It seemed to Mark that the detective was beginning to fence again.
“She’s a stranger, isn’t she?” he asked.
The detective half closed his eyes. “How do you know?”
“You told me so.”
Saunders blew a thoughtful smoke ring.
“I guess I did. You know, of course, Killimaga was rented to her about the time Padre came here. The old Irishman who built it, died, and his family went over to your country to buy a title for their only daughter. The girl up there must be a rich one to rent such an estate; and, Griffin, that old Irishman had taste, believe me. His gardens are a wonder. Ever see them?”
“Try to; they’re worth while. This girl spends her money and herself on the Padre’s charities. He directs, and she does things for the mill people. By gad, Griffin, they just love her! I passed her just now going into O’Leary’s. The old man was crushed at the mill, and died yesterday. It’s dollars to doughnuts she takes care of that family all winter. Where she gets the money is beyond me.”
“You Americans are all rich,” said Mark. “You English think we are, but you only see the gang that goes over to the other side every summer. There’s one Atheson family in America worth millions, but I know that crowd; she doesn’t belong to it. I don’t know what Atheson family she does belong to. She’s a mystery, with her Killimaga and her money and her veil.”
“Why,” said Mark, “every woman wears a veil—the sun, you know.”
“Yes; the sun, and the rain, and the shade, and every kind of weather!”
The detective’s face was betraying him again. But the luncheon was over, and Mark would not be probed. He had made up his mind to go early to the rectory, so he left Saunders with a parting shot:
“You’d better go on with the book sales. You’ve loafed all day. That’s bad business policy for a Yankee. What would your wooden nutmeg ancestors say to that?”
“They wouldn’t like it,” he answered. “They’re not like ancestors who wouldn’t have been able to sell even a real nutmeg.”
Mark acknowledged that in repartee Saunders scored, then went out to make his way toward the rectory. As he passed the First National Bank he saw the constable talking to the cashier.
Father Murray was sitting in his favorite chair on the rectory veranda when Mark came up the lawn. He rose with a welcome.
“You must pardon me, Father,” began Mark, “for coming so soon after your noon meal—” Mark hesitated about saying “luncheon,” not knowing the habits of the rectory—“but, frankly, I wanted to talk to you before—”
“Before we go to Killimaga,” supplied Father Murray as Mark paused. “Yes, I know that you are invited. Sit down and open up. I am always glad to talk—and to listen, too. What is it?”