Trove walked to the bench and stood a moment looking out of a window.
“Strange!” said he, returning presently with tearful eyes. “Do you remember the date?”
“’Twas a Friday, ‘bout the middle o’ September.”
Trove turned, looking up at the brazen dial of the tall clock. It indicated four-thirty in the morning of September 19th.
“Were there any with him when he died?”
“Yes, the tavern keeper—it was some kind of a stroke they told me.”
“And your boss—did he go to California?” Trove asked.
“He sold the farm an’ went to Californy. I worked there a while, but the boss an’ me couldn’t agree, an’ so I pulled up an’ trotted fer home.”
“To what part of California did Thompson go?”
“Hadn’t no idee where he would stick his stakes. He was goin’ in t’ the gold business.”
Trove sat busy with his own thoughts while Thurston Tilly, warming to new confidence, boiled over with enthusiasm for the far west. A school friend of the boy came, by and by, whereupon Tilly whistled on his thumb and hurried away.
“Did you know,” said the newcomer, when Trove and he were alone, “that Roberts—the man who tried to send you up—is a young lawyer and is going to settle here? He and Polly are engaged.”
“So he gave me to understand.”
“Well, if she loves him and he’s a good fellow, I ’ve no right to complain,” Trove answered.
“I don’t believe that he’s a good fellow,” said the other.
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, a detective is—is—”
“A necessary evil?” Trove suggested.
“Just that,” said the other. “He must pretend to be what he isn’t and—well, a gentleman is not apt to sell himself for that purpose, Now he’s trying to convince people that you knew as much about the crime as Darrel. In my opinion he isn’t honest. Good looks and fine raiment are all there is to that fellow—take my word for it.”
“You’re inclined to judge him harshly,” said Trove. “But I’m worried, for I fear he’s unworthy of her and—–and I must leave town to-morrow.”
“Shall you go to see her?”
“No; not until I know more about him. I have friends here and they will give her good counsel. Soon they’ll know what kind of a man he is, and, if necessary, they’ll warn her. I’m beset with trouble, but, thank God, I know which way to turn.”
The White Guard
Next morning Trove was on his way to Quebec—a long, hard journey in the wintertime, those days. Leblanc had moved again,—so they told him in Quebec,—this time to Plattsburg of Clinton County, New York. There, however, Trove was unable to find the Frenchman. A week of patient inquiry, then, leaving promises of reward for information, he came away. He had yet another object of his travels—the prison at Dannemora—and came there of a Sunday morning late in February. Its towers were bathed in sunlight; its shadows lay dark and far upon the snow. Peace and light and silence had fallen out of the sky upon that little city of regret, as if to hush and illumine its tumult of dark passions. He shivered in the gloom of its shadow as he went up a driveway and rang a bell. The warden received him kindly.