-room, kept
Consuelo waiting with the sun in her face for several minutes
before she condescended to speak at last.

"What do you mean by permitting Mr. Calverly-Calhoun to speak to
Miss Jacqueline on her way to the convent?"

Consuelo did not answer.  If she had spoken she would have
rebelled;  she held her tongue by a miracle.

"You have nothing to say?  What do you mean by spying
through a bedroom window all the time I was talking to Mr.

Absolute silence.  No answer was possible, unless Consuelo chose
to deny the fact or to be openly insolent.  She would do neither.
She merely hung on--clung to her faith in Don Andres and stood
there, looking almost as miserable as she felt.

"If Don Andres were not so ill, I would report you to him."
Donna Isabella paused between her sentences like an inquisitor
selecting new implements of torture.  "You have been careless and
unfaithful.  If Don Andres knew--"

Consuelo bit her lip--on the verge of rebellion--or tears, she
hardly knew which.

"--but he must not know, for the present.  Now you needn't look
sullen at me;  I am not going to discharge you."

Another pause--another long keen scrutiny.  And then:

"I understand that you promised Mr. Calverly-Calhoun to take a
letter to Miss Jacqueline."

No answer, but a little jerkily defiant nod.  Donna Isabella had
a definite purpose behind the morning's course of cruelty;  she
was demanding tears as evidence of good faith.  Better for
Consuelo to break down and have done with it!

"If you were not an old and trusted servant I would deal more
harshly with you.  Are you not ashamed to have so abused the
confidence we have always placed in you?"

Donna Isabella was as near the end of her resources now as
Consuelo was.  Unless Consuelo were humbled, repentant, ashamed,
she could not use her.  She was growing really angry, but
disguised it with an effort, forcing her voice to seem
almost kind.

"I should have though that after all these years your affection
for Miss Jacqueline would have been more faithful."

That did it!  It was anger, but it served.  Poor Consuelo burst
into tears of indignation--rage--contempt--rebellion;  flung
herself on her knees and buried her face in an armchair.  And
Donna Isabella, smiling to herself, put her own interpretation on
it all.

"There, there now, Consuelo.  If you're sorry, I'll forgive you."

Sorry?  Consuelo?  She bit the chair to keep brimstone Spanish
execration in.

"Come, come, Consuelo.  If you're sorry it can possibly be
mended.  Sit up now and listen to me."

Never--not once in fourteen years--had Donna Isabella spoken half
so kindly, and it enraged Consuelo all the more, for she was not
an animal, to be first beaten and then tamed.  But her natural
Spanish shrewdness came to her rescue.  Donna Isabella must need
something and need it badly.  So Consuelo went on sobbing.

"Come now, Consuelo.  Sit up and stop crying, and we'll see what
can be done."

Tears--idle tears--and rapt attention!  Hands over ears, but lots
of room between Consuelo's fingers to let words filter through!

"The harm's done now.  We must make the best of it.  Above all,
in his present state of health, we must keep any scandal from
Don Andres."

Nothing new about that!  So another paroxysm of sobs and moans,
interpreted by Donna Isabella as signs of panicky fear of her
brother.  She permitted herself another of her thin rare smiles.

"Come now, listen to me, Consuelo."  She need not have worried.
Consuelo was all ears.  "You have promised to take the letter.
We can't break promises, especially when they're made to people
of the standing of Mr. Calverly-Calhoun.  Besides, if you don't
take the letter, I'm afraid he'll grow impetuous and perhaps do
something we would all regret."

An old servant is either a consummate actress, or out of work.
Consuelo let herself come slowly out of the weeping spell,
consenting to sit on a chair at last, but using tears and
handkerchief enough to hide her real emotion.  So it was as
simple as all that!  She could have laughed into the
handkerchief!  Jack Calhoun had seen the key to Jacqueline and
seized it--had he?  Had he?  Did Donna Isabella really think she
could hoodwink an old nurse?

"We can't expect a young girl like Jacqueline not to lose her
head over her first love-affair, Consuelo.  You may take her
the letter, but you must talk to her and warn her not to do
anything rash."

More handkerchief.  So that was it!  She was to take a letter to
turn a poor innocent's head, and then put thoughts of rashness
into the same young head by preaching against it.

"I am agreeing to this, as much as anything to save your
face, Consuelo."

The face went into the handkerchief, red and confused.

"I am going to count on you to be extremely circumspect
and tactful."

Quite right.  Depend on it!  Consuelo nodded vehemently over the
handkerchief, both hands holding it tightly to her face.

"You must impress on Miss Jacqueline the absolute necessity for
keeping all this from Don Andres.  He would be furious, and the
shock might kill him."

More nods.  Consuelo's black chignon bobbed to and fro like the
top-knot on a mechanical mandarin.

"You must contrive to manage this without a scandal.  Of course,
when Don Andres learns that Miss Jacqueline is in love with Mr.
Calhoun, he will give his consent, I suppose.  I don't see how he
can withhold it after all this clandestine business.  So
distasteful to him, Consuelo.  I'm surprised you didn't think of
that before you let it go so far.  However, now it's too late to
remedy that, we must consider Miss Jacqueline, and not break her
heart as well as his.  My own heart was broken at a very early
age, Consuelo.  It was the fault of my parents.  They interfered,
exactly as Don Andres would be likely to.  I could not endure
to see Jacqueline's heart broken as mine was, and her whole
life blighted."

More tears into the handkerchief;  then at last orderly, dutiful,
controlled words, cautiously emitted between sobs:

"I will be careful and obedient, Donna Isabella!"

Truthful Consuelo!  Careful!  She would fight to keep young
Calverly-Calhoun away from Jacqueline as she-wolf never fought
for cub!  Obedient?  Watch her!  She would take the letter--to
the convent!  She was jealous of the convent sisters--Yes, she
would certainly take the letter.

"When, Donna Isabella?"

"Next week, when Don Andres sends the usual flowers and candy
will be time enough."

Chapter V.

"Put not your trust in princes, Jacqueline."

There were hours, especially during the first few days after her
return, when it seemed to Jacqueline that in the convent she had
Desmio for her very own even more than when she was under his
roof and able to see him constantly.  For in the convent there
was no Donna Isabella to make acrid comments and to interrupt her
day-dreams with bitter fault-finding.

From the Sister Superior down to the darky gardener, they all
knew Desmio and loved him.  He had left his imprint on the place-
-windows for instance, in the chapel, and the big bronze bell.
And he had promised to come to see her, so there was always that
to look forward to, which took the drag out of routine.

Not that the life was irksome;  far from it.  Don Andres being
her guardian and sponsor, Jacqueline received no definitely
better treatment than the other girls, except that she was one of
the few who had a single bedroom;  but there was always an
indefinite, and very pleasant suggestion that much was expected
of her.

There was no loneliness;  almost never a moment's solitude.  No
girls were allowed to wander alone, or even in pairs, among the
trees and well shrubbed acres within the wall, there was always a
sister in attendance on every group, whose presence grew to seem
as natural as did the absence of anything really reprehensible.

No definitely better treatment;  but indefinitely--yes.  For it
was well understood that Jacqueline was destined for high places,
and young girls are at least as shrewd as their elders.  There
was keen competition to make friends with her, with an eye to the
future.  The flattery might have turned her head, if she had not
been reared by a man who understood and scorned ever subterfuge
of that stuff.  She undoubtedly lorded it a little.

And she was good to see, in the neat blue convent dress, that
could not hide a line of her young figure, or a graceful
movement.  Dancing was a part of the convent regimen, and there
were private lessons by a visiting professional for those whose
talent was worth cultivating.  At Don Andres' request, Jacqueline
had learned old Spanish dances, and since she would rather please
him than anything else she could conceive of, she had thrown her
heart into it, with the result that she walked as rhythmically as
the poets sing;  and the rest was sweetness, happiness, health
and day-dreams.

For in a convent such as that one, what life may turn out to be
after leaving is a dream not quite distinguishable from a
pictured heaven.  One could make magnificent conjectures, fairy
prince or prancing horse included, with the saints to draw from
and the stories of the saints to pattern human conduct by.

Jacqueline was not so afraid of Jack Calhoun from within the
convent walls.  And she did not think of Donna Isabella, lest
suggestions of a tail and cloven hoofs should cause embarrassment
and lead to irksome penances.  The subject of Jack Calhoun leaked
out in a recreation hour and rather thrilled her.  There were
girls who had witnessed the scene in church on Easter Sunday, and
of all the rapturously fascinating, irrepressible and newsy
themes in a convent, none can hold a candle to a love-affair.

Handsome Jack Calhoun!  Young--wealthy, or so reputed--lord of a
great plantation, with estates in Cuba, too, good family--
horseman--with a reputation for gaiety that had reached young
ears well filtered--

"Jacqueline, do tell--what did he say when he gave you
the flowers?"

"Jacqueline, dear--does he--does he write to you?"

"Tell us all about it.  We're simply crazy to hear!"

But Desmio had taught the art of self-command, and Donna
Isabella's jealousy had bitten the teaching home.  Jacqueline was
not to be surprised into embarrassing admissions.  And then
Sister Michaela, wanting to know what the talk was all about,
approached the group under the trees without seeming to
cloak vigilance.

"What is the joke, Jacqueline?"

"I'll tell you if you like."

It was Sister Michaela's business to be told things.  Except when
she was ringing the convent bell, the chief excuse for her
existence was that gift of hers for winning confidence.

She drew Jacqueline aside, and had the whole story of Jack
Calhoun in two minutes, asking only three deft questions in a
voice that would have coaxed out serpents from the sea, it was so
bell-like and sympathetic.

"Have you spoken to him alone?"

"No, Sister Michaela, I don't know why, but he frightens me.  I'm
not afraid of any of the other men I meet."

"Have you talked about him to any one?"

"Only to Consuelo."

"Does Don Andres know anything of this?"

"No--or I don't think so.  Donna Isabella and Consuelo said I
mustn't tell him because of his ill-health.  I wish I might tell
him.  Desmio always knows just what to do about everything."

Sister Michaela diagnosed much deeper than the surface, and her
words went promptly to the very roots of what she saw:

"Don't take it seriously, Jacqueline.  Don't believe too much.
Remember this:  Other people are not all as tender-hearted, and
credulous as you are.  They don't always say what they mean or
always believe what they pretend to believe.  As long as you know
your own mind, and are good, you can afford to laugh at any one's
unwelcome attentions."

"Consuelo told me to look daggers at him!" laughed Jacqueline.


Sister Michaela smiled, and Jacqueline's frown appeared.  She
rather resented the suggestion that she could not look ferocious
if she tried.  From under her white bandeau, Sister Michaela
watched the frown as if it were plain writing by a moving finger
in a language that she understood.

"Put not your trust in princes, Jacqueline," she said at last.
"Some of them are frauds, and some are weak.  Always trust
your own intuition.  That's the Blessed Virgin's voice that
warns you."

Good advice, but not quite comforting.  There was something
ominous about it, as if Sister Michaela had foreseen dark events.
She went off to toll the bell, leaving Jacqueline feeling rather
depressed;  but perhaps that was intended, since advice that
leaves no sting is all the easier forgotten.

"Does she mean Desmio is the prince I should not trust?"
Jacqueline wondered, and the frown vanished, as she threw that
thought away, dismissed it, scorned it too utterly to waste
displeasure on it.  But she remembered Sister Michaela's words,
and pondered them all through the French lesson, so that she had
to be reprimanded for inattention;  and if it had not been that a
dancing lesson followed that she might have pondered them all
day.  But there was nothing ponderous or ominous about dancing,
and it banished every consideration except high spirits and an
appetite.  When Sister Michaela tolled the bell for dinner there
was nothing in Jacqueline's mood but laughter and a yearning for
beef and vegetables;  the future, insofar as it existed in her
thoughts, was foreshortened to one day ahead, when she would have
been back a week and Desmio would probably drive over in the
limousine with his usual offering of candy for herself and
flowers for the chapel altar.

Desmio!  What on earth did she care for princes, as long as he
came once a week!  But the next day it was Consuelo, and not
Desmio, who came.  Consuelo was ushered into the great quiet
drawing-room, where all guests were received, and was kept
waiting there until she could interview the Sister Superior
before Jacqueline was sent for.  The request in itself was
surprising, for Consuelo was well known at the convent and
usually Jacqueline was brought straight to her and allowed to
talk with her alone for half an hour.  Consuelo strutted down the
corridor fuming, bobbed her curtsey at the threshold, collapsed
into becoming humility, was smiled at and addressed by name,
bobbed her curtsey again and laid a sealed envelope on the desk.

"A letter for Miss Jacqueline, please."

A sweet wise smile by way of answer--a little nod of
acknowledgment and a glance at the address on the envelope.
Nothing incorrect, or even unusual.  Letters intended for young
ladies in the convent never reach them until after they have been
opened and read, but Consuelo might have handed it to any of the
sisters;  nevertheless, it was very right and proper of Consuelo
to take such full precaution.  Anything else?  Certainly she
might see Miss Jacqueline.  Another smile from under a snow-white
bandeau;  then the face disappeared as the head bent forward, and
a hand such as Tintoretto painted went on writing, writing with a
golden pen.  Consuelo bobbed her way out backward, all the steam
gone out of her.

Then Jacqueline in the drawing-room in the plain blue dress that
Consuelo hated, and with her hair mismanaged scandalously, and
Consuelo unaccountably wet-eyed, which led, of course, to instant
urgent questions about Desmio.  But Desmio had sent kind
messages, along with the flowers and a veritable load of
chocolates, and was feeling so much better that he hoped to be
able to come neat week.

"Then why are you crying, Consuelo?"

"Honey, dear, I don't know--I've done my best for you, that's
all.  Oh, honey, and you so innocent!  And them so bent on--
Listen, be still a while and listen!"

Consuelo looked up through the tears at Jacqueline, who was
standing beside her with her arm on the chairback, wondering.
The young heart was beating almost as violently as the old one.
Every imaginable fear was in the air--the worse--the most
unspeakable--that Consuelo might have fallen foul at last of
Donna Isabella and have been dismissed.

"Conchita, don't admit a thing!  Don't let them trick you into a
confession that you've given that Calhoun boy as much as a
glimpse of a smile!"

"But I have smiled, Consuelo."

"Don't admit it!  There's a trap laid, child.  They're going to
catch you in it, if you're not careful, and marry you off to that
jackanapes--and they'll make Don Andres agree to it by pretending
to him that you've been giving Calhoun encouragement on the sly."

"But I haven't, Consuelo.  You know that."

"Lord knows I know it, honey."

"Who are 'they,' Consuelo?"

"Him and her--the jackanapes and Donna Isabella."

"How I do wish Desmio knew!"

"He does, honey.  I told him."

Instant electric change in the whole world atmosphere, and
Jacqueline herself again!  She laughed aloud--kissed Consuelo--
petted her--had Consuelo smiling in a minute--praised her--
danced, to the scandal of the image of Saint Pierre in the niche
above the mantelpiece--(or perhaps he was a saint who knew a good
thing when he saw it, for there are such)--made such a merry
noise of steps and laughter that Sister Helena came in to
discover what on earth was happening, and laughed too.

"Showing her the new dance, Jacqueline?  Do you think you ought
to do that in here, dear?  Things should be kept in their
proper places."

"Isn't everywhere a proper place to dance when you feel happy?"
Jacqueline answered.  She would have danced with Sister Helena
and devil take the consequences, if that had not been a place
where they understand the management of buoyant young humans.
Sister Helena forestalled indignity by meeting Jacqueline midway
and, with an arm on her shoulder, switched attention firmly
on Consuelo.

"How nice that she should be so glad to see you.  You must
come again."

Which was hint sufficient.  Under Donna Isabella's regime one
learned to read hints swiftly, and Consuelo hurried her departure
as if she were almost guilty of sacrilege in having stayed so
long.  Jacqueline was led back to the study hall, both arms full
of chocolate, and turned loose to distribute them.  She was kept
back that day after the lesson and was made to do six sums on the
blackboard;  but not even that subdued her thoroughly, and her
eyes were full of laughter even when she was summoned to the
Sister Superior's office before supper.

But you could feel subdued in the Sister Superior's presence.
You could not feel otherwise.  It needed no sense of guilt--no
evil conscience to make you stand silent before the desk and wait
until the veined patrician hand laid down the golden pen, the
bandeau was slowly raised, and the face framed in white looked at
you searchingly.

"How many letters, since you have been in the convent, have you
received from Mr. Calverly-Calhoun, Jacqueline?"

"None, Sister Theresa."

The answer was prompt, and qualified by nothing except
surprise.  Jacqueline's frown appeared, aggravatingly
mischievous, but the Sister Superior was not to be easily
deceived by surface indications.

"Are you quite sure, Jacqueline?"

"Quite sure, Sister."

"A letter has come addressed to you from Mr. Calverly-Calhoun,
and I have been told that he saw you to the convent gate on your
return from the Easter Conge.  Does Don Andres know of his
attentions to you?"

"Yes, Sister."

That answer was triumphant--not a doubt of it.

"Does he approve?"

"I--I don't know--I haven't spoken to him."

The frown again, followed by the first shade of doubt in the
Sister Superior's eyes.

"You were always such a good girl, Jacqueline.  We have been so
proud of you."

Silence--the frown dancing on her forehead, making pretense of
all the comical emotions which Jacqueline did not feel.

"In his letter, Mr. Calhoun mentions previous notes that he has
written to you."

Jacqueline shook her head.

"Have you received none?  You are sure?"

Again the head-shake.

"None at home during the Conge?"

"None at any time, Sister."

Long silence.  Eyes, hidden by the white bandeau, studying
something which a book on the desk concealed from Jacqueline.

"Then why should Mr. Calverly-Calhoun distinctly assert
that he has written to you repeatedly, and upbraid you for
not answering?"

Rebellion--high chin and flashing eyes--Jacqueline at her very
loveliest, indignant.

"I don't know, Sister Theresa.  I know nothing of his letters, I
don't know why he should write or pretend to have written."

Triumph again--a short, angry little nod.  Desmio knew, and that
settled it.

"How do you account for it that Mr. Calverly-Calhoun should write
you a letter couched in most ardent terms, and make pointed
reference to previous letters, if you have given him no
encouragement, Jacqueline?"

"May I see the letter, Sister?"

"No.  I will send it to Don Andres."

"No--no!  Oh, please don't.  Desmio is ill and a shock might--"

The last word froze on frightened lips.  She could not force
herself to speak of the horror of Desmio's possible death on
her account.  But fear is all too easily misinterpreted, and
those little furrows over her eyes suggested panic without
explaining it.

"You should have thought of that before you let yourself be led
into this.  Now go to your own room, Jacqueline, and search your
heart and consider whether you have told me the whole truth."

Fiat lex!  There was no appeal from the Sister Superior's
decision, nor any argument permitted once the order had gone
forth.  Jacqueline went to her room.  The Sister Superior sat
reconsidering a letter in a man's handwriting--almost able to
discern the handsome, impetuous, bold graceless features of the
man who wrote, in the sentences that all began carefully and all
ended in a hurry, in disorder, with a dash in place of full stop.

Dearest, most delightful Jacqueline!

You know you are mine--you know it!  Why be cruel to me?  Why
first encourage me with those smiles that set my heart on fire,
and then treat me coldly?--Again and again I have written to you-
-am I never to receive an answer?

Are you afraid of me?  Then why?  Would I not rather die than do
you injury or see you harmed?  Jacqueline!  Love such as mine can
not be refused!  It is all-conquering!  You are mine--you are
mine--for I love you!

Loveliest torturer!  Be generous!  Unwelcome business drags me
away to Cuba, where I must attend to my estates--estates that you
shall some day turn into heaven for me.  Must I eat my heart out
all these miles away, wondering what your silence means?
Jacqueline, I must go in two days.  Write to me!  Or at the
least send me word by Consuelo that I may hope--that you are
not cold toward me--that, if only a little, you reciprocate
my love!

Forever and forever yours with all my heart,

Jack Calverly-Calhoun

The Sister Superior returned the letter to its envelope and
placed that into a larger one along with a two-page letter in her
own fine Italian hand addressed to Don Andres.  Five minutes
later the sister on duty carried it out and locked it into the
mail bag with the rest--a hundred or more letters (all censored)
to a hundred homes, and a score or so of business communications,
all looking just as harmless on the outside.

And in her room up two flights of polished stairs Jacqueline lay
on her bed torn between triumph, indignation and anxiety.  Search
her heart?  She had nothing to search it for!  She did not know
whether the letter from Jack Calhoun had come through the post or
whether Consuelo had brought it, but she suspected Consuelo
naturally--else why the tears?  Was that what Consuelo meant by
saying she had done her best?  It was rather bewildering.  She
felt confused, and inclined to cry, the whole thing was so
underhanded and contemptible.

But emotions came in waves, and presently were mixed in a
maelstrom of perplexity.  Why had the Sister Superior doubted
her?  What did she mean by suspecting her of not having told the
whole truth?  Excepting only Donna Isabella, nobody before in all
her life had dared so much as to hint she was a liar.  The
thought made her furious.  It made her even more furious that a
shock of any kind should come to Desmio through her.

She did not doubt Desmio loved her more than anything else in the
world, since he had said so more than once, and he never said
what was not absolutely true.  It was cruel--unjust--wicked!  How
dared Jack Calhoun insert himself into her life?

What did that Jack Calhoun mean by daring to say she had received
other letters from him?  What did he intend by it?  He must have
known the letter would be intercepted.  Not even Consuelo would
have dared to bring her a letter without the Mother Superior's
knowledge.  Was it a trick then?  Was that what Consuelo meant by
saying a trap was laid for her?

Then came the thought of running away.  If the Sister Superior
thought her a liar, she would not stay under the roof another
minute!  She would escape--run all the way on foot back home to
Desmio.  She would make sheets into a rope, the way they did in
story-books, and let herself down from the window and run--
perhaps not go straight to Desmio, but hide somewhere and send
for him.  But she knew all the while she could never escape from
the convent, however hard she might try.  The impossibility of
escaping made her feel angrier than ever.

Sleep.  Even an ocean wearies in the end.  Calm follows a
typhoon.  Deep dreamless sleep from which--all powers be
praised!--no misery can keep any of us too long.

So--bringing supper on a tray--Sister Michaela found her with one
arm under head, her hair disheveled, and her body looking as if
waves had tossed it on the beach of time.  Even with the electric
light turned on, she did not wake for several minutes, and Sister
Michaela stood watching her, telling beads by habit rather than
intention.  She had reached the thirteenth bead before
Jacqueline awoke.

"Are you feeling better, Jacqueline?"

She sat up, recognized a friend and answered--as Sister Michaela
noted--without the least trace of a desire to hide her thoughts.

"I don't know, I'm all different, I feel as if something had
happened.  It's--"

A long pause, only broken by the regularly measured click-click-
click of beads, like the sound of water dripping.

"Sister Michaela--what did you mean by telling me not to put my
trust in princes?"

"You'll find out.  Only remember, dear.  And don't forget the
rest of it--always to trust your intuition.  That is the Voice
within.  Now eat your supper, and I'll come for the tray by
and by."

Sister Michaela went straight to the Sister Superior and talked
to her without emphasis, but with assurance.

"She is perfectly innocent.  But she's romantic, and she has a
capacity for building mountains out of molehills.  Her geese are
all swans.  She will magnify evil in the same way unless taught
not to."

"Even the best ones sometimes have to learn that in a hard
school," said the Sister Superior, nodding comprehension.

Chapter VI.

"Poison--brewed in mine own house!"

Don Andres Miro, inheritor of self-command as well as too much
pride, never cared to show his hand until he judged the proper
moment had arrived.  The drawers of his desk, and the safe in the
closet, were always locked.  He kept his own keys and counsel.

So Donna Isabella did not even know that a letter came from the
Mother Superior, although she carried in the mail-bag and sat
down facing her brother.  She had had no further word with
Consuelo about Jack Calhoun's loveletter, being minded to let the
nurse bear the full weight of responsibility in case of accident.
The Sister Superior would certainly write to Don Andres.  Donna
Isabella was determined to be on hand and informed of that move
of events in order to snatch the advantage and tell her own
version of Jacqueline's intrigue with Jack Calhoun at the moment
when it would have most weight.

"I am expecting one or two important letters, Andres.  Won't you
please open the bag?"

His eyes met hers incuriously.  His voice was exactly as usual.

"Important letters?  Certainly, Isabella.  I will send them to
you as usual in the drawing-room."

"They are letters I don't wish the servants to see.  Open the bag
and give them to me, Andres."

But he did not yield an inch of ground, or fail of a
moment's courtesy.

"In that case I will bring them to you with my own
hand, Isabella."

She mastered her exasperation and contrived to smile.  "Why
trouble, Andres?  With your heart so weak you should spare
yourself.  Give me the letters now."

"When my health is too far gone to permit me to cross the patio
it will be time for me to change all my old habits," he answered
suavely.  "For the present I am aware that habits cling to me."

"God aids him who changes!" she retorted, quoting the old Spanish
proverb.  Then she rose and left the room with all the air of
indifference she could master--which was rather less than she
could wish.  Don Andres' eyes smiled as the door shut with a snap
behind her, and he inserted the key in the mail-bag lock.

The Sister Superior's letter emerged first.  He sat turning it
over and over without opening it.  He scented danger--nodded--put
the letter in his pocket and began to sort over the rest of the
contents of the bag.  Two minutes later he crossed the patio and
opened the drawing-room door.

"No letters for you, Isabella."

She felt obliged to look surprised, and he looked sorry to have
brought her disappointing news, but that was all.  She decided
she had hoped too soon.  The next day's mail, or the next, would
bring it.

But Don Andres returned to the library and sat for a whole hour
reading and rereading--first the Sister Superior's fine script--
and then the bold impulsive hand of Jack Calhoun, that began its
sentences so downrightly and ended them in a scrawl and a dash
toward the next.

It hurt.  For a while his face grew ashen-gray as the weakening
heart-valves failed under the mental pressure.  He leaned his
head back on the chair.

Slowly at first, and then with a wave of energy, Don Andres
seemed almost to renew his youth.  His face grew hard--the mask
was off.  He returned the letters to his pocket.  No need to read
them again, for he had them by heart and could see them,
paragraph by paragraph, as if projected on a screen before
his eyes.

"--a good girl, and always truthful.  What I do not understand is
the young man's reference to previous letters, which he complains
of her not answering.  She denies all knowledge of them."

"No 'and' about it!  Jacqueline denies.  That ends the argument."

He knew who the enemy was, although characteristically even then
he named no names--not even to himself unheard and unseen in a
room regarded as his sanctuary.  He rose, surprised at his own
weakness and, summoning physical strength by an effort of will,
walked over to the door and locked it.  Then he sat down again to
review the situation in all its bearings.

"Poison," he muttered to himself.  "A pen dipped in poison brewed
in mine own house!"

He recalled Consuelo's impassioned outburst, word by word, and
the orders he had given her.

"Good, faithful woman!" he said, nodding.  "She shall be
trusted further."

He smiled as he recalled his sister's anxiety about the mail-
bag,--naming no names--merely smiling.  He understood that--some
one--was in league with young Calhoun.  Sufficient that he
understood it.

Jack Calhoun.  Forbid him the house?  Perhaps, after all, not
necessary.  Cuba.  Very fortunate for all concerned, including
Jack Calhoun, whose absence would preserve him from indignity.
There were rumors of financial trouble in connection with that
Cuban plantation;  and he rather thought, Don Andres did, that
before Mr. Jack Calhoun could return from Cuba circumstances
would have changed surprisingly--whereafter he at least hoped
Jack Calhoun would know enough to keep his hands off.

"There is no other way--at any rate no better way," he muttered.

It annoyed him that he had been so long in making up his mind,
but he knew that it was only his anxiety on Jacqueline's account
that had made him over-cautious.  Now he threw, not caution, but
procrastination to the winds.  He went first of all to the desk
and answered the Sister Superior's letter, lest Jacqueline should
suffer an unnecessary moment's anguish.

"--grateful to you for your vigilance, and, if that were
possible, more sure than ever of your judgment since you confirm
my own conviction that she is always truthful.

"For the rest, I will immediately take steps to prevent a
recurrence of such unsolicited attentions to Jacqueline and their
consequent annoyance to yourself.  I will write to you again, in
confidence, about this at the proper time.

"May I suggest to you, meanwhile, if that may be done without
presumption, that nothing would be lost by permitting Jacqueline
to forget the incident, since I can well believe she has already
suffered as much as if she were really guilty of grave
indiscretion.  I feel quite sure of her innocence.

"With renewed expression of my confidence--"

When he had sealed that letter he wrote a telegram--short,
definite and urgent--then rang the bell and unlocked the door.

"Send Consuelo!"

No suggestion of conspiracy--no hint to Consuelo of a secret held
between them--not a question concerning how or when that letter
from Jack Calhoun had reached the convent.

"Take the limousine, Consuelo, and deliver this letter into the
Sister Superior's hand.  On your way send this telegram."

She understood.  Her eyes shone.  Don Andres already knew then--
knew her part in it--and she was being trusted!

But she had to cross the patio to reach the servants' quarters
and give orders for the limousine;  and as the Holy Virgin was
her witness, she was not invisible!  She could not make herself
unseen by Donna Isabella, although she would have sunk into the
ground for choice.

"Where are you going in such a hurry, Consuelo?  What did Don
Andres want with you?"

Well--Mother of God have pity on her!--she had lied a hundred
times to save Miss Jacqueline, and had always done the penances
imposed by Father Doutreleau, exacting though he was!  She could
lie again--and pay for it again--

"To the drug-store, Donna Isabella."


"For medicine."

"Where is the prescriptions"

It is loyalty that is the mother of invention.

"Doctor Beal promised he would leave it at the drugstore."

"Why didn't you tell Don Andres that I have given you other
tasks?  Go about your own business, I will send one of the

But a library window overlooked the patio, and Don Andres
appeared in the doorway to the rescue, saying nothing, merely
observant, shutting the door with a slam behind him to call
attention to himself.

"Andres, why do you send Consuelo on an errand!  She's forever
finding some excuse for laziness.  I'll send one of the footmen
for your medicine."

"The footmen have bad memories," he answered.

"Nonsense!  Write it down for him."

"I have--given--Consuelo--my instructions--Isabella!"

Brother and sister faced each other, and Consuelo fled;  it was
none of her business to witness a family quarrel.  Don Andres
smiled faintly as he watched her go, assured that he was right,
she could be trusted.

"Your illness is no excuse, Andres, for putting me to gross
indignity before a servant!"

"No," he said, "no illness could excuse that, could it!"

From her window, fifteen minutes later, she could see the
limousine away in the distance, driving in the opposite direction
to the village where the drug-store was that Andres usually
patronized.  It was headed straight for the convent.

So!  That settled that!  The news was out, and Consuelo must have
turned the trick against her!  What an idiot she had been to
trust that woman--to endure her in the house!

It was too much already to have had to endure Jacqueline.
Perhaps Andres thought that by insisting on keeping Jacqueline he
could irritate her into leaving his roof and taking up quarters
elsewhere.  If so, he fooled himself!  She had her rights--the
legal right, not only to an income out of the estate, but to
reside in the Miro mansion.  No more than any Miro would she ever
relinquish one privilege!

Well--so it was war, was it, between Andres and herself?  She
might as well look the fact in the face.

The bone of contention was Jacqueline.  The only ally whom she
could think of for the moment was Jack Calhoun.  What had the
young fool gone to Cuba for?  Why couldn't he have waited?

Andres knew now about Calhoun's attentions to Jacqueline;  that
much was obvious.  Give him enough scandal, and he would force
Jacqueline into a marriage with Jack Calhoun or any other man!

Why in the name of ninety saints had the young fool gone away
to Cuba?

Well--he could come back, couldn't he?  He looked impetuous
enough for anything!

Donna Isabella sat down at her escritoire and wrote to Jack
Calhoun one of those guarded communications that stir the
recipient's imagination by suggestion of what they leave unsaid.

"--Don Andres Miro has heard of your attentions to Miss Lanier
and is taking steps to prevent a recurrence.

"I am quite ignorant of his plans.  He has not consulted me.  I
have no actual proof that he has in mind some other individual of
his own choosing, who perhaps he thinks will make a better
husband for Miss Lanier--"

Donna Isabella smiled over that sentence.  If anything could
bring Jack Calhoun hurrying back from Cuba, that would.  She
sealed up the letter and took exquisite delight in dropping it
into the mail-bag in her brother's presence and watching him turn
the key, insuring trouble for himself.  It made her sunny-
tempered for an hour.

However, at the end of the hour she was on the horns of anxiety
again;  for it was she in person who received over the telephone
a telegram from New Orleans.  Curtis Radcliffe would arrive in
time for dinner.

What was Andres up to now?  Curtis Radcliffe had the reputation
of being the cleverest lawyer in Louisiana, and that was
synonymous in Donna Isabella's mind with treachery and
underhanded cunning.

Andres might be thinking of changing his will, but he would
hardly send for such an expensive man as Radcliffe in a hurry
about that, because the estates and investments were practically
all included in the Miro trust deed, and there was not a great
deal else that Andres had to bequeath.  Was he proposing to try
to change the trust deed?  Then she need not worry!  He had tried
that once before.  Radcliffe had advised him it would need his
sister's signature as well as that of the cousin who manufactured
gum shoes.  Andres would be too proud even to approach the gum
shoe-maker, and as for herself, wild horses should not make her
sign anything!

Summoning all her self-control she went to the library and
announced the telegram.

"Curtis Radcliffe is on his way."

"I supposed so.  I have just written notes to Doutreleau and
Beal, inviting them to dinner too, to meet him."

"Really, Andres!  Do you call that fair to me?  How can I arrange
a dinner for three guests at a moment's notice?  Couldn't you
have spoken sooner?"


"Why not?"

"Because I do not like to speak before I have decided, Isabella."

How could anybody be affectionate to such a man!  It was all she
could do to avoid precipitating an open quarrel--more than she
could do to retire without firing a Parthian shot.

"I'm evidently nothing more than your housekeeper!"

"Not evidently, Isabella!"

Now what in the name of all the martyrs did he mean by that?
Something sly undoubtedly.  She slammed the door, and made up her
mind that the dinner-party should not go down in the Miro annals
as a joy to be recalled and lingered over.

Nevertheless, not even her sardonic humor spoiled the feast, for
Andres was at his best and gave his own instructions to the
butler about wine.  And Curtis Radcliffe was a man whose
conversation flourished on Chateau Margeaux '84--who knew good
jokes about the priesthood that made Francois Doutreleau chuckle
and hold his sides--who was far too discerning to annoy Beal with
equally good digs at the doctors--and whose stories about lawyers
were as merciless as they were funny.

"You appear to glory in the baseness of your own profession!"
snorted Donna Isabella.

"As the good sun glories in the darkness it dispels!" said

"As courtesy delights in opportunity--or a surgeon likes--what is
it that a surgeon aspires to, Beal?" asked Andres.

"Partnership, with Radcliffe and myself!" said Doutreleau.  Beal
never had an answer ready.

It was an old-fashioned house, with the old time-honored ways
unchanged.  The men sat over the nuts and wine when the hostess
had withdrawn, and Donna Isabella wandered about the patio
moodily, listening to laughter that annoyed her all the more
because she knew it masked seriousness.  They would not talk
business in the diningroom, she knew that;  Andres was a man who
did everything at the appointed time and in the proper place.
Whatever secret scheme had brought these four together would be
discussed in the library and probably behind a locked door.

But the night was warm, and three of the library windows faced
the lawn.  Donna Isabella had a perfect right to enjoy the
flowers and the moonlight shimmering on undulating landscape--
perfect right to summon a footman and have a chair set for
herself beneath an open window.  She had a perfect right to sit
still and nearly choke herself with a handkerchief trying to
suppress a cough (for the night was a trifle chilly after all)
when she heard the four men enter the library and felt, rather
than saw the lights turned on.

She could hear Radcliffe making the circuit of the bookshelves.
Doutreleau, she knew was already in an armchair.  She heard Beal
clear his throat, and heard his chair creak as he turned it
toward Andres.  Then her brother's calm voice;  she could imagine
him, with his back to the fireplace, smiling;

"Now, Beal, out with it!  How long am I likely to live?"

Ten thousand devils take the man!  Beal never answered promptly--
hummed and ha-a-ed like a nincompoop, as if afraid of his own
voice.  And Donna Isabella--whether she was startled or felt
chilled because she had not brought her shawl--coughed, and
smothered a second cough into a handkerchief.

A moment later she heard Andres stride to the window.  He closed
it and pulled the shade down without deigning to glance out to
see who might be sitting underneath it.  He could guess too
easily--preferred too magnificently not to know.

Chapter VII.

"Some one's going to suffer, Sherry Mansfield, but I'll make it!"

Affairs in Cuba might be--usually are--and were, in point of
fact, precarious.  Not even a Calverly-Calhoun may mortgage an
estate however rich, pay ten percent interest, endure one
hurricane, one drought, and one year's blight, entrust the
management of the estate to an alien--and not face consequences.
However, one can sometimes postpone settlement, especially if one
happens to be twenty-seven, with a letter in one's pocket that
has stirred the very lees of urgency and therewith, too, the
poison of inborn recklessness.

So bankers in Havana locked new notes away, and Jack Calhoun
paced the deck of a New Orleans-bound steamer, wishing whip and
spurs might take the place of coal.  It was a slow boat--just his
luck!--crawling along with the hose on a hot main-bearing and a
screen of seaweed like a petticoat.  But the smoking-room was
good enough--capable steward and plenty to drink--with a
scattering of passengers less impatient than himself, whose
conversation served at intervals to help pass time.

Clinton Wahl, for instance, special correspondent of the New
Orleans Star, on his way back from covering political events in
Cuba;  quite a personage in a way, and not unconscious of it, but
not so bad to talk to, if only he would not think in head-lines
and pretend to see ambitious motive at the back of every event.
A cad, of course, but amusing.

And young Sherwood Mansfield, not a cad by any means, but son of
the owner of the San Francisco Tribune, and likely to inherit
millions--meanwhile, worshipful of Clinton Wahl because a star
reporter looks like Betelgeuse to a newspaper man whose career is
yet to make.

It was rather good fun to watch the by-play between those two--
Wahl obviously cultivating the friendship of the younger man for
opportunist reasons, and Sherry Mansfield thrilled by intimacy
with some one who signed his own special articles, and whose
photograph appeared at the head of every syndicated column that
he wrote.  Between spells of furious deck-pacing Jack Calhoun
struck up acquaintance with the pair.

There were those, especially later on, and Clinton Wahl among
them, who assessed young Jack Calhoun as a mere profligate who
never took thought and who always acted on the impulse of the
moment.  But that is the point of view induced by ribbon head-
lines.  There were wheels within wheels--phases--moods--
alternating passions--shrewdness beside impulse--swift
discernment in addition to overbearing recklessness--and an
element of kindness and good humor in his composition.  He would
not have been a Calverly-Calhoun if he had not had wit, and an
instinct for making himself agreeable.

When Clinton Wahl grew weary of Sherry Mansfield's hero-worship
and took a turn on deck, Jack Calhoun, vastly and intuitively
preferring the younger man, entered the smoking-room and took a
seat beside him.  Mansfield was a companionable young chap,
sturdy, frank and full of enthusiasm, with earnest gray eyes that
could light up when he laughed;  and his laugh was contagious.

He had puzzled Jack Calhoun, who had the notorious Calhoun gift
for appraising people swiftly, and who only did not profit by it
(as all his forebears had done) because he was too lazy.  They
sat at the same dining table, and he had found Sherry Mansfield
even more interesting than the three girls opposite, who
obviously preferred young Mansfield to himself--an unusual enough
experience in Jack Calhoun's life to intrigue him thoroughly.
There was a peculiar, half-wistful, wholly determined look about
Sherry Mansfield's mouth that increased his attractiveness.  When
he was not smiling he looked as if his own courage and his own
good timber had enabled him to survive it, without obliterating
the memory.

Young Sherwood Mansfield liked to talk to men--with any man;  but
froze in the presence of women, not apparently nervous, but
stone-cold suddenly, and colder yet as they made advances to him.
Habitual lady-killer, Jack Calhoun drew exquisite amusement from
the drama, thrice daily at meals, as those three young women
opposite them at table tried to make themselves agreeable to
Sherry Mansfield, and invariably were out their pains.  He
himself for excellent reasons was on his best behavior that
voyage, indulging in no flirtations, minded for this once to lay
a pure, if overbold heart at the feet of his adored;  but he was
deadly curious to know why this handsome young chap, with money,
and so much life in him, should set him such a marvelous example.

Sherwood Mansfield did not look, nor talk, like a man in love.
There is intuitive freemasonry between men whose hearts are
aflame with that divine passion, and Mansfield was the one on the
boat with whom Jack Calhoun would have deigned to discuss his own
idolatry, as one equal to another.  But the few hints he had let
drop fell on barren ground;  Sherry Mansfield simply avoided the
usually, all-absorbing subject of women and their lure, frowning
slightly on occasion, but more often seeming to fall vaguely on
guard--then smiling the moment the subject was changed.

There was not another subject in the world that he was not
apparently willing to talk about, and with intelligence.  Because
of his keenness to tread in his father's footsteps, world news
was at his finger-tips, and he took the same sort of delight in
it that some fellows take in baseball scores.  Sooner or later,
whatever the subject, he worked it round to the newspaper angle,
and it was then that almost all his wistfulness vanished, his
smile was most contagious, and his eyes shone brightest.

"Don't you think Clinton Wahl's a wonder?" he asked Calhoun.

"Wonders never cease," Jack answered, "but they vary, suh.  I
should say he has brains of a sort, but they're no good without
breeding.  He'd have been a professional gambler or a fake stock-
salesman if he hadn't struck his gait at journalism."

"Wahl's no journalist!" Sherry snorted.  "He's a newspaper man."

"Profound apology!  But what's the difference, may I ask?"

Sherry ignored the question.  One does not talk of one's religion
to outsiders.

"As for gambling--Wahl did more than any one to expose the Cuban
lotteries and the New Orleans policy ring.  Didn't you read
of it?"

"Can't say I did.  How's your dad these days?  I suppose he owns
San Francisco?"

"Well, hardly!  But he's made the Tribune the biggest thing in
the West.  It's all the life he cares for, and he lives it--
doesn't even play golf."

Wahl came sauntering in again and sat down with his arms on the
table facing the other two.  Calhoun knew that look in the
cavernous eyes and race-track mouth.  Young men of wealth soon
learn to recognize it, or they cease from being rich.  Studying
the thin nose and the movement of the long lean neck, Calhoun
knew exactly how far he would trust him.

"There's a woman in a deck-chair near the bulletinboard," Wahl
said, smiling at Sherry.  "I saw her in Santiago once or twice,
but hadn't time to get to know her.  If you asked me--there's a
yen in her eye, and she's lonely.  If I were as young and good-
looking as you are--"

"Oh, to hell with her!" said Sherry Mansfield, and Jack Calhoun
noticed the return of the peculiar wistful look that was
so intriguing.

"To hell with her certainly, by all means," he agreed politely.
Then, hazarding a shrewd guess:  "but what's wrong with the sex?"

Sherry Mansfield frowned and rose from his seat.

"I think I'll take the air a while," he announced;  and at the
thought of fresh air the momentary ill-humor left him.  He was
whistling by the time he reached the door.

"Likable youngster," said Wahl, "and the women seem crazy about
him, but he'll go far, for he mistrusts 'em!"

Jack ordered drinks.  "Old story, I suppose," he answered.  "I
remember at his age I mistrusted the whole sex for a week, or
maybe nine days.  It was after the wife of a man in Key West
turned virtuous and went back to her husband."

"Ungrateful female!" Wahl commented;  and Jack Calhoun bridled a
bit;  he instinctively resented having Wahl in agreement with him
on any point.  However, it does not much matter with whom you
talk on board ship;  and just at that moment the steward brought
the drinks.

"I never knew a grateful woman," Wahl went on, "unless it's true
that gratitude is a foretaste of ambition.  In that case, yes.
If not, no.  It's the scheming sex."

"It's the delightful sex," said Jack Calhoun.  "I drink to them."

"It's the criminal sex," Wahl continued, warming up to what might
be his favorite subject.  "If you'd been on newspapers as long as
I have you'd agree that nine-tenths of the crime in the world,
and nearly all the trouble is due to women.  They've a natural
flair for posing as virtuous--"

"The Lord made 'em female and marvelous lovely!" Jack interrupted.

"--and there's a fixed tradition that they're incapable of evil
motive or the brutal passions.  But watch 'em at a prize fight!"
Wahl went on.  "Watch 'em at a gambling resort!  Above all, I've
learned to watch 'em when I'm on a story!  Cherechez la femme is
good scripture.  If it's theft, arson, crooked politics, or
murder, you may safely bet your last coin there's a woman at the
bottom of it, deliberately responsible and secretly pleased--
usually a young woman, with a face like a Madonna's and a mouth
that butter wouldn't melt in."

"I call that disgustin' cynicism," Jack remarked.  "I should say
you get devilish small fun out of life."

"Oh, I don't know," Wahl answered.  "I've had my share of fun.
They don't spare us;  why should we spare them?  The thing to do
is to keep awake and not let a woman put one over on you.  I

But Jack Calhoun lit a cigar and got up yawning.  It did not
amuse him to hear of the amours of a person like Wahl, and he
went out to pace the deck with Sherry.

For a while as they strode side by side around the deck they
talked at random, and Sherry spoke so eagerly of New Orleans and
the probable hour of arrival that Jack Calhoun suspected more
than ever that there was a love-affair not running smoothly.  He
worked the conversation round to women by remarking that the
Creoles of New Orleans are earth's loveliest daughters;  and when
the wistful expression returned instantly to Sherry's face Jack
felt sure he had uncovered the secret.

"When the fair sex is adamant, or damned elusive," he remarked
with a far-away reminiscent air, "the key to love's young dream
consists in gettin' your heart's darlin' into difficulties, and
then helpin' her out.  They've a genius for sufferin' over
trifles.  The ones most worth lovin' furiously are the easiest to
scare.  I'm head over heels in love myself with a perfect little
angel in a convent--and they're like jails, y'know, those places.
It's easier to get money out of a banker than to get your adored
out of a convent.  I'm hopin' mine'll get fired out.  I've cooked
up a scheme, to make the pope or somebody believe she's been
gettin' letters from me on the sly.  That ought to work it.  Once
you've saved your adored from a predicament you're Romeo in her
eyes--and a worshipful fair woman, suh, is a brighter jewel in a
gentleman's eye than art, or religion, or even patriotism!
You'll excuse me if I speak with feeling.  I'm in love myself."

But Sherry Mansfield astonished by not excusing him.  He was
hardly polite.  He looked offended, as if Jack Calhoun had
touched on some secret that he had no right to probe--something
that hurt him almost physically.  The pained look brought the
cruelty in Jack Calhoun to the surface;  sympathy vanished;  and
as Sherry Mansfield turned back into the smoking-room Jack
resumed his walk alone with a smile of satisfied amusement.

"A soft streak in him somewhere," he reflected.  Only lovely
women, in his theory of life, were entitled to that form
of weakness.

But Sherwood Mansfield's discontent had its roots in the past,
not the present;  he was thinking in terms of the future, and
smiling, when he entered the smoking-room and sat down beside
Wahl.  Possible desire to cover up whatever it might be that
tortured him, made him seize with all the greater energy on any
subject that held optimism.  And Wahl was a man who had done
things, not a spendthrift like Calhoun.  He glanced at Wahl with
diffidence, and began to speak to him, as, not so long ago, he
would have confided in the captain of the college team--manly,
and sure enough of what he had to say, but deferent.

"You've spoken once or twice of news and head-lines.  I think
your flair for news is marvelous.  I wonder if you'd think it
cheek on my part to suggest that you're simply wasted on the New
Orleans Star?  None of my business, of course, but--"

"Don't apologize.  I'm interested."

That was no exaggeration.  Wahl's eyes glittered.  "My dad's
always hunting for brains.  He hopes I'll step into his shoes
some day, and, of course, so do I, but that's a long way off.  It
occurred to me that if I should wire him something to the effect
that you'd consider an offer--"

"There's a wireless operator on this boat," said Wahl.

"--he'd appreciate my having kept the Tribune's interests in
mind;  and, of course, he's keen to see how I shape up.  It
wouldn't hurt me with him if he knew I'd picked a winner so early
in the game--if you don't mind my picking you;  that is.  And of
course, I can't promise anything.  Dad owns the Tribune, and he
manages it;  there isn't any one on earth who can dictate to him."

"That's what makes the Tribune good," said Wahl.  "It won't hurt
to send your dad a wire.  You're not going back to Frisco then?"

"Not yet.  Dad wired me to stay over in New Orleans and cover the
flood stuff if it happens.  He's always trying to put a big
chance my way."

His eyes were alight with enthusiasm as he spoke of that;  but
Wahl smiled with cynical amusement.

"You won't call flood stuff a big chance when you're my age.  You
can sit at your desk and write up all the floods from Noah's to
next year's.  Nothing to it--unless you can tie the blame to some
one, or get the goods on Shem with Ham's wife.  The crowd'll read
flood headlines if they're peppy, and then turn to the divorce
news and the story of a soubrette blinding another woman's lover
with carbolic acid.  However, I suppose your dad figures you're
passing through and you'd better cover it on the off-chance.
Take my tip and don't get too enthusiastic.  Stories of broken
levees and drowned cattle--lists of dead and missing--estimates
of damage--cost as much over the wires as a magnate's passion for
a chorus girl, and believe me, there's nothing to it when it
comes to which sells papers.  Feed the public what it wants, and
it'll feed you.  That's religion.  Suppose we draft a wire to
Mansfield senior.  I'd rather be on the Tribune than on all the
other papers put together."

Mansfield produced a pencil and began to write the telegram, but
it was Clinton Wahl who shaped it, deftly suggesting phases,
head-line fashion, and although Sherry was hardly aware of it,
the telegram was almost wholly Wahl's when it was finished and
the final draft approved.  Wahl took it to the operator, smiling
to himself.  This was opportunity, and it knocks at a man's door
only once!

But Wahl knew too much to depend altogether on young Sherry
Mansfield's influence with his father;  men of the type who can
build a San Francisco Tribune out of nothing are not given to
flash decisions based on a youngster's capacity for hero-worship.
Opportunity may knock, but it calls for ability to open the door
wide enough.

"That's on the way," he said, returning to sit beside Sherry.
"Now, if only a story would break!  If I could wire the Tribune
something juicy and exclusive--"

"Why not cover the Mississippi floods with me?" asked Sherry
generously.  "Something might happen.  Your flair for news--"

"Boy--I've written up the Mississippi once a year regularly since
I cut my eye-teeth!  Tell you what--I'll sit here and write your
story for you, head-lines and all!  Put it in your pocket, and
use it as your own if the levees break.  If they don't, keep it
for next year.  It'll come in handy sometime."

But therein Wahl showed misjudgment.  Sherry's was the ambition
that would rather win its own spurs.  His bright face clouded
over and he changed the subject, not exactly deftly:

"Where's the best place in New Orleans to hire a car by the day?"
he asked.  "I'm not going to waste time in the city."

"H'm!  Story up his sleeve," thought Wahl.  "I'll do the levees
with him after all."

A taste of opportunity acted on Wahl as the scent of blood stirs
a wolf.  It brought his ruthless, tireless news-sense uppermost.
He became as restless as Jack Calhoun and went outside to join
his promenade.  Those two were as the poles apart in temperament,
but something remotely resembling a fellow-feeling comforted both
of them as they fell into stride together.

The more Jack Calhoun saw of Wahl, in fact, the less he liked
him;  yet, strangely, enough, the less he cared to avoid him.  To
keep his mind off his own impatience, he encouraged Wahl to talk,
and Wahl was at least no mealy-mouthed apologist;  he made no
secret of his views.

"Then you'd regard a friend's affairs as news, suh--?"

"Certainly.  Anything's news that sells papers.  I'm not sold on
friendship.  When a man gets over-friendly I suspect him."

"Pardon my curiosity, suh, and don't answer me unless you wish,
but I'm impelled to ask whether you're married."


Wahl laughed sardonically.

"You were never in love?"  Jack asked him curiously, and Wahl's
smile grew broader than before.

"I've seen a lot of the effects of love," he answered.  "It makes
front-page news as a rule."

"Then you don't believe in pure love--out-and-out devotion--
chivalry on one side, faithfulness and adorable dependence on
the other?"

"Show me pure love before I'll believe in it!" Wahl answered.
"I've never seen any yet, and I try to keep my eyes open.
Devotion, yes--to bread and butter and a roof--or to diamonds and
a limousine.  But faithfulness?  Chivalry?  Who in the world is
faithful to anything except bad habits?  Who is chivalrous, when
his ambition is at stake?  A woman is a rogue at heart, and a man
who adores her either fools himself like a lunatic, or else he
suffers from too much appetite.  The same man would eat himself
to death, or die of drink and drugs in different circumstances.
What's more, all women understand that."

"What a weird conviction!  I should say you are the devil's own,
suh!  I would rather die than think as you do," Jack remarked.

"I've seen scores die, and thousands go broke for thinking the
orthodox rot about women," Wahl answered.  "And I've never met a
woman whose real motives would bear investigation, although I'll
admit to you I've seen great actresses.  They're all born with
the buskins on."

"Suh, you astonish me!  I would never have believed a man could
walk the earth and hold such notions!"

That pleased Wahl enormously.  Like every other newspaper man in
the South, he knew more or less of the Calhoun family history,
and a lot about Jack's escapades.  It tickled his sense of humor
to be able to scandalize a man who thought himself made of such
vastly superior clay.

"They should vivisect emotions and traditions instead of guinea-
pigs," he said, "to find out why nine-tenths of the world is
gullible and the other tenth helps itself."

The blood of the Calhouns was boiling, in Jack by then.

"'Pon my soul, suh," he exploded, "if I were not aware I had
invited your disgusting confidence, I'll be damned if I wouldn't
insult you!"

Wahl grinned more delightedly than ever.

"You might call me the devil's own, for instance!" he suggested.

During what was left of the short voyage, Jack Calhoun avoided
Wahl as he would never have shunned the devil.  When the ship
docked in New Orleans he hurried ashore and vanished, not even
troubling to say good-by to Sherry Mansfield, whom he thought
contaminated by Wahl's company.

"Now, if--only he'd get into a mix-up with some woman I'd have a
front-page story for the Tribune!" said Wahl, watching him go.
"The Calverly-Calhouns are as well known in Frisco as in New
Orleans.  Jack belongs to the two best clubs there, and his
father used to own the Lion Line."

"It's up to you to get some stories, now," laughed Sherry
Mansfield.  "Here's a wire from dad."

Wahl snatched it eagerly, fingers twitching and eyes glinting,
but as he read the telegram his expression changed to
sour displeasure.

"Hell!" he exploded bitterly.  "Is that all?  Special
correspondent in New Orleans for the San Francisco Tribune--space
rates!  Damn!  I expected from what you said they'd send for me
to Frisco.  However, I'll make it yet--you watch!"  He met young
Mansfield's eyes for a moment, and showed his teeth in a
determined leer.  "I'd skin the wives and daughters of the whole
Supreme Court to get on the Tribune staff.  Some one's going to
suffer, Sherry Mansfield, but I'll make it!"

Chapter VIII.

"You are a prince and I will put my trust in you!"

The convent was never unbearable, but for the first time in her
experience, Jacqueline began to find it dissatisfying.  The
Sister Superior took Don Andres Miro's letter literally, and
"permitted Jacqueline to forget" the unpleasant incident.  But it
is possession, not permission, that is nine points of the law.
Jacqueline possessed, and was possessed by, a sensation.
Fluttering heart-beats warned her that though conditions on the
surface might seem almost normal, there was something dreadful
moving underneath.

Even the surface was not what it had been.  You may inhibit and
decree, but not the Pope himself can keep young girls from
talking, more particularly in the gigglesome between-bell
interludes.  Two girls had told of Jacqueline's love-affair;  one
hundred and ninety-nine discussed it enviously;  and the one who
was silent was Jacqueline herself.

She was aware she was being talked about and miserable because
the whole trouble seemed so unjust.  What was Desmio thinking of
it all?  The sting lay there.  She had only received one letter
from him since her return to the convent, and in that he had
appeared his usual courteous and generous self, quietly humorous
as ever, and as usual telling her the day-by-day events of the
plantation without as much as a hint that life could ever be less
than dignified and sane.  Not a word of Jack Calhoun--no hidden
reference to him, though she tried through tears to read between
the lines.  And of Donna Isabella nothing, except that she was
well and wished to be remembered.  That silence was the dreadful
part of it.

So she wrote to him in the same vein in which he wrote to her,
giving him the usual news of dancing lessons and of what the
visiting Jesuit lecturer had said--of a bon mot by fat old Father
Pierre--and of a broken pane in one of the stained-glass windows.
And she wondered whether Desmio would think she was a hypocrite.

