“Where is Mrs. May now?” she asked sharply, past caring much whether or no Miss Dene saw her agony.
“In San Francisco—unless she’s gone to the Yosemite Valley with Mr. Hilliard.”
“With him! Why should she go everywhere with him?”
Theo laughed. “Because she likes his society, I suppose, and he likes hers. He is supposed to be her unpaid, amateur guide, I believe, and she trots her maid about with her, to play propriety. Also a cat. Don’t you think a black cat a charmingly original chaperon?”
Carmen did not answer. Anguish and rage in her heart were like vitriol dashed on a raw wound. No wonder Nick had not written! And she had been happy, and trusting, while he forgot his debt of gratitude, and ignoring her existence, travelled about the country with another woman. Only this morning Carmen had dreamed of meeting him here, and that he had asked for her invitation, as a favour to himself. She could have screamed, and torn her flesh, in agony. She suffered too much. Some one else would have to pay for this! Nick would have to pay, and that woman, that love pirate sailing from strange seas to steal the treasure of others.
Her one uncontrollable impulse was to go and find them both, to do something to part them, she did not know what yet, but inspiration would come. She felt unable to bear any delay. Somehow, she must find an excuse to get away from this place. She would have to go San Francisco, or perhaps even to the Yosemite Valley, and find Nick and the woman together.
It occurred to her that she might contrive to telegraph to Simeon Harp, telling him to wire her that something had gone wrong on the ranch, that she must return home at once. Mariette could find out how to send telegrams from here—there was sure to be a way—and get the message off in secret.
* * * * *
That night a telegram came for Mrs. Gaylor, announcing that there had been a fire on the ranch. She was needed at home. She showed the bit of paper to Mrs. Harland and Falconer, and there was much sympathy and regret that her visit must be broken short.
Next morning she left, having been but twenty-four hours at Rushing River Camp. And late that night, she arrived in San Francisco. But she was in no hurry to obey the summons from the Gaylor ranch.
THE BOX OF MYSTERY
Again Angela was expecting Hilliard. They were to dine, and then she and Nick and Kate and the cat were going by train to El Porto, the gate of the Yosemite Valley. Angela was waiting in her sitting-room, as on that first evening there, when she had changed one decision for another all in a moment; but now she was in travelling dress, and a week had passed since that other night. It had been, perhaps, the happiest week of her life; but the week to which she was looking forward would be happier still. Afterward, of course, there would be an end. For the end must come. She was clear-sighted enough to realize that.