AGAINST NANCY PRESTON
JOHN A. MOROSO
'TH* CITY or SILENT MEN"
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN TK.B U. B. />.
"T 71 THEN does this here Mike Horgan get out,
James Tierney, Incorporated, formerly known in
his old police headquarter days as Bonehead Tierney
or Solid Ivory, pawed a bristly reddish-white mus-
tache as he sat at his desk in his suite high above
downtown New York, the guardian of the riches of as
profitable a clientele as ever a private detective might
desire. Some paunchiness had come with the years of
fat living and there was a heave and roll above his
collar in the back as a collop sought release from the
conventions of dress ; yet his blue eyes were as keen as
ever, the strength of his jaw showed beneath the
plumpening cheeks and his interest in the game of
man-hunting was never so great.
Agnes Doherty placed before him a loose-leaf book
of record. He turned to the H's and read: " 'Hor-
gan, Michael, Burglar. Second Term.' I was sure
his time was about up, ' ' he said as he made a memo,
on a calendar before him.
The sunshine of an early spring day filled the south
windows of his private office on the twenty-third floor
4 NANCY PRESTON
of the Eagle National Bank Building in Nassau street.
As he swung about in his chair from the flat-top desk
he gazed reflectively out over the tip of Manhattan
Island, nosing its way between the two rivers into
the sunlit bay like a great horned lizard.
His heavy eyelids dropped and from one of the
cortices of a camera-like brain came the picture of a
tall, dark-complexioned man with deep-set gray eyes,
narrow and aristocratic features and lips hinting a
smile. A voice, too, came up to him from the well-
ordered depths of his memory, a pleasing, kindly voice.
"He ought never to be let out, Agnes," he said,
turning to the girl who was busying herself with her
powder rag. "First class help in our line of business
is hard to get and he's clever. He's clever, that Hor-
gan fellow. He's educated, too; maybe a college man
with a kink in his brain." He fumbled with heavy
fingers the correspondence before him and a smile
came to his red countenance. "It wouldn't be sur-
prising," he added. "They tell me they talk free love
in these colleges as easy as they talk Latin and Yid-
dish. But I ain't sure about that because the only
college I went to was in old Mulberry street when
McCafferty was inspector in charge of the bulls.
However, as they say in the papers, love is property
just the same as bonds and jewelry and cash. If they
learn to be careless with taking a guy 's wife or daugh-
ter they'll get to taking other things and it's the gen-
NANCY PRESTON 5
tlemen with taking habits we're hired to keep track
of. Ain't it so, Agnes?"
"Sure." She folded away the powder rag and be-
gan to prepare the tips of her fingers.
"Who can we spare to send up to Sing Sing and
shadow this Mike Horgan?" he asked.
' ' Silk Hat Harry Duveen ? ' ' she suggested.
He ridiculed the idea with a roar of laughter, star-
ing at her like a surprised walrus with bristles and
wet blue eyes.
"Why, Horgan uncovered Silk Hat six or seven
years ago," he protested. "Another thing about
Harry is that he couldn't travel in the same class
with this feller. Mike Horgan is a real gentleman and
Harry is only a rhinestone. What we gotta do is to
put some nice honest squarehead close to him to keep
him company. Horgan will go straight for about
three months and then he'll weaken on the honest
toil. We'll be there when he does and shoot him back
up the river. Then the burglar insurance companies
can rest easy for a while. Get me?"
"Sure." Agnes' carmined lips smiled her admira-
tion for "B. H.," as she surreptitiously but affection-
ately referred to him. "There's Gloomy," she sug-
"Gloomy is the boy,'* he agreed. "They don't
make 'em any more patient and pertinaish. . . ." He
6 NANCY PRESTON
"Pertinacious," she assisted.
"Pertinacious than Gloomy Cole. Get out the pic-
tures and the records, stuff him up with them, hand
him some expense kale, about two hundred smacks,
and see that he gets on the right train for Sing Sing.
Tell him to give me a report as soon as Mr. Mike Hor-
gan hires a room for himself." He pulled out a dia-
mond studded watch and studied it with pride, for it
was a token of appreciation from a great bonding
company for having run down a bank teller who had
wearied of counting other people's money and had
tried to retire with a dress-suit case full of treasury
In his time there had been no better gum-shoe artist
at police headquarters, despite the pet names given
him. Stolid and without imagination, he dealt liter-
ally with facts, but his brain was a sensitive plate and
his eye the lens of a photographic machine. Of the fa-
mous detective heroes of fiction he knew nothing, for
there were too many crooks at large in the world to
bother with those held between book covers.
"Well, I got a luncheon of the Manufacturing
Jewelers ' Association at twelve, ' ' he grunted. ' ' I got
t watch those old boys or somebody '11 come along
and take their watches and chains from 'em. They're
certainly careless. They let in their help without
ever thinking they might be hiring first-class dips and
then yell when a crate of phoney lavallieres goes
NANCY PRESTON 7
astray. I got to get 'em. to try and do better than
that or they '11 have to hire another detective service. ' '
Agnes brushed his shoulders with the tips of her
fingers as he buttoned his ready-made coat around his
balcony, handed him his hat and assured him that she
would stuff Gloomy Cole with the Horgan dope.
"He's got lots of time," he informed her, "but he
can be hanging around Ossining making friends and
digesting what you give him. I don't want this
Horgan to give us the slip."
FOR a burglar, Michael Horgan had a singularly at-
tractive face, long and narrow, with a well-
shaped beak, wide mouth and gray eyes set w r ell back
under a good forehead. Time, he was turning thirty-
five, and a sense of fun had wrinkled his tan-colored
skin at the outer corners of the eyes and laughter had
seamed his thin cheeks.
The "P. K.," which is the pet name for the prin-
cipal keeper in Sing Sing, gave him a library job
during his first term, a matter of two years, and, at
his own request, detailed him to hospital and pharma-
ceutical work when he showed up the second time.
His prison behavior warranted these favors. In the
gray-clad army of malefactors were physicians, law-
yers, an excellent poet, an editor, several architects
and artists, a number of ministers (in for bigamy)
and other men of culture besides the raft of the un-
lettered and uninspired. But Horgan seemed to lead
the best of them in enthusiastic devotion to duty. He
wrote a great deal in his spare moments and studied
much. When his first bit was ended he hied him
forth cheerfully with a bundle of manuscript under
his arm only to return in a little more than twelve
NANCY PRESTON 9
months, empty handed and with another stretch of
three years in "stir" before him.
Father Healey, the Catholic chaplain, who had taken
many a condemned man through the little green door,
far downstairs, and had helped his soul to its flight
"through the wires," declared his conviction that
Brother Michaelis, as he called Horgan, would have
made a great saint or a great physician, a mender of
human souls and bodies, were it not for the absurd
theory he once offered that burglars might have been
put on earth to help equalize the distribution of
wealth, just as bees were created to carry pollen from
flower to flower. Toward the end of his second term
Brother Michaelis could have passed his examinations
for a license to practise medicine in almost any State
or country. From long and intelligent service, care-
ful study in the library and keen observation in the
operating room, he could, too, have acquitted himself
well in surgery.
He had never tried to escape. In fact he was a
disk man, wearing a little white circle of cloth on his
arm during all his first term to show that his conduct
w r as perfect as a prisoner. Second term men wore a
blue disk until they violated one of the many rules and
regulations, when it was pierced. Horgan still had
his blue disk inviolate as his second term drew to a
close. The third disk would be red, a warning to his
keepers that he was beyond redemption as far as the
10 NANCY PRESTON
outside world was concerned, an habitual criminal,
confined for life.
Brother Michaelis accepted the kindly alias given
him by the priest and went him one better by calling
the walled city overlooking the Hudson the Monastery
of La Trappe, a fitting enough name as many of the
unwary wicked can testify. His supposed mania did
not in the least trouble him while he was in retreat
from the world, for the only treasure within reach of
his hand, books, were his for the asking. Food, shel-
ter and warmth were free. There was no landlord, no
dunning butcher, no fellow human asking a heavy
profit on the baggy clothes that covered his nakedness
or the shoes that he wore.
"It is a very interesting state of affairs," he con-
fided to Father Healey as the time drew near when he
would be free again. "It's very interesting that So-
ciety has to turn the key on a man before it will pro-
vide him with the simple essentials of life and that it
will let him starve if he 's in ill luck but will give him
a free grave when he dies. Georges Clemenceau, when
he was a young man, once advocated a bill providing
for free bread in the French Republic on the ground
that if the State could afford to give a grave to a dead
man, utterly useless, it might afford to give food to a
live one from whom some economic gain might be had. ' '
"Brother Michaelis," laughed the padre, "if you'd
start by saving yourself you might learn a thing or
NANCY PRESTON 11
two about saving the rest of humanity. Tha next
time you come here it will be for life, remember, and
you're not an old man. Watch your step, brother.
Watch your step."
The convict's eyes clouded for a moment.
''Remember, with burglars it's a case of three
strikes and out," Father Healey called back over his
shoulder. "There must be somebody in the big out-
side sunny world that could be made happier for your
presence and help. Think it over!"
He thought it over as he moved about between the
cots in the hospital, getting things in ship-shape for
the night, as the barred patches of light crept from the
floor to the wall and the sun sought its bed under the
hills across the river.
Bill, an old pal of the jimmy and drill, would be
glad to see him, he thought, and so would Nancy, his
wife, and their kid, Bubs. But Bill had reformed
and was going straight, at least he was in the narrow
path when he last heard from him on account of the
boy. Bill had written.
"Watcha lookin' so damned sad about, Mike?"
came a weak voice from the cot nearest him. "Ain't
your time most up? Take a slant at me. I got fif-
teen years yet and the pneumonia."
Brother Michaelis forced a smile as his relief came
into the room and hurried out to report for supper 1
call and his cell.
ABOVE the Hudson, the Monastery of La Trappe,
its walls, wide and high, illumined by huge arc
lights, sat like a great scarab framed in diamonds.
The narrow windows were dark and the shadowy vil-
lage, straggling downhill, northward to the river,
Brother Michaelis, stretched out on the cot in his
cell, still "thought it over." It was the way that
Father Healey had put it that kept him awake. Some
one might be happier for his presence in the great
outside world. If there wasn't some one now, say
if he found that Bill and Nancy and Bubs had forgot-
ten him, he might come upon such a person in time,
even a woman with love in her eyes, just as Bill had
come upon his woman.
Then, too, the next trip would be the last time in,
until a brown-painted box was provided him instead
of clothes and a hat. "I got fifteen years yet and
the pneumonia." The words of the ill convict stuck
in his mind. Poor Jim would never get out alive and
he wasn't a bad sort at that. He'd only killed an
enemy of his. From time to time Christian nations
did that on a wholesale scale.
NANCY PRESTON 13
The men in the cells in his section slept with sin-
gular peacefulness. Their breathing was soft and
regular, like that of healthy children. A regular
tapping on the steam pipes in the corridor took his
mind abruptly from his cogitations. Some other con-
vict was awake and was sending out underground in-
formation in the Morse code. Michaelis spelled out
the prison gossip slowly. "Bill Preston killed on a
job," was the news. It brought him to a sitting po-
sition with a gasp of surprise and horror, for Preston
was his long-tried Bill, Nancy's husband, and the fa-
ther of Bubs. He twisted his lean fingers together as
he spelled out the words that followed. "The bulls
got him. Died in Fordham hospital. Said to tell M.
to help Annie and the kid."
A groan escaped his lips and the guard in the cor-
ridor flashed his light in the cell.
"What's the matter, old fellow? Sick?"
"Yes," replied Michaelis.
"Want the doctor?"
"No." Horgan turned his face to the wall and
pulled up his blanket. One of the three people who
cared or might care about him was gone. He had seen
Bill touched and ennobled by the fire of pure love.
He had seen Nancy fan that flame with a devotion that
brought its great reward when they married and her
man took the narrow way. He had lived with them
during the first year of their marriage. He had seen
14 NANCY PRESTON
the first sweet radiance of motherhood on Nancy's
face and had watched the little fists of the baby pound-
ing at her breasts, making her blue eyes shine like
amethysts. Nothing but terrible want could have
made Bill go back to the old game.
The morning came without Brother Michaelis having
had a moment's rest. He soused his head in cold
water and reported to the hospital for duty.
"Jim's been asking for you," he was informed by
the night orderly. "Him over there." He pointed
to the convict who had "fifteen years to go and the
pneumonia. " ' ' There ain 't anything can be done for
him except by the carpenter, ' ' the other added. ' ' Bet-
ter find out what he wants. He knows you're going
out in a few days and maybe he wants to send a mes-
sage to some of his people."
THE man who had slain his enemy motioned to
Michaelis to lean close to him.
"I got a present for you, Mike," he whispered.
"You been in twice and the next time . . . you know.
Well, they'll get you back in again, Mike, never mind
how straight you go. When I was taken sick I'd just
finished a nice little job down back of the kitchen.
Look in the wall of the last potato bin. There's a
brick loose, held in place with chewing gum. Take it
out and the others will come out. You'll find a little
passage-way to the sewer that empties in the river.
It 's an old brick sewer and I made a hole in the top. ' '
"I'm not coming back, Jim," Horgan assured him.
"I'm going to go straight. You lie still like a good
"We all say that," Jim whispered, his face drawn
with pain. "You might go as straight as Father
Healey himself, but you've been in twice and down
at headquarters they've got your old mug and your
measurements and your finger prints and when they
want some one to put over a conviction on, you'll
have a lovely time staying outside. Mike . . . Mike!"
16 NANCY PRESTON
Each word was taking a moment from the little life
"I'm telling you not to forget that potato bin," Jim
continued. "It might take 'em a long time before
they close in on you and you might be doing fine with
a wife and children and going to church regular.
Then you'll need that hole in the wall. . . . Say,
"You ever know of a woman that went crooked
once and got any help when she started straight
Brother Michaelis drew back from the cot, surprise
at the question showing in his gray eyes. "I only
knew one," he replied.
"Was it her mother helped her?"
"Who was it, Mike, helped her? Her husband?"
"A man who loved her and was her friend."
"He didn't get what he wanted, eh?" A little
flash of fire came to the dull eyes of the dying man.
"I get it," he added. "I was one of them and so I
killed the guy."
NANCY PRESTON 17
"That's rough stuff, Jim, and you're a pretty sick
man," remonstrated Michaelis.
''You're educated, Mike, and I ain't. Excuse me.
What I was thinking about was that if the world
damns a woman for one mistake there ain't any man
can expect any better, especially from his own kind.
It's a matter of what's wrongest. With a woman it's
a man. With a man it 's money or power. The more
money and power the rich get the more laws they
make to protect them from the poor and them that
want to take some of it, one way or another, from
them. Once you're caught trying to help yourself
to what others got away with you're tabbed for life.
Remember that potato bin, Mike."
"You'd better keep quiet, now," urged Michaelis.
Some of the gray of a bed of ashes on a cold hearth
came to the face of Jim. He clamped his jaws to-
gether and with tightly closed eyes tried to fight the
death agony as the final hardening of his lungs, which
would leave them like lumps of red granite, set in.
Horgan held him to the cot during the last spasm and
then sent a trusty to the carpenter shop.
PROPERLY stuffed with "the dope" on Mike
Horgan, Gloomy Cole joined him on the road
which twists and dips from the Monastery of La
Trappe to the railroad station in the village. His
guise was that of a laborer; his powerful shoulders
and back muscles were packed in a jacket which was
far too small for him; a blue and white bandana
served for baggage, holding two pork chop sand-
wiches, a small tin cup, a package of tobacco and two
pairs of socks. His pseudonym of Gloomy fitted his
face, broad, colorless, sad, clean-shaven. There
seemed too much of it as it spread out below a little
derby hat and there didn't appear to be room enough
above the eyebrows to hold more than enough brains
to keep his brogans lifting over the road. But in the
lapel of his straining jacket he wore an I. W. W.
button, token of his membership in the organization
nearest to sheer Anarchistic tenets.
In the process of stuffing Gloomy, Agnes Doherty
had described Horgan as a gentleman who was crazy
in the head, a nut, but one which required a capable
squirrel to handle when he got in action. ' ' The boss
thinks he studied too hard or maybe his mother was
NANCY PRESTON 19
a victim of kleptomania about the time he was born,"
Agnes had confided to the faceful Cole. "But as
long as they don't keep him in a greenhouse, where
all bugs should be, we gotta tail him because we're
in the business of protecting people whose brains ain't
twisted. His name ain't any more Horgan than
mine is. Look at that long, horse face of his. It
don't fit any Irish name. The boss says if he ain't
from some old American family of English descent
he'll eat his old hard hat."
Gloomy jogged along the road in the smile of a
fine May morning. Across the river the gently rising
land was touched with the pale halo of new life, the
young grass and the little leaves. Above, a satiny
blue sky dotted with cotton balls. In every bush and
nearby tree, even in the eaves of the tumble-down
shacks lining the road, the birds sang in the full elo*
quence of love at the year's youth. Thrush, robin,
chat, sparrow, chickadee, bluebird and goldfinch made
a blithe chorus of welcome for Michaelis as his long
strides brought him beside the man with the wide
"It's a fine morning!" he said cheerily as he fell
in step with Cole.
"For some people," agreed the gloomy one.
"For everybody, I'd say." The conversation was
"Damn if I'd say so," protested Cole bitterly.
20 NANCY PRESTON
"There ain't jobs enough to go around. Last winter
was hellish. Nothing to eat but the mission hand-
outs, stale bread and weak coffee. And cops and
bulls always a-plenty to make you move on the minute
you thought you had a place for a flop."
"What's your job?" asked Horgan,
"Stationary engineer. It's a joke. The engines
are stationary but the engineers ain't. Soon as you
get comfortable on a job the building is finished and
you got to dig out for another. And you never get
paid right. The contractor gets all the money. Then
the speculators get busy and make a lot of crooked
profits, buying and selling the property. Everybody
gets a large slice but the men who build the place. It
ought to be the other way around."
' ' Socialist ? ' ' asked Michaelis.
"Not me." Gloomy spat angrily.
"Not me. I'm against all of them. I hate the
whole bunch. What we need is to simplify matters
by (giving ownership to the people who create the
products of industry, complete ownership. Then
there wouldn't be any capitalist class. There 'd only
be one class, the workers."
They made the last turn of the road and descended
the steep street running through Ossining to the rail-
NANCY PRESTON 21
"Which way, Bo?" asked Gloomy.
1 'To New York."
Each bought a ticket, the detective more than
pleased with his progress. If the released burglar
really was a radical they would be friends before they
reached Grand Central station, for he knew how to
talk the language of the malcontents of the world.
He was, in fact, one of them at heart.
"What's your business?" he asked Horgan, when
they were comfortably in the smoker.
"A student? Of what?"
"Of anything and everything, people and other
animals, governments, arts and sciences."
"But mostly of people as I meet them. Of recent
years, however, I have gotten around but little and
my attention was confined entirely to those in my
"Laborers like me?" asked Gloomy.
"In a way, perhaps, like you. They hated every-
body but themselves."
"Very much, so, advocates of direct action, jungle
' ' Is that so ? " Gloomy Cole had a queer little feel-
22 NANCY PRESTON
ing that this soft voiced man was stringing him.
Plainly he meant to class him with convicts. Was it
possible that Horgan suspected him?
"But can you get a living out of being a student?"
"After you've learned enough. Now, what I've
been doing is this : taking a post-graduate course in a
religious order, where I could study all I pleased and
be fed and sheltered. Now that I have finished my
preparation for life outside I am going to offer myself
as the subject for a tremendous experiment."
"I'll tell the cock-eyed world that Agnes is right
when she says this guy's a nut," Gloomy thought.
Then aloud: "What's the experiment, boss?"
"I'm going to pay back to society what I owe it and
see whether it will give a chap a fair start after his
debts are cleaned up."
"I don't get you. What'd you do to society?"
"I was a thief."
"Huh." Tierney's man did not like this honest
statement. A lie would have been more to his taste,
for he himself was lying. A little tightening about
his heart suggested shame and some color crept to his
broad face. "But you're going straight now?" he
"Yes." Horgan offered his shadow a cigarette.
"You'll find that one the best you ever smoked."
"Turkish, eh?" asked Cole, inhaling deeply.
NANCY PRESTON 23
"A special brand I make for myself."
"It's certainly a swell pill."
They smoked in silence until Horgan hooked an
elbow on the sill of the window and apparently pre-
pared to take a nap. Gloomy studied his man with
eyes that seemed to get heavier with each glance.
The car was overheated. The steady click of the
wheels under him added to his drowsiness. He fought
to keep awake but at last surrendered, threw back
his head and, with his Adam's apple jerking up and
down, began to breathe heavily in deep slumber.
Brother Michaelis stirred, glanced at the laborer be-
side him with a smile, stepped lightly over him and,
as the train slowed up at the Tremont station, dropped
off and walked away from the tracks in the direction
of Fordham. He had doped the cigarette in the
prison pharmacy for just such an emergency if it
JUST across the Harlem river from Fordham the
Prestons lived in a tiny Bronx flat. Michael
felt sure that had Nancy moved, following the death
of her husband, she would have sent word to him.
He struck out to the west. On his way he would stop
by Fordham Hospital and ask information as to the
His thoughts were sad, and yet not altogether so,
as he made his way westward through the wide pleas-
ant streets, past pretty gore-strip parks where many
children played in the sunlight like butterflies; by
stretches of undeveloped land where dandelions
sparked and past occasional old farm houses that had
escaped the scythe of the tenement builders.
Nancy was a brave woman ; she had ever been that,
and, to his eyes, was beautiful as she was brave.
When she and the man who was to be her husband
first met, her fine mass of hair was dyed the color of
straw, her laughter a bit hard and her slang ready
but when they had come through clean, one to the
other, the love between them had saved them both.
As poor Jim, dying in the agony of pneumonia, had
said, it was a matter only of which was wrongest,
NANCY PRESTON 25
with a woman it was a man and with a man money.
He had stood strongly championing Nancy the night
before they decided to get the license and plunge into
the cold and unfathomed depths of respectability.
She had not followed woman 's most ancient profession
steadily for a living, but only when all legitimate
means of getting her rent and food had failed. On
the other hand, Bill Preston was a igrade or two lower,
for it was not altogether through necessity that he
violated the laws. He wanted easy money.
The stately buildings of New York University came
in view. He turned north from Burnside avenue on
Aqueduct avenue toward the hospital. Trees and
green lawns, ovals for the sports of young men, snug
houses for the shelter of their teachers in the arts
and sciences, noble buildings turreting above the land-
scape, wherein was the peaceful quiet of people with
thoughtful minds, held him entranced. From Uni-
versity Heights he could see to the south the city lying
in a silver veil, long and narrow, a peninsula of roofs
from which pointed an occasional steeple mindful of
a world after this where the wicked cease from trou-
bling, according to Job, but where hell fire and real
trouble just begin for them, according to dogmatists
of various stripe to-day. The marts and habitations
of nearly six million people, with their hopes, sorrows,
sins, ambitions and disappointments, lay there in the
haze made by their own chimneys. Underground and
26 NANCY PRESTON
above ground and on the ground they hurried like
mad for a dollar or two, cheating each other, stealing
outright when they thought it safe, building up trick-
eries to get other people's money within the law if
they could, so that they might achieve "honor" as
well as wealth; the courts sat daily and even nightly
to untangle the poor fish from the heavy nets of the
police, and the dark streams to jails, prisons and mad-
houses ever grew wider ; the fish not yet caught in the
net leaped high in the sunlight and showed their splen-
did glitter and iridescence on Fifth avenue. Through
Eleventh avenue they ran in heavy shoals, some taking
the hook and bait and perishing and others not, but
none ever striking upward and out of the current to
the sunshine and luxury of six blocks east.
Michaelis was going back to this game. It did not
frighten him. It made him smile. Nancy and Bubs
would be glad to see him. He would have two people
in the world to help. The boy was six years old and
would be calling him Uncle Michael and perhaps would
really love him and put his little arms around his
neck and snuggle with him cheek to cheek.
He entered the office of the hospital and asked for
his information, his dignity of bearing and the kindli-
ness of his gray eyes getting him prompt service. He
was informed that William Preston had died in the
free ward three months before and the address of his
widow was given him. It was the same address
NANCY PRESTON 27
across the Harlem in the Inwood section. He was not
informed of the cause of Bill's death and thought it
better not to ask, as the office attendant evidently
thought him a person far from the humble if exciting
sphere his friend had occupied in life.
Three months. Nancy and Bubs could come pretty
near starving in that time, he thought, so he lost no
time in crossing Fordham bridge and finding the little
flat, three tiny rooms high up in a block of cheap
apartment houses. The name Preston was still on the
hall bell and he went up six flights of stairs with all
speed when an answering click came to his ring.
Her arms were bare and covered with soapsuds as
Nancy appeared in the door. All of the straw-col-
ored dye, save one streak above her right ear, had
worn itself out and the soft dark natural color of her
girlhood had returned. It did not bring into relief
with the same brilliant effect her blue eyes but it
made a different sort of beauty and a beauty sweeter
"Michael!" He was sprayed with soap and water
as her hands went up in astonishment and delight.
' ' How is the boy, Nancy ? " he asked.
She escorted him through a narrow hall to the
kitchen where steaming and well-filled washtubs in-
formed him how she was making a living.
"Bubs is sleeping," she told him. "He didn't
turn out a strong child. It's going to be a big fight
28 NANCY PRESTON
to save him. But he knows all about his Uncle Mi-
chael and he '11 be glad to see you when he wakes up. ' '
"And Bill? "he asked.
"I didn't write you." She studied his face for a
moment. "But you know. I got in word through
a visitor and it was passed along. I was afraid the
letter would be read, afraid they might follow you
after you got out and I knew you would find your way
back. ' ' She attacked the pile of washing with savage
energy but kept the story going rapidly, hiding her
tears from him as they splashed against the wringer
over which she bent.
"We had an awful time last winter," she said.
"Somebody down in Wall street wanted somebody
else's steamship lines or railroads and went out after
them. By the time he got what he wanted a dozen
banks were in trouble, some bank presidents gone to
Paris, business was upset, building was held up, the
flour market was cornered, the beef barons made up
their losses with a little addition to cheaper cuts and
. . . you know."
"And Bill couldn't get a job?"
"He could not. The boy was awful bad. He just
had to eat, Michael."
' ' Can you make me down a bed and give me a lodg-
ing as in the old times ? " he asked. " I '11 go out and
get something for lunch."
NANCY PRESTON 29
"You are sure you weren't followed?" she asked,
anxiously. "They never gave my Bill a chance."
"I think that I was," he replied, "but I lost the
shadow. ' '
She followed him to the door. Suddenly her
strength left her and the tears streamed down her
"Now, Nancy," he remonstrated. He put a hand
on her shoulder and kissed her on the cheek.
"They ain't tears, Michael," she smiled. "That's
perspiration. Hurry back."
GLOOMY COLE, sometimes called The Gloom,
Old Face, and Tombstone by his associates in
the employ of James Tierney, Incorporated, entered
the assembly room of his boss 's suite and made himself
as inconspicuous as possible among the many opera-
tives awaiting assignments to cases or the opportunity
to report on work done. He had taken time to go
by his lodging and lay aside the laborer's garb and
the I. W. W. badge with which he had hoped to trick
There was lots of time as far as he was concerned.
He would have gladly postponed his entrance into the
private office of "B. H.," as he referred to Tierney
in abbreviation of his old police sobriquet of Bone-
head, until the day of judgment.
Gloomy kept his ears cocked for information con-
cerning the mood of his employer. What he got was
not encouraging. The men leaving the inner sanctum
passed the word along that Bonehead was taking turns
at eating the carpet and gnawing the solid mahogany
"What's the trouble with him?" the man sitting
NANCY PRESTON 31
next to the depressed one asked one of these in-
"A guy he was just getting the goods on strong
gives him the slip this morning," was the reply.
"Himself?" asked Gloomy, hopefully.
"Give Tierney the slip?" gasped the operative.
"Not much. Nobody ever gives him the slip. It was
poor Willie Dunham got in wrong and he's been
The door of the private office flew open and Tier-
ney 's walrus-like face appeared in it. An eye long
trained for quick work swept the room and picked
out Cole. The jaw of the boss dropped in sur-
"Whatcher doin' there?" he demanded.
"Come to report," replied Gloomy, weakly.
Tierney closed the door behind his man and went
to his revolving chair at a flat-top desk.
As usual, the unfortunate Cole found himself sit-
ting with the sunlight shining full on his face while
his boss sat with the sun warming comfortably the fat
on his neck. There was no way to hide a lie from
him in that glare. He could catch the lightest change
of expression, the most fleeting shadow that might
come to the eyes of the man before him.
"I joined him just as he come out of Sing Sing and
32 NANCY PRESTON
we struck up a conversation on the way to the rail-
road sta ..."
"Where is he now?" broke in Tierney abruptly.
' ' We got on the train together and was talking when
he gave me a Turkish cigarette ..."
"I ask you where this gentleman crook with the
twisted brain who calls himself Michael Horgan is
now . . . this minute."
"And I took a few puffs and then." Gloomy Cole
opened his large hands and held them palm outward
toward his boss. Tierney knew what had happened.
"He doped you and got away."
' ' Did you give him the two hundred smacks expense
money I told Agnes to let you have ? ' ' asked Tierney,
leaning over and pretending to be in breathless
anxiety to get the money. "Did you hand it over
to him with our compliments and tell him J. Tierney
was hired by the bankers and jewelry makers and ice
cutters of Maiden Lane, New York City, New York,
U. S. A., to help along poor persecuted second term
burglars? Did yah?"
