Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 13

Part 12Part 14

THE SILVER CORD.

BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.


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CHAPTER XXVI.

After her visit to her father at Canonhury, Mrs. Hawkesley returned to Maida Hill, anxious to communicate to her husband the scanty information which Mr. Vernon had added to the contents of his letter. Charles Hawkesley had not arrived, and long indeed seemed the delay. Beatrice was all but on the point of hastening over to Brompton, in the idea that some painful disclosure had detained her husband, when he entered with the two boys. In their coming that day, instead of the next, as proposed, she naturally detected fresh cause for alarm; but a word from her husband sufficed to reassure her sufficiently to give Walter and Fred her usual kindly welcome.

“Neither of our parents has chosen to come back yet,” said Hawkesley, “so we have deserted the house, and come over to live with our cruel uncle and aunt, and when we are wanted, we are to be sent for.”

But when the boys had been cared for by Aunt Beatrice, and had been sent into the garden with letter of licence to deal at will with the fruit, a concession not lightly made at other times, and Hawkesley and his wife were alone, his first words were—

“Something wrong, dearest.”

“I knew it,” said Beatrice, hastily. “I had a presentiment that it was so, and though you laugh at such things, I felt that when we met again we should have bad news. Tell me quickly—you know I want no preparation.”

“Nay, there is no news. That is, in fact, the worst I have to tell, except some small matters, which may in themselves be nothing.”

And the husband and wife told each other the results of their respective errands.

“And what do you make of it, dearest?” said Beatrice, after a long pause.

“I would rather hear your idea—you are her sister.”

“Charles,” said his wife, “that means that you suspect something very painful, and would not wound me by being the first to impute such a thing.”

“Dearest girl, what is one to think, when a wife suddenly leaves her home with an unknown gentleman, and the husband, without a word to any friend, takes away his daughter, and is heard of no more?”

“You know how fond he is of Clara. I do not see anything in his taking her rather than either of the boys.”

“Well, pass that for the moment. What is your key to the mystery?”

“I cannot arrange my thoughts in the least. I am simply at a loss to comprehend the affair. But, Charles, it is not an inexplicable story that shall make me think ill of darling Laura.”

“Nor me, and you do not want to be told my affection for Laura. We were joking over it only the other morning.”

“So we were, and little thinking——Charles, I am perfectly terrified at a thought that flashes upon me. The idea is almost too dreadful. Help me to crush it at once, before it begins to haunt me.”

“My dearest wife!”

“Is it—is it possible—but it is not,” she said, drawing closely to her husband, and speaking with agitation—” is it conceivable that the strange man, whom nobody knew, and who instantly removed Laura from her house, could have been a—a doctor? Say no.”

“I understand you,” said Hawkesley, turning pale. “But no, no, a thousand times no, my own one.”

“The idea came like lightning as you spoke this moment, and impressions which come like that are often true—”

“Banish it—dispel it—there is not the shadow of reason in it. My dear Beatrice, you have known Laura from babyhood, and can say for yourself whether there was ever the faintest defect in her beautifully ordered mind.”

“But is it not the most delicate minds that are most easily injured?”

“Assuredly not. That is one of the mistakes of ignorance—don’t be angry with the word, dearest; I use the strongest purposely. It is the machine in which there are flaws and damages that flics, the perfect one is true and safe to the last. Pray drive away the thought—reject it as absolutely as I do.”

“You do, entirely?”

“Utterly.”

“Then I will. And yet how the story would agree with such a misery. Laura is taken away in her husband’s absence: he could not bear to see her removed: a single stranger, in black—”

“Never heed the black. Unless you can suppose that she had been previously seen by two medical men, who must have been together in judgment in her case, the thing is impossible. It is impossible. In Heaven’s name, my dearest wife, do not let us pursue that terrible course of thought.”

“Then,” persisted Beatrice, “he cannot bear to be in the deserted house, and flies away with Clara, who reminds him of her mother—”

“Would a man who loved his wife take her image with him?”

“Yes, Charles, I think he would if she had been removed from him by death or misfortune—not if she had been wrong, perhaps. But who dares accuse Laura of that?”

“I would not hear it, but—”

“No, Charles, no. If there is truth and goodness and purity in woman, it is in my sister Laura. The other thought is dreadful, but not so dreadful as the idea that—; but that you will never believe,” she said, clasping both her husband’s hands.