For he knew about Jack Calhoun now, and she felt sure that Donna
Isabella was busy making as much as possible of the incident.
She knew Desmio would never willingly turn against her;  but she
also knew intuitively that, as dropping water wears away stone, a
proud man may be influenced little by little until his judgment
is no longer his.

At last on the day when Desmio should have come there was a
summons instead from the Sister Superior, and with it wild
misgivings.  She stood trembling while the calm face watched her
from under the bandeau.

"Don Andres Miro wishes you to return home, Jacqueline.  Your
trunk will be packed, and Consuelo will come for you
tomorrow morning."

Blue, bewildered eyes--the puzzling frown--no, answer--only
a question!

"Is he--is Don Andres well?"

"I believe so.  I have not heard to the contrary."

Jacqueline was hardly conscious after that of the Sister
Superior's voice;  certainly no word of the brief admonition that
followed penetrated through the veil of her emotion.  She felt
like something blown along by the wind:  without volition of her
own;  and the wind, she felt sure, was Donna Isabella, blowing
cold--so cold and comfortless that she shuddered.

"Have you caught cold, Jacqueline?"

She did not even realize that she was being spoken to.  Fear
gripped her, and was much more dreadful because it had no name
nor any plausible excuse for being fear at all.  Somehow she
reached her own room, she knew that, for there she was in the
room, on the chair beside the bed, with Sister Michaela speaking
to her kindly, and her shoes off.  Who took her shoes off?  Why?
She began to undress herself, and Sister Michaela laughed,
although she did not interfere, and even helped her.  Why should
she laugh?  Was there anything in the world to laugh about?  It
was broad daylight, but Sister Michaela drew the shade down, and
how good the pillow felt!  Somebody--Sister Michaela she
supposed--was folding away her clothes and moving up and down the
little room with matter-of-fact steps;  but all that belonged to
a world she had left behind--a world that had no more use for
her, nor she for it--a world whose day-dreams all vanished in a
mystery that she craved nothing better than escape from.

Jacqueline slept until the convent bell at dawn awoke her, and
never a dream had entered to interrupt her visit to the plane
where all is absolute and nothing is unsolved.  Sleep wrought its
miracle.  She awoke refreshed, and wondering what the turmoil had
been all about.  Was she not going home to Desmio?  What fear
could lie in that?

She laughed at herself;  and was singing all the while she
dressed.  She felt gay, and full of spirits.  It seemed like the
dawn of something.  And the convent, funnily enough, seemed
distant, although she was still in it.  Nothing had been said
about her not returning after this visit home, but no logic and
no reasoning can change the promptings of a heart, and she knew,
somewhere inside herself, that she no longer formed any part of
those surroundings.  As she knelt by her desk she was conscious
of trying to memorize everything.

Yet afterward, whenever she did call it up from memory, there
always came first that feeling of standing, or rather kneeling on
the threshold of great events.  Then, Sister Michaela's face
looking straight at her.  Thereafter, always, the gray eyes
filled her memory, and the quiet voice saying:

"Put not your trust in princes!  Trust your intuition, Jacqueline!"

She attended no class that morning.  Consuelo came early, almost
with the dew on her from rising before dawn for the forty-mile
journey, and the leave-taking was hurried through as if there
were something furtive about it--not orthodox and if not frowned
on, wondered at.  Yet Consuelo looked so red-faced and important
that Jacqueline, who knew her old nurse nearly as well as the
nurse knew her, could draw nothing but buoyant conclusions.  That
fat-hen fussiness hid secrets.  Consuelo had good news up her
sleeve, or else Jacqueline knew nothing.

But it was little more than nothing that she learned for two
hours after they left the convent gate.  Zeke tooled the car
cautiously along the road below the levee, for the flood was high
and there were places where the mud was hub-deep and the gangs
were toiling to stop further seepage.  Whenever Jacqueline asked
questions, Consuelo grew violently worried about the driving and
got into an argument with Zeke through the sliding glass panel.
Zeke's retorts would have made an archangel furious, and Consuelo
naturally did not expect to be an angel for a long time, not even
in the lower ranks.  So Jacqueline, although she asked a lot of
questions, ascertained little and that in snatches.

"Why has Desmio sent for me, Consuelo?"

"Zeke you'll break the wheels!  I'll report you to Don Andres!"

"Consuelo, why did--"

"Hush, honey!  Oh, that nigger--he'll be the death of us!  Zeke!
Drive slowly!"

"Consuelo, is Desmio well?"

"Yes, honey."

"Why did he send for me?"

"Zeke, you'll be off the road in a minute!  Can't you see that

"Consuelo, has anything happened?"

"It will, honey, if that Zeke isn't careful.  Zeke!"

"Ah's at de ole stand!"

"Drive faster!  If that levee breaks--"

About a third of Consuelo's nervousness was genuine.  The other
two-thirds were a screen behind which she tried to disguise from
Jacqueline that she was nearly bursting with information;  and
Jacqueline understood that perfectly.

"There!  There's the last of the levee and we're safe.  Now you
can tell me the news, Consuelo."

"Just you wait, honey."

"Why?  I'll have to know presently."

"All I hope is I can get your hair done properly before Don
Andres sees you.  Listen, honey:  the less you know the better.
Then if she sees you first, you can tell her what the dodo said
to the horse-marines!"

"Then doesn't Donna Isabella know I'm coming home?"

"There's no knowing how much she guesses, honey.  She'll know
something's up when she orders the limousine after breakfast and
discovers she can't have it.  Let's hope she doesn't see you
first, that's all.  I've prayed to the Blessed Virgin to shut her
ears and eyes for her, and strike her dumb, and--"


"Well, I did, honey, and that's the truth!"

"Be still, Consuelo!"

"Honey, I'm too excited.  I've got to say something or
I'll burst!"

"Say something nice then about Donna Isabella!"

"All right, honey, I can say it.  She may be this and that and
the other thing, and what I know she is.  But the day's gone by
when she could do you a hurt."

"Then you've forgiven her, Consuelo?  I did.  I forgave her
everything this morning at prayers before you came."

"Honey, dear, you can't forgive everything when you don't know
all she's done!  And when you do know what she's tried to do, you
can forgive it even less!"

When the limousine rolled under the portico the front door was
open, and Donna Isabella was revealed standing in the hall, a
dozen feet back from the threshold, smiling a bitter-lipped
welcome.  She almost ignored Jacqueline, as a stern judge ignores
a convicted prisoner who was once a privileged acquaintance.  She
knew nothing of Don Andres' plans, but felt sure that her brother
was simply removing the girl from one convent to another.

"Go to your room," she said, permitting herself to be kissed
respectfully on one cheek.

It was on Consuelo that the vials of wrath were poured.  How had
Consuelo dared to take the limousine without permission?

"Answer me--d'you hear!  Don't dare to glare at me in that
shameless manner!"

The din of that salvo brought up the reserves, as Consuelo hoped.
Don Andres appeared, crossing the patio from the direction of the
library.  He stood at the end of the hall, looking and speaking
as if he had heard nothing--seen nothing of the browbeating.


She turned to face him like a she-wolf interrupted.  I will speak
to Consuelo."

Don Andres made a gesture of the head and Consuelo followed him
into the patio.

"You have brought her?"

"Yes, Don Andres.  But I would like to do her hair, and--"

"Bring her into the library."

Not a word about Donna Isabella.  Not even a hint.  Yet Consuelo
understood that she was required to offer herself again, if
necessary, as a target between jealousy and Jacqueline.

So Jacqueline came dancing down the balcony steps again, with
Consuelo panting in her wake, and wondered why she should be told
to wait at the foot of the stairs instead of skipping across the
patio and bursting in through the library door after her usual
fashion.  If Consuelo's manner had not been so tremulous with
compressed excitement, she might have felt anxious.  As it was,
there was a rather pleasant sense of mystery, and she submitted
to be shepherded demurely across the patio, infected by
Consuelo's agitation and thrilled by expectation of
something wonderful.

"God bless you, honey!" said Consuelo, and pushed her in through
the library door, closing it suddenly behind her.

As Desmio rose to greet her she looked to him lovelier than she
had ever looked.  She wore the same organdie frock in which she
had left for the convent, but no hat now, and there was nothing
to throw in shadow the lake-blue brilliance of her eyes.  Her
attitude was half-startled, half-mischievous--suggestive of
Christmas morning, when gifts lay on the library table and she
was sent for to glimpse them for the first time.

That impression of her held Don Andres silent, as she hesitated
near the door.  Her youth, more than her beauty, reached out to
him with a poignancy that was almost pain.

"Desmio--what does all this mean?"

She ran to him now, and he took her in his arms with a laugh of
unmixed gratitude, kissing her on the forehead, as he always did
when she returned from school.  Then--unusually soon--his
statelier manner returned, as he retired a pace or two and stood
with his back to the fireplace.

"Jacqueline!"  He very seldom called her that.

"Yes, Desmio."

"I have something to say to you, which I hope you will believe is
said in earnest, after much reflection, and with thought for your
best interests, not mine."

Her heart leaped.  Splendid!  He was going to tell her what he
had heard about Jack Calhoun!  No doubt he had thought of a way
out of the difficulty that would bring no discredit on any one,
and whatever that way was, she would take it unquestioning.

"Whoever seeks to provide for another's future, Jacqueline, needs
wisdom.  I have not been altogether wise, nor altogether kind to


She stepped closer to lay her hands on him and look up into his
face.  Unwise, and unkind?  He was wisdom!  He was kindness!  It
was on her lips to tell him so, but something in his eyes and
bearing warned her that was not the right moment for
expostulation.  She waited with parted lips to hear the rest
of it.

"I judge myself and I blame myself--"

That was altogether too much, and she had to speak.

"Please don't, Desmio!"

He laid one hand on her shoulder, and she nestled close to him,
her eyes a few inches from the watch-chain that rose and fell
over his heart.  Why did his heart thump so?  Why was he
so agitated?

He was outwardly calm enough, and his voice was steady, as
he continued:

"I have inconsiderately placed you in a false position.  You have
every right to expect a great deal of this world, yet no means of
realizing expectations.  Without me to make provision for you,
you would have very little.  And I shall not be here with
you forever."

"Desmio, don't talk like that!  I would hate the world without
you in it!"

She did not see him smile as she said that, but she saw the
movement of the watch-chain, and it rather scared her.

"I have consulted the best legal man in Louisiana--and incredible
though it may seem--I have not the legal right even to protect
you, Jacqueline."

She wished he would not call her Jacqueline.  It sounded so
solemn.  What was he going to say?  Only she wished he would
hurry up and say it, because this being torn between one emotion
and another was--

"I can not adopt you, owing to the terms of the Miro trust deed,
according to which none but a Miro may inherit any part of the
fortune.  Otherwise I would have adopted you when you first came
to me."

She squeezed his hand, not knowing exactly what legal adoption
meant, but quite sure it meant something dignified and generous.

"And it is intolerable to me, Jacqueline, that I am in no legal
position to protect you against any one--a Jack Calhoun, for
instance, or--or any other individual, who, may have designs on
you of which I disapprove, and, against which you are too
inexperienced to protect yourself."

Good!  Jack Calhoun at last!  Now she would tell him all about
it.  She looked up at his face--and the words she intended to say
died still-born.  She never in her whole life saw him before with
that expression.  Was he afraid to tell of his decision?  Why
else was he nervous?  And yet--he looked secretly glad
about something.

"Yet, Jacqueline, I am fonder of you by far than I ever was of my
own child.  Your father was my closest friend, and Lanier blood
is as good as Miro.  I have watched you grow and develop, and I
know that the Miro estates and the Miro name would be much safer
in your keeping than in that of the gum shoe-maker.  John Miro is
my second cousin, and a Miro by blood, therefore he can inherit,
and will eventually, unless I can forestall him.  He would
probably put one of his gum-shoe advertisements across the front
of the house and asphyxiate the whole neighborhood with the smell
of rubber and sulphuric acid!"

Jacqueline laughed in spite of herself.  She knew it was not the
time to laugh, for Desmio was in deadly earnest and was confiding
to her his inmost thoughts.  He was not joking about John Miro.
He could hardly bring himself to read a newspaper, because of
John Miro's advertisements that sometimes blared his infamous
misuse of an honored name across a whole page, and San Francisco
was as Sodom and Gomorrah because John Miro lived there!

"But I have thought of a way to defeat that rascal!"

Her heart thumped delightedly.  Good Desmio!  But had he sent for
her from the convent just to tell her about his second cousin?
It would seem so.

"I have never asked you any return for what I have been
privileged to do for you, Conchita."

Conchita at last!  She welcomed it with a smile that would have
melted sterner hearts than his.

"And I would not now unless I was sure I could offer you, in
return for the sacrifice I am going to request, advantages
otherwise beyond your reach."

"Desmio, I will do anything in the world for you!"

"I believe you, dear.  That is why I have decided to crave the
honor of your hand in marriage!"

Her heart sank.  What did he mean?  Could the law make
Jack Calhoun--

"Marriage to whom, Desmio?"

"To me, Conchita."

"You, Desmio!"

He nodded, watching her.  She had stepped a pace away from him.
Her face showed blank astonishment--bewilderment.  She understood
the meaning of his words--she knew he never said a word he did
not mean--but it sounded like a fairy-tale--like--


"I want you to marry me, Conchita, and to go straight back to the
convent afterward.  You will be my wife in name, and when I die
you will inherit these estates."

Every word he added only increased the unreality.  She seemed to
be wide awake--and dreaming!  So this was the cause of Consuelo's
suppressed excitement!  Thought of Consuelo produced a smile at
last, and the smile grew radiant as she remembered that whatever
Desmio might wish, that would she do with her whole heart,
gratefully.  But his next words drove the smile away, and the
frown returned.

"If there were a prospect of my living long enough to handicap
your future, Conchita, I would still endeavor to find some other
way out of the difficulty.  However, there is very small prospect
of my living, and by the time you are old enough to form your own
judgment you will undoubtedly be free to exercise it."

She began to want to cry.  She knew she would much rather herself
suffer in any way than have anything happen to this generous
friend of hers.  She felt he was giving her the greatest gift
within his power, and her heart warned her not to accept it,
giving no reasons, because hearts are autocratic and not talkative.

"One of these days you will meet some splendid fellow, whose love
will be worthy of you, and whom you will love, Conchita."

"No, Desmio!  Nobody will ever take your place!" she protested,
and he smiled, knowing what she said was true.  But he was
equally aware that he could never fill that other, greater place
in her heart that would open some day.

"I wish to preserve you from present pitfalls, dear, in order
that you may marry happily later on."

"Desmio, how can you talk like that!  There's nobody under heaven
like you!  I'll never love any one as I do you!"

"You must trust me not to mislead you, Conchita.  Very much
wisdom is given to none of us in this world, and I am only asking
you to do what seems best and wisest after a thorough
consideration of all the facts, and after conference with my most
intimate friends.  I believe my proposal of marriage is in your
highest interest;  and as for myself--the privilege of having
established you as mistress of these estates will be the utmost I
would care to ask . But the final word is yours, dear.  Would you
like time to consider it?"

Time?  What difference could time make in her relation to Desmio?
There was nothing he could ask that she would dream of refusing.
And if he loved her so much as all that, it was likely she might
help him to live for twenty years yet.  What was her heart
tugging at her for?  She stepped up to him and laid her hands on
his shoulders.

"Desmio," she said, wondering to herself why she should use these
words, "you are a prince and I will put my trust in you!"

"You will marry me, Conchita?"


"And return to the convent?"

"Desmio, I will do anything you say."

He kissed her on the forehead and she hugged him as she used to
when he gave her extravagant gifts on birthdays and at Christmas.

Chapter IX.

"Do it again, Desmio!"

No more tugging of the heart-strings now!  A new world, hand in
hand with Desmio, full of new thrills--and the wildest first!  It
needs a little fear to make excitement perfect.  There is not
much fun in victory unless the enemy has teeth to gnash!  And
there was malice, even in Jacqueline Lanier.

Desmio rang the bell;  and not for kingdoms, not for her soul's
salvation would Consuelo have missed being first on the scene.
She came in answer to the bell--curtseyed twice--and was kissed
by Jacqueline.

"Oh, honey, I'm proud!  Do you see now why I wouldn't say a word!"

Don Andres cut those congratulations short;  but there was a
smile in his eye, and the hand that held Jacqueline's squeezed
harder than he knew.

"Present my compliments to Donna Isabella, Consuelo, and request
her to be good enough to come and see me here at once."

As Donna Isabella entered the library there fell the same
tenseness as when duelists engage and watch each other's eyes.
Desmio, with Jacqueline's hand in one of his, smiled his
courtliest and was no more nervous than his sister.  Her face was
flint, and his steel, but his was masked by a desire to carry off
the encounter without unseemliness.  He was about to do the
courteous thing in announcing his betrothal to his sister first,
and he hoped she would recognize the courtesy.

"Isabella, I have the honor to present to you my future wife!"

"Andres--you're mad!"

Too late he realized the storm was breaking.  Donna Isabella
ignored Jacqueline--scorned her--conceded her no ground--and
faced her brother with all the brimstone venom of her
nature uppermost.

"You chicken-hearted fool!  You--"

But not even she could force a domestic scene on him before a
witness--not, that is, without being turned out of his counsels
forever, which was the last fate she proposed for herself, since
it would leave Jacqueline triumphant.  His gesture checked her in
mid-speech.  He put his arm on Jacqueline's shoulder and
whispered.  Jacqueline ran, as she would run from a cyclone--out
to the patio, where Consuelo greeted her with fussy tenderness
and a comical, respectful homage due to her new estate.

"Oh, honey, what did she say to him?  Was she furious?  Tell
me, honey!"

"I don't know.  Desmio sent me out of the room.  I'm frightened,
Consuelo.  Let's stay and see what happens."

"Come to your own room, honey.  He's as good as ten of her!
Nothing'll happen.  Come to your room and tell me all about it--
I'm just simply dying to listen!"

Jacqueline let herself be coaxed upstairs, and from the window
they presently saw Donna Isabella beating a retreat, not looking
blatantly victorious, but so prematurely aged and sour that
Jacqueline was almost sorry for her.

"She called him chicken-hearted!" she said, watching with big
round, reproachful eyes.

"Never you mind what she called him, honey--it was all lies!
She's down and out, and you'll be mistress in less than a week!
Listen, Conchita--did he tell you?  You're to be married three
days from now!  There'll be no time to fix up a wedding like you
ought to have, but Father Doutreleau and I are to do our best for
you.  Three days from now you'll be a Miro, and Donna Isabella
takes a back seat!"

Enthusiasm was contagious.  Jacqueline knew no more of what
marriage means than any other young girl does who has been
convent-reared, and sheltered.  She began to wonder what Sister
Michaela and the other girls at the convent would think when they
heard the news, and which of them should be asked to the wedding,
and what the sisters would say, and what it would feel like to
return to the convent afterward--a married woman!

"What will I wear, Consuelo?  How can I get dresses made in time!"

"God bless you, honey, we've thought of all that.  Don Andres
wants everything as Spanish as can be.  So you're to wear the
Spanish costume that he'd ordered in secret from Madrid for you
to wear at your coming-out ball--nearly all lace, and a head-
dress that 'ud make an angel envious!  I'll show it to you
presently, soon as I get my breath back.  Honey, you'll be a
dream!  And everybody's coming.  There's to be a special train
from New Orleans, and reporters from the newspapers;  and all the
plantation hands are to have two days' holiday.  The house'll be
chock-a-block with guests, and we'll all go crazy but who cares!
Roget of New Orleans has orders to do the catering and spare no
expense.  There'll be fireworks--I thought of that--and another
thing I thought of was a troupe of dancers from Brazil--they've
made quite a stir in New Orleans at one of the theaters, and
they're on their way to San Francisco.  Oh, you'll have a
wedding, honey, spite of the short notice!  Don Andres didn't say
so, but I know he wants it in the papers so's his cousin John
Miro will learn of it and know he can't inherit the estates!
Yes, honey, you're to make a list of your special friends at the
convent, and Zeke'll take it over this afternoon to the Sister
Superior--just as many as you wish--only you can't ask every one,
because we'll never know where to put them all as it is.  Yes,
honey, Father Doutreleau conducts the service if he isn't dead of
writing invitations and sending telegrams before the time comes.
And before the ceremony there's to be documents signed, with the
trustees witnessing, to make it all yours--and I can hear Donna
Isabella's teeth gnash now when the pen goes in the ink.  There--
wasn't I a wonder to keep all that in, when you asked me so many
questions in the limousine!"

Consuelo, praised sufficiently, brought out the Spanish dress
from its hiding place all wrapped in tissue-paper, and there was
an hour of unmixed happiness as the dress was tried on.  Nurse
and nurseling!  None understood better than Consuelo the pure
profundity of Jacqueline's innocence.  She had kept strictly the
letter and the spirit of Don Andres' instructions, and had never
breathed a word to Jacqueline on the subject of marriage.  This
wedding, she knew, was grouped in Jacqueline's mind along with
festivals, and going to the circus, and a hundred other exciting

So it was Jacqueline's party, only greater fun than any previous
one had been, because to this one grown-ups were invited and
Donna Isabella had no voice in anything.  Father Doutreleau and
Consuelo were at pains to accentuate Jacqueline's youthfulness,
rather than to veil it in pretended womanhood;  the wedding was a
fiesta in her honor, at which Jacqueline was simply to be one
party to a legal contract, the church consenting.  So Donna
Isabella's grim displeasure was forgotten in the whirl of
exciting events.

In the seclusion of her own apartment, Donna Isabella sulked like
Achilles, until she actually had to send for Beal to treat her
for vertigo.

But only Beal knew about that, and he was a man whose disability
for conversation amounted almost to genius.  He said nothing, and
not even Father Doutreleau guessed the extent of the jealousy
that was eating the arrogant heart out.  Beal looked worried when
her name was mentioned, but Beal always looked worried about
something;  and the one dark domestic who was admitted to Donna
Isabella's apartment did not even dare to discuss her mistress in
the servants' hall.  Don Andres' courteous inquiries, sent in
twice daily, were ignored, and he was having to be much too
careful of his own health to think of seeking her and arguing her
into a more reasonable attitude.

A marriage in the Miro family could never be less than a nine-day
wonder in Louisiana.  This suddenly announced match between the
middle-aged Don Andres and the seventeen-year-old Lanier beauty
caused more local stir than any war in Europe ever did;  and even
Europe learned over the wires what was about to take place, since
Andres Miro was persona grata at more than one European Court and
had friends everywhere.  There was not a prominent newspaper in
the United States, or in any of the capitals in Europe that did
not at least mention the news briefly, with the consequence that
cablegrams and telegrams arrived in shoals.  Beal thought it safe
to let Don Andres answer some of the telegrams;  but he soon
regretted it.  There came one from San Francisco which aroused
such prodigious anger that for a while he feared for his
patient's life.

"Congratulations.  I last saw Jacqueline when she was seven years
old, and if the promise she showed then has fulfilled itself she
must be fully worthy of the Miro traditions.  Why not grace the
great occasion suitably by shaking hands?  John Miro."

"Hypocrite!  Cad!  Renegade!"

Andres Miro crumpled up the telegram and hurled it through the
window.  He was pierced through the joints in his armor, and not
all the self-mastery he had learned in fifty years could suppress
his indignation.  He could pity a criminal, be courteous to an
impudent enemy, forget gross injury--but forgive John Miro and
his gum-shoes, never!

It needed Jacqueline and all her understanding sympathy to
restore him to a state of mind in which Beal dared to leave him.
And what stopped him at last was the realization that Jacqueline
was laughing!

"You laugh, Conchita.  You astonish me!  I am ashamed to have
sworn in your presence."

"Do it again, Desmio," she giggled.  "I like it!  It always
sounds vulgar when other men swear.  You do it with such
distinction.  There's nobody like you in the world!"

"You must forget that you heard me, Conchita."

She shook her head, and the lake-blue eyes laughed merrily.  "You
said what I feel, Desmio!"

For a moment he was puzzled, and she did not explain, but the
least little gesture of her head toward the open window gave him
the clue to her thoughts.  He smiled at last, and the two nodded

There came a sharp dry cough from outside the window.  Donna
Isabella had left her apartment, and would be present at the
wedding ceremony after all.

Chapter X.

"Let me speak to her! Just one word with her!"

The wedding was set for afternoon, to allow for the arrival of
the special train from New Orleans, and to give guests from
neighboring counties time to come by motor.  The dining-room and
Don Andres' private chapel being much too small for all that
crowd, a bower of flowers was set up in the garden, where the
ceremony might take place in full view of every one.  The wedding
breakfast was to take place in the patio directly after the
ceremony, and an army of experts took charge of that;  the patio
looked like a hanging garden in ancient Babylon roofed by a
canopy of flowers, under which the gargoyle fountain took on the
resemblance of a heathen idol grinning four ways simultaneously.

By dawn the plantation darkies were already celebrating;  by nine
o'clock the whole countryside was swarming through the grounds,
for there was no question of Don Andres' popularity, and no doubt
that anything he might do would be worth recording in the annals
of Louisiana.  Grand seigneurs are a dying race, and out of
fashion, but liberal when they let the bars down.  There were
probably a thousand guests, invited and uninvited (the papers
said three thousand);  and there were a thousand reasons for
being there, not least of which was curiosity, which Jacqueline
assuaged in full.

She was here, there, everywhere, enjoying the supreme day of
existence and lovelier than blossom in the spring--first, down
where the darkies were holding high festival and dancing mad
breakdowns to melodeon and drum;  then, back into the garden by
the rear porch where Ramon the Brazilian and Pepita with her
monkey repeated their entertainment that had made a hit in New
Orleans;  next, at top speed to the front door when the bus
arrived from the convent with two sisters and as many of
Jacqueline's schoolmates as could be crowded in.  Then all to be
done over again, because her friends and the sisters must see
everything.  And from first to last she was unconscious of the
fact that she--her own innocent self--was the paramount attraction.

She had to be hunted for, and brought back from the farthest end
of the grounds, when Curtis Radcliffe arrived with the legal
documents and spread them before the trustees and Don Andres on
the library table.  Living each hour as it came, with dignity,
Don Andres chose that that ceremony should be as August as the
signing of a treaty between nations;  so when Jacqueline came at
last, with Consuelo, and Sister Michaela and, two girl friends,
there was another long pause while some one went in search of
Donna Isabella.

She arrived dressed in black, and refused to be seated, but stood
glaring at Jacqueline across the table.  Her face was like a
death's head.  Deep dark rings under her eyes betrayed the
ravages of jealousy--that weapon whose hilt is sharper than its
point and cuts deepest whoever uses it.  None spoke or smiled
after she came in--not even Jacqueline when she wrote her name on
the line at Radcliffe's gestured invitation and gave the gold pen
back to Desmio.  It was he who at last broke silence:

"Isabella, will you sign your name next, at the head of the list
of witnesses?"

He forced a smile, and his manner was deferent and courteous, but
she answered him in a cracked dry voice from which the very juice
of civility was squeezed:

"I refuse to be a party to this outrageous proceeding.  I give
you notice now, Andres, that my rights under that trust deed must
be respected to the last letter."

She turned her back at that and left them, marching down between
the flower-laden tables in the patio toward the drawing-room,
like gloom's ambassador.

Donna Isabella paused in the hallway.  The front door was open
and it was hard to see into the light, but the footman was
answering the questions of some one whose voice she thought she
recognized.  In another second she knew it;  Jack Calhoun's!
Her eyes gleamed, as she met his and beckoned him into the

"So you've come!"

"By God, I've come!  But--"

"You've come too late!"

"Donna Isabella, what does this mean?  It's an outrage!  It's a
rape, that's what it is!  That old man marrying Jacqueline--
it's incredible."

"It's true!"

"Are they married already?"

"No, but this afternoon--"

"Then I'll stop it!  Donna Isabella, that girl loves me!  I heard
of this last night--saw it in the evening paper in New Orleans,
and rushed to my lawyer's house to find out if he knew anything.
He did, by gad, and he spilled the beans!  Believe me, I mean to
see Jacqueline and have this out with her!  Where is she?"

"H-s-s-h!  If Don Andres learns you're here, he'll prevent you
from seeing her."

"Don't tell him, then!  Let me see Jacqueline alone a moment.  If
not, I'll go to Miro and denounce him for a--"


Donna Isabella's face looked mischievous, and Jack Calhoun could
be shrewd at that early stage of excitement.  Storming tactics
were the basis of his whole philosophy of life--go get it, and
the devil take the hindermost!--but he could pause and browbeat
an ally into line with him.  He imagined he was forcing Donna
Isabella's hand, as every Calverly-Calhoun has always thought
himself the master of whoever designed to use his energy.

"It won't do any good.  You're defeated--"

"Not while there's breath in me!"

"If you want to see Jacqueline your only chance is to go into the
garden and wait for her there."

"I'll do that."

He was in the mid-stride for the door, turning his head to nod
one of his swift adieux, when something in Donna Isabella's
eye arrested him.  She looked too satisfied to suit him--
too mischievous.

"Are you sure you're not side-trackin' me?" he asked.  "'Cause,
if you think to do that, I'll--"

"H-s-s-h!  Close the door again.  I had hopes,--I regret you're
too late--If I could prevent this ridiculous wedding, there is
nothing would please me better."

He nodded.  He was shrewd enough to believe her;  not so shrewd
as to guess that her sole motive was to submit her brother to
scandal and indignity.

"Keep out of Don Andres' sight," she warned him;  and he nodded
again, and hurried from the room.

It was easy enough.  There were crowds in the patio, and on the
rear porch;  crowds on the steps watching Ramon the Brazilian and
his mother Cervanez, whom every one supposed was his wife;  more
crowds around Pepita and her monkey--crowds in the garden again.
Jack Calhoun shouldered his way through, avoiding all who might
have recognized and greeted him, and took his stand on the
outskirts of the largest crowd of all, where people were gaping
at the reporters and their cameras.  From that point of vantage
he watched the rear door and the steps, down which Jacqueline
would have to come in order to reach the garden.  He pulled his
watch out--gave her fifteen minutes.  If she did not appear
within that time he would reenter the house and look for her.  He
hardly had his watch back in his pocket when a voice accosted him.

"An unexpected pleasure!  Glad to meet you again, Mr.

Jack turned with a smothered oath of disgust, and looked into the
eyes of Clinton Wahl.

"What are you doin' here?" he demanded.  His manner and tone of
voice indicated that what Wahl was doing interested him less than
anything on earth.

"Oh, just covering the wedding."

"Thought you were a star in the newspaper firmament.  D'you
condescend to this sort of thing?"

"As a rule I don't," said Wahl.  "But doesn't a marriage between
a seventeen-year-old beauty and a millionaire of fifty-five
strike you as interesting news?"

"Suggests cradle-robbing to me!" Jack snorted, and Wahl grinned
ingratiatingly.  He scented a real story at last.  Recalling
conversations on the steamer, he was not blind to the possibility
that Jack Calhoun might be in love with Jacqueline.

"Have you known Miss Lanier long?" he asked.

"Longer than I've known you," Jack answered rudely, and moved
off.  Whereat Wahl was convinced that it might pay him well to
keep both eyes open.  He could eat up impoliteness as a cormorant
swallows fish, but he flattered himself none had ever snubbed him
without paying for it.     "Let's see--called me `The devil's own,'
didn't he?  Good head-line that:  'Jack Calhoun sups with the
devil!'  Has he brought a long spoon, I wonder?  He looks to me
full-cocked on a hair-trigger.  He'll bear watching."

So Wahl, who had been candidly bored by the whole proceeding,
chose a garden seat behind a bank of roses, whence he could keep
Calhoun in view without that individual knowing it, and began at
last to take what he called a human interest.

Jack gradually edged his way back again toward the foot of the
steps, where Ramon and Cervanez were finishing a dance.  He was
hardly noticeable in the crowd when Jacqueline appeared at last
on the porch above him.  She certainly did not see him.  She
stood with each arm around a girl friend, laughing as the crowd
turned away from the Brazilians to cheer her.  Some one cried out
that she should dance at her own wedding, and that started a
tumult of applause, she hanging back and her girl friends pushing
her forward, until suddenly Don Andres himself appeared and added
his voice to the rest.  It was out of all question to refuse him.
She nodded, laughing, and the guitar and mandolin orchestra that
had played for the Brazilian struck up a Spanish air as she came
running down the steps to the stone-paved path below.

Glancing back at Desmio for his approval, she commenced one of
those lively Castilian dances that make of modesty a grace
adorning motion.  Her girlish figure, supple, and strong, and
young, lent itself more perfectly to those than to any other
steps imaginable, and they had taught her at the convent, as they
did whatever they touched, thoroughly.  Ramon, the Brazilian,
watched, nudging his companion and commenting under his breath,
as she rose to the occasion--wine of applause in her head--blue
eyes alight with happiness--and danced more wonderfully than her
teachers ever guessed was in her, until even Desmio's enthusiasm
broke bounds and Beal and Father Doutreleau, each taking an arm,
forced him back into the house.

If Jacqueline had known that Jack Calhoun was there, and if she
had deliberately sought to set his heart on fire, she could not
have bettered that performance!

Clinton Wahl left his hiding-place behind the roses and,
beckoning an assistant from over near the cameras, came as close
to Jack Calhoun as he could without attracting his quarry's
attention to himself.

"Go and see what sort of car Jack Calhoun came in, and who's in
it now.  If it's a chauffeur, get word with him.  Look the car
over.  Find out anything you can, and bring back word to me,"
he whispered.

The assistant hurried off, anxious to please Wahl, whose word in
a cub-reporter's favor might go far toward promotion.  Wahl edged
nearer yet to Jack Calhoun.  He knew the signs that herald
violence--knew by the look in Calhoun's eye, and by the taut-
drawn tenseness of his attitude, that a story of some kind was
going to break, and break swiftly, and soon.

He heard Ramon the Brazilian whisper to Cervanez next to him:  "A
touch--a pinch more daring--a week's experience and she would
beat us all!"  And he made a mental note of that, for use in his
story presently, but he never once looked at Jacqueline until she
ceased dancing and ran back up the steps amid storms of applause.
Then Calhoun thrust himself forward through the crowd, and by the
expression on his face Wahl knew that Jacqueline had seen him.
It was then that he spared a moment to glance at her, and caught
the look of guilt, as he diagnosed it, that checked her laughter
and made her seem suddenly afraid.

Wahl's cavernous eyes grew bright then, and his lips set tightly.
There was no more mercy on his face than on a weazel's.  News!
He scented it!

Jack Calhoun pushed his way through the crowd, and ran up the
steps just as Consuelo came out of the house in search of
Jacqueline.  Wahl saw Consuelo interpose her bulk between the
two, while Jacqueline stood hesitating, obviously in a panic,
wondering whether to run or stand her ground.  Wahl judged he
might get thrashed if he followed Calhoun, so he started to run
around the house with the idea of entering by the front door and
coming on the party from the rear.  Nobody noticed him.

"Senor Jack, what do you want?" Consuelo demanded angrily.  She
was afraid, but stood her ground, and he could not get past her
to Jacqueline without knocking her over, a stage of violence that
he had hardly yet reached.

"Word with Miss Jacqueline!  Out of my way--quick!"

"No, Senor!"  Consuelo glanced over her shoulder.  "Run, Conchita!"

Jacqueline fled through the door, and Consuelo fought a rear-
guard action, retreating backward and actually wrestling with
Jack Calhoun.  Fear lent her strength.  She blocked the door
ahead of him, aware that Jacqueline was hugging the corner less
than a yard away.

"Shall I call the servants, Senor Jack?"

"Dammit, Consuelo, I'll get even with you for this!  Let me speak
to her!  Just one word with her!"

"No, Senor!"

Jack Calhoun drew a bow at a venture, and the shot struck, but
not as he intended.

"Donna Isabella said I might."

"I don't believe you, Senor!  She must give me that order
personally."  Then over her shoulder, "Run, Conchita!  Run!"

So Jack Calhoun saw one exasperating glimpse of Jacqueline as she
fled along the passageway;  and even he knew better than to
follow at that moment and create a scene inside the house.

"I'll report you to Donna Isabella," he said savagely, and turned
his back.

So all that Wahl saw, as he came hurrying along the passage, was
Consuelo, panting and as red-faced as a turkey-cock, but looking
proud enough to face a hundred kings.

"Anything happened?  Been an accident?" he asked sharply, using
that voice of authority that cracks so many nut-shells for
the press.

"Have you heard there's to be a wedding?" she retorted.

"Where's Mr. Calverly-Calhoun?"

"Smoking," she answered meaningly, and sailed past him, leaving
him to draw his own conclusions.  Wahl went in search of Calhoun.

Consuelo found Jacqueline in her room, pale-faced and as nervous
as a young bird in view of a hawk.

"What shall I do, Consuelo?  You said he was in Cuba, and--"

"Do nothing, honey.  I've attended to him.  He has her
permission, so--"

"I'll tell Desmio."

"No, no, honey!  Don't you give him another thing to worry over
and strain that heart.  We'll manage this between us.  You go to
Don Andres now--he wants to talk to you--and I'll find two or
three gentlemen--Mr. Addison, and Mr. Mowblay, and Mr.
Cartwright--they'll do.  They'll fix Mr. Calverly-Calhoun so
he'll know where he belongs."

"Don't let them hurt him, Consuelo!  He's--"

"Yes, I know, Conchita--he's in love.  He needs cold water.  The

"They mustn't, Consuelo!  I won't have it!  Listen to me!  He's a
gentleman, and--"

"The blue-blooded senor twisted my wrist till the skin nearly
came off the flesh!  I'll show the wrist to Mr. Addison, and see
what he says.  Now listen, honey;  pull yourself together, and
then, when you're all calm, run down to Don Andres.  Don't tell
him a word of this, but be quick back.  I'll be waiting for you.
You must hurry and get dressed, or you'll be late for your
own wedding!"

The old nurse's fingers picked and pulled, setting Jacqueline's
frock to rights, and rearranging her hair, so that in a minute
the traces of panic were beyond all discernment by masculine
eyes.  Any woman would still know she had been terrified, but
even women would set that down to stage fright.

"Now, be quick, honey--and use those blue eyes!  Smile at him!"

She crossed the patio under close guard, Consuelo elbowing her
between the tables;  and as usually happened, the moment she
entered the library all nervousness left her and she smiled
naturally.  Don Andres rose to greet her with even more than his
usual eagerness;  but the outworn heart was being overworked, and
he nearly collapsed against the armchair.  "Pardon me, Conchita."

Iron will now, and nothing else, was holding him together.  He
managed to master himself--to joke about his infirmity--to
recover and sit upright on the arm of the chair, and even his
eyes grew bright again;  but he was burning up his last strength,
and Jacqueline was aware of new anxiety, a thousand times more
poignant than her recent dread of Jack Calhoun.

"What is it, Desmio!  Are you keeping something from me?"

"Conchita, I keep nothing from you.  My heart, my life, and my
possessions are all yours!  I invited you to come, that I might
make you my final gift before the wedding."

He put an ancient locket on a golden chain over her head.

"That chain and locket were a wedding gift to the wife of the
first Miro in Louisiana.  Every Miro's wife since then has worn
it, and the loveliest last!"

She opened the locket and looked inside it, not knowing what to
say.  It contained his portrait, done by hand on ivory.


"You are pleased with it?"

"It is the best of all gifts."

He smiled, but he was least of all men prone to self-deception.

"But a day will come, Conchita, when you will wish to put some
other lucky fellow's portrait in there."

"No, Desmio!  Never!"

"When the day does come, remember that you have my leave--that I
would wish it--that my one hope is that the fortunate man may be
worthy of you!"

"There won't be any one else!"  His words and his gentle way of
speaking made her want to cry, but she battled bravely with it.
"I love this gift best, I'll wear it always!"

"I would be grieved," he answered, "if I thought your loyalty to
me could spoil your future happiness or your love for some one
else.  In the years to come will you try to remember that?"

What did he mean?  She nodded, because she could summon no words
to answer him.  Nor could she force herself to ask him what he
meant.  Thoughts came to her, that she dared not face--that she
shut her mind against.  And then came memory of Sister Michaela's
warning:  "Trust your intuition, Jacqueline!"

How trust it, when it told her nothing?  All she could feel was
vague fears, and not on her own account but Desmio's.  What could
be the use of trusting that?  Should she believe then that he was
dying?  What then?  Should she refuse at the very last minute to
marry him?  Would that help?  Would it save his life?

"What troubles you, Conchita?"

"Nothing, Desmio--at least nothing that I understand--just
thoughts."  She could not force herself to lie to him.

"Tell me them."

"How ill are you, Desmio?"

He looked startled;  she had caught him for once off guard.

"Not seriously ill, Conchita.  I need rest, that is all.  We
Miros have iron constitutions."

"I feel you are in danger, Desmio."

He laughed--an old swordsman's ringing laugh.  What did he care
about danger!  He was safeguarding her and in less than an hour
she would be mistress of the Miro fortune.  Let happen after that
what might!

"I am in love," he answered mockingly.  "They tell me love is
always dangerous.  But there--who is knocking?"  He called, and
Consuelo opened.

"Come, Conchita!  Quickly, honey, or I'll never get you into your
dress in time."

Chapter XI.

"By God! The devil's own!"

Consuelo worked with nimble fingers, tying this, adjusting that,
while Jacqueline did her best not to move too often at critical
moments.  But you can't stand still before a looking-glass--not
while a wedding frock is being hung on you that looks as if
angels made it in a lacy paradise beyond the clouds.  You
absolutely must turn suddenly to see how it looks behind;  and if
you don't jump excitedly, and sway your supple body to see how
perfectly it fits about the waist and under the arms, you're not
human and seventeen.

It was all so exciting and wonderful that it drove Jack Calhoun
out of mind, until Consuelo glanced at the clock and caught
her breath.

"In seven minutes, Conchita!  And I haven't found Mr. Addison, or
Mr. Mowblay, or Mr. Cartwright.  Stay here, honey, while I run
and look for them again.  I'll be back in a moment."

So Jacqueline stood alone, not in love with her own reflection,
because she could not make herself believe that the marvelous
being in the mirror was not some one else altogether--a stranger
whom she did not know:  but in a rapture, nevertheless.  It was
all much too good to be true, and too wonderful to be real.  So
she went down on her knees and prayed, turning away from the
glass that she might give full attention to the prayer.  And so
she did not see the door move open, and though she heard it, she
supposed it was Consuelo coming back.  It was when she rose, from
her knees that she saw Jack Calhoun's reflection in the mirror.

He was standing with his back to the door, and the door shut
tight behind him.  She was too afraid of him to scream.  She
could not speak.  She could not ask him how he dared to be there.
But intuition told her that the act of prayer had been her
sanctuary--that he had not dared to approach her while she knelt.
She turned toward the bed to throw herself on her knees again and
bury her face in her hands, but he sprang between her and the bed
and would not let her kneel.


That broke the dream-spell.  It was real then!  Besides, she
could feel him--he had hold of her wrist, and it hurt--and her
own heart was fluttering so wildly that it nearly choked her.

"Go away!" she cried suddenly, and tried to release her wrists;
but his grip was like iron.  His eyes burned in a way that
terrified her, for they seemed not to see her dress at all, but
to look through it and make her creepy and ashamed.  His breath
came in hot gasps through parted lips.

"I will go away, but I will take you with me, Jacqueline!"

She felt her knees weakening under her, but knew she was not
going to faint;  there was nothing merciful like that in sight.
She opened her mouth to scream, but not a sound came, or if it
did she never heard it, for Jack Calhoun began pouring forth
excited words that dinned in her ears, and she felt like a bird
in a trap, too paralyzed by fear to move or do anything.

"Jacqueline!  I love you, and you love me!  You know it!"

She shook her head.

"You can't love old Andres Miro!  He can't make you marry him!
He's old enough to be your grandfather!  I won't permit it!  I'm
takin' you out of this!  Come on!"

He tugged at her wrist.  All she could do was to shake her head
violently and hang back.

"Come on, dear!  Don't be afraid!"

But he was frightening her horribly.  She saw the humor of that.
It was funny that he should terrify her so, and tell her not to
feel fear.  A smile flickered on her lips for half a second.

"There!  That's better!  Once you're out of the house he hasn't a
legal leg to stand on.  I've a car outside, and when you're in
that and away he'll have to sit down and cool off!  I've a
marriage license--look!"

He pulled it from his pocket, shaking it so violently before her
eyes that it might have been blank paper for all she knew.

"Come on, Jacqueline!"

He shoved the license back into his pocket and made as if to pick
her up and carry her.  She felt his strong arm around her, and it
was that that gave her power of speech;  fear grew so acute that
it broke its own spell.

"No!  Go away, please!  You mustn't stay in here another second!"

"Not another second!" he answered, laughing like a maniac;  and
he threw the other arm around her and tried to kiss her.  How she
did it she never knew, but she escaped him, and part of her veil
came away in his hand.  There was a chair between him and her
now, but she could not have answered how it got there.

Something in her face and attitude seemed to arrest him.  She was
gaining strength--mental strength, womanhood was dawning.  Never
in her whole life until now had she stood and faced danger alone.
Her very innocence was coming to her aid.

"You are not behaving like a gentleman!" she said quietly.  "Go
out of here!"

He laughed more like a maniac than ever.

"Jacqueline!  Do you love that old man?  Are you crazy?  Are you
fool enough to throw away your young life, when you know I love
you!  God!  It's horrible!  Tell me--do you think you love him!"

She was actually calm now.  Dimly she was beginning to comprehend
strange mysteries.  She could pity him.  "You don't understand,"
she answered.  "I don't love anybody in the way you mean.  I love
Desmio because he is noble, and generous, and good.  I don't love
you at all."

She had said too much.  Jack Calhoun did not believe one word of
it, and all the blood of all the Caverly-Calhouns rose boiling at
opposition.  He desired.  She could see the madness in his eyes,
and shrank away from it;  but a wolf does not sheathe his fangs
because the lamb is frightened.  His hand went to his pocket, and
she glimpsed the butt of a pistol.

"Jacqueline, I'll kill you before I'll let you marry that man!
Come away with me now, or take the consequences!"

"Leave the room at once!" she answered, stamping her foot.

Now it was he who had made the wrong appeal.  She was not afraid
of that.  She would rather be killed than submit.  Her eyes met
his gravely, but their challenge only stirred his passion to the
point where he lost all self-control.  He pointed the pistol
straight at her heart.

"I'll kill you, Jacqueline, if you don't come with me!"

He hesitated, hoping she would yield, for he saw sudden fear in
her eyes--and did not know the door was opening behind him.  She
saw Desmio.  He only saw her sudden change of expression.

"I'll love you forever if you come away with me.  If not--"

"What does this mean, sir?"

The voice in the door was like the ring of tempered steel, and
Jack Calhoun turned on his heel swiftly.  One of Don Andres'
hands was behind his back--the other on the door-knob.  It was
true, Don Andres might have had a pistol in his right hand, but
Jack Calhoun was long past the thinking stage.  He acted on
impulse--aimed--and fired.

Thereafter nightmare--all a wild dream, blurred--yet, burned into
her memory.  Don Andres, face forward dead--shot through the
heart;  and the first into the room was Clinton Wahl, cavernous-
eyed, with a mouth that smiled like the satyr's on the gargoyle
fountain in the patio.  He glanced down at Don Andres, not even
stooping to see whether he still lived.  Three strides, and he
was face to face with Jacqueline.

"By God!  The devil's own!"

That was jack Calhoun's voice.  It was followed instantly by a
second pistol-shot.  Wahl scarcely turned his head.  One swift
glance showed him Jack Calhoun with a hole in his brain, lying
bleeding on the rug beside the bed.  His eyes on Jacqueline's
again, fascinated--froze her cold.

And because her heart felt dead, her very soul numb;  terror and
grief and amazement made her sick and weak;  because all her
universe had crumbled and was swept away in a moment--that little
frown danced and trembled on her forehead over the clear pure
eyes, and it seemed to Wahl that the eyes were mocking him.

Cherchez la femme!

He seized her wrist, as Jack Calhoun had done.  "What happened?"
he demanded.  "Tell me all about it!"  And she knew she hated
him ten times worse than she had ever dreamed of hating
Donna Isabella.

"Come on now--tell me!" he repeated.  It was he who preserved her
from actually fainting, for she hated him so that it gave her a
connecting link with consciousness.

Pity?  There was no more pity for her in Clinton Wahl's mind than
a vivisectionist has for the stray dog he tortures.  This was the
story that should get him transferred to the Tribune.  News!
Front-page headlines!  Feed the public what it wants, and it will
make you famous!  He shook her.

"Now out with it!  How did Calhoun get in here?"

Then Consuelo--hurrying in like a hen whose one beloved chick is
in danger--hustling Wahl--boxing his ear with a stinging smack
like another pistol-shot, that did nothing to soften Wahl's
asperity.  Then Father Doutreleau.  And then the crowd.

Memory grew vaguer after that.  She knew she flung herself on
Desmio's body--and there was blood on her hands and on the torn
bridal veil, and in blotches on the lace of the Spanish dress.
She knew she kissed his lips, but they were lifeless.  Next, she
was sobbing on Consuelo's bosom, being petted, and drawing no
comfort whatever from the words:

"Oh, Conchita!  Oh, my poor child!  Oh, my baby!"

She did not want to be comforted.  There was nothing left she did
want--no Desmio, nor anything in all the world except Wahl's
hateful eyes and leering lips, accusing her--accusing her--of
what?  And Desmio dead!  Did he think she had killed him?  That
million-times worse brute than Jack Calhoun--did he--didn't he
know she would have torn her heart out with her own hands rather
than let one least injury be done to Desmio!

Jack Calhoun had he shot himself, or had Wahl killed him?  She
was vague about that.  She could only remember Jack Calhoun's
bitter laugh and his last words:

"By God!  The devil's own!"

Was Wahl the devil?  He looked like it!

Then along the balcony and downstairs, Consuelo coaxing her, and
across the patio between the loaded tables amid a murmur of
voices, under the gaze of what felt like a thousand eyes, with
her face all smothered in her veil on Consuelo's shoulder;  and
once--only once she looked up.  Why?  What made her do it?  Was
there no hiding-place?  Was she in hell?  For there stood Donna
Isabella blocking the way in front of her between two tables,
glaring and pointing with a lean forefinger at the blood on her
hands and dress.

"You wicked, wicked girl!  Is that my brother Andres' reward for
caring for you?"

Suddenly a smash--of crockery she supposed--and a chorus of "Oh!
Ah!  Say!  Did you see that?"  Consuelo threw a plate, or a dish,
or something at Donna Isabella, and upset the table, and
everybody cried out.  And what became of Donna Isabella she did
not know, but the next she remembered she was burying her face in
the pillow on the bed in Consuelo's room, and Consuelo was trying
to get her wedding dress off, sobbing, and crying.

"Oh, Conchita!  Oh, honey!  Oh, my poor darling baby!  Oh, how
could the Holy Virgin let this happen!"

The door was locked, for she heard people knocking but no one
could get in.  Once Consuelo went to the door, she remembered,
and scolded through it--scolded scandalously.  There were threats
from some one in the passage, and she thought she heard Wahl's
voice, and cried out!

"Don't let him in!  Don't you dare let him in!  He's the
devil, Consuelo!"

After that there was nothing to remember except agony of mind and
emptiness--grief too dreadful to be recognized for what it was,
transmuting itself into physical pain, when her thought grew too
numb to register impressions, and racking her whole body in
nervous torture until she screamed aloud.  No unconsciousness.
No peace.  No hiding-place from something indescribable--not a
thought, for it had no name--nor a thing, for it was shapeless--
but a haunting pale-green fear that she felt, that she knew would
hound her until she turned on it.

And she was too afraid to turn on it--did not know how.  And
Desmio was gone forever.  She cried aloud to God to bring him
back to life and to let her die instead of him, while Consuelo
tried to comfort her, coaxing.

"Hush, honey!  Hush, Conchita!  Oh, my baby dear, you don't know
what you're saying, child!  Oh, honey dear, do hush!"

Chapter XII.

"Me--I'm made!"

Wahl was in his element.  First on the scene--the only man who
had thought of watching Jack Calhoun--witness of the last half of
the tragedy--personal success at stake--he went to work with the
cold determined zeal of the kind that crowns efforts.  He could
visualize the headlines, even hear the newsboys, while he conned
the situation.

He made no notes, asked hardly any questions.  No need.  It was
Wahl's fingers that removed the marriage license from Jack
Calhoun's side-pocket;  his eyes that read it first;  and he put
it back into the pocket lest the other reporters should see it
too soon and spoil his "beat."  He had all the makings of a
perfect scoop.

Jacqueline Lanier--beautiful, young, talented--convent-reared--
cold-hearted--dancing like Herod's daughter, while her lover
looked on, throwing smiles to the gray-haired Miro, whom she was
presently to marry for his money--guiltily startled as she sees
her lover--flight--the lover pursues her to her bedroom--knows
the way to it!--the lover pleads, offers to marry her at once,
and shows the license--she sneers and refuses.  Enter old Miro.
High words.  Double tragedy!  Outcry?  Fainting?  Not a bit of
it!  Calmness--eyes full of mocking laughter!  A modern Borgia!
A Catherine de Medici at seventeen!  Herodias!

Principals--the richest and best known planter in Louisiana,
cousin of the famous gum-shoe magnate!  The profligate son of the
famous Frank Calhoun, who owned the most successful blockade-
runners in the Civil War and afterward founded the Lion line of
steamships in San Francisco--a man as well known in California as
in the South!  The orphan daughter of the last of the Laniers, a
family that for generations past had been intimate with all the
highest in the land, and the beauty of whose women was a by-word.
Perfect!  Why ask questions?  Let the League of Nations and the
next elections rot!  Wahl had a story--a whale of a story!

There were questions, though, that he did ask.  He had a gift for
going straight to the meat of things and probing sources others
overlooked.  He found Donna Isabella--forced his way into her
apartment--scandalized her into hysteria--and by darkly hinting
that she might possibly be blamed, induced her to scream her
version at him.

Jacqueline was a heartless, impudent, designing minx, who had
nearly broken Don Andres' and her own heart by flirting with Jack
Calhoun, and then had hypnotized Don Andres to the point of
marrying her, so that she might have his money and estates!  But
she had missed her mark, thank heaven!  Don Andres' death had
come an hour too soon, and she was penniless.  She, Isabella
Miro, who had loved the girl and had tried to be kind and
affectionate, had been rewarded by a plate of cakes thrown in her
face.  Mr.--what was his name?--Clinton Wahl must excuse her from
further conversation;  she was crushed on account of her dear
brother's death.  And if truth were in question, she looked it.
Wahl bowed himself out, and heard the key turn on the inside.
Perfect!  She would see no more reporters.

An effort then to find Jacqueline and force a confession from
her;  but there he failed.  He discovered which room she was in
by the sobbing and the cries of Consuelo trying to comfort her.
He hammered on the door--used threats--tried to force the door
down with his shoulder.  But Consuelo answered threat for threat,
and vowed she would kill him if he passed the threshold.

Then occurred what might have enlightened Wahl, if he had been
seeking light and not sensation.  There came a negro footman down
the passage;  Wahl offered him twenty dollars to help force the
door down.  He was not much of a negro--none too big;  but he and
Wahl could have broken the door between them.  He showed the
whites of his eyes, and Wahl raised the offer of twenty dollars
to fifty.  The next he knew, he was reeling backward along the
passage from a smash in the jaw from the footman's fist.  There
was plainly some one in the house besides her nurse who thought
the world of Jacqueline.  Negro footmen don't hit white men in
Louisiana without knowing they undertake a gruesome risk.  Wahl
might have drawn deductions, had he seen fit.

But rubbing his jaw, he ran into the garden, and around the house
in search of the window of Consuelo's room--found it--heard
sobbing--and started to swing himself up on the window-sill.  A
negro gardener came running, threatened him with a rake and began
shouting for help.  One beating by a negro was enough for even
Wahl's enthusiasm, so he ran for his car and drove off in a whirl
of dust for the nearest telegraph office, mapping out his story
while he broke all speed-laws.

He would be in time for the evening edition in New Orleans and
San Francisco, provided he rushed and had the copy at his
finger's ends;  and that was his specialty--all brain work and no
notes--clean copy, headlines and all.  He could dictate it
straight to the telegrapher if only the fellow had
sufficient skill.

"Hunches beat a full house!  I'd a hunch to cover this wedding,"
he reflected.  "Gee!  The story of the year, and my first to the
Tribune!  I'll bet I'm on my way to Frisco in a week!  I'd a
hunch Jack Calhoun would break out on the front page presently--
and holy smoke, that Lanier girl's a pippin!  Me--I'm made!"

Chapter XIII.

"Facts presented with a punch!"

There were no women on the San Francisco Tribune staff.  John
Covert Mansfield so decreed--the "Iron Old Man," whose vitriolic
pen and point of view, reenforced by a beaver's energy, had
raised the Tribune from tenth to third place among daily
newspapers.  He was more than owner and managing editor;  he was
the power, the newspaper itself, and notorious as the ablest and
most exacting editor alive.  It was an education--a cachet for
advancement elsewhere--to have worked under Mansfield on
the Tribune.

