A Warning

Joyce, a lover of luxury, usually had a roll and coffee in bed as a

substitute for breakfast. Sometimes she varied this by appearing late at

the table and putting the attendants to unnecessary trouble. This she

always paid for with murmurs of apology and sweet smiles of thanks.

On the second morning after the announcement of her engagement to

Dobyans Verinder she came down to find the dining-room empty except for

the omnibus.

She opened wide eyes of surprise. "Dear me! Am I late?"


She glanced at the watch on her wrist. "How inconsiderate of me! I

didn't realize the time. Would you mind calling a waiter?"

Meanwhile Joyce began on her grape fruit. Almost simultaneously a sound

of voices reached her. Men were coming into the parlor that adjoined the

breakfast room.

The high-pitched voice of her affianced lover was the first she

recognized. "----to-night! Sure he said to-night?"

Joyce judged that the rough tones of the answer came from a workingman.

"That's right. To-night, Bell said. He was to bring his wagon round to

Kilmeny's at eleven and they were going to haul the ore to Utah


A third speaker, evidently Bleyer, the superintendent, cut in quietly.

"Bell said it was to be a big shipment, didn't he?"

"Yep. Worth sixty or seventy thousand, he figured."

"Was Bell drunk?"

"I wouldn't say drunk. He had been drinking a good deal. Talkative like.

He let it out as a secret, y'understand."

"Anyone there beside you?"

"A miner by the name of Peale."

"Know the man?"

It was Verinder that asked the question and Bleyer that answered.

"Yes. A bad lot. One of those that insulted the young ladies."

"Anyhow, he won't warn Kilmeny."

"Not after the mauling that young man gave him. He's still carrying the

scars," Bleyer replied with a low laugh. He added briskly, after a

moment, "What do you expect to get out of this, Rollins?"

The workman seemed to answer with some embarrassment. "Thought you might

give me that lease in the Mollie Gibson I spoke to you about, Mr.


"It's yours--if this comes out as you say, my man. I'd give more than

that to call the turn on Mr. Highgrader Kilmeny," Verinder promised.

"And, o' course, you won't give it away that I told."

"Certainly not."

The arrival of a waiter eliminated Joyce as a listener, for the first

thing the man did was to close the door between the parlor and the


But she had heard enough to know that Jack Kilmeny was in danger of

falling into a trap that was being set for him. Verinder had him at

last, just as he had promised that he would get him. No doubt they would

have witnesses and would send him to prison as they had threatened.

No more than forty-eight hours earlier Joyce would have been on

Kilmeny's side instantly. Now her feelings were mixed. It was still

impossible for her to think of him without a flare of passion. She was

jealous and resentful because she had lost him, but deeper than these

lay the anger born of his scornful surrender of her. It was as if his

eyes for the first time had seen the real woman stripped of the glamour

lent by her beauty. His contemptuous withdrawal from the field had cut

like a knife thrust. She wanted to pay him with usury for his cool, hard

disdain. And she had the chance. All she had to do was to be silent and

he would fall a victim to his own folly.

There was a hard glitter in the eyes of the young woman. Perhaps Mr.

Highgrader Kilmeny, as Verinder had called him, would not be so prodigal

of contempt for other people when he stood in the criminal dock. He had

been brutally unkind to her. Was she to blame because he was too poor to

support her properly? He ought to thank her for having the good sense

not to tie herself like a millstone about his neck. They could not live

on love just because for the moment passion had swept them from their

feet. Instead of being angry at her, he should sympathize with her for

being the victim of a pressure which had driven her to a disagreeable


Her simmering anger received a fillip from an accidental meeting with

Kilmeny, the first since the night of her engagement. Joyce and Moya

were coming out of a stationer's when they came face to face with the


The eyes of the young man visibly hardened. He shook hands with them

both and exchanged the usual inane greetings as to the weather. It was

just as they were parting that he sent his barbed shot into Joyce.

"I mustn't keep you longer, Miss Seldon. One can guess how keen you

must be to get back to Verinder. Love's young dream, and that sort of

thing, eh?"

The jeer that ran through his masked insolence brought the angry color

to the cheeks of Joyce. She bit her lip to keep back tears of vexation,

but it was not until she was in her room with Moya that the need for a

confidant overflowed into speech.

"Did you ever hear anything so hateful? He made love to me on the

hill.... I let him.... He knows I ... am fond of him. I told him that I

loved him. And now...."

Moya stared at her in amaze. "Do you mean that you let Mr. Kilmeny make

love to you an hour or two before you became engaged to Mr. Verinder?"

"For Heaven's sake, don't be a prude, Moya," Joyce snapped irritably. "I

told you I was fond of him, didn't I? How could I help his kissing

me ... or help liking to have him? He ought to be glad. Instead, he

insults me." Miss Seldon's self-pity reached the acute stage of sobs.

