- CHAPTER XXVI TERRY MISAPPREHENDS
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TERENCE GLYNNE is a strong young fellow, sound in heart and in body. Life has never turned to him her cold and seamy side; he has friends, and fortune, and robust health; and nature and circumstances have combined to make of him a cheerful optimist.
At first he has seemed undaunted by the tragic events of that day at the Heights, while he has deeply deplored them. Even his strong and earnest love for Lorna Hilton has not made him heavy hearted; he knows of no barrier between them, and he knows how to wait.
This at first. Then Lorna--who heretofore has always met him with a smile of welcome, if not of actual encouragement--seems to change. At first he has thought it the natural result of her shocked and depressed condition; had even sympathised in what he thought her shrinking, for a time, from a meeting with one so closely concerned in the affair which has placed her in so delicate, so cruel a position--because of the reserve which must be | | 275 kept for the sake of others, -in part, and for her own sake as well.
His own fine and chivalrous instincts have led him to refrain from seeming to seek her presence for a time, but when at last they are by chance thrown together, the pained look in her eyes, her affrighted and nearly silent greeting, and her almost instant withdrawal, gave him a shock that hurt, and which he could not understand.
But it was nevertheless a fact. Terry was too clear-sighted, too honest, too much in earnest, to attempt self deception. Lorna, his one time friend, the cordial, candid, sympathetic Lorna, who never willingly hurt the feelings of any; Lorna shuns him, or meets him with too evident unwillingness and dread, and he never imagines why.
Then comes Loyd's wild outburst, and the pain of hearing that the girl he loves is learning--too late--how much she has cared for the man who is dead.
It is a crushing blow; and it is well for Terry that the rumours concerning Loyd Hilton's guilt, with all the flying gossip which follows its first appearance, comes to take him outside himself in his loyalty to his friend; for he has never once thought of abandoning Loyd, or of being the less ready to serve Lorna because she loved--or so he now believes--a man unworthy in life as in death.
Anxious to serve Loyd, for that is to serve Lorna, he still knows that he must not claim the least knowledge of the affair, less for his own sake than for theirs; but what he can he does, chafing at the thought that it is so little. Whenever the miserable | | 276 story is so much as hinted at in his presence, he declares it a scandal and a folly, and defends Loyd, by argument where argument is comprehended, and by flat denials everywhere, and he is lawyer-like in dodging knotty and delicate points.
But one day he is approached by Sheriff Cook.
"I want a word with you, Mr. Glynne," the sheriff says mildly; and then, without any preliminary: "I wish you would take my word that it will be best for all concerned that you do not champion young Hilton too freely. We want no more complications, and too much talk may bring them about us. I am speaking in all friendliness mind. And, remember, the same hand which set this ball rolling may turn the light on other things," and he meets Glynne's eye, a look of meaning in his own. "Believe me, you can serve Hilton better now by silence. Later it may be well to speak." There is no explanation--only that look, and it sets impulsive, generous Terence Glynne thinking.
The sheriff speaks as one who knows, and Glynne is not one to underrate the ability or the wisdom of the man.
He has seen Hilton seldom of late, but they have agreed since the very first not to see each other too often, lest an appearance of intimacy and mutual understanding should provoke criticism, and it is an actual relief to Terry when he is called to the city for a time upon business connected with the management of a rather large estate, which for years has been the care of a guardian, and which has only within the past two come wholly into his own hands.| | 277
He is not aware when leaving Lee that Sheriff Cook is out of town, and he has no time for leave-takings.
He returns at last, after a longer absence than he could have foreseen, and his first thought is for Loyd and Lorna. He has no familiars in Lee to whom he would care to apply, for, by an untoward bit of ill luck, as he views it, his friend Harley is off with a fishing party.
With his usual directness he seeks for the sheriff, and learns that he has just arrived and has driven out to the only home he now claims, his sister's home upon the outskirts of Lee. This is in the morning.
Immediately after luncheon Terry again seeks Sheriff Cook, and it is only when he finds him still absent that he mounts his trusty wheel and goes to the villa straightway.
But Terence Glynne, the near friend and confidante of Loyd Hilton, is not the man whom Hope can face with equanimity, not knowing his mission, and in the absence of her aunt; and so Terry finds himself denied.
"Miss Cassandra is absent," the maid assures him, "and Miss Hope is indisposed and begs that he will excuse her, and come--at another time." And then it is that with set teeth and the look in his eyes of a man who has resolved to know, and not to be thrust aside, he turns his face toward Redlands.
From the first moment of their meeting, Mrs. Hilton has been glad to welcome Terry Glynne to her home, for his own sake; and it is for his own sake that she greets him with a shade of embarrass- | | 278 ment now, for, believing, as she still does, that Lorna is mourning for Felix Chetwynde, and knowing also the hope and the love which such men as Terence Glynne can no more conceal than they can their own honest manliness, she is ill-prepared to give him the comfort she would, or the news he seeks. She is somewhat anxious, too, for Loyd has gone out upon the lake alone. He does this often of late, she tells Glynne, and Lorna--this is the source of her chief uneasiness--Lorna, according to Higgins, the gardener's aid, has gone into the woods to the southward upon her wheel, and in company with Miss Cassandra Chetwynde; and, while the lady is glad to have Lorna in such good and safe company, she fears that the girl may overdo, in her desire to be with the kindly spinster, and venture too fast and far.
When Terry turns away from Mrs. Hilton's door he rides slowly southward, along the lake shore, and presently he comes upon the trail of the two bicycles, their swinging curves distinct in the soft sand.
Why shall he not follow them? He longs to see Lorna, if only for a moment, and Miss Cassandra is his friend, even as he is hers. She is so safe, so sensible, and--if Lorna is not too cold toward him--if she does not really shun him again, he is sure that Aunt Cass will give him the chance for just a word alone with her.
