“It may make a difference,” said Sylvia brokenly, not lifting her head; “it may make a great deal of difference. That’s why I speak of it; that’s why I must know!”
“Go on, Daniel; answer Sylvia’s question.”
“Mr. Fitch gave it to me. It had been entrusted to him for delivery by a personal friend or a client: I never knew. He assured me that he had no idea what the letter contained; but he knew of course where it came from. He chose me for the errand, I suppose, because I was a new man in the office, and a comparative stranger in town. I remember that he asked me if I had ever been in Montgomery, as though to be sure I had no acquaintances there. I carried back a verbal answer—which was stipulated in the letter. The answer was ‘No,’ and in what way Mr. Fitch passed it on to his client I never knew.”
“You didn’t tell me those things when we found the letter, Daniel,” said Mrs. Owen reproachfully.
The old lady opened a drawer, found a chamois skin, and polished her glasses slowly. Dan walked away as though to escape from that figure with averted face crouching by the fire. But without moving Sylvia spoke again, with a monotonous level of tone, and her question had the empty ring of a lawyer’s interrogatory worn threadbare by repetition to a succession of witnesses:—
“At that time was Mr. Bassett among the clients of Wright and Fitch, and did you ever see him in the office then, or at any time?”
Mrs. Owen closed the drawer deliberately and raised her eyes to Dan’s affrighted gaze.
“Daniel, you’d better run along now. Sylvia’s going to spend the night here.”
Sylvia had not moved or spoken again when the outer door closed on Harwood.
“MY BEAUTIFUL ONE”
Miss Farrell was surprised to find her employer already in his office when she unlocked the door at eight o’clock the next morning, and her surprise was increased when Harwood, always punctilious in such matters, ignored the good-morning with which she greeted him. The electric lights over Dan’s desk were burning, a fact not lost upon his stenographer. It was apparent that Harwood had either spent the night in his office or had gone to work before daylight. Rose’s eyes were as sharp as her wits, and she recognized at a glance the file-envelopes and papers relating to the Kelton estate, many of them superscribed in her own hand, that lay on Harwood’s desk.
She snapped off the lights with an air that implied reproof, or could not have failed of that effect if the man at the desk had been conscious of the act. He was hopelessly distraught and his face appeared no less pallid in daylight than in the electric glare in which Rose had found him. As the girl warmed her hands at the radiator in the reception room the telephone chimed cheerily. The telephone provides a welcome companionship for the office girl: its importunities and insolences are at once her delight and despair. Rose took down the receiver with relief. She parleyed guardedly with an unseen questioner and addressed Harwood from the door in the cautious, apologetic tone with which wise office girls break in upon the meditations of their employers.