`What is the object of these questions?' she asked sharply.
`The object is to avoid a public scandal. It is better that I should ask them here than that the matter should pass outside our control.'
She was silent and her face was still very pale. At last she looked up with something reckless and defiant in her manner.
`Well, I'll answer,' she said. `What are your questions?'
`Did you correspond with Sir Charles?'
`I certainly wrote to him once or twice to acknowledge his delicacy and his generosity.'
`Have you the dates of those letters?'
`Have you ever met him?'
`Yes, once or twice, when he came into Coombe Tracey. He was a very retiring man, and he preferred to do good by stealth.'
`But if you saw him so seldom and wrote so seldom, how did he know enough about your affairs to be able to help you, as you say that he has done?'
She met my difficulty with the utmost readiness.
`There were several gentlemen who knew my sad history and united to help me. One was Mr. Stapleton, a neighbour and intimate friend of Sir Charles's. He was exceedingly kind, and it was through him that Sir Charles learned about my affairs.'
I knew already that Sir Charles Baskerville had made Stapleton his almoner upon several occasions, so the lady's statement bore the impress of truth upon it.
`Did you ever write to Sir Charles asking him to meet you?' I continued.
Mrs. Lyons flushed with anger again.
`Really, sir, this is a very extraordinary question.'
`I am sorry, madam, but I must repeat it.'
`Then I answer, certainly not.'
`Not on the very day of Sir Charles's death?'
The flush had faded in an instant, and a deathly face was before me. Her dry lips could not speak the `No' which I saw rather than heard.
`Surely your memory deceives you,' said I. `I could even quote a passage of your letter. It ran ``Please, please, as you are a gentleman, burn this letter, and be at the gate by ten o'clock.''
I thought that she had fainted, but she recovered herself by a supreme effort.
`Is there no such thing as a gentleman?' she gasped.
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