"I was in love with him. Why is he so hard?"

"Perhaps he thinks that since he is in love with you and you with him

that gives him some claim," Moya suggested dryly.

"Of course that's what he thinks. But it's absurd. I'm not going to

marry Dobyans Verinder because I want to. He knows that as well as you

do. Why does he blame me, then? Goodness knows, it's hard enough to

marry the man without having my friends misunderstand."

Moya asked an unnecessary question. "Why do you marry him, then?"

"You know perfectly well," flashed Joyce petulantly. "I'm taking him

because I must."

"Like a bad-tasting dose of medicine?"

Her friend nodded. "I can't let him go. I just can't. Jack Kilmeny

ought to see that."

"Oh, he sees it, but you can't blame him for being bitter."

At the recollection of his impudence anger flared up in Joyce.

"Let him be as bitter as he pleases, then. I happen to know something he

would give a good deal to learn. Mr. Jack Kilmeny is going to get into

trouble this very night. They've laid a plot----"

She stopped, warned by the tense stillness of Moya.

"Yes?" asked the Irish girl.

"Oh, well! It doesn't matter."

"Who has laid a plot?"

"I've no business to tell. I just happened to overhear something."

"What did you overhear?"

"Nothing much."

"I want to know just what you heard."

Against the quiet steadfast determination of this girl Joyce had no

chance. A spirit that did not know defeat inhabited the slender body.

Bit by bit Moya forced out of her the snatch of conversation she had

overheard while at breakfast.

"It's a secret. You're not to tell anyone," Joyce protested.

Her friend drummed on the arm of the chair with the tips of her fingers.

She was greatly troubled at what she had learned. She was a young woman,

singularly stanch to her friends, and certainly she owed something to

Verinder. The whole party were his guests at Goldbanks. He had brought

them in a private car and taken care of them munificently. There were

times when Moya disliked him a good deal, but that would not justify an

act of treachery. If she warned Jack Kilmeny--and Moya did not pretend

to herself for an instant that she was not going to do this--she would

have to make confession to Verinder later. This would be humiliating,

doubly so because she knew the man believed she was in love with the

Goldbanks miner.

In her heart the Irish girl did not doubt that Jack was guilty, but this

would not prevent her from saving him if she could. There came to her a

swift vision of two helpless girls in a cabin with drinking ruffians, of

the entry of a man into the picture, of his fight against odds to save

her and Joyce from insult. Beside this abstract justice became a pale

and misty virtue.

"Of course you'll not tell anyone," Joyce repeated.

Moya brought her gaze back from the window. "I shall tell Mr. Kilmeny."

"But it isn't your secret. You have no right to."

"Have you forgotten that night in the cabin?" asked Moya in a low, clear

voice. "If you have, I haven't."

"I don't care," Joyce answered petulantly. "He's so hard. Why can't he

be nice about this? Why can't he understand--instead of sneering at me?

It's a good deal harder for me than for him. Think of fifty years of

Dobyans Verinder."

"Would you care to write Mr. Kilmeny a note? I'll take it to him if you

like," Moya suggested gently.

Joyce considered. "No, I couldn't put it on paper. But--you might tell


"I don't think I could quite do that."

"If it came up right; just show him how I'm placed."

"Perhaps. Shall I tell him that you asked me to warn him?"

Joyce nodded, eyes shining. She was a young woman capable of changing

her mind in the snap of a finger. Dainty and exquisite as apple

blossoms, she was like a young plant with delicate tendrils forever

reaching out. Love she must have and ever more of it. To admiration she

was sensitive in every fiber. Whenever she thought of Jack Kilmeny's

contempt tears scorched her eyes.

It was like Moya that she carried her warning immediately and directly.

Kilmeny was not easy to find. He had been seen entering the office of a

lawyer, but had left before she arrived. The attorney understood Jack to

say that he was going to an assayer's office, and the young woman

learned there that he had not been seen yet by the assayer. From here

she walked toward his boarding house, thinking that she might catch him

at lunch.

A quick step on the boardwalk behind her caught the girl's attention.

Almost at the same moment a voice hailed her.

"Whither away, Miss Dwight?"

She turned, heart beating fast. "I was looking for you, Mr. Kilmeny."

"And you've found me. What luck--for Jack Kilmeny!" His friendly

smile--the same one that had claimed comradeship on the Gunnison--beamed

upon her with its hint of irony.

A miner with a dinner bucket was coming toward them. Moya spoke quickly.

"I want to see you ... alone. I've something important to tell you."

His cool eyes searched her face alertly. "Come up with me to the old

Pandora dump."

