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- The Exploits of Elaine - 30/58 -


"There she is, Billy," pointed out Dan as Elaine disappeared through the swinging doors of the shop. "Now, you wait right here," he instructed stealthily, "and when she comes out--you know what to do. Only, be careful."

Dan the Dude left Billy, and Billy surreptitiously drew from under his coat a dirty half loaf of bread. With a glance about, he dropped it into the gutter close to the entrance to Elaine's car. Then he withdrew a little distance.

When Elaine came out and approached her car, Billy, looking as cold and forlorn as could be, shot forward. Pretending to spy the dirty piece of bread in the gutter, he made a dive for it, just as Elaine was about to step into the car.

Elaine, surprised, drew back. Billy picked up the piece of bread and, with all the actions of having discovered a treasure, began to gnaw at it voraciously.

Shocked at the disgusting sight, she tried to take the bread away from him.

"I know it's dirty, Miss," whimpered Billy, "but it's the first food I've seen for four days."

Instantly Elaine was full of sympathy. She had taken the food away. That would not suffice.

"What's your name, little boy?" she asked.

"Billy," he replied, blubbering.

"Where do you live?"

"With me mother and father--they're sick--nothing to eat--"

He was whimpering an address far over on the East Side.

"Get into the car," Elaine directed.

"Gee--but this is swell," he cried, with no fake, this time.

On they went, through the tenement canyons, dodging children and pushcarts, stopping first at a grocer's, then at a butcher's and a delicatessen. Finally the car stopped where Billy directed. Billy hobbled out, followed by Elaine and her chauffeur, his arms piled high with provisions. She was indeed a lovely Lady Bountiful as a crowd of kids quickly surrounded the car.

In the meantime Dago Mike and Kitty the Hawk had gone to a wretched flat, before which Billy stopped. Kitty sat on the bed, putting dark circles under her eyes with a blackened cork. She was very thin and emaciated, but it was dissipation that had done it. Dago Mike was correspondingly poorly dressed.

He had paused beside the window to look out. "She's coming," he announced finally.

Kitty hastily jumped into the rickety bed, while Mike took up a crutch that was standing idly in a corner. She coughed resignedly and he limped about, forlorn. They had assumed their parts which were almost to the burlesque of poverty, when the door was pushed open and Billy burst in followed by Elaine and the chauffeur.

"Oh, ma--oh, pa," he cried running forward and kissing his pseudo- parents, as Elaine, overcome with sympathy, directed the chauffeur to lay the things on a shaky table.

"God bless you, lady, for a benevolent angel!" muttered the pair, to which Elaine responded by moving over to the wretched bed and bending down to stroke the forehead of the sick woman.

Billy and Mike exchanged a sly wink.

Just then the door opened again. All were genuinely surprised this time, for a prim, spick and span, middle-aged woman entered.

"I am Miss Statistix, of the organized charities," she announced, looking around sharply. "I saw your car standing outside, Miss, and the children below told me you were up here. I came up to see whether you were aiding really DESERVING poor."

She laid a marked emphasis on the word, pursing up her lips. There was no mistaking the apprehension that these fine birds of prey had of her, either.

Miss Statistix took a step forward, looking in a very superior manner from Elaine to the packages of food and then at these prize members of the Brotherhood. She snorted contemptuously.

"Why--wh-what's the matter?" asked Elaine, fidgeting uncomfortably, as if she were herself guilty, in the icy atmosphere that now seemed to envelope all things.

"This man is a gunman, that woman is a bad woman, the boy is Billy the Bread-Snatcher," she answered precisely, drawing out a card on which to record something, "and you, Miss, are a fool!"

"Ya!" snarled the two precious falsers, "get out o' here!"

There was no combating Miss Statistix. She overwhelmed all arguments by the very exactness of her personality.

"YOU get out!" she countered.

Kitty and Mike, accompanied by Billy, sneaked out. Elaine, now very much embarrassed, looked about, wondering at the rapid-fire change. Miss Statistix smiled pityingly.

"Such innocence!" she murmured sadly shaking her head as she lead Elaine to the door. "Don't you know better than to try to help anybody without INVESTIGATING?"

Elaine departed, speechless, properly squelched, followed by her chauffeur.

. . . . . . . .

Meanwhile, a closed car, such as had stood across from the laboratory, had drawn up not far from the Dodge house. Near it was a man in rather shabby clothes and a visored cap on which were the words in dull gold lettering, "Metropolitan Window Cleaning Co." He carried a bucket and a small extension ladder.

In the darkened recesses of the car was the Clutching Hand himself, masked as usual. He had his watch in his hand and was giving most minute instructions to the window cleaner about something. As the latter turned to go, a sharp observer would have noted that it was Dan the Dude, still further disguised.

A few moments later, Dan appeared at the servants' entrance of the Dodge house and rang the bell. Jennings, who happened to be down there, came to the door.

"Man to clean the windows," saluted the bogus cleaner, touching his hat in a way quietly to call attention to the words on it and drawing from his pocket a faked written order.

"All right," nodded Jennings examining the order and finding it apparently all right.

Dan followed him in, taking the ladder and bucket upstairs, where Aunt Josephine was still reading.

"The man to clean the windows, ma'am," apologized Jennings.

"Oh, very well," she nodded, taking up her book, to go. Then, recalling the frequent injunctions of Kennedy, she paused long enough to speak quietly to Jennings.

"Stay here and watch him," she whispered as she went out.

Jennings nodded, while Dan opened a window and set to work.

. . . . . . . .

Elaine had scarcely started again in her car down the crowded narrow street. From her position she could not possibly have seen Johnnie, another of the Brotherhood, watching her eagerly up the street.

But as her car approached, Johnnie, with great determination, pulled himself together and ran forward across the street. She saw that.

"Oh!" she screamed, her heart almost stopping.

He had fallen directly in front of the wheels of the car, apparently, and although the chauffeur stopped with a jolt, it seemed that the boy had been run over.

They jumped out. There he was, sure enough, under the very wheels. People came running now in all directions and lifted him up, groaning piteously. He seemed literally twisted into a knot which looked as if every bone in his body was broken or dislocated.

Elaine was overcome. For, following their natural instincts the crowd began pushing in with cries of "Lynch the driver!" It would have gone hard with him, too, if she had not interfered.

"Here!" cried Elaine, stepping in. "It wasn't his fault. The boy ran across the street right in front of the car. Now--we're just going to rush this boy to the hospital--right away!"

She lifted Johnnie gently into the car herself and they drove off, to a very vigorous blowing of the horn.

A few moments later they pulled up before the ambulance entrance to the hospital.

"Quick!" beckoned Elaine to the attendants, who ran out and carried Johnnie, still a complicated knot of broken bones, inside.

In the reception room were a couple of nurses and a young medical student, when Johnnie was carried in and laid on the bed. The student, more interested in Elaine than the boy, examined him. His face wore a puzzled look and there was every reason to believe that Johnnie was seriously injured.

At that moment the door opened and an elderly, gray-bearded house


The Exploits of Elaine - 30/58

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