The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories
"You—wasn't there—last night?" he repeated, with a slow tolerance.
Scarcely a moment elapsed, but the agony of an hour may have thrilled through Wayne's
consciousness before he spoke. Then all the blood of his body rushed to his face with his
first lie as he stammered, "No! Yes! Of course. I have made a mistake—it WAS I."
"I see—you thought I was riled?" said McGee quietly.
"No; I was thinking it was NIGHT BEFORE LAST! Of course it was last night. I must be
getting silly." He essayed a laugh—rare at any time with him—and so forced now that it
affected McGee more than his embarrassment. He looked at Wayne thoughtfully, and
then said slowly: "I reckon I did come upon you a little too sudden last night, but, you
see, I was thinkin' of suthin' else and disremembered you might be there. But I wasn't
mad—no! no! and I only spoke about it now that you might be more keerful before folks.
You follow me? You understand what I mean?"
He turned and walked to the door, when he halted. "You follow me, don't you? It ain't no
cussedness o' mine, or want o' trustin', don't you see? Mebbe I oughtened have spoken. I
oughter remembered that times this sort o' thing must be rather rough on you and her.
You follow me? You understand what I mean? Good-night."
He walked slowly down the path towards the river. Had Madison Wayne been watching
him, he would have noticed that his head was bent and his step less free. But Madison
Wayne was at that moment sitting rigidly in his chair, nursing, with all the gloomy
concentration of a monastic nature, a single terrible suspicion.
Howbeit the sun shone cheerfully over the Bar the next morning and the next; the breath
of life and activity was in the air; the settlement never had been more prosperous, and the
yield from the opened placers on the drained river-bed that week was enormous. The
Brothers Wayne were said to be "rolling in gold." It was thought to be consistent with
Madison Wayne's nature that there was no trace of good fortune in his face or manner—
rather that he had become more nervous, restless, and gloomy. This was attributed to the
joylessness of avarice as contrasted with the spendthrift gayety of the more liberal Arthur,
and he was feared and RESPECTED as a miser. His long, solitary walks around the
promontory, his incessant watchfulness, his reticence when questioned, were all
recognized as the indications of a man whose soul was absorbed in money-getting. The
reverence they failed to yield to his religious isolation they were willing to freely accord
to his financial abstraction. But Mr. McGee was not so deceived. Overtaking him one day
under the fringe of willows, he characteristically chided him with absenting himself from
Mrs. McGee and her house since their last interview.