They took a side street that ran up the hill, presently came to the end

of it, and stopped at the foot of a trail leading to the abandoned


The girl fired her news at him point blank. "Mr. Verinder has found out

what you mean to do to-night and you are to be trapped."

"What I mean to do?" he repeated.

"About the ore--shipping it or something. I don't know exactly--somebody

was drinking and talked, I think."

Moya, watching Kilmeny's face, saw only the slightest change. The eyes

seemed to harden and narrow the least in the world.

"Tell me all you know about it."

She repeated what Joyce had overheard, adding that her friend had asked

her to tell him.

The faintest ironic smile touched his face. "Will you thank Miss Seldon

for me, both for this and many other favors?"

"You don't understand Joyce. You're not fair to her," Moya said


"Perhaps not." A sudden warmth kindled in his eyes. "But I know who my

real friends are. I'm fair to them, neighbor."

The color beat into her face, but she continued loyally. "May

I ... assume you have a kindly interest in Joyce?"

"I'll listen to anything you care to tell me. I owe my friend, Miss

Dwight, that much."

"She told me ... a little about you and her. Be fair to her. Remember

how she has been brought up. All her life it has been drilled into her

that she must make a good match. It's a shameful thing. I hate it.

But ... what can a girl like Joyce do?"

"You justify her?"

"I understand her. A decision was forced on her. She had no time to

choose. And--if you'll forgive my saying so--I think Joyce did wisely,

since she is what she is."

"Of course she did," he answered bitterly.

"Think of her. She doesn't love him, but she sacrifices her feeling to

what she considers her duty."

"Shall we substitute ambition for duty?"

"If you like. Her position is not a happy one, but she must smile and be

gay and hide her heartache. You can afford to be generous, Mr. Kilmeny."

"I've been a fool," he admitted dryly. "The turn that things have taken

is the best possible one for me. But I'm not quite prepared to thank

Miss Seldon yet for having awakened me."

She saw that his vanity was stung more than his heart. His infatuation

for her had been of the senses. The young woman shifted to another


"You'll be careful to-night, won't you?"

"Very. Mr. Verinder will have to wait for his coup, thanks to you."

"You mean...?" The question hung fire on her lips.

"Go on, neighbor."

"No. It was something I had no business to ask." The cheeks beneath the

dusky eyes held each a patch of color burning through the tan.

"Then I'll say it for you. You were going to ask if they would really

have caught me with the goods. Wasn't that it?"

She nodded, looking straight at him with the poise of lithe, slim youth

he knew so well. Her very breathing seemed for the moment suspended

while she waited, tremulous lips apart, for his answer.


"You mean that ... you are a highgrader?"


"I ... was afraid so."

His eyes would not release her. "You made excuses for Miss Seldon. Can

you find any for me?"

"You are a man. You are strong. It is different with you."

"My sin is beyond the pale, I suppose?"

"How do I know? I'm only a girl. I've never seen anything of real life.

Can I judge you?"

"But you do."

The troubled virginal sweetness of the girl went to his soul. She was

his friend, and her heart ached because of his wrongdoing.

"I can't make myself think wrong is right."

"You think the profits from these mines should all go to Verinder and

his friends, that none should belong to the men who do the work?"

"I don't know.... That doesn't seem fair.... But I'm not wise enough to

know how to make that right. The law is the law. I can't go back of


"Can't you? I can. Who makes the laws?" He asked it almost harshly.

"The people, I suppose."

"Nothing of the kind. The operators control the legislatures and put

through whatever bills they please. I went to the legislative assembly

once and we forced through an eight hour law for underground workers.

The state Supreme Court, puppets of capital, declared the statute

unconstitutional. The whole machinery of government is owned by our

masters. What can we do?"

"I don't know."

"Neither do I--except what I am doing. It is against the law, all right,

but I try to see that the workmen get some of the profits they earn."

"Would the operators--what would they do if they proved you guilty of


"It is hard to prove. Ore can't easily be identified."

"But if they did?" she persisted.

"I'd go over the road quick as their courts could send me." A sardonic

flicker of amusement moved him to add: "Would you obey the Scriptural

injunction and visit me in prison, Miss Dwight?"

"I wouldn't be here. We're going back to England next week."

"But if you were. Would your friendship stand the test?"

Once again she answered, "I don't know," her heart beating wildly as her

glance fell away from his.

"I shan't have to try you out this time, neighbor. I'm not going to the

pen if I can help it."

"Are you sure of that? The mine owners are quite determined to punish

some of the highgraders. Suppose I hadn't come to you to-day. What


He smiled down upon her with the easy recklessness that distinguished

him. "I don't think it would have run quite to a prison sentence. The

burden of proof lies on the accuser. Because I am in possession of rich

ore, it does not follow that I did not come by it legitimately. Ore

can't be sworn to like bric-a-brac. I may have shipped this in from

South Africa, so far as the law knows. Bleyer knows that. I figure he

would have played his hand in the Goldbanks way."

