The girl was silent; but the old lady saw her suddenly straighten herself.
“Just ask him whether he did look in, after all. It may just have been the shadow on his face.”
“What time was it?”
“About ten past eight, I suppose, dearest. You’ll ask him, won’t you?”
“Yes, Auntie.... I think I’d better lock your door when I go out. You won’t fancy such things then, will you?”
“Very well, dearest. As you think best.”
The old voice was becoming sleepy again: and Maggie stood watching a moment or two longer.
“Send Charlotte to me, dearest.... Good night, my pet.... I’m too sleepy again. My love to Laurie.”
The old lady felt the girl’s warm lips on her forehead. They seemed to linger a little. Then Mrs. Baxter lost herself once more.
The public bar of the Wheatsheaf Inn was the scene this evening of a lively discussion. Some thought the old gentleman, arrived that day from London, to be a new kind of commercial traveler, with designs upon the gardens of the gentry; others that he was a sort of scientific collector; others, again, that he was a private detective; and since there was no evidence at all, good or bad, in support of any one of these suggestions, a very pretty debate became possible.
A silence fell when his step was heard to pass down the stairs and out into the street, and another half an hour later when he returned. Then once more the discussion began.
At ten o’clock the majority of the men moved out into the moonlight to disperse homewards, as the landlord began to put away the glasses and glance at the clock. Overhead the lighted blind showed where the mysterious stranger still kept vigil; and over the way, beyond the still leafless trees, towered up the twisted chimneys of Mrs. Baxter’s house. No word had been spoken connecting the two, yet one or two of the men glanced across the way in vague surmise.
Nearly a couple of hours later the landlord himself came to the door to give the great Mr. Nugent himself, with whom he had been sitting in the inner parlor, a last good-night, and he too noticed that the bedroom window was still lighted up. He jerked his finger in the direction of it.
“A late old party,” he said in an undertone.
Mr. Nugent nodded. He was still a little flushed with whisky and with his previous recountings of what would have happened if his poor daughter had lived to marry the young squire, of his (Mr. Nugent’s) swift social advancement and its outward evidences, and of the hobnobbing with the gentry that would have taken place. He looked reflectively across at the silhouette of the big house, all grey and silver in the full moon. The landlord followed the direction of his eyes; and for some reason unknown to them both, the two stood there silent for a full half-minute. Yet there was nothing exceptional to be seen.