Vigorous hammering on Peter Mauger’s door produced first his old housekeeper, and presently himself, heavy-eyed, dull-witted, and in flagrant dishabille, since Mrs. Guille had but a moment ago shaken him out of the sleep of those who drink not wisely over-night, with the information that a crazy woman wanted him at the door.
“Where’s Tom?” demanded Julie, ready to empty the vials of her wrath on the delinquent as soon as he was produced.
But Peter’s manner at once dissipated that expectation.
“Tom?” he said vaguely, and gazed at her with a bovine stupidity that jarred her strained nerves like a blow.
“Yes, Tom—my husband, fool! Where is he?” she asked sharply.
“Where is he?” scratching his tousled head to quicken his wits. “I d’n know.”
“You don’t know? What did you do with him last night, you drunken fool?”—by this time the neighbours had come out to learn the news.
Peter gaped at her in astonishment, his muddled wits and aching head beginning dimly to realize that something was wrong.
“Tom left here ... last night ... t’go home,” he nodded emphatically.
“Well, he never got home,” snapped Julie. “And you’d best get your clothes on and help me find him. You were both as drunk as pigs, I suppose. If he’s lying dead in a ditch it’s you that’ll have the blame.”
“Aw now, Julie!”
“Don’t Julie me, you fool! Get dressed and do something.”
“I’ll come. You wait,” and he went inside, and put his head into a basin of water, and threw on his clothes, and came out presently looking anxious and disturbed now that his sluggish brain had begun to work.
“Where you been looking?” he asked.
“Nowhere. I expected to find him here.”
“We had a glass or two and then he started off home. He could walk all right.... Did you.... You didn’t see anything wrong ... anything ... at the Coupee?” he asked, with a quick anxious look at her.
“No, I didn’t. What do you mean? Oh, mon Dieu!” and she started down the road at a run, with Peter lumbering after her and the neighbours in a buzzing tail behind.
The cold douche had cooled Peter’s hot head, the running quickened his blood and his thoughts, a sudden grim fear braced his brain to quite unusual activity.
As he ran he recalled the events of the night before; their meeting with Gard and Nance; Tom’s scurrilous insults.
If Tom and Gard had met again—Gard would be sure to see Nance home. Had he met Tom on his way back? And if so—if so—and ill had come to Tom—why, Gard might get the blame. And—and—in short, though by zig-zag jerks as he ran—if Gard were out of the way for good and all, Nance’s thoughts might turn to one nearer home. He would be sorry if ill had come to Tom, of course. But if Gard could be got rid of he would be most uncommonly glad.