“I am afraid what I have to say will be disagreeable to you,” began Delaine, abruptly. “And on this particular day—when we owe you so much—it is more than disagreeable to myself. But I have no choice. By some extraordinary chance, with which I beg you to believe my own will has had nothing to do, I have become acquainted with something—something that concerns you privately—something that I fear will be a great shock to you.”
Anderson stood still.
“What can you possibly mean?” he said, in growing amazement.
“I was accosted the night before last, as I was strolling along the railway line, by a man I had never seen before, a man who—pardon me, it is most painful to me to seem to be interfering with anyone’s private affairs—who announced himself as”—the speaker’s nervous stammer intervened before he jerked out the words—“as your father!”
“As my father? Somebody must be mad!” said Anderson quietly. “My father has been dead ten years.”
“I am afraid there is a mistake. The man who spoke to me is aware that you suppose him dead—he had his own reasons, he declares, for allowing you to remain under a misconception; he now wishes to reopen communications with you, and to my great regret, to my indignation, I may say he chose me—an entire stranger—as his intermediary. He seems to have watched our party all the way from Winnipeg, where he first saw you, casually, in the street. Naturally I tried to escape from him—to refer him to you. But I could not possibly escape from him, at night, with no road for either of us but the railway line. I was at his mercy.”
“What was his reason for not coming direct to me?”
They were still pausing in the road. Delaine could see in the failing light that Anderson had grown pale. But he perceived also an expression of scornful impatience in the blue eyes fixed upon him.
“He has professed to be afraid—”
“That I should murder him?” said Anderson with a laugh. “And he told you some sort of a story?”
“A long one, I regret to say.”
“And not to my credit?”
“The tone of it was certainly hostile. I would rather not repeat it.”
“I should not dream of asking you to do so. And where is this precious individual to be found?”
Delaine named the address which had been given him—of a lodging mainly for railway men near Laggan.
“I will look him up,” said Anderson briefly. “The whole story of course is a mere attempt to get money—for what reason I do not know; but I will look into it.”