“Didn’t you get my wire saying I was coming?” asked Nyoda in surprise. “I sent one yesterday saying I would reach Oakwood at eight to-night. Trains were delayed all along the line and I didn’t get in until nearly one this morning.”
“We never got any telegram,” said Migwan.
“I suppose it’ll get here to-morrow,” said Nyoda resignedly. “The telegraph operator in St. Margaret’s was also the postmaster, and I have a suspicion that he was also the expressman, and his messages piled up on him at times. I got your letter about Veronica yesterday and started for home immediately. Now tell me everything exactly as it happened.”
She listened with wide-open eyes to the tale which Sahwah, assisted by the other three, poured out excitedly.
At the mention of Veronica’s mysterious errands from the house, which had brought suspicion down upon her, Nyoda suddenly turned white and clutched the newel post for support.
“Oh, if I had only known!” she cried wildly. “If I had only been here! Oh, the poor, poor child, why didn’t she tell?” Nyoda sank down on the stairs and buried her face in her hands, while the Winnebagos stood around with wondering, startled faces.
Then she looked up at the girls and began to speak.
“Girls,” she said in an awed tone, “I simply can’t find words to tell you what Veronica has done. No one could express in seven languages the depth of her loyalty to a friend. She has kept a promise of silence about a certain matter at a cost to herself that surpasses belief. But here and now I absolve her from that promise, and propose to tell you the whole matter which has so puzzled and tormented you with its mystery, although it is a matter I urgently wished to keep secret.
“You probably do not know that my husband has a younger brother, Clement, who was a brilliant scholar and a fine musician. His health had always been frail, and he overstudied in college, with the result that in the middle of his junior year he broke down altogether and was ill for a long time. Worry about his condition finally affected his mind and he became quite melancholy at times and mentally unbalanced. It was nothing permanent, the doctors said, and the mental trouble would pass away if he regained his health, but Clement was morbidly sensitive about it and was terribly afraid people would find it out and consider him crazy all the rest of his life, and that his career would be ruined by it
“His distress was so keen that my husband brought him to a little cottage here on the outskirts of Oakwood that stands far back from one of the unfrequented roads, almost hidden by the trees, and established him there with a young doctor friend and an old housekeeper who had been in the family for years and had looked after Clem since he was a youngster. None of his friends knew where he was nor what was the matter with him, so he was safe from the publicity he feared. He began to improve with the quiet outdoor life he led, but still there were times when he grew so melancholy that they feared he would kill himself. He was passionately fond of violin music, and we soon found out he could be speedily brought out of his melancholy fits by the sound of his favorite instrument.