“And you are really telling me the truth?” Alice gasped—her lips set, her breast heaving.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders.
“Unfortunately—yes,” was his reply.
Alice straightened to her feet, crossed to the mantel and stood for some moments with her forehead pressed against the cool edge of the marble, Sperry watching her in silence.
“Poor Margie!” he heard her say—then she turned to him with a strange, calm look in her eyes.
“You must go,” she said with an effort; “it is late. Blakeman will be here in a moment to turn on the lights.” She stretched forth her hands to him. For a second he held them warm and trembling in his own, then Blakeman’s rapid step in the conservatory was heard.
“Good-night,” he said in a louder tone, as the butler appeared. “I shall see you at the Van Renssalaer’s Thursday—we are to dine at eight, I believe.”
She smiled wearily in assent.
“And remember me to your good husband,” he added. “I hope he will have the best of luck.”
“They say hunting is a worse habit to break than bridge,” she returned with a forced little laugh.
Blakeman followed the doctor to the door. Reverently he handed him his stick, coat and hat—a moment later the heavy steel grille closed noiselessly.
Blakeman stood grimly looking out of the front window, his jaw set, his eyes following the doctor until he disappeared within his coupe and slammed the door shut.
“Damn him!” he said. “If he tells that child that I’ll strangle him!”
In a deserted lumber clearing up Big Shanty Brook a chipmunk skitted along a fallen hemlock in the drizzle of an October rain. Suddenly he stopped and listened, his heart, thumping against his sleek coat. He could hear the muffled roar of the torrent below him at the bottom of the ravine, talking and grumbling to itself, as it emptied its volume of water swollen by the heavy rains and sent it swirling out into the long green pool below.
“Was it the old brook that had frightened him?” he wondered. “Perhaps it was only the hedge-hog waddling along back from the brook to his hole in the ledge above, or it might be the kingfisher, who had tired of the bend of the brook a week before and had changed his thieving ground to the rapids above, where he terrorized daily a shy family of trout, pouncing upon the little ones with a great splashing and hysterical chattering as they darted about, panic-stricken, in the shallowest places.
“Perhaps, after all, it was only the creaking of a tree,” he sighed, with a feeling of relief. Before he could lower his tail he heard the sound again—this time nearer—more alarming—the sound of human voices coming straight toward him.
Then came the sharp bark of a dog. At this the chipmunk went scurrying to safety along the great hemlock and over the sagging roof of the deserted shanty lying at its farther end, where he hid himself in a pile of rock.