"When I woke up," answered the patient, broad-
faced operative, "I counted the money and found i
all there. And here it is." He slapped a wad of
ten twenty dollar bills on Tierney 's desk, paying not
the slightest heed to his ironical outbursts. Tierney
studied his man with interest. He might as well have
NANCY PRESTON 33
tried to get a rise out of the statue of Liberty with a
toothpick for a lever. Gloomy was a stolid one, his
own type of the old police days.
"I'm asking you if you can explain to me how it
was you ever got back here with those oak leaves?"
he begged, holding out the crisp yellow notes. "Did
you have a cop escort you?"
"I thought I'd hike back up the fine and inquire
at the stations around Tremont for him," Gloomy
continued, "but second thought brought me here to
ask you if you had any more dope about his people so I
might hunt for a line among them."
"Say, I could murder you for this fine piece of
work," snorted Tierney, "but it wouldn't do any
good and it would be too expensive, with Agnes com-
ing around for contributions for a floral wreath. I'm
going to keep you out after Horgan. There ain 't any
relatives I can find, for Horgan ain't his right name.
He's come from some high-and-mighties in this town
and they're laying low. Only once did any inquiry
come to the police about a man suiting his description
and that was made by a lawyer who for giving infor-
mation has a clam talking like a United States Sena-
tor when he 's wound up tight. That man would ache
all over if a judge compelled him to give a direct an-
swer to 'What's to-morrow?' '
"Gimme a tip on what to do, boss?" asked Gloomy,
relieved beyond measure.
34 NANCY PRESTON
"Git up to Sing Sing and find out all you can
about what Horgan done during his bit. He might
have trained himself for some outside job and that
would cut down the field some. Find out if he ever
wrote to anybody or got any letters. Find out every-
thing you can and then come back."
"Thank you." Gloomy twiddled his derby in his
fingers as he paused at the door. "I thought me job
"Don't mention it," replied Tierney. "If you
had more brains I would have fired you. But you've
learned your lesson. Next time you get on a subject
sink your teeth in like a bulldog and don 't let anything
shake you loose, hunger, cold, money, sleep, nothin'.
AT first Michael had dreams of a place in a drug
store. He tried every chemist's shop in the
Bronx without success although in several he could
have landed had he been able to give recommendations
as to his honesty.
"It's no easy job to break from one profession to
another, Nancy," he said one morning as he stared
out of the kitchen window across a descending plain
of tin roofs and jutting scuttles to the Hudson and the
high-rising Palisades on the Jersey side.
"I know it," she replied.
"Swedenborg even went so far as to establish class
circles in heaven," he mused aloud.
"Some of those foreigners are sure smart people,"
she agreed from the steam of the tubs. "In the old
days my man would generally bring in five or six of
them in the course of a year, Wops, Harps, Heinies,
and even a Chink once, a disciple of Confusion, I
think he said he was." She dried her hands and
arms and stirred a pot of oatmeal on the glowing stove.
"I think it was staring over there at the Palisades,"
he continued, "that made me think of Swedenborg.
In his work on 'Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell,'
he says that the angels of the Celestial Kingdom dwell
36 NANCY PRESTON
on the mountain tops; the merely second rate angels
occupy the hills and the what-you-might-call the scrub
angels, just as all we countless common people might
hope to get to be, dwell in places that appear like
ledges of stone. I rather like that idea, especially as
he points out that rocks signify Faith. ' '
Nancy waved back her tumbling hair with its sheaf
of straw and joined him for a moment at the window,
her cheeks filled with roses from the toil over stove
"We could be right comfortable over there," she
informed him, gazing wistfully at the great gray and
brown wall across the river. "Think of all the beau-
tiful country, the fresh air and fields over the top.
Bubs would be a little man inside of a year if we could
live in the open. If I owned as much land over there
as a table cloth would cover I'd make the table cloth
into a tent and off we'd go."
' ' Speaking of angels, high and low, large and small,
Nancy," he asked, his lean face illumined with a
smile, ' ' how is Bubs this morning ? ' '
"The oatmeal is ready and if you'll take it to him
you can find out yourself. ' '
With the oatmeal bowl, Michael tiptoed down a nar-
row hall to the door of a closet-like room. He gave
three slow raps and then two quick ones.
"Who goes there?" demanded a feeble voice.
"Brother Michaelis, who has traveled far."
NANCY PRESTON 37
"Have you the word and the countersign?"
"Give me the word."
"Allaeazar. Allacazam. Hokus-pokus. Conju-
"Enter with the countersign."
Bubsy had pulled himself up on one elbow and was
frowning toward the door. His curls stood up about
his little ears like the lather of a shampoo. His thin
face, white as paper, was as beautiful as the petal of a
freesia and his eyes were deeper blue than his mother's,
a true violet.
"Viands, Worshipful Sir," said the pilgrim, with a
"Gee!" The little lad fell back on his pillow, his
hands, like blue-veined marble, motionless. "I don't
feel hungry, Michaelis."
"But it's against the laws and orders of the broth-
erhood not to be hungry at eight in the morning,"
urged Horgan, gently. He sat on the edge of the
bed and lifted the boy in his left arm, feeding him the
first spoonful. "There's real cream for you! That
stuff would put fat on a tenpenny nail. And the
sun's shining outside. That's the boy. Clean it up
and lick the bowl and there '11 be no medicine go down
you to spoil it. Honor bright." He kept up the
liveliest patter until Bubs had cleaned the bowl and
was laughing as he allowed himself to be dressed.
38 NANCY PRESTON
Never did he slacken his flow of slang and elegant
phrases, mixed in a hodgepodge of nonsense and wis-
dom, but several times Michaelis bowed his head over
the little pipe-stem legs and his eyes became moist.
All the boy needed was plenty of good food and
plenty of fresh air to fight off the gnawing little white
devils in his veins, but everything else in the world
seemed easier to get than those two things. It was a
pity that burglars had never formed a benevolent and
protective association or a fraternal order with funds
to provide for the bereaved dependents of members In
good standing, he thought. Policemen had such an
organization and they were no less liable to sudden
"Did he eat it?" came from the mother down the
"He did, and polished the plate," called back Hor-
gan. "And now we are off for an elegant stroll down
by the river."
At the door of the flat Nancy gave him fifteen cents
and asked him to get a piece of chuck steak on the
way back for the boy's broth.
Michael laughed as he slipped the dime and nickel
into a pocket of his well worn but neat trousers.
"And go by that jewelry factory and see if there's
anything doing on that job," she suggested. "I feel
it in rny bones that there's a good salary coming to
you before long."
AFTER two hours they returned, Bubs on the
back of his faithful friend.
Brother Michaelis gave the three long and two
short knocks on the door and then getting on all fours,
with Bubs astride his back, pretended to be a knight's
charger, neighing and pawing and then romping into
the narrow corridor clear back to the kitchen.
"Where's the meat?" demanded Nancy.
"In the saddle bag," replied Bubs, pulling a small
package from his friend's pocket and dismounting.
Michael's long face was bright with smiles as he
rose and brushed off his knees. "And I landed the
job!" he announced. "Five dollars a day and only
eight hours work, half day Saturday and all day Sun-
day. The rest of our lives will be a picnic. And it
is a beautiful place to work in, bubbling pots of gold
and silver for plating, boxes of bright gems to set,
pink cotton and plush cases, rings and things every-
where, to be sold by the gross. And all I have to do
is to keep the machinery oiled and tuned up. It will
be having fun at thirty a week. ' '
Nancy was overjoyed by the news. Times had been
bitterly hard and for awhile she had feared that her
40 NANCY PRESTON
husband's old friend would never be able to find a
way of earning his living honestly. Her hands trem-
bled as she cut up the little piece of meat and prepared
Michael, staring out of the window toward the
Palisades, was even more grateful. "You know,
Nancy," he said slowly, "I think those scrub angels
of the rocky places have got a better chance than the
higher class angels of helping out the folks they left
behind. They're not so far away as the others. I
can imagine old Bill looking over the edge of a boulder
and straining his eyes in our direction. ' ' He glanced
around. Bubs had gone to another room. ' ' It might
sound ridiculous to some people to imagine a burglar
edging into heaven, but those people who think it
absurd have forgotten the last act of the Savior on
the Cross, His promise to the thieves on either side of
"Now we've got a good start to make something out
of Bubs and we'll just get down to the job and give
the world something worth while in him. He '11 square
our account with humanity."
' ' You Ve been a father to Bubs, ' ' she said. ' ' You 've
just snatched him from the grave and you know how
he loves you . . . more than he loves me. . . . You
couldn't do anything to set him back. Could you?"
"Nothing. And never could you, Nancy."
THE pantry of the Widow Preston fairly bulged
with good things to eat after Michael's second
pay day. With the third pay day, the three acquired
clothes and shoes and on the afternoon of the fourth
pay day they had a picnic on the Jersey side of the
river, crossing on the Dyckman street ferry. Summer
was advancing and the foliage crowning the Palisades
was thick and brilliant. They sought and found little
paths made by adventurous city youths which took
them high up the great wall cutting them off from
the wide-spreading country to the west. Michael,
with his long arms and legs, could have made the top
with ease, as many a boy from the Bronx and Harlem
had made it, but the cries of Bubs and his mother
brought him back to thrill them at the river's edge
with tales of great mountains and canyons he had
read of in his library days.
Color began to come to the cheeks of the lad. The
food and the fun and the fresh air were telling. Mi-
chael knew that if his financial status did not change,
the boy was saved and he had come to love him so
and to be loved so by him that he felt that were the
42 NANCY PRESTON
treasures of Golconda opened before him and all the
policemen and detectives in the world were in conven-
tion assembled at Omsk or some other such remote
place he would not have even the slightest desire to
consort with the old companions of earlier days. He
had finished with them.
He whistled and sang at his work and the foreman
of the factory liked him and trusted him. His higher
intelligence was recognized and he was advanced and
given a position in the shipping department at five
dollars more a week. Here he handled thousands of
dollars' worth of jewelry each day.
So far he had not come across any one who had
known him in the old times and his past life seemed
well buried. Away from work he was never without
his faithful little pilgrim, Bubs, and, save for their
little journeys to the further shore of the river, he
was content to remain close to their neighborhood.
The people crowding the little corner stores thought
he was the boy's father and he was happy to have them
The end of June had come. Toward the close of the
day's work, two strangers entered the factory and in-
quired for the general manager's office. They were
clean-shaven men approaching middle age, with a pe-
culiar turn of their palms backward as they walked
and with a heavy stride. They were so clearly the
physical type of New York detectives that had they
NANCY PRESTON 43
entered shouting aloud their occupation an experi-
enced crook could not have been better warned. One
was of Italian and one of Irish descent, an easy work-
ing team evidently. Michael Horgan knew them both,
Vegas and Murphy of the Bronx Bureau. He ducked
behind a pile of boxes instinctively. There could be
only one reason for their visit some one in the factory
had been stealing and although he was innocent of
any thought of wrong-doing Horgan realized that the
end of his little paradise was at hand. They knew
him and his record. There was time for him to reach
the flat and tell Nancy and the boy good-by. But he
dared not try it. The pay-master had his address, a
description of him would be easy to give, for his long
narrow face, his gangly structure, his ready smile, his
love for children and strays of all sorts, his amusing
patter and other idiosyncrasies marked him sharply
against the common run of the employees.
An ex-convict in a jewelry factory! He could
imagine Vegas and Murphy breaking the news to the
management. It was useless to remain. If all the
saints, celestial, middle-class and scrubs, came to his
assistance their evidence would be laughed to scorn
at police headquarters.
Bubs would be waiting for him in another hour.
He had promised him instruction in a new ritual,
that of the Legion of the Come-Back-and-Put-It -Over.
He managed to get his hat without any one seeing him
44 NANCY PRESTON
and to slip to the street. He coughed and struck
his chest several times to try and get rid of a hard,
choking feeling as he hurried in the opposite direction
from the homeward path he had trod so faithfully and
happily of late.
MICHAEL, giving his great experiment a fair
and honest start, had not tried to sail under
false colors with his first job. The firm employing
him had his name, Horgan, and his right address.
Vegas and Murphy would want no further evidence
than his two convictions. "Whoever had been doing
the stealing was safe from them. The big net would
be thrown out for the old brother of the Monastery
of La Trappe who had been a novice in the world
of honesty and respectability for a little while only
to be made the fox in a chase.
And what a net it was ! Michael knew the style of
its weaving, for he had studied it at close range. A
telephone message to detective headquarters would
send men with his description to every one of the great
city's outlets, men from the bureaus and police sta-
tions nearest the railroad terminals and steamship
lines, so that not a moment would be wasted. Every
platoon of city cops lined up for inspection and de-
tail for duty would be given that description and a
look at his photographs, full face and profile. In the
streets of New York ten thousand men would be on
the lookout for him. To the nearer cities in which he
46 NANCY PRESTON
might seek refuge, should he dodge through the first
lines successfully, telegraphic descriptions would be
rushed, to be followed later by printed matter ; incom-
ing trains in these cities would be watched. Mile by
mile the net would spread in all directions, finally tak-
ing in all cities, towns and villages large enough to
boast a shanty of a police station with a bulletin board
and then the little post-offices of hamlets would be
placarded with his photographs and a reward-offer
that would enlist the interest of bucolic cupidity.
For a time his heart was heavy as he thought of
Nancy and Bubs waiting in vain for him that evening.
He had made her give up the back-breaking washtubs
as a means of living and Nancy had responded to the
little measure of comfort and security against want as
a tired flower will to a cup of water. And Bubs!
Why, the lad had pink cheeks and round ones at that !
Good food and good fun with Uncle Michael had ral-
lied the army of red corpuscles within him and the
dreadful white hordes were in fast retreat. He would
miss his mother's laugh of happiness as much as he
would the joy of his namesake's companionship.
But there would be a far worse state of affairs for
them if the pack struck his trail and ran him to earth.
Three strikes and out, he remembered, was the rule
for burglars. He was brought to full realization of
his peril, as he hurried through side streets toward the
Hudson river, by catching a glimpse of a familiar
NANCY PRESTON 47
back in a little crowd leaving the subway station at
Dyckman street. On stepping from the curb, the man
turned his head to watch for passing vehicles with the
unconscious swiftness which is the possession of the
New Yorker. It was the broad-faced shadow he had
put to sleep in the coach coming down from Ossining.
He drew to cover and watched him. He hurried east
in the direction of the jewelry factory. Three men
who knew him were already on the job.
The safest outlet from the city was the Dyckman
street ferry to the Jersey side. If he kept away from
Englewood, the nearest city of any considerable size,
with its one police station, he would be comparatively
safe from the placarding for time enough, perhaps,
in which to change his appearance with a beard and a
different style of clothes and headgear. It was the
season of the year when labor was in demand for sub-
urban building. He might find a hiding place along
the wooded Palisades and with it a job upon which he
could sustain himself. To get in touch with Nancy
was a matter that required the most careful thought,
for her mail would be watched closely and her every
step dogged for weeks if not months to come.
A few yards from the ferry he got a lift from the
driver of a motor truck, slipped him his fare and a
half dollar and remained hidden under the hood until
the river was crossed and the winding ascent of the
cliffs made safely. There was no one in sight as he
48 NANCY PRESTON
dropped from the front of the vehicle and started
northward along the road close to the precipice.
Although he did not know it, he had crossed the
State line between New Jersey and New York, run-
ning east of the old town of Tappan, when night came,
and was back in the jurisdiction of his pursuers when
he looked about for a place to sleep. A tiny village,
far from the Northern Railroad, which runs through
the valley .lying west of the Palisades, dozed in the
pleasant early summer evening. From its perch high
above the gently flowing stream, which pays no heed
to either the shadows of New York's bridges and the
careless dead from its gutters or the beauty of the
shore of the Sleepy Hollow land, the little gathering
of friendly houses looked across to Dobbs Ferry. A
bell tolled solemnly the news that it was eight o'clock
and time for the meeting at the fire house or the
church. Dogs bayed the sound.
Michael made a detour and as the stars reached their
fullest brilliance and a meteor burned a pencil's path
across the vast he found shelter in a little summer
house tucked between two great gray boulders. Pull-
ing his coat about his ears he stretched out on a bench
to sleep with the scrub angels, the smile coming back
to his lean countenance as he thought that the spirit
of Bill might be nigh.
THE sun and the matin chorus of the birds awak-
ened him. The morning was faultless; the sky
as beautifully blue as Nancy 's eyes ; the river a broad
band of silver ribbon ; dew glistened on the leaves of
the trees and the petals of daisies while the golden
buttercups brimmed with it ; a humming bird, a shim-
mer of green satin, paused in the air on its thunder-
ing wings to empty one of the exquisite goblets; a
friendly chipmunk sat upright on a rock near Michael
and gave him a look of approval. He brushed out
his clothes and took a careful survey of the territory.
To the south was the tiny village he had detoured.
To the north an Italian villa in process of building.
Nearer him were the overgrown foundations of a coun-
try house that had been destroyed by fire. The little
structure in which he had taken shelter had belonged
to it. Evidently no one ever visited this little refuge,
unless the birds could be counted on as visitors. Their
homes were tucked in all corners of it and the cheep of
their fledglings could be heard demanding breakfast.
With a blanket and a pillow, a pail for water, a towel
and soap he could live well there until winter came.
50 NANCY PRESTON
Willow branches could be woven into a fine wall
against wind and rain on the weather sides.
A steam whistle clamored from the direction of the
new country seat and it was time for him to go and ask
for a job. He found that, because of the isolation of
the site, the contractor was having great trouble in
keeping enough men on his pay roll to carry the
building along on schedule. He hailed Michael gladly.
Was he a skilled worker? Could he use trowel and
mortar board? Michael was sure that he could lay
mortar with the next man. He might be slow and
bungling the first day or two but after that he would
be all right. He had been sick a long time, he said,
but was well and strong again. He was hired on the
A boy in primary school can learn to use a plumb
line and level in a day. Michael learned it in an hour
and when the whistle blew at twelve o'clock he was
laying brick with speed and skill and a light heart
although his fingers were bleeding and his back ached
a little. Mortar smeared his clothes and hat and little
splashes of it were on his face. He was glad of it.
He hurried down the road to the little village, found
its store and laid in a stock of provisions that would
last him several days. He was already established in
the neighborhood as one of the workmen "up the
road." His passport was the mortar on his face,
hands and clothes. Toil with the hands and the marks
NANCY PRESTON 51
of it will admit honest man or knave unquestioned to
The contractor was a kindly but shrewd man. Most
of the laborers working for him came from distant
towns and that meant time out of bed not paid for.
They were sullen in consequence. Michael was smil-
ing and eager for the task and always the first man
on the job.
"If you have any relatives would like to work on
this job," the contractor said one day to him, "bring
them along and as sure as my name is Dan Burns
they'll work for me until I croak. I've got jobs
enough to last until the snow flies."
Burns watched the new mason tap a brick neatly
down in the mortar as he waited for an answer. Mi-
chael was about to tell him that he had no relatives
when a plan for getting in touch with Nancy entered
1 ' I only have a sister, ' ' he replied. ' ' She 's a widow
with a boy six years old and needs work. She 's a fine
laundress and housekeeper."
"I have a job waiting for her at home," replied
Dan Burns. "If she is a steady worker she'll be a
member of the family for life and never know want."
"I'll try and get her address," Michael told him.
"It may take a little while, though.'*
Every night for more than a week he studied the
problem of getting in touch with Nancy without giv-
52 NANCY PRESTON
ing his pursuers a chance to strike his trail. It would
have to be tried some time, for she and the boy would
need the money he could earn and send them by a
plan yet to be devised. Once he ground his teeth and
clenched his fist in his refuge among the rocks as he
thought of Bubs losing what he had gained in his
fight against the little white devils in his blood. The
law asked too much when it demanded his clean little
life. He and Nancy were legitimate game for the
hunt but poor little Bubs ! In a large school pad he
had bought in the village store he wrote down ' ' Some
of the greatest handicaps to the pursuit of human hap-
piness are those caused by lack of vision. The law
has no vision, no foresight; only hindsight. It is a
rigid thing, a very thick wall with each brick a su-
preme court decision laid carefully on the foundation
of the ten commandments and the additional com-
mandments reaching up to the last thin layer of city
ordinances saying: 'Thou shalt not carry a lighted
cigar, pipe or cigarette in the subway,' and 'Thou
shalt not throw waste paper in the streets. ' ' '
Thinking that his great experiment promised well,
that he would be given a chance to go straight and
serve some good purpose in the world after having
paid his debt, he had spent most of the money earned
in the jewelry factory on much needed comforts. The
two people in the world he loved and was loved by
would soon be in want. His week 's pay burned in his
NANCY PRESTON 53
pocket. He dared not mail it from the village and
he dared not travel any distance in order to mail it
from some other town. There was one way. Bill
Preston's way in the old days, a code message through
the personal column of the one New York paper which
Nancy read. He could send such a message with the
money to pay for it and have Dan Burns mail it for
him when he reached the city. It would be impossible
for the detectives to trace this, he felt sure.
The next evening he gave Burns the letter to the
business office of the newspaper and asked him to mail
it when he was on his way home in his machine.
NANCY PRESTON'S little Bronx flat was amply
covered for the police department by Vegas and
Murphy, plain clothes men with a fine record for team
work. For James Tierney, Incorporated, Gloomy
Cole and another operative took the job in eight-hour
shifts. It was only a matter of patience, a little ex-
pense money and salary day coming around regularly.
"If Gloomy had only held on to that Horgan guy,"
reflected Tierney, comfortable in his private office in
the skyscraper section of New York, "the Bronx
Jewelry Makers Corporation wouldn't have given a
good job to a two-term man."
"And they one of our best regular customers,"
added Agnes Doherty, beside him with pad on her
knee and vanity bag handy.
"And putting him in the shipping department!"
exclaimed "B. H." "All he had to do there was
to change the address of the largest shipment so a pal
could gather it in. By the time the express company
unwound enough red tape to start looking for it other
shipments would have followed and then Horgan
would have strolled on to the next bunch of Incorpo-
rated suckers. ' '
NANCY PRESTON 55
"But we got the woman," hopefully reminded
' ' Oh, yes. And a pretty one, too. There never was
a likelier one stepped Sixth avenue of an evening.
She with her straw-colored hair shining out through
fog, snow or rain and showing off her blue eyes under
the sailor hat. Some girl, Nancy, and she was the
last one you'd think would quit the game and go
straight as a string. We used to watch her on account
of Bill Preston. But she married Bill. And it shows
you, Agnes, how careful you got to be in this busi-
ness. Even when the two of them was living on the
square we kept tabs on Bill and so when he started
crooked again we were right there with him and got
him. We got him!"
"He's off the books now, isn't he?" she asked.
Tierney swung in his chair and stared from his
sunlit window out beyond Manhattan Island to the
bay where silver heels were kicking between the Bat-
tery and Liberty. Sure, Bill Preston was off the
books, he reflected, but it was his own fault. He
pulled his gat when cornered.
"Anything else?" asked Agnes, folding up her note
"Nuthiny he grunted, but stirred himself from
his reflections before she reached the door and shouted
to her to wait a minute.
56 NANCY PRESTON
"You got the personals clipped?" he asked.
"Bring 'em in and I'll look 'em over."
Pasted on separate clips of paper, the personal ad-
vertisements printed in each morning paper were laid
before him. He began a careful study of each, check-
ing it off as he hunted what might be a hidden message
from one crook to another. Out of the crop he got one
that held him. It read:
"Straw. Dan fires. Houses of Harlem.
Home. Ting-a-ling. Housekeeper. Uncle."
For a long time Tierney stared at the little two-line
advertisement, pawing with a mighty right hand at
his bristles. Then he clipped it clear of the others
and pasted it on a sheet by itself. "Have I got
something ? " he asked himself, repeating the words of
the code slowly. Again he swung in his chair and
stared out at the dancing silver heels with unseeing
eyes, his fat fingers laced behind his round reddish-
' ' Straw ! " he shouted finally. ' ' That 's her. Nancy
Preston with her straw-colored hair. Bill used to
call her that. Straw! That's Nancy! Uncle!
Maybe the kid called Horgan that. Maybe he did.
That's just what a kid would call his dad's friend
living in the same house." A smile of happiness
came to his lips. He was beginning to feel as if he
NANCY PRESTON 57
would show results to another client who paid him an-
nually a good fat retainer for keeping the gentlemen
of the night from taking his pretty things. "Now
then. ' ' He came out of his doping stage and began to
reason the possible relativity of this jumble of words
to conditions surrounding Nancy and Michael.
Dan fires. . . . What was Dan firing? They were
not in the arson line, just plain burglary. Fires stood
for a name. It might be Burns. Houses of Harlem.
... It was an address Michael was sending, but there
were lots of houses in Harlem and that meant nothing
in the way of direction. Perhaps it was Dan Burns'
business. He might be a builder in Harlem. Home.
Ting-a-ling. . . . That was easy. It meant, "Look
up his home in the telephone book."
He acted on the advice and found Dan Burns,
Builder, in the book, his office address and number
and also his home address and number.
"I guess we'll get Mr. Horgan," he said as he
hurled the telephone directory into a corner of the
room, his soul exulting.
ONE day, while Michael was anxiously waiting
results of his attempt to get in touch with
Nancy, Dan Burns gave him the plans of the villa
and asked him to take the place of his foreman who
had failed to show up.
"Eight here is where we've got to do careful work,"
he advised over the ground floor drawings. ' ' In this
wall of the sitting room you see what looks like a
closet. Well, it ain't a closet. The door will be hid-
den and only the plain blank wall will show. It's a
hiding place for the old geezer's money and silver
and diamonds. The owner of this house is taking
no chances with burglars and he is one of these old
misers who likes to have a fortune in cash stored away
in case all the banks go wrong or there's a revolution
or anything like that. The door swings open at the
touch of a button and a little conduit protects the
wires so they'll be safe from mice and wear and tear.
The button sets in the wall over here under the wall
paper and I guess he aims to hang a picture over the
spot to guard against somebody accidentally touching
it. Nearly all these fine houses have a vault like this
NANCY PRESTON 59
but generally they depend on the old-fashioned tum-
blers to open and shut it. ' '
Michael followed the contractor closely and prom-
ised to put the finishing touches on the job him-
"This is a remote place to have a lot of money
stored," he suggested.
"If he had any brains he'd leave it all in his New
York bank, ' ' laughed Burns, ' ' but this old money hog
has been at the grabbing game so long that he can't
go a day without the feel of the stuff in his hands.
Honest. I been to see him about this house dozens of
times. He's got a private office where he can watch*
his cashier all during business hours and his eyes and
mouth water whenever two gold pieces clink together.
Down in "Wall street they say he's so rich he couldn't
begin to figure out where he stands."
"I don't envy him."
"Me either. But I'm doing all I can to relieve
him of some of the load. ' '
The contractor was turning away when he remem-
bered something. "Your sister was on the telephone
this morning and I come near forgetting to tell you,"
he said. Michael hid his anxiety with an effort.
"She's coming around to-night to talk with my wife
about the job. I hope she takes it. If you want to
send her any message you'd better write it out for I
might forget it."
60 NANCY PRESTON
"Thank you. I'll write one for you before we
knock off. I'd like to send her some money."
As he worked on the vault for the Wall street man,
Michael gave careful thought to the form of the letter
he would write Nancy. His heart, at times, beat very
fast. She was so brave and kind, so wholesome and
sweet, despite all the past. Struggle and sorrow had,
indeed, brought out the gold within her. The dross
had been burned away in the furnace. And Bubs,
the very thought of the lad, brought a hint of tears to
his eyes. How the boy adored him !
At noon he hurried to his summer house refuge and
wrote this letter which he sealed with all his cash and,
later, gave to the contractor.
' ' Burn this as soon as you read it. Do not, by
any means, take it a step from the house. Chew
it and swallow it if necessary. I am working
for Mr. Burns out in New Jersey, not far away,
but it is too early yet for us to try and see each
other. The bulls are hard after me. Some one
in the jewelry factory was a thief and the mo-
ment I saw the men from headquarters enter the
place I knew they would hold me on the two old
convictions. Even if there was a chance of my
winning in court the odds were too great to risk,
a life term if convicted. So I had to get away
in a hurry. Take the place with Mr. Burns. I
am going to do the best I can to shake myself
free and if I do am going to try for a degree in
medicine in some distant city and start prac-
NANCY PRESTON 61
tising. I don't know whether it pays to try to
help the souls of people. Perhaps they haven't
got any. But I'll know about that when my
great experiment is ended and may write down
the result. I know that you will not believe me
guilty for a moment. Don 't try to get in touch
with me. Take the job and hang to it for the
boy 's sake. Press him to your breast for me, my
dear, my dear."
That night he went to the edge of the high cliff and
strained his eyes to the south where the lights of New
York made a great white blister in the sky, shutting
off the stars above.
JAMES TIERNEY, Incorporated, put two men on
the house of Daniel Burns, Builder. It was no
mean house, for the Burns family had prospered.
They had long passed the apartment stage of existence
and their residence, in what might be called a fashion-
able section of the upper West Side, often boasted
its line of automobiles when Mrs. Burns entertained.
Her guests, occasionally noted in the Sunday news :
papers under the discreet general heading of "Fur-
ther Happenings in Society," to distinguish their so-
cial caliber from events of like nature given by the
Fifth avenue folk, included such notables as Supreme
Court Justice Felix Muldoon, Surrogate Francis X.
