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The Master of Silence: A Romance, a novel by Irving Bacheller

Chapter 10

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Hester and her maid looked in upon me every morning after that, until I was able to leave the hospital. During these visits we told each other the eventful story of our lives since the night of our parting at her father's gate. Her first appearance on the stage had been, as I suspected, literally represented in the play. For years she had been permitted to accompany her father behind the scenes, and nights when the cast was short she had played small parts with great success. The glamour and excitement of stage life had proved distasteful to her. She assured me that it was her intention never to go back to it, and this strengthened my hope that she would some day consent to become my wife. Rayel had told her, during my illness, the strange story of his life. She knew nothing, however, of his wonderful powers, until I had related to her some of the experiences which had revealed them to me. He had said nothing to her, I learned, about our discovery of the picture.

"Who painted the remarkable portrait of you which we saw at the theatre?" I asked her one day.

"It was painted, I believe, by a French nobleman, who presented it to me here in New York. I suppose it looks a little as I did once, but it is certainly too flattering and much too maidenly for me now.

"The Frenchman is an impostor and worse," I said. "The portrait was painted by Rayel and sold to a broker of the name of Paddington, from whom the Frenchman borrowed or bought it."

Her amazement could scarcely be overestimated when I told her what occurred at Mr. Paddington's dinner-party.

"The Frenchman," she said, "has been paying me unwelcome attentions ever since the first night of my appearance in New York. He became so odious to me at length that I refused to accept any of his gifts, and, in spite of the protests of my managers, returned everything he had sent me, including the portrait."

I did not tell her that it was this same Frenchman to whom I was indebted for my wounds. Of that I must wait for more palpable evidence, though not for my own convincing. It seemed strange to me then that just at the moment this thought was passing through my mind she asked me whom I suspected of having committed the assault. It occurred to me after she had gone that possibly she had some cause to suspect the man who had been the subject of our conversation.

Rayel always came late in the day, when there was no chance of meeting other callers, and stayed with me until bedtime. As returning strength brought back to me that interest in life which prompts keen observation, I could see that a great change was coming over him. His face wore a melancholy look which indicated too clearly that his mind was suffering under some sad oppression. He was as gentle and considerate as ever, and as tireless in his efforts to increase my comfort, but he rarely spoke now, except in reply to my questions. He would sit by my side for hours, gazing out of the window with a vacant look in his eyes, until the light of day grew dim and the lamps were lighted. When supper was served to us I could never induce him to eat.

"What is the trouble, Rayel?" I asked, one evening. "You are not yourself lately."

Neither of us had spoken for a long time. He turned suddenly, as if startled by my words, his lips quivered, and stammering almost incoherently, he rose to his feet. Then he stood erect before me for a moment, looking sadly and thoughtfully into my eyes.

"Nothing, Kendric," he said presently, in a deep tone that trembled with emotion. "I think I have been working too hard and need exercise--that is all." Then he grasped my hand warmly and bade me good night.

I believe his answer to my question was the first lie that he had ever spoken. _

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