“Last winter,” he went on hurriedly, as he glanced at the setting sun, “I stumbled on them both just as you’ve done, only my trail led through the conservatory of the New York house. They were both hard pressed, do you see, for a way out; that’s how I first knew about Mr. Thayor’s intention to purchase this property.”
“The telegram Mr. Thayor sent, you mean?”
“No—a letter. It meant separation to them. I saw her hand it to the doctor to read. Do you know what he did? He condemned Miss Margaret’s lungs—told her mother the child had consumption. By God—I could have strangled him!”
Holcomb gripped the log on which he sat, staring grimly at the butler.
“Yes, ordered her here!” continued Blakeman. “That was their way out. Damn him! Ordered her here—winter and summer, knowing that her father would go along with her, and let the wife do as she pleased. It was damnable!”
There are two kinds of anger that seize a man—explosive and suppressed. Holcomb was now suffering under the latter—a subtle anger that would undoubtedly have meant serious injury to the immaculate Sperry had he been unlucky enough to have crossed his path at the moment.
As Blakeman, little by little, unfolded more of the doctor’s villainy, Holcomb’s muscles relaxed and his indignation, which had risen by degrees until it boiled within him, now settled to reason. He had not only Thayor’s happiness to think of, but Margaret’s as well. Both, he determined, must be kept in ignorance of what, so far, only he and Blakeman knew.
“The morning the little fellow, Le Boeuf, got hurt,” Blakeman went on, “the doctor took Miss Margaret for a walk. I was in the pantry and saw them start off together in the woods down by the brook. I followed them—I couldn’t help it; I had a little girl myself once in the old country, and I’ve seen too much of Sperry’s kind. Europe is full of them.”
The tenseness in Holcomb returned. “What did you see?” he asked grimly.
“No more than I expected,” returned the butler. “The doctor is a snake—and Miss Margaret is young and pretty; well—he would have kissed her—but I announced luncheon.”
Holcomb caught his breath. “And she was willing?” he asked, looking sternly at Blakeman.
“Willing! She was frightened to death.”
Holcomb threw up his head with a jerk—his clenched fists rigid on the log.
“I’m telling you this,” Blakeman went on, not waiting for him to reply, “because I believe you can help. I have always made it a rule in service to keep silent, no matter what passes in a family. I meddled once at Ostend in an affair of the like of this, and it taught me a lesson. There’ll be trouble here if things go on like this—maybe later a divorce—and a divorce is the devil in a family like Mr. Thayor’s. Neither you nor me want that; we must stand by the little girl and the master and avoid it.”