“What?” exclaimed Mrs. Nash. “Do you mean to tell me that you are one of the girls visiting at the home of Old Stanlock, the mine owner?”
“Yes, I am,” Helen replied, looking curiously at the startled woman.
“Then you mustn’t stay here any longer. You must hurry right back. You are in great danger, I tell you, very great danger. The fact of your being my husband’s sister won’t do you any good. There are some bad men around here, and they’re as smart as they are bad. Sometimes I wonder if they are really miners, or if they are not an accomplished bunch of professional crooks.”
“What makes you think that?” Helen inquired.
“Well, for one reason, I’ve been told it. But before anybody uttered such a suspicion in my hearing, I suspected something wrong. You see, while Dave seems to be the leader in the strike, he is in fact only a puppet in the hands of a band of the worst kind of crooks, who are using him to keep the miners in line.”
“Who are they?” asked Helen.
“I don’t know them all. I know of only half a dozen. They have been here at the house a number of times. The man who seems to dominate them all is a man known as ‘Gunpowder’ Gerry, a powerful, cunning, sly-eyed fellow about 45 years old. He is the business agent of the union and runs everything, although few persons know it. In some mysterious way he has got a very strong hold on Dave and can make him do anything he wants him to.”
“Why do you think I am in danger here?” was Helen’s next question.
“Because I’ve heard some talk here about what would happen if you girls attempted to carry out your plans. They had a spy, a chauffeur, in Mr. Stanlock’s home, and he found out all about it. Gerry used this to work up bad blood among the strikers, using Dave as his tool as usual. The threat reached my ears that if you girls came down here in Mining Town, you would never get out alive. They think it is just a move to put something over.”
“Did you know that Dave came to Westmoreland a few weeks ago and called at the institute to see me?” Helen asked.
“No, did he? What for? I thought he didn’t have any use for you. Excuse me for putting it that way, but it’s the way he talks.”
“I suppose so. That’s because we objected so much to his way of doing. But I found out on that occasion that there really was a tender place in his heart for us. He wanted me to do something to call off our vacation plans, as he was afraid something would happen.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because I didn’t take him very seriously. But when on the day before we started for Hollyhill I happened into the postoffice at Westmoreland and caught him in the act of mailing a letter to Marion Stanlock, I became somewhat alarmed. I forced the truth from him after the letter was mailed. He said he was sending her a threatening letter in the hope that it would break up our plans. I asked