“Four. The oldest is ten.”
“They’re worth working for, I’ll bet. Nothing like children. How many have you?”
“Four,” said the officer, looking at him in surprise.
“I’m a little deaf,” explained Hugh, recovering himself quickly. “I thought you said ten.”
“No; the oldest is ten. Yes; they’re worth slaving for. I’ve hung onto this job all these years just because it might go hard with ’em if I gave it up and tried something else.”
Hugh looked into the sober, serious face and a lump flew to his throat. It struck him as probable that this man was to lose his position the next morning. A sort of pity assailed Ridgeway for an instant, but he put it away resolutely.
After all, he had Grace to think of and not the children of the plain-clothes man.
They had a second drink and it fired his brain with a gleeful desire for action. The plain-clothes man shivered as he swallowed the fiery stuff. He looked thin and haggard and ill, a condition which Hugh, in his hatred, had failed to observe until this moment.
“You certainly have a home and some money saved up by this time,” he said, trying to suppress the eager gleam in his eyes.
“We’ve had lots of sickness and it’s taken nearly everything. Besides, I’ve been too d—— honest. It’s my own fault that I haven’t a big wad put away.”
“What is your name?” demanded Hugh suddenly.
“I understand all that. But what is your name?”
“That’s it—George Friend—Street Station.”
“Oh, I see.” Hugh also saw the picture of this poor fellow as he stood before his superior later on with his luckless tale, facing a thirty-days’ lay-off at the lowest. “By the way, I want to write a short note.” He secured envelope, paper and stamp from the bar and hastily wrote a brief letter. The inscription on the outside of the envelope was “George Friend,—Police Station, New York,” and there were three one-hundred-dollar bills inclosed with the note of explanation. “I’ll mail it later,” he said. “Come on.”
They went forth into the rain, Hugh’s blood leaping with excitement, the plain-clothes man shivering as if he were congealing. Mr. Ridgeway dashed across the pavement and peered into the cab. Grace was not there, just as he had hoped and expected.
“The lady’s in the drug-store below, sir,” announced the cabman.
“Wait here” called Hugh to the plain-clothes man. “I’m afraid she’s ill. She’s gone to the drug-store.” He hurried toward the drug-store as the officer began to question the driver. A second later Mr. Ridgeway turned the corner and was off like the wind toward Sixth Avenue. Turning into an alley, he fled southward, chuckling to himself as he splashed through the puddles and mudholes. He heard shouts in the distance and he did not decrease his speed until he neared the street opening below. There he ran