She tried another tack.
“I beg your pardon, doctor,” she said, and her expression was that of a sad and sorry child. “You’re right, I mustn’t lose my temper so. But, you know, I am under a severe mental strain—and something should be forgiven me—some allowance made for my dreadful position—”
“Yes, ma’am—oh, certainly, ma’am—” Crowell was again nervous and restless. He proved that he could withstand an angry woman far better than a supplicating one. Eunice saw this and followed up her advantage.
“And, so, doctor, try to appreciate how I feel—a newlymade widow—my husband dead, from some unknown cause, but which I know is not—murder,” after a second’s hesitation she pronounced the awful word clearly—“and you want to add to my terror and distress by calling in the police—of all things, the police!”
“Yes, ma’am, I know it’s too bad—but, my duty, ma’am—”
“Your duty is first, to me!” Eunice’s smile was dazzling. It had been a callous heart, indeed, that would not be touched by it!
“To you, ma’am?” The Examiner’s tone was innocence itself.
“Yes,” Eunice faltered, for she began to realize she was not gaining ground. “You owe me the—don’t they call it the benefit of the doubt?”
“What doubt, ma’am?”
“Why, doubt as to murder. If my husband died a natural death you know there’s no reason to call the police. And as you’re not sure, I claim that you must give me the benefit of your doubt and not call them.”
“Now, ma’am, you don’t put that just right. You see, the police are the people who must settle that doubt. It’s that very doubt that makes it necessary to call them. And, truly, Mrs, Ernbury, it won’t be any such horrible ordeal as you seem to anticipate. They’re decent men, and all they want to get at is the truth.”
“That isn’t so!” Eunice was angry again. “They’re horrible men! rude, unkempt, low-down, common men! I won’t have them in my house! You have no right to insist on it. They’ll be all over the rooms, prying into everything, looking here, there and all over! They’ll ask impertinent questions; they’ll assume all sorts of things that aren’t true, and they’ll wind up by coming to a positively false conclusion! Alvord, Mason, you’re my friends—help me out! Don’t, let this man do as he threatens!”
“Listen, Eunice,” Elliott said, striving to quiet her; “we can’t help the necessity Dr. Crowell sees of notifying the police. But we can help you. Only, however, if you’ll be sensible, dear, and trust to our word that it can’t be helped, and you must let it go on quietly.”
“Oh, hush up, Mason; your talk drives me crazy! Alvord, are you a broken reed, too? Is there nobody to stand by me?”
“I’ll try,” and Hendricks went and spoke to Dr. Crowell in low tones. A whispered colloquy followed, but it soon became clear that Hendricks’ pleas, of whatever nature, were unsuccessful, and he returned to Eunice’s side.