Pickert examined his finger-nails for a brief moment —one seemed in need of immediate repairs—his mind all the while in deep thought. The tramp might help or he might not. He evidently knew him, and it was possible that he also knew Stanton, the name borne by the woman charged with the theft; or the whole yarn might be a ruse to give the real thief a tip, and thus block everything. Lipton’s place he frequented, and the Bowdoin House he could find.
“No, you stay here,” he broke out. “I’ll get him.”
He walked back to the office, the tramp following. “I say, Mr. Kling!” he called impudently.
Otto lifted his head. He had locked up the mantilla and had the key in his pocket. For him the incident was closed.
“Vell?” replied Otto dryly.
“Does this man work over at Cleary’s express?”
“He does. Vy?”
“Oh, nothing. I may want him later. And, say!”
“Vell,” again replied Otto.
“Git wise and surprise that little girl of yours with something else—she’ll never wear that mantilla. So long,” and he strode out of the store.
The short winter’s day had run its course and a soft, aimless snow was falling—each flake a lazy feather, careless of its fate. The store windows were ablaze, and many of the houses on both sides of “The Avenue” were alive with newly kindled gas-jets, the street-lamps shedding their light over a broad highway blocked with slipping teams, their carts crammed to the utmost with holiday freight.
A spirit of good-fellowship and unrestrained joyousness was everywhere. When a team was stalled, two or three men put their shoulders to the wheels; when a horse slipped and fell, a dozen others helped him to his feet. Snowballs, thrown in good humor and received with a laugh, filled the air. New York was getting ready to celebrate the night before New Year’s, the maddest night of all the year in old Manhattan, when groups of merrymakers, carrying tin horns and jingling cow-bells, crowd the sidewalks, singing and shouting, forming flying wedges, swooping down on other wedges—strangers all—the whole ending in roars of laughter and “Happy New Year’s,” repeated again and again until the next collision.
None of this roused Felix as, with heavy heart, he turned into Kitty’s. Of what the morrow would bring forth he dared not think. Father Cruse, he knew, would do what he could to save Barbara, and the British consul—a man he had always avoided— might help. But nothing of all this could lighten his load or relieve his pain. She might be given her freedom for a time, or she might be turned over to one of the reformatories for a term of years—either course meant untold suffering to a woman reared as his wife had been. These mental tortures of the day had burned their way into his brain, as branding-irons burn into flesh, the agony seaming the lines of his face and deep-hollowing the eyes, forming scars that might take years to efface.