“I have remembered something that I had forgotten, Mr. Howell,” I said. “On Sunday morning, the Ladleys had a visitor.”
“They had very few visitors.”
“I did not see him, but—I heard his voice.” Mr. Howell did not move, but I fancied he drew his breath in quickly. “It sounded—it was not by any chance you?”
“I? A newspaper man, who goes to bed at three A.M. on Sunday morning, up and about at ten!”
“I didn’t say what time it was,” I said sharply.
But at that moment Lida called from the front hall.
“I think I hear Peter,” she said. “He is shut in somewhere, whining.”
We went forward at once. She was right. Peter was scratching at the door of Mr. Ladley’s room, although I had left the door closed and Peter in the hall. I let him out, and he crawled to me on three legs, whimpering. Mr. Howell bent over him and felt the fourth.
“Poor little beast!” he said. “His leg is broken!”
He made a splint for the dog, and with Lida helping, they put him to bed in a clothes-basket in my up-stairs kitchen. It was easy to see how things lay with Mr. Howell. He was all eyes for her: he made excuses to touch her hand or her arm—little caressing touches that made her color heighten. And with it all, there was a sort of hopelessness in his manner, as if he knew how far the girl was out of his reach. Knowing Alma and her pride, I knew better than they how hopeless it was.
I was not so sure about Lida. I wondered if she was in love with the boy, or only in love with love. She was very young, as I had been. God help her, if, like me, she sacrificed everything, to discover, too late, that she was only in love with love!
Mr. Reynolds did not come home to dinner after all. The water had got into the basement at the store, he telephoned, one of the flood-gates in a sewer having leaked, and they were moving some of the departments to an upper floor. I had expected to have him in the house that evening, and now I was left alone again.
But, as it happened, I was not alone. Mr. Graves, one of the city detectives, came at half past six, and went carefully over the Ladleys’ room. I showed him the towel and the slipper and the broken knife, and where we had found the knife-blade. He was very non-committal, and left in a half-hour, taking the articles with him in a newspaper.
At seven the door-bell rang. I went down as far as I could on the staircase, and I saw a boat outside the door, with the boatman and a woman in it. I called to them to bring the boat back along the hall, and I had a queer feeling that it might be Mrs. Ladley, and that I’d been making a fool of myself all day for nothing. But it was not Mrs. Ladley.
“Is this number forty-two?” asked the woman, as the boat came back.