He had a son, so he must have had a wife, and there was a legend,
seldom mentioned, that an unfortunate marriage had embittered him
against all women.  "Dad" Lawrence, the Tribune's social
reporter, who had been on the paper longer than any one except
Mansfield himself, knew more about the facts than he generally
cared to tell.  "Dad" was privileged--almost intimate with
Mansfield--even had a key to Mansfield's so-called "cabin" in the
mountains and spent his rare vacations up there, and was about
the only man in the Tribune Building who ever dared to oppose the
old man's wishes or to criticize him to his face.

Once in a while, when the subject cropped up in some twenty-
minute breathing spell between editions, Dad would have a word or
two to say.  He never entered into details, but he had his own
philosophy of life, which differed in most respects from that of
the Tribune as chalk does from cheese.

"I never married--and for the same reason that the old man never
should have;  only in his case there's ten times more reason.
Look at him, he has a hotel apartment, that he visits every other
day or so, and there's even a telephone beside the bath.  Most
nights he sleeps on a couch in the office, and grudges the time
spent eating and shaving.  Eighteen hours out of twenty-four, he
works;  during five, he's asleep, more or less;  that leaves an
hour for meals and all the rest of it.  Where does a wife come
in?  He married the Tribune when he took it;  over-tried for a
while to be a bigamist--and failed.  I don't blame Mrs.
Mansfield, or any other woman who would kick under such
conditions.  I don't blame Mansfield either.  He's the Tribune.
That's all there is to him."

"He's sure got teeth!" said Barnes, the city editor.  Barnes had
just come out from a stormy session with Mansfield and spoke
with feeling.

"He knows news!  He can smell it.  I believe there's something in
his bones that tells him half an hour before a story breaks,"
remarked Gunning, of the telegraph desk.  "He's restless now."

"You bet he is!" said Barnes.  "He'll walk me, if I don't step
on her."

"He knows what the public wants, that's his secret.  And he feeds
it to 'em peppered and smoking hot," said Gunning.  "Here she
comes!--I told you--special-rush--exclusive--Clinton Wahl--that's
the New Orleans man--hello--Calverly-Calhoun--that's the Lion
Line outfit--Miro--Lanier--Gee whiz!  Boy!  The whole bench is
asleep, Goddamit!  Boy!"

Two minutes later Mansfield strode in, holding a roughly
scribbled sheet of copy-paper in his right hand.  He took no
notice of any one, except the three at the telegraph desk at one
end of the big news-room, where Dad and Barnes were watching
Gunning.  Gunning, pencil in hand, was reading telegrams, with
his left hand ready to snatch the next sheet from the operator at
the desk beside him.  Saying nothing, Mansfield looked over
Gunning's shoulder, watching for several minutes as sheet after
sheet of Wahl's message came off the wire.

"Special!" he said, nodding.  "Great stuff.  Now, boys, for God's
sake don't mess it this time!  Boy!  Tell Mr. Trig I want him."
He pulled out his watch.  "We've forty minutes.  Make over the
whole front page and spread this on four columns thirty-six point
head.  Spike the Board of Trade stuff.  Dad--cover Calhoun, and
all the dope about his father.  What do you know of the Laniers?
Dig 'em out of the morgue, and play it uprush now!"

Dad ran to his desk. Trig came hurrying from the stone, wiping
black hands on a cotton waste and dashed away again, grinning.
Mansfield returned to his office to telephone the circulation
manager, and a new, acute, accentuated din was added to the
normal clatter of the news-room as the story of Jacqueline Lanier
was rushed through the string of miracles that tread on one
another's heels in the throes of birth of a special edition--
until the huge building began to tremble to the thump of mighty
engines, and the big vans backed into the alley-ways to receive
the finished bundled copies.

In the pause that followed, when the last big van had roared
away, Dad strolled into Mansfield's office and found him reading
the front page, smiling over it.

"That's a good story," said Mansfield, looking up at Dad and
laying down the paper.  "I'm going to send for Wahl."

"He has a fair 'rep,'" Dad answered.

"'Rep' be damned!  He has brains!  He's turned in a big beat!
Give me one a day like that, and I'll treble the circulation.
Look at his stuff compared with yours!  Good God, you've written
up the Calverly-Calhouns as if they'd just donated something to
the Y.M.C.A.--and the Laniers--old ladies' tea-fight!  Read
Wahl's stuff.  There's a man who knows how to cover a story."

Dad picked up the paper and read the heavy black type down to the
foot of the column.  (His own was on the inside page.)

"It's sensational enough," he said presently.

"Sensational?  It's facts presented with a punch,"

"Oh, it's cleverly written," Dad conceded.  "There's nothing
there, I suppose, that's libelous.  But suppose the facts have
been misrepresented?  Her reputation's gone.  It's cruel."

"Cruel?  So is life!" said Mansfield.  "We're face to face with
life.  Our business is to let the public know what's going on.
News is the breath they breathe, and we supply it."

"That's the dope ring's argument, and the bootleggers' standby,"
Dad retorted.  "They claim they give the public what it wants.
The question is--just what is news?"

Mansfield laughed.  Dad's point of view always amused him.  He
liked the man, and kept him on the paper more because he dared to
beard him in his den than for any other reason.

"News is neither law, nor religion, nor morals;  it's sometimes
about law, religion and morals--sometimes about other things.
How often must I tell you that?" asked Mansfield with an air of
rather weary patience.  "The public pays, and calls the tune.  We
dance to it.  A paper has to interest the public and anything
that interests it is news.  Come over here and watch."

He walked to the window and beckoned Dad to follow him.  For
several minutes they stood in silence watching the home-going
crowds on the sidewalk and the newsboys at the street-corner over
the way yelling the "EXTRA" -- "DOUBLE TRAGEDY!" headlines.  They
were selling papers as fast as they could hand them out.

"That, Dad, is news and what it does," said Mansfield.  "A peace
conference in Europe, or a political convention, would sell less
than half as many papers.  That's why I'm sending for Wahl, and
why I'm troubled about my boy, Sherry."

"What's wrong with Sherry?" demanded Dad.

"Nothing but a sentimental streak.  He's soft somewhere.  He's
bright--did splendidly at college--and he's keen.  I've taught
him to mistrust women, and done all I can to toughen him.  I
don't think he'll fall for the usual traps and he'll go far--but
run a successful newspaper?--I doubt it.  A man like Wahl may do
him good.  I think I'll let Sherry work under Wahl for a year or

"I've never met Wahl," Dad answered, "but I love Sherry.  He's
the nicest boy I know.  I've read Wahl's stuff, and I hate it.
My bet is that Sherry has guts enough to stand off you and Wahl
both, and to carve his own line."

"We'll see," said Mansfield dryly.  "Wahl has promised us a two-
page feature and some photos for the Sunday Section.  Let's hope
he lands a good one of the Zanier girl.  Get all you can about
Jack Calhoun's record in Frisco, and be ready to feed Wahl the
minute he comes.  Let Wahl write the stuff, but feed him facts.
And by the way, when Wahl comes, treat him nicely.  Take him for
a week-end to my cabin in the mountains, or something.  Now get
out of here--I'm busy!"

Chapter XIV.

"Consuelo--what is a coroner?"

Women suffer more than men.  For millions of years they have
undergone the agony, while men provided it.  Capacity to suffer
is inherent in the whole sex, and to recover and forget in the
joy of having brought forth.  But where was joy for Jacqueline
Lanier?  What had she brought forth but disillusion?

She lay on the bed in Consuelo's room during uncounted hours,
eating when Consuelo told her to, not knowing what she ate, not
caring what should happen, not even trying to escape one pang of
grief;  for she hoped the grief would kill her.  She did not cry
any longer;  there was nothing left to cry about.  She did not
pray;  there was nothing to pray for.  When Consuelo knelt and
prayed before the image of the Virgin on the little table in the
corner, she watched and wondered dumbly what was the use.

Consuelo did much more than pray, however.  She saved
Jacqueline's life--saved her reason.  She recognized the
instinct, that humans share with animals, to hide in a dark place
when wounded.  Consuelo drew the shades down, set furniture
against the door, and held that fort against all comers, not
wasting words on her patient when her own first paroxysms of
despair were over, but watching, letting nature take its own

And it was no joke holding that fort.  Police--one lone
policeman, rather deferent, extremely curious, and not so sure of
his rights.  Then Donna Isabella.

"You may pack up and leave the house at once, Consuelo.  I'm not
going to keep you a minute longer."

"You never kept me yet!  I'm here in spite of you!  I'll go when
I'm ready, and no sooner!"

"Oh, very well, I'll have to have you put out!"

"You dare!  Just you dare, that's all!  Wait and see what I'll
say at the inquest!  Wait till they ask me on oath who sent me
with a letter to the convent from Calhoun!  Wait till I've told
all I know about you!  I've not talked to the reporters yet.
Turn me out of here, and straight I go to them!"

"You're a false, ungrateful, wicked woman!" snarled Donna
Isabella.  "What is Jacqueline doing in your room?"

"Dying, for anything you'd care!"

"She may go to her own room and stay there until I send for her!"

"She'll do nothing of the sort!"

"Well, your wages ceased yesterday.  And Jacqueline has no claim
on the estate.  She may take her own belongings, but you may tell
her not to look to me for--"

"She'll find she has more friends than you have!" Consuelo
snapped, and slammed the door in Donna Isabella's face.

None of those encounters made the least impression on Jacqueline,
though they were noisy enough.  She heard, and simply did not
care.  Donna Isabella's venom stung no longer, and there was no
future--could be none--nothing but the vision of Desmio lying
dead in a pool of blood, with Wahl's terrible face looking into
hers and saying "Now then, out with it!"  She buried her face in
the pillow and screamed when she thought of Wahl.

"It was the devil, Consuelo!  Jack Calhoun cried out he was the
devil's own!  He haunts me!"

"Hush, honey dear.  You've never seen the devil and never will.
Try to forget him."

"I can't.  I see his face all the time!"

"Come, Conchita, drink a little warm milk, there's a honey, and
then sleep."

She was obedient, but she could not sleep.  But there was no time
when Donna Isabella's malice slept.  They brought her the New
Orleans papers--four or five of them--and all with screaming
headlines, photographs of Don Andres Miro, Jacqueline, Jack
Calhoun, and even of herself.  Of leaded type the shame of the
Miros stared her in the face, a million times more degrading than
the gum shoe-maker's half-page display on the back sheet.

Only one paper--Wahl's--the New Orleans Star gave her any
comfort.  As she read that she almost forgave Wahl for having
dared to burst into her room.  That paper told the whole truth.
It showed up Jacqueline--described her as a monster of iniquity--
pictured her as a vampire, with two love-affairs at seventeen,
and a laugh on her lips and lying eyes when the bodies of lover
and aged bridegroom lay dead at her feet.

But, oh, the black, aching shame of it!  The Miro name dragged
into the mud!  The Miro pride humbled for the mob to laugh about!
They spoke of the inquest, and of the facts that were expected to
be brought out, of the witnesses who would be examined--herself,
Consuelo, Jacqueline, the servants.  She the proudest woman in
Louisiana, was to be pilloried in public and browbeaten by a
shoddy coroner--confronted with Consuelo's lies no doubt--and all
because of Jacqueline!

Well, Consuelo and her tongue notwithstanding, at least she would
show that girl what she had brought down on the house that had
befriended her.  She hunted for her keys.  There was a pass-key
on the ring, that opened all doors in the house except those
behind which Don Andres had kept his private papers.  Then she
rang her bell.

"Let me know when Consuelo goes to the kitchen.  Don't say a word
to her."

Spite ran its full course.  Donna Isabella tiptoed along the
corridor, and entered Consuelo's room, closing the door quietly.
She laid the copy of the New Orleans Star on the pillow close to
Jacqueline's face, and stood watching, thin-lipped, saying
nothing.  But Jacqueline did not stir.

"Read it!" she said suddenly, and Jacqueline looked up at last,
but showed no surprise, no interest.

"Read it, you wicked girl, and see what you've brought down on

She pointed to the newspaper and left the room, not exactly
anxious to be caught in there by Consuelo.  Jacqueline sat up and
held the paper to the dim light coming through the blind;  and
the first thing she saw was her own portrait!  Then Desmio's and
Jack Calhoun's enclosed in circles in the middle of the page.
Then, slowly, big black type took shape, and she could not tear
her eyes away from it.

Each line she read was like a stab at the heart which she had
thought could feel no longer.  Was this what the world would now
believe of her?  It likened her to Herodias--and she knew that
story.  It called her a seventeen year-old Jezebel.  It as good
as said she had killed Desmio, and that she laughed to see him
lying dead.  It said her eyes mocked the reporter, and that she
threw crockery in the face of the aged Donna Isabella, in the
presence of scores of people, because Donna Isabella sent her to
her room.  It said she had locked herself into her room and would
be seen by nobody, but hurled foul invective through the door
when any one tried to gain admission.  It said she would be haled
before the coroner--whoever he might be--and made to give
explanation;  that the courtroom was expected to be crowded

"Who is the coroner?" she asked quite quietly, as Consuelo
entered with the beef tea.  It was the quietness of absolute
despair, and Consuelo recognized it.

"Mother of God!  Who gave you that, child?  Where did you get the

Consuelo snatched it away from her and tore it up savagely.  She
had already seen a copy in the kitchen.

"Donna Isabella brought it in.  What is a coroner, Consuelo?"

"That woman's worse than a murderess!  Here, honey, be good now
and take some beef-tea!"

"Consuelo, I want to know what a coroner is."

"Never you mind, honey."

"I must know.  You must tell me.  I'm to be hauled before a
coroner tomorrow afternoon.  What is a coroner?"

"Take your beef-tea, honey!"

"Not until you tell me what a coroner is."

"He's a sort of judge, dear.  He'll ask questions, and you'll
have to answer him."

"I won't!  I won't answer people who believe those things of me!"

"I'm afraid you'll have to, honey.  It won't be so bad.  I'll be
there, and I'll sit beside you while you just say yes or no to
what he asks you.  Then we'll--"

"I won't go, Consuelo."

"But they'll make you, Conchita.  They'll come and fetch you, and
me too, honey.  You must make up your mind to--"

"It's made up!  I shall not be here when they come for me,
Consuelo.  I won't answer people who believe those things of me!"

"Honey dear, don't talk nonsense."

"I'm telling you the truth."

"Conchita, what do you mean?"

"I'm going away."

"Where, honey?"

"I don't know.  I'm just going.  I shall not be here when they
come for me."

There was no mistaking the note now.  It was calm, without
emphasis, without trace of hysteria.  But she would go, or she
would die.  It was Consuelo who felt hysterical.

"But, Conchita, you've no money, and nowhere to go, and none to
look after you--and the Holy Virgin knows you can't look after

"I'm going."


"Now.  Tonight."

"Honey dear, don't be absurd!  D'you think I'd let you go?  Be
good now, and take your beef-tea, it's getting cold.  You
couldn't walk--they'd find you in an hour!--and who's to carry
your things?  You can't go without anything!"

"I'm going, Consuelo."

"Take your beef-tea, honey.  Would you leave me to face it all

"You may come with me if you wish," Jacqueline answered, in the
same quiet voice.

Consuelo set the cup and saucer down and cried;  but it was no
use.  Jacqueline was unemotional, but firmer than a rock;  no
longer terrified, long past the stage where fear could touch her.
There was a courage in the blue eyes now, and the hint of a far-
away vision, as if she saw one little ray of hope beyond the edge
of things.  It unnerved Consuelo, and then made her stare until
she crossed herself and shuddered.  She knew it was no use
urging;  she must give in, or there would be another death, or
madness on her hands.

"Sister Michaela told me to trust my intuition.  That's why I'm
going, Consuelo.  I'm going to turn my back on everything."

"Honey dear, wait until morning.  We can't walk.  We must take
clothes with us.  I've money in the savings bank, and we can draw
that out.  Give me until morning, and I'll pack meanwhile and see
if I can't get a car, and some things to eat in a basket, and--"

"We must be gone before daybreak, Consuelo."

"Honey, you're too impatient!  They don't open banks that early,

"You needn't come unless you want to.  I'd just as soon go now."

"Will you go to sleep, honey, if I leave you and pack your

"If you promise, Consuelo."

"Yes, I promise, dearie.  We'll go before daylight, even if we
have to walk."

Jacqueline let her head fall on the pillow and was asleep within
five minutes, relaxed, and breathing steadily.  So hope can
change all in a moment.  There was something certain--one step
visible ahead;  and the past was gone;  and youth resumed its
sway.  Consuelo watched her for a while;  then, sure she was
sleeping, locked her in and hurried by the back way into the
garden--down through the gate in the wall at the end, and across
three fields in the dark to a row of cottages where the colored
hands lived.

"Zeke!  Zeke!"

"Here I is, Miss Consuelo."

Only the glow of his pipe and the whites of his eyes were
visible.  He was sitting on a log under the shadow of a tree
between two cottages, and his manner was much more deferential
than it had been recently;  he even got to his feet and set his
thumb over the bowl of the pipe.  Consuelo paused to get her
breath, and took in the situation with a general eye.

"What are you doing here?  Why aren't you indoors?"

"There's ha'nts in there, miss."

"Are you a good Catholic, Zeke?"

"Ah is, but Ah's scared mos' nearly daid."

"That's because you took the bribe from Mr. Jack Calhoun--"

"Miss Consuelo, you ain't gwine tell ag'in me 'bout that
'fore de coroner?"

"If we weren't here, we wouldn't have to go before the coroner."

"Where's we gwine?"

"You may drive Miss Jacqueline."

"Where's she gwine?"

"Never you mind.  She'll tell you.  If you're outside the garden
gate with one of the cars an hour before daylight, the coroner
can whistle, can't he?"

Zeke shook his head, beginning slowly and increasing the speed
until the whites of his eyes made a horizontal streak in
the darkness.

"Why not?"

"Dey's done locked de garage, an' took mah key."

For a second, Consuelo was nonplussed, but she had laid bare
Zeke's obsessing terror, and pursued her advantage blindly.

"Can't you get another car?  Not for Miss Jacqueline's sake?  Not
to do a good deed for Don Andres now he's dead?  Remember, the

"Where's Ah gwine git him, honey?"

"Horses then?"

"Yo' means plantation horses?  Dey's some.  Dey's mos' dat ole
dey's 'bout daid.  Bes' ones was all 'spatched fer de 'mergency.
Dey's haulin' dirt for de levee t'ree days now." .

"Well, if there are two left, you can take them without being
seen, can't you?"

"Ah s'pose."

"Take one of the old four-wheel buggies from the barn, harness
the two best horses, and be at the garden gate an hour before
daylight, Zeke.  If you're there, and hold your tongue, I'll hold
mine.  You understand me?"

"Dat buggy hain't had no grease put in him sence--"

"Grease it yourself, then, you lazy nigger!  I can't waste time
talking to you.  Either you do or you don't;  which is it?  I
shall tell the coroner--"

"Miss Consuelo, Ah's yo' bes' frien'!  Ah's gwine grease dat
buggy good.  Ah's gwine drive you-all anywhere!  Ah sho'ly is."

"If you're late--"

"Ah's gwine be dere, miss!"

But Zeke's promise was nothing much to build on;  there were too
many possibilities of greater fears that might occur to him, or
that he might take some one into his confidence, or be seen
taking the horses, and Consuelo returned to the house with her
heart in her throat.

She found Jacqueline awake again and already dressed, moving up
and down the room restlessly, packing Consuelo's clothes into a
straw valise--to save time, as she explained it--with no more
idea what to pack, and what to leave behind, than she had of
where she was going.

"There, Conchita--wasn't that thoughtful of you!"

Consuelo swallowed her chagrin and left her occupied while she
crept up to Jacqueline's room and crowded bare necessities into a
dressing-bag, including all the jewelry--wry-faced as she
reflected that the trinkets and the few good stones were only too
likely to change owners presently.

That task accomplished, she began to wish she had ordered Zeke to
be ready sooner.  She used up an hour undoing Jacqueline's
handiwork, and another fifteen minutes foraging in the larder for
provisions to take with them;  but then there was nothing left to
do but sit and wait--hour after interminable hour of inaction,
with Jacqueline demanding to know why.  Once she went out to find
Zeke, but failed in her search, and that only increased anxiety.
If Zeke had decided to run away on his own account, as was quite
likely, they were done for!

"Where shall we go?" she asked at last, hoping to give Jacqueline
something to occupy her mind.  She had made up her own mind on
that point long ago.

"Oh, anywhere."

"We'll go first to the city, honey, where I can find something to
do.  I'll try the employment agencies, and then perhaps I can get
something in another state and take you along.  But we mustn't
take the train from our station.  We must drive thirty miles to
the junction, and buy tickets in the wrong direction, so's to put
them off the scent."

"Have you any money, Consuelo?"

"Enough for the fares, honey."

More than an hour before Zeke was due they were waiting for him
in the shadow of the garden wall, startled by every sound and
racked with anxiety.  But a buggy that had not been greased came
squeaking through the dark at last, and they climbed in, Zeke
saying nothing.

"Drive along the levee to the junction, Zeke."

"Dat ole levee's per'lous near bu'stin'!"

"Did you hear me tell you!"

"Sho--Ah ain't deef--Giddap!"

And so they left behind the haven of Jacqueline's girlhood and
girlhood with it.  Desmio's mansion and the wall surrounding it
passed away behind them into darkness like a dream, and were out
of sight when morning came.  But Jacqueline never looked back for
a last glimpse;  some sort of future had been born in travail and
heavy labor;  the past was dead, and she had no more use for it,
nor it for her--nor much use for the future, though it had
begun to glimmer dimly, like the morning, when the creaking
wheels moved.

There was a light mist like a bridal-veil along the bottoms in
the shelter of the levee, and she thanked heaven for it, since,
though the wheels squeaked a mournful warning to all the
countryside, they were hardly visible at twenty paces.  And they
passed very few people, even after daybreak.  Those who saw them
were mostly negroes, and all hurrying one way in answer to the
whistles that announced danger at a point along the levee--the
awful summons to every able-bodied man to turn out and help pile
dirt.  None of those straggling, sparse laborers was likely to
turn back and report having seen them.

Later, they began to pass fugitives driving cows and hurrying
toward them in carts loaded high with household goods.  Those
shouted warnings that terrified Zeke nearly out of his senses.
The levee looked like breaking at a point about a mile ahead.

"She ain't agwine las' anuvver hour!  You-all bes' turn dem
horses aroun'!"

Zeke elected to follow that advice, but the wheels were in soft
ruts nearly hub-deep and though the horses plunged under the
whip they only nearly broke the pole, and one of the wheels
cracked ominously.

"Oh, Oh, what'll we do?  Oh, honey dear, you'll drown!"

More fugitives came pouring down on them, blocking the road, and
Zeke jumped on to a passing cart, yelling to them to follow suit.
Consuelo wrung her hands in impotent despair, and then bethought
of her image of the Blessed Virgin, which she had packed in the
straw suit-case with underwear tucked carefully around it.  She
crossed herself, unpacked it, held it up:

"Now!" she cried.  "Now!  I've prayed to you often enough!
Preserve us now!"

It was Jacqueline whose courage rose to the occasion.  Fear
seemed to hold no further terrors, or if it did, she faced the
horror that she did not know in front, in preference to the
terror she had turned her back on.  She climbed up to the
driver's seat and took the reins that Zeke had draped over
the dash-board.

"Conchita!  Conchita!  You're crazy!  Come down here!"

But the buggy went forward with a lurch and Consuelo sat down on
the rear seat suddenly.  They plunged into the mist, that by a
freak of wind had gathered suddenly and rolled toward them.  Out
of the mist and silence ahead a man's voice cried out--a mile, or
a hundred yards away, there was no telling, but as clear as the
summons of Judgment Day:

"Christ!  She's going, boys!  Jump!"

Something thundered like wind in a sail, and the horses reared
and broke the pole at last.  There came a roar like a waterfall.
The levee on their left hand broke apart like lumps of chocolate
on the edge of a cake.  The world shook.  Three converging floods
of dark-brown water, darker than the mist and yet a part of it,
swept down on them exactly as the scenes change in a dream.  The
panorama swung.  Dream-horses, kicking madly in the tangled
harness, came over backward into the buggy on a dark-brown wave.



Two screams, drowned in the deafening roar of water, and then a
sense of being swept along forever, whirling, whirling, tossed up
and down again, half-conscious, in a skirt that wrapped itself
around helpless legs, with logs and dead things, and the timber
of broken houses plunging to right and left--a momentary glimpse
of sky--then mouth, eyes, all under water again--up once more, to
gasp and cling to something that gave way--again the deluge.

Jacqueline was glad!  She was drowning--dying!  She felt young
again!  Her heart sang, the while her lungs ached and her ears
tortured her, and every nerve and instinct in her fought for
life!  She struggled without knowing it--clung to branches
without knowing that she clung--welcomed death, and fought it as
a young life fights forever--until a barn-roof swinging in mid-
stream, nearly knocked the last life out of her, and she held on,
not knowing that she held.  A great branch, backed up by an eddy,
hove itself from beneath her.  Roof and branch turned inward in
opposing circles, and the movement tossed her, unconscious at
last, on the roof as it whirled away downstream.

Chapter XV.


To Wahl's surprise, and hardly veiled contempt, Sherry Mansfield
declined to be shown around New Orleans--refused to take lunch--
did not wish to be introduced to local celebrities--consented to
visit the Star office, but turned down Wahl's handsome offer to
send him as his own substitute to cover the Miro wedding, news of
which had just come in over the wire--and asked nothing but to be
led to the best garage in town, where he might hire a car in
which, as he called it, to head up-country.

"I told you what the floods'll be," said Wahl.

"My dad said floods. I'll cover 'em!"

"You'll learn to take his orders and put your own interpretation
on them some day," Wahl assured him.

"Wait till you've met dad."

So Sherry bought blankets and a thermos bottle, chucked the lot
into a hired car, invented a rig to hold his typewriter so that
he might use it on the run, and ordered the darky driver to
follow the left bank of the Mississippi until further orders.

"Step on her.  I'll pay the fine," said Sherry.  "If there is a
flood, I'll write it!"

After four days of tireless activity, he learned what fifteen
minutes' inquiry in New Orleans would have supplied him at no
expense--the exact position of the real danger-point.  And there
he planted his car with its wheels hub-deep in mud, face to the
enemy, and waited, writing down the symptoms of the sick brown
bank.  He   knew to a decimal point how many tons of dirt the
dump-carts brought--how many thousand bags of sand were piled--
how many men were working.  And the levee held.  Sherry Mansfield
nearly wept.

He was mortified when Wahl showed up in a big car, late one
afternoon and turned his satyr-smile on the situation.  If he
could, he would have sunk into the ground before Wahl saw him,
but there was very little that Wahl did not see--even to the
brief-bag full of typewritten description.

"Glad I found you, youngster."

Sherry made note of the change of address, and was not too glad,
and looked it.

"You missed a big thing when you turned that wedding down.
Double tragedy.  Best story of the year."

"Wait till the levee breaks!"

"It won't.  Never does when it's watched.  I wired the story of
that wedding to the Tribune.  Your dad sent for me at once--got
his wire last night.  Thought I'd do you a turn in exchange--you
see, I owe it to you two ways;  for recommending me in the first
place, and for making me cover the wedding myself!  So I decided
to catch the Limited at the junction, and make it by road on the
chance of running into you.  I've brought a copy of the paper--
here, take it--whole front page."

Sherry took the paper absent-mindedly and stuffed it in his
pocket, which annoyed Wahl.

"Be advised, and read it, youngster.  That's a story.  It's what
got me on the Tribune."

Sherry looked rather more interested, but his eye was on the
levee all the while, and on a man in overalls on top of the bank
who stood remarkably still, with his hands in his pockets,
whistling.  Wahl continued:

"It occurred to me you'd like a chance to clean up on the story.
You'll get more of it than from the Mississippi in a hundred
years.  I've got to go--I'm wired for, and the Limited won't
wait.  You pick up the story where I left off.  It's your
big chance!"

Sherry met his eyes--nodded--looked back at the levee.  He was
hardly listening.

"The girl's name's Lanier.  Jacqueline Lanier.  Get her story
from her own lips.  I hadn't time to make her talk, and she won't
see any one, but they'll haul her out before the coroner
tomorrow;  but she's one of those deep-eyed wise ones, who won't
tell much.  You use your wits and get next to her somehow.
Believe me, you'll have a story you can sign!"

Sherry glanced down at the paper protruding from his pocket and
smiled politely.

"Thanks," he said, "I'll read it."

"Well, I'm off.  See you in Frisco, I suppose.  Good-by."

"Good-by," said Sherry, suddenly remembering to shake hands.
"Good of you, I'm sure.  Thanks awfully."  He had almost
forgotten the incident--had forgotten the paper entirely, before
Wahl's car was out of sight.  He was dreaming dreams and seeing
visions--planning--letting ideas come to him from where they
would--imagining a future Mississippi Valley, drained and safely
banked with all the flood-waters stored up a thousand or more
miles away--being a boy with a man's brain.  The boy watched like
a lynx to see the mud-bank go.  The man schemed reconstruction.

It was the whistling man with hands deep in his pockets on the
levee who invited him at last to join him in a launch and see the
night patrol through by water.

"Suit yourse'f, son, but of you'll excuse me the observation, you
seem interested.  If so minded, you may sleep, suh.  But if you'd
keep that searchlight moving in the bow, you'd see more, and help
me.  How about it?"

All that night long Sherry stayed awake, plying the electric
searchlight as the launch patrolled the bank, returning again and
again to the point of most imminent danger, while the leisurely
individual who gave the orders stood by the whistle to sound the
alarm, and the gangs ashore kept toiling under kerosene flares.

"Ef the river don't drop by dawn, she'll open up," was the only
comment the inspector made;  but he made it more than once.

However, dawn came, and the levee held.  The searchlight paled
and was switched off.  Sherry yawned, considering coffee and a
razor.  An hour after dawn, the inspector ran the boat's nose
against the bank, threw a line to some one ashore, glanced behind
him casually--and sprang for the whistle like a fiend let loose.
He gave three long blasts;  and as if that were the signal for
the whole world's end, the levee broke at the danger-point three
hundred yards below them.  A new brown river burst through to the
bottom-lands.  The very river-current changed, and the launch at
full speed forward fought to keep the rope from breaking.

"Drowned the gangs?" asked Sherry.


The levee kept going in sections, leaving islands here and there
that cut up the flood into hurrying torrents in which it looked
impossible for anything to live.  The inspector cut the bow-rope
with an ax, and after thirty paralyzing seconds at the helm
contrived to work the launch out into the river, where he headed
up-stream and worked slowly around in a semicircle until they
were a hundred yards above the scene of the first break.

"Time to make it's now, I guess," he said quietly, in
Sherry's ear.

"Make what?"

"Pick up a few.  There'll be some swimmin'--an' some not.  You
swim, son?"

Sherry nodded.

"Soak her all she has now, Mose!"

It was gorgeous madness, and Sherry laughed aloud.  The long lean
inspector at the wheel pulled out a plug of tobacco from his
overalls, bit off a piece, and handed the rest to Sherry.

"Gee, she's openin' up!  She'll fill the bottoms most a hundred
mile one way.  There'll be funerals.  Ain't she got no more'n
that, Mose?  Hang on, all!"

The launch plunged like a bit of driftwood but the inspector kept
her headed almost straight for the middle of the broadest gap,
where a torrent a quarter-mile wide now poured with a roar
like Niagara.

"Get y'r boat-hook, son, an' ketch 'em if you see one.  You'll
have to make it snappy."

Sherry unfastened the boat-hook from its rack and stood
amidships.  But it was impossible to see anything except
driftwood and drowned cattle in that hurrying brown flood.  It
was fifteen minutes before they reached water that was slack
enough for the engine to hold its own, and five minutes after
that before Sherry stuck the boat-hook into something black that
was jammed in the fork of a floating tree.

"What ye got, son?"

"Woman, I guess."

"Kickin' too, by the look of her!  Lend a hand, Mose!"

She was less than half-drowned, but all-hysterical, and angrier
at the boat-hook than a she-tiger at the cleaner's rake;  what
with wet clothes and a basket she still clung to, her weight was
enormous;  but they hauled her aboard between them, and set her
gasping against the engine housing.

"Name, please," Sherry asked her, remembering his
chosen profession.

"Consuelo Martinez."

The answer was automatic--the subconscious functioning of a mind
nearly unhinged by the experience she had come through.  Her
first act was equally automatic.  She undid the basket and pulled
out an image of the Virgin, beginning to cry as she saw the paint
and gilt had suffered.

"Friends?" asked Sherry, feeling for his pencil and scrap of
paper.  "Relatives?  Any one with you when you got lost?"

For a second she looked blankly at him, then set the image of the
Virgin down, rose staggering to her feet, and screamed:
"Conchita!  Conchita!"

"Who's she?" asked Sherry, while the launch chugged steadily
ahead in search of other victims.

"Conchita!  Oh!  Oh!  Conchita!  My baby!  Conchita!  Conchita!"

She leaned over the side of the launch and screamed at the brown
flood, striking angrily at Sherry when he tried to calm her,
pointing at driftwood--at dead cattle--at anything that moved or
showed itself for a second on the water.

"There she is!  There she is!  Conchita!"

"I'll put her ashore first chance," said the inspector, and
Sherry left off trying to question her.  But it made no
difference;  she ran from one to the other, striking at them,
even wrenching at the wheel, demanding that they find Conchita,
then returning to lean overside and spread her arms out, crying
the same name again and again until her voice cracked and nothing
came forth but a hoarse whisper.  The inspector touched his
forehead, and Sherry nodded.

They pulled out two drowned men after that, and towed a living
horse behind them to a bank, where a raised road checked the
flood and people were already building fires.  There were several
corpses laid out in a row, and there were signs that the
inevitable somebody had taken charge and had begun to form the
nucleus of a rescue station.

"You bes' stan' by that woman till she's fixed up," said the
inspector, as they landed the dead freight feet-first.  Consuelo
was trying to jump ashore, still screaming, still imagining she
saw Conchita everywhere.  Sherry went to help her and she fell on
him, bearing him down head-under into the water at the bank's
edge, but she scrambled out first and up the bank ahead of him,
crying to the groups of men beside the fires and wringing her
hands.  Sherry took her basket and went after her, and before he
could turn his head the launch had gone.

Consuelo collapsed at last from lack of breath, and Sherry found
a woman who promised to look after her.  With breathlessness came
a trace of returning sanity.  She clung to Sherry, begging him to
find Conchita and even trying to describe her:

"Blue eyes--dark hair--seventeen--"

"I'll look for her," said Sherry.

"Promise me!"

When he promised she let go of him--drove him away--screamed at
him to make haste, and the last he heard as he followed the road
toward what looked like a village a mile away, was her cracked,
hoarse shriek:  "Conchita!  Conchita!"

He could not have forgotten the name if he had tried.  A few
minutes later he found a man struggling to launch a flat-bottomed
plank boat that had been cast up against the bank with oars still
chained to the rowlocks.  He helped him, and volunteered to row
with him in search of victims, so they set off, paddling slowly
until the current swept them around a bend and outward toward the
main stream.  Then the other man broke his oar in frenzied
efforts to force the half-filled boat's head shoreward, and one
oar was worse than useless.  Sherry sat still.

"Suit yourself!" said the other man suddenly, and jumped for a
tree that rolled and whirled by.

Sherry did suit himself, and sat still in the sinking boat, while
the great tree rolled and bobbed and ducked, and he lost sight of
the man altogether.  Then he saw something moving faster than the
water, fifty yards away to his right, toward mid-stream, and
began to kick his boots off.  The boat would sink in a minute or
two.  He might as well go and lend that strong swimmer
encouragement, if nothing more.  So he ran his belt through his
coat sleeves, tied his boots to it by the laces and, towing the
coat, plunged in.

He used the crawl stroke, and he was a strong enough swimmer to
have reached shore by quartering the current, but that obviously
living head being borne along in front of him was a challenge
that stirred his pluck, and he struck out in pursuit.  It was
about the time that the current began to get the mastery and to
sweep him farther  toward mid-stream that he discovered he was
following a dog.

He drew abreast, and the dog looked at him piteously, beating the
water to raise itself and coughing up a plaintive whine.

"All right, doglums!" he cried out, and swam closer, keeping far
enough away to prevent the dog from pawing him.

A minute or two later he overhauled a section of an old board
fence, and seizing the dog's collar helped him on to it.
Swimming was easier then;  he clung to the planks and more or
less floated with the stream, only the fool dog would not keep
still, although he cursed him loud and fervently.  At last,
barking his mongrel head off at a barn-roof, the dog tipped the
planks too far, lost his balance, and fell into the water panic-
stricken, swimming in rings.  Sherry seized him by the collar,
and struck out for the barn-roof;  but he hardly made it;  he was
more tired than he knew, and the flood was running with the full
weight of the Mississippi heaped behind it.

But the barn-roof swung, and he caught a corner of it with his
left hand. He had to let go of the dog to do that, and the dog
yelped miserably as the current carried him away.  Sherry did not
like half-doing things.  Or it was possibly the streak of
sentiment, that gave his father so much uneasiness.  He went back
for the dog.

Then the roof swung around again toward him in the vortex of the
flood.  He seized the side of it--threw the dog up high and dry--
and hauled himself out with his last remaining strength.  After
that he did not remember much for a long time, except that he was
sleepy and that the sky turned around and around overhead.

Chapter XVI.

Sherry and nuts.

A cold wet nose thrust into her ear awoke Jacqueline.  She tried
to brush it away and go on sleeping, for there was a rather
delightful sensation of being rocked gently in a cradle, although
her left hip ached a little where she lay on something hard.  But
the wet nose reasserted itself several times, and she opened her
eyes;  whereat a mongrel dog promptly began licking her face, and
she was aware of brown water everywhere, and a blue sky overhead.

The funny part was that she felt--if not exactly happy--
confident;  perhaps because the dog was friendly;  first
impressions when you wake make a world of difference.  She sat
up, pulled her shoes off, and poured the lees of water out of
them.  She was wet to the skin, but not so very wet;  her clothes
felt as if they were drying--tickled horribly, and she stood up
to let the wind blow through them.

That gave her a view of the whole horizon, for the low-pitched
roof on which she found herself was slowly revolving in mid-
stream.  There was a shore on either side, but a long way off,
and there seemed no end to the water in the direction the roof
was taking.

"Consuelo!" she called.

Then she remembered that Consuelo was certainly drowned--and felt
very sorry for Consuelo, but not for herself--and wondered why
not.  What she did not know was that she had been crushed to the
limit of endurance, that youth was now asserting its resilience
and that there would come a sort of ground-swell of depression
presently.  She tried to feel ashamed of not wanting to cry
because Consuelo had gone with every other thing she ever cared
for.  But she could neither cry nor feel ashamed.

Then she felt hungry and wondered if the dog was hungry too.  The
dog had climbed up to the ridge of the roof and was barking.  He
disappeared over the top, was gone a minute and returned to bark
at her again.  He was a shaggy affectionate fool of a mongrel
dog, of the sort that you like in spite of him, or because of his
comic lack of anything resembling class.  Again he disappeared,
and returned, barking.  There was something on the other side of
the roof, she supposed.  It might even be Consuelo.  Her heart
leaped at that thought.  She climbed up on hands and knees to
see, tearing her stocking on a shingle-nail.

She checked a scream, and her blood ran cold as she peered over
the top, for a young man's face looked into hers hardly two feet
away.  He, had a crumpled collar--a two days' growth of dark
whiskers--and his coat was hanging to his waist from his belt.
He looked as annoyed to see her as she was to discover him;  and
the fool dog stood on the ridge between them wriggling with
delight and trying to lick both their faces.  Some one had to
speak.  One says idiotic things on such occasions.

"I was looking for Consuelo," she remarked.

"Oh, are you Miss Conchita?"


"Oh!  Well, your mother's all right.  I fished her out with a
boat-hook.  She's ashore somewhere and being looked after.
Better sit on the ridge, hadn't you?  It's easier.  Here, use my

He undid his coat from the belt and made a cushion for her on
the ridge.

"There.  Sit on that."

It was interesting to be ordered about, and she was too dazed to
resent it.  She sat facing one way, and he perched himself on the
ridge about two yards away from her, facing the other way.  Then
he called the dog and began petting him.

"Had a long swim, didn't you, doglums!"

She wondered what sort of a person he was.  You could not
possibly tell from his clothes, for they were wrinkled and
soiled;  and the two days' growth of whiskers made him look
rather tough.  But he spoke nicely, although his voice was a
shade sullen, and he was certainly kind to the dog.

"What are we going to do?" she asked him presently.

"Sit here, I suppose.  This roof'll hit something sometime."

"Can't you swim?" she asked.

"Yes, but I can't leave you here."

She did not feel embarrassed--and he did, which was funny.  It
ought to have been the other way around, for it was the first
time in all her life that she had been alone with a male of
anywhere near her own age.  She did not dare to ask about
Consuelo, for fear of being questioned in turn;  she had begun to
remember that she mustn't tell any one who she was, and his one
idea seemed to be to avoid saying anything, if possible.  She
decided she was not a bit afraid of him, and wondered again and
again whether, after all, it would not be safe to ask about
Consuelo, but decided not to for a while.  But she thought he was
distinctly rude.

"Is this your roof?" she asked him presently.

"No," he said looking at her sharply.


"Oh, I thought perhaps it was."

He laughed at that, and though the tone of it was hardly
courteous his whole face lit up when he smiled, and she decided
at once that she liked him.

"I beg pardon," he said.  "Haven't I done what I can to make you
comfortable?  Would you like my shirt too?"

He looked as if he expected her to say yes, and for the life of
her she did not know why she was not angry with him.  But
something rather wistful about his mouth and eyes made her keep
on looking at him when she thought he was not looking at her;
and that was quite easy to do, because he seemed to turn his eyes
the other way as much as possible.

"Have you lost everybody, too?" she asked at last.

"No," he said curtly, then glanced at her sharply again.

"I told you your mother's safe.  She's dry by now."

It was on the tip of her tongue to say that Consuelo was not her
relative, but she suddenly remembered the shrieking headlines of
the newspaper, and in a panic she decided to say nothing.  He
played with the dog until the dog crawled on to his lap, curled
up and went to sleep.

"What is the dog's name?" she asked at last, feeling that was
surely a safe subject.

"I don't know."

"Isn't he your dog?"

"From now on yes, probably.  I fished him out of the water."

"Oh, then let's give him a name!"

"Not 'Buster'!" he said instantly.  "Every dam-dog anybody finds
gets called that."

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Mansfield--Sherry Mansfield.  San Francisco's my home.  Sorry--I
ought to have mentioned it."

"Sherry?  That's rather nice.  Nuts go with sherry, don't they?
Call him 'Nut.'"

He nodded, reappraising her.  "His name is Nut from now on," he
answered.  "What's yours?  I've told mine."

He looked straight at her and she shrank back with reawakened
panic--fearing above all that he might see that she was afraid.
So that little frown that always mocked her real emotion began
dancing above the blue eyes, and he thought she was puzzled by
his own stupidity.

"Oh, of course," he said, "I remember.  Conchita--let's see, what
was your mother's name--Martinez--Conchita Martinez then.
Spanish, eh?"

"Spanish ancestry," she answered, wondering at her own readiness,
and thankful she had not told a downright lie.  The Lanier blood
is mixed of French and Spanish and New England.

"Your mother looked more like a--"

"Like a Dago?" she suggested, looking mischievous.  Anything to
keep him going!

"More like a Spaniard than you do," he said, laughing.  "My own
folks come from England, but we're mixed up like all the rest.
I'd a hot tamale grandmother--never saw the lady, but they say
she turned my granddad's head over the top of a fan in Mexico
City, and killed him finally."

"Oh!  How old was he when--"

"When he checked out?  Ninety.  They say he died all tired out."

He was perfectly serious.  Her little answering bubble of
laughter puzzled him, and that made her laugh all the more, until
it got beyond control, and the dog woke up and wagged his tail,
and barked in sympathy.  So Sherry Mansfield had to laugh too.
She did not sound hysterical, although she felt so.

"Hey!  We're going to miss it!" he said suddenly, and jumped
up.  "Give me your hand--quick!  Bring my coat!  Where are
your shoes?"

"I've got them."

"Come on now--and jump when I tell you!"

She could jump and she did not need assistance.  But she liked
the way he told her to carry his coat, and she liked the way he
thought about her shoes;  so she let him hold her hand, and ran
down the roof beside him.  They had drifted close to a barn that
stood hay-loft-high out of the water, and the roof they were on
was slowly swinging so that a corner of it would miss the barn by
not much.

"Now never mind if you fall in--I'll look after you.  Come
here, Nut!"

He picked up the dog and seized Jacqueline unceremoniously by
the wrist.


They jumped in together through a hay-loft door, the dog
struggled free from Sherry's arms to go careering about, barking
at imaginary rats and what not.  At one end there was a sort of
cubicle without a door, and the rest of the space was a kind of
general storehouse, in which all sorts of odds and ends looked as
if they had been accumulating for a generation.  There was very
little hay.  The cubicle faced a stair-head and Sherry went at
once with a businesslike air to see where the stairs might lead
to.  He turned back looking glum.

"The second step down's under water," he said.  "We're
still marooned."

Jacqueline shrugged her shoulders, which seemed to surprise him.
He returned to the open door and swung himself outward to look
for a means of escape;  but there was nothing in view except
water, and beyond that miles of mud.  Suddenly the dog began
barking furiously in a corner where the hay was heaped, and
Jacqueline ran to see what the matter might be.

"Quickly-call him off!" she cried out.

"What's wrong?"

"Cat--and bits of baby kittens!"

Sherry came over and watched the engagement.  Nut knew better
than to go too near.  The cat and five kittens had their backs up
against the hay.  Nut was satisfied to annoy them from outside

"Call Nut off!" Jacqueline insisted, down on her knees, trying to
soothe the cat's fears.

"I wouldn't worry if I were you," Sherry answered rudely.

Jacqueline heaped the kittens into her lap and drove Nut away
with a broken piece of wood, the first thing handy.

"What do you mean?" she asked, looking up at Sherry with puzzled
frown, that he thought mocked him.

"I mean she's not a woman, she'll look after her own young," he

"Will you keep the dog away?" she demanded.

She felt her own temper rising.  Something in his manner, rather
than his words, had stung like a rebuke, and she was not in the
least accustomed to being rebuked by strangers.

Not answering, he found a piece of twine and tied Nut to one of
the cubicle stanchions.  Then he began whistling as if he had
forgotten the incident altogether and started to explore the

"Oh, good!" he called out.  "Eats!  Lots of 'em!  These coons
seem to cache stuff just like magpies!  Nearly a whole case of
canned soup--peanuts--stale bread--soap--shaving-brush--oh, hell!
Just my luck:  It's an old-fashioned one."

"Old-fashioned what?"

"Razor.  I use a safety.  And there's no mirror.  Damn!"

"It looks like a coon's shaving brush!" she said, coming to peer
over his shoulder.

"I don't care if a dozen coons have used it.  I'm going to shave!
Maybe you'd like to eat, though.  I'll open a can of soup."

"No, you may shave first.  Perhaps you'll talk more nicely when
you look clean."

He flashed another of his sudden, searching glances at her.

"Have I been rude?" he said.  "I'm sorry."

But again, in a moment, he seemed to dismiss the thought from
mind.  Next minute he was whistling again, and trying to sharpen
the razor on an old piece of leather harness.

"Care if I do this in this light?" he asked.  "If I bleed much
you can look the other way."

He smiled as he said that, and she knew intuitively that however
he might talk, he was no savage.  She guessed he would not
willingly hurt anything or any one--unless perhaps himself.

"You might wait behind the partition," he suggested.

But the cubicle was dark and rather smelly.  She preferred to
watch him, and sat down in the hay beside cat the and kittens.
She had seen men being shaved through barber-shop windows on her
rare visits to New Orleans, and had watched the negroes shaving
one another in the   lane outside the shacks on Don Andres'
estate;  it had always struck her as a comical performance, but
reaction from the terror she had passed through made this one
seem utterly ridiculous.

"Let me help," she suggested, giggling.

"Wish you'd find a mirror!" he answered testily.

He lay on his stomach and leaned as far as he dared out through
the barn door, trying to see his reflection in the muddy water.
But that was no good;  he could not even use his arms in that
position, and he was getting angrier every minute.  Jacqueline,
sputtering with laughter, went and hunted in the cubicle, but the
nearest thing she could find to a mirror was a soup-can.  She
held that, end toward him;  but the tin was too dull, and
she could not hold it nearly still enough because of
suppressed giggles.

"Damn!" he exploded at last.  "I wish I hadn't begun this."

"Shall I try to finish it?" she asked him.

"Yes!  You can't do worse than I've done!"

She had not expected him to answer yes, and she would have given
a million dollars that minute, if she had them, to take her words
back.  But he pulled out a box, and sat on it with his face to
the light in such a matter-of-fact, determined way that she did
not see how to refuse.  She wondered what Consuelo would think
about it, if she knew, and that made her smile.

"Dip your brush in the water at the foot of the stairs and
put more soap on first," he said.  "Then scrape the soap off
with the edge of the razor.  Never mind if I swear--I don't
mean anything."

She had never been spoken to exactly like that before in all her
life.  There was not a trace of flattery or of anything false or
assumed in his manner.  He addressed her as an equal, except that
he gave her orders;  and he even gave orders as if it were the
most natural thing in the world, with no possibility of his
attitude being misunderstood.  She could imagine him taking
orders from some one else in the same way.

It was the strangest experience she had ever had, but she left
off laughing, for in a convent they do not teach you how to shave
men and she was mortally afraid of cutting him.  She remembered
having seen old-fashioned prints in which the barber held his
victim by the nose (presumably to keep his head from waggling)
and she wondered whether he would be able to breathe if she did

"Carve away!" he urged.

So she tried holding his nose, and he laughed so that she nearly
dropped the razor.

"If I'm not to hold your nose, how are you to keep your head
still?" she asked after one or two dangerous experiments.  "Oh,
look! I've got some hair off already!"

She showed him the hairs on the razor-edge.  "But you'll have to
hold still, you know."

He tried leaning back with his head against the side of the barn,
but she could not get at him that way.  He tried' standing up,
but that was worse.  Finally he sat down on the box again, and
leaned against her, letting his head fall back against her
shoulder, she steadying herself with one knee on the box behind
him.  Which was a rather intimate arrangement, but it worked.
She made a few small cuts on his cheek but shaved him clean, and
laughed triumphantly.

"I'm much obliged," he said, and went to wash the soap and blood
off at the stairway.  Jacqueline watched him with her frown going
sixteen to the dozen.  Some how he might have said more than
that.  He might have looked back at her and smiled.  And yet--he
did not give her the impression now of being rude exactly.  All
of the men she had known hitherto would have spent the time
loading her with compliments, and yet not one of them would have
inspired her with the confidence that this blunt individual did.
She would have felt afraid to be alone with any of the others.
She did not feel alone with this man--did not need the least
protection from him--knew she could trust him absolutely.

Then came one of those strange freaks of memory, that persist in
the most unlikely places, apropos of nothing.  Sister Michaela's
gray eyes, and sober face, and quiet voice

"Trust your intuition, Jacqueline!"

And she in a barn--with a man--with the floods all around, and no
relief in sight--and a soapy razor in her hand!  She looked at
the razor wondering.  What had Desmio meant when he said the
world was dangerous?  It did not seem to be!

Sherry Mansfield broke into her reverie by bringing out three
cans of soup and opening them with a broken axe.  There were no
plates or spoons.  They had to dip stale bread into the stuff,
and use fingers, and laugh, and act like savages, feeding Nut and
the cat between-times, and discovering that Nut could do tricks.
Then peanuts for dessert, and soup brown water to drink that
Sherry dipped up in one of the empty cans and swore was better
than the coffee they gave him in France.  She hoped Consuelo was
having real bread and hot coffee.  She felt she had known Sherry
a hundred years when the meal was over, and, girl-like, wondered
whether he might be the individual who got the socks she
knitted during the war.  She even asked him whether he thought
it possible.

"Dunno," he answered.  "I know I got some awful misfits."

Not a shadow of a smile.  He was stating a fact simply.

"Have you a mother?" she asked him suddenly.  It was the subject
of socks that connected up the train of thought.  She was
thinking wildly of anything that would keep the past out of her
mind and was only putting the first question that occurred to her
as she sat watching him from the other end of the hay bale.  He
looked as if he had a mother.

But the very mention of the word brought a frown to his face.  He
got up without answering her, and went to rummage in the cubicle,
turning things over and taking a long time about it.  He seemed
to spend as much time in there as he could find excuse for,
rearranging everything, and setting the cans of soup in a row
along the wall.  When he came out at last his manner was distant.
He said nothing, but went and stood in the doorway with his hands
in his pockets, staring out at the flood.

She felt sorry for him and wondered why.  He was rude, and she
should have been angry.  But his face, as he watched the water,
had resumed that wistful expression she had noticed when they
first met, and the effect it had on her was to make her feel he
needed sympathy.

She found him so intensely interesting that he helped her to
forget her own predicament, and only wondered how she could find
out what the matter was with him without offending him once more.
It hurt her to offend him as much as it seemed to hurt him.  For
all his bluntness he seemed astonishingly sensitive--in fact he
seemed to try to cover it up with bluntness.

Sherry Mansfield watched the frown over her eyes with deep,
almost embarrassing interest.

"What puzzles you?" he asked at last.

"You, Mr. Mansfield!"

"I don't feel like a mystery.  What's the conundrum?"

"I was wondering--don't be angry, please--"

"Go on.  Ask anything.  What is it?"

"Are you--I promise not to tell, but--that is--have you, done
anything bad?  Are you dangerous?  I don't mean that, I mean--"

His roars of laughter stopped her--huge, amused, immense
laughter, followed by a look of pity that cut her to the bone,
although he meant it kindly and she knew it.  He got up, looked
about him, and brought her the razor, holding it out on the palm
of his hand.

"Take this and keep it by you to protect yourself!" he
said, grinning.

She took the thing and flung it through the open door into the
flood.  She rose and tried to glare at him.  But the glare would
not work;  the frown danced funnily above the blue eyes and
brought an answering smile from him.

"Now you can't shave me any more!" he said.

"At least you know I'm not afraid of you!" she retorted;  but she
could not make it sound brave, for her voice was choking.

"If I thought you were afraid of me I'd swim off and leave you,"
he answered, puzzled.

She was panic-stricken instantly.  She would kill herself if left
alone with her own thoughts.  She sat down on the hay and started
crying, hating herself, yet crying more the more she struggled
not to.  She felt suddenly alone, and sick at heart--aching,
yearning to be comforted.  She longed for Consuelo.  The dog came
and pushed his nose between her hands.  She hugged him to
herself, squeezing him so tightly that he whimpered.  She wished
this man would go away leave her--swim off as he had threatened
to.  But he kept on standing near her, not touching her or saying
anything, but just standing still.  Perhaps he was waiting for
his dog.  She let the dog go.

"Say:  please tell me what it's all about," Sherry asked at last,
in a different tone of voice to any he had used yet.  She shook
her head violently, her face between her hands, wishing he would
not stand there.

"Is it me?  Have I done anything?"

His appeal was simply pitiful;  she could not endure it.  She
left off crying as suddenly as she had begun, and sat up, staring
at him through the tears.

"Why did you laugh at me?" she asked.  "You looked sad and I was
sorry for you.  Weren't you cruel to laugh?"

He looked utterly incapable of cruelty;  that truth forced itself
on her as he stood dumbly wondering what to say.  He looked like
a big bewildered boy with his eyes full of tenderness.

"I don't see why you felt sorry for me," he said, as if he were
groping for the reason.  "I know I feel mighty sorry if I've made
you feel badly.  I don't know what I did.  Won't you tell me?"

Neither did she know what he did, now that he asked her!  She
only did know that she felt compassion for him--that his
tenderness and his wistfulness, so utterly different from the
other brusk manner, were due to some great grief inside him.  Her
heart told her that.

He sat down on the other end of the hay-bale, waiting for her to
tell him wherein he had wronged her, as puzzled as she was, only
much more master of himself.

"I think you ought to tell me," he said quietly.

There was nothing to tell!  She watched him for a full long
minute, he keeping his eyes averted in order not to increase her
embarrassment.  She began to feel not embarrassed, and to know
that he was to understand that she had injured him, not he her.

"What did you mean--?" she asked suddenly;  then stopped.  It was
none of her business after all.  He was a stranger.  He had
respected her privilege--had asked her nothing that she might not
care to answer.

"Ask anything you like," he said quietly, still looking straight
in front of him.  "I'll answer if I can."

"What did you mean by saying what you did about the cat and
her kittens?"

