“I thought I did,” Harriet admitted.
“Did you think of any reason for it?”
Harriet gave the stranger a glance that made him an eavesdropper.
“I fancied that it was connected with—with what distressed her last night, Mr. Carter.”
“You may speak before Mr. Williams,” Richard said. He looked down; was silent. “I asked him to help me,” he added, slowly. “Was young Mr. Pope here to-day?”
“This morning, I don’t know how long,” Harriet said, with a great light, or darkness, breaking in upon her mind, “he was leaving when Nina and I came home.”
Richard gravely considered this, and nodded his head.
“And immediately afterward Mrs. Carter went away?”
“Not immediately. Not until three.”
“Do you know who took the telephone call from Mrs. Webb?” Richard said.
“No, because nobody did. No person named Webb called from Great Barrington, or anywhere else, to-day,” said Williams, breaking in decidedly, his voice a contrast to Richard’s hesitating tones. “As a matter of fact, Hansen didn’t drive to Great Barrington. Two miles from your gate here, Mrs. Carter gave him other directions.”
“What directions?” Harriet asked, antagonized by his manner, and feeling her cheeks get red. The man evidently had small respect for womanhood.
“He drove to New London,” Richard supplied. “Pope’s yacht is there.”
His manner was very quiet, he spoke almost wearily, but Harriet felt as if a cannon had exploded in the study. She turned white, looked toward Williams, whose mouth was pursed in a silent whistle, looked back at Richard, who was making idle pencil marks on a tablet of paper.
“I’ve had New London on the wire,” said Mr. Williams. “Mr. Pope had been getting ready for a cruise. The chances are that they have already weighed anchor.”
“On the other hand,” Richard said, glancing at his watch, “we have an excellent prospect of finding them there. I was not supposed to come home until to-morrow night. I found Mrs. Carter’s message at five, twenty-four hours earlier than she expected me to. Williams may be mistaken, of course,” he finished, with a glance at the detective.
“Not likely!” said Williams, with a modest shrug.
“However, even if he is right,” Richard resumed, “the chances are that they are still there, and if they are, I will bring—my wife back with me to-night. Meanwhile, I leave the house in your care, Miss Field. I needn’t tell you that my mother and Nina must be kept absolutely ignorant of what we suspect. You’ll know what to tell them, in case I should be longer away. If our calculations are wrong, there’s no telling where I may follow Mrs. Carter. I leave this end of things to you!”
The trust he placed in her, and something tired and patient in his tone, brought the tears to Harriet’s eyes.
“I’m sorrier than I can say,” she said, huskily.