“By the way, Miss Putnam,” said he, “how did your investment with Foss & Follansbee turn out? I heard a rumor that the stock fell, and you lost considerable money.”
Lindy flushed painfully. “It did drop, Mr. Sawyer, but it rallied again, as you call it, and when they sold out for me I made nearly five thousand dollars; but,” and she looked pleadingly up into Quincy’s face, “you have forgiven me for that as well as for my other wrong doings.”
“For everything up to date,” said Quincy, laughing.
At that instant a loud pounding was heard on the floor above.
“Mrs. Putnam is knocking for you,” said Lindy. “Miss Pettengill must be ready to go home. Good-by, Mr. Sawyer, and do not forget your unhappy friend.”
“I promise to remember her and her quest,” said Quincy.
He gave the little hand extended to him, a slight pressure and ran up the stairs. As he did so he heard the parlor door close behind him.
As they were driving home, Alice several times took what appeared to be a letter from her muff and held it up as though trying to read it. Quincy glanced towards her.
“Mr. Sawyer, can you keep a secret?” asked Alice.
“I have a big one on my mind now,” replied Quincy, “that I would like to confide to some one.”
“Why don’t you?” asked Alice.
“As soon as I can find a person whom I think can fully sympathize with me I shall do so, but for the present I must bear my burden in silence,” said he.
“I hope you Will not have to wait long before finding that sympathetic friend,” remarked Alice.
“I hope so, too,” he replied. “But I have not answered your question, Miss Pettengill. If I can serve you by storing a secret with you, it shall be safe with me.”
“Will you promise not to speak of it, not even to me?” she asked.
“If you wish it I will promise,” he answered.
“Then please read to me what is written on that envelope.”
Quincy looked at the envelope. “It is written in an old-fashioned, cramped hand,” he said, “and the writing is ’confided to Miss Alice Pettengill, and to be destroyed without being read by her within twenty-four hours after my death. Hepsibeth Putnam.’”
[Illustration: “Quincy reading Alice’s letter to her.” (Act III.)]
“Thank you,” said Alice simply, and she replaced the envelope in her muff.
Like a flash of lightning the thought came to Quincy that the letter to be destroyed had some connection with the strange story so recently told him by Lindy. He must take some action in the matter before it was too late. Turning to Alice he said, “Miss Pettengill, if I make a strange request of you, which you can easily grant, will you do it, and not ask me for any explanation until after you have complied?”
“You have worded your inquiry so carefully, Mr. Sawyer, that I am a little afraid you, you being a lawyer, but as you have so graciously consented to keep a secret with me, I will trust you and will promise to comply with your request.”