“Oh, Andrew,” I said, “this is Helen.”
“Where are you?” (His voice sounded cross.)
“Andrew, is there any—any message from Mr. Mifflin? That wreck yesterday—he might have been on that train—I’ve been so frightened; do you think he was—hurt?”
“Stuff and nonsense,” said Andrew. “If you want to know about Mifflin, he’s in jail in Port Vigor.”
And then I think Andrew must have been surprised. I began to laugh and cry simultaneously, and in my agitation I set down the receiver.
My first impulse was to hide myself in some obscure corner where I could vent my feelings without fear or favour. I composed my face as well as I could before leaving the ’phone booth; then I sidled across the lobby and slipped out of the side door. I found my way into the stable, where good old Peg was munching in her stall. The fine, homely smell of horseflesh and long-worn harness leather went right to my heart, and while Bock frisked at my knees I laid my head on Peg’s neck and cried. I think that fat old mare understood me. She was as tubby and prosaic and middle-aged as I—but she loved the Professor.
Suddenly Andrew’s words echoed again in my mind. I had barely heeded them before, in the great joy of my relief, but now their significance came to me. “In jail.” The Professor in jail! That was the meaning of his strange disappearance at Woodbridge. That little brute of a man Shirley must have telephoned from Redfield, and when the Professor came to the Woodbridge bank to cash that check they had arrested him. That was why they had shoved me into that mahogany sitting-room. Andrew must be behind this. The besotted old fool! My face burned with anger and humiliation.
I never knew before what it means to be really infuriated. I could feel my brain tingle. The Professor in jail! The gallant, chivalrous little man, penned up with hoboes and sneak thieves suspected of being a crook... as if I couldn’t take care of myself! What did they think he was, anyway? A kidnapper?
Instantly I decided I would hurry back to Port Vigor without delay. If Andrew had had the Professor locked up, it could only be on the charge of defrauding me. Certainly it couldn’t be for giving him a bloody nose on the road from Shelby. And if I appeared to deny the charge, surely they would have to let Mr. Mifflin go.
I believe I must have been talking to myself in Peg’s stall—at any rate, just at this moment the stableman appeared and looked very bewildered when he saw me, with flushed face and in obvious excitement, talking to the horse. I asked him when was the next train to Port Vigor.
“Well, ma’am,” he said, “they say that all the local trains is held up till the wreck at Willdon’s cleared away. This being Sunday, I don’t think you’ll get anything from here until to-morrow morning.”