It was a relief when the meal was over. We got our hats and were about to leave the room, when a waiter touched me on the arm.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said, “but the lady at the table near the window, the lady in black, sir, would like to speak to you.”
I looked down between the rows of tables to where the woman sat alone, her chin still resting on her hand, her black eyes still insolently staring, this time at me.
“I’ll have to go,” I said to McKnight hurriedly. “She knows all about that affair and she’d be a bad enemy.”
“I don’t like her lamps,” McKnight observed, after a glance at her. “Better jolly her a little. Good-by.”
THE NOTES AND A BARGAIN
I went back slowly to where the woman sat alone.
She smiled rather oddly as I drew near, and pointed to the chair Bronson had vacated.
“Sit down, Mr. Blakeley,” she said, “I am going to take a few minutes of your valuable time.”
“Certainly.” I sat down opposite her and glanced at a cuckoo clock on the wall. “I am sorry, but I have only a few minutes. If you—” She laughed a little, not very pleasantly, and opening a small black fan covered with spangles, waved it slowly.
“The fact is,” she said, “I think we are about to make a bargain.”
“A bargain?” I asked incredulously. “You have a second advantage of me. You know my name”—I paused suggestively and she took the cue.
“I am Mrs. Conway,” she said, and flicked a crumb off the table with an over-manicured finger.
The name was scarcely a surprise. I had already surmised that this might be the woman whom rumor credited as being Bronson’s common-law wife. Rumor, I remembered, had said other things even less pleasant, things which had been brought out at Bronson’s arrest for forgery.
“We met last under less fortunate circumstances,” she was saying. “I have been fit for nothing since that terrible day. And you—you had a broken arm, I think.”
“I still have it,” I said, with a lame attempt at jocularity; “but to have escaped at all was a miracle. We have much, indeed, to be thankful for.”
“I suppose we have,” she said carelessly, “although sometimes I doubt it.” She was looking somberly toward the door through which her late companion had made his exit.
“You sent for me—” I said.
“Yes, I sent for you.” She roused herself and sat erect. “Now, Mr. Blakeley, have you found those papers?”
“The papers? What papers?” I parried. I needed time to think.
“Mr. Blakeley,” she said quietly, “I think we can lay aside all subterfuge. In the first place let me refresh your mind about a few things. The Pittsburg police are looking for the survivors of the car Ontario; there are three that I know of—yourself, the young woman with whom you left the scene of the wreck, and myself. The wreck, you will admit, was a fortunate one for you.”