His eyes looked swiftly, straightly into hers.  They were
challenging--on guard instantly.  Her frown was     working busily,
but it had begun to dawn on him that it might not mean mockery,
else why the tears?  The blue eyes underneath were brimming with
honesty.  Wondering, she watched the change of his expression, as
he deliberately lowered his guard.  He had made up his mind to
trust her--she knew it--thrilled.

"I'd bore you if I told you that."

"No you wouldn't!" she answered, pleading with him and when
Jacqueline was in that mood none less adamant than Donna Isabella
could resist.

"You recall you asked me if I have a mother?"

She nodded.  The dog came and fussed with her.  She laid a hand
on him to keep him still.

"Well, I have--or I had--I don't know which to call it."  He was
looking away again and his lips were set as if he hated to tell
what was coming.

"I knew my mother until I was nine years old.  She meant a lot to
me.  I loved her.  So did dad.  She left him--quit him and me.
He divorced her.  Now you know."

"But--but why did she go away?"

"God knows.  Dad says because she was a woman!  She broke his
heart all right, and he's a man, mind you."

"Because she was a woman?"

"Sure.  Woman are the only creatures, except fish and alligators,
that desert their young!  That cat wouldn't.  She'd fight

"So--so you hate all women?"

"No.  I'd find it easy if I did.  But I've seen what happened to
dad.  And if she--my mother--acted that way, where are you going
to draw the line?"

"You hate your mother?"


Jacqueline let out a huge sigh of relief, that made him look at
her again.  The frown was busy but he could not doubt her eyes.
He was conscious that he had not half-explained himself and went
on, forcing out the words, but looking straight at her now.

"You see--when you love anybody that much--and--she deserts you--
you don't care to talk about it, but you can't grin even when you
think about it.  Get me?" he ended savagely.

"Are you sure she--deserted you, as you call it?"

"She went away.  She left us flat--and not a word
of explanation."

"Perhaps it was something she couldn't explain."

Sherry stared at her.  There was a choke in Jacqueline's voice as
she went on:

"It has happened to women that they were forced into a position,
in which no explanation was possible or would do any good--
because they wouldn't be believed.  So they just ran away, and
said nothing--and tried to forget."

"She forgot me all right!"

"Are you sure!"

He nodded.

"Have you forgotten her?"

"You see I haven't."

"Then how do you know she's forgotten you, Mr. Mansfield?"

He got up and began to walk about the floor, with his head down
and his hands behind him.

"I hadn't thought of that," he said, flashing another of his
swift penetrating glances at her.

"I feel quite sure your mother's a darling," she said with the
all-challenging conviction of innocence and seventeen.

He stopped and stood in front of her again.

"All I know is, she made dad bitter--and he's made me bitter--and
it stays put.  He did it thoroughly.  Most women don't make any
difference.  But I can't talk to a woman I like real well,
without the image of my mother cropping up, and coming in
between.  There's nothing to it after that.  I quit."

He went to the door--sat down with his back against the frame--
found a can of damp tobacco and his pipe--and, smoked in silence,
staring out at the flood.

"Some one'll come sometime," he said at the end of ten minutes.

Then, at the end of twenty minutes more:

"Tell me when you want something to eat."

Half an hour after that he again found his tongue:

"I'll fix you a soft place in the hay whenever you feel like
lying down.  Say:  look at that cat and dog!"

Cat, dog and kittens were all coiled up in a lump together,
fast asleep.

Chapter XVII.

"Who'd believe a word of it?"

Perhaps it was the dog and cats.  Force of example is enormous.
There was Brace and the spider, for instance.  We are as easily
moved by trifles into courses as a horse is by heel and rein.

It grew dark, and Sherry Mansfield opened more soup, arguing that
they must eat while they could see to do it.  Then he found a
pitchfork, broke up the bale of hay, and arranged a comfortable
bed for Jacqueline.

"Where are you going to sleep?" she demanded.

"Oh, anywhere.  I'll be all right."

"I'm not going to take all the hay and leave you uncomfortable,"
she answered.

"I'll have to watch for rescue-parties.  They'll be coming with
searchlights before long."

"I'll sit up, too."  She did not dare to lie down in darkness,
for fear of the thoughts that might overtake her.

"I won't let you sit up."

She went over to the door and stood there watching the first pale
stars appear.  Sherry went on forking hay, piling it into a heap
against the wall and spreading it.  "There," he said at last,
"it's all ready."

"I told you, I don't want to."

He came over and stood beside her in the doorway, leaning on the
pitchfork, smiling.

"I say, don't let's quarrel."

She could not help smiling when he did.

"Make a bed for yourself," she answered.

"There isn't enough hay for two.  We'd both be cold and
comfortless instead of one of us.  What's the use?  You're
the woman."

"That's not my fault, Mr. Mansfield."

"But you are."

Undoubtedly she was.  She sat down in the doorway with her back
against the frame and hands crossed over her knees.

"Look.  The moon's rising," she answered.  The moonlight was wan
and lonely-looking but better than the darkness.

Sherry was totally uninterested in the moon.  He walked back to
the hay and prodded it in the dark.  The dog yelped.

"Damn!" he grumbled.  "The whole menagerie has gone and camped
on your bed.  Can you beat that?  She's toted all her kittens
up here!"

"Did you hurt Nut?" she asked anxiously.

"No, nothing serious--just struck him sidewise with a prong.  Get
off that hay, you rascal!"

"No, let them all stay there.  I'm not going to use it."

He walked back to the doorway, and sat down facing her.

"Now listen, Miss Martinez, won't you be reasonable?" he began.
He could see her face quite clearly in the moonlight now, and she
could see his.  He looked delightfully worried, and that was
satisfying, though she did not know why.  Reason did not enter
into it.

"Why don't you lie down?" she suggested. "I'm not tired yet."

There was a long pause.  He found his pipe and began smoking.

"I believe you are afraid of me," he said after a while.

Jacqueline was looking at the moonlight on the water, but she
knew he had not once taken his eyes off her face.

"Not one little, tiny bit!" she answered, still not looking at

"You're quite right, of course--and yet--I suppose--somehow, you
ought to be," he said awkwardly.

"Why?" she asked, meeting his eyes at last.  She was not afraid
of him, she would be terrified if he should go away and leave
her.  The frown began working overtime.

He did not answer, and there was another long silence, broken
only by the lapping of water, and a rustling as the dog settled
down more snugly into the hay.

"I'm damned if I see any sense in this!" he said, looking at
her suddenly.  "The dog and the cats are the only ones who
are scoring!"

"I'm going to sit here just as long as you do!" she answered.

Jacqueline did not know just why she said that, except that it
was interesting to oppose him and see him frown.  She wondered at
herself.  She knew that if she could only contrive to let
Consuelo know she was all right she would not feel downhearted in
the least--only frightened of her own thoughts.  She began to
hope there was only an allowance of so much misery to each
individual, and she had used all hers.

"Why should you worry about me?" she asked him.  He flashed
another of his sharp glances at her.

"Don't you women like us to worry about you?"

She had not grown used yet to being spoken of as a woman.
But she confessed to herself that she felt like one;  she
had left the convent days, years behind, although only the
day before yesterday--

She checked that thought.  It hurt.  She did not dare to
look backward.

"Do you worry about your mother?" she asked him.

"Always.  I can't talk to dad about her, for he simply blows up.
But I'm always wondering where she is, and what she's doing--and
whether she'd laugh if she knew I worried--and--"

"Oh, I know she wouldn't!"

"How do you know?  According to dad, you women are all alike, and
you like nothing better than to have a man eating his heart out.
He says the best of you are like that secretly, only some of you
can keep up the pretense longer than others."

"Do you believe him, Mr. Mansfield?" she asked;  if he could have
seen her frown he might have thought his father was quite right
after all.  But all he could see was her eyes.  They were

"Sometimes," he answered.  "Dad's dead wise about most things."

"I think you're both horrid!" she exploded.

She got up, and walked over to the hay, where she lay down
presently between the animals and the wall, grateful for the
cat's luxurious purring because it made her feel less lonely, and
watching Sherry's silhouette against the stars in the doorway.
She did not think he was horrid, but it made her angry that he
should deceive himself with such thoughts.  And then she began to
worry because she knew that Consuelo would be worrying.  Poor
Consuelo would think she was drowned and would be crying.

Sherry sat frowning for a long while in the doorway, and at last
relit his pipe.  He supposed she was right;  he was horrid--felt
so, anyway.  Well, he couldn't help that.  Dad had lectured him,
and shown him God knew how many hundred examples in print, and
had told him he must cut women out of his life until he was at
least thirty--had even made that condition of advancement on the
Tribune.  He supposed a fellow must pay a price for everything,
and it was best, no doubt, that this girl should think him a
monster.  He only wished he thought the same of her!  He did
not--damn it!

He was a fool not to swim away and leave her.  Should he do that?
Absolutely no!  There was not one hint of a doubt in his mind on
that score!  He had never seen anything in all his life half so
beautiful--and her eyes were incredible--haunted him--they seemed
to hold torture hidden in their blue depths.

Bah!  They were just eyes.  One pair of eyes is the  same as
another, and the whole world is full of them!  But what a strange
thing that hers should be that fathomless blue when her mother's,
he remembered, were brown and quite ordinary.  She did not
resemble her mother in any way in fact.  This girl, even in
crumpled dress and disordered hair, seemed to have breeding in
every inch of her;  and she spoke deliciously--no other word for

Damn!  He would think about somebody else.  For instance, Wahl.
He wondered what Wahl was doing.  Had the Limited got through?
Or had the track been washed away, and was Wahl back again
covering the flood-stuff after all?  It made him smile to think
of Wahl doing the story he despised so heartily.

Then--he heard her crying.  It was unlike the outburst of the
afternoon that had held the reaction of hysteria.  It was
stealthy--as if she were afraid he would hear--and pitiful and
forlorn, broken now and then by sobs that brought back memories
of a big room--solitude--and a child sobbing for his mother.

He crossed to her, cursing himself for a thoughtless brute, and
knelt beside her.

"Oh, I say--Miss Martinez--don't cry.  Are you worried about
your mother?"

The crying stopped.  Jacqueline became still--he could sense the
effort for control.

"Have I been rude again?"  She shook her head.  "I'm sorry.
Would you like me to talk to you?  Would that help any?"

A hand, tear-wet from being beneath her cheek, touched his.
"Nobody can help me, Mr. Mansfield, and please don't worry.  You
must be tired.  There's lots of room for you on the outside of
the hay."

He was dumb for nearly half a minute.  Was his father right?  Or
was he right?  He was willing to bet she was as innocent as her
voice sounded.  And he knew his own attitude.  But would he be
doing the right thing to accept the invitation?  Suppose some one
came and found them?  Suppose Wahl found them!

"I can't see you in the dark," he said at last.  "I might crowd
you or roll over on the cats or something."

"Be careful then!" she answered.

Well--that was a sensible answer.  Maybe the most sensible thing
to do was to take her at her word and lie down.  He crawled on to
the outside edge of the pile, and after he had done pulling hay
out of his ears and neck, lay for a long time listening to her
breathing, and to the occasional rustling of the menagerie that
lay between them, and then at last his own weariness overcame him
and he fell asleep.

When he awoke it was just beginning to be daylight.  He felt
something on his shoulder that touched his chin, and thought for
a second it must be the dog who had wearied of the cats' company.
He was going to shake it off, when it occurred to him it could
not be the dog--not heavy enough--not hairy.  Hardly moving his
head, he managed to look slantwise along his face.  Jacqueline's
fingers were touching his chin.  Her arm was on his shoulder.

He lay still and considered that for a few minutes--liked it
decidedly, but wondered what to do.  At last he turned over,
inches at a time.  She was lying face toward him, fast asleep,
with a great lock of dark hair falling loose over her shoulder,
and her head pillowed on his folded jacket.  She looked as if she
had been crying again, but that, he figured, was impossible--he
would have heard her.  The cats and dog were equally fast asleep
in a glomeration near her knees.  He managed to roll clear
without waking her, and spent five minutes in mid-floor studying
the situation.

"Who'd believe a word of it?" he asked himself.  "Not Wahl, at
any rate!"

"That girl's good!" he muttered.  "She's O.K.  I wish I knew
what's wrong!"

Then Nut woke up and yawned, and the cat followed suit;  but
Jacqueline went on sleeping.   Sherry went to the door and stared
out at the flood, but there was no relief in sight.

He tried to see around the barn, but failed, so stripped off
everything except his underclothing and plunged in, Nut
following.  But although he swam around the barn he did not learn
much, except that the flood-water was wider than he thought.
They seemed to be about two miles away from the nearest shore.

Even Nut, barking and shaking himself, did not wake Jacqueline.
That did not happen until the kittens started climbing all over
her and she sat up, slipping them.  But she buried her face in
the folded coat again, at once.  Sleep--why couldn't she sleep
forever?  She felt she could not bear the load of returning
consciousness.  Memory made her brain ache and her heart numb.
It was long, long minutes before she recalled who Sherry was, and
that he had been kind to her the day before.  She wished though,
that he would not stand there looking at her.

"Don't you wish we had some coffee?" asked Sherry.

He felt overwhelmingly sentimental all at once, and extravagant.
He would like to give that girl not only coffee but coffee in a
Dresden china cup, served on snow-white napery amid luxurious
surroundings.  She ought to be wearing wonderful clothes, and to
have servants waiting on her.  She ought to have everything her
heart desired.

After breakfast he found some old nails, and with the aid of
broken bits of wood contrived steps by which to climb on to the
roof.  She insisted on climbing up after him, and he was
surprised by the thrill it gave him to put his arms under hers
and lift her bodily up the last stage of the climb.  He had
danced with scores of girls, and lifted lots of them over awkward
places;  most of them had annoyed him--one, he recalled--had
kissed him;  and nine out of ten had expected to be kissed, or at
least flirted with.  He had never experienced this thrill before,
or the feeling that he held something precious in his arms.  It
made him speechless.

They sat together on the roof, until the sun got too hot,
watching for rescuers;  but none came within hail, although they
saw boats moving in the distance.  There was no doubt they would
be rescued before long, and he wondered vaguely why he did not
welcome the thought.  Several times, when he turned to look at
her, he discovered she was looking at him, which embarrassed both
of them, and they both pretended at once that they were looking
at something else.

"You'll get sunstroke if you sit here any longer," he said at
last.  "I'll help you down."

"Thanks, I'm used to the sun."

"Nonsense!  You've no hat.  Give me your hand, and I'll lower you
to the top step.  Both hands!"

He was as masterful as if he owned her, and as considerate as if
she owned him!  He had to kneel, and her laughing blue eyes came
close to his.  He could have kissed her easily--would have loved
to--she was adorable as she smiled up at him with parted lips.
And he knew he would no more kiss her than let her fall.

When he reached the hay-loft he sat down in the doorway and began
smoking--not that he wanted to smoke, or that tobacco tasted
good, but because he felt the need of mastering himself and of
studying the situation.

Damn!  He would see straight or bu'st!  Here was a girl--Gosh,
what a girl!  Prettier than blazes--breeding in every inch of
her--and plucky--There he was again, looking at only one side
of it!

Spike that--admit it if you like--who is she?  How much did he
know about her?  Nothing!  Funny old fat mother with hysterics
and elastic-sided boots and cotton stockings.  He smiled as he
remembered the fat legs.

"What are you smiling at?" she asked.

She was sitting on the hay-pile, fooling with the kittens and
keeping the jealous Nut away from them with one hand.

"Oh, was I smiling?  Some darned thought--I forget now what
it was!"

Suppose he should come right out and ask her who she was?  Why
not?  The question would be civil.  He was quite willing to tell
her who he was.  Would it be fair?  Perfectly.  But would it?
And how about her?  She knew nothing whatever about him--except
that he made some beastly rude remarks to her about women in
general.  She was all alone;  and she was trusting him implicitly
had paid him the compliment of never once doubting him.  The
white thing to do was to wait until he found her friends, and had
backing, and could use unembarrassed judgment.  Then--

"Oh, look!" she exclaimed suddenly.  "I've found something for
you to read!  It must have fallen out of your coat pocket."

She held up a folded newspaper, torn and pulpy-looking from
having been soaked through--then suddenly threw it away from her,
biting her lip.  She wished she had bitten her tongue off before
she spoke.  A newspaper meant only one thing to her--Wahl and
his story!

"Let's look through the advertisements!" said Sherry.  He picked
the paper up and sat beside her.

Jacqueline steeled herself and set her teeth.  Sherry unfolded
the paper, back page first, but it was not very legible;  the ink
was rubbed off where the folds had been.  There was a column of
"swaps" that made humorous reading, and he laughed over that for
a while, rather wondering why she did not laugh too.  Then he
turned to the front page, and remembered why Wahl had given him
the paper.

There was a triangular tear extending one-third down the page,
and one illustration was missing;  but Wahl's face was there sure
enough--"our special correspondent"--grinning in his "box" on top
of column one, and most of the headlines were intact.  It was the
story of Jacqueline Lanier, and Sherry in front of Jacqueline--
she looking over his shoulder, with her hair three inches from
his face--began reading it aloud.

It was a full minute before it dawned on him that something was
the matter.  He glanced over his shoulder.  Jacqueline was not
reading the paper;  she was staring at it.  Her hands were
trembling.  Her face was horror-stricken, and deathly white.

"What's wrong?" he asked her.  He was afraid she was going
to faint.

She did not answer.  Instead, she snatched the paper, tore it
down the middle, crumpled it in both hands, and threw it to the
floor, where Nut promptly pounced on it and finished the
destruction, ripping it into a thousand pieces.  Sherry decided
she was not going to faint;  her eyes were blazing with
indignation, and she watched Nut tearing up the paper as if that
gave her comfort.

"Do tell me what's wrong," he begged her.

She made no answer, and the indignation in her eyes seemed to
melt into something else that he could not quite place;  but it
was tragic--he was sure of that.

"Won't you tell me?"

She shook her head.

"Was it the paper?"

She nodded.

He saw tears brimming very near the surface, and knew she was
fighting gamely to keep them back.  He admired that.  He found it
hard to take his eyes off her, she looked so tragically unhappy,
and brave, and more beautiful than anything he remembered to have
seen.  But it was only decent to turn his back, to give her a
chance, he occupied himself with picking up the scraps of
newspaper and throwing them out into the flood.

"Damn that man Wahl!  He's a jinx!" he muttered.  When he turned
at last to look she was still sitting on the hay-pile, staring
straight in front of her, but her expression had changed.  She
looked as if everything she ever loved was lost;  he never saw
such grief, or such a proud, brave air of hopelessness.

"Say," he said, "you stirred my memories yesterday, and did me
lots of good by talking to me about them.  If you'd like to tell
me yours, maybe I can help you."

Her eyes seemed to be searching his desperately.  She was hanging
on to something--hanging on like grim death.

"Did you--did you read that paper?" she asked him breathlessly.

"No--didn't have time to."

He was going to say something else, but checked himself.  The
look of relief that suddenly crossed her face was just as if
acute physical torture had come to an end.

"I'm glad you didn't."


"It was cruel.  I think it was as cruel as what happened to
your mother."

"I don't quite get you.  My mother simply left us--went away
without a word of--"

"I tell you I know she ran away because she simply had to!  There
was no other way out.  She had reached a place where she couldn't
endure life another minute, and she ran--ran--ran--hoping nobody
would ever find or recognize her.  And you all said she was a
criminal.  And then she read the papers, I suppose, and--and of
course she couldn't ever come back."

"But how are the cases similar?  That was the story of a girl
named Lanier, wasn't it?  Wahl asked me to interview her--said
she was a scheming little vamp, who--"

He checked himself again.  There was fear now, as well as anger
in her face.  He had said something that hurt her terribly, he
was sure of that.

"Who--who did you say asked you to interview her?"

"Clinton Wahl.  He's a reporter--special correspondent--just
joined the Tribune.  My dad owns the San Francisco Tribune.  Why-
-why--what's the matter?"

"Nothing, Mr. Mansfield!"

She got up and left him--walked over to the hay-loft door.  For a
moment he thought she was going to throw herself into the water,
and every muscle in his body tightened to spring after her.

But Jacqueline did not do that because she knew very well he
would jump after her.  She had nothing left but pride.  The world
was gone again.  She did not propose to be fished back and made
to face her agony.  Her heart was numb, and her head was dizzy
with that last blow.  But she would face it.  The world might
beat her down;  but she would face it.  Desmio would have
done that.

She would turn and face this gentleman--this kind and most
considerate gentleman--this friend of the devil's own--and not
let him know she was stung in the heart--sick, lonely,
and afraid.

She did turn, standing bravely upright, just fingering the
locket with Desmio's picture in it, because that seemed to
give her courage.

"Isn't it time the animals were fed?" she asked;  and her own
voice surprised her, it was so natural and unstrained.

Chapter XVIII.

"Tell me--Conchita--"

The meal, however, progressed under difficulties.  Even
Nut seemed to sense a tension and refused to sit up or
look interested.

"Maybe he's tired of soup," Jacqueline said, with a wan attempt
at humor.

Sherry's answering laugh failed to suggest mirth.

"I'll go up to the roof and watch for rescuers," he announced,
avoiding her eyes.

Jacqueline made no effort to stop him.  Why should she?  He
wasn't hers.  She had nothing--never could belong to any one--not
even to Consuelo.  All morning and all afternoon she lay, and
tossed, and let her heart ache, hoping it would break and kill
her.  Why had this man been allowed to come into her life to hurt
her cruelly again with the thought of what companionship might
have been?

Sherry swung himself into the doorway at last and stood looking
in her direction, with the evening glow behind him accustoming
his eyes to the darkness within.

"No rescue in sight?" she asked, feeling she must say something;
he looked so solemn and determined.

"No.  Not yet.  At least I haven't seen any--Conchita."

She felt startled--electrified.  She almost jumped, and her heart
beat so that it frightened her.

"That is your name, isn't it?"

"It's one of my names."

She could not lie to him!  She would not lie to him.  If he asked
for her real name, she would simply refuse to answer.

"Would you mind coming over to the light?  I can't see you in
there.  I want to see your face distinctly."

Had he seen that newspaper before it was torn, and was he going
to try to identify her from memory?  If so, she would lie to him!
There she stood looking at him, she against one side of the
frame, he against the other.  It was a long time before he spoke,
even then, but he began with a rush at last, as if he had to
force himself to it and   the resistance had broken suddenly.

"Conchita--I've been pondering all afternoon how to tell you what
I want to say--and I don't know now--but I'm going to say it--and
I want you to listen, please.  And by the way, my name's Sherry.
I don't want you to call me Mr. Mansfield any longer."

Heart-beats--so furious that she could not say a word!  As for
Sherry it was already obvious enough to him that he was in for
failure, so he set his jaw hard.

"Will you please call me Sherry?"

"Yes, Sherry."

Gee!  That sounded better.  Hitherto he had always rather
disliked his name--wished it were George, or Frank, or something

"You don't know much about me--"

Except that she liked him awfully!

"And I don't want you to tell me a word about yourself--until
afterward.  Any one with half an eye can see you're in trouble,
Conchita.  I want you to understand that I'm going it blind--that
I don't know what the trouble is, and don't care, except that I
hate to see you in trouble of any kind.  And it's awful nerve of
me, and all that--I know it is;  and I wouldn't say what I'm
going to, if I wasn't sure you're in a difficulty and may need
some one who has a right to stand by you and raise hell
generally.  I'll stand by you.  I'm good at that."

Good at it?  He looked like bravery itself!  Tears came into her
eyes.  How was she ever going to lie to him?

"You see--I want you to know that I love you as the way I find
you.  I don't care a damn what sort mix-up you've got into;  I'm
for you.  You can tell me all about it afterward;  and when
you've told me, I'll tell you again, what I say now, that I love
you.  But I want you to understand that part first--that there
aren't any strings to it.  I'll fight a way for you out of any
sort of mess."

She could not speak.  She wanted to stop him, but not a word
would come.  She held her hand up, but let it fall again.

He misinterpreted the gesture, naturally.

"Well--I know I have made a bad break, Conchita.  I'd no right to
talk to you this way.  But you've changed my whole ideas about
women.  I know now there's one woman in the world, at any rate,
who isn't mean and selfish;  and you've made me see that my
mother may have been so badly up against it that she couldn't
help herself.  Damn!  I can't put it into words.  I've seen your
soul!  I love you!  There you are.  If I've said anything
offensive--if I've done wrong--I'm sorry.  I haven't meant
to offend."

"Mr. Mansfield--Sherry!  But you haven't!  I'm so grateful I
don't know what to say, but--"

"But what, Conchita?"

It was getting very dark.  He could hardly see her eyes now--only
her outline leaning back against the doorframe, and he thought
she looked more distressed, and terribly weary, than grateful.

"But there are reasons, Sherry--serious reasons why--"

"Why what?"

"Why I can't--"

"Can't what?  You haven't got to tell me anything.  What I've
said stands forever, without--"

"Why I can't!"

"Of course, if you can't love me--is that it?" he asked, and his
tone was resolute;  there was no self-pity in it.

She shook her head.  She could not lie to him.  She meant to say
she did not love him;  but she did--she did!  She loved him
desperately, and her heart was faint at the thought of having to
refuse him.

"That isn't it, Conchita?"

No answer.  She could not speak.  He came a pace toward her, and
she struggled desperately to summon all her resolution--thought
of Desmio--of Sister Michaela--of Consuelo.  Then for a second
Wahl's cavernous eyes leered between her and Sherry;  Sherry's
replaced them, and looked into hers.  She could feel his breath,
and oh! how her heart was beating.  She had no resolution--none
whatever!  She simply loved him.

"Tell me, little girl.  Do you love me, too?"

Silence--averted eyes.

"Conchita--do you?"


Then oh, what utter heaven for a minute as he took her into his
arms!  They were strong arms--comforting--and she could lean on
him.  He was kissing the top of her head, for her face was buried
in his shoulder, and she was not even thinking, she was living.
Desmio seemed quite near--and he was right, wasn't he, after all?
He said, someday there would be another man, and--

"Lookup first, Conchita.  Won't you lookup?"

Their lips had not yet touched when a blinding ray of light swept
by them--back again--wavered a moment, and then played on them
steadily.  Nut began barking.  The light came from a pin-point in
the distance, and they heard the chugging of a motor-launch.

"Damn!" exclaimed Sherry.  "They've come for us!"

They held hands and watched the light.  To Jacqueline it was the
hideous eye of doom--of nemesis, from which there was no escape.
She expected to see Wahl in the launch.  She did not hear what
Sherry said to her although she knew he was saying something;
she stood dumb, numbed again, shuddering at nameless fear.  She
might have known this dream was too good to be true.

"Cold?  Here, put my coat on!"

He slipped the coat over her shoulders, hugged her a moment, and
ran to gather up the cats, herding them into a basket he found on
a nail on the wall.  Then he came back and waited beside her,
holding the dog on a string.

"Soon as we get ashore we'll find your--was that your mother by
the way?"

She did not answer, for a man's voice called out of the night:

"How long have you all been here?  Are you all right?  Just two
of you?  Steady now--back her a bit--that'll do, Mose.  Why--
hello, feller!  You again?"

The inspector of levees, gaunt and unshaven, held out a lean hand
to Jacqueline, and she stepped down into the world she dreaded.
Sherry followed and spilled cats on the seat beside her.

"Go ahead, Mose."

Chapter XIX.

"You to repay--"

The launch ran down a lane between two shimmering reflections of
the watch fires, and shoved its nose into a bank where a state
militiaman leaned on a rifle and yelled "Hi, there!  Here's two
more!"  There was a murmur of voices, and a great deal of moving
to and fro in the shadows between the fires--dogs barking--the
lowing of a cow--a chorus of squalling infants.  Army tents
loomed out of the gloom.  There was a smell of wet clothes, and
hot soup;  and some one--a small boy probably--was beating an
empty bucket with an iron spoon.

"Step lively," advised the militiaman, "there's others waiting."

Jacqueline took Sherry's hand and stepped on to the bank.  Nut
barked like an idiot, and the cats all tried to get out of the
basket at the same time, until Sherry took the lot to a negro
mammy, who laughed and said "La-a-an' sakes!" and walked off with
them, nobody could guess where.

"Back her a bit, Mose!  So-o-easy now.  Go ahead!"

The launch chugged away and was lost between the liquid lanes
of firelight.  Sherry put his arm around Jacqueline's waist
and led her toward a great tree where some boxes were piled
in disorder and another militiaman stood half in shadow with
firelight gleaming on his rifle barrel and on the brass of
his accouterments.

"Now, sweetheart mine," said Sherry, "will you sit on a box right
here while I scout around a bit!  Stay put, though, won't you!
Looks like a thousand people here.  I'll never find you again if
you move away."

He spoke to the militiaman, who nodded.  Jacqueline sat still,
feeling as if she were dreaming, and watched Sherry walk off with
Nut at his heels.  She watched him pass into the firelight by a
tent not fifty paces off, and pause there to ask a question of
some one in the tent.  A man came running out--shook hands with
Sherry.  She felt herself trembling;  but she wasn't cold.  She
had Sherry's coat on.

She heard the man's voice, and thought she recognized it.

"--No, they took no chances--stopped the Limited before the levee
broke, so I had to do flood-stuff after all.  Fair story, too.
Where have you been?  Say:  did you read that newspaper I gave
you?  The Lanier girl bolted--I told you she was a bad lot.  The
latest is that she got caught in the flood and was drowned--
they've found the horses, and got the nigger who drove her.  He
says he thinks she was drowned, but he doesn't know, and I've a
hunch she wasn't.  Now if you can find her, we can make this
flood read like history!"

He turned with his face toward the firelight.  She nearly
screamed.  It was Wahl!

Flight--instant flight--anywhere!  Only a pause for a second to
lay Sherry's coat down on the box.  Then off into the shadows--
running--running.  The militiaman called something after her, but
that only lent her wings.  She was fleet of foot always--ran like
a roused doe--anywhere--out into the night, away from the people
and the fires--away from Wahl, with his ghoul's eyes haunting
her--and the bedroom scene burning in her brain, and Wahl's hand
on her wrist, and his mean voice:  "Now then--out with it!  Tell
me all you know!"

She stumbled--hit things in the dark--ran on, sobbing for breath-
-fell--rose again--was frightened nearly out of her wits by a big
dog that gave chase, but stumbled over a stick, picked it up, and
struck the dog, sending him off yelping--ran on again, and at
last fell breathless at the root of a tree, where she lay sobbing
with a stitch that gnawed her side.  When her head ceased
swimming at last she could see the outline of the camp a mile
away, and people moving back and forth before the fires.

She had no notion what to do, except to keep on going as soon as
her body would let her.  Sherry would tell Wahl about her--why
shouldn't he?--and Wahl would recognize the description.  They
were both newspaper men.  Sherry would believe Wahl.  Of course
he would.  Why not?  So she must never see Sherry again.  And oh,
how that thought hurt.  It was far worse than the pain in her
side.  Never mind, she was glad--she was glad!  He had loved her
for a minute.  She would love him forever!

Up again--voices--she must run.  No path now, only a track that
might lead anywhere, and was full of places where you fell, and
things that stuck out and struck you, and strange noises.  On--
on--stockings torn, hands bruised, and Wahl's face ever behind
her, grinning out from the circle at the top of a page, or
leering at her over Desmio's body.  She could not get away from
him, and yet she must, or she would go mad.

Black darkness--forward!  A blind step--and nothing underfoot--
down--down, forever it seemed--and then soft earth came up and
hit her, and she lay for a minute squeezing mud between her
fingers, moving herself carefully, to learn if anything was
broken.  But she was only bruised, and Wahl was there behind her.
On again!

Then light between chinks in a shutter straight ahead--house?--
cabin?--it was something, anyhow--somewhere to hide.  Perhaps
they would let her stay there a little while, until she was able
to go on again.  She was dreadfully tired.  They wouldn't know
who she was, and she would be gone before morning.  She must
think of something to say though.  Well, she couldn't think just
then.  She would do that later.

What an awful time they were about opening the door!  She could
hear them--could hear them talking.  Wouldn't they ever come?
She would fall down dead, if they didn't open in a minute!  Ah!

Light flashed in her face, and a woman screamed.


She shut her eyes and fell forward into Consuelo's arms, half-
consciously aware of curious faces that peered over-shoulder at
her--and of cigarette smoke--and of a fire that burned brightly
in a grate.  Then she was on the floor, with her head in
Consuelo's lap, and Consuelo sobbing over her, running fingers
through her hair and crying to the Blessed Virgin.  There was a
child fast asleep in blankets before the fire, and some kind of
animal coiled up beside the child.  And she could see a man's
feet;  he had bell-bottomed trousers, and was sitting in a chair
that was tilted backward on two legs.  She wondered how long the
chair would balance that way without falling.  The man was
speaking to some one, and she could not see who the other person
was, but after a while she caught a word or two.  They were
talking some foreign language.  Funny:  it sounded like Spanish,
and yet she could not understand a word of it, although she knew
Spanish rather well.  The man had a pleasant voice;  the other
was a woman's--not Consuelo's, and not so pleasant.  It jarred
a little.

Another funny thing:  she knew that Consuelo understood what they
were saying.  Not that Consuelo joined in the conversation, or
said anything, or made any sign.  She just knew it, that was all,
the way you know things in a dream.  They were talking about
herself, and Consuelo was listening without letting them know she
understood.  She was as sure about that as if Consuelo had told
her so.

Presently the man began to speak in English to Consuelo;  and now
it was Jacqueline's turn to listen without anybody knowing it.
She closed her eyes.  The man spoke as if he were smiling, and
she could almost see him flourishing a cigarette.

"Senora, we have--my mother and I--have made--what is it?--a
spic--no, speculation.  We do ourselves the honor to propose--as
a favor to you--and assuming to ourselves a certain risco--that
if la bella senorita is consenting--you and she--she and you
should favor us with your accompaniment to San Francisco."

"That's a long way.  We've no money," Consuelo answered sternly,
almost belligerently.

"Gracas a Deus, Senora, we--I and my mother, that is--are--less
unfavorably situated.  At the moment we have a small sufficiency.
We do ourselves the honor to propose to you--a small loan--in
proportion to our no great affluency a trifle a mere bagatelle--
in ordinary circumstances--doubtless--beneath your distinguished
consideration--but sufficient for such pressing needs as
billets de voyage.  Repayable--to my mother and to me--at your
honorable convenience."

"And on your terms, I suppose!" Consuelo almost snapped the words
at him.

"The Senora may justly be pardoned for speaking with--acerbity.
But we are not--I and my mother are not--money-lenders.  There
does appear--nevertheless--Senora, the indication of a
predicament, in which you--discover yourself--and out of the vast
fortune that--

"You think you can make money out of us!  How?" snapped Consuelo.

"It amuses the Senora to be sarcastic.  Surely--does the
Senora think--"

"Never you mind what I think just at present, Senor Ramon.
You're not offering to lend me money for my good looks.  What's
in your head?  I'm listening."

The man hesitated.  "You recall, doubtless, Senora, that my
mother and I were privileged to--"

"You were at the wedding, yes."

"La Conchita danced."

"So that's it?  You expect her to go on the stage?  To dance at
garden parties?  To--"

He laughed apologetically.  "Pardon, Senora, one moment!  There
would have to be preliminaries before that could happen.  It is
true, La Conchita dances like a seraph, but the public does not
pay to be entertained seraphically.  There is lacking--what is
the word?--what the French name diablerie."

"You'd like to make her devilish?  The Lord forbid!"

"Senora, it is the--assumption of diablerie that entertains.  The
article itself is of no value.  Permit me to assure you that--the
greater the appearance of diablerie--and the less there actually
is of it--the more the public is eager to pay for admission.  But
surely there is no need to discuss that--my mother and I--"

"You'll have to show me!" snapped Consuelo.

"Senora, why not?  To one of your noted intelligence and serious
concern for the beloved--"

"She's asleep now.  When she wakes, we'll hear what she says.
But understand this, Senor Ramon:  If she accepts any money from
you, she'll never be out of my sight for a minute!"

"Senora, you fill me with admiration!  The adorable Conchita is
indeed fortunate!  My compliments!"

Consuelo seemed to care very little for his compliments.

"Put your proposal into plain words," she demanded.

"A brief memorandum of agreement, Senora.  We--my mother and I--
advance expenses.  You to repay--"

"Suppose we can't repay?"

He laughed that ridiculous suggestion to the four winds.

"Oh--in that case--hah! absurd--why build imaginary pictures?--
still, in that case hah--conceive of it--then I would have to
teach the pep-zip-snap!  Could she not dance!  Is she not
beautiful!  The world is full of money and if we please the
public, some of the money becomes ours--why not?"

Consuelo was merely sparring with him--inclined to clutch at
straws, but thoroughly distrustful.  These people knew who
Jacqueline was, and understood perfectly that she was running
away, and why, for they had seen the newspaper.  Her only chance
of getting them to hold their tongues would be to accept their
proposal, otherwise they would almost certainly give information
for the sake of possible reward.

"Leave us alone.  I will talk to her," she demanded.

"There is but the one room, Senora."

"There is outdoors, isn't there?"

The door was slammed as if one person, if not two, resented an
imposition.  Then Jacqueline opened her eyes--sat up--and looked
around the cabin.

"What place is this?"

"It's a foreman's cabin, dear.  Ramon paid him for the use of it,
so as to get away from the refugees.  Were you asleep, honey, or
were you listening?"

"I heard."

"What do you think of it?"

"I'm not thinking, Consuelo.  I can't.  I want to run
away forever!"

"Honey child, you're starving!  Where have you been?  What
happened?  No, don't tell me now--there isn't time.  We must make
up our minds about Ramon's offer."

Jacqueline had no in intention of telling.  She knew that, if
nothing else.  She would never tell any one in all the world
about Sherry Mansfield.  That was her secret, to be hugged in her
heart and remembered.

"It makes no difference to me what happens, Consuelo, as long as
we go where nobody can find us."

"Listen, honey.  Ramon and his mother were talking Portuguese,
and I understand it, although I can't talk it much.  They think
you'll have money by and by.  Cervanez was saying to Ramon that
you're only running away from scandal, and that's true, honey,
you know that.  Cervanez thinks that sooner or later the lawyers
will have to advertise for you, and then they'll get a big reward
for having taken care of you.  We must do something, honey.  I've
lost the bank-book, and the good Lord knows how long it's going
to take to get my three hundred dollars;  and if I ever get it,
it'll be gone in no time.  We've lost all your jewelry.  We've
simply nothing.  They offer to pay our expenses to San Francisco.
Shall we let them?"

Jacqueline nodded.  There was something about the word San
Francisco that suggested vague forebodings;  but her thoughts
were hardly functioning.  She did not consciously associate
Sherry or Wahl with San Francisco--did not associate them, in
fact, with any place.  Wahl was the devil's own--the absolute of
evil--darkness.  Sherry was heaven's own--light.

"We must run away.  I saw Wahl," she said quietly, and Consuelo
shuddered.  Reason may fail, when fear has become an obsession,
and there was something ominous in Jacqueline's lack of interest.

"I will get you some food now, honey."

Jacqueline shook her head.

Beyond a doubt Consuelo saved Jacqueline's life, for the desire
to live was lacking.  Even seventeen was hopeless.  Hope had to
be supplied by some one else, and no hope could have reached her
without love's all-penetrating flux.  Consuelo alternately
prayed, coaxed, petted, scolded, stormed--came near to slapping
her!--then hugged and babied her back to some semblance
of animation.

But the rest of that night, and all the next day, and the next
were like a waking dream to Jacqueline.  She remembered that at
dawn they began to walk interminable miles, that a monkey sat on
her shoulder part of the time, and that some one named Pepita
cried a great deal and was scolded.  But she had been in a train
two days before she began to respond to Pepita's sympathy;  the
child climbed on her lap and baby-talked in broken English until
Jacqueline found herself responding--and awoke.

It was not until then that she knew how her hands and knees hurt,
where she had bruised them in falling;  or that she was dressed
in Cervanez' second-best skirt;  or that people in the train were
curious about her.  Life began to be interesting--as if she had
died, and were beginning life all over once more somewhere else.
Ramon came in from the smoking-car at intervals and made himself
agreeable.  He was very respectful--called her senorita--and
seemed to be a handsome, care-free, amusing fellow.  When the
train waited in a station long enough, he took them all to the
baggage car to visit with the monkey, who chattered and clung to
Pepita every time, but seemed to like Jacqueline next best.  And
in the dining-car Ramon turned every meal into a great event,
even making funny, little speeches in mispronounced English that
caused roars of laughter.  He was good-tempered even when his
mother, Cervanez, scolded him for extravagance, and no matter how
much Cervanez nudged him, or what pointed hints she let fall, he
always ordered odds and ends of things, such as celery and
olives, that made the fare appetizing.

Although he was Brazilian, not Spanish, he had all the graceful
Spanish manners, and the little, straight side-whiskers he wore
gave him a picturesque appearance that went well with his
laughing eyes and his romantic way of walking.  He did everything
gracefully, even when he gave the dining-car waiter about half
the usual tip, and--although he smoked incessantly he never had
to buy cigars or cigarettes because the men in the smoking-room
forced theirs on him.

"He is perfect--best of all men in the world, my son!" Cervanez
confided in one of her more melting moods.  "Nothing never happen
too bad but he succeed always!  Only always spending too much,"
she added.  "By and by he is spending too much money for you.  I
watch him!"

Pepita, Jacqueline learned, was an adopted orphan whom Ramon
hoped to educate into a great dancer one of these days.

Little by little Jacqueline awoke to what was happening, feeling
her way as it were into a new universe, with which the old had no
connection.  Being naturally strong and healthy, her body
recovered first;  so that Ramon, and others, began to admire her
before her own intelligence made her aware of the fact.  Consuelo
said very little to her on the train, but watched as meticulously
as Cervanez watched Ramon, not knowing whether to be alarmed or
gratified by what she observed.

For a strange process was going on.  Life grows out of death in
every phase of nature, and Jacqueline was no exception.
Protection, seclusion, sheltered affluence all gone;  the past
dead;  the future unrevealed;  a new ability was dawning.  There
was being born in Jacqueline, as gradually yet as certainly as
sap springs in trees at winter's end, a power to adjoin herself
to new conditions.  It came as a shock to Consuelo to discover
that the child had grown into a woman almost overnight, and that
as her brain recovered from its dazed condition she accepted, as
if they were natural, conditions against which the older woman's
habit-bound soul stubbornly revolted.  It began to be Consuelo
who was lonely and bewildered;  Jacqueline who knew how to make
the best of things.

What made it worse for Consuelo was conviction that Jacqueline
was keeping a secret from her;  that in order to keep her secret
she preferred Cervanez' and Pepita's company;  and that the
secret was not just a mood, but something definite that had taken
place.  For you can't deceive an old nurse, though you can keep
her in the dark.

Chapter XX.

"Not easy to trace."

Plunge hot metal into cold water, and you learn its nature.
Steel takes on temper.  Sherry Mansfield talked with Wahl, turned
back to find Jacqueline--and did not lose his head for a fraction
of a second.  But he reacted.  The Gods who forge men on the
anvils of circumstance had chosen good steel--and the moment.

"Where did she go?" he asked the militiaman.

"Search me!  Looked that a-way--seen somethin'--an' jes' ran."

"Which way?"

"Any of way, if you ast me!  Me, I yells to her, but' she's
crazy, I guess.  Skeered out of her wits."

Wahl--slowly for the first ten strides, then swiftly, making no
noise--approached from the direction of the tent, and Sherry was
first aware of him when the militia-man moved his eyes.  He faced
about, conscious of a revolution in his own attitude.  He
suddenly mistrusted Wahl.

 "What's wrong?" Wahl demanded, possessed of a new sharp air of
authority since he had heard from Mansfield senior.

"Nothing serious," Sherry answered.

Wahl disbelieved him.  He had overheard a part of what the sentry
said;  but he also recognized the hint of something sealed in
Sherry's face.  He decided to pump Sherry first, and the sentry

"There's your choice of bootleg, cocoa or coffee in the  tent.
Come and tell me where you've been."

Sherry went with him.  Anything to throw Wahl off the scent.  As
clearly as that pin-point of light from the launch had shone on
the hayloft door, and as suddenly it had dawned on Sherry that
the subject of Wahl's whole front page in the New Orleans Star,
and the girl he knew he loved, might be one and the same.  It was
a shock, and he braced himself to meet it, falling back on
silence which is the first and last resource of strength.

She had not told him her real name, he remembered;  or at least,
she had not stated that her real name was Conchita Martinez.  Was
she Jacqueline Lanier?  Maybe.  Much nicer name!  If so, was she
what Wahl had said she was?  Not if Sherry Mansfield knew
anything!  If she was Jacqueline Lanier, then she needed help;
and if he was Sherry Mansfield, she should have it!

"Cocoa?  Coffee?  Where were you all this time?" Wahl asked him,
offering an empty box to sit on.  "Where did you get that
mongrel?  You've been in the water, I can see that."

"Oh, I swam in after the dog and nearly got drowned, but reached
a floating roof, and lay on that a long time.  Fellow rescued me
in a launch finally."

"Anybody with you?"


"Thought I saw a girl get out of that launch when you did."

"Oh, he rescued her too."

"Before he found you, or afterward?"

"She was in the launch when I got into it."

"Know her name?"


"Good lord, man--and you a reporter!"

"I was nearly drowned," said Sherry.

Wahl turned away, to look at him suddenly sidewise in the
lantern-light.  He was suspicious, and Sherry was perfectly aware
of that.  He could hardly sit still and drink coffee for anxiety
to do two things:  he must go at once in search of her;  and he
must find that levee-inspector, and persuade him to tell Wahl
nothing.  But his good sense warned him that it was more
important at the moment to stay where he was and checkmate Wahl.

"Have you a list of the refugees in the camp?" he asked.

Wahl tossed him several sheets of paper, and Sherry glanced them
over until he found the name of Consuelo Martinez.

"What does it mean when you put three stars after a name?"

"Taken care of by some one--no longer destitute."

There were three stars after Consuelo's name.

"Where can I find out who has taken care of whom?"

"Maybe I can tell you.  Who are you interested in?"

"Nobody in particular.  I asked a question."

"Well, there's more or less confusion.  Once they're off the
destitute list they're not easy to trace."

Wahl was now more than suspicious;  he was nearly positive that
Sherry was concealing something.  He decided to go out and
question the sentry while the man's memory was still fresh.

"Will you stay here?" he asked.  "I'll be back in a minute."

Wahl strolled out, not hurrying until he thought himself out of
Sherry's sight.  Then he moved swiftly.  But the sentry had been
relieved, and another man stood in his place.

"Where's the other fellow gone?" Wahl demanded.

"Search me!  He'd be turnin' in, only they wanted men to go an'
round up stray cows or somethin'.  Bill knows cows, so the
sergeant ordered him to volunteer."

Wahl returned to the tent in disgust.  The tin cup, half full of
coffee yet, stood exactly in the middle of the box, on which
Sherry had been sitting.  Sherry was missing.  Wahl went to the
tent-door and shouted.  Another reporter came hurrying, eager to
know what the great Clinton Wahl could be in so much stew about.

"Harris--Look here:  There's a launch starting before daylight to
make connections with the train above where the levee broke.  I'm
off for San Francisco;  here's a chance for you.  You know who
Jacqueline Lanier is!"

You bet!  You've told the world that all right!"

"She's around here somewhere!"

"Hell, no!  She was drowned--they found the horses and buggy."

"Don't you believe it!  She's been rescued.  She's hiding
somewhere probably under a false name.  Now listen:  you find
her, and wire the San Francisco Tribune.  Bet on me to make it
worth your while.  Get her story if you can, and if you do, wire
that.  But let's know the minute you've found her.  It'll be the
biggest thing you've ever done, and I'll see you get credit."

"Say, that's mighty decent of you!  Say--"

"Get busy!" Wahl interrupted.

Wahl himself went in search of the launch that had rescued
Sherry, and found it after a while nosing into the bank lower
down.  Again he was too late;  the inspector and engineer had
been relieved, and had gone away to sleep, nobody knew where.  So
he went in search of Sherry, but might as well have hunted for a
needle in a haystack.

Sherry Mansfield's brain was working with a kind of cold frenzy.
He never wavered once.  He faced the possibility that that girl
was Jacqueline Lanier, and that some one of her actions might
have justified Wahl in mistaking her for an adventuress, and he
did not care.  Wahl presumably had all the evidence, and he,
Sherry Mansfield, had none.  He needed none.  He would back one
look into her eyes against all Wahl's reasoning and experience.
She was good.  She was pure and innocent.  What was more--and he
said it again and again, for the sheer joy of stabbing at his own
dead misconceptions--he, Sherry, loved her.

"God, I'll prove it too!" he muttered.

But to begin to prove it, he must find her.  He thought at first
that the dog might recognize her scent, but either Nut was no
sort of bloodhound, or else too many other folk had crossed the
trail.  Nut's chief ambition seemed to be not to lose sight of
his new owner.  Urging was sheer waste of time.

Then he thought of Consuelo Martinez;  but she had been marked
with three stars, and though he went to the tent inquire for her,
all that the woman in charge could tell him was that Consuelo had
recognized some friends and had gone away with them.

"I seem to remember they were foreigners, but I'm not sure.  The
poor woman was distracted, but she suddenly saw people she knew
and ran to them.  They said they had somewhere to go, and some
money, and agreed to look after her.  At least, I think that's
right.  There's been much--"

But Sherry had gone already, and she found herself talking to
the night.

"Funny!" he told himself.  "Two days ago I'd have been cynical
about that.  Another case of a mother deserting her child!  Makes
me feel sure now that that fat old thing wasn't her mother after
all.  God!  I hope her name is Jacqueline;  I like it."

More systematically than he ever rooted at a story Sherry
searched the camp all night in widening rings, and when dawn came
he met Harris in the mouth of the porters' tent--both men in
search of food.

"Doing anything?" asked Harris, with his mouth full of bread and
cocoa.  "Tell you why.  I've been tipped off that Jacqueline
Lanier's somewhere about.  Like to help me find her?"

Sherry nodded, looking over the edge of a tin mug, sizing up his
man.  He could lick him;  he was sure of it.  If they two should
find Jacqueline, there would only be one who would identify her!

"Saw you talking to Clinton Wahl," said Harris.  "Know him well?"

"Only slightly."

"What paper are you for?"

"None just now."

That was cold truth.  There was not a newspaper under heaven that
could come just then between Sherry Mansfield and his quest.  He
had made up his mind to face his father, and if need be, to defy
him.  There was nothing to argue about;  nothing to compromise.
Whether or not that girl was Jacqueline Lanier, she was his
girl--his forever.

"Finished?  Come on then," said Harris.  "There are some cabins
down on the bottoms beyond here.  Let's search them first."

At the end of twenty minutes' rather random walking they crossed
a trail where Sherry saw small footprints in the mud, and Nut
grew unaccountably excited--not behaving as a hunting dog would,
but as the good-for-nothing, cheery mongrel that he was, who
recognized something familiar.

"This way," said Sherry.

"That way's no good, that's a cow-path."

"Suit yourself."

Sherry took his own line, turning to the right, and Harris
followed more for the sake of preventing Sherry from forestalling
him than because he thought it a likely trail to follow.  It was
not very long before the track led down a steep bank, with
imprints in the mud below that looked as if someone had fallen
there.  And two hundred yards beyond that, in a hollow, there was
a neat, clean cabin with a faint whisp of smoke emerging from
the chimney.

"Hell!  Who'd ha' thought it?" said Harris.

But Sherry said nothing;  only his clenched fist went into his
hip pocket for some reason.

"This is my story.  I'll go ahead," said Harris.

"No, you won't."

"Say--look here--"

"You heard me!"

"Who the hell--"

"You'll wait here until I see what's in there.  Would you
rather fight?"

That right fist was still in the hip pocket, and Harris suspected
a gun.

"What's the big idea?" he demanded.

"If you think you can lick me, go ahead and try!"

"I'll watch," said Harris.

"Stay right here then!"

Sherry walked ahead, and Harris, who was awfully tired and
sleepy, sat down.  Whatever his other argument was, he kept it to
himself.  The cabin door was latched, but not locked;  Sherry
opened it, and entered.

There was nobody there, but the embers of a dying fire were
smoking on the hearth and there was plenty of evidence that the
place had been occupied quite recently.  However, the chair-seats
were no longer warm, although mud in several places on the floor
was hardly dry.  Some one had probably left within the hour;
within two hours at the utmost.

He found a hairpin, and threw it in the fire, lest Harris should
find it too, and draw conclusions.  Next his eye fell on a scrap
of torn lace on the floor not far from the hearth.  It was
crumpled and mud-stained, but he could almost swear that it
tallied with the pattern of the edging and collar of the dress
she had worn.  No mere man, he admitted, could be quite sure of a
thing like that from memory;  but he had a strong hunch, and Nut
was acting interested.

There was a rug between mid-room and hearth; it looked as if
someone had sat on it, for it was rumpled.  Sherry kicked up the
rumpled edge and suddenly pounced on a piece of pale blue ribbon.

"It's been in the water.  It's knotted and tied the same way.
Same color.  Same--"

He held it to the light.  Six or eight strands of long dark hair
were caught tightly in the knot.

"I'll bet my last dollar!"

He folded the ribbon and hair into the same envelope, and began
to look about for further evidence, but there was nothing;  and
he was presently aware of Harris peeking through the chink of the
half-open door.  The key was on the inside.

"You can come in if you want to," he called.

"Found anything?" asked Harris.

"No.  You have a look."

They passed each other in the doorway.  Sherry took the key with
him.  The moment Harris was inside Sherry shut the door quietly
and locked him in:  whereafter he walked around the cabin and
observed that the shutters were all in place and fastened on the
outside with iron bars.

So much for Harris.  Sherry began quartering the ground in front
of the cabin, and presently found footsteps in the mud.  There
was no doubt of the direction.  They were the footprints of three
women and a man, and he set out along the muddy track as fast as
he could lay foot to the ground.

But the track turned up a high bank to a road, and on the road he
lost all trace of footprints;  nor was Nut the least use.  It was
more than an hour before he found an old darky, who told him the
road would lead to a railroad depot if he followed it far enough.
But the darky didn't know how far--couldn't 'member.

Sherry lost more time questioning strangers whom he met;  and
several times he went far off the road to inquire at cabins, but
without result.  It was nearly noon before he reached a railroad
station, and learned that there would be no more trains northward
until evening.  He questioned the station agent.

"Refugees?  Scores of 'em.  Three full train-loads this morning."

"Any buy tickets here?"

"Some.  Most had passes from the Relief Committee."

Sherry described Jacqueline as accurately as he could.  She had
two legs, for instance--two arms--was about so high--dark hair--
probably no hat--

"She wore a locket on a gold chain--"

"Blue eyes, you say?  Deep blue?  Sure--I guess I 'member 'em.
Pretty little miss, all tired out, layin' her head on a big fat
woman's shoulder over on the bench there.  No, they didn't buy no
tickets.  Lemme see."

The agent scratched his head.

"Yeah.  There was a--Wop--or a Dago, mebbe--'n' another woman
with him, 'n' a kid yes, sure there was a kid.   Aye,--'n' they
had a monkey--or the kid had.  Four an' a half to Frisco, 'n' two
sections was what they wanted.  Told 'em I couldn't do it.  Had
to send 'em on to the junction, but I phoned for 'em, I 'member.
Sure--Frisco--that's it.  Yeah--the Wop had the money.  It was
all one party.  I 'member.  N-o-o, son.  Six o'clock to the
junction's your first train, 'n' you can catch the midnight on
from there for Frisco by way o' St. Louis."

Sherry wished now he had kept that newspaper, instead of letting
the dog tear it into shreds.  At least he could have read Wahl's
story, and have analyzed it;  that would be better than pacing
the platform and waiting for a damned slow train.  He was pretty
nearly sure now that Conchita's name was really Jacqueline;  and
absolutely sure that by that, or any other name, she was
wonderful, and that he loved her.

But why had she run away from him?  The militiaman said she
looked scared to death.  What suddenly frightened her?  Wahl?  He
wished he knew what Wahl had done to her when he got that story.
It was possible she saw Wahl when he came out of the tent.

Why had he ever liked Wahl, he wondered.  Clever devil,
certainly;  but a devil--a mean devil, with a mean face.  And who
was this gang she was with?  A kid and a monkey sounded like an
organ grinder's outfit.  The big fat woman might be Consuelo
Martinez.  But who were the Wop, or the Dago, and the
other woman?

Sherry was still pacing the platform when two sisters in convent
dress approached the station agent, and one of them questioned
him so persistently that he scratched his head.  Sherry did not
pay much attention to them but, once, he saw the station agent
jerk a thumb in his direction--heard him address one of the
women as Sister Michaela--and saw the sister's gray eyes focused
on himself.

The next time he passed them his ears caught one sentence, spoken
in a voice as level as the gray eyes:  "Will you please not give
information about this, then, to anybody else?"

And after that, for fifteen minutes, he was conscious of Sister
Michaela's gray eyes watching him, until the six o'clock train
rolled in, and he boarded it and left both sisters standing on
the platform.

