“Where were you yesterday?” he asked.
Nellie looked at him, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “Here.”
“You were in the Carquinez Woods with Low Dorman; you went there in disguise; you’ve met him there before. He is your clandestine lover; you have taken pledges of affection from him; you have—”
“Stop!” she said.
“Did he tell you this?” she asked, with an expression of disdain.
“No; I overheard it. Dunn and Brace were at the house waiting for you. When the coach did not bring you, I went to the office to inquire. As I left our door I thought I saw somebody listening at the parlor windows. It was only a drunken Mexican muleteer leaning against the house; but if he heard nothing, I did. Nellie, I heard Brace tell Dunn that he had tracked you in your disguise to the woods—do you hear? that when you pretended to be here with the girls you were with Low—alone; that you wear a ring that Low got of a trader here; that there was a cabin in the woods—”
“Stop!” she repeated.
Wynn again paused.
“And what did you do?” she asked.
“I heard they were starting down there to surprise you and him together, and I harnessed up and got ahead of them in my buggy.”
“And found me here,” she said, looking full into his eyes.
He understood her and returned the look. He recognized the full importance of the culminating fact conveyed in her words, and was obliged to content himself with its logical and worldly significance. It was too late now to take her to task for mere filial disobedience; they must become allies.
“Yes,” he said hurriedly; “but if you value your reputation, if you wish to silence both these men, answer me fully.”
“Go on,” she said.
“Did you go to the cabin in the woods yesterday?”
“Did you ever go there with Low?”
“No; I do not know even where it is.”
Wynn felt that she was telling the truth. Nellie knew it; but as she would have been equally satisfied with an equally efficacious falsehood, her face remained unchanged.
“And when did he leave you?”
“At nine o’clock, here. He went to the hotel.”
“He saved his life, then, for Dunn is on his way to the woods to kill him.”
The jeopardy of her lover did not seem to affect the young girl with alarm, although her eyes betrayed some interest.
“Then Dunn has gone to the woods?” she said thoughtfully.
“He has,” replied Wynn.
“Is that all?” she asked.
“I want to know what you are going to do?”
“I was going back to bed.”
“This is no time for trifling, girl.”
“I should think not,” she said, with a yawn; “it’s too early, or too late.”
Wynn grasped her wrist more tightly. “Hear me! Put whatever face you like on this affair, you are compromised—and compromised with a man you can’t marry.”