“It would be almost the saddest hour I could live, if an hour should come to make me think ill of her, Beatrice. But do not let this abominable haze of anonymous letters and shopmen’s slanders blind us to other ways of accounting for the affair.”

“O, do you see any other ways? Anything to drive away the fearful thought of her possible insanity.”

“I beg you, darling, to reject that, whether we see at once any other solution or do not. There is one idea comes to me already; it seems a wild one, but the incidents of real life are so much wilder than anything one dares invent—”

“Yes, yes.”

“This man in black—by the way, who told us he was in black—are we beginning with a mistake?”

“You said it was Freddy.”

“Yes, but does a boy notice dress?”

“He said it before Walter.”

“Who had not seen him, I think,” said Hawkesley. “I must ascertain as casually as I can.”

He went out to speak to the boys, and returned in a few minutes.

“Freddy speaks positively to the black dress, and he had a good look at the stranger, who it seems interposed between the children and a visit to the Zoological Gardens. We may take the black for granted. Beatrice, dear, had Laura ever any Catholic leanings?”

“No,” said Mrs. Hawkesley, promptly, “certainly not, that I ever heard of. Poor Bertha used to be rather inclined to go to Catholic chapels, not from any particular convictions, for she had not many of them, but the music, and the incense, and novels about mysterious Jesuits, worked upon her at one time. But not Laura. What is your idea?”

“I hardly know, but stay a moment. Do you mean that Bertha at any time became a Catholic, or had any connection with the Catholics beyond attending their services?”

“I don’t think so. To tell you the truth, she did not get much mercy from me when she spoke of such things, for I knew that religion had nothing to do with her likings, and that they were the merest sentimentality.”

“Laura would be more tolerant?”

“Why, Laura was the youngest, and would scarcely dare to speak to Bertha as I did, and they were more confidential with one another than with me, though now that Laura is a woman, I know that she has learned to love me the best.”

“Laura was her confidant.”

“At one time very much so. Partly it was my fault—perhaps I made too few allowances for Bertha’s nature, and partly, dear, it was your own, for I was thinking a great deal more about your letters, and your making your way upwards in life, to care for the girls’ chatter about the heroes of novels, and the divinely handsome men they had seen riding through the village.”

“Come, I am leading you into cheerfulness, dear, and now be prepared to laugh at what I am going to ask.”

Will I laugh if it is anything that shows me daylight?”

“It seems to me possible that Bertha, in some of those sentimental moods, as you very properly call them, may have got entangled in some of the meshes which are constantly spread for the young, by Catholic missionaries, some of whom, I dare say, believe that they are doing good work, and that she may have drawn in Laura with her. What particular form of entanglement it may have been I don’t just now try to guess, but such things are.”

“Those Jesuits, perhaps, who are so clever.”

“Well, they tell us that they are. I have met a good many, and thought them much too clever to do harm, seeing that ‘Beware of Mantraps’ was as plainly to be read in the down look, in the impertinent curiosity, and in the unfrank conversation, as ever one read it in the preserves of the squirearchy. But they manage to lay hold on the minds of the young, I fancy, and especially of girls of a mopish turn, and it is only when the young lady gets married that she recognises the absolute fitness of the Jesuit’s being kicked down stairs. Before that time he may have wound his way into some of her secrets, and may afterwards use them in his own fashion. Were there any Jesuits at Lipthwaite?—if so, they have not done you much harm.”

“Well, there was a dear old Catholic priest who was never out of the houses of the poor, and who died at last of typhus caught by a sick bed.”

“Ah! but he was a gentleman as well as a priest. I remember his white hands and courtly manner, though I saw him but once. But you had no real Jesuit at Lipthwaite.”

“No. There was a writing-master at Mrs. Spagley’s, a man whom I detested, though he was a clever man, too, and some of us elder girls had a notion that he was a Jesuit, but I suppose, now, that it was all nonsense, and that we thought him one only because he dressed in black, and made silky kinds of answers to questions, never telling you what you wanted to know.”

“That is a little in their line, too. Did Bertha know him?”

“Yes, I tell you, he was our writing-master.”

“What was his name?”

“Hardwick—Mr. Ernest Hardwick—I remember it well by a girl’s joke that he was never in earnest.”

