Elsie drew back, all abashed. In a moment her cheek grew still redder, I felt sure, than my own.
“Oh, Marsden!” she cried, eyeing me close. “Why, I thought you were Miss Callingham!”
“How on earth did you know that?” I exclaimed, terrified almost out of my life. Was I never for one moment to escape my own personality?
“Why, they put it in the papers that you were coming,” Elsie answered, looking tenderly at me, more in sympathy than in anger. “And it’s written on your bag, you know, that Jack put up in the rack there... That’s why we were so sorry for you, and so grieved at the way you must have been hustled on the quay. And that’s also why we wanted you to come to us... But don’t be a bit afraid. We quite understand you want to travel incognita. After the sort of reception you got at Quebec, no wonder you’re afraid of these hateful sightseers!... Very well, dear,” she took my hand with the air of an old friend, “your disguise shall be respected while you stop at our house. Miss Marsden let it be. You can make any inquiries you like about Dr. Ivor. We will be secrecy itself. We’ll say nothing to anyone. And my brother’ll take your ticket at Sharbot Lake for Adolphus Town.”
I broke down once more. I fairly cried at such kindness.
“Oh, how good you are!” I said. “How very, very good. This is more than one could ever have expected from strangers.”
She held my hand and stroked it.
“We’re not strangers,” she answered. “We’re English ourselves. We sympathise deeply with you in this new, strange country. You must treat us exactly like a brother and sister. We liked you at first sight, and we’re sure we’ll get on with you.”
I lifted her hand to my lips and kissed it.
“And I liked you also,” I said, “and your brother, too. You’re both so good and kind. How can I ever sufficiently thank you?”
MY PLANS ALTER
The rest of that day we spent chatting very amicably in our Pullman arm-chairs. I couldn’t understand it myself—when I had a moment to think, I was shocked and horrified at it. I was so terribly at home with them. These were friends of Dr. Ivor’s—friends of my father’s murderer! I had come out to Canada to track him, to deliver him over, if I could, to the strong hand of Justice. And yet, there I was talking away with his neighbours and friends as if I had known them all my life, and loved them dearly. Nay, what was more, I couldn’t in my heart of hearts help liking them. They were really sweet people—so kind and sympathetic, so perceptive of my sensitiveness. They asked no questions that could hurt me in any way. They showed no curiosity about the object of my visit or my relation to Dr. Ivor. They were kindness and courtesy itself. I could see Mr. Cheriton was a gentleman in fibre, and Elsie was as sweet as any woman on earth could be.