Muldoon, City Chamberlain Grattan Muldoon, Com-
missioner of Charities Aloysius Clancey, Coroner's
Physician Martin Lacey and always, bringing up the
end magnificently, City Magistrate De Peyster Schuyl-
kill, of the true Knickerbocker strain, a part of whose
obligation to Tammany was social.
Mrs. Burns even knew some of the most widely ad-
vertised celebrities of the divorce courts by their first
names and had served on committees with them, her
name being printed with theirs. Daniel didn 't mind,
NANCY PRESTON 63
for he liked all humanity in his big way, unless it was
of the Reform element in politics, and, with his ad-
vancing fortunes had bought his wife "a truck load"
of silver for the table and a van load of large hats
and highly colored gowns for her wardrobe.
Tierney chuckled when his man Gloomy Cole re-
ported that "Straw" Nancy had taken a job as house-
keeper with the Daniel Burnses, had sold out her few
household belongings, given up her little flat and
washtubs and with her boy was snugly sheltered on the
top floor of the contractor's home.
Nancy had managed to give the slip to the head-
quarters men, Vegas and Murphy, but not to Gloomy,
who had to redeem himself for the cigarette episode.
This pleased Tierney. He could now lead the hunt
with his own pack without fear of having his trails
"Agnes," he laughed, "I knew Daniel Burns when
he was just Danny Burns with one horse and a small
truck hardly big enough to carry a half dozen two-by-
fours. Some morning he'll wake up with his St.
Patrick's Day silk hat and his wife's tarara gone,
along with all the gold dishes and Bedelia's grand
opera jewels worth the ransom of a United States
consul in Mexico."
"They do fly high, don't they?" Agnes joined his
"They do," he agreed, "but their engine is skip-
64 NANCY PRESTON
ping and if they ain 't careful they '11 make an expen-
sive landing. There was never a better lay-out for a
big job. A jane inside and a gun outside. Believe
you me, I'm going to close in on 'em right now.
Gimme me derby. ' ' He reached in the top right hand
drawei of his desk and lifted out an automatic which
he slipped in his hip pocket.
"Gimme that list of contracts Danny is putting
through," he ordered as he placed his hat at a slight
angle before a wall mirror. "Tell old Texas Darcy
to pack his gun and get down in the runabout. If I
ain't mistaken that Italian villa over in Jersey is
about where we'll get Mr. Horgan."
"Is he desperate?" asked Agnes.
"Dunno, yet. But he'll have to go some to beat
Texas to it. I Ve seen that old crap shooter roll a tin
can up the road with his gat. Good-by, Agnes. I'll
telephone you when to tell Gloomy to walk in on Mrs.
Burns and break the news to her and take 'Straw'
Nancy to the West Hundredth street station."
A SENSE of neatness as well as of economy made
Michael purchase a pair of working trousers
and a flannel shirt in the village. The suit in which
he had escaped from the jewelry factory he cleaned
as best he could and folded away in waterproof sheath-
ing paper under the bench in the abandoned summer
house. Later, when the time came for him to make a
start for some distant city, he would have money
enough to equip himself with the proper garments.
But that time would not be until the pictures of him-
self placarding police stations and postoffices had
grown dim and cops and cupidous people had wearied
of looking at them. His beard was of slow growth
and thin and seemed rather to accentuate his lean dis-
tinguished features than to blur them.
The day before he was to receive his first communi-
cation from Nancy was a Sunday. After making him-
self some coffee in the shelter of the donkey engine,
used in hoisting stone lintels into place as the villa
rose under the hands of his fellow masons, he ex-
plored carefully the brink of the Palisades. Intuition
or the natural caution of the hunted animal made him
seek an avenue of escape that would not be known to
66 NANCY PRESTON
possible pursuers. There were no little paths down
the steep precipice to the river like those that he and
Bubs had found near the Dyckman ferry. The black
rock jutted out here and there in ledges to which one
might leap if desperately driven, places where eagles
could find refuge but not man. At the forge, where
the tools of the workmen were sharpened, he could
fashion a grappling hook and, with a rope attached,
he might manage to descend to the base of the cliff.
He determined to try his hand at this during the com-
ing week. He returned to his shelter and spent the
day writing in his school pad. One passage he
scratched out and then wrote in again : "The hunt
is the oldest of the sports of man. If it so deadens
a human being's sensibilities that he can kill with
joy a she-bear or doe, harmless in its own wild sur-
roundings, and deprive its young of the mother 's milk,
what must it do to him who hunts his own kind ? ' '
In the evening he watched the reflection of the sun-
set over the mansioned hills of Dobbs Ferry and Tar-
rytown, beheld the pale stars appear between little
clouds with golden edges against the deepening blue
and listened to the evening songs and, later, the bed
calls of the birds. As night came and the chorus of
insects stridulated on the summer air he turned his
face southward and stared at the white apophysis in
the sky above New York. The blister whitened and
widened as the full glare of the countless lights of the
NANCY PRESTON 67
city of six million was achieved. Far below him the
placid Hudson reflected the stars; back of him
stretched a belt of heavily wooded land and beyond
this the spreading acres of the open, starlit, fragrant,
peaceful, where were the friendly lights of cottage
He returned to the willow thatched shelter between
the boulders and, not daring to use a light for fear of
attracting the attention of some village couple caught
in the gossamer net of love, stretched on his bench and
slept with his "scrub angels."
The morning air, when he jumped to his feet with
the first beam of the sun, was heavy with the incense
of growing, blossoming things. The blood tingled in
his veins and he could not but think of the contrast
of a free life in the open and the life behind stone
and steel a little way up the river. If men inclined
to offend the laws, he thought, could but realize what
they had in the earth itself, the sky, the stars, the
wind and rain, the sunrises and sunsets, the glorious
trees and pleasant fields, healthy, simple tasks await-
ing them on every hand, and then imagine the shift
to a cell, a constant gray light, toil without remunera-
tion, the shuff-shuff-shuff of thousands of feet over
the stone floors to and from the cell corridors, to eat,
to work, to sleep, there would be no deliberate crime.
A shudder passed through him. It would be worse
than death, and the big net from police headquarters
68 NANCY PRESTON
by this time had been spread the country over to catch
his fleeing feet, trip him and hold him until the courts
sent him back for life. For life !
The whistle of the donkey engine took him to his
task on the villa, now risen a story and a half with
its miser's vault all finished save for the placement
of the secret door.
Burns came out from the city early and with a grin
of delight handed him a note. It was from Nancy.
"She's doin' fine," he informed him, "an' we couldn't
get along without her. ' '
It was too early for her to run such a chance, Mi-
chael thought, as he drew aside from the other workers
and opened the envelope. He read with quick glances
over his shoulder from time to time :
"For God's sake beat it. The house is
watched. The bulls may follow Mr. Burns any
day. I thought I had lost them. I know you 're
running straight. Don 't worry about me. Just
get away from there. Bubs is fine but if they
get you it will kill me.
Down the highway from the village came at high
speed a runabout. Before Michael could seek cover,
it was in the road leading up to the house and within
a few feet of him. A heavily built man with bristly
mustache and reddish hair touche? with gray was
NANCY PRESTON 69
standing with the door open, searching every work-
man's face. The other, trim of build, of fair com-
plexion and with sharp rat-like features, had hopped
from behind the wheel to the ground.
"There he is!" Tierney's heavy forefinger was
leveled straight toward Michael.
"T X THAT'S all this?" shouted Dan Burns. His
V V workmen dropped their tools to gape at the
little drama unfolding before them.
' ' Git 'em up ! Git 'em up ! " shouted Texas Darcy,
his nervous cigarette stained fingers twitching as he
pushed an automatic against Michael's stomach. His
sharp features were tight with an eagerness to slay.
Michael's answer was to seize his wrist and twist
the weapon aside as he fired. With the report, Tier-
ney dropped in his seat in the runabout, his face white,
a stream of blood coursing from a wound in the right
jaw. The bullet had struck a rock and in its deflec-
tion had grazed the detective. Michael and Tierney 's
man went to the ground in a clinch, the workmen
scattering out of range. As they fought, Michael for
his life and Darcy to free his pistol hand, Tierney re-
covered from the shock of his wound and, drawing his
pistol, slid from the machine to hurl his igreat weight
into the fray.
Burns was no coward and although he knew Tier-
ney and his business he was not the kind of man to
stand by and see murder done in the name of the law.
"Just a minute!" he cried, catching Darcy by the
NANCY PRESTON 71
back of the neck and dragging him from Michael's
arms. "Git back there, Jim!" Tierney, dazed by
the fury that had swept over him with the warm flow
of blood, obeyed and the contractor protected Michael
from further attack. Tierney pulled a pair of hand-
cuffs from his coat pocket. "I got a warrant for this
thief," he panted. "You're making a mistake,
Danny. If he wants to resist, we're here to give him
There wasn't the faintest chance of escape. Mi-
chael held out his hands and in a second the steel
bracelets were snapped on his wrists. Darcy threw
open the rumble seat of the car and motioned the
prisoner to get in beside his employer. "And if you
as much as turn your head," he warned, "I'll put a
bullet through the base of your skull. ' ' Tierney
wiped the blood from his cheek and threw in his
"Mr. Burns!" Michael called to the contractor.
"Give her a fair chance, won't you? Before God I'm
"Your sister?" he asked.
"Sister!" laughed Tierney. "Say, Danny Burns,
that woman in your house ain't his sister. She's an
old timer and so is this guy. But you won't have to
bother about that. She won't be there when you get
home. I'll want you as a witness to-morrow morn-
72 NANCY PRESTON
"I don't know anything about either of them," re-
"But you saw the fight he put up, I .guess," re-
minded Tierney, "and a little charge of felonious as-
sault goes along with this robbery case, I guess. ' '
The machine was off in a cloud of dust for the
ferry, Darcy reminding Michael of his peril by occa-
sionally touching him between the shoulders with his
pistol. At the Fort Lee ferry house Tierney hand-
cuffed his prisoner to Darcy while he telephoned
"Tell Cole to git Straw Nancy around to the sta-
tion on a charge of aiding and abetting or something
like that," he instructed his secretary. "If Mrs.
Burns makes a row just break the news to her that
she's an old customer. Maybe if Gloomy tells her to
look at that yellow streak in her hair she'll be able
to dope it out."
EXCEPT for such minor details as preventing
Michael Horgan from getting bail and arrang-
ing the evidence for the district attorney's office,
Gloomy Cole, when he was informed of the arrest, felt
assured that the clean-up of the case would come with
the locking up of Nancy Preston. It had been a long
watch and when he received the word from Tierney's
office to "make the collar" he stepped to the task
with a lighter heart than his wide and dismal counte-
nance could possibly suggest.
All afternoon there had been visitors to the Burns'
home, for it was the receiving day of the contractor's
wife. Tammany's elite had rolled up and entered
and lively music from the open windows of the draw-
ing room told of dancing and a merry enough party.
In the forenoon an expressman had called for the
family baggage and it was evident that the next day
would see Mrs. Burns and her two half-grown daugh-
ters off to the seashore. Trailing the tribe in its
hegira would not have been so simple a job. Cole
was grateful that his chief had closed in on his man
and with his usual efficiency was putting the ease
74 NANCY PRESTON
safely away for the summer months at any rate. With
the court recesses coming on, there would be no chance
of a trial before autumn, but the clever gentleman
burglar who had doped him with a cigarette would be
safe in the Tombs for the interim and probably Nancy
Preston as snugly put away.
The butler was serving refreshments when Gloomy
pressed the button at the head of the brownstone steps.
Nancy, in a maid 's dress, a bit of lace resting as lightly
as a white butterfly in her brown hair, her blue eyes
as clear and bright as those of a girl of sixteen, an-
swered the door. She recognized the shadow immedi-
ately and knew that Michael had not gotten her warn-
ing in time. Her first thought was of Bubs, playing
in her comfortable room on the top floor. She had
just left him, after slipping from her duties for a
moment to put her arms about his little body and steal
a kiss. If this sinister looking man took her away,
what would become of him? Panic came to her
heart and she stood staring at Tierney's operative
with pitifully white face, her knees shaking under her.
"What is it, please?" she managed to ask. For
answer he moved his coat slightly so that she could
see the badge pinned beneath it.
"Who do you want to see?"
"I want you to come with me," he said. "There
ain't no use in making trouble. Get your hat and
NANCY PRESTON 75
take off your apron. There's a man on the job back
of the house. You can't get away."
"Me?" she asked. "What have I done? I'm
working here for a living for my little boy and my-
"Interfering with the due process of law," he an-
swered glibly enough. "Helping a burglar to get
away. Better come along without making a row."
Nancy held herself to her feet by clinging to the
edge of the open door. "For Christ's sake," she
pleaded, "have some heart. I've been a clean honest
woman for seven years. If you lock me up what will
my little boy do ? He isn 't strong like most children.
If you separate him from me it will put him in his
grave. You'll murder him . . . you'll murder him."
The tears were flowing down her cheeks as she looked
in vain for a sign of compassion in the face of the
man in the door. Suddenly a black curtain fell be-
fore her eyes and she dropped to the floor of the
"Hey!" called Cole as the butler entered the hall*
"Get Mrs. Burns quick. I don't want to break up no
"What's the matter?" the butler demanded, pick-
ing up Nancy in his arms.
"I'm arresting this woman. Take her in that room
back there and call the missus." He pointed to a
76 NANCY PKESTON
little cubby hole at the end of the hall where Dan
Burns was wont to welcome the less socially ambitious
of his friends.
In a few moments the contractor 's wife joined them,
Cole closing the door behind her.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Burns," he began, "but I've got
this girl under arrest and she's fainted."
"Under arrest?" she repeated. "What has she
done?" Nancy lay like a dead woman on a lounge
against the wall.
"She's mixed up with a burglar named Mike Hor-
gan," Cole explained.
"A burglar!" Mrs. Burns was horrified. The
music of the dance and the laughter of her guests
came faintly to them through the heavy mahogany
door. "This is horrible!" she whispered. "My
guests cannot be offended with such an intrusion.
Get her out of here as quickly as possible. Take her
downstairs and out at the servants' door. Quick
about it." Her anger began to rise. "And if you
bungle the job Mr. Burns will have to know the rea-
son why," she warned.
"She'll come around in a minute, ma'am," said the
butler, loosening Nancy's waist and chafing her
wrists. Cole's prisoner opened her eyes slowly and
closed them again. A moan escaped her bloodless
"Can you sit up now, Nancy?" asked the butler.
NANCY PRESTON 77
She struggled to an elbow and looked about her.
"Where's my Bubsy?" she asked faintly. "I was
dreaming something happened to him."
"He's all right." The butler helped her to a sit-
"What's the matter?" she asked and then, catch-
ing sight of Cole, she remembered and turned in an
appeal to the mistress of the house. "He's taking
me away and I haven't done anything; not a thing,
ma'am. Before God, I'm a clean straight woman.
If they lock me up what '11 happen to my boy?"
Under her fine clothes and the hardly acquired
polish of her prosperous days, the mother instinct in
Mrs. Burns was stirred. She turned to Cole. "This
girl has been a faithful worker and is honest as far as
I know," she said.
"Maybe," agreed Cole, "but she's been running
with an old burglar and the two of them might have
cleaned out the house any time if we hadn't been
"I can hardly believe that."
"It's a lie, Mrs. Burns," sobbed Nancy.
"And she's an old street- walker besides. They
used to call her Straw Nancy." Cole annihilated any
remote chance of Nancy getting help from her mis-
tress. "See, there's some of the yellow dye still in her
hair. Not much," he added, "but there's enough to
show you why she got that name."
78 NANCY PRESTON
"A street- walker!" The mistress of the house
thought of her two girls. ' ' Get her out of here ! ' '
"But my little boy, Mrs. Burns," begged Nancy,
falling to her knees.
"We'll attend to that," Cole said, picking her up
and half carrying her to the stairs leading to the
basement. "I'll take him around to the Gerry So-
ciety." One of his hands went quickly over her face
to stifle the scream of despair this news would cause.
In the humble walks of New York City life, where the
love-tie is powerful between mother and child, strong
through all vicissitudes and even viciousness, fear of
this institution is greater than the fear of death.
Nancy fought like a tigress for her whelp until once
again the merciful black curtain descended. In a
taxi, the stolid, efficient, emotionless operative of
James Tierney, Incorporated, bolstered the senseless
form of the mother in a corner and took her to the
Burns family went to their cottage by the
* sea for the hot July and August weather, all ex-
cept Danny, who put off his vacation until the splen-
did villa on the brink of the Palisades opposite Dobbs
Ferry was ready for its owner, who was eager to spend
the autumn on his new estate.
The rusty Criminal Courts building on Centre
street, in downtown New York, was practically de-
serted, save for the idlers in the pay of the city and
county subpo3na servers, coroners' clerks, janitors,
slovenly and insolent elevator men, a handful of news-
paper reporters and copy boys and a drifting stream
of anxious men and women concerned with the fate
of loved ones hopelessly lost in overcrowded dockets
while the judges were away resting. The broad stairs
and dark floors of the cracked and seamed temple of
justice gathered dirt and rubbish and the evil odor of
uncleanliness. The talk in the corridors was of politics
of assembly district and precinct caliber and of small
jobs. The eloquence of street cleaners and sewer men,
of rum-smelling heelers and henchmen, freighted with
filthy words, rose high. In the Tombs, joined to the
building by the Bridge of Sighs, Brother Michaelis of
80 NANCY PRESTON
the Convent of La Trappe was kept close to his cell
with a minimum of exercise on warning from Police
Headquarters that he was "a bad actor." Not many
blocks away Nancy Preston was held a prisoner in the
House of Detention, a place especially designed for
people against whom the Criminal Statutes might not
be invoked directly but whose freedom might cause
worry to those engaged in preparing prosecutions for
the fall term of court. It kept the bandage over the
eyes of Justice tilted upward just a little on one side.
A little further uptown and still east of Broadway,
Bubs was a prisoner in the care of the Children's So-
ciety pending the return to the city of the summer
swallows. Everybody who was anybody had igone to
the sea or the mountains. The nobodies fell into the
lock-step of Manhattan at the rush hours as usual
and at night panted and sweated at open windows or
on fire escapes. Some of the more desperate, down in
the East Side, slept on the sidewalks after midnight,
their young offspring stark naked beside them.
Nancy cried for her little lad until her heart was
left dry and hard. Then she sat still and white save
when a sigh too deep for her strength of body and
soul threw her into a spell of trembling and set her
pretty face twitching.
At the beginning of September came a welcome re-
liet. The House of Detention received for safe-keep-
ing a gorgeously dressed and painted female of care-
NANCY PRESTON 81
fully concealed middle-age. Her remarks were fluent
and strong as she prepared to make herself at home
for the time of her stay. Her anger worked off, she
finally undertook to make the acquaintance of her
fellow prisoners and even went further by inaugurat-
ing an afternoon social affair with a greasy deck of
cards, the game being "Rummy."
"My name's Mazy Lamont," she announced.
Nancy looked up and studied the woman's face.
' ' They 've got me wrong as usual, ' ' continued Hazy
Mazy. "There ain't a bird in this little town playing
in worse luck than me. If they'd only pinched me a
week ago I'd been all right. I had the money then
for my bondsman but I was clean broke when this
The Rummy game was not yet under way. Nancy
left her chair by the barred window and went to the
"Do you remember me?" she asked.
"No," replied Mazy after a careful scrutiny.
"What do you know about Jennie?" demanded
"If my hair was yellow, would you remember me?"
Mazy studied Nancy 's blue eyes. ' ' You ain 't Straw
Nancy what went straight ? ' ' she asked.
82 NANCY PRESTON
"Oh, my God!" The tears sprang to the eyes that
had been so brazenly cold and Mazy 's arms went about
the shoulders of the broken little mother of Bubs.
"You poor dear, you poor dear," she exclaimed in
her sympathy. "Tell me what's the matter." They
drew aside from the other women.
"I must get a bondsman," Nancy told her.
"They've taken my little boy to the Gerry Society and
he's not strong. They might give him all the medi-
cine and food in the world but he's never been out of
my arms a night since he was born and his little heart
will be broken."
"Gee!" cried Mazy, her eyes wide with wonder.
"I didn't know you had a baby, Nancy. Where's
" Oh ! And what you in f or f "
"As a witness against a friend, a good friend, the
only one I've got on earth."
"And they'll put it to you if you don't come across
"It's my little one, Mazy, I'm fighting for. I must
get to him. I've got to get him back. You have
your Jennie. ' '
Mazy Lament's colored finger tips went to her tem-
ples under the bronze puffs of hair and her lips trem-
bled. "When she got control of herself she sat closer
to Nancy in their corner and whispered: "I got to
NANCY ^RESTON 83
tell you, Nancy. I got to tell somebody." Nancy
took one of her hands and held it tightly. "My Jen-
nie's finished boarding school and has met a young
man. I ain't seen her in five years and I'm afraid
to go near her. She would know, Nancy. She would
know with one look what kind of a mother she's got."
Her painted cheeks were wet. ' ' If I could only get a
good look at her and touch her hand maybe or hear
her say something, Nancy! But I'm afraid. All I
could do was to send them the money and say it was
from an aunt. It was sending her all I had for the
wedding that broke me and got me in here. They're
going to be married this month, before I get out of
this place. I was thinking I might go to the church
and sneak up in the gallery and see them. It's out
in the country a few miles. She'll have a fine white
veil and orange blossoms. I sent them myself with a
beautiful organdie dress and I was going to buy the
bonnet. . . . Oh, my God, Nancy, my God, Nancy . . .
me a poor prostitute buying wedding clothes! Oh,
Nancy, if I could only see her just once."
"If we could get a bondsman," suggested Nancy.
"There was Luther Littsky. What became of him?"
"Littsky?" she repeated dully, drying her eyes.
" Littsky 's a rich man, made it in girls; arrested a
dozen times and beat 'em out every time with his
money; the witnesses weren't locked up on him and
they got theirs and beat it."
84 NANCY PRESTON
"If I could get word to him," Nancy suggested.
"Oh, yes, I remember!" cried Mazy. "That little
beast always liked you a lot. He was wild when he
heard you'd gone straight."
"I've got to go to my boy, Mazy. Can you reach
"I dunno; maybe."
"And you might get to ... to ... the wedding."
DETECTIVE headquarters was on the wire.
Tierney lost no time in clapping the receiver of
his telephone instrument to his ear and Agnes lifted
her fingers from the board of her typewriter.
"You say Miska put up the bond for her?" he
asked after getting the message. "Well, ain't he
one of them Broadway gonophs? Ain't he the one
who runs the art and antique shop? Sure I know
him. . . . Sure I know he's got money. . . . Put up
a real estate bond, did he?" He paused to wipe the
perspiration from his forehead, hitching himself with
his elbow closer and closer to his desk, fearful of losing
a word. When headquarters gave him a chance to
break in again he was purple with rage. "Well, I'll
just spill you somethin'," he all but screamed into the
instrument, "Straw Nancy will beat it unless you
keep that kid of hers tied up safe somewhere ! What ?
They let her have him? Good night and thanks for
the lobster!" He dropped the receiver in place and
swung about in his chair. Agnes 's fingers began
flying over the keys. "Cut out the tick-tacks," he
snapped. "Is Cole outside? Send kim in and beat
it for your lunch. ' '
86 NANCY PRESTON
"Lookit!" Tierney began as Gloomy slid into a
chair. "Straw Nancy is out and has her kid.
There's money back of her. You know Miska, who
sells fresh antiques on Broadway ? ' ' Gloomy nodded.
"Is he banking for any burglars just now?"
"No. But his partner, Luther Littsky, might be."
"Oh, Luther is his partner, is he? Lemme see,
lemme see." He stared out the window for a igood
three minutes. ' ' Say, maybe Nancy sold out to him, ' '
he muttered. ' ' With rings and stuff on her and those
blue eyes she'd look all right to Littsky. I'll say
she would." He mulled this theory as Gloomy sat
staring at the floor. "Say," he began aloud. "She
was straight a long time. If she's selling out to help
Horgan she must have fell in love with him. And
it's some price for a woman to pay, although they'll
pay it if it's the last card."
"Maybe, it's her kid she's paying for," suggested
Gloomy without lifting his eyes.
"Huh." They were silent for several moments.
"She fought like a hell cat when I told her I'd take
him to the Gerry Society," reminded Tierney 's aide.
"And all night she screamed and yelled in the sta-
"Well," decided Tierney, "we ain't aiming to put
her away anyhow. It's Mike Horgan we're after."
"And I (guess we've got him good and tight,"
NANCY PRESTON 87
"Is that feller Hindman what saw him change the
address on the box of stuff in the shipping room stick-
ing to his story?"
"And the driver of the wagon can swear Mike put
that box on himself ? ' '
"And you got the witness to prove he lit out the
minute Vegas and Murphy showed up?"
"I got a dozen of 'em."
' ' Then I guess we can go to the bat with this case.
We don't want any adjournments, y 'understand.
Have everybody in court in plenty of time."
"They'll all be there."
"Has Mike got a lawyer?"
Gloomy shook his head.
"I wonder if the guy at the other end of that rob-
bery sold him out?" Tierney pondered this possi-
bility. That sort of thing seldom happened. Crooks
always stuck together to the last ditch. Then his pale
eyes twinkled. "Gloomy," he laughed, "I got a
right to that name Bonehead. There '11 be a lawyer in
court for Horgan. Just watch. We got Nancy so
quick she didn't get a chance to pass along the word
to the right party with the bank roll. But she man-
aged it from the House of Detention. He'll have a
lawyer all right. Littsky is the man with the bundle
for this bunch of crooks. You just stick around and
88 NANCY PRESTON
watc~ him from now on. He hangs out in the lobby
of that hotel where the wiretappers stop, right in the
center of the bright lights. You can tell him by
his lean black jaw. He's got a beard that takes three
barbers to shave off every morning and eyebrows so
black and strong you could use the hair for needles.
He dresses in the latest style and his hands and feet
are pretty like a woman 's. The bulls at headquarters
all know him and all the girls know him."
"I never was in on any white slave case," Cole ex-
plained with a hint of apology for his ignorance.
"But I can pick him up."
"Go to it."
With Gloomy 's departure, Tierney fell to dreaming
out of the window again. ' ' I 'm sure a Bonehead, ' ' he
laughed. "I should have let Straw Nancy stay right
where she was and put Agnes in the house to watch
her. Then we might have landed the whole bunch.
But it does seem funny that Littsky is gone in with
the yeggs. That ain't his line. I wonder if he's
after Nancy. I wonder if he wants her bad enough
to get real estate put up for her."
LUTHER LITTSKY'S money was as good in New
York City as the money of Trinity Church Cor-
poration. It opened the door of the House of Deten-
tion for Nancy and Hazy Mazy Lament and did it in
a perfectly legitimate way. It also took Bubs from
the care of the Gerry Society and furnished him and
his mother a shelter in one of the many rooming
houses in the Fifties west of Broadway, where sinners
occasionally rub elbows with a stray saint to the help
of the latter 's understanding. It aided in a miracle
as blessed as that which turned another woman from
the highway to become a companion of the Mother of
the founder of Christianity, in that it bought a cake
of soap for Miss Lament. Layers of paint were
scrubbed from her face and much charcoal washed
from her lashes. Her gaudy clothes and pin-heel
shoes were laid aside. From the corner of the gal-
lery in a little church not many miles from Forty-
second street, she saw her daughter radiantly happy
in the white organdie dress and from an upper win-
dow watched her schoolmates shower her and her hus-
band with rice as they drove away. Then she re-
turned to New York to share Nancy's room.
90 NANCY PRESTON
"I can't tell you about it for a week, Nancy. I'd
holler so the landlady would throw us out." Mazy
drew Bubs to her lap. "But I'm done. I'm goin'
out after a job and be respectable." For a moment
she studied her reflection in the warped bureau mirror.
"God!" she exclaimed, "I didn't know I was getting
as old as that. ' ' Then she studied Nancy 's face for a
moment and sighed. "Look it, Nancy," she ex-
claimed. "You're as pretty as a picture! There's
something in your eyes never was there in the old
days. I guess it was having Bubs to love, having him
close to you all the time."
A knock at the door ended her conjecture. Against
the gloom of the hall the figure of Luther Littsky
appeared, slick as a model for a Fifth avenue tailor.
It was late afternoon and the reflected light in the
room from the white-painted airshaft cast no shadows.
"Well?" he asked in a slight accent. "May I come
in?" His black eyes, under heavy eyebrows, danced
and his dark lips smiled. Mazy jumped from her
chair and offered it to him, taking Bubs to the bed,
where she perched with him on her knees.
"Take the kid for a little walk," he suggested.
"I want to talk with Nancy for a few moments."
When the door closed behind them, he bade Nancy be
seated and himself sat facing her. Breathless, she
waited for him to speak.
"You've had a tough time, haven't you?" he asked,
NANCY PRESTON 91
leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, his silk-
gloved hands lightly clasped. She nodded. "What
are you going to do when this case is over?"
"I think I can get a job." She felt it useless to
say this, for the fire in his eyes warned her that the
strange passion he had felt for her years before was
there within him still.
"I don't know what it is that makes me want you
so, Nancy, ' ' he began a little excitedly, brushing aside
her answer as unworthy of comment. "But I want
you and have always wanted you. It ain't your looks,
because I had a prettier girl when I first saw you.
You're smart enough but it ain't that. The other girl
was plenty smart. She rolled me for eight thousand
before she left the key of the flat with the janitor.
