Old spellings and word usages have been preserved, but obvious spelling and other typesetting mistakes in the original have been corrected. This edition was prepared and edited by Snazz eBooks. Original cover design and other original content of this edition are Copyright by Snazz eBooks. No reproduction by any means is allowed without permission. Here is an excerpt: Guernsey," replied Sark; "I am not a shopkeeper. Profit and loss concern me little, speculation is equally unattractive.
I came here to get away from people who buy and sell; I have no desire to increase my income, to invest any money, or to argue with you concerning my reasons or my private affairs.
The Cambric Mask: A Romance
I speak plainly because neither you nor Mr. Bevis Holroyd needed to ask no more, she was wretched, imprisoned in a mistake as a fly in amber; and those love letters? Was there another man? Sir Harry's car was announced; Bevis Holroyd, gliding over frozen roads to London, was absorbed with this sudden problem that, like a mountain out of a plain, had suddenly risen to confront him out of his level life.
The sight of Mollie he could not think of her by that sick man's name had roused in him tender memories and poignant emotions and the position in which he found her and his own juxtaposition to her and her husband had the same devastating effect on him as a mine sprung beneath the feet of an unwary traveller.
The Cambric Mask : Robert W Chambers :
London was deep in the whirl of a snow storm and the light that penetrated over the grey roof tops to the ugly slip of a laboratory at the back of his consulting rooms was chill and forbidding. Bevis Holroyd put the bottle of milk on a marble slab and sat back in the easy chair watching that dreary chase of snow flakes across the dingy London pane.
He was thinking of past springs, of violets long dead, of roses long since dust, of hours that had slipped away like lengths of golden silk rolled up, of the long ago when he had loved Mollie and Mollie had seemed to love him; then he thought of that man in the big bed who had said:. Late that afternoon Dr. Holroyd with his suit case and a professional bag, returned to Strangeways Manor House in Sir Harry's car; the bottle of cambric tea had gone to a friend, a noted analyst; somehow Doctor Holroyd had not felt able to do this task himself; he was very fortunate, he felt, in securing this old solitary and his promise to do the work before Christmas.
As he arrived at Strangeways Manor House which stood isolated and well away from a public high road where a lonely spur of the weald of Kent drove into the Sussex marshes, it was in a blizzard of snow that effaced the landscape and gave the murky outlines of the house an air of unreality, and Bevis Holroyd experienced that sensation he had so often heard of and read about, but which so far his cool mind had dismissed as a fiction.
He did really feel as if he was in an evil dream, as the snow changed the values of the scene, altering distances and shapes, so this meeting with Mollie, under these circumstances, had suddenly clanged the life of Bevis Holroyd.
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He had so resolutely and so definitely put this woman out of his life and mind, deliberately refusing to make enquiries about her, letting all knowledge of her cease with the letter in which she had written from India and announced her marriage. And now, after ten years, she had crossed his path in this ghastly manner, as a woman her husband accused of attempted murder.
The Cambric Mask : A Romance (Classic Reprint)
The sick man's words of a former lover disturbed him profoundly; was it himself who was referred to? Yet the love letters must be from another man for he had not corresponded with Mollie since her marriage, not for ten years. He had never felt any bitterness towards Mollie for her desertion of a poor, struggling doctor, and he had always believed in the integral nobility of her character under the timidity of conventionality; but the fact remained that she had played him false—what if that had been "the little rift within the lute" that had now indeed silenced the music!
With a sense of bitter depression he entered the gloomy old house; how different was this from the pleasant ordinary Christmas he had been rather looking forward to, the jolly homely atmosphere of good fare, dancing, and friends! When he had telephoned to these friends excusing himself his regret had been genuine and the cordial "bad luck! She was waiting for him in the hall that a pale young man was decorating with boughs of prickly stiff holly that stuck stiffly behind the dark heavy pictures. Yes, the patient had been seized by another violent attack of illness during Dr. Holroyd's absence, the young man went at once upstairs and found Sir Harry in a deep sleep and a rather nervous local doctor in attendance.
