Chapter XIV
 

Having turned Dunbar and his protective league over to Hutchinson, the general manager, Clayton had put him out of his mind. But during the week after Christmas he reached the office early one morning to find that keen and rather shabby gentleman already there, waiting.

Not precisely waiting, for he was standing by one of the windows, well back from it, and inspecting the mill yard with sharp, darting glances.

"Hello, Dunbar," said Clayton, and proceeded to shed his fur-lined coat. Dunbar turned and surveyed him with the grudging admiration of the undersized man for the tall one.

"Cold morning," he said, coming forward. "Not that I suppose you know it." He glanced at the coat.

"I thought Hutchinson said that you'd gone away."

"Been to Washington. I brought something back that will interest you."

From inside his coat he produced a small leather case, and took from it a number of photographs.

"I rather gathered, Mr. Spencer," he said dryly, "when I was here last that you thought me an alarmist. I don't know that I blame you. We always think the other fellow may get it, but that we are safe. You might glance at those photographs."

He spread them out on the desk. Beyond the windows the mill roared on; men shouted, the locomotive whistled, a long file of laborers with wheelbarrows went by. And from a new building going up came the hammering of the riveting-machines, so like the rapid explosions of machine guns.

"Interesting, aren't they?" queried Dunbar. "This is a clock-bomb with a strap for carrying it under a coat. That's a lump of coal - only it isn't. It's got enough explosive inside to blow up a battleship. It's meant for that, primarily. That's fire-confetti - damnable stuff - understand it's what burned up most of Belgium. And that's a fountain-pen. What do you think of that? Use one yourself, don't you? Don't leave it lying around. That's all"

"What on earth can they do with a fountain-pen?"

"One of their best little tricks," said Mr. Dunbar, with a note of grudging admiration in his voice. "Here's a cut of the mechanism. You sit down, dip your pen, and commence to write. There's the striking pin, or whatever they call it. It hits here, and - good night!"

"Do you mean to say they're using things like that here?"

"I mean to say they're planning to, if they haven't already. That coal now, you'd see that go into your furnaces, or under your boilers, or wherever you use it, and wouldn't worry, would you?"

"Are these actual photographs?"

"Made from articles taken from a German officer's trunk, in a neutral country. He was on his way somewhere, I imagine."

Clayton sat silent. Then he took out his fountain-pen and surveyed it with a smile.

"Rather off fountain-pens for a time, I take it!" observed Dunbar. "Well, I've something else for you. You've got one of the best little I.W.W. workers in the country right here in your mill. Some of them aren't so bad - hot air and nothing else. But this fellow's a fanatic. Which is the same as saying he's crazy."

"Who is he?"

"Name's Rudolph Klein. He's a sort of relation to the chap that got out. Old man's been sore on him, but I understand he's hanging around the Klein place again."

Clayton considered.

"I don't remember him. Of course, I can't keep track of the men. We'll get rid of him."

Mr. Dunbar eyed him.

"That's the best thing you can think of?"

"I don't want him round, do I?"

"Nine of you men out of ten say that. You'd turn him loose and so warn him. Not only that, but he'll be off on his devil's work somewhere. Perhaps here. Perhaps elsewhere. And we want him where we can find him. See here, Mr. Spencer, d'you ever hear of counter-espionage?"

Clayton never had, but the term explained itself.

"Set a spy to watch a spy," said Dunbar. "Let him think he's going on fine. Find his confederates. Let them get ready to spring something. And then - get them. Remember," he added with sarcasm, "we're still neutral. You can't lock a man up because he goes around yelling 'Down with capital!' The whole country is ready to yell it with him. And, even if you find him with a bomb under his coat, labeled 'made in Germany,' it's hard to link Germans up with the thing. He can say that he always buys his bombs in Germany. That they make the best bombs in the world. That he likes the way they pack 'em, and their polite trade methods."

Clayton listened, thinking hard.

"We have a daughter of Klein's here. She is my son's secretary."

Dunbar glanced at him quickly, but his eyes were on the window.

"I know that."

"Think I should get rid of her?"

Dunbar hesitated. He liked Clayton Spencer, and it was his business just then to know something about the Kleins. It would be a good thing for Clayton Spencer's boy if they got rid of the girl.

