“Oh, it was a real wicked thing to do. But she was nearly demented with trouble. And she did it. She managed to get away, too, in spite of her lovely face. An old negro woman helped her. And she came to England and went to a cousin of hers who had been good to her, whom she knew she could trust—just a plain, square-jawed Englishman, Big Bear, like you in some respects—not smart, oh no—only strong as iron. And he kept her secret, though he didn’t like it a bit. And he gave her some money of hers that he had inherited, to live on. Which was funny, wasn’t it?”
Mab paused to laugh.
“And then another man came along, a great, surly, fogheaded Englishman, who made love to her till she was nearly driven crazy. For though Warrender had married again before she could stop him, she wasn’t free. But she couldn’t tell him so for the other woman’s sake. It doesn’t matter now. It was a dreadful tangle once. And she felt real bad about it. But it’s come out quite simply. And no one will ever know.
“Now, I’ll tell you a secret, Big Bear, about the woman you know of. You must put your head down for I’ll have to whisper. That’s the way. Now! She’s just madly in love with you, Big Bear. And she is quite, quite free to tell you so. There! And I reckon she’s not Death’s property any more. She’s just—yours.”
The narrative ended in Merefleet’s arms.
* * * * *
A few weeks later Quiller the younger looked up from a newspaper with a grin.
“Mr. Merefleet’s married our little missie, dad,” he announced. “I saw it coming t’other day.”
And old Quiller looked up with a gleam of intelligence on his wrinkled face.
“Why!” he said, with slow triumph. “If that ain’t what I persuaded him for to do, long, long ago! He’s a sensible lad, is Master Bernard.”
A measure of approval which Merefleet would doubtless have appreciated.
* * * * *
It had been a hot day at the Law Courts, but a faint breeze had sprung up with the later hours, blowing softly over the river. It caught the tassel of the blind by which Field sat and tapped it against the window-frame, at first gently like a child at play, then with gathering force and insistence till at last he looked up with a frown and rose to fasten it back.
It was growing late. The rose of the afterglow lay upon the water, tipping the silvery ripples with soft colour. It was a magic night. But the wonder of it did not apparently reach him. A table littered with papers stood in front of him bearing a portable electric lamp. He was obviously too engrossed to think of exterior things.
For a space he sat again in silence by the open window, only the faint rustling of the lace curtain being audible. His somewhat hard, clean-shaven face was bent over his work with rigid concentration. His eyelids scarcely stirred.