“He dressed in black,” repeated Charles Hawkesley, “but, pooh, that is nothing—a good many thousands of honest men do that—but I feel it is nonsense, and yet, while one is holding an imaginary thread, tell me—was he intimate with you beyond the relations of teacher and pupil?”

“He used to call sometimes at the Hut, but papa’s talk was too much in earnest for him, and he had a scoffing kind of manner with men, which papa did not like, so there was not much intimacy. But, my dearest Charles, how on earth can you connect a country writing-master with Laura’s disappearance?”

“Perhaps not at all, and yet I have an odd persistence in following up a trace of a story. Beatrice, what was Laura’s reason, when she sat for that portrait, for being painted with a rosary?”

“Is she? To be sure she is, I have seen it a thousand times. It never occurred to me to think why. I supposed that it was a fancy of the painter.”

“Very likely it was. I dare say that it was. But suppose that it was not, and that something was symbolised.”

“Do you mean to say that you think Laura is a concealed Catholic, and that some one has come to claim her and take her away to a convent. Good Heavens, Charles, can such things be done?”

“My dearest, you hasten to fill up a very imperfect outline of mine, and not exactly in the way I intended. We have not the least real basis upon which to build our conjectures, but having nothing to do but conjecture—except one thing, which I will tell you presently—a sort of idea, hardly worth calling one, presents itself. My dear Beatrice, Laura is too good to be suspected of wrong, Laura is too wise to be suspected of aberration, but is it on the cards that Bertha—”

“Bertha!”

“Stop. That Bertha, who does not love her husband,” said Hawkesley, speaking slowly and distinctly, as if he wished her to scan every idea as he presented it,—“that Bertha, who, at all events, appears not to love her husband, which, the husband considered, is a very singular fact—should have united herself, in other days, to the Catholic church, and should have induced Laura to do the same?”

“Impossible.”

“I may think so too, but hear me out. Bertha has long been residing in a Catholic country, and old feelings may have revived, to say nothing of the system of proselytism, which is always on the look out for its prey, and which would not be long in discovering an impressionable woman who had once believed.”

“When you put such an idea into words it seems reasonable,” said Beatrice, “but I feel it is the vaguest guessing.”

“So it is, and let us guess on. Bertha has been re-converted, and I need not tell you that the first result of such a process would be to alienate her from her heretic husband, and to withdraw her confidences from him. Hence, we may get at that estrangement which we were deploring the other morning, and acquit Bertha of the horrible stupidity of not appreciating such a man as Robert Urquhart.”

“But you charge her with folly, and with deceit, which is worse than anything in the world.”

“Let us suppose that her butterfly mind, such as it is, has risen above dress and the opera, and settled on a sort of perfumed religion, which tells her, through the mouth of her confessor, that the deceit is pardonable, or even laudable, if truth-speaking would render her less useful to the church.”

“Butterfly, indeed. That would be far too mild a name for her.”

“Nay, nay, she is not wise. You know that. But, then, for Laura.”

“She is no butterfly, dear.”

“No, indeed. But Laura has been a very young girl, who was left very much to herself, without a mother’s guidance, and who made this silly Bertha her friend and confidant.”

“If I saw things as you suggest them, how I ought to reproach myself, Charles, for not having been more of a mother to her, poor child.”

“And who had been a mother to you, dearest, and where should you have learned the value of such counsel? Besides, you must share the guilt, if there is any, with me, who deprived your sister of your companionship.”

“You always try to make me believe I am right, Charles.”

“When I find you wrong, I will tell you so—rely on me,” said Hawkesley, pressing her hand. “But just let me finish my chapter of possibilities. Bertha, now entirely in the hands of her priest, has been worked upon to send him, or one of his brethren, over here, and has prevailed on Laura, by what arguments we have yet to learn, to visit her sister in a haste which has, of course, to be accounted for, but which is quite reconcileable with the exacting demands of the Church—when you are in its power.”

“You make out a story before my eyes,” said Beatrice, “and I hardly know whether to wish to believe it or not.”

“Do neither, until we know more.”

“What was the other thing you said we had to do?”

“To ascertain for ourselves whether Laura has gone to her sister.”

“Do you mean by writing?”

“I am afraid to write.”

“Ah! then you do not believe a word of your own story.”

“Why do you say so?”

“Because, Charles, if she should not be there, and your letter should miscarry—that is what you are thinking of. You are suspecting something far worse than even the folly you think may have been committed.”

“You shall have all my thoughts. I should be inclined, Beatrice, to accept this wild theory of mine, while we waited for news, but for one consideration.”

“Laura’s strong sense?”

“Laura’s strong love.”

“Yes, there would be the chain to bind her to her home.”

“Why, Beatrice, do you think that if a score of sisters were to summon you, through the mouths of a whole college of Jesuits, to leave my house in my absence, they would have power to move you from this hearthstone?”

“Not all the sisters and priests in the world.”

“Not if, when a girl, you had taken all the vows of the Church?”

“I know one vow only, Charles.”

“I know it, wife. And I thought that Laura had no other.”

“Say, for my sake, that you think so still. Let us believe anything, no matter how improbable—that the story of the lady who was dying, and which that servant dared to tell Walter not to believe—if I were Price, I would have turned her into the street in five minutes—”

“Price had no authority.”

“Don’t tell me—I would have given her to the police. I daresay that she will turn out to have been a thief.”

“Your anger against her is just, but do not blame Price, who had really no more right to put Eliza into the street than I have.”

“No, dear, no. But it puts one in a rage to think that she should dare tell a child not to believe his own father, when he is speaking about the child’s own mother. I wonder Walter did not strike her.”

“He can strike at the proper time, as I ought to tell you.” And Hawkesley told of Walter’s vengeance on the caluminator.

“A darling, noble boy!” exclaimed his aunt. “That was the Vernon blood.”

“Possibly,” said Hawkesley, smiling. “And there is some of that article on his hand, and perhaps you may as well see to it.”

“Is he hurt? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Were we not speaking on a graver subject till this moment?”

“Yes, yes,” said Beatrice, “but you made the tears come into my eyes by telling me of his courage in the cause of his mother. Let us, who know her even better than the poor child does, Charles dear, let us be as courageous, and utterly refuse to listen to the least thing against her. Believe me, we shall be right.”

“I am only too rejoiced to see you take that view,” said Hawkesley.

“Did you expect me to condemn her because I do not know where she is, and because some wretches spread scandals against her? Do you think that Laura would judge me so, Charles?”

“I love you for standing by her. And as we are thoroughly agreed about this, you can bear to hear, and to recollect, that appearances are most fatally against her.”

“Indeed they are. But all will be explained, and we shall have the happiness of telling her, on this very hearthstone you spoke of, that we knew from the first all would be well.”

“Is that one of your presentiments?”

He asked it quietly enough, and Beatrice’s lips were parting, in the act of reply, when she turned pale, and looked round at him with eyes that suddenly brimmed with tears.

“I dare not say yes,” she whispered, and broke into a convulsive fit of crying.

“Come, come,” said her husband, “you must be calm, dear, and remember how many things good and bad have happened to us without any presentiments. Perhaps they do not come when they are asked for.”

“I was just going to say yes,” sobbed his wife, “for I was taking the wish for the thing, when I felt that I was going to utter a falsehood. I only pray that all may be well.”

“God grant it. But on one thing I am resolved. I will test that story which has framed itself to me out of a parcel of trifles which one is ashamed to call facts.”

“I felt that you were saying it all to draw me away from darker views, and I took it as kindness, though I could not believe in it,” said Beatrice, on her husband’s bosom.

“But as I spoke it grew upon me,” said he; “and I will send through Aventayle, who has agents in Paris. Meantime, dear, try and make those children as happy as you can. It is a comfort that they love you as if you were their mother.”

“I understand you, Charles,” said Beatrice, “but darling, do not talk so—at least now.”

CHAPTER XXVII.

Of course,” said Mr. Aventayle, “always show him up. Stay, clear a seat of some kind for him, can’t you?”

