Saturday, 1 December 2012

Whose letters?

" 'When we was at the Benedick I had charge of some of the gentlemen's rooms; leastways, I swep' them out on Saturdays.  Some of the gentlemen got the greatest sight of letters: I never saw the like of it. Their waste-paper baskets'd be fairly brimming and papers falling over on the floor.  Maybe havin' so many is how they get so careless.  Some of 'em is worse than others.  Mr Selden, Mr Lawrence Selden, he was always one of the carefullest: burnt his letters in winter, and tore 'em in little bits in summer.  But sometimes he'd have so many he'd just bunch 'em together, the way the others did, and tear the lot through once like this.'

While she spoke she had loosened the string from the parcel in her hand, and now she drew forth a letter which she laid on the table between Miss Bart and herself.  As she had said, the letter was torn in two; but with a rapid gesture she  laid the torn edges together and smoothed out the page.

A wave of indignation swept over Lily.  She felt herself in the presence of something vile, as yet but dimly conjectured -- the kind of vileness of which people whispered, but which she had never thought of as touching her own life.  She drew back with a motion of disgust, but her withdrawal was checked by a sudden discovery: under the glare of Mrs Peniston's chandelier she had recognised the hand-writing of the letter.  It was a large disjointed hand, with a flourish of masculinity which but slightly disguised its rambling weakness, and the words, scrawled in heavy ink on pale-tinted notepaper, smote on Lily's ear as though she had heard them spoken."

The House of Mirth  Edith Wharton

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