The thought warms his heart. The trail is fresh, and he follows on, wondering much when it leads him directly to the Heights.
There are moments in the lives of most when | | 279 formality, ceremony, the wordy, meaningless preface to the real thought waiting for utterance, all fall away, and human beings are as humanly direct as Nature's children were meant to be when Nature reigned.
It does not startle Lorna when, arousing from her brief swoon, she sees Terence Glynne bending over her, and having seen him, she heaves a long sigh of content, and rests for a moment with her eyes half closed, then putting out her hand, she lets him lift her to a sitting posture, and glances about her. She does not ask how or why he is there; she does not think of it; she thinks first of the face, and then of her friend.
"Miss Chetwynde? She rode off in hot haste in pursuit of some person of whom I could only catch a glimpse through the trees. She called, as she ran, for me to assist you."
"Then--there was some one!" The girl's face begins to glow. "There was some one then! and now--now!--Oh, if Sheriff Cook were only here!" Her eyes are brightening, her breath comes almost pantingly, she is powerfully excited, and Terry begins to fear that some sudden fright has for the moment unsettled her already sorely-tried nerves.
"I was sure of it!" the girl goes on eagerly. "Almost certain that if I could only muster the courage--it would come back to me! And now--it has come, it has come! Oh--I don't see how I can wait--for that sheriff to come back. If only I could get to him now!"
Her colour is rising; already she is struggling to | | 280 her feet, is moving toward the bridge. He must soothe her at all hazards, thinks this deluded lover; he must take her home at once.
"Miss Hilton," he says very quietly, "Mr. Cook is at home. He came this morning."
"Oh! are you sure--sure? I am so glad! Now at last, I can go to him and tell him that there was another in the wood that day. Oh, I have so longed to be able to show them where to search for that other one, and now--" Is she growing hysterical? Her voice trembles and breaks; she stops and, leaning her face against a tree, begins to sob.
Terry is almost beside himself. Has not Mrs. Hilton confided to him her fears for the result of so much brooding over her brother's unhappy position, of her talk--"wild talk," as the good lady has described it--of some one else--of a face she has forgotten and longs to recall, a face seen in the woods that day?
And who should know better than himself that Lorna could have seen no face? He recalls Loyd's discovery, made from the tree top, of the carriage going so swiftly down the hilly wood road, recklessly, and without a driver. Can she have heard their talk in her half-conscious state, and imagined it some fleeing assassin whose face she has seen?
Oh, it is folly to think; he must act, must take her home, before she grows really delirious, as she was at first, and as, the doctor has said, she might so easily become again.
Suddenly the sobbing ceases, and she looks up. "Do--do you think I ought to wait here for--Miss Cassandra?" she asks anxiously.| | 281
"Not at all We ought to go at once, Miss Hilton. Miss Chetwynde put you in my care. She--there was some one she was most anxious to see." And now for the first time he gives a moment's thought to the spinster, and to wonder if she, too, had suddenly gone mad. But no, there is method in Miss Cassandra's madness, of that he is very certain. She has pursued in hot haste, and doubtless in wrath, some spy; there is evidently reason in her flight. And may it not even have been, in part, at least, for him--to give him the opportunity he craves?
She has gone, whatever the reason, and he is here with this lovely, distraught girl. He must think--he desires to think--of her, and her only.
Very gently he speaks, urging her to calmness; and humouring her strange fancy; and presently they are mounted, he riding close beside her, watchful and tender, and marvelling at her strength and sudden quiet. If she will only remain thus; at least until she is safe within her own walls!
Suddenly she turns toward him.
"Mr. Glynne, I ought to explain my meaning to you, I know. Perhaps my brother has told you something--about the face--which I saw and was not quite sure--"
"Yes! "he breaks in eagerly. "Yes, Miss Lorna; Loyd and I are quite in each other's confidence, you know. You need not speak of it now. I quite understand--quite."
Lorna thanks him, and relapses into silence; something, it is evident, is troubling her mind.
Little more is said by either, and the girl's old | | 282 manner of reserve comes gradually back as they go on. She grows weary, too, and when they arrive at Redlands--goes at once to her room, leaving Glynne to explain to Mrs. Hilton.
"I'm so tired, mamma!" she says. "Please let me go to my room, and--Mr. Glynne--will you mind telling her? I cannot talk of it--now."
Mrs. Hilton hears his story with a troubled face.
"I am not surprised," she says. "I have felt that if something does not occur to lift this stigma from Loyd's shoulders--"
"But she believes him innocent," Terry interposes.
"She does, firmly. But she has also grown to believe, or to fear, that the world and his judges will pronounce him guilty. It is this belief and this fear together that are preying so upon her mind, until now she is trying to believe in some other agency, some chimera. Oh, I wonder how it will all end!"
"It must not end ill for her if human power can prevent .it," he says, and leaves her with a strange; new look of resolve upon her face.
Miss Cassandra arrives at the villa late, and "much fatigued"--or so she declares--going at once to her room. She gives no account of her afternoon, but she sends the "boy factotum," as she is fond of calling their lad-of-all-work, with a note of inquiry to Mrs. Hilton, and goes to her rest, only when she hears that Lorna is at home, fatigued, but unharmed.
Next morning early a messenger comes from Redlands with a note for Miss Cassandra, which read thus--
"DEAR MISS C.--The 'ghost' walks again. If | | 283 you can do so, come and stay with us to-night.--A. E. HILTON."
The spinster reads this note and sets her teeth.
"It has gone far enough!" she declares, with fire in her eyes. "A fig for foolish promises! The sheriff knows how to hold his tongue at need."
And while the morning was yet early she was off--this time in the pony carriage--to Lee and the sheriff's office.
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