The inquiry did not seem altogether beside the mark. For though the manager’s room at the theatre was a tolerably large one, it was so completely choked up with his Varieties, as he called them, that any disarrangement of that chaos threatened a general confluence of matter. It would be almost easier to say what was not in the room than what was, or at all events the latter feat could only be accomplished by the pen of an untiring inventory-maker, who should not be deterred from his work by any surprises, or for a moment drawn into the feeble belief that classification was a possibility. Upon the dusty crimson cushion of a white and elegantly gilded chair, in which some theatrical nobleman of the Regency date had sat, and uttered exceedingly improper sentiments during the progress of a melodrama, reposed a handsome Skye terrier, and it naturally seemed his place to move in favour of a visitor. But Mop was of an opposite opinion, and signified it by so resolute a growl when the manager’s servant touched the chair, that he abandoned the idea, and looked hopelessly round for some other quarter in which Mr. Hawkesley might be planted. But chaos was obdurate. To remove from an old couch near the fire-place a vast heap of manuscripts and newspapers, was more than Beeton’s place was worth, Mr. Aventayle always declaring that he had placed everything there in exact order, and knew where to lay his hand upon it. Any of the big wooden boxes, some piled on others, would have made a good seat, but then on one was a great chandelier, and another held a pyramid of books that Aventayle had bought, as curiosities, at a sale, and would never have time to look into while he had eyes to read them. A model of his stage, with the scenery, in miniature, of a celebrated “effect,” was mounted on another box, and Vister, the wonderful painter, had, in reply to the objurgations of his manager, taken a solemn oath, every evening for some months, to remove it the next morning, but meantime it was there. A window seat seemed more promising, but to utilise that for social purposes involved the moving a lamp which stood in a little pool of oil, about eight hats of various shapes and ages, and a plaster caricature statue of M. Alexandre Dumas, the regenerator of Italy. So, with a helpless look that comprised his employer’s whole room, the portraits of the ladies and gentlemen of the company in characters in which they had been painted, the suspended list of pieces, with the number of nights each had run, the manager’s table, loaded with letters that overflowed the small island he sought to keep for his writing-place, the water-bottle and tumbler flanking the splendid French clock that was never right, but now and then, by frantically striking nineteen, claimed the privilege of genius to do as it pleased, and the grand array of bandboxes, music-books, swords, boots, and images, with which it pleased Mr. Aventayle to surround himself, Beeton withdrew to bring up Mr. Hawkesley.

He did not leave the manager solitary, for by his side stood a fiend. That is to say, one of the most accomplished members of the company, dressed for some Mephistophilean part, but with rather more diabolic adjuncts than are usually given to the friend of Faust, was in counsel with his manager, and in the dim light of the shaded lamp, looked, as he stood by the huge black chair of his chief, as if he were tempting the latter to sign some unhallowed compact. The thought, however, would not have occurred to any person likely to enter that room; a few years of practical stage life wear out any fancies arising from theatrical accidents, and it is perhaps difficult to bore an actor more completely than by what you deem facetiousness, based on topics from his own profession.

“You know Hawkesley, Grayling, don’t you?”

“Yes, to be sure. A capital fellow, and a decidedly clever one. Has he got anything for us?”

“I hope so.”

Mr. Aventayle, still a handsome man, though considerably past middle life, and retaining the play of features—fine ones—which had in earlier days materially aided him to eminence, placed his double-glass to his eyes, as he heard Hawkesley’s step, and when the latter entered affected to survey him with intense curiosity. Then, without speaking, he dropped the glasses, as if hopelessly.

“No! I do not see three acts in that face. Do you, Grayling?” he asked of the fiend.

“Well, I am not much of a physiognomist, but I think I see two, and perhaps a prologue,” said the actor, shaking hands with Hawkesley.

“Ah, you were always of a cheerful nature. Mop, you old fool, will you come down?” said the manager, spilling out the reluctant animal to the ground, and inducting Hawkesley into the nobleman’s seat. “I’m very glad to see you, on any terms,” he continued, “as it shows that you have a hankering after the place. What will you have to drink?”

“What have you got that is good on a warm night?’

“Everything in the world; everything without exception. But if you will take my advice you will try our highly superior cold brandy-and-water at nothing per glass, waiters included.”

“I understand. As thou sayest, so let it be.”

And the manager, the devil, and the author were soon provided with their beverage.

“Now of course you won’t talk before me,” said the fiend, “so I shall finish this, and go.”

“Unless Hawkesley has any secrets, I have none,” said Aventayle, “and you should always try, Grayling, to remain in the society of the good and virtuous, because you may improve yourself by their conversation and example: and you should also, Grayling, pass the brandy when you have helped yourself.”

“I have been dining at the club,” said Hawkesley, “and thought I would walk round and tell you that I have read that piece you gave me.”

“Ah! well?”

“In its present form, it is out of the question.”

“Rough and crude. I told you so.”

“The story won’t do. They wouldn’t stand it.”

