The dark fever, rising from the school yards and the playgrounds and the streets, subtly poisoning the blood of Bessy Bell, slowly lost its heat and power for the time being. Bessy lived in the full secret expression of her girlish adoration. She was worshipping a hero; she was glorifying in her sacrifice; she was faithful to a man; she was being a woman. At first she grew pale, tense, quiet, and seemed to be going into a decline. Then that stage passed; and the roseleaf flush returned to her cheeks, the purple fire deepened in her eyes, the quivering life in all her supple young body.
Night after night loneliness had no fears for her. If she heard a whistle on the avenue, the honk of a car—the familiar old signals of the boys and girls, she smiled her disdain, and curling comfortably in her great chair, bent her lovely head over her books.
In the beginning her dreams were all of Daren Lane, of the strangeness and glory of this soldier who spent so many secret hours with her. And when the time came that she did not see him so often her dreams were just as full. But gradually, as the days went by, other figures than Lane’s were limned upon her fancy—vague figures of heroes, knights, soldiers. He still dominated her romances, though less personally. She built around him. Every day brought her new strange desires.
One evening in August when Bessy sat alone the telephone bell rang sharply. She ran to take down the receiver.
“Hello, hello, that you, Bessy?” came the hurried call in a girl’s voice.
“Rose! Oh, how are you?”
“Fine. But say, Angel, I can’t take time to talk. Something doing. Are you alone?”
“Yes, all alone, old girl.”
“Listen, then, and get this.... I’m here, you know, telephone girl at the Exchange. Just heard your father on the wire. Some one has betrayed the secret of the club. There’s a warrant out for the arrest of the boys. For gambling. You know there’s a political vice drive on. Some time to-night they’ll be raided.... But early. Bess, are you getting this?”
“Sure. Hurry—hurry,” replied Bessy, in excitement.
“I tried to get Dick on the wire, but couldn’t. Same with two more of the boys. But I did get wise to this. Gail and Lorna have a date at the club to-night.... Never mind how I found out. Dick has thrown me down for Gail. I’m sore as a pup. But I don’t want your father to pinch those girls.... Now, Bess, I’m tied here. But you get a move on. Don’t waste time. You can save them. You must. Do something. If you can’t find somebody, go straight to the club. You know where the key for the outside entrance is kept. Hurry and it’ll be safe. Good-bye.”
Bessy stood statue-like for a moment, her big eyes glowing, changing, darkening with rapid thought, then she flew upstairs to her room, snatched a veil and a soft hat, and putting these on as she went, she flew out of the house without putting out the lights or locking the door.