What's it, Nancy?" He reached a hand to her lap
but she moved her chair back. "I don't know," she
"Then suddenly you get married and go straight
and work hard and have a baby and ..." He stood
up and thrust his hands in his pockets. "I'll tell
you, Nancy, why it is I want you. You're a ,game
one. There ain't any gamer. And another thing,
you're something I ain't. You're honest. And
"What did it cost you to get the bond for me?"
"That doesn't matter."
92 NANCY PRESTON
"I'll pay it back. I 'm going to work. I'm a good
washwoman. ' '
"A washwoman!" He laughed until the moisture
came to his black-rimmed eyes.
"I made a living at it after my husband died."
"You worked at a washtub?"
"You with those eyes and that soft sweet skin that
don't need any more paint than a baby's needs?
Why, you ain't any fool, Nancy. You know the game
of life. You know it don't pay to be honest, not in
this little old town. ' '
"I have a son to think of. ' ' Her shoulders straight-
ened back and joy and pride shone in her eyes. He
marveled at her. She looked the clean and good
woman that she was, whatever she might have been.
"And you're going to try to fight it out without a
friend? "he asked.
"I have a friend."
"A gentleman?" He sat down again.
"He is a gentleman."
"Maybe he didn't know they had you locked up,"
"He did know but he couldn't help me. He is in
"Oh, a gentleman crook, eh?"
"He's no crook but he's in the Tombs."
"Oh. It's this fellow Mike Horgan. Sit down,
NANCY PRESTON 93
Nancy, won't you? Tell me who this fellow Horgan
is. I been trying to find out ever since I learned
you was a witness of his."
' ' He was a friend of my husband. ' '
Her brows knitted as she thought how to answer
this. "All I know is that Bill brought him home one
day before we were married and he liked me and we
both liked him. He 'd just come out of prison, a short
term, and had written a book about it. He didn't
seem to worry about being an ex-convict. Then he
was arrested and he got another term, although he
wasn't in on the job. He could have cleared himself
but the guilty man had four children. He took the
blame and laughed and said he had to write another
book. We all thought him a little off in the head.
He might be. But he made Bill and me the happiest
two people in the world. We never met anybody
like him before, always thinking of himself last and
always getting happiness out of seeing other people
"He's a nut, I guess." Littsky had watched her
face closely all the time she talked and he had not
failed to see the roses creep timidly to her cheeks in
the gray light of the room. Nor did the added bright-
ness of her eyes go unheeded.
"You love this fellow?" he asked. She did not
94 NANCY PRESTON
"You want me to get a lawyer for him?"
"Oh, if you will only help us!" she cried. "He
... he. ..." She could not go on.
"Sure I'll get a lawyer for him, Nancy. I'll do it
"I'll work my hands to the bone for you."
He left her wondering what had come over him,
wondering if Michael's theory that there was gold
down in the heart of the poorest, meanest, most be-
nighted of humanity was true, left her almost ready
to sing his praises and he took a taxi to the office of Al-
bert S. Alberstein, a lawyer as well known in the
underworld as he was himself.
Rosy-cheeked, round-bellied, bediamonded, Alber-
stein greeted his client vociferously.
"I want you to defend a guy named Mike Horgan,"
Littsky informed him when the door was closed.
"With pleasure and all the resources of the firm,"
the lawyer assured him.
"He's a burglar and broke. He's a friend of a
girl friend of mine."
"I'm putting up for the girl, get me?"
"Here's five hundred." Littsky peeled off five one
hundred dollar certificates from a heavy roll. ' ' I was
afraid the court might assign a lawyer to defend
him, one with brains."
NANCY PRESTON 95
"And he might get off. I want him put in."
Alberstein squeezed the money into a waistcoat
pocket. "Of course, if he really is a burglar," he
said with a smile, ' ' a conscientious practitioner should
not help to turn him loose on the public. I ask you,
Littsky's eyes snapped. "Put him in the chair if
you can, as far as I'm concerned," he laughed.
IT was the witness Hindmau who landed heaviest
for the prosecution in the case of the People
against Michael Horgan. His story was brief but
every word of it hit hard. He swore that he saw
the defendant scrape away the address on a box of
goods and with brush and paint box substitute an-
other. He was employed in the packing department
and had himself packed this box, was sure of it being
the one he had handled. Horgan, he testified, stood
so that he could not see the new address when he dis-
covered him nearby. The prisoner then loaded the
box in an express wagon, face down, so that the change
would not be noticed.
Michael, seated beside his counsel, Alberstein,
leaned over and whispered: "That man is the thief.
His story is a lie."
Alberstein smiled and nodded to his client.
It was a case of no importance and the court
benches were empty, save for Nancy and Mazy, Tier-
ney and Gloomy Cole, Littsky and the witnesses who
would swear that they had seen Michael just before
the detectives, Murphy and Vegas, arrived and missed
him immediately afterward. The paymaster was also
NANCY PRESTON 97
there to testify that the prisoner had not asked for his
wages before leaving and the foreman of the shipping
department to testify that Horgan had given him no
notice that he was quitting the job. Daniel Burns,
the contractor, and a number of his workmen were also
in the Tierney bench close to the rail as witnesses to
the fact that the prisoner had fought his captors.
Behind the judge's dais, a tall painting of Justice
holding aloft the scales with one hand, a crystal sphere
in the other, made a background for His Honor who
sleepily scribbled with pen and ink on a sheet of
paper, his jowls falling over his collar, his stertorous
breath stirring a fulsome mustache. Behind the ele-
vated witness chair where Hindman sat and covered
his work with perjury was a panel in oils of three
female figures, the Fates, and behind the desk of the
court clerk on the other side of the dais a picture of
three male figures seated on a marble slab, represent-
ing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The jurors
presented from their box twelve vacuous faces. Al-
though the fall session of the court had been in prog-
ress hardly two weeks the room already smelled of
Tierney squeezed into the witness chair when Hind-
man had finished covering himself and his associates
in thievery. He testified, under the guidance of the
assistant district attorney, that he was a private de-
tective and that the jewelry manufacturers that had
98 NANCY PRESTON
been robbed were among his clients. "I'm paid to
keep track of professional crooks," he swore, "and
had a man ready to shadow the defendant the day he
left Sing Sing after his second term."
"Just a moment," ordered the Justice, looking to-
ward counsel for the defense. Alberstein was busy
"If the counsel for the prisoner does not make ob-
jection I shall order that part of the witness's testi-
mony stricken from the record. It is not competent
testimony in this case. The prisoner is being tried for
the crime specified in the indictment and is not being
retried on some other case."
"I thank your Honor," said Littsky's lawyer.
Tierney smiled. They could strike it out of the rec-
ord but the jurors had been igiven the information
that Horgan was a two-term man.
Tierney told of his efforts to find the man who had
robbed his clients, his translation of the newspaper
code message to a woman who had been known as
"Straw" Nancy in the Tenderloin, his discovery of
her and finally the arrest after a bitter fight in which
he was shot in the face.
The other witnesses followed, clinching the case,
and adjournment was taken for lunch.
After an hour and fifteen minutes in the neigh-
boring restaurants of Franklin, Centre and Lafayette
streets, judge and jury reentered the courtroom. The
NANCY PRESTON 99
first tingle of winter was in the air outside but within
the towering red Criminal Courts building a full head
of steam heat was on. With their stomachs well
lined, in this oppressive atmosphere, the voices of the
counsel for the defense and the district attorney
sounded to the jurors in a gradually diminishing hum.
The black-robed fat man under the scales of justice
nodded, fighting off the attacking somnolence occa-
sionally by frantically scribbling curlicues on his pad.
Suddenly a uniformed court attendant shrieked:
" Nancy Preston." Another at the corridor door
screamed the name and the jurors shuffled their feet
and surreptitiously rubbed their eyes. His Honor
cleared his throat and was on the verge of another
cat-nap when the witness appeared at his left, her hand
on a greasy Bible held together witE a dirty rubber
band. As the clerk rumbled out the Oath, His Honor
saw, as through a gray veil, two patches of blue as fair
as the blue of a Maytime sky. They roused his mind.
The young woman was clad in black, a pale blue jabot
relieving the somberness, a blue flower tucked under
the brim of a black, untrimmed velvet hat hinting of
a period of mourning that had passed. Her brown
hair was heavy about her ears, the one hint of dye
being hidden. Her face was pale but the pallor did
not detract from its sweetness.
Nancy's little cotton-gloved hands hung limply
over the arm of the chair. A beam of the lowering
100 NANCY PRESTON
afternoon sun, striking through a window back of the
jury box, illumined her form. She looked straight
at Michael, beside Littsky's lawyer, and smiled.
There was so much of hope and love in the expression
which crossed her features that Littsky's eyes blazed
with bitter anger. Michael watched her closely, color
coming to his lean, dark countenance. He had ad-
vised against her taking the stand. Alberstein, mind-
ful of earning the Judas money given him, had in-
sisted that she testify.
"You may tell all you know about this case, Mrs.
Preston," said the lawyer, half rising in his chair.
"I know he didn't steal anything or have anything
to do with stealing," she began, talking straight to
"Tell your story to the jury," His Honor bade her.
She turned in her chair and continued. "He was a
friend of my dead husband. He came to board with
me and help me and my little boy. He never went
anywhere except to work. He spent all his money
on us because he loved my little boy so and my boy
loved him so. Bubs called him Uncle Michael. We
were very happy. If he had been a thief I would
have known about it." She paused and cast down
"Well?" urged Alberstein.
"I know thieves," she confessed. Littsky's money
was earned by his man of law. Her whole past lay
NANCY PRESTON 101
open to cross-examination. "When I was a girl," she
continued, "I had a hard time. My father was a
drunkard and my mother died when I was ten years
old. I went to the public school for two years and
learned all about the street. Some of the children,
a lot of them, had vile diseases. Lots of the girls
couldn't be anything but bad. When I went to work
and was ill and then lost my job I couldn't pay my
room rent. I was nearly starved. There was a girl
with yellow hair and blue eyes and she always had
plenty of money. I ... I ... dyed my hair and
went with her. I didn't know it was very bad. The
man I met was kind. He wasn't to blame." Her
little gloved hands went to her face. An attendant
offered her a glass of water. She found her hand-
kerchief and dried her tears. "Then I met my hus-
band and Michael came along, ' ' she continued. ' ' We
didn't know much about right and wrong but we
learned from him somehow. He never preached at us.
He was just kind and gentle. So we got married
and the baby came and we were happy for a long time.
Michael gave us all that and we loved him for it."
The prisoner's eyes shone. The simple narrative
was indeed a tribute worth cherishing.
"You may take her for cross-examination," Alber-
stein informed the assistant district attorney. Tier-
ney entered the gate in the rail and drew a chair be<
side the prosecuting officer, opening a note book as he
102 NANCY PRESTON
did so and giving it to him. He was all prepared for
that one hoped-for "slip" on the part of counsel for
the defense. The assistant district attorney studied
the notes carefully and then rose and faced the wit-
"You are a widow, Mrs. Preston?" he asked.
"Of what did your husband die?"
Michael flashed Nancy a look that told her to stick it
"A wound," she replied, clasping her hands tightly.
"By whom inflicted?"
"I was not there."
"If the court pleases, I shall enter the record of
William Preston's death as exhibit A."
The court glanced at it and allowed it to be read
to the jury, the cold, stark narrative of a burglar
killed on a job.
"Were you ever known by any other name than
Nancy Preston?" the assistant district attorney asked.
"None except my maiden name," the witness re-
"When you were a street walker were you not
known as 'Straw' Nancy?"
"I couldn't help that." A sob escaped her as the
alias, one of the meanest and cheapest of police blights,
was applied to her.
"I will ask if you recognize this bit of paper."
NANCY PRESTON 103
She was handed the note of warning she had sent Mi-
chael the day of his arrest.
"I wrote it," she admitted.
"Telling him to beat it?"
"Aiding him to escape if you could?"
"Ah, I had to help him. He was innocent." She
could not stand any more of the grilling. The fight
in her was gone.
"I hardly think it is necessary to go further with
this witness," suggested the court. "She admits that
she was the wife of a burglar and had been a street
walker. She admits trying to warn the defendant."
"You may stand aside." The district attorney's
representative, following the ancient custom of his
office, had brought out everything harmful that he
could against the woman and the prisoner. The jury
was given no single word of the seven and more years
of uphill struggle, of a crooked path laid enticingly
before a hungry and shelterless child having been
straightened out without help from society, of her
duty well done as a mother and wife, of her time at
the washtubs. She stepped down from the witness
stand as merely Nancy Preston, alias ' ' Straw ' ' Nancy.
Short as were the arguments and instructions to
the jury they sounded to the jurors as the distant
buzzing of bees on a hot summer's day. The twelve
good men and true dragged themselves from their
104 NANCY PRESTON
chairs, retired, and in a few moments returned with
the verdict of guilty.
Michael was remanded to the Tombs to appear again
before the judge to be sentenced the following week.
The prison guards gave him a moment with Nancy.
"Kiss Bubs for me," he said. "Don't give up,
Nancy. He 's worth all the fight you can make. ' ' In
her weakness and despair she laid her head against
his shoulder and he whispered: "As soon as they
stop hounding you, let me know where you are."
ACCOMPANIED by James Tierney, the assistant
district attorney in charge of the case of the
People against Michael Horgan entered the chambers
of the trial justice on the day set for sentencing the
"Here are the records in the Horgan case, Your
Honor, ' ' said the prosecutor. ' ' Mr. Tierney has some
data additional to that collected by the police."
"Let me have it, Mr. Tierney." The judge put'
aside the volume entitled "The Prisoner at the Bar"
and turned to the private detective. His eyes were
vague and the lids droopy as Tierney took a chair be-
side his desk. The sun poured through a deep win-
dow to his heavy shoulders.
"This feller Horgan," began Tierney, "has got a
lot of brains. Most crooks don't use their brains if
they have any worth mentioning."
"Really." A ghost of a smile flitted across the fat
features of His Honor.
"That's right," Tierney assured him.
"Perhaps you mean that the crooks that are caught
are a bit deficient in intellect," the judge suggested.
He seemed ready for deep slumber, merely a little
106 NANCY PRESTON
slit of light showing under the heavy curtains of his
eyes. Tierney's fat hands rubbed his knees as he
thought this over and through his lowered lids the
judge watched the eager play of the ten fingers.
"Of course," admitted Bonehead, "there's an awful
lot of people on the outside lookin' in that ought to be
on the inside lookin' out. But if everybody was con-
victed for what he'd done against the law there
mightn't be enough people left to make up a jury
panel." He turned to the assistant district attorney
as if for verification of his theory.
"I'll not need you, Mr. District Attorney," drawled
the judge. "I know that you are pretty busy. You
may leave Mr. Tierney, or did you say his name was
Kearney? I would like to hear what he has to say
about Michael Horgan." Tierney's fingers came to-
gether on his knees. This judge was the limit, he
thought. Why, he couldn't keep awake long enough
to get a man's name right.
' ' You were saying, I believe, ' ' mumbled His Honor,
as the prosecuting officer withdrew, "that it would be
hard to get juries if all the guilty ones of humanity
were locked up."
"Well, your honor," Tierney replied hesitatingly,
"I was thinking of the law's maxim that it is better
to let ninety-nine guilty escape than one innocent man
"Mr. Kerney ... I beg your pardon. Have I the
NANCY PRESTON 107
"Tierney is my name. James Tierney."
"Ah! Mr. Tierney, if you really believe that the
ninety and nine escape punishment by the law for
their evil conduct that in itself would justify the ex-
istence of so many private detective firms, would it
not?" Tierney, not knowing what this conversation
was leading to, smoothed his palms one against the
"Mebbe so," he said.
"Of course, the greater number of convictions se-
cured by a private investigating firm the more clients
and the greater profit," the judge said slowly. "It
is a parallel to the police system of promotion. A de-
tective who puts it over on every case becomes a lieu-
tenant, then a captain and then an inspector. It is a
splendid system. Merit is rewarded. Reward is the
chief objective?" Tierney didn't like that comment,
and his fists doubled. "May I ask why you double
your fists ? ' ' the judge requested, looking up into Bone-
head 's eyes. "Are you angry?"
"I came in here with the additional stuff on this
burglar Horgan," blurted Tierney. "If you want it,
I '11 give it to you, Your Honor. ' '
"I shall be glad to hear it."
"If a man steals twenty dollars, Your Honor,"
Tierney began, "and the police get the goods on him
he is tried and sent to jail so quick that he finishes
his sentence before the man who steals a thousand dol-
lars gets indicted by the grand jury. If he steals a
108 NANCY PRESTON
million he might be tried but he'll be acquitted. If
he steals two million a subscription is taken up and
a monument is built for him." The judge smiled
broadly. "Ain't it so?" continued Tierney. "All
the world knows about the case of the young Pitts-
burgh millionaire and his trials for murder. There
were reporters at that trial from every great city in
the world, with telegraph and cable wires stretched
down from the skylight to the floor of the court room.
Especially in England, the people watched the test
of Money against Justice. The first trial lasted three
months. Did his money put the law on the bum?
Ill say it did. And there was the case of the down-
town banker who was convicted of rocking the boat
and starting that big panic in nineteen hundred and
seven. He was sent to Atlanta prison. But did he
serve his term? He did not. He said he was too sick
to serve it and he got a pardon. Then, after a few
golf games he goes right back to the same old job of
trimming the Wall street push."
Tierney paused in his dissertation, but seeing that
he held the interest of the judge, continued: "It's
always a fight between two sides, Your Honor. They
are the criminals and the cops. The court is only
the referee. On my side we know that once a man
goes wrong he'll go wrong again in nine out of ten
times. If he's got brains and education like this
feller Horgan he's got to be tailed all the time, for it
NANCY PRESTON 109
ain't the man with the blackjack that is hard to
catch. It's the man with brains or money that makes
us sweat. The police don't frame innocent people
but they'll frame crooks. There ain't enough money
in the world to make me send an innocent party to
prison but with crooks it's different. Horgan is al-
ready a two term man and my operatives and the
headquarters' bulls know the company he keeps. He 's
better off where he can't cause trouble. Before the
trial they had him down before the inspector
and sweated him for days. They even came to me
for questions that might trap him and make him
weaken. ' '
"Did he answer their questions?" asked the judge,
picking up his volume and glancing at it idly as he
opened it where a slip of paper marked his last page.
' ' Sure he did, ' ' Tierney answered. ' ' But he didn 't
tell 'em anything."
"Did he speak of the young woman who was his
Tierney 's hands were thrown up in a gesture of
disgust. "Sure," he said. "He told 'em Nancy was
the finest woman in the world because she could get
away with the game of being on the level." His grin
was wide. "What'd'yuh think of that, judge? He
told 'em the old Straw Nancy, a 'cruiser,' was a
saint." Tierney could not restrain his mirth and
110 NANCY PRESTON
"But is she a woman of the town now?" asked the
"Mebbe not," Tierney acceded, "but her note to
him, telling him to beat it because the bulls was after
him showed she was in on his get-away if he could
"Perhaps she loves him."
Tierney 's finger nails bit into the flesh of his palm.
The fat old fool in the black silk robe was a sentimen-
talist, he was sure. The judge watched his clenched
fists over the top of his open book.
"It is evident that she firmly believes in his inno-
cence. And, to tell you the truth, Mr. Tierney, while
the case against Horgan was strongly enough pre-
sented it was entirely circumstantial and it does not
seem at all impossible that he was wilfully denied the
right chance to come straight in life after his last
term. Tour own evidence, which I excluded from
the record, told of your putting a shadow on him the
moment he left prison. What is your idea of a just
sentence for this man?"
"His record shows him a habitual criminal and he
could be sent away for life, Your Honor."
"And the woman he helped and the child he spoke
of, what becomes of them ? " he asked.
"They ain't his woman and child."
"She might weaken and go back to the streets, Mr.
NANCY PRESTON 111
"Then it would be up to the cops to watch her."
"And about the little boy?" asked the judge.
"There's the Gerry Society."
The judge nipped the leaves of his volume, but
glancing at a little clock on his desk, put it aside and
rose. "The prisoners are waiting to be sentenced,"
he said. Tierney followed him to the court
Michael was brought before His Honor, handcuffed.
Beyond the rail Nancy sat with tightly clasped hands
and pallid face.
"Michael Horgan," said the judge, "you stand con-
victed of grand larceny in the first degree. The rec-
ord given me by the police department is not in your
favor. But it is left to my discretion to say whether
you should die in prison or have still another chance.
I choose to say the latter and therefore sentence you to
ten years at hard labor."
"There is a charge against Nancy Preston, Your
Honor," reminded the assistant district attorney.
"The chief witness is here. Perhaps we can get it
disposed of. The docket is pretty heavy." He sig-
naled to Tierney to come within the railing and a court
attendant took Nancy by the arm and led her, half
fainting, through the gate and to the judge's dais.
' ' I presume that all the evidence against this woman
came out in the trial of Horgan," said the assistant
112 NANCY PRESTON
"Is there any other evidence?" The judge lifted
his heavy eyes toward Tierney.
"She admitted writing the note to Horgan," re-
plied Tierney. ' ' What more could the judge want ? ' '
he asked himself.
"And you press the charge?" asked His Honor.
"I just turned over the evidence to the right offi-
cers of the law," he replied, fearful of this judge who
carried mercy in his heart.
"What have you to say, Nancy?"
"Nothing, Sir. I did all I could to live straight
and honest. I'd do it all over again but he wouldn't
"Who wouldn't let you, Nancy?"
' ' Him. ' ' She nodded toward Tierney. " He 's had
a man watching me night and day since Michael went
"That's my business," muttered Tierney.
The judge frowned and with an effort held back
what he had in mind to say to the detective.
"Nancy," he said slowly and impressively, "it
sometimes seems to me to be the first law of the land
to kick a man or woman when he or she falls. In all
the volumes I have read on the application of the
criminal law as a protection to society I have found
only two in which the theory of big brotherhood on
the part of the righteous to the unrighteous has had
any consideration. No one seems to know the author
of these two books and it appears that the publishers
believe the manuscripts they accepted were sent by
one who had himself been hunted, had suffered prison,
had been, perhaps, denied justice and had written out
of intimate knowledge. The law is not a human
thing although it is framed for humanity. It is iron,
hard and bloodless. For that reason I am compelled
to find you guilty by your own admission but I am
going to suspend sentence and set you free. The
sacrifice you made on the witness stand for Horgan
should be written in letters of gold to be read on the
final judgment day. I hope your child will grow to
be worthy of a mother as brave as you. You are free.
God help you."
For several moments she stood staring at the judge,
fighting down a hard lump in her throat. Michael
was going away for ten years. It did not seem pos-
sible. She had forgotten entirely about herself. The
sound of his voice stirred her from the lethargy of
despair. He was talking to the judge. "I would
be very grateful if I could have permission to speak
alone with Mrs. Preston for a moment," she heard him
"You may take them to my chambers," His Honor
instructed the guard from the Tombs.
In a corner of the judge's room, the door open so
that the guard in the corridor could keep an eye on
them, Nancy took both of Michael's hands in hers and
114 NANCY PRESTON
pressed them to a flaming cheek. "As soon as I can
get work," she whispered, "I'll start to save and ap-
peal the case."
"Listen, Nancy," he replied, an arm protectingly
about her shoulders, ' ' I have a letter here I want you
to mail to Mr. Vernon Snowden, a lawyer. It is not
sealed. Enclose your address to him. He will pro-
vide you and Bubs with everything until I am free
again and have finished the task before me. Mail it
as soon as you leave this building and he will send aid
to you. But on no condition tell him where I am
until I have seen you first. You need never to worry
about money again."
IN the week between the conviction and sentence of
Michael, Mazy Lament, whose declaration that she
was going to become respectable was no whim of the
moment, landed a job as a waitress in an all-night
restaurant, her trick being from midnight until eight
in the morning.
"Perfect hours for me," she exclaimed joyfully.
"If I had to get up in the morning instead of going
to bed it would ruin my constitution. Anyhow it's
best to break in on any change a little bit easy. I
knew a girl once stopped drinking everything but
water, just sawed it off sudden, and stuck to it. An-
swer : Dead. ' '
Nancy, always grateful for the part she had played
in getting Bubs back, did her best to share in her
cheerfulness but as the days passed and she failed to
get a place which would permit of her having her
child with her all the time she realized how hopeless
it was to expect genuine companionship with Mazy.
Not that she thought herself any better than the
woman who had so bravely hidden herself from her
daughter, sacrificing everything in life for her with-
116 NANCY PRESTON
out complaining, but she had long forgotten the slang
of the street of bright lights and after her own heroic
years had come to yearn for higher things in life, a
friend or two to love and respect, her baby to nurse to
strength and health, a tiny corner of the world, if
only one room, to call home. The thought of Mi-
chael's quiet voice, his almost divine patience and
regardlessness of self, his splendid joy out of her
Bubs, the sprightliness and playfulness of his imagina-
tion in their fun together or over the lad's first les-
sons, the complete happiness that had been theirs
those few months in the little Bronx flat, brought her
to bitter tears every night as soon as the door closed
"You are free. God help you." The words of the
fat judge often rang in her ears and sometimes they
terrified her. They seemed to warn her of greater
evils to come. Sometimes she would awaken with the
sounds of some returning lodger and lie trembling
with her boy in her arms at the thought of Luther
Littsky and his sparkling black eyes. Once there was
a low tapping at her door and she told herself that he
had come to collect his bill. For answer she got out
of bed and pushed the bureau against the door. The
person in the hall went away. It might not have
been Littsky but some other man, perhaps one of the
roomers who had taken her for that kind of a woman
NANCY PRESTON 117
or thought her so desperately poor that the clink of
his money might tempt her.
There was no one in the house with whom she could
trust her boy. No man or woman under its roof
stirred before eleven o'clock or noon and the majority
were all-night prowlers, taxi-drivers, small-fry gam-
blers, girls from the burlesques and women who would
smile through their paint when they gave their occu-
pation as "housekeeper" to the census taker. She
took Bubs with her daily in her journeys through the
streets to answer advertisements for help. A glance
at the poorly nourished little lad killed every chance
she might have had to get a place as a servant or
laundress. Having him with her as she worked in a
shop or restaurant was, of course, out of the question.
The few dollars she had been sent by Michael
through Dan Burns were soon reduced to a few pieces
of small silver. She would not have minded borrow-
ing from Mazy but out of her first week's salary she
had to buy a uniform and pay a commission to the
employment agent who had placed her and there was
left barely enough to get her through until another
pay day. Littsky had not come near her since the
conviction. Nor had the woman who ran the house
asked her about rent money.
To keep Bu^s fed, Nancy lived on crumbs, drinking
a great amount of water in order to distend the stom-
118 NANCY PRESTON
ach and relieve the pains of hunger. As her physical
strength was sapped the distance she could travel
each day became shorter and her prospects of getting
work became darker.
She could not borrow more than three dollars and
a half on her wedding ring at any of the nearby
pawnshops but at last she had to leave it for that sum
in order to be sure of milk and crackers for the boy.
By the end of Mazy's second week in the all-night
restaurant Nancy was suffering from nausea accom-
panied by violent headaches as the result of mal-
"What you need, Nancy," her friend declared as
she started for work just before midnight, "is a big
steak and fried potatoes and you're going to get it
to-morrow morning. This is pay night and we split
"I was thinking that if I could get enough money
to rent a room in a quiet place where I could trust
the boy away from me I'd be sure to land a job,
Mazy," Nancy replied. "But I'm afraid of these
"Say!" cried Mazy. "It's funny the landlady
hasn't cheeped about the rent. She knows I'm
workin'. Has Littsky been around yet?"
Nancy shook her head.
"Did he try to get fresh with you the last time he
was here, the time he sent me out with Bubs?"
NANCY PRESTON 119
Nancy nodded. "Well, 111 just give you a tip,
Nancy. He's starving you out, that's what he's do-
ing. I '11 bet anything I got he knows just how many
crackers is left in that box on the washstand. Did
he tell you how to get in touch with him ? ' '
"Yes, through the landlady."
"Well, you just hold out 'till morning, Nancy.
Maybe things will change with that beefsteak. I'll
bring it home with me."
"Perhaps the letter from Michael's friend, Mr.
Snowden, will come in the morning," thought Nancy
as her friend took her departure. . . . But the letter
lay in an accumulation of personal mail on the law-
yer's desk in his office downtown as he was spending
the last few days of quiet and rest from work in the
Adirondacks on the advice of his physician.
-- - Nancy had undressed and was ready for
bed, her soft brown hair plaited and tied closely about
her shapely head.
"Who is it?" she asked, leaning close to the door.
"It's only me, Mrs. Tifft, the landlady. Open the
"I'm undressed and going to bed, ma'am," replied
Nancy, trembling at the thought of a demand for rent
money at midnight. Bubs lay carefully covered and
asleep, his well-worn little clothes folded neatly over
the foot of the bed as Uncle Michael had taught him.
"It's all right, dearie," came from beyond the
door. "I've brought you some supper."
In a violently colored kimono, her yellow hair done
up high on her head, Mrs. Tifft entered, bearing a
tray of covered dishes piping hot. As a heavenly
cloud, the aroma of good things to eat immediately
filled the bare room. Bubs stirred in his sleep. With
a grin on her heavy features, intended as the smile
of a helping angel, the landlady placed the tray on
the top of the bureau as soon as Nancy had cleared it.
NANCY PRESTON 121
"There now," she said cheerfully. "Isn't that a
layout worth while? Everything hot from the rotis-
serie around the corner, right off the spits, roast tur-
key, mashed potatoes, gravy, hot rolls, celery, coffee,
and say, lookit ! ' ' She lifted the cover from a tureen.
