“I want you to prepare to be very brave, Madge,” she said. “There is some one coming whom I fear it will tax all your strength to meet.”
“Dicky!” I faltered, beginning to tremble.
“No, child, not yet,” she said, her voice filled with pity, “but someone who has done you a great wrong, Grace Draper.”
“Take me home”
“Grace Draper coming to see me!”
My echo of Lillian’s words was but a trembling stammer. The prospect of facing the girl the thread of whose sinister personality had so marred the fabric of my marital happiness terrified me. Her message to me, posted in San Francisco, where Dicky was, flaunted its insolent triumph again before my eyes:
“She laughs best who laughs last.”
That she had intended me to believe she was with Dicky, I knew, whether her boast were true or not. But how was it that she was coming to see me? Lillian put a reassuring hand upon my shoulder as she saw my face.
“Pull yourself together, Madge,” she admonished me sharply. “Let me make this clear to you. Grace Draper is not in San Francisco now. Whether she has been, or what she knows about Dicky she has refused so far to say. She has finally consented to see you, however.”
“But, how?” I murmured, bewildered.
“Do you remember the girl of whom Katherine spoke when she first came, the girl who moaned at night in the room next hers?”
“Oh, yes! And she was—?”
“Grace Draper. I do not know what made me think of the Draper when Katherine spoke of the girl, but I did, although I said nothing about it at the time. A little later, however, when the girl became really ill and Katherine was caring for her as a mother or a sister would have done, I told our little friend of my suspicion. Of course, Katherine watched her mysterious patient very carefully after that, and when she became ill enough to require a physician’s services, Katharine managed it so that Dr. Pettit was called, and he recognized the girl at once.
“Ever since then, Katherine has been working on the substitute for honor and conscience which the Draper carries around with her—but she was hard as nails for a long time. She is terribly grateful to Katherine, however, as fond of her as she can be of anyone, and she has finally consented to come here. Don’t anger her if you can help it.”
When, a little later, Grace Draper and I faced each other, it was pity instead of anger that stirred my heart. The girl was inexpressibly wan, her beauty only a worn shadow of its former glory. But there was the old flash of defiant hatred in her eyes as she looked at me.
“Please don’t flatter yourself that I have come here for your sake,” she said, with her old smooth insolence. “But this girl here”—she indicated Katherine—“took care of me before she knew who I was. She just about saved my life and reason, too, when there was nobody else to care a whit whether I lived or died. Even my sister’s gone back on me. So when I saw how much it meant to her to find out the truth about your precious husband, I promised her I’d come and tell you the little I knew.”