“Can I help you figure it out?” asked Veronica eagerly.
“Veronica,” began Sahwah, striving to speak in an offhand manner, “if—if you had a friend that you loved and that friend did something that you couldn’t understand and which seemed very strange and even suspicious to you, what would you do?”
Veronica’s eyes took on a thoughtful, far-away look, but they met Sahwah’s squarely. “If I loved that friend very much,” she replied slowly, “and had always trusted her before, I would say to myself, ’This is my friend whom I love and trust I don’t understand what she is doing, but I won’t permit myself to have any doubts about her now. I will have faith that she is doing nothing wrong. I will wait patiently and see what happens further, and very likely the matter will soon be explained to my satisfaction,’”
“But,” continued Sahwah, slowly and with an evident effort, “supposing you had done that, had refused to have any doubts concerning your friend and had waited patiently, trusting that it was all right, but things had not been explained to your satisfaction, and other things had happened, things still stranger and more suspicious?”
To Sahwah, watching intently, it seemed that Veronica’s large luminous eyes had suddenly filmed over like an animal’s in pain, but she answered naturally, in her calm, sweet voice, “Then, if I really loved that friend, and was afraid my suspicions were going to injure our friendship, I would go to her and tell her what I had heard and seen and ask her for an explanation.”
Sahwah was silent for a moment, seemingly engaged in some inward struggle with herself. Then she cleared her throat nervously and moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue.
“Veronica,” she burst out desperately, “why did you go out of the house in the middle of the night on several occasions, and whom were you talking to on the telephone that day when you said to someone that you could slip out at that time without arousing any suspicions?”
Veronica started painfully and stared at Sahwah in amazement, and Sahwah fancied she saw a great terror leap up in her eyes. Veronica looked at her a moment, the expression of astonishment frozen on her face, and then to Sahwah’s great bewilderment she laughed aloud, a genuine, mirthful, unforced, ringing laugh.
“Sahwah dear,” she said, looking her straight in the eye, “it’s perfectly true, all that you said. I did go out of the house in the middle of the night, and I did say just exactly what you said you heard me say over the telephone. But as for the explanation, I can’t give it now. It may be that you will never find out. It is not my secret, and I cannot tell it, even to clear away any suspicions you may have regarding it.”
Sahwah gazed at her uncertainly, going over in her mind the unexpected effect her words had had upon Veronica, and the mysterious thing she had said in reply. They had both stepped off the throne and stood facing each other in the path. Veronica came up close to Sahwah and slipped a hand around each of her elbows and squeezed them, her favorite caress.