The Circular Staircase (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 3

I had dinner served in the breakfast-room. Somehow the huge
dining-room depressed me, and Thomas, cheerful enough all day, allowed
his spirits to go down with the sun. He had a habit of watching the
corners of the room, left shadowy by the candles on the table, and
altogether it was not a festive meal.

Dinner over I went into the living-room. I had three hours before the
children could possibly arrive, and I got out my knitting. I had
brought along two dozen pairs of slipper soles in assorted sizes--I
always send knitted slippers to the Old Ladies' Home at Christmas--and
now I sorted over the wools with a grim determination not to think
about the night before. But my mind was not on my work: at the end of
a half-hour I found I had put a row of blue scallops on Eliza
Klinefelter's lavender slippers, and I put them away.

I got out the cuff-link and went with it to the pantry. Thomas was
wiping silver and the air was heavy with tobacco smoke. I sniffed and
looked around, but there was no pipe to be seen.

"Thomas," I said, "you have been smoking."

"No, ma'm." He was injured innocence itself. "It's on my coat, ma'm.
Over at the club the gentlemen--"

But Thomas did not finish. The pantry was suddenly filled with the
odor of singeing cloth. Thomas gave a clutch at his coat, whirled to
the sink, filled a tumbler with water and poured it into his right
pocket with the celerity of practice.

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