"Here's some puree that can't be beat on Broadway
from Forty-second to Fifty-ninth. He's famous
Nancy's blue eyes sparkled and her hands trembled
as she held them over her half covered breast. The
vapor from the puree rose high from the silver bowl
and its appetizing odor awakened her child. Bubs
sat up, rubbing his eyes, fresh from a dream of pos-
session of all those glorious things to eat he had seen
and passed by in the restaurant windows as he and his
mother had walked the streets.
' ' Oh, gee, Mum ! " he muttered. ' ' What 's it t " In
the yellow light of the single gas jet his face seemed
more than ordinarily thin and drawn.
"I'll fix some of the soup for the boy," said Mrs.
Tifft. "Now you start and get your own." She
spread a napkin on the blanket before Bubs and
started him at the feast. Nancy was speechless.
What did it mean? Her empty stomach craved for
a little of this feast. With an effort she steadied her
hands, soaked the half of a roll in a cup of the puree
and ate it. Mrs. Tifft pulled up a chair for her and
served her with the turkey and potatoes and gravy,
122 NANCY PRESTON
talking all the while and explaining the unlooked-for
"I'm treating everybody that's in the house," she
rattled away. ' ' I cleaned up on the races to-day and
cleaned up right. A gentleman friend passed the real
tip this time. Flora Belle walked in at twenty to one
and me with all of two hundred dollars on her."
The blood was already coursing strongly through
Nancy's veins and color was in her cheeks. Bubs
smacked his pale lips over the rich food. As her stom-
ach assimilated the first mouthfuls and the gastric
juices began to flow, a pleasant languor came to her.
When Bubs sank back on his pillow with a sigh of con-
tentment, the mother, with an occasional glance of
gratitude to the landlady, continued until each dish
was empty. Mrs. Tifft covered Bubs and he was soon
sound asleep. With lowered voice she continued her
story of the great race track killing. All of her gen-
tleman friend's lady friends had gotten in on the
tip. There was a riot that night in the cabarets but she
had to come back early on account of a nasty twinge
of neuritis. She couldn't sleep at such an unearthly
hour and so was killing time by blowing everybody in
the house. "Four thousand dollars!" she exclaimed.
"Think of it!" She was going to buy a furnished
flat in the building next door and run it for roomers.
She stopped with a grimace. The neuritis had her
again. "Just wait a minute, dearie," she asked.
NANCY PRESTON 123
"I'll run to my room and get a tablet. Leave the
door unlocked. I'll be right back."
Nancy set the empty dishes on the tray, flicking the
few crumbs that had escaped her from her night gown.
Her flesh seemed tingling with new life. She sighed
with sheer animal happiness. There was a little cof-
fee left in the silver pot and she drank this. The
cream jar was still unemptied. She emptied it. Luck
had turned surely, she thought. In the morning she
would take a chance and leave Bubs with the landlady
she had so unjustly mistrusted and if there was work
to be had in New York she would find it and tackle it
with the strength of an Amazon.
As she sat with her hands in her lap, waiting to
thank Mrs. Tifft on her return, she half dozed, her
night gown falling loose and displaying the firm
beauty of her shoulders and breast. The deep breath-
ing of Bubs told of happy dreams. In her half-
asleep, half-awake condition she did not notice the
passing of the moments into minutes. The horns of
automobiles on the street outside, telling of the return
to bed of the noctambules of the neighborhood, did not
shake her from the pleasant haze. Her gown fell en-
tirely from her right shoulder but she did not know it.
AT one o'clock a heavily built man, carrying under
his left arm a trombone in a green felt case, let
himself in the front door of Mrs. Tifft's lodging house
and with the silver light of a pocket electric dancing
before him made his way to the third floor and the
room adjoining Nancy's. The partition was of light
boards covered with wall paper, for the two rooms
had been originally one. The lodger dropped his in-
strument to his bed, placed his pocket lamp beside it
and without lighting the gas removed a picture from
the wall. A spot of yellow light showed from the
next room and he put his eye to it.
An hour before, not many minutes after Mazy
Lament had started off to work, Luther Littsky had
entered the house. There followed a waiter from
the rotisserie around on Broadway.
The man with the trombone, apparently one of the
many cabaret and dance hall musicians who live as
near Broadway and their work as possible, seemed in
no hurry to retire nor did he seem held to the gimlet
hole in the wall by the pubescent pleasure of a Peep-
ing Tom. Nancy's chair was in his narrow line of
vision. He beheld her asleep in her disarray and
NANCY PRESTON 125
upon her face was a smile. Nightly his little peep
hole had brought him only tears and sobs as the trag-
edy of starvation had been enacted before him. He
drew back from the thin partition so that he could
breathe without uncovering his ambush and sat down
to think over this change. In the darkness of his
room his face, wide and deep and white, would have
startled a sudden visitor by its somberness. Gloomy
Cole, with instructions to uncover the bankers for the
burglars who disturbed the business of his employer,
James Tierney, Incorporated, was on his job.
"If Littsky is putting up for Nancy," he had been
told by B. H., ''all yah gotta do is to hang close to
Nancy. A woman, never mind how careful she may
be, can queer the best crook in the world. Littsky
ain't even seen that broad face of yours, Gloomy, and
don't let him see it until you're ready to make the
collar. Just remember what I tell you. No excuses
go with me this time."
It was not a hard job, he thought, as he sat close
to his avenue of communication, his ears pricked for
the least sound beyond the thin wall. Three times
Littsky had visited the lodging house but always when
Nancy was out. The rest of the time he had spent in
his finely furnished apartment not many blocks away,
at the theater, in the cabarets and gambling houses or
with his associates of the underworld in automobile
rides to road houses in Westchester, New Jersey, and
126 NANCY PRESTON
on Long Island. When Littsky was off on these trips
Gloomy had shadowed Nancy and her little boy. He
had seen the mother grow paler and weaker and the
boy beg to be allowed to stare in the windows where
spitted fowls turned before the grates of glowing coals
or asbestos and in other windows where pastry was
arranged with an art that would tempt even the well-
fed children of the rich.
He could not help but realize the frightful struggle
of the woman to stay square with the world and her
conscience and he had so reported to his chief.
"That part of it is for the Bureau of Charities,"
B. H. had told him. "As long as Littsky is paying
her rent and going to that lodging house there's a
chance of something doing for us. What we're run-
ning is a detective bureau. ' '
Gloomy took another peep. She was still sleeping.
Until she got in bed with the light out there would be
no sleep for him. He returned to his chair. Well,
he thought, that crook who had doped him with a
cigarette and nearly cost him his job, was put away
for ten years anyhow. There was some consolation
in that although, try as he could, as he mulled the task
in hand, he failed to get any comfort from the fact
that in this three-cornered game permitted by the ad-
ministrators of the law one of the corners was occu-
pied by a starving mother and child.
"Nancy!" The name was hardly more than
NANCY PRESTON 127
breathed but it reached him and his right eye was
glued immediately to the gimlet hole. She was still
asleep in the chair but looking down upon her with
burning eyes and trembling hands extended waa
Littsky. Cole saw him glance in the direction of the
bed and scowl. The child was there.
"Nancy!" he repeated ever so softly and then
reached over and clasped her half naked body sud-
denly, fiercely, sinking on his knees beside her.
Nancy's eyes were wide with terror as she tried to
shake herself free of his arms. Her hair became un-
fastened and the two heavy braids whipped about her
"If you scream it will be all the worse for you,"
panted Littsky. "They can't hear you on the street,
anyhow ... if you bite I'll smash you." She fell
from the chair to the floor. With the sounds of the
scuffling some one entered the room. Cole could hear
the door open and then softly close.
"Mumsey!" Bubs had been awakened. "Mum-
sey!" he called again and then Cole could hear him
crying in fear at the spectacle before his eyes.
"Take that brat out of here," called Littsky, get-
ting to his feet and clasping a hand over Nancy's
mouth. Cole caught a glimpse of Mrs. Tifft as she
obeyed and heard the sobs of the child die away down
the corridor. Littsky and Nancy were out of his vi-
sion in another moment and Cole knew that the pro-
128 NANCY PRESTON
fessional master of the town's unfortunate women
would soon overpower her. The sounds of scuffling
continued and then Nancy managed to break away.
She was again in his line of vision, her night garment
torn to ribbons, her flesh crimson in spots.
"For the love of God listen to me a moment,
Littsky," she begged. She held to the back of a
chair, ready to raise and swing it. Littsky did not?
renew the attack. Cole could hear his heavy breath-
ing. "It isn't for myself I'm fighting, but it's for
my baby. I don't count. But even now he's old
enough to remember and you've already put a curse
on him." White spots made by the pressure of
Littsky 's fingers showed about her mouth as she
begged for mercy from the man who knew no desires
save gain and the satisfaction of his other lust. ' ' I 'm
going to pay you back every cent, the money for the
bondsman, the money for the lawyer and the rent
money. Before God, Littsky, I 'm going to do it- and
pay the interest on it." She half raised the chair as
Littsky crouched for another attack. "I'll die first,"
she warned. ' ' Get back ! ' ' The lowering of the chair
told Cole that she had gained another brief respite.
"You didn't mind sending for me and my money
when they had you locked up," he heard Littsky sneer.
"I was afraid the boy would die," she pleaded.
"If I'd had any money when they first took me to
the station I could have got out and gone back for
NANCY PRESTON 129
him. The sergeant could have got a bondsman for
me in five minutes. Even the doorman wouldn 't tele-
phone to the Legal Aid for me unless he was paid.
I did have a little money but Tierney's man took me
away before I could think to ask for it. I was des-
perate and half crazy when I thought of you. Give
me a chance to pay you right."
"You'll pay me my way," came from Littsky. "I
"For God's sake, please, Littsky, I'm an honest
woman. You've got me in a trap," she sobbed. The
tears blinded her eyes. Littsky leaped for her and
Cole drew back from his peep hole to breathe.
IN the final struggle, Littsky managed to hold his
prey fast in his right arm and reach the gas jet,
turning out the light. He was a creature of darkness,
indeed, in his way a prince of darkness. Mrs. Tifft
was well-paid, the boy was out of the room. The
earlier part of the night he had spent in thrilling an-
ticipation of this act. He had starved Nancy in vain.
She had not come across. Then he would feed her
up and take his toll for his time and trouble. Al-
ways a careful drinker, he measured his champagne
that one night with the skill of a dope fiend who
knows to the fraction of a grain the dose that will
put him through the commission of a crime.
He owned the roof over the head of the lodging
house keeper, owned her body and soul and half the
lodgers in the place looked up to him with admiration
and hopes of a tip on a good thing to be played in the
pool rooms. Few lost when he passed the word. If
a girl was in trouble with the police, if she was stone
broke, as poor Nancy was when she entered the sta-
tion, the bars slipped back and out she walked pro-
vided she was solid with him. Time and again the
police had tried to get him because of the complaints
NANCY PRESTON 131
of the anti-vice societies. His money had beaten them
every time. Once, when he was near conviction, he
had hired the most famous lawyer in New York City,
perhaps the most famous in the United States, a man
high in the Bar Association and at one time high in
the politics of the Empire State. As an associate he
also hired the crookedest underworld lawyer known
to thieves and panderers, a man later trapped by the
district attorney, sent to prison and disbarred. The
gentleman and the crook made an ideal combination.
The chief witness against Littsky recanted. . . . She
was a woman . . . was convicted of perjury, was well-
paid for her sacrifice and Littsky was cleared. The
famous lawyer had scored another victory, and had
earned another large fee. This is not fiction. The
law was not wrong. The administration of the law
Littsky was not afraid of the police as an organiza-
tion any more than might have been a Tammany
Assembly District leader who kept his saloon open on
Sundays. He had his victim ready for him and was
waiting. But there was always danger of a bad actor
appearing, a new man, unused to the ropes and with-
out knowledge of the precedents upon which Tender-
loin cops and bulls held their jobs and got what was
coming to them. Some such greenhorn might take
the place of a "regular" on the beat, because of sick-
ness or a three alarm fire in the tenements of Hell's
132 NANCY PRESTON
Kitchen, a few blocks west. Then the whole works
would be in danger. A scream from a house where
screams of laughter, delirium or fear went unheeded
many nights in a month, might precipitate a single ar-
rest and an expose might follow. The lid would be
off and the ordure just under the crust would shock
the myopic decent element, might even change the
whole administration of the city . . . one scream of a
"You can yell your damned head off," he panted
as he dragged Nancy across the pitch-black room to the
bed, still warm from the little body of her son. But
she did not scream. She fought and begged her
bondsman and deliverer from the hands of the police
to be merciful, to let her go, to let her keep her de-
cency and self-respect for her child's sake, whined
like a hurt animal, her bruised face scalded by her
tears, her tired arms still flaying through the dark-
ness until she was hurled on her back and his hot
breath scorched her.
"By God, Nancy!" cried Littsky in triumph.
A little beam of silver struck across the room from
the door. For a moment a white disk danced about
the bed and then fell full in the black eyes of this
Broadway Petronius Arbiter at the long-delayed
fruition of his plans.
There was still enough fight in Nancy to throw the
NANCY PRESTON 133
beast from her body. The light followed him and a
voice sounded, slow and impassionate as the clatter
and grating together of box cars as a freight train
comes to a halt. So did the words come.
"If you gotta gun, don't reach for it."
Littsky could see nothing. The little circle of light
"You're pinched," came the voice.
"It's a hold-up. How much do you want?" re-
torted Littsky. "I've got a thousand in my pockets."
"Nothing doing. Sit still. If you move I'll bore
Nancy groped her way to the floor and followed the
silver beam on her hands and knees.
"Save me," she whispered. "Help me get out of
"Grab your clothes, go in the next room to your
right, light the gas, get dressed. Don 't make no noise.
You'll see a horn in a green case on the bed. That's
the room. Hurry."
As she fumbled about in the darkness, Littsky sat
on the edge of the bed, his face the only thing in the
room illumined, conjuring his wits for a way out.
The thought came to him that Nancy's past would be
his best defense. No one would believe her story.
Then, too, she had let him pay the rent in this place.
A fine for disorderly conduct would be the only re-
sult. His courage came fast.
184 NANCY PRESTON
"You'd better take the money, Bo," he said quietly.
"Nothing doing." Nancy was already out of the
room and the man with the light in his hand could
see the little yellow star from his gas jet shine in the
"I'll break you," warned Littsky.
"What are you going to charge me with?"
"I'd hate to tell you. It would dirty me mouth."
Littsky 's courage left him. He could not tell
whether his captor was a harness bull or just a plain
clothes man. He might be the legal agent of one of
the vice societies and might have been after him ever
since that case of the two little girls, the case when
the gentleman and the crook members of the bar had
saved him together.
Nancy had slipped into her clothes and in the dark
hall Gloomy Cole heard her brief exchange of words
with Mrs. Tifft as she demanded and got her child
and took him in his room to be dressed.
"Who's this?" the landlady demanded drowsily,
for the comforting evening dose of dope had been
"You and Littsky is pinched, that's all," said Cole,
flashing for the fraction of a second his light against
his badge. ' ' Git in the room and keep still. " As she
obeyed, Cole found the key, placed it in the outside
of the lock and gave his last command to the pair.
NANCY PRESTON 135
"Don't make any noise. There's a man at the foot
of the fire escape, another on the roof and one at every
door and window downstairs. The wagons will be
here in a minute." He turned the lock in the door,
entered his own room and picked up his trombone.
"Beat it," he ordered Nancy. As she and the boy
hurried out into the gray-lit street and joined the
first flow of pedestrian traffic, Cole threw the key to
Nancy's room in a corner of the hall, squeezed his
trombone under his arm and left the lodging house.
"I guess my job's gone this time," he sighed.
"But the horn is worth thirty-five dollars if it's
worth a cent."
THERE was a minute or two of dead silence in the
lodging house. Cole had turned his humane
trick quietly. Mrs. Tifft was so heavy with her fa-
vorite drug, cocaine, that not a word or whimper es-
caped her after the lock clicked in the door. She
groped for Nancy's bed, found it and fell over on her
side, dead to the world.
The last of the lodgers, a woman, entered the house,
stumbled up the stairs to the top floor and pulled
down her shade, for the light of day was cutting in
through the east-and-west street which stretched from
river to river, from the squalor of First avenue,
through the twin gray steeples of Saint Patrick's
Cathedral, across the roofs of mansions, across de-
serted Broadway and onward to the poverty of Ninth,
Tenth and Eleventh avenues. Rich and poor homes
it reached, a high-builded house of God and many
scores of brothels. It made silver the foam on Man-
o '-war's reef between Manhattan and Queens in the
East river and lightened the shadows of Hell's Kitchen
where the street ended at the docks of the Hudson.
Some of the gray light of the dawn seeped into the
stairways and corridors of Mrs. Tifft 's lodging house.
NANCY PRESTON 137
The door of the room opposite that which Nancy had
occupied opened slowly. A man of slight build, fully
dressed, a cloth cap pulled well down over his eyes,
his right arm stiff at his side, slipped into the hall
and put his head close to the door where Littsky and
Mrs. Tifft were held prisoners. As he listened, his
eyes searched the carpeted corridor. They caught a
glint of metal. It was the key that Cole had tossed
aside. With quick, silent steps he reached it and re-
turned to the door.
Within Nancy 's room Littsky 's keen ears caught the
' ' Better call it off, ' ' he advised through the keyhole.
' ' I got friends and I got money. You can 't put any-
thing over on me for this. I can get bail to a hundred
thousand dollars if I need it and then I'll make you
sweat. ' '
"I can't trust you," whispered back the man out-
"I got the cash, a thousand, with me. Open the
door and I'll hand it to you."
' ' You got a gun, too. ' '
"I ain't got any gun. I'll stand with my back to
you and drop the money."
The key turned in the lock and the door opened.
Littsky, with the peculiar fastidiousness of his kind,
138 NANCY PRESTON
had carefully straightened his clothes in the darkness
of the room. His trim body stood in the frame of the
door, erect, shoulders squared, his back to the man he
thought he was bribing. In his right hand was a roll
of paper money. His fingers relaxed and it dropped
to the threshold. The stiffened right arm of the man
in the hall bent upward and was suddenly raised high
above him. A blackjack descended and Littsky sank
like the weed that he was under the blow.
The man in the cap slipped his silent weapon into a
back pocket under the tails of his coat, turned the vic-
tim over with his toe, rolled him again, with a stiffer
kick, further in and closed the door behind him. Mrs.
Tifft lay on the bed beyond reach of sound. It was
the first hour of the day. Her lodgers were in the
deep sleep of darkened rooms after a night of what
some of them called pleasure and others called busi-
There was plenty of time. This room would be
dark until the sun reached the meridian and silvered
the air-shaft into which its one window opened. The
man with the cap and the blackjack picked up the
money and then knelt beside Littsky and unscrewed
the diamond stud in his stiff evening shirt. A huge
diamond solitaire he worked from a finger of his
victim's left hand. The effort to get this jewel free
from its place stirred Littsky 's stunned brain. His
eyes opened slowly. They beheld the eyes of the man
NANCY PRESTON 139
who had felled him, saw his long, keen, sinister un-
derjaw and his thin, clean-shaven lips.
" You?' 'he asked.
"It's me, Noonan." The man in the cap put his
face close to that of his victim. "Take a good look,
Littsky," he said. "It's Noonan, Mamie Noonan 's
brother." Littsky 's black eyes started from his head
with terror. His brow was beaded with sweat. He
had beaten out the law with his money in the case of
Mamie Noonan. Two trials and two hung juries!
Even the public had tired of the case and Mamie
Noonan was on the town.
Noonan (glanced over his shoulder at the patch of
dull gray made by the air-shaft window. He lifted
his head and listened, but there was no sound. Mrs.
Tifft lay like a log on the bed. His right hand sought
the dark throat of Littsky. Five strong, thin fingers
closed on it. The eyes popped a bit and then sank
back deep in their sockets. The body in its fine linen
and broadcloth twitched and was still. The fingers
at the throat of the prostrate thing tightened and
tightened. They held there until the limbs on the
cheap, dirty carpet stiffened.
The man with the cap got to his feet, stepped softly
from the room, closed the door, descended the stairs
and made the street.
QHORTLY after eight o'clock Mazy Lament, a
^ beefsteak and a portion of fried onions done up
in a cardboard box under her arm, let herself into the
Tifft house and ran up the stairs. A glance into
Nancy's room froze her blood. Littsky lay at her
feet, dead. His tongue was extended and his gums
showed. There was light enough in the room for her
to notice the traces of the fight Nancy had put up for
her hard-won sense of decency. Here and there were
strips of white cotton cloth, portions of her night
gown, and by the bed a tuft of hair. A chair was
upset and broken.
Here was not only a case for the police but one for
the coroner. It was a combination hinting of the
electric chair. All the people in her class in life knew
about that little piece of yellow furniture. Reports
of murder trials and executions made their only intel-
lectual folder. She turned to run away but some-
thing big in her heart, her game heart, made her turn
again, step over the dead body and go to the bed.
She thought it was Nancy lying there. She recog-
nized the drugged landlady. Nancy and her boy were
gone. Littsky had gotten his. He deserved it and
NANCY PRESTON 141
more, which he would get in hell, if there was a hell
after this life. She cleared out as if she had herself
done this job over which she raised her skirts, hoping
that Nancy had gotten a good start. Nancy had every
right in the world to kill him. If she was caught,
she, Mazy, would swear to anything, self-defense, ex-
treme provocation, anything, to help her.
Minus the money she had paid for the steak and
onions, Mazy had her week 's wages in her pocketbook,
tucked down into a bosom that had known the sale of
many feigned sighs before she watched from the win-
dow of a village church her daughter ride away with
the man she loved and was married to. This was no
town for her, New York. The fine tooth comb of the
police department would be raked through her stratum
of life in a few hours. She hurried east to the Grand
Central depot and took a train for Boston. Not
until the negro maid showed up at noon would there
be a reasonable chance of the murder being reported.
AT ten o'clock Gloomy Cole, with his precious slip-
horn under his right arm, lowered himself into
a chair in the anteroom of his employer, once more
to worry over his chief's state of temper. Groans
came from the sanctum when the door opened. Occa-
sionally the voice of Bonehead would utter a curse of
no mean quality.
Agnes brushed through the door in a high state of
"What's the matter with B. H., Agnes?" asked
Cole, catching the frill of her little white office apron
and holding her.
"It's that pain come on him again," she told him.
"He's got a bum appendix but there ain't anybody
in this world can tell him he ought to get it cut off.
He says his grandfather didn't have any appendicitis
but just plain belly-ache. I told him he ought to lay
off a few days and get it packed in ice so it would
shrink some. And what d'yuh think he says,
Gloomy?" She shifted her chewing gum.
"What?" asked the sad-faced one.
"He told me to pack my uncle in ice."
"You got off light at that," Gloomy informed her,
NANCY PRESTON 143
consolingly. "He must be in a pretty good humor."
A sound between a howl and a curse, as Texas Darcy
left Tierney's private office put a quick end to Cole's
"Say, Sad Face," greeted Texas on his way out.
" B. H. told me to get my hooks on you as soon as pos-
sible and send you in. Maybe he thinks keeping com-
pany with an old tombstone will help him a little."
Cole, clinging to his horn, poked his wide face
around the edge of the door and asked: "Wanta see
"I don't wanta see you, but business compels me
to, ' ' was the reply. ' ' Come in and sit down there. ' '
Tierney's heavy features were white with pain.
"Just wait a minute until some of this belly-ache
leaves me, ' ' he added. He turned to the window and
watched the little white plumes of steam from the tur-
rets and towers of the city's tip, the distant dodging,
fussy little tugs of the harbor and the play of glorious
September sunlight in the ever dancing wave crests
made by the water traffic. In his own rough way he
was invoking the power of mind over matter. His
grunts and groans diminished as the pain left him
and color came back to his jowls.
"Now, then," he began, with a glance at the im-
passive unreadable countenance of his operative.
"Tell me a somethin'."
For the moment Gloomy was for laying bare his
144 NANCY PRESTON
own miserable heart, telling all the details of the hoax
by which he had saved Nancy but by which he had
spoiled Tierney's plans. A sense of caution, how-
ever, made him hold back. His maxim was: "What
people don't know won't hurt 'em."
"Agnes was telling me about your belly-ache
and . . ."
"Is that all she's got to do except powder her
nose?" his chief interrupted. "The poor Bronx
"I knew a feller once went along with the belly-
ache for three years and when they cut him open it
was too late."
"Too bad about this feller," sarcastically mused
Tierney. "Did he work for a living regular and eat
three meals every day ? Or did he play the piano or
the trombone for a living ? ' '
"They found it was busted," calmly resumed Cole.
' ' So all they could do was to mop him up some and
send for his widow. ' '
"They should have sent for the coroner. When
these surgeons get a guy on the table and it's a des-
perate case they send out a tip to all their friends
and the grand stand is filled when the poor mutt
what's paying the expenses is stretched out for the
operation. It's always a success. Everybody ap-
plauds and writes articles about how neat the job
NANCY PRESTON 145
was and then the widow goes down to the insurance
office. Say, Gloomy, there's a Marine recruiting sta-
tion up at Forty-second street and Sixt' avener.
You can take a run up there and tell 'em about it."
The Old Man was in fine humor, in reaction from
the pain of the first hour of the morning. Cole foxily
awaited the turn of the conversation to business mat-
ters, dandling his trombone on his knees.
"You been tailin' Littsky and Nancy two weeks
and you ain't got nothin' on 'em," Tierney began
at last. "I'm. thinking that Littsky ain't in on the
burglar game. I guess it was just because he wanted
her that he got the bond put up and hired the lawyer.
Did you notice him double-cross Horgan? No. Of
course not. Well, I guess Littsky pulled that to get
the woman. But that's up to the Committee on
Morals or something. " He smoothed down his bristles
thoughtfully and Cole, with relief, felt his job safe.
His assignment was to be changed.
"There's a certain big lawyer downtown, Mr.
Vernon Snowden, been making inquiries about a man
that fits Mike Horgan 's description somewhat," he
informed his operative. "The trouble with him is
that he wants to take all he can get and give nothing
back. He's a low-tide clam for conversation, this
swell guy is. Now what I want to know is why he's
after getting in touch with this Horgan, if Horgan is
the man. Mr. Snowden is an office lawyer, not a court
146 NANCY PRESTON
lawyer, and he doesn't know any more about the ways
of the world than the Pope cooped up in the Vatican,
although the Pope could tell him something about
bulls. How's that?" It was a jest, a quip, a play on
words. A joke from Tierney was as rare as a blue
rose or a green sunset or a river running up hill.
Had Agnes been in the room she would have caught
it without muffing or fumbling and would have
But Cole did not know that the Papal decrees were
called bulls as well as were New York detectives. The
keen witticism glanced from him like a small boy's
marble shot against the Rock of Gibraltar.
"I said," repeated Tierney, "the Pope could tell
him about bulls."
"Sure," agreed Cole, seemingly ready to burst into
Tierney gave up trying to put it over and returned
to business. "This Snowden wants a man to help
him. I want you to go to his office and pump him so
dry he'll squeak when he walks. If this Mike Hor-
gan is some fashionable lunatic I gotta be sure in the
interest of my clients that his money don't turn him
loose. It's either the foolish house for him or Sing
Sing. Get me?" Cole nodded. "Snowden don't
have any but rich clients. Years ago he came to me
asking about a missing party that made me think of
Horgan but he wouldn't loosen up and I don't work
NANCY PRESTON 147
in the dark with nobody. It may be that he has a lot
of money for this Horgan from some estate and none
of his people know he is a crook. If that's so Horgan
will go to the bat and with real money anybody can
get out of jail. He'll put it over on me. Get that?"
' ' Here 's his card with the address. Tell him noth-
ing. Take your time. Horgan is safe."
"Then I drop Nancy?" asked Gloomy with an ap-
proach of happiness in his voice.
"What 11 I do with this?" asked the operative as
he held out his trombone in rising from his chair.
"You might save it until the holidays," suggested
B. H. with the right corner of his mouth dragging
heavily, "and send it to Caruso as a Christmas gift."
As Gloomy reached the door his chief shouted to him:
"Don't bother me with no reports for a month. I
don't wanta see you or hear from you 'till you can
tell me somethin'."
' '\ \ THAT you doin ' to-day ? ' '
V V "Me?" asked Gloomy, as Agnes held him
up in the assembly room of the Tierney offices.
"Nuthin'. I got a month off."
"Lemme your badge. Quick. We're all caught in
a corner. I could use a thousand badges and State
licenses this very day."
Gloomy unpinned his shield hesitatingly.
"Speed up," snapped Agnes. "I got to have it.' ;
"What's all the fuss about?" he demanded. "I
ain't got a thing on me to identify me, not a thing.
I just come off a case and ain 't had time even to write
my name and business address on a card so in case
a safe drops on me or somethin' they'll send for some-
body what knows me to remove the remains to the
parlors. ' '
Agnes, busy as she was, laughed at his plight.
