“I know her!” he choked.
She understood his answer. She waited a little while.
“And I love her above all the honors and treasures of this world!”
She stood up.
“I’m going to find her,” he went on. “You understand me, don’t you, Madeleine?”
“I understand. But you shall not go to find her”—she smiled into his startled eyes—“for she is hidden in my room, waiting to tell me more—waiting until I tell her something that will take the burden from her heart. I had been listening to her when my father came in with his story; I had not made my confession. It would have comforted her—it will comfort her, for I can tell her truthfully I have not yet met the man I can love, Harlan—you were not the one!” She left with him the consolation of a smile and hastened away. She did not even reproach him because of his affair with Linton.
He stood waiting at the door. He heard the steps on the stairs. He was ready to clasp her.
But Madeleine Presson came in alone. “The girl has gone, Harlan. The maid said she ran away after I left her. I was a fool. I dropped your card!”
He stood dumb and motionless.
“Gone, believing that!” he gasped.
She shook him. “But you can find her. Remember that she is young. She believed gossip too quickly. You must find her. Hurry! She will only have to see your eyes to know that they all lied.”
He rushed to the door.
“Bring her to me,” cried the girl. “I’ll know how to help you.”
At the railroad station he was told that the special trains had gone with the visitors who were not in town for the ball.
He did not even know the name of the school from which she had come.
At the State House he at last found some one who had seen and known the group—an attache of the State educational department. There was no train that way until midnight. He took it. How he passed the time of waiting he never knew. He was at the doors of the institution as early as decency permitted. He did not wish to compromise her.
He was assured in a manner that left no room for doubt that Miss Kavanagh had not returned with the others. They were much worried and had notified her father.
Harlan sent an appealing telegram to him, daring even to solicit that ogre of the North. But no word came to him.
He wired orders to his caretaker at “The Barracks” to investigate at that end, and returned to the State capital, distracted, baffled, not knowing what step to take next. The session had not closed for the day when he arrived at the State House.
Men in the lobby stared at him as he passed. It was evident that tongues had been busy with his affairs. His grandfather, striding up and down, tried to intercept him, but he kept on to his seat. All the eyes of the House were on him. Word of the “Thornton Bill” had gone abroad. Now, in spite of his mental distress, he remembered his duty.