"Hello, Joe," Mary said graciously as the forger entered. Thenshe spoke crisply to Agnes. "And nowtron price in pakistan you must get ready. Youare to be at Harris's office with this document at four o'clock,and remember that you are to let the lawyer manage everything."Aggie twisted her doll-like face into a grimace.
"You really think you will get it through?"cardano coin to nairaShe had had an angry enigmatic contest with her uncle, who had given assurances which appeared to be inconsistent with that which, in the same breath, he required her to do, and which had ended in his telling her that she talked too much, and it was no use her trying to use brains that she hadn't got, and that she must trust his judgment, or go back to England to find another home than she now had.
"Do you think, my dear Myra," he had asked, "I should entrust anything to you which you might muck? Don't I know that you would give me away in a moment if you thought that you were in the slightest danger from the police which you could ward off in no other way? When you say I'm asking you to do a dangerous thing, you simply call me a fool."The smoothness of his quiet voice had not concealed from her the anger with which he spoke. She cared nothing for the imputations on her own brains, which she had heard often before, but fear made her stubborn as she replied: "I can't see why you won't tell me plainly what it all means. Everyone likes to understand what they do.""Which is precisely the position in which I have placed you now. You have only to do what you are told - and even you are not stupid enough to go wrong in that - and you'll have nothing to fear. . . . As a matter of fact, I can tell you this. The Customs will pass anything Kindell carries with no trouble at all.""You mean it's an arranged thing?""I mean just what I have said. Neither more nor less. When you're in England, you can take the parcel back from him, and keep it till I return, and if you've got any use for a hundred pounds, I'll give you a note of that value when I see you again. But that's on condition that I have no more sulky nonsense to hear, for I've got things of more importance to do."
Sulky or not, she had become silent at that, but she was only half assured, and her nervousness was plain for Kindell to see.He answered confidently. "Yes. It will be all right. See what I've brought.""It's splendid," she declared. "Did you have much trouble ingetting it?"Harris permitted himself the indulgence of an unprofessionalchuckle of keenest amusement before he answered.
"Why, no!" he declared, with reminiscent enjoyment in his manner."That is, not really!" There was an enormous complacency in hisair over the event. "But, at the outset, when I made therequest, the judge just naturally nearly fell off the bench.Then, I showed him that Detroit case, to which you had drawn myattention, and the upshot of it all was that he gave me what Iwanted without a whimper. He couldn't help himself, you know.That's the long and the short of it."That mysterious document with the imposing seal, the request forwhich had nearly caused a judge to fall off the bench, reposedsafely in Mary's bag when she, returned to the apartment afterthe visit to the lawyer's office.
Chapter 10 Marked MoneyMary had scarcely received from Aggie an account of Cassidy'sthreatening invasion, when the maid announced that Mr. Irwin hadcalled.
"Show him in, in just two minutes," Mary directed."Who's the gink?" Aggie demanded, with that slangy diction whichwas her habit."You ought to know," Mary returned, smiling a little. "He's thelawyer retained by General Hastings in the matter of a certainbreach-of-promise suit.""Oh, you mean yours truly," Aggie exclaimed, not in the leastabashed by her forgetfulness in an affair that concerned herselfso closely. "Hope he's brought the money. What about it?""Leave the room now," Mary ordered, crisply. "When I call to you,come in, but be sure and leave everything to me. Merely followmy lead. And, Agnes--be very ingenue.""Oh, I'm wise--I'm wise," Aggie nodded, as she hurried out towardher bedroom. "I'll be a squab--surest thing you know!"Next moment, Mary gave a formal greeting to the lawyer whorepresented the man she planned to mulct effectively, and invitedhim to a chair near her, while she herself retained her place atthe desk, within a drawer of which she had just locked theformidable-appearing document received from Harris.Irwin lost no time in coming to the point.
