Dearest Anna:

The world thinks I have disappeared. Your husband thinks I have disappeared. And for that knowledge I know Andrew must be a happier man these days, since the strange gentleman upstairs is no longer making eyes at hislaundrywoman wife.

But you must know I have not disappeared. You are always in my sight, for I have a picture of you (taken secretly, of course) which I keep in the left pocket of my coat at all times, all places. Other mementos I have pilfered: one sock (again, secretly taken), a lock of hair (strand by chestnut strand, scavenged at the floor where you comb it every morning), a scarf (the one I told you flew away) and all the bits and pieces that bear your writing, including such treats as "Mr. Vithano: your shirt is done", "Mr. Vithano: I left your things pressed and ready downstairs", "Mr. Vithano: the stain on the left pocket cannot be removed", and other seductive sweets. But you must not blame me, for it is you who has reduced me to a petty thief; and you should be thankful, for I have not yet resorted to violence.

I have not disappeared: I am on holiday. I am on an island in a sunny clime, where people don't ask me again and again if I was the brute who wrote that monstrous book. I wish I had never set eyes on the thing, but what of that? The book has been written --- with or without an author it must go on infuriating nuns, monks and Prime Ministers. The beauty is the book's, the beast is the book's, the burden is the book's: Joe Silentio, A.E. Vithano, Anna Smith, Andrew Smith, any of these mortal hands may have written it --- but what of that? In a few years' time we shall all die. Only the book remains.

As Always,

P.S. Send my regards to Andrew

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