Dangerous Days by Mary Roberts Rinehart
For a week after Anna's escape Herman Klein had sat alone and brooded. Entirely alone now, for following a stormy scene on his discovery of Anna's disappearance, Katie had gone too.
"I don't know where she is," she had said, angrily, "and if I did know I wouldn't tell you. If I was her I'd have the law on you. Don't you look at that strap. You lay a hand on me and I'll kill you. If you think I'm afraid of you, you can think again."
"She is my daughter, and not yet of age," Herman said heavily. "You tell her for me that she comes back, or I go and bring her."
"Yah!" Katie jeered. "You try it! She's got marks on her that'll jail you." And on his failure to reply her courage mounted. "This ain't Germany, you know. They know how to treat women over here. And you ask me" - her voice rose - "and I'll just say that there's queer comings and goings here with that Rudolph. I've heard him say some things that'll lock him up good and tight."
For all his rage, Teutonic caution warned him not to lay hands on the girl. But his anger against her almost strangled him. Indeed, when she came down stairs, dragging her heavy suitcase, he took a tep or two toward her, with his fists clenched. She stopped, terrified.
"You old bully!" she said, between white lips. "You touch me, and I'll scream till I bring in every neighbor in the block. There's a good lamp-post outside that's just waiting for your sort of German."
He had refused to pay her for the last week, also. But that she knew well enough was because he was out of money. As fast as Anna's salary had come in, he had taken out of it the small allowance that was to cover the week's expenses, and had banked the remainder. But Anna had carried her last pay envelope away with her, and added to his anger at her going was his fear that he would have to draw on his savings.
With Katie gone, he set heavily about preparing his Sunday dinner. Long years of service done for him, however, had made him clumsy. He cooked a wretched meal, and then, leaving the dishes as they were, he sat by the fire and brooded. When Rudolph came in, later, he found him there, in his stocking-feet, a morose and untidy figure.
Rudolph's reception of the news roused him, however. He looked up, after the telling, to find the younger man standing over him and staring down at him with blood-shot eyes.
"You beat her!" he was saying. "What with?"
"What does that matter - She had bought herself a watch - "
"What did you beat her with?" Rudolph was licking his lips. Receiving no reply, he called "Katie!"
"Katie has gone."
"Maybe you beat her, too."
"She wasn't my daughter."
"No by God! You wouldn't dare to touch her. She didn't belong to you. You - "
"Get out," said Herman, somberly. He stood up menacingly. "You go, now."
Rudolph hesitated. Then he laughed.
"All right, old top," he said, in a conciliatory tone. "No offense meant. I lost my temper."
He picked up the empty coal-scuffle, and went out into the shed where the coal was kept. He needed a minute to think. Besides, he always brought in coal when he was there. In the shed, however, he put down the scuttle and stood still.
"The old devil!" he muttered.
But his rage for Anna was followed by rage against her. Where was she to-night? Did Graham Spencer know where she was? And if he did, what then? Were they at that moment somewhere together? Hidden away, the two of them? The conviction that they were together grew on him, and with it a frenzy that was almost madness. He left the coal scuttle in the shed, and went out into the air. For a half hour he stood there, looking down toward the Spencer furnace, sending up, now red, now violet bursts of flame.
He was angry enough, jealous enough. But he was quick, too, to see that that particular lump of potters' clay which was Herman Klein was ready for the wheel. Even while he was cursing the girl his cunning mind was already plotting, revenge for the Spencers, self-aggrandizement among his fellows for himself. His inordinate conceit, wounded by Anna's defection, found comfort in the early prospect of putting over a big thing. He carried the coal in, to find Herman gloomily clearing his untidy table. For a moment they worked in silence, Rudolph at the stove, Herman at the sink.
Then Rudolph washed his hands under the faucet and faced the older man. "How do you know she bought herself that watch," he demanded.
Herman eyed him.
"Perhaps you gave it to her!" Something like suspicion of Rudolph crept into his eyes.
"Me? A hundred-dollar watch!"
"How do you know it cost a hundred dollars?"
"I saw it. She tried that story on me, too. But I was too smart for her. I went to the store and asked. A hundred bucks!"
Herman's lips drew back over his teeth.
"You knew it, eh? And you did not tell me?"
"It wasn't my funeral," said Rudolph coolly. "If you wanted to believe she bought it herself?"
"If she bought it herself!" Rudolph's shoulder was caught in an iron grip. "You will tell me what you mean."
"Well, I ask you, do you think she'd spend that much on a watch? Anyhow, the installment story doesn't go. That place doesn't sell on installments."
