“Sam or no Sam,” I said firmly, “I am going to kiss you!”
But Sam’s voice came strident through the megaphone. “Be good, you two,” he bellowed, “I’ve got the binoculars!” And so, under fire, we walked sedately back to the house. My pulses were throbbing —the little swish of her dress beside me on the grass was pain and ecstasy. I had but to put out my hand to touch her, and I dared not.
Sam, armed with a megaphone and field glasses, bent over the rail and watched us with gleeful malignity.
“Home early, aren’t you?” Alison called, when we reached the steps.
“Led a club when my partner had doubled no-trumps, and she fainted. Damn the heart convention!” he said cheerfully. “The others are not here yet.”
Three hours later I went up to bed. I had not seen Alison alone again. The noise was at its height below, and I glanced down into the garden, still bright in the moonlight. Leaning against a tree, and staring interestedly into the billiard room, was Johnson.
IN THE DINING-ROOM
That was Saturday night, two weeks after the wreck. The previous five days had been full of swift-following events—the woman in the house next door, the picture in the theater of a man about to leap from the doomed train, the dinner at the Dallases’, and Richey’s discovery that Alison was the girl in the case. In quick succession had come our visit to the Carter place, the finding of the rest of the telegram, my seeing Alison there, and the strange interview with Mrs. Conway. The Cresson trip stood out in my memory for its serio-comic horrors and its one real thrill. Then—the discovery by the police of the seal-skin bag and the bit of chain; Hotchkiss producing triumphantly Stuart for Sullivan and his subsequent discomfiture; McKnight at the station with Alison, and later the confession that he was out of the running.
And yet, when I thought it all over, the entire week and its events were two sides of a triangle that was narrowing rapidly to an apex, a point. And the said apex was at that moment in the drive below my window, resting his long legs by sitting on a carriage block, and smoking a pipe that made the night hideous. The sense of the ridiculous is very close to the sense of tragedy. I opened my screen and whistled, and Johnson looked up and grinned. We said nothing. I held up a handful of cigars, he extended his hat, and when I finally went to sleep, it was to a soothing breeze that wafted in salt air and a faint aroma of good tobacco. I was thoroughly tired, but I slept restlessly, dreaming of two detectives with Pittsburg warrants being held up by Hotchkiss at the point of a splint, while Alison fastened their hands with a chain that was broken and much too short. I was roused about dawn by a light rap at the door, and, opening it, I found Forbes, in a pair of trousers and a pajama coat. He was as pleasant as most fleshy people are when they have to get up at night, and he said the telephone had been ringing for an hour, and he didn’t know why somebody else in the blankety-blank house couldn’t have heard it. He wouldn’t get to sleep until noon.