How long she would have continued to rage at Lady Agnes it is impossible to say, for the invalid, with the artificial strength of furious anger, sprang from his chair to turn her out of the room. Chaldea dodged him in the alert way of a wild animal.
“That’s no love-embrace, my rye,” she jibed, retreating swiftly. “Later, later, when the moon rises, my angel,” and she slipped deftly through the door with a contemptuous laugh. Lambert would have followed, but that Agnes caught his arm, and with tears in her eyes implored him to remain.
“But what can we do in the face of such danger?” she asked him when he was quieter, and breaking down, she sobbed bitterly.
“We must meet it boldly. Silver has the forged letter: he must be arrested.”
“But the scandal, Noel. Dare we—”
“Agnes, you are innocent: I am innocent. Innocence can dare all things.”
Both sick, both troubled, both conscious of the dark clouds around them, they looked at one another in silence. Then Lambert repeated his words with conviction, to reassure himself as much as to comfort her.
“Innocence can dare all things,” said Lambert, positively.
A friend in need.
It was natural that Lambert should talk of having Silver arrested, as in the first flush of indignation at his audacious attempt to levy blackmail, this appeared the most reasonable thing to do. But when Agnes went back to The Manor, and the sick man was left alone to struggle through a long and weary night, the reaction suggested a more cautious dealing with the matter. Silver was a venomous little reptile, and if brought before a magistrate would probably produce the letter which he offered for sale at so ridiculous a price. If this was made public, Agnes would find herself in an extremely unpleasant position. Certainly the letter was forged, but that would not be easy to prove. And even if it were proved and Agnes cleared her character, the necessary scandal connected with the publicity of such a defence would be both distressing and painful. In wishing to silence Silver, and yet avoid the interference of the police, Lambert found himself on the horns of a dilemma.
Having readjusted the situation in his own mind, Lambert next day wrote a lengthy letter to Agnes, setting forth his objections to drastic measures. He informed her—not quite truthfully—that he hoped to be on his feet in twenty-four hours, and then would personally attend to the matter, although he could not say as yet what he intended to do. But five out of the seven days of grace allowed by the blackmailer yet remained, and much could be done in that time. “Return to town and attend to your own and to your brother’s affairs as usual,” concluded the letter. “All matters connected with Silver can be left in my hands, and should he attempt to see you in the meantime, refer him to me.” The epistle ended with the intimation that Agnes was not to worry, as the writer would take the whole burden on his own shoulders. The widow felt more cheerful after this communication, and went back to her town house to act as her lover suggested. She had every belief in Lambert’s capability to deal with the matter.