He drew from his coat a worn pocket-book, and from the pocket-book a letter. It was dated in New York in February, and though he knew it by heart he found a strange solace in the pain which it gave him to reread it. He stared at the monogram on the paper, which seemed so emblematic of her; for he had often reflected that her things--even such minute insignia as this--belonged to her. She impressed them not only with her taste, but with her character. The entwined letters, Y. F., of the design were not, he thought, of a meaningless, frivolous daintiness, but stood for something. Then he read the note again. It was only a note.
"MY DEAR MR. VANE: I have come back to find my mother ill, and I am taking her to France. We are sailing, unexpectedly, to-morrow, there being a difficulty about a passage later. I cannot refrain from sending you a line before I go to tell you that I did you an injustice. You will no doubt think it strange that I should write to you, but I shall be troubled until it is off my mind. I am ashamed to have been so stupid. I think I know now why you would not consent to be a candidate, and I respect you for it.
What did she know? What had she found out? Had she seen her father and talked to him? That was scarcely possible, since her mother had been ill and she had left at once. Austen had asked himself these questions many times, and was no nearer the solution. He had heard nothing of her since, and he told himself that perhaps it was better, after all, that she was still away. To know that she was at Fairview, and not to be able to see her, were torture indeed.
The note was formal enough, and at times he pretended to be glad that it was. How could it be otherwise? And why should he interpret her interest in him in other terms than those in which it was written? She had a warm heart--that he knew; and he felt for her sake that he had no right to wish for more than the note expressed. After several unsuccessful attempts; he had answered it in a line, "I thank you, and I understand."
THE "BOOK OF ARGUMENTS" IS OPENED
The Honourable Hilary Vane returned that day from Fairview in no very equable frame of mind. It is not for us to be present at the Councils on the Palatine when the "Book of Arguments" is opened, and those fitting the occasion are chosen and sent out to the faithful who own printing- presses and free passes. The Honourable Hilary Vane bore away from the residence of his emperor a great many memoranda in an envelope, and he must have sighed as he drove through the leafy roads for Mr. Hamilton Tooting, with his fertile mind and active body. A year ago, and Mr. Tooting would have seized these memoranda of majesty, and covered their margins with new suggestions: Mr. Tooting, on occasions, had even made additions to the "Book of Arguments" itself--additions which had been used in New York and other States with telling effect against Mr. Crewes there. Mr. Tooting knew by heart the time of going to press of every country newspaper which had passes (in exchange for advertising!). It was two o'clock when the Honourable Hilary ,reached his office, and by three all the edicts would have gone forth, and the grape-shot and canister would have been on their way to demolish the arrogance of this petty Lord of Leith..
"Tooting's a dangerous man, Vane. You oughtn't to have let him go," Mr. Flint had said. "I don't care a snap of my finger for the other fellow."
How Mr. Tooting's ears would have burned, and how his blood would have sung with pride to have heard himself called dangerous by the president of the Northeastern!