There was a moment's silence
; then Mrs. Ansley rejoined: "Did they? It was all so long ago."
"Yes. And you got well again - so it didn't matter. But I suppose it struck your friends - the reason given for your illness. I mean - because everybody knew you were so prudent on account of your throat, and your mother took such care of you. . . . You had been out late sightseeing, hadn't you, that night"
"Perhaps I had. The most prudent girls aren't always prudent. What made you think of it now?"
Mrs. Slade seemed to have no answer ready. But after a moment she broke out: "Because I simply can't bear it any longer!"
Mrs. Ansley lifted her head quickly. Her eyes were wide and very pale. "Can't bear what?"
"Why - your not knowing that I've always known why you went."
"Why I went?"
"Yes. You think I'm bluffing, don't you? Well, you went to meet the man I was engaged to - and I can repeat every word of the letter that took you there."
While Mrs. Slade spoke Mrs. Ansley had risen unsteadily to her feet. Her bag, her knitting and gloves, slid in a panic-stricken heap to the ground. She looked at Mrs. Slade as though she were boking at a ghost.
"No, no - don't," she faltered out.
"Why not? Listen, if you don't believe me. 'My one darling, things can't go on like this. I must see you alone. Come to the Colosseum immediately after dark tomorrow. There will be somebody to let you in. No one whom you need fear will suspect' - but perhaps you've forgotten what the letter said?"
Mrs. Ansley met the challenge with an unexpected composure. Steadying herself against the chair she looked at her friend, and replied, "No; I know it by heart too."
"And the signature? 'Only your D.S.' Was that it? I'm right, am I? That was the letter that took you out that evening after dark?"
Mrs. Ansley was still looking at her. It seemed to Mrs. Slade that a slow struggle was going on behind the voluntarily controlled mask of her small quiet face. "I shouldn't have thought she had herself so well in hand," Mrs. Slade reflected, almost resentfully. But at this moment Mrs. Ansley spoke. "I don't know how you knew. I burned that letter at once."
"Yes; you would, naturally - you're so prudent!" The sneer was open now. "And if you burned the letter you're wondering how on earth I know what was in it. That's it, isn't it?"
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