On the other hand, to keep her there and watch her was certainly a bigger thing. If she stayed there might be trouble, but it would concern the boy only. If she left, and if she was one link in the chain to snare Rudolph, there might be a disaster costing many lives. He made his decision quickly.

"Keep her, by all means," he said. "And don't tell Mr. Graham anything. He's young, and he'd be likely to show something. I suppose she gets considerable data where she is?"

"Only of the one department. But that's a fair indication of the rest."

Dunbar rose.

"I'm inclined to think there's nothing to that end of it," he said. "The old chap is sulky, but he's not dangerous. It's Rudolph I'm afraid of."

At the luncheon hour that day Clayton, having finished his mail, went to Graham's office. He seldom did that, but he was uneasy. He wanted to see the girl. He wanted to look her over with this new idea in his mind. She had been a quiet little thing, he remembered; thorough, but not brilliant. He had sent her to Graham from his own office. He disliked even the idea of suspecting her; his natural chivalry revolted from suspecting any woman.

Joey, who customarily ate his luncheon on Clayton's desk in his absence, followed by one of Clayton's cigarets, watched him across the yard, and whistled as he saw him enter Graham's small building.

"Well, what do you think of that?" he reflected. "I hope he coughs before he goes in.

But Clayton did not happen to cough. Graham's office was empty, but there was a sound of voices from Anna Klein's small room beyond. He crossed to the door and opened it, to stand astonished, his hand on the door-knob.

Anna Klein was seated at her desk, with her luncheon spread before her on a newspaper, and seated on the desk, a sandwich in one hand, the other resting on Anna's shoulder, was Graham. He was laughing when Clayton opened the door, but the smile froze on his face. He slid off her desk.

"Want me, father?"

"Yes," said Clayton, curtly. And went out, leaving the door open. A sort of stricken silence followed his exit, then Graham put down the sandwich and went out, closing the door behind him. He stood just inside it in the outer room, rather pale, but looking his father in the eyes.

"Sorry, father," he said. "I didn't hear you. I - "

"What has that to do with it?"

The boy was silent. To Clayton he looked furtive, guilty. His very expression condemned him far more than the incident itself. And Clayton, along with his anger, was puzzled as to his best course. Dunbar had said to leave the girl where she was. But - was it feasible under these circumstances? He was rather irritated than angry. He considered a flirtation with one's stenographer rotten bad taste, at any time. The business world, to his mind, was divided into two kinds of men, those who did that sort of thing, and those who did not. It was a code, rather than a creed, that the boy had violated.

Besides, he had bad a surprise. The girl who sat laughing into Graham's face was not the Anna Klein he remembered, a shy, drab little thing, badly dressed, rather sallow and unsmiling. Here was a young woman undeniably attractive; slightly rouged, trim in her white blouse, and with an air of piquancy that was added, had he known it, by the large imitation pearl earrings she wore.

"Get your hat and go to lunch, Graham," he said. "And you might try to remember that a slightly different standard of conduct is expected from my son, here, than may be the standard of some of the other men."

"It doesn't mean anything, that sort of fooling."

"You and I may know that. The girl may not."

Then he went out, and Graham returned unhappily to the inner room. Anna was not crying; she was too frightened to cry. She had sat without moving, her hand still clutching her untouched sandwich. Graham looked at her and tried to smile.

"I'm gone, I suppose?"

"Don't you worry about that," he said, with boyish bravado. "Don't you worry about that, little girl."

"Father will kill me," she whispered. "He's queer these days, and if I go home and have to tell him - " She shuddered.

"I'll see you get something else, if the worst comes, you know."

She glanced up at him with that look of dog-like fidelity that always touched him.

"I'll find you something good," he promised.

"Something good," she repeated, with sudden bitterness. "And you'll get another girl here, and flirt with her, and make her crazy about you, and - "

"Honestly, do you like me like that?"

"I'm just mad about you," she said miserably.

Frightened though he was, her wretchedness appealed to him. The thought that she cared for him, too, was a salve to his outraged pride. A moment ago, in the other room, he had felt like a bad small boy. As with Marion, Anna made him feel every inch a man. But she gave him what Marion did not, the feeling of her complete surrender. Marion would take; this girl would give.

He bent down and put his arms around her.

"Poor little girl!" he said. "Poor little girl!"