Agnes handed back the letters--so suggestive of the penalty paid already for his own infatuation by the man who had deserted her!-- with feelings of shame and distress, which made her no fit counsellor for the helpless woman who depended on her advice.
'The one thing I can suggest,' she said, after first speaking some kind words of comfort and hope, 'is that we should consult a person of greater experience than ours. Suppose I write and ask my lawyer (who is also my friend and trustee) to come and advise us to-morrow after his business hours?'
Emily eagerly and gratefully accepted the suggestion. An hour was arranged for the meeting on the next day; the correspondence was left under the care of Agnes; and the courier's wife took her leave.
Weary and heartsick, Agnes lay down on the sofa, to rest and compose herself. The careful nurse brought in a reviving cup of tea. Her quaint gossip about herself and her occupations while Agnes had been away, acted as a relief to her mistress's overburdened mind. They were still talking quietly, when they were startled by a loud knock at the house door. Hurried footsteps ascended the stairs. The door of the sitting-room was thrown open violently; the courier's wife rushed in like a mad woman. 'He's dead! They've murdered him!' Those wild words were all she could say. She dropped on her knees at the foot of the sofa--held out her hand with something clasped in it--and fell back in a swoon.
The nurse, signing to Agnes to open the window, took the necessary measures to restore the fainting woman. 'What's this?' she exclaimed. 'Here's a letter in her hand. See what it is, Miss.'
The open envelope was addressed (evidently in a feigned hand-writing) to 'Mrs. Ferrari.' The post-mark was 'Venice.' The contents of the envelope were a sheet of foreign note-paper, and a folded enclosure.
On the note-paper, one line only was written. It was again in a feigned handwriting, and it contained these words:
'To console you for the loss of your husband'
Agnes opened the enclosure next.
It was a Bank of England note for a thousand pounds.