He read it eagerly. Whatever its message, it seemed a relief to him just then to know that his suspense was to be ended.
“My FRIEND,—I am suffering from a slight accident—you alone know the nature of it—and from a shock, the nature of which you cannot understand. I am better, but my doctor is an old woman. He insists upon sending me away. I am going—never mind where. It may be that we shall not meet again for some time. I want you to think of me, my dear Douglas, as kindly as you can. It seems to me that I am a very unfortunate woman. Those whom I would befriend usually end by regarding me as their worst enemy. Do not you also lose faith in me. Some day I shall return, and I hope to find you famous. Work at your novel, dedicate it, if no one who has more right to such an honour has come into your life, to me, and, whatever you do, remember that I am always your friend and that your success will be as dear to me as to yourself.
“EMILY DE REUSS.”
Precisely the moment when such a thought came to him, he could not say, but before he had finished reading his attention was partially distracted by a curious and instinctive conviction. He felt that he was not alone—that the solitude of his chamber, high up in the building and cut off, as it were, from the world, had been broken. He ceased reading, and although he was no coward he could feel his heart beating. He felt a strange reluctance to turn round. Then the silence was broken. Close to his left ear sounded the click of a revolver, and a man’s voice came to him from out of the shadows.
“Stand precisely as you are, Douglas Guest. If you turn your head, or take a single step towards me, you are a dead man.”
Douglas was not a coward, and the sound of a human voice dispelled in a moment the vague fears which had caused his heart to leap. He remained immovable.
“Under those circumstances,” he answered steadily, “I can assure you that I have not the slightest intention of moving. Who are you, and what do you want with me?”
A hard little laugh. Again the click of a revolver.
“I want from you several things. First of all, and most important, the address of the writer of that letter which you have just been reading.”
“That’s precisely,” Douglas said, “what I should like to know myself. The lady does not give it.”
“You are very near death, Douglas Guest. Her address?
“I am not in the habit of swearing,” Douglas answered, “but upon my oath it is not in this letter. Upon my oath I do not know it.”
He caught the sound of a sob, but when he would have turned his head there came again the sharp click of the revolver and an angry exclamation from his unseen adversary.
“Stand as you are. If by chance you should see my face I will shoot you. I have killed men before, and I have no love for you.”