"I called in reference to this suit, which Miss Agnes Lynchthreatens to bring against my client, General Hastings."Mary regarded the attorney with a level glance, serenelyexpressionless as far as could be achieved by eyes so clear andshining, and her voice was cold as she replied with significantbrusqueness."It's not a threat, Mr. Irwin. The suit will be brought."The lawyer frowned, and there was a strident note in his voicewhen he answered, meeting her glance with an uncompromising stareof hostility."You realize, of course," he said finally, "that this is merelyplain blackmail."There was not the change of a feature in the face of the womanwho listened to the accusation. Her eyes steadfastly retainedtheir clear gaze into his; her voice was still coldly formal, asbefore."If it's blackmail, Mr. Irwin, why don't you consult the police?"she inquired, with manifest disdain. Mary turned to the maid,who now entered in response to the bell she had sounded a minutebefore. "Fanny, will you ask Miss Lynch to come in, please?"Then she faced the lawyer again, with an aloofness of manner thatwas contemptuous. "Really, Mr. Irwin," she drawled, "why don'tyou take this matter to the police?"The reply was uttered with conspicuous exasperation.
"You know perfectly well," the lawyer said bitterly, "thatGeneral Hastings cannot afford such publicity. His position wouldbe jeopardized.""Oh, as for that," Mary suggested evenly, and now there was atrace of flippancy in her fashion of speaking, "I'm sure thepolice would keep your complaint a secret. Really, you know, Mr.Irwin, I think you had better take your troubles to the police,rather than to me. You will get much more sympathy from them."The lawyer sprang up, with an air of sudden determination.
"Very well, I will then," he declared, sternly. "I will!"Mary, from her vantage point at the desk across from him, smileda smile that would have been very engaging to any man under morefavorable circumstances, and she pushed in his direction thetelephone that stood there."3100, Spring," she remarked, encouragingly, "will bring anofficer almost immediately." She leaned back in her chair, andsurveyed the baffled man amusedly.
The lawyer was furious over the failure of his effort tointimidate this extraordinarily self-possessed young woman, whomade a mock of his every thrust. But he was by no means at theend of his resources."Nevertheless," he rejoined, "you know perfectly well thatGeneral Hastings never promised to marry this girl. Youknow----" He broke off as Aggie entered the drawing-room,Now, the girl was demure in seeming almost beyond belief, achildish creature, very fair and dainty, guileless surely, withthose untroubled eyes of blue, those softly curving lips ofwarmest red and the more delicate bloom in the rounded cheeks.There were the charms of innocence and simplicity in the mannerof her as she stopped just within the doorway, whence sheregarded Mary with a timid, pleading gaze, her slender littleform poised lightly as if for flight"Did you want me, dear?" she asked. There was somethinghalf-plaintive in the modulated cadences of the query."Agnes," Mary answered affectionately, "this is Mr. Irwin, whohas come to see you in behalf of General Hastings.""Oh!" the girl murmured, her voice quivering a little, as thelawyer, after a short nod, dropped again into his seat; "oh, I'mso frightened!" She hurried, fluttering, to a low stool behindthe desk, beside Mary's chair, and there she sank down, droopingslightly, and catching hold of one of Mary's hands as if in mutepleading for protection against the fear that beset her chastesoul."Nonsense!" Mary exclaimed, soothingly. "There's really nothingat all to be frightened about, my dear child." Her voice wasthat with which one seeks to cajole a terrified infant. "Youmustn't be afraid, Agnes. Mr. Irwin says that General Hastingsdid not promise to marry you. Of course, you understand, mydear, that under no circumstances must you say anything thatisn't strictly true, and that, if he did not promise to marryyou, you have no case--none at all. Now, Agnes, tell me: didGeneral Hastings promise to marry you?""Oh, yes--oh, yes, indeed!" Aggie cried, falteringly. "And I wishhe would. He's such a delightful old gentleman!" As she spoke,the girl let go Mary's hand and clasped her own togetherecstatically.The legal representative of the delightful old gentleman scowleddisgustedly at this outburst. His voice was portentous, as heput a question.
"Was that promise made in writing?""No," Aggie answered, gushingly. "But all his letters were inwriting, you know. Such wonderful letters!" She raised her blueeyes toward the ceiling in a naive rapture. "So tender, andso--er--interesting!" Somehow, the inflection on the last worddid not altogether suggest the ingenuous."Yes, yes, I dare say," Irwin agreed, hastily, with someevidences of chagrin. He had no intention of dwelling on thatfeature of the letters, concerning which he had no doubtwhatsoever, since he knew the amorous General very well indeed.
They would be interesting, beyond shadow of questioning, horriblyinteresting. Such was the confessed opinion of the swain himselfwho had written them in his folly--horribly interesting to allthe reading public of the country, since the General was aconspicuous figure.Mary intervened with a suavity that infuriated the lawyer almostbeyond endurance.
