V.3. The Purple Flask
The cab was waiting at the gates as Miss Gwilt approached the Sanitarium. Mr.
Bashwood got out and advanced to meet her. She took his arm and led him aside a
few steps, out of the cabman's hearing.
"Think what you like of me," she said, keeping her thick black veil down over her
face, "but don't speak to me to-night. Drive back to your hotel as if nothing had
happened. Meet the tidal train to-morrow as usual, and come to me afterward at
the Sanitarium. Go without a word, and I shall believe there is one man in the
world who really loves me. Stay and ask questions, and I shall bid you good-by at
once and forever!"
She pointed to the cab. In a minute more it had left the Sanitarium and was taking
Mr. Bashwood back to his hotel.
She opened the iron gate and walked slowly up to the house door. A shudder ran
through her as she rang the bell. She laughed bitterly. "Shivering again!" she said
to herself. "Who would have thought I had so much feeling left in me?"
For once in her life the doctor's face told the truth, when the study door opened
between ten and eleven at night, and Miss Gwilt entered the room.
"Mercy on me!" he exclaimed, with a look of the blankest bewilderment. "What
does this mean?"
"It means," she answered, "that I have decided to-night instead of deciding to-
morrow. You, who know women so well, ought to know that they act on impulse.
I am here on an impulse. Take me or leave me, just as you like."
"Take you or leave you?" repeated the doctor, recovering his presence of mind.
"My dear lady, what a dreadful way of putting it! Your room shall be got ready
instantly! Where is your luggage? Will you let me send for it? No? You can do
without your luggage tonight? What admirable fortitude! You will fetch it
yourself to-morrow? What extraordinary independence! Do take off your bonnet.
Do draw in to the fire! What can I offer you?"
"Offer me the strongest sleeping draught you ever made in your life," she replied.
"And leave me alone till the time comes to take it. I shall be your patient in
earnest!" she added, fiercely, as the doctor attempted to remonstrate. "I shall be
the maddest of the mad if you irritate me to-night!"
The Principal of the Sanitarium became gravely and briefly professional in an
"Sit down in that dark corner," he said. "Not a soul shall disturb you. In half an
hour you will find your room ready, and your sleeping draught on the table."--"It's
been a harder struggle for her than I anticipated," he thought, as he left the room,
and crossed to his Dispensary on the opposite side of the hall. "Good heavens,
what business has she with a conscience, after such a life as hers has been!"
The Dispensary was elaborately fitted up with all the latest improvements in
medical furniture. But one of the four walls of the room was unoccupied by
shelves, and here the vacant space was filled by a handsome antique cabinet of
carved wood, curiously out of harmony, as an object, with the unornamented