A Poor Wise Man
Then, one night, she went downstairs for a glass of ice water, and found the
lower floor dark, and subdued voices coming from the study. The kitchen door
was standing open, and she closed and locked it, placing the key, as was Elinor's
custom, in a table drawer. The door was partly glass, and Elinor had a fear of the
glass being broken and thus the key turned in the lock by some intruder.
On toward morning there came a violent hammering at her bedroom door, and
Doyle's voice outside, a savage voice that she scarcely recognized. When she
had thrown on her dressing gown and opened the door he had instantly caught
her by the shoulder, and she bore the imprints of his fingers for days.
"Did you lock the kitchen door?" he demanded, his tones thick with fury.
"Yes. Why not?" She tried to shake off his hand, but failed.
"None of your business why not," he said, and gave her an angry shake.
"Hereafter, when you find that door open, you leave it that way. That's all."
"Take your hands off me!" She was rather like her grandfather at that moment,
and his lost caution came back. He freed her at once and laughed a little.
"Sorry!" he said. "I get a bit emphatic at times. But there are times when a locked
door becomes a mighty serious matter."
The next day he removed the key from the door, and substituted a bolt. Elinor
made no protest.
Another night Elinor was taken ill, and Lilly had been forced to knock at the study
door and call Doyle. She had an instant's impression of the room crowded with
strange figures. The heavy odors of sweating bodies, of tobacco, and of stale
beer came through the half-open door and revolted her. And Doyle had refused
to go upstairs.
She began to feel that she could not remain there very long. The atmosphere
was variable. It was either cynical or sinister, and she hated them both. She had
a curious feeling, too, that Doyle both wanted her there and did not want her, and
that he was changing his attitude toward her Aunt Elinor. Sometimes she saw
him watching Elinor from under half-closed eyelids.
But she could not fill her days with anxieties and suspicions, and she turned to
Louis Akers as a flower to the open day. He at least was what he appeared to be.
There was nothing mysterious about him.
He came in daily, big, dominant and demonstrative, filling the house with his
presence, and demanding her in a loud, urgent voice. Hardly had the door
slammed before he would call: