“There is no doubt about it. She is gone. She has not told us where. I see that you do not know.”
John shook his head.
“There may be a note for you in the morning’s mail.” Benis was coldly brief. “I must know where she is. If you can help me, let me know.” He turned to the door.
With difficulty John found his voice.
“I knew nothing of this, Benis.”
“I realize that,” dryly. “But you may be responsible for it. She had no idea of leaving yesterday.”
“Benis, I swear—”
“It is not necessary. Besides,” bitterly, “you could afford to be patient. You felt fairly—sure, didn’t you?”
“Sure! No, I—”
“You mean you merely hoped?”
“Quite so. There is nothing to say. Not being a sentimentalist, I shan’t pretend to love you, John. But I gambled and I’ve lost. I have always admired a good loser.”
Upon reaching home Benis found Aunt Caroline waiting for him just inside the outer gate.
“I thought,” she explained, “that we might talk while strolling up the drive. Then Olive would not overhear.”
The professor had quite neglected to consider Olive.
“I have told Olive,” went on Aunt Caroline, “that Mrs. Spence had received news of her father which was far from satisfactory and that she had left for Vancouver by the early morning train. The morning train is the only one she could have left by, isn’t it?”
“Then that’s all right. I also let Olive know, indirectly, that you were remaining behind to attend to a few matters. After which you would follow.”
Admiration for this generalship pierced even the deep depression of the professor.
“Does John know where she is?” pursued Aunt Caroline.
“Then she has gone home to her father. She said something the other day which puzzled me. I can’t remember just what it was but she seemed to have some fatalistic idea, about her old life having a hold upon her which she couldn’t shake off. Pure morbidity, as I pointed out. But she has gone back. I have a feeling that she has.”
“You may be right, Aunt. It will be easy to find out. If I can make the necessary inquiries without arousing gossip. There was nothing in the mail—for me?”
“No. The man has just been. But there is something for Desire, an odd looking package done up in foreign paper. I have it here.”
Spence took from her hand a slim, yellowish packet, directed in the crabbed writing of Li Ho.
“I can’t make out whether it is ‘Hon. Mrs. Professor Spence’ or whether the ‘Mrs.’ is ‘Mr.’ Perhaps you had better open it, Benis.”
“Perhaps, later.” Spence slipped the packet into his pocket. “It ’can’t have anything to do with our present problem. . . . I must make some telephone inquiries. But if Desire has gone, Aunt, we may as well face facts. She does not want me to follow her.”