‘No,’ she replied, despondently. ’It’s I that ought to thank you. But I never shall—never. I only understand you now and then— just for an hour—and all the selfishness comes back again. It’ll be the same till I’m dead.’
He put out the lamp and followed her upstairs. His limbs ached; he could scarcely drag one leg after the other. Never mind; the battle was gained once more.
’The poisoning business startled me. I shouldn’t at all wonder if I had a precious narrow squeak of something of the kind myself before I took my departure; in fact, a sort of fear of the animal made me settle things as sharp as I could. Let me know the result of the trial. Wonder whether there’ll be any disagreeable remarks about a certain acquaintance of yours, detained abroad on business? Better send me newspapers—same name and address. . . . But I’ve something considerably more important to think about. . . . A big thing; I scarcely dare tell you how big. I stand to win $2,000,000! . . . Not a soul outside suspects the ring. When I tell you that R.S.N. is in it, you’ll see that I’ve struck the right ticket this time. . . . Let me hear about Jane. If all goes well here, and you manage that little business, you shall have $100,000, just for house-furnishing, you know. I suppose you’ll have your partnership in a few months?’
Extracts from a letter, with an American stamp, which Mr. Scawthorne read as he waited for his breakfast. It was the end of October, and cool enough to make the crackling fire grateful. Having mused over the epistle, our friend took up his morning paper and glanced at the report of criminal trials. Whilst he was so engaged his landlady entered, carrying a tray of appetising appearance.
‘Good-morning, Mrs. Byass,’ he said, with much friendliness. Then, in a lower voice, ’There’s a fuller report here than there was in the evening paper. Perhaps you looked at it?’
‘Well, yes, sir; I thought you wouldn’t mind,’ replied Bessie, arranging the table.
‘She’ll be taken care of or three years, at all events.’
’If you’d seen her that day she came here after Miss Snowdon, you’d understand how glad I feel that she’s out of the way. I’m sure I’ve been uneasy ever since. If ever there comes a rather loud knock at—there I begin to tremble; I do indeed. I don’t think I shall ever get over it.’
‘I dare say Miss Snowdon will be easier in mind?’
’I shouldn’t wonder. But she won’t say anything about it. She feels the disgrace so much, and I know it’s almost more than she can do to go to work, just because she thinks they talk about her.’
’Oh, that’ll very soon pass over. There’s always something new happening, and people quickly forget a case like this.’
Bessie withdrew, and her lodger addressed himself to his breakfast.