A consummate forger, too!
The thought stung me upright. Of course, if her story was a lie, she herself had written the note. Had Godfrey thought of that? Or was it Godfrey who was trying to throw dust in my eyes?
It was raining when I left my apartment at the Marathon that night—a cold and disagreeable drizzle—and the thought occurred to me as I turned up my coat collar and stepped into the cab I had summoned, that it was a somewhat foolhardy thing to be driving about the streets of New York with fifty thousand dollars in my hand bag. I glanced at the lights of the Tenderloin police station, just across the street, and thought for an instant of going over and asking for an escort. Then I sank back into the seat with a little laugh at my own nervousness.
“One-twenty West Twenty-third,” I said, as the cabman slammed the apron shut.
He nodded, spoke to his horse, and we were off.
The asphalt was gleaming with the rain, and a thin fog was in the air, which formed a nimbus around the street lamps and drew a veil before the shop windows. Far away I heard the rattle of the elevated and the never-ceasing hum of Sixth Avenue and Broadway, but, save for these reminders of the city’s life, the silence of the street was broken only by the click-clack of our horse’s hoofs.
We swung sharply around a corner, and then another. A moment later the cab drew up at the curb, and the driver sprang from his box.
“Here we are, sir,” he said, and as I stepped to the pavement, I saw the old Magnus house frowning down upon me.
I had never before seen it at night, and for the first time I really appreciated its gloomy situation. In its day it had been part of a fashionable residential district, of which it was now the only survival. It was of brownstone, with a flight of steps mounting steeply to the door, and stood back from the street at the bottom of a canon formed by the towering walls of the adjacent office buildings. Why any woman who could afford to live where she chose should choose to live here was a riddle past my solving.
Musing over this, I mounted the steps and rang the bell.
“I am Mr. Lester,” I said, to the maid who opened the door. “Mrs. Magnus is expecting me.”
She stood aside for me to enter, and as I passed I happened to glance at her face. It was that of a woman no longer young, and yet scarcely middle-aged; not a repulsive face; indeed, rather attractive in a way, except for a certain hardness of expression which told of lost illusions. And as she took my coat and hat, I noticed that the little finger of her left hand was missing.
“This way, sir,” she said, and motioned me into a room at the right. “Mrs. Magnus will be down in a minute.”
I heard her step recede along the hall, and then somewhere a clock struck eight. As the sound died away the rustle of skirts came down the stair, and Mrs. Magnus appeared in the doorway. Her panic of the morning had passed, and she was perfectly self-controlled.