"Who is there would buy her such a watch?" Herman's voice was thick.
"How about Graham Spencer? She's been pretty thick with him."
"How you mean - thick?"
Rudolph shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't mean anything. But he's taken her out in his car. And the Spencers think there's nothing can't be bought with money."
Herman put down the dish-cloth and commenced to draw down his shirt sleeves.
"Where you going?" Rudolph demanded uneasily.
"I go to the Spencers!"
"Listen!" Rudolph said, excitedly. "Don't you do it; not yet. You got to get him first. We don't know anything; we don't even know he gave her that watch. We've got to find her, don't you see? And then, we've got to learn if he's going there - wherever she is."
"I shall bring her back," Herman said, stubbornly. "I shall bring her back, and I shall kill her."
"And get strung up yourself! Now listen?" he argued. "You leave this to me. I'll find her. I've got a friend, a city detective, and he'll help me, see? We'll get her back, all right. Only you've got to keep your hands off her. It's the Spencers that have got to pay."
Herman went back to the sink, slowly.
"That is right. It is the Spencers," he muttered.
Rudolph went out. Late in the evening he came back, with the news that the search was on. And, knowing Herman's pride, he assured him that the hill need never learn of Anna's flight, and if any inquiries came he advised him to say the girl was sick.
In Rudolph's twisted mind it was not so much Anna's delinquency that enraged him. The hill had its own ideas of morality. But he was fiercely jealous, with that class-jealousy which was the fundamental actuating motive of his life. He never for a moment doubted that she had gone to Graham.
And, sitting by the fire in the little house, old Herman's untidy head shrunk on his shoulders, Rudolph almost forgot Anna in plotting to use this new pawn across the hearth from him in his game of destruction.
By the end of the week, however, there was no news of Anna. She had not returned to the mill. Rudolph's friend on the detective force had found no clew, and old Herman had advanced from brooding by the fire to long and furious wanderings about the city streets.
He felt no remorse, only a growing and alarming fury. He returned at night, to his cold and unkempt house, to cook himself a frugal and wretched meal. His money had run very low, and with true German stubbornness he refused to draw any from the savings bank.
Rudolph was very busy. There were meetings always, and to the little inner circle that met behind Gus's barroom one night later in March, he divulged the plan for the destruction of the new Spencer munition plant.
"But - will they take him back?" one of the men asked. He was of better class than the rest, with a military bearing and a heavy German accent, for all his careful English.
"Will a dog snatch at a bone?" countered Rudolph. "Take him back! They'll be crazy about it."
"He has been there a long time. He may, at the last, weaken."
But Rudolph only laughed, and drank more whisky of the German agent's providing.
"He won't weaken," he said. "Give me a few days more to find the girl, and all hell won't hold him."
On the Sunday morning after the President had been before Congress, he found Herman dressed for church, but sitting by the fire. All around him lay the Sunday paper, and he barely raised his head when Rudolph entered.
"Well, it's here!" said Rudolph.
"It has come. Yes."
"Wall Street. will be opening champagne to-day."
Herman said nothing. But later on he opened up the fountain of rage in his heart. It was wrong, all wrong. We had no quarrel with Germany. It was the capitalists and politicians who had done it. And above all, England.
He went far. He blamed America and Americans for his loss of work, for Anna's disappearance. He searched his mind for grievances and found them?in the ore dust on the hill, which killed his garden; in the inefficiency of the police, who could not find Anna; in the very attitude of Clayton Spencer toward his resignation.
And on this smoldering fire Rudolph piled fuel Not that he said a great deal. He worked around the cottage, washed dishes, threw pails of water on the dirty porches, swept the floor, carried in coal and wood. And gradually he began to play on the older man's vanity. He had had great influence with the millworkers. No one man had ever had so much.
Old Herman sat up, and listened sourly. But after a time he got up and pouring some water out of the kettle, proceeded to shave himself. And Rudolph talked on. If now he were to go back, and it were to the advantage of the Fatherland and of the workers of the world to hamper the industry, who so able to do it as Herman.
"Hamper? How?" Herman asked, suspiciously, holding his razor aloft. He had a great fear of the law.
Rudolph re-assured him, cunning eyes averted.
"Well, a strike," he suggested. "The men'll listen to you. God knows they've got a right to strike."
"I shall not go back," said Herman stolidly, and finished his shaving.
But Rudolph was satisfied. He left Herman sitting again by the fire, but his eyes were no longer brooding. He was thinking, watching the smoke curl up from the china-bowled German pipe which he had brought from the Fatherland, and which he used only on special occasions.