Even as he spoke the ring suddenly came out of the bow; and thrown off his balance by his own effort, Paul went over the side of the boat and in the same moment had disappeared from view.
"Gone ..." gasped Hutchins. "And now that's going after him...."
The boat was lurching forward--unsteadily--unevenly--
"Something chained to the bottom, all right," thought Archey, all eyes to see, the hammer still in his hand. As they watched, the boat tipped forward--lurched--vanished--followed quickly by two cylindrical objects which, in the momentary glimpse they caught of them, had the appearance of steel barrels.
The two on the bridge were still looking at each other, when Archey thought to glance at the clock in his car.
It was on the stroke of ten.
"That may go off yet if the thing holds together," shouted Archey. "It was built good and strong...."
They stood there for a minute looking down into the darkness and were just on the point of turning back to the car when an explosion arose from the racing waters far below the dam....
Presently the wind, blowing up stream, drenched their faces with spray.... Splinters of rock and sand began to fall....
The next morning ushered in one of those days in June which make the spirit rejoice.
When Mary left Helen's, she thought she had never known the sky so blue, the world so fair, the air so full of the breath of life, the song of birds, the scent of flowers.
Wally was definitely out of danger and Helen was nursing him back to strength like a ministering angel, every touch a caress, every glance a look of love.
"Now if Burdon will only leave her alone," thought Mary as she turned the car toward the factory.
She needn't have worried.
Before she had time to look at her mail, Joe announced that the two accountants were waiting to see her.
"They've been hanging around for the last half hour," he confidentially added. "I guess they want to catch a train or something."
"All right, Joe," she nodded. "Show them in."
They entered, and for the first time since she had known them, Mary thought she saw a trace of excitement in their manner--such, for instance, as you might expect to see in two learned astronomers who had seen Sirius the dog-star rushing over the heavens in pursuit of the Big Bear--or the Virgin seating herself in Ca.s.siopeia's Chair.
"We finished our report last night," said the elder, handing her a copy.
"As you will see, we have discovered a very serious situation in the treasurer's department."
It struck Mary later that she showed no surprise. Indeed, more than once in the last few days, when noticing Burdon's nervous recklessness, she had found herself connecting it with the auditors' work upon the books.
"I would have asked Mr. Woodward for an explanation," continued the accountant, "but he has been absent yesterday and today. However, as you will see, no explanation can possibly cover the facts disclosed. There is a clear case for criminal action against him."
"I don't think there will be any action," said Mary, looking up after a pause. "I'm sure his father will make good the shortage." But when she looked at the total she couldn't help thinking, "It will be a tight squeeze, though, even for Uncle Stanley."
Now that it was over, she felt relieved, as though a load had lifted from her mind. "He'll never bother Helen again," she found herself thinking.
"Perhaps I had better telephone Judge Cutler and let him handle it--"
The judge promised to be down at once, and Mary turned to her mail. Near the bottom she found a letter addressed in Burdon's writing. It was unstamped and had evidently been left at the office. The date-line simply said "Midnight."
It was a long letter, some of it clear enough and some of it obscure.
Mary was puzzling over it when Judge Cutler and Hutchins entered. As far as she could remember, it was the first time that the butler had ever appeared at the factory.
"Anything wrong?" she asked in alarm.
"He was in my office when you telephoned," said the judge. "I'll let him tell his story as he told it to me.... I think I ought to ask you something first, though.... Did any one ever tell you that you had a brother Paul? ..."
"Yes," said Mary, her heart contracting.
Throughout the recital she sat breathless. Now and then the colour rose to her cheeks, and more than once the tears came to her eyes, especially when Hutchins' voice broke, and when he said in tones of pride, "Before we could stop him, Master Paul was over the rail and in the water--"
More than once Mary looked away to hide her emotion, glancing around the room at her forebears who had never seemed so attentive as then. "You may well listen," thought Mary. "He may have been the black sheep of the family, but you see what he did in the end...."
Hutchins told them about the search which he and Archey had made up and down the banks, aided with a flashlight, climbing, calling, and sometimes all but falling in the stream themselves. "But it was no use, Miss Mary,"
he concluded. "Master Paul is past all finding, I'm afraid."
For a long time Mary sat silent, her handkerchief to her eyes.
"Archey is still looking," said the judge, rising. "I'll start another searching party at once. And telephone the towns below, too. We are bound to find him if we keep on looking, you know--"
They found him sooner than they expected, in the gra.s.sy basin at the bend of the river, where the high water of the night before had borne him--in the place where he had loved to dream his dreams of youth and adventure when life was young and the future full of promise. He was lying on his side, his head on his arm, his face turned to the whispering river, and there perhaps he was dreaming again--those eternal dreams which only those who have gone to their rest can know.
Time, quickly pa.s.sing, brought Mary to another wonderful morning in the Story of her life. Even as her father's death had broadened her outlook, so now Paul's heroism gave her a deeper glance at the future, a more tolerant view of the past.
On the morning in question, Helen brought Wally to the office. He was now entirely recovered, but Helen still mothered him, every touch a caress, every glance a look of love. Mary grew very thoughtful as she watched them. The next morning they were leaving for a tour of the Maine woods.
When they left, an architect called.
Under his arm he had a portfolio of plans for a Welfare Building which he had drawn exactly according to Mary's suggestions. As long as the idea had been a nebulous one--drawn only in fancy and coloured with nothing stronger than conversation, she had liked it immensely; but seeing now precisely how the building would look--how the s.p.a.ce would be divided, she found herself shaking her head.
"It's my own fault," she said. "You have followed out every one of my ideas--but somehow--well, I don't like it: that's all. If you'll leave these drawings, I'll think them over and call you up again in a few days."
At Judge Cutler's suggestion, Archey had been elected treasurer to take Burdon's place. Mary took the plans into his office and showed them to him. They were still discussing them, sitting at opposite sides of his flat-top desk, when the twelve o'clock whistle blew. A few minutes later, the four-hour workers pa.s.sed through the gate, the men walking with their wives, the children playing between.
"I wonder how it's going to turn out," said Archey.
"I wonder ..." said Mary. "Of course it's too early to tell yet. I don't know.... Time will tell."
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