Mrs. Wagner was still hard at work at her desk, when Jack Straw made his appearance
again in the private office.
"Where have you been all this time?" she asked. "And what have you done with your new
"I threw them at Madame Fontaine," Jack answered. "Don't alarm yourself. I didn't hit
Mrs. Wagner laid down her pen, smiling. "Even business must give way to such an
extraordinary event as this," she said. "What has gone wrong between you and Madame
Jack entered into a long rambling narrative of what he had heard on the subject of the
wonderful remedy, and of the capricious manner in which a supply of it had been first
offered to him, and then taken away again. "Turn it over in your own mind," he said
grandly, "and tell me what your opinion is, so far."
"I think you had better let Madame Fontaine keep her medicine in the cupboard," Mrs.
Wagner answered; "and when you want anything of that sort, mention it to me." The
piece of cake which Jack had brought away with him attracted her attention, as she spoke.
Had he bought it himself? or had he carried it off from the housekeeper's room? "Does
that belong to you, or to Madame Fontaine?" she asked. "Anything that belongs to
Madame Fontaine must be taken back to her."
"Do you think I would condescend to take anything that didn't belong to me?" said Jack
indignantly. He entered into another confused narrative, which brought him, in due
course of time, to the dropping of the key and the picking of it up. "I happened to read
'Pink-Room Cupboard' on the handle," he proceeded; "and when I asked what it meant
she called me a fool, and snatched the key out of my hand. Do you suppose I was going
to wear her gloves after that? No! I am as capable of self-sacrifice as any of you--I acted
nobly--I threw them at her. Wait a bit! You may laugh at that, but there's something
terrible to come. What do you think of a furious person who insults me, suddenly turning
into a funny person who shakes hands with me and bursts out laughing? She did that. On
the honor of a gentleman, she did that. Follow my wise example; keep out of her way--
and let's get back to London as soon as we can. Oh, I have got a reason for what I say.
Just let me look through the keyhole before I mention it. All right; there's nobody at the
keyhole; I may say it safely. It's a dreadful secret to reveal--Mrs. Housekeeper is mad!
No, no; there can be no possible mistake about it. If there's a creature living who
thoroughly understands madness when he sees it--by Heaven, I'm that man!"
Watching Jack attentively while he was speaking. Mrs. Wagner beckoned to him to come
nearer, and took him by the hand.
"No more now," she said quietly; "you are beginning to get a little excited."