Never have keener or more conflicting emotions been awakened in my breast than by these simple words. But alive to the necessity of hiding my feelings from those about me, I gave no token of my surprise, but rather turned a stonier face than common upon the man who had caused it.
“Refuge?” I repeated. “He is there, then, of his own free will — or yours?” I sarcastically added, not being able to quite keep down this reproach as I remembered the deception practised upon Lucetta.
“Mr. Ostrander, madam, has been spending the week with Deacon Spear — they are old friends, you know. That he should spend it quietly and, to a degree, in hiding, was as much his plan as mine. For while he found it impossible to leave Lucetta in the doubtful position in which she and her family at present stand, he did not wish to aggravate her misery by the thought that he was thus jeopardizing the position on which all his hopes of future advancement depended. He preferred to watch and wait in secret, seeing which, I did what I could to further his wishes. His usual lodging was with the family, but when the search was instituted, I suggested that he should remove himself to that eyrie back of the hay where you were sharp enough to detect him to-day.”
“Don’t attempt any of your flatteries upon me,” I protested. “They will not make me forget that I have not been treated fairly. And Lucetta — oh! may I not tell Lucetta ——”
“And spoil our entire prospect of solving this mystery? No, madam, you may not tell Lucetta. When Fate has put such a card into our hands as I played with that telegram to-day, we would be flying in the face of Providence not to profit by it. Lucetta’s despair makes her bold; upon that boldness we depend to discover and bring to justice a great criminal.”
I felt myself turn pale; for that very reason, perhaps, I assumed a still sterner air, and composedly said:
“If Mr. Ostrander is in hiding at the Deacon’s, and he and his host are both in your confidence, then the only man whom you can designate in your thoughts by this dreadful title must be Mr. Trohm.”
I had perhaps hoped he would recoil at this or give some other evidence of his amazement at an assumption which to me seemed preposterous. But he did not, and I saw, with what feelings may be imagined, that this conclusion, which was half bravado with me, had been accepted by him long enough for no emotion to follow its utterance.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, “how can you reconcile such a suspicion with the attitude you have always preserved towards Mr. Trohm?”
“Madam,” said he, “do not criticise my attitude without taking into account existing appearances. They are undoubtedly in Mr. Trohm’s favor.”
“I am glad to hear you say so,” said I, “I am glad to hear you say so. Why, it was in response to his appeal that you came to X. at all.”
Mr. Gryce’s smile conveyed a reproach which I could not but acknowledge I amply merited. Had he spent evening after evening at my house, entertaining me with tales of the devices and the many inconsistencies of criminals, to be met now by such a puerile disclaimer as this? But beyond that smile he said nothing; on the contrary, he continued as if I had not spoken at all.
“But appearances,” he declared, “will not stand before the insight of a girl like Lucetta. She has marked the man as guilty, and we will give her the opportunity of proving the correctness of her instinct.”
“But Mr. Trohm’s house has been searched, and you have found nothing — nothing,” I argued somewhat feebly.
“That is the reason we find ourselves forced to yield our judgment to Lucetta’s intuitions,” was his quick reply. And smiling upon me with his blandest air, he obligingly added: “Miss Butterworth is a woman of too much character not to abide the event with all her accustomed composure.” And with this final suggestion, I was as yet too crushed to resent, he dismissed me to an afternoon of unparalleled suspense and many contradictory emotions.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55