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- Guy Garrick - 30/43 -
"It's all right--Violet," he whispered, his face close to hers as his warm breath fanned her now flushed and fevered cheek.
She opened her eyes and vaguely understood as the mist cleared from her brain.
Instinctively she clung to him as he pressed his lips lightly on her forehead, in a long passionate caress.
"Get a cab, Tom," said Garrick turning his back suddenly on them and placing his hand on my shoulder as he edged me toward the hall. "It's too late to pursue that fellow, now. He's slipped through our fingers again--confound him!"
THE EAVESDROPPER AGAIN
It took our combined efforts now to take care not only of Violet Winslow but Warrington himself, who was on the verge of collapse after his heroic rescue of her.
I found the cab and in perhaps half an hour Miss Winslow was so far recovered that she could be taken to the hotel where she and her aunt had engaged rooms for the night.
We drew up at an unfrequented side carriage entrance of the hotel in order to avoid the eyes of the curious and Warrington jumped out to assist Violet. The strain had told on him and in spite of his desire to take care of her, he was glad to let Garrick guide him to the elevator, while I took Miss Winslow's arm to assist her.
Our first object had been to get our two invalids where they could have quiet and so regain their strength and we rode up in the elevator, unannounced, to the suite of Violet and her aunt.
"For heaven's sake--Violet--what's all this?" exclaimed Mrs. de Lancey as we four entered the room.
It was the first time we had seen the redoubtable Aunt Emma. She was a large woman, well past middle age, and must have been handsome, rather than pretty, when she was younger. Everything about Mrs. de Lancey was correct, absolutely correct. Her dress looked like a form into which she had been poured, every line and curve being just as it should be, having "set" as if she had been made of reinforced concrete. In short, she was a woman of "force."
An incursion such as we made seemed to pain her correct soul acutely. And yet, I fancied that underneath the marble exterior there was a heart and that secretly she was both proud and jealous of her dainty niece.
Violet sank into a chair and Garrick deposited Warrington, thoroughly exhausted, on a couch.
Mrs. de Lancey looked sternly at Warrington, as though in some way he might be responsible. I could not help feeling that she had a peculiar sense of conscientiousness about him, that she was just a bit more strict in gauging him than she would have been if he had not been the wealthy young Mr. Warrington whom scores and hundreds of mothers and guardians in society would have welcomed for the sake of marriageable daughters no matter how black and glaring his faults. I was glad to see the way Warrington took it. He seemed to want to rest not on the merits of the Warrington blood nor the Warrington gold, but on plain Mortimer Warrington himself.
"What HAS happened, Violet?" repeated Mrs. de Lancey.
Violet had, woman-like, in spite of her condition caught the stern look that her aunt had shot at Warrington.
"Nothing, now," she replied with a note of defiance. "Lucille-- seems to have been a--a bad woman--friendly with bad men. Mr. Garrick overheard a plot to carry me off and telephoned Mortimer. Fortunately when Mortimer went up home to warn us, he found the letter and knew where I was going to-night. Ill as he was, he came all the way to the city, followed me into that house, saved me-- even before Mr. Garrick could get there."
Violet's duenna was considerably mollified, though she tried hard not to admit it. Garrick seized the opportunity and poured forth a brief but connected story of what had happened.
"Well," exclaimed Mrs. de Lancey as he finished, "you children ought to be very thankful it isn't worse. Violet, I think I'll call up the house physician. You certainly need a doctor. And as for you, Mortimer,--you can't go to your apartment. Violet tells me it is all burned out. There's an empty suite across the hall. I'll telephone the room clerk and engage it for you. And you need a doctor, too. Now--there's going to be no more foolishness. You're both going to stay right here in this hotel until you're all right. Your mother and I were great friends, Mortimer, when we were girls. I--you must let me PLAY mother--for her sake."
I had been right about Mrs. de Lancey. Her voice softened and I saw a catch in Warrington's throat, too, at the mention of the mother he remembered only hazily as a small boy.
Violet and Warrington exchanged glances. I fancied the wireless said, "We've won the old lady over, at last," for Warrington continued to look at her, while she blushed a bit, then dropped her eyes to hide a happy tear.
Mrs. de Lancey was bustling about and I felt sure that in another minute every available bellhop in the hotel would be at work. As Warrington might have said in his slang, "Action is her middle name."
Garrick rose and bade our two patients a hasty good-night, tactfully forgetting to be offended by their lack of interest now in anything except each other.
"I doubt if they get much chance to be alone--not with that woman mothering them," he smiled to me, drawing me toward the door. "Don't let's spoil this chance."
Mrs. de Lancey was busy in the next room, as we stopped to say good-bye to her.
"I--I can't talk to you--now, Mr. Garrick," she cried, with a sudden, unwonted show of emotion, taking both his hands in hers. "You--you've saved my girl--there--there's nothing in this world you could have done for me--greater."
"Mrs. de Lancey," replied Garrick, deftly changing the subject, "there's just one thing. I'm afraid you are--have been, I mean,--a little hard on Mr. Warrington. He isn't what you think--"
"Mr. Garrick," she returned, in a sudden burst of confidence, "I'm afraid you, too, misunderstand me. I am not hard on the boy. But, remember. I knew his mother and father--intimately. Think of it, sir--the responsibilities that rest on that young man. Do you wonder that I--I want him better than others? Don't you see--that is why I want to hold him up to the highest standard. If Violet-- marries him," she seemed to choke over the word,--"they must meet tests that ordinary people never know. Don't you understand? I've seen other young men and other young women in our circle--they were our babies once--I've seen them--go down. But I--I am proud. The Winslows, yes, and the Warringtons, they,--they SHAN'T go down--not while I have an ounce of strength or a grain of sanity. Nothing--nothing but the best that is in us--counts."
I think Mrs. de Lancey and Garrick understood each other perfectly after that. He said nothing, in fact did not need to say anything, for he looked it.
"I feel that I can safely resign my job as guardian," was all he remarked, finally. "Neither of them could be in better hands. Only, keep that boy quiet a few days. You can do it better than I can--you and Miss Winslow. Trust me to do the rest."
A moment later we were passing out through the hotel lobby, as Garrick glanced at his watch.
"A wonderful woman, after all," he mused, in the manner of one who revises an estimate formed hastily on someone else's hearsay. "Well, it's too late to do anything more to-night. I suppose those papers are printed down at the Star. We'll stop and get them in the morning. Did you recognise the voice over the vocaphone?"
"I can't say I did," I confessed.
"Perhaps you aren't used to it and things sound too metallic to you. But I did. It was the Chief."
"I suspected as much," I replied. "Where do you suppose he went?"
Garrick shrugged his shoulders.
"I doubt whether we could find him in New York to-night," he answered, slowly. "I think he must feel by this time that the town is getting too hot for him."
There was nothing that I could say, and I played the part admirably.
"Come," he decided, as he turned from the hotel in the direction, now, of our apartment. "Let's snatch a little rest. We'll need it to-morrow for the final spurt."
Tired and exhausted though I was I cannot say that I slept. At least, it may have been physical rest that I got. Certainly my mind never stopped in its dream play, as the kaleidoscopic stream of events passed before me, now in their true form, now in the fantastic shapes that constitute one of the most interesting studies of the modern psychology.
I was glad when I heard Garrick stirring in his room in the early daylight and heard him call out, "Are you awake, Tom? There are some things I want to attend to, while you drop into the Star for those papers. I'm afraid you'll have to breakfast alone. Meet me at my office as soon as you can."
He was off a few minutes later, as fresh as though he had been on
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