“What did I tell you!” she exclaimed. “Who brought this, Bubbles?”
“Barbara,” said her father, “write that you are safe at home. I’ll tell Lichtenstein what has happened. He’s our best advice. Where is Mr. Lichtenstein, Bubbles?”
“In his room, sir, writing.”
Dr. Ferris left hurriedly, and Bubbles, gnawed by unsatisfied curiosity, stood first on one foot and then on the other while Barbara wrote to Wilmot. Somehow it was a very difficult note to write, for she felt sure that it would not be read by Wilmot’s eyes alone, and she didn’t wish by a syllable further to incite the legless man against his prisoner. So at last she merely wrote that she was with her father at Clovelly. What she wanted to write was that her love for him had grown and grown until she was sure of it.
After Bubbles had gone with the note she sat for a long time without moving, silent and white.
When her father returned, bringing Lichtenstein, he, too, was white. “I am going to town at once,” he said. “God willing, I shall have only good news for you.”
Barbara turned to Lichtenstein. “You’ve thought out something?”
He nodded gravely.
[Illustration: “Read that, father”]
“My treasure! My ownest own!”
Rose cowered from the cold malice in the legless man’s voice, and from the unearthly subdued excitement in his eyes.
“Sit there opposite me. Don’t be afraid. Things are coming my way. To-morrow I shall have a pair of legs. Think of that! Are you thinking of it?”
The legless man wiped his mouth with the palm of his hand. “I told him,” he said, “that she was a prisoner in this house. He said he would give me his legs if I would let her go free. He wrote a note asking if she was safe and sound. I sent it out to her place where she was all the time, and of course she answered that she was safe and sound.”
He chuckled, and his agate eyes appeared to give off sparks.
“But she,” he went on, “has promised to marry me, if I will let him go free. They love each other, Rose. They love each other! But I’m not jealous. It won’t come to anything. First I will get his legs. Then, if he lives, I will make him write to her that he is sound and free. I will tell her that he refused to sacrifice himself. That will make her hate him, and then we’ll be married and live happily ever after. But if she breaks her word, why on the 15th of January she will be taken, wherever she is, and brought here, and we—we won’t be married!” He laughed a long, ugly laugh.
“What are you going to do with me?”
The legless man considered, “I’m afraid you’ll be too jealous to have about, my pretty Rose. I’m afraid your love for me will turn into a different feeling—in spite of the beautiful new legs that I shall have. In short, my dear, knowing women as I do, you are one of my greatest problems. If I could be sure that you wouldn’t give anything away before the 15th—after that it wouldn’t matter.”