“Don’t worry about that! I’m going to forget about it. But now remember that you must do just as I say for the next hour or so, even if you don’t understand why. I don’t know yet what Mr. Holmes is going to do, and so I can’t make any plans ahead. I’ll just have to try to do the best I can to fool him when he shows his hand, and it may be that the only way I can do it is with your help.”
“I’ll help you, Bessie. I won’t be silly again.”
A DARING MOVE
For some time, then, Holmes drove the car in what Bessie soon saw to be an aimless fashion. The morning was nearly done, and Bessie, used to guessing at the time from the sun, knew that it was very near noon. Holmes seemed to be doubling on his tracks, and to be driving in what resembled a circle, as if he were chasing his own tail, and at last Bessie determined to speak to him and try to make him show his hand. The suspense of waiting for something to happen was making her nervous. She felt that even the realization of her fears would be welcome, since then, at least, she could do something.
“Mr. Holmes,” she said, “I really think you’d better be taking us back. It’s very late, and I’m afraid Miss Mercer will be worried about us.”
“Not she!” said Holmes, cheerfully. “The fact is, I’ve rather lost my way, and those stupid men at that store where we stopped did not seem to be able to do much toward setting me right. So, knowing that we might be late, I took the liberty of telephoning to Miss Mercer and said that, if she didn’t mind, I’d take you two to luncheon somewhere and bring you back in the afternoon.”
Bessie gasped at the cool daring of the way in which he told the lie. But then she reflected, just in time to keep her from taxing him with having told an untruth, that he knew nothing of her eavesdropping, and therefore thought it was safe to tell her anything he liked.
“Oh!” she said. “I—I didn’t know you’d done that. You said you were going to send a message to a friend—”
“Well, I flatter myself that Miss Mercer and I are friends,” said Holmes, smiling. “Why don’t you cheer up, Miss Bessie? It’s all right—really it is! You ought to know that I wouldn’t get you into trouble with Miss Mercer for the world. Why, I’m old enough to be your father!”
“But if you’re lost, how do you know where you’re going?” asked Bessie, sticking to her guns.
“I don’t know, of course—not exactly, that is. But I know that if I keep on going this way I’ll come to some place here we can get a nice luncheon. This is pretty thickly settled country around here, you know, and it’s used a lot by automobile parties. So we’re sure to find some sort of a place soon. They have them wherever they think they can persuade motorists to stop and spend their money.”
“If Miss Mercer knows where we are and said it was all right for us to stay it must be all right, Bessie, mustn’t it?” asked Dolly, who had overheard what they were saying. “Oh, I’m so glad, Bessie! That shows you were mistaken, doesn’t it, and that it wasn’t so wicked of me to get you to come?”