The Return HTML version

But the coolness and deliberation of his scrutiny, had to a certain extent calmed
Lawford's mind and given him confidence. Hitherto he had met the little difficulties of
life only to vanquish them with ease and applause. Now he was standing face to face with
the unknown. He burst out laughing, into a long, low, helpless laughter. Then he arose
and began to walk softly, swiftly, to and fro across the room--from wall to wall seven
paces, and at the fourth, that awful, unseen, brightly-lit profile passed as swiftly over the
tranquil surface of the looking-glass. The power of concentration was gone again. He
simply paced on mechanically, listening to a Babel of questions, a conflicting medley of
answers. But above all the confusion and turmoil of his brain, as a boatswain's whistle
rises above a storm, so sounded that same infinitesimal voice, incessantly repeating
another question now, 'What are you going to do? What are you going to do?'
And in the midst of this confusion, out of the infinite, as it were, came another sharp tap
at the door, and all within sank to utter stillness again.
'It's nearly half-past eight, Arthur; I can't wait any longer.'
Lawford cast a last fleeting look into the glass, turned, and confronted the closed door.
'Very well, Sheila, you shall not wait any longer.' He crossed over to the door, and
suddenly a swift crafty idea flashed into his mind.
He tapped on the panel. 'Sheila,' he said softly, 'I want you first, before you come in, to
get me something out of my old writing-desk in the smoking-room. Here is the key.' He
pushed a tiny key--from off the ring he carried--beneath the door. 'In the third little
drawer from the top, on the left side, is a letter; please don't say anything now. It is the
letter you wrote me, you will remember, after I had asked you to marry me. You
scribbled in the corner under your signature the initials "Y.S.O.A."--do you remember?
They meant, You Silly Old Arthur!--do you remember? Will you please get that letter at
'Arthur,' answered the voice from without, empty of all expression, 'what does all this
mean, this mystery, this hopeless nonsense about a silly letter? What has happened? Is
this a miserable form of persecution? Are you mad?--I refuse to get the letter.'
Lawford stooped, black and angular, against the door. 'I am not mad. Oh, I am in the
deadliest earnest, Sheila. You must get the letter, if only for your own peace of mind.' He
heard his wife hesitate as she turned. He heard a sob. And once more he waited.
'I have brought the letter,' came the low toneless voice again.
'Have you opened it?'