He put his hand upon Barton’s arm and gently pressed it.
“Barton,” he said, “tell me—Janet—Tawnleytown?”
Barton stared with glassy, unseeing eyes for a moment; then his eyelids fell.
“The bravest adventures—the yellowest gold,” he murmured. Then, so faintly as almost to baffle hearing: “Where—all—our—dreams? Gone—aglimmering. Gone.”
That was all.
Impossible? No, just very, very improbable. But how, by its very improbability, it does take on the semblance of design! See how by slender a thread the thing hung, how every corner of the plan fitted. Just one slip Janet Spencer made; she let her thoughts and her words slip into a groove; she repeated herself. And how unerringly life had put her finger upon that clew! So reasoned Harber.
Well, if the indictment were true, there was proof to be had in Barton’s leather case!
Harber, having called the doctor, went to his stateroom.
He opened the leather case. Inside a cover of yellow oiled silk he found first a certificate of deposit for three thousand pounds, and beneath it a packet of letters.
He unwrapped them.
And, though somehow he had known it without the proof, at the sight of them something caught at his heart with a clutch that made it seem to have stopped beating for a long time. For the sprawling script upon the letters was almost as familiar to him as his own. Slowly he reached down and took up the topmost letter, drew the thin shiny sheets from the envelope, fluttered them, dazed, and stared at the signature:
Yours, my dearest lover, JANET.
Just so had she signed his letters. It was Janet Spencer. Two of her argosies, each one laden with gold for her, had met in their courses, had sailed for a little together.
The first reasonable thought that came to Harber, when he was convinced of the authenticity of the miracle, was that he was free—free to go after the girl he loved, after Vanessa Simola. I think that if he could have done it, he’d have turned the steamer back to the Orient in that moment. The thought that the ship was plunging eastward through a waste of smashing heavy seas was maddening, no less!
He didn’t want to see Janet or Tawnleytown, again. He did have, he told me, a fleeting desire to know just how many other ships Janet might have launched, but it wasn’t strong enough to take him to see her. He sent her the papers and letters by registered mail under an assumed name.
And then he went to Claridon, Michigan, to learn of her people when Vanessa might be expected home. They told him she was on her way. So, fearing to miss her if he went seeking, he settled down there and stayed until she came. It was seven months of waiting he had ... but it was worth it in the end.
* * * * *
And that was Harber’s romance. Just an incredible coincidence, you say. I know it. I told Harber that. And Mrs. Harber.