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|The Touchstone||Edith Wharton|
|Page 3 of 4||
"Simple enough--your offering me money in return for a friendly service? I don't know what your other friends expect!"
"Some of my friends wouldn't have undertaken the job. Those who would have done so would probably have expected to be paid."
He lifted his eyes to Flamel and the two men looked at each other. Flamel had turned white and his lips stirred, but he held his temperate note. "If you mean to imply that the job was not a nice one, you lay yourself open to the retort that you proposed it. But for my part I've never seen, I never shall see, any reason for not publishing the letters."
"That's just it!"
"The certainty of your not seeing was what made me go to you. When a man's got stolen goods to pawn he doesn't take them to the police-station."
"Stolen?" Flamel echoed. "The letters were stolen?"
Glennard burst into a coarse laugh. "How much longer to you expect me to keep up that pretence about the letters? You knew well enough they were written to me."
Flamel looked at him in silence. "Were they?" he said at length. "I didn't know it."
"And didn't suspect it, I suppose," Glennard sneered.
The other was again silent; then he said, "I may remind you that, supposing I had felt any curiosity about the matter, I had no way of finding out that the letters were written to you. You never showed me the originals."
"What does that prove? There were fifty ways of finding out. It's the kind of thing one can easily do."
Flamel glanced at him with contempt. "Our ideas probably differ as to what a man can easily do. It would not have been easy for me."
Glennard's anger vented itself in the words uppermost in his thought. "It may, then, interest you to hear that my wife DOES know about the letters--has known for some months. . . ."
"Ah," said the other, slowly. Glennard saw that, in his blind clutch at a weapon, he had seized the one most apt to wound. Flamel's muscles were under control, but his face showed the undefinable change produced by the slow infiltration of poison. Every implication that the words contained had reached its mark; but Glennard felt that their obvious intention was lost in the anguish of what they suggested. He was sure now that Flamel would never have betrayed him; but the inference only made a wider outlet for his anger. He paused breathlessly for Flamel to speak.
"If she knows, it's not through me." It was what Glennard had waited for.
"Through you, by God? Who said it was through you? Do you suppose I leave it to you, or to anybody else, for that matter, to keep my wife informed of my actions? I didn't suppose even such egregious conceit as yours could delude a man to that degree!" Struggling for a foothold in the small landslide of his dignity, he added, in a steadier tone, "My wife learned the facts from me."
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