“It was very careless of me to forget it.”
“Yes, it was,” Patty assented, her heart beginning to throb violently.
“Thank you. And I have been looking for it high and low.”
Patty passed the bag to her enemy. How to begin, how to begin!
“Mrs. Haldene!” Patty’s voice was high-pitched and quavering.
“Why did you write this base letter to me!”—exhibiting the letter resolutely. “Do not deny that you wrote it. It smells of heliotrope—your favorite perfume.”
“Patty Bennington, are you mad?” cried Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene. “What letter? What do you mean?” She knew very well, but she had not practised the control of her nerves all these years for nothing. “A letter? I demand to see it.”
But Patty reconsidered and withdrew her hand, concluding that Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene could destroy the letter as easily as she had written it; more easily, had Patty but known it.
“I prefer to read it to you.” And Patty read, her tones sharp and penetrating, finely tempered by anger.
“I write such a thing as that? You accuse me of writing an anonymous letter of that caliber? You are mad, distinctly mad, and if I did what was right I should ask you to leave this house instantly.” Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene rose to her full height, after the manner of indignant persons on the stage.
Patty was not overcome in the least. An idea, bold, unconventional, and not over-scrupulous, shot into her head. With her eyes holding Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene’s, she stepped toward the desk; then, in a flash, she seized one of the sheets of note-paper that lay scattered about. Mrs. Franklyn Haldene made a desperate effort to intercept Patty; but Patty was young, slender and agile. She ran quickly to the nearest window and compared the written sheet with the blank. The paper and grain were the same, only one showed that the top had been cut off. There was no shadow of doubt.
“You are a horrible woman,” said Patty.
“Leave this house instantly!” Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene was now thoroughly alarmed.
“Not till you have proved the truth of this letter,” Patty declared.
“I refuse to submit to such gross insults in my own house!” Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene’s voice rose a key. She swept majestically toward the door.
Patty stepped bravely in front of her.
“Have you no breeding?” the storm in Mrs. Franklyn-Haldene’s voice gathering.
“Who told you that my brother’s wife was formerly—”
“I shall not leave this house or your presence till you have answered,” replied the little paladin. “You wrote this letter to me, trusting it would make me miserable. It has. But I have not done what you expected,—shown it. Who told you this base lie?”
“I refuse to answer your impudent questions. Will you stand aside?”
“There is a way to force you. I will know, Mrs. Haldene, I will know. If you refuse, I shall turn these two sheets over to my brother’s lawyers.”