"Nothing will ever drop on you, Gloomy," she assured
him. "Come in to-morrow morning and I'll fix up an
identification for you. Somethin' big is happening
and if the Boss don't make a million dollars clean in
the next six months I'll admit I'm a liar. We got a
straight tip by cable this morning that this ain't any
NANCY PRESTON 149
private fight over in Europe but is a regular free
fight with everybody welcome. The Germans are
already murdering our own factory people right here
who never did a thing to 'em and the French are as
good as dead if we don't go in and help 'em. Our
London office sends us word to get all the men we
can to watch the munition factories and docks here
so the Dutch can't blow up the stuff needed on the
other side. It's the biggest order ever come to an
office. It looks like the Germans have got fifty spies
in the U. S. A. for every British representative, official
"Gee," said Gloomy. "And B. H. hands me a
little job to pump a rich lawyer in the Mike Horgan
"That's because he's got brains." Agnes pushed
him along gently to the outer door, relieving him of
his precious badge. "The old war might end the
minute we step in and he ain 't the detective to throw
over all his old customers on a chance. He'll hang
to the old ones and tackle the new ones, too. So long.
Come in to-morrow and I'll fix you up if I ain't in
Mattawan playing tit-tat-toe with some other mental
"You might just as well keep these for me, Agnes,"
he said, handing over his automatic, the little pocket
electric and the trombone. "I won't need 'em on
this ladylike job."
150 NANCY PRESTON
"You bet the office will need them, Gloomy." She
cleaned him of every implement of his trade and piped
a cheerful "Good-by, old dear," to him as he headed
for the elevator.
"She sure ain't any commercial nun, that Agnes,"
he chuckled to himself on his way earthward. "If
she wasn't makin' twice as much as me I'd be askin'
her out to the theater some night. ' '
He strolled up Nassau street and found the offices
of Vernon Snowden and his associates, being informed
there that the lawyer had been suddenly called to
Chicago on business. Out again in the narrow street
he walked leisurely north to Park Row and into a
bedlam of newsboys shouting an extra that brought
them a harvest of pennies. He joined the throngs
before the bulletin boards of the downtown newspaper
offices. The date of the Washington dispatch, dis-
played in large letters, was September seventeenth,
1914. It sent forth the news that the United States
government had informally approached the German
Kaiser in the matter of peace terms, offering its
friendly services to the belligerents.
"Sure, Agnes has the right dope," Gloomy de-
cided. "This old war will blow up soon. There ain't
nobody got anything on B. H. Tierney for common
sense. He ain't so brilliant that he can work in a
dark room without turning on one light anyhow, but
he's there when it comes to plugging along good and
NANCY PRESTON 151
steady. " He elbowed his way from the crowd and out
into Spruce street, narrow and steep, leading down
to the old "Swamp" section of Manhattan Island,
where the hide and leather business is centered.
At William street a score of human voices shouted
a warning as he started to cross. There was a heavy
tangle of wagons and trucks from the newspaper cir-
culation offices. It parted suddenly and packed
against and overflowed the curbs as a motor engine
with bell and siren going dashed by on its way to
answer a fire call. As he jumped back something
struck him between the shoulders, the pole of one of
the newspaper wagons; he lost his breath and his
footing at the same time and disappeared for several
moments from the sight of the people crowding the
sidewalk. When he was drawn from under the strug-
gling shifting traffic there was a little red stream of
blood from his nostrils and another from a corner of
his mouth. He was taken into the saloon on the cor-
ner and laid on the floor while a policeman summoned
One of the employees in the place put a wet towel
to Gloomy 's lips, nose and eyes and ripped open his
waistcoat. There was no tremor in response. The
ambulance surgeon felt for a pulse and tried for a
heart beat with his stethoscope.
''He's dead," he said.
"Better take him to the station, then, for identified-
152 NANCY PRESTON
tion," suggested the cop. "Maybe he's got some pa-
pers or letters on him." He made a quick search of
the dead man's pockets. "Not a thing on him," he
announced. "It's a morgue case. Take him along
and I '11 look up some witnesses. ' '
For one time Agnes was wrong. What was left of
the patient, unimaginative Cole, to whose soul there
had come only that morning the light of a good deed
done at the sacrifice of duty, was eventually taken
to the foot of Misery Lane, the east end of Twenty-
first street, where Bellevue Hospital, various clinics,
undertakers' shops and New York's roomy morgue
are crowded together and where the tugs pull up once
a day for the deck-load of passengers in their cheap
brown wooden overcoats, bound for Potter's Field.
Nancy's one witness that could have saved her if
the police landed her for the murder of Luther Littsky
had joined the thousands of people that have disap-
peared suddenly and completely from the sidewalks
of New York.
rpIERNEY had just rolled back to the office from
"Anything doin', Agnes?" he asked, pausing at
"A cable from London saying there's a deposit of
$150,000 in our office there for this British job. Also
says draw all you need." She perked her pretty
head on one side as she smiled up to him. "This is
more than a million dollar job if the scrap goes on
for a year and the agencies are sending in men by the
hundred, glad to get three dollars a day as watch-
"Yeh, Agnes," he smiled back. " 'At's all right
but don't let it mix up our regular schedule. Any
The detective bureau wanted him, and one of his
old pals of Mulberry street days, now a captain, was
on the wire in a few moments telling him the story of
the murder of Littsky.
' ' We want all the dope we can get on Nancy Pres-
ton, the jane that led you to Mike Horgan," his
154 NANCY PRESTON
friend told him. "Littsky was murdered in her room
after a stiff fight, got a crack over the head with a
chair and was then choked the rest of the way. It's
a clear case. We got a piece of her hair, pulled out in
the scuffle, some of her torn clothes and finger prints
a-plenty. They'd had a big feed before the row
started. The dishes were all there. Littsky ordered
the stuff sent to the house and the landlady took it in
to her. When Nancy finished him she took his money
and diamonds, picked up the kid and beat it. The
landlady was doped and can't remember much except
that they were fighting the last time she saw them
"Say, I had a man watchin' the two of them last
night," Tierney informed his friend. "What time
did this happen?"
"Just before daybreak."
"Then he was sleeping. He didn't know a thing
about it. Wait a minute, will ya " Tierney yelled
through his open door: "Agnes, find Gloomy and
tell him his job 's gone. I want his gun and his badge
"I got them here," called back Agnes.
"Good girl. Nowlookit!" He began talking into
the phone again, humping himself eagerly over it,
reveling in the joy of a fresh trail. "Of course ya
got all the pawnshops covered. Well, there was a girl
named Mazy she traveled with, an old timer. Oh,
NANCY PRESTON 155
she blew, did she?" His camera brain delivered up
all that he had ever picked up on poor Mazy. "Try
Boston for her. She lived there once ag a girl. Some
guy picked her up and brought her to New York.
She'll go there because she'll know how to get around
the streets without asking the cops. Find her and
watch her mail. And there's Mike Horgan up in Sing
Sing. Nancy will try to reach him. He's her man
and she won't be able to keep away from him long.
Get Murphy and Vegas to take a look-see up at her
old address in the Bronx. There might be something
doing there. Try the night-hawk taxis around the
fifties. They'd remember her on account of the kid.
Got it all* You're welcome. If I get a chance I'll
see what I can do for you. " He hung up and wheeled
in his chair. "Once they get started crooked," he
mused, "they just keep at it and these nice ladies
and gents who go out to help them go straight just
make it all the harder for us. Why, they're having
some moving pictures every week up at Sing Sing
these days and even the actors make up holiday par-
ties to put on vaudeville shows for the cons." He
wagged his heavy head dolorously. "And here's this
Whoozis, the new warden, preaching kindness.
They'll all be wearing wrist-watches in another year.
They don't even crop their heads any more and the
old stripes are done away with because it might hurt
the feelings of some old guy like Cock-Eyed Garry
156 NANCY PRESTON
McGarry or some tender young lizard like Izzie the
Dip. Oh, hell!"
"What's the matter, Chief?" Agnes entered and
plumped herself down for a few peaceful happy mo-
ments of manicuring.
"Oh, nothing much. Same old thing. If that fat
slob Judge Maddigan had only tucked away Nancy
Preston for a year or so for trying to beat us out on
the Horgan case there wouldn't be a murder for the
police to investigate to-day. She killed Littsky this
morning some time. She with her pretty blue eyes.
But this time she'll go where she belongs . . . maybe
she'll wriggle through the wires."
"It's a headquarters case, ain't it?" she reminded.
"We should worry."
"Sure, but when my old crowd helps me I help
them, don't I?" He paused to think over a way to
give aid to the hunters now in full cry after the
quarry. ' ' Just tip off all our men to keep an eye open
for her," he ordered her. "Get enough pictures of
her from headquarters to hand to 'em. New York's
a small town. One of 'em might bump into her.
And tell 'em about her kid. They're always together.
He's a skinny little fellow with big eyes, deeper blue
than Nancy's. . . . And, don't fire Cole. . . . Call
up Mr. Snowden's office and tell him to come in."
In a few minutes she had attended to this and gave
him the information that his man had called at the
NANCY PRESTON 157
Snowden offices and had gone away. Mr. Snowden
was in Chicago on business. They didn't know when
he would return. Tierney sucked his teeth. "I'll
bet I won't hear from Gloomy for a full month," he
sighed. "But it's my fault. Just keep calling up
that office every day on a chance of picking him up,
And Agnes did that, every day for a month, while
Gloomy 's naked body lay in its tight marble filing
case at the foot of Misery Lane, his clothes in a neat
bundle, ready for inspection for all those who sought
to the very end of the last lap of outcast humanity for
father, mother, sister, brother or child. As the days
passed and no one claimed it, it went its way, in its
turn, up the river.
IT was a low class crime and worth only the sensa-
tion of a day. The woman in the case disqualified
it as a good " running" story for the newspapers.
Had she slain in defense of what the daily journals
would so roundly call her "honor," had her life been
only freshly broken by the Tenderloin 's prince of dark-
ness, had she been a new one caught in the net, had
her virtue been mired but recently, the public's ever
lively interest in the "unwritten" law would have
been caught and held by the tragedy.
It would not have been necessary for Nancy to have
run to hiding in the basements of the cheapest tene-
ment houses, scrubbing and rubbing and making her
bread and shelter from one dark pit to the other as
"help" to janitors and janitresses. She could have
given herself up at the nearest police station, admitted
her guilt and the ablest of criminal lawyers would
have fought for the privilege of defending her free of
any cost. The advertisement the case would have
offered would have paid back a thousand fold for the
time, money and effort the lucky one securing the as-
signment from the court could have given.
But Nancy had been a lodger in the Tifft house, the
NANCY PRESTON 159
guest of the man who had been slain. Also she was
under suspended sentence for having tried to help a
burglar to escape the law. Seven years before she
had not been a "good" woman. In the event of her
arrest she would be the prey of jail runners, those ex-
cellent products of the New York universities which
turn out a multitude of lawyers each year. The door-
man and the desk sergeant of every police station
and the guards of every jail in the city know them
and pick up a little change from their thinly lined
pockets. Poor themselves for the most part, hungry
for money as wolves are for meat when the winter
is a hard one, they will take a case on a chance of the
dollar coming from a relative or from the sale even
of household goods and clothes. The criminal courts
know them, for they haunt them on the chance of the
court giving them an assignment to defend a prisoner
who is penniless and friendless. The reporters of
every great newspaper know them and pity and despise
them. No innocent poor man or woman stands an
even chance for justice with such incompetent and im-
poverished counsel. There may be material witnesses
in a distant city but there is no money to bring them
on or even to get their depositions. Expert testimony
may be necessary and that costs a great deal invari-
ably. The district attorney sends the case to the
grand jury. The average time taken for that body
to indict in the course of a year's grinding of the
160 NANCY PRESTON
mills is seven minutes. In the year in which the
police began to rake New York for Nancy Preston
and her boy, 13,327 men and women were arraigned
for serious offenses in the magistrates' courts of the
city and forty-seven percent were discharged. The
organized power of society exerted through its police
system had drawn in its net along with the guilty,
or those seemingly guilty enough to be held for the
grand jury, 6,239 innocent people.
The prosecuting attorney is a judicial officer, sup-
posed to represent the accused as well as the govern-
ment. But his zeal is to convict and he cannot know
the real truth back of the defense, for what defendant
is going to give to the man attacking his cause any
information whatever? Political ambition has been
won for many a brilliant district attorney through
sending a man to prison or the chair. By a convic-
tion he has everything to gain and he has all the
power that is necessary to win a verdict of guilty.
Only great wealth, which may employ finer brains
than he may boast, can beat him. The poor are hope-
less and helpless before him.
Nancy knew what it meant to be hunted, to be
hounded after her seven years of purification, those
years of struggle with a gleam of happiness an ample
return for what she gave in decency's name and in
the name of the love she had held for the man who
had tried to run straight.
NANCY PRESTON 161
With Bubs in her arms, she staggered down the
basement steps of a cheap flat house far down Ninth
avenue, as far away from Forty-second street as her
legs would carry her. In a window was a sign. It
read: "Assistant wanted. Apply within." A
tired, broken woman, with gnarled hands and grimy
face, lay on a lounge. It was the janitress, rheuma-
tism, bred in the dampness and darkness of her under-
ground habitation, torturing her.
There would be at least food and shelter here for
a while. She took off her hat, rolled up her sleeves
and went to work.
' ' Thank God ! ' ' groaned the stricken woman in the
"Thank God," echoed Nancy.
Late that night she glanced at an evening paper,
taken from the rubbish sent down by a tenant, and
read with horror of Littsky's murder and of the
search of the police for Nancy Preston, alias "Straw"
Nancy. The janitress would know nothing of this.
If she could read, which was doubtful, she was so crip-
pled that it would be many a day before she could
hold a paper in her hands. This was a safe enough
hiding place, perhaps as safe as the city held for her.
There was food and coffee in the cupboard. She fed
Bubs and found a mattress and covering for him
and herself. She knew nothing of religion. As she
closed her eyes, Michael's patient countenance came
162 NANCY PRESTON
before her. He seemed to be trying to speak to her,
to warn her. She opened her eyes and thought that
she saw the face fading away. Then she was sure that
she saw iron bars and sat up, trembling. It was not
a vision. The bars were real, guarding the back
windows of the basement from neighborhood thieves.
MICHAEL, with the red disk showing against
the gray of his sleeve, was again on duty in
the hospital of the old Monastery up the Hudson.
Old-timers, men approaching senescence, their with-
ered faces long twisted into a semblance of brutishness
by the soul-killing years of cell-life, eyes dull, hair
fallen out save for eye-brows and lashes of silver, their
skin in parchment folds, their gait that of the oxen
under yoke, were glad to see him. They gave him
each a glance, a flash of lightning from the dark
clouds of their deadened brains, the night of their
blank minds, a glance which is recognition and greet-
ing. Convicts call it "the know" or "the office."
Many of them had been pretty ill and had missed him
and his almost womanly gentleness in his ministra-
tions. Prison had never robbed him of a trace of his
humaneness. The pleasures of the intellect had been
his bulwark against the foul influences of this "cor-
rectional" institution. The stigma failed to attach
itself to his face, still dark and lean and distinguished,
the face of a gentleman. His inner life was like a
white light. The harshness of the world had swept
him like a cold rain, bitter but cleansing.
164 NANCY PRESTON
In a week he was back in the routine of his trusty's
job. He needed no trying out. Two terms had
shown his caliber. Father Healey laughingly said
that he would give his personal recommendation for
him as warden of the prison and trust him with the
keys of every corridor and the great iron outer gate
that led to the road down the hill and the wide world.
With such a prisoner the work of the keepers is eased.
In workshop or mess hall, the guards with their long
clubs and handy pistols are not so jumpy when he
is near; his higher intelligence seems to take away
some of the always present menace that there is for the
trainer with his whip as he enters the den.
"If what you tell me about this man Hindman being
the real thief is true," said the priest toward the end
of Michael's second week, "he will be caught and your
innocence established. The governor will pardon
"He '11 steal again, of course," Michael agreed, "and
he may be caught red handed at it but that will be
another case. The police and James Tierney, Incor-
porated, will not remember that Hindman covered
himself by sending me to prison. Their job is not to
get people out of jail but to put them in. ' '
"But didn't you have any friends to help you make
a fight ? ' ' asked the padre.
"One friend, a woman. She laid her whole clean
soul before the court and the world in an effort to
NANCY PRESTON 165
save me and when her cross-examination was ended
she stepped down from the witness chair branded a
harlot and given an alias." Michael's eyes clouded
and' he turned away from the priest who was himself
almost as much a prisoner as any of the twelve hun-
dred gray-clad men of La Trappe.
"Her love must have been great."
"No greater or cleaner was ever offered man by
"She will come to see you?"
"I hope so. I think so."
The priest went his way to a distant cot where
death hovered and Michael again saw the grated
patches of sunlight creep from the floor of the hos-
pital to the eastern wall as the sun descended beyond
the further shore of the Hudson to its bed beneath
the darkening autumn hills. His relief came on duty
and he went to mess and roll call and thence to his
One word from her that she was well and had taken
up the struggle again was all that he craved. Why
hadn't it come? The prison regulations did not per-
mit him receiving a letter so soon after his return but
she could have sent him a word of assurance through
the warden's office or through Father Healey and it
would have been delivered to him. Perhaps she was
waiting to come and pay him a visit. And perhaps
she would bring Bubs with her. His joy at this
166 NANCY PRESTON
thought was short lived. The lad was growing and in
after years, when all the storms of life had passed,
he would recall him in the baggy gray clothes within
the high-walled place, would remember the swinging
to and fro of the ponderous iron gates, their clang and
the echoing clamor of the turnkey as he made them
secure behind him.
Nancy might bring him anyhow, as a bright gift,
knowing how deeply he loved the lad and the happi-
ness that would be his at the sound of his voice and
the clasp of his little hands. He must try and get a
warning to her not to do this for Bubsy's sake.
The clamor of conversation from cell to cell in his
tier died down and the mirthless laughter of the ob-
scene was stilled as the lights went out. The keeper
flashed his lamp the length of each bunk as he passed.
Another prison day was over.
MICHAEL awoke suddenly, his hands and face
covered with the cold sweat that only the hor-
ror of an evil dream may bring. He swung his feet
to the floor of his cell and passed his lean hands
through his hair as he endeavored to recall it, to bring
in contact the real and the unreal, the conscious with
the subconscious. Her voice, Nancy's, rang in his
ears. Something had happened to her surely or per-
haps it was just that she was thinking of him so in-
tently that she had awakened him.
He had no idea of the time of night but felt that
he had not been long asleep. Save for the breathing
of the men in their cells the tier was still. If Nancy
was in trouble he was powerless to help her. No,
not entirely so. Father Healey might go to her for
him. His job was to help, even as Christ had helped,
those who could turn not elsewhere. His uneasiness
grew upon him. Faintly came a signal through the
pipes. The old prison gossip was at work. He had
something to tell. The underground news service
was in operation. The message, he knew, would be
long for the operator was using all possible caution
168 NANCY PRESTON
not to start trouble by sending so loudly that the
keepers would be disturbed.
Slowly the story was tapped off in the Morse code :
"Luther Littsky, panderer, killed. Choked to
death. Police hunting woman named Nancy
Preston. She ought to get a medal. Not ar-
rested. Got a good start. Bonehead Tierney,
the rat, after her also. M. H. knows her. Bill 's
widow. Has a little boy; no money. Looks
rough for her. If message comes to M. H. will
send. Good-by. ' '
For a moment Michael sat in the darkness of his
cell like a figure cut in ebony. His blood seemed to
stop flowing. It was a part of his dream, this tap-
tap-tapping that had so sinisterly assailed his ears.
It couldn't be true. He unclasped his hands with an
effort and felt the blanket of his bunk, tugged at it
and then rubbed his knees. He was sitting up and
was awake. Could he possibly have dozed off in this
position and dreamed this cruel and horrible thing?
He stood up, caught the bars of his cell door behind
his hands and stared out into the dimly lighted cor-
"Keeper!" he called softly. "Keeper! It's Hor-
"What's the trouble?" asked the keeper as he an-
swered the summons.
NANCY PRESTON 169
"Did you hear anything?"
"Hear what? You're jumpy. Bad dreams."
"Did you hear the pipes?"
"Sure, that same old gossip. Did he wake you
"What did he say?"
"Pah, nobody bothers with him. He's a nut.
Somewhere down in the engine room, I guess."
It was no dream. Michael knew that he had read
aright. But just to hear the keeper's voice and to
have him near was better than to be sitting on his
bunk thinking of Nancy running from the police and
Tierney, dragging little Bubs with her, penniless and
hungry, the fangs of the pack snapping at her skirts.
"Was there anything in the papers about the death
of Luther Littsky?" he asked in a whisper.
"Sure. He got what was coming to him, too. A
crack over the head and strong fingers at his throat.
A woman did it. He must have been at his old game.
She put up an awful fight and got away with it."
"Who . . . who . . . was this man Littsky?"
"He wasn't a man. He was a beast; ruined and
sold women. Made a fortune. The cops could never
land him. He had too much kale. He could buy
witnesses never mind how high they came. And
lawyers ! That was Littsky. Didn 't you know about
170 NANCY PKESTON
"No, my God, no!" Michael staggered back and
fell face downward on his bunk, choking back the
sobs and driving his teeth in a corner of his blanket
in the agony of his soul.
"IK THEN the day came and the clangor of the bell
for them to get up and get out for the job,
Michael soused his head in cold water. He had not
slept save for a few moments of nightmare more tor-
turing than wide-awakeness. He gulped his coffee
and .ground his food between his strong clean teeth,
choking it down.
As he entered the hospital, the night man he was
to relieve whispered to him that the convict Father
Healey had visited on the day before wanted to see
him. "Mebbe he's got some message that ain't any-
thing of a religious nature he wants to give you,"
said the night orderly. "I dunno. He just kept
askin' for you. That's all, old fellow. So long."
Through the grated western windows he could see
the reflection of the morning sun. The distant folds
of land, rising gently to the west beyond the further
shore of the river, were smudged with haze so that the
darker autumn colors were hidden. The river lay like
a wide blue ribbon, ruffled just a little by the breath
of a breeze playing with it as a kitten would. It
might have been spring instead of autumn, for the
172 NANCY PRESTON
colors were hidden and the cold hard glint of winter
had not yet come to the sunlight.
The man in the corner cot begged him feebly with
his deep-socketed eyes to come to him and he obeyed.
"I got a present for you, Mike," he whispered.
The words mildly startled him. He had heard
them before, he thought, in the same room and with
the same light and shadows in the room. He won-
dered if imagination was playing a trick with him.
' ' I got a present for you, Mike, ' ' repeated the dying
convict. "It's under my shirt. Take it out. You
might want to make a get away. It 's a hand electric,
fresh charged ; stole it from the supplies. ' ' Although
his lips were as yellow as the clay he was soon to share,
they twisted in a cunning smile. "Bend lower and
take it," he added.
Michael deftly slipped the gift under his own blouse.
Then he remembered the spring morning when the
orderly had told him that old Jim had been calling
for him and he remembered how Jim had told him
of the loosened brick in the wall of the last potato bin
down back of the kitchen, how he had puttied it with
chewing gum and how it would let him make the
sewer to the outer world.
"You been good to us sick fellows," the convict
was mumbling. "I won't need it. You might. I
got some tobacco, too, and old newspapers and a book
and pictures of wimmin in my cell. Take 'em all,
NANCY PRESTON 173
Mike. Father Healey is a good man but he don't
Michael sat and held the old fellow's hands as the
blood left them. The stiffening of the yellow fingers
told him when his sentence to mortality was ended
and his soul back whence it came. From the world
of kindness in his heart Brother Michaelis had gar-
nered these things: a hole in a wall and a light to
guide him through and beyond it, a little tobacco,
some old newspapers and "pictures of wimmin."
He left the side of the cot and went to the win-
dow, studying the steep topography down to the
river's edge. It did not seem possible that the sewer
would lead directly to the water from the high perched
prison as Jim had perhaps taken it for granted it
would. In all probability it followed the road to the
village and connected up with the town sewer. In
such event the electric lamp bequeathed him would
mean everything in his venture should he be com-
pelled to make it. Again, he thought, a long under-
ground journey would mean occasional manholes,
through one of which he might make the surface,
avoiding the struggle through the icy waters c the
river. Until he heard from Nancy and received the
information how to get in touch with her, he would
have to be patient. To make the break for freedom
now would be folly for then they would be wholly
lost to each other. As it was she knew where to reach
174 NANCY PRESTON
him and that she would eventually get a message to
him he was certain. She would know the bitter
anxiety of his heart and if it was humanly possible
she would relieve it. A greater tie had come to bind
them than their mutual love for the sickly little lad
they had both started out so bravely to save, a tie
made stronger by suffering and adversity, the love
that comes to those who fight and fight hard together
and, fighting, see no sign of cowardice in each other.
"Well, Brother Michaelis!" Father Healey stood
close behind him.
"Your penitent has just died," he informed the
"You mean, Brother Miehaelis," retorted the
padre, "that he has been pardoned and is gone. We
are all prisoners just waiting for that moment. ' '
"IV/TICHAEL lost no time in preparing for his flight
* from the prison. He secured a change to the
night trick in the hospital on the plea that it would
give him more time for his studies, Father Healey
making the request for him. His next move was to
gain access to the kitchen which was readily achieved
through his request to he allowed to make a b^oth for
one of his patients.
Down in the darker depths of the walled city he
made friends with the night force of workers, even-
tually found the bin and the masked door to freedom
and was ready for the break should a call for help
reach him from Nancy. There, too, he came across
the old gossip and learned that the chief wire of com-
munication between the underworld life of New York
and the convicts lay through the trusties who handled
the incoming supplies. A motor truck driver picked
up a neat bit of extra money as messenger. Bill Pres-
ton had used him in the old days. A note from Nancy
enclosing the fee and the word she wanted transmitted
would reach this man at his home address in the
Bronx, not so many miles from the prison.
There was danger of the gossip sending along a
176 NANCY PRESTON
message through the pipes at a time when it would
not reach him and so Michael made himself known to
his fellow convict.
"I knew Bill Preston," said the pipe-line telegra-
pher. ' ' There was a powerful lot of good in that man.
We were kids together in New York, in the same class
in public school, way down in Oliver street in the
Cherry Hill section. To the west of us was the old
Bowery and to the east the docks and the arches of
Brooklyn bridge. That was where the biggest part
of the junk business was done in our time." He
showed his few broken and worn yellow teeth as he
smiled at his reminiscences. "Every crook comes to
know at some time that there ain 't anything in trying
to beat out the law but it was so easy to get money
from the junk dealers. A kid down in our ward
would just wrench a piece of pipe out of an empty
house when he wanted a baseball or a catcher's mask
and the junkman would hand him the money. He'd
buy anything and no questions asked. When you
start that early you keep a-going until you get tired
of rotting in prison and being hounded or until a cop
gets you on the run just as Bill got his. There was a
lot of good in that Bill Preston. I remember there
was a family named O'Hagan being evicted in Water
street and Bill went through a transom one night and
when he come out he had the rent money for them.
NANCY PRESTON 177
I think he was soft on Maggie O'Hagan, a pretty
He would have rambled along in his hoarse whisper
for an hour had Michael let him.
"I'm expecting word from Bill's widow," he told
him. "Don't put it on the pipes if it comes."
"All right. Then, after the junkman gave us the
first lessons," he continued in the monotone of the
tireless talker, "the cops got us and before we knew
it we were up in Randall's Island where they send the
juveniles. Say, that was some hole! One year in
that place would make a murderer out of an altar
boy. There ain't a summer that the poor kids there
don't make a break to get away from it, trying to
swim for the mainland and many a youngster has
gone out dead with the tide."
Michael spread his tray with a bit of lunch for the
hospital guard and hurried off, ending the practical
lecture on the making of criminals from the streets of
He had heard the girl's side of it from the evidence
of Nancy under cross-examination. This was the side
of the boy of the great city 's highways, a city so evilly
crowded, so topographically unsuited to its ever in-
creasing population that it has become nothing more
than a jungle, beneath which its people have been
compelled to burrow like moles for the slightest elbow
178 NANCY PRESTON
room in moving from place to place ; a city with day
courts and night courts, courts for men and courts
for women and courts and prisons for children.
Poor Bubs ! What chance would he have ? Michael
sat in a corner of the hospital, his heart bleeding
for the little fellow. The bitterness of his own experi-
ences had not lessened his love for humanity. Rather
it had sharpened it. The successful, the rich, the fa-
mous did not hold his attention and interest as did
the great overwhelming mass of stragglers, of whom
so many fought and fell and rose to fight again. The
Illustrious Obscure, he called them. Their battles and
their tears went unnoticed. God alone knew how
many Nancys gamely stood the punishment of a help-
less civilization that had not yet found the golden key
to the problem of justice and the poor. An old
A THIN sheet of ice was forming on the rivers,
the moonlight plating it with silver sheen. Mi-
chael turned from the hospital window at midnight
and, telling the guard that all his patients were sleep-
ing easily, went to the kitchen.
The gossip was waiting for him. As Michael busied
himself over the range the news operator began to
shake down the ashes and whispered in his ear.
"Bubs is dead."
Michael steadied himself although his face was
"She's all in," the gossip continued, and then,
leaning closer, gave him an address down in the old
Ninth ward of Manhattan, a tenement house west of
Hudson street in the neighborhood of Bleecker.
' ' You got it ? " he asked. Michael nodded. The flash
light was in his blouse and with it a chisel he had
managed to acquire from a convict working in the
machine shop. "She's living in the basement. In
the front of the basement."
"Anything else?" Michael asked.
"The boy is buried."
180 NANCY PRESTON
"Pretty damp where she lives and cold. Pneu-
monia. ' '
"You haven't seen me to-night." The gossip's
hands trembled slightly as he fixed the dampers of
the range. Horgan was going to try for a get-away.
"I ain't seen you," he agreed.
