The heat broke up the card group soon after, and they all came out for the night breeze. I had no more words alone with Alison.
I went back to the Incubator for the night. We said almost nothing on the way home; there was a constraint between us for the first time that I could remember. It was too early for bed, and so we smoked in the living-room and tried to talk of trivial things. After a time even those failed, and we sat silent. It was McKnight who finally broached the subject.
“And so she wasn’t at Seal Harbor at all.”
“Do you know where she was, Lollie?”
“Somewhere near Cresson.”
“And that was the purse—her purse—with the broken necklace in it?”
“Yes, it was. You understand, don’t you, Rich, that, having given her my word, I couldn’t tell you?”
“I understand a lot of things,” he said, without bitterness.
We sat for some time and smoked. Then Richey got up and stretched himself. “I’m off to bed, old man,” he said. “Need any help with that game arm of yours?”
“No, thanks,” I returned.
I heard him go into his room and lock the door. It was a bad hour for me. The first shadow between us, and the shadow of a girl at that.
AT THE FARM-HOUSE AGAIN
McKnight is always a sympathizer with the early worm. It was late when he appeared. Perhaps, like myself, he had not slept well. But he was apparently cheerful enough, and he made a better breakfast than I did. It was one o’clock before we got to Baltimore. After a half hour’s wait we took a local for M-, the station near which the cinematograph picture had been taken.
We passed the scene of the wreck, McKnight with curiosity, I with a sickening sense of horror. Back in the fields was the little farm-house where Alison West and I had intended getting coffee, and winding away from the track, maple trees shading it on each side, was the lane where we had stopped to rest, and where I had—it seemed presumption beyond belief now—where I had tried to comfort her by patting her hand.
We got out at M-, a small place with two or three houses and a general store. The station was a one-roomed affair, with a railed-off place at the end, where a scale, a telegraph instrument and a chair constituted the entire furnishing.
The station agent was a young man with a shrewd face. He stopped hammering a piece of wood over a hole in the floor to ask where we wanted to go.
“We’re not going,” said McKnight, “we’re coming. Have a cigar?”
The agent took it with an inquiring glance, first at it and then at us.
“We want to ask you a few questions,” began McKnight, perching himself on the railing and kicking the chair forward for me. “Or, rather, this gentleman does.”
“Wait a minute,” said the agent, glancing through the window. “There’s a hen in that crate choking herself to death.”