The midnight special for Chicago bore her swiftly westward. No sleeping car she took, but passed the night in a seat of an ordinary coach. Her ticket read “Rochester.”
The old page of her Book of Life was closed forever. A new and better page was open wide.
THROUGH STEEL BARS.
True to her plan, Catherine ended her journey at Rochester. She engaged a room at a second-rate hotel—marvelling greatly at the meanness of the accommodations, the like of which she had never seen—and, at ten o’clock of the morning, appeared at the Central Police Station. The bundle of papers in her hand indicated that she had read the latest lies and venom poured out on Gabriel’s defenseless head.
The haughty, full-fed sergeant in charge of the station made some objections, at first, to letting her see Gabriel; but the tone of her voice and the level look of her gray eye presently convinced him he was playing with fire, and he gave in. Summoning an officer, he bade the man conduct her. Iron doors opened and closed for her. She was conscious of long, ill-smelling, concrete-floored corridors, with little steel cages at either side—cages where hopeless, sodden wrecks of men were standing, or sitting in attitudes of brutal despair, or lying on foul bunks, motionless and inert as logs.
For a moment her heart failed her.
“Good Lord! Can such things be?” she whispered to herself. “So this—this is a police station? And real jails and penitentiaries are worse? Oh, horrible! I never dreamed of anything like this, or any men like these!”
The officer, stopping at a cell-door and banging thereon with some keys, startled her.
“Here, youse,” he addressed the man within, “lady to see youse!”
Catherine was conscious that her heart was pounding hard and her breath coming fast, as she peered in through those cold, harsh metal bars. For a minute she could find no thought, no word. Within, her eyes—still unaccustomed to the gloom—vaguely perceived a man’s figure, big and powerful, and different in its bearing from those other cringing wretches she had glimpsed.
Then the man came toward her, stopped, peered and for a second drew back. And then—then she heard his voice, in a kind of startled joy:
“Oh—is it—is it you?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I must see you! I must talk with you, again, and know the truth!”
The officer edged nearer.
“Youse can talk all y’ want to,” he dictated, hoarsely, “but don’t you pass nothin’ in. No dope, nor nothin’, see? I’ll stick around an’ watch, anyhow; but don’t try to slip him no dream powders or no ‘snow.’ ’Cause if you do—”
“What—what on earth are you talking about?” the girl demanded, turning on the officer with absolute astonishment. But he, only winking wisely, repeated: