“You haven’t told me what he said.”
Ellen raised her brows with a mischievous air.
“I didn’t care to spread any—what sort of gossip did you say, Jim?”
“Confound it! I didn’t mean that.”
“Of course I could see he was some one who used to live here,” she went on. “He knew father.”
Jim had thrust his hands deep into his trousers’ pockets. He uttered an impatient ejaculation.
“And he said he should go out whenever he felt like it. He doesn’t like the automobile.”
“Oh, it’s an impossible proposition. I see that plainly enough!” Jim said, as if to himself. “But it seems a pity—”
He appeared to plunge into profound meditation.
“I say, Ellen, you like her; don’t you? ...Don’t see how you can help it. She’s a wonder!”
“Who? Miss Orr?”
“Of course! Say, Ellen, if you knew what that girl has gone through, without a murmur; and now I’m afraid— By George! we ought to spare her.”
“Yes; you and I. You can do a lot to help, Ellen, if you will. That old man you saw is sick, hardly sane. And no wonder.”
He stopped short and stared fixedly at his companion.
“Did you guess who he was?” he asked abruptly.
Ellen reflected. “I can guess—if you’ll give me time.”
Jim made an impatient gesture. “That’s just what I thought,” he growled. “There’ll be the devil to pay generally.”
“Jim,” said Ellen earnestly, “if we are to help her, you must tell me all about that old man.”
“She wanted to tell everybody,” he recollected gloomily. “And why not you? Imagine an innocent child set apart from the world by another’s crime, Ellen. See, if you can, that child growing up, with but one thought, one ideal—the welfare of that other person. Picture to yourself what it would be like to live solely to make a great wrong right, and to save the wrongdoer. Literally, Ellen, she has borne that man’s grief and carried his sorrow, as truly as any vaunted Saviour of the world. Can you see it?”
“Do you mean—? Is that why she calls it Bolton House? Of course! And that dreadful old man is— But, Jim, everybody will find it out.”
“You’re right,” he acknowledged. “But they mustn’t find it out just yet. We must put it off till the man can shake that hang-dog air of his. Why, he can’t even walk decently. Prison is written all over him. Thank God, she doesn’t seem to see it!”
“I’m so glad you told me, Jim,” said Ellen gently.
“You won’t say a word about this, will you, Ellen?” he asked anxiously. “I can depend on you?”
“Give me a little credit for decency and common sense,” replied Ellen.
Jim bent over the wheel and kissed her.