“You—you found it!” she stammered.
“Yes, I found it, Miss Burton.” He lingered over the name half unconsciously, and a poignant stab of memory went through her. So had he uttered it on that day so long, so long ago! “I knew it was yours. I was trying to bring myself to give it to Mr. Hill.”
“How did you know it was mine?” She almost whispered the words, yet she drew nearer to him, drawn irresistibly—drawn as a needle to the magnet.
He answered her also under his breath. “I—remembered.”
She felt as if a wave of fire had swept over her. She swayed a little, throbbing from head to foot.
“I have rather a good memory,” he said, as she found no words. “You’re not—vexed with me on that account, I hope?”
An odd touch of wistfulness in his voice brought her eyes up to his face. She fought for speech and answered him.
“Of course not! Why should I? It—is a very long time ago, isn’t it?”
“Centuries,” said Warden, and smiled again upon her reassuringly. “But I never forgot you and your little farm and the old dog. Have you still got him?”
She nodded, her eyes lowered, a choked feeling as of tears in her throat.
“He’d remember me,” said Warden, with confidence. “He was a friend. Do you know that was one of the most hairbreadth escapes of my life? If Fletcher Hill had caught me, he wouldn’t have shown much mercy—any more than he would now,” he added, with a half-laugh. “He’s a terrific man for justice.”
“Surely you’re safe—now!” Dot said, quickly.
“If you don’t give me away,” said Warden.
“I!” She started, almost winced. “There’s no danger of that,” she said, in a low voice.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’ve gone fairly straight ever since. It hasn’t been a very paying game. I tried my luck in the West, but it was right out. So I thought I’d come back here, and that was the turning-point. They took me on at the Fortescue Mine. It’s a fiendish place, but I rather like it. I’m sub-manager there at present—till Harley goes.”
“Ah!” She looked up at him again. “He is a dangerous man. He hates you, doesn’t he?”
“Quite possibly,” said Warden, with a smile. “That mine is rather an abode of hate all round. But we’ll clean it out one of these days, and make a decent place of it.”
“I hope you will succeed,” she said, very earnestly.
“Thank you,” he said again.
He was looking at her speculatively, as if there were something about her that he found hard to understand. Her agitation had subsided, leaving her with a piteous, forlorn look—the look of the wayfarer who is almost too tired to go any farther.
There fell a brief silence between them, then with a little smile she spoke.
“Are you going to give me back my brooch?”
He put his hand in his pocket. “I was nearly keeping it for good and all,” he said, as he brought it out.