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.A tailor.So that was where his money went—vain beggar.He must take a look through his wardrobe and see what his taste was.Expensive, according to the bill in his hand.A policeman who wanted to look like a gentleman! He laughed sharply: a ratcatcher with pretensions—was that what he was? A somewhat ridiculous figure.The thought hurt and he pushed it away with a black humor.In other drawers there were envelopes, notepaper, good quality—vanity again! Whom did he write to? There was also sealing wax, string, a paper knife and scissors, a number of minor items of convenience.It was not until me tenth drawer that he found the personal correspondence.They were all in the same hand, to judge from the formation of the letters a young person, or someone of slight education.Only one person wrote to him—or only one whose letters he had considered worth keeping.He opened the first, angry with himself that his hands were shaking.It was very simple, beginning "Dear William," full of homely news, and ending "your loving sister, Beth."He put it down, the round characters burning in front of him, dizzy and overwhelmed with excitement and relief, and perhaps a shadow of disappointment he forced away.He had a sister, there was someone who knew him, had always known him; more than that, who cared.He picked up the letter again quickly, almost tearing it in his clumsiness to reread it.It was gentle, frank, and yes, it was affectionate; it must be, one did not speak so openly to someone one did not trust, and care for.And yet there was nothing in it that was any kind of reply, no reference to anything he had written to her.Surely he did write? He could not have treated such a woman with cavalier disregard.What kind of a man was he? If he had ignored her, not written, then there must be a reason.How could he explain himself, justify anything, when he could not remember? It was like being accused, standing in the dock with no defense.It was long, painful moments before he thought to look for the address.When he did it came as a sharp, bewildering surprise—it was in Northumberland.He repeated it over and over to himself, aloud.It sounded familiar, but he could not place it.He had to go to the bookcase and search for an atlas to look it up.Even so he could not see it for several minutes.It was very small, a name in fine letters on the coast, a fishing village.A fishing village! What was his sister doing there? Had she married and gone there? The surname on the envelope was Bannerman.Or had he been born there, and then come south to London? He laughed sharply.Was that the key to his pretension? He was a provincial fisherman's son, with eyes on passing himself off as something better?When? When had he come?He realized with a shock he did not know how old he was.He still had not looked at himself in the glass.Why not? Was he afraid of it? What did it matter how a man looked? And yet he was trembling.He swallowed hard and picked up the oil lamp from the desk.He walked slowly into the bedroom and put the lamp on the dresser.There must be a glass there, at least big enough to shave himself.It was on a swivel; that was why he had not noticed it before, his eye had been on the silver brush.He set the lamp down and slowly tipped the glass.The face he saw was dark and very strong, broad, slightly aquiline nose, wide mouth, rather thin upper lip, lower lip fuller, with an old scar just below it, eyes intense luminous gray in the flickering light.It was a powerful face, but not an easy one.If there was humor it would be harsh, of wit rather than laughter.He could have been anything between thirty-five and forty-five.He picked up the lamp and walked back to the main room, finding the way blindly, his inner eye still seeingthe face that had stared back at him from the dim glass.It was not that it displeased him especially, but it was the face of a stranger, and not one easy to know.* * * * *The following day he made his decision.He would travel north to see his sister.She would at least be able to tell him his childhood, his family.And to judge from her letters, and the recent date of the last, she still held him in affection, whether he deserved it or not [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]