The closet was empty.
Rosalie crept upstairs to her own room. When she lit the gas, she was crying softly and—as of old habit under emotional stress—talking to herself under her breath.
“I had to do it,” she whispered. “He’d believe nothin’ but his eyes!”
She sat down then, and surveyed her belongings. “The job’s over. What whelps it makes people—just to touch this business!”
Blake rose from a night of protracted, dull suffering; of quick rages; of hideous, unrelieved despairs. When the day came and the city roared about him again, the habits of life reasserted themselves. He rose, dressed, sent for coffee, gained the pathetic victory of swallowing it. His face, seared by all the inner fires of that night, settled now to a look of steel resolution. He rose from his coffee, opened his desk and wrote this note:
MY DEAR MME. LE GRANGE:
I understand perfectly your motive in asking me to invade a private house and peep through a keyhole. It was the only thing which would have disillusioned me. Had you told me this, I would not have believed you. Though it was harsh treatment, I thank you. I enclose a check for a hundred dollars, payment two weeks in advance for your services, which I shall need no longer. You did your job well. You will understand, I think, that I do not reflect on you when I ask you never to see me again. You would recall something which I shall try for the rest of my life to forget.
WALTER H. BLAKE.
P.S. Do as you please
about this—but I should prefer you to give
Mrs. Markham the customary notice.
As he sealed the letter and put on his hat that he might go to post it with his own hands, he had the look of a man who has settled everything and for life. But the clanging lid of the letter box had no sooner closed than the look of resolution began to leave his face. For two hours, he paced the streets of Manhattan. He found himself at length apostrophizing a brick wall, “Who could believe it?” And again, to a lamp-post, “I can’t believe it!” And again, “She made her!” He wheeled on this, turned into a drug store, shut himself into the telephone booth, and called up the Markham house.
After an eternal minute, he was answered in Annette’s own deep, thrilling contralto:
He paused, controlled his voice, and plunged in:
“Miss Markham, this is Dr. Blake. Please don’t go away from the telephone. You owe it to me to listen—”
“I shall listen—”
“Very well. You will remember that I have respected your wishes about keeping away from you. I do not want to make you any trouble. But something has happened in which you are concerned, and which makes it imperative that I should speak to you face to face for five minutes—”