This was Nella-Rose’s child, but why had Lynda—? And with this thought such a wave of emotion swept over Truedale that he feared, strong as he was, that he was going to lose consciousness. For a moment he struggled with sheer physical sensation, but he kept his eyes upon the small, dark face turned trustingly to his. Then he realized that people were moving about; the body of the house was nearly empty; McPherson, while helping Betty on with her cloak, was commenting upon the play.
“Good stuff!” he admitted. “Some muscle in that. Not the usual appeal to the uglier side of life. But come, come, Mrs. Kendall, stop crying. It’s only a play, after all.”
“Oh! I know,” Betty quiveringly replied, “but it’s so human, Dr. McPherson. That dear little woman has almost broken my heart; but she’d have broken it utterly if she had acted differently. I don’t believe the author ever guessed her! Somewhere she lived and played her part. I just know it!”
Truedale heard all this while he watched the strained look fading from Ann’s face. The past was releasing her, giving her back to the safe, normal present. Presently she laughed and said: “Father, I feel so queer. Just as if I’d been—dreaming.”
Then she turned with a deep, relieving sigh to Lynda. “Thank you for bringing me, mommy-Lyn,” she said, “it was the best play I’ve ever seen in all my life. Only I wish that nice actress-lady had gone with the man who didn’t know. I—I feel real sorry for him. And why didn’t she go?—I’d have gone as quick as anything.”
The door had closed between Ann’s past and her future! Truedale got upon his feet, but he was still dazed and uncertain as to what he should do next. Then he heard Lynda say, and it almost seemed as if she spoke from a distance she could not cross, “Little Ann, bring father.”
He looked at Lynda and her white face startled him, but she smiled the kind, true smile that called upon him to play his part.
Somehow the rest of the plan ran as if no cruel jar had preceded it. The supper was perfect—the guests merry—and, when he could command himself, Truedale—keeping his eyes on Lynda’s face—confessed.
For a moment every one was quiet. Surprise, delight, stayed speech. Then Ann asked: “And did you do it behind the locked door, father?”
“Well, I’m glad I kept Billy out!”
“And Lyn—did you know?” Betty said, her pretty face aglow.
But the men kept still after the cordial handshakes. McPherson was recalling something Jim White had said to him recently while he was with the sheriff in the hills.
“Doc, that thar chap yo’ once sent down here—thar war a lot to him us-all didn’t catch onter.”
And Brace was thinking of the night, long, long ago, when Conning threw some letters upon the glowing coals and groaned!