Chapter XXI.

Bells obey the ears that listen.

No star, however small and distant, leaves its course without a
Cosmos feeling it.  Convents are small universes.  None in the
convent spoke openly of Jacqueline, for that was forbidden.
Sister Michaela's duty had been done;  the pistol-shots had
hardly more than announced a tragedy in Miro's house before she
gathered up her brood of bidden guests, herded them into the bus
and hurried them back to safety within convent walls.  They knew
practically nothing of what had happened, and she instructed them
to tell not even that much.  But the convent drooped none the
less, and even the bell tolled miserably.  Bells obey the ears
that listen.

A week went by in silence, emphasized by routine sounds, none
naming tragedy, yet everybody conscious of it.  Lessons
continued, and the silence gradually took effect.  The waves on
the surface ceased.  But there was a ground-swell.  The sisters
had all read the papers.  Don Andres Miro had been lavish with
enduring gifts.  All had loved Jacqueline.

Routine--but Sister Michaela absent more than once, and another
in her place to toll the bell, not quite successfully.  No hint
of where she had been on her return, except that it was known
that she was closeted for hours with the Sister Superior.  And
none except the lay sister at the gate knew when John Miro drove
up in a muddied car;  and when the Sister Superior and Sister
Michaela interviewed him in the drawing-room, only they three
knew what took place.

John Miro was a taller, sprightlier Don Andres, with the least
suggestion of more energy well gloved under a cultivated calm.
He was about the same age--possessed of the same unchallengeable
dignity;  but one could imagine that he viewed life humorously,
rather than as a procession of pious duties.  Both sisters felt a
little on guard against him, although they tried not to betray
that by their manner.  He glanced, perhaps, a mite too keenly at
their faces under the deep white bandeaux.

"I came about Jacqueline Lanier," he said abruptly, breaking
ground at once.

The Sister Superior bowed in silence.  It was Sister Michaela
whose eyes seemed to offer a suggestion of encouragement.

"I don't propose to believe she was drowned in the flood until
that's proved conclusively," he went on.  "I have fifty men out
searching for her, but they've found no trace, although the
horses, and the carriage she drove away in were found the first
day.  All the other missing bodies have been found.  Hers and
Consuelo's are the only two unaccounted for.  Presuming then that
she's alive, can you give me an inkling of what might have
happened to her?"

"You read the newspapers, Mr. Miro?" the Sister Superior
asked him.

He smiled--exactly as Don Andres would have done--like
a swordsman.

"Yes.  I have also spoken with Donna Isabella.  That is why I am
doing everything in my power to find Jacqueline.  If ever a poor
little woman needed help, I think she does.  She shall have it,
if I can find her."

"If she is alive, she surely needs your help, Mr. Miro.  But I
don't think you will find her in Louisiana."

"Why not?" he asked abruptly.

"Sister Michaela believes she has traced her to a railroad
station, and there seems to be a possibility that she went to
San Francisco with some refugees from the flood whose names
are unknown."

"Pardon me.  Didn't you follow up that clue?  Did you do nothing
about it?"

Chapter XXII.

The underworld

Life in lodgings is only miserable when you are old, or too used
to it.  At seventeen, all that is new is amusing at first, unless
it actually hurts, and it was Consuelo, not Jacqueline, who cried
at sight of the dingy back-bedroom they must share between them
in a noisy San Francisco back street, not far from the almost
equally dingy caf where Ramon and Cervanez were booked for a
month's engagement.

They were hardly in the place when Consuelo snorted and rebelled.

"My word!  We'll soon be out of this, Conchita!"

"But how, Consuelo, since we have no money?"

"There's plenty of money in San Francisco, honey.  Mr. John Miro
lives here.  He's rich.  Just you see what happens when I've been
to him and--"

"No, Consuelo!  That man was Desmio's enemy."

Because she herself was loyal, Consuelo understood.  Almost as
much as Jacqueline, she had become imbued with Don Andres Miro's
Old-World notions of fealty and pride.

"Very well, honey," she answered meekly.  "But I don't think
even Don Andres' enemy would let you stay in this place, if he

"He'll never know," said Jacqueline, shutting her mouth tight.

It was one of those lodging-houses known to the trouping
fraternity, where late hours and equally late rising were
understood;  where you could cook things in your bed room and do
more or less as you pleased as long as your bill was paid.

Down-at-heel, but delightfully gay individuals conversed over
stair-rails in shirt-sleeves.  The landlady wore slippers and a
cotton bath-robe.  The blowsy old thing amused Jacqueline;  and
the things she knew that Jacqueline did not know were like new
chapters, with colored illustrations, in the fascinating book
of life.

"Yes, my dear, I was as pretty as you are, and the same age, when
I began trouping;  but the life soon wears you out.  Running this
joint is restful compared to it, although you needn't kid
yourself the boys don't drive me crazy--and the girls are worse!
You take my tip and save your money.  But, love you, we're all
the same way when we're young, and you'll not be guided by me!
All the same, you're pretty and I'm telling you;  watch the men!
They're artful.  They'll work you to death, and they'll spend all
you earn--not that I blame 'em if there's fools enough to fall
for it!  Let's hope your head's screwed on right."

Consuelo gasped at that picture of the life, but Jacqueline
smiled at it, because it was different from anything she had ever
contemplated.  It was all rather amusing, and vague, and
intriguing;  not to be taken seriously.

Ramon took her with him that very first afternoon down a grimy
back street to the back door of a caf, and up to the stage to
watch him practise.  Cervanez smoked cigarettes and pounded the
piano, and Jacqueline watched critically.

It seemed to her that she could do as well as that--at any rate
with a little practise.  And then it occurred to her there was
something pitiful in that man's need to dance like a marionette
to support his mother and Pepita--a thought that brought a blush
of shame with it.  Did he work so hard for his money, and then
lend to herself and Consuelo!  And how were they to repay him?
Did he always dance alone?  No--she remembered he had danced in
Louisiana with Cervanez.

Cervanez herself answered that thought, by inviting Jacqueline to
play the piano for a while, so that she herself might practise
new steps with her son.  But Jacqueline had taken music lessons
at the convent because they were compulsory, not because she had
the slightest natural gift in that direction, and though she made
the attempt it was worse than useless.  Cervanez came and pushed
her almost roughly off the piano stool.  Chagrin.  Self-
abasement.  Ramon noted it, and gallantly did what he could to
put her at ease again.

"There is something the senorita can do better than us all!" he
exclaimed, with one of his extravagant gestures.  "Come,
Senorita--do me the favor--yes?"

He danced with her and the dancing did her good;  it brought the
color to her cheeks, the light back into her eyes, and made her
glow all over healthfully.

Consuelo burst in on the scene after a while and protested
violently.  But Ramon danced with her for two hours, until she
could almost have dropped from weariness.  He seemed to take
delight in teaching her, making her do the same steps over and
over again, and sometimes pausing to gesticulate with both hands
and lecture her:  "Senorita Conchita, permit me!  You have left
the convent!  You are not--no longer--any more afraid to show
beautiful legs, which may scandalize those who have taken the
vows of religion, but which the public adores!  Faces are good,
but legs are very good!"  He snapped his fingers.  "Pep-zip--
snap, Senorita!  Now again!"

But whenever he glanced at his mother she would light another
cigarette and nod.  Consuelo sat dumb through it all, after
lodging her first protest.  As she tried to describe it
afterward, she felt like a shepherd whose ewe-lamb has gone to
the butcher.

"Honey dear, it's awful!  They'll be asking you to dance in
public next!"

But it did not seem awful to Jacqueline, although her legs ached
and her head swam with fatigue.  It was novelty, and she was
doing something.  She rather reveled in the recklessness.

And Ramon was cute!  He strolled home afterward like a troubadour
out of a story-book, flourishing a cigarette and throwing his
shoulders back, paying her extravagant compliments and boasting
of what they might do "poco tiempo--soon--not very long,
Senorita.  Dance with me, Senorita, and the crowd he burst the
walls!  Then, you see!  We go up, up, up!  La Conchita becomes
famous!  Ramon, he take back seat!  For Conchita--diamonds,
flowers, limousine!  For Ramon to salute her when she passes,
hoping for just one condescension from the beautiful blue eyes!
A nod in passing--no more!  And Ramon will die happy!"

Evening with Consuelo was the worst part, for she locked the
bedroom door and kept all-comers at bay, lest the lodging-house
manners and views should defile her darling.  Jacqueline wanted
to lie on the bed and stretch luxuriously, or talk with the
frowsy old landlady.  But Consuelo would have none of that;  she
was as frightened as a hen that has hatched one duckling and sees
it take to water.  There was a wonderful fat man from the floor
above, whose pants were shiny at the knees, and who came in
shirt-sleeves and suspenders and sang songs to Consuelo through
the key-hole, making Jacqueline nearly die of giggling but
arousing such wrath in Consuelo that she finally stuck a hat-pin
through the key-hole and almost pierced the fat man's eye.  He
pretended she had blinded him, and assured her he had one eye
left, which was also at her service.

She was so tired that she slept all night without dreaming;  and
shortly after daybreak she had to get up to admit Pepita and her
monkey.  The monkey got on the bed and nearly scared Consuelo out
of her senses, which would have been good fun if only Consuelo
had not been so angry and hysterical.  She began to be very fond
of Pepita, and the monkey was a darling, with its hands in
everything including Consuelo's false hair.

Breakfast at eleven o'clock Jacqueline admitted was not so good.
The eggs tasted shop-worn, and there was still the blended smell
of cigars and cabbage from the day before.  Nobody was at his
best at breakfast, and the fat man with the shiny black pants
made disagreeable noises with his teeth, which were false and did
not fit properly.  The landlady was cross because some one had
skipped in the night without paying his bill.  And the coffee, to
quote the fat man, tasted as if a crocodile had wept it.  Even
the canary in its cage over by the window seemed melancholy, and
the red-and-gray parrot on a stand in the corner dropped his head
and never said a word.

However, breakfast did not last forever, and absorbing topics
followed it, that blew all drabness to the winds.  Cervanez
opened fire, half-jealously:

"Ramon, he say you learn so good, he buy you costume if you dance
instead of me!"

"Then I should only be owing you more money," answered Jacqueline.

What most surprised her was that Consuelo's prophecy should be so
soon fulfilled.

"What is a little more or less?" Cervanez retorted;  but there
was a greedy glitter in her eye.  "Ramon, he is lending you
much money--"

"Senorita--my mother means--she is not so young--not so very
young and active.  Rheumatism--now and then it makes her a hard
agony;  yet she must dance.  She means--if now there were perhaps
an understudy--a young lady kind enough to take her place in case
of sickness--"

He was watching those lake-blue eyes, but affecting not to.  He
had hit the mark.  He looked at her frankly at once and waved his
cigarette in the grand manner that dismissed real essentials as
trifles beneath consideration.

"And for an understudy there must be a costume--naturally.  If
the senorita consents--?"

Jacqueline could not refuse that.  The request appealed to every
nerve of her generosity.

"If you think I could do it in a pinch--"

And so outdoors, into the roaring city, with her arm through

"For in a sense we are partners now, Senorita.  I am proud!"

Cervanez and Consuelo tagged along behind, Consuelo unprotesting
because she knew no protest would avail.  They took a trolley to
a street where a costume shop was jammed between a pawnbroker's
and a second-hand clothier's.  In the shop was a beady-eyed fat
Jewess, who seemed to know everybody in the world by the first
name and to want to talk about them all at once, while she looked
at you and registered impressions with a sixth sense.  Presently,
without so much as being asked to do it, she brought out arms-
full of elaborate frocks, all of which Ramon sent back again
unglanced at, with a magnificent gesture of his left hand.

There seemed to be no possible chance of their getting together
on the prices, until suddenly Cervanez nudged Ramon and took
Jacqueline and Consuelo out of the shop.  They looked in the
pawnbroker's window for about five minutes, when Ramon suddenly
emerged and it seemed to Jacqueline that he was suppressing a
smile of triumph.  She supposed he had his own way.  She caught
him exchanging a swift glance with Cervanez.  Yet his first words
intimated that the guess was wrong.

"Senorita, it is well that I was present, or she would have
charged twice--three times as much.  Bear me witness that I did
my utmost to reduce the cost.  You begin to see now what expenses
there are in our profession.  It is debt that makes us dance!
The cost of traveling--the price of pork and beans--the
extortions of a landlady--the unreasonable price of costumes--the
salary, so low that it becomes a weekly insult--moreover, the
fees to agents!  It is well we dance!  Believe me, it is
necessary!  We dance one step, and no more, ahead of the devil
all the time!"

Ahead of the devil!  She thought of Wahl instantly, and her face
clouded.  Cervanez, who noticed everything, promptly improved on
Ramon's little sermon.

"Conchita, all these bills--they, mount up.  You will be owing us
many hundred dollars."

She did not like to be called Conchita by Cervanez, but they had
agreed on that as the name she should be known by;  and it was
well understood that nobody was to call her Jacqueline or as much
as drop hints about her past.  But she liked still less the
prospect of being in debt to these people, and began to be
troubled about it.  But, when she questioned Ramon or Cervanez
they became vague, and said it all depended;  and the more vague
they were, the more miserable Consuelo grew.

Jacqueline was finding some sort of balance at last--at least
knew what she wished to forget, and what she would always
remember.  She would never forget Desmio;  but she would remember
him as he was when he gave her that locket with his portrait in
it, and told her there would some day be another man whom she
would love.  She would always wear the locket next her heart.
And she would never forget Sherry Mansfield, although she must
never see him again.

Meanwhile, there was something in life after all.  The title of
understudy gave her a thrill of pride.  It felt almost like
earning your own living, and she was not quite such a burden to
these people as she had been.  And so back to the practise on the
shabby El Toro stage.

It needed nothing but Ramon's critical coaching to turn
Jacqueline into a superb dancer.  The convent had given her all
the grounding necessary.  She had perfect command of her muscles,
poise and balance;  all Ramon had to do was to subtract some
elements of super-modesty, and add what he called "pep-zip-snap"
in place of it.

Papa Pantopoulos, the owner of the caf, in nobody's confidence
yet, but with an imagination of his own, sat at a table and began
to figure advertising space rates with a stub of pencil on the
back of yesterday's menu card.  He presently went out to buy four
more secondhand tables.

Ramon was a dancer who improved incredibly if a partner inspired
him to it, and he liked to lavish praise, because it cost nothing
and yet made him feel generous.  Jacqueline flourished under
praise like a flower in the rays of the sun;  it did not turn her
head, but made her try harder than ever.  And as it was Ramon's
habit to fall cavalierly in love with every pretty girl in sight,
in or out of turn, it was only a matter of hours before
Jacqueline discovered a new problem on her hands.

She talked it over that night with Consuelo, but received no help
of the sort she wanted.  Consuelo's idea of how to keep a man at
bay was limited to boiling-water, hat-pins, and looking daggers
at him, with maybe some vinegary comment thrown in.  So
Jacqueline had to work it out for herself, and lay awake long
after midnight puzzling over how to manage Consuelo too;  for if
Consuelo were to grow too tart with Ramon and Cervanez there
would soon be an explosion, by which nobody would be the gainer.

She prayed long and earnestly.  But it was Mother Eve who came to
her assistance--original feminine art and an inborn gift for
rising to occasions.  She would flirt with Ramon.  Why not?  She
would let him hope all he cared to.  Then, if Consuelo should
grow too quarrelsome, perhaps Ramon's ambition might help to keep
him good tempered.

Having reached which decision, Jacqueline slept in the same
undisturbed peace that doubtless once breathed o'er Eden--calm,
because she was quite sure that the Blessed Virgin had heard her
prayer and answered it.

Chapter XXIII.

"The Tribune be damned!"

The Tribune Building in San Francisco hummed to the throb of the
enormous presses.  The news-room grew suddenly quiet, and then
noisy with voices, as it always did when an edition had gone to
press.  Sherry Mansfield, back into routine a week ago and
looking as if he had never seen dirt or muddy water, stood in the
big window with both hands in his pockets, staring moodily at the
street.  Dad Lawrence beckoned the city editor, and walked out
with him for coffee and cigarettes that were almost a part of the
daily ritual, in a dingy, smoky little   caf down a side-street-
-a place where any one could find them in a hurry, and where the
entire staff often drifted in during the half-hour between
editions.  Dad had almost reached the elevator, when John Covert
Mansfield's door opened with a jerk.

"Dad--I want you."

Dad strolled in with both hands in his pockets.  Mansfield senior
resumed the seat at the desk, that he never vacated for a minute
longer than he could help, stuck an unlighted cigar in his mouth,
and looked up at Dad Lawrence with one of the peculiar dry
grimaces that implied dissatisfaction coupled with combativeness.

"Seen much of Sherry since he got back?" he asked.

"About as much as usual," Dad answered.

"What's the matter with him?"

"He seems well."

Mansfield made a gesture of impatience.  "I'd call in a doctor,
not you, if I thought he had a bellyache!" he answered.  "Is he
in love, or something?"

"He hasn't said so to me."

"Find out, will you?"

"Why?  Are you and he not hitting it?"

"No!" Mansfield answered, biting off the end of the cigar and
looking up at Dad again.  "For the first time I don't know what
he's thinking about.  He mopes and says nothing--work's all to
hell, too--look at that drivel!"  He tossed some sheets of paper
across the desk.  "Calls that trying his hand at editorials!"

"Any specific reason for supposing he's in love?" Dad inquired,
stroking his chin and eying Mansfield quizzically.

"What else would have made him act like a plain born fool?"
demanded Mansfield.  "If he's in love, I'm going to know it, and
bring him to his senses before some woman ruins him.  Wahl tells
me he suspects Sherry knows something about that Lanier girl--and
by the way, that's a corking good Sunday feature Wahl's made of
her.  Have you seen it?"

"Wahl would suspect the Almighty," Dad answered.  "Why don't you
ask Sherry himself?"

"I have--twice.  The boy's lying to me, and he never was a liar
before in all his life.  Wahl says Sherry was missing two days,
and turned up in a launch with a girl, who disappeared a moment
afterward.  He says Sherry's conduct that night was elusive, to
put it mildly.  Wahl wanted to leave Sherry on the job to clean
up that story;  he doesn't believe the Lanier girl was drowned,
and they haven't found her body.  It's quite likely she's alive.
Sherry gave Wahl the slip, so Wahl found a man named Harris and
left him in charge.  Now comes a letter from Harris complaining
that a young man named Mansfield locked him into a cabin, and
adds that he suspects this Mansfield of having aided the girl to
escape.  Mansfield is unquestionably Sherry.  Sherry pretends to
know nothing at all about it.  Lie number one."

"Does sound fishy, doesn't it?" Dad agreed.

"Fishy as hell.  Yesterday Sherry walked in and asked me for ten
days off."

"Did he give any reason?"

"No.  Refused.  So I refused the request.  He got off some dam-
fool stuff about my having known him a number of years, and that
it's time I could trust him without an argument."

"Well, can't you?"

"Not if he's in love!"

Dad stroked his chin again, and worked his jaw as if he
were shaving.

"I think I'd trust Sherry anywhere," he answered.  "But I tell
you, the boy's lying!  I'll bet ten thousand dollars there's a
woman in it!  I thought Wahl might do him good, but they don't
hit it off;  he seems to hate Wahl.  You're no constellation,
Dad, but Sherry likes you, and so do I.  I'm going to turn him
over to you for a while.  Trot him around with you to do the
social stuff, and keep your eyes peeled, but get this:  I'm not
asking you to run and tell me tales about him."

"No, I guessed you knew better than that," Dad said quietly.

"Watch him and give him the right steer.  Use your influence to
try to get him to tell me what's on his mind.  I want it straight
from him.  I want to feel he and I are friends again."

"Suppose he came and told you he's in love?" Dad suggested.

"There'd be a fight, of course.  But I'd win!  I'd hold him to
his promise to have no truck with women until he's thirty."

"Was that a promise that he made you definitely, with his eyes
wide open?" Dad asked.

"It was a stipulation I made.  If he wanted to come on the
Tribune with me, that was the condition."

Dad wrinkled his mouth up and straightened it again.  "Well, I'll
do my best," he answered.  "Have you told Sherry?"

"No, you tell him.  Take him in charge until you hear again
from me."

So Sherry came off the regular schedule, and roved with Dad all
over the city, covering odd assignments at odd hours,
interviewing hostesses, who liked to have their names in print,
and attending weary social functions interspersed with occasional
plays and road-house openings.  Dad knew San Francisco as a dock
rat knows the water-front, and had reduced to a fine art the
subdivision of a crowded evening;  knew where to stay longest,
and where just to nose in and disappear.  But there were
occasional functions where they had to stay an hour or two, as at
Mrs. Carstairs-Coningsby's, for instance.  As the wealthy
American wife of an equally wealthy Englishman, she felt it
incumbent on her to know everybody and do everything;  there were
always surprises at her house, and she knew enough to spring them
not too early in the evening.  "Dance--supper--tableaux vivants"
ran the invitation;  and Sherry and Dad attended, expecting to
get "copy" out of it, but also to be bored.

Mrs. Carstairs-Coningsby made rather a fuss over Sherry;  if not
a lion just yet, he was likely to be one some day.  So she took
him in hand and introduced him right and left.

"His father owns the Tribune, Mr. Miro.  Mr. Mansfield, surely
you've heard of John Miro?"

"I support his father's paper!" Miro answered, with a glittering
twinkle in his eyes.  "Simply outrageous advertising rates!  I
presume, Mr. Mansfield, you are one of the reporters I have been
hiding from."

"Haven't you Louisiana relatives?" Sherry asked him.

The smile remained, but the eyes grew subtly softer.

"Did you know Andres?" he countered. "Did you know his protegee,
Miss Lanier?"

Sherry's jaw set tight.  It was an utterly unconscious change of
expression, and the older man diagnosed it instantly.  It could
only have one of two possible meanings, either of which included
the fact that Sherry was on guard.

"You believe she was all that the papers said, or you don't.
Which is it?" Miro asked.

"I don't," said Sherry, looking combative.

"Neither do I," Miro answered, smiling.  "That's why I've refused
to be interviewed about her.  Have you time to talk with me?"

Sherry almost gasped.  John Miro had, and enjoyed hugely, the
reputation of being hard to corner.  His advertisements blazed on
night horizons from border to border, and coast to coast:  every
newspaper of importance heralded his "miraculous rubbers" in big
black type;  but he had never been interviewed.  It was even
rumored that he cultivated aloofness and a sort of mystery for
its publicity value.

Miro glanced swiftly around the packed reception room and led the
way to a lounge under a flight of stairs, offered Sherry a cigar,
and lolled back against embroidered cushions without seeming to
lose one atom of his subtle alertness.

Sherry in the corner faced him, with a feeling that his inmost
thoughts were all going to be laid bare unless he watched
himself.  He bit off the end of the cigar with a vicious snap,
and Miro smiled.

"So you knew Andres?"

"No, but I was covering the Mississippi floods, when Calhoun
killed him."

"Did you write that stuff that appeared in the Tribune?"

"I did not!"

"No, I imagine you wouldn't.  It was the most malignant fabric of
lies I have ever seen," said Miro;  but he was smiling as
pleasantly as ever.  The glitter in his eyes was not perceptible
to Sherry, because of the shadow cast by the stairs.  "The worst
part of the tragedy was the cruelty to little Jacqueline.  I only
knew her as a   small girl--all legs and long hair, eight, or
perhaps nine years old when I last saw her.  Her character was
hardly formed, of course, but as I live, and must some day face
my Maker, she was incapable of growing into anything but a sweet-
-a noble--a pure woman.  In addition she had the enormous
advantage over other girls of constant association with my cousin

"I was told that you and he were enemies," said Sherry.

"Hah!  I admired him.  I may say I loved him.  He chose to
quarrel with me because, when I began my national advertising, I
used the family name instead of some imaginary one.  When I heard
he was to marry little Jacqueline I realized at once that he
simply intended to make her his legal heir, and to prevent me
from inheriting anything under the Miro trust deed.  I admired
him for it, and sent him a telegram, which he saw fit not to
answer.  He was a splendid fellow and his death grieved me more
than I can tell you.  However, we can endure grief.  It is anger
that insists on remedy.  I am still enraged in every fiber of my
being by the fate of poor Jacqueline."

He did not look enraged.  His attitude suggested anything but
that, and Sherry's sensation was almost that of being played
with, yet not quite;  there was a sort of vague tenseness.

"You are wondering," said Miro, "why I make you these
confidences.  I will give you the answer.  You are the only
individual I have met who does not believe what the newspapers
say about Jacqueline.  And that is all the more interesting,
because you yourself are a newspaper man."

Sherry said nothing, but got up and stood where he could see
Miro's face.  He felt torn four ways at once, and meant to be
sure of his ground before he trusted any one.  He did not even
know that he really knew Jacqueline.  He knew he loved a girl,
who might be, and probably was Jacqueline, that was all.  This
man might be an ally--or might be a very formidable enemy.

"Sit down again," suggested Miro pleasantly.  "I propose to win
your confidence.  I don't believe Jacqueline was drowned."

"Why not?" Sherry demanded.

"For one reason, because you don't appear to believe it.  I
suspect you of knowing something.  For another, because they have
not found her body, although I paid fifty men for a week to
search for it, and they found neither Jacqueline nor her nurse.--
Every--other--person--lost--in that flood--has been accounted
for.  A third reason is, that I think the natural impulse of a
nice girl, raised in a convent, and suddenly plunged into a cruel
scandal, would be to run away and hide.  In addition to all that,
I have a clue."

"Did you visit the scene yourself?" asked Sherry.

"I did.  I received a telegram from Isabella Miro--Andres'
sister--so peculiarly worded that I took the next train.  Of
course I would have attended the funeral in any case.  Isabella
looked to me like a very sick woman, but she was dressed to
receive me in the patio;  and the air of conspiracy with which
she greeted me--the obvious delight she took in being rid of
Jacqueline--the malice she betrayed--and the things that she said
to me about Jacqueline's character, all pointed to one
conclusion.  I suspect insanity.  That is a woman poisoned by in-
growing spleen.  That is what might happen to any Miro, unless--
as in my case--some new outlet were discovered for the racial
pride, which is as inseparable from us as our breath.  I said
things to Donna Isabella, which I now rather regret.  Truth is
not good physic for the insane.  She found my remarks
unpalatable, and, I regret to learn, took to her bed.  But what
she said in reply convinced me that any proud and innocent young
girl placed in Jacqueline's position would have run away, as
Jacqueline in fact did.  And if she had brains, as I understand
Jacqueline had, she might easily take advantage of the flood to
disappear entirely.  Do you follow me thus far?"

Sherry nodded.

"I determined to find her," Miro continued, smoking away quietly
as if determination with him entailed neither excitement nor
exercise.  "But I realized that it would be a mistake to
advertise for her through the usual channels because, if you will
pardon the expression, your damned newspaper, and others, would
seize on that to excuse further scurrilous publicity.  I have
considered the big detective agencies.--Have you?" he
asked suddenly.

Sherry frowned.

"Exactly?  We are agreed again," said Miro, smiling.  "Now be
kind enough to tell me what you know."  Sherry described his
flood experience in fifty words.  "And if she's the same girl,
she's in San Francisco," he ended abruptly.

"What makes you imagine that?"

Sherry pulled an envelope from his pocket, showed a scrap of
lace, and a piece of ribbon with several strands of long dark
hair knotted into it, and told of his inquiries at the
railroad station.

"She's with two Dagos, a fat woman, who's probably Consuelo
Martinez, a kid of some sort, and an organ-grinder's monkey!"

"Consuelo Martinez," Miro said slowly, but his eyes were
glittering again, "is Jacqueline's old nurse.  I had her name
from Isabella Miro.  There is no doubt left in my mind that the
little girl you spent two days with in a barn, and my little
friend Jacqueline are one and the same."

"Are you quite sure you're her friend?" asked Sherry.

Miro smiled broadly.  "Pardon me, it is still my turn to ask for
confidence.  You have not yet told me all you know."

"Yes I have," said Sherry.

"By inference, perhaps.  I invite you to be frank.  What is your
motive for finding her?"

"I love her," Sherry answered promptly.

"Permit me to admire your good taste.  Are you aware that she has
no money?"

"Don't know anything about her affairs," Sherry answered with his
jaw set rather tight again.

"Your father, is--ah--in your confidence?"

"Not he.  I've lied to him."

"And if he should learn?"

"There would be one Hades of a row!"

"You are willing to face that?  Have you money of your own?"

"Only my salary."

Miro smiled, and Sherry noticed it.  "And you know that she
has none."

"Never even stopped to consider that," said Sherry.

"You also understand how extremely difficult it will be to
disprove these newspaper charges against her?"

Sherry nodded.  Miro continued to smile, and for several minutes
they faced each other in silence, Sherry growing more and more
uneasy.  He wondered whether he was not beginning to be able
to see through the man's mask, perhaps because the other
so intended.

"On what grounds do you base your belief in her innocence?"
asked Miro.

"It's not a question of belief.  I'm damned well sure of it,"
said Sherry.

"Love's unreason, eh?  I propose we carry on the search for her
together.  Such enthusiasm--"

Sherry frowned again.  All sorts of forebodings occurred to him,
but he said nothing.

"I think I understand you perfectly," said Miro, watching his
face.  "And you are quite right.  If she is hiding, we have no
right whatever to force her into the limelight, with the
inevitable consequences.  The difficulty will be to avoid further
publicity.  I suppose, if you find her--"

"The Tribune be damned!" answered Sherry.

Miro nodded.  "In my business I would fire a man who entertained
any such sentiment.  However, you are quite right, although it
does not always pay to be right.  For your sake I propose that we
carry on the search independently.  You do your best to keep
reporters off the trail.  I defray expenses.  How does that
suit you?"

Sherry looked sullen--jealous, suspicious.  Miro seemed amused.
As a bachelor he understood the reason perfectly.

"I have a few men in my organization on whom I can thoroughly
depend," he said.  "I have already turned them loose on
San Francisco."

"Meanwhile," said Sherry, "the Tribune's going to run a brute of
a Sunday special about her, and I can't stop it--daren't even
try.  If I said a word they'd be on to the fact that I know she's
alive.  They suspect me already."

"Say nothing then."

"It's a rotten job.  That beast Wahl did it--the same who wrote
the first story.  I'm the fool who recommended him to the
Tribune!  If she ever sees it--"

"Sunday, eh?  Five days from now.  We might find her in five
days," said Miro.  "Poor Jacqueline!  My cousin Andres
undoubtedly taught her to be more sensitive than you or I would
be to anything of that kind.  Well--are we agreed?"

Sherry nodded, but ungraciously.  He felt he had told Miro much
more than he should have done.  For all he knew to the contrary
marrying young girls might be an hereditary predisposition with
middle-aged Miros!  "Millions maketh manners."  His own father
was a case in point.  There would be no controlling Miro--no
possible check on him.  However, he forced a smile;  for it
occurred to him that, though Miro might spirit Jacqueline away,
and even persuade her to marry him to escape from her
predicament, that would be better for her than not to be found
at all.

Miro understood his attitude, and rather liked him for it.  Used
to being flattered and toadied to, he enjoyed this irreverence
and recognized the good stuff underneath.  He stood up and
offered his hand.

"I see I'm not in the same boat with little Jacqueline," he said,
smiling.  "You won't accept me at face value, eh?  If you find
yourself in difficulties, try me--and call on me for money if you
need it.  You know my address?  Let's see--what shall I have?  A
headache will do, I think.  If you see our hostess, please assure
her that my temporary indisposition is not due to her sandwiches,
because I didn't eat any.  Good night."

Miro went for his coat, and Sherry found Dad by going straight
toward the sandwiches and champagne.

"Let's get out of here," he urged, and Dad, having made a good
supper, needed no extra persuasion.  Out on the sidewalk he took
Sherry's arm.

"Noticed you with Miro," he said.  "Get a story?"

"No," Sherry answered brown-studying.  "He did."

"Don't you know he's cousin to the Andres Miro, who was killed in
Louisiana?" Dad demanded.  "You young bone-head!  I felt sure you
were getting a column out of him.  Man--he's front-page stuff!
Didn't you talk to him about the Lanier girl?"

"I did."

"What did he say?"

"Nothing for publication."

Dad looked keenly at him in the light of a street lamp.  He was
deadly curious;  but he decided that questioning might only drive
Sherry more into himself.

"If you've something on your mind, why don't you tell your
father?" he asked, putting a hand on Sherry's shoulder.

"Because he'd kick like hell!" Sherry answered, not exactly
shaking off the hand, but widening the space between them.  "I
don't want to have to fight him--or you either.  See?"

Dad whistled softly.  He was still whistling when they boarded a
car.  He whistled all the way back to the Tribune office, and
there were lots of flat notes, and several sharp ones.  It was
nothing that even resembled a hopeful or contented tune.

Chapter XXIV.

"Young nicee girlee--catchee lich man!"

It was a Sunday morning when Jacqueline was forced at last to
stand and face destiny.  You may make your bed in hell, as the
Psalmist proposed, or in a cheap boarding-house, which is less
intriguing, but problems follow you.

The moulting parrot watched the breakfast table with a melancholy
eye, and the fat man from upstairs made the usual remarks about
the food.  Nine or ten people were buried behind the rustling
sheets of the Sunday paper, and Jacqueline found nothing to do
but stare at back-page advertisements and wonder why the
underworld, as Consuelo insisted upon calling it, preferred
breakfast in slippers and curl-papers.  She had come to hate the
sight of newspapers;  their rustling made her nervous.

Even Cervanez, careful about appearances as a rule, because she
gloried in being mistaken for Ramon's wife, came down untidy and
sour--prodded fried eggs with a fork--sipped the coffee--swore in
English--snatched at the magazine section of Ramon's paper, and
up-ended it against the cruet.  There was no conversation.  The
fat man declared he had found a beetle in the prune-juice, and
made remarks about it;  but that was a monologue.  Nobody cared.

Even the monologue had ceased, and there was nothing but the
yawping of an incredulously opportunist cat to relieve monotony,
when Jacqueline became uncomfortably conscious of Cervanez' eyes
staring at her over the top of the newspaper.  She had never
before seen quite that stony look on Cervanez' face.  It was no
longer calculating;  it had calculated--no mistaking that.

Jacqueline forced a smile, but Cervanez said nothing, which only
made it worse.  She nudged Ramon, and made him read the part of
the newspaper that was propped open in front of her.  Ramon,
reading slowly, glanced up too, but with different expression.
His eyes hinted that new calculations were beginning.  Jacqueline
felt the goose-flesh rising, and that ghastly sick sensation that
accompanies vague fear.  But she tried to pretend to herself that
it was the breakfast odors that made her feel faint, and gave
that excuse to Consuelo as she left the room.

Consuelo followed her upstairs and found her trembling on
the bed.

"Consuelo, I can't stand this place a minute longer!  Oh, why
haven't we some money?"

"We've a little, honey.  Look,--eleven dollars."

"Where did you get it, Consuelo?"

Consuelo hesitated.  It is never quite easy to dissemble in the
face of innocence.

"You didn't steal it, Consuelo?"

The frown danced furiously, and the lake-blue eyes
looked horrified.

"Conchita!  How could you think that?"  (Consuelo bit her lip,
though.)  "I found a friend this morning, while you were asleep,
and borrowed."

But Jacqueline was nervous, horror trod on horror's heels that
morning.  "She knows who you are, then.  She'll tell!  They'll
discover me!  Consuelo, we must run!"

"Honey, we'll go this very minute!  I'd as soon die as see you
stay in this place!"

Panic overwhelmed both of them.  They felt like frightened
animals who ran without rhyme or reason, and began packing, each
in the other's way,--throwing their few belongings into a cheap
straw valise.  Neither of them heard the door open until Cervanez
coughed.  Then they faced about like detected criminals, and
Consuelo, feeling cornered, flared up:

"We're going!"

"Going where?" asked Cervanez harshly, standing with one hand on
her hip and her back to the door.

"Never mind where.  We're going.  You and your cheap restaurants
and public dancing!"

Cervanez glared angrily, flourishing the Sunday paper like a
weapon in front of her.

"And that money what you owe us--me and Ramon?" she demanded.

"We'll pay when we can," said Consuelo, standing her ground.

"When you can?" Cervanez screamed.  "Can!  Can!  You make us
fools!  Look!  Read!"  She shook the paper in their faces.  "It
say you have no money--never!  You not marry Miro--you get
nothing--nix--an' you know that all along!  Now you see paper and
you run away!  I call police!  I show you!  Who pay back all that
money to me an' Ramon?"

Jacqueline shrank away, the New Orleans paper in mind.  It did
not occur to her that any other paper might be repeating the
story.  But Consuelo fought back:

"You won't tell how much we owe!" she retorted.

"How much?  How much you pay me?" Cervanez screamed, and the
noise of that brought Ramon, suave and imperturbable as ever.
Cervanez moved away from the door to let him through, and he
stood surveying the scene with the air of a toreador.  There
was triumph in his eye--a firm smile on his lips.  He
was magnificent.

"Ramon, they run!  They get no money!  They desert us!"  Cervanez
exclaimed tragically.

Ramon nodded comprehension.  Nevertheless, he retained the air of
gallantry and faced the bedroom like a lord of the arena.  Poor
Jacqueline shrank farther back than ever.  To her his triumphant
smile meant only one thing, he would betray who she was and revel
in her public shame!

"Deus!" he said, smiling.  "There is more money in Conchita's
feet than in a mine of Minos Gaeres!  She will dance.  Is it not
so, Senorita?"

Cervanez looked incredulous, and the tortise-shell comb, that
propped her black hair in a high pile, trembled with indignation,
but she was no more angry than Consuelo.  Consuelo stamped her
foot, anger rising, as the other woman's fell, like fluid passing
from one to the other.

"She shall not dance!  She shall not be at your service!  She,
who is fit to be a queen, and you who are--pah!--underworld!  I
will take her away!  I will work my hands to the bone for her!
She shall not dance!"

But she reckoned without Jacqueline, whose eyes were on Ramon's.
Seventeen is the midway point between youth and maturity.
Childish fears and innocence persist, but riper judgment dawns,
and the one gives place to the other alternately.

Pride is a constant equation, always to be reckoned with.  There
are limits beyond which inborn pride can not be pressed by fear.

Jacqueline stepped toward Ramon.  Consuelo strode between them,
trying to keep Jacqueline behind her.  Ramon smiled, and signaled
with one eloquent eyebrow to his mother to be still.  Jacqueline
avoided Consuelo's outstretched arm.

"I will speak to him, Consuelo."

Ramon bowed with sufficient dignity to cover up the hint of
mockery in his handsome eyes, and Consuelo yielded faute de
mieux, ready, though, to slap Ramon's face at the first excuse.

"Senor Ramon, if I refuse to dance for you, will you tell who
I am?"

Cervanez was about to answer, but Ramon checked her, smiling his
handsomest.  The swift, revengeful Latin flash that lit up his
mother's eyes found no reflection in his.  He was too good an
actor.  He could carry off a situation to the last bluff--until
the last bet.  His elbow, sticking out jauntily from his side as
if a mantilla were draped on it, signaled to his mother to leave
this play to him.  He knew Jacqueline was not bluffing;  nobody
could fail to recognize the honesty in those blue eyes.  He met
dignity with dignity and honesty with something that at least
held up a mirror to it.

"Senorita Conchita, I would tear out this heart with my hands
before I would betray you!  When I said--"

"Am I free to go?"

"Si, Senorita La Conchita is as free as she is adorable!  My
mother and I are happy to have been of service.  That bagatelle--
the insignificant sums we have advanced--accept them, Senorita,
as our gift--and our apologies that we had no more to give!"

But Jacqueline could see his mother's face behind him and the
malice in that pair of black eyes steeled her.  Pride chilled the
steel.  She was willing to face anything that minute--even
exposure--even Wahl, and mock heroics stirred her true heroism.

"If I go, you will tell no one my real name?"

"Never, Senorita!"

Cervanez gasped, but Ramon smiled steadily.  He enjoyed the
drama.  He foresaw victory, and he was right.

"Then I will dance for you!" said Jacqueline.

Ramon betrayed then that his gold was tinsel;  he turned his head
swiftly to exchange a boastful smirk of triumph with his mother.
But Jacqueline did not see that;  she had Consuelo on her hands.

"No, no, honey!  Never!  You shall not!  I will not have it!  You
shall not dance in public!"

But the bird had flown the nest.  The child was no longer in a
nurse's keeping.  Pride, breeding, courage, all had charge.

"Consuelo, we can't owe these people money.  We must repay them,
and there isn't any other way."

"Hundreds and hundreds of dollars!" Cervanez interjected.

Consuelo flared up again at that.

"You give us no accounting!  You won't say how much we owe!  You!
Do you expect us to work for you for ever?"

Ramon faced about swiftly, his eyes blazing.  He motioned to his
mother to leave the room.  He did not propose to have victory
spoiled by a fresh exchange of incivilities and Cervanez knew
better than to disobey.  But she turned on him outside the
bedroom door.

"You, Ramon, you take such a hazard!  You are mad!"  Ramon put
his arm around Cervanez' waist and kissed her, as if she were his

"We could sell her to the newspaper for more than she owes us!"
he answered, smiling.  "But why show the trump, when you can win
with the low card?"

"You!  Ramon!  Oh, you clever rogue!  But she must begin to
dance.  We are in debt.  We run risks, Ramon.  And we run greater
risks if any one recognizes her, because then she will surely
run away!"

He motioned Cervanez to her own room, knocked on Jacqueline's
door again and entered.  Consuelo stormed and ordered him out,
but he appealed over her shoulder to Jacqueline with one of those
cavalier gestures that graced every situation in which he found
himself.  He was like a toreador apologizing whimsically to
the audience for the clumsiness of the bull.  It made
Jacqueline smile.

"Have you come to issue your commands?" she asked.

"Never, Senorita!"  He bowed with his hand on his heart.  "I am
a suppliant!"

"For what?"

"For forgiveness."

Jacqueline blushed.

"Circumstances are relentless, Senorita."

"What do you mean, Ramon?"

"We are broke, Senorita!"

She knew well enough what that word meant, although she never
associated it in her own thoughts with her own condition.  She
thought only of Ramon, and that instantly.

"Oh, Ramon!  Consuelo--Consuelo has a friend who lends her money.
Borrow some for Ramon, Consuelo!"

Never had Ramon so enjoyed a situation!  No phase of it was lost
on him--humor--pathos--irony--he saw it all.  He even knew who
Consuelo's friend was.

"Senorita, you overwhelm me!  But--"

"But what?" asked Jacqueline.  "Surely you--"

"I am truly embarrassed by your loyal generosity.  But"--he
smiled proudly--"you who are so proud will understand.  And there
is another way.  Senorita--"

"Don't be afraid.  Tell me."

Consuelo, watching from the bed, guessed how little fear
he felt, but that did not prevent Ramon from acting
self-abasement perfectly.

"That Greek, Senorita, who owns the caf, would gladly pay us to
begin dancing tomorrow, instead of next week.  For me alone he
offers little, but for the two of us--"

He paused as if frightened at his own boldness.

"You mean that you depend on me?" asked Jacqueline.

Ramon gestured away the scandalous notion of imposing on her.

"Deus!  That would be unforgivable!  But, if the senorita wishes
to repay us--and it is convenient--then let the Greek serve his
purpose!  Why not?  If the senorita should dance in a mask, none
would ever recognize her, and--"

"No, Conchita!  Tell him you will not!" urged Consuelo.

"Yes, Ramon, I will begin tomorrow night," Jacqueline said
quietly.  She was disappointed in Consuelo.  To have a convenient
friend who lent money, and not to be willing to borrow to help
people to whom one was under obligation, was not praiseworthy.
She signified with a little regal nod that Ramon had her leave to
go, and when he had bowed himself out she turned to deal with the
old duenna as a responsibility rather than an asset.  Poor
Consuelo, recognizing disdain in the beloved blue eyes, tried
very hard to smile.

"You should have offered Ramon those eleven dollars that you
borrowed, Consuelo."

"Honey dear!"  But Consuelo could not argue--could not speak.
She covered her face with her red, rough hands and wept
into them.

"Come now, don't cry, Consuelo.  Why are your hands so red?  Why
are you crying?  There, there, never mind!  You've had a dreadful
time, haven't you?  And it's not so easy for you as it is for me,
because I'm young.  But you've always been so loyal and generous
to me that I was surprised when you didn't offer that money to
Ramon.  He's been good to us."

Consuelo dried her tears, pulled out a cheap apron she had packed
into the straw valise, and began to tie it on.  Her face became
resigned--yet not without a sort of meek determination.

"Where are you going, Consuelo?"

"Nowhere special, honey.  Just downstairs.  I promised--I
promised--I'd talk with the landlady.  I'll be back soon.  Lie
down, dear, and take a nap."

A nap was Consuelo's perennial recipe for all complaints, or for
none, she never having quite forgotten Jacqueline as a baby in
arms;  and much the easiest way to avoid argument was to pretend
to comply, so Jacqueline lay down and Consuelo went downstairs to
have her gossip.  But Consuelo was gone a long time, and
Jacqueline with nothing else to do, lay on the bed awake,
considering things.

For one thing she wondered why Cervanez had only just discovered
that she would not inherit money.  Had she kept that New Orleans
paper all this time and not read it until now?  People were
funny.  She did not mind dancing with Ramon--if that were a way
of getting out of debt.  It is only pretentious ill-breeding that
resents inferiority.  Real breeding is self-reliant, and it was
much less distressing to Jacqueline to associate with Ramon and
Cervanez--and with Pepita and a monkey--than it was for Consuelo,
who scorned the little Brazilian orphan as sincerely as she
loathed the performing animal (whereas Jacqueline made pets of
them both).

Anything was better than to worry about the disastrous past.
Desmio's death haunted her, and the thought of Sherry Mansfield
filled her with hopeless yearning, whenever she dared to think;
and she could not think of the days before that--not even of
Sister Michaela--without passing, as it were, through the neck of
a bottle, re-living dreadful seconds in Desmio's house, with two
dead bodies on the floor, and Wahl's hand on her wrist--seconds
that made her feel like going mad.  One thing, though, was
possible.  She could open the gold locket, and see Desmio's face
as he was when he gave her that last wedding-gift, without
letting her mind move forward to the tragedy.

She was looking at Desmio's portrait, wondering what he would
think of her dancing in public, and rather sure he would approve
of her earning her own living in the only way she could when
Ramon knocked at the door again.  There was no mistaking his
knock.  She made up her mind on the instant not to admit him.

So she opened the door six inches, and set her toe against it.
Ramon thrust his handsome face into the gap.

"What do you want?" she asked, trying to make her voice sound
unafraid.  Her education had not included the art of holding a
bedroom door against an amorous Brazilian.

"You, Conchita!  Loveliest lady--you!  Let me in!"  Ramon began
to use pressure and set his foot into the opening.  She could not
force the door shut again.  She tried with all her might and lost
ground inch by inch.  "Go away or I'll scream!"

He laughed.  He knew that house, and knew where Consuelo was.  A
woman would have to scream uncommonly loud and desperately before
any one would think twice about it.  Women in Ramon's experience,
and especially young ones, like gallantry with a touch of force
in it--the velvet glove and iron hand.  He shoved his hardest and
Jacqueline resolved to face him on her own ground.  She jumped
back suddenly letting him stagger into the room, which was not
very dignified, and rather disconcerted him.

He tried to seize her hand and kiss it, but she snatched it away,
not yielding another inch of ground.

"Conchita, I love you!  I adore you!" he said, laying one hand on
his heart.  "Make me the happiest of men."

"I won't dance with you at all unless you're sensible."

"Adorable one, let us dance through life together!" Ramon urged.
"Dance until you have limousines and diamonds--until the past is
an empty dream, and the future, an assured fame!  There is
nothing in all the universe that those blue eyes and twinkling
feet can not attain in partnership with me!"

He paused, not for lack of breath, or for words, but because she
was laughing at him.  Try how she might (and she was not trying
very hard) she could not take Ramon seriously.

"If you behave yourself, I will dance with you until my debt is
paid off," she answered.  "Otherwise--"

She could not have managed him better.  Unwittingly she had
touched the stop that made him abject.  Avarice was stronger than
desire.  But even so he tried to beat a retreat with dignity.

"Adorable Conchita, I am Ramon Braganza Manoel.  It is love for
you, not for myself that makes this heart burn!  I am unselfish!
Test me!  Possibly you have not known me long enough--"

A cough at the door checked him suddenly.  Cervanez entered,
wearing that look of much too utter innocence that is more
unconvincing than a stammered lie.

"Do you not mean to rehearse?" she asked.

That suited Jacqueline.  She nodded.  Cervanez took Ramon's arm,
but he did not seem to want an interview with his mother at
that moment.

"Let us escort Conchita to the stage," he said with one of his
superb bows.

"No, I'll join you there," Jacqueline answered.  Without
analyzing, she was conscious of the upper hand over Ramon, and
the natural instinct of self-preservation warned her that she
might lose it unless she were careful.  So she would take
Consuelo with her, and encourage Ramon just sufficiently from
within the protecting range of Consuelo's vision.

Ramon's mother led him from the room, and turned on him like a
tigress the second the door was closed behind them.

"Lucky for you I interrupt, Ramon!"

"You listen at key-holes!" he retorted angrily.

"Yes!  And I hear madness!  One more minute and you promise that
girl everything!  She make dam-fool of you--"

Jacqueline listened until their voices died away on the lower
stairs, and then went in search of Consuelo.

"Consuelo!" she called down the back stairs that led to the

But there was no answer.  There was a green baize door down
there, intended to shut off the kitchen noises from the rest of
the house.  She would have to go down the back stairs and open
that door before she could make Consuelo hear.

She went down gingerly, never having visited that part of the
house before and feeling rather like a trespasser and anxious not
to be heard or seen.  The green door swung quietly on a hinge
that worked both ways, and she pushed it open without making the
least noise.  Inside there was a long twilight passage, and a
sound of something moving steadily--then of something knocking
against a tin pail;  and there was a smell quite unmistakable.
She let the door swing shut behind her, and it was about a minute
before her eyes grew used to the dimness.

"Consuelo!" she called in a low voice.

"Yes, honey!  Yes!  What is it?"

"I thought you were talking to the landlady."  Consuelo, who
was kneeling, struggled to her feet--threw a scrubbing brush into
the bucket--wiped her hands--and tried to untie the wet apron;
but her soap-and-hot-water-soaked fingers could not manage the
knot.  "What have you been doing, Consuelo?"

"Scrubbing, honey."

The tone was apologetic and ashamed.


"Oh, the landlady was worried, and the scrubwoman didn't turn up,
so I thought I'd help her out."

"Why, Consuelo--you've scrubbed all this long passage--and the
walls--they're still wet."

"It was nothing, honey--"

"You're all tired out!  Have you ever done this before?  Is this
what made you so tired the other day--and what has made your
hands so rough and red ever since the day after we came here?
Consuelo--tell me the truth at once!  Is this how you got those
eleven dollars?  Is this the friend you borrowed from?"

"Honey dear--we--we had to get some money somewhere.  I've lost
my bank-book, you know that--"

"And this is how you've been buying me candy and hair-ribbons?"

"Conchita, dear, don't scold me!"

"And I asked you if you stole the money!  Consuelo, give me that
scrubbing-brush at once!  Go upstairs and wait for me!"  She
spoke quickly to cover a sudden choke in her throat.

"No, honey."

"Consuelo--I tell you I will do it!  Do you hear me?  Is this the
board you kneel on?  Give me your apron then."

Jacqueline undid the knot, and tied the wet apron on herself.

"Honey, dear, you can't!  You don't know how!"

"I will!  Go upstairs and lie down, Consuelo!  Kiss me first--you
dear!  You dear old faithful!  Now--you have your orders!  Be off
with you, and rest!"

Jacqueline was on her knees already, dipping soft hands into
the lye.

"Please, honey!"

"Go and rest.  Then put your hat on.  You're to watch me rehearse."

Consuelo obeyed.  There was nothing else for it;  and Jacqueline
splashed water on the floor--and scrubbed, and scrubbed--using
both hands to the brush, and wondering however Consuelo had found
strength for the task."

The Chinese cook came out through the kitchen door, and stood
still, watching her.  She worked all the harder, wishing her arms
would not ache so.  She was not going to rest while he looked at
her--not going to have to make excuses to a Chinaman.  Why didn't
he go away?

Scrub-scrub-scrub--and how her arms ached!  The Chinaman lit the
gas, and watched her steadily, until she felt she would like to
throw the brush at him.

"You no sabe," he said at last in a perfectly matter-of-fact voice.

She stopped scrubbing then, and looked up at him.  He had a
wrinkled old face, and bright eyes that looked older than the
world.  He was not smiling, not scowling;  he simply looked
at her.

"You no sabe sclubbe," he repeated.

"Nonsense!  Any one can do this."

She resumed the scrubbing, but he took the pail away from her and
set it down on the far side of the kitchen door.

"No can do," he announced simply, and stood and watched her
again.  He seemed to be a Napoleonic sort of Chinaman.  She got
to her feet and he took the board away.

"Bring those back!" Jacqueline commanded.  "I must finish or the
landlady will find fault."

"Belong my pidgen," he answered.  "Landlady come back bime-by--
to-mollow maybe."

"But she must be here!  She paid Consuelo to do this."

He shook his head.

"Consuelo said so."

"All same tellee lie.  Belong my pidgen.  Me pay Consuelo 'leben
dollars.  This floor, dollar time.  Kitchen floor, dollar-fifty
time.  You sabe?"

Jacqueline did "sabe."  Consuelo had been working for a Chinaman!
She blushed up to her ears, and was more glad than ever that she
had insisted on relieving her.  She would finish the job now to
the bitter end!

"Bring that pail back here!" she commanded.

The Chinaman did not even move--did not frown--did not smile--
just looked at her.

"No can do," he answered her in his own good time.  "You young
nice girlee.  This old woman job.  Consuelo can do--dollar--
dollar-fifty--catchee little, not much.  Consuelo getting no
bime-by.  All finish up.  Dead soon.  You plenty bime-by.  You
plitee girlee-catchee lich man.  Catchee Consuelo--make sclub.
You sabe?"

He was impregnable, entrenched in a philosophy totally foreign to
Jacqueline's comprehension.  She did not know how to answer him.
But there were elements of kindness in his creed.  He was willing
to teach;  to advise.

"You catchee lich man," he insisted.  "Lamon no good.  Lamon no
good Portugee, catchee little money one time--bime-by all gone.
You sabe?  All same Consuelo then, you sclubee floor--one dollar-
-dollar-fifty.  Lamon catchee 'nother dam-fool girlee.  This
house cheap place.  You no belong cheap place.  You belong big
hotel.  Plenty lich men come.  Lich man like plitee girlee.  Soft
for you.  You sabe?"

Jacqueline's frown was going sixteen to the dozen, and her blue
eyes were rounded with astonishment.  Dimly she did understand
what he meant, but only dimly.  Yet his manner was not impudent;
and she realized it would not be the slightest use to be angry
with him.  It was like being talked to by an automaton.

"You no walkee stleet," he went on.  "Catchee bum--catchee cop--
catchee Clistian Sociation.  No good.  Catchee lich man, big
hotel.  Can do.  Me fix it.  Mollow--nex' day--me makee
'langement.  You lun away from here dam-quick.  Catchee plenty
lich man, big hotel.  You sabe?"

Jacqueline understood enough--enough, at all events to know she
wanted no more of his advice.  She turned away from him and
hurried through the green baize door, glancing back over her
shoulder only once as the door swung shut.  He was mopping the
floor dry, thrusting the pole back and forth mechanically in the
gaslight, with exactly the same expression on his face that was
there when she first looked up at him.

If he was thinking of her, or of anything in the world except to
get that floor dry, he gave no sign of it.  Down at the far end
of that long passage, he looked like the automatic demon of the
underworld, sure of the ultimate victory of evil, and indifferent
as to how long any process took.  Yet not unkind.  He was the
voice of the subcellar and the gas-jet.

Chapter XXV.

"Who's that girl!"

"Papa" Pantopoulos was one hundred percent American.  He could
prove it.  He had papers.  He was no impractical theorist, but
did in San Francisco as the San Franciscan does--bought
protection regularly at the going rate, and supplied the best
brands of bootleg to patrons who knew the ropes.  With the aid of
dinginess, Levantine waiters, tomato ketchup and spaghetti he had
slowly built up a reputation for Bohemian excellence, and
now with fresh paint, new tablecloths and a Czecho-Slovakian
orchestra of five pieces he was bidding for a more
expensive clientele.

Bidding high, too.  He had his advertising matter written by a
Hebrew who had failed at Hollywood, and he was all ready to rush
into print when Ramon informed him on a Sunday afternoon that La
Conchita would be his partner instead of Cervanez and they would
begin dancing for him the next evening, instead of a week later
as expected.

He had a gorgeous poster made in three colors--painted by hand by
the same gentleman who drew the duchesses in underwear for the
department-store advertisements;  and he himself personally
nailed it up, under the new glass portico that he had bought at a
bargain from an up-town failed competitor.

