repose of home is eternally fresh—enjoy it. The storms of life pass harmless over the valley of Seclusion—dwell, dear lady, in the valley.
"Do this and I authorise you to fear nothing. No new calamity shall lacerate your sensibilities—sensibilities precious to me as my own. You shall not be molested, the fair companion of your retreat shall not be pursued. She has found a new asylum in your heart. Priceless asylum!—I envy her and leave her there.
"One last word of affectionate warning, of paternal caution, and I tear myself from the charm of addressing you—I close these fervent lines.
"Advance no farther than you have gone already, compromise no serious interests, threaten nobody. Do not, I implore you, force me into action—ME, the Man of Action—when it is the cherished object of my ambition to be passive, to restrict the vast reach of my energies and my combinations for your sake. If you have rash friends, moderate their deplorable ardour. If Mr. Hartright returns to England, hold no communication with him. I walk on a path of my own, and Percival follows at my heels. On the day when Mr. Hartright crosses that path, he is a lost man."
The only signature to these lines was the initial letter F, surrounded by a circle of intricate flourishes. I threw the letter on the table with all the contempt that I felt for it.
"He is trying to frighten you—a sure sign that he is frightened himself," I said.
She was too genuine a woman to treat the letter as I treated it. The insolent familiarity of the language was too much for her self-control. As she looked at me across the table, her hands clenched themselves in her lap, and the old quick fiery temper flamed out again brightly in her cheeks and her eyes.
"Walter!" she said, "if ever those two men are at your mercy, and if you are obliged to spare one of them, don't let it be the Count."
"I will keep this letter, Marian, to help my memory when the time comes."
She looked at me attentively as I put the letter away in my pocket-book.
"When the time comes?" she repeated. "Can you speak of the future as if you were certain of it?—certain after what you have heard in Mr. Kyrle's office, after what has happened to you to-day?"