“And have her warn my father! No. If I surprised her, if I saw her alone, I might make her understand.”
He shook his head. “There’s only one way out of the muddle, that I can see.”
“And what is that?”
“I have relatives not far from Hartford. I may prevail upon them to take you in until you are full-fledged, providing you do not find this aunt. You say you have twenty-four hundred in your letter of credit. It will not cost you more than six hundred to reach your destination. The pearls were really yours?”
“They were left to me by my mother. I sometimes laid away my father’s clothes in his trunk. I saw the metal box a hundred times, but I never thought of opening it until the day I fled. I never even burrowed down into the trunk. I had no curiosity of that kind. I wanted something alive.” She paused.
“Well, suddenly I knew that I must see the inside of that box, which had a padlock. I wrenched this off, and in an envelope addressed to me in faded ink, I found the locket and the pearls. It is queer how ideas pop into one’s head. Instantly I knew that I was going to run away that night before he returned from the neighbouring island. At the bottom of the trunk I found two of my mother’s dresses. I packed them with the other few things I owned. Morgan the trader did not haggle over the pearls, but gave me at once what he judged a fair price. You will wonder why he did not hold the pearls until Father returned. I didn’t understand then, but I do now. It was partly to pay a grudge he had against father.”
“And partly what else?”
“I shall never tell anybody that.”
“I don’t know,” said the doctor, dubiously. “You’re only twenty—not legally of age.”
“I am here in Canton,” she replied, simply.
“Very well. I’ll cable to-night, and in a few days we’ll have some news. I’m a graybeard, an old bachelor; so I am accorded certain privileges. Sometimes I am frightfully busy; and then there will be periods of dullness. I have a few regular patients, and I take care of them in the morning. Every afternoon, from now on, I will teach you a little about life—I mean the worldly points of view you’re likely to meet. You are queerly educated; and it strikes me that your father had some definite purpose in thus educating you. I’ll try to fill in the gaps.”
The girl’s eyes filled. “I wonder if you will understand what this kindness means to me? I am so terribly wise—and so wofully ignorant!”
The doctor shifted his books and magazines to the crook of his elbow. He had done this a dozen times on the way from his office. Books were always sliding and slipping, clumsy objects to hold. Looking at this girl, a sense of failure swept over him. He had not been successful as the world counted success; the fat bank-account, the filled waiting room of which he had once dreamed, had never materialized except in the smoke of his evening pipe.