“I believe Richard Hare to be as innocent of the murder as you or I,” he deliberately repeated. “I have held grounds for this opinion, Joyce, for many years.”
“Then, sir, who did it?”
“Afy’s other lover. That dandy fellow, Thorn, as I truly believe.”
“And you say you have grounds, sir?” Joyce asked, after a pause.
“Good grounds; and I tell you I have been in possession of them for years. I should be glad for you to think as I do.”
“But, sir, if Richard Hare was innocent, why did he run away?”
“Ah, why, indeed! It is that which has done the mischief. His own weak cowardice was in fault. He feared to come back, and he felt that he could not remove the odium of circumstances. Joyce I should like you to see him and hear his story.”
“There is not much chance of that, sir. I dare say he will never venture here again.”
“He is here now.”
Joyce looked up, considerably startled.
“Here, in this house,” repeated Mr. Carlyle. “He has taken shelter in it, and for the few hours that he will remain, we must extend our hospitality and protection to him, concealing him in the best manner we can. I thought it well that this confidence should be reposed in you, Joyce. Come now and see him.”
Considering that it was a subdued interview—the voices subdued, I mean—it was a confused one. Richard talking vehemently, Joyce asking question after question, Miss Carlyle’s tongue going as fast as theirs. The only silent one was Mr. Carlyle. Joyce could not refuse to believe protestations so solemn, and her suspicions veered round upon Captain Thorn.
“And now about the bed,” interjected Miss Carlyle, impatiently. “Where’s he to sleep, Joyce? The only safe room that I know of will be the one through mine.”
“He can’t sleep there, ma’am. Don’t you know that the key of the door was lost last week, and we cannot open it?”
“So much the better. He’ll be all the safer.”
“But how is he to get in?”
“To get in? Why, through my room, of course. Doesn’t mine open to it, stupid?”
“Oh, well, ma’am, if you would like him to go through yours, that’s different.”
“Why shouldn’t he go through? Do you suppose I mind young Dick Hare? Not I, indeed,” she irascibly continued. “I only wish he was young enough for me to flog him as I used to, that’s all. He deserves it as much as anybody ever did, playing the fool, as he has done, in all ways. I shall be in bed, with the curtains drawn, and his passing through won’t harm me, and my lying there won’t harm him. Stand on ceremony with Dick Hare! What next, I wonder?”
Joyce made no reply to this energetic speech, but at once retired to prepare the room for Richard. Miss Carlyle soon followed. Having made everything ready, Joyce returned.
“The room is ready, sir,” she whispered, “and all the household are in bed.”