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Desperate Remedies

19. The Events Of A Day And Night
Next morning the steward went out as usual. He shortly told his companion,
Anne, that he had almost matured their scheme, and that they would enter upon
the details of it when he came home at night. The fortunate fact that the rector's
letter did not require an immediate answer would give him time to consider.
Anne Seaway then began her duties in the house. Besides daily superintending
the cook and housemaid one of these duties was, at rare intervals, to dust
Manston's office with her own hands, a servant being supposed to disturb the
books and papers unnecessarily. She softly wandered from table to shelf with the
duster in her hand, afterwards standing in the middle of the room, and glancing
around to discover if any noteworthy collection of dust had still escaped her.
Her eye fell upon a faint layer which rested upon the ledge of an old-fashioned
chestnut cabinet of French Renaissance workmanship, placed in a recess by the
fireplace. At a height of about four feet from the floor the upper portion of the
front receded, forming the ledge alluded to, on which opened at each end two
small doors, the centre space between them being filled out by a panel of similar
size, making the third of three squares. The dust on the ledge was nearly on a
level with the woman's eye, and, though insignificant in quantity, showed itself
distinctly on account of this obliquity of vision. Now opposite the central panel,
concentric quarter-circles were traced in the deposited film, expressing to her
that this panel, too, was a door like the others; that it had lately been opened,
and had skimmed the dust with its lower edge.
At last, then, her curiosity was slightly rewarded. For the right of the matter was
that Anne had been incited to this exploration of Manston's office rather by a wish
to know the reason of his long seclusion here, after the arrival of the rector's
letter, and their subsequent discourse, than by any immediate desire for
cleanliness. Still, there would have been nothing remarkable to Anne in this sight
but for one recollection. Manston had once casually told her that each of the two
side-lockers included half the middle space, the panel of which did not open, and
was only put in for symmetry. It was possible that he had opened this
compartment by candlelight the preceding night, or he would have seen the
marks in the dust, and effaced them, that he might not be proved guilty of telling
her an untruth. She balanced herself on one foot and stood pondering. She
considered that it was very vexing and unfair in him to refuse her all knowledge
of his remaining secrets, under the peculiar circumstances of her connection with
him. She went close to the cabinet. As there was no keyhole, the door must be
capable of being opened by the unassisted hand. The circles in the dust told her
at which edge to apply her force. Here she pulled with the tips of her fingers, but