"El Toro," that had been a dive--a joint--a caf by courtesy--was
now a restaurant.  And Papa Pantopoulos, even with his bank-
account down somewhere near the zero mark in consequence of
advertising space rates, was no small sport.  Every newspaper
editor in San Francisco, all the sporting writers, the dramatic
and musical critics, and some of the managers of leading hotels
received two free tickets for dinners on the opening night, in a
pink envelope marked "Personal--Important--Rush!"  The tickets
had the menu printed on the back, and on the face was a portrait
of "La Conchita" done in black and gold and green in memory, by
an artist who had heard a good description of her from Papa
himself.  The black mask was the most nearly accurate part
of the picture;  the rest of it was mainly twirling legs
and suggestiveness.

But Jacqueline knew nothing about any of that.  She had been told
that important people would be present;  Papa Pantopoulos bragged
to her about it after she and Ramon rehearsed that Sunday
afternoon.  But Ramon told her afterward the important people
would all send substitutes, if they did anything at all, and that
Papa was a fool for his pains.

"It is our dancing, Senorita, that will produce the results, not
his vile cooking.  We will dance until all San Francisco clamors
at his door!  And then we will accept a real engagement elsewhere
and the crowd will follow us!"

Jacqueline thought that an ungrateful--almost an immoral
proposition;  but she was too excited to dare to argue, knowing
very well she would get nervous if she did.  It had occurred to
her that Ramon, Cervanez, Pepita, Consuelo, and even the adorable
monkey were all dependent on her success;  and Cervanez rubbed
that in unfeelingly on the way back to the boarding-house.

Consuelo was already so nervous that there was no comfort to be
had from her.  Jacqueline went upstairs and spent the rest of the
afternoon with Pepita and the monkey, playing games she had
almost forgotten and singing the old nursery songs that used to
irritate Donna Isabella "because they are foolish, and the
niggers sing them, Jacqueline."  She could imitate a darky
perfectly, and Pepita so enjoyed the fun that Jacqueline forgot
all about her own troubles.

But they were all heaped on her once more at the evening meal.
The fat man, who seemed to be a fixture in the upstairs hall-room
and to know everybody's business, lectured her on stage fright--
warned her not to eat too much--advised her to drink brandy and
champagne before going on--and above all, not to say her prayers.

"The stage an' the angels ain't on speaking terms," he assured
her.  "I've known young girls who prayed for hours before their
first appearance--went to mass an' all that--flopped, every darn
one of 'em.  The most successful young one I recall was a girl
named Juanita--that was her stage name anyway.  I tried to kiss
her, and she got so mad-angry you couldn't hold her.  Sore?
Believe me!  She was boiling!  When her turn came she went on
like a whirlwind--sang an' danced 'em out o' their seats, and
they called her back a dozen times.  Made her!  It sure did.  She
was a headliner from that minute--until she tripped on an untied
lace one night an' went to hospital.  Bu'sted her hip, or
something--complications--doctors did the rest--died under
chloroform, without ever thinking o' thanking me for having tried
to kiss her.  Would it make you angry if I kissed you--honey?" he
asked, imitating Consuelo's accent and wiping cabbage from his
lips with a paper napkin.

He would have made the attempt, but for Ramon's suggestive action
with a table-knife.  Cervanez, on the horns of anxiety, tried to
turn the conversation into safer channels, but the fat man had
started the ball rolling and nearly everybody at the table
followed suit with tales of stage-fright and disaster.  Then some
one with his mouth full blurted out that Papa Pantopoulos was
running El Toro on a shoestring.

"Give him one week.  If your turn don't crowd the place he's done
for.  Those Greeks all cut each other's throats for a living.
There's three Greeks he owes bills to for beef an' supplies, an'
they'll take the joint over if he's a day late with the money.
Has he paid you in advance Ramon?  Oh, you poor boob!  You've a
fat chance!"

That sent Cervanez into hysterics.  The meal broke up to the
shrilling of her fear, all hurled at Jacqueline.

"We find her--we be good to her--Ramon squander money on her--an'
now we starve!  You all hear what he say--now we starve!"

They carried her upstairs kicking;  but she recovered soon enough
to invade Jacqueline's room while she was dressing and to chase
out Pepita.

"That child is jinx, I tell you!  We bring her all the way from
Brazil, an' all she do is cost us money!  Eat--she eat all the
time!  Work?  Never!  When it is not one excuse it is the other--
truant officers--police--the doctors!  She is only good for play
with monkey--I get rid of her!  Scat--you little nuisance!"

That helped decide the night's fate for Jacqueline.  She had one
more to defend and protect.  Consuelo first, and now little
Pepita.  She would do or die, for the sake of Pepita!  She would
make a reputation as a dancer, and earn money, in order to be
able to take that child away from such surroundings.  The thought
aroused all her courage.  She grew angry--even as the fat man
recommended--and ordered Cervanez out of the room--was obeyed
too.  Cervanez gasped at her, and went.  Consuelo knelt before
the washed-out image of the Virgin Mary in the corner by the end
of the bed, and snuffled as she prayed;  but Jacqueline dressed
herself as if she were putting on armor--tied on the mask like a
vizor behind which she would do battle with the world--and
announced herself ready.

Consuelo bade her kneel and say her prayers.  "You'll need all
the help you can get tonight, honey darling!"



"I've done no wrong.  I'm going to do my best.  If Heaven
won't help me tonight without my asking, I'll never pray
again, Consuelo?"

She was adamant.  The blue eyes blazed through the holes in the
mask, and her lips were set hard beneath it.  "Go and tell Ramon
I am ready."

Ramon came dressed as a toreador in white and tinsel, looking
handsomer than Satan, fresh from a curtain-lecture by Cervanez
and carrying off his irritation under a veneer of swagger.  He
stumbled over a big toddy-bear that Pepita had left on the floor,
and kicked it under the bed with a brimstone oath in Portuguese
before he offered his arm to Jacqueline.  He could not have done
better.  That act brought the very lees of her anger to the
surface.  Jacqueline refused his arm.

"Bring that back here, Ramon!"


"Do you hear me?"

"The senorita jests!"

"Oh, very well.  Dance alone, then!  Consuelo, don't you dare to
do it for him!"

Ramon studied her a moment;  but Jacqueline stood stock-still
waiting for him to obey or take the consequences.

"Temperament!" he muttered.  "Oh, well!"

Placing a towel on the floor he knelt on it and reached under the
bed, recovering the toy and bringing it to her with an attempt at
half-humorous chivalry, expecting at least a smile in return.
But instead she flashed him a look of indignation, took the
teddy-bear, and ran upstairs to return it to Pepita, lingering so
long up there to exchange good nights that Ramon bit his
fingernails and swore.  Consuelo had to go at last and bring
her down.

Then, on the way to the back entrance of El Toro, Cervanez
indulged herself anew in the luxury of high-pitched railing
against providence.

"We walk!  My God, we walk like street-women!  Not even a cab!
We must drag ourselves through dirt like the tramps to the back
door of a bum show--and all because you throw our money away,
Ramon!  Does that Greek not know enough to send a taxi for us?"

"But three blocks--three or four blocks--what is that?"
asked Ramon.

"My dignity--is that nothing?" she retorted.  "In Rio de Janerio
we would have a voiture if we crossed the street!  You bring us
to the devil, Ramon!  Down--down--down you bring us.  Three
hundred dollars for that dress that Conchita is wearing!  And
me--I walk!"

Jacqueline had no pity to waste on Cervanez that night.  She had
only scorn for ill-breeding and selfishness.

"Be still," she commanded.  "You shall have your money back, and
the walk will do you good."

"Money back?  I like to see it!  I kiss myself good-by to it when
Ramon buy you that dress!" Cervanez retorted.

So between the boarding-house and the stage-door Jacqueline was
given no chance to recover her temper.  She was angrier than she
had ever been in all her life.  When Ramon suggested she should
remove her gold chain and locket before dancing, because it did
not go with the dress, she could hardly keep herself from
slapping him.  Desmio's last present to her was the only thing
she was wearing that was her very own.

"You are impertinent!" She answered.  "Why are we waiting?  Why
don't we begin?"

The place had been a theater at one time, and the stage extended
all across one end of what was now the restaurant.  Papa
Pantopoulos had given his last hostage to bankruptcy by ordering
in potted palms and a gorgeous back-drop recommended by the
electrician--a youth with the world before him, and an eye for
Jacqueline, intent on making miracles to satisfy her.

There was a clatter of knives and forks from beyond the curtain,
but not much laughter, and much less noise of conversation than
there should have been.  Papa Pantopoulos came hurrying
behind the scenes, hot, napkin under arm, and almost frantic
with anxiety.

"My God!" he exclaimed.  "It drags.  It goes like a funeral!"

"Goin' to look like one, too, without another spotlight!  Don't
say I didn't tell you!" warned the electrician.

"I spent too much!" Pantopoulos answered.  "I close this place
tomorrow!  Oh, my God!  Miss--"  (He hurried over to where
Jacqueline stood, and began to paw her hands in his anxiety.)  "-
-do me the little favor, please!  Begin!  My place is full--there
is not a seat left--but the black murderer in the kitchen put too
much tomato in the soup, and unless you make them all forget it I
am ruined!  Don't wait until nine o'clock.  Begin now!"

Jacqueline caught Ramon's eye.  Not a word passed.  She commanded
him with a gesture.  Pantopoulos hurried out to instruct the
orchestra.  Consuelo sat down on a wobbly chair in the flies and
began fanning herself with a handkerchief.  Cervanez struck a
gong and hauled up the curtain hand-over-hand.  The clatter of
plates and forks increased.  The stage became a sudden stunning
sea of light.  "Ready?" asked Ramon.  She hardly waited for him.

For a moment the hum of conversation rose--then dwindled,
gradually.  Some one said "Bravo!" and two or three people
clapped.  Jacqueline grew conscious of scores of eyes all focused
on her--dimly saw the heads of the orchestra below the stage, and
beyond them a wilderness of faces and white tables--hated every
detail of it all--and danced.--Danced like the devil--stamped her
heel into the stage and outdanced Ramon--made him sweat and
change and improvise to keep up with her--tossed him scornful
glances over-shoulder through the mask, laughed as she thought of
sudden new expedients to bewilder him--closed with him to dance
the tango steps that were his special pride, and outdanced him
again until he was nothing more than an accompaniment to her pas
seule.  She hated him, the audience, and all the world--cared for
nothing but to pay her debt, and give the brutes their money's
worth!  And the audience--for whom she cared nothing--nothing!
--rose in their seats to get a better view, clapping so
thunderously when she finished to the last drumming chords of the
zymbalom that Cervanez had to raise the curtain five times, while
Jacqueline stood stock-still in mid-stage, head erect, not even
nodding thanks for the applause--still furious.

"Conchita, we are famous!"

Ramon took her hand to lead her to the wings.  Cervanez came
running to put an arm around her.  She snatched away her hand--
ignored them both.  Papa Pantopoulos came hurrying behind,
perspiring and excited, to beam with gratitude;  she turned her
back on him.  Consuelo threw a wrap over her shoulders, and she
found a few words at last.

"We will get out of debt now, Consuelo! and you won't scrub
any more!"

Ramon sulked.  Cervanez sang to a new tune, setting a chair for
her, standing by to flatter and rearrange stray whisps of hair
that had gone adrift in the violence of dancing.

"You are marvelous, Conchita, marvelous!  We make a fortune!  How
you dance like that?  What make you inspiration?"

Inspiration came that instant.  Jacqueline looked over her
shoulder, her hand in Consuelo's lap.  "Pepita!" she answered.
"I'm dancing for her!  If you're ever cruel to that child again,
that will be the last time I will dance for you!"

"Oh, Pepita!  The little one, eh?  Hah!  So she pay dividend
at last!"

More inspiration!  That remark disgusted Jacqueline more than if
she had seen Pepita being slapped.  She snatched her hand away
from Consuelo, unable to endure even a true friend's petting, she
was so furious.  If she must dance--and she would dance, to pay
the debt, and free herself, and Consuelo, and Pepita--she would
give her whole attention to that.  There was nothing to talk
about--nothing!  If she must make of herself a public spectacle,
it should be no poor one--nothing to regret!  Only something to
hate, and hate, and hate--and triumph over!

How glad she was that Sherry did not even know her right name,
and that Desmio had not lived to see her earn her living on a
tawdry stage!  This was that man Wahl's doing.  In imagination
she could see Wahl's face grinning at her--the very devil's own,
delighting in her downfall!  She wished he were there to see her
now, and yet she knew she would run from him if he were there!
She would like to prove to him that he could not destroy her with
his lies;  and yet she knew he could!  She knew that if Wahl
discovered her, and told who she was, and wrote more lies about
her in the papers, she would run--run--run--perhaps even
kill herself.

And in a corner of the restaurant, at a table under the balcony,
Clinton Wahl sat devouring free guinea chicken and asparagus vis-
a-vis to a woman who was on much better than nodding terms with
most of the men around her.  Mansfield senior had received the
two free tickets in pink envelopes, and had dispensed them as
patronage in the usual way, to whoever had the day off and cared
to ask.  It amused Wahl to take a woman to a dinner that cost him
nothing.  He had not the remotest intention of "writing up" the
El Toro restaurant or its proprietor, but Papa Pantopoulos fussed
over him, and supplied him with surreptitious cocktails in coffee
cups, expecting in return at least a quarter of a column on an
inside page.

"Who's that girl?" Wahl asked him, ten minutes after Jacqueline's
first dance, when Pantopoulos reappeared to hustle his waiters.
"Is Conchita her real name?"

"Aha!  She is a discovery--a mystery--my discovery!" Pantopoulos
answered, grinning.  "Nobody knows who she is--not even I!  But
listen:" (he whispered behind his hand) "will you try a Conchita
cocktail?  That is another discovery, not quite as good, but--"

Wahl nodded.  He would try anything on the free list.
Pantopoulos hurried away to his secret locker.

"You got a crush on that dancer?" asked Wahl's companion.  "Can't
you keep it till tomorrow?  You're out with me tonight."

Her face fell sulkily as she looked into Wahl's eyes.  They were
glittering.  His face looked tense and set, as if he were trying
to remember something and the memory held vestiges of humor.

"You seen her before somewhere?"

Wahl did not answer.  It was a part of his creed never to answer
a question unless it suited him, but to demand answers from
everybody else.  Papa Pantopoulos came hurrying back with a flask
under his arm-pit.

"Something to help you remember La Conchita!" he whispered.  "Is
she not marvelous?  Is she not worth a column on a front page?"

Wahl almost terrified the Greek with the sudden vehemence with
which he seized his arm and pulled him closer.

"You want a write up!  Front page?  Introduce me to her then!"

"Ah, no, sir, she must be a mystery--for a while--for the sake of
the advertising," Papa answered coaxingly.  "Ask me later on,
sir.  Not tonight."

"Before I leave this place!" Wahl answered.  "If she's who I
think she is, you'll have all San Francisco in here before
I'm through!"

"My God!" exclaimed the Greek.  "I will do my best to feed
them!  Wait until after the next dance, and I will see what
can be done."

"I must see her without the mask on," Wahl insisted.  "Will she
dance down here on the floor?"

"Not tonight, sir.  Tomorrow I will move some of the tables up to
the balcony, and clear a space for the guests to dance.  Then
perhaps I can persuade her to come down once from the stage--"

"Where does she live?" Wahl demanded.

The Greek shook his head, pretending not to know.

"I could follow her home, of course," Wahl said with one of his
cold smiles.

"What--an' leave me flat?" asked his companion.  Wahl ignored
her.  He was watching Pantopoulos, recognizing speculation in the
Greek's eyes.  The Greek was obviously weighing two chances in
the balance.

"If I catch her outside here, I'll write her up without
mentioning you, of course," Wahl assured him, tossing off the
rest of the Conchita cocktail.

"I will see what I can do, sir."

Pantopoulos hurried away, still undecided, but with a new and
brilliant notion in his head, which he allowed to simmer there
while he ran to and fro, between restaurant and kitchen.

"Service, children!  Service!  Smile!  Get a move on!  Oh, my
God!  A man who runs a restaurant ought to have his head
examined.  Luigi, that is not the way to serve cold artichoke.
Where you work last?  In jail?  Take that back to the kitchen!"

Cervanez rang the gong, and the curtain rose for the second
dance, disclosing Ramon and La Conchita glittering white and
silver in a pool of light.  The orchestra swung into a lazy waltz
strain that set the guests humming, and Conchita swayed slowly
out of Ramon's arms, For a second Ramon was non-plussed--stood
looking at her, wondering what next;  but the audience thought
that was part of the performance, and in a moment he was
improvising, dancing up to her, pursuing her in circles, every
effort he put forth serving to emphasize her art, as the
obbligato serves a tune.  If her mood was not mischievous it
surely   seemed so from where the audience sat, and the black
mask increased the delusion.

"Thunder!" exclaimed Wahl.  "If she's the same girl, she's had
teaching since.  She danced like an amateur when I saw her last."

"Where did you see her?" his companion asked, trying sulkily to
make the best of the situation.

"Not sure that I ever did see her," Wahl answered, watching the
stage like a hawk.  "But I think I've seen the man, too."

"Well?  What of it?"

"Big story!" Wahl answered.

Oh, you make me sick!  Why can't you give me a write up?  Aren't
I interesting?  You said I was!"

"You wouldn't interest the public, Harriet.  Humpty-dumpty's no
good after he's smashed, and you never had far enough to fall to
make an echo!"

He was watching the stage--watching Jacqueline as if his eyes
could pierce the mask, talking as if he were thinking aloud.  He
understood as well as any one in the room that the dance was
marvelous, but all that did to him was to make it seem more worth
while to pillory the artist, if it could be done without risk of
suit for libel.

"I think you're a devil, Clinton!" his companion said suddenly.
"You'd rather ruin any one than see them get away with it."

The audience had risen out of the chairs again.  The orchestra
had speeded up the tune in response to La Conchita's mood, and
the dance was ending in a wild delirious swirl of silken skirt
and stockings, with Ramon improvising faun-like leapings here and
there that were a million times better than anything he had ever
rehearsed.  The curtain came down amid storms of clapping, and
rose again repeatedly, showing La Conchita stock-still, panting,
in mid-stage, and Ramon in the background, not daring to come
near her.  But it looked as if he were modestly conceding her the
whole applause.

Papa Pantopoulos went hurrying to the kitchen to speed up the
service, and Wahl, watching the fat back disappear through the
swinging door, snatched opportunity.

"Stay here, or take a taxi home, I don't care which," he said
to his companion, and started in a hurry for the door beside
the stage.

Why bother to wait for introductions?  Why ask questions?  Why
not snatch that mask from the girl's face?  If she turned out, as
he expected, to be Jacqueline Lanier, good;  if not, he could
apologize.  He had done more impudent things than that a score of
times, and had only once been thrashed at all seriously, for he
could use his fists a great deal better than the average.

But the door to the stage was locked, and he could not force it
without attracting too much notice.  He wanted this story to
himself in order to do it justice, and to score another beat for
the Tribune.  There was a door leading under the stage from the
curtained enclosure that half-concealed the orchestra.  He ducked
under the curtain, stepped behind the piano, kicked the door open
and entered.

Just as he expected, there were steps leading up to a trap-door.
The trap-door was bolted from below, and he had no difficulty in
raising it.  It brought him out into the wings to the right of
the stage, opposite to where Jacqueline was sitting beside
Consuelo.  He started straight for her, almost running;  but
Cervanez, walking across-stage with her back toward him, heard
him--turned suddenly--and sprang toward him, meeting him in the
narrow gap between two flies.

"Who are you?  What do you want?" she demanded.  Instead of
answering, he tried to avoid her, dodging around the fly, but she
dodged the other way and met him face to face again.

"What do you want?" she insisted.

"An interview.  I'm from a newspaper."

"No-thing do-ing!" Cervanez spread her elbows between the flies
and blocked the way.

"Why not?" he demanded.  "I'm from the Tribune.  Don't you want
good publicity?"

There was nothing that Cervanez wanted more;  but she knew she
had her choice between secrecy and losing La Conchita.

"No!" she answered, signaling wildly to Ramon with her hands
behind her back.  "This is private. Keep out!"

"Who is that girl?  Tell me all about her."

Wahl was trying to see past her, but the stage was only dimly lit
now and the shadow was confusing.  What he did see was that there
was no one near enough to run to this woman's assistance;  and
all he needed was one glimpse behind the dancer's mask.  He
rushed Cervanez suddenly and sent her reeling backward on her
heels;  but you don't dance for a living for forty years or so
without becoming as wiry as a cat, and Cervanez sprang back at
him, seized him by both arms, and screamed.

"Ramon!  Ramon!  Reporters!  Run!  Quick!"

"Damn you!  Hold your noise!" Wahl hissed at her, struggling to
wrestle loose from the strong lean hands.  He struck her on the
elbow, and she let go, screaming with the pain.  But he was too
late.  As he leapt across the stage he saw a door on the far side
slam, and heard a key turn.  Then Papa Pantopoulos came running
to know what the excitement was all about, and Cervanez appealed
to the Greek noisily, rubbing her elbow and gesticulating like
a fish-wife.

Nobody threatened Wahl, or talked of calling the police;  he
noticed that fact.  Papa Pantopoulos used persuasion, and
Cervanez, instead of abusing him for having struck her,
began pleading.

"Please, Mr.--er--Wahl, please do not come behind here!" urged
the Greek, taking him by the sleeve and trying to lead him off-
stage by the door that connected with a passage between
restaurant and kitchen.

"Please!" Cervanez seconded.  "She is very nervous and highly
temperamental!  If she is frightened she will not dance!"

Wahl allowed himself to be led back to the dining-room, but he
felt nearly sure now of the dancer's identity.  He was wondering
whether he dared to make the assertion in print that she was
Jacqueline Lanier, without first getting absolute proof.

Nothing like keeping on harping on the same string, when you had
a real story!  Just sufficient time had elapsed since the first
scandal to make its reappearance fresh and interesting.  Perfect!
The seventeen-year-old Herodias pretending to be drowned, and
turning up in San Francisco on a cabaret stage, masked, and
dancing a Bacchanale!  Did he dare?

Not yet, he decided.  He must see her without that mask on.

"Take a taxi and go home," he advised the saddened Harriet.
"I'm going to hang around outside here, and watch where La
Conchita goes."

Papa Pantopoulos, coming up behind with cocktails to soothe
injured feelings, overheard him, and the notion he had carried in
his head for an hour crystallized at once into a purpose.

"There, sir--another Conchita!  Genuine gin from over the line,
and a secret recipe of my own.  What a pity we can't advertise
it!  Hah-hah!"

Wahl tossed off the cocktail and bade him good night curtly,
hardly giving the discouraged Harriet time to gather up her
wraps.  Papa Pantopoulos hurried to the stage again and summoned
Ramon and Cervanez from behind the locked door, where they were
guarding Jacqueline's retreat.

"Where is she?  Not gone away?" he asked excitedly.

"She is hiding with Consuelo in a room upstairs."

"Ah!  Listen to me.  That man who came on the stage just now is
from a newspaper.  I heard him say he will wait outside to learn
where she goes when she leaves here."

"My God!  We shall lose her!" wailed Cervanez.

"Listen to me!" Pantopoulos insisted.  But you couldn't listen
with Consuelo coming down creaky stairs and jerking at the door
to get it open.

"Who was it?" Consuelo demanded breathlessly.

"A Mr. Wahl, from the Tribune newspaper," said Pantopoulos.

"Wahl?  What's his first name?  Clinton?"

The Greek nodded.  Consuelo turned instantly, horror-struck, to
open the door and run upstairs again.  Cervanez set her back
against the door.

"Let me through!  Let me through!" Consuelo almost screamed,
tugging at the door-knob.  "She will kill her self if that man
finds her!"

"Listen to me--please!" Pantopoulos insisted.  "If you leave this
place tonight that man will see her, for he waits at the back
door.  Let her stay here.  Why not all stay here?  There is an
apartment upstairs--a good apartment--several rooms, all
furnished.  You may have them.  You must fulfill your contract.
I can not afford to lose you, after all the expenses I have made.
If you will stay upstairs I will charge you nothing for the
apartment;  and there are only two doors to upstairs--this one,
and one to the kitchen;  we will keep them both locked!"

Ramon stroked his chin, struck his attitude of Old-World dignity,
and smiled.

"You are not the only one who can not afford things," he said
suavely.  "We must pay our bill at the other place before the
dragon will permit me to remove our belongings.  Now if the senor
would make payment in advance--"

The Greek sighed.  "Pay!" he exclaimed.  "It is I who must pay
everything!  Where do I get the money, when half of the dinners
tonight are not paid for?  Am I Midas?"

"You are he who must decide!" smiled Ramon with a low ironic bow.

Ten minutes later Ramon left the El Toro back door with money in
his pocket, striding with the swagger suitable to cash in hand.
A man stepped out of a shadow suddenly, confronting him, blocking
the sidewalk, thrusting cavernous eyes up close to his.

"What is your pleasure, Senor?" Ramon asked mildly.

"Aren't you La Conchita's dancing partner?  Come now, tell me who
she is and I'll make it worth your while!"

"But I don't know, Senor!"

"Let me see her then!"

"She left for her apartment directly after the second dance,"
Ramon answered without hesitating.

"Where does she live?"

"I don't know, Senor!"

"Rot!" Wahl answered.  "Of course you know.  See here;  what's
the use of your trying to hide her?  I know who she is, but I
want proof of it.  The minute I have proof, you're famous!  Can't
you see the value of that?"

"But what is fame without a fortune, Senor?" Ramon asked.  "No--I
regret--I don't know who she is--or where she is just now--or who
you are," he added.

"I'll soon prove to you who I am!"

"Of what use, Senor?  The acquaintance would no doubt be very
interesting to us both, but--"

He bowed magnificently.  Wahl leered spitefully.  Ramon strode
away down-street in the opposite direction from the boarding-
house, glancing over his shoulder, at the first corner to see
whether he was followed.  But Wahl decided not to waste time
tracking him.  He knew of at least one better way to get results,
and began to feel sorry he had put Ramon and Pantopoulos on their

Chapter XXVI.

"I hate the Tribune!"

Wahl reached the Tribune office just in time to catch Mansfield
senior.  They met face to face in the downstairs lobby, and
Mansfield turned back to the elevator.  He could read in a man's
face that a story had "broken," without having to be told in so
many words and neither said anything until Mansfield sat at his
desk.  Then Wahl cut loose in short excited sentences.

"The Lanier girl--I've found her--sure of it!"

"Go to it then!" snapped Mansfield.

"Don't dare.  Can't identify her positively.  Can't get to her.
She's dancing masked under the name of La Conchita at that El
Toro place you gave me tickets for."

"Ought to be easy," said Mansfield.

"'Tisn't.  She's guarded by the gang she's dancing for, I watched
the back door.  Nothing doing.  I think she's living in rooms
over the restaurant.  Listen, though:  if she's the girl Sherry
brought back with him in the boat that night, as I suspect, he'll
recognize her.  Where are those photographs that came from
New Orleans?"

Mansfield opened his desk drawer and laid on the blotter six
pictures of Jacqueline Lanier.

"Doesn't look like a criminal, does she?" he said, examining them
one by one.

"The real ones never do," Wahl answered.  "Why not lay those on
Sherry's desk, and watch him."

"Send for Dad," snapped Mansfield.

So Dad Lawrence left an account of Mrs. Somebody-or-other's
function in the middle of a word and sauntered in with both hands
in his pockets.

"Where's Sherry?" Mansfield demanded.

"Gone home."

"Get here ahead of him tomorrow, and put those on his desk.  If
he seems disturbed by them, try to get him to come and talk
to me."

"Good lord!" Dad exclaimed.  "Why don't you go home and pull him
out of bed, and have it out with him?  What's new now?"

"I don't care to have him tell me lies," Mansfield answered.
"I'd rather he said nothing.  But here's the point:  Wahl thinks
he has found that Lanier girl.  He also thinks--and I'm inclined
to agree with him--that Sherry really met the Lanier girl, and
fell in love with her when he was down there in Louisiana.  If
so, he's in a bad way.  Wahl believes the Lanier girl is dancing
at a caf called--what's the name of it?"

"El Toro," sad Wahl.

"And what's her alibi?"

"La Conchita."

"D'you think Sherry knows?" asked Mansfield.

Neither man could answer that.  Wahl was inclined to think not.
Dad ventured no opinion.

"Well--put those photos on his desk, and watch him," said
Mansfield.  "If he recognizes her, he'll show it.  If this La
Conchita really is the Lanier girl--and if that's what's the
matter with Sherry--I'll break her on the' wheel for his sake if
for nothing else.  By God!  I'll not have Sherry ruined by a
female of that type!  We'll drive her out of San Francisco!
Head-line her, until even that blind young idiot sees she's a bad
lot!  D'you understand me, Dad?  I'm looking to you and Wahl to
help me save Sherry.  She's the worst type of woman there is!"

Dad stroked his chin.  Wahl grinned.

"All right.  See you boys tomorrow then," said Mansfield, and
walked out with an unlit cigar between his teeth.  Wahl and Dad
stood and faced each other.

"It'll make a hell of a good story," said Wahl.

"I'm not fond of breaking women on the wheel," Dad answered, "but
if she's a real bad lot--"

"She's one of the worst!"

"--and it's a case of saving Sherry--"

"He'd be pap for her!  She knows his dad's a rich man.  She'll
play him the way she did Calhoun in Louisiana--and marry his dad
under the boy's nose if she'd half a chance!" Wahl said grinning.
"She's a stunner to look at--dances like the devil--and the mask
adds the attractive mystery.  She'll vamp young Sherry to a fare-
you-well, and he's the kind of youngster who takes it seriously."

"Yes--I guess we'll have to interfere," Dad answered gloomily.

"Tell you what, then." Wahl laid a finger on the middle button of
Dad's waistcoat.  "I've scared 'em.  They'll be on the watch for
me.  Suppose you go there tomorrow night and see if you can't get
next to her.  Worm your way in, and strip that mask off her.  Get
her story.  Force a confession.  I'll meet you outside afterward."

They agreed on that, but Dad did not like it.  He did not like
Wahl for one thing, and for another--he was useless as a
muckraker--altogether too soft-hearted, and too inclined to help
the under-dog.

However, he was no more willing than was Mansfield senior to see
Sherry caught in the net of a designing female, so he fell in
with Wahl's plan.

He tossed on his bed that night in the room in a boarding-house
that he had occupied for fifteen years, wondering just why he
felt miserable at the prospect of the task in front of him.  He
decided at last it was Wahl.  He had utterly no use for Wahl--
detested him.

"That devil can't do right--can't be on the right side of
anything!" he muttered.

Strangely enough, he felt better when he came to that decision.
He was glad that he, and not Wahl, had the task of cornering La
Conchita and disillusioning Sherry.

Dad was not due at the office normally until three o'clock but he
was there the next afternoon at two, laid the photographs of
Jacqueline on Sherry's desk, and sat down at his own to smoke
cigarettes and wait.  Sherry came in ten minutes ahead of time
and sauntered over with rather discouraged air, leaning against
his desk and waiting until Dad should choose to say what the
afternoon assignments were.  It was several minutes before he
noticed the photographs;  but he showed then the kind of timber
he was made of.  His heart went to his mouth;  he could not help
giving a start of surprise;  but he covered it.  He turned his
back toward Dad.  Then, when he was sure of himself, he picked up
the photos, examined them, dropped them casually on the desk and
looked out of the window.

"Wahl sent for those from New Orleans," said Dad.  "He thought
you'd like to look them over."

"Why?" asked Sherry, without betraying the slightest interest.

"Wahl believes that girl's in San Francisco."

But Sherry was surprise-proof.  He had good reason to believe
that too.  He knew the whole office, his father included,
suspected him of having met Jacqueline Lanier, and he was not
fool enough to doubt that those photos were laid on his desk for
a trap.  So Dad Lawrence was also league against him!  He
understood now why his father had turned him over to Dad to do
this idiotic social stuff.  All right.  He was all the more glad
he had not taken Dad into his confidence, as he had once thought
of doing.

"Where do we go from hear?" he demanded with a bored air.  "What
dummy gets gilded this afternoon?"

"We'll keep together until dinner-time," Dad answered.  "After
that well have to divide forces.  There's a concert you'll have
to cover at the Auditorium while I do the El Toro."

Sherry looked relieved, but said nothing.  He could cover the
concert by asking for a program at the door;  a fool could write
up a concert without sitting through it, and that would give him
several hours to hunt for Jacqueline.  He had a notion this time
of searching through the hospital wards for her, and after that,
if there was any time left, of questioning the matron at the
Y.W.C.A., although he would have to do that carefully for fear of
starting others on the trail.

He did not quite deceive Dad Lawrence.  Dad noticed the look of
relief on his face when he learned he was to be alone that
evening;  and Dad had covered far too many concerts in the same
way not to guess what Sherry intended.  He was not quite sure
that when Sherry first saw the photos he had not checked a
movement of surprise;  and he was more than ever, if as vaguely
as ever, sure, that some sort of love-affair was at the bottom of
his young friend's discontent.

"You seem to have no ambition left.  What's the matter with you?"
he demanded.

"I hate the Tribune, that's all!" Sherry exploded.  "I'm sick of
the whole damned business!"

That answer settled it, as far as Dad was concerned.  Of all
conceivable disasters, the worst would be for Sherry to fail to
follow in his father's footsteps!  It would break old Mansfield's
heart a second time;  and the result of that would be nothing
that a man could calculate, except that it would be hell with the
lid shut down!  The Tribune would cease to be a newspaper;  it
would become a slaughterhouse!  The "old man" would turn on
Sherry and cast him off.  Thereafter he would relapse into the
condition he was in for a year after Mrs. Mansfield left him--
almost a maniac, with his bitterest resentment turned on his
truest friends, and obsessed by one purpose:  to destroy whatever
woman's reputation he could get his claws on.

Rather than that, Dad would probe any woman's anonymity, and
help, if necessary, to hound her out of San Francisco!

The afternoon hardened Dad's resolution.  Whether or not her name
was Jacqueline Lanier--whether or not she and La Conchita were
the same--some woman was having a disastrous effect on Sherry.
It could not be anything else than a woman.  The boy was not
drinking.  He was not a gambler.  He had no low companions.  He
was simply moping;  taking no interest in his work;  brown-
studying all the time, and looking almost sick with worry.  The
least that Dad felt he could do was to investigate this dancer in
a mask and either expose her identity or otherwise eliminate her
from the list of possibilities.  Something had to be done, and
done soon, or Sherry would go all to pieces.

So by the time Dad reached the El Toro restaurant he was as
nearly in an iron mood as he ever had been in his life.  He chose
a table under the balcony, midway down the room, from which he
could watch the stage without attracting attention to himself,
and ordered dinner.  News of La Conchita had already spread among
the folk who dine in cabarets;  some of the morning papers had
carried short paragraphs about her;  there were owners of other
cabarets there, as well as a much better-dressed crowd than the
El Toro had ever entertained before;  the place was full, and it
was not going to be easy to "pull" anything without attracting
notice.  Papa Pantopoulos was hurrying to and fro with illegal
drinks under his jacket, doing a roaring business, sudden
prosperity going to his head, as his "Conchita cocktails" were
going to the heads of some of the guests.

There were seven in the orchestra tonight, instead of five.
Flowers on the tables.  Four new waiters.  Even the balcony was
crowded.  The space that had been cleared for dancing in the
middle of the floor was as small as Papa had dared to make it, to
allow for extra tables, which were jammed so close together that
the guests could hardly sit without nudging one another's elbows.

Dad caught Pantopoulos by the coat-tails as he hurried by, and
the Greek jumped swiftly at conclusions.  "Cocktail, sir?" he
whispered behind his hand.  "La Conchita cocktail--very good!
Have to serve it in a coffee cup and charge for 'service,' but--"

Dad nodded.  "Tell me, will La Conchita come off stage?"

"Not tonight, sir.  Can't persuade her.  Between you and me,
she's a mystery.  I've heard it whispered she's a member of the
Russian royal family, escaped from Siberia!  I'll swear she's not
used to dancing in public--though she's wonderful--wonderful!
She's not so nervous as she was.  Perhaps tomorrow night--my
advice is, come again tomorrow night, sir!  Meanwhile--"

He hurried away with a sidewise grin, to chivy waiters and mix
cocktails in a closet between dining-room and kitchen;  and he
was hardly gone before a gong rang and the curtain rose.  For the
next five minutes, Dad sat spell-bound.

He had seen more finished dancing--any amount of it;  although
none much more so than Ramon's.  It was something indefinable
about La Conchita's movements that made him oblivious to the
dinner growing cold in front of him.  He could not explain to
himself just what it was.  The black mask made her look
mischievous;  yet experience had taught Dad a lot about reading
faces, and he could not force himself to believe that the lips
below the mask were hard or calculating.  They were kissable;
and if there was anything else remarkable about them, they
possibly suggested sadness.

Her whole appearance struck Dad as incongruous in that second-
rate restaurant.  It seemed to him that, while she was not at all
too skillful to be dancing there, showing only great natural gift
and a little stage training, she was none the less out of her
element.  Her dancing looked pathetic;  what seemed to the rest
of the crowd to be diablerie struck him as deliberate courage,
although he could not analyze the impression.  She was wild at
moments;  but it seemed to him that in those moments she had
thrown her very heart away and was dancing to kill her own
thoughts.  When the curtain came down--and rose half a dozen
times--Dad felt almost positive that she took no pleasure in the
storm of applause;  she stood stone-still, and looked defiant.

"Well, of course, if she's the Lanier girl she was nicely raised,
and that accounts for some of it," he told himself.  "But if
she's a devil, she's a brand-new type.  What beats me is, why--
with all that talent, and those good looks, and her newspaper
notoriety, if she is the Lanier girl--and if she's the devil Wahl
says--why--in-the-name-of-Satan--does she dance in this joint,
and hide her identity, instead of selling her soul for much fine
money?  Why doesn't she court publicity?  There's something out
of focus somewhere!"

He received the same impression during the second dance, only if
anything more definitely.  There was something in her dancing-
partner's attitude that was more than clever trouping;  something
in her attitude toward Ramon that was more than art.  Ramon was
nervous, it seemed to Dad;  he hardly dared to lay his hands on
her when they came together and swayed into a tango step, and
more than once she whirled away from him when he seemed least to
expect it.  If the man had not been a skillful improviser the
dance would have collapsed.

Probably Dad was the only individual in the room who was watching
critically;  the rest were swept away by La Conchita's good
looks, and by the novelty of seeing anything so beautiful in such
a tawdry setting.  It seemed to Dad that she was doing something
she detested;  that she was furious at being forced to do it;
and that that fury was the secret of the plan with which the
dance went over.

"Which makes it possible she may be the Lanier girl," he admitted
to himself.

She appeared four times, and in the intervals the guests milled
in a helpless mob on the floor between the tables while the
orchestra helped them to deceive themselves that they were
dancing.  At the end of La Conchita's fourth turn Dad began to
consider ways and means, and plucked at Papa's jacket as he
hurried by.

"What's it worth to introduce me to La Conchita?" he asked.

"Aha!  That's what they all want!" said the Greek, and
slipped away.

Dad considered the situation.  It was no use trying to reach the
stage by the door at the side, because everybody would be able to
see him and the waiters would undoubtedly interfere.  Wahl had
alarmed them the night before, or so he said, and the Greek would
be on the alert.  There would be a back door leading from stage
to street undoubtedly;  in fact, Wahl had said there was;  but
that would almost certainly be locked.  There would be a fire-
escape, though--and neighboring roofs.  Dad paid his bill, and
went outside to see.  He hesitated for a long time in the shadow
of a doorway, and was at great pains to make sure there were no
witnesses, before he made up his mind to try the fire-escape,
which he had to reach by standing on an ash-can in order to jump
and catch the lower rung.

Chapter XXVII.

"All the news the public wants."

Jacqueline's second evening was more distressing than the first.
The novelty was gone.  She had a feeling in her bones that the
mask did not disguise her.  Ramon and Papa Pantopoulos had both
been bragging about the first night's success, and Ramon had
shown her clippings from the morning papers.  She was nervous.
Cervanez made her more so by over-friendliness, trying to
caress her when the one thing in the world she wanted was to
be let alone.

Then Ramon grew impossible.  He had entered her room upstairs on
some pretext and made such a scene that Consuelo finally drove
him out with a hat-pin.

"Conchita, I adore you!  I idolize you!  Marry me, or I will kill
you and myself!"

The threat brought ghastly reminiscences--not that Jacqueline, or
Ramon himself, or any one believed a word of it.  Not even his
mother Cervanez was in the least alarmed about his killing
himself.  The fact was that he and Cervanez had laid their heads
together and decided it must be now or never;  he must marry her
before offers of better engagements should begin pouring in.
Jacqueline understood that perfectly;  and Ramon had enough self-
esteem to believe that no young woman could withstand his
tempestuous ardor;  enough imagination, too, to believe himself
really in love for the moment.

"There is in me the blood of the Braganzas," he assured her when
she turned away from him.  "That is royal blood, Senorita.  I am
not of no account!  My ancestor was one of the first founders of
Brazil.  I am poor, it is true, but I have dignity and together
we might grow rich!"

It would have been comic, if it had not been so mortifying.  She
must dance in public, with this man!  She owed him money.  And
she suspected, just as she could see through his amorous protests
to the avarice beneath, that he would betray her at the first
profitable opportunity.  It made her almost physically sick to
think that her fate lay in the keeping of him and his mother.

It was that afternoon that Jacqueline first thought of suicide.
The meanness--the utter drabness of the life--the confinement--
hiding like a felon in shabby rooms above a third-rate
restaurant, with the key kept by a Greek, and the meals sent up
in secret, so that even the kitchen staff should not know for
certain where she was staying--the thought of what the newspapers
would print about her, if they should ever discover her identity,
and the likelihood that they might discover it at any minute, all
seemed to be heaped on her at once and made her so homesick and
wretched that death looked infinitely preferable.

She wished a thousand times over that Calhoun had shot and killed
her when he killed Desmio and himself.  "Pray, dear--pray to the
Blessed Virgin," Consuelo urged, setting the example so often
that it became monotonous to watch.  But Jacqueline did not want
to pray.  She was rebellious against heaven.  There was nothing
to pray for.  Desmio was dead.  Sherry was dead as far as she was
concerned.  The devil, in the shape of Wahl, had painted her
black, and she would never--never--disgrace Sherry by letting his
name be associated with her in any way.  She wished she had never
met him--wished she had been drowned before he found her--
anything!  It was cruel to have met and loved him, for it made
her heart ache so terribly whenever her thought dwelt on him for
as much as a second--made it ache even more than when she thought
of Desmio.

But you couldn't commit suicide with Consuelo looking on.  And
she knew it would be wicked.  But what did it matter if she were
wicked?  What had she ever done to merit all this misery?  And
could anything be worse?  Some one had told her that suicides go
wandering for ever and ever in empty space, with nowhere to go
and nobody to love them and nothing to do;  but would that be
worse than this?

And then came supper-time--and time to dress--and then the
summons to go down and dance;  and she was still alive, and still
regretted it!  She could hardly endure the sight or touch of
Ramon.  He seemed common.  Her whole nature was revolting against
vulgarity and against the mean expedients of poverty--against
manners laid on over corking avarice, and the thought of being
beholden to such people.  She could have screamed when Ramon put
his arm around her as the curtain rose.  But courage bred and
born in her;  the harder it was tried the more it seemed to rally
in emergency and there were deeper depths to which she might
sink;  she knew that since the Chinaman had talked to her in the
basement about "plittee girlee catchee lich man."  And so her
dancing was even more full of energy and recklessness than on the
preceding night.  She flung herself into it.  She would not fail.
She would not let those people see her broken and frightened and
sick at heart.  She hated them all, and herself more than all of
them together.  But they should not know she was broken-hearted.
And she would not yield to her own distress.  She would be brave.
Desmio had always said that bravery was the last true test
of character.

The crowd was even noisier than on the previous night, but the
applause meant nothing to her.  The brightness in her eyes was
not pleasure, nor even excitement, it was the stuff with which
battles are fought;  and after the fourth turn Ramon knew better
than to accede to the Greek's importunity and try to persuade her
to dance a fifth time.  Ramon went on alone and did creditably,
keeping the crowd spending its money in the hope that Jacqueline
would reappear.  Consuelo sat at the foot of the stairs on guard
against any one who might try to invade the stage, as Wahl had
done the night before.  Jacqueline went upstairs alone.

She felt there was only one thing in the world that could keep
her from breaking down.  She must see Pepita--wake the child if
necessary.  She must love some one who was not afraid.  Some one
who was not afraid must love her.  There was fear behind her--
fear in front--fear in the shadows at the corners of the stair--
fear of Wahl!  She could see Wahl's face in the dark whichever
way she looked--dreaded to see him step out from a corner--almost
felt his cold hand on her wrist and behind Wahl, again was the
Chinaman.  "Plittee girlee--"  Pepita was only afraid of bogies.
Jacqueline could laugh at bogies, and that might help her to
feel easy about Wahl.  She must do something.  Pepita was the
only chance.

But when she entered the shabby bedroom at the end of a long dark
passage Pepita was fast asleep, with the monkey curled up on the
blankets beside her;  and she had not the heart to wake either of
them.  She would have loved to pick up the monkey and hug it to
her breast, but the little animal looked so like a child as it
lay there, and so comfortable, that she could not bring herself
to disturb it.  She waited for several minutes, hoping Pepita
would wake of her own accord;  then looked about her, wondering
what to do next.  She knew she would grow hysterical if she went
to her own room.

The gas was turned low, but her eyes soon grew accustomed to the
dim light.  There was a newspaper on the floor, with a pair of
scissors lying near it;  Pepita must have been cutting up the
paper before bed-time.  She stooped for the scissors, half-
entertaining a wild idea of opening a vein in her wrist, as she
had read of women doing in old story-books.  But her eye fell on
the newspaper, and she forgot the scissors.  She saw her own
name, and a picture beneath it.  It was the magazine section of
the Sunday Tribune, open at Wahl's feature story.  It was signed
by Clinton Wahl.

Her first impulse was to tear the paper into shreds.  Her second
was to know the worst that Wahl could say about her.  But where
should she go to read it!  She could not endure her own room, and
besides, Consuelo might come in there, and Consuelo would snatch
the paper away.  The thought of reading it had begun to fascinate
her.  Once in Louisiana she had crept close and peered at a dead
negro in a ditch with almost exactly the same sensation.  She
must see--shrunk from it, and yet could not resist.

So she tiptoed out of Pepita's room and went up another flight of
stairs to the flat roof, where she had been that morning to
breathe the only fresh air obtainable.  There were sky-signs all
around her, some of them quite close--notably a big one two
blocks away announcing in letters of golden flame that MIRO'S
MIRACULOUS RUBBERS MEAN LONG LIFE.  She made up her mind that
instant never to wear rubbers.  She hoped to die young.  Life was
no good--nothing that Desmio's enemy recommended could be any
good.  Then, for a little while she thought of how John Miro must
have come into possession of the heritage that should have been
hers, and hated him a little--not on her own account, but because
he had prevailed against Desmio's wishes.

The light from some of the nearer signs threw a reflection on the
roof.  She chose the place where the glare was strongest, and sat
on the edge of a skylight to read the paper, holding it with both
hands, because they trembled so and the trembling of one off-set
the other.  But she left off trembling after a while.  She grew
numb.  The thing was so incredible--so indecent--so untrue that
she almost lost all feeling.

There was a drawing supposed to be her in her night-dress.
Another drawing represented her en deshabille laughing over
Desmio's dead body.  Yet another showed her laughing while Jack
Calhoun shot himself.  At the bottom of the page she was
represented dancing, as if with delight that her lovers were
dead;  and there were illustrations woven into the title at the
top of the page, representing Herodias with John the Baptist's
head, and Jezebel, and two or three other notorious characters,
along with a great bat supposed to be a vampire.

The "story" was in keeping with the illustrations.  It pointed a
moral.  It posed as a warning to the public against unscrupulous
women.  It represented her as having "vamped" an old man and a
young one simultaneously--the old man for his money, and the
young one for his looks--of having lured them both to their ruin,
and of having been amused to see the outcome.  It suggested,
without exactly saying so, that Jack Calhoun had squandered all
his fortune on her, and had shot himself in her presence, after
killing Miro, because she sneered when he told her his fortune
was all spent.

It dwelt lingeringly on the fact that Jack Calhoun had known the
way to her bedroom only too well, and that he had been surprised
in there with her at the very hour of wedding to the older man.
The imputation, though she hardly understood it, made her sick.
It gave an imaginary description of her flight in the dawn to
escape the questions of the coroner, and wound up with the
question "Having lost the enormous Miro fortune because she could
not resist the delight of a last embrace from the handsome lover,
was she really drowned in the Louisiana flood or, is she in
hiding, watching for an opportunity to lure rich men's sons into
her toils?"

And that was Sherry's newspaper!  That was no doubt Sherry's
opinion of her!  Oh, how she hoped he would never discover that
the girl he had met in that barn in the flooded bottoms and
Jacqueline Lanier were the same!  She hoped she might die before
he ever could find out the truth.

There was nothing else to hope for--only that, that Sherry might
never know.  She turned her back to the light and walked toward
the darkest corner of the roof, for there was something about
darkness now that was comforting.  She was no longer afraid of
it.  She did not want to be able even to see herself.  She wanted
to be nothing--nowhere!

She shrank against the brickwork of a chimney, and looked down
into the street.  It was a long way down.  It made her shudder,
and she looked up again, straight across the street.  Then she
almost screamed--just checked herself--she must not let anybody
hear her scream.  In letters of gold against the sky in front of
her, perhaps a dozen blocks away, was the sky-sign over the
building where they printed Sherry's father's newspaper--the one
that had blackened her forever:


She stared at the great yellow letters of fire until they all
seemed to run together and make one word.  NEWS!  She was news!
It was there on the end of a yellow forefinger, pointing at her.
There was no escape from it!  News, in a night-dress, with bare
legs, admitting a clandestine lover through the window!  News, in
her underwear, laughing at dead men!  News, dancing on her
lover's grave!

"Obey your intuition, Jacqueline!"

She could see Sister Michaela's gray eyes, and could almost hear
the words as if they were spoken from close by.  Yes--she would
obey her intuition.  She could feel relief at last.  It was in
the air, waiting for her.  Her heart told her this was the end.
It did not need courage to fall to the street.  And when they
should come to pick her up, she would be all broken and
unrecognizable, so that Sherry would never know.  Yes--she would
obey her intuition.

She climbed up on the waist-high parapet, and said one short
prayer at last--the first in three days.  It was for Sherry, that
he might never know.

"--and please make him happy, Amen."

Then she closed her eyes tight, and let herself droop forward.

When she felt an arm close suddenly around her and lift her back
on to the roof she thought at first that it was an angel's, and
that she was already dead.  She was rather relieved and surprised
to learn that it had not hurt when she struck the sidewalk.  But
the voice that spoke to her was too gruff for an angel's (she had
always thought of them as feminine) and the feathers she laid her
cheek against felt strangely like a man's coat.  So she opened
her eyes, and realized that her mask was gone--that she was on
the roof--in a man's arms--looking straight into a man's face.

Her heart began to flutter like a bird's now.  She was coming to
life again, as it were, and feeling all the terror of it.  She
struggled, too frightened to scream, and the man set her down on
the edge of the skylight, and then sat down beside her, holding
her hand very firmly and kindly.  He had his heel set on the
newspaper she had been reading, but he seemed to be unconscious
of it.  He was holding her mask in his other hand.

"Tell me, aren't you Jacqueline Lanier?" he asked her.  For a
second she thought of lying to him, but she looked into his eyes,
and they were kind.  She could not force herself to lie, it
seemed so useless.

"Why, you're only a child!" he said suddenly, and with so much
feeling in his voice that she could hardly keep the tears from
coming;  only she did not want to cry before a stranger.

"Tell me, why were you trying to jump off the roof?" he asked.
"You're too young, you know, and life's too full of promise, for
anything like that.  Why did you want to do it?"

Life was too full of promise?  She looked up, and there stared
the Tribune sky-sign at her!  She looked down, and there lay the
Sunday Tribune at her feet!

"Oh!  I get you.  Have you been reading that stuff?"

She nodded.  She would have choked if she had tried to
say anything.

"For the first time?"

She nodded again, biting her lip to keep it from trembling.

"How much of it is true?" he asked.  And he spoke so kindly that
she felt he really wanted to know it wasn't true.

"None!" she answered, choking.

"None whatever?"

She managed to find words somehow:

"Jack Calhoun did shoot Desmio and then--"

"Yes, I know that.  But about you?  Why did you run away?"

"Things like that were in all the papers!" she answered with a
shudder.  "A dreadful man named Wahl--"

"Sure.  Clinton Wahl.  I know him."

"You--you know Wahl?"

"Sure.  I'm on the same newspaper.  My name's Lawrence.  They
call me 'Dad' Lawrence," he answered, more kindly than ever.
"Now, don't be afraid of me, you poor little woman!  I think I
understand what's happened.  I'm not Wahl.  I'm not his friend.
I hate him, if that's any solace to you.  Don't run away--I won't
hurt you.  Sit here;  and suppose you tell me your version of it
all.  You may tell me in confidence.  If I think you're telling
me the truth, I  I'll do the best I can for you.  There now, sit
on my overcoat.  That's all right--cry if it helps any;  but just
tell me.  Suppose I ask some questions--how'll that be?"

He put an arm around her shoulder, and she felt more comforted by
it than by anything that had happened to her since she ran away
from Sherry that night in the dark.  She just lay her head on his
shoulder and sobbed.  He seemed like an angel after all!

"Did you ever meet Sherry Mansfield?" he asked.

She sat bolt-upright instantly, and her frightened blue eyes
stared at him through the tears.

"I see you did," he said quietly.  "Have you seen him since he
came ashore in the same launch with you?"

She shook her head.

"Does he know where you are?"

"I--I hope not!" she stammered. "Please don't tell him!"

Her eyes sought the newspaper, and then the Tribune sky-sign.  It
was rather obvious why she did not want Sherry to know her
whereabouts.  Dad looked at her with emotion that very nearly had
the better of him.

"No," he answered, making his mind up that instant.  "I won't
tell him.  Tell me this, though:  did you and he--here, come,
Miss Lanier!  I'm your friend.  Tell me your whole story."

He took her hands and held them in his own, obliging her to face
him, yet doing it so gently that she felt no impulse to resist.

"You won't tell Sherry?"

"No.  I won't tell him a word.  And I'm your friend.  But that's
all I promise."

Her eyes met his, and she began haltingly, almost in spite of
herself.  And then, at the end of the first few stammered
sentences, it began to feel good to tell him.  It was almost like
a confession to Father Doutreleau.  Dad listened with such a
world of sympathy, and so obviously believed every word she said,
that one thing led to another and almost before she knew it she
was showing him Desmio's portrait in the locket, and discovering
the same old difficulty in finding words that were good enough to
sound Desmio's praises.

"Yes," he said, "yes, go on.  I'm listening."

She spoke very little of the tragedy;  but she told how Wahl had
come in, and had seized her wrist, and of the awful things that
Wahl had written in the New Orleans papers.  And then of how she
and Consuelo had left the house before dawn, with the idea of
running away anywhere.

"Didn't know where you were going?"

"No.  Where was there to go?" she asked.

"Any money?"

"No.  I had some jewelry, but we lost that in the flood."

"Go on.  Tell me about the flood."

That was soon told.  She did not remember much of the first part,
except the rush of water and the sensation of being overwhelmed,
with the horses coming backward over the carriage, and then of
being plunged and whirled interminably in dark-brown water.

"And then I came to on a roof that was floating--and, the sky
going round and round--and a dog came and sniffed me."

"Yes, he's got the dog now.  Nut, his name is--an awful mongrel,
but as cute as the dickens."

"Oh, he's got Nut!  Oh, I'm so glad.  I did so want to know what
had happened to Nut."

"Nut's all right.  Tell me about him."

"I just love him, Mr. Lawrence!  He crawled up one side of the
roof, and I crawled up the other, and we met at the top, and you
would never believe how rude he was!"

"Oh, yes I can believe it!" Dad laughed.  "I know Sherry."

"But he was a perfect dear.  He ordered me around, and bossed me.
And he swore dreadfully, after we got into the barn and he found
a blunt razor and no looking-glass.  After a while I shaved him!
Yes, I did.  We were more friendly after that.  And then we got
talking about his mother--and I said what I thought about her--
and he listened--and--and--"

"All Sherry ever needed was to fall in love!" Dad blurted
suddenly.  "I've said so to his father time and again."

"Oh, he must!  I hope he will!  He must fall in love with some
one and forget me!  I'll never forget him, but--but aren't
men different?"

"Some are," Dad answered dryly.  "You've promised, haven't you?
You have promised?  You won't say a word to Sherry?"

