“I can’t very well give her a character,” said Barbara.
Lichtenstein laughed. “Plenty of worse girls,” he said, “receive excellent characters daily. And now I suppose I ought to put distance between this house and myself.”
Barbara lifted her eyebrows. “Why?”
“Why? She’s probably working the telephone now.”
“I know,” said Barbara, “but if you pretend to go, and then come back, this would be the last home in the world that Blizzard would suspect you of hiding in. Marion will tell him her story. And he certainly won’t look for you here.”
Lichtenstein’s face was wreathed in smiles, “So be it,” he said, “and I shall sit at your feet to learn.”
“Can you drive a car?” asked Barbara.
“What kind of a car?”
“A Stoughton? But if you can drive any kind you can drive a Stoughton. We’ll lend you a car and you shall take a long run and come back when it’s dark. If you start at once, Marion will know of it. Meanwhile I’ll tell my father all about everything. But first of all I’m dying with curiosity to know what you wrote on that card. That’s all I can say. Of course if I’m not to be told—”
Had she asked for his dearest secret Lichtenstein could not have refused it, and he told her what he had written on the card.
“But why,” said Barbara, “if you have a criminal, so to speak, where you want him—why let him be free to make more mischief? I ask merely for information.”
“If he were punished for an ordinary crime,” said Lichtenstein, “justice would be cheated. But if we can really get him where we want him, why, not only crime will be tried and found guilty, but the whole fabric of the police—yes, and the administration of the law. Therefore,” and his voice was cold as marble, “it would be inadvisable to run him in for such picayune crimes as twisting lead pipe round young women and throwing them overboard, or otherwise delicately quieting tongues that might be made to wag against him. And now if you are going to lend me a car—”
Wilmot Allen was surprised and annoyed at being called back to New York by his employer. He had not “gotten over” Barbara in the least, but the great West had entered his blood. Thanks to financial arrangements with Blizzard he had lived a life free from care, and indeed had grown and developed in many ways, just as a forest tree will, to which air and sunlight has been admitted by removing its nearest neighbors, together with all their claims upon the rainfall and the tree-food locked up in the forest soil,
He had grown in body and mind. Wall Street, that had seemed so broad and important to him, now seemed narrow and insignificant. It was better for a man, a good horse between his knees, to find out what lay beyond the Ridges than whether steel was going up or down. He looked back upon his past life, not, it is true, with contempt and loathing, but with amused tolerance, as a man wise and reliable looks back upon the pranks of his boyhood.