“How do you know all this?” Harleston asked.
“From a man who was one of his intimates, and has reformed; and from having myself been in the aviation field the day of the tragedy.”
“You heard Clephane’s remark?”
“Hum!” said Harleston slowly. “A man of Clephane’s habits will accuse anyone of anything at certain times. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t blame Mrs. Clephane, nor any other woman, for chucking such a husband out of the boat. It’s contrary to the Acts of Assembly in such cases made and provided, but it’s natural justice and amply justifiable.”
“You don’t credit it?” Carpenter asked.
“I can’t. Moreover, didn’t she change instantly her course of life and disappear from the gay world?”
“I believe that is so.”
“And hasn’t she remained disappeared?”
“Then I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’ll trust her, until I’ve seen something to warrant distrust—bearing in mind, however, what you have just told me, and the possibility of my being mistaken. I reckon I can veer quickly enough if—”
The telephone rang. Carpenter picked up the receiver.
“Yes, Mr. Harleston is here,” he replied, passing the receiver across.
“Yes,” said Harleston. “Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Clephane.... Very nice, indeed.... Be delighted!... In ten minutes, I’ll be there. Good-bye.” He pushed back the instrument. “Mrs. Clephane has telephoned that she must see me at once. Meanwhile—the key-word, my friend.”
Carpenter drummed on the table, and frowned at the door that had closed behind Harleston.
“The man’s bewitched,” he muttered. “However I threw a slight scare into him, and maybe it will make him pause; he is not quite devoid of sense. Bah! All women are vampires.”
“Mrs. Clephane will be right down, Mr. Harleston,” said the telephone operator.
A moment later the elevator flashed into sight, and Mrs. Clephane stepped out and came forward with the languorously lithe step, perfectly in keeping with her slender figure. She wore a dark blue street suit, and under her small hat her glorious hair flamed like an incandescent aureole. She greeted Harleston with an intimate little nod and smile.
“You’re good to come!” she said.
“To myself, I think I’m more than good,” he answered.
“No, no, sir!” she smiled. “No more compliments between us, if we’re to be friends.”
“We’re to be friends,” he returned.
“Ergo,” she replied. “Sit down just a minute, will you?”
“I’ll sit down for a month, if you’re—”
“Ergo! Ergo!” she reminded him.
“I had not gotten used to the unusual restriction” he exclaimed. “You’re the first woman ever I met or heard of who dislikes compliments.”