"But you're quite sure, Agnes," she questioned gently, "thatGeneral Hastings did promise to marry you?" The candor of hermanner was perfect.And the answer of Aggie was given with a like convincingemphasis.
"Oh, yes!" she declared, tensely. "Why, I would swear to it."The limpid eyes, so appealing in their soft lusters, went firstto Mary, then gazed trustingly into those of the routed attorney."You see, Mr. Irwin, she would swear to that," emphasized Mary."We're beaten," he confessed, dejectedly, turning his glancetoward Mary, whom, plainly, he regarded as his real adversary inthe combat on his client's behalf. "I'm going to be quite frankwith you, Miss Turner, quite frank," he stated with moregeniality, though with a very crestfallen air. Somehow, indeed,there was just a shade too much of the crestfallen in the fashionof his utterance, and the woman whom he addressed watched warilyas he continued. "We can't afford any scandal, so we're going tosettle at your own terms." He paused expectantly, but Maryoffered no comment; only maintained her alert scrutiny of theman. The lawyer, therefore, leaned forward with a semblance offrank eagerness. Instantly, Aggie had become agog with greedilyblissful anticipations, and she uttered a slight ejaculation ofjoy; but Irwin paid no heed to her. He was occupied in takingfrom his pocket a thick bill-case, and from this presently asheaf of banknotes, which he laid on the desk before Mary, with alittle laugh of discomfiture over having been beaten in thecontest.As he did so, Aggie thrust forth an avaricious hand, but it wascaught and held by Mary before it reached above the top of thedesk, and the avaricious gesture passed unobserved by theattorney.
"We can't fight where ladies are concerned," he went on,assuming, as best he might contrive, a chivalrous tone. "So, ifyou will just hand over General Hastings' letters, why, here'syour money."Much to the speaker's surprise, there followed an interval ofsilence, and his puzzlement showed in the knitting of his brows."You have the letters, haven't you?" he demanded, abruptly.
Aggie coyly took a thick bundle from its resting place on herrounded bosom."They never leave me," she murmured, with dulcet passion. Therewas in her voice a suggestion of desolation--a desolation thatwas the blighting effect of letting the cherished missives gofrom her.
"Well, they can leave you now, all right," the lawyer remarkedunsympathetically, but with returning cheerfulness, since he sawthe end of his quest in visible form before him. He reachedquickly forward for the packet, which Aggie extended willinglyenough. But it was Mary who, with a swift movement, caught andheld it."Not quite yet, Mr. Irwin, I'm afraid," she said, calmly.
The lawyer barely suppressed a violent ejaculation of annoyance."But there's the money waiting for you," he protested,indignantly.The rejoinder from Mary was spoken with great deliberation, yetwith a note of determination that caused a quick and acuteanxiety to the General's representative."I think," Mary explained tranquilly, "that you had better seeour lawyer, Mr. Harris, in reference to this. We women knownothing of such details of business settlement.""Oh, there's no need for all that formality," Irwin urged, with agreat appearance of bland friendliness.
"Just the same," Mary persisted, unimpressed, "I'm quite sure youwould better see Mr. Harris first." There was a cadence ofinsistence in her voice that assured the lawyer as to thefutility of further pretense on his part."Oh, I see," he said disagreeably, with a frown to indicate hiscomplete sagacity in the premises.
"I thought you would, Mr. Irwin," Mary returned, and now shesmiled in a kindly manner, which, nevertheless, gave no pleasureto the chagrined man before her. As he rose, she went oncrisply: "If you'll take the money to Mr. Harris, Miss Lynch willmeet you in his office at four o'clock this afternoon, and, whenher suit for damages for breach of promise has been legallysettled out of court, you will get the letters....Good-afternoon, Mr. Irwin."The lawyer made a hurried bow which took in both of the women,and walked quickly toward the door. But he was arrested beforehe reached it by the voice of Mary, speaking again, still in thatimperturbable evenness which so rasped his nerves, for all itsmellow resonance. But this time there was a sting, of thesharpest, in the words themselves.
"Oh, you forgot your marked money, Mr. Irwin," Mary said.The lawyer wheeled, and stood staring at the speaker with acertain sheepishness of expression that bore witness to thecompleteness of his discomfiture. Without a word, after a longmoment in which he perceived intently the delicate, yet subtlyenergetic, loveliness of this slender woman, he walked back tothe desk, picked up the money, and restored it to the bill-case.