By and by he went to the smoking-room and lighting a cigarette, thought over what Carmen had said to him. At first she had seemed anxious to find out something about Featherstone, but he was not surprised by this. Carmen liked to know as much as possible about everybody she met, and used her knowledge cleverly when it was to her advantage. The other matter was more puzzling and he wondered why she wanted to send a packet secretly to a man as old as her father. It might, of course, be a caprice, because girls were fond of mystery, but, as a rule, Carmen had a practical object for what she did. She had stated that they had friends in England, and this might mean that she had a lover. Perhaps she had exaggerated his age, and in any case, Foster thought it would not be a great drawback, if the man were rich. Carmen was rather ambitious than romantic.
Her plans, however, were not his business, and he felt no jealousy. He liked Carmen and had some respect for her abilities, but thought he would sooner not marry her, even if she were willing, which was most improbable. Since he had promised to take the packet, he would do so and say nothing about the matter.
He left the hall early, and driving home found his partner sitting by the stove.
“Was Daly at the reunion?” Featherstone asked.
Foster said he was there, and Featherstone resumed thoughtfully: “It’s curious he hasn’t come to the mill yet, but if he doesn’t turn up before Thursday, he’ll be too late. I’ll be ready to start with you by the afternoon train, and as there’s no use in spoiling a good plan for a few dollars, I’ll buy a ticket and check my baggage to Ottawa. Then I’ll get off at Streeton Creek, where I won’t have long to wait if the west-bound train’s on time. You can express my things on from Ottawa. The Montreal express stops about an hour.”
“That ought to throw Daly off the track,” Foster agreed, and they talked about something else.
THE FIRST ADVENTURE
It was about ten o’clock at night and the Montreal express sped through the lonely forest of North Ontario. The train was light, for there were few passengers on board, and the road was by no means good, but in spite of the jolting Foster enjoyed his cigarette in a corner of the smoking compartment at the end of a car. A colored porter had told him his berth in the sleeper was ready, Featherstone had left the train, and most of the passengers were already in bed, but Foster did not want to follow them just yet. For a time, he had done with business, and was on his way to England. He relished the unusual sense of freedom.
A half-moon shone down upon the rugged wilderness, and he could see the black pines rush past. The cars lurched and he heard the great locomotive snort on the inclines. Now and then there was a roar as they sped across a bridge, and water glimmered among the rocks below; afterwards the roar sank into a steady clatter and a soothing throb of wheels. The car was warm, and Foster, who had given the porter his overcoat, was lighting another cigarette when a man came in and sat down opposite. He looked hard at Foster, who quietly returned his gaze. The man was about his own height but some years older, and his expression was disturbed.