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The Touchstone Edith Wharton

Chapter IV

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"But the man's dead, isn't he?"

"He's dead--yes; but can I assume the responsibility without--"

Flamel hesitated; and almost immediately Glennard's scruples gave way to irritation. If at this hour Flamel were to affect an inopportune reluctance--!

The older man's answer reassured him. "Why need you assume any responsibility? Your name won't appear, of course; and as to your friend's, I don't see why his should, either. He wasn't a celebrity himself, I suppose?"

"No, no."

"Then the letters can be addressed to Mr. Blank. Doesn't that make it all right?"

Glennard's hesitation revived. "For the public, yes. But I don't see that it alters the case for me. The question is, ought I to publish them at all?"

"Of course you ought to." Flamel spoke with invigorating emphasis. "I doubt if you'd be justified in keeping them back. Anything of Margaret Aubyn's is more or less public property by this time. She's too great for any one of us. I was only wondering how you could use them to the best advantage--to yourself, I mean. How many are there?"

"Oh, a lot; perhaps a hundred--I haven't counted. There may be more. . . ."

"Gad! What a haul! When were they written?"

"I don't know--that is--they corresponded for years. What's the odds?" He moved toward his hat with a vague impulse of flight.

"It all counts," said Flamel, imperturbably. "A long correspondence--one, I mean, that covers a great deal of time--is obviously worth more than if the same number of letters had been written within a year. At any rate, you won't give them to Joslin? They'd fill a book, wouldn't they?"

"I suppose so. I don't know how much it takes to fill a book."

"Not love-letters, you say?"

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"Why?" flashed from Glennard.

"Oh, nothing--only the big public is sentimental, and if they WERE--why, you could get any money for Margaret Aubyn's love-letters." Glennard was silent.

"Are the letters interesting in themselves? I mean apart from the association with her name?"

"I'm no judge." Glennard took up his hat and thrust himself into his overcoat. "I dare say I sha'n't do anything about it. And, Flamel--you won't mention this to anyone?"

"Lord, no. Well, I congratulate you. You've got a big thing." Flamel was smiling at him from the hearth.

Glennard, on the threshold, forced a response to the smile, while he questioned with loitering indifference--"Financially, eh?"

"Rather; I should say so."

Glennard's hand lingered on the knob. "How much--should you say? You know about such things."

"Oh, I should have to see the letters; but I should say--well, if you've got enough to fill a book and they're fairly readable, and the book is brought out at the right time--say ten thousand down from the publisher, and possibly one or two more in royalties. If you got the publishers bidding against each other you might do even better; but of course I'm talking in the dark."

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The Touchstone
Edith Wharton

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