“It was my fault,” she said wretchedly, “my fault, I should not have sent them the word.”
After a few minutes she grew quiet. She seemed to hesitate over something, and finally determined to say it.
“You will understand better, sir, when I say that I was raised in the Harrington family. Mr. Harrington was Mr. Sullivan’s wife’s father!”
AT THE STATION
So it had been the tiger, not the lady! Well, I had held to that theory all through. Jennie suddenly became a valuable person; if necessary she could prove the connection between Sullivan and the murdered man, and show a motive for the crime. I was triumphant when Hotchkiss came in. When the girl had produced a photograph of Mrs. Sullivan, and I had recognized the bronze-haired girl of the train, we were both well satisfied—which goes to prove the ephemeral nature of most human contentments.
Jennie either had nothing more to say, or feared she had said too much. She was evidently uneasy before Hotchkiss. I told her that Mrs. Sullivan was recovering in a Baltimore hospital, but she already knew it, from some source, and merely nodded. She made a few preparations for leaving, while Hotchkiss and I compared notes, and then, with the cat in her arms, she climbed into the trap from the town. I sat with her, and on the way down she told me a little, not much.
“If you see Mrs. Sullivan,” she advised, “and she is conscious, she probably thinks that both her husband and her father were killed in the wreck. She will be in a bad way, sir.”
“You mean that she—still cares about her husband?”
The cat crawled over on to my knee, and rubbed its bead against my hand invitingly. Jennie stared at the undulating line of the mountain crests, a colossal sun against a blue ocean of sky. “Yes, she cares,” she said softly. “Women are made like that. They say they are cats, but Peter there in your lap wouldn’t come back and lick your hand if you kicked him. If—if you have to tell her the truth, be as gentle as you can, sir. She has been good to me—that’s why I have played the spy here all summer. It’s a thankless thing, spying on people.”
“It is that,” I agreed soberly.
Hotchkiss and I arrived in Washington late that evening, and, rather than arouse the household, I went to the club. I was at the office early the next morning and admitted myself. McKnight rarely appeared before half after ten, and our modest office force some time after nine. I looked over my previous day’s mail and waited, with such patience as I possessed, for McKnight. In the interval I called up Mrs. Klopton and announced that I would dine at home that night. What my household subsists on during my numerous absences I have never discovered. Tea, probably, and crackers. Diligent search when I have made a midnight arrival, never reveals anything more substantial. Possibly I imagine it, but the announcement that I am about to make a journey always seems to create a general atmosphere of depression throughout the house, as though Euphemia and Eliza, and Thomas, the stableman, were already subsisting, in imagination, on Mrs. Klopton’s meager fare.