“I will be there at 10,” I said gravely. I felt that her honesty and directness called for an explicit answer, and I gave it to her.
“Thank you.” She smiled a little sadly, and then added: “Don’t imagine all sorts of impossible things. It isn’t a very pretty story, but I am beginning to hope that after you have heard it we may become very real friends.”
Preposterous as her words seemed in the light of the things I had heard from the lips of my husband’s mother, they gave me a sudden feeling of comfort.
LILLIAN UNDERWOOD’S STORY
“Well, I suppose we might as well get it over with.”
Lillian Underwood and I sat in the big tapestried chairs on either side of the glowing fire in her library. She had instructed Betty, her maid, to bring her neither caller nor telephone message, until our conference should be ended. The two doors leading from the room were locked and the heavy velvet curtains drawn over them, making us absolutely secure from intrusion.
“I suppose so.” The answer was banal enough, but it was physically impossible for me to say anything more. My throat was parched, my tongue thick, and I clenched my hands tightly in my lap to prevent their trembling.
Mrs. Underwood gave me a searching glance, then reached over and laid her warm, firm hand over mine.
“See here, my child,” she said gently, “this will never do. Before I tell you this story there is something you must be sure of. Look at me. No matter what else you may think of me do you believe me to be capable of telling you a falsehood when a make a statement to you upon my honor?”
Her eyes met mine fairly and squarely. Mrs. Underwood has wonderful eyes, blue-gray, expressive. They shone out from the atrocious mask of make-up which she always uses, and I unreservedly accepted the message they carried to me.
“I am sure you would not deceive me,” I returned quickly, and meant it.
“Thank you. Then before I begin my story I am going to assure you of one thing, upon—my—honor.”
She spoke slowly, impressively, her eyes never wavering from mine.
“You have heard rumors about Dicky and me; you will hear things from me today which will show you that the rumors were justified in part, and yet—I want you to believe me when I tell you that there is nothing in any past association of your husband and myself which would make either of us ashamed to look you straight in the eyes.”
I believed her! I would challenge anyone in the world to look into those clear, honest eyes and doubt their owner’s truth.
There was a long minute when I could not speak. I had not known the full measure of what I feared until her words lifted the burden from my soul.
Then I had my moment, recognized it, rose to it. I leaned forward and returned the earnest gaze of the woman opposite to me.