With renewed exasperation I thought of Krebs, of his disturbing and almost uncanny faculty of following me up. Why couldn’t he have remained in Elkington? Why did he have to follow me here, to make capital out of a case that might never have been heard of except for him?... I was still in this disagreeable frame of mind when I turned the corner by my house and caught sight of Maude, in the front yard, bending bareheaded over a bed of late flowers which the frost had spared. The evening was sharp, the dusk already gathering.
“You’ll catch cold,” I called to her.
She looked up at the sound of my voice.
“They’ll soon be gone,” she sighed, referring to the flowers. “I hate winter.”
She put her hand through my arm, and we went into the house. The curtains were drawn, a fire was crackling on the hearth, the lamps were lighted, and as I dropped into a chair this living-room of ours seemed to take on the air of a refuge from the vague, threatening sinister things of the world without. I felt I had never valued it before. Maude took up her sewing and sat down beside the table.
“Hugh,” she said suddenly, “I read something in the newspaper—”
My exasperation flared up again.
“Where did you get that disreputable sheet?” I demanded.
“At the dressmaker’s!” she answered. “I—I just happened to see the name, Paret.”
“It’s just politics,” I declared, “stirring up discontent by misrepresentation. Jealousy.”
She leaned forward in her chair, gazing into the flames.
“Then it isn’t true that this poor man, Galligan—isn’t that his name?—was cheated out of the damages he ought to have to keep himself and his family alive?”
“You must have been talking to Perry or Susan,” I said. “They seem to be convinced that I am an oppressor of the poor.
“Hugh!” The tone in which she spoke my name smote me. “How can you say that? How can you doubt their loyalty, and mine? Do you think they would undermine you, and to me, behind your back?”
“I didn’t mean that, of course, Maude. I was annoyed about something else. And Tom and Perry have an air of deprecating most of the enterprises in which I am professionally engaged. It’s very well for them to talk. All Perry has to do is to sit back and take in receipts from the Boyne Street car line, and Tom is content if he gets a few commissions every week. They’re like militiamen criticizing soldiers under fire. I know they’re good friends of mine, but sometimes I lose patience with them.”