She thought it was astonishing how he made himself at home in the family circle. In half an hour there was scarcely any restraint left because a visitor was present. Yet, as if impelled by some mysterious influence, one after another slipped out; and Carrie saw with strange little thrills of dismay that she would soon be alone with that indomitable lawyer. She signalled to her mother, but the old lady's eyes were glued to her knitting.
"Do you think I could believe that you cared for my garden only that your eyes might not be offended?"
"So she believes, or tries to. I mercifully shook her faith a little. Well, she feels for you, old fellow. The belief that you understand her better than any one has great sustaining power."
"Oh, well, that was the position of all the great lawyers once," she replied, laughing. Marstern's father was wealthy, and all knew that he could afford to be briefless for a time.
"Jerusalem, fellows! I'd like to have a chance at those beans before I go!" but Zeb promptly tramped off with the orderly.
"There are so many other places to which he might have gone," she murmured.
He remounted his horse, stole silently down the road, crossed the stream, and then galloped to the tavern, and calling out the keeper, asked if there was any shorter road out of the mountains than the one leading to the west. Being answered in the negative, he rode hastily away. On reaching the place where he had struck this road the previous day, he entered the woods, followed the rugged trail that he had marked by bits of paper, and slowly approached the mine road again near the point where the stream crossed it. He then reconnoitred and learned that there was evidently a large party exploring the woods between the stream and the mine.
"In the main as I feared. He does not know them yet. Mr. Jackson, you and I are somewhat alike in one of our duties. I never talk about my patients. If I did, I ought to be drummed out of the town instead of ever being called upon again. Of course you feel that you should not talk about your guests. You can understand why the parties concerned in this matter would not wish to have it discussed in the village."
They did not dream that the one most interested was near. Miss Van Tyne had felt too faint and sorely wounded to go further without rest. Believing that the rocks would hide her from those whose eyes she would most wish to shun, she had thrown herself down beyond the angle and was shedding the bitterest tears that she had ever known. Suddenly she heard Mrs. Alston's words but a short distance away, and was so overcome by their import that she hesitated what to do. She would not meet them again for the world, but felt so weak that she doubted whether she could drag herself away without being discovered, especially as the beach trended off to the left so sharply a little further on that they might discover her. While she was looking vainly for some way of escape she heard Ackland's words and Mrs. Alston's surmise in reply that he had come with the purpose of revenge. She was so stung by their apparent truth that she resolved to clamber up through an opening of the rocks if the thing were possible. Panting and exhausted she gained the summit, and then hastened to an adjacent grove, as some wounded, timid creature would run to the nearest cover. Ackland had heard sounds and had stepped around the point of the rocks just in time to see her disappearing above the bank. Returning to Mrs. Alston, he said impatiently:
If Mrs. Marlow had been told from the first that her husband was dead, the shock resulting would not have been so injurious as the suspense that robbed her of rest for days, weeks, and months. She haunted the post-office, and if a stranger was seen coming up the street toward her cottage she watched feverishly for his turning in at her gate with the tidings of her husband's safety. Night after night she Jay awake, hoping, praying that she might hear his step returning on a furlough to which wounds or sickness had entitled him. The natural and inevitable result was illness and nervous prostration.