Cardigan, standing over him, was trying to look cheerful. “Too much of the night air, Kent,” he explained. “That will pass away— soon.”
It seemed to Kent that Cardigan gave an almost imperceptible emphasis to the word “soon,” but he asked no question. He was quite sure that he understood, and he knew how unpleasant for Cardigan the answer to it would be. He fumbled under his pillow for his watch. It was nine o’clock. Cardigan was moving about uneasily, arranging the things on the table and adjusting the shade at the window. For a few moments, with his back to Kent, he stood without moving. Then he turned, and said:
“Which will you have, Kent—a wash-up and breakfast, or a visitor?”
“I am not hungry, and I don’t feel like soap and water just now. Who’s the visitor? Father Layonne or—Kedsty?”
“Neither. It’s a lady.”
“Then I’d better have the soap and water! Do you mind telling me who it is?”
Cardigan shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen her before. She came this morning while I was still in pajamas, and has been waiting ever since. I told her to come back again, but she insisted that she would remain until you were awake. She has been very patient for two hours.”
A thrill which he made no effort to conceal leaped through Kent. “Is she a young woman?” he demanded eagerly. “Wonderful black hair, blue eyes, wears high-heeled shoes just about half as big as your hand—and very beautiful?”
“All of that,” nodded Cardigan. “I even noticed the shoes, Jimmy. A very beautiful young woman!”
“Please let her come in,” said Kent. “Mercer scrubbed me last night, and I feel fairly fit. She’ll forgive this beard, and I’ll apologize for your sake. What is her name?”
“I asked her, and she didn’t seem to hear. A little later Mercer asked her, and he said she just looked at him for a moment and he froze. She is reading a volume of my Plutarch’s ’Lives’—actually reading it. I know it by the way she turns the pages!”
Kent drew himself up higher against his pillows and faced the door when Cardigan went out. In a flash all that O’Connor had said swept back upon him—this girl, Kedsty, the mystery of it all. Why had she come to see him? What could be the motive of her visit— unless it was to thank him for the confession that had given Sandy McTrigger his freedom? O’Connor was right. She was deeply concerned in McTrigger and had come to express her gratitude. He listened. Distant footsteps sounded in the hall. They approached quickly and paused outside his door. A hand moved the latch, but for a moment the door did not open. He heard Cardigan’s voice, then Cardigan’s footsteps retreating down the hall. His heart thumped. He could not remember when he had been so upset over an unimportant thing.
The latch moved slowly, and with its movement came a gentle tap on the panel.