"And how would that be?"

"He would forget the law too, just as we've done on our side. A posse

of men would have fallen on me maybe after I had got out of town, and

they would have taken that ore from me. They would have been masked so

that I could not swear to them."

"Why, that is highway robbery."

He laughed. "We don't use such big words out here, ma'am. Just a

hold-up--a perfectly legitimate one, from Bleyer's viewpoint--and it

would have left me broke."


He nodded. "Dead broke. I've got twenty thousand dollars invested in

that ore--every cent I've got in the world."

"You paid that to the miners for it?"

"We pay fifty per cent. of what is coming to the men as soon as a rough

assay is made, the other fifty after we get the smelter returns. That

wagon load of ore is worth--unless I miss my guess badly--about sixty

thousand dollars."

"Dear me. So much as that?" She could not quite keep a note of sarcasm

out of her voice. "And have you it in a safety deposit vault?"

His cool gaze took her in quietly. He was willing to bet his last dollar

on her loyalty, and it was like him to back his judgment in one wild

throw. "Not exactly. It is lying in a pile of hay in my barn, all sacked

up ready for shipment."

"Waiting there for anybody that wants it," she suggested.

"For anybody that wants it worse than I do," he corrected, the fighting

gleam in his eyes.

"I've a right to ask one thing of you--that there will be no bloodshed

to-night because of what I have told you."

"There will be none of my seeking," he replied grimly.

"No. That's not enough. You must find a way to avoid it."

"By handing over my hard-earned dishonest profits to the virtuous

Verinder?" he asked dryly.

"I don't care how. But I won't have on my shoulders ... murder."

"That's a right hard word, neighbor," he said, falling again into the

Western drawl he sometimes used as a mark of his friendship for her.

"But have it your own way. I'll not even tote a gat."

"Thank you." She gave him a brisk little nod, suddenly choked up in her

throat, and turned to go.

Jack fell into step beside her. "Have I lost my little friend--the one

who used to come to me in my dreams and whisper with a lisp that I

wasn't a 'stwanger'?" he asked, very gently.

She swallowed twice and walked on without looking at him. But every

nerve of her was conscious of his stimulating presence. Since the inner

man found expression in that lithe body with the undulating flow of

well-packed muscles, in the spare head set so finely on the perfect

shoulders, in the steady eyes so frank and self-reliant, surely he was

not unworthy the friendship of any woman. But he had just confessed

himself a thief. What right had he to ask or she to give so much?

Her hand went out in an impetuous little gesture of despair. "How do I

know? You are doing wrong, but ... Oh, why do you do such things?"

"It's in my blood not to let prudence stop me when I've made up my mind

to a thing. My father was that way. I'm trying in a rough way to right

an injustice--and I like the excitement--and I daresay I like the loot

too," he finished with a reckless laugh.

"I wish I could show you how wrong you are," she cried in a low voice.

"You can't. I'll go my own way. But you are still going to let me come

and visit you in your dreams, aren't you?"

The glow in her quick live eyes was not a reflection of the sun. She

felt the color flood her cheeks in waves. She dared not look at him, but

she was poignantly aware that his gaze was fixed on her, that it seemed

to bore to the soul and read the hidden secret there. A queer

lightheadedness affected her. It was as if her body might float away

into space. She loved him. Whatever he was, the man held her heart in

the hollow of his careless, reckless hand. To him she would always deny

it--or would have if he had thought enough of her to ask--but she knew

the truth about herself from many a passionate hour of despair.

Dry as a whisper came her answer, in a voice which lacked the

nonchalance she tried to give it. "I daresay I'll be as friendly ... as

you deserve."

"You've got to be a heap more friendly than that, partner."

They had come back to the boardwalk which marked the parting of the ways

for them. She had won control of herself again and offered him a steady


"I suppose we'll not see each other again.... Good-by."

He was suddenly conscious that he desired very greatly her regard and

her approval.

"Is that all you have to say? Are you going to leave me like this?"

"What more is there to be said?" She asked it quietly, with the calm

courage that had its birth in hopelessness.

"This much, at least. I don't release you from ... the old tie that used

to bind us. We're still going to be dream friends. I haven't forgotten

little Moya, who kissed me one night on the deck of the Victorian."

"She was a baby at the time," answered the girl.

He had not released her hand. Now, as he looked straight into the sweet

face with eyes like troubled stars, it came to him on a flood of light

that he had made a fatal mistake.

He dropped her fingers abruptly. "Good-by."

His crisp footfalls seemed to print themselves on a heart of lead. How

could she know that he carried away with him a vision of sweet youth

that was to endure!

A War Of Wits A Warning And A Surprise facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail