Delaine was silent. Anderson divined from his manner that he believed the story true. In the minds of both the thought of Lady Merton emerged. Anderson scorned to ask, “Have you said anything to them?” and Delaine was conscious of a nervous fear lest he should ask it. In the light of the countenance beside him, no less than of the event of the day, his behaviour of the morning began to seem to him more than disputable. In the morning he had seemed to himself the defender of Elizabeth and the class to which they both belonged against low-born adventurers with disreputable pasts. But as he stood there, confronting the “adventurer,” his conscience as a gentleman—which was his main and typical conscience—pricked him.
The inward qualm, however, only stiffened his manner. And Anderson asked nothing. He turned towards Laggan.
“Good night. I will let you know the result of my investigations.” And, with the shortest of nods, he went off at a swinging pace down the road.
“I have only done my duty,” argued Delaine with himself as he returned to the hotel. “It was uncommonly difficult to do it at such a moment! But to him I have no obligations whatever; my obligations are to Lady Merton and her family.”
It was dark when Anderson reached Laggan, if that can be called darkness which was rather a starry twilight, interfused with the whiteness of snow-field and glacier. He first of all despatched a message to Banff for Elizabeth’s commissions. Then he made straight for the ugly frame house of which Delaine had given him the address. It was kept by a couple well known to him, an Irishman and his wife who made their living partly by odd jobs on the railway, partly by lodging men in search of work in the various construction camps of the line. To all such persons Anderson was a familiar figure, especially since the great strike of the year before.
The house stood by itself in a plot of cleared ground, some two or three hundred yards from the railway station. A rough road through the pine wood led up to it.
Anderson knocked, and Mrs. Ginnell came to the door, a tired, and apparently sulky woman.
“I hear you have a lodger here, Mrs. Ginnell,” said Anderson, standing in the doorway, “a man called McEwen; and that he wants to see me on some business or other.”
Mrs. Ginnell’s countenance darkened.
“We have an old man here, Mr. Anderson, as answers to that name, but you’ll get no business out of him—and I don’t believe he have any business with any decent crater. When he arrived two days ago he was worse for liquor, took on at Calgary. I made my husband look after him that night to see he didn’t get at nothing, but yesterday he slipped us both, an’ I believe he’s now in that there outhouse, a-sleeping it off. Old men like him should be sent somewhere safe, an’ kep’ there.”