“No, no, my friend, I will not take a tonic. It’s only a good sleep I want; and I’ll get that to-night. But I give my word, if I’m not all right to-morrow, if I don’t sleep, I’ll send to you and take your tonic gladly.”
“I promise, my dear Mappin.”
The great man beamed again: and he really was solicitous for his new-found friend.
“Very well, very well—Stafford,” he replied. “It shall be as you say. Good-bye, or, rather, au revoir!”
“A la bonne heure!” was the hearty response, as the door opened for the great surgeon’s exit.
When the door was shut again, and Stafford was alone, he staggered over to the writing-desk. Opening the blotter, he took something up carefully and looked at it with a sardonic smile.
“You did your work quite well,” he said, reflectively.
It was such a needle as he had seen at Glencader in Mr. Mappin’s hand. He had picked it up in Adrian Fellowes’ room.
“I wonder who used you,” he said in a hard voice. “I wonder who used you so well. Was it—was it Jasmine?”
With a trembling gesture he sat down, put the needle in a drawer, locked it, and turned round to the fire again.
“Was it Jasmine?” he repeated, and he took from his pocket the letter which Lady Tynemouth had given him. For a moment he looked at it unopened—at the beautiful, smooth handwriting so familiar to his eyes; then he slowly broke the seal, and took out the closely written pages.
“Ian, oh, Ian, what strange and dreadful things you have written to me!” Jasmine’s letter ran—the letter which she told him she had written on that morning when all was lost. “Do you realize what you have said, and, saying it, have you thought of all it means to me? You have tried to think of what is best, I know, but have you thought of me? When I read your letter first, a flood of fire seemed to run through my veins; then I became as though I had been dipped in ether, and all the winds of an arctic sea were blowing over me.
“To go with you now, far away from the world in which we live and in which you work, to begin life again, as you say—how sweet and terrible and glad it would be! But I know, oh, I know myself and I know you! I am like one who has lived forever. I am not good, and I am not foolish, I am only mad; and the madness in me urges me to that visionary world where you and I could live and work and wander, and be content with all that would be given us—joy, seeing, understanding, revealing, doing.
“But Ian, it is only a visionary world, that world of which you speak. It does not exist. The overmastering love, the desire for you that is in me, makes for me the picture as it is in your mind; but down beneath all, the woman in me, the everlasting woman, is sure there is no such world.