Lost Man’s Lane, by Anna Katharine Green

xxxiv

Conditions

But in another moment she was back, her eyes dilated and her whole person exhaling a terrible purpose.

“Do not look at me, do not notice me!” she cried, but in a voice so hoarse no one but Mr. Gryce could fully understand her. “I am for no one’s eyes but God’s. Pray that he may have mercy upon me.” Then as she saw us all instinctively fall back, she controlled herself, and, pointing toward Mother Jane’s cottage, said more distinctly: “As for those men, let them dig. Let them dig the whole day long. Secrecy must be kept, a secrecy so absolute that not even the birds of the air must see that our thoughts range beyond the forty rods surrounding Mother Jane’s cottage.”

She turned and would have fled away for the second time, but Mr. Gryce stopped her. “You have set yourself a task beyond your strength. Can you perform it?”

“I can perform it,” she said. “If Loreen does not talk, and I am allowed to spend the day in solitude.”

I had never seen Mr. Gryce so agitated — no, not when he left Olive Randolph’s bedside after an hour of vain pleading. “But to wait all day! Is it necessary for you to wait all day?”

“It is necessary.” She spoke like an automaton. “To-night at twilight, when the sun is setting, meet me at the great tree just where the road turns. Not a minute sooner, not an hour later. I will be calmer then.” And waiting now for nothing, not for a word from Loreen nor a detaining touch from Mr. Gryce, she flew away for the second time. This time Loreen followed her.

“Well, that is the hardest thing I ever had to do,” said Mr. Gryce, wiping his forehead and speaking in a tone of real grief and anxiety. “Do you think her delicate frame can stand it? Will she survive this day and carry through whatever it is she has set herself to accomplish?”

“She has no organic disease,” said I, “but she loved that young man very much, and the day will be a terrible one to her.”

Mr. Gryce sighed.

“I wish I had not been obliged to resort to such means,” said he, “but women like that only work under excitement, and she does know the secret of this affair.”

“Do you mean,” I demanded, almost aghast, “that you have deceived her with a false telegram; that that slip of paper you hold ——”

“Read it,” he cried, holding it out toward me.

I did read it. Alas, there was no deception in it. It read as he said.

“However —” I began.

But he had pocketed the telegram and was several steps away before I had finished my sentence.

“I am going to start these men up,” said he. “You will breathe no word to Miss Lucetta of my sympathy nor let your own interests slack in the investigations which are going on under our noses.”

And with a quick, sharp bow, he made his way to the gate, whither I followed him in time to see him set his foot upon a patch of sage.

“You will begin at this place,” he cried, “and work east; and, gentlemen, something tells me that we shall be successful.”

With almost a simultaneous sound a dozen spades and picks struck the ground. The digging up of Mother Jane’s garden had begun in earnest.

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Last updated Friday, February 28, 2014 at 11:57