An exhaustive discussion of the case with this doctor threw no light on anything, and Dr. Holroyd, leaving in charge an extremely sensible looking housekeeper who was Sir Harry's preferred nurse, returned, worried and irritated, to the hall where Lady Strangeways now sat alone before the big fire. Holroyd sternly, and he wondered desperately if Mollie was lying, if she had invented this to drive him out of the house. Strangeways must be crazy to spread such a tale and if he doesn't know we are old friends it becomes nonsense!
Holroyd drew back; the love letters, the letters the husband had found, that were causing all his ugly suspicions. As if this note of pity was unendurable she rose impulsively, scattering the contents of her work basket, dropping the skein of silk and hastened away down the dark hall.
Bevis Holroyd stooped mechanically to pick up the hurled objects and saw among them a small white packet, folded, but opened at one end; this packet seemed to have fallen out of a needle case of gold silk. Bevis Holroyd had pounced on it and thrust it in his pocket just as the pale secretary returned with his thin arms most incongruously full of mistletoe. Holroyd," he said with the air of one who forces himself to make conversation.
Bevis Holroyd was bewildered; why did she tell the secretary what she did not tell her husband? Languidly hanging up his sprays and bunches of mistletoe the pallid young man, whose name was Garth Deane, continued his aimless remarks. Holroyd—I'm interested in Sir Harry's oriental work or I should not remain. Such a very unhappy marriage! I often think," he added regardless of Bevis Holroyd's darkling glance, "that it would be very unpleasant indeed for Lady Strangeways if anything happened to Sir Harry. Perhaps, thought the young man in anguish, the sick husband had been talking to this creature, perhaps the creature had really noticed something.
As Bevis Holroyd left the room he passed Lady Strangeways; she looked blurred, like a pastel drawing that has been shaken; the fingers she kept locked on her bosom; she had flung a silver fur over her shoulders that accentuated her ethereal look of blonde, pearl and amber hues. He is ill again—". She looked so ready to fall that he could not resist the temptation to put his hand protectingly on her arm, so that, as she stood in the low doorway leading to the stairs, he appeared to be supporting her drooping weight.
The secretary slipped out from the shadows behind them, his arms still full of winter evergreens. Bevis Holroyd went angrily upstairs, he felt as if an invisible net was being dragged closely round him, something that which, from being a cobweb would become a cable; this air of mystery, of horror in the big house, this sly secretary, these watchful looking servants, the nervous village doctor ready to credit anything, the lovely agitated woman who was the woman he had long so romantically loved, and the sinister sick man with his diabolic accusations, a man Bevis Holroyd had, from the first moment, hated—all these people in these dark surroundings affected the young man with a miasma of apprehension, gloom and dread.
After a few hours of it he was nearer to losing his nerve than he had ever been; that must be because of Mollie, poor darling Mollie caught into all this nightmare.
And outside the bells were ringing across the snow, practicing for Christmas Day; the sound of them was to Bevis Holroyd what the sounds of the real world are when breaking into a sleeper's thick dreams. Bevis Holroyd noticed, not for the first time since he had come into the fell atmosphere of this dark house that enclosed the piteous figure of the woman he loved, that husband and wife were telling different tales, on one side lay a burden of careful lying. He fell back in such a convulsion of pain that Bevis Holroyd forgot everything in administering to him.
The rest of that day and all that night the young doctor was shut up with his patient, assisted by the secretary and the housekeeper.
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And when, in the pallid light of Christmas Eve morning, he went downstairs to find Lady Strangeways he knew that the sick man was suffering from arsenic poison, that the packet taken from Mollie's work box was arsenic, and it was only an added horror when he was called to the telephone to learn that a stiff dose of the poison had been found in the specimen of cambric tea.
He believed that he could save the husband and thereby the wife also, but he did not think he could close the sick man's mouth, the deadly hatred of Sir Harry was leading up to an accusation of attempted murder; of that he was sure, and there was the man Deane to back him up.
He sent for Mollie who had not been near her husband all night, and when she came, pale, distracted, huddled in her white fur, he said grimly:. Bevis, they are your letters of the old days that I have always cherished. Your husband is being poisoned. She stared at him in blank incredulity, then she slipped forward in her chair and clutched the big arm. A light step behind them and they were aware of the secretary creeping out of the embrowning shadows. Find more at www. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy.
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