or two. The second $500 followed the
Rankin did not call at Preston's
house again. Perhaps he had a lurk
ing fear of violence; perhaps his
nerve was not equal to seeing Pres
ton. He wrote a letter instead, ask
ing for $500, more. It was a letter
typical of such a man, now threat
ening, now imploring, and winding
up with the statement that he meant
to take the money and go west
Preston received the letter when
he came home from business. When
he had, read it he sat with hardened
face, thinking. He saw this black
mailer a chronic feature of his life.
He saw that in the man's death lay
the only chance for Dorothy's happi
ness. And he meant to protect Dor
othy at the cost of his life or of his
Rankin had asked Preston to meet
him on the bridge across the river
a lonely spot in a deserted quarter
of the town, given over only by day
to factory activities. Preston put a
loaded revolver into his pocket that
night and walked briskly through the
town until he reached the rendez
vous. As he stood on the bridge he saw
the ragged figure approaching him
from the low quarter of town in
which the Parker hotel was situated.
Rankin saw Preston and hurried for
ward. Hevstopped a few feet away
and looked at him inquiringly.
"I got your letter," said Preston
"Yes," said Rankin, deceived by
the other's manner. "I meant to
keep my promise to you. But I was
slugged and robbed. And I've got to
go west, and I'm stranded. If I
stayed in town you know I'd be rec
ognized and the truth would come
"It would," Preston agreed.
"I've got to get out of town, then,"
said Rankin. "You'd better hand
over that $500 and I'll take the first
train for California in the morning."
supposed to have died in that train
"Yes, but I didn't, so what's the
use of talking?" asked Rankin with
a sneer, thinking that the other was
"Nobody knows you didn't die,"
said Preston thoughtfully.
"I guess they will soon, if you don't
come across," said Rankin threat
eningly. "You are as good as dead, any
way," said Preston, as if talking to
himself. "Is $500 the least you will
"Not a cent less, and it's that or
exposure," answered the other.
"There's an alternative."
"There is, eh?" demanded Ran
"This," answered Preston, draw
ing the revolver from his pocket and
aiming it at Rankin's heart.
He saw the terror in the black
mailer's eyes; then, pressing the
muzzle to his breast, he fired. With
out a sound the blackmailer toppled
into the sluggish stream.
Preston' dropped in the weapon
after him and walked home.
(Copyright, 19i6, W. G. Chapman.)
NUMEROUS AS SEASHELLS-
I TAKE HOME fX
TO MAMMA? M&
itanKin, said Jfreston, you are J
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