“It wasn’t long before Bob crossed Alder Brook about forty rods this side of the Gull Rock. They saw his tracks where he crossed the next day, but Bob had the matches, and the sheriff and about forty that went out to get him came back that night looking kind of down in the mouth. There wasn’t a sign of him after he crossed Alder Brook. He knew those woods like a partridge. When he got through telling how he got the square meal at Lower Saranac, Ed said to him:
“‘Bob, you’re welcome to what I’ve got,’ and I told him, ’What I’ve got is yours, and you know it.’
“He tried to say a little something, but he choked up, then he said: ‘Boys, I’m sick of bein’ hounded. There’s been nights and days when I’ve most died; if I can only get into Canady there won’t none of ’em git me.’
“Ed and I had about eleven dollars between us. ’That will get you there, Bob,’ I said, ’if you look sharp and don’t take risks and keep to the timber.’ We gave him the eleven dollars and what cartridges and matches we could spare, and what was left of the deer. I never saw a fellow so grateful; he didn’t say anything, but I saw his old grit come back to him. That was Monday night, and about nine o’clock we turned in. Before daylight I woke up to attend to the fire and saw he was gone.”
The men drew a deep breath. Keene and the actor looked blankly at each other. Compared to the tale just ended, their own stories seemed but a reflex of utterly selfish lives. Even the Emperor experienced a strange thrill—possibly the first real sensation he had known since he was a boy. As to Thayor—he had hung on every word that fell from Holcomb’s lips.
“And what motive had Dinsmore in killing Bailey?” asked Thayor, nervously, when the others had gone to the hall for their coffee and liqueurs. “I asked your father but he did not answer me, and yet he must have known.”
“Oh, yes, he knew, Mr. Thayor. Everybody knows, our way, but it’s one of those things we don’t talk about—but I’ll tell you. It was about his wife.”
Thayor folded his napkin in an absent way, laid it carefully beside his plate, unfolded it again and tossed it in a heap upon the table, and said with a certain tenderness in his tone:
“And did he get away to Canada, Holcomb?”
“No, sir; his little girl fell ill, and he wouldn’t leave her.”
“And the woman, Holcomb—was she worth it?” continued Thayor. There was a strange tremor in his voice now—so much so that the young man fastened his eyes on the banker’s, wondering at the cause.
“She was worth a lot to Bob, sir,” replied Holcomb slowly. “They had grown up together.”
That same afternoon the banker passed through the polished steel grille of his new home by means of a flat key attached to a plain gold chain.