“Father,” she said at last, and the man abruptly rose from his chair and moved away, “I just can’t thank you—for this. It’s given me fresh hope. A hope I never thought would be mine. Some day—”
Her voice broke and the man turned at once. He was smiling again.
“Don’t say a word, my dear. Not a word. Go and write that message, and take it to Sternford. And then—why—”
He moved over to the door and held it open for her. As she passed out he nodded kindly, and looked after her till she vanished into the kitchen at the end of the passage.
* * * * *
Father Adam was alone again in the room that had been his for so many weeks. The door was closed and he stood at the window gazing out at the dreary world beyond. But he saw nothing of it. He was thinking with the speed of a mind chafing at delay. He was wondering and hoping, and—fearing.
It was a woman of desperately fortified resolve who turned the handle of the office door in response to Bull Sternford’s peremptory summons. The thought of the coming interview terrified Nancy, and her terror had nothing whatever to do with the sending of her message.
Bull failed to look up from the mass of papers that littered his desk. His sharp “Well,” as Nancy approached him, was utterly impatient at the interruption. And its effect was crushing upon the girl in her present dispirited mood. She felt like headlong flight. She stood her ground, however, and the sound of her little nervous clearing of the throat came to the man at the table.
Bull looked up. In an instant his whole attitude underwent a complete change. His eyes lit, and he sprang from his seat behind the desk. He came towards the shrinking girl, eager and smiling with the welcome his love inspired.
“Why, say, Nancy,” he cried. “I just hadn’t a notion it was you. I was up to my neck in all this stuff,” he said, indicating the litter on his desk, “and I hadn’t a thought but it was the darn Chink come to worry with food.” He laughed. “You certainly have handed me some scare since you got a grip on our crazy household. I’ve got a nightmare all the time I’ve got to eat. And the trouble is I’d hate to miss any of it. Will you come right over to the window and sit? There’s daylight enough still. We don’t need to use Skert’s electric juice till we have to. I’m real glad you came along.”
The man’s delight was transparent. Nancy remained unresponsive, however. She was blind to everything but the thing she had come to do, and the hopelessness that weighed so heavily upon her.
“I’m sorry,” she said simply, accepting the chair he set for her. “I didn’t think you’d—you see, I waited till I guessed you’d be through. But I won’t keep you. It’s just a small favour, that’s all.”