“It came the day before Arthur went away,” replied Leonard, and Ruth reluctantly chose a new topic.
They rarely had an evening together thus, and with a soft rain falling at the open windows they sat and talked on many themes in what was to them a very talkative way. When something brought up the subject of the late noted trial, Ruth asked her brother how it had first come to him to suspect so unsuspected a man.
His reply was tardy. “Partly,” he said, and mused while he spoke, “because I am so unsuspected a man myself.”
He looked up with a smile, half play, half pain. “I know what the mind of an unsuspected man is capable of—under pressure.”
The questioner looked on him with fond faith, and then, dropping her eyes to her needlework, said, “That wasn’t all that prompted you, was it?”
“No,” replied the brother, again musing. “I had noticed the singular value of wanton guesswork.”
“I thought so,” said the sister. Her needle flagged and stopped, and each knew the other’s mind was on the implacable divinations of one morbid soul.
Leonard leaned and fingered the needlework,—a worsted slipper, too small for most men, too large for most women. “Is that for him?”
“Yes,” apologized Ruth; “it’s the thing every clergyman has to incur. But I’m only doing it to help Isabel out; she has the other.”
The evening went quickly. When Leonard let down the window sashes and lowered the shades, Ruth, standing by the lamp as if to put out its light, said, “I’ll not go up for a moment or two yet.”
She sent him an ardent smile across the room and turned to a desk.
Has it come to this?
Ruth wrote to her lover. Her father’s keeping secret his receipt of Godfrey’s letter until he had mailed its answer, could mean only that the answer was for Godfrey to come home. The General’s talk of being tired by the writing of it was a purely expletive irony, for he had written with the brevity of an old soldier to a young sailor; but he had written that trouble was impending, that its source was Arthur, and that the last hope of removing it lay with him, Godfrey.
A line from Ruth, pursuing after this message, would be one steamer behind it all the way, but it would reach the far wanderer before any leave would permit him to start homeward.
So, now, what should she write? If her father had discerned so much more than he had let any one know he had discerned, how about others? How about the kind whose chief joy is ruthless guesswork? That need of haste was one she had overlooked. Wise father!
And yet—haste itself is such a hazardous thing! Ah, if Arthur had come in on that evening express, what to write were an easier question. The minutes sped by; her pen overhung the paper with the opening sentence unfinished, and every moment the thought she kept putting away came back: “Leonard!—Leonard!—Godfrey’s summons should go to him from Leonard; and it should flash under the seas, not crawl across them!”—Hark!