“You don’t mean?” said the Doctor aghast.
Dale looked at him with horror in her face.
“I didn’t kill him!” she insisted anew. “But, you know the piece of blue-print you found in his hand?”
“Yes,” from the Doctor tensely.
Dale’s nerves, too bitterly tested, gave way at last under the strain of keeping her secret. She felt that she must confide in someone or perish. The Doctor was kind and thoughtful—more than that, he was an experienced man of the world—if he could not advise her, who could? Besides, a Doctor was in many ways like a priest—both sworn to keep inviolate the secrets of their respective confessionals.
“There was another piece of blue-print, a larger piece—” said Dale slowly, “I tore it from him just before—”
The Doctor seemed greatly excited by her words. But he controlled himself swiftly.
“Why did you do such a thing?”
“Oh, I’ll explain that later,” said Dale tiredly, only too glad to be talking the matter out at last, to pay attention to the logic of her sentences. “It’s not safe where it is,” she went on, as if the Doctor already knew the whole story. “Billy may throw it out or burn it without knowing—”
“Let me understand this,” said the Doctor. “The butler has the paper now?”
“He doesn’t know he has it. It was in one of the rolls that went out on the tray.”
The Doctor’s eyes gleamed. He gave Dale’s shoulder a sympathetic pat.
“Now don’t you worry about it—I’ll get it,” he said. Then, on the point of going toward the dining-room, he turned.
“But—you oughtn’t to have it in your possession,” he said thoughtfully. “Why not let it be burned?”
Dale was on the defensive at once.
“Oh, no! It’s important, it’s vital!” she said decidedly.
The Doctor seemed to consider ways and means of getting the paper.
“The tray is in the dining-room?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Dale.
He thought a moment, then left the room by the hall door. Dale sank back in her chair and felt a sense of overpowering relief steal over her whole body, as if new life had been poured into her veins. The Doctor had been so helpful—why had she not confided in him before? He would know what to do with the paper—she would have the benefit of his counsel through the rest of this troubled time. For a moment she saw herself and Jack, exonerated, their worries at an end, wandering hand in hand over the green lawns of Cedarcrest in the cheerful sunlight of morning.
Behind her, mockingly, the head of the Unknown concealed behind the settee lifted cautiously until, if she had turned, she would have just been able to perceive the top of its skull.
THE BLACKENED BAG