bride of Argenfels, and Siegfried, the mighty slayer of
Nearly two doses of the antidote were still left. Who could say, looking at the future of such a life as hers, that she might not have some need of it yet--after it had already served her so well? Could she be sure, if she destroyed it, of remembering the instructions which specified the intervals at which the doses were to be given, the signs which signified recovery, and the length of time during which the vegetable diet was to be administered?
She read the first sentences again carefully.
"Antidote to Alexander's Wine. The fatal dose, in case of accident, is indicated by the notched slip of paper attached to the bottle. Two fluid drachms of the poison (more than enough to produce death) were accidentally taken in my experience. So gradual is the deadly effect that, after a delay of thirty-six hours before my attention was called to the case, the administration of the antidote proved successful. The doses are to be repeated----"
The remaining instructions, beginning with this last sentence, were not of a nature to excite suspicion. Taken by themselves, they might refer to nothing more remarkable than a remedy in certain cases of illness. First she thought of cutting off the upper part of the label: but the lines of the writing were so close together, that they would infallibly betray the act of mutilation. She opened her dressing-case and took from it a common-looking little paper-box, purchased at the chemist's, bearing the ambitious printed title of "Macula Exstinctor, or Destroyer of Stains"--being an ordinary preparation, in powder, for removing stains from dresses, ink-stains included. The printed directions stated that the powder, partially dissolved in water, might also be used to erase written characters without in any way injuring the paper, otherwise than by leaving a slight shine on the surface. By these means, Madame Fontaine removed the first four sentences on the label, and left the writing on it to begin harmlessly with the instructions for repeating the doses.
"Now I can trust you to refresh my memory without telling tales," she said to herself, when she put the label back in the chest. As for the recorded dose of the poison, she was not likely to forget that. It was her medicine-measuring glass, filled up to the mark of two drachms. Having locked the cupboard, and secured the key in her pocket, she was ready for the reception of Jack. Her watch told her that the half-hour's interval had more than expired. She opened the door of her room. There was no sign of him outside. She looked over the stairs, and called to him softly. There was no reply; the little man's sensitive dignity had evidently taken offense.
The one thing to be done (remembering all that she had to dread from the wanton exercise of Jack's tongue) was to soothe his ruffled vanity without further delay. There would be no difficulty in discovering him, if he had not gone out. Wherever his Mistress might be at the moment, there he was sure to be found.
Trying Mrs. Wagner's room first, without success, the widow descended to the ground floor and made her way to the offices. In the private room, formerly occupied by Mr. Engelman, David Glenney's aunt was working at her desk; and Jack Straw was perched on the old-fashioned window-seat, putting the finishing touches to Minna's new straw hat.
In the gloom thrown over the household by Mr. Engelman's death, Mrs. Wagner, with characteristic energy and good sense, had kept her mind closely occupied. During the office hours, she studied those details of the business at Frankfort which differed from the details of the business in London; and soon mastered them sufficiently to be able to fill the vacancy which Mr. Engelman had left. The position that he had held became, with all its privileges and responsibilities, Mrs. Wagner's position--claimed, not in virtue of her rank as directress of the London house, but in recognition of the knowledge that she had specially acquired to fit her for the post.
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