In front of the veranda, and to the right of the brick walk, the latticework of a small summerhouse could be discerned through a maze of shrubbery and weeds. No path led toward it, yet we made the difficult passage, by pressing aside the foliage, and discovered a rustic seat within, where we were completely screened from observation. I felt the slight trembling of the woman’s form from suppressed excitement, but the adventure with Coombs had only served to stiffen my nerves. With flushed cheeks, and eyes bright and questioning, she could scarcely wait for me to begin.
“Now tell me; surely we are out of sight and hearing.”
“I do not think I shall ever be entirely assured as to that until I know more of our exact situation,” I replied, speaking cautiously. “We may have been seen coming here, and those weeds would easily conceal an eavesdropper. The truth is, I have gained very little information of value, and am as mystified as ever. If that fellow told the truth it is beyond my understanding.”
“But you are sure he knows nothing of those men who sent you here?”
“Yes, he had never heard of Vail, and all he knew about Neale was that name was signed to the orders of the new overseer.”
“Under what authority is the man acting?”
I hesitated, not venturing to look at her, conscious of a personal feeling which I must conceal.
“Do you not wish to tell me?”
“It is not that,” I hastened to explain, but finding the words hard to speak. “I think he lied, and yet cannot be sure. He claims to be working under the orders of Philip Henley.”
“So I felt, and consequently hesitated to tell you, but now that I have been compelled to do so, I will explain in full. He said this under the menace of a revolver, a condition which often inspires men to speak the truth. I can scarcely imagine his making up such a story, for he is a dull-witted fellow, and even before he had threatened to test your claims to be Henley’s wife.”
“You told him, then?”
“Everything, except the original cause of our being here. I determined this morning to fight in the open, under my own name. That is the right way, is it not?”
“Yes, I think so,” and she lifted her eyes to mine.
“I like you better for that.”
“I think I like myself better also,” I said with a laugh. “I confess I did n’t care much at first. The whole affair merely represented a lark, an adventure with me. But after what you said the night of our arrival I began to view the thing in a new light, and to despise my part in It. Yet even then I felt bound to carry out my agreement. It was only when you told me your identity, that I felt free to decide otherwise.”
“Why should that make such a difference? If I had not been the one, then it would have been some other woman defrauded.”