The two old men sat in the library, eyeing the blue envelope that lay on the end of the long table nearest the fireplace, where a merry but unnoticed blaze crackled in the vain effort to cry down the shrieks of the bleak December wind that whistled about the corners of the house. Someone had come into the room—they did not know who nor when—to poke up the fire and to throw fresh coals into the grate. No doubt it was the parlourmaid. She was always doing something of the sort. It seemed to be her duty. Or, it might have been the housekeeper, in case the parlourmaid was out for the evening. Whoever it was, she certainly had poked up the fire, and in doing so had been compelled to push two pairs of feet out of the way to avoid trampling upon them. Still they couldn't recall having seen her. For that matter, it wasn't of the slightest consequence. Of course, they might have poked it up themselves and saved her the trouble, but these ancients were not in the habit of doing anything that could be done by menials in the employ of Mr Brood. Their minds were centred upon the blue envelope that had arrived shortly after dinner. The fire was an old story; the blue envelope was a novelty. From some shifting spot far out upon the broad Atlantic the contents of that blue envelope had come through the air, invisible, mysterious, uncanny. They could not understand it at all. A wireless message! It was the first of its kind they had seen, and they were very old men, who had seen everything else in the world—if one could believe their boastful tales. They had sailed the seven seas and they had traversed all the lands of the earth, and yet here was mystery. A man had spoken out of the air a thousand miles away, and his words were lying there on the end of a library-table, in front of a cheerful hearthstone, within reach of their wistful fingers; and someone had come in to poke up the fire without their knowledge.
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