The Law and the Lady
10. The Search
THE fire burning in the grate was not a very large one; and the outer air (as I had noticed
on my way to the house) had something of a wintry sharpness in it that day.
Still, my first feeling, when Major Fitz-David left me, was a feeling of heat and
oppression, with its natural result, a difficulty in breathing freely. The nervous agitation
of the time was, I suppose, answerable for these sensations. I took off my bonnet and
mantle and gloves, and opened the window for a little while. Nothing was to be seen
outside but a paved courtyard, with a skylight in the middle, closed at the further end by
the wall of the Major's stables. A few minutes at the window cooled and refreshed me. I
shut it down again, and took my first step on the way of discovery. In other words, I
began my first examination of the four walls around me, and of all that they inclosed.
I was amazed at my own calmness. My interview with Major Fitz-David had, perhaps,
exhausted my capacity for feeling any strong emotion, for the time at least. It was a relief
to me to be alone; it was a relief to me to begin the search. Those were my only
sensations so far.
The shape of the room was oblong. Of the two shorter walls, one contained the door in
grooves which I have already mentioned as communicating with the front room; the other
was almost entirely occupied by the broad window which looked out on the courtyard.
Taking the doorway wall first, what was there, in the shape of furniture, on either side of
it? There was a card-table on either side. Above each card-table stood a magnificent
china bowl placed on a gilt and carved bracket fixed to the wall.
I opened the card-tables. The drawers beneath contained nothing but cards, and the usual
counters and markers. With the exception of one pack, the cards in both tables were still
wrapped in their paper covers exactly as they had come from the shop. I examined the
loose pack, card by card. No writing, no mark of any kind, was visible on any one of
them. Assisted by a library ladder which stood against the book-case, I looked next into
the two china bowls. Both were perfectly empty. Was there anything more to examine on
that side of the room? In the two corners there were two little chairs of inlaid wood, with
red silk cushions. I turned them up and looked under the cushions, and still I made no
discoveries. When I had put the chairs back in their places my search on one side of the
room was complete. So far I had found nothing.
I crossed to the opposite wall, the wall which contained the window.
The window (occupying, as I have said, almost the entire length and height of the wall)
was divided into three compartments, and was adorned at their extremity by handsome
curtains of dark red velvet. The ample heavy folds of the velvet left just room at the two
corners of the wall for two little upright cabinets in buhl, containing rows of drawers, and
supporting two fine bronze productions (reduced in size) of the Venus Milo and the