Michael thrust some pieces of bread within his
blouse. ' ' You 'd better look out for the furnace fire, ' '
he told the convict. The moment he was out of the
kitchen, Michael was in the potato bin and working
silently, swiftly. When the opening to the sewer was
large enough to admit his entrance he drew against it
two sacks of potatoes, balanced them in place care-
fully and flashed his light. Jim had done an excellent
job. After the mortar had been scraped from around
the first brick he had dropped all the refuse from his
work within, using just enough of the powdered lime
and sand to color his chewing gum substitute. The
top of the brick sewer had been opened as the wall
had been, the opening covered with gunny sacks so
that the escape of sewer gas would not be sufficient to
attract attention within the prison. He cleared the
opening and crawled within, sinking half to his knees
in the effluvia. Breathing as little as possible, his
head reeling from the poisonous stench, he went
ahead, crouched far over, the light in its narrow com-
pass giving him brilliant illumination. It was not
very cold although he knew that outside the tempera-
NANCY PRESTON 181
ture was freezing. Once he plunged forward rap-
idly. His foot had struck some slimy object that had
seemed to move. Could it have been some living
thing, a cloacal creature ? The thought made his hair
stand on end. There were such things, for there seems
to be no actual death even in corruption. He
plunged forward, throwing his light overhead from
time to time, looking for a manhole.
He had traveled for about twenty minutes at as
great a speed as he could make, covering his mouth
and nostrils with his left arm, when he found the
first overhead opening. His chisel lifted it easily.
He listened for a full minute. The whistle and rum-
bling of a distant train were the only sounds that
reached him. A footfall would have meant danger.
Gently he lifted the iron plate to one side and looked
out into the world. Overhead the stars were sown
thickly between occasional clouds hinting of snow.
He found himself at a bend of a wide road along
which were darkened houses. He drew himself up
and out of the prison's gut, dropped the manhole
cover in place and ran to cover in a patch of shadows
at the sound of an approaching motor truck. The
machine slowed at the curve. As yet he had no idea
of direction but he knew that it was hardly probable
that any deliveries would be made at the prison after
midnight. The truck ought to be headed away from
it. As its driver straightened out the great vehicle,
182 NANCY PRESTON
Michael leaped from the dark and swung to its tail
board. There was space between it and a number of
crates and boxes. He crawled over and lay flat on
his face, safely hidden from view.
The roads were deserted and the driver gave his
engine all the gas its carburetor could handle. He
felt that when his escape was discovered and the
sirens began their frightful howl of warning to
the countryside that a convict was at large he
would have a start of many miles. Luck was with
him or perhaps God had lifted His rod from his
After about an hour the machine came to a halt.
They had passed through the side lights of several
villages. Michael lay still. He heard the driver
draw off the water from his radiator and depart. A
door slammed and he heard a lock slip into place.
From the silence, the darkness and the smell of gaso-
line, oil and grease, he knew that he was locked in a
garage. After a wait of ten minutes he crawled out
of his hiding place and, cautiously using his light,
found a closet where hung overalls and a workman's
cap, priceless gifts of fortune. Cleaning himself as
best he could with what rags and waste he could find,
he slipped into the overalls, pulled the cap over his
head and jimmied a window, reaching the open.
He found the garage close to the river. At a ram-
shackle dock was tied a motor boat in which a man
NANCY PRESTON 183
labored hard with a cold engine. The ice was not yet
heavy enough to interfere with navigation. Michael
sauntered to the stringpiece of the wharf.
"If you're looking to get across," the boatman
panted angrily as he desisted in his efforts to get a
spark from his motor, "you can get a free ferry ride
by tackling this damned fly-wheel. ' ' He sat down in
the stern sheets exhausted and Michael climbed aboard
and replaced him at the task. If the Sing Sing sirens
had sounded their warning as yet, the clatter and
crash of the motor truck had deadened his ears to
them. His feet were freezing and his stomach weak
from the evil exhalations of the sewage through which
he had made his way to freedom. He was glad of
the chance to get his blood going. He labored hard
and finally there came a sputter of life to the motor.
He tackled it again and with a shout of gratitude
from the boatman they were headed for the opposite
shore where the Palisades reared clearly and solemnly
under the stars.
Looking back as they reached mid-stream, Michael
recognized the lights of Dobbs Ferry and his heart
beat fast with happiness as he remembered his old
nook among the rocks to which they were headed, the
abandoned summer house where he had slept with the
"scrub angels" of Swedenborg. There he would find
momentary refuge and a place to rest and there also,
he remembered, tucked away in sheathing paper, was
184 NANCY PRESTON
his suit of clothes, the suit he had worn when he made
his flight from Vegas and Murphy the day he saw
them enter the jewelry factory in the Bronx.
Leaving the boatman to tie up his little craft, with
a brief explanation that he had been promised a job
in the morning by a contractor in Tappan, a village
seven miles back of the Palisades road, Michael started
up the winding path from the river 's edge. The sum-
mer house was still there and his clothes under the
bench. He changed swiftly to them and hid his con-
vict's suit. The Italian villa, upon which he had
worked for Dan Burns, showed its pale green tiles in
the starlight. There were curtains in the windows
and a dim light in an upper window. Its owner, the
Wall street man with money-mania, was occupying it.
Thought of him brought the realization that he was
without a penny to help him in his further progress
to Nancy's address. The correlation of ideas then
brought to his mind the tempting picture of the secret
vault he had built within the villa. In that one nook
would be, perhaps, money enough to take him and
Nancy far away from any more misery, poverty and
persecution. "Wealth, the thing that gives bread to
empty stomachs, clothes to shivering bodies, that pays
the expenses for bringing distant witnesses to court
so that justice may be dispensed, that hires lawyers
with high intelligence and pays the cost of appeals,
fees to itching hands everywhere, was lying idle there.
NANCY PRESTON 185
Not that the villa owner lacked a decent right to have
it. Michael thought that perhaps he lacked only the
knowledge of the power for good he had attained in
Faintly from up the river came a whine, rising and
then falling, like the mourning of some animal for its
lost whelp. It was the siren call of Sing Sing for its
own, but so far away that it would not awaken those
snugly abed about him. He could readily picture the
prison telephone operator plugging up the numbers
of all the marshals, constables and police and all the
towns and villages for miles around. They were after
him. He hurried in the direction of the villa. No
one stirred within. His chisel found its niche under
a window. The sash gave. Michael slipped over the
sill, his dancing spot of light guiding him. His hand
went under a picture and found the electric button
which swung open the steel door of the vault.
Danny Burns had not exaggerated. The owner of
this house loved money for itself. There were bonds,
household silver and jewels and cash laid thickly on
the steel shelves. He could have taken away enough
money to have made the luckiest of burglars envy the
haul. There were some gold coins in stacks. Per-
haps the owner kept them for their music. He took
ten ten-dollar pieces, closed the door, slipped out into
the night, drew down the window sash and struck
out to the south at a rapid gait.
186 NANCY PRESTON
In the morning he would have his railroad fare on
the Northern railroad to Jersey City, money enough
to change to the garments of a gentleman and to live
as one for a few days as he laid his plans to save
Nancy from the pack at her heels.
THE new hunt for Mike Horgan was hardly under
way when a tall well-dressed gentleman stepped
from a taxicab in front of the Nassau street skyscraper
in which were the offices of Mr. Vernon Snowden, one
of the most distinguished members of the New York
Bar Association. Several newsboys rushed by him as
he entered the building, yelling the tidings that
"Desprit Thoid Toim Boiglar Escapes Sing Sing."
The public was already wearying of wholesale slaugh-
ter and the championship baseball series had long been
ended. Managing editors of the afternoon papers
were praying for a good old-fashioned murder mys-
tery jpr a wreck on the Elevated. They always sold
The fare from the taxi paused to buy one of the
sheets. He smiled as he took the elevator and scanned
the headlines which for the moment put him ahead of
a world-war in point of interest for the thousands of
stenographers and clerks out for their lunch hour
An office attendant held him up in the reception
room of the lawyer. He filled in a blank ; "Mr, Mi-
188 NANCY PRESTON
chael Lawrence Stafford desires to see Mr. Vernon
Snowden. Business Stafford Estate." It brought
immediate results in the person of Mr. Snowden him-
self, a rather portly old gentleman of high complexion
and snowy white mustache.
''My boy! My boy!" he exclaimed, catching his
visitor by both arms and taking him into his private
office. They sat and studied each other while Mr.
Snowden recovered from his surprise.
"I sincerely hope that this means the end," began
the lawyer, reaching over and taking one of Michael's
hands. "I hope that you feel that you have paid in
full, my dear Michael. If you only knew the anxiety
that you have caused me."
"I am sorry for that, but it could not be helped."
' ' But now you have come back to the bright surface
of life and all will be well." Mr. Snowden left his
chair and stood over Michael, smiling in genuine hap-
piness. "Of course you know that your uncle died
two years ago. ' '
"I did not know. But he was quite old, of course."
' ' And quite rich. Nearly all his money was in steel
holdings and the war, of course, has tripled his estate,
which I am directing for you."
' ' Why surely, Michael. Who else was there to leave
NANCY PRESTON 189
"Of course," repeated Michael. "He was not
much interested in philanthropy, was he?"
' ' Oh, he left some fine bequests, one to your college,
a goodly sum."
Michael's face lighted with pleasure. "Then I am
quite well-to-do?" he asked.
"Quite? I should say so," laughed Mr. Snowden.
""Why, Michael, you can give away more than a hun-
dred thousand a year and never feel it. Your uncle
was a most astute investor."
"I'm afraid you will have to begin spending some
of it for me right away, ' ' Michael said. ' ' I have just
escaped from Sing Sing where I was sent for ten
years for grand larceny. ' ' Briefly he gave Mr. Snow-
den the story of his case. "The man Hindman, who
was the real thief, must be caught and, if possible,
a confession secured from him. If this is done, then
you may ask for a pardon for me and I shall be able
to live in the sight of all men. We must put detectives
in that jewelry factory. It should not be a difficult
task. Without money I was helpless. It is only
from the poor that the poor get real help when they
are in trouble. Then there is one person I must save,
the one who helped me out of the bigness of her heart.
She is broken-hearted, and perhaps hungry in a tene-
ment basement not far from here. I must get all of
her story first and then send it to you."
190 NANCY PRESTON
Mr. Snowden's face was grave. He was himself
running counter to the law by shielding an escaped
convict, a man he had seen come up from boyhood
and had loved and respected.
"Was she the lady you asked me to help in your
"The letter reached the office when I was away in
the Adirondacks on the orders of my physician," he
explained. "When I returned she was gone from the
address given. My office could get no trace of her."
' ' I know where she is and am going to her to-night. ' '
"In the meanwhile you will keep under cover?"
"I must I thought I would shut myself up in my
old university town and finish my course in medicine.
I want no more of the law. It makes of the adminis-
tration of justice a means of money making merely."
"And the lady you spoke of?"
"I shall take her with me, as soon as you get me
enough money to provide my living expenses and
"And will she give up her life to a man in hiding
from the law ? ' '
"She is herself in hiding."
"You mean she is charged with some offense?"
"Yes. With murder."
"Murder!" The eminent lawyer's face blanched.
"But you believe her innocent?"
NANCY PRESTON 191
"It is better not to tell me anything further just
now," advised Mr. Snowden. "I will get abundant
cash money for you and start you off. Then I shall
employ James Tierney to hunt down this man Hind-
man and get you cleared first. The other case can
then be taken up."
"Tierney!" Michael smiled grimly. "Not Tier-
ney. He put me in prison for an annual retainer
from his client who was robbed. He drove my friend
Nancy Preston to the streets and sent her child to
death. Not Tierney."
A WELL-HEATED limousine, carrying baggage
for two, heavy rugs and a hamper of good things
to eat, stopped in front of one of a row of red-brick
tenements just off Hudson street. In a quiet but
exclusive hotel frequented by people of means and
manners, Michael, supplied with abundant cash, had
secured a professional shopper from one of the Fifth
avenue department stores. Through her he was able
to purchase everything that Nancy might need and
that he needed without showing himself in the streets.
The car and chauffeur were supplied by Mr. Snowden.
A dim light flickered against the dirty panes of the
tenement basement. Michael tried the door under
the stoop and found it locked. He tapped on the win-
dow and some one stirred within. He could make
out the form of a woman.
"Nancy! Nancy! It is I, Michael!" he called.
"Michael!" he heard repeated in a cry of bewilder-
The door opened and he entered a dark hall.
' ' Michael ! Michael ! ' ' her voice repeated. He
groped for her and caught her in his arms as she
fainted. For a moment he hesitated. There was no
NANCY PRESTON 193
need of taking her back into the cold hovel in which
she had found refuge. He turned with her and car-
ried her to the car. The chauffeur had been given his
directions. Morning would see them in a little college
town where was only peace and quiet. Snowden had
already arranged for their quarters at an inn where a
motherly woman would care for Nancy.
He pulled down the shades and switched on an
overhead light as the car moved off. How pale and
thin she was! Her clothes were ragged but clean;
her shoes broken. As he laid her on the deeply cush-
ioned seat and chafed her wrists he saw that her
hands were worn and gnarled, the nails broken, the
flesh of the fingers split. Tears of pity and love
filled his eyes. She opened her own in time to see
them fall and strike upon his cheeks, to feel their
warmth upon her hands.
"Did they see us?" she asked, sitting up and staring
about her. "Was he watching the door?"
"You are safe, Nancy," he told her.
"Michael! Michael!" She broke into tears. "I
thought I saw one of them the day I buried Bubs.
But a poor woman loaned me her veil and it saved
me. I didn't kill him. I didn't kill him. Some one
killed him after 1 ran away from the house uptown."
"Don't worry." He sat beside her and, worn out,
she let her head fall on his shoulder. ' ' We are going
where they can't find us and then we will make our
194 NANCY PRESTON
fight with the weapons they use, money and detec-
tives. It is already started. We will find and get
Hindman who sent me to prison and find and get the
man who killed Littsky."
The first snow of winter began to fly. They could
see it dancing ahead of them and as it settled from
occasional flurries into a steady whirling sheet the
sounds of the city's night traffic died down. The big
machine rolled along smoothly and noiselessly, gath-
ering speed as the city's outskirts were reached. A
sense of security came to her and the phantom detec-
tive that had begun to haunt her, sleeping and wak-
ing, even when she was beside the little coffin of her
boy, gradually left her. She fell asleep and when she
awakened Michael made her drink a cup of hot choco-
late from a thermos bottle and share a goodly lunch
TIERNEY groaned at his desk, groaned from pain
of body and soul, for not only was his old-fash-
ioned "belly-ache" back upon him but Mike Horgan
was out of prison.
"You better get a doctor to " began Agnes.
" I '11 paste you with the telephone book, ' ' her chief
snarled. "Why in hell do they have prisons when
the poor Johns running them leave the doors and
windows open every other night ? ' '
"He can't get far," suggested Agnes in an effort
to comfort him. "He's broke, ain't he?"
"But there's one thing I can tell you, Agnes," he
said between grunts of pain, his heavy face spotted
with white. "He and Straw Nancy will come to-
gether and when we get one of them we'll get the
"You better get that doctor," she began again as
she realized that the attack he was suffering was worse
than any she had witnessed in the past. He paid no
heed to the suggestion. There was time in his life
for nothing but man-hunting and the new war busi-
ness had reached such an enormous scale that money
from British, French and American manufacturers
196 NANCY PRESTON
and purchasers of war supplies was pouring into his
office in an ever widening stream. His detectives and
guards for the munition plants, warehouses and docks
already made a pay roll of two thousand and for the
direction of this force he was working on a profit of
one dollar a day for each man. He was among the
first of the great profiteers and although in the be-
ginning he was not especially cupidous the steady
piling up of such wealth finally got him and avarice
crept upon him like a slow disease. He fought off the
sharp pain in his side as he had done before and when
a little relief came he wiped the sweat of agony from
his forehead and asked for a report on the disappear-
ance of his man Cole.
"That was what I come in to give you," replied
Agnes, her pretty face drawn. "It's bad news."
"We found his clothes in the morgue."
"How did it happen?" Tierney's eyes were low-
"He was knocked down in the street by a wagon
and killed. There weren't any papers in his clothes
to identify him."
For a long time he remained silent and thoughtful.
Death had come a little too close to him and he was
afraid of its shadow in the strange helpless way of his
NANCY PRESTON 197
kind. In combat, gun in hand, against any of his
enemies of the underworld he would have died fighting
gamely and without a tinge of fear in his heart, but
this sudden rearing of the specter, leaving a man
without a chance for a come-back, left him a coward.
He had bravado but was not brave. He could pull a
trigger with true aim but he had no philosophy with
which to meet and face nature 's inevitable, final word.
"He didn't leave any people, did he?" he asked.
"Then, we can't do nothing for him. He's gone.
What case was he on when he was killed ? ' '
"He went over to see Mr. Vernon Snowden, the
lawyer, about Mike Horgan ..." began Agnes. f
Tierney's face became purple. Horgan! The
name would drive him crazy. If it hadn't been for
that gentleman burglar with his high notions, such
as calling a common street walker a saint, his man
would be alive and on the job with him to-day. He
would run him down and make him pay. "Send
Texas in here," he ordered, "and keep out until I
Texas Darcy sat beside his chief's desk and listened
patiently to the angry tirade with which Tierney re-
lieved his soul.
"Now," said the chief, his head clearing, "we'll get
down to business. You and me are the only ones in
this shop that know this guy, Horgan, by sight. We
198 NANCY PRESTON
got to get him. I've got more money than half these
bankers downtown and before the war is over I '11 have
John D. Rockefeller looking like a subway conductor.
I'm going to spend some of the jack to land this feller
and land him right and when I land him he 's going to
pay good and plenty. He and his woman Straw
Nancy are both running free. We'll catch them to-
gether. We'll put him back in his cell and then we'll
let him sit there while his Nancy goes through the
wires. Murder is the charge against her and police
headquarters have enough evidence on her to put her
in the chair a couple of times."
Texas lit a cigarette, undisturbed by this burst of
"If I ain't mistaken," Tierney continued, "the
one big clue that will lead you to this pair of birds
is going to come out of the office of the high and
mighty Mr. Vernon Snowden. I sent poor Gloomy
there to look him over the day he was killed. I want
you to watch that famous lawyer and, if you can, get
somebody in his office on our pay roll. We got to get
at his letters. We might tap his telephone and it
won't be so hard to get a dictograph in his private
office and for that matter in his home. We've done
it in many cases. Texas, there'll be something fat in
it for you if you handle this case right. Do you get
it all good in your nut ? ' '
"Sure I got it." Darcy took a last whiff from the
NANCY PRESTON 199
cigarette. His little eyes danced feverishly. "And
if he puts up another fight when I close in on
him . . ."
"Go easy, Texas," warned Tierney. "I'm gonna
make him pay through his woman. He's got to settle
with me for all this time and money and the loss of
one of the best men I ever had on a job."
REMOTE from great cities, Milford Town with
its cluster of university buildings, its inn for
the comfort of visiting alumni and relatives of stu-
dents, its hospitals amply endowed for the care of the
people of the surrounding country, its little shops
along shaded streets and its peacefulness, save for an
occasional boyish scrimmage, made a haven for Mi-
chael and Nancy which, after the years of want and
misery, savored of paradise as they adjusted them-
selves to it.
The Stafford bequest had come at an opportune
time, saving the institution from threatening indebted-
ness. Michael's return, after his mysterious journey
to the great outer world, was hailed with delight by
his old instructors and the members of the faculty,
for he had been an honor man and a favorite student.
He lost no time in entering the medical school for his
degree and found that he had studied so well in prison
that he could already take the second year examina-
tions with ease. As a post-graduate student, as well
as a benefactor of his alma mater, the way lay pleas-
antly before him for admission to his new profession.
NANCY PRESTON 201
To inquiries from his old professors as to why he had
abandoned his first choice, the law, he merely replied
that many another man had practised for a short time
only to withdraw. He had found nothing wrong
with the judicature but with the administration and
practice of the law there were faults which had made
him turn from it as a means of occupation.
Nancy entered the hospital to receive a nurse's
training, taking the name of Michael's mother before
she was married, Anna Alston. With the death of his
wealthy uncle, Michael was left without immediate
kinsfolk. Their seclusion was complete, their life tak-
ing on the beauty of calm after storm. Both working
with the aim, to help the afflicted, whether rich or
poor, the days passed swiftly and the nights in mutual
study before bright log fires at the inn, the music of
sleigh bells silvering the silence beyond their frosted
The money he had taken from the hoard of the rich
man, the night of his escape from Sing Sing, had been
returned. Michael's conscience did not bother him
on that score. The way of the law with the poverty-
stricken had made him steal. He told Nancy that it
was just as well that he had taken the money, for
then he would be better equipped to write his final
book advocating the establishment of a Public De-
fender in the courts of the land, an officer before the
bar of justice who would ever be ready to look after
202 NANCY PRESTON
the interests of the penniless prisoners without influ-
ence, giving him a guarantee of the same opportuni-
ties for justice that the wealthy and powerful could
"I think I shall call it 'The People against Nancy
Preston,' " he told her, "and then we shall be done
with the law."
"Unless Tierney finds me," she said quietly. Much
of the old fear had gone from her as the winter ended
and the months of bodily comfort and mental occupa-
tion in the hospital brought her back to the full of
her old health and beauty. There had been little time
in which to receive the old phantom guests of her ter-
rible basement days following the murder of Luther
Littsky, for Michael had provided her with a tutor
three evenings a week for the cultivation of her mind
beyond the needs of the profession she was taking up.
"Perhaps in the great slaughter that is going on,"
he mused, ' ' the curious world will find less interest in
the violent death of a single scoundrel. ' '
The glory of the springtime came, but their hearts
heeded not its call although a softer light came to the
eyes of Nancy and at times she would feel his hand
tremble when they bade each other good night. They
worked harder in class room and hospital ward as the
end of the term approached and summer came with all
its rich beauty of full-foliaged trees, soft brown roads
and colorful gardens.
NANCY PRESTON 203
Faculty, instructors and students went away on
their vacations and Milf ord Town fell asleep for three
fragrant months. They took a brief rest from study
during the last days of June. In the evenings they
would walk, their lips unmoving, their hearts in com-
One moonlight night they passed through the de-
serted streets of the village, by cheerfully lighted win-
dows and white paling fences which divided the high-
ways from little gardens now bright with roses, lark-
spur, geraniums, verbena and salvia, to a winding
road dappled with silver and velvet shadows. They
turned into a little path which followed a stream and
finally paused to sit and rest on a fallen tree where the
singing waters widened into a pond lying under the
full moon overhead like an unstamped silver medal
in a bed of wild flags. He took her hand and held it
tightly. Her blue eyes were moist and her heart ached
her with a sweet pain. She rose with him and he took
her in his arms. He held her so tightly that his clasp
hurt but she made no protesting cry. When their lips
separated and the clamor of their hearts died down
within them, they stood in silence listening to the
strange noises of the night. The eerie screech of an
owl, which made Nancy shiver and caused her to put
her arms again about her lover's shoulders ; the dismal
call of a whip-poor-will; the stridulations of hidden
204 NANCY PRESTON
insects and now and again a new note of song from
the brook as a pebble was dislodged in its bed.
"To-day I received word from Mr. Snowden that
his men had landed Hindman. It is only a question
of a little while now when Mike Horgan will be par-
doned and Tierney and his tribe brushed out of my
"And then, Michael?"
"Mr. Snowden 's detectives will clear up your case.
The man who killed Littsky will be found. Every
occupant of that house on the night of the murder is
being investigated thoroughly. The search has nar-
rowed down to one man. He will be found if money
can find him."
"But if they should come and take me away from
you now," she said, "I think I should die."
"OOMEjob! Some job!"
^ James Tierney scratched his bullet-shaped
head with a fat finger. Before him lay a stenographic
report of the arraignment, confession and sentence of
one Martin Hindman for grand larceny, the same
crime for which he had sent Mike Horgan to the peni-
tentiary for ten years. The mid-summer heat was
fierce, and no breeze stirred amid the skyscrapers of
downtown New York. The blinds of his private office
were drawn and an electric fan churned the air with
a droning sound. The perspiration coming down
from the vampish curls of Agnes were making ravines
in her rouge.
"Put some powder on your nose, Agnes," urged
her chief. "It's a headlight and gets me dizzy."
"Fooey!" Agnes took a look at herself in the
mirror of her vanity case and laid on the white screen.
"That was what I would call a regular piece of work,"
continued Tierney. ' ' They must have spent every bit
of ten thousand smacks, berries or iron men to land
him that way. They got him with the goods and
what's more Hindman 's Jane was loaded down with
206 NANCY PRESTON
the stuff we thought Morgan had stolen. Then they
got a confession out of him, just to clinch it."
"And the evening papers say the Governor has
signed a pardon for Horgan," panted Agnes. "I
wish to God it wasn't so hot and my vacation all
over. ' '
"But who is Horgan and where is he?" Tierney
was not worried about the part he had played in the
miscarriage of justice. It was his business to protect
his clients and, anyhow, Horgan was an old jailbird
and had no right working with one of his people.
"Didn't I tell you he was some rich nut and this high
and mighty Mr. Snowden was hunting for him?" he
asked. "But mebbe he'll break loose soon again. It's
like all them manias. They have a quiet spell and
then off they go." Texas Darcy's arrival ended his
reflections and brought him back to where he be-
longed, the realm of the concrete.
"On time, Chief?" asked Texas.
"Uh-huh. Are you bringin' me anything?"
"Sure." The rat-faced sleuth lit a cigarette and
pulled up a chair close to Tierney 's desk. "I got a
girl on my staff in Snowden 's office. She's been tak-
ing the names and addresses from all the outgoing let-
ters. Of course Horgan ain't that guy's real name
but what it is I got to find out before I can get to
NANCY PRESTON 207
"Agnes here says the Governor has pardoned him,"
Tierney informed his man.
"Yes; I saw that in the paper."
"We ain't got nothing against him."
"No, but if we get him we'll get Nancy."
"Another thing." Darcy's fingers played a devil's
tattoo on the desk. "This detective force Snowden
rounded up was one of the highest priced bunches of
men any law firm ever employed. He paid 'em all
big money. There wasn't a piker in the lot. And
their orders is not to disband. They go right on draw-
"What does that mean?" Tierney mopped his
"I guess it means they're getting a defense ready
for Nancy in case she 's collared. ' '
"Well, they can have all the money in the world,
except what I've got, and they couldn't hope to win
out on that case, Texas. The cops have got enough
witnesses and circumstantial evidence to clap her in
the chair, if John D. Rockefeller was backing her to
the last dime."
"Yes, but it don't amount to nuthin', it don't
amount to nuthin'," chuckled Darcy. "They ain't
"D'yuh think you can get to this Horgan?"
208 NANCY PRESTON
"Sure. All I got to do is to trail down everybody
Snowden sends a letter to. If he's in touch with
Horgan by mail I'm bound to uncover him and if
Straw Nancy is in touch with him I'm bound to get
"Go to it."
Darcy bounced out of his chair and the room.
WHEN the goldenrod began to crowd the Queen
Anne's lace in the fields about Milford Town
and in the woods the sumach splashed the fading green
with crimson, Michael and Nancy were hard again at
their work with the younger students. Money had
righted the wrong in one instance. And there was
abundance of it. It would save Nancy, too. Mr.
Snowden's detectives were digging into the forgotten
murder of Littsky. The one witness that could have
saved her, Tierney's man, Cole, was dead. The only
hope was to find the real murderer and in order to
start in search of him it was necessary to get the mo-
tive of the crime.
From time to time Michael received reports of the
progress made by his investigators. Littsky 's ugly
record was dug up and from its foulness came the
story of the ruin of the Noonan girl. A year and a
half passed, during which time Michael finished his
course in the medical school, and received his degree,
before Mamie Noonan was found, a human derelict.
She was taken from the gutter and made over again
"The Noonan girl tells us," wrote Mr. Snowden,
210 NANCY PRESTON
"that after Littsky was acquitted, her brother swore
that he would make him pay for her ruin. Our in-
vestigators have found that at the time of the mur-
der a man fitting Noonan's description was a roomer
in the house. Mrs. Tifft, the landlady, a cocaine ad-
dict, says that he left the place without giving notice
of his intention to give up his room, as far as she
can recall, about the time of the murder. Noonan
lived in the lower west side of Manhattan and was a
truck driver and occasionally boxed in the neighbor-
hood clubs for a few extra dollars. He was not a
bad sort and had never had much trouble with the
police. He was very fond of his little sister and,
from his mother, we learned that for weeks after the
miscarriage of justice in the trial of Littsky he wept
and raged against the law. It may interest you to
know that a great deal of attention is being paid to
the effect on the psychology of the common people by
the frequent delays and evasions afforded the wealthy
in the courts of the land while those without money
enough to put up a fight receive summary treatment.
Los Angeles has chosen a Public Defender for her
courts, with remarkable results, and the Carnegie
Foundation is now employing an expert investigator,
a well known Boston lawyer, to determine whether it
shall give money assistance to the Legal Aid Society.
Mr. Taft, the ex-President, recently said in a speech
before the Virginia Bar Association: 'Of all the
NANCY PRESTON 211
questions that are before the American people, I re-
gard no one as more important than the improvement
of the administration of justice. We must make it so
that the poor man will have as nearly as possible an
equal opportunity in litigating as the rich man and
under present conditions, ashamed as we may be of it,
this is not the fact. ' But to return to Danny Noonan.
