“But I can’t let you go like this.”
“You’ve got to. Don’t worry. I’m all right. I’m not going to make a fool of myself—or—or drink or anything. I’ve got to be alone—to do some thinking. I’ll write you. Good-by.”
“But Una! What shall I say?”
“Una!” He turned away and bent his head. “My God!” he said and then repeated the words below his breath, almost like a prayer, and then, turning, with a wild gesture, “Tell her anything, Roger. Say I’m all right but I can’t see her. Say I had a telegram—called West on a Railroad matter—anything. Now go.”
He caught me by the hand with a crushing grip while he pushed me toward the door.
“You will not—?”
“I’m all right, quite. Don’t fear for me. I’ll come back—soon. Now go, old chap. I’ll wait for Christopher here. Hurry, please.”
He spoke kindly but sharply. I could see that argument was of no avail. His mind was made up and with Jerry that was final. Whatever had happened—and from his appearance I suspected a soul-wrenching struggle—he was at least for the present physically safe and entirely sane. But it was with serious misgivings that I slipped past the somnolent Jack and upstairs to Jerry’s room, where I found Christopher and together we packed a bag, descending by the back stairs, where I took the bag from Christopher’s hand and sent him to bed.
In a moment I was in the garage with Jerry.
“Oh, you—!” he frowned.
“Let me go with you at least as far as town,” I pleaded.
“No,” gruffly. “No one.” He threw the bag into the car and clambered quickly in.
“Here, your cap,” I said, handing it to him. Our fingers met. He grasped mine until they pained me.
“Forgive me, Roger. I don’t mean to be unkind. You’re too good to me.”
“Jerry, you fool!” I cried, my eyes wet.
He had started the machine and when I opened the door he moved slowly out.
“Good-by, old Dry-as-dust,” he called with a wave of the hand and a rather sinister smile.
“For God’s sake no drink, Jerry!” I whispered tensely.
“I promise,” he said solemnly. “Good-by!”
And while I watched, he swept noiselessly around the drive and was soon lost in the blur of the trees below.
I walked slowly toward the terrace in the shadow of the trees, deep in bewilderment. What should I say to Una? Half unconsciously I glanced up at her window, the corner one over the terrace. Something white stirred and I thought I heard a sound, a faint sound, and then a strangling hush.
THE MYSTERY DEEPENS
But all other considerations were as nothing beside the mystery of Jerry’s manner and appearance, and his sudden flight filled me with the gravest fears. What had he done at Briar Hills, what horrible thing? Could it be that the boy had—? I shrank in dismay from the terrible thought that came into my mind. I went hurriedly into the house and without ceremony waked the sleeping Jack. He aroused himself with difficulty but when I told him what had happened he came quickly to life.