"Not one word!" Dad answered.

And you won't tell the newspaper you've found me?"

"I will not!"

"I'll be gone soon, Mr. Lawrence.  As soon as I can pay my debt
to these people I'll run away and hide again.  Sherry mustn't
ever know who I am.  It might ruin him.  The disgrace of being
mixed up with me, after what the papers said, could never be
lived down.  Could it?  And you know, he's obstinate;  he might
think it was his duty to go in spite of everything, when, of
course, it isn't his duty at all, and--and--he is obstinate!
Isn't he?"

"Yes, I hope--I mean, yes--he's a great hand to stick to anything
he starts."

Jacqueline's blue eyes, as innocent and truthful as the sky,
looked through the tears into Dad's, and he was not fooled by
that frown of hers for a second;  it only made him believe her
all the more, if that were possible.

"I was only two days with him, but I know him so well, Mr.
Lawrence.  And it's because I know he's obstinate that I'm never
going to let him find me.  I don't mind what happens to me any
more.  I just love Sherry, and I won't have him ruined.  You know
him quite well of course?"

"You might say intimately," Dad answered.

"Tell me:  does he--is he--do you think he has forgotten me?  I
want him to," she added, forcing herself to say it.

"He doesn't talk about you," Dad answered.

"Is he happy?"

"No, I don't think he is.  In fact, I'm sure he's not."

"Oh, Mr. Lawrence--do you think it would make him any happier if
I let them identify me, so that he'll know I'm the one they wrote
all that about?  Perhaps he'd hate me then, and put me out of his
mind.  I'll--I'll make any sacrifice for Sherry!"

She was trembling at the thought of it.  Dad knew that, for he
was holding her hand.

"No," he answered.  "Sherry's not that kind of fellow.  How long
have you got to dance in this place?"

"Until I've paid my debt."

"How much do you owe them?"

"I don't know!"

Dad smiled broadly.  How even Wahl could have mistaken her for a
vampire was beyond him.  He wished his own bank-account were not
down somewhere near the twenty-dollar mark.  However, he did not
doubt he could borrow if he looked around, and meanwhile there
was at least something he could do to help her.

"You feel better now, don't you?" he asked.  "Just keep on
dancing for another night or two, and meanwhile I'll do my best
for you.  Remember, you've got a friend.  I'll stand by you
through thick and thin, and if I can keep the papers from finding
out who you are, I will."

"And you won't tell Sherry?"

"Oh, no, I won't tell him," Dad answered;  but he could not keep
the evasiveness out of his voice, and she detected it--looked
alarmed.  He did not choose to be committed any deeper at the
moment, not having quite made up his mind what he did intend to
do.  "I'll have to go," he said, "or there may be some one else
nosing on your trail.  Is there any way of my going down through
the house without being seen?"

She shook her head.

"All right.  I'll use the fire-escape again.  Now remember,
little woman, I'm your friend!  No more nonsense, eh?  No jumping
off roofs!  Promise!"

He was gone before she could say good-by to him, but she leaned
over the parapet and caught one glimpse of his face as he looked
up smiling.

"Now remember," he called, "you've promised!"

Dad swung himself down from the fire-escape, shoved his hands in
his pockets, and sauntered around to the main entrance.  Wahl was
about due.  He must think of something to say to Wahl--something
with a trace of probability about it;  and he must get absolute
control of himself, so that Wahl's too alert suspicion should not
be aroused.  Lord, how he hated and despised--mischievous devil!
But "O mischief, thou art swift!" he quoted.

"And old Mansfield thinks he's a snorter.  So he is.  God Damn
him!  Sells newspapers.  So he does--and damn the swine who buy
them!  We're a rotten lot of vultures raising a stink with our
claws and wings in the sewer!  And the public's worse--it likes
to see it--pays money for it!  Wahl would crucify that girl, if
the law would let him, and the public would go broke buying
ringside seats!   To hell with the whole dirty business!"

However, those reflections were not helping him to think up an
alibi to give Wahl.  He must invent something convincing, in
order to gain time.  Lord knew, he needed time if he were going
to help the poor little woman.  There was nobody--actually nobody
he dared to confide in.  And if old man Mansfield should ever
learn that he had deliberately sidetracked the Tribune on a
story, not even a thirty-year-long intimacy would stand between
him and dismissal.  Jobs are none too plentiful for men of Dad's
age.  He shoved his hands into his overcoat pockets and strode up
and down under the El Toro portico, waiting for Wahl to come, and
cudgeling his brains for the right solution.

But Wahl came before he had thought of the right one--Wahl with
the mean grin, and the cavernous rapacious look in his eyes,
evidently anticipating good news.

"Well? You had word with her?"


"Good God!  Did you try?  What happened?"

Dad began improvising--lying right and left at random.

"You're on the wrong scent, Wahl.  It's a mare's nest.  I got
close to the stage, and saw her for a moment with the mask off.
It came unfastened.  She wears that mask to hide a long scar on
her right cheek.  She's nothing like the Lanier girl's pictures."

Wahl looked very keenly at him.  "What's that on your knees?" he
asked him.  "Rust?"

Dad had forgotten that the fire-escape was rusty.  He stooped,
and brushed the stuff off.

"Wonder where I got that," he remarked.

"There's some on your sleeve, too," Wahl assured him.  Dad
removed his overcoat and slapped it vigorously.

"Did it look like a new scar or an old one?"  Wahl asked, eying
him keenly.

"Old.  It might be a birth-mark."

"How close were you?"

"Oh, a few feet from the stage."

"Ridiculous!  You couldn't possibly have seen.  It may have been
grease-paint--or anything."

"I'm perfectly sure," Dad answered.

But Wahl felt perfectly sure Dad was lying, and he made no effort
to conceal the fact.  He favored Dad with one long searching
glance, and turned away without another word, walking off as if
he knew exactly where he was going, and what he would do next.

"He's got a joker up his sleeve," thought Dad.  "I wonder what
next.  Something damnable, and under the belt, I'll bet!  Well:
that girl has one chance--Sherry!  Here goes!"

With his head down, and hands deep in his pockets, Dad walked
slowly toward the Tribune Building.

Chapter XXVIII.

"Does she remind you of any one?"

Dad missed Sherry that night.  He found a note on his
desk instead.

"Here's the program of the concert.  For God's sake write it for
me.  Cox of the Star said three, nine and eleven were rotten, but
the rest got by.  House two-thirds full.  The mayor and his wife
were in a box--nobody else of importance.  Two sticks plenty.
Explanations later.  Sherry."

Sherry had intended to search hospitals, but he was too gloomy
and discouraged to feel really set on any course, or nothing less
than violence would have changed his purpose.  It was John Miro
who talked him out of it.  They met in the foyer of the
Auditorium, where Miro had a lone seat for the evening.  Sherry
had just obtained his program, and was on his way out in a hurry.

"Is it going to be as rotten as all that?" asked Miro, with one
of his discerning smiles.

"I'll find out from you, when it's over!" said Sherry.

"Where are you going?"

Sherry told him.

"My dear boy;  you'll be simply wasting time.  They account for
people in hospitals day by day--you know that surely?  And Sister
Michaela has been to every one in the city."

"Dammit, I must look somewhere!" Sherry exploded.  "I can't
sit still!"

"Let me give you some advice," Miro answered, studying him
thoughtfully.  "You're giving discouragement the upper hand.
That won't do, you know.  It isn't fair to her or anybody.
You'll be useless when the time comes for action."

"If it ever comes!"

"It will.  It will certainly.  My men are on a hot scent.  I'm
expecting news of her at any time.  Do you play chess?  Checkers?
Come home with me and play checkers for an hour or two.  Let's
make a bargain first, though:  not one word about Jacqueline!  We
must both think of something else."

"Are you trying to stall me, so your men will find her first?"
asked Sherry rudely.

Miro took him by the arm.  "Come along," he said, "I knew you
needed to play at something for a while!"

He almost threw Sherry into a great limousine, and whisked him
away to a mansion that was furnished with the loot of Europe.
There with suits of armor grinning at them from either side of an
enormous fireplace, they played checkers;  Miro regaling Sherry
at intervals with tales of life as he had lived it--fascinating
tales--until the concert-hour was nearly over and it was time to
hurry back in search of a reporter who had had sufficient sense
of duty to sit through it.

"When you've turned in your notes, come back and spend the night
with me," said Miro.  "Then if any of my men bring news of her,
you'll know it as soon as I do."

Sherry did that;  but he offered Dad no explanations the
following afternoon;  said nothing at all, in fact, until Dad
broached the subject of the evening's assignment.

"We'll go together tonight," said Dad.  "There's a place called
the El Toro that's been advertising heavily and made something of
a stir."

"Why together?  Can't you do it?" Sherry objected.

"It's your turn to write something!" Dad answered, smiling.
  "I wrote your concert stuff last night."

"Say, Dad, I've got something else to do tonight.  It's
important.  I'll explain it some day.  I'm not bulling you, it's
urgent.  Can't you go alone tonight, and let me--"

"Nothing doing!" Dad answered blandly.  "You and I dine
together at the place I said.  That's orders;  and as long
as I'm your boss--"

Sherry turned away from him with a gesture of impatience, and
sulked over by the window, watching the sidewalk opposite as if
he hoped to recognize a lost acquaintance in every passer-by.

And inside the "old man's" private office Wahl held forth on the
carpet in front of the desk.  His eyes were glinting, and his
long arms were moving in nervous jerks.

"But I've known Dad for thirty years," said Mansfield.  "He's a
duffer in a lot of ways, but there's no man in San Francisco I'd
sooner trust.  I don't believe he would give us a bum steer.  Why
should he?"

Wahl grinned cynically.  "I believe he interviewed that girl," he
answered.  "I'm dead sure he was lying to me.  I believe she put
it all over him, the same way she probably put it over Sherry
down in Louisiana.  Dad's soft, and she simply vamped him--played
on his pity, I guess.  I'm willing to bet you we've got her to
rights!  We'll know tonight anyway.  It's all O.K. with the
Prohibition Chief.  I told him they're selling liquor at the El
Toro, and if he doesn't raid the place tonight we'll roast him
good and plenty in tomorrow's paper.  He gave orders, and they're
going to make a real spectacular raid of it.  I make my entrance
with the bulls.  There'll be a panic when they pull the place,
and that'll give me the chance I want to corner the Conchita.
I'll have that mask off, if I have to fight her for it.  Then
we'll know for sure, and I've got the story already written.
You'll have to see the circulation manager.  She'll boom!"

"All right.  Have it your own way," said Mansfield.  "Will they
arrest the girl?"

"Yes, if they can find the least excuse for it.  If there's rum
behind the stage, for instance--or if her dress is cut too low--
or if she makes a bolt--or anything like that.  Gee!  If they
only pinch her, that'll make it perfect!"

"Be sure you're on hand when they pull the raid," said Mansfield.
"We don't want any guess-work."

"You bet!  I'll wait there at the station, and leave with the
raiding squad."

It was a desultory afternoon in the office--one of those days
when nothing of importance "broke" and the men who were normally
most active played rummy or did rewrite stuff--the sort of day on
which anything gets into the papers--a day beloved of press-
agents, propagandists, et hoc genus omne.  Wahl spent the
afternoon touching up his story in advance, adding high-lights
here and there, improving on the head-lines, and telephoning once
or twice to the police as a precaution.  Dad and Sherry covered a
poultry show, and by the time evening came Sherry was about as
amiable as a stung bear.  He walked into the El Toro behind Dad,
and stood surveying the newly, cheaply gilded restaurant with an
air of unmitigated disgust.

"Those lousy hens were more exciting than this!" he grumbled.  "I
suppose now we'll eat the birds that didn't win prizes."

The place was nearly full already, but Dad contrived to get a
table at a corner of the dancing floor, and Papa Pantopoulos
recognized him.

"Aha!  So you took my advice!  I told you!  She dances one dance
on the floor tonight--just one!  A 'Conchita' in her honor, sir?
Two?  Certainly."

Sherry tossed off the cocktail, tasted his soup and answered
Dad's efforts at conversation in monosyllables.  His eyes were
all the while roving about the room, and glancing up at every
fresh arrival.

"Did you see that poster as we came in?" Dad asked.


"What did you think of it?"

"Pretty rotten. "

Dad smiled patiently.  It was true, the poster was not art, but
he had hoped it might suggest a memory.

"Did you notice the name on it?"


"You haven't a reporter's nose.  You're no hound!" Dad assured him.

"I'm sick of being a reporter.  It's a dirty business," Sherry
answered.  "If it weren't for--"

The orchestra struck up before he finished the sentence, and he
turned to face the stage with an air of relief, as if any kind of
conversation was a bore.  Dad watched him keenly as the gong
rang, and the curtain rose on a newly decorated stage;  for Papa
Pantopoulos had scraped up the wherewithal and plunged on
repainted scenery.

La Conchita waltzed on from one wing, Ramon from the other and
they met mid-stage, posing for a moment in the spot-light.  But
there was no recognition in Sherry's face--not a tremor--not a
quiver of the eyelids, though Dad was watching him keenly and
would have detected the slightest start.

"Does she remind you of any one?" he asked.

Sherry stuck a fork into something on his plate, and went
on eating.

"No," he answered.  "Does she you?"

"Something vaguely reminiscent.  Can't say who," Dad answered.

Sherry looked back at the stage, and Dad thought he caught just a
flash of a change of expression, as if some movement of the
dancer had touched a chord of memory.  But in a moment it was
gone again.  Sherry's memory was of a blue-eyed girl with untidy
hair, in a dress all creased from being wet.  The mask made La
Conchita's eyes look dark and mischievous, not tender.  The stage
made her look taller.  The dress made her look like a Spaniard
and the dance deprived her of all resemblance to the Conchita he
had known.

Besides, in his own mind he had taken to calling her Jacqueline
since his talk with John Miro.  The real name had displaced the
other almost totally, as real things have a way of doing.  He had
imagined her poverty-stricken, crouching away somewhere in
hiding, shrinking from publicity;  and this girl, who looked
years older than Jacqueline, dancing in the limelight with a male
companion, conjured up no recognition.  She almost fooled Dad
Lawrence, she looked so different on the stage, and her mood had
altered since the previous night.  For her hope had risen since
Dad found her.  She was no longer rebellious (which was one
reason why Papa had been able to persuade her to do one turn
tonight between the dining-tables).  She had a friend now whom
she believed in;  and she could not help feeling glad that Sherry
was worried about her, even though she was more determined than
ever not to let him find her.  So she danced with an altogether
different elan, using more art, and less sheer recklessness.  On
the whole, the audience was not so well pleased.

"I don't think so much of her," said Sherry when the curtain came
down.  He began at once to pay attention to his dinner, and did
not notice the expression of comic patience on Dad's face.

During the interlude, while most of the guests left their seats
to surge back and forth in a mob on the dancing floor, Sherry
munched away steadily, only offering one observation in response
to Dad's efforts to beguile the time.

"If you can make a story out of this joint, you're a genius!" he
remarked.  "The grub's bad.  The service is worse.  The dancing's
nothing special, and the orchestra is--"

"As good as the concert you covered last night?" Dad suggested
with a grin.  "Where were you?  You promised explanations."

But Sherry did not answer.  He had become an expert in silence.
He said nothing until the curtain rose again and Papa Pantopoulos
jerked aside a low screen that concealed newly-placed steps
leading down from stage to floor.

"Oh, darn this cabaret stuff!" Sherry grumbled then.  "Don't you
hate to have 'em shaking rouge all over you?  Why can't they stay
on the stage where they belong?  They don't look so cheap at
a distance."

He would not even look up when the dancers came tripping down-
steps, amid applause led by Papa Pantopoulos and the waiters.
Papa was playing his big stake, and proposed it should go over
with a flourish, and the crowd--like most crowds--behaved
obediently.  There was applause enough to have gratified the
Russian Ballet, and for the first time Jacqueline felt fired by
it.  Ideas are strange intoxicating stuff.  Perhaps because the
unexpected friend had come to her the night before, like an angel
in a rough tweed suit, she began to feel as if the room were full
of friends, and to try hard to please them instead of to triumph
over them.

Ramon caught the inspiration.  He was wonderful at that.  As
subtly as if he had thought it out for weeks before, he danced in
harmony to her new mood, adapting himself to it, suggesting
phrases, as it were, and then--catching the approval of the
audience--sweeping her into a waltz-step that exaggerated the
natural youthful grace of his partner's motion.  The crowd began
to cheer again without any hint from Papa.  Twice around the room
they whirled in quickening cadences, the orchestra taking its cue
from them, when suddenly in mid-room Ramon whispered to her and
they parted company, flying like spinning Pierrot and Pierrette
in opposite directions.

Jacqueline's tangent brought her close to Sherry's corner, and
she paused there, hardly knowing what to do next.  It was only
accident that made her glance at Sherry's table, as she turned
her head quickly to take her cue from Ramon.  Dad was watching
Sherry as if he expected to see him leap from his place.  Sherry
had looked up at Jacqueline because he could hardly help it.  And
so their eyes met.

She knew him instantly.  Her heart leapt so, it made her gasp;
it sounded like a sob.  The sea of faces all about her became a
haze, with Sherry's head and shoulders like a cameo set in the
midst of it.  He was staring at her.  He would recognize her in a
second!  He would know her for the girl that Wahl had blackened!
He would feel the shame of her dancing in a cabaret!  He would--

She did not know whether he had started to his feet or not.
Something happened.  Something broke the spell of frozen
fascination.  Something--she did not know what--gave her presence
of mind enough to glide into a waltz' and spin away toward Ramon,
who met her in mid-room;  dancing toward her.

"What is it, Conchita?" he whispered.  "Courage!  Courage!

"Toward the steps!" She would have screamed it at him if she had
had to say it twice.

He recognized emergency and whirled her in the right direction,
but she could not wait to do the dance-up steps that they had
practised all afternoon.  She broke away, ran up to the stage,
and disappeared into the wings, leaving Ramon to improvise alone.

"My God!" Cervanez almost screamed, trying to stop her in the
wings as she fled toward the stairs.  "What is wrong?  You
ruin us!"

But Jacqueline did not care who was ruined, provided it should
not be Sherry.  She knew he would follow if he recognized her;
and he was so obstinate that he would probably claim her before
all the world, in spite of everything--and be put to open shame,
as she had been--and quarrel with his father--and lose his
friends.  She must run--run!  And there was nowhere to run to but
upstairs--up to her own room, and lock the door.  She must tell
Consuelo, and they must think of some way of escape at once!  But
the bedroom was empty.  Consuelo, she remembered now, was
downstairs in the kitchen, having supper.

Jacqueline locked the door, and sat on the bed bewildered--
nearly fainting.

Sherry, who had almost risen to his feet, sat down again and
passed a hand over his eyes.  He did not believe them.  That
could not be the girl he had met in Louisiana.  Yet--

"Does she remind you now of somebody?" asked Dad, and Sherry
stared at him.

"Say--are you--?" Sherry rose from his chair, his eyes fixed on
Dad's and all his gloom gone.  His chin came forward suddenly.
"Wait here!" he said, and rushed away knocking his chair over.

Ramon was still dancing, with his back to the stage.  Sherry ran
past him and up the steps, straight into the wings, the way
Jacqueline had gone.  Cervanez screamed, and ran to intercept
him, but he had seen the door leading upstairs that Jacqueline
had not quite closed behind her, and ten of Cervanez could not
have stopped him.  Besides, Dad had followed.  Cervanez found
herself with two men on her hands;  she turned in panic to look
for Ramon, who was dancing like a marionette, oblivious of
everything except that he must "hold" the audience and save a
situation.  The second that she wasted trying to catch Ramon's
eye was enough for Sherry;  he was gone through the door and
upstairs;  the door slammed shut and Dad stood with his back
against it.

"S-h-h!" Dad warned her.  "We're friends, not enemies!  Don't
make a scene!"

Cervanez was half-hysterical.  One moment she was threatening to
scratch Dad's eyes out, and the next she was wringing her hands
and running to lower the curtain.  But she could not pull the
curtain down so long as Ramon was on the floor;  and Ramon was
remembering old acrobatic stunts, compelling the audience to keep
their eyes on him.  Papa Pantopoulos was at the far end of the
restaurant, near the door, trying to organize applause as the
best way out of the predicament.  If he had run to the stage,
about half the audience would very likely have followed him.

Sherry ran upstairs three steps at a time, and found himself in
an ill-lit passage with doors to the right and left.  There was
no sound, although he held his breath and listened until he had
to let his breath out in a sudden gasp.  He seized the knob of
the nearest door--opened it--drew blank--a dark room--nobody in
there.  He tried the next one;  it was locked on the inside.  He
struck the panel three or four times with his knuckles, and
listened again.

"Is that you, Consuelo?"

He would have known that voice in a thousand!  But he did not
dare to answer.  He rapped with the palm of his hand on the panel
and rattled the knob, hoping that was what Consuelo would do in
the stress of excitement.  He heard the key turn cautiously.
That was enough!  He burst into the room, shut the door, turned
the key behind him, and stood still.

Jacqueline had jumped backward toward the bed, or his violence to
the door would have knocked her down.  She was still wearing the
mask;  some instinct of self-preservation had made her retain it,
although she usually threw it off the moment she reached her room.

"Sherry!" she exclaimed.  Her hands went out toward him;  yet she
shrank back.

Sherry came on, smiling.

"Sherry!  Please!"

She had reached the limit of retreat.  Her back was against the
dressing-table.  Sherry's right arm closed around her, and she
tried, helplessly, to prevent his other hand from unfastening the
mask.  He took it off quite gently, dropped it on the floor, and
looked into her eyes.

"Jacqueline, why did you run away from me?" he asked.

But the moment he said the name he saw fear leap into her eyes,
and cursed himself for a clumsy fool.  He stooped and picked the
mask up--held it out to her.

"You know now," she said hopelessly.  "Sherry, I've' tried so
hard to hide from you."

He tried to take her into his arms again.  "But why?" he asked.
"Why hide from me?  Didn't you believe me when I said I love you?
Jacqueline, dear--that is yo right name, isn't it?  You are
Jacqueline Lanier?"

"Yes, Sherry.  I wish I weren't.  I--"

"Hah!"  She looked startled as he barked that laugh at her;  and
he stepped into the full heritage of manhood as compassion for
her overcame all other thoughts.  His own predicament, his own
desire--hope--loneliness was nothing in the overwhelming
awfulness of hers.  "I'm glad you are!" he went on.  "It gives me
a chance to prove I love you!  Bless your darling heart, did you
think it would make any difference who you are, or what they say
about you?  Jacqueline dear, look at me again!  Look up!  D'you
think I'm not telling you the truth?  I'm with you to the end of
time--whatever has happened or whatever may happen.  Don't you
remember I promised that?"

"But, Sherry, you hadn't read the papers--"

He dismissed newspapers and all their universe with an impatient
jerk of his head.  "I had seen you, dear!" he answered.  "Did you
think I'd believe them after that?  Jacqueline!  Why--oh, why
didn't you trust me?  I could have saved you so much--all this,
for instance.  I would have stood by you through thick and thin."

But even then all Jacqueline could shape out of the chaos of
thoughts within her was that Sherry knew.  He knew--and he still
loved her.  He didn't believe!  But perhaps that was because he
did not really know.

Words came tumbling from her lips, sentences blurted almost
incoherently, her eyes still frightened (for she feared the
worst--that he would turn when he really did know).  She tried to
tell him all the truth at once--six aspects of it all at once--
and he only caught the general drift of it.  He laughed, and
stopped her with a kiss, taking her into his arms and holding her
so tightly she could hardly breathe.

And in his arms, as he kissed her, all the panic and hopelessness
were stilled.  There was peace.  Her arms crept around him.  She
clung to him.  Tears came in a passion of relief;  and through
the tears a sob--almost a whisper;  "Sherry--oh, Sherry!"

Then memory once more.  She drew back startled, thrusting him
away from her.

"Sherry, you mustn't love me!  You must never see me again!  You
must let me go!  I can only do harm--I'll ruin you!  I must
always hide!  I couldn't stand it, to have everybody know who I
am--and have them say such awful things   - and if they knew you
loved me, they'd drag you in--"

"Listen!  Listen!" he said, holding her tightly again.

"Dear, listen to me!  They can't hurt me--and d'you think I'd
care if they did?  I'm not going to let them hurt you any more,
that's all!"

He wished he felt as confident of his power to do that as the
words sounded;  but he could see the effect of the words on her.
At least if he could not stop the newspapers he could help her to
bear their cruelty.

"You can't escape from me, you know!" he went on.  "You're not
going to run away from me again, because there isn't a place you
can go to where I won't follow!  I love you, and you can't beat
that game!  Bless your heart, if my dad can't or won't straighten
out this newspaper business and put everything right, we'll go to
China or Siam, or some other place where they don't have
newspapers--and live on canned soup if we have to," he added,
laughing.  "Say, Jacqueline--I love you.  Don't you love me?"

She could not keep from smiling at him through the tears.  Love
him?  Who wouldn't?

"But, Sherry--"

"Do you, Jacqueline?  You do?  Well--what else matters?"

Nothing else did matter when he held her that way in his arms and
kissed her.  The feeling of peace returned.

"You know," he said.  "I wasn't joking about canned soup!  We'll
be broke to start with!  We may have to--"

Her answering laugh was what he had been playing for.  It brought
her back from the dangerous border of hysteria.

"Sherry, why--why do you believe in me?" she asked him suddenly.

"That's easy," he answered.  "The question is, do you believe in
me yet?"

She nodded--met his lips half-way.  "Absolutely, dear?"

"Sherry, how could anybody help believing in you?"

Chapter XXIX.

"Meat and drink for him!"

Cervanez had to leave Dad to lower the curtain;  but then Dad had
Ramon on his hands as well as her, and Ramon was belligerent.
His self-esteem was stirred by having saved the day;  he felt
like a brave man who has fought in the trenches, and returns to
find treason at the rear.  His right hand went naturally to the
dagger-hilt projecting from the sash at his waist;  and as
Cervanez poured her tale of woe into his ear he began to stalk
Dad Lawrence, working around in a strategic semicircle toward the
far side of the door, with the obvious intention of rushing Dad
and forcing him away from it toward the stage.

And Dad was no matador--no duelist--not even skillful with his
fists.  He faced the enemy, but gave ground, retreating step by
step, his eyes on Ramon's.  And the farther Dad retreated, the
worse Ramon's eyes glittered, and the more Cervanez egged him on
to "teach that thief a lesson!"  Cervanez was in a mood to see
blood.  But Ramon was not quite keyed to the point of taking that
tremendous risk;  he faced about suddenly, with a movement as
graceful as a matador's avoiding a bull, and disappeared through
the door leading upstairs.

Dad would have followed him, but something else--definite and
loud--attracted his attention.  He and Cervanez both ran to the
curtain and peered around it, one on either side.  The whole
restaurant was in a panic mixed of indignation and assertive
innocence.  Women were hiding flasks in their stockings and
corsets;  a dozen officers in uniform were filing down both sides
of the room.  Dad saw Wahl standing in the entrance beside a
prohibition officer, and the expression on Wahl's mean face would
have told the story even if the police were not already in there.
Cervanez ran to Dad and clutched him by the arms, screaming
at him:

"You!  What is this?  What it mean?  You do this?"

"The place is pulled," he answered.  "Listen!"  His brain was
working like lightning now.  He had to defeat Wahl, and that
thought spurred him as nothing else could.  "You stay here--let
them search you but refuse to let them pass!  Play for delay!
You understand?  It's your only chance!"

He was gone before she could ask him another question--upstairs
three steps at a time, and hammering at the only locked door.  In
the passageway was Ramon, sputtering brimstone Portuguese.

Dad thrust Ramon aside and beat on the door with his fist.

"Open, Sherry!  D'you hear?  Open!  It's me--Dad Lawrence!"

Sherry turned the key and went back to Jacqueline, leaving Dad to
open the door for himself.  But Dad found himself thrust aside in
turn;  Ramon seized him by both shoulders and whirled him against
the wall--then flung the door wide open and stood for a moment
magnificently posing on the threshold.  Jacqueline was in
Sherry's arms again, and Ramon's brows came down over his eyes
like a thunder-cloud.  He said nothing, but his hand went to his
knife.  Dad Lawrence sprang too late.  Jacqueline smothered a
scream.  Ramon's knife went slithering point-first at
Sherry's heart.

There was no thought--no time for it.  Impulse--instinct--mother-
readiness to die for what she loved moved Jacqueline.  She pushed
at Sherry suddenly--thrust him out of the knife's path, and
herself into it.  The knife went point-first into her sleeve, and
the white stuff grew crimson.  Sherry sprang for Ramon, and Dad
cut off his retreat.

"No!" Jacqueline cried out.  "No, Sherry!  No!  Look, I'm not
hurt!  It's only a scratch!"

Dad saw at a glance she was telling the truth and sprang between
Sherry and Ramon--turned his back to Sherry.

"Look after her!" he shouted over his shoulder.  Then to Ramon:
"Now, you dam fool!  Get downstairs!  Stop the police from coming
up here!  If you don't I'll have you pinched for attempted
murder!  Have you another knife?  There's a man named Wahl down
there--stick it into him!"

Ramon's fight had all oozed out of him.  He obeyed Dad meekly,
trying to pause on the stairs to explain that he had meant to
protect the senorita--that he had mistaken the gentleman for a
burglar--that he was sorry--anything, in fact, but guilty of
jealousy.  But Dad threatened to kick him if he did not hurry
downstairs, and Dad's' mood was a Viking's in that minute.  He
would have carried out his threat.  His frenzy would have
prevailed over Ramon's strength, and Ramon knew it--ran.  Dad
rushed back into the bedroom.

"Out of this, Sherry!  The place is raided!"

"What do I care?" Sherry answered.  He was trying to bandage
Jacqueline's arm with his handkerchief.

Dad took hardly even time to nod to Jacqueline.

"Get a move on, you young ass!  Get out of here!  Wahl staged a
raid, and he's here with the bulls!  If you're found here,
they'll pinch the two of you.  You know what that means!  The son
of Mansfield of the Tribune caught in a room with the notorious--"

"Shut up!" growled Sherry.

"Damn it, man, I mean it!" Dad exclaimed, shaking his arm.
"There isn't a paper in San Francisco that won't play that up
till they're blue in the face!  They'll ribbon head-line it!
It'll be the end of her--and you too!  For your dad's sake, run!
Leave me to look out for her--I'll stay with her whatever
happens.  Sure--I promise.  No, you've no time for kissing--get
a move on--scoot!  Climb down the fire-escape at the end of
the passage."

Sherry saw the point, and having seen it did not hesitate.

"I'll be out in the street in front," he said.

"Dad--for God's sake--"

"Sure!" Dad answered.  "Beat it!"

There came a hammering on the door.  Sherry opened it and
cannoned into Consuelo.  Dad pulled her in, pushed Sherry out,
and locked the door again.  Consuelo was in utter panic, too
terrified to speak, gasping at Dad like a choking fish and moving
her hands up and down spasmodically.  It was no use talking to
her;  Dad turned to Jacqueline.

"Listen, little woman," he said as calmly as he could make
himself speak.  "We're in a tight fix.  This raid has been staged
by Wahl in order to catch you.  He wants to identify you, that's
all.  He's got his story all written, and it's sure to be worse
than anything he's done yet;  the minute he's identified you
he'll phone the Tribune to put the story on the press.  He'll
have you arrested if he can.  You've got to get out of here
before he finds you--see?  There's only one place I can think of
for you to go.  Take this key.  I'll find a car, and tell the
driver where to take you.  Cover up with shawls--veils--anything.
Don't be recognized.  We've got to kill that story--see?  Be
ready now, when I come back."

Dad let himself out, and stood listening outside the door.  He
could hear a noise coming up from the stage--voices, and heavy
footsteps--Cervanez shrilling, reenforced by Ramon--both trying
to guard the stairway.  Suddenly he felt his leg seized and
something jumped on his shoulder from behind, making his blood
run cold.  A monkey caught hold of his chin and peered into his
face!  He looked down at a curly-headed child in a night-dress,
who clung to his leg and stared up at him.

"Who are you?" he asked, trying with one hand to keep the monkey
from climbing up on his head.

"Pepita.  I want Conchita!  I want Conchita!  She said she will
come.  I want her!"

"You can't see her now," Dad answered.

"Why?  I want her!  Conchita!"

The child began to cry, screwing fists into her eyes and opening
her mouth to yell.  That was altogether too much for Dad's
equanimity.  He could not hear a dog yelp without wanting to run
to the rescue.  He dug into his pocket, found a coin, and doubled
down beside the child to bring his face on a level with hers.

"Hey-hey-hey!  Don't cry.  Look here--take this."  Her fingers
closed on half a dollar.  "And look, your monkey's pulling my
hair!  Won't you take him off!"

"I want Conchita!"

There was a footstep on the stair now.  The situation seemed
desperate, but Dad did his best to keep calm.

"She's going away for a few days--just a few days," he answered.

"You shall see her when she comes back."

"Where?" the child demanded.  "I want to go too!"

"You can't go to the mountains," he answered, and realized too
late that that was a bad mistake.  The child began to cry again.

"See here," he said, "if you'll take your monkey, and be a good
girl, and run upstairs to bed, and keep quiet I'll take you to
see Conchita in the mountains."


"Soon.  Only you must go now!  Run!  Be off with you!"

Pepita took him at his word, and went, holding the monkey upside-
down and stumbling on the end of her night-dress as she climbed
the stairs.  She had hardly gone when the feet of half a dozen
heavy men began tramping upstairs from the stage, and he heard
Wahl's voice.

"Kick open any door you find locked, you men!  You'll find
something worth while, I promise you!"

Dad strode to the head of the stair.  He reached it, under the
dim gas-jet, just as the leading policeman set his foot on the
top step.  He could see Wahl's' face in shadow behind the
second man.

"Have you a search warrant?" Dad asked.

The front man hesitated, glancing back at the man behind him.

"Go on, men," said Wahl.  "Don't mind him!"

"If you have a search warrant," said Dad, "of course, I've
nothing to say.  But if you haven't, you'd better go get one
before you take chances.  You know me, I think.  If you overstep
the law, the mayor and the district attorney are going to have
the facts before the night's out!"

Wahl came striding up past the policemen, pushing them aside.

"Say, here, what's this?" he demanded.

"Didn't you hear?" Dad answered.

"You killing a story?"

"I'm reporting this raid!" said Dad.  "You men are simply being
made catspaws!" he called down over Wahl's shoulder to the
policemen.  "You'll be the goats if you act illegally.  Take my
tip and confine yourselves to the job downstairs--or go get a
proper warrant.  Some of you have known me twenty years.  How
long have you known Wahl?"

"You'll know me before I'm through with you!" Wahl growled
savagely.  He showed his teeth like a wolf.  "You'll know what
hunting a job means, too, Dad Lawrence!  Take my word for it!"

But Dad was sure enough already on that score.  He knew what
Mansfield senior's instant verdict would be.  He was as good as
fired already.  Wahl's bolt was shot--held no more terrors.

"You fellows take the advice of an old friend, and be sensible!"
he called down to the policemen;  and some one near the foot of
the stairs said gruffly:

"'Bout face!  Downstairs--march!"

The men tramped down again, but Wahl stood leering savagely with
his face thrust close to Dad's.

"I'll give you one chance!" he sneered.

"Stand by while I force that door in, or I'll break you forever,
as far as any newspaper's concerned!"

"Get to hell out o' here!" Dad answered calmly.  "You're a skunk!
Go and make your smell!"

Wahl's laugh, as he turned and followed the police downstairs,
was merciless.  It rang like steel struck against stone, sending
a cold chill down Dad's spine.  He wondered what the devil would
do next, yet did not dare to wait and see.  He knew what he
himself had done, and Wahl had twice his brains;  the odds were a
thousand to one that Wahl would try the fire-escape;  but there
was just an even chance that if he hurried--

He led the way to the room at the end of the passage, threw the
window up, and helped Jacqueline out on the fire-escape.  Then he
climbed out himself, and fairly hauled Consuelo through after
him.  Consuelo wanted to feel her way down carefully, but Dad put
one arm around her and hurried her down as if flames were curling
all about them.

"Never mind if you break your leg!  It'll mend!" he protested.
"It's your one chance!  Hurry!"

One of the rusted steps broke under Consuelo's weight, but Dad
saved her from falling by main strength.  Consuelo cried aloud to
all the saints, but Dad lugged and hauled at her--the thin iron
trembled--Jacqueline called encouragingly from below--and
Consuelo's faith in guardian angels somehow clung to her as far
as the bottom step.  But then Jacqueline swung herself over and
dropped like a cat to the ground.  Saints--angels vanished.
Consuelo sat down.

"I'll stay here!" she announced flatly.  "Go on!  You two go
without me!  I don't matter--they won't get a word out of me!"

She did not know who "they" were, but she was willing to face
devils rather than that long drop to the ground.  However, Dad
and Jacqueline between them managed it.  Dad jumped to the ground
and found two garbage cans, one full, the other empty--piled one
on the other, and laid a piece of wood on top of all.  Jacqueline
coaxed, Dad swore, and Consuelo was persuaded;  she stepped down,
and the whole structure toppled forward under her trembling
weight, but it broke her fall, and Dad and Jacqueline between
them saved her from breaking her neck.

Then, hand in hand, they hurried up the alley to the street to
find an auto.  The police patrol wagon was backed up to the front
entrance of the El Toro, and they were putting Papa Pantopoulos
and several of his waiters into it.  Beside the patrol wagon was
some one's private car, and Sherry was talking to a man in a
dress suit and overcoat about half a head taller than himself, a
little to one side, beyond the caf entrance.  Dad did not look
at the man hard enough to recognize him.  He hurried the two
women past Sherry, and got in Sherry's way to prevent him from
dallying with Jacqueline.

"Get an auto of some kind--quick!" he whispered.  "We'll wait at
the next corner!"

Dad tugged at the women, for the police were coming out of the El
Toro, and Wahl might follow them.  The man Sherry had been
talking to seemed much too interested.  Dad did not dare look
at him.

"Hurry!" he urged.  "Best foot forward!  Keep your faces covered,
and look straight in front of you!"

But that damned young fool Sherry, instead of running for an
auto, was talking to the man again!

"Hell!  Is the boy crazy?"

Dad's nerves were nearly as far gone by then as Consuelo's.  He
almost jumped out of his skin when a man's step came hurrying
behind him and a man's voice spoke close to his ear.

"Pardon me.  Why not use my car?"

Dad faced about--gasped--grinned--recognized John Miro!

"This is perfectly all right," said Miro, smiling.  "They won't
interfere with any lady in my car.  Take my arm, Miss Lanier!"

She obeyed, with an almost creepy sensation.  It was like walking
with Desmio, only this man was so much taller!  He had the same
way of holding her arm, and the same peculiar dignity in his
stride.  Strange, what idiotic thoughts occur to one in a crisis.
She looked down at his feet, to see whether he was wearing the
rubbers he so energetically advertised!  He was not, and she was
almost disappointed!  She had not time to feel surprised at
meeting him in that extraordinary crisis;  in fact she was past
being surprised at anything--and so disturbed on Sherry's account
that she could not think.

Miro helped her into the car--a great expensive closed one with
the Miro coat-of-arms on the panel;  then offered his arm to
Consuelo.  Dad whispered to the chauffeur--fiercely--repeating
directions again and again.  Miro slammed the door shut, cried
"Go ahead!" and stood between Dad and Sherry, watching as the car
threaded its way into the stream of traffic.

"Well--so here endeth this lesson!" Miro remarked after a moment.

"No, it doesn't!"

Dad turned and faced him squarely.  "That swine Wahl," he went
on, "has his story all written.  It's set up, ready to use the
minute he phones them to spring it.  What's he doing now?
Anybody seen him?"

Miro did not know Wahl by sight, and shook his head.

"He's still inside there somewhere," said Sherry.

"Damn it!  We've got him beat," said Dad, "unless he gets her
story out of Ramon!  Maybe he's phoning already from the cafe--
get in there, Sherry, and see if you can't bust the instrument--
or cut the wire.  I'll hunt for him upstairs.  God!  If I catch
him in one of the rooms I'll kill him!"

"Don't quite kill him!" advised Miro.  "I'll wait here for both
of you."

But Wahl had stolen a march.  He was not yet ready to telephone
to the Tribune to use the story.  Even he did not dare to turn
that scurrilous concoction loose without first positively
identifying his victim;  and he believed she was still
hiding upstairs.

He wasted precious minutes trying to find some other way of
invading the upper story, and nearly came to blows with a negro
cook who drove him headlong out of the kitchen by the back way.
That brought him into the alley, at the rear, and it was not a
minute after that before he thought of the fire-escape.  But
there were two fire-escapes;  and the one he swung himself on to
was at the end of the building, serving quite a different set of
windows from the one that Dad had used.  He peered in vainly at
window after window, almost giving up hope, until he reached the
top story and at last saw a small girl in a night-dress playing
with a monkey on a bedroom floor.  Without a moment's hesitation
then, he wrapped his fist in a handkerchief, smashed a pane of
glass, unlatched, the window, and climbed in.

The child ran from him in terror, and Wahl did all he could to
increase the terror, believing that would save time.  He caught
her--backed her up against the wall--made hideous grimaces in the
child's face.

"Where's Conchita?" he demanded.  "Tell me or I'll hurt you!"

"Gone!" wailed Pepita.  "She's gone.  I want her too!  But
she's gone!"

"Gone where?  Hurry up now!  Tell me, if you don't want to
be hurt!"

"A man came and took her to the mountains.  He promised he'd take
me.  I want to go soon!"

Pepita burst into tears, and Wahl turned away from her, stroking
his chin.

Mountains--mountains?  The man was Dad Lawrence undoubtedly.  He
had felt sure Dad was a traitor, but where would Dad take her, or
send her to in the mountains?  It was hardly likely Dad would go
along.  He would put her in a car and send her there.  Might get
the number of the car--no, no time for that, and not much chance
of it.  Dad must have thought of some place on the spur of the
moment--what place?--wished he knew Dad better--Got it!  Dad had
told him he sometimes spent weekends in Mansfield's cabin, and
Mansfield himself hardly ever went there!  That must be the
place--where else?  But could he find the way, he wondered.
Well--he couldn't find it by standing there stroking his chin.
He knew the general direction--everybody in the neighborhood
would know where Mansfield's cabin was.

He went out by the window just as Dad entered the room in search
for him.  Dad, leaning out of the window, watched him hurrying
down the iron ladder--saw Wahl grin as he recognized the face
above him, and guessed the grin meant triumph.  He shut the
window down, and spent five minutes in comforting Pepita before
he could coax the account from her of what Wahl had said and
done, and what she had told Wahl.  Then he tossed the child on to
the bed, covered her, kissed her good night, and ran for it--
downstairs--as hard as he could lay foot to the floor.  He found
Sherry by the phone booth.

"Where's your car?" Dad demanded.

"In the garage.  Haven't used it since yesterday."

"Take a taxi, and go get it, quick!  Wahl's wise!  He's after
her--to your dad's cabin in the mountains!  Get on his trail!
Smash him if you have to!  Use a monkey-wrench!  Anything to stop
him!  If he identifies her--"

But Sherry was gone.  Wahl's roadster, in which he had followed
the police patrol wagon on the way to the raid, had been parked
half a block away.  That was gone too.

"It's a race now--up to Sherry and a high-powered car," said Dad,
joining Miro on the sidewalk.

"Race for what?" asked Miro.  "What next?"

Dad enlightened him.  "If Wahl phones the Tribune to spring that
story, tomorrow's first edition will about kill that girl!  The
story's all in type.  One word from him, and it's on the press!
All the other papers will copy it, and the evening editions will
enlarge on it!  Mansfield's sure to put it on the wires, and
every paper in the country will run columns about it!  She'll
never be able to live it down."

"No," said Miro calmly, "she won't.  I know what publicity
means!"  He glanced up at his own glaring sky-sign several blocks
away.  "Let's see:  I use a lot of space in the Tribune.  I've
phoned for my other car--it'll be here in a few minutes--I'll go
and see Mr. Mansfield!"

Dad touched his arm.  "Be careful!" he warned:  "Mansfield's
iron!  Threats only make him savage."

Miro smiled.  "He won't care to lose any full-page advertising."

"Meat and drink for him!" Dad answered.  "He'll leave the space
blank, and run a paragraph in big type in the middle explaining
why you cancelled your ad!  He's fought and won that kind of
fight a dozen times."

"Where's the joint in his armor them" asked Miro--almost
pleasantly--the way a surgeon might ask to see a patient's leg.

"Sherry!" Dad answered.  "Mansfield wants to break Miss Lanier
because he suspects Sherry of being under her influence.  Sherry
has as much iron as his father, and won't quit.  Mansfield will
cut Sherry off without a nickel."

"And you?" asked Miro.

"Oh, I'm done for!  I'll be hunting a job tomorrow morning."

"Try me first," suggested Miro.  "Here's my car.  Well--glad to
have met you, Mr.--what name?--Lawrence.  And this place in the
mountains--just where is it?"

"Mansfield's cabin."

"Oh he'll know the way then.  Good night.  Don't forget to come
to see me.  And before I forget it will you do me a favor?  Phone
the Ursuline Convent--get Sister Michaela--tell her where
Jacqueline is and have a car put at her disposal.  Send me the
bill."  He saw Dad's bewilderment.  "That's just in case the rest
of us fall down.--Good night."

Chapter XXX.

"I've heard threats before--lots of 'em!"

At seventeen moods flash from one extreme to the other, and
Jacqueline in John Miro's limousine behind a liveried driver was
a totally different person from La Conchita in a shabby cabaret.
She began instantly to readjust herself to the new surroundings,
and to think in corresponding terms.  Noblesse oblige.  That is
almost the only age-worn proverb that can not be controverted.
The other is, "Put a beggar on a horse and he will ride you down."

Hedged in by elegance, and safe for the moment, she thought of
nothing but Sherry and how to save him from the disaster of being
mixed up with herself.  She was willing to make any sacrifice for
Sherry--but what sacrifice would help?  There was no prospect now
that Sherry would listen to reason and drop her out of his life;
she knew he would stick to her through thick and thin, quarrel
with his father, and be ruined--by what?  By his own father's
newspaper's lies about herself!  And reporters were probably
already hunting like wolves to discover who the man was who had
been in her bedroom, because she had no doubt but that Ramon was
already talking.

Who would help?  To whom could she turn?  Dad Lawrence had been
an angel, but what more could he do?  John Miro had turned up
like a person in a dream, and had helped by lending his car.  She
supposed he was awfully rich, but--he was just a gentleman,
behaving as such--he could hardly have refused the loan of his
car--he and Desmio had been at daggers drawn--but Desmio would
certainly have done as much for John Miro--it was no use looking
to John Miro for any further, aid--besides, he would certainly
think she had plotted to deprive him of the Miro estates in
Louisiana.  He very likely believed the newspapers and that
Desmio's death was her fault.  Why should he not believe the
newspapers?  Everybody always did.

She almost wished she had stayed and confronted Wahl.  If she
told him the plain truth, wouldn't he listen?  She knew he would
not listen!  She remembered Wahl's face--and his hand on her
wrist--knew, too, that she could never force herself to say a
word to him;  even the memory of him made her feel cold all over.

How did any one come to believe what such a person as Wahl said,
she wondered.  Why did the people who owned the newspapers place
any confidence in him?  Why did Sherry's father trust him?  Oh,
if only she could see Sherry's father, and tell him the truth for
one minute, she felt sure she could convince him!  She would warn
him of Sherry's danger.

Why not?  Was he invisible?  Was she afraid?  Yes!  Of what--for
herself?  Yes!  What did that matter?  She owed it to Sherry!
What was love for if you didn't sacrifice yourself to save the
man you loved?

She nudged Consuelo.  "Tell him to stop!" she commanded.  But
Consuelo had no mind for anything but flight--and the luxury of
being in a limousine again.

"No, no, honey--"

Jacqueline leaned forward and slid the glass partition.

"Drive first to the Tribune Building!" she commanded, and the man
swung the car around obediently.  The die was cast!

"But what are you going to do, honey?  Are you--"

"Never you mind.  You wait in the car while I attend
to something."

Firm lips--eyes full of conquest--seat erect--courage.  She
wished she knew beforehand what a newspaper office was like.  She
imagined Mansfield senior in a den between whirring machinery and
oil-cans, and supposed she would have to shout her loudest in
order to make him hear above the clatter.  Well--it would help if
she had to shout;  she would yell the truth at him, and all his
men would hear, and would be convinced too!  She had a vision of
a dozen men in overalls crowding around Mansfield senior and
forcing him to withdraw his accusations against her--forcing him
to print a special edition exonerating her--and of Mansfield
begging her pardon, just as Sherry would beg anybody's pardon,
bluntly, almost rudely, but with absolute sincerity!  If they did
find out that Sherry had been in her room, it wouldn't matter, if
only all the newspapers withdrew all those awful lies about her!

She saw Mansfield senior as a big bloated copy of Sherry, with
his coat off and his sleeves rolled up, and one hand on a wheel
that controlled all the machinery.

Then, suddenly, there she was in front of the Tribune Building,
with her heart in her mouth, and all the inspiration gone!
Consuelo begged and implored her not to do anything foolish, but
the driver got down and held the door open, which kept her from
changing her mind if nothing else did.  She wrapped the heavy
veil twice around the lower part of her face, jumped out before
Consuelo could stop her, and ran into the building.

She thought at first she had made a mistake;  it was not in the
least like the newspaper den she had imagined--just a great
gilded hallway, with well-dressed people hurrying to and fro.
But a man in uniform told her which floor to go to, and showed
her into the elevator;  in another moment she had stepped into a
corridor with doors to right and left and a desk at one corner,
at which a pale-faced boy sat behind a piece of painted wood
marked "Information."  She supposed that meant that the boy would
tell her things.

But it was he who insisted on information.  He wanted to know her
name and business.  Had she a card?  Would she write her name
then on a slip of paper?  When she shook her head the boy grew
impudent, and that settled that problem.  He learned, at once, at
least something about dignity.

"Tell Mr. Mansfield that a lady is waiting to see him."

The boy looked at her and left his desk.  A moment later he bowed
her in through Mansfield's office door, and Mansfield senior rose
from his leather-covered chair, as she stood hesitating while the
door clicked behind her.

It was all so different from what she had imagined that she could
not speak at all at first.  Mansfield looked something, though
not much, like Sherry, and was as well dressed as any man she had
ever seen.  The office was almost like a private library, with a
fireplace, arm-chairs and an expensive carpet.  There was no
noise.  Mansfield remained standing at his desk and seemed to
expect her to speak first, and to be very suspicious.

"Are you Mr. Mansfield?" she asked suddenly.

He nodded, and she walked half a dozen steps toward him.

"I--I wanted to talk to you about--about something."  His
expression showed that he supposed that was why she was there;
it was dry--hard--uncompromising.  He did not make the slightest
effort to put her at her ease.

"About what?" he asked after a moment's pause;  and the very
abruptness of the question nerved her to the fighting point.

"About your newspaper, Mr. Mansfield, and about untruths you've
printed, and--"

There!  It was out!  But instead of looking startled, Mansfield
smiled dryly and motioned her to a chair.  "Won't you remove your
veil?" he asked.

"No, thank you.  You've printed disgraceful accounts of
Jacqueline Lanier," she went on, "and I happen to know they are
absolutely false.  I've come to tell you that, so that anything
you print from now on will be done with your eyes open.  You've
ruined Jacqueline Lanier--ruined her life and all her hopes.
You've blackened her character, without knowing anything about
the real circumstances and you've reduced her to the point where
she simply can't face people--where she is afraid to let people
know who she is, because of the things the newspapers have said
of her."

Jacqueline paused for breath.  Mansfield again motioned her to a
chair, but she continued standing, so he leaned back against his
desk and stood at ease.

"Jacqueline Lanier is one of those evil characters who shauld be
exposed, in the public interest," he answered sternly.  "We have
all the facts about her.  Our special correspondent was present
at the tragedy that made her notorious.  He interviewed her.  His
impressions and his information are first hand."

"He knows nothing!" she retorted.  "You've let that--that devil
destroy a girl's character, and--you've worse than murdered her!
She's forced to run away and hide--and now you're trying to kill
her all over again!"

"It is not our fault that she deserves to be pilloried,"
Mansfield answered calmly.  "This newspaper owes a duty to the
public.  However--pardon me--how do you know of our intentions?"

"Never mind!  I know!  Your reporters are after her.  You're
going to print another story about her, and I'm here to ask you
not to do it!"

Mansfield smiled again.  He made no comment, except that his eyes
hardened and grew a fraction less wide open as he watched her.
He picked up a paper-knife from the desk behind him and began to
play with it.

"Is that blood on your dress?" he asked her suddenly.

Too late, she remembered that her cape had no button in front,
and clutched it.  "It's nothing--only a scratch," she answered,
but she saw renewed suspicion in his eyes.

That frown of hers was dancing restlessly, belying indignation,
making her look mischievous, and the effect of that was
heightened by the veil that she was so careful to keep over her
mouth.  The veil rather muffled her voice;  and the fact that she
had on a spangled dancing dress under a cheap cape was decidedly
not in her favor.  If she had only covered her forehead instead
of her chin, those lake-blue eyes might have convinced.

"How do you come to know Jacqueline Lanier?" Mansfield
asked abruptly.

"I do know her!" she answered.  "Isn't that enough?"

He shook his head.  "You forget that we know her!" he answered.

"You don't, Mr. Mansfield!  She's--"

He interrupted with a gesture.  "Let me prove to you that we do,"
he broke in.  "Don't hesitate to tell me if I'm wrong.  She is
dancing, and has been dancing for several nights past, in a low-
down cabaret called the El Toro, owned by a Greek of unsavory
repute.  She is living in the company of disreputable foreigners,
and dancing in a mask.  That, of itself, is evidence of her real
character.  People have a way of finding their true level,
whatever the circumstances of their birth may happen to be.
Am I right?"

"Don't you see that she's there because you've left her nothing
else to do, and nowhere to go?  Are you going to deprive her of
even that poor chance to make a living?"

"It is part of a newspaper's business to expose people of her
type," Mansfield answered, studying that dancing frown with
increasing dislike.  "Left to her own devices that girl would
very soon repeat past performances.  She would ruin more young
men--and possibly more old ones.  She is a public menace--a type
of the greatest public menace in the world today, only she
happens to be worse than most of them.  Pity would be wasted on
her.  What pity had she for the man who went to his death on her
account, and for poor Jack Calhoun, who shot himself?  She
laughed!  Our correspondent saw her!"

She did not, Mr. Mansfield!"

"How do you know?  Were you there?" he asked.

Jacqueline hesitated, and the fact did not escape Mansfield's
notice.  She was wondering whether to admit who she was, but the
hard look in his eyes warned her that would be worse than
useless.  She tried another line.

"Haven't you a son?" she asked him.

"Yes.  What has that to do with it?" he snapped back.

"Would you like your son to be found guilty by the newspapers,
and condemned, and hounded from pillar to post--until there was
almost nothing left but suicide?"

Her voice almost broke as she said that, but Mansfield snorted
and sat down at his desk.  He had no intention of being won over
by sob-stuff, nor of letting the interview drag out much longer.
His eye was on the button at the end of the row on the wall;
unless she had something more to the point to tell him, in
another minute he would ring the bell and have her shown out.
She read his intention, but she was there to save Sherry, and her
next words made him sit upright and stare at her again.

"Very well, Mr. Mansfield.  You have ruined Jacqueline--you can't
hurt her any more.  But do you realize that you've made her so
notorious that any man would be ruined, too, whose name was mixed
up with hers?"

"That's his look-out!" Mansfield answered cynically.

"Listen, Mr. Mansfield.  Your reporters--or one of them--caused
the El Toro to be raided.  There was an accident."

Mansfield raised his eyebrows.  He thought of the blood he had
noticed on her dress, and nodded.

"There was some one in La Conchita's room--a young man."

"A man, eh?"

"Yes.  And please, Mr. Mansfield, if there's any mercy or justice
in you, call off your reporters.  Don't let them find out who it
was.  If they do--"

"Serve him right!" snapped Mansfield.

Gesture--expression--attitude--finger ready for the bell--all
indicated that the interview had no further possible purpose as
far as he was concerned.  But he did not press the bell-button;
something in Jacqueline's manner arrested him.  She had grown
calm suddenly;  the effect was much more tragic than if she had
pointed a finger and screamed at him.

"The man was your son, Mr. Mansfield!" she said quietly.

He was stung!  He gaped at her.  But then his face began to grow
harder than a stone.

"I am here to save your son," she went on.

"I'll save him!" he said suddenly, and grabbed at the desk
telephone.  "I'll let no woman of that type ruin him!  Give me
the desk!" he shouted.  "Quick!  Have every story that comes in
about the raid at the El Toro sent to me first.  D'you get that?
Print nothing until I've seen it!"

"If that's all you came about, you needn't worry," he sneered.
"We'll keep his name out of it!"

