“Pshaw!” with the accustomed sharp, impatient contempt. “My mother knows no more about wine than a baby. To drink bad wine is absolutely to poison oneself. I can’t do it, and I don’t mean to let you do it, either. And when one knows that it is only a question of a few months, more or less, and that directly I get a better berth these greedy rascals will be paid their extortionate bills in full—positively, Castalia, it seems to me childish to talk 长沙桑拿都有什么 in that way!”

It was the same with one or two other suggestions of retrenchment she ventured to make. Algernon showed conclusively (conclusively enough to satisfy his hearer, at all events) that it would not do—that it would be absolutely imprudent, on their part, to make any open retrenchment. All these sharks would come round them at once, if they smelt poverty. “I know these gentry better than you do, Castalia,” said he. “There is no way of getting on with them except by not being in a hurry to pay them. Nothing spoils tradespeople so much as any over-alacrity of that kind. They immediately conclude that you can’t do without them!”

“Oh, they’re disgustingly impudent creatures, these Whitford tradespeople! There is no doubt in the world about that,” said Castalia, in perfect good faith. “Only I thought you seemed to be made uneasy by what Miss Bodkin said to you on the subject.”

“To be sure! But, my dear girl, your method would never answer! I do want money, very badly. And I do hope and expect—as I think I have some right to 长沙桑拿论坛贴吧 do—that my lord will assist us without delay, and without making one of his intolerable prosy preachments on the occasion. And we must have a few pounds to go on with, and stop the mouths of these rapacious rascals. But no retrenchment, Castalia! No ‘Blue Bell’ sherry! Good Heavens, it makes one bilious to think of it! I really cannot sacrifice my digestion to advance the commercial prosperity of Whitford. And when one 长沙桑拿推荐 considers it, why should we destroy our peace of mind by worrying ourselves? Lord Seely has got us into this scrape, and Lord Seely must get us out of it. Voilà tout!”

After that the rest of the evening was spent very harmoniously. Algernon could not repress two or three prodigious yawns, but he politely concealed them. And when Castalia went to her pianoforte, he woke up at the conclusion of an intricate fantasia quite in time to thank her for the performance, and to praise its brilliancy. In a word, so agreeable an evening, Castalia told herself, she had not passed for many weeks, although it had certainly begun in an unpromising way. So softened was she, indeed, by this gleam of happiness, that several times she was on the point of making a confession to her husband, and entreating his forgiveness. But she could not bear to risk bringing a cloud over the light of his countenance, which was the only sunshine in her life. “Ancram would be so angry!” was a thought that checked back words which were on her lips a dozen times. “And since the matter is all over, and he need never know anything about it, I may as well hold my tongue.”

It needed, however, no confession on Castalia’s part to convince Algernon that she had opened his secretaire, and


taken Minnie Bodkin’s letter thence, instead of having found it lying open on his table, as she had said. For on the next morning, when he entered his private room at the office, his first action was to try the little secretaire, which was unlocked. He then remembered that, after having secured that repository of his private papers, he had re-opened it, to throw Minnie’s note into a drawer of it; and, having been called away at that moment, must have forgotten to re-lock it.

“Damnably provoking!” muttered Algernon to himself as he stood looking at the little cabinet with gloomy, anxious brows. Then, having first bolted the door of his room, he made a thorough search throughout the secretaire. “Nothing disturbed! She probably flew off to Dr. Bodkin’s house directly after reading Minnie’s note; and that lay in the little empty


drawer right in front. It would be the first she opened.”

Then he sat down in a mighty comfortable armchair, which was placed in front of an official-looking desk, and meditated so deeply that he forgot to unbolt the door, and was roused by Mr. Gibbs tapping at it, and desiring to speak with him on business.
Mr. Gibbs’s errand was not a pleasant one. He came to speak to his chief of complaints that had reached the office as to lost and missing letters. The most serious case was that of a man living in the neighbourhood of Duckwell, who complained that a money letter had never reached him, although it had been posted in Bristol three weeks back. Some inquiries had previously been made, but without result. And now the Duckwell man declared he would make a fine fuss, and bring the matter before the very highest authorities, if his letter were not forthcoming.

“What does the bumpkin mean, Gibbs?” asked Algernon, impatiently tapping with his fingers on the desk before him.

“I’m afraid he’ll give us a deal of bother, sir,” returned Mr. Gibbs slowly. “And I can’t understand what has come of the letter. It’s very awkward.”

“Very awkward for him, if he really has lost his money. But I should not be surprised to learn that it never was posted at all.”

“Humph! I don’t know. He swears that the sender at Bristol can prove that it was posted.”

“And why the deuce do people go on sending bank-notes by post, without the least care or precaution? One must have been connected with a post-office in order fully to appreciate the imbecility of one’s fellow-creatures!”

“I don’t know that it was bank-notes, sir. It may have been a cheque.”

“Oh, depend upon it, it was whatever was stupidest to send, and most calculated to give trouble; if it was sent, that is to say! If it was sent!”

“I can’t call to mind such a thing happening for twenty years back; not in this office. But lately there seems to be no end to things going wrong.”

“Well, don’t distress yourself about it, Gibbs. I have full reliance on you in every way.”

“Oh no, sir! It is unpleasant, but I don’t know that I specially need distress 长沙桑拿水疗会所 myself about it.”

“Only because you have had the uncontrolled management of the office, Gibbs. And it is too bad, when one has worked so conscientiously as you have, to be worried by blundering bumpkins. I assure you, Gibbs, I am constantly singing your praises to Lord Seely. I tell him frankly, that if it were not for you, I don’t know in the least how I should fulfil my onerous duties here! When I’m removed from this place, the powers that be won’t have far to look for my successor.”