“Be you laughin’?” demanded the shocked Abishai. “LAUGHIN’? Why, my godfreys mighty! Idiotic? Well, who’s the idiot? ’Tain’t me! I’d never have thought of such a fool trick. But you said—”
“Hush! Let me think. Have you told anybody?”
“Told anybody! I guess not. And nobody’ll never know if they wait for me to tell ’em.”
“Well, then, I don’t see why you can’t go home and—hum—I don’t like to advise your telling a lie, but you might let her infer that it was an accident. Or, if you really mean to be your own master, you can tell her you did it purposely and will do it again if she ever tries the trick on you.”
“I tell her that! I tell her! O Mr. Ellery, don’t talk so. You don’t know Laviny; she ain’t like most women. If I should tell her that she’d—I don’t know’s she wouldn’t take and horsewhip me. Or commit suicide. She’s said she would afore now if—if—”
“Nonsense! She won’t do that, you needn’t worry.” He burst into another laugh, but checked himself, as he saw the look of absolute distress on poor Kyan’s face.
“Never mind, Mr. Pepper,” he said. “We’ll think of some plan to smooth matters over. I’ll go home with you now and we’ll let her out together.”
“Will you, Mr. Ellery? Will you, honest? Say, by godfreys mighty, I’d get down on my knees and thank you this minute if—if I wa’n’t in such a hurry. Come right on; come quick!”
It was a silent procession of two that wended its way out of the pines and across the fields, by the brook and the pond, where the evening mists were rising and the frogs chanting their good-night song, through the gathering twilight shades, across the main road and up the lighthouse lane. Kyan, his mind filled with fearful forebodings, was busily trying to think of a reasonable excuse for the “accidental” imprisonment of his sister. John Ellery was thinking, also, but his thoughts were not of the Peppers.
The little house was dark and still as they approached it. No welcoming light in the dining-room windows, no open door, no shrill voice demanding to know where the wandering brother had been “all this everlastin’ time.” Even the hens had gone to roost. Abishai groaned.
“Oh, dear!” he wailed. “I’m scart to death. Where is she? You don’t cal’late she’s done it, do ye?”
“Done it? Done what?”
“Done the suicidin’. She said she would if—O Laviny!”
“Hush! Be quiet. She’s all right. She’s in the room where you left her, of course. She couldn’t get out, could she? You’ve got the key. Come in.”
They entered the house. The dining room was dark and quiet. So was the sitting room. The clock ticked, solemn and slow. Kyan clutched at his companion’s arm.
“I don’t hear her,” he whispered. “You don’t s’pose she has done it? Godfreys mighty!”
The gloom and mystery were having their effect, even on Mr. Ellery’s nerves. His answer also was given in a tense whisper, but with some irritation.