“But shortly before father’s death something happened that caused her to guard her secret up to the present time. A large amount of money was stolen from the company that employed father, and mother realized at once that if it were discovered that she had so much money, suspicion might be directed toward him. In fact, she took me into her confidence only about a year ago.
“Now, mother has often said that she would like to do something for you and the children, but Dave’s peculiarities always stood in the way. I just wanted to tell you that mother is able and willing to help you and will not let you or her grandchildren suffer as a result of what I may be forced to do.”
The conversation went along in this manner for more than an hour. Neither of the sisters-in-law realized how rapidly the time was flying until dusk fell so heavily that it became necessary to light the gas in order to see each other’s faces.
“My, what time is it?” Helen questioned, looking at her watch. “Why, it’s nearly seven o’clock, and I haven’t telephoned to Marion yet. They’ll have the whole police force out looking for me if I don’t get her on the wire pretty soon. I’ll run over and see if that phone is repaired yet. If it isn’t I’ll have to take a car and ride on to the next drug store; but I’ll be back before very long.”
“I wish you wouldn’t come back tonight, Helen,” Mrs. Nash pleaded. “I’m so afraid of those men. Why not go straight to Stanlocks’ and send word to Dave that you wish to meet him somewhere tomorrow?”
“I’d rather handle it this way,” the girl answered a little stubbornly. “I tell you what I’ll do—I’ll have them send the chauffeur with the automobile over here after me. That’ll be the best way.”
With this reassuring announcement, Helen put on her coat and hat and went out. But she would not have proceeded so confidently if she could have caught a glimpse of the figure of a man dashing far up the alley in the rear and have realized that this man had crouched in an eavesdropping attitude for an hour or more at the kitchen door and overheard most of the conversation between her and her sister-in-law.
One, two blocks he ran, then through a gateway and into a house similar to nearly every other house in the street. Two men, a woman, and a child 10 years old looked expectantly toward him as he entered.
“All ready!” cried the latter. “She’s coming down the street on this side. Hurry up, Lizzie. Get your coat and hood on. Remember what you are to say: father gone, mother sick. If she won’t come in with a little begging, make a big fuss, cry and plead for all you’re worth. There you are, all ready. Remember, you get a new coat if you bring her in here.”
The speaker opened the door and almost shoved the pale-faced, trembling child out upon her strange mission.
* * * * *