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   Chapter 5 No.5

Children of the Whirlwind By Leroy Scott Characters: 6667

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

For a moment after the door had closed upon Barney and Old Jimmie, Larry stood gazing at it. Then he turned to Maggie.

She was standing slenderly upright. Her head was imperiously high, her black eyes defiant. Neither spoke at once. More than before was he impressed by her present and her potential beauty. Till this night he had thought of her only casually, as merely a young girl; he was not now consciously in love with her-her young woman-hood had burst upon him too suddenly for such a consciousness-but a warm tingling went through him as he gazed at her imperious, self-confident youth. Part of his mind was thinking much the same thought that Hunt had considered a few hours earlier: here were the makings of a magnificent adventuress.

"Maggie," he mused, "you didn't get your looks from your father. You must have had a fine-looking mother."

"I don't know-I never saw her," she returned shortly.

"Poor kid," Larry mused on-"and with only Old Jimmie for a father." She did not know what to say. For a long time she had dreamed of this man as her hero; she had dreamed of splendid adventures with him in which she should win his praise. And now-and now-

He switched to another subject.

"So you have decided to string along with your father and Barney?"

"I have."

"Don't you do it, Maggie."

"Don't you preach, Larry."

"I'm not preaching. I'm just talking business to you. The same as I talked business to myself. The crooked game is a poor business for a woman who can do something else-and you can do something else. I've known a lot of women in the crooked game. They've all had a rotten finish, or are headed for one. So forget it, Maggie. There's more in the straight game."

She had swiftly come to feel herself stronger and wiser than her ex-hero. In her tremendous pride and confidence of eighteen, she regarded him almost with pitying condescension.

"Something's softened your brain, Larry. I know better. The people who pretend to go straight are just fakes; they're playing a different kind of a smooth game, that's all. Everybody is out to get his, and get it the easiest and quickest way he can. You know that's so. And that's just what I am going to do."

Larry had once talked much the same way, but it seemed puzzlingly strange just now to hear such talk from a young girl. Then he understood.

"You couldn't help having such ideas, Maggie, living among crooks ever since you were a kid. Why, Old Jimmie could not have used better methods, or got better results, if he had set out consciously to make you a crook." Then a sudden possibility came to him. "D'you suppose he could always have had that plan-to make you into a crook?" he asked.

"What difference does that make?" she demanded shortly.

"A funny thing for a father to do with his own child," Larry returned. "But whether Jimmie intended it or not, that's just what he's done."

"What I am, I am," she retorted with her imperious defiance. Just then she felt that she hated him; she quivered with a desire to hurt him: he had so utterly destroyed her romantic hero and her romantic dreams. Her hands clenched.

"You talk about going straight-it's all rot!" she flamed at him. "A lot of men say they're going straight, but no one ever does! And you won't either!"

"You think I won't?"

"I know you w

on't! You don't know how to do any regular work. And, besides, no one will give a crook a chance."

She had unerringly placed her finger upon his two great problems, and Larry knew it; he had considered them often enough.

"All the same, I'm going to make good!" he declared.

"Oh, no, you're not!"

Perhaps he was stirred chiefly by the sting of her taunting tongue, by the blaze of her dark, disdainful eyes; and perhaps by the changed feeling toward this creature whom he had left a half-grown girl and returned to find a woman. At any rate, he crossed and seized her wrists and gazed fiercely down upon her.

"I tell you, I'm going to go straight, and I'm going to make a success of it! You'll see!" And then he added dominantly: "What's more, I'm going to make you go straight, too!"

She made no attempt to free herself, but blazed up at him defiantly. "You'll make me do nothing. I'm going to be just what I said, and I'm going to make a success of it. Just wait-I'll prove to you what I can do! And you-you'll be a failure, and will come slinking back and beg us to take you in!"

They glared at each other silently, angrily, their aroused wills defying each other. For a moment they stood so. Then something-a mixture of his desire to dominate this defiant young thing and of that growing change in him toward her-surged madly into Larry's head. He caught Maggie in his arms and kissed her.

All the rigidity went suddenly from her figure and she hung loose in his embrace. Their gazes held for a moment. She went pale, and quivering all through she looked up at him in startled, wide-eyed silence. As for Larry, a dizzying, throbbing emotion permeated his whole astonished being.

Suddenly she pushed herself free from his relaxing arms, and backed away from him.

"What did you do that for?" she whispered huskily.

But she did not wait for his answer. She turned and hurried for the stairway. Three steps up she turned again and gazed down upon him. Her cheeks were once more flushed and her dark eyes blazing.

"It's going to be just as I said!" she flung at him. "I'm going to succeed-you're going to fail! You just wait and see!"

She turned and ran swiftly up the stairway and out of sight. Neither of them had been aware that the Duchess, a drab figure merged into a drab background, had regarded them fixedly during all this scene. And Larry was still unconscious that the old eyes were now watching him with their deep-set, expressionless fixity.

Motionless, Larry stood gazing at where Maggie had been. Within him was tumult; he did not yet understand the significance of that impulsive kiss... He began to walk the floor, his mind and will now more in control. Yes, he was going to go straight; he was going to make good, and make good in a big way! And he was going to make Maggie go straight, too. He'd show her! It wasn't going to be easy, but he had his big plan made, and he had determination, and he knew he'd win in the end. Yes, he'd show her!...

Up before the mirror Maggie sat looking intently at herself. Part of her consciousness was wondering about that kiss, and part kept fiercely repeating that she'd show him-she'd show him-she'd show him!...

Looking thus into their futures they were both very certain of themselves and of the roads which they were to travel.

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