“That looks as if—as if—”
“As if it were Oliver. So it does; and if you feel that you can ride so far, I will see that horses are saddled for us at an early hour to-morrow morning.”
“I can ride, but will Oliver be pleased to see us at Tempest Lodge. Mr. Black, I had an experience in Utica which makes it very hard for me to contemplate obtruding myself upon him without some show of permission on his part. We met—that is, I saw him and he saw me; but he gave me no opportunity—that is, he did not do what he might have done, had he felt—had he thought it best to exchange a word with me.”
“Where was this? You were not long in Utica?”
“Only one night. But that was long enough for me to take a walk down one of the principal thoroughfares and it was during this walk I saw him. He was on the same side of the street as myself and rapidly coming my way, but on his eye meeting mine—I could not mistake that unconscious flash of recognition—he wheeled suddenly aside into a cross-street where I dared not follow him. Of course, he did not know what hung on even a momentary interview. That it was not for myself I—” The firelight caught something new to shine upon—a tear on lashes which yet refused to lower themselves.
Mr. Black fidgeted, then put out his hand and laid it softly on hers.
“Never mind,” he grumbled; “men are—” he didn’t say what; but it wasn’t anything very complimentary. “You have this comfort,” said he: “the man at the Lodge is undoubtedly Oliver. Had he gone West, he wouldn’t have been seen in Utica three days ago.”
“I have never had any doubt about that. I expect to see him to-morrow, but I shall find it hard to utter my errand quick enough. There will be a minute when he may misunderstand me. I dread that minute.”
“Perhaps, you can avoid it. Perhaps after you have positively identified him I can do the rest. We will arrange it so, if we can.”
Her eyes flashed gratitude, then took on a new expression. She had chanced to glance again at Miss Weeks, and Miss Weeks was not looking quite natural. She was still crocheting, or trying to, but her attitude was constrained and her gaze fixed; and that gaze was not on her work, but directed towards a small object at her side, which Reuther recognised from its open lid to be the little lady’s workbox.
“Something is the matter with Miss Weeks,” she confided in a low whisper to Mr. Black. “Don’t turn; she’s going to speak.”
But Miss Weeks did not speak. She just got up, and, with a careless motion, stood stretching herself for a moment, then sauntered up to the table and began showing her work to Reuther.
“I’ve made a mistake,” she pettishly complained. “See if you can find out what’s wrong.” And, giving the work into Reuther’s hand, she stood watching, but with a face so pale that Mr. Black was not astonished when she suddenly muttered in a very low tone: