I had won, but my triumph was but sackcloth and ashes in my mouth. I had won, but at what a cost! Ah, how I wished that I might live again the past few days! That I might never have started on my Path of Deception! Or that, since my intentions at the start had been so inocent, I had taken another photograph at the shop, which I had fancied considerably but had heartlessly rejected because of no mustache.
He was gone for a long time, and I sat and palpatated. For what if H. had returned early and found him and called in the Police?
But the latter had not occurred, for at ten minutes after one he came back, eutering by the window from a fire-escape, and much streaked with dirt.
“Narrow escape, dear child!” he observed, locking the window and drawing the shade. “Just as I got it, your—er—gentleman friend returned and fitted his key in the lock. I am not at all sure,” he said, wiping his hands with his handkerchief, “that he will not regard the open window as a suspicious circumstance. He may be of a low turn of mind. However, all’s well that ends here in this room. Here it is.”
I took it, and my heart gave a great leap of joy. I was saved.
“Now,” he said, “we’ll order a taxicab and get you home. And while it is coming suppose you tell me the thing over again. It’s not as clear to me as it ought to be, even now.”
So then I told him—about not being out yet, and Sis having flowers sent her, and her room done over, and never getting to bed until dawn. And that they treated me like a mere Child, which was the reason for everything, and about the Poem, which he considered quite good. And then about the Letter.
“I get the whole thing a bit clearer now,” he said. “Of course, it is still cloudy in places. The making up somebody to write to is understandable, under the circumstances. But it is odd to have had the very Person materialise, so to speak. It makes me wonder—well, how about burning the Letter, now we’ve got it? It would be better, I think. The way things have been going with you, if we don’t destroy it, it is likely to walk off into somebody else’s pocket and cause more trouble.”
So we burned it, and then the telephone rang and said the taxi was there.
“I’ll get my coat and be ready in a jiffey,” he said, “and maybe we can smuggle you into the house and no one the wiser. We’ll try anyhow.”
He went into the other room and I sat by the fire and thought. You remember that when I was planning Harold Valentine, I had imagined him with a small, dark mustache, and deep, passionate eyes? Well, this Mr. Grosvenor had both, or rather, all three. And he had the loveliest smile, with no dimple. He was, I felt, exactly the sort of man I could die for.
It was too tradgic that, with all the world to choose from, I had not taken him instead of H.
We walked downstairs, so as not to give the elevator boy a chance to talk, he said. But he was asleep again, and we got to the street and to the taxicab without being seen.