"And hound her?"


Well--she had saved Sherry.  But divine rage--reckless, righteous
anger seized Jacqueline.  Suddenly she saw the smallness of this
man--his meanness--his cowardice.  Scorn arose in her and swamped
every other sensation.

"You miserable coward!" she exclaimed, not raising her voice, but
looking at him as if he were a negro.  "So your notions of public
duty don't include yourself or your son!  You contemptible
creature!  Sherry is worth ten million of you, or I would go
myself and tell his name to every newspaper in the city!  Don't
dare answer me!  Listen!  You have heard the truth tonight!  If
Jacqueline Lanier were all that you say she is, then you're
worse!  But she's nothing of the sort, and you're worse than a
murderer--you're a yellow coward, and a liar!  That's all, Mr.
Mansfield!  You may ring your bell now!"

She turned her back to him and waited for the officeboy to show
her out, not once looking back at him, and for a moment Mansfield
sat still, not enjoying his sensations.  It was the first time in
his life that any one had dared to say to his face anything
remotely resembling Jacqueline's words, and what appalled him was
her impudence, not his own injustice.  To be bearded in his own
den and called a liar by--by that creature!  For he knew who she
was now--hadn't the slightest doubt of it.  She was La Conchita--
none other than Jacqueline Lanier--the female who had vamped
Sherry and cast a spell on him--here in his office to save
herself by a hypocritical pretense of pleading for the boy!  He
grabbed the telephone.

"O.K. that Lanier story!" he almost shouted.  "I've identified
her!  Rush it through--and say:  send some one from the news-room
quick, to follow that woman downstairs.  She's just gone down in
the elevator--it's the Lanier in person--sure!--trace her--have
him hurry!"

But Jacqueline was into Miro's limousine, and away, before the
reporter ran out of the building, and all the news he brought
back was that some one had told him she drove away in an
expensive closed car.

"H'm!" said Mansfield.  "Another old man on the string, I dare
say.  She seems to like two at a time--an old one and a young
one!  I wonder where Wahl is all this time--he ought to play
that up."

About ten minutes later he was rather annoyed than otherwise to
learn that John Miro had called, and wished to speak with him.
Normally he would have been glad to talk with Miro, as an
advertiser nationally known, with whom it was good business to be
on friendly terms.  He had never met him, and would like to.  But
just now he wanted to keep his mind on the Lanier story, and to
watch for any angle of it that might implicate Sherry.  Also he
wanted to consider what to say to Sherry--how to discipline him
without arriving at an open quarrel.  So, though he received Miro
graciously enough, he told him he could only spare five minutes.

"Time's always scant about the time we're going to press,"
he explained.

"So I judge, by the way the stuff's written," Miro answered,
smiling amiably as he took the proffered arm-chair and crossed
one leg over the other.  "If I rushed into print with my
advertisements as casually as you print news, I'd be bankrupt or
in jail within the month.  Will you have a cigar?"

"No, thanks," snapped Mansfield.  "What is it I can do for you?"

"Do you mind if I light one?"

"Certainly not.  Go ahead.  But please come to the point--I'm
rushed off my feet."

"You're going to be rushed a great deal faster presently," said
Miro, carefully cutting the end from a cigar and lighting it.
"I've a car outside that can catch its own shadow.  How are the
roads toward the mountains--pretty good?"

"I wonder what you mean?" asked Mansfield, staring at him.

"I know you do."

 "The point--?"

"Is this," said Miro.  "When you make mistakes, are you big
enough to retract them?  Or are you one of those big I Am's, who
have to have it proved to them how small they really are?"

"What the hell d'you mean?" demanded Mansfield, growing angry.
"Is there anything wrong with your copy?  If so, I'll--"

"Oh, no.  That all emanates from my office, and is checked up
very carefully."

"Then what the--"

"I am coming to that."

"Then I wish you'd be quicker about it!"

"We will what they call 'step on her' presently," said Miro
suavely.  "I occasionally read your paper."

Mansfield's expression softened a little.  He was always ready to
talk about the Tribune.

"The advertisements are now and then excellent," Miro went on--
apparently deadly serious now.

"We're the greatest advertising medium on the West Coast,"
said Mansfield.

"Yes.  Many of your advertisers tell the truth.  They make sure
of their facts, I suspect, before asking for other people's
money.  It occurred to me to ask you why you don't consider
taking a feather out of their cap."

"For instance?"

Mansfield had a hand on each arm of his chair, and his feet were
under him, as if he were ready to spring up and fight.

"Miss Jacqueline Lanier is the particular instance I have in
mind," said Miro, just as suavely as ever, leaning back, blowing
smoke rings--nevertheless, watching Mansfield with a pair of very
bright brown eyes.

Mansfield struck his fist on the desk.  "There," he exclaimed, "I
have you!  There was never a case in which we were more certain
of our facts!"

"And never a case where you perpetrated a more rank injustice,"
Miro answered calmly.  "Who supplied your facts?"

Mansfield ignored the question.

"Injustice?  Where's the injustice in exposing a woman of that
type?  She's a public menace!  You're the last man who should
uphold her!  She as good as murdered a relative of yours.  She's
the type that breaks up families,--disorganizes society--ruins
the lives of young men--"

"She's a good, sweet, honest little woman, beautifully bred and
delicately poised," said Miro, "and you've turned her into a poor
little soiled bird caught in the lime."

"Why pick on me?" demanded Mansfield.  "The Tribune isn't the
only paper that has printed her story."

"I pick on you because you're handy, and one of the worst
offenders," Miro retorted calmly.  "The cheaper rags will copy
you.  Is that clear?"

Mansfield jerked his drawer open.  "See here!" he snapped.
"Here's a wire in this afternoon.  Another scalp on her belt.
Donna Isabella--dead of a broken heart!"

"And in hell--I suspect," added Miro.  "I was at Don Andres'
funeral, although I noticed your reporters overlooked the fact.
I had an interview with Donna Isabella.  I shall not attend
hers."  He uncrossed his legs, and laid his gloves and hat down
very carefully on the floor before he went on.  "The funeral of
the Tribune is the next that I propose to attend--unless you and
I arrive at an understanding before I leave this office!"

"Hah!" Mansfield jumped from his chair with every fighting
instinct uppermost.  "Is that the lay of the land?  Cancel your
advertising!  Good!  Just put it in writing!"

"Not at all," Miro answered calmly.  "You will carry my
advertising as long as your newspaper has a leg to stand on.  The
contract has nearly a year to run, and I have an option to renew
at the same rates."

"Then what's your game?" snapped Mansfield.

"I'm not playing any game.  I'm deadly serious," Miro answered.
"I propose to confront you with actual facts."

"Facts?  I know all about her!" Mansfield snorted.

"More than you'd ever guess!  She's been dancing in a low-down
cabaret known as the El Toro, and was caught red-handed with--"

He checked himself.  He was not going to implicate Sherry, even
in order to confound this man.

"I know all about that," Miro answered, smiling.  "I know the
name of the young man who was in her bedroom. I have had some of
the brightest young men from my office hunting for Jacqueline
Lanier for several days.  Two of them, working independently,
identified her this evening, and I arrived on the scene just as
that raid was pulled off.  You, may say--if you like--in your
paper that I assisted to rescue her.  It was then hardly half an
hour ago--that I made up my mind to fight you to your knees."

"You?  Fight me?" demanded Mansfield.

"Why not?" Miro answered.  "It will be the sort of public duty
that I dote on.  I suspect that I own about twenty-five or thirty
dollars to your one.  I have no family--no heirs whom I care to
leave money to.  And nothing in the world appeals to me half as
much as smashing a public nuisance like your newspaper.  There
will be libel suits, of course;  and you will inevitably lose
them;  but those will be no more than a preliminary skirmish."

"You mean, you propose to dictate to me what the Tribune shall
print--whom it shall attack, and whom let alone?"

"Not at all.  I should find that very uninteresting, and I hate
above all things to be bored.  I propose either to force you to
reapproach this whole subject of Jacqueline   Lanier with an open
mind, and to retract in full--and handsomely--whatever mistakes I
may convince you you have made--or else to smash you so
completely that you will never raise your head again.  I shall
also, of course, be at great pains to let the public know why you
were smashed."

"Go to it!" snapped Mansfield.  "I've heard threats before--lots
of 'em!"

"My first step will be to give the true story tonight to all the
other newspapers--including the name of your son," said Miro.
"The other newspapers are just as sensational as yours, and
they'll revel in it, but they'll be supplied with proofs--which
your--ah--special correspondent overlooked.  They will also be
permitted an interview with Miss Lanier.  It will make great
news, won't it, that your son has--ah--taken the part of the lady
whom you persist in vilifying!"

Mansfield was ready with a retort, but checked it.  He was stung.
He knew the other newspapers would harp on that string
mercilessly.  Hating him--jealous of his mounting circulation--
they would pounce on the opportunity.

"What are these facts and proofs that you hope to convince me
with?" he demanded, and Miro carefully smoothed out a smile.

"I propose, first of all, that you shall come with me and meet
Miss Lanier in person," he answered.

"Useless!" snapped Mansfield.  "I've met her!  She left this room
ten minutes before you entered!  I had a long talk with her.  She
convinced me she's a bad lot!"

That statement rather took the wind out of Miro's sails.  He
began to gather up his hat and gloves, but he managed to mask
his disappointment.

"Very well," he said. "I've had a most delightful interview.  I
always like to discover a man's weaknesses before I fight him!
Thanks for the--ah--intelligence, the armies call it.  Good

He was striding for the door, when it opened and Dad Lawrence
burst in, breathless, nodding to Miro and trying to force himself
to feel and look calm.

"I just came in to say I'm through," he explained.  "I won't wait
to be fired.  Thought I'd warn you that Wahl's' on his way to
your cabin after Jacqueline Lanier--"

"My cabin!  Who sent her there?"

"I did.  I gave her the key!--and Sherry's in his own car hell-
bent after Wahl.  He'll catch him, sure.  I doubt if Wahl knows
the way, and Sherry's sure to overtake him.  There'll be a fight.
It seemed a good idea to let you know it."

John Miro stood with his hand on the door-knob, smiling.  "Don't
you think Sherry will win?" he asked, watching Mansfield's face,
which was a picture of all the violent emotions.

Mansfield snatched at the desk telephone.  "My car!" he yelled.
"Order it round in front--rush!"

"Why not mine?" asked Miro. "Yours is probably as unreliable as
the news you print!  Mine's waiting."

Mansfield snatched up the telephone again.  "Cancel that!" he
yelled.  "I've another car!--Come, then!" he snapped at Miro.
"What are we waiting for?"

"Only for Mr. Lawrence.  Aren't you coming?" Miro asked;  and
Dad, nothing loath, hurried behind them into the elevator.

In less than two minutes they were scooting through the traffic
like a fire-engine answering a fourth alarm--Mansfield with his
hat off, in order that the traffic-cops might recognize him, and
let them by.

Chapter XXXI.

"The devil--half-roasted!"

It cost Sherry exactly twenty minutes to cross town to the garage
where he kept his own car, to put in gas and to be under way
again.  But Wahl lost fifteen minutes asking for directions and
procuring a road map;  and Sherry's car could overhaul Wahl's
cheap roadster at the rate of almost two to one.  Nothing but
traffic and the speed-laws made a real race of it, but the luck
was with Wahl from the start;  perhaps because his car looked
incapable of high speed, he slipped away unnoticed, whereas
Sherry was held up twice in the first ten miles and served with
notice to appear before the judge;  each of those interludes cost
him several minutes.

Thereafter Sherry "stepped on her" in real earnest.  But the luck
was still with Wahl.  A bent nail punctured one of Sherry's rear
tires, and he lost six more minutes changing rims--made clumsy by
darkness and his own impatience.  By the time he had finished
that job he knew by consulting his watch and figuring the mileage
that it was a serious question whether he could catch Wahl before
he reached the Mansfield cabin;  the last twenty miles would be
rough going over narrow dirt roads, on which high speed would be
impossible.  To make matters worse, he began to drive into a fog.

But that was not so good for Wahl's prospects as might appear.

Like father, like son;  Sherry Mansfield was a fighter, the main
difference being that Sherry had more compunctions to begin with.
Once determined to fight, Sherry would have to be knocked out and
killed before the other side could safely claim a victory.  And
he was no bull-headed combatant, however keen;  he used every
ounce of energy the engine could be made to give and took all
chances at curves and corners, but the back  of his mind was busy
planning what to do to Wahl in the likely event of his failing to
overtake him.

One thing he knew he would do.  If Wahl should reach cabin ahead
of him, he would stop and cut the telephone wire somewhere on the
last half-mile where it was looped from tree to tree beside the
track.  Then, though Wahl might identify Jacqueline, he could not
phone the information to the Tribune.  And after that:

"Well:  I'll beat him up, that's all!  He's yellow.  His sort
always are.  I bet I can lick the enthusiasm out of him!"

But Wahl's enthusiasm was of a type beyond Sherry's
comprehension.  The lone hunt suited him perfectly.  He liked the
fog;  it made it difficult.  He preferred things the way they
were--would not have missed that chase into the mountains for a
month's pay.  It turned the story into an epic.  As he drove, his
brain shaped headlines--coining phrases, with which to slander
his victim without risk of libel suits.

"Lanier girl hiding in the mountains!--No, that's not strong
enough.  Lanier girl takes to the woods--that's better!  Sub-
head--caught in police net, slips through the fog and is brought
to bay by Tribune reporter!  That's a good one!  Gee!  I'll get a
story from her!  I'll scare the living lights out of her!  Taken
in Mansfield's cabin of all places!  We'll have to alibi that--
cabin in the mountains is enough--nobody's business whose cabin
it was.  Soon as I've identified her positively, I'll phone the
Tribune to O.K. what I've written, and then dictate 'em a follow-
up over the wire.  Hope it isn't one of those cursed party lines.
That's not likely, though.  Mansfield's sure to have had a
private wire put in."

He had a keen sense of direction, sharpened by long experience in
hunting down elusive victims of his pen.  He drove with a road
map pinned open on his knees, where he could just see it in the
faint light from the dashboard, and he took the right turnings at
top speed in the dark and the thickening mist with an almost
unerring instinct, only slowing three or four times to read sign-
boards by the way--until at last, near midnight, he came to a
sandy road marked deeply by the wheels of one car, and only one,
that had gone up recently.  Then he knew he was on the right
scent, and laughed aloud.

There was a man standing in the dark near that corner, who heard
the laugh, and talked of it for many days afterward.

Wahl had no more sense of duty than the hound that hunts a
leveret--or the wolf at the heels of a doe.  His mind had
pictured Jacqueline as something to destroy.  The harder she
fought for seclusion, the keener his zest to unearth her and
strip her naked with his brain and pen.  That was what life
consisted in.  For what was talent, if you did not use it?  The
public was not his taskmaster, it was his audience, that it
delighted him to entertain--his paymaster, yes;  the donor of
rewards, yes;  contributor of applause, as was fitting.  In one
sense Wahl was an amateur;  he craved the laurels far more than
his pay.  As a man runs a race, he strove to outdo all
competitors with the meaty, juicy scandals he brought to light,
and colored with the touch of genius.

He felt more satisfaction in rounding up Jacqueline, and bringing
her to bay as he intended to describe it, than some men would
feel in winning thousands on a horse-race.  If there had been no
cruelty in his performance, two-thirds of the zest would have
been gone.

"Take off the law, and there'd be bull-fights in a week, playing
to standing room only.  The public wants to see 'em suffer!
Nine-tenths of slumming's for the sake of the thrill they get out
of seeing kids go hungry!  Hell--I know the public.  I've got a
good one for 'em this time!  Let's hope she makes a scene and
tries to scratch my eyes out!  What sells newspapers is what
sells books--Gibbon, for instance--Rabelais--accounts of women
and children torn in the arena--salacious stuff--and the
censorship makes it easier--you can suggest things without saying
'em--tickle imagination--and ho! watch the public gloat!"

He neither worshiped nor despised the public, any more than a
hyena does the other ghouls that it consorts with.  Morals did
not enter into it;  he had no conception of them, other than as
standards used by the public for destroying other people.  He
prided himself, on always having taken good care to have a
thoroughly sound moral basis from which to attack his victims.

"But lord!  I never had such a good one as this.  She's perfect!
Brains enough to be a red-hot vamp, and not enough sense to be a
hypocrite!  Didn't even shed crocodile's tears, with two lovers
shot dead in her own bedroom!  She's a hot one!  Damn this road!
Are we never going to get there?"

The sandy track had narrowed until there was room for only one
car, and a high bank on the right shut off the moonlight.  As he
followed a curve rather warily up a steep incline Wahl's lights
projected at a tangent from the road, their milky whiteness lost
among rocks and trees.  He leaned forward close to the wind-
shield, keeping his eyes on the edge of the track at the left,
slowing more and more, feeling his way--when suddenly his eyes
were blinded by the fierce lights of Miro's returning limousine
coming downhill noiselessly, following its own ruts in the sand,
its driver taking the curve at thirty miles an hour without a
suspicion that any other car would be on that road at that hour.

Wahl tried to sound his horn, but it did not answer the button.
There was just time--possibly just room if he hugged the outside
edge.  But the wheels held in the rut;  he had to use all his
strength and step hard on the gas to force the car out of them.
He cried out, but the cry was drowned in the din of his own
racing engine and as the car jumped clear of the ruts the edge of
the soft bank yielded under the sudden weight.  The limousine
purred by, untouched, before Wahl felt the roadster capsizing and
tried to jump to save himself.  He was half out of the car and
half in it when it turned completely over and pinned him by the
shoulders face-downward among grass and leaves.  He struggled for
a minute, yelling for help and then lay still.

A mile lower down Sherry Mansfield halted the limousine by
waiting in mid-track for it with his lights pointing straight
uphill.  Yes;  the driver had delivered the lady and her
companion safely.  He had opened up the cabin, built a fire on
the hearth for the visitors and had come away.  Yes, they were
all right;  yes, he had passed another car on his way back--had
nearly collided with it.

Sherry pulled out to let him pass, and drove like fury uphill.
If he could not overtake Wahl--but he must!  If Wahl identified
her, and could use the telephone, that cursed story would be on
every breakfast-table.  He would kill Wahl first!

But he was driving dead-slow because of the sand at a turn when
he saw dancing flame through the fog to his left about twenty
feet below the track.  He would have passed, believing it a
forest fire, only he suddenly remembered it was not the time of
year for those, and stared again.  The outline of a pair of
wheels in air was unmistakable.  It was a burning auto, and he
got out to investigate.

In less than a minute he discovered Wahl, pinned under the side
of the car, breathing, but unconscious and beginning to be
scorched by the heat of the burning gasoline.

"Let him burn!  Serve him right!  That's what he'll get in hell!"
Sherry muttered to himself, and tried at once to lift the car off
Wahl's shoulders.  But he could not move it, and the heat drove
him off.  He rushed into the fog searching for a pole of some
sort--found one--shoved it under the car--lifted it six inches--
rested the end of the pole on his shoulders--and dragged
Wahl clear.

"Now leave him here to rot, damn him!"

He picked Wahl up, and carried him up the bank staggering under
the weight and swearing each time he caught his breath.

"Lie there, you swine, while I turn the car around, I'll dump you
at the first house on the road to Frisco, and I hope you die!"

He stooped to look at Wahl--switched on his search-light, and
looked again.

"Dying, I guess.  Dad-blame the luck!  The brute's got burns on
him.  Have to do something about those, or he'll be gone in
fifteen minutes!  I wonder if she knows how to fix them!
Consuelo's sure to--old hens like her know everything!  Well--
it's the only chance the devil's' got--here goes!"

He lifted Wahl again and hoisted him into his own car as
carefully as he could.

"I hope you die before we get there!" he panted, climbing in
beside him.  "I hope you jolt to death!"

He drove awfully carefully, getting out once or twice to make
sure of the best places in the road, for the fog was denser than
ever;  and it was about ten minutes before he saw the lights in
the cabin window and turned in cautiously through the gap in the
rough stone wall.  Leaving Wahl in the car, he ran up the cabin
steps and opened without knocking.

Chapter XXXII.

"D'you suppose we're very wicked people?"

"There is a destiny doth shape our ends," and destiny itself
doubtless governed by intelligence whose vision comprehends the
finished scheme.  But the business of being shaped is often no
more comfortable than a toad's under the harrow.  One may
imagine that the toad resents the teeth and lacks enthusiasm
for high farming.

And so Jacqueline.  She had time, while John Miro's sumptuous
limousine devoured leagues of fog-wrapped road toward the
mountains, to learn all over again what helplessness and dimness
are, the fog and Consuelo seconding young human nature.

The fog made Consuelo nervous, and she tried to drive from the
back seat, as she used to when Zeke was piloting Don Andres' car
below the levees.  Jacqueline endured that for an hour, and then
her own nerves began to give way under the strain.

"Be still, Consuelo!  If we're lucky, he may drive us over a
precipice!  I hope he will!"

That remark set Consuelo in earnest to the task of mustering
herself--a stern fight, needing time.  She sat with pursed lips,
breathing through her nose, for fifteen minutes able to do no
more than to refrain from screaming at the turns, or when head-
lights appeared suddenly in the fog.  But no more that night did
she add to Jacqueline's burden, and it was not long before she
became a very tower of strength.

The fog was a symbol of Jacqueline's thoughts.  So was the
limousine.  She felt that she was being swept along, even as she
had been when the flood broke through the levees, by a power
there was no resisting, through obscurity, toward terrors none
could foresee.  Was she not in a car that belonged to Desmio's
enemy?  John Miro' sky-sign blazed in her memory beside the
Tribune's golden boast of "ALL THE NEWS THE PUBLIC WANTS."  She
was news--news--news again--news in her night-dress with a lover
coming through the bedroom window.  Only this time the lover was
Sherry, and her heart ached for him;  and that made it worse.

What could she do?  There was nothing--nothing to do but to sit
there and be bowled along--toward what?  She had no notion even
of where John Miro's car was taking her, except that it was to be
somewhere in the mountains.  And what then?  What after that, but
more trouble, and more disgrace, and more awful drawings in the
Sunday papers, with people reading them in curl-papers and
slippers at the breakfast table?

And if Sherry should "stick to her through thick and thin," as he
had promised, and as she did not doubt he intended, there would
be the ghastly knowledge that she had dragged down the man she
truly loved to the hell into which destiny had plunged her.

It was worse, not better, now that Sherry had discovered her.
What craziness had induced her to come to San Francisco of all
places?  Weren't there other places where she and Consuelo could
have scrubbed floors?  Scrubbing only made your back and arms
ache, whereas' this--But even scrubbing had its mental terror.
She recalled the Chinaman.  Were there always people after you,
whatever you did?  People like Wahl and the Chinaman, hungry to
sell you in the market-place as news or something worse.  She did
not know even now just what the Chinaman had meant, and did not
want to know;  but it was something hideously dreadful, that her
whole being shrank from.

"Consuelo, d'you suppose we're very wicked people, you and I?"
she asked suddenly.  "Why else should this happen?"

"Honey dear, there'll be an end to it."

"I know there will.  I can't stand it much longer."

Consuelo racked her mind for solace, but found none to offer.
She felt she was no longer in Jacqueline's confidence.  Ever
since their meeting after the flood she had known there was a
secret being kept from her.  Dad Lawrence's arrival on the scene,
and his unexpected, unexplained friendliness had only added to
the mystery.  And who was the young man who had cannoned into her
in the bedroom doorway at the El Toro--whom Lawrence had told to
make haste by the fire-escape--and who had waited outside in
the street?

Having nothing to say, she said nothing, mastering her own
emotions, and waiting watchfully in the hope that Jacqueline
would presently take her into confidence.

But she was no nearer to the truth when they reached the
Mansfield cabin and the chauffeur set a light to the wood already
piled in the great stone fireplace.  Jacqueline hardly thanked
the man;  he belonged to John Miro, who was Desmio's enemy, and
so hers.  But his going made Consuelo feel friendless and afraid,
and to keep herself from hysteria she set to work to explore the
cabin at once with a housekeeper's eye for details.  She knew
within ten minutes where to lay her hands on everything the
place contained.

But Jacqueline knew all that she wanted to know--and more--within
thirty seconds after the fire leaped on the hearth.  It was an
extravagantly luxurious cabin, and on one wall was an oil-
painting of Mansfield senior, with a gilt shield attached to the
frame, and thereon the legend that the portrait was a token of
esteem from the staff of the San Francisco Tribune.

So she was in Mansfield's house--his guest!

Well--she would not trouble him long;  she would be gone by
morning.  She would go now, only she felt so tired.  And at last
she was able to be glad about something;  she was in the
mountains;  there would be caves, or a forest she could hide in.
She was glad she had seen Mansfield and had called him names.
Perhaps she would leave a note for him on the table before she
went away forever, telling him things she had forgotten to say to
his face.

She did not think of him as Sherry's father just then, but as a
dragon that she had faced in its lair, and that had turned out to
be only a coward and a bully after all.  She despised him.  She
felt no longer in the least afraid of him.

But tired--no, not tired--crushed, and almost dead, with no
desire to go on living.  The world was an awful place, with
nothing in it but cruelty.  Even her own love for Sherry was a
cruel thing, because it would inevitably ruin him, and she wished
she had disguised her real feelings when he made love to her in
the barn, so that she might have saved him from what must follow.

She wished she might love him without his loving her, because
then only she would suffer.  But what was the use of wishing?
She lay down on the couch before the fire and tried to go to
sleep and forget everything.

But Consuelo had found things to eat, and came and warmed them at
the fire, and it was useless to try to forget with Consuelo at
your elbow urging you to take stuff from a spoon--"so that you'll
feel strong again, honey."  She did not want to feel strong, and
was not strong enough to resist.  But even so, she did not eat
the stuff, for she spilt it when the door burst open and she saw
Sherry framed against the night.

She did not feel glad to see him, although her heart leaped.  She
felt too weak and tired to endure a scene with him, and to send
him away forever as she knew she must do.  But life seemed to be
just one cruelty after another;  and she supposed she must stand
up and face it.  However, Sherry only flashed one glance at her,
as if to make sure she was there, and then made one of his abrupt
remarks, to Consuelo, not to her:

"Come out here and lend a hand, please."

No explanation--hardly a pause before he had disappeared again,
leaving the door wide open and the mist pouring in.  Consuelo ran
to slam the door with an exclamation of disgust--caught sight of
something--exclaimed "Heavens and earth, what next!"--and
disappeared too.  Jacqueline was too tired even to feel curious,
but got off the couch;  and about two minutes after that Sherry
and Consuelo came staggering up the steps carrying a man between
them.  They laid the man on the couch and Jacqueline looked at
him.  It was Wahl.

"Found him under a burning auto.  He'll die if he's not seen to,"
announced Sherry, and then turned to Jacqueline, as if all that
were Consuelo's business.  He tried to take Jacqueline's hand,
but she snatched it away, seizing on Wahl as the excuse.
Anything--anything to postpone argument.

"Burns!  Burns!" cried Consuelo, running for the bathroom, where
she knew there were medicines in a cupboard.  She came back with
arnica, and then found a bedsheet and tore it into strips.
"Scissors!" she demanded.  "I can't find any."

Sherry produced his pocket-knife, and Consuelo began to rip
Wahl's clothes off, jerking out orders to Sherry, and muttering
to herself as she saw how serious the burns and bruises were.
For fifteen or twenty minutes she kept Sherry occupied, and there
was nothing for Jacqueline to do but make the strips of the torn
sheet into rolls, and to look on.  She was looking at Wahl's face
when he opened his eyes at last, stared straight at her, and
closed them again.  She thought he had recognized her, but she
did not care.

She was surprised to discover how little she feared Wahl, now
that he was under the same roof with her.  It never once entered
her head that, without Consuelo caring for him, he would not
recover from his injuries.  He was still Wahl --the devil's own.
But somehow he had lost all terror for her.  She was much more
afraid of Sherry, because Sherry, she knew, would claim her
presently and she would have to steel her heart against him.  It
was going to be the most difficult thing she had ever done.  She
kept on looking at Wahl because that made it easier to avoid
meeting Sherry's eyes.

Wahl recovered consciousness again and stared straight at her
about a minute.  She met his gaze steadily, not feeling even a
desire to flinch.  His eyes were cavernous, and horrible with
pain.  She found that she even pitied him.  When he sat up
suddenly and pointed at her with a bandaged arm, she stood her
ground--although her frown was dancing over startled eyes.  She
tried to force herself to smile, so as to make him feel at ease
as much as possible.  Surely his burns and bruises were
discomfort enough.

"Think you've scored, don't you!" he said, misinterpreting the
smile and the frown.  He grinned back hatefully, and glanced at
Sherry.  "Hello, young Mansfield!  You are a bright one!
Tribune's only son and heir, eh?  God!  You'd have a paper on the
rocks in a week!  How did I get here?  You bring me!  Well,
there's that in your favor.  Bring me that phone, quick!  Bring
it here--the cord's long enough.  Call the Tribune, and hold the
instrument so I can speak into it."

Sherry did not answer, but laid both hands on Wahl's shoulders
and pressed him down until his head was on the pillow.

"Treason!" Wahl yelled at him.  "Treason!  I've identified her!
Bring me that phone, young Mansfield, or--"

"Shut up!" Sherry ordered.

"Me?  You can't do it, youngster!" Wahl laughed like a ghoul and
struggled to sit up again.  Sherry held him down.  "You can't
stop Clinton Wahl--can't shut him up!  Can't kill him!  Get that?
You can't kill him!  I'm Wahl, youngster!  Special--that's me!
Bring me that phone!  I'll spill 'em a hot one over the wire!
Jacqueline Lanier and Sherry Mansfield--"  He began to say awful
things about them both, sliding off into delirium and raving of
indecencies the Chinaman had only hinted at.  Consuelo shook
Sherry by the arm.

"Take her outside while I quiet him!"

She did not know who Sherry was, nor how she should quiet Wahl,
but anything was better than that Jacqueline should hear that
raving.  Sherry acted almost before the words were spoken--threw
Jacqueline's cape over her shoulders and led her outside,
shutting the door behind them.  But he could still hear Wahl's
voice through the door, so he coaxed her down the steps to the
wide gap in the wall that answered for a gate.  She shuddered,
and he put an arm around her, folding her cape closer with his
other hand.

The cabin was above the fog now.  The blanket had drifted lower
and lay shrouding the valley, creating a weird effect of
isolation.  Not even a glow was visible above the distant city.
They seemed all alone with the moon and stars, above the clouds.

Jacqueline did not speak, and Sherry studied her anxiously.  The
moonlight seemed to emphasize her beauty, but there was a new
paleness in it that worried him;  it was almost as if something
within her had burned out;  as if she had gone as far emotionally
as she could go, and was waiting for the inevitable end.

"I was on my way to stop Wahl from reaching you when I found him
by the roadside under his car," he began.

She turned a little toward him, but showed no emotion.  Her eyes
were listless, and the color of utterly still pools.

"I was afraid it was you who had hurt him," she said.  "I'm so
glad you didn't.  It doesn't matter about Wahl.  He would have
found me sooner or later.  If not he, some one else like him, and
they've already done their worst to me.  That is what I was
foolish not to know."

The note of despair was in her voice that always struck such
terror into Consuelo, and Sherry felt panic race through him.

"Look here, Jacqueline!" he said, trying to speak sternly.
"You're not to talk that way!  You get me?  You're not to think
those kind of thoughts!  You've done too much of it already.  I'm
with you now, and nothing--"

She held up her hand to stop him.  "Please, Sherry!  You only
make it harder for me.  You only make it hurt all the more.
Please go.  Consuelo and I are going away--"

He caught hold of her and turned her toward him, unconscious of
his roughness.

"I'm not going, and you're not going away.  Or if you do go, I'll
go with you!" he answered.  "Your fight is my fight.  Get me?
They can't do or say a thing to you without doing or saying it to
me.  You're mine, and I'm yours.  They can't undo that, and
neither can we."

It was a pathetic little laugh that answered him, but it held
vestiges of life.

"It makes me happy, Sherry, to hear you say that.  But
Jacqueline--your Jacqueline, that is--is dead and can't ever come
back to life, because nobody believes her.  I learned that

"Good lord!  But I believe you!" he retorted.

"Do you, Sherry?  I'm so grateful.  But you must go away, because
I bring only unhappiness to every one who loves me, and I don't
want to make you unhappy.  Desmio--Jack Calhoun--Consuelo--now
you.  It's too much, Sherry!  And Wahl--Wahl nearly dies trying
to reach me.  I bring misfortune to every one."

Sherry stared at her, utterly, absolutely sure of his own mind,
but wondering what to say.  She recognized the consternation in
his face, knew she hurt him, and was much more sorry for him than
for herself.  Tears suddenly blinded her eyes and ran down her
face unheeded.

"Sherry dear, do go!  Will you please go?  Your father will not
forgive you if you love me.  If I hurt you any more than I have
done already I couldn't bear it.  I love you.  See--I tell you,
dear, I love you.  And if you love me, you will let me go away--"

Sherry's answer died still-born.     There came from close at hand
the roar and stutter of a big car being driven uphill.  Head-
lights blazed around the bend.

"Who now?  That's not my dad's car," Sherry muttered.  "Maybe
it's reporters from one of the other papers," he said, throwing
his arm around Jacqueline.

"Come on, sweetheart--back to the cabin!  I won't let 'em in."

He almost carried her up the steps.  But the car came roaring in
through the gap, and he had hardly locked the door when a man's
fist struck on it and he heard his father's voice:

"Come on now, Sherry--open the door!"

He turned the key again, then turned his back and walked to mid-
room, beside Jacqueline, where he swung himself around and stood
to face his father with his jaw set tight and both fists
clenched.  Consuelo was sitting on a chair beside Wahl, but rose
to her feet when Mansfield entered, closely followed by Dad
Lawrence and John Miro.  Miro bowed to Jacqueline, undid his
overcoat, and walked to the corner of the fireplace, where he
stood erect, like a man in armor.  Mansfield stood silent, with
his back to the door, glancing from Sherry to Wahl and again from
Wahl to Sherry.  No one spoke for thirty seconds.

It was Wahl who broke the silence.  "Chief!" he yelled.  "I've
got her!  Get to the phone--quick!  O.K. that story!  Then spill
'em a follow-up--have 'em put a live man on the other end!  Here
she is!  Caught in your cabin with your son!  Didn't I tell you
she'd vamp Sherry?  Watch her, or she'll--"

Sherry put his clenched fist close to Wahl's nose.  "Shut up!" he
commanded, "or I'll finish you, you beast!"

Wahl began to swear excitedly at Sherry, but Dad Lawrence picked
up a towel, gagged Wahl with it, and held his head down on the
pillow.  Sherry turned again to face his father:

"Long live the Tribune!" he said grimly;  and Miro, over by the
fireplace, chuckled.

"Did you do that to Wahl?" demanded Mansfield.  "Did he hurt you?
Did he attack you?"

"No.  I wish he had.  Then I'd have killed him!"


"Because he should be killed!  He's all but killed her," Sherry
answered, with a jerk of the head toward Jacqueline but meeting
his father's gaze steadily.

"May I ask what possible concern that is of yours?" Mansfield
tried to keep the sneer out of his voice, but failed, and
Sherry's eyes blazed at him.

"Sure!" he answered.  "And I'll tell you!  She's the girl I love,
that's all.  So now you know where I come in."

"Sherry, my boy--"  Mansfield was trying hard to master his
emotion--"we'll have to talk that over later.  When a young girl
has a reputation--"

"Stop!" Sherry held his hand up.  "None of that, dad!  Wahl made
her reputation.  Wahl is a liar!"

"But it's public property," said Mansfield.

"Yes, and whose fault's that?  But I'm not going to argue with
you.  I don't give a damn what all the papers in Christendom have
printed about her, or will print.  She's the girl I love.  She
has my absolute O.K.  I'm going to marry her."

"You're not!" said Mansfield;  and once more John Miro chuckled,
striking a match on the chimney-stones to light a cigarette.

It was almost as if the match had set a light to Jacqueline!  The
spirit returned to her eyes.  Before Sherry could prevent her she
stepped forward toward Mansfield, and the tragedy written on her
face made even him look at her with a changed expression.  Dad
Lawrence, with   his hand on the towel over Wahl's mouth, was
almost crying.  John Miro burned his fingers with the match.

"Sherry is not going to marry me, Mr. Mansfield--because I am
not going to let him.  I have been telling him that, but he
will not listen."

Her voice sounded very tired, and Consuelo made a move toward
her.  Mansfield glanced at Sherry.

"That seems final, doesn't it?" he said abruptly.

Sherry stepped in front of Jacqueline and faced his father more
angrily than ever.  Jacqueline felt Consuelo's arms behind her
and almost collapsed into them.  Dad Lawrence left off holding
Wahl and came to the rescue with a chair on which Jacqueline
collapsed entirely, laying her head back against Consuelo's bosom
and closing her eyes.

"Final?" exploded Sherry.  "This is final--what you're hearing
from me now.  You, and the other newspapers, have pretty nearly
killed her.  If you don't do every damthing you can to put her
right again before the world, then I'm through with you, not her!
That's final!  I'm on her side forever.  Watch me, if you don't
believe it!"

He turned toward Jacqueline--tried to thrust Consuelo aside and
take her place--failed, might as well have tried to shove a
battle-ship--laid a hand on Jacqueline's shoulder--and once more
faced his father.

Mansfield snorted.  "How come that you think you know so much
about her?" he asked, making no effort this time to disguise the
sneer.  Sherry glared back at him.

"Good God!  Look at her!  Dad, are you crazy?  Use your eyes!
Here she is!  This is the girl you've been flaying alive--this
one--here!  This is Jacqueline Lanier!"

"Aye, there she is!" Wahl broke in, trying to struggle off the
couch.  "Go to it, Chief!  Grab the phone, man--" Dad Lawrence
jumped for the towel again, Wahl's yell died down to smothered
murmurs, and then ceased.

Mansfield conceded Sherry's point to the extent of scowling at
Jacqueline again, his brows meeting over his eyes and his
expression like that of a scientist studying a vicious insect.

"I will listen to her if she has anything she'd care to say," he
volunteered ungraciously.  "I've heard her once," he added.

"When?" demanded Sherry, but did not wait for an answer.
"Jacqueline dear," he said, leaning over her, "tell dad what you
told me--will you?  Tell him all that happened--please--for my
sake!  Dad, for God's sake listen to her!  And look while you
listen!  Does she look as if she could lie, even if she would?
Jacqueline dear--tell him--won't you!"

Jacqueline looked up at Sherry and sighed, feeling she would
rather die than drag that awful past before a man who listened
almost against his will.  She had thought her pride was dead, but
it was not.  Pride urged her to refuse.  But she would have cut
off her right hand for Sherry, even as she had cut out her heart
for him.  Mansfield was staring at her, and that made it worse.
She could not think connectedly.  Where should she begin?

"Please, dear, won't you tell him?" Sherry urged.  She glanced up
at Sherry again, and began playing with the heavy locket on the
gold chain.


Her voice broke into a sob and she faltered--stopped.  Not even
for Sherry's sake could she force herself to drag Desmio's name
through the mud to oblige a stranger.  She was not crying.  There
were no tears.  She simply leaned back against Sherry's arm and
could not go on--had reached the limit of emotion and endurance.

"Who is Desmio?" demanded Mansfield, and John Miro threw his
cigarette into the fire.  He stepped forward, as if to join in
the discussion, but said nothing.  Consuelo gave him no time.

Wrath--boiling, royal, fearless wrath took hold of Consuelo then,
and even Mansfield (terrible himself in wrath) flinched in front
of her.

"Be quiet now, honey-lamb!" she said with one swift turn of
tenderness, for Jacqueline had felt rather than seen the coming
storm and made the beginning of a move to protest.  "I'll tell
him!"  With one shove not much less violent than a blow Consuelo
thrust Sherry away.  Then she stood behind the chair, leaning
forward over it, fixing her eyes on Mansfield's.

"Look!" she commanded.  "She was born into my arms.  I've been
with her almost every hour since then, except when she was in the
convent.  She's as innocent and sweet and good now, as she was
that day I first set eyes on her.  You and your newspapers!  I've
read your lies!  Look!  See what your lies have done to her!"

Jacqueline tried to protest again, but Consuelo threw both
arms around her, kissed her, glared around the room and back
at Mansfield.

"You ask who's Desmio," she snorted.  "A better man than ever
you'll be!  It was her name for Don Andres Miro.  He's the
gentleman who raised her in his home--and was that proud of her--
and loved and worshiped her so well that, when he knew he was
dying, he asked her to marry him.  He knew her!  He understood
her!  Since she was three years old she'd been better than a
daughter to him.  He couldn't make her his heir any other way, so
he took that means to provide a proper mistress for his great
estates, and to make sure she would never lack for anything!"

Wahl stuck his head up over the end of the couch, tried to
struggle to his feet, and shouted:

"How about the handsome lover Jack Calhoun?"

Dad Lawrence used the towel again, although Mansfield made a
gesture of disapproval.

"Yes--what of Calhoun?" asked Mansfield.

"That cockerel!  That jackanapes!" Consuelo almost screamed her
answer at him.  "He was like the rest of you!  He hunted her!  He
saw a flower and craved to pluck it!  He was a beast like you!  A
monster!  A young spendthrift!  I know twenty girls he's ruined!
He'd liked to have married this lamb, and he'd have ruined her
life as you've done, only she'd have nothing to do with him, and
I saw to it that he never once--not once!--saw her alone, until
her wedding day, when he sneaked in.  My back was turned.  I'd
seen him in the garden.  I was looking for gentlemen who'd throw
him in the horse-pond.  That was how he sneaked into her bedroom.
Don Andres must have seen him go in there.  And when Don Andres
went to protect Miss Jacqueline, Calhoun shot him."

Consuelo paused for breath, gulped once or twice, and went on:

"But he was better than you are.  He had shame!  He shot himself!
You stand there proud of your dirty work!  That beast--that
Clinton Wahl--was sneaking like a thief about the house, and he
was into the bedroom ahead of me.  There the poor darling stood--
with the gentleman who should have been her husband in the next
five minutes, shot dead at her feet--and Calhoun with his brains
on the bed-spread--and that beast Wahl hanging on to her wrist,
snarling at her, trying to make her talk to him!  Wanted her to
tickle his ear with information!  I gave him some!  He followed
us to my room, where I put the poor darling to bed, and
threatened us through the keyhole, until one of the nigger
footmen knocked him down.

Then he tried to get in through the bedroom window, until a
gardener chased him!  Then he wrote those lies;  and a paper in
New Orleans printed them--and she--what else could she do but run
away?  Think of it, you--you--devil!  Can you think?  Have you
any heart in you?  Do you know what it means to be brought up by
a gentleman amid refinement--sheltered, and looked up to by the
folk of half a dozen counties--and then to see that filth printed
about you in a newspaper that goes into people's homes?  Maybe
you wouldn't hide yourself;  you haven't the pride or decency!
You don't know what innocence means!  She ran away.  And I went
with her, to look after her--for I'd cut off both hands and put
my eyes out any minute, if that 'ud do her one bit of good.
And at that, I don't love her more than all the rest of 'em
who knew her!"

It was Consuelo's hour;  the climax of seventeen years devotion.
Never before had she addressed an audience, never before had she
been quite bereft of meekness.  She faced that tribunal, and
scorned it as unreservedly as she hoped someday to stand and be
judged at the world's end.

She told all the story of the flight to San Francisco, of
Jacqueline's bravery, of the debt to Ramon and Jacqueline's
insistence on dancing with Ramon, in order to pay the debt;
and then of Wahl's invasion of the stage in the effort to
uncover her identity.

"The beast would like to strip her naked!" she screamed.  "And
you'd like to print pictures of it!  You dogs!  You've crucified
her!  And all the while that poor frightened honey-lamb was
struggling to pay her debt and hide from your dirty lies, you
were printing more lies about her, for the mob to read and gloat
over, and to pay you nickels!"

Sherry made a bad break then.  He approached Consuelo and laid a
hand on her shoulder, meaning well enough;  he intended to show
her there was at least one friend near at hand.  But he might as
well have tried to stroke a bull in the arena.

"You're one of them!" she screamed at him.  "You're his son,
aren't you?  You're the brat of that thing, that owns the
Tribune!  You--you reckon yourself fit to kiss the ground she's
walked on?  Don't touch me, you young reptile!  Hands off of

Sherry made a move toward Jacqueline, and that was Consuelo's
last straw.  She threw her arms around Jacqueline--hugged her--
"Oh, my poor darling--my poor darling honey-lamb!"--almost lifted
her off the chair, set her down in another one by the fireplace
opposite John Miro's corner, seized the kettle that she had set
on the hearth to boil when she first entered the cabin, and stood
at bay.  The kettle was full.  The scalding water spluttered from
spout and lid as she shook it.

"Now out of here--the lot of you!  Outside--and take that devil
with you!"

She shook the kettle at Wahl, and narrowly missed scalding him.
Dad Lawrence sprang aside, letting go of Wahl, and Wahl sat
up again.

"Chief!" he yelled, "It's a beat!  It's a whale of a beat!  Get
to the phone, man!  Spill it to 'em!-- 'Lanier girl takes to the
woods--slips through prohibition net and stands at bay with
scalding water!'--Go to it, Chief!  It's a pippin!"

Mansfield scowled.  Dad Lawrence jumped for Wahl and forced his
head down on the pillow.  Mansfield glanced at Miro, who was
smiling and very deliberately lighting another cigarette.  He
held up his hand.

"Put that kettle down," he ordered.

Consuelo glared defiance at him.  She feared no man in that
minute.  She made a move as if to use the kettle and drive them
all out of the room.  But a tired, despairing voice, that touched
her old heart even through the armor of that wrath, spoke from
behind her:

"Consuelo dear, please put the kettle down."

Chapter XXXIII.

"And you shall sit in the patio all day long and boss the

Mansfield walked over to Wahl and looked down at him.

"Did you hear what that nurse said just now?" he asked.

"You bet I did," Wahl answered, sitting upright.  "She's a liar,
that's all."  Mansfield's voice and air of authority seemed to
bring him to his senses.  His eyes looked suddenly less wild.
"Don't forget, I was there, Chief.  I saw it!  I got it all
first hand."

"Did you check your facts?" asked Mansfield.


Consuelo drew her breath in with a gasp--ready on the instant to
renew the fight.  Mansfield stopped her, holding up his hand.

"How did you check them?" he demanded.

"Interviewed the sister of Don Andres!" Wahl answered.  "Saw her
in private in her own room--got it straight from her.  She told
me all about the girl's character.  Donna Isabella wasn't
guessing, mind you--she'd lived in the same house with her
for years!"

Mansfield coughed dryly.  Consuelo gave another gulp and started
forward, words choking in her throat.  Mansfield glanced at
Sherry with a wry smile, and Sherry answered that by going over
to Jacqueline and taking her limp hand in his.  It was John Miro
who entered the lists, as calmly as he did all other things.  He
tossed his cigarette into the fire and walked straight up
to Mansfield.

"The point is, are you man enough to confess mistakes?" he said,
smiling.  "As her cousin, and at one time the friend of her
family, you'll probably admit that I knew as much of Donna
Isabella's character as she ever knew of Jacqueline's.  Donna
Isabella was as mad as your man Clinton Wahl.  Are you mad too?
I rather think not.  Suppose you take another look at Miss
Lanier.  Judge for yourself, whether to believe her, and the
nurse, and your own son, and me--or Wahl and Donna Isabella."

"Chief!" Wahl shouted.  "Get to the phone!  Don't you trust your
own men?"

"Does it occur to you to trust me?" Dad suggested.  Mansfield
glanced at Jacqueline--and at Consuelo--and at Sherry.  He was
scowling;  his brows nearly met over his eyes.

"Get to the phone, man!  O.K. that story of mine!" Wahl yelled
at him.

Mansfield looked at Wahl again steadily, for thirty seconds.
Then he turned to the phone and took off the receiver.

"That's right, Chief!" Wahl shouted.  "Run your own newspaper,
and to hell with--"

Dad Lawrence used the towel again.  There was silence--the
tenseness of impending tragedy.

"Long distance--quick!" said Mansfield.  "Operator--see how
quickly you can get the San Francisco Tribune.  There are
several wires.  Put me in on any of 'em.  This is rush stuff.
Step on her!"

Miro joined Sherry beside Jacqueline.  Dad Lawrence shrugged
his shoulders.

"Hello--Tribune?  Who's speaking?  Give me the desk--quick!
Hello--this is Mansfield.  That you, Blair?  D'you recognize my
voice?  All right--kill that Lanier story!  What's that?  I don't
get you.  Won't be any first edition?  I don't care--I said kill
the story--did you hear me?"

The instrument buzzed into Mansfield's ear for thirty seconds.

"Dad, you're white!  I knew you were!" said Sherry, and leaned
over and kissed Jacqueline.  Consuelo watched him, fuming.
Mansfield held up his hand for silence.

"What's that?  You don't believe it's Mansfield speaking?  Just
try disobeying me, and see how soon I'll prove it to you!  Cancel
the whole edition!  If the vans have started, call 'em back--send
people after 'em.  I'll fire the whole outfit if one of those
papers goes on sale!"

"All right, Chief!"  The words could be heard distinctly all
through the room, and Mansfield hung up.  He glanced at Wahl.

"Put him in one of the bedrooms,"' he commanded.  Dad--stay in
there with him, and keep him quiet."

Sherry and Dad Lawrence carried Wahl out.  Miro came forward and
met Mansfield in mid-room.

"You eat crow rather handsomely," he said.  "I like you for it.
Blame it on the system and the public, though, not on that poor
burned devil in the bedroom there."

Mansfield almost ignored him.  He was thinking of something else.
He walked toward Jacqueline, and Consuelo stepped into his way.
He smiled at Consuelo, and though she bridled up and caught her
breath, she stood aside again, watching him suspiciously.  Then:

"Miss Jacqueline Lanier!" Jacqueline looked up, very woebegone.

"I wish to beg your pardon as humbly as a man may.  I have never
before in all my life retracted or apologized.  Your presence is
an honor to my cabin and I sincerely regret the cruelty and deep
indignity to you for which the Tribune is in part responsible."

Consuelo burst out sobbing, but Jacqueline managed to smile,
leaning forward and seizing Consuelo's red hand, stroking it.

"Mr. Mansfield--"

But he had not finished yet.  He interrupted.

"I can promise you a full revenge, Miss Jacqueline!  Whatever can
be done to restore your fair name and reputation before the world
shall be done by the Tribune immediately.  I will sign the
retraction and the other newspapers will copy it.  They will make
me look--and feel--extremely foolish."

"Mr. Mansfield, I don't want revenge," said Jacqueline.  "I'll
hide, to save Sherry from--"

"You can do that, if he'll let you," Mansfield interrupted.  "But
if he does let you I'll never speak to him again."

Jacqueline laughed at last, and Sherry took her into his arms,
but he hardly had time to kiss her once before Consuelo
interfered.  Mansfield turned his back, John Miro used better
judgment--recognized the symptoms--knew that Consuelo's wrath had
left her half-hysterical.  She would be trying to scratch
Sherry's eyes out in a minute.  He stepped between them, and
stood smiling down at Jacqueline.

"There's a point we've not explained yet," he said kindly.  "You
surely knew I live in San Francisco, Jacqueline?"

She nodded, just a little proudly.

"D'you mind saying why you didn't appeal to me at once for help?"

"How could I, Mr. Miro?  You and Desmio.  I could not appeal to
Desmio's enemy."

John Miro laughed.  "His enemy?" he answered.  "Jacqueline, I
loved the man!  He and I were boys together.  I knew him too well
and intimately not to love him.  The dear, old dignified Don
Quixote!  The only thing we ever quarreled over was my
advertising, and at that it was he who quarreled with me, not I
with him.  I would have crossed the continent at any time for the
sheer delight of shaking hands with him."

"But, Mr. Miro, I thought--you must have thought--that--that
Desmio and I conspired to do you out of the estates.  If he had
married me--"

"My dear girl, I never wanted your potato patch!  I wouldn't know
what to do with it.  It's yours by every moral right."

"But the trust deed, Mr. Miro--"

"All that ever needed was my signature," he answered.  "Andres
could have had it for the asking.  The first thing I did after
attending Andres' funeral was to interview his lawyer Curtis
Radcliffe.  You'll find your estates are in Radcliffe's keeping.
As I told Radcliffe, and repeat to you, whatever Andres wished to
do with his estates is law as far as I'm concerned.  We'll
terminate the Miro trust deed just as soon as Radcliffe submits
the papers for my signature."

"But--but there's Donna Isabella."

"No.  She's dead.  I rather think I personally killed her.  No,
don't look shocked--perhaps I claim more credit than is due me.
I told her she was a snob, and it seems that nobody ever thought
of telling her the truth before.  She took to her bed that
afternoon, and died yesterday."

Jacqueline felt genuinely sorry.  She would much rather have
endured Donna Isabella's vinegary enmity for the rest of her life
than hear of her dying all alone.  She knew that Donna Isabella
had no friends.  Even Consuelo drooped at the news.  But
Mansfield senior made no pretense to any kind of grief;  he
strode back across the room and faced John Miro.

"So you're doing that for her?" he said pleasantly.  "She'll not
be penniless, eh?"

"Not by a million or so," said Miro.  "Maybe several million.  I
don't know the figures."

"Well--Sherry will have the Tribune.  That means at least as much
for him."

"Don't forget," Miro answered, smiling, "that will be my doing
too!  I would have smashed the Tribune, and you with it, if--"

"Here--shake hands and shut up prodding me"' said Mansfield.
"And give me one of your cigars;  you drove that infernal car of
yours so fast over the bumps that I broke all mine.  Are you
sleepy?  It's nearly morning.  Let's go out and hear the
birds wake."

They walked out together, smoking.  Consuelo, swallowing
something in her throat, went into the room where Dad Lawrence
was watching Wahl.

"Good woman, that," said Mansfield.  "I was half-afraid, though,
she'd stay in there and fight with Sherry.  These two kids are
best left alone now, to settle it between themselves."

"They won't have very long," said Miro.  "I'm expecting
some one."

"You are?"

"Yes.  I used the telephone before I called on you at the
Tribune office."

Mansfield turned on him sharply.  "Not reporters from the
other papers!"

"Wait and see.  That's a car coming now."

It was a closed car that came much more slowly than Miro's had
done, but which none the less seemed in a hurry.  A face framed
in white in the window looked almost ghostly in the dim light
from the cabin windows--the face of some one who leaned forward,
strained and anxious.  Miro strode up to the car as it swung in
through the gate and stopped.  A woman stepped out as he opened
the door for her, and another followed.

"You have found her?" she asked quickly.

Miro nodded

"Is she--?"

It was Mansfield, striding out of the shadow behind Miro,
who interrupted.

"You--Joan?" he exclaimed.

She looked startled, but recovered instantly.  "I came to see
Jacqueline," she said firmly.

"Some mistake," said Miro.  "This is--pardon me--Mr. Mansfield--
Sister Michaela."

"Thanks," answered Mansfield, "I know my wife's sister.  She was
Joan Sherwood before she took vows.  Joan--how's Sherry's mother?
Do you ever hear from Clara?"

Her gray eyes looked straight back at him, and there was a pause
before she answered:

"I came to save Jacqueline from Clara's fate!"

Mansfield scowled.  "Isn't that man she ran away with kind
to her?"

"He was, John."

"Was?" He looked puzzled.

"Was.  He bore the blame you turned on him.  They were neither of
them guilty."

"Why didn't she come back to me then?" he demanded.

"How could she!  You were too cruel.  You divorced her.  You
spared her nothing.  You and the newspapers were merciless.  She
was hounded.  The notoriety was more than she could bear.  She
went away."


"Where you will not find her."

"My God!  You mean--"

"I mean, she saved Sherry all she could.  She changed her name--
tried to hide--struggled, and then--I have a message from her
for Sherry."

"He's in the cabin.  Give it to him," said Mansfield, and stood
staring down the road.

She turned to Miro and he led the way up the cabin steps, holding
the door open for her.  She paused on the threshold.  Dad
Lawrence was standing in the door of the room where they had laid
Wahl, and from behind him came the weak voice of a man in
delirium, raving:

"Takes to the woods--that's a hot one!  Caught with Sherry
Mansfield--uses scalding water!  Get that Chief?  Go to it, man!
Get to the phone--"

Sherry and Dad--and Dad was not dry-eyed--were watching
Jacqueline.  Her hand was on Consuelo's shoulder.  Consuelo knelt
beside her, choking with sobs, her head on her beloved's lap.

"Oh, honey--"

"You old dear!  Consuelo, you dear, faithful friend!  I've
brought all this on you, and you've had much the worst of it.
But I love you, Consuelo.  And we're going back, dear, to
Louisiana--and you shall always be with us--and you shall sit in
the patio all day long--and boss the niggers,--and--and be just
as good and kind to Sherry as you've always been to me.  Will you
do that?  Will you promise?"

"Honey, dear--"


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