“They’ll stand a good deal, too.”

“Yes, but this is too cynically offensive to be endured. They will sit and cry over a Traviata who whines because her lungs are going, but they would hiss her if she were in health, and prosperous and defiant, like one of the women in this thing. It won’t do, Aventayle.”

“If you say so on consideration, there is an end of the matter; but the play seemed to me to have some very strong stuff in it.”

“Strong as hartshorn,” said Hawkesley. “But it will not do for you. I wish it would.”

“Which means that you don’t want to work.”

“No, it does not, my dear fellow. I have a good notion for you. But I would rather not have taken it up until after Christmas ; and if you could bring out this thing, I should have been glad of the interval. But I shall be ready for you soon.”

“That’s well. Anything for this boy?” said the manager, indicating the fiend.

“Plenty.”

“That’s well again, and we’ll ask you no more questions.”

“I want to ask you one or two. You said you knew nothing of the man who sends you this piece, except that his name is Adair.”

“Nothing,” said Aventayle, “but he writes me a long letter, after the manner and fashion of young dramatists, explaining his play at great length, as if it was not strong enough to explain itself.”

“Would you mind showing me his letter?”

“Not a bit,” said Aventayle. “But I should very much mind looking for it.” And he pointed, with a piteous look, at the mass of correspondence before him.

“But I should particularly like to see it.”

“H’m. In that case you shall, but it is a cruel thing to ask me to go through all that heap.”

“Why don’t you keep your papers in order?”

“Manage a theatre for a fortnight, and you’ll see, my boy,” said Mr. Aventayle, beginning a search among his letters.

“I will come and sort them and docket them for you.”

“You’ll go and mind your own business, which is the finishing my piece. Have you got a good title?”

“Yes, excellent.”

“Then the piece will be good. I have noticed that if a man fumbles over a title, he has generally written without purpose. Confound the letter !” the manager growled, or may have said worse.

“I couldn’t sit in such a room as this,” said Mr. Grayling.

“Who said you could? You are not sitting. Nobody asked you to sit,” grumbled Aventayle, with pretended petulance, as he turned over his heaps, and was reminded at every turn of something he had neglected to attend to, or somebody who ought to have been obliged or abused. At the recurrence of each of these suggestions the manager fired off a fresh growl.

“I’m afraid I am bringing your sins to your mind,” said Hawkesley. “Your good health.”

“People have no right to write letters, I’ll be hanged if they have,” said Aventayle. “Here it is—no it isn’t—that’s from a woman I never saw, giving me five sides of note-paper to prove why I ought to give her a box, and she’s as rich as creases, as old Poulter used to say; her husband’s a banker.”

“Send her the box, if she will bring him,” said Grayling. “I’m told bankers’ morals are queer, and the piece may do him good.”

“Let him pay for improvements,” said the manager. “I know I have to do so. I can’t see the letter.”

“Shall I look?” said Grayling, “or are you afraid of my seeing letters poisoning your mind against me.”

“I had rather you did, it might make you more careful and painstaking,” said Aventayle. “Do look, there’s a dear boy, while I refresh myself. A large sheet, a very neat hand, and the signature something Adair.”

And he turned away with a sigh, and nodded across his tumbler at Hawkesley.

“What do you want to see the letter for?” he said. “Childish curiosity?”

“No, but for a reason.”

“We must keep him in good humour just now,” said Aventayle, in a stage whisper, behind his hand, to Grayling, “Find it for him.”

“I am proceeding systematically,” said the actor. “Mind your brandy-and-water.”

The manager and the author chatted on for some minutes, and the actor went on with his search. Hawkesley, in answer to a renewed demand by his friend, assured him that the new play was really in hand, and that he liked it as it came on, whereat Aventayle professed himself consoled for his life and other misfortunes, and begged that the ladies’ characters might be made as strong as possible. This again Hawkesley promised, and was enlarging upon the extreme importance of keeping the women constantly upon the stage, when the fiend uttered a melodramatic “Ha!”

“Got it?” asked Aventayle.

Without a word, the fiend strode to Hawkesley, and laid the letter in his hand. It was long, and as the author began, with some eagerness, to read it, Aventayle said,

“Bother reading and spoiling talk. Put it into your pocket.”

Many a day afterwards, Hawkesley recalled the circumstances to his mind, and remembered that the letter had been put into his hand by the devil.