His mother has not heard from him since the time
of the murder. We must be patient. As you may
perhaps realize, it is now only a question of a short
time when this country shall have to declare war
against Germany. Should our army be raised by con-
scription the great net will reach Noonan, for he is
of military age. The government will undoubtedly
give its assistance and give us access to the registra-
tion lists. It may be that Danny will return home
so as to fight with the boys of his own acquaintance.
My organization is functioning splendidly. Congrat-
ulations on making your new degree. ' '
Michael had taken up the duties of a house phy-
sician in the hospital, where Nancy served as nurse
for his patients. Here, it seemed to them, they were
quite safe from the never-resting hunters of men.
Alone with her in his office, he read her this report and
again for the hundredth time asked her to be his wife.
"The day I'm cleared," was the old answer.
fTlHE President's call to arms was made in May of
* the year nineteen hundred and seventeen. The
United States, a good-natured, drowsy giant, with all
its faults and with whatever virtues it still held over
from the simpler early days of its brief history, sprang
from its couch of ease.
The war drums were heard in the streets of New
York. With an obedience to their chosen government
which astonished the world, the people accepted con-
scription as easily as they were wont to accept the
order of the cop on the corner to move on. The lines
between high and low, rich and poor, disappeared.
Every man of military age was put on the dollar a
day level. They ate the same food, wore the same
uniform, truck driver and lawyer, poet and motorman,
milkman and millionaire. As the raw material for
the training camps was gathered in the different pre-
cincts, New Yorkers who were far away from home
scurried back to the old familiar streets and neigh-
borhoods to join "the bunch," their chums of school
days, their pals, whether of the club or the street cor-
ner, and among them was Danny Noonan.
A man of his own age^ intelligent, game for any
NANCY PRESTON 213
adventure, a good mixer, who was lodging with
Danny's mother, went to the registration place with
Danny and together they were taken into the mili-
tary service of their country. In camp, aboard ship,
on the fields of France, in the air or under the earth,
in the jaws of death or hack in resting billets his job
was to stick to Danny and if possible find out whether
he was the man who had rid the world of Luther
Later, when the Seventy-seventh division, with its
specimens of forty-two different races and creeds from
New York's harlequinade of humanity, went over seas
and was moved up to the abyss of hell, Mr. Snowden
wrote this report to Dr. Michael Stafford, alias Mike
Horgan, house physician in the hospital at Milford
"Tom Danforth, an exceptionally clever young man
in our employ, informs me that he and Noonan are fast
and firm buddies, are in fact in the same squad.
They sleep and fight together. Like many another lad
of his kind, Noonan looks with profound veneration
on the chaplain of their outfit. They have had al-
ready a taste of fighting and Danforth reports that
Noonan seems anxious to join the other boys of his
faith in preparing for death. But as yet he has not
asked the chaplain to hear his confession. Such a
confession of course would be of no avail to us. The
courts protect the sanctity and secrecy between priest
214 NANCY PRESTON
and penitent. But should the chaplain know that the
life of an innocent person is at stake it would then
be his duty to have his penitent openly confess. The
only danger is that Noonan may be killed in action
before we can get the truth from him. If he did kill
Littsky and dies without making that fact known we
shall then have to plead justification in case of an ar-
rest and trial. But I beg you not to become impatient
or uneasy. Tom Danf orth is a youngster of splendid
resources, is absolutely reliable and if any one can
bring success to our efforts I think that he can. If
you are considering offering your services to the army
I would advise against it. Remember that in the
event of an arrest you would be the chief witness for
the defense. You must remain where you are as a
matter of duty as well as a matter of love. The life
or at least the liberty of an innocent woman is at stake.
Besides, I am sure that you will be greatly needed at
home, for some physicians must be kept on this side
of the water."
This report was received in the summer of nine-
teen hundred and eighteen. The little university
town was deserted. Books were gathering dust,
laboratories closed and the boys of the coming class
of nineteen hundred and nineteen were going through
the setting-up exercises on the campus under the di-
rection of brisk little lieutenants from the officers'
NANCY PRESTON 215
Michael and Nancy cared for the sick and the in-
jured, quietly doing their humble bit, the shadow al-
ways near them. A single German bullet might de-
stroy their chance of happiness, wipe out their hope
of justice. At any moment a hand might drop upon
Nancy's shoulder and the happy life of giving help
and comfort to the sick changed to life in a cell, sepa-
ration from the man she loved, a trial for murder and
perhaps a conviction.
"If we could both get across," she suggested one
evening as they walked beside their singing brook,
"we might die together. That would be a happy end
to it all, Michael."
"But if we didn't die," he replied to this, "we
would have to go on living under this cloud. If we
remained in Europe after the war and there were
children, think of our fear then."
"I wonder if they are still hunting for me." The
old fear came upon her. There was the phantom of
a detective behind every tree and bush. He took her
in his arms and kissed away the tears that wet her
A bugle sounded the call to quarters from the dis-
tant campus. As they stood, heart to heart, the limpid
lingering notes hanging in the still night air, New
York's Own, the Seventy-seventh Division, began
hacking its way through the Argonne Forest, which
had withstood the valor of the French for so long.
216 NANCY PKESTON
With well-weighted trench knives, with bayonet,
grenade and pistol, East Side and West Side boys
went to the task, crap shooters, dips, dope fiends,
truck drivers, burglars, saints, sinners, college lads,
bank clerks, Danny Noonan and Tom Danforth.
"rTlALK about the Paris apaches handing the
- Heinies something at the Battle of the Marne ! ' '
shouted Agnes to the morning gathering of Jim Tier-
ney's men. "You can tell the world that there are
doings in the Argonne." She waved her newspaper
over her head. "It's the last round of the scrap."
In the general chuckle from the men, one narrow-
faced ferret failed to join. His little cigarette-stained
mustache did not spread with a responding grin. His
eyes twinkled nervously.
"What's the matter with you, Darcy?" she de-
"I want to get to the boss in a hurry," he replied.
"I'll take a look-see." She hurried into the sanc-
tum and in a few moments returned to the assembly
room and signed to Darcy that he could go in.
"Tell me something," was Tierney's greeting.
"I got it to tell," was his quick answer. "I was
fooled a long time but I've landed Horgan. He's
Dr. Michael Stafford, and he's in charge of a hospital
at Milford Town."
"Is Nancy with him?"
218 NANCY PRESTON
"I'm pretty sure she is."
"You been up there?"
"Just long enough to be sure that this doctor was
Horgan. I got the tip from a letter sent him from
Snowden's office. I was afraid he'd uncover me and
pass word to Nancy before we had a warrant. That's
what brought me back."
Tierney picked up his telephone receiver and got
police headquarters and the detective bureau.
"Jim Tierney talking. Something doing in the
Littsky case. You got a warrant for Nancy Preston.
All right. Get it out and have a man ready to hop
a train when I telephone you next. That 's all. ' ' He
hung up and turned to Darcy again. "I think I'll
run up there and look this thing over myself," he
said. "I got a nasty belly-ache again, but it sure
pays me to stand in with the old gang in Centre street.
If I land the case for them, they'll land something
for me. They'll have a man ready with the warrant
to jump a train the minute I telephone 'em. There
ain't anything more for you to do. Tell Agnes to
get out my bag."
Agnes did not like the idea of his making a trip
out of town while his old trouble was back on him.
"It's foolish, Chief," she warned him. "Darcy can
do it for you. Suppose you're taken violent on the
train or something? Think of all that bank full of
money we made out of this old war and you not hav-
NANCY PRESTON 219
ing a chance to spend any of it yet. What's the use
of running the risk of kicking off now ? ' '
"That will be about enough from you," he grunted,
although the smile under his bristly mustache showed
his appreciation of her concern. "Come over here."
She went to him and he took her hand. "I couldn't
get along without you, Agnes," he said, hesitatingly.
"We've been pulling together a long time and there
ain't such a big difference in our ages, is there?"
She laughed and pressed against his knee. Was the
big question coming, the question she had played so
long and earnestly for? Was she going to step from
her secretary's desk into a palace on Fifth avenue and
begin to order the trimmings for her own sedan?
"Jim, you're kidding me," she replied, as his arm
slipped up to her waist.
"No, I ain't."
"Yes, you are."
"Who'll I leave all this war money to?" he asked.
"Well, I ain't going to leave it to the Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Second-term Convicts."
She laughed as he timidly drew her down to his
knees. He was no ladies' man, but his money was
beginning to make him lonesome. She was his own
kind and he was of her kind.
"Say, Agnes," he stammered, his face fiery red
and his fat hands shaking, "will you?"
220 NANCY PRESTON
"Will I what, Jim?"
"Go to the church with me!"
She snuggled her painted face down on his shoul-
der and cried for sheer happiness as the huge fish was
"That's settled!" He got to his feet, smacked her
heartily and picked up his bag. "I'll be back to-
morrow or the next day," he informed her. "Hop
out and buy a million dollars' worth of clothes and
diamonds and then we '11 run over to the city hall and
get the license as soon as I get back."
SOME of the pain would leave him when he thought
of Agnes and a home life, but the jolting of the
cars at each stop on his way to Milford Town hurt
Tierney clear through to the spine. It was all right
when they were running over a smooth stretch of
track but he got to dreading the sound of the loco-
motive whistle when it heralded a station ahead.
He reached his destination an hour before mid-
night and took a taxi to the inn. The night was hot
and doors and windows were open. He paid the taxi
man at the entrance of the screened porch as a bell
boy took his bag. As he was about to enter the door
of the hostelry the screen door behind him swung open
and shut and he heard the rustle of stiff skirts. He
drew to one side as a woman in the uniform of a
nurse passed him. He was in the dark. As the light
within struck her face he recognized her instantly.
The little white cap gave him a full view of her every
feature, showed her soft brown hair and her large
sweet blue eyes. He reached the nearest chair on the
porch and remained outside, telling the bell boy who
returned to find out what had become of him that he
was tired and not well and would rest there awhile.
222 NANCY PRESTON
Despite the pain he was suffering he showed his old
eagerness and skill in shadowing. Without a chance
of being observed, his rubber-heeled shoes quieting
his tread, he watched his quarry as she stood and
chatted for a moment with the clerk. He heard him
tell her that Dr. Stafford had retired and heard her
give the time for her morning call. Then she went to
the elevator and was taken to her rooms.
Tierney registered, asked for room and bath and
inquired if there was a telephone in the room as-
signed him. Told that there was, he followed the bell
boy with his bag. The chase was ended or would be
in the morning. The elevator stopped with a jerk
at the top floor and the detective fell against the
side of the cage with a groan. "My God!" he ex-
claimed, "I'm a sick man. You almost killed me."
A glance at his face assured both the bell boy and the
operator that the guest was ill. Tierney felt as if he
could not get another foot but by leaning on the bell
boy he made the room.
' ' You better get a doctor, ' ' he said as he fell on his
"Dr. Stafford lives in the hotel," the boy informed
him, "but he has retired."
"Don't get him. Not him. I don't want to wake
him up, ' ' he gasped. ' ' Get another doctor and leave
that light on. I'm a sick man. Get him quick."
He realized that, stricken as he was, one glimpse from
NANCY PRESTON 239
November and a jury panel was ready. The court
room was crowded. Mike Horgan had been nobody
and Nancy Preston worse than nobody when they
last faced a jury here. But now Dr. Michael Stafford,
with his strong past, much guessed-at by the news-
papers, heir to the Stafford estate, devoted lover and
friend of a woman with a past, commanded wide at-
tention. Nancy ran the gauntlet of photographers as
many another woman, innocent and guilty, has done in
the fascinating annals of New York's criminal courts.
She wore her nurse's garb at the suggestion of her
counsel, Michael sitting beside her within the railing.
"The defense is ready, Your Honor," announced
Mr. Snowden, "except for one witness who is on the
sea. His ship is due here by the end of the week.
We may have to ask a delay of a day so that his testi-
mony may be included. I am sure that this will be
granted in the interest of justice. In the meanwhile
we are ready to go ahead with the trial up to that
Twelve men were chosen from the panel with little
difficulty and were sworn to try the case truly and
according to the evidence. That required a day, the
opening arguments the better part of the following
day and the actual fight was on.
The corpus delicti was established and the police,
through the district attorney, presented as exhibits
drawings of the room where the murder was com-
240 NANGT PRESTON
mitted, made to scale, photographs taken immediately
after the crime was reported, a strand of hair and
finger prints taken from articles in the room. The
linen collar worn by the dead man was also placed in
evidence. It showed one finger print . . . Nancy's.
Detective headquarters had arranged its evidence
in a most commendable manner. There was not a
hitch in its presentation. The photographs showed
the disturbed condition of the room, the broken chair
lying not many feet from the prostrate body of
Littsky, even Mrs. Tifft in her drug-sleep asprawl on
the bed, the pieces of torn night-wear on the floor
and the remnants of the garment itself were produced
as they were found in the adjoining room. An expert
testified that the strand of hair was Nancy's. Ber-
tillon experts demonstrated with enlarged photo-
graphic reproductions that the finger prints were hers.
The torn nightgown was pieced together. The testi-
mony of these witnesses was damning to the chances
of the accused.
Mrs. Tifft, carefully coached and sufficiently doped
to keep her wits active, was sworn. She told of
Littsky paying for the lodging of Nancy and her
child, his purchase of the supper on the night of the
murder and of his visit to Nancy's room while she
was undressed. She saw them fighting and took the
boy away. After that she was taken ill and must
have swallowed an overdose of pain-killing tablets for
NANCY PRESTON 241
she could remember nothing else until she came out
of the coma and found herself in Nancy's room. She
had only a vague remembrance of having gone there
and of having seen Nancy take her boy from her.
"Was she fighting as if to protect herself from
Littsky?" asked Mr. Snowden, on cross-examination.
' ' They were fighting all over the room, ' ' she replied.
"Was she pleading with him?"
"I didn't hear any pleading. They were just
"Did Littsky cry out to you to take the boy from
the room ? ' '
"I think he did tell me to take him out."
"Had you known him for any length of time?"
"A number of years."
"Were you beholden to him in any way?"
' ' Did he own the building you rented for a lodging
house ? ' '
"Did you ever know a girl named Mamie Noonan?"
"Did she ever have a fight with Littsky in your
"Yes; they had a fight one night."
"I don't know."
"You were a witness for Littsky, were you not?"
242 NANCY PRESTON
"What was he charged with?"
"I've forgotten." The dope was wearing out and
she was becoming frightened.
"The charge was that Littsky attacked the Noonan
girl," offered the district attorney. "He was tried
"That will do." Mr. Snowden ended his cross-
The waiter from the rotisserie was sworn and testi-
fied that Littsky had given the order for the supper
and had told him to take it to Mrs. Tifft 's house. He
knew the prisoner, having seen her about the neigh-
borhood and having noticed her because of her pretty
hair and eyes. "And she always had a little boy
with her," he added. "They would stop in front of
the restaurant windows sometimes."
"Did they ever enter the restaurant?" asked Mr.
Snowden when he took the witness.
"No. They just stood outside and looked at the
spits before the coals, watching the roasting fowls
"Did they seem hungry?"
"Objection," snapped the district attorney.
"Sustained," decided the judge.
' ' The boy cried one night, ' ' went on the witness.
"Overruled. He may tell what he saw."
NANCY PRESTON 243
"Go on," said Mr. Snowden softly. "You say
"Yes, sir. Then I saw the prisoner put her hand
to her throat as if something hurt her there. I got
two pieces of bread and laid a slice of roast beef be-
tween them and was going to go out and give it to
them but they were lost in the Broadway crowd before
I could manage it."
"That will do."
"Just a moment." The district attorney held him
for a moment of re-direct examination.
"Many people pause in front of the restaurant win-
dows, do they not?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"That will do."
"A moment, please." Mr. Snowden was on his
feet again and his voice was gentle, his florid fea-
tures grave. "Do you see many of them cry as they
look at the cooking food in your window?" he asked.
"I only seen one other one."
"Tell us about that case."
"I knew the girl. She used to be very pretty and
hung around the stage entrances. She got in trouble
and then she got shabby and hungry, I guess."
"I object, Your Honor!" shouted the district at-
' ' On what grounds ? ' ' asked the court.
"The question is irrelevant. Did Littsky starve
244 NANCY PRESTON
this girl? Is she or Nancy Preston being tried for
"What has counsel for the defense to say?" asked
"The relevancy of the question may be decided by
a single other question and that is, What is the name
of the girl who cried?" replied Mr. Snowden.
"She was Mamie Noonan," blurted the witness.
Time for adjournment had come. Mr. Snowden
was all smiles. "The few words of that man's testi-
mony lay the finest foundation for your story," he
told Nancy as Michael helped her with her cloak and
prepared to ride back to the Tombs with her.
HE district attorney saw the trend of the defense.
Nancy was to be made another Mamie Noonan.
He would check this by holding back his star witness,
James Tierney, to offset any character witnesses that
might be sworn for the defendant. Snowden was an
astute man, a quick thinker, suave in his approach,
missing no opportunity. Tierney in rebuttal would
trap him. Counsel for the defense could lay out its
story of innocence despoiled, of a woman starved only
to be attacked for the satisfaction of a man's desire,
of her child crying before a well-filled restaurant win-
dow and then he would put on a witness to tell of her
street-walker's career, her life with Bill. He smiled
with pleasure at the thought of checkmating this ex-
cellent lawyer. It was a battle of wits, polite enough,
polite as a French duel with rapiers.
Another day passed in making complete the evi-
dence for the prosecution and still another during
which Nancy told her story from beginning to end,
simply, with no stress upon any one phase of its
source. But Mr. Snowden brought out the seven
beautiful years of game fighting, clean fighting, of a
woman who had found herself and out of the world
246 NANCY PRESTON
had found one friend, Michael. Her testimony of how
Cole had saved her could not be corroborated, for Cole
was dead. It was the one terribly weak spot in her
story. It seemed like a lie.
The cross-examination was little short of cruel but
she had stood it once before and she stood it again, her
eyes unclouded by tears, her brave heart beating
strongly within her as the sunlight again laved her
in the witness chair and the eyes of the curious spec-
tators were riveted on her face.
When she left the stand Mr. Snowden informed the
court that the hospital transport Phoenix with his
witness from overseas had been reported at Sandy
Hook and that she would dock during the night.
"Until I can have a talk with him," he said, "I would
like to hold up the presentation of the case for the
defense. There are still two hours before time for
adjournment and if the district attorney would like
to put on one of his witnesses I shall have no ob-
The district attorney bowed low and with a broad
smile. It was an excellent opportunity to show the
eminent lawyer and the newspaper men what he could
do for the People in this trial. Nothing could be
more telling for the prosecution than to have Tierney
follow Nancy. He was sworn to tell the truth, the
whole truth and nothing but the truth and for the
first time in his long career as a manhunter he had
NANCY PRESTON 247
the opportunity to tell it and tell it in that way. He
would leave out nothing, never mind how much hurt
was done the case for the People. Agnes, as brightly
dressed as a full window of a department store,
watched him from a front seat.
''As a detective on the New York police force eight
years ago you met the defendant, I believe," began
the district attorney.
"What was she doing at that time?"
' ' It was a cold night and sleeting, ' ' replied Tierney.
"I seen her breeze around from Forty-second street
and stop to talk to a man, a little bit of a dried up
feller, with hands and feet like a child. He looked
sick, like he'd just come out of the hospital."
' ' She accosted him ? ' '
"Yes, sir. She was wearing a pair of wool mittens
and he didn't have any gloves or overcoat on. I saw
her talk with him and then take off the mittens and
make him put 'em on. Then she laughed and went
The district attorney's face flushed. Nancy smiled.
She remembered the poor devil of the night, a com-
panion in misery.
248 NANCY PRESTON
"You didn't tell me about that when I talked with
you in my office," said the district attorney.
"Why didn't you?"
"Because I thought you were only interested in
what could be used for the prosecution and I wanted
to save you time."
"I move that that answer be stricken from the
records. ' '
"Why?" asked the court.
"Because it is incompetent and immaterial," re-
plied the district attorney.
"What have you to say to that, Mr. Snowden?" the
"It can be neither incompetent nor immaterial,
Your Honor," he replied. "The district attorney is
an officer of the court and is supposed to have the
interest of the defendant as much at heart as the in-
terest of the People. But our practice has become
such that a trial in search of justice is no longer a
fair and impartial presentation and study of the evi-
dence. It is one side against the other and the de-
fendant is generally ground between the upper and
nether mill stones. The rebuttal evidence of this wit-
ness is aimed to show the true character of the de-
fendant. The answer as given shows an act upon
which we can very well attribute humaneness, a neces-
sary concomitant of high character."
NANCY PRESTON 249
"The answer remains in the record. Proceed, Mr.
Tierney, covering his face with a big hand, had
managed to wink to Agnes during this colloquy. In
many a trial his ability to get before the jury mate-
rial that the rules of evidence would have disbarred,
had they been invoked in time, had helped secure a
conviction. He was now using his old tricks from the
' ' The defendant has testified that for a time she was
a woman of the streets," again began the district at-
torney, his anger ill-concealed. "Will you tell what
you know about that part of her career ? ' '
"All I know is that I seen her on the street a num-
ber of times, just like I seen lots of other people. ' '
"Sold out!" gasped the prosecuting officer under
his breath. The witnesses from headquarters grinned.
They had seen this happen many a time. How much
did he get from the Stafford millions? It must have
been some wad. The district attorney decided that
his only chance was to give Tierney plenty of rope so
that he might hang himself.
"Just go ahead and tell all that you want about
this defendant's life and character," he said with a
harsh little laugh.
"Well, I tell ya," began Tierney, his face sobering
and his eyes turned straight to the jurors. "I was
after her a long time and it took a lot of hard work
250 NANCY PRESTON
for me to find her. The night I got her uncovered
I was laid low with violent appendicitis, just across
the way from the hospital where she and Dr. Stafford
worked. I was carried over there and all my clothes
taken off. I was laid out on the table and before I
knew it they were leaning over me and knew that I
had come to get the defendant. He had the knife in
his hand and she had the ether ready. They could
have put me away and nobody ever would have known
I was murdered. As far as she understood, I was the
only one who knew her. It was a chance she had to
save herself from the chair. She didn't take it. She
and him operated on me and saved my life and made
me well again." It was a long speech for Tierney,
perhaps the longest he had made in his life and it left
his throat dry. He gulped uneasily and became
nervous. Agnes, resplendent, her devotion shining in
her eyes, was leaning over the railing toward him.
He stared at her fondly and a great wave of gratitude
filled him as he recalled Nancy's voice saying, "He is
saved!" And he thought it was the voice of Mary
announcing the forgiveness of his Maker when it was
only Nancy's voice. Perhaps, at that, he had been
saved spiritually as well as mortally. The light from
the window at his left seemed to make his eyes smart.
The court room was in dead silence. Two great tears
formed on the reddish eyelashes of the witness, bal-
NANCY PRESTON 251
anced for a moment and coursed down his saggy
"Do you wish to cross-examine?" the court asked
"There is still some time which I would not like
to see wasted," the court suggested. "If the district
attorney has a witness ready ..."
But the district attorney had none ready. He was
sorely rattled by the treachery of Tierney and wanted
time in which to straighten out his muddled cards.
"I would like to put Dr. Stafford on the stand and
ask him just one question," Mr. Snowden volun-
"If the district attorney agrees."
"If he will let me know the question first."
Mr. Snowden crossed and whispered it to him.
"I'll agree," he said after a moment's thought
Dr. Stafford was sworn.
"Will you tell the jury how it was that you came
to meet the defendant?"
"When I graduated from college with a degree in
law I received an appointment as deputy assistant dis-
trict attorney in a New England city. My only near
kinsman was an uncle now dead. He was very
wealthy and was quite anxious for me to make my
mark in a profession he greatly admired. I soon had
252 NANCY PRESTON
an opportunity to show what was in me. I was given
the prosecution of a case of a poor peddler charged
with murder. I easily convicted him on circumstan-
tial evidence and he was in prison under sentence of
death when I discovered that the simple story he had
told me in his own defense was the absolute truth.
Had he been equipped with funds he could have easily
proved his innocence, for it was only a matter of time
and careful search for the one witness who could have
established his case for him. I was horrified and
made reparation as quickly as I could. This got me
interested in the legal aid societies which were strug-
gling without sufficient funds to help the penniless in
the courts of justice. With my uncle's permission I
abandoned the practice of law and came to New York
where I went into the underworld to make my studies.
It was thus I met the defendant and her courage in
adversity delighted me and held me as her friend until
now. ' '
The district attorney asked to be allowed to post-
pone his cross-examination and the trial was adjourned
until the next morning.
r I THREE men in uniform appeared in court when
* the case was resumed the next morning. Tom.
Danforth, his top sergeant, and the lieutenant of his
platoon. Danny Noonan's buddy, a clean-cut young-
ster, had proved every bit as efficient as Mr. Snowden
had thought him. He took the witness stand, holding
a long sealed envelope in his hand.
"Before my buddy, Danny Noonan, went with the
rest of the boys for the first charge into the Ar-
gonne, ' ' he testified, ' ' he wrote the letter that is in this
envelope and gave it to me. I was to stay behind
that night as a runner from regimental headquarters
to the line. He made me promise not to open it unless
he was killed. "While he was writing it I got my
sergeant and my lieutenant to stand near him and
see him fill up the sheets, fold them and put them in
the envelope. When he sealed it I made them write
their names across the flap, although Danny didn't
know I did this. Then I gave the letter to the lieu-
tenant to put away for me. The boys went across
and Danny was brought in mortally hurt the next
day. He died in the hospital afterward and when I
went back into the line I was captured. As soon as
254 NANCY PRESTON
I could get back to my regiment, I found my captain
and told him about what work I had been doing for
Mr. Snowden. We were sending a bunch of the
slightly wounded back and he detailed my lieutenant,
the top sergeant and myself to go along with them.
That 'show I'm here."
"May I ask what Danny Noonan had to do with
this case ? ' ' requested the district attorney.
"Perhaps the letter will show," suggested Mr.
"But there is no ground for you putting it in evi-
dence," came the technical protest.
"I know that, Your Honor," said Mr. Snowden.
"It is only by a hair that my client is being saved
from the electric chair or prison. The life or liberty
of an innocent woman must be the price paid in this
instance for strict adherence to the rules of evidence,
rules which multiply with every decision of every
court in the land, with the separate State legislatures
grinding out thousands of new laws yearly upon which
further rules are based. The only way in which I
can connect my dead witness Noonan with this case
is to have another witness testify whether he knows
of any threats Noonan may have made against the
life of Littsky."
"That will be sufficient. But do you know the
gist of what is in this communication from beyond
the grave?" asked the court.
NANCY PRESTON 255
"I do not, sir."
"Well, proceed to get in the record evidence that
will warrant the acceptance of this letter."
Mr. Snowden produced Danny Noonan's mother,
withdrawing Danforth for the time. She told of the
ruin of her daughter Mamie and of her son swearing
that Littsky would pay for it. Before the district
attorney could stop her she added: "And if my
brave boy killed him. I know God will thank him
The judge, summoning the district attorney and
Mr. Snowden to his desk, read the letter while the
jurors, Nancy, Michael, Tierney, Agnes, and the spec-
tators watched their silently moving lips. As Mr.
Snowden turned to resume his seat he spread out his
hands to his client, his face wreathed in smiles.
"The letter is admitted in evidence," decided the
judge. "The clerk will please read it."
The clerk, wiping his glasses and clearing his
A. E. F.,
"To the District Attorney,
"New York City.
' ' If anybody gets in trouble for the murder of
Luther Littsky this is to let you know that I
killed him, me Danny Noonan. I hit him on the
head with a black-jack but he didn't die from
that, so I choked him until he was dead and I
256 NANCY PRESTON
ain't sorry although if you get this letter you'll
know the Heinies got me.
' ' I was laying for him a long time and trailed
him to the Tifft house where I rented a room.
The morning I killed him he was trying the same
thing with some other woman he did for my little
sister. Then a man interfered and took the
woman out. He locked Littsky in and threw the
key in a corner of the hall. Then it was my
turn and I done the job I wanted to do. He had
so much money and diamonds I took them but
after awhile it all looked so dirty I couldn't
spend it. I tucked it under the old water boiler
and other rubbish that lay in a corner of the
basement where my mother lives. It ought to be
there now. I never did steal anything although
I've been arrested for fighting. I am glad I
didn't use that money. A lot of lawyers could
take his kale and save him by sending Mamie to
the gutter but none for me.
"DANNY NOONAN, A. E. F."
"I think the final verification of the genuineness
of this document will be simple enough," the judge
said with a smile toward Nancy and Michael. ' ' While
the witnesses to the sealing of the envelopes are testi-
fying I shall send to the Noonan house and have the
basement searched for the money and diamonds. I
think that counsel for the defense should be repre-
"Mr. Danforth will go for us," said Mr. Snowden.
The short distance to the lower West Side was
NANCY PRESTON 257
quickly covered and Danforth and a detective from
the district attorney's office were soon back in court
with Littsky's money and diamonds.
"Argument is hardly necessary, gentlemen," sug-
gested the court. "If you are agreeable I shall ask
the jury to retire and bring in an immediate verdict. ' '
The jurors whispered to each other and the fore-
man asked for pen and ink and paper.
"We, the jury in the case of the People against
Nancy Preston/' read the foreman, "charged with
the murder of Luther Littsky, find the said Nancy
Preston not guilty as charged in the indictment."
Nancy, who had been bidden to rise and look upon
the jury, sank into her chair and leaned her head
against Michael's shoulder.
"There's no need of crying now, dear heart," whis-
pered Michael as he drew her close to him. "The last
of the clouds have been swept aw.ay."
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