“A beautiful mystery!” the young man whispered. “He thought I should be convicted—who wouldn’t? I think he loved me, so that he took the shame and the suffering and the prison to save me.”
“He would have died for you,” she answered; “but, Sidney, it was dreadful to let them take him away. Couldn’t you have done something?”
“Something, dear Polly! and I with a foot in the grave?”
“Where did you go that night?”
“I do not know; but in the morning I found myself in our great pasture and was ill. Some instinct led me home, and, as usual, I had gone across lots.” Then he told the story of that day and night and the illness that followed.
“I, too, was ill,” said Polly, “and I thought you were cruel not to come to me. When I began to go out of doors they told me you were low with fever. Then I got ready to go to you, and that very day I saw you pass the door. I thought surely you would come to see me, but—but you went away.”
Polly’s lips were trembling, and she covered her eyes a moment with her handkerchief.
“I feared to be unwelcome,” said he.
“You and every one, except my mother, was determined that I should marry Roberts,” Polly went on. “He has been urgent, but you, Sidney, you wouldn’t have me. You have done everything you could to help him. Now I’ve found you, and I’m going to tell you all, and you’ve got to listen to me. He has proof, he says, that you are guilty of another crime, and—and he says you are now a fugitive trying to escape arrest.”
A little silence followed, in which Trove was thinking of the Hope letters and of Roberts’ claim that he was engaged to Polly.
“You have been wrapped in mysteries long enough. I shall not let you go until you explain,” she continued.
“There’s no mystery about this,” said Trove, calmly. “Roberts is a rascal, and that’s the reason I’m here.”
She turned quickly with a look of surprise.
“I mean it. He knows I am guilty of no crime, but he does know that I am looking for Louis Leblanc, and he has fooled me with lying letters to keep me out of the way and win you with his guile.”
A serious look came into the eyes of Polly.
“You are looking for Louis Leblanc,” she whispered.
“Yes; it is the first move in a plan to free Darrel, for I am sure that Leblanc committed the crime. I shall know soon after I meet him.”
“If he should have a certain mark on the back of his left hand and were to satisfy me in two other details, I’d give my life to one purpose,—that of making him confess. God help me! I cannot find the man. But I shall not give up; I shall go and see the Governor.”
Turning her face away and looking out of the window, she felt for his hand. Then she pressed it fondly. That was the giving of all sacred things forever, and he knew it. He was the same Sidney Trove, but never until that day had she seen the full height of his noble manhood, ever holding above its own the happiness of them it loved. Suddenly her heart was full with thinking of the power and beauty of it.