There was another, too, who felt the influence of Helen’s beauty, and that was Lieutenant Bob, who, after dinner, attached himself to her side, while around them gathered quite a group, all listening with peals of laughter as Bob, who was something of a mimic, related his adventure of two days before, with “the most rustic and charming old lady it was ever his fortune to meet.” Told by Bob the story lost nothing of its freshness; for every particular, except indeed the kindness he had shown her, was related, even to the sheep pasture, about which she was going to New York to consult a lawyer.
“I thought once of referring her to you, Mr. Cameron,” Bob said; “but couldn’t find it in my heart to quiz her, she was so wholly unsuspicious. You have not seen her, have you?”
“No,” came faintly from the lips which tried to smile; for Wilford knew who was the heroine of that story; wondering more and more where she was, and feeling a sensation of uneasiness as he thought, “Can any accident have befallen her?”
It was hardly probable; but Wilford felt very uncomfortable after hearing the story, which had brought a pang of doubt and fear to another mind than his. From the very first Helen feared that Aunt Betsy was the “odd woman” who had gotten upon the train at some station which Bob could not remember; while, as the story progressed, she was sure of it, for she had heard of the sheep-pasture trouble, and of Aunt Betsy’s projected visit to New York, privately writing to her mother not to suffer it, as Wilford would be so greatly vexed. “Yes, it must be Aunt Betsy,” she thought, and she turned so white that Mark, who was watching both her and Wilford, came as soon as possible to her side, and adroitly separating from the group around, said softly: “You look tired, Miss Lennox. Come with me a moment. I have something to tell you.”
Alone with her in the hall, he continued, “I have the sequel of Bob Reynolds’ story. That woman—”
“Was Aunt Betsy,” Helen gasped. “But where is she now? That was two days ago. Tell me if you know. Mr. Ray, you do know,” and in her agony of fear lest something dreadful had happened, she laid her hand on Mark’s, beseeching him to tell her if he knew where Aunt Betsy was.
It was worth torturing her for a moment to see the pleading look in her eyes, and feel the soft touch of the hand which he took between both his own, holding it there while he answered her: “Aunt Betsy is at my house; kidnapped by me for safe keeping, until I could consult with you. Was that right?” he asked as a flush came to Helen’s cheek, and an expression to her eye which told that his meaning was understood.
“Is she there willingly? How did it happen?” was Helen’s reply, her hand still in those of Mark, who thus circumstanced grew very warm and eloquent with the sequel to Bob’s story, making it as long as possible, telling what he knew, and also what he had done.