While Bland was being driven to the station, Sylvia entered the room where Herbert lay, and handed him the letter.
“Captain Bland came in during the evening to see Stephen and sent you this,” she said. “He told me you were to do what you thought fit with it.”
Herbert perused the letter, and then reaching out with some difficulty, flung it into the fire.
“I’ve taken him at his word,” he said. “Have you read the thing?”
“No; I fear the details would have puzzled me; but I understand its general import. How was it your secretary was so careless?”
“The man’s smart enough, as a rule; but we all have our weak moments. This, however, is not the kind of thing that’s likely to lead to his advancement.” He lay quiet for a moment or two; and then went on: “I’m grateful to you. Had you much trouble in persuading Bland to let you have the letter?”
“No; he offered it voluntarily.”
“Then the man must have been desperately anxious to please you. It looks as if his condition were getting serious.”
“I resent coarseness,” exclaimed Sylvia.
“Oh,” he said, “you and I can face the truth. As West’s a lawyer, Bland’s visit to him is, of course, significant; the man knew that letter might have been worth something in hard cash to him, as well as affording him the satisfaction of making things hot for the directors of the company, among whom I was included. He would hardly have parted with it unless he had a strong inducement.”
“His motives don’t concern you,” retorted Sylvia.
“You ought to appreciate his action.”
“I appreciate it as sincerely as I do yours, because you must have shown that you didn’t want him to use the letter, though I’m inclined to think your motives were rather mixed; one could scarcely expect them all to be purely benevolent.”
Sylvia smiled. He was keen-witted and she found something amusing in the ironical good-humor which often characterized him.
“Anyhow,” he continued, “you’re a staunch and capable ally, and as that gives you a claim on me, you won’t find me reluctant to do my part whenever the time comes.”
Then Mrs. Lansing came in, and on the whole Sylvia was glad of the interruption. Herbert’s remarks were now and then unpleasantly suggestive. He had called her his ally, but she felt more like his accomplice, which was much less flattering.
AN OPPOSITION MOVE