My father raised his head. “No, there is no one there,” he said. “See, the wind is rising. It must have been that which slammed the door. I think I would better shut the window.”
He moved over to the window, which Lillian had kept partly ajar for air, and closed it. Then he returned to my bedside.
“There is one thing I must ask you to do, my child,” he said hesitatingly, “and that is to keep secret the fact that instead of being Robert Gordon, I am in reality Charles Robert Gordon Spencer, and your father. Of course your husband must know and Mrs. Underwood, as her husband is going with me to South America. But I should advise very strongly against the knowledge coming into the possession of any one else.
“I cannot explain to you now, why I dropped part of my name, or why I exact this promise,” he went on, “but it is imperative that I do ask it, and that you heed the request. You will respect my wishes in this matter, will you not, my daughter?”
It was all very stilted, almost melodramatic, but my father was so much in earnest that I readily gave the promise he asked. With a look of relief he took a package from his pocket and handed it to me.
“Keep this carefully,” he said. “It contains all the data which you will need in case of my death. Rumor says that I am a very rich man. As usual rumor is wrong, but I have enough so that you will always be comfortable. And for fear that something might happen to you in my absence I have placed to your account in the Knickerbocker money enough for any emergency, also for any extra spending money you may wish. The bank book is among these papers. I trust that you will use it. I shall like to feel that you are using it. And now good-by. I shall not see you again.”
He kissed me, lingeringly, tenderly, and went out of the room. I lay looking at the package he had given me, wondering if it were all a dream.
Why did dicky go?
“Margaret, I have the queerest message from Richard. I cannot make it out.”
My mother-in-law rustled into my room, her voice querulous, her face expressing the utmost bewilderment.
“What is it, mother?” I asked nervously. It was late afternoon of the day in which Robert Gordon had revealed his identity as my father, and my nerves were still tense from the shock of the discovery.
“Why, Richard has left the city. He telephoned me just now that he had an unexpected offer at an unusual sum to do some work in San Francisco, I think, he said, and that he would be gone some months. If he accepted the offer he would have no time to come home. He said he would write to both of us tonight. What do you suppose it means?”
“I—do—not—know,” I returned slowly and truthfully, but there was a terrible frightened feeling at my heart. Dicky gone for months without coming to bid me good-by! My world seemed to whirl around me. But I must do or say nothing to alarm my mother-in-law. Her weak heart made it imperative that she be shielded from worry of any kind.